Starting a global business is easier than ever in today's world. Many major shipping companies, marketplaces and payment processors are equipped to handle international transactions, and with a few clicks and tweaks, you can quickly start selling your products and services anywhere in the world.
But what does it take to actually break into a foreign market and build a lasting presence? From building relationships with key industry contacts to making sure your translated advertising campaigns aren't lost on (or offensive to) your overseas audience, there's a lot that goes into creating a successful international business. Here are five types of tech tools you can use to grow your global brand.
Google Translate is fine for looking up a word or phrase, but professional business operations need a professional translation service to make sure their marketing materials, contracts and other formal written communications read correctly in foreign languages. Yes, it's an expense, but the quality of a human translation is worth the money. Here are just a handful of the many companies that will have a staff member review, translate and proofread your business's paperwork: [Language Translation: What Global Companies Should Know]
- Gengo: With a staff of more than 14,000 translators in 36 languages, Gengo can translate just about anything in any file format. You can also see public data on quality, speed, customer feedback, etc. to see how other projects have fared.
- Rubric: Rubric specializes in translation and localization services for tech, software, manufacturing, tourism, marketing and publishing businesses. The company delivers services in 144 languages through a network of independent translation professionals and software engineers.
- VerbalizeIt: This company prides itself on its human-powered translation platform, which connects clients with a global community of translators. VerbalizeIt's services include live conversation interpretation, document translation, website and mobile localization, video and audio file subtitling and more.
Language learning tools
If you're going to concentrate your international business operations in a specific country or two, it's critical to master the local language and key business phrases. From free language-learning apps to intensive online courses and software, there are plenty of options for entrepreneurs who want to become proficient in another language:
- BRIC Language Systems: An acronym for the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China, BRIC is an online language learning system that pairs modernized learning techniques with interactive online technology. Each course of study is customized and taught in real time by qualified local instructors, so that the program offers the best system for learning that particular language. The company specializes in Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish, and offers a business-specific program.
- Duolingo: This increasingly popular free software/app helps you learn a language in a fun way. Materials are translated by crowdsourced native speakers, so Duolingo users get the benefit of learning the language as it's colloquially used. It's available as a Web-based software and for iOS, Android and Windows Phone in a variety of European languages, including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch and more.
- Fluenz: Fluenz tailors each of its seven language programs to the needs of its learners, making it a fast and effective way to gain fluency. These programs have been used by the U.S. military, the United Nations, UNICEF, business students and Fortune 500 executives. Courses are available to purchase as a software suite through the website.
International trade references
Business customs, tariffs and regulations differ from country to country, so before you start shipping internationally, you'll probably want to familiarize yourself with your destination country's rules. There are several websites dedicated to housing international trade information:
- Export.gov: If you're thinking about selling internationally, Export.gov should be one of your first stops. This government website contains everything a U.S. business owner needs to know about trading overseas, and offers comprehensive guides on export licenses, economic sanctions and other trade regulations.
- TradeAbility: This tool created by UPS allows you to manage the movement of goods anywhere in the world, in a "timely, efficient and compliant manner." With TradeAbility, you can look up total shipping costs, tariff codes and import/export compliance, as well as screen for restricted trade parties and countries.
- Trade Map: Created by the International Trade Centre, Trade Map provides tables, graphs and maps with trade information for 220 countries and territories and 5,300 products. With the site's search tools, you can find export performance, international demand, competitive and alternative markets, and a directory of importing and exporting countries. This is an ideal tool for entrepreneurs who want to know where their product will sell best.
Global communication apps
As many professionals know, email is rarely the best way to conduct real-time business — especially when you're working with individuals in different countries and time zones. Because international calling and data plans can get pricey, business owners often turn to free communication apps that work around the globe to keep deals and transactions moving. Here are a few helpful ones that many global entrepreneurs use:
- Skype: Skype is one of the best-known, most popular video calling services, and also lets you chat with and send files to anyone in the world for free.
- Tango: Like Skype, this service allows you to send and receive voice calls, video calls and texts for free through the app. You can also find nearby people to communicate with, customize your profile with photos and stickers, and enjoy a variety of channels and games during your downtime.
- WhatsApp: This SMS alternative is widely used overseas to communicate with users on any type of smartphone. It's especially useful for entrepreneurs who want to maintain foreign business relationships (or check in at home while traveling) via text message without an expensive international texting plan.
One of the most difficult aspects of working with foreign business partners is dealing with time differences. Scheduling apps and services can help you time your meetings, webinars and other business communications so that they work for everyone, no matter where they're located. Examples include the following:
- Boomerang: This iOS and Android Gmail app lets you schedule messages to send at a specific time. Rather than sending something that will land in your foreign contacts' inboxes in the middle of the night (their time), you can make sure it arrives during their business hours.
- ScheduleOnce: Desktop and mobile service ScheduleOnce is ideal for business owners who want to let others know when they're available, without a lot of back-and-forth via email. Your personal booking page allows others to see when you're free (without giving them access to the rest of your calendar) and request appointments based on that availability.
- World Meeting Time: If you know where your meeting participants live, you can use this tool to schedule a meeting based on their time zone. Inputting your proposed meeting time will automatically populate the local time for each participant, and if it works for everyone, World Meeting Time will send an email about the scheduled appointment.
Ready to start growing your business internationally? Check out Business News Daily's guide here.