Entrepreneur

Why every startup should consider a multilingual strategy

For startups looking for a new competitive advantage, a multilingual presence may be the answer.

While non-native English speakers have long realized the value of pushing their products to the English-speaking market, native English speakers are just beginning to realize the value of a multilingual strategy. More than just being able to launch a business in a second language, the world is becoming a multilingual marketplace. And whether it be Spanish, French, or even Mandarin, an additional language is becoming a necessity for many entrepreneurs to get ahead as the process of globalization continues to accelerate.

So what are the real advantages of a multilingual strategy? When we launched Everypost, a social media management mobile application, we made the app available in six languages from the start. Why? Because it was a more cost effective way to market our new product against larger competitors and create more awareness for our brand quickly. We were able to reach an international audience, giving us more users and more feedback faster than we could ever generate from solely launching in the English market. With each additional language, we had the opportunity to reach more customers. A multilingual approach is a cost effective way of marketing, widening your reach, and promoting your brand in new markets without having to spend heavily on other strategies.

With every additional language, the potential customer base widens. There are few other ways to receive a dramatic increase in customers for such little investment. In our case, we discovered there are over 101 million Internet users in Japan, over 17 million of whom are on Facebook — so translating our mobile application into Japanese was a definite way to find targeted users that would appreciate our social media solution. Even though our native languages are English and Spanish, a large segment of our customers are using the app in Japanese.

French startup Likebook, a service that pulls users’ Facebook updates, photos, comments, and compiles the information into a unique paperback or hardback book, quickly internationalized as well. That company offers the service in six languages, specifically building on an enormous opportunity in Brazil — the country with the second largest number of Facebook users in the world.

Another company that took on the “reach-as-many-as-you-can” strategy from the start is Kiip’s self-service advertising platform, offering businesses the ability to instantly run their own ad campaigns to offer users real-world rewards. Kipp made the move to launch the self-service product globally in a whopping 11 languages across Latin America, Europe, the Mideast, Asia, and Japan — giving brands more reach, and giving developers of Kipp apps greater opportunity to successfully monetize their creations.

Setting up a business in multiple languages isn’t an easy task, but it’s feasible — and there are ways to make it easier. If you are just starting out or want to test offering your products or services in another language, try translating your business website with the help of a multilingual website plugin. It also helps having a multilingual team as part of your long term global strategy. This will ease the costs of translation services and you’ll receive continuous feedback from native speakers.

ClickBus, a Brazilian online booking platform for bus travel, has set out to reach 14 countries in its first year. After immediate success in Brazil, the decision to move into Mexico and Germany — after a law binding all German bus companies to the government came to an end — is giving ClickBus a huge chance to capitalize on the situation and expand its global customer base. With headquarters in Brazil, ClickBus plans to employ local representatives in each new market — a great way to smooth out the process of setting up shop in another language.

A multilingual business strategy is not only a gateway to global success, but also a tremendous advantage to increasing awareness for your brand. With Internet and mobile phone usage growing at an accelerated pace in the non-English speaking world, your business needs to plan how to keep up and stay ahead of competition. It is only a matter of time before multiple languages will become a standard for businesses, so by investing the time and energy now — or before even launching — your business can reap the benefits of the global marketplace.

Fernando Cuscuela is an experienced entrepreneur who likes nothing better than to start new businesses and make them profitable. He founded a successful Digital Media Agency, Clickbunker, and most recently he started Everypost, where he now focuses most of his attention.

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