3 reasons why your business needs intercultural communication skills
If you’re setting off for a business adventure abroad, you’ll need to be well prepared. Not only for your marketing actions or business expansion plan – on every single step of your business journey abroad you’ll need to know how to get your message across. The right communication is a key to success. To achieve it, you’ll need much more than speaking English or any other common language with your business partners. To make your market expansion effective, you’ll need to find out how to communicate with people from different countries and cultures. Here are three reasons why intercultural communication is an invaluable skill for your growing business:
1. Effective and fast action
Have you ever struggled to achieve a consensus with potential customer or business partner? Perhaps you avoid doing business in certain countries because you think the local people act too slow or always show up too late for the scheduled meetings and video conferences? Well, the way you and your business partner behave is quite often influenced by the culture you live in. Time orientation, negotiation techniques or body language vary from country to country. If you’re well prepared for doing business abroad, you’ll know what behaviour you can expect or how to deal with other people to quickly reach an agreement. Then, you won’t waste time wondering if your business partners really take you seriously if they arrive 10 minutes late or if they really respect you if they write very short and direct e-mails. Intercultural communication skills will help you act faster and more efficient.
2. Avoiding misunderstandings
Whether you communicate in the same foreign language or hire interpreters or translators to do business abroad, there’s always something that may go wrong in your communication process. Especially, if you don’t know the habits, traditions or common behaviour patterns in your target country. An extensive knowledge about your partner’s culture will help you understand their actions, read between the lines and figure out the meanings hidden behind words and deeds. Maybe a silent and inactive audience at your presentation isn’t a sign of boredom and wasted time. Maybe in the culture of your partners this is the way of showing respect to the speakers? Maybe the fact that they don’t ask any questions doesn’t mean that they didn’t like your offer? Depending on the culture this might actually be a good sign. What would be a negative clue in one culture, could be deemed neutral or positive in another. You’ll be able to decipher the right meaning only if you know more about the habits or cultural background of your business partners.
3. Building a trustworthy brand
If you’re planning to expand to a new market, you’ll need to know the profile of your potential customer inside out. Some characteristics might be related to the culture, for example the way your target customers collaborate, spend their free time, use certain goods or food products, even how they use social media and perceive marketing campaigns. Gathering the right information about your consumers in a new market will help you to choose the right tone and style to craft your marketing strategy and build a trustworthy brand image. Exploring the cultural background of your target customers can help you decide if, for example, you’ll need to adjust your logo, modify your offer, launch special campaigns or redesign your website. Understanding the habits and traditions in your new market is the first step to build a strong and authentic brand abroad.
Speaking a common language isn’t enough to grow your business in a foreign market. Whether you plan to open new company branches abroad or introduce your product in a new country, you won’t go far if you don’t have the right knowledge and right skills. Intercultural communication is one of the key ingredients in a successful business expansion.
What about you? Are you planning to expand your business to the new market? Do you have the right skills to do it?
Dorota Pawlak is the owner and managing director of Polish Localisation. She is passionate about cultures, languages and technology.
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