Meet
Marketing
Assistant
Amy Hawthorne

Speaking your customer’s language

Company: ReAgent . Name: Amy Hawthorne. Title: Marketing Assistant Industry: Chemical Manufacturing Services

At LanguageWire, we are delighted to welcome our customer Amy Hawthorne from the company ReAgent into LanguageWire’s Online Magazine.

The reason is that Amy has some valuable experience she would like to share – experience about ReAgent taking their services beyond the UK and expanding into Europe. The first step has been offering their services to the Netherlands and to do this, they’ve had their website translated into Dutch.

Speaking your Customer’s language

“If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen sie Deutsch sprechen.”

This is a quote by former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. For those unfamiliar with the German language, it states that if he’s buying from an English company, he expects them to speak his language – German.

It’s important to speak your customer’s language. Despite the fact that a large portion (90%) of people in the Netherlands speaks English, we want to appeal to the entire population and respect the official Dutch language.

A study among US Spanish-dominant Hispanics found that 54% of those asked would feel more loyal to companies that show appreciation of [their culture] by advertising in Spanish. It makes sense that you would be more drawn towards completing a sale conducted in your first language.

The Translation Process

We’re beginning with the Netherlands to kick start our expansion into Europe.

Europe Map ReAgent 

We conducted some market research to decide which country we would initially venture into. We chose to start by focusing on just one country to minimise risks and learn from the process for future expansion efforts.

As most countries in Europe speak multiple languages, we wanted to avoid a situation where we had to translate into an unmanageable amount of languages, at least in the early stages of the process.

So why did we opt for the Netherlands? The Netherlands has a large and well-established petrochemical industry. According to VNCI, the turnover in the chemicals sector was € 60 billion in 2012 and it’s one of the largest industries in the Netherlands.

When it came to translating our entire website, we knew there are some free online tools, but it’s clear that these do not always provide accurate translations! They often get word order mixed up, which can completely change the meaning of a sentence or make it sound ridiculous in the target language.

We wanted to enlist professional assistance to ensure we got this crucial part spot on. After contacting a few translation companies for quotes, we settled on one which we were pleased with. We’ve had our website translated into Dutch (apart from the blog – which we’re leaving for now as we add to it so regularly) and are looking forward to connecting with customers from around the Netherlands.

The Next Steps

Stairs Magdalena Roeseler
Photo: Magdalena Roeseler

This move is a big leap as communicating in a different language is something we’ve never done before! No one at ReAgent is fluent – or even conversational – in Dutch, so we will have our translation company on-hand going forward to aid communication with customers.

We will take as much as we can from this experience of expanding into the Netherlands. Businesses can only learn and grow by actually doing, so we hope we will be able to take this venture and use it to shape how we continue our expansion across the globe.

Embarrassing Translation Faux-Pas

Every brand started off small and gradually flowed into other countries as they grew and became more recognised.

When having your website, advertisements or campaigns translated into a language you’re not familiar with, it’s probably wise to have the translations triple-checked and have a thorough knowledge of the new country’s culture.

Word order, idioms and humour that work in one country can seem alien and strange – even offensive – in another. And getting it wrong can be even worse for the big brands.

Sarebear Embarrasing
Photo: Sarebear

Coca-Cola

In the 1920s, when people in China had a limited selection of drinks available to them, Coca-Cola stepped in and brought their staple beverage to the country. However, when the drinks giant attempted to translate their brand name into Chinese characters, it translated to “Bite the Wax Tadpole”.

Schweppes

When Schweppes brought their tonic water to the Italian market, they actually translated the product name into “Schweppes Toilet Water”. Not the most appealing name!

KFC

It’s important to check the connotations of your trademark slogan in your target country. When KFC first entered China, the famous phrase “finger-lickin’ good” translated literally to “eat your fingers off”.

Pepsi

Pepsi Brings your Ancestors back from the Dead.” This became Pepsi’s slogan in China that was used in advertisements to promote the drink. Originally, the slogan read "Come Alive with Pepsi”, but the inaccurate translation gave the campaign a slightly more morbid edge.

Coors

When beer company, Coors, expanded into Spain, they probably expected sales to shoot up as sunbathers wanted a refreshingly cold drink. However, their advertising campaign with the phrase “Turn it Loose” wasn’t as effective in Spain, where it translated to “Suffer from Diarrhoea”.

We trust that our translation company has been thorough enough to ensure there are no embarrassing language mistakes like this on our website! We’re looking forward to receiving more enquiries in Dutch and shipping our products overseas, in the first stage of building an international customer base for ReAgent.

What does ReAgent do?

ReAgent is a leading B2B UK chemical supplier. We manufacture and supply a wide range of products that can be purchased online or over the phone. We also offer bespoke chemical services that are tailor-made to each customer, such as chemical blending, contract packing and contract manufacturing.

Customers can provide us with their own chemical formulations and we can manufacture their product to their exact specification.

When it concerns translations - what are your main priorities?

1) Accuracy

We want our translations to be as accurate as possible. If there are errors in the translated text, this makes us look unprofessional and potential customers may look elsewhere to make their purchase. It’s important that the translation is of a high quality and that it is thoroughly checked before we upload anything that the public can see.

2) Understanding cultural differences

Quite often, phrases can sound strange or even offensive when translated literally into a new language. We like our translations to be completed by a native speaker of the target language so they can spot where changes need to be made. The customers in our target language should be able to relate to us and not feel alienated by awkward or inaccurate phrasing.

3) Efficient communication

We like communication between ourselves and our translation company to be efficient so we can receive responses quickly. When we receive enquiries via our Dutch website, we will send these to the translation company for a translation. We would like a quick response so that we don’t keep our customers or potential customers waiting for feedback from us.

Different industries experience different opportunities; different companies have different needs; and different positions meet different challenges. However, often we actually face the same thing, or at least something very similar, as all markets tend to experience the overall economic, business and lifestyle trends.

With our customer interviews, we like to establish knowledge sharing by giving you a brief insight into the business life of some of our customers.

We hope you’ll benefit from their thoughts and experiences. If you’d like to participate with your own thoughts and experiences, just let us know!