Adapt products to a foreign market

Isn’t it the dream of any business?

To expand across different markets and start selling products or services abroad, duplicating their clients and sales. It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

Yet you may think it’s really hard to make it a reality.

Well, let me tell you something. It’s not that difficult. I’ve been doing it for three years now, and I have helped different businesses to do it too. And, believe me, if I can do it, so you can.

Then, why does it look so complicated and why so many businesses struggle to get it right?


That’s why we come up with excuses not to face this fear: “I don’t know if my products will be sold in a different market”, “I don’t even speak the language of that country”, “I wish I could do it, but I don’t have the necessary resources”.

We tell ourselves all these excuses to convince ourselves that we are not ready to act, but what we’re actually doing is to postpone the moment of facing a fear. And this is when things get complicated.

95% of the clients I’ve worked with have been able to overcome this fear. It’s true that there are cases in which it is difficult to reach a foreign market. For example, if your business is about beef distribution, it will be very difficult to target the market in India.

But, as you can see, these cases are very limited. So ask yourself, have you analysed your business situation and come up with actual data that proves that your business isn’t going to work abroad?

If not, you’re probably making all these excuses up not to face a fear, as the 95% of my clients were doing.

Why is it so difficult to adapt products to a foreign market?

 As I said before, we are scared of anything that is different. Why would you like to risk and start selling abroad when everything’s going well where you are at the moment?

But this also applies to customers. Why would they buy from you when they can buy from someone that they already know who is based in their countries, speaks the same language than them, and already knows their necessities?

This feeling is mutual.

Just imagine when you go on a holiday trip abroad. Have you ever felt that anxiety of thinking that they are not going to understand you or that you are not going to be able to communicate with people at shops or restaurants? That’s why you always end up going to the most touristy places where we know they can speak with you in your language, or probably somewhere that you already know, such as Starbucks, am I wrong?

Well, something similar happens when we do business abroad. We don’t want to risk and try something that may be better, because it’s different to what you’ve been selling previously.


Have you ever heard this term?

You probably know people from all over the world. You work with people from different countries, speak with friends living in different countries, and travel a lot when your boss allows you to. You probably know more languages that your grandparents and travel more often than your parents. That’s globalisation.

However, although we love this feeling of been international (because being international is cool, isn’t it?), we love our comfort zone. That is why we aren’t that willing to try haggis or Irn-Bru in Scotland, or try grasshopper in Thailand (I’m definitely not doing this any time soon!)

In a nutshell, we like to be international, but we also like our comfort zone. We are “glocal”.

What does that mean if I want to adapt products to a foreign market?


Imagine for a moment that clients living in this new market that you want to target can enjoy your products/services without living their comfort zone.

Exactly. That’s the key to success in a foreign market.

And that’s how Coca-Cola learnt that they should be selling carbonated fruit drinks in Shenzhen, or how KFC learnt to offer porridge and Peking Duck burgers in Shanghai.

They learnt how to adapt products to a foreign market.


How can I adapt products to a foreign market?

 Ok, now that you know that you should make your foreign audience feel like home when they buy from you, you have to analyse every single step that they have to make, from the very beginning when they get to know you and your business for the first time, until the very last step when they make a first sale.

This doesn’t mean that you should copy your competence in that specific market. The values of your business must remain the same. What needs to be adapted is the way you do business and how you approach potential clients in that market.

Every business is unique and has its own specific feature, so there’s no magic formula to apply here.

Another important aspect is to analyse the competitive advantage of your products. I’m sure that you can tell how your product is different from your competence in the market that you want to target. Let me explain you with an example:

In my case, one of my fields of expertise is marketing translation. I help businesses in the UK to connect and engage with their Spanish speaking audience.

How many translators working with Spanish do you think there are in Scotland? Quite a few, right?

However, how many of them are originally from Spain and specialise in Spanish markets and have a background in marketing? Probably not as many.

In other words, it should be clear why your clients in that foreign market should buy from you instead of your competitors who are already well established in that particular market. That’s what it’s called a competitive advantage.

4 tips to adapt products to a foreign market


1. Analyse the steps that your audience needs to take to buy your product

As you can see, your clients need to take a series of steps until they finally buy your product. They key is that all these steps are optimised and adapted to your new audience.

Make a list with all these steps and check how your competence is addressing each of them. But remember, it’s not about copying them, but adapting what you already have.

2. Translate every step that your client needs to take to buy

The language barrier is one of the biggest issues. Believe me, I’ve been living abroad for the last three years, and I know what I’m talking about.

When people think that they’re not going to be able to communicate or express themselves when buying, they’re just not going to do it.

If your Spanish speaking clients can’t only read your terms and conditions in English, why are they going to bother to do it, if they can find someone else whose terms and conditions are already in Spanish?

And this applies to any of the steps that I’ve mentioned before. Marketing materials that you use to target your new audience, the main sections of your website, the price of your products (are you using the correct currency?), etc.

3. Use the correct tone to communicate with your business

I’ve been living in three different countries during the last three years, and I’ve noticed that people use different tones to communicate when doing businesses.

Words are the most important aspect of a business. They are powerful. They can make people cry or laugh.

It’s important that you use the same language than your audience, but it’s also important to address this audience in the correct tone.

How many times have you heard that Chinese people are overly polite? Well, the root of all these prejudices can be found in a bad adaptation of they tone of the language that is used.

4. Translate a culture, not just the language

When you are adapting a product to a foreign market, there is normally a linguistic barrier. We tend to focus on this obstacle as it is the most obvious one.

However, cultural differences aren’t that obvious and most of the times only clients can notice them while they are buying, where as we just keep looking at our websites wondering why we are losing sales.

Make sure you hire a specialist in the target culture who can assess you about adapting the content and the selling process.

Small things like the colour of a “Buy” button can have a significant importance from one culture to another.



Now that you know these tips to adapt products to a foreign market, have you ever thought about the impact that this can have in your business? Let me know what you think in the comments!

About David Miralles Perez

My name is David Miralles and I am aware of how languages can influence professional environments. Honing communication between two cultures has become crucial in today’s globalized world. And that is what I do by means of my translation and interpreting services. Small and medium enterprises and individuals can now spread their messages through cultural and linguistic barriers and make a big impact on an international scale.

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