Lost In Translation: How To Effectively Expand Overseas

26/03/2018 08:00 | Start a business

How to expand your franchise abroad

Whether you’re already an established global franchise or looking to expand into your first overseas territory, here is some advice on how you can successfully expand your franchise overseas.

Research the laws and regulations of each franchise location very carefully.

When researching international franchise opportunities, make sure you don’t get caught out by any legal technicalities. Even within the European Union, member states may have different laws or regulations which could affect a franchise's operations, so check beforehand. For example, trademarking costs can vary between different countries, and you must also ensure your global franchise complies with each country's tax laws and employment laws.

The UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union could also have implications for competition law, employment law, intellectual property rights, data protection and other areas such as environmental law and health & safety. Although there is no franchise-specific legislation in UK law, franchises operating in EU member states will need to keep up-to-date with the latest changes to the legal situation.

Tailor your recruitment

Every successful franchise system builds excellent teams that know their areas and will carry the brand forward internationally. As a global franchise, you'll have to adapt your recruitment so that it's appropriate for each location and complies with the law. Hiring practices will vary from region to region, and what might be acceptable in one country may appear unprofessional in another, so it’s important to research each market carefully.

Bear in mind that Brexit could affect franchisees’ ability to recruit candidates from EU member states. However, as the UK remains a full member of the EU until March 2019, the free movement of people, goods and services will continue to this date. Depending on what sort of transition arrangements are agreed before then, it is possible that free movement could continue beyond this date, although there’s still a great deal of uncertainty.

Tailor your marketing

To ensure your marketing makes the right impact in different countries, you’ll need to tailor your content to each location. Some messages may not be understood by other cultures and could even offend in the worst-case scenario. For example, if you needed to translate your English-language website into French and German, it would be tempting to assume that hiring a translator would ensure all the content is accurately translated. However, this is not enough when you’re building a franchise system around the world. You also need to translate the ideas and concepts so that your campaign achieves its intended outcome in different cultural contexts.

Even if you’re only considering international franchise opportunities in other English-speaking countries, you'll still need to ensure your content is appropriate for different audiences and does not mislead anyone. For example, a US-based hotel franchise expanding into the UK would be familiar with the term 'accommodations', which is common in U.S English. However, In the UK, ‘accommodations’ would sound peculiar. The reader might assume there has been a typo, which would make your brand look unprofessional. Likewise, a UK food franchise expanding in the U.S would need to use 'French fries' instead of 'chips', as the word 'chips' is used to describe what we refer to as 'crisps'.

Localise your brand design

Another critical point to consider when researching international franchise opportunities is how your brand will be understood in different cultures. This also applies to your brand’s graphics and design, as different layouts and colours may have different connotations across the world. Take for example the colours red and blue. In the UK, red is the colour used by the Labour Party, while blue is used by the Conservative Party. Red is also often associated with the socialism, yet in the United States the conservative Republican Party's colour is also red, while the more progressive Democratic Party is blue. This shows how something as simple as colour can mean very different things depending on where you are. The critical point is to research your markets carefully, as it can be very easy to use unconscious bias when marketing a global franchise.

Get to know your audience and what's happening in their area.

Make sure your marketing is relevant and engages with customers in each franchise territory. For example, at about 5 pm on a weekday, a restaurant franchise in a commuter town could write a social media post along the lines of ‘stressful day at work? Don’t want to cook? Order our delicious home-made pizzas - order online for pickup with coupon code ** for 50% off.’ This type of marketing achieves two things. It identifies with a key demographic: busy working professionals. Secondly, it empathises with their circumstances, the fact that they either don’t want to cook or don’t have time to.

Use social media to encourage your customers to share their experience of your global franchise, whether they’re in Europe or Asia. For example, a restaurant franchise could ask customers to share pictures of their favourite meal and tag each post with the restaurant’s dedicated hashtag. This can be a great way to market your brand and boost your social media visibility without having to spend a penny.

Adapt your products and services to your audiences

McDonald’s is an excellent example of a franchise that has adapted to different markets by localising its products. For example, in Italy, McDonalds' burgers include pancetta, an ingredient that millions of Italians would recognise from some of the country's most famous dishes, from carbonara to bolognese. In Singapore, McDonalds' customers can order jasmine tea, a vital drink in Southeast Asia for many centuries, while in China the franchise has incorporated rice, a staple of Chinese cuisine, in many of its meals.

Localising your products/services is important no matter what industry your franchise is in. A ‘one size fits all’ approach may be appropriate if you’re a regional franchise, but when you’re growing global franchise, it’s vital that you meet the needs and expectations of each market.

Hopefully, all the above will prove useful if you’re considering international franchise opportunities.

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