How to Boost Export ROI Through Translation

How to Boost Export ROI Through Translation

LO-C 30 research from the Association of Translation Companies ( and Aston Business School shows that SMEs who invest in ‘language capabilities are 30% more successful in exporting than those that do not. This research, carried out with data from more than 400 SMEs proves categorically that language support can significantly increase export sales, growth and profits.

Successful exporters use a range of approaches to boost their capabilities: hiring people with language skills and high cultural intelligence, providing language training to existing staff, or investing in professional translation services that couple human translators and interpreters with sophisticated language technologies.

Languages Open the Doors for Trade

So why are so many companies on the back foot when it comes to language power?

British Academy’s Born Global ( project surveyed 410 SMEs and found that 62% of non-exporters are blocked by language barriers, and 55% by cultural barriers. This lack of foreign language skills is calculated to be costing the UK up to £48 billion a year – equivalent to 3.5% of GDP. Furthermore, 83% of SMEs in the UK use English and no other languages at all.

Perhaps the gap is partly due to the lack of solid advice on language services on offer to business.

Sarah Bawa Mason, Commercial Collaborations Lead for the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) has been combing the websites of business entities and international trade bodies for the last year looking at export advice for business.

“While many advice sites recommend that companies placing in-demand products overseas consider the culture and customs of the new market, geography, trade terms and regulations, and a fail-safe method for getting paid, none of those I surveyed in 2022 actually made any overt mention of language capabilities,” she said.

“ATC member companies have helped businesses sell Cornish ice cream to Dubai, industrial safety mats to the Middle East, and even secured a tour of Poland for an English Symphony Orchestra, simply by translating the content needed to get them seen and heard in the new markets,” Sarah added.

Easy Wins, Legal Requirements and Risk Management

Translation is one of the easiest wins on your export journey, because people prefer to buy in their own language. Translation is also often a legal requirement to enter a regulated market. But it is brand-critical risk management, too. Just as you protect your brand and its voice in the domestic market, you need to make sure that it travels across cultures, customs and languages without damage.

So how can you deploy language capabilities to open doors for trade?

If your company is thinking of expanding abroad, you can access simple initial advice here: ATC Talk Global Tool for SMEs ( By answering a few short questions, the tool will tell you how well you are placed to tackle your overseas market!

Article provided by James Halstead, General Manager of IMD Translation Ltd, and Council member of the ATC