Product documentation: it can make or break you in overseas markets

Product documentation: it can make or break you in overseas markets article image

Clear and concise product documentation is vital for exporters when pursuing overseas sales. It can mean the difference between success and failure. Leading Sydney export consultant David Gray explains why…

When meeting senior executives of a potential client in non-English speaking countries, most at the elite level you will find have a solid grasp of the English language.

But this may give the false impression that everyone in the organisation speaks English.

Similarly, politeness and an earnest desire to avoid potential embarrassment means your hosts may not ask questions if they do not understand your literature or fail to grasp what you are saying. This gives the usually unreliable impression that all is understood and agreed.

However, moving away from those at the apex to the lower level functionaries, and the people who will front line sell, install and maintain and support your product, only a few speak English and fewer still can read tertiary English.

Even in the advanced western economies, such as France and others, once you move away from the export based businesses where good quality English is mandatory or the tourist areas where English is expected – the number of English speakers drops quite noticeably.

You should not always assume that the technical sales and technical support personnel amongst your international prospects are qualified to assumed western standards.

Family nepotism

Many will have been selected and appointed through semi tribal systems of patronage and wider family nepotism where a third cousin is still considered as immediate family.

Quality, easy to follow documentation with explanatory notes is vital to such people.

Similarly, the absence of quality documentation will be a source of embarrassment to them.

The general business structure of advanced economies also has its nuances.  Your product needs to “plug into” your customers way of doing business which often has a “churn and burn” undertone.

Literature must be clear and concise that anyone can read and absorb quickly.

The benefits of your product must be clear and most products must be seen as being easy to deal with and handle.

Product training

Any costs involved in product training are costs most customers will perceive as a negative when reviewing your product or are an expense you must bear in gaining product acceptance.

Good well thought out documentation removes or reduces the need for training.

For every dollar you spend on good quality product literature you will save a future three dollars over the course of the entire sales and support cycle.

The savings will come from a reduced need for endless intensive information presentations and follow up justification presentations. Additional savings will come from a reduced need for product sales and/or technical support training.

Moreover, a reduced need to be constantly jumping on a plane to go and hose down the raging fires of misunderstanding.

David Gray is lead consultant at BizTechWrite providers of export technical documentation, report writing, business analysis process and language translation.

He can be contacted at:


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