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By Crissy Mueller, Writing that Works

One of the challenges you might face as an expat building up your own business here is how to attract local, non-English speaking customers/clients, especially if you don’t speak the language (well). Can it even be done? How?

I would say the answer is YES. It’s possible. At first, it might seem daunting. But with just a little effort and perhaps investing in the right resources, it could make a huge difference to your bottom line. Here are some ways to get started:

1.Learn about the local business and consumer culture

The gap between the “international” and the “local” might seem larger than it actually is simply because of lack of knowledge. The best place to start is to research the business culture in Switzerland. Switzerland is a bit complex because of the four different language regions – but there are some overarching commonalities as well. Many helpful points on doing business in Switzerland are summarized here. Also, observe the ways other companies in your niche advertise and market their businesses. Gather samples of flyers, etc. Watch some Swiss TV commercials. What do people seem to like.

2.Meet local people

Getting to know local people is key, and not just necessarily in a business networking setting, but in any setting. Good options are networking opportunities available through organizations such as OWIT Lake Geneva (mostly geared towards women). The Workshops and Seminars section of the knowitall.ch calendar is also worth keeping an eye on. For an excellent opportunity to meet other local entrepreneurs, look out for the “Free for Lunch” events organized by the Business Club of the Vaud chamber of commerce (CVCI). This event brings together local business executives for an informal networking opportunity over lunch. While the Business Club itself is open to members only, anyone can attend events like this one as it’s organized in cooperation with International Link (an organization created by the CVCI to promote the integration of expats in the region). Look out for the next “Free for Lunch” event (and many others) on the International Link calendar.

3.Translate your website

You might consider translating your website or other sales materials. As someone who does both copywriting and translation through my own writing services business, I recommend finding someone who won’t just translate, but rather understands crafting a powerful sales message that will sound right in the target language. (I only translate from German into English myself). Another option is to optimize your English materials for an international audience with “international English”. It involves making sentences short and simple, avoiding certain forms of speech, and using clear explanations. And I can certainly help with that. I can either proofread and edit your existing text, or create it all from scratch in international English.

With the internet and communication being what it is these days, it might be easier to focus on other English-speakers and expats as the niche for your business. But don’t dismiss the local market too quickly if it is suited to your kind of business. Yes, there are challenges. But if opening up your focus could help you grow your business, it’s worth a try.


Crissy-bw-web150Crissy Mueller is an expat entrepreneur based in the La Côte region of Lake Geneva. She provides writing, editing and translation services through her company, Writing that Works. Her mission is to help businesses and individuals get the results they want though quality writing in English.

Before starting her own business, Crissy worked for companies and organizations in Germany, Switzerland and the United States, where she managed and coordinated a variety of programs at the intersection of education, travel and cultural exchange.  She has a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Cambridge, and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and German from Tufts University.

She is passionate about intercultural communication, entrepreneurship, and discovering how to live life to the fullest.

Website: www.writingthatworks.net