Canada’s unique in so many ways, including the fact that it’s a bilingual society. If you do business mainly in the English-speaking part of the country and want to expand nationwide, language is something you’ll need to consider. Fortunately, the Canadian government offers clear guidelines to help you to make sure your business serves everyone equally, regardless of which language they speak.
Doing Business in English and French
Some Canadians speak English, others speak French, and still others speak both languages. As a business owner, you don’t have to be bilingual yourself to spread your wings across the country. In your free time, you might consider learning business French since you’re the main decision maker in your company. What you should do, though, is have language materials and translation services in place to make sure your customers, clients, and employees get the most out of interacting with your business regardless of which official language they speak. So how do you make a bilingual business a success?
The decision makers in your company — aka upper management — should speak English and French, but that might not be the case if you did all your hiring when your business served mainly English-speaking Canadians. In the absence of bilingual managers, you might make sure you always have bilingual employees available to offer assistance to managers, customers, and clients as needed. So that your employees can serve customers and clients with ease, it’s a good idea to have all of your training materials and other important information available in both languages.
On the consumer end, if you manufacture products, your labels need to be bilingual. The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act lists the guidelines for having both languages on your labels. In simple terms, labels should have a product’s common or generic name, and details about what it does and how it works in both English and French. Your company’s address can be in English or French. You might make some time to go over the guidelines, since they vary depending on your industry and the province your business calls home.
Costs of Going Bilingual
If you manufacture or package products, you’ll need to spend money on new product labels, so you’ll need to work this expense into your budget depending on the number of labels you need. One of the things that make labels expensive is the new size — bilingual labels need to be larger to accommodate the two languages. You might also need new packaging for the larger labels.
You want to consider adding the cost of translating your printed and online marketing materials, employee training materials, website and even social media accounts to your budget. Your human resources department will also need to be staffed with someone who can on-board employees who speak French fluently but not English. Another thing you might want to do is take a look at your scheduling to make sure you have the right number of employees who speak both languages on staff. Here, there may be some additional costs since when you first launch in French-speaking areas that may taper off as time goes on.
Connecting With Consumers
People expect you to be ready to engage them as soon as they interact with your business, so you should aim to be ready to win them over as soon as you open your doors to bilingual customers. This is so important, especially if you already have some nationwide, brand-name recognition even if your products or services weren’t previously available in some areas. One way to ensure success is to start building hype for your business’s new bilingual strategy early on. First, you want to identify your target market and hit them up with bilingual marketing materials where they are — at home looking for marketing materials in their mailboxes or online.
The most effective way to let customers and clients know that your services are available in different languages is to show people in your marketing materials speaking those languages. So, you might want to have your marketing materials feature people interacting in French. Making videos and posting them on your website and social media is a surefire way to let everyone know that your business serves Canadians who speak both languages. Remember also to change your signage, corporate information and outgoing phone greetings, too
Lastly, if you launch in a province like Quebec where more than 85% of the population speaks French. All Quebec businesses provide their services in French, and your customers and clients will expect that going in. In areas like this, it’s a good idea to make sure that people know that assistance in English is available should they need it.
At the end of the day, your goal is simply to make people feel welcome in your place of business, and bilingualism is a big part of that. As long as you make it a point to comply with regulations and provide an outstanding experience for your customers, Canada’s dual-language economy provides a great way to increase brand recognition cross the country, find new customers and clients and grow your business.