Here's how to do business in Arabic, with some best practice tips to help you better adapt your strategy to the target market and its customs

Doing business in Arabic: Three best practice tips

10 minutes

Would you like to know how to do business in Arabic? The attractiveness of the Arabic-speaking world is immense, for many industries. The major opportunity offered by these markets is commensurate with the challenge of entering them in the right way.

The Middle East is a very heterogeneous region in terms of culture, religion, geography, and ethnicity. This diversity means you have to analyze details at different levels (demographic, economic, political, cultural, social, etc.) to adjust your business plan and marketing actions to ensure that they lead to success in the target market. Anyone wishing to reach these markets with a company and brand needs to go through an adaptation process, which involves a lot more than just the language.

Doing business in Arabic: three best practice tips and some advice

Business in Arabic: you have to know the target market and its customs

You can make or break a trade agreement with the decisions you make along the way. That’s always the case, but when doing business in Arab countries, there are more variables to consider.

Factors such as the choice of the person to represent the company in meetings with potential local partners, how the meeting is organized, the dress code, the language or phrases and topics used to break the ice in the first meeting all take on crucial importance.

Knowing the target market and its customs will mean that these business meetings will run more smoothly, and this in turn lays a stronger foundation for the relationship, making it more likely to be prove long-lasting.

You should also study the environment, opportunities, and challenges of the country in question. Issues such as logistics and distribution can present significant complications and should be taken into account from the outset.

Doing business in Arabic: best practices

Best business practices in Arab countries

  1. Choosing the right representative. It should always be the same person, since this is a sign of trust. The older the representative, the more respected he will be as the face of the brand. It may be a good idea to find out the gender of the contact person to make sure that the person representing the company is of the same gender.
  2. Alignment with local customs. From the use of the right hand in greetings and to offer and receive documents and other objects to not consuming pork or alcohol in the presence of local partners. These details, which from our point of view may seem incidental, take on critical importance when doing business in Arab countries and should not be overlooked. The same would apply to choosing the right time for business meetings, since, in the month of Ramadan, for example, practicing Muslims will be fasting.
  3. Adaptation to rhythm in the Middle East. Agility is understood differently and there are other priorities. Flexibility prevails in Arab culture in contrast to the rigidity that characterizes the negotiations we are accustomed to. This gives rise to starting a meeting with a chat about family or social matters, interrupting it with calls, breaks, or visits, and prolonging decision-making for weeks or even months. Face-to-face is essential and even if the relationship is initiated by email or telephone, there will be no progress until face-to-face meetings take place.

Adaptation to the culture, behavior, and habits of the target audience.

In addition to understanding the customs of these countries, language localization should be used in communications. To do business in Arabic, you must adapt to the culture, customs and behavior of the other party, whether they are business partners or customers. 

There are many reasons to take the plunge:

  • Not everyone speaks English, so the best way to connect with your local audience is to be able to use their own language and expressions to send a clear message.
  • Having content in Arabic makes your company more competitive in those markets and improves SEO performance.
  • A simple machine translation is not enough. You have to adapt and localize the message: it is a custom job.
  • Your business’s image depends heavily on the customer experience, which in most cases starts online.

Knowing your audience demographics is as necessary as finding out about their interests. A recent study revealed that “88% of online shoppers prefer to buy products using their native language.” The same study notes that “even though Arabic is the fourth most used language online, there is less than 1% content in Arabic online.” This information confirms the major opportunity posed by localization.

This is not the same as a translation. You must have a professional interpreter who not only knows the language but also the culture, since that can be vital when negotiating.

There are many key moments in the internationalization strategy that benefit from the support of an expert in the culture and language for doing business in Arabic. Formal meetings, informal meetings, videoconferences or calls are just some of them. In those cases, no progress can be made without simultaneous, consecutive, escort, face-to-face, video remote or over-the-phone interpreting services.

The way your company/brand is promoted can make all the difference

Any company seeking to be successful in Arab countries or in its relations with Arab companies must take linguistic and cultural needs into account when designing its business strategy.

Doing business in Arabic can be as challenging as doing business in Chinese or Finnish. In every case there is a cultural and language difference that must be solved in the best way possible. The localization strategy has to take into account not only the content that the company publishes online, but also the commercial and support materials for in-person meetings.

Is your brand ready to take advantage of the huge opportunity that awaits it in the Middle East?

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