7 tips for expanding your business into France
France is a highly developed, technologically advanced, and industrialised country. It’s the 8th largest economy in the word, and the 3rd largest in Europe with a notably pro-business economic environment.
Its well-educated workforce and forward-looking financial policies ensure a positive environment for business. However, doing so requires a thorough and comprehensive understanding of French culture and the legal environment that governs business.
The complexity of expanding your business into France mustn’t be underestimated. You have to cement the right business partnerships. You have to adapt to a new cultural and language environment. You have to ensure that your product is of a standard that is acceptable to the French who expect quality.
That being said, France remains a highly attractive business destination! Here are 7 tips to help you make your expansion successfully.
1. Spoiler alert – you have to communicate in French
In France, you have to communicate in French! Not just because this is vital in establishing a good relationship with your new customers, it’s also a matter of regulation. All the following has to be made available in clear and intelligible French:
- Product offers, promotions and presentations
- Terms of service
- Marketing materials
- Specifications regarding products and/or services
- User manuals
- Invoices and receipts
- Product packaging
- Documents relating to trade and labour relations
- Any contracts
- Job offer documentation
If your company doesn’t have staff members who are fluent in French, you’ll need to invest in language translation services.
2. Customer support has to be in French and English at the very least
Customer support is always crucial, and nowhere more so than France. Here are a few pointers we urge you to bear in mind:
- You need to overcome more than a language barrier. You have to adapt to a new culture and meet the expectations of those customers. French customers expect quality.
- You’ll have to prioritise French over English. The French revere their language and will expect customer support to be in French.
- Even better, offer multilingual support. This is particularly important in cosmopolitan France and Europe. If you don’t have the resources to do so yourself, engage a specialist company to handle this for you.
- Always be professional in your interactions. The French value privacy and are more formal in their business dealings. Familiarity is a no-no. Don’t ask intrusive questions. Be careful about cracking jokes. Be formal and professional.
- Use correct titles. It is business etiquette in France to use ‘Monsieur’ or ‘Madame’ followed by a surname. First names are normally not used. Using the formal ‘vous’ is advisable rather than the informal ‘tu’.
- Never try the ‘hard sell’ approach with French customers. They do not appreciate pushy tactics or pressurising sales methods.
3. Test e-commerce in France as a starting point for your expansion
JP Morgan identifies France as having a vibrant e-commerce market exceeding €81 billion. This market offers an excellent starting point for you to test-drive your expansion into the French market. It is a good way of exploring the possibility of getting French customers and testing their consumer behaviour.
In this regard having a live chat option on your website will offer you a golden opportunity to get to know your new French customers better, and what their needs, preferences and expectations are. With these first-hand insights you should be able to plan your expansion with confidence.
4. Inspire your French customers to look beyond known and familiar brands
French customers tend to prefer familiar companies and products that already have a proven track record. However, they are also receptive to new, different and innovative products provided they are of good quality, and are launched with impact.
Therefore, gear up for intensive promotions and marketing campaigns that respond dynamically to what your competitors are offering. Convince your new customers of the quality and innovative aspects of your products or services.
5. Find local partners to facilitate your expansion
Local partners are companies that can help and guide you with distribution, networking and liaising with local suppliers. They can be a great help when it comes to picking your way through often confusing regulations and other stipulations of the government.
Though the French legal system is light on bureaucracy and its labour laws and regulations are advanced, pro-growth, people-centric and ethical, local expertise can be invaluable in making your expansion go smoothly.
6. Adhere to European Union and French laws
Informal business arrangements are not recognised under French law. Any agreements or collaborations with franchisees, agents and distributors must meet legal requirements as set out by the EU and France.
In this regard, we suggest that you consult the relevant business organizations, like the CCI de France, which is the national body of the French Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Business France, and other useful bodies like the Foreign Investors Office – Tax4Business, for instance. It is also essential that you engage a legal translation agency to make sure that all relevant documents are correct.
7. Get to know the French market thoroughly
Before you get to the point of actually investing time and money, you have to get to know the French market. French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to make France ‘a start-up nation’ for entrepreneurs.
France’s newly opened Station F is the largest innovative entrepreneurial start-up hub in the world. It shows that France is very much in step with the ever-evolving tech revolution.
Another entrepreneurial initiative funded by the French government to attract foreign start-ups is La French Tech. Its aim is to make France one of the best commercial destinations in the world. It brings together startups with policymakers, investors, and community builders under the stirring rallying-call…
“France’s startup scene is picking up massive momentum. And it’d be even better with you here.”
To further incentivise foreign startups, France has established the most generous government subsidies and tax credit schemes in Europe. The Jeune Entreprise Innovante, or JEI, as well as Credit Impôt Recherche, or CIR tax credit, give companies moving into the French market generous tax exemptions during their first couple of years.
Expanding into the huge and potentially lucrative French market could be one of the smartest moves you make in your business career. However, you will need to perform your due diligence before you do so. You will also have to pay the vibrant and highly individualistic French culture the respect it deserves.