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Doing Business in Canada: A Guide for US Companies

November 3, 2022
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Canada is one of the top destinations for US companies looking to expand internationally, due in part to its proximity and similarities to the United States. But there are some key differences you need to be aware of before doing business in Canada.
Expanding your business into any new country can be both an exciting and daunting prospect. Although Canada might seem like an "easy option," it is a distinct market from the US and you need to treat it differently… especially when it comes to languages.
According to CloudPay, Canada is one of the Top 10 countries for global expansion in 2022. With its $1.6 trillion GDP and high standard of living, it can be a highly profitable option for expansion.
In this guide, we'll answer the key questions you might have about doing business in Canada, including "Do I need to translate my content into French?"
Let's explore how you can make your expansion into Canada a success…

Why do business in Canada?

Canadian French is one of our top requested languages from new US companies looking to grow globally.
This makes a lot of sense. If you are based in the United States and you have grown little internationally, Canada can be an "easy win" for many businesses.
You might not have even considered Canada as being an "international expansion" because it feels so close. But, the country has a distinct cultural background and a high prevalence of the French language — particularly in the Quebec region.
If you want your business to thrive in Canada, you need to treat it as you would with any other global expansion.
There are many reasons doing business in Canada makes sense for US companies including:
  • Proximity — Canada is the closest major country to the USA, making it easier and more convenient to do business with than almost any other country in the world.
  • Similarities — While the Canadian market has its differences from the US, there are also many similarities, including the country's free market and similar legal system.
  • French language — The requirement for French might seem like a barrier, but it can actually be a tremendous benefit. With both English and French, you can reach 78% of the country in their native language, and over 98% of the country in total.
  • Market size — With a population of over 38 million people, Canada is a large and diverse market for you to tap into.
  • Free trade agreements — Canada also has free trade agreements with many countries, including the United States, making it easy to do business there.
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What to consider before doing business in Canada

Be warned. You shouldn't expand into Canada without proper planning…
One thing that can cause companies to hesitate around expanding into Canada is stories of colossal failures from large US companies.
A notable example is the Target Canada Fiasco where the retailer Target closed all its Canadian stores after less than 2 years in the country. Why did Target fail to capture the Canadian market? Largely due to not understanding the differences between the two markets.
This example highlights how important it is for you to familiarize yourself with the unique character of Canada and the people within it. It's important to research and understand these cultural differences so you can successfully navigate the Canadian business landscape.
A major factor that US companies sometimes overlook is the language barrier…

The language question: Should you translate into French?

Before you make any attempt to expand your business into Canada, you must answer this key question…
Will you translate your content into French or not?
Canada is a bilingual country. French and English are the two official languages and bilingualism is at the heart of Canadian identity. By choosing to localize your content for the French-speaking market in Canada, you clearly indicate that you value Canada as a market in itself.
There are some excellent reasons to localize your content into Canadian French including:
  • As the country's second official language, French is vital for reaching a significant portion of the population. Quebec is the center of the French-language in Canada, where many people speak French as their first language.
  • Even if you are not doing business in Quebec, translating your content into French can show that you are respectful of Canada's linguistic diversity and willingness to communicate with all Canadians.
  • French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. By localizing for Canada, you take that first step to growing your business into further international markets and languages. After Canada, France could be your next expansion, but keep in mind that the two markets use different variants of the French languages.
If you are planning to expand your business into Canada, it is well worth localizing your content into French.

7 quick tips for expanding your business into Canada

What do you need to know to succeed when expanding your business into the Canadian market?
Here are 7 quick tips to set you off in the right direction:
  1. Educate yourself about the Canadian market and business landscape. The more you understand the market, the better you will serve the people within it, whatever language they speak.
  2. Familiarize yourself with Canadian regulations and tax. This is a fundamental step when moving into any new market.
  3. Take cultural differences into account with your marketing and communication. One historical study by advertising research company Ipsos ASI found that 60% of adverts tested in the USA performed differently in Canada.
  4. Get to know the Canadian business culture and etiquette, especially where it affects your communications. For example, Canadians are often said to prefer a more polite, subdued communication style, with more focus on teamwork and consensus.
  5. Research your competition in the Canadian market. This is one factor that influenced the Target Canada Fiasco described above.
  6. Localize your content into Canadian French, unless you have a good reason not to.
  7. Have a solid plan and clear content strategy before expanding your business into Canada.
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By following these simple tips, you can make the process of expanding your business into the Canadian market much smoother.
The path to any international expansion can be tricky. But with this guide and an attitude of understanding, you can make your Canadian expansion a success!