Open Source software vendors outside of the U.S. or UK tend to make a fatal strategic mistake: They sacrifice international marketing communications at the altar of a regional sales focus.
For example, an Open Source business started in Spain will naturally feel more comfortable with doing sales in Spain with most employees speaking and thinking in Spanish. Spain is where our sample company comes from, it’s a safe haven, and it’s where the bulk of sales are being made. Why should they go global, invest in building an international business and take the risk?
Sooner or later, there will be global competition in the same niche from another Open Source vendor or project. Someone else will reach a critical mass of international community and business adoption much quicker than the Spanish company will ever be able within its country of origin. And then our sample vendor will find itself against a much stronger competitor who isn’t afraid to take risks.
Essentially, Open Source vendors must think of themselves as global and look at regions as regions, and not the other way round.
In order to do this well, English should be the main language of communication with the public right from the start. Make sure all general marketing collateral is first available in English. This will make English and an international point of view part of the company’s DNA from the beginning, which is critical for success.
Independently, it is of course important to note that in some regions you will only be able to attract early adopters by communicating in English. Pragmatist buyers in countries such as France or Germany will appreciate if your sales stuff spoke French or German and related marketing collateral were available in their native language. This trend of early adopters willing to try out English-only products while mainstream users wait for the product to mature, allows for easy and free market research. If the early adopters in a region start using and talking about your project and you were able to win a few prestigious customers, it is time to consider localizing there.
So, don’t make this mistake, thinking like a regional Open Source vendor that goes global. Rather think like an international company focusing its sales efforts towards certain regions.
Looking at this from another perspective, I never understood discussions whether MySQL (for example) is a European or US company? Trying to link banner Open Source vendors with national or regional pride is totally neglecting the fact that Open Source is and always has been a global business.