When creating content, it pays to think big. Publishing online gives us access to a readership that’s almost too large to imagine. Do it right and your words could be read by people in places you might never even have heard of.
While a global readership might seem like something most of us dream of, with a little know-how it’s something that you too can achieve.
Decide Who You Are Talking To
When you write for the web, you aren’t just pushing out content at random. You are engaging with others, convincing them to buy into your idea or product. With this in mind, it helps to know who you are trying to reach and which parts of the world you want to expand to.
For example, your ideal reader could be a female entrepreneur, or you might want to address a young music lover. Going global makes your pool of readers much larger, so your female entrepreneurs might include women in Brazil, and your music loving youth could be reading in East Asia.
Keeping a tight focus on your target demographic as you go global will let you reach more of the kind of people that interest you. It also helps your budget go further. Are you looking to connect with female entrepreneurs in South America but less so with similar women in China? Then make your content culturally and linguistically suited to the South American readers, instead of spending time and money trying to reach everyone.
Embrace the Multilingual Web
Forget the idea that everyone online speaks English. Although English is often used in the corporate world as a linguistic go-between, internet users are a far more diverse crowd. The web is also more informal and driven by social connections.
Even people in countries who have strong English skills as a second language will prefer to engage with others in their native tongue. In fact, a 2011 survey by the European Commission found that although 48% of non-English speaking Europeans occasionally read English-language content, 9 out of 10 users preferred to visit sites in their own language.
This makes translation of your content a priority. Make good use of your budget by first figuring out which languages need to be top of your list. In our South American example, Spanish and Portuguese would be essential for getting your message across. If Europe is your key market, you’re likely to find German or French better languages to start with.
Take Languages Seriously
If you don’t get serious about translation, your foreign-language readers won’t get serious about your content. They will be too busy laughing at your language slips, if they stick around at all.
We all know of corporate giants who managed to offend or became a laughing stock thanks to poorly-translated slogans. The rest of us needn’t think we will do any better. Unless you are genuinely bilingual and up to date with current usage, you will miss hidden meanings. It’s also easy to opt for what seems the right word choice, when in fact it means something entirely different (for example, in German the word Gift means poison).
Native speaker knowledge will make sure you don’t sound out of touch or leave readers confused. Accurate linguistic choices will also help your SEO by keeping your keywords relevant. Cutting corners here, on the other hand, could leave search engines as confused as your foreign-language readers.
Understand Cultural Differences
The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that while people worldwide are becoming less trusting of what they read, ‘a person like yourself’ has become the most trusted source of information. Your job is to be that trusted person to your reader, no matter where in the world he or she is.
Localization is an essential part of becoming ‘one of us’ in another culture. Using words and expressions that local people use makes your content more accessible. Being in touch with important cultural events or hot topics can be useful too. Of course, offending people is never a good idea and cultural knowledge also can guide us around dangerous topics or inappropriate language.
Show You Care
Now that you’ve opened up your content to overseas readers, make them feel welcome. Avoid anything that places your English speaking crowd above foreign-language speakers. For example, aim to respond to all comments, not just those in English. If you offer a way for people to contact you, make sure it doesn’t exclude certain time zones or languages. Showing you care about all your readers helps you to build a good online reputation.
Write with other cultures and languages in mind and you’ll be saying Wilkommen, bienvenido and yōkoso to international readers in no time!
About the author:
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, Inc., one of the world’s fastest growing translation services. Launched in 2001, Lingo24, Inc. now has over 180 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over 60 million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express. Follow Lingo24, Inc. on Twitter: @Lingo24.
Have you set your sights on expanding your brand to overseas markets? In today’s global economy, going international is a smart move.
It’s also one that needs some careful planning to get the best return on your investment. Foreign markets involve not only different languages but different cultures. That sure-fire strategy for your home market won’t always win customers overseas. In fact, in this world of social media, getting it wrong can be a business disaster.
Let’s take a look at some things you can do to make your international launch a success – and what went wrong when others failed to pay them enough attention.
Look Before You Leap
There’s no such thing as too much research for an overseas marketing campaign. Your target demographic in a foreign market might appear similar to your home one, but could have very different buying habits. For example, in Russia 65% of consumer electronics were bought at a physical store, according to a 2012 Accenture study. Japan and China showed a similar preference. On the other hand, in Germany only 36% were purchased in this way.
The more research you can do into the habits and mindset of consumers in a particular country, the better informed you will be. On the other hand, even the best ideas can fall flat if the marketing campaign doesn’t appeal to your potential clients or customers. British supermarket giant Tesco discovered this when launching as ‘Fresh & Easy’ in the US. The supermarket spared no expense on a social media campaign, but failed to take into account the importance of TV, radio and print advertising. From the design of its stores, to its self-pay checkouts, the stores failed to meet American shoppers’ expectations.
Tesco’s example shows the difficulties that exist even with markets that share a common language. Bring a foreign language into the equation and overseas marketing can turn into a minefield.
The more care you give to the translation of your campaign, the better your chance of avoiding the dangers. Pay attention not only to translating the actual words but to phrasing them in ways that make sense to native speakers. Professional translators can help you to use appropriate idioms as well as find the right tone. Just as importantly, they can help you to sidestep slang or crude terms that wouldn’t be immediately obvious to an outsider.
Fail to spot these and you can end up with the same problem that Mazda had with the Laputa. The minivan’s name sounds like a term for a prostitute to speakers of Latin languages and had to be renamed in Chile. Clairol also ended up creating the wrong impression when launching its hair curling iron, the Mist Stick, in Germany. Not only does Mist mean manure, but when used with stick sounds like the insult “Miststück” (similar to ‘bitch’ and definitely not the best choice for a women’s product).
Cross the Cultural Divide
Culture is more than religion or festivals, it’s a whole way of living. It can influence everything from product branding to the formality of language used in marketing. The greater the cultural differences between your target country and your home country, the more carefully you will need to adapt your campaign. Those who neglect to do this risk coming across as insensitive or ignorant. It only takes a single cultural faux pas to undo months of good work, destroying trust in your business.
Most of us know that certain animals hold religious taboos, or that some hand gestures change their meaning from one country to another. Other cultural symbolism can be less obvious, such as the associations with certain numbers or colors. Take time to find these out beforehand if you don’t want a marketing disaster on your hands. This is exactly what happened to Pepsi in Southeast Asia when they rebranded their dark blue vending machines. The pale blue they chose was associated in the region with death, with the unfortunate result that their regional sales died too.
A Tourism Australia campaign is a good example illustrating the fine line between what’s culturally acceptable and what isn’t. Its tagline, ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’ combined with beer references hit the wrong note in several countries. The down-to-earth Australian hospitality they thought they were offering to overseas tourists came over as boorish and hard drinking.
There’s simply no substitute for local knowledge when launching in a foreign market. Even though some of the biggest companies have found this out the hard way, you don’t have to follow in their footsteps. Instead, arm yourself with the benefit of research and insider knowledge and you’ll be well-prepared to win friends and customers worldwide.
About the author:
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, Inc., one of the world’s fastest growing translation services. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 180 employees spanning four continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over 60 million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express. Follow Christian on Twitter: @l24ca. Cont@ct Christian here.