In a modern online world, we are fortunate to be able to access information from anywhere across the planet. You could be in Chicago looking at TCPA compliance solutions at a French firm. Or you could be in Madrid, reading a blog about cart abandonment from a company in Scotland. Whatever, the reason, having access to information from across the globe fills us with knowledge and lets us look at the way others do things.
Therefore, for a business today, it’s vital to be as accessible as possible to a global audience. People from around the world need to have as much access to your information as you do to theirs. This way, you are making sure that you are reaching the largest audience possible, as well as allowing your services and products to reach every corner of the globe.
Of course, it makes sense to have your site predominantly in English as it makes up a quarter of languages spoken online. But as demographics and the population change, you need to ensure you are open to wider audiences.
Having a multilingual marketing strategy could be just what you need to take your company the extra mile. 330-360 million people say they speak English as a first language. 460 million to 1 billion people say they speak it as a second language. There is a huge number of people that speak English in the world—but it’s an even bigger number of people who don’t. And it isn’t fair to presume that even if you have figured out your target buyer persona, those visiting your site speak English, just because you do.
To ensure that you remain a part of the competition, it may be time to change your site. Turn it from a purely English friendly one to a multilingually friendly one instead. This way, you can let your online sales reach as far as possible and connect to new audiences around the world.
What exactly is a multilingual approach?
Making your site multilingual isn’t as simple as adding an automated ‘translate’ button in the top corner. It’s about considering sentence structure, different cultures, and the different names for items in your output.
For example, say you produced a report on customer assistance in your firm. If you wrote “call center reporting” in a sentence, an American audience wouldn’t see the problem. However, a British audience may be put off your firm because of the spelling of “center”. In this case, it wouldn’t be that content had to be completely changed, especially as the two countries speak the same language. But if you were advertising to a British audience, you may need to take points like spelling into account.
Taking a multilingual approach is about keeping the original message. Whilst also adapting to different languages. Not only is it a great way of building trust with an audience, but it opens you up to new markets too.
1. Adapt where needed
When selling to a global market, it’s important to understand that every country has a different culture. If you were talking to a customer in person, it’s only polite to respect people’s culture. For example, sealing the deal with a handshake in Canada, compared to with a wai (bow) in Thailand. It’s just as important when dealing with people online too.
This means keeping your core message whilst considering a global audience, as well as adapting where needed. Doing this will help you reach the right people in the right places.
Let’s say, for example, you are a shoe company creating content on omnichannel retail software. And let’s say you are trying to find a bigger audience in India.
It would be culturally insensitive to talk about having “real cow leather shoes” as part of your content. This is because 79% of the Indian population identifies as Hindu. As Hindus consider cows to be sacred, you are likely to lose a big chunk of customers by making this cultural mistake.
Therefore, you need to adapt your campaign to each country’s culture, while still maintaining your brand. This starts with researching as much as you can about the country you are reaching. Then, change your product according to what is culturally popular. Using the above shoe example, it would be much better to create content around any leather-free shoes you may sell and aim this towards an Indian audience instead.
Starbucks is one firm that does this well. They sell a Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino in China and a Maple Macchiato in Canada. Both items are characteristic of each country.
2. Make easily changeable content
To prevent a build-up in cost from hiring translators, make content that is easy to localize. This means considering how language translates and wording changes.
Let’s say you are a British communications company. You have made a blog on how to send an online fax. There is no point in using a sentence like, “Back in the day, you needed a dog and bone connection to send a fax.” Because the only people who will understand what that means is those who are versed in Cockney Rhyming Slang.
So, it would be much better to say, “Back in the day, you needed a phone connection to send a fax.” People are much more likely to understand the word “phone” over “dog and bone”.
Therefore, make sure that you are avoiding using colloquialisms, jokes, and phrases. Avoid using overly complicated language. Doing this means that when you give your work to translators, they won’t be left confused when translating local phrases or jokes. This is a clever marketing technique that simply makes translation easier.
This isn’t to say that work has to have its personality taken out of it. Just keep in mind that it’s not worth anybody getting their knickers in a twist over a dodgy sentence that ends up going pear-shaped. This could make your company look a few sandwiches short of a picnic, so to speak…
As you can see, it’s not worth using a phrase that could end up being mistranslated because people are confused at the meaning. You risk making your company look silly.
3. Make the content local
Talk to an audience as if the content is specially made just for them. This means ensuring that sentences make sense when they are translated. However, it also involves making sure they are geographically relevant, too. This could mean changing anything from the colors you use to changing the examples you give. You should also make sure you are changing spelling and things like date formatting where needed, too.
As well as hiring native translators, you will need to hire people that work in the market you are targeting work at. So, you could hire translators with specialized knowledge. Or, you could hire editors to ensure the translated work makes sense structurally and culturally. This is the perfect chance to optimize remote employees who will save you money and can work from anywhere in the world.
Whoever you work with, it needs to be someone who knows about current affairs or popular culture interests. This will make sure nothing gets lost in translation and still has a core message. This is especially true if you are working with influencers and celebrities—the people who are successful in one country might be a nobody in another.
Another way to localize is through the use of product reviews. Where possible, make sure that reviews are for the things you sell in each region. Let’s say you have a franchise of dessert stores. There is no point in posting the review for pumpkin pie next to a picture of the mayor of New York to your German audience. This is because, with it being a predominantly American and Canadian dessert, they may not know what it is, and this will be an irrelevant review.
4. Use the right software
If you decide that you don’t want to use a human translator, then you can put your work through translating software. Remember if you do this, it’s really important to keep content as straightforward as possible—a machine really won’t be able to pick up any jokes or phrases.
They are good, however, if there is something that needs to be translated soon and you don’t have time to find a freelancer or to deal with time zones.
Translation software is also good at making sure sentences are in the right order and words are spelled correctly. This is especially good for people who just need snippets of information. So, say you are working with a remote marketing team in a different country. You can send direct messages using translation software and the writer will understand your exact points, rather than having to figure out information from documents or images.
The downside to using translation software, though, is that it can’t pick up localizations. So, you will need someone at some point to check that your facts are straight.
Let’s say you are based in Mexico and you are writing an email about “how to stay organized at work”. At one point, you talk about the hot weather as a distraction. If you are translating this for a Russian audience, it might not have the same impact. So, if you do use translation software, you may need to do a bit of geographical research and adapt sentences before translating.
5. Make sure everything fits
You need to make sure that all of your site content aligns. And that means making sure that if you have produced a blog that translates to a German audience, the product descriptions need to fit, too. This helps create a consistent brand name and message. You could be writing an email campaign on niche holiday products, or you could be sharing a whitepaper on marketing automation. Whatever it is, you need to link your multilingual strategies together.
This also means that you need to be aware of how each geographical audience navigates your website. Perhaps a Spanish audience is more likely to explore your Facebook, whilst a Japanese audience is more likely to spend more time on your website. Therefore, you need to understand your market and adapt your multilingual strategies accordingly.
A big part of this means making sure you are compliant with local laws. Moreover, be careful to target the right audience in general. There is no point in running a Facebook competition to win a new pair of winter boots in December in Australia—the audience will have no interest in the product due to the heat.
When writing a proposal for any part of your website, make sure to include how this may change depending on the market.
6. Analyze your progress
Using KPI will help you to see how successful your translated content is. Then you change it accordingly.
Make sure to set realistic goals. And remember that no matter how well translated, content success will vary from place to place. Try to use data that you can actually measure and use different approaches if you need to.
It may be that using a multilingual approach to increase an audience takes a lot of trial and error. So, if you are finding it isn’t going as well as you hoped, try a different method.
Let’s say you posted some content titled “Types of call transfers: Cold vs warm transfer”. Perhaps your data shows it was a roaring success in South Africa and Uganda. But, it didn’t do so well in Argentina or Sweden. It could be that you changed the localizations but didn’t translate the actual language so well. Or it could be that the products didn’t change depending on the countries’ needs.
Using KPIs and analyzing data will help you see where you can improve and in what location.
Remember that when it comes to using a multilingual approach, there isn’t a one size fits all answer. Cultures and norms vary wildly across the world, so individual research will have to be taken out depending on the market. Any content created for a multilingual audience will have to be double-checked—it helps to have people looking out for localization and translation issues. Adapting in this way opens up firms to a wider audience. Moreover, it helps people become more culturally enriched along the way, too.