The Internet has effectively eliminated geographic borders for business and commerce, and as a result, ambitious brands are increasingly doing business beyond their home market. Simply doing standard translations of English-language content used to be good enough to engage multilingual audiences. But today, such passive tactics are no longer sufficient—especially when you consider that 95 percent of the world's consumers and 80 percent of the world's purchasing power reside outside of America.
Being global ready and engaging multilingual audiences means implementing a global content strategy focused on creating personalized experiences for customers worldwide. And this entails five essential elements:
Getting the whole team on board. Cultivating personalized, native brand experiences for current and potential customers should be an organization-wide effort, even if this involves just making sure the entire company is aware of, understands, and is on board with this direction. Taking on a global mind-set is a collective effort, and every department, from marketing and sales to product developers to C-level executives, should be involved and in sync from the start of any project.
Global thinking from day one across the entire enterprise is essential. From the very beginning, companies need to shift their thinking away from "what we are doing in the U.S. is good enough for the rest of the world, and we will just translate it"—because that approach will fail—miserably. Instead, organizations must think about their content marketing strategy in a global context. And they must scale globally and behave locally early in the planning stages.
Putting a plan in place. According to research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), only 37 percent of B2C marketers and 32 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy/plan in place. Creating and documenting a global content strategy seems like marketing 101. Yet for some reason, it's often an overlooked step at many organizations. The importance of developing—and writing down—a plan cannot be overstated. It will hold you and your team accountable to management and the organization as a whole, and it will help you benchmark your successes and learn from your failures.
Getting the message right. Every brand wants to understand what makes customers tick. But brands that are fluent everywhere go many levels deeper to understand customer motivations in specific markets and regions around the world. A message that could be considered clever and cheeky in one market could crash and burn—to the point of being offensive—in another. And your chance of success in that market could be severely damaged right in front of your eyes.
For this reason, smart brands are leveraging localization (adding cultural nuances) and transcreation (creating entirely new content for the right cultural fit) in addition to traditional translation to deliver personalized brand experiences that resonate in any language, all cultures, and every market. Achieving success on a global scale is a delicate balance, but getting it right can net huge results.
Hiring strong local help. As your company expands globally, you'll discover (perhaps quickly) that market research can only take you so far. There is only so much you, as an outsider, can learn about the various markets you choose to do business in.
One of the most important investments you can make in your company's global expansion process is hiring local marketers. It's important to note that these are not your typical localization managers focused solely on translation. Rather, they should be market-focused strategists who are thinking about local customers when they are creating messages and materials for the market in question. Local marketers possess a keen understanding of the culture nuances, customs, preferences, buying behaviors, and regional dialects, and they will ensure global content is accurate and on brand. You want your messages to feel like they were created by a local, and what better way to do that than by having actual local help create your messaging.
Choosing the right technology. An effective global content strategy makes translation management technology an important part of the marketing technology stack.
Translation used to be time-consuming, costly, and error-prone, deterring many organizations from even attempting it. But today's translation management technology offerings enable brands to continue to leverage professional human translators for the highest possible quality while automating the nonlinguistic parts of the process, such as managing the hundreds of spreadsheets of content in need of translation and the endless back and forth with translators via email. Translation management technology enables companies to reach more customers with greater speed, and at a fraction of the cost. And it frees up marketers' time so they can focus on what matters most: creating native brand experiences for each and every customer.
To engage global customers and tap into the seemingly endless international business opportunities, brands must implement a global content strategy focused on delivering personalized customer experiences worldwide. And with the right elements in place, this new global approach will increase customer acquisition and retention, and drive global growth.
Judd Marcello is the vice president of marketing at Smartling.