Is your message the right one? A four-step globalisation guide

It’s estimated 90 per cent of online business is conducted in English, a statistic that won’t surprise many. But what is surprising, is that 70 per cent of web users are not native English speakers, a fact that a lot of companies both large and small seem to be ignoring.

Given words are the spine of a marketing campaign, if the customer can’t understand it, then it serves very little purpose. If marketers continue to overlook this group, then they do so at their peril. As a recent survey found that 75 per cent of non-native speakers said they would not buy from an English-only platform. This is a huge number of customers who are potentially being ignored.

One size doesn’t fit all

Regardless of the size of a company and the popularity of a brand, it’s time for businesses to start investing in localising global marketing campaigns. Currently, only 10 per cent of all content is even being translated. This is still not good enough, as simply translating the words won’t necessarily convey the intended message to potential customers.

When it comes to localising a campaign, one size does not fit all. Beyond marketing segmentation, consumers expect personalisation. In 2009, over 90 per cent of customers could be reached online using 37 languages. Just three years later, in 2012, a further 11 additional languages were required to reach the same audience, and it’s expected for this number to grow.

It’s not just about brands being able to speak to customers in their language, but being able to resonate with audiences effectively. The challenge for marketers is to find a way of striking a balance between core global brand objectives and creating, or adapting, content so it interests consumers in different markets. The problem is that marketers can often shy away, wary that this is a complex and time consuming process, when it really doesn’t need to be.

So how do global brands balance global messaging with local relevancy?

Here’s a four-step guide to ensuring that this process becomes as straight-forward as possible:

  1. Decide what content to create

The first step to globalisation is to develop a framework for deciding the types of content to adapt and what level of adjustment is needed.

By identifying the business drivers and key performance indicators (KPIs), success criteria can then be developed.

The team can then focus on what kind of content will resonate with the audience to hit these targets. Different types of content require different levels of customisation – but that’s okay! Every programme can be re-worked to include different features, based on budgets and ideals.

  1. Create global-ready content

Creating global-ready content reduces localised complexity, costs and timelines and improves the overall usability of content.

- Ensure writing is simple and straightforward

- Eliminate culturally specific references

- Use culturally neutral and flexible design elements to accommodate different character sets and text orientations

When the content team begins writing with globalisation in mind, the result is a clear and concise source material that cuts translation costs and timelines. Simple language always resonates the most with customers in almost every language, so this mind-set also improves the quality of the finished product.

  1. Plan ahead

Once it’s been decided what type of content needs to be created and how much it’s going to be adapted, it’s time to start planning the program. Make a checklist and stick to it. It will make the process much easier in the long run.

- Languages and display: Different languages may have different character sets and text orientation than English. This will affect the design, layout and even content length.

- Content: Make sure the content elements will be appropriate and relevant for all audiences, also accounting for cultural and legal differences between countries.

- Assessment and feedback strategies: Cultural and legal differences apply here, too. A globalisation partner in-country can be a great resource for identifying any further possible issues

- Technology: Make sure the technologies used are compatible with regional capabilities. For example, remember some social media platforms do not operate in certain markets. Will a Facebook campaign be adaptable for Sina Weibo in China?

  1. Go global, think local

Planning for a globalisation strategy is critical to ensuring the best outcomes for any brand activity, whilst keeping costs under control. When investing in materials that will have an improved impact in certain target markets, success means starting every project by creating global-ready content but thinking locally. Once dents have been made in previously un-localised markets, customers will be thankful of the effort to cater and market to them, and not just an anonymous group.

These simple steps will help achieve a culturally neutral, global-ready brand plan. The in-market team will now be able to help globalise it for the various languages the business is targeting, resulting in a personalised and hopefully, successful campaign.

Brenda Loughlin, Customer Experience Manager, Lionbridge