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5 ways to boost your content for foreign markets

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Robert Gorby, VP of SMB Business at SDL, examines 5 simple ways in which marketers and advertisers can boost their localisation efforts without spending a fortune.

You would have to have been living on a desert island or under a rock to have missed the mass globalisation that has taken place over the last three decades. our ever-increasingly connected world, we are all global citizens. However, with exponential globalisation comes its fair share of challenges, especially when it comes to companies doing business outside their native country.

While the world may be getting smaller in some senses, it’s not getting any less complex. Two thirds (66%) of UK businesses say they already operate in European markets, where 23 different languages are spoken, and almost a fifth (17%) are planning to dip their toes into Asian markets.

Yet paradoxically, while over two thirds (71%) say localising content is key in reaching out to customers, more than a quarter (26%) of UK businesses admit they don’t adapt their content for foreign markets - 23% say it’s not even a consideration.

It will come as no surprise to the seasoned marketer that sending out poorly localised, generic content is a sure-fire way to lose customers and damage brand reputation. But in the time-poor and cash-strapped world of marketing, where campaign budgets are constantly being slashed, marketers are under pressure to deliver high ROI and localisation is not making the cut.

But there are a number of simple and cost-effective ways to boost localisation efforts in global campaigns. Here are a few of the best.

Use your style guides to their full potential

This may seem obvious, but over a third (38%) of marketers admit they don’t have a style guide. Even when they do exist, their guides generally only cover certain markets and standardising these can be a challenge – especially when trying to maintain legacy. Yet today’s global customer expects companies and brands to connect with them in a way that is not only personable but also consistent - getting this right is essential.

To make the most of existing company assets and take control of brand tone of voice in the easiest (and cheapest) way, maximise what you already have. Most companies will have a well-known tone of voice, so instead of starting from zero, use what you already have to create a guide that documents how to use that tone of voice; from terminology to spelling and punctuation preferences. This ensures you have a basic road-map for everyone in the company to follow when creating content.

Don’t be afraid of translation memory technology

There’s a great myth that translation technology is clunky, expensive, and riddled with inaccuracies – in fact, a whopping 67% of UK businesses don’t use any form of translation memory technology because of these preconceptions. Yet making note of idioms and colloquialisms specific to different geo-locations is a great way to boost content marketing overseas. If you can highlight where specific phrases are being used then you can make your content relatable to the market you’re targeting.

Highlighting these idioms can be a lengthy process when using human resources, but translation memory technology automatically stores target phrases and preferred vocabulary along with specialist terminology by presenting these preferred terms to translators to include where appropriate. In terms of cost, this means you never have to pay for the same phrase twice as translated material is stored and reused.

Get to grips with the culture

It’s one thing to understand your native market, and an entirely different challenge when moving into markets abroad. In fact, nearly a third (28%) of UK businesses say they ‘require improvement’ in terms of their understanding of foreign markets.

The best place to start is within your own network of connections – customers already established in the target markets or employees who have experience of the culture. Having local knowledge will be invaluable when navigating the different cultural subtleties, especially when trying to enter into Asian markets from a western starting point. Pepsi’s ‘Bring you back to life’ slogan plunged in China after it was literally translated in Mandarin as ‘Brings you back from the grave’ – having a detrimental impact on the overall campaign.

Streamline all processes – both internal and external

Keep things simple – especially when there’s a large amount of copy that needs to be translated into however many languages. Ensuring content is clearly formatted, in a standardised way, will go a long way in helping translators perform quality work.

Streamlining the content process will also help with keeping on top of the varying levels of translation as some pieces will be longer than others. The end destination of all content also needs to be kept in mind at all times - content could end up in emails or on website pages and sometimes the same copy could be needed for both platforms. Factoring in time for translation as well as design is important and can only be done successfully when the end-to-end process runs smoothly.

Choose your words wisely

An established company’s tone of voice may be familiar and colloquial in its native country, but this will not necessarily transfer across in different countries and cultures and it shouldn’t be taken for granted that it will. The language used when entering new markets overseas should be thought about very carefully.

In the Middle East and Far Eastern countries, formality and politeness are highly valued. Whereas in America, broadly speaking, a more informal tone of voice is generally accepted in the consumer market. Businesses must take time to establish what their messaging will be when going abroad and work with their network of local contacts to ensure that they won’t get caught out by mistranslations or culturally inappropriate phrases.

Personalisation has become an overused buzzword in recent times, but its importance shouldn’t be downplayed – especially in global enterprise. The content marketer that fails to take heed will ultimately fall behind and risk alienating new markets with, at best, impersonal– at worst, simply offensive content. However, there are simple and importantly cost-effective ways to avoid this fate. From using style guides to their full potential and employing translation memory technology to choosing words wisely, the savvy content marketer will be flying in this ever global world.

For more from SDL on creating localised content across a global marketplace, you can download their Content Marketers Guide to Universal Content Domination Report, which surveyed more than 200 B2B marketers to discover how well they're using localised content, and to find out about the advantages.

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