How to develop a multilingual content marketing strategy

By Endri Hasanaj

The web has made making money across borders easier for many companies — but it’s also made engaging marketing more complex. Without the right tools, techniques and tactics, a successful offering in an organization’s home territory is often lost in translation when it’s exposed to international markets. With that in mind, here’s some advice on how to develop a multilingual content marketing strategy.

Localise and translate your website

Translation services will allow potential customers in international markets to read and understand your website — but this might not be enough for them to engage, click and convert. Persuading new customers to part with their hard-earned cash relies on localisation — a deeper level of translation that includes appropriate cultural references and observes the right conversational conventions. A native language communicator who’s also an expert in your sector has the ideal skillset to manage this task and help you achieve the subtle fluency necessary to establish mutual respect quickly. You might need to significantly tweak your products and services in order for them to make an impact— think about McDonald’s replacing the Big Mac in non-beef eating India with the more culturally-sensitive Maharaja Mac containing chicken.

Tweak SEO and social media

SEO works according to similar principles and mechanisms in different territories — but there are also significant differences. Lots of deep keyword research is necessary for large, diverse nations where different languages and dialects are in use simultaneously. But unfamiliar search engines with slightly different algorithms are also a factor — Google is global but it’s not the only player. So if you haven’t heard of Yandex, Baidoo, or Seznam, your plans for global domination might fall short. The same principle applies to social media — Facebook is huge in the UK and US, but Weibo has far more users in China. Don’t presume the same SEO and social strategies can be used as a blueprint anywhere — unless you want to set yourself up for a fall.

Strong branding

The flipside of adapting products and services to suit local tastes is retaining a strong brand identity. The danger of a complete transformation in each operational territory is that your core message and values are diluted to the extent that your brand’s no longer unique.

Achieving this balance is no easy task — but perhaps simplicity is the key. Amazon’s Australian launch entailed changing its offering to suit local tastes, but its core message of a wide product selection, simple ordering and rapid delivery remain exactly the same everywhere in the world — in terms of customer service there’s no ambiguity about what the corporation stands for. More complex brand identities might not click as powerfully around the globe, but simple and strong messaging tends to be effective.

Fresh personas

The customer personas you developed in the US probably won’t be relevant or effective on the other side of the world. You might find similar demographic segments in terms of age and gender and occupation, but other variables such as average income and interests could vary widely. Personas are at the heart of the personalised customer experience most consumers expect — so if yours aren’t accurate or realistic, your brand will sound and feel weird to its target audience.

Develop fresh personas so your marketers can converse with customers confidently. Operational responsibilities such as outsourcing payroll and negotiating attractive corporate tax arrangements are important when it comes to global business. But without a sophisticated multilingual marketing strategy your international expansion might be doomed to failure — so follow our advice for a solid start. How have you achieved international success? Share your advice in the comments section.

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Endri Hasanaj is a trilingual marketing professional, he has diversified experience in start-ups, business ideas and their process of integrating with marketing.

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