The world is getting smaller. The U.N. reports that there are more than 2.5 billion Internet users worldwide. India’s population of Internet users is on pace to surpass the U.S.’s (207 million) this year, placing India second only to China, which currently has 300 million people on the web. And that’s just the Internet.
Given the spending power of some of the top non-English speaking countries—like Brazil, Japan, and China—there is enormous potential for companies like yours to generate revenue outside of North America.
In fact, ignoring other markets means you’re leaving potential revenue on the table. The Internet has made these potential customers accessible, but the onus still remains on you to get the messaging right. Here are five tips to translating your marketing message across cultural barriers:
Entering a new market is a combination of science and art. Applying scientific rigor to determining which markets you want to enter is critical when entering a new market. When considering a new market, make sure it offers at least one of the following advantages (if not more than one): a healthy customer base, potentially with a higher willingness to pay; access to an inexpensive supply of labor and/or raw material, leading to cost efficiencies; and legal, regulatory, or other foundational factors that make it easy to do business.
Most search engines in other nations aren’t as saturated or as competitive as the U.S. Regardless, you still need to know both what customers are searching for and how to cut out irrelevant keywords. Urban legend or not, the team that designed the Chevy Nova in the pre-Internet 1970s likely would have figured out that "no-va" literally meant "no-go" after conducting some SEO research on Mexican search engines.
It’s critical to understand what’s happening in a new market, not only now but also in the future. For instance, attractive markets like Brazil, China and South Korea all have growing populations whereas Japan’s population is shrinking. Just as in English-speaking countries, the age, demographics, spending power and cultural trends of a new market all matter when you're crafting a marketing message.
Whether you have a localization team or not, getting your marketing message in place and keeping it relevant in a new market takes work. Weaving translation and transcreation (see next point) into your day-to-day processes can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful marketing campaign. As with any successful campaign, you need to start with core messaging first, understand the channels you’ll be campaigning on, and know at what point to weave in translation. Translation should never get in the way of your campaign. If anything, it should help you proof your messaging in multiple languages including your native language.
You’ve done your research, built a process, and are ready to ship your campaign. In order to compare and contrast your campaigns effectiveness in one nation vs. another, you’ll need to "transcreate" the experience. This is where the art comes in.
Transcreation is the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone, and context.
There are thousands of market research firms and consultants that make a living off of knowing both the science of a new market and the art of entering it without alienating new customers. These people can be useful in getting your marketing message off the ground, but they can’t truly transcreate your brands experience the way you can. As a marketer, employee, and internal stakeholder, you know how customers respond to your messaging and interact with your product. Most importantly, you know how your CEO reacts to the bottom line. In order to find the nation-specific breaks in the message-product-revenue chain, you’ll need to transcreate the same experience from one nation to the next.
There are many ways to go global. These are just five tips of many that we recommend after having worked with hundreds of clients working to take their messaging global. What steps are we missing? What steps would you take?
—Ryan Frankel is the CEO of VerbalizeIt (one of Inc.'s 35 Under 35 Coolest Entrepreneurs of 2014), the company that connects businesses and travelers directly to a 19,000-person translator community to deliver real-time quality translation. He is a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.