What are the best approaches to creating a multilingual website or advertising campaign?
The world’s a really big place, but as a result of globalisation we’re closer to each other than ever before.
Going global is a well-worn phrase, so well-worn in fact that we seem to have taken for granted the rapid technological expansion that’s happened over the past 20 years or so – similar in scope and scale, surely, to the Industrial Revolution.
Big planet, big opportunities. In spheres. It’s changed lives. As more and more people, all over the world, start to go online, the potential benefits for companies are massive.
However, entering another country and communicating with your new customers in their native language does not guarantee success. There are many things to consider when translating your marketing and advertising content for overseas markets.
If your global campaign involves directing users to your ecommerce store or social media platforms, then you need to ensure that a reasonable segment of your target audience is online. Internet penetration levels differ greatly from region to region.
Research from the UN Broadband Commission shows a third of the world’s population has internet access – a figure projected to rise to 40% by 2016.
Internet access has been spurred in recent years by the take-up of mobile broadband, which is working to ‘bridge the gap’ between the connected and the unconnected.
Proportion of internet users across the world:
- Asia – 44.8%
- Europe – 21.5%
- North America – 11.4%
- Latin America / Caribbean – 10.4%
- Africa – 7%
- Middle East – 3.7%
- Oceania / Australia – 1%
As at Q2 2012, according to Internet World Stats
Indeed, many big-name brands, including Nike and Coca-Cola, have been targeting emerging markets with advertising campaigns for decades.
Nintendo, for example, recently announced it is to launch a new gaming console specifically for emerging markets like India.
These companies have not always experienced instant success but they have used the knowledge that they have gained in different markets to develop their products, enhance their marketing messages and improve their targeting of desirable customer segments.
Here are some very basic tips on how to increase the likelihood of success in your global marketing campaigns.
Multilingual content creation 101
If you’re about to embark on a translation project, how should you start out?
Do some research
How have other brands approached their global campaigns? How have they looked at translating content for their customers? It’s a good idea to get hold of some case studies and see what strategies your competitors have employed.
This’ll give you some useful insights which you can feed into your project – and some tactics to avoid too.
Search for case studies, white papers and research reports for the following translation strands:
- Companies embracing translation as part of a long-term strategy
- Companies harnessing translation for one-off projects and campaigns
You’ll see that there are important differences between companies rolling out a wholesale translation strategy and ones translating content for a specific project like, say the World Cup.
Develop a team
If you’re starting small, you probably won’t have any translators in your company whatsoever. But if you’re embarking on a big project, you’ll need talented people.
A good first step is to appoint a ‘head of translation’ or a ‘head of foreign language content’ – whatever their job title, they need to act as an ambassador for foreign language content within your company and head-up all the big projects, liaising with editors, management and external agencies.
This will help cement the idea of translation – and its benefits – across your company, as well as ensuring you have someone with overall responsibility.
But consider outsourcing too
Depending on the size and scale of the project, outsourcing could well be a good investment too.
If you don’t have a team of translators but need, say, to get your new eCommerce website translated, consider working with a professional translation agency.
Similarly, remember that SEO is a crucial part of an international marketing campaign. Pick a translation agency experience performing keyword research as well as translating page titles and meta descriptions for lots of different markets and languages. This way you can receive SEO advice as well as advice on all other aspects of your multilingual content marketing strategy.
You might also find that you want to collaborate, so have the translation agency work on certain aspects of your project while you manage other parts in-house. You can have your project lead work directly with the agency. This is often a good way of working.
Use native speakers
There’s bound to be some little nuances you’re not aware of. Hooking up with someone on the ground is a good idea. Why not approach a local native speaker through LinkedIn and have them proof your final drafts?
Local knowledge is crucial. Read this summary from a 2013 case study looking at how a series of hotels on the Portuguese islands of Madeira approached translation.
“Creating a multilingual hospitality website is not quite as simple as directly translating the dominant site language,” it says.
“The use of native speaker translators with an understanding of the hospitality industry was important, because flowing text, well-written in a guest’s native language, allows them to feel more comfortable.”
Start small – but think big
It’s a good idea to start things off small – while thinking big over the long-term. If you’re translating your website into multiple languages, start with one language, then build from there.
This works because you can review the initial translation and see what worked and what didn’t – feeding all this back into your next translation project.
“Translation offers a host of benefits to companies,” says Yusuf Bhana, our marketing manager.
“It helps organisations reach new customers in new countries and, ultimately, provides new sources of revenue. But embarking on a translation project, especially for the first time, isn’t without risk.
“Good planning, setting clear objectives, achieving company-wide buy-in and ensuring you allocate a reasonable budget for your translation or website localisation projects are all critical in determining success”.