At first glance, marketing to a foreign audience may seem like a relatively straightforward task. You take your current content and simply translate it from the source language to the language of your overseas customers, and you’re good to go, right? Actually, no. Setting up your website or marketing materials in another language takes much more than just translation. What works in your native language may not be appropriate for potential customers in a foreign market. To have your brand’s message conveyed in a completely new language, you will need expert localization services and may even need to transcreate your current content to fit the expectations of the target audience.
Three marketing strategies are key to your success when it comes to marketing to foreign audiences: market research, localization and SEO translation. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Properly Translated Marketing Research
Technology has made it increasingly easy to conduct business on a global scale, and translation for business is a rapidly growing industry. With roughly 80 percent of the world speaking languages other than English, plus an increase in purchasing power in many of these regions, expanding your business globally makes good fiscal sense. From a financial standpoint, it could be a huge turning point in your company’s expansion, with enormous revenue potential. So how do you create a marketing campaign that doesn’t get lost in translation?
One of the first steps is researching your market. Organizations commonly do this with surveys that target the potential audience. This type of research will identify opportunities, help you discover more about the values and traditions of your target market, and signal any possible barriers you might come up against when breaking into your market. The documents and questionnaires used in these market research studies will need translation so that they are written in a way that your audience will understand.
To do this, professional translators or a translation agency familiar with overseas market research can be an excellent ally. Because they are used to providing translation in many languages, they will be familiar with what is needed to tailor your marketing campaign to your audience. Adapting your content to a different culture requires that you understand the purchasing habits, traditions, beliefs, and even the cultural taboos of your potential customers. This is a specialized type of work that goes beyond translation and is called localization.
The importance of website localization for your marketing translation projects cannot be overemphasized. Certified translation and localization providers understand the potential market and can give valuable insight into the expectations of the consumers in that location. You will want to know how people purchase their goods and services, what sort of advertising they respond to best, and what types of products are most sought-after. Even small things like the most popular sizes of a certain product or the way traditional advertising is presented can be significant. While these things may seem trivial, they are integral to your success.
For marketing translation to work, you will also want to know how your new audience uses technology. What does their computer and mobile usage look like? What are the most popular shopping apps? Do they purchase mainly over the internet or in bricks and mortar stores? What sort of disposable income do they have? Will your product even be affordable for them? These questions are necessary for performing keyword research and SEO translation. They need to be answered before the translation process begins so that the overall user experience will flow smoothly when you move into the new market.
In many places, you will need to pay particular attention to even the smallest of details. For example, specific colors or symbols can signify bad luck or mourning in some countries. Expressions that are humorous in one language can yield an insulting translation in another language. Regional dialect, jargon, and vernacular should be understood to reduce the risk of conflict, or worse, alienating your brand. It would be very disappointing to spend so much time and money on professional translation services and have your brand fail because you left localization out of the language translation process.
When Is Transcreation Necessary?
At times, entire marketing campaigns may need further steps that go beyond translation and localization services. This is especially true if the target country has such extreme cultural differences that your message would translate into complete gibberish. For example, many companies have slogans that use a witty or humorous play on words that would lose its impact entirely in the target language. This happens not just with slogans but with taglines, product labeling, and even brand names.
In these cases, it may be necessary to transcreate the marketing materials from scratch, changing product names, logos, and even entire brand names to make sure your brand is introduced to the target market in a way that is culturally relevant. Translation that involves transcreation means focusing on the goal of how you would like your potential market to respond to your message and then recreating your campaign to fit their unique needs. This may mean that you end up with some very different materials than you originally intended in order to have the desired impact.
While translation is necessary for businesses seeking to market their products in other languages, it is not enough. Localization acts as safeguard, allowing your business to run smoothly in another culture, while transcreation goes further still, by building your brand around that culture itself. In all cases, the services of a professional translator who is native to the region in which you intend to do business is essential to your long-term success.
Louise Taylor is the head of content for Tomedes, a translation and localization company. She has been writing for the Tomedes company blog since 2013. She is passionate about languages and the way they can unify the world.