How to deliver effective multilingual marketing campaigns

How to deliver effective multilingual marketing campaigns

A number of factors such as globalisation, advances in technology and the rise of social media have all made the world a smaller place. As a result, multilingual marketing is no longer the preserve of multinational companies. Every year, smaller companies and family-owned businesses are starting to diversify out of their traditional domestic markets. But that's not to say that marketing to a multilingual audience is straightforward. To be successful, you'll need to carefully consider which markets to enter and which audiences to target, how you're going to actually market to them, and how to address the language barriers. So let's take a look at these in a bit more detail.

How to choose your target markets

Given the nature of your business and what you make or sell, you might already have a very clear idea of where you want to target. For example, a business that already exports food and drink products to Spain might see Portugal as a logical market to target next.

However, if you're starting from scratch and you really have no firm idea where to target next with your marketing campaigns, our first piece of advice would be to start with the market most similar to your existing one. When you think about multilingual marketing campaigns, you might be tempted to simply go for the biggest markets. Whilst that might sound good in theory, in reality, if it's your first time running a multilingual marketing campaign then we would recommend keeping it as simple as possible.

By picking markets that are as similar as possible to your existing market, you'll have the benefit of being able to use your existing campaigns as a great starting point/base to build on. Similar audiences (whether culturally or in terms of the language they speak) mean your campaigns won't need as much adaptation when moving between each. Instead, you can simply focus on getting the translation right (rather than worrying about whether your messaging will resonate with the new audience or, even worse, whether it'll cause offense).  All of this means you'll need to spend less time and money creating different marketing campaigns for different audiences, which in turn means it should be easier, and quicker, to generate a positive ROI on your ad spend. 

Written vs video content

Broadly, any digital marketing campaign is likely to involve either written content (think blogs and promotional materials), video content, or a combination of both. This is the same when considering a multilingual campaign, but you'll need to consider how much work will be required to translate your content into different languages.

Video content can be really engaging and powerful, particularly when reaching out to potential new customers. It can also be tailored for different languages by using voiceovers and/or subtitles or captions. However, when compared with written content, which only needs to be translated, video content is likely to require more time and money.

As such, when first starting out, we would recommend keeping it simple and focussing on written content as much as possible. Once you know that a particular country or market has real potential for you, you can double down on your efforts and start to invest some time and money in rolling out video content for that market.

Focus on cultures rather than countries

When you think about it, countries are a pretty arbitrary way of choosing which audiences you want to market to. Sure, there will be reasons why you might want to focus on one country and not another (e.g. import/export tariffs, local laws, and regulations that might make it problematic for you to do business there), but overall it's better to focus more on which cultures and audiences your campaign will resonate with than what country they live in.

By way of example, within England which is a relatively small country by geographical size and spread, there's a definite North/South split, with some real cultural differences between the people from each area. Whilst everyone speaks the English language and identifies as English, a marketing campaign designed to appeal to northerners could very easily not have the same appeal for southerners. If you take this same principle and apply them to countries as large as America or China, you'll become aware of the vast range of cultural differences that exist within their borders.

This isn't to say that you can't or shouldn't look at countries at all, but just bear in mind that designing a multilingual campaign isn't as straightforward as taking your current campaign and doing a French translated version or a Spanish translated version, etc. Instead, it's more useful to think about your ideal customer and then when looking at new countries, try to find out which cultures and cities within that country might be a good fit. The last thing you want to do is waste large sums of money on an advertising campaign aimed across a whole country when you could see much better (and cheaper!) results by focusing instead on a handful of cities or regions within that country.

So there you have it ‐ some basic tips and points to consider when looking to market to multilingual audiences. In summary, when you're just starting out, the most important thing to do is to keep things simple, test the waters in your new markets, minimise the amount of time and resources needed to translate your marketing materials until you know whether the market will be a good one for you. Once you have established which markets work best for your product or service, you can start to ramp up your efforts and really start to reap the rewards!

by Jo Ditto | 27 Sep 23

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