Best strategies for using multilingual marketing to expand your reach

By Acclaro
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Multilingual marketing strategy

What do world-famous brands like IBM, Nike, Salesforce, and Microsoft have in common? They’ve all expanded their reach through strategic multilingual marketing to become household names across the globe.

Businesses of all sizes that want to expand their global footprint must likewise develop strong multilingual marketing approaches. This guide will help you do exactly that.

What is multilingual marketing?

Multilingual marketing means promoting your products or services in more than one language, but to be successful, you need more than just translation alone. You have to craft messages that feel native and resonate culturally with different communities. Language does not equal culture, though it is a part of it.  When taking your marketing global, it’s a cultural and linguistic approach that is most effective.

This approach has numerous benefits:

  • Reaches and attracts more customers
  • Builds stronger, more meaningful connections with them
  • Amplifies your message worldwide
  • Builds trust with your intended audience
  • Increases and maximizes web traffic, leads, and conversions

These elements are all critical ingredients to growing your brand in international markets. 

Strategies for effective multilingual marketing

The process of adapting your marketing campaigns and content to suit the specific cultural and linguistic needs of your target market is called localization, and it’s at the core of a successful multilingual marketing strategy. To resonate with local buyers, language is only the first step: you may also need to change the imagery, the context of the marketing campaign, references, jokes, slogans and idioms, and even the colors you use so that all will be culturally appropriate. Quite often, highly branded content needs to be reimagined entirely to suit the target culture–a process called transcreation

There are a lot of decisions to make, and a lot riding on those decisions. There are also many possible missteps: companies that start out believing their internal team’s experience with one culture will carry over internationally often stumble over challenges like quality issues, problems finding the right resources, timeline setbacks, and a lack of organizational alignment that makes effective execution difficult.

There are four key components of a successful multilingual marketing plan. Knowing about them is the first step, and a seasoned localization team can help you execute.

Local market research

Local market research is the foundation of an effective multilingual marketing strategy. To connect with people in a new market, you need to understand what drives them. What are the local customs? How do people communicate? What values are important? By working with in-market research teams and cultural experts, you benefit from their established research frameworks to answer these questions. These insights close the knowledge gaps that lead to cultural misunderstandings and ineffective messaging that happen when businesses try to navigate global expansion alone.

Here’s a real-world example: When Pepsodent tried to enter the Southeast Asian market, they initially advertised the whitening power of their toothpaste. But chewing betel nuts, which darken teeth, is a common cultural practice in Southeast Asia. As a result, there’s less cultural value attached to a blinding white smile than in Western cultures. After adjusting these marketing tactics, the brand was ultimately successful, but this misstep could have been avoided with local market research. 

Local market research also informs the metrics you use to measure your success so you can set realistic, relevant goals. For example, if you know that your target audience in Russia uses Yandex for search instead of Google, then you know that you need to measure your rank on Yandex along with quality indicators like Site Quality Index (SQI) that are specific to that search engine.  It’s a roadmap to meaningful engagement in a global marketplace.

Localization and transcreation

The second key component of an effective multilingual marketing campaign is adapting the content: localization and transcreation. With the help of your localization partner, you’ll use the insights gleaned from your local market research to modify your marketing materials to align with the culture and language of your target audience.

The key is to choose the right approach for the situation. Localization adapts your existing marketing messaging and imagery to fit the cultural context of a target market so that it resonates with local audiences. This provides a better experience for customers in the new target market, and you avoid the risk of confusing, alienating, or offending them.

Transcreation is a more involved approach that creatively adapts content to maintain the original brand message while making it culturally relevant. This process, done by professional bicultural/bilingual linguists, preserves your brand essence across different cultures and languages but also makes the content culturally relevant.

For cross-cultural brand success

Translation and localization tips ebook

When expanding your brand into different regions, a customized global marketing strategy can help your campaigns resonate with your target audience’s unique language and culture.

Acclaro’s global marketing ebook will help you:

  • Determine your target audience 
  • Define a compelling brand style and tone
  • Comply with local regulations and customs
  • Budget for improved ROI

Download a copy of our ebook today and learn how to adapt and translate your marketing campaigns across cultures.

Innovate and iterate

Flexibility is vital to a multilingual marketing strategy. Local market research should be ongoing because culture and trends constantly change.  Be responsive to new findings and feedback. Adapt your marketing to suit shifting cultural and linguistic landscapes so your content remains fresh, relevant, and culturally sensitive. Being able to pivot rapidly in response to feedback leads to sustained success. 

How do you know if you need to pivot? Traffic drops, sales drops, customer service calls spike, and chatter on social media is negative. If you listen to the data, you’ll know when you need to iterate.

Cross-functional communication

Before launching a multilingual marketing initiative, the entire organization needs to be on the same page. Everyone from C-level executives, product teams, and marketing groups such as social, digital and content needs to understand the goals, deliverables, and expected outcomes before you begin. Buy-in across the board ensures your multilingual marketing campaigns are cohesive, well-supported, and effective. Remember, when everyone speaks the same language internally, your external message comes through louder and clearer.

Channels to consider localizing when planning multilingual marketing campaigns

It’s not enough to customize your marketing assets- you may also need to adapt your distribution plan. Consider which channels will be the most impactful for your target market. Often this impacts content type too. For example:

Website and landing page localization

If you want customers to find you online, a local-language website is necessary. The following tactics will help it be successful:

  • PPC ads on your target market’s local search engine (of course, localized for the target market). 
  • Organic search: Unless you want to pay for every visitor, make international SEO best practices a crucial part of localizing your website. 
  • Blog:  A local-language blog can help bring search traffic and build connections with your target audience.

Global social media marketing

Where do people in your new target market hang out online? It’s not the same everywhere! Instagram? Facebook? Other local platforms?  Find out and develop a presence there.

For example, Facebook is the most popular platform in Europe, but in China, Weibo reigns supreme. Social media localization is a critical component of a global marketing strategy. 

Sales enablement content localization 

Sales enablement content is bottom of the funnel or ‘conversion’ content that explains the specifics of your solution such as solution briefs, product comparisons, pricing, and/or demos.  Help your sales team close deals with adapted content that reflects the desires and pain points specific to local customers. You would couple this with training for the sales team on the specific buyer persona in that market – how and why do they buy that’s different from customers in the home market?

eBooks, whitepapers, and other downloadable content localization

These assets help attract leads and demonstrate authority and expertise in your target market. Localizing them can be an effective multilingual marketing strategy, especially for B2B businesses. For example, HubSpot invests heavily in localizing this type of content, and for good reason: a single ebook translated from English to French generated $144,000 of recurring annual revenue!

Email marketing localization

Email marketing has a very high ROI when compared to other marketing approaches. This includes long- and short-form communications including email marketing drip campaigns and customer support correspondence. Localized, culturally relevant email marketing campaigns can help your company build strong, personal customer relationships in each new target market, educate your target customer, and drive conversions. 

Video localization

Videos are powerful tools to attract attention and increase engagement, especially when they’re properly localized.

Given this great number of content types and channels, you’ll need to prioritize your video localization based on impact, budget, and feasibility. In deciding what to localize first, identify your top-performing content and critical campaign assets. For example, you may want to focus on your home page, essential landing pages, and top blog posts.

Next, consider using a variety of translation approaches to maximize your budget.  Highly branded content almost always requires transcreation. Other content, like blogs and FAQs, may be great candidates for machine translation.

What to look for in multilingual marketing services

Now you understand what you need to do. Getting it done is another thing altogether.

Partnering with an experienced team with a proven track record of multilingual marketing success — including transcreation and localization — can make the process easier and the results more profitable. 

It will also increase your chance of success in a new market. Look for a professional team that is experienced in your domain and equipped to handle the complexities of global expansion.

These questions can help you evaluate potential partners:

  • What’s your track record of success in our industry, target market, and language(s)? Look for a partner with experience in all three. 
  • How do you collaborate with native, in-market linguistic and cultural experts? An ideal localization partner will have a strong network of linguists and experts in your target market. 
  • What’s your expertise in content localization and transcreation? Seek a partner with demonstrated success in both.  

Get started with multilingual marketing to drive global expansion

If you want to grow your business by expanding into international markets, multilingual marketing is an essential piece of the puzzle. To get it right, you need to understand the local culture so you can create marketing that resonates.

Ready to get started? An experienced localization partner can help you develop an effective multilingual marketing strategy for each of your desired target markets. At Acclaro, we’ve helped some of the world’s leading companies grow with multilingual marketing, and we’re ready to help put these strategies in place for you.

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