Five Reasons Your Global Marketing Is Failing (and How to Fix It)

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by Elizaveta Naumov
You’ve taken the step and expanded internationally, but for some reason your marketing isn’t making the impact you thought it would.

Reaching international markets has become easier than ever because of the variety of digital tools available.

Simply translating your website into a local language and waiting for the new customers to come rolling in can be tempting: Your marketing is rock solid at home, so why wouldn’t it work just as well abroad?

This article will cover five common reasons why that kind of thinking won’t win you new customers, and it’ll offer suggestions for achieving success.

1. You didn’t choose the right audience

One of the biggest mistakes companies make with their global marketing is that they think of the world as an extension of their home market.

How much time did you spend analyzing your home market’s buyers’ profiles, their habits, behaviors, needs, and motivations? When expanding abroad, you need to do make the same amount of effort for every market that you decide to enter. You’ll need to take an in-depth look at whether potential customers will have a need for your business and whether there are already established players there before you, among dozens of other factors.

Unless you have an unlimited amount of time (you don’t) and an unlimited amount of experts to analyze each market (you don’t), you’ll need to focus on a select few target markets if you’re going to be able to maximize your resources.

How to fix it: Rather than spreading yourself too thin by adapting and translating your content into 30 languages, pick a \ few and do it right. That means ensuring you translate all of your communications—Web content, print marketing materials, newsletter campaigns, and even customer service emails. It also involves being thoughtful about what kind of brand image you’re going to project abroad. You need to make sure that your translation team understands your company so that they can effectively transmit your brand to the local audience.

2. You localized for the language, not the region

Many businesses expect that translating their website into a popular language, such as Spanish, will help them connect with all countries that speak that language. Although that approach can work in some industries, it has its limits.

Just as British English and American English have their own particular vocabulary, expressions, and slang, so do other languages, including Spanish, French, and German. Most important, speakers in different regions have cultural differences that extend beyond language, including national holidays, pop culture, and traditions.

How to fix it: Adapt your messaging to a specific region, not just the language:

  • Translate content using local vocabulary and expressions.
  • Create promotions or content marketing around local holidays or trending topics (blog posts about the World Cup in France, but Super Bowl in the US).
  • Adapt to the season (summer promotions in Australia, but winter sales in Canada).
  • Show local phone numbers, shipping options, currency, measurements, and opening hours.

3. You didn’t adapt your SEO

Your website may have the best SEO in your home market, but that doesn’t guarantee success abroad. Optimizing your site globally involves more than simple content and keyword translation.

The most common SEO mistake companies make is thinking that people search in the exact same way everywhere: For example, “marketing services” might be a popular search phrase in the US, but “marketing agency” might be more popular in France.

How to fix it: You need to study the local preferences to understand how people search to find your website. Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner, and Keywordtool.io are great tools for finding the most relevant search terms. You can also take a look at what your competitors are doing by using sites such as Similar Web or SEMRush. Once you’ve established a list of localized keywords, you can create Web content that has a chance to rank high for the terms your customers are using to search.

4. You’re not consistent

Global marketing involves more than just translating your website; you need to create a cohesive experience for your international customers.

Imagine your ideal customer coming to your website only to find that the text in your latest sales promotion images is not in their native language. They trudge through your site anyway, but they are then turned off by the Order button that’s not in their language and the shipping policies that you forgot to translate. By some miracle, they decide to sign up for your newsletter, but when they receive it, in English, that’s it…! You’ve lost them as a customer.

How to fix it: To avoid these kinds of catastrophes, create a plan and list all the resources that you will need to adapt to the local market. Those include your website (don’t forget about images, buttons, and form fields), landing pages, blog, newsletters, customer support emails, and social media accounts. Creating a plan will help you understand the scope of your localization project, allowing you to avoid rushing around at the last minute.

5. You thought it was a one-time deal

You analyzed your local buyer behavior, meticulously localized every part of your website, and then… you let it collect dust. Your international customers went to your website only to find out-of-stock items and a holiday promotion that expired months ago.

How to fix it: Think of your website as a living, breathing entity that needs ongoing attention. It’s a good idea to make groups of items that need updating and localizing based on the topic. For example, when you add a holiday promotion to your website, you need to update (and translate) the main website banner image, content, terms and conditions, newsletter images and text, as well as your social media images.

Creating and maintaining a Web content calendar is also an efficient way to plan your translations ahead of time so that your translators aren’t scrambling to localize a big campaign the night before its launch.