International Marketing - digital strategy and marketing localization

Dave Kaupp | Jul 13, 2012
This is the second in a 3 part "mini-series" on international marketing - one of the most fundamental elements of and international business development initiative.  In part two, Dave Kaupp, an experienced international marketing expert and international business consultant discusses the considerations of properly constructing an online international presence.

Localize, localize, localize

So what about the online marketing aspect of globalizing your business?  Marketing localization is the "term of art" - a fancy name for trying to climb inside the mind of your target persona and view the world their way....not yours.

Marketing localization touches (or should!) all aspects of international marketing.  The natural place to start is with communications - and these days that means your online presence.  A corporate website should be internationalized.  But marketing localization of your digital campaigns goes far beyond just 'internationalizing' your primary site.

Microsites in key market language, target market appropriate social media, foreign language keywords (part of broader 'global SEO'), localized content for optimized international inbound marketing and outbound channel adaptation are important of elements of a comprehensive marketing localization effort.  But realistically it starts with your site.  Traffic that you build at great effort and expense needs to find your website easy and informative - and they need to consistently convert to prospects.  

After all mere visitors will at best build some brand awareness.  But you're about generating international leads.  Effective methodology is built on a path of increasing traffic → prospect → qualified leads - and the resources to help your sales channel convert those leads to revenue generating customers.  That's the reality for SMBs chasing international sales - it's not a hypothetical business school case study.

So with that practical objective in mind, here are six marketing localization tips to consider when creating a site as part of an international marketing program:
  1. Language - Translation is hard.  Native speakers are adept at helping friends communicate, but translation is a different skill.  Rarely is translation direct - the message is what must be conveyed, not the right version of the English words you used.  That would sound stilted and unnatural - that's a real marketing localization buzz killer!  You've probably chuckled at Engrish, and assumed that would never be you.  You're probably right.  But if you aren't using a native speaking trained and qualified translator handle your marketing translation...then almost certainly your good intentions will backfire.  All translation should be double-checked by a second trained source and finally by your local channel.  (And common languages have many local versions.  Check out our video on Latin American language faux pas.)
  2. Customer Service - If your business requires customer service reps, remember that you now are working in not only a global market but you need to be available in multiple time-zones.  If you've normally had live, online customer service, for your "regular" business hours, I'm quite sure that you'll realize the value in changing to a 24/7 business model which will allow you to immediate customer service in your global marketplace.  Although you might believe that a live customer service rep is all you'll need, consider using "chat now" functionality because a toll-free number won't do your international customers any good.  This is especially important when marketing technical, complicated and high end products -- and, if you're in the service industry, show that you give not just good but GREAT customer service.  But don't shoot yourself in the foot.  If you have foreign language microsites, make sure your customer service reps are fluent.
  3. Research - The necessity of researching your online market might be a given, however it's easy to overlook many pieces in your desire to create a global presence.  For instance, everyone knows that Google is the most "important" search engine to rank in, right?  You might be surprised to learn that if you're entering the Russian market, the search engine to rank in is "Yandex" -- and if you're in the Chinese market, it's "Baidu."  Skeptical?  Check this out.  Just remember as you're putting together your online international marketing plan, don't assume anything -- check everything.  Marketing localization is about many, many small details.
  4. Incorporate Video - Video is an easy way to instantly create a connection with your target international audience.  And, believe it or not, most video can be created quite inexpensively.  You don't have to break your budget creating outrageous commercials, a simple video camera with someone talking about your product or service can easily be more attractive to your potential customer.  Local testimonials are powerful - no matter how strong the allure of "Made in America", there's often a hesitance that distance creates problems.  Let someone, just like them, offer reassurance.  It's easier than you might think to locate someone who can speak the language that of the country you're marketing to, and, if you create a script, they can record it and you'll be all set.  There are numerous sites where you can locate someone who can do this for you, including and
  5. Integrate Social Media - Social Media is so popular worldwide, that the global research and advisory firm, Forrester ( revised their "Global Social Media Adoption" report to reflect the tremendous global growth of social media users.  According to the report, 86% of the online U.S. and 79% of Europeans now use social media.  The surprise though was the BRIC countries, with 93% of all online users now use social media tools.  BUT THEY'RE NOT USING IT THE SAME WAY YOU DO!  Bandwidth availability and cost, mobile penetration and local preferences all impact the use patterns.

Marketing localization themes

You don't know what you don't know.  And visiting a market will only provide cursory awareness.  Subtle nuance of culture dictates marketing localization elements such as color and image selection, paper size format (for downloadable brochures), number, date & currency formats, and of course colloquialism.

If you guess....sorry, but your going to guess wrong.  Not only will your program be innefective, it will likely be damaging.  It would be tragic to be putting real effort into localization only to net a negative result.  Consider this.  If one of Brazil's largest breweries shuttles Brazilian natives from Boston to Sao Paulo to craft marketing for the large expact community in Massachusetts, is the portuguese speaker in your company going to be the right resource to backstop your marketing localization effort?

This is important for your business and deserves professional attention.  Consilium Global Business Advisors has both extensive "theoretical" marketing localization experience from work with F1000 companies, but also real world "boots on the ground" business experience.  Contact us to discuss your localization requirements.  And check out our free whitepaper on international marketing below. 

Click me