Organizations of all sizes realize the benefits of searching beyond the borders of their own countries to find customers. On average, businesses that operate in international markets grow at a faster rate than domestic companies. What’s more, reaching a global market has never been easier thanks to the prevalence of online shopping.
One barrier to reaching international customers that persists, however, is language. For companies in the U.K. or U.S., it can be tempting to assume that an English website is enough — especially considering how many people around the world speak English. Although potential international leads might be able to muddle through, attracting new customers requires more than just conveying information.
To effectively connect with an international audience, you need to meet potential customers in their moment of need in the language they know best. That’s how you develop rapport quickly, make your company seem familiar and safe, and ensure your brand truly resonates with customers.
3 Translation Strategies for Reaching an International Audience
Effective translation involves more than just running content through Google Translate and putting it out on the web. You need to put time and care into a targeted approach, and you need to know what’s required to operate in specific regions.
This might sound intimidating, especially if you’re a small or midsized business with limited resources. But companies of any size can expand their online presence in different countries. You just need to know what effective translation entails.
1. Start with sales and marketing collateral.
One of the most intimidating aspects of translating your content can be figuring out where to start. While all of your content undoubtedly holds value, the areas you should focus on in the beginning are the ones that help create new leads.
That means focusing your translation efforts on sales and marketing materials, including elements like landing pages that help bring in new customers from Google. With more than 50% of Google searches occurring outside of the U.S., the search engine acts as the front line for generating international leads.
2. Narrow down your languages at the start.
You don’t need to start by translating your content into every language under the sun. Instead, focus on a few languages of particular value to your business and see how everything goes before expanding your efforts.
You could start with the native languages of existing customers, for instance, or choose targets based on where you’d like to expand first. Alternatively, you can focus on the languages that are the most active online. Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic have seen significant rises in popularity online over the past 10 years — far more than English.
Don’t be afraid to go granular and take a city-specific approach. Materials work best when they’re linguistically and culturally consistent. This takes it from simple translation to even more effective hyper-localization. By focusing on a specific French dialect, for instance, you can home in on the culture and language of a particular city in France or one of the many other French-speaking regions of the world, such as Quebec, Belgium, Haiti, or French Guiana.
3. Make sure your translations are accurate.
One benefit of narrowing down your starting languages is being able to spend more time ensuring your translations are accurate. When it comes to localization, quality should always be prioritized over quantity. If you’ve ever watched a movie or TV show in another language, you understand the importance of an accurate translation.
Mistranslations hamper clear communications and can also lead to public relations blunders. At best, you might just embarrass yourself by trying to sell Barf Soap to customers. At worst, you could actively offend the same people you’re trying to target. That was the case in Ireland when Nike tried to market its trainers using a phrase with negative historical connotations.
Effective translation can be the perfect path to expanding your customer base throughout the world. As long as you start small and prioritize accuracy, you can engage new audiences and make it clear that you value their patronage.
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