Your online business is doing nicely and you’re planning to export your wares or services in Europe. You’re thinking postage costs, VAT, exchange rates, the timing between sending the items and the customer receiving it, basic logistics. You’re also planning a marketing strategy, CRM, social media, websites in several languages. It all sounds very straightforward and manageable from one source.
But you may be forgetting crucial aspects of selling in Europe. Issues like cultural preferences and habits, social and political environment, religious rituals, etc. have consequences on what to sell and how to communicate to your future customers. Even if you’ve been on holidays a few times in France or Italy, that doesn’t make you an expert on how to deal with those markets. Sending a simple email could be fishing into troubled waters. That’s where a consultant in global advertising comes in. Here’s some tips and advice I have gathered at Transcreators United when working with clients in digital marketing.
Europe is not America
Brits are closer to their American cousins than any of us in the rest of Europe. Old and new traditions are more easily imported and adopted in the UK. The rest of Europe may try to emulate some of them like Halloween or Black Friday but it remains tentative and doesn’t always succeed. So before launching your CRM campaign trying to promote baby shower gifts to friends and relatives of expecting mums, stop and think. This typical American import has never made it to the Continent and is confined to the UK. Instead, replace it with a campaign promoting gifts for new-born babies. Always make sure your products, SEO and campaigns are meaningful and valid for the markets you sell into or you’ll be wasting your time and money and can even damage your reputation as an uncaring and clueless business.
Your personal Jesus
"Anglicans: the UK is not a Catholic nation". This was a headline in the Telegraph some years ago. You may think religion has no bearing on your business but it could be hugely important. First of all, business days may be disrupted by religious celebrations different from the UK. Second, you may use some celebrations and religious occasions as opportunities to sell your products or services. Get to know those before missing out or getting it wrong. Always make sure to create a calendar of bank holidays and religious occasions relating to each of the countries you intend to do business with. You may not even believe in God, but you surely do believe in what makes business sense.
A product copywriter is not a copywriter
Too many companies use product copywriters with a background in academia (literature/translation university degrees) and think that marketing abroad is just a question of translating what’s been done in the UK. My experience shows that time and again these people are just not suitable, are clueless about marketing and advertising, are unable to create taglines and are just not in a position to advise businesses about the suitability of a campaign. The industry is lamenting a lowering of creativity in digital marketing whilst not paying attention to the fact they employ people who simply have no knowledge or passion for advertising. Do not hire copywriters who don’t have an extensive background in advertising and marketing in their own country and enough knowledge about the advertising scene in the UK to promote your business abroad. They are potentially damaging in ways you won’t be able to check or quantify.
Foreign copywriters don’t always speak English
You have decided to transcreate your digital marketing communication into several European languages, especially Southern Europe. Don’t expect your copywriters to understand English idioms, colloquialisms and cultural references though. The Royal Family may be universally popular it takes decades for a foreigner to understand the intricacies of the English language. Instead, make sure you have a French copy as a template. French is closer to languages spoken in Southern Europe than English. Vocabulary, grammar and idioms are far more similar and therefore far easier to transcreate than English.
Glossaries are a must
I amazed by the number of businesses who do not have a glossary of terms that can be used as a template for their foreign copywriters. Referring to the website in different languages is time consuming and not always useful especially if you have to think of new terms. I had to create a number of glossaries for clients first thing in order to ensure a seamless and coherent solution to transcreation when it comes to content and product copy. Always make sure your foreign copywriters have access or create glossaries that can be edited as they go.
Imagery cannot go global
Using any imagery including GIFs that will fit any market is just not possible. You must start to accept that your view of the world is subjective. For example, promoting diversity by featuring an Asian family for the UK market cannot be used for the rest of Europe. It is simply because Asians are a typical and exclusive feature of life in the UK. Transcreating imagery is crucial if you want to appeal to foreign markets. If you want to promote your business abroad you have to create a campaign that fits the cultural context of each market without making a faux-pas. Only an expert in international advertising can alert you to such dangers and advise you about tailoring your values to new customers.
Customers wherever they are need to identify to a business in order to buy a product.
They need to feel that a company cares and understands them. Speaking globish, writing copy more suited to a literary review or using pictures of English towns won’t seduce potential customers abroad. They’ll quickly see through you and won’t buy. I know of too many disastrous CRM campaigns, awful translations and unsuitable products. They make entertaining tales but remain bad business decisions.