Your website is up and running in two languages, and you’re seeing increased web traffic and inbound sales leads. The translated site is paying off. In fact, your salespeople are clamoring for more languages before the end of the year. However, your boss is complaining about the cost of translation and maintenance. And everyone is looking to you for the solution. What’s a marketing executive to do?
Here are five tips to ensure that your global web strategy continues to gain traction:
Shift gears from “cost containment” to “revenue enablement.” Many companies now generate 30% or more of their revenue from outside the U.S. In the high-tech sector, international sales often account for well over 50% of the total. This trend only stands to continue, as new and emerging markets around the world form the growth engine for so many businesses. Research from Common Sense Advisory shows that the translation budget at most organizations is typically less than 1% of total revenue. In other words, the cost of translation is miniscule compared to the revenue it generates. As a marketing manager, you need to push hard to enable your executives to view translated websites for what they really are – revenue enablers, not cost centers.
Base your language and market choices on real data. Marketing managers often encounter difficulties when trying to find the data they need to support their decision to launch international websites. Research shows that no single country or language accounts for more than 25% of the total online population. That being said, you should be able to effectively communicate with approximately 80% of your potential website visitors using just 11 languages: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. So, the next time someone raises concerns that a multilingual website will create too many headaches, reinforce the fact that your company won’t have to deal with hundreds of languages. Only a small number of additional languages are required to reach a huge percentage of the total market that your company will be targeting.
Integrate international SEO as part of your translation process.SEO is just as critical for prospects to find you outside of your home market as it is inside, but even veteran marketers overlook SEO for non-English-speaking markets. The trick is that your site may require additional keywords to cover the various ways in which people search on a specific topic in a local market. At the same time, your original phrases must be translated carefully so that they match local search patterns as well. Language service providers that have a strong practice in localizing websites can provide excellent guidance in this area, along with in-country marketing staff and partners, if they are available.
Focus on mobility for emerging and frontier markets. Even if you have a mobile marketing strategy for English-speaking customers, you may not realize how important mobile really is for people who speak other languages, such as Spanish-speakers in the United States and customers in many other parts of the world. It is often not just the platform of choice, but the only platform on which you can consistently reach your prospects and customers, regardless of age or socioeconomic level. According to the International Telecommunication Union, there were 6 billion mobile users at the end of 2011 (87% of the world’s population), with 4.5 billion mobile subscribers in the developing world. To ensure that your website strategy is on-track, you should focus on the countries and languages represented in this category that are in your top 10 markets over the next 12 to 18 months, along with the demographics that go with them.
- Add social media to your global marketing mix – now! The middle classes in emerging and frontier markets expect to engage socially, especially through mobile platforms—often more than in the United States because their offline culture may be much more interactive, community-based, and people-centered to begin with. Reach out to local staff, partners, and language service providers to find out exactly what approaches and messages resonate on local platforms. For example, customers in Turkey would expect to find your company on Facebook, while prospects in China would look for you on Sina Weibo. No matter which platform you use, you will need to adapt – not just translate – your content for those markets.
For many marketing managers, emerging and frontier markets will become the main source of new customers in the years to come. Therefore, focus on those local markets that will be the most important sources of global revenue in these categories. Make certain that your website strategy, supported by current market research at the local level, includes them. Ensure that mobile and social platforms are receiving appropriate attention, and shift the discussion within your organization from cost containment to revenue enablement. Make sure that you have language service providers that provide great service for translated websites, including international SEO. With these five areas covered, your company’s global website strategy will be in good shape for the short- to medium-term.
Rebecca Ray is a senior analyst with Common Sense Advisory.