Ask any business looking to expand into a new international market and they will tell you the same thing; starting a new email marketing campaign in a foreign country can be a challenge. With multiple pitfalls that can be made, it’s no wonder that many marketing managers, sales professionals and even company leaders find themselves at a loss when it comes to international email marketing.
That’s why we’ve created this handy guide to help your business achieve success when expanding overseas. Of course, one of the first things to consider is translating your message so that it can be communicated to your intended audience. This is where professional translation services come in!
But there are a few additional things you can do to increase your chances of success when implementing an international email marketing campaign. So let’s get started …
Like with any domestic email marketing campaign, you will of course need to cover the basics for your international one. Any wise digital marketing professional will start by getting to know their audience.
With a better understanding of who you’re talking to and a database of contacts in place, the next stage is to outline the strategy of your campaign. But, before you jump into all the lovely visual, content and planning work – look at the boring stuff first. Does your database or email list have the fundamental field to segment based on country or language? When you captured the email data, did you capture their location? Can you perhaps get this from one of your other systems… (Sales CRM, customer services?) If the answer is no… then you simply have to go back and try to get this worked out. If your targeting methodology is wrong, your campaign can’t be successful.
If you’ve got this all sorted out, then read on!
Consider if you’re sending a one-off or if this message will form part of a longer series of connected offers or information. Ultimately, the approach you take will depend on what you’re trying to achieve. Do you want immediate sales? Or are you working to build up loyalty with the brand over the time for repeat business or larger value orders?
These steps form part of any email marketing campaign, but taking the time to think and plan things out becomes all the more important when you’re about to approach a brand new audience overseas.
Amid all the planning, don’t forget to think about the time zones and the locations that you will be targeting. Make these part of your international campaign and play your knowledge of them up to your advantage to capitalise on engagement and seasonal trends.
Remember to look at how you will measure your success in the early stages too. For instance, Mailchimp allows you to keep a track of the results and details of how people engage with your messaging once you hit send, giving you a great starting place from which to measure the success of your campaign looking at things such as click-through rates and open rates.
If your email is promoting a seasonal sale, then you will need to make sure that this translates well to the country you’re marketing to. A summer sale for a company based in the UK will not get as much traction if it’s promoted at the same time to an Australian audience during their winter. (You’d be surprised at how often this isn’t considered!)
Tone of voice: The balancing act
The next stage of the process will be to craft your message in your native tongue, and work out what the relevant calls to action will be for your international audience. Getting this stage right is absolutely essential, but it’s getting harder. The consumer opinion of email marketing in the UK is currently low. Up to 60 per cent of people feel brands are missing the mark and it’s scary that 59 per cent feel that they are irrelevant.
So you want to make sure that your tone of voice and content are relevant and effective for your recipients. Adding interactive, compelling and engaging elements will help hold the reader’s attention; but make sure you consider your overall objectives here as well.
By reducing the length of the user journey for the recipient to make a purchase from the email, you should increase the chances of your email marketing campaign driving sales and conversions, which will be reflected in your KPIs when it comes to measuring your success.
However, this really is all about balance. It’s not advisable to stuff your email full to the brim with heavy visuals (like high-quality animated gif’s) and interactive features, as this may be distracting and frustrating and could even hinder results if the region you’re targeting is known for poor internet connectivity.
The Gerber translation fail
The translation mistake of Gerber’s African marketing campaign is legendary. Although not an email campaign, the mistake they made is applicable for setting the right tone of your email. The tone of voice in your emails will also include any images that you choose to use in your email, so make sure that they are culturally acceptable for your target audience.
In Gerber’s case, as they tried to take their baby food product abroad, they didn’t realise that in certain areas in Africa, it’s common practice to include pictures of food on containers to let consumers know what is inside. This is predominantly because the literacy level is very low in this region.
So when Gerber placed the picture of a baby on their jars’ labels, understandably, it caused a lot of distress and outcry in the region.
Translating your meaning (not just the message)
Once you are happy with the overall message and tone of voice, you will need to get this translated into the native language of your recipients. This might sound obvious, but you would be surprised by the sheer numbers of businesses who fail to correctly translate their email marketing content which results in a clumsily executed campaign and a poor experience for the recipient.
Many businesses have discovered to their disappointment the results of trying to rush this step. Using automated translation software or cheap services can result in a clumsy and clunky message at best and cause offence or damage to a brand’s reputation at worst.
Spelling or grammatical errors are a clear risk, but translation runs much deeper than that. Misused words, which translate badly can result in your brand looking unprofessional compared to the local competition. Not the first impression you’re looking to achieve after your hard work.
One of the many benefits of using professional translation services from native speakers is that the translator will know the target language inside out, as well as the cultural background and nuances, so you will be guaranteed high-quality content.
A professional translation service provider, like Bubbles, can get your email content off to a flying start in a different language no matter how complex the subject matter or how much jargon you’ve included in the content. Not only will your business look more professional and reputable, but your email content will stand a much better chance of engaging and drive conversions than if you left it in the hands of the bots.
Vicks, the household name in vapour-rub, experienced among other brands, a problem when their marketing campaign was mistranslated for their German audience. It failed to reach new customers because in German the letter ‘V’ is pronounced as the letter ‘F’, so the German translation of Vicks became that of ‘Ficks’ which actually means the F-bomb (yes we mean that one) in the German language.
Don’t forget mobile users
It’s an easy but unforgivable mistake to make in this day and age, but forgetting to check how your international email loads and looks on a huge array of mobile devices will result in a poorly executed campaign. Do your research and find out what percentage of your overseas audience use mobiles (and which ones) to consume their digital content, and don’t forget to write your email with this in mind.
In the UK, up to 50 per cent of emails are opened on a mobile device, and the odds are that the country you’re looking to market to will have equally high numbers of recipients following this habit too. Everyone knows to keep the subject lines and headings short and snappy in an email, but also pay attention to any images, graphics or interactive features and their load times – there’s nothing worse than waiting for an age for an email to open on your mobile device, especially if it’s a limited time offer.
Overseas connectivity and email usage
Remember that cultural habits differ and these include our tech habits. Consider the most popular form of marketing in your target country. Are they aware of nuanced and informative email marketing? Or are they used to receiving pure sales content time and time again? What is received as overkill in one nation, could strike just the right chord in another.
Then there’s the internet accessibility rate and connectivity of the local area to consider. Many developing countries have problems with internet access reach in rural communities, which are more reliable in urban areas, so make sure your local audience will be able to read your email before you even start work.
If the internet is really patchy in the region, it might take your recipients a few days before they can view their emails, so take this into consideration when planning and measuring the success of your campaign. This is especially true for limited time offers and sales, so liaise with your sales and customer services team to ensure any offers and discounts make sense for the audience they’re being sent to.
By planning ahead, you can reduce the chances of frustrating your customers when they find out that the sale alert they received in their inbox is obsolete by the time they click through to your site.
Navigating data protection laws
Finally, we can’t write about email marketing without mentioning GDPR, which as we all know now came into effect earlier in 2018 and caused shockwaves throughout the digital marketing world. So it makes sense that you should pay very close attention to the data protection laws that are in place in any new markets you’re entering.
What works for the UK might not necessarily work for elsewhere, so take a look at this handy interactive map to make sure you’re on the right track when it comes to compliancy.
It’s also worth checking with any advertising and marketing authorities in the locality to ensure that your email marketing campaign is compliant with these too. For instance, in the UK there are very strict rules about advertising and marketing alcoholic beverages and advertising that targets children. There could be similar laws in the foreign country you’re targeting.
So there you have it. International email marketing is no simple task, but it is a great tool to reach new audiences. Just make sure you do your research before you hit ‘send’ and get in touch with Bubbles to ensure you have a professional translator on-hand with first-hand experience of your target market.