Expanding overseas is a major undertaking for any organization - one that offers huge opportunities but also raises clear financial risks if you haven't done the right planning and preparation to succeed.
Coming up with an international content strategy should be one of your top priorities if you're set to take your brand into new global territories.
Here are some of the most important steps you can take to increase the chances of your marketing content connecting with new audiences and communities around the world:
1. Know your audience
Gaining a deep understanding of your audience is a universal goal in all forms of marketing and its importance will never wane. It's worth acknowledging, however, just how crucial it is to build up a clear picture of your target customers before embarking on an overseas expansion.
To gain results from international marketing, you need to become familiar with an audience that could be vastly different from the one in your home country.
One way of gaining relevant, applicable insights into new customer demographics is by conducting target market research, which can give you a better idea of what content methods and types will offer the best chances of engagement and results in particular locations.
You can also learn a lot from other brands that have attempted to gain a foothold in the global destinations you're targeting. Studying where businesses have succeeded and failed in the past can inform your own content strategy and highlight pitfalls you need to avoid.
2. Understand cultural nuances
Countries, regions and even specific towns and communities across the globe often have their own unique cultures.
It's vital to acknowledge and respect these local nuances in your marketing. Fail to do so and you run the risk of, at best, coming across as irrelevant or out of touch and, at worst, causing controversy or offense.
There are many cautionary tales of brands that have suffered the negative effects of misjudging local tastes and opinions in their marketing campaigns. British fashion house Burberry, for example, ran an advert that was intended to celebrate the Lunar New Year Holiday in China, but was seen by some local customers as "creepy".
Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana found itself in hot water in the same country in November 2018, when an advert showing a Chinese model struggling to eat Italian food was accused of racism.
Dedicating sufficient time and investment to really get to know your target market - potentially by collaborating with local experts and people who actually live there - can help you sidestep these sorts of issues and maintain a positive brand image.
3. Be aware of seasonal differences
Aside from the many cultural, religious, social and linguistic traits that distinguish markets around the world, there are seasonal differences to be aware of when you're marketing across borders.
While a company based in the northern hemisphere may be enjoying the bright atmosphere and warmth of summer, customers in the southern hemisphere could be in the grip of snowstorms and freezing temperatures.
For some types of businesses - fashion retailers for example - understanding seasonality is obviously vital from a product marketing perspective.
However, even if these factors aren't immediately relevant to you with respect to the products or services you offer, it can still be beneficial to bear them in mind when you're deciding what sort of language and tone to use in your messaging.
4. Go beyond translation
If your expansion into new markets involves distributing messages in different languages, you'll need to give some thought to translation and how it fits into your wider marketing strategy.
One of the most important considerations is how you’ll maintain your core brand voice and identity while communicating in languages that aren't your native tongue.
This is where it's important to use reliable, expert services that can help you keep your brand message intact across different languages. Basic tools like Google Translate can give you a word-for-word translation from one language to another, but aren't good enough for high-quality, engaging marketing.
Other methods, like transcreation, could prove more reliable and more effective in getting your message across.
Failing to dedicate sufficient time, investment or energy to get your language exactly right raises the risk of your content coming across as unnatural or awkward, which is likely to be an instant turn off for potential customers.
It's particularly important to bear this in mind when you're communicating via channels like social media, where users are accustomed to relaxed, casual conversation. Social platforms offer the potential to build relationships with customers across the globe, but only if you have the right strategy and content to overcome language barriers and earn people's trust.