It’s as old as the children’s song about “One of these things is not like the other.” Subscribers, just like children watching Sesame Street, quickly see which messages are from companies who truly understand them, and which ones are not. In order to successfully use email to build your business outside the US, there are three levels of globalization to consider: Language, Localization and Context. Only the last one will deliver optimal results.
We discussed this as part of our session at the DMA/eec Email Evolution Conference earlier this month with panelists Simon O’Day of eservices, a leading ESP in Australia, David Sergerstrom of Acxiom who has spent the past two+ years traveling the globe for a multi-national product launch for a major mobile phone manufacturer, and Jim Champlin, of the Allstate digital marketing team.
These three globalization steps build on each other, and provide a guideline for thinking about engaging customers and prospects across the globe as efficiently as you do here in North America. In plotting your own course, the panelists emphasized the importance of market planning, cultural understanding and good local partnerships.
1. Language. At the most basic level, you could just translate your current email program into French or Chinese. This may impact rendering due to character size and shape. While an improvement over just sending your messages in American English, translation alone is not likely to win you much love or many new customers. Even between English speaking countries, there are cultural differences in language, tone and tenor. What makes something edgy and hip in the U.S. might be pushy or even offensive in Australia, Britain or Canada.
2. Localization. To address those cultural issues, it’s imperative to not just translate, but to “localize” your copy and offer strategy. This includes correcting sentence structure and colloquialisms. More than just the nuance of language and tone, this also takes into consideration local buying habits. Sales alerts that work pretty well in North America, but may be inappropriately hard-sell in Austria or Japan.
3. Context. The lifecycle of your customers varies widely by country, and so context of the offer, call to action, timing, frequency and image selection must also be tailored. It’s more than just smart segmentation, it’s a custom and completely contextualized content and contact strategy for each country. Without fail, this level requires native speakers as well as local market experience. Don’t skimp on having local perspective and take time to gather feedback and insight from your local customers.
Simon from eservices gave the example of Qantas airlines and the challenge of building loyalty among customers who live in a 9,000 mile radius to the company’s headquarters in Sydney, Australia. Qantas has taken a comprehensive approach: everything from watching the time of day (Caution: there are also country-specific laws about when marketers can send SMS messages, for example) to the cadence and offer strategy of the engagement series for new frequent flyer program members to customizing the content dynamically by likely destination based on behavior.
Jim from Allstate takes a similar approach for a program based solely in the US, but segmented by region and agent. In a program designed to support the field operations, each agent is supported by a personalized program that is timed to the customer lifecycle (e.g.: new policy, renewal, etc.). Although every subscriber is in the US, their needs and context with Allstate are completely unique.
Much of this can be automated using a content management system, flexible templates and great list management tools. But it can also be done more piecemeal when the email marketer adopts a philosophy of creating context over a broadcast mentality.
Tell us about your challenges, insights and wins in going global in the comments section below. And, download the Going Global Checklist from our session here.
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