To Go International, Start Thinking Local

Emails cross borders everyday, yet most marketers remain blissfully unaware of this fact. While ignoring your international constituency may not be hurting you (yet! … or maybe it already is), paying more attention could definitely help your response rates and start to open new, exciting markets.

One note of caution: be sure to work with an attorney who is skilled in overseas laws regarding privacy, data collection and email. Many countries have passed legislation that is very different to what you are used to here in the U.S., so you’ll need to understand what is and isn’t okay when considering exporting your marketing efforts.

We recommend these 7 steps to start exploring the world beyond U.S. inboxes:

1. Check your list: You may not even realize it, but your list could already have a number of non-US domains. Have your data team take a peek and give you a report by country and percentage of list to see where the hot spots are.

2. Get more information: While looking at your list will give you some information, it’s not the whole story. Many people overseas use Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and other domains that are based in the U.S. So, how do you find out where they are from? Ask! Add country to your email sign up and registration forms. Make it optional, to keep your conversion rates high. But many people will be happy to provide that information.

3. Localize the language: The easiest place to start is with English, actually. Translate into Standard (British) English for recipients in Canada, the UK, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and the European Union. Eventually, you’ll want to think about full local-language translations, especially for countries that are heavily represented on your list. This small amount of effort shows that you are paying attention to the international audience.

4. Go beyond translating: Remember that many American idioms won’t make sense outside our borders, even to English speakers. Similarly, the colors you choose may be conveying a very different message than you intend. Americans tend to use colors for moods and emotions, but in some other cultures they connate rank or status. Be sure that the wrong turn of phrase or color palette isn’t killing your sales message.

5. Don’t forget about dollars and cents (or, Euros and pence): If possible, translate your prices into local currency, or, at least, make the conversions for the reader.

6. Check your formats: In other countries the paper standard is A4 rather than 8 ½ by 11. If your email is formatted to print out for US printers, crucial information may get cut off when printed on A4 paper. Again, a simple change can make a big difference.

7. Work with time zones: We’ve long advocated that email marketers segment their list by geography so they can roll their send based on U.S. time zones. Adding this level of segmentation and sending to your international list is not difficult, particularly if you follow the first two steps to find out where in the world your subscribers are.

Follow these seven steps and you will soon be on your way to an email program that reflects the global nature of all Internet marketing initiatives.

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