B2B Content Marketing Across Borders: Does Your Message Translate?

Posted on August 12th 2014

B2B Content Marketing Across Borders: Does Your Message Translate?

If your B2B company is lucky enough to do business internationally, you probably already know that marketing strategies don’t always translate well across borders. Global B2B content marketing can be very difficult and if you create a marketing message for one geographic market, it won’t necessarily translate effortlessly into another market. There are several factors to consider including cultural and language differences as well as work habits.

Here are some tips on preparing your B2B marketing strategy and content for a global audience.

  1. To translate or not to translate?

It might be easy to say, “oh the hell with it, everyone speaks English”, however sometimes producing content in the local language of your market can reap long-term benefits. As mentioned before, the B2B market is generally more educated on the market and likely to pay more attention to content produced. Sometimes finding a website translated into one’s native language or having an industry-related article published in one’s own language is much appreciated and demonstrates that a company has a more global view on the industry. It can also mean that your content is being understood to a full extent. Non-native speakers may miss something if they are constantly forced to read in English.

Here is my general rule for translation: content marketing pieces for branding such as website content and industry articles can be translated for the local market. If you are lucky to have native speakers in the company to do the translation work, even better! If not, use a translation company that has expertise in your area. However, if you are sending an email marketing campaign for lead generation purposes such as asking for a meeting, be sure someone in your company speaks the language of the potential customer before translating. Nothing is worse than sending a meeting request to a potential customer in French (for example) only for them to find out you don’t actually speak French and they have to conduct the meeting in English.

  1. Time is of the Essence

Even if you’ve produced the same content in the same language for all your geographical markets, think about the timing of your campaigns. If you send an email marketing campaign in the morning in the U.S., it’s already afternoon in Europe and people may not be around anymore. Schedule your campaigns so they reach your target market at an opportune time. I personally look to send emails at the start of the work day so perhaps my email is one of the first to pop into their inbox.

This being said, consider cultural differences and the fact that not everyone starts work at the same time. This requires doing some cultural homework. For example, Americans might like to get an early start and sometimes be at the office at 7 or even earlier, but a lot of Europeans are strolling into their offices a lot later (some Italians might not even stroll in until around 10!).

  1. Be Culturally Aware

A good marketer will know the characteristics of his/her geographical market – this includes knowing bank holidays and work customs. I once foolishly scheduled a webinar in Germany on a national bank holiday and wondered why no one was registering! Know when your geographical markets have holidays and when they have slower work periods. For example, in Europe many employees take “bridge” holidays meaning if there is a bank holiday on a Tuesday or Thursday, they automatically take the long weekend. In many European countries, August is considered a “vacation period” – sending serious content marketing campaigns is practically a joke since literally no one is in the office.

Also, be aware of how your target market generally likes to communicate. Some areas have adopted the electronic form of communication and prefer email and social media connections, while other countries still prefer direct, personal communication. Therefore, if you are sending email marketing campaigns to the latter, be sure to follow up with phone calls.

  1. Where and How to Share Your Content

Lastly, know where to share your marketing content on social media networks. While LinkedIn has become a globally accepted platform for professional connections, analyze how you should be sharing with your global audience – in local language? In groups? Also, be aware that some countries have their own professional networks that are widely popular such as Xing in Germany.

If you’re sharing your content on Twitter, ask yourself if your tweets and hashtags will translate with a global audience. Consider tweeting in multiple languages and hashtagging specific geographic areas.

Even a more globally connected business world, many companies accept the fact that English has become the language of business and that strategy can usually transcend borders. The truth is that in an increasingly interconnected world, many countries are still trying to hold on to their cultural sense of identity which includes their norms and their language. Doing your market research and going the extra mile to adapt to culture and language be a short term investment with long term benefits.

Mary Wieder

Mary Wieder-Bottaro

Mary is a Business Development & Marketing Associate located in Verona, Italy. She has been developing a career in international marketing and communications and B2B marketing for more than 8 years. Her experience includes developing marketing strategies and social media campaigns for the B2B marketing environment, small businesses and start-ups, and she has worked in the U.S., France, Australia and Italy. She offers marketing consultancy as well as business translations from Italian to English. Mary holds a Masters degree in Global Communications from the American University of Paris and a Marketing degree from Lehigh University and speaks English, Italian and French. She is an avid blogger, runner and Yankees fan.

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