Everyone wants to go global these days. Got a product that’d work in other markets? “Start selling it internationally,” most consultants would say.
At first, this sounds like a good idea, and potentially an easy win, especially considering the various smart tools now available on the market, but what we often forget is that even with advanced marketing technologies, it’s next to impossible to run a one-size-fits-all marketing campaign.
The tools themselves won’t make it happen - at the end of the day, it’s the marketer’s role to adjust the communication to fit each customers’, and market's, needs.
This is especially important if you’re trying to attract international customers.
To provide some more insight into what to watch out for, I talked to the GetResponse team to get their thoughts on the intricacies of marketing communications across international markets.
Based on this, here are four mistakes you need to avoid, along with some key recommendations to help with your global email marketing initiatives.
1. Laws and regulations
Let’s start with the most important one, as it affects your entire business. Laws and regulations.
Until recently, most marketers wouldn’t even bat an eyelid when asked whether it’s okay for them to send an email campaign to their subscriber list, but since May 25th, when the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect, the answer’s no longer as straightforward, even if your business isn’t located in Europe.
Without going into the technical details of the changes, what the GDPR has done is remind us of the fact that every market is different.
You've probably heard about the CAN-SPAM Act, CASL, and GDPR, but there are also other local regulations you need to follow if you want to operate in a given country.
Take Germany for example, where marketers have long been required to use confirmed opt-in when building their email lists. Interestingly, this is one of the main reasons why marketers in Germany tend to achieve the highest average open and click-through rates, as found in the email marketing benchmarks report.
But without knowledge of the local laws, you could be facing something far worse than low conversion rates, i.e. financial penalties and lack of customers’ trust.
Watch out for the latest regulations that come into force, especially if you’re planning to expand internationally, as some of them may apply to your business. This is the case with the GDPR, which affects many businesses that aren’t located in Europe but do have European customers.
At first, this may sound like an obvious one - your international customers will often be located in different time zones, so you need to adjust the time your email marketing campaigns in order reach their inboxes at the right time of day.
You can easily do this with features offered by different email service providers which adjust the timing of your email campaigns to your customers’ local time.
So, what’s the problem?
Daria Love, GetResponse B2B Marketing Manager, makes an important point:
“Other than just time zones, there are also cultural differences that influence working times. For example, in Spain there’s the siesta (afternoon break), which means many shops and businesses are closed from approximately 2 PM. until 5 PM. Holidays, too, are also often completely different in various countries - in Russia, for example, they celebrate Christmas on January 6th and not December 25th. There are also the so-called long weekends - for example, July 4th, 2019 in the U.S. and August 15th, 2019 in Poland are both bank holidays that happen on Thursdays. As a result, in both markets there’s a big chance that many people will decide to take half or a full week off.”
When running international marketing campaigns, create a holiday calendar for each respective country, in order to ensure you account for cultural differences and reach the inboxes at the right time.
If your customers are located across the globe, they also probably speak different languages, another critical consideration.
Sure, it’s not uncommon to hear marketers say they localize their email marketing campaigns, but the problem is that it’s rarely a priority. They also don’t often “go all in” with their localization efforts, which can create confusion, as there’s no consistent experience in a given language across the customer’s journey.
Sometimes it’s just the transactional emails that get translated, other times it’s just the opt-in page or a landing page that’s localized, yet the communication that comes after is in the default language. Occasionally it’s also the newsletters, but only the copy and not the images that get translated.
Even the biggest brands make this mistake.
Mellissa Lee, Head of GetResponse Malaysia, makes a strong argument about how important this is:
“This may sound like an obvious one, but it can be confusing, especially in Asia. English is the dominant language in Singapore, Philippines, and Malaysia, then there are countries where they use different versions of Mandarin, like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. If a customer from Taiwan received an email in Chinese Mandarin, they’d likely get upset. Other countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand will also require you to translate your marketing communication to their local language.”
Make a strategic decision about whether you want to localize your email campaigns, and if you do, give the process the right priority. And don’t forget about the details, like different language versions across countries.
It’s easy to think that if you want to run global email marketing campaigns, all you have to do is to translate the text and send your newsletters at the right time.
But there’s so much more to it - for example, adjusting the tone of your marketing communication.
Here’s what Taylor Barr, Affiliate Manager at GetResponse, says about this:
“While in the U.S., we're somewhat used to the "hard sell" and other tactics marketers employ in order to get us to buy, in other countries, a sales proposition might be a bit softer and higher touch than this. Using A/B testing of your messaging might be useful to capture the right tone when doing global marketing campaigns.”
The same applies when you’re addressing your recipients using simple personalization tactics, like “Dear [[firstname]].”
Margo Burkivska, B2B Marketing Specialist at GetResponse, elaborates on that:
“Be careful when greeting your recipients using simple personalization, like "Dear Mr. [Name]", especially if you're dealing with languages where names have to be changed to be pronounced properly (e.g., Polish, Russian, Spanish.) Pay attention to capitalization. Some people will fill out their name (in a form or on a landing page) starting with a small letter to check if the emails they receive are sent out automatically. Then there’s another issue if your customers fill in their names using the Latin alphabet. If you’re going to use Latin letters in the greeting, but the whole message will be in Cyrillic, the outcome could look like spam.”
Don’t assume that the marketing tactics you’re already using will work just as well in other regions - work closely with someone who knows the local customs, culture, and understand the language very well.
Bear in mind, too, that sometimes even professional translators make mistakes, especially if they’re not translating to their native language.
Go global, but do it with care
Dealing with international customers may seem easy at first, but it’s not enough to simply offer international shipping to provide a good quality service to a global audience.
As you can see, there are many elements to look out for. Some can be planned for, while others will be more challenging, e.g. paying attention to the international news to avoid running a marketing campaign during a natural disaster.
It’s your role as a marketer to be very careful when planning and executing your marketing campaigns. The good news is that a lot of this comes with experience and can be learned over time.