David Ost
David Ost 23 June 2017

5 Steps To Developing A Multilingual Content Marketing Strategy

Are you wondering how to coordinate a successful multilingual content marketing strategy? Check out these five steps to help you on your way.

Before we get into how you develop a multilingual content marketing strategy, you should probably understand why you’re doing it. If you’re jumping on the global bandwagon simply because everyone else is, don’t underestimate your competition.

Around 40 percent of the world has an internet connection today. And that number is constantly rising. But that doesn’t mean that nearing four billion people will be interested in your brand. Especially if you fail to localize your content.

Getting Your Multilingual Content Marketing Strategy Right

Rolling out a multilingual content marketing strategy will only work if you get it right. Translating and localizing your website is a great start. But that is only the start. Your global content marketing strategy will need to be adapted to each new market you enter. This goes for the wording and images, as much as the channels you use and the ways you use them.

You’ll need to do your research before entering each new country. Not just what language they speak, but the way they use it. What their buying preferences are and how they like to receive information.

The U.S., India and Brazil top the charts in terms of Facebook users and its popularity. But in China, just a handful of its 730 million internet users ever access this platform. WeChat and Weibo clearly corner that market.

When looking at optimizing your content to SEO best practices, you’ll need to understand what the popular search terms to use in each new country are. You’ll also need to know that Google is not widely used in every country you go to.

You’ll need a team who understand the requirements of many search engines, including Yandex, Baidu, Qihoo 360, Seznam, Naver, and more.

Internet speeds vary around the globe. But slow sites are unacceptable pretty much worldwide. So, wherever you decide to launch your multilingual content marketing strategy, one message is the same. Don’t cut corners with your foreign users.

If you want to get your multilingual content marketing strategy right, follow these five steps.

1. Understand Your Core Message

With the different rules and requirements for localizing in each country, it can be easy to stray away from your core message. But if you try too hard to adapt to the tastes of every market, you risk jeopardizing the brand equity you’ve worked so hard to build.

Your therapist may have warned you against the perils of trying to be everything to everyone. You can adapt your behavior, as you would when talking to a relative, your partner, or boss. But, if it starts interfering with the person you are, you’re going to get into problems. The same is true with your brand.

You may change the color scheme of your website, the promotional channels you use, events that you sponsor and places your products are available. But a multilingual content marketing strategy is not about changing your core message.

Just think for a moment about Rolex. Their market may be significantly smaller in countries with lower purchasing power. But that isn’t going to turn them into Casio. Instead, they adapt their strategy to reach the right people in the right places. In Argentina, that might mean sponsoring a polo match; in the French Riviera, a sailing event, or film festival.

Every brand has a core image, whether it’s straightforward and traditional, like banking giant, Wells Fargo, or young and creative, like Google. Strong branding is what customers pay for, rather than the soda drink or cup of coffee they’re buying.

Starbucks is seeing so much success in non-coffee drinking countries like China not because the people love their beverages. It’s more because Starbucks is synonymous with the Western lifestyle and home away from home idea.

McDonald’s may adapt their menus to suit local tastes, but they keep their happy message (and meals) wherever you go.

2. Create Content That’s Easy To Localize

Creating content that’s easy to localize is essential if you want to keep the costs down in your multilingual content marketing. Not to mention, staying on schedule. Global giants like Nike and Coca-Cola may be able to pay for some serious transcreation techniques in every new market. But, you may be forced to keep an eye on your localization budget.

You’ll have to alter your multilingual content marketing strategy when you’re heading to the Middle East or South-East Asia. But in some parts of Europe, you can probably get away with sending out similar content. Translated and localized to your target audience, of course.

Creating content that’s easy to localize isn’t about stripping it of all personality or weakening your brand voice. But you can remove cultural idioms, local jokes, phrasal verbs and over-complicated language. This will present less problems and ambiguities when you work with foreign translators.

Without Straying Too Far From Your Brand Message

Sticking to a style guide and tone of voice in each market is essential. This will help make sure you don’t dilute your brand message. Depending on your brand, you may find a standardized glossary of terms also helps, particularly if your products are hard to understand, such as pharma or biotech.

When you’re ready with your content and about to get rolling with your multilingual content marketing strategy, get it checked. Hire at least two different proofreaders and make 1000 percent sure that your text is ready to go out to multiple markets.

Even one small typo or grammatical mistake in your source content could cost you extra money to fix when it’s translated into 100 languages. Worse still, you may not catch it and send your message out misspelled to millions of potential customers.

Remember too, while Google and other search engines penalize for duplicate content; you’ll have no problems using the same content in different regions.

The great thing about a multilingual content marketing strategy is that you won’t incur penalties for wording when it’s worded in another language.

3. Localize Your Message

Wait, is this the part where your translators get to work? Yes. But, is translation the same as localization? No. You probably already know this by know, but just in case you missed the memo, allow me to demystify.

Translation makes sure that the message is readable and understandable in the target language. But localization will make your message feel as if it was written just for them.

You’ll need the right team who can do this for you. Who can research the appropriate images, colors, icons, date formats, and so on, to ensure that your multilingual content marketing strategy strikes a chord in all areas.

Yes, working with native translators is your first port of call. But you’ll also need to take on people who have experience in the market you want to crack.

A native translator may know nothing about the about the breathable fabric you use or the automobile parts you make. And even less about the people who consume them. If your company is highly specialized, you’ll need translators with the right specialty; or risk your message literally getting lost in translation.

If you’re working with influencers and celebrities, you’ll need to know who the right ones to use in your target market are. Find out what popular TV shows, places, current affairs and other specific cultural references you’ll need to include to make your message appeal to a native.

Going back to McDonalds’ for a moment. Everyone loves this fast food giant because it fits in with the local tapestry. They source local products, approach local influencers and make sure that their local audience feel like they’re not just another international brand stealing market share.

McDonalds Spain

Image: Website Local influencers in Spain

McDonalds UK

Image: Website Local influencers in UK

4. Use The Right Translation Management Software

When you’re localizing content and planning a multilingual content marketing strategy, you’ll have a lot of people and assets to coordinate. From marketing specialists and research team to translators, project managers, developers and sales staff.

When you have a widespread team of people working over different time zones in multiple languages, it can be hard to keep on top of everything. But to get your multilingual content marketing strategy right, you’ll need to stay organized. This is where your translation management software comes in.

The best software allows you to integrate with your favorite project management program, like Slack. This will allow you to communicate with your team on one platform. Keep all assets in the same place and get an at-a-glance view of the status of any campaign.

Your translators (who may or may not be technologically minded) can type directly onto the web, rather than working from documents. And your developers can upload screenshots and context, so that they aren’t working with isolated strings.

You’ll get a translation memory that allows you to store all content translated, along with a versatile search that lets you recall the data you need in instants. Just think of the cost-saving opportunities here. Instead of having to contact your English to German translator each time you need access to a previous file, you can get the information instantly.

This will speed up future projects and also allow for consistency in translation when you run a new campaign in the same region. Your multilingual content marketing strategy will be much more effective working from a centralized software acting like a project manager and easing coordination between all stakeholders.

Further Content Management Tools

Since content became King and the world got online, a plethora of content management tools have appeared to ease some of your workload. Maintaining your website, blog and social media profiles can all get quite complex, quite quickly.

So, now imagine a multilingual content marketing strategy where you have several versions of each of these content platforms to maintain. It goes without saying that if you’re planning on stellar growth, you’ll need a bigger team to help you achieve it. A social media manager, SEO specialist, writing team, marketers… and that’s just at home.

But even with multiple teams coordinating multiple channels, you can simplify the process by relying on content management tools. HubSpot lets you manage your blog, social media and website from one platform. And WordPress and Joomla support multiple languages and make developing different site versions easier.

5. Integrate Your Multilingual Content Marketing Strategy

Depending on the size of your brand and budget, you may use a host of different marketing channels online and off. But even if your marketing efforts only go as far as email campaigns, social media and blogging; make sure that your efforts are integrated.

This means that every channel you use should be linked together. Your messaging should be consistent. This means that your Facebook user should be able to click easily to your site, reach your restaurant, find your FAQ page and so on.

To run a really success multilingual content marketing strategy, you’ll need to know what platforms your audience uses in each market. When you’re running promotions, make sure they’re compliant with local laws and platform guidelines. And mainly, relevant and of interest where they’re running.

Winter woolies in the Caribbean will spark no interest at all. Offering free nights in a hotel chain that doesn’t exist in that country will fall flat on its face as well.

If you’re thinking of offering an Amazon gift card as an incentive, make sure that your entrants can actually take advantage of it. Amazon may deliver within a couple of hours where you live, but in Australia and New Zealand their market penetration is limited. And in Cuba, North Korea and Iran, they don’t ship at all.

The Importance Of Keywords And SEO

Remember the importance of using the right keywords and on-page and off-page SEO tactics for each market you enter. Keywords are key. That’s a no-brainer, right? But keywords change from language to language and region to region.

Optimize the British version of your website using words like “catalog” and “cellular phone” and your website and marketing materials will get low visibility. Why? Not because of a lack of demand or quality problem with your products. But simply because people will be searching using different spelling and different terms.

In an age where internet and search engines rule the roost, the importance of SEO can’t be underestimated. The last thing you want is to create and execute a flawless multilingual content marketing strategy, to have it not appear in a search and never get seen.

Wrapping Things Up

This is an overview of the steps to take when developing your multilingual content marketing strategy. But you’ll need to carefully analyze each step, one by one, before moving on to the next.

“Research” may be a simple two-syllable word. But its implications are profound. The time you take to identify a demand, discover the culture, tastes and preferences, and local legislation can take a very long time.

So, establish your core message and mantra. Post it on the walls of your office and your company values page; and make sure you don’t stray away from your brand identity.

Smooth your passage by creating content that’s not overly flowery or hard to translate. Then get it localized by native professionals. Use the right translation management software, tools and promotional channels, and be sure that all elements of your multilingual content marketing strategy are integrated.

It’s not easy to coordinate a successful multilingual content marketing strategy, but it is achievable. Take your time, measure your results and remember that each step you take will get you closer to your goals.

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