When it comes to marketing your business to overseas and foreign language markets, nothing beats using the power of the internet.
A glance at Internet World Stats shows that languages other than English are fast challenging its dominance online, with Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Portuguese being among the ones to watch. Other linguistic groups are also making their presence known. You can make the most of the changing face of the internet with some smart marketing strategies.
Online marketing has been key at Lingo24, helping me to grow the translation business from a two person pilot project in 2001 into the worldwide operation it is today. I found online strategies offered the best return on investment for my time and marketing budget in the early days. They continue to deliver a decade later, with the majority of our business coming from foreign language customers.
Here are a few tips and ideas that have worked for Lingo24 and that could help you to develop your business in foreign language regions too.
Create Foreign Language Websites
Don’t rely on automatic translation tools, which could let you down in making that vital good first impression. Instead, create a separate website for each language you see as a potential market. For Lingo24, this included the major European languages, which in turn opened up global markets for the company.
Having sites in multiple languages demonstrates to customers that you have an international outlook and care about their needs. The good news is that it has never been easier to put together a professionally-designed and translated website at an affordable cost.
Localize for Overseas Markets
When creating your presence in a foreign language market, resist the temptation to take short cuts. It’s important to do some research first, and learn not only about linguistic differences (for example, the differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese) but cultural ones too. It’s about more than simply not offending web visitors – paying attention to this kind of detail puts customers at their ease and inspires trust.
Acquiring top-level domains, such as .pt and .br for the above countries, helps keep your websites relevant to customers in each country. Going local is something that is becoming ever more important, with major search engines tracking the location of users and competing to deliver the most helpful results. If you want to be found, make sure your site is among them.
Use Search Engine Optimization and Pay-Per-Click
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is something I did from the word go. It’s essential for ensuring your service or product places well in search engine results, even more so with the high competition all businesses face online today. And if you take time to research keywords and key phrases for your target market, it can be a cost-effective way to increase your exposure.
A couple of pieces of advice here. Firstly, check with a native speaker to be sure your promising foreign language keywords reflect correct, current usage. Secondly, monitor the success of your keywords by keeping an eye on your web analytics, and adapt accordingly.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) marketing takes this to the next level. It’s a low risk way to increase your sites exposure, since you only pay when users click on your advert. And in contrast to “organic” SEO, it can bring (almost) instant results. I’ve found it a useful and cost-effective way for Lingo24 to trial different online marketing strategies.
Have a Global, Round-the-Clock Presence
The 24 in Lingo24 came about because I recognized the need to be available in a global market 24 hours a day. If your business only opens during office hours in New York or Seattle, many of your overseas customers will be sleeping.
When you operate your business online it’s far easier to work from home, extending your availability beyond traditional working hours. I’m also a huge fan of online telecommunications such as instant messaging and Skype, which offer a useful, cost-free way to connect with contacts around the globe.
In the early days of expanding your business overseas, home-based workers in different global regions can give you an international presence, but without the expense of international offices. Employing overseas staff extended my company’s ability to be there when the customer wants us. This has helped build our reputation for efficiency, giving us an edge on competitors. It also ensures we speak their language, both literally and in terms of cultural differences.
Make the Most of Online Opportunities
When it comes to marketing globally, taking it online can only benefit you. As we’ve seen, most strategies are relatively low cost and low risk. They also give your business visibility, allow you to work efficiently and be responsive to customers, and to monitor global trends.
Complement this with professional staff or freelancers, and your company could soon be an international success.
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, one of the world’s fastest growing translation agencies. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 160 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over 60 million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express. Follow Lingo24 on Twitter: @Lingo24.