Posted 26th October 2011 | By Nick Evans, Chairman

If you have clients, prospects, distributors or suppliers in other countries, then the chances are that you are currently marketing to them in English. Why? It's simply very hard to do so in languages other than your own unless you employ experts of course.

What makes it hard?

The first problem is the language barrier, obviously. If you don't speak Chinese, Korean or Hungarian and you don't know anyone who does, then you'll need to find a translator for each language, manage his or her work and then check it is OK.

Once the content is translated, of course, it needs to be matched up with your original marketing message in your html template and that's where other problems arise. Translated languages are often longer than the original for a number of reasons the translated text is not as "tight" as the original, well-crafted prose; the content contains some very long, compound words (German or Dutch for example) that break the layout; the language simply takes more words to say your message than the original English. Suddenly, your beautifully designed layout is shattered and has to be redone in each of the languages you have translated.

The more languages you do, the greater are the chances for errors. For example, if you are mailing to ten different countries, the chances are that your product or service availability in each country is not the same, or your promotions differ from one country to another, or your sales channel varies in certain countries. You must therefore take account of this and ensure that each variant mail accommodates those changes correctly and that you check the impact on images, links, content, footnotes and anything else that may be affected. It's almost become a completely separate campaign.

And there's more. Testing of your final mails needs to be detailed and meticulous you are testing a language you don't understand, with variants you might forget, that targets a culture you don't know. Culture is that a problem too? Yep. The ways that people say things and address each other, the conventions for currency format (does the Euro sign go before or after the amount?), the 'tone' of the language when it is translated (formal or informal, 'tu' or 'vous' for example), the idioms that English uses everyday but which mean nothing in translation, the differences in holidays (you don't want to send when no one is at work) and simply what people do and don't say (or do) in the target country: all things that you don't know but a local does.

The management, creation, translation, testing and sending of multilingual emails is a job for the experts. The topics above are just a taster of where things are tricky and may trip you up.

The certainty is however, that sending your marketing emails into China in English will have a good deal less impact than sending in Chinese ... but which of the many Chinese languages? Drat another hurdle.


Nick from ExtraMile Communications Ltd in Eccleshall, Staffordshire.

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