International marketing

Multilingual Marketing: How to Reach Foreign-Language Audiences

Multilingual Marketing: How to Reach Foreign-Language Audiences
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed by
Updated on
October 3, 2023

If you’re trying to reach markets whose people speak different languages from you, it makes sense that your marketing campaigns will need to be in such languages. Because you can bet these audiences won’t learn a new language to understand what you’re telling them: you’d need to have your campaigns accommodate their native tongues instead.

However, undertaking multilingual marketing isn’t as straightforward as just translating your marketing campaigns into different languages (though this is definitely one step of the process). There are several key elements that a business’s multilingual marketing strategy will need if it is to drive brand awareness and sales.

You’ll find out what these are as we share more on what multilingual marketing is, how businesses can benefit from a multilingual marketing strategy – and last but not least, the three elements that help make a successful strategy.

What is Multilingual Marketing?

Multilingual marketing refers to marketing that promotes products or services in multiple languages. For example, if a business was marketing a product in Singapore, where English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil are spoken, it may want to roll out multilingual marketing campaigns in all four of these languages.

While businesses often undertake multilingual marketing as part of a global marketing campaign to enter foreign markets, businesses may also execute a multilingual marketing strategy if customers in a particular market speak two or more languages (such as in the example of the Singapore market above).

In either situation, adopting a multilingual marketing strategy helps the business communicate its products’ benefits, features, and pricing to potential customers, and persuade them to buy such products. It’s only with such an understanding of the business’s products – as communicated to them in a language they are familiar with – that customers can make an informed decision on whether to go ahead with the purchase.

What are the Benefits of a Multilingual Marketing Strategy?

When executed well, a multilingual marketing strategy can help a business enjoy the following rewards:

  • Increased business reach and brand awareness. Marketing your products in multiple languages helps you reach new audiences who speak different languages from you. This in turn opens up new markets for your business, whether these markets are found in the same domestic location or an entirely separate geographical region. You even stand to grow your customer base on an international scale!
  • An improved customer experience. When people understand what your products are about (because you’ve presented these products in their native tongue), they’d have a more pleasant experience checking out your products. In contrast, if a person can’t comprehend your marketing material, they’d likely get frustrated and stop engaging with your brand right then and there.
  • More sales. The more people you reach with your marketing efforts, and the more pleasant their experience with your brand, the more conversions you’re likely to experience. This way, you’ll earn more revenue – and possibly even revenue from repeat purchases, too, if the people you’ve marketed to become loyal customers.

What Are the Elements of a Good Multilingual Marketing Strategy?

A successful multilingual marketing strategy will involve the translation of your marketing campaigns if you plan on repurposing them for different target markets. However, marketing translation is just one part of the picture. In fact, it’s a subset of a larger overarching element of multilingual marketing.

Here are the three main elements that any good multilingual marketing strategy should have:

1. Localization

Localization is the process of adapting something for the local market. So, in the context of a multilingual marketing strategy, localization involves modifying your marketing campaigns to suit the local market’s cultural needs and preferences. At the same time, however, you’d take care to retain your campaigns’ core message. Such creation of localized content for different audiences is also known as transcreation.

To localize your content, conduct market research to learn your target audience’s cultural preferences. Never make assumptions, as even markets geographically close to each other can have different cultures.

After completing your market research, modify your marketing campaigns based on your findings while keeping to your campaigns’ original messaging. Examples of how a business might localize marketing content as part of a multilingual content marketing strategy are:

  • Adjusting words, phrases, idioms, and the like to match the local dialect of your target demographic. For instance, if you are a United States-based online clothing business looking to reach new customers in the United Kingdom, you might want to update your website copy to refer to your range of “sweaters” as “jumpers” instead.
  • Avoiding the use of words, phrases, and concepts that may not resonate with your target customers (especially if such content may offend them). Due to religious beliefs in certain Middle Eastern markets, for example, the consumption of alcohol is typically frowned upon there. It would therefore be wise to avoid referencing alcohol consumption in your marketing materials for the Middle Eastern markets.
  • Changing your marketing content’s layout to match what is locally used there. For example, while many languages – such as English – are written and read from left to right, some languages are read from right to left (RTL) instead. These languages include Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Sindhi. If you are marketing to people who have such RTL languages as their native language, reformat your marketing content for RTL consumption before pushing it out.

Localizing your marketing campaigns directly plays into the benefits of multilingual marketing we’ve discussed earlier – namely, helping to increase brand awareness, provide a better customer experience, and boost sales.

That’s because when people in the local market can easily consume and engage with your marketing material, they’ll gain a good picture of your business and its products. They’ll also have a good customer experience as they can understand the marketing messages you’re trying to get across. And finally, they might just be persuaded to spend their hard-earned money with you.

2. International SEO

What form will your marketing campaigns take? If they are in web content format, optimize them for greater search engine visibility. This way, people who conduct online searches for information or products relevant to your brand will be more likely to find and browse your website. The resulting increase in website traffic may then lead to more conversions and sales.

The strategy of optimizing web pages for higher search engine visibility is known as search engine optimization (SEO). This is a whole topic on its own, so we’ll cover just how it applies to multilingual marketing.

Specifically, since you’re creating marketing content in multiple languages, you’ll need to optimize all such marketing content separately for each language and target market. Start off by conducting international SEO keyword research to identify high-value search terms (also known as “keywords”) for each target market, using considerations such as:

  • Search volume: The average number of monthly searches a keyword receives. Where possible, try to drill down to a keyword’s search volume in a particular geographical market instead of just relying on the keyword’s global search volume.
  • Keyword difficulty: This metric found in SEO tools estimates how difficult it may be to rank for a particular keyword. Checking your keywords’ keyword difficulty scores is useful for assessing the keywords on which you should focus your SEO efforts.
  • Search intent: An indication of what internet users are looking for when they search a particular keyword. For example, they may just be looking for preliminary information on a subject, or be ready to commit to a purchase. Knowing the likely search intent behind a keyword lets you create content that caters to such intent.

Also, you may be able to repurpose, for another market, the keywords you’ve identified for one market by translating and localizing them. The same localization principles we’ve discussed above also apply here – for example, check that you don’t just do a direct translation of your keywords, but also adjust them to fit the local context. It’s also a good idea to run your localized keywords through the same search volume, keyword difficulty, and search intent checks to decide if it’s worth optimizing your content for them.

One last thing before we move on from international SEO: take steps to meet the webmaster guidelines for the search engines you’re optimizing your content for. For most of the English-speaking world, this will likely involve conforming to the Google Search Essentials. That said, don’t assume that Google is always the right search engine as your target audiences may be using others to look things up online. Other popular international search engines include Yandex for the Russian market, and Baidu for searchers from China.

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3. A Consistent Multilingual Marketing Approach Across All Channels

Which channels are you using to market your products to your various target markets? Where required, and as far as possible, the marketing content you put out on all such channels should consistently be multilingual in nature. This means translating and localizing your content for all such channels, while still presenting your content in the optimal format for them.

Key digital marketing channels to focus your international marketing efforts on include: 

  • Social media: Identify the social media platforms that your target customers spend the most time on, then build your presence on them. For example, if a large percentage of your target customers in one country are active on Facebook, then put out content in their native language on Facebook. On the other hand, if you are targeting the Gen Z crowd in China, explore creating short-form videos for the Douyin app. (Not TikTok, although it is the international version of Douyin!)
  • Email marketing: Learn your subscribers’ language preferences so you can send them email advertising in their preferred language. There are various ways of doing so. One method is through inference, where if a person subscribes via an email form on your Korean ecommerce website, then you can reasonably infer that they’d be keen on receiving Korean-language emails. Alternatively, you can add a form field to your sign-up form that explicitly asks for the subscriber’s language preference.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) ads: These are ads you place on publishing platforms and typically pay for only when people click them. PPC advertising platforms, such as Google Ads and Baidu Ads, help you manage and publish your PPC ads in a centralized interface. They also let you choose where your ads will appear – and you’ll want to optimize your ads for the people who will see them! For instance, if you are placing PPC ads on Google to reach native speakers from Germany, then localize your PPC ad for the German market.

Website Multilingual Marketing Made Easy With Weglot

Exactly how you undertake multilingual marketing will depend on your marketing channels of choice. That said, running multilingual marketing campaigns generally requires translating and localizing your content into your target markets’ preferred languages.

Also, if your campaigns are in the form of multilingual website content, we recommend optimizing such content for greater search visibility on the search engine results pages. Last but not least, take steps to maintain a consistent multilingual approach on all channels you use to market to your audiences. Doing all these can help you maximize the benefits you gain from multilingual marketing, starting with brand awareness and ending with more sales.

To localize your website’s marketing content and reach a global audience, try Weglot’s website translation solution. Weglot detects, translates and displays the content of your website instantly, allowing you to translate your website with ease. 

Using a first layer of machine translation, all translations are stored in a central Weglot Dashboard, and you’ll be able to edit, refine and localize them further to suit your translation quality. Weglot also includes functionality for translating media files, and toggling languages using a language switcher, to help your website visitors enjoy a seamless and fully localized web experience.

In fact, Weglot and DeepL recently discussed the topic of how machine translation has advanced into being a solid asset for any marketer looking to expand globally, and what MT strategies can help optimize your translation process and bring better results.

Weglot is trusted by over 70,000 websites, and you can try it for free with our 10-day trial.

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