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Marketing to International Audiences: How to Effectively Communicate with Non-Native Target Markets

Expanding your offer of goods or services to international audiences is usually a good idea if you can. Today, the prevalence of e-commerce sites makes it incredibly simple to ship your goods and market your services all over the world. However, before doing so, it is best to develop an international digital marketing strategy, as well as inform yourself (and your colleagues) about the laws of doing business in foreign territories.

target market

For starters, sometimes translating your site or materials isn’t enough to truly communicate effectively with your target market. Our experience marketing to Scandinavian cultures, for example, has led us to develop an expertise not just in the local languages, but also in the culture. Although your website may be translated into perfect English, in some cases you can tweak your site to truly capture the attention of the international audience you wish to target.

Why do I need to think about my audience’s cultural competence?

For example, if a Spanish company wishes to target the populous market available in Central and South America, it would be prudent to use some of the American continent’s vocabulary, and consider that in most of Latin America, language tends to be much more formal than in Spain (surprisingly!). They do not use the vosotros form at all, but rather address each other in groups as ustedes, something that could be quite surprising to a Spaniard used to addressing groups of people. These small details can be the difference that cause a consumer or client to go with a competitor – simply the cultural familiarity might make them feel a higher level of trust.

Make it Simple!

Conversely, you could take a completely different approach and try to completely genericize the language used so as to make it appealing to all speakers of that language. In Europe in particular, it can be useful to develop strategies for communicating with English as a second language (ESL) speakers, because despite English being the common language of commerce on the continent, for most English is just a second language, and a lot can get lost in translation, as we well know.

Communicating is challenging in and of itself when speaking to your audience in their mother tongue. So, communicating in English when the majority of your market isn’t necessarily thinking or speaking every day in English is even more tricky. Be sure you are very clear about the message you want to convey before you begin writing anything. If you are clear about your objective with the communication, it will make formulating a clear statement simpler.

Be sure to avoid a lot of slang or jargon when writing for your non-native English audience. Remember to use simple, plain language that can be easily translated. Just like in the Spanish example, try not to use any words that are particularly local vernacular. For example, I wouldn’t call a sandwich a ‘’butty’’ as they do in England, because most people wouldn’t catch the reference, and they probably wouldn’t search for the term in Google, either.

Where can I find resources to simplify my site’s English?

A good resource for writing simple English content is the Voice of America ‘’Special English’’ word list. Comprised of about 1500 words, it is published online, and is where most major media outlets determine what words to use when broadcasting to audiences with varied levels of education and income. Remember, English language knowledge can be variable, even among native speakers, so really be sure to try to cast the widest net possible unless you are targeting a specific niche.

In general, be sure you know your message clearly ahead of time, and when in doubt, feel free to get in touch with us to discuss creating your message to effectively address your own target audience. We are here to help with whatever you need and our communication specialists can adapt your content so it is readily accessible to the correct group of people!