Content Marketing Strategy for your Global Audience
Breaking down the steps so you can reach your new audiences with personalized, useful content
By Lee Densmer
Content marketing is a marketing approach in which brands reach their potential customers online with relevant, timely, impactful, and useful content. It is the exact opposite of salesy, product-led content. According to SEMRush, content marketing – practiced by 91% of businesses today — brings businesses many benefits, such as:
- Bringing people closer to your brand with content that helps ease their personal and professional lives.
- Building brand authority and credibility in the global marketplace.
- Growing trust and earning you the right to introduce customers to your product.
- Moving target customers through their journey of being curious to being committed.
And it works: Content marketing generates up to six times more leads, making it a top strategy to build your brand, connect with your audience base, and boost your growth. And on top of that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing.
Logically, companies want to apply that success to new markets. But you can’t just take your home-market content, translate it, promote it in your new market, and call it a global content marketing program. A global content marketing strategy is an extension and an adaptation of your home-market content strategy. It includes identifying what type of content your target buyer really wants and needs, putting in place the key roles and processes that you need to succeed, adapting or creating that content appropriately, and distributing that content in the places most logical for that market.
The elements of a global content marketing strategy
Strategic planning with your team is required before you can publish content in your new market. Your marketing strategy for each locale should include:
- Goals for your content: Do you need to drive awareness? Website traffic? Increased leads?
- Who your buyer is, their cultural realities and preferences, and what motivates them.
- Your tone and style. Is it the same or different? For example, some locales prefer a more formal manner of address than is typical for North America.
- What topics you should create content about? What’s of concern in that market?
- The types (formats) of content you’ll create. What is most popular in that culture?
- How you’ll distribute and promote the content. Where does the customer get their information?
- How you’ll manage content creation and publication – the process for getting it all done.
- Your SEO strategy. What local users search for is different than in your home market.
- How you’ll measure content performance.
You don’t need to have all this understood and documented before you create local content. When it comes to content marketing, getting started is more important than doing it perfectly. But you do need to be thinking about it all the interrelated parts of your content marketing engine and be working to have a complete plan in place.
Understanding your new market: buyer personas and data insights per market
There is a lot to know about your target market before you can communicate effectively, establish brand relationships, and sell your product in a new market, let alone expect success. You need to understand the cultural landscape in the new market and master your knowledge of the consumer.
When you are creating content for a new market you need to know:
- Their beliefs, feelings, preferences, and values.
- Their buying preferences, processes, and behavior.
- Where they get their information, and how they prefer to consume content.
- Their expectations, needs, issues, and interests.
- Just like in your home market, you need to create a buyer persona. This is a profile of your target buyer based on market research and data, including:
- Demographics (name, age, location, marriage status, income, education, etc), and
- Psychographics (their beliefs, how they buy, preferences, values, fears, etc.).
Having a deep understanding of your buyer is the only way to make sure your content marketing strategies are aligned with what they really want and need. For example, a target customer in the US might prefer to read a blog post for a product review. However, in another market, your target demographic might prefer a video.
Finding cultural information
There are many companies offering cultural “guides” which are assessments or reports by a country that cover cultural norms, customs, preferences, how to market to that culture, and how to do business there. Those guides are broadly available. Or you can turn to custom research which offers deeper intelligence, which may be required to navigate the sensitivities of a specific market. However, this choice can be expensive and time-consuming. Check out:
- Collage Group
- World Business Culture
- Commisceo Global
- Elon University
Yet having all that data does not mean having the insights you need in order to apply it to your business. Knowing the data is one thing, activating it is quite another. Sometimes the information can be difficult to interpret. You may need a professional agency to tell you what really matters and how to apply it to your business. Also, be careful of oversimplified insights due to time pressures. Really, the best way to understand your buyer is to speak to them: directly via phone calls, by sending them an email, by asking on social, or by creating a survey or poll. Your sales and account teams also can provide insight since they are close to customers.
The difference between global and local content
Your global content strategy doesn’t have to be a choice between sharing the same content across all markets and producing wholly different content for each. But first, let’s dispel the myth of truly global content.
A piece of truly global content would have to cover an issue that people experience everywhere and deal with it in a way that’s relevant everywhere. It would explore an idea that appeals to people no matter which region or market they are in; there would be a common understanding of the core message and the underlying customer insight behind it. But that’s a high bar and not many pieces will actually pass the test.
The ideal global piece of content would be entirely generic, with universal graphics, illustrations, and pictures, so it is ready to go in every market without adaptation. It’s not tailored for anyone. But is this really an exciting piece of content? Arguably no. Something appealing to everyone is specific to no one. Instead, the goal is to create and distribute content that is customized, appropriate, and effective wherever it goes. This may mean just translating, but not likely: It probably means adapting or rewriting your home market content or even starting from scratch to make it more relevant locally.
To adapt or not to adapt
One of the key questions to ask as part of your content planning process is when and how to translate or adapt content for local cultures. It’s vital that the content your audiences receives is genuinely aligned with both their preferences and your business objectives, yet it’s impossible to produce local versions of global content for every market in which you operate. Translating or adapting content just for the sake of it wastes money and resources. Of course, ROI considerations will push the priorities for your localization program. Naturally, it makes sense to serve bigger, more profitable markets.
Questions to ask before choosing pieces to localize include:
- What is the size of your audience in each market?
- Will the money spent extend your reach and achieve the number of leads you hope to generate?
- Will it make content more relevant or just different?
- How many locally generated or localized pieces of content would your audience have an appetite for?
Plan your strategy and resources around the value that localization will deliver for each market. Use data-driven insight to inform when localization makes sense. When you don’t have data available, it’s well worth testing translated versions to see how they perform before rolling out all your content across a new market. For example, you could localize only one or two blog posts at first and then track engagement.
Generally, a global business would prioritize the following for its new markets:
- Hero content (your key messaging for the year that your company wants to distribute worldwide)
- Your website
- Any content critical to sales processes (a product brief)
- The content used in all your campaigns
- Customer support content, and
- The content most visited/downloaded from your website (for instance, all of your top-performing blog posts).
Gather all the pieces you want to consider, have a language services provider (LSP) provide pricing for localization/adaptation, and then make decisions based on what you need, how much it’s being used, and how much it costs.
Various approaches: translation versus transcreation versus in-country copywriting
Once you choose which assets to adapt, what type of adaptation is required? Different types of content tend to have different requirements. In some cases, you can go with simple translation, but in other cases, you have to go deeper. Here are your choices:
Translation is the activity of changing words from one language to another. It is often thought of as a one-to-one exchange from one language to another, a literal swap of words from one language to the next. It works best for technical texts, user guides, FAQs, online help, and other straightforward content.
Transcreation takes it a step further and changes the meaning from one culture to another. It is a creative adaptation process from one language (culture) to the next (culture) where the cultural knowledge of your linguist comes into play. Transcreation work is rooted in a thorough understanding of local customer needs, interests, and preferences. Creative materials, like taglines, slogans, ads, and heavily branded web pages must be transcreated. Also, not all translators can transcreate so be sure to check out the qualifications of your resources.
You should consider native or in-country copywriting when the content needs to be completely local, or if the transcreation process is more work than just starting over and creating something very specific to your target market in the first place. This is when a local resource creates a deliverable from scratch, maybe using the home market piece as a reference or inspiration for the localized piece.
Roles and skills needed
Global content marketing teams require different resources than those you already have managing your home market program. As you build your team to expand your content marketing worldwide, consider these roles:
- Content strategist – this is the person who understands how content maps to buyer personas, what formats to use, how to define topics, and how to execute a content calendar.
- Copywriter – this person is a pro with words. He/she knows how to craft content that both resonates with a target audience and adheres to your brand. For global markets, this person should be in-country or someone bicultural living in your home market.
- Editor – this is your grammarian who can make the mechanics of your copy perfect.
- Designer – this person can perform desktop publishing on your collateral. He/she also understands how to work with translated content.
- Translator – this person is the bilingual linguist who can transform your content from one language to another.
- Transcreator – this person is the creative linguistic resource who recreates your home culture content for the target market.
- Project manager – this is a highly organized and detail-oriented person who can bring all the parties together and move projects along.
Yet adding headcount is often difficult, and since you haven’t proven results yet it may be hard to get a budget. You can contract any of the above resources; more and more professionals are working on a contract basis these days. Also, you may need a partnership with a language services provider once your translations hit a certain volume or you’re working within multiple languages.
Creating a global content strategy will be well worth your time. It’s not immediate: it will take time to see customers consuming and reacting to your content, and eventually coming to you for consultations that drive new business. But now you have the tools to get yourself started.
Lee Densmer is a long-term localization professional with years of content marketing expertise. Her company, Globia Content Marketing, provides content strategy, editorial planning, content development, and translation planning for global businesses.