10 Tips for International Email Marketing

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International growth is an important aspect of many business’ marketing strategies. Expanding your potential market beyond the borders of your business’s country of origin can be an exciting and fruitful process when done effectively. Here are ten things to remember when approaching international email marketing:

1) While this might be obvious, language plays a central role in translating your business to other countries. Translating content requires more than a literal switch from one language to another, so it is important to work with an attentive local translator who understands differences in phrasing and idioms. Vicks Vaporub experienced the importance of a good translator during a marketing fail involving its own brand name. “Vicks,” when read in German, is pronounced “Ficks,” as a V transliterates to an F. Sadly, “Ficks” is the German equivalent of a similar-sounding English curse word. When writing emails for an international audience, make sure there’s a fluent speaker in the target language around to at least do proofreading!

2) Be aware of regional linguistic differences within a country. Look for a local translator you can trust who is experienced in moving between contexts that share similar languages in different dialects.

3) Don’t forget photos when considering translation issues. Stock images from the U.S. might not feel relevant to international viewers, or could position your international audience as supplementary to your U.S. audience. You may also come across some unexpected problems regarding packaging norms.

In Africa, the baby food producer Gerber went ahead and stocked shelves with baby food jars wrapped in the iconic brand picture of an adorable baby on the front. Unfortunately, in certain parts of Africa it’s common practice to put pictures of what is actually in the jar on a label since many people cannot read. Obviously, a jar with a picture of a cute baby on it was seen as rather undesirable.

4) Cultural sensitivity regarding religion, sexuality, and nationalism is important when trying to reach international audiences. While sexual imagery is often used in U.S. marketing, this is not true of all countries, so be attentive to norms within a specific context. Keep in mind that images don’t have to be overtly sexual in order to cause offense. There have been instances of great offense caused when incorrect stock images are used.

For example, if you’re marketing to the Middle East, you may want to pay special attention to what the women in your stock images are wearing. A woman wearing a modestly cut sundress may be considered G-rated in the United States, but it won’t be in Saudi Arabia. Also, pictures involving people putting their feet up on the desk (interpreted as casual and fun in Western countries) is actually a gesture of rudeness since exposing the soles of the feet is a degenerative gesture in many countries.

5) Marketing language also varies by context. Aggressive language might be common in the U.S., but it does not travel well to other countries. Some countries even have laws regulating the use of hyperbolic terms like “best” in marketing.

6) Email formatting also varies based on context, so remember salutations, hyperlinks, and price postings.

7) Although this might also seem obvious, be sure to account for the different time zones in which you will be working. For example, if you want an email to be seen in France, you should not send it out at the same time as your U.S. emails.

8) Timing is also important in terms of seasonal considerations, holidays, geography, and work schedules. For example, a summer sale in June does not translate well to Chilean audiences because they are in the middle of winter. Additionally, if you’re marketing to a landlocked country, filling your newsletter with beach pictures may not be appropriate. If you’re marketing in Malaysia, including pictures of snow-capped mountains might not resonate with your audience much.

9) Don’t expect people across different contexts to have the same relationship to their inbox. Measuring email marketing success using U.S.-based statistics will not give an accurate picture of performance.

10) Be attentive to international laws regarding commercial emails. Many countries have specific regulations for spam and commercial emails. It is necessary to understand these regulations as you shape your international email marketing campaign.

Keep these tips in mind as you move forward with your international email marketing campaign, and you have the potential to reach a global audience and generate cross-cultural appeal.