Lose the language barrier: the value of multilingual marketing
06 Sep 2019
Are you looking to grow your global presence or connect with your international customers on a deeper level? If English is not the native language spoken in these markets, you may need to rethink your strategy.
A strong multilingual marketing programme goes beyond simply translating your website or adverts into a range of different languages. It involves investing in your language skills and expanding your cultural awareness.
Reaching customers in new territories and building authentic connections with them takes skill and effort. Speaking to these customers in their own language not only allows you to have deeper, more nuanced conversations with them, but it also shows that you are willing to adapt your approach to suit them, their comfort levels and their needs.
At the most fundamental level, communicating with customers in their native tongue is a sign of respect. It sends a message that your organisation wants to communicate on your customers’ terms.
Here are five areas where strong multilingual skills can benefit your marketing and your business.
1. Enhancing the customer experience
Most organisations place high value on the customer experience (CX) with thought leaders like Gartner calling it “the new marketing battlefront” . Your CX can be a key brand differentiator – but to achieve this, you need to put customers at the epicentre of every business activity and make sure that your interactions with customers are personalised and meaningful. Speaking to customers in their own language plays a key role here.
According to CMO.com, “Trust takes a hit when customers have a fragmented experience and feel like you don’t know them – or that you’re not listening to them”. When you put a language barrier between your customer and your business, which prevents them from being able to express themselves freely and seamlessly, this can quickly fragment the CX and alienate your customer.
2. Gaining a competitive advantage
Companies from English-speaking countries can no longer rest on their laurels and believe that English is the lingua franca of global business. If you’re expanding into fresh markets, you’re competing with local businesses and other well-established multinationals who have already earned the trust of local audiences. In this context, you have to do everything you can to level the playing field. Don’t let an easily conquerable communication barrier become your Achilles’ heel.
3. Preparing for Brexit
The need for lingual and cultural agility is more important than ever in the UK business community. Government research shows that the UK loses about 3.5% of its GDP every year due to a lack of language skills and cultural awareness in the workforce. These issues will definitely need to be addressed as the Brexit debate continues. Irrespective of the outcome, a multilingual capability will be a major asset; businesses will be better positioned to negotiate new relationships with customers in the EU – or explore alternative new markets.
4. Instilling confidence
In order to invest in a product or solution, customers need to fully understand what they are buying into. Decision-makers want to feel well-informed – and they may be reluctant to make choices based on information that is communicated in a language they don’t fully grasp.
5. Reducing risk
In a regulatory environment that’s very focused on customers and their rights, organisations need to be confident that no important information is lost in translation. In order to stay on the right side of the law, companies need to speak to customers clearly, in a language they truly understand. In this way, effective multilingual marketing helps to support compliance strategies and reduce risk.
Choosing the right channels
Creating multilingual marketing material across every customer touchpoint is the Holy Grail – but for most businesses, this resource-intensive approach is just not feasible. A more realistic strategy is to focus on the channels that offer the most valuable multilingual experiences.
When it comes to speaking to audiences in their own languages, it makes sense to invest in at least one channel that makes live conversations with customers possible. Voice contact is a great platform for engaging customers in real dialogues, especially when agents have the language skills to converse naturally and freely – making customers feel comfortable and creating a CX that connects customers to your brand on a human level.
Other advantages afforded by voice contact are the fact that this channel can be precisely targeted to optimise your budget; and the agility of this platform, which allows you to use it for market research, nurturing and qualifying leads, and direct sales in a range of local languages.
Voice contact is clearly a powerful channel for multilingual communication. What you may be wondering is whether chatbots can be used in the place of human agents in your contact centre.
Chatbots vs. human agents?
The AI and automation technologies that power chatbots are not only growing more advanced, but also becoming more accessible to the business community. Through fields of AI such as natural language processing and machine learning, some chatbots do provide companies with the ability to communicate with customers in multiple languages – however this is currently only possible on a rudimentary level.
When considering the use of chatbots, it’s important to take the customer experience into account. Some customers find chatbots frustrating, especially when they provide canned answers that are irrelevant to the conversation at hand. For example, a 2019 Forrester study found that 54% of customers in the US view chatbots in a negative light. The study explains that, “Consumers anticipate the worst when engaging with a chatbot today and haven’t yet seen a chatbot that can meet or even exceed those expectations”.
Nevertheless, chatbot technology can still add value when it is implemented strategically in combination with expert human resources. Some chatbot solutions can deliver time and cost savings when they are used to handle short, routine interactions with customers – in a service desk or call centre environment – before escalating the conversation to a skilled human agent.
Right now, it’s unrealistic for companies to expect conversational chatbot solutions that can sell products or solutions as effectively as human telesales agents can; or nurture customer relationships on the same level as experienced Inside Sales professionals – in any language.
As a slater.com article on the topic puts it, “Designing virtual assistants to conduct a human-like conversation is a tall order and requires a different set of skills than those supplied by developers; it needs the creativity of poets.”
If your business does decide to use (human-powered) voice contact as a channel to drive your multilingual marketing strategy, here are some pointers:
You need people on your team who can speak naturally in the languages you choose to communicate in. Ideally, you want a selection of native language speakers who can converse with their target audiences fluently, in a culturally appropriate way.
Agility is critical
Use flexible, unscripted methods. Agents need to be skilled enough to respond to customers in a way that is relevant and contextual; and tailor your proposition to suit each customer or account.
Pay attention to detail
Beyond language, you need to think about things like the local regulatory environment, seasons in the southern vs. northern hemisphere, buying preferences and much more to ensure you are not missing the mark entirely. You also need to plan for time differences. Consider outsourcing if you do not have the capacity to work outside of normal office hours to accommodate international time zones.
Outsourcing reduces risk:
Rather than investing in a new team of in-house hires to attain the language skills you need; you could partner with an agency that specialises in multilingual telemarketing. This allows you to control costs and reduce risk by first running a pilot – either in one new market or across a shortlist of territories, depending on your needs. This allows you to gauge where you’re getting traction and incrementally scale your campaign in these areas. You can also refine your approach based on lessons learned in the field.
Expert, 24/7, end to end sales support
If you do not currently have the skills and resources in-house to put this type of multilingual marketing strategy into action, an expert partner like The Telemarketing Company can help.
With a wide pool of foreign language speakers who also have expertise in our various service areas, we provide a comprehensive range of telemarketing and telephone research services in more than 15 native languages suited to audiences in the EMEA and APAC regions, and beyond. We provide around the clock, multilingual end-to-end sales support, both for UK-based businesses targeting the overseas market and international businesses looking to extend their global reach.
No matter whether you need high-quality pre-sales research, sales lead generation and nurture, or multilingual telesales and Inside Sales agents that act as an extension of your team – we can provide the expertise you require to meet your overseas business goals.
To find out how our team can help you extend your global reach, get in touch today.