GALA execs on how to market globally with a local twist

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Marketers are increasingly targeting new international markets because of the rise in Internet use and purchase power. However, there are many challenges to entering these kinds of markets, including language barriers and foreign cultures.

DM News' associate editor Giselle Abramovich conducted an e-mail interview with Globalization and Localization Association executives Gordon Husbands, vice president of sales and marketing worldwide at Wordbank, and Kevin Bolen, chief marketing officer at Lionbridge, about the challenges and opportunities in entering foreign markets.

How should companies be marketing internationally?
Gordon Husbands: Rule No. 1 for achieving successful international marketing campaigns is the same for any marketing effort: Put the consumer first, do your research and design your campaign to address their needs and sensitivities. Going global means understanding the reality of the multilingual, multicultural marketplace and not just extrapolating domestic market behavior to achieve international success.

Kevin Bolen: I agree. In terms of specific tactics, introducing your product or services to a global market is easier today than ever, thanks to the Internet. Translating your Web site into several languages will enable international consumers to research and evaluate your offerings. It will also improve your results in local-language versions of popular search engines. Other low-cost avenues include paid-search advertising, local-language banner ads in key market media outlets and native-language e-mail or hardcopy direct mail campaigns. It's important to note, however, that privacy regulations differ by country.

What should a company consider before marketing globally?

Bolen: Reaching these audiences may be easier than serving them. Before you embark on a global promotion effort, plan for success and ensure you are ready to respond to the demand you expect to generate. Ask yourself these questions:

ò What happens when an order comes in from an international buyer?

ò Can you process payments in multiple currencies or handle wire transfers?

ò Will your sales staff be able to communicate in the native language?

ò Will you extend credit terms to international companies?

ò What will you charge for distribution and support?

Language is just one part of the challenge, though. It's critical to accept that there is no such thing as marketing to Europe or to Asia. Each country has a unique culture that will manifest itself in varying degrees of demand for your different products and, in many cases, will require different messaging to be truly compelling.

What is the importance of localizing?
Husbands: The biggest market growth opportunities right now are in the emerging markets. Marketing organizations, for example, would accept that China, Russia and Turkey are likely to present more cultural challenges than the UK or Germany.

To address these markets, "localization" needs to be a fundamental part of the whole go-to-market thought process.

Bolen: I often answer this by asking, when was the last time you bought something when you couldn't read the packaging? People buy when they feel comfortable in their decision. Providing information in their native language enables them to evaluate your offering on their terms rather than simply dismissing it immediately.

Can you name some companies that have recently localized content? Bolen: We have many companies who are going global for the first time and are looking for us to simply manage the process for them. MySpace is one who sees its growth coming from markets like France, while McKinsey & Co. is now offering its research and quarterly newsletters in Chinese. Another major trend is that customers with a long-standing global presence are radically expanding their coverage. They are moving from a legacy range of eight to 12 languages to cover 30, 40, 50, even 120 unique language markets. Microsoft regularly covers more than 100 languages while Nokia releases phones with support in more than 80 languages, 12 of which are just to reach consumers in various parts of India.

Husbands: There are many brands that have been doing this for years, like Disney, Mazda and HP. Many others have dabbled mainly in French, German and Spanish and are now adapting to the global opportunity with increasing enthusiasm, such as Discovery TV, Hilton and Herman Miller. To put into perspective what Kevin is saying, unless you are providing 34 or more languages you are not really operating globally.

What challenges do companies face when trying to localize?
Bolen: Companies need to work toward establishing an enterprise-level localization model supported by a competent localization partner such as those found as part of GALA. Clients we have seen who address this are cutting 30 percent to 50 percent of their cost while increasing their language coverage and reducing their time to market from months to days.

Husbands: That's right. To manage localization cost effectively largely requires centralization or regionalization to get economies of scale and ensure viable launch timelines. Many corporations still use the "country model" replicated across all major country markets.

Suddenly, the control, autonomy and budget they have preciously defended for years are swept into a central authority, reducing the local operation to an advisory and review role, with the perceived threat of local job losses.

On top of this and the linguistic issues, do not ignore the technical challenges of existing legacy systems, such as reservation or inventory systems, which may never have been designed with Polish or Chinese in mind.

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