To expand your business into new geographies with unfamiliar regulations, languages and business culture is an extremely daunting challenge, but as IBA research found, a significant proportion of B2B organizations are looking to do just that. Business leaders are keen to explore new overseas trading and post-Covid opportunities in lucrative markets.
Marketing and PR undoubtedly has a leading role to play in successful international expansion and enabling the brand stretch required. It means securing that all-important brand visibility and awareness at the earliest possible stage to demonstrate your business can provide solutions tailored to the market and successfully compete with local incumbents.
I recently listened to an interesting podcast on this topic from Kathleen Pierce, Principal Analyst at global analyst firm Forrester. One of her key takeaways was that despite the natural conclusion of B2B buyers desiring content and engagement in their local language and of regional relevance, this is outright neglected by many B2B companies operating on a global scale.
You simply can’t afford to ignore local nuances
Firstly, the statement that B2B buyers in any given region desire content appropriate for that region – of course they do! Many of the end-customers our clients service are key decision makers for enterprise technology purchases reaching six or seven figure sums, often requiring complex implementations across multiple countries. If your firm cannot demonstrate a local presence and knowledge, or even a basic ability to converse and operate in the country served, B2B buyers just won’t stake their IT budget and professional reputation on your services and expertise.
Content marketing is an essential way to establish that core level of trust. Placing content that addresses business pain points specific to the country or region, ideally in authoritative local-language publications, demonstrates you are aware of local business challenges and have tailored solutions to help tackle them – you aren’t simply trying to crowbar an unsuitable existing product into a new geography or market.
This also applies to brand messaging and positioning of individual solutions. This simply cannot be dictated from ‘corporate HQ’ to every geography. If your global expansion strategy is limited to simply translating key pages of your website and paying occasional lip-service to target markets in English-language blog content, or even worse, paying over the odds to place an unsuitable translated asset into an ‘prestigious’ regional publication purely for the vanity PR factor, the impact will be at best minimal and at worst detrimental.
It’s easier to localize content than you may think – but don’t get complacent!
At IBA, our Pitch&Place team works globally, across North and South America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Scandics, ASEAN – need I go on? We know what it takes to spot, adapt and exploit client stories – such as minor involvement in providing technology for an infrastructure project, with thorough localization of the subsequent user story to secure placements in hard-hitting trade publications spanning from the American across to the Asia-Pacific.
We find the storyline, a thread in the original story that we can work into a powerful ‘best use’ piece, find comparable projects in other regions, then carefully weave this together. The power of diligent editorial at work!
Avoid misinformation from a ‘Google translate’ approach
But complacency must be avoided at all costs – especially falling into the classic trap of assuming ‘one size fits all’ when content is translated into a local language.
There are so many examples of PR and Marketing gaffes by large corporations expecting a seamless push into a new market by translating existing copy and campaigns. KFC’s proud declaration that they would eat their Chinese customers’ fingers off was somewhat off the mark when translated from their usual “Finger-lickin’ good” English slogan.
Translations require careful management
Trying to push into the Swiss enterprise IT market using your existing German copy? That’s great – they speak German, don’t they? But have you taken into account local regulations, business priorities and the current state of digital transformation in the country? Have you localized your German translations into Swiss-German? Have you remembered to translate and pitch a French version of your thought leadership to French-speaking Swiss publications – or did they aimlessly receive a German version, effectively damaging that editorial relationship before it even began?
Likewise with change management and administration. If a North American end-customer requests an urgent, last-minute change to a press release set to be distribute worldwide, this needs to be reflected in the translated versions for every geography. Yes, even those translations that have been through an extensive review and approval process.
It might be inconvenient, but these minor details can genuinely make-or-break reputations and lucrative business partnerships. Forgot to send one language version out of a dozen into translation? Looks like you just held up and delayed the entire news cycle!
Localized content doesn’t require an expensive local presence
Another common localization pitfall we see is the notion that each target geography requires an expensive local agency presence on the ground. This could not be further from the truth. Don’t pay for an agency with a lavish brick-and-mortar office in each location, none of which co-ordinate or collaborate on projects – just another marketing silo to deal with that steers you away from joined-up, consistent brand messaging.
At IBA we’ve built long-standing connections with local and regional experts, translators and advisors to ensure we can provide the necessary local support, with that dash of local know-how, without breaking the bank. Our central hub model – in which the IBA content creation and Pitch&Place teams work out of a dedicated, newsroom-style office based in our hub in the UK, is positioned perfectly to enable us to deal with timelines globally, and to deliver campaigns co-ordinated at a global or corporate level to target geographies anywhere in the world.
The perfect set-up to bring those “think global, go local” ambitions to life for B2B firms of all sizes!
If you want to know more about B2B content localization, I thoroughly recommend listening to the Forrester podcast featuring Kathleen Pierce mentioned at the start of this blog. When you’re ready to transfer that understanding to your own B2B operations, reach out to the IBA team for past examples, tailored suggestions and localized PR opportunities!
Simon Woolley is PR Account Manager at IBA International.