Marketing Localization in 2024: The Only Guide Worth Your Time

Localization
Chidinma Egwuogu
01 Jun 2024

9 min. read

Contents

Entering new regions without a marketing strategy is like throwing darts blindfolded.

You’ll waste time, miss precious opportunities, and probably take someone’s eye out.

This article will walk you through the steps to develop an effective marketing localization strategy for any market.

First, let’s go over the basics.

What is marketing localization?

Marketing localization is the adaptation of marketing content and strategies to fit the language and culture of a target locale. It’s not as simple as running marketing materials through a translator. To ensure your marketing campaigns feel natural to local audiences, localize:

  • language
  • images
  • colors
  • symbols
  • references
  • humor
  • marketing channels
  • pricing
  • customer support

Why do you need a marketing localization strategy?

To grow your business. Eventually, all your marketing localization efforts go straight to the bottom line.

Other benefits of marketing localization include:

  • increased customer loyalty
  • increased customer retention
  • enhanced brand perception
  • competitive edge

“But, do I really need a strategy? Can’t I use what worked in other places?” you wonder.

No. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work. Every region has unique characteristics, and what works in one place might fall flat in another. No matter how geographically or culturally close they are.

Take, for example, the McDonald’s Sundae Bloody Sundae campaign, which was followed by a retraction and apologies. When promoting its Halloween Sundae, McDonald’s discovered the campaign’s name had negative connotations with the Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland. Bloody Sundae marketing campaign

Yikes. 😬 Not the best way to sell strawberry desserts.

Now, how do you not end up like that? With a localization plan.

A marketing localization strategy that really works

A well-executed marketing localization strategy doesn’t pursue prospects. Rather, it vies for their attention. Without capturing your local prospects’ attention, they will click away.

Do you want your prospects to pay attention to your marketing materials? Then make it easy to consume them! A good starting point is website translation.

Step 1. Translate your website

If you don’t serve translated versions of your website to local visitors, you are sending them away. Luckily, website translation is easy with the right translation management tool:

Sign up to Centus and create a new project. creating a new project in Centus

Add your HTML, CSV, JSON, DOCX, or other files. Then, you will see a convenient Editor where you can translate your website automatically. Centus editor

After creating automatic translations, assign them to your team for review. Your editors can review content and share feedback with translators or other project contributors.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to localize website UI and UX.

Step 2. Localize downloadables

If you aren’t just getting started, your website is probably brimming with downloadables. These could be white papers, ebooks, presentations, tutorials, or other content providing value to your visitors.

You need to ensure your visitors don’t click a link and discover an unlocalized landing page for an ebook. Or worse yet, they might end up downloading an unlocalized ebook after spending a minute filling up a form.

Streamline user experience by translating documents on your website.

Step 3. Localize visuals

Next, you want to localize imagery at every customer touchpoint. Whether it’s a website, emails, ebooks, or webinars, all visuals need to be localized.

Sounds like a breeze? Well, not quite.

What might be appropriate in one culture, could be jarring in another.

Take, for example, this playful promo on the UK version of the IKEA website: IKEA's promo on its UK website

The same summer promo looks much more grounded on the Saudi Arabian version of the website: IKEA's promo on its Saudi Arabian website

To properly localize images, research the target market’s:

  • customs and traditions
  • local color symbolism
  • religious norms
  • societal roles
  • legal regulations

Using a localization management tool, like Centus, is the best way to help your team manage the localization of visuals. Just install the Centus plugin for Figma to automatically pull translations into designs. Thus, you can spare your designer a ton of manual effort. Centus Figma plugin

Step 4. Localize email campaigns

Your local customers have discovered your offerings. Now it’s time to give them a reason to return for more using a localized email campaign.

For local lead generation, localize both promotional and relational emails:

  • Promotional emails: brand announcements, product releases, or trial offers.
  • Relational emails: white papers, ebooks, webinars, newsletters, or blog articles.

Here’s how it’s done by Spotify: Spotify email 1

Note that Spotify’s traditional green color gives way to the yellow background. Yellow is traditionally associated with power and wealth in Turkiye.

Interestingly, not every email is as exquisitely localized by Spotify. For example, images in this email remained unlocalized:
Spotify email 2 Unless you want your customer to juggle between their email provider and a translator, make sure to localize your emails completely.

Start by translating email content and then localize all email imagery. Once again, your best helper here is Centus. Centus plugin interface in Figma

While promotional emails can be sent when needed, make sure to send the relational emails at the right time. The name of the game here is research.

Create an annual promotional calendar based on your local market’s culture. Add key events, holidays, and seasonal promotions.

Here’s an example of a promotional calendar specific to the Indian market:

Date Email content
January 26 Republic Day greetings
March 8 A special discount for Women's Day
March 25 Holi greetings
April 11 Eid al-Fitr greetings
July 1 The GST filing deadline reminder with a promo
August 15 Independence Day greetings
October 2 Gandhi Jayanti greetings
November 1 A Diwali special discount
December 25 Christmas greetings
December 30 Tamu Losar greetings

The trick here is to stay in your sweet spot. Find the overlap between your company’s products, events your customers care about, and discounts you are willing to offer.

Step 5. Perform multilingual SEO

Don’t pin all your hopes on the translated website. It could easily get lost among the sea of similar websites.

To enhance your local marketing efforts, translate SEO keywords and double-check using SEO tools. This will help you avoid keywords with low search volume or wrong search intent.

Search volume

Let’s say, you’re selling solar panels in the US. To localize your website into Spanish, you use a directly translated keyword “paneles solares.”

But here’s the rub: 12,000 people search for “paneles solares” monthly. While 12,000 is nothing to sneeze at, you can optimize your pages for an even better keyword. Ahrefs results for "paneles solares" keyword

The keyword you are looking for here is “placas solares.” It has a whopping 33,000 search volume. Ahrefs screenshot for "placas solares" keyword

After finding the most suitable keywords, you need to also get the search intent right.

Search intent

What people mean when entering a search phrase differs across locales.

Take, for example, the UK market, where people google “solar panels” to learn more about them. The search results below display mainly solar panel guides: SERP for "solar panels" keyword in the UK

The same search query in the US returns transactional search engine results. SERP for "solar panels" keyword in the US

Pro tip: Don’t miss our detailed guide on multilingual SEO.

Step 6. Localize ads

Just as with SEO localization, ensure you target the correct keywords for PPC campaigns. Also, localize ads themselves.

Advertising localization might seem like a no-brainer, but there's more to it than meets the eye. You can’t always hook customers with directly translated ads. Instead, start by thoroughly investigating the market:

  • cultural traditions, taboos, and norms
  • local humor
  • economy and purchasing power
  • legal and regulatory compliance
  • consumer behavior
  • local competitors
  • local partnerships and influencers

After thorough research, craft compelling ad copies for specific markets. Like Asana did for its Dutch ads.
Asana's Dutch ads

Of course, you don’t always have to create marketing copies from scratch. For geographically and culturally similar markets, translation would suffice. You can perform it effortlessly using Centus.

Step 7: Adapt your marketing mix

The marketing mix, also known as the 4Ps (Product, Price, Place, and Promotion), is a fundamental framework for your localization marketing strategy. Without adjusting your product, localized marketing efforts are a waste.

Here’s how to localize your 4Ps:

Product

While your overarching brand should be consistent, you should consider adjusting your packaging or product features to your current market. Your product should not only offer solutions or cater to local preferences, but also comply with local regulations.

McDonald's mastered the art of “giving the people what they didn’t even know they wanted.” The fast food chain offers menu items like veggie burgers in India and Teriyaki burgers in Japan to cater to local tastes. McDonald’s India and Japan websites showing different burgers

Price

Price your product competitively based on the local purchasing power and your competitor’s price. A product considered affordable in one market might be seen as overpriced elsewhere.

Netflix understands this and has lowered its prices to fit conditions in emerging economies like India, Pakistan, Nigeria, etc. Netflix also introduced a low-cost mobile-only plan, which is significantly cheaper than other plans.

Below you can see Netflix prices across the globe: Netflix prices across countries

Source: Voronoi

Place

Convenience is key. Your product/service should be readily available on channels convenient for your target audience. This might involve partnering with local distributors, using online marketplaces popular in the region (like WeChat and Douyin in China), or adapting your service model.

Promotion

We have covered promotion localization in the previous section. So, let’s hop right to measuring the success of your local marketing campaign.

Step 8: Measure and refine

While a single, universally accepted formula doesn't exist, here's a practical framework you can use to estimate the return on investment for your localization efforts:

  • Start with clear goals. What do you aim to achieve through localization? If your goal is increased sales, you'll focus on revenue generated in localized markets. If brand awareness is the priority, website traffic or social media engagement metrics are more relevant.

  • Track all expenses associated with localization, including translation services, cultural adaptation needs, legal compliance, packaging changes, technology investments in translation tools, and project management costs.

  • Track localized market revenue. If your goal is sales, isolate the revenue generated from the markets where you implemented localization efforts. This could involve separate regional sales figures, localized app store downloads, or website traffic data specific to targeted languages.

  • Calculate ROI. To calculate/estimate the ROI for your localization strategy, use this simple formula: (%) = (Localized Market Revenue - Localization Costs) / Localization Costs * 100

This method provides a basic understanding of the return on investment as a percentage. However, it doesn't account for potential or intangible benefits like increased customer retention or brand loyalty.

After measuring the success of your marketing campaign, adjust it, rinse, and repeat.

Parting thoughts

To succeed as an international business, you must get your marketing localization strategy right. Start by thoroughly researching each market’s culture, economy, and legal landscape. Then, identify the right audience groups and localize marketing content for them.

When translating your marketing materials, make sure to not overuse machine translation tools. They do not provide 100% accuracy. And you can’t afford embarrassing errors in your ad copies.

For successful local campaigns, use a localization platform for marketers. The platform lets you review machine-translated text and collaborate with your language experts and designers in one place.

Good luck!

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