All About Business

How to make international email marketing work for your business

Nick Evans explains how to use email marketing to attract a global customer base. 

UK companies are being encouraged to export to help them, and the country as a whole, get through the recession.

Exchange rates have stayed in exporters’ favour since the credit crunch, making UK products and services more attractive to overseas buyers, so while sales at home may remain low, exporting represents a big opportunity – particularly for manufacturers.
Deciding to export is one thing. Identifying and marketing a product to the right audience is something completely different.
But it’s not impossible. Many international brands will point to the importance of getting their email marketing right – it’s a key driver for bringing in sales.
The beauty of email marketing is any company with an email account can do it. It can be done on an extremely small budget. And businesses can contact any prospect, anywhere in the world.
Problems arise when a company is looking for business in a country which doesn’t use English as a first language.
It’s easy to assume that just translating the email into the right language would be enough. Running an effective international, multi-lingual campaign requires a mastery of five more complicated factors.
It’s much more than just knowing the lingo.
Many countries have more than one language, such as Belgium, where French and Flemish are used.
It’s important to use the right language for the audience, otherwise prospects will be alienated and the campaign will be useless.
Some countries use different languages for different age groups.
China is the main exponent of this. The country has traditional character sets for an older audience in areas like Hong Kong.
Younger audiences, and those in mainland China and Singapore, use a simplified character set.
It’s important to be aware of the time zone of your target audience, and also any national holidays, as well as the rules of most email campaigns.
Sending out email promotions on a Monday or a Friday is pointless, because people are catching up on the weekend’s emails on Monday, and thinking about the weekend to come on Friday.
They are unlikely to make buying decisions for that reason.
Similarly, they are unlikely to read an email which arrives before 10am or after 4pm on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
The first hour is lost catching up, and the last disappears on the countdown to home time.
This is where a knowledge of time zones is important. Businesses in Russia, China, India and Australia are up to 12 hours ahead of GMT, so even sending something as early as 10am on a Thursday could slip through the net.
National holidays also make this more complicated, because it can render Tuesday/Wednesday distribution a waste of time – particularly in France, when the holiday often falls on a Tuesday and many take a long weekend.
Legal issues
Real care should be taken on the content of an email, as this could save a business from a hefty legal bill.
Ideally, the translation would be done by a national of the targeted country, or at least someone with an intimate knowledge of the language.
Something which is fine in one country could be illegal elsewhere.
An email broadcast to a number of countries could simultaneously break the law in all of them.
Imagine the cost of defending a company in 20 different countries!
The colours used in an email go a long way in conveying the message.
In many countries, colours take on huge importance, and using the wrong one could alienate the audience by displaying an ignorance of religious, cultural, political or even sporting sensitivities.
Getting the colour right could make a big difference in Thailand, for example, where each day has a different lucky colour.
Sending an email with that day’s lucky colour would show the marketer had done their research, and could mean the difference between closing the sale and not.
An intimate knowledge is essential
Those who say exporting represents a big opportunity for UK companies are right.
There are some rapidly growing markets around the world, and thanks to the global TV coverage the UK has received through the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, Brand GB has never been stronger.
Demand for British products and services is strong, and email marketing could be a very effective way of tapping into it but only if it’s done properly.
Nick Evans is technical director at ExtraMile Communications

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