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June 2023

Cross-Border B2B Campaigns: 6 top tips for localisation success

International B2B marketing campaigns...

When you're taking your B2B brand, messages, and campaigns into new countries and territories its (unfortunately) not as easy as just rinsing and repeating what you've already done and bombing it out to a new audience across borders thinking it'll do the job.

(NB. I mean, you CAN just rinse and repeat what you've done and bomb it out willy nilly if you're looking for a short cut. But that's not how we do things around these parts). 

There's nuance needed to tweak language, design, and layout for a new audience.

There's an eye you need to keep on context to ensure things land right.

There are cultural speed bumps and pit falls you might run into. 

And that's if you're just keeping everything in merry old English. 

When you have to build (or rebuild) campaigns in another language the difficulty factor gets multiplied. And it's them multiplied to infinity and beyond if if you're not a speaker of the language you're switching your campaign into.

It's a sticky situation that's left many marketer stuck before (myself included) and is bound to again. But how can YOU avoid being tripped up when it comes to running your own B2B campaigns internationally? 

If only there were a tour guide out there who could show you the way...

Well, turns out you're in luck, intrepid marketing traveller. Because we're about to crack open our guide book and give you the inside scoop on the 6 things you need to know to deliver cross-border campaign success. Bon voyage... 


a big thumbs up

Tip 1: Localisation > Translation 

Localisation and translation are two very different things.

Translation just swaps words out for one another. Localisation builds in context, nuance, and deeper levels of understanding to what's being communicated making messages hit home in the relevant language.

(Which is clearly what you want to do as you won't be building marketing messaging that you don't want to resonate with people, right?)

The open secret here is that this is even true across different countries who speak the same language. Or more or less the same language where there's the odd mix up between an S and a Z every now and then or the letter U just seems to disappear for some reason : )  

The same sentence written in English could be read and interpreted very differently in America, Canada, the UK, Australia and S. Africa due to frames of reference, lived experiences, and cultural nuance.

Even a  word as simple as "fine" has different meanings on either side of the Atlantic that could cause a message to be interpreted differently. So, unless it’s anything other than very basic signage don’t translate it, localise it.


Tip 2: Create a Robust Feedback Loop

Make sure that you bring (and then keep) all parties involved in the campaign - your team, the client team, any external parties involved - very close to the project/campaign and ensure that their feedback - however broad, detailed or somewhere inbetween - is consistently captured and actioned.

There really is no such thing as too much communication or too many cooks in this scenario as you need to consider as many view points and frames of reference as possible. 

What may seem like a tiny, innocuous thing to a non-native speaker could have significant impact if ignored. So ensure everyones voice gets heard.  

What we've found works really well here is using “live” documents in a google doc (for instance). Rather than relying on static versions of things shared across email (with ever increasing and complex file names eg. Campaign Copy_v3_final_FINAL_edits) working on something "live" really helps to capture the detail and avoid having to re-version the same thing over and over again.

That way you can ensure nothing is “lost in localisation” (to tweak a well known phrase).


a ruler

Tip 3: Watch the word count

English is a fairly ”condense” language so when localising you need to expect that your word/character count WILL increase. In some cases by as much as 30%.

Guten Tag my German friends 🇩🇪 

This has clear knock on effects for design – with layouts of text, use of whitespace, length of copy blocks, etc being impacted – but also for things like voiceovers, subtitles, or digital assets – with things having to be rescaled, resized, or completely rebuilt based on a much higher/longer word count.

This might sounds like an obvious one, but it can cause some serious issues if you don't build enough "wiggle room" into your campaign.


Tip 4: Avoid "Ad Hoc Shock"

When you’re working in your own language, ad hoc requests can be dealt with swiftly.

However, this won’t be the case if you’re working in a language you don’t understand (and you don’t want to miss any opportunities to optimise a campaign or exploit opportunities that might arise).

This is where the robust feedback process you've built comes into play, but can also be cause for securing localisation support - from a specialist freelancer or agency - across the life of a campaign, not just at the build phase.

Obviously this all depends on the scope, scale, and budget for the campaigns but if localisation services can be retained you'll be on the front foot as and when an ad hoc request rears its head.


Tip 5: Ensure visual relevance

If you’re using any sort of stock assets in your campaign – imagery, video, music, etc. - ensure that these are relevant to the local audience being targeted.

This doesn't just apply to things like written text or spoken word either. You need to give consideration to things things like equipment, clothing/uniforms, environments and any other potentially “localised” elements.

As a basic example don’t use city shots of London for a campaign only running in Germany. For a more involved exampled - courtesy of a client of ours - if you're targeting pest control companies in different countries make sure you use the right kind of pest.

Certain types of "critters" don't exist in other countries, so sending a campaign about gophers (a U.S. only pest) to a U.K. audience is going to fall flat.

a gopher

Again this is all about nuance and understanding context. Assume nothing, question everything and ensure you're localising EVERYTHING across the campaign, not just the words


Tip 6: Question the need... 

Do your research to understand whether you ACTUALLY need to localise in the first place.

With a campaign we ran for a Dutch client of ours, PQR after running and reporting on the campaign we actually discovered that nearly 70% of all recipients had their devices/platforms set to “English” not Dutch.

(Meaning even though we'd painstakingly localised a campaign from English into Dutch, 70% of those who received the campaign - despite working for Dutch companies and being based in Holland - automatically translated it back for us. Ironic).

We still delivered a solid number of opportunities and an ROI of 1:20 but could the campaign have achieved even better results if we hadn't localised it?

Some countries may want to stick to English as their business language, others may appreciate the localisation.

The only way to know is to test, iterate and refine. 

Looking for some assistance with your own cross-border campaigns? Bonjour...