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Using email marketing for prospecting in international markets

March 26, 2013

If you have international clients, you probably stopped sending them brochures and letters a long time ago, and switched to email as a low cost, low hassle and trackable medium.  But the flat cost of sending an email worldwide means it’s a great way of finding new export customers.  But before you get started, there are some issues to consider.

1. The law
Email marketing laws differ across the world so you need to understand local laws before purchasing data or embarking on a new email campaign.

2. Data
If you need to buy a list of new contacts, start with a reputable UK list vendor that you are familiar with.  They may offer worldwide data and you can trust them to use good sources.  Be prepared to invest in a high quality list and start with a small sample or just one territory as a test.

3. English
In some markets, you’re fine to use English even when it’s not the recipient’s native language.  But be sure to avoid colloquialisms, use the simplest word that says what you mean, and keep sentences short. If you’re emailing to English-speaking countries, remember all English languages are not the same. Ask a local to check how the text reads.

4. Translation
Where you need to write in the native language, choose a good translation firm and a native-speaking proof-reader.  Professional communications are vital for building trust and credibility. Note copy length will be different in each language, which will affect the layout.

5. Tone
Formal or informal? Serious or light-hearted? Someone with local marketing expertise can tweak appropriately and make sure your tone fits cultural norms.

6. Design
Your email could flop if your design includes UK-specific cultural references or if the colours signify something inappropriate in the destination country.

7. Timing
Even within one country, there can be a number of different time zones and holiday periods.  Segment accordingly.  Also, note that not all countries have Saturday and Sunday as their weekend. 

8. Personalisation and greeting
Personalisation can increase response rates – but some cultures see it as intrusive.  ‘Hi’ works for some nationalities; others expect more formality.

9. Your response
Consider how appropriate your website is for international customers and whether to prepare to handle calls and emails in other languages.

10. Test
Keep test results separate – what works in one country won’t always work in another.

What’s your experience of international email campaigns?  Let us know.

Posted by Paul Latham
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