International Marketing Alert 2

What do you mean, too American?

Writing for an American audience when you are not a native speaker of English has its own unique challenges, and I’ve written about that previously. Here’s a look at the other side of the picture: American writers who want to succeed in persuading, informing, or selling to individuals and organizations outside the United States. Many of us work for US-based companies and our work is created in English, then distributed to locations where our company has offices. English is the standard – particularly in technology – so I always assumed I was pretty much the gold standard, since I’m a native speaker of English, an excellent writer, and a master of the rules that govern written communication. Go me.

R.O.W. Shock
My first inkling that I might be just a tad narrow in my view of the rest of the world came rather abruptly when I was reading an American publication that referred to R.O.W. Even my knowledge of Internet slang didn’t help me here, and the hair stood up on my neck when I realized that they were referring to the Rest Of the World – everybody but us. I began to be at least a little more aware of language that might annoy people outside of the United States. But it took a clear “not good enough” message from a colleague to wake me up.

A number of years ago, I was responsible for all marketing communications for a software company’s “Americas Region.” When I created a case study or other publication with the intention of sharing it in other regions, life began to be much more interesting.

I sent a case study off to my colleague and counterpart in the company’s “EMEA Region” (Europe, the Middle East and Africa). With typical American hubris, I assumed she would think it was great. What a story! Customer with branches around the world loves our mid-sized American software company. Our mutual customer. Great news, right? What could go wrong?

Although I was very good at writing American English, my colleague spoke five languages, as many Europeans do. But that didn’t intimidate me since we were an American company writing in English, so what could be wrong with my excellent case study?

“It’s too American,” she said.

I was flabbergasted. “What do you mean, too American?” As though anything could possibly be too American!

I asked her for specifics, and she couldn’t say what it was that tripped her “too American” button. I told her that I couldn’t take off my “American” glasses and needed more information. I asked if the fonts were the problem? The colors? The graphics? Reading level? I re-read the story, looking for idiomatic speech or regional usage that would not be clear. In a word, nada.

We agreed to sleep on it and, of course, I couldn’t think of a single problem. But she did.

Is it color or graphics or style or… ??
Next morning (five hours apart), she had just a single word for me. In her quiet way she explained that she had read and re-read, altering some words to see if it made a difference. And finally, she saw the problem as clearly as if someone had shone a light on it. And the problem was – simply – hype. She said, “Europeans don’t like language that says a product is the best, the fastest, the newest, the strongest.” Maybe, she said with a sigh, Europe has been around long enough to avoid chasing the latest bright shiny object.

I was gobsmacked!
Well, our English, Scottish and Irish friends might say that, but it means astonished, astounded or flummoxed.

I went back to the case study, looking for evidence that my colleague was wrong. What hype?? But, oh, it was there. Once I looked for it, it permeated the story.

Taking out my hype-clippers, I did my best to tame the hype, taking it down to a level that would not cause Europeans to feel suddenly ill.

The trimmed and tidy case study went back to my colleague for another read, and she was pleased (not thrilled, but pleased – I have rarely known the Dutch to be thrilled since that is clearly an example of – what? hype!).

We trimmed a little more, and I wondered aloud if we needed a spell checker that looked for an “est” suffix on every word. We agreed that, in the future, I would just add a “hype-step” to my own proofreading. I promised to eliminate the outrageous and reduce the overall occurrences of hype. Well – sort of – I guess I promised – I would try my very, very, very best!

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International Marketing Alert!

“Hey, Dude” is not necessarily the way to go!

My recent experience with a talented marketer in Lithuania was both painful and rewarding. He was friendly, exuberant, and knew his stuff. Unfortunately, he couldn’t spell. And he thought that television-speak was standard English. He wrote to me directly because my LinkedIn page mentioned expertise with international communications, and he was beginning to think that he might have just a small problem in that area. I suggested that he send me samples of some of the email newsletters he’d sent out so far. He told me that he thought they were perfect, and he couldn’t understand why his great leads were not converting.

The Target Audience Is Everything

Once I’d had a chance to review the samples, I called him and said, “It looks like you are targeting some pretty sophisticated people at American magazines and other media outlets. Do I have that right?”

“ABSOLUTELY!” he whooped into the phone.  “And you are trying to convince them to publish articles by writers whom you represent, is that right also?”

“You got it!” Then he paused and said, “If you got it right away, how come these smart, sophisticated people don’t get it?”

Taking a deep breath, I asked if he had gotten any responses at all to his mailings. “No!” he bellowed. “So, what’s their problem?”

Ouch. He was young, smart, and perhaps just a tad arrogant. Probably good at what he did, but we were about to have a very painful conversation.

The New Yorker or Honey Boo Boo?

Taking my cue from his bold manner, I said that, “You don’t have to write like the ‘New Yorker,’ but you have to do better than ‘Honey Boo Boo’.” Silence. Profound, insulted, offended silence. But he didn’t hang up! Finally, he spoke, saying, “My English is very good! Everyone says so.”  Well… not quite everybody.

English Is English, Right?

“Your spoken English IS good,” I agreed. “But not good enough to hit the mark you have chosen.  When you are writing in English, you need more than conversational skills. You need to master the basics (like punctuation and spelling). But you need to go beyond that.”

So What’s a Nuance??

“English is a language that can be subtle and full of nuance (shades of meaning). In addition, English idioms like ‘raining cats and dogs’ or ‘under the weather’ might make no sense to someone whose first language is not English. But if you are going to be a star communicator, telling your story to people for whom English is mother’s milk, then you’re going to have to step up your game.”

More silence. Followed by a deep sigh. “I have no idea what you just said, but I need to know if you can help me. What would you charge to just fix up my messages so they work?”

Teach a Man to Fish?

Well, that was progress. He accepted that the problem did not lie with his potential clients. Instead, there was a disconnect between those clients and his ability to tell his story. A misalignment between their language, their style, their rules – and his. They were probably uncomfortable with messages that said, “Hey, Dude!” as if the recipient and the writer were – well – dude buddies?

I asked him if he really wanted me to re-write everything he wrote from now till eternity or if he was willing to invest some time and effort in learning how to do it himself.  We agreed to try both options.

To find out how my friend from Lithuania learned to “step up his game” and write for an audience that demands English at its best, contact me at +1.813.758.2298 or Barbara@YourMarketingTeam.com

In Search of Magic and Silver Bullets

magic wandMany of us can only see patterns in our lives and in our work when we stand still long enough to look past the surface and see what’s been happening underneath. I don’t mean look at our business revenues (we’re always doing that), nor our success at losing weight (another popular metric), but our approach and our attitude toward the complex moving parts of our lives.

It takes a lot to make me stop and look around, but total hip replacement surgery in September stopped me in my tracks.

I thought I’d be functioning like my old self within a few days.  Duh.  A combination of pain, ongoing physical therapy, sleepless nights, lack of energy and a pervasive sense of exhaustion slowed me down enough to look around.

One of the first things I noticed during this time is that I have a long-standing habit of looking for “Silver Bullets” (aka magic) in the form of a person, an experience, a business partner, or a new idea.

Basically I have always been on the lookout for something that would make a big difference in my ability to succeed in business and in life.  That doesn’t mean I sat around and twiddled my thumbs.  Working hard has always been deep in my DNA, but I still had the sense that there was something outside myself that was “the answer.”

Leaving the corporate world and starting a business back in 1996 was a Silver Cannonball – bigger than a Silver Bullet but still not large enough to create the life shift I was looking for.  And there were other Silver Bullets along the way – a business partner who turned out to be a mistake; a training program full of new ideas that inspired – then disappointed.   A book that got me all pumped up about new approaches – then slipped to the back of the bookshelf with those that went before.

Lucky for me, I work with an extraordinary Life Coach who helped me pay attention to my endless search for Silver Bullets.  With her help, I’ve learned to ask myself how I can really know if the latest bright shiny object or experience or person on the horizon will be the thing that works a miracle.

Between now and year end, my goal is to look both inside myself and outside – not for a Silver Bullet – but for a path that makes sense to me.  Using a walker, then a cane and spending hours rebuilding an injured body has taught me patience.  And reminded me that spending 12 hours at the computer is neither a business nor a life – and something has to change.

I hope that friends and readers will come with me over the next few weeks as I try to discover what that new path looks like and where it leads.  I don’t want to simply push the same old pieces around on the chess board (with a new business plan or a new marketing plan).  Been there, done that.  This time I want to change the game.

If you’ve been on this journey too, please feel free to leave a comment.

When Google Doesn’t Love You Any More

when-Google-doesnt-love-youPeople who call me for marketing help often emphasize that their website is “just fine” (or “just fahn” now that I live in South Carolina).   The site in question may be five years old, look like a brochure, provide no connection to social media, no opportunities for interaction – but it’s just fine.  Google may have given up on it long ago because it’s inactive, has no keywords and gets no traffic.  But the site owner persists in believing that it doesn’t matter.

Usually I hear this from people who are firmly convinced that they do not get business on the Internet.  They get it from their network or an alliance relationship or just word of mouth.  And I’d believe them if it weren’t for the fact that they want to talk to me about growing their business.   Whatever it is they’re doing, it isn’t meeting their growth goals, and yet they are adamant in refusing to put the website in play.

Very often they want a brochure. Or a postcard mailing. Or collateral for a trade show.  Hey, I’m game.  I can do that.  My question is — when someone receives your postcard, attends the trade show or gets their hands on your brochure, where will they go to check you out before making an appointment? 

And if they misplace the postcard or the brochure and want to find you, how will they do that?  They may have a recollection that you offer a particular service, so they get online and search for it.  Good news for them – they’ll find lots of people who offer that service.  Bad news for you – you won’t be one of them because your site is DOA.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter where your business comes from.  Your prospects will want to “vet” you and make sure you look like the kind of individual or organization they want to work with.  Guess where they’ll go to find out?

For a complimentary consultation on whether your website is positioned to help you or has joined the great cyber graveyard, call me at +1.864.653.7701 or send an email to barbara@yourmarketingteam.com.

What’s So Great About Inbound Marketing?

A 2010 study entitled “The State of Inbound Marketing” analyzed data from businesses about what types of marketing programs deliver the best return on investment.  

The major finding was that inbound marketing-focused businesses have a 60% lower cost per leadless money is utilized to produce more results.

Should we say that again?  A 60% lower cost per lead.  But that’s only part of “What’s so great about Inbound Marketing.”

All of us are familiar with Traditional or “Outbound Marketing,” which includes print ads, television ads, telemarketing/cold calls, direct mail/e-mail, trade shows, etc.   It’s a “push” technique that relies upon interrupting a broad target audience at the optimum moment.  Anyone who’s done a trade show or print advertising campaign knows that Outbound Marketing typically has a very high cost per lead.

So where did Inbound Marketing or “new marketing” come from?  It is usually viewed as a response to economic changes and changes in consumer behavior that reflects:

·         The explosive growth of social media
·         The increasingly powerful search capabilities of Google
·         The need to reduce cost per lead in a tight economy.

In other words, at the very time when companies needed to do more with less, the technology was there to make it possible. 

As recently as two years ago, I would have told a client that they needed to do an email newsletter – on a regular basis – in order to drive traffic to their web site.  Well, if their mailing list has only 100 names, then the amount of “traffic” is likely to be 100 people or less – probably a lot less. 

Inbound Marketing - What Google Can SeeSo here’s the key:  Google cannot see your email newsletter.  It’s invisible.  So are many of your other expensive Outbound Marketing activities, like cold calls, television ads and print ads.

So what’s so great about Inbound Marketing?

It enables you to position your company so that your ideal clients can find you because you are everywhere.   

 

AND your cost per lead is significantly less – which means greater return on a lower investment.

In addition, your conversation with your target audience is not limited by ad space, booth size, or other constraints.  You talk to your audience through your web site, your blog, your LinkedIn page – and if you are working with a HubSpot Certified Inbound Marketing Consultant – you have the ability to integrate your content across all media.  You wrote a Blog post?  Go ahead and Tweet it!  Or ask your HubSpot Consultant to automatically publish your post to your company’s LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

It’s true that there’s a lot that must happen behind the scenes to make all of this work (like effective use of keywords, understanding the metrics, consistent follow through and more).  But the good news is that the  tools are there to create, integrate, promote and analyze web sites and social media. 

Ask me how!  It’s a whole new world!

1HubSpot, Inc. (2010). “The State of Inbound Marketing 2010.”

How Well Do You Know Google?

Just about a year ago, a company by the name of Tech Chunks (www.techchunks.com) posted a blog entitled “How Well Do You Know Google?”.  That’s a pretty good question, so I checked it out and found that the questions focused on when Google was founded and how many words you could include in a search.

I thought it might be helpful to take it a step further and ask How Well You Know Google when it comes to Inbound Marketing.

Brian Halligan, CEO & Founder of HubSpot, defines Inbound Marketing in terms of “getting found by potential customers through search.”  This relatively new marketing strategy represents a paradigm shift from “traditional marketing” which relied upon advertising, telemarketing, cold calls, direct mail, email, etc. (sometimes referred to as “begging, buying or bugging your way in”).

Like Halligan, David Meerman Scott recommends that marketers “earn their way in” to potential clients by publishing helpful information on a blog or other Inbound Marketing technique.

So where does Google come in?  As the premier search engine, Google holds the cards in determining how easy it is to find your business. 

But what does Google WANT?  What’s their business model?  How can you get noticed?

Here’s a quick True/False quiz to help you answer the question, “How Well Do You Know Google”:

1. _____  Email marketing helps you rank higher in Google search results.
2. _____  Blogs rank higher than email blasts in Google search results.
3. _____  Social media (like Facebook and Twitter) do not help your Google rank.   
4. _____  Updating your web site once every six months or so is sufficient.
5. _____  Stuffing a lot of keywords into your site can hurt your Google rank.
6. _____  You should be consistent and use the same keywords on every page of your site.
7. _____  Outbound links (from your site to other sites) help improve your Google rank.
8. _____  Google can see how much traffic your site is getting.
9. _____  The only way to improve your Google rank is to pay for advertising.
10. ____  YouTube videos can improve your Google rank.

To see how well you did, click here for our answers.  To learn more, contact us.

Happy searching!

Attention CEOs: What Do You Want Under Your Tree?

Christmas tree

If you ask a group of CEOs what they’d like to see under their company Christmas tree this year, the responses would probably be pretty consistent:  most CEOs want to grow revenue, build market share, improve visibility, and generate more qualified leads.

Most probably have a business plan (based on last year or the year before or the year before that).  Depending on their business model, that might work – or not.  If they do business in a small town where you essentially pass the same $100 bill around from lawyer to banker to baker to pharmacist, then referrals and long-term relationships rule.  A movie like “It’s a Wonderful Life” reminds us of a time when things worked that way.  But for most of us, those days are over.

A more promising plan for 2011 might say that getting the “presents” you want under the tree means paying attention to the things that have radically changed in the last two years – and even in the last year. 

In the holiday spirit, we have some recommendations for your 2011 business plan – as symbolized by your holiday tree!  For example:

Hang a BLOG on your Tree to build visibility on Google.  Your email newsletter is great – but Google can’t see it.  A bright, shiny blog reflects many happy returns back to you!

Add a LinkedIn profile to your virtual tree to connect you to others and create another opportunity for you to shine.

A funny little bird ornament representing Twitter will allow you to share your blog posts — just TWEET them!

Consider hanging a Keyword Grader (ask me how!) to assess the power of your web site’s keywords.

A company Facebook page adds yet another way to get noticed – by Google.   Well worth the time it takes to hang this particular ornament.

The bottom line is this:  if you’re not rich yet and your company is not yet doing what you’d like it to do, think about adding some visibility by showing up in the many places that a visitor might look for a business like yours.  Google’s out there looking – but if you’ve failed to recognize the many ways to “ornament” your business, they’ll have a hard time finding you.  And that means some disappointing results under your tree in the new year.