How to Use Translation to Engage Customers in Multiple Countries


With so many new ways to engage a target audience, businesses often forget how powerful email marketing can be. In a world of targeted social media ads, mobile marketing, website optimization, and other digital marketing strategies, email marketing is often replaced by tweets, status updates, and push notifications. However, despite being 20 years old, email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to reach a wide audience, particularly on a global scale. This article will discuss how proper translation of just one marketing email can help your brand engage with customers in multiple countries.

How Brands Are Winning with Email Marketing Translation

Last year, 3.7 billion people worldwide used email. Roughly 211 million of those users were from the United States. That leaves 3.4 billion users, many of whom communicate in languages other than English. These staggering numbers reveal a couple of vital bits of information. Companies who have yet to get on board with globalizing their brand are doing themselves a significant financial disservice and leaving some major revenue potential on the table. So what do they need to do and where do they start? One of the many impactful initiatives that they can to do is to hire a professional translation agency to both translate and localize their email marketing strategy. This way, companies will be able to provide appropriate content to each language market in order to capture the attention of a global audience. Now that’s what you call a winning email marketing strategy. 

What Can a Well-worded Email Marketing Campaign Do for Your Business?

Although many marketers are turning to other strategies to get their message across, multilingual email marketing is still a fantastic way to communicate with your current and prospective customers around the world. It is non-intrusive, can be viewed whenever the customer chooses, and can be customized through translation and localization services to speak to any audience, anywhere in the world. Yet surprisingly, like this chart on international email marketing shows, only 15% of companies currently make international email marketing a priority.

Even more telling is that over half of these companies are not localizing their email content or utilizing translation services to make their emails relevant to their customers. That’s right. They are literally sending the same one-size-fits-all email to their entire list and assuming everyone wants to read it in the source language (usually English). What would you do if you received a marketing message from someone in a language you didn’t understand? Most likely you would send it to the trash bin. If a company can’t be bothered to use your own language, why should you trust them?

A well-crafted email delivered in the correct language through professional translation, and expertly localized so that it is tailored to another culture, is not difficult. There are many providers of language services who specialize in localization and email marketing translation that adapts messages to different regions. Nor is it necessary to write entirely different emails for each language. You can make small adjustments to ensure that your message stays consistent across each market without needing to reinvent the wheel.

The Localization Industry Standards Association has concluded that the return on investment (ROI) of $1 spent on translation and localization services is $25! A well-written email that has been appropriately translated can result in an enormous increase in purchases, as well as social media shares, online reviews, and the many other ways companies go viral. If the average ROI on $1 of expenditure is $25, imagine what your company could do with an above-average email campaign, tailored specifically for audiences in multiple countries.

What Skills Are Required to Undertake a Successful Email Marketing Translation

The most critical skill that you need to create a successful multilingual email marketing campaign is professional translation. While many companies employ bilingual or multilingual employees, that does not mean they can correctly translate emails that are intended to hook the reader into taking action. For your email to have the same impact in other languages, the translation must include local characteristics and culture.

Generally speaking, to be successful in business translation, a professional translator should be native to the country of the target language. They need to understand local figures of speech, customs, and societal norms that people outside of the area won’t necessarily grasp. This will allow them to bring considerable depth to any marketing email tailored to that country.

Excellent writing skills are also necessary, as well as the ability to work with computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools that help make the translation smoother. Additionally, for an email campaign to be successful in a foreign language, it’s important to find a language services provider or professional translator who is proficient in marketing, in order that you can achieve the best results.

Why Careful Localization Will Ensure That Your Emails Are Effective

This next section will cover some of the complexities of translation when it comes to converting marketing emails into other languages, along with how you need to address your audience so that your message is relevant to them.

Choose a Language

Once you have created the perfect marketing email, you need to establish which languages you want to send it in. If you want to fire off an email in several languages at once, a translation agency can help with your campaign by assigning native marketing translation experts to each language. They can also help you set up guidelines and standards to keep every translation consistent. While some markets are familiar with receiving business emails in English, there are still variations used in different parts of the world. As such, you will want to localize the content of your emails for those audiences as well (by changing currencies from dollars to euros, for example).

Provide a Good User Experience

A good user experience can go a long way in retaining current customers and gaining new ones. If your email is confusing to navigate, or links are slow to load, your potential buyer will move on. Make sure that everything in your entire email program reflects the languages you have chosen. This refers not just to the email, but the translation of landing pages, FAQs, auto-responder messages, opt-in forms, unsubscribe pages, and everything in between. If you send an email to your target language that has links to your English site, and they don’t speak English, you’re going to lose subscribers and their trust fast. Additionally, an awareness of time zones will help you avoid sending a batch of emails to your subscribers at a time when they’re sound asleep. Be sure to send them out at the time when they are most likely to be opened and read. 

Use Culturally Appropriate Images, Symbols, Straplines, Colors, and Logos

According to this paper on the role of visual presentation support, humans process pictures thousands of times faster than they do words, and the right images can make a huge difference in the success of your email marketing. But be careful. It can be very easy to make a faux pas and alienate your target audience without even realizing what you’ve done. Remember that images that seem fun and engaging in your own culture may be offensive in another!

The same holds true for colors. In South Africa, for example, red is associated with violence and mourning, while in China it symbolizes prosperity and happiness. As you can see, translation without localization can cause many potential issues.

Successful email marketing translation takes into account the colloquialisms and sayings of the target culture, as well as its customs, holidays, and how its people prefer to make purchases. It incorporates changes in the formatting of times, dates, currencies, and suchlike. Sorting out these details requires time and effort, but with a native translator on your team, you can confidently provide a seamless experience for your email subscribers.

The High Cost of Ignoring Localization

Even huge, well-known brands have underestimated the effort that goes into advertising copy translation, resulting in embarrassing financial losses and harm to their reputations. Ford introduced its Pinto in Brazil without a proper understanding of Brazilian Portuguese slang, only later discovering that Pinto translates to “tiny male genitals.” Over in China, KFC’s “finger licking good” slogan may have caused many potential customers to lose their appetites, since the tagline translated into the phrase, “eat your fingers off.”

Nor is it just words that have caused issues for some of the world’s biggest companies. In the 1990s, Nike was forced to recall thousands of shoes because a symbol intended to look like fire on the back of its sneakers appeared in translation to resemble an Arabic word for Allah – something incredibly disrespectful to wear on your feet. Millions of dollars were lost and an entire culture threatened to boycott the company. Experienced localization professionals could have helped Nike to avoid this expensive blunder and the resulting reputational damage.


The percentage of non-native English email users far exceeds the number of email users who speak English as their primary language. With multilingual email marketing campaigns, your company can greatly increase its reach and financial return, potentially with relatively little competition. The important thing to remember is that you need the most seasoned translation and localization professionals to achieve the best results. The returns can be worth it though – as was previously stated, the ROI for every $1 spent on localization is around $25. So if you want to capture your share of the global market, the odds are definitely in your favor. 

How about you? Does your organization prioritize email marketing strategies in multiple countries? We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.