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Using e-mail to reach an international audience

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The Web may have no borders, but you can’t say the same thing for e-mail marketing, said Don DePalma, president of research company Common Sense Advisory, based in Chelmsford, Mass. Because of international language, custom and currency differences, e-mail isn’t a "one-size-fits-all" medium.

Still, there are ways to tailor your local e-mail newsletter to a multinational audience. DePalma and Chris Baggott, co-founder and CMO of e-mail service provider ExactTarget, offer these tips to help you create a message that can be heard around the world.

  1. Remember: Money talks. Although the U.S. dollar is a widely used currency, more countries are also embracing the Euro. Make sure offers include fees and pricing in both euros and dollars, DePalma said.
  2. Concentrate on the branding message. Those companies that have offices outside the U.S. should create consistent branding—logos, key points and messaging—and ask their remote offices to build marketing content around it, Baggott said. "It’s better to have enterprisewise control and compliance than trying to do everything from one place," he said. "As long as the product descriptions are the same and the logos are the same, the local offices can create marketing that’s more in line with the country’s mores."
  3. Bring in local experts. As Baggott explained, the best way to find out if your new product announcement plays in Paris, France, as well as Paris, Texas, is to run it by someone with a view of the Eiffel Tower. If you don’t have a local office, you’re not out of luck. Consider hiring an international interpreter or consultant who can proofread what you’ve created, DePalma said.
  4. Don’t forget about CAN-SPAM compliance. Although e-mail laws vary from country to country, the U.S. has the strictest spam laws around, Baggott said. "If your message is compliant here, it should be fine overseas," he said.
  5. Bilingual is beautiful. Common Sense Advisory recently reviewed 400 Web sites produced in 16 different countries. More than 98% of these Web sites had content that was written in both English and the language of the native country. The lesson for e-mail marketers: Give readers the option of getting messaging in their own language, too. "More than 89% of non-English-speaking countries have English on their Web sites," DePalma said. "In marketing, everything has to be personalized and language is just another aspect of personalization."
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