How to communicate at international exhibitions #2: Localize your channels
Attending international trade fairs or exhibitions is stressful, especially if you want to push a small or mid-sized company onto an international scene – not just for the staff involved, but also for your promotion as well as your localization budget (= how you tell people in another language want you are doing and want to do + how you want to bring them aboard).
We have already shared several tips concerning the right language choice for your international presentation, but the presentation channels and their right mix are no less important.
If your budget is tight, or you lack experience in communicating with international customers, here are a few tips to keep on your checklist when it comes to communication channels usage and localization priorities:
1. Know your communication mix. And mix well.
Before you even start thinking about localization of your message, think first of the communication channels you use, as well as the sales techniques you plan to implement on the exhibitions site (needless to say that all the channels as well as techniques should be tested for efficiency before you throw them into the communication mix).
It is safe to assume that the days of having one nice catalog and talking it through with potential clients prior to handing them a v-card are over. Your approach needs to be multi-channel and integrated from offline to online. Basically, the channels are a thread and your message is the needle. Mix your offline channels (such as printed catalogs, flyers, etc.) with your online channels (social media, and mainly your website) and define a clear path to conversion for all channels involved.
2. Localize everything that passes the road to conversion.
Even if you don't have resources to spend on fancy multilingual promotion material, if your product/promo message is clear and consistent through your chosen channels, and as long as those channels lead to ultimate conversions (and the path is not very long), you want the content involved to be localized. Mainly the entire path leading from initial recognition of your brand and products to the conversion goals you set for yourself should be localized for the target markets. As presumably your conversions mostly take place online, on your website (registrations, order placement, etc.), the funnel that leads to profit-making does have a top priority for localization – even if it would include only partial localization of the entire content you work with (e.g. not every single sub-menu or section of your website needs to be localized, if it's not directly involved in the conversion path, nor do you need to localize products you don't plan to push).
3. The localization devil hides in forgotten content snippets.
Having printed material such as flyers or catalogs translated is not that problematic because the content involved is pretty much clear and visible in one place. The fun starts online, where the channels may include a number of notifications, additional information, automatically sent confirmation messages, or error calls. Such content snippets could be easily forgotten in the process, yet might interrupt the conversion path and consequently fail the acquisition (with the worst-case scenario of losing potential profit because of it), despite the rest of the content having been perfectly localized.
A typical example: Your potential client successfully walked through almost the entire conversion path (that was nicely localized), but failed to fill in the order form correctly. The error message and instructions that pop-up are not translated. Such situation produces pointless drop-offs. You could, of course, be lucky if your potential clients are very motivated to buy from you. In such case, they would likely try to order again, and will almost certainly leave your business if they once again get the exact same unlocalized error message. So, keep your eye on the details.