As you know, I attended the Email Evolution Conference last week in Arizona where I was invited to sit on a panel with Kath Pay, Skip Fidura and Dela Quist to talk about the do and don'ts of email marketing to Europe.
Topics that we covered included the opt-in legislation in Europe, localization of content, segmentation and testing strategies, the need for templates that work in multiple languages, how do you coordinate things when there are so many different languages, countries and cultures involved, the fragmentation of the ISP market etc.
Here are the main takeaways from this session:
How do you organize an international email program?
There are two ways you can go about it: you can either manage everything centrally or you manage the email program locally. Personally I've dealt with both approaches in the past.
When I was an email marketer at Cognos the email program was managed on a central level: the Canadian head office would manage the email newsletter program from a creative and content perspective and the European marketing team, of which I was a member, would manage the localization of it in 12 different languages. Each individual European country would have to opportunity to submit local content in terms of events they were organizing and news items they would like to feature but most of the content would be generic for all countries.
We had one local agency that was responsible for the coordination of the translations and the in-country marketing managers would have to sign off on the final content before the email was sent. This approach meant that there were strict deadlines and quite a long lead time because there were so many people involved.
What I've learned from this approach is that it's absolutely crucial that you have native translators that not only translate the content, but that also localize it. American copy is usually pretty aggressive and direct and that is something that doesn't work very well in Europe. Your copy needs to be much more subtle here and less "screamy".
We also quickly learned that we needed to have a Dutch Dutch and a Belgian Dutch translator for the Dutch versions and a German German, an Austrian German and a Swiss German translator for the German versions because the use of the language would be very different in these different countries. Equally crucial was having a local marketing person sign off on the final translations.
We also found out that corporate images would have to be localized. For the Scandinavian market we needed to have pictures of Scandinavian looking people, for the Spanish market we needed pictures of Spanish looking people, for the UK market we needed to have pictures of people from different parts of the world etc...
And last but not least you need to take into account that if you need two lines to say something in English, it could take up to five lines to say the same thing in Finnish or French... so templates would have to allow for this.
At eBay we took a completely different approach: every country would have its own email marketing program. At the time I was there, each country individually would be responsible for its own messaging, creative and development and the central team would provide support for some of the operational stuff such as pulling lists, deploying the emails and facilitating the sharing of best practices.
There is something to say for both approaches but obviously the eBay approach meant that you needed a lot more skilled people to execute your email programs. Best practice sharing is something that is not always easy so a lot of countries ended up reinventing hot water over and over again.
Things to think about when you plan to roll out an international email program are:
- Which are the main countries and languages that you want to focus on?
- How much localization do you allow/expect?
- Is it even possible to manage the program centrally?
- What are the things that you can manage on a central level?
- Which political issues do you expect that will arise and how are you going to deal with those?
Will your current segmentation and testing strategy transfer to Europe?
The answer is yes and no. List sizes are typically a lot smaller in Europe which means that microsegmentation is often not cost-effective. When I was at eBay, my American colleagues would tell me that segments smaller than 50,000 were not ROI positive. But what do you do when you only have 1,000 powersellers in a certain country? Do you send those top sellers that are responsible for a huge chunk of your revenue the same content as all your other occasional sellers? Of course not.
Dealing with smaller list sizes also means that it is difficult to test things. If you are only sending to a list of 700, doing a subject line test and getting statistically significant results is just not possible. So you need to test things multiple times to make sure that the results are not skewed. Or, as Dela pointed out, you look at past data to figure out what works and what doesn't.
Another thing is the fact that what works in the UK, doesn't necessarily work in other countries. So testing in one country and applying the learnings to another is not always the smartest thing to do. One example that I can come up with the use of the name of the recipient in the subject line. At eBay we found that while it really increased opens and clicks in one country, you'd see the opposite effect in another country.
I'm can-spam compliant - is this enough?
Absolutely not. In Europe we have an opt-in legislation. You cannot just go out and rent a list and start emails to people. You need to make sure that the lists you rent are permission-based. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions are different per country. The EEC has prepared an International Email Compliance Resource Guide. You can buy it here.
If you are a European email marketer, please share your tips, insights and observations about email marketing in Europe.