Perhaps the single biggest challenge with global membership marketing is the language barrier. There are 256 languages in the world with over 1,000,000 speakers.
On top of the variety of languages there are also dialects and variations associated with many languages. A visiting French exchange student just this weekend told me that he had a very difficult time understanding the French spoken in Quebec.
So how does an organization move forward in this area? One tact that successful organizations have followed is to get started with the language in which member benefits are now provided.
In order to start global membership marketing, one group that I work with decided to reach out to countries with high proportions of primary and secondary English speakers like Australia, Canada, England, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, and Singapore.
To date, using American English, the promotions have generated very positive response rates and very few complaints.
The basic language philosophy is to market using the same language and dialect in which the actual membership product will be delivered. If a recipient struggles with the American English marketing materials, then they will not be very likely to be able to use the membership materials.
Reaching English speakers across the globe actually presents a fairly large market opportunity. For example, more people speak English in India, Nigeria, Germany, or the Philippines than in Canada.
Another organization that has relied primarily on English is Toastmasters. Toastmasters “now have nearly 226,000 members in 11,500 clubs in 92 countries.” However, they do not support the translation of their materials until a large enough membership base has developed in a language group. The translation policy is clearly outlined in their organizations procedures.
What do you think is the right approach to language in global membership marketing? Language issues can elicit very emotional and heartfelt reactions. I am curious how you deal with these challenges.