Mindful Marketing, Website Tips

How Not to Confuse Your International Audience

Before the pandemic of 2020, were you working mainly with a local audience? Or were you already active online and across time zones, helping clients who live far away from you?

I’d hazard a guess that in recent months, whatever your business, you’ve been working more online than ever before, and that your previous assumptions about geographic restrictions have eased, if not evaporated.

How not to confuse your international audience

My website design work has always been available to clients based anywhere, but in recent weeks I’ve embraced the notion that business networking, speaking gigs, and other relationships are now easier across a wider geography. With family in the UK, I’ve long been conscious that the folks I’m dealing with may not share my timezone, and this week alone I’ve noticed new email subscribers from Sweden, Canada, and South Africa (hi, folks!). Two weeks ago, I gave a website presentation to an international organization and my gracious moderator was in China. With a 15-hour time difference, for her it was already “the day after”.

Why you should think globally, not locally

So I want to encourage you to think globally, not locally, in both your website and your online marketing. Even if you believe only a tiny fraction of your audience lives outside your time zone, you never know who’s browsing and checking you out. In today’s interconnected, online world, I believe it’s  a courtesy to show awareness of other cultures, countries, currencies, and time zones.

Mistakes to avoid

Here are a few examples of “local” thinking which irritated me recently:

  1. Grumbling on Facebook that a blog article date of (for example) 10/4/2020 is a fake, because it’s “not October yet”. The complainer was apparently unaware that in the UK, this notation means the 10th of April.
  2. Sending an email newsletter headed “Happy Autumn Term”. For folks in the southern hemisphere, it’s spring now, and there are plenty of places in the north where autumn isn’t a common word. Here’s the actual example which reached my inbox:Which season is it?
  1. Asking for legal advice about company structure in a Facebook group, without stating what country the business is based in. Sure enough, loads of answers popped up, and none of them allowed for the possibility that the request could have been from elsewhere. I dread to think what legal headaches this could have caused.
  2. Stating a webinar time with no clues about time zone. Again, this one landed in my inbox this week. Even clicking through to register didn’t shed any light:No time zone stated
  1. Creating a website which says you’re available to walk dogs in “Belmont”, for example, with no further hints as to region, state, or even country.
  2. Basing content on a heatwave, an election, or other local event that is meaningless for your overseas readers.
  3. Listing prices and leaving it up to your website visitor to infer or confirm that $ means US dollar. (Did you know that more than 20 currencies are called dollar?). I’m off to tweak my own website for this slip!!

This necessity, to think globally instead of locally, is one of 70 recommendations I’m compiling into an e-book for how to create a professional website. I’ll update you when it’s available.

Easy adjustments to make

I’ve also seen, and been a part of, some good examples of how you can bring a little international courtesy to your online communications.

It’s a fact, now, that people are experiencing your content from all over the globe, and most of your visitors will know, or sense, that you live far away. So you only need a small nod to acknowledge that you “see” them, and that you value the diversity of your audience.

  1. Language and spelling. There’s no way I can write useful content in any language other than English, so basically my overseas visitors will have to work with that. For spelling, I used to get terribly concerned about offending my parents the Brits with American conventions, but I generally make my peace with using American spellings now. The exception is, if I know I’m presenting to an audience from one country only, I’ll tweak my slides to use local spelling if possible.
  2. State your time zone. You don’t need to tie yourself in knots trying to convert it, just make it clear what zone you’re using.
  3. Holidays are not global. If you’re on social media talking about a day off in your country or region, all you need is a quick mention that you know it’s not universal. Here’s a nice example I saw this week:Global awareness example
  1. Clarify your currency. Next month a wonderful business friend and I are speaking to an audience that we believe is primarily based in Canada. We’re updating this presentation slide to mention a service price in the host currency:Clarify your currency
  1. If you want to talk about a new season, just call it that, and perhaps note which hemisphere you’re referencing. Folks from the other side of the world will understand that your “cooler” might mean their “warmer”, but it’s a nice courtesy.
  2. Don’t begin your presentation, webinar or Facebook Live with Good Morning, unless you’re pretty sure that for everyone watching, it’s still before noon.
  3. I recently gave a presentation on Color Psychology for Websites and fortunately realized ahead of time that the invited audience was global. I found this excellent resource for the meaning of color (colour!) in different cultures.

It’s still OK to talk about life where you live!

I’m not trying to ban you from adding personality and context to your content and online interactions. You can still reference the weather, the school holidays, or something that’s local to you. Just be mindful that your audience is probably far wider than you know, and that not everyone sees the world through the same lens. You’ll play bigger by bringing a global mindset to your communications.

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2 Comment

  1. Reply
    Tracey Gemmell
    September 10, 2020 at 1:42 am

    An excellent article for those of us trying to span the globe. I need to go through my website and selling practices with a fine-toothed comb now! Thank you, and good luck with all your exciting upcoming projects.

    1. Reply
      September 10, 2020 at 8:44 am

      Tracey, I know you are especially well placed to navigate different countries & time zones! I’m sure all your content is fine and I love your wonderful blog.

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