With the growth of the Internet and the mobile/digital revolution bringing the world together as never before, many have speculated on the fate of language. There are those who would say we are headed toward a day of a common global language. But does that mean that languages that predate history will fade? I sincerely doubt it.
As a global marketer, I’m reminded of this almost daily. A third of the world now speaks English to some extent. It seems the most likely candidate for de facto universal language, especially for business, but being the default language of business transactions and being the language of marketing to local audiences on a global scale are two very different things.
I believe that, rather than uniting in a common language, local languages and cultures will proliferate and our challenge as global marketers is now and will continue to be to learn to understand and assimilate the languages and cultures of the audiences we hope to reach, wherever they are—and however they communicate—in the world.
In other words: think globally, act colloquially.
The answer is to gain credibility and affinity with consumers across the globe by becoming local, right down to finding the exact correct colloquial phrase to define a product. SEO experts are already noting a trend toward what they refer to as colloquial keyword strategies to reach disparate audiences.
Would you believe me if I said I have seen cases of increases of as much as 40 percent in unique visits to a website with zero spent on external marketing? Likewise, I have seen first hand where brand affinity was delivered via a sophisticated web content management system that drove scale, brand consistency, empowered regional editors to engage customers with a global brand at local level.
In my experience, after carefully and centrally analyzing the platform usage across 65 countries and listening to markets that were yet to on-board, enabled us to make key decision based on performance and also tell a strong story to markets that were yet to adopt our platform. This also gave us a clear indication as to market level performance right down to the granularity of how a specific global asset was performing in each market.
All about the relevancy
At Tahzoo, we refer to colloquialism as “contextual relevancy,” but it’s the same concept. The strategy involves using the language of the customer to build trust and believability. With today’s powerful CMS technologies, it is now possible to tailor a single webpage to a remarkable number of local audiences within the parameters of a single digital experience. Everything looks the same but the content is nuanced based on what we know about the customer. Images change. Headlines change. This is personalization in the truest sense of the word. What’s more, it’s not crass commercialism, but a genuine effort on the company’s part to be authentic.
Once a site is contextually relevant, each market starts to overtake previous acquisition targets and achieve usage uplift. Regions become empowered to drive their own destinies with their particular audiences whilst still fulfilling their brand, regulatory and governance obligations.
This allows customers to easily differentiate global brands from one another. The better one brand can do this, the easier it is for a customer to make the desired decision.
Stick to what you know
In the market I know best, financial services and insurance (FS&I), companies are making slow forays in to digital transformation, but also finding it harder to differentiate themselves. The notion of a unique selling point (USP) is becoming harder for customers to un-earth. The services offered and the product features are becoming commoditized, making it hard to discern the value proposition from institution to institution.
Against this backdrop, Senior marketers are challenged more than ever to differentiate their brands. Brand heritage is still important to this sector and plays a large part in consumer decisions in developed markets. With emerging markets and audience demographics, however, the role of brand heritage is more difficult to prove and rarely is brand alone enough to provide the requisite comfort zone needed to make the weighty marketing decisions common to the industry.
Let’s remember that people are often entrusting their homes, their life savings and even their financial futures in the hands of financial services companies. They do not take their decisions lightly.
Some might see these challenges as negative—ample reason not to venture into the murky waters of financial marketing, but I see it as a huge opportunity. Differentiation is critical to company success and colloquialism helps differentiate one company from another.
Improving the customer experience
The first and last place to achieve differentiation in FS&I is through the Digital Customer Experience and this area of the marketing mix is fast becoming the place where today’s leading brands can differentiate to win customers and business.
As we know, for all companies but for financial services companies in particular, becoming customer centric is a journey not a destination. I have experienced this first hand when I was at American Express and I have seen how digital transformation can deliver that most elusive of business metrics: high return on investment. Companies that are following rigorous digital transformation programs are seeing ROI across their roadmaps incrementally in short timescales, which were previously un-achievable.
In the digital realm, marketing decisions are no longer based on assumption, but are instead driven by data drawn from actual customer experiences that are helping us create clearly defined customer profiles as never before. Only in the digital space can marketers get to know their prospects and witness their purchase behavior, all in real-time.
In order to be on the right journey that can relate to engaging our customers and differentiating from our competitors, we need to have the correct digital ecosystem defined where stakeholders can see incremental results as we embark on the aligned journey together. And now, more than ever, that digital ecosystem is driven by colloquialism.
When you boil it down, colloquialism is just another way of saying personalization. It is speaking to each customer as an individual, just as they would speak to their friends and family. Colloquialism makes the customer experience more authentic—more human. In the real world, this sort of authenticity is the key to great customer service. In the digital world, it is the key to great customer experience. The companies that have learned this lesson and are able to use the powerful array of digital technologies available today to improve their customer experience across marketing channels—from social media to commence—are the ones that will thrive. So profound is digital transformation, that its influence is now starting to creep out of the virtual realm shape how businesses do business in the real world. I think that colloquialism will become more common, as honest and human reaction by companies attuned to the customer imperative of colloquialism: “Speaking to me on my terms and I will reward you for it.”
The power of colloquialism is in technology and all the remarkable developments in marketing platforms and content management systems that allow companies to better manage their customer relationships. Not only do we have more and better data into who customers are and what they want, but technology is allowing companies to accurately identify incoming audiences with remarkable precision—demographically, geographically and behaviorally—and to serve them specific, nuanced messages based on that information. Each customer gets an experience tailored to them and it all happens in real-time within the context of a single digital experience across channels. That’s what colloquialism is to me: context and relevancy driven by data.
Now that Tahzoo is officially a global organization, the question of colloquialism could not be more timely or important. Our customers’ customers are spread across all across the world. They speak different languages. They are the products of differing cultures. The have different needs and wants. If we are to succeed in our mission to help our clients be customer experience leaders, we must help them accurately identify and communicate more authentically with their audiences, wherever those audiences are and whatever values they hold. This does not mean sacrificing brand to win new audiences. It means translating the values any brand holds dear to those new audiences through language. Often, this means finding aspects of local culture to leverage with new audiences. In many ways, the long but rewarding journey to being global begins with language—and, more than ever, that means colloquialism.
Like Aaron, I come out of financial services. It is hard to imagine a more-demanding industry in terms of the breadth of audiences one might address on a daily basis and to establish trust from the very first moment of the customer relationship, even before a prospect becomes a customer, in fact. In financial services on any given day the customer might range from a recent college graduate just starting to think about buying a home and saving for the future to the grizzled self-advised investor trying to nurture a nest egg into and through retirement. There could not be two more disparate audiences, but often the digital experience meant that they were addressed identically. With today’s combination of data insight and powerful digital technology, it is now possible to address each of these audiences, quite literally, on their own terms with in the context of a single digital experience. That’s the real meaning and the true promise of colloquialism to me. Colloquialism is the heart of exceptional customer experience management.
As a content strategist and as a writer, I’m a word guy. The concept of colloquialism is not really new, as everyone who writes in the language of a particular audience, in a sense, is always trying to achieve colloquialism. It is that rare ability to sound as if we know our audience on a personal level. The big thing that has changed from my point of view is that, once, writers had to choose a single customer profile that had been pre-ordained as the most important to the brand and then wrote to that one person hoping that the others might relate, as well. All those other audiences, no matter how different, were left unaddressed. Today, we have the ability to write to all key audiences individually and leave it to powerful content management systems and personalization engines ensure that the “customer experience” is personalized to each one. That is a pretty incredible thing.