Know your customer. It’s the golden rule of doing business, both online and offline. Whether you’re a freelance service provider or you’re running a multi-million dollar enterprise, failure to understand your customers means your business is less effective than it could be.

And these days, when so much business is going global, that’s more important than ever. You may have a handle on your home market, but if you’re expanding abroad, you need to take account of different regional and national habits (some of which can make it really hard to succeed) so you can target your marketing accordingly. This information will also help when translating content to suit different markets.

Luckily, some of the tools you are already using for marketing your business at home will also work for foreign markets. Two of these are analytics and personas, which can work together to provide an end-to-end view of who your customers are and how they interact with you online, no matter where in the world they are.

Using Analytics and Personas for Targeted Marketing

Let’s take analytics tools, which help turn your website visitor logs into meaningful data. You’re probably already using Google Analytics on your site, partly because it’s free and partly because it’s good. If so, you’re in good company, as 56% of businesses do the same. Even if you’re not, your chosen analytics tool will include similar information.

If you’re considering localizing content for new markets, analytics data can be helpful, because it breaks down your audience in useful ways. You can find out:

  • the locations from which people browse your site (including not just countries, but sometimes cities and towns).
  • the languages they speak, so you know which languages to target first if you want to make your website or content multilingual.
  • the technology they use. Knowing whether people are using desktop computers, tablets or phones could be important depending on your planned areas of expansion. In many developing countries, smartphones are the main way to get online.

Analytics can even help you decide where to focus your social media efforts. Not only can you find out which social sites people are using most, but also which content they share most. You can even discover what content people look at, how they found your site, what their favorite parts of your site are and which pages are driving them away.

In other words, you get a holistic picture of audience behavior, which can help you focus your marketing efforts.

To complete the picture, you also need to create customer personas or avatars so that you truly understand the people that you are doing business with. Hubspot recommends that you do this partly by tracking what your customers are already doing (so analytics helps with this process) and also by asking them. A customer interview can give you in-depth information on everything from age, gender, ethnicity and education, to work role and buying habits. See Hubspot’s guidance on buyer persona templates for more.

Understanding Your Global Customer

These tools are just as useful when you’re dealing with global customers. It’s important to recognize that people in different markets will have different motivations and perceptions. These will be reflected in your customer personas and in their online behavior. For example, emphasizing the low cost of a product or service will work well in markets where value is considered important, but less well in markets where something cheap is seen as low quality.

What does this mean for localizing web content and marketing material? Simply that instead of taking the literal option (which is always a bad idea), think about making each set of localizations relevant for the target market so that you can create the right perception of your company and your brand. Native speakers of the target language and on-the-ground contacts can help you to get it right.

Take a leaf out of Coca-Cola’s book. It describes itself as “a global company on a local scale” which creates “global reach with local focus”. It has a consistent global brand identity while remaining relevant to each local market. Using analytics, personas and targeted translated content, you can do the same.