Your heart is where your language love is

Your choice of language: what does it say about who you want to connect with?
Your choice of language: what does it say about who you want to connect with?

Just recently a friend turned me on to the fantastic multilingual video of “Let it Go,” the hit song from the Disney movie “Frozen,” and as a polyglot sucker for pop music I’ve been indulging my love of languages and emotional music. This video smoothly blends 25 languages into one, seamless video.

Continue reading “Your heart is where your language love is”

Companies need language ambassadors

A good ambassador is worth the expense
A good ambassador is worth the expense.

A company can display their genuine interest in international clients by showcasing the language abilities and cultural interests among their employees.  Clients enjoy connecting personally with people in your organization, so companies should present their most personal face by recruiting those with exceptional language skills and cultural intelligence.

I recently had the opportunity to help out with a delegation from Russia.  The company my friend works for had some potential clients come from Russia to take a tour of the local facility in Minnesota.  Although the company hired a professional interpreter, I was asked to accompany the delegation to a couple of dinners because I speak Russian.

After long days of tours and presentations, these conversations were relaxing for them.  We didn’t talk “shop”; we talked about life in Russia vs. Minnesota, such as traffic and prices and we learned a lot about one another.  They could talk in their native language about their culture and learn more about US and Minnesota culture.  Meals were not typical work-trip meals but time spent in pleasant company, relaxing and learning.

Towards the end of the visit, one of the Russians smiled and said, “How surprising that we come to the US and we keep finding people who speak Russian!”  My presence told these Russian potential customers that the company with whom they were thinking of partnering cared enough to connect with them in a substantial way and to surround them with an atmosphere that would be comfortable for them.

Significantly, these conversations took place with a “pure” American, so they could peer more directly into the cultural divide.  We have many immigrants from Russia in Minnesota; our interpreter was one.  I, however, was a complete outsider: fifth generation American, no Russian background.  I had no reason to learn Russian culture except out of personal interest.  They were intrigued.  Why did you learn Russian?  What do you think of Russian culture?  Tell us how Americans think!  My interest in people and their background, substantiated by work in learning languages, made a profound impression.

Ultimately, the Russian guests had a nice time and left with a great impression of the US and my friend’s company.  My affiliation with my friend’s company and my personal interest in Russian culture demonstrated that the company and our country are interested in these guests by going the extra mile to make a connection with these potential customers.

Companies in the US will attract more interest from foreign clients if they cultivate linguistic knowledge and cultural intelligence, whether by recruiting employees with these skills, finding existing employees who possess them, or training current employees in them.  My friend’s company made a wonderful impression on these potential customers by bringing me in, not because of me per se but because they made the effort to connect with the clients’ language and culture.  As the marketplace becomes more global, offering up culture and language ambassadors will provide an important edge to winning over clients.

What do you think are cost-effective ways that companies can prepare themselves to make great impressions on foreign clients?

Photo credit: / Public Domain Mark 1.0

Languages, Marketing, and Customer Experience

IN050S02 World Bank
Can you speak to your customer? (Photo credit: World Bank Photo Archives)

To market well, one must speak to customers in an efficient and comfortable way, offering them a message that they can absorb easily.  My philosophy is that learning a language allows us to connect with people on a level we could not otherwise.  These connections are essential in marketing.  By speaking the language of the customer–even a little–one can make the customer experience more pleasant and, therefore, more effective.

Marketing increasingly sees the importance of personalization for a more positive customer experience.  In this blog post, “60 Ways Personalization is Changing Marketing,” the author mentions the following aspects (22-24 of the 60) of personalization.

  • The future of personalization will reward publishers that provide better content.
  • Personalization is about creating a natural process of conversation between companies and customers.
  • Use personalization to give customers a great experience.

So the goal of personalization is to develop a more “natural” way to communicate.  The more natural communication will give customers a great experience, and the future of this more natural communication will reward publishers of this content.  Language lies at the foundation of communication.

But if a company moves into another country, can’t they simply hire locals to translate their message?  Many companies likely follow this philosophy.  However, a company will operate more effectively if the employees in the company can understand the basic marketing.  Continuous translation may work well in the beginning, but for a long-term commitment, one must develop a way to communicate with customers in a more natural way, in their own language.

The Indian bank, HDFC, exhibits the effectiveness of speaking the preferred language(s) of their customers.  This article, “Provide Personalized Service to Create Effective Engagement,” describes how HDFC addresses customers in their preferred language, in addition to asking them if they wish to repeat past translations.  The method shows that “the bank knows who the consumer really is” and saves time for customers.  Is this method effective?  “HDFC boasts conversion rates of above 21 percent, with more than 70 percent of its consumers paying attention to the [targeted advertising] messages,” the article reports.  Among other tools, speaking the language of the customer provides a more personalized experience for the customer.

Thus marketing should consider that learning the language of the customer offers a more efficient, positive experience for the customer.