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The Simple Way to Build Global Brand Awareness (with Lee Densmer)
Episode 5116th January 2024 • Distribution First • Justin Simon
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In this episode of Distribution First, Justin dives into the world of global content strategy with Lee Densmer, a global content marketing strategist.

Lee shares insights and examples of the pitfalls of global content distribution, as well as practical steps for content marketers to take when expanding their reach to global markets.

If you like distribution and repurposing playbooks, you'll love my weekly newsletter (it's free). Join 2,500+ subscribers here: https://news.justinsimon.co/

In this episode, you'll learn:

  1. How to know which markets to focus on
  2. Why translating content isn't enough
  3. What pitfalls to avoid when creating and sharing content on a global scale
  4. How cultural and linguistic awareness can change the way content is crafted for different markets
  5. Why starting small and testing is crucial

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Transcripts

Speaker:

Everybody, before we get started, I want to thank my friends at Hatch for producing

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this episode. You can get unlimited podcast editing and strategy for

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one flat rate by visiting Hatch FM.

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All right, let's get in the show.

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Welcome to distribution. First, the show where we flip content marketing on its head

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and focus on what happens after you hit publish. Each week I

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share playbooks, motivations, stories, and strategies to help you repurpose and

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distribute your content because you deserve to get the most out of everything you

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created.

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Hey, everybody. Welcome to this week's episode of Distribution.

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First, super excited to have Lee Densberg on. She is a

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global content marketing strategist. And on today's episode, we

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are going to emphasize global. We're going to talk all about global

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distribution, what the sort of pitfalls are with global

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distribution, what may be some of the mistakes, assumptions, all those things that go into

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it as we're trying to create and share content on a global

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scale versus just maybe our home market. So, Lee, welcome to the

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show. That's right. Thank you. Excited to be here. Awesome. So

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I know we were chatting before we got on here, but I think you've

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got a great sort of just starting point to level us up on with

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global distribution. So maybe we can just start right there. Yes.

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So 70% of all businesses that are online

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sell outside of their own market. And I don't think

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businesses realize this. That goes up to 90% when those companies have more than

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50 people on board at their company. So if you are online,

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you are selling globally, you have a global market. Global people are

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interested in your content. And I want to talk more about what that

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means. Yeah, I love that. It's so interesting. So when I worked at

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Techsmith two companies ago, definite global company, we

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had sales across, over, I think, 180, if not 200

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countries across the world. I had global in my title for that exact reason,

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was like, hey, Justin, you're not just going to lead us content, you're leading our

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global content efforts. A little bit different. When I went to the

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startup world, we did sell globally, but it was less so.

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But even now, running my own thing, it's interesting, like seeing the

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stats on folks who purchase the course

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or check out or on the email list. It's a global world we're in,

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right? It's amazing to see that. So I'm interested, what

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are some of those key differences that we need to be thinking about as we're

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creating, sharing content, and knowing that it's global?

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Even if we wouldn't say like, yes, we have a marketing hub in

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Germany or we've got a dedicated us marketer, what

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are those things that we need to be thinking about? So the first thing that

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we all assume is that the English is readily understood everywhere. And yes, the

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majority of people on LinkedIn and in our audiences do

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speak English, but they don't prefer to do business in English. Something like

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75% of people prefer to do business in their own language.

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They read English, they understand English, but it's not theirs. It's not their

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culture, it's not their language. So there's this myth that content

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is global, that what you write will apply globally to people who

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speak the language. It's just not the case. The buyers are

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different. In every market, people believe different things. They

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behave in different ways, they have different preferences. So you literally

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have to do buyer personas for each market and step back and

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recognize that that buyer is literally different. It's not just about language. It's

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largely about language, but it's also about customs,

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culture, preferences, beliefs, values. So how would somebody start

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doing that then? How do you, if you come into a company or you're working

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with somebody and they've got multiple. You look at their sales and they've

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got multiple different countries or regions that they're

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selling into, how are you thinking about that as a content person? And how do

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you start to actually execute on some of that stuff? Exactly.

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You start by identifying where the biggest growth is going to be.

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Right. Because you can't approach all markets. You can't handle all

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markets, not when there's potentially hundreds out there. So you figure out

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where your biggest growth is, who are your biggest users, where's the biggest need,

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and then you look at that market, you do the buyer Persona, you

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conduct the research, you talk to customers in that market, and you build the buyer

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Persona for that market. And then that helps you shift

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what you're writing about, shifts how you're approaching it.

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It also gives you an indication that you may need to translate that content. That's

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one of the first things you do that's kind of like the lowest hanging fruit

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is get it translated. But there's a process beyond

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translation that's called trans creation. Trans, of course, means

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across. So you're crossing cultures by

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adapting that content, not just about the words. It's like you're changing

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the colors, you're changing the images. You're getting rid of all those

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american sports metaphors out of your content because people in

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India don't play baseball, so you're actually

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fully adapting the content. So it works for that audience, so it doesn't

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alienate them or frustrate them or just not connect with them at

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all. So it's kind of a dual process. It's like changing the words and

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that's translation, and then it's changing the emotion and the

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intent and the cultural aspects of it as

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well. That's not cheap. So is that something

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that, how do you even start thinking of a trans

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creation world if you have a big subset in Germany

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or Japan, for instance? Those are two very different

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environments. Are you hiring? I'm assuming there are probably

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agencies or people who help with this type of stuff. Yeah, there

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are. So you need a content strategist on the ground in

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each of your markets. Of course, depending on your volumes, you might

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not have the resources to hire somebody full time, but you need somebody who's a

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cultural expert, a researcher, a content strategist in

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that market. So that's kind of a satellite of your home office, and

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then that person can connect you with the market and help you with the

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adaptation of that content. Engage a translator

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or a linguist who can do that trans creation process.

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So, yeah, you need people on the ground who know the market. Yeah, I'm

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curious, is it better to do this

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poorly or to not do it at all? I love

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that question, and I'm not sure that I have a,

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yes, it's better to do it poorly than to not do it at all,

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with a lot of caveats. Because I'm going to give you a funny example. If

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you do it poorly, you can screw everything up. Example? So

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you remember the got milk campaign in the United States? Well, that was

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translated into Spanish by an agency in San

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Francisco. And the way that they translated it, it came out

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as. Are you lactating a

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little? Know, maybe not quite what the milk association was

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going after? No, not so much so

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offensive. I mean, funny maybe to us, but offensive in that

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market. And so that not only was that a waste of

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money and they fired the agency, but it alienated the market,

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it frustrated the market. So that is what happens when you do it

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wrong. There are pretty big consequences. But translation,

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doing something to help that market understand your content is better than

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ignoring that need completely. Because

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sometimes it's easy, especially now with some AI tools and

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things like that, to do translation probably pretty efficiently

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and pretty accurately. A little bit harder to go into that

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trans creation side where you're doing research, more in

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depth content changing tone, changing all of those type of

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things. Exactly. So would you say then that step one maybe, is that

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sort of translation like if you've got these

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things in here, maybe set up some landing pages, some web pages, et

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cetera, some other pieces of content for those markets

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as translated in that get those to be as good as you

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can before you worry about jumping into custom content across

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there. Right. So you would pick the most

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important pieces, your most important landing page, your

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best lead magnet, some blog posts that would be good for the market. And

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translate those, and translate those carefully. Be careful with AI

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translation. It's best for like a service manual or like

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faqs, but you should not translate anything that's highly branded

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with AI. I mean, you're going to get, are you lactating if you do

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that? Yeah. So don't do that. But I would pick the top pieces,

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the highest performing pieces, the most important pieces, and get those carefully

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translated and then you can go deeper when you get more

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traction in that market and create

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custom campaigns, adapt existing campaigns, go deeper once you

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get traction. But it's a step by step process. Is there

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a good sort of rule of thumb with the companies that you've

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worked with as far as timelines?

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How long does a process like this take? Right.

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If you're going to just. Translation can happen quickly. Translation

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doesn't take a long time in and of itself, but creating those buyer personas,

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creating a campaign for a specific market, understanding the

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distinct distribution channels. Social media is not the

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same world round. Facebook is used differently, LinkedIn is used

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differently world round. You have to decide which channels you're going to distribute on because

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it's different for each market. So translation is easy. But laying that

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strategy, that customized strategy, takes as much time as it

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does for the home market. You're leveraging from your home market

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strategy, but you're adapting it for that specific market, and

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that takes time and expertise to do that. Yeah, it feels like it might

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even take more time because at least for me, I feel

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like I would be second guessing a decent amount of things.

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Not knowing the market. I'm relying on that sort of boots on the ground

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person or some sort of advisor on

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the region or something to be able to actually pull that off in a coherent

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way to where we're not doing the got milk? Campaign, we're doing something that actually

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makes sense. And I have more crazy examples. It is

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iterative, just like with your home market, just as long as

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it took you to get it right in your home market, you do some tests,

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you try some things, you translate a landing page, you see how it does and

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then you tweak. That's the way we roll in content marketing.

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Try tweak. Try tweak. Put content out there, test

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concepts in the market and then change it if you need to. Yeah. So on

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these global scale, are we also then scaling

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the practitioners, like if we're

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doing paid ads, are we having a paid ads expert for a particular market

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or somebody who's in, or can it function as, oh no, your

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home team. Your home team can kind of manage that and they just

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have to get the right assets in place. Yeah. A mix. So

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if you're really big and you're a brand like Nike

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or like Nokia, then you're handing all of that

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off to a language services company. So they're big companies

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that handle multiple languages, multiple deliverables. They put technology

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in place. I mean, you can go from having a bilingual person translate a

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landing page to having a big company that

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serves 250 languages and as many markets

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doing all of your adaptation. So there's definitely a

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continuum, depending on your size, how much you want to

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double down in that market. Yeah, makes sense. Makes sense.

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So is there a good way to basically start

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thinking about distribution globally

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where we're not stuck on,

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you had the quote in the beginning of the episode, the stats that are sort

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of like. And how different the reality is

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probably to how people are currently thinking about it. So how should people be

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currently thinking about distribution for these global markets,

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especially if they don't have any resource in place right now to do

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any of that work? Yeah, I know. That's the question for startups and

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smaller companies who are selling online and they're like, oh crap, we might be global,

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right? So the first thing is to develop an

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awareness and to think about how their content may or may not

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be appropriate for all audiences. Gain an

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understanding of the nuances of

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culture and how cultures are different. So

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it's an awareness at the start, right? Like, not everybody

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responds to this content the same way as my american clients or my

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european clients do. Awareness of the differences and then an

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awareness of how content can be global. There is

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a way to create content in English that is

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suitable more or less for most markets. Unfortunately, that

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makes it more generic. But you can create

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content in a way that's suitable for most markets. What are some of those things,

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Lee? What are those things that we can do to make it, I mean, even

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if it does make it more generic, what are some of those things? Yeah, it's

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idioms, metaphors, jokes. Those things are not

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universal. They don't ever translate. Every culture has their own idioms,

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jokes, slogans, and then there's cultural and political

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references that you don't want to have in your content probably anyway, right?

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In this landscape. Right? Like, you need to be aware that those can be

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perceived as inappropriate or just baffling. In other

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countries, even the use of colors can be funky. Like the

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color red in Africa is troublesome. It's associated with

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mourning, with mourning and death. So you have to be aware that

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use of colors can be problematic. There's a lot there, Justin.

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It's all really interesting, but I get that it's maybe overwhelming. I

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mentioned sports metaphors. We have something like

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35 baseball metaphors in English, we say, I mean,

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touch base, hit, a home run. So many baseball

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metaphors. And I've come to understand that

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Europeans and bilinguals in other countries learn

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English and learn those metaphors, but often they don't know that they came from

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baseball. They don't even know. So sports metaphors,

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yeah, all those things. And even like, images and

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emojis are perceived differently in different countries.

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So if I can do anything through this podcast episode, it'd be to

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raise the awareness that there's all these elements of language that are

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specific to our culture that can

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offend or perplex people in another culture who might be reading your

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stuff. So this one I'm doing the hand symbol with the ok

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sign. This is something kind of off color in.

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I mean, why would an American know that unless you've traveled to China or have

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a chinese friend? Yeah, it's definitely

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feels like there's so many little pitfalls that

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you can fall into. It also feels like, to me, like when we did this

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at Techsmith, when we decided we were going to really

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outside of having a key marketer for our

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key regions, but really put emphasis on

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global content creation, we had

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somebody in house who basically took the reins

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with all things global and became the check

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person to me as leading content

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marketing. That was super helpful because even just

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listening to you, I'm having semi flashbacks of all the things that go

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into creating a true.

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When you are not a Nike and you don't

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just outsource every single thing to an agency or even

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when you're got milk and you just, we screwed up. We'll take the campaign.

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There's enough dollars behind those type of things to where

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they're willing to probably just not dot every I and cross every t

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and all those type of things. So I am really interested

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in terms of, like, I like what you mentioned earlier with the baby steps and

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try to just go with maybe some of your best markets, some of your best

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pieces and then think about those

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and do those the best way you can for those markets,

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versus chomping off the entire bit

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of the pie and say, well, everything we're doing

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now is global focused. Everything we're doing now is going to

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be, if we're doing this campaign in English, we got to get it all

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translated for Germany and France.

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I like the way of approaching that. And then you can see what works and

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what doesn't. That's the only way to do it. Otherwise you're going to spend

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tens of thousands of dollars for uncertain ROI.

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Translating everything is not a strategy. So another thing

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that's interesting, and my expertise is in the latin american market.

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There are 26 countries that speak Latin, America that speak Spanish, and

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each of those countries is a different culture. You can loosely associate country with

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culture. Right. 26. So people ask

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me, do you translate in 26 different ways then? Because there's

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dialects involved. Spanish is not the same. The vocabulary is not the

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same, the syntax is not the same. And

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no, you don't. You don't need to translate Spanish 26 times

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if you've got latin american buyers. Spain and Latin

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America are quite a bit different from each other, but there's a way to

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translate into Spanish that reaches that market appropriately without doing

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it 26 times. So how would you go about that,

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then? Right again, you look at the

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markets where your product is being sold. You look at the markets where people are

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interested, is it predominantly Spain, or is it predominantly Latin or South

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America? And you choose a variety of Spanish

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that's regional enough for that market. There is

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a form of generic Spanish, which is actually kind of fascinating because

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it doesn't exist. It's a version of Spanish that doesn't exist,

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but it's used in literature and translation to appeal

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to all Spanish speakers. Nobody speaks

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interesting, but everybody understands it. Yeah. I love the idea

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of not translating everything for the sake of translation.

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I remember when I first took over running content at

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Techsmith, one of the initiatives was like, we were doing

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blogs, and we had obviously way less content on our

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german and I think japanese or french blogs at the

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time. But we were, in some ways, the strategy really wasn't a

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strategy. It was just a little bit of, well, we

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released this one in here, so we're going to go get it created over there.

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And especially at that time, it was like there was no way

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to cross check keywords or semantics

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or if this thing was going to rank or not, because once it went over,

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I could do that in English, but once it went over to translation.

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The translator is simply just trying to do their best to translate it at that

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point and get the thoughts across. At least in that case, they weren't

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necessarily a marketer. Right. So I'm curious, do you have any thoughts on that?

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Like, how could I have done that better? Or what are some of the pitfalls

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there? So you've made a couple interesting points. One is that a

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translator isn't a marketer, just like a copywriter isn't

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a marketer. It's the same. It's a parallel

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concept. So a translator can be excellent at their craft and really

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good at converting concepts from one language to another, but they don't

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understand the big picture of marketing in another country. So

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there is a specialization there. You talked about SEO,

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so multilingual SEO is a big deal and there are experts out there

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in that. And the main things to understand is that people do not search the

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same way in each country. So if you are

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doing an SEO play to drive traffic and to drive leads in another

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market, you need an SEO strategy that's appropriate for that market. It's

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another instance of something that you develop for your home market.

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It just doesn't work. So often the mistake is to just

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translate keywords and it doesn't work. They are new,

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they are different. You have to research the keywords for every single market and then

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of course, use those keywords in that content. So

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translating is a first step. Yes, but I think I'm characterizing for you how quickly

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it can go wrong. Yeah, it's a huge undertaking. I think that's the biggest

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thing that I'm coming across from this conversation

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is it's just like a remembrance of

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how a daunting that it truly can be. Because content

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marketing, all that, it's daunting doing it once, trying

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to do it across multiple languages, multiple dialects,

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multiple countries, it all just adds more and more

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complexity. But I think the moral of this episode

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is, I think for a lot of content marketers, maybe just

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check, see where outside of

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your home market, like where are sales coming from, where are website traffic

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at those type of things. Those are easy sort of first steps for content

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marketers to be able to see, oh, we do have a global brand, look at

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that. There are visits from X, Y and Z country. So I

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think that is step one. And then two is like, yeah,

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planning. Just start small, like your two best pieces, your

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three best pieces across maybe a little bit of the funnel or a little bit

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of the plan, or what's your best email series?

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Start slowly working those things

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across, and then by the time you know it, you've got a little bit more

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traction, a little bit more learnings, and you don't have to feel

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so overwhelmed. Absolutely. That's the only way to

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do it. And then, as I mentioned, the awareness, the cultural awareness of

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the differences in cultures, and then the awareness

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of what you're writing and how you're writing it and how specific. You don't

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even know that what you're writing is so specific to your culture until you start

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studying it. And you realize, I am uniquely

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american. Everything I write is so american, and

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you can't take that out. You shouldn't take that out.

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But american content marketers are writing american

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content. I mean, we have some peers who are european,

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and their content is slightly different. The words they use, the way they

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explain things. Yeah, super interesting.

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Anything before we wrap, Lee, anything you would need to get out to the world

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here before we close out? I

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think I want to give one more terrible. Absolutely. Let's do it. That'll be a

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good way. Let's see. So there is an

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airlines called Branif Airlines, and they were

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promoting leather seats. They have leather seats, so it's a

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differentiator. And their campaign was fly

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in leather. Right. But in Spanish. Again, problems with

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Spanish. They translated that as fly naked. So, I mean,

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it could be appealing to a specific target audience, but it probably wasn't what they

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meant. So now everybody's goal is to go look up translation

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miscues in marketing, and you'll get a whole list.

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That's hilarious. Between lactation and

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naked, we've got quite the translation faux pause here.

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That's right. It can go really wrong. Yep. Awesome.

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Well, Lee, it was super fun to chat a little bit about the global side.

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I think people will get an idea of a how complex

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a global content marketing strategy, kind of what that entails,

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but also the steps that they can take to not have to dive all the

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way in, but get a little bit here and there to make their marketing better

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on a global scale. Absolutely. People are welcome to follow me on

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LinkedIn and reach out. I love talking about this stuff. Awesome. Culture and language

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is super interesting. That's awesome. So thanks, Lee. Appreciate it. Thank you,

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Justin.

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All right, I hope you enjoyed this episode of Distribution

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first, and thank you for listening all the way through. I appreciate you

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so, so much, and I hope you're able to apply what you learned in

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this episode one way or another, into your content strategy as

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well. Speaking of strategy, we have a lot of things going on this year. That

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are going to help you build your brand, ten x your content and transform

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the way you do content marketing. Make sure to subscribe to the show and sign

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up for my newsletter at Justinsimon Co. So you don't miss

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a thing. I look forward to serving you in the next episode as well. And

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until then, take care and I'll see you next time.