Localized Content Starts With Global Research

Nothing conjures up the joys of childhood or the frustration of parenthood more than LEGOs. One facet that kids and adults can agree on is the instructions. Folded over and nestled between micro hole-laden transparent bags, these ubiquitous instructions have guided all ages for years. Most famously, these instructions are devoid of the most basic instructional content: words. Many moons ago, the fine folks at Lego realized the best way to serve a global audience was to remove words and let the images tell the story.

Unfortunately, for the majority of today’s global organizations, a simple image cannot tell the entire story. Additionally, content producers tasked with creating content for a global audience are socked away in an office thousands of miles removed from the intended audience.

The simple solution for producing better content for a global audience is research. No number of internal meetings, roundtables, or workshops can beat talking to your customers, users, audiences, members, or whatever entity you are looking to serve. The problem is, so many folks shy away from research because they are intimidated by the effort. However, the dirty little secret is that user research can be cheap, easy, and painless. It has a tremendous impact on the content you produce for your organization.

In order to help you tackle a research initiative for a global audience, let me answer some of the most common questions I’ve been asked during my 20 years of content research.

What does global research even mean? It’s as simple as speaking directly to your audience in the countries where your product or service is actively sold and/or marketed. For example, last year we were tasked with building a product and content ecosystem for a large player in the business process management space. This product would serve not only a vertically diverse audience, but a geographically diverse one as well. We targeted five core countries (mostly European), five of the top verticals, and five potential users in those five countries. Pro tip: The sales team is a great resource to get participants from across the globe.

How do I get qualified participants? The best way to get your first participants is to reach out to an existing customer or member. Most likely, this person will have a favorable opinion of your product or service. This can introduce bias, but the importance of this type of participant is that he or she can recommend you to other qualified participants. Pro tip: Having a past participant make a recommendation to speak with you works better than a cold call or email.

What’s good participation? I find the best participants are the ones bound by a common thread: passion. This is a person who has what I call “heavy feels” on the subject, tool, service, or offering that you are producing for them. These are the folks who might not even be that willing to talk to you, but once you get them to open up, they are really the best. Pro tip: Ask people about themselves first. This disarms many cautious participants and gets them to be more candid.

Do I need to hire someone to do this? Maybe, but probably not. If you are looking to speak to more than five people, I would recommend you hire an outside firm to help. This can expedite the logistics, findings, related collateral, and strategic recommendations. However, if you are looking for a quick-hit effort, you and/or your team can reach out to folks directly and get the results you need. Pro tip: If you don’t have the time, there are many amazing independent researchers who can own this effort for less than half of what a big agency would charge.

What is the result? What is the deliverable? The result is validation or invalidation of the types of content you are providing for your global audience. There is no better ammo you can have than when you say, “Based on the customers that we spoke to, they find this type of information the most helpful and wished there was more content for this issue.” Pro tip: When making a business case for a global content initiative, always lead with, “Based on the people we spoke to… .”   

Related Articles

According to a worldwide survey from Google and Statista, video consumption is popular, ranging from a consumer consumption high of 95% in Saudi Arabia to a low of 54% in South Africa. In the U.S., 85% of internet users say they watch online video. That popularity has spurred the use of video not only for information and entertainment, but also for marketing.
From high-level insights to in-depth analytics, data transforms globalizing and digitizing organizations. In this respect, data visualization paves the way to the globalization of digital products at machine speed.
Explore what happens when chatbots go wrong--and what you can do to make sure they are a help and not a hindrance to your customer relationships.
One of the main reasons revision cycles are painful is the lack of context we give content reviewers. We assume a content reviewer will parse feedback among technical accuracy, tonality, copy edits, content design, and SEO.