As a decision-maker for your business, you have a well-honed sixth sense for new opportunities. You can tell when something’s too good to miss and when it’s not worth the effort. And you pride yourself on both your professionalism and your expertise. So it might surprise you to hear about a marketing strategy that you’ve most likely overlooked. One that’s cost-effective to implement and allows you to tap into a completely new pool of clients—without having to change your product or service offerings in a significant way.
If your company primarily operates in the English language, it’s easy to forget that Canada is home to two official languages. There are substantial growth opportunities waiting for businesses that translate their website and offer content in both English and French.
Implementing a bilingual marketing strategy can pay off with strong SEO outcomes, strengthen your search rankings, and your online authority. On top of this, because non-English audiences are often underserved in Canada’s English-speaking markets, you can get the jump on your competitors by offering your existing products and services to a new language community. A bilingual web and content strategy can get you access to the growing diversity in many of Canada’s cities, as well as the opportunity to go global with your business.
Here are some essential first steps in growing your business within a new language community that is sitting on your doorstep:
- Set specific goals and a budget for your French-language marketing initiatives
- Develop a marketing strategy for each language—this includes content, SEO, and social media
- Provide separate English and French versions of your website to provide the ideal user experience
But a word of caution: marketing to the Francophone population requires a well-considered strategy, as tempting as it might be to fire up your browser and go directly to Google Translate. Language is nuanced, and translation is an art as much as it is a science. When done poorly, the result is clumsy at best, and in a worst-case scenario, extremely offensive. A badly executed website in French might just be worse than none at all. It reflects negatively on your brand and is a turnoff to any prospective Francophone client.
The Francophone Consumer Persona
It’s important to understand that speaking to a Francophone audience is more than just providing a translated version of your English website. In fact, a strict translation is often detrimental to your message. It shows ambivalence to cultural differences, an impression you don’t want your prospective Francophone clients to have. If you want it done right, you must be committed to doing it well. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time, money and effort on an initiative that’s going nowhere fast.
Spend some time carefully considering the attributes of your ideal Francophone client. He or she may have characteristics that are entirely different from your target Anglophone client. For example, they may possess completely different purchase drivers. Take time to research these buyers by getting on the phone and conducting some ad-hoc interviews if necessary. Ask your French-Canadian friends for input.
Keep in mind as well that there is ethnic diversity among French-language speakers, with differences among Quebecois, Franco-Ontarians and French-language speakers born outside of Canada. For a strong user experience, you need to appeal to consumers on their own terms. Understanding these differences will set you on the right path in developing a well-crafted plan.
Adapting Your Website UX to a Francophone Consumer
Before translating your website content, carry out an overhaul of your content and messaging, building the French content from the ground up (rather than simply translating your current content) for the best possible user experience.
While online translation tools have come a long way, they still leave a lot to be desired. They’re often error-prone and have difficulty capturing the intent behind the original wording, especially in the case of analogies or cultural expressions. It’s usually very obvious to a native speaker of a particular language when a basic translation generator has been used.
Hire a Professional Translator
For an ideal user experience, invest in professional translation services. A Francophone translator will be able to adjust your content for tone and personality, ensuring that it’s consistent with your brand. They can also provide additional insights around the use of humour, local language nuances, and graphics and imagery, all of which will make a big difference in reaching and communicating effectively with your target audience.
Create a Separate French Website and SEO Strategy
You never want to put the two languages on one page when it comes to your website. Use a translation plugin for Wordpress sites to create separate French-language URLs for your business. You will also need a French-language SEO plan. Along with the content, the tags, meta descriptions and keywords will be completely different.
To reach your desired Francophone audience, your pages must be search engine optimized to bring these consumers organically to your content. Google prioritizes results that match the language patterns of the searcher, so in the same vein, your keyword strategy should make use of terms that are natural sounding and make sense to your target language audience.
Carry out your French-language keyword research by using online tools as a starting point but use the results as a guide rather than a rulebook. If the platform you’re using is based on European French, the terms they generate may be significantly different from what a French Canadian speaker would use to land on your site. Be aware of which version of French your tool is based on, so you don’t end of using terms that mean nothing to your audience.
Bilingual Social Media
Have you ever come across an auto-translated post on Facebook? While you probably got the gist of what the user was saying, the wording was likely awkward and difficult to understand.
If you’re planning on using social media as part of your bilingual marketing strategy, optimize your reach to Francophones by publishing separate French-language posts. Don’t be afraid to use language-specific humour—it’s excellent at increasing engagement. This is also where hiring a Francophone to the project is vital. They can help craft culturally sensitive content and develop your brand’s Francophone personality consistently across your social media channels.
A Bilingual Online Strategy as a Competitive Advantage
Tapping into the Francophone market can be a decision that makes great business sense and bring a new source of revenue to your business. When you were developing your marketing strategy for your business, you likely took the time to carefully consider your target client, their interests and pain points in mapping out the buyer journey on your website. This is also important work to undertake when looking to engage the French-Canadian community.
Take the time to create an optimal buyer journey for the Francophone website visitor by adapting conversion opportunities to their language with the right cultural and purchase drivers. Implement French-language on-page SEO and take similar care in crafting your social media presence. In this way, you’ll set yourself on a healthy path for business growth from a new language community.
Rinse and repeat, as you gain confidence and success in mastering multi-lingual marketing!