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Is it always best to market in the local language?


In about 36 hours I’ll deliver a presentation about content marketing to a group of executives of Finnish software startups and scale-ups who are eager to expand internationally. Most of them have a B2B software or SaaS offering. They intend to move into markets where their target customers have a good command of English as a second language.

They will produce their marketing content in English by default. Question is, when does it become necessary to provide that content in local languages as well?

Often, ideally, all content should be available in the prospect’s mother tongue. But that’s a cost factor, especially for a ‘born global’ startup. So it’s more like, how long can you cope with just English?

One short and accurate answer is that it depends on the buyer persona. If they possess a good command of English (as a second language), perhaps use English in business on a daily basis, possibly sharing the marketing content with English speaking colleagues or customers, you may not need to look any further.

What are the criteria?

But when do you need to look further? What are the criteria? In which countries is English by default fine, generally speaking? Does the size of the ideal customer organisation matter? Are there certain (software) products, use cases, industries, or organisational functions where English is preferred – or isn’t?

As an example, I’m asked this question regularly with a view to the Dutch market. Since I deliver original content in English as well as in Dutch, Finnish customers of mine tend to be happy if they can get away with just English. It’s mainly about the cost of scalability, but another reason can be that if you open a conversation with Dutch content, you may have to follow up in Dutch as well.

I suppose that in some cases it could also be a hybrid of two or more languages, whereby only part of the content is translated.


Any data or perspectives vastly appreciated!

Ping me!