There are certain rules which apply to every client or reader all over the world: Know your target audience. Keep it simple. Provide interesting or useful content. But do you know what to look out for when it comes to approaching a specifically German-speaking audience? Here are some questions that will help make the process easier.

What are your reasons for entering the German-speaking market?

By answering this question, you will get to know your target group even better and get an idea of what to expect from your (potential) clients.

Possible reasons:

  • There already is a demand for your products or services. You just have to promote and sell it now – with German content like website copy, social media posts or videos.
  • You find your German-speaking clients and the community of your industry to be quite inspiring. There might be lots of information available in English, but to go deeper into the topic, you have to use the German language at some point.
  • You want to talk to local experts who would also love to talk to you – but they feel more comfortable in their own language.

A competitive analysis will pave your way for entering the local market. To fully understand how your business will compare, you have to search for local information, which is often provided in the native language.

What to look out for when addressing your target audience

The more you know about your motifs, the easier it gets to address your target group as well. Knowing your audience a bit better now, attention should be paid to linguistic characteristics while addressing your clientele.

Which story do you want to tell?

Keeping it simple is key, but did you know it makes sense to go even further? A clear and direct language is highly appreciated amongst the German-speaking audience (This also means there is rare use of the subjunctive in German). It is not considered rude if you tell someone directly what you want them to do – an honest, polite call to action will always be considered as a friendly recommendation. So take your time, think about what you want to tell and which result you want to achieve with your clients.

“Du” or “Sie”? – How to address your clients properly

Make sure you know how formally or informally you want to address your audience. No matter what you decide for – be consistent! Avoid addressing your readers with both “Sie” and “Du” in the same campaign or even the same copy. It’s best to decide once and for all whether you want to address your clients formally or informally.

There is one rule of thumb: In case of doubt, always go with “Sie”.

This being said, a “Du” is much more common these days than it has been before. Depending on the business field, it might even seem a bit odd if you approach someone “too” formally. Most communities tend you use the informal “Du” to emphazise the shared interest, no matter how old their members are or how well they know each other.

You see, it highly depends on the individual case. Research helps you finding the right tone – and so does your translator.

Lost in translation: Do you need a local name?

Once you decide to put your brand or a certain product on a foreign market, it might be a good idea to check the meaning of your name in the local language to avoid misunderstandings or unfortunate associations. Johnny Depp for example probably would have chosen another stage name in a German-speaking environment.

Even though Germans use lots of (pseudo) English names and terms in their everyday life, think about localising the name of your brand, product or mascot.

There might always be a better option, even if you have an English (sounding) name already. My favorite example of an English-English localisation for the German-speaking audience is the movie “8 legged freaks” which was translated as “Arac Attack” in 2002. Even small changes may have a massive impact on comprehensibility.

© Nadine Balazs

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