By Sarah Mitchell (reprinted from Content Marketing Institute)

Here’s an eye-opener: Less than six percent of the world’s population speaks English well enough to conduct business. Furthermore, many who can speak English can’t read it. And 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States.

Scott Abel, consultant and content futurist, explains the significance of these statistics for content marketing: “Many of us treat the worldwide web like the Ohio web or the American English web. Marketers are overwhelmed and unprepared to produce content for a global audience.”

Nonetheless, Abel believes there’s tremendous opportunity for brands to reach consumers once considered unreachable due to differences in geography and language. His view is shared by author John Yunker, who claims the global market for international domain names (website addresses that support non-Latin characters) is greater than 2.5 billion people (and most are not native English speakers).

“We’re inching closer to a linguistically local internet, in which people no longer have to leave their native languages to get where they want to go,” Yunker writes at his Global by Design blog. “This is a positive development for making the internet truly accessible to the world.”

So how can content marketing practitioners prepare?

The first and obvious solution is to get your content professionally translated. While online translation tools such as Google Translate make it easier to reach a larger audience, they will not capture the nuances of language that are essential to engaging an audience, such as colloquialisms, humour and cultural sensitivities. A professional translator can ensure the trust you’ve built for your brand is not damaged by awkward missteps.

Next, understand the cultural differences of other countries – going beyond simple political correctness. According to marketing expert Rohit Bhargava and InterCultural Group Founder Paolo Nagari, it takes a principled approach to develop content to attract a global audience. They urge content marketers to view language as only part of the solution to creating global content: “It’s important to value the local point of view,” says Bhargava.

To do so, take into consideration a broad scope of cultural differences. While seemingly minor, certain off-cue remarks can alienate your audience. Pay special attention to such details as holidays, religious references, fiscal years, and even superstitions — slip-ups will signal you are an outsider.

For example, white is a colour associated with death in China, so the traditional white-wedding imagery of Anglo countries may flop. Football in America is different to football in Europe, and different yet again to the football played in Australia. Even a seemingly innocuous sentence, such as: “October is the time when most companies lock in plans and budgets for next year,” tells your global audience you don’t understand how their business runs.

“The big question is: how do you apply your global mindset to create content that works across cultures without building a huge team or relying on just translations,” says Nagari. His view is that most brands can ensure the global integrity of their content by engaging local subject matter experts to review everything before publishing. Unless you’re a mega-brand such as Coca-Cola, building a large team is unnecessarily expensive, since your core message is likely to remain unchanged from country to country.

It’s time to develop a healthy respect for the consumer living outside your local boundaries. American marketers are often perceived as xenophobic in their content – – a trait not tolerated in other markets. Unfortunately, the same is true of most other countries. As globalisation takes hold in business, it must also infiltrate every part of your content marketing strategy.