I arrived from the 2014 GALA Conference in Istanbul with firsthand experience in multilingual marketing. The conference was outstanding.
When I walked into the keynote presentation the first day, I thought I was in the wrong place. Everybody was wearing what I thought was a referee shirt. In reality it was the team shirt for the Beşiktaş soccer team.The keynote speaker was Fikret Orman the president of Beşiktaş J.K., one of Turkey’s largest soccer teams. Beşiktaş has teams in many sports such as volleyball, handball, basketball in male and female versions. They even have teams in boxing, rowing and bridge (Yes, the card game). Talk about product diversification! The soccer team has players from 11 different countries, this is a true global team.
An Amazing Display of Language Diversity
The conference had participants from more than 40 countries, representing translation companies, consultancies, technology vendors, research institutions and translation buyers. Though the conference was conducted in English, during breaks, networking and business was conducted in many languages. This is really interesting to see happening before your eyes. I am in the business of helping companies reach their customers in any language, but this was a great way to experience the importance of speaking to your clients in their language.
Istanbul is at the confluence of Europe, Asia and Africa. It has known what Global Markets are since around 671 BC, when it was part of the Greek colonial expansion, and later formed part of the Roman and Ottoman Empires.
I did not have to brush up on history to see how the global nature of the city continues to thrive. A must see place is the Grand Bazar, one of the world’s largest and oldest covered markets. It is full of locals and tourists looking for a great bargain in jewelry, leather, ceramics, lanterns, carpets, etc. I was surprised to find out that in most stores, the shopkeepers spoke many languages, and were able to attend their clients in their native language. As a matter of fact, they will try to guess what country you are from and ask if you are from, let’s say España? Argentina? France? American? Italia? Then, with no hesitation offer you to come in and see what they have. Their language ability and marketing process is incredible. They know very well that people buy when they are approach in their language, that they are more prone to buy if they understand and are understood. What a lesson in multilingual marketing! After having some tea, and chatting with the store attendant, who can resist buying a beautiful carpet at the negotiated price?
Another takeaway from visiting several businesses in Turkey is that they are very advanced in their Global Marketing / SEO expertise utilizing Social Media. Most stores have a presence in facebook, twitter and other industry specific boards and websites. They are not shy about asking you to post your comments to increase awareness of their business. They know about the importance of comments and go all the way to give you a pleasant experience.
Now, it is time to get back to helping our clients in reaching a growing global and multilingual market. Energized, and with a nice new Turkish carpet under my feet after learning a great lesson in multilingual marketing.