The fact that the world is now such an interconnected place that you can practically reach out and touch just about anyone anywhere, is great; no argument there. From a business perspective, the world’s your oyster because you can sell your products and services from Greenland to Antarctica while sitting in front of your computer screen in downtown Albuquerque. Even the language barrier has been all but removed; translation apps and platforms are both mushrooming online and constantly improving. While an Inuit may still look at you funny if you’re trying to communicate in person via Google Translate in Greenland’s town of Tasiilaq, by and large you have the means at your disposal to communicate intelligibly with your customer base around the world, right?
Well yes, and — maybe.
Expanding your business by extending your reach into the four corners of the globe requires a lot more than translation apps and platforms.
As our primary means of communication, the natural human voice still rules; people like listening to real people speaking. It’s all part of the psychology of sale — and it’s been proved that language localization is key to impactful sales communication. Nothing beats a native speaker convincing a native speaker to purchase what you’re selling in their country or region. It’s as simple as that.
What’s a whole lot less simple is how you set about locating the right voice actor who’s a native speaker of the language you want to market your product or service in.
There are numerous voice casting platforms on the internet available to you such as Voice123, but we’d like to suggest you keep the following 7 points in mind as you search:
- Let’s assume you’ve been in business a while. Your brand’s visual vibe and voice are well-established. Maybe you’ve been using the same US English-speaking voice actor for years — and she’s fantastic. However, don’t make the mistake of tying yourself down to someone who sounds just like her in a language like Hindi so you can maintain vocal identity. The tone, style, and presentation of your brand voice in English may not work in another language at all. It’s critical that you investigate your prospective target market. Those words, phrases, and mannerisms you think sound awesome may be a huge turnoff in Hindi. More than translation, you may need to consider transcreation: your script rewritten from scratch using terminology and phrasing that best suits your chosen audience because it implements common idioms and incorporates local culture. Big global brands have made some embarrassing mistakes over the years as a result of careless scripting. Beware!
- Don’t rush the casting process, either. If your business goals are growth and impact, take your time. Search and research carefully as well as thoroughly. Most of the foreign language voice actors on Voice123, for example, are seasoned professionals who will be able to assist — and if not assist you themselves, at least willing to get you headed in the right direction. Remember that the talent pool in a foreign language is likely to be considerably smaller than the one in English, and don’t be afraid to ask relevant questions about style and manner. Be open-minded and always get a second, third, and fourth opinion. If you don’t have the time, get a casting agent to do the legwork for you.
- Allow us to mention this again: Ensure your chosen voice actor is a native speaker. Regional accents and inflections play an important role in getting your message across believably. Even if you’ve found a voice actor who sounds brand-perfect to you, if that person isn’t a native speaker of the language you’ve chosen to record the voice over in, you’ll run the risk of alienating your audience; the actor might sound wannabe at best and fake at worst.
- If the voice actor you finally select cannot speak English at all, try locating and working through a trained interpreter so you can explain context and purpose in detail — or find someone who’s sufficiently fluent in both languages to comprehend and highlight nuance and subtlety. Always keep in mind that crucial aspects of your script could easily get lost or twisted in translation — as noted above.
- As disconcerting as it may seem, gender is still an issue in many countries. Some African countries are notoriously biased. The plight of Middle-Eastern and Afghan women is constantly in the news. Even Latin America has a checkered gender equality record, as does Asia. Be sensitive in this regard. It’s best to follow custom if you want your ad or promo to gain solid traction. While you may personally prefer a female voice to represent your product or service, a patriarchal society is unlikely to take a female voice over as seriously as it does a male voice over — unless you’re selling cosmetics or baby products, of course.
- Know what the voice over rates are in the language zone you’ve chosen. While the Global Voice Acting Academy has compiled a rate guide that has become pretty much the gold standard in the US, these rates won’t apply everywhere. If you’re considering greater Europe, try Gravy for the Brain’s rate guide as a starting point instead. Some of the more popular online sites have rate calculators that might help you too. Determining applicable rates can get complicated — especially across borders and continents. Being reasonable is a worthwhile rule of thumb; fairness and a willingness to negotiate will always cast your business in a positive light. Ironically perhaps, be particularly careful of actors who charge too little; experience has taught that actors who are cheap, sound cheap and are unlikely to do your business justice.
- Recording quality plays a role as well. While one can expect pristine reads and recordings from the professional actors on an established and reputable voice casting platform, in some markets the kind of perfection you’re used to may detract from your marketing message because it doesn’t sound sufficiently local. Nairobi is a far cry from New York.
When all is said and done, the better your research and the more you know about the country (and the language) you’re getting your business into, the more successful the outcome of your marketing campaign voice over will be.
And with that, we wish you every success!