Eli Schwartz

Don’t Sell Soccer Balls When Customers Play Football – 📌Eli Schwartz

There are enough marketing slogans and clichés to fill the hundreds of business books produced every year. Most of them you can disregard and just focus on what works for your particular business and industry. However, if you conduct any commerce across borders here’s a strategy you can’t afford to ignore: “Don’t sell soccer balls when your customers play football.”

What this simply means is, name and describe your products exactly the way your customers would refer to them. If you make soccer balls, no international customer would ever find you, even if you make the world’s best soccer ball, unless you refer to your soccer products with the word “football”, as most international countries call the sport.

It makes no difference whether you are marketing online or offline; with organic search or paid media. If you don’t use the language of your customers you can’t possibly access them or sell to them.

For example, Urinal is a product that promotes urinary tract health sold in the Czech Republic. While this product might sell well in its home market, it will be very challenging to market it in most English-speaking markets without renaming the product something a bit more benign.


Handy, the German slang for mobile phones is another example where proper international naming is crucial. In English-speaking countries handy just means useful. Without some naming research, an English-speaking product manager or content marketer might not realize that handy is a word that they should include in any German targeted mobile phone product descriptions.


So how can you make sure you that you are using the right words when targeting an international audience? Here’s five ways, which are easy and very inexpensive:

1. Mechanical Turk

Post an image of your product as a “HIT” on Mechanical Turk targeted to your focus country/language and ask people to describe the image in a few words. Experiment with per HIT pricing, but you can get quality results for less than $10.

2. Freelancers

Hire two native speaking contractors on a freelance site like Odesk/Freelancer/Craigslist and ask them each to describe your product. The descriptions should be fairly similar, so a merge of both descriptions will give you the best words to describe your items.

3. Adwords Test Campaign

Run an Adwords campaign in your target country for your product using all possible keywords as exact match types. For ad copy, create different product names as headlines, but leave the rest of the ad the same across all variations. Allow Adwords to evenly rotate the ads. Once you have achieved some sort of significance on impressions, the ad copy with the most clicks will likely be your best product name.

4. Adwords Display Planner

Plug your first keyword into the Adwords Display Planner and choose only your target country and then click, get placement ideas. On the next screen, click “placements” under the individual targeting tabs. Check out the website ideas and see if they are related to your products. Repeat this search for all of your word possibilities until you find the competitive set of sites that are most related to your products.

5. Alibaba
Search your keyword possibilities on Alibaba.com, China’s, and possibly the world’s, leading eCommerce site. You can see all products listed on Alibaba from the same search box; for example an English search will also bring up German language listings. You can audit the listings to get a sense of the most common ways of describing your products. You can also try this on Ebay, but you will need to use the specific Ebay domain for your targeted country. (E.g. ebay.de for Germany).


If you have any more ideas or tools on how to find the best ways to target a global audience with the most optimum product names and descriptions, please do share.