You’re ready to take your business global, but where do you start? How can you most effectively connect with new markets and achieve brand success? It all starts with a solid localization strategy.
But first, what is localization?
Simply put, localization is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market.
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, translation is just one of many components involved in the localization process.
Localization vs internationalization
Localization and internationalization are related, but not the same thing. They also play different roles in the translation process.
Internationalization is the process of designing software, websites and apps so that they can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes to its source code.
Localization strategy: preserving meaning across cultures and languages
A successful localization strategy uses a variety of techniques — including translation — to ensure that you’re able to effectively target your new, international audience. From cultural nuances to imagery to pricing considerations, there are many factors to consider.
Before you start, you need a well-thought-out localization strategy — one that ties your localization initiatives to your overall business goals.
Why is a localization strategy important?
To maximize your return on investment (ROI) on localization, it’s important to have a localization strategy to guide you through the process.
While you may be tempted to rely on an ad hoc initiative, that can result in expensive mistakes and jeopardize future localization initiatives. A solid localization strategy gives your teams a higher likelihood of success.
We’ve put together a list of our best localization tips for creating successful strategies to resonate across cultures.
Ten smart tips for a successful localization strategy
We’ve compiled 10 tips to set you up for success.
1. Do your research
It would be foolish to launch into a new language market without knowing if your business has the potential to succeed there. This is why market research and competitive analysis must come first.
Is there a consumer need for your product or service? What alternatives exist in the market? Which sales channels would work best?
Often, the competitive positioning you use in one country simply won’t work in another. Take a deep dive into industry numbers, pain points and the competition before you go anywhere.
2. Stay competitive
If you want your business to be competitive in a new market, you may need to adjust your offerings. Consider the following:
- If you sell products, is your packaging and labeling engaging to local consumers? If not, it can easily be overlooked or misunderstood. You may need to think about repackaging if the supply and demand warrant it.
- How does your pricing compare with other similar local products or services? Don’t assume you can retain the prices you use in your home market. Look at local competitors’ pricing, and consider lowering or raising yours to compete.
- Are you able to deliver an optimized user experience in the new market? Consumers have expectations when interacting with a brand, and you should inspire trust and engagement at every turn.
3. Understand and follow local laws and customs
There are many practical considerations to address when expanding into a new market. Whether it’s obtaining and developing land or space, registering your corporate entity to legally do business, making financial arrangements to spend and receive money, or as hiring local employees, you must adhere to local laws and customs.
Once you’ve established the foundation and are ready to promote your business, it’s important to consider what regulations exist around advertising, including text, imagery and video since these vary immensely by region and country.
Content that flies freely in your home market may be considered too violent or risqué in another.
4. Revisit your branding
Obviously it’s important to protect the integrity of your brand at every step.
You’ve spent time (and money) clearly defining and communicating your business’ style, personality, voice and more. While you don’t want to change who you are, it’s wise to do a quick study of the market to see what locals think of your logo, brand name and overall identity.
Do they understand it? Does it come across as you intend it to?
Brands can have a different “flavor” in each market and you may have to alter yours to engage successfully.
5. Prioritize by leveraging a content localization strategy
As a thriving business, you likely have a bevy of content circulating in your home market. Obviously, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but how can you possibly leverage and localize all that goodness?
The simple answer? Prioritize.
It would be a costly mistake to translate everything at once, so begin with business-critical content. Anything that supports sales, like client-facing website content, marketing collateral and packaging, should be addressed first.
6. Know your options for translation
Translation is simple, right? Just convert written words from one language into another.
Actually, a lot more goes into it when you’re trying to connect authentically with a global audience.
Your customers have expectations, and if you fail to meet them, your efforts will fall flat. So, what are your options?
A professional translation agency that offers options like human and post-edited machine translation (also known as hybrid translation), crowd sourced linguists, or existing multilingual staff.
- Professional agency: If you’re launching globally with content that’s nuanced like marketing materials, partnering with a professional agency is always the recommended solution. Typically, global launches involve at least four to five languages, making project management and quality assurance (QA), a challenge. Using a professional translation service provider gives you the options of human translation and machine translation with human post-editing — a hybrid solution suitable for less nuanced content that delivers faster turnaround times and cost savings.
- Crowdsourced solutions: When you’re targeting a single language and working with a limited budget, crowdsourced translations (aka social localization) may be the answer. If you choose this route, be sure to collaborate within the right user group for your project. In-country translators with knowledge of local lingo and product-specific jargon can be used to your advantage.
- Multilingual staff: Perhaps you only need content localized now and then. For these rate one-off projects, it may be wise to tap the talent of an in-house multilingual staff member. Doubling as impromptu translators, these employees can be used on an as-needed basis to keep costs down. Keep in mind, however, that this option may put the quality of your translations into question.
7. Get familiar with the translation process
You may not be working toward becoming your company’s localization expert but knowing a bit about the translation process can help you prepare for what’s needed before a launch. A comprehensive translation process should include the following steps:
- Assessment of your project scope, goals and resources
- Review of existing content and imagery
- Creation of a glossary and style guide
- Preparing relevant files for translation
- Translation and editing of your content
With the help of talented linguists and a long-term investment in your global reputation, these steps can open the door to new markets and give you a competitive advantage.
8. Find the right localization vendor to ensure success
Choosing a localization partner is a serious endeavor. You’re putting your company’s reputation on the line by outsourcing extremely specialized tasks that can affect how your brand is perceived.
Before you even think about pricing, it’s crucial to have a thorough understanding of your needs and goals to know whether the vendor can meet them. Once you know your weaknesses and strengths, you can ask the vendor for their assessment.
The agency should provide a detailed explanation of how they plan to approach your localization project to ultimately achieve your vision.
Above all, your translation vendor should be:
- Highly experienced with helping brands succeed across cultures
- Competitively priced
- A cultural fit for your business goals
- Deploying technology to reduce costs and turnaround times while preserving quality
9. Be sure you’re taking advantage of technology and integrations
When you’re juggling content across languages, platforms and channels, technology can be a lifesaver. The industry relies on a variety of tools and technologies that help reduce manual tasks, automate processes and ensure quality.
You can reap the benefits of quicker turnaround times, increased quality and lower costs while your translation partner manages the following technologies:
- Translation memory to store and re-use translated phrases for reduced costs
- Workflow automation tools to facilitate hand-offs between global resources
- Integrations with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), content management systems and cloud-based platforms for seamless transfer and publishing of content
- Machine translation engines as an alternative or complement to human translation
- QA tools and programs to validate language quality
10. Pursue quality
The best part of working with a trusted translation partner is knowing you’re getting quality results. Translation quality is key to the way people perceive your brand in other markets. From the initial project setup to your choice of translators to testing and QA, you can achieve superior standards by:
- Selecting qualified translators
- Updating your glossary and style guide, and sharing the knowledge with everyone involved
- Training your team on the translation process and their role in it
- Conducting regular in-country and in-context reviews, testing and QA
Launch with confidence
These tips give you just a taste of the complexity that comes with expanding your business into new cultures. Partner with a professional localization and translation company, and you can have the whole process laid out from soup to nuts.
Contact us today to learn about how we can customize a localization program that can take your brand anywhere.