Image source: http://www.printsome.com/blog/2015/creativity-gone-wrong-when-brands-translate-and-fail/
When companies rely on in-house bilinguals for localization work it's often due to budget constraints or an inadequate understanding of the complexities of localization. Short cuts in this field generally lead to problems down the road. As a friend of mine once said, "never time to do things right, only time to do things twice."
Hiring a localization company to oversee and project manage your company's localization effort may look more expensive than tapping bilingual Joe in the cubicle down the hall, but going the professional route is likely to save you both time and money down the road, and you're less likely to damage your brand in the process. Here's why:
1. The localization company has been there and done that. We've taken lots of companies through the process. We know how to organize your project so that there is minimal need for re-work. We work with you from the start to set up a project glossary that defines important terms to ensure that they are translated the same every time. We factor in time for the editing and review process, and we can help you with all your marketing channels, from print, to website, to social media, to video.
2. We map out what needs to be converted. For example, we know when the Spanish speaking countries in which you are launching have dialects sufficiently different as to require their own project streams, preventing embarrassment down the road from translation mistakes.
3. Our professional linguists don't just translate, they transcreate. It's not adequate to translate word for word, because it's the context and nuance that matters. Professional linguists take what you have written and recreate it in the target language so that it truly means the same thing as the original.
4. Social Media is unforgiving. These days it takes seconds for posts to go viral. That means if you accidentally use the word embarazar when you meant avergonzar, your'e going to be in hot water. And, the whole world will know it instantly because you've just confused pregnant with embarrassed. It's happened before. In fact, the Parker Pen company claimed that Parker Pens "won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." However they mistranslated it to "No te embarazará chorreándose en tu bolsillo", which means "Won't leak in your pocket and impregnate you."1 Imagine if that had been posted to Instagram!
5. Version control. If you take on the localization in-house, chances are you'll be farming it out to many different people potentially in many different locations, and that means that changes in the text may get lost across channels and languages. A localization firm will provide a dedicated project manager who's job is to keep those changes straight and make sure they flow through your entire project.
These are just a few of the reasons why it saves time and money in the long run to hire a localization firm to adapt your product and marketing materials for international markets. For more tips, read our Translation Insights. There are enough challenges to moving into international markets. Make sure your own materials don't become an obstacle to success.
1. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embarazada
More than 60% of people prefer to buy from websites in their own language. And Common Sense Advisory also reports that the majority of people will spend more money on a product if the information about that product is in their own language. So it's clearly beneficial to localize your website for each of your markets, but how can you reduce the time and cost involved?
1. Anoint a guru of localization. As with all large corporate-wide initiatives, you need have someone lead the charge--someone who owns localization across the company. Among other things, she should be keeping track of: the different markets for which you'll be creating localized content, the content streams that will need to be translated, the array of social media feeds, and the various product line offerings. In essence, anything that will go on any website needs to be tracked and given a priority ranking.
2. Put a process in place. Planning for localization begins when you start planning for a new product or a new line extension. By building localization into the process from the very beginning you will reduce time and effort later. This does not mean that you should start translating your early draft documents into 15 languages, but that you should be looking at your different markets and determining what sort of customization will need to occur in order to launch in each of those markets.
3. Optimize User Experience For Each Market. When you begin thinking about the websites themselves, you'll need to look at overall user experience, page layout, common usage patterns for the individual markets, local color preferences, and local image preferences. Be aware of how your design will be affected by languages that read right to left, and how languages that have longer words may need more space for navigation. If you're marketing to countries with slower internet speeds, you may need to have fewer images. And, your images should reflect local aesthetics. Also, if you don't plan to offer your entire product line in a particular country, cull your pictures accordingly.
4. Adjust Your Writing Style. Once you've determined the content you will localize, don't translate it word for word, but adjust it for the local market. For example, some markets are more formal than others, some customers expect highly detailed, fact-based product descriptions, while in other markets, you'd be better off with descriptions that are aspirational in nature.
5. Create a standard glossary. This will save a lot of time in the end, especially when it comes to translating technical terms and industry jargon. Each language should have a list of common terms and phrases to ensure consistency throughout all your product and consumer marketing, ensuring that customers see the same term on your website as appears on your tv ads, your brochures, and your product manuals.
6. Localize your SEO. Make sure your titles are translated and accurate, your headers are clear, and your ALT attributes are descriptive. Over time, look at your data through Google's country filter and tweak each site to improve your retention and conversion rates.
These tips should be looked at as a starting point. Localization is an ongoing process. Every new piece of content your marketing department generates needs to be examined for relevancy to each market and with an eye to adjusting it to provide the most value to those customers.
In a recent article in Brand Quarterly, Dr. Nitish Singh discusses how companies have historically centralized their marketing functions, standardized their identity across markets, concentrated on a few brands, and limited their packaging sizes and styles. However, as Dr. Singh explains, these companies should be moving away from standardization and toward localization. If they don’t, they risk missing many great opportunities and could even be offending or alienating potential customers.
In addition to relaying stories about the trouble companies get into when trying to directly translate their name into other languages, Dr. Singh discusses other aspects of localization and how critical it is to understand regional markets and adapt to them.
An interesting point that Dr. Singh makes is that pricing affects perception in the marketplace. He points out that a low-end U.S. brand may actually be a mid-range brand in another country. If you use the same marketing strategy, it’s unlikely to work, given that your consumer perceives a different level of quality. Think about the difference in an ad campaign between a budget furniture brand and a high-end brand. You would probably be confused if the high-end brand used the bright colors, graphics, and jingles that we expect from the budget-priced product. To be successful, you need to adapt your copy and perhaps your look and feel so that your marketing efforts reflect your product placement.
The article also discusses how standardizing your product packaging may limit your sales. In the U.S., consumers often want to buy products in bulk, but in places like India, customers frequently want to buy in very small packages. How can you manufacture and ship smaller packaging, but still price it so that you make a profit? Again, how does it affect your in-country marketing strategy? You need to plan for less room on the packaging itself, consider how to display smaller packages on shelves, and decide which product attributes should be called out on the packaging to appeal to that region's shopper. Don't forget to think about packaging color too. What looks attractive in one country may not appeal in another.
Social media and purchasing methods also vary greatly from country to country. In some countries, more than 50% of purchases are made from mobile devices. In Japan, customers may make the purchase online, but expect to pick up the product in person. You should familiarize yourself with the popular purchase and delivery options for each region, but also think about any disruptive technologies that may put you ahead. If you're used to selling your product online, how can you push mobile purchasing in a market that hasn't yet adopted that method? What incentives will work for those consumers? Note that if you pursue an online strategy you will need to create a site in that region's language. You cannot expect consumers in other countries to purchase from an English language site. In the case of a market like Japan, is there a local delivery company whose services you can engage so that your customer no longer has to go to the store to pick up your product? Consumers are likely to choose your product over your competitors if you make the purchase easier for them.
Companies that research marketing, packaging, and distribution for each regional market can gain a great advantage by creating manufacturing efficiencies where practical, but also tailoring product and consumer marketing where it will lead to greater sales. Don’t just translate the words on your packaging and websites, but adapt the content to appeal to the consumers in each local market. Learn from your successes from the U.S. market, but combine them with what consumers expect from their local shopping experiences and you're more likely to beat out your competition.
As we recently Tweeted, U.S. metropolitan area exports were up $36 billion dollars in 2014, reaching $1.14 trillion. Houston led the way with exports of $119 billion. The next four largest exporting cities were New York, LA, Seattle, and Detroit.(1) But what does this mean for you?
We think it shows that despite the strong dollar, U.S. goods are in high demand, and if you're not looking for opportunities to diversify globally, then you're missing out on potential revenue streams. If you're just getting started, you may want to download the commerce department's export guide. The book strives to answer any questions you may have about exporting.
Also just released at trade.gov, are the 2015 Top Market reports. These reports provide an assessment of future industry-specific export opportunities and an examination of the competitive landscape. Available free for 19 different industries, the reports include sector snapshots and detailed information for specific countries.
Once you've figured out where your industry is heading and what countries are your best bets, be sure to take the time to create a detailed marketing plan for how to enter foreign markets. Pay close attention to what each market's consumers want and talk up those features. Each market you examine may get excited about different aspects of your product, so it's good to do your homework. You may also want to tweak your offerings. For example, in some markets red is a lucky, and highly desired color, but in other markets it may not be popular at all. Just by doing even a little consumer preferences research, you'll increase your chance of success. Remember, it's better to make a good impression from the start, as it can be much harder and more costly to repair a reputation than to build it from scratch.
And finally, don't forget that part of your marketing plan needs to include localization of your marketing materials: videos, website, sales sheets, case studies, and your social media presence. Your overseas prospects are far more likely to buy from you if you market to them in their own language.
SAP CEO and The Power Of Meetings
Are you someone who thinks corporate meetings are a boondoggle, dreamed up by people who want a party and don't care about wasting valuable time and money?
SAP's CEO Bill McDermot argues in this CNBC OpEd that corporate meetings can be highly productive and extremely influential in improving employee moral and productivity, even helping companies to turn themselves around. Additionally, they inject money into the local economies where they are held, providing a positive ripple effect to local businesses.
McDermont's right, you can accomplish far more with people when you're all in the same room. But, when you bring together employees from all over the world to meet each other and get aligned with corporate strategy, you're likely to run into some language barriers as well. In order to foster productive discussions and make sure that everyone's voice is heard and that everyone leaves the meeting feeling valued and knowing what direction to take in their corner of the business, you should have materials translated and hire interpreters. Don't make employees use their second or third language skills. This can lead to misunderstandings and a failure to properly communicate. By having linguists on hand to help your overseas employees navigate the meeting, you'll ensure full participation and money well spent.
Conferences draw more and more of their audiences from overseas, and the number of meetings that rotate among at least three countries is up as well. Add in that in March, The Center for Exhibition Industry Research reported the 18th straight quarter of growth for the industry, and you’ll see that in spite of access to conference calls, Skype, and social media, we all really value the chance to meet others in-person and create the deeper connections such opportunities provide. With that in mind, we have a few tips for how to attract international attendees and make sure they go home raving about your conference.
1. Identify your attendees and target them in their language. This seems obvious, but many people don’t think through this carefully enough. In addition to buyers, are you targeting suppliers, partners, or trade groups? Next, market to those groups in their own languages with the content adjusted to reflect what they value and want to learn about. You will come across with much more credibility, plus it will reassure them that your conference really is set-up for international attendees. Bonus tip: check the holiday calendars of your international markets to avoid scheduling your conference when your target attendees are unavailable.
2. Hire an event manager. This is especially important if the conference you’re planning is outside your own country. Event Managers know the local venues and suppliers and can make sure that you get exactly what you need for your conference. If the site you pick is overseas, it may be difficult or too expensive for you to visit more than once before your conference, so an event manager is an essential go-between. Additionally, if there are language barriers, an event manager can help you negotiate contracts and make sure the little details are properly discussed. Your event manager should be local and speak the local language, which means you may find you need to hire an interpreter to work with you and your event manager to be sure you fully understand each other, but in the long run you will save money and reduce your stress level.
3. Offer translation and interpretation services. Although your international attendees are highly likely to speak English, it is not their first language and they may find it difficult to understand all of your speakers and to follow along in fast paced discussions. Think about how hard it can be for you to understand people with heavy accents, even the difference between U.S. English and Irish English can be difficult. Hire interpreters for all your sessions from keynote to breakout in the major languages that are in attendance. If you have interpreters, your Q&A sessions and discussions will be livelier and more inclusive.
Depending on your budget, you may also want to offer to translate key handouts, especially for your high profile speakers. And you should consider having signage in multiple languages if you anticipate a large number of international attendees. Finally, if you plan to communicate conference information through a mobile app or Twitter, you should hire a translator to make your communications available in all the major languages spoken at the conference. This will ensure that all of your attendees are in the loop.
4. Consider cultural differences. Think about how the customs of your international attendees may be different from your own. For example, in many cultures, people drink hot chocolate in the morning or during coffee breaks. In China, food is usually served during coffee breaks. It’s relatively easy and low cost to have muffins or fruit available, and if it makes your attendees happier, why not accommodate them? For dinners, you should offer vegetarian alternatives, and talk to your caterer to get his advice about the dietary customs of other cultures.
Be prepared for your international attendees to be extremely punctual or perhaps more than fashionably late, based on their own cultural norms. German attendees are likely to be right on time and expect you to be on time too. Japanese are likely to arrive early, while Brazilians may arrive late. If you expect a large contingent from one culture, you should find out ahead of time what to expect and manage speaker expectations accordingly.
Getting attendees from other countries to attend your conference will raise your institution’s profile, improve conference networking opportunities, and create exciting business opportunities for your entire audience. By following these four tips, you will ensure that your international audience will return home planning to attend the following year, and even better, they'll spread the word.
Google Analytics for Localization
When is the last time you extracted information from Google Analytics about which global locations your website visitors came from? If you're only looking at webpage visits in aggregate, you're missing out on a wealth of information that can help you better target your customers.
1. Find out where your customers live.
Are they all from the U.S. or do they come from all over the world? Click on a specific country to determine which region or cities your visitors live in. How do conversion rates differ across regions? Is there an opportunity to create a marketing campaign that targets a specific city, region or country?
2. Find out whisch languages your visitors speak.
If your website is only in English, but you have a large number of French visitors, maybe it's time you invested in a French language site. If you have a high bounce rate, could that be the reason?
3. Learn more about visiting patterns.
How do visitors from specific countries vary by new/return user rates? If you localize your site for a foreign market, how might you want to adapt your content based on those rates? Check out how users from different countries or cities flow through your site. What is similar and what's different? This is another chance to think about targeted marketing campaigns based on user interest/awareness.
4. How did your international users get to your site?
Did they come directly, through a campaign, a local referral, or a search engine? Maybe you need to significantly increase your use of social media in a particular region or maybe you need different ad words. Thinking about usage patterns can help you be more creative about acquisition.
5. Use of multilingual sites
If you determine that you need to localize your site for different regions, you should do a little research about how to best set up those sites so that Google indexes them properly. A quick cheat sheet can be found here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/182192?hl=en
The point is that by delving into the international data that Google Analytics provides, you can learn a huge amount about your visitors that can help you prioritize the localization of your site, improve the targeting of your marketing campaigns, and determine which local markets to put your advertising dollars in.
You’re ready to expand your company internationally. You’re working hard to get your website up and running and figure out the tax code and shipping procedures, but have you given enough thought to the cultural differences between the U.S. and your new market?
Different languages, aesthetics, and values all create challenges to your expansion efforts, but by adjusting your marketing strategy to fit local markets, you can provide your company with a competitive advantage.
Read our guest blog on the Boston Chamber of Commerce's website to learn 4 strategies that will help make your company successful internationally.
Localization and SEO
If you've localized your website for your international markets, you've taken a good first step toward tapping your global customer base. But online competition is becoming fiercer and your marketing has to get even more sophisticated in order to compete effectively. As this Multichannel Merchant article reports, in countries outside of the U.S. there are (gasp) other popular search engines besides Google, and they use different algorithms to serve up top search results. For example, if you're marketing in China, you'll need to optimize for Baidu which has nearly 60% of the market.
Additionally, you need to pay close attention to your SEO terms. Hire a professional translator to ensure that you correctly translate your key words and ask them to think broadly about what words the local market uses. In the same MCM article, they cite a French example where a chocolate sweet roll is usually called a pain au chocolat, but in the southwest it's called chocolatine. You'll encounter the same issues in Latin America, where English words translate very differently depending on country and region. For example, green beans can be translated to
habichuela, chauncha, vainita, or ejote depending on the region. If you happen to be peddling green beans, the SEO words you choose could have a huge impact on your search ranking.
Think about the U.S. market. In some areas you would order a sub sandwich, but across the country we also have hoagies, grinders, heroes, and spuckies. If you use the wrong term for your market, you won't get nearly so many customers.
If your product is trendy, you'll have to be even more aware of what terms local consumers use. Keep a close eye on social media for each market and adapt your strategy to the local terminology.
Increasingly the word transcreation is popping up on the internet and you may be wondering what it means. Well, building off of last week's blog, transcreation means adapting a marketing message from one language to another while keeping the tone, style, and intent the same. This generally means that marketing messages should not be translated word for word, as such a translation would result in stilted, awkward text and is likely to have diminished impact in the target market. Rather, the professional translator should read the entire text to be translated and then render it in the target language so that it accurately reflects the intentions and feel of the original.
Often transcreation will require translators to substitute different jokes, appropriate in-country slang, or modified rhymes. If your original marketing message ties into what's currently in vogue in your culture, for example with teen slang or referenced pop music, your translator will need to understand the culture of the destination language well enough to use appropriate references from that market so that the essence of the marketing message remains the same and is relevant to the local consumer.
So the next time you take your marketing campaign out of country, give your translation team a little leeway to fully adapt your message to the local market. You won't get a word-for-word translation, but you will get great results.