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The Global Marketing Dilemma: To Localize or Not to Localize

By Richard Harpham, President & CEO, Cloudwords

Richard Harpham, President & CEO, Cloudwords

Thanks to increased accessibility to the Internet, the proliferation of mobile devices and the escalation of digital marketing, the world is connected and information is at our fingertips anytime, anywhere. As the global buyer’s journey increasingly takes place online, each stage needs to be addressed with different content tailored to the appropriate stage, which is a complex process even for one language and one region.

When companies begin to market and sell to multiple regions, they are challenged to implement an efficient process that leverages their existing marketing tech stack, and therefore face a common global marketing dilemma – they only have the resources to localize content for some regions and not others, or they are only able to localize superficial content, but not all necessary touchpoints.

The Benefits of Going Global

Localization of content has a very measurable impact on business growth and competitive advantage. One study found that Fortune 500 companies that delivered content in native languages to keep up with or to gain an edge over their competitors were two times more likely to have an increase in profits.

To effectively engage multilingual audiences, companies need to know the difference between translation versus localization and the impact it can make on top line revenue. Customers today expect personalized, tailored messaging, which means marketers can’t just translate the same content developed for the market where their headquarters are located.

To effectively engage multilingual audiences, companies need to know the difference between translation versus localization and the impact it can make on top line revenue.”

Translation is the process of transforming text from one language into another, but to effectively engage audiences in different regions, content and messaging must be localized. Localization takes into account the cultural references, customs and values, and local jargon of the region and language. Human translators who are native speakers and are familiar with the target region produce higher quality localized content than machine translation tools.

The Content Explosion Leads to Translation Trade-Offs

As companies seek new regions and expand into existing ones, the globalization process gets even trickier because companies now need to reach multiple markets in multiple languages simultaneously. And, by the way, it takes 12 languages to reach 80 percent of global online buyers. Without the right tools, it can be very challenging to manage the localization process of a multichannel campaign, including website landing pages, mobile, social, email, etc., into 8, 12, or 26 languages simultaneously. 

So the volume of content being created is proliferating and marketers are challenged to manage the localization of all of this content to reach buyers with the appropriate content at the right time in their target languages. So what happens? Companies begin to triage their global marketing efforts.

I witness major global brands face this same scenario: “We’d love to launch in Germany, France, Japan, and China, but we only have the time and budget for our European markets. Sorry sales team in APAC.” Thus, their APAC regions are left to either market and sell with content that has not been localized (ineffective), or they scramble to develop materials on their own (inefficient).

Another trade-off global marketers make is simply translating one touchpoint, but leave all other materials extending beyond that point in English. The customer experience is incomplete. We’ve all visited websites where the homepage is in your language, but you click for more information and the other pages haven’t been localized. Chances are, they’ve lost you as a customer — in fact, more than half of consumers say the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price. Creating a fully rounded content experience is crucial to success.

The company is leaving opportunity and revenue on the table.

Leverage Your Existing Tech Stack

Companies that do global well think global first, not as an afterthought, which means they don’t just tack on translation of content at the end of the process. They consider it a competitive advantage to invest in technology to make localization happen faster and better. To achieve a strong global presence, the marketing strategy and the content plan must consider the needs of all regions at the outset, ensuring they have the tools and content necessary to successfully engage their market’s audience, and they no longer have to face the dilemma of what do they have time to localize, and what can they afford.

In order to accelerate the globalization process and achieve efficiency, it makes sense for a company to integrate a translation automation platform with their content management and marketing automation platforms. Leveraging translation workflow automation technology with their martech tools enables companies to manage and streamline the localization process more efficiently and cost-effectively.

By optimizing the process of localizing materials, including landing pages, email campaigns, videos, white papers, eBooks, blogs, case studies, how-to guides, FAQs, and more, companies can launch into global markets and deliver multi-language content faster and easier. And again, the end result enables your regional teams to reach and engage international audiences more successfully, and grow global revenue faster.