Localization services are needed more than ever before to help businesses reach and retain new foreign audiences. Content marketing — communicating with your marketing using interesting articles, visuals, and videos — has been well established as a primary method of capturing and keeping attention. But in a new market, a prerequisite for success is that you speak the language of your audience and get on their cultural wavelength. 

That’s what marketing localization services are all about, but choosing and implementing them successfully takes planning and preparation. We’ll ask some basic questions to help you “plan globally and market locally.”

Is translation really the most important part of localization strategy?

Translation may be the most important aspect of localizing a website, marketing campaign, or digital app. Without a doubt it’s indispensable. Companies that provide translation services often call themselves localization agencies and companies which offer marketing localization services present themselves as translation agencies. Localization, especially in the digital context, includes everything involved in making a global site appear appealing, understandable, and persuasive to a local audience. 

Some localization tasks are technical — adapting date and number formatting, converting currency and measurement units. But localization is more than a formal issue or even a word issue — it requires a sensitive understanding of cultural preferences of the target audience. You may get the right words, but if the “tune” of your content is wrong, you may strike the wrong chord. 

So make sure to have a native speaker on your team, or better two (one to check and back up the other), to vet content for culturally offensive or incongruent material. This way you have team members familiar with each audience’s aesthetic preferences.

Is market research and analysis necessary to start marketing localization?

Finding appropriate, culturally savvy communicators on your localization teams, however, puts the proverbial cart before the horse. Before beginning any localization effort, you need to do your homework about where to localize. Here are just a few of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself.

  • What are the most promising markets for your products and services? 
  • Which languages are most popular in the world, with the largest markets? 
  • Which are the languages and dialects spoken by your target audience? 
  • What is the level of difficulty in obtaining or creating suitable content in that language and for that target audience? 
  • What are the needs and wants of local consumers as they relate to your products and service offerings? 
  • How do you establish criteria for the creation of ongoing marketing content to attract and engage interest in a new locality?

You need to think through and address these business planning concerns before beginning with team formation and content development. Often it is wise if not essential to locate a local partner that specializes in local marketing. A global localization agency may be the most efficient and cost-effective partner for undertaking this research and dispensing this expertise. Best of all, this localization expertise is likely to be included without additional charge as part of the value-added services of working with a global agency rather than a freelancer.

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Approach expanding in this order — Localization, internationalization, globalization 

Another reason to work with localization agencies rather than freelancers is their big-picture view of the technicalities involved in localizing websites, mobile apps, and digital content. Localization is a technical process involving software developers as well as linguists. 

Software doesn’t tolerate disorder in process or in sequence. When localizing, it’s essential to follow this order — localization, internationalization, and globalization. The key step in this process is internationalization. This is where the programmers turn content items that must be localized into variables, to be later replaced by data, symbols, or phrases for each locality. 

Once internationalization has been completed, translators or developers can treat every item of content as an entry in a database. If you visualize your content as a two-dimensional matrix or data-table, each variable is a row, and each locality is a column. Globalization, then, becomes just a matter of adding columns to your marketing matrix. Meaning you get more use out of a single effort.

Should you work with a collection of freelancers or a localization agency?

If your need for “globalization” is limited to adding one additional language to your website, then you may be able to get away with cloning your current website and hiring a freelancer or two to adapt it to an additional locality. But the minute you entertain the idea of globalizing to three or more languages and localities, the complexities multiply. The cost-savings of working with lower-cost freelancers are overwhelmed by higher development costs, longer project times, and increased risks of failure due to the inability of individuals to complete such a complex project. 

When you work with a localization agency, you get the strategic counsel and insights of a company that has been through the process many times. You have a diversified linguistic and technical team to implement your project brief. You will likely liaison primarily with a personal account manager, who will take responsibility for delivering your project as specified without involving you in the daily drama of translating and troubleshooting bugs. The better agencies will give you a guarantee covering fixes and corrections for a month to a year after delivery.

So, be sure you know the scope of your project. The bigger it gets, the better off you’ll be with an agency partner over a freelancer.

Where in the world are underserved markets hungry for your products and services?

These days localization can be applied easily to all content marketing platforms from websites, social media, and videos. In some cases, localizing content means adding subtitles to a clip or adding an automated translation function to posts, comments, and tweets. 

This technical ease of localization should not mislead, however. Content is in constant flux, along with trends and interests, the key factor is building adaptability into the DNA of your localization service. 

In fast-growing, youth-oriented markets like Latin America, China, and India, the pace of content change is accelerated. Only the “fastest on their feet,” with a strong localization infrastructure for their digital assets, can stay on top of the content marketing heap. 

In general, English-speaking markets, though lucrative and established, are harder to penetrate. The young, mobile, non-English audience is where the fastest growth is. Penetrating those emerging markets is today the greatest content marketing opportunity, especially in these still pandemic-challenged times.

Set a plan before expanding into a global market

If you take anything away from this it should be that when you approach a market that requires translation, you need a plan to do so. Establish goals, know the scope, how much you’ll be investing, and be sure that you do a thorough analysis of the market. These questions will help you get through that process and develop a cohesive globalization strategy for your content. 

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AvatarOfer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is CEO of Tomedes, a language service provider that has served business clients, supporting 100+ languages for fast-turnaround, quality-assured translation, writing, and editing.