When your startup decided to go global, how did you choose which markets to enter? Your team probably put a lot of effort into researching demographics, economic data, competitors in your industry, and legal information—the pillars of any good global marketing strategy. But most companies forget to consult the data on one crucial point: language.
The truth is, from the moment you put out a website, app, or software, your company already has a global presence. Online users all over the world are already examining your product and comparing it with alternatives in their own markets. The real question is where, how, and when to localize content for those markets. And localization has everything to do with language.
Thankfully, abundant linguistic data exists that can help shape your marketing strategy. The following tips will help you harness that data and create a content localization strategy with a much higher return on your investment.
Tips for Startups Approaching Global Marketing Strategy
1 – Evaluate existing international traffic.
Every global marketing campaign begins with in-depth market research. While you’re still in this preparatory stage, take a close look at the international traffic you’re already getting. Consider which target keywords have the most search volume in each of your potential markets. Utilize sentiment analysis to judge how your company is being talked about by international audiences on social media. Then use this data to make informed decisions about where and how to localize.
For example, let’s say you’re seeing large traffic spikes coming in from Germany. These people already use your product and love your brand. There are two different ways to move forward from this fortunate happenstance. You could release a fully localized marketing campaign in German and hope to capitalize on that momentum. Or, assuming these users aren’t clamoring for a German language version of your product, you could focus localization efforts in France instead to tap a whole new population of users. Alternatively, you could do a layer of localization in German—perhaps a product tutorial or a specific marketing campaign—to reach even more interested users without taxing your resources as heavily in that already successful market.
The big questions you need to ask: Is there an appetite for translation in this market? The data-driven approach indicates that you should focus on markets where the answer to that question is a resounding “YES.”
2 – Decide which languages matter most.
Newsflash: most locales speak multiple languages, but not all of them matter for your brand. Before you start translating content, you need to get laser focused on which languages are actually necessary. If you’re expanding service into Singapore, for instance, you could be looking at translating into at least four different languages. Malay is the most obvious, but plenty of people also speak Tamil, Mandarin, and even English.
The good news is, you don’t have to localize content in all of these languages in order to be successful. Instead, identify your target demographic and determine which language they’re speaking. Plenty of census data exists to show which languages are spoken by particular segments of each of the world’s major markets. Use it to your advantage.
3 – Treat localization like SEO.
When startups enter new markets, they tend to run full speed ahead. Companies want fully localized product, marketing, and support content and they want it in every language possible because they’re afraid of disappointing international audiences. They want this broad reach at the same time that they want to minimize their localization spend.
You can’t have it both ways.
In order to maximize your return on investment, you need to run marketing experiments and pivot according to the results—essentially treating your global marketing strategy like SEO. Want to release full-blown marketing videos with voiceover in Brazilian Portugese? Try releasing just one video and seeing how it performs in comparison to videos you already have in English. If 50% more people click on the Portugese version, you know you’ve got a potential lead.
4 – Consider all your content options.
The most important reason you should develop a content localization strategy is to save your marketing budget. You can eliminate thousands in annual marketing costs by being smart and localizing where it counts. In order to make those informed decisions and avoid the most basic localization mistakes, you need to understand all the content options available to you.
First, consider entering markets where you don’t have to pay to translate content at all. Denmark and the Netherlands are two international markets that might not require translation—just create localized content in English and you’ll be good to go. Similarly, if you’re targeting Chinese Americans currently living in Hong Kong, there’s no reason to translate your content into Chinese as well. Save the money and focus your localization efforts elsewhere.
Another option is to create content from scratch in your target languages instead of paying a premium for translation. Think about it. Instead of paying thousands of dollars to translate thick ebooks and white papers for every target market, you could just write a new piece of gated content in each of those key languages. This realization alone will help downsize your localization efforts and increase your ROI.
5 – Start small and plan for growth.
By this point, you’ve planned ahead, budgeted, strategized, and researched your way into a killer global marketing strategy. When it’s finally time to start pushing content through a localization platform, start small and plan to grow.
Translate small things first, such as your app store description and the short promo videos accompanying it. Consider overlaying translated subtitles on a software tutorial rather than doing the entire voiceover from scratch. Set up localization tiers, whereby certain markets get the full meal deal (website, support content, and fully localized videos) while others just get the website. It’s better to have something rather than nothing, and your lack of Hungarian support content isn’t likely to alienate any of your potential customers while you work on catching up.
Starting small also means you won’t risk putting all of your eggs into one localization basket. If Hungary turns out not to be the right market for your product, you’ll be really glad you didn’t spend half your budget localizing content in Hungarian before the official launch.
Keep Calm and Use the Data
Marketing isn’t all or nothing. You know this. Yet so many companies operate under the assumption that when they go global, they have to hit new markets full force with all the translated content all at the same time.
The truth is, most language service providers love that attitude. Clients who believe this assumption put countless dollars into LSP’s already-deep pockets—with no one the wiser.
We’re not interested in hoodwinking startups into paying for content they don’t need. That’s why we always encourage our clients to think critically, test the waters, and use data to plan a trajectory that’s both cost-efficient and effective.
Look for a localization partner who will keep you on track. With the right support team, you’ll develop a global marketing strategy that’s got a seriously high rate of success and an even higher ROI.
Bureau Works is a localization firm with a no-BS attitude toward global marketing. We know what it takes to gain traction in markets all over the world, and we coach startups and enterprises alike on how to use localization to make that happen. Looking for a localization partner who will help your company strategize for global success? Contact our team.
Written by Aaron Schliem
Aaron is the chief marketing officer for Bureau Works. He also loves to tickle the ivories and is a wiz at designing cocktails.