Most companies only consider an international expansion strategy because they’re in a position where they must do so. They may be performing poorly stateside, have reached a business plateau, or have spotted a new market opportunity they can’t afford to miss. But when time is of the essence, the localization strategy can become much more challenging.
To avoid this common pitfall, it’s best to start early and small when it comes to localization. If you plan for international market growth and expansion from the very start, it will be easier when you’re ready to execute. With this method, you’ll gain more meaningful insights into the process, more successful traction in marketing and SEO, and an overall better localization return on investment (ROI).
How Starting Localization Early Gives You a Competitive Edge
Starting your localization strategy early is the best way to gain an edge on the competition. That means creating your plans when your brand is still growing as opposed to when you reach a plateau. Here are just a few ways that early localization gives you an edge:
- Greater SEO traction: You can write content regularly, run marketing campaigns, and gain prestigious backlinks to gain an SEO edge, but you can’t change the age of your content. Aged content gets an advantage in keyword rankings, so the earlier you start to publish content in a foreign language, the more likely you will gain the benefits of age.
- Stronger ROI: A slow and steady localization campaign that scales with you is much more cost-effective than a massive one. Translating thousands of pages at once is far more expensive than translating just one at a time. Plus, that single page you translate starts paying dividends from day one, while it could take years for a major translation project to pay for itself.
- Easier to overcome the learning curve: There will always be a learning curve when it comes to translation. You may start your project without using a glossary, for example, and then learn you need one. If you’re only a few pages in, it’s easy to course correct. If you’re thousands of pages in, however, it’s much more challenging. The more you localize, the more you learn. Starting small ensures you make the most of that knowledge.
- Superior credibility: The company that can offer a web page in the customer’s target language will be the one they trust first. Even offering just a few pages in the customer’s native tongue can give your company a credibility boost that makes the customer choose your company over the competition.
- Better customer insights: Publishing content in a specific language can provide you with insight into that demographic’s thoughts and opinions towards your brand. This data can be used to help you make more meaningful decisions when considering broader shifts into specific markets. For example, if you have a web page in French and Spanish, and only the Spanish one sees any traffic, you’ll know which language you’ll want to invest in and target first.
There are almost no downsides to starting a localization project before your brand grows large and becomes infinitely more complex to globalize. There are a few simple steps you can take early on to ensure that when it’s time to branch out into a full-scale marketing campaign, you’ll be ready.
Setting the Foundation for an International Expansion Strategy
Building a foundation for international expansion does not have to be overly complicated; all you have to do is ensure you have everything you need in place when it comes time to start translating and publishing content for a new region. Here are just a few ideas for streamlining the path to new markets:
- Align the glossary/lexicon: The best time to get the glossary and corporate lexicon ready is before it’s needed. Establishing the brand’s voice, tone, campaigns, and other content beforehand helps create a single source of truth for all subsequent translations.
- Clean up your code: Creating a consistent policy for the treatment of variables, comments, structured text, and other coding nuances will ensure an easier transition to another language later. Comments can also provide needed context to translators, making future work more accurate in every language.
- Leverage machine translation: Machine translation is an excellent tool to use when setting a baseline for demand. Translating just a few web pages or pieces of content and then monitoring the results will show you where to focus your future efforts. Plus, if you’re using an advanced machine translation platform, you can train it to become better and more accurate over time.
- Choose a platform: A localization management platform will help you control your workflow and manage your project. Ideally, you’ll want to select a platform that offers an end-to-end solution and can integrate with your content management system as well as other needed platforms.
- Establish regional leaders: Once you choose a market, you’re going to need a single point of contact for all future work. Without one, there will likely be conflicting opinions and ideas among managers that may make it challenging to manage and complete projects.
Your international expansion strategy will be much more manageable and successful if you start small and early with a solid foundation that supports growth and offers scalability. This will enable you to quickly enter new markets and successfully manage the challenges of a global launch.