Every successful global marketing strategy depends on translation. Marketing managers know this. You seek out language vendors to take your existing content and transform it for use abroad. The problem is that many companies jump into localization way too quickly and end up paying more than they intended for translations that don’t meet their expectations.
By learning more about marketing translation and the localization industry as a whole, you can avoid these pitfalls and create a localization strategy that actually works in your favor. It all starts with getting answers to the most important questions so you’re prepared to sign with a vendor and begin localization the right way.
How much does marketing translation cost?
Every marketing manager who comes through our doors asks, “How much is this going to cost?” Most translation and localization companies charge a per-word fee. This can be anywhere from 5 cents to 50 cents per word, per language. To determine how much marketing translation will cost, you need to know roughly how many words you’ll be translating.
No, this isn’t exactly a quick and easy question. But it’s worth getting a complete and honest answer about cost so you’re not facing expensive disappointment down the road. You’ll need to export all of your localizable content in order for vendors to do a thorough audit. Likewise, it’s important to give vendors a clear idea of all sources and types of content that may be involved. If you don’t already have a clear estimate yourself of how many such files you’ll need translated in a year, now is the time to line up that estimate. Only then can you bank on getting an accurate quote.
You’ll also want to be very aware of all the hidden costs of translation. Some of the biggest translation companies openly charge fees for server space, going over an arbitrary word limit, downloading your own translation memory, and other ridiculous line items. Take your money to a company that doesn’t nickel and dime their clients. Look for a partner committed to transparency from the start.
What should we do before approaching a vendor?
Before you can figure out your translation workload, we recommend taking the time to craft a viable global marketing strategy. Decide now which countries are worth targeting and which languages within those locales are used most by your potential customers.
Spoiler → Just because you’re targeting one locale doesn’t mean you’re targeting only one language. In many parts of the US, for example, it would be wise to localize content in Spanish as well as in English.
After you’ve nailed down your locales and languages, you’ll need to consider:
- Product and Service Adaptation. Does your base product or service function abroad? If you’ll be making adjustments for product globalization, you’ll also need to change your marketing materials to match.
- Technical Functionality. Is your website, app, or software set up to accommodate content in multiple languages? Make sure your developers know where all of this new content will live within your existing architecture.
- User Experience. Think about your user interface and the actual content itself. Is everything agreeable to users in your target locale? If not, you need to make those changes now before wasting time and money on translation.
Which marketing elements should we localize?
In short, all of them. The elements that go into a successful global marketing campaign are the same elements that your team already uses. You simply need to do the market research to determine which channels are most profitable for your business in each locale you’re targeting.
If you don’t have that data readily available, we recommend starting small and testing your options before investing more heavily. Perhaps customers in Brazil read more email messages, on average, than their German counterparts do. You won’t know that until you do some A/B testing. Choose one or two major marketing channels to localize, and see how the market responds. By taking the time to proceed slowly, you’ll avoid the localization mistakes that can waste time and resources.
A note on blogs → Content marketing is an incredibly useful strategy in any language. But translating blog content from one language to another can be costly (due to the sheer number of words) and troublesome (due to idioms, examples, and framings that don’t function outside their original locale). SEO and keyword strategy would also need to be reworked in each target language. Overall, it makes more sense to balance your efforts between translating existing content and hiring a local content marketing service to write from scratch in each of your most viable target languages.
How will we know the translations are good?
You don’t speak all of these target languages, and neither does anyone on your team. How do you know the translation service you’re paying for is actually doing good work? With just a bit of industry knowledge, you can verify the quality of a translation company before ever signing a contract. And you definitely don’t have to take them at their word. If a vendor says “just trust us” with their translation quality, you should take your money elsewhere.
The best translation companies know that there’s no such thing as a perfect translation. No communication is perfect—but we do our best to create content that hits close to that bullseye.
Knowing that, you can spot a good translation company based on how they talk about quality. Can they present actual data to support the number of edits their translators receive? Do they openly share who’s doing the translation work and what qualifications these individuals have? Do they encourage you to involve your own in-market reviewers early on in the localization process?
These questions also depend on where you fall within the localization vs translation debate. Most of the time, when companies ask for transcreation services, a really good localization job will do the trick. You don’t need to pay a premium for transcreated content when all you need is to have your content sound natural and organic in each of your locales. A good localization company can handle this task with ease.
Proceed with Marketing Translation as a Global Enterprise
In the end, we suggest making a distinct paradigm shift in the way you look at your company and its journey. Rather than seeing a United States company moving into international markets, start embracing your position as a global entity. This change in perspective will set your content localization strategy in a sustainable direction.
With these big questions answered, you’re prepared to make critical decisions about which marketing materials get translated and which projects need to start fresh. Likewise, you’re primed to hire the right partner for your marketing translation campaign. You won’t settle for a company that can crank out the most translations for the lowest price and the quickest turnaround. Instead, you’ll prioritize quality, strategy, and longevity—thus landing on far superior content for end users around the world.
If you’re ready for a strategic partnership that can take your marketing translation strategy to the next level, consider Bureau Works. Our localization platform comes with managed back-end services that make localization a far more data-driven and quality-controlled endeavor. Contact our team to start taking your marketing materials to a global audience.
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.