Cut Translation Costs while continuing to grow internationally

Large-global enterprises spend tens of millions of dollars a year on translation and localization.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min
Table of Contents

Smaller companies that operate globally often devote a large portion of their global marketing budgets to translation and localization. The spend is justified as long as these companies prosper from growth and expansion overseas. However, when recession and challenges hit, companies are often forced to scrutinize closely how this spend is composed and managed. The pivotal question remains: how do you spend the least amount of money on translation and localization while continuing to grow and expand internationally?In this article, we will explore a few scenarios as well as their pros and cons.

Scenario 1: Cut down on localizable content

According to Occam’s razor, the simplest approach is typically the best approach. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Choose content that is localized more carefully, focusing on the essentials.  

  • App check,
  • Main web pages check,
  • Main support pages check.

Anything not essential gets tossed out of the localization and translation planning and budgeting. Cut down to the core and translate any non-essential content on an exception basis only.Pros: This approach generates an instant impact on your bottom line.

  • Translation spending will plummet overnight.
  • Your product will continue to look localized and
  • you will not have to go through the pain of re-architecting your localization process.

Cons: It’s hard to make the call between essential and non-essential.  This approach has a short shelf life.

  • You will often assess incorrectly and have to work reactively to repair an essential component that was left out of the translation and localization scope.

As time goes on, less and less material and updates will be available in international markets and new customers will be reluctant to sign on as well as you are likely to see an increase in churn rate from current customers/subscribers.

Scenario 2: Cut down on markets

The second simplest approach is to keep the content the same but shut down all of the least profitable or slowest growth markets. This will sever off non-performing components and divert all efforts into the markets that best perform. Pros:

  • This approach also generates an instant impact on your bottom line.
  • Translation spending will also sharply decrease overnight.


  • This comes at a great cost. You will have to drop initiatives/markets before they reach their maturity. This means you must be able to treat all of your investment in these markets (potentially years of intense investment) down the drain. You may be able to mitigate some of these losses by selling off local international operations to local or international competitors, but this approach requires a dramatic shift in business strategy.

Scenario 3: Leverage machine translation

This solution may seem like the big fix. Stop spending on expensive translation work and process your translations spending pennies on the dollar with machine translation engines. Sounds tempting, right? That’s because it is. With machine translation quality often reaching 90% accuracy contingent on the subject matter, engine tuning, and writing style, it seems like a no-brainer. Keep all your content, and all your markets and cut down on costs. But it’s not that simple. The interpretation of language and production of language is not linear. That 10% could mean the difference between a successful transaction and becoming an embarrassment or even a meme in your industry. While machine translation continues to improve by the day, the mistakes it does make are typically catastrophic, mistranslating proper names, misunderstanding idioms, and communicating key concepts in a clumsy if not disastrous manner. And you never know where it’s going to go wrong. Maybe it’s going to go smoothly all the way down to some sentence in a lost paragraph that no one will ever pay attention to. Maybe it’s going to be a blunder right on your hero. Pros:

  • Maintain your content output in multiple languages and markets.
  • Cut your translation spend by 80 or even 90%.


  • Lose control over the quality of your international content production,
  • Potentially implode brand image, reputation, and credibility. P.s.
  • Google “knows” (can infer) based on how people react to your content as well as how the writing style compares to engines whether your text has been authored by a machine or a human being.

Scenario 4: Explore tech-leveraged savings

If well deployed, tech can cut down significantly on your costs. You can automate certain tasks and get rid of unnecessary overhead by deploying connectors for instance that remove the need to manually set up and receive translation projects. You can avoid going through translation agencies and work directly with translators using the right tech. You can also use tech to create data-driven processes, such as only translating pages once they reach a certain number of views. Pros:

  • You can leverage tech to make your entire localization production chain more efficient and less expensive without compromising on quality or content scope.


  • You won’t see any savings right away and even when you do they may not be significant enough.

Scenario 5: Mix and match

I saved the best for last. But I’m not sure it’s the best. It’s definitely the most complex and has the biggest potential but it’s challenging to implement successfully. This approach suggests taking the best of each approach mentioned above and implementing intelligently. Maybe you should cut down on scope and focus more on core content that leads to positive business outcomes. Maybe you should reduce the number of languages you cover or the languages you operate in. But these decisions won’t be simple to make nor will they be the sole drivers of cost reduction. They are a part of a larger strategy that must focus on minimizing investment and maximizing return. It’s an art. And part of the art begins with working with tech such as Bureau Works which gives you maximal flexibility as far as business decision-making. Software like Bureau Works allows you to cut down on overhead by automating key processes. It allows you to continue to operate with your current vendors but maximize leveraging through our unique approach to parsing, segmentation, and regular expressions. Bureau Works is also special in the sense that it allows you to work directly with translators if you are looking for an opportunity to cut down on agency costs. Most importantly, Bureau Works allows you to treat content differently and create different smart paths for your content. Some content created with certain conditions may trigger machine translation-only workflows, while other content may trigger a combination of machine translation + minimal human intervention, other content may trigger machine translation with several rounds of human intervention to ensure maximum adaptation such as a transcreation followed by an in-market review. Pros:

  • This sets you on a long-term trajectory towards continuous improvement,
  • Data-driven decision-making and minimizes overhead without compromising on the content quality experienced by your international customer base.


  • This approach requires working with the right software and the right partners that will enable you to tread down that path.
  • Returns may not be immediate as implementation is often complex and challenging but the long terms gains are evergreen.

Want to know what path works best for you? Schedule a free consultation with one of our localization specialists.

Gabriel Fairman
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