As the product manager for a booming tech startup, you don’t have time—or resources—to waste. You’ve poured everything into a product people will pay to get their hands on. Now, you have the funding to take it around the world, and your venture capitalists are ready to see movement—yesterday.
Why does localization strategy matter so much at this point? Because venture-funded startups are dead set on growing now. Because there’s too much to lose by jumping the gun. Because there’s too much to gain from globalization done well.
A content localization strategy can help you avoid the pitfalls of going global without a plan. Specifically, you need a strategy that takes into account the complete picture: your startup’s real goals, your brand and product identity, your commitment to content quality, your prime markets, your timing, your workflow. And there is a way to weave it all together for long-term success.
Why a Content Localization Strategy Is Crucial
Of course, you’re eager to position your brand firmly in front of international markets. Speed is king for startups in the digital economy. But if all you cared about was getting your product live in front of a global audience, you’d be using Google Translate for all your content and letting the chips fall where they may.
Speed matters, but so does quality. Here are four other undeniable reasons why you need to create a robust content localization strategy:
#1: You Need Scalability
The earlier you can prioritize scalability, the more you’ll be able to minimize costs and problems in the long run. When startups try to manage localization internally with a hodgepodge of computer-aided translation (CAT) tools and a whole lot of administrative overhead, localization can become an impossible mess, especially as more and more markets enter the pipeline. This approach is labor-intensive, inefficient, and much more costly than expected.
So many things can fall through the cracks in this decentralized process: user experience may suffer, your brand reputation may take a hit, and you’re bound to be backtracking to fix things that have fallen apart. None of this collapse is inevitable.
A better long-term strategy would be to invest in a comprehensive localization tool that can automate things for the sake of organization, convenience, and quality assurance. The sweet spot is where automated localization and efficient human attention meet. The ideal localization platform takes file shuffling and versioning off of your team’s plate. It even enables end-to-end integration so that localized updates launch as soon as in-market reviewers sign off.
The best part is that this strategic platform scales painlessly with your company and its markets. As you introduce new locales, a comprehensive localization partner is ready to help you build uniquely targeted terminology databases and to loop in translators ready to create optimized content. The system keeps humming along, allowing your startup to grow without breaking its own foundation.
#2: You Need Consistent Functionality
It is a short-sighted risk to develop products that are functional only in your native language. Unless your company had a really savvy CTO on board from the beginning, you’re probably facing the colossal challenge of retrofitting your software to get it internationalized.
Implementing localization for digital products after they’re built requires technical expertise and extreme caution. Taking a step back for internationalization is non-negotiable. A comprehensive localization strategy takes into account all the necessary elements moving forward. An experienced localization partner can offer foresight so you avoid costs and disappointments. You’ll get your product to market much faster, and you’ll end up with a higher-quality product for each of your target markets.
#3: You Need Your Target Markets to Buy In
A good content localization strategy is committed to brand consistency as it relates specifically to local markets. In return, you earn customer loyalty across the globe.
Running content through quick-and-cheap translation services may seem like an easy solution now, but this process does little to help solidify your company’s voice and brand messaging in other languages. Without a cohesive localization strategy, it’s easy to end up with content that feels “off” in each of your target markets. You’ll have invested time and money to get your message out to your target audience, but you’ll have missed the mark. Plus, your brand identity might suffer as a result.
Before you even dive into content localization, it’s important to identify your target markets carefully. Data-driven strategy is most likely to yield conversion results in the long run because it’s possible to anticipate how well your product will perform in the long run—and how far you need to take translations in each market.
Once you have a solid high-level localization strategy in place for your market approach, you’re ready to develop a linguistic strategy. You’ll be leveraging term bases: ever-growing repositories of branded and industry-related terms that have been localized and approved by reviewers in each locale you’re targeting. Most localization services create this living “manual” in an effort to save time and cost during translation, but the real benefit extends far beyond the localization phase.
A localization partner can help you determine which key terms are most critical to your product and your brand. Then linguists create meaningful localized content based on that centralized brand messaging. All your digital assets have consistent language and a consistent feel, and this has a significant impact on the trust you earn in other markets. Your voice isn’t lost in translation.
#4: You Need Radical Transparency
Don’t stop short of vetting your language service provider (LSP) or localization partner thoroughly. Startups looking to grow quickly might jump the gun and get wrapped up in a contract with unexpected costs and oversold accountability. Giving careful thought to your content localization strategy can help you determine which partnerships are actually worth the investment.
One prime example: translation transparency. Standard translation firms operate with six degrees of separation between you and the translators who work on your content. Quality takes a serious hit. And bargain prices now will inevitably result in greater costs down the road. The further away your translators are from your oversight, the less likely they are to care about your product, your brand, and your content’s success.
Startups need a consistent and experienced team of translators on board in order to go global. They need transparency and accountability throughout the localization process. That’s why your best bet is to rely on an end-to-end centralized localization platform that is willing to be upfront about exactly what is happening with your content at any given time.
It’s time to end the “black box” model of translation in favor of radical transparency. Your content deserves the best translators in each of your target markets. You should be able to drop in on the translation process to see who’s working on your project, ask questions, and request revisions. This kind of transparency goes hand-in-hand with real accountability.
Outsourcing Your Content Localization Strategy to the Experts
Localization strategy is such a crucial part of your company’s global expansion. Many venture-funded startups are passionate about localizing quickly, but they’re struggling to strategize. It’s an understandably big ask, especially for product managers who are buried under tight deadlines and who may have no specific experience in the localization industry.
For startups, it’s important to build relationships with partners who can help navigate the challenges, as well as the opportunities to target global markets effectively. The right partner will be ready to handle your flow of content within a tried-and-tested platform. They’re going to care about your goals right alongside you. And they’re going to help you craft a cohesive and powerful brand identity across international markets.
You need a partner who can keep up. They’ll take care of the nuances of localization so you and your team can focus on growth.
At Bureau Works, we’re not interested in creating just another translation assembly line. We’re dedicated to being the strategic partner our clients need. Let us handle the content localization strategy. With our innovative localization platform, you’ll be set up for success with an agile and scalable system that brings you closer to your global goals. Contact our team to get started.
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.