A Comprehensive Guide to Marketing Localization

A Comprehensive Guide to Marketing Localization | Phrase

Customers are different wherever you go, and so are their purchasing habits. If you want to get ahead of the competition, you need to adapt your global marketing to resonate with as many users across the globe as possible. Learn how to make the best of marketing localization with this comprehensive guide.

A stunning 40% of online shoppers worldwide won’t buy a product in a language other than their mother tongue. No matter how great your digital product or service may be, hardly anyone will be interested unless they truly understand what it is about how it can benefit them.

Promoting your offering across geographies calls for a thorough global marketing strategy. For each target market on your list, you need to take into account the local requirements, expectations, needs, habits, and even emotional patterns of your potential customers.

To successfully adapt your content and messaging for global campaigns, your strategy needs to be focused on localization from day one. This won’t only give you a distinctive edge over your competitors but also help you avoid mistakes and the risk of damaging your local image.

This step-by-step guide is your roadmap to success.

Contents

Marketing localization: Getting the terminology right

There are 3 key terms that, at first glance, seem interchangeable, but describe slightly different facets of this overarching field:

  • Localization marketing—as an umbrella term for your strategy
  • Marketing localization—the process by which you craft a local customer experience
  • Marketing translation—the phase of making copy resonate locally

To get marketing localization right, marketing managers must have a strong understanding of each one. Let’s look at the difference between these often confused terms.

Localization marketing—the umbrella term for your strategy

If we start from the premise that global marketing is the set of processes and activities aimed at targeting, attracting, engaging, and converting customers in different countries around the world, we can say that localization marketing is the process of adapting every element of a global marketing campaign to the specificities of each target market.

In the same way that domestic marketing goes beyond writing content in the local language, localization for global audiences entails much more than simply translating content into other languages. The international marketing environment is all about diversity. You’ll need to deal with different cultures, legal systems, and varying levels of economic development. Success in one market doesn’t always guarantee global sales. Customers are different wherever you go, and so are their purchasing habits.

If you want to get ahead of your competitors—both local and global—you’ll need to modify your marketing language to resonate with a higher number of users.

If done right, marketing localization can be very efficient in the long run. Your initial costs may be higher in terms of research, design, and development, but as soon as you get the core message right across markets, your investment will pay off. A perfectly adapted web or mobile app won’t do the cut if it flies under the radar because of poor marketing localization.

A well-thought-out and executed localization marketing strategy comes in at all stages of global marketing execution, from ensuring that visuals are culturally relevant to adapting the channels and distribution methods to the preferences of each target market.

Marketing localization can include adapting:

  • The product portfolio: Should you create products specifically for each market, or go for a one-size-fits-all approach?
  • The messaging: How will you adapt your core marketing messages to resonate with consumers in different countries and avoid the risk of losing relevance? How do local competitors position themselves, and how can your value proposition stand out from theirs?
  • The business model: How will local regulations and tax policies impact your activities and strategy in different countries?
  • The marketing budget: What’s the optimal marketing spend per country, and how should you allocate resources based on each market’s potential?
  • The marketing mix: What channels and methods will you use to reach your target audience in different markets? Is it locally acceptable to use instant messaging for marketing in China, or billboards in Brazil?
  • The pricing structure: What’s the right price point for your products in different countries? Will you simply convert the currency or will you adjust prices to account for income levels and other factors?
  • Your SEO efforts: What keywords should you focus on in each country? What’s the optimal length and style of your marketing copy for different countries to rank well in search engine results?
  • The marketing calendar: When do you want to target people in different countries? What are the key holidays and events in each country that you should consider?

The above aspects sit at the core of a localization marketing strategy that supports the company’s global marketing ambitions. In addition to these, localization marketing covers two other big categories:

  • The experience: Encompassed within what we call “marketing localization,” the adaptation of the user experience involves considering how to design your visuals, UX, user interface, customer journey, and flows in ways that are culturally relevant and user-friendly for each target market.
  • The copy: Adapting the actual text of your marketing materials for different countries is what we call “marketing translation.” Some marketing translation considerations include whether to and where to use machine translation, what terminology sources to use, which style guides apply in each country or region, and what the linguistic implications are of using certain words over others.

Let’s explore these last two concepts in greater detail.

Marketing localization—crafting a local customer experience

Marketing localization is the process of culturally adapting promotional assets to create a customer experience that relates to local expectations, needs, and interests.

Demand, engagement, and lead generation all hinge on marketing localization, as assets of a marketing campaign (messaging, visuals, UI elements, etc.) with regional relevance can be more persuasive to consumers in those regions. In other words, marketing experiences that fail to resonate with local audiences can fall flat or even backfire.

  • How can you expect to increase demand for your product in a foreign market if the marketing collateral you produce looks and feels like an outsider’s idea of what that market should be interested in?
  • How could engagement possibly increase when marketing materials aren’t localized to reflect the local culture and preferences in terms of language, colors, flavor, and style?
  • Why would leads even bother to fill out marketing forms that appear foreign and feel uninviting?

Marketing localization covers all issues that marketing managers need to resolve—and then some—in order to create a marketing plan that’s tailored to the specific cultural context of each target market. Beyond language, marketing localization entails tailoring marketing to local customs, etiquette, values, consumer behavior patterns, and norms.

Marketing translation—making copy resonate locally

While both fit within the wider localization context, marketing translation differs from marketing localization mainly in the scope of the work required. Marketing translation focuses specifically on adapting text-based content to make it culturally relevant and linguistically accurate in local markets.

Marketing translation is an important part of any localization strategy and it can be divided into three parts:

  • The pre-translation phase: In this initial stage, you’ll determine the scope of the project, who’ll be responsible for the translation, what tools and processes you’ll use, and how you’ll quality-control the translated content.
  • The translation phase: This is when the actual translation work takes place. Translation memories, termbases, and glossaries can be helpful resources in this stage.
  • The post-translation phase: In this final stage, you will review and approve the translated content, ensuring that it meets your quality standards and making any necessary changes before publishing it for use in marketing materials.

The north of marketing translation work should be striking the sweet spot between local relevancy and global brand consistency. On the one hand, marketing translation must be accurate and true to the original message; on the other hand, it also needs to be adapted to make sense in the local context.

Where does transcreation fit in?

Transcreation, the creative translation of international advertising and marketing copy, is a translation technique that falls in the second step of the process—the translation phase.

Transcreation involves adapting marketing material from one language to another and rewriting it with the same voice and tone as the original text. It sits somewhere in between traditional translation and original copywriting.

Transcreators usually adapt the most creative elements of a piece of content—slogans, taglines, jokes, symbols, storytelling, and even emojis—to be culturally relevant in each local market.

Put together a strong team to support your marketing localization

With the air around terminology crisp and clear, you can now prepare the ground for effective marketing localization. To get it started, you first need to think about the stakeholders who should handle a process as complex as marketing localization—or as Steve Jobs used to say: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

With the cost of global expansion being high and team members potentially being dispersed across the globe, it’s more important than ever to provide for a team setting that facilitates collaboration and streamlines communication in every aspect of the process.

The challenge for global marketers lies in striking the right balance between centralized control through headquarters and empowered local teams. The latter may have the know-how for localizing global campaigns but can also lack a full understanding of the big picture defined by the headquarters.

Considering this shortcoming, it’s key to build bridges between global counterparts, break down communication silos, and provide opportunities for global learning so everyone involved can take full advantage of existing expertise, resources, and technology.

Here’s an overview of the most common stakeholders in marketing localization projects:

Localization managers

A localization manager is in charge of the localization process from start to finish. In the initial phase, they’re responsible for hiring translators and localization testers. As the project unfolds, they make sure that all communication flows smoothly and all files are properly uploaded or delivered to the team.

Product managers

Product managers are responsible for the strategic direction of your product development. They often have a strong understanding of the international competitive landscape, so they can be a reliable resource and play a key role in executing your marketing localization strategy.

Developers or localization engineers

A localization engineer handles the database and sets guidelines for other team members to follow during the localization process. They can offer direct support to translators by offering screenshots or demonstrations of parts of the products so that all translation output is as accurate as possible.

Localization testers

Localization testers are your boots on the ground to make sure the final localization results are what you’d imagined. They’re the proofreaders that check the copy for any language and design inconsistencies so that the final product looks as good as it can.

For example, if during localization testing a translated word turns out longer and doesn’t fit well the original design, they can catch that and either choose an alternative word or ask for tweaks in the existing design.

Designers

Designers are the creative force that makes sure your users enjoy a flawless user experience irrespective of language while interacting with your product. Designers are particularly important during the localization process as they can make sure that all translated text, selected colors, and illustrations fit well in the new, localized version of your digital product.

Translators

Translators are essential to your localization projects as they put words to paper in your target language. Depending on the size of your project, you can hire one or multiple translators to work on different parts of your product.

Localizing isn’t just about translating words from one language to another. You need to rely on localization specialists with excellent language skills who truly understand what it means to go global. Localizers are generally experienced translators and subject matter experts who have technical knowledge in the field and can make the difference between the success and failure of your project.

Bad translations can backfire and keep customers away instead of drawing them in. You may cut some costs here and there, but you’ll spend way more trying to fix the errors in your marketing localization later on.

Instead, invest in delivering high-quality content that is translated by professionals who’re truly proficient in your target language, have a strong understanding of both your industry and target market. Only then will you be able to build a positive image for your brand in any local market.

Experience is key for localization teams

Developers who coordinate web or mobile app localization daily will be able to give you important advice during the marketing localization process. They’ve been down this road before, so they know how to take advantage of opportunities in various markets and can help you prioritize.

In this context, don’t underestimate the importance of external teams either. Depending on how much of the process you decide to outsource, you’ll be collaborating with language service providers, local-market consultants, local SEO experts, etc.

When sourcing your local team, set clear milestones and make them aware of your goals from the start to make sure they respect deadlines. Always look for people who can communicate easily and are ready to adapt their working habits to your in-house team.

Finally, make things easier for your team by using a dedicated localization platform in the cloud that will enable them to communicate and share files more easily. This will leave less room for translation errors or misinterpretation of the source text.

If your team uses a single tool to perform all changes in real-time, you can optimize the entire process, from technical details to marketing localization, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Assigning a localization manager

If you plan to coordinate the entire marketing localization process yourself, you can expect some extra hours of work. If you aren’t comfortable with managing such a complex project yourself or don’t have the time to do it, then you’d be better off allocating a dedicated localization manager.

As noted previously, they can coordinate your developers, translators, and all other experts. This full-time job implies many responsibilities and requires a wide range of skills:

Organizational skills

A good localization manager has strong organizational skills, can multitask, and manage all project bits simultaneously. This includes taking care of any linguistic issues, technical challenges, cultural differences, administrative details, budget, efficiency, and optimization.

People Management

Localizers come from various backgrounds, such as sales, development, marketing, QA, engineering, or publishing. Having the ability to understand how these teams work and coordinate them is essential when looking for maximum results with minimum effort (and without exceeding the budget).

Technical Acumen

A good localization manager must understand the technologies behind the project to be able to plan the localization process wisely. You can’t do infrastructure planning or design workflows unless you have a good grasp of the entire technical process that goes on behind the scenes.

Do your research and get to know your target markets

All stakeholders you work with should have in-depth knowledge of both your product and the market you’re localizing for. Your team needs to understand the local market and its specific demands in terms of marketing, design, and legislation. This is the only way they can craft a user-friendly product.

When localizing for the Chinese market, for example, you need to take extra care not only with translations and marketing. China also has many tricky rules when it comes to coding, choosing the right local servers, and respecting the laws of the Great Firewall (GFW).

Take the example of Supercell’s Clash of Clans. At their initial launch in China, hundreds of thousands of people could download the game only to see they were unable to buy the in-game currency. The game relied on users’ access to Google Play, which people in China didn’t have.

This is just one example of how things can go wrong if you don’t research carefully all market specificities before launching your product. Sometimes, this can mean localizing to integrate with local products instead of your traditional partners (such as social media platforms). Otherwise, you may waste time and money correcting errors, testing, and retesting.

Define your potential customers

When setting up your marketing localization process, defining some “local” profiles for your potential customers will have a critical impact. Once you know who you’re going to sell to, you can better adapt the localization process to more specific goals. This will help you reduce both time to launch and costs.

That said, defining an international buyer persona is no longer enough if you truly want to know what customers really want. Instead, you’d need to build local buyer personas for each country you’re localizing for.

For example, most South Americans speak the same language, but they use it differently from one country to another. Likewise, Asia has strong potential with its emerging markets, but approaching Asian customers requires a distinct marketing localization strategy that’s in line with local culture and traditions.

You need to find out beforehand who you’ll be dealing with in any of those markets. Think about age, gender, relationship status, interests, education level, where they live, how much they earn, and what their purchasing habits are like. These answers will likely vary with each new country you’re approaching but are crucial for your success in localization.

Finally, be ready to tailor your marketing localization strategy and target your content each time you start a new localization process. Adapt as much as you can from your centralized global marketing program to cut costs, but don’t ignore the local specifics.

Optimize the technical side of marketing localization with Unicode

Text in multilingual applications needs to be stored in a form compatible with all different writing systems. Unicode (UTF-8) is an international encoding standard that supports all characters, in any language, so it’s vital to use it for adapting digital products for global markets.

Once your developers have written the code of your app, they won’t have to make any additional changes if you decide to localize for markets like China, Japan, or Russia. This means less time and money spent on coding during multiple language localizations.

Here are some other advantages of Unicode that will make localization easier in the long term:

Save time and money

When your source code uses a single standard, you have lower development costs and can reduce the time needed to launch a new version of your product.

For example, when you want to update your app, you can make changes in the Unicode version to be able to use it worldwide.

In contrast, if you use various character sets, you’ll have to make multiple updates, one for each version. This increases the chances of bugs and human errors.

Easy to integrate

Most operating systems, languages, and databases support Unicode, so your app or website will easily integrate with other products available on the market. IBM, Microsoft, HP, Sun, Oracle, and SAP all work with Unicode. Likewise, Java, JavaScript, XML, and Perl are Unicode-based.

Enhanced user experience

The exchange of text and data is easier with Unicode, as you won’t have problems with data conversion when you need to use specific characters. Your users won’t have to deal with incomprehensible characters, no matter what language they speak. This way, you provide an enhanced user experience, with less effort and without additional costs.

Invest in flexible design and appropriate colors

Any digital product that is destined to go global from the start needs to have a user experience design that is flexible enough to support multiple languages down the line. Some languages require as much as 40% more space so having enough room for text expansion is essential.

The opposite can occur as well—where you have less text after translation—so your web or app layout should be flexible enough to allow for any type of movement.

Furthermore, colors are just as important during localization. Choosing the right color tones isn’t an exact science as we all associate colors with different emotions. Red is exciting, blue is dependable, and orange is generally cheerful. Nevertheless, meanings vary not only from one culture to another but also within the same community—based on gender, age, and education.

For example, a study revealed that colors can change a customer’s attitude towards a certain product and influence their decision to buy, their perception of the brand, and even the likelihood of repeat business. Therefore, it’s important to choose colors that truly represent your brand.

To manage a unique global image, try to integrate colors into your marketing localization strategy as much as possible. It’s no surprise that most brands decide to keep their colors intact in all markets.

In fact, colors increase brand recognition by up to 80%. For example, Coca-Cola changed its name for the Chinese market, but it kept its brand colors. Uber, on the other hand, decided to change the game rules and came up with 65 local color palettes in a unique, localized design strategy. The strategy certainly paid off, as Uber now registers over 93 million monthly active riders worldwide.

Pay attention to local formats

Everything your product is missing could become a reason for a potential customer to choose another product instead of yours. No matter how great your marketing localization strategy may be, your product will barely have a chance if it lacks consistency. Even if you manage to create an inviting app description that boosts downloads, users can instantly uninstall it if its content is badly localized. Here, it’s important to pay attention to:

Currencies and payment methods

A survey by PayPal shows that 76% of potential customers prefer to shop in a local currency. Nearly half said that they’d not feel comfortable paying in a foreign currency.

Systems of measurement

Most non-English speaking countries use the metric system and no one would like to waste time converting inches and gallons.

Address formats

Address formats vary from one country to another, so make sure you add or remove fields every time you localize for a new language. National conventions for writing telephone numbers can all be different as well. If your app is supposed to ask for these details from your customers, you should redesign it to make this step as simple as possible.

Decimal and thousands of separators

Decimal and thousands of separators should be adapted for each country, as they vary in some cases. The US and the UK are some of the few countries that use a comma to separate groups of thousands—most countries use the decimal separator.

Name formats

Respecting local politeness and formality is essential so make sure you set the name format right from the beginning. In some countries, the family name is written first, while in other cases it’s common for a person to have multiple family names. Allow users to enter punctuation and names with spaces, and make sure your fields are large enough to accept long names.

Adapt the name of your product

If you’re localizing an app for different target markets, you might need to consider changing its name. That can be hard, especially when you’ve invested a lot in your app’s current name, and coming up with a new one may not be what you had in mind when you decided to go global.

However, just because your name has positive connotations in one country, it doesn’t mean it can work everywhere. If your product has an invented name, it may be easier to launch in almost any new market just the way it is—as long as you check that the name (or its pronunciation) doesn’t have any negative connotation in your target market.

Either way, do your research well before you choose a name to avoid confusion or any kind of misunderstanding. In many cases, a lack of research is the main culprit. For example, Nokia failed to research its target market before launching its Lumia phone line. They found themselves selling a product with a name that means “prostitute” in Spanish slang.

Equally important, make sure the name is not already registered by another business in your target country. It’s never a pleasant experience to find out after weeks invested in creating logos and slogans that your name’s been already taken.

Decide on what type of content to use for local markets

When getting ready for marketing localization, you also need to think about what content you’re going to use. Having strong marketing content that’s easy to localize is essential when you’re looking to capture market share—as it will help you build brand awareness.

It’s not just about sending a message in the right language but also reaching real people using a voice your potential customers can understand. The best strategy is usually a mix of translated and localized content.

It’d be impossible to come up with original content for each country separately and still stay within budget. Still, you can’t reduce your content marketing strategy to translations and adapted slogans either—so how much should you translate?

It all depends on revenue and cost-efficiency. Analyze each market individually and decide based on their specific characteristics. Translating English content into other European languages might help, but this strategy can hardly pay off in China. People there have almost no interest in products that aren’t directly related to their country.

Introducing local content allows you to target messages, so don’t just consider costs when deciding between translations and localized content. Try to see the entire picture before deciding on one way or another—and don’t be afraid to adapt your strategy if you don’t get the desired results right away.

Use machine translation for certain content types

The use of machine translation (MT) in marketing is a controversial topic among marketers and linguists alike. Some swear by it because of its speed and cost-effectiveness, while others consider it a necessary evil at best and an overrated shortcut at worst.

Objectively, machine translation has its place in marketing localization as long as—and this holds true for any tool—you leverage it for content that performs well and supplement it with human brainpower where it falls short.

Machine translation can be a useful resource for quickly translating small chunks of text that have no major repercussions for marketing campaigns, but you would want to steer away from it for high-visibility or sensitive content that needs to be extremely accurate, creative, or well crafted. Below are some general guidelines to help you decide when to use MT for marketing localization.

Raw machine translation: Use it with caution

For low-impact, low-visibility, low-traffic, quickly perishable, and unambiguous content, you can normally get away with using machine translation output that doesn’t undergo human revision. This is called “raw machine translation”.

Some examples of this type of content include:

  • Internal documentation
  • Website footers
  • Social media posts compiled internally for sentiment analysis
  • Repetitive technical content that doesn’t need to be 100% accurate, just actionable, like instruction manuals
  • User-generated content like product reviews, for which consumers generally expect low quality
  • Chat or email support messages

Raw MT will benefit your marketing localization efforts only as long as you use the best-performing machine translation engine for your language pair and content.

Post-edited machine translation: The middle ground

There are times when content is a little bit more sensitive than what you’d want to put through raw MT, but it’s not so critical that you want to spend the time and money to get a human translator involved. In these cases, post-editing the machine translation output can be a good solution.

More commonly known as machine translation post-editing (MTPE), this process entails a human translator cleaning up the machine translation to make it more accurate and idiomatic. The post-editing can be either light (LPE) or full (FPE).

Some examples of content suitable for MTPE in marketing localization are:

  • Ecommerce product titles
  • Product descriptions
  • Knowledge bases
  • FAQs
  • Back-end SEO meta information such as image alt texts and captions

To keep the brand voice and key messaging consistent across cultures and languages, it’s possible to aid the work of post-editors with traditional translation technology such as glossaries, termbases, and translation memories, as well as brand books and style guides.

Modern technology also makes it possible to identify and estimate the quality of machine translation output to concentrate post-editing resources where they’re most needed.

Human translation: For sensitive material

Every marketing campaign contains elements that relate closely to branding or the target culture. These high-traffic, durable assets aimed at persuading, delighting, or reassuring the target audience—together with sensitive or confidential content—are best left in the hands of human experts:

  • Homepages, landing pages, and high-visibility website UI
  • Blog posts
  • User-oriented newsletters
  • Press releases
  • Print and digital advertising
  • SEO content
  • Legal or contractual documentation

Pay attention to visuals

90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. No matter what countries you decide to localize for, you need great images to promote and sell your product. By optimizing visuals, you can grab your audience’s attention more easily.

Strong images can have a strong emotional impact. When used properly, they can encourage more engagement and get users to spend more time in your app or on your website as well as increase your download rate and sales figures.

To maximize impact, make sure you localize all graphics in your product. Asian customers might not react the same way to visuals you’ve used in a European marketing campaign. People can’t identify themselves with something they don’t understand—so pick photos and videos that you can easily integrate into your local messaging.

In contrast, avoid religious symbols and anything that might be offensive. Review your screenshots for any unintended meaning. If you’re selling a localized version of your product, make sure your customers see it right from the beginning. Otherwise, you risk losing potential users unimpressed by untranslated texts or irrelevant maps or images.

Work with local experts for SEO and ASO

Content optimization is important, especially when you’re focused on marketing localization. Titles, slogans, descriptions, texts—you should make most of them to increase your ranking in app stores and search engines.

For example, Apple doesn’t search app descriptions, so you don’t need to integrate keywords if you only localize for the App Store. Google Play, on the other hand, does. That’s why you should always optimize your Android app description to obtain a better ranking.

A word of warning, though. Keyword stuffing won’t bring much success: Write a captivating description for humans—not for search engines. If you’re localizing for countries with hundreds of Android app stores, like China, you should consider each store’s policy when writing your texts. This way, you’ll get the maximum advantage from every character you use.

Nevertheless, whether you want to improve your app store optimization (ASO) or boost your website SEO, always consider working with local experts for optimum results. Translating keywords is not enough. Language dynamics vary, and sometimes, people give different meanings to the same words.

First and foremost, find the keywords your target market uses to search in each country and integrate them to optimize your content. Then examine traffic, edit and adjust your keywords if necessary, and periodically analyze the results. Ignoring the competition is bad for business, so take time to check what keywords they use to attract audiences.

Similarly, note that not all internet users go to Google when looking for something online. Make sure to optimize for Bing and Yahoo as well—and if you’re launching in Russia or China, get ready to learn more about Yandex and Baidu, the most popular search engines in these countries. This may seem like new stuff if you’ve only worked with Google until now, but it’s nothing a local expert can’t do.

Adapt your pricing to local markets

A full marketing localization process implies adapting prices as well. What may seem like an affordable app in the US or Western Europe can easily be seen as pricey in Eastern Europe or South America.

Things get even more complex when a local competitor provides a similar product for less or, in some cases, even for free. If you’re exclusively making and selling iOS apps, you may not encounter these difficulties, as generally, Apple users tend to spend more. Android users, on the other hand, are more careful when purchasing apps.

This makes it clear that adjusting prices can help you increase downloads and sales. If you’re planning to launch your app in a country where people aren’t willing to spend much, why not create a simplified version that potential customers can test free of charge?

Alternatively, you can adapt your price to include discounts. This way, you’ll also create interest for your app in people who wouldn’t usually be able to afford your products.

Use local social media to promote your product

Social media is still key to reaching a wide audience, so take advantage of its potential to connect with your users. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram—each of these channels can be a great source of new customers.

Additionally, social media can help you build a human image for your brand because it allows you to create a community around your product. You can attract more traffic, increase brand awareness, and even reward your users for purchasing your products.

This is one of the best ways to get positive reviews, and that can lead to a higher ranking in both app stores and search engines. Similarly, social media allows you to improve your customer service based on direct feedback from your users.

However, you need to pay extra attention to what exactly users write about you. Bad reviews can spread like wildfire and harm your company’s reputation. Always respond promptly to messages and never let negative feedback go unnoticed. If you’re responsible for a client’s complaint, contact them directly and offer an apology—or provide a solution to their problem.

Still, since you’d need to keep costs under control, avoid investing the same amount of resources into all social media channels. Analyze each market and prioritize depending on local trends. Facebook can be a safe way to gain visibility almost everywhere, whereas Twitter is less popular in some European countries. Likewise, consider a TikTok account to connect to a younger demographic.

A particular exception to the rule is China, where “mainstream” social media are not even present. The Chinese prefer their local networks, and you should adapt to their habits if you want to be seen. WeChat is the most popular social media platform in China with over 1 billion users, so it’s a good starting point for your marketing localization strategy.

Automate your marketing localization process

With marketing localization involving multiple stakeholders, you can’t afford bottlenecks, rework, and unnecessary delays. Those long email back-and-forths; the attached file that nobody is certain is the most updated version; the translation that’s sitting there waiting for marketing to sign-off on a minor change—all of these can add up to a marketing campaign that’s late to market and/or over budget.

Yet, most common translation workflows still look like this:

  • The development or marketing team copy-paste the translatable content into a document.
  • The marketing or localization manager sends the file to their marketing translators, either for them to open locally on their computer or by sharing a link to Google Drive or similar.
  • The marketing or localization manager also sends any reference material (branding guides, style guides, glossaries, etc.) that can help the translator to do a better job.
  • The translator starts working.
  • The translator might have some questions or need to request the marketing team’s input—this process takes time, especially when there are multiple marketing translators involved.
  • The translator completes their work and sends it back to the marketing or localization manager, who forwards it to a proofreader.
  • The marketing or localization manager receives the translation back from the proofreader and approves it.
  • The translated content is then integrated into the relevant marketing channels.

This type of workflow might have worked well enough in the past, but with the world becoming increasingly globalized and the need for marketing responsiveness ever more urgent, marketing teams require better marketing localization workflows that reduce the time campaigns take to translate and publish.

Rely on a translation management system (TMS)

There’s a reason why most industries are moving towards automated workflows: Automation is faster, more accurate, and less error-prone. Localization—including both marketing localization and marketing translation—is no exception.

By automating the localization process, marketing teams can avoid missed deadlines, incorrect translations, and the general bottlenecking that often occurs when multiple teams need to work together on a project.

So what exactly should you aim for when automating localization? A good solution, which should ideally take the form of a translation management system (TMS), would give marketers the following main capabilities:

  • Automation: Translatable content should be automatically extracted from content management systems, source code repositories, or marketing automation platforms and routed to the translation interface. Translated content should be able to be automatically imported back into the original environment.
  • Centralization: Providing a single point of access to all relevant marketing materials, resources, instructions, and content increases productivity and reduces the chances of errors. Marketing and localization teams should be able to work from a single platform, with all the tools they need at their fingertips.
  • Real-time collaboration: A TMS acts as a hub through which marketing teams can collaborate with other departments and both in-house and external stakeholders in real-time, ensuring that everyone’s working from the most up-to-date content.
  • Translation memory: A robust TMS lets you store translations in a cloud-based translation memory, which allows translators and marketing teams to reuse content across different marketing campaigns.
  • Support for familiar file formats: No more copy-paste. You should be able to submit content for translation in your preferred file types: IDML, PSD, SVG, HTML, etc.
  • Integration: The TMS should be able to quickly and easily integrate with content management systems (e.g., Marketo, HubSpot, Adobe Experience Manager, WordPress, Drupal, Contentful, Contentstack, Sitecore), ecommerce platforms, marketing automation platforms, and CRM systems, or even let you build a custom integration via a REST API.
  • Quality control: The TMS should include a quality assurance process that facilitates checking translations for accuracy against previously translated content (through the use of translation memories), marketing brand guidelines, style guides, and glossaries.
  • AI-powered machine translation: A modern TMS combines well-established translation technology with AI-powered machine translation capabilities.
  • Tracking and reports: The best TMS will provide marketing teams with insights and reporting that can be used to improve marketing performance and marketing ROI and will let them monitor translators’ performance to make any necessary adjustments.

All in all, a robust TMS helps marketing teams deliver higher quality work on time and on budget, which ultimately boosts marketing performance, increases sales, and boosts marketing localization ROI.

Understanding the complexity of measuring marketing localization ROI

The success of your global marketing efforts will ultimately be measured by their return on investment (ROI). Nevertheless, with each local market being unique, determining the ROI of your campaigns and comparing them with one another can be quite challenging.

While creating solid objectives and KPIs is a good first step, you need to incorporate a certain amount of flex into your indicators if you want to provide your key decision-makers with an accurate picture.

Here is an example: Say you’re comparing the performance of ad campaigns running in the US and Brazil. After taking a look at your data, you realize that—with the same budget—you created a lot more leads in Brazil than you did in the US.

Seeing the results, you might assume your Brazilian campaign must have had better messaging, but this is exactly where you need to be flexible in your interpretation: The cost per lead (CPL) is much higher in the US than in Brazil.

This makes it obvious that the evaluation of localized campaigns needs to take place at two levels—the effectiveness of the message and the effectiveness of the medium.

Still, even that’s not as straightforward as it might sound. Many less developed economies, such as those in Africa, have less sophisticated methods of campaign evaluation (recall tests, diary completion, brand recall, etc.), and that can further complicate the comparison with developed markets.

Never stop improving

Globalization has brought more business opportunities but stiffer competition as well. Hundreds of digital products are launched every day. If you aren’t serving up what users across the globe expect, your competitors may be quicker.

That’s why you need to stay one step ahead if you want to hold your own with the competition. Preparing and optimizing marketing localization for your product may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s a continuous process with a certain amount of trial and error.

Keep track of your movements in each local market and encourage your team to collaborate in the cloud to improve your global marketing strategy daily. The work you put in today will come back to you tenfold in increased sales, global market share, and greater brand recognition in the future.

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