The intersecting trends of globalization and digitization are driving the need for accurate and culturally appropriate translations. B2B companies are often approaching this challenge with improvised methods that result in bottlenecks and poorly translated content. Therefore, progressive B2B companies are streamlining their localization strategies to maximize engagement with a global audience.
In 2017, a small U.S.-based company can reach a global audience and scale up very quickly. For instance, Slack, the office communications platform, officially launched in 2014. By 2015, it had opened its first international office in Dublin, and, at this writing, had eight offices, including outposts in Tokyo and Melbourne.
But the risks of bungling global content are also considerable. Poorly translated content at best can promote the image of a brand as careless and arrogant. At worst, it can offend and repel the customers it is seeking to attract.
The good news is that navigating those cultural nuances and language barriers can be done well again and again. The solution is to have the right processes and people in place.
“The translation disasters can be avoided if you have a fairly established collaboration and communications practice,” said Pam Didner, industry consultant and author of Global Content Marketing.
Why Companies Often Bungle Translation
There are multiple reasons that translations go awry. Usually, it’s a reflection of a lack of a process. Ashish Agrawal, SVP of Product for Cloudwords, said many companies still use local translators on a freelance basis and piece together a solution using small boutique firms. “For many, content localization is still a manual process based on cutting and pasting emails,” he said.
Translation also has a low status in the marketing stack. “It’s thought of as an after process,” said Agrawal. “It’s like we created a campaign. It’s in English. My digital agency creates it. We sign off and it’s done. Then someone says, ‘Send that for translation.’ And that’s the end of the process. No one asks, ‘Have we checked the French?’ No one sees that the French is correct.”
Finally, content marketing creation that is mirrored on journalism is a North American phenomenon, said Koen De Witte, Managing Director of LeadFabric. “Let’s say you’re doing a program in the Netherlands,” he said. “Many of the subject matter experts, if you don’t guide them well, will immediately fall into the trap of writing product-oriented messages.”
The Right Approach
As we’ve seen, the main reasons that content is poorly translated to local markets are that companies skimp on costs, don’t have a process in place and rely too much on individual agencies or translators. Here’s how experts advise addressing each of those issues:
Costs: Juliana Periera, VP of Marketing at Smartling, said companies that are trying to keep costs down should prioritize content. Some content, like ad copy, should be scrutinized closely. In other cases, what she calls “minimum viable content” will do. For instance, product reviews can be machine translated since consumers don’t expect perfect language in that case. Periera also said companies should cull data from their supply chain to identify inefficiencies. Data will show if translations are getting stuck with a reviewer or if machine-based translations are accurate enough for some copy. Translation memory can also help to keep track of content that has already been translated so there are no duplicate efforts. Periera said that companies can cut 40% of their costs using that feature. Finally, marketers can assess their partners to determine efficiency. If a partner is handing off work to another agency and that agency is handing it off to a freelancer, there are a lot of inefficiencies.
Process: A manual process of translating and reviewing is inefficient and isn’t scalable. Didner said that the best approach is to determine ahead of time where the copy will go and who will be reviewing it. Another approach she advocates is having five or so foreign teams in on content creation from the beginning. “Get their buy-in literally before the content has been created,” she said. “The local translation tends to be a lot easier and faster that way.” Using collaboration software that isn’t clunky and integrates with other productivity software also helps.
Palo Alto Networks Expands Global Presence With Automated Translation
Cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks (PAN) operates in more than 30 markets in more than 20 languages. PAN used to use a manual process for translating its email, blog, marketing content, collateral, technical documents and training materials into those languages. As a result, it often held back on translating much of that content because it didn’t have the time or resources.
Working with Cloudwords, PAN was able to automate the translation process by integrating Adobe Experience Manager into communications instead of having to cut and paste each piece of content. PAN kept the translator it was working within local markets and Cloudwords helped identify new agencies as well. PAN now uses 15 vendors and is able to use Cloudwords’ vendor marketplace to issue RFPs and compare quotes from vendors.
A Cloudwords feature called Campaign Manager also lets PAN’s team view a single campaign that spans multiple markets. The platform allows for collaboration as well. Since adopting the platform, PAN has been able to speed up the process of launching into new markets. In eight months, it launched into seven new markets. Thanks to this new efficiency, the number of localization projects the company could complete “grew exponentially,” according to Bernadette Javier, Web Marketing Manager for the company.
Particularly for B2B companies, content marketing is often the focal point of marketing communications. Emerging consumer touch points like IoT devices will offer new vehicles for such marketing while growing companies will continue to reach out to global markets.
In each case, businesses need to think hard about their content marketing strategies over the next five years or so. Ad hoc solutions may have worked until now, but they’re not sustainable in the long run.