Marketing content localization graphic illustration

A guide to marketing localization

Language is a powerful thing.

Not only does it help us communicate with others, but it can help us form connections with everything around us – whether it’s people, places, or businesses. This connection is so important that as many as 60% of people will only buy products that are featured in their own language.

Language is full of nuances which help us make a connection but, if these are absent, a disconnect is created instead. Sometimes, this is easy to ignore (like a “U” in the word color) but other times, it’s not. 

Without the proper care, poor translations can create confusion by using expressions that are common in your country but aren’t used in other places. Or, worse, it translates into something offensive in a different language, like how Coca-Cola translates to “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse fastened with wax” in Chinese, and how Nokia launched a phone with a name that means “prostitute” in Spanish

Done right, marketing localization can assist you in creating that connection in a way that’s genuine and relevant to your target audiences.

What is marketing localization?

Marketing localization is all about taking existing physical and digital marketing content and creating a relatable experience for local audiences.

Translation is a part of localization, but it’s not all there is to it. Marketing localization focuses on ensuring that all aspects of your content (such as images, pricing, tone, CTA, UX, social media, and videos) enhance the customer experience and expand your brand’s reach to global audiences. 

This is important because of the sheer number of ways life varies at the local level. For instance, within a country like the United States, there is no shortage of expressions that are unique to specific regions. If you know what a bubbler is, for example, you understand what we’re talking about. 

These details can make or break a marketing campaign because they have a direct impact on whether or not your marketing is effective to potential customers.

For example, in some countries, having only one name is common. But, if your signup forms require both a first and last name, people with only one legal name won’t be able to create an account. No matter how much someone may want your product, if they can’t use their legal name, they’re likely to go elsewhere. 

Other factors to consider during marketing localization include:

  • The way the date is written. There are numerous ways to write dates, and different countries write them using their preferred format.
  • The dates of major holidays. Even shared ones, like New Year’s, may occur at different times of the year depending on the country.
  • How names are structured, including whether a culture regularly uses single names.
  • Whether or not content is read left to right, as it is in North America, and right to left or top-to-bottom, as it is for Japan and Korea, and Chinese speaking countries.

From a marketing perspective, a strong localization strategy helps you use highly relevant content strategically and authentically. Your content performs better on a technical level and provides an ROI that assists you in hitting your marketing goals.

The goal of marketing localization

The goal of marketing content is to capture attention, build trust, and generate leads. It can include blog posts looking to rank internationally on Google, email marketing newsletters, ads, social media posts, whitepapers, product-oriented content, and so on.

These are assets owned by marketing teams and are typically hosted on CMS platforms (e.g., WordPress, Contentful, Storyblok, etc.).

Marketing content localization is mainly for long-form digital content that requires higher volume translations. Realistically speaking, one article can have more words than the whole product’s UI.

If you’re localizing content for a very different culture to the original market, you might need to hire an adaptation marketing specialist or a local subject matter expert (SME). This person can help map the content that needs to be localized and identify what new assets should be created for the new market. 

Marketing localization and common misconceptions

Martina Russo, CEO at MovingWords, pointed out a common misconception about marketing localization:

“One of the main misconceptions in marketing localization is that you can just drop your content – that took your marketing team weeks or months to come up with – and expect your translation partners to develop it across languages without the same amount of context… and expect the same results. If you want your campaigns to work well in other countries, you need to involve your localization team from the very early stages.”

Martina’s colleague Martina Eco, who’s also a marketing translation specialist for the Italian market, pointed out how companies often underestimate how much research is involved in the process: research into the client’s brand identity and tone of voice, research into the target audience, language, needs and behavior, research into the product or service being sold, and how it meets customer needs in different markets.

Marketing localization and its challenges

We talked with several marketing localization specialists to map out the top three challenges of marketing localization.

Challenge #1:

Marketing localization has this particularity in that it’s both an exercise in technique and creativity for translators. They have to be able to cram the intended message (the essence of the text) into a few words, and those few words have to be just as impactful to the target audience as they are in the source text. Thus, translating a catchphrase of five words can take literal hours, if not days.

Challenge #2:

Most clients wrongly assume that short texts need less time to be translated, because it’s “only a couple of words.” But those couple of words can make or break a promotional campaign if they aren’t translated properly. Time is critical in translation; there’s never nearly enough of it. Identify your target audience and its cultural sensibilities.

Marketing localization demands a keen sense of adaptation, because what may work in the source language might not in the target language. The translators usually ask themselves a bunch of questions upon reading the source text. For example – should a movie reference be translated as it is? Will the target audience understand the intended pun? Can it be replaced by something else? And if so, by what? Is the writing style too blunt? Should it be smoothed out? What narrative device can be used to achieve this?

Challenge #3:

The creative minds in charge of marketing content do not write their texts thinking that they will be translated into other languages one day. In fact, most of them don’t even know it will. The translators’ job is to make the translation feel organic, to make it look like it was never a translation to begin with.

This is the paradox of invisibility: no one will notice a great translation – yet a bad one will stick out like a sore thumb, especially in marketing. The more “invisible” you are, the better.

How to start localizing your marketing content

Marketing localization can help you increase your brand awareness and online visibility

If all you’re doing is translating your content, it’s not going to perform well online, especially in terms of positive brand awareness and search engine rankings. With localized content, you’re also taking factors like international SEO into consideration to identify what content is most relevant to local audiences. 

In a nutshell, marketing localization is designed to help you create a presence and capture the attention of international audiences as quickly and effectively as possible. 

But where do you start?

To be effective, marketing localization needs to be process driven. Let’s zoom out to see what steps precede the actual process of marketing localization.

1. Deciding to enter a new market

The decision to enter a specific market is usually based on an existing global marketing strategy. Internal and external data can help you make an informed decision.

For instance, you can take a look at your online data to see if there is particular interest or a great number of leads coming from a certain country or region, and calculate the cost of customer acquisition. You can also analyze where your competition is expanding.

Looking at markets that your competitors are in (but you’re not) can aid you in determining where there is a need for products like yours. Reading reviews of your competitors from a new potential market can uncover any unmet needs based on current offerings, which can help you differentiate yourself when you enter the new market. Reviews also tell you if people even like the competition and provide further insight into how ready the market is for your business. 

2. Analyzing and adapting to the new market

As you’re digging deep into the local market to identify things like what kind of marketing works best, what the local need for your product looks like, and what the competition is like (plus what they’re doing for their marketing) – you’re setting the stage for marketing localization.

The next step is to assess which marketing assets you have that can create a meaningful connection with the local population. This includes your website and landing pages, any infographics you might have, plus videos, or blog content – anything that is relevant to your new target market.

3. Assembling a team

Of course, you also need to hire a team of local translators to translate and localize your content into their native language. You need to ensure that they not only understand your product or service, but also understand the intent behind what they’re translating. Translation is a part of localization, but it’s not the only part. The final product has to be fully adapted to the preferences of your target audience.

Certainly, to really kick your marketing localization efforts into high gear, you also need to partner with a localization expert or hire a localization project manager. They’ll be responsible for a healthy project pace, aligning different stakeholders, and ensuring everyone working in the localization project is on the same page.

To learn more about the role of the marketing team in the context of content localization, download our ebook about creating a strong localization team

4. Taking care of translation

While traditionally you’d start thinking of translations once your copy is ready, this is no longer sufficient in the fast pace of new digital product development. You might want to fine-tune your source copy when the translations have already started. Your translators need to be able to share feedback. It can also happen that the design is still being updated during the translation process.

Right now, an increasing number of companies are embracing design-stage localization as it brings tangible benefits to all key stakeholders and a much faster roll-out of features as well.

To keep all these moving parts together, consider managing localization with a centralized localization management platform that is easily connected to other tools and supports cross-team collaboration. It should align any copywriting, design, translation, marketing, and review work across different team members.

Can you imagine how inefficient the process would be when using email communication alone, for instance?

If you’re not sure how to pick the right translation management system (TMS), read our comprehensive guide on how to choose the best TMS for your team.

5. Measuring results

Finally, analyze the effectiveness of your marketing campaign after you’ve localized it. How successful your efforts are depends on the specific goals you have, but you’re likely going to be looking at metrics like sales, signups, or number of demos requested. If the results aren’t great, rely on A/B testing and test different variables like headlines or CTAs to see what connects best with different segments of your global audience. Within your chosen localization management platform, variant or versioning management can be of great assistance.

If you’re going to enter multiple markets, you have to build that process out again and again for each market. Each market would have its separate team of translators who are all going to work at different speeds. You can also consider choosing a translation company that supports entering different markets.

In Google Analytics, you can look at metrics such as Unique Pageviews, Sessions, and Time on Page to evaluate ROI for your localized content. For instance, when content is engaging, translated, and nicely adjusted to the target audience, users will spend more time on the page.

That’s why, to be highly effective in your marketing localization efforts, you have to find a way to automate as much of that process as possible. This is possible with a dedicated localization tool.

Workflow automation in marketing localization

A modern and lightweight localization platform will not force you to stick to a certain predefined workflow, but rather will be flexible and customizable to serve your processes and team.

While you might associate automation with decreased quality, it’s not the case. This is especially true if you are adding automation carefully by testing it and adding quality assurance steps, which can be also customized and adjusted to your project requirements.

Good localization software helps you automate routine tasks and provides you with everything you need to take control of the marketing localization process. Plus, you’ll have more time to focus on the creative part and increase value for your end users. Instead of managing all your translation efforts in a spreadsheet, you get a single source of truth for all things localization that allows you to collaborate on, manage, and review translations efficiently.

Consistency in your tone of voice and messaging can be achieved by managing an updated glossary. You can ensure consistent style using a translation memory – a database that stores all your previous translations and whose entries conveniently pop up as suggestions during the translation process. 

Bearing that in mind, you can easily create a process that works for your team and use a system that can be maintained using a dashboard. You can take advantage of features like version control and use chained tasks to avoid idle waiting time. In addition, the software gives you the insight you need to eliminate bottlenecks in your process. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

The benefits of automating mundane tasks in your marketing localization process

Automation can increase translation efficiency by 80% as it allows developers to work without interruptions. Of course, benefits exist for other roles as well; product managers and localization process owners enjoy a much more efficient process.

Using a tool like Lokalise removes repetitive manual tasks from the equation. You can set up custom rules to keep your project moving along automatically and use more than 40 available integrations.

Once you experience the effectiveness of having an automated, easy-to-manage process – within a collaborative platform that integrates with your current tech stack – you’ll be wondering how you ever managed localization projects before.

In addition, we invite you to explore six different use cases of the Automations available in Lokalise. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a better way to organize workflows that you wouldn’t have thought to automate. 

If there’s a simpler way to handle marketing localization, who wouldn’t want to find out more  – right?

Feel free to book a demo with our product specialists to learn more about the flexibility that comes with customizing and automating your localization workflows in Lokalise.

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