Most organizations spend approximately 1-4% of their marketing budget on translation and localization services, depending on the size of the company and its scope of global operations.

That percentage may not seem like much, but when you consider that translation is a $38 billion industry, the costs add up. Multi-national corporations that reach 100+ countries can spend tens of millions of dollars on translation costs alone and still not reach all the regions needed to support their sales and marketing plans.

Without an intentional strategy in place, marketers usually make trade-offs and triage how many countries and languages they target.

However, there are now hard, revealing facts about the return on investment for high-quality localized content that translates into increased opportunities to engage new audiences, grow brand recognition and loyalty, and significantly boost revenue.

The Value of Localization

Companies of every size are always looking for ways to decrease the costs of developing a new customer. At the same time, more companies want to localize the ever-increasing amount of marketing content they create to drive demand in new markets.

Web content, emails, ebooks, and landing pages—any touchpoint you plan to create and deliver to multilingual markets—must be localized for the native language, local jargon, and cultural references. If they aren't localized, as much of 50% of your target audience simply ignores your message.

Localized content is becoming key to enhance top of funnel efforts. But companies often forget that core messages and offers are invaluable to regional sales teams hungry for relevant content to share with customers and prospects in their target markets.

When those teams don't have the content they need, they're left to fend for themselves. Then, they often take matters into their own hands to create or translate the materials they need. This drains resources and dilutes your brand with inconsistent ideas, messaging, or low-quality translations. (We've all read articles about brand translations gone wrong, such as Gerber, Pepsi, and Nike.)

True Costs of Going Global

Marketers can estimate the cost of content localization by obtaining bids from LSPs, which provide estimates based on price per word; which language or number of languages the content will be translated into; and other variables.

What marketers may not consider when calculating the budget are the hidden costs of localization:

  • Lost productivity. Valuable staff hours are spent managing the localization process with tools and workflows that haven't changed for nearly 30 years.
  • Delayed local rollouts. Late translations equal a late launch, and it is typical for a company to lock down content changes 2 to 3 months ahead of the launch date to carry out localization.
  • Prolonged time-to-revenue. Localized materials fail to reach all your regional sales teams on time, resulting in lost revenue opportunities each day your offer or product isn't available in the market.

In terms of your global marketing investment, the above hidden costs tend to be higher than the actual cost of translation.

The good news is, however, these areas also offer the greatest opportunity for improvement.

Productivity, Efficiency, and Technology

Marketers increasingly are employing technology to improve the productivity and efficiency of their marketing efforts (including marketing automation, content management systems, and project management apps). Moreover, there are ways to reduce the impact of the hidden costs of localization to improve your overall ROI.

1. Translation Memory

Often referred to as the "best-kept secret" in the localization industry, a Translation Memory database can save you time and money when used properly.

Translation Memory stores all previously translated words and phrases, so translators can re-use translated content to speed translation turnaround time—and reduce costs because you're not paying to have the same words translated again. The key (and where you get the most value) is having all your LSPs (language service providers) or translators inputting and accessing the same Translation Memory database across the entire organization, preferably from a multi-tenant Translation Memory and Glossary in the cloud.

2. Competitive Bids

The difference between 10 cents per word and 9 cents per word adds up quickly when you're translating a 2,000-word newsletter in 12 languages. Get several quotes from professional LSPs who specialize in the languages of your target regions.

3. Elimination of Manual Processes

Improving the efficiency of your localization workflow will improve staff productivity immensely. Before marketing automation existed, copying and pasting email copy for multiple email campaigns was the standard method. But think of the time saved once that single step was eliminated, leaving your team to focus on more valuable marketing tasks.

Identify which steps can be streamlined, or eliminated, and develop processes or use available technology to accelerate workflows with increased visibility.

4. Technology

Marketing organizations spend $20.2 billion on marketing software to build a tech stack that allows them to maximize resources (including time, money and staff) to create and deliver engaging multichannel experiences at scale.

Use the technology you already own to create and deliver localized campaigns and consider integrating a translation automation platform that can connect your entire stack to Translation Memory in a multi-vendor environment.

As an example of how these tactics can work, let's look at how leading enterprise security company Palo Alto Networks reevaluated its localization efforts. Operating in more than 30 countries, the company needs to reach audiences in 20+ different languages. To support this global footprint, the company translates many of its Web content, email marketing, marketing content and collateral, technical documents, and training materials. However, the localization process the company had in place was costly, labor intensive, and time consuming. It was also throttling global go-to-market efforts.

To improve efficiency, productivity, and lower costs, Palo Alto Networks integrated localization technology with Adobe EM, eliminated manual processes, and employed Translation Memory, among other time-saving steps, across the organization.

Streamlining the localization process increased productivity and also improved opportunities for increased revenue by providing more flexibility to create and deliver more campaigns and accelerate go-to-market timelines.

* * *

If you are selling globally, maximize your global marketing efforts by taking control of the entire delivery process to significantly increase revenue potential.

By using technology and improving workflow processes, your content is translated faster, you'll be able to complete more projects more frequently. Moreover, your global campaigns will reach target audiences faster, allowing you to get ahead of your competition. Now that's a good return on your investment.

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Understanding the Hidden Costs of Localization

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image of Richard Harpham

Richard Harpham is president and CEO of Cloudwords, a global marketing hub for executing business worldwide

LinkedIn: Richard Harpham