The process of internationalization is focused on the business-related aspects of translating your product. It’s not just about linguistics; it’s about understanding what markets to connect with and how to best adapt your content. Most business leaders begin to consider internationalization when domestic sales plateau. Expansion into global markets allows for growth to resume.
Unfortunately, efforts don’t meet expectations in many cases. A multilingual approach is expensive, and without a strategy based on empirical evidence, it’s unlikely to pay off. To improve your chances of success in the process of internationalization, you need to review your target markets carefully and make the most of your existing assets.
Necessary Steps in the Process of Internationalization
Internationalization is a combination of international business strategies and product marketing. You may think China—with a population of 1.3 billion people—is a market rife with potential, without realizing all the legal, cultural, compliance, and tax issues you’re going to be faced with when launching there. To avoid problems like this, here are three steps to help you find and justify the value of a given market.
#1. Target the low-hanging fruit
Ideally, you’ll want to consider markets with the lowest risk and the most straightforward implementations. Some obvious ones will be where there’s already a broad, pre-existing English-speaking audience that you can build upon and grow. When it comes to translation, you may want to consider new languages where the roots are close to English. For example, it’s much easier to translate English into German, as they share West Germanic roots. On the other hand, it’s much more challenging to translate English into Mandarin, as the language has different roots, rules, and structures.
Additional factors to consider are the local taxes, competition, and other legalities. This will help you better understand value when attempting to justify market entry. Tariff rates on physical products, consumer privacy laws, and the public’s access to the internet are all going to limit the return on investment (ROI) for any global expansion.
#2. Complete small-scale soft launches
Running initial tests in smaller targeted areas can help you identify the growth potential in each market. This can be as simple as working with local influencers or arranging a small group of beta-testers to gauge their interest in the product. In some cases, you may consider hiring a research firm to estimate the interest in the market, but this can often be misleading since the data collected isn’t based on empirical evidence—it’s speculative. Smaller pilots can help you paint a more accurate picture of potential demand.
#3. Make use of your existing data
Activity on your website can be a data-rich source of information on global interest in your project. While the majority of hits will likely come from your locale, there will be secondary markets to review for potential interest. Take notice of these international visitors, their dwell times, and pages viewed to gather valuable insights into international expansion opportunities.
Engagement is another crucial factor. If you’re receiving a lot of user reports requesting specific languages and information, it may be wise to do a test translation project on a few pages and gauge the response to that. It’s a relatively low-cost way to weigh interest that allows you to scale up down the road.
Going Global Versus Targeting Specific Markets
Another thing you should consider as part of your internationalization strategy is how your product or content will need to change. Are you planning a global approach where the language and campaigns stay relatively the same, or will you segment your efforts based on specific markets? A lot of that decision will depend on how your product is poised already.
Consider Harley Davidson, an American company with a massive international presence. In the U.S., the company’s marketing efforts center on Americana and bike-culture, but these are elements that wouldn’t translate well to an international audience. As a result, the company updated its branding and marketing to reach consumers in different locales. The launch was a success, but it’s worth noting that the company had the financial means and pre-existing brand recognition as foundational components for its international expansion.
The segmented approach is certainly appealing, but its cost and scope can quickly add up and become unmanageable, making it a difficult strategy to implement at the start. Instead, you’ll want to globalize your content on a more general basis first and then adapt it as you’re able to gauge demand.
For this, you’ll want to use a localization management platform to help you control all workflows and keep an eye on your returns. A good program can consolidate all your localization tasks in one space and then use the information garnered to deliver demand-related insights. It can essentially replace a market research firm by allowing you to manage and monitor a soft launch.
The process of internationalization is one that requires collaboration and information. Through the alignment of operations, marketing, and product managers, you can optimize your strategies for each market. Then, you can use the information generated during soft launches to understand demand better. Through this, you’ll see a higher return for your localization efforts and expand your reach exponentially.
Bureau Works provides a comprehensive platform that will help you navigate the process of internationalization so you can reach a whole new collection of audiences. For more information, contact our team.