One of the biggest problems in establishing localization guidelines is that they’re the virtual “hot potato” of the digital world. No one wants to take ownership because it seems like a lot of work for little recognition. The norm for companies is that they don’t start with localization in mind. It’s often a reactive process that comes when you’ve reached a plateau in your domestic potential. The reality is actually behind the times.
The truth is that localization is a genuine revenue driver. It can increase your reach exponentially with every market you enter. It’s the process that turns a small, domestic company into a multi-national conglomerate. That’s why it’s such a favorite of upper management. When done right, it has real potential. But when done wrong, it can become an overwhelming mess.
What Can Go Wrong Without Localization Guidelines?
The most significant risk in not establishing localization guidelines is wasted resources. Companies may sink a lot of money into a project only to find there’s little to no payoff. That’s because they often make five critical mistakes in establishing a localization strategy:
1. Saving localization for last
People generally think of localization only as something needed on the latter end of operations. It’s rarely a strategy driver in and of itself. As a result, all content is built for a single market, and the backend supports that. When it comes time for new-market entry, it takes a major code overhaul to make a product localization friendly.
2. Not gaining stakeholder buy-in
Typically, a localization project is assigned to either marketing or operations. There are very few internal localization specialists available. As a result, the person handling it may take a very myopic view of company needs, typically only focusing on the requirements of their department. They may hire a vendor to manage tasks, but most of those tasks will be reactive and not take into account the requirements of the organization as a whole.
3. Ineffective content management
The root of all quality localization efforts is in well-established content and workflow management tools. Otherwise, it’s a garbage-in, garbage-out situation. If you don’t have a reliable CMS and a TMS or platform that can integrate, then there is no foundation to build a localization strategy. Workflows will be challenging to manage, and redundant tasks will become the norm.
4. No scalability
Scalable content roll-out in new markets is an integral part of managing both expenses and resources. Rather than launching a massive overhaul in multiple markets or dialects, slowly building up one library of content and then using those results to inform on other strategies is ideal.
5. Limited ROI tracking
You need to be able to connect your efforts to your ROI. That means reporting so you can tell why specific markets succeed while others fall flat. For example, you may have an expansion in Turkish that shows high returns, but you want to break it down to a granular level as to why. Is it because your content is the best? Or is it because it’s the only content available? Similarly, you may want to compare the efficiency of your linguistic team and workflows for Turkish against those of another language team to identify any improvements you can implement. Understanding the specific catalyst for your ROI is as important as tracking the ROI itself.
Taking a Platform Approach to Localization Strategies
Most localization strategies center on just a small component of the overall project: translators. While translators are essential, they are only a tiny part of the whole picture. A robust localization strategy will include the following guidelines:
While the large-scale goal is to enter a new market, you also need to look at why that market is a target. Is there already demand for your product, or is there speculative demand for your industry in general? This insight can guide your decision on how you approach the market—and which markets you prioritize for localization.
Identify all of the content you’ll need to localize. That includes auditing all the different media types required, whether they’re text, audio, video, or graphics. On top of that, you’ll need to assess key stakeholders and their responsibilities for content as it moves through the pipeline. In other words, thoroughly anticipate your localization ecosystem so you can build a supportive and efficient foundation.
What do you have in your arsenal that could make this task easier, more accurate, more consistent? You may have existing term bases, translation memories, and corporate lexicons that can be optimized and centralized. By anticipating and translating brand-specific, local UI-specific, or otherwise standard terms and phrases early on, you can streamline translation efforts and avoid costly mistakes and inconsistencies down the road. Having these resources centralized and top of mind also empowers your team to keep them up to date and evolving with your product’s trajectory.
Ideally, you’ll already have a reliable content management system in place that can be integrated with a localization management platform. Automating the front and back ends of your localization workflow saves incredible time, leaving linguists, editors, and other collaborators free to apply themselves where it really counts. And on a centralized platform, content workflows are entirely in sync and trackable from end-to-end, giving you insight and valuable oversight without having to actually manage these fine-tuned processes.
The right partner can help manage localization guidelines by providing a robust platform that limits the common issues when entering a new market. These providers will offer workflow management that allows you to see all the content at its various stages in the project and run reports based on your activity. With that, you can understand the real ROI of your localization efforts and make it much easier to expand your reach across the globe.