Clear, concise, and consistent communication is key when partnering with marketing translation services.
Of course, even when you’re on the same page, there can be obstacles that cause problems with delivery, beyond the usual and completely natural challenges that come with working with any sort of agency for any purpose.
Marketing translation is a significant effort that directly impacts your bottom-line—trust us, we know: we’ve been helping clients with this and many other endeavors for over a decade and a half now. So it’s wise to understand what can go wrong, the reasons behind these problems, and how to solve them.
What material goes into marketing translation depends on what parts of your campaign you want to localize. According to a survey of hundreds of CMOs, the top 10 localized customer touchpoints are:
1. Primary corporate site
4. Banner ads and displays
5. Social media ads
6. General social media profiles
8. Direct mail
9. Physical locations in local markets
10. Print advertising
Businesses consider a number of factors when translating marketing messaging into other languages. According to the same survey, the factors that influence this decision (ordered from most to least) include:
If you look at these factors, they essentially break down how much of a market match there is between a business’s products and/or services and the market in which they wish to localize. This also probably reflects your situation to some degree.
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On the other hand, in the same survey, respondents said that the three most significant obstacles to achieving satisfactory marketing localization (again, from most important to the least) include:
All of these are mostly evaluated on your side, as opposed to the marketing translation agency’s side. Of course, your partner should have some insight into these concerns and visibility into how they are to be analyzed, but for the most part, these are issues you solve on your own with the help of your provider.
Note that further down the list of obstacles, there are some challenges that your provider can partially or completely solve for you, e.g., sourcing local resources and expertise.
Fundamentally, these are high-level agendas that you solve on your own or you can decide to rely on your partner to do so. So, let’s not confuse them with the major problems you might potentially have with your service provider.
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Finally, it’s worth noting that naturally no two situations, marketing translation efforts, and partnerships will be the same. These major problems are simply, in a general manner, what you can expect to arise when working with your marketing translation agency. Any solutions provided herein could potentially save you from further headaches and cost.
Since your marketing localization relies on the translation of your material, turnaround time directly equates time-to-market.
Turnaround time is a common point of friction in any localization effort—not just marketing. In fact, as you well know, turnaround time is a common bottleneck in marketing; marketing information doesn’t create itself, after all. It simply takes time to get materials from one end of the process to the other, and in between, the manual work, feedback loops, and revisions potentially extend the overall timeline.
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In short, it’s natural that you would notice how much turnaround time can be an obstacle. That doesn’t mean that you can’t optimize and speed it up. So, what bottlenecks slow down turnaround times that dictate your time-to-market when it comes to marketing localization?
First, there’s tech stack, stakeholder, and process pile-up. In short, there are too many software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms, too many people, and too many subprocesses involved in delivering translations.
Worse, your marketing campaigns themselves may suffer from similar pile-ups, so the issue is exacerbated not just with doubled delivery timeframes, but also increased points of error where things can go wrong.
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The average marketing pipeline already encompasses several channels: email, social media, customer relationship management, direct mail, web analytics and search, to name just the staples.
So take that pile-up, and introduce translation into the mix, which has its own subprocesses and somehow needs to merge with your own in a manner that lets you ideally simultaneously launch, update, and measure multilingual marketing campaigns. It’s easy to see how turnaround times can snowball with a setup like that.
Secondly, because you have your own processes and your partner provider also has theirs, inflexibility on either side would naturally lead to misaligned processes and strategies for publishing marketing information.
Let’s take the platforms we just mentioned—let’s say you use email, direct mail, social media, and search engine optimization in your marketing mix and you need multilingual versions of the information that goes through those channels.
How do you integrate your translation provider’s processes with your own? At which point in the pipeline?
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It’s ideal to perform simultaneous publishing, of course, but where does local expertise come in? Should you involve your local experts in your marketing information development process right from its elaboration or should you just send them project briefs for review before they go into the translation pipeline?
Obviously, an improperly optimized process merging only increases turnaround time across the board. Now's the time to notice that a common solution to process merging actually leads to another major problem.
A common strategy to properly merge processes between your marketing department and your localization company is centralization.
For example, corporate HQ handles a centralized office for marketing development and this branches out to local units who, in turn, might be attached to single or various marketing translation agencies. Those partner agencies can send in their experts to corporate for any required evaluations or input prior to production and/or translation.
Excellent; sounds good on paper. However, this creates an overall strain on centralized corporate department resources and weakens quality control over local in-house teams.
In a report developed by the CMO Council on how to enact measurable local strategies, a survey indicated that over a third (36%) of responding businesses admit that control of brand assets is more in the hands of the in-house teams as opposed to the centralized corporate office.
Among the same respondents, only a quarter said they had “tightly controlled” delivery of brand assets from corporate to local stakeholders, and disturbingly, nearly a quarter (22%) said they only “loosely monitored” their brand assets and a small percentage (2%) said they had “little control or visibility.”
Due to the strain on resources, brand assets may not come out exactly as intended by HQ when it reaches local audiences. This means even if you can execute simultaneous international marketing campaigns, they may not be of the same quality, and branding may be inconsistent with messaging.
So what happens when the final review comes around and the feedback loop involves corporate once again? There are inevitable delays in launching and optimizing marketing campaigns for local markets.
In the same report by the CMO Council, CMOs surveyed said they lacked resources that could otherwise help them keep marketing campaigns updated, and significant delays arise between deployment of the main or global marketing campaigns and the localized roll-outs.
Nearly a third (30%) of marketers surveyed said the gap between roll-outs typically exceeds 30 days, and only a small percentage were able to be executed immediately (3%) or within one to three days (6%).
If we assume that you have an effective process for identifying marketing ROI and tracking which efforts bring the best results, it makes sense that you should be able to extend this to multilingual marketing campaigns.
In reality, there are quite a few aspects in which measuring ROI could go wrong, especially for multilingual marketing campaigns. The facet that interests us is measuring the ROI of your marketing translation agency, (i.e. how much value did your partner bring to the table and how much did the localized marketing materials impact your bottom-line?).
One of the major and typical problems in this case is that there’s no optimized means to gauge how the translation impacted the marketing data.
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As you know, the ROI for a lot of digital marketing efforts can be more or less concretely traced to its source, i.e. which channel led to the conversion and for what amount.
Web analytics typically measure in metrics like cost per click (CPC)/impression (CPM) or number of views/visitors. It’s simple enough to lay down the same process for another marketing campaign just in a different language, but it’s much more complex to figure out how much the translation itself contributed to the ROI.
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Another issue that plagues the evaluation of ROI is the fact that sometimes businesses do not have standardized and set processes for doing so in the first place.
Many businesses still perform measurement processes on an ad hoc basis, and even for companies with formalized ROI evaluation processes, some don’t have access to comprehensive, centralized dashboards that can give them insight into their marketing campaigns and channels.
Even the simple practice of transferring CPCs and traffic and view counts from your base language into localized marketing campaigns can also be a problem in itself.
This is because these metrics are more advertising-driven, focused on numbers developed for ads (e.g., impressions) and landing pages (e.g., traffic or views). The value of localized marketing campaigns isn’t really accurately measured through eyes on screens because the main reason you translated into local languages in the first place is to better engage your audiences.
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In a Gallup poll for consumers in the EU, 42% of respondents said they would never purchase from a website that was not in their own language. They would look at it — you could get their impressions and their views — but they won’t purchase. In short, it could be that you’re measuring only a small part of the bigger picture.
In the US, the State Department estimates that firms lose $50 billion in potential sales every year due to problems that arise with translation and localization.
Speeding up turnaround times, executing simultaneous international marketing campaigns, and measuring ROI—these are some of the biggest and most common problems that companies have with their marketing translation agencies.
If you find yourself in a situation where turnaround times seem to be a big issue, you can look into investing in more automation to better connect and unify the different processes that your marketing assets undergo.
When working with marketing translation services, you should always ask about the tools and software they use, and about the possibility of integrating your system with their translation software.
Comprehensively work with your partner in how to flexibly meet each other’s needs to complete the roll-out of translated marketing material as efficiently as possible.
As for executing multilingual multi-channel marketing, your strategic objectives will dictate your approach. Is it better for you to simply expand your reach and gain more interest from several local markets without necessarily converting in the meantime?
Or would you require deeper market penetration; in which case you want to focus your limited resources on the local markets that best match your products and services.
Find a provider you can completely rely on in terms of translation and technology as well as linguistic and cultural expertise. Even then, larger projects might experience some delays, but your internal resources should suffer less strain and you can more readily fill in gaps in marketing roll-outs.
Ask about their tools, processes and project management. Learn their ways of finding the best linguists for your content translation. The more you know about them and how they operate, the better your chances for a fast and cost-effective localization process.
Check if they are able to help you not only translate your marketing content but also save on localization and avoid overspending on it.
When it comes to measuring ROI, it is crucial that you establish standardized messaging, metrics, and formal guidelines that aren’t just templated but make complete sense for your goals.
Communicate with your marketing translation agency to clarify what you need delivered and what service level agreements should be in place.
Don’t be enamored by convenient metrics too focused on marketing channels and campaigns, but instead look at measurements that revolve around the user: customer lifetime value, lower acquisition costs, and reduction of churn-rate.
Last but not least, clear, concise, and consistent communication with your translation partner is key.