Localization in 5 steps
Setting yourself up for success in international markets
If you want to expand to new international markets, you have to speak your potential customers’ language. That may sound obvious, but actually putting it into practice is more challenging than you might think. How exactly do you find new target groups in different countries and markets and turn them into loyal customers? One thing is for sure: straight translations of your website and brochures won’t get you there. You need localization that is consistent with your branding and created specifically for your target audiences. Moving into new markets calls not only for language skills but also cultural understanding. In order to help you expand internationally, we’ve put together some pointers that our experience has shown to be useful. Here are our 5 top tips to put your plans on the road to success:
1. Map out a detailed localization plan
A localization strategy is your road map for creating content that inspires confidence and trust among new and potential customers in all your new markets. This strategy defines the markets you aim to enter and your overall goals in each market. Unlike straight translations, localized content is adapted to account for cultural nuances, so nothing feels foreign to your readers. Before starting out in any new market, get a basic idea of the unique requirements and customer expectations of your target audience. If possible, consult with locals. Get a grasp of factors such as market dynamics, preferences, competitors, channels and advertising strategies. You may find that the content and marketing tactics you use in one market don’t have the same impact in another. That may even apply to your brand name: since all markets and target groups are different, the name of your company or product may have an entirely different and possibly unintended meaning or connotation in a different language or market. So planning and advance consultation are vital!
2. Don’t just translate – localize, too
We touched on this already, so now let’s go into some more detail. To really reach and impact your target groups, ask yourself these questions at regular intervals: What do our customer want? What don’t they want? What are the alternatives to our products and services in each market? The answers are crucial and must inform your localization strategy. So always choose translators who are native speakers of the target language and grew up or currently live in the target market/country. Before you start creating content, conduct some focus groups in the target market to test concepts and be sure that they are locally relevant and culturally appropriate. Then, use this information to adapt your website so that it meets local audiences’ expectations. Once your website is thoroughly localized, the content will resonate much better with your target groups. A cloud-based translation management tool can go a long way toward streamlining and simplifying localization process for you. When used by experienced translators, it is the ideal way to localize all your content.
3. Sharpen up your search engine marketing with SEO and SEA
What are the most popular social networks in your target market? What SEO measures will reach the most potential customers? Search engine optimization (SEO), search engine advertising (SEA) and content marketing are vital tools for generating leads in each of your new markets. Part of this process is researching the right keywords, which can be done with either a keyword tool or targeted research – or both, ideally. The better the Google algorithm works, the more vital it is to focus on the audience and give them precisely what they are looking for. Advertising your products and services with Google Ads and social media ads is an especially effective way to make them visible in new target markets. As you 24/7 point of contact, your website is one of your most essential tools for international expansion. The best way to really make it work for you is to optimize the visible content of your pages for each individual market. If you don’t, you risk sinking into oblivion – or at least so far behind the local providers that new customers won’t find you. And remember: other web content, like URLs and image captions, is also relevant for SEO and needs to be optimized.
4. Don’t forget about mobile content
You are probably focusing on localizing content for your desktop website as your number one priority. But don’t neglect mobile platforms like smartphone apps! Localizing content for apps is so important because they represent a unique opportunity for growth. When you localize apps for each individual market, you can improve your conversion rate by two- or even three-digit figures. Localizing your content for mobile channels is especially important in markets where many of your potential customers rely on their smartphones, such as Africa and the Middle East. This includes social media as well.
5. Adapt the layout and presentation where necessary
Localization also extends to the visuals – from the font size to the overall design and layout of your website. Content is king, of course, but it has to be presented in a visually pleasing and clearly structured way. Let’s say you want to launch a website in China. Your content has been skillfully translated and carefully localized. Since you just spent a bundle designing your new Russian website, you decide to use the same layout for Chinese. But, because Chinese characters need to be large in order to be legible online, your text bleeds across the menu bar, which makes it illegible. That is guaranteed to scare potential customers away. How can you prevent layout-related issues? One efficient option is a multilingual plugin installed in the website CMS to provide a preview of the translated content. Also, task your translators with checking the content in a test environment before everything goes live.
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