To scale or not to scale? That is not the question for people who run their own businesses. Any ambitious entrepreneur wants his company to grow and to operate internationally. The problem is that the majority of companies — no matter it’s a start up or a giant with a long history —don’t know or slightly understand their translation needs. Moreover, even though some big companies understand their needs for translation services, they might be doing wrong since business doesn’t draw new customers, displays low conversion or doesn’t bring a desired outcome.
Unfortunately, such bad experience makes entrepreneurs think ‘translation services’ are not what they need. However, breaking the language barrier is still the most important step to grow internationally. How to understand your company needs it? Ask the right questions.
1. Your Company Vision
Because a good beginning gives a good ending, here is the first question to ask: What is your dream-company? What do you want your company to look like? No matter you’d take Yahoo! or Toyota, Berlitz or Prada, all of these companies were born in different parts of the world, but were all born with an ambition for growth and leadership. If you too have that ambition, it means that you need to bring as much useful services to as many people as possible, and you cannot do so if you cannot speak their language. Professional translation services as part of a strong content strategy are priceless assets that can empower your growth and make your dreams true.
2. Your Company Size
If you run a big company with international branches, then you are in need to address your target audience with personalized content in their native language. The question “to translate or not to translate” is not relevant here since translation services will surely bring expected customer response and, as a result, ROI. Are you running a small or medium company? If you wish to “go big”, chances are you need to consider translating and adapting your content as part of a comprehensive international marketing strategy. Believe it or not, investing into translation services is just a drop in the sea which will bring amazing results only if it is completed properly and professionally.
3. Your Budget
While a big majority of companies assume a shy attitude towards their business translation needs, others allocate a very small budget to it, or even worse — don’t provide any budget at all and use free machine translation services, if not asking a native employee on premises to “translate this and that”. No need to explain, companies commit a huge mistake saving on translation services since they miss a major requirement here which is quality and suitability to the target audience, along with the major opportunity of raising customer loyalty; it’s better to avoid translation at all than provide a low-quality translation with numerous mistakes. Saving on translation services could not only seriously impact conversion, adoption and company reputation, it can even cause harm to lives, and it’s definitely not what one is looking for.
4. Your Product Category
According to Menning (2001), more than 67% of goods sold online could be shipped worldwide. Is not it a primary and a big reason to expand your business? No matter you make consumer devices to sell online, develop and sell software or construct heavy medical equipment: if a product can be shipped worldwide, it means it could be sold worldwide. The tip here is to go through your product nomenclature and analyze which of them could be shipped within a given market or worldwide. If the results show more than 50%, then you may want to take the next step and study more in depth your target market’s potential, opportunities, regulations, etc.
5. Your Sales Strategy
Companies adopt a variety of different approaches when it comes to selling their products. While the biggest companies, for example heavy medical or industrial equipment manufacturers, prefer to use sales representatives in the various markets they are selling in, it might be easier for the smaller ones who sell small gadgets or even those who sell software to go for e-commerce. In any case, selling in a culturally and linguistically different market brings unmistakable challenges, and the language is only one of them. Regional sales representatives usually have to deal with local customers who might be speaking a different language. In this case, giving the customer a pre-sales pitch, a product brochure or a user manual in English would simply be useless. Customers need to know about a product and make a buying decision, only to be able to use it at the end. An expensive medical device which the customer cannot use due to unfriendly materials or significant hidden costs in terms of training, is wasted money.
6. Your Quality Standards
Are there any industry-specific requirements or policies that you need to comply with to sell in foreign markets? For instance, according to the Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, section, 9.2 “Manufacturers and distributors of infant formula should ensure that each container has a clear, conspicuous, and easily readable and understandable message printed on it, or on a label which cannot readily become separated from it, in an appropriate language”. This example highlights the importance of an accurate translation, and any formula manufacturer who stands for compliance would undoubtedly take that requirement into account. Each industry has both local and international standards, regulations and limitations which have to be observed, and this is where a professional translation can be a key asset to your product compliance.
7. Your Target Audience Language
Every schoolboy knows the official language in France is French, Ukrainian in Ukraine, Spanish in Spain, etc. However, only a few companies pay attention to dialects, native languages, bilingual people or regional properties. For example, France has more than 6 dialects (depending on region), the majority of Ukrainians speak Russian since historically it’s their native language and more than 8 million people in Spain speak both Spanish and Catalan. If you want to cover as many customers as possible, you must pay more attention and be very careful when choosing language for your audience. According to linguist Anna Pavlenko (2008), more than 54% people speak two and more languages. Thus, the language pattern of your target market could also be decisive in your customer’s buying decision.
8. Your Target Audience Education
Even though companies spend much money to know their target audience, sometimes we still have a vague portrait of an end customer. You might be serving specialized and highly educated people, customers who can even speak 2+ languages or freely read scientific materials in English. On the other hand, others only know their mother tongue or have very limited understanding of your home language. If you are in the first case, offering translated content would be perceived as a positive measure towards promoting technology and knowledge. To put it into a nutshell, no matter your content is being read by a researcher or a high-school student, it should be catchy and easy to understand. If, however, your customers only speak their native language, and knowing that the language learning curve could be very long, the translation challenge should be avoided at any price.