How to Create a Successful Localization Strategy for International Expansion
The quest for expansion into overseas markets marks a major milestone in an SME’s growth. But before the bubbly can flow, the journey requires tremendous financial investments, including a carefully considered localization strategy to ensure that your company’s offering will provide the best customer experience possible for your new target market in terms language, culture, and context.
Localization is something often overlooked by small and medium business owners when developing their international expansion strategies. When a company enters a foreign market for the first time, many are surprised that it’s simply not possible to translate 100,000 words of user documentation in just two weeks without a structured project workflow, while producing an output quality that matches its purpose.
At this point, executives often start searching for the best localization strategy on-the-go — changing vendors or trying to build an in-house process from scratch — stretching a workforce that is usually already working at full capacity.
Our 30 years’ experience with bringing SMEs and scale-ups into new markets has shown that localization processes rarely run well when it is left to trial and error. On the contrary, successful localization of a product or service requires a strategy that is built well in advance.
We analyzed over 400 projects across the IT, software, hardware, electronics and industrial engineering sectors to put together this list of tips to help you address the most common challenges faced in building a localization strategy for international expansion for the first time.
1. Ensure your product is 100% ready for internationalization
Even though this might sound obvious, this part is often underestimated. A product’s readiness for internationalization plays a crucial part in overseas success, especially when it comes to software or app localization.
Before launching a product overseas, make sure it is designed with a global audience in mind. This means it should have a clear intuitive UI and translatable content. It is also a good idea to perform an audit of your software to detect any issues that might impact localization such as:
- Does your app support different alphabets, including those which read from right to left like Arabic or Hebrew?
- Does the content have all the code removed from it, leaving just pure text?
- Have you exported your content to standard-based file formats such as XML or XLIFF?
Invest time in properly laying the localization foundations for your software or app to ensure its future scalability, as fixing poorly internationalized products post factum can result in big revenue losses.
2. Choose your localization setup
In-house or outsourced? Think of this strategic decision in advance.
Setting up an in-house localization team is a good idea for companies producing highly specialized products that will require constant exchange between translators and developers.
However, if your product or service allows outsourcing localization and translation services to a reliable vendor, doing this can help you optimize the workflow and save costs. This is especially true if your company is planning to enter multiple international markets concurrently or within a short timeframe.
One of our customers, an Australian cloud networking company, needed to localize their platform and documentation portal into 4 languages within the span of 2 months. To meet this tight schedule, we developed a to allow for smoother processing of complex document formats like Mkdocs.
At the same time, flexible service levels ensured the content was delivered on time with the required quality all while maximizing cost efficiency. This attributed to our client experiencing a 26 percent growth since they started collaborating with Milengo.
3. Plan a quality control approach
Appoint a champion within your company to oversee and manage the quality of translations on a permanent basis. Make sure this person coordinates with both localization managers and all internal departments. This helps to ensure that your brand voice and common business terminologies remain consistent across markets and departments.
This champion could even create a translation taskforce to get support from regional staff to check and approve translated content. The last thing you want to do when you’re just getting started in a foreign market is to make a cultural faux pas!
4. Develop terminology management as early as possible
Standardizing your product terminology from the very beginning is a very small investment with a very large pay-off. Save time for everyone by creating a glossary or a database with key terms and phrases that you can hand over to linguists. It also works to make sure that your internally defined corporate language is applied consistently throughout the company, and that your brand image remains true to who you are, even in other countries.
5. Integrate process automation tools and formats that work with all markets
It’s a common misconception that localization is limited to just the translation process. In fact, it also involves lots of processes and logistics such as file management, terminology management, quality assurance, AI-based translation systems, and much, much more.
A powerful translation management system (TMS) with connectors and APIs that allow you to network and streamline all the components in your translation process across different markets and departments is crucial to prepare your company for international expansion and scalability. This will help make sure that as much of the process as possible is automated and your team can focus on strategic tasks instead of spending hours copy-and-pasting translations from one document to another.
Infor, a leading global provider of ERP software, saw the number of target languages required for their flagship products increase from 11 languages to 27 languages within the span of one year during an active expansion phase.
They secured a significant cost reduction through the integration of translation tool, memoQ. Furthermore, custom-developed scripts by Milengo to automate time-consuming, manual engineering tasks in XML processing, resulted in a smoother workflow and more time dedicated to ensuring the utmost translation quality.
Read the full case study
Your company is your baby and expanding overseas for the first time is always thrilling, no matter if this expansion comes as a result of a successful funding round or steady growth in the domestic market.
Having an action plan and the right international expansion strategies in place will optimize your budget and prevent unnecessary stress. This includes selecting the right setup and tech stack for your localization processes to facilitate an easy and affordable journey for your team.
Want to know how Milengo can help you penetrate international markets with less lead time, and drive sales? Download our Go to Market Guide: Find the Right Partner to Make Scaling Up Your Translations a Success