Nothing makes an executive smile quite like an employee who consistently delivers more from less. So for the thousands of localization managers currently being asked to support more global content with a stagnant or shrinking translation budget, consider that inconvenience an indirect invitation to career advancement.
Before setting any strategy in motion, though, be sure to weigh these six tips for getting the most out of whatever resources you’ve been given.
Don’t Translate Everything At Once
A “go big or go home” mentality won’t get you — or your budget — very far. In reality, this apparently ambitious mantra is actually one of the most limiting localization factors we see.
Companies that delay international launches until their entire content catalog can be translated often miss valuable market opportunities by months or years. And when that localized content finally debuts, their teams have less money left over to run complementary marketing campaigns or start supporting additional languages.
An all-inclusive approach also overlooks the true purpose of translation. Supplying every audience with an exact replica of the original experience is usually a false achievement. The real goal for modern, data-driven marketers should be delivering the lowest volume of content with the maximum value for readers.
A more cost-effective translation strategy, then, begins by acknowledging that not all of your content will be similarly valuable to a new audience. Product descriptions and customer testimonials, for instance, will naturally play a more important role in purchasing decisions than a blog post about last year’s company picnic.
Each business will ultimately define its minimum viable content differently, but it’s always an exercise worth doing. For best results, publish gradually, measure frequently, and expand strategically based on the content gaps and opportunities you see.
Don’t Treat Every Language The Same
Just as some pieces of content are more valuable to an audience, some languages are more valuable to a business. All it takes is a quick glance at traffic patterns, conversion rates, and revenue breakdowns to confirm as much. Nevertheless, some companies still fall into the trap of applying the exact same translation strategy to every supported language.
We’ll discuss how you might vary your approach to each language a bit later, but first we need to prioritize their place in your broader localization plans. Something as simple a three-tier framework is a great place to start.
The top tier can cover languages that represent the largest addressable markets and most engaged audiences. The middle tier can include languages associated with slightly smaller markets that are just starting to engage with your brand. The bottom tier can catch languages tied to more speculative markets and niche audiences which could deliver significant value someday down the road.
This preliminary framework is merely an example, of course, and your individual market penetration plans will help provide a more nuanced perspective. Drawing even nominal distinctions between languages, though, will put you in position to allocate translation budgets more intelligently when the time comes.
Don’t Assume You Always Need Professional Translators
Reconsidering what you translate is only the first layer of cost efficiency. Aspiring global brands can only restrict the scope of localized content so far before they begin to restrict its value as well. At that point, reconsidering how you translate is the only path to continued progress.
The first variable to look at here is who you recruit to complete the translations. Many companies reflexively enlist the assistance of professional agencies simply because they aren’t aware of any other options. In reality, crowdsourced volunteers, bilingual employees, and machine resources can all help produce viable translations in the right scenarios. And if you did the content and language prioritization work we discussed above, you already have scenarios ready to assign.
A high-priority product page localized for a top-tier language, for example, will almost certainly merit the expense of professional translators. By contrast, a blog post that has not inspired a single customer conversion in the past 18 months is unlikely to justify the $500 required to professionally translate it into four languages ($0.25/word x 500 words x 4 languages). Instead, leveraging the free talent of bilingual employees would be a relatively low-risk way to conserve budget for more-essential content.
This is the kind of calculated decision global brands must get comfortable making if they hope to maximize their translation investments. Because over the course of a single website translation project alone, it could make tens of thousands of dollars worth of a difference.
Don’t Force Everything Through The Same Workflow
Translators are only one category of collaborators responsible for what audiences ultimately see on their screens. Editors, proofreaders, and subject matter experts are the last line of defense for translation quality, and their talents carry a cost as well.
As with professional translation, there are certain scenarios in which extensive review is more or less justified. Unfortunately, companies have been even less likely to explore their options in this arena.
Part of the problem has been the historical absence of flexible workflows within translation management software. Strategically adding or subtracting review steps in alignment with content value is still a new privilege for most localization managers. What’s often more influential, however, is the fear of what might happen if they are seen scaling back quality assurance efforts.
This worry can often be remedied with a similar calculation to the one we performed a few paragraphs ago. That easily forgotten blog post that wasn’t worth professionally translating probably won’t justify $100 worth of associated review costs either ($.05/word x 500 words x 4 languages).
A more permanent cure for quality assurance anxiety, though, involves arming translators with more of what they need to succeed on the first try.
Don’t Leave Translators In The Dark
Some translation errors are inevitable. Even seasoned professionals will drop a plural and misplace a pronoun every now and again when processing thousands of words per day. A much larger percentage of mistakes are preventable, though, and these budget-burning blunders are usually the result of a translator left with no option but to offer their best guess.
Where will the string appear on the webpage?
What is an acceptable tone to use?
Is it a branded term or an optional phrase?
The more translators are left without readily available answers to these kinds of questions, the more you can expect to pay for prolonged correction cycles.
A more cost-effective approach would be to anticipate such inquiries and proactively provide guidance in the form of brand glossaries, style guides, and visual context. Empowering translators to solve their own problems from the start significantly reduces the odds of errors ever reaching reviewers.
And as your confidence in original translation accuracy grows, you may even consider strategically removing review steps (and expenses) in content scenarios where correctable errors are less likely to damage your brand.
Don’t Pay For Redundant Work
You’ve prioritized your localized content queue, you’ve customized a few common-sense workflows, and you’ve started maximizing the time and talent of all your translation resources. At this point, everything should be tracking on-schedule and under budget. Now, don’t let all that good work go to waste by paying for the same output multiple times.
Such an obvious notion may seem silly to even mention, but any team operating without translation memory will fall into that financial trap.
Even the most creative and diverse corporate libraries contain hundreds of repetitive phrases — from product names to technical descriptions. And with no means of capturing and repurposing their originally approved translations, a company resigns itself to paying translators the full per-word rate for each and every instance despite the minimal effort required.
On the contrary, leveraging translation memory to your advantage could automatically take up to 80% off the top of your total translation expenses.