The Marketer’s Guide to Making Translation Easier

If you’re a marketer and have translation projects on your plate, there are several things you’ll need to know. Believe it or not, translation projects don’t have to be that complicated or frustrating, if you know how to do them right! In this marketing guide to translation, we’ll walk you through the most important things you need to know to ensure that your translation projects are a success.

Recognize That Everyone’s Translating These Days

It’s no secret that most marketers don’t love dealing with translation projects. They’re like marketing on steroids. Suddenly, the number of audiences, file formats, and issues you have to consider seem to grow exponentially. You take great care to make sure that everything looks and sounds just perfect in your company’s source language. You’re familiar with your personas and core audiences, your company’s core brand messages, and the best ways to use calls to action. Marketers often envision that translation will cause their workload to multiply before their very eyes.

The biggest issue that matters to you as a marketer? Control. Marketers want to retain control over many things — the messages, the brand voice, the tone, the style, the visuals, the pathway, the focus keywords and metadata — and ultimately, the customer experience. When marketers are tasked with translation, they worry that they’ll lose control. After all, after you translate website content or marketing materials how can you verify the translation quality is high when you cannot even understand the language? It’s hard enough to be an excellent communicator in your native language — let alone in foreign ones, even if you studied them a little in high school!

But there’s good news. Many, many marketers have gone before you and were in the exact same situation. And what they’ve learned is that you can actually handle translation projects without giving up control — if you know how to manage them right. Yes, managing translation projects is a skill that can be learned. And, even better news — knowing how to manage translation projects is an important and much-desired capability that more and more businesses need, and that you can add to your resume. It makes you a more valuable asset to any marketing team at a company that has an international revenue component.

Jump Past the Most Common Mistakes Marketers Make with Translation

Countless marketers have learned how to run translation projects the hard way — through trial and error. But here’s an easier way for you: learn from the five most common mistakes that marketers make with translation projects:

Mistake #1: Thinking you can fully “outsource” international communications.

You can definitely purchase translation services from a third party, but that doesn’t mean you can outsource full control over your brand identity and content in other languages. Ultimately, you need to stay in control. It’s very tempting to just “throw things over the wall” to translation agencies and hope they will take care of the rest.

Think about how you would work with any agency — a PR firm, a creative agency — would you just throw a project to them and expect it to come back with no input from you? Would you trust their work without even looking at it? The reality is, you need a different mindset when it comes to translation, looking at it as something that you actually want to be involved in, and that you want to retain control over. It’s important, as a marketer, that you take full ownership of all communications to your audience — and not just those that occur in languages you can understand.

Mistake #2: Failing to provide clear guidance about your brand voice.

Why do you need a style guide and glossary in your source language? Not only will this help you improve the quality of your source text, but it’s also the best way to ensure that translators stay on-message and on-brand in all of their communications. If you don’t already have a style guide and glossary, it’s very easy to create them. In fact, you can pay a translator or terminologist to do this for you. They will extract terms that are relevant and recurring, and will document the ways they are used.

With your help, a freelance terminologist can easily document these items for you in your authoring language. Then, you can have your translation provider or freelance translators create a version of them for each language. While it might sound tedious, this is a simple, easy way to ensure that your translations have the best quality and the least room for error. Luckily, this process is relatively easy and inexpensive, but bears results on translation project after project.

Mistake #3: Not safeguarding your multilingual content assets.

With inbound marketing and content marketing playing such important roles for most businesses today, it’s incredible to think that many marketers working on translation projects are not aware of a technology that has been around for decades called translation memory. A translation memory is a simple concept — it’s a database of translations you have already completed in the past. They are stored in a translation memory file, usually in TMX format.

If you have these assets, you can easily take them and use them for other projects in the future. Think of it this way — would you work with a creative agency that refused to give you access to your source files? No, of course not, because you’re paying for them as a work for hire, and you may want to use them in other ways across various channels. Translations are also assets that can be used in a multi-purpose, multi-format, multi-channel way. So, make sure that no matter which vendor you pick, you always request that they deliver the translation memory files to you along with your completely translated assets.

Mistake #4: Not using workflow automation tools to speed up the process.

Doing translation projects without workflow automation is like sending emails without marketing automation software — slow, manual, and inefficient. If that’s what you dread about translation projects, it’s because you haven’t been exposed to the simplicity of  software localization and translation. Much like setting up a drip campaign once and not having to worry about it while the e-mail marketing and lead nurturing just “happens” behind the scenes, translation automation tools make the translation process happen automatically in the background without the need for you to constantly be checking on every detail. Just like with marketing automation software, the idea is to do the implementation properly up front, so that you have less hassle later on with greater scalability.

Mistake #5: Believing that multilingual websites will be a nightmare.

In the past, international website projects were a beast. Just like many marketers didn’t look forward to translation projects, developers deplored the idea of spending their days copying and pasting translations in order to build and maintain sites in multiple languages. Today, software can remove the need to copy and paste and send files around, and remove the need to actually internationalize a website in the first place by automating the externalization of strings.

Sound too techie? That’s because this kind of software, called a translation proxy tool, actually does many of the same tasks an engineer would have to do if you didn’t have it available. So, if you want to avoid hassling your IT team with website projects, that kind of solution can be helpful. Or, if you’re using a CMS, you might want to consider a direct integration with the most popular content management platforms, such as Drupal, Sitecore, and Adobe CQ.

All of these common pitfalls really boil down to the importance of retaining control over your brand identity as it moves into new markets and expands its market penetration efforts. That’s important to you as a marketer. Knowing more about the process can help you remain in control and do a better job of guiding your translation projects down the right path.

Take a Metrics-Driven Approach to Translation

Many marketers have embraced metrics-driven marketing, because it turns marketing from what it used to be considered, a “soft art,” into something tangible that can be proven with hard data. The same can be true of translation, but you’ll need to consider what kinds of metrics you want to track and link to your translation projects, ideally before you begin. Here are some helpful hints to guide you:

Pay attention to the metrics that matter for the executive team.

Which metrics really matter for your business? Which ones does the CEO talk about at every all-hands meeting? Now, which ones can you get closest to with your marketing metrics? For example, if your primary focus is revenue growth, find out what the fastest-growing international markets are, and measure the impact that translation has on something tangible — click-through rates, web page conversions, international traffic on your site — and set specific goals that link to the overall company financial goals.

Make proving the ROI your mantra.

Many companies want to measure the ROI of translation, but fail to properly plan for this at the outset. How do you measure the ROI of your other marketing efforts? Try to extend those metrics to your international customers when planning your global campaigns. Make sure that the people on your team are metrics-focused, and that all of them understand the importance of linking your global marketing activities to overall revenue.

Treat translation as an investment that will keep yielding.

Unlike money that is spent on some campaigns in your source language, the money you spend on translation can actually pay dividends in a different way. When you create translations and store them for future projects, the overall cost of your future translations goes down. In fact, some companies that have accumulated a large amount of translation memory can save up to 80% if their content is highly repetitive.

Team up with other groups to measure your corporate translation spend.

You’d be surprised how many other groups in your organization, besides marketing purchase translations. In large businesses, legal departments, training teams, finance team, web teams, product teams — and often, they are all paying to translate the same boilerplate text and the same core content over and over. No one likes to see a business being wasteful with resources.

If your company is focused on decreasing spending, consider creating a “translation tiger team” or a group where you can assemble many translation stakeholders from the various parts of your company. If you add up what you are currently spending, you might want to share your translated assets to decrease costs. Centralizing with a primary vendor can also help you benefit from better rates and lower overall project management fees.

In this guide, you’ve learned why translation doesn’t have to be so hard — it can actually be easy to manage and rewarding to develop as another tool to add to your international marketing kit. You’ve also learned how to avoid the most common pitfalls that marketers who are inexperienced with translation tend to make. And, importantly, you’ve realized the value of treating your translated content as an asset, one that you invest in, so that the value grows over time, and yields measurable results for your business.

To learn more about how translation software can help you have a positive experience with your next translation initiative, contact us.

Need more information first? Read our translation software buyer’s guide for more helpful advice.