It should come as no surprise that the top ten brands in the world (as of 2019) are all familiar names – not only here inside the US, but around the world as well: Disney, McDonald’s, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Apple. Most businesses will never attain the kind of global reputation that has made these giants household names around the world. But in this digital age, more and more companies of all sizes are taking their products or services to a worldwide marketplace. Smaller companies have something else in common with the big 10 – they have to deal with the same translation and localization issues in order to make their globalization efforts a success. How, you might ask, did these mega companies deal with these challenges? While the specific steps vary from one company to the next, the general concepts remain the same for each one.
Research your target markets.
Identify which countries and regions you’ll be doing business in, what languages they speak, and any obvious cultural differences that exist. After that, narrow down your analysis to identify your target customers, including demographics such as age, educational background, income level, etc. This type of analysis will be invaluable in helping you to engage your target audience.
Involve a language expert at the very earliest stage of your globalization process in order to keep your brand flexible enough to be standard in every market.
One of the most important aspects of successful globalization is brand consistency. Just think of how instantly recognizable a bottle of Coca-Cola is, for example, or how familiar the Apple insignia is to people around the world. Neither of these companies changed their brand for different markets; instead, they created a brand that would work anywhere. And that requires bringing in translation and localization experts early on – preferably those who are familiar with your target audiences, no matter how far flung they may be.
Make sure your translation efforts are thorough.
That includes everything from social media to product descriptions to email marketing, etc. Translate links on your website, for example, and include the appropriate currencies, measurements, etc. It’s easy to remember the obvious, like product packaging, logos and branding, but don’t overlook the minor details.
Hire language experts who are also localization specialists.
These are people who are not only fluent in the target language(s), but in the cultural norms of your audience as well. Translators who are native speakers are ideal since they will be well versed in the nuances of the language, not to mention what would be acceptable and appealing to your target market(s).
Put extra effort into your website.
Decide whether your site will have country-specific domains and separate websites; whether you’ll use subdomains for every different country; or whether you’ll instead use subdomains for different regions. Research keywords using one of the many keyword tools available. Never underestimate the value of SEO. Research keywords using one of the wide variety of keyword search tools available. Have your content thoroughly translated and localized by an experienced linguist, then have that content optimized for country-specific search engine results. This is a complicated process, but it’s vital if you want to achieve success on a global scale. It’s best to do your homework beforehand regarding how to establish a multilingual website.
The truth is that even industry giants make mistakes. In fact, that’s how a lot of globalization strategy was developed in the first place; as a result of costly mistakes made by large-scale companies that paved the way. Fortunately, those of us who are now ready to launch our small businesses into the global marketplace can learn from those mistakes. The best place to start is by acquiring the services of a translation/localization expert – preferably one with some experience in your industry and in the process of marketing on a global scale. Working hand-in-hand with language professionals is the most effective way – in fact, the ONLY way – to cross the language barriers and find success in the global market.