When you read the dictionary definitions of “globalization” and “localization,” you might immediately assume that they are polar opposites. Here are the online Dictionary.com definitions of each term:

• “Globalization: the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale.”
• “Localization: the process of making something local in character or restricting it to a particular place.”

While these terms may appear to be opposites on the surface, the fact is that when it comes to business, they go hand-in-hand. The concept is simple: you can’t market your product or service to a worldwide audience if you don’t localize your brand, marketing collateral and communications so that you appeal to every target market.

There’s no doubt that, in many ways, the world is getting smaller, but that doesn’t mean we’ve become more similar. In fact, many of us now embrace our different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds more than ever before. So although the same products and services may be available to all of us on a global scale, that doesn’t mean that we all buy those brands. In fact, in order to succeed in selling a product or service in different countries around the world, you’ll need to localize your marketing efforts so you can appeal to the many different ethnic and cultural groups that exist around the globe.

What’s involved in localization?

Once you’ve defined who your target markets are and where they’re located, it’s time to begin the localization process. You’ll need the services of a translation and localization expert – preferably one who has experience in your industry and is fluent in the language(s) of your target audience, as well as the culture of your potential customers. Once you have that person in place, marketing localization efforts will include the following:

• Language translation and localization of the product or service itself.

Does your packaging include a clear description of the product? Are the images on the packaging appropriate for your potential customers? Remember that some graphic images (and even colors) that are perfectly acceptable inside the US are considered offensive in some other cultures.

• Translation and localization of your website.

Several studies have been done over the past several years that show people are much less likely to purchase a product or service from a website that is not in their native language. It’s a competitive world out there, so do everything you can to ensure your website is understandable and user-friendly for potential customers. This includes not only translation of the content, but also images, currencies, number and date conventions, icons, etc.

• Localization and language translation of marketing collateral.

This includes virtually any item that promotes the sale of your brand, including newsletters, emails, blogs, brochures, user guides, etc. The text should be translated into that language(s) spoken by your target audience, and any graphics should be reviewed by your localization expert and modified if need be.

• Translation and localization of your paid advertising.

Whether you prefer strictly online advertising, “old-school” print ads, or any combination of the two, they should be translated and localized for your target market(s). Ads, as we all know, are expensive, and you’ll never get your money’s worth if your potential customers don’t understand them or – worse yet – are actually offended by them.

Although the terms “globalization” and “localization” may seem to be opposites at first glance, you really can’t enjoy the benefits of globalization if you don’t localize your marketing efforts. It’s not a simple process, and the information contained here is meant as only an introduction to the concept. For more complete information, secure the services of a qualified, experienced translator and localization expert. And the first step in finding the right person for the job is to reach out to a reputable translation company.