Emerging localization technology for startups

StartupXl8Our Startup localization issue went live today, and in celebration, we’re sharing a guest post on the subject from Blazej Szperlinski of Text United. Read more on the subject here.

Why don’t more startups have their content translated? It’s easy to think that startups don’t localize due to limited funding or lack of language skills required to follow through with customer service for international clients. Perhaps localization is still waiting for its prime time, lingering in the back of startup founders’ heads to be used when the time is right?

But why would startups hesitate to implement localization tech? The English speaking market is becoming crammed with so many viable choices that breaking through requires tremendous effort. It’s already happening. Try searching for a fitness app on your smartphone and you’ll see what I mean. Instead of fighting the trend, startups will surely embrace localization as a financially viable and logical growth strategy. Either that, or they’ll drown in the sea of business clones.

It’s true that startup products are never ready and go through continuous improvement cycles. Yes, the marketing messages are always being A/B tested for optimal conversion rates. But is that really what’s stopping so many startups from reaching huge, international markets for a fraction of the cost they’ve put in to building their company? Especially since most new startups dive headfirst into scalable, cloud based business models.

Maybe it just doesn’t come to mind. After all, Eric Ries’ magnum opus, The Lean Startup, does not mention localization as a usable business driver. The subject is scarcely touched upon by startup blogs, especially with all the white noise generated by badly executed content marketing initiatives and so-called social media ninjas.

Many startups are waiting for the perfect day with 100% uptime, a predictable revenue stream, a featured article in Tech Crunch and a massive social media following. They plan to localize, but rather do it when every other process is already successfully implemented and they’ve established a strong position within their marketplace.

Perhaps startups hesitate because they’re scared of the sheer volume of work it presumably takes to execute an effective localization plan that allows the business to grow. But does it really?

Localization tediousness is a myth

Localization technology has improved dramatically over the last couple of years. One can recall a time when every bit of text had to be copied into a Word or Excel file, submitted to a translation agency, then pasted back into the content management system and applied to a separate instance of web or product content. The smallest change that would happen during this time would completely disrupt efficiency of multiple people’s work, making it nearly impossible to implement within a fast paced environment. I would argue that this ghost of the past is haunting startup owners, blocking them from taking the leap from English speaking to international markets.

Nowadays it’s simple to extract, parcel and deliver content directly to professional translators. Their work can be returned and automatically implemented within minutes, regardless if we’re talking about websites, documentation, mobile apps, software projects or marketing brochures. Application programming interfaces (APIs) that are, as a standard, bundled with any office software, allow immediate content extraction. This is useful for many reasons, the main one being to send the content directly to other apps and systems.

Every bit of office content is digital. Startups are using cloud drives to store their scrapbooks. Websites are governed by versioning systems that allow many people to work simultaneously without interrupting each other. Blogs are written in collaboration, in the cloud, in order to impact accessibility. Content publishing is a huge part of a marketer’s daily routine, that allows search engines to index and ultimately deliver the message to potential buyers. Legal documents are in a secure folder, and client references stay appended within a customer relationship management system. Marketing automation technology stores every newsletter, email sequence and ad. It’s all just begging to get localized.

Visual content such as dynamic images, videos or static such as PDFs with embedded graphics are slightly more difficult, since they can’t have the linguistic content harvested that easily. This is a minor obstacle, though, since quite a few localization technology companies employ professional project managers who handle these materials manually. They’re somewhere in the middle of the process, so clients don’t even need to think about it.

Adopting localization in startups

Startups have a certain rhythm. They launch fast, collect feedback, reiterate and repeat the process. They’re prone to quick pivots in messaging and value proposition, though they also need to build sustainability. It’s like having ten minutes of play time trying to fit a round block into a space of unknown proportions.

With this in mind, a startup will continuously change its size and form, trying out ideas for communications and product features at the speed of light. They test their markets and business models this way. What if I tell you they double, triple, quadruple this testing effort with localization?

Given the inter-connectivity of programming frameworks, content management systems and localization tech, startups can enjoy the benefits of having their entire business localized and still maintain high velocity iteration cycles. Since a startup’s app is usually solving a single problem, its translation will cost less than hosting a pizza day in the office, and additional updates or consistency checks will only get cheaper as time passes by.

Localization tech takes advantage of an automatically generated database standard called translation memory. If this is implemented early on, it can learn phrases, sentences and lingo, then suggest it to translators, so their work is completed faster and cheaper by the amount of translation memory input used.

Early implementation of translation tech is imperative for keeping costs at their lowest. It saves time and reduces fees thanks to repetition analysis. It’ll also allow consistency across any language based on the ever changing English version (or whatever the source language is).

Distribution can be a challenge, but startups tend to rely on content marketing as a powerful lead driver. When this content is written, Google and other search engines position it for grabs under smart keyword searches. Having that same content grant double the results when it’s translated may require minimal search engine marketing effort.

The same is true for paid ads. If the product and content is readily localized, there is absolutely no reason not to localize ads and geo-target them wherever startups think there’s a market. As a bonus, please remember that local ads are usually way cheaper than the English ones.

The beauty of having localization tech implemented is that it serves as a concierge for both consistency and upkeep. You won’t ever have to worry about the changes you make to your source content, since they will automatically be submitted for translation in any language you use. This way of working also ensures you always use consistent terms for the little things, like call to action messages or system errors, which are always overlooked.

Economics of sharing and crowdsourcing

As bogus as it sounds, crowdsourcing and the sharing economy is here to stay. Entire societies are jumping on board with Uber, AirBnb and Kickstarter, and are providing amazing value to one another by sharing the means they have to make their local world a better place. It’s instinct and self preservation. Startups are making sure that this instinct is capitalized upon, and provide more and more solutions allowing people to take part in greater initiatives.

The international adoption of the aforementioned services and their clones is a prime example of how startups are impacting behaviors and beliefs of entire nations — something historically only accomplished by either religion or governments. This outstanding opportunity to build an idea in spare time, out of a cluttered garage, and then share that idea with the entire world, is in this case the market’s response to startup founder instincts.

About the Author: As a marketer by trade and product designer by heart, Blazej Szperlinski focuses on easy inclusion of translation tech in international expansion of businesses.

Marjolein Groot Nibbelink
Marjolein realized early on that the Netherlands was too small for her. After traveling to 30+ countries over the span of 10 years she moved to the United States in 2014. She holds a degree in Communication from the University of Rotterdam and has long had an affinity for creative writing.


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