7 Ways to Make Localization
Essential for Marketing
By Libor Safar
Let’s face it: Marketing and localization occasionally have an uneasy relationship. And that’s even if organizations have their marketing localization support well set up, whether through a dedicated in-house team or an external partner. This is often because these two teams have divergent goals, different mindsets, or just speak a different language (pun intended).
On the flip side, there’s never been a better time to make localization and marketing perfect friends. Why? Many key marketing pain points are actually related to localization, even if it’s not immediately obvious. In other cases, localization can provide a solution to additional burning issues.
Here are some practical ideas to help you understand, assist, and earn the eternal admiration of your marketing team if you work in localization. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, ask not what other departments can do for localization; ask what you can do for them.
Help make demand generation international
Most marketing departments today obsess over demand generation, and the philosophical difference between that and demand or lead capture. At its core, demand generation is about building trust in your business, creating awareness of what you do, and generating a desire for your products or services. The ultimate goal is to position your business as the “go-to option” in your given space and to rise above the omnipresent noise. Which is easier said than done, of course.
But many such strategies fall on their face when applied internationally. Even if the core idea is sound. This is where you and your localization team, the ultimate experts in local cultures and markets, come in. For instance, you can help validate assumptions about expectations of local audiences, validate messaging, help uncover local influencers or amplifiers, and review the international SEO strategy (whether organic or paid). And all this unfolds even before any actual localization takes place.
Every organization may be structured differently, but local marketing teams, if they exist, should always be natural allies of any centralized localization team.
Help capture those hard-earned leads
Perhaps the lowest-hanging fruit then is optimizing sales pages (demos, subscriptions, etc.) for international users. A lot of resources, time, and money normally go into attracting prospects, and it’s heartbreaking to see how much “leakage” there often is when it comes to converting international audiences. This is an area where every little detail can help increase conversion rates, sometimes even dramatically.
For qualitative insights, the best approach is to arrange for test users in selected target locales go through the entire process, from sign-ups and demos to the actual full onboarding. Capture their experiences and apply their recommendations. For quantitative data, analyze how the page(s) perform when accessed from specific locales you’re targeting.
There may be friction that needs to be eliminated, and then there’s locale-specific friction that only users living in the market can identify. However, they may never tell you about it, and instead, simply walk away. So putting ourselves in their shoes upfront can pay significant dividends. It’s not unusual for marketing teams to devise amazing things such as content, workflows, etc., but then fail to test them for different scenarios. This is where localization teams can step in and help with testing.
Websites and other critical sales/marketing content should be designed to give visitors a native-like user experience. And this goes beyond the typical internationalization aspects, such as fields and formats.
Do you offer suitable communication options for each locale, such as online forms, email, a local phone number, or a live chat in multiple languages? Can prospects book meetings in their time zones? Do you offer locally preferred payment options and return policies? And then there are cultural and psychological aspects that developers may not always consider.
For instance, some cultures will be hesitant to provide personal details without first understanding the context. Others may be unlikely to enter their credit card details if they are only on a trial and unsure whether they will subscribe or make a purchase. Additionally, different cultures may prefer different “rewards” for their engagement, driven by different motivations. Incorporating these rewards into the process can yield amazing results.
Localization teams are effectively cultural experts who can improve marketing performance by providing their expertise in local sensitivities.
Become the in-house generative AI expert
Generative AI is the genie that has been let out of the bottle and is taking the marketing world by storm. Everyone is experimenting with it right now. It’s probably impossible to predict exactly how adoption will evolve, but it will be massive. And who can advise on these matters better than language professionals? These are just large language models (LLMs), after all. And with decades of experience using machine translation and machine learning, localization teams have a unique hands-on experience that other teams won’t have.
For instance, if local marketing teams start creating content from scratch using generative AI, where does this leave your brand? Localization teams have traditionally been the guardians of their organization’s local brand and image, as they own the style guides, glossaries, and repositories of content created and published to date. These resources are now precious, as is the understanding of the flaws automation can introduce when working with content. These flaws include propagating existing biases, hiding major errors or inconsistencies behind amazing content fluency, and privacy and security considerations.
Perhaps we can just rebrand ourselves as language model experts to gain the internal recognition we deserve?
Get to (co-)own multilingual content creation
The rise of generative AI is just one recent factor in the almost imperceptible but very real shift from translation to original content creation. The major driver to date has been the superior performance of content that is built on local specifics. Despite its higher cost, transcreation has taken root in many marketing organizations as the preferred method for achieving a “local” feel.
Figure 1: Marketing combined with localization leads to growth. Source: HubSpot’s Investor Presentation, Q2 2022.
Original copywriting is now more available than ever before, whether done by humans alone or with AI assistance that is still human-controlled. This development gives localization teams a new lease on life, as they can position themselves as a sort of internal multilingual marketing agency that can produce original, fully optimized content at scale across languages. And they understand better than anyone else where LLM AIs may perform well in English but much worse in other languages, given how models have been trained to date.
The new generative AI tools will soon make it possible to personalize content to individuals or audiences, allowing us to go even deeper than before. This has previously been economically impossible at scale.
Generative AI will present the new baseline for content quality.
Generative AI will present the new baseline for content quality. There will be little point in creating content from scratch, by humans, or producing translations, for that matter, which will be worse and perform worse than those generated by AI. This is similar to what any translator has always considered vis-a-vis the rise of machine translation (MT).
Smart marketing teams today embrace the concept of a flywheel. This builds on the idea that it’s inefficient to treat each new client acquisition as a standalone, linear process, with each new campaign starting from scratch. That’s literally the “funnel vision” here. Instead, every previous success and every delighted customer can be leveraged to accelerate new client acquisition. The goal is to remove friction from the flywheel to make it spin faster.
Languages and localization can be the “oil” that accelerates every marketing flywheel. All it takes is a conscious effort to see how each new language and localized piece of content can be deployed to that effect.
Languages and localization can be the “oil” that accelerates every marketing flywheel.
For instance, hosting multilingual content on your site increases its domain authority. The same applies to global social handles that allow you to publish localized content to subsets of followers. New local testimonials, user reviews, and in-country amplifiers can reinforce the overall impact of your marketing assets. The same with building local/localized user communities that help engage increasingly larger audiences.
In this sense, “everything” local helps win more business globally. And every new locale helps build a competitive moat around your brand wherever you operate. It also allows you to better compete with any local, or other “entrenched” competitors, especially if they are focused only on one or a limited set of markets and languages.
Figure 2: Spoiled for choice: Amazon continues to add new ways for customers in Europe to optimize their shopping experience, such as offering local payment options.
Plug yourself into product design and development
There’s a lot to be said about the benefits of the design-stage localization approach that has localizers, and their perspectives, included early in the product design process. This makes for designs that are suitable for multiple languages and allows localization to start early in the workflows.
But what if we flip this and consider a “globalization-led” product design and development? In other words, a process that takes global users into account from the very beginning. Localization will then always be a breeze, as a by-product, but it will help make the product superior from the global-user perspective as well as overall.
Like the local perspectives for optimizing lead capture above (Tip #2), this includes being part of the product design and development to help with local-market user and competitor research, collaborating with the UX teams, etc. This will not only help validate the product and the assumptions it builds on but will also help improve it by drawing from a much wider pool of experiences.
Shed light into international dark social
Successful marketing today relies heavily on word of mouth, referrals, communities, and social media engagement that are not visible and so don’t get tracked. Slack, Reddit, you name it. The challenge with “dark social” is that it’s not only dark, it’s also inherently multilingual.
This is again where localization teams can help by building internal solutions that can deliver their organization’s messaging to audiences wherever they are, and using the language they speak, going beyond the traditional “write-post-forget” approach. This solution can also extract valuable insights from multilingual content “out there” that talks about their products but may not get picked up immediately.
For instance: local-language posting on a company’s global social media accounts specifically to local audiences; making it easy to share content regardless of the language; multilingual social listening and analytics; automatic detection of product reviews written in any language and responding to them in that language, etc. The range of options here is as extensive and deep as social media. And in many cases, your marketing team may not even be aware of what localization can offer here. All it takes is talking with them.
Try out any of these ideas, and, who knows, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between localization and marketing.
Libor Safar is the vice president of growth at Argos Multilingual. He has localization and translation industry experience spanning over 25 years.