Top five mistakes to avoid with localization

Localization can be a complicated process. There are no shortage of factors to consider when bringing content to a new market. But what are some of the main pitfalls to avoid with your latest localization project? Nataly Kelly, Vice President of Localization at Hubspot, shares her top-five mistakes that can derail a localization project.

  1. Assume every market needs the same thing. What one market needs is often very different from the next. Providing an equitable experience to customers who speak different languages is the ultimate goal. Providing an identical experience? Not so fast. Companies enter new markets at different phases along their own growth journey. What worked in one place might not work in the next. Different markets may be in different phases of readiness for what you’re selling. While there are common needs across many markets, and you can certainly leverage what you’ve done elsewhere, assume there will be differences by default, in each new market.
  2. Try to localize everything. Not all content, tools, and software that exist in your source language are created equal. Many companies in growth mode are so busy focusing on other things that they don’t take time to audit what’s available in their source language. If you try to localize all parts of your customer experience at once, without any prioritization, you’ll be wasting time and resources. Instead, be more strategic. Localize the things that really matter for each market first. 
  3. Ignore your source content. Localization is one of the best early warning detection systems there is for flagging weak spots in a company that can hinder growth. Typical culprits include processes and content that won’t scale in their source language, or aren’t readily automatable. Pruning content is important, but that’s not enough. To be highly scalable, English source content needs to be modularized, categorized, and well-annotated, in tools with APIs that allow easy transfer between systems. And importantly, how that content is created, updated, and published needs to remove manual steps if it needs to scale. Use localization to shine a spotlight on your source content so you can strengthen it. Otherwise, scaling it into 10 languages simply isn’t going to happen.
  4. Buy tools that can’t scale across languages. Giving teams autonomy with tool selection is great, but not if those tools will be used to create or manage content in many languages. Companies in growth mode don’t have time to rip and replace software every time they realize the tools they have aren’t localization-friendly, but often, they reach a tipping point where they are torn between either spending time and money migrating to a new tool, or accepting an inferior customer experience in other languages. Buying the wrong tools can have a major impact on the success or failure of your company’s ability to offer a high-quality localized experience.
  5. Believe human translators aren’t needed. Sure, you can do a lot with machine translation, but there is a big danger of taking it too far. Leaning too heavily on automated translations can dilute your company’s brand voice, not to mention harm your company’s SEO. This in turn can reduce high-quality traffic to your website, which hinders lead flow and weakens sales performance. Be careful with the use cases you delegate to machines. You don’t want a customer’s first impression of your brand to be one that your company didn’t shape. Leverage human translators where it makes sense to ensure customers have a positive experience with your brand in each language.

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