Thinking about taking your startup to the global market? Want to reach an international audience? It’s a natural step for many startups and SMBs, but, global business expansion is no easy task! Navigating cultural subtleties and communication practices in a time- and cost-efficient way poses a unique set of hurdles to jump over and loops to climb through.
This is where localization comes to the rescue. Localization is much more than simple translation and it is critical to your startup’s journey into the international marketplace. But what does an effective and resource-efficient localization strategy look like?
Here, we break down the localization process into six easy steps.
Step 1: Devise a market strategy
Your product or service may not be the right fit for every market. It might not resonate with locals, or a competitor may have already filled the gap. Researching potential markets is integral to global expansion that delivers ROI.
So, start broad.
- Which countries have the highest demand for your solution? If we are talking about a software solution, is your software local – in other words, does it require geographical data to execute core functionalities? Is it impacted by government regulations and compliance? Answering these bigger-picture questions will help you narrow down your potential market, but you can dig further.
- Where are your current website visitors from? If international visitors are browsing your site but not making purchases, it’s time to create a localized website for that region. Using tools like Google Analytics, you can see where your web users are located and which languages they browse in.
- Are the people that fall into your prospective international market receptive to online marketing? How do they make buying decisions? Do they have any niche pain points that your product or service can resolve?
- If your product’s target market is relatively broad or overwhelmingly large, you might like to consider factors like purchasing power. How much do individuals or companies have to spend on solutions like yours?
Research your competition
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It’s a truism that has helped many businesses level up their reach and thrive in new markets, and it’s something you should consider when translating your content.
Start by visiting your competitors’ websites. What languages have they translated their software or webpages into? You can try to reach the same audiences your competitor is targeting, or you can look for untapped markets and find gaps that you can fill. If you sell a product or a service that simply isn’t available in New Zealand, for example, your business may benefit from filling that gap.
Don’t forget to research international competition, too. If you run a US-based company looking to expand into Germany, wrap your head around German businesses serving your target market.
To sum up, when selecting the right market, consider its size, key players, and any legal rules and regulations impacting your industry. Assess the competition.
Step 2: Build a localization strategy and prioritize languages
So, you’ve decided on the target markets and done so with plenty of considered research. Next step is building a localization strategy that prioritizes languages.
Startups typically work with restricted budgets, meaning the language selection process must be fine-tuned and backed by data. Of course, if the region you plan to target shares the one native language, the process will be simple. However, if you want to launch across Europe, for example, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of the continent’s 24 official languages.
The cost of translation will depend on several factors, including:
- The amount of content you want to translate
- The source language
- The target language
- The format of your content
- The partner you work with
If you only have the budget to translate your content into one language and it’s not already available in English, consider making English your number one priority. English literacy is high even in non-English speaking countries.
The most-used languages
Numbers might play a role in your translation and localization strategies. First, you can look at the most-used languages on the internet, although this will unlikely be the most decisive factor.
The most commonly used languages on the internet currently are:
- English (63.1%)
- Russian (6.2%)
- Turkish (3.7%)
- Spanish (3.6%)
- Persian (3.3%)
English is a clear winner, and as we mentioned, should likely be a top priority for your content. The following four most-used languages may or may not cater to your target market. Instead, you might gain more from considering core markets and their respective languages. Some established and up-and-coming markets’ languages include: English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Italian.
Choose languages your target markets speak
Ultimately, which languages you decide to translate your software depends on which languages your target markets speak. Let your audience guide you toward the right decision, using data where possible to confirm your assumptions and forecast your return on investment.
Step 3: Define your global content strategy
At this stage, you are ready to prioritize the content that needs to be localized. To start, evaluate the types of content your startup uses. It might help to consider the following categories:
- Marketing material
- Website content
- Support documentation
- Blog articles
- Internal and external communications
From there, you can decide which types of content need to be localized first and which can wait until post-launch. If you have the breathing room, it’s a good idea to localize every touchpoint between your brand and its audience, as this end-to-end approach limits the risk of poor customer experience. Also, keep in mind that some content is required under the law – you have no choice but to localize this before go-to-market.
Consider the visuals
Localization goes far beyond text. Make sure to also update graphics and photos to reflect the audience you’re targeting. Use photos of local models to showcase your products or services. If your site contains animations or videos, do more than add captions or a voice-over. Consider re-shooting the videos with local actors, employees, or clients.
Step 4: Localize your content with a trusted partner
Depending on the scope and scale of your startup, localization can be a significant undertaking with many moving parts. Avoid doing it alone. Instead, enlist the help of an experienced localization partner with proven expertise in the market you are targeting. Your partner will oversee research, take care of content organization, and translate and localize the required content ready for your new audience. Along the way, tracking milestones can help you feel prepared when it comes time to implement the localized content.
Team work makes the dream work, remember.
Step 5: Define and monitor your KPIs
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are critical metrics you can use to evaluate whether your localization and global expansion efforts delivered a worthwhile return. Commonly used KPIs include the following:
- Number of new customers
- Your website or app’s conversion rate
- The volume of organic traffic
- Percentage of your customers from the new market
- Your startup’s market share in the new region
It will take time for the complete picture of your success to be revealed, but you can tweak your approach and hopefully improve your results by keeping your finger on the pulse.
Step 6: Evaluate your global expansion success
Finally, evaluate your KPIs and calculate your ROI. Looking at the result, consider your strategy – is there anything you would have done differently? What worked and what didn’t? Next time you expand into a new market, how will you approach localization? Will you invest more into updating your imagery or recording new, localized video content? Or did your existing photographs and dubbed videos suffice?
The more you can learn from your past, the more empowered you become to shape your future and succeed as a global business.
Don’t do it alone. A global expansion can seem overwhelming. But if you work with a team of localization experts familiar with the nuances of language and culture in your target country, the process can be quick and stress-free.
Reach out to the Commit Global team to kickstart your global expansion. The localization company has the tools needed to shape a tailored strategy that positions your business on a sustainable growth trajectory.
If you want to learn more about startup localization, you can also check out the Commit Global ebook “Localization 101 for Startups: How to Create a Global Business” for free.