International teleconferencing, eCommerce websites, and sophisticated transportation management solutions bring virtually any product within reach of any customer in the world. Technology has made the world smaller, and today, global markets aren’t open just for the largest enterprises, but for organizations of any size and in any industry.
For many organizations, expanding market reach isn’t a matter of choice: it’s imperative for creating a sustainable business future. As organizations expand into international markets, they make numerous modifications to their products and processes. But one critical adjustment is often forgotten until the last minute: localizing written materials.
Expanding globally, selling locallyLocalization is the process of rewriting product descriptions, manuals, sales brochures, data sheets, and other content in a way that makes sense to those reading it, even if they’re across the world.
For example, if you own a brick-and-mortar store in the Midwest and your business is now selling products over the Internet to someone in Peru, you will need to customize written communications so that those new customers outside the U.S. will comprehend them.
It’s important to understand that multiple factors make these new customers different from those you’re accustomed to selling to. Localizing is more than just translating the words into a new language. It’s making sure your business’s words are in tune with the local culture and dialect, subtleties are clear, and descriptions make sense to the new audience.
For businesses that are addressing global customers, localization isn’t a “nice to have” option. According to the U.S. State Department, “U.S. firms alone lose $50 billion in potential sales each year because of problems with translation and localization.” That’s a huge amount of potential revenue that is left on the table when U.S. businesses can’t connect with these new customers on a local level.
If your organization is considering going global or has already begun to expand, create a proactive localization plan that includes these best practices:
Keep it simple. Make sure existing content is clear and concise, and keep the language free of wordiness and unnecessary jargon. Translators will have a much easier time if the content is already written well.
Use images. Where applicable, pictures or diagrams cut down on the number of words that must be translated and may help avoid confusion.
Go native. Use reputable translation services that employ native speakers so that your translation includes not just the right words, but the meaning you intend to convey.
Test to discover what works. As your team completes revisions of written materials, review responses from readers and adjust to find what resonates across the new global market.
- Write new content with localization in mind. By planning ahead and creating clear, concise documents from the start, you’ll save your business from having to go back to make basic writing adjustments before localizing.
Localizing content early in your market expansion process is essential. Delaying the process until your business is nearly ready to launch into the new market can cause significant delays.
When you integrate best practices for clear writing throughout your organization, your new customers will know you’re not just speaking their language: you’re really communicating with them as people.