Your Translation Agency Is Key to International Expansion
Technology has made translation easier than ever before. But automated machine translations lack the nuance and cultural understanding startups require to be successful internationally. Finding skilled human translators isn’t difficult, but the difference in quality between translation agencies can be vast.
Here’s how to identify the best translation company for your business’s specific needs:
Clearly Define Your Goals Before You Begin Your Search
Pretty much all translation agencies will say they’re the best. They have the fastest turnaround times, most accurate translations, and everything else your startup needs.
But you want to look beyond any marketing hype and find a translation company that is the right match for your organization. Your first step is to identify the results you want to achieve.
Do you need documents translated for information purposes? If you only need the documents for internal use, the language style doesn’t matter much. You’ll want a translation agency that specializes in speed, accuracy, and affordability.
However, what if you need to translate customer-facing marketing materials? The tone and style of the finished product will be incredibly important. You’ll need an agency with the right skillset to translate not just your words but also your message.
Understand Your Target Audience
Translation is more than simply substituting words from one language to another. Instead, the new material should appeal to a specific audience of potential customers.
First, you’ll need to understand your current audience in your home country. You’ll want to present your translation agency with as much info as possible about who buys your products or services.
The right translation company will be able to show you how they can adapt your existing processes for a new audience. For best results, you’ll want an agency with a solid cultural understanding of the people you’re targeting.
Your products or services might be popular among a completely different market segment overseas than in the U.S. For example, American KFC restaurants have no particularly unique Christmas promotions. But in Japan, Christmas is KFC’s busiest day of the year.
Develop a Realistic Roll-Out Schedule
Translation agencies will have different turnaround times. Certain agencies focus on speed above all else. These agencies are a good choice if you have information-based content without much nuance to the language.
However, high-quality translation takes time. You’ll likely want to develop a rolling release schedule, where web pages and documents are translated based on importance. This type of schedule allows you to develop a solid, if incomplete, web presence relatively quickly in your new market.
You’re looking for a translation agency that will act more as a partner than a traditional supplier. This often means the agency will work with you to create a realistic schedule.
Be Aware of How Language Will Influence Design
Changing the language can have a huge impact on the overall design. For example, translating from English to Dutch can increase the character count by up to 30 percent. But translating from English to Chinese can the reduce character count by 40 percent.
Your translation agency should have an understanding of how character count changes will affect both online and print presentations. Make sure they’re familiar with whatever program will be used to display the final product (such as PowerPoint, Photoshop, etc.)
A study from IBM and Google researchers found that font size affects readability and reading speed. If translation results in a larger character count, you might need to decrease the font size. But smaller fonts take longer to read. You might be better off with a less literal translation if the new words are a better fit design-wise.
A translation company with a solid background in design will be able to help you craft marketing messages which will resonate among the locals.
How Localization Prevents Embarrassing Mistakes
If KFC didn’t initially realize how popular their products are on Christmas, they would’ve figured it out eventually. But a translation agency can do more than just identify opportunities. They can also prevent embarrassing public relations problems.
A fun article from Business News Daily details some especially cringe-worthy translation mistakes. For example, Ford had a campaign with the slogan “every car has a high-quality body.” But when translated for ads in Belgium, the campaign promised that “every car has a high-quality corpse.” Not exactly a message geared towards safety.
Scalability is the Key to Success
The right agency will be lean enough to offer personal service flexible to your needs. But, at the same time, you want a translation agency that can grow with you. As they come to understand your brand, they’ll be able to produce accurate translations quickly.
An article in Moz details how an on-going relationship with an agency allows for fast localization of your product or service. Customers won’t see a foreign brand looking to sell products in new markets. Instead, your brand will project the image of a local entity who understands the needs of the people in the area.
Once you’ve established a solid online presence in another country, you can begin rolling out new content simultaneously across multiple markets in multiple languages. This is an important step in launching your brand globally.