Summary: How and when should startups think about translation and localization? Answer: As early as possible and as a structural part of there company.
What is a startup?
One widely accepted definition of a startup is a company that has both the ambition and ability to build a high growth company by using technology. And here's what it is not - a new artisanal pizza shop. Although I love pizza, a pizzeria cannot scale.
What does a successful startup look like? It is one where the company thinks about scaling from the outset, where the structural elements of that company optimize for fast growth from the beginning. That requires planning and building to be global, knowing your content will be translated into multiple languages. It means understanding that localization means more than translating the words on your website and in your marketing materials. Localization transforms your content based on an understanding of the culture, practices, and the people in that local market
The better founders and startup teams think and build for global growth early on in their development. They think beyond their local market. In an interview for Starta Ventures last year I spoke with Eveline Buchatskiy, Managing Partner of One One Ventures in Boston. She paints a vivid picture of what startups will look like in the coming years. (she may be conservative in her time estimate)
Entrepreneurs in 5 to 10 years will think globally and may choose to be based in London because there you can easily find capital, have the R&D in Ukraine, which is just 3 hours away on a plane, and have the marketing and sales team in New York. That’s the kind of entrepreneur we’re going see in the future and that’s what I think is very exciting. - Eveline Buchatskiy
Get the full book, The Very Hungry VC: Trends and Opportunities
Video: Eveline Buchatskiy (EMBA'08D) on Investing in Immigrants
Now that we have defined a startup, let's think about how we should think about our presence across multiple markets. This is the localization part and naturally, that includes the translation part.
For every market where you do business, you need to look, sound, and behave as if you were native to that locale. You’ll see from the suggestions below that localizing - i.e. looking, sounding and being native to a market takes much more than a bilingual dictionary.
Build Your Online Reputation
- Establish trust. This is about showing the user that you are aware of and responsive to their needs and that you can meet those needs on their terms.
- Establish authority. Be the go-to source of information and advice on your company’s area of expertise. On social media, share good, relevant content and create useful content that helps others in your sphere. Give until it hurts. Then do it again next week. Consistency matters.
Share content for a wider audience
- Related to the prior suggestion, you can enlarge your audience by pulling in others who have related issues. Everyone who has a business cares about marketing, sales, product development, hiring and retaining the best talent and more. Add tags for topics that pull in people from beyond your core audience. Tag people (with larger followings than yours) if your content or resharing would interest that person.
Build Local Relationships
- Create locally relevant content (Read up on this topic here)
- Collaborate with local influencers and local sales experts
- For companies with a ‘bricks & mortar’ component - think Warby Parker - embed a google map so users can find you. Have a ‘Call now’ button in Google My Business
- Wherever you have a physical presence, be active in that community. Sponsor events, local schools, universities to increase your brand recognition and reputation.
- Monitor and be active on social media to associate your brand with a geographic region and to be a positive contributor in that region.
- Look for, and ask for Customer Generated Content (CGC). Nothing is as powerful as an authentic testimonial from a customer. (see How to Attract Customers With Localized Content Marketing)
Adopt individualized marketing approaches - If your marketing strategy started in your home market, don't assume that the same strategy will work in a different country. A localization expert can guide you so you use the right channels, set the right tone and use language that is effective in producing the desired outcome. What works in one locale will not necessarily work in the specific locality you are entering. Optimize for the desired outcome and not to reproduce a previously effective strategy.
Keep your message updated - By working with a trusted translation company, you can economically maintain your site’s ever-changing content to keep your users engaged, improve your rankings with search engines, and continue to stay relevant in your field. Use MotaWord’s API to translate only those portions of your site that have changed. We’ll never charge you more than is absolutely necessary. When you have fresh, relevant content, that translates into (see what I did there?) improved SEO rankings. We talked about that in greater detail in another post in Website Localization - More Than Translation.
And for more on localization, you should read, Why You Should Run Your Website Localization Project on MotaWord
The best startups thinking globally. But even if you aren't a startup, you can think like one.
MotaWord is a global translation platform with over 16 thousand professionals and vetted translators working to deliver high-quality translations in 90+ languages. MotaWord serves clients in their native language and gives them instant quotes thanks to its localized website and translations are done 20x faster and 60% cheaper than agencies.