Translating your company’s website is like so many other good business decisions — it is best made when your team is ready, when it is right for your customers, and when it will contribute to your company’s long-term success.
That’s more simply said than achieved, however. And that’s because the reasons for why and when a business should translate a website can be as wildly diverse as the business community itself.
So why would a business decide to translate its website? And when would the answers to “why” mean that it is the right time?
You’re ready to move away from home.
The most obvious time to decide to have your website translated is when your company has finally decided to sell abroad. This could be the result of a strategic plan that has always had “be a global player” among the targets. Or it could be the result of an approach from a foreign distributor, one convinced that it can deliver for you in the foreign market the kind of success you’ve already enjoyed at home.
Regardless of the reason that has you packing your bags for new shores, the locals who greet you there will be far more receptive if they can find information about your products and services online in their own language. That makes translating your site a vital part of the new market roll-out.
Your fans have already paved the way.
Believe it or not, some companies find themselves on the receiving end of a whole lot of foreign attention simply because the word about their products has spread over land and sea. Consider the case of a high-end hiking goods manufacturer. The highly praised product that was designed for enthusiastic fans living in the shadow of Mount Everest could later be carried to the base of the Himalayas, where it will serve as an ambassador to hikers from around the world.
No matter what you produce or what service you deliver, if the good word spreads and the foreign inquiries (and orders) start rolling in, you may want to meet that need with multilingual product descriptions, spec sheets, user manuals, and more.
You’re outsourcing production (or want to).
Let’s face it, outsourcing production to certain foreign locales can sometimes confer immediate and market-competitive financial advantages in aggressive markets. Those benefits are not a one-way pump of money from one market to another — those local foreign brands have their own stakes in the game and they need to know that they have a reliable partner in you.
Translating your website to meet the needs of your foreign partners and your overseas production teams is a smart and fair investment in the global marketplace.
Your government overseer says so.
In some industries, the matter of what you should translate, how, and for whom is not for you to decide. A small U.S. medical device manufacturer looking to enter the European Union, for example, will find that government regulators there have to meet the needs of residents in some 24 official languages.
(Is this your industry? Read more about Medical Device Translation by downloading our eBook.)
No matter what your industry, it will make sense to work with a translation / localization service agency that is savvy about the government-mandated language requirements of your target foreign markets.
So those are just some of the reasons why someone would start the website translation process. But when would it be the right time?
When you have the right translation team.
Have you ever had to suffer the know-it-all who believes that she knows your job better than you do? Well, just like you, professionals in the translation industry encounter too many who believe their services are not needed at all. Sometimes, it’s because Jack the French student has joined the company for a summer internship. Sometimes, it’s because someone in the company believes spending money on translation would be a waste when there’s a perfectly free tool called Google Translate on the market …
These days, Internet websites are a first choice for consumers wanting to learn more about a business. That means that a professional presentation can create a powerful first impression, one whose presence will delight (or haunt) your entire engagement with the prospective buyer of your products and services.
The time to translate your website, then, is when you are ready to invest in a professional translation.
And by the way, the intern’s name is Jacques.
When it’s cost-effective.
The difference between free Google Translate and a professional translation services is the difference between a trade fair give-away pen and a Montblanc. Yes, both can get the grocery list done, but you will not impress a soul when you whip out the freebie from Wally’s Widget Warehouse.
While this isn’t to suggest that you should only wait until you can buy the Mercedes of translation services, this is a heads up that quality differences are often a return-on-investment variable. Evaluating, training, retaining, and staffing any professional comes at a cost. That’s as true for the people you hire for your internal teams as it is for the external translation support you hire.
When your boss says yes.
There’s nothing quite like being convinced of an idea that your boss doesn’t buy at all. It doesn’t matter what you’ve read of the importance of the “like native” buying experience — if your boss believes that everyone speaks your language just fine, you’re not going to have the support you need for all of the above.
So take the time to prove your case. Know the statistics of your site visitors, for example, so that you have proof of your foreign fan base. Draw up a budget that meets your quality expectations. Collect even negative reviews of your product, if you must, from foreign customers who are clamoring for native-language support. Then make the case for delivering your localized version as best as you can.