We’re at the brand2global 2014 conference today, a conference that we’re sponsoring to highlight the critical role that localization industry partnerships play in strategic and successful global marketing initiatives. While we’re excited to participate — both for the chance to support our business partners and to hear our colleagues speak on everything from localization QA to multilingual mobile marketing — we’re also hoping to hear some critical conversations on some of the challenges that continue to plague marketing localization.
Three specific challenges readily come to mind: the matter of absentee leaders, budget sink, and how soon is now. For what we mean by that, read on …
Absentee Leaders vs Leader-Led Localization
While the pressures of ever-accelerating markets have already generated Agile Localization solutions for product development, marketing localization still remains a significant challenge for too many global brands. Some part of this is the “afterthought” reality of both marketing and localization teams in a production-driven environment. Another part of this is the changing nature of product marketing itself.
The B2B product marketing function of today isn’t really “product” marketing. It’s an expanded role that possesses greater knowledge on vertical industries and horizontal business operations more so than ever before. That stronger level of domain expertise adds necessary horsepower to the sales enablement engine as well as the company messaging, and it also gives product management a much-needed assist on the front end of the planning cycle. – John Monsour, “Product Marketing – Undervalued and Overlooked, Still!”
Overcoming this challenge cannot be left to marketing departments and localization vendors alone, however. We need, instead, leader-led marketing localization, in which company executives call for full integration of marketing localization partners into the production cycle (from front end to back end) while empowering marketing and localization teams to play to their different areas of expertise.
Budget Sink vs Data-Driven Investment
We’ve talked quite a bit in the last year about the impact of Big Data on the future of content localization. By Big Data we mean in the marketing context, specifically, the enormous amount of structured and unstructured multilingual data being generated by consumers — data that is proving to be extremely challenging for global marketing initiatives that are charged with listening to, aggregating, and responding to that data for strategic results. This future is now, but localization teams are still struggling to justify their right to a share of the company budget to meet the demand.
Research from Common Sense Advisory shows that a typical buyer organization’s investment in translation and localization is minuscule compared to the revenue it enables. The budget for these areas generally represents less than 1% of total investment in marketing or R&D, even when staffing and technology costs are included. When managers and directors demonstrate the ROI of translation, they often fund additional languages, especially as B2C and B2B customers continue to climb the income ladder. However, these managers still find themselves competing against other business areas for resources during the budget cycle to maintain stable investment in markets outside of their home country. – Rebecca Ray, “Landing the Budget to Translate: Not Easy for Buyers”
In our recent article regarding localization procurement, we talked about how Information Orchestration means that localization procurement has to change to see a return on data-driven localization investment. While we hope you read the article, here’s Renato Beninatto’s final takeaway: “We need to accept the complexities of our new working environments by building relationships that remove traditional buyer-and-vendor structures for, in their place, partnerships that really meet the needs of consumers, regardless of where they live and the languages they speak.”
How Soon Is Now?
The speakers at this year’s brand2global conference are a perfect mix of global brands such us Google, Schneider Electric, SAP, and Nike on one hand, and fast-growing future global champions such as ZIPCAR and Marketo on the other. This is ideal since it is never too early to start building your brand globally, and — well, almost — never too late either.
In our experience, some companies live and breathe global marketing from the start — such that marketing localization comes to them naturally as they start exploring international markets. Other companies are sucked into marketing localization as their products gain users worldwide or take a more product-focused approach that causes them to struggle initially with understanding how the requirements of global users may differ and how to effectively address them. Wherever you are on this scale, we would advocate taking an entrepreneurial approach when launching internationally. And sound localized marketing is the logical first step.
It means: localize your sales UI to test your gut feel about a given market, lead focus groups, survey global users of your English version to gauge demand for a localized version. In some cases it may actually turn out that their requirements for local content are small. Identify top social media and learn the local etiquette. Evaluate your existing solutions and content for international market readiness. Craft meaningful terminology to shape market perception of new technologies. You may soon find a huge pent-up demand in new and underserved markets and fast international growth rate. (But that’s an entirely different problem.)
For our general advice on where and how to start, check out our eBook Innovate Globally or watch this video.
We’re already underway today and we’ve got some great content ahead of us tomorrow. Whether in the conference sessions, in the halls during the break, or even here in the comments, we look forward to hearing how we — both localization providers and localization buyers — can tackle these at every level of our marketing localization programs.