Dimitris Glezos

The Road to Global Customer Experience Delivery

As a relatively new participant in the small but mighty localization automation / translation management space, I’m passionate about telling the story of the potential value to nearly every business that using technology* to effectively and authentically reach global customers can provide. But when I track the discussion on best practices for global content, particularly with respect to marketing content, I think the conversation has the potential to scare many marketers away from ever embarking down a path of multilingual content delivery. While the various terms the industry uses to describe techniques and approaches for creating and managing global content are correct, in and of themselves, their detail and precision are enough to stop anyone in her tracks. I’d like to propose a more nuanced approach to dissecting the options and determining a course of action that is the right fit for your business.

Why am I so concerned about the semantics?

Both the breadth of terms, and the stridency with which they’re advocated by some in the industry perpetuate the impression that global content creation is still only for a select few companies that can “do things the right way” with “the right way” often being extremely resource intensive. Take, for example, the technique of “transcreation.” According to Wikipedia, transcreation is “the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context. A successfully transcreated message evokes the same emotions and carries the same implications in the target language as it does in the source language.”

Ok, that all makes sense to me as something I’d want to do for branding messages, for example. And of course it just makes good sense to take local cultural norms, expressions, and communication preferences into consideration for any translation. However, the definition goes on to say “(i)n the 1990s, marketers and advertising agencies with international accounts began using the term transcreation to distinguish their work in this field from translation (my italics). The implication is that, when bringing an existing advertising campaign to a market outside the source language, much more is needed than a translation.”

Here’s where I have to say “whoa.”

Not that I don’t believe agencies have a valuable service to deliver in creating uniquely developed international campaigns for sophisticated brands, particularly those competing in highly competitive, potentially saturated markets, BUT:

  • To suggest that transcreation is a completely different process than “translating” seems to be a bit of a red herring. The professional translators I know would be very offended by the suggestion that they don’t or can’t “transcreate.” They’re usually translators because they grew up in one language and culture, moved to or learned a second, typically translate from their second language into their first — oh by the way, they love language! — so they get it. That’s why they do what they do.
  • If you’re a business providing a business-enabling application to other businesses, how much does emotion play into your messages in a way that’s unique by culture? While nuances and emotions are important to some extent, be realistic about how much customization your business requires.
  • How much local language information do you need to offer to provide international customers or prospects with a good experience? Maybe it’s just a few of the top marketing pages from your website, or maybe it’s just customer service documentation to start. Because the web is making the world borderless, you probably have more international customers than you realize, so what can you do to support them better and make sure you retain them?

Like everything else in business these days, it’s all about ROI. But understand that your investment in multilingual marketing is one that can begin gradually, paying benefits along the way that you can reinvest in doing more.

Best practices do not equal hard and fast “rules.”

I love the way HubSpot reinforced this in a recent post about using call to action anchor text within blog post articles. They accurately point out that what’s right for their business might not work the same way for another. So if you think your customers and prospects would benefit from seeing your product or marketing content in their native language, look at how to start with a small project, something that requires an investment (both dollars and time) that your business can afford.

I’ll leave you with this final thought.

In the same way that most first-time car buyers aren’t looking at Ferraris or even Cadillacs, first time multilingual marketers have options that are different than what the “big guys” might use. Just understand, there are many ways to get from point A to point B, and just because you can’t afford the luxury option, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get on the road and drive!

(*Technology to manage and automate the process, not translate or localize the content)

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