Seven Steps to Planning a Successful Localization Project

Every attempt to market offerings globally has been either a runaway success or dramatic failure due to an important and often overlooked reality. Namely, people who live in other parts of the world speak, think, and behave differently. Be prepared to adapt your offerings and the way you communicate to fit a specific culture.

Please bear in mind this is a ‘what to do’ not a ‘how to do’ guide and getting localization right is research-heavy! Before you dive in, there is a choice to be made about how much of this research can be handled internally or whether you need external support.

Market research companies can make a real difference in the process of defining the key parameters for your localization strategy but when budget does not allow for this, there is still a lot of scope for you to initiate research of your own. Remember, in order for your venture to succeed, you need to be certain that your new audience will relate and buy-in to your brand, offerings, and values.

So first, you have to...

1.    Establish priorities

Successful localisation programs take a phased approach - which mitigates risk, effort, and cost in the early stages. Carefully consider:

  • launching in only one new language/territory at a time
  • limiting content localisation to web-based and/or business-critical content
  • restricting localisation to certain key offerings

Generally, it makes sense to....

2.    Start with markets that closely resemble the ones you already know

Falling in with a phased, cautious approach, entering markets that are similar in character is likely to require fewer changes to the way your business currently functions. Compare customer demographics and culture and compile a local calendar to compare with your existing markets. Examine:

  • Big sales and shopping seasons
  • School calendars
  • Business fiscal calendar
  • Festivals
  • Vacation seasons

Being able to show this new market as one small step as opposed to a giant leap will help gain acceptance from both stakeholders and budget holders.

3.    Make sure your offering fits

Put simply, you must know how your offering stacks up. What is selling well and badly in your target market. Are there any obvious gaps to capitalize on or saturation points to avoid and what adaptation is needed to exploit and differentiate your brand, service, or product.

4.    Research your competitors

Closely related to the previous point, your business case will only be stronger if you can point to your competitors’ successes and failures in the same market. Avoiding their errors and mimicking their achievements is a vital component of your strategy. 

5.    Define the practical implications

Here, think legal, tax, logistics, shipping, multilingual telephone or email support, banking protocols and conventions, currencies, SEO ... literally everything that goes into getting you into your home market, which is a long list!

Talk to other business units within your enterprise and get their input – they will see a level of detail not necessarily immediately apparent to you, which may feel overwhelming, but likely they will be a source of answers, too, which means that you are much more likely to ...

6.    Win support from internal stakeholders

Provided you got them on board early and responded genuinely to their concerns and ideas, this should be a foregone conclusion and therefore will pave the way for you to ...

7.    Make and win the business case

Admittedly, getting the budget to support your localization program can be a tedious and frustrating endeavor. You should prepare and arm yourself for comments like “everybody speaks English these days so why bother with the extra expense?” In fact, it is estimated that only 28% of online consumers speak English. Facts like that tend to stop Finance Directors in their tracks. You will gain converts by first showing the incremental revenue available, then setting it against localization project costs versus local presence costs. While localization costs are appreciable, they will always beat in-country costs.

Your business case should also demonstrate how localization will:

  • impact overall company revenues
  • fit into the overall business strategy
  • positively impact the customer experience
  • enhance productivity and other value-creating activities
  • be a cost-effective way to reach your global audience
  • contribute to global branding

Conclusion

Now, you are on the road to success! Armed with a budget and a shopping list containing some or all of the following: multilingual SEO, web localization, CMS integration, translations of marketing collateral, product manuals and specifications, e-learning and video content, now there is the serious business of turning your plan into a reality.

Our next guide will look at supplier evaluation and project management as your project enters its implementation phase.