Translation and Your Marketing Strategy
Haunted castles of translated collateral
The efficiency of traditional marketing has dropped dramatically. A very low response rate (less than 1%) is considered reasonable for certain marketing channels.
Customers bombarded by advertising have mastered the art of ignoring the noise while companies paying for media placement have accepted ad blindness as unavoidable.
Market players assure that they keep searching for customised ways to spread a word about their offerings and to increase brand awareness. They try to use a wide range of strategies to become closer to their consumers and to engage them. A quarter-inch hole instead of a quarter-inch drill, you know.
A couple of years ago Dell announced massive translation budget cuts. Now, the person responsible for the translation of corporate marketing collateral tells about ‘a polished global message that meets business objectives’. (A highly recommended reading for translators who are still under a delusion that globalised companies are interested in high-quality content or translations.)
If you take a look at Dell’s marketing materials translated into Russian, you’ll see that:
‘принтеры помогают предприятиям максимизировать эффективность работы и производительность’
Could we call it the right balance of quality, velocity, and cost? Hardly. New translations may cost twice as less. Lacking engagement from the target audience, they are worth nothing. You could consider them worth reading only if it’s your job to read them (it would better be a well-paid job, too).
Such translated collateral could possibly enjoy certain interest and engagement: from a marketing team preparing praising reports on doing everything at scale. Or from professional forums where translators discuss the ways things should not be done.
Companies keep complaining that translation service providers do not care about their image ignoring their demands and requirements. Are they actually doing anything to protect their own brands? Do they take translation processes seriously?
They do have a bunch of pressing issues to take care of, from investments into a concept, to content curation, to legal attendance, to content printing / publication.
But the crucial stage is the one that either makes it or breaks it. The latter means time, costs, and efforts were wasted up the line. Does it really matter how much the company has invested in content, design, or printing if the translated collateral resembles a haunted castle? We see an impressive outline void of life or sense.
Too many translation industry players (or LSPs) are unable to turn words into their client’s positive image focusing at optimization and automation. They make their living not on quality and creativity but on sheer volumes.
Part of the Power that would always wish Good…
It looks like business marketing is in serious trouble. Here is a viewpoint with meaningful figures: 80% of executives think their companies deliver a superior experience for customers, only 8% of those customers agree with them.
Many insist that the time has come to be fascinating and interesting, clear and relevant. But nothing changes in press releases and collateral. It’s much easier to continue the usual marketing talk about value-added and industry transforming products than to offer real-world facts and figures.
Technology and product reviews work much better when you are eager to make a difference with your audience and to offer them relevant information. But for the majority of marketers, plain language and simplicity are terra incognita.
Dropping translation for good is not an option. After studying the most visited websites for 8 years, CSA Research concluded that companies offering materials in different languages are in general more successful than the ones that do not care about localisation.
If the company ignores marketing translation, customers might think that it cannot afford the process. Meanwhile, a bad translation emphasises problems with the copy, which is usually far from being perfect. Translators do know a trick or two to avoid that, but sometimes even an experienced translator won’t save the day.
Let’s see how to get translations that work for small and medium companies. We speak about the market players who are interested not in translating at scale, but in translating efficiently in order to make a good return on their marketing investments.
Light at the end of the press release?
What can you do to get high-quality translated collateral without stretching your marketing budget too much?
Set your priorities. Choose materials that are really important for translation or publication.
If the price for complete website localisation seems too high for you, make it a dozen of pages provided they are flawless. The localised variant should be ok with you, with online visitors, and with SEOs (which is not always the same thing).
If a user guide or a press release contains info about realities not relevant for the target country, skip the info or give an abridged variant.
Outline your goals. Good translations help to sell; bad translations have a negative effect on your sales.
When planning marketing budgets, considerable costs are assigned to design, copy, and placement. Too often, translations are overlooked or financed from leftovers.
The eye-pleasing ‘cover’ should contain the content worth of your local customer’s attention. Make sure your budgets make it possible.
Be closer to a real world. If the customer does not believe you, they would hardly buy anything from you. Do you consider it reasonable to invest in translation that does not resonate with your target audience?
The less your content feels like marketing talk, the more persuasive it is. Try translating product reviews, white papers, and case studies instead of marketing copies.
Facts and figures backed by trustworthy sources are your real world.
Adapt collaterals. You cannot translate a marketing copy ‘as is’. Marketing translations need a creative touch.
Ideally, the text is recreated for a given target audience. To serve marketing purposes, the translation needs to flow well and mean well in the target language. Not every English copy is a good fit for the Russian-speaking audience.
Create locally. Your dealers or distributors can create some marketing content locally instead of translating non-relevant news.
Geographically targeted news is more likely to trigger a positive reaction: local installations, case studies, market share growth, customer service news and updates, etc. Look for content, which adds value to your customers’ workflows.
Below you will find three key components for shaping out an efficient translation process.
1 Requirements and demands
For translations at scale, consider preparing your own style guide (take a look at the English Style Guide for authors and translators in the European Commission) and/or a glossary.
Focus on requirements, issues, and terms relevant to your business or industry; avoid general advice. If you face the same errors and translation challenges regularly, be sure to add them to your style guide.
2 Targeted marketing
The choice of preferable language and style for your marketing copies depends on the target audience. A corporation addressing the market or one human talking to another? Industry-specific terms or descriptions that are clear to everyone?
To answer these questions, you need to identify your target audience: professionals, hobbyists, decision-makers, etc. The basic demographic variables for the marketing industry are age, education, sex, buying / customer preferences.
Not every translator is able to cope with stylistic nuances and adaptation. Look for translators with experience in marketing and copywriting. Be realistic about in-house translations.
A translator specialising in marketing communications: a) knows a lot about your industry and your target audience; b) has excellent translation skills; c) has excelling copywriting skills.
When cooperating with a professional translator, you get a reliable partner. One project after another, “your translator” gets to learn more about your demands, your products, and your customers. The quality of translations you receive goes even higher affecting your marketing ROI positively.
Olesya Zaytseva, founder of Just Translate It, is a proficient translator and marketer with 20+ years of experience bringing her clients’ marketing communications to the next level through content translation, creation and promotion. Pursuing writing, archery, and combinatorial creativity. English and German into Russian.