Content Localization in the Emerging Digital Realm
I was born and raised in a small west side suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, where the usual sounds in the neighborhood were of kids playing whiffle ball in the front yard, Marco Polo in the pool, and celebrating the Fourth of July on Mastick Road. It was a simple time and not much diversity, however I developed a deep appreciation for family and traditions that helped shape who I am today in the Digital Marketing realm.
It was mid-2005 when I started my career as a marketer at an international manufacturing company. My first week on the job had me working with individuals from all over the world, and much to my small-town mentality dismay, I didn’t even know how to dial out of the country. However, this was not going to stop me - and before I knew it, I was engulfed in all things marketing, globally. This was before the designation of ‘digital’ came about. I quickly had the itch to learn how my global counterparts went to market, and more importantly, about their culture through building relationships.
The Marketing Technology Stack: Let’s Start Building
I joined Sherwin-Williams almost 3 years ago for a newly created, Digital Marketing Manager role. The fact alone that ‘Digital’ was starting to get recognized as its own pillar of marketing, ignited my drive. Right before I joined Sherwin-Williams, I was working on a multi-tier system integration and data governance project where stability and integrity were key. This was the same foundation I would now be responsible for at Sherwin-Williams - to build and manage the marketing technology stack for one of our B2B global divisions.
In order to get my thoughts around the entire technology stack, I thought, how better to build the stack than to create swim lanes? I evaluated the entire lead and existing customer journey and made a lane for each part of the process, including what platforms existed and where we were headed. I partnered with my two sister divisions to offer areas for potential synergies.
One of the first areas I had to tackle was the localization of our global website, which was currently only offered in English. When reviewing the stack, this appeared to be closer to the top of the funnel. Whether a lead or an existing customer, visitors can find information about our products or the markets we serve in their region via a localized self-service model - and we help them do this with the fewest amount of clicks, which leaves a strong first impression.
A Web Site to reflect a Global Industrial Coatings Business
I started with building a sitemap and then worked with my counterparts in both Europe and Asia to prioritize a list of languages into which the site should be localized. This is where my relationship started with Cloudwords, which is a single system that captures all content, versions and feedback, and constantly builds our translation memory. In the past, I had done this through email, several versions of spreadsheets, and plenty of confusion and mistakes. The ability to use this platform as a central tool around the world is the one of the main reasons we were able to successfully localize our site.
Historically, we expected our regional Sherwin-Williams team members to do all of the translations, which took them away from their primary roles and ultimately, away from our customers. We decided to use the native functionality of Cloudwords to translate the site in 20+ languages through translation vendors. This now meant that our team was only responsible for reviewing the translations, so they could again focus on their core responsibilities. This also helped determine our launch plan.
The global aspect of my job was evident very quickly working with regional representatives and taking into consideration the uniqueness of culture, dialect and what is important for the local area to reflect on each localized site. If I didn’t have a central platform, Cloudwords, to manage this, I could have easily been a madwoman trying to consolidate multiple versions of spreadsheets and leaving myself wide open to mistakes and rework. Net-net, our process now allows global teams to work with customers and support the team in the field rather than sit behind a screen translating documents.
Matrix Organization: The Path to Success
The site translations were the first large localization project for the global team, and it has spawned so much more. I avoid differentiating traditional and digital marketing now, as it should be a combination of both that lets us best serve our customers at every touchpoint. Think about this as you localize content. I often look for ways to internalize responsibilities, but it is important to recognize when a platform will make your job easier and allow for a constant flow of information around the world. Each should be a notch in the process, not a separate initiative.
We now manage our projects with a cross-functional, global team, whether working with sites, event support materials, technical data sheets or collateral. Cloudwords has helped enable a team of individuals to be a part of a proactive process, not a reactive afterthought. I continue to watch our translation memory multiply.
Localization is part of every launch readiness evaluation and supports our matrix organizational structure to help us determine:
- What is the focus market?
- Who is our target audience?
- What assets do we want to provide to our audience and in what languages?
- What is the call-to-action?
- What are the particular steps of the journey for the customer and how do we define value?
- Who are our project teams and what roles, responsibilities and systems will make the project flow seamlessly on the quickest path forward?
- How can we leverage our translation memory across divisions?
Be Compassionate. Be Deliberate
Over the years, I’ve learned much about global marketing and project management. In our world where everything is a priority, I find it’s best to take each aspect of the project and determine the right path forward. Don’t try to tackle a large project in its entirety as this can make it seem overwhelming. Instead, treat each piece as an opportunity to learn how to take a global, integrated approach.
Most importantly, I continue to learn from my colleagues every day. I’m fascinated by the unique sense of every region and the considerations to be respectful of, whether tradition or privacy. It’s a web [digital humor] that should be respected and exploited. Delegate to local team members or identify platforms to support your requirements. Always be compassionate and ultimately, be deliberate.
My relationships with colleagues have helped shape my approach to our customers around the world, allowing me to grow from a small-town mentality into a well-versed counterpart for our global teams.