Content Localization Through the Years: Modern Tools Bring Efficiency & Ease of Use
By Kelly Jo Horton, Global MarTech Manager, Tektronix
I grew up in Silicon Valley when it was nothing but cherry orchards, flower farms and fruit stands. At least a third of my elementary school classmates had parents who were agriculture workers, and most of my classes were taught in English and Spanish. My core group of friends growing up spoke Japanese, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Mandarin and Spanish at home, and I was in awe of their ability to move back and forth effortlessly from one language to another.
I became so fascinated with languages and cultures that I spent my Junior year in high school in Finland, where I got dropped into a high school where all classes were taught in Finnish. I didn’t even know how to say “yes” and “no” in Finnish when I arrived, but all of those years listening to my friends speak other languages actually helped me learn to read, write and speak Finnish pretty quickly. It’s not surprising I have ended up in global roles for most of my career.
Content Localization: Then vs. Now
I have seen localization projects over the years go from translators and reviewers passing cartridge tapes of files back and forth for translation and review, to today’s translators and reviewers logging into a SaaS platform that allows them to chat with each other and edit files in real time across the globe.
Think about that old school process for a minute. The only way to streamline that process would be to have all of your translators physically sit in the same office so they could pass the cartridges back and forth for translation and review. But when you’re translating content into 20 languages chances are you’re not going to be able to find local native speakers for all of those languages. So now you’re introducing a new risk into the process: shipping the cartridges back and forth. Ever had a package show up late due to weather or get lost all together? You see my point. It was a huge risk to use translators in other cities, not to mention time-consuming.
Today I am in a global role where I work with marketers around the world, who localize marketing material in 11 different languages by using tools that are designed specifically for that purpose. However, it wasn’t always that way. As recently as two years ago we were still passing files back and forth between translators and reviewers (albeit using the cloud or via email, not shipping cartridges), because we didn’t want to give outside translators access to our marketing automation platform (Marketo). The entire translation and review process took place outside of Marketo, which meant the reviewers had to copy and paste the translated content into the individual assets in Marketo once the translations were finalized. Not only was that method still inefficient and time consuming, it was also extremely error prone and required an extra review cycle once the assets were complete to make sure the translated copy fit the layout and design of the Marketo pages and emails.
There had to be a better way, so I started doing research and calling former co-workers to ask how they were handling localization projects.
Managing Regional Teams Takes Time Management & Productivity Tools
One of the many benefits of having in-region marketing teams is they understand their market better than anyone. They understand the cultural differences and nuances of marketing and selling into a non-Americas customer base. You have to have that edge in today’s competitive environment.
As a Demand Center manager, it is my responsibility to ensure those regional marketers have the tools and support they need to execute their marketing efforts as quickly and efficiently as possible. My team acts as that internal agency and technical support team for all digital marketing efforts worldwide, and although my team is comprised of members who sit in three different time zones around the world, those of us who sit in the U.S. still find ourselves on calls that can start as early as 5:30am or as late as 9pm. It is the new normal.
The biggest hurdle to managing these global rollouts is not actually the time zone differences or language barriers; it’s the tools themselves. A platform that works well in the Americas may not work well in other countries. China is especially challenging due to performance issues on some platforms (e.g. video) hosted outside the country, and government regulations that don’t allow some platforms to be used at all (e.g. Facebook). Finding tools like Cloudwords that work equally well around the globe is key to your success in a global environment.
To Centralize or Not to Centralize - Learn What Works for You
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past two years in this role it’s that centralization and governance are necessary to be successful if you are supporting regional teams, a large marketing technology stack and a number of different languages. All of the integration, maintenance and support of tools and platforms is centralized on my team. However, sometimes it makes more sense to provide a centralized tool and decentralize some of the processes, like translation.
All of the marketing content for our large product launches and initiatives is developed by our central marketing team and then pushed out to the regions around the world with the help of my team. Two years ago our marketing stack consisted of Marketo, Microsoft Dynamics and Scribe (middleware). The first thing I did when I started this job two years ago was evaluate the current processes being used, and try to find ways to improve them. Cloudwords was the first tool I added to my marketing stack.
My original thought was to centralize all translation processes in Cloudwords on my team, but I quickly realized it would be much more efficient to teach the regional marcoms to fish. I have now designated Cloudwords project managers in every region around the world, which allows the regional marcoms to create their own translation projects, choose their own vendors and manage the entire translation process from beginning to end, without having to rely on my team. The Cloudwords dashboard gives me visibility into the status of translation projects, the cost and the vendors we’re using, and that’s all I need.
The regional marcoms appreciate the autonomy, and I appreciate watching the cost of translation decrease with every project as we build up our translation memory in Cloudwords.
When evaluating any localization management tool consider the following:
Does the tool have a native integration with your existing platforms?
WIll the tool improve efficiency?
Does the tool work well in every region?
Is the tool intuitive enough that there will be no hurdles to adoption across teams?
The Cloudwords platform delivers in every category.