7 Steps to Getting Started on Your Marketing Translation Process (+ Checklist)
Updated: Sep 9, 2021
You’ve put your heart and soul into advocating for what your brand has to offer in your domestic market. Now you’re ready to take things to an international level – an exciting endeavour!
So what’s next? You’ll need to think about making your marketing content accessible to a new audience.
Only 25% of worldwide internet users are native English speakers. And a whopping 76% of consumers are more likely to buy products in their own language. To turn your dream of going international into reality, marketing translation is key.
Avoid overspending and revisiting the same procedures by having a structured process in place.
Here are 7 steps to get you started on your marketing translation process. (Don’t forget to screenshot or download your checklist when you’re done reading!)
1. Review your original content
It may be tempting to jump right in and have your content translated the way it is. But to save you from headaches later down the line, there’s a pre-step to this: reviewing your existing marketing content.
The last thing you want is to sign off on a big, costly translation project only to realise, “Oh! Actually, our existing content could really do with a touch-up”. Let’s not go there, shall we? Instead, double and triple check all your materials to get off on the right foot!
2. Choose your language and variations
Find out where your target audience is and which language(s) and variation(s) make the most sense for them.
If you’re opting to sell to a German-speaking audience, the obvious language choice is German. But don't forget to also consider other language variations and their countries, particularly Austria and Switzerland. These differences may be small, but impactful.
Take Spanish, for instance. It has variations (e.g. Castilian Spanish) as well as related but separate languages (e.g. Basque).
Make sure you choose the languages that are right for your business goals. If in doubt, start with the most “pressing” language and add others step by step.
3. Prioritise your content
There's nothing to gain from rushing into your translation project. Your best bet is to prioritise your most relevant content beforehand.
Take your website, for example, and focus on individual web pages first.
Examples of what you could start with:
Your home & "About" page
Landing pages for your best-selling* products/services
High-performing* blog posts
* in your domestic market
These pages contain information on what people typically want to know about your business and tend to click or tap on first.
And remember: done is better than perfect!
4. Choose your level of creativity
Marketing texts tend to be more creative than e.g. technical manuals or personnel guidelines. And that’s exactly why you should opt for a creative approach!
There are several translation options available, each with varying degrees of creativity:
Standard/straightforward translation: the least expensive option, will contain little to no creativity to save time and suit tight budgets
Localisation: straightforward translation plus an adaptation of e.g. measurements, local idioms and other cultural references
Transcreation: localisation plus a (partial) recreation of your original text to optimally resonate with your desired target audience on an emotional and cultural level
In a nutshell: the more creativity you can allow (and budget) for, the happier you’ll be with your end result.
Let your language service provider walk you through your options. You may find that transcreating (sub)headings will fit the bill, giving you the right kind of creativity where you need it the most.
5. Consider tech and layout
When it comes to domain names for your bilingual or multilingual site, a web developer or designer will be able to guide you.
These are the most common domain options:
In-country domain, e.g.: www.website.de
Subdomain, e.g.: www.de.website.com
Subfolders, e.g.: www.website.com/de/
There are also components such as space and layout to consider. English copy tends to take up less space than many other languages, such as German or Italian. What this means for you is that you may need to rethink your website layout. One line of English copy could take up 1.5 lines in German. Make sure your website, product descriptions, blog, etc. are set up to accommodate the extra space.
The same principle applies to the order of website sections. While British customers may be okay with reading lots of descriptive text, Germans usually want to know more about benefits and reviews.
This is how a website could be laid out in English:
How it works
To please the DACH market (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), for example, this order may work better:
How it works
The order and layout of your digital content will depend on your target country. Be open to suggestions from your language service provider and web designer.
6. Create guides to reflect your brand voice and style
Do you have a style or so-called tone of voice guide for your brand? If you don’t, it should be your immediate next step. How you communicate your brand to the outside world affects if and how potential customers think of you.
What you can include in a style/ToV guide:
General guidelines on grammar and spelling preferences (e.g. APA vs Chicago style)
How to address the customer (formally or informally, e.g. “du”/”Sie” in German)
Examples of effective vs poor copy (e.g. a blog introduction or “how-to” guide)
Off-brand words (a list of words to avoid in any brand-related communication)
Keywords (particularly useful for SEO copy; will vary by content piece)
Brand tone (main principles for that particular brand, e.g. straightforward, authoritative, progressive)
Instructions for numerical writing (e.g. write numbers from “ten” as "10"), etc.
Ideally, you already know what works in your domestic market. Determining the best communication style for international audiences may take time, so don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers yet. Keep testing, re-evaluating and updating your style guide based on the insights you collect about your newer markets.
7. Brief your translator
The last step is briefing your translator or team of translators.
This is what you would include in a translation brief:
Your source (= before) and target (= after) language and its variation (see item 2)
Your business goals: be specific and, if you can, include objectives such as “gain 1,000 new monthly website visitors” or “2x my Instagram engagement”
Target audience: where your target audience lives, their occupation, their age, etc.
Style/tone of voice guide (see item 6)
Budget and desired turnaround time (project or milestone deadlines)
Information about quality assurance: will you have a company-internal proofreader, or is your translator expected to handle this step?
Anything else you consider important for the success of your marketing translation
Once you’ve found a language service provider that you’re happy with, you’ll want to stick with them. They’ll become more and more familiar with the ins and outs of your business, your long-term goals and your brand voice.
Plus, translating your marketing materials once doesn’t make it a done deal! You’ll want someone who can help you with any future content as well.
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I hope you find these tips useful. 🙌
But of course, you and your brand are unique! That’s why you deserve a unique approach to your marketing translation.
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