Needless to say, knowing and understanding the market and its customers is crucial to your expansion’s success.
However, when looking at different markets, there are a lot of factors to consider, which will play a role in the consumer’s behavior. There will be political, religious, social and cultural as well as language and economic factors, just to mention a few. But let’s not get too complicated.
We’ll start with focusing on one key aspect: Translations. The language of your customer.
Understanding Your Target Market
Many of us will agree with the saying that gets passed around that and how they usually say: “The language is the key to another culture”. We all know that English is world’s No. 1 spoken language, but this might not help you when communicating with your potential customers in your desired market.
Myself as a German and non-native English speaker can confirm that you. Although English is our second language and widely spoken and many Germans are fluent in English, we would prefer our local language. This is especially true when purchasing products or doing business. This sentiment can be found in general and this counts for a vast number of other countries as well.
Communicating well is your biggest mission when doing marketing and when it comes to moving to international markets. Very few things are more important than understanding language in the context of your customers.
Take Canada, here you got a country with two official languages that you need pay attention to.
Furthermore, cultural aspects can sometimes differ such as the symbolism of colors or in general the business etiquette.
For example, did you know that in in the eastern cultures of Asia the color white is linked to unpleasant things like mourning and death? And it doesn’t end there…
Color White Meaning Around The World
- White is the traditional color worn by brides in the western world, as well as in Japan.
- White is a color of mourning in China and parts of Africa.
- It was the custom for the Queens of France to wear deuil blanc or “white mourning”
- White was the color of deepest mourning among medieval European queens was white rather than black. This tradition survived in Spain until the end of the fifteenth century.
- In Chinese culture, colors corresponded with the five primary elements, the directions, and the four seasons. White was associated with metal, west, and autumn.
- A white flag is universally recognized as a symbol of truce.
- The Japanese have six distinct terms to define whiteness.
- The ancient Greeks wore white to bed to ensure pleasant dreams.
And that is just for the color white!
Even the biggest companies like Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Ikea and Coca-Cola, have all run into problems by not paying attention to translations and . It’s important to avoid having your brand or product names, slogans, etc. translated in a way that would harm rather than boost their brand awareness. And while, you may be thinking…
“What company in their right mind would intentionally do that?”
Not fully understanding the nuances in the language of your customer demographic can leave you vulnerable to that. Let’s take Toyota for instance. Some of you may or may not remember the MR2.
With its success in the US market, Toyota had decided to take the successful MR2 model global. One of the countries they decided to take this car model to was France. The issue? In France those letters sound like “M-R-Deux” when translated could then sound in spoken French like the French word ‘merde’.
For those of you that don’t know the meaning of this word in French, think of the one thing you hate stepping on besides gum.
I’m sure it’s not necessary to explain the potential hazards of naming any car something that sounds like something that translates to ‘poop’, let alone a sexy sports car you are hoping to sell a lot of. Luckily for them, they caught it early and they decided to name it ‘MR’ when they started in France in order to avoid any miscommunications with the translation. Simon Anholt, a policy advisor and author of the book ‘Another one bites the grass’ even stated: “Language is, in many respects such a silly little thing, but it has the power to bring marketing directors to their knees. That’s where the terror lies.”
Well, the bad news is without living in that environment you won’t be able to pick up the cultural nuances.
The good news? There are great professional services out there that support you in getting translations to take the hassle out moving to another country to find out whether or not using the color white will be the kiss of death for your business. In the following section, we’ll go over just that
As a business owner there are quite a few translation service options at your disposal to choose from:
(Google Translate, Babylon Systran, Lionbridge, etc.)
Now with translations, this is likely the first option that will come to mind for most of you. The reasons being, it’s easy, cheap/free, and the turnaround time is almost instantaneous. And though this is a tempting option, it’s important to note that the use of this tool doesn’t allow you to account for the cultural differences discussed in the previous paragraph, leaving you vulnerable to the potential mistakes like the one Toyota almost made. In addition to that, using a translation software can be very inaccurate. Google for example often messes up the entire sentences structure or words or take very literal interpretations of sayings.
This option refers to a person that works as an In-house employee. Now while this option may not be instantaneous, through this method you can account for the language and cultural missteps. While the turnaround time is significantly slower. As for whether hiring a full time translator is right for you, the best indicator is to look at your workload or the amount of projects you need to get done. Things like if is a huge workflow for larger projects for instance. Obviously this comes with a bigger investment than the software option, and being that you are hiring an employee, this makes more sense for large scale companies.
A freelancer as wikipedia would define them, is a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term, and are perfect for one off projects like getting translations done. Since the release of Tim Ferriss’ book ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’, platforms such as Upwork, Odesk (now operating together) and freelancer.com have become well known as places to find freelancers to outsource these skilled tasks. What this means for you as a business owner is that skilled work ranging from designers, programmers, translators and content creators from around the world are available to you
These agencies usually work with freelancers, but the difference between an agency and working with a freelancer directly is that these agencies serve as an intermediary for you. Working with a translation agency can offer you many benefits, such as managing all kind of different projects simultaneously as well as providing a large pool of resources that may not be as easily accessible to you. In addition to that, being that they are more familiar with the process, they can better ensure that you receive high quality work.
So, what would be the best choice for expanding into a new market? Well, with the first two you have complete opposite ends of the spectrum.
With software you have low cost and quick turn around, which is amazing. But low quality. So no go.
While a full time translator you have high quality, but high cost. Unless you can provide this person with enough work for 40 hours a week and are you able to pay this full time salary, which or most FBA sellers will be unlikely as they’ll only need to do one-off translations of a handful of listings. That leaves us with the last two options.
- Do you have a couple products with no critical time line?
- Are you a power seller with many products and respective listings that need translation?
- Maybe somewhere in between?
Well whatever your answer, in the next section, we’ll go over what are the 4 criteria you should be using to help you figure out what translation is best for your business.
Translation Agency vs. Freelance Translator
Whether or not to choose working with a translation agency versus a freelance translator comes with each of their own respective Up’s and Down’s.
But in a nutshell, there are 4 criteria that are important to keep in mind:
- The Budget
- Number of Languages
Using a Translation Agency:
- Budget: Will be on the higher end relative to using a freelancer and can occasionally come with hidden administrative costs
- Number of Languages: Can handle multiple language translations.
- Timeframe: Multiple projects can be done and managed simultaneously and quickly with minimal investment from you as you have a project manager to take care of details.
- Quality: You have someone with experience evaluating the quality of your the finished translations.
Using a Freelancer:
- Budget: No hidden administration costs or provisions often comprised in the pricing (savings up to 50% for the same quality)
- Number of Languages: One. The reason being it is very difficult to find a translator that not only speaks multiple languages, but well enough to understand cultural nuances that you are looking for.
- Timeframe: You are likely looking at a longer timeline. As you will likely be developing a process as you go and will have to allocate your own time towards managing some of the project.
- Quality: Varies dependent upon experience however with this option this you have direct contact with your translator meaning you have more control over the end product.
Once you’ve determined where you fit in those criteria, it should give you a better idea as to which is the best fit for your business.
Whether not you choose a freelancer or an agency, it’s important to note that not everyone who speaks a different language equals to a high quality translator. The results will be different if you deal with someone whose mother tongue is your target language versus his second language. So be sure to find out if it’s their native tongue or how familiar they are with the language.
Also, pay attention to where they are currently residing. After being abroad for a while, the native language spoken can be affected as it may not be used as frequently in whatever country they currently reside in.
This evaluation can be done through things like Upwork tests that does basic language evaluation. Another good way to evaluate them is by performing a skype interview and fielding these questions:
- Have they lived in the country the language is spoken?
- Are they currently living in that country?
How to Hire a Freelancer?
Like we previously stated, the most known platform out there are Upwork.com (https://www.upwork.com). Another platform that is also a big player worth considering is freelancer.com (http://freelancer.com/).
Prep to Save Hours on Your Translations
In order establish a smooth hiring process of a freelancer for a new translation project there are several points that you can prepare in order to get the best outcome.
In the words of Bill Gates,
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
And this rule also applies to the process you use to get translations done.
The best thing you can do is be organized and prepared and have all your content ready. And though expansion to new markets means the content is likely to change depending on your products, you should still prepare the basic points, for example:
- product title
- the description
- FAQ (if it applies to you)
A helpful practice to get accustomed to is preparing a Project Proposal, Organizing every aspect of the project from payment terms to how the process will be done. Going into as much detail as possible for things like where the content pending translation will be found and and in what document format the completed projects you want them in.
The easiest option would be to make the translation files available online with one of the cloud services, so that the translator and you can have easily access to it. I personally highly recommend using Google Drive. However, some translators prefer Word files as they are more comfortable or familiar with this.
In a nutshell, the main points you will need to focus on are:
- Source and Target language
- Quotation Offer
- Word Count/Source Word Count
- Due Date Further Instructions
Source and Target Language
Obviously, the first thing the applicants need to to know is what language you want translated.
(Ex. Looking for English – German translator)
Finding the right price for translation from English into the target language requires a certain amount of research. Keep in mind you can negotiate later with several freelancers in order to get better insight about pricing after receiving different quotations. (Ex. Price per word, or price per 100 words (e.g. $0.04/ word)
Standard practice for setting project costs is by stating payment per number words (e.g. $4/100 words or $0.04/ word) with the total amount of the content that you want to get translated. Quickest way to do this is to copy-and-paste all your text into a Word document or Google Doc and use the Word count tool. (Ex. total of 3,000 words)
What’s your completion date goal. This depends on the amount of content as well on the availability of the freelancer. If you are not experienced yet, go ahead and inquire several applicants for your job offer to get a better understanding of a realistic deadline while finding who matches your ideal timeline.
Tell the freelancers your special instructions. Where can they find the translated content? In what format do you like them to translate to (Google Docs, Word, etc.)?
There you go. If you want to dominate another local market, remembering the importance of language in the context of culture is crucial to your success. Like most businesses recognizing and understanding your customers is the key to getting to where you want to be. I hope this quick post has been enough to convince you to remember to prioritize your translation quality as a marketing essential as you look into entering a new market.
And if so, you now have the foundation to determine which of those services is the best one for positioning yourself for the most successful entry into the market.
Hope you enjoyed the post. Feel free to let us know in the comments if you have any feedback or questions.