Going international can be intimidating. And few companies truly get it right.
In 2015, Trello, a web-based workplace productivity tool, started noticing extensive growth across international markets. At the time, some 75% of their traffic and 45% of their revenue was generated outside the US. In response to their growing popularity, they opted to expand their offering to better cater to users across the globe.
As Trello looked to upscale their platform – which is free to most users – they faced a major problem around cost. Hiring countless professionals to translate Trello into more than 20 different languages was simply too expensive and they were yet to see how localizing their platform would impact bottom line.
Testing the translation and localization waters
According to Trello’s International Marketing Lead, Alexia Ohannessian, they initially launched localization tests in three strategic countries – Brazil, Germany and Spain. The product was localized using professional translation services. “After this first experiment, there was no question that localization could work for Trello,” says Ohannessian. So they further tested a localized approach in France. But this time they decided to do what they do best – collaborate.
Trello rounded up a group of user volunteers to assist in translating the platform into French and they successfully did so in just one month. Understandably, there were a few errors but Trello found that the translations were more in line with their brand. Being seasoned Trello users, the translators were pretty familiar with the look and feel of the product itself. Using their crowdsourcing success in France as a starting point, Trello set its sights on other regions. And in four months, 520 volunteers changed 47 000 words into 20 different languages and localized versions of Trello were introduced in countries around the world.
“We definitely had some concerns before deciding to try crowdsourcing. Mainly, we wondered about the quality of professional translation compared to crowdsourcing, as well as the speed with which we could get things done,” says VP of Marketing at Trello, Stella Garber. “Beyond the significant cost savings, it was also a great way to get our user base involved in the evolution of a product they really loved using.”
Localization and translation lessons
Trello’s decision to tackle international markets came about after conversations with local users in different markets – mainly about their struggles. For Garber, the move to launch internationally presented various technical and marketing challenges.
Here are a few things they learned along the way:
Talk to your users: Trello sent surveys to users from different countries to learn more about their Trello experiences. This information revealed interesting insights around the similarities and differences across regions.
Internationalize by country, not by language: Marketing should be done on a country-by-country basis, not a language basis. While languages may be similar between nations, tapping into the unique cultural nuances of users was essential to offer a more personalized platform.
Local relationships are key: Trello opted to crowdsource because they acknowledged how important it is to connect to the right people in each country. Having a good relationship with local users also made it easier to spread the word about the localization of Trello.
Localize your localization efforts: Simply changing the language on the platform was not enough. True localization requires that you consider the cultural quirks and unique preferences of users in each locale.
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Image Credit: trello.com
Congratulations! You’ve put in the time and effort to fully localize your product and have now launched the end result in a new territory or market. If you’re about to sit back and relax, hold up. What many people fail to realize is that monitoring the performance of your localized product is just as important as localizing it in the first place. After all, the goal of localizing an asset, product or even your entire brand is to ensure that it resonates with, and is understood by, your new target market. But just how do you go about measuring the performance of a localized product? We’ll talk you through the best way to go about it, as well as our experience with the product analysis process.
First things first, where there’s human input, there’s opportunity for human error.
After all, we’re not robots, and more often than not, the post-launch period of your localized asset will require some degree of revision. If you’re aware that product analysis is part and parcel of the process, you’ll be that much better prepared to deal with issues as and when they arrive. Remember: product analysis isn’t a once off; instead it’s a continuous process that allows you to keep track of how your localized product is faring, and importantly, an opportunity to learn more about your market.
Bring in the third party reviewers for short checks along the way.
Touching base with an objective party while you’re busy localizing your product, during your product analysis before your launch, as well as after the fact is crucial. This feedback can come from a trusted distributor, reseller, or even a customer who’s familiar with your product and has extensive experience in the market in question. If you’re localizing a document, technical instructional material or marketing material, begin by having them review the glossary (a short list of company terms, product names, and slogans) as this is one of the building block for the final translation. If you’re able to get this right from the get-go, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble (not to mention time, money and frustration) further down the road. Having them review the final product before it goes to market, and then a couple of weeks after it has been launched, further sets your localized or translated product up for success. (On that note, make sure that whomever is doing the translation is using a Translation Memory so that any changes can be captured in order to avoid mistakes being repeated in subsequent releases.)
More often than not, localization feedback consists of objections to word choice or style, not the actual translation.
Let’s assume you’re already utilizing a trusted third party reviewer to be involved in the process and review both the glossary and style guide and the final translation. (Remember, this third party reviewer is your trusted international employee, distributor or reseller, or power customer – which means you need to be as democratic as possible when dealing with negative feedback.) If your reviewer objects to something in the translation, don’t panic! Step back and evaluate their comments together with your localization service provider. For the sake of peaceful relations, your LSP should coordinate an email exchange between the reviewer and the linguist about why that particular word or phrase was chosen. From our extensive experience in product analysis, we’ve seen that frequently, the reviewer isn’t objecting to the translation of a particular phrase; instead, they’re not sold on the original English phrase and are in fact, trying to rewrite the original copy.
Pro Tip: Set expectations with your reviewers about what should be changed and what shouldn’t – before they aid you in product analysis.
Don’t go down the rabbit hole of changing the English version. Not only will this put deadlines in jeopardy, but you’ll need to update all of your other translations to match the revised English content in order to ensure continuity.
How do you fix a localization mistake after launching a product?
If you’ve already gone through the initial localization and a mistake is discovered after the fact, worry not. While this scenario is rare, it does happen. After all, with human input come many variables, and many of them aren’t under your control. This feedback may be due to an assumption made by the linguist, someone who doesn’t necessarily have the same level of information as the reviewer. This scenario requires some strategic navigation: firstly, thank your reviewer for their diligent work and be clear about the fact that you appreciate their input. Then address the mistake right away, and continue on your journey. It’s that simple. (Really.)
Localization is rarely an endeavor that’s cut and dry; the best and most successful localization projects require back and forth between your LSP and your reviewer. By embracing this process, you’ll ensure that your launch is a successful one.
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Image Credit: doohickeycreative.com