Finding the Best Translation Vendor – 3 Quick Steps

How can you be sure you have the right translation vendor before you invest your time, budget — and reputation — in their work? It’s tempting simplify the process by inviting some vendors in for a discussion and judge whether you can trust them. That’s a useful step, but it shouldn’t be your only step. Your HR recruiters will tell you that in hiring staff, the best predictor of future performance is past performance. That’s handy advice in selecting your translation vendor and there are several ways to gauge this.

Talk to Your Network

Nothing beats word of mouth and the experiences of your colleagues and peers. Get their experiences and you’ll see how different vendors work in real business situations with budget constraints, actual timelines. This is more useful to you than a meeting with vendors in which they simply present their credentials.

As you talk to your contacts, focus on who they recommend and why. Of course it’s also useful to learn who they don’t recommend and why. To be fair to the vendors and the validity of your investigation, keep in mind that the best comparison is with projects similar to the ones you need to do. For example, if your friend’s experience was in technical documentation, it may not be valid to apply it to a retail packaging project.

In addition to the subject evaluations like the vendor’s ability to gain confidence and their understanding of the customer environment, find out about some objective points.

  • Did the localization vendor set accurate timelines?
  • Did they meet deadlines?
  • Were their costs within expected limits?
  • Did they return all of the needed deliverables?
  • Did they update and deliver the translation memory?

Talk to Your Candidate Vendors

These discussions will help you figure out which are your top candidates. In my experience, you’ll have the best selection if you ask 4 or 5 localization firms to review your project and provide estimates of time and cost. Pick a few with acceptable estimates and ask them for their client references — preferably from your industry. These will of course be hand selected references who will say positive things, but you can gain important benefit anyway. Don’t forget that you’ve already heard the real story from your network in the first place. The utility to you of these selected references is to learn what it takes to manage the vendor for the best results.

  • How did they react to scope changes?
  • Do they need extra attention in writing a statement of work that meets Finance’s criteria?
  • Was the company’s management involved with the account? Was that a good thing?
  • What training was most useful on their dashboard?

Get Public Information Too

In addition to these conversations, don’t forget to research them on the web for any ratings and reviews that might be available. Don’t forget that your purchasing manager will probably find web information and you’ll want to be sure you have the answers to any questions it might raise.

Given the importance of localization and translation to your business, it pays to understand the subjective and objective views of any vendor you hire. It will help you find the best fit in the first place and it will help you to manage the relationship with them over time.

Strategically Choosing What to Translate

If your company is like most of the ones I’ve worked with, you have more content than you could possibly translate. Even if you have enough resources to translate all of your content, you’ll need to choose what to translate first. But what’s most important? How do you decide?

If you make the decision strategically you will have a plan that supports your objectives and meets your stakeholders’ expectations. What you need is input and discussion with your stakeholders:

Strategically Choosing What to Translate - Cloudwords Blog

Photo by Pete Reed

• Is this content client-facing in foreign markets?
Materials that help Sales sell and Buyers buy is a pretty sure bet to be important in your company’s priorities.

• Does it include human resources or training documentation for employees in foreign markets?
If your staff in your new market needs to be specifically trained to make your market successful, then this material could be a prerequisite for any client-facing content.

• Would you face legal consequences if a client used your product incorrectly by misunderstanding the product documentation?

What’s the liability of your operations in your new market? If your customers need to be alerted to certain techniques or operations, then you should consider user manuals and product packaging to be the first order of business.

• Is the content for your website, as buyers are more likely to make web purchases in their own language?
Many companies sell and communicate mostly through their websites. If your company does too, then this is the most important content. Be sure that you localize the words, the navigation and the whole user experience to be sure you are consistent with language and cultural values. This is especially important on the web.  The last thing you want is a prospective customer clicking on a translated tab, thinking they are going to a page in their native language, only for them to end up on a page in your native language – you just lost the sale!

You can find valuable perspectives on these questions by asking people in your company who are close to customers. First, know what you have by making an inventory of all of the material that you could translate. Then gather insights from people in sales, field marketing, customer support, and education and perhaps even your executive briefing center. But learn to keep the conversation at a strategic level, or ask for input on one area of content versus another. The reason for this is that most people will want everything translated — especially if someone else (you) is going to fund and manage it!

You can see by these points, the most important content to translate is the content that drives your business. Stay close to that strategy and you will find increasing support and appreciation for the work you’re doing because it will help to accelerate your company forward in your new market.

Translation vs. Localization – Understanding Your Audience

Translations are the first task that those trying to expand their business internationally, or to simply publicize their product or communicate with people in other countries think about. And rightly so, since communicating with others in their own language is a big step towards establishing a relationship. But unfortunately, as most people that have tried any of the automated, machine translation solutions, know, real and meaningful communication goes beyond purely translating a text.

Translation Platform - Cloudwords

Cloudwords Helps You Avoid Localization Issues

Translation is a first step towards communicating with someone in another country – even if people in that “other country” speak your same language. But merely translating your words is not enough to truly communicate with others, to transmit the meaning of what you are saying — and this is the case in every area, from marketing to legal, from websites to novels, from cars to furniture. So you might wonder what is the difference between translation and localization.

This is where localization comes in. As defined on Wikipedia, “localization (…) might include adapting graphics; adopting local currencies; using proper forms for dates, addresses and phone numbers; the choices of colors; and many other details, including rethinking the physical structure of a product. All these changes aim to recognize local sensitivities, avoid conflict with local culture and habits, and enter the local market by merging into its needs and desires. For example, localization aims to offer country-specific websites of the same company, or different editions of a book depending on the place it is published.”

One of the easiest and clearest ways of seeing the importance of considering the localization of your product or document is by reviewing some well-known marketing mistakes made by companies that did not research the markets where they were introducing their products:

  • The Swedish furniture giant IKEA somehow agreed upon the name “FARTFULL” for one of its desks lines.
  • In the late 1970s, Wang, the American computer company could not understand why its British branches were refusing to use its latest motto “Wang Cares”. Of course, to British ears this sounds too close to “Wankers” which would not really give a very positive image to any company.
  • Sharwoods, a UK food manufacturer, spent £6 million on a campaign to launch its new ‘Bundh’ sauces. It received calls from numerous Punjabi speakers telling them that “bundh” sounded just like the Punjabi word for “buttocks” (or even stronger).
  • A golf ball manufacturing company packaged golf balls in packs of four for convenient purchase in Japan. Unfortunately, pronunciation of the word “four” in Japanese sounds like the word “death” and items packaged in fours are unpopular.
  • Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious pornography magazine.
  • Kellogg had to rename its Bran Buds cereals in Sweden when it discovered that the name roughly translated to “burned farmer.”

And the list goes on, but you probably already got the point. Think for a minute about the money these companies spent in creating failed campaigns, in changing them, and even in recovering the damage made to their brands in the local market, and you will understand how fundamental it is to count with local expertise when planning and designing global products and marketing campaigns.

This is something we understand and deeply care about at Cloudwords. The translation vendors that participate in our Community and Translation Management Platform are certified by some of the most important professional organizations,  and have been helping companies around the world not only translate, but also successfully localize their products and documents for many years.

If you have translation needs, little time to dedicate to your translation projects and want to ensure that your localization is going in the right direction, we invite you to sign up for Cloudwords – You will be surprised by how easy it is to use and how complete are our  tools to manage your translations.

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