Despite all the innovation emerging from the latest generation of Iranian entrepreneurs, growth is complicated when communicating with foreign language markets.
How can Iranian companies “up their game” by translation and localization so that they can earn their fair share of income from new markets? We’ll look at several options: working with professional language service agencies, engaging freelance translators, and doing it themselves with neural machine translation. We’ll consider best practices, tips and tricks as well as the pitfalls in the process to be avoided.
A Global Strategy Starts with Doing Your Homework
If you have a small business and hope to expand your markets, you’ve thought about going beyond Iran’s borders. If you have products and services that can be marketed and sold via the Internet, that expansion does not need to break your budget. We will consider choices that startups and online businesses confront in pursuit of new audiences and increased revenues from abroad.
The first thing to develop is a strategy. Creating a global business is a strategic challenge, so you should map it out with research and expert assistance. If you want to get more insights on how to develop a global marketing strategy, check out this article about international marketing strategy. It’s going to be a lot of work but you will be getting the help you need from your professional translation agency through professional translation and localization services.
Going Global: A Translation and Localization Guide
Now that you’ve done your homework, and begun developing a strategy, here are some points to guide development of your go-to-market plan.
- Get your current content and campaigns in order. You probably have basic marketing material and a website with Farsi content. Do an inventory of what is the minimum collection of content and marketing material that tells your story and generates leads for your products and services. Then clean up your act
- Select your next languages to open new markets. English may be the default choice as the language of international business, and the default “second language” spoken by many, will nearly a billion speakers. So it’s a safe bet to choose English in your initial translation and localization plans. With 422 million speakers and regional proximity, Arabic may be a logical candidate. But don’t neglect the 1.1 billion Mandarin Chinese speakers. Consider, too, 527 million Spanish speakers, not just in Spain but Latin America. And 267 million Russian speakers should not be neglected either.
- Consider costs vs. benefits of additional language. The cost of adding additional languages grows, of course, in absolute terms. But the incremental cost goes down. But – as the Americans say: “In for a dime, in for a dollar.” So if your first localization costs x, the second one may cost x/2, the third x/3 and so on.
- Against these cost expectations, consider revenue projections. Which markets are realistically reachable, and where can you expect the highest conversion rates. This calculation should shape your marketing and localization efforts.
- Develop a country-by-country marketing and launch strategy. No two countries or language markets are alike, so you need to do your strategic homework to determine how best to adapt and deploy your “local” marketing campaign.
Don’t Go It Alone: The Pros and Cons of Professional Localization Agencies
Don’t be overwhelmed by the many things you need to do to market to a foreign language market. In most cases, the money you pay an international localization company or a provider of localization services is well worth it, saving you and your marketing team valuable time and avoiding costly mistakes. Anyone knows how to translate a page, but a deep understanding of a language or culture is an expert skill that you can’t learn on the Internet.
Search for and obtain referrals for a top localization agency – this means more than just a language translator or a website translator. A professional translation accounts for cultural factors so that your language and collateral come across in an appropriate way. Marketing translation services vary in quality, but professional agencies have access to localization experts. This is especially true for software or app developers: localization is a well-developed science for this use and you really need to rely on experts for this.
Typically, with professional language services agencies you work directly with an account manager, who in turn manages an external translation team. This serves as a diplomatic buffer preventing disagreements or unpleasantness with the translator(s). However, it can also prevent direct communications and result in information being “lost in translation” as it passes from one person to another. A tip to avoid this is always to communicate comments and feedback in writing, not orally.
The Freelance Option: How to Save Money without Sacrificing Quality
The other disadvantage of agencies is that you will pay a premium for the additional resources and overhead that localization companies assign to your account. It is tempting to seek out professional translation services from freelancers. In the best case, their rates may be 50-60% lower than those of an agency, but let the buyer beware: you will need to invest more of your personal and staff time to manage each freelance resource.
You can reduce the risk by working through one of the many online freelance marketplaces, like Freelancer, Upwork, or Fiverr. There you can view a translator’s profile, CV, ratings and reviews. You also have the platform as a “middleman” to hold funds in escrow till you approve the work. But still you are working with individuals, who get sick, who take trips, and other things that could interfere with meeting your deadline and hitting your budget. To further reduce risk, hire an additional freelancer in the same language to serve as auditor, and editor of the first, and to be available in case the “primary” translator disappoints.
Welcome to the Machine: Uses and Abuses of NMT
The improvement of neural machine translation (NMT) services like Google Translate has given rise to “cheating” by translators who use these as a shortcut to doing “manual” translation. Make clear contractually that use of NMT is unacceptable and check their work against an NMT or two before accepting their delivery. If you need more context, take a look at this informative post on why AI hasn’t yet mastered language translation.
The last piece of advice is to use NMT yourself. These services are fantastic to give you access to foreign language resources, and you can use them successfully to do research and even first drafts of internal documents, especially if the language is formalistic and structured. But it’s always a good idea to hire a translator to audit and edit machine-translated documents to avoid potential embarrassment.
The Bottom line on Localization for Iranian Entrepreneurs
To go global with confidence, work with top localization agencies if you have the budget, or, if not, make the effort to select a pair of excellent translators per language. Be wary of machine translation, but these services are free – so use them with care.