The team at Wordbank had a great time attending LocWorld 41 in San Jose and hearing firsthand how top companies are approaching the conference’s theme of “Go Global, Be Global.” Throughout the conference, client-side presenters discussed challenges that are all too familiar to veteran localization professionals.

You know the saying: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Despite the breakneck speed of technical innovation in the localization industry, the pain points we heard from conference-goers at LocWorld reflect the same challenges our clients were facing five, ten, or even twenty years ago.

Here are the key issues (still) plaguing localization pros, regardless of industry or content goals.

Localization Needs to Be an Upstream Consideration

In many organizations, localization is still an afterthought. We heard several localization managers speak about the challenges of localizing product content late in the development cycle when significant changes are difficult to manage. Planning for internationalization during the inception phase sets a project up for success and significantly reduces localization cost and time to market.

From a marketing perspective, the same principles apply. The earlier companies consider localization objectives, assets, and workflow in the context of a marketing localization strategy, the more effective, scalable, and cost-effective the outcome.

Localization and marketing leaders are tackling this challenge by pushing for advocacy at the C-level and evangelizing the importance of localization among internal teams.

LSPs Need to Act as Consultative Partners, not Vendors

The localization industry runs on efficiency: accurate translations, competitive pricing, on-time delivery. But efficiency alone isn’t enough to solve the challenges businesses face when going global.

Marketers need a partnership that goes far beyond global content models at the tactical level. A continual dialogue about international marketing goals and a strategy that blends research, language, design, and digital efforts are crucial to driving maximum in-market engagement.

And for client-side localization managers, who are often a department of one, a collaborative relationship is key. LSPs need to be a seamless extension of their team, offering proactive recommendations to evolve strategy and increase value.

To be blunt, LSPs aren’t giving marketers and localization managers what they need.

Localization Needs to Demonstrate ROI

C-suites don’t care about the number of words translated. They care about results. Localization professionals need to show not only that they achieve multilingual content within budget, but that their efforts produce real, tangible ROI. Most LSPs can’t report back on performance, so businesses rely on internal analysts to connect localization to results.

For marketing localization, this is an especially important point. The localization industry, and in turn localization buyers, have long defined localization ROI in a very transactional way. It’s about content leverage rates, quality scorecards based on in-country feedback, and delivery performance. While these things are important, they are table stakes and not, in themselves, a measure of localization effectiveness. For marketing content, true ROI means that sales and brand awareness at the local level directly drive international growth.

Marketing localization is a strategic investment in a company’s international expansion and should be managed and measured as such. The localization industry, with its focus on high-volume language delivery through software sales, isn’t particularly geared toward this mindset. We call this the “efficiency bias.” That approach often leaves clients wanting and makes the case for localization investment difficult for client-side teams.

Final Thought

The global landscape businesses operate within is changing rapidly, but the language services industry has remained heavily transactional. Companies that approach localization as an investment – not simply an expense – will have a strategic advantage over their competition. And they’ll set themselves up for effective, measurable growth.

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About the author

Lindsay Johnson

Lindsay Johnson is CEO and Managing Director of Wordbank: as a well-traveled Brit living and working in Denver since 2007, I'm fortunate to be part of an amazing international team, skilled in global marketing, translation and localization, and dedicated to our vision. Wordbank is a marketing localization agency offering a unique blend of traditional localization and international marketing services designed to help our customers achieve their global growth goals.