After publishing a blog post: Globalization through Localization, I taught a workshop in Portland on 1/27 where an attendee asked a unique localization and translation question. I thought I’d share the journey of localization and translation with you.


I work at a US-based company that has only sold products domestically. After recently being purchased by a Chinese company, the products will begin to be sold worldwide. Since we have a great deal of content in English, what is your suggestion on selecting content to localize and translate for the new international team? Deciding what to do has been overwhelming. Note: Although my answer was much shorter during the workshop. I decided to layout a process to guide you if you encounter similar challenge.


Being able to sell your products outside the US is exciting. However, ramping up an international team is a never-ending process. When you are done updating and refreshing content for key countries, new products will need to be launched, new content will need to translated and new technologies in relationship to marketing communications will need to be implemented. It’s a long journey. Look at the bright side, it’s called job security. ☺ Now going back to the core of your question, here is what I’d propose you do:

Step 1: Follow the 80/20 rule

Although enterprises have hundreds or thousands of pieces of content on their websites, in general, only 20% of content is consumed by 80% of audiences. Through your web analytics and working with your webmaster, you can easily identify key content by technologies, by products and by audience segments. Since you are ramping up a new international team, I’d focus on product content first. Out of the 20% content inventory, I’d select the top 30 content pieces based on specific selection criterias such as number of views, sales and marketing team feedback, formats of content etc. You need to start somewhere and the selection process will be both subjective and objective.

Step 2: Divide selected content into sales enablement and marketing communications

Here is something that often gets overlooked: you need to evaluate content from both a sales and a marketing perspectives and create two lists: one for sales enablement, the other for marketing communications. The target audiences are different: one focuses on training the sales team, while the other set of content aims at your target audiences. One is internal-facing and the other is external-facing. While you are localizing and translating content for your international efforts, you need to take care of both your international sales and marketing teams at the same time. You want to make sure that the sales teams are trained. When they are talking to their customers, there is marketing content to build awareness of the products and drive demand. Marketing content is like the supply team to support soldiers on the front line. That supply needs to stay close to the sales process. Out of your 30 content items, you need to create two lists: one is for sales enablement, the other list is for marketing communications.

Step 3: Review the list with local teams

Once you have the proposed list, review the two lists with your international teams and let them provide feedback. During this stage, it’s important to understand what their needs are. Sometimes, they just want very simple content to teach them what the products are and how to sell them. Most of time, they don’t even know what they want. In that case, write down the objectives that these content pieces will serve and explain the reasons of choosing these content pieces.

Step 4: Determine priority countries

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL). If you want to do it right, localization and translation cost money and you can’t translate for 120 countries. It’s important to have a conversation with the senior managers of the new international team to determine the key countries to focus on initially. Select countries based on the projected sales goals, management direction and on-the-ground support.

Step 5: Determine the number of content pieces to translate and localize based on your budget

Even though you have your top 30 content items, two proposed lists and priority countries, you may not have enough budget to do them all. With the budget you have, you may not be able to translate and localize all content for your all priority countries. You will need to make trade-offs between sales vs. marketing content as well as the number of content pieces to translate and which languages to choose. It will be a hard call, but do the best you can. It’s never easy!

Step 6: Create a rolling schedule

Once you complete the trade-off analysis and finalize the content pieces and languages, work with your translation partner to create a schedule. Share the schedule with the international team. Roll out the content piece one by one when it’s done. If you have a content asset library or content management tool, make sure that the team knows how to use them and how to download content they need.

Step 7: Communication, communication and communication

I discovered that the local teams are usually very busy. Sometimes, you will need to say something at least 3 times for it to stick. Have several communication channels to get your messages out. Use your company’s intranet, e-mail, regular collaboration meetings and other means to get the word out and make sure they get the most out of the resources you tailor for them.

Step 8: Discuss the next steps

This is just a starting point. Discuss with them what their needs are and work on the next phase of your content localization efforts.

Here is my experience with localization and translation…

I ramped up local sales teams, agencies and even channel partners during the past 15 years. Initially, the local teams were just happy to get anything from me. During that stage, I was in the driver seat. After they were ramped up, my role switched and I was not in the driver seat anymore. Some regional teams took ownership and control and told me what they needed. I was very happy to get directions from them, if they conveyed their objective and campaign plans to me in advance. Who leads and who follows will switch back and forth during the journey of localization and translation. The saga continues!

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