6 Things to Know Before Choosing a Translation Company

Tom Bool, Integro Languages

Exciting times – you’ve got a business, you feel ready to start taking on some export opportunities. You’re ready to grow, so it’s probably time for some translation. Well, before you do – please, just think this through carefully.

You’ve got a lot to think about at this point. You probably won’t know your whole budget, or how to pick a translation provider, or even how to manage the whole thing. You can save a lot of hardship, time and money by getting things right at this crucial stage – and here’s how:

1 – Are you biting off more than you can chew?

Are you planning on targeting 12 countries, and adding a whole load of languages to your website? Great if you’ve got really strong skills in the business and a nice big budget, but for most, this isn’t a good idea. Start with what you can realistically focus on. You need to be able to realistically see this through and do a good job.

2 – What are your goals?

If you’re in e-commerce then you want sales, I assume. But, what else are you after? Likes? Do you want people to sign up to an online course? Or download a book? Share this information with your translation provider – because they’ll make their own assumptions if not, and you may miss out on useful insight.

3 – What are your assumptions right now?

The likelihood is that you’re basing your plans on a hypothesis – or an assumption. Presumably you are working in the belief that adding a certain language to your website will result in more sales. Or that there are people in a certain country interested in buying your products. We’re not saying that’s wrong, it’s likely to be correct – but you should recognise it as a hypothesis, it’s not really a fact until you’ve tested it or seen seem really evidence. That can be as easy as just asking the question, but with something as important as this, it’s really valuable to acknowledge and identify that hypothesis at this early stage.

4 – Start small, but think big.

Think about testing that idea BEFORE you go ahead and translate everything. Use analytics to see the results of small changes. What would be the effect of adding just a landing page to your website in another language? Or, what if you were to pick just your 50 most successful products and translate the keywords and descriptions for them? It might not get you over the line, but you would start to understand the effects this might have on the user journey through the site. Are people reading more and staying longer? Is your page or products getting found more through search? If so, great – it’s working. If not, think about why before you move on.

5 – Resist the urge to start with the marketing copy.

Most people would think to begin by translating their creative copy and persuasive material. That, after all, is where your most obvious ROI is going to come from, right? But it’s the wrong approach. Horse before the cart and all that!

Start with your core vocabulary. Get an excel spreadsheet and write down the first 100 words that come to your mind to summarise your business. I don’t mean a sentence or a paragraph. Single words that describe what you do. Here’s an example for a software training company.

So, you’re picking out the words that sum you up, and that represent the right words to use for your key services or products. In some cases it may be clear that you’re using one word and intentionally avoiding alternatives. Like, face to face training vs. one to one training. In that case, it would be well worth adding another column as a DO NOT USE list.

Translate those. And check them. Yourself. Not just the translation company. Then put them into Google, or use the google keyword analysis tool and see if people are actually searching for that term. If not, it’s probably the wrong term. The translation company should be happy to do that bit for you, but you might want to check it yourself.

Get that list perfect, make sure it’s the right words. They should say exactly what you do, and be the terms people in your target market are actually using. And keep that list – it belongs to you, not the translation company and it will inform any future copywriting, SEO, web development and marketing you carry out. It’s going to become one of your most valuable assets as you grow.

Make sure your translation company uses those terms. That’s easily done by using a CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tool. Don’t work with any translator or translation company who doesn’t.

6 – Think about the future.

You should be ready to start on your first big translation order, but proceed with caution. Right now, if you’re talking to translation companies about translating your website and a load of other materials, they’re going to be nice and excited. They all will. But once that bulk of work is over, what will your needs look like? Most likely, you’ll want to actually get into conversations and interactions with consumers and real people, in the country you’re targeting? That means emails, short letters, maybe even tweets and social media updates… how are those companies going to help you there? Don’t just concentrate on the big bulk of work. Ask them very clearly, “How will you help me if I have a short email of 30 words that I need translated the same day?” – if it’s a minimum fee of £30 and a rush fee for anything less than 24 hours, you’re better off knowing in advance.

Look for a company with a multilingual consumer support solution or with a speciality for handling work fast, without resorting to machine translation and at good prices – ideally without a massive retainer.

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