Translation ROI: 3 Questions to Ask Your Team Before Investing in Translation

Are you considering investing in translation, but are not convinced of the true value of such an investment at your company? You have good reason to be skeptical.

Much like any other investment, internationalization of content must be approached with the same analytical rigor and an eye on its true potential to boost a company’s bottom line. Unfortunately, rather than quantifying translation ROI, most public anecdotes on the impact of translation on an organization talk in generalities- “massive” potential, “significant” boost in SEO, and “dramatic” increases in conversion- without tying these back to business results.

The decision to invest in translation, and subsequently measuring its success, should be based on one question:

How many new customers do you need to profitably acquire and serve in order to justify the total cost of translation?

 It should be clear that effectively answering this question regarding your translation ROI in turn requires an executive to have a handle on three very specific questions:

1. What is our “fully loaded” cost of translation?

The translation industry is trained to talk about the cost of translation with a very simple formula.

Basic Cost of Translation= Number of words * Cost per word

Companies will therefore expend significant time and energy in finding partners that will offer the lowest cost/ word. In reality, the decision to internationalize impacts and requires the ongoing involvement of multiple individuals and departments at an organization: content creators, technologists, project managers and marketers now need to manage multiple streams of content on an ongoing basis. This is a very real and often-neglected cost to your organization.

True Cost of Translation= (Number of words * Cost per word) + Coordination Costs

Absent a translation partner with the tech-savvy to automate much of this coordination, you are likely underestimating what it costs you to establish a translation program at your company.

2. Beyond translation, what investments are needed in customer acquisition in the new language/ geography?

Many translation providers preach the “if you build it, they will come” approach while advocating an investment in translation.  The reality is that your customer acquisition strategy in your home country/ language needs to be replicated, adapted and invested in when going to a new geography/ language to truly unlock the value of your translation program.

Enterprise-focused companies may need to set up new regional selling teams. SMB and consumer- centric companies will likely need to invest in multilingual digital marketing and distribution partnerships.

Of course, none of this should be a deterrent to starting small and testing the initial impact of translation, but the long-term value of a translation program hinges on the organization’s willingness to invest beyond the translation itself.

3. What is the lifetime value of the new customer base?

Of course, the very last piece of the puzzle is the most important one- your new customer. With geographic differences in spending power, purchasing behavior and brand loyalty, it is important to recalibrate your expectations of the value of your new customer base against those on your home turf.

Addressing these questions should allow an executive to establish a very clear understanding of how to first break-even on translation, and how to measure the long-term translation ROI thereafter.

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