9 Reasons Why Your Marketing Localization is Failing (Hint: It Does Not Involve Extra Costs)

Greater than 6 minutes, my friend!

A globalised world is a fast and competitive marketplace. And the most efficient marketing localization strategy for any business that wants to reach an international audience is: drop a file for translation and call it a day.

Just kidding.

Actually, it takes more than a source text to get a good translation.

But this is a marketing localization secret that very little businesses know. Therefore it comes as no surprise that, based on a CMO Council study, 63% of marketers are not satisfied with their localization efforts.

Some blame it on a lack of investment into localization, I blame it on the lack of a localization strategy.

Sometimes, it’s not about investing more, but investing wiser.

Here are the 9 reasons why your marketing localization efforts are failing. (Coincidently, this is also a great checklist for a content localization strategy that works.)

1. You don’t have a content delivery infrastructure

In an agile world focused on competitive time-to-market and omnipresence on multiple channels, content production and localization can become a serious bottleneck, if you don’t have a proper content delivery infrastructure.

(I’ve seen it happening. It gets very messy.)

Ensure that your content stands the proof of time by investing in a decoupled content management system (e.g. Contentful) that enables you to separate content from technology, model your multilingual content, and reuse it with the click of a button.

If you have an in-house team of freelance translators (highly recommended for the best marketing localization results), you can connect your content delivery system to a translation memory tool (e.g. memoQ).

A translation memory tool will offer you a platform to manage your translators and translation projects, ensure consistency and reduce translation costs.

A centralised content delivery infrastructure is the first requirement for rapid deployment of marketing localization.

2. You didn’t define your content creation and localization workflows

Who in your organisation needs content services? Who produces the content? And who localises it? What is your content creation lifecycle?

So many questions that need answers.

The content creation and localization workflows are an essential part of your marketing localization strategy and defines:

  • Who is requesting the content and how;
  • What information is needed to produce the source text and localise it;
  • Who creates the source text and where;
  • Who approves the source text;
  • Who requests the translations and how;
  • Who translates the content and where;
  • Who checks the localised content and based on what criteria;
  • Who publishes the content and how.

This is also the point where you define your content types and your content reusability model, as well as your content creation briefing, localization kit template and QA steps.

3. You didn’t hire a localization manager

Translation memory tools, multiple language glossaries, localization kits, localization tests, hiring translators, localization project management, transcreation… you don’t know how to wrap your head around all this localization carfuffle anymore?

A localization manager will learn your business inside-out, become well-versed in your marketing strategy, will hire the right translators for your company and brief them properly about your localization needs.

A localization manager will choose the right translation tools, define the QA criteria for marketing localization, and train the translators to offer you better localization services. They will also optimise your localization budget and manage your localization projects.

Did I mention that localization managers tend to speak several languages and are the nicest people?

4. You didn’t hire the right translators

You found someone who can translate from your source language into your target language? Translator hired for the project: checked.

Not so fast.

When it comes to marketing localization you have to take a step back and think about your content needs for your target market.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is your desired tonality for the new market?
  • How will you test if your translator can write for your target audience?

Hiring a translator for marketing localization is more than hiring a translator for your target language: in order to get the adequate localization for your target audience you need to think of your translator as your international copywriter.

Not all the translators are able to write marketing copy in their target language. And this is the skill that you should be looking for when hiring a localization specialist for your marketing localization project.

5. You didn’t brief your translators properly

Marketing localization is a complex task that involves a marketing and SEO strategy, target audience analysis, market analysis, legal and commercial requirements, market positioning, competitor analysis…

(You get the picture.)

But more often than not, translators are left out of the loop and only get an out-of-context source text to translate. With the implicit expectation that they should, somehow, understand the marketing strategy of an entire company from a marketing asset.

A localization kit is a great tool to stop the guessing game and brief your translator properly when you request a marketing localization service.

Depending on your type of content the localization kit should include information about your product or service, marketing and/or SEO strategy, targeted audience, brand identity and tonality.

6. You didn’t onboard your translators

Great products and successful marketing strategies are the result of intense team work and countless hours of work (and sleepless nights). It takes time and a lot of trial and error to get the right formula for a digital business that works.

Unfortunately, the essence of this carefully built product and marketing strategy tends to… get lost in translation.

But it doesn’t have to if you can do something about it.

Most translation schools don’t teach students about business and marketing. The translators leave the university benches unprepared to take on jobs in one of the biggest translation sectors: marketing localization.

This knowledge gap can be closed with a good onboarding plan for your translators.

Your onboarding map should include information about your product, your company’s strategy, market positioning, brand identity, marketing goals, SEO strategy, target audience and your top competitors.

7. You’re not giving feedback to your translators

Every person needs feedback in order to learn and grow professionally.

Freelance translator tend to stay loyal to their customers and I’ve worked with translators that stayed with a company 10 to 13 years and counting.

But in many cases, companies don’t even know the names of their freelance translators and how long they have been working for them!

The quality of marketing localization cannot improve without active input from the requestor. A translator needs to be constantly kept in the loop with the company’s marketing strategy, localization QA results, what worked and what didn’t, and areas that can be improved.

Localisation is about testing, testing, testing.

Even the best translator cannot hit the right tonality for your brand and audience from the first try. It takes some time and a series of feedback rounds to achieve the desired result.

Involve your translators in your daily business processes and help them to help you better.

8. You’re not localising your images

Context is very important for successful marketing localization, but many marketers fail to include context–such as images–when they send a source text for translation.

But images are not only a good context. Your translator can look at your images and give you feedback in case they see something that will not work for your target market and/or audience.

While images are generally not an issue, there are special occasions where it’s a good idea to ask a localization specialist for feedback.

A pig walking on a red carpet might mean luck in the New Year for an audience and a sarcastic joke for another.

Know the difference before sending out that newsletter.

9. You’re not giving creative freedom to your translators

One of the biggest complaints I hear about marketing localization is that the localized assets sound translated. On the other hand, marketing specialists also complain that the translation is not true enough to the source text:

‘But the source text said *insert metaphor* and not what the translator translated!’

The problem is that you cannot have the translation flowing like ‘it was written directly in the target language‘ and, at the same time, a word-by-word translation of the source text.

In order for marketing localization to work in the target market, the translator needs to have the freedom to reformulate the way you ‘package’ your marketing core message.

In this context, the translator becomes a copywriter and experimenting and testing paired with feedback are essential in finding the right tonality for the new market.

It might sound like a lot of work, but it will save you from paying for bland marketing translations that don’t get the desired results.

Plus, translators are fast learners.


It takes more than a source text to get a good translation.

You need to invest resources in a good content delivery service and look for the right translators for your business, train them to understand your marketing needs, nurture them and help them develop professionally so that they can serve your business better.

We all wish we could hit a magic button and get the amazing marketing localization we deserve.

But as with everything in life, that magic button doesn’t exist. Not even when it comes to translations.

At least not yet.

Claudia Befu

About Claudia Befu

Localization expert with 11+ years in the digital world. Creating content strategies and solutions for large enterprises. Mentoring, educating and consulting are part of my daily life and passion.

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