15 May 2014

How to Secure Investment in Your Translation Project

You know the value of translating content for global marketing projects. But senior management might not. How do you convince them?

You’re a marketing manager who is wise enough to realise the value of translated content – and you’re especially keen to get your message across to a wider audience globally.

Globalisation and the internet have both reduced the barriers to entry for companies looking to export to new, often highly lucrative markets overseas.

With such expansion comes great responsibility, particularly in fields such as health and safety, law and healthcare.

Unfortunately, senior management and accounts departments might not share your enthusiasm for effective and accurate translation.

So how can you persuade them that the investment is really worth it and get your plans rubber-stamped? How can you convince the people you need to that a professional translation service can add huge value to your business by helping to get your brand’s message across globally?

It can be argued that in today’s global economy translation professionals are just as essential to a firm as IT experts or finance specialists.

Cross-border trade using properly localised websites which are translated into different languages should be a vast economic opportunity for businesses all around the world.

But for those companies who refuse to invest and opt for cheaper machine translations, the negative consequences can be significant.

Here are five ways you can persuade senior management to invest in your translation project.

1. Produce a case study highlighting the effectiveness of multi-language content

Do your research. A case study demonstrating the value of translation can really help get people on board.

Perhaps take the example of successful companies such as Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International.

The US tourism giant awoke to the benefits of clear, accurate translation as long ago as 2002 – and has since reaped the financial rewards.

This was quite prescient, given that by 2011 6.4 million Las Vegas’ tourists were from overseas, generating more than a quarter of its tourism revenue.

MGM Resorts International pre-empted this by beginning work to translate all of its properties’ websites 12 years ago.

French, Italian, German, Japanese, simplified and traditional Chinese, Korean and Portuguese are all currently catered for.

The websites allow guests to book a room in any of these languages. The firm also offers mobile content in several languages.

Importantly, MGM avoids the use of machine translation on its websites. That’s because a native translator understands the local market and culture, enabling them to translate messages appropriately.

MGM said guests have benefited from having accurate, well-written content to review when deciding whether to book their hotel room online.

This, in turn, gives the company a head-start since the service makes its offering more accessible to non-English-speaking customers.

MGM also uses an interpreting service for guests’ on-the-spot requirements, such as room service – further delighting their overseas customers.

2. Run a workshop day

Most translation agencies are happy to spare a professional translator to visit you for a chat. This can be done by way of a workshop or lecture.

A workshop is a good way of demonstrating to staff members how translation issues can be resolved and what measures can be undertaken to produce a successful translation management workflow.

These professionals outline not only the advantages of having professional translators at your disposal, they also underline the risks if you don’t.

3. Present facts and figures

Few things impress accountants more than numbers. So, having a few figures at your fingertips to hit them with will certainly gain buy-in from financial departments.

For example, a leading entrepreneur claims that one solitary spelling mistake can slash online sales in half.

So imagine how high that percentage rises when delivering messages in different languages?

Charles Duncombe, a UK-based internet entrepreneur, says sales stats suggest wrong spellings can undermine credibility and reduce your online conversion rates.

4. Add humour

When making your pitch, use humour to lighten and simultaneously strengthen your argument.

After all, as The Comedy School founder Keith Palmer says, if they’re laughing, they’re listening.

Highlight some cross-border gaffes that wouldn’t have happened with accurate translations by native translators, such as:

• The Clairol Mist Stick initially mis-fired in Germany before it was discovered that in German mist means “manure”

• Schweppes tonic water didn’t exactly break all sales records when it first launched in Italy. A good translator would have told the company that its product translated into “Schweppes toilet water”

• When KFC launched its first Chinese store, the famous “finger lickin’ good” slogan translated into “eat your fingers off”.

5. Try to speak the language of finance

Right, you’ve got them laughing. Now use a language the bean counters really understand: money.

Nearly two-thirds of French travel websites contain mistakes or translation blunders, a study has shown. This costs the industry an estimated 120 million euros (£98 million) every year.

It can cost far more to rectify a problem than it can to get it right in the first place. Some companies may have to bin brochures, recall thousands of products, and sometimes pay a large fine.

Perhaps the case that will have your account directors choking on their lattes most, however, is the badly translated word that cost $71 million (£42 million).

Teenager Willie Ramirez was taken unconscious to a US hospital in 1980. His Spanish family mistakenly thought he was suffering from food poisoning. The hospital relied on a bilingual employee who translated “intoxicado” for “intoxicated”.

A reputable translation services agency would have known that “intoxicado” is nearer to “poisoned” than any alcohol or drug overdose issues. But, based on this translation, medics treated Ramirez as a drug overdose victim.

He had actually suffered a brain haemorrhage. The delay proved critical. Ramirez became a quadriplegic as a result. The result? A malpractice deal worth $71 million. A medical interpreter’s average yearly wages would only have cost roughly $40,000 (£23,840).


Sign up to our newsletter

Get our blog articles straight to your inbox.