Doing Business Internationally: Thoughts on Translating your operational documents

January 24, 2012

Photo by re-ality on Flickr

When doing business internationally, it is usually a good business practice to localize your operational, HR and marketing content.

It is not enough to assume that both your employees and clients will be tolerant of materials that are not communicated in their local language.

Localized operational, HR and marketing materials result in increased adoption rates, a homogenous corporate culture, better customer service skills, and increased sales.

Localization is a broad term and its meaning is dependent upon how it is utilized.

Localizing your Marketing Content

Obviously, any marketing campaign needs to focus on its target market. If you are marketing to a particular country, its businesses, and people then you need to be sure that you have ‘localized’ all of your marketing collateral intended for that target market. This includes websites, brochures, and all other sales related material. Note that localizing content not only includes translating, but also includes ensuring that your marketing message, graphics and images are also culturally appropriate. Forester Research suggests that you are three times more effective when marketing to a person in their native tongue. It is also imperative that your proposals and contracts reflect the locally accepted format.

Localizing your sales and marketing materials when doing business internationally will increase sales and revenue and can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost of generating those materials in their native language.

Localizing Operational Material and Staff

At Translation Source, our experience has been that it is important to use local staff that intuitively knows, thinks and behaves as the target market culture and can handle local protocol efficiently and fluidly. When doing business internationally, local staff becomes bridges between your company and your target market. As such, it is important that the target market staff be trained and acclimated to the corporate culture. This will generally require an expatriated employee(s) who can help facilitate this knowledge transfer. Knowledge transfer will help to create a homogenous corporate culture between all locations and ensure that key corporate values and customer service expectations are understood.

In many instances, an international presence occurs based upon the need of an existing client(s) currently working with the home office. In this instance it is beneficial to have consistent personnel to manage the relationships between all client offices at a higher level relying on local staff in each location to handle the day to day operations.

All operational documents that affect the target market will also need to be localized. This is to be determined by accurately reflecting whatever protocol is normally utilized in the home country for the target market product or service to be utilized and modifying for local legal and regulatory compliance as well as cultural assimilation.

HR and Professional Development

All HR related documents that are utilized for staff in the home country need to be localized for international staff. This includes not only translating, but also modifying to incorporate local legal and regulatory compliance, while also ensuring cultural acceptance. This will, obviously, vary by country. Examples of key target market areas to be aware of are health and safety requirements, regulated work hours and pay rates as well as mandatory legal holidays.

Professional development plans for local staff should also reflect local culture and language. Localizing professional development plans when doing business internationally will ensure increased adoption rates as staff begin to assimilate corporate culture.

If you have any questions or would like more information on taking your company global, please do not hesitate to contact our managing director, Maria Quintero, at

Photo by re-ality on Flickr

If you would like additional information on this topic or have questions on planning and executing your next translation or multilingual initiative, contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation or call us at (800) 413-7838.


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