10 B2B localization best practices in 2023

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​In today’s competitive and constantly changing B2B landscape, businesses can no longer rely on outdated and inefficient processes. As B2B organizations continue to grow and expand globally, the need to make their localization processes as effective as possible becomes paramount.

At the last LocTalk conference, Jose Palomares from Coupa Software shared a series of strategies to help organizations revamp and scale their business localization practices. Here are 10 key takeaways from that session.

1. Do your own research

When making decisions, it’s important to avoid relying on generic market research. Collect your own data and focus on the specifics of your business, offerings, and B2B context.

“Don’t trust market research. Even if you have worked in similar organizations, don’t believe what you’ve learned.”

Jose Palomares, Coupa Software

Part of this means understanding what localization entails and how you can make it work for your business. The B2B sales cycle is long, which means there’s a significant time and resource investment in nurturing relationships before closing a deal. Before taking any action, organizations need to ensure that their products or services are suited to any potential new markets. Equally, their focus should be first on those markets where there is data to support that they are most likely to succeed.

However, don't be blinded by the drive to localize when expanding internationally. In fact, your findings may reveal that it is wiser to target English-speaking markets first and push back internationalization in favor of feature innovation.

Localization is not something that should be undertaken at all costs, and your data should inform you as to what the best plan of action is moving forward.

2. Consider partially localizing your product

Whatever your research shows, keep in mind that localization does not have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. It is not always necessary to localize every single aspect of a product or service for it to work in new markets. This will depend on the industry and market, but many products can meet customer needs without being fully localized. For example, users can receive training on certain features that they need without having to localize the whole product in their local language.

Additionally, when selling B2B services or products, stakeholders who speak English proficiently may not realize that products can sell well even if they have not been fully localized.

In an ideal world, everything would be perfectly localized, but in practice, when the alternative is no localization, some localization can be better than nothing.

3. Pay attention to online discussions and industry events

It’s easy to assume that companies are aware of what their users and audiences make of their brand and products, but in reality, feedback does not always make it all the back to the decision-makers. For instance, end users may not have access to the appropriate channels to leave feedback, and even if they do, administrators often lack the time or resources to investigate issues thoroughly.

That’s why it’s important to get a sense of people’s opinions from sources other than the feedback provided directly to the organization. Consumers will often talk about their experiences on social media or at corporate events.

Use these channels to your advantage – gather the data you need to inform your localization goals and practices.

4. Fulfill your contractual obligations

Be sure to keep track of any commitments made to your customers. What languages are you offering? Will you keep the same languages or add new ones? Will you provide documentation and technical support for all languages or a select few?

Whenever a product is launched, contracts need to be checked to make sure that nothing has been forgotten that could resurface later. It’s easy to make promises and then forget about them, especially if the initial release date of a product took place over 10 years ago. Always follow your contractual obligations, as oversights of any kind could lead to lawsuits.

5. Listen to your audiences and beta customers

What causes are communities rallying behind? Things can change quickly and there are many reasons why new languages may suddenly become popular. Sometimes, new languages are introduced to please certain customers, other times, it comes down purely to corporate social responsibility. A good example is the recent increase in the demand for Ukrainian translations.

Pay close attention to the latest trends in your markets, industry, and audience demands. The information you gather will help you decide on the direction of your localization strategy.

6. Prioritize your content

Although all localized content should be of high quality, in reality, businesses have different content tiers with different quality requirements. Quality is important, but it may not always be the priority if other factors, like speed or availability of information, become critical.

Free content, less visible content, or user-generated content, for example, are types of content that don’t always need to be perfect to serve their purpose.

To make the most of your localization efforts, be sure to establish different content tiers and prioritize budgets accordingly.

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7. Assess the cost of localization errors

Some industries have a much lower tolerance for errors than others. A failure to translate a medical prescription correctly, for example, will do more damage than a misleading translation of furniture assembly instructions.

What are the costs going to be if significant localization errors are made, and how easily can they be fixed? It will be a lot easier to correct a localization error that appears in a software interface as opposed to a physical product that’s already in circulation and needs to be recalled and repackaged.

When designing your B2B localization strategy, always consider the possibility of these mistakes happening as well as the cost of fixing them.

8. Trust the experts in the field

Put your trust in the language and localization professionals on your team, as they are the ones who know best how terms and expressions are used in their markets. They are familiar with cultural sensitivities and can help you avoid significant pitfalls.

Similarly, make sure you give them the space they need to fulfill their potential in their roles. Get them involved from the beginning and prepare communication guidelines and query management processes to facilitate collaboration.

When it comes to regional content leads, assess their market experience, expertise, and connections to determine how much guidance they need, as they may know more about the local market than your team. If they do need some direction, you may want to work with them on an extensive glossary and style guide, or find local SMEs to support you.

9. Plan ahead for new product acquisitions

Acquisitions can happen overnight, leaving you with the challenge of quickly incorporating new products and creating new content. You may also need to build a new team, working with vendors and contractors without much notice.

To anticipate these sudden changes, create a 30/60/90-day plan and make sure you can follow it. However, before making any suggestions, spend time talking to your new team and stakeholders to understand their current localization and globalization processes. It’s important to respect their existing terminology and discuss any necessary changes, such as creating a unifying terminology database.

It may be impossible to tackle everything at the same time, so prioritize tasks and manage everyone’s expectations by creating a tiered globalization roadmap.

10. Experiment with machine translation

AI and machine translation have a lot to offer, even if you're not an expert in the technology. Talk to people who understand and work with machine translation to learn about it and explore how it could serve your business. Specifically, find out more about the practical applications and consider using it to increase your capacity and productivity.

“Machine translation isn’t just about doing translations cheaper and faster, it’s about what can you dream of doing that you’re unlikely to be able to do with your current setup.”

José Palomares, Coupa Software

A good rule of thumb is to identify low-risk, high-reward areas in your business and start from there.

Getting localization right in B2B

The success of B2B localization is ultimately determined by how efficiently organizations use their assets to enter and remain in new markets.

If localization efforts aren't carefully planned out, you could be limiting your true value, wasting resources, failing to reach new audiences, and losing your competitive edge in the marketplace.

Good practices like doing your own research, prioritizing content wisely, listening to your audiences, and trusting the professionals you work with will help you establish a localization strategy that is both effective and cost-efficient.