Marketers and Localizers: the Ultimate BFFs

One of my favorite books to recommend to localization folks is one that I leaned on heavily when I worked as a marketer. It’s by Ann Handley, “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content.” This quote from the author really says it all:

“Quality content means content that is packed with clear utility, is brimming with inspiration, and has relentless empathy for the audience.” – Ann Handley

I can’t think of a localization professional or a marketer who would disagree with this statement. It really speaks to the heart of why we do what we do. Both marketers and localizers are trying to get a message across. We work with a variety of texts and formats. Sometimes, the content has a utilitarian purpose and sometimes we’re trying to inspire or evoke an action, but great content always, always has to demonstrate an understanding of the audience.

For that reason, I believe that hardly anyone understands the value of content more than marketers do. Marketers are the most natural buddies for localizers on the planet, because they really “get” the value of content. I’ve previously written a lengthy post here to try to help marketers understand the localizer’s perspective. Now, I’ll do the reverse, to try and help localization professionals understand the perspective of our BFFs on the marketing side of the house, with an emphasis on the profile of growth marketers working at digital companies.

Growth Marketers Care about Content Quality and Velocity

The value of content marketers’ work is often measured according to traffic, click-through rates, downloads, and net new leads or sign-ups. For content marketing initiatives that are localized, any guess as to how they’re measured? By those very same metrics, naturally. It doesn’t matter what language they are in. Marketers will be measured on those metrics whether the content is localized, English-only, or natively created in some other language.

After many years of working closely with marketers, what I’ve come to realize is that velocity is an enabler of volume, and content quantity usually leads to more traffic. Of course, the quality of that content matters too.

Therefore, marketers really care about the ability to generate high-quality content at high speed. They care about it because they depend on it to hit their SLA with their sales team. And when they are doing this in another language, it’s often even harder.

International Marketers: The Hardest-Working Marketers On the Planet

Some people might argue with me, but I truly believe that marketers working in other languages within regions, spinning up a new market from scratch while generating demand, have the hardest job in marketing that I’ve ever seen. They usually don’t have the luxury of specializing in just one thing.

These “full-funnel” marketers are often in charge of the following items for their region:

  • Brand awareness, including press releases, advertising, influencer marketing, presence in key directories and local review sites, brand campaigns
  • Website, including all non-English web pages, image selection, blogs and more
  • Events, including virtual events as well as local and in-person events
  • Product marketing, including product launch campaigns, explainer videos, messaging frameworks, presentations and web pages
  • SEO/SEM, including keyword research, content strategy, optimization, online ads and SERPs
  • Demand generation, including acquisition campaigns, lead scoring, email workflows, and generating a sufficient number of qualified leads to enable the sales teams to hit revenue targets
  • Co-marketing, which is often a subset of demand generation, but might also be done for other purposes, such as brand awareness
  • Sales enablement, which includes case studies, product training materials, pitch decks, competitive intelligence, and so on
  • Customer marketing, including customer campaigns and workflows, newsletters, referral programs and so on
  • In-app marketing, such as notifications within a UI that drive prospects to check out other products and upgrade to different versions

And these are just the primary areas of marketing that a local marketer in another language will oversee. It doesn’t even include many other areas, like creative, video, and community marketing.

What do most companies do when they want to scale all of this into another language? They hire one marketer. Just one. Maybe two or three at the most. At SaaS companies, this presents some major challenges. How can a local marketer possibly do all of these things?

The only way they can even begin to make a dent in all this is if they have a super strong partnership with localizers, whether it be in-house localization teams or external vendors. Why? Because chances are that they already have a ton of this other work happening in English. They need localization in order to achieve leverage on the other central investments they’ve made, to facilitate international growth. Otherwise, they’ll have to hire people to do all those things, in every language they seek to add, if they’re using the same marketing strategy in each market.

Why Marketing-Focused Localizers Need Empathy for Marketers

For localization teams at many SaaS companies that I’m in touch with, marketing content is 50% or more of their total content volumes. Localizers, your job is challenging also. Not only do you need to master all the content types their marketing counterparts do in another language, but you also usually end up localizing all other types of content at the company — such as support content, legal content, product content, and even such things as invoices, employment letters for HR, and more. Your job is really challenging as well!

It’s easy for localizers to think that the huge volumes coming toward them make them special in all of this, or that they are somehow different from other teams working in high-growth companies.

Well here’s a secret – at SaaS companies in high-growth mode, and especially start-ups, everyone has a hard job! That’s why it’s super important to have a high level of understanding and empathy for marketers (as well as for other stakeholders and teams you may work with).

At many high-growth tech companies, it’s common to hire people with a growth mindset and let them loose against big challenging projects with a high degree of autonomy. One hugely important thing for localization practitioners is not to blame marketers or build silos of “us” and “them” in the process.

Marketers, in my experience, can actually be the strongest allies a localization team can have! If anyone on earth gets the value of the words and can understand quality, it’s marketers! When you’re working on the client side, the “we are all part of the same team” attitude is critical, because it’s not just nice — it’s a fact.

Too often I see localization folks walling themselves off and making themselves less accessible than would be ideal for marketing and other stakeholders. I see this behavior in the localization industry in comments on forums, in comments on other posts I’ve written, in discussions on social media, and more. Fortunately I don’t see this in my own job very often, because if I do, I will immediately shut it down. When you’re working at the same company, you’re all part of the same team at the end of the day. There is simply no time for “us” versus “them” when you’re at a high-growth company. It slows everything down and creates too much friction.

Yes, working in localization can be really hard. Localization professionals, in my experience, have a very high pain tolerance for what we will put up with. Messy and unstructured content that can’t easily move between systems, inconsistent file formats, no access to source files, no context… this is all stuff that hits localization teams downstream. And man, is it ever painful!

But the only way to improve any of that is to gain the trust of the people you work with. And to do that, you have to first seek to understand their reality, for you won’t be able to empathize with them otherwise. Only then can true communication as partners really happen.

So, localization friends, next time you get frustrated by a marketer who is in a hurry and needs you to jump into action, just make a mental note of all the items on their list above, and how many different jobs they are trying to do. Ask more questions about their goals, their work, their pains, and work together to try to help them solve them. If you do this, they will likely, in turn, take an interest in understanding why that blog post graphic with tons of embedded text created in some other program by some unknown person is simply… not going to allow for a very quick turn-around. Then you can explain why this won’t help them hit their goals. (Talk about yours some other time, like, when they ask.)

If you keep doing this, before you know it, you and your marketing counterparts will be the true BFFs that I believe all content marketers and localizers were meant to be. Best of luck!

Nataly Kelly

Nataly leads localization at HubSpot and has previously held diverse roles in marketing, international operations and strategy, research, product development, and localization. She writes for Harvard Business Review on topics of international marketing and business. Nataly grew up in rural Illinois, lived in Ecuador, and resides in Boston (for now).

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