I had a chance to visit Sailthru in New York on Zing business. Sailthru bills customers for a way or tool to customize direct email campaigns based on demographics and big data, resulting in measureable improvements on clicks and conversions for those email campaigns. When Jim Smith gets an email that targets him right in his weak spot (Jim loves to barbecue!), he’s more likely to buy. When he clicks on the barbecue, the customer knows that Jim clicked on the barbecue. When Jim buys the barbecue, the customer knows that Jim bought the barbecue. They also know that he’s 48 years old, divorced, and likes to party, so they continue to use this data to sell him rotisserie barbecue add-ons, home exercise equipment, and a Ford Mustang, increasing his Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). The additional business is worth the profits minus the cost of paying Sailthru.
Translation providers bill customers for a way or tool to open up new markets and unlock windfalls of profit and market share, allowing businesses to communicate with foreign customers and ensure that their product or service has the intended results. Companies that have seen success with their products at home often look to translate their business and export, directly increasing their profits, growth potential, stability, and prestige. ROI comes with increased sales, and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is improved along with better fulfilment of the product or service. The additional business is worth the profits minus the cost of paying for the translations (and other services).
The bottom-line difference between these two services is literally nothing; aye, you spend money for a tool that helps you make more money than you spent. The perception is totally different.
Sidenote: is it true that nobody has written about CLV and translation? If so, that’s crazy!
Mini-helicopters and the information paradigm
Jim Smith loves mini-helicopters and all things radio-controlled (it’s Christmas 2009, pre-drone). He’s visiting Paris and spots a Christmas fair with mini-helicopters on sale. Everything looks great until he reads the text and it’s junk English like, “fly master helicopter high energy 4 channel.” Jim never buys that because no matter how cool it looks, he just assumes it’s going to break. The next guy, Dale, forgot to buy Christmas presents for his nephews and quickly buys two of them.
If the packaging had a correct translation, what is the probability of Jim’s purchase? What is the percentage of Jims v.s. Dales? If it’s on the Champs-Élysées in Paris for the Christmas market, how many would they sell if it were in correct French? For sure it would be many more helicopters, but how many more?
Until we unlock affordable tracking mechanisms for the translation and conversion of all types of products (geo-location, buyer tracking information, etc.), we cannot squarely meet the information paradigm that businesses seek. The difference between meeting that paradigm results in a perception gap between what translation really is (a tool to get profits in foreign markets) and what businesses often think it is (something preventing them from getting profits in foreign markets).
Stay close to good math
Smart business leaders don’t always need that kind of data to make choices. Just because the data doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean there is no money there. Afterall, what were people doing before big data?
The good math is as follows: at home, you might sell a product for 10 and it costs you 5. Abroad, you require translation and other tools, so you might sell for 10 and it costs you 6… but then you sell 10M products and make 40M more than you would otherwise have made.
Is translation the 40M made, or the 10M it cost? Is Sailthru the 40M made, or the 10M it cost?
The guiding light: ROI
The guiding light is to translate literally anything that you expect to either a) increase your ROI right now, or b) increase your customer lifetime value (CLV). If you can clearly and intuitively draw the line between translation and returns, then pay for a good translation.
If you want to waste your money, do not spend it on translation. Translation drives revenue.
Dealing with CLV in translations
It’s easy to determine what’s going to bring you ROI right now, but CLV is a more difficult option often related to fulfilment. Simply put, if the customer’s needs are fulfilled, will you retain them and sell them more goods or services in the future? Or in other words, if your French customer reads her user guide in poor/good/perfect French (or English), will she likely buy from you again?
This is most likely connected to retention factors for your whole business. I recently purchased a number of home appliances from European brands. None of them made any real effort to capture my email address, so retention for them is completely tied to the customer experience.
The information was translated well for all of these products, but I can’t help but think that as businesses step up efforts to build stronger brands and improve CLV with email marketing, they will also step up the quantity and quality of content they translate.
If you don’t expect repeat business or to build a brand, then some translations might just be costs if they do not produce a return – hence the pseudo-instructions with pictures that come with cheap furniture.
Creating stats using statistics and experiments
One of our goals at Zingword is to close this loop statistically by using real experiments. If you can’t get the real data, then experiments must be conducted, and historical data must be mined. What we have so far is underwhelming.
Would it not be luxurious to say, “translating a User Guide improves your CLV by x%,” or “translating your packaging to a language not-English improves your sales by x%?”
Of course, there is a margin of error because this isn’t real-time data we’re talking about. In the long-run, we’ll have real-time data and translation will be seen as a critical tool for marketing departments worldwide. But as Keynes said:
“But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. [Translation providers] set themselves too easy, too useless a task, if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us, that when the storm is long past, the ocean is flat again.”
About the Author
In his previous life, Robert Rogge owned a multilingual services provider for enterprise e-commerce.
Today, he is CEO and co-founder of Zingword, where professional translators sign up to get great freelance translator jobs, and where translation buyers like Rich from K International can find great translators. He’s also co-host of the new translation radio show, Translator City Radio <<< Check it out.
Zing launches this summer, 2016 (summer ends in September!). You can be a part of our beta-testing by simply signing up with us at zingword.com, and you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be sure you don’t miss our launch notification.