Archives July 2023

Mastering the Art of Localization: An Effective Guide to International Expansion

Firms that have successfully captured the local market may ponder over global prospects and undertake the process of localization. Localization entails adapting their current offerings to accommodate different cultures and languages, which can include translating various materials such as the company’s website content, promotional materials, contracts, and more.

There are plenty of instances, often amusing, where such attempts at localization have gone haywire. For instance, when Wix, the website builder, ventured into the German market in 2015, they were quick to realize the inappropriate implication of the company’s name in German. More recently, a risqué Barbie movie poster in France was not quite compatible with the film’s PG-13 rating.

Companies can prevent such mishaps by transforming their missteps into learning experiences, as Wix did by humorously acknowledging their mistake on their website. However, it’s always best to prevent such slip-ups from occurring in the first place. Here are three strategies to simplify the localization process and avoid errors.

Take into account cultural subtleties When deciding on which overseas market to venture into, it’s crucial to rely on data and strategic decision-making, rather than allowing language barriers to dictate the choice, advises Hila Shitrit Nissim, chief marketing officer at Blend, a Tel Aviv-based translation and localization service provider. Companies then need to decide whether to utilize an in-house translator or hire an external service for translation.

Nissim points out that a common mistake companies make in this process is to solely depend on machine translations. She observes this frequently in food manuals and outdoor signs. Using Google Translate and then having the entire country mock your mistake is not an ideal scenario. Thus, the human element remains indispensable.

Also, a direct translation is not always the ideal approach, Nissim emphasizes, since the translated text must align with the cultural context and references. Significant differences exist even between countries that share a language (for example, ‘apartment’ in the U.S. versus ‘flat’ in the UK). Therefore, a native speaker should ideally “review, edit, and refine” the content, Nissim suggests.

Maintaining the brand’s voice throughout the process is equally crucial, asserts Brenda S. Stoltz, CEO of Burg Translations, a company based in Chicago. The translation process should be a collaborative effort between the company’s translator (or service provider) and the brand to ensure the brand’s style, intent, and tone are preserved.

Begin cautiously and invest judiciously It may be more beneficial to focus on expanding into one or two countries at a time, as this approach might lead to a more mindful transition compared to entering multiple markets simultaneously, Nissim suggests. This is particularly relevant if you’re a small business, considering the attention and resources required.

Similarly, when it comes to the task at hand, companies should commence with smaller translation projects, like Facebook and Google ads, to gauge potential new markets. Subsequently, they can transition to website content and other assignments to enhance the complete customer experience. “Map out your customer journey … and identify the modifications or adaptations needed to operate in the new market,” Nissim advises.

Budget constraints are an important consideration for smaller businesses, so leaders should strategically plan their investments. For instance, translating a simple manual may lean more heavily on machine translation, while a legal contract demands meticulous crafting, notes Georg Ell, CEO of Phrase, a localization firm based in the Czech Republic.

Moreover, companies need to identify the areas where their translations can make the biggest impact to ensure the resources and funds invested in localization yield a worthwhile return, Ell suggests. One such area could be keywords for search engine optimization.

“Translating the entire website, having a visually pleasing website, and having high-quality resources and materials isn’t enough; you also need to drive traffic to your site,” Nissim points out. It’s crucial to understand the keywords your competitors are using in the local market and to again consider cultural subtleties (for instance, where would people search for a “jumper” instead of a “sweater”?).

Companies need to establish their priorities, keeping their expansion objectives at the forefront, Stoltz advises. “Efficiency impacts cost, but effectiveness impacts revenue.”

Start the process sooner rather than later If localization is already on your radar, the time to start is now, Ell advises. He posits that as generative A.I. becomes more sophisticated and widespread, localized content will proliferate. Therefore, companies that are ahead in this game will enjoy the rewards, while the ones who are lagging will fall further behind. “This is not something you can accomplish overnight,” Ell warns. “So I would suggest: invest now.”

The Pitfalls of Overemphasizing KPIs in Business Strategy

Contributions from various entrepreneurs shape this article. Administrators often rely heavily on key performance indicators (KPIs), which are metrics that supposedly allow them to assess the status of different business operations. While KPIs can be beneficial as part of a strategy that emphasizes data analytics and data-driven decision-making, there’s a significant issue with overvaluing KPIs. Many companies today are falling into this trap.

The Ideal Approach to KPIs

KPIs can be advantageous and influential in directing an organization’s course when used correctly. They are objective, easy to understand, and measured with a specific purpose. These are dependable data points that can enhance decision-making. However, even in this ideal situation, it’s crucial for organizational leaders to use these metrics appropriately. A single metric should not drive your decision-making, and metrics alone should not guide your future company visions.

KPIs can be compared to different types of food in a balanced diet or various assets in your overall investment portfolio, each with its strengths and weaknesses. They are incredibly useful but only constitute a part of your strength in organizational decision-making.

The KPI Dilemma We’ve Created

Why have we strayed from this vision? There are several reasons worth considering. I believe it’s mostly about disproportionate evaluation. We’ve started to view KPIs as more potent and informative than they truly are. This doesn’t mean they’re not powerful or informative; it’s just that we’ve overestimated and misinterpreted them. Let’s examine some specific ways this happens.

Vanity Metrics

Vanity metrics are a prime example of how KPIs can be misused and misunderstood. These are metrics that make you feel good about a specific result or strategy, without truly providing information on operational efficiency. For instance, follower count is a commonly tracked vanity metric in social media marketing. While it does hold some value and it’s certainly pleasing to see your follower count increase, it has little to do with more measurably impactful things like follower engagement, brand awareness, conversions, or revenue generated.

Ambiguous Meanings

Sometimes KPIs carry ambiguous meanings. For example, in the customer service and customer experience world, a commonly used KPI is the net promoter score (NPS). Hypothetically, NPS helps you estimate consumer sentiment, and you measure it by asking people how likely they are to recommend your business to others. But sometimes, these answers have little to do with consumer sentiment. It’s nice to know that some of your customers would hypothetically recommend your business to others, but why would they do this? What’s driving them? And how likely are they to follow through on this?

Misleading Data

You can use data to support just about any argument you want. For example, let’s say we’re using data to compare the effectiveness of different marketing strategies. There is one strategy that’s very challenging to pull off, but if you use it successfully, it’s incredibly powerful. If you want to make the argument that you should use this strategy, you can cherry-pick the best case studies and prove how powerful it can be. If you want to make the argument that you should not use this strategy, you can take a measurement of the average results and show that typically, this strategy isn’t worth using.

The Almighty Incremental Change

Embedded growth obligations (EGOs) drive countless companies forward, forcing them to grow, grow, and grow. And on a smaller scale, organizations are sometimes held back by a focus on incremental change, shackled by the KPIs that guide them.

Lack of Actionability

One final problem to note about KPIs is that they sometimes lack actionability, or a “so what” factor. It’s great that your organization is seeing higher CSAT, but what does that mean for the organization, how should it change your decision-making, and where do you go from here?

None of this is meant to suggest that you should stop tracking KPIs or using them as part of your approach to organizational decision-making. But we need to get real about our obsessiveness and misuse of these sometimes-trivial and sometimes misleading data points.

3 Ways Companies Get Customer Experience Wrong

by Lisa Nirell

Most businesses profess to have a “customer first” philosophy. And many have created their own customer experience (CX) function to fuel higher customer retention, brand reputation, and recurring revenues. But, many companies’ CX strategies have fallen out of sync with post-pandemic customer realities.

As a strategic marketing adviser and executive coach for the past three decades, I’ve seen in my day-to-day work and private CMO cohorts that many leaders are deploying the same digital CX strategies that they used in 2019, thereby risking customer defection and dissatisfaction at a time when they can least afford it.

Here are common CX missteps I’m seeing — and strategies to address them before your competitors seize the opportunity.

1) Prioritizing Cost Management at the Expense of Strategic Investment

During uncertain times, it’s tempting for companies to obsess over boosting the balance sheet. In fact, most of my coaching clients are striving to replicate Google’s ambition to become 20% more efficient. But this leaves companies vulnerable to competitors who also focus on boosting customer-facing value to improve the bottom line.

For example, one of my clients, a profitable publicly traded firm, recently experienced a six-month stock price dip. The CFO immediately froze all new marketing initiatives, and they required every executive team leader to find at least $1 million in expenses to cut.

For the CMO, this represented a missed opportunity to invest in identifying new customer segments, fortify their retention strategies, and experiment with new CX programs. The CMO brings a rich set of experiences from her previous roles — such as strategic account planning, customer advisory board programs, and brand-fortifying thought leadership strategies. Investing in just one of those areas would have paid for itself by sparking long-term growth at a time when their sizable competitors were cutting back. But her company’s singular focus on expense reduction made it difficult to pursue such growth opportunities. It felt like a short-sighted strategy that made the company penny-wise and pound-foolish. 

2) Relying on Old Segmentation Strategies

CX leaders have been trained to define addressable customer segments (such as psychographics and demographics) and to create sophisticated customer journey maps (which are used to define customers’ common challenges and buying patterns). Yet they’re generally ignoring one of the biggest changes since the pandemic: customers’ desire to understand a company’s stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion, climate change, and other social issues.

Creating a Compelling Customer Experience

It’s about building a genuine relationship.

KPMG’s 2022 CEO survey found that 69% of executives surveyed noted higher levels of stakeholder pressure to improve ESG (environmental, social, and governance) reporting transparency — an 11% increase in only a year. It’s unlikely that this is a fad. These topics have climbed to the top of customers’ priority lists. They reflect a person’s values. But you seldom find them on modern-day customer journey maps.

After reviewing several journey maps, I found that most only include superficial data, such as demographics, job functions, hobbies, and common pain points. Very few describe the values behind why buyers choose a certain software tool, snack brand, or vacation getaway.

3) Treating Employee Experience (EX) and Customer Experience (CX) as Separate Silos

You’ll hear some leaders say that the “customer is always right”. Yet that strict policy can also lead to costly attrition of top people, too many priorities, and team burnout.

Salesforce recently teamed up with Stanford and Columbia Universities on research that showed that only one in three companies had designed a seamless integration between their customer experience and employee experience initiatives. And when they’re not aligned, the research team suggests that companies may be missing out on as much as a 50% revenue bump.

Addressing These CX Challenges

To address these modern-day CX challenges, here’s what I recommend:

1) Craft CFO discussions around value creation, not just expense reduction.

Many CX leaders downplay their value, focusing on activities versus outcomes. One executive recently boasted about juggling ten different buyer personas — a nearly impossible feat with their lean CX team.

 When confronted with cost-cutting conversations, consider these reframing strategies:

  • Show how CX investments drive incremental revenue, grow share of voice, accelerate current revenue streams, or fuel higher lifetime customer value. Stop using terms such as “program delivery” and “support.” This positions your initiatives as transactional and nonessential.
  • Ensure that your CX metrics align with your organization’s strategic goals — especially those that the CFO reports to the street, such as revenue growth and operating margins. CFOs seldom care about vanity metrics, such as the number of followers. Nor should you.
  • Invite a Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) colleague to project planning and status meetings. They will feel more like collaborators versus adversaries — increasing the chances that your strategic CX investments will get serious consideration during the next planning cycle.

2) Integrate customer values research into traditional segmentation exercises.

According to ValueGraphics CEO David Allison, CX strategies built exclusively around demographics miss the mark. He and his team looked at 750,000 surveys in 152 languages about audience values, wants, needs, and expectations. They were astounded to find that “people in any demographic cohort are, on average, only 10% similar.” (Full interview here.)

Want to know what your ideal audience cares about? You can either conduct values research, schedule one-on-one conversations, or do both. If you’re facing a time or budget crunch, these questions will help you get started:

  • Why do you [go to work, attend concerts, buy new clothes, etc.]? Tailor the question to where your audience would experience your brand.
  • You just won the lottery. Why would you give away half of your winnings?
  • You’re writing a letter to your younger self from 10 years ago. What would you say, and why?

3) Align EX and CX goals and incentives.

In a 2019 HBR article, Andrew Chamberlain and Daniel Zhao cited myriad correlations between high employee engagement and higher American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) scores. Apple, Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Johnson & Johnson still top the list of great places to work. Here’s something else they share: impressive ACSI scores.

Taking cues from these brand juggernauts, where can you improve EX and CX team collaborations? How can you align incentives across those teams?  Where can you streamline technology platforms for both groups? How can EX and CX metrics earn their rightful place alongside board-level operational and financial reporting?

In addition, ensure that your employees have a say in how you design customer-focused programs. In the Experience Advantage study, Salesforce reported that “employees who feel trusted and who feel they can take risks in their roles are 1.5 times more likely to consider themselves top CX supporters.” One of my global clients hosts a monthly employee recognition program for team members who best model the company’s values. In 2022, they celebrated 32% revenue growth and a twenty-point employee engagement score improvement.

The pandemic changed the world and customer expectations, and the most successful companies recognize that their customer experience needs to change in turn. By engaging cross-functional teams in CX discussions and understanding customer values, leaders can ensure that their brand remains relevant for years to come.