Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Friday, April 29th, 2011
By Ernst Gemassmer
Most of us have travelled abroad and experienced the challenges and frustrations of getting what we want without being laughed at or insulting our hosts. Similar issues prevail when doing business in other countries, cultures and languages. Even if you think your business is all local, multi-ethnic sensitivities are more relevant than you may think, including the US.
Although the Internet gives you pervasive reach, it hasn’t reduced the world to one locale for your business. The international opportunity is large, as I related in an earlier article, but there are some major challenges as well. Here are a few examples from my personal experience:
1. You need to translate/localize your products. I was once asked by a top executive of a major software company why we were not selling more products in Finland. I informed him that we needed to translate the software into Finnish at a cost of $50,000. He did not seem to understand that Finland was not part of Scandinavia and that English is not too well understood by most people there (with the exception of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland). He could not be persuaded to commit the funds required for localization. Thus, we did not translate the product and sales remained at an insignificant level. Translation not only increases sales, but in many countries it is required by law.
2. Local laws prevail. Some years ago Brazil had a major balance of payments deficit. Therefore Brazil made it difficult to import products from abroad. Corporations were encouraged to export from Brazil to generate foreign currency and they were allowed to keep a portion of the foreign currency. Companies became creative by selling and trading foreign exchange licenses. Our own subsidiary, of a major technology company, started to repair and service competitive products in order to maintain our own technical staff and service capabilities. Thus, when the government creates restrictions, think out of the box. Managing foreign exchange reserves is every bit as challenging as managing a family budget. Brazil is now a powerful country, but similar examples still prevail in many developing nations.
3. Respect local customs and practices. A successful sales person wanted to become more familiar with the international market and requested a transfer to the Latin American sales group, based in the US. I counseled the department manager against hiring since she would be subject to personal challenges in selling to our partners in Latin countries. Eventually I relented and she joined the group.
Unfortunately my prediction turned out to be true, she felt harassed by one or more of our business partners and left the group shortly thereafter. Even though we had agreed to provide her an equal opportunity to pursue her goals, we could not protect her from the different perspective on comments and advances in Latin America. Thus, hiring decisions should be made carefully, after fully understanding local practices. Although most Latin American countries have significantly improved working environments for women, few companies would yet dare send a women employee to work in Saudi Arabia.
4. HR rules are local. I had organized European operations into regions and the country manager for Italy reported to the central European manager based in Germany. This organizational structure worked well until the two senior managers got into a shouting match and the Italian manager indicated that he was resigning.
His manager accepted his resignation and documented the case in the personnel files. Shortly after leaving the company we were notified that the Italian ex-employee was suing us for creating an unacceptable working environment, which led to his resignation. We retained legal council in Milan and were advised that we would loose if the case went to trial. After some painful negotiations we settled the case out of court for a twelve-months severance payment. When hiring staff internationally, always be well informed about local laws and prevailing practices. Not following this advice can be very costly. Although labor laws are increasingly unified in the European Common Market, major differences are still encountered in many countries. Proceed with caution.
5. Watch your product naming. Product naming is always a major effort and mistakes can result in costly failures. You may recall the Chevy Nova, a compact car from GM. Pundits in Latino countries quickly picked up on the name, ‘no va’ means ‘does not go’ in Spanish. Thorough name searches as well as professional advice in this area is highly advised. Cultural and religious implications must be very carefully considered.
Thus, I would recommend that you proceed with extreme caution and sensitivity. Great care must be taken in dealing with different religions, customs, dress codes, foods and alcohol issues. This can be frustrating, but the business world is getting smaller, and cultural issues can make or break your business. Have you properly factored international into your product or service?
Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
Do you target France? Or maybe you have a local San Diego business? And your company has a nice and professional looking website adapted to your audience? Well done. The bad news is: it’s not enough!
Your site has to be « search engine friendly » if you want your prospects to find you when they need you. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of strategies and techniques to make sure that you appear in search engines like Google when a certain set of keywords are entered in the search box.
Why precisely should you spend some time and money on SEO?
Well, the facts speak for themselves:
• In USA, 90% of local shoppers look online first and the most common tool used is search
• 70% – 85% of search engine users click on the organic search results (aka natural or non-sponsored results), while only 25% will click on a sponsored or Pay Per Click ad. As you can understand, getting good search engine positioning will help you grow your business.
But there are many other good reasons to optimize your website:
• Reach your target audience
• Build your reputation online
• Increase your presence on a local or global market: how your company’s site is found can be difficult with so many regional, national, and even international options. That’s why using SEO techniques can be the difference between high traffic and being lost in an ocean of information.
• Low investment for high growth: optimization has more predictable long-term costs and ROI metrics as compared to other components of marketing strategies.
What is Search Engine Optimization by the way?
While SEO may sound simple and easy to do, it takes considerable planning and knowledge, and may take several months to deliver results. SEO is relying on marketing strategies, website code programming, architecture and persuasive copywriting techniques. Many factors have to be considered when optimizing a website. Some of them are on-page factors (on your website) and some are off-page (on other websites linking to yours). Today, Google ranks websites using more than 200 criteria as part of their algorithm. This algorithm, one of the best kept secrets in the world, changes very often of course!
And with the rapid growth of social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs, an entire new layer of techniques are being deployed to strengthen SEO : Social Media Optimization (SMO) techniques.
How do you rank ? This has to be your next question actually. Before doing any changes, make sure you evaluate your website with an SEO audit. It should at least include your search engine reputation, a technical audit, your website content analysis, your current keywords rankings, links analysis and your competition analysis. Once you know what can be improved, you will have to spend a few months working on SEO before you can really see any change. And yes, this is a never-ending process so you want to have a monthly SEO plan.
As you can guess, SEO is a very trendy topic and scams are around you at each and every step of the project. In my next post I will cover SEO myths and warning signs of bad SEO companies. Stay tuned and let me know if you have questions!
Source : Julie Mazziotta
Monday, August 23rd, 2010
What is happening in the innovation community right now? In this post, I give a quick overview of the top trends and issues based on the interactions I have had over the last month or so.
At the recent Open Innovation Summit, communication in a more holistic perspective was a key topic.
Jeff Boehm of InventionMachine gave a great presentation titled Marketing Innovation in which he argued that innovation success requires internal communication. He’s right and I will share more from this presentation in a later blog post. At a Think Tank session during the summit, we also identified communication as a key characteristic for open innovation leaders. Some keywords on this were internal & external communication, consistent behavior & messages, deliberate strategy, top-down modeling, confidence to share what you know.
2. Smartfailing – learning through failure
We usually learn from our successes, but we often miss out on learning through our failures.
Thus, I am glad to notice how the idea of getting better at learning through our failures is picking up interest. This became quite clear to me as I got responses to this blog post: Smartfailing – a concept for learning through failure. We have a great discussion going on – please join us… I talk with several innovation units on their smartfailing and failsourcing capabilities. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the near future.
3. The soft skills of innovation
Soft skills a.k.a. people skills are becoming the hard skills of innovation. It was great to see how Gail Martino, Unilever – and others – got into this important topic at the Open Innovation Summit. Martino revealed 7 key soft skills that Unilever feel are necessary for open innovation team members to have in order to succeed. They are intrapreneurial skills, talent relationship building, strategic influencing, quick study, tolerance of uncertainty, balanced optimism and passion.
These or similar skills pop up more often when companies explain the key elements behind their open innovation strategies. Matthew Heim, president of NineSigma, also highlights this as one of the key take aways from my latest book as you can read in this blog post, The Soft Side of the Open Innovation Revolution.
Let me know what you think of this and please feel free to share your own innovation trends and issues.
Monday, August 23rd, 2010
After attending events across countries, we realized that we belong to a very tight knit industry and people outside of our “clan” rarely know what it really is that we do. When we tell people in San Diego, we work in the field of localization we usually get a blank stare. Local what? Understandably so! If you search for localization in any newspaper you will have results about medical studies and genetics or moving companies. Not quite that either! In order to answer some of the questions we have heard over the years, we figured we would address those in this blog.
Let us explain what this strange word “localization” means… Though most of you may have never used the word, localization is influencing our global village and economy every day and is essential to our international business success.
What is Localization?
According to several definitions found in dictionaries and sources like Wikipedia, localization refers to the process of adapting a product or a service to the technical, linguistic, and cultural requirements of a specific country and locale. The term localization is often associated with software and websites. The localization process includes translation, but that is only one of the steps involved in the process. Localization implies that you need to customize and optimize a product to put it into the proper linguistic and cultural context.
If you look at the written text, many cultural aspects need to be taken into consideration. Localization includes adapting all those unique details. For example:
- Writing system and language: character set, encoding, word order, punctuation, hyphenation…
- Numbers: date, time, phone numbers, currency, measurements…
- Culture: company names, address formats, trademarks, color associations, image appropriateness, cultural context as well as legal standards.
Being aware of those aspects will help optimize your message to a specific market.
Why would I need to localize my website, software or products?
Sales: The answer is simple – to increase your market share and to add new customers who don’t speak English The US market is not doing so well right now, people are affected by a slower economy and are not purchasing as much. A localized presence (via your website or marketing material) allows you to cross language barriers and to attract a larger number of customers, no matter where they might be located. This is especially true for companies active in international markets. Have you noticed how some of the phone companies or bank ad signs in parts of San Diego are only in Spanish?
And while the economy is sluggish here in the US, this may not apply to markets such as China and Latin America, especially Brazil… So, a product released only in English could miss out on huge segments of existing and emerging markets worldwide. If you are a mid- to large size company, you can invest thousands of dollars developing your product or service. Adding localization is normally only a fraction of the initial development costs but will allow your potential market to grow exponentially. Localization is a vehicle for growth in revenues, profit and market share.
Global Branding: If your product is localized it represents good PR and heightens your corporate visibility. You will not only be seen as a global player but as one who respects and appreciates the cultures and customs of other countries. Localization is a vehicle for increased visibility and international presence.
Compliance: Some countries will require having your product localized if you are trying to sell there. Canada and Europe have the lead on that. In Europe, in most cases you will not be allowed to release only the English version of your product. Then, there is Canada. It all started with the province of Québec where French is mandatory. Nowadays, if you want to release a product anywhere in Canada, you are required to have your content available both in French and in English. Localization can be a legal requirement.
Who is involved in localization?
The usual localization teams typically include:
* a translation team consisting of a translator, editor and proofreader. All are carefully chosen and tested based on their specialties and linguistic ability;
* an engineering team for software and web project;
* a desktop publishing team for formatting and layout of brochures or marketing material;
* a project manager as the “conductor” and main point of contact for your project. They make sure you can sleep at night while your multilingual project is being worked on. They have the sleepless nights instead.
What about Google Translate and Machine Translation? Why can I not just use those?
The truth of the matter is machine translation technology has been getting better and can be useful. But the reality is that as such machine translation cannot be used to increase international sales. Would you trust a translation that makes “Nous essayons plus difficile” out of “We try harder!”? That one probably needs a bit of editing, doesn’t it?
You want to know the meaning of a word or a sentence in Chinese, go ahead and use Google Translate. You are trying to sell your service to Mexico, you might really offend people with a terrible word for word translation and will have created the opposite of what you wanted. Fewer Sales, more complaints! I talked to the principal of a foreign school in San Diego recently who had tried Google Translate for his site. It took him a day to take the site down after receiving tons of complaints about how awkward it was.
My uncle speaks French – why not just ask him? How about the housekeeper, she speaks Spanish?
If you drove a BMW and your uncle knew a little bit about car repair, would you take it to the garage to have it fixed or would you ask your uncle? Hmmm, still not convinced. Ok when you need a suit for your next big networking event, do you ask your sister who happens to have a sewing machine to make it for you, do you go to the mall or to the tailor? We are to languages, what a tailor is to your suit. We make sure it fits perfectly!
What languages do you suggest localizing into?
In order to answer that question you need to take a look at two things:
If you want to expand on the international realm and want to address an international audience, you will need to look at the potential of specific overseas markets. According to Internet statistics and based on experience, here are the “Top 10” languages requested for any kind of localization:
- Europe: French, Italian, German, Spanish (this group is also known as FIGS).
- Asia: Chinese (Simplified used in China and Traditional used in Taiwan), Korean, Japanese. All are double-byte languages that require slightly more localization effort.
- The recent trends and growth in the “BRIC” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and the Middle-East especially with Dubai’s appeal have made those markets quite attractive for companies and the demand for Brazilian Portuguese, Russian and Arabic languages has increased.
If you operate in California and try to address non-English speakers who live in the US, or your company needs to be compliant with local, state or federal regulations, chances are that the language catalog will be quite different. According to data from the 2000 U.S. Census, 60.5% of Californians speak only English, while 39.5% speak another language. Spanish composes the second most popular language grouping in the state, being spoken by 25.8% of Californians. Chinese is a distant third, spoken by 2.6%. Tagalog is spoken by 2.0%, Vietnamese by 1.3%, and Korean by 0.9%. Armenian, Japanese, German, and Persian are spoken by 0.5% each. More than 30 languages are spoken every day in California alone, so the list could get long!
In short, this is some information about the term localization. As always, the deeper you get involved in this subject, the more you will encounter new aspects and new challenges. As a localization company, it is our job to assist clients with their international business needs.
Source : Marie Flacassier, BeatBabel LLC
Monday, June 28th, 2010
As we were coming out of the post-Dot.com recession, I formulated a theory as to why that particular downturn was so especially hard on the IT industry. I came to the conclusion that it was an instance of a perfect storm: three bad trends peaking at the same time. The first of these was simply that there was a general economic downturn. The second was the historically unique Y2K event, which caused about two or three years worth of systems upgrades to get front-loaded prior to the deadline, with a corresponding fall-off in 2000 and after.
The third effect was less clearly defined, but may be of more interest, because I expect that it will continue to affect the IT industry. Technically, Moore’s Law refers to the doubling of the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit, with this doubling predicted to occur every two years. Most of us are more familiar with the resulting implication: computers, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets tend to double their performance (usually at a lower price) about every 18-24 months.
However, “doubling of performance” means different things in different contexts. Transaction processing does not account for all computer usage, but it does drive the market for large, networked systems purchased by large corporations and government agencies.
In a transaction processing environment, a major (though not only) measure of performance is the time that it takes to process a transaction. In pre-computer days, manual systems might take up to a month to process a simple invoice or purchase order. The first computers cut these times drastically. Even prior to ubiquitous networking of computers, a new generation of computers could halve the time needed to turn around a particular type of transaction.
So, if the first generation of computers cut turnaround time from a month to a fortnight, everyone needed to get one, for reasons of competitive advantage. If the next generation cut the time from two weeks to one, then one week is now the industry standard—and the hardware vendors are happy to provide the forklift upgrades.
However, what happens when transaction processing time, for certain types of transactions, are measure in seconds, rather than weeks, days, or hours? At some point, the halving of transaction processing time stops being a huge competitive advantage—particularly when the cost to achieve it is very high.
So, if your system takes, say, 8 seconds to process a transaction, it is unlikely that you will lose customers to a competitor solely because the other firm can promise a 4 second processing time. True, 4 is better than 8—but now people look closely at the cost of those marginal 4 seconds, as the halving is no longer a matter of competitive necessity.
Once this threshold is passed—and it will vary by application, by transaction type, by vertical industry, and by other factors—demand for new hardware by no means goes away. However, it will start to bear a closer relationship to the more gradual increase in number and complexity of transactions, rather than the steeply rising curve driven by Moore’s Law and competition.
This third effect, if combined with the first two, could go a long way towards explaining the depth of the post-Dot.com doldrums. However, a more interesting aspect is the idea of being able to spot a similar inflection point in other areas of IT. Anyone who can figure out how to do this—and, hey, we’re open to your ideas on this point—can wind up making a fortune. Assuming, that is, that you have the resources and nerve to short companies that have hitherto been following an upward exponential curve.