Updated: Sep 1
Think localization is only for international companies? Think again. Although the prevailing wisdom says it’s for foreign markets, localization delivers the same benefits when you market to limited English proficiency (LEP) communities at home.
THE CHALLENGE: CREATING A WEBSITE FOR ATLANTA’S SPANISH-SPEAKING COMMUNITY
I discovered this firsthand when I worked as a copywriter/translator for a boutique agency in Atlanta. A children’s dentist office located in a Spanish-speaking community needed a website refresh. Their goal? To get 200 new phone calls per month to grow the practice.
However, many of the patients (or rather patients’ parents) spoke little to no English. That meant simply translating the content for a Spanish-version of the website, right? Wrong! The web content, while informative, didn’t address two major challenges of serving the community:
Lack of knowledge about proper dental care. Many families immigrated from underdeveloped, rural areas and weren’t accustomed to seeking preventive care.
Lack of income to pay for services. Patients’ parents were often unaware that they were eligible to enroll in Medicaid and receive subsidized dental care, which deterred them from making appointments.
And lastly, the stock photos on the original website didn’t represent the diversity of patients the practice served.
THE SOLUTION: LOCALIZING TO ADDRESS THE COMMUNITY’S NEEDS
So, here’s what I did. First, I completed a thorough evaluation of the existing website. In doing so, I found an excellent, but hidden resource. The dental practice had created a glossary with child-friendly dental terms to help parents explain what happens during an appointment. Yet most parents never visited the page, nor would they remember the terms if they did.
Using the glossary, I integrated the child-friendly dental terms throughout the existing copy and determined the Spanish-language equivalents as I translated the site. This helped parents remember the terms when they spoke with their children. (My co-workers ribbed me about it, but remembered the terms themselves!)
Next, I re-wrote a web page directed toward parents about the importance of giving children regular preventive dental care. The original copy sounded too technical and bordered on “talking down” to parents. I re-framed the content as helpful advice to ensure their child’s health, wellness, and happiness.
Then I created a web page with instructions on how to apply for Medicaid and other public programs to help parents pay for care. This made it easy for them to get the financial assistance they needed.
Finally, I suggested our graphic designer choose stock photos that reflected the practice’s patients. This helped demonstrate that the dentists served their community.
The result? The dental practice saw a significant increase in web traffic and reached the goal of 200 new phone calls per month! It worked so well that the copy (and translation) I wrote in 2012 is still on the website!
WHY SEO AND TRANSLATION AREN’T ENOUGH
You may be thinking the website would have driven just as much traffic with a good SEO strategy. Maybe. But by addressing the unique needs of the Spanish-speaking community, the website helped build trust and increase parents’ confidence in choosing the dental practice.
Okay, but isn’t that transcreation? Transcreation is part of it, but you also need to optimize for SEO in the target language and possibly modify other elements (different images, colors, additional pages, etc.) Localizing goes the extra mile to really speak to the community.
When you localize a client’s website for an LEP community, you’ll help them:
Drive better targeted traffic, which makes it easier to close leads.
Build trust within the community, which leads to repeat business and referrals.
Serve as a resource that community members will return to.
Since the client isn’t launching internationally, you’ll likely need to explain how localization will help them achieve these results. Otherwise, they may want to pass on taking the extra steps (and spending the extra money.)
But just remember, the client’s goal is to increase traffic and sales. If you can demonstrate how localization does this, they’ll get on board.
WHY LOCALIZING ALSO BENEFITS YOU, THE LANGUAGE SERVICE PROVIDER
Okay, so it offers the client some extra benefits. But is it worth the extra work for a language service provider? The short answer: Yes! Not only is it less work than you think (more on that in a minute), but it’s a great way to bring in more business.
Here are several reasons why an LSP should pitch this service:
Repeat business. It’s no secret that satisfied clients keep coming back. A happy client will return with new translation and localization projects.
Bigger, better paying projects. The first localized website may be just the beginning. If a client targets several LEP communities, you’ll get first dibs on localizing the other websites they need. You could even bundle the scope to include several languages at once. (Spanish, Chinese, and Korean, for example).
Referrals. Referrals. Referrals. Again, happy clients refer to others. People in the same industry often prefer to work with a vendor their colleagues trust.
Stand apart from competitors. Once you complete a few successful localization projects for LEP communities, it’s time to do a little bragging. Show off your work in a case study and/or your marketing efforts. You’ll attract new clients who already want the service, and you'll position the company as an innovator in the industry.
And who doesn’t love all of the above?
Now, let’s move on to how you can localize these websites.
6 TIPS TO LOCALIZE FOR AN LEP COMMUNITY
Localizing for an LEP community is similar to localizing for a foreign market. If anything, it’s easier and less time consuming because you won’t need to make as many changes. However, you’ll still need a plan to ensure success.
Here are five tips to help you get started:
TIP #1: Dive deep into the community’s demographics.
Just as you’d research an international market before you begin, you’ll need to understand the LEP community you’re targeting.
Start by asking if the client can provide customer profiles and/or other demographic information that will help you adapt the content. Smaller companies may not be as much help in this area, but you can always do your own research.
TIP #2: Decide which dialect of the language to use.
Is there a dominant dialect in the LEP community? If so, you may want to localize your website for it. If you’re marketing to a primarily Mexican community, translate the content into Mexican Spanish. If the community is made up of people from across Latin America, use standard Latin American Spanish.
TIP #3: Understand how people in the community view the product or service.
Once you understand their mindset, you’ll know how to speak to them. Is there mistrust around it? Do they think it’s unnecessary? Or is it considered a luxury that they may hesitate to buy? Maybe they’re simply uninformed about why they need such a product or service.
Simply put, you may need to adapt the messaging to address the community’s challenges, beliefs, and concerns.
TIP #4: Use SEO translation techniques.
Copywriting for the web involves the unique challenge of integrating keywords and phrases throughout the content. An SEO translation involves choosing high-ranking keywords in the target language and translating other elements of the website (meta tags, 404 error pages, etc.). This will ensure the site ranks well in search engines, drives the right traffic, and that all necessary elements, not just the copy have been translated.
TIP #5: Don’t forget about the visuals.
At the very least, stock images or photos should reflect the community you’re targeting. If you’re targeting a Chinese community, you won’t want photos of blonde, white men and women plastered across the site. You want the audience to feel like the product or service is for them.
So, there you have it. By borrowing aspects of localization, you can easily go above and beyond when you translate a website for a client.
A FINAL NOTE
Yes, localizing for LEP communities involves extra work, but the benefits for everyone outweigh the effort required. Yet you may still worry that you won’t get clients on board.
Here’s where I come in. I help LSPs sell with copy that converts. Whether you need new web pages, email funnels, blogs, or other marketing copy, I work with you to come up with a strategy that gets results.
Don’t put off promoting your services (new or old) because you don’t know how to market them. Just book a 15-minute call to find out how I can help.