June 2016
By Benjamin B. Sargent

Image: ©warrengoldswain/123rf.com

Ben Sargent is a senior analyst at market research firm Common Sense Advisory. CSA Research has more than a decade of systematic and continual gathering, recording, and analysis of primary quantitative and qualitative data involving thousands of interactions with language services providers, tech vendors, buyers, and global consumers to produce independent, objective, and comprehensive research.




This article is based on proprietary research, which is detailed in the CSA Research report "Digital Campaign Management and Localization", November 2015.

Digital convergence opens new career choices for localization experts

As content continues to gain importance as a business asset, organizations are slowly transforming into global content factories. This trend offers an attractive career opportunity to localization professionals who – with their rich experience in managing complex and diverse content types – hold important skills for new leadership positions.

In the evolving world of digital marketing, there is a shift happening that can benefit the careers of localization professionals with content backgrounds – and content experts with localization experience. The shift comes about as companies gather the strands of digital marketing, such as email, landing pages, SEO, apps, blogging, click advertising, social, and paid social, into coordinated or integrated campaigns. Each of these activities originates in separate teams, which we call marketing silos. The teams may be internal or external, or a combination, further amplifying the coordination challenge. The localization requirement adds even more complexity.

Today's marketing silos

Campaigns run from a single marketing silo require little coordination, and most teams have built up their process and technology without considering the activities of other silos. Today, companies recognize the importance of orchestrating content launches across multiple online channels. Sales and marketing funnels – the sequences of touches, pages, and transactional screens that capture leads and sales – see improved results from integrated campaigns. Coordinated content deployment

  1. maximizes both stickiness and virality;
  2. creates a straighter path, or series of paths from each piece of content to a relevant conversion funnel; and
  3. proliferates localized assets and funnels for international markets.

Because global campaign management benefits from many practices developed for software development and localization, localization process knowledge provides a critical element for marketing success. In interviews for Common Sense Advisory's (CSA Research) report "Digital Campaign Management and Localization" (November 2015), practitioners told us that marketing silos were created for a reason and won't disappear anytime soon. These reasons include development of best practices, training, and resource management.

Online and mobile advertising

When pay-per-click (PPC) advertising became important for marketing management, few people understood how it worked. Companies trained specialists who operated independently because executives lacked the hands-on experience to understand what was going on. They created a silo to manage the function, but all of that is different today. Executives that came up through the ranks understand PPC in a visceral way – and not just click-based ads, but also display and pay-for-engagement and in-app ads. The practice is now engrained in business culture.

Search engine optimization

SEO and its younger cousin ASO (app store optimization) have long been seen as dark arts, because the search and platform companies keep dodging ahead of the professional agencies whose job it is to rig the game for their clients. For more than ten years, Google has driven marketers to build better content, refresh at a faster pace, and be mobile-friendly. Meanwhile, Facebook rewards better engagement with audiences. SEO is still part of the content being delivered, but the content itself is its own best SEO. It sounds confusing, but in fact the need for SEO/ASO as separate practices has almost ceased to exist. All digital content should be designed with SEO/ASO as the goal. It's not a separate discipline – like PPC, it has become engrained.

Blogging and micro-blogging

Blogging and tweeting have moved beyond the experimental stage to become normal activities that the marketing team must globally influence, direct, or produce. Whether driven via daily or weekly talking point memos, or ghostwritten by copywriters on the marketing team, or anything in between, blogging cannot be a random practice. CSA Research contends that companies must coordinate the themes, links, phrases used (SEO), and the offers referenced either directly or obliquely as part of a content marketing program.

Mobile-optimized websites

The visible, navigable portion of a website is well understood by both marketing and localization teams. Landing pages bring the dynamic nature of campaign management into web operations. A flotilla of extra URLs surrounds a website today, accessible via links embedded in PPC, blogs, and email, as a natural part of campaign management and tracking. The content on those pages must correlate closely to PPC, SEO, blogging, video/interactive, and email copy. It's all one push, so if all the content is pushing together, metrics improve for all the components, which are still measured separately. To capture the full benefit of a content program, a company's website evolves in step with the campaigns as products, audience definition, and branding change.

Appification of core functions

Any task that prospects or customers perform regularly can be turned into an app. Moving that function onto their personal mobile device means they don't have to navigate to the website every time. The same CRM backbone underpins web and app data, so the content experience is still unified, regardless of their access point. Again, coordination is critical to keep the app experience consistent with campaign-driven SEO/ASO and PPC, as determined by performance metrics on keywords.


Video production has gone from a fringe, highly siloed work process to a routine and formalized process that lives in the corporate marketing mainstream. Videos are no longer special skunkworks projects, but essential core deliverables within a campaign or launch framework. As such, the spoken and visual text and its metadata must be managed as a fully supported content type and workflow in the production queue for marketing – and for localization.

Email marketing

One of the biggest silos has been the email marketing group. These people manage customer data lists as well as copy production. Direct marketing copywriting is another dark art with its own set of specialists. But close coordination with PPC, blogging and micro-blogging, landing pages, SEO/ASO, appification, and video provide a compelling way to improve results in the oldest and most thoroughly measured e-marketing practice.

Together, the competition for audience attention and the prevalence of tracking outcomes via analytics creates momentum for heightened coordination. This new confluence of e-marketing practices begs for a centrally coordinated set of activities, steered from the center via daily or weekly talking points for all copywriters. However, it must also be driven from the field by product marketing activities coordinated as an ongoing flow of launches and campaigns. The feedback loop from analytics – showing which content is working best – provides input on keywords (SEO/ASO) and on the pricing-features mix for offers.

In broader organizational terms, heightened levels of coordination create a push toward centralization. Localization teams benefit by opening up the entire set of e-marketing practices to formal automated language management processes. These organizational changes also create new career opportunities – it's a transition that allows localization managers to grow responsibilities, add staff, address content source issues upstream, and obtain a seat at the decision-making table. Language teams can step up and help deliver sales growth, competitive differential, improved customer experience, and strategic leadership.

Bringing a coordinated global content program to success will generate sales growth, improved marketing metrics, and higher-scoring customer experience. Adding localization best practices to digital marketing – in a comprehensive way rather than the siloed, piecemeal approach of the past – will benefit localization managers who proactively assert themselves into the path of the convergence by helping to globalize "the content factory" (see graphic).


Over the past few decades, localization professionals – aided by tool-makers – have built the skills, knowledge, and teams required to manage diverse inputs and outputs in an agile work environment, across multiple platforms and devices, in dozens of languages. Few executives have training in any process as complicated and as global as a language supply chain. In the context of integrated digital campaign management, localization managers gain an important opportunity to transfer those capabilities directly to other groups. This organization moment can be an opportunity to contribute from a current position – or it can be a chance to move into a new job, in marketing or web operations.

Building onto the skill set

To take advantage of this opportunity, localization practitioners, managers, and directors must:

  1. Increase knowledge of digital marketing, in theory and in practice.
    The names and boundaries of existing silos vary in each company. Learn the lay of the land in your organization and sketch the general flow (starting with the framework outlined in the graphic). Convergence may have already started, but it probably has a long way to go. Current assets may include:
    a. "Talking points" documents (PR and backgrounders with pre-written articles, creative briefs for international teams, tweet fodder, and keyword research
    b. Video
    c. Offers
    d. Pitches
    e. Lots and lots of stories – narratives about products, employees, partners, customers, and cycling through topics of interest for prospects and customers

  2. Prepare plans and recommendations.
    Once you've created your own map of teams, assets, channels, and audiences, the next step is to visualize the workflow within a global framework. Develop a strategy, timeline, and budget proposal for orchestrating the delivery of all marketing assets, in any language, using a continuous, agile, 24/7/365 process. The process will probably require a blend of local content creation, transcreation, and translation.

  3. Start building the supply chain now.
    Re-envision your supply chain to include linguists with the appropriate profiles, specialist services, and new tools. Are your current vendors still griping about XML or atomized content? Then it's time to seek suppliers with serious social media expertise and competitive offerings in keyword research and mobile ad management with Facebook's ad engine, Google AdWords, and alternate networks from LinkedIn to Qzone. Consider supervising original content creation in markets where you don't already have a subsidiary.

  4. Engage peers and their executive backers.
    Build your organizational network. Let your colleagues and bosses know what you bring to the table. Get your peers onboard by sharing the big-picture viewpoint that campaign coordination across all the asset types and channels in the marketing machine can improve results. Document it using analytics from a coordinated launch or campaign. With their inputs, you're ready to create the executive briefing to pitch establishing a global content factory. The presentation should cover how teams, tools, and workflows will be deployed to achieve the result globally.

  5. Transform a career by stepping up to this challenge.
    The challenge precipitated by digital media itself is to break down silos and manage marketing activities as a soup-to-nuts content program. Now multiply by ten all of those newly coordinated activities by making it a global content marketing exercise. Who can even comprehend a program that complex? Not many people, but localization managers already know how to handle stuff of this complexity.

Even if global content experience is more complicated than issues faced in the past, like software localization, content atomization in tech pubs, agile development, or dynamic website content, it's not orders of magnitude different. It's just the next big challenge. It's what you've been training for. If you are ready, you can own the function within your company, as the leader who built the global content factory.



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