January 2015
By Terena Bell

Image: © Franck Boston/ 123rf.com

Terena Bell is CEO of In Every Language. She served as Secretary of the Board for the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) and on the Association of Language Companies (ALC) leadership council. She currently sits on the Obama Administration’s White House Business Roundtable and writes the popular column “Micro/Macro” for MultiLingual Magazine.




Six reasons to centralize translation

When exporting into a new country or market, it’s really tempting to rely on in-country distributors to translate your communications. In fact, I’ve sat in trade sessions and read trade magazines that advised new exporters to do exactly that. In a way, it makes sense. In-country distributors speak the language, know your product and they are already in your new market. But in reality, leaving translation up to your distributors might stop your international growth before it even begins.

That’s because, at the end of the day, your distributors aren’t you. They are separate legal entities making their own autonomous business decisions in tandem, but apart from yours.

Let’s think about this pragmatically. When your distributors translate your materials…


  1. …it doesn’t save you money.

    While it may seem cheaper at first because the distributor fronts the costs, the loss in sales costs you far more in the long run. That’s because every minute a distributor spends managing translation is less time spent selling your product. So weigh up the few hundred dollars you’d shell out for translation against the few thousands your distributor could make in that same amount of time.
  2. …it increases your time to market.

    Think about ROI. How much do you sell in a month? On average, involving a distributor slows the translation process down by one week to three months. So you might be launching later than your competitors.
  3. …it makes you look sloppy.

    If you have ten different distributors translating your materials, you will look like ten different companies. As any marketer knows, brand inconsistency lowers client trust, which means customers buy less. It also makes you look like you don’t have a handle on your international growth as it goes against lean thinking, creating waste in your communications supply chain. And this makes it harder for you to be profitable abroad.
  4. …it creates issues when you no longer work with that distributor.

    Lose your distributor and you have to start all over with translation. That’s because if your distributor paid for the translation, it belongs to him – even though it was about your product. So when the distributor goes, you might lose your communications in that market. Now, not only does another business own all your information, but you now have to pay for new translations as though they were a first-time purchase. Basically, you have to start over from scratch –even if you’ve been in that country for years.
  5. …it doesn’t save you time.

    While you might think it’s quicker to have a distributor translate and getting translations off you plate, for each new country you enter and each new language you go into, you have to send new copies of your materials and re-explain your communications strategy to that new distributor. Centralize your translation internally with a professional translation company and you only have to do this work once.
  6. …you have to pay for their mistakes.

    If you export to the European Union, know that the liability from any errors found in a distributor’s translation legally comes back on you. This means you’re stuck paying the damages even if you had nothing to do with the translation. It doesn’t matter if your distributor was a completely different business entity making its own independent purchasing decision. At the end of the day, the legal responsibility for your materials lies with you. When your distributor translates, you are placing your legal future in their hands. Wouldn’t you rather leave it in your own hands?


An effective translation strategy is long-term. When it comes to time, money and liability, this long-term strategy outweighs any short-term benefits distributor translated material might give you. Sending translation to your distributor may seem penny-wise today, but the factors above show it’s clearly pound-foolish tomorrow.