This article is part of our on-going series on Going Global. See the series here.
If you can digitize, you can distribute globally
When you are selling physical products or in-person services, entering a new language market can be costly and challenging. You run into supply chain and distribution issues, tariffs and regulatory issues, and other major roadblocks. But if you are selling information products you can often bypass these roadblocks.
Information products include:
- Training and eLearning Courses
- any other content that can be digitized and delivered via the Internet
Because of this digital distribution option, you can sell direct to end-users, anywhere there is a connection. And margins are typically high because there is no middleman taking a cut. However, that is not to say that it is easy, just easier than moving products or people around the globe.
Localization and product support are still requirements
While English may be a viable delivery language in some markets, it is not in many others, including some of the largest markets for high quality information. This includes rapidly growing economies like those found in the APAC countries (Asia Pacific, including southeast Asia, India, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and Taiwan, among others). The assumption that English is some kind of universal language for business is simply not true- the vast majority of the world’s people do not speak English. Yet, for better or worse, many of the most valuable information products are created in English. Fortunately it is relatively easy to change this (relative to the expense of setting up physical distribution and support networks).
To deliver content digitally in another language it must be translated and localized and there are likely to be requirements for native language support for the buyers of that content.
Yes, software is an information product
Perhaps the most lucrative and ubiquitous example of an information product (beyond books) is software, which is still largely developed in English. With Software as a Service (SaaS) models, global delivery is not usually an issue, except when the IP represents state or corporate secrets. Localization and support are a different matter.
Localizing software means translating user interface (UI) elements, documentation, including help desk, knowledge base, and chatbot content, and user-accessible software strings. Customer support can be automated to some degree with these tools but as the information product becomes more costly and complex, there will be an expectation for human support, often in real-time (same time zone as the user or consumer).
Workflows and support resources are becoming more automated and ubiquitous
Translation and localization workflows are constantly improving and becoming increasingly automated and agile. Customer support can be outsourced to local service companies via reseller agreements that provide local integration and help.
Any globalization strategy for rolling out products needs to keep translation workflows in mind. Ideally, content to be translated and localized is created in software environments that can connect with translation software via connectors or APIs. These workflows make rollouts and releases more timely because the translation and localization vendor can more closely align their efforts with those of the information product’s developers. Updates and new product launches should not be held up by translation and localization.
Faster time to market in a smaller, information-hungry world
Years ago I was creating information products in the form of non-fiction business books. My publisher would sell foreign rights to any non-US publishers that wanted them and those publishers would translate them and market them in their countries. I would randomly receive packages containing several copies of foreign versions of my books. In at least one case I wasn’t even sure which title I was holding! In another, I received two different sets of Chinese translations of the same book, but one was half the length of the other. Basically as author and copyright holder, I had relinquished all quality control when my publisher sold the rights. And often, the foreign titles would come out years after the US releases. Today, everything has changed.
Today, I would likely publish and distribute the titles myself through Amazon, paying for translations when there was demand for another language. It is no different for sellers of more complex information products- those arcane barriers of the past generally no longer exist. You can literally launch in multiple global markets simultaneously for the cost of a translation and a partnership with an in-country distributor.
Always ask yourself this important question when choosing a translation vendor.
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