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  • Writer's pictureJaney Wong

Managing Multilingual Products: Lessons from a Localization Expert

Localization is a complex undertaking that requires specialized skills and expertise. As more startups look to expand globally, effectively managing multilingual products presents unique challenges. 


In this article, Francesca Sorrentino, Localization Director at Phrase, shares valuable insights on navigating the intricacies of localization based on her 14 years of experience in the industry, offering valuable lessons for startups aiming for global expansion.



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What you will learn…


Coordinating Multiple Languages and Regions Requires Expert Guidance

What Startups Often Underestimate About Localization

Why Going It Alone Can Lead to Problems Down the Road

Partnering with an Agency Streamlines Processes and Prevents Costly Mistakes

Expertise is Key to Cost-Effectiveness and Quality

Starting Early Pays Off in the Long Run

How Expert Partnerships Propel Startup Growth

How Undertow Transforms Localization Challenges into Opportunities


Coordinating Multiple Languages and Regions Requires Expert Guidance


Managing translations across languages and regions is no simple task. 


As the number of languages and territories grows, so too does the effort required to properly coordinate localization activities. Francesca notes that "the differences between languages and regions cannot be underestimated - things like date formats, measurements, currencies, character lengths, and cultural nuances all need to be accounted for."


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Without expert guidance from localization professionals, it's easy for product teams to overlook important details that could negatively impact the user experience


Translation agencies have deep market expertise and are well-versed in the cultural considerations of each territory. Their specialist knowledge helps streamline processes and minimize mistakes.


As Sorrentino explains, "[if you’re] leaving localization to internal resources alone [you risk] spending extra time and money fixing issues that could have been prevented."


Coordinating Multiple Languages and Regions Requires Expert Guidance

What Startups Often Underestimate About Localization


According to Sorrentino, startups frequently underestimate both the skills and resources required for effective localization. Tasks like project management, translation, localization testing, and ongoing documentation management require specialized training that product teams typically lack.


Juggling multiple languages and cultural contexts also introduces risks if not managed carefully. Sorrentino warns that "without the guidance of localization experts, it's easy to miss important legal or cultural issues that could damage a brand's reputation."


The time commitment for localization is another area often underestimated. While machine translation tools have improved, human translation is still needed to ensure high quality and contextual accuracy. Additional testing, QA, and ongoing updates also contribute to the workload.


As Sorrentino notes, "the resources and coordination required to properly manage an expanding localization program internally are significant."


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Why Going It Alone Can Lead to Problems Down the Road


Taking localization into one's own hands without expert support risks missing important deadlines, specifications, or market nuances. As a result, unintended issues can arise that require extra effort to fix later on.


Francesca recounts examples where startups spent "unnecessary time and money addressing inconsistencies, bugs, and other problems that arose from lack of specialist guidance during the initial localization process." Proper testing and QA slip through the cracks more easily without a dedicated team focused solely on localization best practices.


Additionally, the lack of established processes, tools, and experience makes it difficult for in-house teams to scale localization activities efficiently as the business grows. Expanding to new languages and regions becomes an ad hoc, reactive process rather than a strategic one.


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Partnering with an Agency Streamlines Processes and Prevents Costly Mistakes


By leveraging the expertise of a translation agency, startups gain access to specialist tools, technologies, and project management methodologies optimized for localization. 


As Francesca explains, "Agencies have established best practices and processes informed by years of experience across many clients and projects."


Expert guidance from agencies helps streamline workflows, establish realistic expectations, and advise on localization standards - minimizing risks and costly mistakes. With the agency handling translation production, product teams can focus on product development while benefiting from localization support.

Additional services like localization testing, ongoing documentation updates, and expansion to new markets and languages can also be efficiently added on as the business scales.


As Sorrentino notes, "agencies are set up to flexibly adapt their services and have the expertise to hit the ground running with new requirements."


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Expertise is Key to Cost-Effectiveness and Quality


Partnering with a localization agency provides ongoing value beyond just translations. 


Expert consultants work closely with clients to analyze workflows, advise on best practices, and recommend process improvements. As Sorrentino explains, "Their specialist knowledge helps streamline operations and make localization activities more cost-effective in the long run."


Realistic timelines and expectations are also vital to success. Agencies leverage experience across many clients to set pragmatic goals and milestones. 


From a quality perspective, localization agencies focus solely on language services so mistakes are less likely to slip through the cracks. Their testing procedures and quality assurance methodology help catch issues before deployment - preventing potential technical, legal, or cultural problems down the line.


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Starting Early Pays Off in the Long Run


Taking a global mindset from the outset future-proofs products for international expansion. As Sorrentino advises, "Even starting with just a few core languages and gradually expanding over time keeps things organized and sets the business up for continued growth internationally."


Small initial investments in localization lay the groundwork for efficient scaling. Establishing processes, guidelines, and repository structures upfront saves significant effort versus retrofitting an existing codebase later.


Partnering with an agency from the product's inception also provides a single point of contact to advise throughout the development cycle. Subject matter experts can catch issues early to minimize rework. 


As Sorrentino notes, "the earlier localization is incorporated, the easier and more cost-effective it becomes to expand efforts moving forward."


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How Expert Partnerships Propel Startup Growth


Navigating the complexities of localization requires a strategic, globally-minded approach supported by expert guidance. As Francesca's experience demonstrates, partnering with a trusted translation agency helps startups

overcome common challenges and scale their multilingual efforts more smoothly.


By leveraging specialist expertise, product teams gain process efficiencies, prevent costly mistakes, and establish sustainable practices for long-term growth. As Francesca concludes, "the small initial investment pays huge dividends as the business expands globally."



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How Undertow Transforms Localization Challenges into Opportunities


As we delve into the intricacies of managing multilingual products, it's clear that the path to global success is paved with the expertise of trusted partners.


Undertow stands ready to be that ally for B2B SaaS startups navigating the complex terrain of localization. With our straightforward, approachable, and trustworthy approach, we demystify localization, ensuring your journey is free from industry jargon and opaque processes. 


Our boutique agency offers a very particular set of skills, blending digital marketing know-how with localization expertise, all while maintaining a personal relationship with our clients. Let Undertow be your guide, helping you avoid costly mistakes and streamline processes for long-term growth, just as Sorrentino advises. 


Start your global journey with a partner who values clear communication, offers creative problem-solving, and is committed to your success. With Undertow, your initial investment in localization is just the beginning of a rewarding global expansion. Get in touch.


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