Cutting through language barriers

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Business-to-business marketers' efforts to reach the global arena directly through the Web really start when their Web sites are translated into other languages.

Translating a Web page may cost less than $1,000, and that could help marketers find business partners or distributors in other markets.

Alis Technologies, Montreal, charges 25 cents to 30 cents a word to translate sites into European languages, and about 10 cents more per word for pictographic languages such as Japanese and Chinese.

But that's just a single step in a long journey, says Steve Allan, VP-business development for Alis.

"Translation is not good enough to ensure success," Mr. Allan says. "You have to think about the cultural issues."

For instance, he says, are your images appropriate for use in your target market? How are you going to take payment in other countries, and deliver your product? How are you going to clear customs?

Translation companies can help you deal with these issues, but it will cost you. Mr. Allan often sees budgets of $75,000 to $100,000 for translation services. And Ben Sargent, director of marketing for translation company Bowne Global Services, Los Angeles, a unit of Bowne & Co., New York, says he has seen multimillion-dollar budgets.

Businesses outside the U.S. typically don't find Web sites the way Americans do, by simply searching the Web, says Bill Hunt, VP-international for Multimedia Marketing Group, Bend, Ore. Because most Internet use in Asia, Europe and Latin America carries a per-minute charge, users are more likely to learn about Web sites through a magazine ad or an ad in an e-mail publication than through a search engine.

So translated material in addition to Web sites, especially translated banner ads, can also be effective in leading people to your site, Mr. Hunt says. Click-through rates of 20% for translated banners are common.

Before selling to other markets, you need to be able to deliver your product to them, and perhaps take payment in foreign currency, Mr. Sargent says.

That may mean more than just taking charges in euros, Mr. Allan says. "People in Germany don't use credit cards, so what do you do?" he says. But figuring out what works for the client and its buyers, then fixing it, can greatly increase the cost of a global Web site, he says.

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