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Top Tips for Dealing with a Localization Agency Effectively

It may seem like the end of a tiring week in an office worldwide—time to go home now. But the work has just begun for a localization agency. The company, a US start-up, wants to expand its presence to foreign markets. The agency will ensure that consumers outside the US can successfully use this company’s product and feel satisfied with it. To do so, the agency must touch each stage of the product from A to Z. It needs to create a new website, a new package insert, and configure a new set of instructions with images for the product’s content. The agency also needs to develop multiple versions of the website, instructions in any way, and the package insert to match cultural differences in tone, narration, and even preference towards specific words in English. The agency also has to ensure compliance with local regulations. More importantly, the agency has to internationalize cultural features and attributes to create a universally accessible product rather than a locally unique one. The final product will be a complex translation. They will result from adaptation to local language, preferences, and requirements supported by globalization strategies. 

Finding the right localization agency is either essential or irrelevant for the global competitiveness of international businesses.

The article describes the benefits of working with an agency, lists the challenges that often arise when working with one, and spells out the key questions one should ask when selecting an agency. It further explains how to develop a fruitful business relationship with one. Doing so shows businesses how to successfully implement critical aspects of localization and internationalization with a great partner by hand. As a result, they can have a more comprehensive international footprint, meet the varying needs of foreign locals worldwide, and achieve the firm’s globalization goals. 

Benefits of Hiring a Localization Agency

Access to Professional Linguists

Access to a network of experienced and professional linguists – native speakers of the target languages who are experienced in the specific linguistic subtleties and in translating for a clearly defined professional sector. Working with good linguists means more than simply obtaining an ‘accurate,’ ‘corrected,’ ‘edited,’ ‘natural-sounding,’ ‘idiomatic’, or ‘stylistically adapted’ translation. It means finding someone who can do all that and more: someone who will adapt your original content to a new linguistic and cultural reality that will ultimately connect your company with consumers in a market thousands of miles away and in a different language. A professional project manager at a localization agency not only facilitates professional linguistic services but has access to a wide range of language services such as transcribing, audio localization, and terminology management, all of which will broaden the scope of how you communicate with your global audience. 

Cost Savings with Outsourcing

Sometimes, it will be a cost-benefit to outsource this to get access to specialist knowledge of translations and localization agencies that will save a lot of money and trouble trying to do it in-house. When I was working in marketing, the thought process for doing translations was that it is cheaper to manage it in-house. But in reality, that translated to users needing help with translations riddled with errors, countless revisions, and issues of coordinating with teams worldwide. Instead, localization agencies make the process much more efficient by cutting the overhead of hiring, training, and maintaining an in-house team.

Quality Assurance and Consistency

Localization agencies will have rigorous quality assurance and quality control procedures to ensure that all localized materials are of the highest quality and are consistently precise and consistent with the source information. This is usually done through detailed proofing, style guides, terms glossaries, market expectations, etc. This means that all localized materials meet local market quality standards and that the brand’s international quality is retained, preserving the brand image globally. 

Streamlined Project Management

Localization agencies help manage these complexities, scaling up the workflow associated with localization and content adaptations to large volumes of work with expert project management. This allows you to manage multilingual projects more easily and ensure consistency across all touchpoints, from marketing deliverables to software interfaces.

Challenges of Working with a Localization Agency

Increased Costs Compared to In-House Teams

When you work with an agency, you spend more upfront than you would with an in-house team. You’re paying for the operational overhead of an agency and a healthy profit margin, of course, but it’s not just that. In custom translation, a single agency quote can quickly look higher because it lists the price for the entire scope in a single number. At the same time, the cost of internal resources can be much more complex and hidden and can involve the cost of going above and beyond what you’re doing internally – that is, the cost of the work you’re outsourcing. There are the easy-to-measure costs of salaries, and then there are benefits, training, and technology.

Dependency on Agency Workflows

One of the biggest drawbacks of this method of working with the translation agency is that every author is dependent on the agency’s processes and style guides and must be willing to adjust their own business and timelines to these processes.

Communication and Time Zone Differences

Working with international localization agencies (which I do frequently) leads to challenges, primarily effective communication across different time zones. Coordination can become tricky, especially in pulling responses from teams and their approvals. If you’re not mindful that they might be completely working or sleeping in the middle of the night and are flexible with your hours and expectations, there can be pushback from the team you’re working with. Your project requires flexibility to match what you will receive from your international localization team – and there will be some communication hiccups and cultural differences that can lead to misunderstandings. If you’re not communicating frequently and clearly, projects can drag.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Localization Agency

Accreditation and Certification

When choosing a localization agency, a crucial first step should be to confirm their accreditation status. By seeking accreditation from bodies such as ISO9001 and ISO 17100 certifications, you can prove that a localization agency adheres to international standards for quality and professional translation services. The providers should be evaluated against set protocols and procedures, with the accreditation awarded only once the providers are vetted and deemed competent. We recommend verifying that these certifications are backed by independent audits instead of the agency awarding itself the certifications. Such accreditation commits providers to a routine of improvement.

Technological Capabilities

The technological infrastructure of a localization agency is an indicator of its capability and efficiency. A prerequisite is a well-developed workflow management system that integrates seamlessly with project management, with a translator and client portals that connect to the client’s content management system and translation memory. For those businesses dealing with sensitive information, the pertinent question is whether the agency’s platform uses the latest SSL encryption technology.

Industry Specialization and Expertise

You should look for an agency that specializes in your business sector. An agency that has worked in your industry should be able to give you case studies or examples of its work. This will not only ensure that your text is linguistically accurate, but it will also mean that the terminology used is tailored to your industry, making the content more useful for your audience.

Client References and Turnaround Times

Lastly, consider the agency’s ‘goodwill’ among its clients. Ask for direct feedback from those clients on how they felt about dealing with the company and whether it managed to deliver a quality product on time. Red lights if not. This is a good sign that the agency will be a good steward of your project. 


Expanding your business overseas requires a strategy, and partnering with a localization agency represents just one vital step that you can take in working toward your objectives. This article briefly explains challenges and benefits, such as coverage of diverse markets, access to expert linguists, reduced costs, quality control, and distribution management. However, it focused on the cost of a new partnership upfront (setting it apart from in-house translation), lack of control over turnaround times (because it is dependent on the workflow of your agency rather than happening in-house), and potential language barriers (even if your agency employs a US team), suggesting that careful selection of your agency (by considering the years of experience, language accreditation, technological infrastructure, specific field expertise, and a flawless track record) is a viable way to lower your risks.

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