Marketing Procurement: Finding a Translation Company

Marketing Procurement Process

Marketing procurement should be a defined process and when done well will not only save money, time and resources, but actually create customers, revenue and opportunity.

But all too often, external marketing services can be seen as a business cost rather than an investment, putting the person responsible for signing off on budget expenditure (CMO, marketing director or head of marketing) in the position of having to justify their spend.

Finding an external marketing service provider is made more difficult as agencies and service providers know the chances of them winning a particular piece of new business (through a pitch, bid or tender process) is often negligible, so they will allocate resources and budget accordingly. It may surprise you to know that not every provider even wants your business.

Importance of Early Consideration

It is best to ensure both sides of the coin – procurer and supplier – have a structure to follow that saves both sides time and money and delivers the right outcome for all concerned.

The process is complicated even further when the service in question is something potentially seen as peripheral to key activities (i.e. not a revenue driver), or something that could be perceived as easily handled internally or perhaps cheaply automated. Translation often falls into this category, especially as AI is on the rise, machine translation is improving all the time and many organisations have in-country offices, stuffed full of native speakers.

You may firstly need to make a case for professional localisation and translation services – and there are many good reasons why, starting with quality, expertise and consistency. But next you need to define what it is you need in terms of a service provider. How do you find the right supplier for your needs?

Developing a Strategy

To clarify your thoughts and the needs of the business, start by writing an internal marketing procurement brief or scoping document. Try to make this no more than a single page – two at most – covering the following points:

  • Outline the situation
    • A broad-brush confirmation of overarching situation and plans, audiences, territories: e.g. “ABC co. has been in business for x years, providing Y products and is now planning to introduce a range of products into new overseas markets – France, Germany, Italy and Spain…”
  • Specify the need
    • Specific to the marketing requirements for this plan: e.g. “The products/brands will be introduced in the local language(s) and a launch advertising campaign is planned on both traditional and digital media platforms in the new markets. Brands will need to retain look, feel and TOV as well as overarching positioning as per the home market.”
  • What are the services required?
    • Specify each part of the project in terms of what needs to be provided: e.g. “Translation of brand and tagline, packaging, localisation of existing marketing/advertising materials/content and website and social media channel localisation.”
    • You could add top-line technical details here too, such as the format in which you need the translations delivered. But keep it as simple as possible for now.
  • What are the project’s timelines?
    • Include timelines for the pitch process, supplier onboarding and delivery of translations – as well as launch timings for each territory.
  • Available budgets or value of the tender
    • This can be quite broad and indicative if you don’t know what costs might be involved: e.g. “Budgets will be set based on a percentage of home-market marketing costs.”
  • Resources
    • Include key procurement responsibilities inside and outside of your own department, including key point of contact and supplementary contacts. You don’t need names here, just job roles or department names. This will give you – and suppliers – an idea of the complexity or simplicity of the proposed relationship.

This simple document will form the basis of the RFP or scoping document that will eventually be sent to your list of potential suppliers.

Longlist Translation and Localisation Providers

Now you’re ready to start sourcing potential providers.

You know which languages you need translating; you have a rough idea of the scope of work to be done and you will know if you need a translation company physically based nearby or if you feel comfortable using someone based further away, or even in another country. So, start searching based on those facets: language, location, business sectors and types of translation or localisation.

At this stage it may be useful to start scoring the contenders – based on those key issues. Just a simple scorecard will do at this stage: from 1 to 5 for each, with only companies that score in the top half or three-quarters making the longlist.

In terms of where to search:

  • Google is always going to be a reasonable first port of call – and take note of (but don’t be totally swayed by) any ratings.
  • Use personal recommendations in your close business networks.
  • LinkedIn: Try putting a shout-out to relevant contacts: those you trust and those who will have experience with international trading.
  • Translation trade associations: There are several to choose from:

Load each potential supplier into a spreadsheet and score them accordingly. Sort by highest scores and get rid of any that don’t make the grade.

From Longlist to Shortlist

There are two potential routes to reduce your longlist to a shortlist: internally led or supplier led.

For an internally led process a little bit of work is needed to whittle your list down to those you will invite to tender, pitch or bid for your business. Ideally, you only want to invite three to five businesses to the face-to-face discussion stage. More than that and the process becomes unwieldy, and with less, you won’t have enough to choose between.

Check out their websites and see if you can get a feel for what they can offer, how much experience they have, what industries they actually work in – and just how you feel about them. Don’t forget, these are people offering a marketing service – so if their own website and the text and image content on there doesn’t feel right, then can you trust them to help you with your own?

Do they mention pricing on their sites? If they do, what are they costing up and how does that relate to the translation programme you have in mind? For anything more than the simplest of jobs, it would be impossible for a ‘catch-all’ pricing structure to accurately price what you need – so you need to ensure pricing is comparable across all your chosen suppliers.

For a supplier-led route, you get them to do the work. Take your internal briefing document and after removing anything commercially sensitive, simply send it to your longlist, requesting a response. You can limit the volume you want from them – say, no more than one or two pages, for example or a 30-minute phone call – and you can specify how you would like them to respond to each part of the scoping document.

For more details on how to find the right supplier, read How to Find The Right Translation Agency for your Marketing Content.

Procurement Scorecard or Matrix

Now you should have a shortlist of three to five suppliers. At this stage you need to find a way to measure them more accurately against each other. To do this, create a one-page scorecard that contains each facet (around 30–40 in all) of what you are looking for in a supplier. This document may not necessarily make your final decision for you, but it will allow you to quickly assess which are the front-runners and which are the weaker contenders.

Break your scorecard down into sections:

  • Abilities
  • Response to pitch
  • Company

You can then subdivide within each main section – for example under Response to pitch you might have:

  • Understanding of your industry
  • Engagement in the project
  • Pricing, etc.

You should include binary facets for your must-haves (native-speaking translators, specific technology, single point of contact, etc. – which may score either 0 or 5), aspects such as certification to ISO standards for instance, where the score depends on how many or which certifications the company has, as well as more opinion-based items, such as Personal chemistry, Professionalism and Confidence, where the scoring will be far more nuanced and subjective.

Once you have done that, simply add a column for each supplier. You may be able to start scoring some facets before any meetings, but the majority will be done either during, or immediately after the meeting.

It is also advisable to have more than one person completing a scorecard from your business. Many of these facets will be based on perception rather than logic, so it is good to have a wide range of perspectives and conclusions – ideally reached in isolation from one another.

Contact Planet Languages for your free scorecard template.

A final internal meeting to agglomerate the scorecard results and discuss the pros and cons of each supplier should be enough to make your decision. If any unanswerable questions arise, quickly go back to the relevant supplier for answers: this can be done from the meeting to save time.