Multilingual SaaS: 8 Tips to Prepare for International Expansion
The world is a big place, and it’s only getting bigger. Over the next three decades, experts predict that the world’s population will swell to 2 billion people. That means more business opportunities for you—if you can just get your SaaS solution in front of them by turning it into a multilingual SaaS product.
How do you get an international audience? You must be able to reach people across the globe and, with some flexibility of product offerings and local marketing messages, appeal to them in their local language through SaaS translation and localisation.
To do this well requires a growth mindset, careful preparation, and trial-and-error testing. You’ll need an excellent grasp of your audience through segmentation research, a solid solution that can be easily adapted to new local markets, and you’ll need to reach out in the right places and with the correct messaging for each market.
We want to help you get started with creating a multilingual SaaS product and expanding internationally, so we’ve compiled a list of eight steps you should follow.
In this post:
- Define your vision
- Assess your global readiness
- Set your strategy
- Assess regional, cultural, and language differences
- Ensure the internationalisation of your multilingual SaaS product
- Set up a global operations team for your multilingual SaaS
- Localise your product and set up a scalable localisation process
- Recruit and retain localisation experts and local talent
1) Define your vision
Before you decide to go global, think about why you want to do so and how it can benefit your company. A clearly articulated vision can make a huge difference!
If you’re thinking of expanding internationally, what is the underlying goal? Are you trying to achieve a new level of growth through new global customers? Is there an untapped market that would benefit from your product or service? Or is serving customers who are overseas part of your revenue churn reduction strategy?
The purpose of your expansion will determine where, when, and how you target these markets. For example, if your vision is to reach a global audience of active online users, you’ll want to focus on the larger markets where most people are online: North America and Western Europe.
2) Assess your global readiness
Before you start exporting your solution abroad, think about how global-ready your company really is. Not all SaaS companies are built the same. Some have products that can easily be applied globally; others are custom-built for a single market or region. To figure out what you do, you’ll want to do some homework. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
What kind of solution do you provide? Is it a product that can be sold or used globally to solve a single problem, or is it a custom-built tool designed for a specific region? Is it fit for becoming a multilingual SaaS solution?
Does your service require professional installation, customer support, training, maintenance contracts, or something else entirely that may make it difficult to deliver in a different market?
Does your solution have other strategic implications for the customer? For example, suppose you are selling a customer relationship management (CRM) system for customers in the healthcare industry. In that case, you might consider adding features such as drug interaction checks and reminding doctors about prescription refill dates using local pharmacy databases for each country you’re targeting.
3) Set your strategy
All too often, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of going global without fully understanding why you’re doing so, and how you plan to do it.
Once you’re certain that your product is fit to be launched globally, it’s time to ask yourself if it will be more effective to roll out in-region first or go global from the start (also known as “going wide” or “going deep”).
In-region first expansion is the traditional way. It’s how you get your product off the ground in one country, learn to adapt it using local data and market intelligence, and bring it to neighbouring countries. Before migrating elsewhere, you’ll have a much stronger foundation for success—and better odds of avoiding costly mistakes.
Going wide, on the other hand, requires a more robust, scalable solution that can easily be applied to multiple countries internationally. This approach is much riskier financially and in terms of time and resources invested in the product. But it allows your company to enter the market with a strong foundation in each new country, which can translate into long-term benefits for the multilingual SaaS product and the company.
4) Assess regional, cultural, and language differences
Although we can all enjoy a good laugh at our little regional differences, they do matter when it comes to global expansion. You will have to consider cultural factors such as language, religion, values, ethics codes, humour—even the way information is displayed—to cater to the needs of your new customers.
If you’re expanding into English-speaking countries, this isn’t a major concern; however, if you plan to target multiple languages or countries that don’t share the same language, you’ll need to invest in localisation and translation services.
These include SEO Translation—users don’t search the same way around the world. What they search for in one country is often very different from what they search for in another. For example, a customer living in Spain looking to purchase a computer will enter “ordenador” in the Google query, but someone in Argentina, despite speaking Spanish too, will search for “computadora”. Learn more about SEO Translation here.
5) Ensure the internationalisation of your multilingual SaaS product
Internationalisation is the step previous to SaaS localisation, and both are necessary to achieve successful globalisation. Internationalisation is about making your SaaS application available for different languages, currencies, date and time formats, and so on.
For example, before you begin localising your SaaS product, make sure to perform an internationalisation review of your product’s source code to identify and address any issues that might cause problems when translated into new languages. For example, improper use of Unicode characters or fonts can render text unreadable or unusable in certain regions.
You can read more about internationalisation here.
6) Set up a global operations team for your multilingual SaaS
Launching in foreign markets doesn’t just mean translating or localising content—it involves adapting products to different cultures and regulatory environments.
At the very least, it’s important to have a legal and compliance team that’ll help you adapt your business model to each region. For example, when setting prices, make sure you’re doing so in a way that is compliant with local taxation laws. If you want customers to pay by credit card in some regions but not in others, you’ll need to set up local payment gateways.
A global operations team will oversee your expansion process and onboarding new teams, partners, and service providers for each country you enter. They will work hand in hand with your marketing team to devise a global marketing strategy that incorporates both on- and off-platform tactics including paid ads, SEO, content marketing, and social.
7) Localise your product and set up a scalable localisation process
Once you decide to go global, the next step is to onboard a localisation specialist who can help you create a scalable, repeatable strategy for your business. A good localisation strategy will include up-front analysis of the market and customer requirements; product testing and feature prioritisation based on regional needs; language-specific UI text, marketing materials, and support documents; and embedded language support in the product. This is where the expertise of a localisation specialist can really help. Depending on the size of your business, localisation may be handled in-house, or you might choose to outsource it.
A good localisation strategy will account for all language and cultural differences between regions or countries so you can communicate effectively with customers around the globe.
It’s a good idea to hire a localisation manager who will be responsible for the overall management of your company’s localisation workflow. A localisation manager will be able to set up a process that will guide your Marketing and Product teams on how to localise your content, create a global product roadmap, and come up with other processes and policies that will help you launch in multiple markets.
8) Recruit and retain localisation experts and local talent
A global business will need a lot of local talent to make it work as smoothly as possible. They’ll need writers who can create compelling and engaging content in their target language. They may even need a team to help manage social media accounts or handle customer service inquiries from international markets.
The challenge with most global SaaS companies is finding the right talent locally, which may require you to onboard local recruiters to find candidates for your open roles.
When it comes to your product, you’ll want a SaaS translation expert who deeply understands the market and your industry to turn your existing product into a multilingual SaaS solution. As with global marketing teams, early-stage SaaS companies will need to carefully vet and recruit candidates before taking them on board in new markets.
Get in touch with us if you need a hand to create a plan that works for your business.