What do your customers think of you? – You’re Speaking my Language?

Sometimes, when my German helper, Dirk, is gone (again on holiday, he has more of them than “the boss” does), I help our German customers. As we sell “tech” products, I assume most of them can read English well enough, like I understand German messages ~90%, even without Google translate.

Normally, my responses to customers is

“Hello Mike,
bla bla”

When a German question comes in, I change it to

“Hallo Herr HisLastName,
And that’s all the German I know. If you don’t understand my answer below, please
email dirk@gdpsoftware.com – he does German support, but is on holiday now.
He will probably answer later today, when he has internet connectivity”.

(oh boy, they love us for our support).

By now, Dirk has corrected me often enough. So here are a few tips when you try to talk with German customers.

My name is NOT Mike
NEVER use first names when talking to German customers. ONLY when THEY start using your first name, you are safe.

I am not a little girl
Fraulein/Fräulein? This is actually what I learned in school, then again, schools were made of wood at the time. In English this would be
“Hello Female who has never been married”…
Use “Sehr geehrte Frau” instead.

Make sure you read my previous posts as well, somewhere I talk about the difference between Sie and Du, quite important for the German market…

For German customers (and I guess most potential customers), you make a great impression if your “hello” is in their language. Show that you care and they will forgive you any mistakes in the rest of your email.

Like when talking to Americans, make sure to *thank you very much for your question* – besides being polite, Germans and Americans just expect it. If you don’t thank them, they may think you’re angry.

All countries have their own rules. You can not know them all. When you have finished translating your program and website to Swahili, make sure you have a Swahilian guy to do part time support.

English for Dummies, pt 2 – You’re Speaking my Language?

A follow-up to part 1, make sure to read that first. These posts are mostly for Software Companies who are in the same situation as we are: We understand, speak, read and write English quite well. The problem is, “quite well” is not good enough.

A World Full of Choices

Yes, you are selling the best software in the world! It has unique features, performs great and has a nice dollar-to-bit ratio (cheap!).

The problem is, your website visitors do not, by some way of magic, understand this. You must first convince them to download or buy and for that to happen, you better make sure they don’t leave your site in 2 seconds. Back to Google where they have 200 other search results to look at. Other Companies, selling their own Great Software…

Your Website

Did you write the text yourself? Unless you are from the US or UK, I can assure you: it is one big bucket of spelling and grammar errors. If someone from the US visits your site, he will first laugh and then quickly press the back-button. One more lost sale…

Simple Solutions

Sadly, for this you must part with something you really love: Money. You need to pay Professionals to look at your website. They will rewrite your site and give you tips how to improve it.

A future post will talk more about my experience with Martin who is our main English Language Specialist (and very good & quick at it). He used to send us a Word document with his findings, but these days he just translates our English software to English using a tool you may know.

I believe the Sisulizer team uses the same kind of services offered by Becky at Epic Trends. We used her service years ago and were also very happy with it.

Rent Someone’s Brain

Another service we often use is Al Harberg’s Web Site Makeover. Al is a marketing expert who will make sure your website is as convincing as possible, making people “Want to Buy” your program.

He will create a very detailed report of his findings and suggestions and revisit your site after you made the suggested changes. This is an investment (just $159) you will easily earn back in sales. Just do the math:

$159 / ThePriceOfYourSoftware = HowManyLicensesYouNeedToSellToEarnYourMoneyBack

If Al’s advice helps even just a little bit, you see this is an investment you will earn back soon enough. For us, it was just 1.2 extra licenses we needed to sell. I really believe Al’s suggestions made us hundreds of extra sales the last few years.

Contact me (gert at gdpsoftware dot com) if you want to see the report Al made for this site a few years ago.

Sure, Free is Possible

Ask your current English customers to review your website, offer a free upgrade to them in return, make them feel “Special”. But remember, those people already bought your software, they already know its value. A fresh look by people like Martin and Al is much more valuable.

If you really can not afford to spend any money, make sure to read all Al’s old Newsletters and some tips from Martin. If you are stressed for time, please just read Al’s Famous 10 Tips to Sell More. I really like his quote

There are no gimmicks involved.
In fact, each of the things that you need to do to sell more software
has been cleverly disguised as work.

(but he probably stole that quote from someone else).

Not Just Sauerkraut – You’re Speaking my Language?

In my first post, German Language Software, I talked about the German market a bit. Here are a few more quick thoughts if you want to be successful in the German Language market.

I want to emphasize I am not a German market expert (correct me in the comments, please), but as you can read in the above post, we managed to multiply the German share of our sales ten times, from 2% to 20%! Something we do must be good 😉 Yes, this is the percentage of sales, not the number of sales (which obviously increased as well).

What we did

I will just post all things we did. I leave it up to you to decide what is important or not. My personal feeling is that all is important, miss one and it won’t work…

  1. German translation of the software
  2. German translation of the website
  3. German support, email, forum etcetera
  4. Make it easy to buy for German customers

German translation of the software

Please also see my first post, German Language Software. I am very much surprised about the German market, I expected tech tools in English-Language-only would be no problem at all.

Sure, if you are writing games or any other non-business software, it is super-duper-important to have localized versions of your software. To my surprise, it seems German customers really want to have German software, also for tech-tools (business).

German translation of the website

I don’t think I need to explain much here? When people search on Google in their own language (German), they won’t find your English website.

Remember to use proper html tags to convince google it is a German webpage:

<html lang="de" xml:lang="de" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
and
<meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="de" />

German Language Support

Everybody likes being helped in their own language. These days it is even more important: Germans from former eastern Germany (DDR) didn’t even learn English in school!

Remember to address German customers as Sie and not Du. Both mean “You”, but Du is only used between close friends and children. If you hire someone from Germany to do your support, this won’t be an issue – He will know.

Easy to Buy

Did you know German companies do not normally have credit-cards? The normal way to buy is by bank transfer. Our German translator noted that one of the first things he does when he searches for software is to see if he is able to buy without credit-card.

If he can’t buy by bank transfer, he needs to use his personal credit-card and try to get his money back from his company. Much easier to look at the next Google search result for a software company that understands the needs of German customers.

Read All “You’re Speaking My Language” posts

64 Bit builds with Sisulizer – You’re Speaking my Language?

Yes, I promised to continue English for Dummies, I will do so somewhere next week. Remember, I am a Software Developer, bits and bytes are my life… In this post I will share how I created a 64 bit build of our File Viking program with Sisu.

Developers Only

For most Windows programs a 64 bit build means totally nothing. The size of pointers in our programs (and thus memory usage) will double. If your 32 bit program is not memory hungry (2GB is enough), there is no real reason to support 64 bit Windows, your 32 bit program will run fine on Win64 in most cases.

OK, our File Viking is a special case. One of its optional functions is to integrate with Windows Explorer (add a menu entry and detect Drag & Drop) and for this “the number of bits” (32 or 64) must correspond to the Operating System. We really need a 64 bit version of our software.

Marketeers Only

Do you have a 64 bit build of your program? In the next few years, the market will be moving to “64”, is your software ready? Even now, your customer installs your 32 bit program on Win64, he will immediately notice it is installed in the legacy corner of Windows:

C:\Program Files (x86)\My Program\

Show them you are ready for this century, have a 64 bit build of your software…

Sisulizer supports 64 Bit Software

Unlike other Translation Tools, Sisulizer is Ready for “64”. When we tried to create a 64 bit build, we were happily surprised Sisu translated the exe to 64 bit without any issue. Well, maybe one, see this forum post.

mmm, adding the 64 bit version of the .exe (and lots of DLLs) to the Sisulizer .slp file seems a bit weird as it already has “the same” 32 bit versions…. What we did instead was to change our build script a bit. Before copying the files to the “build directory”, it changes the Sisulizer .SLP file to have a new “source directory” (the binaries to translate). This way, our translator only needs to translate the 32 bit builds, the 64 bit builds are “magically” created as well.

rem prepare sisu file for 64bit
del "E:\cpp\FileViking64.slp"
change.exe "E:\cpp\FileViking.slp" "E:\cpp\FileViking64.slp" bin\Win32\Release bin\x64\Release

rem run sisulizer (translates to F:\File Viking Localized Output)
"E:\cpp\File Viking\FileViking64.slp"
rem obviously, you can also use slmake if you have the Enterprise Sisu

Future

I am sure the Sisulizer developers will implement a better, automatic, solution for this soon. Multiple operating systems are something we have to deal with now.

English for Dummies, pt 1 – You’re Speaking my Language?

You probably noticed when reading this series, I am not a native English language speaker, I am from Holland (The Netherlands). I guess you understand what I write, but there is a very good chance, native English speakers sometimes giggle or need to “read again” to understand what I am saying.

For this blog I don’t care so much, it is volunteer work I do for my friends at Sisulizer. If they have issues about my grammar or sentence structure, they can hire someone to clean it up 😉

For our own software, I sell on the web… The US/UK/English market is something like 50% of total sales. These people find my website on Google, what if they get annoyed or confused by the very first sentence of the web page they land on? What if they install my software and the opening window has a ridiculous spelling error? Yor Spaking Ma Langauge?

Uninstall, no customer.

Just for Laughs, some really bad translations (Chinese <-> English). Were they using Google Translate? What if they are selling software “on-the-web”, will they sell much?
Once on Dutch television, a Dutch horse breeder said he f*cks horses (in Dutch, breeding is called fok or fokking – it sounds the same in Dutch, so it must mean the same in English).

Do you make such Mistakes??!?!?!?? Even if you *think* your English is fine, just maybe you need someone to check your software and helpfiles….

Non English Software Shops

Most software in the world is produced by companies outside the US and UK. We all want to sell to America, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand… (I probably forgot a few).

The English language is quite common as a 2nd language: a lot of people, like me, can order a hamburger while on holiday in America without major problems (perhaps a bit of indigestion).

Is that the impression you want to make to the largest customer population in the world? I am a tourist who wrote some software? Are you sure your “English” software is understandable for your potential customers?

Have a look at your current sales, please. Unless your software is targeted at a really local niche (software for cheese sellers in Amsterdam), anything less than 50% of sales to America/Great Britain (etcetera) should be ringing Alarm Bells.

Are your sales to “English” lower? The most probable reasons are:

  • Your Website
    Wreally Badt Grrrrrrammar
  • Your Software
    actually, also Wreally Badt Grrrrrrammar

Next, in part 2 of English for Dummies

My experience with The Doctor, how Martin helped me with our new File Viking Program. Why we made a Sisu English Translation for an English program… English translated to English, yes, that makes sense! And Sisulizer supports it!

Also worth mentioning is Al Harberg’s Web Site Sales Makeover, besides your sales message (which he will improve), he will also complain about your bad English.

ini files, a good idea? – You’re Speaking my Language?

Bad Advice

Build your own, it sounds great! It is quite easy as well. And cheap (you bill $0 for your own hours, don’t you?, developing your software costs nothing 😉

Go ahead and do it!
For example, have an .ini file with localized language strings and call it from your program, something like this:

GetPrivateProfileString(L"DeleteDialog", 
          L"DeleteFileFailed", 
          L"Sorry, the delete failed", 
          translated, _countof(translated), L"German.ini");

(GetPrivateProfileString docs)

Now you call it for the Cancel button. The German translation is “Abbrechen“…. oooops, That doesn’t fit inside the Cancel button.

OK, You make the button a bit wider, it takes a few emails with your German translator to get it right, but now it looks good (mmmm, does that look weird for American customers? The button is veeeeery wide now)

Just ignore all those emails from your translator about “what do you mean with…”, “what is the context of…”
He only sees the ini file, he doesn’t get any feedback where those strings are used.

After some time, you will have a fine localized program for the German market. Probably a very frustrated translator as well.

How much did you enjoy writing all those GetPrivateProfileString calls in your code?
Now go for the French, Spanish, Italian markets…. Those are just the easy languages.

Dare I say, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi….

You Need Tools

You really need Good Language Localization Tools. No, I didn’t test Sisu with all above languages yet.
I did with German and Spanish language translation, though…

  • Sisu scans your English exe for dialogs, strings etcetera
  • You send the result to your translator
  • He translates…
    Oh boy, he can even change window sizes, the “Cancel” button mentioned earlier? No problem.
    He actually sees the dialogs and can move or resize buttons and texts… Those changes will only be visible in the German build of your program.
  • He sends back the translation
  • You import and Generate…

The result: A fine new German language .exe! Your code untouched, it is not even aware it speaks German now…

German Language Software – You’re Speaking my Language?

Markus invited me to write a few posts about my experience with software translation and, obviously, Sisulizer in particular. For all the great support I receive from the Sisu team, on their forum and by email, this is a small favor to ask.

About Me

I am Gert Rijs, the owner of a Dutch company called GdP Software. Our company creates Specialized Windows software to monitor directories and monitor FTP sites. We are currently 5 man strong, developing, translating and supporting our software.

I will write a small series of blogposts where I share my experience with software localization. I hope you enjoy and benefit by exploring new markets.

First Steps – Germany

Initially, our programs were “English Only”. I never thought it would be a problem because our target market is Computer Professionals, they all speak English and sleep with English manuals under their pillow 😉

When we released a major version of WatchDirectory, a German customer (Dirk Müller) filed a bug report and made a few suggestions. After a few emails we agreed he will create a German language version of WatchDirectory and its website. I didn’t expect much of it, just a slight increase in sales to Germany…

So Wrong!

Almost immediately after releasing the German version, sales to Germany (Switzerland, Austria) “exploded”. Currently, sales for the German versions of our programs are about 20% of total sales (about 10 times higher than before, twice the Great Britain sales). A percentage far greater than the German language population would explain. Selling to Germany clearly makes sense. Offering German language software and support makes the difference!

My deal with Dirk

I could have asked Dirk to translate at a fixed price. Maybe I could even convince him to do it free (or for a free license). A one-time cost, maybe pay him again when we have a major release.

However, what to do with German language questions/emails? I can read German language reasonably well, writing and speaking is a problem.

So, instead of fixed price, I hired Dirk to do translation and support for our programs. He receives a percentage of each sale to Germany.
You might think fixed price would be cheaper in the long run… Here is my experience:

  • As a percentage of total sales, Germany, Austria and Switzerland are now a whopping 20% of our market!
    It used to be about 2%, this increase can only be explained by higher visibility in German search engine results and people who want a German user interface
  • Your translator immediately becomes a very dedicated beta tester – he wants the program to be a success!

If you localize your programs for new markets, I recommend to find an existing customer to help you, like I did.

Future blogs in this series

I have a few topics in mind for future blogposts, feel free to suggest other topics in the comments.

PS

The title of this series is “slightly stolen” from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srIKcXWN6F0 – Juliette & The Licks.