Why DuPont hires linguists

October 27, 2015, 10:00 AM UTC
Courtesy of DuPont

It’s tough enough to keep a marketing message consistent in just one language. Imagine trying to do so across more than 1,200 distinct websites and mobile applications.

That’s roughly the number of digital properties that Fortune 500 chemicals company DuPont (DD) was struggling to update prior to streamlining its Internet presence to a more manageable 52 sites, a process it started about two years ago.

Its original intentions were sound—prioritize the needs of the local culture, regardless of where potential DuPont customers happens to be. After all, cultural sensitivity is an absolute must when establishing a global digital presence, so DuPont encouraged in-country teams to prioritize as they saw fit to appeal to the local market. “There are language nuances that you can’t ignore, image considerations that you can’t ignore,” said Sandra Van Wormer, digital marketing director at DuPont.

The resulting tangle of different sites created to accommodate those considerations, however, made rolling out global marketing campaigns incredibly challenging, Van Wormer said.

The solution? Adopt a new system that centralizes the process of updating and distributing content, and that optimizes how pages, videos, white papers and other messages are displayed to site visitors. The company now bakes language translation into the process, so marketing managers can concentrate mostly on minor customizations rather than hiring linguists themselves. This approach cuts the amount of time it takes to roll out multinational campaign in half on average, according to the company.

“We recently delivered new messaging for one of our brands to seven countries, in their local languages, within two weeks. The old system wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Van Wormer said.

DuPont’s new system combines management software from digital marketing company Adobe (ADBE) and Lionbridge Technologies (LIOX), which specializes in translation services.

Aside from speeding digital marketing rollouts, DuPont’s investment has had a positive effect on response rates from potential customers. For some business-to-business campaigns, the marketing team has recorded an 80% increase in prospect inquiries, Van Wormer said.

Lionbridge uses more than 100,000 certified linguists to help more than 800 companies handle their translation needs. Last year, it approached $500 million in revenue, and in mid-July, it was ranked as the world’s largest translation agency. Businesses spent an estimated $37 billion on outsourced translation services and technologies last year. Projections call for $47 billion in revenue by 2018.

“All service providers use a crowdsourcing model to map the right level of translator to the right job,” said Clint Poole, vice president of global marketing for Lionbridge, which hails from Waltham, Mass.

Traditionally, Lionbridge’s services are used for digital marketing projects such as the DuPont one described above. Increasingly, they’re playing a role in near real-time interpretation of comments, tips, and other feedback left on Web support forums. The idea is not only to answer questions or address complaints more quickly, but also to share the tenor of this commentary across regional offices.

“Agents can now be located anywhere in the world, helping serve a customer in any language,” Poole said.

Follow Heather Clancy on Twitter at @greentechlady or via her RSS feed. And please subscribe to Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the business of technology.

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