Morgan Olson: Using Localization to Help Seal the Deal In New Markets

How can quality localization help SMBs enter, sustain and grow their businesses internationally? In this four-part blog series, sponsored by SDL, we interview SMBs to learn why international markets are key to their goals for growth, and how using centralized language localization services help them improve engagement, sales and retention in overseas markets. In Part 2, we talk with Ben Coles, Product Catalog Specialist at Morgan Olson, to learn how localization helps them to meet customer requirements and win new business.

Laurie:       Hi Ben, can you start by telling us about the business Morgan Olson’s is in?

Ben:           Yes, Morgan Olson started out making aluminum aircraft in World War II, and when the war ended, we invented the walk-in van. Today, we build customized walk-in vans for companies such as FedEx and UPS. Customers buy the chassis from automakers, and then we build a customized aluminum body on that chassis. We’re privately owned, with headquarters in Sturgis, Michigan employing over 500 people, and we recently opened a new facility in Tennessee.

Laurie:       Where does the company do business, and what countries do you localize for?

Ben:           The vehicles we produce are used primarily in North America, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Up until recently, we’d produced documents primarily in English. But a few months ago, one of our Canadian customers required that we provide parts catalogs and technical documentation in French Canadian.  The initial order was fairly substantial, and there’s potential for a lot more business down the road, so our sales team agreed that we would provide the required documents, but we didn’t have a system in place to get it done.

Laurie:      So you had to scramble?

Ben:            Yes! I did some internet searches; I tried calling other companies to see what they used. I reached out to several companies; Some of the responses I got were so basic, it could have been a couple guys in a garage somewhere, and it really didn’t inspire any confidence in them at all. SDL on the other hand, really stood out with their fast and professional response, the information they provided made it easy to recognize that these are the people that have done this before and  know what they are talking about.

Laurie:       So you chose SDL. How has your experience been working with them so far?

Ben:            Well, we hit them with an oddball request right off the bat. I had an Adobe InDesign file, which at the time, wasn’t part of SDL’s language cloud, although now it is. Anyway, I talked to SDL, and arranged to send them the complete Adobe InDesign file via a Dropbox link. So for that first project, they emailed me right back saying “Yep, we have the files, everything looks fine." And then they translated it and I got the project back a week and a half later, exactly as promised, and on budget. And I can export it from Adobe InDesign to any file type I need.

Laurie:       So having this particular file type is critical?

Ben:            Yes, with Adobe InDesign I have the full project, with all the layers and source files intact. So I could even rearrange something, or move something from one page to another, then export a PDF file to send the customer or put it on a shared drive for the sales reps, or on our website. In our industry, things can change quickly; the customer might want to add an extra grab handle, or change an entire shelving configuration. So I need to have the ability to edit that information in the catalog and then export a new file.

Laurie:      It sounds like being able to make changes easily is important. Now that you’re using SDL’s centralized language cloud, what else have you found to be helpful?

Ben:            Well, I am the only catalog specialist for Morgan Olson so the multi-user features were not as important for us. SDL customized the user profile for me, to include all the file formats I need really made all the difference. I can easily manage everything from the portal. Everything is in one place, which is important for version control. At this point, we’ve translated 2 documents for two different French Canadian customers, who each get their vehicles customized the way the want for their industry, so the catalogs conform to their vehicle specifications, with exact representation, and 3D diagramming models.

At the same time, there’s a lot of duplication about what’s in a truck. So we can reuse relevant information from one project to the next. This saves a mountain of time.

Also, SDL provides upfront quotes for the work, and they don’t deviate. Everything is clearly spelled out. The system is automated, and provides word counts and rates for each item, such as for translation and proofreading. So I can basically set it and forget it till it’s done. I don’t think the process could be simpler unless SDL was in the same building as I am.

Laurie:      What about quality?

Ben:            We tested that. Our documents have a lot of odd things, like abbreviations for parts that need to get interpreted and translated the same way so searches will work. We were on pins and needles…so we left a “draft" stamp on the translated catalog that the reps used with the customer. So if the customer found a lot of problems, we’d be covered.

The first document we had SDL translate was 4400 words. The sales rep came back asking for clarification on only 3 items, more around the context than the actual words. The ratio of 4400:3 is very good! The customer gave it the thumbs up, and our sales team left the meeting very happy.

And I have peace of mind that when I need to get a translation done, I’ve got the right club in my bag, and will hit the shot.

Laurie:      Looking ahead, what are Morgan Olson’s plans for international expansion?

Ben:            There isn’t a lot of emphasis on it now, but you when an opportunity presents itself, its great because sales can confidently negotiate the deal knowing they can fulfill on the localization requirements.  And we have the ability to adapt marketing messages to local cultures and geographies if the company does decide to launch in new geographies.

Laurie:      Thanks again, Ben, for sharing your perspectives and experience with me.