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Doing Great Marketing? Then #BackItUp

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: February 17, 2017

If your marketing budget is greater than your CPD budget, you have a problem

As is probably clear from all the posts on working with a CRM, pitching and writing for clients, I have been on a marketing binge so far this year and it is really paying off. I have caught the attention of new clients and have projects in various stages of being booked in. But it’s not enough to have great marketing; you have to #BackItUp with exceptional delivery.

 

By #BackItUp, I don’t mean having copies of your data stored in lots of places, as good an idea as that is. I mean that every hour spent on marketing needs to be supported by an hour spent on improving practice, especially since no one grows accidentally.

 

You can sell yourself as a premium provider all you like but if you deliver services that are more akin to the stuff you might buy out of someone’s car boot on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, you will hit a problem. The most powerful form of marketing is still recommendations and people will soon know whether you are as good as you claim to be.

 

Why do we think that some companies have massive rates of client turnover? If their marketing is good but they aren’t paying enough to work with great people, clients soon find out and look elsewhere. Whether you are an event interpreter, equipment supplier or events management company, if your marketing budget is greater than your CPD budget, you have a problem.

 

Since I am a French to English and English to French and conference interpreter based in Edinburgh, I absolutely have to be pushing my language and interpreting skills on a regular basis. That means keeping up-to-date with the latest research, practising specific areas of my performance, keeping my French honed and even listening back to myself.

 

So what do you do to #BackItUp? We can all learn from each other and get great new ideas for improving our practice. Why not share this post, alongside how you work on your skills and add the #BackItUp hashtag? Marketing is great but what we all need to #BackItUp.

Learning to Write for Clients – The Basics

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: January 30, 2017

[Note: this is a follow-up to my previous post on pitching]

From Pitch to Preparation

So, you have pitched and have been invited to write a piece for a trade magazine or even a newspaper. What do you do now?

 

Believe it or not, the first thing you should do is look at your pitch again. In that pitch, you should not only have written something that will convince a busy editor but you should also have left enough clues to yourself as to what and how you will write.

 

The best place to look is your three-sentence summary. In that tightly-packed paragraph, you should have left enough information for you to write a basic skeleton of your piece. This is exactly why I advise writing that paragraph according to the incredibly simple “context, problem, solution” structure.

 

Here is an example, adapted from two recent successful pitches:

 

Every business that wants to expand abroad needs interpreting. The problem is that it can be really hard to source excellent interpreters and even if they do find them, many business owners don’t know how to work with them effectively. For that reason, I would love to write a piece on how to source and work with interpreters to ensure that you always get a great return on investment.

 

That one paragraph gives the editor a great insight into how the final piece might look and, just as important, it gave me the outline of what I needed to cover and how. From that paragraph, I could jump straight into writing the pieces themselves, making sure that I wrote each one in ways that were especially attractive for that audience.

 

Remember your audience

This is where your research will pay off. For a piece I wrote for Flybe’s Flight Time magazine (using a slightly different pitch), my research told me that whatever I wrote about interpreting, I needed to drop in real-life (anonymised) stories and preferably some kind of numbered list. For Executive Secretary magazine, I knew I had to write it more like a step-by-step instruction manual with each decision explained.

 

With practice, you will realise that you can write articles covering very similar ground that look entirely different because they are aimed at different audiences. That is part of the skill of writing. While you should never duplicate content, you should have two or three key themes that you are known for that you can write about in a myriad of different ways. And that is why I would always advise practising somewhere safe first to gain experience of angling your content to different audiences.

 

How to edit your first draft

Once you have written your first draft, taking your article summary and research as a guide, put it all away for at least an hour. Go grab a coffee and check Facebook or do accounts or something. You need to find anything that will take your mind off it.

 

When you are ready, come back to the piece and reread it, looking for three specific things.

 

  • Is it written in a professional way, without any glaring typos, meandering paragraphs, repetitive phrasings and non-sequiturs?
  • Is it balanced? Does it give the right weight to the areas you want to emphasise and concentrate on the key things your readers need to know to use what you have written?
  • Have you dropped in at least some keywords that are used by your clients regularly?

In terms of key words, it is important to differentiate between SEO keywords (which are important as they get you more website hits) and article keywords (which are important because they demonstrate that you use the same terminology as your clients. I would always err on the site of prioritising the latter. Always write for humans first and you will find yourself benefiting anyway.

 

The last piece of the jigsaw

Once you have done that whole checking process at least twice, it is time to write a very short bio, giving your name, job and website and send the piece off. And with that, your job is done. For now…

How I use Evernote and Streak to Keep My Marketing On-track

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: January 16, 2017

After my recent post on pitching and my glowing praise of Streak on LinkedIn, I thought I would do a post on two of my new favourite tools – tools which have so far helped me net some incredible promotional opportunities and which showed me where I was losing out in my business.

 

The first tool is well-known: Evernote is a note-taking, image-saving, web page-snipping, beautifully constructed beast. I use it for two things. The first, and most obvious is that, what with being a dad and travelling a lot, I sometimes draft things in different places and on different devices. With Evernote, I know I can, for example, store the title to my latest blog post in a special notebook called “Articles” and then go back to it wherever I am.

 

In addition, I have installed the Evernote web snipping addon for Chrome. To understand what this does, imagine a simple webpage bookmarker but on steroids. In Evernote, you can save the entire page and a link to it so you can review the page both online and offline. In the screenshot below, I am clipping a recent article from Conference News just to show you what everything looks like. The web clipper is the grey rectangle in the top-right.

 

Evernote web clipper screencap

 

In this particular case, I am saving it to a folder called “Business”, which is where I save a mixture of articles I want to read in future and information that I need to know. I will absolutely be using Evernote to store publicly available pre-reads for my next interpreting assignment.

 

One more nifty feature is that you can link Evernote to your email and set-up reminders. This is really handy if, like me, you store the web pages of client leads there and you want to remember to email them or call them later.

 

Evernote is amazing but its power is hugely multiplied when you install Streak as a plugin for Chrome and then follow its easy activation instructions for Gmail. I use Gmail to manage my work emails as it allows really simple syncing between all my Android devices and, when I am on the web version of Gmail, Streak is active.

 

This is a walkthrough of Streak (try to ignore the rather boring voice):

 

 

What I find really useful is that, when I open the CRM pipeline view, I can instantly see where I was with every lead and active client, including when I last contacted them. This has made it much easier for me to ensure I do follow-up and it has meant that contact details are all captured automatically.

 

Want an example of how these tools work together. Here’s a simple plan of how I got an article on interpreting in the in-flight magazine of a major airline. (I am using the same process for interpreting clients too).

 

  1. I grabbed the magazine and used Evernote on my phone to capture pictures of the front cover, editorial contacts and some relevant articles.
  2. I then drafted an email during the flight to the editor.
  3. As soon as I landed, I sent the email and created a Streak box for the email I had just sent by opening the email from my “Sent” box in Gmail and then clicking on the Streak shortcut icon at the top of the page.
  4. A couple of weeks later, I noticed that the editor hadn’t gotten back to me and dropped a reminder. At that point, I changed the marking of the box from “Lead” to “Contacted” in my CRM.
  5. Within a couple of days, she got back, we agreed on the piece (if it had taken more than a couple of emails, I would have moved the box from “Contacted” to “Negotiating”) and I sent it off. Once the piece was off, I marked the box “Sent Piece/Met in person”.
  6. Once I got confirmation that the piece had been accepted, I dropped a thank you email and marked it as “Closed – Won”.

 

I use that same system to track all my leads and am slowly adding my long-standing clients to Streak too. I make sure that I check my Streak CRM pipeline at least once a day, just to keep on top of everything. That simple view has helped me spot one potential client where I hadn’t sent paperwork, one where I was waiting on the confirmation of an assignment and more than one where I needed to send reminders.

 

To be honest, I am still finding new ways to combine these tools. For instance, I recently found out that Streak can tell me when my email has been read. And I can share Evernote notes with people. I am sure that I will be finding creative uses of these and all the other features I keep finding. What tools do you find useful?

Crafting the Perfect Pitch – A Comprehensive Guide

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: January 9, 2017

Of all the ways that you can market your skills, getting an article in a publication or blog that your clients will read is my all-time favourite. It is much cheaper than advertising and has the added bonus of making you look like an expert in their business as well as yours. If that wasn’t enough, there is the rather bizarre possibility of a potential client spotting you at one of their events and saying they saw your article. That makes the conversation much easier.

 

So how do you do it?

 

There are several stages and you won’t master any of them first time out. I accrued a lot of rejections and missed opportunities to begin with. While it hurt like mad at the time, it really did help me to hone my craft. To make this little guide easy to follow, I will go through the process chronologically.

 

First, pick an audience

 I really shouldn’t have to write this but bad targeting is a really common mistake. I have lost count of the number of people who have pitched to my blog with no idea which audience I target or which audience they wanted themselves!

 

The more specific your audience definition, the better. My top target at the moment is UK-based events managers who organise international events but who don’t have an interpreting team or are looking for a change. My secondary target is event managers who want to shift into the international events market but don’t have the supplier contacts to do so. In both cases, I am aiming more at the younger, tech-savvy market than at the massive established players. I am also more interested in those who don’t specialise in fashion or medical products.

 

The more specific your audience definition, the better.

 

That is how specific you need to be, at least at the outset. If you want the full reason why you need to be that specific, listen to any podcast on marketing. The tl;dr version is that it is much easier to write a brilliant but narrow pitch than to try to please everyone.

 

Next, hang out with them

Before you even think about what and where to pitch, you need to spend time (preferably in person) with people from your target market. Go to their events, subscribe to their magazines, join their Linkedin groups. Do anything, in fact, that allows you to sample their language and concerns.

 

If you try to skip that stage, you end up with the same farce as I got when I pitched an article to an events magazine on running successful multilingual events. I got a very nice email from the editor saying that my topic was outside of their interests … only for them to publish a very similar article in running successful international events the next day by another writer. One word, one mistake, one very annoyed interpreter.

 

You simply cannot write a great pitch without learning the language and style used by your target audience. This is, by the way, another reason for being specific. In my case, I need to learn how the attitudes and communities of younger events professionals differ from their older counterparts.

 

You simply cannot write a great pitch without learning the language and style used by your target audience.

Listen a lot

 This is an extension of the point above but the slight repetition is necessary. It will always be tempting to jump right in and pitch after receiving your first issue of an industry magazine. I can just about guarantee that it will fail miserably.

 

My mum used to say that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. And that adage applies here. In the same way as you might slice apart a project brief or comb through a source text, give yourself time (ie. at least three magazine issues, three all-day events or a couple of months in an online group or some combination of them all) to soak up the atmosphere and outlook of your target audience before you even consider pitching.

 

Strangely enough, over time, something amazing happens. As you get to know the people you want to write for, ideas for pitches seem to arrive by themselves. Suddenly, the gaps in their knowledge and, more importantly, the things they perceive to be important become obvious. Once you know the gaps in their knowledge and what they deem important, the rest begins to take care of itself. With practice.

 

As you get to know the people you want to write for, ideas for pitches seem to arrive by themselves.

 

One little note, based on brutal experience. Before you pitch, make sure that all of your interactions are professional to the utmost and try to resist the urge to correct misconceptions. No-one likes a smarty-pants and criticism will not be welcomed until you have built up a really strong relationship with the group. I have lost count of the number of people in my own profession who have thrown away any chance of having a positive influence by publicly slating clients and potential clients.

 

Practice in a safe environment

 At the same time as you are getting to know your target audience, you should be working on your writing craft somewhere semi-public but where you can’t be rejected. I will go a bit against the grain here and say that, for most people, a personal or business blog is not the best place to practice.

 

For most people, a personal or business blog is not the best place to practice.

 

There are two reasons for this. The first is that, in both the Event Sector and the Translation & Interpreting Industries, the posts that get shared the most tend to be those written for fellow professionals in that sector. And, unless you are extremely disciplined, you can get sucked into writing more in that vein to get your stats up and get praise from colleagues, rather than polishing a client-friendly style.

 

Places like Linkedin Pulse and the groups where you are listening to clients are much better. As far as Pulse is concerned, try writing a few posts on the basics of working with someone in your profession but aimed at people who don’t even know what an event manager or translator does.

 

As simple as those posts might sound, they are tricky to get right and they get a surprising amount of feedback and views. If you can make them sound informative but not preachy or didactic, you know you are on the right track. If your colleagues accuse you of writing really basic stuff but your potential clients start sharing your content, that is a sign you are getting it absolutely right!

 

When it comes to groups, practice writing brief responses to any relevant questions or blog posts that come up. You can get the same kind of practice by going to networking events in that industry and practising having good conversations that don’t turn into a sales pitch. In both cases, you should be aiming to sound like an expert in that particular area, who just happens to be a genius when it comes to translation or interpreting or events. Rather than someone from those professions who snuck in when no-one was looking!

 

Target More Than One Editor at Once

Once you have some practice under your belt and especially if you have gathered some positive feedback from people in your target market, you can start to find editors. Editors are your gateway to valuable space in magazines and should therefore be approached with due care and something nearing adulation!

 

Seriously, the best tactic I have found, which I still use, is to follow trails through articles posted in market-specific groups and cross-compare where I end up with the magazines that appear when I google search terms describing my target market and the words “magazine” or “publication”. Often, the leading magazines will actually be called something like [Field] News or [Field] Weekly. If you can see circulation numbers, all the better. But remember, you want the best publications for your specific target market, not necessarily those with the highest numbers.

 

Follow trails through articles posted in market-specific groups.

 

In my market, I could easily pitch to magazines with huge circ numbers which target the USA. Given that they are highly unlikely to hire me, that would be pretty pointless!

 

Once you have that kind of information, always have two or three potential targets at a time. Experience has taught me that all editors are juggling about a million things at once so it is likely that a large proportion of editors you contact will either never get back to you or won’t reply for at least a month. Don’t worry. By having a few on the go at once (get a system to keep track of what you said to whom!), you can reduce anxiety and increase the chances of getting an early win.

 

Do not, however, fall into the trap of blanket pitching to too many editors at once. Two or three at a time is about right. By the time you do proper research and spend time familiarising yourself with their needs and style, you will find that even doing two or three takes work! But it is more than worth it when your pitch lands you an article.

 

Pitch based on their needs (and your expertise)

 Editors have three basic needs: solid, relevant content that needs as little work as possible; coffee; and more hours in the day. Once you realise that, you can make sure that you hit two of them in every pitch (you can’t offer coffee, sadly).

 

I always pitch by first looking through one or two recent issues (or about a month of blog posts if I am aiming for a spot in a blog) and imagining where my content might fit in and what attraction it might have for their audience. Before I even start writing the email I ask myself this question: if I were reading this magazine, why would this content be important to me?

 

Notice that I didn’t say “for me”. We all think that our business is absolutely vital for our clients but if we can’t make a compelling case why they will agree with us, the editors of the publications aimed at those clients will just dismiss us. Answering that question badly or not at all has been the number one reason for me receiving rejections. And I have had a lot of rejections!

 

A simple way to reduce the risk of making that mistake is to try to include the phrase “I was reading the latest issue of [magazine] and I noticed that…” in your email. It could be “I noticed that you had a great piece by John Smith on events for international associations” or, “I noticed that you were going to discuss selling across cultures in a future issue” or whatever but hooking on to what they are already saying is a great start and it shows that you are reading carefully!

 

Hook on to what they are already saying.

 

A word of warning though, if you are going to finish that sentence with “I noticed that you haven’t covered [x]” be very careful. Often, that just gives editors a reason to tell you that your pitch is outside their remit, since you have just revealed that it isn’t a common topic. The only time that angle has worked for me is when I had found that they covered something near my specialism but left an important bit out. In that case, I could write something like “I noticed that Joe Bloggs wrote a great piece on international events but he didn’t talk about working with interpreters. Since that is such a vital part of making international events work, I would like to build on what he wrote.”

 

Make life easy for yourself (and the editor)

 The most important part of pitching based on their needs is making it easy for the editor to make a decision. Most magazines are split into sections so you should absolutely suggest which section your article might work best in, based on what they have already published there.

 

You can make life easy for yourself by reducing the entire article down to a three sentence paragraph, including the context, the problem and the solution. For a recent blog post on the website of a leading industry magazine, I mentioned the need for British events companies to win international business post-Brexit but the problem of the UK’s miserable record for language learning. The solution, I argued, was to work effectively with interpreters. To ease any doubts, I threw in some links to existing content that talked about some of those issues. Within 24 hours, the editor was in contact to offer me prime space on the blog.

 

Reduce your entire article down to a three sentence paragraph

 

That three sentence summary not only lets the editor quickly tell if you have a good idea but it also gives you a ready-made structure for your final piece, with enough wiggle room to allow your creativity to shine. In a pinch, you can also use it as the introduction of the final article, at least temporarily.

 

Think Snappy

 The very last part of writing the pitch is making sure that your pitch is way shorter than this post on how to write pitches!

 

Remember, editors are busy so make sure that your email can be read through in 30 seconds and skimmed in under 10. The longest version of your pitch should be three paragraphs long and look something like this:

 

  • a short, suitably complimentary intro, including your hook, a maximum of one sentence introducing you, and ending with the topic of your suggested article in five words or less.

 

  • the trademark three sentence summary of your suggested piece

 

  • a suitable friendly sign off, inviting them to get back to you.

 

If you can write it even shorter, feel free but do resist the temptation to stuff everything into a paragraph that looks like it has eaten too much Christmas turkey. When in doubt, cut stuff out.

 

Welcome Failure, Celebrate Success

 And after you have done all that, will success be assured? Sadly, no. Part of the process of pitching is the “fun” of failure. Some emails will never be answered. Some will come back with a rejection. Some, those precious ones, will come back with acceptances.

 

It always pays to remember that a “no” from one editor is often a stepping stone to “yes” from another. Some publications won’t be suitable for the content you want to write and that’s okay. For others, the timing will be wrong. And that’s okay too.

 

A “no” from one editor is often a stepping stone to “yes” from another.

 

The great thing is that the skills you pick up in reading clients and writing pitches become a vital part of your toolkit for other areas of your marketing and even for writing in other areas of your business. Add to that the joy and interest you get when clients see you as an expert in their field and the work is definitely worth it!

 

If you want to know what to do once you actually get accepted, you will need to read a later blog post.

The Difficult Second Album

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: December 16, 2016

Everyone gets excited about the start of something new and the first job for a new client is always a good one. But what happens after that?

Once you have set the bar and delivered for the first time, where do you go next? Of course, consistency is key and everyone likes to get excellent service every time but what happens when your work is so good, it is taken for granted?

To become the “go to” person or to go from being great to getting referrals, you have to learn how to go from great delivery to stand out performer. Just as no band can make their entire career out of a single album, no provider can truly build a business on just delivering one way for a single client.

You are going to need to grow and create and innovate. The same tools what landed you job #1 will need to be refined and even rethought to land job #2. Seasons and fashions change and it takes skill to keep growing through them all.

Here’s a very concrete example. I soon realised that doing one good job for a specific agency client is no guarantee that you will ever be called again. If you want to get another assignment, you will need to follow up and make sure you are still as visible as you were before. It’s hard work but the results are always worth it.

So where has complacency set in in your business? Which of your clients have lost their passion for what you are selling? Maybe it’s time to try something new.

The Business Clients Call for the Hard Stuff

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: December 9, 2016

What type of interpreter or events manager are you? Do you get the run of the mill, straightforward stuff or are you called in when it is tricky?

There will always be simple work in every field and tons of people to do it. If you locate yourself at the high volume end of the market, there will be lots of opportunities but just as much competition. There both service and rates matter. With the importance of each of those dependent on the client and assignment.

At the tricky end, there is less work but much less competition. Some of your colleagues won’t want to even touch those projects. If you deliver on them, you win yourself not just praise but great respect and more negotiating power.

How many interpreters can confidently deal with live media work? How many event managers can deal with a multilingual, multi-strand, multi-site conference?

The people who get called for the hard stuff will always be in demand. Are you one of them?

By the way, if you are looking for interpreters who can deliver challenging assignments with aplomb, let’s talk.

Conference Translation and the Need to Speak Fluent Client

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: November 7, 2016

We are communicators. It’s our job to create messages that people are as compelling in the target language as they are in the source language. That might just mean that we need to adopt terminology that makes us uncomfortable, rather than insisting on correctness, especially if we want clients to be able to find us.

 

Who buys “Translation Equipment” anyway?

 

I am a late convert to search engine optimisation. When I started as an interpreter, it was still common to hear people suggest that, aslong as you signed on with the right agencies or secretariats, clients would come flocking. Few people believe that now. Increasingly, people want to arrange entire conferences online and the easier you are to find, the more likely it is that you will be the person they call.

 

But the more you dig into search engine keywords, the more you realise that there are data trends that make us uncomfortable. Check google keywords related to “conference interpreting”, for example, and you will find that there is considerable traffic every month to searches for “translation equipment” (pyjamas, CAT tools and coffee, perhaps?), and real demand for “simultaneous translators” and “conference translation”.

 

I know few interpreters who could seriously write about any of those without a wince and the need to apologise profusely for using such strange collocations. We would all want to write posts explaining why those aren’t the right terms and that you should instead talk about “conference interpreting,” “conference interpreting equipment” and “simultaneous interpreting”.

 

But how far will that really get us? Who would click on a rant, instead of a simple explanation and a visible point of sale?

 

Interpreters should be Expert Communicators

 

The application is clear. Since we pride ourselves on being communication experts, we need to pay attention to how our potential clients are actually talking about our services. As much as we might like to correct some misconceptions and even write long screeds about the difference between “conference interpreting” and “conference interpretation”, none of that will get us any closer to more work.

 

Of course, there is a lot of value in helping clients understand our profession better but we must never be guilty of attempting to do so with a superior or condescending tone. In the era of social marketing and targeted blogging, the interpreters who succeed will be those who approach clients with their needs and goals in mind.

 

Selling Conference Interpreting, Marketing Conference Translation

 

All this means taking strategic decisions on our websites and blogs. As much as it might pain us, we need to pay as much attention to how our clients are currently searching for our services as we do to our own terminology use. Might it be possible to write an entire blog post on buying “conference translation” with nothing more than a tiny reference to the industry standard term? In fact, might it even be possible to be brave enough to not offer a correction at all?

 

Yes, I know, taking such steps might well unleash a torrent of disapproving reactions from fellow professionals but it may well be worth it. I have rarely seen interpreters pay for interpreting. If creating the odd post with errant terminology will increase the effectiveness of my marketing and increase the number of assignments I get, I would say that is a fair trade-off.

 

After all, client education is most effective once you have already built up credibility and forged relationships. Forging those relationships in the first place might just mean learning to translate our existing knowledge and skills into words our clients habitually use.

What could a Conference Interpreter do for your business?

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: November 3, 2016

Great leaders often get frustrated by anything that looks like a restriction on the growth of their business. They push themselves and their staff to find solutions to anything that looks like it might cause their company to stagnate. But often, the most obvious growth barrier can be missed.

 

Languages: a barrier or a door

 

One of the toughest barriers faced by any company is a lack of language skills among their staff. People who don’t understand you can’t buy from you. For those who don’t understand your brochures or websites or sales people, you simply don’t exist.

 

How big is this problem? In the UK, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Languages recently estimated that the UK companies lose £48billion per year in lost contracts due to poor or non-existent language skills. In my own work, this year alone, I interpreted for one company who were on the verge of losing a multi-year multi-million-pound contract due to language issues. After two days of interpreting and explaining, they qualified for the contract.

 

But if languages present a potential barrier, they also present an incredible opportunity. Every language your company speaks literally adds millions of people and thousands of companies to your potential client list. Even the steepest investment can generate unheard of ROI, simply by creating new markets for your products and services.

 

Where Conference Interpreters Come In

 

While any company that wants to reach international markets will necessarily have to look at multilingual websites, translating marketing and regulatory materials, and making sure that everyone understands contracts, before all of that you will need to build up a presence and credibility in your target market. Put another way, you can have the greatest product and the fanciest website but if you don’t spend time meeting people in your market, learning about them and presenting what you can do, you are throwing money down the drain.

 

Where conference interpreters and indeed any interpreters help is that they allow you to communicate face-to-face with potential clients. From trade shows to product demos and from PR stunts to press conferences, interpreters create spaces where two or more groups of people can use the languages they prefer and yet still understand each other.

 

A classic real-world case happened when a large construction equipment manufacturer wanted to showcase their newest lines to an audience of industry press. In that case, six interpreters, covering three languages, ensured that the presentations were as persuasive in Russian, German, and French as they were in English. The result? Positive coverage in industry press and increased exposure as a result.

 

Interpreting and Brexit

 

If you are a UK company trying to make sense of Brexit, the power and potential of interpreting is exactly what you need. You surely don’t want one country to be the upper limit of your growth. Now is a great time to launch efforts to snag new markets, while the doors are still open and the opportunities are still there for the taking.

 

And if you are an EU company wondering whether the UK will still be worthwhile, the time is ripe for you too. If you get in now, before any barriers are erected, you stand the best chance of establishing a market and place that can continue to provide much needed additional profit to your company.

 

So what should you do now?

Ask your marketing team to size up one EU country (or the UK) as a potential market. Look at population size, incomes and the like and then begin to plan an event to appeal to this audience. Then, while you are still at the planning stage, get in touch with an experienced conference interpreter and ask them to build you an interpreting dream team, to give you advice, as well as make your event sing. It’s one investment that reaps dividends.

 

Ready to talk about the potential of interpreting to grow your business, let’s have a chat!

Competition doesn’t always matter

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: October 17, 2016

If you are an events company covering conferences, parties, weddings and product launches, you will always need to be on the alert for new companies coming in. If you are the recognised expert in managing European Works Councils for heavy industry, you won’t care. If you are a conference interpreter covering every field for every kind of client anywhere you can get by plane, you will always need to watch your back. If you get a reputation for handling the assignments that scare the lag out of your colleagues, you will never have to worry.

 

Market size and competition

The amount of competition in any given market is usually just a measure of how big people think the market itself is. When people think there is a big market, there will likely be tons of competitors and with them, the added complexity of fragmentation. Interpreting is a multi-billion dollar industry but no single player controls anything more than a tiny sliver of it at any one time. Sure, big multinationals might mop up government contracts but that leaves the far larger private markets (and there are several of them in each country) for anyone who can jump in.

 

The size of the market you need to be in is purely and simply a matter of strategy. If you want to be pulling in tens of millions of any currency a year, you will need to swim in the oceanic markets and deal with the resulting competition. If, however, you just want to master one particular area, you will limit your growth to the size of that market but you can, and just might, achieve your goal with fewer headaches and fear of competition.

 

Making Interpreting Irreplaceable

Competition only matters to the extent that you have allowed yourself to be seen as replaceable. When you’re the go-to person for that particular client and you got there by delivering results, you don’t need to worry too much about competitors coming in with price cuts, unless the results you were delivering actually weren’t as flashy and unique as they looked.

 

A smooth conference, rightly or wrongly, will be seen as good, but fairly easy to achieve. A conference that covers six languages, leads to a 500% increase in sales leads and bags the client hundreds of press spots will win you them for life. Accurate interpreting is pretty much a given; interpreting that sorts out a tricky cultural issue and qualifies the client for a multi-million pound deal (true story from my own experience!) will have the client coming back for more.

 

If you deliver what your clients think anyone else can deliver, prepare for vicious competition. If you can strike gold when everyone else is striking out, the competition just became irrelevant. It’s simply a choice of where you want live.

Edinburgh Airport and the Art of Subtle Marketing

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: October 13, 2016

I fly a lot. In fact, between September and early December, I will have visited Denmark, Belgium, England (London and Milton Keynes twice each), the Netherlands, and Northern Ireland. That means I spend a lot of time in Edinburgh Airport. And I also learn a lot from both its plusses and its flaws.

 

First, the big plus. When it works (which is usually does), good old EDI has some of the most reliable. longest-lasting and fastest free airport Wi-Fi in the UK. I am one of those people who often needs to work in the departure lounge, this means sitting with a laptop open and connected and a warm beverage in one hand. In fact, I would dare to suggest that since the airport brought in Wi-Fi, their sales of food and drink will have increased.

 

Work and caffeine seem to go together. Offer free Wi-Fi and people will be able to work. Give people the ability to work and they will buy some liquid sustenance to go with it. Subtle marketing: done. Profits: creeping up.

 

On the other side of the equation is the airport’s biggest flaw. In their hurry to redesign parts of the terminal, the architects forgot that the main purpose of an airport is to allow people to get to their flights. Now, instead of the old route, which took you from security to the gates within a few steps (and gave you more time to do work and drink hot chocolate), there is a long-winding route which forces you through the oversized Duty Free, with its chicane of perfume profferers, whisky dram holders and people whose only job seems to be to stand and stare at the crowds going by.

 

From a business point of view, it kind of makes sense. Greater footfall should equal greater sales. And it might well do. From the point of view of passengers, especially those either a) in a hurry or b) travelling with easily distracted children, it is a total pain in the proverbial. Marketing, it is; subtle, it ain’t!

 

What does this mean for us? Well, the more we force clients who want events management or conference interpreting to wade through a winding route to book us – full of up-selling, cross-selling and flashing new offers – the more we will just annoy them. Sure, they might click a button by accident and sign up for something, but the reputational damage will be done.

 

If your every blog post aimed at clients ends with a flashing Call to Action and a demand to subscribe to your newsletter, count on your potential clients getting fed-up. If, on the other hand, you give away something for free that acts as subtle marketing, you are onto a winner. Even something as simple as inviting people to contact you if they want to know more on the odd post is better than a stupid banner that won’t go away.

 

We should absolutely be showing our clients what they can gain by working with us but we need to be doing it in a way that is much subtler than forcing them through the Duty Free. Just as the point of an airport is letting people catch their plane, the point of your business is helping clients fulfil their goals. Get that right and they will be all too happy to help you fulfil yours.