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.
We all know that, in general, language professionals are behind the curve when it comes to marketing. CRM is an entirely new concept for most translators and interpreters and the most popular CPD courses are those that aim to enhance business and sales skills. It makes sense that we should learn from professionals whose lives are spent marketing and selling. But are there times when their ideas should be ignored?
There is one place when that is definitely the case.
Marketing Tactics Translators and Interpreters Should Not Use
Marketing gurus will commonly tell you that you need to grow your list of client contacts. That much is absolutely true. Few people will go straight from website visitor to client. Having periodic emails to keep your name and email fresh in people’s memory is a great idea if you want people to book you.
While gathering email contacts is important, some of the tactics used to gather those emails are definitely not to be recommended. Go to the website of any leading marketer and you will likely be confronted with a pop-over window asking you to sign-up for updates. The most annoying part is that often you can’t actually read anything on their page unless you manage to locate that pesky close button.
While that tactic has always been sneaky and downright annoying, it will soon be an SEO nightmare as google are going to actively punish sites that use those tactics.
Let Users See Content Quickly
From a user standpoint, those changes are long overdue. Personally, I have started to simply leave any website that asks for my email before it has given me a reason to stay. Let me see the content first and then, if the content looks good, I might sign up.
Of course, if you are giving away something substantial like an entire book, then things are different. It makes sense, in that case, to give a sample for free and then swap details for the full thing. Even here, however, you are better to create a specialist landing page than have an ugly floating pop-up. For single blog posts, let people read first and subscribe later.
Google’s changes are even good from a marketing perspective. Do we really want email addresses from people who are only typing them to get rid of a stupid window?
So, the next time you refresh your website, remember to let people get to content as quickly as possible. The more directly we communicate with clients, the more likely that are to want to work with us.
A few days ago, I received an email from someone starting up a new translation platform. In the time-honoured tradition, they seek to build a large, publicly searchable database of translators and (presumably) interpreters so clients can find us more easily. Yet even the briefest squint at the industry will tell us that there are already lots of companies trying to do exactly the same thing, with little to choose between them. How could a new player have a hope of standing out?
For freelancers, the competition is even fiercer. If you define your competitors as everyone with the same job title and languages, you are up against it from the start. If the only thing going for me is that I am a French to English and English to French interpreter, I don’t stand a chance.
Even if you specialise, the difficulties only ease off slightly. If someone wanted to find a French to English legal translator, the ITI directory would offer them twenty. If they wanted to find a translator between Spanish and French with experience in tourism, a quick search on any major platform would give them more than they could handle.
That reality is probably the main reason why people don’t attempt the value-based pricing strategies I talked about in yesterday’s post. To put it bluntly, too many of us see ourselves as ultimately replaceable, clones who could all do the job more or less equally well.
But that isn’t true. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Take me, for instance, I can rock any speech that aims to persuade, inspire or teach but I am not the best at finance talks. That’s why I am glad that my regular boothmate is a finance wizard who can deal with turnover trends and widening margins as easily as I can enthuse people about demolition techniques or theatre as a tool for peace.
My USP then is that I am a speaker in my own right and someone with proven skills in understanding what clients want and making sure that’s what gets delivered, whether interpreting is needed into one language or ten. Saying that is not a sales ploy, it’s a very simply example. Every interpreter has (or should have) that little bit of something extra that makes them stand out.
I have one German-speaking colleague who can interpret sales pitches so slickly that customers fall over themselves to buy. I have an Arabic-speaking colleague who can deal with the highest echelons of politics that you can imagine. I know exactly what kinds of assignments would suit them and which ones are better for someone else.
So what’s your interpreter USP? Once you get to know it, your marketing will never be the same.
We all know the feeling: we are talking to a client and its gets to that magic moment when they ask for a price. In a split-second, there are several questions going round your head:
- Do I give them my standard price or offer a discount or even take the opportunity to raise my rates?
- Do I charge hourly or daily or by some other measure?
- What should I include?
- Will someone underbid me?
- How quickly should I send the quote?
- How much room for negotiation should I leave?
Unless we have become too experienced or blasé that each individual assignment means little to us, that vital quoting stage can become a site of real mental effort. But there is another way.
It’s a way I first heard about in Warsaw at TLC 2015 when Alessandra Martelli of MTM Translations talked about negotiation. Rather than sending a price straightaway, she makes sure that she knows exactly what the client wants and then sends a price that details exactly how it will fulfil their needs.
She told us that making that one change meant that she now wins 80% of the projects she bids for. That is pretty amazing given what many of us in interpreting or the events sector might experience. That one figure alone got me thinking about how I relate to clients.
The next step in the journey was finishing writing my first book, Being a Successful Interpreter: Adding Value and Delivering Excellence. The key message of the whole book is that interpreters need to concentrate on the value they add to clients, over any other measure. The logical outcome is that we need to stop using “market rates” and a start pricing interpreting according to the value it has for each client.
Then today, the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. There was a discussion about pricing models in a Facebook group for professional speakers that I am a part of. Alan Stevens, an experienced speaker and media trainer in his own right, mentioned that instead of pricing according to hours spent or service, he talks to the client about what they want to gain from his work and prices accordingly!
While “market rates” seem to take away any need to make pricing decisions, they actually take away a vital point of connection with clients. Instead of finding out exactly what they need, we just slap a price on each day and waddle off.
Value-based pricing forces us to really think about how our clients are benefiting from our services and encourages us to be more transparent with the difference that we can make for their business. So the next time you are asked for a quote, take the opportunity to slow things down a little. Email (or even phone!) the client and talk to them about the value of the event for them. Start a dialogue about what success looks like for them and how much they stand to make from it.
Armed with that information, send them a custom-made quote that shows that you really understand what they are trying to achieve. Show clearly how you will deliver the service that your client needs and wants and price accordingly.
And, if you need an experienced French to English and English to French interpreter to help you deliver the goods, drop me a line.
After a clean run of a few years, my trusty laptop is beginning to show its age. While the machine itself is still holding up well enough, I have started pricing up its successor and I am beginning to be attracted by the lure of custom-builds.
We all know the deal. With a custom-build, you only pay for what you actually need and, if you have the right expertise, you can make sure that you get exactly what you want, at a price you can afford. It works well for computers and it works even better in events management and interpreting.
Work on planning a wedding and you will know that off-the-shelf doesn’t work. Who wants a package with exactly the same dress, flowers, cake and ceremony as someone else? Of course, each wedding has to be planned from scratch, even if some common features will be there.
What about a conference? Here, there is always more temptation to go for an off-the-shelf solution. We all know the drill. You’re going to have: at least one PowerPoint malfunction, a President’s address that mentions local cuisine (hooray for haggis and whisky!), someone proclaiming that the future is bright for those who dare to dream, and a few presentations that become a cure for insomnia.
Yet, even with common features, each conference exists for a slightly different reason and needs a different approach. One conference might be all about sharing best practice, while another might be simply about pushing sales. One might be about coming to consensus on key decisions, while another might prioritise networking.
The difference in purpose between one conference and another leads to the need for event managers to approach each differently. Gathering client requirements is more than just a tick-box exercise; it’s about getting under the skin of the event and really understanding what would make it a success. (Protip: reducing the number of boring presenters is a great place to start!)
That same need for customised service applies to interpreting too. Since no two conferences are the same, it makes sense that we never treat any two assignments the same. Our approach to preparation, delivery and follow-up needs to be modified to fit the needs of each individual client and each event. Basic changes such as spending slightly less time on terminology and more on the style of each speaker, researching press quotations to see what sticks and asking the right follow-up questions, instead of broad nonsense like “was the interpreting good?” will all go a long way.
Today, when competition is fierce and budgets can often be tight, it makes sense to show that you have a better handle on your client’s needs than your competitors. The best way to do that is by offering custom solutions.
All events organisers know that the world is full of conferences. If you want people to attend, it takes more than a slick social media campaign, interesting speakers and a good location. All of them are ten a penny.
So what makes an event stand out? How about a keynote address from the world’s leading (and only!) professional language creator? How about rival software vendors strutting their stuff?
No, that’s not enough, either! Well, what about talks that deal with practical professional challenges and send you home with brand new skills? How about one of the most responsive and interactive crowds in Europe and an organising team that includes a world-leading expert in the business end of the industry?
Now we are getting somewhere. As a second-time TLCer (as I think we should christen people who go to the Translation and Localisation conference), I knew what to expect: the understated musical comfort of the Sound Garden Hotel in Warsaw, Poland; challenging and entertaining content; a lively livetweeting community (#tlconference)… What I didn’t expect was a networking dinner full of translators jiving and jigging on the dance floor, and the privilege of an ‘Experts Café’ that pushed me to the limits of my knowledge, in a good way.
But the memory that will stay with me for life is seeing thirty or so experienced interpreters publicly giving each other and themselves the gift of honesty. I don’t think anyone will forget that moment.
If you are an events manager, go to the Translation and Localisation Conference to learn what an industry event should look like and how to balance learning, networking, and emotional connection. If you are in the Translation and Interpreting industries, go there to be informed and challenged.
Would I change anything? Perhaps the odd presentation was poorly targeted, perhaps there could have been more content that didn’t involve CAT tools or technical software. But what really makes a conference is the people and those who were in Warsaw will tell you that TLCers are a friendly, open, inspirational bunch. And that is why it works so well every year.