More marketing techniques for translators


This week I had a very interesting discussion with two fellow translators in response to my post on Marketing for Translators – Mailing.

Thandi House from Evident Language and Natalia Kulichkina, like myself, are both interested in marketing techniques for translators.

Natalia was interested in learning more about how blogging for an audience of translators might help with marketing, given that most translators write blogs targeted at translators, not clients.

According to Thandi, the immediate advantages of such blogs from a marketing standpoint are:

1) When you blog for translators, the biggest benefit is exposure. All those translators coming to your website and asking you questions help establishing you as an expert, which adds to your credibility. As well said by Thandi:  “A potential client sees you as a professional, if you write like a professional”.

2) You are more likely to be recommended by fellow translators who may ask about services in language pairs that they do not provide. Indeed, they may not be able to evaluate how good you are in your language pair, but they know you. They know that you are professional and serious about what you do, so even if they provide their clients with your e-mail and actually say that they can’t vouch for your services, you are still being put in front of a client that you might not otherwise.

I would also add:

3) Your posts will attract translators who, in turn, will be curious about you and look you up. Please trust me on that, it’s human nature, particularly if they like what you are writing. When we like someone’s work, we tend to want to find more about the person behind it. I am no psychologist, so I can’t tell you why that is, but it is a fact! With that in mind, I suggest you don’t separate your translation blog from your client website. The traffic you get from translators will improve your rankings on search engines and ultimately make it easier for clients to find your website online.

4) In order to increase traffic, you don’t want to have to find a new audience every time you post. Therefore, if you choose to blog for your clients, this may mean that you’ll have to narrow your topics down to what a particular type of client may be interested in. This will not only make it harder for you to build an audience and find content, but may make the process slow and frustrating. If you write a blog for translators, you are never “off-topic” because you are a translator after all, your audience will be captive, and you can eventually post about your specialisms and promote those posts to client groups and networks as well. Hence, you can have a bit of a “mixed strategy“.

Natalia also asked for ideas of techniques for “spotting potential direct clients and initiating a contact on the web or at off-line events”.

One strategy that I, and now Thandi, have been experimenting with is a proactive approach to marketing. Basically, the idea of this is to be on top of the news in your industry and whenever you spot a company that, for example, could benefit from exposure in your target language market you approach them and pitch the idea.

For example, my language pair is English and Brazilian Portuguese. In 2012, London hosted the Olympics games and Brazil will do so in 2016. This means that many of the contractors, who have the know-how and expertise in the UK, will want a slice of the business being generated in Brazil. How can a Brazilian Portuguese translator take advantage of that? You can go back over the news and find out who these contractors were, then contact them and offer to help by providing your services.

This approach is more likely to be effective than cold emailing lists of random companies in your industry, because you are targeting potential clients that have a reason for wanting to translate their communications. Therefore, you can tailor your message more; you may even call them to determine who the best person to contact is, etc. The drawback of this approach is that it is time consuming, because you have to keep an eye on the news, spot opportunities and then tailor your approach. I find that when I am very busy with translations, I just can’t do that, so cold emailing and blogging are my most consistent strategies.

Another marketing technique that came up in our discussion was attending trade fairs. I know of a medical translator, Joanne Archambault, who has done this successfully, you may listen to her interview to Speaking of Translation here. Joanne provides a detailed account of how she went about this approach and I find it very useful.

According to Thandi, one way of doing this would be to divide your event into three, which could be over the three days of the event, so that you:

  • spend day 1 deciding who might be direct clients/useful connections
  • spend day 2 arranging to meet those direct clients/useful connections 
  • spend day 3 meeting those direct clients/useful connections 

I have not tested this yet, but Natalia says that she has done this focusing on finding clients for her language classes and it worked well.

Finally, there is good old networking. I have mentioned this in my previous post, but Natalia makes a very good point: “Of course networking in all its forms is highly recommended, but suppose it should be done not for its own sake.”

I agree with Natalia that networking should be embedded in our habits, just because we like it, we make friends, we meet interesting people, etc. In addition, from a marketing perspective, it can also be targeted. For example, I use LinkedIn communities in my specialism (medical) to establish myself as someone who is interested and knowledgeable about the medical industry. I don’t presume to give medical advice, but when I find interesting articles I share them with these communities, I comment and ask questions when other people post interesting discussions, etc.

Why do I do that?

Because it is interesting for me, I learn a lot, and because the people with whom I have interesting discussions eventually become my connections. These people are actively working in the medical industry and may need or become aware of someone who needs my services eventually. This actually happened last week, when a connection made through one of these communities, knowing that I have been translating for market research companies for years, asked me for a recommendation for a medical market research company operating in Brazil. I recommended a company with which I have been working for years, which I trust, and I know that if any translation work comes out of it, they will assign it to me.

How do I know that these strategies are working? I am sure that there are metrics somewhere that I could apply, but I am no marketing expert. My measure of whether my marketing efforts are working or not are:

1) My response rate – Are more people replying to my e-mails even if that does not immediately convert into a job? In other words, are my communications interesting enough that people are reading them and taking the time to actually get back to me?

2) My conversion rate – How many new clients have I worked with in the last month/quarter/year?

3) Do I have a satisfactory workload that allows me to earn what I expect and support myself?

Of course there is always room for improvement, but, so far, my answers to these questions are Yes, Yes, and Yes. If yours aren’t, why don’t you try some of these techniques too?

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