Jessica Rathke “Your services are boring. The outcomes you deliver are interesting.”
After a short break I continue series of interview with great professianals in translation and localization industry, who can cover different aspects: from project managemet to editing and even sales.
Today we are doing to talk with my marketing guru Jessica Rathke.
Jessica has 20+ years of sales, sales management and marketing experience in the language services industry in the US and Europe. She is currently Managing Director at L10N Sales & Marketing, a London-based sales training and consulting company that helps translation companies improve sales performance, increase revenues and profitability
Can you give a few advice on how freelance translators can differentiate themselves on the market?
There are several ways this can be done, but my general recommendation is to make it easy for potential customers to find you. Listing yourself on Translator Café or ProZ is helpful, but you are still being lumped in with many other suppliers.
1) At very least I suggest creating a website so potential customers can find and get to know you: what your specialities are, how you work and any special things you do to ensure your customers are happy, testimonials & references, contact information. Your website doesn’t need to be complicated and can be done very cost-effectively with WordPress. There are plenty of people out there who can design a website for very little money or, if you feel inclined, you can do it yourself. When I went into business for myself, I initially created my own site and it sufficed for a while. I eventually invested a few hundred euros to make it much more professional looking, because I had no real interest in becoming a WordPress expert.
2) Make sure the content is focused on what you deliver for your clients, rather than the services you provide. They know you are a translator. You don’t need but a few sentences to explain this. Use the rest of your website to tell customer what business benefits they will derive from the translations you provide. For example, do you help your customers expand into international markets, help people understand how to use something, convey clear branding, help ensure compliance from your client’s employees, enable rapid deployment of their products? Get out of your shoes and into those of your customer. This in itself will differentiate you. Your services are boring. The outcomes you deliver are interesting.
3) Although you have a lot of work to do and deadlines to meet, try to do a bit of networking where your potential customers are. Learn what’s going on in THEIR lives. This will help you tailor your services to help them do THEIR job better. This should inform your branding/messaging. Even if you only network on Twitter or LinkedIn Groups (not localization groups, but groups where your customers spend time) this will help you get your name out there and also help you know what’s going on with people you want to work with.
What marketing methods can freelancers apply to find direct clients, especially in localization?
I’ve answered this in part with your first question. The big thing with winning direct clients is to help the customer make the connection between your services and how this helps them achieve their business objectives. In software localization this is straightforward. The client is usually expanding into new markets or updating an existing product. How you can help them achieve this more quickly is one key way to win their confidence. Clients will want to understand that you understand their business, technology, how the technology works so they have happy users. As far as marketing to these people, it really comes down to making direct contact and explaining the business benefits (aka sales)…assuming you have a website and references in place. Finding the decision maker takes research. Developing them takes time as well, both directly and indirectly. Directly you’ll have to rely on phone and email. Never expect a response. It’s up to you to make the business case for switching to your service. This is why focusing on what your client is trying to achieve is so important. Otherwise you’re just viewed as another translation supplier. This only scratches the surface really. I could write a book on this! One much overlooked way to increase your business is to expand your relationship with existing customers. Make sure they are aware of everything you can do (they may have forgotten or been completely unaware). As always, focus on how you can help your customers.
How much time should you spend on marketing your services and how do you measure results?
As a freelancer (not translator) myself, I find it challenging to strike a balance between working (billable hours) and marketing (developing the business). When you’re doing one, you’re not doing the other. But you must do both! In my mind, at least an hour a day should be devoted to developing your business. Whether it’s writing a blog, finding interesting things to tweet about, updating your website, emailing or calling potential customers. This works out to 5 hours a week. It’s not a lot of time and maybe it’s done later in the evening, at weekends or other off times (like I do). Some weeks, when I’m really busy with customers I do none. Other times, when not a lot is going on I’ll do 30 hours. If you’ve never done it before, then initially it’s going to take a time investment and/or some money for someone else to do it on your behalf. There are many translators who are very active in social media and have created very strong branding and images for themselves on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (for example Erik Hansen, RainyLondon, TessTranslates, LinguaGreca). They may be in a better position to say exactly how much time they spend doing marketing and (possibly) direct sales. Measuring results is interesting. The most obvious is winning a client and counting the revenue you’ve generate. There are incremental things that you can measure such as number of blog posts, how may blog posts were commented on, tweeted about, number of decision makers identified, number of decision makers contacted. It could be the number of direct clients you have as LinkedIn contacts…and from that, how may ultimately become customers.
Can you suggest some other services (except traditional translation, interpreting, editing, proofreading) that are becoming in demand those days in localization industry?
Other services This is a loaded question really. It all depends on what you can or want to do. I’m an advocate of broadening services if it’s within your capability or you feel compelled to become an expert at some ancillary service or want to be an SME in some other subject area, then do it. But only do it if you think it provides value to your customers.
If it doesn’t, then it’s unlikely to help you and you may become frustrated if your customers aren’t interested or don’t appreciate it. IMO it’s better to specialise and become very well known for that. It makes it easy for customers to understand what you do and what you stand for. Being all things to all people makes this very difficult. LSPs face the same issue. Focus on what you do well and on the projects you like to do and for the kinds of clients you like to work for. Make this clear and this is what you will attract. Get rid of business you don’t want or like or that you can’t make any money doing. There is no shortage of work out there. A scarcity mentality is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Just because a client wants you to reduce rates doesn’t mean you have to. You may well lose that project, but it will also free up your time to find and win more profitable work. Let price buyers buy from price sellers! I would also suggest being open to new possibilities. The topic of MT and post-editing is a hot one and I am loathe to bring it up. However there is a market for it and people who aren’t opposed to it are likely to do well. In the end, finding out our client’s needs, how they use translations (in all its forms, problems they are facing, business issues they want to solve should suggest other services that can expand your business.
Many thanks for practical guidance, Jessica!