Lesson 66: Can we make translation more valuable in the eyes of our clients?

Lesson 66: Can we make translation more valuable in the eyes of our clients?

Having spent a month looking at market research, I decided to talk about value and value creation in October. My intention was to post it in the beginning of the month, but as you may know the fabulous IAPTI First International Conference was taking place in London and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else than the event. But this extra time provided me with some space to think the idea through and talk to others at the conference. I have reached the conclusion that we can make translation more valuable in the eyes of our clients

The reason why I wanted to explore the idea of value creation and value proposition is because in my experience (shared by many colleagues) our clients (meaning: direct or end clients) very often undervalue the importance of translation or tend not to look at the possible return on investment.

Having said that, I strongly believe we could look at our clients in three broad categories in this respect. We have clients who translate because they’re obliged to do that (for example EU bodies), and they don’t look at translation in terms of its value. Then we have clients who translate because it makes them look better (for example all multinational company websites where language versions are supposed to signal global outreach), and who treat translation as a tiny element of their whole marketing effort, but they could live without it. And then, my favourite group, are clients who translate because they see a genuine business opportunity that can only be reached through translation. I’d like to focus on the third group.

Some of my clients (and I’m sure some of your clients, too) are just like that: they know they need top-notch translation to achieve their business goals. Working with them is a pleasure, because they really know the value of translation. Having experienced a few clients like that, I started thinking that there’s more to be done in this respect. Perhaps some clients who’re already translating but belong to the second group could be shown what the real value of translation is? Or companies that don’t translate anything yet could see the benefits of investing in translation too?

The solution to this problem I propose is to explain the value of translation to our clients. If we keep communicating consistently and explaining why it’s worth getting things translated and what is the ROI, we can surely end up with new, lovely clients, but also just genuinely help them grow their businesses. But how do we do that? How do we explain the value of translation to our clients?

Know your client

The starting point of creating a Value Proposition (that’s how we call this stuff in marketing speech) is getting to know your client. You might have heard me talking about Ideal Customer Avatars and I’m certainly exploring it in my Business School course. If not, let me just introduce this concept briefly: based on market research, we can build models that reflect our desired customer profiles which then lead to easier and better identification of their needs and motivations. To be able to present translation as a valuable investment, you need to know your client first: Who is he or she? What does he or she do? What problems does he or she need to solve? What are his or her values?

Know your service from your client’s point of view

Look at what you’re offering from your client’s perspective: what they’re getting out of it? How’s translation solving their problems? How are they going to benefit from it? What value and hard results does translation offer to your client? To answer these questions in a most attention-grabbing manner, use percentages and numbers (which you can get by analysing and surveying your existing clients), for example: how many more people visited their website since you localised it?

Know others

Of course researching other players in the market is important, but the key point here is to find out how your offering is different from others. How does your translation create more value?

Step into your client’s mind

The final step is to step into your client’s mind and start thinking the way they do: “Why should I buy translation at all?” or “Why should I buy this more expensive translation?”. What I recommend doing is to spend some time in your client’s mind and note down as many questions (or objections) that you can think of. Then as a translator or interpreter you can try to address these issues, coming up with good answers.

You may want to consider finishing the following statements:
“I want to get my website translated because it will…”
“The things I value most about translation are…”
“This translator’s offer seems to be better because…”

If you take them all together, you can start turning these arguments into a Value Proposition – a piece of text you can use to convince your clients that translation is worth it.

Any attempts at Value Propositions in the comments?


  1. Lukasz Gos , on Oct 11, 2013 at 13:05 Reply

    Here’s a value proposal: ‘My translations differ from the market standard in that they don’t suck.’ I actually said that, aloud, to a bunch of business owners at a networking lunch.

  2. Isabel Lira , on Oct 16, 2013 at 11:48 Reply

    Having worked for over a decade as Sales and Marketing manager means that I can’t translate anything without having the end reader and the client’s interests in mind (it’s called “déformation professionnelle” in French). I guess I now understand how the standard of language offered to the client can make or break their all-important first impression… My value proposal would be: “Choosing the right translator defines how serious you are about your client’s business! The translation will pay itself off with the first order. “

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