Lesson 68: Value innovation in translation: what can you offer that nobody else does?

Lesson 68: Value innovation in translation: what can you offer that nobody else does?

We’re half-way through the month of value creation in which I’m talking about tools and strategies to create value of translation in the eyes of our clients for the benefit of our businesses. This week I’m going to look at Value Innovation in translation, a concept further explained as a part of the Blue Ocean Strategy (an amazing tool, calling for a separate month just for itself).

The general assumption of this strategy is that “cost savings can be made by eliminating and reducing the factors an industry competes on” with “lifting buyer value by raising and creating elements the industry has never offered.”


But why do we need new value?

You probably know by now that in order to survive and grow within the freelance translation market, you have to find something that makes you different (say, a USP). Value Innovation is a tool that helps you find (or design) a set of features that will differentiate your business from other players in the market – definitely from the bulk market. Having said that, I must admit that Value Innovation (or value creation in general) is a strategic tool, i.e. it can help you get the right direction but it won’t give you solutions to use in your business. But that holds true for all strategies: they’re here to form the principles of the way we run our businesses.

So how do we do that?

This tool is based on four actions: eliminating, reducing, raising and creating. When thinking about Value Innovation, we have to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What factors can be eliminated that the industry has taken for granted?
  • What factors can be reduced well below the industry’s standard?
  • What factors can be raised well above the industry’s standard?
  • What factors can be created that the industry has never offered?
  • I’m sure that just by looking at these questions, you’re already beginning to think about how you’d reply in relation to your own business. This exercise calls for a quite detailed analysis of the environment you work in, don’t you think?
    Answering these questions will help you come up with a Four Actions Framework to create a new value curve to apply in your business.


    How does that apply to my business?

    When I did this strategic exercise a while back, I collected all I knew about the profession, contrasted it with my business’s vision and put it on the Four Actions Framework.
    Some of the factors I thought could be eliminated were: CAT tool discounts, bidding for jobs. I thought I could reduce: reliance on per-word as a unit, payment terms, response time to requests. I thought it was a good idea to raise: pre-purchase and post-purchase support, follow-ups and updates, number of complementary services, partnerships for provision of complementary services. In terms of creating, I wanted to: introduce DTP as an additional service (provided by partners), strong brand image, direct association between translation and return on investment.

    Of course, these are just examples which may be applicable to my business only (however, I think they’re true for many of my colleagues). But just by looking at my examples you can see how I started to create a new value curve to make my business different from other freelance Polish English translators (different, but not necessarily better – just different). Based on these answers, I started working on my USP.

    What are the benefits of this approach?

    The Value Innovation tool forces you to look carefully at the entire profession and discover the range of implicit (or explicit) assumptions which are at play. Plus, it provides you with the opportunity to break away from these assumptions and work on a different business strategy. However, the main benefit of this approach in my opinion is the fact that it provides the scope for differentiating (or competing) on factors other than price.

    How can I use it?

    I suggest you draw a grid similar to this ERRC grid (as provided by the authors of the Blue Ocean Strategy) and start thinking about these four actions.


    There’s plenty of additional reading here, here and here.

    This strategy is relatively easy to use and it can provide you with immediate benefits. Would you agree? Next week we’re going to look at a complementary strategy.


    1. Joana Simão , on Nov 2, 2014 at 10:51 Reply

      Hello Marta!

      I can’t see none of the pictures.

      Could you fix it, please?

      Thanks a lot 🙂

      • Marta Stelmaszak , on Dec 28, 2014 at 19:55 Reply

        Hello Joana!

        Thank you for the tip – the pictures should be visible now 🙂

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