Lesson 69: Translator’s strategy canvas: providing value by being different

Lesson 69: Translator’s strategy canvas: providing value by being different

As the last element in the creating value theme, I would like to look at a tool which is directly related to what we discussed last week. This tool is called “strategy canvas” and forms a part of the Blue Ocean Strategy (which I’m a big fan of, as you may know). Let me explain the way it works first, and then we’ll look at some examples and how it can be used in our profession.

What’s strategy canvas?

The translator’s strategy canvas consists of the horizontal axis, capturing the range of factors that the industry competes on, and the vertical axis which illustrates the level of presence of each factor across all competitors. Here’s how it looks like when analysing YouTube and ordinary web hosting services.

strategy canvas for YouTube

As you can see, the canvas maps out different factors and how they’re present in the ordinary web hosting provider (red) and how is YouTube different (blue). The line connecting the dots is called the value curve.

How does it work?

First, you have to identify the factors that the industry competes on to put them on the horizontal axis. Some of the obvious ones in translation may include: price, specialisation, payment terms, etc. I go into detail on that in my Business School for Translators course.

Then you look at how other players on the market engage with these factors, from high to low. For example, you may notice that the majority in your slice of the industry offer long payment terms, or that they’re not really specialising. Use one colour to mark all the appropriate dots and then connect them with one line (value curve).

Finally, look at your business and how it relates to the value curve of other players. You may find that it runs very closely to everybody else in the market, or that some points in the way you run your business are different (for example, your payment terms are significantly shorter or you specialise only in a selected range of areas). Mark your dots with another colour and connect them to form the value curve.

This is how it’s used in another industry, as presented by the authors of the Blue Ocean Strategy.


What does it tell me?

The canvas tool can be used in two ways. If you do this exercise as I described above, you’re looking at the “as is” perspective, so you have a clear answer of how you’re positioned in relation to other players. But you can also use this tool to introduce the “as it could be” perspective, where you look at what you could change in the way you run your business to set yourself apart from the rest of the market (back to the eliminate, reduce, raise and create strategy).

When writing this post, I discovered an amazing online tool to help you play around with your own strategy canvas. Try it out for yourself!

strategy canvas tool

And why would you want to use this strategy, or even want to engage with value creation? By doing that, you’re better equipped to create services which are compelling to your clients and different from what others are offering as well. For example, I was able to identify what other Polish English translators were not offering, but also where I could stretch the clients a bit more.


  1. Paula , on Jan 6, 2015 at 13:45 Reply

    Loved this strategy, Marta! It helped me identify strengths that I had never really thought of before and to look at things from a different angle. Very helpful for thinking outside the box.

  2. Jayne Fox , on Jan 6, 2015 at 23:19 Reply

    Thanks for bringing these tools to the translation profession, Marta! It’s good to have a structured approach to this kind of analysis. I’m loving your January Business Camp!

  3. Karen Tkaczyk , on Jan 11, 2015 at 04:33 Reply

    Thanks for providing the link to the online tool. Nice visuals. I have a draft canvas to work with now.

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