Strategic Marketing for Translators: Positioning Your Brand

By Marion Rhodes

There has been a lot of talk about MOOCs, or massive open online courses, lately, among others by my fellow Colorado translator Corinne McKay. I finally wanted to try one for myself, so I registered for An Introduction to Marketing on Coursera.org a few weeks ago. It has been a while since I completed my graduate certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications, and I thought it was time for a little refresher.

Being a marketing translator, I signed up for this course mostly to immerse myself in modern marketing terminology. But in the process, I learned a few marketing strategies that are relevant to all freelance translators. One of them is the importance of a good positioning statement to define your brand and set you apart from your competition.

A positioning statement is a distinctive description of a particular brand. It specifies its target audience and paints a clear picture of the business and its products. According to my course, a good positioning statement should include the following elements:

Target segment: Your core customers, the ones you are primarily interested in reaching
Point of difference: What makes your brand unique? What do you offer that others don’t?
Frame of reference: The product or service category in which you compete

All of these points are important considerations for a successful translation business. We know that specialization is key for modern-day translators, who are competing against low bidders on a global scale, not to mention machines. In order to specialize, we must first know who we want to work for – our target audience. Do we want to market ourselves to direct clients or translation agencies? Once we have decided this, we need to narrow down our areas of interest and address our marketing message to those clients working in applicable fields.

Next, we must identify our strengths and turn them into that which makes us uniquely qualified – our point of difference. It could be special experience in a certain field that leads to high quality work, or it could be fast turnaround times, or exceptional customer service. Trying to be the best at all three of these dimensions is futile. The key, as I learned in my marketing course, is to pick one area in which we become a market leader, and strive to be just good enough in the other two.

Finally, we must be aware of the competition within our service category – which is, of course, other translators in general and translators within our area of expertise in particular.

Positioning statements are just as relevant to independent translators as they are for big brands such as Apple, McDonald’s or Mercedes-Benz. As a translator, you can include your positioning statement in your website, LinkedIn profile, directory entries, etc. If done right, it will help potential clients decide whether you are the perfect translator for their needs.

Putting my new-found knowledge into practice, I came up with the following positioning statement for my own business, Integrated MarCom Translations:

Integrated MarCom Translations merges experience in marketing and PR with linguistic quality to provide creative translations for marketing and PR firms as well as small to medium-sized businesses with international marketing objectives.

Here it is, broken down:

My target segment: marketing and PR firms, small to medium-sized businesses with international marketing objectives
My point of difference: expertise in marketing and PR, linguistic quality
My frame of reference: creative translations

It looks pretty straightforward, but it actually took me quite a while to decide on just the right wording. Crafting a good positioning statement takes time, but it can be a worthwhile exercise that will remind you where you want to take your translation business.

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