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Sep 21, 2011

The future is here (targeting, profiling and clustering)

For personal reasons, I was unable to attend the recent conference on machine translation held in Ede in the Netherlands as I had planned. A colleague, Diane McCartney, was there and has gracefully consented to share her impressions and extensive notes from the day, which will appear here in several blog posts, of which this is the third part. It was a busy day.

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Renato Beninatto’s presentation on sales strategies was well worth attending. If Renato is good at anything, it's sales, and I was particularly keen to get even the slightest whiff of how he does it. I was also curious to find out if he could be anything other than provocative.

In terms of targeting, Renato explained that the market matters less than how the client buys: one buyer, several buyers, procurement department, or tender procedure. I agree that it is easier for bigger outfits to get their foot in the door of large companies, but one never knows, and participating in a tender could be a good experience – just make sure you have a good plan in place should you submit the winning bid!

Everyone goes after Fortune 500 companies, so you should target the ones that are not on the list, because there will be less competition. Makes total sense, and because these companies usually have procurement departments or work with tenders they’re pretty much out of reach for smaller outfits anyway. Fast growers, Renato tells us, are the companies to focus on, because they buy in an unstructured way. I’ve worked with many fast growers, and if “unstructured" means that you have several contacts in one company, I agree. If one department likes you, you are quickly referred to other departments. The nice thing about this is that you have variety in your work and get to know your customer’s business really well. (I wonder if this falls under the stupid and repetitive tasks that Jaap referred to so often.) It actually enables you to provide advice where necessary too. (It’ll be interesting to see how MT fills that gap.) However, I’ve also found that the relationship with such companies has a best-by date: they either get taken over by a company that has its own translation vendor or your contact leaves the company (in which case, you might get taken with to the new employer and actually win a new customer), and the new guy brings in his/her own translator. But definitely go for it. These companies are both interesting and challenging to work with. One way of finding them, Renato tells us, is by monitoring press releases. Here comes one of the statements I really liked: people hate being sold to but love to buy. Here, Renato asked the participants what they do when they walk into a store and the sales person virtually pounces on you and asks if you need help. In most cases you say “no”, browse for a while and leave. Try to get the customer to come to you by getting them to talk about their needs, and then tell them how you can help.

Renato wraps us this part of his workshop by telling us that we should not sell translation. Translation is based more on the relationship you have or establish with your customer or potential customer than on the direct need; people buy from people they remember and like. Get the customer to start talking about translation. And here comes another statement that struck a chord with me: try hard not to talk about yourself – talking about yourself is equivalent to voicing an opinion; decisions are based on facts.

Clustering is also something to pay attention to: companies in a specific industry fall in groups because the conditions are right for them in a specific area. Targeting the cluster means you can offer services to similar companies at the same time. Market to the cluster, sell to their needs, organize and participate in industry events.

Profiling is used to determine the characteristics of the buyers. People who buy translations in companies are the localization manager; documentation manger; training manger; the legal department; the marketing department and, of course, the procurement or purchasing department. Men in their 40s seem to be better buyers than women in their 30s simply because they are at a higher level in the hierarchy. Profiles of buyers could be: men/women; young/old; kids/no kids etc.

Create a list containing the size of the companies, their budget, etc. and go after companies that have the same or very similar characteristics.

If you do advertise, advertise in magazines people read. As an example, Renato told us about the magazines that can be found in his bathroom, which are mostly women's and fashion magazines. If I remember properly, Renato mentioned that he is married to a former buyer at HP …

Think up stories that people will remember you by – don’t necessarily publish an article about yourself on what you do. For example, Cosmopolitan ran an article about dads working at home that featured an interview with Renato. He was also featured in a full page advertorial on Buenos Aires in Fortune Magazine. The latter got him a lot of business. And, he reminds us, participate in, be active and be visible at industry events! Note that the term “industry events” does not necessarily refer to the industry you're in but to the industry your customer is in.

Define the type of sales/channel structure - "spray and pray" is not effective. Spray and pray is the mass e-mails you get offering you anything from Viagra to a web site. A web site and telesales don’t generate a lot of sales; in fact, telesales should be used to make appointments. There’s no such thing as a store that offers translations (although I kind of like the idea of being able to walk into a store and have my favorite poem translated). High revenues come from direct sales.

One thing I found really interesting is that Renato is not a particular fan of LSPs that offer all languages in all domains 24 hours a day.

I liked seeing the other side of Renato, and if he is giving this workshop at a conference near you, I recommend attending it.


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Diane McCartney was born in California and raised in Germany where she attended a French-German school. She set up the translation department at ASK Computer Systems, where she used a UNIX program to prepare text for translation and review. Today she is based in the Netherlands and has been running her own company since 1997.



3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great write-up.
    Renato

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  2. The "spray and pray" you mentioned is more than not effective, I'm convinced it's downright detrimental to sales. I'm surprised it's still being used as much as it is.

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  3. @EP: I think so as well. Use of agency lists for mass mailings seems a form of professional cyanide to me, but there are still a lot of people in language services who damage themselves this way. One US-based translator I know spams various agency friends of mine at least several times a year and has become so infamous and disliked that there is even a derogatory term commonly used in German-speaking countries that contains his last name. Talk about unhelpful publicity. I maintain a personal blacklist of some of those who spam me regularly with offers of cheep cheep work in any language pair. I'll hire my pigeons to do the work first.

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Notice to spammers: your locations are being traced and fed to the recreational target list for my new line of chemical weapon drones :-)