Recensie van "Maak het verschil. Dan komen de klanten vanzelf!"

"A worthwhile day out!"

By Sally Hill

Who was there?
This workshop was aimed specifically at translators but relevant to anyone owning a business and looking to attract new clients or even just writing a text for a website. The 21 participants had travelled various distances to be there, one even from Luxembourg, and represented freelancers, coordinators and agency owners. Organizers Marcel Lemmens and Tony Parr from Teamwork were present on the sidelines to ensure the day ran smoothly.

The experts
Joke Zwaal is founder and owner of PassworD Text Fusion in Heino, which used to be a “simple” translation agency but has now expanded into the broader fields of texts and marketing. I visited PassworD a year or so ago for a tour and a chat when I was considering giving up teaching to becoming a freelance translator and was impressed with the business and with Joke’s willingness to take time out for a newbie. Willem Verdaasdonk, a teacher and trainer in communication at Saxion Hogeschool, is responsible for helping her market her business and setting up the communication side at PassworD. He is clearly her partner in crime – the two of them could also be seen in action last year at the Nationaal Vertaalcongres in Eindhoven – they work well together and they had me laughing more than once (certainly a plus point during a full day’s workshop).

What is a market identity?
You’ve probably heard of a USP, and if you don’t have one it may be time you thought about getting one! And no I’m not talking about some new dongle, it’s what sets you or your company apart from other translators or agencies: your Unique Selling Point. Even if you have plenty of work for the time being and don’t feel the need to attract new clients, it surely can’t help to look to the future. What if one of your major clients goes bust or (horror of horrors) finds someone else? We were encouraged to look at our ambitions for the years ahead and to think about ways of putting ourselves ahead of the competition: by offering what our competitors do not or cannot offer. An interesting point made is that you can of course distinguish yourself with your product (certain language combinations or specialist fields) but also with your services (such as availability or ease of communication). As might be expected, price was mentioned but we were in agreement that this is not the way to put yourself ahead of the competition. As a client we are not interested in the cheapest coffee after our Sunday morning stroll nor in the cheapest plasterer to redo our hallway; the translation industry is no different (or at least it shouldn’t be!).

Low points
I don’t think that the “promise” made by the title of the workshop (Maak het verschil. Dan komen de klanten vanzelf!) can be entirely true for translators. As a group we constructed a mind map with ideas for USPs and came to the conclusion (at least I did) that we all offer such things as reliability, accuracy, flexibility and availability. It is therefore not so easy to be innovative and offer the client that extra something that no-one else has.

High points
To illustrate their reasoning, Willem and Joke provided us with clear examples of various marketing campaigns and their USPs, as well as websites and promotional texts from translation companies. Some of the examples were from the participants themselves, which made the marketing tale very relevant. I had brought along the text from my own website and was confronted with the realization that my sentences were far too long! The feedback from other participants was very useful. My background as a scientist has taught me nothing about selling myself so it was refreshing to get some ground rules regarding marketing. We may be trained translators or language specialists but we are also in business and I believe business skills go hand in hand with the services we offer.

In conclusion
A worthwhile day out! As well as learning some basic marketing skills I got in some good networking, which is never wasted. I have not yet developed my USP but I have certainly gotten to thinking about it, and I am certainly going to adapt the text on my website. More information, including the PowerPoint presentation and the mind maps the group created, can be found on Teamwork’s website.

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