Of course, as a hardworking freelance translator, you want your direct client to “value the value” your expertise and skills bring them. It’s critical that your prospect or client understand what they’re paying for, so that they never think they’re buying a commodity item.
The other part of the proposition when it comes to value pertains to you showing you understand your prospect’s or client’s need to feel valued, appreciated.
Remember that everyone has a basic need to feel valued, appreciated. Like most people, your prospect or client probably deals with working too many hours and not feeling adequately esteemed by their peers and higher-ups for their hard work.
Are you showing respect for your prospect’s or client’s time, conveying your points concisely so no one feels expected to sift through what you’re saying? Is your tone coming across the way you’d like? Are you sure you’re completely free of any off-putting or awkward wording that triggers a bad gut-level feel?
Your prospect or client, in the long run, wants you to help them look good in the eyes of their peers and higher-ups. A basic human need is what you’re addressing here. The need to feel appreciated.
You’re likely already addressing this basic marketing question in your marketing efforts. But take a closer look at the question to understand the underlying issue, and you’ll discover it’s not only what matters – it’s why it matters.
Here’s the scoop. Anyone can declare something matters. “We want a translator who’s been in business 10 years.” “We need a translator with such-and-such software.” “We have to use a translator who has experience in this type of document.”
Oftentimes, people who make these types of statements are simply repeating what they’ve heard others say. Not understanding the nature of language services, they take such declarations as indisputable fact and compulsory criteria.
The idea becomes more and more deeply ingrained the more often the party line is repeated. At some point, no one stops to question their thinking.
But you can make a difference. You can take the time to gently object to the prevalent attitudes about what your clients think they need from you. It’ll serve you better in the long run.
Your marketing pieces stand a better chance of converting prospects into clients when you take the extra step to find out why something matters to them. From there, you can redirect their attention to what you truly believe ranks as significant regarding your translation work, credentials, experience, etc.
A tactful approach is in order here if you want to be heard and understood. Telling someone they’re wrong about their beliefs quickly puts up walls and makes people want to stand their ground.
Lose 20 pounds in 20 days!
Say goodbye to deep wrinkles in just 8 days!
Absorb any language in 15 days!
It’s appealing to think we can accomplish goals quickly and with minimal effort. Easy to get sucked in to a promise that we can reduce the time or energy needed on our part.
Maybe… just maybe… someone found that magic bullet. We can get what we need without suffering any side effects (like having to work for what we want).
Remember this ever-so-human tendency to want to gloss over the details. It’s there, always lurking in your buyer’s mind. It’s especially glued tight to translation and other language services. For your buyer, it’s less stressful to think in terms of
“insta-translation” than in terms of the real damage a less-than-optimal translation can create for their company’s image, public relations, their own job security… and so on.
If you find yourself irritated that your prospective buyer clings to well-intentioned but blissfully ignorant ideas like this:
“Just swipe the pen across the text like a highlighter and receive the translation”…
[http://tiny.cc/3zu3kw “Scan and translate documents”]
…then take the initiative to help them realize how they’re fooling themselves.
Examples like the below — a little cosmetics bag my sister got in China this past summer — can be used to illustrate your point.
A succinct definition courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subvocalization:
“Subvocalization, or silent speech, is defined as the internal speech made when reading a word, thus allowing the reader to imagine the sound of the word as it is read. This is a natural process when reading and helps to reduce cognitive load, and it helps the mind to access meanings to enable it to comprehend and remember what is read. Although some people associate subvocalization with moving one’s lips, the actual term refers primarily to the movement of muscles associated with speaking, not the literal moving of lips. Most subvocalization is undetectable (without the aid of machines) even by the person doing the subvocalizing.
The concept underscores the importance of carefully “rolling around on the tongue” the words on the page on behalf of your reader – so that you can more easily detect any word combinations that come across “clumsy” as you read. If you want to be as sure as you can that your reader will understand you and remember what you’re saying to them, you can’t afford to dismiss the fact that we all apply the internal speech tool of subvocalization when we read.
Direct response writing means speaking directly to your target audience. Doing your best to engage with them and highlight why they need what you’re offering them.
You’re validating the existence of and importance of their wants and needs, as well. After all, no one wants to believe they’re being completely selfish when they make a purchase – they want to see their purchase as necessary for a larger purpose.
That’s what benefits are about. You’re showing you understand their desires and that you have created the products and services designed precisely for them.
You value your buyer and want to earn their undivided attention. Connection is the name of the game.
But what does that really mean, to connect with your target audience?
One component is empathy. The imagined participation in the experience of another. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, as the saying goes, to attempt to see from their perspective rather than being locked into your own point of view.
However, it’s not enough to see from another’s perspective. (Even though it’s a major feat to get even a true glimpse of someone else’s vantage point!) The next step is to understand how that other person would act based on their perspective. That is, to ask yourself how they would act, given their thoughts and feelings – not how you would act given those same thoughts and feelings.
To keep the connection with your audience you must keep their perspective as best you can. That means:
Empathy with your client means connection at the deepest levels. It’s a business skill well worth your time and effort.
You might be shocked to discover one of the reasons clients discount the importance of translation quality. It’s an urban legend that has become so prevalent, even companies in the business of communication cite it as fact!
The urban legend has these variants:
What you, as a translator, need to know is that this misinformation can damage the perceived value of any language service.
In case any of your clients or prospective clients believe this urban legend (and I feel confident saying that at least some of them do), please borrow this little fact sheet to educate them on this area of language.
Here’s what to know.
Albert Mehrabian, a UCLA professor of psychology, conducted experiments and completed research in 1967. In his experiments, a listener analyzed a speaker’s general attitude toward him or her (rating it as positive, negative, or neutral). Importantly, his participants did not know each other.
Mehrabian found that when the situation was ambiguous (for instance, a speaker would glare, look disgusted, and say in an unpleasant tone, “I don’t have any problem with you”), a disproportionate influence of tone of voice and facial attitude occurred.
(It makes sense. When kind words accompany mean looks and an ugly tone of voice, we rely on those unkind looks and harsh tones to sort out a message – especially when we’re communicating with someone we don’t know.)
The professor concluded that in this particular experiment, with these exact conditions, “The combined effect of simultaneous verbal, vocal, and facial attitude is a weighted sum of their independent effects – with the coefficients of .07, .38, and .55, respectively.”
Much like the Bad Translator! final renditions, the facts of this study have been twisted and contorted over the years. First, “facial attitude” morphed to “body language.” Then, the coefficient of .07 that related “verbal” to “facial attitude” became the sole focus. Mehrabian’s work became incorrectly extrapolated as implicating that in any communication situation, the meaning of a message is carried mostly by non-verbal cues, rather than by the meaning of words. (Bad Extrapolator!)
If you think about it, we’d be up the proverbial creek if this “93% nonverbal” legend were true. Email would be just about impossible to decipher if you could only get 7% of the intended message. Phone conversations would be confusing and useless. We’d have to hear and see anyone to understand what they’re telling us. (Making your work as a translator null and void. Interpreters, you might still be okay.)
Does that seem anywhere near reasonable?
Yet the urban legend continues… and it continues to diminish the importance of the written word among those who haven’t been clued in on the truth behind the legend.
“I trust myself to make good decisions. Now, I’ll hold my breath until you prove me right.”
Whether it’s your first time or your tenth time providing services to a client, they’re thinking about the risk they’re taking with you. Sure, you may know you consistently deliver quality work on time and in budget, but you’re still a risk to your client. Hard as it might be, you ought not to take it personally. Your contact may suffer from the syndrome “Once burned, twice shy.”
Let’s say your contact, Jim, was held responsible for selecting an outside vendor for, say, printing needs. This vendor came through with flying colors on the 6-panel full-color brochures. Then they followed up with a splendid job printing event booklets. Naturally, Jim called them right away when he was assigned the task of choosing a printer for the annual conference direct mail pieces. Oops. Project returned late, requested last-minute changes not incorporated correctly, and some of the photos look blurry.
Jim’s manager is not pleased with him (even though it was clearly not Jim’s fault – he depended on what he had come to consider a dependable vendor!). Can you blame Jim for being somewhat skittish now every time he contacts his “trusted” vendors? He’s still nervous about his boss yelling at him for that printing fiasco!
So, rather than feel offended or put off when your contact double- and triple-checks that you’re still adhering to the schedule they want you to follow, try to see it from their side.
Respond promptly and politely to their repeated check-ins with you. Remember that they worry daily, to some degree, about their keeping their job and reputation intact. Keep their viewpoint in mind and you’ll end up feeling better about the situation. Your contact will appreciate your cheerful cooperation!
1. Other LSPs are prospecting, likely sending your clients *their* marketing information regularly – and clients can be fickle
2. Your contact will be more likely to pass along your communications to others in the same company
3. Your contact will be more likely to pass along your communications to others outside the company
4. You convey the idea that you’re not just waiting for work – you’re saying you appreciate the chance to work with them
5. Your name will come up first when new projects pop up
6. You look more professional – it’s good business!
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Now, allow me to explain the title “and sometimes y.” Most of human beings take comfort in categorizing any topic; it’s reassuring to know where things fit. “A place for everything and everything in its place” – that saying has been around long before we had professional organizers. In fact, The Oxford Book of Quotations says the expression is from the 1600′s! Why this predisposition for classifying and systematizing? We feel our world is more within our control when we can sort out and put items in order. We like rules.
As a language professional, you no doubt delight in the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies language presents. It’s a big part of what brings extra challenge and intrigue to your work.
You’re confident in your language skills and look forward to the oddities and peculiarities to tackle. But if you’re not in a language services field, chances are good that you’re not too fond of language curiosities. You favor rules. You remember them from grade school and cling to their simplicity. You believe these simple rules hold together your universe. You see no reason to question what you consider constitutes the basic building blocks of language. What’s a vowel? “A, e, i, o, u” and that pesky but ever-present “and sometimes y.” A number of folks would be hard-pressed to give an example of that “and sometimes y” part of the rule. After all, it’s a “sometimes” thing. How illogical and messy! Yet there it is, written in the rule, so it must be correct.
You’re invited to keep in mind the uneasiness about “nonconformist language” many of your clients try hard to avoid. Because your attitude about your language services can be very powerful in your marketing communications. This importance of attitude cuts across all fields and industries and professions. No matter what our area of expertise, we tend to inch further and further away from acknowledging that our buyers often know very little about what they’re buying from us. We get too caught up in our day-to-day work and our daily living to remember to explain our value. Then we hurt our perceived value (and perception is reality, of course).
“and sometimes y” serves as your resource for communicating your services and your value in ways your clients will truly understand.