How Positioning Increased the Value We Create for our Customers
In the fifth installment of our "If I knew then ..." blog series, Markus Seebauer writes about an important insight he gained while managing a company that specializes in technical translations.
The lesson learned: positioning is everything!
The first few years of running a translation company were strenuous. I tried to find the best translators. I tried to explain to customers how our translators have five or ten years of experience as full-time professional translators, master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, etc. I explained how we use the most sophisticated tools in the industry to support the 100% manual translations of our expert translators. I was really proud of our QA processes.
However, I always got the feeling that this was not what mattered the most to our customers. When I went to business conferences, networking meetings, or trade shows, people did not seem too concerned about translations. It was something that had to be done if needed, but when there was no concrete need, people did not want to talk about translations. Translations were seen as something operational—a necessity rather than an enabler.
I began to realize that we need to focus more on the benefits we achieve for the client, instead of explaining the benefits of the processes that are specific to our company. You see, each translation problem is a business problem. Usually, it is about liability, time-to-market, or brand reputation. When we translate technical documentation for an engineering company, the business problems are legal compliance and time-to-market, because the engineering company cannot deliver their machinery without the translated manuals in printed form. In a worst-case scenario, their products cannot be sold in a particular country due to lack of compliance.
We learned that we need to speak the language of the customer and that we need to be up-to-date regarding laws, best practices, and how our customers work internally, so our services can be integrated into their processes. There are not many companies that put in that effort or have the ability to do that. This is where specialization pays off for the client, because every industry is different.
So now we help our customers with process improvements. Direct translation costs can be a fraction of the costs in the whole workflow of a project. In the end, the total savings through faster time-to-market and more efficient processes are much larger than what could have been saved through cost reductions on the translation side.
This needs to be carefully explained to the customer, however, because the customer's perspective of cost can be very different. Customers compare prices between different agencies, because it was not explained to them properly how agencies differ and how the differences affect them. The customer cannot be blamed for this. It is in the customer’s best interest to buy for the lowest price if everything else is equal.
In the end, however, clients pay for results. They are busy. They just want someone they can trust and who can take care of everything.
Trust is very important, so relationships matter even more than before. In the digital age, wrong translations can be the reason for global brands to be ridiculed on social media. We have all seen bad translations. More importantly, we have seen that good relationships are necessary, so customers trust us enough to go through the effort of restructuring their organization.
Over the years we went from being a perceived commodity to a trusted advisor for strategic decisions. Suddenly, people higher up in the corporate hierarchy are interested to hear more about how we can help them. No matter how large an organization—ultimately, it is about an individual person trying to solve a specific problem in their organization.
I wished I had realized sooner that the translation service my company offers was not the customer’s primary interest and focused on addressing their business problems more directly. We have now built a robust team of process experts who engage engineering companies in the right conversations, identify opportunities for improvement, give our customers the tools they need, and improve the overall effectiveness of technical communication in an international context. The way we position ourselves now increases the value we create for our customers.