Marketing Strategy for Translation Companies – Lion People Global
The ancient Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu wrote:
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
Marketing is essential for translation companies that want to grow. But without a clear strategy, it is difficult to know where to direct your resources.
Let’s take a closer look at the importance of marketing strategy for translation companies and how you can formulate the right one.
What is strategy?
The word strategy has military origins. It came into English from the early 19th-century French word stratégie, which means ‘the art of a general’. The French got it from Ancient Greek.
Definitions of its modern usage vary. In general, strategy is often defined as a plan of action aimed at short to long-term or broad goals.
Strategies are often made up of strategic goals – that is, smaller goals that contribute to the larger overall strategy. There is no magic number of strategic goals that need to be set. Like the overall strategy itself, they can be developed or changed.
Strategies can be complex, simple or even paradoxical. There is a famous Roman quote that reads: “If you want peace, prepare for war” (Si vis pacem, para bellum).
They also don’t have to be something written in black and white. Military historian Jeremy Black explains:
“Goals, methods and outcomes all play a role in definitions of strategy… but so also do habit, inclination, institutional practice and personal preference.”
What are the differences between strategies and plans?
The differences between strategies and plans are usually their specificity, time range, and flexibility.
In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably. But when examined closer, the consensus appears to be that plans are often more specific, high-level and less flexible than strategies.
Put another way: plans are clear-cut instructions for achieving specific goals, whereas strategies are guidance for achieving broader objectives.
What is the difference between strategy and tactics?
Tactics are more like plans in the sense that they are clearer and simpler than strategies. But they are unlike plans in that they are usually short-term.
Tactics also form a part of strategies.
You might, for example, have the strategy of ‘using social media to gain more visibility’ and use the tactic of ‘using paid Facebook ads’ to help achieve it.
What is marketing strategy for translation companies?
Translation marketing strategy is any strategy aimed at guiding the marketing activities of a translation agency or freelancer.
It should provide a framework, vision, principle(/s) for translation marketing activities that promote and converts potential customers (or builds on relationships with pre-existing customers).
The level of detail in a translation marketing strategy can vary.
For example, ‘promote ourselves as a high-quality translation agency’ and ‘gain about 10% more French into English legal translation customers in the first quarter of this year’ are both potential strategies.
Ideally, the marketing strategies translation companies deploy should take into account what direct competitors are doing as well as broader translation industry trends.
Of course, how much these factors can be included depends on budget or other constraints (such as internal marketing resources).
What are the benefits of a marketing strategy for translation companies?
Yogi Berra famously said: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
Marketing strategies are useful in every industry because of they provide a clear framework to focus your activities on. Without this, it’s difficult to measure your progress (or lack thereof).
Marketing teams also benefit from strategies. Having a common, clearly defined goal gives their work more meaning and enables feedback. Without meaning and feedback, they can be less incentivised.
Marketing strategies also help you figure out what doesn’t work. Some ideas might sound on paper or in the boardroom but not come to fruition despite your efforts.
5 marketing strategies for translation companies
At Lion People, we regularly consult translation companies on strategy and tactics.
Below is our list (given in no particular order) of five potential strategies for translation companies. This isn’t an exhaustive list but it gives a good introduction to the kind of marketing strategies we have seen bring results.
Usually, you should adopt a blend of more than one of these elements for your overall strategy. Finding the right blend depends on your competitors, resources, and, of course, objectives.
1. Take over organic results with search engine optimisation (SEO)
Search engine optimisation (SEO) used to be a lot like Stephen Hawkins’ A Brief History of Time: widely known but not widely understood.
Nowadays, the general level of awareness and understanding is growing – but the field has also grown and evolved a lot, too.
Essentially, SEO is all about getting your website and its pages (your homepage, service pages, and blogs) to the top of Google’s rankings. Once there, they will bring more website traffic.
Then, a portion of that traffic will convert into leads. Finally, a portion of those leads will become into customers…
A comprehensive SEO strategy should cover the main pillars of SEO:
1. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is everything around making sure your website works well and can be crawled and indexed by search engines.
The tasks associated with it can be as simple as changing meta titles, fixing broken links and resizing images.
Or they can be more complex: like adding the correct schema to your pages, optimizing your website’s code for speed.
generally speaking, most translation companies with working websites should crawl their websites with specialist SEO software at least once a month and make any fixes that come up.
Besides this, they should monitor their website’s health on the same software and/or Google Search Console (which handily sends notifications when there is an indexing issue).
2. On-page SEO
On-page SEO involves optimizing your websites pages – both service pages and blogs – for the maximum SEO impact.
This can mean things like adding headers and moving calls-to-action (CTAs). Or it can mean simply redesigning your page to keep people on-page for longer (with better images or copywriting, for example).
Many translation company’s websites can be improved with some very simple on-page SEO changes!
3. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO mainly everything you do for your website’s SEO that doesn’t involve you changing anything on your domain itself.
SEO strategy is multifaceted
In short, this mainly means everything to do with backlinks. This begins with backlink outreach or by creating linkable content (such as infographics and statistic-based reports). But it also includes things such as planning and monitoring the anchor text you get backlinks with.
SEO strategy itself has a number of different possibilities. You could focus on building content or links, or both, for example. Or you could write content that focuses on building topical authority broadly or in one particular area of your niche.
Either way, if done correctly, SEO itself is a great strategy to build long-term visibility and gain more qualified leads.
SEO strategy for translation companies
SEO for translation adds an extra layer of complexity to SEO.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, There is more to international SEO than hreflang tags and translation plug-ins!
Different languages and regions might also have different search volumes and even search engines. (Russia uses Yandex and China uses Baidu, for example).
A complete SEO strategy for one or more other languages will require separate keyword research, careful selection of precisely what articles are translated and how, as well as technical issues around hreflang tags.
2. Focus on your brand’s distinctiveness
Like companies everywhere, many translation companies like to focus on what differentiates them from their competitors.
Marketing scientist Byron Sharp argues that this is a mistake:
“Rather than striving for meaningful, perceived differentiation, marketers should seek meaningless distinctiveness.”
This is because the data shows that most consumers don’t remember much about brands. They often simply choose brands that have the most mental availability (i.e., appear to them the most often – another reason why PPC and SEO are so important!).
Your translation company has a brand, whether you realise it or not. Any assets that distinguish it from other companies form part of that brand.
The first, most distinct asset you have is your company name. The more memorable and different from your competitors, the more likely future customers will be able to recall it when they need your services.
Visual imagery is also important. If all of your translation competitors have blue-themed dictionary-themed logos, clients who see your red-themed pen-themed logo would more easily remember your brand later on.
If you already have an established brand with regular repeat customers, dramatic re-brands aren’t recommended. It could confuse and lose you customers.
But for translation companies in the early stages of their branding, or established brands looking to update some aspects of their existing brand, focusing on distinctiveness is a great strategy for bringing in customers long-term.
3. Master email marketing
The average person checks their emails many times a day, especially at work.
This means the email inbox is a good place to find them. The only issue is, they also receive many other emails, too (up to 171 a day according to one study).
Doing email marketing well will help you compete with your competitors in your target audiences’ inboxes, refreshing their memory structures and keeping your brand salient.
The first, important step of email marketing is having a high-quality and growing subscriber list. Be sure to have a clear, easy-to-use (few fields!) newsletter sign-up in the right locations on your website (your home page, your blogs).
After this, focusing on headlines, design and, of course, informative and entertaining content. This will keep your brand front of mind for customers and potential customers.
4. Create videos (& YouTube SEO)
Online video consumption is growing. 1 billion hours of YouTube content is watched globally every 24 hours.
If you have the right resources, video could be a great way to become visible in what is now the world’s second most popular search engine after Google: YouTube.
It even has its own field of SEO, which is very different to SEO on Google.
On YouTube, metrics such as drop-off time and posting frequency matter a lot. This latter metric matters because the platform doesn’t want to get its users hooked on a channel that will then disappoint them by not posting consistently.
Translation companies and freelancers increasingly have their own channels. Freelanceverse (Adrian Probst) has nearly 17K subscribers.
5. Invest in pay-per-click (PPC) ads
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads are targeted ads which appear on search engines or social media platforms (Google and LinkedIn are popular channels for translation companies). However, there are others that have produced good results, and might attract leads for new prospects.
It must be noted that it can be expensive. For marketers without experience or training in it, PPC could essentially waste your budget very quickly.
For your first PPC campaign, we recommend hiring an experienced professional to manage or give you consultation. They should be able to help you identify the best platforms and strategies to implement paid advertising. There are many options.
When it’s done as a campaign, PPC usually drives traffic to a ‘landing page’ (a purpose-built webpage set up to convert leads from a specific ad or series of ads). This helps better convert and track specific ads.
Other times, PPC ads can be used to simply drive traffic to your homepage, specific service pages or blogs, or accounts on other platforms.
On search engines (i.e., Google or Microsoft Bing), PPC ads target specific ‘keywords’. These are search terms (single words, phrases or even questions) that users have searched that are relevant to your business.
Before you select these terms, you first need to determine what their search volume and cost is. You can use free tools like Google Ads to do this. You then pre-set a budget that will spread out the cost of ads over your preferred time period.
Other platforms, like LinkedIn, can help you target demographics, regions or company positions more specifically.
When done well, PPC advertising can have a great ROI and bring more or less immediate results.
It is often seen as either a short-term strategy to use whilst you are building up organic traffic or a complementary strategy to use alongside SEO.
Marketing strategy is important in all industries, including translation.
Marketing strategies can come in different forms. They can be flexible and even changeable.
Once you have defined your overall goal, smaller strategic goals can help you focus your activities along the way.
Having a clear strategy helps your team stay on the same page and remain motivated.
SEO, branding, email marketing, video and PPC are all potentially fruitful strategies for translation companies. A combination of these or even a totally different approach could work for your company.
But there is no generic once-size-fits-all roadmap for all companies. Your goals and internal resources will play a big role in how you formulate a personalised strategy.