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The True Competition of Marketing Translators

Marketing Translators : Our True Competition and the Importance of Perceived Value

When you work as a freelance translator and you are targeting companies directly, you obviously are on the market with many other players. Competition can come from other freelancers or translation agencies, big and small. But when you work as a marketing translator, and you work with creative content, your real competition is not who you think it is.

After a few years of interactions with potential direct clients, I realized that the true (and indirect) competition of marketing translators is internal: it lies in the employees who work in Marketing and Communications departments. Why is that? Somehow marketing translation is not perceived the same way as technical, scientific, legal or medical translation. In other words, people think they can do as well as a marketing translator, while they would hire a legal/medical translator in a heartbeat if they needed one.

In small size companies, there is no dedicated translation department and the Marketing and Communications department often has to deal with the translation of a website or brochure. If some employees speak several languages, they can be tasked with the translation of marketing texts.

I have often been told over the phone or in professional tradeshows I attended that a company did not need marketing translation services because “you know, our CEO, marketing employee, etc… already speaks French” (the CEO answer is a true story and I still wonder when the director of a hotel has time to translate his or her own website). While professional translators all know that one should always translate into his or her native language, this rule is not necessarily applied in real life by real companies.

If we forget about those companies asking non-natives to translate into a foreign language, we still have to deal with a huge proportion of people who do not think it is worth it to hire a professional marketing translator instead of their own employees.

I strongly feel the perceived added value of marketing translation is lower than more “technical” translations. So what do small companies have to gain from hiring a professional marketing translator instead of asking their employees to do it for free?

  • Time: Think about it, when an employee works on a translation, he/she is not working on his/her other tasks and will likely spend more time on a translation than a professional translator would. Would you ask a marketing employee to work on the website development instead of hiring an external developer? No? So why do it when it comes to translation?
  • Quality/Credibility: Sure, an employee knows the interal lingo of a company better than an outsider but it’s not because marketing is a creative field that requires writing skills that an employee can translate well. Using a professional translator even periodically can increase overall quality of content while maintaining consistency if the translator works with the Marketing employees on creating glossaries.
  • Money: While the initial cost of a professional translator might seem like an unnecessary expense, it should be considered as an investment. When companies decide to have any type of content translated, they should think RFT: do it Right the First Time.

If we want to be able to work with direct clients, we marketing translators need to prove our added value to our prospects, not compared to other freelancers or translation agencies, but first compared to the cheapest solution of using internal resources.


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