Last September 30 and October 1 ProZ.com/TV hosted the annual International Translation Day event celebrating the translation and localization industry. One panel in particular focused on how branding can make or break a business, whether the business is an agency or an individual freelancer.
Ludmila Golovine (MasterWord Services' CEO), Samantha Reiss (Lilt’s Head of Services), Marina Ilari (Terra Translations' CEO) and Andrew Thomas (Senior Portfolio Marketer at SDL) discussed branding in a refreshing and unstructured talk moderated by ProZ.com's own Paul Urwin.
What is branding?
If you go to a dictionary, let's say, Merriam-Webster, this is the definition you get: "the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand", brand being "a public image, reputation, or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted".
But language professionals know that many times a definition can't encompass everything a word means. So...what is branding then?
For the panel of experts, branding definitely involves public image, reputation and identity, but it also involves perception: not only your own perception on your brand, but also how others perceive it. Branding for them is then finding that "sweet spot" between what you know about your brand and what others know to try to bring these two perceptions closer together to form a whole. Branding, in other words, is finding your business' true essence.
What's in a brand?
For Marina, it's the vertical market you're serving, that is, your niche. She says "if you target to everyone, then you target to no one", so it's very important to be very specific in your branding to be able to get those valuable referrals. Terra Translations, for example, found its niche in being an employee-centric company, maintaining the feel of family even as expanding, specializing in Spanish translations. MasterWord, on the other hand, specializes in serving languages with limited diffusion as well as in person interpreting services (ranking 9th in the world!), and that's what clients know them for. Ludmila agrees that narrowing your focus helps with your brand and your business.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have SDL and Lilt, who have found their identity in being bigger sized LSPs who can manage projects on a larger scale than boutique agencies instead of specializing in one service or area.
LSPs are not the only business that can benefit from branding: language professionals who have successfully branded themselves as the expert in a particular field can find the right clients and charge higher rates.
Andrew states that brand is a company's vision, and that the vision is bigger than the company itself but that it helps establish a company's mission, which is where the company does the work. Samantha believes that branding should also give a sense of belonging in a wider context, which makes it easier to think about what a company can do within their community. For Lilt, the key is having freelancers passionate about their product so they can "evangelize" and become part of their brand while serving the end client at the same time.
A word that popped up quite a lot during the talk was "authenticity". Nowadays, your brand should be about you being authentic, showing yourself as you are and doing what you love.
Building your brand
What should you keep in mind when building your brand?
- Be authentic and transparent
- Remember your audience and who you're trying to reach
- Look at your potential clients' needs and think about how you can solve their problems instead of offering services willy-nilly
- If your brand has grown stagnant, don't be afraid to rebrand and reinvent yourself. Survey clients and employees to check if their perception of your brand is aligned with yours
- Be involved with the community, network with peers and help non-profit organizations if possible. This will help you get publicity
- Keep up to date with marketing trends (you can go to events or get your hands on books, everything helps!)
- Have a persona that captures the essence of your brand. This will help you get into the right frame of mind when sending emails, posting on social media, etc.
Keeping this in mind, you can build a successful brand and attract the right clients for you.
Remember that you can watch all the recordings from the event here.