By Steven Goldstein and Luis Salvago-Toledo
There are many ways to define the term marketing. But perhaps the simplest is the way presenter Jonathan Wells described it at NCTA’s Marketing Workshop for Translators and Interpreters: marketing is connecting buyers and sellers. Some 25 NCTA members attended this well-organized seminar on March 10th in San Francisco in order to find out how to identify those buyers and then sell their services to them. In his presentation, Jonathan, a freelance marketing and technology consultant with Lumera Corporation, covered the basics of marketing principles and their general applicability to T&I businesses.
In a broader sense, marketing involves many variables in order to make that buyer-seller connection. In addition to the critical elements of price, quality, and timeliness, the discipline also incorporates seemingly peripheral issues such as the way you answer the phone, the look of your stationery, your appearance, and even your demeanor.
Dispelling some common myths about marketing—that it’s advertising (advertising is only one component of marketing), complicated, or the same for everyone—Jonathan explained the differences between product-focused marketing (essentially selling what you have) and market-focused marketing (selling what your customers want). In both cases, you need to identify your target customers, understand their needs and wants—including price, accuracy, turnaround time, project management, and support of subcontractors—and tailor your services to them.
A plan for Getting Work
Jonathan addressed several documents that related to T&I businesses, among them the marketing plan and the resumé. The basics of a traditional marketing plan were discussed, but Jonathan was skeptical of the document’s utility in the T&I realm. He showed great enthusiasm for the resumé, however, whose role is not so much to secure the job, but rather to secure the interview.
In addition to these marketing vehicles, Jonathan also touched on a variety of other means of communication that could support the translator’s or interpreter’s outreach efforts, including websites, email, networking, and contributions to publications, the latter having particular benefit. (Potential contributors to Translorial, take note!).
All in all, the seminar was well presented and well organized. Attendees were mostly favorable. Some, however, felt that the material was not specific enough in addressing the realities of (mostly) freelance translators and interpreters, and that the presenter—although he has connections to the field—did not sufficiently rise above the liability of his not being a translator himself, and thus made general remarks that were only vaguely applicable to member needs. Most attendees, though, communicated an appreciation for the presenter’s obvious competence in his field, and his pleasant demeanor in delivering a thoughtful presentation. SG3
- “Marketing for Small Business: An Overview” http://www.sba.gov/library/pubs/mt-2.pdf’ 
Getting Started in Translation
Timing is everything. Such was the thought that occupied my mind throughout this workshop. That is, I couldn’t help but envy the new NCTA members who attended and got a wealth of information even before learning their way to the restroom. Not that the rest of us didn’t get the same golden package, but the new members were even luckier. Jacki Noh, Michael Schubert, and Karl Kaussen led the session.
Jacki Noh talked of the different aspects of interpreting: modes (consecutive, simultaneous, and sight translation) and types (community and conference). She stressed that since certification is mandatory for many interpreting assignments, it’s important that interpreters become certified.
Michael Schubert presented his view of the accomplished translator as the possessor of three skills—language, computer, and business—and suggested that most candidates who fail the ATA certification exam do so because they take it prematurely.
Karl Kaussen offered his perspective from the hiring side of the equation. Although professionals from abroad accept rates lower than what their U.S. counterparts usually charge, there is a downside to that; namely, their less-than-ideal command of the English language. Therefore, a solid competence in both source and target languages is an advantage that the professional can capitalize on. Alternatively, an able translator charging 10-12 cents a word may consider offering editing services (3 cents a word).
The workshop closed with an active question-and-answer session. As a final thought, a suggestion for the NCTA board of directors: including a printed copy of the materials developed by the presenters of this workshop in the New NCTA Member Package might be a helpful way for our young translators to kick-start their budding careers! LST3