How customer research and voice of customer research can be used to get past generic claims in translation and differentiate your brand
Knowing what to say, how to say it, and who to say it to, so that you get noticed.
Reasons to use voice of customer (VOC) data to differentiate your copy & value proposition
One of the frequently-spouted maxims in the T&I industry is that “you should speak the language of your customer”.
At the same time, “professional services”, “high quality”, “connecting you with your foreign customers”, “enabling your growth”, or “hundreds of highly qualified specialized translators” are all-too-familiar, frequently-repeated claims that crop up on many industry websites.
They are not only generic and repetitive, they are also about the companies, not about their prospective clients.
Formulating a value proposition is not an easy task, especially if you need to stand out in a crowded (and highly segmented market). There is no easy hack for an LSP or a translator to magically come up with a winning value proposition and a positioning statement that would forever change their lives and make clients line up around the block.
But still …
… to begin with something more feasible than revolutionizing the translation industry (again)
… what if T&I businesses followed their own advice and tried to speak the language of their clients?
Some ideas on what would change and where to look for answers to the question: “What do my potential customers need to hear to decide to work with me?”
“Pain-killers” or “vitamins”: how leading with “hire professionals” might be backfiring
In terms of products and services, “vitamins” are a “nice-to-have”, “painkillers” are a “really need to have” (“today, to solve big pain points”, to quote an article by George Deeb).
While many translators and interpreters believe (and rightly so) that their work is crucial to saving lives, keeping the countries from the brink of conflict, or helping people in dire circumstances, this might not necessarily be the perception of the target audience.
On Quora, you can find multiple threads with various agency reps warning of dire consequences for brand image and customer satisfaction, in cases when potential clients choose to DIY their translations or use the services of a freelancer (and vice versa).
Similarly, ATA’s Translation: Getting It Right leads with the doom and gloom tactic (“There are hundreds of ways a translation project can go off track – ridiculous deadlines, misapplied machine translation, poor project management”) and urges its readership to resist the urge to DIY – and choose working with professionals instead.
As Terena Bell’s column in Multilingual shows, “only work with professionals” does not translate into sticky messaging – or persuade some decision-makers. While in theory interviewees agree that quality is important, they do not believe that the benefits of working with LSPs will outweigh the cost, hassle, or delays.
In other words, while T&I industry professionals see themselves as “pain-killers”, many of their prospective clients see them as “vitamins”.
Finding the right words to change minds: conducting customer research
As Seth Godin wrote, “You can’t change everything or everyone, but you can change the people who matter”.
This possibility of change comes with the need to choose a target audience and create a product – and messaging – specifically for that audience.
“Cheap”, “high-quality” and “quick turnaround” are widely used to reach the widest possible audience imaginable. At the same time, they are not necessarily in line with what a particular audience is looking for (and is a lazy way out of determining what it is that they actually want).
In this post, Markus Seebauer describes the way his company, Gateway Translations, changed its positioning and transformed the way translation services were perceived by its target audience:
“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.”
Possible ways to gather customer feedback and find your value proposition
Some ideas you can implement from the comfort of your office, no travel costs and conference fees incurred, to uncover the problems your clients are trying to solve (although, of course, nothing beats a real-life conversation):
- online surveys: a wide variety of types and questions based on use case are available in this Hotjar post
- ￼customer interviews: additional information about your ideal clients
- ￼non-buyer surveys (here’s a great template to use for an email survey): this Marketing Sherpa case study shows how powerful surveys of non-buyers can be, assuming you can identify them and have access to them
- researching a new target audience: Momoko Price’s framework to run paid surveys to establish messaging hierarchy and choose a winning value proposition
- Jennifer Havice’s case study on ConversionXL explaining how using Voice of Customer (VOC) can make a difference on your landing page.
- Copy Hackers’ VOC Tuesday tutorial
- WordStream post on using VOC for great landing page copy￼
I invite you to listen to your ideal and existing clients and to find ways to use the information they provide to break free of clichés and stale claims, thus making your communications more relevant to your target audience – and as a result, more persuasive.
Ekaterina Howard is a copywriter helping businesses translate their ideas into impactful copy with the power of customer research.