Anyone working in marketing knows they must sell the sizzle, not the sausage. Clients don’t buy features, they buy benefits. They don’t buy our product but what’s in it for them. So, an LSP should not promote their services as a feature, i.e. translation from Norwegian into English, but focus on the benefit the client will actually obtain through it, i.e. a target readership increase from 5 million to at least 500 million.

An individual translator or SLV may find it easy enough to list the main features of their sausage and then work on the sizzle, but as the picture gets bigger, it gets more blurred. In the translation community at large, a recurring topic in recent years has been: “Never mind the sizzle – what’s left of the sausage?” Conference themes like “Towards a Virtual Future”, “Evolution Not Revolution” and “Disruptive Innovation” reflect the fact that the industry is considering its relevance and possibly redefining its identity. What are the product and service offerings of localisation and globalisation these days? What are the features of the industry? These are big questions, and it is critical that with the threat of new entrants and substitute products to the translation market, LSPs do not lose sight of their raison d’être. We must make sure that the rivalry within the industry and the growing bargaining power of the buyers will not drive us into whittling down our product and service offering until there is nothing left of it at all.

Two years ago, in front of a conference audience, I was asked to describe – in one word – how I wanted clients to feel about working with STP. I replied: “Proud”. I would like to think that if it is possible for an LSP to create and maintain a brand so strong that it enables the company to obtain better prices, better terms, higher sales, more partners, excellent client retention and better qualified applicants, then it should be possible for the industry as a whole. After all, if we cannot brand our own industry and service well enough for our clients to understand the value and benefits, how can we expect them to trust us with their marketing messages?

The sizzle is all about branding. It goes without saying that a good brand without a good product is a waste of money and marketing effort. Our brand must always be about who we are and how we carry ourselves. Richard Brooks from K-International sums this up beautifully in his great presentation on the dynamics of running a growing company: “To improve the sizzle, you must improve the sausage.” This applies to our industry, too.

Icebreaker, Icebreaker May 2014, Translation industry