Market research is not just for the big corporations. Translators, as business owners, need to find out whom they are competing against. Translators, as any other big or small business, need to learn about the external factors that affect their value proposition in the market. It is very useful to take a view of the translation industry to see what your competitors are doing. When we learn in what ways we are similar to and different from others that are offering the same services as ours, we can use this information to enhance our value proposition for competitive advantage in the market place.

However, we always wonder where to find out about our competitors and learn not just how much they charge, what tools they use, who their target market is, what credentials they have, but also what they are NOT doing so we can leverage from those gaps. See yourself more than a translator and more as a “manager” of your business. Become very active at collecting, storing and using information for competitive advantage. Having knowledge of your competition is part of your “marketing intelligence” so you can reduce uncertainty.

By conducting competitive research, you will be able to:

  • Discover what your competitive advantage is, that is, the reason why your clients want to do business with you instead of your competition. When you can identify your competitive advantage, you will be able to communicate it effectively to attract potential clients.
  • Analyze the current market situation and the offers of your competitors. This presents you with the opportunity to explore innovative ways to make improvements to your product.
  • Find certain types of clients with unmet needs. For example, you may be able to identify niche markets that no other translator or translation agency is targeting.
  • Learn more about your market. If you look at the actions of your competitors, you will learn what others are doing and what strategy is being used. For instance if there is a translator offering lower prices than yours, what is being delivered for those rates?
  • Determine if your market is saturated with competent competitors. With this knowledge you can avoid the costly mistake of starting a translation business without sufficient demand or targeting a market that is already highly competitive and can instead redirect your efforts towards other more profitable markets where your services are in demand.

What are your goals?

Before you embark on this task, the very first thing you need to do is take a look at your goals. Where do you want your translation business be in five years from now? Do you want to grow and transition into a translation agency or you want to continue working independently? Do you want to compete on price or you want to focus on a niche market or differentiate yourself by creating a very strong personal brand. By defining your business goals, you will be able to identify “threats” and grow opportunities. For example, if you specialize in English into Spanish financial translation, you would not want to compete in the “English into Spanish financial translation” but rather in “helping financial institutions to communicate effectively with their Spanish-speaking audiences.”

Once you have defined your business goals, you need to capture all the information in a document or worksheet. Use this document to compare and contrast your translation business and to find ways to differentiate and create more value to your clients.

What information do you need?

When conducting your research, find out and analyze the following about your competitors:

  • What are your competitors offering at this time?
  • To whom are services being offered?
  • How are your competitors selling these products/services?
  • How are your competitors’ clients getting those products/services?
  • What are your competitors’ clients saying about those products/services?
  • How much do your competitors charge (per word, per page, per character, per source or target language, per project, etc.)?
  • What methodologies, translation tools, processes, quality control procedures, etc. do your competitors use?
  • What are their professional credentials?
  • What are their value propositions?
  • How do they market their services?
  • How do they handle requests for information? What questions do they ask and what do they perceive as important to their clients according to how they promote their translation business?
  • What are your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are their customer service approaches?

Where to get information about your competitors?

Google. Today, if you don’t have an online identity, it would be very difficult to be recognized as a professional. Those translators that are continuously looking to enhance their service offering are taking action to develop a strong reputation online. Google your competitors and see what comes up about them. Try to narrow your search by language pair, geographical location, niche markets, etc. See how they are promoting themselves, what organizations they belong to, what niche markets they are targeting. Try to gather as much information as you deem relevant to your translation business and goals. Visit their websites, blogs, social media profiles in LinkedIn or Xing. If you find a competitor you would like to “watch”, create a Google Alert so you get current information about the activities of this particular competitor.

Social media profiles. You can get a great deal of information about your competitors by following them in their social media profiles or subscribing to their feed service. You’ll receive updates about what your competitors are doing to promote their translation business as well as how they are communicating their value.

Mystery shopping. If you are brave enough, you can talk directly to your competitors – or ask a friend or a family member to do it – and request a brochure or sample rates, or even purchase one of their services to learn about their business practices. Draft a script with the information you would like to know about your competitor beforehand. See what aspects of their translation service or sales process are better or worse than yours.

Ego searching. This technique consists of using free online tools to monitor blogs and news portals by using keywords that represent a brand, product, service, or specific name. Ego searching allows you to stay abreast of what your competitors are doing. In the following link you’ll find various free ego searching feeding that you can subscribe to:

Other sources of information.

  • Advertising and marketing publications
  • Business publications
  • Translation and localization publications or associations

Remember that you are not the only source on the market. There are many more translators and translation companies offering the same services that you do. Today most translators and translation businesses are basically saying the same thing. Find out what your competitors are doing and how and to whom they are promoting their services so you can become more competitive and avoid being surprised by their actions and left behind.

“In a time of turbulence and change, it is more true than ever that knowledge is power.”

John F. Kennedy