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1 What is Marketing?

n. marketing

    1. The act or process of buying and selling in a market.
    2. The commercial functions involved in transferring goods from producer to consumer.

The American Heritage® Dictionary
of the English Language,
Fourth Edition

Greg Churilov  photo1.1 What Marketing is NOT

Marketing is not advertising. Advertising is but ONE weapon of marketing.

Marketing is not Entertainment. Marketing pieces should not be overly humorous or clever – you want them to remember your offer, not your cleverness.

Marketing is not Show Business. In Show Business, the attention is on the entertainer, the audience is somewhere in the dark. In marketing, one is interested in the audience, the potential client. They have the spotlight.

Marketing is not complicated. It consists of communicating the right thing to the right people at the right time the right way so they get the right message. There are ways to find out how to do it right, and whether you’re doing it right.

Guerrilla Marketing photo1.2 Marketing is all around you

Marketing can be evidenced in every action your company does. The way your receptionist answers the phone, the way your lobby looks, your stationery, your business card, the clothing you choose for a sales meeting, the format you use for presenting an estimate to a potential client are all part of your marketing (or lack thereof!) Everyday you influence the perception people have of your company, your services and your abilities by many messages you send – some of them intentional, some unintentional.

2 Why do Marketing?

2.1 Marketing should have a goal

We’ve all seen the seedless “fruit” or marketing without a clear result in mind. How many times have we watched a TV spot, only to think “That was a great commercial! What was it for?”

Marketing should have a goal. That goal should be known, and stated simply as part of your marketing plan. Are you aiming at an increase in sales of 25% over last year’s? Are you hoping to expand into a new language pair or a new industry? This goal cannot be something vague, as in “get more bids.” It needs to be tangible and measurable. (More on measuring results later.)

3 Have a plan

3.1 Elements of a Marketing Plan

A marketing effort is wasted without a stated Marketing Plan. This plan does not have to be very complicated, but it must include some essential elements:

Main Objective, clearly stated in measurable form.

Product or Service: What makes your service different, better, desirable?

Benefits: Research what tangible benefits you can bring your client, especially benefits not offered elsewhere

Market: Plans do not occur in a vacuum. You should understand the business environment in order to present an offer that is germane to your prospects’ needs, for a price that is viable and fair, and for a product or service that is genuinely needed in the market.

Industry: By being finely attuned to what is going on within your industry (and the client’s industry!) you will be able to spot opportunities, potential vulnerabilities, and learn from others’ successes and failures.

Competition: Do not be taken by surprise – learn from market trends and from your competitors’ open content what strategies may influence yours. An old adage says “keep your friends near but your enemies closer.” While your business competitors are not your enemies (in fact one should strive for a collaborative tone among competitors for mutual growth) the principle still applies. Know what others are doing, it may influence your own plans.

Customers: Learn from your customers what drives them – the same concerns, anxieties, preferences, prejudices and notions will be likely found in your prospects.

Prospects: Learn where the prospect pools are by research. Learn from prospects what is needed and wanted. Establish a dialog with your prospects, don’t just engage them “for the kill” – build a friendly communication line where sharing of information becomes routine.

Media, Internet: this is a two-way communication. You can take advantage of these as a user, to learn what your industry is doing, and as a marketer, to find ways to communicate your message.

Technology: Prepare a strategy on how to harness technology to (a) do your marketing and (b) offer services TO be marketed.

Tracking: Your marketing plan must include a benchmark to start from, and statistics by which you will measure the plan’s success. If you’re driving people to your website, ensure that the technology tools to track visitors and their source are in place. If you’re routing calls to your salespeople, ensure they take the time to ask what drove the new business in.

Track your marketing! Tell your employees, anyone answering the phone, your sales force, always ask “how did you hear about us?” – 80% of your marketing is going to waste. You need to find out what is the 20% that is working.

3.2 Writing a Marketing Plan

Start by defining the main purpose of your marketing plan (to get requests for quotes, or to increase sales by 25%, etc). Once you have this purpose defined, do an inventory of the benefits or competitive advantages you will stress to achieve that purpose. Next, describe your target audience. The more you know about your target audience, the more efficiently you will be able to communicate to them.

List various marketing weapons you may use in your plan. In the book “Guerrilla Marketing Weapons”, Jay Conrad Levinson describes 100 such weapons.

One example of a little-used marketing weapon is “Marketing on Phone Hold.” Suppose a customer calls and is being transferred to a project manager. Instead of having him spend two minutes listening to elevator music, why not expose him to a recorded message from your Agency’s president describing new services, enlightening the client about the challenges of globalization, explaining concepts like “software localization” or “translation memory”, etc.

What is your niche in the marketplace?
Your marketing plan should have this well defined, and be planned with this niche in mind. Are you the only company in your State that provides Certified Translations into and from Russian? Are you specialized in bio-tech translations? Structure your marketing plan to secure that niche.

What is your budget?
Allocate a specific budget to your plan and distribute your budget along various marketing tools. This is essential! Lack of a budget can lead to over-spending – this will hamper your growth and possibly waste your sales efforts. Lack of a budget can also lead to under-spending. This can also limit your growth. Either way, lack of a budget leads to constant anxiety about money spent on marketing and a constant feeling of unease. Marketing is a worthy investment. Commit to a budget and stick to it.

Commit yourself to your marketing plan. It is an investment that will reap results for the long haul. Many companies abandon their plan for lack of immediate results, cutting their investment short.

The flipside of the Coin: Adaptability and Change
Be willing to change your plan. Ideally your plan will stay with you forever, but competitive shifts, technology changes or industry shifts may change that.

Dare to dream – marketing plans should aim at the stars to reach the top of the tree. Besides, you may reach the stars too.

Your Identity
Marketing should speak of your identity. Make your identity fit one single statement. Make sure it is your true identity, not some phony slogan. If you’re a legal translations company based in Canada founded on Christian principles, make that known and make it part of your marketing plan. Ben & Jerry icecream is a primary example of how the founders’ identity fuels consumer loyalty. Make yourself known. Let that which you are shine through. People want to see who they do business with, and once they can identify you from someone else – provided the quality meets their standards – they will be loyal to you. If you don’t make your identity known, you remain a face in the crowd, and customer loyalty will suffer no matter what your level of quality.

Try never to change your identity. New marketing plans build on old marketing plans, but changing your identity confuses the prospect, gives an image of no direction, and nulls the value of both the old identity and the new one. An example of this was – they spent a fortune on goodwill advertising (remember the peach?), and then they changed their name to WebVan. It only confused the consumer base. Today, WebVan is road kill in the information superhighway.

Your competitive advantage
Ascertain that the benefits you’re touting are actual benefits to prospects. Simply bragging about some quality or achievement isn’t enough. To gain a competitive advantage, you must have something they want, and preferably something they cannot get elsewhere (or cannot get elsewhere as affordably, or as efficiently, or as fast.)

Turn that one benefit into an easy to remember statement, and use it in all your advertising, consistently.

Some examples of this:
“Nissan – Driven”
“Coke is it”
“Do you Yahoo?”

This can even be a matter of self-defense. Long ago I heard the story of a barber in a small town by the beach, who charged $10 a haircut. He had a small sign on his window, “Haircuts - $10.” A large chain started opening stores all around him, and these stores charged $6 a haircut. His business dropped dramatically. He naturally was very worried. What did he do? He placed a big sign on top of his store stating “WE FIX $6 HAIRCUTS.” Business went back to normal, and then some.

Take many forms of payment. Take all types of credit cards. Become familiar with Paypal if you aren’t. Make it easy for the client to do business with you. Sometimes a client will pick convenience over cost. Cost being the same, the client will always be driven to the most convenient approach.

In your day-to-day business there are many amazing aspects of the way you do the voodoo that you do. Your marketing must contain an element of the AMAZING quality of your work. You have two people whose only job is Quality Control? Amazing! You use four types of CAT, and are proficient in all of them? AMAZING! Your FTP site runs on the fastest broadband available, making file transfer a cinch? AMAZING!

What trade shows should you attend? What trade shows are you not attending?
Call your customers and ask them which trade shows THEY go to. Want Kodak for a client? How about the Photographers’ Marketing Association convention in Chicago? Want a publisher as a client? Drop in on the Frankfurt Book Fair. Don’t exhibit, go as an attendee, with your cards and your brochures.

There are 27,000 Associations in the United States alone – check your local library for a copy of the Gale Encyclopedia of Associations. (Ref. 1)

Announce to your prospects in advance that you will be attending or exhibiting at a show. Use promotions to ensure you see them there.


  • Pack your brochures with valuable details about your business. Remember that it would cost you a lot more to communicate the same with mass media.
  • Respect your prospect’s willingness to give you their attention by providing hard data. They’re doing their research, allowing you a rare opportunity to tell them about your services. Don’t clutter the brochure with sales jargon, give them facts.
  • Try to make a sale at the end of your brochure.
  • Make your piece visually stimulating, but DO NOT OVERPOWER the message.
  • Organize the data on a reverse pyramid (do not bury the lead!)
  • Make it timeless – so that you can reuse your brochure in three years.

3.3 Give and You Shall Receive

Help your community
People prefer to do business with friends rather than strangers. Help your community. Become a known “source of wisdom” in your circles.

Who is your community? A community can be geographic, digital, professional, etc. It can be your local Rotary Club, it could be your town, it could be an online board or even the ATA and its members.

Important note: When you help your community, do it with sincerity. Of course you can assume that name recognition and good will are to follow – but don’t be tacky about it. Only get involved in community projects you honestly care about, and care about them. Be genuine.

Help your clients
Another aspect of this is your interaction with prospects and clients, personally, on the phone, on your website, etc. Can people get some VALUE for free just by being in contact with you?

When making an offer, include a freebie for people who respond within 30 days.
Offer a free report on your website, in exchange for their email address.
Offer free consultations of a prospect’s globalization needs

Someone I know sent a mass-mailing. One of the responses was an email from someone asking a question about a translation in progress for a major pharmaceutical corporation. The translation presented was incorrect, and the translator replied immediately, in a polite tone, offering a better translation to the one sentence, with references to back up his choice. Turned out that the question had been sent by the manager at that corporation’s languages division. Taking the two minutes to reply attentively and to help landed the translator that corporation’s account on one language-pair. It might lead to other language-pairs, who knows.

Give and you shall receive. Be willing to help. Position yourself as a source of advice and help to the community/ies which you serve.

3.4 Be a Genuine Human Voice

In “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” by Levine, Locke, Searls, Winberger (Ref. 2), they write:

  • “The community of discourse is the market”
  • “Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.”

The authors are talking about the customer’s need to talk to someone, a real person, not a company; the need for genuine human voices.

As I write this, I receive a reply from an information-technology company in response to a complaint, about a gadget I purchased in the hopes of using IP Telephony.
The response comes from “Customer Care”. I do not know who “Customer Care” is. Presumably the only daughter of Mr. Take Care and Mrs. Tender Loving Care. This is not a person. I am not communicating genuinely, and neither are they. And I know it, and I feel it.

4 You and the Client

4.1 Getting through the door

Do you know where the door is?
This may seem like a silly question, but the truth is that quite often the real door, the road to your client, is not the obvious one.

A large corporation had a maze of departments, several “Corporate Communications” teams, a “Global team”, etc. None of these were reachable. The account exec learned that the company had a strong diversity policy, encouraging “supplier diversity.” By being relentless in pursuing his contact point in the office of supplier diversity, he got this person to refer him to a Communications team just as they were launching a globalization initiative.

One approach would be to build a bond with a company employee (not the decision maker but some assistant) take them to lunch on you, and encourage them to explain their company structure to you. They’ll be happy to vent about office politics, you will get an education. I’m not talking about divulging secrets, you understand, but to give you an insight into the internal reality of the company you might never have otherwise. Who makes decisions on globalization? What is their cultural, professional and education background? How well positioned are they in the company? Is anyone championing globalization? Is anyone discouraging it?

When is the door?
Rather than asking “where is the door,” sometimes a more appropriate question is “when is the door?” Most large corporations place large projects such as globalization on hold for a long time, then act suddenly and without warning when there is an internal budget or personnel shift. When that time comes, they refer to their vendor file. Are you on that file, or are you still waiting to get in?

One good way to get in that file is to develop the relationship with the potential client long before they make their globalization decisions. Encourage their communications team to create a globalization references folder “just in case”, and periodically send them news clips or web articles about globalization, stapled to a letter with your letterhead. (Remember, emails are often deleted. Mailings and brochures are filed.) Offer to give them a free seminar on the pre-requisites for globalization “for future reference.” When the time comes to act, guess who they will be calling first.

Getting in with small projects
Many large companies have a difficult, laborious process for bringing vendors aboard. This makes the middle-manager prone to pick an existing vendor over a possibly better or more affordable vendor simply to avoid the hassle of the vendor-activation process.
One good way to overcome this is to offer to do a small project for a very low fee, as an “introductory offer.” On this, make them an offer they can’t refuse. Lose money if you have to. (Make extremely clear that this is a relationship-building effort on your part and that you will not be able to offer this on a regular basis!) This will offer the incentive to get you into their vendor system, and allow you to be “already in” when requests for proposal on larger projects are sent out.

4.2 Care about your customer

Jay Conrad Levinson writes that it costs six times more to sell something to a new customer than to an existing one. (Ref. 3)

Become involved with your clients. What’s involved? Caring about their success.
How many of you, in returning a translation for a Press Release or a marketing piece, attach also some useful advice about the target audience your client is courting?

Suppose the client’s target audience is in a country where handshaking is not a habitual greeting, and their website includes the phrase “we would welcome the opportunity to shake your hand” – how many of you would translate the phrase literally, how many of you would offer an alternative that accounted for localization, and how many of you would include a brief article attached to the translation, offering insight into that specific market for the client?

Offer extra value. Help the client achieve their true business goals of globalization, not just the translation of the piece at hand.

Phillip Kotler in “Kellog on Marketing” says “Industrial-Age marketing is rooted in the metaphor of marketing as hunting. The marketplace is seen as a jungle.” (Ref. 4)

None of us likes being manipulated, or treated as if we’re stupid, so let’s not do it to our prospects. In response to Kotler, I propose marketing as schoolyard during recess. You come up to some other kid and say, “wanna play tag?” And you both go running and have fun. Why did you choose that kid? Because you ascertained from your research that he was bored – i.e. in need of your services (playing tag). Why did you offer yourself as a playmate? Because you considered yourself qualified. And you both had a good time, and maybe other kids joined in.

We must remember once again the joy of playing, the pleasure in sharing, the freedom of trusting each other.

4.3 Who is your customer, really?

You might think that your client is LeHuge Corporation. In actual fact, in LeHuge Corporation you may have three clients or more.

One client, the immediate one, is the middle-management employee who leads the globalization effort. What value do you bring to him/her personally? The ability to look good in front of their boss, job security, the opportunity to look like an expert on languages in an internal meeting.

Another client is the Vice President or Director who is championing the project. (Incidentally, if you do not have a direct line to this person your position is tenuous at best.) What value do you bring to this client? Perhaps it’s the confidence that one of their goals for that year is tended to. Possibly it is simply piece of mind that an expert source has been found. Learn what that value is through dialog and good communication skills, mark this information down, and make a determined effort to reinforce this value.

Lastly, your client is that company’s audience. They will of course give feedback on the globalized materials, feedback you often don’t have access to. Whenever possible, learn who these hidden stakeholders are, get their contact information and ask for their input early in the game. You will gain allies, possibly get new business, and preempt the negative critique that may stem simply from not being “invited to play” earlier on.

4.4 La Donna e Móbile: When the Customer Changes

One Agency had a large account with a corporation, and their primary contact was a project manager whose many responsibilities included globalization. Since this project manager had many other responsibilities, she did not consider her sole value to the company to stem from translations. Thus her attitude toward the translation agency was carefree and benign. When that project manager was transferred, the new contact became a person whose professional background and aspirations relied heavily on his language skills. This new manager strained the relationship by critiquing ever minute detail in every translation, much to the consternation of the vendor. What was missed? A proper relationship with the new project manager had never been established, and his own priorities - which differed from his predecessor’s - were not taken into account.

Watch for personnel changes, budget changes, strategy changes within your client’s company. By understanding these you can adjust your approach and maintain a long-term client-vendor relationship.

5 About your Web Presence

5.1 It is a web – weave it!

Think of your website as a physical place that your client or prospect will wander into. Can they easily find what they’re looking for, or is he confused by multiple doors and hallways?

Never, but never show a page “under construction”. If it’s under construction, why allow a prospect to walk in there? Keep the link off the site until the section is fully developed, at least in its first evolution.

Link! It is called the Web for a reason. If you don’t weave your site into the Web, it’s not a WEBsite, it’s just some documents in a computer somewhere.

One approach to this is Search Engine marketing, which is a highly specialized game (a great vendor for Search Engine marketing is But another very successful approach is cross-linking with businesses that do not directly compete with you. Promote the local printer on your site in exchange for a link on theirs. Promote a Software manufacturer and ask them to place a link on their site listing you as one of their users. Build networks of links. It’s very cost-effective and yields surprising fruit.

5.2 Different strokes for different folks

Do not make everyone come in through the same page. Do a search for Phoenix University and you will see a dozen sites, all promoting Phoenix University in different ways for different demographics. has as its home page a gateway that immediately splits into three entrances: Students, Teachers and Alumni. Once you select one entry point, a window asks you if you’d like this one to be your entrance point to the site on a regular basis.

Build one site for clients, with clients in mind. Build another site for prospects, with prospects in mind. Build another site or section for your vendors and freelancers.
You can even have one site dedicated to software localization, one strictly about subtitling for the film industry, one for technical translations, etc. You can brand them all with the same logo and color-scheme, but your prospects will read information that is directly germane to their needs, unhampered by peripheral information which would only distract from the message.

6 Marketing tips for freelancers

6.1 Freelancer Marketing Dos and Don’ts

  • Do include your contact information as part of your signature on every email. If an agency can’t get a hold of you easily, they’ll get a hold of someone else.
  • Do train everyone in the house the proper way to answer the phone, and what to do when a client calls.
  • Do get a cell phone. Don’t miss a 30,000-word assignment because you were out buying groceries.
  • Do proof your CV many times to ensure absolutely no typos are made. A recent resume we received included the statement “Attention to detial”.
  • Do not include “ñ” or “é” or other such characters in the document name of your CV. It may not save correctly, and cause your resume to be forgotten or misfiled.
  • Do not name your resume “CV_English.” Ensure it includes your full name and last name.
  • Do not list work that is not relevant to your profession or the work you seek. The Agency does not care that in 1987 you worked as a busboy at “Felipe’s Tavern.”
  • Do mention items that, while not linearly related, might still get you an edge. If you’ve lived in another country, mention it. If you’ve traveled extensively, mention it. If your hobby is crossword puzzles, mention it. (Crossword puzzle solvers make good proofreaders.)
  • If you’re sending your resume to a U.S. company, you do not need to mention your age, married status, and whether you have children or not. It can lead to discrimination against you based on assumptions about your time availability, etc.; such discrimination is unlawful in the United States. Don’t hand someone the stick to hit you with. Nobody needs to know you’re an 80 year-old single mother raising eleven young children.

6.2 Translation Boards:

Translation boards on the web are a great source of possible work. If you’re not already familiar with these, I encourage you to visit these sites:

7 When should you do marketing?

While marketing should be a continuous, ongoing effort, there are specific points when promoting is a MUST.

One common mistake many companies make is to economize when faced with reduced business. Premature cost-cutting, laying off of personnel and reductions in the marketing budget can lead to accelerated shrinkage. When business is down, first you engage in an all-out marketing effort, then you economize. (Ref. 5)

Another common effort is to become committed to long-term marketing plans when there is a sudden upsurge of new business. During times of plenty, the reverse is true: First pay off all debts, strengthen delivery. Then focus on marketing. Additionally, never allow blind trust in a growth spurt to lead you to commit to long-term financial commitments, either in marketing or elsewhere. A growth spurt may be maintained, if one is disciplined in determining the causes for growth and strengthening these. But avoid the trap of overconfidence in a temporary bonanza leaving you with heavy fixed monthly expenses long after the peak period passes.

Be constant in your marketing. Commit a percentage of your profits to marketing efforts, and do not cut them short by being trigger-happy during a crisis, nor deviate from your budget by growing over-enthusiastic during a good streak.


(Unless otherwise notes, materials reference the book “Mastering Guerrilla Marketing,” by Jay Conrad Levinson)

    1. Guerrilla Trade-Show Selling (Levinson, Smith, Wilson)
    2. The Cluetrain Manifesto (Levine, Locke, Searls, Winberger)
    3. Guerrilla Marketing Excellence (Jay Conrad Levinson)
    4. Gonzo Marketing (Christopher Locke)
    5. Management by Statistics Course (L. Ron Hubbard)

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