When Clients Choose by Price
Which criteria do clients go by?
The age-old question: Why do some clients settle for a mediocre translation just to save some money? Or maybe that’s wrong question.
How about: Why do clients keep buying mediocre translations when there are so many excellent translators waiting to work their magic?
Last year, I was called by a very nice lady interested in having her website translated into English. Her business was doing fine in Germany and she was testing the waters about offering her services to customers from abroad, specifically American customers. She had just revamped her German website and wanted an English-language version that would live up to its new style.
When our services are generic, bargain hunting begins
To cut a long story short, I sent her a set of quotes and she chose someone else to do the job. And life went on.
I came across her details again this week. A quick surge of curiosity sent me to her site and there it was: a bumpy, uneven English version. My gut tells me that she chose to go with a cheaper translator. This actually makes me feel bad for her because she may have lowered the cost of getting her website translated, but I fear that her new English site won’t be sending many potential customers her way.
At some point in the future, she’ll come to the erroneous conclusion that there’s no American market for her services – and I am convinced that there is. For her sake, I hope that she’ll reconsider how she is presenting her services, i.e. I hope she’ll revisit the issue of translation instead of just giving up.
What went wrong?
I fully understand that it’s difficult for clients to really judge the quality of a translation. I also absolutely understand that if all services offered by translators seem the same, then a client will decide on the basis of what they can judge – the price. And this where I (and all the other translators she got in touch with) failed her.
When she first contacted me, I spent some time on the phone with her discussing her target audience, some cultural specifics, technical details and different service packages that would make sense for her. My message was that she wasn’t paying for translation as a necessary expense; she was investing in new clients. And a great English-language version of your website is like a warm, welcoming hug for your English-speaking clients. It’s a first way of showing them that you care.
Now, it’s obvious that she skimped on the translation. And I’m forced to admit that I might need to work on communicating my services and the value I add. There’s no doubt in my mind that she would have ended up with a better translation had I succeeded at explaining why she wants more than an English word-by-word translation of her German copy.
Do you have a tried-and-true method of wowing potential clients with your unique services? Care to share?
PS Another possible explanation is that someone did stand out from the crowd and failed to deliver on their promises. This would be an even more depressing scenario, in which the website owner would have purchased a pricey but still poor translation.
15 replies on “When Clients Choose by Price”
What a timely post, Else! I have been pondering on quality, and how to market/showcase it to potential clients in the past few weeks.
I don’t have any method to share and it certainly does not work all the time for me. Two years ago,a potential client (referred to me) chose my higher quote, because I had gone through the effort of calling him to clarify his needs, understand his situation and make a proposal with an option (document minus such paragraphs).
Last year, I went to an international fair in my region, where you could arrange B2B meetings. A lady working in “intercultural communication” arranged to meet me as she was dissatisfied with her current setup for French translation. The documents she showed me were indeed appalling. I stated a generic price and send her a quote for the revision (small job). No answer. When I followed up, she said that her French cousin had come to see her for the weekend and they went over the document together. I was shocked.
So I am not sure there is a method, and it seems to me you did your best to demonstrate your skills and convince her. It was probably not a good match.
Yes, I think that personal chemistry often comes to bear. I simply click with some clients and with others I don’t.
And sometimes clients are what is called “beratungsresistent” in German – they’ll just never change their ways. 🙂 Your intercultural communications lady seems to belong to that tribe.
Great post! I’m not a freelancer but my husband is. Educating the customer is a tough job and sometimes not even worth it because if we start the business knowing that our client doesn’t really know what is involved in a translation then it takes a lot of time and effort to explain.
I would suggest that maybe translators could have in their webpage a short video or lively PowerPoint explaining why paying a little bit more can save them from a lot of headaches. 🙂
Thanks for your comment!
I’ve actually been toying with the idea of adding information like that to my website in some form. It would be a great starting point for a conversation with clients. I’ll bump it up a notch or two on my to-do list 🙂
Thanks for sharing the story, Else. It’s a story we’re all bound to be familiar with! I’ve found a successful approach is to establish a close relationship from the outset (although I understand this may not work so well in other countries where client-supplier relationships are more distant. When I’m looking to start a professional relationship with someone, I ask a lot of questions about the client and demonstrate a real interest in their business. Equally, I tell them a lot about myself. I don’t just give them my CV, I also give them a brochure, which explains a lot more about my background in my individual languages and specialisms. This, I believe, builds a lot of trust and they are therefore more willing to accept my higher-than-average rate because they’re more convinced they will get the quality they require. Otherwise, working with someone with a higher rate whom you don’t know very well about can be a gamble, in their eyes. Not every client bites, though, but if we all didn’t give in (by not agreeing to a low rate), the client would soon get the picture.
Thanks for your comment, Lloyd! Your approach is pretty close to mine (still working on that brochure, though).
I rarely discuss other translators and their pricing strategies with clients. If I were a client, I wouldn’t want to get lectured either 🙂 Instead, what I try to do is put my money where my mouth is and and prove the quality I can deliver through my actions. Ideally, I ooze professionalism, ask perceptive questions and always add some value to my client’s day, even if it remains a one-off contact. It does’t always work in real life and it always depends on the type of client I’m dealing with – and there’s always room for improvement!
It’s still a tad depressing that some clients place their trust in someone else and end up with a translation that is not money well spent. In this case, I think the nice lady is honestly clueless about the impression her English website makes.
For me the key line in this post is: “I sent her a set of quotes and she chose someone else to do the job. And life went on”. I think you simply can’t win them all and you certainly shouldn’t blame yourself for not winning her over. Some people listen to your message and some people are not so receptive. Some people are motivated by quality and others by price. We’ve all made purchasing decisions in our personal or business lives and then sometimes regretted not having spent a bit more. But at the time we made the decision, would it have made any difference if the salesperson had stressed the extra quality? Perhaps they did and we still chose to ignore them. And in the same way this woman’s decision is in no way your fault, it’s her problem. To quote an old English proverb, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.
I agree, Simon! You win some and you lose some.
To be fair to the nice lady, I’m simply assuming her decision was based on price; I don’t really know if that’s the case. But based on experience, we all know that quality is often ignored when there’s money to be saved. And if clients choose to spend less and understand that in some cases they will get less in return, I have no beef with that.
Cases where clients may not be aware that different translators will deliver wildly different translations – regarding price, quality style and what not – those are the ones that stick in my mind. If clients are operating under the assumption that all translators will create pretty much the same product, then I wonder which criteria they use to choose a translator. This is where price comes into play again. Why pay more for a generic service if you don’t need to?
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It’s like that with everything we buy, isn’t it? I’m currently revamping our branding and company website. There are sooo many people to choose from! This is our fourth permutation, our very first website was set up in 2001, and in that time I went through three different designers. Because a website is one of the most important marketing tools you can ever have, whilst the budget is important, the main consideration is of course quality. But because all designers sell the same thing: websites, it is pretty hard to choose one you’re happy with. It’s not always about money. You may end up with inferior quality when you pay a lot…
We went with someone that came highly recommended (and we’re very happy with them) so I think they key to making yourself price-irrelevant is to do such a good job that you get recommended by your clients. How to leave them absolutely delighted to the point they’d go out of their way is the big question. Our designs are beautiful (have a look for yourself at http://www.jenandben.com.au) but both Jen and Ben are just fantastic to work with. They just “get it” and deliver!
So, to finish off, my aim this year is to delight my clients with everything I do.
Thanks for your comment, Eva! My purchasing behavior is similar 🙂
I like your goal for this year and I like the way you put it.
PS Sorry for taking so long to publish your comment.
Excellent post, Else!
The issue of price is always a sensitive one. And each of us (because we have all bought something at some point – including services) has their own strategy.
As I see it, there are clients who are and always will be price oriented and they will always go for the lowest one, no matter what. There is very little we can do about this. There are clients who are price conscious but may also consider other aspects and these are the ones that need to be ‘educated’ (though I’m not terribly fond of this term) and shown what the value is. And there are client for whom quality matters and already know what to look for.
So, at the end of the day, all we can do is show how we can help, why we are the right choice, ‘educate’ if necessary, but, like Simon said above, that’s about it. We can’t force clients into making a decision.
I agree, Alina, “educating” is a strange choice of words (though I’ve used it myself). Some clients are intrigued when they see how I work and want to learn more and some clients couldn’t care less. While I’ll never be able to get everyone excited about what I do, I haven’t quite given up the hope of getting better at selling my expertise – i.e. getting more clients willing to be “educated” (or enlightened, maybe?)
In many cases, I think it’s about ‘informing’ rather than ‘educating’ – as some clients simply don’t know what our work entails.