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The Art of Science of Differentiation (Part 1)

Posted By Doug Strock, Tuesday, July 26, 2016

(Originally Posted on March 05, 2015)

I am asked at various language industry events about how to differentiate your service from everyone else in the marketplace. This question has spun in my mind for a LONG, LONG time, and is still spinning today. The difference is I am making progress in coming to grips with it and seeing the results.

With over twenty-some thousand LSPs in the world (whatever the latest Common Sense Advisory survey number is), standing out in the crowd is a challenge. If you think you are different now, just go to some web sites of other LSPs and see how they differentiate. I’m not citing any specifics, but I am willing to bet fifty cents they all read something like:

Highest quality

Native speaking translators with degrees in their subject areas

TEP quality control process

Response in under xx seconds


Or something along those lines, with customer satisfaction quotes, a long list of customers with logos (did they actually get permission to use all those?), a number of languages they offer, response times, etc. So how does anyone stand out with that? No matter how you say it, we all end up saying the same thing with a thousand small variations, but to the customer viewing your site, it’s all the same.

To really differentiate, you should look at a few key things:

  1. Who are your existing customers? Are they all in one domain or scattered across many?
  2. Is there a common domain running through your vendors? Is it aligned with your customers?
  3. Is there a particular domain you want to specialize in?

If you are successful now, then I am going to guess you have at least some alignment between your vendor skill set and your primary customer domain. Just saying you do “technical” translations is not much of a differentiator. Saying you are the recognized industry expert for nuclear energy, nuclear medicine and particle physics is a differentiator. I would expect your vendor database to be full of nuclear physicists, physics Ph. D.s, mathematicians, and so forth.

On the other hand, if you have a mix of professional translators and translate everything from advertising to zoology, then you will have a challenge with differentiating.

Once you differentiate, everything becomes suddenly clearer. How and where you market, the message you convey, the vendors you pursue, and the customers you acquire. You want to be the thought leader in that industry as it pertains to language services. The more skill you develop, the greater your reputation, the harder it becomes for competitors to dislodge you. The flip side is the greater the pressure to maintain that position from competitors trying to dislodge you. You cannot differentiate and achieve that coveted position then rest on your laurels.

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