METM23 Chronicles: Sarah Bawa Mason

Communicating the added value of language services to clients – How associations can help

Sarah Bawa Mason has been the Commercial Collaborations Lead for the Association of Translation Companies (ATC) since 2022. Her presentation outlined why ATC was formed, its raison d’être and how its members – and business in general – can benefit from its work.

ATC was formed in response to changing market conditions, as described in the Nimdzi Report on the UK market. Its findings point to a general trend that we have all noticed in recent years: smaller translation agencies have faced financial downturns as a direct result of big companies’ seemingly unending mergers and acquisitions. The resulting behemoths then use their sizeable marketing budgets to advance the falsehood that machine translation is perfect, and that automatic translation is “good enough”.

Translation and related language services are not only about language; they are about business too, and the added value that such services bring to the commercial world. So, what is happening in the land of translation companies (aka ATC members)? And what role does ATC play in promoting its human language service providers and the added value their skills bring to the translation table?

ATC’s role is twofold. First, it performs client outreach on behalf of its members, demonstrating the value of their services, i.e. how they can boost their clients’ return on investment. ATC achieves this through smart partnerships. It is a member of the Trade Association Forum (TAF), self-described as “the association of associations”; the UK Export Academy (UKEA); and the Association of Association Executives. It also participates actively in initiatives such as the Nimdzi Report.

Its second role involves structured dialogue with ATC members. Strikingly, it found that traditional translation agencies and ATC members often struggle to convey their value proposition to commerce and industry. The trick, apparently, is to engage in evidence-based marketing. For instance, translation providers could state, as evidenced by the ATC-backed LO-C 30 Report produced by the Aston Business School, that UK “SMEs embracing language capabilities are 30% more successful in exporting than those which do not”.

This report is well worth reading. In it, you will discover that the key drivers for language capacity (LO-C) – cultural intelligence, linguistic competence, a willingness to invest, training, and technological awareness – lead to increased export orientation, network capabilities, value-based selling, export sales, export sales growth and export profit growth.

In practice, this means that companies should have their website in at least one other European language. At a minimum, a company’s landing page has to be good, as does its online shop and payment options. The British Academy’s Born Global Report states that a lack of foreign language skills is costing the UK as much as GBP 488 billion per annum, representing 3.5% of GDP.

ATC has established itself as an authority on language services, and ATC members as “credible, quality and solutions-driven partners”. Much of Sarah’s work involves creating business through business organisations and those organisations she listed have the support of government departments overseeing international trade and commerce, and industry.

ATC contends that for exporters, translation is an easy win, especially if they have their marketing ducks in a row, have mapped their target market and their languages, and find the right translation partner who will help them achieve their objectives.

The ATC website offers its members a template that other groups can roll out if they would like to establish a similar association in their geographical location. The template’s popularity has given impetus to all types of translator associations to work with their members to develop meaningful messaging on the “value added” for potential clients.

And that’s a good thing – as is the collaborative aspect that ATC so clearly brings to the process.

This METM23 presentation was chronicled by Allison Wright.

Featured photo by METM23 photographer Leonardo Rizzato.

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