How Not to Manage Your Customer Relationships

We are constantly collecting examples of effective marketing, customer relationship management, and entrepreneurship that we hear about. Most of these examples come from our wonderful colleagues and some come from other businesses and industries. We think it's important to share strategies that work with colleagues around the world, and we like to emphasize the positive. However, this time around, we wanted to give you two examples of things you should NOT do. Have a look:
  • Judy's dentist just sent her an appointment reminder card for her next cleaning. While this is, in theory, an excellent idea, this dentist is also one that Judy reported to the authorities in Nevada for beginning to perform a root canal on a tooth without informing her (really). Perhaps the dentist needs some help deleting entries from her customer database?
  • Just like many of you, we receive frequent unsolicited e-mails from people asking us for work, even though there are clearly no job openings posted on our website. We are a two-person twin sister operation and occassionally outsource projects to trusted colleagues. We used to respond to unsolicited e-mails with a template along the lines of "Thank you for your interest....". However, our new strategy is to delete all e-mails that come addressed to "Dear Sir or Madam". If the job-seeker can't go to the trouble of addressing us by our names, we won't take the time to answer. We've received several e-mails addressed to "Dear Sir or Madam" this week. From the same person. Think of yourself as a customer: would YOU give work to someone who doesn't bother to look up your name (and we make it so easy for you, website and all) before sending you an unsolicited e-mail pitching you services you don't need or want?
That's it for the short what-not-to-do list. We will be back in the very near future with lots of positive examples! What's on your "you should never do this but it happened to me" list? Have you had any bad experiences with customer relationship management? We'd love to hear them.

It's Not Really Free: The Ethics of Webinars

Let's preface this post by saying that we get it: in this economy, everyone needs to acquire clients at a low cost. However, let's look at the following scenario. Through a friend and blogging colleague, who twittered about it, we heard that Acclaro, a translation and localization agency, was offering a free webinar tomorrow. The topic is translating marketing slogans, which we have been doing successfully for years. We thought we might learn something and could potentially add something to the conversation. The tweet (=short message on Twitter for you non-Twitter folks) stated that this would be a free webinar.

Judy quickly went through the registration process, only to receive two separate e-mails a few minutes later. One stated that the registration was denied. The other one read:

Thank you for your interest in our webinar. Please note that Acclaro restricts our webinars to business people who are potential sales leads for our translation and localization services. Based on the information you provided us, we have declined your approval to view the webinar. Please feel free to provide additional information about your interest for this webinar and your interest in our services and we will reconsider your request.

We share many colleagues' opinion that this might not be the best way to handle webinars. Instead of building goodwill in the T&I industry, Acclaro has managed, with two e-mails, to do the opposite. Here's some food for thought on this:

  • You never know where your next customer will come from. While it's true that the two of us won't hire Acclaro anytime soon, we might know someone who does. And how does one know what a "potential sales lead" is? Isn't everyone, in one way or another, a potential sales lead?
  • There's little or no extra cost to allow us to attend the webinar. Let's assume there's a fixed cost for the presenter and the software. We are not familiar with webinar software pricing strategies, but even if it's charged by the user/caller, the cost would be negligible. So: if it doesn't cost (almost) anything, why not accomodate interested parties and share the knowledge?
  • The "price" of buzz. Acclaro had a fantastic chance to share what they know with the T&I community. They would have generated some social media traffic, and folks would have talked about the webinar. That's the whole idea when building business: to get people talking about your services. We don't know too many clients who write blogs about translation, so the social media content would most likely come from precisely those folks who are not welcome at the webinar: freelance professionals. And let's think about this: do potential clients really want to attend a free webinar about a service they outsource? We are not sure.
  • Sometimes you have to give before you can get. It's a competitve market, but we can't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands (Maya Angelou said that). Acclaro not allowing interested parties to attend their low-cost (to them) webinar is equivalent to an organization not sending its electronic newsletter to an interested party unless they are a member of the organization. While the newsletter should be a benefit for members, why not send it to someone who requests it who then might become a member?
  • Don't deliberately mislead people. If you twitter about a free webinar to the entire Twitter universe, which is certainly not restricted to "sales leads," then people rightfully expect the event to be free and open to everyone. If it's not, you've purposely mislead people.
At least, in a way, Acclaro is honest. We've attended many a webinar only to be innundated with sales calls afterwards, which is annoying, too. What is your take on these seemingly free webinars? And here's another thought: if Acclaro had decided to offer this at a low cost, we might have attended anyway!

Marketing Idea of the Week

This week's best marketing idea comes from colleague and court interpreter Nelson Ryan Mackenna of Las Vegas. Judy met him recently at a workshop, and he approached her with what seemed like a business card. It turns out to be a little folded booklet on very high quality glossy multi-color card stock. It fits in a pocket and conveniently lists on which floor of the massive courthouse one can find any district, justice, or municipal court judge. Offices have been moved quite a bit the last few years, making it challenging for lawyers to know where they are going. Nelson, a long-time certified court interpreter who obviously spends a lot of time at the courthouse, has found a smart solution to this problem with these cards. Of course, on the very front of the card, it lists Nelson's accomplishments as a court interpreter, which include more than 4,000 depositions and 11,000 hours in court. After seeing those impressive statistics and that very useful booklet, we are not surprised that Nelson is a very sought-after court interpreter.

Thanks for sharing this outstanding idea, Nelson!

Entrepreneurial Ideas of the Week

A few weeks ago, Judy was lucky enough to be among the 17 recipients who were selected as "Women to Watch 2010" by local business newspaper In Business Las Vegas. It was a great honor and a very nice awards ceremony. After the event, a few very entrepreneurial things happened.
  • Right after the article ran, Judy's phone started ringing. While a few other publications also included notes about the awards, the callers were mostly -- get this -- companies that specialize in framing newspaper articles. In a very entrepreneurial way, they receive hundreds of publications every week, and look through them to see who has been profiled, interviewed, or received an award. Then they call those people, congratulate them, and tell them they've already created a special plaque and that one just has to say the word! Needless to say, this is pushing a bit too hard, but the thought is brilliant. It's analogous to what linguists should be doing, time permitting. Read relevant publications, learn what's new in the industry, and identify possible new clients. However, don't cold call but find a way to get introduced by a mutual connection.
  • A few weeks after the award ceremony, congratulatory notes started coming in the mail. These were from friends and family, but also from the 16 fellow honorees, mostly executives in the areas of gaming, law, health care, etc. What a great idea! These accomplished women are going out of their way to congratulate other honorees and to build on the newly created common bond. It's a fantastic idea, one that we wish we'd thought of as well.
Bottom line: entrepreneurial ideas are everywhere, and we can always pick up a suggestion or two and apply it to our own practices. With that, Judy is off to write some congratulatory note sto her co-honorees....

Link: Translator = Interpreter?

For a great illustration of the terminology issue we run into quite frequently, head over to read Mox and Mina's translation adventures on Alejandro Moreno-Ramos' blog. The difference between translation (the written word) and interpretation (the spoken word) is something linguists frequently have to explain to customers and the general public. The mainstream media can't get it right, either: NPR constantly refers to "she is talking through her translator" when reporting from Iraq, and MSNB doesn't understand the difference. Let's look at this general confusion as a great opportunity to educate clients about the lingo used in our business. And instead of an explanation, how about a great cartoon?

Royalty-Free Images for Blogs and Newsletters

Our wonderful IT guru, Tom Gruber, just told us about a new website with more than three hundred thousand royalty-free stock photos in every possible category you can possibly think of. These are great for those of us who write blogs and/or create newsletters for non-profit associations that don't have the funds to pay for images. There's no catch to the site, but be aware that if you search for say, dogs, the first results you will see will be "sponsored" - that means, those images won't be royalty-free, and it clearly says so. The really free images appear on the same page. We've used several different royalty-free image websites, and are delighted to hear that a new one has become available. The website also includes a myriad of free tutorials about useful photography and web issues, such as changing eye colors in Photoshop, making a flag wave in GIMP, and all sorts of other things you hadn't even thought of. Check out the stock.exchnge site. You can also contribute to the free photo movement by uploading images that you'd like to share with the world. Sharing is good.

Time Management Experiment: Pre-Set E-Mail Times

In preparation for some of Judy's upcoming time management workshops, she'd decided to do a little experiment. We've both been able to manage our time fairly well and get a lot done during our days, but there are a lot of distractions. Mainly, e-mail comes to mind. It's difficult to resist the temptation of checking e-mail every 10 seconds and immediately answering messages. It's no secret that your productivity and efficiency decrease when you are constantly interrupting what you are doing (=translating, ideally).

Hence, Judy is making the commitment, at least for a few days, to check e-mail once an hour, at the top of the hour. She'll even close the e-mail program as to not give in to the lure of e-mail. She'll report back on how she did (Dagmar predicts she will still check e-mail constantly).

What about you, readers? Have you tried to limit yourself to pre-set e-mail times? Do you have any other e-mail time management techniques, tricks, and suggestions? We'd love to hear from you.
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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