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Marketing high quality to greedy agencies - a wacky strategy?
Thread poster: José Henrique Lamensdorf

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:46
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Aug 16, 2008

We can't help but learn things from the material we translate. So yesterday I translated a video from a marketing conference, where they mentioned - among other unusual strategies - Burger King's "Whopper-free" freakout, showing parts of it.

The whole BK video may be seen at

As that conference speaker challenged the audience to come up similarly great marketing Ideas, I kinda felt prompted to have one for the translation business.

I'd label as "greedy" a translation agency usually located in Western Europe or North America, selling translation services at 20+¢/word, and outsourcing it at 6¢ or less. I'd add to this category the often not-so-greedy outsourcers elsewhere that sell translations at 5¢ or less, and outsource them at... you know, the "your best rate" they post on their job ads, as this latter group frequently works for the first one.

FYI Burger King started out in Brazil a couple of decades after McDonalds had become an omnipresent and powerful giant throughout the whole country. Nevertheless, BK chose to set their prices 20% above the competition. They have been growing steadily, and the price difference is not preventing BK from having crowded stores and often long lines at their counters. I'm not discussing taste nor quality, as now and then I go to either one indifferently, as well other similar 'domestic' places. I'm not such a great burger-lover; just wanted to give an idea about the environment where my idea came up.

Maybe - and this is just a possibility, not an assumption - these "greedy" guys never tasted a "translation Whopper". Translationwise, all they might have eaten so far is cheap greasyburgers from a nondescript Mom & Pop's eatery. So I think I found a way to let them try.

This is my sketch:

Unless I'm loaded above the lid with work and/or short deadlines, at most once a week, and at least once a month, I'll pick one such "greedy" job offer in my language pair under 1,000 words, roll one or two dice, offer a rate that will be my normal rate divided by the points on the dice, and go for it. They'll get my usual high quality service (haven't learned to lower my standards yet), in the hope that they'll get addicted to it. This may lead them to review their business strategies

What I didn't decide yet is when I'll tell them about my regular rates: a) upon taking the job; b) on delivery; or c) as a once-in-a-lifetime promo discount stated on the invoice.

I know that - as we say here - one dove doesn't make it summer but it's a start!

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United Kingdom
Local time: 22:46
English to German
+ ...
Good luck to you! Aug 16, 2008

But those agencies wouldn't recognise quality if it poked them in the the eye... nor do they care.

[Edited at 2008-08-16 12:10]

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Elizabeth Ardans  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:46
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
nice... Aug 16, 2008

Hi Jose,

Your idea sounds really great, though I'm not sure those agencies will ever pay high rates... The way I see it, if they are still in business delivering poor translations to their (direct) clients, paying translators low rates and keeping a good profit, why would they change their practices? They certainly won't care about quality unless their clients complain, and too often, the client doesn't speak the target language or cannot really evaluate the quality of the translations delivered. I think these agencies will only change if clients "make them change"... and that's another story!


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:46
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Two noteworthy points Aug 16, 2008

Olaf, I agree that most of these people have no idea on what quality is, because they might have never seen it, on top of not knowing the language. But someone in the process should notice it, otherwise they'd be wasting money - no matter how cheap they pay for it - from not using free and fast machine translation.

Elizabeth, if Burger King came into Brazil decided to charge 20% higher than McDonalds, supposedly for equivalent choices, they probably assumed that whatever value they were offering (I won't evaluate the foods here) would be worth it. Both chains have crowded stores, and are growing.

So there will always be those going for cheap translations, no doubt about it. In the analogy, they'll settle for a hot-dog from a cart on the street whenever they are not inside a fancy mall. The free-machine-translation guys will continue to rummage trash cans for food. My intent is to now and then show some of these people that juicy steaks are available too.

I recently saw (not here on Proz) a web site proofreading job. I had a look, and warned the prospect that if his site wasn't blindly machine-translated, that job was done by someone who wouldn't be able to tell heads from toes in the target language.

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