Who do you contact at a company when soliciting direct clients?
Thread poster: Karen Tucker
Karen Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:04
French to English
Dec 6, 2013

I'm a long-time freelance translator who would like to work with more direct clients in a specific industry, but I'm not sure which function to contact in the company. Since I specialize in marketing and communications, my first thought was marketing director or someone in that department. I'm not too hopeful about contacting human resources since that department tends to receive so many unsolicited applications and will probably just toss my letter. As a former career counselor, I used to encourage my clients to try to contact the decision-maker in the relevant department rather than HR.

But basically I don't know who handles translation outsourcing for companies since I mainly work with agencies. My direct clients have mostly been humanitarian organizations that have translation departments.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Karen


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:04
English to Polish
+ ...
... Dec 6, 2013

You can put a modicum of business information in your e-mail footer and just ask for directions and/or whether they actually want to receive your offer, which is a must in some EU jurisdictions (and it's possible that in some EU jurisdictions you can't do even that).

But I'd rather be handing out business cards at a physical meeting than soliciting through e-mail, especially considering how you can actually bump into someone who really hates receiving offers. The Internet is full of people who are OCD about their privacy or in any case make too big a deal of it (including agencies who don't want to receive CVs from translators... yeah...).

[Edited at 2013-12-06 14:32 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:04
Member (2008)
French to English
Upper management Dec 6, 2013

I don't think there's any rule. In my experience, translation is a service that can be called on by anyone responsible for any documentation in a company, basically meaning anyone in upper management. In larger companies each manager or executive will likely have their own favorite source for translations. There's certainly no harm in making contact with these people and they will then have someone to go to when they need it rather than looking for some random listing in the yellow pages.

[Edited at 2013-12-06 14:45 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:04
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Not HR, that's for sure Dec 6, 2013

Karen Tucker wrote:
Since I specialize in marketing and communications, my first thought was marketing director or someone in that department. I'm not too hopeful about contacting human resources since that department tends to receive so many unsolicited applications and will probably just toss my letter.

I don't know if the marketing director would always be the one - as John says, it could be anyone really. But I do know that I personally would never contact the HR department. Why would you? You aren't looking for a job; you're looking for a business partnership, to supply them with a B2B service. I think HR might get totally the wrong idea of your future relations.
But basically I don't know who handles translation outsourcing for companies since I mainly work with agencies.

Therein lies the problem - companies are so often on the other side of those translation sandwiches! When you contact them directly you're probably breaking new ground.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:04
German to English
Go to trade shows Dec 6, 2013

I've gotten jobs by handing out my card at trade shows. Depending on the industry, there are usually representatives of both marketing and manufacturing functions at these events. They'll know who should get your contact information.

Your best strategy is to target smaller local companies, since they often turn to translation agencies because they don't where else to go.

It's also useful to pick up company brochures to get an idea of the products and services the companies offer.
I maintained a stock of pens, sticky note pads and other sundry goods collected at the Society of Automotive Engineers expo every year.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:04
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not Upper Management Dec 6, 2013

I have worked mostly for direct clients for many years. Forget the decision-makers. Usually the one making the decisions on translations will be a secretary, and that secretary will be your best friend. The boss just tells them, "find someone to translate this" and cares not at all about who that may be.

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Karen Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:04
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your suggestions Dec 7, 2013

I want to thank all of you for your very helpful comments and suggestions. I agree it is best to meet with people in person but I live in the United States while almost all my clients are in France. I do travel there twice a year, however, and will try to make personal contacts. My friend, also a French translator, said that she deals with the corporate communications department.

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James (Jim) Davis  Identity Verified
Seychelles
Local time: 16:04
Italian to English
Everyone Dec 8, 2013

Hi Karen,
Most of my clients are direct and I have successfully acquired new clients with letters.
You need to go to the person who decides they need a translation. In you field this could be marketing or PR and it may well be the secretaries of the heads of these departments who will open your mail.
One little known secret of successful advertising is that the most successful ad is not so much the one everybody watched on TV, but the one everybody is talking about at work the next morning. I select at least three departments in a company and then send snail mail and email to the head of each department. That way, during coffee, somebody might just say "got another translation ad letter this morning" and one replies "Oh so did I who was it from?"
Jim


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Karen Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:04
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Reply to Jim Davis Dec 10, 2013

Hi Jim,

I found your suggestions very helpful. I had already thought of the idea of sending snail mail, which is sure to stand out since it's so rare these days. It actually helped me get my start nearly 17 years ago but now everything's done online. But I liked your ideas about how to approach a company and your insight on what people pay attention to. It's obviously worked for you! I appreciate your sharing your ideas and experiences with me.


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Who do you contact at a company when soliciting direct clients?

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