Ghoulish English Scares Your Clients Away

In advance of Hallowe’en I joined a freaky quiz night on Friday the 13th. The perfect day in Western superstition for some ghoulish games.

The questions were all Hallowe’en related and sooooo hard. It was like Trivial Pursuit, professors edition.

Do you know the name of the narrator in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video? Step away from Google!

Luckily we had wine and snacks so the quiz answers became incidental to the evening’s enjoyment and possibly more ridiculous as time went on.

Our best round was the anagrams, making sense of something already there. Once we knew the theme you can unpick the puzzle. Without the theme and a few heads working together, our willpower would have been severely drained.

The problem is though, I see so many businesses testing their potential buyer’s willpower and intelligence.

Complicated phrases known only to industry insiders, a maze of a website with no clear structure – the visitor is left in confusion. Where do they go? What’s the next step? Why on earth were they here in the first place?

If you’re doing the same, you’re scaring your customers away like a wailing banshee on a dark night.

Bad writing is one way that your message gets distorted, sending your prospective customers running into the arms of a more coherent competitor.

And to a British visitor, bad writing often equates to that common variant of foreign English. Denglish, Franglais, Svenglish, whichever language it’s mixed with the result is the same.

At best the meaning is clear despite the awkward phrasing.

At worst it’s insulting and confusing.

So let’s unpick the message and guide your British buyers to their first purchase. I’ll unravel the anagrams and create the safe space they need from all the ghoulish English floating about on the web.

Click here to sign up for language, culture and marketing tips to win more English-speaking clients.

A Brit, a Pole and a Greek Cypriot went for a curry

Recently I was at my friend Agata’s house for a surprise birthday curry. Her husband had gathered her closest friends and I found myself one of two British people in the room. My favourite kind of meet up.

There are so many stories, how we all met each other, why we settled in the UK and why we stayed. Hint: it’s usually down to a man. (I include myself in this as I’d applied for a job in Heidelberg when I met Mark.)

Polish, Cypriot, French, British, talking about our absent Czech and Russian friends and eating Indian food washed down with Spanish wine. I’m sure we could have crow barred a few more nationalities in there somewhere, three of us also speak German.

But the main topics of conversation were our husbands’ lack of aptitude for DIY, our careers and new directions, our parents, lack of time, and car maintenance issues.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Your international customers have exactly the same concerns as you on a day-to-day basis. Of course there’s room for variation and the cultural setting has an influence but people are people are people.

In this group of friends we were all female, roughly the same age, with children, mortgages, spoke multiple languages and worried about issues such as:
how we are bringing up our children, when they would leave home (!), when we’ll have more time for the travel we love, how to keep fit and healthy, the ease of getting tyres changed, the impact our husbands’ work has on their health, family time etc.

A similar group of men would have different concerns – in fact the two men present had scuttled off to another room to talk about gadgets and watch sport. Yes it’s a cliché but true in this case.

Understanding your ideal client means getting detailed information on their age, gender, interests and what their worries, hopes, and fears are. This kind of information means you can talk to them on a level. It gives you your customer avatar, a persona of your ideal client and is the absolute foundation for all your marketing.

Plus, it allows you to get creative while knowing you’re still talking to the right people.

No more corporate zombie speak trying to please everyone. If you don’t know who your ideal client is, you’ll find yourself trying to appeal and talk to everyone.

You can’t get specific, you can’t be interesting.

And your reader might question whether you have the right service for them – in the absence of any direct benefits they will fill in their own version of reality. Potentially with reasons why your service won’t work for them.

The more you understand your ideal client, the more appealing you make your marketing, and the fewer doubts your reader will have.

If you’d like help understanding your British ideal client, let’s talk. We have the same hopes, needs and fears as you but the way we express them is slightly different. You’ve got the products and services, I’ve got the British market insights and native English skills.
Click here and tell me what you need to know.

Marketing that inspires action

Man at the side of a river looking at mountain scenery

 “I was always brought up to have a cup of tea halfway up a rock face.” Bear Grylls

What a great quote. You’re imagining it now aren’t you? The rugged survival guy breaking his climb to be quintessentially British with a cup of tea. I’m pretty sure this involves a thermos flask and not the bone china cup and saucer I envisaged but you can’t take that image away from me.

It’s a great opener and all credit to Towergate Insurance, who sent this to me in a marketing email. They followed with this: You might not be half-way up a rock face right now but you are halfway through your Professional Liability policy… 

They found a way to make insurance interesting. Genius. And an obvious link if you think about it. Extreme sports enthusiasts and adventurers are a high risk for insurance. How do you insure someone who breaks their back in a parachuting accident, nearly drowns in a fast-flowing jungle river, and willingly pushes themselves to the limit? But what thrilling stories they make. Perfect for marketing.

Make your reader smile

The opener made me smile and instantly more receptive to the rest of their email, which was just to keep in touch and remind me of a few details. Usually you get a reminder a week or so before your insurance is due for renewal asking for money. No-one likes those kind of reminders. Receiving an email or letter from an insurance company causes you to groan inwardly.

The alternative, keeping in touch with your clients just to say hi and not just when you’re asking for something is refreshing. It’s a different kind of marketing and highly effective. Are you doing this?

Even the end of the email made me smile: If you are in fact half-way up a rock face, and you’ve left your home unoccupied, you might want to look at our Unoccupied Property Insurance.

A little call to action, a hint that they offer other products plus they make you feel good. You might be sitting at your desk, possibly with a snack and a cuppa, still holding a little winter weight (just me?). Nevertheless, this insurance company believes in you. You’re an adventurer ready to throw yourself out of a plane for pleasure at any given time.

Yes indeed, I may just go and book a jungle trek, or perhaps just a flight to that industry conference I want to attend. Oh, travel insurance… where can I get that from I wonder…

So many businesses forget the fun you can have when building long-term relationships. No matter how serious your product, find a way to make your clients smile and they’ll keep coming back for more.

Now, go and book that skydive!

Alternatively, let me help you create inspiring content for the English market. Sign up for my 28 tips on how to Win More English Clients here.

Chemistry, it makes me SICK!

chemistry-it-makes-me-sick

It’s one of my vivid memories from my first year at university. My friend Catherine waving her lab coat in the air shouting in her Brummie accent. “It makes me physically sick!”

Now Catherine was a straight-A chemistry student. While the rest of us were researching and scratching our heads at isomerism and organic reaction mechanisms, everything just clicked in her brain without trying. But after a few weeks she realised it wasn’t for her. She switched to English and Philosophy and never had to wear her lab coat or safety goggles again.

I thought of her when I attended a training event at the Museum of London and shuddered involuntarily as I walked past display cabinets housing chemicals. It looked just like one of the fume cupboards in our uni lab. Despite signing up for a Chemistry (and German) degree and thoroughly enjoying it, I did not like the 6 hours of lab work we did every week. I was too scared I was going to cause an explosion, mess things up. I got frustrated producing minuscule amounts of a powder after a long 2-week experiment.

The worst thing that happened? I got blisters on my fingers from a leaky burette.

So I wasn’t destined for a life in the lab. At least I knew that and diverted my focus away from the lab coats. It’s given me a great grounding and specialism to offer my clients. I’m more than happy to let you and your colleagues do the hard work and I’ll help spread the fruits of your research to new markets.

Is there anything that makes you shudder at work? Is it a necessary evil like managing your budget or could you delegate or swap tasks with a colleague?

And if everything is enjoyable but you’ve got too much on, here’s a tip: Ask your manager what they consider to be the most valuable task you could be working on. (If you work for yourself, switch positions at your desk and give it some thought). Then put 80% of your effort into doing that task really well. Your manager will be happy, you’ll be getting better results, and your job satisfaction will sky rocket.

I could get better at this too, but I’m getting there.

Oh, and if translating or writing in English isn’t one of those most valuable tasks, why not outsource it? My English Under the Microscope review service will give you an action plan that you can delegate or power through yourself.

Be like Gudbrand, the happiest man on the mountain

be-like-gudbrand-the-happiest-man-on-the-mountain

There was once a Norwegian couple who lived in the mountains. They had two cows, one more than they needed so they decided to sell one to get some money. Gudbrand set off with his cow to town and had no luck at the market. Dejected, he headed the long way back home, which is where the real business took place. On his way home he met a lady with a horse and traded his cow for the horse. Further on he traded the horse for a goat, then the goat for a sheep, the sheep for a goose, the goose for a cockerel and in the end, the cockerel for a hot meal. He arrived home with nothing.

Now you can take a few things from this. One, you can find customers when you least expect it. The market didn’t work but opportunities arose on the way back home.  Two, Gudbrand had a cow and ended up with a hot meal. Not the best day’s work! But now for the second part of the story.

Before he reached his house Gudbrand met his neighbour. On telling him the story, his neighbour cried “The missus is going to kill you!”. Gudbrand was so certain she wouldn’t that his neighbour bet him 100 pieces of silver and hid by a window to eavesdrop.  It turns out Marit, his wife, was as laid back as her husband and was just happy to have him back safe and sound. They only needed one cow any way. And gained 100 pieces of silver from the bet!

There’s a lot to be said in business for being honest and not pushing for the maximum you can get out of someone. Prospective clients and business partners can smell desperation a mile away.

You’ll have come across those desperate for a sale, and probably backed off pretty sharpish. It doesn’t feel good does it? Likewise those clients who want to hammer you down to the last cent so they can be sure they squeezed the best bargain out of you. That’s not a win-win situation either.

I’m sure you already offer massive value to your clients but can you detach yourself from the outcome? I’m not suggesting you don’t follow up with a prospective client or leave it up to them to do all the running. However, when you’re laid back and don’t need the sale, that’s often when the orders come flooding in. Have you ever noticed you’re at your busiest when you’re trying to close the office to go away on holiday, or at Christmas, or just before a major event?

Focus on providing great service, making everybody as happy as your man in the mountains. And present yourself in a way that exudes quiet confidence in the fact that everything will work out just fine.

I’m quietly confident that I can improve your English marketing. Why not try me out and let me put your English Under the Microscope? It’s fully redeemable on any future work in the following six months and I won’t take your money if I think it’s already fit for purpose. You can’t say fairer than that.

Around the world with a dash of envy

eenie-meenie-miney-moe   A friend of mine posted a picture yesterday of her and her entire life, packed into two suitcases. She’s Australian, gets itchy feet if she spends too long in one place and lives to travel. Luckily her husband’s pretty much the same so they’re off around the world, restricted only by locations with broadband (still gotta work).

Does that make you envious? It does me.

I’d be both excited and yet terrified by the prospect of packing up my life and having no fixed abode. Theoretically it’s possible. My work as a translator needs just an internet connection, I could make it pretty much a paperless operation. Truthfully, I wouldn’t do it. I feel like I’ve done a milder version of it, 7 months with a backpack shows you just how little you actually need. Now, I like stability in my life and would always have a fixed address to come home to. Not to mention if we took off around the world we’d have to homeschool our kids, yikes!

Noticing those feelings though gives you some useful pointers. Envious of travel, look at ways you can introduce that next year – for me, it’s booking a holiday, speaking at a conference in Wales, planning a couple of trips to Germany for business. Envious of the freedom, how can you feel more free? I don’t know what that means for you but for me it’d probably be making sure I had ample time in my diary to do whatever the hell I wanted. Not possible all the time, sure, but an hour a week, one day a fortnight or a couple of nights out with friends when I’m usually at home on my own with sleeping kids. All possible.

So that’s a way of noticing what you might like more of in life. How about at work? Well, work is still where you spend most of your time so see if you can incorporate more of what you’d like there too.

Also: think about how you can make your prospective clients envious. What do they really, really want or need in their life? How does your product or service give them that?

An artist might paint caricatures – reminds people of a fun time, maybe they need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously, what a great reminder to have on your wall. What a good idea as entertainment for a stuffy, corporate event.

Sales staff for an engineering company – you might provide a customised solution to a sticky problem. Your clients want an easier life, fewer people to deal with, reliable suppliers that can suggest ways to make improvements to their process. Make them envious of the easy life your current clients have because of you. Maybe you provide multiple products so they can come to you for everything and your products improve efficiency, boost profits and pave the way for a promotion for your contact.

I’m sure there are better examples. You know your company and its products. Have a think about your clients though. You might be absolutely certain that you’re the best option for your client, but they need a bit more convincing. Make them want, desire, envy your product and it all  becomes a little easier.

Tis the season of Gemütlichkeit

tis-the-season-of-gemuetlichkeit

Words I’d taken for granted as being a fixed part of the English language I recently discovered came from the German. Noodles, abseiling, rucksack. Obvious when I read them now.

One word that hasn’t transferred over from the German is Gemütlichkeit. It’s usually translated as cosiness but that’s just one aspect of the German meaning.

Think a roaring open fire, a snug sofa, glass of mulled wine/cup of tea/hot chocolate and a good book. That’s cosy. But the German word also describes a friendly atmosphere that you can get from strolling through a bustling town centre – sticking with this time of year I’m envisaging stalls selling Glühwein, crepes, and gingerbread – it gives you a feeling of contentedness. The Oxford English dictionary defines Gemütlichkeit as “the quality of being pleasantly cheerful: cosy, snug, homely, genial, good-natured”

I got up early today to tackle my inbox and proofread a translation so I can go out for a run later. Both sitting here with a mug of tea and my office heater and the sense of satisfaction following a good run enjoyed with a friend I reckon can be described as gemütlich.

And I think we need more of this feeling in business.

You know that people buy with their emotions and not because the cold, hard facts on paper say they should.

Make your clients and prospective clients feel good when they work with you and you’re on to a winner.

How can you do that?

By making things easy for them. By giving them reassurance that their stickiest problem is solved when they choose your product or service. By offering them value and great service with every conversation or interaction you have with them.

Yes we want results. Yes we want efficiency, reliability, and high-quality. These are, or should be a given. Ultimately, we want to feel good – reassured, lighter, cared for. Despite the digitalisation and streamlined automated systems of the present, or maybe because of these, we humans crave personal interaction. How special does it make you feel when you get truly personalised service? Imagine the manager of your favourite restaurant coming to your table and asking about your kids, offering you a glass of wine on the house just because he can. Gemütlich.

One of my favourite clothes shops (I’ll talk more about them another day because they get it) allows customers to browse with a cup of tea of coffee. The staff took my husband and children to a little area and plied them with biscuits and toys while I was ushered into the changing room and urged to take my time. That’s gemütlich.

It’s our differences that make us special

blog-3

I know this one, I know it … oh bugger, it’s not what I thought it was.

   Last night I indulged in my guilty pleasure, Masterchef Australia. This particular episode was about cakes, even better! The losing team were facing elimination and had to correctly identify the names of different cakes, the first three to get one wrong had to cook for their survival in the competition.

   Admittedly there were some mighty obscure cakes on that table but what struck me was how difficult some of the contestants found Battenberg, Black Forest gateau, and the Easter Simnel cake. Australia and the UK are so closely related, sharing the same queen and all, that we think the Aussies are just a more laid-back version of us. Except they have a crazy gene that compels them to live in a country where even plants can kill you, let alone the poisonous insects.

   So why didn’t they know these really well-known cakes? Because even though we share the same native language, there are differences in our culture and experiences.

   In Europe we are so lucky to have so many different cultures, there are more and more overlaps in the food we eat, the way we do things and places we visit. Yet there are still obvious differences. Language for one. Which is a huge barrier to many people and stops them experiencing life in the same way as native speakers when they visit another country.

   But even when we learn another language and get an insight into a different upbringing and way of life, it’s not the same as living and breathing the culture on a daily basis. I lived in Germany for a year and struggled to adjust when I got back home. Because although we’re all European, the subtle nuances of life, language and culture are ingrained into everything we do without us even realising.

   I had to rewrite an entire text for a client once because they kept referring to the Pfand (deposit) system where you return glass bottles and are refunded your deposit. It just does not exist here and my client had no idea. Had I kept to the original text word for word, English readers would have been baffled and felt alienated, not included. As a prospective client, you want to feel included and understood when reading about something that concerns you.

   This is why I launched my English Under the Microscope review service. For non-native speakers who may have written the English text themselves, or had someone else translate it but are not getting the results they were expecting. I take a look, send you a screencast video of my review and an action plan with suggestions on how to improve the parts I think aren’t working. I’ll be gentle but firm and give you an insider’s perspective on your text. You might be surprised at what I find.

   Take a look and book here.

It’s lovely to meet you!

I’m using this blog to give you an insight into the world of translation. I’ll be sharing some interesting facts about language and useful information on the English-speaking area.

Your feedback, questions and ideas are all very welcome.

Enjoy!

Sarah

The advantages of freelance translators vs. a translation agency

1. Expertise. Freelance translators that specialise in your field are experts and will produce a better translation than a large agency that offers all languages and all fields.

2. Communication. You value a personal service and wish to speak directly with the person translating your material. I am personally available to all my clients to make sure they get exactly what they need.

3. Quality. You require regular translations and want to maintain consistency. Using one specialist translator means they are familiar with your requirements, style and terminology.

4. Confidentiality. There is only one person (two with my trusted proofreader) dealing with your sensitive documents instead of multiple agency staff and contractors.

5. Value. Lower overheads and fewer people involved mean your money is going where it is needed most – on the translation.