Top 10 Mistakes LSPs Make with Their Content Marketing

Language Services Providers face very strong competition in a huge market: Slator ranks over 300 agencies in the space and Nimdzi estimates that the language services industry will grow to $72.7 billion in 2024.

How are you getting your piece of that huge pie?

Many of you have begun to focus on content marketing over traditional sales channels like trade shows and cold sales outreach. After all, content marketing, when done right, should be getting you 6x the conversion rates of other marketing methods.

Are you seeing those results?

I know many of you aren’t, and when I start looking under the hood of content programs I can often see why. Let’s explore the top 10 things I often find that may be crippling your efforts as well.

1.      Undifferentiated content

All LSPs sound the same. There are very few exceptions here. Everyone talks in the same way about the same things: there’s load of lookalike content about quality, technology (including AI), localization strategy, and resourcing.  It may seem that there is very little new to say about any of these topics and so it’s hard to stand out with content that is different.  (This doesn’t mean you should keep writing that boring content.) It’s difficult, but not impossible to sound different. It does, however, require taking risk and having the willingness to be a little bold.

2.      Too much top of funnel (awareness) content

There is way too much online content out there in the language services space that fall in the ‘what is’ category. These define concepts and problems in the industry.  For example:

  • “What is Language quality?”
  • “What you need to know about glossary tools”
  • “Four things you need to know about Machine Translation”

This level of content does not provide solutions or approaches to problems. It’s content that is easy to write – it doesn’t require a writer with subject atter expertise, internal SMEs, or much more than writing skill and a search engine. But with people now going to AI to get their questions answered and SGE serving up basic information quickly, this level of content is no longer needed.  You won’t rank for it, your competitors all have it covered, and AI is making it a commodity.  Unless you can explain the concept way better than anyone else, you can stop writing it.  LSPs must make a shift to middle of the funnel (how to) and bottom of the funnel content (how we) that begins to talk about your solution to customer problems.

3.      No real thought leadership

Very few LSPs have an expert who produces content with spicy opinions and hot takes on industry topics. Thought leadership is of critical importance in the language services industry where content is so homogenous.  This level of discourse is what humanizes your brand, makes you memorable, and draws ideal customers to you.

This type of content takes more time and commitment than “what is” or “how to” content. It is harder to write for several reasons: it requires the time of a subject matter expert who has strong ideas AND a writer who can pull out and craft those ideas.  That SME is probably not a writer and is busy working a ‘day job’ as a product marketer or technologist.  Also, many companies confuse SMEs with thought leaders but they are not the same.  Thought leaders have opinions about things and are happy to talk about them, while SMEs are just very well versed in what they do and possibly don’t want to have or don’t yet have an online brand.  Thought leaders and a thought leadership program needs to be built.

4.      Half-effort social and no social selling approach

Nearly all LSPs post on social, in many cases daily.  However, this is only the tip of the iceberg (and the barest minimum) when it comes to an effective social strategy. Your approach must include:

  • Teaching your teams how to use their social handles to benefit themselves and the business
  • Building an engagement strategy in which a social media manager follows key industry accounts, interacts on their handles, and responds to all comments on the corporate posts

I talk to a lot of marketing managers who are very frustrated because they are not seeing results like increased follower counts, higher engagement and leads on social.  Most of them at not involving their teams or working on engagement.  Yes, that takes a lot of time, but that’s where the magic happens.  You are very unlikely to see results if you just ‘post and ghost’.

5.  No C-level presence online

Very few C or V-level leaders at LSPs are active online or social media.  They aren’t blogging, posting, being podcast guests, or hosting Lives.  There is nothing quite as powerful as a senior level person having conversations, publishing content (even if it’s ghost-written), and engaging with peers, customers, and companies online.

Along with this, everyone in leadership needs to have a strong social profile: a good picture, a banner with a tagline and call to action, and a well-written about section are the minimum here.  There is a huge credibility difference between a current, well-developed profile and an outdated one, skimpy on details.  It is inexpensive to hire help to build a highly polished and impactful profile.

6.  Poor case studies

I see so many case studies that are just project profiles: we did 1M words in 10 languages in 2 weeks, and everyone was happy.  There was no tricky challenge solved and there are no metrics showing results.

A powerful case study, on the other hand, outlines a problem, describes your company’s custom solution, and shares big outcomes often in terms of money saved, timelines shrunk, and quality improved.  It’s true that getting access to that outcome information is tricky: you often don’t get that kind of feedback on outcomes from clients unless you really press them for it. If you only have 2-3 complete case studies, that’s fine: it’s way better than having 20 on your website that don’t tell an interesting and complete story.

7.  Writing and writing but not repurposing

I meet lots of teams who are on a hamster wheel of content creation. Two blog posts a week, a lead magnet a quarter, social 2x a day no matter what!  This means you have a lot of content but the velocity and volume you’re producing might mean your team is spread too thin, you’re talking about too many topics, and it may not be high quality differentiated content.  There are 3 things to do here that will save you money and time and get your message out there more broadly:

  • Repurpose what you already have by creating other content formats from it. For example, a blog post can become 10 social posts or a newsletter. Three related blog posts can become an ebook.
  • Refresh and republish older posts. This costs less and takes less time than writing new posts, and if you’ve got a winner why not get extended life out of it?
  • Focus on distribution. Put your content out there on all the channels where your customers hang out (newsletter, social, blog, etc.), and don’t be afraid to distribute the same thing multiple times.  Broadcasting one piece of content is much better than posting 6 pieces no one sees.

8. Writing for too many buyers (or all your buyers at once)

Language services providers sell a broad array of services, in different verticals, to different buyers. This makes for a very complex content matrix.  If this is true for your LSP, there is literally no way to write content that covers it all.

Instead, you should look for your top-value buyers (3-4 maximum) and really focus on creating content that is specific to the way they speak and the problems they have.  For most LPS those buyers are localization operations (across various job titles), marketing, product, and procurement buyer. You have to find out which buyers have historically given you the most value, and then create content for each of these types of buyers. From there, you can move on to customize the content for specific verticals or client if you want (i.e., as part of an ABM campaign).

If you speak to everyone, you essentially speak to no one.

9. Writing on too many topics

There is a LOT you could talk about in the language services space: culture, tools and technology, localization strategy, global branding, AI, workflow and automations, Agile, continuous loc, linguistics, quality, events in the industry…. on and on and on. I literally have written dozens of blog posts on each topic.

However, if you are trying to stand out in this crowded marketplace you need to NOT talk about all of that. You need to claim 3-4 themes (called pillars) and cover them in depth. Own those topics in the market and be known for them.

This is not only easier to execute and repurpose, but when you can align your brand with a few topics by covering them very well, then you will stand out.  It’s that simple.

Also, be careful to choose pillars that interest and matter to your buyers. All too often I see LSP marketing teams writing about things that interest them. We (people who work at LSPs) love culture and language, but do our customers care about words from other cultures that can’t be translated? Or the nitty gritty of a systems integration? They are probably just trying to grow revenue in a new market or save a buck on translation. They don’t care.  If they read enough content from you on topics they don’t care about, they literally are going to tune you out.

10. Not having the right team in place

Many LSP marketing teams have 1-2 writers on staff and they are lucky if they know the industry (and I do believe you need a writer who knows the industry).  Yet, a staff writer often does not have the broad skills they need to run your content strategy: SEO expertise, social media knowledge, messaging chops.   While they can craft words and write conversion content, they cannot help you with repurposing, distribution, buyer personas, and differentiated messaging. For that you need a content strategist.  There is no reason to hire one full time, and this is where I come in: fractional content marketing strategy.  A fractional can build your content strategy and run the program for you, whether that means managing your existing team or bringing my own team of specialized localization writers.

If you see yourself in any of the above 10 mistakes and want to shift your strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to set up a discovery call.

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