Technology, storytelling, and networking: Lichi Translations case study

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As a translation professional, you’re probably aware of the fact that the language services space is extremely crowded, which makes it difficult for many to set themselves apart from the competition. For translation professionals to thrive, they need an out-of-the-box approach to marketing.

Mikhal Heffer, founder of Lichi Translations, is a translation professional with a career path that’s as varied as the number of languages that her agency supports. In addition to mastering multiple languages, Heffer leverages multiple marketing methods to set herself apart from the crowd.

At the age of 18, Heffer moved to Paris to learn French, after which she decided to pursue studies in languages that would allow her to live in other countries and explore new cultures. While living in Israel and studying East Asian culture at the Hebrew University, Heffer decided to learn Chinese. She also spent a few months in Taiwan to immerse herself in the language, and, after completing formal studies, is continuing her education at Beijing university.

Throughout this journey, Heffer was following her passion for linguistics, even though she didn’t have a clear career direction. That changed when Heffer realized that she would be great as a language services professional.

In the early 90s Heffer broke into the field while working as a freelance interpreter for Chinese delegations visiting Israel. At the early stage she outsourced all written translations to Israeli and later, as the Internet became mainstream, to professionals in China.

After developing a reputation for delivering quality translation and interpretation services as a freelancer, Heffer founded Lichi Translations in 1997, which was the first company in Israel to specialize in Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai.

Leveraging technology to increase capacity without reducing quality

Although Heffer successfully grew Lichi Translations organically without sacrificing quality, she realized that manual translation processes limited the number of projects her team could handle. Her agency was also managing hundreds of translators and projects had to be assigned based on their language pairs and domains of expertise.

This is partly why she began looking into leveraging computer-aided translation (CAT) tools and machine translation technology. Heffer chose Smartcat for her agency because of its comprehensive onboarding processes, approachable support staff, and robust translator marketplace.

The Smartcat WordPress Connector is a favorite feature of the Lichi Translations team as it enables them to pull content from client websites directly into Smartcat for processing. When translations are finished, the content is piped back into the website.

Additionally, the Smartcat Marketplace is indispensable to Lichi Translations as it’s designed with transparency in mind. It features comprehensive translator profiles so agencies can view details such as the language pairs and pricing upfront, to save time in the recruiting process.

The art of growing a language services agency

Going back to the topic of organic growth, Heffer attributes much of her agency’s success to four methods:

  • Joining business networking organizations

  • Running a blog and producing a newsletter

  • Helping clients succeed in global markets

  • Leveraging name cards.

Business networking organizations

Heffer has been a member of BNI (Business Networking International) for over 11 years. BNI helps members grow their businesses by providing a structured channel to share and receive referrals and build relationships with other professionals.

BNI chapters generally hold weekly meetings where members gather to connect and share updates on their business and ideal connections. The organization has over 240,000 members in 9,500 chapters across the globe making it one of the largest business networking organizations in the world. You can find a BNI chapter in your region via this page.

Heffer reports that one of her connections through BNI has been a Lichi Translations client for over five years.

Creating a blog and a newsletter

Given that effective business networking requires professionals to add value, Heffer runs a blog and sends out a newsletter on a regular basis. The Lichi Translations blog features client stories and stories inspired by the news, cinema, personal life that are all related to the translation industry. This content is then featured in the Lichi Translations newsletter, sent to thousands of readers, and shared through social media.
Although blogs and newsletters don’t guarantee immediate business, these forms of communication increase the likelihood that the reader will reach out when they need these services.

Helping clients succeed in global markets

The main motto of Lichi Translations is “to assist clients to do business in the global market.” That’s why Heffer created the Lichi Business Forum which is a networking platform for companies that conduct business internationally. The event takes place every few months and caters to a different market (e.g. China, Russia, Africa, Italy, Latin America) each time.

By hosting these events, Lichi Translations increases its brand visibility, plus the team can interact with clients and prospects. More important is the fact that the agency enables business professionals to meet and develop valuable business connections — a level of value that few other agencies provide.

The Lichi name card — a memorable giveaway

The final technique Heffer uses to foster business relationships is providing a memorable giveaway to connections. These don’t have to be elaborate. Just something simple to show that you’re thinking of them.

Client quote

What I really like about Smartcat, and this is my goal for 2020, is how easy they make website translation. Since I learned about the option to connect Smartcat to websites, I’ve translated a few websites and I find it’s an incredible advantage for the client because it works automatically. I push the content into the project, and once I finish the translation, it goes back into the client website with graphics and text. So, this is a wonderful product.