An Interview with Massimo Ghislandi, VP of Marketing and Sales for Translation Productivity
Chiara Grassilli, author for translation blog Translator Thoughts recently took the time to interview Massimo Ghislandi, our VP of Marketing and Sales for Translation Productivity, where they discussed Massimo’s role at SDL, campaigns he is proud of and marketing for the translation industry.
Hi Massimo, and thanks for this interview. Let’s start with a question about you. You’re working with the leading translation software companies. Do you have an interest for translation or just a passion for marketing?
MG: In my role at SDL I started from a marketing angle. I have been working in Marketing for quite some time and this was my main interest. However I am also an Italian living in the UK and I therefore had an interest in language.
In my previous roles I had European roles and always had to get involved with localization, so it was natural that my interest in language and translation overlapped quickly when I joined SDL! I still find the translation industry a phenomenal community with so many amazing people from incredibly diverse and interesting backgrounds. So many people have dual nationalities, have lived in different places – which makes it the most fascinating industry I have worked in.
There are many other CAT tools on the market. How did you bring SDL Trados Studio to the first position?
MG: SDL Trados Studio has been in the market for over 20 years. I believe originally we were the first to create a commercially viable tool suitable not only to very large companies or University projects.
For many years we have stayed at the forefront of technology through continuous investment and we have been selected by a huge number of corporations, government institutions, translation agencies and freelancers. I guess the timing was good too – SDL Trados Studio inception coincided with the real growth in internationalization and in the need for multilingual content.
What would you say are the main difference between SDL as a company and the other translation software companies? I’d like to ask the same about the software itself but it’s probably a questions for your developers and engineers…
MG: As a company we are probably the largest in this space. Nonetheless the Translation Productivity team which markets SDL Trados Studio remains a pretty independent business.
In some ways we behave like a larger organization in other ways we also retain a small business mentality. We are very dedicated to the language industry, I’d like to think we do understand language being part of SDL and we have had the resources to invest in a very large set of language products which go from the SDL Trados Studio Desktop all the way to translation management and machine translation.
In terms of software – I guess the developers are better placed to answer that. However we have created SDL Trados Studio to cater for a very diverse audience with many different requirements. From individual freelancers who use the tool all the time and are extremely advanced, to new users, to translation agencies that need to integrate with their systems, to corporations with hundreds of translators to government institutions with thousands of translators. Therefore I think we have created a powerful and flexible tool which can fulfill all of these different scenarios.
What was your most successful campaign?
MG: I would say our extensive webinar series. When I started at SDL, webinars where a novelty in the industry (perhaps even outside the industry). I felt there was a demand for education, but the challenge was how to deliver training on a global scale as our business operates world-wide.
I have started to run a series of webinars. My first one was about terminology with Prof. Sue Ellen Wright from Kent State University. We had 1,000 people on that webinar! Seeing the popularity of it I started to expand the webinar program and it is now developed in a very extensive calendar with over 10 webinars per month.
What is the core of your marketing strategy? Who is your target client?
MG: Most of our marketing effort goes into the digital space. We have a mostly centralized team, running world-wide campaigns. Digital marketing enables to achieve this. At our core we run email campaigns, webinars, create digital content, constantly evolve our websites and now participate in social media across 3 core markets Freelance, Translation Agencies and Corporations.
We do go beyond digital and in particular to complement the webinars we run an extensive set of roadshows with around 70 seminars per year across the world in many important cities and we attend numerous industry conferences. From the largest such as Tekom and the ATA to smaller regional events.
Do you think good marketing can sell anything or it can only sell good products?
MG: I do think marketing can really help sell a product, which is good. Especially when it comes to software, which is expected to last for a few years and is used every day – the product must perform. There is so much marketing can do!
Where do you think most translation agencies and freelance translators fail at marketing?
MG: I think there are 2 areas. When it comes to LSPs ensuring sales and marketing are really joined together. ie. they work as a unit rather than pointing fingers at each other. Having dedicated resources of course is also important and it is hard for a smaller company. When it comes to freelancers the issue I guess is just finding the time. For a freelance translator time is money – therefore when you are busy translating it might be hard to take the time to update the website, email your regular clients etc.
How could they improve? Could you give them your top 3 tips?
MG: My three tips would be:
- Join up marketing and sales: make them part of one team
- If you are a freelancer make time to do the basic activities: creating a website, have a social media presence, email your regular customers
- Prioritize resources: choose the right activities. For example it might seem easier to have a presence at an industry conference, but perhaps you would be better off spending the time and money on web advertising which might drive more leads
In your marketing strategy how much importance does social media have? How much importance do SEO and paid traffic have?
MG: Social media has become more and more important. Since 2009 we have really stepped up our presence in some of the key channels. We had good success stories in media like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. However it is only now – 5 years later – that we have a dedicated resource and have a more structured approach to social media.
Do you get most of your clients from web traffic, social media, content marketing etc. or from direct contacts (more classic form of lead generation such as cold calling)
MG: A lot of our prospects as well as our clients do come from inbounds – ie web, webinars, social media etc. but we also do rely on our sales team to prospect and cold call. We need to do both.
SDL Trados Studio is quite a complex piece of software, and every year there are more features and functions. Is this answering real customers’ needs or it’s part of your the company vision?
MG: I’d like to call SDL Trados Studio sophisticated and powerful rather than complex! In the last few years we have done a lot of work to make is as easy as possible to use if you are a beginner while still having the powerful features if you need them. But we do come from 20 years of Translator’s Workbench and TagEditor and I think many people still think of that version of our software.
We really focus on responding to the customer needs – which are nonetheless very diverse when you take into account all the different type of people we address – therefore we have quite a set of features to constantly add to make sure everyone is happy!
What is the company culture? How is it to work at SDL?
MG: I would say we are pretty informal, pretty international, hard working, friendly. So often we are perceived as an anonymous corp, we have over 200,000 customers … we can’t have a personal relationship with all of them. But when we get to meet people in the real world they often seem surprised that behind the SDL Trados Studio brand there are real people, friendly people, keen to help and very passionate about our company and our industry.
This interview was originally featured on Translator Thoughts.