I was attending Marta Stelmaszak’s Business School the other day (this is the twelfth time and I never get bored!). She was explaining the Blue Ocean strategy. The blue ocean is where translators can swim freely, released from the competition trap down in the red ocean where sharks and con artists circle constantly, snapping at the heels of unwary translators. She got me thinking about my work at eCPD Webinars. Since I launched eCPD six years ago the online CPD scene has undergone an explosion. eCPD pioneered the new medium of webinars, answering a clear need for accessible and affordable training for all – not just for those who could afford the time and money to get to a city centre (which in those days was usually London). Six years on there is an almost overwhelming choice of online CPD from a mixed bag of providers.
During her course, Marta helps translators identify and work on the business aspects of a translation service. The chart of factors she has drawn up for her translation business from the Blue Ocean strategy includes, but not necessarily in order of importance, price, personality, customer service, brand, the pre- and post-purchase experience, additional services, specialisation and seriousness. Where in some peoples’ eyes the low cost providers (the sharks) score well on price, they tend to score very badly in every other area. Marta goes on to explain how translators can rise above the issue of low rates by excelling in other areas, and truly stand out – or to put it another way – how they can swim in clear blue waters.
So I stared to muse about the contributions that we at eCPD make to CPD for language professionals and how I believe they stand out above other offerings currently on the market, some of which have been described variously as “fluffy”, “box-ticking exercises” and similar.
Starting with personality, I can safely say that eCPD Webinars has our personality stamped all over it. The very fact that its three directors are themselves translators is evidence that we know what we are talking about. I am pretty well-known in the industry by customers, trainers, and colleagues as an easy-going, friendly and approachable person. Further, I really care about whom we engage to speak on our webinars and I spend many hours of research finding the right person. As you can imagine, experts are usually extremely busy people but I am proud to have engaged field experts such as Sim Harris to talk about railways in the UK, Ivan Vasconcelos, who gave a talk on the oil and gas industry, Ron Finlay on copywriting, David Main-Reade on Industrial Safety, Ed Zanders on pharmaceuticals and related topics, cardiologist Michael Curtis, and others to talk to us about their fields. Not to mention the dozens of specialist translator colleagues willing to share their expertise with their peers. I like to think as well that I come up with some innovative business ideas.
Marta Stelmaszak is even more well-known than I am as a translator and interpreter, but also a teacher, colleague, academic and thoroughly nice individual, and while Maia Figueroa might be less prominent in the translation social media universe, she is a sought-after literary translator with 30 books under her belt, working with some of the most prominent Spanish publishers. She regularly translates best-selling authors of international renown.
So between us we inject our personalities into everything we do – from finding top quality speakers, to posting on social media and everything in between.
I believe that our Customer Service is second to none, scoring high on the blue ocean chart. When webinars for linguists began six years ago, the technology was less advanced than it is today. For example, some attendees found it tricky to log in; there could be occasional sound issues; and the recordings were sometimes a little clunky to watch. But our webinar platform, Gotowebinar, has enhanced its service to the point where we now have few such problems. Of course it helps that after six years most of our attendees are now used to the idea of logging on for training. But if anyone encounters a problem we respond as soon as we can. Of course we cannot work 24 hours a day, but we can usually respond to urgent issues by return. Maia is our customer services representative and I know that she does not rest until the problem – which might be anything from a company firewall preventing connection, to an incorrect email address preventing communication – has been solved.
Determining the brand
When it comes to brand, the name eCPD came to me in a flash in the year I registered the company. I think our name has done more to explain the concept of Continuing Professional Development than any other brand around. This is especially true because countries outside the UK tend not to use the CPD abbreviation – it’s known in the USA as CE (Continuing Education), and in Australia as PD (Professional Development) – and that’s just the English-speaking countries! Our name says what we do. We enjoy a great reputation with our speakers too. We look after them from start to finish, with a guidelines booklet, full briefing and a technical rehearsal – even assisting with slides if necessary. And we never abandon speakers to their audience once a webinar has started. We are always in the background to start and end sessions and deal with technical problems.
The pre-purchase experience produces a high score too. If you decide to eat out at a restaurant you have a menu to guide you in your choice, and you can ask the waiter if you need further information. The same applies at eCPD. The descriptions on our website are designed to explain exactly what you will learn at any particular webinar or course, and it also states the intended audience and level. This helps prospective attendees to decide if the particular learning opportunity is for them. But we encourage customers to ask if they are still unsure. Those who prefer on-demand webinars from our library can view a short clip from the webinar before deciding to buy.
… and after
Post-purchase. The customer experience does not stop when we close the webinar. We follow up all our webinars with handouts, usually containing links to further reading, a copy of the slides, a link to the recording which is kept available for many months, and finally, a completion certificate in compliance with our status as accredited CPD provider. How many other providers have gone through the complicated and very strict accreditation process to offer approved CPD not once, but twice: for the Bureau Wbtv in the Netherlands and for the independent CPD Standards Office* in the UK? And the CIOL, ATA and many other professional institutes are supportive of our work.
Above and beyond the norm
Over the years we have gradually added many additional services to our palette. These include specialist CPD tips covering different sectors of our industry, free webinars every so often**, and a bright newsletter every couple of weeks, containing stories, news of upcoming events, and other items of interest. Moreover, eCPD publishes a CPD manifesto in seven languages, along with a badge, which translators can link to their own websites to show their clients just how important continuing development is to their work.
Lastly, eCPD can offer advice to newcomers to the industry with strongly supported CPD guidance.
When it comes to specialisation our score goes sky-high. Because we only provide talks, presentations and courses for translators and interpreters, and because of our own backgrounds, we help our customers to find their way in their chosen specialisations with guided learning. Almost all our speakers provide further reading and materials so that attendees are well set on the road to in-depth knowledge of a particular field. And our speakers love to work with us because we are professional, friendly and efficient.
Lastly, we score very high on the seriousness chart. Of course we have a sense of humour too! But we couldn’t be more serious about our mission, which is to enable busy and committed professionals in language-related industries to learn from the top experts and to improve their careers – wherever they may be in the world – all from the comfort of their home or office.
What do you say?
Our language professional customers agree:
“I sincerely think that this webinar exceeded my expectations, “
“…Very comprehensive and gave lots of examples, hints and tips.”
“This is a truly excellent webinar. The speaker obviously knows her subject and gave a comprehensive overview with plenty of useful, hands-on information. Highly recommended!”
“Clear, informative, interesting and lots of practical suggestions, as well as very good background on the field as a whole. Definitely a good investment in terms of time, cost and learning.”
“A great presentation, making complex concepts seem so easy to understand. I wish I had him as a physics professor in college! Very useful webinar…”
“A very good, convenient format fitting in with my daily schedule. Thank you!”
After the Business School lesson mentioned above, we received this feedback from loyal customer Caroline Hirst:
“I have followed the development of eCPD webinars since the very first free webinar under the auspices of CIoL and later as eCPD Webinars. Well done Lucy for leading the way in diversification and providing a very valuable resource for people working in this field. I wish you and your team continuing success too.” ***
… and finally!
Oh, and I haven’t forgotten the price aspect. Experienced translators and interpreters urge newcomers not to fall into the trap of constantly lowering prices to get work, and to value themselves properly. Thus it is – to a point – with eCPD. A huge amount of work goes into preparing a good talk, presentation or course and our prices reflect that. CPD for translators and interpreters is a niche market and we cannot count on large numbers at every webinar. Yet we haven’t raised the price of a standard hour-long webinar for some time now because we want them to be affordable for as many translators as possible.
Our loyal customers and readers of this blog can help by telling colleagues about us.
Post scriptum: We are based in the United Kingdom and many of our customers translate into English from a wide variety of languages. While we appreciate that many eCPD customers translate into other languages, it is difficult for us to produce training in other target languages. By doing so we drastically reduce our potential audience. But we remain alert to customers’ needs and requests and if we can do it, we will.
* In partnership with the CIOL in the UK.
**Check out this blog post for some of the free webinars.
*** all are comments from the exit survey after webinars/courses held in 2016. Our webinars consistently score top marks from attendees.