Christian Arno, founder and Managing Director of UK translation company Lingo24, gives his advice on cost-effective growth strategies.
It could be said that two of the biggest blunders many new enterprises make are as follows: trying to sell their products/services to the wrong people…and wasting a lot of cash doing so. This counterproductive combination can spell disaster for many budding businesses, which is why a carefully managed growth model is imperative from the start.
Christian Arno, founder and Managing Director of Lingo24, launched his translation company from home after graduating with a languages degree in 2001. Lingo24 now operates across four continents with over 100 employees worldwide and has a network of 4,000 freelance translators. Figures released this week reveal that Lingo24 has enjoyed a 30% rise in turnover in the past twelve months, with total revenue of £3.65m.
Having come so far in eight years, Arno has some advice for other entrepreneurs looking to market themselves and grow.
“In the beginning, I found that companies would contact me to sell advertorials which, at the time, sounded great…but they weren’t. After a couple of costly ones, it became apparent that the return on investment just wasn’t there. My first piece of advice for any new business is this: don’t throw large sums of money at things without knowing what the outcome will be.”
Indeed, online marketing has played a pivotal role in the success of Lingo24, allowing them to grow gradually and build an online presence without risking large sums of cash. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in particular have been central to Arno’s marketing ethos over the past eight years.
“The internet has been a key driver in Lingo24’s growth, and online marketing has allowed us to connect with our customers in a way other medium couldn’t have done”, says Arno. “I discovered SEO and Google AdWords early on and there has been no looking back. PPC allowed me to test out online marketing techniques for very little money – I could set my monthly budget at a nominal amount, allowing me to gauge its efficacy without blowing my entire marketing budget. And as it turned out, it has brought us a lot of custom.”
Countless companies strive to optimise their position on Google, some succeed and some don’t. But Arno reckons the key to successful SEO is pretty straight forward: “The key to ranking highly on Google is not to be too clever about it. Forge relationships with industry partners, offer to contribute content to their sites/blogs in exchange for links and ensure your own website is kept up-to-date – there’s no substitute for fresh content and there’s no fooling Google.”
Online marketing certainly seems like the most cost-effective route for businesses to go in the current economic downturn. And for Lingo24, it has been an integral part of its global expansion plans, with websites now in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, French, German and a number of other key languages, helping them to tap into new and emerging markets.
“The majority of the internet is in English, yet most of the world’s internet users’ first language isn’t English, so there’s a clear gap there”, says Arno. “I researched key search terms used by local customers and incorporated them into the translated websites. Because the saturation is nowhere near what it is in the English-speaking market, I found that we rose very rapidly in foreign search engine rankings.”
Lingo24’s global expansion has seen business boom and he anticipates even greater success over the next twelve months. With an increase of 6,000% in turnover since inception, Arno has this final advice for entrepreneurs seeking to grow their business:
“Don’t try to get too big too quickly. You must understand your market and in doing so, you will intuitively know how to allocate your marketing funds. Talk to others who have succeeded before you throw significant funds at anything. Growth is still possible, despite the current downturn…you just have to work at it!”
Lingo24 is a global localisation and translation company. It has over 100 employees based in the UK, Panama, Romania, China and New Zealand, and a network of 4,000 translators. Its projected turnover for 2009 is £3.7m.
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