Strategic Planning

Global Reach, Personalized Feel

Today, many organizations – large and small – are geographically dispersed, either around a single nation or continent or across oceans and continents.  For people like me, that means calls early in the morning and well after work hours are over for most people, just to speak with colleagues in other parts of the world. During a marketing transformation project, though, global-scale organizations create many more complex issues than strange hours.

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You want to be able to reach customers anywhere and tell them about your brand –but customers want to know that a product/service meets their unique needs, including needs that are specific to a region. Technology lets you reach out to those customers but, just like KPIs, there is no simple answer as to how you should balance your goals with the buyer’s desires for uniquely tailored marketing, just guidelines on what to consider.

The biggest issue most global marketing transformations face is which marketing creation/execution model to use across the world. There is a huge focus in large enterprises on activities being repeatable and scalable but modern marketing trends run in the opposite direction, with an emphasis on tailored, one-to-one interactions, thus the dilemma.

Will you have centrally created campaigns to ensure brand consistency and economy of scale or will the regional teams create content tailored to address local needs? Will you require that just messaging be globally sourced and implemented using global templates that allow cost-savings and scale in execution but localization to regional needs? There are an endless number of options to choose from. Each variation has different implications for how well you are able to address local needs, retain consistency of brands, and control costs.

Some organizations treat different geographies differently, depending on factors such as potential revenue from each market, ease of entering that market or doing business in it, and whether there have already been some sales in that region with only central marketing support. This may be an option you want to consider as well, if you want to move slowly into globalization and expand as you get more experience. You might even start with this or another model and realize that it doesn’t actually work for your situation as well as you thought it would.

One variable commonly placed at the top of the priority list is ensuring consistency of brand. The theory is that the brand should be perceived in the same way around the world, so that it can leverage its brand equity for greater revenue. However, many brands find out that there is often too much variability in the world for the same brand to operate across the globe and have to allow more flexibility to address local perceptions of their brand. Talk to your local teams before you push centralized branding down their throats.

One way that my past teams used to try to balance these issues was to send our geographically distant teams 80% complete content that they could add to, with content that addressed local conditions, regional competitors, or even add industry-specific topics. Thanks to modern technology, you can set up template-based, modular content with white papers, webpages, emails, newsletters, and many other tactics and asset forms.

However, there is often yet another layer of complexity to address when choosing model for global marketing. Many organizations divide their teams by product lines because that’s how businesses were historically set up, then overlay geographies upon those business groups. However, buyers don’t have nice demarcation lines like that. So, whatever organizational structure you come up with in a marketing transformation, it must have a governance plan that addresses campaign overlap. Analyze historical data to see what products customers are likely to buy next and set up a governance system to address who get priority in pitching to which customers, based on that data.

You will, of course, get complaints that this will make it impossible for groups to reach their revenue targets. However, keep in mind when responding, that even in the current system – whatever it is –that every buyer is purchasing every product pitched by the various, competing internal teams. There is simply not enough customer mindshare, time, or budget to do so. If this wasn’t the case, the organization would not be investing in a marketing transformation.

Back in the day, I had to manually determine which campaign streams to send to which buyer, based on area of interest. Now, however, there is fantastic marketing automation software out there that basically removes all the guess work and allows the customer’s behavior to determine not just what specific follow up interaction is presented to the buyer, but which campaign that comes from. Think of it as an eye exam. If you miss a letter in a certain row, the doctor switches you to the row above, where the letters are bigger. If you get that whole row correct, the doctor asks you to read the row below, where the letters are smaller. It’s all about your particular situation.

There is a lot more to the practical execution of implementing global marketing but all of those elements are dependent on the model you choose and the needs that arise from that decision. You can always try a variation and change later but, to avoid, the financial and change management repercussions, talk to regional marketing leaders first and find out what their core concerns and need are before you make any decisions. Once you have that information, mock up some scenarios and walk through those potential marketing campaigns with both your corporate team and the geographic teams, just to see how well your plan flows. While it may slow you down, this method is a lot faster than implementing once, repealing, then implementing a second model variant.

Comments welcome, especially examples of how your organization handled global reach versus tailoring to local needs.

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