Digital Transformation / Strategic Planning

The Ghost & the Global Machine

I recently re-watched Ghost in the Shell, an anime which takes its inspiration from the book Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler. Koestler suggests that the body and mind are not separate, as previously posited by philosophers who believed the mind only temporarily inhabits a body but is essentially separate. He suggested the two are inexorably linked in defining what is human, a concept explored in the film.

digital buddha global marketing toolsThere are many other things that are similarly, inexorably bound together. One of these is the combination of global marketing concepts and tools. The two together utterly define global marketing for most organizations. While this may sound far-fetched, consider that you can only do what your marketing platforms allow. On the opposite side, many people don’t have solid ideas of what want to accomplish until they see what is technically possible. More often, the way the tools themselves are set up influences processes inside the organization.

Remember my pathetic attempts to map out marketing automation process, years ago? I used post-it’s on a wall to map all that out because I’d never used the software before and stickies on a wall was easier than figuring out the technology while I was also figuring out my responses to the buyer’s choices and making a full client journey. I think if I had used the software to map out the journey, I would have gotten a different result, since the user interface highlighted certain, very common tactics but required custom addition of some of the things I wanted to do.

That’s why any organization that wants to expand its reach globally needs a solid foundation of technology that supports what it wants to do but also allows potential future growth in new directions. However, there are many kinds of tools that you’ll need to integrate into your marketing transformation. Notice that I said ‘integrate into your transformation’ and not ‘build your transformation on.’ I come from a technology marketing background so I’ve seen first-hand the limitations of technology, even really excellent technology. You don’t ever want to let what a piece of software dictate what you do. You have to have the necessary inputs to make the tools work but there is a lot more, often more important, work that must be done before, after, and outside any tools you use.

Basic Tools

  • Just to create content, you need to meet many needs, some of which are converging through integrated software. In the same way, you need execution software that supports the create, approval, manage, and deployment of whatever other tactic you intend to include in your marketing campaign. This is typically the first type of tool that most people think of when discussing technology to support a marketing transformation.
  • As we’ve discussed at length, data is the lifeblood of modern marketing so you have to have a fairly robust set of digital analytics software and I do not mean Google Analytics. That’s perfectly fine if you are a business of one (like a blogger J ) but, for organizations that are at the level that you want to consider a marketing transformation, its simply not enough. If you are more ambitious, you can even get analytics software that does social listening
  • Marketing automation is absolutely critical to allow centralized planning while making execution easy and consistent across the globe. You need to be able to remotely set up templates and content for regional teams to use and allow them to customize and send out.
  • We’ve already talked about customer relationship management (CRM) software and a relational database as, without tools to track interactions and select the correct recipients for your emails, tailored marketing reverts back to the manual process where scale is impossible.


If you intend to run your transformation across the globe, you need each of your software platforms to support international needs and issues — and the model you intend to carry out.

For tactic execution, think about the process you’ll use carry out in executing your worldwide marketing and compare the checklist to the software’s capabilities. Does your analytics software allow both worldwide and regional views? Does your website development software allow fast and easy translation into all the languages you need to support – or even manual cut and paste support for wide characters? Does your CMR and email system comply with local privacy and data-protection laws, such as Germany’s Bundesdatenschutzgesetz (BDSG) or Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)? Notice I didn’t suggest that you should get separate systems for headquarters to use and different systems for the geographies. That is just a mis-communications disaster waiting to happen.

While it’s easy to see the need to have software that can handle international issues, I can tell you from having marketed marketing software that the list of vendors who can actually support globalization is much smaller than you might imagine. Worse, very few support any routes to market apart from direct marketing (you create the campaign, you do the follow up). This means you have to come up with different ways to support eCommerce, business partners, agency follow up, etc. in regions where you don’t have staff or a reputation to do direct marketing.

Some people hear this and automatically assume they can just hire a good developer to add those additional features in. One thing to keep in mind before you do that, though, is changes may void your customer support agreements and/or hamper future vendor upgrades. I used to call tech support for a piece of software that my tiny startup’s super brilliant tech support guy “improved” for me and was told his well-meaning efforts had voided my warranty. And there was no way that the CIO was going to allow his tech support people to suddenly support third party applications as well as core infrastructure.

While we’re on the subject of support, make sure that your service level agreements with these vendors allow for immediate contact, not putting in a support ticket and hoping someone will get back to you eventually. Modern marketing can’t wait.  Similarly, check out who is providing the support. Some vendors outsource support to third parties but even those that have passed certifications on the product can’t know it as well as people who only support that product set. They certainly can’t bring the product manager or technical engineer into the conference call in an emergency.

Other, cross-organizational issues you need to consider are numerous, from considering regional firewalls to implications of country-by-country licensing to training users around the globe. Each has similar, major elements that you need to plan for and integrate into your marketing transformation. Consider what platforms in other departments need to change as well. Do you need to have to change your sales software to account for rolling in regional data? Do you need to change your eCommerce system to account for payments in multiple currencies – or paying new agencies in different geographies?

To catch as many issues as you can, map out the process as you see it, noting what systems/tools are touched and confirming that they can support your global needs. Remember, you do not want to become a servant of your tools. Work with the tools and vendors to create what you need. For example, many organizations looking to do global marketing immediately think about the need to have branding guidelines and design templates for regional teams. Few think about the need to build a formal feedback loop that shows you how local feedback was addressed by the global team. Too many times, it’s just assumed that the critical information on how the globalization is working for remote teams or being perceived by their local buyers is being fed back into the process. Work with your regional and central transformation team and the technology vendor to see how to include it and whatever else you think is necessary.

The tools are only a part of the process, an important part but only one half the whole, just like the sentient ghost and the machine. Unless you make sure it’s happening, you can pretty much guarantee that, at least in some region, your perfect process is not happening. You will never catch all the potential issues on the first go around. That’s normal. Just make sure to revisit your process after a few months and check how it’s working so you can address any gaps you missed.

Comments welcome, especially if you have examples of how your organization dealt with software globalization.

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