There is little doubt that digitisation and globalisation have dramatically changed the way today’s brands go to market. In the past 10 years, the world has become more connected by digital, mobile and cloud-based technologies, allowing companies an efficient path to global markets that wasn’t previously possible – let alone scalable.
But increased access doesn’t immediately translate into success, as customers have assumed control over their journey and are dictating how they want to interact with brands. Success across markets can be allusive, as different markets across the globe have their own unique challenges, requirements and nuances, often making the traditional approaches to scale obsolete. To succeed internationally, brands must strike a delicate balance between local relevancy and global scale.
Engaging with today’s consumers requires marketing customisation on two levels; customising channels based on regional buyer preferences and localising content to meet their language preference and cultural norms.
Research from SiriusDecisions suggests that tactical marketing practice preferences shift dramatically by region. For example, marketers in the UK ranked email as their most effective marketing tactic during the education, solution and selection stages. In contrast, the Netherlands and Germany find that direct mail is their top tactic, while Spain and Italy report search engine advertising works best for them.
Within a few hundred miles, not only do customers’ languages change, but the most effective ways to reach them do too. Global marketing effort must align with these preferences to make the biggest impact.
The right localisation is also critical for the success of any global marketing programme, but when implemented at a global level, it adds tremendous operational complexity.
According to Common Sense Advisory, 55% of global consumers will only make an online purchase from websites offering content in their native language. Without a concerted effort into the localisation of content, businesses stand to lose out on over half of their potential customer base. This is far from a sustainable business model. What’s more, this number increases to 84% when considering global business professionals and corporate buyers.
Consumer and business purchases are strongly influenced by tailored, locally relevant content. A modern marketing team must be able to create and maintain a consistent experience for buyers in every market the business wishes to address.
To manage these dynamics you will need a new set of roles and responsibilities in your organisation. Strategies rise and fall at the execution point, and execution of effective global customer experiences requires a new set of skills and people:
– Corporate and regional stakeholders. It’s critical to determine where results need to be reported to and where you need to secure buy-in to execute the marketing strategy. These stakeholders can include the CEO, VP of marketing, sales director, country manager or other influencer. Key questions to consider are: Where are these stakeholders located? Are local marketers empowered to tell them “no” when a strategy won’t resonate with local customers? Marketing leaders should clarify the level of approval needed for both corporate and regional marketing activity including timeliness of approval, types of feedback and how feedback is implemented.
– Source and target language content creators. Content marketing is seeing its day in the sun with no signs of declining. Content creation should be common across all regions, maintain brand messaging, but steer clear of regional-specific language or colloquialisms (this is often referred to as “culturally neutral” content). These content creators should be skilled writers who understand the source language and nuances of applying it to different languages. Nailing this first step will ensure a smooth process for the localisation and translation of content assets.
– An SEO mastermind. Search engine optimisation is another marketing tool that has risen the ranks in the marketing professional’s arsenal. SEO is a specialised position in general, but with the added complexity of global content, this role is invaluable to any marketing team. As a company plans for global expansion, SEO pros must be able to address keyword research, optimise sites for search and provide guidance on campaign topics. They must understand multilingual SEO as well as how website structure and coding must be configured to meet global search best practices.
– The global webmaster. Marketing teams should include a tech-savvy web manager with an understanding of how to integrate website internationalisation, localisation and publishing processes. This individual will likely be based in marketing headquarters.
– Local marketers. This group of professionals could be the most important piece of the puzzle, as they bring to life the true meaning of global. These professionals are immersed within the regions the company is targeting and can easily understand not only the local language, but also the tactics to employ to optimise marketing plans and tailor campaigns based on their market knowledge and expertise. They are also the gate keeper for translated content. Once translated from the source language, they can develop local nuances and sayings that meet the consumer with the right content.
– Localisation manager. Your final position to fill is the localisation manager. This person will be responsible for addressing project deadlines, sourcing translation projects and ensuring timely and budget friendly delivery, which is key for any campaign. This professional must have a keen eye to guarantee brand guidelines are intact after translation and localisation occurs, and vet translation feedback to know whether or not it’s preferential.
As communication and distribution channels become more easily accessible on a global scale, brands that build their marketing organisation around a global-first mindset will be uniquely prepared to win. The diverse set of preferences among your global customers requires an agile approach to scale, one that balances reach and relativity. Design for both and you will be set up to succeed.
Clint Poole is chief marketing officer of Lionbridge