Tips & Guides — 31 Mar 2022
8 Tips for Global Growth Marketing
Growth marketing adds more data-driven thinking into the traditional marketing approach. (This is not to be confused with growth hacking.) It includes practices like A/B testing, SEO optimization, content marketing, influencer marketing, and close monitoring of behavior metrics.
Growth marketing is:
As we’ll see, these are all valuable skills for global growth. As your company expands globally, you need a marketing mindset. These enable you to evaluate opportunities and turn those insights into a real business.
Skills like SEO, digital marketing, and customer acquisition are essential. As well as a special focus on customer feedback, and a sensitivity to copy and branding. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is often the one responsible for global marketing strategy, but all stakeholders can embrace this kind of thinking.
Global growth begins with an in-depth market analysis. Companies need to look at the market they’re expanding into and compare that landscape against their own strengths.
One easy way to start is a SWOT analysis. This involves carefully analyzing the Strengths and Weaknesses of the company, vs. the Opportunities and Threats in the market.
Another good way to look at it is the “7 Powers” framework developed by investor Hamilton Helmer. The seven “powers” are:
Your business needs at least one of these to create long-term value in a competitive market. The framework assumes very high competence from all competitors. That’s the assumption you should have when analyzing a new market.
As well as researching the local players in your industry, you should also look closely at how the local economy operates. Also, consider how your customer base in this country might differ from the customers you cater to already. Ask yourself the following questions:
Starbucks has a track record of leading the way in marketing-led strategy. Their My Starbucks Idea platform allows customers to give direct feedback about the company and how their service could be improved. Over the past few years, this has led to new products and experiences such as mobile payment drive-thrus and free birthday treats.
If you’ve done your market analysis, you should have some good ideas about how to effectively market your offers. You’ll know how you’re going to stand out from both local and international competitors. Some additional factors to consider are:
Your marketing strategy should clearly define objectives and timelines for the new market. It should cover short, medium, and long-term time horizons, and detail a roadmap for how you’re actually going to get your company into the new country. It’s worth considering the following points:
While you’re developing your marketing strategy, you should be asking and answering questions about the company itself. Do you have the resources necessary to market internationally? What more do you need?
Global growth might require investment in new tools like remote HR software or UCaaS providers to keep teams working together seamlessly.
The last thing you want is to set expectations you’re eventually not able to fulfill. Your business growth strategy should specify how you’re going to develop capabilities and allocate resources in the short term, and how that might scale in the long term.
For example, expanding to a new region might involve region-specific social media, even if there’s no language difference. Your ecommerce site might need to be translated, even with new region-specific graphics and formatting. This is all designer and developer time you’ll need to budget for.
When you’re ready to put your global growth plan into place, the first 6-12 months are critical. This is the period where your business is making itself familiar with the target audience and forging the relationships you’ll need for success.
For many businesses, the aim of the game is going to be achieving a critical threshold of success in one region before they’re safe to focus on expanding. Depending on the business you’re in, you’ll have greater or lesser exposure to the network effects mentioned above.
Network effects were first noticed by AT&T chairman Theodore Vail in 1908. What he noticed was that as AT&T was competing across America, AT&T began to dominate a region, such as San Francisco, as soon as it achieved a critical mass of users in the region.
This was despite the fact that their competitors’ product was just as good if not better than AT&T’s. What mattered was that as more people joined the AT&T network in any given region, the more benefit there was to joining AT&T’s phone line over anyone else’s.
When expanding into the new ecosystem the main priority is learning. That means getting people on the ground who are gathering data and soaking up as much information about the market as possible.
These global branches should be given autonomy to run their own marketing strategy so they’re as agile as possible. Until the business growth demands locally sourcing these things, it’s usually better to have “back office” functions like payroll, HR, and legal managed at HQ while the branch focuses on marketing.
If you’ve already got customers in the region, some of the best market research you could possibly do is talking to them directly. Arrange a call over Skype or another alternative to Zoom and ask them about the product. What do they like about it? What value does it bring them? What could be done to more closely tailor the product to them and their region?
As we’ll see, mistakes in localization could be costly and embarrassing. Your existing customers in the region may bring up cultural issues you’d never have thought of. A video call is one of the best ways to get to know your customers, but if that’s too time-consuming for them you might have more success with a targeted survey.
This could be a detailed survey in something like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey. But for your brand, it might be more suitable to hold something casual over a Twitter or Instagram poll.
Wherever it is, customers in the region will be happy to know that you valued your input. If you build a real rapport with them, they might even be your brand’s first evangelists in the area.
If you can, meetups and networking events are also a very useful way to get to know your market. They give you the opportunity to meet customers face-to-face, and maybe even see how your competitors in the region are marketing to them.
As well as cultural issues, it’s important to understand the practical challenges customers might face. For example, there’s no point driving a PPC campaign in Brazil if expensive shipping and a lack of relevant payment options prevent potential customers from actually converting.
A company that did this could have saved the wasted time and effort if they’d spoken to customers and showed them the service before trying to push into the region.
As well as mapping out customers and competitors, you should get a sense of potential partners in the region. No company can do sustainable growth alone. Whether they’re distributors who can ease up your supply chain or influencer marketing partners, it can’t hurt to have friends in the new market.
Partnerships of all kinds help your brand build a presence in the market through the brands you affiliate with. These partner companies should be identified in the research and strategy phase. Plans should be made about how you can collaborate ahead of the launch in the new market.
Beyond partner marketing or influencer marketing, there are other businesses and brands in the region you can build relationships with. Approaching external consultants in the area can help you with various market specifics like supply chain logistics, HR compliance, or localizing your brand to the region.
Depending on where your HQ is based, there are usually public bodies that can help you with your global business growth. If you’re based in the US, the US Export Import Bank specifically helps brands with global growth.
Brands often have to localize to market globally. McDonald’s has come up with many local variations on their classic menu items like the Mango McFlurry in Malaysia or India’s Dona Masala Burger, introduced in 2019.
What this illustrates is that localization isn’t just translation. Literal translation often leads to mistakes, – such as KFC’s “finger-lickin’ good” slogan being mistranslated as “we’ll eat your fingers off” in Chinese – and that’s a useful microcosm of the issue. Rather than thinking about a translation of your brand or your copy, think of “transcreation”.
By working closely with customers in the market, and by hiring local talent where it counts, your brand will feel as authentic to potential customers in the region as if it were homegrown.
Marketers and copywriters know how much difference one word can make in a potential sale. Subtle textual and visual cues can be the difference between success and failure in the market. In an age of automation and AI translation, Airbnb recognized this subtle value and has over 100 million words of text “human-translated” every year as they’ve expanded into over 220 countries.
SEO is an integral part of your global growth strategy. When you’re expanding globally you should consider regional variation in your keyword research. Adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.
Local keyword research will help you tailor your ecommerce and content marketing efforts to different regions. This is crucial – and as with your copy – you should use expert human translators to translate your keywords as AI can make mistakes.
URL structure is another factor to consider. Make use of Google’s geo-targeting filters to select only the most appropriate domains, subdomains, or ccTLDs to your different markets. (such as “amazon.com”, “amazon.co.uk”, “amazon.ca”).
For example, the Burmese standard for encoding Zawgyi text is different from the Unicode standard used almost everywhere else in the world. But you might see an increase in conversions if you just put the local country’s flag somewhere on the site.
This makes it obvious users are on the region-specific version of the site, and if you’re shipping internationally this reassures users in that country you’ve at least thought of them. They can rest assured they probably won’t be hit with the issues we discussed in the Brazil case study above.
Another crucial part of a global growth SEO strategy is language-targeting. Hreflang tags will make sure that what search engines surface to users are always language- and region-appropriate.
The fastest-growing companies understand how growth teams with a focus on marketing and strategy are essential to expanding into new markets. There’s no set methodology, but growth marketing is all about gathering data and acting on it in an agile way. Once you have a foot in the new ecosystem, these skills and sensitivities will take you to success.
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