Long gone are the days of fluffy feel-good marketing, where brand awareness was the focus and sales was normally the first company contact.
I give the rise of Digital Marketing majority credit for this accountability revolution in our professional discipline. In 2004, I attended an American Marketing Association conference on Strategic Marketing in Chicago. A large international survey had been conducted on marketing and advertising effectiveness. The survey reported that the average marketing/advertising campaign yielded a 3-5% ROI (return on investment). I can’t imagine a marketing department leader today going to his company CEO and not being sacked for delivering such a flagrant failure.
Accelerating the digital marketing revolution further is small & medium-sized companies’ access to content management, social media, marketing automation, data analytics and other online tools. Thanks to digitally-enabling products from Google, Hubspot, Infusionsoft, Constant Contact, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and many others, even the smallest company can reach markets faster and more effectively than ever before. Look out, Fortune 1000, your size advantage won’t save you from competing against the next generation of rising companies!
More effective tools mean greater accountability for marketing results
I was reminded this week yet again of just how challenging our marketing role can be. I was working with a new partner to develop new website keywords. To those outside marketing, keywords may seem like a minor consideration. It should be easy to list the search engine words that will lead the right audience to our site.
The puzzle we were trying to solve: how to define keywords for a global BPO innovation when no one yet knows that your product or service category even exists? I have literally been thinking of this day and night because this morning I woke up relieved finally figuring out the answer to our riddle. Some marketing challenges take months to solve. But those of us in marketing know how sometimes seemingly small details can make all the difference in outcomes.
My fellow international business expert, Ed Marsh has written extensively about digital marketing and international expansion for B2B companies. His site is also worth reading on this subject.
Now onto the international digital marketing pitfalls
International business relationship building will never be fully replaced. To all of the introverts out there, I’m sorry. Business relationships with international distributors, strategic partners and large-scale clients require trust building. The best digital marketing in the world can’t close a multimillion dollar enterprise sale or create a high-value strategic partnership.
To bridge cultural communications is to risk occasional embarrassment and misunderstandings on the learning curve. This cannot be done through social media contact, your website or any email campaign. So, marketers, please don’t lose your people skills. You still need them.
Localization to new markets cannot (yet) be fully automated. Today I see many companies disregarding localization as they extend unaltered paid media and other digital channels into same-language markets. Recently a B2B software company I know was paying for Linkedin sponsored links and ads to New Zealand with no real market research. It’s like fumbling in the dark. Motivations, buying patterns and a host of other factors vary greatly by country.
Non-localized digital marketing distorts information about international markets. Many companies assume that the leads from their website represent a country’s market demand. For instance, if Germany represents only 1% of leads, then that is the demand for my products or services in that market. Unless you conducted market research and translated/localized for Germany, your market is likely much larger. My general rule of thumb for initial estimation is to take untranslated/unlocalized leads and then multiply it by 9. That said, you don’t know until you research in country. But in my experience, no technology or professional services company (even in the U.S.) has a domestic market over 50% of their total world market. Usually it’s more like 5-20%.
Digital marketing does not replace the need for any of your marketing talent or other resources. Instead, digital marketing often requires repurposing marketing skills. Instead of designing and writing copy for printed brochures, staff often design and write for digital assets and campaigns. Events management now goes beyond trade shows to include webinars and podcasts. Marketers continue to experiment with the best ways to develop conversations in social media and then drive those leads to the right calls to action. And there is always management needed for all external marketing agencies around the globe. Even with digital tools, it is still a great deal of effort and coordination across channels and geography.
In the end, there just is no magic button to push that creates effective international digital marketing. There are great new tools for all company sizes. But it still requires creative problem solving, strong international knowledge and perspective, and a lot of effort and discipline from your marketing team.
I hope you found this article to be helpful. For more Tips and Tools from The International Entrepreneur, I invite you to join our International Business Tribe.