I am the Vice President of Product Marketing for ThroughPut Inc., an AI-Powered Supply Chain Management Software Company based in the U.S.
Global markets offer incredible opportunities for brands to tap into new audiences and drum up additional demand for products. These opportunities, however, are tempered by a host of challenges.
Products must first be adapted for local markets — including naming conventions, cultural customizations and release cycles — and product pricing must reflect the demand and purchasing capacities of individual local markets. Additionally, different markets will have different rules concerning promotion and marketing ethics. All these factors combined make creating a global marketing strategy an intensive process that might not seem fulfilling until three to four years down the line.
While product marketing owns global launches or international rebrands in most companies, the organization’s culture typically overrides the product marketing strategy in international markets.
There are two common scenarios. In one, product teams, technology and IP dominate culture. In the other, sales teams dominate the culture. I’ve been at both ends, and each scenario has its pros and cons, but the primary focus of product marketing leaders should always be building the narrative, messaging and positioning to help potential buyers identify the solutions they need.
I generally start by achieving alignment by creating a product road map. Include launch activities, a timeline and a clear delineation of responsibilities. The next step is to create a compelling story to appeal to consumers. Although product marketers can often be pulled in many directions, I try to stay focused on the bottom-of-the-funnel conversions where we bring clear differentiation.
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Let the demand teams focus on lead generation, and let the content teams focus on the content strategy. Positioning, segmentation and pricing are a team effort. Be agile and assertive to make sure everyone is heading in the right direction, and take all input into account to avoid last-minute feedback or hiccups.
Global marketing can be downright difficult, but I’ve found that the payoffs can also be well worth the hefty initial investment. To make sure your global marketing efforts go off without a hitch, follow these steps.
1. Nail the local preferences and formats.
Launching a new module or product internationally is tricky. However, aiming at different markets opens up new possibilities for branding as long as the messaging and format are in line with the preferences of the country you’re launching in — which may require you to make adjustments.
Not all changes have to be drastic. For example, when Trello was launching in Brazil, France and Germany, the company depicted its “spokes-Husky,” Taco, in a slightly different way for each unique market.
On the other hand, sometimes significant branding changes are important, if not mandatory. The Ford Kuga is a popular compact SUV in the European market, but “Kuga” means “plague” in Balkan languages such as Serbian and Croatian, so the name is an odd choice in the region. Whenever you approach a new market, take the time to do your due diligence. Look for opportunities to mitigate risk and enhance branding capabilities before launch.
2. Demonstrate your local commitment.
Markets vary tremendously from one place to another, and you’ll need to experiment to find the right avenues for resonating with customers in a new market. Participate in local events or podcasts, and organize meetups to create mindshare and build awareness about the brand and product. These steps can also amplify your hiring trajectory and create opportunities for collaboration.
Look to local digital influencers who can engage their followers with content specific to your brand. Take the partnership between Italy’s Tod’s and Chinese handbag influencer Tao Liang, better known as “Mr. Bags” to his social media followers. Mr. Bags used WeChat to garner almost half a million dollars in sales of a limited-edition handbag in about six minutes.
3. Don’t settle for vanilla translation.
In today’s era of hyperpersonalization, you can’t expect to lean on the same corporate messaging and merely translate it into different languages to reach new audiences. Instead, your product, website, content and distribution strategy should all be adapted to each specific location where you hope to do business.
That means you’ll want to build a product and marketing framework to guide customer-facing teams as they adopt localization elements. In turn, laser-focused customer-facing teams with better qualification criteria and more targeted messaging can create better conversions.
Marketing your products on a global scale requires a substantial effort. Local markets come with local intricacies that can make or break demand, no matter how innovative or effective your product might be. In order to succeed internationally, communications professionals should put in the legwork, construct a complete strategy and follow through on the execution using the above steps.