Digital transformation had begun shifting how we do business in areas like banking retail, travel, and entertainment BEFORE the global pandemic of 2020-21. Thanks to limited in-person access, we’ve seen a profound acceleration to new digital services in industries across the board and increased usage driving staggering growth.
One of the earliest adopters of digital transformation was the marketing industry, thereby raising expectations of what we can expect from marketing as a demand generation engine. The low 3-5% returns that were standard back in the early 2000’s would cause today’s Chief Marketing Officer to lose their job today.
But it’s easy to forget that while digital transformation and particularly digital marketing are powerful shifts in our practices, not all advances transition easily to other international markets. Even though someone in Thailand can access your site and read your content doesn’t mean that you can expect optimal results globally.
Here are some basic pitfalls to step over in your quest for greater international marketing outcomes:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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%.
4. 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.
Onward &; upward!