Mark clicked to leave the conference video call and sat back in his chair. When he’d taken this new job a month ago, he’d been looking forward to expanding his product marketing skillset to include international markets. This was his first call with the company’s two overseas offices and various regional resellers. The call was tense and argumentative between the home office and the international staff. The partners seemed quiet and detached from the conversation. No one seemed to agree about where the handoff should be between central resources and international. Everyone seemed disappointed with current sales revenues, the products, and with each other. Mark had clear deliverables outlined by his manager for an upcoming major global product launch. But after the call, Mark was left unsure…
How could he navigate these choppy waters between the various international stakeholders?
To be honest, Mark is fortunate in this situation. Most often when there are wide disconnects involving international teams, the issues go undetected or misinterpreted as personality conflicts or regions going rogue. As Product Marketers, we often get caught in the middle of wider challenges. As such, we have a valuable role to play in helping to better define the core issues and get teams moving together in the right directions. Here’s where to start:
GET REALLY CURIOUS
Most Product Marketers are insatiably curious. International operations is a key place to apply that trait. As a new employee, Mark can set meetings with central team and international teams to introduce his role and to ask questions about expectations and assumptions related to the company’s international business. What he’s likely to find is that expectations are currently not aligned and relationships between key leaders are strained.
Since Mark is new to international markets, he will want to find out all he can about determining the balance point between Global and Local tasks. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer for this. But it will be critical to define ahead of any global GTM process.
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS TO LAST
Americans tend to extend trust quickly in business to others, only to pull back if they feel later that the trust was broken. Most of the rest of the world is much slower to trust, building over time based on consistent interactions. As a Product Marketer, it’s critical to invest in these international relationships both in and outside the company at a deeper level than you would in the U.S.. Visit foreign counterparts if you can. The upside is that these relationships will often continue long after the project and even the job.
EXPERIMENT AND TAKE LEARNINGS FORWARD
Through Mark’s conversations with stakeholders, he’s likely to find both individual regional nuances and some common themes across the company. Global product launches provide a great opportunity to test new approaches, since most launches need to roll out in phases. Mark can take any new insights he’s learned to try out new approaches and challenge some of the company’s assumptions that he suspects aren’t actually true. Savvy product marketers take learnings from any market and looks for places where the fuller company can benefit!
While off to a bit of a rough start, Mark’s unique position as a product marketer lets him ask the tough questions and uncover misunderstandings, hidden market potential, and barriers to growth. While international markets are often more diverse and complex than a single home market, the learnings that can be applied throughout tends to make global companies more competitive in the long run.