Careful globalization navigation

Ineffective planning for global expansion is often a silent problem. The negative issues usually happen so far along in the project process that there is often a scramble to correct mistakes and react to customer complaints. Executing a strong strategy regarding your expansion will help create long-term trust with your consumers, your employees and vendors. Your ROI should anticipate every financial and human curveball.

No matter the size of your organization, the cost of doing business is a priority. You don’t spend money you don’t absolutely have to. This is smart, but due to these smart decisions, we often see companies start with generic language websites. The languages are carefully chosen for the most bang for their buck, but they are not country specific. That isn’t a horrible thing. However, when you grow, you may start to see the advantages to gearing your messaging to the specific market, and here is where we open the can of worms from a localization and legal perspective. For example, once you designate a new country to sell your products, you are held responsible regarding the laws of that country, and you are also expected to be aware of the local culture, dialects and what is considered offensive.

The more complicated your content, the more risks you incur. In addition, there are third party risks to consider and licensing restrictions as well. Here are a couple of examples:

Linguistic: If you create a Canada-specific site, then you need to be prepared to have the site available in English and French. The French language laws are quite specific.

Legal: There are countries where religious regulation is part of the legal system. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia and Indonesia, your concept and marketing needs to account for modesty.

Beyond hard and fast laws, there are also current events to be aware of. What if you have a very tight deadline, but there is a holiday that conflicts with your production schedule or a national tragedy requires you to adjust your content? There could be political conflicts or even a war between nations, so you need to be aware and be prepared to adjust your content according to potential eventualities.

Proper preparation and planning requires that you are aware of pitfalls as well as what is happening right now in your target markets. Here are five things that are helpful to consider in your strategy planning:

Define globalization. Allow the team to be in sync as to the definition of globalization as it pertains to your organization and project. Specifically, map out and clearly communicate what is involved. Create a checklist that would include language changes, additional imagery, original content and even content availability. Define what you mean by globalization as granularly as possible or it will be interpreted in differently, leaving room for inaccuracy in your brand expansion. Perhaps your campaign promotes a device where features are different depending on the country. You don’t want to risk false marketing because your product was not as described.

Avoid hard wiring. If your website and internal systems break every time you make an adjustment, then you need to fix that. Expect to grow and have a positive attitude towards the success of your organization. If your technology remains as nimble as your content, you can make fast changes to keep up with your customers. I am a fan of the agile methodology because it designed to be flexible. Anticipate that you have different features and content available to you per market and that every country is unique. Design your systems keeping in mind that you will need to change the language and replace content.

The human element. People still want to feel cared for. Take special care to insure you do not insult your customers. Focus on your international employees and vendors as well. They need to feel connected to your main headquarters and the overall vision. These are your ambassadors who represent you, and if your communication is diluted or if there isn’t confidence in the brand, there is no way to succeed. It is just as important to be aware of what is happening right now and what is important to these local customers. Equally as vital is the awareness of your international support and having strong advocates in country. An example that I like to use is what if you have a marketing concept planned and ready to go, you want your local team to keep you informed of any tragedy or news event that will make your messaging seem insensitive and will also infringe on your production schedule. If your team is treated as valuable and trusted partners, you will get the best work.

Timing. If you have remained nimble and your communication is clear, then you can react quickly. You have heard the term “strike while the iron is hot.” If there is a demand and your customers can get something similar or somehow obtain your product without purchasing it, they will. The real competitor is time. This is the new normal. If customers want something and they know it exists, they will not wait. This is especially true for entertainment. Global marketplaces allow for customers to be aware if their favorite show is available in another country. Piracy is always a concern and the best way to avoid this is to be available as quickly as possible. This is where you may lean towards subtitles rather than voice dubbing.

Downstream effects. Globalization always involves reliable teams and resources. Ideally, once you kick off a project, you should be planning for all regions. The challenges lie with knowing how to involve your employees and vendors without distracting your lead creatives. Allow your creative team to create the best ideas by having a conduit between creative and planning. If you are responsible for scoping of production and dispersing the communication, be aware of what is involved in creating additional versions of your content.

Overall, there are advantages to having someone connecting the dots as you grow and expand. The earlier you think about the impacts of globalizing the better prepared you will be.

Erica Haims
Erica Haims has held long-term roles at Atlantic Records and Apple. She recently launched Haims Consulting to assist brands with their global marketing execution.


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