Global Marketing Anatomy: It Takes a Delicate Design to Make Content Shine

April 24, 2017 Tom Bentley

A metro station abroad at night, city lights in background

While your responsibilities might only pertain to stateside matters, there’s still something so sweet about working in a worldwide organization, knowing your products can bring a smile to someone of the other side of the planet, all without a huge global marketing output. Or maybe as a marketer, you don’t think there are actual sides to the world—instead, it’s a big circle of exchanges and opportunities.

And a bit of this feeling probably comes from the fact that your job title means only having to promote your firm’s SAAS tools in the United States. That idea, that your work never slept in the wider world, helps you sleep at night.

That’s until your CMO decides, after a strong company growth period, that your digital marketing group is now going to be organized into multiple business units around the world. And, although your responsibility was mostly stateside, she wants you to head international growth of product market share and develop the content strategy.

You start to sweat: organize marketing efforts across borders, languages, and cultures? Is there enough coffee in the building?

But you’ve got this. Your first step is to call a team video conferencing meeting with heads of content, public relations, digital, marketing automation, traditional media, and energy drink vendors (no, that one’s a joke) to get everyone on the same page. Only that page is not torn but shredded. You discover that not only are the global marketing teams not communicating, but they can’t even cooperate on a lunch order. You realize you need to rethink and reorganize if you’re going to start thinking globally.

Huh. We are the world, until we’re not. What can you do?

Structure Follows Strategy

Consider this: your old org charts can now be used for kindling.

One of the tenets of modern marketing organizations is that structure follows strategy. Many more companies are defining roles by functions, not titles. Thus, as Business2Community explores, businesses structure their channels and departments to align with customer engagement. They don’t categorize marketing responsibilities by title but by how they operate. Consider their “Think,” “Do,” and “Feel” marketing slices that deal with, respectively, tech and analytics, content and lead production, and customer engagement.

That doesn’t mean things are disorderly—quite the opposite. With marketing technology tools having more power than ever, using them to automate workflows (say, for the creation, editing, and publishing of content) is crucial across large organizations. Putting strong systems in place can make some wings of marketing production automatic, and that eliminates some stresses. Using robust yet painless collaborative communication systems for project planning and execution (and simply for getting disparate workgroups talking) can be a big boon as well.

Boy in swim trunks floats in a lake, seen from under water

Jump In—the (Local) Waters Are Warm

We’ve been talking big-picture policies here, but remember, our hero above is not simply trying to organize global marketing efforts but to keep the teams, wherever they are, happy with their content strategy. Royce Yakuppur Yahya, the global assistant consumer market insight manager at Unilever’s London office, spells out how content campaigns can go from big picture to backyard. “The global team would pin down the campaign idea. Only after that should the local teams come into play to tweak the campaign according to their own country, which should be finalized by the country head. The local team will be the closest to the consumer in those markets and will know their culture and needs,” she says.

There will be some growing pains just because of the nature of the human experience. “Language can be a problem at times, as the exact translations might not be present in the local language,” she says. “If this is the case, then we leave it up to the local teams to choose the most suitable language. Once you understand the style of each culture, it’s easy to adapt, but of course you need to have an open mind to different cultures.”

Apparently, it’s not only that all politics are local, but all marketing is too.

Customers, Those Pesky Creatures

Customer-focused marketing does seem to be winning the arm wrestle with product-based marketing, with consequential changes to what used to be marketing-structure silos. As this deep structural change assessment from Simple argues, marketing teams now must work with product and sales to develop a single customer view.

Technology is also a huge enabler for organizing large global marketing departments; data about customers, data about campaign production and results, and data about data is the springboard for integrated and agile promotions and engagement. Again, new marketing structures focus on the customer, and those customers are sliced up into segments, with marketing teams devoted to messaging (and massaging) their segments. And that messaging depends on incoming data. Target Marketing emphasizes that a Marketing Operations group—one that “centralizes the management of technology, process, data and marketing analytics”—should be part of any new marketing organizational structure

The top-down org charts are giving way to a hub-and-spoke structure. This could change the way your teams work and approach customers. As Jenny Wilson of Deloitte Australia pointed out in that Simple article, “campaign management and execution is best driven as a shared service support, along with social and digital marketing. The spoke can mirror elements of this. What is key is that the hub drive the vision, strategy, and overall capability development for marketing.”

Shovel digs into dirt

Teamwork Helps When You’re Digging for Diamonds

Those spokes can really help spin the wheel. IBM’s approach to customer focus, what they call a B2I (Business-to-Individual) organization, uses cross-functional teams of experts called Diamond Teams that combine discipline experts, industry experts, and product experts in their marketing campaigns. Those teams are aligned “by discipline based on their skills, passions, and experiences. We looked at their natural proclivities—for instance, their love of telling a story, their ability to be socially compelling or their skill at setting standards.” In their hiring practices, they look for employees who “embrace transformation and enjoy building and influencing the networks across our customers’ ecosystem.”

Though not about global organizations per se, CoSchedule has relevant information on discerning and assigning roles to content marketing teams to get strong results. These roles aren’t titles, but affinities and skills that mesh well in the pursuit of stellar marketing. They represent employees who have passion for roles that drive their interests. Here’s their list, which has expanded descriptions in the post:

  • Content marketing strategists
  • Content strategists
  • Idea contributors
  • Content writers
  • Content editors
  • Content promoters
  • Graphic designers
  • Community managers
  • Content analysts
  • Videographers and video editors

Nobody’s Down with Top-Down

Top-down marketing structures are going down, and they will have to make way for the rolling wheels of the hub-and-spoke system. Particularly in an international organization, teams can only create and distribute great content experiences, and grow international market share, by sharing a harmonious vision (the result of clear communications and shared goals, if you will.) “It’s important for the VP/director to promote the culture that we’re all one as a team, and the consequences of our actions will affect our final end goal as a whole,” says Yakuppur Yahya of Unilever. “Therefore, although both global and local will have their different individual goals, overall the final end goal is to grow the business, so we all need to work together to make that happen. By making this clear that we’re all working for the same team, the same end goal, I believe this will create a harmony among different divisions.”

Ahh, harmony. No matter the language it’s in, the word (and its results) sounds good.

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