The digital age has made running a truly global business far more achievable than ever before. It’s easy to see why marketing in new countries may once have seemed intimidating, but now, when done correctly, it’s possible to grow your organisation around the world.
As with any business decision, there has to be a carefully thought out strategy behind it, with the correct analysis carried out in advance. We’ve always been a very ambitious company so when we were looking to expand as a niche technology recruiter, we knew there were two ways to achieve this. The first was to extend the range of services we offer in the UK. The other was to offer the same services in different geographical markets.
In terms of location, Europe is closer, but as the United States is home to the biggest software market on the planet, it was a natural decision to prioritise America. Technology professionals are in high demand there, and that’s what we specialise in providing. On a purely logistical note, the language is far less of a barrier as well!
Just speaking the same language isn’t always enough, sometimes cultural differences or a lack of local knowledge can have unforeseen repercussions. One good example of this is when UPS first launched in Spain. The company, famous for their brown delivery vans, had to quickly send their fleet for a re-paint after realising that hearses are also traditionally the same colour there.
Whilst not on the same scale as the UPS faux pas, we did come a little unstuck when we opened an office in Berlin and discovered that PR in Germany is very different to the United Kingdom.
As with any new launch, we prepared a press release announcing the expansion and sent it to the local media. The fact that a company has invested in the area, creating hundreds of new jobs which has a knock-on effect for the local economy, is always good news. However, it was viewed differently there.
Germany’s media organisations only tend to take on hyperlocal news stories and PR, meaning that running a piece on a foreign company opening an office was seen as little more than free advertising. As a result, we were unable to gain the same amount of press we have had when opening our other offices around the globe.
German SEO also operates differently to the UK and US too, with users responding to much longer keywords and descriptive content. In terms of marketing content, customers want to know about performance and statistics rather than the aspirational aspects that would be focused on in the US and UK.
I always suggest that a big part of your strategy needs to be simply replicating a successful operation into new territories, but you still have to be flexible enough to adapt in situations such as this. We learned our lesson in Germany, but we’ve had to hold our hands up at times, then roll our sleeves up and been prepared to admit we were wrong. It’s a challenge that you have to embrace rather than be beaten by.
Choosing your channels
It’s also worth trying to do your homework in terms of using the correct digital channels for whichever new territory you’re exploring, where a trend or platform might catch you totally by surprise. You may think that splitting your marketing budget between a bunch of social media platforms will be enough, but that’s a naive approach to take.
As much as Facebook seems the default worldwide social media, its censorship in countries such as Russia and China means it’s not always the most-used platform. Going back to Germany, when we launched we found that Xing was far more popular than LinkedIn for networking, and Twitter has never quite been as popular as it has in the US and UK. On the other hand, Japan prefers Twitter’s relative anonymity compared to Facebook, which is often used more as a professional networking platform, the way we would use LinkedIn.
So as much as it can be a minefield, it’s imperative that you know the most popular platforms in the new location you’re moving to and not assume it’s the same globally. You also need to have a specific plan in place with what you want to achieve from your digital marketing. Without any clear goals, how can you gauge where your successes have been?
When you are entering a new market and using different channels, it’s even more important to have very specific targets in place so that you can benchmark how each campaign has gone, because you can’t assume you’ll get the same ROI from the same channels in a different country.
No matter what your ambitions, it’s vital that you have buy-in from your employees from the very beginning of your journey. We are very proud of the successful culture we have nurtured and we transplant this ‘DNA’ by promoting within and give our leaders the opportunity to open new offices in new countries.
If you want to expand and achieve, make people aware during the recruitment process, make sure you hire those who are excited by that and will embrace it and ensure your communication within the organisation reflects this. Our internal branding encourages people to ‘Go Beyond’.
Make sure your internal communication isn’t just restricted to great branding. The easiest way to keep on top of the different challenges you’ll face is with constant and open dialogue. Feedback on what’s working and what’s not should never just be restricted to scheduled meetings. A quick WhatsApp message could save your company time and money when it’s most critical.
The digital age has made marketing across numerous locations easier than when I first entered the industry. Keeping on top of that is a challenge, but it’s possible to achieve real success in any new territory you decide to take on.