One of the things I mentioned in my previous series on Global SEM is that there is no such thing as going global. Going global means going local in 25 different ways. This holds true not only for brand campaigns, but even more so for broader marketing initiatives.
Since I wrote about supporting a global brand re-launch with paid search last Fall, I have had the pleasure of working with our international teams on a broader scope of marketing initiatives, and I thought it would make sense to jot down a few thoughts in the hopes of making others’ efforts more successful.
Let me first take a step back and state for the record that the longer I work in search marketing, the more firmly I believe that as search marketers, our ultimate charter is to support the business goals of the company or entity in which we operate.
As I begin to work more with marketing teams in India, UK, France, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other markets, I am constantly reminded that everything – business objectives, marketing goals, even measures of success (not to mention language and culture, of course) – vary widely between international markets, and each market requires essentially a custom built approach to SEM.
As a result, if you’re like me and work in a resource-conscious central marketing environment, it’s paramount to build a strategy that allows you to work efficiently and effectively to deliver search marketing services to a vide variety of markets, prioritizing efforts appropriately to support a diverse set of objectives across the globe.
To that end I’ve compiled a short list of questions you should be asking your international contacts before you get started.
The first two questions will help you qualify and prioritize your regions and determine what level of effort you can afford to invest in them:
What sort of budgets do you have set aside for paid search this quarter/year? As cold as it sounds, this needs to be the first order of prioritization for your efforts. You’re a very busy person, and budgets are a good indicator of commitment to the channel. As a secondary data point, you might ask what percentage of their total or online marketing budgets they’ve set aside for paid search. This approach helps normalize for market size and gives you an additional data point to consider.
Who’s in charge of paid search in your marketing team? Again, not so nice, but your ROI on teams with a dedicated search- or direct-marketing lead will generally be much higher than regions where there is a single point of contact for all things marketing. Don’t be a hero. At best, hitting a home run with a $25,000 SEM budget in Iceland isn’t going to get you a promotion, and at worst, if it keeps you from focusing on important initiatives in the UK, for example, it’s downright irresponsible.
Once you have established your priorities as they relate to regions or countries, the next three questions will help guide you toward building a winning SEM strategy in your target markets:
What are your most important marketing initiatives this/next quarter/year? This may sound like a no-brainer, but again, our job is to support the business objectives of the region. Don’t make the mistake of trying to jam corporate marketing objectives down the throats of the regional teams. It won’t work and it will only serve to annoy your international counterparts. Once you have built a trusting business relationship you can then begin to introduce other priorities into the mix.
Do you already have a relationship with an SEM agency, or a digital agency that runs paid search programs for you? You may have an agency or in-house team that can execute on a global scope. That’s great, but it won’t matter if the region has a comfortable relationship with a somewhat capable agency. Don’t attempt to displace the local agency unless you or your shop holds a significant advantage in terms of capabilities or cost structure. Your credibility is at stake here – don’t blow it. Believe me, you’d rather work with an established agency at first than force a relationship with an unwelcomed in-house team based in the US. Be patient.
What do you consider to be marketing success? Again, a simple question, but different markets have varying objectives and thus potentially different definitions of success. Here in the US, we’re fixated on cost, revenue, conversion rate, profit, and ROI. In emerging markets, for example, these metrics may not matter. Unique visitors, cost-effective referrals, market share, these are some of the KPIs I get when interviewing international teams, and these are what we should be focusing on in such markets.
Like most topics, the key here is to start with the basics, build strong relationships, and take it one step at a time. The gaps that exist between you and the regions as far as language, culture, budgets, business objectives and success metrics dictate a measured, prioritized and open-minded approach to international SEM. Good Luck!