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Think global, act local: how B2B brands can localise marketing.

For most B2B companies, international growth is a natural aspiration and in today’s increasingly connected world, it’s easier than ever to enter new markets. But there’s more to going global than simply setting up shop in a new place.

That’s why business-facing brands encounter everything from language and communication differences to cultural preferences when branching out internationally. 

Localisation is a logical solution — and it’s something that consumer-facing companies are well versed in. According to a Shutterstock survey, 80% of marketing decision-makers in the U.S., UK, Germany and France believe that using localised content is critical when entering new markets, and 71% have seen sales increase in target markets as a result of this strategy. 

Like their B2C counterparts, B2B brands must treat their target customers as people, not faceless entities, and adapt their marketing to local preferences when seeking opportunities in new countries. 

Here are three ways B2B companies can localise their global marketing and achieve success:

1. Choose the right marketing model

The way you structure your marketing operations can make a big impact on how you gather and use local intelligence. In other words: you have to consider your marketing model.

Namely, whether to choose a centralised structure with one main team controlling the activities, initiatives and brand image for the entire business, a decentralised model where multiple local teams have free reign over their own patch or a hybrid approach that’s a blend of the two.

According to the CMO Council’s new Reshaping Global Engagement Operations report, a lack of localised intelligence has led to missed opportunities for 57% of marketers, largely caused by whatever structure is in place. Moreover, the study found that fully centralised organisations are not close enough to their customers, while fully decentralised ones lack consistency in terms of look, feel and messaging.

Depending on what your goals are, a hybrid approach that leverages local expertise while aligning all teams around a centralised strategy could be the answer. 

2. Find local partners

Don’t assume you can enter a new market by following the same playbook that brought you success with current customers. Find a local partner who not only knows the market but who can help you communicate your company’s unique selling point in a way that’s relevant to your target audience, whether that’s suitable messaging and marketing channels or even product packaging.

This will minimise the costs and risks that can come with international expansion and ensure your market entry is as seamless as possible.

While having boots on the ground is often the easiest way to get the inside scoop on a target market, it’s not always possible for a company to send someone to spend time in a region. At Atomic Beta, we know that having access to local resources in global markets can significantly improve the success rate of entering a new region.

That’s why we’re a member of Worldwide Partners, a collaborative network of more than 70 independent marketing agencies in over 40 countries, which means that our clients’ global campaigns will always have the local insights they need to succeed. 

Take IBM, for instance. The technology giant manages a global network of local partners called “Futurists” — subject matter experts on emerging technologies, commerce and marketing from all over the world — and enlists them to co-host webinars for local audiences, participate in events and co-author whitepapers to accelerate their international growth.

Similarly, when Salesforce hits the road with its World Tour, local Trailblazers take the stage to talk about how the company’s solutions have helped their businesses, while plenty of user-led events such as Southeast Dreamin’ take place throughout the year.

3. Localise more than language

Localisation involves a lot more than translation. Beyond figuring out the official language in your target market, it’s important to adapt all types of content to speak to the audience you’re trying to reach, from imagery and pricing to campaigns.

For instance, a whitepaper about a B2B customer’s pain points in one market might be very different from those elsewhere, while a marketing email sent at 9 am in New York City reaches inboxes in Sydney, Australia, at 11 pm. 

When Intercom discovered a large number of visitors from non-English speaking markets were visiting its English site, the company took its highest-performing English keywords, ads and landing pages and localised them into French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese.

After running a month-long paid experiment in which it tested localised and English campaigns in countries that spoke those five languages, Intercom discovered not only a demand for its product in non-English markets but that it was cheaper to capture this demand with localised content. 

Speaking of ads, co-working company WeWork uses copy and imagery specific to a geographic location in its Facebook campaigns. 

Another point worth noting is how much information people in other markets are willing to share. When e-commerce payment manager CyberSource wanted to use a survey to generate leads in Asia and understand how those businesses managed fraud, it realised that many weren’t comfortable disclosing sensitive information up front.

So the survey first returned benchmark results and recommendations based on their anonymous responses and then asked for their contact details to send a personalised version. 

Expanding into international markets is a great way for any B2B company to grow. But moving into a new market requires more than money or resources to be successful.

Businesses must focus their efforts on targeting the right markets at the right time in the right way and adapt their products and marketing strategies to suit local buyers.

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