This article is originally published on The Guardian on 11/14/14.
A strong global content marketing operation requires extensive collaboration, close communications and hard compromises
The ultimate goal of marketing is to grow business. For content marketing, the goal is to grow business by creating and sharing educational, entertaining or insightful information with your target audience. Content should make it easy for your customers to learn, search for and purchase your products and services. By being helpful and providing values, consumers reward us with their business and loyalty.
In general, it’s easy to create a content marketing plan for one country or one region. A cross-country or cross-regional plan is tougher, but not too hard if you extensively collaborate, closely communicate and make hard compromises between HQ and the regions or local offices. It may sound like a massive undertaking, but it’s manageable if you can take care of five key elements up-front.
Align business goals between HQ and regions
It may sound rudimentary, but the headquarters and regions’ goals do not always align. HQs may demand higher sales quotas than the regions are willing to commit to. Conversely, the regions may be planning to grow a brand new market segment or request customization of specific products, even if HQ doesn’t have the bandwidth or resources to support. In-depth conversation to ensure full alignment on business goals is a must before any planning.
Determine country priorities
No company has an unlimited marketing budget. So it’s a good thing that “global” in this case does not mean you have to market to all the countries on the planet. Global simply means to market to targeted regions or countries. The company, usually HQ, needs to determine the regions or countries they would like to nurture and grow strategically. Tackle one or several regions or countries at a time. Identifying key countries will rally all marketing teams to prioritize content planning efforts.
Agree on personas
In addition to reaching consensus on business goals, it’s vital to agree on buyer personas. Since your content marketing plan is global, it may make sense to create global personas that apply to all regions. But global personas may not necessarily be applicable to your industries or your products and services.
The decision of using standardized global personas versus localized personas depends on the industries and the products. If your products are homogenous across regions, it may make sense to create global personas. If your products are highly localized, due to local behaviors and usage models, creating localized personas for different regions and countries make better sense. If there is no agreement on buyer personas between HQ and regions, you won’t be able to move to the phase of content planning.
Create editorial topics and a content roadmap
A good persona provides insights into your audiences’ attitudes, purchasing behavior, thought process, challenges, desires and aspirations. Through personas, you can extrapolate potential editorial topics and use it as a compass for content planning and creation. Identify three to five broad editorial topics, such as and for example, mobility, security, fitness, health and so on.
Topics must be broad enough to give you freedom to produce different sub-topical content or create interesting campaigns that resonate with your target audiences. Solicit feedback on editorial topics and your content plan from your regional and local teams. Since they know their regions better than you, let them pick and choose the appropriate editorial topics for their audiences.
Craft region or country specific marketing campaigns
Having agreed on business goals, personas and country priorities, the regional and country teams can craft their marketing campaigns. Their plans should identify how content will be utilized as part of their campaigns. Their plan can also serve as a feedback loop to the overall global content planning. In addition, the marketing campaign and content plans are good resources for driving budget and headcount discussions.
The holy grail of global content planning is to establish a communication process between the HQ and regional/country teams, with clear roles and responsibilities so that everyone is moving in the same direction and striving to achieve the same business goals. Global marketing efforts require being flexible and adaptable, which does not mean being random or spontaneous. It usually requires extensive collaboration and coordination. As Henry Ford put it: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.”