The following blog was first published in mid-May 2020, when organizations were first feeling the pinch of the global pandemic and having to adjust their working models while quickly adapting their sales and marketing strategies. Subsequent IBA research confirmed that B2B organizations were indeed looking to new markets and geographies, 86% of organizations took steps to adjust their product roadmap during COVID-19 and nearly a third had already begun looking to sell in new countries or industries. The following provides a comprehensive comms strategy for B2B organizations to quickly gain traction in these new focus areas.

After unprecedented global disruption, the world is showing signs of lifting lockdowns and returning to normal. Businesses are no exception. Many are actively looking to revive plans, some to turn to new markets because of serious market disruption to existing ones, others are looking to new geographies as new trade deals appear on the horizon – certainly for UK firms post-Brexit and for other countries eying up a freer UK market.

Timing is of the essence in all successful marketing coups and for all the above reasons, the time is ripe. Some companies have been slow to cope with the pandemic and are on the back foot, others see opportunities opening up. Indeed, the latest survey from the UK’s Department for International Trade reveals 15% of non-exporting businesses are actively exploring how to expand into overseas markets.

But just how do they move their products and services into markets where they have little brand presence, and face well-established competitors armed with large marketing budgets – without having to bankroll a huge marketing agency with an office in every city in every country? That’s old school. We’re heading for the brave new world post-COVID-19, post-Brexit. Someone has to pay for all those plush offices, fancy designer chairs and a high churn rate of executives, but it needn’t be you. Read on.

Lessons learned

At IBA, we’ve seen and done it all in our 54-year history – from spearheading company expansion into the Russian enterprise technology market to establishing presence on Chinese social media platforms. With clients listed on major stock exchanges around the world and operating in dozens of countries across every continent, we know there are endless nuances to each region and sector targeted by marketing campaigns.

Here’s four key areas businesses must be aware of when looking to take local successes to new and distant markets, drawing on experiences from our international client portfolio.

Assemble your assets, spot the gaps

An effective onboarding and set-up activity will set the scene for an entire campaign, so it is important this stage is as thorough as possible. Marketers should work to identify key stakeholders and subject matter experts, gather topics, fine-tune individual country strategies and establish a streamlined decision-making process.

Next, a full content audit will help establish a repository of existing content and collateral that can be used for ‘quick wins’ in the media or form the basis of fresh content creation. Yes, this applies to ALL regions and should cover every possible content format – from blogs and white papers to case studies and thought leadership articles.

These ramp-up activities should ideally take place from a central PR ‘hub’. There’s no need for disparate, disjointed teams out of the loop or failing to communicate, no regional departments ‘doing their own thing’ unrelated to global initiatives, and no enormous fees to pay the rent of agency offices in each country.

Think global, go local

Before kicking off a campaign, evaluate your thought leadership goals and ambitions. What types of content are required? Does social play a role in the campaign that necessitates weekly social media content? Does any of this need to be localized to fuel regional activities?

The content creation process is always followed by a rigorous approvals process, where copy must walk the tightrope between ‘corporate’ expectations and specific regional requirements. This is why it is recommended to plan content from a high level and quickly verticalize or localize based on available assets in individual country and markets. This could be country-specific initiatives, partners, customer wins and case study examples, product focus, or even local research to cite in articles.

Having this on-message, high-level content on file and ready to go makes it easier to expand rapidly into fresh regions should the scope of the campaign grow.

Cross the language barrier

Any PR and marketing campaign will span various languages as it moves across borders, and content must be localized accordingly. Journalists will rarely – if ever – run with copy they must first translate before publishing.

Translations are often a ‘force multiplier’ in the amount of work involved in a campaign. Marketers are required to seek out and handle reliable local translators, secure local reviews and approvals, and ensure co-ordinated distribution to all geographies. They must also juggle country-specific field marketing managers and their individual local requirements with little margin for error.

This is where working with a global outreach marcom agency which understands, writes and places your content, shines – delivering fast turnaround of translated content and quickly building and adhering to a client ‘style guide’ for branding and phrasing. Some campaigns simply do not easily translate to different geographies – we once had a client server software company that couldn’t sell into France. Rename it Middleware and they were off to a flying start!

This centralized approach also ensures content can be pushed out simultaneously in all regions – there’s no delays waiting for content to be translated into particularly ‘tricky’ languages.

Keep your global PR and marketing accountable

It’s equally vital an international agency has a strong handle on version control, individual country requirements and the approvals process. Truly effective PR agencies will embed themselves into a client’s operating structure as closely as possible to establish trust, get directly involved in the approvals process and ultimately act as an extension of the client’s marketing department!

This puts them in an excellent position to accurately gauge the success and receptiveness of media for specific vertical offerings, emerging technologies and industry trends. Successful campaigns will record, track and classify all global media coverage and its impact throughout the campaign to avoid such issues.

Metrics and reporting play a key role in any international campaign to quickly identify what works and what doesn’t – and adjust strategies and messaging accordingly.

Practice makes perfect

The COVID-19 business disruption has caused many companies to downsize internal marketing departments and significantly squeeze their budgets.

Partnering with an established PR agency that has achieved proven results through a unique and low cost approach to delivering international campaigns means you probably do have the budget to achieve your global ambitions – without having to pay the office rent for an agency in every market.

The results of a global hub-based outreach campaign speak for themselves, with over a thousand items of media coverage secured by IBA across 19 countries in a twelve-month period for a single enterprise IT client. So if this is all too much to take in at once and applies to your business needs, why not get in touch to find out how the IBA team can help?

Simon Woolley is Account Manager at IBA International.

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