Its 2011… Do you know where your marketing is?

Wow, it’s already 2011. Felt like just yesterday I was penning my thoughts on 2010 marketing strategy. Remarkably, that was by far my most popular post of the year that didn’t involve Augmented Reality, the Gartner Magic Quadrant, or One Hour Translations. Not sure why it resonated so much, but perhaps it was the simplicity of the message: Focus on the things that matter most and drive results.

So a good marketing strategist would state the obvious: “it worked in 2010, let’s go for it again in 2011” and trot out another fantastic piece about how focus is even more critical now, and come up with an updated list of three action steps to keep the good times rolling (stay focused, remove distractions and showcase results perhaps?).

But no, instead let’s turn convention on its head a bit.  Just because it was a success, doesn’t mean we should do it again this year. And conversely, just because it failed doesn’t mean we should throw it in the drawer.

By all accounts, our team met and exceeded many of its commitments this past year.  We generated new wins, closable business opportunities, grew overall pipeline and began to drive thought leadership in key areas.  It was a solid double, possibly even a triple if you are the home town scorer.

But some things still didn’t work.  Some of our campaigns fell off the table. Some of our events were originally planned as “demand generation activities” but became “thought leadership activities” in practice. We dabbled in social media, but only really dabbled. The list could go on for pages.

So what does that tell us about what do in 2011? Not much really.

At the end of the day it’s of course about long range planning and moving a market position, that doesn’t change.  But it’s also about meeting the objectives of the business in that specific year. And those objectives have changed since last year. In one unit we had a major effort to build pipeline right off the bat in Q1 of 2010 so we undertook a number of shorter term activities to meet that goal.  But the business is in a different place now, which will necessarily mean our activities should change as well.

So of course, take a lesson from what didn’t work, and try to do more of what did work. But it is far more important to make sure that the activities you are focused on are well aligned with the objectives of your business.

That is my focus for 2011, what is yours?

 

Possibly related  reading:

HBR: For more on looking back to look ahead

Chris Brogan on Cleaning up your marketing for 2011

Ted Weismann of Lois Paul & Partners on B2B Marketing & Location Based Services in 2011

 

 

 

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International SEO Requires Planning and Discipline

Some time ago at my prior company I wrote about the challenge with Global SEO. Namely, how best to translate the key terms that your users search on to find your web site.  Things really haven’t advanced significantly since then.

However this article from ChiefMarketer.com shows its more valuable than ever.  In it there are some good updated statistics on the value of global search and search engine diversity.

But to truly take advantage of the local opportunity, first make sure your site is visible to the local Google/Search Engines in the countries you operate in.  The easiest way to do this is to be sure that the XML site map that you submit to the Search Engines contains links to your local sites, otherwise you are likely dark. At my prior company we fought with this issue for months, and were stunned at the simplicity of the answer once we stumbled on it.

Once you are showing up, you need to think about what the right terms are in local language. There are numerous examples of how a straight translation of your key English terms misses the market completely in local language.  Unfortunately a key word research tool isn’t necessarily going to tell you that answer. Ideally, you would use the glossary you built in the translation process as the starting point. Then work with your in-country team to validate the “adjacent terms.” These are the local idioms that would be the more popular, and more likely, terms for your buyer to search on. Its hard work, but skip this step at your own peril.

And if you are launching a PPC program in local language, make sure you have completely rebuilt your ad copy in-language. Translating English is going to be practically useless, particularly when considering the character limits of each row.

The good news is if you put the time in up-front, you will immediately see measureable results both in terms of increases in traffic to your site, as well as conversions and revenue.

 

 

 

Is “One Hour Translations” a Game Changer for Global Marketing?

I am fascinated with this interview with the CEO of One Hour Translation on the Global by Design blog. And not just because of our American fixation on speed– Think “1 hour Dry Cleaning” or “10 minute oil changes”, or Pizza that is “delivered in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.”

No, I am fascinated because localization is really hard work, and this company threatens to make it easy. Particularly for the marketing organization at a mid-sized company, this really has the potential to be a game-changer. Here’s why.

I have my own experiences with the translation process both from inside and outside the industry.  I have written about some of them here in this blog. And some of the whitepapers I wrote on the subject live on in my former company’s whitepaper archive. I can summarize the challenges for a global marketing team thusly:

  1. It takes time: Sucking content out of whatever systems you use, getting it out to translation, reviewed, pushed back into your systems, reviewed and published… All adds up, it’s painful
  2. Volume rules, and you don’t have a lot of it. Localization is a volume game, and on the marketing side, volumes can often be low, but the amount of work feels the same if the job is 10,000 words or a million words.
  3. There is never enough budget: You budget $10k, it will cost $15k. If you budget is $15k, it will cost $20k. And the corollary to rule #3 is…
  4. The countries don’t want to pay for it: It’s amazing. When the “bill comes due,” often a team materializes out of thin air to handle the translation in-house. It’s one of those things that falls rapidly out of the budget cycle when the details become real.

What the promise of One Hour Translation does is to streamline the whole process for you. (Full disclosure, I have never used the service so I have no idea if their quality is any good, if their TM process works as advertised etc.) Instead of having to negotiate every job, have a file analyzed for the number of words, check for matches against the TM database, manage the glossary, deal with a project manager as the go-between to the faceless translator, it’s all right there for you. A flat 7 cents a word, send off the job, and back it comes. Interact directly with the translator if needed, adjust quality on the fly. Poof, “so easy a caveman could do it,” with or without an “Easy Button.” And for a marketing team that is rolling out slowly in a few countries, or has just a periodic volume of work, this model will be very attractive.

There are surely a number of problems with this as well, starting with the languages supported, the inability to build a true glossary, reuse, translation memory, and scalability, to say nothing of the costs. But if you are sophisticated enough to manage those things individually, or have such a high volume of content that scalability is a concern, well you are not going to be using this service plain and simple.

For the rest of us, it will be a development worth keeping a close eye on.

 

Launching a Global Web Site, Continued

I am pleased that we were able to launch our first local site this weekend serving the Czech Republic.  If interested, you can see it here: www.ness.com/cz

It was hard work for sure, (as I wrote about earlier this year) and comes out many months later than we first anticipated, but it is still satisfying to see it live. Still to come, the team in the Czech Republic now has to add additional country specific content and make sure it represents their interests in the context of Ness as a whole.

We aren’t done yet either, we are getting set to launch Slovakia, shortly followed by Romania, Hungary, UK and India. Israel is in the works as well.

Though it’s still a work on progress, a few lessons learned so-far:

  1. Deadlines help. At Lionbridge we managed to launch 25 sites in just 4 months. But there we had no choice but to launch all of our sites at once and I vowed to never do it that way again.  But the flip side is that deadlines can help drive towards a completion.  In absence of them, things can linger forever.
  2. Be willing to compromise: Sometimes it’s important to give a little to get a lot. For example, we had envisioned utilizing a single website localization partner for all languages. But it turned out that we had an in-house Czech team that could handle the project.  It worked out just fine.
  3. Be flexible:  If we stuck to our original plan put in place in late 2008, we might never have gotten it launched. We listened to the needs of the local teams and adjusted course along the way. Surely made the whole process much easier.

Stay tuned for future launches in the coming weeks, which represents a flexible compromise brought on by an impending deadline!

Social Media Marketing Lags in Europe, Or Does It?

Read this “Global Survey” report from Unica this week on the State of Marketing in 2010 and it included a tid-bit on about how marketers are using (or are not using) Social Media around the world. As you would expect Europe in general lags North America currently by a healthy dose. According to the report 58% in North America use Social Media and just 34% in Europe. Though plans are underway to catch up.

I agree. I wrote over a year ago about my Eastern European colleagues’ lack of Facebook usage, and I don’t see a dramatic uptick in usage there. And from recent conversations about our 2010 plans, we are going to focus more on advancing our use of email than we are on expanding into social media.  From our perspective that has more to do with the usage patterns of our target audience in each of the countries we operate in, than it does with the relative merit of various channels. Perhaps it would be different if we were a B2C product rather than a B2B service.

Where I have issue is with the concept of this being a global survey.  46% of 155 respondents to the Unica Survey were “from Europe.” I am not really sure what to do with that data.  Global doesn’t only mean Europe and North America, what about Asia? Latin America?  Russia? On and on.

And digging further into the footnotes, I see that by Europe they actually only mean 12 countries (or an average of 6 responses per country). So is that 12 countries in Western Europe? Is Northern Europe included? What about Eastern Europe?  There are 27 countries in the EU today so we know it’s not just the EU member states.

It’s surely not my intention to call out Unica’s marketing team. Trust me I probably would have done the same thing in clubbing together Europe to make a broader point.  But in this case, it becomes counter-productive and perhaps dilutes the overall message of their pretty interesting report in general.

The fact remains, you still can’t market to “Europe.” You need to look deeply into the heart of each country and conduct the same market analysis and make the same strategic plans for each one based on the uniqueness of each market. Assuming the 72 total European respondents are making the same individual strategic decisions that we are, don’t make the mistake of relying on the experiences of 6 people per country spread across 12 countries to set your own strategic course.

What did the Olympics tell us about Global Collaboration? Not what you think.

I love the Olympics.

I really do. I prefer the winter over the summer in general, but I love all of it. And in the Olympics that just wrapped up, I particularly enjoyed the hockey. Perhaps it was because it was a group of NHL-ers competing on NHL ice that made it interesting or perhaps it was just a few really great games.

But as I watched the closing ceremony, and watched all of the athletes walk in to the stadium as one. I found it terribly contrived. I know, I know. They have been doing it since the 50s to showcase that the games break down all country barriers and everyone leaves together to spread world peace or whatever.

Brilliant! Except in just a few weeks some of these athletes will all be back at it, beating each other’s heads in country vs country at the World Championships. So much for togetherness. I also enjoyed the story about how Lindsay Vonn and Maria Riesch from Germany are great friends in the off-season, how they share every Christmas together etc. I found this particularly revealing in that the segment ran hours after Vonn’s own teammate essentially called her out for possibly being a lousy teammate.

Further, many of the NHL players across the world were playing for their home country, against teammates from their NHL teams.  In the quarterfinal, The Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara spent the whole game trying to lock up Patrice Bergeron, also of the Bruins. Yet two days later they were right back at it, but this time with the Spoked B on their chests, not the uniform of their countries.

Since I write about global marketing often, and spend probably too much time thinking about global collaboration, I was hoping to find some sort of interesting parable in the Olympics to share.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find it.

Instead I was left wondering if the concept of country vs country is an anachronism in this day of global communication and global business.  Or perhaps the real takeaway is that DESPITE all of this global movement, nationalistic concerns and bias will ALWAYS trump international concerns.

Consider again that a top flight Russian NHL player earns millions of dollars in his career playing in North America, but of course he would go home to play for his country first.  Despite Vonn and Riesch’s deep friendship, when it comes time to ski against each other for the gold, they do so willingly, without giving it a second thought.

It’s worth considering this when you are attempting to launch a global team within your company, or trying to build a unified message. In the end, when the competition is fierce, will nationalistic concerns prevail? Or does the concept of a “metanational” carry the day in the end.

The Challenge of Building a Global Marketing List

Despite our ongoing fascination with social media, the concept of a marketing “house” list is one that continues going strong. (Though it might be worth discussing the ongoing utility of these lists later.) But in the B2B Marketing world, having a list that marketing “nurtures” over time while the prospect moves through the research phase, turning over to sales when they are ready to purchase remains accepted strategy.  This assumes of course that you have good metrics in place on how long this takes to convert to pipeline, general conversion percentages, etc.

The ideal size of the list also ranges widely. I have seen B2B lists well over 100,000 names, and I had the misfortune when I started to be handed a list of 3000 or so names, but only 32 email with addresses! Since so much is focused on how to scale a list up, or how to clean up your list, starting from scratch is much more difficult.  Given email success ratios, renting a list to gain names isn’t as useful as it once was so we are doing more to pair raw list purchases with telemarketing to verify and qualify before adding them to the house list.  This works well enough if you have access to a low cost inside telesales team (which we have) or are already engaged with a meeting setting firm who can help drive meetings while cleaning the list at the same time.

And what of Europe? With significantly different privacy laws in each country, and highly variable levels of experience with email marketing country by country, this presents an even greater challenge. We have taken a country by country approach so far to assess the state of the existing lists and matching with the expected plans for each country.   The good news is that scale is gauged in the low thousands, rather than the 100s of thousands.

No matter, from scratch is a hard slog.

For us, the key remains segmentation.  Much rather identify the companies and roles we want to target and expand the list from there. While it will be slightly more expensive in the long run, and the growth will be only a few hundred at a time, we will wind up with a much more qualified list. Since we are offering such a highly specialized service, lower volume is ok, so long as they are of high quality.

Potentially interesting links related to list building:

Reachforce

Greenleads

Oceanos

Marketing Sherpa: How to use Social Media and Email for Prospecting: 8 Essentials