Identifying “Swiss Army” Partners In Digital Globalization

Digital globalization covers an array of areas that require the right combination of expertise, experience and specific skills, which remains hard to find and maintain. If you decide to establish or strengthen external partnerships, you have to select partners that meet these crucial requirements in order to ensure global customer experience and turn digital globalization into a real profit driver.

Various reasons can justify this approach – a couple of arguments that often come up within organizations to do so are: focusing on core business, optimizing costs and benefiting from unexpected experience. The icing on the cake is when you can rely on a partner to help manage it all – or at least a small number of world-class partners, offering as many key assets as possible in their own value proposition.

I refer to these one-stop shops as “Swiss Army” partners, helping marketing and brand leaders engage with the world digitally in the most efficient way and with the highest level of peace of mind. Like Swiss Army knives they provide digital travelers and globalization addicts with multi-functional support in challenging environments and help them move faster with lighter bags. Needless to say these agencies and companies are hard to find and even harder to keep at your side throughout your entire global digital journey.

First of all, here are some major reasons for adopting strong partnerships:

  • Core Business Comes First:
    Managing and growing the business is a full-time job for marketing and brand leaders. Therefore joining forces and leveraging expertise to address a complex area such as digital globalization is usually more than welcome. It is also a safe way to instill and root it within internal processes and thought leadership.
  • Centralized Costs Are Optimized Costs:
    Working with a myriad of suppliers is not only time consuming from an internal management perspective. It is also expensive. Selecting a major or preferred partner allows for improved cost management  by making costs more visible, trackable and tangible. Moreover, bridging or bringing buckets of spend together paves the way to cost reduction through the benefits of discount rates or all inclusive prices.
  • There Is A Lot Of Experience Out There:
    There is no silver bullet in digital globalization.  Every opportunity to look at what others do and leverage it for what we do takes awareness and execution to the next level. Getting exposed to such outside successful (or unsuccessful) experiences when working with truly multi-faceted partners challenges original assumptions or intents. This can force us to tap into invaluable resources and urges us to become more customer-centric than company-centric. Since all this sometimes happens unexpectedly it adds value naturally, which is often priceless and yet comes with no additional cost. A nice surprise…

Beyond these general considerations a “Swiss Army” partner must have strengths in a number of different areas. They should manage these fields of expertise in-house as much as possible, in order to move away from a mailbox type vendor model and be seen as a full service partner. Capacity, agility and scalability are at stake.

With global digital value chain and the international customer experience as your main considerations, key talking points and drivers to address the sides of the digital globalization partner coin include:

  • Global Presence And Operations:
    Counting on their own resources in local markets that are in scope for your marketing and branding plans is a must. Delivering your products and content at scale internationally requires the creation of a relevant and impactful customer experience from the outset. Nobody can do this better than experts working, living and breathing in these markets; who are closest to your customers, while being coordinated or managed centrally to ensure consistency and alignment. You should look further than the world map on the walls or web site of your partner and find out how they utilize their global footprint.
  • Global Content Creation Best Practices:
    Designing and developing content for multiple markets is (and should be) different than doing it for one country  or one region only. Internationalization is the name of the game, i.e. creating and certifying content that is localization-ready and customer-friendly. The set of skills here goes from creativity, to multi-cultural awareness, to digital diversity savviness including standards and trends. Teams that are involved in these efforts must walk in the shoes of international customers from day one, thinking and delivering their work is critical. The global experience starts with content creation.
  • Ability To Speak And Understand The Language Of Customers:
    Obviously translation, localization and careful transcreation are the next steps in the global experience creation. This requires linguistic skills not only to adapt and fine tune content that speaks to customers in their mother tongue, but also to understand what they have to tell us and what makes the purchase and the use of your products effective. In this fast-moving digital age where social media and customer centricity are sales boosters and growth generators, the role and profile of translators has evolved at the same speed. More than ever before they are linguists who have to convey meaningful and actionable content in several languages in light of cultural, legal and preferential requirements. In other words they are in the business of language and deliver on the language of business.
  • Content Optimization And Marketing:
    Marketing and branding content is a living body and changing requirements to ensure and increase its effectiveness remain necessary. By working closely with creation and localization teams, these experts can analyze content to optimize it and promote in an omni-channel landscape. SEO, SEM, digital listening and language analysis belong to their playground.
  • Proven Track Record Of Embracing Technology And Leveraging Information:
    This must be a two-way street as it is beneficial both for clients and external partners. Initiating or accelerating digital globalization without taking this path is not sensible and digitalization calls for automation sooner rather than later. Whether your partner develops their own tools and systems or implements third-party solutions in your interest, they have to make them fit nicely in your plans and environment(s). Inquiring about previous experience and speaking to their clients has proven to put leaders in a good position to make balanced decisions. The same applies to information. Using global and local insights while taking advantage of data unleashes the power of technology.

Bearing these points in mind should help you use appropriate criteria to select your “Swiss Army” partner – or at least partners that are closest to this model and can bring you the highest value in the right place, at the right time, during your digital globalization and customer experience journey.

Equally important is to use these points as indicators holistically to evaluate your partnership(s). Like a Swiss Army knife a “Swiss Army” partnership has to be taken care of to avoid overuse or misuse.  Mutual understanding, performance measurement and fair self-assessment help get there and working with partners rather than vendors is preferred.