Many discussions around digital globalization within organizations are twofold. On the one hand people would agree it is not optional for global brands, products and services. On the other hand there is doubt over budget allocations and projected return on investment in that area.

At best it leads to dilemmas when saving money, while running risks in foreign markets or funding programs that may not be well targeted. At worst it freezes necessary efforts and momentum by keeping people looking at what others do and missing opportunities to boost brand effectiveness. To escape that awkward situation, globalization and marketing leaders should team up to turn digital globalization from a cost center into a business enabler and ultimately from a business enabler into a profit driver.

Pinpoint sources of value and growth to prioritize where (quick) wins may be achieved Considering digital globalization is a huge field and can therefore confuse marketing stakeholders as to where money and time should go, it is crucial to pinpoint sources of value and growth and to prioritize where (quick) wins may be achieved. A “start small” perspective is a nice way to go beyond basic cost management and show profits may be found around the corner. Here are some recommendations, starting with people and processes…

Creating A Digital Globalization Team

Digital globalization may be in the hands of (too?) many people which generates accountability dilution, potential conflicts and unpredictable overlaps. This fragmented ownership may come from a lack of understanding or awareness, when some executives do not grasp the scope of that area or do not see why a function owning and driving it may add value.

In the minds of some people, a global presence is the major and most expensive step to global brand effectiveness while it is actually the first and likely the cheapest one. Therefore, opening the eyes of these people on why globalization definitely requires an active approach – proactive being better than reactive in this case – connects their thinking to business drivers for global experience and effectiveness that are two of marketers’ best friends.

By embracing a clear level of globalization ownership they help repatriate dispersed efforts, re-direct funding channels and increase business growth globally. Setting up a globalization team and assigning a leader become most relevant to execute accordingly with a charter, mandate and wallet.

Branding Globally And Selling Locally

Understanding who international consumers really are is another piece of the educational puzzle. Although most marketing practitioners have moved away from the if it is good for my country, it is good for the rest of the world path by now, they still may not fully realize how global business depends on customer experience in targeted markets.  For example, cutting any cost in globalization areas such as brand internationalization and product localization that directly impact local satisfaction and purchase behaviours may mean it is a nice to have rather than a must have for the business.

People do not buy a product or a service they neither like nor understand. In the same vein, deciding to skip localization investments where 70% of local consumers “are happy with” global brands without any localized flavour may give more power to competitors and avoid growing the business in these markets as expected.

Transforming Business Processes

Digital globalization leaders need to become change agents Digital globalization leaders need to become change agents at some point in order to (re-)define content and information management processes, to deliver on requirements and according to their mandate. One of the immediate questions may be how centralized these processes should be. And there is no silver bullet here. A sensible recommendation is to centrally manage what makes sense while keeping regional and local execution that remains most efficient at these levels of the organization.

Business objectives and cost leadership should come first when making the balance right, preferential considerations and corporate culture should be next. In a number of cases meaningful central management relates to synergies in terms of branding, content internationalization, product localization, global certification or consumer understanding. It allows optimizing costs and supporting regional and local teams in their marketing and sales activities in compliance with global guidelines.

Local execution allows leveraging business knowledge and granularity from local teams and empowering them to delight local customers. Distributed localization management is an example of this approach. Content is localized centrally based on shared services, processes, resources and tools prior to engaging local content managers to review it and sign off. Cost and time are saved that way and localization can really play out as a business accelerator.

Selecting And Prioritizing Translation, Localization And Customization

Localization is all too often considered as a pain point in the product lifecycle  as it may appear as too time consuming and expensive. Most people see it as a must in global business today so the time factor can be more easily accepted. As far as costs are concerned, questions and issues come up when localization is referred to as a mixed bag meaning different things that may be more or less expensive and not clearly prioritized according to various objectives.

First of all, globalization leaders have to ensure there is no mix between translation as linguistic adaptation, localization as adaptation according to market requirements (including translation) and customization as adaptation according to target groups (including localization). It should help marketers make better decisions on what content should be actually translated, localized or customized and appreciate the cost of type of activity.

Not only are some costs reduced this way but products should go to markets in a more diligent and customer-centric fashion. This takes localization to the next level through an increased and more obvious contribution to growth. In addition, key performance indicators will be easier to link to customer experience and sales metrics.

Adding And Leveraging Technology

The profit-oriented positioning of digital globalization may also be facilitated thanks to the use of technology in organizations, especially when it comes to automating content management for the sake of global business effectiveness. A number of platforms and applications available on the market have been designed to integrate with globalization tools or even include powerful globalization features. It is worth leveraging one of these solutions to streamline processes and enhance international customer experience.

If products are not localization ready enough, applications can help internationalize and certify them upfront. If localization should be more efficient and speed up content deployment in geographies, tools may be used to accelerate and strengthen translation protocols. If content is not globalized as timely and accurately as it should be, collaborative platforms enhance workflows and resources. If the branding experience is not as effective as required globally, tools and associated services help identify and close gaps. There are multiple ways to show that the value of globalization is unleashed by combining the right people and processes with technology.

The most successful companies globally have gone beyond considering digital globalization as part of their global presence online. They have managed it to enable business operations prior to capitalizing on it to boost profits around the world. It is good food for thought for global marketers and good fuel for international profit engines…