Business expansion before the internet was expensive.

To reach a new audience you had to literally take your business to them. Open another store, with new staff, more stock and a whole new set of overheads. If you were lucky, that might have convinced people to visit from, say 30 miles away, before you might had to consider a third store. Enter the internet. From a single website and warehouse, you can sell to anyone, anywhere in the world, with very little additional cost. It’s one of the biggest advantages of digital-only businesses. But does this concept of “one business scaled globally” also apply to your performance marketing?

“Scaling your performance marketing activity globally” is a phrase you hear in agencies frustratingly often. 

Typically, this means taking what’s performing in one country and replicating it in others to drive more sales. Not only is this an easy way to drive sales, but the theory is that this network of coordinated markets is also more effective than they are when managed separately. This is because you should be able to apply learnings in aggregate across the entire network. All of this in exchange for some keywords and landing page translations. What a bargain.

It’s not incorrect, but this includes a big presumption that your main task when delivering performance marketing globally is the translation of campaigns. This overlooks what often ends up actually being the biggest challenge, realising the efficiencies of scale, but not at the expense of relevance.

Imagine Tom’s Coffee (bring it on Starbucks). We sell coffee beans in the UK (we don’t). Our customers love drinking flat whites, filter coffee or cold brew. You can do all of that with our beans. We want to expand into Italy. Guess what, Italians are probably more interested in espresso and a grind that is finer than we use for cold brew in the UK. Whilst some of our generic coffee beans campaigns might translate straight over, a lot of work is going to have to be done to identify and build out those regional nuances. Our brand awareness piece, #SupportTheFlatWhite, also isn’t going to resonate with most Italians who prefer coffee black.

It gets very complicated very quickly. So, how do we take Tom’s Coffee global, without building hundreds of separate local campaigns?

Map product availability

First, we avoid doing research into a product range or keyword area that doesn’t apply globally, by mapping our product availability by market. We’re not ever going to sell French press grind in Turkey, so let’s not research that there. Understanding which of your products are available in each market is a simple, but vital part of planning campaigns to scale.

Understand differences in consumer behaviour

There are a finite number of ways people use and search for your product, and you need to understand where similarities and differences exist between different markets. Coffee, Coffee Beans, Coffee shops, Coffee gifts. Coffee machines. Coffee cocktails. Some will be relevant everywhere, some only somewhere. Create a keyword framework that categorises research from every market in a consistent way. This will help you understand where people are in the purchase journey, without having to understand every language.

Create a campaign deployment matrix

There are generally three types of activity to consider. Translation, where a campaign can be mirrored immediately into a new market, such as coffee beans. Transcreation, where small changes are required to meet regional nuances, but it fundamentally targets the same area. For example, your French press campaigns might have to be called cafetiere in other markets. Lastly, creation, where a market requires a totally new campaign. Use user behaviour data to create a matrix of audience demand, campaigns and markets that identifies what activity to translate, transcreate, or create. 

Test-and-learn in translatable areas

Conduct tests in individual markets, but ensure those tests apply to areas that are translatable. Split test creative for “Coffee beans” rather than (overpriced) “Nitro brew”. This will help you roll-out improvements as quickly as possible. This is the most effective way of realising efficiencies within your global performance marketing beyond translating campaigns.

Make your owned and earned activity either local or global 

It’s almost impossible to scale owned and earned activity from a specific market, globally. Owned and earned activity, such as Content marketing, needs a hook to engage our audience, and you can’t expect this hook to work for everyone, everywhere. Ensure owned and earned activity is designed to either be local or global, not both. If it’s local, keep doing what you’ve always done, but create playbooks for other markets to replicate their own versions. For global, create campaigns that hook into those directly translatable areas, whilst keeping them engaging and not generic. For example, should #SaveTheFlatWhite have been, #SaveMyMorningCoffee? Perhaps. However, that’s probably proof of how trying to turn a local campaign to a global campaign, can make it inherently duller.

So, does the concept of “one business scaled globally” also apply to performance marketing? Yes and no. There will be core areas that apply everywhere. But regional nuances mean, there will be a significant amount of work, both in understanding how markets vary and in creating campaigns to meet each market’s local requirements. However, by going through this process you will have an infinitely better understanding of how your business aligns to local market audiences, which is a great place to be.