Developing a global digital strategy is a task of immense difficulty and complexity, but also one of the most satisfying things you can work on in your career as a digital strategist. But while it can be rewarding, how do you plan and deliver a global digital strategy without getting swallowed up by the enormity of the task?
Like all good things, it begins with an idea. This idea is the core value proposition of whatever your product or service represents. It is a clear articulation of its purpose. The purpose has to be more than just to make money. It is something that speaks to something greater, something big enough to belong on a global stage. And in line with the principles that make for the best digital strategies, it needs to be simple to articulate. This clearly articulated, simple and differentiated idea then becomes the North Star in the development of your global strategy.
Next, you need to develop your digital strategy. In this, start with what you know. Generally this means a strategy developed for the market you are most familiar with, namely your home market. Think about all the elements that you will need to weave together for success, from content, through creative and campaigns. Define success, budgets and timelines. In short, make sure you clearly set and manage expectations. Launch your strategy, measure and optimize.
This initial campaign in your home market will not only serve to deliver results and revenue, it will also give you much needed insight into the strength of your original idea. Remember that distance becomes an issue in a global strategy, adding difficulty and complexity, so if there are any challenges that come to light in your initial campaign, they will only become amplified as you expand internationally.
When you are ready for that expansion, don’t attempt to launch globally all at once. You will face linguistic, economic, cultural, legal and social challenges in your growth. So start with countries that are as similar as possible to your home country. For example, if you represent an American company, a good first start is a Canadian expansion, with the similar language, culture, time zones, and general affinity to their US neighbours. They also have very similar digital environments, meaning that if you are using Google, Facebook and programmatic buying, you probably have a majority of the digital media landscape covered. The UK and Australia represent other obvious next places for expansion for the same reasons. However, remember that these are different countries with very particular nuances and needs. Canadian audiences don’t appreciate to not be acknowledged with content and creative that is geared towards them. The same goes for British audiences. Good examples of how publishers have responded to these nuances are the customized content produced by Vice and the Huffington Post. In short, local matters at the global level. As you adjust and add local nuance to your content, remember to preserve that original core idea. I strongly recommend getting local advice and help in adjusting the idea for these local markets. Local consultants will know their markets far better than you and will help accelerate your efforts.
But it is a tiny percentage of countries that are similar to your home market. Now you have to take the leap to countries that are very different. As in all things, good research and insight will guide your next steps. Identify markets that are most similar from an economic, infrastructure and cultural perspective, but may be linguistically diverse. It is easier to overcome language challenges than it is cultural or economic ones. Again, for the example of an American company expanding internationally, these countries may be found in Europe. Note that even though there are similarities from an economic perspective, there are still considerable differences in developing digital strategy in Sweden or the Netherlands as compared to Italy. Once again, rely on local expertise to help guide your decisions and activities in these countries so you look less like a foreign interloper, but are communicating with a local voice.
Finally, it comes time to expand beyond this comfort zone and into the wider world. There is considerable opportunity beyond European shores, but as you move into emerging markets, your strategy is more likely to move beyond nuanced adjustments to wholesale change. A digital strategy in South Africa is likely to be radically different to a digital strategy in China, not only due to linguistic and cultural differences, but very real economic and infrastructure challenges. But overcoming these challenges comes with remarkable rewards, both in financial terms, and from the satisfaction of knowing that you have taken a simple core idea and made it relevant and vital to people all around the world through the successful delivery of a global digital strategy.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.