This is the fifth blog in our series exploring the key issues B2B marketers face when targeting global markets. Together with our partner TriComB2B, Cross-Border Communications reached out to clients and other savvy global marketing experts to gather a range of opinions and advice.

In the last blog, we addressed the challenges of producing locally relevant content and choosing the right channels for communication. In this blog, we tackle how to put in place the best team structure to effectively market on a global basis.

Most of our interviewees come from large global companies, so the way they do things could be challenging to implement for a smaller organization with fewer resources. The central theme from our experts is ensuring you have marketing expertise that is geographically close to your target customers; this concept is universally applicable. You may have to be creative in how you implement it if you don’t have the internal resources.

CBC blog link: B2B growth through a customer-centric strategy

Hub and spoke

The balancing act between maintaining consistent brand expression while achieving local relevance emerges again as we look at marketing organizational structure. Our experts were unified when it comes to the application of a ‘hub and spoke’ model, with varying degrees of responsibility and freedom given to local resources.

Thomas Heide Jorgensen, former Head of Marketing Communication at Danfoss Heating segment, noted that they deploy regional marketing teams for maximum efficiency. “Previously, marketing was run quite locally by a few marketing resources who managed many aspects, including media. But there are too many competencies needed to run effective programs at this level, so our model is now regional where we can have a stronger cross-section of functional experience within our teams.” He went on to explain that the global marketing team has defined a clear value proposition for what they offer to the regional teams, including service level agreements to local teams.

At Gilbarco Veeder-Root, their ‘hub and spoke’ approach is built around a shared services model. “Our optimal model for marketing globally is to have the brand centralized in one group and to use a consolidated shared services model for functions that aren’t impacted by regional and local differences, like data management, CRM, marketing automation and basic asset creation. But creative and content are done regionally, decentralized to the experts who can account for offering differences and cultural nuances,” stated Monica Arroyave, Senior Director.

Klaus Sejr, Brand Manager for Hottinger, Bruel & Kjaer, shared his marketing team model, which smartly divides responsibilities. “We have a centralized brand and campaign development team that develops content and digital execution for larger campaigns and initiatives. This includes channel selection and reporting, with input from local teams. Our local field marketing teams support local sales initiatives, events, execution and social media campaigns. They are vital to our effectiveness locally.”

CBC blog link: Why it’s important to increase B2B customer alignment

Co-creation (there’s that word again)

Although developing the brand and strategies for campaigns from a centralized group makes sense, it can’t be done in a vacuum. If you’ve ever worked in an organization where the corporate marketing group feels disconnected from regional and local teams, you’ve probably witnessed how a brand can be misinterpreted (and even mistreated) in some cases. That’s because the local teams haven’t bought in to the corporate team’s wishes.

But it’s an issue our B2B experts have figured out.

Jørgensen explained: “Our global marketing team works in close partnership with the local teams to get their input on programs up front. We know they play an important role in being closer to the customers. This allows us to collectively set clear goals and expectations for local markets, and also make sure we have the resources to execute the campaigns.”

Jessica Svahn, Global Brand Manager for AAK, is also committed to the full involvement of all marketing team members. “Even in our somewhat decentralized organization, we have managed to secure great buy-in to our brand and the key messages we want to communicate. This buy-in is the result of a bottom-up process that makes sure everyone is heard and ultimately on board.”

Scheduled interactions keep connections

If you want to keep centralized brand and strategy teams connected and working effectively with regional and local teams, make it part of your meeting cycles and budget. Svahn noted that AAK’s global teams connect at five annual meetings where they discuss branding and marketing challenges, mostly face to face. This allows them to effectively share experiences and optimize common efforts.

Adam Sidders, Marketing Communications leader for Cummins, noted that for a recent global product launch, they flew in marketing team members and a cross-section of other go-to-market stakeholders from every corner of the world. Everyone had a say in the best approaches to the launch. In Sidders’ words: “There were no holes at all in our product and the launch because everyone’s opinions were considered. The output was stunning.”

No overnight miracles

Every company is at different points in their marketing maturity as it relates to being locally relevant in their global efforts. Achieving buy-in from executives — especially for the headcount and other resources required to make this happen — is a process. And even when the structure is in place, the journey to full efficacy is a difficult one. Jorgenson sums it up best.

“Have respect for the distance from global to local marketing. It’s a long and delicate process, which needs a lot of attention.”

But a worthwhile one, we think.