How to find the best global channels to connect with customers

Content for the Continents

This is the fourth blog in our series about the key issues B2B marketers face when targeting global markets. Together with our Denmark-based agency partner, Cross-Border Communications, we talked with clients and other savvy global marketing experts to gather a range of opinions and advice.

In our last blog, we addressed the challenge of producing a globally relevant website. Now we’re tackling the hurdle of creating marketing content and finding the best global channels to connect with customers.

While our experts haven’t uncovered a novel new media channel or way to communicate globally, they do offer interesting insights about what it takes to be locally relevant with customers.

Content Flexibility and Relevance

B2B marketers know it’s important to put global audiences at ease when consuming marketing messages. Of course, that means translating content whenever feasible. But companies take different approaches to this, mostly influenced by perceived complexity and overall cost.

Thomas Heide Jorgenson, head of marketing communications for Danfoss, noted that most of their master materials are created using English, then translated to local languages. Two countries, China and Russia, are given much more flexibility in how content is adapted, with allowances for messaging changes where cultural and audience differences may dictate a shift.

Esther Oon-Bybjerg, group director, corporate communications for GAC Group, stated that despite a strong, centralized approach to messaging and campaign ideas, GAC provides a lot of local freedom. “It’s either global or it’s local. And when it’s local, we need to make sure what we’re doing is ideal for the audience. There are no ‘regional’ compromises for this. Proximity does not mean similarity.”

Localization goes beyond translations. Shea Vincent, senior marketing director for BioLife Solutions, said a key local consideration is customer relevance. “We encourage creating case studies, customer references and testimonials that are geographically relevant and trusted locally. The more local and relevant, the more belief you can instill that your brand and offerings are taken seriously in the target geo.”

The B2B marketing field has converged on another area of agreement: social media.

It’s All LinkedIn (Oh, and WeChat)

When it comes to content dissemination across social channels, our B2B clients are unanimous in their preference (if almost exclusive use) of LinkedIn.

Marketing leaders from Cummins, AAK, Flowserve, Danfoss and others cited LinkedIn as their main focus for social media strategy. But because of cultural differences and governmental policies, LinkedIn is a notable exception for Chinese markets. In late 2021, LinkedIn removed the platform from China entirely. So, what’s a marketer to do about establishing a social media presence there? The default answer right now is WeChat. However, Western companies could have trouble penetrating this channel in meaningful ways without help.

Vincent takes the path of least resistance for BioLife Solutions’ content in China. She leverages a Chinese distributor who shares their social media content as part of their distribution agreement. The same goes for Vijith Basheer at Flowserve. “Venturing into WeChat as an American company comes with challenges. One potential approach we are exploring is to seek partners in China who can aggregate content on WeChat for end user and engineering companies in target segments.”

While the choice of channels seems straightforward — LinkedIn and WeChat — the decision to localize is more challenging. Jorgenson said that while Danfoss does run local social media campaigns, it’s not a global practice. “It is a challenge to set up and run effective local campaigns where there simply isn’t follower volume to justify this. Therefore, we still spend most of our effort on creating global campaigns.”

Flowserve is examining messaging apps in markets where long commutes on public transportation are the norm. “We’re not there yet, but we want to figure out how to deliver mobile content via messaging apps where we know our audiences are spending long periods of time on their phones,” said Deepak Sivanandan, head of IoT and business strategy for the company’s Asia-Pacific region. “This will become more of a priority as we move forward.”

While our experts talked mostly about digital channels, there were a few revealing comments made about print.

Print Lives On (In Some Countries)

Monica Arroyave, senior director at Gilbarco Veeder-Root, noted that customers in Mexico have traditional preferences. “Our customers in Mexico still embrace the tactile deliverable. They want something physical they can hold and experience. It’s important to recognize these country-specific differences and not fall into the trap that digital is the answer everywhere.”

One of the world’s fastest-growing and most important markets is also a print-centric market, according to Basheer. “Print is not dead in India. There is still a huge appetite for it, and that includes print advertising. Finding the right trade publications and working with media reps in India is imperative for building your presence there.”

And those media rep relationships can bear fruit in other ways beyond effective advertising campaigns.

Trade Media Relationships

While many of our panel members engage with the trade media on a more centralized basis, Jessica Svahn, global brand manager at AAK, said targeted AAK’s PR and earned media efforts originate at the local level, with regional teams’ efforts supplemented by global initiatives in key trade media.

Jorgenson said Danfoss operates similarly. “Local media is run by our local market teams, often supported by corporate insights and resources. We help them assess the optimal target audience touch points from customer studies and apply those insights to build programs with trade publications with very targeted audiences.”

Whatever the manner you choose to leverage trade media — global or local — building strong relationships with editors should be at the center of your strategy. “Global trade media is so important, but more important than advertising in these publications is connecting with the editors and reporters and establishing relationships that are mutually beneficial. If you can prove to be a valuable contributor to their editorial content, this can go a long way toward a steady presence for your brand in target geos,” explained Vincent.

So, What Else?

When asked where they would be focusing efforts beyond digital media, our panelists gave the nod toward a fairly traditional mix of channels. The most noteworthy three were:

  • Webinars, especially for technically heavy content
  • Trade shows, but with thorough participation and media engagement, not just exhibiting
  • Account-based marketing (ABM)

And there’s that acronym: ABM. While our interviews didn’t reveal any detailed program results from ABM, it’s still a strong area of interest. We sense there’s frustration within the B2B marketing community related to realizing the full promise of ABM, but it’s still a viable practice that needs attention. If you’re getting ready to dip your toes into the ABM pool, we recommend you keep it simple or you may find yourself awash in theories and martech additions that may not pay dividends.

Next, we’ll look at optimum marketing team structures for global effectiveness. In the meantime, feel free to let us know if you have a question or comment about the global insights our team has served up thus far. We’d love to hear from you.