Regional marketing – a very lofty position that many marketers aspire to. What’s there not to like? On the outside, the job seems fun – lots of travel, the chance to interact with colleagues from various countries, markets and cultures, and exposure to new and different ways of doing things.
Yet, when that’s all said and done, regional marketing isn’t just marketing at a regional level. If that were simply the case, you wouldn’t see job descriptions for regional marketers usually needing five or more years of experience working in a multicultural setting. In actual fact, regional marketing is a highly nuanced discipline which involves combining hard data with soft skills, top-down strategy with grassroots customer engagement, and consistent branding with uniquely local tonality.
And there are challenges unique to regional marketing which in-country marketers don’t face. Some include:
#1. Lack of authority: In some organisational structures, the regional marketing role is one of enablement and advisory versus having actual authority to influence country or regional management. In such a scenario, a marketer is hard pressed to show value of his or her counsel, especially if the in-country teams are working with agencies on the ground.
#2. Instability: Regional marketing can be an unstable position, due to the above reason of difficulty in showing value. Hence, in times of economic difficulty, regional folks tend to go first on the chopping block.
#3. Bridge building between global and local: In most of the organisations that I’ve worked with, I notice that there is often a huge disconnect between global and local teams, with different goals, and also, a different interpretation of audience needs. Regional marketers are supposed to be that bridge, but navigating organizational politics is an unwanted distraction which often I see boxes their thinking.
So how can one be a more effective regional marketer? Here are some winning plays from the Regional Marketing Playbook, which Text100 developed in partnership with LinkedIn
1. Build a team NOT made up of career marketers
This might seem counter intuitive at first, but if you deep dive into the requirements of regional marketing, you’ll soon see why this makes perfect sense. The ideal regional marketing team is made up not of career marketers, but a mix of specialists, entrepreneurs, and negotiators. The ability to use autonomy well – to grow market reach, sales, and customer satisfaction – is an essential at the regional level.
In particular, hire those people with a full-stack mindset. That is the most important thing. Hard skills can be learned, but ways of thinking and working take longer to change. To be honest, you probably don’t need marketers per se, but rather people who can receive a business problem and come up with practical solutions.
2. Build your own autonomy
Regional marketers need autonomy to do their jobs well. Regional teams can only deliver valuable business results if they develop and roll out campaigns that resonate with the specifics of their region, rather than being beholden to initiatives devised at a global level. This, of course, also involves an element of risk – one that regional marketing must be willing to bear. But the payoffs are well worth it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, being in charge of your own destiny is more empowering for you and your team, and it keeps you energized and motivated.
While following the global script is fine and dandy, will you ever really create a tangible impact on your industry and region by doing so?
3. Purposeful conflict creates more win
While there will inevitably be conflict and differences between global, regional and local marketing teams, the point I want to make here is that there should not be an antagonistic relationship. Regional marketing can act as a bridge – not only from global to local but also between the local teams. There are probably a lot of synergies which each in-country marketer can benefit from, and he or she would benefit from someone with a top-level view joining the dots on the ground.
For the most part, global and local teams possess a wealth of complementary insights into consumer behaviours and business priorities, and there is a sort of handshake which only regional marketing can negotiate to create maximum impact for the marketing function as a whole.
That said, building up this “glo-cal” relationship takes time and conscious effort.
In conclusion, regional marketers need to be aware that their role is not a solo hero trying to save the organisation, but see themselves as part of a team, working in a fast-paced environment. Be humble, be sensitive, and be respectful of the expertise of your colleagues – on the ground and at a global level – and you’ll be well on your way to become a regional marketing MVP.