An obvious advantage of the centralised approach is consistency across all markets, as well as efficiency of communication – but what are the downsides of it?
While the overall strategy can be very well organised from a central approach, as the strategy and tactics become more granular it is often best suited to greater local involvement. The issue with the full centralised approach is simply the lack of on the ground local knowledge.
And how can these be compensated for? Which kind(s) of organisation will typically use this approach?
The structure of digital across an organisation will often be dictated by the resources of the team available, or smaller organisations or those just starting out in a new location, this is where agency or freelancers may help hit the ground running.
In which cases would you advocate a local teams approach? It comes with its challenges, but why is it worth the effort
Simply it comes down to knowing your audience, the characteristics of the people that hit your digital touchpoints, this can be as simple as understanding the effectiveness of communications, how humour is played out, or how they expect to be sold to. How can you match your strategy and context with your culture? Hofstede give an interesting guide to this.
When does it make sense to use the freelance/agency option? How can and should you mitigate the risk of using people outside your own organisation?
My personal view is that the freelance/agency can be used during the discovery phase, when first entering into a location you otherwise have limited knowledge of. While the overall strategy continues to be set at a global level, area such as SEO, email and social really benefit from local knowledge. The other use of course is during campaigns where the organisation has limited resource, rather than pulling in help from the home country it can often be more beneficial to have the local knowledge.
Is it possible to blend the different structures/setups to reap the benefits of all of them?
Absolutely! A strict structure can be limiting. Consider what can be done for the country, with the country and by the country. remain agile. as new platforms appear, such as WeChat, you may find that greater control is required on the ground, to build up knowledge and understanding before being brought into the wider digital strategy.
In what circumstances is a business likely to decide to set up a new international team, or teams?
The most obvious is the dedicated selling of products and services to that area and needing that support on the ground, I’ve also seen times where a business has found an audience quite by accident, or decided to join forces with a similar firm. More often than not is is down to being able to better serve and understand you target market, which is best done in that location.
What legal/regulatory factors can have an impact?
Not only will there be local laws to consider (such as setting up a website in China you need a license), but also there is how the new location will work with your home location. If you are in the UK or EU and expanding into China, are you moving customer data between locations? are you complying with DPA?
How can you manage the recruitment process? What is the most efficient way to ensure you get the right people?
Lots of homework! Who do you know in that area? consider organisations like Chamber of Commerce and UKTI who may be able to advise. Are there similar organisation that have moved into that area? Be very careful thinking about what you want from a future local employee or agency that will be helping you. A key point is the understanding they will be part of a global team, or at least have responsibilities back to the home office.
Are there any common pitfalls that businesses can fall prey to?
Rushing into a market, is one of the biggest, with all the excitement and potential business growth
If these teams are part of your organisation, it’s essential that they feel part of it, and understand the company culture, brand values etc.. – how can this be achieved?
Communication is key here, it is all to easy to setup a remote team and for them to not feel part of the wider company
There will be occurrences where the local team will want to use a different approach/idea/style – how do you manage this without demotivating people or dismissing local expertise?
There is no one size fits all, ideally it is finding out what works, run short projects as a proof of concept to see it it is a viable solution, both in the local market, but also as part of the wider team.
How much flexibility can and should you allow?
Do you trust them? With the overall strategy being set at a global level with input from local offices, flexibility is crucial.
Which processes can be developed to manage workflows and consistency? From an SEO Point of view, what tools and templates can assist?
The main part of this is communications – tools such as Trello and Slack can help, but remember not to move away from the goals of the business and be tied up in the tools. Keep it simple.
Can you easily benchmark performance and results across teams and markets?
This comes down to being clear in what your business goals are, performance should be measured both from the global level and then given the granularity at the local level to help build and monitor activities.
What factors should you take into account when setting goals for international teams?
What works in one area my not work in another, audiences can be very different and setting goals will need to be adjusted as you settle into the areas
How can you monitor performance levels?
Continual communications, all to often anyone outside of the home office can feel left out and isolated. develop short, mid and long term goals that are clear and specific to the location.
What measures can you take to improve below par performance?
Understand where you are measuring from, there is a lot of work to put in at the beginning when building a team, don’t let that slip, be clear what is expected. ideally you want to see performance improving, whether it is your own team, freelance or agency at the first sign of trouble get to the root of the cause, what are the issues? all too often it comes down to poor or mis communications
How can you motivate remote teams?
Keep them in the loop!! communicate with everyone equally whether they are at the desk next to you or halfway around the world. And dont just use email, telephone ans face to face are key, and while webcams work well, bringing the whole team together once in a while shouldn’t be underestimated in building motivation. On paper this might appear to be a high cost to the business, but the value to the team is great!