In an increasingly globalised world, many businesses are looking to grow their digital strategies across borders. Launching an international affiliate programme presents many opportunities, but it doesn't come without its challenges, as Zeina Rizk of Acceleration Partners explains
When marketing your products and services globally, there are some key barriers to overcome - including understanding your markets, getting past language barriers and setting objectives that are realistic and achievable for each territory.
Here are our top five tips for successful international campaign management.
1. Research your markets
Before jumping straight into the deep end, thoroughly research the market that you are looking to expand into. Businesses need to ensure they are educated on local customs and traditions, what's offensive and what's deemed to be good manners, as well as the key events in the destination's calendar.
It is also vital to understand cultural preferences in terms of communications, for example whether they prefer phone calls, emails or face-to-face meetings.
As well as understanding the market's consumers, it's also important to research your potential competitors. How does their product or service compare to yours? Are their costs higher or lower? How much of the market share do they own?
Also, be sure to research any affiliate programmes that they themselves might be undertaking. Try to get information relating to their commission structures, offers, publisher's exposure and more - so that you're confident your campaign can compete.
2. Get expert support with global capabilities
Once the initial round of research has been done, look at getting local support for your campaigns, choosing the right service providers in each region. This service can be through either an affiliate network or a SaaS platform, in combination with an agency or in-house team.
Whilst investigating the best ways to take a brand global, many brands are finding that different networks have varying strengths in different markets, and that no single network or partner is a global leader in every market.
With this in mind, in some cases it can be more productive to partner with an international agency that works independently with local partners and networks in the markets you wish to expand to and manages the affiliate platform. The agency acts as a single point of contact, managing the relationships and campaigns with the required partners in each market.
Once an affiliate platform and programme management provider has been selected, determine the team structure ahead of implementation. The team structure will depend on the size of the programme, but usually falls into one of two categories:
- a single global account manager who collaborates with local teams in different markets and manages the relationships with numerous publishers, or;
- a global team with account managers who will manage specific countries or regions.
3. Localise your programmes
In international markets where English isn't the first language, it's vital to have a team who are able to provide local language support, ensuring that translations are perfect, and no meaning is lost or misunderstood.
All marketing materials, whether adverts, newsletters, social campaigns or otherwise, need to be presented in the local language, using natural and native wording and phrases.
Programme managers who are able to work according to the market's time zone are preferable to ensure that all queries can be dealt with in a timely manner and campaigns go live at the right time.
There are many other factors to take into account when it comes to localising campaigns. You will need to make sure that:
- payments can be taken in the relevant currency, quickly and easily;
- campaigns and offers abide by local laws and regulations;
- where campaigns are translated for the relevant markets, the key messaging is still consistent with global campaigns and strategies.
4. Work with global publishers
For any international programme, it is important to work with global publishers and ensure they are live in all your active markets, as well as working with market-specific publishers.
The main advantage of these global partnerships is to drive volume across various markets and benefit from the brand awareness of your publishers in markets where your brand may have lower recognition.
Working with a single point of contact globally can make it easier and more time effective to manage publishers, rather than having multiple contacts for each market.
5. Set your expectations
Every affiliate market is different, and each region will vary in size and brand awareness. It is important to bear this in mind when setting targets and expectations.
A well-established market, such as the UK, may see far better results than - for example - Portugal, where the population is smaller and your brand awareness is lower.
This is why it is vital for businesses to understand how the different markets work, and to get a clear idea of the volumes they can expect. Without managing expectations, it may appear as though a smaller campaign has failed because it didn't achieve the results expected from a stronger market - when in reality it may have been a huge success.