Going Global: Best Practices For Implementing And Expanding Your Partner Program
Branching out into new markets is a great way to support your business growth, but it can often be a daunting process for brands. Brand marketers have the ambition to go global with their partner marketing programs, but don’t always know where or how to start.
Here are some principles to take into account when looking to explore global activity through the partner marketing channel. By understanding these ideas, you’ll be in a better position to roll out global expansion plans.
Take Localization Into Account
Before you start, the most critical aspect of taking your partner marketing global, is localization. It’s proven to be the best way to show local consumers that you care about them Most consumers tend to buy products from companies that make an effort to reach out to them in their regional homebase in a personalized way vs. ones that don’t.
Some of the key considerations that brands need to cover include whether there are on-site capabilities to support local currencies, languages, shipping options, payment gateways, and options to switch what country/region they’re in. And, by the way, all of these things should be available across desktop and mobile.
A great example of a brand that has done a good job of this is Nike. Not only does Nike support all of the above, it’s clear that it takes local market trends into consideration. Nike targets its marketing, assets, and content to each country to ensure that visitors from any given country or region can relate to and engage with the content. Unfortunately, many brands only do the bare minimum on website localization, if any at all. I’ve learned from personal experience that this can be a significant issue when trying to launch partner programs in new markets through the affiliate channel.
Prioritize Your Markets
Expanding into a new market or region involves a great deal of research. First, you need to assess whether your brand is prepared:
- Do you have an audience and brand recognition in these new markets?
- Where are your sales currently coming from?
- Are there specific markets where you have strong organic traffic or revenue?
- Do you have a budget for these regions?
- What is your specific target customer profile?
Define a launch plan and make a business case for each market you want to enter, forecast demand, market growth rates, identify competitors, potential partners, and potential barriers to entry.
Identify And Assess Local Resources
One of the key factors for ensuring the success of global partner programs is local resources, especially when you’re looking to work in regions like EMEA, APAC, or in countries where the culture, regulations, and language are vastly different than in the U.S. You’ll need these types of resources when trying to navigate and manage the publisher landscape to develop your global program.
In conjunction with your local internal resources, you’ll want to have talent on the ground in your key markets, or you can hire in regional hubs. When I worked at Ogilvy in Singapore, we had regional teams based in London, Singapore, and Los Angeles. We built international teams within these hubs with account managers that spoke regional languages and had deep expertise in the key markets we wanted to focus on.
The Importance of Face-to-Face Engagement Can’t Be Underestimated
If you’re looking to run a global partnerships program, you can’t ignore the importance of face time (no, not Facebook’s FaceTime), with key partners and prospects. Meeting a partner in person is a gesture that re-enforces to the person/brand that the relationship is important to you and your company, and you are serious about establishing a long-term relationship as opposed to a short, transaction-based one.
Running global partner programs involves much more than sitting behind a screen. Partner, or affiliate managers need to be out in the market meeting partners at industry events. Some of the most valuable partners I’ve worked with have come from in-market “affiliate days”, events that take place in your office, a platform provider’s’ office, or an industry trade show. You might have several back-to-back meetings per day with prospective partners. These are great opportunities to meet existing partners and educate new prospects on the benefits of your program and partnership.
The Importance of A Single Technology with Consolidated Efforts
Traditionally, brands have run fragmented global partner/affiliate programs; they tend to use multiple networks in different regions to run their activity. There are several fundamental challenges with this type of program set-up.
Duplication: With multiple networks there is usually little, or no deduplication in place. This can present obstacles when you might be paying out or reporting on the same sale multiple times.
Transparency: In certain regions like APAC, there are huge challenges with transparency; the networks offer little visibility on partner activity, and there are few fraud detection measures in place.
Administration: With multiple log-ins across multiple platforms, it can be a challenge to consolidate your performance data, reporting, and other activities.
Local Currency/Gateway Support: Partners need to be paid in their chosen currency. Impact Radius, for example, supports all major currencies unlike some traditional networks.
In an ideal world, your goal should be to manage all your affiliate activity under one platform with a holistic view of your program, reporting, and partners. Impact Radius has seen great success with a number of global brands that took this approach and consolidated their efforts – these brands include Lenovo, Uber, Airbnb, and Microsoft.
‘There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Strategy’
Realistically, global brand expansion isn’t something you’ll be able to achieve overnight and has lots of moving parts. No two countries are the same, and there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. There is a whole lot you need to get right; small mistakes can undo a lot of hard work, make you lose credibility, and deflate your return on investment.
But the future for global brands in partner marketing is bright and when implemented correctly will yield a strong market presence, loyal customers, sustained and repeated sales, and lasting value to your business. We’ve helped dozens of companies get there. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch. We’d love to help
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