Understand Globally, Communicate Locally
Literally and figuratively.
While at networking event in Bucharest I met the head of global business development and partnerships for a well known video hosting platform. Working with professionals from so many different countries, cultures and customs requires careful attention to communications and behavior – not entirely unlike how marketers who create content need to flavor their message according to the unique needs of each target audience.
He shared with me how things like accepting a business card from someone in China and then writing on it or not greeting the most senior person first in a Middle Eastern country, can kill a deal. He also talked about the importance of structuring engagements in a way that not only empathizes with the business customs of the region, but also makes money for all involved.
I think that’s an important lesson that a lot of marketers working within the same culture overlook. First – understand the strategic nature of how your marketing solves problems for customers and at the same time, don’t ever forget, that marketing exists to build the business.
Many marketers execute tactics reacting to the competition or chasing shiny new social objects. They also avoid being accountable with their marketing via superficial KPIs.
For example, I know many social media marketing experts have long evangelized the need to “engage and not sell” through social channels, relying mostly on network growth and interactions as measures of success. However, social media marketing programs that are limited to the warm and fuzzy without ever being accountable to business goals eventually die because everything must answer to growing the business, sooner or later.
Selling happens all the time on social networks, it just doesn’t happen the same way marketers are accustomed to.
Recently Chris Brogan posted a photo on Instagram of a pair of Skora running shoes he was sent. They looked really unique and he mentioned how comfortable they were. I Googled the company, found a pair that looked good to me and then went to Amazon to purchase them. Then I posted a photo on Instagram with a comment that the shoes are indeed, quite comfortable.
Did Chris sell me those shoes? Did Skora? Sure they did. But not in the traditional (annoying) sense.
I became aware of the product through a social network connection, did my own research (by searching Google and visiting the company website) and not only did I transact, but I shared my purchase back to a social network where I have thousands of connections (and now here where hundreds of thousands may view it) – possibly influencing others to buy running shoes from the same company.
Make no mistake, lots of selling is going on through the social web, it’s just different and also very difficult to track.
The opportunity for content, social media and search engine marketers is to understand what formats, language and search terms will be relevant and meaningful to the buyer experience. Then make content using those insights – give people information in the formats they want in order to help them solve problems and reach goals – understand globally and communicate locally.
In the same way a global marketer would localize content for Greece differently than Kansas, make a point to always localize content and social engagement according to your unique audience. It might literally be cultural if you’re creating global content. Or it might be directed towards a particular vertical market or customer segment. Whatever the focus, it makes sense for content and social engagement to be audience and platform specific to improve the likelihood of consumption, engagement and effectiveness. Plus, why annoy or alienate readers from your brand?
Write to be Read
More companies are creating content than ever – text, images, video, audio and interactive.
The problem is, that a lot of writers, especially on corporate blogs, create content for clients or the companies they work for solely as a form of self expression, without a lot of consideration for who will be reading and what their preferences are for topics, formats or even channels where the content will be discovered. Even if they do customize the content, it’s often according to the sweeping generalizations that are passed off as best practices.
What’s wrong with that?
Competition for time and attention online means people will click away if they aren’t attracted and engaged with your content pretty quickly.
Writing to be read means a combination of: great headline that makes a promise, striking visuals, topic relevancy, formatting of the content, usefulness, interestingness and some kind of call to action. Business content that doesn’t have elements to make the content a compelling experience risks falling flat and being ignored. Or worse, it attracts attention but frustrates readers by not offering options for what to do next.
For example, when I initially looked at a preview of Ann Handley’s new book, Everybody Writes, each time I scrolled and stopped at a new section, what I found was snappy, scannable, interesting and often funny. Every time I looked at it, I wanted to read more. She did an amazing job of “walking the talk” with a book about writing well by actually writing well and writing to be read. Yes, I am wholeheartedly endorsing this book!
Can you do both? Can you express yourself personally and write to be read by a specific audience at the same time? That’s the important question here and the answer is even more important.
The takeaway with writing to be read: You can and should have both – but self expression alone doesn’t cut it with business communications. Writers and bloggers that can surface personal experiences in the context of the overall business objective AND the interest of the reading audience are where informative and entertaining meet – infotainment.
Writers that are aware of their own biases and know how to use them to advance the interests of the reader while communicating key business messages will be the most valuable content creators you can find. I’m happy to say we’ve been successful in that area here at our agency. But we’re always looking for more.
The most important lesson with search, social and content marketing: I know this post and much of the content I create isn’t perfect. Most business content isn’t. But if you pay attention to feedback and performance indicators/metrics, you can optimize your messages, formatting, and calls to action to improve performance. That’s the best insight you can get – your own data and experiences, first hand.
Does this post hold up the the advice I’ve given? Does it tell a few interesting stories? Is it localized enough for people in the digital marketing and business communications industry? Please share feedback in the comments plus your own tips about more effective business writing.
What questions about content creation would you like to see more of on this blog?