client-go-global

How do you prepare yourself for the day when the brand you helped build decides to go global?

Maybe you’ve been with the brand before anyone had even heard of the company. And now, the brand is considering entering the global market. It needs an agency that can handle this. What assurances can you give your client to prove you can handle a campaign on this scale? And if you manage to convince them to stick with you, how do you plan to deliver?

While the “big four” global agency groups, together with a few smaller groups in the advertising world, seem to own the global marketing ecosystem, there are many independent creative agencies delivering impactful, notable campaigns beyond the borders of the U.S. or their respective home bases.

Here are a few things to consider when your client gives you the news that his brand is expanding:

Go Back to the Basics

When the moment comes for a brand to consider its approach to going global and who they partner with to achieve this, they are likely to start with the basics. Their existing relationships and the brand knowledge of these partners will be important for account retention. With these elements secured, you will have the majority of stakeholders’ votes for continuity. If there are problems in the relationship though, a decision in favor of change will be a lot easier for the client to make.

Promote Your Track Record

Success stories proving you can accomplish global campaigns will certainly boost confidence, but ultimately, the client team want to know how you did it. Going global doesn’t simply mean mobilizing local offices (if you have them). Those can mean high costs, as you are multiplying the number of account teams, not to mention letting go of global control. Your client will look to you for assurances you can deliver a culturally relevant, high-impact campaign with a single “big idea” and brand identity. Use your track record to boost their confidence, and tailor a model that fits their organization. If you don’t have a recent example of a global campaign roll out but have the basics covered, you could still keep your client.

Consider the Scope

Prepare answers to those all-important questions. Remember, deploying local offices does not automatically yield a truly global campaign. Those offices are great for servicing local brands or working up bespoke local campaigns, but as each office has their own creative services chain of command, can you ensure your agency will deliver a uniform campaign that retains the brand image you so carefully nurtured over the years?

Relying on local offices to globalize your campaign brings about conflicts of opinion, which slows down activation and racks up creative billable hours. Only plan global activation with your local offices if you have a model in place to manage it. Run a dry pilot, and record your learnings. Define roles and responsibilities, and make sure you retain control over your creative vision. Present this information to your client, and be sure to include the names and faces of their new team, not just local office address. If your client already has country marketing managers, have your local teams meet them, find out what their expectations are, and how much creative freedom they hope to have.

Create a Global Model

Entering a global market, implementing campaigns, and establishing a global identity are all ambitious undertakings.

For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that logistics have already been planned and put in motion, and the brand is looking to you — waiting for your proposal before the teams makes the decision on whether you have what it takes to expand with them.

In some cases, the brand will have global marketers with global deployment experience who know what they want. This is a best-case scenario. There are less variables to consider. In other cases, the brand will look to you to propose a strategy. And in most cases, you’ll have something in the middle.

Even if you are creatively and strategically confident, your implementation model will determine if you are up to the task of global delivery. Do not simply replicate your domestic process for each market. Assemble a team with experience of global deployment and understanding of the many challenges they will face, discuss creative approaches with them that allow for adaptation, and create a model that will shape or fit their internal structure while also minimizing the stress points.

Discover Partnerships

If you don’t have the track record or aren’t able to invest in a global solution in time to retain your client, consider a joint venture with a partner who can enable you to deliver. A full service partner who is capable of delivering and has the infrastructure in place can work as an extension to your creative offering that already resonates so well with your client. If this is your chosen solution, ideally you will already have the partnership in place. This will assure your client you have been preparing for this day — just like they have.

Ensure your chosen partner will not encroach on your business, rather they will deliver the global element while allowing you to benefit from your client’s new scope. Ensure the client is wholly yours, and advocate for their interest; securing this will help you keep your client’s trust. But do not waste resources managing your partner. Trust them to do their part directly with your client while also knowing they will call upon you when there are questions only your team can answer.

There are other solutions, such as joining a network or association with annual fees and networking functions. Explore these options, and consider which is best for your client base.

Stay Ahead With Digital Tools

Digital project management tools are an essential part of any global implementation solution. They help you track discussions and approvals from many locations on a single platform. They also are another sticky piece of tech for you and your client. A good system is difficult to disengage from. Once a client experiences it, the thought of losing and having to replicate it elsewhere can be disheartening. If you have such a system with your client, never let it grow stale. Always update and enhance it; it’s an investment that pays for itself with repeat business.

Don’t Change Who You Are

Your agency is successful in a very competitive industry, and you’ve remained independent under enormous market pressures. Don’t pretend to be bigger than you are; talk about all the positives that will allow a global brand to shine with your agency behind it. Prove that with all the options in this article, the big agency network isn’t the only solution. What makes you “you” is the reason you’ve won every one of your clients. Don’t discount it to compete with the big networks. Promote all the mantras of your foundation as your great advantage. Be ready to only change how you work — but not who you are.

Originally published Dec 2, 2014 4:00:00 AM, updated December 15 2014