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How to get management buy-in for web globalization


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This article is for corporate marketing and business development professionals who understand the need for a truly globalized corporate website, but have yet to receive the kind of top-down mandate and funding that would make such an undertaking a success. The current state of their corporate website may, at first glance, appear to be globalized. However, having a truly globalized website means that the core functionality, message, and purpose of the central corporate site have been effectively maintained when re-engineered for audiences in all locales where their corporation does business.

This article offers a step-by-step process to assist you in building an effective business case for comprehensive website globalization. Information is based on a careful analysis of what has worked for other professionals facing a similar challenge. Although individual strategies vary, these are the elements common to most successful campaigns.

STEP ONE: Develop a clear understanding of the current landscape of your company’s global business practices, especially as they transpire on the web.

Be sure you learn:

° how your company’s English content and content on regional websites is currently created—learn who the main content authoring teams and the tools they use, understand the underlying process for creating, modifying, and updating content.

° who the key decision makers and champions will be during the process of getting buy-in, who among them may prove to be good team players on a global web development team, as well as those who may prove difficult or obstructive in getting buy-in, and subsequently, a successfully globalized web site.

° along with “how” and “who,” try to learn why the current landscape of your company’s global business practices is the way it is.

While you may understand perfectly the power and importance of a properly globalized website, you should strive to

° align this importance with your company’s C-level goals.

° produce web metrics (from the corporate website) that indicate a clear trend toward increasing and sustained levels of visitors from outside the U.S.

° indicate from reviewing your company’s quarterly earning statements that there is a trend toward greater revenue for your business from outside the U.S. or build a similar report that indirectly indicates how not having a globalized website negatively impacts the bottom line.

For the rest of this section, we created a fictitious corporation to illustrate how the checklist works. We clearly stress that this is an entirely fictitious company, and your own organization’s processes, goals, pain points, players, etc., may prove to be entirely different in some ways. However, examples are a great way to tie real world scenarios to these guidelines. Use these starting points to build a checklist that is custom-tailored for your particular organization. Once you finish this section you should know if you can build a strong enough business case for globalizing your company’s website.

Let’s say you are the Web Marketing Director for a company called Measurementum. Measurementum provides data acquisition hardware and software. Three of its competitors are Agilent, Tektronix and National Instruments.

How is Measurementum’s global web content currently authored?

Measurementum has three different CMS platforms to deliver product and corporate information on its corporate site. These platforms are used by multiple teams in two different cities in the U.S. Also, six of the worldwide sales offices (Mexico, Germany, Japan, France, China, Korea) have created “rogue sites,” basically microsites that are the “official” Measurementum sites for those countries. Those sites carry a staggering disparity of content that may be at variance with the U.S. website. While these sites are in the respective national languages of those countries, search engine queries in those languages using data acquisition hardware and software key terms aren’t as effective as the U.S. site in key term searches. In other words, these Measurementum sites aren’t as likely to be found by prospective clients because of poor Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on most pages. Perhaps these sites don’t have the same investment of web professional resources as the original site.

Who will be the key decision makers and champions during the process of getting buy-in?

Dick Stanton, VP of Marketing, is your immediate supervisor. He routinely receives calls from localization vendors telling him that a unified global corporate site would be in Measurementum’s best interest. Dick says, “Most of our customers speak English and for others, we do have other language websites.” You have some discretion in handling the web portion of marketing initiatives, but within the confines of a modest budget. Estimates you’ve received indicate successful globalization of the Measurementum website will require almost three times the current web marketing budget.

Natasha Ouspensky, Technical Support, provides technical product support for sales and fulfillment staff, both via email requests and through the phone center. Her team receives emails and calls directly from overseas customers who find her office’s number after being unable to get accurate technical information from the regional sites and offices. While she has communicated her frustration with the amount of time spent trying to assist overseas customers, she hasn’t had the time or opportunity to track how many of them she receives during a given week, or what percentage of Technical Support’s time is spent on these kinds of calls.

Heui-Yung Park, Chief Technical Writer, is formally supervised by Natasha, but his small team works somewhat independently. He has very strong ideas about how product information should be presented on the web. His team are the only non-engineers that have a true grasp of how Measurementum’s products work; his opinions on everything are rarely disputed.

Rachel Owens, EVP Sales and Marketing, is Dick’s supervisor, and coordinates all global Measurementum sales and marketing efforts. She is first and foremost a salesperson, and generally respects Dick’s judgment for all things marketing-related. She is pleased with how well-represented Measurementum is around the globe, and has included “world leader” in the company mission statement. Rachel is responsible for establishing Measurementum sales offices overseas, and is proud of the increased global revenue that has come from it.

Dale Foster, III, CEO, is the son of Measurementum’s founder. His expertise is finance and he formerly served as CFO. He has limited knowledge of sales, marketing and engineering. He pays close attention to the company’s stock price, earnings and expenses. He knows the importance of meeting or exceeding dividend projections to stockholders and Wall Street. In the past, Dale has reduced research budgets or directed executives to reduce employee numbers to order to achieve ROI objectives.

Why the current landscape of your company’s global business practices is the way it is.

Measurementum has taken a fairly traditional approach to global expansion. In the eighties and nineties, Measurementum partnered with overseas distributors. 90% of its global business still comes from this approach. In the late nineties and early part of this decade, Measurementum began opening their own sales offices overseas, and currently has offices in ten countries, the U.K., Canada, Australia, India, Mexico, Germany, Japan, France, China, Korea.

What are Measurementum’s C-level goals?

Obviously, increasing shareholder value will always be mentioned, but how specifically is Measurementum seeking to increase revenue? International earnings are growing at a faster rate than U.S. earnings, but still constitute only 22% of total revenues. While Dale Foster supports international expansion, nearly all company resources are still primarily directed to the U.S. market. You strongly believe an effective website strategy could substantially increase international market growth over the current rate. But how do you make a convincing case for this?

Additionally, Measurementum has increased its customer support initiatives. Natasha’s department has grown from three people to almost twenty in the past ten years. Measurementum has discovered that the personal service and attention it gives its customers result in additional purchases and word of mouth advertising. Measurementum’s executives also believe that the overseas sales offices are actively offering the same support to its customers outside the U.S., and mention this prominently on the web site.

What do your web metrics look like?

Referrals from the regional web sites have increased almost 1000% in the past three years. Web traffic outside of the U.S. now accounts for about 30% of all web traffic.

Do Measurementum’s financial statements offer any proof of trends toward increased global business?

Worldwide net revenue for the 2007 first quarter increased 11% to $54 million.

Measurementum ranks ninth in global sales among the top data acquisition hardware and software products and continues as the second fastest growing.

Build a similar report that indirectly indicates how not having a globalized website negatively impacts the bottom line

You know from conversations with Natasha that the overseas sales offices are actually having a difficult time keeping up with customer support questions, and that her team frustratingly spends a lot of time trying to communicate with a non-native English speaker the support he or she needs.

You can also plainly see from the web analytics that the corporate site is receiving a substantial amount of referrals from the overseas sites, and that these visitors are looking for product and support information, often abandoning the site at the contact page where U.S. technical support’s number is listed. It won’t be difficult to get some preliminary data from Natasha as to how many of these kinds of calls are actually coming in, and she will likely be quite happy to track the data in a more granular fashion (like by country, native language, product, etc.).

Checklist for Step 1:

  • Learn how your company’s English content is currently authored.
  • Know who the key decision makers and champions will be for obtaining buy-in.
  • Learn how and why your company currently practices global business the way it does.
  • Learn who the regional sales and distribution managers are.
  • Align web globalization with C-level business goals.
  • Be able to gather and produce web metrics that indicate trends toward more visitors from outside the U.S.
  • Build a report from financial statements and/or budgets or other reports that demonstrates global revenue increases, and/or increased expenditures supporting clients outside the U.S.

STEP TWO: Develop a clear understanding of the web globalization landscape outside of your company.

In Step One, you gathered figures, trends and goals derived from your own organization. Step Two involves compiling outside expert information and information about your competitors. These can be expert articles, statistics, case studies, surveys, and research studies. Don’t be tempted to skip one or the other of these two steps as they will work in tandem to build a thorough business case and overcome objections. Paradoxically, executive decision-makers (no offense intended if you are one) sometimes place a global marketing or development manager in a Catch 22 position by alternately stating “that’s all fine and good, but we do it differently here,” one day and then challenging “this data about us is all fine and good but what about the competitive landscape?” the next day.

What trends are happening with non-native English visitors?

While English remains the top language in use on the internet, it is no longer in the majority, and it certainly isn’t the fastest growing language of online users. These users may speak and understand proficient English, but they are more likely to spend the bulk of their time shopping, buying and interacting with sites that are in their native language (see What do the experts have to say? below). In short, the fastest-growing segments of the world internet population are stating loudly and clearly, “English isn’t enough!"

http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm

http://www.glreach.com/globstats/index.php3

What are some successful web globalization stories of other companies?

Over the past five years, companies like Cisco, CAT, HP and Verisign have started their web globalization process with global web situations similar to our fictitious Measurementum, sometimes with many more stakeholders, “rogue sites” and buy-in challenges. In some cases, C-level management was almost completely unaware of how much business revenue was derived from outside the U.S., unbelievable, but true! All of these companies have taken what was little or no unified global web presence, and built global web sites that not only have been effectively maintained when re-engineered for audiences in all locales where their corporation does business, but have also streamlined the content management processes for the English website, to the effect of great cost savings.

Is anybody getting any real ROI from doing this? Fortunately for you, some real ROI numbers have started to appear that clearly demonstrate the revenue potential in having a globalized website. You can demonstrate how these companies are reaping the benefits of web globalization. (Unless you are able to create an airtight case, which you probably won’t without a crystal ball, you shouldn’t promise specific ROI numbers for YOUR company’s particular web globalization project.)

From John Yunker of Byte Level Research:

Yunker recently looked at two recent earnings announcements from Google and eBay, two major bellwethers of the virtual global economy, along with a recent announcement from PayPal.

According to Google’s recent earnings announcement, “Revenues from outside of the United States totaled $1.71 billion, representing 47% of total revenues in the first quarter of 2007, compared to 42% in the first quarter of 2006 and 44% in the fourth quarter of 2006.” eBay announced in early 2007 that the proportion of international revenues to US revenues now stands at an even 50/50. In a year, international revenues will most certainly have surpassed domestic revenues.

And, according to BusinessWeek, JPMorgan Securities Inc. analyst Imran Khan adds, “We continue to expect PayPal’s international business will drive strong growth in 2007 as the company recently rolled out its service to include additional currencies and countries,” wrote Khan. “We believe this expansion will help facilitate increased cross-border trade as well as increased PayPal penetration in the company’s current international footprint.”

Yunker goes on to remind us that: “...both eBay and Google have struggled in China. These global revenues trends are the result of countries other than China, which bodes well for both companies if/when they do hit it big in this market.”

What do the experts have to say?

Fortunately for you, the world of web globalization has matured to a level of sophistication that has produced volumes of works by experts, statistics, surveys, reports. Here are some of the more convincing numbers and facts that have been published in recent years, but you know your corporate culture and management best. Find numbers to amaze them, impress them, shock them, downright scare them!

Common Sense Advisory (CSA) recently published the results of an exhaustive survey in a report titled, Can’t Read, Won’t Buy, CSA

“The data collected substantiates this theory and reveals that more than half (52.4%) of consumers buy only at websites where information is presented in their language. The report also reveals that nationality increases the demand for local-language content in online transactions. The percentage of those who buy only at local-language websites jumps to more than 60 percent of consumers in France and Japan.”

What are your competitors doing with their websites? Include statistics indicating the trend for increasing revenues outside of your country for your industry as a whole.

In the case of our fictitious Measurementum, two of its competitors are actually doing quite a bit in the area of web globalization. Take a look at some of the availability of localized sites from these Measurementum competitors:

National Instruments probably has the most localized sites.

Agilent comes in second.

The other, Tektronix, doesn’t have as developed a global web presence.

Interestingly enough, Tektronix posted disappointing global revenue numbers in its last report.

Agilent returned mixed global success.

And, National Instruments saw the strongest global revenue increases of the three.

While we won’t make a direct correlation between these companies’ global web presence and their global revenue increases, these numbers should give the executives at Measurementum a certain pause, and open the door for further discussion about what Measurementum should be doing with its own web globalization initiatives.

Checklist for Step 2:

  • What trends are happening with non-native English visitors?
  • What are some successful web globalization stories of other companies?
  • What actual ROI, if any, comes from having a globalized web site?
  • What do the experts have to say?
  • What are your competitors doing with their websites?
  • Include statistics indicating the trend for increasing revenues outside of your country for your industry as a whole.

STEP THREE: Define what your company will accomplish by globalizing the corporate site, as it relates to your own corporate culture, goals.

If clear ROI targets are not feasible (and they may not be, since you are embarking into new territory, sans benchmarks), think in terms of added value, money saved, pain points eliminated. Web globalization should be perceived as a necessary component of high-level business goals, be it satisfying a mission statement, increasing brand awareness, or expanding revenue possibilities. In other words, it isn’t a luxury or PR material, but a necessity. And it’s not an expense, it’s a business opportunity.

In our example company, we could easily connect the dots between web globalization and improved customer service, enhanced brand equity, and increased market effectiveness. Imagine our VP of Sales’ reaction when she finds out that her overseas sales teams are spending over 40% of their time fielding customer support calls, trying to address basic technical support problems and dealing with the shortcomings of their web communication instead of selling. If you are directly responsible for web marketing at your company, you may have to justify decisions you make to boost quality traffic to the site. You might have a list of known effective key terms for your English site that you wish were translated for all your language sites. Try the following experiment: translate a few of your strongest search terms into a few languages of where your regional sales offices are, and do Google searches using the localized versions of Google.

For a very basic example, let's look at a key search term that is important to Measurementum, "Data Acquisition hardware." You would have the term translated into "Datenerfassung hardware," and then Google it on German-only sites, to see how many of your competitors appear in the search results. In this example, NI is the only competitor that does very well.

Defining what web globalization will accomplish should be a piece of cake if you have completed steps one and two. You have the information available from building your business case (Why should we globalize the site?), now you are simply using it to define precisely what web globalization will accomplish (What is this going to do for us?).

Checklist for Step 3:

  • Define what your company will accomplish by globalizing the corporate site, as it relates to your own corporate culture, goals.

STEP FOUR: Prepare a clear roadmap for getting from point A (the current landscape of your company’s global business practices, especially as they transpire on the web) to point B (what your company will accomplish by globalizing the corporate site).

Why bother with a roadmap at this stage? Won’t things look different after I actually get buy-in, begin assembling teams, preparing budgets, sending out RFPs to vendors, etc.?

You’ve got the goods to sell management on the need for web globalization, you have a clear description of benefits your company will receive from successfully globalizing the corporate web site, so why spend precious time and resources making plans that are bound to change once the ball gets rolling?

NOTE: This article assumes that you will want chief ownership of this project, so why sell them on the idea only to have your immediate supervisor (or someone else in management) be given ownership and the opportunity to take credit for all of the work you will no doubt be doing?

More importantly, you will want to demonstrate up front the realities you and your company will face in order to get from point A to point B. A roadmap prevents a lot of expensive and unrealizable ideation that will no doubt creep up once the ball is rolling.

While a dream wish list may include

  • an unlimited budget for intensive third-party international usability studies,
  • all English content already optimized for an international audience, re-written for the new processes and tools you will implement, and single-sourced using a new CMS
  • enough new team members to comfortably handle this project,
  • localization of all information on the entire corporate website into dozens of new languages/locales at once,
  • and a budget to visit each regional office to interview them and determine their unique needs,

is there the remotest chance you’re going to get all this? If there is, call us immediately!

No? Ok, then let’s examine what is realistic and essential for you to succeed, both with getting buy-in and in creating a well-globalized website. Reality is that you will have to give up some process elements you feel are important, and leave in lower priority elements that the top brass wants. Know when to concede and keep your eyes focused on your overall goal!

One successful strategy is to break the total project into phases, so that budget and risk is spread over several fiscal periods. It may take the form of starting with fewer localized sites, or less total amount of content localized, but into more languages. This way, you can track metrics for the effectiveness of web globalization that will help you get buy-in for a more comprehensively globalized website. The important thing is to be able to clearly demonstrate an actual timeframe for hitting these goals, as well as a list of who will be involved, and how much it will cost. The important point is that your clear roadmap will help prevent the key players from adding unfeasible ideas to the web globalization checklist.

Checklist for Step 4:

  • Build a realistic timeline for globalizing the web site that accurately reflects what you and your organization are capable of.

STEP FIVE: Create a proposal stating why your company needs web globalization, what it will accomplish and how you will get them there. Make sure you can present your case in three formats you’re likely to need:

  • a detailed, well-informed report
  • an executive brief or PowerPoint presentation
  • a succinct, thirty-second elevator pitch

You know your management and the other key players. Think of their communication preferences, perhaps a professional e-mail template for regional sales managers, datasheet for IT people, spreadsheet for finance, fire dancers for marketing, etc. Be prepared to give your elevator pitch to many different people on many spontaneous occasions. Arm yourself with notes for your presentation, and get ready to present it to a wide variety of departments, personalities, groups, managers, executives within your organization. In short, don’t expect to wrap this up in a single meeting unless you work for a very small company where decisions are made quickly.

Let’s say you are the Web Marketer at Measurementum, and you get on the elevator with none other than Dale Foster, III. It’s just you and him, and you have less than thirty seconds to tell him anything you want. If you are trying to get top-down buy-in for web globalization, you might want to spend your thirty seconds being an evangelist for your cause instead of staring at your shoes or talking about baseball.

What if Dick Stanton, the Marketing Director reads your detailed, well-informed report, and e-mails you back with, “that’s all fine and good but Rachel, our EVP of Sales and Marketing, will have to mandate any real budget changes to make this happen,” and, unexpectedly, he cc’s Rachel, and she says, “Come into the executive staff meeting at 3 PM this afternoon, and talk for five minutes.” If you don’t have your executive brief and PowerPoint summary ready to go, you will find yourself flying through page after page of your detailed, well-informed report.

Checklist for Step 5:

  • Build your case for web globalization inside a detailed, well-informed report.
  • Refine your case to be communicated well inside an executive brief or PowerPoint presentation.
  • Sum up your case inside a succinct, thirty-second elevator pitch.

STEP SIX: Begin the process of consensus building.

Obtain as much buy-in from the top as possible, and be sure that any proud owners of regional websites around the globe are included in your plan. While it might feel good when your immediate supervisor gives your web globalization project a green light, if you are left trying to figure out how the heck you are going to find the time, people, tools, money, etc. to complete it, then you are really only beginning.

Since your project may ultimately be taking prized ownership away from a regional website owner (rather than relieving him or her of this great burden so more time can be spent selling), you need to make sure that players who might fight to retain ownership of old processes, models and methods have a stake in your web globalization project.

Let’s revisit some of our fictitious players and consider how we might build consensus to gain top-down buy-in for web globalization.

Dick Stanton, Marketing Director

Dick will likely see this as a good marketing feature to add to the website. If he thinks that the cost of web globalization can simply be factored into the budget as another web advertising channel, he may immediately okay web globalization after seeing your preliminary report, but allow little or no extra room for it in the Marketing budget. While the cost to globalize the company site will be insignificant next to the benefits derived (for example, how much Measurementum will save in terms of support man hours and the potential revenue from regional sales offices being able to actually sell), the cost of proper web globalization often stops executives and managers in their tracks. This is partly because much of the cost of designing, developing and maintaining the corporate site in English gets absorbed or lost within the hours of numerous personnel who contribute to the site.

While getting Dick on board for web globalization is an important part of your overall strategy, the cost of doing web globalization right will likely have to come from outside of simple marketing budget considerations. You may find yourself in the position where you have to convince the Marketing Director that web globalization isn’t simply a nice add-on to have when a little bit of time and money are available to do it. Dick is likely very proud of his Marketing successes with your U.S. audiences—presenting at trade shows, advertising in trade journals—remind him of the intense amount of time and effort Measurementum has spent to craft a compelling, cohesive marketing message and unified branding strategy. Now, show him how almost all of that effort is lost on audiences outside of the U.S. without a truly globalized website.

Natasha Ouspensky, Technical Support

If she hasn’t perceived the direct correlation between the lack of accurate technical support information on the Measurementum sites outside of the U.S. with her own particular pain points, Natasha will as soon as you show her that several of the frustrations with her job come directly from this need. She will be one of your biggest champions, and will help you get all of the data you need to build your case for web globalization.

Heui-Yung Park, Chief Technical Writer

Heui-Yung takes great pains to accurately describe a product and its use. Show Heui-Yung what overseas customers are really seeing when they go looking online for technical support information. What type of content or ad hoc information are the regional sales offices providing on their web sites or in the form of e-mails, phone support, etc.? What about the especially frustrated ones that find themselves speaking in broken English with Natasha’s team? When Heui-Yung sees that most of the world isn’t reading what he writes the way it was intended, he will become a champion for web globalization.

Rachel Owens, VP Sales and Marketing

From reading our above description of Rachel and her goals, she may seem like the easiest person to get buy-in from. After all, she is the one who is responsible for establishing sales offices outside of the U.S., and routinely takes credit when increased global revenue shows up in financial reports. However, be careful not to let the same pain points that made a champion out of Natasha become critiques of Rachel’s overseas sales teams. Rather, you are empowering them with the kind of support from corporate that they can use to support their customers better. Make her see that a globalized corporate site is an inevitable outcome of her efforts, and then she will become a great champion and ally when it comes time to speak to the CEO.

Dale Foster, III, CEO

Do you even need to meet with Dale to sell him the merits of web globalization? That depends. Rachel may very well do a good job of getting a top-down mandate from him, if you have her thoroughly convinced that it is a necessity. Depending on how big your company is or how it is structured, you may not even see this as being necessary or feasible—Rachel or another executive may be thoroughly capable and in charge of allocating the budget and buy-in you will need for successful web globalization. In the case of our fictitious Measurementum, Dale is likely to be shown an executive brief with the assumption being that more detailed information is available and the presenter can answer any questions he or the other executives have.

As we mentioned in Step 5, having your elevator pitch nailed down will be most effective for Dale and other C-level people to pique interest. If you can clearly and quickly articulate how globalizing the website will raise Measurementum’s stock by X number of points, then Dale may very well request a presentation from you.

Use clear and specific language about what you expect web globalization to do for your company when you are building consensus. Align your goals with key players’ goals, and ultimately, with the goals of the company. Don’t settle for the instant gratification of your immediate supervisor saying “yes” to web globalization, unless your immediate supervisor owns the company and is clearly aware of the costs involved to do it successfully.

Summary

In spite of the length of this article, it is by no means a comprehensive tutorial for getting buy-in for web globalization. Naturally, your organization will have its own unique goals, processes and key players (and their personalities). We hope that you will, however, take away some ideas for how to approach this rather involved process.









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