Planet Earth. It’s the world’s biggest market. With 321m cubic miles of water between the UK and the rest of the globe, we really don’t need a language barrier too. And for over a decade, Alison Humphries, ClickThrough’s Head of International, has made breaking through that barrier her mission.
I met Alison at an undisclosed location (keeping two metres apart, naturally) so she could spill the beans (or ‘pupiņas’ in Latvian) on her plans to help British businesses take a bigger slice of the International trade pie.
Never Ask a Russian To 'Buy It Now' - Alison Humphries On Our International Marketing Network
JN: First off, what’s with all this secrecy Alison? And why have I got a bag over my head?
AH: Right. Listen carefully. ClickThrough has a number of global clients, and I wanted us to be able to offer them an even better service. Over the last 16 months I’ve been quietly developing a network of in-market specialists to extend what we can do. The whole agency now has access to this network, to obtain local knowledge and advice on the fine-detail of creative assets – be that copy or imagery – which is so important to running a successful campaign.
Clients can now have truly-localised strategies in place for their SEO, Paid Search, Display, Amazon, Paid Social, and Content campaigns. Our specialists make sure that the linguistic content of campaigns and website content reflects the local expressions and terminology used in that marketplace – ensuring that the campaigns we create for clients’ have the maximum resonance with their target audience.
As experienced marketers they also provide us with local, in-market insights into what's happening in a specific category, on the ground.
JN: And what about the bag?
AH: You brought the bag along, not me.
JN: Fine. But, isn't International Marketing just about having someone who can speak the language? I’m pretty sure I can still remember some of my French from school.
AH: It's about having the go-to knowledge on what's happening in the chosen markets and ensuring that what we're going to be delivering to that market is in alignment with consumer expectations.
For example, making sure that the campaigns we are planning reflect the trends that we're seeing in that marketplace and staying aware of the digital platforms that are readily available in those markets.
All this helps us develop the most effective strategies to address each market with the optimal opportunity to grow leads or revenue.
You still speak a little French then?
JN: Un peu. Le singe est dans l’arbre.
AH: Eddie Izzard got that wrong. The monkey is not inside the tree, it’s in the tree. So, it’s “le singe est sur la branche”.
JN: Okay then, smartypants – why would a client work with ClickThrough, rather than a local agency in each country?
AH: If you want to export across multiple markets, you'd need to deal with a vast number of different agencies by the time you've spread yourself across, say, Europe – and that’s just one continent.
Whereas with our network, you’d have a single point of contact in your account manager, who then plugs into our network across all the different markets.
So, there is now one less barrier to clients being able to test new markets, because they won’t need to recruit internally or spend time and effort selecting multiple agencies in different countries.
JN: Which countries, specifically?
AH: We’ve got specialists across all the major European markets, most states in the US, and we also have people in Japan and Australia. Here, I'll give you an animated gif that shows our footprint in different territories for you to include in your article.
JN: Now you’re just showing off. Besides, would an advertiser really need someone in each US state?
AH: There are more differences between states than you might imagine. For a start you've got climate differences. An apparel retailer would need to look at marketing coats in one end of the country and t-shirts in the other because of the vast difference in climate.
The behaviour of consumers state-to-state is different, even in industries with a clear market leader. Although McDonalds is still the most popular fast food chain in every state in the US, the second favourites vary from Chick-Fil-A and Wendy’s on the East coast to Jack in the Box and Panda Express in the West.
JN: Er, Panda Express?
AH: American Chinese food. You should try the Shanghai Angus Steak and Orange Chicken. Delicious.
JN: Thanks for the tip. So, how do you choose who to add to your **secret** network?
AH: Firstly, it’s not a **secret** network – I’m literally doing an interview about it right now.
Secondly, we start by looking for people in the target country with several years’ experience in a marketing discipline – so, paid search, Amazon marketing or content creation.
We also evaluate the industries they've worked in to see if we've got alignment with our clients’ needs.
Once we have a shortlist, we interview each individual remotely. That call can last over an hour, depending on their level of experience.
After that call each specialist is asked to complete a series of tests to make sure we're happy to include them in our network. In the case of paid search, for example, it would be writing a set of ads for different products in an account, and for SEO we ask them to produce a piece of on-page content, and then optimize that content.
JN: But if you don’t speak their language, how do we know that their work is up to scratch?
AH: That’s when our quality assurance process kicks in. If it's a language that we don't speak in-house, we would then send that to a second specialist to review their linguistic and grammatical accuracy. This process also allows us to check that the creative assets they have developed are aligned with the local market.
It’s not just for interviews though. Everything that the network creates goes through the same quality assurance process as matter of course, naturally.
JN: Naturally. Now let’s just imagine that I want to sell, for the sake of argument, incontinence pads into a new territory. How can I use ClickThrough’s network to help me?
AH: The breadth of the network means that we've often got in-market experience within a client’s category that we can draw upon. Even if a specialist has not worked on a brand in that sector before, they often have relevant direct experience as a consumer.
So, for your incontinence product we may choose somebody who's given birth, because often after giving birth there are incontinence problems, so there would be an implicit understanding of product usage in that market.
JN: Enough with the hypotheticals – do you have a real-life example of this from the network?
AH: Sure. One of our specialists majors in Amazon marketing in Japan. He decided to focus on Amazon because he found that there was quite a big online market for luxury skincare in Japan.
He's since worked with European skincare brands to bring them into the Japanese market through Amazon. This includes building storefront pages for them, and then putting together Amazon ad campaigns to promote their products to a Japanese audience and grow their market share.
JN: This network is quite versatile then?
AH: I like to think so. We can and have worked on a wide range of jobs, from smaller tasks like working on a small set of ads for PPC campaign or writing some blog posts, all the way up to producing all of the content for a new website or creating a paid social account from scratch, including the setup of the tracking alongside that.
JN: Let’s assume, then, that you have an in-market expert on side. You’ve still got the pain of setting up a new business, including all the logistical and tariff headaches in your new market, right?
AH: Wrong. With online marketplaces such as Amazon or Tmall Global, you can ship a proportion of your stock directly to them to test a new market, and you’ll only need an Amazon ad campaigns and a product description to get started. That's something that you could do in a week, rather than going through a whole long process of establishing logistics yourself. It's more of a plug-and-play approach.
JN: Okay, I’m out of objections and ready to export my incontinence pads with you. Where do we start?
AH: I'm flattered. We can start by putting together your Export Plan so you can go to market as quickly as possible.
JN: What’s an Export Plan?
AH: It's a structured document where we look at the size of the opportunity in the markets of interest, to identify which market(s) would suit your products or services best.
We also review your proposed budget to determine whether it is enough given the existing demand in each market and propose how best to allocate it by country and channel.
Look, I’d better go now. We might be seen.
JN: Hold on – before you go, tell our readers what you enjoy most about working on the international stage.
AH: I find the insights I get into different cultures and the way that people behave exciting. It's inspiring to see the variety of actions that people in different markets take when they're considering buying a product.
Take Russia. People in Russia will typically respond in a different way to calls-to-action compared to those from other countries. Ask a Russian to “buy now” and they will click away, but use a softer call to action, such as “learn more”, and you’ll get a better response. “Buy now” works in many different markets, but not Russia.
JN: You kept us waiting right until the end to find out what the article title was about. That’s cold.
AH: No, that’s marketing. You should try it sometime.
To find out how ClickThrough’s network of international marketers can help you export painlessly into new markets, speak to your Client Director, or if you don’t have one, call us now on +44 (0)1543 410014.