How the CMOs of Spotify, Audible and Zendesk Tackle Global Markets

Author

John Rampton

December 2, 2016

Building up a brand and customer base for a market as diverse as the US is challenging enough. Some CMOs, however, have been tasked with building a global brand.

Not only do they have to cater to multiple markets while taking into consideration the cultural nuances that affect local consumer behavior, but they also have to understand how to manage a distributed team.

In his book Chief Marketing Officers at Work, the CEO of digital marketing agency MWI Josh Steimle meets with some of the most powerful CMOs in the business. Through in-depth interviews, he learns how the chief marketers of Spotify, Audible and Zendesk maneuver through global markets and their localization strategies.

Centralization, having decision makers in one place, creates clarity

Spotify, now available in 64 countries, is a startup-turned-global business. While its headquarters, formerly Stockholm, is in London — CMO Seth Farbman is based in Spotify’s New York office. Despite tales of location-independent companies running distributed teams effectively, Farbman said that centralization, the process of keeping all decision-makers in one location, is working well for Spotify.

“I’m creating a bit more centralization as we put more talent into the New York office here with me. Centralization creates clarity. It  creates effectiveness, efficiency. As a global brand, you must be highly consistent about what you stand for, what your product does and means in people’s lives,” he said.

The team is one thing, but the product is quite another — when it comes to music, Farbman stressed the importance of leveraging local relationships.

“When we move into a market—and this is, I think, one of our competitive advantages—we take the time, and it does take time, to work with every single one of the local labels to create relationships and legal licensing and all that so we can have local music,” he said.

“The localization is much more important within music and within Spotify than it would be within most global brands. That means we continue to maintain strong regional and local marketing teams, but it also gives us the opportunity to cut across all of it. No matter where you are in the world, there are shared experiences, and they are of interest to everyone.”

Building new revenue streams based on the needs of each market

After being acquired in 2008 by Amazon, the New Jersey-headquartered Audible set its sights on the global markets. Now with offices in six countries, former Chief Product & Marketing Officer Louis Gagnon said that they’re trying to go about expanding strategically.

“We are spending a lot of time trying to go global intelligently…If you try to penetrate the market by this top-to-bottom approach to internationalization, you invest tons of money and it takes a long time to get a return on your investment,” he said.

“We’re trying to raise the bar on ourselves and be much more strategic in our approach. Looking at not only what the market is instead of trying to find the market for the product that we have, we try to find the right product for the market.”

Beyond audiobooks, Gagnon said that Audible is building new revenue streams based on the needs of their target market.

“We’re getting into the education field, teaching people how to speak English, and other things. If we were to look at a market like China, for example, we would not only look at what we should do for audiobooks in China but for the ESL market in China. What is this other market in China, and what could be the best way for us to enter with which product, and how would we move from there? We try to be more systematic in getting to the biggest value bucket,” he said.

With customers now in 220 countries using their dot-com app, Gagnon sees that there’s a group of people who identify with Audible’s English content globally — and the company looks to understand how to serve them better.

“There is such a thing as customization and local content, so if you’re going to be in Spain, you have to have the Spanish content from the local publishing houses. And we also invest a lot of time trying to understand what that is, what the critical mass is, and how to make it One big constraint in our business model is the publishing world,” he said.

“We don’t control the economics of those firms or how they do business. It’s definitely a factor to take into consideration as we try to grow our business. It’s easier in some countries; it’s harder in others, so that’s part of a complex problem to solve.”

Localization is adjusting your message to suit consumer behavior

Zendesk first started up in Copenhagen, is now headquartered in San Francisco and is operating offices in 11 countries. Its Senior VP of Global Marketing Matt Price said that Zendesk was an international company from the get go as they led with their web-first B2B product.

“We did some analysis early on when we were looking at our business growth and we wanted to understand what international markets were strong for us. It was really interesting. We took the level of penetration Zendesk had in a particular market, divided it by the GDP, and came up with an index as to what our penetration level was,” he said.

“Then, we tried to match that index to other market factors, what we thought might be big drivers. That number, that index, was directly proportional to the amount of English spoken within that country.”

According to Price, Zendesk was most used within the English-speaking markets of US, the UK and Australia. Realizing this, the Zendesk marketing team shifted their focus on localizing its product for non-English speaking communities.

“Localization can be a number of things. Most people think it’s translation, but actually, localization is how you adjust your messaging in order to suit a particular market. For example, in SAS, security is super important, and data privacy is more important in some countries than others. Maybe you need to adjust your messaging around that,” he said and uses China as an example.

“It’s about understanding how your product fits within a different buyer community. For example, in China, there’s no point in trying to sell somebody an email management product if most of their interaction is being done through messaging.”

This article was written by John Rampton from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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