Five Steps Toward a Successful Global Partner Marketing Program

5 min read

Today, the proliferation of digitization means that business opportunities are more readily available and accessible than ever before. Now, industry leaders can hop online and with a few clicks or swipes of a screen, they can be connected to a mass audience of interested prospects or a pool of potential partners that fit within their niche. 

To this end, many brands are taking steps and making plans to expand their sales focus to penetrate other, related markets. Most are looking toward affiliate marketing programs as a promising tool to drive revenue and boost visibility and connection in this realm. In fact, according to a recent study, spend in this sector is expected to experience a compounded annual growth rate of 10% through 2020. Moreover, it currently comprises 16% of the overall e-commerce sales market.

Yet, the mass scale that globalization affords is the very aspect that warrants taking a second look at participating in international affiliate programs. One of the most common setbacks that befall leaders seeking to expand their performance partnerships is that they try to apply the exact same tactics and business approaches that worked domestically toward their new, expanded territory, not counting for the difference in marketplace dynamics that exist.

Before you significantly delay or totally decide against growing your performance partnership program, take heart. There are ways to move into these markets successfully and profitably. The key is knowing which steps to take, and in which order. Here are five to get you started.

1. Perform key research first

Before you expand your partnership program, it’s vital that you know the ins and outs of the new market you’re looking to get into. To this end, invest resources in performing extensive industry research so you know what to expect and what you’ll need to get started. This should be the first step you take, as it will determine myriad strategies moving forward.

You may need to market yourself strongly to a new culture, which will require a thorough understanding of cultural differences and characteristics. According to Denise Pirrotti Hummel, J.D., CEO of Universal Consensus, a cross cultural advisory firm focused on helping businesses succeed in an increasingly global environment, “It is not feasible to be an expert on all the world’s cultures. It is possible, however, to incorporate a cross-cultural framework that improves cross-cultural understanding and interactions.”

To achieve this, your business can identify areas of your current and future operational framework to determine if there are any areas that may be directly impacted by your intent to expand into different global markets. For instance, you may find that your distribution methods or customer service programs need to be tweaked to succeed abroad. Or, there may be complex financial restrictions in certain countries, which might limit or control how you do business there. As you expand into these areas, it’s important to analyze, update and tweak your policies accordingly to ensure you’re still in step with local expectations. As Hummel details: 

There is a significant difference between a company that is multinational, and a company that is truly global. The difference is that a multinational company simply operates in multiple nations; a global company has embarked upon the journey of systematically updating its policies, procedures, and systems across multiple cultures. 

Investing in these developments will require dedication of time and resources across myriad teams, so it’s important to ensure all departments are on board before moving forward.

 2. Partner with local experts

Even after you’ve performed your research, it’s still immensely helpful to find a local talent or specialist who can help you navigate the new community and market that you’re entering. If you know of someone who fits this bill, you’re already at an advantage, as they can be difficult to secure.

According to the Small Business Administration, 96% of the world’s customers live outside of the United States. To appeal to them, you’ll likely need to tweak your existing marketing approach to fit their expectations, customs, preferences and demands. As such, many international retailers work directly with agencies to facilitate their partner marketing processes. These agencies have a greater reach and easier access to local professionals and by establishing this partnership, the retailers can benefit from those connections.

Understanding what works in a given market is essential to establishing successful marketing campaigns in those regions. Take Dunkin Donuts, for example. National Donut Day was June 13. In the United States, that meant customers were lining up for a taste of a Boston creme or a frosted cruller. However, Chinese customers who visited their local Dunkin Donuts were served cake creations topped with dry pork and seaweed. This is an example of mindful marketing, which takes into account local preferences — an avenue that a local expert can help you maneuver.

3. Invest in infrastructure and data

When you’re ready to take your next steps, it’s important to make sure that you have the adequate infrastructure in place to support the expansion. While partner marketing in general is characterized by a lower level of risk and high profit margins, there are still pros and cons to the strategy. In addition, there are adjustments you’ll need to make to ensure your bottom line doesn’t slip during the process.

Start by beefing up your e-commerce store security and efficiency. Then, take inventory of your current teams. Do your customer support staff speak the language of the country or culture you’re expanding into? If the answer is “no,”  you’ll need to hire associates who do so you can ensure your client needs are being met. If you don’t have one already from Step 1, this is also the time to establish a research team whose primary focus is delving deeply into the data, news, and business trends surrounding your prospective market to ensure that you’re positioning your brand effectively and keeping pace with modern business movements and customer preferences.

4. Select new partners carefully

For a performance partnership to succeed, the partner/advertiser relationship must be a solid one. Thus, it’s important to be as selective as possible and vet all prospects before beginning down this road together. While you’re vetting your options, keep an eye out for ones that share your same overall goals, values and long-term mission. Moreover, your core audience demographic should be the same, as should most of your interests.

This is where it can be incredibly helpful to have the assistance of a local expert. That resource can take the time to learn precisely what your company does and what it stands for, and then go out and source partners that align with those visions. A recent study by U.S. foreign exchange company USForex revealed that 58% of U.S. small businesses already have international customers and 72% of them are planning to increase their global audience over the next year. To this end, establishing the right partners from the onset can help you move in that direction and facilitate long-term growth.

5. Keep partners satisfied and financially secure

Your partners will promote your products in exchange for payment. As such, it’s important to stay on top of invoices and payment dates to make sure they’re receiving their due compensation in a timely manner. The good news is that there are software solutions for partner management that make it a breeze to facilitate automated invoices and payment structures.

In some countries, such as China and India, this will be of heightened importance, as their financial restrictions might affect payments and scheduling. Anything you can install on your network to take the legwork and the guesswork out of the equation will work in your favor down the road. 

Succeeding in Your Global Marketing Endeavors

Ultimately, a global partner marketing program has the potential to bring both parties success, profit, and valuable exposure. As Karin Visnick, head of North America, USForex explains, “Going global is no longer an option for successful small- and medium-sized businesses — it’s a strategic imperative.” These guidelines can help you get your feet off the ground and take the first few steps forward toward establishing such a program. By doing your homework beforehand and finding a local specialist who can mentor you throughout, you’ll be best equipped to make the most of this new venture.

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