Leaders in regional office still misaligned with local marketing teams

Marketers know the importance of localisation but that often doesn’t get understood at the higher levels. The majority of marketers (82%) spend too much time educating their headquarters on Singaporean nuances and needs. In fact, 47% of marketing decision-makers in Singapore are of the opinion that senior leaders in regional or global offices are often misaligned with local marketing teams, joint research by HubSpot and LinkedIn conducted by YouGov found.

There is a lack of understanding of which channels are most effective in markets, where the areas of greatest impact are, and in some cases, there’s an assumption that a global approach will work the same way in every market. Over a third (36%) of marketers agree it is critical to localise marketing messages, campaigns and activity to resonate with a local audience, for example, language/tone, diversity, and humour, and this isn’t always well understood by global offices/HQs. However, these marketers do recognise that the rise in remote working has helped improve collaboration between global HQ and regional offices (90%).

For marketing leaders operating in a company with a HQ outside of Singapore, the top channels and levers they identify as managed or developed by their HQ include brand marketing (66%), product marketing, PR & Comms (38%) and website management (36%). Channels and levers more likely to be developed and managed by marketers in Singapore include strategic partnerships (28%), performance-based marketing (26%) and chat and messaging (22%).

That said, local marketers are keen to influence a lot more strategic marketing initiatives. The top channels and levers managed or developed by HQs that marketers believe should be managed more exclusively by their regional/local teams are brand marketing (36%), sales enablement (28%) and product marketing (28%). 

Kat Warboys, HubSpot’s director, APAC, said the world has had to reconstruct traditional ways of working as a result of the pandemic, transitioning old working models to hybrid/remote work contexts. This shift, over the recent past, is potentially leading the charge to discard suboptimal marketing approaches across markets. “Marketers in the regional or local offices are keen to tap into opportunities to lead strategic marketing instead of just executing on a global plan that was developed by HQ,” Warboys added.

Meanwhile, Sarah Tucker, head of APAC marketing, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions – Enterprise, explained that for regional marketing teams, it comes as no surprise that there is a growing appetite to influence brand building and sales enablement.

“Marketers are the growth engine for their brands’ expansion into new territories. They understand and communicate local customer sentiment and cultural nuances, which directly feed into business acceleration strategies,” Tucker added. She said that this knowledge makes regional marketers hugely valuable as they can align global strategic priorities with market needs, to successfully execute marketing campaigns with a local twist.

YouGov surveyed 521 marketing leaders based in E20+ businesses in Singapore with local, regional and global HQs. Fieldwork was undertaken between 31 August to 22 September 2022. The survey was carried out online.

More opportunities due to economic headwinds

Companies globally are battling economic headwinds and 99% of marketers in Singapore say that their business is currently facing challenges. For marketing leaders, the top priorities at the moment are contributing to the growth of the business through initiatives to increase mindshare and brand affinity (41%), followed by delivering strategies and results within budgets (32%), driving better returns on investment (31%) and increasing focus on building awareness (31%).

“While the world was beginning to think the economic impact of the pandemic is slowly receding into the rearview mirror, businesses are now facing the discernible impact of weakened demand leading to slower business growth. This can have a profound influence on marketing budgets as well. There is a lot more scrutiny and a need to do more with less,” HubSpot’s Warboys said.

However, this is also an deal time for marketers to showcase the measurable value and impact of marketing, and how it helps brands reinforce their continued commitment and focus on their customers. Warboys said that if brands get this right, they can build unwavering customer loyalty which will lead to sustained business growth in the long run.

With key business priorities including increasing brand awareness and affinity, the main opportunity for business growth in the near future is in attracting customers with educational initiatives to help inspire loyalty/trust, for example, whitepapers, events/workshops, content on tips/tricks/best practices, according to nearly half of marketers in Singapore (44%). A third of the respondents (33%) also identified that new tools and tech are improving or will improve their operations.

Given the high Internet penetration rate in Singapore, social media (38%) is the most successful channel for the most effective communication with customers locally, followed by online video marketing (36%) and other online communities (29%). Overall, 97% of marketers claim to have success with online/digital channels when communicating to customers, while 72% say the same for other/offline channels.

Another essential opportunity for businesses is expanding locally (35%) and globally (34%), as well as regionally within APAC (28%), with 69% of marketers identifying these market expansions as marketing opportunities. According to HubSpot and LinkedIn, these findings reaffirm that there are tailwinds for growth that can be leveraged by marketers including a concerted focus on educational initiatives to attract customers, harnessing the most optimal channels to engage them and continuing to build on market expansion strategies.

“Today’s marketers do a great job of juggling multiple responsibilities, and it’s certainly not easy. They are tasked with aligning marketing efforts to drive business growth. However, often, they are also directed to focus on short-term goals, and increasingly asked to prove return on marketing spend,” LinkedIn’s Tucker said. Despite the challenges, the research has shown that Singapore marketers are keen to increase mindshare, affinity and brand awareness – the key ingredients that contribute to brand growth. Hence, Tucker said a full-funnel approach will drive stronger business outcomes and allow for marketers to invest in creativity.

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