In Ryan’s Words: Harnessing the Power of Digital to Take Your Brand Global

Digital technology has changed the world of business, and it enables brands of all sizes to reach previously impossible markets in record time. Compared to even 10 years ago, the world has shrunk, and the entrepreneurial spirit has grown to fill the gap. Businesses are growing, experiencing setbacks, overcoming them, and succeeding.

The digital marketplace presents infinite opportunities to go global, connecting businesses with more people in faster, easier ways. But it also presents unique challenges, because it’s chaotic, fluid, and competitive for scarce attention. Using technologies to market your brand overseas doesn’t guarantee success – it requires time, dedication and a lot of research.

Based on my agency’s experience helping diverse clients develop their businesses abroad, I’ve summarized some key tips to leverage your online footprint to connect with audiences and take your brand global in 2020:

Know your story, and tell it well

Starbucks. Microsoft. Apple. These brands all had humble beginnings (and I can relate). Now, the story of how their companies started transcends geography – and helps boost sales.

Why? It’s because buying decisions are 20% logical and 80% emotional. Today’s world moves fast, and consumers are used to being inundated with information. People hear stats and facts, but they feel stories. Business Insider, after analyzing the top 10% of articles that get shared online, found that playing to specific types of emotion can boost a brand’s chances of ‘going viral’. When shared in the right way, stories can form deep, meaningful connections with customers. The digital marketplace allows us to tell our stories where our customers already are – online.

The challenge is saturation. Many companies are using technologies to reach similar audiences. Your story is critical to help you stand out.

The logical question is: what is your story? Chances are, if you’re looking to expand, you’ve got a solid idea of what it is. If not, consider this: your brand story is why your company exists. It’s why the business started at all, and why you get up every morning to do what you do. It’s who you want to be to each person whose life is influenced by your work. Think of your company’s values and the people who add to its narrative of growth and success to help build your story. Then, infuse that story authentically throughout everything you do online (and elsewhere).

Know your market

What works in one market may not in another. Our agency has offices in four western Canadian cities, and business talks with our clients differ greatly in each one (online initiatives included).

Your brand needs to transcend geography, but it also has to be relevant to your potential market. That means understanding the sensitivities in each, so your brand, and thus your products and/or services, are appropriate. Even spelling can make a difference.

Consider factors such as being perceived as a local company when entering a new country. If that’s a goal, you’ll want to use the local vernacular throughout all of your digital initiatives. Alternatively, if you want to emphasize that you’re an expanding Canadian company with Canadian values, that strategy will differ.

Do research into your market ahead of time, and ensure that everything you say has value.

Know your audience

Knowing your target audience, and how to genuinely connect with them, is one of the most important things to consider when entering a new market. The ‘who’ should shape everything you do and every message you share should be relevant, aligned, and informed about your audience. Find where they are online and what resonates most with them. For example, if you’re hiring oil and gas workers in the U.S., specific recruitment platforms and targeted ads may work best.

Know the rules

There are digital essentials that your business should know before launching across borders. Just in the digital realm alone, local data privacy laws like GDPR in the Eurozone, restrictions on imports/exports, and data storage practices can mean big changes in policy. In addition, marketing materials, such as your website, brochures, and social media, should be translated by native speakers to ensure a more seamless transition.

Know you’re set up for success

For success in multiple countries, you must understand each local culture and network with people who can introduce you to the right opportunities.

People buy from people they like and trust – and building that trust in different markets is key. For example, digital marketing can be extremely effective in many locations, but word-of-mouth may be better in smaller communities, meaning you’ll need on-the-ground presence to supplement your initiatives. And who knows the locals better than the locals? Hire people from areas you’re targeting to fully embrace the culture and its nuances.

To develop a strong team, properly utilize digital tools that get share communications and workloads across several time zones. Consider whether you will need different servers or separate user accounts in each region. Create a lot of internal documentation, and make it available in a collaborative software suite like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Office 365.

Also, as important as your story is, remove emotional language and potential miscommunications from all international documents, or at least have a local team review it first.

The Internet is a great equalizer that can take your brand into a global market, but there are additional complexities that require the right team behind you – IT gurus, lawyers, business consultants and digital experts – to get you where you want to go. The above tips are great starting points to help you harness the power of the digital world and grow your business beyond borders. With the right research and growth strategy, there’s no telling where technology might take you.

 

Ryan Townend,
CEO of William Joseph Communications

Oil and Gas Strategies to Stay Globally Competitive in 2020

When the oil age began, building a company around the product wasn’t nearly as difficult as it is today. Landowners could strike “black gold” while digging wells or hunting, and many oilfields were short distances from major population centres.

But that was a long time ago, and the world has changed since then. Now, highly specialized technologies and their operators travel to all corners of the earth (and the bottom of the sea) to extract petroleum and gas products, and the operational costs alone can dissuade growth and expansion. After all, if large global players are trimming staff and tightening belts, how can a growth strategy be justified? Is the effort of finding new markets worth the trouble?

The fact remains that the world needs that energy to function. Growing – or in some cases, simply retargeting – your business to take over new markets is possible once you have laid the groundwork, but for oil and gas companies, landing on a successful strategy takes some custom solutions. Here’s how you can go global (or stay competitive while you’re there) in 2020 and beyond.

 

Moving Toward Global Success

Canada used to be considered a paradise for oil and gas extractors, but in recent years that attitude has shifted. Other markets have opened up, leading to companies like Calgary’s longstanding TransCanada Corporation to become TC Energy and focus more on the United States and Mexico markets, or Encana changing its name to Ovintiv, uprooting its Canadian headquarters, and moving south to Texas.

These moves allow the companies to focus on strong markets (and a bigger consumer base) across the border, which at its core is just good business: Encana themselves say that “[t]his is not a political move; this is quite simply accessing the capital trends in the marketplace.”

What are the capital trends that inform your market placement? As other companies move around, there are niches left to be filled, and knowing where you will be strongest is a key component of international success.

As we discussed in our prior article about going global, it’s not enough to simply be present in a new location – branding and customer mindset is everything. Will you proudly identify as a Canadian company selling in another country, or are you a true global entity with an overarching global brand? The stories you tell at a local, national, and global level will all be different. Local brands should speak to the communities you work in and the people on whom your operations have a direct impact, while national ones have a defining characteristic tied in with the entire country’s identity. And global brands have to transcend all of that – to be truly global, your value and promise must speak to people of all cultures and backgrounds, giving something back to each in turn.

 

The Future of Energy

It’s no secret that oil is non-renewable, and will eventually reach the end of its usefulness – and other factors play in as well: public opinion, economic viability, ease of extraction, environmental concerns, and so on. At some definite point in the future, by choice or by necessity, it’s a reality we will face.

Thus, companies that anticipate this stand to do better in the long run. Diversification of assets and revenue sources, penetration into other markets, and more efficient operations are all key takeaways that successful global companies must implement in order to ride the turbulent waves ahead of us. 

 

Embrace Relevance & Avoid Replacement

New technologies and trends are emerging all the time, and the general direction of the oil and gas industry is toward green energy sources and increased efficiency. Embracing this perspective will help you face forward and meet the challenges of tomorrow as they arise, and ensure you do not get left behind in a rapidly changing global marketplace. Here are some immediate tips:

1. Redefine what’s essential: Even though it may seem impossible, it’s a good idea to analyze your whole business model and operations and keep only what is needed. This dedication to leanness will serve you well both at home and abroad, and free up valuable resources for redistribution in areas that need it. Also, we know more than most that marketing budgets are often the first ones to get cut. But, research indicates that marketing is integral to surviving, especially during economic downturn, so do consider all your options before cutting marketing all together).

2. Embrace the digital age: This idea goes beyond the simple use of software and technology like cell phones and iPads. There are dozens of programs, services, and apps that will enable you to streamline your operations, make plans from your analytics and data, predict where your best performance will be, and ultimately, promote your business to the world. And, taking advantage of technology doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Find the right partners to help you make the right decisions).

3. Plan for the long-term: Everyone has more confidence in a company that plans to be around through thick and thin. When you create a long-term plan and have it available to analyze, reference, and deploy, it shows people both within and outside of your organization that you’re taking that idea seriously and making progress toward your goals. It also means you can measure that progress more objectively, allowing for fine-tuning of the process along the way.

If one thing is for certain, it’s that the oil and gas industry is built on adaptation. Local companies and corporate giants alike must be proactive about making tough business decisions in order to stay competitive, stay focused, and be successful. Taking your business global in this economy is one thing, but keeping it there is entirely another. The key is to not go in to panic mode – know who you are, what you stand for, and the values on which you will not compromise. Look at your costs, think strategically, reassess the importance of what you’re doing, and be bold. And, when in doubt, reach out to a trusted source who’s done it before.

Going Global in 2020

So, your big idea took time, but it’s paying off – and now your business has firmly established its place in the market. Soon, you’ll have grown so much that it will be tempting, and eventually necessary, to look further than local markets. But expanding out into new countries means more than setting up a storefront and hiring new staff. Depending on what you offer, the process can be more difficult than launching in the first place.

If you move into the global market correctly, you’ll have a foundation of success that lasts far into the future.

But with great risk and effort come great rewards. If you move into the global market correctly, you’ll have a foundation of success that lasts far into the future. Here are some factors to remember if you want your business to boom across the border.

 

Getting Ready For the World

Breaking out into a foreign market isn’t the time to make assumptions. Take an in-depth, honest look at your offerings, finances, and ability to carry this idea to fruition – and then decide if the time is right for international expansion.

If you’ve already done that, congratulations! Now you must decide what resources you can spare from your main domestic operations to get the process rolling. You don’t want to miss opportunities at home because you’ve spread yourself too thin, so move forward with the same consistent quality in mind.

Next comes the fine-print details: are you opening a branch, a sales office, or a brand-new company? What are your short- and long-term strategies? If you don’t have enough information to define your goals, business model, and deadlines, don’t panic – but settle in for some serious research.

 

Laying A Strong Foundation

Finding out more information about your ideal markets is a long, but necessary, process. It ensures that your new customers actually exist, and enables you to work toward known goals in the new location.

Spend time getting to know the region you’re expanding into. How does their culture and business practices differ from the ones you’re used to? What new needs and desires will they have that you can meet? Try to put yourself into their mindset and understand who they are and why they would turn to your business instead of another.

There are many logistics considerations to account for as well, and researching those is equally important. What languages must be added to the packaging, or used for deals? Does the packaging itself have different environmental or legal requirements? Are your distributors, suppliers, and raw materials close by? If you offer live customer service, can you maintain that for multiple time zones that may be offset by several hours?

Even the daily life of somewhere new can have unforeseen quirks. Voltages and plug shapes are different from one country to another; local tax regulations can wreak havoc on unprepared accountants; even the pace of business varies greatly and may feel uncomfortably slow. There are plenty of ways your business will have to adapt – but knowing this from the start will greatly increase your chances of overcoming any obstacles.

 

The Right People for the Job

The overarching theme of any global expansion is planning ahead

Who knows the culture and market better than the locals? Use this to your advantage by consulting with experts in the area, hiring someone who knows the demographics, and supporting them with a competent staff. From a client perspective, this will also help instill an inherent sense of trust in your brand, as your representatives will be knowledgeable, helpful, and familiar with the area. This is key in the initial launch phase, as it will reassure new customers of your reliability and value.

The overarching theme of any global expansion is planning ahead – and to do that, you need to understand industry trends and know exactly why your company fits in with them. At WJ, we are experts at finding the why of your business, and helping you create a master blueprint for your future plans – whether they wait down the street, or across the ocean.