As manufacturing companies continue to push into global markets, they will gain a world of benefits as markets develop. However, they will also run into challenges keeping up with customer demands unless they keep a firm hand on their communication channels.
Keeping track of customer preferences was at the top of companies’ plans for last year according to KPMG’s 2014 Global Manufacturing Outlook, and from all indications this year will be no different. But turning wishes into reality calls for a coordinated effort and digital tools that drive companies’ marketing strategies for all the countries and regions they serve.
The issues facing global manufacturers are similar even if their products aren’t. No matter how long they’ve been in business, global manufacturers for B2B and B2C goods must face the reality of a digital world in which customers expect a company’s website to provide them with all the information they need, and quickly, on whatever platform they’re using. To maintain competitiveness in global markets in the digital age we live in means effectively managing communication channels to support your company’s globalization goals and marketing strategies.
Setting your global strategy
Before you take a look at hardware or software tools, take some time to decide on who you want to reach and how you want to reach them. Instead of reaching one large audience that could be the same one you’ve had for decades, take time to figure out who makes up your target audience. For example, Switzerland-based Geberit AG, the leading European manufacturer of sanitary systems and products, decided it wanted to offer a different online experience to its three main target groups: architects, dealers and DIYers. It also wanted to provide the kind of content each group needed and wanted, such as installation videos and worldwide sales campaigns aimed at each group.
Once you’ve looked inward at your company’s strategy, you need to look at your Web presence and decide if you need to make it more accurately reflect that strategy. Here are four aspects to bear in mind:
1. Is your Web presence cohesive?
In other words, does someone clicking on a homepage in the U.S. see the same fonts, logos, placement of dropdown menus, etc. that someone in Japan or Germany sees? Even a variation in color can throw off your visitors who may wonder if they’ve gotten to the right website. What about your mobile presence? It’s vital to have your mobile-enabled website built with responsive design, so pages adapt to the format of each mobile devise. Otherwise your customers may give up on making text fit their smartphone screens and click away.
2. Multiple languages? You bet!
The first thing that comes to mind with global websites is probably language or rather the plethora of languages. It’s a given that to be competitive you have to speak your customers’ languages. But translating and then keeping track of your content in maybe dozens of languages (Geberit operates in 41 countries, for example) is daunting. But your competition is likely doing it.
3. How easy (or difficult) is it for content creators and editors?
Creating and editing content is not always a one-shot operation. If you’re at all like the 140-year-old shipping company Hamburg Süd, you have a great deal of activity on your website. The shipping company posts schedules and maps along with updates on locations of ships and cargo. It also has an e-commerce site for booking and managing worldwide shipments. There’s a lot of content to keep up with. In order to stay on top of changes, content creators and editors must have the ability to work directly in the websites — without involving IT help to get the changes posted.
4. Keeping it all together with a CMS
When you’re building multiple websites in more than one language, there’s every chance you’ll run into problems with version control. Ensuring you use up-to-date data from a common pool and only the latest version is vital to keeping your outward-facing Web presence professional looking. Now, add in a few marketing campaigns, perhaps aimed at several diverse target groups at various times of year or countries. Keeping it all together can be done with a good content management system (CMS).
Hamburg Süd’s use of a CMS as the central point of its digital marketing strategy helped the company unify its messages across multiple outlets and made content creators more productive. Geberit was able to target content based on country, language and unique interests of its visitors. Both companies also saw savings in hardware operating costs and software maintenance costs from using the CMS as a central platform. It made it possible for the companies’ content creators to more quickly and easily upload new content as text, images and videos could be dragged and dropped where needed.
While the two companies offer vastly different services and products, their needs were easily fulfilled by a CMS. Editors for both companies are now able to create and reuse content, saving money and keeping their messages consistent throughout the sites and the globe.
To be successful in the growing global economy, manufacturers can’t rely on only their established communication channels, even if that’s been working fine for 100-plus years. Today’s world demands a strong digital presence — Internet, intranets and mobile. It’s a presence that must be unified and compelling with content that draws visitors and converts them into customers. Managing it all calls for the kind of central hub at the helm that a good content management system offers, working quietly in the background, making data accessible for use and reuse, monitoring versions and languages and providing an easy, efficient way for marketing and editorial employees to use it.
Robert Bredlau is the Chief Operating Officer for e-Spirit Inc. in North America. He can be reached at email@example.com.