Panel: Key considerations in building regional marketing teams

B2B marketers from Asana, HubSpot, MessageMedia and Aircall share the skills they're looking for and approach their taking as they build out regional marketing hubs

Relationship building, curiosity, a high threshold for change and positive mindset are vital attributes marketing leaders look for when they recruit for regional marketing teams.

Speaking on a panel at this week’s Hubspot Grow event, four B2B marketers actively in the process of building regional marketing teams discussed what it takes to make these offshoots work, as well as fostering a constructive relationship between local marketing efforts and HQ.

Head of marketing APAC for workflow management vendor Asana, Carla Glavonjic, is tasked with building a regional marketing team of four. A demand generation lead, sales content marketer and channel marketing manager across Australia and Singapore are her priority roles to drive scale in Asia-Pacific along with agility.

“We have a lot of campaigns we can self-service within region and get them out quickly. Having these roles in Sydney and Singapore will help us be more agile and produce more high-impact campaigns with the sales team,” Glavonjic said.

Glavonjic said sales-marketing alignment is never more critical then when you’re building out in-region. As a result, her initial focus in region has been on building systems and ways to support sales, such as outbound messaging and customer case studies.

Over at Australia-based SMS provider, MessageMedia, chief marketing officer, Tara Salmon, is overseeing regional and global marketing strategy. She noted the fast-growing company’s marketing team has doubled over the past year organically and through acquisitions to 30, with more hires planned. Half the team is centralised and largely digitally focused, while the rest is segmented by regional marketing, focused on markets such as Australia and the US.

Having a business with multiple brands that cut across use cases and segments, it’s vital to foster regional marketing teams that can build go-to-market propositions catering to local nuances, Salmon said. MessageMedia’s regional marketing teams therefore have an emphasis on partnership with sales, local integrations and local channel partners.

“Other considerations are how unique those markets are compared to where you’re already operating, and how much additional insights you need on the ground versus partnering with HQ,” Salmon said. “It’s about really practical things – time zone differences, paths to market. Is it a primarily digital led market? Can this be served well from another region? Or is it mostly outbound, requiring close partnership with sales?”

Aircall senior field and channel marketing manager, Sindy Gao, is also a sole regional marketing operator within a marketing team of 70 globally. She’s now looking to add another marketing specialist regionally, supported by a US-based centralised team with skills in product marketing, digital, brand, content, operations and demand generation.

“In the beginning, we supported field sales from Europe. As we got bigger with lead volumes and marketshare, the regional team was built – sales, marketing and all support units,” she said.

Gao pointed to working within a major brand campaign framework, product and campaign approach. “Then it’s up to local marketing to decide if to localise, if to localise assets, and which local third-party partner to help us with the local market,” she said.  

All panellists agreed there’s a halo effect gained regionally when operating in English from masterbrand and HQ-driven marketing activities in the same tongue.

“But while that English speaking halo effect provides ongoing aircover through the year, we then need to supplement with region-specific marketing initiatives that support our sales teams in-market,” Glavonjic said.

And just as there can be a halo effect from global marketing work, it’s also important local marketers are advocates for their markets back up to central teams, Salmon said.

“In Australia, SMS is at the heart of what we do, and it’s what Aussies search for; it’s different in the US. We still need centralised teams to think about those things as they’re working to service different markets,” she said.  

It’s for this reason all panellists stressed education around local market needs, insights and nuances as a cornerstone of the successful regional marketing leader. For HubSpot marketing director APAC, Kat Warboys, educating HQ often involves “debunking the myth that localisation only needs to happen in non-English speaking regions”.

“It’s humour, imagery or our own local diversity, which may be missing from US D&I work. The challenge is to demonstrate and argue the uplift you can get from going down the hyper-localised route,” she said.

This is particularly true when customers still largely want assurance of on-the-ground support.

“If the marketing material doesn’t speak like it’s local, they are not going to know that,” Salmon said. “It’s important to show you’re here, you know the market and know them.”  

Helping marketers build their sense of market is the local knowledge of sales teams. “This is especially important if you’re in a local marketing team but not in the actual country,” Gao said. “It’s sales who are talking to customers and prospects day in and out, so getting their buy-in on campaigns you’re sending out is very important as well.”  

For regional leaders with non-English speaking countries within their purview, local knowledge as well as an appetite to test and learn is vital. This extends not only to local language preferences, but also preferred communication channels and tone.

“For example in Europe, we have other language sites in German, Swedish, Italian and more, but no people on the ground. It’s primarily a digital acquisition model, and we work with translation agency support to test out markets to understand the opportunity and interest,” Salmon said.

The unique regional marketing skills mix

Aside from the skills you’d expect marketing leaders to hire to be successful at the craft or role, panellists pointed to specific attributes that make regional marketers successful. The first for Gao is an ability to build relationships “and build them quickly”.

“The power of relationships to move quickly and get things done is so important, and it’s even more important in a remote team away from team resources,” she said. “I am also looking for people who are resilient and comfortable with a level of ambiguity.

“We are a fast-moving company with a lot of change, where we’re changing processes quickly or where processes don’t yet exist. You need to adapt and pivot marketing plans and strategies for that.”

Given many overseas headquartered companies see regions like Asia-Pacific and Oceania as great testing grounds for new concepts, that willingness to try things is another vital part of the make-up of a regional marketer, Glavonjic said. Salmon described it as having a curious mindset.

“You need someone who is resourceful, resilient, has a lot of curiosity and is highly collaborative as well as they need to scale and work well with HQ,” she said.

Gao concluded with the importance of having a positive mindset. “What Covid has taught us is anything can happen, any time, regardless of how prepared you are,” she said.

“Sudden changes are out of your control, so a positive attitude is really important.”

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