Centralize or decentralize your marketing automation? Vast question. Whether you are already present in several countries or you are seeking to internationalize, this decision is strategic for your development.

But first, what is the difference? To centralize is to apply a single strategy in all countries. The headquarters and the subsidiaries deploy the same campaigns, only the language changes. Decentralize, it is, on the contrary, let the regional marketing teams create and set up campaigns specific to their states and countries.

So, what is the best strategy? Unfortunately for those of you in search of a clear answer, it will be necessary to be satisfied with the eternal: “It depends.” You are well advanced. But what does it depend on then? Mainly four elements:

  • your business model,
  • your teams,
  • your marketing automation solution,
  • your budget.

This article is written as a dichotomy, centralization versus decentralization, for practical reasons. In reality, this is, of course, a more complex spectrum, the cursor is not always right or left.

Each of these strategies has advantages and disadvantages, but there is not one better solution than the other in the absolute. There is a strategy adapted to your business, here is how to choose it.

Centralize Your Marketing Automation

The most common case. According to a survey conducted by Marketo in North America in 2017, 65% of international companies would opt for centralized Marketing Automation (MA).

In fact, the parent company designs Marketing Automation’s strategy, and it is up to its subsidiaries to deploy it locally. Often it is a simple copy/paste. Literally. Automation marketing tools such as HubSpot can clone the elements of the strategy (data model, forms, scoring, lead nurturing scenarios) and campaigns (landing pages, CTA, emails, workflows). It is therefore sufficient to translate them for deployment in several countries.

It does not mean that there is no cultural adaptation, but the strategy and content remain substantially the same.

How Do You Know If You Need To Centralize Your Marketing Automation?

If you recognize yourself in one or more of the following five affirmations, it is because your internationalization strategy can base on centralized marketing automation:

  • My company sells the same products and services in all countries;
  • My different markets have the same level of maturity;
  • My Buyer Personas and their sales cycles do not vary from one country to another;
  • I use the same Data Model in all countries (fields and forms);
  • My regional teams are few;
  • My local team is not trained in marketing automation.

The Benefits Of Centralization

Advantage # 1: Scalable Strategy

Centralizing your international marketing automation makes it possible to deploy campaigns quickly and regularly. Once a campaign is created in non-English counties, merely clone and translate each element to launch in other countries.

Translating a white paper and articles at a cost, of course, but it will always be cheaper than creating a campaign from A to Z. It will also take a lot less time.

It is also possible to clone all your marketing automation strategy: data model, lead nurturing scenarios and scoring system in particular. The gain in time and efficiency is not negligible.

Benefit # 2: Better data control and easier reporting

The data is centralized, uses a single base of contacts, and headquarters control everything. From governance, it’s a significant advantage. It will be all the more true in a post-RGPD world in which legislators require companies to have more control over their data (including the collection and storage of consent).

It also facilitates reporting: the data model is the same, and the data is centralized, we can easily compare the performance of each country.

Centralization From A Technological Point Of View

From your marketing automation software, it means that only one instance is enough.

Some MA software offers the possibility to compartmentalize the contacts database by country (like Marketo), but this is not the case for HubSpot, Pardot or Act-On for example. It can be dangerous as part of a decentralized strategy because of the risk of error (sending communications to the wrong people) is higher.

However, in the context of a centralized strategy, this is not a problem. The headquarters control the data.

It also costs less. If you have HubSpot installed, you will not need to purchase one instance per country; you will be able to settle for a single example.

Some Practical Tips For Success With A Centralized Strategy

One of the challenges when opting for decentralized marketing automation is the management of MA software. As we have explained, you will need only one instance in which all elements of your campaigns, all countries combined, will be centralized. It requires rigor in day-to-day management.

We, therefore, advise you to set up a single terminology for all these elements: forms, landing pages, workflows, emails, lists, call-to-action, etc.

For landing pages, you can opt for the following terminology for example:

  • Country Initial – Content Type – Content Name – Month Year
  • US – White Paper – Centralizing Marketing Automation in 10 Steps – March 2018

It is also preferable to define a unique language for this nomenclature so that everyone is there. Choose English or the language common to all countries in which you are present.

We recommend that you do not duplicate the properties for each language. Use unique properties in English so that everyone understands what it is, then translate the fields into the forms.

Decentralize Your Marketing Automation

Decentralization is about letting each regional subsidiary define its marketing automation strategy. In other words, there can be as many Personas, sales cycles, data models, scoring and lead nurturing as there are countries.

How Do You Know If You Need To Decentralize Your Marketing Automation?

If the following statements are right for your business, then decentralized marketing may be better suited:

  • My company sells different products and services depending on the country;
  • My Buyer Personas and their sales cycles vary from country to country;
  • I need different Data Models depending on the country;
  • My regional teams are numerous;
  • My teams are autonomous and trained in marketing automation techniques in all countries.

“There is a simple rule as to whether to centralize or decentralize marketing automation. Ask yourself the following question: is my company the same in all countries or is it a different company in each country? In other words, are my products, services, and customers the same or do they vary from country to country? ” – Christian NEFF CEO Markentive automation and marketing specialist

The Benefits Of Decentralization

The decentralization of Marketing Automation has three significant advantages.

Advantage #1: a tailor-made strategy by country

Decentralizing your MA makes it possible to take into account each specificity of the country and its market, however small it may be.

Whatever the level of maturity and specificities of the desired products and services, you will be able to meet the expectations of your local market. This granularity in the strategy translates into a gain in marketing efficiency and therefore more qualified leads for your salespeople.

Advantage # 2: a team dedicated to each country

Each regional team can focus 100% on its market. She enjoys a better knowledge of the local culture and has more time to conduct highly targeted campaigns.

The idea is to improve the overall performance of marketing by providing more resources locally. Indeed, it allows not to delay the most advanced subsidiaries.

Finally, local governance allows for more excellent responsiveness of the teams, thus more productivity and speed in the deployment of campaigns. Regional marketing does not have to wait until the headquarters gives the green light each time.

Advantage 3: A strategy adapted to local legislation

Decentralization is also an asset in legislation. Depending on the country or region of the world in which your business operates, you will not be subject to the same rules. With decentralized marketing automation, you can efficiently manage these differences from an operational and technological point of view.

Decentralization From A Technological Point Of View

Three possibilities are available to you:

  • Using Marketo, it allows partitioning your base of contacts according to the countries in which you operate. In this way, you will not need to buy multiple instances of the same software. On the other hand, Marketo is an expensive and very complicated solution, and it mainly adapted to large companies. You will, therefore, need to be accompanied by a specialized integrator.
  • Use another Marketing Automation software (HubSpot, Pardot, Act-On) and purchase one instance per country. This software is easier to handle, which will make daily management more efficient.
  • Use a single case of HubSpot, Pardot or Act-On taking the risk that the team from one country mistakenly contacts another country’s contacts.

Some Practical Tips For Success With A Decentralized Strategy

In an international context where you decide to decentralize your marketing automation, regular reporting is a sine qua non for your success. You are not responsible for every strategy or every local campaign, so it’s crucial to keep track of your marketing in each country.

It’s not a matter of dictating rules to your subsidiaries, but of ensuring the smooth running of each strategy. Without this, you will not be able to follow the evolution of your business globally.

What You Must Remember

Choosing between centralization and decentralization, therefore, depends on 4 things:

  • Your business model: is it the same in each country or does it vary by region?
  • Your teams: are they trained in Marketing Automation? Are they sufficiently numerous?
  • Your Marketing Automation Solution: Can it partition the contact base by country?
  • Your budget: can you afford to purchase multiple instances of AM software?

We have presented the two ends of a spectrum that goes from total centralization to decentralization. Some companies can recognize each other in both, and that raises some questions. For example, if I want to sell different products in different countries but I do not have the teams, the technology or the budget, is my timing right?

Read more: How the Obama Administration Uses Marketing Automation