Product marketing has consolidated its status as a fundamental component within small and large organizations alike.

What does the process of scaling product marketing globally entail? We spoke to Tom Smith, Director of Product Marketing - EMEA at Salesforce, who discussed the topic in further detail.

Q: Has COVID-19 impacted localization strategies, and how have you had to adapt to the differences in different nations’ lockdowns?

A: “Yes COVID has impacted our localization strategy. For example, as we pivoted all our physical events to digital, we tried new things with localization. For our recent Salesforce Live EMEA, we had about 30 episodes running on different topics, but also in different languages. For many of them, we used subtitles in multiple languages so an English person could see an Italian session or vice versa.

“We also adapted to the different nation's lockdowns as well. For instance, we had a huge new launch of a new product called which specifically addressed businesses’ challenges in getting back to work in a safe way using data. In some markets, we decided to play down that launch because certain countries didn't have a big lockdown (e.g. Sweden), but others did, so we invested more heavily in launching in those regions.”

Q: How do communication touch points with your customer alter as you move from country to country? Do you find your customers from different areas prefer to give feedback via different means? And how do you then alter your response according to those differences?

A: “The channels of communication did differ slightly from country to country. But now with COVID where everything is digital, we are seeing very consistent engagement from customers to our digital comms.”

Q: What have you found to be the biggest roadblock when scaling internationally? Have the difficulties arisen internally - organizing managerial structures, organizing your workforce, abiding by your own company’s regulations? Or, have they been external? - moving into a new country with differing rules, laws and cultures?

A: “I would say both internal and external.

“Internally, we are very reliant upon sales priorities to scale internationally. So, while we want to launch and grow products in certain regions, we need to know that we are putting sales teams in the field that will create and serve demand. We also need other supporting resources to make it work. So, it's very much a full-scale go-to-market plan that we need to build to intentionally grow a product in a certain country.

“Externally, rules, laws, and cultures come into it. For instance, Germany is still a country where Cloud is further behind some others, so we need to educate the market more on the basics of SaaS and Cloud as opposed to the US, etc. We also need to adhere to all the different data residency and data laws as well, e.g. GDPR meant that for our Marketing Cloud product we had to make some product changes to ensure success adhering to our customers' requirements in Europe.”

Q: What would you say are the top 3 priorities a product marketer should focus on when scaling internationally?

A: “Do your research first - understand buyers, cultures, laws, trends that teach you about what a buyer/customer is like in that country. Don't assume your customers have the same priorities across borders. Take it country by country and start with one market, learn, test, move to next, learn, and then test.

“Also, think about localization as more than just words - product names, branding, comms channels, partners, etc - there is more to it than just translation.”

Q: How do you manage the internal collaboration element with international teams? I assume with Salesforce you have PMMs in all sorts of timezones, so do you find that tricky to organize conversations/meetings/catch ups? I guess to a degree it's just about being organized with everyone's time, but I was just wondering if you had any advice on how you make that work?

A: “We were just talking about this recently. We haven't solved it if I am honest. We rely heavily on great collaboration tools like Quip and Google Docs/Chat, Chatter, documenting everything, over-sharing. So we don't have to have meetings for everything. Quip is an amazing tool that we use to collaborate around documents and a lot of decisions and project progress is made through that.

“For meetings, we have to be flexible to San Francisco, London, Germany, etc and we just try to alternate between times when someone has a late or early meeting so it's always one team that feels hard done by in terms of having a late or early meeting.

“For some big projects we have project managers that attend every meeting and type down every key point said in the meeting, so when we wake up in London we can read what was said in the meeting. But that's unusual. We are looking at more ways of automating this.”

Q: The entire PMM core curriculum was translated from English to Mandarin and it was a huge job for us. How does Salesforce approach translations on the platform and also the content Salesforce delivers, including the sales pages, trail base courses, conference content, etc?

A: “It’s a mix. We have plugins into the Salesforce platform on AppExchange that customers can use, e.g. SDL or Unbabel. For website and marketing content it's mostly done by marketers in-house in those languages because getting our tone, brand, culture right is super important and a translation agency is not always going to capture that. So that's pretty manual.

“For content on the website that we don't have local marketers for, but we sell in those markets and need to have local language, we will use translation agencies. For customer support content or content where the brand and every word counts, we will use agencies or machine translation.”

Q: How important is it to give the ‘fully localized experience’? I'm mostly asking about product videos and images. We localize all content as much as possible and for videos even do voice over and subtitles in the local language but helping to scale our design team to showcase our product in the languages we cover has been difficult. At Salesforce is it fully localized or nothing, do you localize as you go, or do you localize as much as possible and deal with the fact that it's not 100%?

A: “We strive for full localization as much as possible. But we know there is also a hybrid approach for certain markets. For instance, in France, Japan, Spain, Italy, etc. we need 100% local language. But for Denmark, Netherlands, Norway for instance, it is ok to deliver content in English. It is a balance of 1) Is the market ok with English? 2) Do we have the resources in the market to do it? 3) Do we have the budget to do it?

“Also, sometimes we will enter a market with English content, and as the market gets more matured and we have a good brand presence, we will start to localize more into local language to show our dedication to the region and its customers, that also comes with the fact we have an established presence and local resources and budget that allow us to deliver content in that local language.”