When I talk about global marketing at conferences, one of the best practices I always emphasize is close collaboration between headquarters and geographies. But how can that close collaboration be cultivated and strengthened?
As someone with years of HQ experience, I’m well-versed in this topic. And while there are plenty of methods to build a solid relationship between HQ and regions, my top recommendation is to establish a weekly (bi-weekly or monthly) meeting.
Of course, committing to a regular check-in requires precious time, so it’s vital that you use these windows wisely. Here are my top tips for making the most of your meetings:
1. Establish that HQ is in charge
Even before you try to tackle scheduling logistics and meeting agendas, it’s vital to determine a plan of action.
You’ll need to designate who does what. Someone needs to chair the meeting and own responsibility for planning and setting the agenda. Someone needs to take and publish meeting minutes, as well as highlight action items that will require follow-up.
I recommend that HQ take charge of the meeting and delegate key responsibilities as needed.
2. Determine a suitable meeting time
One of the biggest tricks to enabling corporate offices and geographies to work together effectively is to find a good time to meet.
I have tried several ways to do this. There is really no right or wrong way, but you need to find an optimal window that collectively works for you and your teams. Depending on where people are located, this is sometimes easier said than done, but it’s never impossible.
I used to run a recurring global meeting that had participants from all geos. I tended to set that meeting at 11:00 pm PST to accommodate everyone’s busy schedules.
No matter what time you select, you will still have someone calling in at night or during dinner or lunchtime. You can also periodically alternate the time slot out of fairness so that no one region or country always gets stuck attending at a less-than-ideal time.
Another option is to run two separate HQ/geo calls with the same agenda.
One can be scheduled at 7:00 am or 8:00 am PST to accommodate team members from North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The other meeting can be scheduled at 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm PST with the Asia Pacific in mind.
This still may not be ideal for teams who are based in India, for example, but running two separate calls with the same agenda has generally worked very well for me.
Once you’ve decided how to approach scheduling and set a concrete date and time, the next crucial step is to be punctual. You’ve gone to the trouble to get everyone aligned, so it’s important to respect that.
Life happens, and there is always a possibility of lateness or absence, but punctuality should be highly encouraged for team members, and should be required of the meeting leader. Should the leader be unable to make it, there should be a designated second-in-command to take the wheel seamlessly.
Additionally, respect a hard stop at the designated meeting end time. Some team members may be able to stay longer if essential items remain outstanding, but if people need to jump, they should be allowed to do so.
3. Publish the meeting agenda in advance
To make the most of your allotted time each week, it’s imperative that an agenda is sent to all attendees in advance of the meeting. By outlining key topics of discussion, you’ll enable your team to come prepared with notes and ideas.
Start from the mindset of what geographies will want to know from Headquarters (and vice versa) to determine the main talking points.
It’s also important to talk to individual team members, both at HQ and in the geos, in order to understand what they want to hear and discuss at the meetings.
Here are some examples of talking points that my past geographical counterparts have found useful to cover:
- The company’s worldwide sales goals and business objectives
- Corporate-wide marketing plans and metrics
- Product roadmaps
- Messaging, product positioning, content
- Creative playbooks based on marketing campaign themes
- Branding guides for master and product brands/logos
- Marketing research and trends
- Geography’s marketing plan, marketing metrics, sales results
- Geography’s challenges and needs
- Lead generation
- Content localization and translation
- Sales discounts and offers
- Co-marketing with partners and channel partners
- Third-party speakers or agencies to share new trends
- Sales and marketing collaboration
The chairperson does not need to create a presentation for all the topics above, but they do need to find the appropriate people within the company to attend the meetings, discuss the topics, and share their insights.
Of course, not every topic needs a full-on presentation; sometimes a round-table or free-form discussion can be very effective, just be sure to keep everyone on topic to avoid wasting valuable time.
4. Take meticulous notes, then clean them up and share
There’s not much point in holding a meeting if everyone forgets what was discussed and what next steps entail.
That’s why it’s important to assign a dedicated team member to take notes during the meeting. (There is of course software available to auto-transcribe dialogue, but while the technology is getting better by the day, I feel that presently there’s just no substitution for human transcription. Plus, you’ll need to analyze and condense the transcript regardless.)
Record the meeting in case your note-taker misses something or wants to go back for clarification.
Ask the note taker to clean up what they’ve jotted down, eliminating any unnecessary details and focusing on clear, concise takeaways and action items. Send the resulting document to meeting attendees. Team members who were unable to join, and anyone else who may benefit from the recap.
Taking notes like this will work to hold everyone accountable and organized, and will help to determine the agenda outline for future meetings.
5. Make sure to follow up on action items
A meeting is only effective if relevant team members follow through on all action items. This is true of any meeting, and it’s particularly true when you are trying to build a relationship based on trust.
That’s why it’s especially important to properly record the meeting minutes. Distill them down into easily digestible tasks with clear deadlines attached, and then appoint them to the appropriate team members for execution.
Equally important is the follow-up to ensure that things are progressing smoothly and efficiently.
The leader of the meeting should be the one to track all action items. Meanwhile, each attendee should be required to review the resulting meeting minutes in order to make sure the details of the action items align with what they agreed to.
After that, all team members should be committed to completing their assigned action items in a timely fashion. The meeting leader should check in periodically to keep everyone on task and on schedule.
Also, remember that a standing action item each week should be to send out the upcoming meeting agenda, reminding attendees to review what’s on deck and to chime in if they feel anything not listed needs to be addressed.
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day
A good working relationship needs to be built over a period of time.
Collaboration can’t be achieved by a single face-to-face meeting or through ad-hoc communications, but these are good building blocks to gradually create a strong, lasting foundation.
And like any other relationship, both sides need to put in time and effort. Be prepared to compromise for the greater good.
What do you do to build a collaborative relationship between the headquarters and your geographical counterparts? I’d love to hear your methodology, so don’t hesitate to share. Let me know if you implement any of the tips above, too. I’d be interested to hear how they work out for you.