On July 25th, 2018, Lingoport hosted a webinar focused on product strategies for enhancing successful global expansion. The webinar featured special guest Talia Baruch, Founder of Yewser, which helps companies maximize international expansion, accelerating global growth to win adoption in new markets. Talia integrates the cultural and regional factors in product strategy to optimize for discoverability, customer acquisition, engagement, conversion, retention and brand loyalty in international markets.
During the webinar, The Global Product Strategy Playbook of Leading Brands, Talia shared her experiences helping to guide leading organizations ranging from Google to SurveyMonkey, LinkedIn, and VMware achieve successful global growth targets.
Prior to the webinar, we had the opportunity to chat with Talia and to uncover a few of the insights she eventually shared more deeply during the webinar. If you head up product, growth, marketing, or business development at your company, this is an interview (and webinar) you do not want to miss.
Interview with Talia Baruch
Talia, you have a very long and successful career in internationalization, localization, international product management and global growth strategies. We were curious how you got interested and involved in this field?
Well, the inception comes from my multicultural family background. I’m a product of where East and West meet. My grandparents’ home in Rednage, a small village in England, was called Yewsdene (=the home of Yew, a big ever-green, cross-continental tree). I’ve named my consulting company after it: Yewser (as in Yewser Experience).
Yewsdene represented to me that cross-cultural, cross-border connection I’d absorbed from childhood. I have deep roots in Eastern & Western Europe, Uzbekistan, and the Middle East, so the Silk Road junction, where people connect across cultures and borders to open perspectives makes a lot of sense to me. Yewsdene was the place where post WWII, many of my grandparents’ extended communities friends and family’ found a safehaven, and where I was fused with profound post war cultural awakening for tolerance values. It simulated me and it made me realize from a very young age that beyond language barriers, people from different countries/cultures have very different perspectives. Cultural and regional aspects have a very strong impact on the attitude, the mentality, the perspective, and expected behavior in the way people, as well as products, connect with one another.
When I pursued my career, I knew that I was going to do something with cultures and languages. So, localization was a natural fit (a new field when I started…some 20 years ago), and about 10 years ago I pivoted from language support to product geo-fit & global growth.
So what would you say are the biggest mistakes that you see companies making, and I want to ask you this in two parts. One, companies that are looking to enter global markets for the first time, but then also companies that already have some kind of international footprint. What are the mistakes that each of those types of companies tends to make as they look to expand globally?
Right. Well, across the board, from startups to multinational corporations, many companies struggle with some common core misconceptions:
- Misconception of one size fits all for global: E.g., US-based companies typically build a prototype, define its value proposition and achieve proof of concept & product market fit for their domestic market. A/B testing and user studies are often done for English US, and then learnings are applied for global markets. The assumption is often that reaching international expansion means having the international customers understand our US-validated product (therefore, translation). While this is baseline tablestakes, the impact component to reach international expansion is, of course, having our product (vision, plan, strategy) understand our international customers within the context of their market ecosystem.
While most companies invest in language support and build internal localization teams, few companies invest in that second part–integrating the regional and cultural factors in their product strategy roadmap and performance to make their products make sense in their target international new markets. Translation drives some growth (sometimes we even see a 2X growth within the first year of language launch in low-English proficient markets), but this growth rate usually flattens after the first year. Product geo-fit experience and localized product experience, on the other hand, enables sustainable growth in new markets adoption for the long-haul.
- Organizational structure: a big challenge many companies have is maintaining efficient open communication between their HQ product teams and their in-country hubs’ functions. This is especially critical for driving international efforts, which are fundamentally horizontal and cross-functional and require constant alignment with the corporate core objectives. Traditionally, companies would have the product HQ in the domestic market (e.g., in the US) and follow a global, centralized management approach in both their technology and team structure–e.g., they’d have a global standard centralized platform infrastructure architecture, as well as HQ-centralized org structure. Today, more companies opt for having regional HQs in their priority target markets–e.g., a Singapore HQ for their Asia markets, MX or BR for their LATAM regions, etc. While the corporate vision and mission should be centralized and consistent, a more flexible structure (modular, decentralized platform infrastructure architecture, as well as org structure), enables them to respond fast enough for local in-country requirements and iterate fast enough on the product front-end to optimize experience in the local target markets.
The positioning of the international team within the org structure is also critical. To effectively build and orchestrate an international expansion strategy roadmap, the international product lead and team need to be positioned as an autonomous unit within product growth org for impact on cross-functional horizontal efforts.