The slogan “Think globally, act locally” is frequently used to describe the managerial challenge faced by global marketers. It captures the need to think in global terms about a business or a market while at the same time tailoring a product or service to meet the particular requirements of the local customers. But what is actually meant by thinking globally? If this thinking is truly different and thus requires a new mindset (namely a global one) we should be able to differentiate it from a more traditional mindset. So what is it that the new global marketer with a global perspective should be able to do? We are witnessing the development of a local agro-industrial sector linking to an enormous global market and with it the need for investors in this industry to connect to that global market. Other important sectors in Ethiopia that are connecting to global markets include coffee, leather and textiles. The time has come to develop a global mindset indeed.
With a global mindset we are stepping into a type of perspective, fundamentally different from our traditional way of looking at the world and the business opportunities it presents. The global perspective encompasses all cultures and nationalities and calls for managers with the capability to remain equal mental distance from all regions of the world. Such a manager is not without any cultural anchor though. Rather, the executive with a global perspective maintains that point of view with respect to his or her business or profession. A personal cultural anchor point is still required for personal balance. Marketing managers with a global mindset can keep the entire global opportunity for a business in mind and can think across multiple markets rather than compartmentalize issues on one market at a time. They are able to see the “big picture” and are sensitive to the links between markets and trends around the world.
International and multinational mindsets depend on experience gained from direct contact with one or several other countries and cultures. The marketing executive with a global mindset achieves that view for the entire world, even for areas where no direct prior experience exists. This ability is essential because managers who act with global responsibility for a product, segment, category or some other project cannot possibly be personally exposed to all countries.
The global mindset is also an attitude. Executives with a global mindset display an innate curiosity about world developments. They recognise a need for continued, permanent, lifelong learning because much of what they know becomes obsolete over time. Executives who aspire to a global mindset need to recognise the integration of industries into a global economy. In this new global economy, they must see their industry as an interconnected whole and appreciate that events generated in this dynamic shape their industry and their customers’ needs over time. This global mindset then is both an attitude as well as a cognitive capability to exercise a certain set of new analytical skills.
A marketing executive who wants to achieve a global mindset will have to think differently about the worldwide opportunity. With the world consisting of more than two hundred countries and territories, it would be impossible for anyone to have firsthand and factual knowledge of all these markets. Instead knowledge of key markets will have to suffice. Key markets are the top twenty markets in a given industry, like for example the flower industry. In most industries, 80% or more of the economic activity can be expected to come from the top twenty country markets. Because these markets are of strategic value, marketing managers need to understand the parameters that shape the market dynamics.
The need to know for example the present stage of the economic cycle, the type of economic system, the structure of the economy, the monetary system and foreign exchange regime. Other key areas of market economic knowledge include Gross National Product (growth and per capita) inflation rate, interest level, export and import volumes and employment levels.
The global marketing manager also needs to know the current and future political trends for each key market because political policy affects future growth and profitability. The executive with a global mindset is always alert to relevant developments in the leading markets of the company’s industry.
(S)he is also expected to understand major cultural traits and how they can shape customers in the market. The business environment is significantly affected for example if the country has a Christian, Muslim or other religious tradition.
Historic knowledge is important too as relevant historical facts may still shape or influence the political and economic life of a country in the present. Geographic knowledge will inform the business about distances, topography, transportation infrastructure and telecommunications.
Finally, a marketing manager with a global mindset appreciates global economic and political forces as well as global key market knowledge.
So there is work to do for business owners and investors who want to play a role at the global level of their industry and a realistic strategy to acquire knowledge of key markets and the global marketplace can thus be an important ingredient in the success of individual executives and companies.