Ep. 27 – Micheal McCollough: A Global Approach to Channel Incentives

Micheal McCollough has achieved his global perspective the old-fashioned way: by living and working around the world on nearly every continent and embracing the local culture and customs along the way.  In his current role as Global VP of Channels & Alliances for Akamai Technologies, Micheal’s ability to appreciate nuance and local culture gives him the insights to know what it takes to refine channel incentives and other channel strategies for global partners.

That appreciation for nuance and his vast experience in both developing teams in distant markets as well as discovering new practices worth integrating along the way set the tone for an informed discussion of how to evolve global channel strategy.

Global vs. International

Micheal has a great perspective on defining global vs. international when it comes to looking at how companies operate.  According to Micheal, international companies are those who have a strong and well-defined culture operationally and otherwise at their home base, and then send strong ambassadors from their home territory out into the world to open up new markets.  Over time, more territories are opened up but they are chiefly opened up by transplants from the head office.

On the other hand, global organizations have leaders who come from each of the regions and are able to operate to the standards defined by the head office but also adjust for local cultures and local requirements.

“Working for an international company you have a pretty strong playbook, and everyone really understands that this is how things are done at headquarters and we just replicate that in new locations,” says Micheal.  “Working for a global company, you really have to adapt and modify yourself to those local markets; not sacrificing the culture of the company or the ethics, but being able to better align yourself to the local market needs…and leverage the local talent from those regions, bringing things back to headquarters to adopt global standards.”

The Global Approach to Channel Incentives

“The biggest challenge is ‘how do you get buy-in from the regions, the further away they get from headquarters?’” asks Micheal.  It’s a pressing question, especially in light of the way that companies have evolved their global approaches to channel incentives.  While of today’s brands entered new markets with an open-minded, laissez-faire approach that was focused quite correctly on an appreciation of the difference between each market, there soon evolved a need for greater alignment with head office driven by the necessity for control and ROI focus.  Companies responded by rolling, in many cases, bespoke and localized solutions onto something more closely resembling a single unified platform which enabled the controls to be put into place but made it tougher to adjust for market localization.

Michael emphasizes the key point that in order for us to deliver a cohesive brand experience, effectively delivering on all aspects of our brand promises, it’s very important that people have the same experience with our brands anywhere in the world.

His strategy for a global approach is to take a values-based approach: when a company has a clearly articulated core set of values and priorities, it becomes easier to adjust for local market needs as long as one can refer back to the core values and priorities to ensure these are being honored.  “The (territory) leader can have a voice and represent their local cultures and local needs while understanding what (the company) is trying to do globally.”

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