6 Keys to Managing Data in a Global World


Cross border business has it's benefits and challenges- six questions to help prioritize


With the rise in the use of the internet, business has become international. More and more businesses of all sizes are doing business outside the United States. This increase in global commerce brings with it some challenges to your company’s data. 

Here are a few questions you should answer when trying to manage this important resource across country borders and different languages even within countries.

1.    What Are the Most Important Countries for Your Business?

Regardless of your industry, your business strategy has most likely already decided which countries are most profitable for your products and services. 

For example, if you are in the oil equipment manufacturing business, you probably want to make sure that you have ways to conduct business in the Middle East, Brazil, and parts of Canada.  Likewise, if you are selling products that can only be sold in the U.S. because of intellectual property reasons or because you don’t have the capability to sell outside the U.S., then making decisions about international data may be an easier one.

However, it is important to design your database with both today and tomorrow’s requirements.  To illustrate this, let’s look at a small catalog distributor of fine jewelry.  After you have cleared the way to sell in another country—set up international operating divisions, secured banking relationships, established a presence—you also need to decide exactly how and who will market within that country

Will you be taking orders within the country in native language?  Will your website be localized for people within the country and feed data back to your U.S. location or keep it in country? The answers to these questions have a profound effect on what data you collect and manage.

2.    Which Languages Are Most Important for Doing Business in These Countries?

Even if you decide that you only want to sell in English-speaking countries, such as Canada, you need to be aware that other countries describe the data about their businesses differently and often in a variety of languages.  It is not possible, for example, to sell in Canada without making all of your sales and marketing materials available in two languages—English and French.

Other parts of the world may recognize English as the “official” language of business, but require that to reach markets, messaging must be in local dialect.  In fact, English is often the second or non-official language of businesspeople.  But don’t let that fool you.  Marketing in native language is often required to reach your intended audience.

Look at these countries.  India’s official languages are both Hindi and English but the regions speak over fifteen different languages.  Belgium’s actual official languages are Dutch, French, and German, but the majority of Belgians speak English as well. 

3.    How Will You Use the Data?

When your goal is to acquire, retain, or grow customers within a specific country, you need to reach them so that they will be receptive to your message.  Sometimes in B2B marketing, however, U.S. companies assume that most companies in other countries speak English.  Although that is true for the major markets in the world, the emerging markets are often where you need to market the most.

Remember as well that privacy laws vary greatly from country to country.  How you are able to use the data for marketing purposes can be vastly different in each area of the world.

4.    How Will Data Be Acquired in These Countries?

Acquiring data outside the United States is a challenge.  First of all, you need to be familiar with the culture and how data is viewed in a business context.  Any number of market research organizations can provide you a view.

Here are a few approaches to consider when fulfilling the requirement to get more data:

  • Purchasing local data from a reputable firm.  D&B, Corporate 360, or Global DM Solutions offer data both in English and in native languages.


  • Telemarketing or cold calling.   This tactic, although effective for increasing your database, has some significant drawbacks:  (a) you need a list of phone numbers to start with, (b) telemarketing can be expensive, and (c) in some countries, cold calling—calling a company without a reason (gathering information is often not considered a viable reason) is prohibited by law.


  • Crowdsourcing.  Crowdsourcing is the process of obtaining services, ideas, or content such as data by soliciting contributions from a large, dispersed group of people, usually from an online community.  The premier companies in this space provide you with tools and services to teach you how to make simple data acquisition from the Web.  Then, you train their representatives, who are paid on the amount of data they find, correct, or enrich.  It is a fairly inexpensive way to get a good start on a database in countries where you may not have a presence.

Next- Setting up systems and Who will manage data?


About the author

Theresa Kushner

Theresa Kushner is a journalist-turned-marketer and currently Executive Vice President at Dell leading their state of the art nalytics initiative. Formerly she was Vice President of Enterprise Information Management at VMware responsible for master data management, business intelligence and advanced analytics.  She and Maria Villar co-write a column for LatinBusinessToday.com. They are co-authors of Managing Your Business Data: From Chaos to Confidence, published by Racom Books in 2008.