In this blog post you will discover the advantages and disadvantages of the two main organisational approaches to online marketing. Next you can start to find the best approach for your own organisation by answering a few questions.

Centralised or decentralised?

A key factor for the organisational structure of international online marketing is the choice between a centralised and a decentralised approach. In a centralised approach, budgets, messaging and promotions are defined and campaigns are managed by a central marketing unit. A decentralised approach, on the other hand, gives local international online marketers more control.

Both approaches are commonly used and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Let’s have a closer look to see the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Pros and cons of a centralised organisation structure

In organisations where international online marketing is centralised, online marketers in the central organisation define budgets, messaging and promotions for all countries and regions. The related campaigns are managed from a central location in the organisation as well.

This type of centralised management of international online marketing is commonly used by multinational organisations where messaging is defined centrally, budgets are controlled by head office and key staff and local knowledge resources are available at a central level.

The key advantages of a centralised approach:

  • Uniformity: managing messaging and promotions at a central level ensures uniformity across countries and regions
  • Scale: campaigns & tests can be run and compared simultaneously across multiple countries and regions.
  • Ease: uniform reporting and dashboards are easier to implement in multiple locations.
  • Knowledge transfer: learnings & benchmarks in one country can be compared centrally to results in other countries.
  • Cost-effective: a centralised approach is often more cost-effective than a local approach. Budget can be focused on countries and regions that deliver the highest ROI.

The potential risks in a centralised approach are all related to insufficient knowledge of the local market conditions. Local differences in legislation, platforms, search engines etc. may be insufficiently acknowledged. Messaging and promotions potentially miss their target. Local opportunities could be missed through lack of knowledge of the local market. All in all, a uniform centralised approach lacks the flexibility to adapt to the variety in your local markets.

Centralised or a decentralised organisation structure


Pros and cons of a decentralised organisation structure

A decentralised approach to international online means that marketing budgets and campaigns are managed by local staff, with in-depth knowledge of the local market. Messaging & promotions are based on local market conditions and can vary from country to country or region to region. Search engines and social media platforms used may even differ from country to country.

Organisations with local online marketers commonly opt for a decentralised approach to benefit from this local knowledge.

Decentralised international online marketing has a number of advantages:

  • In-depth knowledge of the local market
  • Highly relevant messaging & promotions, closely in sync with the local situation
  • Better use of local search engines and social media platforms
  • Better understanding of local legislation, online payment systems and local culture

There are disadvantages too however. Campaigns across countries are not managed in a uniform way, so their performance can be hard to compare. Reporting is not uniform, and budget control can be tough. There is no central control of messaging, budget and promotions, and social media monitoring can be challenging if different platforms are used.

Choosing an organisational structure










Choosing an organisational structure

So what approach should you choose? Start to find the best approach for your organisation by answering the following questions:

  • Do you use uniform messaging and promotions or do they differ from country to country?

If your messaging is uniform in all markets, a central approach is best for you. If you vary messaging and promotions from country to country, a decentralised approach may be best.

  • Do you already have staff who understand international online marketing?

If your local staff have little to no experience of online marketing and your central staff do, then consider a central approach to make the most of your current resources.

On the other hand, if your organisation’s knowledge of international online marketing is located in the various regions and countries, then a decentralised structure could give you the best results.

If neither applies, you will need to start by training your current staff or hiring new staff.

  • Are your marketing budgets managed centrally or locally?

Centralised budget control goes hand in hand with centralised management of your international online marketing.

However, if your organisation allocates local budgets for marketing, then a decentralised approach may be the better solution.

  • Do you already have an international online marketing organisation or are you setting up a new organisation?

If you already have an international online marketing organisation, is it centralised or decentralised? What is working and what is not?

If you are setting up a new department, consider the above questions before you decide which approach to take. 

In summary

The best organisational structure for international online marketing depends on your existing organisation and your approach to international online marketing. Take into account existing staff resources, budget allocation, international messaging and propositions as well as your current organisation to find the approach that works best for you. 


Maxlead has created an convenient checklist with crucial aspects of online B2B marketing to help you develop international campaigns .


About Rob Steenbrink

Rob SteenbrinkRob founded Maxlead in 2002.

In addition to expanding the Maxlead organisation, he is involved in account management for international clients and in software and reporting projects. Rob and Ronald advise boards of directors on their online marketing strategy.