12 min read
There are a few reasons that prompted me to write this blog post. First reason was that I built my own website recently and wanted to know some tips and hacks on what else I can do to boost its online presence, with zero to minimal budget, of course.
Second reason, in my consultancy work, I meet and hear from some small to medium sized companies, that they prefer not to invest digitally so much or so soon or none at all, because they think it is a losing battle against the bigger companies with larger budget. Despite some convincing efforts backed by data, they still tend to shy away from it.
And third, the bigger companies on the other hand, want to dive into programmatic marketing. It is the buzzword now and I personally believe it is the new digital frontier but how exactly does it impact digital spend and what do companies have to prepare for, in order to embark on a successful programmatic marketing?
So what did I do next? I googled it! I read as many articles online (and offline) relating to these topics and applied some of them the best way I could. However, I wanted to know more. And so, I reached out to Marc Woo from Google Malaysia to help me shed some light on these matters. Marc, his team, my former team and I, worked on multiple projects during my time with Tune Group and we've had some successful award-winning collaborative work together.
It's important to note that building a strong online presence involves many layers, starting from the basic to the very advanced. For the benefit of start-ups, small and mid-size companies, we've kept our conversation to the basics and the most simplistic formats, keeping in mind the minimal budget requirements.
Here we go... the digital strategy on how to build a strong online presence.
1. Digital propensity
You've got to have the propensity to go digital or online. It is very important to get stakeholders buy in and incorporating it in the business planning or in the 3-year marketing plan for example. There should be a decision to prioritize and allocate resources to go digital. Essentially, it's having the CEO or the business owner saying yes to the vision, saying yes to the strategy and will be supporting it all out. Otherwise, you'll be fighting a losing battle.
2. Create a robust platform
If you're a start-up and you're selling online, first thing to do is to get your platform robust. These days it's really easy to set up your online store, just use a site giant - a plug and play model, e-commerce platform. Most importantly, have your user experience (UX) from desktop to tablet and to mobile, streamlined so the conversion flow is efficient, quick, no bugs or fall off. What this means, is that there should not be a reason a customer saying no to purchasing based on site flow or technical error. It could be other reasons like timing, not having enough cash or not the right colour or size. Technology should not be the reason why sales or conversion did not happen.
If you don't have analytics, it doesn't matter what you do on Adwords, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you can't track or attribute your revenue to the investment you're making. It does not have to be advanced or comprehensive, it can be the most basic e-commerce analytics so you are able to measure and track. Let's say out of $100 investment, with analytics, you can attribute which source it is coming from - Direct, Google CPC, Google organic, Facebook CPC, Facebook organic, display, referrals, emails so on and so forth.
4. Data-centric resource
You should always analyze your data and piece out insights based on them. If your current resource is data-centric, then it's great but if they're not, you will need to hire someone. If you're serious about your start-up or your business, hiring a data scientist or data analyst is important. If you hire someone who's got sales experience, but can that sales person do data analytics, slice and dice data to discern something actionable? Probably not. But if you get a data analyst who is very comfortable with data, can you then train that person to go and sell? That's very possible. Anybody can sell as long as they can communicate. It is always better to lean towards hiring someone who is data-centric than not. This applies to offline business as well, because ultimately you are always analyzing data.
5. Target bottom of funnel with keywords
This is about getting immediate ROI based on marketing spend. If you have $X budget a month, where are you going to put it? Where will it bring you the immediate conversion? Target people at the bottom of the funnel, people who are ready to buy, ready to convert, ready to make that purchase. Upper funnel is the ATL like YouTube, some form of display advertising to drive awareness, new visitors and not necessary the sales. In Google simplistic terms, it is figuring out the keywords that will make most sense. Put yourself in consumers' shoes, what are the keywords you would use, what would you search for. Test out the keywords, monitor it on adwords or analytics.
If it's your first time investing, monitor it on a daily basis, twice a day. Monitor performance based on which keyword are performing vs. not. Look at the type of conversions that you're getting from each keyword and placement, are they giving you the necessary conversions?
To break it down further...
a. Reach vs. ROI
Let's say you invest $100 on generic keyword A with a lot of searches and get $100 back, you breakeven. OR you invest $100 on specific keyword B with not as many searches and get back $1000, that's even better. Then there's a question on volume, keyword A gives you reach vs. keyword B. How then do you balance it? This will become a business decision as opposed to a technical decision. How do you balance the ROI vs. demand, because the more you spread the net, the natural expectation is the ROI will go up. How do you then strike a balance?
b. Keyword mix
There is no sweet spot as to how many keywords you can have. It really depends on the business and consumer demand. Here's a fun fact: Google sees 30% new keywords everyday, ones that they've never seen before! That's a lot of keywords!
For an established brand, say a mid-size traditional company going digital, it is important to protect your brand because it's already out there. Always protect your brand interest. If a traditional (brick-and-mortar) XYZ company invest in Search Engine Marketing (SEM), then XYZ brand as the brand terms or keywords should be protected at all times. If there are 100 searches on company XYZ, the company should aim to cover all the 100 keywords or more (if there is more). If you're spending a lot on ATL, which is driving top-of-mind - so when someone searches for you, you don't want that person to go to your competitor or somewhere else, you should always capture them. When you capture them, it is actually very cheap for you because it is extremely relevant to the keyword and to the landing page. So yes, protect your brand keywords, which are affiliated to your brand.
c. Set-up category buckets of keywords
For example, if you're selling Shoes. Set up buckets for Boys Shoes, Girls Shoes, Blue Shoes, Red Shoes and etc. Create various permutation relating to the keyword buckets. Then assign some marketing budget to it. Next, there will be bidding involved, which will get a bit technical from here. You can read more about how to set this up on Google Adwords page/site.
Bottom line, is to focus your marketing dollars on the lower funnel keywords that will give you something sustainable. And then you can think about expanding your coverage and reach.
When people know your brand, or are affiliated to your brand, they will obviously browse your online store or website, see what's going on and see how much you are selling your product. If they leave your online store without buying that product, a good marketer will always bring them back with enticing deals, so this is where remarketing comes in. When someone searches a particular product, you should remarket exactly the same product but tell them "Hey we've got a deal today, please check it out!" You can also do remarketing on the category they are browsing as well. Let's say Category C. Within that category, also show other products that are on sale when you remarket.
7. Growth hacking
There are other things you can do to get your name out there. There are start-ups who rely a lot on the charisma of the leader when they speak during public engagements. Even like Tony Fernandes wearing the AirAsia cap. You can also look at joint events or partnerships to promote your brand, it is a form of co-marketing to help increase your acquisition and conversion efforts by tying up with other relevant brands.
8. Optimization and testing multi-channel
Explore if other paid channels can be effective as well. Don't spend too much here but enough to test if display ads, even Twitter or Instagram ads can bring the right metrics. You can see if there are new visitors. And if they come back and convert, then you know it is working indirectly.
Next, look at the analysis according to different devices. Mobile vs. desktop. Mobile traffic is generally higher than desktop. However, people coming in from mobile may not convert as high as people coming in from desktop site. But when they do convert, do they convert at a higher value during the time when there's no conversion of desktop? Is it at night, on weekends when they're out - what can you do around that. Adwords, Facebook allows you to target mobile or deprioritize mobile based on time of day or time of week. Those are the kind of optimization you should be doing. See what keywords work for you, placement, which time of day works then increase bids during that time.
9. Content marketing
This requires a lot of time but if done really (really) well for start-ups, no money is involved, brands can spiral out of control. These are online quirky, easy to make videos. Think of a theme to entertain, educate and inspire someone. Create 30-second or 1 minute videos to soft-sell, subtly shout the brand.
For companies with more budget, they can employ creative agencies, work with content creators, influencers and bloggers. Get them to produce the videos and they will also have the resources to distribute or push out videos as well through let's say trueview format on YouTube.
10. Online marketplaces
For B2C brands, you can look at partnerships with existing online marketplaces. That will get you an immediate reach. It's like hiring an agent or a distributor to help you sell your products. The only downside of this partnerships is the fact that you have to pay a commission or a set up fee but you can certainly adjust your price accordingly to be more competitive. There are online market places that offer for the masses and the premium segments as well, so look out for them.
11. Invest in the app space
Build something to address a need or a want of consumers in the market. Not necessary for people who wants to "buy" but more along the line of UTILITY. An app for example, that teaches you how to look for certain features or criteria when you go shopping. This utility app can be fairly evergreen. If you have your logo within the app all the time, people will automatically assume that "this awesome quality app provided me with the utility that I wanted, the need I wanted to address", then they will not hesitate to check you out when they are ready to make a purchase. For someone who is really engaging with your app, you will get a lot of traction because you are subtly in their face.
12. Programmatic marketing
Let's start with the definition. Programmatic is real time bidding (RTB), machine learning and automated bidding. Nowadays, what it really means is the ad server, the demand-side platform (DSP), the search bid management (SBM) tool and the enhanced analytics. And also, a greater enhancement of building creative. Programmatic is the new layer of technology that supports all the media buy.
For a start-up, programmatic is too early or too far ahead of time. Programmatic will only come into play or its beneficial when you start to invest more or invest a lot. Because it is machine learning, it needs a lot of data to learn, for it to optimize its campaign based on the metrics that you're optimizing towards, to increase performance or cost efficiency or conversions. The lower your spend is, the higher is your percentage of media cost you're paying to the technology. So the more you're spending, the higher is the economies of scale.
A lot of people are moving towards programmatic marketing in some form or another but sometimes if you are not ready to go full on, don't. Continue to explore and test multiple networks, channels or platforms to see what works and what doesn't but don't invest totally on something that you're not ready for.
In the likes of Amazon, Uber, eBay, those big brands even AirAsia who invest a lot on programmatic, their end goal should always be the Full Stack.
The full stack means:
--> From the moment you're buying the media which is the DSP;
(Hold on, let's explain DSP. It is essentially buying display ads through multiple networks but consolidated into one.)
--> So you buy through a DSP using a bid management tool for search;
--> Then ad serving everything through an ad server;
--> And at the end of the day, your site is supported by enhanced analytics.
The benefit of the full stack is that you will have first party data as opposed to third party data. First party data is very (very) powerful because everything that you're seeing on display, search and on your site is all interlinked, and you can optimize those 3 main channels to deliver the best performance for your marketing. And that requires a lot of investment, a huge data set and from a technological perspective as well, because you have to implement technical know-hows, tags and codes. It can bring a lot of benefits, but only when the company is ready.
To wrap this up, it's really important to highlight that the 2nd and 3rd phase is tough to do. Getting the homebase right is not easy. You must get your house in order or your ship in order because the next few steps in marketing is pretty easy. Business owners need to be hands on to be sure their platform is tip top and analytics is properly set up.
Thank you Marc for your time. Really appreciate the knowledge sharing!
To the readers, thank you for reading. Hope this will be useful in your marketing planning and digital strategizing. Do reach out to me if you have any questions through the blue form below.
M Consulting, the branding and marketing strategy development and activation consultancy was founded by Mawarni Adam, an award winning marketer with over 13 years of experience in branding and integrated marketing across multiple industries in the ASEAN region. It is her passion in building, revamping, turning around a portfolio, leading change and breathing new life into stagnant business situations that propelled her to establish her own marketing consultancy. Helping others make a positive difference in their businesses excites her. Her direct experience in the Subscription Video-On-Demand, Airline, Insurance, Loyalty, E-commerce, Banking, Venture Capital and Advertising industries, will bring an integrated perspective and valuable marketing input, strategy development and execution to any organization.
Read more about Mawarni here: About M