By Louay Al Samarrai, joint Managing Director of Active Digital Marketing Communications
It’s a BIG question and it has many different directions that can be taken, but I have chosen to Keep It Simple.
NOT because I feel that’s where you as the reader are, but because I think that today, in the region and especially in the UAE, this subject has been hyped to the moon and back, analyzed and interpreted more than a Trump handshake and in practice….well let’s say that…like many things in this region there have been varying degrees of professionalism applied.
In my experience, and a core tenet at my Agency, you either do it properly or you don’t do it at all. You work with people that do or you refer your Clients to those people.
So let’s start with the definition of Digital Strategy. Is it something special? Well it isn’t really and the following points can help to guide you through the many variations that you may – or may not hear – from your Agency or in house team.
– A digital marketing strategy defines how companies should:
– Hit their channel leads & sales targets
– Budget for Acquisition, Conversion, Retention & Growth, Service those key stakeholders
– Communicate benefits of using this channel to enhance brand/service or solutions
– Prioritise audiences targeted through channels
– Prioritise products available through channel
All quite simple you say, but I’m sure you are wondering how does this actually work in practice? It is challenging – especially if you are serious about it and you aren’t one of those who wants to just leverage digital marketing and allocate totally unrealistic budgets to making it happen.
The steepest of these challenges is the rapidly evolving nature of digital marketing’s many platforms and channels, and how brands can best understand and synthesize the infinite amount of information they provide about their desired audiences and how best to engage them.
Trends, of course, will always be important to monitor.
But of even more value is building a digital marketing platform on pillars of best practices — proven approaches, strategies, and tactics — to master some of the most critical areas in the space: native, video, social, mobile, and email.
So to summarize this simply, the first thing that any brand needs to do before embarking on a digital marketing campaign or campaigns is listen.
Listen to the different channels, identify the ones that generate the most engagement – conversations around what your brand delivers rather than just influencers promoting brands and products
Analyze and review these and define the themes and topics that you feel will generate interest, encourage dialogue and discussion and increase engagement with these key stakeholders
Then once you have started to create and distribute content across these channels and in the different elements such as native content (which must blend seamlessly with the environment in which is it used -so think Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat), it must be presented from the consumers point of view. It must be measurable in terms of effectiveness.
Video is another key element here. We have been making the case for video with Clients for the last 12 months. The power of this as a storytelling tool is powerful and the investment required is dropping. The challenge is managing expectations because this type of content does not always have to possess very high production values.
Social content is very influential so the investment in the right content and the way that it is disseminated is very key.
Mobile another hugely important platform to deliver your brands image, presence and communication. The levels of interaction with a service, brand or product through this platform are – as we know – key.
E-mail – yes e-mail is also a part of a digital strategy and the key here is making this format engaging, brief and effective in mobile formats as well as more traditional delivery platforms of laptops and tablets.
So let’s now introduce a bit of research and – like with many key facts for this region – there is nothing to hand or that doesn’t cost the earth that we can reference to gauge where companies and organizations in this region are with their digital marketing plans and approaches so we can only use US/European statistics as a guide.
If we work on the premise that in business, it’s recognised that plans help companies to prioritise, set goals and allocate resources to meet targets, then it should be a logical step to assume that a planned approach is how digital marketing would be approached, but in making that assumption we would be wrong so let’s look at some stats from 2016:
– Nearly half (47%) of businesses surveyed did not have a defined digital plan or strategy, although they are active in digital marketing.
– Likewise, nearly half (44%) don’t have a clearly defined marketing strategy…
So good practice: Don’t just execute! Create a long-term integrated digital strategy and plan aligning with marketing and business priorities.
Now if we applied this survey to this region I think the numbers would be higher with many having to defer to their global HQ’s where much of the content originates
In my view, the region still has a long way to go when it comes to realizing real, effective and original digital campaign strategies moving away from low cost, short term tactical and adapted versions of campaigns run elsewhere for different target audiences and when the awards one are truly deserved.
The results of doing this will be self-evident but it will take time and it will need the courage and real commitment of companies across different industry sectors not just retail and fashion, FMCG and banking to adopt, embark and invest in proper digital campaigns that start with a strategic versus a tactical approach.
The region has some of the highest numbers on social media and the trends continue to point in the direction of more and more mobile interactions with brands and services and the investment in time, money and resources within the region to market more effectively in this environment are – in my view – yet to reach the levels that truly reflect that and whilst there may be a few isolated cases it isn’t the rule or the norm yet.
Part of this is – despite the numerous workshops, courses, experts and agencies that profess to support, educate or manage this – is the confidence and the knowledge to begin and I hope this has helped in some small way to prompt that thinking and so to conclude this perhaps I can quickly recap the key points.
In summary, to get a really solid and effective strategy together, its key that you do the research by listening to your key target audiences, reviewing and deciding which channels they populate and are active on, set the objectives and decide the performance measures that will provide you with the assurances that the campaign is delivering, create engaging and relevant content using the areas listed earlier as a guide and ally this to some great visuals and creative and go!
The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Gulf Marketing Review.