The problem is: how do you as a traditional marketer enter this brave new world, alive with opportunity as it is? This question is particularly valid in South Africa, where we still tend to lag developed markets by some distance when it comes to digital opportunities.
The first question a marketer needs to ask in this situation is: "How do I approach the opportunity?" Four obvious alternatives present themselves:
The campaign elements
- To take the task in-house. This is often the first consideration, and while some agencies are doing good work, the results are typically variable in quality and degree of success.
- To work with a traditional agency, which at least understands the offline world, and probably the imperatives of the client. In both this and the previous case, however, there is no clear understanding of technology and what it can do for you. Either the agency is too timid when a bold approach is called for, or it designs an adventurous but impractical approach.
- To work with a dedicated digital agency, which brings a deep and practical understanding of technology and how to maximise opportunities to the table. In this regard, it is best to strike a partnership, rather than a vendor-client model.
- For an agency and digital technology specialist to cooperate so as to deliver a complete solution for clients: in effect, the agency brings its client knowledge to the table, and the digital specialist its specific insights. This is in many cases the ideal model.
In putting together your digital marketing campaign, you need to consider two broad areas: paid-for, and "free", or not paid for. In the paid-for domain, your first consideration is to drive awareness, which is typically done through a mechanism such as banner ads. (These proliferate on sites such as MoneyWeb and ITWeb.) This is analogous to placing an advert in a publication, which means it is a discipline easily managed and mastered by a traditional agency.
As more and more people turn to broadband, so it is becoming a vital element of digital marketing. But you must understand why you are doing it - it's not great for brand building, but rather for initiating an action from a viewer or potential buyer, delegate or subscriber.
The key difference with banner adverts is that their effectiveness can be measured, and an advertiser will typically pay per click. This has both an upside and a downside: while the number and value of clicks can be measured, the cost per click is rising, and this can make such a campaign prohibitively expensive - some sites are charging up to R50 a clickthrough, which is not a problem if each click translates to business, but is if there is a low level of closure. This then places the onus on the client and service provider to introduce a stringent qualification process.
Another caveat is that Web browser plug-ins are hurting the banner ad market - in effect, these plug-ins allow users to bypass banner ads, in much the same way DSTV's PVR lets you skim past TV ads.
Still, banner ads are a huge and growing business, and that's because they do deliver value for advertisers - as long as you are hitting the right LSM! As with all advertising, you must always know whom you are targeting.Keyword purchasing
This has become a monumental business, especially in the US. This is the practice whereby you buy keywords and embed them in your website. In theory, as people search for companies, offerings, or service providers online, they will find you if you own the keywords (he who owns the keywords will lead the market).
A handy tip here: work with Google AdWords and Adsense, which can South Africanise your content - and help drive income through revenue sharing.
Some of our clients are enjoying a steady stream of cash each month, although, as always, there is a caveat: if your website is a commercial one, you could end up cannibalising your own revenues!
Positioning, of course, is critical, and this is certainly something traditional agencies excel at. An agency might help you position your website in such a way that people make their way to it; now, what happens when someone clicks on your banner ad and is drawn to your website? Are you enjoying the desired outcome?
Given the cost per click, you need to be able to qualify the clicks, using a tool such as Google's Website Optimizer.
With these aspects as a foundation, you can now start to drive an integrated marketing campaign. Here you will definitely need the assistance and guidance of digital experts to do this. The ideal is to build a community of like-minded people who gather together on the Internet of their own volition, because they discern value in the community. Facebook is the benchmark here.
As an example, we are building a birthday system for a consumer-oriented client which sells soft drinks into the upper end of the market. The exercise involves branded e-mail being sent out to friends as a free service - but this kind of opportunity is rare, and before you invest significant amounts of cash, you need to involve experts who can guide you as to whether it will work or not.Free options
These are some of the paid-for options that can form your digital marketing campaign. Let's look at the free options.
- Organic search engine ranking. This is all about search engine optimisation, which is a complex area and wide open in South Africa. In effect, it's about building your website in such a way that you obtain better results when people enter a search string in Google. (And Google really is the only search engine you need to worry about: the others, such as Yahoo and MSN, have been marginalised.) You must persuade Google that yours is the best website for a specific requirement, and you need to do it subtly and carefully, as Google's algorithms will bounce you to the bottom of the rankings if you use a heavy-handed technique such as excessive repetition of keywords imbedded in your website. Quite simply, it is so easy to get it wrong with search engine optimisation that you are well advised to recruit the services of an expert in this field.
- Viral marketing. Another "free" option, this is to a great extent the Holy Grail of digital marketers. Viral marketing is the concept whereby people obtain so much value from a website that word of mouth rapidly spreads, and in no time you have a hit on your hands. Facebook is the benchmark here. But it's very much like Hollywood: despite years of experience, who knows what will be a hit? The key here is to give visitors so much value that they will be persuaded to return and tell all their friends and colleagues about it.
- Blogging. Blogs can be viral in nature, and they need a few words of their own. Blogs are also prone to hit and miss, but if you get it right, you can drive a lot of people to your messaging. Blogs can also be damaging to your brand, especially when a credible blogger posts something negative about your company and its products. Every digital marketer must have a strategy around blogging: proactive and reactive.
There must be a mechanism for tracking, managing and responding to blogs. Consumer activism on the Internet can be really dangerous, as buying decisions are frequently made through word of mouth.
Finally, you will need a way to measure success in terms of your digital activities. Obvious measures are how many clicks or impressions you enjoyed; how many people registered for an event; are how many clicks were converted to sales. It all depends on the key metrics in your business.
It's a daunting journey, and one best taken with someone who can help guide you through all the potential traps and pitfalls.
Cambrient is a leading content management company in South Africa. Offering both services and software products, Cambrient is the most experienced local team in the industry, with almost 10 years' experience in the field. The company has an extensive and excellent track record in servicing many small and large companies in the country - as well as some significant international customers. Cambrient owns and manages its own software intellectual property, and has put in place a suite of products over the past five years which are regarded as world-class. Its product suite includes a powerful content management system for large and medium organisations, as well as a business process management system, on which most of its large projects are based. Services include a full spectrum of consulting services, project management, and website and Intranet development. Cambrient believes in making a difference to the lives of end users, and its systems are designed with this in mind. Whether it's the software the company develops, or the advice it offers, Cambrient understands user needs when it comes to content management. The business is 100% privately held, and is based in Johannesburg, South Africa.