• Online Media Marketing: Simply Complex!

    One of the important aspects of marketing is choosing the right channel to effectively connect with the target segment. With the advent of internet and rapid growth in its penetration (as per the latest statistics there are around 2.2 billion people worldwide on internet, with a sharp 31.2% jump in the increase of internet penetration from the last year and an astronomical growth of almost 500% since 2000), the marketers have a new channel to ponder over. With such a large population on internet, with considerably better purchasing power than those who are not, it becomes one of the most important consumer touch points. Its often talked about as one of the most efficient ways to reach the target segment as extensive data about the profile of the visitors is available with the websites which is often shared in the public domain as well. The down side of it is that there are so many ad-pricing models, networks, sites and modes of online media marketing that selecting the right place and the right mode assume great importance. A bigger problem is to arrive at a set of metrics to evaluate the marketing campaign.

    The objectives behind the online marketing efforts could be many. For the e-commerce companies for an instance, selling goods and services online, the primary motive could be to drive quality traffic eventually resulting in more sales. In case of a brick and click company, the objective could be to increase the brand visibility in order to promote offline sales and/or to drive traffic to the online portal to increase online sales. For a brick and mortar company, it could be all about engaging with their target segment effectively in order to reinforce brand equity, or increasing the brand visibility to improve the top-of mind recall.

    There are different modes of online media marketing. Some of them are search engine marketing (Google Adwords, Yahoo search etc.), ads placed on ad-networks or directly on the site, ads on youtube, social media marketing (ads/pages on social networks like facebook, twitter, linkedin, pinterest, etc.). Marketers are also increasingly choosing non conventional marketing techniques these days over the conventional ones. For example McDonald’s tied up with Zynga’s hugely popular game Farmville for a special McDonald’s farm in the game. Online media marketing is not just restricted to big companies now, and even the small local businesses like restaurants, spas are also readily trying to leverage the internet phenomena. There are a lot of small businesses bidding for Google Adwords, buying the ad-space and many of them are even partnering with deal sites like Groupon, Snapdeal etc. to drive footfall in their shops. Almost all maintain their Facebook page as well.

    Though the online media marketing undoubtedly is one of the most efficient ways of targeting the desired segment, the processes involved in realizing these gains are equally complex. Many companies, in the recent past, have reduced or completely abandoned this channel because of the poor gains. For example, automobile major GM stopped ads on facebook as they couldn’t really justify this marketing expenditure vis a vis the increase in footfalls in their showrooms or increase in conversions. They still decided to continue with the Facebook page though, where they could host content and engage with their prospective customers without having to pay anything to the Facebook.

    There are many issues plaguing the marketers while working on the nuances of the online marketing campaign. But the three major issues are:-

    CPM vs CPC vs Everything else
    Most of the online marketers grapple with the question of which ad-pricing model to choose. The most popular ad pricing models are CPM & CPC. For the uninitiated, CPM is Cost per 1000 impressions and CPC is Cost per Click. If you think you have an awesome product, and the content of the ad placed on the site is equally awesome which could give you a healthy Click through rate, you should most definitely choose CPM. On the other hand if you don’t want to take any chances, and would like to quantify your risk to some extent one could go with CPC (independent of the CTR as you pay only if somebody clicks on the ad). Some of the sites also have a model where you could advertise paying a lump sum amount for which you get the ad space for a fixed period of time. Zomato.com, basically a restaurant review site, gives out ad space under such a pricing contract. Then, there are other sites like Groupon, which let the small business advertise (through offers, discounts etc.) based on Cost per Acquisition basis i.e the company or the shop-owner would pay only if they acquire a customer.

    SEM vs SEO
    Search engines usually constitute a large percentage of the referral traffic to any site. When you search something on google, you would have noticed sponsored links at the top of the search results and text ads on the right side of the page. As a marketer, you would ideally want your website’s link to appear either as a sponsored link or as a normal link, for all the searches even remotely connected to your business. For example, while marketing Snapdeal online, you would want your site to be part of the displayed results when someone types deals, or offers, or phones, or restaurants, or snapdeal, or Crazeal.com (a competitor’s site). There are two ways to achieve this, either you go for Search Engine Optimization, where your site is optimised for all the related keywords, or you opt for Search Engine Marketing. In the latter case one has to bid for the keywords (in case of Google the keywords would be called Adwords) ,and still has to do a bit of optimization for the site to have a good quality score. Quality Score multiplied by the bid amount would give you a rank, and it will form the basis of the order in which your site is displayed in the sponsored search list.

    Bidding for ad-words could be a little tricky. The relevant ad-words are priced at ridiculous amounts because of the intense competition. For businesses where the price/unit is less and the order size is less, for example, for a website selling a tshirt priced at Rs.200, with the order size most of the times being 1, advertising on google may just take away all the margins. On the other hand, if you decide not to advertise and the other companies do, then also you are losing out on an opportunity to generate leads which may eventually result in lower sales. I believe for a company to achieve some gains out of search engine advertising, it needs to cross a certain threshold of sales, with a large portfolio of products, giving you an opportunity to up or cross sale. Also, SEM through Adwords could be the best option for creating buzz and driving the traffic to the website in the short-term, but in the long term SEO is a much more sustainable solution.

    What to measure?
    A huge problem with online media marketing is to arrive at a set of metrics to evaluate the ROI for the dollar spent. For an e-commerce website, it is much easier as they can just measure the quality of traffic coming to their site, and also have the advantage of tracking conversions through various applications available. But for a brick and mortar company, like GM, it becomes extremely difficult to track the conversions or lead generations via online marketing. The problem becomes even more pronounced for social media marketing which many think should be a place for engaging with the target audience and should not be evaluated for conversions or referral traffic. Evaluating this engagement or rather quality engagement is equally difficult. No doubt Facebook gives you Insights, which throws at you a myriad of metrics, but these metrics in my opinion evaluate perceived engagement and not the actual engagement.

    Marketers want more people to like the page, so that they could push the content on them, and in process create engagement. And hence a popular metric used by most of the companies is the “number of likes”, but then the moot question is “what does a like signify?”. At times, people like a particular brand, and hence they like its page, but many of them do not want to be bothered with the ‘content’ that is forcefully pushed on them. Some discontinue and the others just ignore. So, there is no guarantee that the likes actually translate into true fans. A good way of figuring out the effectiveness of the campaign (increase the likes) is to see whether the increase in the number of fans has resulted in proportionate increase in the engagement/post. In most of the cases it doesn’t because people may ‘like’ the page for various reasons, and all these likes may not be synonymous to ‘fans ’per se. Hence, along with the “change in likes”, it would be better to track changes in other essential metrics with respect to the “change in likes”, in order to keep a track of the quality of likes generated, and hence the engagement.

    As can be seen from the above mentioned dilemmas, one has to be extremely careful while choosing the right mode, the right pricing model and the right metrics to use online media marketing effectively. And even after doing all of it, the jury is still out on whether one can be assured of realizing handsome gains.

  • Launching Businesses on Facebook: Just another fad?

    Entrepreneurship is essentially about two things: Identifying a need/gap and fulfilling it satisfactorily. With the advent of social media the latter has become a tad more convenient to pull off. This is because social media has connected the entrepreneur with his TG like never before. Every once in a while, we all come up with ideas that we might want to work upon. However, we usually end up discarding them simply because till some time ago, it required a lot of time & capital: Office space, employees, promoting to target audience. However, now it only takes a Facebook page if you want to offer a service or a customized product.

    So how does it really work?

    The Obvious: You need an idea or an expertise in making a product or providing a service, which has a market and, you should be able to do it better/cheaper than the competition. It could be selling apparel, a service offering, special discounted deals, or some niche product that people would like to have custom built, etc. The possibilities are limitless. Since you’ll be unknown to begin with, good quality and variety at reasonable costs would tend to be your USP.

    Engagement: A Facebook page that talks about your product is a medium for customers to interact with the owner as well as other customers. This is very important to build trust with the target base. Regular updates and engaging your audience is critical to the business. The same page could be used to take orders or direct prospective customers to an online portal or a physical location (store/office).

    Page Design: A well designed page with all the relevant information at the right place and a clearly specified buying process differentiates a professional from ‘Some friends just trying out an idea they think is cool’. You can connect your page to your personal account to provide more authenticity and friends and family tend to help in achieving some sort of credibility. This word of mouth publicity is most critical in building credibility for the brand.

    Facebook Ads: Well targeted Facebook Ads can also do wonders in at least getting visitors. However, this can be effective only after enough friends and friends of friends have already taken interest in your product/service. This is so because when a visitor lands up on an unknown page the activity generated by the existing followers is critical to his perception of the page and consequently the brand.

    Now comes the most difficult part – How to convert those visitors into customers? Making an online purchase from someone you don’t know and who isn’t a major Brand; and on top of that it’s for a product that you cannot touch or feel, that would account for a risky proposition. Even if the customer is sure that you will get the product to his doorstep, he/she can’t be sure if it’s actually what they had in mind while ordering. However, if a critical mass is reached that is enough people are visiting/are active on the page then even a small conversion factor can lead to a sustainable business.

    This conversion from visitor to a customer is the single largest roadblock in converting an idea into a successful online business. Below are some of the ways that I believe will improve the chances of conversion:

    An opportunity for the target audience to meet the owners and probably see some samples. This could be a small exhibition in the city where demography matches the target audience. After creating enough buzz if some of those visitors actually come down to see for them then the word of mouth publicity that they can generate can do wonders. Such exhibitions would be a small investment in building the trust required by a new business.
    A review or a recommendation section with people sharing their experiences of shopping with the respective firm. Buyers can be asked for a feedback and it can be published in a designated section on the page. The buyers profile can also be linked upon their consent to make this an even more transparent shopping experience.
    Payment methodology is another roadblock. Cash on delivery is definitely what customers might look for but small businesses might be reluctant in starting with this mode of payment. However, getting an account on a payment gateway (there will be a small fee which might push the total cost biting into the small margins of these start-ups), might be a smart way to go rather than just an account number which might either scare off some prospective customers and others might just be too lazy to add the account. Many-a-time online transactions are impulse purchases and you should have a payment method which is quick enough.

    Facebook Success Stories

    Dial-a-book is a book delivery service based out of Delhi. ‘I Wear My Style’ is an attempt to make available apparels that are desired by women but are usually out of their budget. Creative India is an Advertising and Media Marketing firm based out of Mumbai. AdGlobal360 India is another marketing firm promoting its services using an online media. The last two by virtue of having an office space have a very different objective of using social media (getting leads). There are two models that we’re concentrating on:

    1. Take orders online for a standard delivery.

    2. Take orders for customized products/services.

    Once the business takes off, people seem to come back for more, it might be a good idea to launch Tele commercials. TVCs help a business cross the threshold that lets it become a mass brand as opposed to being followed by certain niche groups like it was done by Jabong.com.

    So is it just a fad or do businesses really thrive on Facebook?

    We’ve all heard about big brands using social media to create a buzz, but are small businesses able to engage the customers for long enough? Well I certainly doubt it. A lot of such pages and the products that they offer are many-a-time liked as well as desired but selling the products has been the problem across businesses. Businesses come and go but very few are actually able to create a healthy base of repeat purchasers who keep them in business. The consistency in quality and service is essential to ensure repeat purchases. A convenient shopping experience and the feeling of trust is what convince a visitor to make that purchase. Social media/Facebook page isn’t just a way to promote your business. It’s the face of your company and needs to be responsive 24X7. Therefore this should be managed by someone who’s well versed with the company’s vision and is capable of interacting with people in an appropriate manner. Social media campaign should be integrated across various platforms with engagement methods suited to each platform. As the business grow, offline marketing campaigns would become indispensable.

    Useful Links:

    The businesses those were able to sustain the buzz

    Facebook tips for marketing

    Facebook apps for small businesses

    How to make your Facebook Page

    How are pages ranked?

  • No IDEA? Get IDEA!

    Most of us are familiar with “SIR JI” and this is a phrase that was taken to a new level by Idea Cellular Ltd. In recent years, IDEA’s Campaign themed ‘An IDEA Can Change Your Life’ has been one of the most successful ones and it never goes away from our minds.

    Some of the reasons for this astounding success are:

    Emotional and moral appeal of the idea
    Binds the consumer with an innovative Idea
    Strong recall value for the Idea cellular brand
    But along with these reasons, there was something more to the campaign. There was an Insight (which separated this campaign from a merely Good campaign and made it really successful. Any guesses?? In my opinion, it was the SIMPLICITY and REALISM of the idea. A great Idea is shown in every advertisement and it is shown to bring about a revolution, be it the village-wise polling ad, the communal violence, walk-when-you-talk or Use mobile save paper ad. All these ads were about solving huge problems faced by our country and it connected with the user because of the realism of the problem. The solution presented in the ad made you look up and wonder, “Oh! Can we really do this?” The Simplicity of the campaign can be seen in the way that the ‘brand Idea’ seamlessly comes into the picture and gives an innovative solution. It’s simple because we can see that a mobile phone really fits into the picture and is not forced into the advertisement. On a slightly different note, Can we actually solve the problem in this way? Now, that’s a totally different question altogether 🙂 . This was the case before the launch of language barrier ads some months back. Now, if you have seen those ads, and if you really agree to what I have written in the last paragraph, you would have an idea about the contents of the next section.

    The ad showed people using their mobile phone as a device for talking to people in other cities by getting their Ideas translated to their local language. They even launched a helpline for this which is accessible to everyone. If we again follow the criteria given above, that of simplicity and realism, do you really think it is realistic to talk like this and live your life even for a few minutes in this way by communicating over phone? Is this idea too far-fetched to be thought about in a country with over 25 recognized languages and innumerable dialects? In my opinion, Idea Cellular went a bit too far with it. It was not something that I would consider implementable. Though Idea Cellular deserves a bow for persisting with the same idea of ” An idea can change your life “.

    By following their policy of capitalizing on the recent happenings, they jumped on to the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) revolution which finally saw the light of the day. They came up with a campaign named “NO IDEA? Get Idea!”. Idea has come out with a bouquet of advertisements with some of them focusing on the functional aspects of superior Idea network, while other simply focus on the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and how easy it would be to switch to IDEA. So if we use the same criteria as above, these ads are addressing some very common issues like

    Customer care problem
    Network Problem
    Transparency in billing problem
    Retaining contacts on the previous number

    These issues are “realistic” and they bother everyone and IDEA has taken a good decision to focus on them. This makes the ads realistic and they have followed a strategy which does not complicate things and they put forward the idea in simple terms for everyone to understand, where you get high brand recall and ‘Sir Ji’ adds his charm to every ad. He truly brings about something special in every advertisement. All of the advertisements have an underlying tone of humor which is refreshing to see. There is a lot to learn from Idea’s campaigns for every brand and even Idea has returned back to its ‘successful’ IDEA. In a sector hit by corruption and mayhem, as larger players grapple with bad ideas and ministers, Idea seems to have better ideas. In my opinion, they have addressed some very relevant and realistic issues at hand and its success is going to match the success of their previous ads, or may be, even surpass it. The next advertisement sums up everything written above 🙂

    This has been, one of the campaigns after the decade-long Fevicol campaign which I always have at the back of my mind. In my opinion, it followed a similar structure. Similarly, we can see that same is true with Nestle Maggi which talks about the functional aspects and the emotional connect it has with the family. Cadbury’s DairyMilk is a brand which has come up with advertisements that are supremely popular because of the feeling they give when you see the advertisements and it talks about spreading happiness.

    What do you think makes Idea’s Campaign such a success? Which are the other ad campaigns that you always remember and what is the basic formula for making a campaign a success??