The Search for the Mythical Marketing Job

Everyday I tend to receive quite a few LinkedIn requests, and besides the usual assortment, there is a rise in the number of requests pertaining to jobs and potential vacancies, and not only from within the country but externally as well.

For most Marketers right now, the profession is going through a low period, with many executives and professionals on the lookout for new opportunities mostly due to redundancies.

Marketing is a sensitive profession, and by that I mean it is a field which acts as a barometer of the overall economy. When business is good or on the uptake, there is an increase in demand for marketing professionals who can create a demand, brand awareness and overall promotion of a product due to higher disposable incomes; and vice versa when the economy is not so great, marketing is one of the first fields to be impacted. This is not to be confused for Sales, which is a different job function. In fact, with fewer marketing professionals in an organization, there is an increase for ‘sales’ professionals, where the idea is that direct selling would be more effective in moments of financial straits, especially since it is seen as direct action, and execution. This is a logic, I have not be able to come to terms with. Marketing is for awareness, which acts as a catalyst for sales. With limited awareness, the sales cycle is longer and increasingly dependent on return business and direct referrals. In fact in moments of reduced business, an increase in marketing expenditure and the retention of marketing professionals is exactly what is needed to keep a business afloat.

There is also an underlying logic, that costs can be reduced by letting go of management and senior management, which on paper is definitely true. But the twist is that, these management positions are ‘downgraded’ and replaced by executives, coordinators and junior staff to do the same level of work, in the same capacity with less resources, not just monetary but with less experience and knowledge as well of what needs to be done. Most professionals at this level, are either still learning or used to following direction. So is this the best direction for growth? I am not sure. But in saying that, I have to make a point that I do know some exceptionally talented executives who do an amazing job of keeping the department afloat and who know how to get things done.

There is also another trend where jobs are being ‘outsourced’ to agencies, while retaining coordinators to well co-ordinate. This seems like a sensible option, where you can get the best of both worlds. However anyone who has worked with an agency would know, that while they are extremely talented, especially when it comes to execution, they require a certain level of direction especially when it comes to business priorities. So you do require people on client side who in tune with the business to assist in these activities or it maybe not the best use of resources.

I have been on the lookout myself for a new opportunity, have been on quite a few interviews, and met with recruiters but these are challenging times and it has not been easy to be placed. Below is some of the feedback I have received, as well as my out of my own experience.

There are few roles available in the market, but it is not very clear on the type of people required, so in short to sum it up, you are expected to be the director, manager and executive rolled up in one, but also at the pay level of an executive with the designation of manager. Now, I may sound like it’s all about the money, but it’s not. I love what I do, and am dedicated to my work, but at the same time you would want to receive a salary which is also fair, keeping in mind market and economic conditions of course. Due to desperation, there are a lot of senior management who are applying for more junior roles, so as to keep working. I can understand this, but this is used as justification or reasoning why you need to be ‘more flexible’ in your own job selection. Then is the actual role itself. There are ‘digital’ roles where you do traditional, events, PR as well as digital. This is quite a load. When I have asked why is this the case, the answer is that they want someone with a strong digital background hence the title, however you are still a marketing manager. Now digital itself is a full time job, especially, as true digital enthusiasts know it’s not just about marketing but the entire digital process. In my previous roles, I have been 100% digital and I have also been Digital with everything, and they both have their pros and cons. Being entirely in digital makes you extremely focused but you tend to lose sight of the bigger picture, while being involved with everything gives you better end to end control however you cannot go into as much detail as you would like. To be honest there are very few organizations which are looking for pure digital roles, while pure traditional roles are possible. And of course finally, to get placed in a company and organization you like, where you can grow and develop as well.

Now you might say, Fel, you’re in search of the Holy Grail but that was not the point of this post. As I mentioned I have met with several people & recruiters, some of told me what I was looking for was feasible, while others not so much. There have been instances where I so close to getting something I wanted and then it falling apart, while in some cases I got what I wanted but it was certainly not what I expected. The point of this was not to rant about the job situation in the market, but instead so you may have a better idea of what the actual situation is, and you can make your own decision on what is the right path for you.

Do you have any experiences which you would like to share?

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The consumer decision making process – Part 2

This is part 2 of the “consumer decision making process”

To review:

The consumer decision making process are the various stages a consumer goes through before they actually purchase a product, and includes: Need Recognition, Research, Evaluation / Comparison, Purchase and finally post purchase evaluation. The time between initial research and purchase is referred to as lead time. The lead time can vary between products and industries based on the cost, importance, emotional involvement of the product.

In the first part, I covered: Need Recognition and Product Research; which you can read about here: The consumer decision making process – Part 1

Evaluation / Comparison
In this stage, the consumer has now narrowed his options down to two or three brands and has to make a decision to purchase from one of these. Decision can not only be influenced by internal factors, but external factors as well, such as reviews and recommendations especially from friends. Facebook encourages people to check-in and leave reviews of different products or brands that you have experience with. Other industries  have other larger review sites such as Zomato for F&B or Trip Advisor for hospitality. These reviews can be shared onto Facebook to promote ‘good vibes’ of your brand. For others who are more price sensitive, it is at this stage that offers can be used to encourage purchase. Facebook provides an ‘offer’ ad type with a ‘buy now’ button which can be used to advertise an offer. In my experience however, a click to website ad type also works very well with offers as it is less direct and encourages people to find out more about the offer first rather than encouraging them to buy directly.
If you have your potential consumer’s email addresses, then a Facebook re-targeting campaign can be done to promote the offer to only those who were interested previously and visited the website. While an offer can be promoted to everyone, by being selective the conversion rate can be potentially higher.

Example – Emirates provides an offer with its Skywards points to encourage people to redeem and book – Now you need only half the usual number of Skywards Miles to make your next great escape. 

 

Purchase
Finally the customer is ready to purchase the product. This can be done on the website on in-store depending on the set up. Social Media can play a part of the purchase process in a few ways. The content to be posted in this stage is quite similar to Evaluation. This can be offers but with an added incentive such as a social media discount, or creating FOMO, or by re-targeting offers to previously interested customers.

 

Post- purchase Evaluation
Just because the customer has purchased the product that does not mean the process has concluded. In fact post-purchase is one of the most crucial stages as it determines whether your customer would be a one-off or a loyal one. While other factors such as brand, or product quality can have an impact, the company also has a role to play. Once the purchase is done, the company can follow up with them to check on customer satisfaction, they can actively encourage people to leave reviews on Facebook and to rate their product. While this can be a risk, in case of a bad product review, it does open an opportunity to engage the customer in solving their problems, get product feedback, replace the item if needed and get a positive review. In fact many people turn to social media to vent and voice their complaints if they are not satisfied. They might not always do this on the brand’s page, therefore it important to invest in a social media monitoring service which can pick up brand mentions from across any social channel giving the company an opportunity to engage and satisfy any unhappy customers, or find satisfied customers whom they can convert into potential brand ambassadors. Because of the dependency to use social media for customer service, brands must ensure they have adequate staff to reply to any complaints, or have a dedicated social channel purely for customer service. Well defined response times should be in place and monitored. Facebook now offers the ability to advertise and interested persons can reach out via Facebook messenger with any queries, if this is the case brands must be able to reply either in real time, or within 24 to 48 hours depending on the urgency and lead time of the product. Facebook provides analytics on response time, the number of messages received and the time taken to respond. All these can be used as KPI’s for customer service. If a customer is happy with their overall experience, they can be converted into loyal customers, which in essence means that, the next time they might want to pick up a similar product either they will stick to their chosen brand or skip the first two stages and go directly to evaluation and purchase, thus reducing the lead time and the time and investment required to convert a customer.

Example – If you see any Emirates Facebook post, their comments are filled with a combination of customer complaints as well as positive stories, yet they make sure that every comment is liked or responded to in a professional and orderly manner.

 

Once you have a better understanding of the purchase funnel, the next question is how would you determine on which stage your customer base is on. There is no clear cut answer to this question as the stages are not as clearly defined. People can move up and down the stages as they get more information or are targeted by more ads. Some industries tend to have distinct purchase periods, such as hospitality has a peak in winter and low in summer; others are consumed so often and quickly that they don’t have defined purchase periods. The more information you have the easier it is:

1) Sales data – look at previous sales data to determine peak purchase periods

2) CRM – your CRM will host customer purchase history, frequency of purchase, repeat purchases etc. all of which can be used to determine any trends

3) Google search – search trends can be used as an indicator of when interest in certain products starts to pick up. It is necessary to first conduct keyword research to fond the keywords associated to your product / brand, which can then be monitored.

4) PPC – If you are running PPC campaigns it can also be a very good source of information to map out your lead time. The keywords used in PPC tend to be across the entire funnel, from generic (which is at need recognition) to keywords associated with offers and sales (evaluation) to brand specific offers (purchase intention). The number of impressions of these keywords determined the frequency of the searches, so by therefore monitoring impressions over time, a time graph can be used to determine when customers go through the different stages.

It is important to keep in mind that the above is only an indication and would not guarantee that these are definitive stages.

The decision making process is an essential part of any marketing activity and is absolutely the most basic and one of the fundamental places to start when investing in a marketing plan and / or a social media strategy.

The consumer decision making process – Part 1

Someone once told me that social media is a branding tool and not a performance based one, this comment got me thinking; how many people do not include social media as part of their performance marketing strategy and advertising? or how many run social media campaigns as purely brand or strictly promotional campaigns? (i.e only promote offers) if so, they are missing on a few steps in the marketing funnel or consumer decision making process.

This maybe be old school marketing, or marketing 101, but the consumer decision making process are the various stages a consumer goes through before they actually purchase a product, and includes: Need Recognition, Research, Evaluation / Comparison, Purchase and finally post purchase evaluation. The time between initial research and purchase is referred to as lead time. The lead time can vary between products and industries based on the cost, importance, emotional involvement of the product. For e.g. a simple example would be as follows:

Short lead time – Grocery Shopping: there is a need for new grocery items such as bread, you would go to a supermarket, research multiple options (white, brown, wholewheat etc.), evaluate the brands and finally purchase; all within a very short span of time. If you are happy with previous selections then you would pick up the same one you usually do, that is called loyalty which is a product of consumer satisfaction.

Long Lead Time – Buying a car: When you decide to purchase a car, while the need may be transportation, other factors to consider would be size, style, budget, car loan, model, brand, insurance, servicing etc. the number of factors is a lot more and the amount of research and evaluation needed is a lot more considerable, as the investment is also a lot more significant (than bread), therefore the lead time itself would also be a lot longer.

Therefore if you are using social media only for branding (need recognition & research), and for offers (evaluation and / or purchase) you are missing on a few more steps.

Now let’s see how social media can be used throughout the decision making process. As an example I would like to use Facebook. Why Facebook? Well, besides being one of the largest and most well used social networks, I am a huge fan of its targeting options and pixel for analytics. Facebook campaigns tend to have a good success rate, but this is dependent on the targeting, budget and overall creative used.
Note: As instagram is also owned by Facebook, it will be included in this article.

So here’s how Facebook can be used on every stage of the consumer decision making process:

Need Recognition
This is the first step where the consumer realizes they have a need, which a product can satisfy. The need can be anywhere from basic, to psychological, or even self actualization (using a bit of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), so the industry your business is in would be to satisfy one of these needs.
Social Media’s has a very good ability of creating a need for an item which people did not know they wanted. This is based on the ability to develop FOMO (Fear of Missing out) in the minds of the consumer.  Facebook does this by showing you what pages your friends are interested in, what have they liked, commented or shared, which events they are attending, check ins and encouraging tagging for better reach. Marketers have been capitalizing on FOMO for a very long time, by encouraging people to “book first” or ‘be the first … to wear or own an item (for the trend setters)’, or ‘limited items / seats available’ etc.
Need recognition can be created by a company by posting pictures of their most popular or wanted products, or by showcasing how their product can solve a problem through a video and then promoting this video to your target audience, or by running / promoting competitions which encourage you to tag friends you would want to take with you. Good imagery and /or video combined with effective language can be used to develop a need.

Example – Emirates creates a need or inspires you to travel by showing stunning pictures of the various destinations they fly to – Hello Copenhagen

Research
Now that there is a need, the consumer will then start to research the multiple options and brands that available to satisfy that need, as per their requirements. The amount of time spent on this stage would be dependent upon how involved they are with the item. Social media can be used at this stage to highlight aspects of your product which you believe your consumer would use when decision making. This can be either its price, features, or any other factors that the consumer would evaluate. This content can be presented in multiple ways but not limited to: videos, interviews, infographics, trivia etc.
Social Media can be used to highlight all of the above either through organic posts or advertising. All posts should have links back to the website and actively encourage people to click and visit. By visiting they get to learn more about your brand and your company offering. They can be enticed to either subscribe or sign up, in order to capture their email address which can then be used in Facebook re-marketing. A click to website post type can be used to promote a product with ‘Find out more’ to encourage click throughs. A carousel ad type can also be used if there are multiple products or multiple features.

Example: Emirates showcases their award winning entertainment system which can be a factor for long haul flights – Thank you for choosing us as the “Best Entertainment” at the 2017 APEX Passenger Choice awards.

 

 

To be continued……

 

What is a social media strategy?

Strategy is a word which is thrown around a lot but what does it mean, especially in the context of social media.

Social Media Strategy is a combination of two factors:

  1. Understanding the functionality and how to use various social channels
  2. Knowing how to effectively use these channels to reach business objectives

Learning about social media channels and how to use them comes with time. There are plenty of free guides and tools available online which can teach any interested user in how to set up and use each social channel. Devotion of time and practice are essential to attain the goal of mastery for every social channel, however functionality is an evolving field, with new features being tested and released all the time changing the capabilities of the channel. However what does not change is the primary way in which people use these channels and that forms the basis of strategy.

Before you get started, it is important to keep in mind that your strategy is to fulfill a certain objective. So any action you do on social media would be towards fulfilling this. Therefore define the objective and the KPI’s that will be used to measure its success.

E.g. Build brand awareness by achieving 20% growth in social media followers by December 2017.

In this example, the business objective is ‘brand awareness’, social media is a tool to achieve this by increasing follower growth.

Firstly rather than jumping on social media because every one does so, it is important to find out which channels your customers use. You go to where your customers are, not the other way around. This is determined by age, gender, interests and country of your customers. Some channels are more popular in certain countries than others and have more of a bias towards certain genders and age groups than others.

Secondly, and I cannot stress this enough, is the importance of well planned content. Once you have your channels and they are all set up, the next step is knowing what to post. For some channels more than others, Facebook & Instagram, it is very important to be active and post on a regular basis, which can by anywhere from multiple times a day to a minimum of 2-3 a week. There is no magic number, but you would need to monitor engagement levels of posts to determine if multiple postings maybe doing more harm than good, after all no one wants spam, but having frequent content is also important as it not only increases brand visibility but gives your fans an opportunity to stay up to date and engage. This being said, it is not a good idea to post for the sake of posting. If content quality is poor then fans will automatically stay away. Good quality content is integral for engagement, and good engagement determines whether future posts will be shown on followers timelines and the frequency of which is will be displayed. Therefore it is always a good idea to have a content plan. Content ideas can be obtained from multiple sources:

  1. Your website – website analytics can reveal a lot of information about who your audience is and what kind of content they like. This can be gained by reviewing which pages are most visited, and the length of time spent on them.
  2. Your competitors – Follow your competitors and see what they post. Track how well audience engage with their posts which will give you an idea of what kind of content and style to tailor your content towards
  3. Trial – Lastly it is always a combination of trial and error. People change so your content will have to change adapting to their changing interests. Also you will not be able to please everyone all the time. Try targeting your content where possible, if you can’t then monitor how people respond to the content you post, which content they like and who likes it. This will give you an idea on how to tailor future content calendars.

Other content tactics which can be used include: using influencers, UGC, competitions, paid advertising, page boosts etc. All these are smaller tactics within your larger social strategy.

Thirdly, and lastly it is important to keep in mind that your strategy is constantly involving. Therefore you will have to make changes as you get to know your customers better, discover new customers or as overall business climate and objectives change. Being responsive is the key to any good strategy.

 

 

Brand Advertising: Why do we need it?

Every marketing plan that is actioned is to fulfill a certain goal or purpose. Mostly, it is for the business to generate revenue or to make a profit, which is the case of most businesses, however ‘performance’ driven activities are not the only way to make a business successful.

To explain better, a ‘performance’ activity, is along the line of a tactical campaign, i.e. to generate more business through lead generation, or online purchases via e-commerce. But not all marketing activities can be purely performance based, while it is the primary objective, as a marketing professional, it is important to keep in mind the marketing funnel.

At the start, the first objective should always be about generating brand awareness. Of course there are certain brands who are quite fortunate that they have considerable awareness and aspiration attached to them, such as Apple & Samsung in the mobile phone industry, but not everyone is so lucky, and even if people are familiar with the brand, it is not guarantee that the brand will make it to the consideration set of the consumer, which is dependent on the consumer’s budget, convenience, and other internal values and preferences.

So what is the best way to work with this?

Firstly, it is important to keep promoting the brand as well as the offers. This is essential because a brand is a lot more than it’s offer, and more importantly by promoting the brand regularly, you keep it in the mind of the consumer, which is beneficial especially if they are thinking of, shopping around to purchase your business’ product. But even if they are not, regular brand awareness activities keeps overall marketing costs down in the long run, as less effort and spend is then required to generate brand awareness before a major offer or promotion period coming up.

Secondly, brand awareness activities are also dependent on the actual product. Specifically the life cycle of the product, purchase cycle or frequency of purchase as well as the overall product cost. Products which have a high purchase point, require the additional spend for brand awareness. This is because, due to the high investment required, consumers need to be convinced not only about the offer but also about the actual product and the brand. This usually takes the form of a rational or emotional connection to the brand, which is essential and part of the product they are purchasing. Consumers need to be convinced about the value of the product and of the brand. The cost for brand awareness in these cases is often justified by the high returns through sales.
Products which have a predictable purchase cycle, make it easier to pin-point times of high sales. This can be determined by evaluating sales history to predict key periods. In between these sales cycles, the time can be equally divided between promoting the brand, followed by the promotion of any offer leading up to the high sale periods. This ensures that the brand along with the offer are promoted in time. By sticking to these sales cycles, more efficient use of budgets can be made maximizing on key periods only. For products who have short life cycles or whose key sales periods cannot be identified, it may be necessary to promote the brand throughout the year in small controlled amounts. This keeps the brand in the mind of the consumer without big pushes in key periods.

Third, it is important to consider what will be the message, or what exactly is to be promoted in a ‘brand campaign’. A promotional message, will feature the offer, what’s included in the offer etc. while a brand message, in essence talks about the brand. This includes the brand values, what are its main selling points, or unique identifiers, and what are the brand touch-points. These messages are important, as it is this message that emotionally connects to the consumer and justifies the brand value. Without a brand message, the consumer only buys into the actual product which can impact on overall loyalty in the long run. Consumers who tend to only purchase based on offers, are more interested in short term deals and will most likely switch to another offer or deal, unlike those who are invested with the brand.

But finally, for any marketing activity to be successful it is essential to have a combination of brand as well as offers, however this is dependent on the budget and the level of management support in the company. In cases where there is a restricted budget and / or management requires you to do more performance based activities, all hope is not lost. There are other channels to be used for brand related promotion, two such being PR & social media. Both these channels are excellent for story telling, and brand stories, and also are good and engaging channels through which to connect to the consumer. While normally these should ideally be part of the marketing mix, the usage levels would change as part of your overall strategy.

So all in all, it is important to run brand as well as performance activities for a successful marketing campaign.

Campaign: A definition

If you’re in marketing, there is a term which is, thrown about quite often and quite loosely and that is ‘campaign’. Everyone in Marketing & Communications seem to be constantly running campaigns, however I feel that it is better to take a step back and first understand what a campaign really is.

According to Merrim – Webster, a campaign is defined as “a series of activities designed to produce a particular result”; as such it compromises of a series of actions or steps that implements your tactics that have come about in support of your overall marketing strategy.

So to further clarify, this is how it would be:

Example:
You are launching a new product on the market; therefore:

Business Objective: Increase Brand Awareness by X%

Strategy: Establish social presence for new product

Tactics: Set up Social media accounts and grow followers by x% and engagement by x%

Campaign 1: Run Social Media Competition

Campaign 2: Social Media advertising – Promoted Page

Campaign 3: Social Media offer

 

So from the above example it can be understood that a campaign is a specific activity, designed to achieve a set result. There can be one or multiple campaigns all to support a specific strategy tactic, however the main difference to note is that a campaign is to achieve a set goal, so it has fixed KPI’s associated to it, and runs for a set time frame.

Now if I was to take another example, for many Digital Marketers, search marketing is one of the first channels we turn to for advertising, more often SEM rather than SEO. It is always good practice to keep Google Ads on-going especially if it relates to the brand or generic level searches. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘brand campaign’, while it does support the overall brand, it is not necessarily a campaign as it is firstly on-going , usually throughout the year, and secondly there are no specific actions associated with it besides constant optimisation. The same goes for SEO, can it be defined as a campaign? Well…. while SEO can be done as a tactic (for a specific offer or promotion), usually keeping in mind the length of time it takes to optimise and see the results it is not always advisable, also the results of an SEO campaign is long reaching, so once optimisation stops, the results take some time to disappear from Google, therefore I would not define SEO as a campaign.

To clarify a campaign does not necessarily mean a short term activity, it is not the term but having a defined term which makes the difference. A campaign also does not focus on only channel but can also be multiple channels, offline and online, as long as each channel has a specific role to play and at the end there are specific KPI’s determined.

While I hope this post clarifies the use of the term,  the main purpose was to discourage the use of jargon when more simplified communication not only makes the activity easier to understand, but can deliver better results when they have more specific meanings.

What other words have you heard being used often and without a specific meaning?

 

 

Evaluating an Agency: A checklist

Now that you have selected an agency and started working together, how do you evaluate them and their overall performance.

Of course the most obvious one is their performance and delivery. An agency who does not perform and cannot deliver against set KPI’s would not be around for long. But there are other factors as well to consider.

But Performance does not just mean the achievement of KPI’s, you also have to look at end to end service delivery, or what I have put together as the 3 C’s.

  1. Consistency – or ‘Reliability’
    This refers to how trustworthy the agency is, and not only in their performance but whether they perform well regularly, or is it more unpredictable? There are other factors which can affect performance including the market, targeting, budgets etc. however this factor is purely on the agency.
    – How quick are they to action points?
    – Do they need detailed instructions? or can they be trusted to look after your best interests?
    – Is their performance regular? or do they have moments of peak performance followed by low performance sporadically?An agency should be consistent in their performance and if not it should be backed up by good reason. They should look after their clients interests and not be afraid to disagree or question plans. They should be pro-active to suggest new and innovative ideas and if left to their own devices can deliver results consistently.
  2. Communication – or ‘frequency’
    This refers to how easy and more importantly how often do they communicate with you. Is it just that weekly call to go over reports or is it more frequent where you’ll can discuss new happenings and strategy?
    – Who makes the first step in communicating?
    – Do they communicate only if there is something to report? or do they check in with you more frequently?
    – Do they follow up with you on any action points? os is it you doing the following up?It is vital that the agency communicates frequently and of items of value. They should not hesitate in providing updates, even if it is unsolicited. They should also be easy to get in touch, and get back to you within a reasonable timeframe. That being said, the onus is not only on the agency but also on the client. Communication needs to work both ways. You should keep the agency updated on any new happenings or events within the company, which can affect the strategy or can inspire new ideas. You should be easy to get in touch with and also follow up with the agency and get regular updates. Interest needs to be shown by both parties for effective communication.
  3. Clarity – or  Transparency
    This to me is one of the most important points. One of the most frustrating aspects I face in dealing with agencies is when they are vague in their communications. There is no clear indication given for what they are working on, or how they are working on your account. How is the budget being used and how do they account for the time spent by their executives?
    – Can they explain what they are doing and how they are doing it?
    – Are they vague or give ‘blanket’ explanations such as ‘we are working on it’?
    – Can they justify their actions or the steps taken?It is very important that the agency is honest in their communication. While of course they may be certain trade secrets they do not wish to share or a certain method to their madness, if a client requests for information this should not be withheld or for agencies to act superior in their knowledge. That does not mean that the client is always right either, or that an agency knows better. Both parties have important information and a different style of working so it is important to work together.

So this is just a small checklist of what I believe to be the most important factors (besides performance) in evaluating an agency. Of course no agency is perfect, or will fit all criteria. There will always be some limitations in either size, budgets, or expertise, but this should give you a general idea on what to look out for in a good agency.

Do you have any other items to add to the list? Or what is your evaluation criteria?