The challenge of digital marketing

If you still have any doubts about whether you need to take your business into the complex world of digital marketing … read on!

WORDS By: Karel McIntosh
Director of Training & Marketing at Livewired Group
Published in CONTACT Magazine


 

Digital marketing has been part pariah, part mystery, in boardrooms across Trinidad and Tobago since its inception. To some extent, it still is.

But significantly more companies have been hopping on the bandwagon. Why? Firstly, there’s peer pressure – almost everyone is using it. Secondly, brands go where people spend their time. And then there’s the main attraction – cheaper advertising costs than traditional media (music to the finance department’s ears).

Whatever their reasons may be, it’s the right move to make.

 

Follow the people

Trinidad and Tobago has 770,000 monthly active Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 65, according to Facebook’s data. Sixty-one per cent of them use Facebook every day, according to 2017 research from Hootsuite, one of the planet’s largest digital marketing automation tools. And the figure may have increased since then. So it makes sense to use social media.

Reaching the right audiences in the right place at the right time has always been at the heart of marketing. Today, that means reaching them on the internet.

The term “digital marketing” covers all efforts that use an electronic device or the internet. Your digital marketing mix can include anything from your website, text messages, digital ads, e-mail and mobile apps, to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media is the component that most local companies use. Not many have apps, but most have at least a Facebook page.

 

Digital marketing maturity

Surveying Trinbago’s social media landscape will take you from big brands like Massy, ANSA McAL, Unit Trust, Courts, Carib, and AA Laquis, to SMEs like WrapWorks Deli, TCJ Events, and Amara Organics.

The industry is growing up, but digital marketing maturity varies across brands. Some companies are adept, while others struggle due to limited vision or resources. New features and algorithms are rolled out almost every month, and businesses are challenged to keep up, or lose traction.

Robert Green, CEO, TTMF Company. Photo courtesy Robert Green

One company which began using pro-social media early, in 2009, is the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company (TTMF).

“We started with Facebook, which was the fastest-growing platform, and saw immediate success,” says Robert Green, TTMF’s CEO. “Our base grew and customers were engaged – commenting, posting, giving feedback. The next step was to explore other platforms: Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube – all of which are now part of our marketing strategy.

“Social media has significantly increased brand awareness, it is cost-efficient, and it provides us with data on its usage so we can better communicate with customers.”

TTMF is not alone.

Big brands like Carib (beer) and Massy Motors, and SMEs like WrapWorks Deli, have been leveraging digital marketing for greater gains.

“Social media has played a critical role in improving the health of our brand,” says Antron Forte, Marketing Manager at Carib. “It has allowed our campaigns to become full 360-degree campaigns, with social media as the glue that connects everything. It’s a vehicle to share messages with consumer segments, and it facilitates engagement and feedback.”

 

Make data your friend

Aligning creative content, audience reach, data, and business and marketing strategies, is key. One small business which is blending digital and social media effectively is WrapWorks Deli.

“From day one, I realized that to reach my target audiences, with the most bang for my buck, I had to leverage social media in tandem with other forms of marketing,” explains Gerard Edwards, owner of WrapWorks Deli. “The ability to reach new customers, and engage with existing ones, all using self-explanatory tools, is what makes digital and social media marketing so powerful.”

Edwards used data insights, gleaned from WrapWorks’ social media channels, to get a reality check about his business and which marketing areas to scale up or down. Based on this, and to improve customer experience, WrapWorks created a mobile app for orders and curb-side pickups, and promotes the app and daily specials with digital ads at a scale he could never have afforded via traditional media.

 

The content challenge

Brands can use digital tools, but if they lack creative, strategic content, they will underperform. Many still need to dramatically improve their content. Marketers are overwhelmed by social media’s appetite for content, and some sidestep the challenge.

Natalie Karamath, CEO of Massy Motors, embraces it. “In the past, traditional media led to the generation of static campaigns,” she says. “But now campaigns are evolving, and companies have to rise to the challenge of finding engaging content.” Brands have to ask themselves, “What would customers like? Am I adding value, or am I just bombarding them with ads?”

The inability to produce helpful content isn’t necessarily due to laziness. People struggle to create quality content consistently – especially when the department is understaffed, or they’re subject to the whims of executives who don’t understand social media, or there’s no budget for visuals, or they have tight deadlines and no wiggle room.”

However, brands can manage this better by creating a content ratio, using automation tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, or Sendible, and using design tools like Canva.

Using a content ratio that balances brand building (e.g. tips and corporate messages), and sales activation (e.g. deals and promos), will give audiences value. It builds long-term growth, while generating the short-term sales spikes required to meet quarterly goals.

 

Courting algorithms

Businesses need to be adept at navigating algorithms and the content they like. Facebook, for example, favours native video. Video ads also cost less than image ads.

Karamath agrees. “We can produce and air content at a lower cost than on television,” she says. “Visual content is so much more appealing than text for so many of our customers.”

Of course, social media isn’t without its risks. Internet trolls and unverified rumours move quickly, leaving companies scrambling to put out fires. “There are many times when followers make assumptions or post incorrect information,” Karamath explains. This is why businesses must hire trained people to manage their digital networks. Customer response requires not just agility, but also nuanced strategic responses.

 

The future

Despite its risks, digital marketing is here to stay. And it is forcing marketers and entrepreneurs to become business strategists. With its built-in steps for measurement, they have to connect the dots and prove results. And as long as brands improve their content and strategies, leverage data, and build better service systems, they are on their way.

 

 

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