How can small businesses compete against 800-pound-gorillas? What can they do to gain a foothold in the hearts and minds of consumers?
Well, Kevin M Ryan and Rob “Spider” Graham purports that digital marketing and online advertising is the answer. Targeted at small and medium sized businesses, their book Taking Down Goliath acts as a 101 guide to the world of digital marketing, covering topics like email marketing, online advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, mobile marketing and more.
Touting itself as providing “digital marketing strategies for beating competitors with 100 times your spending power”, Taking Down Goliath is roughly divided into three sections.
We are first given an overview of the digital advertising world as well as techniques used in planning online campaigns. Next, the book digs into the different digital advertising options. This is concluded by an appendix interviewing “Davids” – individuals who championed digital marketing in smaller challenger businesses.
The World of Digital Advertising Campaigns
Critiquing the “one-size-fits-all” used by Goliath advertising on traditional channels, the authors proclaims that digital advertising allows marketers to “speak directly to the people who most want to hear what they have to say”. Through digital channels, marketing is no longer one of interruption, but of listening carefully to one’s potential customers and conversing with them.
In planning for your digital campaigns, there are three areas worth nothing.
1) Six Stages in Digital Advertising Campaigns
In developing a digital ad campaign, we should consider the following cycle:
- Set campaign goals/KPIs
- Identify and reach target consumers
- Define campaign messages
- Determine campaign media channels
- Measure campaign results
- Optimize campaign approach/parameters
Details of each step above are covered throughout the rest of the book.
2) Digital Campaign Goal Setting
In establishing digital campaign goals, there are usually two diametrically opposite campaign objectives:
- Brand awareness: to introduce consumers to a brand for the purpose of having them remember that brand in future;
- Direct response: to persuade consumers to take a specific action, such as calling a phone number, visiting a dealership, or interacting with something online.
Once this is established, suitable KPIs can be established. They include total sales, campaign ROI, conversion rates, cost per lead, cost per sale, revenue per click and so on.
3) Online Audiences and Marketing Messages
Knowing who we’re targeting online is key. The two key drivers of human behaviour are to avoid pain/loss or to maximize pleasure/gain.
Messages must also be differentiated between Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B) customers:
- B2C messages are driven by offers that communicate a sense of well-being, convenience, security, productivity/increased significance, exclusivity, continuity, positive social sharing or possibility.
- B2B messages should answer pertinent business questions like the following: How does this solution help solve a business problem? How does it provide a competitive advantage? Will it help the company to be a market leader? Does it increase performance and productivity?
Digital Advertising and Marketing Channels
Once we’ve got our campaign framework in place, we need to learn the unique characteristics of each digital channel and platform.
Digital Display Advertising
The core of online advertising, digital display ads cover the following:
- Rich media ads (interactive ads that play videos, allow you to download digital items or expand)
- Text ads
- Contextual search ads
- Advertorials/native ads (these are sponsored content usually on news or magazine media websites)
- Social media ads
To succeed, the authors suggested the following:
- Offer consumers a strong benefit statement
- Include a strong Call To Action (CTA)
- Ads should lead to a targeted/relevant landing page when clicked on
- Ads should be targeted to specific audiences
- Multiple creatives should be run to test a campaign (ie A/B testing)
Emails are considered the holy grail of digital marketing in today’s spammy media world. Here, we’re told to measure our email campaigns (deliverability, open rates, interaction rates, click-through rates), tailor emails to seasonal needs (eg holidays), and to personalise them as much as possible.
The perfect email has a recognizable sender, meaningful subject lines, and impactful messages that are KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) compliant. Email lists should best be organically created as a best practice in permission marketing. Finally, we need to be mindful of government legislation on consumer privacy (eg CAN-SPAM in the US or Privacy Data Protection Act in Singapore).
Search Engine Advertising and SEO
Search marketing covers two aspects: search engine advertising and Search Engine Optimization (better known as SEO). In creating paid search ads, we should consider the following strategies:
- Start with a wish list of keyword categories
- Do a competitive and cost analysis for those keywords
- Select the right keyword tools and search marketing provider
- Optimize text and creative, integrate with data, report on outcomes, analyze outcomes, test, and repeat
- Avoid keyword stuffing
- Capitalize on the mobile advertising opportunity
For SEO, we should avoid working with web spammers soliciting large quantities of links or other “black hat” SEO practices. Instead, we should embrace the metaphor of “planting a garden” and do the following:
- Audit existing web pages and create road map
- Seek input from all stakeholders
- Evaluate internal resources needed
- Combine data from all benchmarks
- Redraw road map and prioritise tasks
Social Media Marketing and Mobile Marketing
In the exploding world of social media, marketers should pay heed to what consumers are saying on social media networks. To “market without marketing”, they can consider:
- Setting up Google alerts and monitoring blogosphere for company name, brand names, executives, etc
- Contacting bloggers or journalists who mention brands either positive or negatively, and thanking them or refuting negative comments respectfully
- Use a dashboard like Tweetdeck to monitor twitter feeds
- Track social media presence using tools like Klout, Hootsuite, Addictomatic or others
Considered a platform rather than a channel, mobile devices are the preferred means of engaging the web. Mobile marketing best practices include:
- Defining and delivering what mobile audience most wants and needs
- Targeting audiences based on specifics like demographics, psychographics and location
- Creating mobile responsive websites
- Taking advantage of search to provide utility for mobile users
- Engaging consumers in mobile platforms, eg point-of-purchase opportunities like exclusive coupons, additional information, digital downloads or add-ons, an in-store or website scavenger hunt, and more
Are You a Digital Marketing “David”?
Tucked away in the Appendix section of the book, the authors provide profiles of different “Davids” in various industries who share their insights in digital marketing. While mostly anecdotal in nature, these narratives give us a fly eye’s view of the real life challenges and issues faced by digital marketers in start-ups, medium sized companies, and challenger brands.
Overall, Taking Down Goliath provides more of an overview of digital advertising rather than an in-depth digital marketing guide for emerging businesses. Written in a conversational and friendly manner, it is a fairly breezy read. While most of its insights are not new to those schooled in digital marketing and advertising, they may be relevant to start-up bosses or corporate managers who want to understand and apply digital advertising in their businesses.
Are you a Digital David? (image courtesy of Forbes)
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