Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom?

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom

  • The MENA region is home to the second-largest mobile phone population in the world, but the region’s mobile advertising spend is the lowest among all regions.
  • Weak mobile marketing infrastructure – lack of smartphone penetration and mobile- and tablet-compatible websites – in the region is one of the key reasons for this dichotomy.
  • Lack of high quality (engaging) and Arabic content is the second key inhibitor to the growth of mobile advertising in the region.
  • However, with mobile advertising in the region poised to grow from $50 million in 2013 to $340 million in 2017, MENA brands that are able to get their mobile strategy right, and create mobile marketing infrastructure and content tailored to consumer needs will emerge as winners.

The MENA region is home to the second-largest mobile phone population in the world. As per the Global Media Intelligence Report by eMarketer, at 525.8 million, the Middle East and Africa had the second largest mobile phone population in 2013. This was way ahead of developed economies like North America and Western Europe (both had <350 million mobile phone users), and was behind only the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, which stood at 2.5 billion+, thanks to significant contributions from populous countries like China and India. In addition to the growing mobile phone users, smartphone users in MEA went up from 67 million in 2012 to 112 million in 2013, increasing the penetration of smartphones among all mobile phone users from 5.1% to 8.3% in the region.

However, despite a large and fast growing mobile phone population, MENA’s mobile advertising spend is the lowest among all regions in the world. While the region stands second in overall mobile phone usage, its advertising spend on the same platform comes last among all the regions. As a result, in 2013, the region contributed just $50 million to a global mobile advertising spend of $15.8 billion. That represents 140% growth compared to 2012 spending levels, but is far behind regional totals elsewhere in the world. North America, which has the lowest mobile population among all regions stood first with a >50% share in the global mobile advertising market. Even other emerging markets like Latin America ($150 million) or Central and Eastern Europe ($162million) outsized the MEA region on this metric.

Table 1: Mobile Phone Users by Region (Millions, 2011-17)

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom1

Source: Trendsmena, eMarketer

Table 2: Mobile Internet Ad Spending by Region (USD Million, 2011-17)

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom2

Source: Trendsmena, eMarketer

As puzzling as the above situation may seem, the reasons are not hard to find.

First of all, mobile marketing infrastructure – smartphone penetration and mobile- and tablet-compatible websites – in the region is not up to global standards. Smartphones support internet-based applications and are the basic platform required for mobile advertising; on the other hand, age old feature phones that do not support such applications are not conducive for internet-based mobile marketing and can only be used for sms marketing purposes. Now, despite its fast growth, smartphone penetration in the region is still a meagre ~8%, much lower as compared to other regions (smartphone penetration in the US is >60%).  This explains why despite the advantages of internet-based mobile advertising, SMS campaigns still remain the most popular form of mobile marketing in the region.

In addition, while MENA brands have taken to digital marketing on social media platforms like Facebook, most of them still lack websites that are compatible with mobiles and tablets. This is a major drawback since click-through rates (CTR), a measure of how well a campaign has done, are higher for mobile (0.5%) as compared to those for other digital campaigns (0.2%) in the region, as per mobile advertising agency AdFalcon.  The lack of infrastructure is also highlighted in a recent study by Deloitte & BPG, which found that majority of MENA brands are still developing the required infrastructure (responsive design websites, apps, e-commerce platforms, etc.) to market themselves on mobile platforms; as a result, the value of online advertising is 40 times higher than mobile in the region.

Chart 1: Mobile Marketing Infrastructure in MENA 

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom3

Source: Deloitte, BPG

Chart 2: Brand Lifecycle Stage in MENA

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom4

Source: Deloitte, BPG

Secondly, marketing content is not engaging enough, and the lack of Arabic content further compounds the problem. The Deloitte & BPG report also found that 80% of the brands in the MENA region who are engaged in digital advertising are still in the infancy stage of the brand lifecycle.  As a result, irrelevant banners and pop-ups dominate mobile advertising in the region, as brands are focused on pushing their content (products, services, etc.) to potential customers, as opposed to engaging them and building a global brand. Further, despite an Arabic speaking population of 350 million, only 3% of the global online content is in Arabic language, thus lowering the impact of such advertisements.

Despite the current situation, mobile advertising presents a great opportunity for brands that are able to get their mobile strategy right, and create content that is tailored to consumer needs. A report by marketing agency RBBi and Addictive Mobility, a Canada-based mobile advertising company, found that smartphone and tablet users in the GCC are six times more likely to “click through” to advertisers’ websites on their devices than their counterparts in the U.S., and >80% of these click-throughs were made via links embedded in online videos, while 3% came through advertising links on social media networks.

Leading experts opine that for MENA brands to leverage the above opportunity, mobile advertisements will have to move from irrelevant banners and pop-ups to carefully crafted ads that are in-line with the utility app that the consumer is using on his smartphone. To understand consumer preferences, brands will have to use consumer analytics and geo-location services, and create a different set of ads tailored to each target set. Further, mobile advertisements need to be short (20-30 seconds) and engaging in the form of a short video or a game, and should offer incentive to the user to click through.

With the mobile marketing spend in the region expected to rise from $50 million in 2013 to $340 million in 2017, brands that focus on the above aspects stand to benefit from the growth of the overall digital and mobile marketing market in MENA, as depicted by the case study below.

Case Study: Effective use of Mobile Advertising to Introduce the New Ford Explorer in Jordan 

Campaign Objectives:

  • Create brand awareness about Ford and it’s car models in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
  • Introduce the all new ford explorer along with its features in the local market.
  • Allow customers to contact the call center and visit the company’s showrooms in order to increase sales opportunities.

Duration: 3 week  | Mobile Marketing Agency: Ad Falcon

Methodology

  • AdFalcon Team designed a rich media ad in order to show case the Ford Explorer and its features using the latest approaches in mobile advertisements.
  • The banners were served on top of premium mobile apps and sites in Jordan targeting smartphone users only.
  • Once the users click on the Ford banner, they were directed to a rich media page that allowed them to view images of the Ford Explorer (interior and exterior), watch a video that demonstrated the new features of the vehicle, and a Click to call action button that allows users to choose the nearest showroom and contact its call center.

Impact

  • The campaign was able to generate 1,000,000+ impressions for the new Ford Explorer during the 3 week period
  • The highest click-through-rate achieved during the campaign was 0.39%

Source: Ad Falcon

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

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How to Run an Effective LinkedIn Campaign

How to Run an Effective LinkedIn Campaign

  • Social media marketing is the new norm, and LinkedIn has emerged as one of the best business-to-business (B2B) marketing platforms worldwide. With over 10 million LinkedIn subscribers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), of which over 67% acknowledge that LinkedIn helps them build relationships and drive new business leads, it makes sense to use the platform for marketing campaigns in the region as well. Here are some tips and live examples for MENA marketers to consider to ensure that their campaign hits the bull’s eye.

Define the target customer segment for your product or service on LinkedIn. Keep in mind that your target segment on LinkedIn may not necessarily be end-consumers and may not necessarily match the identified segment as per your previous sales. For example, the largest customer segment for your computer peripherals business may be students, but on LinkedIn, the prospective segment may be small scale businesses looking for low-cost computer set up. Similarly, if you are a brand manager at a cosmetics company, most of your offline marketing campaigns would be directed towards individual female users but on LinkedIn, the target would probably be different, say professional make-up artists and beauty parlor chains, so the campaign has to be plotted around them and not the end users.

Build your target list and create a targeted campaign using LinkedIn PPC. Once you have identified the target segment or group, you can use LinkedIn PPC (pay per click) which offers filters according to job title, function, seniority etc. Use combinations that work for you and get the most relevant set of prospects. You can then profile these prospects to design an appropriate campaign. LinkedIn offers several unique PPC advertising opportunities – poll ads, social ads, ‘Join Group’ ads, and video ads.

LinkedIn banner ads can be customized for specific audience. So, if you are targeting employees of a particular company, they should see your ad designed specifically for their company when they log on to LinkedIn. Your ad can speak about solutions to their issues, resulting in higher click-through rate (CTR). LinkedIn recommends creating about three to fifteen ads per campaign with varying headlines, call-to-action phrases and images.

Monitor the performance of your campaign and improvise. Track your results by directing your PPC ads to a landing page instead of home page to gather data about the leads. It will help in improvising on your advertisement for better traction. Further, keep track of the success rate of each ad and withdraw the ones with lowest CTR.

Choose the right mode of payment to optimize cost. Cost per Click (CPC) campaigns are better for lead generation purposes, while Cost per Impression (CPM) campaigns are better for branding purpose. You can optimize campaign cost by choosing the right mode of payment, as a LinkedIn campaign has to be worth the cost involved to be effective. LinkedIn offers two payment methods viz. cost per click (CPC) and pay per 1,000 impressions (CPM). The CPM mode of payment may suit for a branding campaign to get as many people to see your campaign while the CPC mode may be apt for lead generation campaign.

LinkedIn suggests a bid range depending on budget and the competition for ads from similar campaigns. Ensure that you bid within the range. Analyze when your target audience will most likely be online and bid higher during that time or day to win over competing ads. It will require a bit of trial and error to achieve an optimum bid and budget.

Use the Lead Collection feature to gather list of interested customers. LinkedIn offers a feature called Lead Collection where it allows people to ask for more information or to be contacted by your company via a checkbox at the end of your advertisement. You will be notified by email of such leads and also be allowed to promptly respond via LinkedIn InMail. Note that you will not receive any contact details of the leads.

Businesses having a niche target audience can use Inmails to market their value proposition. If your target segment is small and specific, you can also connect with them via Linked Inmail. The feature allows for extremely targeted messages delivered to exactly the right person through personalization. In fact, LinkedIn offers a “guarantee” on these messages.

Revamp your LinkedIn profile page for an expected rise in visitors. Showcase your offerings on your LinkedIn profile page, and ask for recommendations from satisfied customers, like Hewlett-Packard whose “Products & Services” tab features over 3,000 recommendations for nineteen unique products and services. It makes for the most powerful form of endorsement, word-of-mouth marketing, as recommendations from your own connections are highlighted.

Use LinkedIn groups to create a community for your existing and prospective customers. LinkedIn’s “Custom Groups” premium option allows brands to control the entire group page, including sidebar ads, polls, videos, blog integration, and other custom media.  This space is usually reserved by LinkedIn to show ads that the group owner does not control. The option is quite expensive, so can be used for short spells along with an offline campaign to give an instant push.

The best example of successful application of this feature is Dell Business Solutions Exchange LinkedIn Group. With nearly 8,000 members, the group is full of Dell’s most valued prospects, with over half of them being in IT and computer industries and maximum are in decision making capacity. While the group added 50-100 members per week, there were durations when the group attracted unusual membership, which is, most likely because of a simultaneous marketing campaign- offline or on another social network.

Case Study: Vestas, a world leader in wind energy and infrastructure space, used its “Energy Transparency” campaign on LinkedIn to reach out to carbon conscious corporations about the benefits of investing directly in wind energy, and promote Vestas as their partner of choice.

As part of its growth and expansion strategy, Vestas wanted to run a campaign that raised awareness of the brand benefits for companies that use wind energy, and to reach out to key stakeholders in specific companies to drive consideration for wind energy and Vestas as a preferred partner. So, the company commissioned two studies, the Global Consumer Wind Study in partnership with TNS Gallup and the Corporate Renewable Energy Index in partnership with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which found that that corporations are eager to source more renewable energy and also identified consumers that wanted products made with wind energy.

When the company decided to build a marketing campaign to target these customers, it felt that the conventional method of using the email campaign along with banner ads may not generate the continual effect, the kind they were expecting from the campaign. Therefore, armed with target audience and consumer preference research data, Vestas designed a LinkedIn campaign including:

  • LinkedIn Inmail- Personalized (regards to the recipient’s name and company name) InMail messages were sent to smaller set of prospects as compared to the overall campaign.  Each InMail had a link to a customized version of EnergyTransparency.com including company and industry information.
  • Customized banner ads: 400,000 employees of these corporations were targeted through banner ads placed in LinkedIn. In spite of standard ad used for each impression, the company created custom ads specifically featuring targeting company.
  • Custom Landing pages and microsites: It created custom landing pages and microsites with targeted content for each prospect. This allowed Vestas to deliver precise messages, offering real and specific insights to each prospect. It also allowed Vestas to capture accurate data on the interest level for the firms targeted and for the overall success of the campaign.
  • Adaptive design across platforms: Vestas used adaptive design to ensure an optimal experience for users receiving the campaign cross-devices including desktop, tablet and mobile.

Result: Vestas’ LinkedIn campaign was highly successful, as depicted by the results below.

  • 11 million impressions with a click-through rate (CTR) of 0.11 – 0.21% among targeted companies
  • 10,680 corporate executives, employees and key opinion leaders visited the site, averaging 7.02 minutes
  • High efficiency with minimal waste: 80% of targeted opinion leaders & 30% of targeted executives visited  the microsite spending an average of +8 minutes
Source: Arab Business Review Research, LinkedIn

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Thinking Small

 

 

Thinking Small

 

  • Marketing executives often look for that one big brand building activity that will catapult the company’s reputation into the stratosphere, such as names on sports arenas, pricey event sponsorships, and broad reaching brand campaigns.
  • But before you even begin thinking about investing in big ticket items, I recommend you begin by thinking small and invest your limited resources looking at your company’s reputation from the perspective of your current or prospective clients.
  • Go online. Do your homework. Encourage your team to do the same. Then document the results put a plan in place to clean up your online reputation before you start thinking big.

I am always surprised at the amount of money companies invest in brand campaigns while completely ignoring fundamental brand enhancing strategies that cost virtually nothing to execute.  I’m equally awestruck at the minimal attention paid to a number of easily accessed postings on web and social sites that if left unchecked can completely destroy a company’s reputation.

All too often executives look for that one big brand building activity that will catapult the company’s reputation (as well as their careers) into the stratosphere.  Names on sports arenas, pricey event sponsorships, and broad reaching brand campaigns are just a few examples of the big ticket plays that more often than not leave brand managers scratching their heads or worse yet, unemployed.  It happens time and time again.  Why?  We want to believe in the brand illusion. Like a mirage in the desert, many big ticket brand plays look like a much needed oasis in the desert from a distance. Unfortunately, and usually too late, when we reach that oasis it’s nothing like we expected.

I’m not saying that all big ticket brand building activities should be ignored.  Sometimes that oasis is just that – an oasis!  With the right research and insights, a brand manager can realise excellent returns on these investments.  But that assumes time and effort is invested in researching the opportunity and understanding the target audience prior to making the investment, a step too often ignored or underplayed.  It also assumes your marketing team knows how to leverage the event to extract maximum exposure and goodwill from the investment.

But before you even begin thinking about investing in big ticket items, I recommend you begin by thinking small.  Rather than send your marketing team or agencies scouring for some major event to sponsor, first invest your limited resources looking at your company’s reputation from the perspective of your current or prospective clients.  Start by simply going to Google and typing your company name. Look closely at what comes up.  Is it your company or some other brand? Also look at the paid search sections to see if any of your competitors are targeting you and how.  Now click on the news section at the top. What are reporters saying about your company?  Click on the articles and read the comments. Now click on the images.  What images are associated with your brand? Finally, go to the video section.  And once you’re done with Google, go to Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and as many of the highly visited and viewed social sites as possible. Do your homework and document the results.

Next, take the time to visit your own web site or sites and sign up for all of your own marketing and social media programs.  Add your name to all of your company’s contact lists.  Then monitor the quality and quantity of the communications you receive.  Watch your company through the eyes of your customer. What you’ll likely find out about your company may surprise you.

We went through this exercise and discovered numerous misrepresentations and misleading information about our company.  In cases where we signed up for our own programs, we discovered that nothing was being communicated.  Apparently our Marketing and Customer Relations Management teams were not communicating with each other so the events we were sponsoring, the ones in which we created cool web applications inviting guests to sign up and learn more, were actually doing more harm than good by creating an expectation that was not being fulfilled.

As we looked closely at all our findings, we also uncovered a number of difficult but true facts about our customer service that had been in our corporate blind spot for years.  We had always thought our company’s brand was second to none and that our customers’ perceptions of our company were nothing less than spectacular.  By investing a little time and almost no money, we discovered the true was far from our reality.

Immediately we jumped into action cleaning up misinformation and contacting companies that had incorrectly posted false images, videos or statements about our company.  Sometimes the effort paid off and sometimes it didn’t. Not every company or person we contacted was willing to work with us, but most were and we found the improvements we achieved in the quality of information about our brand to be well worth the time invested.

We also began formulating new practices and policies to improve our customer service to stay on top of future issues. We also connected our Customer Relations Management and Marketing teams and we improved our coordination with our customer relations and PR teams to resolve issues before they became viral problems.

This process wasn’t nearly as exciting or newsworthy as sponsoring a football league, which incidentally we also did, but it was probably the most important and least costly investment to ensure our brand building activities were structured upon a solid foundation.  Yes, big ticket items can provide big returns. But it’s the little things that too often go unnoticed that can have a negative impact to a company’s image and completely negate all of the positive equity that has been built through years and years of good brand building activities.

So my recommendation is to always start by thinking small.  Look at your company through the eyes of your clients and prospective clients.  Go online. Do your homework. Encourage your team to do the same. Then document the results put a plan in place to clean up your online reputation before you start thinking big.  I’m confident you’ll eventually find the returns of your big investments to be much better and less risky if you do.

The article is written by Don Romano for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Can Brands in the MENA Region keep up with the Oreo Moment?

Can Brands in the MENA Region keep up with the Oreo Moment

  • Creative agencies will need to collaborate more with content production groups to create standout real-time marketing for their clients
  • Crucial to any brands objectives is creating sustainable, engaging customer relationships and improving the overall experience of the customer  
  • In 2017 it’s predicted that 87% of spending in the entertainment and media industries will be allocated to digital media
  • New media is globally reshaping brand communication strategies which demand high quality content that is more cost effective and faster to create

Hot on the topic of conversation at the moment is creating that triumphant “Oreo Moment.” From the US to Saudi Arabia, brands are preoccupied with finding that one pivotal moment of glory in the new media space that grabs everyone’s attention. Are we ready to create standout real-time marketing in the MENA region?

With the help of content creators, the answer is yes. We’re living in an era where previously unsung content creators become the heroes, and will be pivotal in defining a new value chain industry model. Agencies will focus on collaborating more with content production strategists to ensure that the immediacy of new media can be achieved

Advertisers and marketers have realised the importance of human-to-human conversations with their audiences, regardless of whether they are businesses or consumers. Creating sustainable, engaging customer relationships and improving the overall experience of the customer is a critical objective. The consumer is captured by stories that make them feel emotionally connected to the brands they use. It’s now common knowledge that the most effective way to form that connection is through the use of visuals: an image, a video, a gif etc. By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer Internet traffic according to Cisco, whilst it’s common knowledge that almost half our brain is involved in visual processing.

As speculation gains traction that the old media industry will eventually implode, the future of content becomes clearer. Talking for the sake of talking, creating content that doesn’t ignite engagement or generate interest isn’t enough. Never has strategy been more important. Content management has to be driven by specific goals, a defined plan that addresses the meaning of success.

Content distribution has to be quick, relevant and impactful. Audiences across all media channels, social or otherwise, are bombarded with content which means only the salient brands will succeed. With the rise of free open source content readily available to all, the responsibility to communicate in ways that are authentic and interesting pose opportunities and challenges for all brands. It means that old ways of doing things has to be reassessed.

The amount of content generated on a daily basis on new media channels supersedes perception. Only campaigns with powerful ideas that are professionally produced carry across the right message to the right audiences, filtering through the algorithms that determine what type of content audiences are seeing. In 2017 it’s predicted that 87% of spending in the entertainment and media industries will be allocated to digital media.

The MENA region has an opportunity to focus on strengthening the quality of ideas and content created for new media channels. Campaigns should be produced with the same creativity and craft as traditional media campaigns. Content producers, such as stills and video production houses, will become more and more relevant as the region begins to adapt to real-time marketing models.

The media world’s paradigms are changing. New media is globally reshaping brand communication strategies and collaborations with content production strategists, to generate better content that is more cost effective and faster to create, will become more important than ever.

Source: http://www.pwc.com/us/en/industry/entertainment-media/publications/enter…

The article is written by Jesus Blanco for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

The Surge in Online Classifieds

The Surge in Online Classifieds

  • Recent data reveals that classifieds ads are migrating to the Internet. The number of printed classifieds ads in MENA is shrinking, while Arabic language online classifieds websites are booming. 
  • The shift to online classifieds has improved the experience of consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer selling and buying. It also created billions of dollars in value for start-up founders and their investors.
  • Globally, online classifieds is a business that is mostly local or regional, where global websites are usually of low value outside their geographical area. For this reason, the region’s homegrown online classifieds companies have high growth potentials.

If you like to get your hands dirty with an inky, fat and heavy print classifieds newspaper made out of dead trees on a Friday or Saturday morning, and circle classifieds that are of interest using that bold red pen, over a cup of coffee, then you must have noticed that the number of classified ads has shrunk. This is especially true in the autos and real-estate segments, as the volume of ads has fallen over the past couple of years and even more so during the last 12 months.

Where did the classified advertisements go? You won’t have to look far. Just pick up your computer or smart device, do a quick search, or download a regional classifieds app, and you’ll find all you’ve missed and much more.

Between 2000 and 2010, US newspaper classifieds revenue fell from $19.6 billion to less than $6 billion. In fact, today most cities in the US don’t have a classifieds print newspaper.

Europe did not need long to follow. A couple of years ago, France’s most iconic classifieds paper –which was the inspiration behind many of the classifieds prints in the Middle East– decided to stop printing. While we are yet to see leading classifieds newspapers in the region shut down, it’s easy to predict that this may happen in less than 5 years.

A look into the regional print classifieds industry reveals that business from classifieds listings has stopped growing 2 or 3 years ago, while most titles have witnessed 20 to 30 percent decline in revenues and volume of ads last year. This year seems to be following suit.

While this may be bad news for publishers who made a bet on print classifieds, and set a blind eye to the obvious shift to online classifieds, the migration of classified advertising to the Internet has been a win-win for all. This includes consumers, small and medium-sized companies, and online classifieds start-ups and their investors.  The shift drastically improved the experience of consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer selling and buying. It also created billions of dollars in value for start-up founders and their investors around the world, which made-up -multiple times- for the lost value in print classifieds. Despite starting mostly with a free offering, online classifieds have been able to prove their success in monetizing users infinitely more than print classifieds, in a far more scalable manner, and with much higher margins.

It is not an exaggeration that more than 50 percent of the 135 million Internet users in the Arab world rarely use a print classifieds newspaper. From a seller or service provider’s perspective, one can get immediate gratification and results by posting ads for free, or paying a small fee, to get premium exposure without having to leave the comfort of his couch or wait for the newspaper print date. For example if you want to sell your car or house, all you’d have to do is pull out your smartphone, take few photos, tick a few boxes, and boom, your advertisement would be online.

From a user’s perspective, spending hours going through print pages and circling ads, setting-up comparison tables, writing down phone numbers and waiting for next week’s edition for new options is now replaced by a sophisticated search that allows you to look for cars by brand, year, body type, fuel type, and price, get in touch by email or phone, and set-up alerts in case what a user wants is not available now, but could become available in the next minutes or hours. The same great experience applies to real-estate, jobs, electronics, services, and whatever buy/sell category you can imagine.

To understand the seismic nature of the shift that happened in the past few years, approximately 25 percent of Internet users in the Arab world have used online classifieds. This put the total audience of top regional classifieds websites at an estimate of more than 35 million users per month by mid-2014. This includes varying using habits from daily to weekly or more, which far exceeds not only the audience of print classifieds, but that of all print media in the Arab world –be it daily, weekly, or monthly.

On a country basis, a leading classifieds website in Saudi Arabia for example reaches 250-400 thousand users a day, depending on the day of the week, while the leading newspaper and leading classifieds weekly in the country prints no more than half this number on their best day. In terms of depth, classifieds websites usually have tens of thousands of postings per day, compared to a maximum of several hundred posts in the daily, and low one-digit thousand posts in weekly print classifieds.

Online classifieds have become so popular in the Arab world that in some countries the leading classifieds website is more popular than Facebook. This is the case for leading Arabic classifieds website OpenSooq.com, which is a leader in its category in several countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. With a simple, easy to use website and popular iOS and Android apps, OpenSooq is not only leading in countries that have mature online audiences, but also in countries where the number of Internet users is growing very quickly via smartphones, such as Iraq and Libya.

In expat-dominated countries such as UAE, Qatar, and Oman, English-language generic classifieds website Dubizzle has done well by focusing on business-to-consumer advertising in sectors such as real estate, offering advanced search functionalities, and a more elaborate user interface.

OpenSooq.com and Dubizzle are joined by category leaders who have focused on specific verticals, such as Propertyfinder, focused on real estate in the UAE, and Haraj, the undisputed leader in automotive classifieds in Saudi Arabia.

Globally, online classifieds is a business that is mostly local or regional, where global websites are usually of low value outside their geographical area. The sector is also usually one of the first categories to mature with emergence of regional leaders. This has been the case indeed in MENA, with the business leaders in online classifieds mostly being home-grown start-ups that are now valued at tens of millions of dollars. That’s just for starters, as they have tremendous growth potential ahead of them.  I’d advise you to keep an eye on this sector.

The article is written by Khaldoon Tabaza for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Business Transformation – A way forward to Refresh & Re-build the Market Positioning

Business Transformation

 

  • Continuously re-creating market positioning is a challenge faced by every organization in today’s highly competitive market.
  • Progressive organizations are able to deal with this on a pro-active basis, nut most others are unable to match their internal shifts with the fast changing external market dynamics
  • Therefore, ongoing and periodic business transformation is not only a good to have activity, but one of the most critical business driver today.

In today’s competitive era, every organization is facing the critical challenge on; 

“How to stay Competitive & continuously re-create it’s market positioning”? 

If I dwell into fundamental of this question, it gets started with the past success formula which itself can become bottleneck in staying agile or bring fresh perspective to organizational reality.

While a progressive organization is able to deal with this on a pro-active basis, quite a few organizations are almost hitting the “Death Curve” as they are not able to cope up with the external changes and lack speed of internal shift.

I have tried substantiating my perspective with a real case study … 

This company which has been into existence for more than 20 years, holding market leadership and has highest manufacturing capacity to serve the market demand. The earlier success had contributed in the company culture of working at the internal comfort and did not realize that in an external world “Go to Market” time has been reducing for any new entrant in the market.

This company was hit by the crisis as one of their largest customer turned into a competition. The situation had worsened when the departed customer had poached talented team members across the levels. The company’s other facts also had become a bottleneck like retaining internal resources, encourage employment opportunity in generations, operating from remote work locations, decision making time, & already built extra production capacity.

To deal with this near to death situation, company had to give a hard look to it’s current situation and draw a comprehensive transformational plan. They had to choose any one from the below two options:

Business Transformation-1

As they were known to build sustainable management practice rather than adopting the quick fix approach, they chose to work on the later option..

Business Transformation-2

The company had to build internal change team from various functional groups and the task force was led by one of the board member. The design and implementation of Business Transformation Framework was accomplished in 5- 8 months’ time frame.

The massive project ended on the following notes:

  • Company has started reusing 85 % of the capacity and re captured 8 % lost market share.
  • The company built it’s human resources with equal balance of home grown and vibrant fresh talent from outside
  • The new well-articulated competency framework has allowed to create two level back up for each critical position
  • Built internal organizational excellence team who will continuously focus on making internal business processes to keep it agile
  • Resilience has been ingrained as part of the DNA in organization culture

This experience has helped the company to build internal business case and put up a mandate at board level to auto-run the transformation activities every 3-5 years irrespective of crisis situation.

As an Organizational transformation specialist, I strongly believe that Business transformation is not a “Good to have activity” but “The most Critical Business Driver” in today’s competitive world.

 

The article is written by Ashish Patel for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

 

 

Components of a Successful Email Campaign

Components of a successful email campaign

  • Email marketing is not mail bombing or mass mailing. It’s a misconception that you can just send an email to a huge list and expect bumper returns.
  • A disciplined and step-by-step approach when adopted can lead to very good and effective. A synched campaign with designing, testing, delivery, and post campaign management can give the right results.
  • If you are not a technical person, it is advisable to take professional help to ensure best results, especially with design and delivery.

In my previous article (Email Marketing: The Charm Continues), we did touch upon a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to an email campaign. This time, let’s explore what it takes to build a successful email campaign.

Most people simply assume that email marketing is mail bombing or mass mailing. Just send an email to a list of 100,000 users from a database purchased and you will get business…absolutely wrong. It’s a misconception that you can just send an email to a huge list and expect bumper returns!

It takes time and effort to build a serious email campaign. No shortcuts to success here. Put in the required effort and do it the right way, the results can surprise you (in a positive way).

Let’s get down to business now.

Step 1

You want to build a campaign and send it to your customers. Fine. But, do you have the list of objectives that you want to achieve from this campaign? Even before you create the content for your campaign, pen down what you wish to achieve from your campaign. If you have more than one objective, put it in an order – top most priority first to the least important objective at the end.

Step 2

Once your objectives are clear, you can pretty much arrive at the list of people (audience) who should receive your campaign. If you are sending a generic campaign like a New Year Greeting, you will probably send it to your entire list or database. If not, segment your list to target your campaign. For example, if you have a financial product that is specific to high net worth individuals (HNWI), you might want to target your campaign to the top management of your customers.

Note: The list or database should be your own and opt-in.

Step 3

What next? Well, it’s time to put your content on paper now based on your objectives. You then need to translate it into a proper campaign format. If you are not familiar with email campaign designing, you should get it done by a professional. An email campaign should include both text and images. Some design points that you should keep in mind:

  • The overall text to image ratio should be between 60:40 and 75:25
  • Do not include too many images
  • Avoid embedding images in your campaign (host them on a web server instead)
  • Avoid attachments (host them on your web server and provide links in your campaign)
  • Have a responsive design if possible (campaign that renders according to the device being used)

Are we done and ready to send the campaign? Certainly not!

Having a great design is just one part of a successful campaign. The most critical part is the delivery of this to the end recipient. If you don’t hit the inbox, it’s as good as not sending the campaign itself!

If you are not a technical person (meaning, you are not sure how email servers work), it’s better to take the help of an expert here. You will need to consider a few things to optimize your campaign delivery:

  • Make sure your SMTP server’s IP address is not blacklisted
  • The “From Name” and “From Address” are valid
  • Throttle your campaigns if required (send x number of messages per hour; depends on your SMTP server)
  • Ensure that you have got SPF, DomainKeys/DKIM configured
  • A PTR record (also called Reverse DNS) is setup for your SMTP server

You are now almost there! But keep in mind the following as well:

  • The message subject should not exceed 50 characters
  • NO SHOUTING in your subject line (avoid all caps)
  • Always include a link to an Online version of your campaign and an Unsubscribe link (should be simple enough to use and action)

Test the Campaign

Want to know the 3 golden mantras of Success? Test, Test and Test.

There are online services (such as EmailonAcid) available to test an email campaign thoroughly. These services allow you to check at least two things:

  • How they render in different email clients
  • How they are analyzed by various anti-spam filters

Some of these services offer a free trial. Give it a try before you hit the trigger.

Post Campaign Management

There are a few things which should be addressed once a campaign is sent out. Your email marketing software should be able to manage them automatically for you. If not, you need to manually take the required action.

  • Bounced messages are actioned on merit (hard bounces should be removed or deactivated from your list)
  • Unsubscribe requests are honored at all costs

Conclusion

Email marketing is still the number one method to generate business leads. It’s cheaper and far more effective when compared to other methods of marketing. And it’s measurable unlike most of the other traditional marketing channels.

Until next time, happy Email Marketing!

The article  is written by A. Chandra Shekhar for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Choosing the Right Communication Method

Choosing the Right Communication Method

  • It is extremely important to choose the correct communication method, and the steps to take in deciding which method would be the most appropriate for your brand.
  • Knowing your audience and analyzing the reason for your communication, can be a starting point deciding your communication method.
  • While online marketing can be best to create awareness among the youth, establishing credibility is best done through a Public Relations Agency, and advertising campaigns are still one of the best mediums for brand building.
  • There are several factors that go into deciding the right communication channel for you, and time spent on doing this right will come back with rewarding results.

There are many pitfalls of agencies that offer only a single service, and many ways that campaigns fail when a service is forced on a brand or a brand on a service. It is extremely important to choose the correct communication method, and the steps to take in deciding which method would be the most appropriate for the brand in discussion. As a leading live communications agency, entourage marketing & events has worked on many different brands and through many different mediums, have insight to the process, whether you are looking for a marketing agency, a public relations agency, or a creative advertising agency. This discussion will definitely also help if you are working with an agency and trying to choose the right communication method for the brand you are assigned.

Why do we “communicate”?

In order to understand the importance of choosing the correct method of communication to get your message across, let us first go back to the reasons of “why we communicate.” When we have a certain message that we need to relay, we set out to communicate our messages. We need these messages to reach the right people in order for our message to be deemed effective. Our messages need to have an impact and need to have a reason of existing; are you communicating to increase awareness about a product, service or solution? Are you communicating a message to build credibility? We each have a reason to communicate, and because humans have evolved to use sophisticated means of communication, there are so many different methods to choose from.  It goes without saying that if the right method of communication is not chosen, the message will not reach the right audiences, and is henceforth, ineffective.

How to Choose the Effective Means

As mentioned, due to the diversity of options, choosing the right method is extremely vital. Here is a few tips and facts that might make your choice of communication method more appropriate.

The Younger Generation is Online

It helps to know that when your message is aiming to reach the younger generation, that the younger generation uses the social media platforms excessively. Statistics show that Arab users under the age of 30 in the Middle East on Facebook are 68%. Nearly 45% of all social media users are under the age of 24. Statistics on social media show that in the Middle East, content is prone to going viral. Such opportunities should be optimized on; viral content is creative to create, fun to produce and communicates directly to the younger generation enthusiastically.

Public Relations Builds Credibility

It’s the oldest story in time, rather than telling people just how great you are, having a third party address the matter helps build your credibility. That’s where PR comes into the picture. When the brand you’re handling needs to address a crisis or to build trust, PR is the way to go. Many people trust newspapers, and what the media tells them, and utilizing the media to tell your brand’s story or perspective plays a really big role in creating credibility for that brand and gaining trust. Improving the image of your brand by understanding that PR is about maintaining relationships with people will further help you choose a public relations route in order to create PR stunts or PR stories that interact with the stakeholders of a brand.

Creative Advertising Helps Maintain a Brand 

Whereas creative advertising is definitely important in creating the basis for any brand, maintaining the brand through creative advertising is extremely helpful as well. Many advertisements turn to minimal element usage simply because brands have already built such a strong identity that a simple creative advertisement would speak to people without an explicit explanation. For example, the Nike “check-mark” and tagline “just do it” have become so familiar to people that no explanation is need. Hence, creative advertising for Nike is based on the brand’s strong suit, and maintaining it as a brand can be easily done. So our advice is that if you’re looking for a way to communicate a message for an already existing brand, like introducing a new line for that brand, then creative advertising would be a smart way to go.

There are many more factors that play a big role in deciding on a communication method, but these simplified tips can help you go a far way in choosing which would be the most appropriate for where you stand at a certain point.

The article is written by Mohammed Tayem for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Think like A Genuine ‘Brand’

  • There are areas in our brain which can store certain brands and slogans but not all. The brands that truly influence our mind are the ones that emotionally we are attached with.
  • Many of the successful brands of today had created an exceptional customer perceived value and they compete for emotion as it stays connected with the customers’ heart instead of the head
  • Every human being is a brand, the way we dress, talk and socialize. To be a brand we should think like a brand, which requires a different mindset, perspective and unique approach.
  • Your promise as a brand is about how you want to be described and how you would like other people feel about you, for which we will have to raise the bar both at a personal and professional level.

The brainstromer Quiz of a recent group caught up my attention, moving away from its usual formats as it’s presented with a difference. The task given to the group was to identify a brand from a series of funny, catchy slogans, tag line used as an aid in promoting brands or products in the past and present. These catchy slogans have clever phrases and used as great motto to advertise and promote brands in a big way. When the Quiz Master announced the answers to each of those almost all the brands were known or we use in one way or other in our day today life, however, one could relate or memorize only 10% of the brands with these catchy tagline.

Why only few brands come to our mind and we look for those? Researchers have proved, the human mind has the ability to retain and recall things that are unique and distinctive. There are areas in our brain which can store certain brands and slogans but not all. The brands that truly influence our mind are the one that emotionally we attached with. Many of these products are unique and have enhanced our lives in one way or the other.

Perceived Value.

Many of the successful brands of today had created an exceptional customer perceived value which is mathematically equal to the benefit divided by the cost. The price is only one part of the three fundamentals i.e. Time, Feeling and Money. We often think the perceived value means lowest cost. There are brands that highlight the lowest prices as a distinctive point and generally this is an indication of the brand getting surrendered to the consumers mind as a commodity, lowering its value proposition and begins to start losing its brand identity. The crowd get attracted to the lowest price will be primarily being loyal to the price and not to the delivered value. They will leave when a competitor comes in at a cheaper price.

Emotional engagement

Smart companies of today compete for emotion as it says connects your brand, and with your customers’ heart and not with the head. Position the brand to keep your customers grounded with emotional engagements. In a brand value formula the perceived value should exceed the total cost both functional and emotional. A genuine brand understands that a lowest price strategy alone will not necessarily guarantee customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Brand Promise

In order to be passionate about a brand the organizations need to create, believe and deliver in a brand promise. Many organizations of today including the fortune 100 or 500 talk about their commitment and dedication to customers on one hand is looking for outdated and low cost solutions, overlooking how their brands are perceived in the market. It seems the corporate world of today are suffering from a ‘policy-mania’ that is a policy to control every possible process and actions. The policies are important however; remember promises are delivered by people and not by policies.

Integrity Dividend

We all use the word ‘genuine’, which often means authentic in other words ‘trusted’. In today’s world there are very few promises one can really count on and people appreciate if yours is one of them. The organizations which believe in creating such genuine brands and promises are the ones which benefit today from the “integrity dividends”.

Think like a ‘Brand’

Every human being is a brand, the way we dress, talk and socialize. To be a brand we should think like a brand, which requires a different mindset, perspective and unique approach. To become a personal brand doesn’t mean being powerful, rich or famous. Your promise as a brand is about how you want to be described and how you would like other people feel about for which we will have to raise the bar both at a personal and professional level. Create a paradigm shift today to deliver a promise tomorrow with exceptional esteem be it ‘You or a “Brand” in your mind.

The article was is written by Raghu Menon for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review