May 3, 2021

How To Build A Digital Marketing Strategy For Businesses Targeting Growth In 2021



 2020 was a very challenging year for everyone, with Covid-19 causing the global economy to plummet. As a result, brick-and-mortar companies and businesses with a limited online presence had to seriously consider their digital marketing strategy. 

However, many businesses jumped on the bandwagon without carefully planning out their strategy. So, they ended up blowing their budget on driving traffic through ads without first building a solid foundation—an optimized website.

Now is the time, more than ever, to master your digital marketing strategy to get your business in front of more eyes. But strap yourself in for a journey rather than a two-stop trip—digital marketing is not a one-off effort, but rather an ongoing objective that needs daily monitoring. 

So, what steps should you take to get your digital marketing campaign off the ground?  

1. Highly Optimized, Mobile-Friendly, Scalable Online Environment 

I could've simply said that you need a website, but what you need is an online environment that is secure, has a clear structure and works fast.

Here are three vitally important things any modern website needs: 

• Speed: Create a clear site structure so that people can quickly find what they need. And with Google confirming that Core Web Vitals will be ranking signals in May 2021, you must pay extra attention to how users experience the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of your site's pages.

• Mobile-Friendliness: Desktop searches fell behind mobile back in 2017, with over 55% of global web traffic now falling on mobile devices. Moreover, mobile is no longer a growing trend, but the norm, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America. If your website isn't optimized for mobile, don't even think about going online. 

• Security: Web security is critical in preventing hackers and cyber-thieves from getting access to sensitive data, including that of your users. Without a proactive security strategy and an HTTPS connection, businesses risk the development of malware attacks and attacks on other sites, networks and so on. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) isn't easy, but it's essential when it comes to digital marketing. Don't think that a set-it-and-forget-it approach will work here. You need to be consistent so that potential customers can always find your website for relevant searches.

2. Get On Google My Business

Another way to help customers find you is through Google My Business (GMB). 

Google My Business puts your details where potential customers can find them more easily. It also puts your business on Google Maps where it can be reviewed. This can also ensure your business is ranking on the map alongside other similar businesses, giving you a massive boost in visibility, thanks to the Google Local Pack. Optimizing a GMB account is trickier than it looks to begin with. But there are plenty of sources online that provide extensive guides on this topic.

3. Social Media Profiles And Activity 

Besides being on Google, you need to actively engage your audience on social media. Think of the difference between eating at a chain restaurant or at a small local one. You never see chefs at restaurant chains, but at your local diner, if a chef talks to you, you find out more about the place and the ingredients used, and unless the food's awful, you're likely to spread the word and go back. As a small business, this is the approach you need to take on social networks: Actually talk to and engage with your customers. 

Learn what social media platform is popular among your potential customers and get on it too. The most obvious option, Facebook, even has tools for promoting business pages to segmented audiences. If your clients use Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram, expand your presence there too. This is something business owners may need help with, as the most effective way to grow an audience on social media is to consistently create and publish interesting, engaging content. 

And if your audience has migrated to newer platforms like TikTok or Clubhouse, try them out. The point is, follow your audience to attract the right traffic. 

4. Figure Out What's Right For Your Business: SEO Or PPC 

Before making a decision, assess your financial capabilities and understand if you need to go for search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising or both at the same time.

SEO and PPC are both digital marketing strategies that ultimately get your site to appear on Google page one. But to yield positive results, both strategies need a lot of expertise, tech knowledge and a marketing budget. 

PPC is perfect for quick sales if you have a new website that isn't performing well in organic search, if you think you have a great product/service and want to test it out or if you have reasonable profit margins.

On the flip side, SEO is what you need if you're looking for long-term growth and can afford to invest in it, if you want to build up your brand over time or if you want to optimize your marketing costs.

using SEO, you'll start driving high-quality traffic to your business at no cost. In PPC, you won't get any clicks if you don't regularly fork over a small fortune.

Alternatively, you can choose to do SEO and PPC at the same time. This totally depends on your opportunities.

Everything covered here is fundamental to boosting your business's online visibility. For businesses new to digital marketing, these steps may feel huge to begin with, but once you get the hang of it, it will seem as natural as wearing a seatbelt in a car. With the right set of tools—a well-optimized website, a Google My Business account, an active social media presence and constantly-published engaging content—you can drive web traffic, generate new sales and even get customers to fall in love with your brand.

Curated content written by: Valery Kurilov

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May 1, 2021

Privacy rules and a cookie purge will transform online marketing

 


The rise of data regulations and the end of third-party cookies should make businesses rework their approach to customers


The coming together of three big factors—the pandemic, growing privacy concerns among users and governments, and changes initiated by Big Tech giants—will change the way the marketing and advertising industry functions in the coming decade. The covid pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies and this sudden change promises to disrupt marketing as a lever of business as we know it today. Given the direct impact this has on revenues and revenue growth, this issue warrants the attention of business leaders.

Consumer concerns on privacy have grown over the years. The rampant use of user data for behaviour manipulation, including for elections, has raised hackles worldwide among businesses, governments and people at large. Consumers are getting increasingly conscious of how their data is being used. A recent update of WhatsApp’s privacy policy, allowing the service to share user data with its parent Facebook, created a furore. Together, these issues have led governments to enact privacy laws across the world. These laws have mandated businesses to collect data in a manner that is compliant with norms, and which protects the right to privacy of consumers.

In India, the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) is in its final stages of passage through Parliament. While laws related to information technology have been in existence since the early 2000s, these were focused on cybercrime and activity such as hacking, spam and offensive personal messaging.

Privacy laws such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and India’s PDPB have changed two things: 1) they acknowledge that devices such as smartphones are an intrinsic part of a person’s identity, and hence, any information that can be used to profile an individual comes under the ambit of laws; and 2) these laws articulate what is consent—that it should be free, informed, specific, clear, and capable of being withdrawn.

This evolving landscape around privacy is what has forced tech giants Google and Apple to toughen their stance on privacy. Last year, Google had announced the blocking of third-party cookies effective January 2022. As we approach this deadline, Google has signalled that it shall not allow any form of alternative identifiers across its suite of products.

Apple had taken an aggressive privacy-first stance even earlier, and upped the ante on trust. With the release of iOS 14, it has mandated privacy ‘nutrition labelling’ on its App Store and mandated consumer consent for tracking purposes.

These Big Tech companies are also increasingly subject to more regulation by governments, given their ability to create monopolistic or oligopolistic markets and control the playing field. The recent Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules in India and the landmark News Media Bargaining Code in Australia are a few examples of anti-trust laws that are coming up across the world.

The faster adoption of digital media driven by the pandemic means that business processes need to be digitized and delivered seamlessly as customer experiences across the internet. The onus of delivering these experiences calls for collaboration among experts of marketing, technology, design, cybersecurity and law.

The emergence of privacy laws requires businesses to collect and use data in ways that are both ethical and compliant. So, while designing and delivering customer experiences, business leaders need to be on top of data protection and consent management, even as they ensure that processes are set up for ethical and sensitive use of data.

A data breach has multiple costs and entails various risks, including financial risk, legal risk, compliance risk and the biggest of all, reputational risk. Privacy is being weaponized and any laxity on behalf of a business could have serious consequences. Any inadvertent data breach results in loss of reputation and the possibility of legal action.

On the positive side, the evolving privacy landscape presents brands and advertisers an opportunity to educate and strengthen their relationship with customers and get to know them better. Businesses will need to invest in harnessing their own customers data across platforms, as every company now needs to behave like a tech company.

Consequently, customer relationship management (CRM) modules will go mainstream and be fully integrated into marketing efforts.. Harvesting market research and aggregated anonymized data is also critical to enriching this first-party data. These strategies will help businesses bridge the gap between consumer insights and marketing implementation, which will soon be constrained by the death of third-party cookies.

The end of browser-based third-party cookies also means that campaign planning, targeting, optimization and measurement are affected. The move signifies the death of re-targeting and lookalike marketing as practised today. Cost-per- impression-based buying will transition to cost-per-click/engagement-based buying. Walled gardens such as Google will only provide attribution within their publishing domain. Businesses need to evolve mechanisms to measure their marketing campaigns to be able to determine omni-channel effectiveness.

With less than eight months left for the purge of third-party cookies and a rapidly evolving regulatory framework, businesses need to be ready to implement privacy-by-design in their marketing efforts. A sharp focus on first-party data and on contextual advertising is imminent. Time is running out and many businesses have yet to wake up to this reality.

Ravi Ganesh & Lloyd Mathias are, respectively, a data and analytics expert and founder of TMber Data and an investor & business strategist and former marketer at PepsiCo, Motorola & HP

Curated content written by: Ravi Ganesh,Lloyd Mathias

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