There’s no better way to learn more about digital marketing and its practical application than by speaking to those who are making their mark at some of the leading brands in some of the most competitive markets. James Williams is one such marketer. As the head of marketing at South African fintech Wonga, one of the fast-growing platforms in the southern hemisphere, he’s busy putting the Wonga brand back into consumers’ minds one campaign at a time.
Below James shares three of his guiding principles for successful brand marketing, regardless of whether your business is serving hundreds of thousands of customers a month or only a hundred per year.
The Basics Make All the Difference
When it comes to creating a winning digital marketing strategy, James bestows the benefits of getting the fundamentals right. What does he mean? Well, open the first page of most marketing textbooks and you’ll see those all-important four Ps.
According to James, if you don’t get the product, place, price, and promotion right first before launching your campaigns, even the snappiest branding and wildest engagement figures will ultimately lead to nothing. Yes, it’s simple, but too many brands forget that the four Ps are the benchmark for good practice, and regardless of whatever else is going on in your digital marketing strategy, they should always be your focus.
If you’re just getting started we recommend browsing some of our marketing plan templates. Indeed, even if you think your plan is perfect it does no harm to periodically reassess and refine your process. Maintaining fluidity and pragmatism in your planning will help you grow and weather unpredictability (anyone remembers covid lockdowns?)
Understanding the Competition Is the Key To Staying Ahead of the Curve
We all know that digital marketing metrics like conversion rates and visitor numbers are crucial, but they’re only of real value if you’re making ground on the competition. If everyone else is seeing the same fantastic metrics, then you’re not getting ahead of the curve, and if anything, your competitors will be taking customers from you.
Successful companies don’t pour marketing budgets into promotions that produce fantastic metrics. That’s not the aim. An integral aim of a well-rounded marketing campaign should be to snatch a slice of the total market share from your competition, differentiate yourself and take their share with you. The competition is the ultimate yardstick to measure your progress, and if you’re not making inroads then at best you’re treading water.
This is much easier said than done of course but it gets easier when you understand what metrics you should be measuring to help gauge your market share in the first place. James recommends producing a target list of at least fifty of your priority ‘non-brand’ keywords. Aim for a diverse list of keywords that encompasses as many of your target keyword roots as possible, ideally terms with a tangible search volume. Many tools offer search volume estimates, such as Google Adwords keyword planner.
Do some manual investigating for each of these fifty terms to gauge who the most visible players in the space are and then add these competitors into whatever keyword rank tracking software you’re using. If you don’t have a tracker you can get fairly cheap subscriptions starting from around $20 monthly, some also offer free trials.
Use this table of keyword ranking data to produce a market share report that approximates your ‘share of search volume’ versus your competitors by attributing a relative number of clicks per keyword based on ranking position. This varies wildly between industries but as a conservative approximation estimates position one in Google to receive 30% of all user clicks, then 14% for second place, scaling to scale down as your position drops down the search positions. You can use this ‘share of search’ report as a litmus test to gauge the success of new campaigns relative to competitors going after the same keywords.
A Big Brand Can Be as Much of a Help as a Hindrance
Many businesses focus their digital marketing efforts on building their brand. But online, the belief that being a big brand somehow makes everything easier isn’t always true. The internet is a great leveler. Small businesses can get visibility even on tiny budgets, and with lots of consumers actively choosing to avoid big brands and ‘shop local’ even online, it can be easier for smaller businesses to get ahead.
When they’re shopping online, most consumers don’t care where you’ve come from or what you’ve done, all they want to know is what you can offer them at that minute. That’s why, going back to James’ first point, you have to make sure your four Ps are just right, regardless of the size of your business. If you don’t, all that customer familiarity will count for nothing.
A What Customers Want survey (pdf) found that 91% of respondents prefer to buy from small businesses when it’s convenient, while 74% actively choose to buy from small businesses even when it’s not. Given that natural bias towards small firms, as a bigger name, you have to make sure you get your offering right and try to engage with customers in a similar way, at scale. This means robust customer service management is key to delivering your service. If you become too big to care about a single customer’s complaint then you’re in dangerous waters.