How to Do Marketing During The Coronavirus Crisis?

Marketing is a sensitive phenomena affected by what is going on in the world. Marketers have been positioned always at the frontline of every change or trend going in the market. We can call this process as the breath of bread the marketers have to experience in their morning and start preparing for it with questions such as what is going in the market? What is the new trend our consumer is following? And how we can respond?

Fundamentally, while marketing is highly sensitive to trends, in the times of Coronavirus pandemic, global lockdown, and economic recession, the marketing is officially going to war!

Let me first say that this article is not going to discuss the common trending tactics of how to show solidarity and how to support health care workers or how to raise awareness about social distancing. There are tons of articles full of tips and guidelines on how to adapt a responsive branding campaign during the time of the epidemic. This article is about what you should do with your marketing strategy in the short and long-term.

Key learnings from the Pandemic and Lockdown

Firstly, let’s extract the main factors we are facing during this exceptional time of our lives. Considering that we have never been in such situation and so few marketers from the 2008 crisis are still around, while most of the marketing team are probably younger. Even though the crisis now is bigger and more drastic then anyone has ever had and there were such no major lockdowns we have faced before. Yet, there are few key insights which we have to consider:

  1. The Internet is everything now: With the lockdown, the internet is becoming our life. People are relying on the Internet more than ever. Major amount companies are asking people to work from home, meetings are online, restaurants are only open online, universities and schools are only available online, and our consumption of entertainment is mainly online. We have been doing this before optionally, but now it is mandatory.
  2. The consumer is trapped: There is no more luxury of going to malls, fairs, and stores. There is uncertainty about how we will go to our regular life. All the takes now are about “flattening the curve” to control the virus’s new infection but there is no sign about how this is going to end. Obviously, if the lockdowns are release, people will still be conservative in their moves for a while. Online shopping will remain strong for months to come.
  3. People will get bored: Few days in the lockdown and people are suffering already. They have a big appetite for things to watch, browse and read. While watching the news is their top priority at the moment, their time is full of long hours to surf and read. They saved the time of traveling, commuting to work and social gathering. They have now a lot of time to read and watch online more than they ever did before.
  4. There is an urge: Currently, there is a strong urge to food and supplies. Gradually the urge will move towards many other things and it will rise based on the post-pandemic changes. The world is going to change for a while, and we are going to have a very hot summer full of new urges. Imagine if the borders are open finally and people allowed to travel safely then you can think of all the locked-down people around the world wanting to have a vacation. The most suffering industries such as travel and hospitality will flourish like never before. We all believe that there will be a recession but there will be an urge. How and where it is going to affect the most, we will get to see signs after signs, and it is better to be ready.
  5. Marketing hesitation: There is a decline in Chinese ad spend this year due to the outbreak of the virus according to a report by Dentsu Aegis Network. Moreover, Econsultancy predicted that highly impacted countries will witness a decline in ad spend. The impact is not going to trigger a big decline in advertising spend and market budgets, there are several hesitations about campaign creativity and marketing channels. Notably, a new study by Pattern89 showed that imagery of human interaction declines by 27.4% in social ads due to the social distancing trend. Creativity is shifting and the pandemic controlling the way brands interact with consumers. We are in a crucial time for marketers and there is a huge uncertainty sense taking over.

What marketers should do during the crisis?

Eventually, the biggest lesson we should learn and act upon is to change. Marketers are like investors, and in the darkest times, there should be a change and radical decision to adopt. Remember that marketing at the frontlines of the battle and they should not just align but also to lead part of the change.

  1. Change in the marketing strategy: Marketing strategy should be customized, and radical changes should be inherited. Today’s data is going to show different insights, predictions analysis is not going to be accurate, the consumer behavior is evolving, and a new strategy is required. Companies who hesitate in taking swift changes will suffer the most.
  2. Rebuild the relationship with the customer: While the consumer is currently worried about their lives than what you are offering, it is time to show your brand story instead of aggressive advertising and acquisition tactics. People are online now more than ever and reaching them should not be limited to “stay safe” messages only. Think about reintroducing your brand and product through a story. Think of entertaining context you can come up with and more insightful content instead of your aggressive sales offer you flooded their inbox within the last year. Localize and personalize your approach and make the right connection away from KPIs pressures.
  3. Change your attitude: It is not time to showcase your overly optimized marketing messages in the website headers. It is important to do some copywriting work and reshape your main messages to show more about who you are instead of what you need. The consumer is now at the phase of extensive reading with more time in hand. Fill that void with informative storytelling. In other words, it is time to strengthen the brand instead of aggressively promoting your product.
  4. Improve your marketing quality: It is better to overlook all the crappy processes, channels, and ad campaigns and revamp the marketing plan. The competition landscape is going to change slowly during the current phase, but the change will be super aggressive later on. A few months from now the recession will create a highly competitive ground for all types of businesses. You can witness right now how the competition is accelerating in some industries such as online grocery apps and streaming. Therefore, the budget and ad spend is not going to be the only topic on the table of senior management, but how we can respond fast to changes and stand out. The quality of the marketing activities is the right investment at the times of the Coronavirus crisis.

Finally, there are many worries about our lives and the future right now. Eventually, during the storm marketers are working from home thinking of many questions such the future of their jobs and the financial situation of their companies. With every storm, there will be seeds carried to grow new plants. Learning and adapting are important in these times and marketing is eventually one of the things that will witness a lot of changes such as our lives. It is better to focus on improving the quality of what we do than hesitating about how the numbers are falling down on the charts.

Understanding The Influencer Marketing Bubble in The Middle East

The trend of influencer marketing has been so huge in the Middle East untill everyone did believe it is true.

In the last 3 years, global brands spent a huge amount of their advertising budget on Arabic influencers. The trend has been massive in some industries such as beauty, fashion, entertainment, travel, and tech. Even local startups and boutique businesses have been desperately chasing micro-influencers to increase their brand awareness. Undoubtedly, influencer marketing has been going crazy in the region and everyone was competing to acquire social media influencers.

Quick facts about influencer marketing in the Middle East:

  • According to survey by BPG Cohn & Wolfe in 2017 of 100 in-house marketing and brand managers across a range of industries in the UAE, 49% currently work with social media influencers. 55% said their biggest challenge was finding relevant influencer while 41% said negotiating terms and conditions was a major concern.
  • The Arabic consumer are highly consuming videos and stories. Around 30,000 Middle East-based YouTubers have more than 10,000 followers. While almost 12 million daily Snapchat users in the GCC, including 9 million in Saudi Arabia and 1 million in the UAE.
  • According to Gulf News, 94% of influencers in the UAE get paid between $1000 to $5000 per post, while the remaining 6% the price per post could reach more than $10,000. In some cases, 76% influencers agree to products or experiences.
  • The top beauty influencer Huda Kattan reportedly earns $18,000 per post, according to com.
  • The GCC market leads the Middle East as the highest demand from brands and the top paid influencers. Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco influencers are paid less.
  • Among social media platforms, Instagram stands as the top place for the influencer marketing game while Facebook is rapidly declining. YouTube is becoming the golden gate for micro-influencers who are targeting Gen Z.

However, some of these stats belong to 2017 and 2018. The scene is shifting.

The Influencer bubble is about to burst

Some would argue that influencer marketing is going to be even bigger in the region, I wouldn’t argue but let us remind ourselves that in this world everything changes faster than you think. There are some facts we need to review the phenomena of influencer marketing.

1. The Market Size is Hard to Figure

Don’t be fooled by numbers of increase. Due to fraudulent influencer marketing, the estimates of the market size and increase is totally inaccurate. The global demand for influencer marketing is much smaller than announced numbers and not stable in terms of growth. Mike Schmidt wrote a great analysis regarding this in the Forbes magazine. He predicts that in the coming two years, influencer marketplaces and brokerages will have a tough time. In contrast, let’s remember that the Middle East has no figures or researches about the market size to be able to identify growth or even regression. Eventually, we need to exclude the top global brands out of the equation since their huge budget spend is just a shift from traditional TV Ads with celebrities to influencer marketing. This would leave us in a total jungle of untraceable activities and influencers who are desperate to increase their value with overestimated charges.

2. Brands are chasing the vanity metrics

It is time to release the secrets and state one important fact about the return of ROI per influencers. Brands are exhausted by the process of tracking influencers. The complex behind tracking influencers exceeds the regular set up of affiliate management tools. There are many metrics are required to measure the ROI including sophisticated social media analysis, brand metrics, conversion rate and more. Investment wise, while the influencers are raising their cost, the ROI of each influencer is problematic to trace.

3. Fraudulent Influencer Marketing is Costing Brands

According to a research by American Marketing Association (AMA), engagement on sponsored content from fake followers is costing brands $1.3 billion a year which is almost 15% of the total spend. In an audit of 10,000 influencers, SocialChain found that 25% of their followers were engaged in fraudulent activity. According to research, 50% of paid influencer post engagement is fake. The rise of fake followers and engagement have been another huge pain for major brands. Major brands are now fully aware of this issue and some started to review their influencer marketing strategy: Unilever is refusing to work with influencers who utilize bots and fake followers. In addition, based on Marketing Week, A third of brands admit to deliberately not disclosing influencer marketing as sponsored content as they believe doing so will impact consumers’ trust, instead choosing to come up with “creative alternatives”.

Example: Huwai has launched a campaign early in 2020 with an influencer. It turned out the influencer has been involved in some political debates and the campaign triggered a huge backfire to boycott the brand. The agency was not aware of this? It could be a fatal mistake.

influencer marketing

4. Influencer Can Damage the Brand’s Reputation

The brand image and values are always at the risk of unprofessional behavior brought by influencers. Eventually, influencer marketing programs are hiring influencers based on their popularity, relevantly and engagement stats. It is extremely difficult to be able to move these social media celebrities to become a real “brand ambassador”. They are independent and driven by their own values and local competition among each other. Hiring an influencer is mainly like hiring an independent on a contract basis, not a partner. Some brands could be able to achieve a partnership level with influencers and have major control over the influencer, but this is a complex mission that requires a highly professional branding team and a big budget. However, the region has witnessed crucial issues when some of the influencers went out of control.

Example: In 2018 a Kuwaiti beauty influencer made a negative comment regarding domestic workers which triggered massive anger. As a result, several beauty brands decided to cut relations with the influencer to maintain their brand image.

5. Social Media is Becoming Highly Saturated

In the Middle East, social media feeds are becoming saturated with posts from all the wannabes and lookalike influencers more than ever. The ongoing floods of pretenders and followers’ buyers have widely impacted the consumer behavior. Engagement rates for Instagram influencers dropped in 2019, according to a Trust Insights analysis. Instagram started to prepare to the shift in consumer behavior by removing the likes counter. This step from Instagram proves that the change is coming. Consumer are now more aware of the commercialized approach of their influencers and filtering out paid content. They might gladly engage and like the influencers content, but they will not trust it all.

influencer-marketing

6. Influencers with Nothing to Influence

My mom says “Put a donkey in front of the camera for long and he will be famous”

We have first to stop calling everyone that generated a substantial number of followers as an influencer and define who is qualified to be an influencer. The name can explain itself clearly.

The influencer is someone who can influence the public audience with an idea, opinion, and most importantly a style of life. Yes, the style of life is the key concept behind the whole idea. The critical factor of being an influencer relies on the ability to influence your context of choice not just your choice. What is the difference then between influencers and content creators? It is a massive difference. Content creators demonstrate their skills and knowledge which engage the audience but don’t follow a systematic and planned agenda. Let’s imagine the content creators as a TV entertainment channel with an objective to attract as many views as it can so it can sell Ads.

On the other hand, influencers are more like the News channel with an agenda to influence public opinions in a certain direction. The main difference here is not particularly the content but it is more about influencing the audience according to a predetermined strategy. The relevancy is a matter of consistency. In an industry like fashion and beauty, the major amount of Arabic influencers are themeless. They are crazy about chasing trends and showing off to stay connected with the audience. You cannot blame them for following such a strategy, however, the issue relies upon the fact that it is becoming hard to differentiate who is who.

Huge number of Arabic influencers are copying style of life, stories, content, tips and rotating around the timeline. Therefore, the social media is more saturated with endless posts of people who is trying to influence the consumer with whatever.

7. Change in Arabic User Behavior

According to a recent Social Media Influencers’ Survey  of 1000 Emirati and Saudi residents aged 18 to 35, 79% said they have unfollowed an influencers for flooding their timelines with promotional content.

People will be smarter with social media before you know it.

Eventually, that’s not the biggest fear yet. Another major factor is rising in the horizon. Let’s welcome Gen Z who will dominate everything soon (In Egypt I call them Yassta Z due to their overuse of Yassta word). The consumer who are born after 1996 are evolving to become the biggest segment in the region. How Gen Z are using the internet and social media is going to be totally different than us as Millennials. They are native digital consumer, faster, smarter detectors and sensitive to authenticity. Forget the old times of the picture-perfect, super-edited type of content. They know the filters; they sniff the promotions and they need something authentic.

Therefore, what influences this generation is going to be a different game. Gen Z is not influenced by the trend, they are the trend itself. Eventually, Gen Z will continue to follow influencers, but they have more control on direction than the influencers himself.

social media

Millennials will have to follow the Gen Z era

So, in the coming years, the shrinking part of the pie will be Millennials while Gen Z will grow rapidly. Millennials will need to adapt to the native digital consumer who will dominate social media. The first impact of Gen Z first we started seeing in the last couple of years was emerging from the influencer into Micro-influencers. Moreover, Nano-influencers is arriving. Gen Z is decentralized and extremely diversified segment across the Middle East and regular segmentation won’t work out. The reason for this is pretty simple: They are not receivers like older generations, but they are influencers themselves. They are not the customer unless they are part of the game.

8. Arabic Influencers Are Hard to Deal With

As a marketing consultant, I have worked with tons of influencers in the region for several brands and always faced three common issues. 1) The majority are buying followers and engagement, 2) They are not authentic, and they rely on heavily edited photo sessions instead of creating content, 3) Unprofessional attitude and lack of commitment, 4) Overestimation of their value and expected results.

In conclusion, the brand had to spend a lot on building campaigns, hiring teams and paying for a list of influencers and the results showed that only small percentage had a positive impact on the brand and ROI. It was extremely problematic to handle the Arabic influencers.

9. Brand Strategy Inconsistency

Another regional issue appears with the culture. While brands are looking for straightforward strategy and focused groups of influencers who can control, each country has its own preferences when it comes to influencers. The market is saturated when it comes to values and consumer. The Arabic dialect, shopping preferences, and social trends are all part of the influence game. The segments across the region are completely diversified and it requires deeper research on the culture and consumer, not just the influencer popularity. An example: While I was working for a beauty brand in the UAE, we chased several Arabic makeup artists but the surprise we discovered later that the majority of the consumer in the market are expats who rather influenced by an Indian expat beauty blogger. We have been following a completely wrong assumption.

Bottom Line: Influencer marketing is evolving rapidly in the region and brands started to consider it as an overestimated market and expensive. In-house marketers started to predict the danger of the big bubble and step back while media agencies are trying to push hard on gaining more. While some brands will withdrawal, there will be others who will focus on Micro and Nano influencers. In the last round of consultation, I advised the brand to turn influencer marketing into an affiliate and push towards a partnership based on commission instead of paid posts. However, it obvious that consumers and brands are losing faith in people who claim to be influencers.

The Digital Marketing Trends in 2020: What is the Future of Marketing?

What are the digital marketing trends in 2020? I have been reading several stories and predications which outline few sexy and attractive marketing technologies and tactics such as voice search, micro-influencers, automation and of course AI.

Wonderful, but this all just trendy news we have been collecting for years now. We need to sense the future of marketing and predict upcoming challenges. Living another day is going to be a battle for marketers since the business environment is evolving rapidly.

Where we stand now? the majority of marketers are not considered yet about the future.  According to the most recent figures of 2019, the CMO survey indicated that the majority of marketing leaders are more focused on managing the present.

marketing change in 2020

Marketing is changing… How and Why?

Digital marketing has been evolving during the last 4 years dramatically and some people are not paying attention. The changes have been coming in different waves for almost 10 years between 2010 to 2020, and these changes are not going to settle down easily. It is going to be brutal in the coming years more than any time before. We have been seeing strong indicators of this major shift in digital marketing, yet we have been consuming it slowly or resisting it.

However, I did learn a great fact during my years of leading marketing teams and consulting brands and by speaking to my fellow marketers across different industries and regions. This fact is straightforward and simple; “Management doesn’t care about how you the digital marketing executes; it is all about the results”. Any given CMO at any given day is looking at one thing only; how is the performance doing? Don’t get me started!

What marketers can do while they are becoming the front line for businesses? And as we all know that business is getting competitive and aggressive towards growth. Ahh, growth is the word that you hear day and night everywhere, from big corporates to startups to even vloggers. Growth, growth, growth..

In all honesty, the growth concept is going to fully lead and fuel all the aspects of marketing and will mostly reshape the marketing definition in the near future. With that being said, the question I am trying to resolve here is not only what is the trends that is going to hit soon, but how marketing is changing? What is going on?

1)  Marketing methodology: What’s going on with marketing?

At the beginning I had to do my homework and explore what is top marketing experts are predicting. Dr. Dave Chaffey’s in his latest blog the six big 2020 marketing trends, indicated several major areas including lifecycle marketing, conservational marketing and marketing technology. After exploring Chaffey’s theories, I explored a few more articles by marketing opinion leaders. My conclusion that marketing predictions are mainly focused on technology, platforms and channels. I believe we have been in years of jumping between trendy channels and tools without having a solid vision or understanding the strategic objectives of digital marketing.

With the advantages of data and effective tracking of digital marketing, companies started centralizing the marketing department as the ROI factory. It is becoming aggressive and marketers are shifting from the creative side to the executions side of the corporate with more tasks of sales, customer relationship management and growth.

The complexity of ROI measurements is left to marketers to handle. Gradually, the marketing role is under the fire of making money with less interest in measuring other marketing roles such as brand positioning and visibility. Whether we like it or not, this fact about marketing is going to lead in the future.

I believe in data and performance, but this new role of marketing which is going to dominate more is showing a huge impact on marketers we have been seeing lately such as the intolerance from top management which resulted in a high turnover as they are measuring marketing performance based on ROI mainly.

According to LinkedIn analysis, marketing roles had the highest turnover rate of any job function—an impressive 17%. That’s more than 50% higher than marketingweek survey in 2018, 81% of respondents suggest they are likely to change jobs within 3 years, while 38% of which will do so by the end of this year.

marketing turnover skills

Even CMOs are hardly able to survive more than a year or two. Performance growth, quick catches, short term plans are more important than long term strategy and investing in brand value, quality content and creative campaigns.

Therefore, everyone is under the stress and the marketing is shifting towards improving the present ROI not building a brand that can generate future ROI.  In conclusion, marketing in 2020 and coming years is going to focus on quick wins strategies and the marketing positions will continue to the highest turnover without a stable ground to flourish.

That’s why I am not considered about sexy trends such as micro-influencers, interactive emails, conversational marketing, etc. These are great and attractive methods to implement, but we all know as marketers, that setting up a solid marketing strategy requires a deeper understanding of the consumer before encountering channels and setting up technology.

2)  The change in consumer: Are we ready for Generation Z?

Whether we already or not, marketers in 2020 have to deal with the latest consumer group, Generation Z. Those are turning 18 and entering the workforce and fueling the internet consumer are going to be a whole different story.  According to some of the market estimations, Generation Z will make up 40% of all consumers in 2020. Woho!

What is the impact of this shift? Well, we could have hints about their behavior but that’s is not a clue yet. The reason is simple; You can’t predict the nature of a consumer group that is shaping and will take time to fully mature and shapes its behavior and purchasing habits.

Eventually, a scary fact about Gen Z that they are quirkiest, with constant change in their tastes and content consumption. This means that marketers will need to catch up quickly with not only their creativity but also with a solid data infrastructure to be able to attract this segment.

Tip: Gen Z is sensitive to phonies tactics and cheesy styles. Marketers have to shift into more authentic and original ideas to be able convert. Wink wink, social media marketing is going to take a hard turn and the honeymoon years are over. The social media engagement is going to be revolutionized since Gen Z humor is absurdist and less-polite. So, if you don’t get their ways of communication, leave the space for younger marketers who are able to understand.

3)  Marketing management: CMOs vs top management

Back in 2014, Betsy Holden, the senior advisor at McKinsey outlined the major issue of marketing consultant, I found that while they have a lot of great platforms and technology but yet the issue is all about humans. The complexity of technology is double edged.

This leads us to understand a precise point which is, marketing technology is the trend and it is going to impact how we conduct marketing, but it is at the end of the day related to the skills and ability of human skills. Using marketing automation to segment the customer is going enhance the targeting but who sets the roles and design the consumer journey based on strategy and specific objectives.

Marketing automation challenges

In conclusion, while technology is science, using it is a matter of art and this could vary based on human skills. In 2020 and upcoming years, access to  advanced marketing technology will not be a critical concern, but the mind that manages it will be always the matter that will shape the relationship between the presence of marketing technology and its execution.

5)  The change in marketing skills

As we discussed the effect of technology, we have to tie it with data. Eventually, understanding the demand in the market we had to review in the previous points how marketing is moving forward in order for marketers to understand the environment they serve at.

Apparently, all the trends that are rising in the marketing will continue to be affecting the marketers. I have the habit of regularly checking the job descriptions on LinkedIn posted by companies from different regions and different industries. There are few facts that draw my attention which can summarize the change happening in marketing roles.

  • Encrypted titles: There are no standard titles for the majority of marketing jobs. For marketing analyst some companies might call it “Marketing Intelligence Manager” or “Data Analysis Manager”, and several more titles based on the company culture. We have been into that conflict since years ago when it comes to performance titles as some people use the term “PPC” and some call it “Paid search” and some call it “Performance manager” and so on. HR is even borrowing the title “Marketing consultant” for recruiters who are specialized in marketing hiring. I have no idea why they are doing this!! It is a big mess when it comes to titles and the more the platforms and tools we have, the more the titles are diversified. Sometimes it takes a while to understand a title with encrypted title and strange combination of duties. Startups are reinventing the titles of marketing and setting new titles that is nonspecific and more flexible to match their diversified needs.
  • Broader tasks and specific technologies: The description of marketing jobs is getting broader in terms of duties but very specific in the required tech skills. Companies tend to get marketers who fulfill their current needs even if it is a blur and cross-departmental with less aim for specialization. Some of the roles are fully customized due to lack of structured marketing department or instability in their marketing strategy with short-term plans and micromanagement. However, the companies need at the same time to be a superhero in their platforms and technology. The vast growth in the number of marketing clouds and tools is making it harder since every company is looking for candidates who are strong in their tech stack no matter how uncommon it is. Recruiters and their software who are filtering and scanning resumes are sometimes incapable of understanding that major automation platforms are conducting the same functions, and they filter people out because they are only reviewing based on very specific keywords.
  • The demand for data jobs: Everyone is hiring data experts in their team since the data-driven approach is taking over. This trend will continue to rise in 2020 and the coming few years till eventually, things will change. My prediction that this trend will decrease at some point for two reasons. First, the future marketers would adopt data skills and it will become an essential skill the same as any admin or management skills the marketer has to acquire to proceed with his career. This already did happen before when the traditional offline marketers had to learn digital marketing to survive. The same scenario will happen with data analytic skills. It is going to be a must. Second, with the increasing competition business will understand that data is telling what is happening and why it is happening? but the missing part will be what we need to make it happen? I expect in the coming years, creativity jobs will return to rising and take over the top trend of skills demand. We can see a quick hint for that happening already in the below stats.According to Altimeter report of 2019, Data Analysis is considered the highest demand for marketing skills, however, there is a huge rise for skills in video editing and production. This fact outlines how creative skill such as video production is becoming one of the major needs for the marketing industry.

Marketing Skills trends 2020

Conclusion: While the marketing trends in 2020 are going to bring some heads-up of hot new channels and interesting tactics we need to adopt, there are many crucial facts is happening in the background and we need to dig deeper in order to be prepared. The business environment and technology are going to reshape the industry as well as marketing skills. If you have a further opinion, please share so we can enhance this discussion.

How to Choose The Right Marketing Automation Platform for Startup

Marketing automation is a must-have for startups to manage their marketing efforts. But, even though you may have heard that many startups are still struggling with the definition of marketing automation. What is features of marketing automation and why it is important for the startup in particular? Sometimes as a marketing consultant, I like to take a pause and get back to the basics.

What is marketing automation? It’s pretty simple and straight-forward. It is a platform or set of tools that help to organize and automate marketing activities with fewer efforts and sustainable results.

Reality scenario: You are developing a B2B solution and you found out that you don’t have enough budget for hiring marketing resources. The struggle goes on when you start marketing campaigns but you are not able to connect the dots and convert due to limited resources. Relying on automation can solve the problem.

The use of marketing automation: Corporates vs Startups

Corporates are more exposed to the marketing automation platforms due to the sales initiatives running by enterprise automation platforms and their partners. The partners are very active in presenting the benefits of automation to the big companies and as well as providing long-term support benefits. No wonder that in the past couple of years the majority of corporates and SMBs already integrated marketing automation.

In startups ecosystem, the marketing automation still doesn’t have a clear path. One of the major reasons is that startups cannot afford the cost of well-known platforms such as Adobe Marketing Cloud, Marketo, Eloqua, etc. Startups usually tend to integrate many of the free and affordable tools that perform one or two tasks and they end up with a lot of tools that are all over the place but not connected in terms of managing and measurements.

Startups and growth

Studies show that 74% of companies report that using marketing automation software saves them a significant amount of time. However, using marketing automation can help startups not only run marketing activities but can as well help the startups to have a sustainable marketing strategy and a clear roadmap for their growth plan.

The starting point: Free marketing automation platforms

Is there an affordable or free marketing automation tools for startups? The answer is yes. There are many platforms that have a free limited version as well open source platforms. The list of free marketing automation platforms includes:

  1. HubSpot Marketing [Limited free version]
  2. Mautic [Open Source]
  3. OpenEmm [Open Source]
  4. Zoho Campaigns [Limited free version]
  5. MailChimp [Limited free version]
  6. Drip for e-commerce [Limited free version]
  7. DailyStory [Free version for startups]
  8. SendinBlue Email [Limited free version]
  9. Albacross [Limited free version]
  10. Leadsius [Limited free version]

There are still many more platforms you can search for and try. But hold your horses and let’s first identify how you can select your marketing automation platform? If you decided to take advantage of a marketing automation platform, the following considerations can help you decide on the right platform for your business needs and goals.

1. Make sure it is affordable and sustainable

It’s important to choose a marketing automation platform that you can afford in the long term. Remeber that your marketing platform should be suitable for your business growth such as growth in contacts and email campaigns.

Affordability doesn’t mean only the subscription and integration fees. It is important to choose a platform that is easy to manage and you have the team that can use it effectively. Consider the management of the automation tool as one of your investment and make sure that any adaptation, money, and resources invested should come with its benefits.

2. Choose the most suitable platform for your startup

Review all the features available in the marketing platform and make the decision based on your business objectives and targeted segments. Here are some of the things marketing automation allows you to do more effectively:

  • Email marketing and Segmentation
  • Landing page creation and A/B testing
  • Website personalization and CRO
  • Cross-channel marketing campaigns
  • Lead generation, lead nurturing and scoring
  • Measuring campaigns and ROI

marketing automation functions consulting

Create a checklist with the functions that will benefit your startup. Review each platform and choose the one that covers your needs. Remember always that there is no ultimate solution and each platform could have strong and weak sides.

3. Check the integration with other tools

In order to take full advantage of a marketing automation tool, make sure that you select the one that integrates with your marketing technology stack (website CMS, CRM database, and analytic tools).

It is critical decision to choose the suitable marketing automation tool that will facilitate your marketing activities effectively, and avoid inconvenient roadblocks along the way.

marketing automation integration consulting

4. Focus on how it can improve the conversion rates

You have to know that the marketing automation should not end at lead generation, as it can also enhance the conversion and sales funnels of your startup. Evaluating your marketing tech stack should be mainly focused on the business KPIs of your startup.

The selected platform should increase the ability to nurture and manage the leads with the most efficient tactics. Study how the automation solution can be integrated with the sales resources for identifying the Most Qualified Leads (MQLs) and dynamically aligned with marketing efforts.

5. Look for intelligence and variety of tactics

The purpose of marketing software is to make you a smarter marketer and move your marketing initiatives to a whole new level. How well does your platform enable you to understand your consumer journey? That’s a very important question to consider. It might take few rounds of testing and pilot campaigns in order to choose the right marketing automation platform but it will pay back.

Startups are more of easy movers and they don’t have the heavy layers of corporates. This gives the startups the ability to implement new process and shift their marketing strategy using the technology. As a startup, you can afford changing platforms and adaptation of technology, so test, test, test.

Don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to software selection

In conclusion: The strength of marketing automation tools relies on enabling easy and automated tasks to generate and convert leads so the small teams can focus on the more important parts of growing the startup.

Finally, the more thorough you are during the MarTech selection process, the better off you’ll be in the long run. The key is to look for a platform that can not only meet the needs of your startup but that can also advance your marketing strategy and customer acquisition. Growth and technology are always deep down in the DNA of each startup and they have the ability to move faster towards the marketing intelligence. Aim carefully and move faster with technology.

How a Marketing Analytics Consultant Can Solve Your Business Problems

In a data-first world, the marketing analytics is now becoming the process of connecting marketing function with the business intelligence. The demand for specialized marketing analytics consultant is becoming essential to bridge the gaps in marketing data and to extract business insights.

The main question in every business -from a small start-up to a well-established organization- will always be: Do we get the most accurate informed-decision/actions our of our data?

Reality scenarios:

  • The market research is telling you that the region you are targeting is highly profitable. All figures and surveys are providing very positive indications. You launched a campaign for few months but the campaign results are very poor. Where do you need to search for the problem? The common conclusions are: The market research is not accurate, the product offering is not competitive enough, the brand is new in the market and you need to allocate more budget for awareness. Any or all of this could be the reason but how you can get sure which one has the biggest impact?
  • You hired the best creative team or agency which provide you with great visuals and UX. Yet, the conversion is still low and you are you are losing a lot of money on advertising. How can you indicate the problem? Is it the creatives you need to change or the performance team that is not managing the budget allocation properly?
  • Your sales team are commonly reporting that the marketing team is not driving quality leads while your marketing team is telling that the sales department are not performing effectively. How can you find out which team of the two is underperforming?
  • You have so many analytic tools and each one of them has its reports. You are not sure how to combine and simplify all this amount of data and report the right insights to your management. All this data is still not getting you anywhere when your CEO asks about the actions required to increase ROI.

marketing analytics metrics consulting yasser ahamd

With all these issues a business can either go wrong and lose money or define the problem, raise flags and take an effective decision. Holding many meetings and listening to different opinions from the team is not what companies need to survive in such evolving situations. Numbers, technology, market trends and consumer habits are changing and you have to move faster.

How can a marketing analytics consultant shift the way you are looking at your data?

Bringing data to the core of your decision-making process doesn’t only require technology and advanced automation platforms. A tool can give you the real-time figures but creating a relation between data and extracting an action is the biggest problem for any organization.

One of the major challenges CMOs face: finding professionals who can not just analyze data but most importantly to extract the critical insights. Data analysts are qualified to analyze the data but the marketing teams are always in need of a consultant with experience in both analytics and marketing strategy. Here I would love to share some of the main functions of the marketing analytics consultants and how it can help the stakeholders to solve business problems.

Function #1: Building an effective marketing analytics strategy

Starting with the strategy, consultants can always organize the marketing analytics process by building an effective strategy based on their findings. Establishing a custom analytics plan would provide efficient outcomes and controllable workflow.

  • Research the data sources and define what the marketing need to design a more effective process to collect, analyze and extract insights and patterns.
  • Evaluate all structured and unstructured data sources and define what is the best Martech and analytic platforms required
  • Identify the gaps in the digital marketing strategy and areas for improvement
  • Develop a marketing analytics strategy based on the business objectives
  • Establish a best practice approach for reporting and insights from your analytics

Tip: Google analytics reports and Facebook insights are not customize designed tools that are built to answer questions. Each business shouldn’t rely on extracting the built-in reports and develop his own customized insights. The process of reporting should start with a business question such as; how we are improving our ROI? The reports are meant to provide answers and indications and not just metrics. 

For more information about marketing analytics strategy, read the article: 5 Effective Tactics for Marketing Analytics Strategy.

Function #2: Marketing analytics consultant can fix the gaps in your data insights

Are you collecting the data you need at right timeframe and at the right volume? Getting overwhelmed with the vast amount of data availability is a mistake.

It doesn’t matter if you have access to all data sources, while it matters the most to have an effective scope. A professional marketing analytics consultant can help you to build the right strategy where data are meant to answer the business questions. Finding the metrics which define the action is a process where you a consultant can help to connect the dots. The analytics consultant can cover the following functions:

  • Analyze all the reports and indicate the gaps in the data (metrics required, data correlations, dashboard structure, reporting automation process, and timeframes)
  • Set the business objectives for reports (consumer behavior metrics, brand awareness metrics, performance metrics, transactional and ROI metrics)
  • Apply the analytical models required for client lifetime value, retention and forecasting
  • Help the team to extract and create stories using the data visualization and deliver a high level of relevancy
  • Determine the most effective marketing strategies and defining the performance gaps which can help in managing the marketing budget more efficiently

Tip: Insights are more important than data. Choose a professional consultant who can help you to stop chasing all the metrics and organize your reports.

Function #3: Marketing analytics consultant is an outside eye

There are several issues in organizations that prevent management from solving problems. Among the top issues are the common one; themselves. In many business cases, the way the senior management identifying the is the problems is not accurate and that’s why they need an outside eye (different perspective).

  • Consultants often work with many different companies and may have faced the same problem you are struggling with in the past and tested multiple solutions for it. They can provide a perspective based on what they’ve experienced and provided more insights into what is working and what is not.
  • An analytics consultant can bring in a more innovative solution and marketing technology ideas and advice which is suitable for your business which can save can cut the cost for budget and the resources required to implement a change in the department.
  • The consultants’ task is to define the gaps and highlight the performance issues which can resolve the conflicts between internal teams. This can solve several issues between different team members and defining the most relevant KPI. Understanding not just the performance of the channels but also the performance of the team members and roles.
  • A professional consultant can help you to understand the critical gaps in your marketing performance and raise the flags for urgent matters as well as drawing attention to milestone wins.

Tip: Each organization might be full of certain rules and policies that can prevent internal teams from implementing major changes. An outside expert can help you to push the change and implement new tactics in a shorter timeframe. 

Function #4: Covering the knowledge gap for your team

One of the key roles for marketing analytics consultant is to cover your team’s knowledge. The consultant can save you time and budget required for an extensive amount of training or additional full-time talents by training your team and providing the right approach for data analytics.

  • A professional marketing analytics consultant can help to structure your marketing team and identifying the knowledge and resources required. In some cases, a consultant can help you to avoid new hiring by implementing automation tools or delivering a sufficient analysis on regular basis.
  • The team can benefit from the consultant experience and enhance their skills as well as avoiding longer time in technical troubleshooting and research.

marketing analytics consulting

In conclusion: CMOs say just 42% of marketing decisions are made using analytics. Eventually, CMOs still report that they are still struggling with analytics. While the marketing technology and cloud solutions are providing advanced capabilities in combining offline and online data, the lack of talents who are experienced in both data analytics and marketing is a challenge.

A specialized consultant who has the knowledge of data analytics tactics and marketing initiatives can drive the marketing department towards the business goals. Putting all the wide collection of data (media, paid advertising, organic, social media, digital marketing, mobile marketing, customer relationship management and email marketing) into an insightful pattern can shift any business into a real customer-centric company.

5 Effective Tactics for Marketing Analytics Strategy

From a business manager’s perspective, successful results are achievable if a common objective and key performances are made clear across the organization. Marketing data analytics is one of the core competencies for data-influenced companies and play an effective role in connecting business objectives with consumer behavior’s data.

The main purpose of organizations to create a marketing analytics strategy is all about how to drive smarter questions, which will elicit thoughtful answers using the accessible data. Unfortunately, many stakeholders still tend to see marketing analytics as a way to measure the spending and marketing performance. That’s considered as a limit view of the data analytics capabilities.

The marketing analytics strategy main objective is to maximize the use of data to create a form of data-influenced actions that are aligned with the business objectives and effective on the long-term strategic advantage.

If I could highlight the most important fact about marketing analytics, I would definitely say that the best strategy to follow starts with a sharp focus on the objectives. To get a better understand, let’s start with some common situations.

Reality scenarios…

  • Businesses would say that they know their marketing objectives clearly, But Ehm!.. Not true.
    Once you investigate more with their situation, you will soon discover that those generic needs they have to be analyzed using the data.
  • Structured data and insights are not always ready and available. To build strategy you sometimes need to assist the company with their data aggregation and analytics.
  • Inside companies, the marketing departments are usually under the pressure of proving their performance results or struggling with 60 dense analytic charts and slides which is hard for senior management to understand a fraction of it.

When you are facing such realities, it is about time to start searching for a better understanding of the data role in your organization.

1. Understand the role of data analytics

First, we have to stat the fact that reports, slides, and charts generated by marketing analysts shouldn’t be for the sake of providing results. Results are not the key. When you are facing a gap in your performance, it is about time to start searching for a proper strategy which can help you to move from the phase of looking at results to the phase of understanding why these results are like this.

The toughest lesson I did learn about data that it is not just made of numbers and figures. If you don’t analyze the data properly, you will not be able to get an accurate action. In a data-driven world, a piece of metric can bring a major shift in your consumer journey if you are able to measure it in relation to another metric.

marketing analytics for companies

Describing the business objective as customer-centric doesn’t only require investing more money in product and customer relation while paying less attention to the real-time analytics. Marketing analytics is the playing an essential role in understanding the client behavior and interaction with the brand and the services provided.

Find out the objectives of your marketing analytics strategy and understand the role of it before you try to shift your business into data-influenced.

2. Set the effective KPIs and avoid the metrics delusion

The first questions, while you are navigating your metrics, should be: If I have a higher rate on this metric would it impact the business objectives? Does the higher engagement rate on social media increase the website conversion rate?

The metrics and dimensions should be selected based on the business objectives.

Marketing professionals should translate the business objectives into a set of effective KPIs. Each KPI should be based on a set of relevant metrics and data insights. You have to remember that chasing all metrics will always result in a huge waste of efforts and confusion in your daily or weekly tracking.

What’s the difference between a metric and KPI? KPIs are measurable values that are created by senior managers to achieve business objectives. Metrics are the moving status variables to track a specific business process.

All companies need to track profit is an essential KPI which might include website conversion, orders, monthly active users, and retention. Each KPI could have a strategic value for the organization such as market acquisition and CLV.

Eventually, the number of KPIs might increase from top to bottom when you set your marketing strategy. The CEO might have a set of KPIs which requires marketing to generate multiple additional KPIs. When those numbers grow bigger than your capacity and you find yourself experiencing data overload, then you will need to identify only the relevant metrics.

3. Define the target before you set the KPI

Targets are not easy to set, but once you do have a clear understanding of what are the indicators of success and failure, you will be able to identify your right targets.

Building an enhanced analysis for marketing is all about eliminating the irrelevant matters and focusing on the critical view. See the target clearly before you set a KPI.

By using the forecasting models, past performance, and competitive analysis the targets are easy to distinguish. Don’t set your KPIs without having preassigned targets. In any common situation, the stakeholders would always struggle with understanding the KPIs that doesn’t have a clear target. If you don’t have a target supported by figures, you will end up chasing the impossible.

marketing targets vs metrics

Remember that not all professionals will be happy with assigned targets. It is important to always use the analytics effectively to prove the accuracy of your target figures. Make sure you always assist your targets with industry benchmarks and forecasting indicators.

4. Organize an easy-to-read marketing dashboard

Your marketing dashboard is your home. It should be familiar (uncomplicated), tight and present your main needs. Build a dashboard that takes no longer than minutes to read and include the main KPIs you need to monitor. Use data visualization to illustrate the data correlation effectively.

Marketing dashboard should always have the following features:

  • All-In-One-Monitoring: The marketing dashboard should collect all the required analytics from data sources (GA, SM, SEO, CRM, Email Automation, Paid channels, PM system, Finance, etc.)
  • Visual KPIs Tracking: KPI tracking should be visualized with average rates over a periodical timeline.
  • Outlined Objectives: Define your top factors for tracking marketing activities (campaign tracking, channel tracking,  revenue tracking, engagement metrics, attribution modeling, etc.)
  • Set Data Deviations: Using 3 standard deviations to generate your rates. (According to researchers, 99.7 percent data distribution lie within three standard deviations).
  • Reliability and Accuracy: Your dashboard should have accurate clean data. Connect real-time data and reliable data connections to get an up-to-date view of your marketing activities.
  • Customization and flexibility: Adjust your dashboard according to your strategy and don’t use static settings for timelines and data validation.

marketing dashboard analytics consultant

Finally, you need always to be able to identify your performance top layer accurately and clearly. Marketing dashboard can help you to provide a transparent overview for the business stakeholders and clients and can decrease the amount used for reporting.

5. Get the managers involved with the context

If all the previous strategies fail, then I advise you to try this strategy. It is not an easy one because it’ll demand that you are truly expert in marketing analysis. You might think that senior management and client want data but that’s not accurate. They pretend that data is important for them but at the end, they are only looking at results. That’s how the business world works. 

Therefore, I believe you should focus on telling the story not showing the tables and relations. There are useful ways to get this done by adding some context to your dashboard and extracted reports. List a set of clarifications to the metrics such as: What influenced this metric? why these rates changed? what is the set of actions taken?

Learn how to tell a story instead of reporting data. This will require you to have an effective understanding of the organization and the client motivations. Avoid going outside the track and showing irrelevant metrics or you will lose your case at the first meeting. Remember that you will need few rounds to be able to play this game effectively and expand their knowledge about the analytics. Once they will see the relation “the context” they ask for actions. That’s the time for you to show the actions slides and win the meeting.

It is totally normal that business managers will be always doubting and pushing on the marketing to show more growth. The best approach for marketers is to always have their analytics clean, accurate and telling a story. Showing reports for the sake of flooding the table with many charts will always lead the marketing to an uncertain path while inserting context will lead managers to shift their focus from the numbers to the insights.

Conclusion: If you find yourself stuck with showing your performance in the proper way, try these strategies. If this doesn’t work then take a deep breath and try to understand where is the gap. Marketing analytics strategy is not straightforward practices and it will always require time, testing and flexibility in implementation. Work on each data source and fix your reports one by one. Give it a shout and remember that finding the insights is more important than the data. Finally, if your company is not a data-driven and data-influenced then I believe that you will change it with your tactics.

Please share your ideas and theories via comments or contact me for marketing analytics consulting.

Yasser Ahmad

Top Tips for Professional Arabic Keyword Research

Arabic keyword research is always considered as the cornerstone of any SEO campaign, paid search and content strategy. To build a successful Arabic keyword list, you will need an effective research to understand the local search habits and the difference between spoken Arabic and written Arabic.

Why Arabic Keywords Research is different

With 22 countries and different local trends, it is challenging to conduct a keyword research in the MENA region. The research in such language and marketplace has different nature.

  • Spoken Dialects: There are different spoken dialects which would require a further research into local trends. There are five major dialects in the region including Gulf, Egyptian, Maghrebi, Levantine, and Mesopotamian Arabic.
  • Culture: Arabic users have many search terms related to one keyword. A variation of keywords would need a further research into keywords relevancy.
  • Consumer Habits: Some keywords could have a high volume in a certain country in the market while it has very low volume in other countries. You will need to conduct a further research on consumer search habits.
  • Keywords Localization: Translating Arabic keywords from the English language will not provide an accurate result. Localization is also tricky from one country to another within the Arabic speaking countries.
  • Negative keywords: Collecting the most accurate negative keywords in Arabic is very tricky. The Arabic language sometimes has very similar or typical terms to describe a wide variety of services or products.

Top tips for Arabic keyword research process

1. Identify the seed keywords: Collect the initial keywords that are relevant to your business including brand names, products, services and locations you are targeting. The list is mainly created by the business owner to define their basic keywords and usually is provided in English or Arabic.

2. Use different keyword tools for exploring: Expanding the initial list by using keywords tools to collect relevant keyword suggestions, local search volume, competition level, relative frequency, suggested bidding, etc.
Use more than one tool to get a different variation of keywords. You don’t have to follow a certain path to get the most relevant keywords. Sometimes Google search page can provide you with useful suggestions for long tail keywords and sentences.

3. Understand the trend of the keyword: Google Trends is a tool that will allow you to learn a lot from your keywords. It will give you data for not just today, but for a longer period of time. This will add another dimension for your keywords and will help you to understand when the search volume increase and decrease around the year. This is highly recommended for e-commerce keywords and B2B businesses.

4. Understand the consumer’s search habits: The majority of searches in the Arabic language are using long tail combinations, which means that searchers do not usually look for specific keywords, but rather many other keywords get a small number of hits as well. This requires more planning and deeper research to get the most relevant keywords which might don’t show high volume but it is effective to reach the audience.

5. Categorize the keywords: In order to have a strategic approach to your keyword list, you will need to divide your keywords into several categories.

Branded Keywords, Industry Keywords, Transactional Keywords, Informative Keywords, etc.

It is important to define the categories that are relevant to your business and marketing objectives. Each business has its own different nature of content that might vary and that’s why categories of keywords should be relevant. Keywords categories for SEO and content strategy would require more focus on context while categories for AdWords campaign would require more focus on bidding metrics and competition level. Furthermore, negative Arabic keyword research is essential for AdWords campaigns.

6. Set the priorities to build the strategy: By setting up the keywords priorities you will be able to define the strategy and action plan for your keywords. Defining which keywords will be used for content creation requires understanding putting together the priority factors of organic conversion. While in search engine marketing requires different priorities such as suggested biding, broad/exact, landing pages score, etc.

Explore the competition and analysis your website and landing pages content before you set the proper metrics for keywords filtration.

In conclusion: Arabic keyword research is not an easy task and requires a native speaker with solid experience in exploring the consumer search habits. Keyword tools are helpful to find relevant keywords but in order to get an effective keyword list, you would need to expand your resources. Keyword strategy is the main guideline to have a proper categorization and filtration for your Arabic keyword research.

Avoid translating your keywords from English and run a culture customization based on the targeted market and consumer search habits. Finally, make sure you define the top relevant keywords for the Arabic consumer whether it is a local term, transcreation or transcripted.

I hope this was useful and contact me if you have a question or looking for an Arabic SEO consultant.

Marketing in the Middle East: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Marketing in the Middle East is becoming the topic that a substaintial number of people are wondering about.  Targeting the consumer in the Middle East is not limited anymore to international companies, it is increasignly important for startups and mid-size companies in the region who are trying to expand across different countires in the Arab world. We are in the era of startups where everyone currently is having some sort of idea or services or even a talent that they need to market. Therefore, marketing in the Middle East is attractive topic and becoming a demand for everyone search for opportunity around here. I get it, it is one of the millennial generation’s lifestyle and thanks to the social media and its tools for small businesses.

Eventually, the world is currently living in the era of startups where everyone is having a talent or an idea and want to make a profit out of it. I can understand this, but why everyone thinks that marketing is the last thing to consider? That’s what I cannot understand!!

The Middle East region is rapidly evolving, especially in the last 5 years, and getting highly influenced by the global trends such as e-commerce, business entrepreneurship, media and fashion influencers, and brands lifestyle products.

We might be able to confirm that the region is emerging fast and everyone including individuals is looking for jumping on board, yet marketing will be always a challenge that is everyone is struggling with.

Apparently, you cannot have a straight vision which can answer all the questions when you are establishing your marketing staretgy for the Middle East. That’s why I would like to invite you for a nice ride (I hope) to explore this market and to understand the nature of the consumer around here.

First, do you like western movies? This is some kind of metaphors I will encotuner. Yet, if you don’t get it you can still ignore and you will miss nothing.

The Good

The Middle East market is huge

The Middle East is rising as one of the fastest-growing markets and it is becoming more attractive due to some major factors.

  • Demographic structure of the region is playing a big role with approximately half of the population in Middle Eastern countries are currently under the age of twenty-five. Yay, young and energetic.
  • This young segment is spending more time on social media more than  the global average. Therefore, there is a great opportunities for marketers to use social media and content marketing especially for industries such as consumer products, fashion, food & beverage, and entertainment.
  • In the Gulf area, many of these younger consumers are affluent professionals, and this presents a big market for luxury brands and electronics. In marketing language this means a higher customer value and higher revenue per customer. Sophistcally, higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

While some countries in the region are facing economic instability, the market is still having low taxation compared to the European markets. Lovely fact: The region has the highest spending on cosmetics per capita in the world and the appetite for beauty and fashion products is getting bigger. Tempting!

Easy to segment

The Arab consumers are relatively easy to segment and you need less efforts to identify the customer persona. However, If you are going to use traditional surveys, then it is a bad idea. The Arabs, in general, are unlike other nations and they are more conservative about sharing their honest feedback. Not to metnion the absent of solid market researches. You are alone in a vast dry desert of data.

Monitoring trends and tracking the social media engagement are more effective tactics to define the key motivations for your potential customers. Furthermore, proper data-driven approaches can definitely get you the insights you need. But, if you know how to collect data smartly not by portion.

consumer research arabic

Finally, localize your apporach. This doesn’t mean localization of your marketing content and campaigns, but effective localization of your marketing strategy for the the Middle East. Channels, creatives, user experince and all. I am not talking about translation. It is all about the culture. If you don’t have locals who are crafting your marketing message, then you need to hire someone who is expert with the local culture, slangs, and trends.

Common marketing tactics are effective

Some of the well-established brands are using the same marketing tactics in the region for decades and guess what? It is still working.

When I was in the advertising business someone told me an interesting story: “Back in the early 90s we had a meeting with P&G and they rejected many new creative ideas for a new campaign. The reason is that they believe that the Egyptian consumers only engage with the Ads that contains a song. Simply they didn’t want the campaign to be focused on the product features and wanted it more entertaining”. They eventually did have a good understanding of the market and made the choice to stick to what it works. Now, which is 20 years later, you would still see that advertisers didn’t change their tactic. They only adjusted it to fit with the digital media platforms but the tactic is still the same.

Common advertising and campaign tactics are still effective for the mass consumer in the Middle East. The consumers in the region are highly influenced by the media and mass campaign over the personalized experiences. A viral campaign is widely effective in shaping the consumer habits and it works for big brands, media production, and even politicians.

The Bad

The social concerns

arabic consumerThere is one important factor you need to fully understand about the Arab consumer and never forget. Arabs are highly influenced by the social concerns. They tend usually to buy the things that recommend by their circle of friends and family while putting fewer efforts on exploring the specific features of a product. Surprised? well it is even more. The regional consumer tend to buy products to gain a higher social class appearance. Yeah, to some degree this happens everywhere, but it is bigger over here.

The majority of consumers in the Middle East are trapped in trendy and fashionable brands and desperate to be part of one social group or another. They are suffering from an inability to choose based on their individual needs as this might lead to a prejudgment by the society and their circle of friends. Maintaining a certain social image is a quiet big concern which highly affects the consumer habits in the region.

If you are wondering about where the big brands are exceeding in creating a fashionable brand image? You will need to spin the world map and land in the Middle East. You might not find every girl wearing Nike shoes like in Singapore, but you will find that moving up in your social class requires an iPhone. Arabs don’t just believe it is fashionable, they believe it a star added to their exclusivity. If you are selling a product with high quality but it is not a fashionable trendy product, then you are going to struggle. Big time!

marketing in the middle east brands

Marketing tactics: How to build a marketing campaign in such market? My advice for you is to try to build up a group of loyal customers and create a very personalized email campaign. Focus on this small base of customers and make them feel exclusive and spoil them. Don’t rush the growth and position your brand with fabulous marketing materials such as high-quality videos. Grow your segment gradually using an effective social media engagement and never forget to maintain important factors such as excellent customer support, loyalty programs, CRM, and retargeting tactics.

Lack of standards

Marketers in the mature markets such as some European regions are highly considered about the conservative consumer who tend to read and check the specifications in order to compare services/brands before they make a decision and convert. The Middle East is considered as a region of emerging markets with less concern of critical thinking and product comparison practices. A quick tour in the most popular e-commerce websites would help you to understand that the number of product reviews is relevantly lower than most of the global markets.

If you are selling for the Germans, you should be ready with very dense product description and very caution with the customers’ feedback. Montioring the customers opinion is very painful process for a conservative consumer who tend to have high standards and highly concerned about reviews. In the Middle East, this is not exactly the case. Arab consumer are shopping because they just enjoy it. It is not a plan or investment, it is an entertainment. Huge difference in consumer behaviour. Keep that in mind.

Marketing tactics: Branding and marketing message are the most sensitive marketing materials you need to consider when you are releasing a product for Arabs. Build a campaign that will make your brand stand out in the market and always deliver your USPs in straightfoward and easily consumed ways. The landing pages should carry out a clear message up front and avoid any lengthy descriptions. Simplify your approach, aim well and hit right in spot. Push aggressively on offers and the Arabic consumer will go banana. They never disappionted my KPIs during the seasons.

The Ugly

Consumerism at its peak

The consumerism is drastically changing the lifestyle of the local consumer in Arab countries. Consuming more might sound like a great opportunity for businesses to market, but that’s not true and you have to think about it again. Consuming more of the cosmetic doesn’t mean a great opportunity for you to open your state-of-art cosmetic. The well-established brands will absorb this growth by producing a variety of products and acquiring small companies. Big brands are eating most of the cake down here.

Over the years we were able to witness how the local investors were filling the malls, the store shelves and road billboards with western brands,  leaving a tighter window for the consumer to browse the alternative products. The biggest local firms are investing heavily and there are few big players who are dominating the malls and international brands. From fashion to beauty, F&B, media production, electronics and even resturants it is a closed game. Amazon jumped in and acquired Souq.com to dominate the e-commerce in the region. The top players are manging the game.

That’s the ugly fact about the Middle East market; the consumers are surrounded by big brands which are massively funded by local investors (The Gulf money). The consumer will end up consuming more of the same item or same brand instead than being open to alternatives and new experiences.

Don’t be deceived by the initial figures about the market size and charts of your sector or industry. Don’t launch your business model and marketing strategy based on these tricky stats. If you don’t dig deeper into the market insights and adapt your strategy considering the price-sensitive consumer, you could lose a vast amount of time and resources.

Consumerism is also changing the lifestyle of the consumer and instead of satisfying people’s needs it is constructing commercial needs and desires to keep the production growth. In a country like Lebanon, you would see that some consumer tend to buy a piece of branded clothes instead of buying normal varieties of outfits. In Egypt, some would buy an iPhone even if it is beyond their ability.

Marketing tactics: If you want to conduct an effective strategy for marketing in the Middle East, you shouldn’t only focus on the factors you developed your product based on. It is more like a “Blue Ocean strategy” where you need to focus on how to brand your product. In other words, it is not quality concern, it is differentiation.

Moreover, it is important to know that Arabic consumer interact with the promotion campaign more than they do interact with the product itself. They will have higher awareness about the piece of the advertising than the product name. Make sure you campaigns are effective and delivers strong message.

Controlled by brands

UAE Top Rankings
UAE Top Rankings

Brands are turning into symbols of lifestyle and exclusivity in the region which is bringing huge struggles for startups and SMBs. Back in the 80s, the market had the first wave of international brands which boomed in the recent years. The brands’ big investments and the massive advertising made the local brands lose a huge chunk of the market share. Some of the local brands started to change their strategy and try to become more specialized and localized, but the ugly truth that many of them are exiting the market.

We have seen many creative and out-the-box solutions joining the market but after a while, they discover that the local consumer is more attracted by the international brand. Here we come to a major issue which is the marketing investment. These huge budgets play a big role in the game and eventually the marketing know-how of these big brands will give them always an edge.

Recently, I’ve wondered why all girls in Arab countries are wearing a “Datejust” Rolex? I found out that most of them are wearing a fake copy. They still would prefer to wear a fake copy of a big brand than going for another Swiss brand like Swatch. I wouldn’t call this as a final resolution but I can see that local brands are struggling to grow in industries such as beauty, fashion, and retail.

Marketing tactics: Don’t compete with the big brand and build a strategy that can help you identify the gaps. Use gorilla digital strategies and maximize the use of data insights. Establish organic acquisition channels with your SEO and Social Media to decrease your advertising needs. Build an extensive content strategy and gain the client confidence by being a reliable source of information.

Influencer marketing is the key to success in the region. To get people to trust your product or services you need to influence them with a celebrity or opinion leader or media advocate. This works much better than building a creative concept for your marketing campaign. When Vodafone wanted to beat the competitors in the Egyptian market, they hired Mo Salah and that’s it.

Is not a startup-friendly

For decades, marketers always wonder why startups are able to drive vast growth in the U.S. market while it is diffcult to grow in other enviroments. I believe that the nature of the market and the consumer behavior is the key. In contrast, Arabs don’t tend to try new solutions or services to fulfill their needs. Once you launch a new app or product, then you will generate a niche segment which is not enough to sustain your growth plans. This is Have been the main struggle for the majority of startups in the region I have consulted.

I know that there are tons of articles and figures about how the Middle East is becoming a big hub for startups, and I don’t disagree with that. Yet, when I get to sit with a lot of entrepreneurs I am always getting the same complaints: We are able to fund the business but the marketing is an issue. How to increase our market share? How to expand in the region? and many more of these utopian questions…

Let’s say the answer to this is pretty simple. The consumer habits in emerging markets requires much more than a creative idea. The business model should have room for adoption and product changes to be able to survive. The key here is not the consumer needs but the business model flexibility and ability to evolve.

Marketing tactics: Don’t rely only on the product and find ways to communicate the benefits. Reshape your marketing message to provide a compelling message. Open your platform or product for demos, gifts, samples, test drives and influencers. Be realistic and market what you can deliver. Don’t focus on going viral and focus on building more effective campaigns. Use data analytics effectively to feed your CRM then get it connected with online analytics. You need to master your own funnel and to gain a better understanding of the buyer’s persona.

In conclusion: Marketing in the Middle East has its gaps which you can benefit from. To launch an effective marketing strategy for the Middle East markets you need first to have a solid base of information about the market possibilities. Understanding the consumer doesn’t come right away from published statistics or conducting surveys, it requires running intensive researches in order to get the proper business analysis.

Finally, while social media is one of the best channels to generate leads for conducting marketing in the Middle East, but yet I still believe that content is the king.  Organic is the best method to generate leads on the long-term and at a lower cost per acquisition.