04 May 2014

Conference: Leveraging digital media. For startups

While it's understandable that people have to gather data about people to be able to advertise and keep their business running, I feel it's very necessary for advertising to be done with a sense of ethics and respect for people's privacy and personal lives. The conference I attended, sadly didn't touch on this topic.

A bit different from the conference on open source, this conference at IIM-B was a concentrated amalgamation of years of experience from various entrepreneurs who shared their knowledge with other entrepreneurs (pretty much like the corn farmer).
Learnt a lot about the business language and perspective of technology.

Moderated by professor Seema Gupta and with panelists:
  • Mr. Lakshmipathy Bhat, Director, Code Conclave
  • Mr. Achintya Gupta, Evangelizer, Kuliza
  • Ms. Sweta Sharma, COO, Simplify360
  • Mr. Nikhil Ramaprakash, Head of Marketing, Urban Ladder
  • Mr. Vinay Prashant, Head of Marketing, Amagi Media Labs

The intro
A bit different from conventional mass media, is digital media, where what you create, should be 'findable'. Acquiring customers and brand building are the two facets of digital marketing. This involves search engine marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing, web analytics, email marketing and mobile marketing.

You have to know the number of page hits, why people are leaving your website and the ranking of your content on Google (which currently has 75% market dominance). As your competitor will always keep trying to better themselves and rank higher, the way around that which you have, is to use paid advertising (noticed those adverts that come up on top of your Google search results when you search for something?)

The old and the new
  • One flaw of conventional mass media, is that there's no measurement. ie: there's no way to know (apart from rough 'people meters' or it's portable version) how many people are watching your ad's.
  • Marketing is powerful only when the consumer is intent to buy. A consumer using digital media is shown targeted ad's when they're actively searching for something they want to buy. This readiness state of the consumer is the strength of digital marketing.
  • Compared to mass media, digital marketing has a rate card. It doesn't discriminate between startups and established corporations. In mass media for example, a corporation with deep pockets would be able to create a larger ad. Digital media levels the playing field to a large extent.
  • Mass media tries to minimize waste (there may be many people who aren't interested in an ad) but digital media maximizes efficiency. The cost of communication comes down and you can reach niche audiences. The best part being, that it'll cost you lesser money if you have great content! As a startup if you're having a low click through rate, your strategy should be to start displaying your ad by bidding for a high initial amount. Bidding is based on hunches/trial-error.
  • Mass media via television has a big advantage in conveying personification, character and emotion. It captures the attention of the consumer. A digital ad is lousy compared to this. But digital, allows you to fire bullets (try advertising with less money first) and if it works, then fire the cannonball (splurge on advertising). Mass media doesn't allow you to try this as effectively as digital media.
  • Unlike mass media which interrupts a consumer during a show, brand building via digital media happens via content consumption. Targeted, specific ads. So customer reception is more positive.

Some advice given to startups 
  • Limit paid media to 65% of total cost (of course, abroad, 60% is used just for content creation because they realize content is king). Remaining money can be used for earned media (likes and shares online) and for content creation. Plan for a web presence (but intelligently; Eg: people don't search online for soap, so don't use digital media to advertise it) and treat your digital PR agency as a guide who walks with you and understands your brand.
  • Be platform agnostic (your ad's should be accessible via any device and any operating system)
  • Understand the criticality of content creation.
  • Your quality score = keywords + click through rate.
  • Also, connect online with offline. Eg: one company noticed that people tended to see their ads more when they played poker. They also noticed that people played poker more when it rained. So this company started targeting their ads at cities where and when it was raining.
  • The how's: Identify content that people are interested in. Eg: As a mutual fund company, you know that people who play golf are rich. Keep track of their golf scores, their friend's golf scores, provide tips on how they can beat their friends and integrate your brand into this advertising. So the next time they look to invest money, they'll consider your brand.
  • It's time for multilingual: Research shows the internet is increasing at 67% in non-metros and at just 16% in metros. Having content that a local population can understand, can enhance the value of your advertising. Of course, the discoverability of vernacular languages is difficult because of the dominance of search being in English.
  • If you're providing a niche service, find forums and blogs which discuss your kind of products and advertise there instead of on Google ads.
  • Email marketing is very effective. For every rupee spent on email marketing, you get an ROI of Rs.40.

"Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it's an ad." —Howard Gossage

Some of the combined knowledge of the panelists
  • Television reaches more people than other media combined. The startup Amagi, showed us how targeted TV seamlessly shows different ads at the same instant, across various states in India.
  • Listen to existing, prospective and competitor's customers. Use the info gathered to improve content. Be your own PR and know where your audience is.
  • People tend to engage on the smaller screen and tend to transact on the large screens.
  • Create visually engaging posts. It creates virality and ROI.
  • Hire analysts rather than people who just run campaigns, because what you really need are people who can analyze data gathered and improve the campaign.
  • Relate ad's with day-to-day context. Like how Facebook has lifestyle and lifestage targeting; or like the sitOrSquat mobile app started by a toilet-paper company (Charmin) which shows you the nearest toilets (which contain their toilet paper of course); or like the chewing gum brand which designed a game based on people having to move their jaws in a chewing motion to play the game. 
  • Use a blog as a voice of authority on a subject and do not underestimate the utility of newsletters.

Met some interesting people too. A freelancer entrepreneur who helps with SEO, information architecture and has written her own book on life. A person who started his own hospital and was looking on how he could make people want to return to the hospital by improving their emotional experience of visiting the hospital. An entrepreneur who looks to change the way we handle organic waste by converting it into compost and was looking for better ways to advertise and market her brand.

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