Why you need a specialised Digital PR agency?

In the advertising & marketing communication world , this is one of the most commonly debated topic, does your brand really need a Digital PR company when they have a well established conventional PR agency? More often than not, the brand assumes that their current empaneled PR agency is capable of handling any contingency or marketing problem. But in today’s digital universe, that simply isn’t the case.

When it comes to the question of a digital PR agency versus a traditional PR agency, we know that digital agencies offer capabilities that are beyond the scope of firms that focus on a more traditional public relations approach.

Why you need a specialised Digital PR agency?

  • A digital PR agency is much better equipped to offer its clients reach across a range of online and offline sources. The content messaging they create is often customised to the need of modern socially active and upwardly mobile individual.
  • From online media placements to social media engagement, a digital PR agency delivers outcomes that extend beyond the limitations of a traditional PR firm.
  • Though both a digital PR agency and a traditional PR agency share the same communication objectives, i.e. to enhance their clients’ reputations and increase visibility among targeted audiences. The key difference however, is the way both of them approach a marketing problem. A digital PR company would always think of creating multiple manifestations of the marketing communication which can be leveraged across different content channels and a range of consumer devices.
  • Compared to a traditional PR agency, a digital PR agency has a lot more channels in its toolbox. Although many digital agencies also handle traditional media placements, they have the ability to leverage websites, blogs and other online placements to deliver real-time messages across an increasingly sophisticated array of global, web-based channels.
  • Traditional PR is often a one-way conversation in which the brand presents key messages for consumption by core audiences. But a digital PR agency specialises in creating two-way conversations and authentic dialogue with audiences, generating exciting opportunities for brand interaction and customer engagement.

Given the state of technology, most public relations firms are eager to brand themselves as digital. But there are several core capabilities that only a digital PR agency can bring to your business.

  1. SEO. A quality digital PR agency would always think of various ways in which it can optimise your marketing content to get better search rankings.
  2. Content. A digital PR agency would always look at content in terms of bringing not just advertising value & eye balls but building powerful thought leadership messages from it.
  3. Social. Having a specialised digital PR company would allow you to bring better social experience of your marketing idea. They can cross leverage the same marketing thought across multiple social channels and deliver a much better return on investment for your brand.

Digital Marketing Strategy for Accounting Firms

We all know Accounting is a serious business. Chartered accounting firms can make a huge impact in anyone’s business not just by managing their books efficiently but also by offering brilliant tax & finance related advice to the business owners & decision makers. But the challenge of finding newer clients & growing one’s business is an uphill task for any small firm or individual.

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Digital Agency vs Digital PR Agency

Digital PR agencies are in the business of creating content for a long time through which they can offer lot more value to the brand in a socially dominated digital ecosystem.

As a matter of fact, PR is perhaps much better placed compared to any other player to build digital brands as they are closest to the process of influencing audiences.

Public relations companies could well change how social media is looked at in 2015. Considering digital is the core focus of all offline content providers & news publications, PR can play a huge role as the content curator for their respective clients and help them in monitor & eventually dominate social media landscape.

Is ad free internet a good thing?

So who doesn’t like an Ad free internet world? I am sure you would simply love that banner free environment in your mobile, or that billboard free road, or the commercial free programming feed on your 40 inch Plasma? It is truly fascinating to think about a world which is devoid of Advertising. The issue however is surely debatable in a larger context. I really loved some of the points mentioned by the author of this article, the most critical was mentioned towards the end i.e. Lack of Advertising can trigger a social disturbance because these ads are kind of navigation points that help us make rational ( sometime irrational ) decisions about the world around us.

Someone may argue that we were doing well even before advertising came into existence, people (and I mean humans) were transacting for a long time in the history, and it was entirely on the word of mouth, to which an adman would counter argue that the world was doing well before chronic consumerism hit our shores, and now since we have this consumerism at its peak (and climbing new heights), we would need a tool like advertising to help us navigate our way out of this madness. It (advertising) is our only chance to make a choice, and in this case the choice is not between a red or blue pill only, there is a purple, orange, green and many more pills to choose from.
The choices have become increasingly complex, not just because there is too much advertising but also because there are too many products. It is almost like the age old debate of chicken vs egg, whether advertising opened the floodgates for consumerism or vice-versa. In either of the cases, advertising has opened the doors into a parallel world within human consciousness. The ad-world is planting or rather incepting ideas & thoughts into our heads which is defining who we are. You may even look at it as a detour in the human evolution but now it is very much an integral part of our collective social experience.
Coming back to the point of whether ads are intrusive in our day to day living experience & I would actually like to be neutral in my reply here, there is no doubt that we all get bugged by these adverts every now & then, especially now when the world has gone digital & nobody wishes to spoil their experience on their personal devices like smartphones or tablets but there are few equally critical sides which cannot be ignored:
  • Commercial viability of the content / product consumed. Consumer cannot expect the content to reach them free of cost all the time. Even if it is user generated content, the very platform on which it is getting served has cost overheads & needs to
  • The benefits of having an informed consumer.
  • Making shopping an engaging social experience which opens up various new dimensions in human behavior.
  • Fear of void due to socio-political-cultural instability which needs a balm like advertising to bring some positive energy around us.

I am sure there are many more points that can be added to the above debate but for now I am signing out in order to let you contemplate about it a bit deeper.

Digital Marketing Strategy for B2B

Getting your basic digital marketing strategies in place is always a challenge for any product marketing team, especially if it is targeting a niche B2B client. Most of the marketing managers, follow the tried and tested approach of generating leads through various sources like Tele-marketing, events, digital, BTL and pass it on to their Sales force (in a hope for conversion).

During this entire process of lead generation, though the Chief Marketing Officer would be extremely happy with the end result, the Sales head would be dying to kill the Marketing manager since he has fed his sales team with huge amount junk prospects.

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why a lot of tech companies hire Project/ Program managers who can put some method to this madness into the Marketing process. Here’s one such simplified ready-to-use approach which can be used by all B2B Marketing teams, Sales force of SMBs, Product Marketing and Independent Consultants.

Choosing your Audience

Targeting the low hanging fruits, laser focus on customers that can highly benefit from your product due to the very nature of their business, e.g. for an organisation who sells Cloud solutions, companies/ individuals who have decentralised operations, distributed organisation, require remote access to information & have need for collaboration would be perfect bet because your product can answer their core business challenge.

Preparing the Marketing-Cum-Sales Pitch

Sell an experience to your customers not a product, demonstrating that your product is tailor made for them. At no point your marketing/sales messaging should imply “buy me because you need me“, instead it should be “buy me only if you like me after you experience me“.

B2B Partner Marketing

All Marketing teams should get one thing clear, your sales force knows more about your audience than any Market research report. They are the true brand ambassador to the customer and know each & every pulse in the market. Before you freeze upon your marketing plans, always try to include your partners & sales teams early on in the marketing process leveraging their business expertise dealing with the customers and through that make your communication more relevant.

On the other hand, one of the best ways of marketing your product to the customers is by making your partners & sales teams an extended marketing force. It should be one of the key talks of marketing team to helping your partner to sell better through effective communication & by using latest technology & tools.

Digital Marketing through B2B Influencers

Imagine if a CEO of a company has 3 products in front of him, all of them answers the same problem, one of them is yours, what would you do?

In this situation, often people trust referrals or live examples.

    • Play by influence, along with your product demo, provide your sales force customer specific case studies in which product already benefited to people in same business that they drive.
    • May the most popular brand wins, make sure your social media efforts are firing on all cylinders, all the time.
    • Optimise your social campaign, such that your customer has heard about your product through some social forum.

Digital Marketing Automation for B2B

A lot of business & marketing teams may not realise, that now your website is lot more than just a URL on your visiting card. It can become your virtual salesforce, but only if you would want it to behave that way. Your website should not just talk about your product but also about scenarios in which your product is beneficial to your customers. Increasing engagement on the website by showcasing more business relevant & audience re-usable content is super critical in today’s digital era.

Remember, your offices may be closed, your telephone lines may be down, but anyone can find you from anywhere through your website and when they stumble upon you, your website should behave as a good host. A lot of Marketing automation tools like Eloqua & Marketo would empower you to create a virtual marketing manager available 24*7 to churn quality prospects for your sales force.

Digital Marketing through Social Media

Reciprocate your efforts on the social media channels by creating discussions around the key challenges faced by your customers and how you are working together with them to improve upon your product.  Create an environment, where customers can talk their heart out about their experience ( good or bad ) with your product. Trust me you will be lucky to find 100 such customers who are willing to talk about you without purchasing your product. Keep sharing ideas with your customers around how to get the best out of your product.

Digital Marketing for Maximising Closures

Minimise the # of steps between lead generation & Opportunity generation, I call it Marketing optimisation. Think about it, what’s the point of doing lead generation if it lacks any intent to sell to the customer. In demand generation, we capture the intent to purchase and not just a lead.

This is possible only if you have the necessary intelligence about the prospect customer from the experience he had about your product during marketing, which you can pass on to your sales force. Just passing the customer info details for cold calling would not suffice.

Marketing manager should also capture customer inputs like level of interest in the product, product experience ( if any ), customer’s key business challenge, knowledge level about the product etc.

If all this can be handled at the level of demand generation, sales would be able to maximise conversions by customising their conversations to suit the client’s requirement.

Startup should madly chase Customer Retention

Startups are often associated with mad race for generating more and more leads, prospects, opportunities, fight for higher conversions & maximising quarterly revenue figures.

No surprises there.

And if you ask any startup CMO, he would tell you exactly the same thing, that customer retention is least of their worries, especially during early stages of their business.

As digital marketing professionals, we all are trained to look ahead and think about “what’s next“, once the sale is completed.

Of course, this race for customer acquisition is never ending. And it should not stop either.

But what we also need to look at is, how we monitor the growth of our existing and new customers?

In my digital career , I’ve been fortunate to work in the SMB marketing team of Microsoft. For the first time, I understood the meaning of digital B2B Marketing. And this is something extremely important for a startup founder.

The thing is , nothing is constant in the technology space, and almost every SAAS product has a very short lifespan to make an impact.

Sooner than later, a better technology or platform will out-manoeuvre the older tech and market trends will respond to it almost instantly due to ever so fast & evolving Digital-Socio-Mobile ecosystem.

The importance of keeping a firm control over your existing customers is indeed a daunting task. Today, on one side, companies like Adobe & Google are adding thousands of customers everyday, but they are making even bigger investments in retaining older customers because their bulk of revenues are coming from the existing customers through the up-sell / cross sell and license renewals.

In a world where every upcoming technology is converging to the cloud, changing platforms and tools would be as easy as changing your mobile carrier because everything (including your company’s data) is on the move.

Interestingly, the talk about data portability is already heating up in the tech sector.

A customer is all the time looking for the best value proposition for his business to optimise his own margins. He would not take a split of a second to change his IT priorities.

Therefore, in order to build a customer retention strategy, tech companies would require to put tremendous effort & investments into customer research, training these customers and helping them create a path to their success by utilising those tools more effectively.

The Zillion dollar question still remains, how to retain your customers?

5 Customer Retention Strategies any startup

Product development life cycle plan

It allows you to outsmart your competitors every time. I know it is easier said than done but only if your product life cycle is truly evolving & dynamic to market changes, you can expect your customer to stay with you for longer duration.

Forecasting

But not just revenue but customers expectations from the product. Repackaging the product into a more current looking avatar. Everybody likes to change, a customer always have this expectation that if their business have grown, the tools they are using should also grow with them. Perhaps this is one of the key reason, open source technologies have better adoption than proprietary softwares. Though, a lot of their updates are full of bugs but it keeps the connection going.

Customer Training Program

Draft a calendar of training programs for your customer and feed him with all the necessary tools to master your product & technology. This could perhaps be the most effective marketing tactic, which if landed properly can fetch millions of extra dollars, not just by up selling your product but by creating a fantastic word of mouth.

Customer is your product manager

Making your customer feel like a product head who is not just using the software but also adding value in its future developments. As a business owner you would realise, that your research cost is approaching towards zero.

KYC – Know Your Customer

Follow your customer’s digital footprint by helping him gain more insights into his business by pointing towards the right resources.

As a startup CMO, you should only think from a customer’s point of view, no customer wants to keep changing the things upside down, if for once he finds faith & value in what your product has to offer, he will become a part of your family.

How to hire digital marketing agency in India?

In a continuously evolving media environment, where on one side, the opportunity to market your brand has increased due to increase in the number of communication platforms, it has also added to the list of problems for any brand/ marketing manager of choosing multiple vendors for diverse requirements like online media, offline media, BTL, creative, CRM. Technology, PR etc.

Unlike the west where most of the clients believe in having specialized units for every task, Indian clients want a one stop solution, which is sometimes not a good idea.

Though most of the big traditional media companies claim that they have the expertise for end-to-end solutions, often that is not the case. A client should be wise enough to figure that out during the pitch process. (Also read : Decoding Digital DNA, A Strategic Perspective for PR Agencies in India )

A lot of agencies outsource their operations to small vendors and that’s quite regular in our industry but the fact remains that this increases the turnaround time & even results in poor quality due to miscommunication between various agencies & vendors. This is one of the reasons why a client should go for specialists (even specialised consultants who can reduce their pain points and build a smooth process driven marketing approach would be a good idea)

No single agency can provide all the specialised services with highest efficiency & quality. In fact, if the agency can focus on their core specialty, they would be in a much better position to get more business compared to ever so growing number of studio agencies.

6 points all clients must look at if they wish to give their business to any single digital marketing agency in India:

1. Objective : Has the agency been able to interpret the client’s objective clearly? Often agency is too busy selling what they want to sell and forget the client’s core purpose of advertising.

2. Process Understanding: Does the agency understand the business processes of the sector? This is very important as they need to be aware of the purchase life cycle of the products and the existing sales process which will help them craft their engagement campaigns for the brand more strategically.

3. Money Saving: Is the agency interested in saving client’s money in any form, either by improving their business processes internally  or by saving costs through their media planning abilities ( not buying or not even lowering their commissions because that is negligible cost saving ). Has the agency demonstrated any such cost saving measures in the past for any other client.

4. Core Expertise: Client should upfront ask the agency about their core expertise and see the work only in that domain. Though an agency might showcase their credentials across range of services but client should see the crux on day 1 itself.

5. Vision: An agency should also demonstrate their next 4-5 years vision for the client in the digital space keeping an eye on the technology, market & consumer insights which is critical for any brand.

6. Customer & Market Understanding: An agency should also bring their market intelligence by doing a thorough research on the product &/or category so that they have a clear  understanding of their final goal of getting the right audience through right communication & channel.

7. Mobile Understanding: Considering Mobile devices would soon outgrow the digital medium, which means that every agency needs to build a road map for the brand’s digital assets transition from online to mobile. Does the agency have those resources who can think about creating a separate Mobile Experience for brand’s audience?

I believe this would help any client to understand if the agency can handle their brand in the digital environment or not. If the client is not convinced then I think they should definitely look at the option of hiring various independent specialists for the job.