Today, it’s easier than ever for businesses to reach more customers.
Arya Bina, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based boutique digital advertising firm Kobe Digital, says that the key is in targeting the flourishing millennial population.
With more than 85% of millennials owning smartphones—and using them nearly 50 times per day, on average—companies that have embraced mobile-optimized email and social media marketing campaigns are always in their customers’ pockets.
Read on to find out how Bina built a business around helping companies take advantage of the powerful demographic trends shaping the way consumers interact with businesses.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THIS VENTURE? HOW DID IT ALL START?
It’s hard to put a finger on exactly where everything started. In 2010, I was running an online travel business, and in trying to promote it I began learning more and more about the different digital advertising options available to businesses. After a few years of successfully navigating the internet marketing process, friends and family members began to notice the results, and I started doing some pro bono internet marketing consulting for their ventures.
I’d experienced firsthand how frustrating working with marketing companies could be, but it was only after I’d done the consulting work that I realized how widespread of a pain point this was for most business owners, no matter what industry they were in.
You’d see two kinds of internet marketing companies. There were the scams that didn’t get results and were only interested in collecting monthly fees, and then there were companies that really did get results but used strategies that didn’t make any economic sense—they’d bring in customers but the conversion rates were too low or the campaigns weren’t scalable and you’d lose money on every sale from an internet lead.
After realizing how common this problem was, especially for small or mid-sized business that weren’t big enough to do their marketing in-house, I saw an opportunity in the space. Somewhere between that realization and a passion for watching businesses fully capitalize on the power of the internet, the idea for Kobe Digital was conceived.
DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCIES ARE A DIME A DOZEN—WHAT MAKES YOURS DIFFERENT?
When an internet marketing company works with a client, the scope of the project typically involves building links, boosting search rankings, creating some content, and generating an online following on a handful of social media platforms. And so in a lot of ways, you’re absolutely right—that is a dime a dozen. But to stop there, is to ignore a wealth of economic data, social trends, and demographic changes that all point to the same conclusion that millennials will become the driving force of the economy, and that this will happen sooner than anyone is prepared for.
If you look at online transactions, you’ll see that this has happened already. Built by a team of millennials, Kobe Digital works with clients to position their online marketing platforms to best take advantage of this shift. Millennials are the largest consumers of mobile content, and we want our clients to take as much of that share as possible.
WHAT TRENDS DO YOU SEE IN THE DIGITAL MARKETING SPACE?
I’ve seen a variety of trends begin to shape the industry, even in just the past few years. The one with the most significant is the shift to mobile. Today, more than half of Google searches are made from mobile devices, which is great news for online marketers—searches originating from smartphones are far more likely to result in a purchase than searches originating from, say, a desktop.
The other trends we’ve seen have shaped sales processes, drawing them out over longer periods of time and requiring more from marketers up front. With so much information online available to consumers, they’ll often research products and services long before actually making the purchase—reading reviews, browsing blog posts, and watching videos are all common ways that millennial consumers inform themselves before arriving at a decision. As a result, the onus is on marketers to provide value at the beginning of the sales process before expecting a purchase—or even an email address.
Lastly, targeted advertising that uses data ranging from search histories to Facebook page “likes” to deliver custom-tailored advertisements to users is likely to become more prevalent. These have been around for some time, but the opportunities for their implementation are growing as more and more delivery platforms become available. For instance, expect to see more geo-targeted, time-sensitive Snapchat advertisements going forward.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR BUSINESSES IN THE SMB REALM THAT ARE LOOKING FOR GUIDANCE WITH THEIR ONLINE PRESENCE?
The first order of business is to make sure the basics are squared away—social media accounts, the company website, and online profiles need to be consistent, accurate, and user-friendly.
We consider this to be the bare minimum level of effort required to compete with other business online; nobody in 2016 is going to be blown away by a retailer that is active on Instagram.
These days, it’s the expectation, so there’s little upside—but your reputation can suffer by not keeping it up to date enough. The stereotype about millennials having short attention spans holds true when it comes to websites; business websites that load slowly or are difficult to use on mobile devices will frustrate users and be left without second thought.
If you run a restaurant, and your business hours on FourSquare don’t match the ones listed on Yelp—and both are different than the ones listed on your website—I’m probably just going to assume you’re either a bad restaurant or closed permanently. When you’re a business owner with a never-ending to-do list, it’s easy for details like these to slip through the cracks, but they’re the first things that customers look for and make a huge difference.
Ensuring that you’re listed on Google Places is also important; with the real estate on a search engine results page so fiercely fought for, the opportunity to have the entire right side of the page dedicated to displaying your business location, hours, and contact information is crucial to capitalize on.We also see many business ignore their online reviews, which is baffling—for businesses such as restaurants, doctors, and dentists, review aggregators such as Yelp are often the first places potential customers look when trying to learn more about a business. As Mark Cuban says, a happy customer tells one person about your business, while an unhappy customer tells ten; with Yelp, they can tell ten
thousand. Online reviews are particularly important among millennials, who list them as one of the biggest determinants of how they judge a company.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE YOU SEE BUSINESSES MAKE WITH THEIR DIGITAL MARKETING?
I’ve already mentioned the importance of online reviews, but I can’t emphasize it enough—far too many businesses make the mistake of ignoring their online reputation, which can be a death sentence when it comes to attracting millennial consumers. We’ve reviewed our clients’ data, conducted our own primary research, and reviewed the existing secondary research, and it all points to the same conclusion: online reviews are immensely important, especially among millennials.
I think that this is part of a larger problem in which companies view marketing as an expense, not an investment. We saw this same perception with technology in the past decade—today, we look back and see the companies who invested in technology flourishing, while the ones who viewed it as an expense continue to pay the price.
The reality is that millennials do business almost exclusively online. For larger, less nimble businesses, making the move to internet platforms can expensive, frustrating, and difficult, especially without professional help, which many business seem averse to seeking. Digital marketing is just like anything else: the companies that invest early and hire professionals achieve the best results, the smoothest transition, and the best positioning moving forward.
As a boutique Los Angeles-based firm, do you find most of your SEO clients in your local area or other areas?
We have found that most small and mid-sized businesses prefer working with a local agency—this way, any cultural or logistical nuances particular to their region are fully understood by the agency already. Consequently, our book of clients reflects this preference, and most of them are companies based out of Southern California.
That said, Kobe Digital is a national company, and has successfully brought companies throughout the United States to the attention of the growing millennial consumer demographic.
Los Angeles is one of the best creative hubs in the country and attracts some of the top marketing talent from all over the world; many businesses recognize this and prefer to work with LA-based agencies like Kobe Digital as a result.
What direction do you think SEO is taking now?
It’s clear that SEO is becoming the “new normal” when it comes to marketing products and services—the ability to execute scalable, targeted, and measurable marketing campaigns to the extent that online strategies such as SEO allow have made it the gold standard in online advertising today. With over 90% of online experiences beginning with a Google search, it’s the clear choice for companies aspiring to get in front of millennial audiences.
SEO is part of an incredibly dynamic environment, and that makes it difficult to predict which direction it will take in coming years. However, the advancement of targeted marketing services that leverage incredibly granular data such as search engine users’ search histories, time spent on pages, search times, and bounce rates will undoubtedly see increased use from marketers as they attempt to leverage the patterns and trends that emerge from this information to optimize their advertising campaigns even further. To a large extent, we’ve seen this transformation already begin to take place.