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Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa Four Fundamental Digital Strategies to Help Grow Your Business.

By Jandre de Beer

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Digital marketing, a.k.a. online marketing is growing at such a rapid pace that majority of business owners and marketing managers are left in the dust and end up misunderstanding or confusing its capabilities.

In my experience as a marketer, I've realised that most companies, especially small businesses, all have one specific problem in common.

Most of them think that their offering, service, or product is unique from their competitors. The sad thing is, they are all mistaken.

Whether you are a CEO, director or solo entrepreneur, the sooner you realise that you are in the marketing business (no matter what your product or service), the better.

Okay, so let's say there is the odd chance of your offering being unique. How are you planning on telling the world about it?

The first thing you will have to do is come up with a marketing plan, just like any other business.

Digital marketing in South Africa

The marketing industry is currently one of the fastest growing industries thanks to technology giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many others.

All these companies might be situated thousands of kilometers away, but there is no doubt that they are disrupting every single business here in South Africa (whether we like it or not).

The scary part is that majority of South Africans are still unsure of the infinite potential of digital marketing.

The internet is hands down an essential channel for reaching customers today.

Did you know that 50% of the world's population has access to the internet? That's roughly 3.7 billion people, or in our case, customers.

You can literally reach half the world's population with the push of a button.

You might say that your customer base is mainly located in South Africa. With that in mind, did you know that 26.8 million South Africans spend over 3 hours a day on social media?

That's half the South African population. Crazy, right?

Now, imagine you can put your brand, product, and service right in front of their eyes.

The mall of online

If you are a B2C business, where would you want to set up shop?

Probably somewhere we the number of feet past your store would be the highest, right?

If you are living in Gauteng, you would probably aim to open a store in Sandton City one day, maybe even the Mall of Africa?

These spots are well known for the amount of traffic they generate and let's be honest if you want sales, you need feet through your door.

The downsides of these malls are that they require an enormous amount of capital to run and maintain. We're talking about higher than average accommodation rates, not to mention staff salaries, etc.

With that in mind, what if I told you there is a mall that drives 10x the amount of traffic on a daily basis that costs a fraction of what one of these stores would cost.

A mall that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

That sounds like the kind of mall you want to set up shop, right? Well, that is the Mall of Online.

What if my services can't be offered online?

I understand that there is a ton of services that can't be offered online. Maybe you own a hair dressing studio or a panel beating service, or maybe you are a dry-cleaning company.

Well, that doesn't mean that you can't tap into the online realm.

Did you know that according to Moz, 67% of shoppers are influenced by online ads and reviews?

And according to Forbes insights majority of customers prefer to do research online and then make their purchases in stores.

That means that, even if you can't afford to sell products or services online, you can still benefit tremendously from having an online presence.

My product or service is online, now what?

Most individuals think that the hard work is over when their e-commerce website or blog is built.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the hard work is just beginning.

Now that you are in the Mall of Online, you can't just expect people to visit your site in numbers. It doesn't work like that, and I will tell you why.

There are roughly 1.2 billion websites in the world, and approx. 2 sites get launched every second.

With that said, like any business, you will need to market your site so people can find it, learn more about it and eventually buy your services and products.

And that is where digital marketing comes in!

What is digital marketing?

Today, digital marketing is a lot more than setting up a Facebook page or creating a website.

Digital marketing can be very complex, and that is why most people in South Africa probably still don't know what digital marketers are and what they do.

However, in a nutshell, digital marketing is any form of marketing that involves electronic devices. Think about this for a second.

What's the first thing you pick up when you wake up in the morning? What's the last thing you put down before you go to bed?

What do you listen to on your way to work? What do you watch when you get home? What do you work on when you are at work?

I can go on all day, but do you see my point? Do you see what a big percentage of our lives are driven by digital?

Now that I've opened up your mind, you can understand why eMarketer projected that by the end of 2017, 38.3% of all paid media would be digital.

That's massive, and mobile advertising is expected to be 63.3% of that.

Exciting, isn't it? Okay, so as an entrepreneur, CEO, or marketing enthusiast reading this guide, you're probably wondering how you can start to tap into the infinite potential of the digital realm?

Well, rest assured that in this Beginner's Guide Series I will be breaking down all you need to know on how to start, plan and execute your first (or next) digital marketing strategy.

Remember; "Good marketers think about campaigns, while great marketers think about growth structures."

The 4 pillars of digital marketing

Keep in mind that there are definitely more than four ways to promote your business online. However, I firmly believe in these four pillars as they will form the foundation of your digital marketing strategy.

There are a ton of more advanced techniques, and we will get to that, but these four marketing pillars is a must have for any online or offline business.

1. Search Engine Marketing and Optimisation

In a nutshell, search engine marketing, and optimisation is defined as "the process of affecting the visibility of your e-commerce store, website or blog."

When we talk about search engines, we are talking about platforms like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, etc.

What's the first thing you do when you are looking for an answer to a specific question? The chances are, you Google it.

According to Search Engine Journal, 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine.

With that in mind, did you know that roughly 85% of consumers use search engines to find local businesses?

Chances are, there is a huge number of potential customers out there looking for your business.

And the reality of the matter is, that if they cannot find you online, they will probably be influenced to visit your competitors.

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to ensure that your business has some form of an online presence in today's age.

A. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

The difference between SEO and SEM is that SEO is all about increasing the visibility of your website in a manner that is free.

SEM, on the other hand, is about increasing your visibility through paid advertising which I will address a little later on.

To have potential customers find your business, you need to make it easy enough for Google or any other search engines to find your website so it can display it on the results page.

Roughly two-thirds of all organic search go to the top 5 positions in Google! That means, 33%is left if your website rank position number 6 and down.

Keep in mind; Google only allows ten spots on the first page. And a study by Search Engine Watch showed that 91.5% of all search traffic comes from the first page.

That means that if you are on the second or third page of Google, the chances are you are not getting much attention, and you will have to start planning on how to improve your rankings.

There are numerous ways to do this improve your rankings in search engines. However, I will be addressing them in part 2 of our Beginners Guide.

B. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

If you are not on the first page of Google, and if you are still interested in driving traffic to your website or local business, then you will happy be glad to know that you can easily advertise your business on the first page of search engines.

This is called Search Engine Marketing or SEM, and you can do this through creating search ads or display ads.

C. Search Ads

Have you ever searched for a product or service online?

Have you noticed that the first three or for listings usually have the tag "AD" at the beginning of the link?

That means that someone has paid for that ad to be there.

When running a search ad campaign, you can choose which keywords you want your ads to target.

For example, if you are a local hairdresser, you can target and show your ad to people typing in the word "hairdresser" in the search bar.

Search advertising is an easy way to drive traffic to your website. However, how high your ad is displayed in the search network listings and the overall ROI will be determined by how well you optimise your ad and website.

D. Display advertising

Display advertising is entirely different to search ads.

Have you ever browsed a website and saw a banner on the right or left-hand side of the site?

Or another popular position is the leaderboard position (a.k.a. top of the website) or even in the content itself.

Display ads serve a different purpose to search ads. They are also not necessarily shown at the same time as search ads when it comes to the customer's buying process.

Search ads are mainly shown when the customers have an actual intent to buy or learn more about a product or service, where display ads are shown either before or after that.

You can also retarget a customer through display advertising.

This means that if a customer clicked on your search ad, and then visited your site, you can follow him around the web and show him a beautiful banner ad displaying other products or services you might offer.

2. Social Media Marketing

This is another form of digital advertising today, and it's probably not necessary for me to explain to you how popular social media sites are.

But I thought I would share some stats with you anyway.

As mentioned before in the guide, 26.8 million internet users spend approx. Three hours a day on social media websites.

I'm sure you can start to understand why there is such a buzz around social media marketing at the moment.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves, first, let's start by defining social media marketing.

Wikipedia defines social media marketing as "the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media platforms."

Think about it like this, every time you update your status or post a photo on Facebook, you might have a couple of friends interacting with your update.

Now the same can be done for your business. A social media platform is the perfect place to interact and engage with customers.

There are over 200 different social media networks on the web today. Not all of them are equally popular, and the majority of them are unique in their way.

Facebook is currently hands down the favourite social media network sitting with over 1.7 billion monthly users worldwide.

Facebook owned Instagram, is in second with over 700 million users a month.

With this in mind, if you are a B2C business, there is a high probability that majority of your customers are on these platforms making it the perfect place to be for your business.

Some platforms are ideal for B2B businesses, while others are great for B2C.

You need to make sure that you choose the correct one from the bat. Otherwise, you run a risk of wasting a lot of time and money.

Because there are so many different networks, it might be overwhelming for you to decide which platforms are best for your business.

Twitter and LinkedIn might be a good place to start if your business is operating in the B2B space.

If you are a B2C company focussing on service and selling to customers, I would suggest starting with the two most popular platforms; Facebook and Instagram.

Okay, so now that you know that you more about the stats and the different networks, how are you going to leverage social media marketing to increase your sales?

In this guide, I will give you an overview of each platform while showing you how to construct a successful social media marketing strategy.

3. Email Marketing

I probably don't have to explain to you what an email is.

Email marketing, on the other hand, is simply sending an email with the intent to educate or promote a product or service to a customer.

Why email marketing?

Here are a couple of interesting stats on email marketing which should give you enough reason to implement it into your digital marketing strategy.

  1. According to Campaign Monitor, you are 6x more likely to get a click-through on an email than a tweet on Twitter.
  2. According to DMA, conversion rates on email are higher when compared to social media.
  3. 72% Of customers prefer to receive promotional content through email according to MarketingSherpa.
  4. According to Radicati, a marketing message is 5x more likely to be seen in an email then a Facebook post.
  5. When it comes to ROI, email marketing can help you boost your ROI up to 3800% according to DMA.

I won't take all these figures to heart, but keep in mind that it's all very positive. It shows that email marketing is still an easy and profitable way of marketing to customers today.

Many marketers believe that this type of marketing is dying. I, however, tend to believe otherwise.

See, it's not that email marketing is insufficient, it's more a matter of customers getting bombarded with spam and becoming immune to overly advertised emails.

This means that the open rates of emails drop and that they eventually become less effective. But there is still a huge ROI to be made, as a business you will just have to change your angle and focus on the following three concepts:

  1. Content
  2. Relevancy
  3. Value.

Customers don't mind getting emails from brands as long as they are relevant, add value and contain compelling content.

4. SMS Marketing

According to We Are Social, worldwide there are nine new mobile phone users added every second.

And 46% of smartphone owners claim they won't be able to live without their mobile devices according to Pew Research Center.

Earlier I mentioned that 92% of the population have mobile devices. With that said, you can try and get your brand or product in front of their eyes by sending them an SMS.

Keep in mind, similar to email, SMS marketing can come across as spammy. However, done right, it can lead to a ton of traffic and a huge ROI.

Mobile purchases are up 22% over the last two years, that's massive. Not to mention that most marketing directors agree that SMS marketing has a higher open rate to email marketing.

This means, there is a greater chance of customers being influenced to buy your product or service.

If you are an online business owner reading these stats, you will have to ask yourself why you don't have an active SMS marketing strategy yet.

Keep in mind the four pillars mentioned above is not the only digital marketing channels around. However, I feel they form the base of a digital marketing strategy.

Each of these channels serves a different purpose in your marketing strategy.

Example, advertising in Google is a great way to show case your product or service to a customer that already has the intent of making a purchase.

Social media is great at creating awareness around your product and service while assisting in creating interest.

Email and SMS marketing can be seen as reconnecting with a customer or keeping them up to date on new releases, upgrades, specials and so forth.

There is no doubt that digital marketing is evolving every, day and that it's is the future of advertising.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying traditional marketing strategies are not worth the effort. I'm saying, as a business owner will need to stay ahead of the curb while finding new ways to generate traffic, sales, and ROI, and digital marketing can help you do just that!

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