On Monday November 24th, I represented Melltoo (a mobile app/service that helps people sell new/used items and handles the payment and delivery process on their behalf in the UAE) at The Pulse Expert Night’s Fueling Digital Marketing Success event. The event offered valuable advice from four members of the UAE digital marketing community including:
- EMKWAN– a social media influencer, YouTuber and the UAE’s leading video blogger,
- Ayman Itani– CEO and founder of Think Media Labs
- Kess Daniels– CEO and founder of Voize Media
- Joe Akkawi-founder of PAZ Marketing
1- Don’t be afraid to experiment
If you are obsessed with perfection, then entrepreneurship may not be for you. A wise ‘trep once told me that you will never feel like you have the right skill set to start a business, so you just have to start it, make your mistakes and learn how to avoid repeating them in the future. You can never know what marketing strategies or content are effective until you have experimented using different social platforms and mediums to promote your product or service.
Melltoo & Experimenation
When I began writing content for Melltoo, pursuing “perfect content” caused me three main problems. Firstly, it reduced my productivity, because I spent more time tweaking content then I did publishing it. Secondly, I missed out on the accidental discoveries you make by publishing content and monitoring peoples’ reactions. And lastly, the pursuit of perfection distracted me from the most important goal: writing content that brings value, not perfection, to your audience. In my experience, the best marketing strategies are the sum of all your past failures. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to experiment!
2- Understand your target audience
Running a successful startup is not always about having a brilliant idea, it’s about brilliant marketing. A key element of developing successful digital marketing strategies is understanding your target audience. When it comes to understanding your audience, there are two things that startups need to explore: the psychology of their demographic and internet analytics. Every demographic group that you engage will have different purchasing power, buying cultures and internet literacy. So, the more time that you spend understanding your demographic, the more effective your marketing will be. Thus, making it easier to present your product as the solution to your audience’s problems. On the other hand, internet analytics software is useful because it allows you to monitor and understand the way that users behave online.
Melltoo & Target Audiences
Many of us take web analytics tools for granted, because like Joe Akkawi said “Fifteen years ago, we didn’t have the metrics to measure and understand user behavior that we do now.” Not us. The Melltoo team spends a lot of time analyzing the number of impressions, clicks, visits, and bounce rate among others things that our website and blogs generate. We regularly track our Google rank for each piece of content that we produce. We use tools, such as Google Analytics, to understand our target audience and their behavior. After analyzing our data, we translate our findings into focused marketing strategies, which we assess periodically. At Melltoo, we constantly monitor user behavior, because we believe that successful digital marketing strategies must accommodate changes in user behavior.
3- Learn how to tell your brand’s story
EMKWAN put it best when he said that “digital marketing is about building a narrative.” Nothing captivates an audience like a compelling story.” You don’t need to hire an expensive PR team to tell your story, you just need to understand your product. What problem does it solve? What value does it bring to your target audience? How can you make this value interesting and relatable to your audience? If you can answer these questions, you are ready to start bringing your story to life.
Melltoo & Building a Narrative
According to EMKWAN, “telling a story is sharing an experience” and that is exactly what Melltoo did with its first promotional video. In our video, the cartoon character asked rhetorical questions that highlighted the frustrations of buying and selling a car in the UAE. These questions served three functions. Firstly, they made our video relatable to our audience, they allowed us to showcase our app features and lastly, they helped establish Melltoo’s brand narrative: a social marketplace for buying and selling new and used items. At Melltoo, we are constantly refining our brand narrative, because we believe that the cornerstone of a good story is engaging storytelling.
4-Use social platforms that are suitable for your business
It can’t be denied that social media is an effective tool, but you don’t have to be on every platform to be popular. Joe Akkawi raised an important point when he said that “ you have to know why you are using a social media platform” as a startup. Being on Facebook and Twitter might seem necessary to startups, but it really depends on your business, manpower and resources. As Ayman Itani said “If you are a business that offers a product to other businesses, then you won’t necessarily benefit from your typical social media platforms.” You don’t have to be everywhere, but choosing the right social platforms will make promoting your product much easier.
Melltoo & Social Media
The Melltoo team is always looking for new ways to engage with potential users. Recently, we discovered that Emirati women love to buy and sell things on Instagram. So, I am currently working on a campaign to promote brand awareness in Arabic. By posting Arabic content on our Instagram account, I hope to introduce these budding Emirati entrepreneurs to a new marketplace for their growing businesses. As a startup up, we know that we can’t be everywhere. Consequently, we continuously try to optimize our social media activities, so we can get the best ROI on our efforts.
6- Establish relationships with members of the press
Once you have successfully established your brand’s narrative, you should immediately start creating a buzz about your product in the media. That being said, you can’t start creating that buzz until you forge relationships with members of the local media. When it comes to establishing relationships with journalists, there is no one size fits all approach. Nowadays, many editors and journalists receive hundreds and hundreds of email pitches a day, so don’t expect them to put any effort into reading your email if you didn’t put any effort into writing it. But more importantly, you should always be genuine when interacting with a journalist, because they can pick out an insincere pitcher when they see one.
Melltoo & The Media
As Melltoo’s Media Relations Coordinator, I spend a lot of time courting journalists. Before pitching someone, I find out their name, beat and what they’ve written in the past. When I write a pitch there are five elements that I include: a catchy subject line, an appropriate beginning salutation, brief self introduction; succinct idea pitch and a suitable ending salutation. I try to make my pitches short and sweet and I avoid using sensational phrases like “first of it’s kind,” because they are very off-putting to seasoned journalists. Over time, I’ve learned that showing a journalist that you respect their time and accomplishments is essential if you hope to establish fruitful media relationships for your startup.
7- Brand recognition is a journey not a destination
Brand awareness is the product of effective content marketing and constant SEO. Consistently publishing quality content with targeted keywords is a great way to organically build a solid user base. Don’t be disappointed if your content isn’t being shared, liked or retweeted as quickly as you expected. It takes time to build a following, especially when you are using inbound marketing strategies. Another way that Kess Daniels advised startups to increase their SEO is “to start optimizing content for future projects weeks, even months, in advance” so that your content is ready to be searched for when you publish it. When it comes to content, you shouldn’t sacrifice quality for quantity. As EMKWAN said “when you focus on volume, or constantly churning out content, you risk a degradation in the quality of the content.” The effective production and marketing of content is the key to a startup’s digital marketing success.
Melltoo & SEO
At Melltoo, we believe in growth, which is based on organic user acquisition. Consequently, we are always talking about SEO and creating quality searchable content. When it comes to content, we include relevant and targeted search terms from Google in our articles titles, bodies and URLs to optimize SEO. Another way we try to improve SEO is through backlinks. In addition to increasing traffic to our website, our backlinking campaign has also helped us to build strong ties within the startup and blogger community. We believe firmly that search marketing, aka SEO, forms the core of digital marketing today, even as people in the region are still focused on TV ads and billboards.