Digital Marketing

Glocal Connect? Ok, what’s up with the spelling mistake on an established website?

I thought that I invented this term but I found that it had already existed – something the Japanese created some time around 1980. I just never heard of it before it came to my mind back in 2005. I was sitting with a sales consultant at the time to devise a sales strategy and a sales process for the organization, and he asked the golden question, “so Husam, what is your company USP (Unique Selling Point)?” My answer was, “we are GLOCAL.”

An organization can adapt the phrase “think globally and act locally” to work for the digital space. In my organization it is: “Global Knowledge. Local Results.” The same can apply in any company, but with slight variations based on their own USPs from a Glocal perspective. You cannot be disconnected from the world anymore and claim to be just local or just global. Either way, being in the digital space means you have no choice but to be Glocal.
In the digital era we are acting glocally all the time. We put a website up for the local market, and all of a sudden, we receive an enquiry from a country of which we haven’t even heard before. You can also see this when, a few hours after posting a CV on Bayt.com demonstrating local experience, for example, you learn that companies from abroad are trying to headhunt you. That is the power of online, or digital, or internet, or whatever you may want to call it.

On a side note, I had sent an email to Merriam-Webster in 2005 asking to add this term to the dictionary but I never heard back from them. One day though, expect to see it added if hasn’t been already. It is up there on Wikipedia after all!

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Online Branding

The word ‘branding’ once referred to corporate logos, packaging and commercial jingles.  In the online world that has come to be known as Web 2.0, things have changed, however.  Today, effective branding is less about ‘selling’ to customers and more about ‘telling’ them:

  • Who you are – the background and experience that make you qualified to solve the needs of your prospective customer better than your competitor
  • What you do – the benefits that your company brings to its clients.  For example, a security camera installation firm might say that it sells “a safe workplace.”
  • How you do it – the methods you use to deliver the benefits you promise so that the satisfaction of the customer is guaranteed

How to Use the Internet

The Internet offers a gold mine of opportunity for establishing credibility and creating an audience of enthusiastic fans and followers.  Even the most basic web site is an effective brand-building device. That’s because a web site does a much better job of building relationships than any other form of marketing communication with your customers.

Traditional marketing communications are monologues; they only go one way from seller to prospective buyer.  Online, however, you can establish a dialogue.  A website includes mechanisms such as ‘Contact Us’ forms, message boards, forums, and most recently blogs that invite existing and potential clients to get to know you…communicate with you…and tell you what they need so you can provide the solution.  That’s good for them and for your business.

An Humanizing About Us Page

About Us PageIn a business world where the focus is on transactions and the bottom line, an important element can get lost…the human element.  Whether for business or pleasure, humans want to connect with other humans.  A company’s ‘About Us’ page puts a human face on an otherwise technical, dry, and impersonal web site and helps cement a relationship with prospective clients.

Many web sites hide their identity, putting a wall between themselves and their visitors.  This is a mistake.  While it’s true that not every customer wants to know more about you, still, you shouldn’t disappoint those who do. A powerful ‘About Us’ page could yield higher conversion from those who encounter it.

Social Network Profiles

Social Network ProfileWhy does a person shop at one business rather than another or buy one product instead of another?  While price is one factor, today’s customers are interested in the culture of the businesses they buy from,  They are also heavily influenced by the opinions of peers and ‘people like me.’ This is the reason that social media marketing – should be on every company’s ‘Things to Do’ list.

New stats from Nielsen Online show that social networking had overtaken email in terms of worldwide reach. According to the study, 66.8% of Internet users across the globe accessed social communities (also called member networks) last year, as opposed to the 65.1% who used email.

Because they allow you to share pertinent information for the rest of the world to see, social sites are the #1 way to get your message out to a global audience at practically no cost.  The virtually ‘free’ delivery system provided by the Internet means companies can invest their resources in the services of a social media expert with the skills and knowledge to deliver results.

At sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, if what you post on your profile page is truly valuable, you instantly become a ‘trusted resource’ and your audience will do your marketing for you. Your message or video – along with your brand identity — can easily go viral and reach a cascading number of people as your interested visitors and fans send your link to millions of their friends and they pass the word on to their friends and so on.

Corporate Blogging

Corporate Blogging

Google does it. Microsoft does it. And some of the most influential CEOs in the world

doit for their companies because they know how powerful it is. What is ‘it’?  It’s blogging.

A business blog can be written in one of numerous styles, or a combination of these. One huge benefit is the ability to inform your customers of any changes, new products, latest offers and much more. This, in turn, can lead to direct sales.

Depending on your company or business model, corporate blogging, like an About Us page, makes a company feel more human to the world.

Additionally, a company blog is a way for your company to become engaged with and by the online community. A well-written blog can gain popularity which can lead to thousands of people subscribing to your feeds…and being exposed to your advertising and marketing messages.

People love to frequent blogs and pass their time reading the same ones on a regular basis. Captivate your audience with compelling content and you’ll receive a growing list of market leads. Remember that individual blog readers generally prefer a personable style but if your operation is a business-to-business one then you’ll need to vary your style accordingly.

A blog is simple to set up. Often the only thing required is to install a software application on your Web site and tinker with a few settings.  Furthermore, the cost of integrating a blog onto your web site is extremely modest…especially if you have an IT pro on staff.

But even outsourcing the task is a modest expense, given the ROI. A blog could become one of the most powerful marketing weapons you have in your arsenal and the money you spend might just pay a salesperson for one day’s work.

Twitter – The New Frontier

Twitter Branding

Twitter, the most famous micro-blogging site, allows its members to communicate in abbreviated, high-impact messages of 140 characters.  Today, Twitter has roughly 6 million users and is projected to grow to 18.1 millions users in 2010.  It is the ‘next wave’ in social media marketing.  To succeed, you should have a marketing plan in place to acquire new followers.

One thing to do is include your Twitter handle wherever you would place your website URL and contact information.  If you have a company newsletter, you can write about on Twitter and link to your profile or put it at the bottom of your template, so that each email has a link to your account.  You should also include your Twitter information on the last slide of any business presentation and tell people that they can follow you on Twitter

Article was published as: “Online branding offers credibility”

http://wsi4.me/OnlineBranding

Online Branding Credibility

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There is so much written about the future of Internet marketing, when the fact is that Internet marketing is the present. The opportunities available, both for internet users and businesses are so vast, that growth can be experienced in almost a daily basis. There may be economic challenges globally, but the Internet has made it possible for smart businesses to flourish. Moreover, compared to the previous years, 2009-2010 looks quite promising for online marketers when we look at the Internet user statistics.

Search Engine vs. Social MediaTwo major trends that are being embraced by savvy businesses are search engine marketing and online social media & networking, as they give them a great leverage in terms of communication, interacting with customers, collaborating with peers and above all, achieving a massive reach, in a most cost-effective manner. After all, future business is the main aim for any viable company and what better way to reach that goal than by capitalizing on all the opportunities that the Internet has to offer?

If we look at internet usage statistics in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia alone has experienced a usage leap from just 200,000 users in 2000 to 6,380,000 users in 2008. Viewing the Middle East as a whole Saudi Arabia ranks at number two, with Iran leading the way. No wonder major businesses are targeting Riyadh and KSA markets via search engines and social networking sites like the popular Facebook so that they can get together with other local groups and introduce unique marketing strategies that will help them enter the market and gain visibility.

There is barely any business that does not have at least a token online presence. And those that are active, are very much aware of the benefits of search engine marketing social networking through websites like Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., which form a definite component of the companies’ internet marketing strategy. This helps them gain high exposure online, increase brand awareness and attract targeted traffic.

There are, of course, some barriers that will crop up, especially for businesses with an eye on the global market. Of these, the language barrier is perhaps the toughest to conquer when entering overseas markets. Europe, for example has a variety of languages while the UAE and the rest of Arab countries share a common language, namely Arabic.

The Middle East and North Africa, also called the MENA region, is cash-rich and growing at an amazing rate. A large population and a high per capita income make this market a gold mine for businesses to exploit. Qatar has the third highest per capita income in the world at $84,833! Obviously, this region is highly feasible for online marketers. The MENA countries have an online presence of over 18.3 million, which is a 1044% growth in the last seven years. Saudi Arabia and Egypt may have 80% of the internet users, but the balance 20% are the ones with the money, and likely to have the most prominent online presence. So internet marketing experts and businesses would do well to focus on this region with their marketing strategies.

The most popular search engines in the MENA region are Yahoo!, Google and MSN Live, which implies that businesses that are looking to spread their presence online in these countries must design their marketing strategies around these top three search engine giants. Being a rapidly growing market, now is the time for businesses to penetrate this market.

By 2010, Qatar’s second telecom operator Vodafone will have its suite of web services in place, allowing its users to interact online over the internet through their mobile phones or PC. With the outlook so bright, bridging the gap between the user and the business is just a matter of smart planning and strategy.

However, a real issue in the GCC countries is that some of the most established businesses have no website, or just a static one resulting in a lack of visibility on the major search engines. Consequently, users looking for companies in this region online never find them. Those who do have an online presence, have poor quality websites. According to a recent report, European corporate websites scored an average performance of 50.3 points, while those of their Gulf counterparts scored just 18.5. Because of this, users including customers, shareholders and investors get completely turned off by these companies. As a result of this, GCC companies end up losing out on potential customers and international investment simply because of poor performance of their websites. Will these companies wake up and bridge this gap between their users and themselves through better websites that are usable and search engine friendly, increasing their visibility on search engines?

Article was published as “Smart companies flourish online”: http://wsi4.me/FlourishOnline

Smart businesses online

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Digital One – The Middle East’s first digital summit on February 10th 2011.

This WSI Digital Marketing Summit, Digital One, is focused on spreading practical knowledge about online social and advertising strategies by objectives as well as dialogue on successful case studies.

Key Topics:

  • Social Media Implementation
  • Case Studies of Social Media Success Stories
  • Content Marketing
  • The Billboards of the Web: Display Advertising
  • Online PR

The Digital One summit would be a great opportunity to learn how to upgrade your business’s online strategy for 2011.

Speakers:

  • Husam Jandal
  • Tracy Spence
  • Francois Muscat
  • Fahed Bizzari

Date and Location: February 2011, 9:00am – 5:00pm, The Address Dubai Marina, Dubai, U.A.E

The event is recommended for CEOs, Marketing Managers, Managing Directors, General Managers, E-Commerce Entrepreneurs & Businessmen, and Senior Level Executives.

Website and Registration: www.DigitalOne.me

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Yahoo Maktoob Deal

Yahoo Maktoob Deal

Internet giant Yahoo! now speaks Arabic with its acquisition of Maktoob.com on August 25, 2009, of the Arab world’s largest online portals for $85 million. According to their Senior Vice President, Yahoo! currently enjoys over 44 million users in the Middle East and North Africa region every month. This will make the Arab online world a whole lot bigger, giving Maktoob users access to the best local content and the use of Yahoo!’s services. Specifically, users will enjoy Yahoo!’s email with email Antivirus and Pop-Up blocker, instant messaging services, and online photos, social profiles and the news.

The Yahoo!-Maktoob partnership aims to deliver the best Arabic online community for its users. Yahoo! will acquire Maktoob’s Arabic online community, Maktoob.com and research division, Maktoob Research.

The Maktoob user will see Arabic versions of Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, Search, and a new Yahoo! homepage and gradually Arabic versions of their news, Sports and Finance features. All these will carry content that is customized for the region. This is the first time a global company has invested in local relevance for the Arabic Middle East. All Arabic versions will include the right to left page orientation.

It is as yet unknown whether there will be a new website address but soon enough all Maktoob registered users will be able to access Yahoo!’s services. Eventually, there will be localized email domains as well.

Maktoob Yahoo Deal

Maktoob Yahoo Deal

The big question is – why does Yahoo! want Maktoob? Yahoo! sees almost limitless potential in the emerging international markets, which explains its investment in Maktoob and its intention to gear itself to cater to this growing audience. The result should be an internet market shot with adrenalin where Arab users will be able to get more.

Of course, we should remember that Yahoo!’s biggest rival Google Inc already has Arabic language service.

As far as Maktoob.com is concerned, it was launched as the first free Arabic email service provider back in the late 90’s and is based in Jordan and receives over 16 million Arab users every month, according to Ahmed Nassef, its General Manager. The entire region gets 45-50 million online users spanning North Africa to the Gulf and this is rapidly on the rise each year, making it a highly potential market. Maktoob offers search, payments, social networking, auctions, etc. It has enjoyed tremendous growth from 6 million users in June 2008 to 21.8 million within a year. Page view statistics show 406 million to 1.1 billion during the same period.

If we compare Yahoo! to Google for Arabic content, the Yahoo! –Maktoob partnership plans to customize more content geared to the Arab region than Google, which is more globally focused. Maktoob’s products are likely to be co-branded with Yahoo! and Maktoob and launched by the end of 2009 or early next year. Not all of Maktoob’s products will be included in the deal with Yahoo!; Souq an auction site, CashU (prepaid card payment system), Araby (search), and Tahadi MMO games will now be a part of the jabber Internet Group headed by one of Maktoob’s founders.

What is in it for Yahoo!? By joining arms with Maktoob, Yahoo! is all set to grab its share of the fastest growing internet audience regardless of the challenge they must undoubtedly face, considering the differences between the Middle Eastern countries.

And what is in it for Internet marketers? They get to harness Yahoo!’s cutting edge tools to reach their audience much better.

Article was published as: “Maktoob deal – a great advantage for Yahoo in Gulf”: http://wsi4.me/YahooMaktoob

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