7 ROI-crushing Advertising Clichés you should avoid in the 21st century

Businesses, brands, and marketing specialists have either used them or come across them before – advertising clichés. A great many of them owe a big part of their existence to American Marketing (i.e. consumerism marketing).

Consumers have grown accustomed to clichés over the years and have associated them with “cheap salesman” tactics. They do not get the results they used to and end up ‘branding” a company as a low-quality provider of a certain good or service.

This, however, does not mean that all clichés should be avoided at all costs- just the ones that have been used to the point that people actually feel uncomfortable listening to them.

They are still frequently used because advertisers are “stuck” and cannot come up with the copy for an ad campaign, but clichés are counter-productive and squanders your marketing dollars; you are better off not running any campaign.

7 Ad Clichés Your Brand/Business Should Avoid At All Costs

Here are 7 of them to avoid:

1 – The Best abc company: Every business thinks that their business is the best. Guess what? Saying so doesn’t make it so, at least not in the minds of your targeted audience. This term has been used tirelessly throughout the years in all sorts of advertising campaigns, which has belittled its credibility.

Claude Hopkins, author of Scientific Advertising, heavily warns against use of such cliché, saying that the repercussions endure the entire sales message. Once you boast yourself, your audiences essentially ignore whatever you say next and deem everything as untrue.

Other variations of this cliché includes: The top xx , The world’s leading xx.

The only way a business can prove to its audience, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is to back it up with tangible facts like awards, 5-star reviews, and testimonials. Even then, using the cliché, “the best” is a surefire way to put off prospects and current customers. Instead, it is better to display your credentials from third-party sources like the ones listed above. Showcase what others have said about your product or service, let the customer try it, and then let them proclaim, “the best”!

2 – One Stop Shop; This cliché offers no value to your customer at all. It offered a value proposition back in the late 1920’s when automotive shops started to incorporate this form of service (full-vehicle repair) in one place but since the 90’s has not made any headway in advertising campaigns as more people look to niche-specific products and services to fulfill their needs.

As the saying goes, if you stand for everything, you stand for nothing. The use of this cliché causes customers perceive you as being desperate to take any business.

Even if your brand is a one-stop-shop, think of how you can use unique phrasing in your advertising to emphasize your specialty. Below are some examples of slogans created by “huge” brands that offer a broad range of products to emphasize their uniqueness:

Walmart: Save Money. Live Better.

Amazon: Everything Store Where People Come To Discover Anything They Want.

Target: Expect More. Pay Less.

3 – New and Improved: Another numbing ad cliché signifying that what customers bought before was old and faulty. To avoid the negative connotation associated with this annoying cliché, simply display the new features that have been added to your product or service. This way, customers who bought from you in the past will still feel that what they bought was good but now with the newly added features, it just might even be better.

4 – Great Customer Service: Why wouldn’t you offer great customer service? This is a no-brainer that does not need to be stated. We call it the ‘hygiene factor’ wherein great customer service should be a given. If it needs to be stated, why not simply promote what you provide the customer or client with in more specific details. For example, Zappos’ great customer service comes in the form of ‘paid free returns- no questions asked.’

Generic phrases such as these do not get people to buy or do they build trust. Customers want a solid product or service that solves their problems. List the solutions and benefits your product and service can provide them and that in and of itself is great customer service.

5 – Built From the Ground Up: Your customers don’t really care how the company was built, just that the products or services it provides does what the ad says it will do. Everyone is self-interested.

Instead of talking about how your company was built, talk about the value it can bring them. This is called a value-added proposition and is truly the only reason your customers buy from you in the first place. For example, we were able to turn around a failing ad campaign for a client just by avoiding this cliche. In this case study, we focused the message on the user instead of the founder and results drastically improved.

6 – The First 100 Callers (Fake Scarcity):

The first “any number” is a cheap sales tactic that used to work back in the 80’s but has worn out its welcome over time, not only because it has been used by every advertiser that cannot come up with a creative ad, but also because it is not true – whoever calls is going to get the deal, since it is already priced into the promotion.

Sure, all advertisers know about the psychology of scarcity and its ability to hasten a decision but this phrase has been used so much and for so long in advertising circles that people just do not believe them anymore. Besides being overused, Fake scarcity destroys trust between the brand and customer by “forcing” the sale, be it ever so cleverly.

Think about it, no one likes to be in a rush to buy. Consumers like to take their time and feel as if they found the product or service, not the other way around – being “pushed” into it. Even if they buy once due to this scarcity cliché, they are sure never to buy again because the buying experiencing was not a pleasant one.

If want to employ scarcity, make sure it’s real. Believable form of scarcity applies to event marketing(.i.e. 30 seats available), product ecommerce(.i.e. 30sets only) and limited time promotions.

7 – Are You Sick of Getting No Results: Of course they are and that is why they are viewing your ad. The first thing you want to do is make your audience feel good about discovering your service and product. The cliché, ‘“sick of getting no results?” is only going to remind them of their past failures and put them in a negative frame of mind.

Instead, use positive reframing terms like “results-oriented” or “get our clients needs met” to change their perspective and make them feel good about what you are selling.

 

Conclusion

As a brand or business who advertises or who employs advertisers to create and run their campaigns, your sole marketing duty is to provide your audience with ads that help them understand what your product or service is all about and how it can help them.

This can be achieved by using time-tested clichés, but not ones that are vague and have been used to “death”. Today’s customers are more informed than ever before due to the advent of the internet and the accessibility of the information it provides. Therefore, cheap, spammy, and salesy ad messages, no matter if they happened to work in the past, will not convince them to purchase from you.

Keep your brand in good standing by avoiding the above clichés and take the extra effort to understand your customers better, expand on your product benefits with clearer detail or come up with entirely new and unique ways to show the value of your products and services.

 

How To Use The Principles Of Influence In Online Marketing

Do you think that people take into account all the information needed to make a proper decision – a buying decision? It might be nice to think so, but researchers over the past 60 years have found otherwise. What they uncovered was a scientific approach to influencing the masses, that when followed to the letter, creates success, especially when it comes to business.

Robert Cialdini, psychologist, professor, researcher, and author, has written about these findings in his books, “Influence: Science & Practice” and “Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade”. He lays out 6 foundational principles that have been shown by extensive research to influence people without them even knowing they are being influenced.

The principles are as follows:

Scarcity Commitment Consensus Reciprocity Liking Authority

As online marketers, we can make full use of these principles in our campaigns in order to influence a buying decision the minute we come into contact with our target audience. All this, without being “pushy” or “salesy”, either.

Scarcity

People want what they can not have. This is the principle of scarcity. Many marketers try to convince their prospects of the benefits of purchasing their product or service but fail to create higher value by letting them know that there is a qualification process, a time-limit, or a set number of individuals who get to buy from us. Perceived value, in the marketing sphere, is often more valuable than the actual value.

One word of advice, when you put a limit on an offer, mean it. Fake scarcity is a no-no. People will eventually figure out that it was just a marketing ploy and you will lose all your “likes” and “authority” because of it.

One of the best ways to use the scarcity principle in your digital marketing campaign is to send people to an event. People understand that an event space has physical constraints and is limited by the number of seats available. This urgency pushes them to take action fast instead of procrastinating. Coupons and time-limited offers work the same way.

Source: Agoda

Commitment & Online Marketing 

Also known as consistency, the principle of commitment states that people do not like to back out once they have made some form of commitment, even if it is a small one. One micro-commitment leads to more smaller ones until giant commitments are being produced automatically.

A simple way to employ this principle in your online marketing is through a multi-step process while collecting leads. Instead of making your web visitors make a big commitment.i.e.$1000 purchase at the outset, have them go through multiple steps. Start with a free small offer. Keep it simple with as little fields as possible. Once you have the “foot-in-the-door”, it is much easier to upsell your main offer.

Multi-step optin form

Consensus & Social proof

The crowd follows the crowd, especially when they are unsure about something. What does this mean for online marketers? Simple, show the crowd that the crowd supports you. You do not have to go out and persuade your target audience in every campaign you run, you just have to point them to what other similar people or groups have done, thought, or said to influence their decision in a very natural way.

If you have heard the term “Social Proof” before, now you know where it comes from and why it is so effective. Testimonials and endorsements, especially when given by influencers in your niche, are one of the most effective ways to influence online users. The key is to make sure that your audience resonates with the person or group giving their testimonial. In other words, ask them to give their backstory testimonial (i.e., how your product or service solved their problem) so that they connect with your audience.

Reciprocity & Online Marketing 

When we receive something of value, we usually like to give value back to the person we received it from. This basic idea encompasses the principle of reciprocity. If a friend invites you to their birthday party, you feel obliged to invite them to yours. If someone helps you study for a test, you feel compelled to help them out in some way in the future. Caldina discusses this principle in great detail within his book, “Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade” by presenting a study that showed that tips left to waitresses increased in direct proportion to the number of gifts they received after the meal (i.e., mints and fortune cookies).

Giving before you get is reciprocity in action. This can be easily demonstrated in online marketing through the use of relevant content. Whether it be a blog, a post, video, infographic, or pic, the content you provide should add some form of perceived value to your audience.The following are some ideas in which you can provide value to your online audience:

1 – Content Marketing (insightful and relevant blog articles)2 – Free Giveaways (products – digital or physical)3 – Free Resources (guides, tutorials, tools, etc…)4 – Free Trials5 – Free Services6 – Samples7 – Exclusive Offers (one-time deals to people who join your group or list)

Liking

People like to do business with people or organizations they like. This is easy to understand but what may not be so clear is why people like other people. According to the liking principle, people like those with similar interests, similar goals, people who complement or flatter them, and people who cooperate with them in some way.

It is not easy to create likeability in the online space, but you can do so with carefully crafted content. In your ad and landing page copy, always stick to a positive tone. Demonstrate to your audience that you understand their problem or you have also experienced their problem. Put yourself in their shoes.

At the same time, you must jump at the opportunity to bridge the distance between you and your audience by showing that you are a real person. Including images of you and your team members becomes paramount.

Icecube pictures

Authority

People follow experts and those with authority. Case in point, if a police officer tells you to pull over, you pull over. If a digital marketing guru like Frank Kerns says to format your emails in a particular way because it increases conversions, you follow suit. The great part of using the authority principle in online marketing is that you do not even have to sell your authority. Indeed it is often unwise to do so. Instead, third-party endorsements touting your expertise on a particular subject brings instant credibility.

A great way to establish brand authority right away is to get some authoritative figure in your niche to become a part of it. This may be a bit hard to do as well-known authoritative figures usually come with a hefty price tag attached to them. Alternatively, media coverage, scientific endorsements or the like can all help in creating authority.

*** Quick Tip: Create a visually-appealing website as first impression is important. At least, have a website that resonates with your audience and looks professional.

Conclusion 

The six principles of influence listed above provide you a low-cost, practical & scientific method to entice your audiences and convert them into loyal customers. These methods work as they adhere to psychological phenomenon that is already inherent in the human psyche.

In essence, you are not persuading anyone to do anything, you are just setting the atmosphere from which influence happens in-and-of itself.

All of the six principles can be easily incorporated into any campaign, ad copy, blog or landing page, which makes them great vehicles for using influence marketing to its fullest.

 

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The Current State of Business in Singapore 2018

The World Bank has rated Singapore as the best country to do business in for the last 10 years. Unsurprisingly, there are more than 400,000 registered business entities in Singapore, according to ACRA. This is a huge number considering our modest population size of slightly over 5million people.

Companies, mostly Pte Ltd companies form the largest percentage of all types of businesses in Singapore, followed by sole-proprietorships. This is likely due to the ease of registering & maintaining such entities, as well as the tax benefits enjoyed by Pte Ltd companies.

Formation of Businesses Across Industries in Singapore

There were approximately 14 main industries which had the biggest impact on Singapore’s economy in 2017.

Of these industries, Wholesale Trade along with Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities comprised the largest group of newly-formed businesses in 2017 with 9,786 and 9,719 respectively.

Over the past decade, Wholesale Trade in Singapore has continued to lead all industries in business growth. There are a couple of factors that have supported this particular industry over the past ten years within Singapore.

1 – Government policies encouraging free trade and a stable trading environment.

2 – Strategic Location: Singapore is situated right in the middle of some major sea lanes in Asia facilitating import & export among Asian countries in that area such as China, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

As for the future of Singapore’s Wholesale Trade industry/sector, the country plans on riding on the coattails of the recent Asian consumer boom by implementing a newly formed industry map which will focus on improved skill sets and digitalization among the exchange of goods between businesses within the country and abroad.

In regards to the Professional, Scientific & Technical industry in Singapore, the growth of businesses within these sectors has mainly been spurred on by Singapore’s intellectual property laws which closely guard new ideas and inventions. In the most recent World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Report, Singapore was ranked #4 globally for institutional intellectual property protection and #1 within its region.

Earlier this year (2018), the Singaporean Ministry of Finance began new initiatives that were focused on developing specialized skills within the professional services sector such as consulting, accounting, advertising, and engineering services.

At the end of 2017, Singapore established a 3-point thrust program as part of the country’s enhanced growth strategy. The thrusts were as follows:

Thrust 1 – Allocate more capital to frontier technologies such as AI.

Thrust 2: Continue to support companies dealing in tech-based products.

Thrust 3: Develop more talent within the area of frontier technology.

Not All Industries Succeed in Singapore: Cessation of Businesses in Singapore

While the above information supports the idea that Singapore is a business-friendly country, there are, however, operating in Singapore alone does not automatically ensure business success.

In 2017, there were a number of businesses within the 14 industries listed above that ceased to exist. Out of these, Wholesale Trade and Transportation & Storage led the pack with 8,010 & 7,119 ceased businesses respectively.

Here is why:

Wholesale Trade: Singapore’s exports have been on a recent decline as of late due to a perceived threat of a global trade war that would undoubtedly affect the country’s exporting businesses.

Another major reason is that as more and more businesses enter the booming Singaporean wholesale Trade industry, higher competition arises pushing the “smaller” companies out. High growth industries like Wholesale Trade tend to also have a lot of failed businesses each year because of high competition.

Transportation & Storage: Many of the reasons for last year’s failure in the Wholesale Trade sector in Singapore are the same for the Transportation & Storage sector as well – the “Big One” being the possibility of an upcoming global trade war. Imports and export trade relies on transportation and storage, and visa versa. Threats of a trade war have not been good for businesses in either sector.

A second major factor which may have contributed to the large number of failed Transportation & Storage companies last year in Singapore was the increasing oil prices which have cut into the industry’s already tight profit margins.

Before-Tax Profits of Singapore Businesses

Almost all of the 14 major industries operating in Singapore show a substantial before-tax profit.

The highest percentage of before-tax profits of all businesses operating in Singapore belong to those in the Financial & Insurance industry for various reasons.

By the end of 2017, the financial sector reported record-breaking profits because of a credit cycle upswing, reduced liquidity risks in the banking sector. As for the insurance sector, it remained properly-capitalized and there were more insurance premiums being paid due to increased awareness among Singaporeans who wished to preserve their capital and protect their assets through various insurance policies.

Advertising & Entertainment Expenses

Wholesale trade appears to have spent the most on Advertising & Entertainment at 7,274 million dollars expenditure but it accounts for only 0.362% of its total expenses, making it even lower than the average percentage spend of 0.627% among all services sectors. This suggests that wholesale trade is not reliant on advertising. It is likely the case because wholesale trade is predominately a ‘relationship’ business.

On the other hand, information & Communications Services sector allocated 3.25% of its total expenses to Advertising & Entertainment, clocking in the highest percentage spend among all services sector. This is unsurprising considering that this sector is typified by rapid innovations and technological changes. It’s adoption of digital marketing for mass outreach would be likely.

How do we measure up against other countries?

In larger economies such as the US, it is observed that companies generally allocate a much larger portion of their expenses to advertising. According to Wordstream, a digital advertising company, SMEs spend about 6-20% of their gross revenue on marketing, amounting to upwards of 10k USD each month. High growth companies such as Airbnb and Amazon allocate an even bigger portion for advertising.

Conclusion 

As an island nation ideally located right in the middle of Asia, Singapore offers enticing geographical opportunities for businesses in the Wholesale Trade and Transportation & Storage industries. That is not to say, however, that other businesses in other industries cannot profit within Singapore.

Our nation’s robust and ever-increasing economy is ideal for many companies operating within the 14 major industries discussed earlier on. The government has focused itself on continuous economic growth through its policies and reforms and continues to keep a broad-mind when it comes to supporting the business-friendly legislation as well as funding for new technological innovations and increased workforce skill sets.

Combine that with outstanding connectivity, an already highly-educated workforce, agreeable climate, and a culture of pro-growth, and we have a strong foundation on which to maintain or start a wide variety of businesses.

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How to choose the right digital marketing agency and crack the digital code

In searching for a digital marketing agency, what are you actually looking for ? This term is becoming more and more all-encompassing in recent years.

Many traditional professional services providers in Singapore such as web development firms , video production, PR firms, media buying agencies, creative agencies have all transformed into somewhat of a digital marketing agency. Each has their own definition of digital marketing. I don’t think there is a universal agreement to what it really means.

In our agency, we define digital marketing simply as such: The future of sales.

In the past, there weren’t any form of marketing. Sales was the only growth engine of a company. As companies evolve, marketing was introduced as a way to increase brand awareness and grow sales indirectly. Sales has always been the main driver of revenue. Today, with digital marketing in the picture, selling is partly carried out online. Who knows? In the future, there may only be marketing, and no sales.

What do you want ?

The first step in choosing an agency is to get clear on your objectives. Digital marketing can vary in the type of 1)channel, 2)content format as well as 3)objectives. For example, video is a type of content and Youtube is a channel. The objective could be to increase brand awareness.

SEO service is one of the most commonly requested service in Singapore, with the keyword “SEO agency singapore” getting as much as 1300 searches per month on Google!

What is SEO(search engine optimization)? Referencing the diagram above, SEO is actually a traffic generation tactic using search engine as a channel. What that means is that SEO alone(without conversion optimization) will not help you increase sales.

 To give you an idea; we rank on first page for several top keywords for a client and got only 10% of the leads that Google ads generated. (For further understanding of the nature of SEO, you can refer to this lengthy SEO article I wrote in Techinasia.)

The same goes for Facebook page management/growth of page fans, another in-demand service. Similar to SEO, it is a branding tool, not a sales generation tool(at least not direct). You probably heard the news many times; Facebook is starting to severely limit businesses from reaching their Facebook page fans.

Facebook’s algorithm tweak has gotten so bad that it has killed several high profile businesses. One such example is a company called Little Things , an online business with13 million facebook page fans. They announced that the business had to shut down because they could no longer reach their Facebook fans. Tragedy.

Hence, there can be no progress if the tactic does not align with the objectives.

Some businesses want to do SEO or grow their Facebook fan page in order to enhance their brand awareness. That is all good, as long as you are aware of what you are paying for.

What if I want to grow bottom line

If you have decided that your goal is to directly increase sales through digital marketing, probably the only way to do it is through paid advertising. With the algorithmic changes going on in Google and Facebook, experts are saying that “organic is dead” and “pay-to-play” is the new rule of the game. While we think that organic is not completely dead(you still have content marketing), pay-to-play is 100% here to stay.

Think about it. Google is a $600 billion company and Facebook is almost worth $500 billion. The bulk of their fortune comes from paid ads and they are doing everything in their capacity to help advertisers make money…so they can make more money. In recent years, Facebook has modified its ads platform more times than we can count, introducing tools such as lead ads, machine learning and audience insights to help advertisers get the most out of their dollars.

Google, on the other hand, expanded the text allowance for ads twice in the last 2 years. 

As ads become larger and larger on Google search results page, the clickthrough rate has only gotten higher. What Google is doing is to push users to click on the ads instead of the organic results, to the benefit of the advertisers.

Given all that, we think that the world of online advertising for ROI enhancement is extremely exciting.

How to dominate paid ads ?

Paid ads is a tactic whose objective is to generate leads and increase sales. The channel can range from Google to Facebook to Youtube and so on.  Whether you are hiring an agency or a digital marketing specialist to help you in your paid ads, you need to have a good idea of what makes your campaigns tick.

For example, some agencies declare that they developed their own A.I. technology, others say that they are experts in data analysis. There are those that parade the beauty of their banner designs. Since no one is good at everything, how should you go about choosing ?

If you study Facebook and Google, 2 of the largest ads platform in Singapore, you would know that both companies have made A.I research & development their core focus over the next decade, having hired an army of A.I experts. In fact, machine learning is already a big part of Facebook ads platform. These days, it has gotten so smart that you do not even need to set targeting to reach your ideal target audience. Facebook’s algorithm would ‘learn’ by itself. (Yes, its pretty scary) In the A.I race to gain more advertisers, I would say Facebook is slightly edging ahead.

Furthermore, their A.I. technology is built for big countries such as USA. In Singapore with a relatively miniscule population of less than 10 million, it is almost child’s play for Facebook or Google to do its machine learning magic to get laser targeted on your target audience. Human intervention is therefore reduced.

With A.I set to take over the jobs of humans, does it mean there is no need for a campaign specialist ? Nope, that is not the case. It just means that campaign specialist’s skillset would have to be different today as compared to a decade ago.

Campaign specialists have to be really good at understanding human beings, something that robots cannot do. They need to have certain grasp of psychology in order to know how to appeal to real human beings, and not to Google or Facebook. Increasingly, optimization and data analysis can be carried out by Google/Facebook machines but campaign specialists need to be good at crafting resonating messages. That involves real work and effort in understanding the target audiences. Robots will never be able to do that.

How much budget should I set aside ?

Here’s the thing about machine learning and A.I. It needs data for it to do its thing. That means you need to pay money to buy ads in order for the system to gain more data. The more data it has, the easier it is for a system to optimize your campaign for the best results.

This is probably one of the reasons why many DIY campaigns fail. Many conservative SMEs set aside a few hundred dollars for their Facebook/Google campaigns and did not see any form of returns from their campaigns. Actually, the money is used merely for buying data. The system is only just getting to work. Had they go on further and continue to run their campaign, the data accumulated would help in making the campaign work. However, they give up too soon for fear of losing money in this ‘mysterious’ platform.

To find out exactly how much budget you should set aside, you can refer to my article where I discuss the costs of facebook advertising. Simply put, it has to tie in with how much you want to earn. However, you need to be realistic. No matter how good the platform is, you can’t expect to put in $1 and get $1million; it is not lottery. A 3-4x ROI would be reasonable; that means one can expect $50k ad budget to yield $150k earnings, for example.

What KPI can I expect

This brings me to the next section.

Like any other business investments, there has to be a KPI for your digital marketing campaign.

If you are doing SEO, the KPI would be rankings on page 1 of Google. If you are doing Facebook page management, the KPI could be the extent of reach or the number of new facebook fans. If you are running a creative/viral campaign, the KPI could be the number of likes & shares on your post.

However, these could be considered vanity metrics.

For paid ads, the KPI is something highly tangible and business-oriented. We are talking about the number of new leads or the increase in sales.

Here’s a tip. One has to be clear about the difference between guarantee and projection.

If an agency guarantees that they can achieve a certain KPI but they don’t hit it, the penalty would usually be refund of fees.

If an agency projects a certain ROI or KPI from the campaign, the failure to meet it doesn’t result in refund. This is because marketing takes into account human behavior which is highly unpredictable.

You have to be clear about the terms with your agency before signing of the contract.

What agency should I hire ?

With all that out of the way, you can look into what kind of agency you want to hire. It can be categorized into long term vs short term engagements.

Short term or one-off projects include: PR, web design/development, creative or viral campaigns, branding projects.

Long term or ongoing projects include : content marketing, SEO, paid advertising,

Note that you may have existing in-house resources so you don’t want to get an agency that overlaps or even conflicts what your team is already doing.

For short term projects, it makes sense to outsource. You can also look for overseas freelancers to save money. For example, Upwork and Fiverr provide freelance help in areas such as design and development, though you have to watch the quality closely.

How about long term engagements ? You probably need to talk to someone locally especially if it’s an important part of your business.

Our recommendation is to carry out content marketing in-house while outsourcing paid advertising.  Why so ?

  1. Content marketing requires a lot of domain knowledge that cannot be easily outsourced.
  2. Content marketing is a long term game that takes a while to see ROI. For that reason, you find it hard to justify paying an agency on an ongoing basis with no sight of any monetary returns.
  3. You also need to be able to measure the effectiveness of an agency in quantitative and objective way. This prevents any disputes when you want to end the relationship with them.

Paid advertising is a quick way of measuring effectiveness of an agency.

When should I start hiring an agency ?

For a business that is in its initial stage of growth, we typically advise the founders to tap on their network first.

Word of Mouth is the best form of lead generation. It beats digital marketing or any other form of marketing flat out.

Why ? These people already know you personally and trust you. It is definitely easier to close the deals.

You are ready to embark on digital marketing when you meet the 4 criteria:

  1. Your business is scalable to a reasonable extent, such that you don’t have to shut off campaign the moment you reach capacity. It can be very frustrating for yourself and the agency.
  2. You have a proven process for closing deal, whether through the founder or the sales team. That happens when you have a predictable closing rate, say 20%-50%. Otherwise you could be wasting money when you begin advertising.
  3. You have testimonials from satisfied customers. This proves to people that you are tried-and-tested instead of a risky new business.
  4. Typically when you have revenue of over $250k annually.

Charging models of agencies

Charging models in Singapore include cost per man-hour, percentage of ad spend, fixed retainer or performance based pricing.

Each has its pros and cons. For man-hour pricing, you could be paying for inefficiencies of the agency. For percentage of ad spent, there is a conflict of interest to get you to spend more. For fixed retainer, there is lack of transparency. For performance-based pricing, you may have to pay a lot more if the agency is good at what they do. Over here in Ice Cube, we believe in a pricing model tied to performance that allows for a win-win situation.

Qualifications of agencies

Unlike the case of hiring an accountant where you can filter them based on whether they have an accounting degree or whether they are a CA(chartered accountant), there is no such credentials for digital marketing in Singapore.

Well, we do have one given by Google: Google Partner badge. This is for agencies that have exceeded certain amount of ad spend across accounts under their portfolio.

There are also the marketing awards given by organizations such as Marketing interactive or Mumbrella. Big agencies tend to boast a suite of marketing awards. Just make sure you are not paying a premium for these awards.

Last thing you can look at is probably the case studies and testimonials that an agency has garnered. This tells you the track record of the agency.

Credentials aside, you can see if an agency walks the talk by checking with them if they do their own digital marketing. You can also check out their online presence to see if they know their stuff.

Ice Cube Marketing is a strong proponent and practitioner of digital marketing

Criticisms against digital marketing agencies

Let’s be real; digital marketing agencies don’t enjoy the best reputation here in Singapore. There are many complaints against agencies in recent years. Some said their agencies overpromise, don’t know what they are doing and are in it just for the money. For any industry that is unregulated and has low entry barrier, cases like these are bound to happen. Digital marketing vendors range from international agencies, local agencies to solo freelancers.

I would say it takes both hands to clap. You need to carry out due diligence and set the right expectations. Within an agency, the sales team and delivery team may be disconnected. Sales team promises the sky and the moon while the delivery team is left to do the fulfillment. Do not be taken in by wild promises that are too good to be true. At the same time, don’t squeeze your agency so much that it is impossible to deliver.  We have companies asking for $1 or $2 per lead which is not realistic to fulfill.

Lastly, if you are still not sure what type of agency is suitable for your current situation, feel free to talk to us by clicking on the button below. We may not be good at everything but we can direct you to the right resources!

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How to create a landing page that generates sales-qualified leads for any business

What is a landing page

A landing page is like the airport of your business. It is where a user lands immediately upon entry to your website from 3rd party sources.i.e. Facebook, Google or other websites. Like it or not, a visitor derives an impression of your entire business from the airport. Based on this impression, the visitor decides whether he is going to do business with you or not. So it has better be up to par! This infographic tells you everything you need to create a world-class landing page. By following the steps laid out here, your visitor will be sold even before meeting you in person!

Top Fold

For a moment, pretend you are not a marketer. Instead, you are a user, a consumer. You go into a page, checking out an offer that caught your attention. You may not have realized, but within split second, your mind scans the page and decides if it is your thing or not. If it’s not, you leave.

The “Top fold” of a landing page is what a user sees at first glance without having to scroll down(applicable to desktop browsing only). It is the most important part of a landing page. If you display a wall of text at the top and keep your trump card at the bottom of the landing page, I guarantee no one will see it. Top fold is precious real estate on your landing page- be very careful what you choose to include here.

The surest way to turn off visitors

 There are various ways to display the elements on the top fold but you need to make sure that the essential few must be there: Headline, personalized image/video, form, credibility boosters.

Interest

The job of the Top-fold is to pique the interest of the users and entice them to continue reading to find out more. A strong headline gets the ball rolling.  In fact, only about ¼ of people who read your headline will go on to read the body of your landing page. To have more people interested, your headline has to do these 2 things: promise a benefit and evoke curiosity.  Some marketers go for highly exaggerated headlines(“eat this and achieve immortality”) where we prefer a more editorial-sounding headline with a power words sprinkled on it.

Personalization

Copywriting is my first love and I have seen it work wonders, but I won’t downplay the importance of visuals.  A good landing page strategically blends both elements well. By alternating words and images, your landing page becomes easier to read.

Avoid putting up overused stock photos in your top fold. It implies your company is phoney. It is like giving fake flowers to your other half on valentine’s day. Instead, use real images of your people, office, or product.

Authority

Authority is one of the 6 spheres of persuasion, as told by Dr Robert Cialdini. How do you create authority without being an authority ?  Well, you borrow it. Include logos of partners, media or associations your business is associated with in the top fold, preferably those that are familiar to your audience.  It provides the assurance that your company is not a fly-by-night business but one that is able to deliver on its promise.

Remember, this is likely the first time your visitor is interacting with your company. You need to put the best foot forward to convince your visitors that you are legitimate and established (unless you are not)

Social Proof

Social Proof works kinda like Authority. It serves to provide assurance.

It will scare your visitor to know that they are the first people to buy from you. Social proof tells them that there are other people before them who have tried your product or service and are satisfied. Testimonials should be as detailed as possible. Include those that mention the problems, benefits and results faced by the customers. It takes certain knowhow to ask for an effective testimonial.

Clarity

The 2 biggest obstacles to conversion are Confusion & Mystery. Imagine you considering buying a product online, and no matter how hard you try, you aren’t able find information about how long it takes to ship. Is it 1 month? Is it 2 days ? But you need the item for next week’s valentine day. You decided to abandon cart.

Many websites and landing pages slap users in their face with hard-to-find information. Don’t let it be your business. Be as clear about your process as possible by including a ‘how it works’ section. Go one step further- anticipate their questions and include answers in the FAQ section. You only got one chance to make a first impression; you want to create the perception that your customer service is top-notch and you are transparent. People love it.

Unique Selling Points

This is the crux of your landing page. Don’t make users rack their brains to figure out why they should choose you over your competitors; tell them !

Sad to say, many businesses we talked to at the beginning of our engagement tell us they are no different from their competition at all. That is throwing in the towel even before the battle has started! Many a times, your USP doesn’t have to be groundbreaking or earth-shattering. Most businesses are doing something different but they are just not communicating it to their users. Take the example of a Maths tuition business we are helping. They have smaller class size than their competitors and use their own unique pedagogy in teaching, but none of them was mentioned on its website.

On the other hand, you want to make sure that your USP is truly unique and is valuable to your customers. One other tendency of businesses is to use clichés such as “we are the cheapest”, “we have the best customer service” or “we are the best!”

As marketers, we cringe when we see that. Whatever you do, avoid clichés at all costs.

The Salesman

In a nutshell, your landing page works like a salesman who is doing the selling on your behalf. It should therefore check all the boxes of a good salesman. That means your landing page should also seek to counter objections of a prospect. The FAQ section can do that for you. Anticipate potential concerns and doubts and answer them in the FAQ section.

A good salesman never fails to instill urgency. Likewise, you should also do that at the end of the landing page. Nevertheless, you need to be careful of the tone of the message. If done wrongly, it can come across as being harsh and obnoxious and kill off any hopes of conversion for you.

Sequence

Does the elements have to be in the exact sequence as illustrated in the infographic ? Not necessarily.

Some marketers prefer having “About us” at the top, along with a story about themselves to establish rapport. That works too. Whatever the sequence is, the most important thing to bear in mind is that the flow of the landing page has to be logical and seamless. It has to be easy and compelling for your prospects to read all the way to the bottom to sign up for whatever you are offering.

Last but not least

I need to stress that none of the above could be achieved without first knowing your customer. Before you set off to do any copywriting or planning of landing page, the requisite is to first know your audience inside out. Incorporate as much of their language as possible. Speak like your audience and you will do fine !

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21 Digital Marketing Hacks to jumpstart your online success today

According to Statista, 2015 brought about $59.82 billion spent on digital marketing in the US, and the number is expected to grow to a whopping $113.18 billion by 2020. A field growing in popularity day by day, Digital Marketing has been the talk of the town over the last decade. To some, it remains a cloud of mystery.

In this infographic, we attempt to simplify the topic for brands that are just starting out and are overwhelmed by the sheer number of things they have to do. There seems to be an ever-increasing list of activities under the umbrella of digital marketing that demands our attention. Most of them are sadly not worth our time. Here, we cover what we consider the foundation of digital marketing that forms the requisite for greater things to come.

Website leads conversion

Your website is not just a namecard. It can be a source of leads and sales for your business. To do so, it needs to be able to convert web visitors into leads. With a potential customer in mind, you would need to ensure that your website provides them with a good level of ease and convenience, whether in navigating your website and learning about your product, or simply in contacting you. Hence, adding forms to every page of your website can work miracles, and avoids the customer having to strain their mind browsing your website for an enquiry they may have.

Meanwhile, testimonials and other social proof from your previous and current clients placed on various landing pages of your website would give a good impression to potential clients or customers, drawing them to look more into and eventually purchase your product or service. This occurs as, instead of you and your website selling the product, your testimonials etc. would do the work for you, as potential clients often prefer seeing proof that your product would benefit them, from those other than your brand’s sales representatives themselves.

Lastly, were you aware of the fact that an increasingly larger number of Internet users use their smartphones to browse websites and social media instead of, say, their laptops? This is where the importance of having a mobile friendly website comes in, since a majority of your visitors would be browsing your website through their smartphones and not their laptops. Take a step back on those graphics and animations, and ensure that the mobile version of your website is just as easy to navigate; and see the leads rolling in!

Email marketing

Lets put it this way: do you know anyone who doesn’t have an email address? Neither do we. Moreover, Exact target reported that accessing email is the one task people tend to use their smartphones for the most; yes, even more than connecting to social media.

Hence, reaching your current or potential customers through their email may be the best marketing tool you may have the liberty to use. An email marketing campaign’s ability to be personalised specifically towards each customer gives you all the more reason to consider this particular marketing tool since. Often enough, customers seeking your product may not always be aware of that new blog post on your website, or that brand new service your company just launched. With email marketing, your customers can be made aware of all this, as well as new promotions and updates specifically catered towards your loyal customers. Moreover, A study by Adobe found that your current customers are 9x more likely to convert than 1st time prospects.

How would you jump on the email marketing bandwagon, you may ask? It’s quite simple, really. After you’ve complied a list of all your customers’ emails and contact details, you can pick one of several email software providers –Mailchimp, for example, is completely free for your first 2000 subscribers! –and proceed to blast your emails. Other tools such as SumoMe, Leadpages or OptinMonster can always be used to continue collecting more emails, and by sending out regular and attractive emails to your customers, you earn their loyalty. Voila Norbert is another great tool to use for finding and verifying email addresses

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization –or SEO, as it is more commonly known –is the buzzword within digital marketing as it stands now. SEO is the top source of organic traffic and leads. With 97% of consumers using the Internet to search for products or services they require, SEO potentially is a vital lead generation tool.

So, how does one go about planning SEO? To track your web traffic, install Google analytics; to communicate with the Google search engine, install Google search console; and lastly, install an SEO plugin such as Yoast, if you are using WordPress. After submitting your sitemap to the Google search console, you must begin producing keyword-based content. This, along with ensuring your website’s URLs are short and concise, would gradually move you further up in your potential customers’ search results, hence leading them to your website and, eventually, helping you create yet another source of leads. For more information, check out our comprehensive guide to technical SEO.

Social Media

In the current decade, social media has become the driving force for businesses. Often enough, it can too be said that, without a presence on social media, your brand may just cease to exist. Keeping up with the times is crucial for your business, both in drawing in more customers and maintaining your existing ones. As with the case of email marketing, social media aids your brand in getting the word out; in updating your clients of your new promotions and services, while targeting potential clients with the use of ads. Our day to day lives often feel incomplete without accessing social media a few times a day, at the very least, with Singaporeans, for example, having reported to be spending a whopping 2.2 hours a day on social media. An indication of the role of social media within businesses can be seen too with the online presence of 91% of retail brands on two or more social media platforms.

In terms of your website, connectivity to various social media platforms and vice versa should be your topmost priority. This can be established by adding social sharing buttons to every page of your website, and, while sharing posts on social media, ensuring that your posts lead to your website, so as to increase the traffic and resulting leads. However, before you can go about sharing and spreading the word on social media, it is too integral that the content on your website is beneficial enough to your users. Social Media, as the name suggests, is a platform for socializing and not for selling. Hence, brands should strive to provide value and useful content on social media, with the view of building a long term relationship with their audience.

Finally, it is also recommended that brands try out advertising on Facebook. It allows them to reach out to a huge group of audience at low costs, relative to other traditional ads platform such as newspaper or magazines. However, there must be proper strategy in place if one is seeking to obtain a positive ROI from their facebook ads. To that end, you can check out our guide to Facebook advertising.

Blogging

Blogging is an up-and-coming method of leads generation. It is premised on the idea of using information to create trust with today’s highly educated audience. Pay close attention to your content, and always prioritise quality over quantity. If consumers of your blog posts are put off after having read just one low-quality piece, chances are they might not return again to your website when a new piece is published and promoted.

Look to your customers’ recurring queries and frustrations, and turn them into blog posts; not only would your blog posts then be of interest to your customers, but they too would gain more traction as compared to other, less significant topics. Moreover, the content itself should be in a specific tone of voice that would attract customers; easy to read and conversational tones which can also be promoted on social media are often the best approach. Take your time in copywriting the headlines of your articles too; with the fast-paced life that we currently live, your customers would more often than not only read your article’s headline, and then go on to read the rest of the article if and only if it piques their interest.

Conclusion

Adapting to the changing tone of the world has become crucial, with the fear of you and your brand being left behind quite real. Your customers now expect you to maintain an online presence, while it has been proven time and time again that digital marketing, as compared to more traditional marketing perspectives, outperforms in all aspects, whether it be cost, convenience, or audience reach. Following these hacks listed above, digital marketing would be less of an uphill task.

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10 marketing tips for higher learning institutions in Singapore looking to recruit more students

Higher education in Singapore is a huge market that caters not only to local students but also foreign students wanting a better lives for themselves. In 2014, it is estimated that there are 75,000 foreign students in Singapore, comprising 15% of all students here. A hub for world class education and high quality facilities, it is little wonder why Singapore has become a magnet for students all over.

If you are an institute of higher learning in Singapore, you probably feel the need to set aside huge funds for marketing. It is not uncommon to see advertisements of educational institutions plastered all over MRT stations, newspaper and other traditional media channels. To stand out in the eyes of students, organizations are compelled to put their best foot forward.

However, there could be other ways to market yourself in a way that doesn’t break the bank. Capitalizing the internet is a good idea, especially if you are marketing to young adults.  Facebook has 4 million users in Singapore while 91% of Singaporeans google to look for information. Here are 10 tips on how to better make use of digital marketing to achieve the next breakthrough in your student recruitment goals.

  1. Information management

Very few other organizations have as much information regarding their product as learning institutions. While not exactly a product, schools’ main offerings are their courses, and courses come with information that includes mode of delivery, course intake, curriculum, module outline and the list goes on.  Yes, it is definitely important to provide prospective students with as much information as possible in making the right decision. The problem comes when the same course information is used as the landing page for marketing campaigns.

Depending on which stage of the decision process students are in, too much information phases will only confuse and overwhelm prospective students, especially in the early phases. The merits of simplicity and less information has been well documented. In his book, Paradox of Choice – Why more is less, Dr Schwartz’s experiments concluded that giving prospects less information helped them in making decisions better. Consider providing just enough information at various  stages of their research process.

  1. Suitable Call-to-action

By now, most schools have presence on social media since that’s where young adults hang out. Many businesses, however, make the mistake of treating social media as a marketplace instead of a place for socializing.

On social media platforms, avoid asking for too much of a commitment. Instead of getting them to sign up for your course right off the bat, consider softer conversions. Examples include signups for open house, course previews or just a soft copy of your course brochure. These are less intimidating than having a sales consultant call them up to sell them the courses, but are no less effective.

Take the case of PSB academy whom we helped to attract more than 10 participants for their open house in one day by promoting the event on Facebook.

  1. The virtual salesperson

One of the unbreakable rules of marketing is to know your target audience inside out. As an institution of higher learning, young adults form a huge portion of your target audience. You may be well aware that young adults these days are different, they grew up with technology and are extremely savvy with internet. MIT professor Sherry Tuckle even states that this group of people prefer interacting with gadgets more than they do with people (including sales people). A report by Linkedin concurs, declaring that 72% of students develop their short list before reaching out to a school representative.

What does that mean for your school? If you want to reach out to students, you have to appear in front of them early and where they are comfortable with, whether it be Google, Facebook or Youtube. These are the places that they hang out.

  1. Content marketing

While they do not talk to salespeople as much as before, that doesn’t make students any less savvier as a consumer. In fact, they probably know more than the previous generations. A forester study shows that consumers read 11.4 pieces of content on average before making a purchase decision. Consumers today are comfortable with digesting truckloads of information.

The question is whether your school is present during their research process? Are you visible when they google for keywords related to your course offering? How about when they read articles on Facebook revolving around their passion and job prospects? These are all opportunities for you to show up in a  non-intrusive way in front of your target audience, especially when they need you most. According to Linkedin, if you are waiting for students to make the first contact, it is likely too late.  

  1. Demonstrate authority and build trust

The above point is  precisely why the concept of content marketing has taken off in a big way in Asia. Changing behavior of consumers, particularly Millenials has made it mandatory for brands to change their marketing strategy. Content marketing, the new marketing buzzword, is especially applicable for the higher education institutions. Why so?

The whole idea of an education system is about transferring knowledge to students and educating them. If you can begin educating students on social media as well as through long-form useful blog articles, wouldn’t that make you more trustworthy as an educator?

After all, what is the best way to demonstrate to students that you can help them? Simple. By helping them ! Using content marketing ,schools can produce information that are useful and even interesting for students in their lives. In doing so, trust is gradually established with the students, not to mention that it dramatically enhances exposure of your brand among your target audience as people share your helpful content.

Check out some content we produced for LSBF.

  1. Speak their language

Its not just schools, I can’t tell you how many businesses I have seen that fail to speak the lingo of their target audience on social media. I would humbly suggest that press releases and website content be kept at where they should be, instead of being recycled as social media posts or blog articles.

Consider checking out the marketing messages of brands that are popular with young adults. Voted as the top clothing brand for Millenials in 2016, Nike constantly inspires people to ‘Just do it’.

Likewise, PSB Academy constantly encourages youngsters to “Dare to dream” and “follow your heart, not what others say” as well as produce other inspiring messages.

Source: PSB Academy website

Instead of promoting your courses directly, how about inspiring them on social media? Or educating them with useful information?

  1. Be transparent

Of course, you shouldn’t take this too far and start shouting irrelevant messages on social media. After all, the Committee of Private Education keeps a close watch on educational institutions and what they say. With complaints and news about less-than-quality education offered by some schools, CPE is calling for more transparency in this sector . In 2016, CPE announced that they require schools to publish their Graduate employment survey results with regards to their students. They also disallow schools from being overly promotional in their marketing efforts. Our stand is to act in accordance with the guidelines of CPE and incorporate more transparency and less embellishment in marketing.

  1. 3rd party effect

If you are still worried about saying the wrong thing on your social media account, why not consider publishing through a 3rd party platform? With 60,000 monthly visits, Digital Senior is a portal specially catered to students in Singapore looking for higher education options.  In terms of messaging, you can afford to be more casual on these platforms, to the point of perhaps even using a little Singlish to connect with your target audience, without having fears of it backfiring.  Not just that, by virtue of being a 3rd party not connected to any institutions in any way,  students tend to be more receptive towards their messages. (Disclaimer: Digital Senior is owned by Ice cube marketing and this is a shameless plug)

  1. Always share stories

It is no secret. Storytelling has been one of the most effective tools in a marketer’s arsenal for the longest time.  Professor Paul J Zak’s famous experiment found that people who watched character-driven stories tended to donate more money to charities. It was also discovered that the subjects who watched the stories produce a type of hormone known as Oxytocin that bolsters trust and empathy.

You should use this to your advantage because there is no better place to find stories than in schools! Schools is an indispensable force in a society. They transform people’s lives for the better through education, and there are probably at least thousands of student that has benefited from attending your school.

The best part is that prospective students are always looking for seniors who can share experiences of their school life with them. This aids in their decision making process.  Instead of having the students painstakingly scour forums or random Facebook groups in search of seniors’ stories, why don’t you make it available to them?

Your current students probably find it hard to write an entire article around their school life, either due to their already-heavy schoolwork or they are just not used to writing. In which case, you can interview students, round up t