We’re back with the B2B Conversations (formerly Exclusive Interview) series, in which we sound out the fellows of the B2B marketing field.
In this post, we bring you Part One of a nine-part (yes, 9 – these guys have tons to share!) meeting of minds with SEO & Social Media agency Happy Marketer. B2Bento sat down with Prantik Mazumdar, Rachit Dayal, and David Liem to hear their thoughts and opinions on the market.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this interview are the personal views of the interviewees and and do not necessarily represent the philosophies or viewpoints of their organization or clients.
(Anol Bhattacharya – AB, Prantik Mazumdar – PM, Rachit Dayal – RD, and David Liem – DL)
AB: Who is Happy Marketer?
RD: Happy Marketer is a bunch of 18 people right now who love social, search, video, analytics, anything digital that our business clients need to connect with their customers, and we have a weird story of how we got started.
DL: We started off as a motivational training company for marketers. People would come to our course and learn about digital, and then we also made them feel motivated at the end because I came from a motivational training background. We kind of combined, we joined forces, and created a motivational training workshop.
Soon enough we had people asking us to do the project for them because we did such a good job motivating them. That’s how we got started.
PM: I think what’s interesting is that we have two kinds of people in the company. One set of people who are very creative and the other set of people are quite analytical. One thing that we pride ourselves on that sets us apart is that we work on campaigns or projects where there is an element of creativity and the campaign actually works.
We are not the typical creative agency with just a bunch of flowery ideas but ideas that hopefully work. I think that kind of is what Happy Marketer is.
AB: Let’s jump into the meat of things. Let’s start with search, social, analytics and take it one at a time. Let’s begin with SEO-SEM that is the search side. What are the most exciting things happening in SEO-SEM right now according to you?
RD: I think the most exciting thing happening in search is that Google is figuring out how to make a lot more money.
When you look at the search result page suddenly the whole page is taken up by ads and giant ads. The background yellow color that used to be yellow is now some kind of off-whitish yellowish shade now, and most people don’t know that they are clicking on ads or they are clicking on normal results.
AB: So SEO and SEM are mixing up.
RD: It’s very mixing up. Apart from that, on that page, you have maps, you have videos, you have news, you have all sorts of things. You have articles with people’s faces associated with them so the way the page looks is changing and so the way SEO and SEM is very different.
Apart from that, Google is also figuring out how to make money off the network so all the other sites in the Google content network, the Google display network, they are giving advertisers amazing control now on how to pick them. Not just keywords or sites but also remarketing, audiences, cookie-based following.
And so there’s amazing possibility today to get really laser-targeted and picking people, but it has to be done in an integrated way with SEO and SEM having one goal.
AB: I’d like to dig into two topics you raised. One topic is the retargeting and remarketing part. But before we go into that how do you think mobile devices are changing search behaviors, and how is it changing in the SEO-SEM side?
PM: From a Singapore context, the last we studied was about one-third of Internet traffic in Singapore comes from mobile which is tremendous. But what hasn’t happened is most Singapore companies don’t take mobile websites very seriously so whilst you have people searching or going to company websites using their mobile devices, tablets or mobiles, those websites are not ready for mobile. They don’t use responsive design. They’re not mobile-friendly at all.
So I think that’s a big challenge or gap that companies need to address. I don’t think the search campaigns are mobile-friendly as well in many cases because what I search on a mobile is very different from what I’m searching on Google on a laptop because on mobile its typically short information, contact information, opening hours of a shop.
I think those are the two big lacunas that I see that businesses need to address, and they need to understand that search on mobile and laptop or a desktop is very, very different.
DL: The lack of understanding and awareness of all these new things popping up every month presents a very good opportunity for us, from a training point of view, both in educating the businesses themselves on what technologies and what strategies you can do on digital, and also for marketers who they need to know how to better adapt to what’s happening out there and the changing behavior of consumers. Especially when you are talking about the changing landscape in search and also the changing landscape in mobile.
We see that there is a big opportunity there in terms of education. We read up on this stuff everyday, every single day, and we love to talk about it. There’s definitely a hunger out there in Singapore to learn about what’s happening in these technologies and we find we’re very happy to train all these people, and that’s what we have people coming to us for.
RD: We were just talking just now that we have to wake up on training days and find that everything is changed. That’s the new kind of campaign.
AB: When it is changing very fast what do you think the market response is? Let me give specific examples – you mentioned remarketing. Not only Google and Yahoo! are doing that. Many publishers are providing that tool to have this laser-focused approach. That, and attribution modeling especially in terms of SEM and display advertisement.
Do you think the market is adequately informed or do they need to get more informed, and how? Whose fault is it that the market is not informed – the agency’s fault, so-called agency, the creative agency? Let’s talk about it.
RD: I’ve heard this over and over again. Folks who come in from more mature markets like Europe and US always say that Singapore, like Australia is 6-12 months behind, and Singapore is another 12-18 months behind and we are pretty lazy in adopting new things. We tend to look outward towards the more mature markets about what’s happening.
I think in that sense it’s the whole ecosystem that’s keeping it together. The clients and the agencies who move between each other.
Very few people take that step to go say: okay, I need something new. I need results. The region is not that slow though. In travel-hospitality, for example Agoda in Thailand, amazing the kind of spends they have and the way it’s optimized. They jump fast on the opportunity and they optimize fast. I think maybe we get a little too comfy in Singapore here sometimes to take that first step.
AB: That’s tragic but hopefully that will change in some period of time. Let’s do one quick tip. The three of you give one tip for SEO and SEM for, say, a potential client of yours.
RD: My tip is going to be a bit more technical because I’m the techie in the team and that’s to pay more attention to site structure both for SEO and SEM. If you feel like you deserve to rank for a certain set of keywords you better have a site that supports that. You want to rank for Scooby-doo snacks where’s that page, where’s that section of Scooby-doo snacks. A lot of clients want to rank well for generic keywords, like credit card or hotel, but they don’t talk about that topic.
It’s very me-centric. I’d say the first step is that your site architecture supports all those keywords that you feel you deserve to rank for.
AB: The basic things still matter, like doing your sitemap .xml and then putting it on Google and things like that. What will be yours David?
DL: One advice is for marketers to better learn how to sell the technologies that they want to implement. I think too often we get very excited about the technologies, but we fail to realize how stressful it means to a client hearing about all these new things that are happening.
We ourselves may be excited about it but our clients are like: there’s this new option – what should we do. I think our job as agency people and marketers is to be able to simplify it into what does it mean for a business.
Most of the time businesses don’t actually care that there is a new option. They just want to hear you say that this works, it helps me better connect to my customer and we feel very confident about this. It helps us do our job better. I think that’s what we have to keep on emphasizing. We cannot lose track of making our clients feel confident amidst the changing landscape and all the changing technologies.
RD: And a lot of clients know the opening. Like you said, attribution modeling. A lot of clients know that name, attribution modeling, but they don’t know the next three sentences. What it means. What it does for them. And so folks need to go beyond the name-dropping and understand.
AB: That works here because it’s a conference-driven crowd here. All marketers attend the conference and they get the party knowledge so it’s a normal thing. Getting back to David, it’s a very interesting point you mentioned about mapping between the new marketing technology and the business context. I think that’s getting more and more important. People don’t care about technology in any field so that’s a great thing.
What will be your suggestion Prantik?
PM: I think I would like to see more and more clients using digital first and not what they do today where digital is like a last-minute thought or afterthought; rather where it’s like the spend may be millions on offline advertising and you have a $50,000 remaining budget and say, hey let’s do digital because the challenge there is, for example, most clients who advertise on YouTube would take a TVC and just dump it on YouTube.
It’s a huge mistake because digital has its own issues, own positives, own negatives, so you need to, whether its from a creative perspective, for search or for display advertising, I think its important to think digital first or at least think digital differently from offline. That’s my biggest tip – focus on those two aspects differently.
RD: And tying all those together, I think both for SEO and SEM, content is first. People get caught up in “my keywords” and “my budgets” and all that but unless you have content people don’t read and they won’t get sucked in.
Watch this space for Part Two of B2Bento’s thought exchange with the folks of Happy Marketer, where we talk about video and its role in the search engine game.