What Is The Value Of hiring a Marketing Consultancy Agency?

A marketing consultancy agency is commonly promoted as a marketing services agency with advances in conducting market research and revamping marketing strategy.

Nevertheless, the commercial definition is considered as a limited perception of how marketing consultancy work. The definition of consultancy is constantly evolving due to the rapid changes in the digital marketing world. Additionally, the role of consultancy is empowered by the growing capabilities of AI, MarTech, and Data.

Globally, the concept of marketing consultancy is still limited to marketing services. However, in the USA, marketing consultancy is becoming a complex and evolving business term. Due to the rise of personal online business, a vast amount of Americans are managing their digital marketing by themselves. Eventually, this has been increasing the demand for a professional marketing consultant to review their marketing strategy and audit their campaigns. This demand provided new opportunities for the definition to evolve and expand beyond the concept of consulting firms. Traditionally, marketing consultancy has been offered by big firms and branding agencies and requires a massive budget. Now, the new era is providing a new generation of customized services that fits all types of businesses including startups and small companies.

The Business Value of Hiring A Marketing Consultancy Agency

Marketing consultancy has been a highly specialized category of business services for decades. The consultancy term has been limited to sophisticated consultancy firms and niche advertising agencies. Gradually, the marketing consultancy as services started to evolve rapidly due to the Internet and the rise of online marketing. So, the question of how the marketing consultancy evolved can lead to a better understanding of the functionality of digital marketing consultancy services?

1) Commitment to Business Objectives

The major value of marketing consultancy services is it considered as strategic partnership. Consultants are mainly hired to help business with achieving business objectives. The edge for consultancy is that it doesn’t get involved in long process of decision making or internal conflicts like marketing department, therefore it is a direct task with exclusive commitments.

2) Accountability and creative problem solving

When a business is looking for marketing services, they are not only looking for just executions of marketing activities but they need experts in the field. Consequently, marketing consulting is a highly effective solution to business in order to gain success and generate growth. While in-house marketing and agencies might take time to test their methods, the consultants can bring proven solutions. Typically, this can cost in accessing new markets or implementing a specific channel whether it is organic or paid. Additionally, a marketing consultancy agency can provide highly creative solutions and talents that can add value to the marketing department.

3) Enrich, Deepen the Marketing Knowledge

Marketing knowledge is an extensive edge for any business. Consultants can provide sophisticated and highly specialized marketing knowledge to the team and demonstrate training sessions and support. Moreover, the customized market research and data analytics methods provided by the consultant will help the company in assessing their understanding of the product and targeted consumer.

4) Flexible and Faster Integration

The main obstacle to building an effective marketing plan is finding the right talents. It is usually about the human factor, not the financial investment or market barriers. However, acquiring those highly talented marketers is a slow process in terms of hiring, adapting, executing, and managing. In the business environment, it is easier to integrate marketing consultancy as a third-party on contract terms to assess the company needs and the marketing plan. In addition, consultancy comes in different types which provides flexible conditions for the businesses. The consultancy services can be a monthly retainer, annually, or value-based. Moreover, the services can be very focused on certain marketing channels such as SEO and Social Media or based on technology such as marketing Automation or Programmatic Advertising.

What Are the Main Functions of Marketing Consultancy?

According to the evolution in entrepreneurship and how the business conducted, marketing consultancy had to expand its services beyond the traditional functions such as market research and branding strategy. The whole new dimensions of customer-centric, data-driven marketing and automation technology brought new functionality and process.

Standard Consulting Services

Market Research: Collecting market insights and running competitive analysis is essentially one of the main foundations of the consulting process. Traditionally, marketers used to apply methods such as surveys and interviews to collect useful insights. Eventually, internet marketing has changed the way researchers have been working and provided new opportunities for more accurate resources. Now marketing consultancy agencies are able to collect accurate data using online tools such as SimilarWeb, Social Mention, Google Keyword Tool, Klout, and many more. Those tools allow researchers to get their hands on effective insights. In the past, the task of research would require a massive budget and research companies to come up with an effective analysis. Now, everything has changed and data is available online.

Marketing Strategy: The role of marketing consultancy remains highly effective when it works on building a marketing strategy. Over the years, I have seen marketing agencies applying a set of generic tactics for their customers without customizing the approach. Ironically, a set of actions are drawn on a presentation and presented as an approach. This eventually would include social media marketing and quick paid campaigns to generate traffic and sales. Later on, the client will understand that those quick wins are not cost-effective and not helping the brand to grow. Launching marketing campaigns require an initial roadmap and effective strategy in place. However, there is still a misconception about investing time and money in hiring a marketing consultancy agency to set up the strategy before proceeding with marketing campaigns.

Digital Marketing Strategy Consulting Yasser Ahmad

Branding: The most common question is what is the difference between a branding agency vs a marketing agency? Typically, most agencies combine marketing and branding in their pitch without outlining the difference. Eventually, branding is not just about creative services and design, it is more about ideas, perceptions, notions about the company. This is considered a strategic cornerstone of the marketing plan. The agency’s role is more effective when it has the talents and capabilities to demonstrate strong branding guidelines of creative work and message across different marketing channels.

Technology: A marketing consultancy agency is highly effective when it can provide technical capabilities. The strategic approach is not enough when the technology is missing. Therefore, the role of marketing consultancy is to provide a Techstack plan which includes automation and analytic tools. It is a crucial part of the consultancy excellence and benefits. Essentially, the role here is not just to draw charts and provide guidelines, but also to bring cost-effective technology to the marketing process in order to enhance and scale.

New Marketing Principles

Data-Driven: The times of conducting market research and campaign planning based on hypnosis and intuition, not applicable anymore. We are in the age of data and marketing decisions are now subject to digital analytics. A successful marketing consultancy agency needs to design a fully data-driven process from research to situation analysis all the way to control and campaign management. 

Customer-Centric: Companies design their product and manage their brands to become customer-centric. Consulting is required to be at the core of this mission and uses customer data in creating personalized marketing campaigns. The consumer data is becoming the main source of predictive analysis and highly advanced segmentation. 

Marketing ROI: Business management nowadays is thinking of marketing as one of the key generators of growth and therefore marketing investment is becoming under massive pressure. Each marketing dollar is required to generate a profitable ROI. Marketing is not a PR or leads entity anymore, it is now at the heart of ROI calculation and the consulting should be designed to serve this business objective.

E-commerce consulting: Online shopping is taking over the way companies are conducting business. However, the e-commerce process requires a specialized consulting agency to provide the right setup of shopping carts, tracking pixels, cross-selling, Email automation, and customer journey personalization. While some might think that setting a Shopify website is an easy process, e-commerce marketing is quite challenging due to the high competition on paid channels. Essentially, the e-commerce strategy requires extensive planning to reach the target conversion cost.

Business Consulting Firms vs Marketing Consultancy Agency

Over the years, marketing consultancy service has been dominated by two main providers which are consulting firms and marketing agencies. Essentially, business consulting firms are well-established organizations that mainly provide management consulting. As part of their services, they provided Marketing and Sales consulting as well as digital transformation.

Basically, the downside of consulting firms remains in their high-level strategic approaches. ِAs a result, firms are limited to companies or corporations with big budgets to invest. The experience of the firm doesn’t provide the same level of flexibility you can find in boutique marketing agencies and independent marketing consultant.

Moreover, consultancy firms are already in partnership with the top tier technology providers. Hence, their technology is more expensive and doesn’t fit with all types of businesses. The cost of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Adobe Marketing Cloud, Marketo, and Hubspot requires more than subscription fees. There will be always the cost of IT infrastructure, training, integration, and more. Marketing consultancy agencies are also partners with popular technology providers such as HubSpot. Eventually, the issue remains in the conflict of interest. Essentially, consultants should be providing a customized approach and valid recommendations instead of selling a certain technology.

Personally, I believe that while the partnership helped the marketing consulting agencies to empower their clients with automation, the know-how becomes a real barrier for the firms to evolve. Limiting the knowledge to one platform provided certain scenarios of marketing plans and tech exclusiveness that is not anymore customizable for clients. Fundamentally, it is crucial for any consultancy to provide flexible approaches and transfer knowledge to the company during the transformation and execution stages.

The Other Side of Marketing Consultancy Agency

Traditionally, marketing agencies have been providing marketing consultancy as part of their services. However, marketing consultancy as a service has been saturated among different service providers. Eventually, in the last two decades, the agencies have evolved to catch up with the digital age by implementing digital marketing services under their hood.

In the meanwhile, native digital agencies started to rise in the market and provided more channel-based services such as SEO consulting, Social Media consulting, Google Ads consulting, Marketing Automation consulting, and so on. Therefore, marketing consultancy has been normalized on different levels and there have been consulting services for the channels.

Eventually, the downside of this evolution remains in the chaos represented by hiring several third parties to get your marketing going. Even the top agencies will hire multiple resources to manage different digital marketing functions. In a single account, you will meet a multinational agency team that consists of project managers, a UK based agency that manages Paid Search, a Local branding agency, a third-party Social Media agency, a marketing technology partner and the list goes on.

Rethink Marketing

In conclusion, you will need to rethink marketing. Think of how you actually need to position yourself in the market before you launch the marketing activities. Set a clear prospective and expectations of your marketing goals so you can choose the marketing consulting services that can help achieving those goals.

The core value of marketing consulting remains in setting the right strategy and effective analytics. Rethink marketing beyond execution and campaign management. Marketing is eventually a very strategic function because it is value-oriented not just results-oriented.

Finally, a specialized marketing consultancy agency or an independent marketing consultant remains the most effective solution. The edge here is for the native consultants who have a specific process and framework. In other words, it is better to search for the value you are getting from the process not just assigning the task to an agency.

Understanding the Marketing Consultant Role in Business

A marketing consultant role is considered one of the most important roles in the marketing industry in recent years. The marketing consultant role can be part of a consultancy firm or working as an independent consultant.

Fundamentally, the role of a marketing consultant is considered as a highly professional advisor and strategist who can assist the marketing department or agency to achieve the business goals.

What is The Meaning of Marketing Consultant?

A marketing consultant meaning is defined commercially as an external advisor with advanced marketing experience who provides extensive marketing services such as market research, marketing strategy, marketing optimization, and marketing analytics.

A marketing consultant is an external advisor with advanced marketing experience who provides extensive marketing services.

The marketing consultant allows the companies to establish an effective strategic approach backed with extensive analysis and data-driven framework. In addition, the consultant provides the ability to integrate the branding strategy and design the essential guidelines for marketing activities as well as a detailed marketing plan and channel optimization tactics.

The Story and Definitions

Marketing consultancy is a recent term that started to gain more attraction in the last few years. In the past, the marketing consultant role has been commonly used by management consulting firms. With the rise of the Internet and IT solutions, management consultation firms started to expand their services to include marketing consultancy as well as IT consulting. The term has been implemented and merged with sales under the service category “Marketing and Sales Consultation”. However, marketing and advertising agencies have been a key competitor and developed their services to include sophisticated consultation services for their customers.

Eventually, the marketing consultation have been shaped across the years and customized according to the business needs. Agencies have defined the term to match the advertising and branding services, while consultation firms relied on strategic and research side of the marketing consultation to help in adding value to the management consultation services. These two different approaches provided inconsistent path for marketing consultation services. Apparently, this led to unclear definition of the functionality and roles of marketing consultancy.

With the arrival of digital marketing to the scene, the marketing consultancy started to evolve as a term. The marketing started to move from the phase of the hypothesis to practices. Digital marketing provided the technology to the industry and reshaped the marketing industry. The tech capabilities and data became the cornerstone of marketing strategies and activities. Therefore, consultation tasks started to evolve to include digital marketing technology and data analytics.

The Rise of Digital Marketing Consultant Role

The evolution of the digital world provided a diversity of channels and multiplied the platforms. Accordingly, a generation of experts started to arise in every category from social media experts to PPC, SEO, and content geeks. Over the years, the consultation capabilities started to break into different categories based on the marketing channels, automation software, and technology.

This massive expansion has pushed the job of digital marketing consultants into a highly sophisticated and complex level of functionality and profession. Practically, it is hard to find a 360 degree of digital marketing consultant who has a deep understanding of strategic marketing, and at the same time he has hands-on experience in different digital channels such as performance, organic, and campaign optimization. These capabilities require professionals who had a technical background with optimization, as well as experience in managing end to end marketing projects for several brands and industries. Those are the people who can gain the title of an independent digital marketing consultant.

When and Why to Hire a Marketing Consultant?

Mainly, companies tend to hire a marketing consultant in order to help in gaining an efficient analysis of the market and the consumer. In some cases, the companies are more eager for a third eye perspective to review the marketing strategy and campaign performance. The needs could vary based on the nature of the business, industry, and company size.  

While the company needs for consultancy could be different in each case, the marketing consultant skills and capabilities could vary based on his field of expertise.

Startups and small businesses

Small businesses and startups cannot usually afford to hire full-time marketing professionals and tend to hire fresh graduates they are able to afford. The digital marketing consultant can help the startup with their mission in setting up their marketing strategy.

  • Provide the marketing experience required to establish the brand in the targeted market
  • Assist in building the business module by providing the market research and marketing strategic approach
  • Consult on the marketing channels and campaign tactics
  • Assist in designing the consumer journey and product development
  • Setup the marketing channels, process, and tech stack

Medium size companies and brands

Mid-size businesses and firms usually have dedicated marketing teams as well as marketing agencies. Eventually, there are always gaps in the marketing performance and evaluation process required. Hiring a consultant can help companies with the following key missions:

  • Provide an external vision and assist in reviewing the internal challenges
  • Allow the organization to indicate the gaps and the opportunities
  • Assist in the restructure plan and optimizing the process efficiency
  • Advise the top management on the marketing strategy
  • Provide a roadmap to improve the marketing performance and ROI
  • Allow the company to benefit from specialized expertise that is not available within the team
  • Present a new perspective of the customer persona and marketplace
  • Run advanced marketing analysis and help in setting up automated reporting and marketing dashboards.

Independent vs Freelance Marketing Consultant

While those two terms might be similar in many cases but in the market, there could be some differences between independent marketing consultant and freelance marketing consultant.

An Independent marketing consultant is considered as a consultancy firm with a well-established process and fully integrated capabilities on board. The marketing consultant has a more solid business background and the ability to cover 360 degrees of marketing consultancy services. They have their own personal brand, list of services, resources, and hands-on experience in end to end project.

A freelance marketing consultant is an external provider of marketing service who could be specialized in one or several specific marketing channels. This could vary from SEO consultants to Social media, PPC, Content marketing, and more. Freelance consultants tend to work on a project basis and provide their services through channels such as Upwork and LinkedIn.  

Marketing consultant skills

The marketing consultant is required to possession 5 main skills to be able to serve the role effectively. 

  • Understanding the market: The marketing consultant role requires in-depth experiences with the target market and professional skills in conducting effective market research. Understanding the market is not limited to previous experience, but it also expands to include the ability to run competitive analysis, data analysis and brand analysis.
  • Understanding the client: Conducting an efficient analysis of the customer persona is an essential key for successful marketing consulting. The consultant should be breakdown the customer segmentation and extract the patterns.
  • Strategic thinking: Aligning to the business objectives is the first pillar of the marketing strategy development. The foundation of a successful marketing strategy consists of the ability to plan marketing activities, design the process and establishing the KPIs. The marketing consultant should have the ability to effectively set the marketing tactics that fits the marketing objectives including inbound marketing, lead generation, retargeting and retention, growth hacking and guerilla marketing.
  • Mastering the marketing channels: While digital marketing channels expands into several categories and functionality, it is essential for the digital marketing consultant to master the most essential channels. Eventually, the channels must include the organic channels like SEO, Social Media, Content marketing and paid channels such as Paid search (PPC), Display, Paid social (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn). Additionally, there are several main channels to add such as Email marketing, Video marketing, and influencer marketing.
  • Dominating the technology: Digital marketing is operated by digital platforms which requires the ability to manage, optimize and audit. The key to provide a professional marketing consultation relies in the ability to analyze and dig into to platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook Advertising, Social media and SEO tools. The digital marketing consultant is required to be able to audit and set optimization for either planned or running campaigns on each platform. In recent years, the tech abilities expanded to include marketing automation clouds, AI, CRMs and CMS.
  • Managing expectation and performance: Data-driven strategy and campaigns are the main demand in the business scene. Establishing reliable KPIs and data reporting is considered the main framework of marketing consultation. Advanced marketing analytics skills and data analysis is a must for any consultant.

Marketing Consultant Responsibilities and Process

According to Harvard Business Review, consultancy is more than giving advice. In a review of the definition of consultancy, they indicated a broad range of activities and different practices. Initially, the key responsibilities of the consultant consist of several layers of commitments, starting with advising all the way to the sustainability of process and ongoing progress.

  1. Providing extensive research and insights about the market, consumer, competition, and brand position.
  2. Solving marketing challenges and creating effective marketing solutions.
  3. Identifying the gaps and investigating the marketing performance using auditing and data analysis approaches
  4. Aligning the marketing objectives to the business goals and optimizing the process and framework to match the resources
  5. Assisting with execution and the implementation of channels and campaign optimization
  6. Building the data-driven process and automated tracking process to sustain the corrective action.
  7. Facilitating marketing learning and training the team on how to resolve similar problems in the future.
  8. On-going support and optimization to improve marketing ROI and strategy optimization.

In conclusion, digital marketing consultancy services are mainly focusing on improving the marketing process in order to sustain a solid roadmap of profit and marketing ROI. It is more about answering the business questions of when and why the company needs to design their marketing activities. It is a more in-depth process than setting up a campaign plan or marketing platform.

The Ultimate Guide of Digital Marketing In the GCC

Digital marketing in the GCC market has massive value in the regional market of the Middle East. The GCC is the key driver for business expansion with the biggest market share of the marketplace. Ultimately, the global business arrives in the MENA region with the main business goal of establishing their business in the GCC countries first. The same business goal is also common among regional companies that tend to scale within the region.

Digital marketing is considered as the main strategic approach to reach the GCC markets in the most cost-effective and reliable tactic. In addition, digital marketing is considerably a fast-track to establish a market presence and to build a consumer base in a new country or region.

Why the GCC market is the most attractive market within the region?

The Middle East market is considered a hot spot for political conflicts, instability, business liabilities, and financial issues. Quick market research could show up with several sorts of complicated obstacles such as slow internet services in some countries, absent of business environment, lack of online payment solutions, difficulties with customs, or even war zones.

For over a decade, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) region, which includes 6 Arabic countries (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar), has rapid economic growth with GDP increase by total 65% in the last ten years. Now in 2020, the total GDP of the gulf nations is $3.464 trillion. The GDP of the Gulf countries presents one of the wealthiest markets in the world. 


Therefore, the Gulf is considered the most reliable market within the Arab region. The political stability and financial rapid growth in the GCC countries is the main factor that attracts investors and businesses. The GCC has some of the most competitive places when it comes to the ease of doing business or establishing a startup. In addition, Dubai is considered one of the most important business hubs in the world.

The Stats of Digital Media in the GCC

Digital marketing the GCC is an ultimate marketing tactic due to several important factors.

  • Internet: The GCC countries are digital empowered with approximately 92% of Internet penetration according to 2020 statistics from Internetworldstats.  While the worldwide rate stands at 54%, the Gulf countries are way ahead of many global markets.
( 2020 Est. )
Internet Usage
% Population
April -2020
Bahrain1,701,5751,615,62094.9 %1,352,500
Kuwait4,270,5714,231,97899.1 %4,093,000
Oman5,106,6264,011,00478.5 %2,635,400
Qatar2,881,0532,942,00099.6 %2,942,000
Saudi Arabia34,813,87131,856,65291.5 %23,720,000
United Arab Emirates9,890,4029,532,01696.4 %8,737,000
  • Social Media: The GCC has one of the highest rates for Social media users. According to statics the UAE and Qatar have the world’s highest rate at 99%, while the rate is 98% in Kuwait and 92% in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia, the biggest market with GCC, has a high number of actives users with 12 million Instagram users, 11 million Twitter users, and 14 million Snapchat users.
  • Digital Ad Spend: Digital Advertising is developing rapidly in the GCC market in the last few years. The total digital ad spend is expected to reach USD 6.51 billion in 2020 in the MENA region with the biggest share of spend targeting the GCC. Programmatic advertising in Dubai is on the rise due to the massive demand from multinational firms in the city which considered the home to headquarters in the pan Arabic region. Internet giants and digital agencies are considering Dubai as the key access to the region when it comes to the advertising dollar. 
  • Digital transformation: According to Internal Data Corp, the digital transformation dedicated budget in UAE in 2020 is US$11 billion, while in Saudi Arabia it is estimated at US$8 billion. 
  • Ecommerce:  The Gulf region with Egypt is accountable for more than 80% of the E-commerce market in the MENA region. According to BMI Research state in 2020, the UAE market share of e-commerce is 45.6%.

With this overview of digital marketing in the GCC, we can have a clear understanding of the big opportunities in the market. However, the important question is: How to access the GCC market effectively with a digital marketing plan.

1. Invest in market research

Initially, there are several confusions and misconnections about the gulf region. Hooking up with a local agency through some ads is the most common mistake I keep seeing in this market for a decade now. However, digital marketing is highly competitive in this “red ocean” spot of the world.

It is wise to stop thinking of advertising and start with conducting market research and strategy. Business owners tend to save the time and budget that is spent on conducting strategy, and this is a fatal mistake. The first marketing investments that arrive in the region are usually wasted.

Start but dividing the GCC marketplace into countries and even major cities “Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Al Riyadh, Jeddah, etc.” and explore the demographics of expats density versus locals, the competition and market needs. It is a mistake to look at the GCC market as one local market. For instance, the expats dominate cities like Dubai where you will have to rely on English content. Saudi Arabia has the lowest number of expats with 32%, however, the purchasing power can differ between cities.

Market research is a crucial investment for companies and startups in the GCC. It allows effective targeting and filtering for the segmentation as well as the ability to compete successfully.

2. Define the consumer persona

Do you have a clear understanding of the consumer culture in the GCC? That’s the first question to ask clearly and loudly. The purchasing decision is highly influenced by family and community culture as well as the current trend. The Arab purchasing decision is considered different from individualistic decisions in markets such as Europe and the USA. This leads to the conclusion that Middle East consumers and Arabs in the GCC are not fast movers when it comes to new ideas or services. They consume new ideas slowly and they are waiting till they see high demand in their community.

Understand the persona of your targeted segment before building a digital marketing strategy. Focusing on building a reliable and outstanding brand image is the key to access this market.

3. Build a localized digital marketing strategy

Setting up the digital marketing for the GCC requires focusing on a localized approach. Ultimately, there are several factors that can define your tactics and strategic approaches such as budget, marketing resources, market research findings, industry, and technology. Whether you are hiring a digital marketing team or an Arabic marketing service provider, it is important to get local experts. However, in the following steps, we will focus on the common factors for a digital marketing strategy in the GCC and Arabic countries.

  • Language approach: Arabic localization is more than a language translation. Having an Arabic website or social media channels is not the key to sell to the GCC. In fact, English is a common language for a major amount of gulf users, especially in B2B services. Arabic business owners and consumers tend to search for local choices to grantee some amount of reliability. Initially, Arabic digital marketing campaigns are not the only choice to access the Gulf region. For some industries and services, the majority of search is conducted in English. To be able to define that, it is important to conduct market research as mention in step one.
  • Local business approach: Setting your business locally might require registering a local company. However, you can overcome this by virtually setting up your local identity using digital capabilities. The first step is to purchase a local website with a local domain and create a version of your website dedicated to the region. Most multinational firms choose the domain (.ae) for their Middle East version. Adding a local contact (local phone number, address, WhatsApp, etc.) is a highly beneficial step for GCC consumers to increase their conversion rate. Most importantly, add local currencies for your products, services, and digital marketing campaigns since the GCC consumer tend to prefer transactions with their local currency.
  • Digital marketing approach: The biggest mistake you can possibly do, is to select the wrong digital marketing channel. Marketing in GCC requires implementing the most effective marketing channel and not just relying on the popularity of social media among the local consumer. Setting Arabic social media campaigns can be beneficial for branding but not for conversion. You might need to expand your vision than to include Arabic SEO, content marketing, Google Ads, Email and inbound marketing, and even channels such as Video marketing and Display.
  • Digital marketing services approach: Searching for a reliable digital marketing agency in the GCC can be tricky. There is a diversity in the choices when it comes to the best Arabic digital marketing agency. While Dubai is the biggest hub for digital marketing services, there are also other Arabic agencies to look at in places such as Cairo, Jeddah, Amman who has expertise in the Gulf market. It is important to avoid low-quality freelancers as well as digital marketing agencies in Dubai with ineffective costs. Search for a digital marketing consultancy first to review your needs and provide you with guidelines to start on the right foot.
  • Marketing evaluation approach: Set your digital marketing strategy object and expectation. Prepare KPIs for each digital marketing services you are going to hire before you start in order to reach a pragmatic milestone. Eventually, there is a misconception about the GCC which is so common. Some believe that the high purchasing power of the Arabic consumer in the GCC means an easy profit. Research how you can position your brand in the market first. The wealth of consumers comes always with it is different purchasing habits and preferences.
  • Branding approach: To gain a local presence it is important to revamp your branding strategy and customize your local tactics of Arabic branding campaigns. Avoid translation and work on native content as the first step, then simplify your marketing message for the local consumers. It is highly important to understand that Arabs are not sophisticated when it comes to online experiences. It is highly important to use a language and a marketing message that is easy to consume by the average consumer.

4. Optimize the digital marketing campaigns

Digital marketing services contains several channels and campaign tactics to reach the consumer. In the GCC, there is a huge rise in social media usage, but this is just the surface of the statistics. Each marketing channel can serve different objectives and provide a certain rate at a cost for impressions, clicks, conversion, and ROI.


The campaign channels can vary from social media and Arabic SEO to Google Ads, Email marketing, video marketing, display networks, content, and influencer marketing. In order to achieve digital marketing objectives, it is important to create your digital marketing mix and optimize the channels.

Social Media Marketing in the GCC

Firstly, it is important to understand that social media marketing is not limited to Facebook and Instagram. With that said, we have to understand that choosing the proper social media channel is the cornerstone for setting up the social media strategy. Each channel has it is a function and it is the effectiveness rate. It is important to understand that Instagram for Arabic consumers is more about entertainment and trends. Therefore, implementing the regional Instagram marketing campaign should have aligned with Instagram’s user behavior. Therefore, awareness and retargeting are the most relevant objectives for the channel.

Secondly, social media in the GCC doesn’t mean creating a Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter, or stashing money here and there on several paid social campaigns. The GCC users are mainly using social media for entertainment and chasing the trends. Therefore, it is not ideal if your industry is B2B or business services. As a marketing consultant, I always face the misconceptions of social media marketing role. And I have to say, “It is not a magic”.  If you don’t have a strategy of the proper channels that can serve your type of industry, then you are wasting your efforts.

Thirdly, social media bidding is very high and expensive in some local markets due to aggressive competition. Kuwait has a very high cost for reach and CPC followed by Dubai. Running social media campaigns without planning can just burn out your budget in a few days without gaining a proper cost per conversion.

social media in GCC

In conclusion, it is important to have a plan for lead generation and acquisition before launching a paid or organic social media campaign. A digital marketing agency that is offering only some attractive designs and posts for social media in the region is just a part of the job but not all the jobs. You need to design a conversion funnel, email automation, retargeting settings, and KPIs before you implement your social media in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf region.

Google Ads and PPC in the GCC

GCC has an emerging consumer who is searching for products and services. Google Ads such as search Ads are a highly effective way to access the region in a short time and generate conversion at a lower cost. Google Shopping is finally active now in all countries within the GCC, which provides a great opportunity for e-commerce. However, Arabic PPC and Search Engine marketing require professional skills in configuration and optimization.

In the GCC countries, the search skills of the Arabic audience are not really advanced for most of the consumers. In other words, Arabs are not specific when it comes to search habits and the search behavior is limited to trends and broad terms. For instance, I have been hired by a global car rental company to run an audit for their Arabic keywords and Google Ads. After researching the case, I advised them to ditch all the keywords that are very specific to care rental in cities and just target the whole country or even the continent as “Europe”. The issue that Arabs who search for car rental, they don’t write specific city or an airport but they just type “car rental in Europe”.

Finally, it is important to understand that international businesses in some industries are heavily targeting places such as Dubai. Ad bidding is getting skyrocket for some highly competitive services such as real estate, finance, consumer goods, business services, etc. However, there are always opportunities in the market if you have advanced skills or resources with search engine marketing. Programmatic advertising in Dubai is on the rise and there is ongoing growth in this digital marketing services.  Check the article: Arabic Google Ads and How To Improve The Audience Engagement With Ads.

SEO and Content Marketing

Arabic SEO has been one of the most effective digital marketing services for businesses in the GCC. Dubai, Egypt, Saudi, and Jordan had the biggest share of online content. With the rise of SEO services and awareness in the GCC, the market is becoming more competitive and reaching maturity for some categories. Eventually, the misconception of SEO remains in three practices.

Most importantly, some SEO agencies in the GCC are trying to sell SEO packages without researching the customer needs or building quality practices. This ends up with low-quality content scrapped from the internet and edited. Therefore, it is important to avoid SEO packages and search for high-quality services.

The second misconception is about old SEO tactics that are not effective anymore. For instance, some SEO agencies will offer a package with backlinks and brag about the number of backlinks they are offering. Backlinks are not just about the number of links, it is all about relevancy and quality. Hence, local domains are more important than having links from blogs created in India.

Finally, SEO services should focus on local SEO to enhance visibility and relevancy. Including keywords for local geographic locations and content are two important factors for increasing your rank and brand visibility. In conclusion, SEO services and content marketing are a long-term practice and has to be built up organically and professionally. Choose the SEO agency that can provide original quality content and well-researched keywords.

Video Marketing in Arabic

Due to demographics and social changes, video is an ideal medium to reach the Arabic consumer. Gen Z in the GCC is consuming videos at the highest rate in Saudi Arabia. However, video marketing is limited to entertainment content and the content creator in the region is still serving this type of demand. The social behavior of the regional content is considering videos as more entertainment than educational or awareness. Therefore, video marketing in the region is not for everyone and is not effective unless you have fresh content that has entertainment incentives such as travel, media, gaming, fashion, gadgets, and so on.

The most important tip about video marketing remains to create an entertaining content with straightforward message. Avoid using translated videos and create authentic content that address the regional consumer.

The paid advertising remains highly effective on YouTube in the long-term, while Facebook can generate massive views in the short-term. Live content and human elements are relevant to the GCC consumer more than animation and slides. In conclusion, it is important to use influencers and interviews to showcase your services and products than focusing on other aspects. In addition, the entertainment is more important than quality in most cases.

Email Marketing

The GCC is hotspot for massive offers and Email campaigns. However, the region didn’t reach the full maturity of Email marketing as a digital marketing tactic. There is a huge amount of spamming and impersonalized campaigns that is flooding the user’s inbox without proper automation plan.

The most important guideline for Email marketing in the GCC and Arabic countries is to focus on proper frequency and fine tune the promotion with personalization. Open rates are considered very low in the region since the local consumer tend to use it mainly for business and career purposes. However, setting up effective automation tools with proper workflow and segmentation can improve the cost-effectiveness of the digital marketing campaigns.

5. Know the culture

I kept this point to the end since it is for those who are digging deeper. Digital marketing allows companies to reach consumer quick and at major scale, but that’s only the water surface. Establishing a brand name on the ground is a matter of art and science. With that said, we have to understand that any brand is dynamically interacting with the culture.

This fact is commonly discussed and evaluated in the rooms of marketing teams of the big brands who are well established in the region. They know that their brand image should always address the Gulf culture. You will see this in all their marketing campaigns from creatives to marketing message. Automotive brands tend to focus on luxurious specification with the dessert in the background as main theme. Beauty brands will focus on black hair to match the Arabic beauty prospective. Fast food companies are continuously adjusting their meals to match the local taste.

The global brands are not only customizing their products but also tapping into the mind of the GCC customer and trying to catch the momentum. Eventually, a proper understanding of the culture in the region will help to unlock the shopping trends, seasonality and the key motivations that drives the GCC customer. Ramadan is a big season for some industries, but there are expats who are also interested in Christmas season. The culture is diversified due to globalization and the GCC is no longer a closed and conservative environment like before. The younger generation are avid consumer for new ideas and main cities has a cosmopolitan culture of young workforce coming from all around the world.

In summary, the GCC is a thriving market and driving the MENA region in many sectors such as e-commerce, finance, aviation, tourism, and retail. Digital marketing services is an opportunity for many small and big size businesses to access the Gulf countries. However, the opportunity is not only in the high purchasing power, but it also relies on how you design your marketing strategy and the digital marketing consultation services you depend on. As an independent digital marketing consultant, I always suggest conducting proper research of the market before setting the marketing campaigns. I hope you find the provided guidelines helpful, and I would like to hear from you if you have questions or marketing inquiries. Finally, digital marketing in the GCC is all about tapping into the market needs and the Gulf consumer.

The Foundation of Marketing Analytics: From Challenges to Process to Profit

Marketing analytics is the process of comprising data and technologies to establish trackable metrics and data-driven marketing activities.

The main function of marketing analytics is to import the business metrics, such as ROI, and marketing attribution into the core of the marketing game.

In other words, the analytics job is to gathers data from across all marketing channels and to combine it with the consumer databases then and consolidates it into an insightful marketing view. From this analytical view (360° Knowledge Graph), marketers can extract real-time analytics and actionable insights that can provide the steering wheel for effective targeting and personalized marketing efforts.

marketing analytics process

What can you do with marketing analytics?

From a general perspective, the analytics of marketing data plays an essential role in achieving business objectives. Eventually, the roles can be strategic or operational or financial.

  • Understanding your target consumer: analyze the target consumer, predict trends, monitor consumer behavior
  • Monitoring business goals: Connect online behavior with offline data, measure ROI and customer lifetime value CTV
  • Measuring the marketing performance: Monitor real-time performance, forecast future performance, campaign performance, return on Ad spend ROAS, bidding strategy, and budget allocation across channels and devices.
  • Analyzing the competition: Compare marketing activities against competitors’, analyze the market share, and monitor the brand visibility.
  • Enhancing the marketing team: Build a data-driven team, increase the credibility of results, improve the efficiency of marketing priorities, and ROI tracking.

Marketing analytics: The challenges of technology

Over the years, as businesses expanded into digital marketing techniques and the need for advanced targeting and tracking is becoming the main focus of marketing initiatives. With the higher demand for efficient solutions for analytics, the challenges started to rise.

  • Isolated environments: The new technologies were typically deployed in isolations and the result was a huge set of tools and platforms of disconnected data environments.
    Marketers would have to implement several tools and platforms to monitor all the data sources (Google Analytics, Social Media tools, SEO tools, CRM platform, Automation platform, etc.).
    This would require several resources including talents, API integration, IT capabilities, and multiple data aggregations.
  • Data Discrepancies: There will be always instability and mismatching results coming from different platforms.
    For instance, comparing Google Analytics and Facebook conversions will reveal a big difference since they use different tracking.
    At the end of the day, you will be facing the issue of which data source is the most reliable for making a decision?

  • Customization: Each business has its own technology stack and infrastructure. Connecting Sales data with online data is sometimes one of the biggest challenges for marketers.
    Your company could be using SalesForce for offline data while you are using several tools for online data.
    Combining these resources in one source for analysis could be expensive for SMEs who cannot afford the cost of enterprise clouds or solutions.

Marketing Analytics Process: Main steps to marketing analytics success

To get the highest value and greatest rewards from marketing analytics, follow these four steps:

1. Determine the objective function of marketing analytics

Marketing analytics relies on three pillars: econometrics, experimentation, and decision calculus.

CMOs can use econometrics when they need to make hypotheses about their marketing activities and test them by using experiments. Where the decision calculus comes down to individual digital marketing channels introducing their own intuition into the equation, marketing analytics as a whole allows the marketing department to identify best estimates for how to measure the effects of marketing activities.

Intuitively, the metrics and data analysis should provide the best relationship between marketing inputs and consumer response.

Set-up your objective function clearly. What are the business metrics the business wants to set as its goal for optimization? This may be one of any formulas for assessing business success, including market share, conversion rates, brand equity, customer lifetime value (CLV), retention rates, future growth potential, and business valuation.

2. Connect the data across departments

The second step is to connect the marketing data with other data sources within the firm. Bring the online insights of consumer interactions onto your customer database.

The value of connecting marketing data with sales and finance can help business managers in many complicated tasks. For example, if a company is examining gross profits, what are the attributes of the business that contribute to those profits?  Another example, net profit is gross profit minus marketing costs. If both gross profit and marketing costs are known, net profit can be computed easily.

For decades, the relationship between marketing costs and unit sales is complex and driven by numerous unknowns. You cannot directly sum the investments in marketing (for example, organic, advertising) to obtain sales. Connecting data can bring more accurate analysis rather than a guess based on historical data, wherein several factors in addition to the price also affect sales.

Eventually, this is the main difference between an identity relationship and an empirical relationship when you are making a decision. Empirical implies is always a prediction while identities are certain.

Marketing analytics process

3. Set up the rules and analytics techniques

The third step is to identify your models, strategy, and analytical techniques. It is a critical step since a lot of businesses tend to fall behind in determining the right approach for analytics.

To avoid drowning into the huge ocean of your data, it is better to use a balanced assortment of effective analytic techniques which combines the following:


  • Find the data behind the data
    Don’t only look for the obvious metrics like conversion, try to use analytics to reveal more about the customer journey which can help you to build a better experience and improve retention.historical data
  • Analyze the historical data
    Use marketing analytics to report on the past performance which will allow you to understand the trend.
    Find answers for questions like which campaign generated higher revenue in the last year? How did your email campaigns perform over time?
  • Engage with real-time
    Marketing analytics platforms would enable analyzing the life feedbacks and rates which would help you to answer questions like How the customers are engaging with your offering? Which channels your most profitable customers are engaging with? Who is talking about your brand on social media, and what is the feedback?
    Influencing the future
  • Influencing the future
    The value of marketing analytics gets higher upon delivering data-driven predictions.
    You can use the analytics to build an effective marketing strategy for the upcoming year by answering such questions as How you can design campaigns to turn short-term wins into loyalty and ongoing engagement? Which markets should you target next using the current portfolio? Which channels are more effective for conversion?
  • Get your model and reports fixed
    It is important to know which marketing inputs of interest (season, promotional price, advertising, sales calls) should be considered as having an impact on the dependent variable? Once you set up the regression model, the CMO can predict the outcome metrics for different marketing input levels.
    This is the mathematical model that describes the relationship between the independent variables (such as offers, advertising, sales calls) and the dependent variable (such as market share, profits, CLV)

4. Build the analytic strategy and actionable tasks

It’s important to know where you stand along the analytic spectrum, so you can identify where the gaps are and start developing the actionable tasks.

The marketing organization would need to build a data-driven strategy that can bring the most profitable results. Of course, if you’re not quite sure where to start, well, that’s easy. Start where your needs are greatest, and fill in the tasks over time as new needs or potential arises.

Some of the most common tasks are:

  • Setting the Data Collection: APIs, Platforms, Tags, Cookies
  • Building Analytical Models: Descriptive, Diagnostic, Predictive, Prescriptive
  • Planning Campaigns: Combine analysis with creativity
  • Developing Measurement and KPIs: Go beyond CPC and likes
  • Visualization and Storytelling: Charts and dashboards that don’t suck
  • Optimizing Conversion: Testing UX, Personalization and Engagement
  • Set the Data-Driven Advertising: Budget allocation, ROAS, Bidding, and Targeting
  • Analyze Attribution: Top-Down and Bottom-Up Converge; Channels Optimization
  • Research on Tools: Develop the Marketing Tech Stack

5. Learn from insights and optimize

There is absolutely no real value in all the insights marketing analytics can give you – unless you act on it. In a constant process of testing and learning, marketing analytics enables you to improve your overall performance by adjusting strategies and tactics as needed.

Without the ability to test and evaluate the effect of each marketing campaign on your consumer and profit rate, you would have no idea what was working and what wasn’t, when or if things needed to change, or how.

6. Build a professional analytics team

marketing analytics teamThe last and most important step of the data analytics foundation is to build your marketing data team. Depends on the type of your business, amount of data and marketing technology, you can decide what is the best approach to build an effective data team. There is no straight formula for the structure, however, there are many common types:

  • Entrepreneurial: Usually the team consists of one marketing analyst, project manager, and data scientist. This team commonly placed under the management of “Performance Team” which is responsible for paid advertising as well.
  • Professional: The analytics teams might be larger than an entrepreneurial system and consists of several marketing analysts with different tasks as well as data scientists, developers, marketing technologists, and project manager. In this model, the analytic team is placed under a separate department and manager by the Chief Analytics Officer (CAO). This model is commonly used in mid to big size companies.
  • Superior: This is a very advanced team structure that is commonly used in tech giants and big players in e-commerce. The analytics team in this model is highly involved in BI as marketing.

Overall, most of the companies would hire only one marketing analyst or few and place them under the performance marketing, which is a common mistake since marketing now is all about measuring the performance. It is better to keep the analytical skills more centralized and connected with all marketing initiatives from strategy to branding to advertising and creatives.

For more information, read How To Shift Your Marketing Team to Data Science and Marketing Technology?

Marketing Analytics Outcomes: How to measure the Proft

For each marketing strategy, the company is looking to assess its return on investment (ROI).

But how we measure Marketing ROI? It is equal to profits related to marketing measures divided by the value of the marketing investment — which is actually money risked, not invested:

Marketing ROI = [Incremental Sales × Gross Margin – Marketing Investment] ÷ Marketing Investment

Determining ROI is simple arithmetic; however, estimating and defining the effects of ROI is difficult. Imagine that your department spends $2 million on Google Ads in 2019 and generates $10 million in incremental sales that year with marketing contribution margins of 50 percent. The company would determine its marketing ROI as follows:

ROI = ($10M × 0.5 – $2M) ÷ $2M = 1.5

A CMO would have therefore determined that his return is 150 percent on the marketing investment. But the CMO will likely still have questions. Will the investment in 2019 also pay dividends in 2018? Will increasing the investment will increase the returns in sales, or are there diminishing returns to marketing? What are the longer-term effects, and what is the CLV of the client acquired through this campaign?

These are the real questions and the goal of analytics is to accommodate these nuances of marketing’s influence on sales so that the estimate of incremental sales is an accurate reality.

What about future ROI?

I believe that marketing function is not only about generating ROI on the spot. Marketing departments should benefit from analytics to work on maximizing long-term profits or as I call it, future ROI.

In order to do that you cannot simply shift funds from low ROI to high ROI activities because of your CEO considerations about the marketing budget. In fact, you are harming the company in the long-term because there may well be strategic considerations not fully captured in the ROI measures themselves.

Examples are brand exposure versus short-term sales, balancing push and pull efforts to support distribution channels, and target segments that are strategically important in the long-term.

The role of analytics would jump in and help you to consistently make good decisions about which customers to select for targeting, the contribution of channels in the CLV, and nurturing the leads to increase future profitability.

Read more about this topic: The Future of Digital Marketing

Bottom line: CMOs must understand their marketing analytics foundation as precisely as possible to determine how to gain success in a data-first world. If sales calls are profitable only up to a point, the marketing manager must know at which point the calls start costing the company money instead of making it. The only way to measure this is through the insights and relationships revealed by marketing analytics. By using statistical analysis techniques, firms can use past customer behaviors to predict how customers will react to different marketing channels; managers can then optimize spending on each channel.

How to Do Marketing During The Coronavirus Crisis?

Marketing is a sensitive phenomena affected by what is going on in the world. Marketers have been positioned always at the frontline of every change or trend going in the market. We can call this process as the breath of bread the marketers have to experience in their morning and start preparing for it with questions such as what is going in the market? What is the new trend our consumer is following? And how we can respond?

Fundamentally, while marketing is highly sensitive to trends, in the times of Coronavirus pandemic, global lockdown, and economic recession, the marketing is officially going to war!

Let me first say that this article is not going to discuss the common trending tactics of how to show solidarity and how to support health care workers or how to raise awareness about social distancing. There are tons of articles full of tips and guidelines on how to adapt a responsive branding campaign during the time of the epidemic. This article is about what you should do with your marketing strategy in the short and long-term.

Key learnings from the Pandemic and Lockdown

Firstly, let’s extract the main factors we are facing during this exceptional time of our lives. Considering that we have never been in such situation and so few marketers from the 2008 crisis are still around, while most of the marketing team are probably younger. Even though the crisis now is bigger and more drastic then anyone has ever had and there were such no major lockdowns we have faced before. Yet, there are few key insights which we have to consider:

  1. The Internet is everything now: With the lockdown, the internet is becoming our life. People are relying on the Internet more than ever. Major amount companies are asking people to work from home, meetings are online, restaurants are only open online, universities and schools are only available online, and our consumption of entertainment is mainly online. We have been doing this before optionally, but now it is mandatory.
  2. The consumer is trapped: There is no more luxury of going to malls, fairs, and stores. There is uncertainty about how we will go to our regular life. All the takes now are about “flattening the curve” to control the virus’s new infection but there is no sign about how this is going to end. Obviously, if the lockdowns are release, people will still be conservative in their moves for a while. Online shopping will remain strong for months to come.
  3. People will get bored: Few days in the lockdown and people are suffering already. They have a big appetite for things to watch, browse and read. While watching the news is their top priority at the moment, their time is full of long hours to surf and read. They saved the time of traveling, commuting to work and social gathering. They have now a lot of time to read and watch online more than they ever did before.
  4. There is an urge: Currently, there is a strong urge to food and supplies. Gradually the urge will move towards many other things and it will rise based on the post-pandemic changes. The world is going to change for a while, and we are going to have a very hot summer full of new urges. Imagine if the borders are open finally and people allowed to travel safely then you can think of all the locked-down people around the world wanting to have a vacation. The most suffering industries such as travel and hospitality will flourish like never before. We all believe that there will be a recession but there will be an urge. How and where it is going to affect the most, we will get to see signs after signs, and it is better to be ready.
  5. Marketing hesitation: There is a decline in Chinese ad spend this year due to the outbreak of the virus according to a report by Dentsu Aegis Network. Moreover, Econsultancy predicted that highly impacted countries will witness a decline in ad spend. The impact is not going to trigger a big decline in advertising spend and market budgets, there are several hesitations about campaign creativity and marketing channels. Notably, a new study by Pattern89 showed that imagery of human interaction declines by 27.4% in social ads due to the social distancing trend. Creativity is shifting and the pandemic controlling the way brands interact with consumers. We are in a crucial time for marketers and there is a huge uncertainty sense taking over.

What marketers should do during the crisis?

Eventually, the biggest lesson we should learn and act upon is to change. Marketers are like investors, and in the darkest times, there should be a change and radical decision to adopt. Remember that marketing at the frontlines of the battle and they should not just align but also to lead part of the change.

1. Change in the marketing strategy

The marketing strategy should be customized, and radical changes should be inherited. Today’s data is going to show different insights, predictions analysis is not going to be accurate, the consumer behavior is evolving, and a new strategy is required. Companies who hesitate in taking swift changes will suffer the most.

2. Rebuild the relationship with the customer

While the consumer is currently worried about their lives than what you are offering, it is time to show your brand story instead of aggressive advertising and acquisition tactics. People are online now more than ever and reaching them should not be limited to “stay safe” messages only. Think about reintroducing your brand and product through a story. Think of entertaining context you can come up with and more insightful content instead of your aggressive sales offer you flooded their inbox within the last year. Localize and personalize your approach and make the right connection away from KPIs pressures.

3. Change your attitude and think outside the fridge

Everyone during the quarantine is regularly visiting the fridge. It is not time to showcase your overly optimized marketing messages in the website headers. It is important to do some copywriting work and reshape your main messages to show more about who you are instead of what you need. The consumer is now at the phase of extensive reading with more time in hand. Fill that void with informative storytelling. In other words, it is time to strengthen the brand instead of aggressively promoting your product. Search for creative ideas and take bold actions in your marketing approach.

Example: Outdoor advertisement created by Miami Ad School, Thailand for Netflix. They designed an outstanding outdoor campaign for those who don’t stay at home during the quarantine. The campaign included spoilers of its top series.

4. Improve your marketing quality

It is better to overlook all the crappy processes, channels, and ad campaigns and revamp the marketing plan. The competition landscape is going to change slowly during the current phase, but the change will be super aggressive later on. A few months from now the recession will create a highly competitive ground for all types of businesses. You can witness right now how the competition is accelerating in some industries such as online grocery apps and streaming. Therefore, the budget and ad spend are not going to be the only topic on the table of senior management, but how we can respond fast to changes and stand out. The quality of the marketing activities is the right investment at the times of the Coronavirus crisis. Stand out creatively with quality and unique ideas.

Example: Great approach for Google Ads with a terrific storytelling idea.

Finally, there are many worries about our lives and the future right now. Eventually, during the storm marketers are working from home thinking of many questions such as the future of their jobs and the financial situation of their companies. With every storm, there will be seeds carried to grow new plants. Learning and adapting are important in these times and marketing is eventually one of the things that will witness a lot of changes such as our lives. It is better to focus on improving the quality of what we do than hesitating about how the numbers are falling down on the charts.

Understanding The Influencer Marketing Bubble in The Middle East

The trend of influencer marketing has been so huge in the Middle East untill everyone did believe it is true.

In the last 3 years, global brands spent a huge amount of their advertising budget on Arabic influencers. The trend has been massive in some industries such as beauty, fashion, entertainment, travel, and tech. Even local startups and boutique businesses have been desperately chasing micro-influencers to increase their brand awareness. Undoubtedly, influencer marketing has been going crazy in the region and everyone was competing to acquire social media influencers.

Quick facts about influencer marketing in the Middle East:

  • According to survey by BPG Cohn & Wolfe in 2017 of 100 in-house marketing and brand managers across a range of industries in the UAE, 49% currently work with social media influencers. 55% said their biggest challenge was finding relevant influencer while 41% said negotiating terms and conditions was a major concern.
  • The Arabic consumer are highly consuming videos and stories. Around 30,000 Middle East-based YouTubers have more than 10,000 followers. While almost 12 million daily Snapchat users in the GCC, including 9 million in Saudi Arabia and 1 million in the UAE.
  • According to Gulf News, 94% of influencers in the UAE get paid between $1000 to $5000 per post, while the remaining 6% the price per post could reach more than $10,000. In some cases, 76% influencers agree to products or experiences.
  • The top beauty influencer Huda Kattan reportedly earns $18,000 per post, according to com.
  • The GCC market leads the Middle East as the highest demand from brands and the top paid influencers. Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco influencers are paid less.
  • Among social media platforms, Instagram stands as the top place for the influencer marketing game while Facebook is rapidly declining. YouTube is becoming the golden gate for micro-influencers who are targeting Gen Z.

However, some of these stats belong to 2017 and 2018. The scene is shifting.

The Influencer bubble is about to burst

Some would argue that influencer marketing is going to be even bigger in the region, I wouldn’t argue but let us remind ourselves that in this world everything changes faster than you think. There are some facts we need to review the phenomena of influencer marketing.

1. The Market Size is Hard to Figure

Don’t be fooled by numbers of increase. Due to fraudulent influencer marketing, the estimates of the market size and increase is totally inaccurate. The global demand for influencer marketing is much smaller than announced numbers and not stable in terms of growth. Mike Schmidt wrote a great analysis regarding this in the Forbes magazine. He predicts that in the coming two years, influencer marketplaces and brokerages will have a tough time. In contrast, let’s remember that the Middle East has no figures or researches about the market size to be able to identify growth or even regression. Eventually, we need to exclude the top global brands out of the equation since their huge budget spend is just a shift from traditional TV Ads with celebrities to influencer marketing. This would leave us in a total jungle of untraceable activities and influencers who are desperate to increase their value with overestimated charges.

2. Brands are chasing the vanity metrics

It is time to release the secrets and state one important fact about the return of ROI per influencers. Brands are exhausted by the process of tracking influencers. The complex behind tracking influencers exceeds the regular set up of affiliate management tools. There are many metrics are required to measure the ROI including sophisticated social media analysis, brand metrics, conversion rate and more. Investment wise, while the influencers are raising their cost, the ROI of each influencer is problematic to trace.

3. Fraudulent Influencer Marketing is Costing Brands

According to a research by American Marketing Association (AMA), engagement on sponsored content from fake followers is costing brands $1.3 billion a year which is almost 15% of the total spend. In an audit of 10,000 influencers, SocialChain found that 25% of their followers were engaged in fraudulent activity. According to research, 50% of paid influencer post engagement is fake. The rise of fake followers and engagement have been another huge pain for major brands. Major brands are now fully aware of this issue and some started to review their influencer marketing strategy: Unilever is refusing to work with influencers who utilize bots and fake followers. In addition, based on Marketing Week, A third of brands admit to deliberately not disclosing influencer marketing as sponsored content as they believe doing so will impact consumers’ trust, instead choosing to come up with “creative alternatives”.

Example: Huwai has launched a campaign early in 2020 with an influencer. It turned out the influencer has been involved in some political debates and the campaign triggered a huge backfire to boycott the brand. The agency was not aware of this? It could be a fatal mistake.

influencer marketing

4. Influencer Can Damage the Brand’s Reputation

The brand image and values are always at the risk of unprofessional behavior brought by influencers. Eventually, influencer marketing programs are hiring influencers based on their popularity, relevantly and engagement stats. It is extremely difficult to be able to move these social media celebrities to become a real “brand ambassador”. They are independent and driven by their own values and local competition among each other. Hiring an influencer is mainly like hiring an independent on a contract basis, not a partner. Some brands could be able to achieve a partnership level with influencers and have major control over the influencer, but this is a complex mission that requires a highly professional branding team and a big budget. However, the region has witnessed crucial issues when some of the influencers went out of control.

Example: In 2018 a Kuwaiti beauty influencer made a negative comment regarding domestic workers which triggered massive anger. As a result, several beauty brands decided to cut relations with the influencer to maintain their brand image.

5. Social Media is Becoming Highly Saturated

In the Middle East, social media feeds are becoming saturated with posts from all the wannabes and lookalike influencers more than ever. The ongoing floods of pretenders and followers’ buyers have widely impacted the consumer behavior. Engagement rates for Instagram influencers dropped in 2019, according to a Trust Insights analysis. Instagram started to prepare to the shift in consumer behavior by removing the likes counter. This step from Instagram proves that the change is coming. Consumer are now more aware of the commercialized approach of their influencers and filtering out paid content. They might gladly engage and like the influencers content, but they will not trust it all.


6. Influencers with Nothing to Influence

My mom says “Put a donkey in front of the camera for long and he will be famous”

We have first to stop calling everyone that generated a substantial number of followers as an influencer and define who is qualified to be an influencer. The name can explain itself clearly.

The influencer is someone who can influence the public audience with an idea, opinion, and most importantly a style of life. Yes, the style of life is the key concept behind the whole idea. The critical factor of being an influencer relies on the ability to influence your context of choice not just your choice. What is the difference then between influencers and content creators? It is a massive difference. Content creators demonstrate their skills and knowledge which engage the audience but don’t follow a systematic and planned agenda. Let’s imagine the content creators as a TV entertainment channel with an objective to attract as many views as it can so it can sell Ads.

On the other hand, influencers are more like the News channel with an agenda to influence public opinions in a certain direction. The main difference here is not particularly the content but it is more about influencing the audience according to a predetermined strategy. The relevancy is a matter of consistency. In an industry like fashion and beauty, the major amount of Arabic influencers are themeless. They are crazy about chasing trends and showing off to stay connected with the audience. You cannot blame them for following such a strategy, however, the issue relies upon the fact that it is becoming hard to differentiate who is who.

Huge number of Arabic influencers are copying style of life, stories, content, tips and rotating around the timeline. Therefore, the social media is more saturated with endless posts of people who is trying to influence the consumer with whatever.

7. Change in Arabic User Behavior

According to a recent Social Media Influencers’ Survey  of 1000 Emirati and Saudi residents aged 18 to 35, 79% said they have unfollowed an influencers for flooding their timelines with promotional content.

People will be smarter with social media before you know it.

Eventually, that’s not the biggest fear yet. Another major factor is rising in the horizon. Let’s welcome Gen Z who will dominate everything soon (In Egypt I call them Yassta Z due to their overuse of Yassta word). The consumer who are born after 1996 are evolving to become the biggest segment in the region. How Gen Z are using the internet and social media is going to be totally different than us as Millennials. They are native digital consumer, faster, smarter detectors and sensitive to authenticity. Forget the old times of the picture-perfect, super-edited type of content. They know the filters; they sniff the promotions and they need something authentic.

Therefore, what influences this generation is going to be a different game. Gen Z is not influenced by the trend, they are the trend itself. Eventually, Gen Z will continue to follow influencers, but they have more control on direction than the influencers himself.

social media

Millennials will have to follow the Gen Z era

So, in the coming years, the shrinking part of the pie will be Millennials while Gen Z will grow rapidly. Millennials will need to adapt to the native digital consumer who will dominate social media. The first impact of Gen Z first we started seeing in the last couple of years was emerging from the influencer into Micro-influencers. Moreover, Nano-influencers is arriving. Gen Z is decentralized and extremely diversified segment across the Middle East and regular segmentation won’t work out. The reason for this is pretty simple: They are not receivers like older generations, but they are influencers themselves. They are not the customer unless they are part of the game.

8. Arabic Influencers Are Hard to Deal With

As a marketing consultant, I have worked with tons of influencers in the region for several brands and always faced three common issues. 1) The majority are buying followers and engagement, 2) They are not authentic, and they rely on heavily edited photo sessions instead of creating content, 3) Unprofessional attitude and lack of commitment, 4) Overestimation of their value and expected results.

In conclusion, the brand had to spend a lot on building campaigns, hiring teams and paying for a list of influencers and the results showed that only small percentage had a positive impact on the brand and ROI. It was extremely problematic to handle the Arabic influencers.

9. Brand Strategy Inconsistency

Another regional issue appears with the culture. While brands are looking for straightforward strategy and focused groups of influencers who can control, each country has its own preferences when it comes to influencers. The market is saturated when it comes to values and consumer. The Arabic dialect, shopping preferences, and social trends are all part of the influence game. The segments across the region are completely diversified and it requires deeper research on the culture and consumer, not just the influencer popularity. An example: While I was working for a beauty brand in the UAE, we chased several Arabic makeup artists but the surprise we discovered later that the majority of the consumer in the market are expats who rather influenced by an Indian expat beauty blogger. We have been following a completely wrong assumption.

Bottom Line: Influencer marketing is evolving rapidly in the region and brands started to consider it as an overestimated market and expensive. In-house marketers started to predict the danger of the big bubble and step back while media agencies are trying to push hard on gaining more. While some brands will withdrawal, there will be others who will focus on Micro and Nano influencers. In the last round of consultation, I advised the brand to turn influencer marketing into an affiliate and push towards a partnership based on commission instead of paid posts. However, it obvious that consumers and brands are losing faith in people who claim to be influencers.

The Digital Marketing Trends in 2020: What is the Future of Marketing?

What is the future of marketing and what are the top digital marketing trends in 2020? I have been reading several stories and predications which outline few sexy and attractive marketing technologies and tactics such as voice search, micro-influencers, automation, and of course AI.

Wonderful, but this all just trendy news we have been collecting for years now. We need to sense the future of marketing and predict upcoming challenges. Living another day is going to be a battle for marketers since the business environment is evolving rapidly.

Where we stand now? the majority of marketers are not considered yet about the future of marketing.  According to the most recent figures of 2019, the CMO survey indicated that the majority of marketing leaders are more focused on managing the present.

The future of marketing

Marketing is changing… How and Why?

Digital marketing has been evolving during the last 4 years dramatically and some people are not paying attention. The changes have been coming in different waves for almost 10 years between 2010 to 2020, and these changes are not going to settle down easily. The marketing future is going to be brutal in the coming years more than any time before. We have been seeing strong indicators of this major shift in digital marketing, yet we have been consuming it slowly or resisting it.

However, I did learn a great fact during my years of leading marketing teams and consulting brands, and by speaking to my fellow marketers across different industries and regions. This fact is straightforward and simple; “Management doesn’t care about how you the digital marketing executes; it is all about the results”. Any given CMO at any given day is looking at one thing only; how is the performance doing? Don’t get me started!

What marketers can do while they are becoming the front line for businesses? And as we all know that business is getting competitive and aggressive towards growth. Ahh, growth is the word that you hear day and night everywhere, from big corporates to startups to even vloggers. Growth, growth, growth…

In all honesty, the growth concept is going to fully lead and fuel all the aspects of marketing and will mostly reshape the marketing definition in the near future. With that being said, the question I am trying to resolve here is not only what is the trends that are going to hit soon, but how marketing is changing? What is going on?

1)  Marketing methodology: What’s going on with marketing?

In the beginning, I had to do my homework and explore what is top marketing experts are predicting. Dr. Dave Chaffey’s in his latest blog the six big 2020 trends, indicated several major areas including lifecycle marketing, conservational marketing, and marketing technology. After exploring Chaffey’s theories, I explored a few more articles by marketing opinion leaders. My conclusion that marketing predictions are mainly focused on technology, platforms, and channels. I believe we have been in years of jumping between trendy channels and tools without having a solid vision or understanding the strategic objectives of digital marketing.

With the advantages of data and effective tracking of digital marketing, companies started centralizing the marketing department as the ROI factory. It is becoming aggressive and marketers are shifting from the creative side to the executions side of the corporate with more tasks of sales, customer relationship management, and growth.

The complexity of ROI measurements is left to marketers to handle. Gradually, the marketing role is under the fire of making money with less interest in measuring other marketing roles such as brand positioning and visibility. Whether we like it or not, this fact about marketing is going to lead in the future. Hence, the future of marketing is going to be focused on ROI metrics.

I believe in data and performance, but this new role of marketing which is going to dominate more is showing a huge impact on marketers we have been seeing lately such as the intolerance from top management which resulted in a high turnover as they are measuring marketing performance based on ROI mainly.

According to LinkedIn analysis, marketing roles had the highest turnover rate of any job function—an impressive 17%. That’s more than 50% higher than marketingweek survey in 2018, 81% of respondents suggest they are likely to change jobs within 3 years, while 38% of which will do so by the end of this year.

marketing turnover skills

Even CMOs are hardly able to survive more than a year or two. Performance growth, quick catches, short term plans are more important than long term strategy and investing in brand value, quality content, and creative campaigns.

Therefore, everyone is under the stress and the marketing is shifting towards improving the present ROI not building a brand that can generate future ROI.  In conclusion, marketing in 2020 and coming years is going to focus on quick wins strategies and the marketing positions will continue to the highest turnover without a stable ground to flourish.

That’s why I am not considered about sexy trends such as micro-influencers, interactive emails, conversational marketing, etc. These are great and attractive methods to implement, but we all know as marketers, that setting up a solid marketing strategy requires a deeper understanding of the consumer before encountering channels and setting up technology.

2)  The change in consumer: Are we ready for Generation Z?

Whether we already or not, marketers in 2020 have to deal with the latest consumer group, Generation Z. Those are turning 18 and entering the workforce and fueling the internet consumer are going to be a whole different story.  According to some of the market estimations, Generation Z will make up 40% of all consumers in 2020. Woohoo!

What is the impact of this shift? Well, we could have hints about their behavior but that’s is not a clue yet. The reason is simple; You can’t predict the nature of a consumer group that is shaping and will take time to fully mature and shapes its behavior and purchasing habits.

Eventually, a scary fact about Gen Z that they are quirkiest, with constant change in their tastes and content consumption. This means that marketers will need to catch up quickly with not only their creativity but also with a solid data infrastructure to be able to attract this segment.

Tip: Gen Z is sensitive to phonies tactics and cheesy styles. Marketers have to shift into more authentic and original ideas to be able to convert. Wink wink, social media marketing is going to take a hard turn and the honeymoon years are over. The social media engagement is going to be revolutionized since Gen Z humor is absurdist and less-polite. So, if you don’t get their ways of communication, leave the space for younger marketers who are able to understand.

3)  Marketing management future: CMOs vs top management

Back in 2014, Betsy Holden, the senior advisor at McKinsey outlined the major issue of a marketing consultant, I found that while they have a lot of great platforms and technology but yet the issue is all about humans. The complexity of technology is double-edged.

This leads us to understand a precise point which is, marketing technology is the trend and it is going to impact how we conduct marketing, but it is at the end of the day related to the skills and ability of human skills. Using marketing automation to segment the customer is going to enhance the targeting but who sets the roles and design the consumer journey based on strategy and specific objectives.

Marketing automation challenges

In conclusion, while technology is science, using it is a matter of art and this could vary based on human skills. In 2020 and upcoming years, access to advanced marketing technology will not be a critical concern, but the mind that manages it will be always the matter that will shape the relationship between the presence of marketing technology and its execution.

5)  The change in marketing skills

As we discussed the effect of technology, we have to tie it with data. Eventually, understanding the demand in the market we had to review in the previous points how marketing is moving forward in order for marketers to understand the environment they serve at.

Apparently, all the trends that are rising in the marketing will continue to be affecting the marketers. I have the habit of regularly checking the job descriptions on LinkedIn posted by companies from different regions and different industries. There are few facts that draw my attention which can summarize the change happening in marketing roles.

  • Encrypted titles: There are no standard titles for the majority of marketing jobs. For marketing analysts some companies might call it “Marketing Intelligence Manager” or “Data Analysis Manager”, and several more titles based on the company culture. We have been into that conflict since years ago when it comes to performance titles as some people use the term “PPC” and some call it “Paid search” and some call it “Performance manager” and so on. HR is even borrowing the title “Marketing consultant” for recruiters who are specialized in marketing hiring. I have no idea why they are doing this!! It is a big mess when it comes to titles and the more the platforms and tools we have, the more the titles are diversified. Sometimes it takes a while to understand a title with encrypted title and a strange combination of duties. Startups are reinventing the titles of marketing and setting new titles that are nonspecific and more flexible to match their diversified needs.
  • Broader tasks and specific technologies: The description of marketing jobs is getting broader in terms of duties but very specific in the required tech skills. Companies tend to get marketers who fulfill their current needs even if it is a blur and cross-departmental with less aim for specialization. Some of the roles are fully customized due to a lack of a structured marketing department or instability in their marketing strategy with short-term plans and micromanagement. However, the companies need at the same time to be a superhero in their platforms and technology. The vast growth in the number of marketing clouds and tools is making it harder since every company is looking for candidates who are strong in their tech stack no matter how uncommon it is. Recruiters and their software who are filtering and scanning resumes are sometimes incapable of understanding that major automation platforms are conducting the same functions, and they filter people out because they are only reviewing based on very specific keywords.
  • The demand for data jobs: Everyone is hiring data experts in their team since the data-driven approach is taking over. This trend will continue to rise in 2020 and the coming few years till eventually, things will change. My prediction that this trend will decrease at some point for two reasons. First, the future marketers would adopt data skills and it will become an essential skill the same as any admin or management skills the marketer has to acquire to proceed with his career. This already did happen before when the traditional offline marketers had to learn digital marketing to survive. The same scenario will happen with data analytic skills. It is going to be a must. Second, with the increasing competition business will understand that data is telling what is happening and why it is happening? but the missing part will be what we need to make it happen? I expect in the coming years, creativity jobs will return to rising and take over the top trend of skills demand. We can see a quick hint for that happening already in the below stats. According to Altimeter report of 2019, Data Analysis is considered the highest demand for marketing skills, however, there is a huge rise for skills in video editing and production. This fact outlines how creative skill such as video production is becoming one of the major needs for the marketing industry.

Skills trends 2020

The Future of Marketing

While the marketing trends in 2020 are going to bring some heads-up of hot new channels and interesting tactics we need to adopt, the future of marketing is considerably uncertain.  There are many crucial facts happening in the background and we need to dig deeper in order to be prepared. The business environment and technology are going to reshape the industry as well as marketing skills. Therefore, we should reconsider the ongoing evolution in business and learn the lesson. The future of marketing is going to be challenging in terms of educational programs, marketing skills, and the marketing industry.

Our journey ends here and this is my prospectives. So if you have further opinions, please share in order to enhance this discussion.

How to Choose The Right Marketing Automation Platform for Startup

Marketing automation is a must-have for startups to manage their marketing efforts. But, even though you may have heard that many startups are still struggling with the definition of marketing automation. What is features of marketing automation and why it is important for the startup in particular? Sometimes as a marketing consultant, I like to take a pause and get back to the basics.

What is marketing automation? It’s pretty simple and straight-forward. It is a platform or set of tools that help to organize and automate marketing activities with fewer efforts and sustainable results.

Reality scenario: You are developing a B2B solution and you found out that you don’t have enough budget for hiring marketing resources. The struggle goes on when you start marketing campaigns but you are not able to connect the dots and convert due to limited resources. Relying on automation can solve the problem.

The use of marketing automation: Corporates vs Startups

Corporates are more exposed to the marketing automation platforms due to the sales initiatives running by enterprise automation platforms and their partners. The partners are very active in presenting the benefits of automation to the big companies and as well as providing long-term support benefits. No wonder that in the past couple of years the majority of corporates and SMBs already integrated marketing automation.

In startups ecosystem, the marketing automation still doesn’t have a clear path. One of the major reasons is that startups cannot afford the cost of well-known platforms such as Adobe Marketing Cloud, Marketo, Eloqua, etc. Startups usually tend to integrate many of the free and affordable tools that perform one or two tasks and they end up with a lot of tools that are all over the place but not connected in terms of managing and measurements.

Startups and growth

Studies show that 74% of companies report that using marketing automation software saves them a significant amount of time. However, using marketing automation can help startups not only run marketing activities but can as well help the startups to have a sustainable marketing strategy and a clear roadmap for their growth plan.

The starting point: Free marketing automation platforms

Is there an affordable or free marketing automation tools for startups? The answer is yes. There are many platforms that have a free limited version as well open source platforms. The list of free marketing automation platforms includes:

  1. HubSpot Marketing [Limited free version]
  2. Mautic [Open Source]
  3. OpenEmm [Open Source]
  4. Zoho Campaigns [Limited free version]
  5. MailChimp [Limited free version]
  6. Drip for e-commerce [Limited free version]
  7. DailyStory [Free version for startups]
  8. SendinBlue Email [Limited free version]
  9. Albacross [Limited free version]
  10. Leadsius [Limited free version]

There are still many more platforms you can search for and try. But hold your horses and let’s first identify how you can select your marketing automation platform? If you decided to take advantage of a marketing automation platform, the following considerations can help you decide on the right platform for your business needs and goals.

1. Make sure it is affordable and sustainable

It’s important to choose a marketing automation platform that you can afford in the long term. Remeber that your marketing platform should be suitable for your business growth such as growth in contacts and email campaigns.

Affordability doesn’t mean only the subscription and integration fees. It is important to choose a platform that is easy to manage and you have the team that can use it effectively. Consider the management of the automation tool as one of your investment and make sure that any adaptation, money, and resources invested should come with its benefits.

2. Choose the most suitable platform for your startup

Review all the features available in the marketing platform and make the decision based on your business objectives and targeted segments. Here are some of the things marketing automation allows you to do more effectively:

  • Email marketing and Segmentation
  • Landing page creation and A/B testing
  • Website personalization and CRO
  • Cross-channel marketing campaigns
  • Lead generation, lead nurturing and scoring
  • Measuring campaigns and ROI

marketing automation functions consulting

Create a checklist with the functions that will benefit your startup. Review each platform and choose the one that covers your needs. Remember always that there is no ultimate solution and each platform could have strong and weak sides.

3. Check the integration with other tools

In order to take full advantage of a marketing automation tool, make sure that you select the one that integrates with your marketing technology stack (website CMS, CRM database, and analytic tools).

It is critical decision to choose the suitable marketing automation tool that will facilitate your marketing activities effectively, and avoid inconvenient roadblocks along the way.

marketing automation integration consulting

4. Focus on how it can improve the conversion rates

You have to know that the marketing automation should not end at lead generation, as it can also enhance the conversion and sales funnels of your startup. Evaluating your marketing tech stack should be mainly focused on the business KPIs of your startup.

The selected platform should increase the ability to nurture and manage the leads with the most efficient tactics. Study how the automation solution can be integrated with the sales resources for identifying the Most Qualified Leads (MQLs) and dynamically aligned with marketing efforts.

5. Look for intelligence and variety of tactics

The purpose of marketing software is to make you a smarter marketer and move your marketing initiatives to a whole new level. How well does your platform enable you to understand your consumer journey? That’s a very important question to consider. It might take few rounds of testing and pilot campaigns in order to choose the right marketing automation platform but it will pay back.

Startups are more of easy movers and they don’t have the heavy layers of corporates. This gives the startups the ability to implement new process and shift their marketing strategy using the technology. As a startup, you can afford changing platforms and adaptation of technology, so test, test, test.

Don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to software selection

In conclusion: The strength of marketing automation tools relies on enabling easy and automated tasks to generate and convert leads so the small teams can focus on the more important parts of growing the startup.

Finally, the more thorough you are during the MarTech selection process, the better off you’ll be in the long run. The key is to look for a platform that can not only meet the needs of your startup but that can also advance your marketing strategy and customer acquisition. Growth and technology are always deep down in the DNA of each startup and they have the ability to move faster towards the marketing intelligence. Aim carefully and move faster with technology.