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The new Interskale website

Today, on our 10th anniversary, we are relaunching our website (www.interskale.in). The chief update is with respect to content: this site better reflects what we do and what we practise and believe in, the old content was simply outdated.

Here is a brief overview of the site:
The What we offer section describes the high level nuts and bolts of what we offer.

Digital marketing services presents the services we offer – under eight key heads.

About us a short overview of ourselves.

Careers, blog, company news and a section on recommended reading (Internet marketing resources) complete the list.

And here are some of the more useful pages. If you want to know what marketing problems we help solve, check out our digital marketing solutions. If you want to know about our secret sauce, check out our performance marketing processes page. If you want to know we typically engage with clients, see client engagement. These are our digital marketing services. Take a look at the business principles we live by. And finally, go here if you want to know why choose us.

We wanted to launch this site on our anniversary. In the bargain, we could not complete the section on Our Work. This will be added soon.

Do let us know – at info@interskale.in – what you think of the website.

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A decade of Interskale: From the CEO’s desk

After a corporate career in FMCG marketing, the consumer Internet industry and in-house digital marketing, I set up Interskale a decade ago. On September 1, 2010.

The idea behind starting Interskale was to better utilize the techniques and methods I had learnt in my career – to do high quality digital marketing work. I believed that digital will be very effective in helping organizations realize their business potential, provided that the strategy and the execution are both sound and that here my industry experience would help make this happen.

In the last 10 years, my team and I have spoken and met with thousands of (my guess would be two to three thousand) individuals whose organizations are looking for digital marketing. It has been Interskale’s privilege to work with over a 100 of them. Many have very clearly benefited and have continued to work with us over the years.

A little over 50 associates, almost all in the the first decade of their careers, chose to make their career with us. They received solid on the job training and interesting work to boot.

This decade-long experience in this nascent discipline has enriched me and left me wiser.

I have found that there exists a gap in understanding – of what digital marketing really is and what it is capable of. The field does benefit from the work of bright minds at Internet companies like Google, Facebook & Amazon, thereby developing at a fast pace. Unfortunately, this pace of change often leaves behind both the organization that seeks to deploy digital as well as the digital marketing practitioner. There is a need for industry and academicians to pay attention to the profession or discipline of digital marketing itself. In the absence of this, myths and half-knowledge prevail.

I would like to thank all Interskale associates, past and present, clients current and inactive as well as the many partner organizations and fellow professionals that my team and I have worked with.

I wish you all well in your personal and professional lives, both now and post-Covid-19. Let us see what the future holds post this most unfortunate pandemic.

Rohit

P.S.: Today, we are relaunching our website. The chief update is with respect to content: this site better reflects what we do and what we practice and believe in, the old content was simply outdated. Some finishing touches remain, but we thought it best to launch on our anniversary.

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Digital marketing for hard times

In recent months, the news about the Indian economy has been not so great. Several sectors are witnessing a slowdown.

When the economy is sluggish or when there is hyper-competiton and your company performance is affected, what do you do?

In such cases, the business strategy usually is to try get a better return from every rupee or dollar invested.

In digital marketing, there are several ways to improve the ROI of every marketing dollar. Here are six.

1. Website enquiries

Srengthen i.e. improve the company or product or brand website. In particular, if you are a B2B business, you can attract high quality organic traffic and generate quality prospects through your website.

Strengthening the website means improving the content, visual design (look), UI (user interface) and tech performance of the website. This could mean making incremental improvements to the existing site or making a new one. The absolute cost of doing this is low, making this one of the best digital investments that you can make.

2. E-commerce business

Most organizations have – for several reasons – only made half-hearted attempts at e-commerce or neglected this totally. If you are a B2C company with an established brand or a differentiated product, e-commerce can be an important retail channel. In our experience, B2C businesses can generate 10 to 15% of their total sales from e-commerce.

This can be through marketplaces such as Amazon but is best done through one’s own e-commerce website.

3. Hyper-targeted display ads

Google’s display ads platform, Google Display Network (GDN) and it’s video ads platform, You Tube Ads, have in the last one year or so, significantly improved their capabilities. Through machine learning, these platforms are able to identify audiences who are currently planning to buy or who are actively researching a given product or service. Campaigns using this targeting are called in-market campaigns.

In-market campaigns as well as another similar type called custom intent campaigns result in a very efficient use of every ad dollar.

Large digital advertisers can benefit by trying out programmatic advertising, where there is automated real time bidding for each ad impression served.

4. Mining existing customers: Email marketing, SMS and CRM

Targeting existing and lapsed customers through email and SMS campaigns is a great way to get them to buy again. The prerequisite for this is maintaining a customer database and (preferably) the use of a CRM software to run the email and SMS campaign.

In our experience, most organizations are currently not doing this.

5. Low cost brand advertising

Continued brand advertising even in a downturn is a practice perfected by experienced marketers such as P & G. When good times return, it gives the advertised brand a real advantage over brands that pulled out their ads.

The question is: when times are bad, how can any brand afford to advertise ? The answer: digital ads. An ad platform like Facebook Ads has

– high reach

– campaign tools that enable control the frequency of the ads

– a choice of various creative units, such as video, carousel and Instagram (part of Facebook) ads

– low absolute cost and low cost per ad impression

The typical costs being got today on Facebook Ads are 1 Paisa (INR 0.01) per ad impression. Therefore, brands with an audience size of say 10 million can create a good impact with a total ad budget of less than INR 1 million.

During a crunch situation, brands which are regular advertisers can move a larger part of their ad budgets from press or TV to digital. And smaller brands, which do not currently invest in advertising, can keep up the business momentum through a first-time brand campaign on Facebook.

6. Exports enquiries

A great feature of the Internet is it’s global reach. If you have never taken a look at the Google Analytics data of your website, please do so. You will be surprised at the number of countries your website gets traffic from.

Again, if you have had a website for some time, you may have received at least one ‘alliancing’ enquiry or one business enquiry from a location that that you did not quite expect.

Most organization in India have neglected or only partly explored international opportunities. And when the domestic market is down, going international is important.

With digital marketing, it’s easy to go international. Campaigns can be run targeting almost any country. Every B2B organization can aim to get international customers and every organization, whether B2B or B2C, can aim to get international business partners.

These then are six useful ways that digital marketing can help your organization during a downturn.

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The real value of digital marketing

This post could just as well have been titled “The real value added by digital marketing”.

The questions this posts seek to answer are:

Q1. What is it about digital marketing that gives it an edge over other marketing media and methods?

Q2 What is the maximum benefit that can any organization can get from digital marketing ?

Answer to Q1.
In a previous blog post, we listed ten reasons why organizations should prefer digital marketing over other marketing methods.  Three reasons in particular give this medium a killer edge. Here they are.

1. Digital marketing has very strong TARGETING capabilities. One can reach niche audiences best suited for one’s product or service in many unique and efficient ways and that too reach such audiences all over the world.

2. The second advantage that is uniquely digital is ENGAGEMENT. The variety and depth of engagement possible – starting from social engagement (likes, shares and follows) and going all the way to re-targeting, getting leads and online sales – is not seen in any other media.

3. The third unique advantage is MEASURABILITY. Digital is the most measurable medium in history. Each view and interaction of an ad can be tracked and counted. Ad platforms can even track whether an individual has fully or only partly seen a digital ad.

Thus, digital provides Measurable Engagement across Targeted audiences, MET for short.

Note that we are not saying digital is the only marketing that should be done, rather we are simply pointing out it’s USP.

Answer to Q2.
When we consider that
(i) the Targeted audiences in digital marketing are usually also large in size  (ii) the Engagement includes sales and business leads (enquiries) and
(iii) for a given marketing objective, the absolute costs in digital are lower than the costs in offline media, the MET advantage gets further multiplied.

At Interskale, we believe that the careful and methodical application of digital marketing enables organizations to grow their business month on month, year on year. Therefore the answer to the question “What’s the maximum benefit that can be got from digital marketing?” is simply ‘Business Growth’.

Unfortunately, in digital marketing, very often the discussions on outcomes are only about the number of impressions or clicks. But today digital marketing has the power to directly improve awareness, lead pipelines, sales and brand perception.

The key role of any organization’s marketing head or Chief Marketing Officer is to deliver growth in unit volumes and revenues and deliver an increase in market share. And to make this happen, digital marketing is increasingly the most effective method she or he has available.

Why are we so confident that digital marketing can lead to robust business growth?

At Interskale, we have ourselves used digital marketing to get solid business growth for our clients.

And importantly, digital marketing has some very important champions driving it’s use. Some of the world’s marquee companies, such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Yahoo, derive a lion’s share of their revenues from digital advertising.

E.g.Google Ads contributes to about 85% of the total Alphabet (Google parent company) revenues. It is thus all-important for Google to make Google Ads more and more useful to advertisers. New features and capabilities are indeed frequently added. And – we don’t have an exact number but – we estimate that hundreds of highly talented engineers are assigned exclusively to Google Ads to make this happen.

Agencies like Interskale then harness these ad platforms for the benefit of their client organizations.

While innovation is happening in digital advertising – and more is to come – most organizations have yet to fully exploit its existing potential. In digital marketing, the best ROI is yet to come.

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Making sense of SEO

This post is not for the SEO specialist or professional. It is for the website owner, who has not yet implemented SEO or has implemented this unsuccessfully and is therefore a little confused.

Two different expectations from SEO

SEO or search engine optimization is the one digital marketing service  almost everyone has heard of. The need to rank one’s own website on page 1 of Google’s search results and that too rank among the topmost results on page 1 – is a deep-rooted need. SEO is the service that is believed to meet this need.

Website owners have two different expectations from SEO and the high ranking it is believed to get. One set hopes that a high ranking in search results will bring in more business while for others it’s just a prestige issue of sorts: they simply do not like to see their competitor sites rank above their own website.

Two challenges in ranking high on Google

In our experience, very few website owners really understand what makes a high ranking possible or not possible. Website owners typically believe that there is a set of techniques out there, that when implemented by experts, almost always ensures a good search engine ranking.

This however is not wholly true.

Firstly, Google has itself never said that adopting these techniques (actually practices) will definitely lead to a better ranking in the search results.  Google itself doesn’t want any site to be able to “game” the search results, by working according to a simple formula given by it. Rather, Google wants sites to rank based on merit, which means sites based on their perceived usefulness  by their users.

According to Google, implementing SEO techniques can at best aid in a better ranking but can by no means guarantee it. Here is what their official SEO starter guide says:

“You should build a website to benefit your users, and any optimization should be geared toward making the user experience better. One of those users is a search engine, which helps other users discover your content. Search Engine Optimization is about helping search engines understand and present content”.

Website owners forget that the website’s merit matters more than the SEO techniques. In the first place, a website needs to be built that is useful to and worthy of being appreciated by it’s users.

The second challenge in getting a high ranking in Google is that the practice of SEO appeals particularly to the techies. As the majority of the SEO techniques require tinkering to be done with a website’s code, doing this is fairly easy to learn as well for someone who’s into code. The net result is that the majority of SEO practitioners are techies rather than marketing or content people. A strategic, content-led approach gets overlooked in favour of a tech approach, though both are needed for success in ranking in search.

Thus, only two of the ten major SEO practices (as given in Google’s official SEO starter guide ) are about content:

  • Help Google find your content
  • Tell Google which pages shouldn’t be crawled
  • Help Google (and users) understand your content
  • Manage your appearance in Google Search results
  • Organize your site hierarchy
  • Optimize your content
  • Optimize your images
  • Make your site mobile-friendly
  • Promote your website
  • Analyze your search performance and user behavior

And at least seven of the above ten practices require a person comfortable with code or with web technology. (The last of the ten practices requires simple analytical skills rather than content or tech skills).

6 key factors that you can influence to improve your site’s rank in Google

Here’s our own take on what it takes to get a good rank in Google’s search results:

  1. The website should be technically sound.
  2. The website should be user-friendly.
  3. The website content should be well-written.What is meant by well-written website content is a subject in itself but for the purposes of this blog post we can briefly summarize this as being content that (a) the user finds useful and (b) which is grammatically correct.
  4. The website should have lots of content – in terms of pages, words, images or products and services – rather than less content.E.g. It’s difficult to rank high for a website of 5 pages, built around one  product and having just a few hundred words and a couple of product images.

The majority of websites that we encounter, don’t meet the above four requirements. Therefore, when we are asked to do an SEO project, we work with the client to fix these at the earliest.

Here is one more important ranking factor.

5. The website content should be around one single, focused theme.
E.g. it’s not useful enough to write what widgets you make and sell, this is too broad, there will be other companies making similar widgets. Rather, you need to convey what specific benefits your widgets provides its customers and how your widgets are different and/or better than competing widgets.

Let’s say, there is a soap brand which has the most environmentally friendly packaging in the market e.g. degradable non-plastic packaging.  It’s better to focus the content of the site on how this brand is going to make a difference to the world.  And of course, as the demand for environmentally friendly packaging products grows, the number of searches for such soaps and the traffic to this soap website too will increase.

6. Implement the on-page SEO practices

This is about actually implementing the tech SEO practices listed above in the two challenges section – and which will require you to hire an SEO expert. (On-page is the set of SEO techniques done on the website itself).

Which are the most important of the 6 factors ?

All good sites are supposed to have good tech and good user interfaces (factors 1 and 2 above). And over the years, as we have seen an improvement in these tech and UI ratings, we believe that most sites will eventually get there.  All sites will eventually also get around to hiring a SEO expert, who implements the various SEO techniques (factor 6). Therefore, for a given product or service category, in the long run the game will be often about excelling in the content factors viz. factors 3 , 4 and 5 above.

If one considers the Indian market (one suspect this applies globally too), organizations are under-investing in the content resources for their websites vis-a-vis investments in tech, UI and SEO.

Website content improvements are likely to remain largely unaddressed. Content is the final frontier. More on this in a subsequent post.

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That digital is in most major markets now one of the top 2 or 3 (along with press and TV) marketing mediums, if not the no. 1 medium, is a fact. Ad spend figures published by respected ad industry sources, all indicate so.

What is less understood are the very many reasons why digital is taking over advertising. Here is our take. We list ten possible factors.

1. REACH
More people can be reached today via digital than by any other platform.
As per the latest Internet Trends report, over half the world’s population is online.

2. ENGAGEMENT
Digital is the one medium where consumer engagement in the form of enquiries, feedback and social forwards is possible. The most important type of engagement are enquiries or leads; these are of great importance for many, though not all businesses.

3. IMPACT
Many more creative formats and creative unit sizes are available for use than are available in other media.

4. FLEXIBILITY
It is possible to start, stop, pause, restructure and monitor digital campaigns much more easily than campaigns of other media.

5. VERSATILITY
Campaigns can be set up and run optimally for any one of several marketing objectives: awareness, reach, consideration, leads, calls, sales & store visits.

6. TARGETING
The medium has phenomenal targeting capabilities. Geographic, demographic, psychographic, behavioural and content-based targeting are all possible. The width of options exceeds that available for print and other media, including we believe for TV.

7. SALES
Digital is almost the only medium where sales can directly happen (E-commerce websites). TV shopping channels are one of the very few (though less popular) alternate options.

8. MEASURABILITY
Just about everything done by consumers online is measurable. And this data is availability near instantly and is fairly granular, allowing detailed analysis.

9. AI-LED
Digital has begun actively leveraging machine learning / artificial intelligence. For example, Google, which is a leader in this field, has over the last year or so made good use of it’s expertise in enhancing the capabilities of it’s own Google Ads.

10. COST
Digital is a medium known to incur lower absolute costs vis-a-vis press and TV.

These then are our top 10 reasons why digital is every marketer’s definitive, must-use medium. If we were to add an eleventh reason, it would be that the medium has now become the most talked about and the most influential, among people who matter.

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We work with several e-commerce start-ups and thus have some learning on what we think e-commerce entrepreneurs need to get right from day one. Here are three business basics which will pay back handsomely.

1. Have an innovative product
Your product or service must not be a me-too. Unless you have a brand which is established i.e. already doing well offline – that you want to take online – the product idea must be reasonably distinctive. The competition online can get murderous. If not the product itself, you need to differentiate in some other part of the offering.

Niche and novel products do well online. Due to various reasons, the Internet is good at matching such products with the right customers. Conversely, me-too products take time to carve out a market.

There are some other aspects of product strategy that are important, we will save these tips up for another blog post. Having an innovative product is the most desirable aspect of the product strategy.

2. Build the best website you can
Don’t compromise on the website. You can save a bit on marketing or other expenses but don’t go for, say, a website that an inexperienced web developer friend offers to put up at cost. Go for the best site that money can bring.

Your most important investment: the e-commerce website.

By a good e-commerce website, we don’t mean a super duper customized platform which needs a strong tech team and costs a bomb. We mean a website that allows you to test ‘proof of concept’. In most cases, this means a website which will be adequate for the first 12 to 18 months (see related point below). What’s a good e-commerce website? Too big a subject for this post. A user-friendly UI & navigation, good mobile speed and responsiveness and a feature-rich back-end are three important aspects of a good e-commerce site.

Unfortunately, 6 of 10 e-commerce websites that we encounter score a C grade or worse (grade scale A to E).

3. Have a business horizon of minimum 12 months
Have a business horizon of the above minimum duration. This is the time required to establish the business model, prove the concept and get it ready to scale to the next level.

We are often asked why 3 to 4 months or so should not be enough, in cases where the client is even willing to spend handsomely on marketing at the outset?

Due to various reasons, this does not usually happen in 3-4 months.

Firstly, most organizations starting up an e-commerce business are new to it, and they have a learning curve. Another reason has to do with customer acquisition, in particular as to what type of traffic can convert to customers. A lot of testing and experimentation is needed here, which takes time. No one formula works for each business, each customer acquisition case is somewhat unique.

Thus, new e-commerce businesses need to get many aspects of the business right, before growth happens. And this does not usually happen in a few weeks.

The above are three bits of advice that we hope you will find to be useful.

 

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The most neglected aspect of digital marketing is marketing, yes marketing itself. By marketing, we mean the marketing principles of positioning et al. Whatever business goals you have for digital marketing cannot be achieved by the digital part alone.

But when have you last heard a digital agency draw attention to the marketing part?

In particular, two aspects of marketing need more attention than typically given by digital marketers.

1. Positioning the brand

2. Good product or service

Effective positioning is critical - for any business

Effective positioning is critical – for every business

1. Positioning the brand
Most digital marketers think of and discuss with their clients issues such as performance of various ad platforms, choice of technology, analytics data, content and the look, but pay little attention to positioning and communication.

Now in our experience, much of the digital marketing being done today is for new products and services. And digital marketing is the preferred method of marketing for new launches.

But since these products and services are new, the communication (messaging) has often not been developed at all. So the burden on doing the right positioning and communication falls on the digital agency. Unfortunately, this is not traditionally something most digital agencies are good at, as they are not well staffed with people trained in classical marketing stuff. Thus, the product’s marketing communication and positioning does not get executed in the most effective manner.

2. Good product or service
The second aspect which is getting neglected with the rise of digital marketing, though inadvertently so, is ensuring the quality of the product or service being launched and ensuring that it has prior consumer acceptance.

In the world of offline (not digital) marketing, until a product or service has proven itself on quality and consumer acceptance, marketers don’t spend on marketing. This is because the costs of offline marketing – be it print, TV, outdoor , events or others – are considerable.

In digital, the absolute cost is relatively low compared to offline marketing (why this is so is a topic for another day). This can lead to the temptation to overlook the quality and consumer acceptance aspects and launch an unproven product or service. This is a danger against which both clients and their digital agencies need to guard against.

So when do you last remember discussing the above two issues – positioning and product quality – with your own digital marketing agency?

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About digital marketing for start-ups

During our 8+ years, we have spoken to hundreds of start-ups for their digital marketing requirements. A few facts stand out.
(And by start-ups, here we are referring to all new businesses, both start-ups and new businesses of established companies).

The right time for a start-up to begin digital marketing
The right time is day 1 of the business. One begins by building an effective website. One also begins with a minimal – not full-blown – presence on social media (maybe a simple Facebook and a LinkedIn page).

The above is obvious. When does one do full-blown digital marketing?

Full-scale digital marketing should be begun after the business has completed the following steps: set up the team, developed the product or service, commenced manufacturing, sold the products to at least a few consumers and refined the product (if so required).

The other thing we see happening is start-ups first relying on sales teams to alone bring in the sales and deferring all marketing, digital included, for later. This is possible for B2B businesses.

Digital marketing: fuel for growth

In our experience, by the 3rd year, nearly all start-ups will do well to begin marketing: digital marketing to be precise. in particular, online campaigns which build the brand, get leads or online sales. Without this, growth can stall.

Why are start-ups preferring digital marketing over other (offline) marketing?
Start-ups are looking for low investment and high ROI/value for money, when it comes to marketing. On these counts, digital marketing scores over offline marketing.

However, this is not the only reason to prefer digital. Digital enables obtain valuable data about the market and customers. This is very valuable in tweaking strategies (product mix, target markets, pricing) early on.

Thirdly, in digital marketing, investments can be made in small incremental steps.

Fourthly, the planning/ start horizon is 15 days or less. Almost anything else: trade show, press ad, radio spot, will take far more.

What is one common mistake start-ups make when it comes to digital marketing?
The most common mistake we see start-ups making is doing sub-optimal investments. Whether it be a website or online campaigns, once you have decided to start digital marketing, you should not look for the cheapest option.

E.g. relying only on organic social media (posts on Facebook page), posting on free listing sites or using a freelancer to manage the website or to do SEO can be wasted.

Doing effective digital marketing requires multiple skills – content, design, tech and marketing – that are more likely to be found in a digital agency. Secondly, you will need online campaigns if you want to scale, not just organic posts. And campaigns need to be run/ tested for a minimum of 2 to 3 months, before you judge their outcome.
This is what we have learnt.

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We recently blogged  about digital marketing being a fast moving, rapidly evolving field. In particular, we saw how ad platforms like Google and Facebook are introducing an innovation almost every week.

This rapid change is making executing successful digital marketing campaigns more and more challenging.

Doing successful digital marketing was never very easy. Though to organizations looking to implement digital marketing, it seems an easy enough task. There is the DIY (do-it-yourself) option e.g. Google encourages small businesses to create their own Google AdWords account. Then there is the option of engaging one of the many digital agencies out there.

How difficult can digital marketing be after all ? We all visit Facebook pages, search on Google, browse websites and view online ads every day anyway, goes the thinking, and have a comfort level with digital. There are online and offline training programmes available. So learning and mastering the medium ought to be easy. So goes the thinking.

Digital marketing if done well results in real growth of the business.

The fact of the matter is that doing digital marketing well has always been challenging. By doing well we mean doing digital marketing that gives good ROI for the money spent and which can be scaled up to make a significant business impact.

Doing digital marketing well requires mastering and deploying multiple skills viz. consumer behaviour, copy, visual design, UI/UX, AdWords and other ad platforms, web technology and web analytics. And as digital marketing is in use across nearly all types of industries, it requires a digital marketing team with the domain understanding and experience of diverse industry sectors.

The key difficulty in doing digital marketing well, however, is this. Since the ad platforms are getting more sophisticated (cf. new features being launched every week), it needs a team which is sharp enough to capitalize on these opportunities. Improvements in AdWords, Facebook Ads and other platforms are being made by some of the smartest computer engineers there are on the planet today. To be able to deploy such sophisticated features to the optimum, an A1 digital marketing team is very much needed.

Our experience is that if an organization does hire an A1 digital marketing team, it gets a minimum 2X improvement in ROI compared to a team of average calibre. Hiring the best available team (agency) is always the wise decision to take.

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