As our company starts planning for 2012, we have seen how many brands have jumped into Facebook and experimented on selling online. Should we allocate a budget for that next year? – Dave of Libis, Quezon City
 
The question is not whether one should allocate budget on digital, but rather, what the company’s major marketing objectives are for next year. It is also dependent on what industry you are in and who your target market is.
 
The first thing I always look for with brands and companies would be their “Digital Anchor”. If you are in retail, it is your main branch. Basically, it is where you place your brand and corporate information, and how people get to know about you. It can serve also as a database acquisition platform. Digital Anchors can take the form of a website, a social page, or even an application. Once your Digital Anchor is set, then what you need to do is drive people there, much like how you drive customers to your store.
 
In most cases, brands have their corporate or brand website as their anchor. That is where they put all information about their brand, and does not require that much constant updating. Given that the Philippines is a Facebook country, brands would normally extend themselves toward Facebook through a branded page. These brand pages are more interactive and engaging, versus a website which is more informative and static. Therefore, I would recommend that the most basic for any brand is to have a website and fanpage combo -- one for information while the other is for engagement and brand building.
 
While creating a website is pretty staple, a Facebook page is different. I’ve usually adviced brand and marketing people that if they are not ready to put their brands on Facebook, then they should not even think of creating a Facebook page. Not ready means getting emotional after reading negative comments or wall posts, not willing to devote resources to manage the brand page, and not finding time to respond to wall posts or fan questions. While a website can be left alone, a Facebook page, on the contrary, cannot be without constant response and content from the brand.
 
At a much higher digital marketing level is e-commerce capability. It would mean being able to allow customers to transact online, either through the website or fanpage. I said it is a much higher level because beyond information and engagement, there are other variables in play already. One is the payment platform, and the other is the fulfillment. Payment platform refers to what the payment gateway utilized for customers to purchase the product is. The payment gateway should be secure enough to prevent fraud, both on the buyer and seller side. Fulfillment on the other hand, is all about product delivery. After the customer pays for his order, how will the goods or service delivered? Is there a money-back guarantee?
 
As one can see, it is easy to go into digital blindly, and I’ve just highlighted three simple levels of digital marketing, from a website to a social page to an e-commerce platform. As one moves up the level of complexity, so would the level of commitment of the brand when it comes to time and resources. To ask a simplistic question regarding a brand going into Facebook and/or e-commerce would be just like asking a doctor if an aspirin or an ointment is best for a person before the diagnosis is done. From a marketing and business point, the role of marketing and digital should be clear to avoid mismanaged expectations.
 
Budget towards digital marketing should also be allocated depending on how much the company is willing to spend in marketing the brand, and how much is the overall budget. I’ve seen multinational brands allocate at least 5 percent of their total budgets to digital, and some with much smaller budgets allocate 50 to 70 percent of their marketing budgets towards digital given that it will not make sense for them to do any above-the-line marketing.
 
In the end, digital marketing is not just about allocating budget on digital platforms without a clear roadmap. At the same time, it is not about creating platforms and hoping it will work. Without a defined marketing objective and a clear role of digital, one is better off not spending on anything at all.
 
 
Donald Lim is the Chief e-Marketing Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (www.mansmith.net), the leading marketing and sales training company in the Philippines. Please email info@mansmith.net, call (+63-2) 584-5858 / 412-0034 or text (+63) 918-81-168-88.  Please also send your marketing, sales and strategy questions to mentors@mansmith.net.