We are just a SME and do not have enough budget to spend on above-the-line marketing. Someone told me that digital is the way to go because it is cheaper, and Google or Facebook may be more efficient because I only need to pay if people click on my ad. Is this true? – Maricor of Pasay City
True and false. It is true that you pay Google and Facebook only when someone clicks on your ad. But to go digital because of only this, or because you do not have budget to place on above-the-line, would be like telling someone you are going for them because you had no other choice. There are many misconceptions about digital which I would like to clear in this article.

First is that digital is cheap. On the contrary, digital is not as cheap as we might think. Like all media, you need support for it to gain traction. In my years of experience, I’ve seen so many digital executions and activities fail because brands did not appropriately fund it. For some reason, after allocating budgets for all media, they put what is left of it to digital, and then expect digital to make magic. Then if it does not work, they tell people that digital has failed them and will now think twice about using digital. On the other extreme, I’ve seen small businesses trying to pin their hopes on a single Facebook page, place ads, and hope it increases their sales without doing anything else.
Second is that digital is used when there is no other marketing option. One has to understand that digital is one of the most potent tools in the marketer’s toolbox if used right. But the target market and marketing objective should be appropriately defined first to ensure that digital is the best tool for the job. Like tools inside a toolbox, only a hammer can drive the nail and nothing else. If the target market is not clearly defined and the marketing objective is not established, then any tool you use would not matter. Digital should not be used especially if there are no options, because it is just plain wrong reasoning.
Lastly, digital is not the holy grail of marketing. Some are saying that since people are now pretty much into Facebook, digital is the best platform to use, and one would just have to spend as much into digital as one can and wait for the rewards. As I’ve said earlier, I’ve seen brands spending too less and getting frustrated with the results. I’ve also seen brands spending too much on digital and getting frustrated with the results because it does not bring the right marketing ROI (return on investment). Traditionally, if you overspend on TV, you can still get a lot of traction because you get repeated commercials on air and you get a lot of airplay, thereby giving you awareness at the very least. But in digital, it may work the reverse. Because of the vast platforms one can play in digital (websites, videos, search, social, viral, etc.), various efforts can become diffused and if not done properly, spending on digital may just go down the drain.
What is most important to understand about digital is to make it work for you. It can be the most hardworking tool for any entrepreneur. Identify your target market first and what marketing objective you would want to achieve. If you think your target market is very much online and customer engagement is a primary objective, then digital can be your most potent platform. The easiest way to do it is to create your brand page on Facebook, but do remember to continuously engage your audience by posting at least once a day and responding to all comments and posting. Drive more likes by creating Facebook ads, and then move toward creating applications to keep your fanbaseengaged so they share your activities with their social circle.
There is no single detailed playbook for an SME to use digital. But it should all start from understanding digital and how it should be used properly. Then, understand the principle of driving likes to the brand page, and engaging them through constant communication and conversations. Digital can only work if digital is done right, for the right reasons and toward the right target market.
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 0918-81-168-88.  Please also send your marketing, sales and strategy questions to mentors@mansmith.net.