How to run a digital marketing campaign, from Dubai's Digital Labs

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Thanks to rapid technological development, digital marketing has become a ubiquitous part of corporate marketing campaigns. Osama Romoh, founder and managing director of Digital Lab explained the true meaning of digital marketing to me. In his opinion, "many try to complicate the definition of digital marketing, but it is, essentially, a channel that aims at attracting customers rather than increasing sales. The store in the mall is therefore considered a marketing channel."

Romoh, who began his career in this field in 2007, told me that digital marketing has witnessed a remarkable change in the last four years. "In 2007, people did not know what they were doing. However, [my] customers understand now the need for digital marketing. They are ready to invest more by working with agencies or establishing an in-house team to take care of digital marketing," he said.

However, the problem that is still facing companies is that they believe that "every campaign launched in the United Arab Emirates will also succeed in Saudi Arabia,” he continued. “This is a fatal error because the Emirati market is very different from the Saudi or Omani markets. You will need to adapt to the needs of the users."

Romoh discussed, for example, the case of Haraj, the Saudi website designed for people buying and selling cars, which relies on a commission-based revenue model. He told us that by simply clicking on an oath to send a 1% commission to the site once the car is sold, the deal is concluded. This model has succeeded: Haraj is the biggest Saudi website, with 600 to 700 million visits per month. A similar model in the UAE, one can conclude, might not be successful.

Romoh believes that the solution lies in visiting the countries where you want to launch a digital marketing campaign and spending some time learning about their culture and talking to people. This is what he did when he was working for Dubizzle. Along with the CEO and other managers, he spent four days in each of the GCC countries, getting to know people in each place. 

Romoh’s experience and expertise in the field of digital marketing – which he learned independently due to the lack of related university curricula years ago, and which earned him positions at several companies such as Dubizzle and Maktoob – led him to launch his own company, Digital Lab, last April in Dubai. The company offers consultancy services and training in the field of digital marketing.

Today, Digital Lab provides training in Dubai and will soon launch three courses in three cities across the Gulf. The courses will focus on the basics of digital marketing for people looking for experience they cannot find in universities. As for consultancy services, Digital Lab only works with startups. Some of Digital Lab’s customers include Nabbesh, Fishfishme, Reserveout, and SimplyBuyAnyCar.

Regarding the main trends in digital marketing, Romoh identified three: “owned media” which is an enterprise’s website that constitutes a marketing channel more than a selling point, “earned media” which is presence on social networks acquired through interaction with users, and "bought media” which happens when a company commits resources to advertising campaigns on social networks, email marketing, and search engine campaigns.

With respect to adopting a methodological approach to marketing, Romoh said it all starts with analysis. An entrepreneur should first analyze the market in which he would like to launch and then evaluate his personal goals to determine whether the two fit. Identifying objectives is the second step of digital marketing because one must know what he wants to achieve. "You should look at your marketing objectives that will contribute to the achievement of other objectives (the objectives of the company, the business, etc.)," adding: "Don’t just think that you want a million users, because you might not need this number to achieve the goals of your company. Yet, you should ask yourself the following questions: What revenues do I need to make this year? What revenue do I need per user? And how many users do I need?"

After having finished the analysis, it’s time to develop the business strategy. The business strategy sets the guidelines for the marketing strategy and the digital marketing strategy. It must answer the question: "How can I effectively realize these goals and what is the right approach to adopt?"

After the strategy come the tactics. In other words, "how to develop the strategy and which digital marketing channels to resort to: membership, social networking, or others.” For example, choosing a Facebook page might be the best way to communicate with one’s clients, according to Romoh who explains that some may think that Search Engines Optimization (SEO) is very important. There is no doubt that this is a fact, but does it fit all companies? Can one incur its costs? One should consider the channels that would benefit one’s business the most rather than the popular ones used by other businesses.

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