Grabbing attention is not only for the big budget brands

Attention has long been the buzzword of the marketing world. The thing every brand is battling for, yet is so hard to grab and hold. Those crucial few seconds – and if you’re lucky, minutes – which plant a seed in a potential future customer are essential to any business trying to make a dent with their advertising both ATL and online.

And if you’re an SME it’s even harder, right? Surely those global competitors with their deep pockets, huge teams and vast expertise are just uncatchable? Well actually, not necessarily. What many founders sometimes overlook is that – budgets aside – the playing field is more level than they think.

The biggest digital platforms – Snapchat being one – have built a suite of products that actually make it very easy to plan, activate and ultimately drive towards their objectives through ad campaigns.

Playing to our strengths

As an entrepreneur it’s your job to know your product, to identify the competition, to know who your audience is, where they are located, and what your price point is. But when some companies start to raise money, they often feel an inherent need to bring in complex software services or lean on senior creative and marketing talent, draining limited resources and increasing burn rate of capital.

But platforms such as Snapchat have teams of talented people building incredible end–to–end solutions – available for free – so that fledgling businesses don’t have to. Over the last number of years, we've made it much easier for businesses of all shapes and sizes to come to the platform, get up and running and bring that product to market in a much quicker and more effective way than has been possible in the past.

Audience insights tools will help you understand who your audience is and what they’re interested in, which will enable you to target more effectively and get that contextually relevant message to them in the moments that matter.

Creative solutions tools will enable you to either create new assets or, if you do have ready–made video assets to bring those in and get them ready for the platform, and then, ultimately, to target the right audience at the right time with the objectives that you have set out. And you then have the ability to bid towards specific outcomes – be it awareness, consideration or conversion.

And once you’re live, you can implement a full suite of measurement tools – assessing what is driving traffic and delivering on specific outcomes – relative to the level of context the creative provides.

AR, AI and the creative conundrum

However, it’s no secret that a strong creative remains the cornerstone of a good ad campaign, and for brands with small budgets there are options available to help if you’re really stuck, from freelance creatives to AI – if that’s your thing.  However, the shift towards user-generated content (UGC) is proving a friend to anyone marketing a consumer–facing product, as the enhanced authenticity and deeper connection ensure the attention is captured that bit quicker.

And playing a starring role in UGC is augmented reality (AR), where a brand offers audience participation through the introduction of lenses and filters that users can play around with and share with their friends. Once that level of technological involvement would have been perceived as a challenge, with brands having to work directly with a company like Snapchat, engaging a creative strategy team or external agency to build out those AR assets and get them live. But that barrier to entry has come down significantly in recent years, as all of those tools have been democratised and are readily available and free to use for any business to implement in their advertising.

It means that startups of all shapes and sizes can strive for the experience that enterprise brands are going for. Of course, the budget obviously does come into play, but thanks to all the available tools and software, resources and budget are more closely aligned than they’ve ever been before.

The bread and butter of advertising will remain reach and frequency: establishing a compelling message and being able to portray it contextually to the right audience at the right time. A vertical video with a message that hits in the first couple of seconds is always going to be a powerful piece of content to showcase any brand.

Measurement, optimisation and going with the flow

Once your campaign is live, the real work has only just begun, as brand performance metrics and test and learn elements come into play.

Being able to drive performance outcomes such as a purchase, website traffic or subscribers from your campaign is key to understanding its effectiveness and is when testing and learning is crucial. By seeing what is working well – and of course what isn’t – marketers are able to tweak their ads in real time, swapping out creatives that aren’t performing, pushing those that are, up–weighting to certain demographics or locations that are responding well, and generally optimising on all fronts.

And from this intelligence you can quickly scale. Some solid advice for any entrepreneur is instead of going out with dozens of products, find your niche, really hone in on one or two and then double down on the success of those. This is advice I give to major global brands as well as SMEs: the test, learn and scale methodology and framework cannot fail if the science and strategy is applied correctly.

So if you are without an experienced CMO, and don’t have the budget to hire a media agency to manage your ad planning and buying, please don’t let that put you off. All the major online community platforms have done all the hard work expressly so you don’t have to and can, instead, focus your attention on the areas of the business in which you are the expert.