Singapore has the highest digital penetration rate in Southeast Asia of 4.4 Million People. The average number of digital devices owned by Singaporeans is 3.3. With these stats, it is no wonder digital marketing in Singapore has become a buzzword of the 21st century.
Here’s the problem though:
Marketing agencies have been around since the 1800s and it was common to have agencies handle everything from designing ads to publishing it on newspaper.
Came the internet era, the concept of full-service agencies has been contested with ChiefMarketer and many others declaring there is “no such thing as full-service agency anymore” due to the expanse and rate of change of technology.
What does that mean for you?
If water is leaking from your basin, you wouldn’t call an aircon contractor to fix it.
Same wisdom applies to digital marketing. Each digital marketing agency in Singapore has its unique expertise.
Here is a basic introduction to the different types of “marketing” agencies in Singapore.
Among these 6 types of agencies below, you will find out which one to hire if you want immediate sales, long term market dominance or an affordable solution. You will also learn about the KPIs of each agency and how to complement one aspect with another to achieve the best results.
Web Design/Development Agencies
Marketing Automation Agencies
Direct Response Agencies
Below is a breakdown of each agency – what they are and what they have to offer businesses and advertisers operating in Singapore.
Creative agencies are tech-agnostic which means they can help you with anything from the design of logos, brochures or online creatives such as infographics, website or infographics. If you work with a creative agency for your digital needs however, you cannot assume that they know the specifications. For example, if you need to create an image for Facebook advertising, the dimensions required is 1200x628px and the image must not contain more than 20% text. Bouncing to-and-from with your agency takes up valuable time and may cost you extra fees for editing, so it is important to be clear at the outset!
Do you need a creative agency for your Singapore business?
That all depends on how focused you are on branding your business.
BBDO Singapore is a well-known creative agency that has worked with some pretty big names across the globe including Tiger Beer, Visa, and Procter & Gamble. They are best known for the work they did on Guinness’s “Rise” & AIA’s “What’s Your Why”. Another creative agency in Singapore, TheSmartLocal specializes in helping brands create viral campaigns using videos and articles. If you have one-off small design needs, you can work with freelancers from Upwork or Fiverr at very affordable prices.
Content marketing/PR Agency
PR agencies write news-worthy editorials for companies & individuals, which are strategically placed on relevant websites, TV programs, and Newspapers. In the digital-first world, landing a mention in the digital publication could prove to be even more valuable than that of a print publication, considering that the article stays on the internet forever. If you are lucky, it even provides SEO value for the business.
Know what you are paying for; the KPI of a content marketing or PR agency is typically traffic or article views; their objective being to maintain a business’ reputation as being honest, relevant, and important in the eyes of the public.
Does your business need a PR campaign?
Many big-name brands utilize them as they have a reputation to uphold. News-style content gives them the credibility they need to continue their goodwill amongst their audience.
Twitter recently hired the Golin Singapore PR agency to create purpose-driven public relation campaigns that would inspire businesses and consumers in Southeast Asia to view Twitter as a must-have communication platform.
Even for SMEs and startups, it can be a good idea to engage in PR and content marketing activities to start building trust around your brand. The positive reputation could indirectly improve the results of advertising campaigns and bring you more sales.
Content marketing agencies also help clients create editorial and informative content to build up trust with their target audience, with the content typically posted on the company blog or Facebook page. An example of a content marketing agency in Singapore is Cooler Insights.
In fact, if you have an overarching strategy(find out by using this tool), content marketing can also contribute towards the generation of leads and sales. For example, the articles & videos you create can serve as top-of-funnel content for nurturing of your audiences. By using retargeting, you can bring them down the funnel and convert them into customers. Below is an example of a retargeting campaign for a client of ours selling tongue brushes. The target audience reads an informative copy about how dirty our tongue is, and is then retargeted with an offer.
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With 1000+ searches on Google each month, “SEO agency” is likely the most popular agency on this list.
Simply put, Search engine optimization (SEO) agencies in Singapore make search-engine friendly technical and content changes to a client’s website that help it to rank higher in search engines like Google. Ranking on the first page of Google captures 71%-93% of all search traffic clicks.
The KPI of an SEO agency would typically be ranking on 1st page of Google search results. There is a lot of misconception that rankings always translate to sales results, but that is not the case. There are several situations whereby SEO is not recommended for SMEs .e.g. when the search volume is low or when it is too competitive. You may already have heard of complaints and scams about outsourcing digital marketing and it arises when expectations don’t match reality.
The average cost of SEO in Singapore at the moment is between $800-$5000 per month, and it is worth the price if you managed to work with a legitimate vendor that can provide a lasting result.
You might have to take note that SEO is not necessarily a lead generation strategy. Ranking on 1st page of Google can provide you with the much-needed exposure for your brand but it is not effective for lead generation, particularly if your website is not optimized for conversion. Check out the video below to understand the difference between SEO and lead generation strategy.
In other words, you always have to understand what you are paying for in the first place.
Website Design/Development Agency
Is website design and development the same? No!
What are the differences?
Website design is concerned with a website’s aesthetics and usability, while web development takes the design and brings it to life (i.e., makes it possible). Web designers use programs like Adobe Photoshop to create the layout of the website and web developers use programming languages like HTML & CSS to make the created layouts appear and function as they should.
When you hire a web design/development agency, it would be essential to check if they help with both aspects. It is not uncommon for businesses to get a rude shock when they see their new website lacking visual appeal. Examples of web design companies in Singapore that do both are Hello Pomelo and Lemonade.
Another critical clarification when it comes to web design is the difference between aesthetics and User Interface(UI). Both are not the same. A website with good UI helps in converting web visitors to leads & customers better. It considers the user experience and psychology bit and typically requires the expertise of a digital marketer. It is therefore recommended that you gain clarity on the customer acquisition action plan first before you decide to spend money on a website.
Marketing Automation Agency
What is marketing automation?
This is an up-and-coming aspect of agency service. It covers cool things such as Facebook chatbot, email automation, CRM and other forms of automation. This is typically carried out with the use of software such as Hubspot(one-stop sales-and-marketing), MailChimp(email marketing automation), Infusionsoft(email and CRM), Manychat(Chat automation), Buffer(social media) and more. Its applications range from customer service to lead nurturing to content marketing.
Many of the above software are designed to be user-friendly enough to be implemented on your own but if you need an agency, there is always one here in Singapore. For example, happy marketer helps in Hubspot CRM implementation and ScaleUpMarketing helps in Infusionsoft automation.
In the digital world, you want to be especially mindful of the shiny object syndrome which is the constant chasing after new things. Marketing automation typically makes sense when you have filled up your pipeline sufficiently with leads or customers and want to take things to the next level. You also want to make sure that your new idea doesn’t conflict with the overall strategy. For example, implementation of chatbot means you cannot track leads conversion on Facebook.
Direct Response Agency
Basically, there are two major types of marketing strategies, branding & direct response. While the former influences sales over the long term, the latter directly generate sales.
You may have heard stories about viral videos that failed to generate a single customer or influencers campaign not being able to drive sales, such as this one about an influencer with 2.6million followers but barely any sales.
This is the reason why Direct Response Marketing has been gaining prominence over the last few years. Businesses are tired of paying for vanity metrics such as clicks, impressions, likes and shares.
This is especially the case after the onset of Covid-19 which caused all businesses to tighten their purse strings. CNBC reported that direct response was a bright spot in Facebook and Google’s ads business while all other areas were down.
This is the only agency in this list with a clear KPI of generating leads and sales. A direct response advertisement will always contain some kind of CTA (call-to-action) to entice a prospect to ‘move’ in a certain direction.
There are some features that are particular to direct response marketing, some of which are given below:
Trackable/Measurable: When an action is taken, the specific ad, media, and channel can be known and therefore a marketing campaign can be optimized to keep running the ‘winners’ and cutting the ‘losers’ to increase ROI.
Targeting: Direct response campaigns are centered around a target audience. This allows for more immediate results from a campaign since the advertiser can craft a message in the ‘language’ which the targeted audience understands.
Call-to-action: Intentional messaging that brings audiences across various stages of awareness from Attention to Interest, Desire and finally Action. This is done so with calibrated copywriting and rhetoric based on a firm understanding of the target audiences’ psyche.
A direct response agency plans, creates, and manages direct response campaigns for their clients! Our agency Ice Cube Marketing falls in this category. With a singular focus, we have gotten so good at what we do that clients tend to see a positive ROI within 2months. Some of our results include:
Absolute Wellness: Increased sales by 30% in 3 months.
Airconnection: Increased ROI 11x by replacing foot traffic with online traffic.
CA International College: Increased the number of leads by 52% while lowering the cost per lead (CPL) simultaneously.
Kumon: lowered cost per lead by 35% within 1 month
Dian Xiao Er: Increased online sales by 5-figures.
i.Poise Design: Turned a small ad budget into 6-figures of revenue in 1 month.
Due to the nature of direct response marketing, we work on a performance-based arrangement with many of our clients. Feel free to request a free consultation with us. You can also answer a few questions in this suitability quiz to find out if direct response is the right approach for your business now.
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How to choose?
There are at least 1000 agencies in Singapore. Once you have an idea of what you need, it narrows your search drastically and reduces your overwhelm. An agency typically has a core strength, be it copywriting, design, technology or SEO.
In order to gain more clarity, do not be afraid of engaging agencies in a no-obligation chat to get advice about what you should do. You can ask for their track record, case studies and find out if they have a framework or process for carrying out the work. (Otherwise, the standards may vary across individual employees)
As due diligence, you can also check platform sites to find out about an agency’s credentials. For example, Hubspot directory shows that there are 59 Hubspot partners in Singapore. Facebook Agencies Directory has 55 Facebook Marketing Partner agencies (we are one of them!)
I am glad you took the time to read this article because having clear expectations helps in creating a successful working relationship with any agency you work with. A word of caution here: do not get stuck in “analysis paralysis” as many businesses do. In the digital world, things move fast and you want to be ahead of the competition.
In our agency, we do not believe in tying up clients in 1-year contract or the like. We typically enter a 3months trial so that both parties can understand if it is the right fit for each other to work long term. You may be hard-pressed to undergo digital transformation but a journey of thousand miles start with the first step. Instead of getting caught up with perfectionism, take one step at a time and you will be ahead of the rest in no time.
Ted is the director of Ice Cube Marketing. His insights on marketing has been featured in AsiaOne Business, Singapore Business Review , e27 and TechinAsia. He graduated with a 1st class honors degree in Business IT from NTU. While not planning campaigns for clients, he enjoys a good read on books related to psychology.