It is no secret that numerous SMEs in Singapore have had their fingers burnt from their engagement with a digital marketing agency. To quote Eugene from i.Poise Design, a boutique firm in Singapore: “Even after advertising for 1 year and spending nearly $15,000 with this company, we had hardly 2 genuine leads and any ROI”
The right kind of digital marketing should pay for itself, above and beyond. However, when done wrongly, it is a blatant waste of money. Since November 2021, in their bid to encourage more SMEs to try out digital marketing, the government is providing up to 50% subsidies for solutions by PSG pre-approved vendors! (Learn more about this type of agency below)
That said, the onus is still on SMEs to find a suitable agency that allows them to succeed online, with or without a grant.
Before going with an agency in Singapore, you have to understand what you are paying for:
- Is the local team carrying out your work or are they outsourcing it to contractors in the Philippines or India?
- Are they bundling all sorts of services that you do not require inside the package?
- Are they specialized in getting the results that you are looking for?
It all starts with knowing what you want and the problem to be solved.
If water is leaking from your basin, you wouldn’t call an aircon contractor to fix it.
The 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.
Below, you will find out the approximate price range of each type of agency as well as their respective KPIs. On top of that, if you want to save costs by going for DIY, you can also read on to learn more.
- Creative Agencies
- Media buy Agencies
- Funnel Agencies
- PR Agencies
- SEO Agencies
- Niche Platforms
- Direct Response Agencies
- PSG pre-approved vendors
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 or brochures to that of online creatives such as banners, infographics or videos. 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!
You can engage an agency such as Penji for unlimited designs from $550/month onwards.
If you have one-off small design needs, you can work with freelancers from Upwork or Fiverr at very affordable prices. For example, a banner may cost $30 onwards.
Media buy agency
As the name suggests, these agencies will buy ad space for you from platforms such as Google, Facebook or content network like Tabola or Outbrain. These days, the term “programmatic ads” has become a buzzword in the digital marketing space. With programmatic ads, you can place your ads on many other sites such as Channelnewsasia or Straits times, with the cost per impression calculated programmatically based on supply & demand. Google display ads is also a programmatic network.
While it feels good to “be everywhere”, we usually advise businesses to know their objective first. Display ads may get you many eyeballs, but it doesn’t provide ROI as native ads platform does. Facebook ads is a great native ads platform proven to generate positive ROI.
If you are going with a media buy agency, you might need to create your own creatives and messaging. Traditionally, they serve as a media buyer or broker to help you place ads only without doing the ads or landing page.
You might have heard of the term “sales funnel” a lot, especially in recent years. It has been popularized by the founder of the software company, Clickfunnel. Essentially, funnel agencies help you generate leads and sales using the landing page built with Clickfunnel. The software has some very neat features such as the 1-click upsells/downsells and follow-ups. It is very suitable for businesses selling digital products such as online courses or ebooks. It integrates with other software and allows you to do email automation and more if you are doing webinars or other sophisticated online techniques. Funnel agencies will charge a premium of 5k to 10k/month.
You can engage a PR agency or work with media sites directly.
For example, an advertorial article with Daily Vanity or TheSmartLocal cost upwards of $5000 while a website with smaller traffic may charge $1000 to $3000. If you engage an influencer to promote your product, you can expect to pay an average of $500 to $1000 per post on Instagram.
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.
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.
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.
If your business is that of an interior design firm, you can go to Qanvast to buy leads. If you run a wedding boutique, you can head to Singaporebrides. If you have an education business, Digitalsenior is the go-to. For every niche, there is a platform that specifically supports your business. Technically, they are not agencies, but at the end of the day, they also provide you with what you want: exposure or leads & sales. Typically, their offerings are cheaper(few hundred per month) than agencies because of the “cost sharing” structure. For example, Qanvast re-sell each lead to 3-5 interior design companies, so it is much more affordable for each; Ideal for businesses starting out.
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.
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, essentially taking care of everything! 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:
Bioskin: Generates 150 new customers every month
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.
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. Our fees starts from $1k/month but we help our clients typically make 3x more than what they pay.
PSG Pre-approved vendor
SEO, video marketing, SEM, PPC and other paid ads are all examples of activities included in the PSG digital marketing solutions category. Before you start to celebrate, do note the caveats:
- Ad budgets paid to Google and Facebook are not covered by the grants; only agency fees are.
- This is a new scheme, and slots allocated to each vendor are very limited at this juncture. It is on an application basis only.
- The grants only cover the first 3 to 6 months of the engagement with the digital marketing agency. However, digital marketing is an ongoing activity, so you are still on your own for the long term.
That said, some help is better than none! So this is good news for SMEs, no matter what.
If you are interested in finding out your eligibility for the grant, look no further. Ice Cube marketing is also a PSG pre-approved vendor for digital marketing solutions in Singapore, so you might want to drop in an enquiry.
Undoubtedly, the importance of digital marketing has been recognized, especially after the onset of Covid-19. Digital marketing is becoming inevitable for any SME. Whether or not you apply for a grant, you must do digital marketing!
How to choose?
There are at least 1000 agencies in Singapore including freelancers and conglomerates. There are pros and cons to each. If you work with a large agency, the over-commercialization may lead to cookie-cutter work created using templates. If you work with freelancers, the lack of checks and balances may result in the undesirable quality of work or tardy submissions. You want to find an agency that not only has the personal touch but also systems in place to ensure consistency of performance. Some questions you can ask:
– How do you ensure consistency? Do you use checklists, tools or project management software?
– How do you ensure that my ads are not cookie-cutter and boring? Do you have a framework for creating new and refreshing ads?
– How do you maintain standards over time and prevent ad fatigue?
– Do I get to meet the specialist running the campaign instead of the account manager? Is the person based locally or overseas?
– What do you do to make sure you understand my business and my industry? Do you do a deep-dive onboarding session with me?
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. Feel free to request a free consultation with us.