Digital marketing in Singapore 101: 5 things you need to know

As advertisers spending more than 1million dollars each year across different industries, we gleaned several lessons about digital marketing in Singapore. As most of our digital marketing practices hail from United States, advertisers need to know that there are nuances in doing digital marketing in Singapore. In fact, many marketers make the fatal mistake of copy-and-pasting tactics from US marketers and wonder why their campaigns are not working! Here are 5 lessons that may help you shine a light on your campaign.

Channels

“With so many possibilities in digital marketing, where do we even start?”

This is the most common question we hear from businesses in Singapore. It’s simpler than you think. From a channel perspective, just go with the big 2: Google and Facebook.

How about Twitter, Wechat, Snapchat, Yahoo, Vine, Quora and xyz and abc that are highly popular in other countries?

We advise businesses to stick with Google & Facebook for these reasons:

  • Number of users: Google and Facebook each has more than 4million users in Singapore(practically whole of Singapore) which makes it suitable for any business in Singapore.
  • Mature ads platform: When Facebook Ads started in 2009, the ads technology is pathetic. However, over the years, its machine learning and targeting capabilities have gotten much more sophisticated. This means increasingly better ROI for businesses. Other platforms may have users in Singapore but their ads platform still leaves much to be desired. Google is the old guard and needs no introduction.
  • Scalable: Sure you do not need so many customers to make a profit from ads, but Google and Facebook allows you to scale your advertising campaign when you want to. There is a compound effect. The more you advertise on Facebook, the more it learns about your target audience and improves on its targeting precision.
  • Reliability: Other platforms may give you a trickle of a few customers but they quickly dry out. Facebook & Google are able to give a consistent stream of customers each month based on your ad budget– basically, what SMEs in Singapore need the most.

The common argument here is that Google and Facebook are already fraught with advertisers and have gotten too competitive.(see point 4 below on our thoughts on ads saturation).

Our advice applies to the average advertiser in Singapore. Unless you are spending close to 6 figures a month on online ads, you probably have not reached your cap on Google & Facebook. Before you reach your cap, you will be fine sticking to Google and Facebook.

Facebook Targeting

You’ve probably heard about Facebook’s ability to go laser targeted on your ideal prospects based on the large amount of data it has collected of its users. Unlike in US (in which Facebook has access to more data), however, a number of targeting options are not available to us in Singapore, for example, income level, home type, b2b buyers, and certain purchase behaviors are not available.

Guess what; this is only part 1 of the story.

The real potential around Facebook targeting lies in its use of machine learning. It basically takes over our job as advertisers and decides who to target for us. The longer you run your campaign and accumulate more data, the more accurate it becomes. Facebook ads is built for bigger countries like USA with hundred of millions in population, so when it comes to Singapore, imagine how much easier and faster it is for Facebook to find your ideal prospects.

Time and again, it has been shown. No matter what audiences you choose in your targeting settings, there is bound to be overlaps in the audience being targeted as Facebook takes over the driver’s seat in finding you the perfect audience. For example, if you are an interior designer and you are targeting people who are interested in interior design as well as people who are fans of Renovation portals such as Renotalk, Renonation, Qanvast, Facebook will almost show your ads to the same group of people most likely to click on your ad.

The whole point of this barrage is to tell you that you should focus your effort on crafting the best ad message instead. It will make targeting a whole lot easier; Surprise, surprise. By using ad copies that attract your target audiences to engage with or click on, Facebook develops an idea of your best prospects and show your ads to more of the same type. This way, your ad actually does the “targeting” for you! Put simply, Ads ideation trumps audience targeting, particularly in Singapore.

Funnels: Online vs offline 

If you follow any of the top US marketers such as Russell Brunson or Ramit Sethi, you know that a lot of them are proponents of sales funnels that are 100% online and even automated. They tend to run ads that send traffic to a webinar or an automated email sequence which nurtures and ultimately converts the prospects, collecting payment online.

However, in Singapore, consumer expectations are slightly different. Perhaps due in part to the size and density of the city, we expect to meet people face to face before making the buying decision. (I’m talking about relatively bigger ticket items of 1k and above, or possibly $500.)

An O2O(Online to offline) approach is needed. Here’s how it works. As per the proven internet marketing strategy, you still run an online campaign, buy ads and send them to a landing page but the call-to-action offer will be in the offline context. For example, you can get people to sign up for a free consultation, a free trial, a free diagnostic assessment, a free site survey, free strategy session, free workshop, free masterclass. You want to ascribe a specific value to your offer so that it compels people to come down, rather than position it as a sales trap.

Cost of advertising

Sure, Google and Facebook advertising costs have risen over the years, but in Singapore, it is nowhere near its peak. Just look at the stats for the USA; the most expensive keywords go for as high as US$47 per click. The same keywords cost anywhere between $2 to $17 per click in Singapore.

In many other countries, the cost of advertising is way higher than in Singapore(even though Singapore has one of the highest costs of living in the world). In terms of Advertising costs, Singapore is only at probably the 50 percentile(by estimate).

Unsurprisingly, SMEs in USA also spend way more than SMEs in Singapore on online ads. Data from Wordstream showed that the average spend is $9k-10k/month for an SME in the USA. On the other hand, from our experience, SMEs in Singapore prefer to spend anywhere from $500 to $4k/month. A survey by Equinet Academy indicates that 31% of businesses allocate less than $1k/month for marketing. This is likely due to the unfamiliarity of local businesses with social media and digital marketing in Singapore, preferring to tread on safer waters.

Given that Singapore has one of the highest social media penetration rate of 93% in the world, opportunities abound for SMEs to dominate their marketplace online. Interested to learn more about advertising costs? Check our article on Facebook ad costs.

 “Cowboy” advertising

Some marketers think that the internet has no boundaries & rulings and they are free to post anything they want. Well, Singapore is one of the first few countries to introduce a law to fight fake news by restricting the content published on social media and on the internet.

This comes after news reports of sightings of articles using fake stories to promote digital currency trading.

What this means is that the Singapore government and its people have a very low tolerance for deceptive marketing practices.

When running digital campaigns in Singapore, advertisers also have to take into consideration advertising guidelines specific to highly-regulated industries such as in healthcare. For example, words like ‘best,’ ‘discounts,’ ‘Singapore’s No. 1’  are not allowed under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act.

 

The takeaway here goes further than just obeying the law. In fact, being honest in your ads is just good marketing. Advertising legend, David Ogilvy has this to say, “The consumer is not a moron, she’s your wife! Don’t insult her intelligence. You wouldn’t lie to your wife, don’t lie to mine.”

Considering that Singaporeans are a highly educated and savvy bunch, it pays to be transparent and authentic in your ads. Now, who says you can’t add impact to your ads with strong copywriting techniques while staying with the facts?

Learn more about the basics of copywriting by appealing to emotions in this video here:

Tips for doing marketing in  Singapore

With all that said, here are 3 bonus tips for running marketing campaigns in Singapore.

1. Appeal to our inner ‘kiasu-ism’: From Hello Kitties to Iphones to hawker fare, it is no secret that Singaporeans are willing to queue for hours(and even days) to get our hands on desirable products. A queue begets an even longer queue because of the power of social proof. You can create social proof online too; using testimonials, media features, user stats, and other methods. It doesn’t hurt to throw in some ‘scarcity’ to amp up the desirability of your product. Scarcity can take the form of a time-limited offer or exclusive coupons.

2. Demonstrate value: Some businesses think that Singaporeans are very ‘cheap,’ from the fact that we like to go for Fave deals, GSS promotions, and free gifts. They assume that giving discounts is the only way to grab attention. That is not true. The reality is that Singaporeans are savvy consumers that know how to discern a good deal. This means that businesses need to demonstrate that their products have a higher value than what they are selling it for. It is about “value-for-money” rather than “cheap.”

3. Start small: The happening Telco space has taught us marketers several lessons, one of which is that Singaporeans are commitment-phobic. Singtel and Starhub used to lock us into 2-year contracts which come with high termination penalties. New providers came along and provided plans with no contracts. Boy, do we love them. No-contract plans are now the defacto plans here. Likewise, think about what you can offer your target audience online without getting them into heavy commitments of time and money. The easiest way to go about it would be to offer a free trial in your online campaign, to get “a-foot-in-the-door.”

Bring your marketing to the next level

At the end of the day, “marketing” should not be detached from “digital marketing.” Marketing entails going back to basics and gaining a real understanding of the target audience. Digital is but a channel. This article provides you with general insights into the Singapore market, but in order to win in your marketplace, you have to get more specific and dive deeper. If you need any help in your digital marketing, don’t forget to check out our agency services and get your free consultation.

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