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Get Online: Digital Marketing, Options for SMEs

The commercial world has gone digital and the limits are infinite with the evolution of new digital formats increasing quickly. What is marketing? A good definition of marketing comes from Columbia University: ‘Is there a market for our product? If yes, how can we maximize the market?’ These lead the way for SMEs to explore digital marketing for their business development.

Current Key Trends in SME digital marketing
Small businesses have more marketing options than they have ever had before. Low barriers to entry on marketing automation and social media platforms present massive opportunities for smaller businesses, but it also means increased complexity. This can be a big problem for smaller marketing departments which can be overwhelmed when they become aware of the options. There are currently more than 30 categories of digital marketing which means lots of great new tools, but also many more solutions to learn about. The challenge facing SMEs is how to know which tools will be the most effective for your purpose.

Setting goals is a first step with driving sales a key goal. Generating web traffic and turning web traffic into leads following and turning leads into customers is another pressing issue. SMEs need a plan that takes in the whole marketing funnel, which helps fill the funnel with traffic, interact with that traffic and then convert it to sales.

In order to achieve these goals SMEs need to better utilise analytics. It is possible that many SMEs don’t know if their marketing efforts are effective. SMEs need to get better at utilising their analytics data to understand the value of different channels and model where they are receiving their revenue from. Most SMEs start with a website, and then add social media and digital advertising. Email marketing has a track record of delivering ROI, turning leads into customers but too often the effectiveness is not measured.


SME Digital Marketing Success Story: Airbnb

Let’s take a look at some insights from an SME success story. Airbnb depends on two components: hosts and travelers. The aim of the marketing strategy adopted is to reach and encourage the maximum people around the world to become hosts and/or travelers. Airbnb initially implemented a clever customer acquisition strategy.

Craigslist Integration
Craigslist was being used by people to offer and look for short-term housing. Airbnb decided to attract qualified leads and reverse engineered the Craigslist form to make the two platforms compatible. Whenever anyone listed accommodations on Airbnb, they got an option to automatically create a posting on Craigslist as well. This helped create additional inbound links for the user and drove more traffic to Airbnb. 

Google Display Network Partnership
Airbnb decided to make their offers visually appealing to attract more customers. They collaborated with Google and invested in Google Search Ads. This helped Airbnb increase their listings from less than 10,000 to 80,000. They executed banner ad campaigns which featured images of real apartments and rooms.

Social Media Marketing
Airbnb is active on all major social media channels.

On Facebook, it is about to reach 3 million likes. Its Marketing team regularly posts photos and videos of their unique listings, attracting travelers to visit the place. Airbnb also posts user-generated photos on Instagram. Guests can share their experiences with #airbnb and even book a rental place directly from the feed. Airbnb’s YouTube channel has videos that show parts of the cities that are not usually covered by tourists. Airbnb strongly believes in storytelling and uses Twitter to promote its blog posts and extraordinary listings. They keep their feed updated by posting timely content like where to stay for marathons.

‘’ is an informative source for travelers. The ‘Local Lens’ section is dedicated to individual narratives and there are posts on Travel Photographers and their work, about cities and their unique cultures, must-visits and must-dos in each city.

Content Management
Airbnb ‘Neighborhoods’ are local city guides that break down the most popular cities by neighbourhood and provide detailed information to travelers about them. ‘Stories’ is a micro site with video profiles of hosts and travelers, their stories as to why they rent out their place and the motivation of travelers to leave their homes.

Power of Images
Airbnb is careful about the quality of content that is posted. Anyone who wants to list their space can request a free photographer to come in and take pictures. Good quality photos increase the attractiveness of the space and the chances of it being rented out become higher. Pictures clicked by Airbnb photographers have a ‘Verified Photo’ icon that reassures travelers that they are getting what they are paying for.

Airbnb encouraged its users to refer new members to Airbnb via email invites. They rewarded the referrers with a travel credit when new members complete their first trip and a credit is also offered when they act as hosts for the first time. This way Airbnb converts new leads and had to pay out for referrals only after new users have paid. This allows Airbnb to grow in a sustainable manner.

Big Data and Useful Analytics
Airbnb wants its hosts to set their own prices and with billions of data points, is starting to nudge hosts toward prices that earn more money. Airbnb’s price suggestion engine, which pulls on five billion training data points, has two main components: modeling and machine learning. The model shows what Airbnb’s huge data set reveals about a listing’s best price based on things like its neighborhood and the size of the listing. The number of reviews can play a huge role in the likelihood of a booking. A listing with no reviews is seen less trustworthy; just one good review makes it much more likely to be booked. Each review helps a little more, but with diminishing returns. With Aerosolve, a machine learning package,  Airbnb can surface new patterns that it then uses to better understand what makes a listing command a certain price,

Digital marketing can transform an SME
Airbnb has come a long way since 2008 and is now valued at over $25 billion. It is the undisputed leader and a trusted marketplace for room rentals. Digital marketing works very well for Airbnb and has redefined how people interact with one another when travelling. By addressing consumers’ needs they provide an even better travel experience for their customers. Social Media Marketing has helped Airbnb get large media coverage, has increased their following, helping them communicate their brand message clearly.

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Nahvin Chinaya
Nahvin Chinaya
With experience in providing marketing services for organizations like Masterskill Education Group Berhad and CIMB Investment Bank, Nahvin works on implementing ideas that increase customer awareness and drive sales of the suite of products offered by ABSS.

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