October 21, 2021

Adnan Ahmad Shaikh: Growth Hacks for Digital Marketing

Adnan Ahmad Shaikh
Digital Marketing Manager, The Sleep Company

A fascinating discussion with Adnan that covers his experience with various digital marketing techniques, recent changes in Facebook’s algorithms, the importance of reaching out to the right customer base, experimenting with new channels, and more!

Adnan Shaikh is an all-round marketer with over 10 years of experience spanning across several large and medium sized brands. Today, Adnan leads digital and performance marketing operations for The Sleep Company — one of the fastest growing D2C intelligent mattress and furniture brands in the country. 


Moderator: Looking back at your 10+ years of experience as a marketer, what would you say has been the most important learning for you? 


Adnan: As a marketer, the most important step is to find the best way to reach out to the right customer base. Once you know who they are and where they are, you can then create effective strategies to reach out to them. It's difficult to increase profitability for your brand if you don’t spend time understanding the end consumer.


Moderator: Could you give us an example of where this played out for you?


Adnan: When I joined the Sleep Company, I was given a very high budget from the get go. At that point, the heads of the company were prioritising funding opportunities from potential investors. Furthermore, even though our industry belongs to the mattress and furniture category, we are very niche with respect to the fact that we’re the only ones in India selling smart mattresses with patented technology. In other words, we’re priced higher as compared to traditional mattresses that belong to the same category — and we have longer conversion cycles. This also means that our customer base is different and the conventional tactics for conventional consumer goods won’t work here. Our priority was to identify relatively high income customers and understand the best ways to reach out to them. I wanted to figure this out as early as we could so that we could put our product out there, and see how potential customers respond — so that our founders could show real time results to investors. To do this, we ran experiments and campaigns that helped us find 


(a) where our customers were

(b) how they responded, and 

(c) what was working and what wasn’t. 


For this, attribution products like Factors.AI came in handy when looking for data for things like campaign level conversion results. 

This enabled us to set up appropriate targeting for website visitors, put up relevant blog articles, and partner up with the right influencers. Recently, we on-boarded Anil Kapoor as our brand ambassador. We’ve also come up with an efficient budget allocation for our campaigns. For example, we figured out that retargeting seems to lead to very high conversions, so we have 65-70% of our budget allocated towards targeting campaigns for better conversions on our website. 


Moderator: Along similar lines, what are some tips you have for marketers who are trying to experiment with new digital channels?


Adnan: I’ve found that it is a good idea to set aside 3-5% of your entire budget for experimenting with new platforms. I would recommend website traffic campaigns where you look at the bounce rate, exit pages, time spent on the landing page, actions taken on the landing page, etc. This helps understand the traffic as well as the ROI from the new channels.


Moderator: And do you have any suggestions for B2B marketers who compete in markets with mostly larger-players?


Adnan: The B2B marketing segment has a limited target audience that comprises CEOs, VPs and marketers. So it won’t come as a surprise to find that the best way to reach out to them is still LinkedIn. However, the cost per click on LinkedIn has become very high due to the same reason. As a result, many companies might not have the budget to spend on LinkedIn. Which I would presume is the reason for the dominance of big players. However, organic growth still remains a good way to reach out to your audience. With what we’ve seen, sending messages, connection requests, etc to get leads, numbers and emails still remains pretty relevant.


Moderator: Continuing on the same topic, do you have any advice for inbound marketers? Specifically for when target audiences are other high level marketers and sales folk?

Adnan: In such cases, where your audience is composed of high level marketing and sales employees, do not underestimate the power of your website content. Experiment with a few different types of content on the website and see how it performs. If you have the budget, use it to run 3-4 campaigns on your website. Try one week long campaigns for each landing page and understand the traffic and movement of the visitors across desktop and mobile. Adopt changes that have a positive impact on the traffic. Once you've figured out your website, create a brand campaign. Next, create a paid traffic campaign, and finally, create a retargeting campaign for those who have not filled your form. Segmentation of audience really helps reach targets faster.


Moderator: What are your thoughts on the traffic drop (particularly with organic traffic) since Facebook’s algorithm changed? 


Adnan: This is something that’s being discussed a lot across marketing communities online and offline. Most people in the community feel that it has had a negative impact on organic traffic and rightly so. However, marketers can still reach out to influencers, bloggers and content writers to create effective SEO content strategies. It is a good idea to pull other organic channels.

I would also suggest that marketers, particularly for small businesses, try out Microsoft’s Bing search engine. People are increasingly using Microsoft laptops and voice searches on Cortana. Personally, I’ve seen 2-3% of my business coming from Bing. This is a good way for small businesses to leverage benefits from Bing since many big businesses are not using it as much. Plus the costs are relatively low.


Moderator: I've always been curious as to how one should divide a budget amongst, let's say Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, especially during product launches.


Adnan: The budget split definitely depends on the campaign and the product/brand. But if I had to come up with a sensible guideline, I would say that you should definitely go all out on Facebook and Instagram during launches. Start off with a good video ad to put up on these platforms. A good split for the online marketing budget would be 70% towards Facebook and Instagram and 30% on Google display ads and video ads.

But once you start to grow, move towards a 50-50 split between Facebook/Instagram and Google. Out of this, divert 25-30% in search campaigns. By this time, you would’ve accumulated some Google search data on your product/brand. However, don’t limit yourself to Google and Facebook Dashboards. These platforms tend to be oblivious to what is happening outside of their ecosystems. Which also means that they tend to attribute all the conversions to themselves regardless of the actual journey of the consumer. 


Moderator: I think that is a good segway into my next question — what are your thoughts on dark social, where discoveries fly under the radar? For example, referrals shared on whatsapp messages.


Adnan: I think this also ties in with the point that I made in the previous question. Marketers should be wary of limiting their understanding of campaign data to the Facebook and Google dashboards. There is a lot of data that cannot be tracked simply because certain channels remain outside the ecosystems of these two data giants. And this becomes particularly relevant if one of those channels happens to be key for your brand. 

After speaking to a lot of people who handle email and whatsapp marketing, I think the best thing to do in this scenario is to get data from the sales department. Data from their call flows and experience with leads and conversions sent their way can help you understand your campaign level data. Information from other stakeholders in the company can also help you understand campaign level data that flies under the radar for Google analytics and other such dashboards. 


Moderator: Awesome. This has been a super productive conversation for all of us here. Thank you so much for your time and insights. It’s been a pleasure to have you here.


Adnan: I’m always happy to help! Thanks for having me.


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