Expanding your agency into new markets

Typical Christmas party conversation this one. Specially for those in Dubai, where in spite of the city being the metaphor for all things biggest, loudest, longest, proudest, there's always an yearning for beyond. There is always a need to rue the grass that's greener on the other side. More of, syndrome. Dubai has come back from the ashes of a financial crisis pretty well, thanks to the astute leadership of this emirate, but ad agency folks aren't happy. They would like a slice of the pie from the other side. From beyond.

"Should we expand into Iraq?" or "We're thinking about Libya with an open mind" is the hot topic these days. Both big and small agencies are seriously considering expanding their Middle East options. FP7, one of the largest in the region, have already opened shop in Iraq, and the news from their office at the MCN Hive is that FP7/Erbil is alive and kicking, hard at that. Doing well. Good on them. For smaller agencies, and ad world entrepreneurs, it's a tougher question to ponder. If you diversify and expand too soon into a new market, or a volatile one, chances are you'd fail. 

New markets in the Middle East and North Africa are alluring. They are inherently an oasis in the Sahara, but we forget, that they - like many imagined oases are often optical illusions. The best way to examine this is to see if you have an unfair, first to market or unique to market advantage. It is never a good idea to look at a 'frontier' market adventure because you need a bailout here, and you see Libya or Southern Sudan as a rescue rope. Outbound expansions are for the secure, not the silly.

Also, since it's difficult to create a whole supply chain right away, make sure you can 'post in' some work, transfer assets across the cloud. Oh, of course, check the availability of the cloud. The internet connection there will be a lifeline. Ensure you are subscribed.

Digital specialized agencies, the ones that create websites, mobile apps and solutions, work on user experiences and are Social Media maniacs are lining up. Their pool here is intensely competitive, so they need to see what's out there. That's typical of digital. Zero and one bravado. And there just maybe room for some of it out there. Because not too many people are really designing mobile apps out in Benghazi, there may be a great new door to open for someone now relegated to Media City basement bargains now.

If your agency or parallel adworld-related offering is something above and beyond what's available, go for it. And, specially, in markets where no one's really going into (Libya?), you may have a where-angels-fear-to-tread advantage. Go in, but wear your "fool" proof gear tight. Or stay safe here. And aim for another bigger, stronger, further Guinness Book record.

2014 Hot New Trend: You've got Responsive email

Responsive email is going to be big for 2014. I see no way around it. Marketers are going to wake up and realize that most of their email marketing is now headed for a mobile device (not by their choice, but by consumer default), and the mails are not ready for this. People are still having to pinch and scroll, squint and suffer when sifting through marketing email messages. And even the subject lines (a key tool, repeat, a key tool) are not shortened or adjusted for mobile. What you have is email #fail. So, we're going to have to change this all in 2014.

Most savvy marketing folks have already woken up to mobile ready web. Their sites are responsive – meaning, they are built to auto adjust to  any screen – all the way down to mobile. So, how come, with the resurgence of email marketing  and this new buzz about how subject lines can dramatically alter 'open rates' no one's considered the formatting of emails to auto adjust to mobile?

Once we understand who our customers are, and here in this region, it's ok religion to believe that most are on mobile, it's a given that we need to go responsive asap. It's not an easy one step process, because one needs to create and develop simplified responsive templates. But once that's done, it's really about making it a habit. Usually, a good developer will develop dynamic modules that will deliver auto-adjust mails across all platforms – tablets inclusive.

Then, we 'll need to reset KPIs – meaning our 'open-rate', 'click through' and 'conversion' rate goals really will change – for the better. And they will be achievable. 

Keep a couple of things in perspective. If you are really going to go responsive, make sure your subject line is also geared for mobile. And the snippet text (if you use that) should ideally be contextual and relevant – and interesting. And clicking through? Well, if you send a responsive email which doesn't lead to a responsive, mobile ready site, why bother? So, do get all your responsive ducks in a row.

When one sees genuine improvement and impact via the new ready-for-2014 emails, we can then go back and justify going responsive to our CFOs. Via email of course.

Here is a link to a well done responsive email from retailer Missguided. Drag the ends down on your laptop/desktop to mobile size and see it adjust. Or, if you are reading this post on a mobile, you know already...