In a nutshell, Muhammad Talha is a customer centric and data driven digital marketer. He is a Certified SEO (OCMA), Certified Master Web Analyst (OCMP) and also Certified Google Analytics Partner and Public Speaker.
He has been in digital marketing for 8+ years and has hands-on experience in the full 360 Digital Marketing spectrum including SEO, SEM, Facebook advertising, Email Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Analytics.
His current designation is Head of Digital Media at Dal Group Ltd. where he is responsible for establishing the entire digital footprint for Dal Group and all its companies. He initiates and leads digital initiatives including Online-Offline impact measurement, economic value attribution as well as the launch of new websites, social media profiles, content strategy and implementation and more. He will also be giving a keynote speech at the First Digital Marketing Summit in Sudan in February 2016.
Muhammad Talha has reached to this level through consistent learning, making mistakes but staying determined. And although he is at a senior position today, he is still a student and will always remain one.
He also likes to bake and his Chocolate Chip Nirvana Cookies got him as runner-up at the Dubai Bake Festival 2015.
How did you get into Digital Marketing? What interested you in learning Digital Marketing?
Muhammad Talha: I started as a copy writer in 2003 which, at the time, was simply a way to make some extra pocket money. I had no idea there was such a thing as digital marketing at all.
In 2007, after dropping out of University, I got a job as a copy writer and by the end of the first day I realized there was something called SEO for which I was writing copy. I stumbled upon a “Whiteboard Friday” video by Rand Fishkin and then a “Web Analytics TV” video by Avinash Kaushik & Nick Mihailovski… I was just completely hooked.
For the next several years I did a lot of freelance work, mostly because companies were insisting on spammy web marketing practices only. My insistence on high quality, white hat and customer centric work eventually landed me a job as Head of Marketing for an e-commerce company in Dubai. And now as Head of Digital for one of the biggest and most diversified conglomerates in the African and Middle Eastern region.
According to you, what are the advantages of conventional marketing over Digital Marketing? Do you think that Digital Marketing is a threat to the future of conventional marketing?
Muhammad Talha: Conventional marketing still has the potential to reach many more people than Digital especially in developing countries where internet and smartphones are still penetrating underdeveloped cities and towns.
I wouldn’t call Digital Marketing a threat but I am sure more budgets will be shifted to digital mediums out of conventional media pipelines. However, what we should realize is that the marketing world we live in is increasingly porous and there are no definitive lines setting online and offline apart. Marketers today should be able to work out the right mix of online and offline media and ensure the customer has a fluid experience whether their touch point is a website, walk-in, sales rep at an event booth, phone call or even WhatsApp.
Share about your 3 favorite Digital Marketing case studies. What did you like most about them?
Buffer is one of my favourite companies. I first used it in 2012 when it was still a very small tool and did not integrate with Google+ so I left it in for a competitor. But then they launched their blog and it did not say a word about themselves, infact, they wrote on every topic digital marketers would find helpful, from digital strategies to social media size guides to SEO best practices to remarketing. Each of these blog posts was very good, no cutting corners, well written, full of media and written by experts. Today, each of their posts gets more than 1000 shares on average (mostly more). They won the hearts of uncountable marketers like myself and now I wouldn’t dream of using anything else for my social media management solutions.
And remember, this is just one aspect of Buffer. Their customer service, their tool itself, their HR policies and leadership are all vital contributors to why they are one of the best companies in the world at this time.
If you have read how I entered Digital Marketing, you would know why I have listed MOZ here. In 2007 I stumbled upon a “Whiteboard Friday” by Rand Fishkin. He made SEO look and sound like it was a piece of chocolate truffle cake. His communication skill, the quality of the video were all superb. But what truly amazed me was that Rand was sharing really important and practical insights and I was bewildered by his greatness because I had never seen anyone laying out their knowledge for the world like this.
At that time, Moz was too expensive for me and I continued to use the free version for several years. But I always had a burning desire to pay for their tools and when I got my first decent paycheck (some 5 years later) I paid for the subscription before taking my wife out for a 5-star dinner.
Today MOZ is the undoubted leader in SEO tools and their blogs, QA platforms, the yearly MOZCON event and their tools are simply a must have for all SEOs no matter where they are in the world.
Dal Group Website
Though this is my own personal project and it does not compare to the great things others have done in the digital marketing arena in the world. But I sincerely think there is a great learning here and it will also give confidence for the new and budding digital marketers to whom the success stories of big companies may seem larger than life.
So… when I started at Dal Group a year ago I found that knowledge of digital was almost non-existent. People were on facebook and they used a couple of Sudanese news websites but that was all. Their knowledge was so rudimentary that when I spoke about any fundamental concept they just ran away and on emails, they just ignored me completely.
But I got stuck in and travelled to Khartoum, got the help of a friend to set-up meetings with the heads of the business. I took five months understanding their goals and the target audience. In the end I distilled the primary business objective to become the business-partner-of-choice for anyone in the world who could be looking for setting up a large business in Africa or Middle East.
With this information, a clearly defined target audience and the socio-political landscape in mind we created a simple but highly effective website, fixed the process of calls coming in through the business number and much more. The website will launch very soon and I am quite confident it will make people’s eyes pop, convince them to call and hopefully lead down to a multi-million investment in the region.
According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging Digital Marketing?
- Low budgets for content:Most marketers and companies are still lacking the necessary skills and budgets for content. They think of content as low-cost articles written for their blogs and for SEO link building. This always fires back by getting zero attention on social media and penalties from Google and other search engines. Such people end up with their hands in their faces.
- Mindless Data Driven-ness: In a bid to do data driven marketing, many executives, marketers and even analysts forget to question their insights on simple stuff like common sense or changing behaviours or even weather. This leads to wasted time and more importantly wasted money investment in misguided data-driven actions.
- Not collecting ideas internally: Organizations have to remain consistently innovative and diligent in today’s competitive digital environment. They need to produce great campaigns and content very often. And marketing teams eventually run out of ideas. But companies do not realize that if they let non-marketers pitch in with ideas and create a culture of openness and idea sharing they can beat anyone in more than just the digital marketing arena.
Between Agency and In-house, which approach would you recommend for maximum value of Digital Marketing? Why?
Muhammad Talha: Personally, I prefer in-house teams because they have the time and commitment to learn more and more about their business, customers and targets. However, building a good team takes time, money and leadership. So I think its all about company leaders looking within themselves to see how committed they can be towards building an internal team. If they find they have other priorities then they should go for agencies.
Having said this… sometimes external agencies bring fresh perspectives and a different approach to solving problems which should always be explored.
Which are your 3 favorite Digital Marketing Tools?
- Google Analytics – For everything about telling the story behind numbers
- MOZ Analytics: For technical seo auditing and finding deeper content issues
- Similar Web: For competitive intelligence (and it works for sites outside the US and UK also)
- User Testing: To get the opinions of real people on real website issues
Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Digital Marketing today?
- For Entrepreneurs: Lower in cost than conventional advertising, more efficient targeting prospects and its possible to become an expert in it simply by committing to learning from great blogs.
- For Professionals:There is no separate online and offline. It’s all porous. If professionals don’t learn digital marketing today, they will become outdated and not needing within the next 5 years MAX.
- For Students: Well… students today are online all the time. Do they even need to question if it is important? But I will advise them to start today because the arena is only going to get tougher and more sophisticated especially once Big Data lands in and opens new and more nuanced ways of targeting customers.
What are the top 3-5 skills you look for when hiring a candidate for Digital Marketing profile?
- Regular reading habit (and ideally some blog writing on digital marketing topis)
- Knowledge of recent trends
- Understanding of the importance of content (in its true meaning and not cheap article writing)
- Usage of some tools and Google Analytics at the very least.
What is your advice for newbies, who are looking at building a career in Digital Marketing industry?
Muhammad Talha: Learn by reading online everyday and then practice what you learn. There is no alternative to practice and for this you might have to do work for free, ask your relatives and contacts for favours. Do what you have to but learn, practice, learn from you mistakes and repeat.
- Pro Tip 1: Get on Twitter and make a list of the top 10 marketers in the area of your interest. Visit this list everyday and fix a time to check out the content they are sharing on twitter. Never leave this practice and you will get to the top of your game and remain there.
- Pro Tip 2: Write a blog about your learnings… there is nothing more solidifying for your knowledge than sharing it with other people.
How do you stay updated on the latest trends in Digital Marketing? Which are the Digital Marketing resources (i.e. blogs/websites/apps) you visit regularly?
Muhammad Talha: I simply read everyday and practice new skills consistently.
The best resources in my opinion are the following;
- Occam’s Razor (Web Analytics blog by Avinash Kaushik)
- MOZ Blog (SEO, SEM and overall marketing blog by MOZ)
- Quick Sprout Blog
- McKinsey Insights Mobile App
- Google Analytics Academy
- Buffer Blog
Share the names of 3 people you respect when it comes to Digital Marketing.
Muhammad Talha: I don’t have three, I have five:
- Avinash Kaushik
- John Marshall
- Rand Fishkin
- Annie Cushing
- Pete Meyers
How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2016?
- Focus will reduce on mobile apps (I know this is controversial but this is what I think)
- Cross Channel Marketing will increase in demand (including demand for skillful marketers)
- Big PR firms will enter content marketing and competition for small agencies will become cut throat
Would you like to share few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?
Excellent work at very high standards, thorough courses covering the most vital aspects to build a strong base
- Unbeatable value for investment
- And finally, Digital Vidya is great because they have just made a thought leader out of an unknown marketer like myself.
Are you inspired by the opportunity of Digital Marketing? Start your journey by attending our upcoming orientation session on Digital Marketing for Career & Business Growth. It’s online and Free :).