• Abdullah Alshawaf

The Evolution of Marketing Communications in Saudi Arabia

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

Since the inception of Vision 2030 and all the programs and initiatives that it brought with it, the local marketing industry has been disrupted by emerging demand by government and semi government organizations for a new set of services that are necessary for achieving their goals. These services involve data driven decision making and strategic planning instead of arbitrary decisions made without the reliance on any data or information.

The shift was supported by the need to reach specific audiences and deliver the right messages, raising awareness about new reforms and persuading and influencing change in mindset and behavior of the nation. From raising awareness about new legislation, to informing the public about the programs that are going to affect their lives for years to come. It is massive socio-economic transformation that had to be communicated in a strategic manner at a high and low levels, and the industry started to see requests for integrated marketing communication services, a holistic approach led from the top down.

This disruption has helped develop the industry as a whole and stimulated the private sector to demand the same services in a very competitive economy and an increasingly more aware population thus pushing agencies to improve and innovate to fill in the gaps.

However, SMEs still find it difficult to access these services due to the high cost in the market and this has prevented enterprises from engaging in an effective manner, a very important function of their businesses… marketing communications!

It is not to say that SMEs do not engage in marketing activities as they obviously do! But they do in a limited fashion and missing on potential growth in a market increasingly dominated by large enterprises that can invest more towards growth and scale. The more unique you are the more you can attract the right audience. The more information you can communicate to that audience the more value you are able to create in the mind of that audience. This allows businesses to be more competitive and build their brands, something that is essential to their future growth.

Any disruption in an industry creates challenges both on the providing and receiving end, but with every disruption comes new opportunities, especially in a vibrant growing economy that is full of potential. For businesses to reach their full potential, they must invest in their marketing functions. Marketing is the main driver of growth and agencies should find solutions to exploit this untapped gap in the market.

It is a win-win situation, but how can we make it work?

We are trying to make it work through implementing the latest marketing trends and methodologies and provide a data driven informed strategies that provide a tangible return on investment (ROI). Taking it in phases where we achieve milestones and move to the next step, this eliminates long-term contracts that clients hate and creates confidence by showing that you can deliver without a long-term bind. Moreover, streamlining our business process to make it more efficient helped us reduce cost and take on more work.

We found these points to be essential to success:

1- Invest in the right people. The first years in an agency are about survival. focus on keeping the agency running but, after hitting on your target, it is no longer necessary or efficient to take care of every aspect of the business. invest in people to take care of yesterday (the processes, HR, IT, legal), someone to take care of today (making sure the agency creating great quality campaigns, working with clients, giving them the best service), and then focus on taking care of the future, which is about strategy, vision, and where you want to go.

2- A crystal-clear vision will help your business thrive in hard times. If you don’t have that vision, you won’t get to the next stage. Focus on the following:

Clarity – get really clear on who your audience is. Be very specific. A niche is a really smart way to get this clarity.

Positioning – create a demand for the results your agency delivers. Don’t sell services, sell results.

Offering – create a unique selling proposition or a unique offering that makes your ideal clients want to work with you.

3- Build up leadership. Finding the right people was key to keeping the business running but empowering them was crucial to keep the business growing. if you weren’t in the business for three months, would it run? And would it grow? Recruiting can become difficult when you’re searching for leaders that can make this mantra happen, focus on building leaders within the organization. Make sure that every director complete a year-long leadership course and has the tools to succeed as a leader. He no longer is the only one focusing on the future, on the vision, and that is the key to continue growing.

Don’t be afraid to disrupt. When we started thinking of ways to disrupt and help get Creative Formula noticed, we thought about offering clients an option that would get rid of something that they typically hate. Long-term contracts came up as something that clients don’t usually love about their experience with marketing agencies, and so we started offering monthly contracts or flexible packages.

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