These days, no matter the size of the business, digital marketing is something you need to have a plan for. Especially because of the high internet penetration and social media usage in the MENA region.

According to the 2020 Hootsuite Digital Report, internet users in the Middle East have increased by 14% in 2020- a whopping 23 million new users since 2019.

As internet usage increases, the way we shop is also changing dramatically making offline marketing not as effective as it used to be. This is where digital marketing, or marketing that exists online, came to be.

Digital marketing includes leveraging the following to connect with potential and existing customers:

  • social media platforms
  • search engine optimization (SEO),
  • search engine marketing (SEM),
  • emails,
  • blogs,
  • video
  • and connecting with other websites.

Digital marketing opens up a whole new avenue of relatively inexpensive marketing opportunities for businesses, along with the possibility to use tools like analytics dashboard to measure the success and ROI of your campaigns.

Small businesses, in particular, can thrive if digital marketing is done properly. This is what will make them visible to their potential customers and put them on the map.

That said, here are 3 tips to help you focus your digital marketing budget for maximum results:

Level up your Social Media Marketing

Considering that the active social media users in the Middle East are currently at 48% with a 14% increase since 2018, social media is probably one of the most important platforms you can use to grow your business in the Middle East.

Depending on your business and your target audience, you can leverage channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and even TikTok if it’s done right. Each platform has it’s own strategy to follow.

Within this post, when talking about social media, I’ll focus more on Instagram feed and story ads just because it’s one of the cheapest (ranging from $0.80 to $1.30 CPC or cost per click) yet also one of the most effective ad strategies for small businesses.

Instagram feed ad by HIW Kuwait

According to a new survey by YouGov and commissioned by Instagram, 77% of SMB’s in UAE, Egypt, and KSA use Instagram as an effective way to reach new audiences.

So, ensure that you’re posting relevant information on your social media account regularly. Understand your customers, understand what they’re looking for and post on those topics. Engage with your customers and make sure to reply to their every comment. Try to create a community for your brand.

Social media is where you can get up close and personal with your customers, so make full use of it!

These days just creating an Instagram account and expecting your potential customers to find it it is not going to happen. You need to leverage paid social media ads to target the right audience and guide your customer journeys.

But the good news is that when creating an ad with Instagram, you can target your ads at exactly who you consider your ideal consumer to be.

If you don’t have an ideal consumer base or a user persona yet, you’ve missed a few steps. You NEED to make sure you go back and create it before you even start thinking about social media ads.

If you’re selling premium streetwear sneakers in Kuwait for instance, you want to target 14 to 35-year-olds living in Kuwait. The interesting part, however, is within the ‘Detailed Targeting’. You can focus an ad on a specific type of customer by filtering based on:

  1. Demographics: based on lifestyles, employment, and education
  2. Interests: based on pages liked and events or activities attended
  3. Behaviors: based on their purchasing or online behavior

So if you’re getting specific for your premium streetwear business, you could target people who follow “Hype Beast Kicks” (an online editorial keeping up with the latest in streetwear sneaker trends) since these are people who like and follow these trends. If your store is online, you could also target people who have expressed interest in online shopping and regularly purchase online. If you’re targeting your ads to the US market, you could even get as specific as to their income levels. But only for the US market currently.

If you’re just starting and is looking for an easy targeting strategy, you could target ‘Lookalikes’ (people who have similar interests and activities) of users who have already engaged with your business. But, don’t go too broad with this. For best results, Facebook recommends sticking to groups of 1000–50,000 people!

If there’s one note to remember when it comes to social media marketing it is is this:

As tempting as it may be to try and reach as many people as possible, your campaign will be more cost-effective and successful, if you take the time to target a specific group of audience.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engines are a powerful tool to connect with new audiences. This is why Search Engine Optimization is another important category in digital marketing.

Just to take it back to the basics, Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing your online content on your website or social media so that you’re ranked high on the search engines for the keywords of your choice.

For instance, a bakery in Kuwait will want to be ranked high for keywords such as “bakery in Kuwait”. This means that if someone is looking for a good bakery in Kuwait and they search for these keywords in Google, your bakery could be where they make their purchase from.
Being ranked within the first page of Google for your chosen keywords is the ultimate holy grail of organic marketing since that will continue to bring customers in.


SEO is an entire post in itself, however, we’ll try to cover some basics here. One of the first things to look at when you’re thinking about optimizing your content is to think about what keywords you want to be ranked high for.
The more specific the keyword, the more likely your chance to be ranked high for it. For instance, if we go back to thinking about the bakery there are greater chances of you being able to rank higher for a more specific keyword such as “best vegan chocolate cake in Kuwait” than for “best bakery in Kuwait”, just because of how many bakeries will be trying to rank higher for the latter keyword.

I was curious…turns out J’s bakery is ranked the highest for ‘vegan chocolate cake’

Moreover, people who find your bakery from Google will be looking for a good vegan chocolate cake, so that is a conversion guaranteed if you can actually provide it. That being said, if at all you don’t have vegan chocolate cakes in your bakery you’ll be attracting the wrong type of audience which you don’t want.

So make sure you take the time to think about the type of keywords you want to be ranked for.

Once you’ve decided on the keywords, just stuffing these keywords into your content will not work. Instead, you could get penalized for keyword stuffing by Google- ranking your website lower than before. Instead, you need to create quality content and seamlessly add them in.

Especially since Google has gotten incredible at understanding the context behind what you’re searching for because of Rank Brain- Google’s amazing machine learning algorithm (If you want to learn more about this, geek out over Backlinko’s amazing guide about it as I did!).

This means that rather than stuffing your content with the keywords that you want to be ranked for, you need to work on creating quality content that answers the questions your customers are looking for.

Make sure you also have the keywords in strategically important places such as the headlines, URL and the metadata.

Develop Relationships with Email Marketing

Email marketing gets a bad rep because it comes across as spammy, but if done right this is a powerful tool that can be used to give your brand a human touch and to generate leads.

For every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42.

The ROI (return on investment) for email marketing, when done right, is massive!

The reason why I emphasize ‘when done right’ is because email marketing is one of the most personalized ways to reach your customer, but it HAS to be personalized.

If you’re thinking of starting an email marketing campaign, first you need to think about why exactly you’re sending these emails. These are some of the more common reasons to send emails to your existing clients:

  • Onboard new clients/ product introduction
  • Re-engage inactive clients
  • Convert trial users to paid users
  • Upsell
  • Product updates
  • Stimulate engagement

Deciding the purpose of your email campaign allows you to measure the returns of the campaign more easily. It’s fine to have multiple targets, but they need to be separate campaigns sent out at different times and measuring different results.

Once you’ve decided why you’re sending the emails, you need to ensure that you’re sending it at the right times. For instance, if you’re looking to onboard a new client or to introduce the product, the email needs to be sent as soon as they sign up. Not a month later.

The timing when an email is sent out is very important because that’s the difference between whether an email will be opened or not.

Another factor that is very important when designing your email is making it mobile-friendly.

On average, 55% of email opens came from mobile devices, while 28% of opens came from webmail clients, and only 16% came from desktop clients

So when designing your email content, you need to make sure that it’s displayed correctly on both desktop and mobile. To increase email open rates, you also need to think about the readability of the subject line on mobile devices.

According to research collected by Litmus Email Analytics in 2020, Apple iPhone Mail and Gmail are the two most commonly used email clients around the world.

This means that when writing your email subject lines, you need to think about how many characters would be visible on these email clients when opening on mobile devices (41 characters on iPhone and 70 characters for Gmail). You could also add more information on the first line of the email since that will be displayed as additional info to the subject copy.

Essentially,

  1. Decide on a purpose and a particular ROI to measure when starting an email marketing campaign
  2. Ensure you’ve got the correct timing
  3. Verify that the email can be viewed correctly on desktop and mobile
  4. Write an interesting caption that can be viewed completely on mobile as well
  5. Sent it out!

These tips are honestly just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more that can be done to leverage digital marketing for smaller businesses, but these tips are a relatively inexpensive way for you to get started with digital marketing for your business!

If you want to see more tips or want to know about something in more detail, let us know below and we’ll create a part 2 soon.