Articles 2017-07-20T14:34:44+00:00

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What’s going on out there, all squeezed in here.

Business Plus asked Keith a few questions about Strategem and its position in the digital environment.

Check out his answers below.

+ How would you describe Strategem’s position in Ireland’s digital marketing marketplace?

Strategem is a full service digital agency. Simply put, that means that we focus on the needs and behaviours of the target audience in their holistic digital journey through to action – whether that be a purchase or request for information etc. Everything we create is focused on ensuring awareness and engagement and more often we’re optimising for specific KPI – whether that be clicks or actual purchases; often utilising a mix of channels (from SEO and paid search through social and RTB networks) in order to realise business goals for our clients.

+ In your view, what attributes does Strategem have that other digital media agencies don’t?

We’re kind of agnostic in how we look at the marketing mix. Where others might be focused on a particular channel, we look at the audience first. By understanding not only the client sector, but also how the audience behaves in the full suite of digital channels, we are able to target individuals with bespoke messaging and incentives that we have proven can deliver real world results. We’re also a close-knit team, together challenging the norms and figuring out how we can approach any business challenge or opportunity. It’s  a lot of fun.

+ Big brands have lots of advertising and marketing options. In your view, what’s the benefit and advantage of marketing campaigns using social media?

The issue with social media is that a lot of brands have failed to give it enough strategic input. There’s all manner of tactics and theories out there but most brands settle on some kind posting (and ‘jab-jab-hook’ methodologies) that we have seen, time and again, fails to deliver any meaningful engagement with the target audience. The benefit of social, in fact, is broader – it’s that previously impossible opportunity to work the brand into daily conversation and relevant topics close to the hearts of the consumer. We do a lot of strategic planning regards how brands should communicate on social, and indeed in what social channels for what reason and to what end. Don’t forget that the consumer view their social feed as a personal space of relevancy. You’d better be relevant above all else – and when executed properly, it’s possible to measure not only follower-build and clicks, but also brand affinity and commercial success. As social channels continue to evolve, we’re also garnering big success with using owned and earned data sets to create and inspire new audiences for our clients, also resulting in lower costs in paid-social targeting and otherwise providing additional customer data for brands.

+ Your site mentions success with a Paid Search campaign. Why are some Paid Search campaigns more successful than others?

Success is often down to something as simple as relevant keyword build. A well-built list of keywords is paramount when running a search campaign. This means having a good understanding of your brand, product and target audience. With this knowledge we can build a comprehensive list of keywords and search queries. A good place to start is by checking the kind of organic keywords audiences are using to find your website and or competitor product.

Secondly, keyword optimisation is key. Some keywords will perform better for you than others. By cutting out keywords that don’t convert you can shift focus to the better performing keywords and have a more effective campaign.

Coupled with ensuring the website is adequately optimized for SEO and a robust quality score on the topic itself, together with intent based ad copy for click-rate are the main factors we focus on optimizing for best in class results.

+ Your site also mentions lead generation efforts for UL. With Inbound Marketing efforts, what tactics work best for Strategem on behalf of clients?

We focus on the data and full customer data. And an inbound lead isn’t an individual acquisition point, it’s a journey. I suppose at Strategem we’ve been doing this for years, having evolved from a relationship marketing and direct response agency – lucky for us, the marketing world has realised that herein lies the biggest opportunity in digital; to lead prospective customers through a branded experience in a manner that creates high-worth customers with more propensity to purchase and demonstrate optimum lifetime value. This is important! If you’re going to be paying for clicks and customer acquisition, you want each customer to be profitable. A full suite of platforms and tactics is required to deliver success in this area, but honestly, it’s all centred around the data and the content. We serve content specifically designed for all stages of the funnel and serve it in the most relevant channels, all the while monitoring the performance of all assets/communications and collection points. With clients such as UL, we start with understanding the needs and behaviours of the target audience – perhaps International students who are showing some kind of interest in studying in Europe. We ensure we’re ‘SEO’d’ up for their particular needs and the questions they throw at Google and then go about ensuring we own the highest converting terms to bring prospective customers into a loop of informative, inspiring content and ultimately through requests for more information and course bookings. Some campaigns aren’t as simple as a click-to-purchase and, regardless, again for the sake of ensuring clients only pay for qualified, high propensity clicks, clients simply must infuse any DR campaign with the story of the brand, the product and the experience in order to get the best value form their digital investments.

A version of this interview was published in the print and digital June 2017 issue of Business Plus, found here.

Make your customer experience fun and delightful. This will give you the highest returns and will be your brand and business differentiator. Why? Because in an always-on world, consumers don’t like spending too much time trying to find you, your product USP, where to sign up for your amazing widget, or waiting for that web page to load.

“Companies and brands need to pay a lot more attention to constantly refining and improving customer experience.” – Keith Lee

If your customer has to enter 20 fields of information to buy something, that’s not delightful. If a customer journey is not delightful, you will lose them to a competitor. It is as simple as that. If you get the customer journey right, it can be transformational, but the optimisation needs constant investment. Put your customer hat on and experience what your customers go through to buy your product in various channels and then do the same with a competitor. Ouch!

A lot of the online customer experiences we come across are the equivalent of slow wisdom tooth extraction, and it is quite extraordinary how much revenue is being wasted with broken customer journeys. Some brands believe that an asset is built and that’s it. They will happily spend a million in capital investment but then baulk at ongoing investment into digital asset improvements.

Source: NICE via BCG, March 2016


Consumers act across multiple touchpoints and channels and don’t fret about where they saw you last. However, brands often struggle to deliver consistency, with ‘the complexity of CX’ being cited as the biggest technical barrier to building an overall view of the customer journey.

As a start, it makes sense to break CX down into its three fundamental principles:

  • Value. Making the overall brand experience as valuable as possible. How easily and delightfully fast can they get what they want?
  • Personal. Making the experience as relevant as possible.
  • Easy. Ensuring the experience is easy to understand and effortless to navigate. Think one-tap purchase.

If you begin with a channel neutral ‘customer first’ mindset, brands have a far better chance of adding value (via content), personalised to customer needs (via data insights), and that is easy to both understand and navigate (UX).

Source: Econsultancy/Ensighten, March 2015

Even the simplest of dives into the array of data pools from web analytics, session recordings, social media analysis and SEM/SEO trends will provide a far more comprehensive view of their existing customer and target customer, and often highlight new groups of prospective customers too.

93% of global digital companies currently pull data from web analytics for customer experience optimisation. – Econsultancy/Ensighten, March 2015

From there, it’s a matter of utilising the correct platforms to drive results. Today we’re working with new data, new metrics and new methodologies that provide a better picture of who the customer is, where they play, and what motivates them to engage with any type of content, be it branded or otherwise.

Using multiple channels will deliver a 30% plus higher customer lifetime value. Are you adequately utilising social channels such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to specifically single out and delight existing customers, or is everything you promise up-funnel ‘for new customers only’? Crack this and you’ll be on course to start understanding your current customer experience, and how to improve it.

This article also appeared in the 2017 June issue of Business Plus.

This article originally appeared in the 2010 October issue of IMJ – Irish Marketing Journal.  

The Dublin Docklands-based Strategem iLabs has been busily earning itself a lot of kudos in the digital marketing arena over the last few years. The agency’s MD, Keith Lee, talks to John McGee about its evolution and how technology is empowering it to reach new heights.

Keith Lee’s acting skills and sense of fun have earned him a considerable reputation in Irish marketing circles. Every year at the annual An Post Direct Marketing Awards, the managing director of Strategem iLabs and his team put together a mini promotional video for the Agency of the Year category in which Lee plays the part of a well-known movie character, complete with the original movie backdrop and footage.

Over the past four years he played characters as diverse as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, Jerry Maguire in Show Me the Money, Jack Dawson in Titanic and Jamal Malik in Slumdog Millionaire. The three minute promotional videos are now the stuff of Irish marketing folklore and have become one of the the main highlights of the awards ceremony every year. While Lee admits that they are a bit of fun and get people talking about the agency, he is unsure whether or not they will do another one in 2011. If he doesn’t, a lot of people will be disappointed. “We’ll have to wait and see,” he says. “While they are fun to make, a lot of time and effort goes into them, we might do something different next year.” (All four videos are on the company’s website Promotional videos aside, Strategem iLabs has claimed over 45 Irish and international awards for its client campaigns over the last six years. The agency’s client list includes a raft of well-known brands and companies including: GSK, AIB, Appleby Jewellers, Ballygowan, Danone, Premier Foods,, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Britvic, Diageo Northern Ireland and Africa, the Gaiety Theatre and Magnet Telecom, to name but a few. While awards do keep agencies on their toes and they certainly look good in the boardroom during a client presentation, the real business of delivering results for clients is what really drives Lee and his 22-strong team at the agency. “We have an incredibly talented and passionate team working here and I am just proud to be part of it and of course it’s nice to win awards,” says Lee somewhat bashfully.

“At the end of the day it’s all about delivering for our clients, staying ahead of the curve and ensuring that we continue to execute the best inclass marketing and business strategies for them,” he says. Strategem iLabs has evolved considerably since it was set up nearly 12 years ago. Having started out as a direct marketing and sales promotional agency, the business has taken a number of twists and turns along the way. It was sometime in the late 1990s that Lee began to recognise the huge potential that had been unleashed by the Internet going mainstream. Although it was still early days for online marketers, he became one of the co-founders and shareholders of digital agency Cybercom which was set up in 1999. Indeed Lee maintained an equity shareholding in the company until a few years ago when he decided to sell his stake and concentrate on taking Strategem to the next level. “I really felt that the company needed to get more into the technology end of things. There was a lot of interesting stuff happening in that space in terms of things like data analytics and CRM. I wanted to take a different approach to the one we had previously by using technology to get the best results for our clients. “Innovation is an essential part of the marketing process and if you can’t innovate, you are dead in the water. I suppose we found ourselves becoming increasingly less relevant and we needed to take the business in a completely new direction. When you start feeling less relevant, it’s not a good place to be. If you want to survive in this business, you need to be the most relevant person in the boardroom and that’s essentially what we wanted to be. But you have to be able to innovate, and constantly deliver the ROI for your clients and stay relevant all the time.”

The change in direction at Strategem began in earnest about five years ago and it is now a fully integrated communications agency with technology and creativity at its core. Or as Lee likes to call it, “the next generation agency.” While integration is a term that has been bandied about widely in recent years by various agencies, big and small, Lee points out that its relevance in the rapidly emerging digital world has never been more important. “If you don’t creatively integrate, it’s effectively like trying to solve a Sudoku puzzle by cutting it up into nine pieces and giving different squares to different agencies to solve. It doesn’t work,” he says. Data and digital integration across various channels, some of which are closed device ecosystems, is the number one enterprise challenge when it comes to leveraging high value consumers and customers, bar none. Data, in many ways, is the new crude oil and its value is hugely important. How you access it and how you use it to grow your business and your sales, is of paramount importance to clients and their business strategies. And this is what we believe we excel in,” says Lee. The sweeping advances in technology over the past few years has provided digital marketing agencies, like Strategem iLabs, with the tools and the firepower to capture reams of useful consumer data from a range of different consumer touchpoints.

This kind of information is hugely valuable when it comes to converting consumers into purchasers. In many cases, it can lead to a return on investment that advocates, of the more traditional marketing channels, could only dream of. “Traditional DM, or dinosaur marketing as we jokingly call it sometimes, still has a role to play but when you have a DM campaign on the one side and a permission-based email campaign on the other, the latter outperforms the other on all fronts in terms of conversion rates and getting people to whip out their credit cards. Even in terms of cost, there is absolutely no comparison. So it’s a total
no-brainer,” he adds. In these straitened times, when companies are looking for bigger returns on their marketing investment, Lee says there is a compelling
argument to be made in favour of allocating the lion’s share of the investment to digital. “We are confident that as long as a business is not falling off a cliff and it’s in a reasonably ok shape, we can deliver a return on investment, sometimes by up to 200% depending on the business or product. We have already done this for some of our clients.”

For agencies like Strategem iLabs, there has never been a more exciting time to be involved in digital marketing and communications space. While there is still a hefty premium on creativity and coming up with the big ideas that actually lead to or trigger an engagement with customers, once again it is technology that will facilitate the relationship between brand and consumer. And with technology improving at break-neck speed, the future is bright, says Lee. “If you look at the rapid pace of developments on the technology front over the last 10 years and think what is possible over the next decade, it all becomes incredibly exciting and interesting,” says Lee. “That’s great for us, it’s great for our clients and it’s great for businesses in general. It will certainly keep us on our toes.”

“If you look at the rapid pace of developments on the technology front over the last ten years and think what is possible over the next ten years, it all becomes incredibly exciting and interesting”
One area of growth for the agency over the last 12 months, according to Lee, is on the mobile front. Indeed Lee points out that the agency now has one of the largest interactive and app development studios in Ireland with 10 full time staff working in it. The agency’s mobile application team, meanwhile, has five people working on developing a range of apps for both Android and Apple powered devices, an area which Lee feels has enormous potential for growth. “What’s going on in the mobile and hand-held device space is fascinating and exciting. Historically, when society introduces a new technology we tend to initially overestimate its likely impact. I remember doing WAP apps back in 1998 and, at the time, we believed that WAP would be the greatest thing ever for mobile marketing. It wasn’t, and it was rubbish. However with the introduction of smartphone devices like iPhone or the Android powered phones, I think we are actually underestimating the effect of the long tail on human behaviour. Why? Because they are so simple that an eight or 80-year-old person can use them because they are so intuitive. If you think of all the computing power that’s packed into them, it’s pretty amazing and the great thing is that they’re only going to get better and better.

What they’ll be like in another 10 years time is anybody’s guess but you can take it that they will be a very important and integral part of day-to-day life for everybody.” As to who will dominate – the Apple camp or all the others – doesn’t really matter, according to Lee. What’s important is that 10 billion people around the world already have smartphones and that by 2020, this could conceivably quadruple to 40 billion, if not more. “Our own in-house app team is quite polarised on the issue and it has effectively divided into two camps – those that favour Apple and those that like Android. It’s a debate that is unlikely to be settled and you find yourself getting into deep conversations about where Adobe Flash is going or where HTML 5 is heading. The important thing really is that these are devices are brands and companies will need to have access to if they are serious about their business and marketing strategies.” Another area that Keith Lee places huge value on is planning. “We believe we have the perfect specialist mix of planners who can optimise best-in-class traditional methodology and insights with huge depth and complex understanding of the digital media landscape. On the metrics side, we also place a huge emphasis on measuring everything we do.

We’re firm believers in measuring everything we value and we value everything we measure. There are so many different metrics out there to choose from but for us, it probably boils down to the relative lifetime value of the customer or consumer and certainly this is one of the metrics that we like to use with clients.” While metrics, software engineering and planning are all vitally important in their own right, the creative capacity of the agency should not be overlooked either, says Lee. “Creative integration for engagement is the only reason we live as an agency. It’s not about big ideas, it’s about rich ideas that engage consumers, he says. “It’s well known that creative integration is globally delivering the best returns on investment in marketing. Why? Because the consumer is integrated and that consumer is now the brand editor.” Staying ahead of the curve in terms of the latest developments in technology is hugely important for the agency given that it places digital at the very heart of its strategy. This has meant a huge investment in getting the right people with the right skillsets on board. So at the agency’s D4 dockland headquarters, software engineers and programmers sit comfortably alongside planners, search specialists and creatives with all of them pooling their talent to come up with the best creative and technical solutions for the agency’s clients. “In many ways, it’s like a dream come true for me to have a highly talented team in-house. That’s so important. While it has taken us time to get this far, I honestly believe that we are now on the cusp of something much bigger and better. We are at the beginning of our journey.” Keith Lee may not be picking up his Equity card anytime soon, but one gets the distinct feeling that he will certainly be picking up more awards.

This article originally appeared in July 2008 issue of Business Plus Magazine. 

For B2B direct mail, what are the crucial elements to generate a response?

Grab attention at the front end. Ensure that the piece drives the receiver to open it. Creativity and ‘tone of voice’ is critical. Ensure that the content is relevant, timely, concise and instigates a desired action with as few response steps as possible. Be insightful and engaging.

How important is personalisation?

Personalisation will significantly increase the attention given to any given communication piece but unaddressed direct mailings still have a role to play. What road you take depends on the business model and service offered to the consumer and projected ROI models. Data build at every opportunity with unaddressed mailings or drive to register online.

What’s better for a response incentive – free gift or price discount?

Each works as well as the other as long as the incentive is relevant and appealing to the target audience. If not explained, price discounts can sometimes affect brand perception. Anyway why not test it. Strategem is offering for every digital/RM credentials appointment (1) a free !200 Monart pampering voucher or (2) !200 discount on a web usability audit. E-mail with your name, and company and what you think?

Following extensive planning and production with Tipperary County Council, IDA Ireland, and a number of FDI organisations already in the county, today we launch “Tipperary, the place, the time” – a brand and strategic roadmap designed to encourage more inward investment into the premier county.

Tipperary boasts vibrant urban centres, a highly skilled workforce, an established sub-supplier ecosystem and excellence in R&D capabilities spanning five municipal districts. Ireland’s biggest inland county is home to some of the world’s largest organisations across the global technology, pharmaceutical, biosciences, manufacturing and financial services sectors.

Coupled with a rich culture of heritage, food, festivals, sport and an unrivalled scenic countryside, Tipperary offers the perfect work-life balance for companies and people choosing to locate there.

It’s the right place and it’s the right time to join other leading organisations benefiting from their winning combination of accessibility, talent, a thriving business ecosystem, and a safe environment for families to live.

Take a look at the newly created website and brochure, or view the highlights video here.

If there’s one things I’ve learned in the past 26 years, it’s that humans are an impatient, easily frustrated bunch. Add this impatience to the ability to find answers from a simple online search in seconds, and it’s no wonder that people become frustrated with slow-loading websites. Even people who aren’t tech savvy will abandon a slow page for greener, more helpful pastures to find their answer.

This isn’t an exaggeration– it takes literally seconds for someone to abandon a page for a faster alternative. Take this infographic, which was so kindly provided by Google:

Load Speed Bounce

You read right; as page load times rise from 1 second to 10 seconds, the probability a user will ditch your page increases by 123%. For a static site holding only text and a few images, this statistic means lower traffic and time on site. Not a killer in itself unless the owner is reliant on advertising for revenue. However, consider a site with additional functionality – say, one generating leads or selling a product or service. For this site, it means losing out on potential sales. According to Google DoubleClick data, websites that loaded in 5 seconds instead of 19 seconds earned twice as much revenue.

Load Speed Revenue

Let’s say your website sees about 5,000 people per month, and 1% of these visitors make a purchase. Assuming a bounce rate of 70% (don’t scoff – I’ve seen a few of them this year already), then 3,500 potential customers have left before they even gave your product/service a chance. Improving your page load speed will decrease bounce rate, and increase conversion rate and customer purchases. Why deprive yourself of easy revenue?

And after all this information, I’ve only covered the user experience reasons for improving page load speed. Load time also plays a significant role in how Google ranks your website in Google Search results for mobile and desktop. Google has recently announced that they will start implementing mobile-first indexing for search results and mobile page load speed will play a role in ranking. This means that quicker, mobile-friendly websites will be rewarded with higher rankings in search results. So that competitor who invested in improving their website? They will start showing above you in organic searches. Every time you run a search related to your product or service and see their name, consider that it could have been you at the top of the page.

Nowadays, there are so many tools available for calculating site load speed and underlying causes. Pingdom, Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, and WebPagetest all offer free or freemium tools with information on existing website performance and suggestions/recommendations for improving. PageSpeed Insights even gives you a link to download optimised image, JavaScript, and CSS resources for your page. There are also a plethora of Chrome and Firefox extensions available for in-page reviews for quick health checks. For example, the Page Load Time extension on Chrome breaks down load time by category and is super simple to use. Don’t feel intimidated by the technical aspects or amount of work required – the internet is trying to help you!

From here on out, the importance of improving website performance and speed load times will only grow. Don’t get left behind.

If you have any questions or want to get started increasing your online revenue; give us a call – we can help with that 😉

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