For the April to June 2016 issue of The Singapore Marketer, I was interviewed by the Marketing Institute of Singapore. Here, I talked about how I started in digital marketing and gave vital information on how to be better at it. Check out the full interview below:

Daniel Heerkens is a Dutch Entrepreneur who has worked & studied in more than seven countries. Working previously for FMCG multinationals in The Netherlands, Malaysia & Singapore, he is now the Digital Marketing Strategy Expert at 2Stallions. TSM had a chat with Daniel to get his valuable insights on the digital marketing landscape and its correlation with public relations.

Daniel Heerkens Interview

What does your job entail at 2Stallions?

I am in charge of developing, planning and monitoring the digital strategy for MNC and SME business in South East Asia. I manage and monitor the digital marketing of the business, which means managing all facets of interaction with the client, including Web Development & Design, Content Marketing, SEO, SEM, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing, Display Advertising and Display Retargeting. I am a bit of a digital nerd and love analysing web analytics data and interpreting reports for my clients. I have a great team supporting me.

They always keep the client at the fronts of their mind to ensure conversion rates are continually tested and optimised. My goal is to expand upon our testing culture for the whole business. Besides that, I’m involved in several committees at different Chambers of Commerce as well as Business Associations, where I advise MNCs and SMEs about their digital strategy. I can clearly see that while most businesses seem to understand the power of digital innovation, many have failed to apply it to transform their own business.

We do our best to educate businesses. For example, we ran a Content Marketing workshop based on demand from clients and the tech community. These are small steps to get more awareness for digital innovation, while keeping a low barrier to entry for all business, large or small, to learn and hopefully, implement it in their own business. We also run events to help the spread of digital innovation. Our recent event #SpeakEasySG, which attracted over a 100 attendees, explored how businesses at different stages of growth approach their digital strategy.

How did you get your start as a digital marketer?

I have always had a passion for marketing – or should I say understanding people’s behaviour and how to help them solve their challenges. My first experience was with FrieslandCampina (also known as Dutch Lady & Friso in S.E.A), researching why mothers are up trading from mainstream to premium infant formula and what were the underlying reasons for that behaviour. Part of the research indicated that these mothers would surf the web and find relevant information to justify their purchase of more expensive milk for their babies. Their unique behaviour fuelled me to pursue a career in Marketing with an emphasis on Digital.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge and frustration is the lack of action taken by many businesses despite seeing the changing digital landscape. For example, in the Netherlands, where I’m from, I can clearly see that eCommerce has made a significant impact on our shopping streets. Outside of the top 4 cities in the country, the shopping space is clearly shifting to Digital, with shopping streets becoming emptier and emptier. This change happened within the last five years. This shows that Digital is rapidly transforming the entire business landscape and if businesses continue to ignore it, they may not be around for very long.

Share with us one campaign you did for 2Stallions with a remarkable result.

While we run many campaigns, our most recent one sticks out in my mind due to the remarkable result we achieved. We had a client approach us to drive online ticket sales to his event with TWO major challenges:

• We had only one week to promote the event.

• With eight other similar events happening in the month, there was tough competition for the same demographic.

We took on the challenge and ran the campaign for five days. Our team ran a three-pronged advertising campaign on Facebook and also ran online advertising on search engines to drive traffic to the ticket sales page AND convert these visitors. In five days, we were able to drive a staggering 2,772 in online ticket purchases. The client was over the moon as he saved on offline marketing channels, sales and printing costs AND he made an 18X return on investment. Needless to say, we’ve cemented a long-term partnership with this client moving forward.

Please list three things one/a company should be aware of when embarking on a new digital marketing campaign.

When hiring a digital marketing agency for your digital marketing campaign, you should do a check on the following:

1. Practice what you preach There is a very low barrier to entry in the digital space, which means there are many digital companies out in the field. You will find a very large spectrum in the quality of the work on offer. I honestly believe in walking the talk. When a company claims to be an expert in SEO/Content Marketing, don’t just ask them for their portfolio of clients but also for work they do for themselves. It’s like dealing with an interior designer. Would you trust one who doesn’t have a good looking showroom to create a great space for you? For digital agencies, have a look at their SEO or traffic before they start on an SEO/SEM campaign for your business. Alexa. com, owned by Amazon, is a simple and effective way to check their site traffic and ranking.

2. Price shouldn’t always be a reference point Good quality comes with a reasonable price tag, especially when you expect proper development and design to be done. Don’t expect the world if you are not willing to pay for it. Shortcuts also happen a lot in the Digital Space under the hood, so be smart about it and ask for clear explanations. A digital agency should be able to answer sufficiently to your questions as to HOW the campaign they are running is effective for your business.

3. Change is the only constant in Digital Digital is changing so fast that even digital companies are continually playing catch up to the latest trends in SEO or Content Marketing. Always make sure you work with an Agency who knows the latest digital innovations that can implement it for your business. See if they have their own blog, how much traffic their website gets (see for reference) and whether they have good references.

Digital has quickly become a crucial component of every marketer’s brand strategy, what are the important elements of synergising public relations and digital efforts?

Synergising public relations and digital efforts is the key to every marketers brand strategy. I have done quite a fair bit of Digital International PR and based on my experience the most important elements are:

1. Be featured on websites with a high thought leadership authority that is ranked well in Google. These website are seen as the leader in their particular industry and other websites will take their news and put it on their own websites.

2. When these websites feature you, it is crucial to receive a link back to your website. This will drive immediate traffic to your website and it may also improve your website’s ranking on Google for SEO. 3. Analyse your closest competitor in your industry field and see how they are doing in the digital space. Also study the industry leader in the Digital Space and try to find a substitute product or service you can leverage on.

3. Analyse your closest competitor in your industry field and see how they are doing in the digital space. Also study the industry leader in the Digital Space and try to find a substitute product or service you can leverage on.

What is digital one-big-thing that one should be looking forward in the year 2016?

The Digital One-Big-Thing in 2016 is clearly Content Marketing combined with Marketing Automation. Those two elements are crucial in attracting potential leads and converting them into customers. Content Marketing & Marketing Automation are not simply buzzwords but important drivers of businesses online.

What kind of digital marketer would you call yourself?

I think of myself as a ‘roll-up-my-sleeve-and-get-dirty’ type of Digital marketer. I am hands-on with clients and strongly believe in explaining concepts to businesses to ensure they understand their investment fully. Our diverse team has excellent technical and design capabilities that synergise to help clients achieve their business objectives online.

Bringing your business online is a big step and for any business. This decision is motivated by business objectives that are unique to each. For any business, including yours, there will be business objectives that lead to a decision to create a business website.

However, all of these objectives eventually lead to the same end – improving the bottom line of your business. In this article, you will find out how to convince your website visitors to become your customers. And after that, you’ll know how you can refine that process to increase the number of visitors that convert to customers.


Before going ahead, we want to define some terms that you will encounter here:

  • Conversion – An action desired by you taken by a visitor to your website
  • Conversion Rate – The % of website visitors that took the desired action
  • Conversion Funnel – An actual channel through which you send website visitors to convert to your desired goal, such as becoming customers
  • Conversion Optimization – Tweaking your website to improve your conversion rate at different parts of your funnel
  • Call-To-Action A call to action is anything that entices your visitors/leads into taking an action desired by you on your website.

Conversion Funnels

Let’s take a moment and look at your brick and mortar store. You probably have a few ways to draw people to your store through your business strategy and marketing efforts. You hope that each person that visits buys something from you.

When a visitor steps into your store, he/she may either approach one of your friendly sales staff or may prefer to browse on his/her own. Based on their conversation or browsing, some decide to leave without buying anything. There will be some who may mull over products and decide not to buy this time. However, there’s a possibility that they may return to purchase. And finally, some of these visitors will end up purchasing. If you were to analyze your sales, you may find that those who interacted with your sales staff are more likely to buy from your store or that the items closer to the front of the store or in the display as they are walking in or those at the eye level of your customer end up selling better than other products.

What we walked through above are the conversion funnels for your physical store where you acquired visitors, activated them by getting them to engage with staff or products and finally monetized some visitors by selling to them.

Setting up your Conversion Funnel

Setting up conversion funnels will allow you to mirror a similar sales experience on your website. While there are many versions out there, we really like the customer journey stages depicted below as it outlines the customer journey beyond conversion. Your relationship with customers should not end after the initial sale.

Potential Customer Lifecycle Stages
Originally shared by Neil Patel

Do not confuse the above for a conversion funnel. A conversion funnel is an actual path that you set up for visitors while what is shown above are the potential stages of people in their interaction with your business online.

As a business, it is extremely difficult to focus on building conversion funnels for every stage of the customer journey at once. As outlined by the Digital Marketer, it’s wiser to create funnels for different stages of the customer journey to nudge them towards your goal. They proposed – Acquisition, Activation, and Monetization – which concentrate on customer psychology progression to improve your conversions.

Acquisition – Converting a visitor to lead

If you are a business just starting out, you likely want more targeted visitors to gain awareness of your business. Here is an example conversion funnel for acquisition:

If you are a fashion eCommerce site, you can incentivize visitors to sign up to your site by giving away a free Lookbook. Why a Lookbook? The Lookbook acts as a fantastic lead magnet because the people eager to download it are exactly the type of visitors you want as leads. Your Lookbook is also a great way to provide these readers with value through your own product advertising. At the end of the Lookbook, you can push these leads with an offer of a coupon code for a low-cost item. You should continue sending them useful content in the fashion space to keep your brand in their mind. A potential conversion funnel for this scenario is an email opt-in form that shows up on the homepage or as a pop-up on sub-pages with the desired action of typing in their email address and pressing the ‘subscribe’ button.

Email Opt-in Popup - 2Stallions
Email Opt-in Popup To Entice Visitors To Convert To Leads

Do not SELL to someone who has just landed on your website. Most visitors need to trust a brand before becoming customers. That is why you create trust by providing them something of value by using a free lead magnet. This lets you push the qualified leads to the next stage in the customer journey. Remember, at this point, you should not be looking to make a profit or a sale with these leads.

Activation – Converting a lead to a first-time customer

If you’re a business that already has a good online presence, your focus will be on Activation. This is where you prompt and engage your leads to become customers. Back to our example:

convert lead to first time customerIf a lead has downloaded your Lookbook and then used the coupon code, then this lead is ready to make a purchase. If they haven’t made use of the coupon code, you can follow up with a reminder to use the coupon code. A coupon code is meant to make it easy for the lead to make a purchase and it’s important to push them to make that purchase – this purchase shouldn’t be a big-ticket purchase as these leads are still on the fence. Something simple like a tie would suffice. Price at something they wouldn’t balk at. You can also consider offering time-limited offers to spur them into action. The touch point with the lead would be through their email collected via Acquisition to get them to land on the tie product page. The desired action would be adding the product to the cart and completing the checkout process.

To activate users, you are trying to drive them to purchase from you and move them from being a lead to a customer. Begin by getting them to take small actions. Consistently send them useful content and asking them to like it or comment on it.

Monetization – Converting first-time customers to regulars

Finally, once you have built a community of customers, you need to ensure these existing customers continue to buy from you and refer more leads to you. Going back to our earlier example:

Someone who has bought a heavily discounted tie from you is now invested and trusts your business. You can send them content on up-sells. This can be a shirt or pants that would go well with the tie they bought. These items are of higher value but now, the customer trusts your business and the quality you provide. Get these customers to refer friends by incentivizing them with discounts to continue feeding the conversion channel you built for Activation of leads.

Your goal is to drive your customer to purchase higher ticket items that complement their earlier purchases and incentivize them to refer their friends.

Conversion Optimization

Once you have the funnels set up for the different stages of your customer lifecycle on your business website, track them using Google Analytics and set up goals for your conversions. Google Analytics provides you data. This is essential feedback as to how your strategies are doing. You will also know whether it is giving you the returns you need. This data is important when it comes to conversion optimization. It will show the exact touch points of visitors from the page they land on your website and the different steps they take on your website. Although you build specific funnels, it is likely that visitors will end up landing on other pages in your site before beginning on the funnel you set for them. A conversion in the diagram below is defined as an enquiry left by a visitor.

conversion funnel sample

As you can see, at every stage, there are many visitors that leave your funnel. This is known as ‘drop-off’. When you think about conversion optimization, your goal is to reduce the drop-off rate. There are a number of approaches to improve that figure.

Optimize By Page

Optimize the inquiry form page by experimenting with the copywriting or changing the call to action design. As stated in the image, optimization of 1% has the potential to jumpstart your enquiries by 50%. A general rule of thumb is to begin tweaks from the bottom of the funnel (unless there is an identifiable website page which has a significant drop off that requires immediate attention). Small improvements further down the funnel lead to significant changes to overall results. It is crucial to do constant testing. It’s also important to give changes enough time to identify which ones improved your results.

Besides the pages that you specifically built for your funnel, look through your analytics. See the path visitors take on your website to reach your desired action and optimize the most popular ones.

Optimize By Referrals

Through your analytics, it is possible to see where your users came from. The source of this traffic can also be tweaked. For example, if you’re running a PPC advertising campaign and you see this source is seeing the most drop off in your users in the funnel, you can assume that either your ads need to be tweaked or it’s not a marketing channel that’s working for you.

Optimize By Device

Look at what device your users are using to view your landing page. If you have a high number of mobile users and your landing page isn’t mobile friendly, you should change that pronto.

Optimize by Browsers

Often, it never crosses your mind that your funnel needs to work across different browsers. This is because you are used to using Chrome or Firefox. Check your analytics to see which browsers are the most popular. Test on those browsers what the user experience is like for them in your funnel. Optimize your code to work well across the most popular browsers based on your analytics.

Conversion is a time-intensive endeavor that requires plenty of research. You need to have an understanding of your customers and their habits, as well as of your own business. Although it is a time-consuming process, conversion funnels are the best way for to turn website visitors into regular customers. This will eventually help you meet your ultimate business objectives.

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