Covid19 marketing where next?

Chart showing downward trend after COVID19 outbreak

After COVID19 marketing may look different. Since the Pandemic began, my inbox has been full of webinar invites and notices about virtual events that are replacing the real-life ones.  Without doubt, the pandemic has changed marketing. I sense that some of this change is here to stay.

B2B Marketing wrote a useful post about the future of trade shows, making the points that some groups of people will be unable or unwilling to travel for a while. They suggest that future events may need virtual and physical elements.

Meanwhile we are becoming experts on Zoom, joining events without wasting time travelling. With yoga classes and musical performances also taking place this way, I can see there is potential to use this medium much more creatively.

Positive and negative change

With digital communications replacing business travel, distance doesn’t matter any more. If your business tended to be local or regional because of the practicality of travelling, it may be able to reach further now. For example, a sales manager in the South of England can talk to accounts in the North more easily with online tools, and save many litres of fuel.

However telesales, the mainstay of leads generation for many IT businesses, will struggle when many are working from home. It will become harder to reach people who are mostly out of the office using a mobile phone.

Content marketing is exploding

Content marketing was already the biggest trend in marketing. However as more people do it, it’s becoming more competitive. This means success will depend on keeping up with search engine optimisation and choosing appealing topics.

As an independent PR and writer, I sometimes take a cynical or critical view of the rest of the marketing industry. I actually don’t agree that content marketing should work to rigid content plans. The COVID19 outbreak has shown how fast everything can change, and how a pre-set content plan can rapidly become irrelevant and even wrong.  I think a content strategy is better. Certain topics are included in a plan, but the calendar should be left open to address the most topical question for each day or week.

How to prepare for recovery?

It would be helpful to know what the recovery will look like and when each business sector will be able to function normally again. In the absence of that information, it may be better to prepare for more than one scenario, and allow for a certain amount of social distancing to remain in the medium term.

Without trade shows and conferences, other forms of leads generation will be needed. This means that the budgets – whatever will be available – will go somewhere else.

People will continue to work and read online, so digital marketing is likely to appear even more attractive post pandemic.

On the PR and advertising side, publishers are trying hard to keep going as before – so these routes to market should not change much and will hopefully emerge as valuable channels to market, particularly where there is a leads generation mechanism along with branding.

Launching in lockdown?

Whether you launch or not will depend on what you sell. If your customers are firefighting or furloughed, this may not be the time for a launch. Budgets are constrained where incomes have dried up. Some companies are investing, for example where they need to adjust to remote working and equip their teams to do this properly for the long term. But the challenge is that no one can plan very far forward.

Business has been different during lockdown. The pandemic period has seen people and communities coming together in mutual support and we have noticed examples of great generosity as businesses help others through the darkest period. Companies that have been able to do this will emerge with new respect on the other side.

For many the difficult locked-down period has been mostly a time to time to keep in touch with customers and build relationships, and complete some housekeeping tasks ready for the recovery. It’s a great time to update  websites.

Covid19 marketing – enterprise in adversity

It is good to see a business finding opportunity amid disaster. Chris Brazil at Ideal Exhibitions has done just that. Congratulations to Chris for seeing the opportunity. After stories of people’s washing appearing in the background of Zoom calls, his branded backdrops will ensure our domestic environment never distracts in a conference call again!

Anna Wood

Feel free to get in touch to talk about content marketing, blogging or PR:  info@technologypr.co.uk 

Links:

Branded backdrops

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6648238681058619393/

The future of face-to-face events

https://www.b2bmarketing.net/en-gb/resources/blog/show-must-go-or-must-it-what-b2b-marketing-leaders-think-about-future-face-face

Ten Marketing Trends for 2020

What will be the new marketing trends for 2020? This is my suggestion. I wold love to know if you agree?

1. Content creation –

I have made this number one on my list of marketing trends for 2020 because so many businesses are professionalising the creation of their marketing “content”. With larger companies already on this route, smaller businesses should follow during the coming year.

Larger businesses are hiring armies of in-house specialists to work as content specialists, and I am sure that the strong demand for digital content skills will continue into 2020. The work requires ideas, facts and clear business writing. Video will be part of this story along with blog posting and podcasts.

With everyone publishing so much information, I see two issues. First, audiences are becoming overloaded and may switch off completely. Second, there is a temptation for companies to follow a similar pattern of content to their competitors. That means that the companies who think harder and work more on their creative approach will be the ones whose content stands out. The challenge for many will be to work creatively and still gain approval from their more risk-averse leadership teams.

2. Website design –

Website design goes hand in hand with content and is also important in the list of marketing trends for 2020. The chief trend in website design is to move from “responsive” (mobile friendly) to “mobile first” in order to maintain search engine ranking. This is the chief factor dictating the current redesign of corporate websites. Websites that are “mobile first” have the text and images arranged in longer columns for scrolling. The challenge I see here is that the size of a smartphone screen is not entirely consistent with the explosive growth we are seeing in content – there is only so much you can see on a small screen! And even smaller screens are coming! We must remember those who are reading their email on a wristwatch! I feel that clarity of message, conciseness and eye-catching graphics will be top priority for digital marketing design in 2020.

3. Sustainability –

We have never been so aware of the environment and the issues around carbon, waste and the natural world under threat. I predict that by the end of 2020 every responsible company will want to present a policy on sustainability. The environment is hugely important so this has to be high on the list of marketing trends for the coming year.

I believe that in 2020 it will be essential for businesses to show that they are good citizens, worthy of our custom and doing their part to mitigate the climate emergency. Not trying to look after the environment will be viewed as bad practice – as bad as tax evasion and exploiting vulnerable workers.

4. Sales leads –

The strongest asset a professional marketer can have on their CV in 2020 is a proven track record of creating viable sales leads in their business sector. Expect strong competition and higher salaries for these individuals in the coming year.

5. Email marketing –

Email marketing has been the mainstay of leads generation for many businesses during 2019, but will this change? As with other digital content, the issue is that there is too much of it. I would like to see those who send out marketing emails every day starting to reduce this to fewer, more important messages.

On the recipient’s side, we are getting better at protecting ourselves from the deluge of uncontrolled email. Corporate email servers can identify scam messages and filter out the “rubbish” from employees’ inboxes. Remember that recipients may need to request the server to put emails from a new supplier in their in-box – this means that some email remains invisible in the junk file, and effectively adds a new “opt-in” to the acceptance of a marketing message.

6. Privacy Legislation –

Privacy Legislation is next on my list of marketing trends for 2020. GDPR set the rules for email marketing during the last three years. However, more privacy legislation governing cookies, SMS and telemarketing is probably around the corner for Europe, and I judge that UK businesses should still respect this after the UK leaves the EU.

European legislators are particularly concerned about the inappropriate collection of data through cookies. When you view a web page, it triggers a response from the server which sets a cookie on your browser. After this, each subsequent visit to the same website will trigger more cookies and build an overall picture of your browsing activity which is far more detailed than most people realise. Cookies for tracking and profiling consumers must be consensual to comply with law. The regulators are particularly concerned about real time bidding for online display ads where personal data may be shared with advertisers, etc.

Meanwhile we’re seeing a strong trend towards data driven marketing and more powerful analytics. This will be an interesting area to watch in 2020. Privacy complaints are probably set to grow as data analysis becomes more powerful and data scientists discover exactly where the privacy boundaries are going to be.

7. Social Media –

Arguments about personal privacy are bound to continue. Facebook was fined $5 billion for its privacy errors last year. People will be watching for more breaches of trust and more opportunities for large penalties.

Meanwhile as each social platform becomes crowded or loses its shine, smart consumers will abandon older platforms and move on to newer ones that promise something novel and better.

8. Business Media –

In my own work, I am particularly interested in the new business models appearing in B2B and technology media. In the technology sectors, publishers are moving closer to IT and component distribution with American businesses leading the way. Indeed publishers’ reader lists are incredibly valuable and publishers have been morphing into marketing businesses for some time. I feel a line has been crossed where many publishers are now primarily marketing or events businesses, where disseminating news and opinion has become a means to the end not the end in itself.  Other publications remain as valued news vehicles and maybe always will be.

9. PR –

PR has changed a little – and I detect more interest in PR for the new decade starting in 2020. The chief change is the arrival of new publications, professional bloggers and influencers.

PR remains a great way to reach out to new audiences. PR content can be placed in third party media, including blog sites and social channels – all these are established routes to the market for most businesses.

10. Personal service –

With the digital world so busy, a handwritten note or a posted brochure can be a great way to attract attention!

These marketing trends should set the tone for the new year ahead.

How will you reach out to new audiences in 2020? If marketing content and PR are part of your plan, and if you may need a copywriter/PR consultant,  please contact anna.wood@technologypr.co.uk

PR and Digital Marketing

PR and digital marketing work well together. I call myself a PR consultant working with technology businesses. However the work overlaps with Digital Marketing.

You will probably know that PR stands for Public Relations. That name is quite strange. In the field where I work, most companies who care about PR simply see it as part of their marketing communications.

PR and some history

The old school Public Relations profession was born after the Second World War when people from the Diplomatic Corps and Secret Services went back to Civvie Street and offered their skills to business.  Employers found their skills useful for wining and dining clients, public speaking and meeting and greeting VIPs.

Today most people think of PR in connection with a company’s reputation, and especially in connection with positive stories in the media. Media used to mean newspapers, magazines and  broadcast channels – today it includes online and social media as well. There are business and technical media for every market sector and niche you can think of, especially when you include the growing numbers of bloggers.

PR and Digital Marketing

We have reached a point where online media matter more than print media.  Readers are more aware of the environment and don’t want to throw paper away after a short life. It is often easier to read news online, and companies are thinking digitally for much of their marketing – their chief aim is to be visible online and rank high in search engines, and online articles play an important role here.

The relationship between PR and Digital Marketing is interesting. There was a period a few years ago when Digital Marketing seemed to sideline PR, because it promised quick measurable results which many business people found attractive. It also offered channels that are free of charge – the only cost is the resources used to create content and promote it.

However Digital Marketing changes all the time and it is becoming more sophisticated. Now people want high quality well-written content delivered  to an editorial plan just like in the world of PR and publishing.  People want articles and blog posts that are of publishable standard and “a good read”.  In the context of online media, PR skills have become highly relevant again.

It has become important to have someone on your team who can write, and write fast in a readable way. They need to be able to write for humans and for search engines, so they need to have a good understanding of the digital environment.  Ideally they will be able to write a piece which works well to promote your company, and helps to bring organic traffic to your website from the Internet.

This form of PR helps companies to become visible in their market AND contributes to search engine ranking. It can explain  complex marketing messages.  It can reach out beyond a company’s own customer list and database and touch new contacts. Today there are many marketing and digital channels to consider. PR has moved on a long way from wining and dining clients.

Results-based PR

People like the idea of results-based PR as they like to be able to measure how it provides a return on investment. In the past, we used to measure PR coverage by a unit called AVE. AVE meant “advertising value equivalent”. We simply measured the size of the article and looked to see what it would cost to buy an advertisement of the same size. It was very simple.

We also measured the results of our work by column inches in the printed publications. This was OK up to a point, but it didn’t measure how helpful an article was. If an article is negative, it can be exactly the opposite of helpful and not a good investment at all.

So there was always debate about the value of PR. Some people felt it could not be measured. It was difficult to know whether an investment in PR had been worthwhile.

Also, all publications were treated the same – there was no comparison of their credibility. In reality some titles are more respected than others and the audience is often very different when you compare publications that appear at first to be addressing the same readership.

Now with most publications appearing online, and most people becoming proficient with analytics, the measurement of PR has completely changed.  The latest digital reporting tools for PR are amazing. Results-based PR is much easier to achieve now. You can create reports that show exactly what has appeared and where. You can see an influencer score for each publication. You can also see how many readers it has, and the number of people it reached. The number reached will often be higher than the number of subscribers.

You can also see how many links have been added, from the articles to your own website. The links are important for two reasons. First, they can bring traffic to your website, as referrals. Second, they indicate that your website is an important site on the internet. This makes the links valuable in marketing – they help to bring a website to a higher position in search engines.

This has been a huge change for the PR industry, which traditionally didn’t show the results of its work this way.

I would still say that you can judge a campaign by gut feel. If it feels good, that usually means that it has worked effectively. People generally know if something has been worthwhile, but the question is how to prove that on paper? Sometimes it helps to demonstrate results in terms of statistics and numbers.

Results-based PR is here

I am using a very effective PR reporting tool. From this, I can see that the  campaign I worked on during January and February created very close to 100 articles. They reached around 300,000 people in the specialist electronics design markets. The campaign added 43 new back links to the company’s website. We can see pictures of the articles, showing the individual sites where each item appeared, and we can rank them in terms of their  credibility within their industry.

 

B2B Marketing Post GDPR

With the GDPR research and compliance just about complete for my own business, I have been thinking how B2B marketing will progress in the post GDPR world. GDPR forces us to think more like sales people, who focus closely on the best opportunities, and less like the now old-style digital marketer who worked extensively with large databases, click rates and “opens”. People liked the predictability of working that way – knowing that if you email 10,000 contacts, 1% would respond gave a neat way to justify the cost of a campaign. The trouble with those campaigns was that the other 9,900 people receiving your email message may have viewed it as rubbish, or mildly annoying at best. From next week we should see fewer unwanted messages in our inboxes.

GDPR – people choose what they receive

But it poses a question for B2B marketers. Until the 25th of May, email marketing was the number one tool in the digital marketing toolbox for customer acquisition, however from next week an email shot to cold list or a third party database won’t be legal unless the contacts have “opted in” to receive communications – and going forwards the marketing lists available are likely to be quite a lot smaller but not proportionately cheaper.

The remaining digital options for customer acquisition are: pay per click advertising, blogging and online PR / advertising, the social networks, and organic search – where most businesses would need to invest in SEO and a tool to watch who visits your website. Each of these options needs a bit of investment. It will still be possible to offer webinars and white papers, but when the GDPR rules come into force website visitors will be able to be more selective about the messages they agree to receive, so the new contacts or “leads” coming from these methods are likely to be fewer.

The social networks can be effective for business development, and will present a good opportunity for some businesses – in particular, I know people who have used the paid promotional options on Linkedin with good results. However the social networks can only work IF the individuals you want to do business with are active users there, so they don’t work for everyone – and as their algorithms are continually changing, it would be a sensible to keep this kind of activity under constant review.

It seems that the era of the cheap digital marketing is now behind us, and marketing budgets may need to be re-focused.

The traditional ways of finding new customers – trade shows, events, telesales and even direct mail – will continue largely unchanged and may even see a little revival.

How to move forwards?  We should watch what is happening with trade media. They provide good channels for B2B promotions but have suffered in the last few years from the shift away from print and loss of advertising revenue.  Now they could see an increase in interest – probably mostly in the digital area. In particular, I believe this will be the case where the publishers with greater foresight have already established useful publications for lots of specialist market sectors. There has been a gentle movement in this direction for some time. The same goes for exhibitions and conferences where there’s a clear trend towards smaller, more focused events.

Content marketing for leads

Content marketing is high priority for technology businesses. This means that the resources and budget that are allocated to content marketing are growing.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a form of marketing where you aim to meet prospective customers by posting the content they are looking for on your website. It is a key part of digital marketing for many businesses as it brings new contacts by organic search. That is to say it brings new contacts from people searching on the internet. This means that the “content” you publish should answer the questions your prospective customers are currently asking.   The content can be text, images, info-graphics, video or podcasts, However most of content is simply text. This is probably because it is the easiest and least expensive to create. Video comes second because people seem to love viewing video.

Case studies are very popular for content marketing, especially for technology companies. They are useful for marketing any high value product or service as a success story should encourage more buyers to go ahead and purchase the same solution.

A story or article for content marketing should be unique, i.e. it should not be available anywhere else on the Internet. This is another reason for choosing customer case studies, they belong to your company, and are ideal material to use.

However, companies use other forms of written content as well. “How To” articles and guides to best practice are popular too. News items and comments on industry news are also good. A new piece of research, presented as a report, can work well, because it contains information that is genuinely valuable to the reader.

Whatever the content, it needs to work effectively for search engines as well as human readers. This means that the writer should write with an awareness of the SEO goals, or the text may be edited later to be more suitable for search engines.

While this sounds easy, businesses often find it hard to create enough content that is good enough to use.  It should contain something that people really want to read if it is to work well.

One way to achieve this is to take an editorial approach as editors are used to writing for their readers and understand what makes a good read.

Working to a content plan or content strategy will help.  A content plan will ensure that the writing keeps to the right topics, and that it covers the areas people are interested in. The best content can be often case studies, as mentioned before, or it can be an article based on new research or an interview with a subject expert.

Finally it should be written to a high standard which reflects your company’s brand and values.

Content marketing takes more effort than people realise, but when it is done well, it becomes a very useful source of new contacts. However, when you compare content marketing with other ways of gaining new contacts, such as attending a trade show or staging a marketing campaign, these also come with significant costs. It is not surprising then that if content marketing is to be effective, it is unlikely to be easy or free.

 

Case studies – ten ways to use them

Case studies for marketing. Here’s a quick article to suggest some more ways to use those valuable customer stories. Ideally you would make a case study for every market sector you sell to. First, collect the details of the story and have it written up as a case study, to make a marketing document that can be used as a sales tool. Then there are plenty of ways you can use this information in your marketing.

Case studies for marketing

  1. Number one on my list has to be Content Marketing because it has become so important. There are a few different ways of doing this, but the principle is simply to display a brief version of the story on your website, and collect the email addresses of the visitors downloading the story.
  2. Use the customer story in a PR campaign. Interesting stories about well-known organisations and forays into new technology are very often suitable for editorial news and features.
  3. Email marketing – refer to the customer story in an email marketing message, and  use a link to track “opens”. Many companies are now using a marketing automation system such as Hubspot to streamline this process.
  4. Share the case study with existing customers. A new case study is a great topic for a company newsletter or a presentation to a user group.
  5. A ground-breaking case study is a brilliant topic for a conference presentation.
  6. Do something different and present the story in other ways – for example it’s no trouble to use a smartphone to make a video for posting and sharing.
  7. I have seen detailed technical case studies being used very successfully for training sales people and distributors overseas.
  8. Why not enter a customer success story for an industry award?
  9. Add case studies to tender submissions to build credibility and strengthen a bid for a major contract.
  10. Finally, this is one to make your internal team feel connected with customers, even if they are not in customer-facing roles. Use glossy pictures of customers using your products to brighten up your offices. It’s also good to have them in reception and meeting rooms. Of course, this only works for certain kinds of products and services!

With so many ways to use a customer case study, I believe it is well worth taking the trouble to put a story together and have it written in the right style and format for your business. The first customer in a new market sector could be an ideal candidate for a case study, as their story will help to gain a foothold and build credibility in the new market area.  Ideally your case study library will contain examples from every sector of your customer base. Depending upon how you plan to use your case study, you may need anything from 500 to 1,500 words of text, but the average length for a business case study is usually between 800 and 1,000 words. That’s long enough to convey a lot of detail, but still short enough to be an easy read.

For the website, your case study may need to be shorter, to grab attention as a reader skims your site. Most companies have a preferred style for their case studies and work to that.

Please contact me at info@technologypr.co.uk to request samples from my case study portfolio.