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I will be honest, I struggled to write this week’s newsletter. Not because of the lack of information available or news topics to discuss. I mean, Instagram launched a new feature (Reels) and the President of the United States threatened to block TikTok. There are a ton of things to talk about and with the ongoing pandemic, digital marketing importance keeps becoming more and more critical.
The struggle isn’t if there’s enough to talk about. Rather, what of it is actually worth having a discussion around. I will speak for myself here, you see if any of this pertains to you.
This industry moves fast. For the last 15 years or so, the concern for most marketers is the threat of being left behind. The onslaught of new platforms and the sheer overwhelming amount of users is staggering. Each one of these platforms has a change or die attitude. They like to move just enough so you can never leave. This is good for MAU or DAU, but an actual terrible product. For the people who exist in this space professionally, change happens at such a rapid pace that experts in specific fields are rare.
Pressure to be good at all things digital mean we’re a jack of all trades, master of none. Sure, we might be better at some facets than others, but we don’t have the skills to be a true master. For example, if you’re in PR you probably wear many hats. You’ll have tasks that are traditional PR work. At the same time, you’re writing blogs, social media copy, micro-copy, landing pages, static pages, sales emails, internal comms, and a slew of C-Suite ghost writing so the entire board that makes sure you have a paycheck don’t sound like complete morons. Well, at least their writing won’t. You can’t control the absolute garbage that comes out of their mouth.
The lack of commitment from organizations to their own marketing department has left many companies totally unprepared for this moment. Suddenly transitioning to digital, which would have taken 3-5 years with real investment and a huge culture shift within the organization needed to happen 3 months ago. Services, tools, systems, interfaces are all being rushed. Yet with the same size team and no specialists. Now that email and landing pages are crucial to sustaining business, will you be allowed to hire a dedicated email copywriter? What about a designer that only works in email?
The darker side of this conversation is that many of these businesses have their marketing departments on the chopping block. Once the digital transition is complete, whether it’s good is a different story, the creators will be shown out the door for investments in a greater sales force. There are already many, many great marketers that have lost their jobs in this economy, and there’s still a long way to go.
So what do we do? We bury ourselves in research. We read more about how to craft the perfect Instagram image. Better ways to build infographics. How to optimize GMB. More hacks! More screaming into the void. We’re stuck in an echo chamber. We know what to do. Customers know what problem they have and we need to show them how we can solve it. No tricks. No hacks. One more webinar will not solve it.
The solution is to stop researching and start taking action. You know what to do and how to do it. Occasionally you might need to Google how to technically do the thing, like what button to push or what the dimensions are. But we know how to market. We’ve been doing it for a long time. The problem is it’s so easy to just keep researching. I know I do it a lot. I love listening to other marketers. I love watching deep dives. I adore reading whitepapers. Of course these are all created by marketers that are selling a product to other marketers. They’re selling to us and we’re falling for it. How Moz or SearchEngineLand does SEO differs completely from how I optimize content selling insurance. I’m speaking to a different audience with different needs, with a totally different technical skill set.
Hosting webinars is a fantastic idea for selling marketing middleware to people who sit at their desk all day. A webinar for landscape contractors and business insurance? GTFO.
The best thing you can do is sell marketing internally. Convince other departments, managers, C-Suite and any consultants that marketing is vital to any business that wants to grow through this extended downturn. Their instinct is to hire more salespeople. They have an estimate on how much sales each person brings in. If you double it, that must mean you double your sales. But when you take away all marketing, that sales estimate will not stick. Tell them about how branding through a depression is critical. Explain to them that consistent, targeted, valuable content will increase sales. They need to hear this now more than ever. There will be some very tough decisions coming to more businesses in the next 6 months.
This might be unpopular, but we need to address our standing in the office. Being the quirky department that struggles with soft skills around the office isn’t helping our cause. This used to be the job of the CMO, to be the leader and voice of the department in board meetings. For a lot of companies, we’ve lost this voice as marketing has been merged with sales and the CMO role eliminated.
Its time for a different approach. One of the greatest strengths of marketing is to recognize trends and patterns, then capitalize on them. We need to stop thinking the world is what it was like in the late-aughts and early 2010’s. Digital marketing simply being cool isn’t enough anymore. Everyone is trying to hold on right now and I understand things are hard. Change is coming, though. We need to dig deeper and understand what our real fit in the organization and what we can accomplish. We can set the expectations. Before we can do that, we have to know those expectations first.
Okay, I know doomscrolling is a problem and I’m not exactly making it any better with this essay. So let me get to the point on what you can do about it. You know all that stuff you’ve always thought about doing? All those new marketing strategies and outreach programs? Do it. Go ahead, do it without even asking for permission. Hell, I give you permission. There you go. Execute all those tactics, you could never get approval and do it without remorse. Don’t worry, as I mentioned above, we’re all getting fired any way so might as well go out in a blaze of glory.
Replay: 3 Ways to Respond to Stress | Leadership – Coaching – Life
As you can tell, thinking about tough situations has been on my mind for some time. It has for all of us over the last 4 months or so. This is a video I made only about a month ago, but I wanted to re-share it. Times aren’t going to get any easier. Focusing on these three things will put you in the best spot for success.
To acknowledge and move forward with change, you need to do these three things.
- Learn from the past.
What happened? What did I do? What could have been different? What happened then that wished didn’t happen? Review but don’t dwell. Don’t look to place blame or continue to play the victim. Just accept it for what it was and learn from it. What did I learn from that situation? What can I gain out of it by looking back and reviewing it?
- Take care of the present.
Take care of yourself. Take the time for a break. Protect the things that you have. Take care of the things that are right now.
- Prepare for the future.
What is coming? What is coming in the future that might be changing in your industry or at your company or on your team? How can you prepare for those things?