On June 30, 2020, Brad Geddes joined Simplilearn's Step Into the Sunlight webinar series to discuss how self-isolation has impacted digital marketers' work.
Brad is the PPC Chair at Simplilearn and Market Motive and the Co-Founder of AdAlysis. He is the author of "Advanced Google AdWords" and frequently writes columns for Search Engine Land. He has keynoted and spoken at more than 125 conferences and has led more than 100 Google Ads seminars.
Brad gave his views on how digital marketing work will change in the post-COVID era.
How Is the Digital Marketing Field Going to Evolve as We Come Out of COVID?
The first factor is the speed of change. Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella recently said that Microsoft had seen two years of digital transformation in just the past two months. From remote teams to distance collaboration to marketing account management.
The platforms are evolving to meet the shifts in needs and priorities. Before the pandemic, 40 to 50 percent of people had never bought something online, and now that number is down to 25 percent. This shift has put enormous demands on digital marketing.
Advertisers need to address consumer concerns in their ads. For example, a plumber should now mention that their service is contactless and safe.
Machine learning will begin to adapt to highly variable data. Until now, machine learning has relied on data that had consistent trends. Currently, machine learning is developing the ability to detect unusual patterns and decide whether those are outliers or the forerunners of new trends.
What Will the "New Normal" in Digital Marketing Look Like After the Pandemic?
Technology adoption. There were three groups; some put everything on pause. Some were very organized for remote work, with project management, document sharing, and central repositories. The third group had to adopt those tools and learn how to use them.
How bosses judge remote workers is an essential issue in the effectiveness of working from home. Those companies that were used to managing remote workers transitioned smoothly. Those companies who decided to put stringent controls in place eroded trust: some had more meetings remotely than they did when the workers were in the office.
Given that some people work more effectively in an office environment, and some thrive on in-person interaction, employers may use personality screening to see who should work at the office and who works more productively at home.
The critical change to day-to-day work is not in the application of digital marketing skills. It's more in learning ways to communicate effectively at a distance. Most meaning in human face-to-face communication is non-verbal. The new normal for onboarding new clients will be less in-person pitch meetings in favor of online video pitch meetings.
This communication concern carries over to reporting. If you send a report by email and brief the recipient on a phone call, there's no way to know whether they are listening. With video calling, you can see their level of attention. However, there can be overkill with video fatigue from too many video calls. It will take time to reach a new normal.
How Can Digital Marketers Help Organizations Recover and Reinvent Themselves Following the Pandemic?
Before the pandemic, conventional wisdom might have included, "people do B2B searches between 9 to 5 at the office," or, "people do leisure travel searches on the weekend." Assumptions like these have broken down due to the pandemic and lockdown.
Companies are learning to look at data to identify new trends that will replace conventional wisdom, and which trends remain the same as before.
You also have to consider how your customers have changed their behaviors and business models. Shifts in consumer needs and behaviors have driven the demand for new ways of doing business. If you developed a virtual fitting room for apparel and found it wasn't popular in your physical stores, your data may now tell you it's a must-have for at-home consumers. Shifts in business models have similar impacts on B2B marketers.
What New Challenges Will Digital Marketers Face as Organizations Resume "Business as Usual?"
Some companies hit pause, some let the same ads keep running, and some adapted their messaging to the current environment. An example is two insurance companies: one said, "Schedule a virtual meeting with us to get a quote," and the other said, "Close the deal with a handshake." In the lockdown era, the second message is the opposite of reassuring.
Some advertisers emphasized their empathy with their customers, along the lines of, "we're all in this together." Consumers have seen these so frequently that 60% of consumers in a recent survey said they were tired of these ads.
Sometimes a simple change makes a big difference. A client that sells high-end appliances advertised "in-home delivery" - when Brad advised them to change the wording to "safe in-home delivery," the click-through rate jumped overnight by seven percent.
Users want fast, up-to-date, transparent messages. You must not only change your operations to adapt for the pandemic, you must communicate those changes in your digital marketing. And the pace of change of messaging has increased substantially.
What Skills Should Aspiring or Current Digital Marketers be Adding to Their Repertoires to Help Them be Successful in the Post-COVID-19 Era?
The social marketing team is the fastest to react to changing user trends. We are starting to see the social marketing team collaborating with SEO, paid search, and website conversion to communicate these changing trends and feed them into these other pieces of the digital marketing program. But for this to work well, all team members need to have a basic understanding of the functions of the other team members. This requirement is an excellent reason to become a T-shaped marketer with an in-depth knowledge of one specialty and a basic understanding of a broad range of skills.
Consumers have not traditionally responded to charts and graphs. But this is changing because of consumer exposure to COVID-19 dashboards. Data communication through simple visualization helps with communicating to the customer and communicating findings to your boss and coworkers.
Written communication is another vital skill. Effective and precise writing helps ensure that entire ideas are communicated accurately and understandably when face-to-face interaction is impossible.
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Are There Any Specialized Skills a Digital Marketer Can Learn Now to Help Organizations Prepare for Future Disruptions?
One skill that digital marketers should understand is machine learning. Brad used an example of an electric fireplace company that figured out that a snow forecast led to a spike in demand for their fireplaces. Using machine learning, they discovered that they could use longer-term snow forecasts (seasonal, 10-day, and three-day) and tailor marketing messages to get consumers to think of their products well before the snowfall.
Another valuable skill is Agile project management applied to digital marketing. Unlike a waterfall project management approach where the project progresses from stage to stage and department to department, Agile marketing compresses the time to deliver a marketing campaign and helps keep the marketing messages current.
You can also hear Brad's answers to the live audience questions in the webinar replay:
If you feel you are ready to take on skills training to help future-proof your career in Digital Marketing, take a look at the courses and programs Simplilearn offers. You can learn and gain certifications in SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, and various other digital marketing skills. You can choose individual courses or a full Masters program leading to a high-level certification as a Digital Marketing Specialist or Associate.