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  • Writer's pictureDylan Pemberton

The New Normal Of Social & Digital Marketing

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

Lockdown has been a challenging period for many businesses and countless "digital agencies" in the UK have either gone to the wall, dramatically downsized or diversified out of their comfort zones into new areas of marketing to bring in revenue (risky for end-clients as why should you pay to be a guinea pig?). Equally, many end clients simply don't exist anymore.

Irigait are fortunate. We've always shunned the flagship offices (with the requisite pool table, pastry station and ball ponds), we've never relied on "retainers" and we've always focussed on ROI-driven and highly visible solutions that deliver enviable results in the short, medium and long-term. Largely, our team of experts has always worked remotely and embraced collaborative working practices since 2013. We've not had to carry the overheads our clients would otherwise have to pay for and, consequently, this has always given us competitive advantage, especially on our pricing. We're boutique not bourgeois.

Regardless, the world has changed for everyone. The client pool has become smaller and more reluctant to commit to certain programmes - especially those activities that could be considered more strategic or where the ultimate payoff is more likely to be realised over the horizon. This affects those agencies in particular who are entrenched in niche disciplines/bunkers and it's hard to suddenly reposition themself as something they are not. Uncertainty is a killer for many companies, especially in sectors like aesthetics/beauty, entertainment and travel which have been dramatically curtailed and even decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many clients, their marketing absolutely must deliver results right now and do so in a way that intelligently adapts to and even leverages the current climate of lockdown - a climate where end-customers themselves are being extra cautious about their expenditure, at least in a lot of areas. Digital and buying behaviour is rapidly changing and you have to be a lot more savvy than just adding Zoom calls into your marketing mix. Rather than thinking outside the box, we see many people building a box inside a box and refusing to come out! The good news is that in addition to greatly accelerated digital and technology adoption among brands and their audience; there are currently a raft of opportunities for those who have the time (and perhaps the capital) to do so on the basis that there's always a time to reap and there's always a time to sow. For a lot of us, now is precisely the time to sow, especially if you're a business that will benefit from enormous pent-up demand when the time comes. If they don't go elsewhere that avoid being forgotten then you must stay connected and engaged with your customers and prospects with drip marketing so that you remain at the forefront of their mind. Firstly, it's clearly an opportune time to jump off the hamster wheel and honestly assess what's right and wrong with your business. Even take a critical look at yourself. If you've been driving in the redzone at 100mph till this crisis came along then the chances are high that you've never been able to slow down and make repairs for fear of being overtaken. This is thus an ideal period to work on the more strategic things, re-evaluate those projects you kicked into the long grass and maybe tighten up some of the loose nuts and bolts in your operation, especially in terms of processes. Maybe it's as simple as finally aggregating all your disparate customer and prospect data that you have been breeding in spreadsheets and instead implementing that shiny new CRM system you never got round to (and hey, cash is king so all these kind of things are of course cheaper now than they otherwise would be). Maybe it's a good time, if you're not already doing so, to immerse yourself in "new things". Get on YouTube and learn the basics of Photoshop. Become a Tik Tok Jedi. Figure out how to use some cool new app that adds value to your social media and content. Buy some basic kit from Amazon and learn how to do decent digital photography yourself. Why pay an agency or a professional to keep doing all of it when the chances are that either you or someone within your organisation has probably got the expertise inside them - all of which can be easily unearthed with just a little time? They may even thank you for it - many staff feel undervalued and overwhelmed at the moment, especially those trying to steady someone else's ship. Empower them! Give them more skin in the game! In terms of marketing, even if you're effectively in stasis until the status quo changes, there is still much to be done if you want to make a fast start when the time comes and get a leap on your competitors. Start to create and stockpile content of all kinds. Re-write and re-skin those tired PDF's, presentations, sales emails, brochures etc. Aggressively build your audiences on social media so that you've got enhanced scale, credibility and reach when things do reboot. It's the easiest time in modern history to do this right now because people are so glued to their social media. Get connecting. Diametrically, if the expenditure on things like SEO and PPC isn't appropriate for you at the moment then don't be railroaded by your agency that there will be some kind of apocalyptic event if you scale it back even temporarily. For some, now is actually the time to double down on SEO and PPC (since a number of sectors are experiencing an absolute boom) but if that's not the case for you then is there really any value in you paying an agency to essentially drag people into your store to tyre-kick, especially if they have empty or locked wallets? Why aren't they moving their approach up the funnel? If conversion orientated activity isn't working then why aren't you creating content that educates and inspires your audience so you can turn them into customers later? It's all even more criminal if you're still not joined-up enough to be capturing every one of those peoples permissioned data for future remarketing in the first place! Expand your distribution channels - can you get on Amazon or any other ecommerce outlets of that nature? Have you explored different payment options for clients? What additional value can you give to customers without resorting to discounts and giveaways? Have you even given any thought to your customers and thought of what ways you can help them? Is all your content overtly sales-led or have you actually taken the time to cascade content that's actually helpful and relevant to them during this crisis with guides, top tips and how-to's? Is your brand thought of as having empathy? Is your leadership visible to your clients? Have you grasped just how much more important the brand experience matters now and is your customer service and communication really on point? The natural temptation for some is to just cut all marketing or overly economise on it and this can be equally dangerous. We've seen a few former powerhouse brands we're familiar with literally fall apart on social media and elsewhere lately with badly devised, badly designed and badly distributed content and communication all parallel to an actual reduction in content output - all at a time when there's more time than ever to have actually ramped it up! In some cases it's almost like they're getting their kids to do it while they're off school. What this telegraphs to the audience very clearly is that, economically, these businesses are in real trouble and that they are almost giving up. They've become absentee landlords. And yes - they probably are in difficulty but this is likely not the answer to extricating themselves from whatever financial hole they may be in. Perception is key. Consumer confidence is key. Acting "as if" is key. Unless you're actually closing down then some of the essentials - and social and digital marketing is an essential for most - can't be done on a shoestring and certainly not by your b-team. We appreciate that it's a paradox because marketing can be expensive and times are hard but try and be innovative and think outside the box. While it's unfair to expect your marketing partners to do more (or potentially even the same) for less, chances are if they have any commercial perspicacity then they'll read the room. Whatever pricing model they may have had in the good old days should probably be thrown out the window. There are many ways you and they can be flexible. Blend risk with reward on the payment structure. Barter your commitment / contract / scope against the price, payment and terms. Get rid of any fluffiness or lack of measurability that you've previously tolerated as part of the bigger picture or misplaced loyalty. Insist on pre-set failure and success standards. Curtail activity that's not making you money (or at least clearly demonstrating real promise) and then go re-invest it in other areas, maybe even with them. Ask them to re-evaluate and rebalance your activity. Don't tolerate delays - they've got more ability to deliver on time and on budget than they have ever had before! If your marketing agency is not prepared to adapt and meet you halfway then maybe it's time to find another partner...

The biggest takeaway we'd like to leave you with is that although the future is often uncertain, today is already here and it's yours for the taking. We know that's perhaps a little trite and simplistic but there really is a lot you can be making of today and, to be frank, for a lot of it you don't necessarily need us or anyone else to do it for you. We like to replace the word "problem" with "opportunity" wherever possible and we have never been afraid to pivot or make tough decisions. If something's not working anymore then don't flog a dead horse - move on. Reinvent yourself - it's the perfect time to do so. We're also big believers in the term "investment follows revenue" which is one of the superfluity of reasons why we always strive to deliver programmes where revenue generation sits at the core of them. Even this website - we may have just rebranded and rebuilt it ourselves while we had some spare time on our hands but our mentality dictated that we had to do it ourselves, economically. When the revenue justifies something more all singing and all dancing then the site will look like Apple. Parallel, we just shifted from one major marketing automation platform to another (more expensive) one because it's just more suited to today's world and to our predicted needs in 2021. We embrace change and you have to invest in the future, just be judicous about it. We're launching another major new global retail/wholesale business in the next few weeks but again, as lucrative as that will be, we're not over-extending ourselves just yet and we will be rolling it out and upscaling it in distinct phases. One thing that we won't be cutting any corners on though is our marketing. Like you, we also expect bang for our own buck so we will be practising what we preach which is measurable, results-driven programmes where we do as much of the heavy lifting as possible ourselves, especially since we have the additional bandwidth to do so right now. We've already got five figure budgets for PPC in place but we'll only press the button on that when all the other essentials are in place else we'll end up being the proverbial tree falling in an empty forest with nobody to hear it. It's definitely the time to sow. We're here to help you any way we can so why not book a Discovery Call with us to tell us about your business and let's come up with some ideas for 2021 and beyond.


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