The future of digital marketing – leveraging lessons learned for effective strategies

Kristin McInnes, Marwick Marketing
Kristin McInnes, Marwick Marketing. Photo supplied.

As we all look forward to a return to normal this Fall, there will be many changes for businesses. Particularly how to meet customers where they are with regards to new online shopping comfort levels, buying behaviours and how they prefer to make purchases.  The old adage of location, location, location for a retail storefront is no longer.  Now it’s all about position, position, position on search engines.  But what else should business owners be thinking about as they build momentum in 2021?

We sat down with Kristin McInnes, Marwick’s Division Lead, Client Relations, to hear what the team at one of BC’s fastest growing digital marketing agencies has observed in recent months with respect to business owner marketing intentions and priorities as we welcome post COVID life.

From an agency perspective, what does a “day in the life of” look like working with clients and helping them grow their businesses?

Well I would say the most important thing on a daily basis is maintaining good flow and communication.  Even though we develop an annual strategy with our clients, our subject matter experts, like our SEO or PPC specialists, are always flagging opportunities and changes based on what they’re seeing happening with our client’s markets.  We have this plan, and people start working away, but there’s many pivots, ideas and opportunities that need attention right away.  So our day to day is really about being agile and on top of things.

That sounds hectic.  Do you see this is a problem? And what can business owners do to be prepared for this? 

No, I don’t see this as a problem at all. In fact, this is exactly what business owners need to be successful in today’s competitive online landscape.  Digital transformation and the dominance of digital marketing has expedited and enhanced businesses marketing strategies.  Now we’re not waiting six or eight weeks to see things happen, only to realize we need to make a change.  The constant and frequent data gathering available today allows us to be nimble and make changes in a timely manner.  What the data tells us is super important and it’s in the interest of the business owner to listen to what the data is saying and adopt an agile mindset as well.  Keeping in mind, balance is key.  Sometimes you do need to let a campaign run for a few weeks before making a knee jerk reaction too soon. Too much change, too often is also not a good thing. The key for business owners is to stay the course, but be open to taking a side road once in a while if need be.

What are business owners looking for today, that they weren’t 12-18 months ago?

What we’ve seen is that business owners have become even more resilient and assertive than before.  They are savvy and want to make sure there is no rock left unturned when it comes to uncovering opportunities. If there was any sense of complacency, it’s gone.  One thing we saw in the early days of COVID, there was an initial panic period where clients were purely reactive, saying “I want this” or “I need this” with no rhyme or reason.  Which is understandable considering no one knew what to expect.  But we’ve seen this initial arc has ended.  It was wearing on business owners. There’s only so long you can sustain this approach before change fatigue sets in while trying to keep this intense fast pace.

So what would be your advice to business owners coming out of this?  How can they still capitalize on opportunities at a more manageable pace?

The best way is to do some planning up front and build layering into your plan.  Have your initial strategy and plan laid out with a budget.  This enables everyone to be on the same page and work through the plan systematically.  Focus on the goal.  Project management is key.  If you are working with an agency or considering working with an agency, make sure you have a 3 month, 6 month and 12 month plan.  Work back schedules are great especially for people doing iterative work but for others it’s all about the KPIs.  So when you look back you can see if you’ve hit the milestones at regular checkpoints.  What are the first layer goals for SEO for example, page views, this would be a short term goal. And then longer term, you would want to measure ranking, content performance, conversations etc.  With PPC for example, start with search and display, then layering in google shopping and remarketing.  Don’t try to do and measure everything at once.

Do you see a trend in the services that clients have more faith in than others?

No, not really.  We have some clients who love SEO and don’t want to do PPC. When I think about it, it comes down to timelines and a business owner’s appetite for patience.  PPC is great for those who want immediate results but don’t mind “paying to play” on an ongoing basis.  SEO is more suitable for those looking to carve out a longer term, self sustained approach, albeit the results take longer to achieve.  If there is a trend, I find businesses are doing more local initiatives.  SME’s are definitely focusing more energy on local based results with things like Google My Business, voice search and honing in on neighbourhood keywords.  

What is the general confidence level of businesses now as we gear up for fall?

Definitely on the up and up.  More optimistic on where things are headed for sure.  There is still some hesitancy particularly for foot traffic campaigns but they are looking to invest more in the next 3-6 months.  We see an uptick in businesses looking to invest more into SEO or building up other areas, like building new websites and starting social media marketing.  

What would be your advice to businesses looking to work with an agency?

Synergy and fit is very important.  Make sure you speak to at least three agencies before making a decision, personality and communication styles should be aligned in order to have a successful relationship.  Have as much data to share with your agency.  Any data is always of huge benefit.  That way we get to know what’s been working, what’s not, and where we can go.  With digital marketing there is so much you can do, it can be overwhelming.  But the right agency partner can help you find those nooks and crannies where there are the right opportunities.

Lastly, where do you see the future of digital marketing heading?

I think there are some things that won’t go away quickly.  QR codes for example are something that are very prevalent with restaurants and bars.  Some people are being more proactive and strategic about diversification of channels.  Voice Search will continue to grow, especially via devices such as self drive cars. This would mean advertising in real time to people in their car.  Those who could only operate their business in person will go back to that, and have had it the roughest, but I think they will be more diversified in how they’re doing things and will bolster those.  Video has been becoming increasingly popular.  Whether SME’s have big budgets or not, they’re finding a way to use it.

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