Marketing during the Pandemic: 5 Key Priorities

Learning to adapt to disruptive, unexpected changes, has been the defining challenge of 2020 for small businesses and enterprises alike. While the world has certainly not stopped moving, it has changed quite suddenly and somewhat slowed down from its usual pace.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique and unprecedented situation in human history, drastic and unforeseen changes are not. Adapting to change and surviving in the face of adversity is what we human beings do best. With a plan in mind and the will to push forward, you can keep your business running, and even manage to grow during disruptive times like these. Here are 5 key marketing priorities you need to keep straight during the pandemic:

1) Keep Marketing

When it became obvious that lockdowns and social distancing would be the new normal for 2020, many companies had the immediate reaction to pull back on marketing efforts and budgets to focus on other business areas. While this may make sense to some businesses, it's important to note that marketing is what keeps customers both interested in your brand and aware that you are able to keep your head above water during trying times. In a landscape where other businesses may be defunding marketing efforts, your business may very well have more time and more space to expose your brand to a broader audience. Don't stop marketing during the pandemic; rather, find new ways to adapt your marketing to the current environment and stay relevant in your audiences' minds.

2) Study the niche

Data is a more important business resource than ever before, giving you deep and useful insights into your target audience. Use your data to perform niche market analysis and learn more about buyer behavior, trends, and preferences, so you can take advantage of marketing tactics such as demand generation and social media marketing to reach out to them. Knowing were to reach them, and what message may appeal to them will make it easier for you to draw out an effective and pandemic-ready marketing strategy.

3) Deliver experience

It seems like ages ago that we were insisting on how the experience economy was taking over. This year has been a shakeup, but it doesn't mean that we've stopped living the experience economy. If anything, the fact that we are all spending more time at home, online and on our devices, and having less face-to-face experiences, means that we are more open to the digital experience. What experiences should you be delivering during the pandemic? Saftey, empathy, awareness, and social responsibility are all experiences you should deliver to your audiences to make them feel understood and supported.

4) Use direct marketing

Use niche market analysis to find the audiences you should be targeting and use direct marketing tactics to deliver the experiences they are looking for. PPC, social media advertising and email marketing are all direct marketing tactics that can be effective if correctly targeted. As mentioned above, people are spending more time at home, online, on their devices, meaning they are in a position to be marketed to directly.

5) Track, analyze, and adjust

Data never lies, and data can show you the future. Track everything you do and keep dashboards on important indicators of how your marketing efforts are performing. This will show what you are doing right and what you may need to adjust. For example, when running a PPC campaign, we constantly adjust our budgets for keywords depending on performance; its a game of learning and adaptation. With enough historical data, you'll be able to make projections and study possible future trends, giving you the ability to stay five steps ahead. Track your efforts, track audience behavior, and track your competition; the truth lies in the middle of all those things.

There's no easy answer to what we're going through; we're all having to adapt in real-time against an unprecedented and rapidly-escalating situation. The most important thing we need to do is stay patient and focus on the long-term. Marketing is, in essence, a long-term process, so anything you do right now to adjust to the times should also be viewed within long-term goals and expectations. There are certainly many business opportunities arising despite (and in some instances, because) of the pandemic. Still, it's also important to keep in mind that this will eventually be over, and another period of readaptation will come. Think about an exit strategy for the post-pandemic era where there will likely be an aggressive economic boom; be ready to ride that wave too.

Need help with a pandemic marketing strategy? We're helping all our clients adapt to these unprecedented times. Let's talk!

Marketing Transformation: Now more than ever

Recent global events have made one thing clear: digital transformation means survival. Businesses that can run remotely, in the cloud, online, and 100% digital can endure when a major global event forces businesses to close shop and keeps buyers at home. The means to market, sell, and service customers without needing a physical location exist across many industries, but this is especially true for the B2B world. Most of our business relationships and transactions can be conducted without the need to physically interact. Beyond enabling us to continue to operate in the face of disaster, digital transformation turns our companies into cost-effective, agile, and highly-efficient organizations. Expanding our capabilities to become more digital, more mobile, and driven by user-experience yields high levels of efficiency and satisfaction from clients, partners, and employees.

As a cloud-run business ourselves, we believe in digital transformation as a philosophy and lifestyle. As a marketing agency, our area is marketing transformation, which we'll be talking a lot about in the next few weeks.

What is this marketing transformation your speak of?

CIOPages provides a very clear definition we couldn't write better ourselves:
"Marketing Transformation is a strategic, structural, and systemic change encompassing the re-envisioning of the marketing operating model, restructuring the marketing organization, re-engineering of the core marketing processes, enabling new marketing capabilities, and very often re-platforming of the marketing software systems."

Of course, we'll unpack that a bit for you. It means firstly, that marketing transformation isn't just a few quick changes and upgrades to your CRM, but rather a change in approach, vision, and technology, as well as a cultural adoption of these changes. It also means that marketing in the experience economy requires organizations to focus on delivering positive experiences as much as they focus on the quality of their products and services. Finally, it means that businesses need to acknowledge the critical importance of a marketing organization when it comes to enabling responsiveness to quick and drastic changes in the broader ecosystem. Like we said in the beginning: transformation is survival.

How we tackle marketing transformation

There are many different models for marketing transformation out there, but we firmly believe in ours. Beyond our client testimonials, our personal experience as a business following our own framework and philosophy in marketing transformation, lets us testify and vouch for it as well. We call the RACE Framework. The acronym stands for Reach, Act, Convert and Engage. Each part represents a step in a company's digital journey:

Reach: Digital media channel effectiveness

During this step, we help your company improve core digital marketing techniques to drive visits towards its digital properties. This includes fresh and relevant content, compelling digital properties such as a corporate website, landing pages, and paid/organic demand generation (SEO and P.P.C.).

Act: Customer journey analysis

Here we identify “quick wins” to improve interactions and conversion through a website; based on where visitors are arriving, common footfall, and C.T.A. improvements. We help clients enable a modern mobile-responsive website with fine-tuned navigation for content consumption and lead management.

Convert: Conversion rate optimization

We help identify and implement improvements to increase lead conversion using powerful Business Intelligence tools, sales funnel configurations and CRM procedures.

Engage: Customer Digital Experience

Delivering positive and satisfying customer-experiences is key in a successful marketing transformation. We help organizations review and improve drivers and levers for effective customer engagement and loyalty across all digital marketing properties and throughout the customer's entire purchasing journey.

These four steps serve as the basis for our digital marketing approach and the strategies we build. This framework drives the services we provide and how we deliver them. It helps us understand our customers' challenges in-depth and helps us provide digital marketing strategies tailored to meet their specific needs. We're not trying to sell anything to you (not yet, anyway), we just want to show you the complexity behind marketing transformation and why a structured and methodical approach is necessary to successfully carry out that transformation. This complexity is why many organizations need help from experts in order to get things moving.

Taking steps in the right direction

If your a business leader or marketing manager reading this, the odds are that you've experienced quite a few unexpected challenges in 2020. We can empathize: we're working ardently to keep our business successful in the face of adversity. Drastic and unexpected changes in the playing field drive the need for adaptation. New opportunities arise from any situation and those who learn how to adapt are the ones who not only survive, but thrive when the going gets tough.

If there's ever been a time to consider marketing transformation, it's now more than ever. Stay tuned to our blog and our social media channels for a series of tips, guides, and thought leadership on marketing transformation and how you can turn your business' modern challenges into innovative opportunities to evolve.

SAP announces a 3-year partnership with Microsoft: Why you should care


SAP and Microsoft recently announced they had signed a three-year partnership to help simplify the process for SAP customers to bring their data to the cloud. The industry is abuzz about it, but what does it really mean for you?

What does this new partnership between SAP and Microsoft mean for me? Why should I care?”

The Struggle of Migrating to the Cloud

In this day and age, where cloud computing is the gold standard for many businesses, an all-too-common complaint from SAP customers has been that it can be challenging to move from SAP’s on-premise model to remotely hosted services.  This partnership aims to change that.

Embrace: Making Migration to the Cloud Easier

The new partnership between SAP and Microsoft will bundle SAP cloud services with what they’re calling the Embrace. This will help clients run operations hosted at remote servers, supported by SAP’s flagship S/4HANA database. The goal is to allow SAP customers to more easily migrate from their existing on-premises models into the cloud by simplifying the migration to SAP S/4HANA and SAP Cloud Platform on Microsoft Azure.

So, what this means for SAP customers is that moving to the cloud is about to get a lot easier, faster, and less expensive.  It will also provide new and exciting opportunities to both SAP service providers and partners, Microsoft partners, and cloud service providers.

As part of the agreement, Microsoft will resell components of SAP Cloud Platform alongside Azure. It will reduce the complexity and minimize costs for customers as they move to SAP S/4HANA in the cloud. While the partnership strengthens SAP’s relationship with Microsoft and its Azure cloud division and positions Microsoft as SAP’s preferred partner for cloud solutions, Embrace will also work with Google and Amazon Web Services to provide customers with flexibility for their business solutions.

The Benefits of the Partnership Between SAP and Microsoft

Here are a few key takeaways about the new partnership between SAP and Microsoft and the benefits that Embrace offers:

The Cloud is the Future

This partnership between SAP and Microsoft is a powerful indicator that the entire cloud business is maturing and reaching new levels of power and sophistication.  With cloud computing becoming more important than ever before, this new partnership provides a unique opportunity for you to take advantage of the power of these solutions and move your data and services to the cloud to poise your business to improve your existing offerings and poise yourself to take advantage of future opportunities.

Fake News Filters: Spotting misinformation

How do we filter out fake news and misleading information in the vast ocean of the internet?

The advent of the internet brought with it incredible advancements in technology, communication, and the global economy, but with it also ushered in a long list of challenges that were previously unknown to us as a society. Identity theft, email scams, phishing, and other cybercrimes arose as the internet became larger and more widely used.

One challenge that has taken prevalence in recent years is fake news. With the widespread use of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, instant mass-communication became a permanent feature in our lives, with people spending anywhere from 2 to 3 hours on their social media channels. As the internet quickly became our main source of information and news, the concept of the "official story" was somewhat muddled in the process.

We used to rely on large broadcasting companies and newspapers to get our world and local news. These companies are traditionally bound to strict codes of practice and legal compliance before they can agree on what the truth about any given story was. Because of the costs behind printing newspapers or broadcasting to television, communicating news and content required a broadscale effort and a lot of coordination. Nowadays, the internet and social media have made it possible for every independent citizen to have an outlet where they can publish content with very large potential outreach. While this has amplified our global communication and made our world smaller, this has also been taken advantage of by those who have found it profitable to peddle in deliberate misinformation and fake news. This has become significantly damaging in recent years as misinformation has been weaponized for political purposes.

It can often be difficult to distinguish fake news from real, credible information, especially given how social media algorithms function to show you content. Critical thinking and discerning are vital to surviving in the fake news era. As a digital marketing company, we feel it's important to start honing these skills as surfers in the ocean of information that is the internet. Before getting into a few tips to get better at filtering fake news, let's take a look at the types of misinformation you may run into online:

How do we get better at spotting fake news?

It's all about improving our critical thinking and applying it as an active exercise when consuming information online. Here are are a few tips to improve your fake news filters:

1) Vetting credibility

Vetting the credibility of a publisher is a simpler task than one would imagine. The reader must ask themselves several questions: does this publication meet academic citation standards? Is the domain name of the site suspicious? Is the author known?

A lot of fake news gets passed around by direct sharing. Remember: just because a link came from a friend you trust does not mean it has accurate content. Do your own vetting, even if the article was shared by someone you trust.

2) Quality and timeliness

Quality is a very important factor when it comes to spotting fake news. If you notice a lot of spelling errors, overly-dramatic tone, or general sloppiness in redaction, it's likely your dealing with a piece of fake news. Another easy way to vet a story is simply by looking at the date. Stories often get recycled for clicks and can be taken out of context.

3) Sources

This goes beyond stories on social media; you should check sources and citations for nearly all the information that comes your way. How did you arrive at this article? Who was it shared by? Is the information on this article available elsewhere? What is or isn't quoted?

Check cited sources and perform reverse searches for sources and images on the content you see. This will help you confirm the legitimacy of any given piece of information.

4) Fact-checkers

Fact-checking websites exist to make it easier for readers to quickly check the veracity of a news article. They use technology and expertise to provide accurate vetting and filtering. Fake stories can show up on more than one website and spread quickly, giving the impression that it is real information. You can check any of these fact-checking websites to help you vet news and stories:

We hope these tips are useful to our readers and help them become better at filtering fake news. Stick to the facts!

Staying Competitive in the Experience Economy

Experience Economy 101

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of competing in the experience economy, let's take a quick history lesson. Since the dawn of man, the economy has existed in one form or another. The first time a caveman exchanged a sharpened rock for a mammoth steak, trade was born. When we discovered food could be grown and harvested the agrarian economy was born and dominated civilization until the mass technological shift of the industrial revolution birthed the industrial economy. Two world wars and a Cold one after that resulted in stark structural changes in global economics. In the late '90s, the internet began its conquest of our personal and business lives and it changed just about everything. The way we interact and respond to our world evolved and ushered in our latest economic era: the Experience Economy.

The term was first described in a 1998 Harvard Business Review article, the author made note of experiences being a distinct economic offering "as different from services as services are from goods". Experiences exist as the most differentiated offering in today's economy; they go beyond price and quality and give the consumer an emotional reason to engage with their brand, product, or service. The modern consumer expects a fair price, excellent quality, and flawless customer service as minimum requirements to even consider a brand and bases their decision to purchase on an emotional response. In the experience economy, you are marketing feelings over the service or product.

Experience and the Purchase Cycle

It's tricky to come up with a formula that gives businesses the key to delivering on experience. We need to consider that this can be a bit abstract at times since experience is always present throughout every stage of the purchase cycle and varies greatly at each point. The experience you may want when searching and actually paying may be completely different from the experience you want interacting with your product.

Let's use an example: the author of this article is an avid video game enthusiast. For the better part of the last decade, most video game purchases are done through direct digital download: you search for your game, enter a payment method, download, and start playing. Gone are the days of enduring a block-long line for several hours in the cold to purchase a physical copy of the new Mortal Kombat, but also gone are the days of the thrilling anticipation that came from waiting to get home to unbox a brand new game and put it in the console for the first time. Direct digital downloads improved the experience of making it easy for everyone to purchase and immediately receive a game from the comfort of their homes, but completely removed the emotional value of unboxing a game.

Video game company's found a way to deliver on both these experiences and also make more money out of it through Day 1 collector's editions. These experience-heavy editions of video games allow the customer to download the game before it's release and activate on launch date so they can start playing immediately, but they also ensure the delivery of additional digital and physical content such as artbooks, action figures, bonus items, and elaborate boxes with a physical copy of the game on the day of the release. This way they are both removing the negative experience of having to leave your house to stand in line to buy a game, but adding the positive nostalgia-filled experience of unboxing something unique, all for a hefty price tag usually 3x or 4x the price of a standard digital-download.

Engagement and Customer Experience

That last example illustrates how experience sells, but video game company's are still selling a tangible product. How do we deliver on experience when it comes to service providers? The "math" is pretty much the same: the opportunity in this economy lies where business can meet or even exceed a customer's initial expectation of their buying experience. To understand what those expectations are, it's crucial to study your customers in detail and collect and use as much data from them as possible. Creating profiles of the different type of buyers that approach your business will help you learn how to appeal to each one on many different levels including the way they consume information and the way they make decisions. A lot of self-assessment is also required from every business to understand what they can be doing better to deliver on CX.

There is a lot of fertile ground in this budding economy in digital marketing even though it may not be easily apparent. What are your potential buyers looking for online? Why are they looking for it? When are they looking for it? What devices are they using?

All these questions give you answers on where you can improve CX. From intuitive design to content marketing and lead-conversion optimization, we are considering customer-experience throughout every level of how we do business and trying to drive the CX philosophy in the work we do for our clients. Our marketing strategies are aimed at driving engagement by improving customer experience elements for digital audiences. Learning and analyzing how your audience asks questions online and building informative original content to generate demand goes much further than providing basic product information. Customers are looking to be understood and cared for, so answering their questions as best as possible without them having to do too much searching is a compelling way to deliver on experience in this industry.