Guest Blogger

By Lilia Dikova, Head of Digital at Bionic

2020 has proven that marketing is an essential part of having a successful business, yet marketers’ job has become a lot harder during the pandemic. There has been an accelerated wide-spread digital adoption across all consumer demographics. Customers now expect brands to be visible and active across all digital channels, responding to their queries around the clock.

Whether it is asking about return policies on Facebook Messenger or engaging and commenting with the latest Instagram Story, technology has made it possible for customers to reach out and speak to brands at any given moment. At the same time, businesses have been slashing marketing costs to preserve profitability during the uncertainty of 2020. There is a gap between rising customer expectations and marketing teams’ capability and available resources.

So how can marketers succeed in this day and age?

1. Building a brand with a mission

Some of the most successful companies have weathered change over the years thanks to what their brands stand for. Brands that have a mission with a much deeper meaning tend to connect on another level with customers. They don’t just use a catchy slogan. They have a purpose and a sense of direction that will take customers on a journey.

Mission statements of successful brands represent in a clear and succinct manner the company values and reflect the organisation’s personality. Great examples of these in the consumer world are Amazon with “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company“ or Nike with “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”

This trend has been further amplified in recent years – consumers have become increasingly aware of environmental issues and societal problems such as race discrimination and diversity. They have also raised their concerns about privacy in the digital world and the use of personal data. Generation Z in particular have expressed their desire for brands to take a more accountable and responsible part in their future. Occasional Corporate Social Responsibility reports are no longer enough and marketers should really consider giving these matters a careful thought as part of their branding strategy. Brands that place these important issues at the heart of their values and mission would prove resilient to significant changes in consumer preferences.

As part of their strategic planning process, marketers should take a hard look at their brands profile and understand if they align with those future consumer demands. They should start by a) identifying the current status quo and where the brand stands now b) understanding where the brand needs to be, and c) design a plan of how to get there.

Once this important shift is made, marketing leaders should really consider the different channels each demographic uses. There is a clear contrast in terms of channel exposure between Baby Boomers and Generation Z with the latter heavily relying on digital media and online video and streaming platforms for their media consumption. Utilising digital channels as a core part of the media and communications plan would really help reaching out to Generation Z and taking the first steps to represent the brand’s mission and a gradual transition to an improved perception.

2. Building for a digital future

Over the years, marketers used to preach that retail is all about “Location, location, location!”. The last 12 months have shown exactly the opposite. Some of the biggest retailers had to pivot their entire business to digital-only operations to fill the gap of brick-and-mortar revenue after closing down stores. As a result, the UK now has an enabled digital population ready to shop online at any point of the day or night. The world of online has now become the new location for retail and the impressions and views of digital channels act as shop fronts and glass facades. And that is how marketers should treat these digital channels: with impeccable design and creative that lands a clear and impactful message. There are still brands that design their campaigns with a TV-first approach and repurpose their creatives for digital channels trying to make the same narrative work. In reality, every digital channel has its own best practices that marketers should follow. For example, using less text on creatives on social media, or creating a maximum of 3 frames on a display ad, and even landing your brand message in the first 6s of an online video ad. Marketers should also consider at what stage of the funnel the channel and the customer are and change their tactics accordingly while maintaining the consistency and look and feel of the brand.

To build for a digital future, marketers should also be very mindful of their digital media mix. Although Search has been a clear winner of conversion and sales driver, the channel could quickly hit diminishing returns due to high competition. This is especially true for low-margin products. In this scenario, marketers should turn to other channels and seek their lower funnel solutions. A great example of these are Facebook Lead Gen and TrueView for Action formats as they allow the user to leave their details rather than just engage with the advert on a creative level.

3. Building a team for a digital world

Building and growing a team is a key ingredient for a successful marketing function within any company. Behind every great campaign, sits a fantastic team with the right skills and structure working tirelessly to reach their goals. To ensure the brand’s online presence and product revenue, marketers should invest in digital channels specialists to support the company’s strategic direction and digital implementation.

Marketing leaders should assess their options: whether they would like some external agency support for digital channels, or bringing the entire operation in-house or even choosing a balanced approach between the two.

Subsequently, there are three factors that marketers should really consider to have a successful digital team:

The first one is around the structure of the team – this really depends on the type of business. The marketing funnel could be a guiding principle with its corresponding channels and marketing leaders could hire channel specialists based on that. For example, these could be a PPC specialist, a Programmatic specialist (Display and YT) and a Paid Social one, all reporting to a seasoned cross-channel Digital Marketing Lead.

The second factor is building the team – this starts with great recruitment and placing diversity at the heart of it. Interviewing candidates from different backgrounds ensures a balanced approach to performance and more creative thinking on a team level. Looking for the right media and hands-on experience is really important but so is the desire to learn and apply logic to problem-solving. Once the team is in place, marketing leaders should be aware that clear and regular communication becomes essential to coordinating team efforts. Equally important is good visibility of the team’s roadmap to ensure the right direction and good performance.

The last factor boils down to upskilling a team – for marketing leaders one of the most important responsibilities is actually growing and upskilling a team to become the best version of themselves. Apart from applying the usual SMART framework to each individual’s objectives, team members should regularly go to events and training sessions for their corresponding channel, including webinars by Facebook and Google to hear about the latest channel developments.

About the Author

Lilia is the Head of Digital Marketing at Bionic, a digital pure-play helping SMEs across the UK with their business essentials, insurance, and finance. Lilia specialises in shaping and executing the marketing strategy with a particular focus on transformation, customer acquisition, and digital media. Lilia offers a unique and balanced perspective to digital marketing leveraging her diverse experience spanning both B2B and B2C roles across multiple industries FMCG, Travel, Publishing, Utilities, and Financial Services.

Lilia has a track-record in performance marketing, increasing revenue and sales across the board by implementing digital transformation hand in hand with marketing strategy. She is a frequent guest speaker at marketing events sharing the latest challenges and strategies for successful marketing performance.

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