COVID-fueled Surge In Digital Marketing Is Here To Stay
If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that we must be resilient to survive – especially with regard to our businesses. Marketing departments at the biggest companies previously revealed in spending their hard-earned dollars on big, flashy advertising at trade shows and on TV commercials, followed by multi-pronged marketing campaigns, hitting their target audiences – whether other businesses or consumers – wherever they are, are going to be and will be in the future. However, many medium and small companies focused on one or two channels, some continuing to base their growth solely on word-of-mouth and repeat customers.
This all changed last March with the emergence of COVID-19; the pandemic quickly spreading around the globe. Suddenly, the available channels to reach target audiences were diminished to digital, with maybe the occasional touch by phone – if you indeed had your prospects’ phone numbers. And, while digital marketing consists of many “sub-channels” including social media, paid search, email, etc. now everyone – literally everyone – was competing for attention in the same space. Not only that, but many decision-makers had much less patience to sort through the noise and pay attention to what truly could make their life – and their business better.
In his Forbes article, Why Companies Turn to Digital Marketing To Survive COVID-19 – published almost exactly a year ago, Bernard Marr tackled this exact subject, concluding that if “businesses approach the shift to digital marketing strategically, there’s no reason why it should just serve as an emergency fill-in, but could carry on providing long-term value when the world eventually gets back to normal.” This sentiment rings true today, even as we realize that what was once considered “normal” will forever be “in the past.”
For those of us in the content development, marketing and public relations businesses, we have seen our clients shift budgets and focus more on creating content that is meaningful and easily digestible for their target audiences. Interest in video, even virtual fireside chats, has skyrocketed as clients look for ways to personally connect with the people in their target audiences even if they can’t be physically close to them. But, it’s not just content creation. It’s also the strategy behind how it will be delivered, plus the virtual “hook” of the campaign to draw the audience in, creating that personal connection so a prospect feels like it is a person reaching out to them, not the marketing “engine” of a company (big or small). At the end of the day, even though we’re reaching out virtually, we’re all still people.
Even as many of us are seeing a faint light at the end of a very long and obstacle-filled tunnel, the investments companies have been making in marketing and content cannot go away. They have now become an integral part of the buyer’s journey, providing the foundation that initially influences a prospect to consider or reject the products or services a company has to offer. At one point in time, it was novel to have a website, and now prospects ask “are you a legitimate company if you don’t have a website?” The same may soon be said for social media, blogs, whitepapers, thought leadership articles, and many other types of custom content. Although many – especially sales teams – will rejoice in getting back on the road for face-to-face meetings, companies will be expected to carry-on their digital content engines driven by people.