The Big Shift You Didn’t See Coming for Legal and Accounting Services Marketing

“Short and sweet.” “Keep it simple.” “Nobody has time.” “People don’t read!” These marketing maxims are so deeply ingrained that it’s easy to bristle at any other marketing direction. And yet, the big marketing shift happening today, especially for accounting and law firms, is a move toward more content in greater depth.

Wait – what?

It’s true. Blog marketing and downloadable content are getting longer  Orbit Media research shows stories that are at least 1000 words long have grown by nearly 30% over the past five years and stories that are 500-1000 words shrunk  by almost 40%. The most-read articles on LinkedIn – by a factor of three – are at least 1900 words long. A Curata study says that the most successful marketers are focusing on ensuring that their content delivers well-written qualityinformation and insights. And, that same study says that long-form content generates nine times more leads than short-form content.

A deeper dive into these content trends shows that people still don’t want to wade through long, self-involved sales messages. But they do want content that can make a difference to their businesses. In fact, they’re looking for marketplace and industry analyses, insights, and information that can both inform and confirm their own findings. The kind of content you probably have at hand if you're good at what you do.

Obviously, you don’t want to give away your “secret sauce,” But you can – and should – share content that reinforces the knowledge and thought leadership you can offer. Here’s how:

  • Keep your intros in “easy-open packaging.” Entry points are where those old maxims still hold true. You wouldn’t introduce yourself to a potential new friend by launching into a deep-dive monologue about yourself (we’ve all met those people at parties – awkward, to say the least). The same goes for content-heavy outreach emails and social posts. Tease valuable content enough to make it easy for your prospects to click through to get it.
  • Speak to your audience’s real-world experiences. Your business is not the center of your clients’ and potential clients’ worlds – no matter how much you wish otherwise. Put yourself in your prospects’ position. What excites them about their work? And, what stresses them out at 3:00 in the morning? That’s where you and your content need to meet them.
  • Offer valuable perspectives, knowledge, and information. Again, we’re not recommending you give away all your secrets. But there is value in connecting prospects with enough compelling ideas to show them that you understand their business and, better yet, make them want to continue the conversation. (Most recently, we’ve been offering our post-COVID Guide to Professional Services Resilience).
  • Keep your audience awake. Especially with in-depth content, don’t forget to keep it easy to look at and consume. Will an infographic help people who want an at-a-glance perspective? Could a video lead prospects through a complex idea? How about some old-fashioned narrative storytelling to inspire an emotional connection? Consider what creative approaches will express your messages in the most compelling ways for the people who need them.
  • Answer when called. You wouldn’t ignore a direct call from someone who read an article you wrote. So, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for comments on your social posts, clicks through to your website, and downloads to deeper content, too. Respond to those messages so you can create and continue conversations that can ultimately yield genuine business relationships.
  • Let existing clients help you out. Have you done some terrific work lately? Did the client say so? Capture those testimonials and, with your client’s permission, share them:

“One of the biggest challenges we faced when updating our website was the fact that there are a lot of short attention spans out there. We had so much content to share online – and we needed to make sure that it would be enticing enough to make people want to read further. Relish gave us both structure and content we needed to grab our visitors’ attention right away. We count on Relish’s design expertise, too.”

 – Nicole Kwasnik, Marketing and Recruiting Manager
Meunier Carlin & Curfman LLC

  • Let us help you, too. If deepening your content strategy feels like work – from strategy and research to writing and design – here’s a reminder: it’s part of how we support our clients (see above).

That old conventional wisdom that tried to force content into 140 characters or less has its place. But, your prospects' hunger for meaningful content is an excellent opportunity for you to assert your leadership, connect with your audiences in ways that matter to them, and produce results for everyone.

Why Digital Experiences are More Important Than Ever

Why Digital Experiences are More Important Than Ever (and 3 drivers that should guide yours)

Click. You like something on Instagram. You order groceries on the website. You tack on a tip for the delivery person. You receive an automated thank-you message, and pop-up offers to shop again. One of those special offers is the virtual opportunity to cook alongside a local chef via videoconference. How fun! You go to the website and - Click. Date night planned. The next day, you check the weather on your smart home device, log onto your workout app and get in a run with your favorite instructor. You post online about the experience in a Facebook running group. You log onto your computer to check your email and start the day. A chat window pops up – can you join the team for a quick update call on Zoom? You can and you do.

If it seems like nearly everything you do is a digital experience, you’re right.

Digital experiences are increasingly woven into every business at every level. Sure, working, shopping and socializing from home took on new levels of importance this past year. But these experiences are too convenient, immediate and enjoyable to go away.  If anything, they’re only going to become more sophisticated and seamlessly integrated into our lives. They already have.

Websites and apps offer the obvious digital experiences. But chat boxes, emails, texts, payment systems, facial recognition and artificial intelligence are part of them, too. Indeed, you’ll find them integrated into every marketing strategy. Which means that if you’re not already delivering them, you need to get started.

But what kinds of digital experiences are right for your business? Some experiences are designed to be entertaining, with everything from fun flourishes that make clicks feel more tactile to video and music. Others deliver screens that are clean and open, with content that’s easy to find, like our client, Core Dance’s website. They tap into the ability to deliver continual offers, information and engagement, and they allow users to choose how to receive them. These digital experiences may not be exciting – but their seamlessness makes them highly attractive to their audiences.

How to Build Your Digital Experience Strategy

There are practically no limits to the number and types of digital experiences you can offer but three key drivers should guide your digital experience strategy:

  • Your brand and identity. We’re talking about who you are as an organization. If your look, feel and language tend to be flippant and fun, your digital experiences should be, too. If your business is built on a foundation of reassurance and simplicity, those qualities need to shine through everything from your website and social presence to your emails and Zoom backgrounds.
  • Your customers. What are they accustomed to? How do they engage with you, with other organizations, even with each other? If the people you need to reach are on Tik-Tok, they’re used to engaging with short video clips – and while you may find these consumers on Snapchat, you might not find them on Twitter.
  • Your resources. When you define the kind of experiences that make sense for your brand and your customers’ expectations and needs, you’ll need to balance that against your ability to deliver. The most sophisticated digital experiences may be largely automated, but they require constant monitoring, testing and adjustment to remain welcome and relevant. Whether you conduct these activities yourself or partner with someone else who can do it for you, you’ll want to balance the digital experiences you want to deliver against what you’ll need to invest in their success.

Clearly, we’re passionate about this subject. If it’s captured your curiosity, too, we should talk. Drop us a note or give us a call. We’d love to hear about your business and join you in exploring the digital experiences can help you take it forward.


Core Dance: New Website Delivers an Enhanced Digital Experience

Here was the situation.

When the leaders of Core Dance, a Georgia-based nonprofit arts organization, made the decision to transform their website to enable a variety of digital experiences, they turned to Relish Marketing. Core Dance had built its reputation on artistic innovations and the ability to support and connect with a wide range of visual and performance artists; its website had to deliver a similar experience online.

Working together, we determined that the new website would need to be strategically organized, with a sophisticated look and feel that would be easy to look at and navigate. We would make it easy for people to engage with Core Dance events, available space, art exhibits, videos and more. The site would have to be easy to manage. It would have to deliver a seamless experience across multiple devices. And, of course, the new site would have to facilitate donations and purchases of tickets and other merchandise.

Sue Schroeder, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Core Dance“There’s no time to be stalled or stale right now. Revitalizing our website during COVID-19 meant we kept moving. Relish's work not only made Core Dance's website updates easier, but they also enhanced our ability to share virtual content and continue to engage our audiences."

– Sue Schroeder, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Core Dance

Together, we did this.

We began by moving the Core Dance site to a new platform that would support the team’s ability to quickly adjust and upload content, as needed. We developed an easy-to-follow navigation structure so that any visitor could explore available offerings and find specific content with equal facility. Then, we tied it all together with a clean, contemporary look and feel, much like that of the Core Dance physical space.

Elizabeth Labbe-Webb, Executive Director, Core Dance"Working on this project with Pam and her team was a pleasure. Our long time relationship means they understand us and we can spend our time making good work."

– Elizabeth Labbe-Webb, Executive Director, Core Dance


Virtual conferences

Virtual Meetings are Here to Stay: 8 Tips to Make Yours Stronger.

Phone call overload. Zoom fatigue. Isolation exhaustion. It feels relentless – but fortunately, at some point, it will be safe to meet in-person again. That said, working through a pandemic has taught us a lot. Some of those virtual meetings really could have been emails. And, when you add up the costs of in-person meetings and conferences – from air travel and lodging to conference venues, food and drink, entertainment, swag and more – it's a lot of money. Some of those large conferences in the past didn’t deliver enough ROI to make them worthwhile. So, even when it’s safe to reconvene together, it’s also safe to assume that businesses will choose to be more judicious about what conferences they host and attend in person. Some events will remain as virtual conferences. Others may blend a live format with videoconferencing and online meeting capabilities to broaden their audience.

In short: virtual conferences and online meetings are here to stay. But does that mean you’re doomed to a future of never-ending, mind-numbing videoconferences? Absolutely not.

The trick is to raise your online meetings (or the online components of hybrid meetings) to a higher standard that can improve your reach, fight inertia, reduce distraction and increase engagement. It’s a tall order, but we’ve pulled together eight fundamental ways to do it.

Know When to Go Big and When to Go Small. Both Have Advantages.

We all know that it’s easier to engage a small audience than a giant one. But we also know that if you restrict access to your virtual meeting, fewer people can attend. Think about what makes the most sense for any given online event – or session within an event. If you want to increase engagement among a curated cohort, keep sessions small while providing networking, collaboration and conversation opportunities. To get more people connected with your content, consider raising your attendance caps – either for the entire meeting or just for, say, the daily keynote sessions.

Define the Capabilities You’ll Need in Advance.

Match your online platform and conferencing technology to the needs of your meeting or conference, not the other way around. For instance, do you need your platform to:

  • Sync invitations and registration confirmations with online calendars? It can save time and keep people from accidentally scheduling over your event.
  • Record meetings and offer transcripts? These options can provide opportunities for "Encore Playbacks" and "Highlight Reels," which can deepen engagement with attendees and enable connection with people who couldn't make it.
  • Offer real-time chat? This is critical for networking and other forms of audience participation.
  • Customize meeting rooms? People may be more inclined to go to a place called "The Collaboration Station" than "Meeting Room #27."
  • Brand the conference with names and logos? That may be essential if you want people to remember the conference and its host more than its platform.
  • Include a mobile app? Especially if they include secure admission credentials, scheduling capabilities and possibly even quizzes and games, apps can reinforce how connected attendees feel to your event.
  • Provide on-screen collaboration capabilities for participants? Tools like real-time document editing and annotation can help you achieve meaningful, productive connections between session participants.
  • Support multiple session styles (e.g., webinars, collaborative workrooms, entertainment and breaks?) Even highly engaging content will become monotonous if every session has the same structure.

Whatever capabilities your online conferencing platform provides, you must do more than simply enable them. Encourage your speakers to design their sessions with cues for audience interaction. For instance, if you can do real-time polling during a presentation, your presenters should use that capability, telling attendees how to respond to questions and providing aggregate results before the session is over. Likewise, if you're offering a panel discussion, look for ways to also provide an easily organized, live Q&A with the audience.

Encourage Audience Participation Beyond Technology.

While it’s important to leverage technology to make your presentations look and sound better, no amount of conferencing technology will overcome a dull, uninspired lecture. Help your presenters raise their presentation game. Encourage them to lean into the elements of a great story to immerse audiences in their presentations, using music and graphics to set – and change – the mood. Consider the possibilities of “choose your own adventure” style choices so that participants feel like they’re helping to drive that story. Seed Q&A sessions with questions that staff members can ask so that no participant needs to risk being the first to raise a hand with an inquiry. Finally, consider bringing in industry greats or celebrities to act as M.C.s for key sessions or to pop in as "surprise guest-stars."  Whatever you do, your aim should be to keep people from sliding into feelings of sameness from one moment to the next, which can drive distraction.

Think Collaboration over Presentation.

Even the most powerful speech is unlikely to give audiences a transformative experience. Let those powerful, TED Talk-style presentations tee up opportunities for audience members to discuss, interact and collaborate on related ideas. Keep breakout groups small enough to facilitate real conversation. And while random groupings of people can yield unexpected connections, you may be able to generate more compelling results with deliberate groups organized around specific breakout tasks. Above all, provide collaborative groups with opportunities to present what they come up with and build on the engagement they forge in these sessions.

Don’t Wait for the Event to Build Engagement.

Remember that your participants’ enthusiasm for your event should start long before the conference or meeting begins. Map the critical digital experience touchpoints in your attendees’ journey from registration or ticket purchase through the event itself to post-conference follow-up and feedback. Then, make sure that those milestones enable positive and even unexpectedly delightful interactions. These interactions can entertain – for instance, by providing a quick, animated celebration of inclusion with ticket purchase confirmation. They can also be functional – say, by accompanying registration confirmation with a secure, easy-to-access place where attendees can return for session entry codes and passwords. Consider sending people the same swag that they might pick up at an in-person meeting. Likewise, if a live meeting would have included a free lunch, send people an Uber Eats or Doordash gift card. Don’t let up when the conference is over, either. Encourage continued engagement via follow-up content or rewards for participation and attendance.

Reinforce In-meeting Processes.

Not everyone will be as familiar with how you want people to behave and interact in your virtual environment. So be sure to publish and reinforce your expectations for:

  • General online etiquette (such as when to mute mics and turn cameras on or off)
  • When and how people should ask questions. Will you have a moderator? Is there a way to virtually raise a hand?
  • How people can make appointments to meet key leaders – or each other
  • Which sessions are pre-recorded and which will allow for live interaction
  • When and how you will provide time and space for informal conversations, entertainment, facilitated networking, breaks, etc.
  • When and how people should follow up after the meeting

Then, couple this information with technical support staff on hand to help people with these processes and procedures. That way, attendees can focus on the conference, not their technology.

Encourage Networking.

Part of why people attend events is to connect with others they’ve seen online or with whom they share perspectives and experiences. Consider ways to support this form of engagement beyond opening an online “networking lounge.” Place yourself, your staff (and even any event sponsors) in the role of “business matchmaker.” Issue a questionnaire in advance so that you can plan to introduce people with shared interests and backgrounds who might otherwise not ever work with each other. Ideally, every online event participant should get to enjoy one of these introduction opportunities.

Allow for Some Fun!

We all know the adage about all work and no play. So, don’t pretend that your attendees are work machines – especially if they’re all attending remotely. Consider a short session when people can introduce their pets. Or maybe you could include a session where people can follow along with a chef to make a fun snack together. Host a virtual background contest with prizes for the most creative, most on-brand, most effective, and so on. These fun additions can help people let down their guard and bring their most authentic selves to the meeting.

Even when you are finally able to hold in-person events, our current times have opened the door to many advantages that you can gain from providing rich, meaningful online experiences. Work some virtual meeting expertise into your meeting planning and execution toolbox, and you'll benefit from the best of both worlds.



Social media metrics

Got Employer Branding Social Goals? Monitor These Metrics.

If your employer brand communications mix includes social media, you already know that metrics matter. But tempting as it may be to obsess over all the available social media metrics, smart marketers and HR professionals understand the importance of focusing on the right social metrics for specific employer branding goals. For instance:

HR GOAL: Increase reach/Attract talent

SOCIAL MEDIA METRICS: Followers and Follower Growth

Conventional wisdom says that your number of followers isn't as important as how engaged they are. But it would be a mistake to think that it doesn't matter how many followers you have. Especially if you're marketing across multiple social channels to attract talent, here’s why you should pay attention to the number of followers you have on each channel. Let's say that after six months of building a social presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, your Instagram profile has far more followers than your other sites. That indicates an opportunity to create more Instagram stories, where the greatest number of people will see them. Likewise, if your YouTube channel doesn’t have as many followers as your Instagram – but your follower count has been rising steadily each month – that indicates a different kind of opportunity. Look at which videos are getting the most attention. Then, do more of what's clearly working.

HR GOAL: Improve employer brand awareness

SOCIAL MEDIA METRIC: Social media mentions

Track how often others talk about your company by name on social media – as well as how often your employer branding language is restated – and you will demonstrate brand awareness. Track when those mentions happen most often, and you'll get a sense of the best days and times for you to post. And, if you expand your tracking efforts to include mentions of your competitors, that can reveal opportunities to improve your performance and strengthen your market share.

HR GOAL: Strengthen employer brand perceptions

SOCAIL MEDIA METRICS: Tone and influencer support

Monitoring mentions isn't just a numbers game. You'll want to pay attention to tone – is it positive, negative, or neutral? Obviously, we all want to feel like our consumer brands are beloved and employer brands are attractive, as reinforced by positive mentions. But don't be afraid of negative ones. They will tell you when you might have a problem you need to address. And they can open the door to turning that negative impression around through positive engagement. Respond to negative mentions in a way that shows you're not just going through the motions or sharing a scripted answer like, "We appreciate your feedback." Similarly, when you get positive mentions, show those people some love, thanking them for their enthusiasm, encouraging them to keep spreading the word.

You should also pay attention to who is mentioning you – and how influential they are. When top influencers talk about you, their thousands or even hundreds of thousands of fans pay attention. It may be the most highly targeted advertising you can get. Often, these comments don't cost you a thing. Sometimes, they can happen with nothing more than a free sample. Regardless, it may be worthwhile to invest in deepening your engagement with top influencers. Talk to them about how you can support each other. If you do it right, the results can pay off in a big way.

HR GOALS: Employer brand engagement and conversions

SOCIAL MEDIA METRICS: Website referrals, activity, and applications

Of course, you want to see which social media channels are driving click-throughs to your careers website. Beyond that, pay attention to what those users do once they get there. Compare your social referrals with the average time users spend on any given page or job listing. Look specifically for users who spend at least 60 seconds on your website, which typically correlates with a higher likelihood of joining a company’s talent community or applying for a specific position. And look at which referrals generate that activity. For instance, you may find that Twitter generates more referrals than your other social channels but the people who spend the most time on your site and create talent profiles come from Reddit and Quora. That suggests that you should pay more attention to your activity and mentions on those two sites.

HR GOAL: Increase bottom line value

SOCIAL MEDIA METRIC:  Conversion points and employee/alumni engagement

Human Resources and Marketing aren’t often the departments people think of as generating bottom line value. But, with the right social metrics, they can be. Google Analytics allows you to assign goals and dollar values to each conversion. If you’re tracking where those conversions come from, you can calculate the dollar value generated by individual social channels. If you know how much a filled position is worth to the company and track customer journeys from their initial conversions off social media, you can calculate each one's value.

Additionally, keep in mind that your current and former employees’ positive engagement with key social channels can also deliver significant bottom line value. Consistently positive comments by people who work or have worked for your company can significantly boost your attractiveness to employment candidates. And, of course, happy current employees cost the company far less than full scale talent attraction efforts.

If you agree that these numbers sound exciting, we want to hear from you! We love talking metrics with business owners, executives, and marketers. There’s so much to track, measure, scrutinize, and follow, which is part of why we’re here. We’ve built our success on creating the right combination of strategy and creative – including identifying HR goals and analyzing the right metrics – to get our clients results that drive their success.

Silver Linings: Six Benefits of Virtual Working that may Last Beyond the COVIDtimes

As marketing consultants specializing in everything from digital experiences and SEO to advertising and strategy, we’re trained to see challenges as opportunities. It's impossible to ignore the human and business costs of the year 2020, but the truth is that as we’ve helped our clients adapt, pivot and grow through these times, we've learned a lot about process efficiency, work productivity and performance. And at least six of those lessons can continue to serve businesses well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making our own schedules can make us more productive. Working remotely, often amidst the competing needs of spouses, children, pets, and other "home" components, complicates the work-life juggling act. But it also forces us to be more flexible about how we meet deadlines and get things done. Whether we’re finding new quiet times of the day to work, taking more walks outside or just watching our children play, our flexible schedules are lending new flexibility and productivity to the way we think and work.

Less driving gives us more time. Maybe you only live five minutes from your office – and anywhere else you drove to before the pandemic. But especially in Atlanta, many of us used to lose as many as two or even three hours a day to commuting. That's a lot of time to regain. And - bonus - if people continue to work remotely, traffic won't be as bad even when we do choose to drive somewhere. Which also means more time back in our schedules.

It’s easy to learn new technologies when they’re necessary. Before the pandemic, implementing a new technology might have meant extensive time, testing and training. These days, there's little time for that. We pick up techniques and apps that we might never have used before by using them (think videoconferencing and project management). We help each other out. We make mistakes and learn from them. It's the equivalent of learning to swim by all jumping in the water together.  And we're better at it than we may have imagined.

We need fewer meetings – and the ones we have can be more efficient. Have you noticed that since our meetings take place via phone and videoconference, we have fewer of them? Or that the meetings we have are shorter and more focused? As it turns out, many of those long, drawn out meetings of the past really CAN just be emails.

We may not need business travel and office space as much as we thought. Put all of the above together, and one thing is clear: Distributed workforces, technologies and meetings are probably here to stay. And sure – when we finally arrive in the times we'll call "after," we'll want to meet in person again. But we'll probably be more discerning about which meetings would be just as effective over the phone or via videoconference.

We benefit from touching base beyond basic conference calls. Our Relish Marketing team has taken to having Friday afternoon happy hours together. Sometimes we talk about work. Sometimes we don't. But just seeing each other and talking the way we did while taking a break at the office has value. It makes us laugh and remember how much we enjoy each other's company.

Of course, no one can predict the future. But we can rest assured that the flexibility, technologies, skills and perspectives we’re learning now will serve us long after the pandemic is over.


Nine Ways to Look and Sound Better on Videoconferences

Remember face to face meetings? Yeah, we do, too. But now that they’re all happening on Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting, Webex, Skype, Hangouts and other online apps, it’s time to up your game. Which is why we’ve put together these tips to help you look and sound better on videoconferences.

Raise Your Camera. Generally speaking, you should be close enough to your webcam to be heard, but not so close that you look distorted. Set the camera angle so that you’re looking up slightly. In most cases, that draws attention to the eyes, minimizes the appearance of double chins and keeps people from staring up your nose. You can get a dedicated stand for your phone, laptop or tablet – or you can just stack a few books underneath it.

Upgrade your tech. If you deliver lots of presentations and don't want to replace your older phone or laptop, you may want to get a higher-end webcam and mic. They'll filter out noise (both video and audio) and make you look and sound better.

Cast yourself in a better light. "Shady" isn't an adjective that you want attached to your appearance. When half your face is in shadow, people have to work harder to see you. So, make sure that there is light pointing toward your face (no backlighting).

Look at the camera. In real life, you want to look people in the eyes when you're talking to them. If you try to look directly at anyone else's eyes in a video conference, it will seem like you are focused elsewhere. Look directly at the camera when you're talking, or when you want to appear attentive so that your gaze appears to be aimed directly at the other people on your call.

Simplify your surroundings. Too much clutter will detract from your appearance. People might pay more attention to the crumpled paper and junk mail around you than to the meeting. The good news is that you don't have to redecorate – just get your stuff out of camera range. Alternatively, you can use an appropriate virtual background (see the "Relish Your Brand" tip below).

Minimize ambient sound. It goes without saying if you're not talking, your device should be on mute. Beyond that, nobody can keep their dog from barking when the mail truck arrives. But you can set yourself up in a small room and close the door if your house tends to be on the noisier side. Likewise, make sure to silence anything electronic that can make noise (i.e., a smart speaker or phone ringer).

Look like the pro you are. Dress for a video call the way you’d dress for an in-person meeting. Sure, certain groups are likely to be more casual – and you wouldn’t want to look overly formal. But you don’t want to show up in pajamas or workout clothes either. We’ve heard that some people come to video conferences well-dressed only from the waist up. But what if you suddenly have to get up? Don’t take chances.

Get a preview. Log onto the videoconferencing system – but don't click "join the call" – about five to fifteen minutes before the meeting time. Check your camera position, lighting, look and virtual background (if you're using one). Make sure you know where the "share your screen" and mute buttons are. That way, when you do join the call, you won't give yourself or anyone else any surprises.

Relish your brand! We’ve said it many times before – your brand is more than just your logo and tagline. It’s everything that contributes to the visceral, emotional feeling people have about your business at every point of contact. That means that the look and feel of everyone representing your company should also reflect your brand. One easy way to do that on a videoconference is with a set of backgrounds that reinforce your brand. That way, everyone from your team can have their own virtual environment – but together, they communicate a unified look and feel.

Especially since video meetings are probably here to stay, now is a great time to make a few small changes and raise your presence to a higher level.

2020 Digital Marketing Trends

2020 Digital Marketing Trends – 3 to Follow Right Now.

As you look at whether your 2020 marketing needs a mid-year pivot, don’t forget about your digital marketing. As always, digital experiences – including your website, mobile user experience, social presence, blog and other digital content must be a critical component of your overall marketing strategy. And especially now, there are some compelling reasons to reexamine your marketing presence – and follow the 2020 digital marketing trends that will make a difference going forward.

We recently had a terrific discussion with our longtime partner, Jason Sirotin, co-founder and CMO at Brain Bytes Creative. In it, we tackled a lot of big ideas, including three 2020 digital marketing trends that smart businesses will want to follow:

  • Digital Trend 1: Audio. "Hey Siri." "Okay Google." "Alexa." If you’ve uttered these phrases (or heard anyone else say them), you know: audio search is becoming more deeply embedded in the way people live and work. So, it stands to reason that audio content is going to matter. Right now, you get answers in the digital assistant's voice, based on text-based content. That's not going to change, especially with requests for quick facts. But increasingly, we can expect to hear answers directly from the experts. Which means that now is the time to start creating podcasts and other audio elements for your pages. That way, when people ask the right questions, you and your brand representatives will give them the answers.
  • Digital Trend 2: Proximity and Location. You know that old real estate saying that the three most important things for any business are "Location, location, location?" Well, with everyone largely carrying their search devices around with them, search engines will favor results that are nearby. That doesn’t mean that you should pepper every other sentence of your online presence with your location(s) – Google will rightly see this as inauthentic. But you should make sure that search engines can easily recognize where your products and services are.
  • Digital Trend 3: Your Most Important Location – Online. There’s another old saying, newer than the one about location: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” That’s never been truer – especially with brick and mortar businesses struggling in the wake of COVID-19. Increasingly, many of those businesses will reopen. But until consistent behaviors, treatments and a vaccine reduce the risks associated with face-to-face interaction, the ability to do business online is more critical than ever. Be sure that you give clients and customers the ability to do business with you without having to enter a building or engage face-to-face with staff. And make that experience as rich, full-featured and above all easy as possible.

Beyond those trends, two other important messages for marketers emerged repeatedly. First, as Jason says, “The work is never “done” (nor should it be).” Remember that digital marketing, like all marketing, is a marathon, not a sprint. So, yes, look at what has worked in the past, but focus on what will be necessary for the future. As Jason explained, “Google and the other search engines are continually learning and evolving. Your digital presence needs to do the same.” Google has been focusing on Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness (EAT) since 2018. However, their most recent core update includes adjustments for relevance because what was authoritative and trustworthy last year may no longer be so today. Your content must come together as a continually updated, interconnected web of relevant information, reinforcing your authority and connections to others who trust you.

Second, do it right or don’t do it at all. A successful digital presence requires ongoing research to make sure your content matches the way people are searching. Jason recommends using tools like Google Keyword Planner, Serpfox and SEMRush. It’s also important to couple those tools with regular Google, Twitter and Instagram searches for terms, as well as searches of competitive and complementary sites (i.e., similar businesses in different industries). A clear-eyed interpretation of the data is essential to eliminate the problems of inherent bias. And while conducting this research isn't difficult, it is time-consuming.

In other words, effective digital marketing is something that your team probably can do, but there are good reasons to partner with experts – for advice and direction, if not for the continual work of content development. Either way, as 2020 shapes up to be a watershed year for many businesses and industries, now is a critical time to capitalize on the trends that will make a difference going forward.

And the Award for Best Pandemic Corporate Communications Goes To…

And the Award for Best Pandemic Corporate Communications Goes To…

How many times have you seen and heard it? “We’re Grateful for You.” “Here’s How We’re Putting Safety First.” And of course, “We’re All in This Together.” To say that most everyone’s COVID-19 communications are starting to sound alike is an understatement. However, we have noticed several powerful and creative examples of communications, some of which we want to share with you.

Some of the most compelling communications we’ve seen are simply expressions of empathy and gratitude.We loved the communications campaign developed by McCann Belgrade to highlight the heroism of healthcare professionals on the front lines of the pandemic. Their posters placed in public locations worldwide made the pressure marks left by their protective masks look more like the masks worn by superheroes.

Law firm Taylor English has been helping its clients, employees and partners to cut through the clutter of information and misinformation by publishing a daily roundup of the latest confirmed COVID-19 related updates. Consistency makes these updates such a strong example of excellent communication. They’re published daily – and are reinforced by more detailed reporting on the firm’s website.  The content is fact-checked for accuracy and presented without bias. Together, these communications reinforce the firm’s brand identity as smart, responsive and trusted to deliver results.

Kuesel Consulting, a firm that supports accounting and professional services firm growth, offered a webinar in late March about business development amid crisis. The webinar included a clear-eyed look at the effects of COVID-19 on business development efforts and provided specific ways for companies to protect existing business, increase referrals, add value and build on brand equity. It coupled this valuable, un-salesy advice with additional value by enabling clients to earn CPE credit for attending. The webinar attracted more than 100 live participants and was recorded for later viewing.

Often, the best communications are expressed by tangible actions more than any specific communications vehicle. The Trader Joe’s grocery chain initiated safe practices for staff and shoppers early in the pandemic, providing masks for employees and disinfecting shopping carts upon return. They placed the brand’s signature flower at six-foot intervals on the floor at checkout to ensure safe distancing. The company also expanded paid sick-leave to encourage team members to stay home if they feel ill. The result was a combination of positive publicity in the media and reinforcement of its feel-good brand identity.

All of these communications accomplish direct communications goals – from brand reinforcement to audience engagement. And they do so in ways that cut through the clutter, sending the right messages to the right people at the right time.