Four key agile trends and techniques for marketers to adopt post pandemic

We recently ran a webinar about ABM & ABS with Hallam founder, Susan Hallam MBE and she talked about how we are collectively feeling in these times since the pandemic and how the need to be agile is stronger for marketers – and for organisations in general – than it ever has been.

So, how are we feeling?

Weary” explained Susan. “We are living in times of huge change and uncertainty and we’re mixing our personal and business lives together more than we have before. Now this may not be the first time we have felt these things. But it’s likely we haven’t felt them all at once and in such a condensed time frame.”

The pace of change this year has been incredible. If you think about just twelve months ago, how different our outlook was. We may be worried about our family and friends getting sick. Or we may be concerned about the economy and aftermath of the pandemic. But in the past, these things have never felt so closely linked as they do now.

Companies are undergoing a sort-of forced digital transformation and changing at a speed they may not be comfortable with. Adopting new technologies and new ways of working a lot sooner than they would normally choose to.

But as marketers, what we need to be thinking about is – what are the new opportunities available to us? We need to be considering the impact to our marketing communications and our messaging. As even though many of us are marketing directly to businesses (who have their game face on), we are also all human – and remembering that in our marketing over the coming months, is going to be the making of the brands we represent.

Let’s get agile

In order to take advantage of what the pandemic has to offer from a marketing context, you might want to think about the principle of agile marketing. The idea of agile is that we run smaller campaigns on a more experimental basis, that we test, learn from and test again.

We work collaboratively, probably in little sprints, and we pull smaller pots of data and create honed-in content and messaging to see how they are going to work. And if they work, then great. And if they don’t work, we’ve learned something.

This is a way of working that we’re already used to at Spotler. Our (software) developers need to work in an agile way where they try something new and are able to adapt it as they go based on initial usage and feedback. We are now taking this principle and applying it to our marketing.

Agile marketing also means adopting different technologies to help us review and make change with pace. Whether that’s daily stand-up presentations on Slack or sprint retrospectives (quick meetings that review a project after it’s finished) to ensure we find out what works and what doesn’t, and move faster to do more of what works.

According to a survey on the State of Agile Marketing in 2020, taken by AgileSherpas, they found that organisations who have adopted agile techniques rather than sticking with a traditional organisational view, are more likely to have a marketing team that are capable of handling fast-paced work, who’s strategy is aligned with their organisation’s vision and have more confidence that their marketing team can take advantage of emerging opportunities being offered in this evolving workspace.

OK, we understand why agile is a worthy trend, so let’s get down to the practicalities of making it work.  Here are four different ways to get agile, starting right now.

1) Plan less. Experiment More.

Do you remember that big presentation of the marketing plan your company came up with at the beginning of the year? Yeah, well you need to go ahead and tear that up and start again. Thanks a bunch, COVID.

But before we go down the road of starting a new year-long plan, let’s think about the specific segments we’re looking to target and the ways we can be experimenting to meet their needs.

In March 2020, Facebook Experiments launched a series of new tools you might find interesting and helpful when taking an account-based approach. Recent research has demonstrated the effectiveness of reaching your B2B client base via social media platforms such as Facebook. And it makes sense because many of us are in this period of lockdown or working from home, we’re working longer or more unusual hours but most importantly we’re melding our personal and professional lives in an unprecedented fashion. So here are some of the tools you might want to consider on Facebook’s advertising platform:

A/B Split Testing
Test different versions of your ads. Try different campaigns, messaging, different creatives, and different target markets to see which will give you the most effective cost per lead or conversion rate.

Holdout Tests. Facebook’s new feature.
A conversion test compares people who had the opportunity to see your Facebook ads with those in a holdout who are intentionally withheld from seeing your advertising. Facebook then calculates what incremental effect your Facebook ads had on conversion activity, such as purchases and other custom events.

All holdout tests use a 10% control group size and compare the performance of this holdout (or control) group with your test group in a scaled manner.

Brand Surveys

Available for larger campaigns as you need to be spending between $20-30K in ad spend over the course of your campaign to be able to use them. They include classic questions such as “are you aware of our brand? How likely are you to recommend our brand? How do you feel about our brand?”

There are new technological tools you might want to take a look at, and not only on Facebook. Big changes are also taking place in Google Advertising.

Google Smart Bidding
The emergence of practical machine learning means that the Google advertising platform has access to targeting and behavioural information on a scale we’ve not seen before.

Previously with our advertising, we could target by location or show our ads at certain times of the day or on certain devices. By using automated google smart bidding we are getting access to our target market’s search history or sites they have visited or their search intention and other modifiers such as the operating system they are working from.

What we have been seeing with account-based marketing through these platforms, is this transition to machine-based learning advertising where we are not directly controlling the parameters. We’re setting the marketing strategy and then we’re trusting the tech to show us the most effective advertising on the platform. Experimenting, learning and retesting is the new marketing plan for 2021.

2) Bet small. Win bigger.

In terms of ABM and demand generation at the moment, you should be focusing on very small and well-defined campaigns. Get to work on refining your lead nurturing programmes. You could redefine clear personas of who you’re trying to target and then send very discreet campaigns to those specific target groups. Focussing on small, quick efficient research projects to gather data is a great place to start.

Here’s some hot trends we’re seeing in successful campaigns:

Empathetic marketing messaging. This should be underpinning all of the marketing we are doing right now. Lead with empathy, kindness and consideration.

“How are you doing? How is your business doing? Thank you for your custom. Your support means the world to us. We wouldn’t be surviving unless we had you as a client” etc. That sort of tone.

Undertake surveys – keep in touch with your customers and gain valuable feedback that helps you to be agile in your marketing.

Be helpful as needs evolve. Your customer may have changed. Give customers credible detailed, current information. Or work on new value propositions to highlight.

Forge new communities. Help create connections amongst customers and align with creators who are establishing communities at the moment.

Adjust strategy for a digital heavy 24/7 cycle. With a view to the fact that our target markets are now in this unusual way of working. People are online all the time and even if they’re not officially working, there is this melding of their professional life with their personal life. Therefore, you should try to meet people where they are and when they are online and pivot to platforms and formats that make sense for people who are working from home.

Be generous. If you think that your target clients will want to do business with a company that reflects their own values, then generosity messaging could be a way to connect to them. Donating to charity or a local community project could be a good move. Think about what sort of initiative you would buy into and ask your colleagues the same question. Your audience will then be sure that you are the type of company they would like to work with.

3) Ditch perfection. Strive for progress

This one will be a cultural shift for marketing departments but more importantly for the whole organisation.

We need to be making smaller steps. Smaller, incremental steps, to see how we move closer to our target market. And it may not work perfectly the first time. But you will get there in the end.

A good example of how this change could be applied is with thought leadership content. This is where you create content that is designed for your prospective customers to build trust in your brand and prove your competence.

59% of decision-makers agree an organisation’s thought leadership is a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities and competencies than its marketing materials and product sheets. Getting it spot on before we share it has always been part of the process.

Traditionally, you have probably put thought leadership content in the hands of the most senior members of your company, those who are deemed the experts.

But thinking agile, consider devolving your thought leadership more widely within your organisation. We should be encouraging the more junior members of the teams to be generating thought leadership content within the organisation, as it increases reach and enables all advocates to have a voice. You could even run incentive schemes that reward staff for their advocacy and sharing on platforms such as LinkedIn. The principle here is that it might not be perfect the first time, which can feel quite scary. But you have to start somewhere.

If you’re not already, you should also be looking at the technology and tools you are using. There are new ways of working with applications like Zoom and GotoWebinar and on Microsoft Teams. It is changing our day to day working processes and methods of communication.

There is an emerging trend for webinar platforms that are giving a much more interactive, user friendly and a superior user experience. It could be worth the investment if you act fast and review the tools you are using as part of your marketing and sales activity.

4) Use your data and get real time

Start to think a little bit about your data, in terms of the data that you already have to hand and how you can be using it more effectively.

Susan said, “at Hallam, we are focusing on unifying the entire marketing experience. I don’t think there’s such a thing as digital marketing anymore”.

It’s no longer a divided stop/start experience of living in the real world, then switching to a virtual platform. Now it merges from one to the other seamlessly.

Online platforms such as Google are getting involved with offline conversion tracking. This means that if a user sees advertising on a platform such as Google or even LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, you can download that click identification data and insert it into your CRM system. Having a single customer view helps drive effective ABM as it enables you to keep track of the sweet spot account you want to be selling to and measure how they have interacted with your advertising.  This means B2B marketers can track the deal right through the entire sales process, until it converts and becomes a customer. Making us even smarter than we were before!

Once they convert and become a customer, you would extract that data out of your CRM and put it back into Google, who can then determine the timings of the sales cycle, the advertising creative which attracted them and the value of the sale that was made with your ROI.

So with a mix of on and offline data, and with the help of machine learning, you can then adjust the advertising that you (or your agency) are creating, based on the feedback loop from your CRM system.

And of course, that data might come from your website. It may come from the apps that you are using or from your phone call tracking system. It could be the sales guys’ data, their notes and everything in your CRM. But we are now able to fully integrate online and offline. Let’s unify our activity, whether it’s social media, advertising, SEO, PPC, content or any other marketing activity. Adopting our mindset from digital vs offline to one fluid user experience is key.

There is no point in burying our heads in the sand. This is a challenging time for marketers, across the globe. But as you will know by now, we always rise to the challenge! At Spotler, we are right here with you. We know it’s not always going to be easy but what’s important is that we look for the opportunities and think fast, whilst becoming more agile in our ways of working.

For marketers in this post-pandemic world that means: less planning and more experimenting. Sending smaller, more focused campaigns. Ditching perfection and using your data. And don’t forget to review and upgrade your marketing tech, as you’re going to need the best tools and support for the job.

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