Paul McCabe is the CEO of the McCabe Group, specializing in strategic marketing and program execution that goes well beyond traditional channels. We caught up with him to discuss current technical business to business marketing matters in 2020 - This is an adapted transcript from the Marketing Science Podcast.
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Figuring out how to realign past marketing strategies, even those as current as 2019, to effectively work within this current environment.
Also, getting clients to dedicate resources for collateral materials, interviews, website and other digital media content. For example, with digital media many clients believe that SEO is simply putting up "stuff" and changing words, heading and phrases every now and then.
True SEO requires strategic thinking on content and how best to present this content in an easily searchable format (i.e. indexed videos, images, curation articles etc..). Understanding how content is viewed and measured to gain higher exposure and digital marketing rankings is key to a successful digital program.
Unfortunately, too many times companies assume that a strong web presence is the holy grail for all their communications, and they place most, if not all of their budget into that singular strategy instead of a coordinated marketing strategy.
A true, effective marketing strategy should consider multiple communication avenues to most effectively reach their target audiences. This could include print advertising, collateral materials, public relations, trade shows, and extended digital media such as webinars and podcasts. Having clients understand this dynamic is one of the biggest challenges we face.
However we find more often than not, budgets simply can't cover all of these coordinated efforts so marketing managers must dial back to provide a balance of marketing tools and tactics that match the audience reach with the allocated budget.
It's not always the most strategic approach but more a reality of economic circumstances...which is even more relevant right now in today's economic crisis.
PRINT and PR were the main drivers back in '90's and for print using what was referred to a "bingo cards" to get more information from the advertiser (an early version of a click, impression or lead).
Then came "impressions" which was like the Wild West; your content was generating hundreds of impressions when in reality if there were for example 30 banners from varying Companies on 1 page - Back in the early 2000's that counted as 30 impressions as if the viewer was locking in on all 30.
The end result was very misleading metrics that made it appear as if you had thousands of "impressions" looking at your content when the reality was probably much lower. Then came the advent of the web, and then digital marketing.
Initially, it was the last thing companies wanted to do because it was so expensive (at that time) to create a website and also very time consuming whereby many early websites were nothing more than re-posts of ads, tech sheets and brochures.
This morphed into more sophisticated content especially when companies understood HOW websites worked and how best to use various marketing tools (ie. photos, banners, video and links to other avenues of marketing such as data sheets, technical materials, graphics and PR).
Fast forward to the sophistication required today when reaching your target clients, prospects and suspects through channels such as data analysis, clicks to your website, and then knowing, for example, which sub-pages were viewed, for how long, and if any further action was taken (think Google analytics).
The advent of e-news, e-blasts, banners, buttons, video content, photos and equally important salient TEXT to describe what you do, and more importantly WHY, are all effective tactics that are just an extension of a sound marketing strategy in today's world. the true effectiveness of reaching your customers and prospects.
As history dictates over the last 3 recessions, manufacturing and industrial companies tend to cut the marketing budgets early on which shows just how much they don't understand the value of marketing/advertising when the economy gets soft.
It's a very understandable knee-jerk reaction fuelled by the pressure to maintain/grow sales (and not have to lay off employees) at a time when customers are cutting back and delaying orders until sales pick up on their end.
It makes sense on a human level when managers have to decide between letting employees go because of the economy or losing "soft" costs in marketing instead. A very tough decision, and in many cases probably a correct decision in the short run. But in the longer view it can work against the company by alienating your target audiences as to who you are and what you offer.
It's always been an easy target to cut marketing budgets because, quite honestly many companies just don't grasp the importance of marketing as a critical tool in communicating with their varied audiences, especially when budget cuts are necessary in a tight market, like we have now.
In my experiences we try and council our clients to strike a balance between the two so that when the economy turns around they are better positioned to gain sales against those competitors who go dark in the media, and by doing so they are able to re-hire, or even add new hires to their workforce.
Today, there is a much better understanding of strategic marketing especially with the growth of various search engines coupled with the fact that most people use the internet to start the buying process of a product/service.
There's an old adage, and proven approach, that still rings true today>> AWARENESS leads to PREFERENCE, and preference leads to SALES. And it all starts with awareness. How companies generate that awareness and maintain a presence is the key.
Today's customer experience ranges anywhere from staying focused and continuing to learn and gather information that is critical to their business...or bored and just surfing the internet for a diversion to take their minds off of what's happening right now.
There is a big jump in FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram etc.. as people try and post funny, educational, or thought-provoking tomes as in the "we are all in this together" mindset, which, in my opinion, makes most folks feel just a little bit better-- which is a good thing right now. With many people working remotely and still trying to buy/sell products and services it's very easy to sit in your sweat pants and T shirt knowing no one is looking over your shoulder for a more work-productive use of online tools.
Unless you're on a video conference call (ie. Zoom) where everyone can be seen and heard, I believe there is a disruption in work quality and efficiency. Add in your home environment, a family (yes, KIDS, looking for attention), and loose work hours, the attention and focus you had prior to this pandemic is certainly diminished.
Of course, there will be folks out there saying how much MORE productive they are, more relaxed and more focused but, again my opinion, I think they are kidding themselves.
Working basically in a vacuum, without the benefit of live co-worker collaboration can be a real challenge. But honestly, if this becomes the new normal, where companies downsize their office footprint in favor of cost savings and employees working from home, then there will need to be a new approach to customer relationships and customer experiences.
Companies will have to take into account the "working environment" and how to effectively reach out to their customers and prospects in a meaningful and productive way. Part of that process will rely more heavily on digital marketing as the "communications of choice" and maybe a few extra client lunch meetings just to get out of the house!
Webinars and online conferences where you can share screens with technical data are becoming even more key…
Read: 10 Tips for Running a Successful Science Webinar
We are all visual-minded by nature and we seem to retain more of what we see than what we hear, or even read--thus the proliferation of still printing out digital content, saving massive files etc.. so we don't forget what was said or verbalized.
Podcasts are a great example of how this mode of communications can be very meaningful and on target with the listener, but unless coupled with graphics, notes or further study, information recall will be very low.
Unfortunately, it's a very necessary tool that's here to stay. Between the "black hats" whose sole mission is to disrupt online portals and sensitive corporate information, and the "white hats" who constantly try to plug-up security exposure on a daily basis, it's pervasive and has created a very profitable cottage industry that continues to grow every year.
Then there's the personal level where most of us have pretty basic cybersecurity tools on our office desktops as well as home iPads and phones that may contain sensitive corporate information and it's easy to see how prolific the problem really is.
There are many companies out there that do a fair job of protecting businesses from cyber-attacks--mine included, sorry for the plug! The reality is that every company, large or small, needs to assess their open platform exposure and get on board with apps and systems that will help keep your security up to date and effective.
That depends. If it's here to stay then we need to re-tool how we think about employees, effective work environments, communications and a host of other issues.
Right now, we seem to be scrambling with the remote working model being forced upon us. But if this wasn't required would we automatically go back to what we know? The easy answer is to go with what you know and what has been successful in the pre remote-working environment. But, now that this remote model has been with us for just over a month or so, and we've learned to adapt to it--which doesn't necessarily translate to liking it or how we're actually feeling about it.
Check out the latest blog on how to collaborate from home using Microsoft Teams
I would venture a guess, and it is just a guess, that most people working from home (that were formerly working in a structured work environment/office) are getting antsy, frustrated with trying to create a routine that works, to adapt to dealing with external issues such as small working spaces, less productive home computers not tied in to the company, sometimes a shared den where the dog, kids, spouse and other distractions.
Single people working remotely I would think would prefer group settings...even though many millennial's are totally OK with just their phone and texting etc.. and they seem to be better at adapting to this new environment than many people North of say, 35. As a sidebar and to throw a curve into this discussion we have had a virtual agency model since 2007 where we have people working all over the world with us. They work remotely, many from their homes, and to them this remote working is the norm...and it works! So I guess it depends on the nature of the work and the need for in-person collaboration that is the real question.
We have entered into a "new normal" and I don't have a crystal ball but I believe that we are in for an extended period of major adjustments in how we work, how we communicate, how we socialize in the office and outside of it.
If this "experiment" that has been forced upon us is seen as a plus, with more people being productive from working remotely, then I believe that there will be a new business model that will have many, many companies downsizing their workplace footprint to maybe just a few key office spaces, conference rooms and maintaining their production footprint.
So, the shorter answer is that I don't believe we will ever return to "normal" but instead we will morph into a new normal, for better or worse...time will tell.
Again, I don't have a crystal ball, although I did write an article on a coming economic correction/recession late last Fall which is now a reality.
Unfortunately, it was not based on the economic model I referenced in that article. But now, with this COVID-19 pandemic I think we will enter into an elongated "post COVID-19" period where the massive unemployment, social distancing, lack of orders that require fossil fuels to produce, which in turn has wreaked havoc on the oil and gas industry, and all the myriad of manufacturing/retail industries that will not only have to ride the pandemic wave of economic challenges, but the reality that it will take several years (again in my opinion) to not only catch up, but actually thrive.
Read: B2B Marketing Strategy for SMEs
The McCabe Group, by design, is a virtual model whereby our global contacts led us to form a virtual network of top level expertise in multiple disciplines that are controlled through a smaller in-house network of strategic thinkers. This allows us to provide our clients with top management involvement in every facet of their work while we utilize our global network of creative talents to deliver the most cost-effective, strategically on-target end product or communications program best suited to their specific needs. Our clients range from start-up businesses to Fortune 500 companies, all treated with the same personal service and intensity. We believe in a team approach and work closely with our clients, not in a vacuum.
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