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Examining The Post-COVID Buyer's Journey

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/We are months into the COVID-19 lockdowns. That means it’s been a full quarter, from mid-March to mid-June. But the ramifications of this COVID quarter will be felt for months, if not years.

If you’re like most marketers, you’ve had to drastically change your strategy to market in this new landscape, and maybe even had budget cuts or layoffs. We are also starting to see the data to prove the impact, as well — with 69% of brands expecting they will reduce ad spend in 2020. Gartner found that 65% of marketers are bracing for moderate to severe budget cuts due to COVID-19.

I am an optimist, and it looks like we may be through the worst of the storm. We’re no longer just trying to stay afloat, but we do need to find a new path through uncharted waters. But like any good marketing plan worth its salt, your focus needs to remain on the customer by putting yourself in their shoes and working backward from there. The global pandemic has impacted virtually all businesses, and by extension, your target audiences. 

Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Which buyers have you lost?
  • Which industries are thriving, and which are hanging on for dear life?
  • Has your offering become vital to their business, or more expendable? 
  • How are you engaging with them now versus pre-pandemic?

You need to re-think your entire marketing strategy based on this new post-COVID buyer’s journey. Here are some thoughts on how to navigate your way in this brave new world. 

Get Your Messaging Down

We’ve all seen the stream of commercials and advertisements that feature roughly the same language: “During these uncertain times…” or, “In these unprecedented circumstances.” It’s important to acknowledge the current climate, but your messaging needs to be more than just a nod to the circumstances. Otherwise, you risk becoming a cliché. Marketers should understand the value they provide in a downturn, but also when business is booming.

The current climate is impacting your buyers in dramatically different ways. For those in the E-commerce, delivery and online education industries, this could be a time of unprecedented growth. For those in hospitality and restaurants, it’s a much different (and sadder) story. 

It’s important to also keep in mind that the personal impact of COVID-19 is tremendous. People are juggling the immense pressure of careers, relationships, children and caretaking. You should also think about the buyers you market to: How have their jobs changed as a result of COVID-19? Are their pain points the same as they were three months ago? 

The answers to these questions will inform how you tailor messaging to different verticals and buyers, and ensure your messaging is relevant and strikes the right tone.   

Engage Through The Right Channels With The Right Content

Marketing channels are in complete upheaval. In-person marketing, events and conferences are out of the picture for the foreseeable future. Depending on your marketing approach, that can disrupt your funnel. 

Your marketing strategy will be dependent on digital events and experiences more than ever. Like your messaging, your content and the channels must be personalized and relevant. Video is becoming more and more popular. But you have to be more nuanced than that: Are your buyers more likely to be on YouTube to conduct research or a webinar? Are you trying to reach an executive or a manager? Finding the right tone, message and aesthetic for your content will often be dependent on what types of channels your buyers gravitate toward. 

Furthermore, it’s important to understand why your marketing in the past was successful. If you saw success at trade shows, what was it about your booth that people were drawn to? Ask yourself how you can replicate that experience digitally and through video channels. Your brand and its personality should still shine through an online presence. 

Market With Awareness And Compassion

No matter where or when it reaches a buyer, bad marketing is always distasteful. Now the stakes even higher. There’s a narrow margin for error: You must be careful that you’re not rubbing buyers and prospects the wrong way or seeming as if you’re trying to capitalize on the current business landscape. Too many times, I see tone-deaf advertisements on the television, which start with “during these uncertain times” and end with “it’s time to buy a new car!”

Being genuine and empathetic is vital. Marketing leaders should understand their buyer pain points, but also not be afraid to talk or write about their struggles during this time. These tactics will make you more relatable and human. Be understanding of what is going on, but don’t harp on it. If you’re running promotions, think about what offers or discounts will be valued by your buyers. These shouldn’t be thought of as “sales,” but rather as authentic efforts to help buyers during these trying times.


Cheri Keith brings more than 15 years of marketing experience to ON24, including five years as an analyst on Forrester SiriusDecisions’ Demand Services team. Her background includes experience serving B2B organizations at communications agencies and tenure working within marketing organizations. She is a respected and results-oriented leader with a proven track record of moving people and programs forward.



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Design by computers: How AI is changing the graphic design industry

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30-second summary:

  • Artificial intelligence has matured a lot today. The biggest achievement of technology can be seen in logo designing.
  • It can work as your assistant when you do creative work and help you achieve photorealistic effects, find the right content with an intuitive search, and more.
  • Artificial intelligence tools can limit the legwork for graphics designers and perform repetitive tasks for them so that they can focus on the bigger picture. In other words, AI is not going to replace designers but merely work as their assistants. At least that’s what we can surmise for now.

There is no denying that artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest technologies of the current generation. It holds tremendous potential in domains like healthcare, education, manufacturing, etc.

However, to everyone’s surprise, AI has also found an application in the creative arena. For instance, mobile app developers are using AI to design a better mobile app user experience.

There is also a wide range of graphic design software that leverage AI for creating complex designs. So, are we on the verge of AI revolution in the design space?

Let’s discuss.

Content made in partnership with Accunite Solutions.

The rise of AI in graphics design

AI has matured a lot today. The biggest achievement of technology can be seen in logo designing. After all, it was a perfect match since the beginning.

Take Tailor Brands, for example. It’s a highly advanced AI-based logo designer that can produce attractive and unique logos for entrepreneurs. Sure, it can’t match the work of human designers but it’s fast, affordable, and offers tons of customizable features.

Most importantly, it can mimic a human designer by understanding your design requirements.

A few years ago, a software application that can process human requirements for a graphics design like a logo was simply unheard of. This is because it was something that’s usually reserved for human’s emotional intelligence.

There are many examples of tech giants also using artificial intelligence. For instance, Adobe’s new AI tool Sensei uses machine learning to make it easier for you to create the perfect customer experiences through visual assets.

It can work as your assistant when you do creative work and help you achieve photorealistic effects, find the right content with an intuitive search, and more.

These examples show that AI has not just forayed into digital design space but rather become an indispensable component to give a new direction to the industry.

This brings us to another important question:

Can AI replace designers?

AI tools are all the rage today. However, the good news is that graphic designers needn’t fear them. This is because at least at this stage, AI can only serve to make graphic design easier.

AI tools can limit the legwork for graphics designers and perform repetitive tasks for them so that they can focus on the bigger picture. In other words, AI is not going to replace designers but merely work as their assistants. At least that’s what we can surmise for now.

This is because there are some major limitations of AI today:

1) Understanding nuances that come naturally to humans

AI has come a long way today, but it’s far from being even comparable to human intelligence. This is because we humans have emotional intelligence which AI doesn’t have.

We are capable of understanding body language, the subtle changes in voice and tone, and the messages we get when we read between the lines. This understanding of common nuances is absent in AI.

So, it can be difficult to make an AI software understand what we really want it to do when there are subtleties in the design.

Occasionally, it can happen that you lay down the requirements for a simple website interface or app design that has a certain connotation, but the AI program you are using interprets it differently.

2) Originality

What makes us humans special is our ability to imagine. So many geniuses who walked on the face of the Earth created music, paintings, and poems that are simply out of the world and can’t be replicated. AI doesn’t have that kind of capacity- it can’t imagine.

3) Human touch

We know that ecommerce has exploded today. However, many people still prefer shopping from local stores.

This is because they get a personalized experience by shopping offline- the friendly store owner can understand their requirements and give recommendations in a way that can’t be matched by an online service.

The same principle can be seen in graphics design. There are many entrepreneurs who want a human touch, a human being who can listen to their problems and create designs that aptly meet their needs.

Bottom line of AI and graphic design

Artificial intelligence is a powerful technology and there is no dearth of its merits. It’s disrupted many industries and we can see more achievements in the time to come as the technology becomes closer to human intelligence.

That said, AI is still pretty much dependent on us and requires inputs from graphics designers to do most of the tasks. So, for now, AI has simplified graphics design to a great extent, at least for people who don’t have a design background.

However, to tap into its full potential, we need to wait a little longer.

Carl Dean is a freelance content writer that specializes in content topics that touch on tech and AI. Carl happily identifies as a geek – it’s a badge of honor for him. When not writing, Carl can be found attached to his Xbox, his favorite game at the moment is Doom Eternal.

The post Design by computers: How AI is changing the graphic design industry appeared first on ClickZ.



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Five Google Trends charts that show the impact of COVID-19

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30-second summary:

  • The world is now starting to open back up and we are marketers are adjusting to how we can be effective in this new reality.
  • Search data can help inform the strategic decisions around store locations, hours, payment methods and so much more so that your business can make smarter and more informed decisions on how to be successful.
  • As marketers struggle to grasp the magnitude of changes, Jason Tabeling highlights five Google Trends that can serve as immediate insights.

We all already know that the impact that COVID-19 is having on the world. We have all been under stay-at-home orders for about 90 days. The world is now starting to open back up and we are marketers are adjusting to how we can be effective in this new reality. It’s really hard to grasp the magnitude of changes that are occurring around us right now and it will take some time and perspective for us to truly understand. Search data is a powerful tool that can help us understand how consumers are feeling and reacting to situations. Here are five Google Trend charts that I think help us zoom out a bit and understand some trends that I believe will change the way we operate forever.

1. Retail vs Digital businesses

The world of traditional retail is changing forever. Here is a comparison between Instacart and Whole Foods. Now I know you can say Whole Foods is really Amazon and ecommerce, but that’s sort of the point. Every business is a digital business even if those particularly aren’t owned directly by Amazon. Quickly each business has had to move to a digital model and as you can see from this chart Instacart had a massive surge, has since tailed off, but has significantly closed the gap on Whole Foods. Instacart and other like businesses (Ex. Chewy or Doordash) now have a customer base that is much more comfortable in a digital world and won’t be going back.

2. Store hours

If and when a store is open is a big deal during COVID-19. Many stores, restaurants, and other businesses were forced closed. Some were deemed essential, and as states re-open are deciding when they should open. This leaves consumers searching to find out how their favorite shops are responding.

For businesses and marketers, this makes keeping your Google My Business (GMB) and other Location Data Management sources (Facebook, Yelp, Apple Maps) up to date. Knowing consumers are seeking information and relying on this information to take action is key. Google has even created new tags like, “Temporarily Closed” to help businesses communicate with their customers easier. Making sure this data is accurate and up to date has always been important and is just magnified by the uncertainty this situation has created for all businesses and consumers.

Google Trends - Store Hours

3. “Contactless”

Check a Google Trends chart for anything “contactless” and you will see a very similar graph. The growth of all things contactless has spiked, delivery, payments, and pickup. This further accelerates the digital revolution. Cash has always been dirty, and in these times people are especially cautious. According to Times article paper money can transport a live flu virus for up to 17 days. This data point, plus all the CDC and WHO recommendations make anything contactless of interest for consumers.Google Trends - Contactless

4. “Curbside”

Curbside is very similar to “Contactless.” Both demonstrate the new ways consumers want to interact with brands. Having this type of pickup option allows consumers the ability to shop with their favorite brands, but not take the incremental risk of going inside the store. Consumers are looking for ways to continue with some sort of normal behavior, get out of their house, and not have to wait for shipping.

Best Buy for example had a curbside pickup at 100 stores in December and quickly accelerated to all 1,200 stores during the pandemic. Much like Contactless, curbside wasn’t even a term consumers were using until recently and we don’t expect it to go away any time soon.

Google Trends - Curbside pickup

5. Remote work

The way people approach their jobs has been forever changed. As you can see from the chart below remote work has been steadily growing since 2004, but has reached a peak over the last few months. This is especially interesting when comparing it to unemployment searches, which is a very sad side effect of the economy shut down. I’m hopeful that for those of us in digital marketing we can see this as a growth opportunity for talent across the country and world to work together to help make marketing stronger for these brands. To help them drive into a digital age that was a differentiator just 90 days ago, and has now been rushed into mandatory status for survival.

Conclusion

So much of our world has been changed forever. It is our job as marketers to help leverage the tools at our disposal. This is especially true for search engine marketing. Where we have the ability to understand how customers are thinking about our brands and the experiences they expect from us just be understanding how they search. This data is not only helpful for search campaigns but business strategy as well. Search data can help inform the strategic decisions around store locations, hours, payment methods and so much more so that your business can make smarter and more informed decisions on how to be successful.

The post Five Google Trends charts that show the impact of COVID-19 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.



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Why IMPACT video training is a marathon, not a sprint

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I have a confession to make; outside of IMPACT, I’m addicted to fitness. If I’m not at my home office, I’m at my CrossFit gym training, training, and training some more. 

And not only am I training myself, I coach group classes as well. My classes all have a variety of fitness levels; it’s not uncommon that I have a 74-year-old grandfather and a collegiate gymnast taking the same class, performing the same workout. 

As a trainer, it’s my job to take the workout presented, and not only teach my athletes how to modify it for their fitness level, but also to break down the purpose and show them how it fits in overall with the plan they have made to invest in their long term health and wellness.  There’s an understanding that we’re all on the same fitness journey, but we’re all at different stages. 

Since joining the IMPACT team as a video trainer, it’s remarkable how much coaching CrossFit classes and video training are related. 

But more importantly, like fitness, whatever the regime, a long-term plan is important to remain successful and to stay on track with your goals. 

In comparison to my fitness clients, our video training clients come from different backgrounds of the video world. They have their own unique styles and abilities but by investing in video training, they all have a similar goal. 

What’s the goal of your video strategy?

 

The goal of video training at IMPACT is to establish a culture of video using the principles of They Ask, You Answer.

Investing in three months of video training is a good start, but I would equate that to a new athlete coming into the gym, having never touched a barbell and telling me, their trainer, that they want to qualify for Olympic Weightlifting. Or someone who comes in with a 14-minute mile saying they want to run a marathon in three months. 

As a video trainer, I can give you the tools to be successful on this journey: in three months we can cover the basics, review the concepts and implement the content and be on our way. 

But there is so much more to master that is focused neither on the skill level of the videographer nor the understanding of the types of videos to create. Production quality, process creation, and the general strategy of inbound sales and marketing video is easy to learn and understand. It’s simple information transfer.

But to consistently take action on that understanding is another story entirely. These habits that must remain long after working with IMPACT involve a cultural change, which happens much more slowly than the informational understanding.

To really adopt a culture of video, we need to think of it as a marathon and not a sprint; there are many factors that come into play, nuances to master with team personalities and stylistic techniques to conquer that really require at least six to nine months to embody adopting a video culture in a company.  

If we look at the Michael Phelpses, the Tom Bradys, and the Mat Fraserses of the world, they all have coaches who pick apart the small details of their game to make them better athletes and overall optimize their performances.  

What is video training? 

Let’s get this out of the way, when you start video training, we’re not teaching you how to be a videographer. 

True to the TAYA principles, video training is centered around creating video content that answers your customers’ questions, and using those questions to build a library of video content that positions you as an industry leader in educating your customers. 

Even though this journey is one you can take on your own, enrolling in video training can get you to where you want to go faster. 

Hold up, didn’t I say earlier that this is a marathon, not a sprint? I did, and that’s still true. Working with a video trainer will shorten the learning curve to producing the best educational video content for your company, but refining that content and producing it is still going to be time-consuming.  

We’ve worked with top-class videographers who needed more than a year of weekly meetings to create the change in their company they required to be successful.

Previous video training clients who truly become the most trusted visual educators in their space have invested $22,500 (nine months) to $45,000 (18 months) in weekly training sessions and offline video review.

A snapshot of a long-term video training relationship

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of what to expect when you commit to video training for a year. It’s important to point out that the first three months might feel a bit clunky; this is where we’ll do a lot of experimenting with video in our organization and really hone in not only our brand style, but our voice as an educator in our industry. By the end of the first three months, we should have a clear bird’s eye view of what our plan to implement video for our organization looks like. 

In the next six months, we’ll put our process to the test and create videos to be used on our website and YouTube channel. We’ll also integrate with our sales team and build the foundation of video as part of the company culture. 

Missing out on three and six months would dramatically decrease our productivity, and could be overwhelming to the videographer once they realize how much content they really do need to create to be successful. Having an established relationship with a video trainer for at least a year will ensure that adopting a video culture can be a smooth transition, and set clear goals and expectations for the journey of creating consistent video content. 

First 3 Months: 

  • Define Production quality standards and video creation processes
  • Produce the basics of website and sales enablement videos
  • Determine the common subject matter experts that will be on-camera
  • Streamline what is required during pre-production to begin filming
  • Master the Video 6 Formula to ensure that all videos have a specific purpose and value.

6 Months: 

  • Create a YouTube channel that educates your prospects at an industry-level
  • Produce Big 5 content for your website and YouTube learning centers
  • Improve the communication between sales and marketing teams so that sales team members begin to request videos needed for their processes
  • Refine the tone of your videos to feel as unbiased, honest, and highly produced as possible
  • Introduce 1:1 video that your sales team uses during sales processes to assign content and humanize interactions
  • Produce a consistent two to three videos per week that are being properly published and maintained online

1 Year: 

  • Challenge the creation process to ensure that habits have been formed and tested so that two to three videos will be able to be created in perpetuity
  • Identify ways for a video culture to be better implemented in the organization’s sales & marketing teams
  • Meet with Sales leadership to ensure that best practices are being followed with 1:1 video and assignment selling video
  • Ensure that communication channels are as solid as possible and video is being adopted and leveraged by the entire organization
  • Review video viewership analytics to identify how they should adapt the sales process with specific prospects and how the marketing team should improve the production of future content.

The end goal of video training

This is an oversimplified statement, but generally, a company is ready to stop working with a video trainer once they have successfully adopted a culture of video and have become the most trusted visual educators in their industry. 

Video training graduates understand how to measure the ROI through their videos, they are able to produce two to three videos each week, and their sales team members are both asking marketing for new videos and are also effectively using video throughout the entire sales process.

I recognize that a service like “video training” can sound vague and difficult to buy into without understanding exactly what you’re going to be covering, but the truth is that this journey is very consultative and the path for each client is very different. 

What stays consistent across clients is the outcomes that we strive to achieve together.

We created our 6-Month Video Training Roadmap for new clients trying to wrap their heads around what they will receive from video training. This roadmap is a general overview of the topics that will be covered during Video Training. 

To be clear, no one follows this roadmap exactly. There are many clients who are able to skip entire months worth of training in this document. But the important information to understand here is the outcomes that we’re striving for from each month. 

That’s where we’ll keep our gauge of what’s important for your team, and what’s not. Everyone’s path is different to achieve the same end goal.

Is video training right for my team?

Just like starting a new fitness routine, you can do it yourself. 

You can go online, educate yourself using free resources, and start creating video content. And you’ll hit plateaus and milestones. You might even master it on your own, but creating all that content will most likely take years of frustration, trial and error. 

If you’re committing to invest at least six to nine months in a relationship with a video trainer like me, then you’re agreeing to implement a culture of video the right way, the fastest way, and the most permanent way. The relationship requires a lot of work on your end, and your team will only be successful if there is buy-in for this change from the top-down.

When one of my athletes hits a milestone in their training, we celebrate, but we also look forward to the next milestone. 

Video training is a journey that takes time, effort, honesty, and an open-minded attitude. The investment in changing your company culture to include video — in a world that relies heavily on this medium — will set you up for success for years to come. 





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