Own your relationships in 2020.
This is the foundation of our strategy for 2020 and something we’ve been shouting from the rooftops to any marketer who will listen. We already know that social media has evolved to pay-to-play. That’s beyond debate at this point; Facebook and Instagram lead the charge of “pay us to talk to people who want to talk with you”. And in articles by reputable folks like Rand Fishkin, keen observers note that search engines are showing more and more “zero-click” results, diverting traffic away from websites and keeping users on-engine (where more ads can be shown).
It feels like the big marketing technology companies have really turned the screws on us, doesn’t it? But “something for nothing” was never a sustainable strategy for anyone. The free ride, while not over, is certainly harder and harder to squeeze results from. In an economic downturn, which we all know is coming, the onus of increased profitability on big technology companies will demand even faster, more aggressive monetization of us, the marketers.
What’s the alternative? Two strategies must be prominent in your 2020 marketing plan.
- Build your brand. Your brand is your share of mind in your audience. How much mindshare do you have? When people think of problems in their industry, do they think of you? Your 2020 strategy should be long on brand building and brand measurement, especially branded organic search. I firmly believe branded organic search should be one of digital marketing’s most important KPIs. It is by far the most important KPI for public relations, brand advertising, and anything else brand-related. How many searches happen each month for you by name – and are you the top result for all of them? If not, that’s an urgent crisis you must fix immediately.
- Focus on owned media. What do you own? You own your email list, your website, your text messaging list, and any private community (such as our Analytics for Marketers Slack, which you should join for free). Build those properties. Invest in those properties. If you have a choice on how to spend a dollar (or a Euro, or your currency of choice), spend at least 51% of it on things that are yours. (and remember at least 10% of it should go to measurement). Deliver insanely great value on your owned media channels. Make them places people want to spend time. If there’s a strategic watchword for 2020, it’s curated community.
In addition to countering the effects of pay-to-play, investing in what you own is your best bet for resilience in said economic downturn. If you’re all-in on someone else’s property – like Facebook – they can up your “rent” as aggressively as they need to in order to make their profitability numbers, at your expense. If you’re all-in on you, then you’re in control of how much and how often you can ask for your audience’s help.
Go all-in on you in 2020.
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What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.
What’s your overall marketing strategy in 2020? Our recommendation? OWN your relationships in 2020.
This is the foundation of our strategy for 2020 and something we’ve been shouting from the rooftops now for years to any marketer who will listen. We already know that social media has evolved to pay to play. You put your money in, you run the ads, you get some kind of results. Posting organically? Effectively zero. There are no results there. That’s beyond debate.
At this point, Facebook and Instagram lead the charge of ‘Pay us to talk to people who want to talk with you.’ And we’ve all seen that.
If you missed our 12 days of data blog series on TrustInsights.ai, you can see the statistics. Something like 1 in 4000 people will ever engage with one of your brand posts, and 1 out of only 11,000 will engage with some kinds of influencers. So the numbers are astronomically bad if you’re not paying—if you’re not putting money into the Zuckerverse machinery—. In articles by reputable folks like Rand Fishkin, keen observers note that search engines are showing more and more of what is called ‘zero-click results,’ which is when you type in a query and Google just shows you the answer right there. You don’t need to click on anything. You don’t need to do anything other than see the answer and then move on with your day. Simple, but important questions like “What are your hours?” “What’s your address?” You no longer see that traffic. Google keeps that traffic for itself. So do other search engines.
The net effect for us as marketers is that we lose traffic to our websites, and Google and other search engines keep that traffic on engines where they can of course show more advertising.
It really feels like the big marketing technology companies, or just technology companies in general, have really turned on us as marketers, doesn’t it? Well, the 2010s were the decade of something for nothing, where marketing believes that you could get something for nothing. You could just put effort into a digital channel like Facebook or Twitter or organic search and get very high returns back, and for a good chunk of that decade that was actually true. You could just build a Facebook following organically or an Instagram following organically and derive significant business results from it.
But we all knew that was coming to an end, right? Something for nothing has never been a sustainable strategy for anyone. And in fact, when you previously heard ‘something for nothing’ you would think, that’s got to be a scam; that’s got to be a pyramid scheme or something that defies common sense. We see this happening now with many of these channels that you don’t own. The free ride is not totally over but it’s much, much harder to squeeze results from these days than it was at, say, the beginning of the last decade.
In an economic downturn, which we all know is coming—it’s a question of when—, the owners of increased profitability for these big technology companies, many of which are publicly traded, will demand them to monetize us, the marketers, even faster than they have before. So expect things like ‘organic reach’ to go down even faster for what little is left.
Some brands have seen good results on channels like Instagram, for example, in the latter half of this decade. But that trend has been sloping downwards, and if in a downturn, the Facebook incorporated shareholders say, “Hey, we want more profitability out of this stock,” who is Facebook going to charge money from? It’s not going to be the product, which is you and I as the consumer. It is you and I as the marketer, as the salesperson, as the business. We’re going to get the screws turned even more on us.
That’s a pretty bleak outlook, isn’t it? It doesn’t sound like a rosy start to the next edition of the roaring 20s.
So what’s the alternative? Well, there are two alternatives, both of which you need to do.
They’re not mutually exclusive and in fact, they need to be things that you do together and they feed off each other.
Strategy number one: Build your brand. Your brand is your share of mind in your audience. How much mindshare do you have? When people think of a problem that they have in their industry, what’s the first company and the first person that comes to mind? Is it you? If it’s not you, it should be you. That’s your brand. For those people who have done business with you, do they want to do more business with you or did they have an experience that was so off-putting that they would go and search for somebody else? Your 2020 strategy should be long on brand building and brand measurement.
One of the most important metrics for this is branded ‘organic search.’ When people search for you by name, if you’re not aggressively tracking the names of your products, your services, your company, your key executives, that should be one of the key performance indicators going into the next roaring 20s.
How often do people search for Trust Insights by name? That’s a number that, in our case, we would want to see going up consistently over time. That will show us that we’re developing mindshare.
What about your company? What is your company’s brand organic search? You can get this for free. This is something you can see right inside of Google Search Console. So if you are in marketing and you’re not looking at Google Search Console data on a regular basis either in Search Console, Google Analytics, or in a custom Google Data Studio dashboard, make that one of the first things you do in 2020. Build that dashboard so you can keep an eye on your branded organic search.
I firmly believe that branded organic search should be one of digital marketing’s most important KPIs. It’s by far the most important KPI if you’re doing public relations, brand advertising, brand building, or anything brand-related because people don’t search for your company by name unless they’re thinking about you. It’s an incredible proxy for measuring mindshare.
How many searches happen each month for you by name, and are you the top result for all of them? If not, that’s an urgent crisis you must fix immediately.
So that’s the first strategy: Building your brand.
Second strategy: Focus on owned media. What do you own? What do you have control of? What can you publish too that is fully under your control? Your Facebook group isn’t. Your Facebook brand page certainly isn’t. Your Instagram account isn’t. You don’t own those things. And for the audience that you do have, you do not have what is called ‘reliable reach.’ Five people or five hundred people may see that post. You don’t know and you don’t have any way of making sure that people see it other than swiping the credit card.
So what do you own? You own your email list. You own your website. You own your text messaging list. If you run private communities in private software like Slack or Discord or Matter Most. For example, if you join the Analytics for Marketers Slack, which is something that we run for free at Trust Insights (TrustInsights.ai/analyticsformarketers), that’s a pretty private community. There’s no algorithm, there’s nothing. Once someone is signed in, there’s nothing that prevents them from seeing what other community members publish in that channel. Those are things that you own.
What else do you own? If you have a magazine, you own that. If you have a podcast, you own that. You don’t own your YouTube channel. But unfortunately, video is so prohibitively expensive that we don’t really have a lot of choices there. It is a good repository, however, and we do own things like a blog and a podcast to be able to talk about our YouTube channels.
To build the properties that you own, focus on them; invest in them. If you have a choice on how to spend a dollar, or a euro, or a pound, or any currency, put 51% of it into things that are yours (and remember also, at least 10% should go to measurement). Invest the majority of your money in things that you own. Deliver insanely great value on your own media channels. If you have to figure out whether to spend two hours on Facebook posts for the week or two hours on a blog post for the week, put it in the blog post. Invest the time, and the effort, and the research, and the mindshare, and the love into your own media channels. Make them places people want to spend time in.
Think about it. Who are you competing with? Are you competing with your peer competitors in the industry? Are you competing with the industry giants? No. You are competing with the Pope, the President of the United States, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, all these channels, all these other sources of media want eyeballs. Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings said, “We’re not competing against TV, we’re competing against sleep.” The more time people spend sleeping is the less time they have available to watch Netflix. Think about that for a moment.
When you talk to a big brand like Coca Cola, Coca Cola says, “We’re not competing against Pepsi, we’re competing against every other liquid that you pour down your throat.” The same is true for you and your media. You are competing against everybody else who wants those eyeballs, that pair of ears, for the same 24 hours a day.
So your owned media channels, the places people willingly subscribe to, where they put in their email address, where they follow you, where they join your community. Invest in those. Make them places people want to spend time in. Make them places where people get value so that if they went away they would say, “Gosh, I really missed that analytics for marketers Slack. I can’t imagine doing my job without it.” Right? That’s the goal.
If there is a strategic watchword for 2020 on this strategy, it is ‘Curated community.’ Invest the time in your community. And these two strategies, as I said at the beginning, are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are dependent on each other. Brand feeds your community, and the investment you put into it feeds your brand. It’s a virtuous circle of doing both things well and having them grow for each other.
In addition to countering the effects of pay to play, investing in what you own is your best bet for resilience in the previously mentioned economic downturn. If you’re all in on somebody else’s property like Facebook, they can up your rent as aggressively as they need to in order to make their profitability numbers at your expense. If you’re all in on you, then you’re in control of how much and how often you can ask for your audience’s help. You can send an additional email, you could put up an additional blog post, you can publish another podcast. You are in control.
You have no control over what you’re going to spend on Facebook and Facebook says tomorrow, “Hey, we’re now charging X for our ads because we just don’t have enough inventory,” which has happened. If you look over time that’s out of your control. You can’t plan for what’s out of your control.
So to sum up, for 2020 go all-in on you. Go all-in on your brand. Go all-in on the things that you own. Make 2020 all about you from a perspective of what to budget, where to invest time, resources, people. Go all-in on you in 2020. We wish you a happy and healthy and prosperous new year, whenever you may be listening to this episode.
And if you need help with any of this stuff, drop us a line over at TrustInsights.ai. Subscribe to the blog, the podcast, and all that good stuff there.
Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you soon, and take care.
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