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Brands increasingly turn to animation as COVID restrictions challenge filming production

By Something Big

Over the last few years, video has played an ever-increasing role in communications strategies. At the beginning of 2020, 92% of marketers, who use video, said it was an important part of their strategy, up from 78% in 2015*. And this isn’t just marketers opinion, according to industry leader, Hubspot, video content and product videos increase purchases by 144%.

But COVID ground production to a near-halt, with ever-changing rules, winter on the horizon and more areas of the country moving into higher restrictions, that challenge continues.

During lockdowns we have seen plenty of home video-style camera footage which has enabled brands to get their message out, but is this really the best way to position your brand going forward?

Historically, animation has been a hugely underestimated tool in marketing. Marketers can be more comfortable with traditional formats like interviews and live footage, but in the current climate, more brands are starting to consider an array of animated content formats.

Produced well, animation can be an incredibly powerful tool to tell your story or simplify a complex narrative with engaging graphics and works particularly well in social channels where 85% of video’s are now watched on silent.

Animation starts with a blank canvas and no limit to the graphics that can be brought into a story making anything possible. With a variety of formats to fit different budgets, from simple explainer videos to high production value animations fit for TV and online advertising, it really is the most versatile of marketing tools.

If you’ve only dipped your toe in the animation waters or have stuck to more traditional formats, we’re here to help and happy to guide you through the process end-to-end. Let us help you tell your story.

See our animation showreel and get in touch by clicking here.

* https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/state-of-video-marketing-new-data

How to succeed with marketing in a post-pandemic world

The last few months have been tough for businesses; logistical struggles and diminished customer purchase power have seen businesses of all sizes, and across a majority of sectors, feel the financial pinch. In these types of situations, many businesses turn to cut backs in marketing budgets in order to alleviate financial strain, but it’s often great digital marketing strategy which can help to deliver an upturn in business during difficult periods. 

Here Chris Attewell, CEO of leading digital agency Search Laboratory, argues why now is not the time to step back on marketing activity and offers expert advice for businesses looking to achieve success in a post-pandemic world through cohesive digital strategy… 

  1. Know when to press ‘Go’

With things seemingly much more normal in day to day life, a mistake brands need to avoid making right now is to switch their marketing activity on. Despite shops, restaurants and even offices opening back up, the customer journey in many sectors is still far from ‘normal’.

Knowing when to resume activity can be the difference between making and losing money. Too soon, budget is used with little results; too late, and you miss out on the initial flurry. 

Monitoring search impressions via Google Search Console is the quickest way to gauge when your industry is beginning to pick up, as it indicates rising interest in your products. However, as you can expect impressions to fluctuate daily, comparing the average number of daily impressions of the last three days compared to the last ten and twenty-one days will show if there is an upwards trend. 

2. Segment your pixel audiences and CRM lists

The pandemic has resulted in a lengthened sales cycle, meaning consumers are spending more time in the research phase and delaying purchasing. If you were tracking users who engaged with your website before or during the pandemic, use this time to segment them and know what messages you want them to see ready for when the market picks back up.

As lookalike and similar audiences are based on recent data, these lists may be skewed due to a different sales cycle during the pandemic. Instead, segment your pixel audiences or CRM lists to create user groups before and during lockdown and test the difference to identify different audience groups; you can then tailor the messages shown to each group for better performance.

3. Build an online local presence

Although travel restrictions within the UK have been lifted, many consumers are choosing to stay closer to home when it comes to eating out, shopping and undergoing leisure activities. For businesses where customers are required to go instore to complete their purchase, consider narrowing down the geo-targeting for paid campaigns to avoid wasting budget, and use this time to build a strong local SEO presence. Creating or updating your Google My Business listing(s) and getting listed in important local directories can help to boost your online presence for location-based searches, helping to drive more footfall as restrictions ease.

4. Create ‘soft’ conversions

While many businesses are already be seeing an uplift in web traffic and sales already, a return to pre-pandemic levels of sales may be slow. Adjust your expectations and set ‘soft’ conversions based on the current needs of your audience. Doing this allows you to measure success in a climate where customers are not buying as much or as often, and means you can still capture valuable data to inform your digital strategy. Consider how you can provide genuinely useful and engaging content that matches the needs of your customers and can be used to capture data and soft conversions – such as downloadable guides or webinars.

5. Optimise for long-term results 

The immediate future is uncertain, so use this time to focus on improving your long-term success. Ensuring your website is SEO ready now will help to drive organic traffic in the long run. Review your website architecture and speed, and current content and identify where and how you can improve technical elements of the site, and where you can improve or create content to make the site more relevant for your audience’s search queries and needs.

6. Fine tune your Google Analytics 

Google Analytics is a valuable tool which can be used to understand who your customers are, how they are finding you, and what they want from your business. Now is a great time to set up Google Analytics, if you haven’t already, to track customer behaviour and use these insights to develop an effective marketing strategy. Review the metrics you track – do they correlate to your current business goals? Ensure tagging and tracking is set up so you have access to all the data required to make informed business decisions moving forward. 

7. Join up your offline and online data 

Tying up online behaviour (how a user interacts with your business online) with offline behaviour (such ringing up a sales person, attending an event, shopping in-store) helps you to see how your online marketing activity leads to new customer acquisition and vice versa – insights which will help to shape an effective marketing strategy. If you have a CRM system, link it up with Google Analytics so you can track how users behave across the full user journey. Whatever the unique behaviours of your customers are, finding and measuring highly engaged users that have a higher rate of conversion is a relevant way of measuring successful sessions if sales are lower than they usually would be.

For more help with your marketing, download our whitepaper: https://www.searchlaboratory.com/downloads/kick-starting-your-marketing-in-a-post-pandemic-world-whitepaper/

Will marketing become a remote working profession after COVID-19?

If you’ve enjoyed working from home these past few months, you might be in luck: remote working could be here to stay. Chris Stappard, Managing Director of Edward Reed Recruitment, explains why flexible and remote working could become the norm for marketing professionals after the pandemic has passed...

At the start of 2020, flexible working was viewed by many as a perk or a privilege — something that an employee might work their way up to after a few months or even years at a company. But then the COVID-19 outbreak hit, and all that changed overnight as businesses and agencies across the country were forced to start working from home full-time. 

Now, even though the lockdown is beginning to ease, most people are still working from their kitchen tables and home studies, and many marketing professionals haven’t set foot in an office building for over three months. With the government continuing to advise that those that can work from home, should work from home, it looks as though most businesses will be working remotely until at least the late autumn. 

But what will happen when the danger has passed, or a vaccine is found? I think there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that flexible and remote working may become the new normal for a lot of professions — including marketing. Here, I’ll take a look at just some of the reasons that the industry might embrace remote working. 

Employees have enjoyed working remotely 

There’s plenty of evidence to show that workers in most professions prefer remote working, but it’s especially popular with those in the marketing sector. Over 90% of marketing professionals say they prefer to have some say over how and where they work, according to a survey from Marketing Week. 

Employees cite all sorts of reasons for preferring remote and flexible working, including skipping the commute, being able to plan their working day around childcare and other personal commitments, and having a better work/life balance. It’s clear that this can be a much better way to work for employees and, as a result, they may be much more likely to petition their employers for this to continue after the lockdown is over. 

Flexible and remote working may help with recruitment 

Now that employees have enjoyed a taste of flexible working, I think it’s safe to assume that it may become a higher priority for workers when job hunting. And that means, if employers want to be ahead of the competition in the race for the best talent, they’ll need to build flexibility and remote working into new roles. If staff start to see this as the bare minimum, rather than a perk, employers will need to start offering it as standard if they want to find the best hires. 

It’s not just about offering an attractive workplace culture to prospective hires, though: it could make recruitment easier for employers, too. If staff can work remotely for some or all of the working week, then staff won’t need to live within commuting distance, removing the need for lengthy commutes or relocation. This would greatly broaden the talent pool employers have access to and allow companies to recruit staff at a national rather than local level. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is something that employers are keen to capitalise on after the lockdown has eased.

It can help cut costs and increase profit margins

Over the past few months, we’ve seen that it’s possible for businesses and agencies to operate efficiently while working from home. It just goes to show that remote working can be a productive and effective way to work, and that it doesn’t necessarily have to result in decreased output or a loss of profit. As a result, I expect that many businesses will be wondering whether it’s really necessary to spend a sizeable chunk of revenue on an office space anymore. This is especially relevant when you consider that the lockdown has been a tough trading period for a lot of businesses, so any opportunity to cut costs will look very appealing. 

In future, I think that marketing companies may make the switch to working remotely for most or part of the week, allowing employers to downsize their premises and save money. It may even become the norm for businesses to hire meeting space on an ad hoc basis for client meetings, removing the need for a private office space of any kind. 

Tools and software are improving all the time 

Remote working wouldn’t be possible without the internet and, these days, employers have more tech and tools at their disposal to maximise productivity during home working than ever before. Software like Skype, Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams can facilitate meetings and collaboration between employees, and monitoring software can also be used to ensure that staff are using their time productively. 

The availability and affordability of these technologies means that businesses of almost any size can make the shift to home working with minimum fuss and expense. And, as employers have seen just how effective tech can be, I expect that they may be more willing to consider allowing staff to work remotely full-time.

Whether you’ve loved or hated working from home through the pandemic, I think we can all admit that things are unlikely to go back to the way they were before the lockdown any time soon. And, with many businesses starting to wake up to the benefits of remote and flexible working, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this becomes the norm in the marketing world.  

Marketing spend expected to rebound post-COVID

The latest IPA Bellwether Report asserts that ad and marketing spend will rebound in 2021, following budgets being slashed to their lowest levels in twenty years due to the impact of the coronavirus.

The net balance of firms that cut marketing budgets fell to -50.7% in Q2, down from -6.1% in Q1, with almost 64% of panel members having registered a decrease in spending compared to the first quarter, while only 13% posted an increase. These figures supersede the Report’s previous nadir of -41.7% evidenced in Q4 2008, following the global financial crisis.

The report says anecdotal evidence suggests that many businesses were focused on cutting costs amid the severe declines in revenue caused by the pandemic. Although firms utilised the UK government’s furlough scheme to ease the burden of staff costs, other reductions were required in order for many businesses to survive. Service sector companies faced particularly challenging circumstances, with little-to-no access to their clients amid enforced closures.

With coronavirus restrictions prohibiting anything other than small gatherings, funding for events marketing saw the sharpest reduction in the second quarter. A net balance of -76.6% of panellists registered a decline in events budgets, with more than 80% reporting a decrease. Just 3.6% posted a rise.

Main media advertising, crucial for brand exposure, also reported a steep decline in Q2. In fact, the reduction in budgets was the most severe since the survey’s inception, with a net balance of -51.1% of marketing executives seeing a decline in available spend. Underlying data within this main media category suggested the worst performing sub-category was out of home advertising (-61.2%). This was followed by audio (-50.0%), published brands (-49.2%), video (-39.3%) and other online (-35.1%).

Across each of the seven broad marketing types, direct marketing and public relations saw the joint-softest budget cuts in the second quarter, although with net balances of -41.6%, the downturns were still severe overall. Meanwhile, market research (-42.2%), sales promotions (-51.2%) and other marketing expenditure (-59.2%) each saw historic reductions for their respective categories.

Bellwether panellists remained pessimistic towards financial prospects in the second quarter of 2020, casting more downbeat assessments on both own-company and industry-wide finances.

Sentiment on own-company prospects plunged far deeper into negative territory compared to the first quarter, when the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic was only just beginning to become apparent. In the second quarter, precisely two-thirds of survey participants reported a pessimistic outlook for finances against 11.5% that expected an improvement, taking the net balance to -55.1%. The result represented the most severe degree of negativity since the fourth quarter of 2008 when the net balance measured -57.7%.

Reporting on industry-wide prospects, firms were also more pessimistic in the second quarter. In the latest survey period, 72.4% of businesses were pessimistic on financial prospects compared to just 6.4% that were optimistic. As a result, a net balance of exactly -66% of firms were downbeat, eclipsing the recent low of -42.0% registered in Q1. The latest reading pointed to the most negative outlook since the final months of 2008, at the nadir of the global financial crisis, when the net balance stood lower at -71.1%.

Following the global coronavirus outbreak and resulting lockdown measures, Bellwether author IHS Markit anticipates steep contractions in several key economic indicators during 2020. With many businesses temporarily closed throughout the majority of the second quarter, IHS Markit is expecting a -11.9% decline in GDP for the year as a whole. This forecast assumes that the gradual easing of UK lockdown measures continues over the coming months, allowing an increasing number of businesses to fully reopen and begin to claw back some of the lost revenue from the months of March, April and May.

Given the current economic climate, the Bellwether model points to a -11.3% reduction in adspend during 2020. However, this figure is heavily dependent on most sectors in the UK economy remaining open for the rest of the year, with a second wave of coronavirus infections a significant downside risk.

Looking forward, IHS Markit anticipates a robust recovery in macroeconomic conditions during 2021 as businesses move closer to operating at full capacity. This would translate into a predicted +4.9% expansion in GDP and implied adspend growth of +6.0%. Beyond that, it expects the economy to achieve above-average growth during a further recovery phase, before stabilising near long-run rates in 2024 and 2025.

Paul Bainsfair, IPA Director General, said: “As we suspected, these Q2 Bellwether figures reveal the very grave impact of COVID-19 on UK companies’ marketing budgets, financial prospects and employment plans. Understandably companies in the most severely disrupted sectors have had few options but to preserve cash and operations to survive until trading conditions are more benign. We can only hope that the range of Government aid – from VAT cuts to the Eat Out scheme, in addition to the furlough scheme and more, can help to facilitate this.

“While the future trajectory of the economy is unpredictable, however, that of brands starved of marketing investment is much clearer. Our evidence from previous recessions and periods of buoyancy consistently shows that cutting marketing investment weakens brands in the near-term and limits growth and profitability in the long-term.”

Webinar: 100 Digital Tactics to Get Through the Pandemic and Prepare for Growth

With the emergence of Covid-19 and social distancing, many businesses have had to refocus on their online channels, accelerating the need for digital transformation and better marketing. But competition for online customers has increased. Are you just going through the motions, or are you actually optimising your digital activity? 

To help digital marketers in these uncertain times, Mapp has developed The Digital Marketing Playbook, an interactive guide featuring 100 tactics that are proven to bring results whatever marketing objectives you’ve set for your business. Not only will the Playbook help you to plan your digital programmes more effectively, but it will also help you to build marketing resilience and agility, two essential ingredients for thriving in rapidly changing environments. 

On Tuesday 21st July, at 9AM BST, Mapp will be running an online breakfast event to introduce the Playbook and take you through how to implement some of the most useful digital tactics that it features. 

Here’s what you will gain from attending this popular session:

  1. 100 different tactics and ideas on how to acquire, nurture, grow and retain customers
  2. Best practice on how to implement a selection of the best tactics
  3. Learn how to bake agility and resilience into your marketing programmes 
  4. Easily prioritise tactics focusing first on the ones that will bring the largest ROI with the least effort 
  5. A Costa Coffee eGift Card worth £8 if you attend the live webinar and are among the first 300 people that register.

You can confirm your attendance for How to Get Through a Pandemic: 100 Digital Tactics for Marketing Resilience and Growth on the Mapp Digital website by clicking this link

Priorities for marketers amid a global pandemic

By David McGeough, Director of International Marketing, Wrike

Around the world, businesses are adapting their strategies to reflect the COVID-19 era. For some this means pivoting to a blanket e-commerce approach; for others it has meant creating completely new content hubs and microsites.

Whatever the changes may be, relevancy has never been so important. Your audiences want to know exactly how you are responding to the current challenges and how you will come out the other side.

Now, more than ever, marketing departments are being tested. Previous plans must be replaced, budgets must be cut, and teams must try to maintain the same level of productivity while working remotely.

Stay connected, keep collaborating

Most workforces have now been logging on from home for around nine weeks. During this time, we’ve all had a chance to adapt to our new working routine, finding alternative ways to stay connected with our colleagues.

This has quickly brought to light the importance of collaboration, and how much we take for granted being in close proximity to team members. No longer able to ask someone a question at their desk or get campaign updates in daily face-to-face meetings, we’re relying on technology to bridge the gap. Regardless of where employees are based, marketing teams need to be able to quickly and easily see the status of a task, know the latest developments, and have full visibility of crucial deadlines.

Not only do these tools and platforms need to boost collaboration, they also need to bring every aspect of a campaign or activity under one umbrella. This means should external agencies, freelancers or third-party suppliers be involved, everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect.

With technologies such as work management platforms helping businesses maintain productivity away from the office, many organisations will continue their remote working policies in the future.

A spotlight on ROI

As the pandemic continues to transform the economy, many businesses are experiencing a severe decline in revenue. Inevitably, this has had a knock-on effect internally, with multiple departments taking a hit.

Despite marketing playing a key role in promoting products and services, as well as ensuring the right audiences are being targeted, it’s unsurprising that the vast majority of teams are having to work with reduced budgets. While we’ve seen the same happen as a response to previous recessions – including those in both the 1990s and late 2000s – it has led to certain campaigns being put on hold or cancelled altogether.

It has also resulted in an urgent focus on performance, with a need to understand exactly what activity is having the most impact, and what can no longer afford to be a priority. Marketing teams are using this time to analyse every tactic and platform being used to uncover the return on investment they are getting.

Under close watch, marketers will be forced to transform the way they work in order to find their feet. This will mean getting creative, working with what they already have, and injecting innovation into every activity. This approach won’t just be critical for the current climate, but for those that want to thrive when the economy begins to rebuild.

Preparing for the new normal

While it’s easy to be consumed by the negative impact of the ongoing crisis, this period provides a unique chance for marketing teams to deploy different tactics and learn new skillsets. Employees that usually focus on events, for example, can transfer and develop their skills for digital webinars or conferences. As a result, teams will be better set-up to deal with the changes we are set to see post-pandemic.

If teams are willing to properly analyse the results of their campaign audits under new budget restrictions, they will end up with insights that improve their strategies both now, and in the future. New tactics, tools and ways of working will be replaced by more efficient, streamline and effective methods, without teams having to lose out on the collaboration that is fundamental to marketing success.

Taking a step back could turn out to be extremely positive for innovation. Despite recruitment being on hold, it’s very likely that we will see an increased demand for certain skillsets, such as digital media. The teams that are willing to adapt are the ones that will come out on top, having used this time to rethink product offerings, key audiences and technologies.

Short-term, KPIs and priorities for marketing departments will continue to fluctuate as businesses become more cautious with their money. The longer-term impact will likely be different; however, it is still too early to say how. COVID-19 has forced every marketing team, on a global scale, to consider how they spend and invest their money. Those that have been able to streamline and readjust to the new normal will find it easier as we begin to come out of this.

WEBINAR REWIND: Motivation Hacks for B2B Success While Working Remotely

If you missed last week’s Lead Forensics webinar about WFH motivation hacks, you can now watch the whole presentation again at your leisure.

In the fifteen minute session, you’ll discover:

  • The power of automation
  • Why communication matters
  • How to chose incentives that motivate everyone
  • How to align your teams from home
  • About your tech stack: CRM, website tracking and more
  • 5 quick-fire tips for boosting productivity, motivation and morale

Click here to watch the webinar in full

Every day, 98% of the businesses visiting your website leave without contacting your team. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew who they were, what pages they visited, and could gain access to contact details of key decision-makers from those visiting businesses.

Lead Forensics software helps more than 10,000 businesses across the globe to generate new business leads, convert existing sales pipeline and unconverted enquiries, win-back lapsed customers and support your existing customers like never before.

Its real-time alerts and in-depth analytics help unlock your website’s potential and keep you one step ahead of your competitors.

Click here for a free, no obligation trial.

Plugging a £12 billion Coronavirus Revenue Gap: Optimising Sales through harmonisation of on and offline media

According to econsultancy, the UK retail industry could see a loss of approximately £12bn in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, a Go Inspire Group study showed that retailers already missed out on approximately £18bn in revenue every year, through online basket abandonment. 

The research breaks down the opportunity for possible revenue across 13 key retail verticals and identified:

  • how bridging the offline and online worlds presents a huge opportunity for recouping ‘lost’ revenue
  • that combining digitally printed direct mail that is personalised and reflects the online experience, with email abandoned basket reactivation campaigns, more than doubled conversions +(113%).
  • the best time to send physical, mail reminders was within a week of the customer abandoning their basket.
  • how the technology to combine many, small, daily volumes into one, high-volume mailing is allowing retailers to quickly send a handful of letters each day, so they reach the customer promptly, but at an affordable cost. 

You can download the research in full here or check out Go Inspire’s blog for more tips and advice on converting more abandoned baskets. 

Printer launches ‘Together We Are Stronger’ Poster Campaign to Support NHS

Printing firm Where The Trade Buys has launched a campaign to show support for the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As part of its ‘Together We Are Stronger’ campaign, the company is calling on people to print off its posters and colour them in, to their own tastes, and share them on social media.

The campaign launch coincides with the UK public’s overwhelming response to ‘Clap for our Carers’, which saw people head for their balconies, windows, and doors, to applaud NHS health workers in their efforts to fight Covid-19.

Louise Stephenson, Managing Director at Where The Trade Buys, said: “The pressure the NHS staff are under at the moment is unimaginable. At a time of crisis, it is imperative that we all pull together and there’s no better way to do that than through social engagement.

“While the majority of us are limited to the confines of our own homes, it is a great way to interact with our families and celebrate our unsung heroes. Let’s share these posters on social media and show the NHS we are all behind them and put a smile back on their face.” 

The company is urging people to share the posters between family and friends and engage with the hashtag #TogetherAtHome on social media, and will re-tweet anyone who tags it too.

To download the free poster, visit https://www.wherethetradebuys.co.uk/together-at-home

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