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This year I thought I’d let all the prediction ideas for 2021 burst out of the gate and then take a considered view. 

Let’s consider that outside of Bill Gates no one saw the world of 2020 in advance. Perhaps that is the real prediction for 2021, if Bill says there’s a monster coming over the hill, start running.

Last March, I have to admit, I might have panicked a bit too much. I genuinely thought a health and economic meltdown was coming. We closed the offices before others, set up to work from home and prepared for the worst. We set up a campaigning group on Facebook to save businesses and jobs. It grew so fast and had amazing support and I believe it in some small way pressured the government to step up and help. 

Running a Digital Marketing Agency has to be a fools game. It seems any and every person sets up as a Digital Expert, all that’s needed is a laptop and a great line of BS . Now this will sound like bitching, but very few digital experts can be described as such in truth. It’s not helped by being complex, and for customers very difficult to question suppliers about.  Every industry has  problems with low grade competitors trashing the market, but Digital Marketing feels more full of trash than most.

If I didn’t expect Coronavirus, I really didn’t expect the Google’s CEO to recommend our work personally and to Congress! Out of the blue with no warning, in his opening statement to Congress in the big Tech Trials, he starts telling of our work with Kettlebell Kings and how it’s an example of what can be achieved with Google Ads. If you want a testimonial it doesn’t get any better than that.

So what may 2021 have in store for us. I am going to focus on what will really affect us, not the 2020 fluffy machine learning that is promoted endlessly.

Retail Goes Online

Online growth has been talked about too much, but post Spring what will be the effect on retailing? I think many shopping sectors including clothing have a bright future, but it’s one of dramatic change. No longer will shop owners and assistants be sitting around waiting for customers, they now know they can go to the customer. Covid has created a huge shift with stores becoming experts at social media. Yes everybody says that, but what exactly does that mean? It means independent stores, for example, have been putting together a collection of clothes and accessories and live casting to Facebook and other social platforms several times a week as a walk through. With minutes of the video ending, you’ll be posting the featured items with links to your online store. Sales pour in. It’s a simple but effective strategy.

Personality will also play an increasingly important role. Your customer will have a closer involvement with you, albeit virtually. Our reservation about video and live meetings has been banished, it’s our new route to shopping. Those that embrace the ability to reach a larger audience every day will thrive. 2021 is the year that even the most die hard retailers will move online, including the likes of Primark who are predicted to have lost £1bn from not being online. 

Do What You Have Always Done And Watch Sales Disappear

Ok, perhaps I should have saved Primark for this prediction. Whilst physical stores move online, existing ecommerce stores –  particularly those that have been around for a while – will realise that if they don’t step up a level, their market will be stolen by the new crowd. Too many ecommerce stores have fallen into the trap of not updating their store designs and are running old tech that makes it difficult to push your inventory out to social media and Amazon. The typical answer we get is we can’t afford it, we don’t make enough money. Yet, many of you have had access to low interest rate government backed lending for the first time ever. Some of  you are sitting on that money unsure of what to do with it. I know the feeling, you are worried that you will lose the capital and have to make very careful choices, but you still bought that car for cash didn’t you?

Many have considered what the next big change was going to be,  arguing it was going to be Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, never thinking it would be a Pandemic that totally changes how we work and live. Consider that up to 40% of office workers may continue to work from home post-Covid. Consequently, transport, office landlords, diners and city stores will all feel the impact of reduced traffic.  We need to consider how the world has changed and your marketing needs to be planned around those changes. Now is the time to plan a new marketing strategy.

Youtube

There has been an explosion in the number of Influencers and Youtubers. We have all been forced to become more independent during lock down, our consumption of ‘How To’ videos grew  rapidly. The viewing stats on Youtube grew to 2 billion active users, making Youtube the second largest social media platform with 79% of internet users having an account.

Whilst Facebook has issues with younger adult audiences,  90% of US 18 to 44 years old watch Youtube. From a marketers perspective 90% of users say they have discovered a product on Youtube, it’s where we have to be as advertisers.  

Video has become a vital channel and I feel it will continue to consume more of our attention, even to the point that it surpasses Facebook longer term.

Facebook Woes

Facebook content has hit a brick wall, its users have effectively run out of content during lockdown, every visit to FB feels like GroundHog Day. This does provide opportunities for advertisers, but again Facebook has become too flooded with ads. Post lock down as the world travels, explores and shops our attention will return to Facebook,  an explosion of new content increasing its appeal to advertisers.

Many Facebook advertisers have found the platform troublesome and I hope in 2021 Facebook face up to these issues. Numerous legal actions are underway against Facebook for its inaccurate targeting. Internal Facebook emails released to court, illustrate that demographic targeting may only be 41% accurate and interest targeting was described as ‘crap’.  Many advertisers have fallen victim to false leads.  I estimate that at least 30% of enquiries via Facebook lead forms are dead leads.  Examples include  former partners vindictively filling in their ex’s details, leads that are never contactable and spam leads from bots on Facebook. 

Facebook works easily for advertisers starting out or when spend levels are very low. Trying to scale Facebook from a few orders into a viable advertising channel that can support small and medium business requirements takes experience and talent. Like Google Ads attracting clicks, likes, leads is easy; traffic that converts is a far more complex task.

Desperately Seeking Blood Sweat & Tears Experience Plus Talent

With the huge shift to digital, comes the need for marketing. In 2020 demand out stripped supply and online experienced a wave of easy money or an internet gold rush.  Many companies have rushed to recruit new staff to plug their skill gaps, but now are finding that all staff are not equal, and getting staff to deliver as they promised in their interview is another story. Experience isn’t even enough in marketing, it requires unique individuals, risk takers, who can take a problem, less than ideal resources including website, images and capital but deliver marketing that actually turns a profit. It’s a bit like Gold Mining. There’s a show called Gold Rush, it typifies Digital Marketing. Parker and Tony have years of experience under their belt, blood sweat and tears experience plus talent; they make a killing. The others, some who worked for Parker, or are Greenhorns (a year of  experience) believe there is “gold in them there hills”,  but like many online businesses find it difficult or impossible to make a profit.

Internet marketing contrary to popular belief is not easy or cheap. Don’t believe the Wix ads. Many advertisers have found success at a small scale, but it all goes wrong when they try to scale sales – many feel the odds in Vegas are better.  A recent study found that 40% of all investment in a business using digital marketing as their route to market, goes to Google, Facebook and Amazon and then you have to add the cost of your marketing team. Often forgotten is who is going to train your new recruits. Why, they are already qualified and know what to do. No, marketing moves so fast that between you offering a role and your new recruit starting the tools they use will have changed. Oh, lets not forget very few marketing people have a firm grasp of marketing strategy, how to implement and what to do when it doesn’t work as planned.  Marketing requires a consistent updating of skills and training. Employers find it’s just a job to many young marketing people, they don’t have a burning passion for it. This infuriates me, but I’ve learnt to live with it and now accept we must consistently train and support staff. Even now I live and breath marketing, but I am told it’s your business, well it’s your career.  Skype is a never ending stream of questions at Click Convert with clients having never seen before issues needing resolution fast. So, are you capable of providing the marketing technical support when they don’t know the answer, if not who is?

I know better than most how challenging it is to recruit marketing staff.  For this blog I looked up our recruiting stats and it took in 2020 60 qualified CV’s to find 1 new recruit. Very few that we interviewed knew anything useful about internet marketing that could be used from day one.  Ask a candidate to explain copywriting fundamentals or the required fields for a Google product feed and it all falls apart. Many companies recruiting don’t even know the questions to ask. 

My prediction is that companies will grossly underestimate the costs of engaging marketing staff. Assume you get to recruit for a person for £23,000, add in NI, Pensions some tools / software and your costs are close to £30,000 per year. Assume your gross profit is 30%,  you will need an extra £100,000 in sales to break even! Consider it from a net profit perspective; Assume a 10% profit, your new recruit needs to generate an extra £300,000 in sales and that’s before you factor in the advertising spend just to get to the point before you employed them. Overheads walk on 2 legs and they kill profitability faster than Covid.

This all sounds expensive, but there is another option. Countless times over the years, we have been asked to step in to cover for a marketing manager who has left; a virtual marketing manager if you like. The cost is probably around $500 / £370 per month. What our clients find out is that outsourcing is more effective.  In a single resource they have access to Google, Facebook, Youtube and Web experts. It’s a far more cost effective route and one that doesn’t require all the cost of a new kit, holidays, illness and the big question – “What’s my career path?”.  I know you want to scream at that question, but you keep calm and composed on the outside.

Boom Times Are Coming

Look back to the 1918 Flu Pandemic and we all see the parallels, even down to those who don’t like wearing masks ( they were arrested in 1919!). What followed was the roaring 20’s.  Wikipedia says,“roaring because of the exuberant, freewheeling popular culture of the decade. The Roaring Twenties was a time when many people defied Prohibition, indulged in new styles of dancing and dressing, and rejected many traditional moral standards.’ I predict that we will shortly enter a new boom decade. How many of you cannot wait to go on holiday, go out to a restaurant, visit friends and party like you never have. Travel is going to explode, hotels will boom and people will want to dress up. I am fed up with wearing casual clothes and sitting at a desk and putting on weight.  I want to see and experience the world again – Las Vegas awaits. 

Local Marketing – The Must Have New Skill

Back in 2010 you just advertised your product on Google Ads and bang, they bought or called you. It was simply a matter of spending money on the right people and then scale the budget. It’s so far from that now, that I truly feel for new start ups. Today, many agencies will talk about customer journeys and touch points. They explain how social media is like asking a stranger to marry you on the first encounter. We all know it takes time to build a relationship and get to that wedding day. Social media is like this, but often advertisers want to ‘be married at first sight’, mainly because they don’t have the time or money to build the relationship. 

Yet the simple video and product posting strategy outlined above works like a steam train. I do believe with such a huge divergence of views and personal opinions, it has become increasingly complex for large brands to win. As many agencies are so influenced by big brand strategy, most agency staff want to work in a world of glossy white office thinking up amazing experiential campaigns for Apple. It’s their dream and they pay close attention to big brand thinking.  Yet small and medium sized businesses need fast relationship building and to think on their feet to get customers, particularly for businesses working within their local area. Big Brand strategies often don’t work for small and medium sized businesses. 

I predict  2021 will see local marketing becoming the new specialty, particularly on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.  You’ll see more agencies like Click Convert  equipped to build website funnels, integrated with CRMs (a database of your leads and customer) so that as a local lead comes in, it appears on your mobile, then the lead gets a confirmation sms and email, linked to a calendar booking that auto confirms with the lead. This will allow local businesses to get on with doing the work whilst leads stream in automatically. This will be a big game changer. 

Amazon Advertising Changes

Amazon will become an even more critical part of our service. Amazon is changing. The organic listing effectiveness is in decline as I write. Look at it from Amazon’s point of view;  do you give the buy box to the Seller advertising or the non advertiser? It’s going to be the Seller Advertiser as Amazon gets a bigger revenue.  Now, take it to the next level, what if the Seller were to drive external traffic to their Amazon listings? That’s even more attractive to Amazon given that it’s free traffic to Amazon.

But what if the Amazon Advertiser were to send sales to Amazon and reduce Amazon’s costs. How can they do that? By advertising on Google Ads. This technique rewards Amazon Sellers with huge growth. The Seller’s issue now is how do you track external advertising against sales on Amazon? Well, there is now a way to do this…

Delivery Pains

Amazon is great but I still try whenever possible to shop elsewhere. There’s a  problem, parcels turn up later than Amazon’s 2 day service and of the last 5 orders placed via Google Ads companies, I’ve had to follow up with 2 via  email. Unless business can get a  handle on efficient order processing and delivery then the future is not looking great,even with a boom coming. Yes Amazon is often more expensive but the ease of purchases and fast delivery often wins the day. Getting products delivered rapidly in 2021 will have  far more effect than AI. Get same day delivery and you still will have an advantage over Amazon. There are a number of great fulfillment houses around the country and these may be an option for growing retailers. At the end of the day you have to consider what are your core skills  – Do you really have the time to become a warehousing expert? Same applies to Marketing.

I hope I given you some points to consider

 

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    John Langley

    I am the founder of Click Convert, an Award Winning agency,  here to deliver great marketing for Small and Medium Businesses. We’ve created over $1.1 billion in sales for clients.  We’re one of the top digital marketing companies in America and the UK for small and medium businesses digital marketing. We’re a Google Premier Partner, a Google Top 50 agency and our work was recommended by Google’s CEO in 2020.

    Outside of family and Click Convert, Cars, Adventure and Pizza are my passion. 

    Our vision is to  Inform, Empower and Deliver to help both clients and readers.