Listen Up: How B2B Marketers Are Expanding Social Listening Offline & Beyond

Expanding B2B social listening strategies businesswoman with hand to ear image

Expanding B2B social listening strategies businesswoman with hand to ear image

How can B2B marketers amp up their social media listening strategy and put it to use in other areas to become better all-around listeners?

Social listening is a vital aspect of modern B2B marketing, providing valuable insight into current and potential future customers, yet many marketers treat it almost as an afterthought.

Fundamental listening skills outside of the social realm are also often given only lip service, leaving B2B marketers plenty of room to purposely hone a winning listening strategy.

Whether online or in person, taking the time to build better listening habits can provide a sizable return on investment, so let’s take a look at five ways to expand your B2B listening ROI.

1 — Amp Up Your B2B Digital Listening First

Before tackling in-person listening improvements, it’s important to make sure that your social media listening efforts are in order, and that you’re doing all you can within each social environment relevant to your organization or brand.

A few areas where social listening may be a good fit include the following:

  • Established social channels including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Emerging online channels including BeReal, TikTok, Twitch, Reddit, and Discord
  • Research tools and databases including the Internet Archive / Wayback Machine and JSTOR
  • Search engines and third-party search tools such as Semrush, Meltwater, and BuzzSumo
  • Question research tools including KeywordTool.io, Answer the Public, and others

When you’re looking to learn exactly what your audience thinks about a particular topic, taking a direct approach with polls either through social media platforms or on a brand website can also help efficiently get the job done. Learn more about the ins and outs of social media polls in our, „Survey Says: 2022 B2B Marketing Insight From Social Media Polls,“ and „Social Media Polls For Marketers: 6 B2B Brands Winning With LinkedIn Polls.“

Getting to the heart of the questions most important to your potential audience provides a powerful path to finding best-answer solutions.

To learn more about why question research is such an important facet in marketing, and some of the primary ways to uncover precisely what people are using search engines and other search technology to ask and learn more about, check out our “10 Smart Question Research Tools for B2B Marketers.”

[bctt tweet=““’Listen‘ means much more than hearing with ears. It means to pay attention. Synonyms include observe, be attentive, give attention to, hang on words, and take notice.” — Meryl Evans @MerylkEvans“ username=“toprank“]

Not that you’ve put your social media listening house in order, or at least established a framework for making improvements, it’s time to take our listening skills in other areas to the next level.

2 — Put Your B2B Listening Skills To Use Beyond Social

Once you’ve ensured that your digital listening strategies are running smoothly and gathering B2B marketing insight, it’s time to focus on doing the same for all of those non-social interactions we conduct every day, including:

  • Email communications
  • Phone conversations
  • Zoom or other video conferencing meetings
  • In-person interactions and meeting
  • Real-life professional networking events

One way to start changing the intensity of our listening is to make a point of specifically including it in every interaction, whether it’s reminding ourselves to look more closely at the email we’re responding to, devoting more time to listening on phone or video calls, or preparing a series of questions ahead of time to ask during in-person conversations and events.

Remind yourself before each conversation — digital or otherwise — that time spent listening will offer insights that don’t easily come in any other way. Even a small increase in the amount of time you dedicate to better listening can reap vast rewards.

[bctt tweet=““If you’re truly, truly listening to what these conversations are saying then ultimately the hope is that it opens the door to better content, better customer care, and more conversions.” — Kenneth Kinney @KennethKinney“ username=“toprank“]

3 — Devote More B2B Bandwidth To Listening & Taking Notes

We all have only so much bandwidth, both digital and offline, and in either case savvy B2B marketers gain dividends when they deliberately make listening more of a two-way street and less a one-way drag race.

As we purposely focus on being better listeners, it’s important to keep track of all those newfound insights we’re gathering, so that when the immediate conversation ends, we have action items on which to act going forward. For some, making a mental note is adequate, while others will want to take notes, make lists, or use various online tools for managing and completing action items.

B2B marketers can expand their influence in several areas through taking the time to be better listeners, as Nancy Duarte recently explored in, “Broaden Your Influence by Adapting How You Listen” for MIT Sloan Management Review.

[bctt tweet=““Great listeners adapt the way they listen to help the person speaking accomplish their goals and meet their needs.” — Nancy Duarte @NancyDuarte“ username=“toprank“]

4 — Use Better Listening To Drive Marketing Change

Even the best listeners in B2B marketing can only get so far if they never put the insights they’ve gained to use. A good listening strategy goes beyond listening by building in mechanisms for taking feedback and delivering it to the right people in an organization, and at the opportune time.

A good listener can take action items from their mental or physical notes and move them through an organization’s workflow to make sure each issue is handled by the right team or person, and it’s this additional step that significantly enhances the benefits of being a better listener.

Using insight gained from smarter listening to drive B2B marketing change can elevate your professional effectiveness, and ultimately may be the difference between success and failure.

[bctt tweet=““The true leader in a group is rarely the person who talks the most. It’s usually the person who listens best.” — Adam Grant @AdamMGrant“ username=“toprank“]

5 — A Good Digital Or Offline Ear Can Make The Difference

When so much of the B2B marketing world can often be little more than chatter, a smart listening strategy is a great way to cut through the white-noise and show potential customers that you, your organization, and your brand are different. This seemingly small move can be the biggest differentiating factor when it comes time for B2B buyers to choose where to take their business.

When it comes to communications, not everyone can listen in the same way, and those who have limited or no auditory hearing face additional hurdles, yet may also serve as stellar examples of how we can be better communicators and listeners.

Meryl Evans, accessibility marketing consultant, speaker, and writer — a LinkedIn Top Voice in Disability Advocacy 2022 — has been elevating opportunities for more accessible communication since the days of the computer bulletin board. From the latest on improving video captioning to making video conferencing better, Meryl has also been a strong example of how we can always work to be better listeners, in B2B marketing and in life.

[bctt tweet=““Accessible content marketing, email marketing, blog posts, web content, and social media help you better connect with your target market and expand your reach.” — Meryl Evans @merylkevans“ username=“toprank“]

Active Listening Meets B2B Marketing Needs Head On

via GIPHY

By amping up your B2B digital listening, putting your listening skills to use beyond social, devoting greater bandwidth to listening and note-taking, and using observational skills to drive marketing change, B2B marketers can make a world of difference when it comes time to attract, engage, and convert audiences.

We hope you’ve found these tips for being a better listener in B2B marketing helpful, and that some may help you on your own journey as we all make the transition to 2023 and beyond.

Additionally, our own senior manager of social and influencer marketing Debbie Friez explored tips for active social media listening, in “Active Social Media Listening: Tips for a New Era of COVID-19,” and I took a look at listening as it relates to the kind of information processing that B2B marketers do daily, in “Content Contemplations: How We Process Information & Why B2B Marketers Must Craft Content That Elevates.”

More than ever before, creating award-winning B2B marketing that elevates, gives voice to talent, and humanizes with authenticity takes considerable time and effort, which is why more brands are choosing to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Contact us today to learn how we can help, as we’ve done for over 20 years for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and many others.

The post Listen Up: How B2B Marketers Are Expanding Social Listening Offline & Beyond appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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5 Podcasting Trends Every B2B Marketer Should Know

B2B Podcasting Trends

B2B Podcasting Trends

We may have mentioned a time or two that podcasts are a great way for B2B marketers to release content. But since my first B2B podcasting post (way back in the before times of 2018, how naive we were), the landscape has changed significantly.

Part of the shift is due to the pandemic and the remote/hybrid work boom that followed. People who used to spend hours listening to podcasts on their commute suddenly found that the bedroom to home office commute required less entertainment.

But the other part is simply natural maturation and evolution over time. Podcasts are becoming even more plentiful, their creators more diverse, and the advertising more relevant.

Here are the major trends that B2B podcasters should be aware of for 2022 and beyond.

Listener Demographics and Habits Are Changing

First, the good news: The popularity of podcasts still shows no signs of waning. In fact, there’s a large block of new listeners that have been at it for less than a year! People are still discovering and falling in love with the medium.

According to SCM Media’s 2022 Podcast Report, these listeners have some important distinguishing factors, compared to the old guard. First, they’re younger: Over 66% are under 35 years old. Second, they’re split 50/50 gender-wise (the survey assumed a binary), versus the old guard’s 70/30 male split.

Podcasts are also diversifying, and audiences are as well. Black and Latine listener pools are growing fast. These groups are drawn by topical interests, but also by creators who share their life experiences. For example, over half of Black listeners say it’s important their content be presented by a Black creator.

These listeners are putting in fewer hours a week — 4.4 versus 7.1 — but they’re also listening to more episodes of different podcasts. While the old guard used to listen to every episode of their favorite podcasts, the new folks are more likely to podcast hop based on topical interest. This is likely because…

Podcasts Are Getting Easier to Find & Search by Topic

For anyone who has ever hosted a podcast, let’s hear a great big, “FINALLY!” As major players like Apple, Spotify, Google and YouTube lean into podcasting, we’re starting to see better search engines and smarter recommendations. Like all machine learning implementations, these algorithms will continue to improve over time.

In his podcast predictions for 2022, iHeartMedia’s CEO Conal Byrne explores the implications:

Podcasting will benefit from the engineers of these platforms [Google, Youtube and Facebook] aiming their best-in-class search and discovery tools on the podcasting medium. Long-tail shows will be discovered. Evergreen episodes will be highlighted whenever relevant. Perhaps more than anything, newsworthy podcast content will begin to surface more regularly in search results and recommendations on the platforms we all use all the time to stay up to speed.

This development has two major implications for B2B podcasters: First, podcast SEO will be critical to capture “podcast hopper” attention. That means every episode should have relevant keywords in the title and description for maximum findability.

Second, your podcast archive may be more valuable than you think. If podcast platforms will be recommending your older episodes, it’s worth making sure each episode is optimized for search and sounds its best.

There Are Exciting New Ways to Monetize & Repurpose Podcasts

Who says podcasts have to be a cost center for your brand? It’s getting more simple to serve relevant advertising to your podcast audience—adding revenue while your brand still gets the boost from the podcast content.

New podcast listeners are 19% more open to advertising than the old guard. As long as ads are relevant, they say, it’s okay to interrupt the content with advertising. This is partly due to the emergence of DAI (dynamic ad insertion) technology, which makes it easy to custom-fit relevant, timely ads into existing content.

Livestreaming is another way to monetize an already popular podcast. Think of it as hosting a webinar, but with more audience participation and fewer slideshows. Some live podcast events (albeit for the most popular entertainment podcasts) can sell tickets for upwards of $50 a session. Currently, only 10% of podcasters take advantage of livestreams, so it’s a good way for your brand to make a splash.

Research shows that listeners are hungry for podcast content outside of the podcast platform, too. Tools like Wavve, which helps create video from snippets of audio, have seen an explosion in popularity, with Wavve itself seeing 7000% growth since 2019.

Short clips of your podcast on social media are a great way to expose your podcast to a new audience, and to give your existing subscribers something to snack on between episodes.

Creating and Editing Is Easier than Ever

The last few years has seen the rise of all-in-one podcasting platforms. Unlike services that simply host your content and syndicate it, these new tools feature audio and video calling capabilities, recording options, and even editing tools right in your browser.

Tools like Riverside.fm and Zencastr make it easy to capture high-quality audio and get it ready for publication.

One new player that’s already getting a ton of attention is Descript, an all-in-one that generates transcripts automatically and lets you edit audio by editing the text.

There’s Still Plenty of Room for Growth

There are currently over 2 million podcasts in the world right now. But there’s always room for more. Even with the current surge in new listeners, there’s still 50% of the adult U.S. population that have never listened to a podcast. They’re just waiting for the right sound or video clip to speak directly to their wants and needs.

If you’ve been thinking about launching a podcast for your brand, now is a great time to start. And we can help! To get started, read how we helped SAP launch a podcast that smashed benchmarks with every episode.

The post 5 Podcasting Trends Every B2B Marketer Should Know appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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B2B Marketing News: Rising B2B MarTech Spend, 10th Annual Data Never Sleeps Report, & LinkedIn Tops B2B Ad Spending

2022 September 30 Domo Chart

2022 September 30 Domo ChartUS B2B MarTech Spend Set for ~15% Rise This Year
In 2022 marketing technology spending is set to top $20 billion for the first time, with the B2B-specific segment growing by some 14.6 percent — slightly higher than overall combined B2C and B2B spending, according to newly-released survey data of interest to B2B marketers. MarketingCharts

[bctt tweet=““An important part of a modern martech stack has to be a unified profile that spans identities, understands behavioral information at an individual level, but also on the B2B side at an account level.” — Stephen Streich @sstreich“ username=“toprank“]

LinkedIn will capture nearly 25% of US B2B ad spending by 2024
By the end of 2022 B2B display advertising revenues on the LinkedIn professional social media platform are expected to account for 21 percent of U.S. B2B digital ad spend, a share that will rise to nearly 50 percent by 2024, according to recently-released U.S. B2B digital ad spending forecast data. Insider Intelligence

TikTok Increases Length Of Video Descriptions
Short-form video creation firm TikTok has rolled out a change that will see a jump from the previous maximum of 300 characters to describe content on the platform to 2,200, a move that has given marketers using the growing platform greatly-expanded room for search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Search Engine Journal

Instagram Stories under 60 seconds are no longer broken up into clips
Meta-owned Instagram has begun to roll out a change that will no longer require Instagram Story content less than a minute in length to be broken into 15-second segments, instead allowing a single uninterrupted user experience — a change that will likely affect how B2B marketers use the feature for short-form content. TechCrunch

At Dreamforce, a new data platform and enhancements to Slack
Salesforce‘ Dreamforce event saw the announcement of coming changes to its popular Slack video conferencing program, that will bring organized resource curation in a new Slack Canvas feature and multi-person screen sharing in Slack Huddles, along with a new real-time customer data platform, 360 Audiences. MarTech

Carbon Emerges As Key Ad Performance Indicator: Clients/Agencies Split On Cost
When it comes to carbon emissions generated by digital advertising campaigns, 87 percent of U.S. and U.K. advertiser and agency executives have said that the digital ad industry has a responsibility to lower carbon emissions, while a new carbon performance indicator (CPI) metric has begun to take shape, according to newly-released survey data of interest to digital marketers. MediaPost

2022 September 30 Statistics ImageWhy is accessibility an afterthought for marketers?
With some 26 percent of the U.S. population living with a disability, a scant 36 percent of firms possess a top-down commitment to building accessible digital experiences, according to recently-published Forrester survey data, and Campaign US shows how Apple, Accenture, and IBM have worked to make inroads in digital accessibility. Campaign US

These Are the Areas Marketers Think Will Be Most Important Over the Next 2 Years
37 percent of marketers have said that a shift to decision making that is more data-driven will be their most important marketing area over the next two years, with 35 percent pointing to improved customer experiences and managing those journeys — two of several statistics of interest contained in newly-released survey data. MarketingCharts

How Patagonia’s shakeup challenges marketers to act on sustainability
With some 94 percent of consumers saying that they are seeking to lead more sustainable lifestyles, Patagonia’s recent move shifting 98 percent of its non-voting stock to environmental nonprofit Holdfast Collective, marketers are seeing new opportunities that cross the divide between B2C and B2B, and Marketing Dive takes a look. Marketing Dive

What Happens on the Internet Every Minute (2022 Version) [Infographic]
What happens during each digital minute online in 2022 is the focus of the tenth-annual “Data Never Sleeps” report in infographic form, showing Internet population and social platform use growth and other insights of interest to digital marketers, including some 97 zetabytes of data that is expected to be generated in 2022, Domo recently announced. Social Media Today

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:

2022 September 30 Marketoonist Comic Image

A lighthearted look at “Returning to the Office” by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

Vanessa Fox On The Early Days Of Google Search Console, Webmaster Tools & Sitemaps — Search Engine Roundtable

A history of ARM, part 1: Building the first chip — Ars Technica

TOPRANK MARKETING & CLIENTS IN THE NEWS:

  • Joshua Nite — This Week in Marketing: Almost Famous — LinkedIn (client)
  • Lee Odden / TopRank Marketing — Procurement and Partnership — Marketoonist
  • TopRank Marketing — Who sees your B2B content? — TalkCMO

Have you found your own top B2B marketing news item this week that we haven’t yet mentioned? If so, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments below.

We thank you for joining us for this week’s TopRank Marketing B2B marketing news, and hope you will return again next Friday for another array of the most up-to-date and pertinent B2B and digital marketing industry news. In the meantime, you can follow us on our LinkedIn page, or at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news.

The post B2B Marketing News: Rising B2B MarTech Spend, 10th Annual Data Never Sleeps Report, & LinkedIn Tops B2B Ad Spending appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Semrush on How to Create B2B Content for Generation Z

Lennox Powell Semrush

Lennox Powell Semrush

While many B2B marketers are focused on Boomer and Millennial age senior marketing executives, what are B2B brands doing to connect with the next Generation of buyers? You know, those junior marketing pros born after 1997 aka Gen Z? Content Director at Semrush, @LenoxPowell, shared useful insights about connecting this up and coming group of customers that includes buyers of B2B products and services.

First, you should know that GenZ is a large cohort – 32% of the global population, with massive spending power.

Second, you should know that GenZ are definitely not Millennials 2.0.

While Millennials are aspirational, idealistic and adapted to tech, their brand expectations are about storytelling On the other hand, Gen Z are authentic, pragmatic, and visual first about technology with brand expectations are about storyliving.

Don’t worry, I had to look up „storyliving“ too. Jeff Fromm describes it as, „StoryLiving™ is about what companies do, not just what they say. It is not just being unique, but also meaningful and acting in the interests of many stakeholders.“

Ahh, that makes sense. However, don’t I think GenZ has the market cornered on a trend towards consumers caring more about companies acting authentically and meaningfully in the interests of their customers.

So, what’s the marketing opportunity for Gen Z?

1. A whole new mindset
2. New opportunity to be creative
3. New loyal customer
4. New advocates for your brand

There are important shifts in social platforms with Gen Z : they are not on Facebook or Pinterest.

For Gen Z, TikTok is the new Facebook. TikTok is about fun, unpolished content which Gen Z loves. TikTok is expected to be the 3rd most popular social network by the end of 2022 and potentially displace Facebook and Twitter.

Some forward thinking businesses are starting to take Gen Z opportunities seriously and doing things like hiring Chief TikTok Officers. (Personally I think that’s just a gimmick – no one hired Chief Facebook Officers or Chief LinkedIn Officers – why should they do that with TikTok?)

How do you go viral on TikTok?

  • Speak right away. 1 in 3 viral TikTok videos focused on a person speaking within the first 3 seconds.
  • Let the music play – More than half of viral TikTok videos used music as their primary background sound in the first 3 seconds.
  • One to one – 60% of viral videos featured one person visible on the screen
  • Keep it real – Create videos that portray real people with real lives

Is TikTok the new search? Younger users search on TikTok more than Google. TikTok surpassed Google as the most visited domain in 2021. „Gen Z „hates searching Google because crappy SEO blogs bury the answers they are looking for underneath keyword stuffed garbage“.

A study by Fractl found that Gen Z loves long tail search. The length of their search queries are much longer than Millennials and other generations.

Words to consider in your content for Gen Z include – „best“, „cheap“, „how to“, „top“.

Content doesn’t always need to be literal and how to do this or that. Some of the most popular content amongst Gen Z is ASMR or other entertaining content that then opens the door to point to more practical content.

Research from Clover Letter found that brands should not talk down to Gen Z. 52% want to be informed. 35% say media talks down to them, 37% hate clickbait.

Tone of voice is important for Gen Z. They tend to lean towards informal, friendly types of communications.

Marketing disruptors that are shaking things up. Web 3.0 is influencing how we are online and engaging. Gen Z will likely adopt these elements and marketers need to be prepared:

  • Blockchain
  • Crypto
  • NFT
  • Metaverse

Web 1 was disorganized and overwhelming
Web 2 Was the rise of Facebook, Amazon, Google and amased a lot of power
Web 3 is about taking some of that power back

Think about this shift as you are planning your content topically and from a distribution standpoint. Gen Z is all about taking power back from corporations.

The emergence of Web 3 is fueled by Gen Z to decentralize apps and financial components to „take the power back“.

Where does Metaverse play with Millennials? Parallel to the physical world, metaverse is a place where people can experience life digitally but can also include augmented reality as a hybrid of virtual and real world.

What does this look like? Gucci has a store where users can buy products for their avatar. Lowes has an augmented reality option to try out power tools virtually. Adidas has a NFT community with limited access to merchandise.

What does this mean to us as marketers? There’s still a lot to be figured out. A lot of it is theoretical and experimental but it’s taking off with Gen Z. If your team can experiment and test things out you’ll be ahead of the game. Big brands are doing it and so should you.

For a related post that digs even deeper into how to prepare for future B2B customers, be sure to read my coverage of LinkedIn’s Allyson Hugley on What’s Next: Connecting with Future Buyers.

The post Semrush on How to Create B2B Content for Generation Z appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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How upskilling your paid advertising skills will tackle economic downturns

30-second summary:

  • Marketing budgets are often the first to be slashed in a downturn – upskilling your existing team with digital marketing techniques can provide huge efficiencies and minimize the impact of cuts
  • Creating an upskilling program does not need to be expensive or time-consuming if a well-thought-out strategy is adopted and results are constantly measured
  • Nurturing your own in-house talent pool also increases business resilience, improves marketing innovation and creativity, and reduces reliance on third-party operators
  • Choosing the right skills for your team to acquire depends both on your immediate goals and long-term business strategy – done right you can steal a march on your competitors
  • Sarah Gilchriest, Global COO of Circus Street, discusses the key skills brands need to cultivate to stay competitive during an economic downturn

We’re entering what is likely to be a pretty tough global recession. As consumer sentiment worsens, brands will increasingly look at ways they can cut costs to protect their bottom line. Unfortunately, we all know that marketing is usually one of the first budgets to be slashed.

It is seemingly much easier to stop a campaign or give an agency notice than it is to sack a developer or reduce infrastructure costs. However, more often than not, cutting marketing is a false economy that worsens the impact of a downturn by slowing a company’s growth. So, is there a way for brands to instead maximize their digital marketing output while also freezing or reducing costs?

The answer may be found in upskilling.

Training while cutting costs?

Now, your first reaction may be that training programs are expensive luxuries that make little sense if your goal is to cut costs. There are a few things to unpack here –

  1. Size and scope of training matter. You can make an outsized impact by training one or two individuals who then share their knowledge with their wider team. The right strategy (which I’ll discuss further below) can lead to a highly targeted program that gives the most critical skills to those who will be best placed to use them immediately.
  2. Next, there are a lot of freely available supporting resources that can significantly reduce costs and help to embed learning.
  3. Finally, let’s put costs in perspective. The ROI on a well-executed training scheme pays for itself and the initial outlay pales in comparison to most other business functions. Put simply, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Why paid advertising skills?

Paid advertising makes a lot of sense to focus on for a number of reasons. Generally, compared to other marketing fields, paid advertising is characterized by the sheer diversity of skills and techniques needed to fully execute a campaign. It is incredibly fast-moving and often requires you to leverage a number of different tech platforms. Consequently, many brands outsource this functionality to a network of agencies and freelancers. Those that don’t usually rely on one or two individual ‘power users‘ or worse, skills are haphazardly spread among a range of departments leading to bottlenecks and single points of failure.

As such, digital advertising is usually the prime area where efficiencies, greater innovation, and marketing effectiveness can occur via upskilling. It is where your business can do much more for less.

Identifying the right skills

Getting the right skill mix is where the rubber meets the road. A mixture of creativity, data analysis, platform knowledge, development techniques, and marketing expertise are all needed. To get started the best approach is to fully understand what capability your team has in-house. The crucial element is to remember that a lot of ability might be hidden because it is not used on a day-to-day basis. You would be surprised at how quickly a business ‘forgets‘ about the previous experiences of team members after they have been hired.

Auditing team skills should expand beyond the marketing department

You don’t know what gems are lurking in other areas of your business until you start to look. This is also the perfect opportunity to identify both the potential of your employees to acquire new skills and also their individual aspirations. It is much easier to upskill someone who has a professional and personal investment in learning that particular expertise. The audit itself does not need to be complex – a simple matrix that enables people to categorize their proficiency and outline the areas where they would like to develop will suffice.

When you know what you have to work with, then it’ll become much easier to define the best way forward. Deciding the best skill mix comes down to first working out how to fulfill your most immediate needs. For example, taking a costly service in-house, plugging a weakness – where a team member’s departure would severely hamper your ability to function, or obvious gaps in ability that prevent you from undertaking certain digital advertising activities.

Build on the compatibility between your employee’s aspirations and your commercial objectives

This is then overlaid by areas where your marketing output can most obviously be improved and your future aspirations in line with your commercial objectives. For example, if in the future you want to more heavily target users on particular social media platforms or ‘exotic‘ platforms like IoT devices and digital boards. Perhaps you can see the financial benefits of adopting headless CMS tech and would like to put in place the skills needed to make that transition after the recession. Maybe you want your team to have the insight to tell you whether the Metaverse has any potential for your business.

This may sound complex but once you get started the hierarchy of skills you need more often than not becomes very obvious. Remember, one of upskilling’s great strengths is its flexibility – if your needs change or you feel you have chosen the wrong skills – it’s very easy to change track.

Getting started in a cost-efficient way

How you train your team is very much up to individual preferences – everyone learns in different ways. Speaking to your employees and specialists will enable you to build a tailored teaching structure. It can be a combination of in-house learning, online tutorials, accredited programs, or book learning. You do not have to go all in on a full program straight away. Piloting can remove a lot of the risk. Start small – one team or a handful of individuals from across your company – and continually assess the impact.

A mistake to avoid

A common mistake businesses make is they wait too long to get their team to use their new knowledge. This can hold up the process and damage ROI. The best way to embed new skills is to apply them. Ensure that your team has an opportunity to practice their newfound expertise on real initiatives. Then keep a close eye on your business metrics – including team and customer feedback – to determine the impact. Unlike many other departments, digital marketing can have very clear outputs. This will let you know quite quickly if it is working. From there, you can decide on how to roll out your training scheme.

Marketing doesn’t end with the marketers

As I’ve mentioned, diversifying the skillset of your team builds resilience and promotes more innovation. The reason is simple, if you only have marketing skills in your marketing department, you are naturally limiting the number of people who can provide useful insights that fuel innovation. You reduce oversight and feedback loops, and your marketing output will suffer from a lack of outside perspectives.

By making your teams multidisciplinary and cross-functional you can spread useful skills throughout your business. Customer service teams can learn the fundamentals of digital marketing, marketers know how to do the basic dev and data work to enable their day-to-day, and your data teams can think like marketers if they need to.

Preparing for the worst doesn’t mean losing capabilities

If the worst does happen and you do need to make cuts to your team, having key skills shared across your business means that the damage to core functions will be limited.

To finish – I should highlight that much of what I’ve discussed applies equally to business owners as it does to individual freelancers. A downturn can be a daunting prospect if you are a sole trader. Upskilling can be one of the best ways to increase your value to clients now and future-proof your business.

If you have seen business drop off, the time you now have available could be best dedicated to more training. This may sound obvious, but a mistake many people make in their careers is failing to adapt to how demand for skills can quickly change or technology can come along that makes them obsolete. Adding more skill strings to you and your company’s bow is never a bad thing.


Sarah Gilchriest is the Global COO of Circus Street.

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