How Your Business Can Leverage Digital Tactics in These Unsettled Times

John B: Hey guys, good morning everybody, welcome to what I think is a little bit longer teachable moment or teachable moments that we’ve been doing.

I’m actually on board live this morning with our chief strategist Jon Parks. Jon works on our team to help our clients and customers understand the digital marketing, and digital advertising space, really, in the paid search and social areas. Jon’s experience ranges from being a Marketing Director in his former career. Now he works on our team as the chief strategist and I’ll have him share a little bit more of his background.

But I thought maybe in this climate it would be good to hop on with Jon and get kind of a live take on what we’re seeing. Obviously, with this current crisis, businesses have to pivot, they have to look for new ways to invest in the future.

And of course, obviously, people are looking online. Jon, you’ve shared with me some stats that e-commerce and online purchasing are sky rocketing; percentages, I think like 25% in online shopping and e-commerce is up 40%. Maybe I got those mixed up but I know you shared some stats with me and I just thought it would be cool to have a conversation this morning about how businesses can take advantage of what I think is an opportunity in the digital space. So good morning, Jon. Welcome aboard!

Jon P: Good morning, John. It’s always exciting when we get to talk to each other and stuff. Feel like I’m talking to a mirror at least name-wise, so it’s great.

John B: Yeah if only I was as good looking as you.

Jon P: I was gonna say the same to you, but we’ll leave it at that.

So, yeah, glad to connect. And this is both simultaneously a challenging time for sure, but also I think a tremendous opportunity. And you alluded to some of the statistics I’ll just say very quickly, we are seeing some, maybe some discernible trends right now in the online advertising space for sure, but I think that really just points back to the need to take a long-term view and that’s hard to say in today’s environment where you’re worried about, you know, yesterday was the first, right; you got mortgage payments due, or you’ve got salaries to pay or equipment loans to pay or whatever it may be, it’s very difficult to think that way, but there is a tremendous opportunity in front of us and I think digital provides a lot of that for us.

John B: No, I think that makes absolute sense. And something that we’ve been focused on helping clients understand over the last couple of weeks is being able to pivot and then find opportunities. So what would you say is something that businesses can do immediately to pivot into this online space? What would you say is something they could work on? Say ‘Hey, I can do this right now. I could be in control of this and we can try to make a dent in here moving forward’.

Jon P: Yeah, absolutely, it’s a great question and one that, again, I know a lot of people are really wrestling with, and especially it’s made even more difficult by the fact that depending on the type of business you’re in, you may or may not really be able to do a lot of this from home.

So if you’re essential, at least deemed essential by the government right now, that does loosen things up, you are actually able to be at work, be in your office wherever that may be, for you, but if you’re at home, it might be a little more difficult, but to me, it really kind of breaks down to looking for the opportunities that are in front of you. And what I’m seeing is; well, let’s just talk about the online ad space for just a second because you alluded to some of the statistics that we were discussing previously in another conversation. So what we can see is that there are lots and lots and lots of ad impressions that are available. So I was just having this conversation yesterday with a client and I was explaining that we got two different and very interesting events that have converged at the same time.

One is advertisers, and especially those that have been in digital advertising for a long time, they’re pulling back, so they’re pulling their dollars out; they may be cutting their budgets and that’s understandable because they’re looking to slash cost; yeah totally understand that, but at the same time, we’ve got people spending more and more and more and more time online, which is driving up the available impression inventory that’s out there so just go back to basic economics 101, here. If you’ve got a lot of supply, there and not as much in the way of competition that means that there’s certainly more impressions to be had, but you can also probably get them at a better rate than what you’re normally getting.

And we’re seeing that. I’ve seen that in a number of accounts that I manage, and when we talk about accounts, I’m managing things on Google ads, Bing ads, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads Pinterest ads as well as a few others, right, so what I’m seeing is that those costs are actually coming down a little bit, now, not in all sectors, for sure, but they are coming down. So what that means is there’s a big opportunity there for you. So when we talk about pivoting in this space; when we talk about looking for an alternate direction, at least from the online ad space, what I’m focused on is, how can you take advantage of these two divergent events that are creating this gap that’s out there of lots of impressions? And one of the things that I’ve been counseling clients on and so even if you could just keep some of your ad budget in the game – okay, understandable, you may not be able to spend what you once were, spending because you gotta cut back, totally understand that, but even if you keep some chips in the game, it’s a great chance for you to continue to build impression share, and maybe stretch that dollar just a little bit further than it would have gone even two weeks ago.

John B: So let me just see if I can wrap my head around this. And I really like what you’re saying. So basically large players that were eating up a lot of market share may have pulled back because, obviously, they may have actually gotten hit harder, right, in terms of some industries, but you’ve also now with, of course, the younger generations and people potentially sheltering in place or spending more time working from home, there’s a lot more ad impression inventory because they’re using the devices so that kind of converges with a lower cost to get that eye ball, let’s say, on your product or service and then also an available space for you, let’s say, when you might have been competing against a large online retailer, so there are opportunities, would you say, let’s say for maybe a traditional brick and mortar that wants to move their inventory online? They’re not fighting against the huge retailer that has been dumping all this money into capturing that market share. Was that correct what you’re saying?

Jon P: Absolutely yeah, and I would add on to that just to say that it’s not just larger advertisers that have backed out, of the space, there are lots of medium and small advertisers that have backed out, probably more of them in general.

You have to think about, this is a multi-billion dollar industry, right? So we’ve got lots and lots of players, we got people out that spend maybe 2, 3 maybe 400 a month on advertising, and there are people, companies out there that are spending tens of thousands, maybe even in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on advertising and everything in between. So take even just taking a portion of those out of the equation really frees up some space.

But there’s one thing that you said there John that I think is important for everybody to really digest and it’s if you are that more traditional retailer brick-and-mortar, an in-person type of business. And you’ve been thinking about or maybe even a little hesitant to make a jump into the online space. Because let’s face it, we like to say that ‘Oh, getting online is really easy’. Well, it sounds like it, but there’s a lot of bars that you have to clear. You gotta have a store, you gotta have a site, you gotta have payment gateway. Then you gotta have an ad budget, on and on and on. You gotta have all these things.

Well, what I think has happened here is we’ve actually lowered that threshold, just a little bit. This is a great time if you’ve been thinking about making that jump, you absolutely want to try to make it right now because; well, let’s just face the fact most of us around the country right now, we’re still under stay-at-home orders, right? Probably going to be that way for at least a few more weeks maybe even a month or two in some cases. But that means that people aren’t going anywhere. I’ll give you a look at some data here. I’ve been watching data, online e-commerce data from Italy, so Italy obviously one of the hardest hit areas in the world by this pandemic, there was about a two-week lag from when they went to their lockdown in their country, to the point where e-commerce sales just started to skyrocket. And if you think about this, just kind of logically, all of a sudden people are stuck at home, they can’t go anywhere, they might be able to go out to a market or something like that. But they certainly can’t get other goods.

Of course they’re gonna turn to online and whatever means that they can to get that product delivered, to them, they’re going to take that. Well, online sales just started to take off in Italy to a level that really they’ve never seen before.

Now, I haven’t seen clear data yet because we’re still relatively early on here but we’re starting to see some indicators that that’s what’s happening here in the US. Now I do wanna draw a clear distinction because this is important.

There are essential goods, normal, everyday ordinary goods, and then there’s luxury or non-essential items, right? Alright, so we’ll go with everybody’s favorite example. Toilet paper, right? Very essential right now. So if you can get that right, that’s gold, right? But think about some things out there that you might like to have. But those are gonna be considered luxury items, and those are probably not gonna grow. The luxury non-essential kinds of things are probably not gonna grow as rapidly but if you’re in that space where you’ve got something that people use, use frequently, we’ll make it real simple here, think about shampoo. So anything like that, then of course that you’re gonna wanna get their hands because people may not want to go to a grocery store to try to buy that. So this will be a great time to be looking at putting that out there. And that’s just one example. I obviously they’re lots.

John B: No, I think that makes a lot of sense and something I’ve also been thinking as well along the same lines is, I do think that as we kinda enter this second or third week. People who are at home and are looking for activities. There may be an opportunity for some of those non-essential or luxury retailers like you’re talking about, or businesses, maybe your online learning, maybe people who now are deciding to learn a new language, or online book sales. Of course, Amazon that dominates that. But maybe things that are more boutique that people see online, that they’re sparked. I mean I’ve been seeing ads on my personal feed for games that you can play at home with your family, you know, virtual games, they send you a booklet and then there’s interactive pieces to it.

Yeah, and maybe that’s not something that people were doing tremendously previous, but now they’re looking at four to six weeks of being indoors and it actually provides an opportunity for those. So I think in terms of what we’ve been talking about pivoting, I think it’s about thinking creatively about how your brand or your business can solve a need in this current climate. Does that make sense?

Jon P: Absolutely, and that’s really the opportunity that you’ve got to look for.

I’ll share with you something, this is a piece of counsel I was given, gosh, years ago now, probably 10 plus years ago. It was someone I was working with, and I was the Director of Marketing at an agency, he was an outside contractor, he was working with us, on a specific project, so he had his own business, and I was talking about, we were talking shop at one point on day and he said something to me and it really just kinda struck me. It was the first time I had ever heard that what he had said and he said, I try to spend about 25 per cent of my week working on my business and 75% in my business.

And I heard that and maybe others have heard that before, but the first time I heard that 10-12-15 years ago, that just struck me and I thought, ‘Wow, that is a really good piece of wisdom to really chew on it, and to digest’ because what he’s saying is, you can get so caught up in the day in day out, putting out fires, dealing with the emergencies; gotta make payroll; gotta move the product, all of these things that are so important, they are important, and you gotta give a lot of time to that, but you can’t forget that you need to carve out a portion of time, whether it’s 25 per cent or 10 or whatever it is, for you. You’ve got to spend a little bit of time strategically looking at and thinking about the long-term positioning of your business and really just finding out if you’re pointing in the right direction.

John B: Yeah, and maybe this shift right now is a benefit and a blessing to businesses for them to be able to do that. Obviously, we’ve got some down time, but then we’re saying; this is where, okay, we can take some time to think about ‘Is my website updated? Is my on-site SEO where it needs to be? Maybe I can invest time in some of these projects that I haven’t had time to do, because I’ve been in that wheel’

What are some things that you would recommend a business take a look at from that, that okay, I wouldn’t say forecasting necessarily, but hey, we’ve got some time. Where are some areas that you would recommend businesses focus on right now?

Jon P: Yeah, and some of this you’ve already been talking about here in this video series, but I’m just gonna reinforce because I think it’s that important.

I wanna start with the digital Foundation? Absolutely, I wanna take a look and just find out, are we even found online at all?

So there’s a lot of different things that you’re gonna look at. You’ve talked about Google My Business, I heartily endorse that. GMB is a very important platform. And then there are citations and directories to go with that, just to make sure that you’ve got some established credibility, but I’m gonna go in a slightly different direction from some things that you guys are talking about and say that I would really wanna take a look at my Google Analytics set up.

And I have worked with Google Analytics since it was first released as Google Analytics in 2006. and I’ve seen lots and lots and lots of installations and almost to a T most everyone takes the code, they drop it in, even then they walk away and they think it’s just gonna collect data.

It does collect data but it may not be collecting the right data that you need to.

And that’s the distinction, right? So we talk a lot when we engage with clients, we talk a lot about we need to go in and try to customize GA to your needs.

John B: We see it all the time.

Jon P: Absolutely. So I would probably be recommending at this point, let’s spend a little bit of time reviewing Google Analytics. Are you getting the data that you need from it? Can you definitively say ‘Hey my leads come from this channel’ or ‘I know what type of traffic really works well and converts for me’, ‘My sales are driven by this type of scenario’. Right?

That’s the kind of thing that you need to really have a good handle on. What better time than right now, with a little bit of extra time on your hands, to actually take a look at that. You wanna come out of this stronger and this is one of the ways that you can do that.

John B: Yeah, I think that’s a great point and I think that that’s something that, overall, when I’m having conversations with our clients or with people that are interested in learning about the digital space; this is not a time for the paralysis side of ‘we’re not sure what’s gonna happen’ or ‘we need to take a pause’. We understand, obviously, that if there’s financial concerns around that, but this is actually a good time to reinvest in your business as you said, get a handle on actually what is my website doing for me? Is it just a brochure that’s put up on top of a cabin in the back corner of the digital cabinet store or is it something that somebody can come to and actually present the value, the message the story of my business?

I think that’s something that’s really critical, and I think throughout all the things we’ve been speaking about and as the landscape changes, I think there’s gonna be a real move to what I would consider just overall storytelling.

Yeah, your data is telling you a story about the traffic of what’s important to your customers through your site, your Google My Business Knowledge panel is able to tell the correct and relevant information about your business. You can add content to it, you can add products and services to it. Like you said, Google is really making it imperative to have your hours of operation updated right now. Nobody wants to go drive to a restaurant to get curbside pick-up if they don’t know whether you’re open or closed your hours of operation are updated.

I think the same thing with Google suspending reviews right now to keep the playing field level for businesses that are potentially more hard hit, but that doesn’t mean that reviews aren’t important. And if you had reviews, those are still gonna be there to tell that story. So, that’s something that you can think about now is, alright, when we come out of this, how do we gain reviews? How do we build that online presence?

Jon P: Like you’ve said, I totally agree with, with all of that and your story there, that we were talking about maybe earlier in the week of the importance of updating those hours, right. If you are still in a business where people can come to you and you don’t have those hours of operation updated, right? Actually, personal story here. So my family, we thought, ‘Well, this would be a great time to get pizza’. There’s a place, a local family owned place that we get that from, we get it there, often, thought, ‘Hey this would be a great night for us to get that; we’ll get that, we’ll bring it home, we’ll make it a little bit of a different type of dinner’.

Well, I just happened to look and see what their hours of operation, were, and thank goodness they had updated them and they told me online, that they were closing at 6 o’clock I… Well, it was like 5:30, so I very quickly dialed the number to see if I still could get it, which I was able to, but if I would have waited even a half an hour later, I would have missed that opportunity, but at least we would have known what the hours of operation were because I would thought they’d be open later. That’s true for any kind of business today, that is still able to have the doors open at this point. You gotta update those hours of operation and if your doors are not open, but you’re still working; so, everyone is scattered but working remotely, you need to make that known as well that ‘Hey, we can still serve you’.

I’m thinking of a client that I work with often where they are able to do that, they are able to still continue to function today. But if you just were to pick up a phone and call them, you may or may not get them right now, if you were to drive over there, you wouldn’t see anybody. Well, they’re still functioning, they just need to let everybody know, and they are right, that this is how you can get in touch with us. So they’ve provided an alternate means to make that happen.

John B: No, that makes absolute sense. And you know as we come to our end of our time, here, so I really wanna just thank you for hopping on with me and having this conversation. What’s one or two things that you would leave a business owner with that they could take away and feel confident that they can kind of take control or put themselves back in control of some of the pieces that we have talked about today? What’s maybe 1 or 2 little nuggets to take away?

John B: Well, that’s a great question, I’m gonna tell you something that I’ve done, even just for myself is I pulled out my notebook here, and I keep making notes to myself. There are things I’ve always got a running list of things that I want to know more about or something that I want to try or to do within the business, and I want just to explore. I would suggest that if you’re finding yourself kind of in this challenging time, not really sure what the direction is, do the same thing, pull out a post-it note or a piece of paper or notebook, whatever you’ve got and start scratching down some things that you want to really explore into knowing more about.

Quick story here. I heard from someone yesterday, this is a client that I’ve worked with in the past, and she contacted me to say, ‘Hey do you have the link for where I can go to try to get the Google Analytics certification?’

And of course, obviously, I’m happy to provide that, but I thought ‘What a great way to use this time, build your knowledge’. So that’s something I would encourage. You should take a look at for sure.

John B: I think that makes absolute sense, and I think Jon, that is something that we’ve been trying to help with this content series which hopefully I’d like to continue this going because I think it’s really been fun and exciting and engaging and informative, even for me to learn from you, on more of a day-to-day basis. You know, I think becoming more educated about your digital foundation and becoming more educated about how to present the story of your business online. These are the things that are not gonna go away. They are the things that obviously we can help. That’s what we do every day. But we’ve always wanted to educate and engage our clients in that so that they feel better informed so they can make better and more informed decisions.

So hopefully if people are tuning in and watching that they can feel like there is a way that they can feel more stable and educated in the digital space so that it can make those better decisions as they come out of that.

Jon P: I hardly agree. You’ve said, the important thing, which is all of the things that we’re talking about today are still gonna be relevant a month from now, six months from now and a year from now, so the more you can try to get out in front on your own knowledge and maybe even your own use of these things, then the better off you’re going to be. And I’m reminded that… Any time, in any kind of chaotic situation, it’s the people that lose their heads and run around and scream and shout, those are the ones that really wind up kind of falling by the way side. It’s the people that keep their heads about them and really try to focus on moving forward. Those are the ones that are going to come out of this in a much better position. They may or may not make it completely but we certainly hope that they do right? And we’ll do everything we can to help with that, but they’re the ones that are going to put themselves in the best position and that’s really what we talk about all the time with organic search, with paid search, with foundations, with email, with social whatever it is, is put yourself in the best position possible so that you can succeed if you can do that, then you’re gonna really distance yourself from your competition.

John B: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. As we close up here, I’m reminded from what you said with one of the clients we’ve worked with. That was a NASCAR driver in the early 90s.

He always said that he couldn’t guarantee if he was gonna win the race, but he could do what he could and guarantee to put himself in the best position to win the race. And you know some of it might be up to luck, some of it might be the day, some of it might be the track, but ultimately putting yourself in the best position to win is what you can do to be in control of those situations. So yeah, I really appreciate that, Jon, thank you so much for hopping on with me today. This was a lot of fun.

Sure, maybe we’ll do it again maybe we’ll bring in some more guests as well.

But again, thank you so much for your time. It’s greatly appreciated. For the folks that are tuning in, we’ll have some links and information in the comment section below for you to get in touch with us if you have any questions, Jon and I will be more than happy to get on a phone, get on a Zoom meeting with you, even just to answer any questions you have or field some things that you’re concerned about.

We also have a paid ads workshop that Jon runs. There will be information about when the next workshop is in the comments below.

So if you do have further questions, and you wanna learn more in that education like Jon said, feel free to hop on with us and learn, and we’ll help you to kinda navigate this new landscape.

Thank you, Jon, I really appreciate it.

Jon P: Appreciate it John, thank you, this is a lot of fun. Absolutely, I had a great time, thank you,

John B: Excellent, excellent. Well, have a great rest of the day and we’ll get through this together and we’re gonna have some fun on the other side. So take it easy Jon.

JonP: Thank you, appreciate it.

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