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A Retrospective - How Marketing Shifted In The Past 3 Years

Season 3

Episode 7

It's been three years since our society started this big shift and it had endless unexpected impacts and our behaviour as a society. It accelerated the usual changes we see year to year and created this weird vacuum, where time didn't really pass in the same way. It feels so much shorter and we often feel like we aren't quite back to normal. Part of this is because it didn't just disappear overnight, partly because the economy has changed, and partly because we've had major societal shifts in this time, some amazing and some not so great. You've heard about the new normal for years. So let's not pretend this is permanent. It's just for now. But these societal shifts bring with them new ways of running your business, of delivering your product, service or offer and new marketing options.

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As much as you might want to, you can't make Instagram 2017 again. Instagram can't even do that itself. So let's let go of the past, look at our marketing like the experiment that it always is, and step into reality with both feet. Because of these shifts we've experienced, your marketing will need to be very different in 2023 and beyond than it was in 2019 to better align with these behavioural changes. You might be thinking, thank you, Captain Obvious, I hadn't noticed. But while so many little details have changed, and you might have kept up with the more, let's talk about the big picture and the biggest impact to your marketing approach.

Attention spans are shorter. This is due to a couple of things. One is that we have much shorter content available to us and we inherently know that a story can be told in six to 10 seconds now. Another reason is that there is more options available to us, all vying for our attention. The way I see it, we have become better at deciding what we find interesting, because we don't just have the option of changing the channel. We have countless apps, networks and content models available to us now. We have certainly seen though, that longer content can capture our attention. The Last of Us just wrapped and a large quantity of the people watching knew what was going to happen because they'd played or seen the game. But they watched it anyway. So we know that the length of attention we will inherently dedicate to something is dependent on how interesting it is to us, or whether we determine it to be of good quality. If a story can be told in eight seconds, or a message can be delivered in 45 seconds, don't draw it out into five minutes.

With so many options of delivery, business owners can truly pick the length and method that suits the message at hand. They will always be the clickbait dopamine dripping things out there. But if you're trying to make a true connection, the tactic is to make something that's interesting. Interesting is so subjective and so you will need to let your audience tell you what they think is interesting. If you are just starting out and don't have an audience, it's about what brings people in so there's a bit of trial and error here. Because content is shorter people consume more micro content from more people. People have started to deliver their two to four minute videos in under 30 seconds, and shortens that 20 minutes down to five to 10. We're more used to topic shifts and longer form content so people can sit through a two hour podcast, but if you actually watch it or look at their YouTube chapters, they've covered a lot of topics in that time.

Since the interactions can be smaller, you now need more interactions to build up to a real impact. To measure when someone has made a real connection with you let's define it as being able to name you and what you do and be able to look you up online. This is the familiarity step I talked about in the episodes about the 11 step marketing and sales funnel. You can then externalise this and make someone else the centre of this gut check, so think about someone who you've been watching on tick tock Instagram or YouTube shorts. Now generally, people don't introduce themselves in every piece of content because it's so short, but think about how much you've had to see someone show up for you before you started to recognise them as familiar. Then till you knew what their name was. Then when you knew what their niche or offering was if they have a business. Now, if you didn't see them again for a month, they'd likely be wiped from your memory if their impression wasn't a standout.

If we look at know, like and trust think about how many interactions you'd need to have to get to that trust level. An interaction can include many more things now it could be an Instagram Reel, a DM, a Google search, a blog read an email, an ad, taking a free workshop. Each adds up incrementally and has differing impact depending on how that piece of content works, but you can start to think about how you use an accumulation of micro content to lead people to a slightly larger piece of content, until that connection becomes significant enough that they are inclined to exchange dollars for your offer.

Google has recently stated that someone needs at least 500 interactions to purchase. I believe that study was done pre TikTok, though a decade ago, I remember being told seven, so a lot has changed in the last decade. Then again, we definitely considered an interaction to be much larger back then. This could feel incredibly overwhelming, but if we look at what those seven used to be, we actually have more potential than ever before to break through that barrier, before they have those final seven to 10 bigger interactions. Previously, those interactions either cost a lot of money or had major gatekeepers. Now, the gatekeeper is an internet connection and yourself. You now have all of these micro pieces of content to capture their attention and gain their trust, while sending them one step further. Those opportunities literally didn't exist before. Ultimately, for small business, we need to understand that this micro content is an important way to catch someone's attention more than ever before and there are countless approaches you can take to that short form content just like there are countless approaches to a podcast format.

There are more avenues for content so people don't have to keep watching if you are boring them. They have 20 other things in their Watch Later or other Stories to watch. Plus the five new platforms to consume on whether they are new, new or just new to their common behaviour. This opens up the options for you, your niche might not have been tech savvy enough for podcasts a few years back, but their popularity means it might be time to reconsider them. Just know that there isn't any one length of any kind of content that is best. It's about creating the content correctly for that format, and making it only as long as it needs to be without taking it too far.

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The number of content creators has ballooned particularly with TikTok. There's more smaller ones, but also with the way that TikTok works, they technically have far more followers than the more iconic YouTube or Instagram content creators of 2019, while tending to have less of a connection with their audience, at least in a traditional sense of influence in turning viewers into shoppers for the brands they promote. Because of that some of these TikTok creators have a million followers and can't quit their day job. Even though the volume of interest appears to be there at first glance. I think this shows people have an appetite for a lot of content and to follow a lot of people whether those content creators might be making an income off of it or not.

This also makes you wonder if your competitors who are making content left right and centre and making that play for the AdSense or Creator Fund income, making them not quite your competitor in that realm, and that their target audience is different, or they now have multiple ones, one of which is playing into advertisers and brand safe content and what is driving an analytic instead of people in some ways. Algorithms have also changed. They now understand that people are multi passionate, four dimensional beings, so should you.

In person events have to have an extra appeal for people to show up. While digital events aren't as easy to fill as you'd think. Being able to facilitate a Zoom of 10 people is a key skill to have nowadays. Be sure to prep accordingly and understand that you will need to give people a real reason to carve out the time, whether or not that includes travel time or not. We've redefined experiential marketing over the past few years. Having a digital experience for a conference simultaneously to the in person one equals the ability to sell more tickets and impact more people who aren't able to get to that specific location or who were unable to get tickets before they sold out. Previously, there was almost no difference between in person and online events with no extra accommodations made for digital people. And nothing really being facilitated for in person connection, so it was quite self led in so many cases. What this often meant is that people had very different experiences when there in person, depending on how they approached the impersonal aspect and created their own meetups and dinners and whatnot on the side of the actual event. And then online ones just missed part of the experience because the chat was there in the middle of the speakers, and then it would end and they would just go into their kitchen. Other times in person events were so similar to a Zoom breakout room that they could have been held online. Now we know the difference in our core and those tangible pieces are being amplified to foster interaction that uses online tools, or takes advantage of being in person. Press events can be done online, but they look different. Whether that's sending something to physically engage with or not, they're more interesting than a webinar. This opens people up to doing Zoom launch parties or other special events where people can be engaged and make it to the event without someone forking out the cash for travel, babysitters, and everything that involves.

I've also seen growth in online communities. Before we had Facebook groups and they had limitations, they were comment heavy with the occasional course or shared document. Now with the adoption of Circle, Mighty Networks, Fourthwall, Discord, Patreon, new features on apps like Instagram and so on, there are so many different formats of hosting a community. Community hosts and facilitators can now interact with people in countless ways, so they can make more decisions on how they hold space and connect to people. This means that the adoption of online interactions has coincided with the communities being better led, which has built the momentum.

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A lot has changed in the online and physical world over the past few years... If your marketing plan hasn't been shaken up in that time, your results are probably reflecting that.

People had to get used to shopping online click and collect and the convenience of an app while their mobility was more restricted. This made things more accessible for so many people permanently. This also meant that people who were a little tech averse or didn't trust tech, pushed through that hurdle so that they could get takeaway food or get their groceries delivered. Not everyone hunkered down at home, but there sure was a significantly increased volume of adoption of these sorts of services compared with the prior few years, especially across older generations. This also forced the providers to rapidly improve their systems. There was a supermarket here in New Zealand who had to change their system from their delivery spots opening at midnight, for example. I remember in early November last year, supermarkets were running ads to tell people to reserve their Christmas delivery spot. In case you didn't know even those who aren't religious in New Zealand call that time of year Christmas. I think because of our public holidays. Christmas Day and Boxing Day are both public holidays and supermarkets are closed on Christmas Day. So Christmas gets used in adverts a lot here, which might not be particularly normal worldwide and is kind of exclusionary. Partially because of camping because it's summer, family events and being closed for a day, supermarkets get a little bit nuts. So even post pandemic those services are pretty handy. Without a pandemic, we likely would have seen much slower adoption of this tech. We're likely five plus years ahead of where we may have been if it grew steadily instead. While people might get back to going in themselves to a takeaway food store sometimes, this tech adoption and online purchasing is here to stay, especially in the places where it is most convenient with lots of options or bad traffic.

Video first is becoming so much more common in content creation. Even those who distribute audio only podcasts will commonly record video for social content. This does mean that video podcasts have risen on their own, so YouTube has made a play to work in this area, both paying for show acquisition and in their algorithm and sidebar design. Spotify has also added video to their platform. People's desire for the context of facial expressions and other visual elements has led some people to prefer to watch even when they have the option to just listen.

Brand loyalty seems to have gone out the window completely, or at least it's harder to earn it. It's now so much easier to switch products because of online reviews and convenience of purchase. But any brand that makes things easier like a subscription product can do well and is much more expected nowadays. While you can easily get the same product or something very similar online with the added accessibility and Google ability, the entire brand, the business the personality, delivery, communication and connection are much larger factors than they were when getting distribution into the regular store was the thing and packaging was making that sales pitch on the shelf. For some brands, that's still pretty key, but it isn't the only access channel anymore.

Working from home has also had an impact on our society. This impacts marketing and a few niche ways partially because there's a potential for less time spent in the car, meaningless radio ads or less podcast time baked into the day. This time may be swapped out to another time but we did see less podcast listening while people were stuck at home, while new shows were launching left right and centre splitting the attention. It also means less time scrolling on the train, for example. Overall though, time spent online seems to have gone up. So while the behaviour has changed, it does seem to have grown in some areas. This change is something you can reflect on about how it would possibly impact your business' options to market interact and grow loyalty with your audience.

A lot has changed in the online and physical world over the past few years. I haven't covered everything that's changed here, but these are the biggest factors changing our marketing world compared to three to five years ago. If your marketing plan hasn't been shaken up in that time, your results are probably reflecting that.

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