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Surviving 2022: How Digital Marketing in a Post-Pandemic World Has Changed

2021 brought unprecedented changes to every part of society and the economy.

Over the year, many business owners have been focused on the simple challenge of staying afloat, all while minimizing disease risk for their team. It’s hard to look at the big picture when the daily reality is so challenging. But now, as a new year dawns, we all have to try to do it.

And things have changed, especially where your digital marketing is concerned.

The pace of that change has been both dramatic and unprecedented. As more people are working from home, they are doing their shopping online. And not just for retail. It also includes comparing local businesses like yours. Sound website design is even more crucial than ever.

Even sophisticated B2B buyers making huge purchases are now comfortable doing so online.

Some changes are positive, others are negative, but all have the potential to influence your business.

And the wave of change is far from over yet. Going into the last quarter of 2021, many people were feeling new confidence that, with a booster, they would be broadly protected from serious illness. The arrival of Omicron has dashed those hopes. It’s already reverberating throughout the economy.

Omicron is driving a widespread reassessment of plans to return to the office. And it demonstrates that the situation remains unstable and ambiguous. Business trends that were launched by the pandemic, including here in Central Florida, are on their way to becoming permanent fixtures.

So, how does it all translate for the future of your company?

Although much remains uncertain, there is also a lot that we can say with confidence when it comes to digital marketing. That’s because so many industries have been faced with leading a full-scale structural transformation to make their work more digital-friendly within a very short time.

For the most part, these efforts have been successful.

As more industries recognize and get aligned with changes in consumer preferences, clear patterns are starting to emerge. Many of these will give you a trajectory toward growth and deeper customer bonds into 2022 and well beyond, no matter how the public health situation continues to evolve.

Let’s dive in and see what really matters for digital marketing success in the new year.

1. More Buying Decisions Are Being Made 100% Online – So Facilitate Them from End to End

A shift in consumer preferences was already underway, but the pandemic has accelerated it. In this new world, consumers expect to have control over the pace of their buying journey. They do most of their research online and may not even be on a company’s radar until the process is nearly over.

While they’re open to marketing, they want to hear from sales on their own terms or not at all.

This tracks with the steady conversion of the market from old-fashioned outbound marketing to today’s powerful inbound marketing. Outbound marketing, epitomized by the cold call, is about getting buyers’ attention after interrupting their day. Inbound, on the other hand, draws them to you on their schedule.

Outbound marketing has three serious drawbacks that have only become more obvious over time:

  • It starts the relationship off on the wrong foot by annoying prospective customers
  • It has low rates of return and drives exhaustion and burnout among most sales pros
  • It casts a wide net instead of tailoring an offer to the specific needs of a warm lead

Inbound marketing addresses all of these issues, but its most innovative answer comes with issue #3. Each visitor to your website provides you with a treasure trove of information about their preferences and needs. Even seeing what pages someone visits in what order can tell you what’s on their mind.

As a result, you can always deliver the right information at the right moment.

With buyers in charge, it’s impossible to know in advance when they will encounter your brand or how much they will already know about the subject they’re researching. To appeal to them in an online-first or online-only world, you need to have helpful answers to their questions and problems at any stage.

Luckily, some things about the buyer journey are still highly predictable.

For one thing, it always unfolds in three steps:

  • Awareness: The customer becomes aware of a problem or opportunity
  • Consideration: They start developing buying criteria around a solution
  • Decision: They compare potential providers of the solution and pick one

Throughout the journey, the buyer is always learning more. A blog that provides a simple overview appeals to an Awareness buyer, while a Decision buyer needs sophisticated content that proves your offering isn’t just good – it’s right for them. Luckily, inbound marketing can do it all.

Content marketing is the branch of inbound concerned with providing helpful, informative materials that meet the right needs, guiding a visitor from prospect to lead to customer. Most content comes in the form of written blogs, but video storytelling maximizes limited time and attention.

For 2022, take a look at the complete buyer journey and how you’re servicing it at every phase. If there are any gaps, fill them with useful content based on feedback from real people. Dedicate yourself to learning more about your ideal customers, then attract a similar audience online.

The idea of a “customer-obsessed brand” may be a bit of a cliché, but 2022 will prove which ones really bring the goods. Document buyer personas for all your major purchasers and use cases, but don’t stop there – never miss out on an opportunity to talk to real customers and validate your assumptions.

For some companies, that may mean introducing Net Promoter Score or other customer satisfaction surveys for the first time. Embrace the challenge and feed that data back to the team that will be making your online content, whether you’re going in-house or using a Central Florida digital marketing firm.

This will give you two major competitive advantages:

  • The more you publish, the more visible you’ll be in searches relevant to your brand
  • The better you know your customers, the more your content will resonate with them

Fortunately, good content motivates people to share more information about their wants and needs. It’s easy to get your online brand firing on all cylinders when people know you care about their success – and trust they can expect quality content that adds value in every interaction.

2. Your Brand Needs to Use Creative Ways to Stay Relevant

Getting online is only step one. It’s never been more essential for Central Florida business leaders to get a fresh perspective on how to remain relevant to customers, even between purchases. Every time you create an interesting or exciting experience, you give your audience a moment of relief from their woes.

In 2022, every business should aspire to make that kind of connection.

About a year ago, we reported on how the New York Ave team helped our clients do digital marketing right during shelter-in-place. While it doesn’t look like full-scale shutdowns are on the way back, it’s still important for brands to cut through the clutter by adding some imagination to their communication.

Past results teach us that when risk is high, people tend to stay indoors more. This naturally means they are spending more time online. But that doesn’t mean 2022 is just 2021 all over again. More people are feeling burned out, restless, and in need of genuine connection. Your brand can help.

With the benefit of even more experience – including dozens of new campaigns focused on the unique needs of Central Florida communities in a difficult time – let’s review some of the ideas with staying power. If you’re looking for the best marketing campaigns for 2022, start here:

a. Livestreaming and Digital Events

Digital events can inform, enliven, and uplift the community. To provide business value, events should be relevant to your area of expertise, but that doesn’t mean they have to be stuffy. Many people learn best with video storytelling, so give them the benefit of an engaging conversation about a subject that interests them. It helps them feel like they know you, even if you haven’t met yet!

b. Contests and Giveaways

Contests and giveaways don’t have to focus on anything specific about your business to be a fine way to raise brand awareness. The easiest (for you) and most fun (for your audience) tend to be contests geared toward user-generated content like photos, drawings, or written work. This can help you secure an influx of attention for your social media and more subscribers for your email marketing.

c. Content for Children

If your business caters to families, content for children is still a strong bet. On top of all the stress and uncertainty 2022 may offer, there’s sure to be plenty of boredom. Coloring pages, puzzles, and games will appeal to parents who want to keep kids engaged while reducing their screen time. You can also help educate them on overcoming worries about going to the dentist or whatever else fits the occasion.

d. Gift Bags for Current Customers

Leery about spending a little too much time in the digital world? Jump off the website page with a tangible reminder of how important your customers are to you. Gift bags can be full of fun, but they can also send a potent message. Load them up with treats from your referral partners in the community or other small businesses you love. Your customers will remember how you made them feel!

It might seem like some of these ideas stray from the core of what your business does – but not what your business is. Before the pandemic, marketing and advertising focused all too often on beating the competition. In 2022, it is about beating customers’ expectations by providing memorable experiences.

3. Expect (and Verify) Results from Digital Marketing – and Be Cautious of Paid Traffic

With more businesses turning to digital marketing to keep sales flowing, it’s vital to take claims with a grain of salt. Today’s digital marketing is nothing like the Wild West of the year 2000. Be wary of those who promise overnight results or highly specific superlatives – “Get to #1 on Google.”

You’ll notice that these claims never come with a real guarantee!

Done right, digital marketing not only works but helps you build lasting competitive advantages. These can’t easily be reproduced by newcomers to your industry or larger rivals with a bigger budget. That’s because most marketing campaigns should focus on organic traffic, with paid traffic used sparingly.

Organic traffic is the traffic that flows to your website from searches relevant to your brand. It costs you nothing and builds up each month as long as you’re following an effective content marketing strategy. It may take about three months to gain traction, but the long-term results are well worth the wait.

By comparison, many Central Florida businesses will be tempted to explore paid traffic in 2022.

Paid traffic consists of advertising that directs a user to a specific page on your website. The details vary – for example, Google Ads are associated with a search phrase, while Facebook advertising targets a user who matches your audience demographics. But one thing is for certain:

If your website isn’t set up to attract and convert organic traffic, it won’t benefit from paid traffic.

Major advertising networks, especially Google, look closely at how users interact with your content. If users aren’t thrilled with your landing page, you’ll find yourself paying more and more for every click. Many businesses experiment with paid traffic but never capture any sales as a result.

In fact, all of the big brands in online advertising are making it harder for small businesses to compete:

a. Google

Google’s ad scoring system takes into account about 200 different factors affecting the page associated with the ad and your website as a whole. For ads to be effective, all the fundamentals need to be in place first. That includes modern security, lightning-fast load times, and a website design that’s great on smartphones and tablets. Only then does it become possible to optimize ads and keep spending down.

b. Facebook

Facebook has been involved in a concerted effort to turn more business users into advertisers. Organic reach – the proportion of your followers you can expect to reach without spending money – has plunged to a paltry 5.2%. Out of every 19 current followers, only one will see a post not backed by ads. Yet, Facebook also penalizes ads that lead traffic off its platform, leaving businesses in a double bind.

c. Apple

Apple recently made changes to data privacy rules that will make it all but impossible for app owners to leverage data about their users to reduce their advertising costs on other platforms. While consumer privacy has been floated as the rationale, most of the changes do not apply to Apple itself. In 2022, small brands may find they no longer have a sound business case to compete within Apple’s walled garden.

The facts are clear. Most Central Florida businesses need strong organic fundamentals before they try paid traffic. That means finding a digital marketing agency in Central Florida you can trust to learn about your business, help you realize your vision, and give you the facts about your performance every month.

Never choose a marketing partner who won’t show you the data analytics demonstrating more website traffic, longer visits, and higher conversion rates resulting from their work. And don’t settle for raw reports … get the explanation and insights you need to make informed decisions.

In 2022 and Beyond, New York Ave is the Central Florida Marketing Agency in Your Corner

Even at a time like this, some things never change. One of them is this: The best businesses are built on a bedrock of trust. And these days, you need a marketing agency you can really count on. At New York Ave, we’ve spent years building best practices that let Central Florida companies like yours grow and scale.

Contact us today to get 2022 off to a strong start for your business.

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1 Average median salary in Florida for ‘Marketing Director’, based on research by Glassdoor. 2 Retirement calculated at 3% contribution, based on research by nirsonline.org. 3 Health premium average calculated by ranges provided from a 2016 Health Benefits survey. 4 Total employee average calculated at first year and includes the following considerations: $4k onboarding and training, $1k software and subscriptions, and $3.75k outsourcing help. Total agency average based on Florida-located, full-service agency.