Your 2020 digital skills checklist

Your 2020 digital skills checklist

How to make the new year a marketing ROI to remember 

What marketers should focus on in the coming year is a question I often get asked. The temptation is to future gaze and try to imagine what glorious new-fangled technology might help you gain the upper hand in your marketing role.

However, as tools constantly evolve, the onus should be on marketers to develop the core skills to evolve the methods by which these technologies are implemented. Knowing how to use them, measure them and fully integrate them are the skills that will keep you ahead in the coming year. 

As such, you will notice a distinct lack of any mention of key digital channels in this article. What, you may cry? No SEO, social media live chat, augmented video, virtual reality, AI or email hacks? I believe if you focus on the following five areas, those channels will pick up a whole new life and energy of their own. Let me explain…

1. Nail your marketing strategy

A good marketing strategy is an ideal place to start and is something myself and Target Internet colleagues teach on CIM’s digital marketing courses. Every organisation I have ever worked with has one. Whether it’s a well thought out and cohesive strategy, however, is quite another thing.

If your organisation is active on any marketing channels, then your objectives need to be aligned with the business objectives. You need SMART goals and a well thought out measurement plan in place. Most of you reading this will, I hope, have such a strategy. If you don't, it’s time to learn. With so many channels at our disposal, all too often the measurement side that lets us down. So, let's take a step back from complex digital channels and really simplify what we are trying to achieve here.

For each of your marketing channels, have you established your targets? On a daily/weekly basis, are you taking stock of the performance of each of your activities in that channel to view how on target or wide of the mark your efforts are? If not, then how sure are you that you are not repeatedly wide of the mark?

For every channel, see your targets clearly and keep going until you hit them! Make time to review your results for each campaign, or each new piece of content, email, video or social post, and adjust your tactics and strategies regularly to keep things on track. It takes time to approach your goals and measurement with this level of granularity but done well, it speeds up results and is worth every second.

2. Invest in analytics knowledge

Once your strategy is determined, good web analytics are an essential tool in your toolset. Google's Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik famously said that for every $10 we spend on analytics, we should spend $90 on intelligent resources/analysts. Basic Google Analytics may be free, but Kaushik makes a valid point. Invest more into understanding what your analytics data is or isn't telling you. A good digital marketer should ensure that everyone in their organisation who is looking at analytics understands what they are looking at. At a basic level we should all understand what analytics measures well, how it works and the problems with last click attribution modelling, which still haunts most of the reports often thrust in front of the analytics novices (often at senior levels of your organisation). 

To combat this, make full use of Google's excellent Analytics Academy. They offer a course of bitesize video modules for free which you can take at your own pace. Making time is a big ask but break this down into weekly ‘meetings’ with yourself and you’ll be surprised how quickly you get through it. I recommend to my students to set aside an hour a week on a Friday afternoon. Once you've completed the courses, focus on getting others in your team to do the same and check in with them to share knowledge. Combine this with face to face analytics training courses, like those run by CIM, and you will start to see the stories and questions that graphs, charts and KPIs raise, rather than just emerging dazed and confused from a mad data dash with no real purpose.

Prioritise usability and Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

Usability is often considered a specialist area, touched on once when a company builds a new website, then ignored for the duration of that site’s lifespan. That's a massive mistake. If you want to grow as a business, you need to put CRO and usability of your website at the heart of your marketing activity. Most marketers seem scared to do this, largely because it takes a degree of self-awareness many aren't willing to adopt. Acknowledging faults in your current product is a challenge, but it could have huge benefits.

Small improvements in page design and usability can drive dramatic changes to your overall results. Let's say you identify an issue on a key landing page or lead gen form. By making some adjustments, you notice your conversion rate increases from 0.5% to 1%. Half a percent doesn't sound like much, but you just doubled the results of that page. I've seen usability changes applied to mobile ecommerce checkout pages that have doubled or quadrupled the overall results. Same traffic coming in, same advertising spends, but dramatically different results for the business.

Often dramatic improvements can be made simply by walking in the shoes of your website's audience (who, it turns out, favour three different styles of shoe – mobile, desktop, and tablet). Have you checked all your key forms and conversion processes on each of those three platforms recently? If not, you should. 

Supercharge your content marketing

Content marketing has some serious issues. Most content being pushed out by so many businesses is just more of the same. Don't be that organisation in 2020. Raise your bar. Create something remarkable. Deliver something brilliant. 

Ask yourself, when did you last take a look at your best performing organic and social content? Oh, never? You should be continually monitoring your content stars and giving them a polish. SEO thought leader Rand Fishkin convincingly argues that we should take a look at any content space, identify the world's best three articles and go out of our way to create something ten times better. If you're after an SEO and social media hack with that legendary viral capacity for success, this is the approach to follow.

Talk to your customers. Get insight into what they love and what could be better. For every piece of content, explore how it scratches your customers’ itch. Most customers spend their day asking the same question to everything put in front of them: "What's in it for me?" Understand that, and you can go about making the answer clearer and stronger. I like to encourage marketers to think about the promise behind the click. Look at how you are pushing your messages on social and via PPC. Is the promise closely aligned with what's delivered by that click? Social media and search engines have been specialising in giving their users more of what they want for years. Become a part of that value exchange in 2020 and you could win big.

5. Don’t forget the foundations of marketing

Much of this article hinges on having a better in depth understanding of marketing theory. In our rush to adopt the latest digital techniques, all too often general and more traditional marketing techniques are ignored. Traditional marketing theory can be seen as irrelevant in this new and exciting ‘digital age’. In actual fact, traditional marketing techniques have evolved over many years to effectively communicate with human audiences and measure the desired results. Traditional marketing and PR can work magic on any digital strategy if the two are strategically cohesive. Similarly, digital done in isolation without support from more general and traditional marketing activities can struggle to gain any traction.

So few marketers have any formal training in these disciplines and that needs addressing. People are still people. Although customer attention may have shifted from the mediums traditionally used by marketing to include digital platforms, people still go about their day consuming traditional media, advertising and PR. Certainly, digital and social channels are exciting and place huge audiences within our reach. Just remember that the whole world is chasing those audiences in those channels and costs there will only continue to escalate. Why view digital and the real world as different places? Your customers and prospective customers don't. They just go about their busy lives, and it’s your job to engage them.

So, if you haven't invested in your own knowledge of marketing techniques and best practice, make it your goal in 2020 to do so. CIM offers training and support to marketers at all levels of seniority. There is so much that marketing can teach you and so many new and exciting avenues to explore.

Invest in your own training and in that of your team. Walk in the shoes of the marketing giants who tackled the challenge of effective communication in busy marketplaces before you. Knowledge has always been power, and that's even truer in the digitally powered 21st century. Grow and nurture that knowledge. Your campaigns will become more focussed, agile and the results you drive more impressive both online and off. Invest in your abilities as a marketing professional and take the opportunity to make 2020 a marketing ROI to remember.

Keep your digital marketing skills up to date with the brand new CIM Digital Marketing Channels online coursedeveloped in partnership with Target Internet. Available now on demand with six months access to the latest insights on the seven core digital channels. 

Ciaran Rogers Marketing Director Target Internet
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