The Year of Reckoning: A Refresher on the Marketing Industry’s Diversity Paradox in 2020

The Year of Reckoning: A Refresher on the Marketing Industry’s Diversity Paradox in 2020

 

Before the novel coronavirus and a rash of police brutality brought structural racism back into stark focus, and before advertising giants were taken to task for this year’s slew of tone-deaf commercials, we knew the marketing industry had a diversity problem. In the wake of Hollywood’s movement for racial equity (remember #OscarsSoWhite?) marketers took a look around the office and really started to notice, well, how white it was. Being at the forefront of understanding what potential customers want, we began recommending that the brands we represent start appealing to a wider audience.

 

At first, we recommended that big brands look at new ways to engage with different audiences, including finding new and fresh voices, creative elements and various perspectives that directly appeal to a more nuanced target audience. Under the old guard of media and advertising, the norm was to create ads and campaigns targeted at a mass, primarily white population. It was still a relatively new idea to explore the things that African Americans, women and other cultures liked that deviated from the status quo and create specific campaigns for those audiences.

 

Major campaigns appealing to various age groups, women and minorities, and in some cases, even social movements, showed promising results. For example, following the #MeToo movement, Twitter, Google and Nike all jumped on board with various advertising campaigns designed to empower women. All of that sounds like a positive step in the right direction, and the ads were generally well-received, but something still wasn’t quite right. These big ad agencies were recommending their clients shift their communication to a more conclusive, diverse message, while they themselves remained (and still remain) almost entirely dominated by white males.

 

We’ve come to understand this problem as the “diversity paradox,” and though industry-wide numbers haven’t changed much in the past couple of years, we are starting to see individual companies and coalitions create plans that go beyond talking about our industry’s issues and take steps towards solving them. For example, Nike ousted several leadership-level employees to combat their reputation as a “boys’ club,” and it has made a huge impact on its business and its relationship with their ad agency. 

 

Even clients have noticed the diversity paradox, and they are demanding more. Back in 2016, The New York Times published an article claiming that big brands wanted ad agencies to diversify. In 2017, highlighted in an article published by AdWeek, an Adobe study aimed to understand the diversity issue and plunged into why agencies were having difficulty fulfilling this request. The reasons cited in the study are the standard boilerplate expressions of why women and minorities struggle to gain success in any industry, which, to our ears in 2020, sound like lip service from a group of happily successful and secluded white males.

 

At this point, marketing firms with a conscience recognize that it’s disingenuous to recommend our brands and clients be more diverse and inclusive while we continue to only offer that opinion from our singular perspective. And the problem goes all the way to the top: Diversity and Inclusion experts have made it clear that it’s very difficult to retain diverse hires in low-level positions without mirroring that inclusiveness in company leadership. No matter how hard you may try, or how much market research you do, it is impossible for an agency full of white males to create authentic work that appeals to the greater audience. Representation has to stretch all the way from our audience to the C-suite.

 

As I already mentioned, the numbers have still yet to improve. But as we marketers love to do, the industry has begun gathering data to set benchmarks and create realistic goals. Just this September, a benchmarking survey of 165 agencies representing more than 40,000 employees—found that Black and African American employees make up just 5.8% of the industry, while 8.68% identify as Hispanic or Latinx, 10.7% as Asian/Asian American, 4.23% as “other” and 70.51% as white or caucasian. Of the less than 6% who are Black or African American, 68% are admin or entry-level, 43.5% are non-management professionals, 27.6% are managers or directors and just 4% are vice presidents or higher, excluding C-suite roles. 

 

We found several examples of big agencies shaking up business-as-usual to make way for diversity and inclusion: According to Forbes, Ad agency Horizon Media created resources for different employee groups such as Black, African American, LGBTQ, Hispanic, Latinx and Asian employees, as well as working parents while also looking outside the ad industry for talent. GM has created a scorecard to measure progress in all outgoing creative from their agencies, and Havas is conducting extensive internal research. Ad Age and Facebook have formed a collective of advertising, marketing and media leaders focused on a different objective every year (2020’s theme has been amended to “confronting unconscious bias in the wake of the new normal). Legacy organization She Runs It has launched the #Inclusive100 movement, a drive for agencies to commit to specific initiatives and participate in an annual benchmarking report.

 

The male-ness of the marketing industry hit home for us at @revenue when we saw how skilled working mothers are being pushed out of our own industry. As marketing leaders in our community, we felt that it’s past time for us to follow suit with these industry giants and not just talk about our diversity problem, but take drastic action to fix it. This year, the data, the goals and the strategies are finally coming together in an actionable way. And we are ready to do something about it. It’s time to change the way we hire, promote, manage and appreciate our teams. We need to listen to stories and open our internal offices to inclusion. There is no other way to understand and be better than to start doing and try it, track it, change it. Let’s start a revolution.

An earlier version of this article was published on Forbes.


How to Succeed in Retail in the Age of Amazon

How to Succeed in Retail in the Age of Amazon

 

So you had some extra time on your hands during quarantine and came up with the “next big thing” for retail. Maybe it’s a new premium direct-to-consumer item or a platform for social shopping. Whatever the case may be, in the current age of retail, every business team needs to ask themselves the trillion-dollar question: How do we compete with Amazon?

Amazon’s Corner on the Retail Market

Like Walmart did for brick-and-mortar big box stores, the retail giant has hoarded market share by offering lower prices on thousands of retail products in virtually every industry, and it’s paid off. Amazon reached the trillion-dollar mark in 2018, being only the second company to do so (Apple was first just a month before).

 

You may be wondering how Jeff Bezos grew his operation to the giant it is today from its humble beginnings in his garage in Bellevue, WA, but consider this: Amazon has been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to online shopping and shipping to your home. It revolutionized shipping speeds with Prime memberships, paved the way for the use of delivery drones and even built more warehouses to accommodate large metro areas.

 

And that's not all: Amazon is always looking at the big picture and making highly intelligent organizational moves and acquisitions. For example, healthy eating and finding organic food choices are trends that have been on the rise for some time now, and consumers have been willing to pay more for those choices. So what did Amazon do? It bought Whole Foods, the largest, fastest-growing organic food chain. No wonder it reached the trillion-dollar mark.

 

Paying attention to what consumers want outside of the online arena and giving it to them in a new format is brilliant, and something to think about if you are trying to compete in the e-commerce space.

The Customer-Centric Business Model

As a rule, once a company obtains a certain level of success, the customer satisfaction rating will slowly decline as the corporation has bigger things to deal with. Amazon has only gotten more “customer-obsessed” with their exponential growth. A list of their company leadership principles explicitly states that at Amazon, “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards.” Earlier this year, in a Harris Poll on corporate reputation, Amazon was ranked in the top 3 for the 8th year in a row and the top 10 for the 12th consecutive year. And Amazon topped the ACSI Retail Report for the eleventh year in a row. Clearly they are onto something when it comes to customer satisfaction.

 

Smaller businesses have an advantage because they have always been better at building relationships. However, they can hold onto customer satisfaction as a top priority by posting crystal clear return policies and by offering one-on-one assistance when needed. Live chat is a fast-growing trend in customer support. We all feel more appreciated when we feel a connection with someone, so allowing your customers to make a personal connection with you and your business can go a long way.

The Coronavirus Effect: Recovering from a Spending Freeze

As in all other sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail. E-commerce sales are forecasted to jump 18% by the end of 2020, but brick and mortar sales will drop by 14%. This TechCrunch article points out that the bump in e-commerce will not make up for the expected 10.5% drop in overall retail sales to $4.894 trillion—a level not seen since 2016. E-commerce may be enjoying a boost, but when all is said and done, Americans are technically spending less and gravitating to the top two in the category, Amazon and Walmart, for only the most essential purchases.

The Bottom Line For Small Businesses

While most new small businesses won't be able to directly compete with Amazon, there are ways you can be successful without feeling like you need to overcome the impossible.

 

Here are two ways of staying relevant in the space:

 

  • Go where consumers already are: that is, Amazon. For some, this is a classic “if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em” scenario in which a business foregoes fulfillment hassles by distributing directly through Amazon. For many, this has proven to be a successful strategy, turning a profit by letting Amazon take all the credit.

 

  • Create highly specialized products and services. Another new rule of thumb emerging across multiple industries, narrowing your niche and focusing on a very small percentage of the market can help you gain loyal consumers who know you are the only place to get what they need. Now that Americans are spending less, and Amazon has proven to be resilient, the retail behemoth is sure to keep its market share for the time being.

 

What may have worked for small businesses two years ago likely won’t work today, and what works today may not work tomorrow. Being nimble and finding small (but bright) windows of opportunity may be just the thing you need in order to survive.

An earlier version of this article was published on Forbes.


Boo! Social Media is Getting Scary Y'all

Boo! Social Media is Getting Scary Y'all

 

For some, social media was always a bit scary but this year has turned up the heat a bit, even for social pros,when it comes to knowing what to do and what not to do on your various branded platforms. Along with everything else that 2020 has brought along with it, figuring out your social media calendar has some fun new hurdles. 

Before, most brands were concerned with getting their content calendars established in 30 day increments and making sure what they post is relevant and helpful to their various audiences. But 2020 has changed the game. Now brands need to react to big events, and do so quickly and authentically, because the world is watching. 

What we’ve learned thus far is that how brands choose to show up in times of uncertainty is making a larger impact on audiences and people are being more open about reacting positively or negatively to what brands have to say. According to a Sprout Social survey 55%  of consumers expect brands to take a stance and that stance needs to be more than just a statement. Consumers want initiatives and actual tangible commitments. 

BOo! COVID-19 Response

When Covid hit us in early Spring, all eyes were on how brands handled quarantine and the reaction to the virus. Consumers were eager to see their loved brands react in a positive and authentic way. 

 

Major brands like Vicks and Allstate did a great job in finding ways to share a positive message and make some form of impact in order to answer to the demands of the masses. What stands out here early on is the willingness of these brands to stand behind their brand promises and really make an effort to have a real, tangible impact during a time of crisis. 

   

But COVID didn’t just impact consumers and large brands. Small businesses are the hardest hit during this onslaught of disaster in 2020. 

Many small businesses were (and still are) grappling with the changes the pandemic has had on their overall business structures and cash flow and as a result are feeling a sense of overwhelm when it comes to putting anything at all on social media as related to COVID. They are just too consumed with finding a way to stay afloat- let alone stay active on social media. The thing is, the small businesses who have been able to make it during this are those who are willing to shift and adjust their practices, and continue to engage and be authentic with their audiences. 

Consumers of small businesses realize that they cannot expect the same BIG IMPACT pieces that they expect from big brands.  The pandemic hasn’t stopped several SMBs from finding ways to thrive, by using social media as an outlet to share more helpful or relevant information and content, and to engage more directly with their audiences. 

 

BOo! Major Social Movements! 

 

Just when we thought things were going to start evening out. Some major social injustices forced everyone to take a hard look at what companies stand for. When the initial wave of the BLM movement began, the public turned to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to see what they would do- and what brands were joining the movement.  The overall response from consumers was that they wanted the social media giants to take accountability for what is on their platforms, and they expect brands to make a stance and stick to it.

For many brands this meant producing BLM positive content, public statements of inclusion- but that’s wasnt enough. The public has demanded that businesses hold up their word. If you said you were going to make changes in the hiring process, you had better start proving that you are doing it. 

According to the Sprout survey,  42% of consumers say they would start buying from competitors if brands don't stay true  to their word. The public is expecting more transparency and wants to see that you are taking the actions you said you would. For big brands like Peloton, this has meant some serious donating and changes in their operations. 

But this doesn’t ONLY apply to big brands. Customers are looking to their local small businesses to see how it should be done. The reality of small businesses is that they are typically able to be more nimble and innovative. They can affect real change at the organizational level faster. So when the world asks, what’s next ? It's the small businesses who are answering.

As time goes on, consumers are paying even more attention to how brands stand behind their promises, whether it be on creating more impact through donation to relief sources, or finding new ways to further a movement and effect permanent change. 

 

Boo! Election Season is here!

Perhaps the scariest of all is the upcoming Election. WE’ve seen a dip in engagement across the board for business pages because everyone has begun tuning into the Election now. Regardless of which side you fall on, the reality is that the division between the parties is wider than ever and that causes some seriously polarizing gaps. 

Depending on your business, it has often been recommended that  you abstain from political topics, but in this new environment consumers are looking for brands that align with their own personal values. Perhaps focusing on your core values is the best way to navigate this tumultuous time. 

 

OK, I’m sufficiently scared - Now What? 

Breathe. This too shall pass. Here are some basic tips to help you get through whatever may come next. 

 

Steps for Success on Social :

  • Be Authentic - Just remember, whatever you post, make sure it aligns with your core values, mission statement and brand promise. This keeps people engaged with you and will keep that level of transparency they crave. 
  • Back that Sass up- If you are going to make a public statement about donating, or changing your operations, you need to be prepared to actually do it- and prove it. Be sure you can actually deliver before you say anything. 
  • Be nimble- Things are changing fast. So even though there is a lot of value in that 30 day content calendar, as things come up, you need to be ready to act fast. It just means being a little more open to allowing for things to change in that calendar and following more of a news cycle strategy vs. a monthly plan. 
  • Take A Step Back - It’s ok! You might need time to think about all this. There is no rule that says you HAVE to respond on social media. Sometimes staying silent is a good thing. When something comes up that is just too much, just stop for a beat. Your social media will still be there when you come back. 

 

Just remember that you aren’t alone. If you are struggling with how to stay aligned with your values and brand promise in your social media messaging- it might be time to ask for help. Our social media experts are on standby. Just reach out if you need a little help. 

 


The Rule of 2/3

There Are No Unicorns: Making the Hard Choice for Good/Fast/Cheap Marketing Support

 

You've heard of this rule before. It’s basically a law of physics in the business world: you've seen it applied to various industries of service providers, but that doesn't make it any less true. Marketing professionals know this rule all too well, but it can still be a stumbling block for our clients because it doesn’t seem fair and it’s not fun to think about. The hard truth is that the killer deals and 10-in-1 unicorn gadgets that exist in the retail product world just don’t exist in the realm of professional services.

 

The Rule: GOOD. FAST. CHEAP. You can only choose 2.

 

In short, it translates to this: you can’t have it all. If you don’t have a bottomless budget or all the time in the world, anyway, something else in the equation has to be sacrificed. While we would love to promise you that your great marketing strategy will pay for itself, we know that’s not exactly how budgets work. Instead of urging you to dig deeper into your pockets and put a strain on your business to put a top-tier marketing plan in place, we would much rather walk through the Sophie’s Choice situation with you and help you make the decision that’s best for your business right now.

The Options

CHEAP: You are always looking for a deal. It is our human condition to try to find ways to save money and retain the best value for the work we are paying for

FAST: You also want your projects done as quickly as possible.

GOOD: Not only do you want it done quickly and for less money, but you want it to be good. Good design, good strategy, good in every way.

Why can you only choose 2?

VALUE: The value of quality marketing work is not necessarily synonymous with the amount you pay. Value is provided when something is done well, with intention, and provides both instant results and long-term outcomes.

CHEAP + FAST: When you're choosing two, cheap and fast end up being a likely option. After all, those are your two primary motivational factors—get it done now and get it done for the least amount possible. The problem with this strategy is that it forces your marketing team into a situation in which they have to cut corners, spend less time finding the best possible solutions

and instead finish a “quick and dirty” version of your project. That means the thing you have sacrificed is GOOD. Your project will still have a lot of positive attributes, but will it be everything you hoped for, and be perfect without any missteps? Definitely not.

CHEAP + GOOD: In the above situation, it seems like the issue is one of time: by combining cheap and fast you lost quality, which is what you need in the long run. Choosing cheap and good could be a better combination because you save money while getting a higher quality completed project, which could ultimately mean higher value. The sacrifice here is time. In order to perform high-quality services at a lower rate, your team will need to manage this project differently. And you may be one of many projects in process, so in order to spend the time wisely on your project and make it beneficial to the team, they will need to take extra time.

FAST + GOOD: Yes, this is an option. Yes, we can do what you want in the quality that you want in the timeline you want, but that will mean our team will have to work double-time, triple-time, and that means itʼs going to cost you more because you will have to pay for that time and extra time spent.

Keep this in mind next time you are trying to hire a marketing company or any other service provider: you may have three options, but if you’re looking for real value, you will have to sacrifice one of them. Unicorns are hard to come by, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Which 2 would you choose?

Need help deciding? Get in touch with us and let’s talk it out. 


Productivity Tips for #EntrepreneurLife in 2020: Eat the Frog

If we could sum up 2020 in one quote, it might be this one by Herbert Hoover: “About the time we can make the ends meet, somebody moves the ends.” This feeling of endlessly chasing a moving target, treading water or running in place was already a familiar part of the entrepreneurial experience. As a marketing and sales agency that works primarily with small businesses, we’ve picked up some tricks over the years to create structure out of chaos and forge ahead into productivity. 

2020 has taught us some new things about doing business in uncertain times, but when it comes to productivity, some of our tried-and-true basic principles have come through with the best results. Our answer to Herbert Hoover’s pithy proverb is this one by Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” This is our classic antidote to procrastination at the @revenue office, and we pride ourselves on being adept and graceful frog-eaters. But in the time of big pivots bringing a deluge of new and daunting tasks, sometimes we find a few more frogs hanging around on our to-do lists than usual. Can you relate?

We’ve seen many successful entrepreneurs and business owners adapt this frog-eating concept into a philosophy that keeps them on track and focused. So how does it work? For me, it gets broken down into these simple steps:

Step 1: Create a list of to-dos. I am a major list creator, so much so that I sometimes have lists of what lists I have. Each morning, as I set out to start my work day, I create an all-encompassing list of things to do. This list is primarily focused on the goals for that day, but often includes larger projects that I can complete in stages. The key is to make your list as comprehensive as possible first.

Step 2: Prioritize your list. Once your list has been created, you want to take a few moments and prioritize it. I generally categorize my list into things I can complete today, those that are deadline focused, those that are in stages and those that arenʼt deadline focused but would be great to accomplish as soon as possible. Once you have a priority in mind, you know where you need to spend your time.

Step 3: Read your list. Read it, and as you do so, mark the items that make you groan vs the items that are relatively simple to complete and donʼt bother you much.

Step 4: Biggest Groan = Frog. Inevitably, there will be one item on your list that you simply do not want to do. Perhaps when you were reading your list you were trying to imagine ways to procrastinate it. You will know what that one thing on your list is. For me, it’s often something to do with cash flow. I just simply hate reviewing accounting and financials. Iʼd much rather spend my time on fun marketing projects and writing.

Step 5: Eat the Frog. As Twain said, the key to having a positive day is to eat a frog first. That biggest groan on your list—do it first. Get it out of the way and the rest of your list will be no big deal.

Mark Twain knew what he was talking about! We use the frog-eating method every day to stay on task. The feeling when you accomplish that thing you were dreading is a natural high that keeps you going all day. Just take a few minutes every morning to prioritize your task list, and when the frogs come to call, you’ll know what to do.


5 Ways to Use Your Marketing Budget to Save Money

The big question when it comes to marketing is always, “how much is this going to cost?” Generally speaking, marketing services are perceived as an expensive project and many business owners are hesitant to spend valuable dollars on something that may or may not have the return they hope for. At least, that’s one way to look at it.

The dollar amount you spend on a marketing project is only one small factor in that project’s performance. If you want to make your marketing budget work harder, it’s important to understand what the other factors are and how to make them work in your favor. It’s not just how much you spend, but how you spend it that makes the difference between just-okay and extraordinary results. 

Unlike other business expenses, your marketing budget can have a direct and exponential effect on your bottom line if you manage it well. Finding the right marketing partner will also help you understand when and why to spend money on marketing. Use these tips to get to know your marketing budget a little better and uncover the best opportunities for your business:

#1 Separate Marketing and Advertising Line Items

Most business projections have a single category that accounts for both marketing and advertising. If you didn’t know this already, we have a secret for you: marketing and advertising are not the same things, and treating them the same way in your budget spells lower ROI for both. Simply put, advertising is the amount of money you need to pay to the media you place your campaign in while marketing is the planning, messaging, and design behind that campaign. You need both to make a splash, but they really should be viewed as two separate expenses.

#2 Compare Average Budgets

Taking a look at the benchmarks for similar-sized businesses is a good way to see if your marketing budget is on track to be competitive. For established businesses, The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of your gross revenue for businesses under $5 million, and closer to 10% for those over $5 million. New businesses should be spending somewhere between 12-20% of your revenue or expected revenue. This percentage of revenue should be split between marketing and advertising.

#3 Reserve a Marketing-Only Portion of Your Budget

The marketing-only piece of the budget should be around 5% of your expected gross revenue. This 5% should be allocated towards things such as the ongoing marketing implementation of a solid foundational strategy. These are the day-to-day tactics that engage your audience, the advertisements you place with specific media and tactics like email newsletters, video, content, and so forth. You should also expect to use more than 5% on big projects, such as website updates.

However, spending money on these day-to-day items will certainly be a waste of funds if you do not have a solid foundation.

#4 Build a Solid Foundation

To keep your sales pipeline moving and make the most of day-to-day activities with existing clients, you will need to invest in a solid marketing foundation. Since this generally includes the necessary larger projects, it will cost closer to 10% of your budget.

The foundation includes items like branding, strategy, website and social media. Working on these items to create a solid strategy that highlights your best target audience, the messaging and branding for those audiences and putting together a road map of strategy pieces paired with the big projects like a website will give you a healthy starting point. Once these things are completed, not only will your day-to-day activities will have a much higher conversion rate, but you will also have baseline KPIs to assess future campaigns.

#5 Consider the Cost of Client Acquisition

When making your marketing budget, the most important thing to remember is what your potential ROI will be. Consider what a single new client means to your bottom line. For example: imagine you have not built your foundation and you are relying on a salesperson to convert customers. You probably see the direct correlation between what you pay that salesperson

to what the conversion of each customer is. Letʼs say you currently spend $2,000 per new customer with your sales rep and he or she can convert 1 new customer per month. Provided that each new customer is worth more than the $2,000 you spent, you are happy.

But consider this: perhaps you built your foundation and were able to add a highly converting website and social media channels in addition to your sales rep. Using the 5% rule, letʼs say you spend $1,000 per month on digital media tactics and can convert 2 additional customers per month. You've increased your customers by three times while only spending a fraction of the cost and in a shorter time period.

Thatʼs where marketing becomes a saving vs. a spend. Looking at your current marketing budget is only the starting point for a strategy that should elevate your entire business. The key is finding a marketing partner who can work with you on the foundational items, but also on a long-term implementation and execution process. This is where you will save the most.

What are you looking for in a marketing partner? Let’s start a conversation and see if we’re a good fit.