Looking back on 2019

by Richenda Vermeulen
December 17, 2019

As the year comes to an end, I wanted to share a few thoughts on how marketing is changing — and staying the same. Because while technology moves fast, human nature is more fixed.

There are reflections on trends, strategy, and some key learnings I’ve had leading a digital-first, majority millennial team.

2009 to 2019: Social Marketing Grows Up

When I first stepped into Social Media Marketing at World Vision, I had the skills to do it: content creation, copywriting, community management, and running ads. There was very little competition and the platforms were (slightly) easy to use because there were limited options. And because most business leaders were sceptical of social media, it was cheap to grab customers’ attention.

That’s no longer the case. Across industries, ad costs are trending up. Including the charity space.

In just 12 minutes of Instagramming last night, here’s the charity ads that came up.

Screenshot of Not-for-Profit Ads on Instagram

To be competitive, brands now need to be expert storytellers, implement laser-focused targeting, build emotive creative, produce video optimised for their viewer’s needs, build elegant landing pages… the list goes on. It’s now a full team effort with specialised skills. Complexities have grown tenfold, and many digital teams are still catching up. Agencies are increasingly filling in the gaps between good enough and great.
Just like TV commercials and outdoor advertising, social marketing has grown up.

Don’t market to the entire world: Pick your tribe

The clients I see experience the greatest growth know their audience. Instead of being obsessed with reaching new audiences, they’re growing through existing supporters and their relationship. They’re investing in storytelling, online video, email, and outbound phone — 1-to-1 touchpoints as much as possible. They’re inviting their audience to be a part of the mission: to collaborate on actions big (like events) and small (like petitions).

And where there is engagement, the money follows.

Organisations growing market share most rapidly don’t try to be everything to everyone. They have strong opinions, focus on people who share their world-views.

Context switching kills creativity

Here’s a thing you already know: multi-tasking sucks.

Between email, regular meetings, sudden meetings, slack/yammer and shifting projects, some context switching in a fast-paced environment is bound to happen. But it’s not the desired state.

I’m conscious that my team is often interrupted. And it hurts our ability to think clearly.

This year we implemented work-from-home Wednesdays. We don’t schedule meetings, client check-ins or calls on Wednesday. Some people choose to come into the office, but many work remotely to focus. It’s been really well received by the team and increased our productivity and output.

The fixed day for remote working has helped our in-office collaboration too. By making it more clear when it’s best to work from home, the majority of the team comes into the office the other days.

The side benefits are nice too: less congestion and carbon emissions from commuting, laundry loads at lunch, and having a default best day to schedule necessary doctors appointments. It makes life nicer for everyone.

We’ll continue this into 2020.

Keeping the gang together

It’s hard to do great work if you’re struggling with employee turnover. Our 2019 research found 88% of Australian companies say finding digital talent is a challenge.

This year, we’ve had a nice surprise, retaining 100% of our staff we started the year with. I didn’t expect that. Given the turnover in this industry and the talent of my team, I’m feeling especially proud of the culture we’ve created.

Why the high retention? From internal conversations, requested feedback, and anonymous surveys, I believe there are four key drivers:

    • The clarity in each role, including responsibilities, expectations and feedback. Knowing what success looks like for each role and if you are progressing is a prerequisite to work satisfaction.

    • We align personal growth to company growth. This means making sure that the growth map for each person matches what they want for their career path, and allows them to skill up in their areas of interest. The more that organisations can align roles with an individual’s curiosity and direction, the better things go.

    • Meaningful work. Unsurprisingly, most people want to work somewhere that they can be proud of. While marketing is full of pushing products people don’t need, we choose to only work with clients that we can be proud of their success.

    • Fair leadership that is approachable, listens and looks out for our staff’s best interest. Since bringing on our General Manager, Ai and our Head of Services, Garth, our leadership team is able to lead and care for our team in a way that I had only dreamed of.

So what does marketing look like in 2020?

Like any decade, surely “everything will change”. Tech will bring new possibilities and mediums. Targeting and automation will make 1-to-1 personalised marketing possible. Brands will increasingly gain attention by stepping into loaded spaces that were previously avoided—politics, environment, human rights, etc. Media will continue to fragment.

And… it’ll all stay the same.

People will remain drawn to stories, they’ll respond to messages that are relevant to them.
Engaging emotions will remain key to behaviour change.

Humans will be humans… and we’ll keep trying to be the best ones we can.

Wishing you all the best success, as well as peace, joy and goodness this holiday season.