WTF is a Digital Consultant? And what makes a good one?

When somebody gets in touch with me after coming across my website, they are usually in search of a digital consultant. But their first question after they introduce themselves and their business is often, so how can you help us?

Despite the fact they decided they needed a digital consultant, and made their way to Google to search for one, they still feel the need to ask in what ways they can use a consultant to benefit their business.

Part of that confusion obviously comes from how you define ‘digital’. In many ways it is an outdated describer as the Internet and being connected has infiltrated every part of life as we know it. So, companies can decide they need the help of a digital consultant without being overly clear on what it is they need.

Most businesses just know that they want to generate more via their website. More lead, more sales, more page views, whatever it is their business needs to grow. 

The Varied Role of a Digital Consultant

As a result of this approach and such variety on what services customers will require, the role of a digital consultant can be extremely varied. Depending on what you consider to fall under the banner of ‘digital’ you can end up fielding enquiries about:

  • Website design and development
  • Digital transformation
  • Digital strategy
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Social Media Management
  • Email Marketing
  • Google Ads and Paid Search
  • Paid Social Advertising
  • Email Marketing

And pretty much everything in between.

The V-Shaped Digital Consultant

A few wees ago I did a presentation to a group of recent undergraduate and post graduate students on building a career in digital. In it I introduced the concept of a V-Shaped Digital Marketer.  This is an evolution of the concept of becoming ‘T-Shaped’ which has origins in the 80s and McKinsey.

Being T-shaped means have deep knowledge in a single area and a little knowledge in a number of others.

Being V-Shaped means having more depth on knowledge in a broader range of areas, but a core set of deep knowledge capabilities.

An example for areas typically categorised under the bracket of ‘digital’ is shown below. The left example being somebody who is I shaped, the middle T-Shaped, and the right V-Shaped.

A successful Digital Consultant in my opinion needs to be a V-Shaped individual, who can call on a variety of skills depending on the requirements of the client.  This shouldn’t detract from their deep knowledge in a smaller number of areas, but if they have a broader skillset, they can be more adaptable to the needs of their potential clients.

Areas of Focus as a Digital Consultant

As you become busier and more successful as a digital consultant you can then start to know where your efforts are best focussed. Either through the work you are best suited for, or where you can get the best return on your time. But you still have the other areas to fall back on should a project require it, or you have some gaps to fill in your schedule.

So, you may have deep knowledge in SEO and know that’s where you can add the most value, but a short turnaround Development job comes in which you can turn around and generate income in some down time from your usual work. Or you can advise a client on their development needs in line with your creative jobs that add value and allow you to charge more for the service.

In Summary:

There may be times where having a specialism for your digital consultancy is the right thing to do. When a particular skill comes in high demand and is in short supply being a specialist in that area can come up trumps. But over a long enough period of time having broad skills to call upon as demand dictates, will bring longevity and more success, particularly if you are an individual consultant.

If you have found this post because you are looking for a digital consultant, why not get in touch and I can explain my range of skills.

Where there is threat, there is opportunity

If you have studied business or marketing you will be familiar with the SWOT assessment. A review of a business or business function that outlines the associated Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  It is a useful if subjective tool and process to go through when performing situational analysis.

And if you have produced many SWOT analysis’ in the past you will understand stand that there is often a direct link between the different elements based on your view point.  A strength can also be a weakness or a threat when viewed from a different angle.  And many times you will end up making an entry in two boxes for each point covered.

If your strength is your standing in a particularly industry, a threat could be political or economical factors affecting it, and a weakness could be diversity of client base.

Where there is strength, there can be weakness. Where there is threat there can be opportunity.

And it is that last point that is particularly pertinent right now. Many individuals and industries are facing huge threats as a result of the global pandemic and its impact on business. And in these times it is tempting, as well as completely understandable, to focus all your efforts on the threats you are facing.

But as with any SWOT analysis, where threat exists so can opportunity. Many times interlinked:

Threat Opportunity
We can’t travel to the office Develop a more flexible way of working
Our main clients are in a downturn Use the time to apply your skills to a new industry
Income is down Audit current outgoings and cut those unnecessary costs
Our old marketing ways aren’t viable right now What can we test now that will help us in the future

These are very broad, generic examples but if you focus on finding the opportunity in the current landscape then you will no doubt find some relevant to you.

And it is the businesses and individuals that focus on the opportunities and position themselves to make the most of them that survive the current situation and prosper in the new world we emerge in to.

So rather than spending all of your energy on the threats facing your industry, spend some time focusing on the opportunities. You will no only find it more rewarding, you will also put your business in a better place for the future.

Quiet Time = Audit Time!

With the majority of the world locked down, and some industries facing a period of diminished demand, digital marketers could be finding themselves as a loose end when it comes to how to be effective in their role.

If your budgets have been cut and your targets ripped up, how do you make yourself productive?

Well, at some point the lockdown will end. Or potentially before that happens, your market starts to crawl back into life and you need to be ready to be active again. The challenge is always the timescales, nobody right now can say when this might occur.

In this scenario the best thing to be doing is getting you house in order for the time when demand returns. The businesses that get the most out of the return of demand, will be the ones that are prepared and ready to be better than before.

And what better way to prepare than a thorough audit of your digital activity?

Audit…the very work conjures up visions of rigid suits, brief cases, and disapproving looks. But it doesn’t have to be this way, especially when it comes to PPC.

PPC Audit’s on the rise

Since lockdown in the UK, I have experienced an increasing demand for professionally conducted PPC and Paid Media audit’s. Business who are either in a good position during COVID-19, or those that want to be in a better on once they come out of it.

And these audits don’t have to be an onerous task. Think of them more of a health check. The objective is not to find what is wrong, but what could be done differently to achieve better results. And a good audit should also highlight the good things about PPC and advertising activity, as well as the areas for improvement.

What to audit

A good audit of your digital activity will cover everything from the top level down to the minutia. Often the contents of the final audit are dictated by findings as you go along, no two should be the same. There are however some standard areas that and places to start:

Overall digital approach audit

  • Budget allocation and split
  • Day of week performance and optimisation
  • Time of day performance and optimisation
  • Platform use and performance
  • Analytics and reporting accuracy
  • Performance goals and KPIs
  • Return on investment metrics

Google Ads audit items

  • Campaign/Adgroup structure
  • Match type use
  • Ad copy format utilisation (ETA’s & RTA)
  • Ad extension utilisation and/or improvements
  • Device approach and performance
  • Audience use and performance
  • Location targeting
  • General campaign settings
  • Bid strategies (current & Opportunities)
  • Conversion tracking
  • Search query performance
  • Quality score analysis

Paid Social Audit Items

  • Social platforms used in relation to target audience
  • Ad formats
  • Ads and messaging
  • Performance in line with business objectives
  • Campaign settings in line with business objectives
  • Optimisation targets and budget assignment
  • Audience settings
  • Audience segmentation
  • Audience performance
  • Budgets against potential opportunity
  • Conversion attribution settings

This list seems long and is far from conclusive, but each point may only be a small check and you may find everything is fine. Others send you down a rabbit whole that takes a little longer to unravel!

By the end of it you have an action plan and you know exactly the steps to take to make sure you are in perfect condition to either make the most of the market now, or be ready to when the demand comes back around.

If you think your paid activity could do with an audit, get in touch HERE and let’s see how I can help.

COVID19 Marketing Strategy Part 2

Last week’s blog post tried to put some structure around the question ‘how should I be marketing/advertising during the Coronavirus outbreak. Ignoring individual business issues such as supply chains, stock, and overheads and just using demand change as an indicator for how to approach things.

The first Matrix focussed on demand pre-COVID19 and current demand now, in the midst of it. But there is obviously a piece missing from this, what will demand post lockdown?  As much as the timing of when we enter a post-COVID19 world and what that world looks like on the other side is open to much debate, each industry should be starting to develop a feeling for what their market looks like in the future and what it means for demand.

So, if we use the same metric of demand as a planning tool but shift the timescale forward as to what is demand now, and what do we think it will be in the future we can build a similar matrix.  This then comes into play once we start to get a feel for how long a business or industry feel they will be feeling the effects of the Pandemic, and at what point they can start planning for the future.

Here is how I would approach it.  Intrigued to know what you think.

Marketing and Advertising through COVID-19

As Coronavirus continues to take hold across the globe, marketing and advertising seem like the absolute least of the worlds worries. But to the marketing and business world decisions are having to be made about how they trade through this crisis and come out of the other side intact.

The first and obvious reaction is to panic. Pull everything. Anything which isn’t currently committed and immovable gets stopped. And even if it is planned, booked, even paid for questions are asked about the penalty for cancelling it. Every company is looking are their cost base with forensic attention to detail.

In the agency world every phone call and email from clients over the last month was met with dread as clients rushed to cancel campaigns or planned activity.

I’ve seen marketers challenge this approach. ‘Businesses should be marketing through this crisis!’ And whilst this might be true of some, it takes no account for broader considerations. Supply chains, stock availability, customer cancellations or payment defaults, logistics, management of services during a lockdown, not to mention cashflow.

So, what should businesses be doing?

Broader considerations aside, and assuming a business has the facility to market through the current coronavirus epidemic, how should they go about it? 

One factor to base decisions on which is applicable for all industries is demand. Demand will have been affected in some way across the board. The extent to which though will vary, and the demand after this is through will also be different for all.

Rather than look at industries or business circumstances, I have tried to group business based on this impact on demand. How was it before the COVID-19 crisis, and how is it now?  By doing this we can try and put some information around how they can approach marketing and advertising in a period until the world stabilises. At this point the approach shifts again, to what demand looks like in the future.

The diagram below shows how I would approach it. I have ignored the quadrant where demand pre-COVID19 was low and during it is low because this is probably a much bigger issue to address. And then grouped quadrants where the overall approach would be similar.

This is obviously a simplistic way at looking at the challenges facing marketers during this time, but at least by taking a top-level approach you then have something to apply on a channel by channel basis.

How are you approaching marketing and advertising during this uncertain time?