14 Content Ideas To Differentiate An Agency’s Website From Competitors

As your agency no doubt has a website, you know how important it is to populate it with content that attracts and engages potential clients who visit it. Approaches to creating content that helps your site stand out and facilitates your marketing efforts are virtually infinite, as different combinations of educational and entertaining material can help pique visitors’ interest, leading them to further consider what you have to offer.

The best content strategies take many variables into account, including your industry, your goals within it and how your solution can meet your target audience’s particular needs. Of course, your competition is likely playing the same “long game” of using content to draw prospects to their sites, so how will yours be different? Here, 14 members of Forbes Agency Council share unique ideas for using content to differentiate your agency’s site from those of your competitors.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Provide Real-World Guidance

Provide actual, real-world guidance based directly on your customers’ experiences. Instead of a bland promotional narrative, describe a question or situation that came up with one of your clients and what your recommended advice was. Your audience members may be dealing with the same challenge, and they will think of you again next time a question arises. – Eyal Danon, Ignite Advisory Group

2. Highlight Your USPs

Analyze your niche and relevant, service-specific search queries, then focus on what your audience wants to know. Provide the answers to what your target audience is looking for by highlighting your unique selling propositions in the content. This tactic ensures that you deliver value to your clients and differentiates your services and unique capabilities to help your agency stand out from the competition. – Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team

3. Make A Good First Impression

It’s all about first impressions. Make sure that your welcome landing page immediately draws in your potential customer and entices them to want to take a deeper dive into the rest of the website for various products and services. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

4. Stand Out With Content By Giving It Away

Give potential clients something they can use right then and there. We do national surveys and publish the findings. When the client goes back to their current agency (that has no information), we slowly win. Give them content ideas and show them how to create a story. – John Davies, Davies Public Affairs

5. Anchor Messaging And Visuals Around Definitive Concepts

Our agency is defined by our finance-based marketing approach and client growth results. Since this is our primary differentiator, we anchor our website messaging and visuals around defining these concepts. To bring validity to our team and approach, we also show several real-life client case studies to illustrate the services we provided and how we helped them scale their e-commerce revenue. – Tucker Matheson, Markacy

6. Make Prospects Want A Digital Presence Like Yours

There’s only so much you can do to stand out from the crowd. As a Web and graphic design, Web development, and digital marketing agency, we rely on showcasing our expertise through our company’s digital presence. When a prospect lands on our site, they’ll see a beautiful, fast-loading, intuitive website, and they’ll want the same for themselves. Our motto is “standing out by simply doing our best.” – Dejan Popovic, PopArt Studio

7. Focus On Subjects Your Competitors Haven’t Covered

Do online research in the areas of your expertise. Find ways to answer questions clients have asked, or educate your audience(s) on subjects that are not already heavily covered in the content your competitors provide. For example, you can do this by focusing your content on your particular point of view or industry skill set. Providing examples of how your ideas have worked for clients is helpful. – Megan Devine, d.trio marketing group

8. Use Visuals To Attract And Retain Visitors Longer

The human brain is hardwired chiefly to absorb visual content, which makes vivid images a more efficient and effective type of content. Therefore, we often try to stand out among competitors with visual content. First, this attracts attention and evokes emotions; in addition, it makes people stay on your page or site longer. Together, these things help rank you higher in search results. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

9. Know And Maintain Your Voice In Every Piece

Our tone reflects our values and style. We also keep the tone consistent across every message, visual and social post. Always have a distinctive voice that is clearly identifiable as your brand’s. We are a very visual agency and recommend to any company to be brave, be loud and, above all, be true to you. Know your voice, and reflect that throughout every piece of content. – Julia Linehan, The Digital Voice PR Agency Ltd

10. Mirror A Simple, Everyday Feed

We moved away from a rich, image-heavy site and consolidated almost all content into a simple stream of posts. Rather than being bombarded with video or some cool HTML5 animation, seeing simple updates that mirror an everyday feed just works for our visitors. There’s always something new to share, and if folks are interested, they can choose to explore. And they certainly do. – John Geletka, Geletka+

11. Reflect The Personalities Of Your Experts

We always build content that reflects not just our expertise, but also the personalities who provide it. Our employees and culture are essential to our success, so when we write, for instance, marketing guidance, we always include direct commentary from the people who know it best. If we can convey the humor and humanity that go into each project, we give an accurate picture of what it’s like to work with us. – Tellef Lundevall, Accelerated Digital Media

12. Integrate Brand And Culture Into The Same Conversation

Our agency is built on the conviction that brand and culture should be fused and integrated into the same conversation. That idea continues to be our true north. Rather than be generalists by spreading our content across the spectrum of branding- or marketing-related topics, we aim to drill deep on the culture and brand connection to help others further develop their knowledge on the subject. – Ted Vaughn, Historic

13. Derive Your Content From Search Data

People will only pay attention to the content on your website if it answers the questions they have. Therefore, take time to check out the questions users are asking search engines and create content that answers these questions. By accurately answering people’s questions, your website will see new traffic and definitely stand out in the crowd. – Candice Georgiadis, Digital Agency, Inc

14. Share Your Personal Story

Sharing my personal story of why I decided to start my agency 20 years ago helps me to differentiate myself. I have also included a section on my giving-back initiatives, something that I am very passionate about: making the world a better place than I found it. This is effective because no one else has your story. Each story is unique, and sharing yours will allow you to attract the right customers. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

12 Potential Causes To Consider When Website Traffic Starts To Tank

When a company’s website begins to see a downturn in traffic, it may be cause for concern. Often, a sudden lack of visitors is a warning sign of an impending decline in sales, as less website traffic typically means fewer customers. The issue should be diagnosed and addressed as quickly as possible to lessen the impact on a business’s bottom line, and that job often falls to an agency partner.

Forbes Agency Council

Drawing on their extensive expertise in this area, members of Forbes Agency Council share some potential causes for a sharp decline in a client’s website traffic and how that downturn can negatively affect businesses. Follow their recommendations to help determine the cause of the drop-off and fix your website traffic problems.

1. Algorithm Update

Knowing that a common cause is an algorithm update, that’s the first thing to research. At the same time, you need to review and identify whether anything has changed in your internal content strategy, publishing and optimization. Great tools to be used are Google Search Console and SEMrush. An ongoing “stay on top” strategy will most likely prevent or diminish any traffic downturn. – Peter Belbita, Noble House Media

2. Tech Stack Change

A decline in traffic is almost always going to be linked to a change across the tech stack or to actual marketing activities. If a tool didn’t break, you may have made some changes on a current paid channel, and you have to figure out which one. Traffic can spike up, but it should never spike down without platform changes on paid traffic sources or broken tracking. – Faique Moqeet, Hamster Garage

3. Changing Keyword Performance

It’s either paid traffic or organic traffic. If it’s paid, then look at budgets, campaigns and so on. If it’s organic, it can be a little trickier. Look at your top referring sites. Look at keywords. Where did the traffic disappear from? The easy answer is to say, “Google changed the algorithm.” Now, that might be true, but go deeper to see what was performing. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

4. Outdated Content With Irrelevant Keywords

When you track backward from site traffic, you will find yourself looking at search. What is preventing your site from ranking high on searches? Understand your keywords and make sure your content reflects that. If you’re not up to date on the keywords relevant to your audience, search results will drop. This could be the time to conduct an SEO audit on your site and optimize those keywords. – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®

5. Consumer Changes

Agencies sometimes forget that a downturn in sales is not always caused by faulty products or bad advertising. It could be a decline in consumers having disposable income. We suggest adjusting marketing strategies and product offerings in response to shifting demands while analyzing data in real time and pinpointing the issue at hand. – Greg Carney, Freedom United Social

6. Technical Issues

A rapid downturn in traffic could be a technical issue, from needing to do an update to a broken link or plug-in. Running a full diagnostic routinely and checking for updates can prevent problems before they start. It’s important to have a trusted partner who has a regimented website maintenance routine to ensure your website is in great health. Remember, if you ignore your website, so will Google. – Michelle Abdow, Market Mentors, LLC

7. Drops In Traffic To Specific Pages

Google Analytics showcases all traffic under “Acquisition > Overview.” There you will find categories such as Organic Search, Direct, Referral, Display, Paid Search, Social and Other. You can dig into each channel to see why there was a drop. You can detail specific websites, pages, campaigns and more to determine what changed and why. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

8. Change In Your Product Or Offering

A downturn in site traffic should be addressed immediately and is usually the result of a change in your product, offering or algorithms online, so assess what changes may have impacted the site traffic and make necessary changes to get site traffic up to baseline levels. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Policy Violations On Paid Ad Platforms

Uncover which source of traffic saw the steep decline by analyzing your Google Analytics and Search Console data. If the source is a paid channel, your account might have been suspended due to a policy violation or expired credit card. Organic traffic might fall due to a Google algorithm update, link or ranking losses and search engine penalization. – Dejan Popovic, PopArt Studio

10. New Digital Efforts

A surprise Google update is often the cause of a sudden downturn in site traffic. Cross-check your traffic dip in Google Analytics with updates announced by Google. Alternatively, there could be traffic shifts that coincide with new digital efforts — launching on Amazon, for example. If you are losing site traffic, but Amazon sales are increasing, your traffic may have simply shifted to another platform. – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Multiple Reasons That May Be Uncovered In Your Analytics

It’s impossible to indicate one reason. Your site may not rank as well on Google due to increased competition, outdated design, lack of external links, algorithm updates and so on. Site traffic may seem unpredictable at times, but you can acquire invaluable information by assessing the analytics of your site data. After all, you can’t find a solution to a problem without finding out its cause first. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

12. Causes Beyond Algorithm Updates

While an algorithm update is often the cause of a sudden decline in website traffic, penalties from search engines, loss of keyword rankings and redirects can also lead to drops in traffic. You can confirm this through Google Search Console and then start to perform the necessary steps to rectify these issues to regain your organic traffic rankings. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions

15 Tips For Businesses Looking To Ramp Up Social Commerce Efforts

Social media originally started as a platform to connect with others — now, it’s so much more than that. Social media sites have evolved into integral marketing channels and marketplaces where businesses can sell their products directly to consumers.

Forbes Agency Council

Because “social commerce” is still relatively new, many brands are still learning how to optimize their Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok and other accounts for selling. Here, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council share their No. 1 tips for businesses looking to get into social commerce, describing the most effective ways they’ve seen entrepreneurs enter the social media marketplace.

1. Have A Holistic Strategy For Testing

Social commerce is in its early stages, but it will inevitably be huge. TikTok is investing big in social commerce and will be the dominating social media platform for this decade. Brands looking to enter this space need to have a holistic strategy to test what might work for them before doubling down. Investing in user-generated content, working with creators and refining processes are key at this stage. – Faique Moqeet, Hamster Garage

2. Publish High-Quality Content

Always remember that content is king! Regardless of how many or which social channels are used as a marketing vehicle to deliver a message to current and potential audiences, you have to make sure you stay on-brand, publish high-quality content and actively engage with your audience. Quality content always makes a difference and gathers attention. – Peter Belbita, Noble House Media

3. Choose The Right Platforms First

Start with the right strategy. Which platforms are you active on for which audience, and what content/messaging is right for them? Then comes the right content strategy. The audience has only a short attention span, so content is key. From there on you can tap into social commerce. It’s always on. – Maddie Raedts, Media.Monks

4. Identify Your Target Audience

Ask yourself which platforms your customers use and what type of content they like. By focusing on the proper channels and understanding your audience’s preferences, you’ll have a higher chance of succeeding. And of course, for branding, showcase your aesthetics. It’s crucial to build up your brand personality and to interact with your audience on a personal level. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

5. See How It Works For Competitors

Most brands don’t need to be on all of the social media/commerce platforms. Resist the temptation. Don’t spend countless hours and budget getting started. Wait a little longer. Watch competitors burn budget. Pay attention to who stays on a platform for six months, 12 months and 24 months. Go there. In the meantime, focus on your current customers/clients. – Michael McFadden, eAccountable

6. Be Authentic

Represent yourself authentically through the platform. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and replicate what you see other top-followed brands do. As a Cincinnati-based company, we had a unique opportunity to show people who we are with the Super Bowl last month. Sometimes, it can be funny; sometimes, it can be embarrassing, but it has to always be authentic. Check out the Ickey Shuffle! – Lori Paikin, NaviStone®

7. Actively Engage With Audiences

Social commerce relies on the social part of the equation. Start by building a brand presence on the relevant platforms, and encourage and develop community by actively engaging with audiences. Another option is to partner with creators on the platform who have built up credibility and influence among their followers. Either way, focus on the personal connections that will ultimately drive sales. – Danielle Wiley, Sway Group

8. Don’t Rely Too Heavily On One Platform

Social commerce is still in its relative infancy, and platform algorithms award newer features and products. It is best to test on every platform and not rely too heavily on just one. By utilizing artificial intelligence technology to find and partner with creators and platforms who can best promote their products, brands can generate authentic collaborations driven by consent that truly inspire audiences to purchase. – Ricky Ray Butler, BEN

9. Dedicate Resources To One Audience

When creating a new social commerce campaign, it’s critical to streamline to an initial audience. Dedicate your resources to one specific group and create a great campaign, instead of spreading yourself thin. Do research initially on your prime customer demographic and then follow up that research once the campaigns begin, particularly with A/B testing to see which campaigns are strongest. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

10. Know Where Your Audience Is Already Spending Time

Know what social platforms your preferred audience is spending time on. These demographics have been shifting, so don’t assume. Look at the data. Next, brands need to consider ad infrastructure. Which platforms are already set up to drive social commerce with minimal friction? The more steps there are between your content (or ad) and the purchase, the harder the conversion is going to be. – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Be Sure You’re Ready To Handle It

Social commerce can bring new opportunities for revenue, but verify that it’s something you can actually handle. An effective social media strategy involves high-quality content (that represents your unique brand) and consistent engagement with followers. If you already run a successful e-commerce operation, can you stretch your current resources into also managing the social media side of things? – Marc Hardgrove, The HOTH

12. Ensure It’s The Right Fit For Your Brand

Before you launch on any platform, ask yourself: “Is this environment right for our brand?” In the same way having a stall at the local flea market may not be right for your brand, so too may social commerce be an ill fit. Do not erode your brand’s perceived quality through a mismatch. – Hamish Anderson, Three Piece Marketing

13. Understand Each Platform’s Unique Nature

Understand the unique nature of different platforms. It’s important to understand how e-commerce works on different social media platforms, and that they all operate differently in terms of audience delivery, metrics, typical consumer response and so forth. This includes having different media to push out on each platform. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

14. Be Ready To ‘Pay To Play’

Make sure that you are ready to “pay to play.” One of the largest trends in 2021 was the reduction in organic social media success and engagement across the board. So in 2022, if you are looking to throw your hat in the social commerce ring, per se, you need to have a nice advertising budget secured and set aside. A killer post is not going to make you millions. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

15. Do Your Homework

Before your brand jumps onto these platforms, do your homework. Make sure you can provide the type of content that resonates on social media and that your prospects are actually on these platforms. Look at your website and brand. If you start using social media to drive traffic to your website, and there’s a disconnect between your brand and brand messaging, it’s a waste of money. Don’t sell — infotain. – Megan Devine, d.trio marketing group

Nine Unique Client Campaigns (And Lessons Their Agencies Learned)

When company leaders come up with ideas for marketing and advertising their businesses, they will often seek the guidance of agency partners to help them craft the best strategy for implementing an original campaign. Over time, refining the unique concepts their clients come up with can help agency leaders build deep expertise, creative agility and an extensive knowledge base.
Forbes Agency Council

Below, nine members of Forbes Agency Council discuss unique campaigns they have helped their clients execute and the lessons they learned that others in their field can benefit from.

1. Marketing A Privately Owned City

We are working on a campaign to market a privately owned city. It’s a tourist attraction, but the city also has several successful businesses with e-commerce channels. Maintaining the brand for a city as well as its many businesses is, in our opinion, rather unique. This is a great chance to learn how to create one brand with several niches that all need to be marketed in somewhat differing ways. – Jayant Chaudhary, JLB USA

2. Working For Local Nonprofits

Working for local nonprofits and hospitals that focus on a particular patient population, such as children, is gratifying not only from a “greater social good” perspective but also as a local market experience. You can become part of the community and expand your reach via all mediums, from digital to out of home. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

3. Creating A Unique Influencer Partnership

My agency was charged with developing a new way to handle influencer marketing for Arizona tourism. We created an influencer partnership with Mattel using Barbie. It was tremendously successful and became one of the top five social media campaigns that year at the Webby Awards. The lesson for brands is that they need to look beyond what everyone else is doing and explore the craziest of options. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

4. Live-Sketching Concepts During A Focus Group

One of the most unique projects we worked on was character development for a video game design company. Rather than simply using player feedback in the process, this project involved live-sketching concepts during a focus group as feedback was given. Projects such as this are a great reminder that creativity extends beyond the creative outputs and into the strategic design as well. – Chris Martin, FlexMR

5. Prioritizing People Over Profit

A home decor client asked us to team him up with high-profile charities and celebrities for give-backs while leveraging that for media exposure. We partnered him with Megan Fox, Amber Heard, Lance Bass and others, which not only raised millions of dollars but also got all of them on major TV shows (“The Kelly Clarkson Show,” the “Today” show and more) for free. “People over profit” goes a long way! – Zack Teperman, ZTPR

6. Cultivating Local Brand Awareness

Local brand awareness is big for many businesses and professions. However, not every industry appears to be the right fit from the outset for “shop local.” With creativity, you can make it work! For example, an accounting firm may not be thought of for community content, but promoting and sponsoring local initiatives helps spread the brand name, which makes it more likely for businesses to turn to it. – Lisa Montenegro, Digital Marketing Experts – DMX Marketing

7. Working With A Young Client

We landed a very unique client: a 14-year-old soccer athlete. While working with her, we have had to develop creative ways to explain the impact of image, the timing of campaigns and the long-term goals. We realized that explaining marketing in ways she could comprehend aided in her success. It’s become a standard across our whole agency, whereas we used to stay reserved. – Logan Rae, Argon Agency

8. Delivering A ‘Shoppertainment’ Campaign

We have been working with a client who produces and sells high-end flatware. In a very saturated market, they needed an “out of the box” idea to really differentiate their product line. We delivered a “shoppertainment” campaign for Facebook and Instagram—basically doing a live social version of a QVC-type pitch that sent sales soaring. The lesson? Everything old is new again! – Bernard May, National Positions

9. Creating Overarching Messaging For Diverse Applications

When a technical company’s product or intellectual property can be used in many diverse applications, it can be challenging to market. We solve this by first creating overarching messaging that can be used as a base along with an arsenal of differentiators. We then launch industry-vertical campaigns that leverage this messaging along with application-specific language, examples and imagery. – Wendy Covey, TREW Marketing

15 Affordable, Innovative Ways To Get Graphic Design Talent On A Budget

In today’s world, it’s more challenging than ever for businesses to cut through the noise and content that exists online and promote their own products or services. Having a great marketing campaign helps reach those customers and pull them in, but to do so, you have to have a professional, eye-catching graphic design.

Forbes Agency Council

For smaller companies or startups, graphic design costs might be out of reach, but there are many other ways to get affordable, innovative designs on a tight marketing budget. Below, 15 Forbes Agency Council members offered their best tips for finding high-quality graphic designs on a budget.

1. Start With A Vision

Creativity can happen anywhere. What’s important is vision. Once you have a vision, aligning with graphic design is all in meeting someone. It’s valuable to build a brand identity so any derivative creative work can reflect the true nature of the brand. Whether you use a service like Canva or Picmonkey or find a freelancer, always remain consistent in the pieces that make your brand stand out. – Ashlee Piga, Lotus Digital

2. Use Candid Shots

The humanity of a brand or the noble purpose it serves can rally communities to support a shared mission. Commodity services and products will have a hard time gaining this type of traction. I have also learned that homegrown pictures and candid shots often gain more engagement than those of high polish. So sometimes a little “real” can go a long way. – Joe Becker, twelvenote

3. Connect With Freelance Designers

Expand your team by simply adding freelance designers! Websites like Upwork.com are a great way to connect with talented designers at a much more affordable rate. Another unique way to tap into the design world is with services like logomyway.com, where you can run a logo contest and gather logo ideas from experienced designers. – Nate Reusser, Reusser Design

4. Find An Agency Creative Team

Using crowdsourcing sites like Fiverr or 99designs can be a mixed bag — you get access to many creatives for fairly competitive rates, but getting revisions can be challenging, especially down the road once work is complete. I’d recommend finding an agency creative team willing to take on projects. You know they’ll stand behind it and continue to support you down the road. – Dan Kahn, Kahn Media, Inc.

5. Work With Community Colleges

Community colleges are a great, untapped resource for accessing affordable top talent. For those colleges that offer technical and work skills development like MiraCosta College in San Diego, CA, they strive to connect students with industry partners so it would be a very easy ask. Given the geographic proximity, it would be a real win-win for students and businesses to connect through the college. – Crystal Sargent, Invested Advisors

6. Try Visual Communication

Good design doesn’t need to be expensive. The experiential design needs to be clever, and its usually produced iteratively through contextual exercises, user testing and best practices. The original design that extends company authenticity, voice and tonality is a key to staying on brand. Visual communication is one of the easiest ways to connect to the user base and create user experiences. – Goran Paun, ArtVersion

7. Contact A Local Marketing Association

The American Marketing Association is national and has a presence in numerous cities and on college campuses. They would be a good source of information and likely provide member referrals and other suggestions — even if you’re not a current member. There are also many talented freelancers, depending on your need, so post your requirements on LinkedIn. – Megan Devine, d.trio marketing group

8. Get Pre-Approved Concepts Through RFPs

Submitting a Request For Proposals (RFP) to a group of designers will make sure that not only are your interests aligned but that you will be getting the best talent for your budget. With pre-approved concepts from the RFP process, there wouldn’t be as much time spent brainstorming, but rather going straight to campaign execution. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Hire A Professional Designer

The best way to get top-notch, professional graphic design is to do it with a professional designer. There is no other way around it. Fitting it on a tight marketing budget requires staging: creating a tailored brand book reflecting small business values and key moments first and leveraging existing automated design services to develop creative variations for social, display web and mobile after. – Oksana Matviichuk, Performics

10. Collaborate With Technical Schools

If you want to save money on design work, consider building a relationship with your local university or technical school. You can provide learning opportunities for design students and bring a fresh look to your collateral work. Instructors are frequently looking for real-world opportunities for their students and will appreciate the exposure to actual business situations. – Sara Steever, Paulsen

11. Hire Someone Part-Time

Before investing in graphic design, I’d look at internal marketing support. Small businesses need to start with a marketing manager as they’re essential for helping brands see the bigger picture and make strategic decisions on investments. I’d then recommend the brand hire a part-time graphic designer to save on freelance fees, invest in the team and set the foundation by developing brand assets. – Kathryn Strachan, Copy House

12. Rely On Free Services Like Canva

Canva is a great tool because it provides pre-sized documents, tons of templates and all of the necessities to make a brand’s logo and iconography stand out. Canva is free to sign up and very user-friendly. Though there is a premium version available for a fee, the program also has free templates that you can use and plug in your own information, or just use as inspiration. – Durée Ross, Durée & Company, Inc.

13. Draw Inspiration From Fans

Asking fans and followers to participate in a #FanArtFriday about your brand is a great way to bring some life to your feeds and give young artists some exposure and love. You never know, you might find a graphic talent in your price range among those dedicated fans! – Samantha Reynolds, ECHO Storytelling Agency

14. Leverage White-Label Agency Partners

Companies without the budget to hire a full-time graphic designer can leverage freelance graphic designers or white-label agency partners to deliver professional graphic design. Typically, these projects can be as-needed, depending on the number of deliverables you need in a given timeframe. This approach will help you save on costs while still delivering high-quality results. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions

15. Develop A Creative Collective

We have a creative collective through the production studio within our agency where we provide packs of graphics on a monthly or quarterly basis. Freelancers are also a great way to go. There are a ton of libraries like Creative Market, Envato Elements and others that have templates too. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B

The Great Consumer Reset

Lady using mobile phone
Credit: Getty Images by Elena Noviello

2022 is in full swing, and while marketers are “innovating” with applications of new dressings on old sales models, many are missing the paradigm shift that’s also upon us. The machinery of consumerism is in disrepair: supply chains are broken, prices are rising on household goods and other items thanks to inflation, the U.S. Postal Service is intentionally slowing down, and many shelves are quite simply bare. Strong headwinds, to put it mildly.

It’s important to realize that it’s not just the mechanics of efficient supply and demand that’s been disrupted. There’s a psychological component that has been building for years, and a seismic shift in the way people think about buying goods and services has already occurred. This year, the “Great Consumer Reset” may show up in unexpected ways, and marketers need to be ready.

The Shift in Consumer Thinking Was a Long Time Coming

We experience earthquakes as sudden events, but in reality, pressure builds slowly and almost imperceptibly until tectonic plates shift in a sudden release. Similar pressures are at work in the Great Consumer Reset, which has been building for more than a decade. Millennials and Gen Z experienced the Great Recession and the failures of previously solid institutions and economic ideals during their formative years, which made a lasting impression.

Unsettling political and socioeconomic events sowed seeds of doubt about ingrained cultural concepts, including immediate gratification for consumers, globalism, and capitalism itself. Climate change is another pressure that’s impossible to ignore. Add the devastation and confusion of the pandemic to the mix, with the resulting global economic dislocation and social isolation, and millions are rethinking how they’ve ordered their lives.

This resetting of priorities may be what’s prompting record-breaking numbers of Americans to leave their jobs. People are questioning what they need and want, and they’re reassessing what they’re willing to do and how much they’re willing to spend to get it. And it’s all happening as millennials and Gen Z are stepping into their peak purchasing power as consumers. A general theme that seems to be emerging is simple: less is more.

That doesn’t necessarily mean people will spend less this year, though inflationary pressures will affect budgets. Marketers need to keep in mind that the purchase consideration timeline has lengthened, making impulse buys less likely. People are taking more time to think about the necessity of a purchase, considering DIY options and assessing brand values before clicking “proceed to check out.”

Marketing After the Great Consumer Reset

So, what does this mean for companies that produce goods, and marketers who sell them? Products will need change to meet emerging consumer expectations. Sustainably sourced and ethically produced goods have already gained mainstream traction. That trend will accelerate, affecting industries like fast fashion and other sectors with a reputation for toxic production processes and negative environmental impact. Inflation will drive price sensitivity, but consumers will also take time to evaluate their needs and assess production processes and the impact of their purchases.

The Great Consumer Reset could lift up companies that focus on small-batch production, hyperlocal products, artisan goods and farm-to-table ecosystems. The shift in mindset opens up new opportunities for companies that stay in sync with evolving expectations and marketers who tell a compelling story that aligns with customer values.

Turning Customers Into Brand Advocates

For marketers, the most salient fact is that the purchase funnel has changed. There’s now an extended consideration phase. Broken supply chains forced consumers to wait, but now waiting and taking the time to consider broader priorities has become a habit. Marketers can adjust to that with a sequential messaging strategy that goes well beyond product features and instead becomes a timely and honest narrative during the extended consideration phase.

Features and benefits are still important — potential customers need to know that the product provides what they need. But now, there’s an opportunity for marketers to address consumers’ other priorities by talking about what the brand is doing to create a greener, more just world, whether through sustainable sourcing, ethical business practices, or contributions to charitable causes.

Marketing in general after the Great Consumer Reset will be different because priorities and expectations have shifted. Marketers will need to give people a deeper reason to buy and a true, verifiable story that builds trust in the brand, turns customers into advocates, and drives long-term value and return on investment.

Christian Jones is currently the head of marketing at Hawthorne Advertising and brings over 15 years of proven success in business development and sales, creative digital media, and technology to his role.

Get More Bang for Your Buck with Offline Media

Offline Media Examples

By Fletcher Pickett, VP Account Director, Hawthorne Advertising

Are the days of offline media numbered? Maybe not! Digital media like ads on websites, mobile apps, social media and connected or over-the-top (OTT) TV are often relatively pricey in comparison to other marketing options. Perhaps obviously, these channels of media are incredibly effective among younger demographics while producing data that can help marketers target and retarget consumers with high propensities to buy. This is a big answer to the question “Why? as brands are increasingly gravitating toward digital channels for ad campaigns.

That said, offline media is still highly effective, so marketers shouldn’t overlook its capabilities. “Offline media” generally includes everything else that’s not digital, such as ads on linear TV (i.e., scheduled network programming), terrestrial radio, billboards, print, etc. Offline media is mostly very efficient upon reaching large numbers of people, especially linear TV, which often outperforms other offline media categories.

Specific Use Cases for Offline and Online Media

Because it reaches many people efficiently, offline media like video ads on linear TV and audio channels such as non-digital radio are great options for businesses that are launching a new brand or expanding from a regional presence to a national footprint. Offline tactics are somewhat not as targeted as connected TV ad campaigns in comparison, but brands executing in these channels will yield more efficient impressions and often reach more people on a dollar comparison basis when they run on linear TV.

Another great use case for offline media: rolling out a new product from an established brand. If the company is already well known and has a popular family of products, offline media can be the best way to get the word out about a new product while leveraging the brand’s strength. Offline media also works incredibly well to introduce a new product type for the same reason it makes sense for brand launches: it reaches large numbers of consumers for less when compared to digital media.

That said, in some cases, a digital media-first strategy can make more sense. Indeed, if the marketer needs to reach a highly specific group of consumers — people who might be interested in buying a specific truck bed liner, for example — online media’s targeting capabilities are valuable. But for broad product categories, like adhesives, offline media is cost-efficient and highly effective.

Another use case where online media is a marketer’s best bet is when the product is targeted to younger consumers. To reach people in the 18 to 34 age group, digital media like connected TV is highly effective; people in that age range typically watch less linear TV and make up more than half of the connected TV audience. However, for reaching viewers in particular for aged 35 and up linear TV is a great option.

Offline media is also an excellent option for marketers who want to drive traffic to brick and mortar retail outlets. For example, a company that sells a product online through an ecommerce platform but also has a national distribution channel via retail partnerships and prefers to drive customers to those channels may have better luck using both strategically booked local and national offline media for that specific objective.

Think “Both And” Instead of “Either Or”

Online and offline media each have distinct advantages, and most marketers find success with a campaign that combines the two. For example, an established brand that is rolling out a new product might invest in offline media to announce the product launch and advertise on digital channels too, using the data generated to retarget likely buyers.

It’s more difficult today to reach the youngest consumers with offline media, but non-digital channels are enticingly efficient relative to other options for targeting older demographics. The bottom line? Keep in mind the value that offline media delivers, and tailor media buying strategies according to campaign objectives and consumer demographics. Think “both and” instead of “either or” because in many use cases, offline media still delivers more bang for the buck.

 

Fletcher Pickett has been at Hawthorne Advertising for 10 years, managing campaigns in excess of $250 million in total expenditures.

How 10 Agencies Are Adapting To Recent Market Shifts

Business leaders expect to make many difficult decisions to help their companies succeed. What they can’t anticipate, however, are the actual market shifts their organizations will inevitably face.

Forbes Agency Council

Unforeseen circumstances—such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation or even the ever-growing social awareness of a younger generation of consumers—can present real-time challenges that companies must address quickly and in the right way to ensure their continued survival.

Below, members of Forbes Agency Council explore different ways agencies are adapting their outreach and offerings to better accommodate market shifts in 2022.

1. Shifting To Digital Marketing Techniques

In the B2B space, more and more decision makers are becoming younger and younger. So there is a huge shift from traditional marketing techniques to digital marketing techniques in the B2B space that is far outpacing the B2C space. – Scott Miraglia, Elevation Marketing

2. Deepening Social Impact Through Partnerships

We have doubled down on our paid digital service offerings and deepened our partnership with our sister agency, Ethos Giving, which focuses on supporting companies to do good in the world through social impact efforts. – Nathan Miller, Miller Ink, Inc.

3. Developing Systems For Attribution And Visibility

Working heavily in a B2B/software as a service space, we’ve had to adapt to this industry expecting and needing attribution and data visibility in terms of revenue impact. Clients need to see the true revenue or customer impact from every effort—even trickle-down ROI from upper-funnel channels. We’ve had to develop data services that build out the systems to do this at scale and go beyond just pure ads execution. – Brian Walker, Statwax

4. Ensuring Evolving Employee Needs Are Met

An agency or brand must constantly be adapting and evolving with market trends, from employee needs such as remote work and work-life balance to the physical machinery and tech platforms that will ensure they can perform their jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

5. Focusing More Heavily On Paid Media And E-Commerce

Over the past five years or so, we have adapted to market needs by focusing more heavily on paid media and e-commerce. While we were built on SEO, pivoting has been necessary in order to drive results faster. These two channels allow for greater flexibility when it comes to dealing with short attention spans and growing competition. All demographics want valuable information fast, so these channels bridge the gap. – Bernard May, National Positions

6. Offering A Full-Service Experience Within A Campaign

We’ve always offered a full-service experience, with strategy, content creation and platform management included. Now, we’re focused on that experience within a campaign. We know that all of our ideal clients need landing pages, transaction (checkout or sign-up) pages and content to funnel leads through, so we designed packages and programs around that. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B

7. Constantly Tracking Where Consumer Attention Resides

We are constantly adapting as we work in the social media space. We have one North Star, and that is to ensure that we understand where consumer attention resides. Recently, for example, consumer attention shifted away from platforms such as Facebook and moved to TikTok. Attention shifts all the time, but if you track where attention is, you can smartly adapt your offerings and channels. – Aliza Freud, SheSpeaks, Inc.

8. Keeping Up With Current Events, Industry News And Platform Updates

We have adapted to market demographic shifts by remaining informed of current events, industry news and platform updates. This keeps us aware of where our clients’ customers spend time and the content they engage with. For example, we onboarded a client who had a primary audience segment of 15- to 20-year-olds, so our team recommended a 20% budget reallocation from Facebook Ads to Snapchat Ads. – Tellef Lundevall, Accelerated Digital Media

9. Paying Attention To Target Clients’ New Pain Points

We have paid attention to the new issues and problems our target clients are experiencing, with most of them being in the creation of video content and/or making sense of TikTok. With that understanding, we have not only developed services that help educate our audience as to best practices but have also created services that would help alleviate these concerns. Open your eyes. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

10. Grouping People Into Audience Segments By Behavior

We are shifting away from grouping people into audience segments by demographics. Instead, we are focusing on how people behave, such as their stage in the sales cycle or propensity to convert. By integrating first-party customer relationship management data with media performance and site engagement data, we can run our own analyses to determine how to group and target individuals beyond just their demographic info. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

Where 2022 Ad Spend Is Going (And How To Get Ahead Of The Trends)

There is a multitude of factors to consider and important decisions to make when creating an advertising budget. Aside from choosing the right channels and tactics to meet their own strategic goals, a brand must take the state of its industry as well as the latest marketing and advertising trends into account to create ad campaigns that will stand up against those of its competitors.

Brands don’t want to jump on any old bandwagon or social platform without a good reason to do so, and this year, they’ll once again be seeking the right avenues to reach their target markets. From diversifying with an integrated multichannel approach to doubling down in a specific medium such as digital, television, print or social, the options are endless.

With their insight into where ad dollars are being spent in real time, the members of Forbes Agency Council can forecast where brands will be spending their budgets this year. See their predictions below, along with good ways for brands to get ahead of these trends.

Forbes Agency Council

1. Digital Marketing To More ‘Connected’ Consumers

Digital marketing is something that cannot be ignored! The pandemic has made people even more connected to their devices with the demands of remote work and staying in touch with family and friends. This shift has made digital marketing a great vehicle to get your brand noticed by your target consumer in a cost-effective manner. – Thomas Morganelli, Centipede Digital

2. Connected TV Ads Informed By First-Party Data

Where your media dollars are spent really depends on your marketing goals. One area where we see continued growth is connected TV. There is real power that comes with the ability to serve up video on the big screen in your target’s living room. Combine that opportunity with the strength of first-party data, and it’s clear why CTV offers opportunities unavailable on other marketing channels. – Jonathan Schwartz, Bullseye Strategy

3. Online And Offline Platforms With Consistent Media Availability

Ad dollars will continue to increase on digital platforms that are optimizing their ad strategies, such as TikTok. There will be a continuous amount of spending on offline platforms that follow the supply-and-demand curve, where media availability is consistent. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

4. Higher-Funnel Digital Efforts With Advanced Tracking

Ad dollars will be spent in digital, but more specifically in higher-funnel efforts where advanced tracking and attribution are now showing true impact and ROI. Think about over-the-top content, streaming video, audio and more, which were once stuck measuring impressions or maybe view-throughs. Agencies implementing better tracking systems will be able to show the trickle-down effect of these higher-funnel efforts and get better buy-in for a full-funnel digital investment. – Brian Walker, Statwax

5. Niche Targeting Via OTT And CTV

I see a switch from spend on social and search to a surge in OTT and CTV advertising. With the level of understanding of these mediums growing, the barriers to entry are not so high now. For companies with the right level of budget, both OTT and CTV present fantastic growth opportunities and the ability to reach new markets in this increasingly niched-out world. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

6. Digital And Social Media Advertising Strategies

Ad dollars will definitely be best spent this year on digital and social media. Brands can get ahead by starting to implement result-driven social media advertising strategies. There are more users on social media than ever before, and platforms such as Facebook and Instagram give businesses the opportunity to yield a considerable return on ad spend and stay profitable year-round. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

7. Small-Budget Programmatic Buying On CTV

2022 will see lots of ad dollars move into the CTV space. Many major brands will take their first steps into CTV, especially as they discover how effectively smaller budgets can operate in this less-crowded space. With programmatic buying and audience-targeting tools, it’s possible to make a big splash in CTV, and I expect we’ll see lots of 2022’s ad dollars migrating in this direction. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

8. The Right Social Media Platforms For Narrow Targets

The growing addiction to social media in all the age groups and interest groups makes social media the best place for marketing investment. Social media ads allow for narrow targeting, which helps increase brand awareness among the target audience, and thus conversions. Agencies should identify the right social media platforms for their clients and develop a focused marketing plan to exploit this trend. – Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team

9. Specific Content And Content Creators

While the easy answer is “digital,” I think “content” is more accurate. Forget about which screen, or even which delivery method, will be dominant—consumers are becoming more tied to specific content and content creators. This is a meaningful shift in consumer behavior and an opportunity for agile and innovative marketers to find their audiences. – Andrea Palmer, Publicis Health Media (PHM)

10. Video Content Designed For Omnichannel Use

Designing campaign creative for omnichannel use—with a focus on video through CTV and linear TV—is key. Our in-house production company and agency-owned studios allow us to quickly create video, and this is something all agencies should consider. Even out-of-home placements can leverage video more in 2022. Video content is the 2022 campaign anchor. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B

11. Inbound Marketing Technologies

It depends on the audience. The goal of digital marketing is to get the right message to the right potential client at the right time. The best way to do that is to utilize the marketing technology that most clearly communicates ROI. I believe that inbound marketing technologies that show the full buyer’s journey are where ad dollars should be spent. – Christopher Carr, Farotech

12. Increased CTV Ad Spend Across All Industries

While spend by channel typically varies by industry, we expect a surge in CTV spending from brands across all industries. While many marketers are shifting spend away from linear TV, we expect investment to come from digital channels, as CTV offers the sophisticated targeting of programmatic advertising with a comparable reach to linear TV for a much lower cost. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

13. Product Placement In Streaming Content

Marketers and agencies are increasing their interest in product placement in streaming content on platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and HBO Max. This is driven by the fact that they themselves sat watching hundreds of hours of streaming episodes and films over the course of the pandemic, none of which included traditional advertising. – Stacy Jones, Hollywood Branded

‘Table Stakes’ For Marketers: 15 Things To Budget For In 2022

Every year there are new tactics, channels for reaching consumers and methods of converting them to consider when devising a marketing strategy. While you may want to double down on efforts that saw great results last year, there may be other items that should be incorporated into this year’s marketing budget to gain the most traction for your brand and help fuel its growth.

Forbes Agency Council

The experts of Forbes Agency Council stay up to date on the latest movements, concepts and trends having an impact in the marketplace. Here, they share what “table stakes” look like for marketers in 2022. See some of the key elements they believe should be accounted for in every brand’s marketing budget in 2022 below.

1. A Balance Between Lower- And Higher-Funnel Campaigns

With indoor shopping on a continual decline, brands are subsequently experiencing a drop-off in the brand equity in-store experiences provide. Looking forward, I anticipate brands will attempt to stem the decline by developing an impressive budget-balancing act between higher-funnel brand awareness and mid- and lower-funnel campaigns that emphasize immediate conversions. – Jason Wulfsohn, AUDIENCEX

2. New Channel/Tactic Testing

Include a budget piece solely for new channel/tactic testing that is not held to the same revenue key performance indicators—so if the test fails, it won’t tank the overall marketing ROI. Having a budget that frees the marketing team to test new audience segments, try the next up-and-coming social channels and experiment with new ad creatives while increasing the volume of actionable data is key to scaling in a fast-moving ads environment. – Brian Walker, Statwax

3. Digital And Social Media Advertising

A marketing budget should consist of mostly digital and social media allocations in 2022. Social media advertising allows businesses to predictably generate profit from ad campaigns on a regular basis. The “table stakes” range from a few thousand dollars per month in ad spend for small businesses all the way to tens of thousands, and even several hundred thousand, per month for large enterprises. – Jonathan Durante, Expandify Marketing Inc

4. Investments In The Strongest Conversion-Based Traffic Sources

The best budget allocation should always focus on supporting your strongest conversion-based traffic sources. While growth and trying new things are always important, a business should always have a strong understanding of where their audience is converting from in the highest numbers and invest accordingly. – David Kley, Web Design and Company

5. ‘Content That Converts’

We call it “Content that Converts”—creative assets, strategic storytelling and product personification need to be part of the marketing investment in 2022. Data, connectors for internal tech stacks and tech stack refinement should also be high. Most marketers don’t touch that. However, we do, because all “strategy” talk is pure fantasy until we know what’s driving revenue. – Vix Reitano, Agency 6B

6. Artificial Intelligence Tools

It is very clear that how brands use artificial intelligence will make all the difference in the ways people make their purchases in 2022. As more AI is built into platforms, life is changing for the marketing world. Those who do not know how to make the adjustments with the new tools will perish. – Jon James, Ignited Results

7. Client Retention Initiatives

Plan quarterly to ensure your team has the resources to adjust quickly to market shifts and client needs. Evaluate marketing technology investments often to ensure they are delivering on their KPIs. Invest in current clients. New business is essential, but current clients can provide a lifeline during market shifts. Don’t underestimate the value of client retention when you’re planning for 2022. – Steve Ohanians, WebEnertia

8. Partnerships And Placements That Build Brand Reputation

Smart marketers will focus on building brand reputation far more than just brand awareness. Today, consumers want brands that not only have a story behind what they stand for but also legitimacy from being endorsed by what are seen as credible sources. This can include social influencer partnerships, strategic partnerships with other entities and product placement in popular content. – Stacy Jones, Hollywood Branded

9. The Ability To Uncover And Act On Data-Backed Insights

As competition to earn consumer attention continues to surge, the best marketers will continue to invest in their ability to uncover and act on data-backed insights. The main difference between “good” and “great” marketing will be a brand’s ability to harness actionable insights from both internal and external sources to better understand their target consumers and outmaneuver competitors. – Charlie Grinnell, RightMetric

10. A Mix That Aligns With Target Audience, Goals And Timing

How you set a marketing budget varies based on the size of the business, goals, channels, tactics and other factors. The Small Business Administration recommends that businesses generating under $5 million in revenue dedicate 7% to 8% of their gross revenues to their total marketing budget. In my experience, if you’re launching a new product or going into a new market, that can scale up to 20%. The marketing mix needs to align with your target audience, goals and timing. – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC

11. Conversion-Based Testing Of All Campaign Initiatives

Marketing budgets in 2022 need to account for the entirety of the marketing funnel rather than focusing so heavily on the top-of-funnel awareness and attraction portion. Neglecting to budget for conversion-based testing of all campaign initiatives is going to make “table stakes” way off balance. To know when to go “all in,” you must be willing to understand your opponents and their weaknesses. – Bernard May, National Positions

12. A Well-Rounded, Omnichannel Mix Of Platforms

A well-rounded, omnichannel mix, consisting of digital, social and streaming/over-the-top media platforms, will be more important than ever. There will also be a broader offline approach to ensure brands will reach their consumers wherever they are through various forms of content. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

13. An Integrated, Multichannel Strategy That Includes Video

Your marketing budget should focus on activities that work together in an integrated way, thus creating more thrust overall. You should not put all of your eggs in any one basket. Make sure to have a multichannel strategy that utilizes social media, digital advertising, public relations, SEO, email marketing, reputation management and so on. But put aside money for video—this is a must in 2022! – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

14. Data-Engineering Solutions To Pull In Nontraditional And Offline Metrics

As data continues to disappear due to an increased emphasis on data privacy on digital platforms, optimizing toward in-platform metrics will no longer be sufficient. To gain a competitive edge and break through the clutter, it will be crucial for marketers to invest in data-engineering solutions to pull in nontraditional and offline metrics, such as product margins and in-store foot traffic. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

15. Alignment Between Organic And Paid Strategies

Table stakes for marketers in 2022 should consist of prospecting investments on paid search and paid social. An area that occasionally gets less focus is organic social. Investing in organic social is crucial to ensure the strategy is aligned with a company’s brand, specifically its paid media and website strategy. Organic alignment is essential to building the trust and interest of relevant audiences. – Tellef Lundevall, Accelerated Digital Media