In this bonus episode we bring you a recent conversation that the DMI CEO, Ken Fitzpatrick, had with renowned digital marketing expert (and DMI advisory champion) Neal Schaffer, on Neal's own podcast, Maximimize your Social Influence. Ken shares insights from DMI's member survey on how the coronavirus crisis has affected the work and careers of professionals around the world. They cover the current appetite to upskill and reskill, as well as how marketers can deal with FOBI (the fear of becoming irrelevant) and keep up with the latest must-haves, like TikTok.
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Episode 15: How to Thrive in a Pandemic [TRANSCRIPT]
DMI AHEAD OF THE GAME PODCAST
Episode 15: How to Thrive in a Pandemic. With Neal Schaffer and Ken Fitzpatrick
First broadcast August 6th 2020, on Neal Schaffer’s podcastMaximize your Social Influence
Will: Today we have a special bonus episode for you. We bring you a recent conversation that the CEO of the Digital Marketing Institute - Ken Fitzpatrick - had with renowned digital marketing expert Neal Schaffer, on Neal's own podcast, Maximize your Social Influence. Neal is also one of the DMI's industry advisory champions. Their conversation isa fascinating look into how marketing is changing as we progress through 2020 - a year like no other. Ken shares insights from a survey DMI did of its members to learn how the coronavirus crisis has affected their work and careers. The guys also chat about how customer experience and the digital landscape are shifting in general.
So here it is, Neal Schaffer with the DMI’s CEO, Ken Fitzpatrick.
Neal: All right, so today, we have Ken Fitzpatrick, who is CEO of the Digital Marketing Institute. Now, some of you, if you're listening to this from the United States might not be as familiar with this institute as those in Europe, Middle East, especially those in Ireland, the United Kingdom. The Digital Marketing Institute is really one of the global leaders in providing digital marketing education to professionals, students, what have you. I found out about the Digital Marketing Institute because they invited me to be on the Global Advisory Council, which, I'm honored to be a member of. And after I found out what they were doing, I had a chance to visit them at their headquarters in Dublin when I was teaching at the Irish Management Institute. Just a fantastic organization that is creating world-class content but really going above and beyond that to really become a resource for enterprises that are digital marketing talent is actually becoming harder and harder to find. So we're going to talk about a lot of things and Ken and I, we could talk just for like two hours about what we talked about at our last advisory meeting and the research findings. But today, we are in the midst of COVID-19 and this does sort of change, change the rules in many ways, for companies and marketers. But before we get to that, Ken, I gave a brief introduction. Could you please introduce yourself, as well as the Digital Marketing Institute for those that are not familiar with the organization.
Ken: Sure. Thanks, Neal. Well, you gave an incredibly brilliant introduction. I don't know if I could top that. But, yes, so I'm Ken Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Digital Marketing Institute based, here, in Dublin, in Ireland, where it's currently raining, which, is hugely unsurprising. But the DMI, as we call it, is a training and certification business for digital marketing, for marketing professionals, typically, who want to upskill and stay relevant in digital marketing. So we have about 75,000 members and we've certified over 20,000 people all over the world over the last nine or 10 years or so. Really, our focus is on becoming the largest certification provider in digital marketing all over the world so that's what we sort of spend our days trying to work out.
Neal: Great. We've all seen with COVID-19… it's brought tremendous changes to the way that businesses can communicate with consumers, with clients, what have you. So from your perspective and, obviously seeing the world of digital marketing from where you're at, what are the changes that COVID-19 has brought about to marketing, to digital marketing, that everybody listening really needs to better understand and take action on?
Ken: Okay. So you’ll be pleased to know we actually just completed a bunch of research with our member base. Because we actually wanted to find out how this was affecting them. You know, obviously, we're not the first people to run research in this area in the last couple of months but actually, this is very specific to marketing professionals so it's probably of interest to your listeners. So we polled about 47,000 people and we got just shy of about 500 responses, so it's pretty robust, in terms of size. I think there are three main pots of changes that are coming out here.
The first is people's personal situation, which, is obviously hugely impactful in terms of marketing professionals. So 38% of the people who responded to us had had a change in their employment status of some description and I don't mean a positive change. In most cases, that was a negative change. So 25% actually said that they were now unemployed, which is quite significant. This research was probably done about six weeks ago, Neal, so some of those figures may have changed since as some economies begin to emerge on the other side. But its universal impact is probably the key conclusion I took from that.
And those who were still working actually have more work to do, which, is also unsurprising also because there's less people around than there was to be able to do it because, you know, companies have let people go. And the vast majority have had their salary impacted in some way. Nearly half said in a negative way that their salary cut: so a lot of people have had their salaries sort of frozen, but nearly half have said there's actually been a negative impact.
So I think just even for a professional operating in that environment, you know, that's tough. That's a tough change because there's a lot of uncertainty about the future, and uncertainty for people on a personal level, in terms of their career. So that, for me, was the first big sort of cluster of changes that we saw.
The second [change we saw] is companies: two-thirds of them said that their companies' revenues were down, okay? And a third of them said that they were down more than 30%, so that's again a big challenge. Often people, I think 92% of them said they were working from home at the time, which is, again, unsurprising.
But dealing with that as a marketer is challenging, you know. How do you respond to that? What's your role in trying to change that? And I think the problem when revenues fall is that - the third big pot of this is, what happens to people's spend. Half of them have had their marketing budgets cut. So, again, not hugely surprising. About another 25% said it's flat, so you're told by three-quarters of people where, they may have the same but most have less to spend than they did a few months ago.
So is there a bright light in there?
Yes, there is. So the bright light is that 49% of them said that their digital marketing spend had actually increased. And only 11% had said they had seen a decrease, which is, I presume people who are just so affected by COVID that they had to make cuts everywhere. So you're seeing digital leading the way out of the difficulties that people are facing. Digital leading the way in helping companies respond to a loss in revenues. And marketers having to double-down on their activities in this space. So we said to them: what are you doing now, or what’s different, or what's happened? Some trends that were happening have just now gone into hyperdrive. So, what did they say was gone or reduced? Print, events, direct mail. No huge surprises, here, Neal, but they've taken a huge shift even faster, in terms of the move from there to digital.
What has increased? Everything from email and social to content. People said content is where they've really, really focused in on. Very often, thought leadership-led content. People said “we got through the phase of telling everybody, We're still here. And, you know, We're all in this together.” And, now, people are trying to move to the thought leadership position of saying, "Well, okay, we're not just here. We're actually doing some different things at the moment."
And the last piece is the website. That's always been important, as we know, but it's actually becoming even more important, so it's really, for many businesses who have physical presences, it's the only window that they have to the world now. And UX, SEO, and e-commerce all came up as items that, were again, were probably important pre-COVID but have had more money, and more emphasis put on them since the crisis happened. And those are some of the big changes that people said.
Neal: Yeah, thanks for sharing that, Ken. That's really interesting. You know, it's funny, for instance, in influencer marketing specifically, one company that I know of - they cut 30% of their staff. They’re like an influencer marketing agency. Whereas another influencer marketing... two companies I talked to said their sales had never been higher. And I know that the marketers that I talked to, that are, you know, obviously, people that listen to this show, are very involved in digital and social, they've never been busier and they're finding new business. I know that I've found new business. So, you know, I would tend to believe that those that were never very digitally mature and, also, it depends on the industry, I assume, are probably the ones that took the biggest cut. Whereas, you know, assuming you already had the infrastructure in place, you already had, you were already selling digital products and services or e-commerce. Then, you're probably… although sales will go down, and with that you're going to need to cut marketing budget, it still becomes more, it's never been an essential part of or your business as it is today, right?
Ken: One-hundred percent. A retailer friend of mine who obviously had to close his outlets, was online, because he had infrastructure built but they'd never gone...they had a website but it was never the full-monty as it were. Within 48 hours he was up and running online and as you say, although his sales are down, he's actually bringing in income that, otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to do.
We [DMI], ourselves have a lot of partners who deliver programs in the classroom. We immediately allowed those customers to use our learning management system so that those programs could be delivered online. And about thirty of our partners did that and it enabled them to keep trading through what could be a nonexistent commercial time for many of those with a classroom program.
Neal: Yeah. And the other interesting point you brought up and this is recommendations or, I should say, advice I've been giving my clients is, there may be a time where you need to sort of stop, for instance, you know, advertising spend. That there are some marketing expenses that I realize are being what we would call rationalized, right now. But those basics of, you know, where should you invest that when you can't do events, where should you invest that budget? I know a lot of that from what I hear is going on in influencer marketing but I'm a big fan, also, of that backbone of your company: like that user interface, you know, revision that you've been wanting to do for the last two years, right? The SEO, refine the e-commerce store. Things on the back-end that are only going to pay dividends, now, is really the time to double-down. Sort of like in Southern California, all these highway construction projects are full-steam ahead right now because you have less cars on the road. It makes it easier to do that, right?
Ken: One-hundred percent.
Neal: So in the same way the infrastructure, yeah, the fact that people are talking about it, that makes a lot of sense.
Ken: And people move from events to webinars almost overnight because it was the only option to them and people are comfortable with webinars. And now, people are saying, "Well, actually, you know what, I may never go back to all the events I previously had because things are working out for me." And I think one huge thing in the middle of this, Neal, is that the consumer behavior has changed as well and that's the other thing that we need to be aware of. So what we're hearing is that people, consumers, particularly on the B2B side, are much more engaged because they very often have more time on their hands so they're spending more time researching. They're making more considered decisions because maybe they have less money and purchasing power. They're probably a little bit more skeptical and they've got a huge amount of choice.
So items like, that's why the website's so important, that's why something like influencer marketing is much more important, so that you can help people decide between one or two rather than the other. So you're dealing with a consumer who's now probably tougher to get over the line, and things like customer service, which you had all set up in a beautiful way, in a physical environment may now have to be redone in order to work in an online environment. And people who can get that stuff right, with actually those customers who are maybe a little bit more demanding than they were in the past, that's going to be the make or break. So that reaction to the consumer-behavior changes, I think, (not just the platform changes) is actually pretty important.
Neal: Actually, you know, in crisis there's opportunity. And it actually gives tremendous opportunity to those brands that might not have been on store shelves of the big stores because people just aren't going to those stores as much. Like, they're searching online for content, right? Or they’re in social media being influenced. And, therefore, that role of content and getting out there will provide opportunities for businesses, right?
Ken: I think so. And that's why I think people have moved. I think you're right. I think content has just become even more important than it was and there's a proliferation of content. But companies that are moving fast, that are making decisions rather than perfecting decisions, that are getting into the midst of the new world, seem to be performing better. And as you said earlier, digital is actually the shining light in this because it's leading the way out for many companies.
Neal: Yeah, so all of you listening, you're obviously in a really, really good position. And even though that we talked or, Ken talked, about that survey at the beginning of people losing jobs. I still believe, Ken, I'm sure you'd agree that there's still a lack of really experienced and trained, you know, marketers. And the demand is only going to increase with what we're seeing.
Ken: I couldn't agree more, Neal. Because, actually, we had done quite an amount of research with marketers all over the world about a year ago. And the biggest challenge for many marketers is staying ahead of the pace of change that happens in the market. Even experienced digital marketers, there's always something new, there's always a new channel, a new platform that you need to get your head around. That…gone are the days where a customer dealt with you in one way only. Now, their touch points could be ten, twelve, touchpoints that they do. Customers are much more real-time than they were, and marketers have told us that staying ahead of that change is actually really important to them. Not only because of the help that they give to their company but it actually keeps them in demand, at a personal-level for roles. And, as you say, it's difficult to find those people so whoever can kind of stay ahead of that change is going to be in a very, very good position. Particularly, as opportunities that increase around the digital space.
We call it the, marketers have the fear of...FOBI, the fear-of-becoming-irrelevant. Because they're always afraid that they're going to fall behind in the next thing. So that sort of staying ahead of the game or staying up to date, that's really important. And in our member research, that's why, unsurprisingly, a lot of them said, a lot of marketers said, "I'm going to use this crisis as a time to upscale and reskill and take some time out to do some training and education." Because I know I'm in a good place, here, when things get better or even now. But if I'm not sort of ahead of that, then the fear and I don't like stopping on fear – fear it too much - but that's just underneath there. “I don't want to be the guy who doesn't know the answer to the next question or the next thing that's happening in digital”.
Neal: So similar to companies should be investing in an infrastructure, professionals should also be investing in their infrastructure and it's a great time to do that. They now have that time on their hands to get up to speed and everything.
Ken: Yeah, so you're seeing a lot of online learning platforms, ourselves included. Huge amount of increase in usage. Everything I think, from people doing stuff they always wanted to do on a personal-level to stuff for them. So for us, I think if I was to say what should you focus on, in terms of those areas? CMOs tell us that there's, the top five areas that they think are the most important today, most important tomorrow, and the toughest to recruit for: those are the things that I think that marketers should look at. So just to add for your listeners, customer experience is first, which, was obviously a very sort of trendy topic over the last 12 months. Data and analytics was next, which, is an interesting one. Digital strategy was third, which is a little bit of catch-all. Next one was web design optimization and UX. That's a big area. And then, content marketing was fifth. Social (media) actually came in sixth, which is I think more a reflection of the fact that a lot of people are, you know, are using social for quite a significant amount of time now. But I actually think that that's going to change again, become important. So if I'm out there thinking, what do I need to upskill on? Those are the sort of areas I'd be thinking about.
Neal: So those were based on the survey that we talked about at our meeting.
Neal: So I'm just curious. What do you think, with COVID-19, what impact that's had on customer experience, for instance, when I mean it's all digital, I mean it's still there, but...
Ken: That's a really brilliant point, Neal. Because my dishwasher is broken downstairs, right? And, we've been trying to get it fixed for weeks now. Which has resulted in all of us in the house having to wash and dry dishes, which is an unusual skill for my children to learn. But their problem, for example, in dealing with our query on the customer service side is that they're all working at home and they can't record telephone calls using the technology they have at home. So therefore, I can't speak to the customer resolutions team. So it's a small example of a situation where their delivery of customer experience is poor at the moment: not necessarily due to the intention or intent of them, as individuals. They want to sort it out. But because they can't record, they can't talk to you and, therefore, as a customer, you're feeling very frustrated. I think that's the biggest challenge, is delivering customer service in an online-only world is incredibly hard.
Neal: So I've had a similar experience. Our microwave oven's broken for two weeks, now. And, but because this manufacturer was set up digitally, I was able to do everything online. And, therefore, whether it was COVID-19 or whether it was before, it probably would've taken the same amount of time. It would've been the same experience. And I guess that's really the question. Obviously, the company in Ireland that you speak of hasn't been able to do that but that really comes down to that digital infrastructure. And obviously we focus on the marketing side but it comes across the entire customer journey, right? And that's the challenge.
So I want to ask you, you know you talked about the fear of being irrelevant. So every few years, there's a new social platform. The flavor this year is TikTok. Or, "Hey, we've got to be doing QR codes". How does Digital Marketing Institute, I guess you have a huge user-base that you can tap into for their insight. How do you decide at what point, we need to include TikTok in our curriculum, or we need to do something on this subject or that subject?
Ken: There's three sources of that information, Neal. One is the wonderful and brilliant council, global council of advisors that we use. You guys tend to give us insight into what's happening next. We talk to the members and we ask them what's missing. And we do that through tons and tons of customer touch points, instant surveys, and so on. And then, we also talk to our partners, like academic partners, and training companies and corporates who we deal to say, what are we missing here? What's coming up?
The rule of thumb that we tend to use is that if it's brand new and it's bright and shiny, that's great. And we'll provide membership content around that. But we probably won't test you on it until it has moved slightly more into the mainstream, where it's not just 2% of companies using it. It is a bigger percentages of companies using it. And the reason for that is, we provide news and we provide information for the latest things. But a marketer can only do a certain number of campaigns and approaches to its customer-base over the course of a year. If you're constantly moving just to the next thing that looks kind of cool and interesting, you're actually going to end up wasting a lot of time and effort so we tend to provide that information in news form. And then, put it into the syllabus when it's sort of reached a tipping point of being, you know, this is something that's in most companies’ marketing mix or marketing activities.
So TikTok's definitely in there already because it's moved so quick. But I still think TikTok is still one where people are figuring out exactly how to get the most out of it. But if you're talking about influencer and you talk about TikTok, those are two beautiful words right now. And that is really hitting home as particularly for targeting the younger demographic. It's where it's at at the moment and, you know, people like Charlie D'Amelia and so on, they're just, what they do matters to a core demographic, typically, of teenagers and the like. So I think TikTok is probably more than a fad or a phase. You know, it's kind of moved in. But I still think the challenge there is to work out, what am I going to do on TikTok that's actually going to make a difference for my business? Or, should I be there in the first place? Is it actually relevant to me?
Neal: Yeah. It's funny that Social Media Marketing World, which, is the largest social media marketing conference, it was right before lockdown, the first week of March. And TikTok, I'll never forget like, during one of the breakout sessions there was like a free TikTok presentation going on in this networking area. And it was just overflowing with people and it was obviously top of mind. But, Ken, I just think since we've been in this industry a while, this historical perspective of, okay: I remember when there were people saying, B2Bs need to use Snapchat. Or everything is about Google Plus. You've got to be on Google Plus because it's Google.
Ken: Yeah, MySpace.
Neal: Yeah, MySpace, exactly. So I think marketers really need to have a dose of sanity. And for those listening, I'm sure you're agree, Ken. It really, TikTok is that if you do serve that demographic, then, it's obviously critical. And I would consider the TikTok demographic and the Snapchat demographic to be very similar. Although, TikTok: a lot of older people are trying to use it and they're not using it in the way it was intended to be used but every social network morphs so we'll see what happens, right?
Ken: Yeah, I think so. I think you're right. It's, at the moment it's for a certain demographic. Something like Instagram started as a more interactive fixed demographic, that's much more mainstream, now. And, I think a lot of brands, mainstream brands as it were, could live on Insta quite easily. If I was in a more traditional marketing role or marketing, in an industry where I'm looking at an older demographic, I think Insta might offer some interesting options for people.
Neal: Yeah. And I see just looking at my, you know, my own children my test mice, my test guinea pigs, whatever you want to call them. Seeing, now, because all the parents are on Instagram, I see a lot of them now actually going back to Snapchat because the parents are not there, right? So but it's never been about that, you know. I've seen data that shows Snapchat as more of a mobile messaging app. And young people use Instagram the same way, for the messaging capability. I don't think TikTok, although I'm sure it has that capability, was not really...it's more about that entertainment value, right, a distinct differentiator.
Ken: Yes. I think you hit the nail on the head, that entertainment angle is probably the difference, here, with TikTok.
Neal: So TikTok, influencer marketing, any other things on the horizon that people listening should be aware of?
Ken: No. I think people are busy enough getting their head around how to run their business and keep their customers happy in a pure online world. But there is a little bit of back to basics going on at the moment, Neal, in terms of “revisit my website”, “revisit my SEO strategy”. And I think that was the message I was hearing from other people. I was expecting to see more feedback around, say, newer platforms of whatever. But it was actually, you kind of forget that something like direct mail, or print, or events are still so huge for many companies that are out there that, actually the removal of them was bigger news than “can I get my content strategy right, or my website right, or my email strategy?”, you know, an old-school digital approach but that stuff matters particularly when, you know, you might be increasing your data capture on your website and so on. What are you going to do with all these people who you now have on a free trial? So I just got a sense that digital is winning but there's a bit of digital back to basics kind of going on as well.
Neal: So looking forward, we already talked about that survey with, you know, customer experience, digital strategy, what have you. Looking forward as to the skillsets that marketers or for, you know, there's always a contingent of entrepreneurs and business owners that listen to this podcast as well. So looking forward, what are those key areas that vis-à-vis digital marketing that our listeners should be focusing on, do you think?
Ken: Yeah. I think the ones I mentioned earlier are probably the ones that are on top of CMOs’ minds. And if they're on top of CMOs’ minds then they're probably driving the change. Look, I'm slightly biased in the sense that we, generally, we provide both specialized but kind of general digital marketing training and I always think a good place to start - even if you're working in digital marketing, which, a lot of our student members do - having a broad brush view and knowledge of digital as a whole is actually really critical. So you know you don't want to be the TikTok specialist in a company and then they decide to use a different platform. So I would actually say, you know, just again, given the current climate, that getting that broad - across social, across analytics, across SEO, across PPC, the typical sort of traditional things and influencer marketing - that's the best way to approach it right now. And don't pigeonhole yourself into an area until you feel, actually, you know what, I really want to do CX and I think this is going to... So, yes, CX, analytics, website optimization, the things I talked about earlier, they're in most demand but I think having a broad base. Actually, Neal, since you and I spoke, DMI has done a deal with the American Marketing Association. So if you study our kind of core DMI Pro program you actually, you do one course, you do one test and you get a certificate from us and a cert from the American Marketing Association so I think that's a good thing for people to tag onto their resume in these tough times.
Neal: Oh, that's fantastic news. Congratulations. It's funny, I mean just getting back to basics. I see so much email marketing communications from companies that never sent me an email before, right? In fact, I've done a series of webinars, I've probably done a dozen or so webinars since the lockdown started. I think the most popular one, in terms of numbers of attendees, as well as number of clicks was on email marketing and lead magnets, right? So there's something to be said for getting back to basics and making sure you have all your bases covered because these are all the different digital touch points. I mean the way I look at it, Ken, I really simplify it. I go, okay, if you need to have a digital-first mindset with your marketing, what are people doing digitally, when they're online? Well, they're either searching, they're reading email and, yes, they may be looking at their texts but because they're at home there's probably more email reading going on.
Ken: Yeah, definitely.
Neal: Or they're in social media, right? And you need to have all of those bases covered and obviously, search, it brings up SEO, it brings up content, it brings up pay-per-click. Things that, you know, they're not sexy but it's a critical touch point that you can't ignore.
Ken: Yeah. In our space, Neal, search volumes have gone up for certain terms anywhere from 23% to 80%. So if you're not present in that activity you're in difficulties. I'm sure some of your platform's usage has gone through the roof as well. I don't know the exact figures. And then, as you say, email is just/and there's still quite a lot of poor email communication, unpersonalized or just the same thing over and over again. I think people have an opportunity to think,: hang on, I've got an opportunity to talk to these customers not just kind of shout at them because they're now taking the time to read my emails, probably more than they did they in the past so if I have that customer sitting in front of me in their living room. What would I say to them? I think that people need to think about their email. They've got pots and pots, typically, of leads or databases. Let's revisit.. an email doesn't just have to be boring. It can be nice and interactive. It can bring you to the right place and the landing pages can be cool, and you can have nice messaging and you can give people stuff. You can bring influencers in on your landing pages and so on so it could be brought to life more as well.
Neal: Yeah, and the technology with marketing automation the technology exists for personalization and scale, right? And really leveraging that data for a lot of different reasons. Awesome. So, Ken for those listeners that want to find out more about the Digital Marketing Institute, what would be the best way to find out about the organization or give it a test spin.
Ken: So you can go to our shop...(laughs). You could visit the website which is the longest URL in the world, which, is digitalmarketinginstitute.com and you'll find out all about the options we have for people right there. So I've been preaching about the website being the most important vehicle for a company so all your listeners can come along and challenge our website and tell us how we can improve. So they'll find the information there.
Neal: But correct if I'm wrong. Didn't you do a complete revamp of the website like last year?
Ken: So we did a beautiful website and that's why I'm happy to give it to you.
Neal: And the URL has all those keywords for good SEO, so.
Ken: Correct, there is that benefit. It's not as sexy as you say but it does work.
Neal: It works. Awesome. Well, Ken, thank you so much being on the podcast. Any last minute advice for the listeners? Any points you want to make sure people are aware of going forward?
Ken: I think we've covered everything, Neal. I’ve really enjoyed our discussion and I hope people get something out of the chat that we've had. Tough times out there for some people and opportunistic times for others.
Neal: I believe so as well. I know we started on extremely negative news.
Ken: Yeah, I know. Sorry. I didn't mean to bring us there but I remembered the first two weeks in March, and I saw, I was looking at traffic onto the website. It was down at the, you know, lowest level for ages. And then, from then on, after two weeks I think we got into opportunity mode and we've seen a great increase in our business since then.
Neal: Yeah, that's excellent. All right, thank you for listening. Thank you, Ken. Definitely check out digitalmarketinginstitute.com. We'll have that URL on the show notes for the poor spellers that might be listening in. And thanks again for being on the podcast and everybody have a great day. Bye-bye.
Will: If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training, head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com. Thanks for listening