Digital Marketing Strategy in the Age of Pandemics

Digital marketing strategy in uncertain times

What is digital marketing strategy and how should you pivot as a result of the pandemic?  In this post, I’ll tell you how to evaluate digital marketing strategy in this time of uncertainty.

Eric Siu is a digital marketing strategist who runs a modest, multi-million dollar empire that includes a SaaS company called ClickFlow (an SEO Experimentation Tool), a SaaS digital marketing agency and a portfolio of mega profitable, digital marketing oriented online media properties that collectively draw millions of unique monthly visitors.

That’s right. Millions of uniques every month.

If you want to know how to start a digital marketing agency or a SaaS company from scratch, Eric Siu is a living, walking case study.

And if you just want a few digital marketing tips to grow your startup, Eric is a geek famous, living legend. 

I caught up with him and shared how he creates a successful digital marketing strategies to generate qualified B2B leads for clients, what considerations go into growth hacking and how to develop a digital marketing program designed to drive users for SaaS offerings. In fact, digital marketing for SaaS is Eric’s specialty. He’s a bonafide expert.

ClickFlow and Single Grain Founder Eric Siu

Siu grew his digital advertising agency from nothing and today he represents some of the biggest SaaS brands in the world including Amazon, AirBNB and Uber. Nuff said. 

Single Grain specializes in ROI-focused marketing programs that generate sales accepted leads for complex B2B software as a service subscriptions.

Eric Siu is a big believer in product lead growth, which usually means offering a free version of a premium service, as a way of giving people a way to try your product without having to bleed excessive customer service resources trying to get functional.  Let them churn and support those customers who have the where-with-all to be successful.  

According to a conversation Siu had with HubSpot VP marketing Keiran Flanigan (@searchbrat), it really wasn’t until HubSpot introduced an entry-level, freemium product, that their business really took off.

Impact of Coronavirus of Digital Marketing

Orbit Media just published a study with Drew McLellan about the impact of COVID-19 on digital marketing spends, and it showed B2C getting hit much harder than B2B, although marketing across the board is way down. 

Siu spoke about the impact of the pandemic on ClickFlow and Single Grain. But his recommendations for what marketers should do at this point in time may be counterintuitive to many listeners, because it’s far from what most people seem to be doing. 

If you want to hear what he’s doing to get through this rough patch, listen to the podcast.

Digital media strategy framework from Start Ups Guide to PR – 2020 Report.

What I will share is what he said about his discussions with venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, who are essentially writing this year off.  But he does think that when business resumes, don’t expect to see the same aggressive approach to paid media as a primary source of traffic. 

Instead, expect to see start-ups and change-ups take a more innovative approach to digital media marketing, and closer look at owned and shared media, like this.

Digital Transformation’s Big Moment

For a lot of companies who still haven’t gotten their arms around digital transformation — meaning they don’t have a digital business infrastructure or much sophistication around revenue operations —  the pandemic has accelerated the need for adoption big time, and now is really the time to go big or go home.

Now is the time to re-examine your digital infrastructure and make sure you have the tools in place to process transactions and deliver products and services online. Whether you take a best-of-breed, point solution or vertically integrated approach, it’s pretty much a mad rush right now to get yourself situated. 

Check out this digital transformation primer post I wrote last year about digital transformation strategy.

Which Owned Media Channels Deliver Best?

Leveling Up Podcast

Owned media marketing is Eric’s sweet spot.  He has two podcasts (Leveling Up and Marketing School with Neil Patel), a blog and a YouTube Channel

In terms of which channels work best at demand and lead generation, here’s what Eric has to say about his owned media channels:

Lead Generation from Blogging and SEO

It’s important to realize that publishing a blog and search engine optimization go hand-in-hand.

If what you’re looking to do is generate leads, then it’s important to embrace popular language so that people can find you when they’re searching for types of products and services you have, even if they don’t know you.  

Doing that means researching keywords and phrases most likely to be searched by qualified prospects. Eric’s team invests the time to search optimize important articles and as a result they see 50% of their leads come from organic search.  In fact, his blog is number one search result for “podcast advertising” and other high volume terms with strong purchase intent.

More #1 ranked keywords achieved by the Single Grain Blog.

Lead Generation from Speaking and Networking

Eric estimates 35% of his leads come through speaking at conferences, which obviously isn’t happening anymore and networking add events, which also no longer exists as a result of the pandemic.But Eric is a subject matter expert and thought leader in the area of digital marketing, and once we have containment, no doubt this category will continue to yield rewards for him.

Lead Generation from Podcasts

So this is really interesting. Only 15% of his leads come from podcasting, but they’re his best leads because they’re pre-qualified having listened to him for so long and developed a relationship with him and an affinity for his style through listening. He also said leads that come in Via podcast clothes faster and spend more. I don’t want to date myself, but I started my first podcast on the record online in 2005. It led to a best-selling book and a ton of Consulting internationally with federal government agencies, military commands and some of the biggest companies in the world. I’m so glad to hear my experience is not a fluke. Eric also shared that Marketing School generates nearly $800k in annual advertising revenue.

Lead Generation via YouTube

Eric’s YouTube channel has 36,000 subscribers, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. But he doesn’t consider it a big audience. Interestingly enough, he tailors the content on YouTube to appeal to beginners and folks who may not be able to hire his digital marketing agency, but who may be good ClickFlow customers or Marketing School listeners.In terms of what works best on YouTube he recommends making your videos 10 minutes or longer, since YouTube’s algorithm looks to drive total viewing time, and shorter videos result in shorter viewing times. When it comes to headlines, he says spend 80% of your time getting your headline right. The headline is way more important than the body text.

We spoke a bit about Gary Vaynerchuk’s Tik Tok Channel and Eric shared some inside information on how Gary Vee is currently feeding that channel. He also has advice for aspiring marketers looking at Tik Tok as potential channel for lead generation. 

I’ve been watching a lot of Tik Tok lately and was encouraged to see that it’s possible to get an audience even if you don’t look great in a bikini.

Preferred Digital Marketing Tech Stack

Jonny Bentwood (@jonnybentwood), Global Head of Data & Analytics at Golin

Figuring out which digital marketing tools to go with can be brain damage. I was so frustrated with the process of finding an online news and social media monitoring platform that I wrote 54 page, vendor-neutral 2020 Media Monitoring white paper so I can make a good choice.

Johnny Bentwood at Golin shared his preferred free PR tech stack back on a recent episode of PR Tech Wednesdays.

But this is Eric Siu’s preferred martech stack:

Eric Siu is a really impressive guy, who has made it on his own and play by his own rules. But despite his success, he’s gracious and humble and it was a pleasure to speak with him.

There are a lot of digital marketing agencies out there. But there aren’t a lot of people who you necessarily want to hang with. Eric is one of those people. He’s relaxed, easygoing and not at all full of himself, despite the fact that given his extraordinary success, he may be entitled to be so.

He mentioned that he’s currently doing free 15-minute consultations with companies about how they are adapting to The New Normal. 

If you’re interested in speaking with him directly, you can set up a call with him here

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