2019 Trends in Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is an everchanging industry. An example of this, is Google, who changes its algorithms over 500 times a year. Moreover, Google and other tech giants are introducing new gadgets and new communication channels all the time and 2019 will be no different. Thus, as the new year begins, I thought I would highlight what trends will and should influence how we market online. 

  1. Voice Search Results – We’ve spent the last decade understanding how our written search queries are met with search results but moving forward our focus will be on voice. Industry experts predict that by 2020, 50% of searches will be conducted by voice. This will have a huge impact on how marketers deliver and format content if they want to continually reach their clients. 

  2. Quality Content & Video – I’m happy to report that quality content remains to be a pillar of any digital strategy. This will help increase online traffic and increase confidence in your brand. It is worth noting that video is taking the lead in how that information is being delivered, so be sure that you consider the ‘what’ and ‘how’ you communicate to your clients to ensure optimal engagement.   

  3. Influencer Marketing – More than ever ‘influencers’ are having a huge impact on what brands are adopted and how companies sell to their target base. No longer can companies tell their clients what makes them the best, rather they need to lean on client reviews, testimonials and influencers to help spread their message. These tactics will help companies build authority and trust within their client base and in turn, positively affect their bottom-line.  

Forecasting trends and planning accordingly with your digital marketing strategy will help ensure you remain ahead of your competitors and meet your business goals both in the short and long term. 

P.S Due to the brevity of this article, I had to limit the trends I feel are most important but the list is much longer. The more you know about what's coming, the better off you will be!

How Can Local Businesses Effectively Market Their Business Online?

“97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day”

Customers may not always be right, but they are online. If you are small, local business, competing on the internet can be a daunting task, however, that is where your customers need you to be. In 2018, data shows an overwhelming correlation between how online behaviour is reshaping how we as consumers make decisions, with some reports claiming that 85% of our buying decisions begin online. On a micro level, “According to Google data, 76% of people who search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day and 28% of those searches result in a purchase.” Thus, there is no doubt your online presence in 2018 has a direct impact on your bottom line. 

In order to help the small and local businesses leverage the online world to grow their consumer base, here are 3 easy ways to ensure your digital strategy is working for you. 

  1. Placement in Local Directories - It seems there are new directories popping up on a daily basis and the reason being - we use them. Due to this demand, new directories are being created to focus on niche communities, for example, Dine TO which is focused on restaurants. Directories allow customers to find information quickly and gives them the ability to compare businesses, whether that be in a certain vertical, in a certain radius from their location, and or by ratings and reviews. Due to directories also having high authority within search engines, they often appear high in search results, which can lead to more visibility. So whether it is Google my Business, Yelp or Foursquare, being on relevant directories can help any business be found when potential clients are looking. 

  2. Use Geography in your Messaging & Keyword Strategy - If you are a small business, chances are you have a specific target audience, and that audience resides in a particular geography. If so, let people know why you are the go to neighbourhood business of sorts. Outright telling people you focus your services to consumers within a certain area, can help sell your services over your competitors. When potential clients can identify with your ideal or specified clientele, they will be more inclined to buy. We are tribal beings by nature, thus, building a sense of community surrounding your business offerings can be a very effective way to market. Moreover, from an online perspective, when people are searching for a business, they are often using a geographical parameter in their search query to narrow the results, for example “yorkville dentist”. Therefore, remember to include where you wish to show up, and include those geographical identifiers in your keyword strategy for more tailored visibility. 

3. Get Reviews. Consider the following statistics, published in a 2017 Consumer Review Survey:

  • 93% of consumers read online reviews for businesses

  • 85% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation

  • 73% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more

We have understood the power of referral marketing for decades now. Just the other day I used a service that I heard about for the first time from a friend just raving about it. Luckily, businesses in 2018 now have the ability to do so themselves, by posting positives sentiments from past or current clients using online reviews. The majority of directories and social platforms have the ability for visitors to leave their feedback and rate your services. Thus, when you have a happy client make sure you capture this online to help generate future clients.

Gone are the days that small, local businesses can avoid being online. However, using simple methods and tactics as listed above, can help ensure you are being found when your potential clients are looking. 

A Lesson in Listening & Why Shutting up is Critical

“Frankly, I had never thought of listening as an important subject by itself. But now that I am aware of it, I think that perhaps 80% of my work depends on my listening to someone, or on someone else listening to me.” - HBR: Listening to People 

As the old saying goes - we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. And, though it may not be easy or natural for most people, learning how to effectively listen can be a powerful life tool. Leading to better communication and in turn, deepening our relationships. In contrast, poor listening can stall our career, lead to failed relationships and make us feel isolated. This is the ladies and I at ChickChat Sessions thought it was a very worthwhile topic to explore. Moreover, from someone who has been consciously working on becoming a better listener for over a decade, I can promise you it is worth the effort.

Every relationship takes work but they're the cornerstone of our lives, thus, there is no doubt that investing in them will yield positive results. I heard a fantastic saying the other day that to be loved is to be understood. To understand someone, you have to listen. Note that listening is different from hearing. To actively listen you must hold back from making a judgment, giving your opinion, preparing what you will say next and/or simply interrupting. When we can achieve this, we are open to really listening to someone.

In contrast, just think how many times you’ve been interrupted and immediately feel deflated, or come home from a hard day at work and vent to your partner only to be interrupted with their opinions on what you should have done. Being on the receiving end of poor listening is frustrating, to say the least, and can damage any relationship. However, when others feel listened to because you are using good listening skills, the exchange will always be productive. 

5 Tactics to Become a Better Listener:

1. Make it about THEM - We all know what it's like to be listening to someone and have a brilliant idea or similar anecdote pop up in our head and hold back interrupting the conversation to get it out. This is exactly what we want to avoid. When speaking to someone be conscious of the fact it is about them. Put them first. Personally, this is not easy for me as a talker and attention seeker, so as a tactic I say the last two letters of the last word they say- which helps me keep focused on what they are saying and also provides a pause to allow them to continue talking if they wish. You should enter each conversation with the goal to listen to them first. In doing so, whatever you want to say or wish to get out of the conversation will happen and much smoother.

2. Ask Questions - One of the easiest ways to actively listen and show that you are listening, is to ask questions. Whether it's your partner, friend, co-worker or child the more questions you can ask the better you will understand them and thus, improve communication overall. There are several types of questions you can consider, and below are three easy types to get started.

A. Clarification Questions - Sometimes the subject matter can be complex and anything but straightforward, thus, asking a question to ensure you are following their line of thinking can help keep you both on the same page. Paraphrasing can also be very powerful to show the listener both that you are listening and that you understand.

B. Informational Questions - Find something they have said that they can elaborate on. For example, if your friend just went on a trip ask for more details. If a coworker assigns you something, find out why or what it will be used for. Again, this shows that your listening and engaged. A sign of a good friend or a great date.

C. Emotional Questions - This is a great type of question for deepening a relationship as we can better come to understand how one feels. Over the past couple years I have completely moved away from asking my partner “what are you thinking” to “what are you feeling”. Firstly, because all feelings are valid and contrary to popular belief control our thoughts and secondly, it helps me further understand their values and drivers. Allowing me to avoid distressed areas and or encourage positive feelings in the future.

3. Follow-up - Another great way to demonstrate active listening, is to effectively follow-up. Studies show that we remember 50% of what we hear immediately following the exchange and 25% or less two months following. Personally, I think I score even lower. Thus, I always recommend following up within 24hrs with related questions. 

4. Withhold Judgement - Anyone as opinionated as me will find this listening tactic hard, however, maybe the most important for us to learn if we wish to learn and grow. As Robert Heinlein said, “I never learned from a man who agreed with me." Thus, despite your initial gut feeling or desire to deflect what someone's saying, try to embrace it without judgment and rather try to learn their viewpoint. Two things will happen - 1. You will understand them better and sympathize with why they feel the way they do or 2. You will strengthen your argument. Either way, it is a win-win.

5. Make the Time - A great way to get someone to listen or to have you listen is setting up the right expectations. When I call someone I always like to ask if now is a good time and if they have 20mins. In contrary to this, I think of the telephone sales robots that call, unannounced and ramble for 5 minutes without giving you a clue as to why or what they want - if you are like me you are checked out immediately. Making sure you or the listener has the time to actively listen and engage is crucial to making the conversation productive.

These 5 tactics are to help you work on becoming a better listener, however, it is important to also be aware of when you can’t listen. We’ve all been caught trying to fake it, and it is never nice being on the receiving end. Recently, while we were getting ready to shoot an episode of Chick Chat, we were talking and Sandy interrupted and said: "I am sorry but I am not able to actively listen right now as I am busy setting up." Though she wasn’t talking, she was honest about her inability to concentrate on what we were saying. In doing so, it showed that she cared about what I was saying. I will never forget that and as part of my learning will always try to be aware of when I can’t listen and to be honest, as those talking deserve that. 

"One of the most sincere forms of sincerest respect is to actually listening to what another has to say" - Bryant McGill

How to Define your Personal Brand & Find the Right Partner

In a funny coincidence, I am writing this blog post in a bar that was the scene of many of my first dates, on University of Waterloo campus. I’ve been asked to guest lecture on the topic of personal branding, which ties nicely into the topic we just discussed on ChickChat last week, Dating. If only I could have understood and could have defined my brand a decade ago, I may have dodged some awkward dates and maybe some time. Thus, I thought it would be helpful for others to understand the correlation between personal branding and dating and why they are so important for our happiness.. 

Firstly, the more you know about yourself, the closer you are to defining who may fit well as a partner. If the silence in my last lecture was any indication of how hard it is to define our personal brand, then we can’t assume this is an easy task. To help with this exercise, I used Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle as a guiding principle. The golden circle is as follows, and though the definitions are geared towards organizations, the same principles apply to a personal brand. 

Starting from the outside, what you do is pretty self explanatory. What do you do? What is your job? How you spend your time? How you do it, can be harder to articulate. For example, you may be a teacher, however you ride your bike to school, eat a vegan diet and only wear recycled clothing.  Why you do what you do….this is the hard part. However, this is the part that will truly help define who and why someone will make a good partner for you, helping you weed through the thousands of profiles of available partners out there. Why is what motivates you, makes you passionate, and defines what is most important to you. 

I consider the “Why” factor, to be our core, our soul and or the fundamentals or purpose of one’s life.  Hence why defining it is hard, and to top it off, its ever-changing. 

For me, my why factor is kindness. It sounds simple and vague but it dramatically influences how I do things and what I do in all areas of my life. Moreover, in dating, it helps define what I look for in another. For example, I need someone who has a positive attitude, is kind to themselves and others, cares about the environment and the impact they have on the world. This can come across in many ways, but once I knew this, I could qualify first date behaviour and answers to my questions in one of two columns - aligns with my brand or does not. 

Dating is hard. There is no easy solution, but if you can define who you are and what you stand for, you will be much better off assessing whoever is across the table as to whether a second date is necessary. Even before that, if you are using online tools to seek a partner, you can outline your brand and who you are on your profile and search for similarities on other’s. 

As the old saying goes, “love thyself before you love another”. I think this is more important than ever, because in today’s dating scene we can filter through hundreds of candidates in minutes, having to narrow down those worthy of our time, and time is still our most important asset. 

If you are dating, know want you want, and why. Then go into each date with the mindset you are qualifying them, rather than the opposite. 

To end on a high note, I know personally how tiring and time consuming dating can me, but it’s worth it.  Years of online dating, awkward first dates and endless doubts I would ever find someone and I did. And, as for a measureable return on investment, there is no greater return than love.

The Road to Making and Keeping Positive Habits

I sometimes feel like I am the world’s biggest hypocrite. I speak about creating daily routines and reverse engineering our goals to create daily tasks to work towards, and yet, I don’t always practice what I preach. For example, content is key to marketing, and I advise clients to write, share or engage with value added content everyday to help build their personal visibility yet, the last time I wrote a blog before last was in 2016! Thus, this blog is set out to outline why habits are important, how we should approach creating habits, and what has worked for me in my mission to create and continue positive habits.  

Doing something everyday, or habitually, helps us dedicate less energy, time, and will power to completing it. Consequently, this helps increase time and energy for everything else we face. Moreover, positive habits increase overall productivity and energy levels. Thus, if you are like me and often heard saying “there is just not enough time in a day”, then positive habits are a worthwhile pursuit. 

It is a sad reality to accept that we all know what we should do everyday, for a better body, better relationships, better work or spiritual well-being, yet most, if not all of us don’t do what’s required on a regular basis. In trying to create positive habits for myself, I’ve come to appreciate that before we plan what we should be doing, we need to reflect internally to better know and/or accept ourselves. Understanding what motivates us, discourages us, and we are at greatest output during the day can help us plan habits we are more likely to keep.

I came to learn this principle of habit setting from, Gretchin Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Better than Before, where in the latter book she studied human psychology in relation to setting habits. What she discovered is that there are 4 types of people in how they respond to expectations, both set by ourselves and others. While reading the book and reflecting, I easily identified myself as a ‘questioner’, and this helped me tremendously reevaluate how I planned my own habits. For years I tried every few months to wake earlier and run in the morning, and hated myself when I couldn’t keep it up, turns out I was lying to myself to think I am a morning person. Thus, though this part of habit setting can be the toughest, as we have to face ourselves and be honest, it in turn, will be the most instrumental to the success of keeping a habit going. 

At a further rudimentary level, everyone is moved to action based on two primary factors - fear and success. Personally, success moves me greater than fear, but this has helped me realize planning future goals, can help motivate me in my daily tasks towards them. In creating positive habits that help align with my future goals, I have began trying to implement new habits. Together, the following three practices have helped me along the way. 

Firstly, write it down. We are 80%+ more likely to complete a task if it’s written down. Every morning I have a book and I write out in bullet form what I want to accomplish for the day. Following, I take that list and take the top 3 and write them out on my whiteboard. I read recently that narrowing your task list to 3 or less has three positive effects: it increases the likelihood of completion as it's harder to rationalize lack of completion, it mentally affirms your priorities and increases your productivity as you feel confident when completed. The third crucial step for me is to block the time needed for each task in my calendar. I have used a calendar for work for years, however, I have started to put EVERYTHING in there. This helped not only with reminders, but psychologically it was a mental shift that helped me understand that my mind, body and soul are as important and deserves dedicated time each day as well. 

Another factor to consider when breaking or making a new habits are what Psychologist call  ‘anchors’.  Essentially, it means detaching or attaching a habit to another one. This is a great place to start, because if you already have habits in place, adding to them is easier that changing a routine completely. For example, adding flossing each morning to your teeth brushing habit. Twelve years ago, I started saying what I am grateful for before eating, as to help remind me many times a day I have reason to give thanks and now this practice is second nature. 

In my journey to break and make habits, I can honestly say, it hasn’t been easy. However, I have come to understand that we make and break habits all the time, without even knowing it. So rest assured it is possible and with the right intent a very beneficial endeavour.