The latest roundtable hosted by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and haysmacintye saw a group of founders and digital marketing experts discussing the future of digital marketing, providing their opinions, predictions and expertise. 

Screen Shot 2022-08-24 at 10.18.34

Screen Shot 2022-08-24 at 10.18.34

The way brands promote themselves and their products and services have changed massively over the last decade or so, and digital marketing is taking the business world by storm. 

With the use of social media platforms, advancements in website technology, and the introduction of influencer marketing, many brands are putting their digital marketing strategies at the forefront of everything they do. 

But why is it such a valuable asset? 

Digital marketing allows businesses to conduct ongoing consumer research, make better connections with customers, and reach wider audiences than other marketing channels would allow them. People love personalisation and digital marketing allows brands to be more interactive with customers than they did before, creating more loyalty, and bigger interest. 

But with the saturation of online campaigns, and the bombardment of advertising on social media, are people getting bored of always being marketed to online? And is digital marketing’s future as bright as we may think?

The latest roundtable hosted by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and haysmacintye saw a group of founders and digital marketing experts discussing the future of digital marketing, providing their opinions, predictions and expertise. 

Gareth Waters, Co-founder of Alliance Marketing Agency kicked off the conversation by highlighting some of the changes he has noticed in regards to what clients now want when it comes to digital marketing help. “What we’ve noticed is that we now spend a lot more time writing informative content than we are creating social media content.”

“Two years ago there was a massive demand for us to create ongoing social media content for our clients, but we’ve definitely noticed a shift away from that now. People are wanting us to create content for their websites and their blogs because that’s what they’ve found they get a better return on.

“We’ve found that it’s far better to be creating informative content that has a long-term blast and lasting appeal, rather than making social media content that gets lost on a feed.

“Many clients still want to focus on social media because they believe that is where the immediate impact is. But the impact of ongoing content for the website in terms of an SEO point of view is what really draws traffic in,” he added. 

Louise Brogan, Founder of LinkedIn with Louise agreed, adding, “I think that’s why LinkedIn has had so much growth since the pandemic because it has made people remember and recognise the need for long-form content. With our clients, we’re writing articles and newsletters for them on LinkedIn, and then they’re then able to repurpose this content however they like. 

“I see it in my own business - I have a YouTube channel and a blog on my website and I get so much traffic from that. I’m then able to take the content from those channels and make social media conversation starters on my LinkedIn - which will ultimately direct people to my website.”

A huge part of brand success also often comes down to the personal branding of its founder - especially if they’re a person of influence or a celebrity. For example, would Kim Kardashian’s businesses be so successful if they were not reliant on her own personal branding? Sarah Carr, Founder of Titanium22 Digital, brought this discussion to the table explaining how she believed the future of marketing is down to personal branding. 

“I would say the use of social media marketing has actually decreased and we’ve seen an astronomical shift towards personal branding. I believe that the future lies with hiring an in-house personal brander. We’ve seen so many agencies being set up solely for personal branding already - this is a massive movement” she said. 

Callum Murphy, Co-founder of Make Us Care agreed on the importance of personal branding, emphasising that the impact comes from delivering this correctly. 

“Empathetic conversation is what drives relationships. The personal stuff on LinkedIn does work but people often share too much of the good, the bad and the ugly, and it has gone beyond where it needs to be. 

Personal branding has its place and it’s extremely important, but ultimately businesses need to find that empathy within themselves or between themselves as a brand and a customer to actually make it long term.

Going on to discuss what he thinks is the most important and successful way of marketing digitally, he said, “Don’t just shove your product down people’s throats. You need to actually create something that people can see and think ‘Wow, this brand gets me’. We see it done so well by brands like Adidas where they’ve really embedded themselves in culture, so their consumers can see themselves in that brand and relate to its campaigns.”

Oliver Bourne, Co-founder of WYSPR and influencer marketing expert agreed with Callum adding that the main thing that brands need to remember when it comes to marketing is to stay authentic.  

“Authenticity is the key word for brands - especially B2C businesses,” he said. 

“What we’re finding is that advocation from paid ads or other influences are having diminishing effects and are nowhere near as powerful as they used to be - and that’s because people can see how businesses are operating and it doesn’t seem authentic. 

“Our mission at WYSPR is to create that connection between consumers and brands directly so that the smoke and mirrors show can be deconstructed and it could be democratised - because ultimately the consumers and brands are the major two parties within the communication process.

“Especially for B2C companies, which are heavily reliant on branding,  community activation and consumer advocation are the two biggest trends we are seeing at the moment. Brands who can adapt this in the early stages are going to be the ones winning,” he added. 

Martha Murray, Co-founder of Sequel, agreed with Oliver, noting that she has seen a massive shift toward brands seeking User-Generated Content (UGC) to use in their marketing over the more traditional, brand-made Content.

“Customers aren’t just purchasing, they are increasingly becoming content creators and taking to social media to share their views. It’s now more common for us to facilitate a UGC campaign for a brand than it is to produce professional campaign shoots. And for good reason - 92% of consumers are more likely to trust a recommendation from another person over branded content. Seeing real people using a product or service builds trust, creates a sense of community and brings a brand’s promises to life in a relatable way.”

A huge trend we’ve seen in recent years is the use of influencers, and we have seen that evolve from brands using celebrities to endorse their products, to reality stars with a million followers, and now with the influence of TikTok, we are seeing brands utilise these ‘girl next door influencers’ who are your average people, giving their opinions and showing products they love to their followers - this way of influencer marketing has caused traction because people are now far more likely to trust someone who isn’t being paid huge amounts of money to endorse. 

Gareth Waters, explained the power of influencer marketing, saying, “My wife invented a sunscreen applicator for children a number of years ago and they had a difficult time through COVID because people weren’t able to go on holidays - so the need for the product was far less than before. 

“But that drastically changed when a couple of ‘mummy bloggers’ on TikTok got hold of the product and showed it in a video - for as little as five seconds. This particular blogger had around 5 million followers, and because of this short clip, sales skyrocketed, and it has completely transformed the business - so much so they’ve had to relocate their premises to hold bigger stock. 90% of their sales now come through Amazon, which is driven by TikTok.

“They also don’t pay to advertise on TikTok, they just pay a few influencers - the sales that generate are amazing. Sometimes they don’t even have to pay influencers, because these bloggers will get the product, and they are happy to promote it off their own back because it’s a good product, they know it works, and they think other people should try it.  

“It’s not all about paying for advertising, it’s about getting the right influencers and getting those to be brand ambassadors,” he said. 

Going on to discuss how you can effectively measure whether your digital marketing strategies are working effectively. Rochelle White, Founder of Rochelle White Agency said: “All influencers work differently and it depends on what you are paying them to do for you. So some people we’ve worked with in the past have had ridiculous fees, but if that’s not going to result in a return in sales then there’s no point in paying that much.

“You want to know what you want to achieve as a brand - is using an influencer a brand awareness exercise? Or is it to increase sales? If you’re looking to use influencers for sales then use an affiliate link or a discount code so that its use is trackable - this way you can tell if the influencer you’re using is right for your brand.”

Discussing where the future of digital marketing lies, Amanda White, Founder of Amanda White Digital said: “I worry that social media is on a decline. I see so much about mental health at the moment and how switching off and not trying to reach this sort of perfect life that is promoted on social media.

“There is especially pressure with younger people to step away from social media and to not focus on being the 5% of ‘perfection’ they see from these celebrities and influencers.”

Callum Murphy agreed that people should be switching off, but he doesnt think social media is going anywhere anytime soon. “We’re all addicted,” he said. 

“Social media is an absolute drug, it’s part of our responsibility as marketers, to make sure that the content we are putting out there is actually meaningful.”

Louis Halton Davies, Founder of Web Marketer, agreed, saying: “Content needs to make a connection. If an ad doesn’t speak directly to someone or doesn’t make a connection, it’s not going to work. It’s the same with your business’s landing page, if it doesn’t draw people in and give them what they want, it won’t work.” 

“We now also have the new security features of iOS 14, and from that, I think around 5% of people consent to their info being tracked when they visit a website, then 60 to 80% of people don’t consent to be tracked. So we need to think about overcoming these hurdles, but I believe it’s a good thing because we’re moving towards a more privacy-oriented future.” 

This new era of privacy calls for new measurement principles and technology - like offline and server side to become commonplace. There has also been a huge increase in the number of branded touchpoints to purchase in recent years. This means that we have to accept we’re never going to be able to measure everything, and also that it is important for brands to have a mixed strategy of digital and traditional marketing.

Dan Maudhub, Founder and CEO of Be Wonderful echoed this, saying:  “We were the marketing partner for a festival in Manchester recently, and you’d think, a festival in Manchester, put it all over social and it will sell out straight away. But we actually only had 50% of our strategy in the social and digital space and the other 50% was in the above-the-line space. So we utilised advertising on tubes and trams etc. That is where people that aren’t native on social media will be interacting.”

To conclude the conversation, Luke Clark of haysmacintyre said: “It was great to hear so many different views on the future of digital marketing. An underlying theme of the discussion was that an omnichannel approach to marketing is important to help create a long-lasting brand impression. By creating personable content to create connections and targeting this content to the right customers, brands can enjoy digital marketing success. However, the impact of continuing to create touchpoints both before and after this content is released, through other marketing methods, will help businesses reap the rewards of their digital marketing efforts.

“It was also interesting to hear how in economic hardship, businesses should think twice about cutting their spending on marketing – the barriers to entry in stopping and restarting marketing activity can be costly, and continuing marketing efforts whilst others cut back can be of great benefit to businesses.”