The holiday season is upon us and in this episode, we explore how you can finish the year out strong. Our VP leadership trio will also give their predictions for what 2021 holds both in marketing and the world of business. Join us for an off topic conversation full of ham, Black Friday deals, and 2021 predictions.
Our 2021 Predictions | A Little Off Topic by Speak Creative
David: Hello everyone thank you for joining us once again. You are listening to A Little Off Topic, one agency's water cooler chat on digital marketing, business, and all the things that get in the way, presented by Speak Creative. So as we are recording this, 2020 is finally coming to a close and the holiday season is upon us. So we figured now would be the perfect time for our panel to talk about some tips and strategies to make the end of the year a success. But that's not all, we'll also hear some best practices for planning what I'm sure is going to be a very highly anticipated new year in 2021. My name is David Caffey I'm Speak's Digital Marketing Manager and the host of A Little Off Topic. Joining me this week and every week is Speak's VP leadership team. Kindra Svendsen is VP of Client Partnerships. In addition, we have our duo of Matts. First is Matt Roberts, VP of Marketing and Sales, and last but not least, we have Matt Ervin, VP of Creative Services. We'll start off today by sharing some tactics for making the holiday season a success in both your marketing efforts and in guiding your team. After that, we'll share our predictions for 2021, including what we believe are the upcoming trends to watch for in web design, social media, SEO, and more. So a great chat today. I think you guys will enjoy it. As always, we thank you for taking the time to listen to our show today, and I hope you enjoy today's episode of A Little Off Topic.
David: So Thanksgiving is wrapped up. We're recording this on Cyber Monday, which means the holidays have officially started. Cyber Monday is of course the ceremonial start of a holiday season officially, as laid out in The Constitution. So as we finish out our holiday season, we move into 2021. We have a couple of weeks left to finish things up, but that's what we're here to talk about today, how to get through the holiday season and start planning for 2021. So let's get started and dive right in. So as I said, the weather outside is frightful. Holidays are upon us. What's a tip you guys have for organizations to help them finish out the year strong? I'm thinking maybe not only from a marketing perspective, but just as leaders and managers, it's a short month, but it can sometimes be a stressful month. So how do you get there and finish out the quarter strong?
Ervin: I think one of the things that we've done over the years that has proven helpful is to have some sort of incentive for everybody. There have been a lot of times that if we work towards a specific goal and we achieve that goal, then we get some extra time to spend with family or something like that. So having an incentive that motivates people to stay focused at a time when it would be really easy to not be focused is definitely helpful. That doesn't always happen. It just happens sometimes.
Kindra: Specifically for a year like 2020, I think it's just really a good practice to end well, even though it's really easy to chalk the whole up to a mistake or error. Just ending well and kind of finishing the race is important. So it sets a good example as a leader if you can do that and provide vision for the rest of your team to do that, just tie everything up. We talked about resetting last time, but you can't really reset until you finished the task at hand. So finishing well, there's something to be said for that I think.
Roberts: Communicating that there's an end helps. Just saying, "Hey, we're coming up on the end of the year. As a reminder, here's what we were hoping to do" and some of that's probably completely adjusted because of everything that's gone on this year with the pandemic and how that's shaken things up. But hopefully there is some amount of reframing earlier in the year, so you can circle back and say, "Hey, we're almost at the finish line guys. Here's where we are. Here's we wanted to be." Especially in a year like this, the other thing that I would encourage folks to do is just celebrate your team and the stuff that you've gotten through together. It's probably worth reflecting back on some of those things. We're not quite at the end of the year yet. So you might save some of that for more end of year type conversations, but I think when you're thinking about communicating how you want to finish the year, it can be helpful to put in context "you know, we we've gotten through a lot of stuff together this year. Let's stay focused and try to reach these benchmarks that we want to hit, whatever those might be."
Kindra: Setting those micro goals for the end of the year is also really useful. It's something we've been coaching our nonprofit clients to do with Giving Tuesday. No matter what your revenue goals were or whatever KPI you're measuring, go ahead and do a reset of what you can achieve. Stretch that out a little bit, make it a little bit of a push goal, but it's okay to still set goals to achieve the end of the year. They might be realigned with how the year has gone. They might be completely adjusted from what you're used to, but still having that goal and then reaching it. There's some sense of satisfaction at the end of that, that you wouldn't get if you were just going along or waiting for 2021. You can still make good things happen.
Roberts: Yeah, that's a good point. I think this may tie into the first part or intention of the first question of what are some marketing ideas or trends to be thinking about as we come around the end of the year. The thing that I'm struck by and Kindra, you may have mentioned this in either a previous podcast or a different setting. So I think I'm cribbing your idea, but one of the things that strikes me about the year 2020 is just how kind of human it has been. It's just a reminder that there's power in brands understanding the the human nature that they can tap into. The vulnerability of being human and trying to create some messages that feel maybe less glamorous than what you would typically have in a holiday season but feel more approachable and human.
David: So when we get to this point on the calendar and people are getting swept up after Thanksgiving and are getting prepared for the holidays, is there anything related to marketing decision making that might be overlooked or not thought about, or at least not given enough attention to as folks prepare to end the year?
Kindra: I think the soft skills and the soft goals are often missed. You get really tied to data points, and like I said earlier, revenue goals. But it's a really good time right now to stop and celebrate accomplishments in the team. Whether that was nailing a strategy or for us, it's really just having a really strong team that didn't have a ton of turnover. That's a really big thing to celebrate. So I think there's some soft wins in there, if you will. Good things that can be celebrated that aren't tied to your direct business goals. So that's what I like to do in December. It kind of goes back to how it's definitely a year to be human. It's definitely a year to share our humanity. So it fits right in with that.
Ervin: I saw two big retail brands, it might've been Walmart and Home Depot, but I know one of them was Walmart. But they are spending a fair amount of money doing ads basically thanking their employees for just kind of getting them through the year. Obviously they're getting their brand out there and creating some awareness and attachment to those brands by trying to have a meaningful message, but just to come out and say, "Hey, we're really grateful for the people that make us who we are." I think this time of year, that was really nice and it fits in with recognizing some of the softer accomplishments of different organizations throughout the year. It's easy with a company, our size to send out an email from the CEO that says, "Hey, everybody, thanks for digging in this year. It's been a great year" and that's super meaningful. But when you think of an organization as big as some of these retailers, even though that's a big spend on their part, that's probably the most effective way to get a genuine note of thanks to their hourly employees who stock the shelves and do everything else. I thought that was really cool. I feel like maybe that fits into some part of what we're talking about.
Ervin: I think for an organization like us, that would be obviously impossible for us to do. We can't take out a national ad. But there's a side effect of that where the employees heard the message and may or may not have appreciated the message, but everybody else did, and it gave those employees a reason to be proud of where they work. So I think the lesson that somebody our size could take from that is let's talk about the things we've done that have been good, the people we've helped, the things that wouldn't have done as well if we hadn't been there. One, just to say thank you to everybody, but two, be proud of where you work. We've done good stuff this year and had a meaningful impact.
Roberts: Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I think for a lot of organizations, that storytelling of "here's why we do what matters" Creating pride in work and in the organization that you're running or a part of is universally needed. The companies that do that well have really great cultures and longer-term loyalty and those types of things. So that's definitely a lesson worth learning more broadly. The end of the year is a perfect time to be telling those kinds of stories.
Kindra: Speaking of stories, I can't think of the name of the business, I'd love to give them a little shout out, but a construction company here in Nashville was making the news this weekend because they normally hand out Christmas hams to all their employees. They're handing out big bonuses. I think there's like a million dollars that's being distributed to all the employees, which is super cool. But the coolest part to me was that the CFO and the corporate big wigs actually go out to construction sites to pass out the Christmas hams. They don't make their employees come to the corporate offices. The idea behind that was that they work for them every single day, so the least the corporate team can do is go out and meet them where they are, not make them come get something. I just thought that was nice because it really shows that they understand the hard work that people put in and they're not just doing it to say they're doing it, but they really mean it they're putting their money where their mouth is and going out and hand delivering it to them at their construction site before they leave for the day.
Ervin: Just to be clear, they didn't buy millions of dollars worth of ham, did they?
Kindra: No. I think that ham is the normal. The million dollars is the 2020 extra.
Roberts: Do you think they just have one big ham truck that smells like ham year round?
Ervin: Like a dump truck, like a giant dump truck?
Roberts: Oh my gosh.
David: Whoever gets the short straw has to drive the ham truck. Nobody wants it.
Kindra: I was going to say, I think Matt Ervin would be really excited about the ham truck.
Roberts: I'm excited about the Ham truck.
Ervin: You'd smell good for a while. That's all I have to say.
David: Does it play a song like the ice cream truck, though? I mean, that's the one thing that would be missing.
Kindra: What song would it play?
Ervin: It's Homer Simpson singing spider pig. Like, I don't know that there's anything else it could be.
Kindra: Way to take my sentimental story, guys. Put it right into the ground.
Ervin: That was my fault. Sorry .
Roberts: To put a fine point on this, Jose Mourinho, who is the coach of Tottenham Hotspur told one of his defenders that if he man marked someone in a game a couple of weeks ago, he'd buy him a $500 ham. He did. The guy didn't get a touch all game long. So dude got him a $500 ham last weekend.
Kindra: What kind of ham costs that much money?
Ervin: Yeah, I have no words for this.
David: Costco had a really expensive ham that one time, didn't they?
Kindra: That was Wagyu or something.
Ervin: Wagyu is beef though.
Kindra: Yeah, I know.
Ervin: I'm gonna look up Wagyu of pork. Maybe there's a berkshire ham.
David: Warren Buffett ham.
Ervin: There you go.
Kindra: Is this where we need to take a sponsored ad today?
Roberts: Jose Mourinho and the 500 pound Spanish ham.
Ervin: Spanish ham?
Roberts: Yeah. Oh my gosh. There's a picture of it and everything.
Ervin: Is it like the one on the Simpsons that flips over the car?
Roberts: Guys, this is where podcasting falls apart. Okay. Well put that in the show notes.
David: Well, now that the ham truck has left the station and the year has ended let's say. I think obviously a big part of the next couple of weeks is also going to be planning for 2021. A great tradition in our industry has always been to make predictions for the next year. I would like to go around to each of you in your respective areas and see if you guys have any thoughts or predictions on what trends we're going to see, or what developments we might see in the next 12 months? Obviously after this year, we may never make predictions the same way again. But if there's something that stands out, I love to hear from you about it.
Roberts: I think that this year you've seen a continuation of the idea that folks are creating microclimates of areas where they feel comfortable online. So I think that that just makes a lot of sense. As marketers, if folks self select into different groups or into different social media platforms or whatever in that way, that's obviously really great for us, because it makes it easy to have much more targeted messages in those environments.
Kindra: So to break that down as an example, let's say you have a ham truck and you sell all the hams. What you're going to have is a big audience who's interested in ham, sure. But then you're also gonna find that there's a niche audience that's maybe interested in bacon specifically or barbecue specifically. So what you can do is create community groups or create little pockets of your audience where you can be really tailored in your messaging. So maybe you create a Facebook group for all the bacon lovers, and then pretty soon those people are talking to each other and they're like, "well, have you tried this other product?" Or you can test new products with that micro audience. There's lots and lots of applications of how it can work for your business, but definitely using the segmenting data that we have will make them feel more heard and breed loyalty. There will be much more loyal to your brand if they feel like they're getting a more personalized experience.
Ervin: I think the idea of a micro audience or micro group about bacon is really impossible. I think it would immediately be a very large group if you were talking about people who love bacon.
Kindra: Well, we might have to break that down. Applewood smoked. I don't know all my bacons, but I could figure it out if there's a market for it.
Ervin: I think we'll see a couple of things. I think what you guys have said is right on, which means that there will be work on the technical side of things to be able to create places in automation for this type of messaging. I think we're also going to see people renewing their focus on disaster recovery and also renewing their focus on their ability to continue to do business online, in the event that something like this happens again. When all this hit, we were all pretty much caught in a state of 60% readiness to deal with it. Some of us less. I think we'll be looking at businesses trying to think of new ways that they can continue working, getting revenue, or anything to help them stay afloat, if something like this were to happen again, or if cases spike or if we're not able to get back to the office.
Kindra: It was really fascinating this year just to watch that in real time, because there's all this behind the scenes planning with months and months of building infrastructure, but we didn't have that in 2020. It was really immediately like how do you get your brand online? Go. So restaurants were popping up left and right with online ordering and figuring that out and seeing that, even things like "we're launching online ordering today. sorry there's technical difficulties" Just watching companies come on board to the online-first mindset was really interesting.
Ervin: I think another thing that we're going to see is a big decrease in the amount of office space required. Before now, there's always been this kind of overarching idea, especially in the IT or software world where we need people to be at the office. A lot of companies aren't necessarily like that all the time, but for the most part, that's been kind of the overwhelming driver of needing people in the office. What we've learned is that that's not necessarily true and people can conduct themselves well outside of the office, especially if they're challenged in the right way and managed well, so I think we're going to see a pretty big decrease in the amount of office space required, because I think more and more companies were forced to become okay with people working remote. I think a lot of people working remote have grown to like it, even if it's just because they don't have to commute anymore and they save that 90 minutes a day or more, depending on where you live. I think we're going to see more of that.
Roberts: My big prediction for 2021 is just kind of overarching and it picks up a lot of what Matt was just saying. The idea of organizations needing to figure out ways to be able to be agile and to be comfortable going through exactly what we were just talking about. Not necessarily saying, "okay, how do we get ready for another potential shutdown, if something like that happens?" But more just realizing that the more that an organization can create operations online, create processes that link employees together regardless of where they work, or ways to keep things going, regardless of what comes is certainly hopefully a lesson that has stuck this year and will continue to grow into the future. So I expect a lot of folks will be, to the extent that they can, look at their finances this coming year. You know, they really probably should be allocating resources to "Hey, how do we beef up what we can do online? Where do we have weaknesses now? What do we wish we could do that we can't right now?" and then, starting to craft solutions that just help them become more agile. Part of that I think is just distributed responsibility and creating a redundancy in your team and potentially having less strictly defined roles for members of a team.
Ervin: But knowing that you've got multiple people who can fill in. I do wonder if that's been happening in the market place this year, just with folks out or unavailable to work for different reasons. How much of that has kind of gotten itself into different personnel structures for different organizations? Being able to call somebody in and say, "Hey, I know this isn't your usual thing, but I need for you to help us pick up the Slack today in this area." Then how much of that becomes more of a formalized, almost cross-training thing into the future as folks realize the benefits of having some redundancy there?
Kindra: David, I'm interested to hear from you there. We've talked about having the redundancy and having a couple of people on our team being able to do SEO because it lends itself so well to content and all of that, but what's new in that area for 2021? Any predictions?
David: Like I said before the call, just as a joke, but like SEO the last six months of the year is just predicting the next year. Google has made it easier this year, because they announced earlier on in 2020 that there would be a page experience algorithm update in May 2021. Obviously Google is putting out algorithm updates and updates of all sizes all the time, constantly throughout the year, but they very rarely announce them and name them. So essentially what this means is that a lot of things that we've known that are impacting SEO in the past, like page load speed and things like that are going to be packaged up in a more formal algorithm and launched. When they announce it like this, that means they're giving you time to fix it. Because after that May 2021 window, it's going to be pretty tough to stay competitive. They've done it before. Several years ago with the mobile responsive, if your site was not responsive after a certain period, I'm sorry, thanks for playing, essentially. There's a back end technical series of metrics called core web vitals, which are going to influence it heavily. But what that means on the front end to a user is things like if the site loads slow, obviously. But if you go to your local newspapers website, as an example, all that stuff is going to be penalized, probably. Like popups, or if you load a page and you're reading the content and the content disappears because an ad is loaded and you have to scroll to find the content again, stuff like that is all going to be considered in this update. So I think hopefully what this means is that we're gonna return to focusing on the user first and starting to figure out different ways to monetize and advertise that are not so intrusive. But obviously if you manage a website, it's going to be time to start considering very, very closely your site speeds. It's not just one thing on a check box. It's going to be closer to the top of the list. I think that'll be a big factor, then a lot of the things that happened this year are going to continue or evolve. I think around March, April, or May, Google added so many tools to communicate to your audience and say "Hey, we're closed" or "We're curbside now." Outdoor dining, all the things like that, little tools that are going to be used for, hopefully, reopenings and whatever happens with vaccines go out and things start hopefully evolving differently back to normal. We're going to continue to see an importance in keeping your audience informed that way. There's a lot going on in the world of SEO. I think 2021 is going to be a positive year and lots to get started on, especially when we're talking about planning. So are there any other predictions you guys have or maybe even things that you're hopeful for, like things that might stick around even if they're no longer needed?
Kindra: To go margaritas.
David: Exactly. I was setting you up for that. I would agree with that as well.
Ervin: I think that just summed it all up.
Roberts: I mean, is there a need to say anything else?
David: Yeah, no contact. The two best words in English language and I hope they are there forever.
Kindra: Oh I do like that the delivery drivers just leave it on your doorstep and text you now.
Ervin: That is nice, and the less crowded dining rooms and restaurants. Awesome.
David: And it's not so totally bad to like clean everything all the time.
Roberts: Hand washing should stick around.
Ervin: I think that's a good call. I don't really want the mask thing to stick around.
Kindra: I'm totally for it. I'm fine with it.
Ervin: I chew so much gum. Oh my gosh. So much gum.
Kindra: That's your own problem. Not my problem, thankfully, because you're wearing a mask.
Ervin: It's nobody else's problem anymore but mine. My gum budget just exploded.
Roberts: Have I told you guys that my youngest daughter chews her mask? We had to replace one because she chewed through it.
Kindra: On a serious note, I do think that adaptability is something that should stick around. Being able to pivot and be agile and make changes really quickly and nimbly. That's just good business. I mean, if you have that skill set, it's always going to serve you well. So I think that hopefully we won't have to have such quick shifts in 2021, but the skills that we learned this year will help us in some way.
Ervin: I like that a lot. I think more businesses paying attention to how they can be easier to do business with is great.
Roberts: Yeah. I agree with that. Obviously this year forced a lot of change, but for anybody who went through that, hopefully the idea of thinking about some new idea and giving it a shot and iterating on it. You know, a lot of that was again, forced behavior this year, but, does that carry forward into something where folks are just a little bit more willing to just try something and see how it works? That could be cool.
Kindra: That's a good point. I think there are a lot of business ideas that never make it because they're not fully thought out and this year really put that to the test of, "well, we're not sure if it's going to work, but we've got to ship it anyway." So I think maybe that is a really good skill to take from.
Ervin: In the dev world, that's what we call testing in production. A little inside nerdery.
Roberts: I was about to say, does it have a fun acronym to it?
Ervin: TIP. No, I'm just kidding. I made that up.
Roberts: You're like, "No no no! I don't want the nerds to discredit me!"
Ervin: That's right. I don't want to get discredited.
Kindra: I like the word "nerdery" I've never heard that.
Ervin: I didn't make that up either.
David: I'll close it out today with one final question. So obviously at the beginning of this I mentioned that we're recording this on Cyber Monday and we had Black Friday, a very different version of Black Friday, just a couple of days ago. So my final question is two parter. One, did you pick up anything exciting this year from Black Friday or Cyber Monday? And two, in previous years back when Black Friday used to be what it was, do you have any crazy stories or encounters that have happened on that day? As you can tell, this is my favorite time of the year is Black Friday. I used to love going and lining up in the middle of the night and watching people go crazy. So do you guys have any crazy stories? because I really don't. I'm disappointed that I don't.
Kindra: No, I'm like you, I used to love the thrill of the 5:00 AM or even earlier, but this year is pretty boring. I can't exactly say all the good deals I got online because I have ears just down the way, but online shopping, free shipping. That was a good thing this year.
Roberts: Matt Ervin, you strike me as a lover of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. What deals did you pick up this year?
Ervin: That's funny. I have not picked up any deals this year. In fact, we had family in for Thanksgiving and we wanted to have most of our presents bought so we could free ship them back to Mississippi, where we'll be for Christmas. I will say probably the craziest thing I've ever done on a Black Friday though, was we tore out 4 Beaver dams in one day. That was nuts. That's as close to retail as I want to be.
Roberts: Dude, that was a Black Friday for those beavers.
Ervin: Yeah, it was.
Kindra: Was it a dam good time?
Roberts: Oh, come on. Low hanging fruit. Wow.
David: Vegas Vacation joke. Have yall seen that movie?
Roberts: Oh, we got some dam bait.
Roberts: No, I haven't picked up any deals this year. Full disclosure, I was recovering from being sick, so I was pretty much laid up in bed all weekend. So no, no great deals, also no exciting stories. I don't know that I've ever actually done the Black Friday thing in person. So I hate that I've missed that experience, David. What about you? Surely you have something to share with the group.
David: Well, I bought a pair of sweatpants, because I didn't really have any sweatpants. It's really cold and I don't think I'll ever go outside ever again. So, the economy worked for me this weekend because I had a demand and it was met and I had a coupon for sweatpants. So I'm excited about that. Yeah, I guess I don't have any stories from the past. I'm just always dumbfounded by people fighting over TVs. I don't know how many TVs I've bought in my life and there's always a TV on sale every Black Friday. People are always fighting over them and it's not a yearly purchase. I also really miss DVDs on Black Friday, when they had the giant shelves with DVDs. They'd put them in a different part of the store and people would be fighting through those. Now we're streaming everything. I guess I'm just getting older. I'm turning into a boomer and I'm really disappointed about how things aren't the same way they used to be. But I know next year, Black Friday is going to be back. It's going to be back bigger than ever.
Ervin: Fights and stampedes. It's going to be awesome.
David: I'm going to drink a bunch of red bull and I'm going to go to Best Buy. I'm just going to start swinging.
Ervin: Holy cow. So good.
Kindra: Do we need to destroy this tape? Is that going to be used against you?
David: That's a joke. Legally, that's a joke and I'm not going to do that.
David: Well that is it for today. I hope you guys enjoyed it. As we wrap up 2020, I wanted to extend a special thanks to anyone who has given our podcast a listen to this year. We hope to bring you even more great episodes in the year to come. If you're interested in the topics we covered in today's show, we have a ton of content that touches on the various facets of content strategy, web design, digital marketing, and more on our blog. Head over to madebyspeak.com to check out the latest and greatest. As always, if you have questions or feedback for today's episode, we'd love to hear from you. What are your predictions for 2021? Speak is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, whichever social media platform you prefer. We are there. If you enjoyed the show, I ask you to please subscribe and leave a review on your podcast platform of choice. So from myself, our panel today, and all of us Speak, thanks for getting a little off topic with us.
Want more A Little Off Topic? Listen to last week’s episode of an off topic conversation about the importance of a team reset and how we do it.