Two digital marketing experts share what you need to KNOW to finish strong one year after the world shut down.

By Julie Tingley, The KNOW Women

marketing collab

Yes. – The internet revolutionized the way we do business.

Yes. – Digital devices placed unique sales channels directly (and literally) into our hands.

Yes? – 2020 taught us something especially useful in the way forward to connecting a business with its target market. 

Could it be that a year marked by uncertainty and interpersonal disconnectedness actually offered a wealth of data to the country’s top marketers for a very clear way forward through 2021? Yet how many companies have been able to implement these key findings this year to get ahead of the curve, scale to new heights, and reach more users than before the pandemic? While the fundamental elements of robust brand positioning and a solid marketing plan still remain, there is no turning back from the market’s expectation for a business’ online presence to be active and differentiated. So what was learned from last year that can be carried out today to enhance a digital marketing strategy? Which platforms should be applied for both business-to-business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) approaches? From the Midwest to the Gulf Coast of Florida, two marketing leaders share the direction they KNOW to be best for business, with recommendations so similar- we are reminded that we really are more closely connected despite the distance between us, thanks to this digital world. 

isabel fry quote

Content marketing is still huge! It is becoming even more important to be creating original content with either a blog, podcast, newsletter, or videos. People have become even more interested in a personalized experience.” – Jena Ehlers

Jena Ehlers, founder of Jennovative Marketing, LLC (Waukesha, Wisconsin) helps small businesses with customized marketing strategies and services that include email marketing, social media, website updates, search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, event marketing, and graphic design. Specializing in health and wellness industry marketing, most of Jena’s clients have been with her for over four years due to her compassion and commitment to make the world a better place through the stories she shares on behalf of the companies she proudly works with. and 

Alison Tierney quote

“Rule #1: Don’t follow the shiny object. There are always new ways to market yourself. Don’t spin your wheels on every new trend as it may not be worth the time and effort to test. Start with tried and true marketing avenues. You can test new areas if you have the time, but usually your effort is better focused on improving your best performers. The hot new thing could fade just as quickly as it showed up.” – Erin Wilder

Erin Wilder, founder of 81 & Sunny (Sarasota, Florida), got her start in Chicago with the largest agencies in the world before relocating to the south and starting her own business with her husband. Her Florida-based agency specializes in responsible investment management into digital media programs, and driving the highest level of performance possible for her clients given their resources and goals. With a 90% client retention rate and over $15MM in projects, 81 & Sunny is taking their advanced knowledge of how digital marketing works, and helping their partner businesses level up online. 


It begins with a solid foundation. What are the key elements to having a strong brand?

Jena: Know Your Audience- It is important to narrow down what people are most likely to buy from you. Create a profile of what your ideal customer looks like considering geography, age, gender, income, marital status, interests, etc. For example, even though you might be open to selling your product to people from 18 to 65, if people from 45 to 65 will have a greater interest and are more likely to spend the money, you need to focus on advertising to the 45 to 65 age group. 

Create Marketing with Audience in Mind- Branding and marketing should be created around what you know about your audience (interests, age, etc.). Most importantly how the product/service solves their problems. Marketing should also be placed in locations where they are present i.e. social media sites they use, locations they visit, etc. 

Unique, Consistent Message- It’s important to promote what makes your brand unique. The defining characteristics of the brand should be present throughout all marketing materials and communications. The brand is not only what makes the product/service unique (the message), but also consists of the way the message is presented. This includes word choices, the overall look (graphics & fonts), and how it makes people feel. This all needs to be consistent in face-to-face conversations, websites, emails, social media, storefront designs, and interactions.

What’s the one marketing mistake you see business owners making?

Erin: Trying to do too much without enough capital to fund everything appropriately and executing poorly on top of it, therefore, wasting what little capital they do have. It’s much better to start small, and do that ONE thing well before you try to master something new. Or simply put, ‘less is more’ when it comes to digital media investment. However, putting the proper resources into play to drive real results is just as important. 

Example: Start with organic social media posts, learn what your message is, learn what your audience responds to, etc. Then build your website based on that focused message. Once you have a website, start to build an email list and start messaging them periodically, then monthly, then weekly. 

Jena: One of the biggest mistakes I see business owners making is avoiding the emotional component of marketing. Many people don’t provide a personalized touch, and they avoid 

showing their own emotional connection to the business, and how others have also emotionally connected with their brand. Most people buy based on emotions (95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious). So emotion is super important in marketing! There are many ways to add more emotion to marketing. I encourage people to share in their LinkedIn bios why they are passionate about what they do. They can share on social media some things about themselves, why they started their business, and I can’t reiterate this enough – share reviews. Sharing testimonials and case studies are one of the best ways to get people to trust your business. But, it also goes back to the branding – you should create marketing thinking about the emotional response you want people to have when purchasing your product or service. 

How is online marketing different today than it was just a few years ago?

Erin: Online marketing changes every single month! The internet, websites, and the API’s (application programming interface) we manage change all of the time. Facebook/Instagram is one of the API’s that comes to mind that updates their user interface constantly. They are testing the best way to get their users to engage and keep them on the platform. They have entire departments that are tasked with improving user experience and algorithms that help them understand what elicits a positive response. You used to be able to actually reach your Facebook followers for free, but now you have to pay to reach them. Your organic reach only gets to a small percentage of “Likers”. 

Advancements in Technology have also changed the landscape: 

  1. Digital media buys now occur in a very competitive and complex digital environment, which have been rapidly revolutionized by programmatic (auto) technology to be totally controlled by Trading Desks, Auction based Exchanges, Bids and Offers, Supply and Demand, and most importantly– trackable ROI. This was the revolution or advancement of technology in this space. 
  2. Internet speeds are becoming faster and more available as technology advances in general (5G is here).
  3. People watch TV and Movies on their mobile devices because they can.
  4. People are cutting the cord because cable is old technology and streaming services are
    more available on demand and actually less expensive.
  5. Buying Connected TV ads are more accessible to advertisers that want to target specific
    audiences instead of just buying a large block of TV shows that your audience MIGHT
  6. Every algorithm collects more and more data and becomes more intelligent every single

FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) run the world. Two of my favorites, Facebook and Google drive revenue through advertising. They are the best in the business, and they continue to dominate and grow because—as the world becomes more digital—more investment will continue to be poured into digital advertising by brands. Resistance is futile. Jump on board! 

Why is social media marketing important for any brand?

Jena: For businesses that are marketing to other businesses, building a professional network is super important. It helps with not only finding prospects and helpful partners, but also the right consultants for taxes, finance, marketing, or employees in general. Most businesses should at least be on LinkedIn. For any brand, social media is important because people want a personalized experience. They want to connect with brands and build a relationship. Social media is the best way to create those connections to increase awareness, build leads, and achieve sales. You can also create better marketing for your audience as you get to know them better, or even create a better product. Over 50% of the world’s population is on social media. 

Erin: Whether you like it or not, your target audience is on social media. Even if you are a B2B business, decision makers are people just like you and me and they engage on apps like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and more. 

  • 69% of American’s use Facebook (190MM US Members) 
  • 37% of American’s use Instagram (112MM US Members) 
  • LinkedIn has 174MM US Members 

If you don’t have a presence on these key platforms, a new potential customer may not think you are a reputable or real business. It’s commonplace to have, at minimum, a profile and some sort of activity on your pages. 81 & Sunny does have a presence on social media, but we could be doing better. While we are a B2B company and have gotten a lot of business through referrals, when it comes to decision making, your business needs a social media profile to legitimize your business just as much as you need a website.

When should you outsource your marketing?

Erin: Try to think of outsourcing like you would any other decision. Should I outsource this legal work? This plumbing job? Try to gauge your own abilities to complete the work. Understand how important it is to your success. How much are you willing to risk if it goes wrong? Then weigh the cost of outsourcing and the time it would save you. 

If you are just starting out and have limited funds, you will likely need to bootstrap for awhile. As mentioned before, social media is a great way to start getting your message out there for free. Instagram reaches people for free pretty well. If you are B2B, focus on LinkedIn. 

If you have resources and you want to really scale your business or take it to the next level, you can hire an outside agency or hire someone to work directly for you. Hiring an agency can be more cost effective than a full time hire. Depending on the services you are looking to outsource, I recommend having a person in-house to oversee all marketing activities and see things from inside the brand. Then hire an agency to do specific tactics like: email marketing, paid advertising, SEO, social media, website maintenance, etc. These specialties are tough to keep up with as the industry is constantly changing, so you should hire experts to execute. However, have your in-house marketing person lead strategically and tie them all together. 

What is your favorite social network?

Jena: This is a difficult question. I really like Facebook for business-to-consumer marketing, specifically the advertising as it is super effective. But I would have to say my favorite is LinkedIn. I really like LinkedIn because it is the most effective social media network for my business. Since I do business-to-business marketing, it is the best place for me to stay connected to people I know, make new beneficial connections, share information, and I love that you can write articles within it. 

Is there ONE hot trend happening that we need to know about? 

Erin: Remember Rule #1: Don’t follow the shiny object! Tik Tok (created in 2016) definitely has the highest probability of turning into something meaningful. However, SnapChat was once the new “thing” but turned out to be a terrible advertising platform. Twitter before that. 

Shiniest thing on the internet right now: NFT (non-fungible token).

Jena: Automation is becoming even more popular. People are automating social media, emails, websites, texts, customer service, and more! It saves time, allows things to be done quicker, and in a timely manner. 


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