Marketers, we’ve got to reconfigure

On wake-up calls, how to market empathetically, and upskilling

Kira Leigh
Apr 1, 2020 · 11 min read
Sauce: Xenogears

So many consumers just do not trust marketing, especially right now. I don’t blame them at all.

Here’s the thing: marketing is still an industry that employs people, an industry that’s in flux. Maybe even an industry that you could say is currently having an identity crisis.

I’ve talked with agency founders, marketing professionals, and the developers who build their clients’ apps and websites. The overwhelming consensus is that “business as usual” isn’t it, chief.

Because of this, I want to give my peers some help and a dose of Real Talk.

First, I’m going to start by giving marketers a wake-up call on how to realign with consumers. Radical transparency is the key.

Next, we’ll explore reconfiguring your clients’ current efforts to align with consumers, and reach them in earnestness, by embodying radical empathy.

Lastly, we’re going to explore 3 key industries that your marketing and creative-tech skills can leap to — so you can upskill and get gigs — featuring buck-tons tools I use and love.

One such tool being tech created by a team I work with, and care deeply for.

This is me being radically transparent: I will talk about them, because I love them, and they give people ways to upskill, for free.

Marketers and brands: watch and learn how.

The best time to be real was 10 years ago. The next best time is now.

Let’s get you “on the level”.

My answer for marketers who need to keep their heads above water:

Know what your job really is

You must guide your clients to serving consumers. Messaging that doesn’t mesh, and products that don’t align will never be adopted.

That is the actual core of your job. On top of that, marketers must also hit their clients’ targets, because that’s how they get paid.

I feel you. I do, and that’s why I wrote this guide for you, and am trying to show you how it’s done by actually embodying the ethos I’m outlining.

Now and forever, your job is to let consumers know your clients are on their side. This must not be performative; it must be a fact. You must be radically transparent, empathetic, and helpful.

Real talk: the brands that put consumers first are the ones that will be remembered and supported. And all that needs to happen for that to be a reality is putting consumers first. It’s not rocket science.

This, you must do.

How to Reconfigure Your Clients

1 — Have a real conversation.

Talk about what’s up. Be upfront that “business as usual” isn’t working.

If your clients are not robots, they’ll get it.

If not, you will have to use your magic marketing lingo and explain how consumers trust brands who are (actually) authentic.

It’s a fact: we have the data.

If that still doesn’t work, force them to listen to this song for a minimum of 10 hours until they cave. It works all the time, 100% of the time.

2 — Write some real-person, helpful emails.

Ditch the corporate buzz-word emails, immediately.

Write emails in normal words. Offer support, discounts — heck, waive subscription fees — and be legit. Give people tools, guides, and hope.

Marketing for a client with a small biz retail audience? Give people actionable email-tips: encourage them to their delivery info on Google. Show them how.

This is the time to give consumers guides, equip them with skills, give them tips, hope, and free (or discounted) stuff.

Please, just be human, and recognize where everyone is at.

3 — Ditch token blog topics. Go for “weird/helpful”

I had a very different goal in mind for this article.

It was on the same marketing topics we content marketers like flittering around for, for eternity.

Suffice to say, it’s not relevant right now. I had to go “weird” and “helpful”. So too must your clients.

Write articles to arm your consumers with skills.

Write an article about your coworkers and how your business is putting people first. Write an article about which organizations to donate to, that need your help, right meow.

Write as many damn guides as humanly possible.

For example, if your clients are putting out articles about why it’s vital to buy recliners immediately because reasons, that’s not it, chief.

Write the weird/helpful thing. Be legit.

4 — Making social media posts? Cool it with sales.

Social media is not your sales route right now.

It’s your touch-point with consumers. So get to posting things that give value.

The best way to realign is to post things that are uplifting, informative and helpful. Video-guides, or a skill-based webinar, works wonders.

Shine a spotlight on your team. Show you put your people first.

Many people are stuck at home; give them something new to learn, do, or watch, that gets them feeling hopeful. If you can help people gain competency in something, offer it.

It really is never a risk to be personable, teach people, and be real. If your clients believe this is a risk, they’re weirder than I am.

Speaking of competency: Upskill, right now.

If you’re a marketer (or anyone, honestly) and your options are coming up empty, you need to level up your skills. I know, okay. Doesn’t help your current sitch.

Doesn’t get you JG Wentworth 877-CASH-NOW.

However, upskilling helps expand area expertise, so you can go out into new fields and get more gigs.

Here are some technologies you should already be familiar with, and can be integrated for maximum oomph (meaning more gigs!).

If you’re a copywriter, learn UX basics.

If you’re a copywriter with UX skills, you can not only help make projects run more smoothly by not giving developers migraines with your giant word-salad documents (oh, the stories I have)…

But you can also refine your content skills, so that your touch-points with consumers are better than ever before.

UX means getting into the minds of your users, and figuring out how to best Sherpa them onwards. You already know how to do this if you write converting copy.

It’s time to take that knowledge one step further and help plan out web/app/software projects to delight/help users in a new way.

One of my absolute favorite tools for planning out UI/UX is the Invision App.

They have an awesome explanation of how UX writing can be a six-figure job, so if you won’t listen to me, listen to them:

Another rad tool for UX is Mockplus, and they also have a cool UX guide too.

Your copywriting skills can be easily upgraded to account for user behaviors and the planning inherent. Think about upskilling with UX. It’s not that drastic of a shift — you’re already a storyteller, right?

You won’t know if UX is right for you until you try.

But if you do try, you’ll also help people like me have less rage-induced migraines, so thanks in advance.

For content marketers, think about Headless CMSs

Headless CMSs allow a space where content makers can dabble, and then lets developers do their do. Content can exist anywhere in this type of system, delivered to the front-end via APIs.

Let me give you an example as to why this matters, aside from me being obsessed with destroying Wordpress:

If your client has several magazine-like websites, and you need to Post All The Things, Headless CMSs are the way to go. No more cross-posting with IFTTT or Zapier. No more copying and pasting.

Make, click, boom, API goes brrrrr.

Knowing how to work in different environments, and knowing how to get your content everywhere (easily), is a yuge bucket of skills. A bucket that I guarantee you not very many people have in their hands.

For a primer on what exactly a headless CMS is, check out my fam at Agility CMS. They’re the cool client I talked about — I love them with my entire heart.

Their starter plan for Headless CMS greatness is also free, which means opportunities to learn, which I have been taking for the past few weeks.

They also have an excellent Webinar series going on right now, which is also free, and I will be taking it.

ButterCMS, which I also want to mess around with, has another nifty guide to get you started. I encourage you to learn about CMSs from as many sources as possible.

Cockpit is also another Headless CMS I really like, and bonus points, it’s open source. The problem here is they don’t have any blog articles explaining stuff. Their documentation is also weird.

Really wish they’d get on that. (C’mon duderinos, get on the level!)

Inevitably, it’s your choice what you learn/use, or even if you do this at all.

However, the web is being built differently now, and having at a baseline understanding of different content management systems is important.

Even if you don’t end up becoming a Headless CMS mastermind, this info can help you spearhead new overarching initiatives, ones that will definitely make your developer peers very happy.

Happy developers make for less haptic projects.

If you’ve never edited video, it’s time to learn.

Mobile video is very big right now, especially Instagram Stories. Live streaming also shows behind-the-scenes stuff, which leads to your clients being more approachable.

Consumers like humans doing human things. You don’t have to sell things all the time; you just have to be human. It’s not really that complicated.

AdobeSpark, while being both my bae and the bane of my existence, has a free plan, along with a guide on how to get started with video editing.

Warning: do not ask a lot of AdobeSpark. It can’t handle long video projects.

For something one level up, Filmora has an absolutely monster-level repository of video editing guides.

I consider Filmora a good replacement for Windows Movie Maker [cries in nerd]. Still watermark-central, but it’s worth dabbling with.

Another product I like is called Kapwing. Their blog is a treasure trove of info on how to do…a lot of things. Ripping audio, how to convert Gifs to MP4s. Their resources are exhaustive.

Again, watermarks, but they also offer a subtitling service, which is key for video. Most peeps put videos on mute (especially with their phones), and accessibility is important. Add subs.

If you want a more robust tool, you should go with Adobe Premiere Pro.

They have a free trial, so you can get started, and lots of tutorials:

Video editing is a whole-arse career; keep this in mind.

Furthermore, if you gain mastery here, be prepared for clients to ask you to do some absolutely bonkers stuff. Like warp actual reality.

However, if you learn how to edit even simple videos, I know you’ll be in a better position to score social media gigs and ad gigs. Video is what’s up.

Marketers, we’ve got to reconfigure.

I’ve given you a reality check on your job duties, aligning clients to consumers, and some skills to target to land more gigs.

What you do with this guide is up to you.

All I can do is offer you a playbook for how to not market like a butthead, explicitly show how it’s done (you read this huge, value-encumbered, client-nod article right?) and outline some skills to master to get gigs.

Right now, people are not in a place to listen to brand-sales-marketing-stuff.

Right now, people are in a place where they need help.

How you balance that with your marketing practices is up to you, but I literally just wrote you the handbook.

You must give, be upfront, be real, and deliver real, actual value to your consumers. You have to be a human.

Go talk to your clients about shifting to radical transparency, empathy, and giving. It’s the right thing to do, and the smart thing, too.

Go learn some new skills and make the magic happen. I know you can do it, I believe in you.

If you need help, hit me up on LinkedIn. I’d be more than happy to help you.

Kira Leigh is a snarky marketing nerd, writer, and artist. See her work here and send her a message if you want to work together.

Special thanks to Renato P. dos Santos for his continued support.

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