Expect the Unexpected in 2023

Legendary college football coach Bear Bryant always said to “expect the unexpected.” For Bear, this meant creating a plan but being ready to respond to whatever arose, and putting forth the best possible effort to take advantage of opportunities. Call it flexible preparation.

Marketers are facing a similar playing field this new year. While 2022 turned out to be a successful year for many businesses, 2023 begins with some uncertainty and concerns driven by high interest rates, inflation, talk of a recession, and changing international conditions. Even when faced with these kinds of disruptions and unknowns, marketers remain accountable for increasing opportunities and awareness to drive sales. Our efforts are even more critical for business in challenging environments.

We believe focusing on the core areas of planning, creativity and technology will ensure you’ll seize unexpected opportunities, and your marketing efforts will achieve the best outcomes.


Blueprint for success

By focusing on evaluating and refreshing your plan first, you’ll provide a solid foundation for your entire marketing program.

The following basic planning steps are often overlooked and take dedicated effort to complete before spending resources on marketing execution:

  • Clearly define your immediate, short-term, and long-term marketing goals and strategy to help prevent a shotgun approach throughout the year.
  • Audience precision is a must for personalization and hyper-targeting, so ensure you know your customer personas and journey.
  • Review all tools available and choose the right channels and tactics for each audience. The more you precisely target, the more relevant and effective your campaigns will be.

Balance and allocate adequate budget and time needed to maximize effectiveness. Don’t get spread too thin and make sure you have the right resources in the right places.

The framework you establish will provide a solid starting point for campaign execution. Realize your plan is only reflects a snapshot in time; however, it gives you a baseline upon which to analyze and pivot.

In 2023, marketers are increasing investments in these channels

  1. Social media
  2. Websites/blogs
  3. Email marketing
  4. Omni-channel marketing
  5. Video marketing

Marketers aren’t relying on single silver bullet channels such as organic SEO. Research shows that 92% of marketers leverage more than one channel, and 81% use more than three.


The X-factor

In 2023, marketers will see even more fragmentation of customer attention. Creativity can and should be your north star. Create relevant, authentic content to enhance your brand, not just for the sake of generating content. No one has time for throwaway content – your team can’t waste the energy to manufacture it, and your customers won’t expend the effort to read it.

Check off these must-haves

  • Design: image-driven, consistent, appropriate for audience and channel
  • Copy: authentic, using just the right words
  • Video: interactive, engaging and powerful

Continue embracing the short form

  • Messages must be short and sweet to grab attention on mobile devices. Take your key messages and boil them down to soundbites and sentence fragments for short forms such as social graphics and videos.
  • Check out the videos on TikTok and Instagram reels. These are the formats grabbing audiences. The time is now to plan for posting short videos and to think about what might be effective for your business.

So much video: 86% of businesses already use video marketing and 92% see it as an important part of strategy


Extending your capabilities

To remain agile, marketing teams need to be able to extend their capabilities and effectiveness with technology. Tech also helps you focus on the quality of communication, not the quantity. Having the right platforms in place will allow you to:

  • Fully leverage tools and features for web CMS functionality, email marketing automation, search, and social
  • Create targeted landing pages, which continue to be a powerful conversion tool
  • Develop interactive tools like dynamic calculators and selection tools to personalize results, prove the value of products/services and streamline the buying process

What does the sunset of third-party cookies mean for tracking and lead gen?

Cookies help to improve UX by remembering certain user information, making it easier to interact with your site and helping marketers to show personalized ads. Third-party cookies are tracked by a website other than the one someone is currently using.

Google will begin phasing out third-party cookies starting in 2024, primarily to appease consumers who are increasingly uncomfortable with tracking that feels like an invasion of privacy.

What should you do to prepare?

Evaluate the alternatives to third-party cookies, including first-party cookies, affiliate marketing and your own user data.


Although 2023 may be volatile, effective marketing can always play a part in increasing sales and offsetting the effects of any downturns. Use planning, creativity and technology to rise and make the most of opportunities.

New Creative Director Joins Signal

Kevin Pojman

Signal has recently named Kevin Pojman as creative director. Kevin joins Signal with 20+ years of experience in designing print and interactive experiences. His extensive portfolio includes corporate & consumer identity, print collateral design, packaging design, branded interiors & exteriors, motion graphics, website and social media development for a host of clients from Fortune 500 companies to non-profit organizations.

“We are excited to welcome Kevin to our team, focusing on creative excellence,” said Ricky Haynes, President of Signal. “I have personally known Kevin for many years and it’s great that we found this opportunity to work together. We are confident that his background and expertise will help Signal take our creative output to the next level.”

With a passion for unconventional thinking and visual problem-solving, Kevin has a keen understanding of all facets of design to create a completely integrated brand. Knowing how the components of print and interactive work together to create a client’s voice is a strength he brings to each project.

Kevin has led branding initiatives for clients such as Panera Bread, HanesBrands, VF Jeanswear, GlaxoSmithKline, as well as accomplished work for IBM, Kontoor Brands, HondaJet, Kohler, Sears, Nike/Jordan Brand, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Weyerhaeuser and Wake Forest University.

Kevin has received numerous awards for his print, interactive and video projects. His work has been featured in publications such as Communication Arts, How Magazine, Print Magazine, Step Inside Design, LogoLounge and Type Directors Club. In addition, Kevin’s work has been displayed at the NC Museum of Art, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, the Nasher Museum of Art and the Gregg Gallery of Art & Design. Most recently, the Library of Congress selected one of his designs to be part of their permanent collection. Kevin graduated from East Carolina University with a B.F.A. degree in Communication Arts.

Getting Started With the New Google Analytics

If you’re using Google Analytics to create better experiences for your customers or improve marketing decisions for better ROI, then you’re going to want to upgrade to the next generation of measurement. Google Analytics 4 is a new kind of property. It’s replacing Universal Analytics next year and has several advantages, including:

  • New data privacy features that make it durable for the future
  • Machine learning that automatically surfaces insights about the customer journey across platforms and devices
  • Enhanced integrations with Google Ads for improved campaign optimization

At Signal, we’re supporting clients with this migration. Here are a few standout upgrades to look forward to that have impacted our work.

  • New and improved data model – The previous model of page views, events, hits and sessions has been replaced with a system of events, parameters and user properties, making report creation and analysis much more intuitive.
  • User-ID – Associate your own identifiers with individuals, then stitch together the user’s behavior across different sessions, devices and platforms. This sets a foundation for new insights and opportunities, and improves user count accuracy.
  • Audiences – Enables user segmentation using any combination of attributes. Build these subsets of users in ways that are important to your business – and then push those audiences to your Google Ads campaign. Here’s a list of suggested audiences to get your wheels turning.
  • Enhanced data visualization – You’ll find standard reports similar to what you’re used to in Universal Analytics, but they’re much more user-focused in GA4. There’s also an entirely new toolset for custom reports, including starter templates based on technique (Funnel exploration, Path exploration, Segment overlap, User explorer, Free form, etc.), use case (by Acquisition, Conversion or User behavior) or industry (ecommerce, etc.).

Getting started

Universal Analytics properties will sunset in July 2023, so now is the time to start your migration. We recommend collecting data in both Universal Analytics and Google Analytics 4 properties so your team has time to get comfortable with the differences and set expectations moving forward.

  • If you already have a Universal Analytics property, just go to the admin area of your analytics property and click GA4 Setup Assistant then follow the instructions.
  • If you use a website builder platform that requires you to provide a “UA-” ID (i.e. won’t accept a “G-” ID) you can still use Google Analytics 4. Here’s some further info for setting up GA4 for a CMS-hosted website.
  • If you’re brand new to Google Analytics, create an account and set up a Google Analytics 4 property

While some setups are straightforward, others can be complex and influence your analysis and reporting in unexpected ways. Signal understands how important your data is and we are glad to assist you in this process.

How Apple’s New Software Update Impacts Advertising

Overview of the change

A new privacy feature was released on Monday 4/26/21 with the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 14.5. This includes a new feature called App Tracking Transparency, a significant step for user privacy, giving people more control over their mobile phone app data and how it’s used by companies, like Facebook and LinkedIn, for personalized ad targeting.

The first time users open an app on their iPhone or iPad after they update, they will be prompted with an option to opt out of tracking that monitors their behavior and shares that data with third parties. It’s generally believed that a small percentage of users will opt-in to allow tracking. Time will tell exactly how small, but early predictions have ranged from 2% to 20% opt-in. Recently, a mobile attribution firm AppsFlyer ran a study that showed a 39% opt-in rate.

While it’s an exciting development for users, this update is causing apprehension in business owners and marketers because it impacts data tracking permissions and therefore efficacy of some campaigns. This won’t necessarily mean an end to all tracking, but as more and more users opt out of tracking, we will experience some notable changes in how we’re able to measure performance and tactics/strategies we’ll be able to deploy.

Impact on Facebook / LinkedIn Ad Campaigns

The changes to the Apple iOS 14 App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework including the Identifier for Advertiser (IDFA) will have a limited impact on these types of ad campaigns.

LinkedIn impact:

  • Shifts in delivery across LinkedIn Audience Network placements.
  • Smaller target audience sizes when using Matched Audiences data
  • Smaller audience sizes for website retargeting.
  • Potential decline in conversions, if dependent on IDFA.

Facebook impact:

  • Some campaign results will be counted differently
  • New limit on web events (limited to 8 conversion events)
  • A domain will need to be selected for each ad to measure conversions
  • Audience sizes may decrease

What we recommend for the short term

  • Enable or update to Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1
  • Verify your domain and enable the conversions API
  • Configure and prioritize your 8 conversion events or choose to rely on your website analytics tool to track conversions from your campaigns
  • Rethink the customer journey–review strategies and where you might need to pivot your approach

What we recommend for the long term

Consider developing “value exchange” strategies to collect first party data that you can use to build direct relationships with prospects and customers. First party data includes any data collected directly from your audience, such as the following:

  • Events/Webinars
  • Email subscriptions
  • Resource downloads
  • Form submissions
  • Data collected through web analytics platforms such as Google Analytics

Key takeaway

As digital platforms tighten up on privacy, knowing your customers, their pain points, resources and tools they need is more important than ever. Ask yourself, how current are your personas? Do you need additional customer research? How can you collect more first party data?

Reimagining Your Marketing Team and Budget

The new norm in marketing includes a shift in team roles and delivery models, with an increased emphasis on jack-of-all-trades team members who can roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. We’re seeing more and more organizations who need to micro-target opting to find partners who can think like a CMO or CTO instead of filling high-level executive roles.

Forrester also considers 2021 a year of reinvention for CMOs and their teams.

  • The research group predicts that leaders will integrate marketing and CX this year, no longer segregating acquisition from product utilization, customer service, retention and advocacy.
  • Because growth is tied to continued use of a company’s offering, it’s also imperative that marketing teams focus on acquiring customers who will stick around, reemphasizing full-fledged loyalty programs rather than frequency-based rewards.
  • Chief marketing officers will need to drive customer obsession within their teams, putting the customer at the center of everything they do – from leadership and strategy to operations.

CMOs are also prioritizing digital in their budgets.

  • The latest CMO Survey reports that while marketing spending decreased by 3.9% over the last year, marketers reported an 11.5% increase in digital marketing spend, showing us the shift in HOW they are spending their budgets.
  • Social media ad spend has continued to increase, leaping nearly 30% (Q3 2020 vs. Q3 2019). This trend will only accelerate as we pull out of the pandemic.

Key questions

  • Do you have the bandwidth to generate and nurture leads?
  • Take a close look at what skills you need on your team. Do you need to train existing team members, or hire new ones? Remember, the more senior the hire, the higher the investment across the employee lifecycle – from recruiting and training, to management and engagement.
  • What’s happening with your trade show manager and their budgets?
  • In fact, what’s happening with your budget overall?

In case you missed it, check out the other installments of our CMO Intelligence series:

Your Digital Presence is Top Priority


Insights for going digital, refining your plan and meeting the moment

The role of the CMO has never been more interesting. The entire world has turned to life online and marketing is evolving non-stop to address the impacts of coronavirus, including flexibility in budgets, tactics, execution, reporting and staffing. Uncertain times are causing major shifts in consumer purchase behavior and media consumption habits for both B2B and B2C. In this, the first of our new 4-part series, we’ll begin serving up meaningful insights for marketing efforts, resources needed and measurable goals throughout 2021.

As Forrester’s 2021 Predictions Guide notes, “The value of your company depends on how customer-obsessed, resilient, creative and adaptive you are in jumping to the next growth curve in your industry.”

First Up: Digital Presence Is Top Priority

Innovative digital engagement has never been more important to buyers than in the wake of this pandemic crisis. According to the Forrester’s Guide, more than one-third of B2B technology buyers say digital engagement channels have become more important to their purchasing experience, and four in ten indicate that human/analog engagement with sellers has become less important.

That makes digital presence a priority for marketers who have even more freedom to create engagement as buyers open up to new and innovative digital experiences. For example, as of the fourth quarter in 2019, 36% of US consumers had tried augmented or virtual reality, and in 2021 another 10-12% are expected to experiment with the technology.

Why? Because consumers are giving brands permission to be creative, entertaining and immersive in a way they never have previously, so long as the content is created consciously and sincerely without manipulative tactics that destroy consumer trust.

Take note: this isn’t just about AI or VR, but inviting your audience into an engaging digital experience across all your channels. At the heart is a thoughtful and strategic user experience (UX). We consider this a vital marketing endeavor – now and into the future. In fact, a positive user experience is absolutely critical to grabbing consumer attention and earning customer loyalty. Making UX an inherent part of your design and development process can help increase sales and conversion rate by 87% on average.

Why waste time and money trying to dress up a broken website, mobile app or digital interface that’s not delivering results during this challenging time? An audit and overhaul of your user experience (UX) will give you what you need to compete. If you haven’t done this lately, we recommend this ASAP.

Stay tuned for the next three installments of our CMO Intelligence series, coming to your inbox soon:

Fracture Locator Tool and Instagram Posts

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting healthcare providers’ ability to work face-to-face with their patients and staff. Bioventus, a long-time Signal client, developed its @Home Experience program to help ensure that patients with fractures would receive thorough education on using their EXOGEN® bone healing devices – all without in-person interaction to keep patients and medical staff safe.

To support the program, Bioventus asked Signal to develop an interactive EXOGEN Fracture Locator Tool to help physicians give their patients a better understanding of their injury and treatment. The healthcare provider can mark the exact location of a patient’s fracture on a visual model, then give the patient an image for reference in positioning the EXOGEN bone stimulator device for at-home treatments.

The Signal team also developed a series of Instagram video posts to raise awareness about the Fracture Locator Tool.

The collaboration is a great example of Bioventus’ trust in our team to help them solve problems with digital sales enablement tools.

LinkedIn ABM: A Winning Strategy During the Pandemic and Beyond

I think everyone would agree that 2020 is a year most would rather forget, and to say that our clients and marketers in general have felt the pinch is a gross understatement. The latest CMO Survey (June 2020 Special Covid-19 Edition) presents some bleak insights and predictions:

  • Marketer optimism about their own company and about the economy as a whole are at 10-year lows
  • Companies have reported big losses across revenue (18%), profit (15%) and customer acquisition (9%) metrics
  • Marketing spending and hiring is expected to go down over the next 12 months

However, this survey also presents some jaw-dropping growth in social media spending across all sectors – 74% growth on average. And what’s more, social media is now showing the largest increase in contribution to company performance since the survey began in 2008.

So how do you reconcile shrinking budgets with increased social spending? One answer could be deploying social campaigns based on Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategies.

What is ABM?

ABM involves marketing and sales working closely together to identify a group of high-value accounts and create personalized marketing messages for them, based on their specific needs. It essentially means you’re targeting individual companies rather than personas, and offering specific solutions to their specific challenges.

While there are many tactics and channels to use within ABM, for the purposes of this article, I’d like to focus on Sponsored Posts within LinkedIn. Since Covid-19, we’ve witnessed a rapid uptick in working with clients on LinkedIn ABM campaigns.

Why is LinkedIn ABM important in today’s climate?

  • Sheer numbers, especially now that many of us are working from home – 690 million total LinkedIn members and a 26% increase in sessions last quarter alone
  • Personalized and tailored messaging means you can guarantee message relevancy
  • More relevancy leads to more engagement, better conversions and a better ROI
  • Knowing what accounts you’re targeting and how much business you ultimately gain from them makes it easier to measure ROI
  • With shrinking budgets overall, you need to reduce as much budget waste as possible to ensure the best bang for your buck

ABM on LinkedIn

With LinkedIn, you can display custom advertising messages to key stakeholders of your target companies. The messages can be customized not only for the overarching needs of the target company, but also for an individual’s attributes, like job title or job function. For example, stakeholders in Procurement might receive ads focusing on potential cost savings from your offering, while people in Operations might receive ads on time savings gained by your offering.

How we do it

  • Choose your goal and objective.
    • This decision is the foundation of your campaign. It aligns your campaign with the appropriate performance metrics and recommended ad formats to help reach your goals. For example, you may choose brand awareness for top-of-funnel brand building. Or, if your goal is to generate leads, you’re better off selecting a lead generation or website conversion objective.
  • Build the audience.
    • Work with sales to get a list of key contacts within the target account. Hopefully the list contains job titles and locations.
    • Use that list to build the audience within LinkedIn, using combinations like Company Name + Job Title + Location, or Company Name + Job Function + Experience Level + Location.
  • Create the ads.
    • Work with marketing and sales to uncover tailored messaging for the account, and ideally tailored messaging for the different types of people at the account.
    • Design compelling ads in a format that’s best for your goals. For example, we’ve seen some success with static image ads and carousel ads for driving website traffic, but we recommend using animated or video ads when possible. Our experience has shown movement in the ads generates 5x more website clicks at half the cost in comparison to static ads.
  • Install the LinkedIn Insight Tag
    • The LinkedIn Insight Tag is a piece of code that you can add to your website for campaign reporting. You will need this in place to unlock valuable insights about your website visitors.
  • Vigilantly monitor the program and optimize often.
    • Look out for things like ad frequency. Is your budget too thin? How much are you blanketing your audience with your message? We know your audience may need to see your ad more than once in order to make an impact, but when they see it too much it becomes less effective. While there’s no hard and fast rule, CPA tends to rise sharply when frequency rises above 4 views. Plan to refresh creative before reaching that point.
    • Closely monitor performance metrics and make decisions accordingly. Drilling down in LinkedIn reports will show a breakdown of KPIs by audience segment like Job Function, Job Title, Location and more.

If you’re interested in learning more about ABM or other strategies that fit well during today’s unique climate, please let me know.

planning a video

5 Action Steps for Your Next Video Project

planning a video

Hands down, video is one of the most impactful tools marketers have for connecting and converting audiences. With so many opportunities at stake, you’ll do yourself a favor by creating a thoughtful video project plan before you begin. From project conception to promotion, here are the top 5 action steps to help make your next video project your best ever.


1. Spell out your strategy.

Does your company have a video marketing strategy? Digging into the following questions can help you make sure your message is communicated in a pithy, powerful way.

  • What is the core purpose, goal, subject, and message of this project?
  • Who is the target market(s)?
  • How and when will this content be used?
  • What’s the desired length?
  • Are you looking for high, medium or low production value?
  • What do you like (or dislike) about any previous or competitor videos?
  • What are the budget and timeline?


2. Clarify who is responsible for the script, storyboard, and assets.

Before you can get cracking on creative concepts, you need to know who on your team – or which trusted external resource – is handling the important tasks.

  • Who is responsible for creative direction? Creative concepting?
  • Who will write content for the storyboard/script?
  • Will the video contain audio (speaking subjects or voiceover) or will it be silent, with text on screen only?
  • Do you have the necessary assets (including images, footage, and graphics) or do they need to be created?


3. Get into the weeds on video production.

Video production will most likely require the most coordination with both internal and external resources, so knowing what’s needed is absolutely key.

  • If video and/or photoshoots are required, how many are needed, in what locations, and with how many cameras?
  • What are the estimated shoot duration, travel time, and expenses?
  • Do you need to plan for wardrobe, makeup, props, or any special equipment?
  • If you are using a vendor, do they have any specific preferences or requirements?


4. Know what’s needed to finalize the video.

Post-production is where your strategy and creativity come together for a video that makes a splash. Ask these questions to ensure your hard work translates into a great final product.

  • What new motion graphics (intro, outro, titles, transitions, etc) or 3D animation need to be created, and who will create them?
  • Who is the talent for audio voiceover and when will they record?
  • What audio soundtrack or sound effects are needed, and who will procure them?
  • How many clips will be created?
  • In what format(s) will the video be exported?


5. Prioritize promotion and measurement.

An amazing video quickly loses its worth if you don’t give it the promotion it deserves, and don’t know if you’ve hit your mark.

  • How, how often, and on what channels will the video be promoted?
  • What are the requirements for analytics and tracking?
  • What are your desired results or KPIs?

Video projects are multifaceted and demanding. Taking the time and effort to create a thoughtful plan before you jump in can improve your team’s performance, and the audience experience. With hundreds of successful videos under our belt, the Signal team is here to answer any questions you have!



Human Connection in Video

The Value of Human Connection in Video

When it comes to reaching an audience, video is unparalleled. And when it comes to creating a human connection, using people in videos is the key to success. Whether you’re creating internal messages or targeting your prime marketing audience, the voices – and faces – you use in a video can increase the effectiveness.

Creating connection

In business as in marketing, there are three key characteristics of success: relatability, leadership and emotional connection. That is especially true of video marketing. Faces and voices in a video create:

  • Connection – We empathize with other people via their facial cues and tone of voice.
  • Relationship – Eye contact makes a huge difference in the way people react to what a person is saying – even in video.
  • Human touch – Putting a face on the brand helps people emotionally connect with your product or message.

People love faces

The fact is, the best thing you can do to not only convey your message, but also elicit the precise emotional response you’re seeking is to put a face in your video. Studies show that the human brain has a special place for faces – dedicated neural circuits that respond only to faces.

As an example, consider whether employees would rather watch a personal video message from their CEO, or read an email with the same information. The video wins hands-down, and chances are high that the employees will remember the message for longer.

Voiceover spices up text

While most of our communication is geared to take in facial and body language cues, video voiceovers can also be a boost to video effectiveness when it’s not possible to include faces. A voice reading the text displayed in a video is still more engaging and memorable than text displayed alone.

What to look for in voiceover talent

Whether using in-house talent or a professional voiceover specialist, it is important that they be engaging and well-spoken to capture and hold your audience’s attention. Words should be articulated in a warm voice with expression, drawing the viewer in. It’s important to choose the right person for the job – someone with great energy who speaks with an authentic tone that adds credibility to what they’re saying.

Need help making your videos pop? Signal’s in-house experts are here to answer your questions.