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Influencer Series: Michael Leander

 In Digital Marketing

Two decades in the industry has given Michael Leander, an international marketing trainer and speaker, a unique perspective on what separates excellent marketing from the mediocre crowd. Leander’s has worked as a marketing director for multiple companies, became a CEO and board member of many others, and finally in 2008 launched an international training and speaking career sharing his insights with others and helping create great marketers. His path has taken him all over the world, and his global experience in Asia, South Africa, North America and Europe has given him a fully developed view of the field.Michael Leander Nielsen

We sat down to talk with Leander about the constants he has seen in marketing over his 21 years in the industry, how engagement and emotion are related, and to speculate on the future of the marketing world.

The Changing Marketing Landscape

It’s no secret that marketing technology and procedures are always changing. Sometimes keeping up with the latest advancements feels like a losing battle as a marketer. Despite this fact, there are constants to the marketing world too, and sometimes the things that remain static and never-changing are more telling than those that are frequently shifting.

Leander has observed two main constants during his time as a marketing advisor. “People tend to chase the bright lights, the new trends, the shining thing,” he says. He’s observed this trend not only when it comes to new marketing technology, but he’s also witnessed this phenomenon when new exciting ideas are unearthed.

For example, Leander talks about content marketing, “At the point of time when people started talking about content marketing everyone saw that as their savior. Now, everyone and their dog is trying to do content marketing but most companies don’t see any return whatsoever,” he explains.

He credits many companies lack of success with these new shiny ideas or processes to the implementation. Implementing a new company process properly is difficult, and many times small oversights lead to huge gaps in knowledge and failing return on investment. Leander sees a solution that involves a follow up plan for implementing and improving new processes.

Another constant within the marketing industry that Leader has struggled against his entire career is, as he says, “how pathetically afraid people are of digging into data.” He explains that understanding how to gather relevant data and how to analyze the data that’s being tracked is key to success across every channel.

Leander has seen a disconnect between creative departments and analytics departments over the time he’s been observing the industry. He senses a fear of digging into data from many marketers. And let’s face it, there are always more interesting projects to procrastinate with.

As he explains, “If someone asks you what you prefer, do you want to improve the quality of data we capture on our website, or would you like to do a couple of Facebook posts? What are people gonna choose?”

How to Grow as a Marketer with ‘Little Apps’ & Storytelling

However dry or intimidating data might seem, getting a baseline of knowledge for marketing metrics will go a long way. One solution Leander sees for this problem is what he calls ‘little apps.’

“Little apps are solutions that do a very specific thing, you can call it a niche thing, that anyone can implement if they want to” Leander explains.

He further clarified that little apps are so effective because they allow marketers to gain familiarity with testing conversion flows and marketing strategies without the need for a complex multi-departmental team. He believes that getting over that first hurdle, and diving into creating data flows, is the first step toward incorporating more data-centric learnings into marketing content.  

In addition to little apps and an increased importance on data, Leander predicts that an emphasis on storytelling and writing skills will be in high demand as we look to the future of marketing.

As we’ve seen an increased interest in incorporating video and interactivity into marketing campaigns, we’ve also seen a growth in consumer’s interest to be entertained by the content they consume. Keeping them entertained is key to retaining high engagement levels.

“I think [brands] are going to produce more entertainment-based stories that are still relevant to their solutions and products,” Leander foretells. In his mind, the key to entertaining your audience is invoking an emotion with your content.

“With Zembula’s experiences you’re able to engage people, and there’s some sort of emotional connection, right? We need an emotion to connect to action,” Leander explains.

Final Thoughts

In order to create and drive emotional engagement, marketers need to not only create compelling campaigns, but also use data to understand why certain campaigns outperform others. Leander believes a good step in the right direction is to enact marketing psychology through little apps that create an emotional response and carefully analyze the learnings gathered for use in fine tuning future campaigns.

He also knows this task can seem daunting. Staying current in an ever-changing field like marketing is often an overwhelming challenge. It helps to remember the constants:

  • Don’t implement new technology or processes until you’re fully committed to rolling them out completely and tracking your successes and failures. Avoid the “shiny new thing” syndrome and properly research new methods/technology before implementation. Ensure you’re not adopting something just to “keep up with the Jones’.”
  • Get your hands dirty and stop fearing data! The learnings you gain from proper data analysis are key to better personalization and storytelling with in your marketing, allowing you to create engagement through emotional response. Start with little apps that allow you to easily create campaigns for your customers and analyze the successes. The knowledge you’ll gain about testing conversion flows will easily scale up to more complex marketing initiatives.

Leander sums things up, “Engagement is still incredibly important. It’s still important to create an emotional connection with your audience.”