The experience of 2020 will inform our marketing decisions for the future—even transform them, some say.
Even now as the 2021 planning season gets underway, fundamental shifts in how companies approach their marketing are happening. Customer retention is a priority. New ways of doing business are driving value and helping companies remain competitive and stay relevant.
Although we can’t predict what will happen in the new year, we can use the lessons of 2020 to improve the effectiveness of our marketing strategies for 2021. Here’s how.
1. Be nimble and agile
In uncertain times, agility is a necessity, as are adaptability and preparedness for any eventuality. Luckily for marketers, being agile, adaptable and ready for anything is a mantra.
Nonetheless, in 2021, you’ll want to up your game. Not only should you expect the unexpected, but you should also actively look for potential disruptions to your marketing strategy. Accept the inevitable, and make a change rather than pushing it aside. Adapt your responses to the inherent facts of each situation, however difficult. And move fast when the time is right—the immediacy of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates just how quickly new processes, systems and technology can be implemented, which is a powerful takeaway. Think fast and go with the flow.
Ultimately, you will need to better anticipate your customers’ needs. You’ll need to adjust strategy on the fly. You’ll need to be ready with responsive communications. You’ll need to stay relevant as consumer behavior and buying habits shift in response to the uncertainty of the moment.
2. Balance proven solutions with innovations
As in-person meetings start to fill calendars again, some marketing practices will return—as long as they play well with the new realities of building trusted relationships. Virtual communication, collaborating remotely, new digital marketing platforms and influencers will only strengthen our need for face-to-face connection, perhaps making it more meaningful.
Some experts think digitally focused content and messaging will continue to rule more of the lead process, with human interaction occurring much later in the buyer’s journey than before. What remains is the need for greater insight into understanding our audiences and a creative, nimble approach in our ideas and executions.
3. Prove your worth
Marketers will face increased pressure to provide a sense of value in their marketing efforts in addition to a results-driven approach in light of foreseeable budget cuts.
In one Dun & Bradstreet survey, almost three-quarters of senior marketers (70%) say their budgets have been cut as a result of COVID-19, even as 76% of them are facing an “increasing pressure to deliver leads since the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Again, agility and adaptability are important here as you will need to justify your investment in marketing, communications and public relations. Analytics will likely play a pivotal role in optimizing marketing spend, driving business decisions and affecting budget allocation while effectively garnering results.
4. Support digital transformation
Many companies quickly moved operations online because of the pandemic. This move is likely to remain permanent.
Research from IT service management company Gartner shows that, in 2020, investments in paid, owned and earned digital channels now account for almost 80% of multichannel budgets that cover digital and search advertising, social marketing, and websites.
Companies are using direct-to-consumer marketing, online services and subscriptions to stay competitive with more scalable online marketplaces. Client engagement tools such as Zoom, webinars and other virtual components will continue their popularity post-pandemic. Out of necessity, technology will continue to play an important role in marketing plans. Many believe creative solutions may reach new heights as well.
Digital transformation is the developmental mindset behind the roadmap for a company to improve digital capabilities and skills while integrating the “always-on” digital marketing activities consumers now value. A successful digital transformation will govern key components of an overall marketing plan, such as search, social and email marketing, plus analytics, content marketing and the digital experience.
5. Refocus on data privacy
According to SmarterHQ, 86% of consumers are concerned about their data privacy. Of these, baby boomers and Gen Xers are the least trusting consumers. Millennials and Gen Z are 47% more trusting than boomers or Xers. According to a poll by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), 84% of consumers say they would switch services if they didn’t trust how a company used their data.
These studies indicate that data privacy isn’t just important to government authorities or businesses affected by data breaches. Consumers’ choices are influenced by their growing concern about their data, and businesses need to take notice.
Consumers will demand transparency from companies about how they are using consumer data. Companies will have to meet higher standards for data privacy as a result. Data security analytics will become standard practice.
6. Incorporate brand values into messaging
More than 62% of marketing leaders say the importance of marketing to their businesses has increased since the pandemic. In the future, you should continue to move from project-focused to customer-focused content marketing to make an impression on your customers.
People have been greatly affected by the rapidly changing circumstances of the pandemic. Add the economic fallout, the emotionality of social injustice and the political division in this country, and it’s easy to see why people need help.
As a brand, a company, an organization, you need to express to your customers that you are aware that they are hurting, that you empathize with them and that you genuinely want to help them improve their lives. This is no small feat. It will take thoughtful analysis and true feeling. Now, that’s exciting.
7. Watch social media’s role in news and information
In 2020, 48% of American adults use social media platforms as media sources or as a way to get news. Most millennials in the United States use social media for news every day.
Given that 2020 is an election year, this is pretty significant. Just two years ago, social media was the least trusted news source in the world.
The No. 1 reason consumers follow brands on social media is to stay up to date with “insider” info about them. Research shows that 57% of consumers want to learn about new products and services from a brand’s social feed. So if you want to launch a product or a service—or you support a certain cause—social media will probably be a part of the media mix.
8. UX design is a thing
We all know video is wildly entertaining and wonderful at converting leads. Simply placing a video on your landing page can increase your conversion rate by 80%.
Enhancing the video experience with interactive design will likely boost conversions in the future.
Innovations in user experience (UX) interactive design and its relationship to video are increasingly talked about when the conversation revolves around conversion rates. Virtual and augmented reality, 3D graphics, immersive art, and visual storytelling are techniques on the cusp of transforming the video experience for consumers. More involved innovations such as micro-interactions that go beyond static link clicks to other pages that update content and neumorphism—the realistic design of graphic elements to match real-life objects—will help in taking video to the next level.
9. Get serious about customer lifecycle marketing and email personalization
Customer lifecycle marketing takes into account all the experiences, interactions and content your customers engage with during their entire relationship with your brand. It emphasizes the value of nurturing, servicing and helping customers get through the buyer’s journey.
There’s great potential for using personalized email marketing to deliver more relevant communications to your customers through the customer lifecycle. Your marketing messages can go beyond the awareness, engagement and purchase stages to customer retention, loyalty, growth opportunities and advocacy. Along the way, your email marketing campaigns should focus on ways to maximize the value of your product, find new ways to use it, add other related products or services, and support social media and online reviews as some of the strongest purchase influencers.
10. Embrace predictive analytics
The folks at the CMO Survey recently conducted a special edition report to learn how marketers approached their decisions during the pandemic.
On a scale of one to seven, 60.9% of respondents ranked their level of improvised decision-making at a six or a seven:
- 82.6%: Respondents who relied most on “marketing team member knowledge and experiences.”
- 80.8%: Respondents who relied most on “top management knowledge and experiences.”
- 70.1%: Respondents who relied most on “conversations with the sales team.”
Predictive analytics assists you in understanding consumer behaviors and trends. It leverages AI and machine learning to predict future shifts so you can plan your campaigns accordingly.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, predictive analytics emerged as “a framework for decision-making that uses available data to support better decisions than we can make instinctively, leaning on a combination of past experience, gut instinct or the consensus of the best and brightest,” according to an article from Forbes Communications Council. That’s pretty convincing stuff.
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