Predictions usually include some element of aspiration. It’s not just what we think will happen, but also a reflection in some way, shape or form, of what we hope will happen. If there’s a common theme to this year’s annual list of predictions, is that we’re all hopeful about 2021.
I’ve grouped all predictions this year into categories, which is an effort to make it easier to read. There is not an order of merit to the placement – and you’ll find my own prediction at the very bottom.
1. Efficient marketing execution and measurement
“Time to focus on blocking and tackling. Too often marketers become enamored with the latest trends and tools. They lose sight of the day-to-day execution needed to build a productive and efficient machine that contributes to their company’s bottom line.
It may not sound sexy, but a marketing leader must focus on the actions that get the job done. Make sure the C-Suite sees and understands the contribution your team makes every day.
Establish KPIs and making them accessible to everyone
Drilldown to see marketing’s direct and indirect contribution to the sales pipeline; and
Test, test, test.
Make your team members track everything that matters within your marketing department – blog views, cost per lead, conversion rates at every stage, webinar attendance rate, paid search efficiency… and report their own KPIs up to you.
2. Wisdom of crowds
“More focus on crowd-sourcing. More and more prospects are seeking counsel of friends and peers in making buying decisions for software and other products. Getting unbiased, raw opinions from product users before buying is as important in the buying decision as website content, logos, case studies and demos. I look for more industries to get involved with crowd-sourced 3rd party reviews than ever before.”
3. Marketing be nimble
“Predictability is dead – 2020 killed it. Rather than having year-long editorial calendars for opportunities and content, marketing and communications professionals are will have to work in a much more agile, phased approach: creating evergreen content per quarter and making room for ‘rapid-response’ type communications based on what 2021 might throw at us. It’s a different approach for those that live and die by long-term planning, but it’s a must-needed approach to be relevant to your key audiences in 2021 and beyond.
4. Back to basics
“We are going to get back to basics. Many companies turned off their marketing in March when the pandemic hit our shores. They’ve been treading water ever since. I think we are going to see these companies emerge with a desire to start telling their story again, but it’s going to take some time. I liken it to trying to turn an oil tanker on the ocean: it takes time. But we’ll get there.”
5. Meeting buyers where they congregate
“Digital matters now more than ever. If your company’s digital presence is lacking, now is the time to address that. Is your website up to date? Are you active on social media (at least the top one or two platforms where your audience spends time)? Do you blog regularly? Do you have a PR strategy?
The importance of these marketing elements is only going to grow. A study found that B2B buyers spend 83% of their time during their buying journey not engaging with vendors. This underscores the need for a robust digital presence. Yet, according to research conducted in 2019, 40% of small businesses still don’t have a website.
With more people than ever researching, shopping and buying online, now is the time to ensure your business is meeting buyers where they are.”
6. Brand-to-brand collaboration
“Trust and relatability really come to the forefront for me when thing about marketing and communications in 2021. Likely see more brand-to-brand and brand-to-influencer collaborations. Core to our strategy (which will only increase in 2021) is partnering with key brands and influencers in our space to not only earn immediate trust of the customer but ongoing awareness given the brand/influencer’s reach.”
7. Genuine user-generated content vs. paid placement
“Many brands have already embraced the genius of user-generated content (UGC) – videos, memes or other works which seem to come more from a place of genuine excitement rather than schlocky, paid placement – to sell their products or services. Given the fact that so many people are now working from home (or elsewhere) due to COVID-19, this is year we’ll see at least one major brand or more fully leverage UGC to outright replace a more traditional campaign in an effort to connect, innovate and humanize their organization.”
8. Pandemic-weary screen refugees turn to podcasts
The pandemic and its endless stream of Zoom calls have taxed our ability to take in information via video and webinar. For many of us, when it comes to electronic information, our visual cortex is tapped out.
This creates renewed opportunities for marketers who communicate via podcasts. Spotify reported in mid-2020 that overall podcast consumption had more than doubled. 2021 will see an increase in podcasts, with more brands and institutions harnessing the power of this very intimate form of communication as some consumers attempt to ration their screen time.
Podcasts are great for the delivery of credible information and analysis, and storytelling. Two examples of podcast prowess stand out: medical institutions and racial justice organizations. Medical centers and universities latched on to podcasts to explain, in digestible chunks, the varied ramifications of the pandemic. On the racial justice front, advocates enticed listeners to adopt an anti-racist mindset by sharing individual stories—what others experience and the toll it takes on them and their communities.
Finally, families are turning to podcasts to provide entertainment and education without adding screen time. Forward-thinking brands and organizations can tap into the screen-cautious with community stories that support the values they espouse.
This trend will impact all publishers. Those with video-heavy or text-heavy distribution channels will want to look at how to add podcasts to their content strategy, as well as using podcasts to repurpose material into different languages, such as Spanish and Mandarin, to broaden their reach.
9. The robots are already here
“The robots aren’t coming… they’ve taken over. 2020 accelerated the invasion, and in 2021, every technology in your marketing stack will be powered by AI on some level.
Many platforms are already leveraging machine learning in a meaningful way, and our own work with hyper-personalization and advanced recommendation engines (think Amazon suggesting similar products when you shop) has exploded.
What’s changing is that many of these bleeding-edge AI technologies are becoming far less expensive to acquire as services, allowing organizations to harness personalization, natural language processing, voice search, and other capabilities in new and exciting ways.
With access to copious amounts of data, the ability to automatically predict and surface more relevant content will scale the reach of every marketing initiative and improve customer experience. So get cozy with your algorithms… they’re driving the future of your marketing.”
10. Marketing PSTD
“After a year like 2020 – it is hard to even think it might finally be over. After a slow start, Spring of 2021 will be like emerging from a long winter’s nap. We will first have a weird period of exuberance and frivolousness on one side and fear and PTSD on the other. Brands will need to be sensitive and attuned to both realities.
The one clear message of 2020 is consumers are highly critical of the messages being put out by brands and companies, but they are also watching their actions closely as well. I think consumers expect and are demanding the brands they support to have a position, and this can be uncharted territory for some brands.
We will also see a change in consumer behaviors and habits enabled by the pandemic – we have found, for example that maybe we didn’t need shopping malls, movie theaters and actually going to a grocery store in person as much as we thought we did.
I think on the flip we have also recognized things we did miss, and I would expect some types of travel, entertainment, family-focused activities and experiences that let us enjoy time with those we love to come roaring back. Marketers need to be ready to pivot their businesses (and there messaging) when as the COVID cocoon comes to an end.”
Expand your business internationally. Open an offshore branch of your company in beautiful, sunny Vanuatu! All business industries welcome. It is not a requirement that you live there. Vanuatu is a magnificent business haven! #topcompanyformation.com