For marketers, a new year represents a fresh start and an opportunity to do things bigger and better. Now that we have some distance from the crazy year that was 2020, it’s time to take a deep breath and buckle up for another unpredictable 12 months.
Some businesses will need to overhaul their marketing strategies from the ground up, while others are perfectly happy to continue on their current path to profit.
But no matter where you’re at in terms of marketing, there are some essential practices you won’t be able to ignore this year. Here are a few technologies, techniques, and concepts to put on the agenda going into 2021.
Personalization at Every Level
With so many inputs and patterns to collect and analyze, our smartphones and computers know us better than anyone else in the world. Some might find it a bit unnerving, but marketers recognize the potential here to create unique, personalized experiences for customers.
It begins at the top of the funnel with outbound ads and content targeted to specific audience segments, then narrows things down with personal suggestions for products and services. When it comes time to buy, the purchase process is made easy and pain-free.
“A dangerous mistake to avoid in marketing is slacking on your research. When marketing to consumers, we like to ‘illustrate’ the typical buyer we receive,” said Chris Vaughn, Founder and CEO of Saucey. “Creating a persona of sorts for our consumer base allows us to hone in on their specific needs. Lacking in research takes out the personal aspect of marketing.”
Don’t miss your chance to connect with people on a personal level and give them the shopping experience they’ve been waiting for.
Prepared for Disruption (and More)
The events of 2020 could never have been predicted, but marketers learned their lessons and are entering the new year with far greater agility.
“When setting marketing goals for this year, you have to clearly understand when and where your business is going to face further transitions,” said Kennedy McDaniel, Founder and CEO of Banting. “2021 is a rare opportunity where some of the biggest economic variables can be forecast.”
No matter what happens, marketing teams should have multiple contingency plans in place and be ready to execute if (or when) things derail.
Back in the day, marketers would brainstorm an idea, launch a campaign, then sit back and wait months for feedback from the top brass based on sales and buzz. Now, customer reactions are immediate and tangible, made loud and clear by social media and instant reviews.
That’s why marketing teams have made a commitment to customer engagement, ensuring that all questions, concerns, and crazy comments are answered appropriately online. When crisis strikes, you will have a set of loyal customers ready to buy from you when it matters most.
“The ability to retain and expand existing customers helped us as we didn’t have to depend on significant new business during COVID,” said Rishi Kulkarni, Founder and CEO of Revv. “Our operations could look into data and find customers who we could expand, customers who we could retain, and customers who we could offer free trials for a limited time. This significantly cut our costs on lead generation in times when there were none.”
These efforts go a long way to make people feel heard and valued, even if they’re just browsing around.
Organic Search Opportunities
The basics of SEO have remained the same for years, but new tactics and angles are being discovered all the time. Search engine algorithms are also in constant evolution, forcing marketers to adapt their organic SEO blueprints on the fly.
It isn’t just blogs and reviews that move the needle on SEO. Every type of content published online is a factor, including YouTube videos and more.
“Place keywords based on the desired search intent in your videos, either verbally or in text overlays, to help ensure the content is relevant and therefore able to rank higher on YouTube’s platform,” said Dr. Tim Shu, Founder and CEO of Vet CBD Hemp.
2021 will see brands honing in on featured snippets and “position zero” spots that yield top search results from voice-activated technology. More people are (literally) asking their phones and home speakers long-form questions, and many new keywords are in play.
Partnerships and Collaborations
Many marketers realized in 2020 that alliances are key to success in the crowded digital marketplace. The rise of influencer marketing is a testament to how much people trust familiar faces and brand ambassadors.
“Companies need to set marketing goals with the changes made this year in mind,” said Omid Semino, Founder and CEO of Diamond Mansion. “There are certain marketing strategies in 2020 that really took off. We saw plenty of brand collaborations, empowerment of communities, and political stances in marketing this year, and going into next year, companies need to keep that momentum going.”
If your company is still trying to brave the marketing landscape alone, it’s time to reach out your hand and form partnerships with influencers and publications in your niche.
Stepping into the Social Arena
From environmental issues to political stances, we watched many companies use their platforms for societal change in 2020. Whether we consider this marketing, messaging, or something else entirely, it can’t be ignored.
Moreover, this move marked a big shift in the way that organizations comment, communicate, and impact events for everyday fans and followers. It’s no longer an exception, but an expectation.
“2020 has crystalized the responsibility of brands for their products, services, and marketing messages to their implications on society at large,” Rahul Raj, Founder and CMO of 5&Vine. “Instead of just promising to build for better, a common, global threat has forced brands to actively reflect on their positions, engage in difficult conversations, and identify the consequences of their actions.”
Now that brands have set new standards for engaging in public life in new ways, it will be interesting to watch how their involvement develops moving forward.
The challenge is to be inclusive and aware without alienating audiences and proceeding with caution on sensitive issues. Expect to see some blunders along with soaring success stories.
Automation and AI
Most aspects of marketing automation are currently taking place behind the scenes. These are the scheduling systems used for sending emails and posting on social media or the reporting tools that aggregate comments and mentions across the web for quick analysis and action.
While these innovations have been hugely helpful for everyday marketers, we’re seeing automation happen on the front lines as well, making customer interaction more streamlined and focused than ever.
“Enhanced virtual retail experience is on the way in 2021,” said Daniel Shapiro, Founder and CEO of Fourlaps. “Commerce brands that are now forced into being ecommerce brands are going to develop their digital spaces to replicate the in-store retail experience. VR and AI are already budding industries that online retailers can now leverage into their company for an enhanced online shopping experience.”
Chatbots are a popular phenomenon that comes to mind, and they’ve improved dramatically in recent years. If your website doesn’t have some degree of AI guidance for curious customers in 2021, you’re already behind the times.
Don’t pressure your team to automate every single aspect of marketing and put yourselves out of a job. Instead, find areas that require more of a human connection and use AI tools to take care of the busywork and number crunching.
Prepare for another wild ride this year, and be ready for anything! These marketing practices will help you stay on track no matter what happens next.