When predicting his trends for 2021, Hallam CEO Julio Taylor’s first point was that the post-COVID reality is permanent:
The rapid rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global lockdowns in early 2020 have shortened the years of global digital transformation to a few weeks.
The growing role technology plays in working, playing and connecting has shaped new and lasting digital habits that will forever change the world’s economy. Now is the time to back off and think twice about transforming business operations to meet these new digital expectations.
As the landscape changes, we as marketers must switch with it to stay relevant and viable in what McKinsey has called the Next Normal. The increasing online competition, the digital fatigue of our customers and the need for real solutions make our work more important than ever.
So, if you’re ready to go back and think big for the year ahead, there are 7 ways to make your marketing more effective in 2021:
Start with the end in mind
When things are constantly changing, it’s important to have a long-term strategy that holds everything together but offers enough flexibility to allow you to react to current events and external factors.
When I learned to sail years ago, I quickly realized that getting from one side of the lake to the other was not easy. Conditions could change at short notice and I could only move with the wind. Seen from above, my detour might have looked like two steps forward and sometimes one step back. But by trimming my sails and stapling them left and right, I finally got where I wanted to go.
It’s the same in business. The overall strategy will keep you toward your desired goal, while your quarterly and monthly tactical planning will allow you to respond appropriately to the winds of change.
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Update your knowledge of your customer
In the past 12 months, customer behavior has changed dramatically – from the introduction of remote working and schooling to video calling, online grocery shopping, gardening supplies and virtual streaming of our entertainment.
How have your customers adjusted? Did this reveal new weaknesses and challenges that you could address?
The best way to find out is to ask them. Set up an online focus group with a small number of customers, or speak to five to ten of them individually, for quality feedback on:
- How they are using your product or service now
- What works?
- Which no longer works in our current environment
- You can deliver whatever else you need
Once you have this information, run a survey that goes out to your wider email database and social audience to help you measure the level of sentiment.
Make sure to adjust your strategy based on what you learn.
It’s all about relationships
Whether you work in a B2B or B2C environment, it’s time to double the relationships.
For B2B marketers, this might mean having a structured account-based marketing strategy for your key accounts, or simply picking up the phone to check out the people who are buying from you. Whatever you do, don’t start the conversation asking for a sale.
Think about how you can add value to your contacts. You could:
- Share headlines and research relevant to your clients’ industry
- Invite your contact to smaller and more intimate events such as discussions and panels where they can ask questions and be part of the event
- Provide short, one-on-one meetings with the company’s thought leaders
- Create content that addresses their concerns and opens up new opportunities for them
When you work in a B2C environment, you get to know your customers outside of the normal interaction with your brand.
You don’t have to twist your entire strategy or do something that is inconsistent with your branding, but it is worth creating a more personal connection with your customers. You can hold small focus groups, invite direct messages on social networks, or test a more personal content strategy with 10 or 20% of your activity.
Ask your audience what they’re going through, create content on broader trends like work-life balance or how to stay strong and healthy now, and celebrate the content they are creating from your channels using a user-generated content strategy.
Don’t forget that the second part of this step is active listening. When people start sharing how they are feeling and what they are going through, think about new and better ways you can serve them.
Time to get user friendly
Google’s Core Web Vitals are the latest in a series of updates to the search engine algorithm that prioritize someone’s experience with your website. The update, which comes out in May, evaluates the speed, responsiveness and visual stability of your website, which will affect your ranking in search engines.
If you haven’t done any user experience work in the past, this is the perfect time to get started. And you don’t need a huge budget to revamp your entire online experience at once.
Take one step at a time. Plan the ideal customer journey and see if your customers follow it. You can install a tool like Hotjar or Crazy Egg to see how users navigate your website, ask them about the experience through a pop-up survey, and then make corrections to each.
Reconciling existing and new customer activities
In a recent Gartner survey of CMOs, they found that 73% primarily focus on existing customers to drive their growth. And while your current customers certainly matter, there are opportunities to build a broader network in today’s landscape.
COVID has disrupted our routines and some supply chains. Customers have experimented with new brands out of choice or necessity, and many of these new buyer behaviors are likely to persist.
Now is a good time to start a full-scale campaign to introduce your brand to new customers who may be looking for an alternative.
Lead on purpose
A public health crisis, social justice demonstrations, political uncertainty, climate change – we are all facing fundamental challenges right now. And people are looking for companies to run.
A survey conducted by B Corps and ReGenerate found that 72% of the UK public believe that in addition to maximizing profits, businesses should have a legal responsibility to the planet and people.
But understand that transparency and authenticity are crucial here. Before making a statement or embarking on “socially conscious marketing”, look at your business through the public eye and ask a few questions:
- How diverse is your board of directors?
- How sustainable is your supply chain?
- What transparency do you have across the supply chain to check how people are being treated?
- Do you have business practices that are harmful to the environment?
- What is the wage gap between your highest and lowest paid employees?
The public sees through brands that do not do justice to the values they project. So make sure your house is fine before saying anything.
Invest in yourself
The year ahead will continue to be uncertain, and there will still be big changes in how we work, shop, play, connect and have fun.
One of the best ways to prepare is to invest in your own skills and knowledge. Not only can this increase your confidence, but it can also make you more resilient and adaptable.
Learning a programming language like Python, developing your critical and strategic thinking skills through LinkedIn learning courses, or simply reading and listening to trends in your environment is a good place to start.
So there you have it – 7 ways to make your marketing more effective in the year ahead.
Download your free copy of Hallam’s The Future of Digital Marketing (2021 Edition) to delve deeper into some of the more tactical activities on various channels.