As we enter planning season with the new year on the horizon, where do we start? This is normally the time where we would reflect on the past year, to critically review what worked and what didn’t and refine our plans and budgets for the year ahead.
But 2020 has been no normal year; far from it. The best laid Marketing Plans for 2020 were disrupted beyond recognition as we were thrown into social and economic uncertainty. However, I truly believe that it would be wrong to simply write off 2020, as often it is the exceptional situations from which the best lessons can be learned. Now is most certainly the time to take stock, understand the impact on our future and to reimagine how we market in order to emerge in 2021 stronger.
It might be considered foolish to make predictions for the year ahead at a time where we still face much uncertainty, but personally I like to think of it as being bold; unless you are prepared to put some stakes in the ground, it is very difficult to move forward.
A New Era of Agile Marketing
For many years we have spoken about the need for business agility and the pandemic has shown that we can be agile when we are forced to be. Agility starts with a mind-set, a determination to take the right path rather than the easy path, to continually innovate and look for new and more effective ways of doing things.
My prediction is that there will be two types of marketers in 2021, those who long to get back to normal and re-instate their traditional marketing plans and those who are relishing the opportunity to be brave. It goes without saying that I personally favour the brave. It is time to ditch the annual marketing calendar and move to agile marketing. There is so much uncertainty still ahead of us, things will not simply go back to pre-pandemic normal; we need to continue to adapt, innovate and be brave.
Marketing Enabled Selling
Many organisations have relied on salespeople to network and cultivate relationships to fulfil their new business goals. This simply is not possible at the moment and marketing needs to step up to not just generate leads, but to build and cultivate these relationships.
For many years I have been talking about how more of the buying cycle is being conducted online, before the buyer is ready to engage with a salesperson; this has become the norm. As such, Marketing needs to get better at engaging with their target audience in the places they go for information. A more considered approach is required, where marketing engages in the small talk, delivers the value that creates relationships and cultivates interest.
Marketing also needs to help sales. We need to arm the salespeople with reasons to call, content to fuel discussions and substance to progress conversations where traditional networking is not possible.
Digital Centric Marketing
The pandemic got everyone talking about the importance of digital marketing. What I predict for 2021 is that smart organisations will move to ‘digital centric marketing’. What I mean by this is that digital should no longer be viewed as a set communication channels, but as the focal point of the new era of digital relationships.
Gone are the days where people go to your Websites to validate your credibility; they go to your website to engage with your organisation. If your website is not up to scratch and relationship focused, then you will struggle.
Omni channel marketing is key, engaging with people on socials, through content syndication and by cleverly designed cultivation and nurture programmes. Digital Centric Marketing does not broadcast what you do. It engages with your target audience about what they want to achieve.
From Social PR to Social Marketing
On a similar vein, I predict a major shift in the way we think about Social Media. I see many organisations taking a Social PR approach. They feel they need to have a social presence and their focus is on posting as much as possible on all channels.
Social Media can consume a lot of time and effort; it has to be used effectively. In 2021, marketers need to have a social strategy. A clear approach to utilising the different social channels and techniques to generate awareness, to facilitate engagement and to ultimately drive action. Every post has to have a reason and a purpose; social media is a powerful tool that has yet to deliver on its full potential as part of the marketing mix.
The Importance of Content
Digital Marketing, Social Marketing and Marketing-enabled Selling all rely on content. Not datasheets or brochures, but content that is thought provoking and delivers value to each specific target audience. Since the first lock-down we have seen a significant up-tick in the consumption of content, further validating the switch to digital engagement; we need to ensure we capitalise on this.
Producing content that focuses on the challenges of the target audience and adds real value to their thought process is key. Next year I see more organisations embracing Account Based Marketing where their content focuses on smaller segments of their target market and adds value by focusing on what is relevant and important for these organisations.
From Agency to Partnership
My final prediction for 2021 is a fundamental shift in the traditional way that marketers utilise agencies. I am going to go one step further and say that I believe the traditional agency model has had its day.
If we are to truly embrace marketing agility and create a digital centric model of engaging and building relationships, we cannot do this by operating in the same old way. The traditional model of briefing an agency on a project or campaign neither fosters agility nor an integrated approach – this has to change.
Marketers need to develop trusted partnerships with marketing companies that not only expand their capabilities but works with them to expand their thinking. For a marketing partner to add true value they need to be an integral part of your virtual team, understand what you are trying to achieve, help you connect the dots and navigate ‘what is possible’ in order to embrace the new world of agile marketing.
This blog was written by Gary Coville, the managing director of Cremarc, a marketing company that helps organisations to continually step forward in how they engage with their target market and drive results.