By Will Tinson, Head of Business Development at Maxx Design
If 2020 taught businesses anything, it’s that they can never be too prepared. After a year in which many companies struggled, the New Year is the ideal time to reflect, plan ahead and be ready to make the most of what is already shaping up to be another turbulent 12 months.
Having a clear and focused marketing strategy is more important than ever; businesses need to cut through the noise and ensure they are reaching all the right people in an increasingly virtual world. By unpacking some predictions for the marketing industry in 2021, it becomes clear how companies should be spending their time and money to give themselves the best chance at success.
Conversational marketing became more prominent and important than ever in 2020. In a year shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, brands and companies have focused on being more human and warm in their approach to communications.
With so many industries working from home, people’s personal lives are far less separate from their professional lives. Through video calling, we are connecting in ways that are less corporate and that encourage a more human approach. This has changed how companies now build relationships with customers, and this is only set to continue as lockdowns around the world are still enforced.
Going forward, brands should implement conversational marketing in a meaningful way, offering customers the opportunity to connect. Doing so will have a strong impact on a business’ reputation and this could well set them apart in a busy virtual world.
Content that matters
Inbound marketing is often known as ‘content marketing’, due to the commonly used method of distributing engaging, relevant content across multiple marketing channels. Costing 61% less than outbound marketing and up to ten times more effective if executed correctly, this strategy is sure to see a swift uptake in 2021.
More B2B marketers than ever before are documenting their content strategies, with more than 41% doing so in 2020. This figure has been steadily increasing over the last couple of years – 39% in 2019 and 37% in 2018 – pointing to a further increase in 2021.
However, what’s really interesting is the fact that a documented content marketing strategy seems to be directly linked to success. When looking at B2B marketers with successful strategies, 69% document them compared to just 16% of the companies who are least successful with their marketing.
It is quite clear that failing to plan really does mean that you’re planning to fail when it comes to content marketing; businesses should be actively recording their strategies for 2021 in order to make the most of their efforts.
A survey by The Influencer Marketing Hub showed that the ROI for influencer marketing is estimated at £6 for every £1 spent, and in some cases, it has been reported to be as high as £20 or more. Not only this, more than 50% of marketers feel customers gained through influencer marketing are better for their long-term business. They spend more money, leading to higher average order values (AOV), and are happy to share their experiences about the product or service as well, leading to additional customers gained indirectly as a result of the initial marketing campaign.
With influencer marketing perceived as the fastest-growing method of obtaining new customers, the same survey showed that 63% of businesses who already budget for influencer marketing intend to increase their spending over the next 12 months.
Between 2017 and 2019, the influencer market exploded. But, as the industry developed, businesses realised that the size of an influencer’s audience wasn’t always the most important factor; those who had a more engaged audience typically yielded better results. As a result, micro influencers – who have been shown to have a higher engagement rate by 42% – have become the go-to, and this is likely to continue in 2021.
Socially conscious audiences
Consumers today are more socially aware than ever before. Gen-Z and Alpha actively engage in conversations surrounding social issues like mental health, equality, education, and climate change. As a result, many consumers now consciously search for brands that have social values in line with theirs, while avoiding those which may diverge.
Beyond this, consumers are increasingly looking for companies that are actively invested in the betterment of society and the solution of social problems; consumers can see beyond words alone and are looking for real action. Companies who prioritise “making an impact” on the world around them are much more likely to be perceived well, in addition to those who are open and honest about their efforts. In particular, millennials want companies to give customers the opportunity to be involved in these initiatives, so they can actively give back too.
More than ever before, businesses must identify their values and communicate them with their customers and potential customers. Engaging audiences in positive conversations and demonstrating your support and involvement in different causes will go a long way to engage young audiences and gain loyal customers.
Particularly in 2021, when the physical distance between brands and customers is wider than ever before, finding ways to form a meaningful relationship with your customer base is absolutely crucial.
Considering that 78% of salespeople that are engaged in social selling are outselling their peers who are not (LinkedIn, 2020), it is vital that businesses are encouraging employees to build their own personal brand. Doing so allows employees to build more trust with colleagues, clients and the wider industry, boosting their reputation and encouraging potential clients to reach out. Whilst we work remotely and our opportunities to network in person are cut off, there is a strong need for salespeople and key company personnel to build their personal brands.
As an example, the LinkedIn algorithm favours personal accounts over company pages; content will gain more traction if shared by key stakeholders rather than just uploading it to your company page. Not only this, personal brands increase the likelihood of referrals: when referred by other clients, customers have a 37% higher retention rate. They typically also have more trust and confidence in your business than a client that has no previous history with you.
In 2021, businesses should be setting their people up to succeed by encouraging them to talk more online, giving opinions, advice and insights into their career and life. Marketing teams can support them to create engaging content so that it doesn’t take up too much of their time.
When considering website optimization strategies for 2021, businesses should have accessibility and user experience as their main objectives. Whilst accessibility is a broad term, the main factors that should be considered are; a continuous shift to mobile devices; transparency and disclosure of information; and properly interpreting user intent. Businesses must make it a priority to build a web strategy that is focused first on audience need. By providing a great user experience, brands will more easily be able to deliver their message and generate results.
Whilst previous web strategies might have resulted in reems of content and unnecessary web pages for the sake of keyword rankings, this is now no longer an effective way of securing a customer’s or potential customer’s attention. The amount of attention that people are willing to give to a website is decreasing every year, so brands need to be able to rapidly make a statement, qualify the visitor and take action.
If 2020 was a year for saving, then 2021 is a year for investing. Despite much uncertainty around what the next 12 months will hold, there will always be endless opportunities available for brands to take advantage of. Prioritising marketing in the right way will support businesses in getting the best results possible.