I’m not going to waste your time dwelling on how difficult and crazy this year has been for everyone, not just in sales and marketing. Instead, let’s get straight into the good stuff. I’ve put together a brain dump of my thoughts regarding marketing trends going in 2021 and where I think you should be investing your money.
I’ve scoured the web for great articles, insights and statistics to help me form my opinions, I’ve linked all of these at the end of this article. Intrigued? Well read on…
Here’s a summary of everything I’m about to cover (prize for anyone that reads it all!):
Content (inbound) strategy
Why you should be producing video
Socially conscious audiences
Paid, organic reach and SEO
Websites & UX in 2021
Don’t forget print!
Where to invest next year
1. Conversational marketing
Another buzz term to add to the list but it’s pretty self explanatory and for me has become more prominent and important than ever in 2020. Brands and companies are clearly becoming more human when it comes to their marketing and communications. I think this has been caused by a number of factors;
Lockdown giving us a better insight into people’s lives through video calling
Technology developments such as live streaming being used far more
People clearly being more empathetic and supportive in business environments than ever before
This has translated into how we build real relationships with customers and I think it’s only set to continue. This for me is why I put so much emphasis on the importance of building personal brands on LinkedIn. I go into this in a little more detail later on.
2. Content (inbound) strategy
Let’s be clear, outbound marketing is basically interrupting your potential customers with hopeful sales pitches (e.g. adverts, cold calling, email sequences, gated content etc).
Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. Inbound marketing is often referred to as ‘content marketing’ which in simple terms means distributing greater quantities of engaging, relevant and contextual information across multiple marketing channels. Inbound leads cost 61% less on average than outbound leads… and you’re not annoying anyone. Properly executed inbound marketing is 10x more effective if you practice patience.
69% of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy:
More B2B marketers than ever before are documenting their content strategies, with 41% saying this is the case this year. This figure has been increasing slightly over the last couple of years, rising from 39% in 2019 and 37% in 2018.
However, what’s really interesting is the fact that a documented content marketing strategy seems to be 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.
This suggests that failing to plan really does mean you’re planning to fail when it comes to content marketing.
Producing good content at scale is very difficult to achieve in house and that’s why 84% of B2B marketers are outsourcing content generation.
If you are going into 2021 without a social media strategy in place or a way of consistently producing and distributing content, I urge you to email me at [email protected] – more than anything I talk about in this article, this is the most important… you’re already behind, let’s get you back on track.
Read my full article on content (inbound) marketing here.
3. Influencer strategies
A survey by The Influencer Marketing Hub (partnered with Viral Nation and NeoReach) showed 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.
Over 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 Influencer Marketing Hub survey showed that 63% of businesses who do budget for influencer marketing intend to increase their spending over the next 12 months.
When you hear ‘influencer marketing’, what do you think? Do you imagine a celebrity posing in a new t-shirt offering a discount code to their 2million instagram followers? Well, that’s one side of influencer marketing…
Influencer marketing, however, goes much deeper than this. Between 2017-2019 influencer marketing went crazy. Soon, however, some clever people realised that it wasn’t about the size of someone’s audience it was about how engaged they were. More niche B2B and B2C brands have started using ‘micro-influencers’ within their industry to make a significant impact on their audiences without it being corny or obvious.
Micro-influencers have a 41.7% higher engagement rate.
Markerly’s analysis of over 800,000 Instagram influencer accounts showed on average the higher the follower count of an Instagram influencer, the lower the rate of engagement.
4. You need to produce more video
Here’s 4 reasons why you should be using more video in 2021:
83% of video marketers say video has helped them generate leads.
84% of people say that they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video.
95% of video marketers said they felt they’d increased understanding of their product or service using video.
93% of brands got a new customer because of a video on social media.
There are so many different types of video you can produce from animations to talking heads and promotional videos, don’t think that you always have to have a huge budget or production either. Here’s 4 different client videos (and an internal video that shows you can still have fun in lockdown!) we have produced at MAXX this year all ranging in budgers and production setup:
Purley Park Trust (https://youtu.be/n2QUExHWEZ8)
The Downs School (https://youtu.be/DtvGeapfzQU)
John Rankin Schools (https://youtu.be/_LT37l9K1K4)
MAXX: Virtually Anything is Possible (https://www.facebook.com/125173214186747/videos/569108193724290)
5. 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. They consciously search for brands with social values that are in line with theirs, while avoiding those which aren’t.
Millennials are looking for four major qualities in socially responsible companies:
They want companies to be actively invested in the betterment of society and the solution of social problems.
They want companies that prioritise “making an impact” on the world around them.
They want companies to be open and honest about their efforts — and to be public about their pro-social initiatives.
Finally, millennials want companies to involve their customers in their good works. They want an opportunity to give back — whether it’s with a gift of their time or their money.
It’s pretty simple, figure out what your brand values are and start to communicate them more than ever before. Engage your audience in positive conversations and show that you’re actively supporting movements and change. This is simply the best way to engage with a young audience that will either already be your target audience or soon will be.
6. Personal Brands
78% of salespeople engaged in social selling are outselling their peers who are not (LinkedIn, 2020).
A personal brand allows you to build more trust between your colleagues, clients and industry. It boosts your reputation and motivates others to want to do business with you. Now more than ever, there is a strong need for salespeople and key company personnel to build personal brands.
Yes, a lot of the benefits of personal brands come over a long period of time, however, there’s obvious ways it can benefit your business right now. For example, the LinkedIn algorithm massively favours personal accounts over company pages so your content will gain more traction being shared by your key stakeholders to their networks than just uploading it to your page.
Personal brands also increase the likelihood of referrals. When referred by other clients, customers have a 37% higher retention rate, they also often come on board with far more trust and confidence than a client that has no history working with you.
My advice to businesses is simple. Get your top sales people and your owners to start talking more online, giving opinions, advice and insights into their careers and life. Your marketing team (or agency) will be able to support them and create engaging content so they just have to come up with stuff they want to say.
7. My thoughts on paid and organic reach
I wish people would stop judging the success of paid campaigns solely on clever sounding metrics… I mean yes, your CTRs and CPCs are important but are people actually converting into paying customers?
From a B2C perspective it’s pretty easy to track campaign performance because the sales journey is simple:
User clicks on ad (costs business £X) > User buys product (generates £X revenue).
From a B2B perspective it’s often harder to track the monetary performance of a paid campaign as it really just forms part of a multi-channel inbound campaign. I like to look at it really simply… If your average customer spends £20,000 in their first year with you and your ad campaign cost £10,000. Even if you only generate one trackable customer directly from that campaign, it’s a 100% ROI.
I always say the same thing when it comes to paid advertising and SEO. It really doesn’t matter if you’re getting 20,000 clicks, 1mill reach, 8p conversions… I have seen SO many companies run great ad campaigns but fail to convert their traffic due to poor performing websites and landing pages.
The table above includes findings from HubSpot research in January 2020 showing different ways marketers improved their conversion rates. As you can see, A/B testing their landing pages is done fairly frequently. This means having two different landing pages with varying content and CTAs, reviewing the data and seeing which performed best with regards to user engagement and conversions.
Use Linkedin and Tiktok for the most organic (free) reach potential and fastest audience growth. Although Facebook and Instagram ads are competitive, I still think they have another year of being disproportionately undervalued.
8. My thoughts on websites in 2021
When you’re considering website optimisation in your 2021 strategy, accessibility and user experience should be your main objectives.
Accessibility is a broad term, but there are a few main things I focus on: a continuous monumental shift to mobile devices, transparency and disclosure of information, and properly interpreting user intent. In 2021, build your web strategy around your audience’s needs first. Providing a great user experience will allow you to more easily deliver your message and generate actions from your visitors.
The days of filling your website with reels of content and unnecessary pages for the sake of keyword rankings are gone. The amount of attention someone is willing to give to a website is decreasing year on year. You need to make a statement, qualify your visitor and get them to take action within minutes. We’re working with a lot of our clients on understanding their customer journey and how that reflects with regards to user experience. We are trying to simplify everything.
You can see from HubSpot’s market research earlier this year that backlinking is dead. Google hates it and it’s something to avoid. The new age of SEO tactics are around mobile optimisation, load speed and content.
Are you currently investing in SEO? Roughly 50% of marketers currently consider SEO tactics to be very effective in helping them achieve their goals. If it’s something you shy away from then it’s the obvious area of marketing to outsource to a specialist agency. Good job I know one of them eh?
9. Please, don’t forget the power of print
The reason you forget about print is the reason it’s now so effective – just do it properly and make it memorable.
Surprisingly in our digital age, consumers continue to retain a significantly higher level of information (around 30%) from printed material than digital text. This factor increases the chance that a message will be understood and not diluted by distractions.
Your organisation’s message in a printed brochure or mailer – accompanied by beautiful photographs – is something people can touch and feel, creating a physical interaction between you and your audience.
You might have heard about websites being ‘sticky’, that is, people stick around and explore the site. However, nothing is more metaphorically ‘sticky’ than print! Research in neuromarketing reveals that print has a much higher retention rate than digital content as well as having more persuasive messages.
Finally, I bet you run email campaigns? Well, 80% of direct mail is opened and consumed while 80% of emails are disregarded (just 20% average read rate).
10. Where do I think you should be investing your marketing budget in 2021?
Producing as much video as possible (insights, testimonials, updates, case studies, behind the scenes and so on…)
Increasing the amount of valuable free content you are sharing
Scaling up your social media activity
Building personal brands on LinkedIn
Improving your website UX and customer journey
2020 was a year for saving, 2021 is a year for investing. If you didn’t make the most of the opportunities that were available during the last 12-months of uncertainty then you should be thinking about how you can make up for it next year.
As always if you’re interested in discussing any of these topics in more detail, or just want to talk through your strategy you can book a time to chat with me using my personal diary here.