The Train Has Left the Station
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to understand that the pandemic has changed the world forever — and impacted every part of society. Though vaccines are expected to ease some of the restrictions of 2020, in 2021, our world and the things we took for granted have been permanently altered. With this frame of reference in mind, let’s take a look at some of the marketing trends and challenges for 2021.
Distance Socially, Converge Digitally
Digital marketing is everything. Digital is now the commute, the lab, the research center, the front office, the back office, shipping, and customer service. Virtually everything has a connection to the digital domain. The challenge to marketing is how to exploit audience interactions at every level to create demand. For marketers, it’s not a big deal — marketing thrives on challenges and pivots better than other professions.
E-commerce bears a special mention because it has taken over retailing. While it has a strong foothold in B2B, it’s still far behind when compared to retail. The same platforms which drive retail are available to B2B. Businesses which adopt these platforms and exploit their features, efficiency, and experiential nature will be the winners in 2021.
Trade shows are in the same boat as cruise ships. Consider the impact of the pandemic to the trade show industry: Convention centers and associated labor for booth setup and teardown, travel, hotels, restaurants and entertainment, trade organizations sponsoring the shows, vendors, show participants — the list goes on, and the financial impact is in the billions. Even with a vaccine, it’s unlikely that trade shows will bounce back for 2021, and while virtual trade shows have become more accepted, they still don’t replace face-to-face interaction because of format, content and programming issues. These will be solved, however, and the virtual experience will get better. Perhaps there will be the breakthrough application for the much-hyped augmented reality experiences that are coming.
Content marketing will continue to be the best way to reach your audience. Have you noticed that “working from home” has taken on a new meaning? Gone are the days when you envied someone who was able to work from home. Human people thrive on interaction with other people, and while the best interactions are interpersonal, it isn’t happening while Covid is in town. Companies have had to reconsider how they interact with customers, especially in the area of Sales. Sales reps are not making sales calls like they used to. Companies are turning to their marketing groups to step up and provide content which offers “how-to” solutions to address their customers’ challenges, and that can pave the way for virtual sales calls.
Community marketing. Streaming channels have turned the entertainment industry upside down by offering targeted content (narrowcast as opposed to broadcast). As the internet has matured, audiences are being offered more choices with narrower content, and this has created communities of people sharing interests, information, and experiences. In a B2B setting, professional communities offer the marketer a target-rich environment. These sites and communities exist in the professional realm around businesses, professions, and demographics.
Communication – rising above the noise is the challenge. It’s a level playing field (outside of budgets and resources) in the realm of marketing. When everybody is shouting digitally, it’s hard to be heard. Getting closer to the customer is nothing new, but it matters more than ever in a world filled with noise. A key trend is involving your audience in the creation of the content, whether it’s in the form of topics that interest them, or broader issues, like diversity, inclusion, sustainability or climate change.
Technology-driven. As the B2B working population ages, digital natives are proliferating in the workforce. They thrive on technology, and things like autonomous devices, intelligent agents, AI, and AR are set to become equally ubiquitous. While these offer efficiency, they lack the human touch that previous generations expected. Time marches on.
Words of Wisdom
A new year brings new opportunities, and even in these tough times, companies are figuring out how to survive and prosper. The key going forward is to embrace the trends, and create a culture of continuous evaluation and optimization of your marketing strategies.
If you need help with your 2021 digital marketing strategy and programs, contact us for a 30-minute consultation.