This year the questions were as this: what is the true ROI of the events in attendance? And that money, can it be better used elsewhere? How can we make our brand more authentic and human?
The skill that helps companies progress in times of rapid change is the ability to adapt. 2021 will undoubtedly be a crucial year for marketing because the focus is increasingly online, presenting the usual challenge of standing out in a digital landscape where many talk and few listen.
Before we delve into what marketing should take into account in the 2021 planning and budget, let’s see some general aspects.
According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer Survey 2020, 70% said trust in the brand is more important today than in the past. It was the lack of honesty the main reason why people began to distrust companies. And while it remains the most reliable entrepreneurial aspect, confidence in technology also declined by 4% from 2019 to 2020– the most significant year-on-year decline compared to any other sector.
According to the same Edelman survey, the people considered most credible were the company’s technical experts, followed by the people the respondent considered most like him. The least credible people were successful CEOs and entrepreneurs.
3. Need to eliminate complexity
According to Gartner’s Buyer enablement survey, more than 3 out of 4 people said the latest B2B buying process was very complicated. Solving this challenge doesn’t just depend on sales, as the boundary between marketing and sales activities becomes blurred.
And still in this trend, according to Forrester Research, 74% of B2B shoppers say they do more than half of their online research, and younger shoppers, such as millennials, 9 times out of 10, prefer to do their initial search online before interacting with sales.
Just like in a personal relationship, trust is not transactional, but must be built over the years. The myopic vision of focusing only on what is best for our business right now, neglecting to capitalize on authenticity and trust, is very dangerous.
So in 2021?
1. Show and tell
Brands need to make a decisive shift towards demonstrating value. People are looking for answers to solve real problems and are increasingly skeptical about “we do everything for everyone,” legacy statements from the dot-com boom.
Your technology or software is memorable, but your customer asks if they work in their environment and especially how. The generic doesn’t work. It’s crucial not only to tell, but to show what makes you say what you say.
In addition to interactive content, the multi-format content that stimulates the senses will continue to grow. But there is no solution suitable for all content formats. Some prefer to read, others to listen, and some would like to participate in a discussion in presence or in conferences. Multi-format remains the center, but regardless of format, if your vision is supported by credible and engaging information, people will start listening.
2. From monologues to conversations
Marketing has never been a one-way street, but it has often become a monologue. Generic advertising and quasi-spam LinkedIn messages: nothing out of the ordinary that shoppers have become deaf. Interpreting marketing as conversation means considering context and abandoning compulsive selling. And it takes place in different forms, LinkedIn to begin with.
Linkedin has become Facebook for business. It is natural to share and scroll on the platform every day to stay connected to the world outside the zoom window. In addition to publishing and discussing topics of interest on LinkedIn, companies are using it to offer potential customers privileged treatment.
In addition to LinkedIn, there is a whole new category of startups that offer conversational AI solutions. The idea is nothing new, so use what you know about a person to provide a frictionless experience.
- Ask and recognize: I saw you join a demo of the product last week, how did it seem to you?
- Learning and understanding: I think it could be a good solution. How much is it?
- Guide and suggest: here are our prices. Do you want me to connect with someone who can help you clarify your questions right away?
3. Elevate your brand voice
As the internet becomes more niche, businesses will have more places to reach their target audience. Beyond traditional social channels, Google and advertising networks, we are starting to see the emergence of new channels. For example, I hear more and more companies experimenting with Quora, Youtube, Reddit advertising, and Medium blogs.
In addition to advertising, 2021 will bring more strategic partnerships to the fore. We’ll probably start seeing more joint online events as businesses join others that submit complementary offers. Leveraging partnerships can help you reach more people than any brand could do on its own.
4. Goodbye to vanity metrics
Metrics should not only be a source of praise, but a resource to help us make smart decisions and predict future outcomes. The line between marketing and sales teams is becoming increasingly blurry. If the two groups don’t have a shared goal, then something’s wrong. Marketing might set the strategy, tasks, and content to put on the market, but sales are often the ones that deliver it tactically.
So, if not vanity metrics, what should companies pay attention to? There is a shift towards “strategic” and broad-spectrum metrics. Both are essential but serve different purposes.
Strategic metrics help marketers make informed decisions about resource allocation and what initiatives to prioritize, such as account engagement, pipeline speed, and closing rate.
Broad-spectrum metrics, on the other hand, focus on business performance metrics where marketing plays a significant role. They can help make predictions about a company’s health and growth status, such as qualified sales contacts, initial and upsell revenue, and customer acquisition costs.
Focusing teams and business on three quality metrics is better than 10 of the wrong ones.
An authentic and credible narrative will improve thanks to new data, tools and a general mindset away from user acquisition and towards human interactions. It might sound subtle, but it’s critical to the way people relate to the products they buy and choose.
With past marketing errors behind them, B2B marketing leaders can become active in improving their marketing operations and building strategies that traverse a crowded digital landscape. That, at least, is the hope.
Cover: photo by Patrick Perkins