Predictions for What Marketing Will Hold in 2021

December 9, 2020

Live With Marketers: Alex Rynne, Brittany Blanchard, and Shama Hyder

I recently read a blog post of predictions for small business owners in 2020. It was written in November 2019. The top concern was that record low unemployment rates would make it hard for business owners to find good help.

That post read like a dispatch from a parallel universe. It was a potent reminder of just how much our lives changed this year, and how much uncertainty lies ahead. 

Fortunately, marketers are adaptive by nature. We like to try new things, optimize our processes, keep what works and keep searching for better solutions. We traded the office for the home office, learned to work surrounded by distractions (pets, kids, significant others, noisy neighbors and more).

It’s been a challenging year, for certain. And while we have reason to hope 2021 will be easier, it’s unlikely to be anything resembling “normal.” But as you find the best path forward, our team is here to help.

On our final Live with Marketers broadcast of 2020, I’ll host an expert panel to discuss what worked this year, what didn’t, and what to carry forward into the new year. Join me, Brittany Blanchard, and Shama Hyder on Tuesday, December 15th for the show. You can register here. 

In the meantime, here’s a quick roundup of predictions and advice from marketing experts around the world.

Proving ROI Is Essential

Before the pandemic, marketers were already being tasked to focus more on the business outcomes of their efforts. In the post-pandemic landscape, proving ROI will be even more crucial. Marketers will need every bit of proof they can muster to justify continued investment, especially as organizations continue to tighten their budgets.

In a recent article, Marketing Insider Group CEO Michael Brenner recommends a five-step approach:

  1. Clearly identify KPIs aligned with business mission.
  2. Identify the metrics that will work as a unit to tell a value story.
  3. Identify the sources of those metrics and pull into a dashboard using connectors.
  4. Create an algorithm that weights each metric in relation to their importance to the “story.”
  5. Analyze performing and non-performing metrics for each KPI on a periodic basis and use them to calibrate your approach.

Agile Marketers Will Lead the Pack

One major lesson from 2020: There’s no such thing as normal, and there’s no such thing as certainty. Rather than planning for every possible contingency, marketers need to be agile enough to weather whatever 2021 throws our way. 

This type of agility requires data to understand customers’ changing needs, and a willingness to find innovative ways to meet these needs. For inspiration, the team at Deloitte Insights recommends looking to the music industry. “Instead of concerts in arenas, performances moved to social media. Artist debuts shifted to smartphones...performers partnered with video game publishers and platforms to produce interactive in-game shows and new music streams.” Paying to watch a concert online would have been unthinkable in November of 2019, but hundreds of people bought their virtual tickets this year. 

We saw the same shift for marketers as well, as trade shows and conferences moved online. We fast-tracked LinkedIn Events to help our customers meet that new demand. 

Marketers who can spot new ways to fill customers’ needs will be well-equipped to lead, no matter what 2021 has in store. 

Consumers Demand Social Awareness and Action

Even as the pandemic dominated our consciousness in 2020, it was also a year of social upheaval and political action. Brands that engaged in the discussion--and even took action— were able to better connect with customers and earn their trust. 

Josh Cole, CMO of Sky Zone, observes that, “No previous generation has been as demanding of their employers to demonstrate a corporate social conscience. Brand marketers will feel compelled and inspired to push their organizations to take meaningful stands on social issues.” Examples like Peloton’s partnership with HCBUs and beauty brand Glossier’s donations to Black-owned businesses show how brands can participate in social causes in an authentic and meaningful way.

The LinkedIn Marketing team took the initiative to reflect on diversity and inclusion in marketing as well, looking inward to our own team as well as helping educate our marketing audience on the subject.

Get Expert Advice to Prepare for 2021

If you’re like me, you have heard enough about “unprecedented,” “tumultuous,” or “uncertain” times to last a lifetime. If 2021 is anything like this year has been, we’re going to have to come up with some new cliches.

But regardless of what the coming year brings, we’ll find new ways to get by — and even get ahead — together. 

Join us for our Live with Marketers broadcast on the 15th, and we’ll start the journey.

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