There’s no denying that 2020 has been a challenging year for many marketers. Shifting consumer behavior, fiscal uncertainty, and work-from-home arrangements have posed challenges for both strategy and execution. Many of these factors will influence the marketing trends for 2021. To help unpack the lessons from the last year that might be most valuable in the next one, we reached out to marketers and business leaders across industries and around the world.
While their answers varied between industries and businesses, a few common themes emerged. Some are planning to return to old methods disrupted by the pandemic, while others are doubling down on new methods. Almost all are reinvesting in content and reassessing the value of human connection, particularly as it applies to influencer marketing. Unsurprisingly, many marketers are planning to use video as a core element in their strategies.
Community Building for 2021
“Everything is different and companies must adapt,” says business innovator, Brooks Conkle. People are spending more time at home, working, cooking, and doing renovation projects. Reaching customers in this new environment will require a strong digital presence across multiple platforms.
“As long as you know your customers, you can figure out where they hang out online and meet them there to connect and build relationships,” Conkle says.
Most marketers agree that relationships and connections are more important than ever. They are seeking out ways to build trust and community for customers.
Jason Akatiff, co-founder of Boundery, is betting on social media platforms as a key channel for marketers in 2021. “Especially in this time of a global pandemic, it is important to never underestimate the power and need for human connection. Many of us are resorting to spending that time connecting online in forums, chats, and Facebook groups,” Akatiff says. “This type of marketing requires time commitment, patience, and strategy but ultimately delivers high rewards.”
The value of community almost can’t be overstated as David Meltzer of East Insurance Group explains. “If there’s one thing that this pandemic taught us it’s that customer loyalty pays huge dividends during a time of crisis,” Meltzer says. “They will be there with you through the storm if they know you can add value to their lives.”
Interesting videos, engaging text, and eye-catching images can help encourage community building on social media channels and beyond. But some companies are bringing their community building efforts into the physical world.
“Our biggest takeaway from this year is that many of our customers haven’t been as close with family and friends as they used to be, so we have tried to take it a step further to let them know that we are always there for them if they are going through tough times,” says Brady Kirkpatrick, Editor of Gun Made. He’s asked his team to note client interests so they can send personalized client appreciation gifts throughout the year. “This lets the client know that you’re always thinking about them and care more about them as a person rather than just their business with you.”
Influencer Marketing Drives Engagement
Influencer marketing was one tactic that popped up again and again in our conversations with marketers and business leaders. Marketers see influencers as a way to build trust and grow their audiences.
“The beauty of using social media and influencer marketing to generate sales is that they can be utilized in just about every industry, whether you’re selling a physical product or a service,” says Brian Lim, CEO of Into the AM and iHeartRaves. He plans to use influencer marketing to promote both social media platforms. Although engagement dropped off in 2020, next year he hopes to resume paid influencer collaborations and work with brand-aligned diverse content creators while testing different kinds of video content across his channels.
Allan Borch, growth hacker and founder of Dotcom Dollar also plans to use influencer marketing. While paid influencers will be part of the mix, he also hopes to showcase more user-generated content. “With the fame of applications like TikTok, the creation of content even by typical individuals became a trend in recent years,” Borch says.
Video supports marketing goals
When people spend more time at home, they spend less time shopping, eating out, and interacting with businesses in the real world. Marketer and copywriter James Blews sees video as the clear solution to this potential lack of connection. “There is a growing disconnect that marketers must overcome for customers in 2021. So, everyone from landscapers to real estate agents to credit unions will need to use more and more video to stay connected to people.” He recommends using more live video to create real connections.
Tonya Davis, Marketing Manager at language learning site Frenchplanations agrees. “In 2021, I think we are going to see video content become a much larger platform for marketers. Many marketers already know how powerful and influential this medium can be, and it’s only going to continue to grow.” Davis adds that, “video greatly extends your organic reach and it’s a great way to build relationships with your consumers no matter where they are within your sales funnel.”
Of course, the rise of TikTok and Instagram Reels is making video more immediate and more vital than ever before. “Video is becoming more relevant day by day,” says Gainful co-founder, Eric Wu. “Furthermore, we are noticing a shift in the type of video content audiences are searching for and consuming. Quick, educational, and attention-grabbing content is far outperforming the visually stimulating and aspirational content that was favored in previous years.”
But social media isn’t the only place that marketers are using video. They’re also adding it to their websites, sending it in emails, using it for virtual events, and even building video chatbots.
Stanley Tate of Tate Law recently experimented with adding a video chatbot to his website. He loaded the bot with a number of pre-recorded videos to guide homepage visitors to schedule a call. The results were staggering, improving his conversion rates by 654%.
Marketing trends for 2021 and beyond
It looks like using video and influencers to strengthen community connections will be the cornerstone of many marketing plans in 2021. But marketing trends for 2021 are likely to shift as the year unfolds. Many marketers are hesitant to overcommit to any single tactic or strategy. “I’m sure that the coming year will require even more patience and flexibility from marketers,” says Greenice CMO Kateryna Reshetilo. “We all have to learn to think big and create plans, but be ready to improvise.”
In practice, that will mean that marketers must be ready to pivot in response to changing markets. While this has always been true to some degree, the speed of change is likely to be accelerated in 2021.
“I think 2021 will require marketers to double down on their strongest tactics but also do some experimentation because the landscape is definitely different than what we’re used to,” says Petra Odak, chief marketing officer of Better Proposals.
Based on what we’ve heard from the marketers and business leaders we talked to, they seem ready to face the challenge. For help creating quality live-action and animated videos that engage your audience and build community, reach out to the video experts at IdeaRocket.