Marketers are community-minded people. We collaborate across multiple departments in our own companies, while keeping track of competitive players and ensuring we're deeply connected to the needs and goals of our customers.
So, to better understand what to expect or pay close attention to in 2021, I've connected with 20 marketing experts for their perspective.
While there is significant diversity of ideas and visions presented below, I love the common theme of how we're working toward a better future together, which is why my prediction is this: Marketing in 2021 will be more empathetic than ever.
I continue to believe in my mantra that marketing is powerful and must be used for good, not evil. That might sound overly simplistic, but I do believe it's paramount that marketers understand their influence and what a wonderful positive power it can be.
We are humans, serving humans. Whether B2B or B2C, customers are looking for brands they can trust to meet their needs and make their lives easier or more delightful. If we treat each person with loving kindness and respect, we'll be making the positive impact I know we can while building a stronger, more loyal base.
Here's what else 2021 has in store based on the predictions of this fabulous group of marketing leaders.
1. Marketers will plan asynchronous events that plug into the funnel.
Latané Conant, Chief Market Officer at 6sense, predicts: "This year saw an explosion of virtual events as marketers adapted to a changing world. While I suspect a lot of us are feeling some virtual burnout right now, there will still be a place for these kinds of events, even after we resume in-person ones. Imagine a virtual event running 24/7."
"Your prospects get triggered into the event as they proceed to the right steps in your funnel, and they engage with this event through multiple means, like Netflix meets Slack. There's video content they watch on-demand, there's a live stream playing on-site and there's a community of users and fans who create a unique and engaging place to be. Prospects learn about your solutions and then, after watching videos and chatting with others, they get directed immediately to your product team. Now that sounds like a virtual event worth attending!"
2. Community marketing will replace event-based marketing.
Adam Masur, VP of Marketing at Credly, told me: "The era of anchoring marketing around a big, industry event is coming to a close. We've all seen the annual conference go virtual due to the impact of COVID-19. But I expect hosts to find that their audience's appetite for the singular virtual gathering will wane, as well."
"Look for more intimate, and more topical online get-togethers in 2021. Experts with verified digital credentials and a willingness to share will be highly valued virtual community leaders and influencers."
"Companies should be ready to be active contributors and bring practical value to the conversation."
3. Businesses will find new ways to encourage online connections.
Kevin Alansky, Chief Marketing Officer at Higher Logic, says: "The virtual and digital-first world will continue in 2021 and possibly beyond. Many organizations have shifted their annual event and tradeshow to a virtual one. Many organizations have not succeeded, however, because they tried to replicate the experience on an outdated model. This has led to a flood in the number of virtual events and many people facing 'Zoom fatigue.'"
"Organizations are now wondering how to fight this overcrowded market and stand out against the rest. The answer is online communities — how do you engage before, during, and after your event? We need to find ways to better engage our audiences and build meaningful connections between our organizations and our customers. We are seeing the demand for engagement already this year and this will continue to be a big trend through 2021."
4. The interactivity that's been promised for decades is now a necessity for 2021.
Jake Milstein, CMO at CI Security, told me: "When the pandemic hit, there was a huge spike in registrations and attendance in virtual events that attempted to mimic in-person events. Attendance at those events lasted a month or two and then dropped off quickly. People are looking for more human interactions — something out of the norm. Webinars just don't do it anymore."
"People are now interested in discussions and panels in which they can ask questions, they can be part of the action, they can offer their own expertise. That's not something you could do when watching someone on-stage, but we all know it's something you can do online. The interactivity that's been promised for decades is now a necessity for 2021."
5. Customer-centricity will propel brands forward.
Natalie Severino, VP, Marketing at Chorus.ai, predicts: "Throughout the many challenges of 2020, revenue teams have been able to weather the storms and thrive by putting the customer at the center of every decision. This is only made possible through total alignment between sales, marketing, and customer teams, as all must rely on using the actual voice, pain points, and goals to create a winning partnership."
"While conventional methods of relationship building, like in-person meetings, may not be possible today (or simply don't scale quickly enough), entering 2021 provides us a paradigm shift for bringing relationships and shared business goals to the forefront of every opportunity."
6. Brands will navigate an increasingly polarized social and political climate.
"One of the biggest trends to watch in 2021 will be how brands navigate an increasingly polarized social and political climate. Presidential politics, the response to navigating the global pandemic, and an increasingly siloed media and social media landscape is forcing brands to make hard decisions about how and where they align with their customers."
"Every ad dollar spent, every choice of channel and platform, every social post, every inch of shelf space, and every conference or trade show will be evaluated through the lens of what a brand's marketing decisions say about who they are and what they stand for," says Tim Linberg, Chief Experience Officer at Verndale.
Revenue and Budget
7. A/B Testing will become a waste of time and budget.
R. J. Talyor, CEO and Founder at Pattern89, says: "The next decade will see the end of A/B testing. Marketers have long relied on validating their intuition with A/B tests to guide creative advertising and marketing decisions — however, the rise of AI makes this not only obsolete, but wasteful."
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