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A Marketer’s Guide to 2021

In early December 2020, we hosted an event for marketers, by marketers to celebrate (yes, celebrate) 2020 wins and discuss how the last year is informing marketing strategies for 2021.

A simple reflection on 2020 brings up a lot of emotions – it was a trying year, both personally and professionally, but it was also a year of growth for many; and, while there were many negatives, we wanted to focus on the positive aspects of this year to share and inspire marketers around the globe.

You know them. They’re the ones who welcomed March by tearing their carefully laid plans to shreds and scraping together new marketing strategies of how to forge ahead. The ones who dropped the pretences and expressed genuine compassion for their audiences. The ones who truly put into practice “agile” teamwork.

While every member of a marketing team made their mark this year (from the newly graduated admin to the CMO), we invited some of our friends and partners to join our panel of experts – Harmony Anderson from Outreach.io, Amanda Nelson from Salesforce, Sruthi Kumar from Sendoso, and Dan Dowling from Introhive – and asked them questions about their year and marketing strategies they would take into 2021.

Read on to learn how these leaders embraced change, pivoted strategically and remained agile and inspired through a chaotic year.

A Balancing Act of Events

As Dan Dowling states, “There is something very special about being among the energy on a trade show floor, being able to connect with your customers and prospects in person, shake their hand, read their body language, take them for a coffee.” Then Spring 2020 swooped in and changed all of our in-person event plans in a matter of weeks.

Marketing teams aggressively pivoted towards digital events, which will almost certainly disrupt the way we plan all events moving forward. Sure, physical events will thrive again when safe, but marketers are finally grasping how to make virtual events engaging, and more importantly, worthwhile.

Sruthi Kumar from Sendoso said it best, “You can’t have all your eggs in one basket. Going forward, we will always have the digital with in-person strategy. It’s so eye-opening. I don’t think any of us in any of our organizations will ever go all-in on one channel alone.”

Marketers Guide to 2021 - Sruthi Kumar

From our discussion and our attendee responses, it appears many organizations – no matter the industry – are planning a hybrid model moving forward.

Whether in-person or virtual, developing relationships at events is still instrumental. Having a tool that measures relationship intelligence adds an invaluable level of intelligence to your marketing team’s post-event analyses.

Content is [Still] King

Remember when we all went all-in on content? There’s still something to that. In times where digital leads the marketing strategy, there’s a fundamental need for interesting content to drive those channels.

But, put down your pen. You don’t need to write everything from scratch.

Amanda Nelson provided great guidance on this, saying, “Plan ahead to get the most out of your content and drive all your content back to a centralized place. We don’t need to necessarily be creating new content right now; we can always update or repurpose content to squeeze as much value from it as possible.”

Marketer's Guide to 2021 - Amanda Nelson

I find it helpful to use the 3 R’s of recycling when looking at a piece of content: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

  • Reduce: A deep bench of lacklustre material will not drive engagement from your audience. Focus your content on relevant, interesting topics that will inform and delight.
  • Reuse: Content should not be a one-and-done project. Instead, reuse your content in different mediums to uncover all the value it contains. Take a customer testimonial video, and re-imagine how else that content can be utilized: why not strip the audio for a podcast, take a quote for social media and write a blog about the testimonial?
  • Recycle: Just as plastic can go from a water bottle to a shoe (see: Rothy’s), so can your content. Instead of writing something new, browse your library of older content. I bet you will find gems you can dust off, update, and bring back to life.

Once you have your content mix at the ready, determine what channels you should use to get it in the right hands at the right time. Paramount to this strategy is a clean, accurate contact database that you can rely on to send relevant content to relevant (GDPR-compliant) email addresses.

Your Team is Your Superpower

I remember sitting in a Management lecture and learning about agile workforces. The idea of having a team with the talent to pivot according to the current environment made sense on paper – of course, that’s what you’d want. But, in the real world, we tend to hire for specific skills and experience, don’t we?

Enter 2020: this year, we collectively discovered the necessity of having an agile workforce.

As Daniel Dowling put it, “Look at the cultural impacts of going remote. For us, we learned we have really smart, really talented teams that are self-starters, and that there are actually a lot of benefits to working remotely. It was revolutionary for our organization.”

Harmony Anderson continued, “No matter what, your team absolutely has hidden talents and skillsets that you probably didn’t know about.”

Marketer's Guide to 2021 - Harmony Anderson

It’s time to reinvest in your people. Understand what other skills they have than those they apply to their current roles. Harmony herself discovered that two team members excelled in an entirely new area of the team than they were hired for, which she only unearthed after sitting the team down last Spring and asking them what other skills they had hidden.

As we move forward, we should keep in mind the value of a marketer who can truly pivot and adjust to their environment. And as professionals, we should remember to always put our own learning and development high on our list of goals for the year.

Wrapping Up

I have had the pleasure of hosting a handful of virtual events this year, but I can tell this event will have a lasting impression in my memory.

We hosted this as a standard Zoom meeting – not webinar – so we all could see and interact with one another; it felt as close to an in-person event as digitally possible. And as a marketer who used to travel on a regular basis, it both made me nostalgic for what was, thankful for what is, and hopeful for what will be.

If nothing else, I hope the attendees (and you, reader) found some positivity from this event that they (and you) can take into the new year.

Cheers!

P.S. Need a Break?

Having a hard day, or desperately need a mental break? Same. Check out our curated list of truly laugh out loud, WFH blunders from attendees that will remind you that underneath it all…we are all human.

“With two younger kids, every day is an adventure with WFH. One day, early on in quarantine, my husband and I were both on calls while our son accidentally flew a small drone into his sister’s hair.”

“In the beginning of the pandemic, my wife and I were both working from home. Sometime in the middle of the day, I guess she didn’t realize I was on a video meeting. She just gave our dog a bath & he was not having a good time. He ran out from the tub soaking wet. She runs out soaking wet as well and is yelling for me to grab him and a towel. All this going on the background as I’m smiling and trying to present a deck.”

“Accidentally turning up to a meeting of 60 colleagues with a vintage John McEnroe picture as my Zoom background, from the previous week’s Wimbledon quiz social. Oops…”

“I forgot that my camera was on during a webex meeting and went to get a cup of tea. Anyone who was paying attention to my video saw me in my pj bottoms (business on top;pjs on the bottom) and saw my husband in his PJs at his office desk behind me. Good times.”

“Probably my cat’s butt blocking my camera in the middle of a national video conference.”

“My daughter potty training and interrupting a virtual video Board meeting, with the bucket from her potty and all the glee and happiness a 3 years’ can muster for her recent achievement. My reaction was just to hug her and congratulate her while interrupting a critical point in the board discussion. It definitely helped lighten the mood!”

“I moved my office up into our spare room, but in doing so, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I decided to create a sit/stand desk out of Amazon shipping boxes, moving them up and down off my desk as needed. When I ended up staying home longer than I expected, I did breakdown and purchase an adjustable stand.”

“My house is currently undergoing a loft conversion and I was working in a room directly below where the builders are. One day I was on my one of many calls, all is going well when I hear a commotion from above. One of the builders has hurt himself – not badly thankfully – but bad enough that every expletive I’ve ever heard (and some I haven’t!) came pouring from him at a tremendous volume. I was not on mute. Thankfully we all saw the funny side – not sure the builder did.”

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