What is your marketing strategy looking like for 2021? More of the same, or have you taken the time to review what you’ll be doing and planned a more relevant approach for the new year?
Hopefully it’s the latter, but for those of you who have yet to start the process, what are you waiting for?! 2021 will be very different, with new opportunities and challenges for your business. Follow these top marketing tips to be in the best position from an early stage in order to navigate what will be a rapidly changing business environment. Adapt and prosper.
Create Your Strategy
So, what should you be considering for your 2021 B2B marketing? First off, I would urge you to document what you will be doing. If you don’t document your actions, you can’t measure your progress. And if you can’t measure your progress, you can’t hope to understand what’s working, what isn’t, and where your budget is best spent. That last point is something I’ll come back to, because it’s so important.
Additionally, documenting your strategy with key messaging and actions will make the creation of content and general marketing actions much easier, because you’ll have a reference guide to work from for almost all situations in the coming year. If you take the time to put the work in now, it can be a huge time-saver as you go through the next year.
Many smaller businesses (and alarmingly in my experience, quite a few larger companies as well) fail to properly go through this exercise. It’s always worth remembering that the most successful businesses carefully plan their marketing and constantly review their progress to achieve their desired goals.
Before we go any further, there are a couple of critical elements to consider when starting this process.
> Understanding what marketing is.
> Understanding the difference between marketing strategy, tactics, and plans.
Business owners and even entire marketing departments often lose sight of these fundamentals, so it’s worth having a clear understanding of them from the outset.
What is Marketing?
I was mulling these thoughts over recently and Googled ‘what is marketing’? The results were interesting, with many very detailed and in my opinion, unnecessarily long-winded marketing definitions. I nearly fell asleep at this point, as I like to keep things simple and clear. So, here’s my own marketing definition for those of a similar disposition:
“Marketing is the art of promoting the right messaging to the right people at the right time & turn them into your followers and clients”
Actually, I also really liked the quote that I saw attributed to The New York Times by Wikipedia:
“The art of telling stories so enthralling that people lose track of their wallets”
That’s probably a bit too forthright for us Brits, but it made me laugh – and it’s actually pretty accurate (whether you’re a B2B or B2C company)!
Strategy, Tactics, and Plans
Here’s a hint as to why I’ve included this section. Strategy, tactics, and plans are not the same thing, even though they are often referred-to in the same breath and almost used interchangeably – even by many marketers. To understand the differences between strategy, tactics, and plans, I like to think of it like this:
> STRATEGY : Your commercial vision, objectives, and goals for your business (this is what enables you to measure your marketing effectiveness).
> TACTICS : The tools and specific actions that you will be using to execute the strategy.
> PLANS : How and when you will use the most appropriate and timely tactics to deliver on the strategy.
It’s worth re-reading those bullets. Getting that clear in your mind and committing it to a documented process is not the work of a moment, but will be extremely time-saving and potentially business-critical during the coming 12 months.
Measuring Your Marketing
As I observed earlier, this is the most important factor for marketing success. If you’re not measuring how successful your marketing has been, you’re possibly throwing money away. And none of us can afford to do that at the moment.
Knowing what messages to market and how to measure your marketing activities is key. It’s relatively easy with digital marketing, because of course it’s digital and therefore readily measurable. But how many of you are measuring clicks instead of conversions from your Google Ads campaigns and how many of you are measuring relevant traffic growth from your SEO activities?
Digital marketing is a huge part of any company’s marketing efforts now of course and here at Element79, it forms the largest part of our services provided to our clients. But don’t forsake the traditional (offline) marketing methods as well – and it may surprise many to know that these direct activities can also be measured with your digital toolset. Google Analytics is of course a free asset that any company can use and most almost certainly do. It can easily be used to measure both online and offline marketing activities. Get to know the product – there are some great features in it for marketers, with some exciting developments in the pipeline - see this blog post from Google.
The Best B2B Marketing Tactics
This is simple. The best marketing tactics are the tactics that can be measured as working for you and are delivering a return on marketing investment. If that sounds blindingly obvious – it should!
But so many business owners ask, ‘what is the best marketing strategy (they mean tactic of course) for us to use?’ I’ve seen many business owners just rely on one marketing tactic (emailers, or annual events, or website, etc.,) to the exclusion of everything else. If you do this, you will without doubt severely restrict both your new business opportunities as well as your upselling opportunities to existing clients. Your marketing net needs to be cast wide. Use a number of various marketing tactics; measure their effectiveness and ROI, and then adjust the amount that you spend on each accordingly – but do not abandon one in favour of another unless it genuinely has a measured zero return.
It’s also important to understand your audience here. Create personas for them so that you know how to grab their attention by using the right tactics. For example, don’t use mobile digital tactics to engage someone who largely consumes their digital marketing via laptop or desktop and vice versa.
Whatever tactics you choose to use, your biggest takeaway should be to integrate them. An integrated, inbound marketing programme is always going to be a powerful marketing engine. Make sure yours is appropriately tuned.
Even with the best, diligent, most comprehensive planning, you will almost certainly find that you need to adjust your plans as you go through the year. This is another reason to document and measure what you are doing. As I noted in my opening, this is going to be another volatile year for business, but potentially one full of opportunity. Make sure that you are ready and able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to your marketing activities. If you have a good, measurable integrated platform and content generation engine up and running, this will be far easier.
Don’t be afraid to build-in review points during the year and temporarily pause your activities so that you can properly review how you are performing against plans. Use this review to understand how you can capitalise on the activities that are really working.
Marketing is a huge subject. If you are a busy business owner who regularly gets involved in the marketing of a growing business, take some time to understand some of the fundamentals. If you are heading a marketing team, now is a great time to pause and review what you are doing for 2021 if you haven’t done so already (and if you haven’t, shame on you!).
There are many exciting and profitable avenues to explore and use in your marketing. Think about the various channels that you can use or need to use currently to fulfil your business objectives and write them down as a starter. Here just a few ideas to feed that process:
> Brand Awareness
> Digital Outreach
> Pay-per-Click (PPC)
> PPC Remarketing
> Website Content Marketing
> Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
> Inbound Marketing
> Local SEO
> Social Media Marketing
> Integrated Marketing
> Demand Generation
> Lead Generation
> Brand Sponsorship Marketing
> Influencer Marketing
> Direct Marketing (offline)
Some of the above are broad concepts, some more specific, but I hope that you’ll find them a useful starting point. You can find more helpful tips for creating your strategy and plans here.
Mike Flarry is a brand and digital marketer with a career spanning 30 years. He has helped large and small companies alike to generate more income from their marketing activities and has launched large new brands onto the UK market. He specialises in the marketing of B2B Tech and Software organisations. Follow Mike on LinkedIn.