How Marketers Can Prepare for the Year Ahead

By Blake Holmes

As we wrap up a rollercoaster of a year and the New Year fast approaches, now is the perfect time to get one step ahead.

Countless brands and businesses this year were forced to cut costs, reduce or stop marketing all together and with it all coming to a wrap, it’s a great opportunity to review, re-strategise and prepare to hit the ground running come January. 

Here are four key takeaways from 2020 and how you can implement these while strategising for the year ahead.

Smart Planning 

2020 saw a shift from business-as-usual, always-on marketing to a more considered and responsive approach. With outdoor taking a hit and budgets reduced in the face of economic uncertainty, brands yet to embrace digital marketing found it to be a low-cost solution that afforded more control, immediacy and flexibility than traditional media. 

In the digital marketing space, video was king, with video overtaking blogs and infographics as the most commonly used format in content marketing. Promotional videos and brand storytelling were the most common video types created by marketers and 87% of them said these videos had increased traffic to their website. A further 80% also claimed video had directly increased their sales over the year. 

With current mobile tech and social media providing perfect platforms for engagement over video, it remains an impactful medium to utilise in the New Year on the back of these stats from 2020. 

Have you incorporated video into your digital marketing strategy this year or for the year ahead?

Channel Diversification

Channel diversification has been another feature of the year in review. 

With the digital marketing space offering a number of platforms, from social channels like Facebook and Instagram, growing channels like TikTok and content platforms like YouTube, there are a number of avenues available to brands looking to diversity or target customers in innovative ways. 

This has also shaped the consumer expectation of brands to deliver more creative and engaging online experiences, with digital video again leading as the preferred content type for these formats. In 2020, digital video accounted for more than half the display spend total for the first time ever and will be a clear choice for brands in 2021. 

For your 2021 strategy, this could be as simple as utilising various video iterations across your channels to diversify your content type, or as ambitious as exploring new platforms to better target and engage your customers.

Be Relatable

This year, brands and consumers grew closer together. WIth surveys like that from Kantar in March showing over 77% of consumers hoped to hear from brands during trying times, the dissolution of brand/consumer formality ushered in a new area of authenticity. Many took advantage of this and sought to engage customers on a deeper level, through more responsive, topical content and relatable tones of voice. 

This starts with brand and a deep understanding of your target customer, how and where they would like to hear from you. In planning for the year ahead, it can be a great idea to workshop, review your business goals and objectives and do a deep dive into your target customer and their motivations. Have they changed or grown? Are they using new platforms to connect or share? Often, insights gathered by reviewing the past year of activity can help you to fine tune your efforts, recalibrate and optimise everything, including how you communicate with customers.

Measure and Refine

The catch-22 of marketing is that it should be a fluid, always-on effort. Testing and refining at regular intervals ensures you aren’t wasting money with a set-and-forget approach and are adapting to your audience based on insights from successive interactions. Unfortunately for small business owners, the time and effort required to constantly adapt marketing efforts is hard to justify when management of the business and operations is the foremost priority.

Whether you have a dedicated marketing team or agency, or are running it all yourself, setting aside time to measure and refine your efforts at regular intervals can be the difference between good and great engagement and improved sales. Fortunately there are a number of tools available to marketers, from social analytics tools for measuring performance and activity, to scheduling tools that can automate and update you on the progress of your content and activity. 

A great way to incorporate this into your year ahead is to simply review your best posts or months from 2020 in digital communications based on engagement. You can use this info to identify content types and refine your strategy, removing posts or formats that have performed poorly. 

You can also create a more linear path to purchase, and more attributable sales promotions, by measuring click-throughs, interactions and the use of unique codes if you are utilising influencers or promoters to share promotional messaging. By clearly defining your success metrics and vetting your marketing content based on these criteria, you can essentially figure out what’s working, what isn’t and trim the fat as you roll out your content plan for the New Year. 

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s to be ready for anything. This means treating marketing as a living, breathing entity that you should continually nurture to get the best results from. Getting ahead early can help to ease the stress of setting yourself up for success in the New Year and often, all it takes is a clear perspective and some outside help to get your business in alignment. Incorporate some of these insights into your planning, or get in touch if you’d like some help. As a design and digital agency, we’ve helped clients requiring strategy and digital content strategy from our Ponsonby design agency NZ wide. This includes help with inbound marketing, search engine optimisation and all things online marketing. We also specialise in helping you find the right digital channels to suit your business and can assist with marketing automation tools you can use to take the load off, run facebook ads, digital marketing campaigns and measure success. Give us a call to speak to one of our talented team based in Auckland NZ and we can chat about your options.

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