There is a reason why businesses don’t invest in crystal balls, tarot cards or astrology charts.
It’s difficult to know what the future holds.
After all, in 2019, who could have imagined the year we’ve had? 2020 has been a shock to all of us. Lockdowns, closed stores and masks weren’t in anyone’s planning. Who knew we would be talking about diversity and racial justice, walking in the streets and protesting, while also fighting for our health and worrying about crowded hospital wards and ventilators?
But here we are.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forecast. Responsible businesses and marketing professionals need to look ahead and make smart bets on the future. You need to plan, review the market with an open mind, and plot a course for the future and your business.
Planning for the Future of Digital Marketing
After a year of working remotely and community lockdowns, businesses are fully embracing the need for a digital marketing strategy.
For many companies, the internet and digital tools are the only way to consistently reach, communicate with, and influence customers and prospects. Digital is the lifeline that kept the company afloat during the most difficult times.
Looking ahead, digital marketing and your digital strategy will be just as important to the success of your business in the future. We’ve pulled together a few questions and insights that you can use to assess your digital marketing strategy for 2021.
Do you have an online strategy for your business?
Every assessment needs to start somewhere, and for this one, let’s start with your basic online strategy. Even with a potential vaccine and society slowly starting to open up, many of us have gotten used to working remotely. That’s not going to change, and a significant portion of work and business will be done online.
Companies need a strategy for conducting business online. You need the tools and processes in place to work remotely. That means not only having email and teleconferencing, but translating person-to-person interaction into an online experience. You need to attract and convert customers remotely.
It requires an entirely new way of thinking. Here are a few questions to consider:
- How effective are your online presentations?
- Without standing in front of a prospect and reading the faces in a room, how can you deliver the best presentation possible?
- How are you going to find leads when everyone is working from home?
- How are you communicating with customers today, and how are you going to communicate in the future?
- How have the selling process and the buyer’s journey changed?
In the past, phone calls, conferences, a trip to their office and an email or two were all you needed. Today, with so many working remotely, the sales process has gotten even more complex. In an age of remote work and teleconferencing, you need new ways to engage and convert prospects. Many companies are already looking at leveraging AR and VR for their business. Team meetings, employee training, and hosting virtual conferences for prospects and customers can all be enhanced with AR and VR.
Is your current content doing all that you need it to?
When it is difficult to meet with customers and prospects person to person, you have a gap to fill. In the past, an on-site meeting was the preferred method for closing the deal. You need to be top of mind even if you aren’t face to face. That’s where content marketing comes in.
You need to lay your content out along your buyer’s journey (which has probably already shifted and changed like everything else in 2020). Look for content gaps and make sure that content is strong enough and engaging enough to deliver the support your sales team needs. Consider what you know about the customer, their likes, needs and requirements, and then evaluate if your content is delivering.
Today, your content needs to offer real value to your customers. That content needs to bridge the gap left by in-person events, conferences and site visits. It needs to stand out from the crowd of other businesses fighting for attention. It needs to engage the prospect and push them to set up a meeting with your sales team or to close the deal.
With a strong content strategy and a capable team delivering the right material, you can start boosting sales. That way, every time your prospect has a question or needs some help, your sales team can say, “I can help with that.”
Are you making the best use of technology?
If there is one thing 2020 has taught us (other than it is possible to do work in PJs and have a pet in your office), it’s that the right technology is the key to working efficiently. When everyone is working from home, technology is the solution that brings people together and aligns their efforts. You need to make information and tools easy to access.
2021 is a great time to evaluate and update your MarTech stack. Companies are moving away from individual point solutions to marketing platforms that put critical information and tools at the fingertips of those who need it.
MarTech is the technology, apps and tools used by a business to support marketing and sales and meet business goals. In the past, with employees working with co-workers just a few feet away, MarTech was additive. Any new need meant the company purchased a new app or system. This led to a bloated MarTech stack. Today, it’s causing serious issues exacerbated by remote work. People can’t access the information or tools they need. Critical data isn’t easy to access or even available.
This is why more and more companies are looking at marketing platforms to provide MarTech. Platforms centralize sales and marketing information, help align work and efforts on the team, and provide better visibility into work and opportunities. With all customer-centric activities built on the platform, you can coordinate company activities around the customer, everything from initial sales and lead generation to customer service (and, as we know, better customer service will lead to more business and company growth).
As we go into the new year, look at your sales and marketing technology. See if it is supporting the new normal in business and bringing your remote working team into alignment, or if it’s holding you back.
Do you have an employee engagement strategy?
While it may not seem like employee engagement has much to do with digital marketing, it is a critical component of any plan. Your digital marketing strategies need people to implement and manage them. If those employees aren’t engaged and don’t have the tools and support they need, then no amount of planning will deliver success. If they can’t do their jobs, then you can’t meet your goals.
Now more than ever, companies are relying on their top performing employees. Showing empathy for how difficult life is right now, and how challenging work is for all of us, can go a long way to increasing employee engagement. Supporting those employees, giving them the tools and information they need, is critical during this time of remote work. Keeping employees engaged and excited to work while stuck at home with kids, a spouse and distractions everywhere adds another element to the planning.
Look at setting up an employee engagement plan. Beyond the regular teleconference meetings and a MarTech stack, look at sending employees work-at-home care packages or promotional items from the company. Even a small gesture can make a big difference for an employee struggling. Set up AR or VR meetings to make announcements or for training. Quick videos and short coordination meetings help keep the team on track. Look at using online visual trackers to chart project progress.
Simple steps like these, and showing empathy at what we are all going through right now, can keep employees engaged and productive.
Building a Marketing Strategy for the Future
The new year isn’t going to “fix” the difficulties or challenges facing business. The questions and thoughts we’ve put together are not a comprehensive list (and anyone that insists they have a comprehensive idea of the future probably also has a bridge to sell you). This is a starting point.
With business still adapting to the new normal and remote work, we suggest moving resources from “traditional” marketing toward digital marketing. All the funds once invested in travel and conferences can be used for content, a better marketing platform and more digital tools.
Also look at providing more interactive content and better equipping your customer-facing team with tools that increase engagement. Step back and realize that your customers are struggling just as much as you are, and consider how that will change your buyer persona and buyer journey.
If you have questions, need some help, or just want to talk to someone with expertise in these areas, then contact GO2 Partners today. We’re here to help.