The new year is now just two weeks away and marketing departments will currently be busy preparing plans and campaigns for 2021, after what has been a particularly turbulent year.
To help content marketing prepare for new beginnings in January, experts in the industry have offered their predictions and advice to content marketers to help them make sense of potential changes and keep strategies and campaigns on track.
Embrace new ways of working
2020 has been a very disruptive year for marketing as a whole, but next year is unlikely to herald a return to ‘normal’, according to AIHA’s Ben H. Rome, who urges content professionals to embrace and adjust to the freedom of finding new strategies that can drive positive business results.
Those sentiments are echoed by AgileSherpas’ Andrea Fryrear, who believes that “iterative content experiments” will take precedence in 2021 as it is incredibly hard to predict how things will pan out six months or a year from now. Noting that long-term plans have been “annihilated” in recent months, many marketers will be testing and learning to see what works.
Focus on the bottom line
With uncertainty abounding for marketers and budgets tightening, at least in the short term, Christopher Penn at TrustInsights.ai believes that content marketers should focus their efforts on return on investment and attribution so that they can regularly demonstrate the value of their efforts to the business. This will also help to justify additional resources when needed.
Brand Movers head of writing Alexander Højfeldt Lund also expects the bottom line to dominate conversations as content will need to create value for the business. He also urged marketers to “plan the route” to achievable goals and then measure efforts and report relevant data and feedback to the “right stakeholders”.
Plug sales gaps
Calendar.com co-founder John Hall says that brands have been unable to sell in person as much as before due to store closures and lockdowns, which has prompted more companies to invest in marketing to drive digital sales. With more content being created to fill sales gaps, he expects brands to focus on delivering relevant materials through the right channels and improving search rankings for target keywords.
Vishal Khanna, head of marketing at HealthPrize, says that sales teams will not be going to networking events again in 2021 and this should help to foster greater collaboration between sales and marketing departments. The closer ties will lead to more dynamic and personalised messaging that can cut through the noise.
Use all resources wisely
Typeset’s Sarah Mitchell and New Media’s Andrew Nunneley return to the theme of ROI and making everything count from the new year onward. Mitchell says that improving the overall effectiveness of production will drive better returns, while Nunneley calls for distribution that serves content exactly when an audience needs it to support “measurable momentum”.
Content Marketing Institute VP of editorial Kim Moutsos says that marketers should be looking to highlight how everything they do has a “real impact”. She also expects that the rush to create content to fill the void left by traditional events this year could continue and may translate to an uptick in investment.
Supporting social causes and inclusivity
While the pandemic was the main talking point in 2020, important social movements also hit the headlines this year. Audiences are very receptive to brands that show their support for these causes. Research shows that more than half of all consumers are more likely to buy something from them if they take a stand on important issues.
Looking ahead to 2021, Black History Month in February and Freedom Day in June will see consumer brands go “all in” on messaging, according to Minority Woman Marketing’s Christine Michel Carter.
Microsoft‘s Christi Olson believes that inclusion and inclusive marketing will be important for brands as they attempt to create communities that are representative of a wider range of customers. The tech giant’s own internal research found that two-thirds of people trust a brand more when they showcase diversity in content and advertising.
Inclusivity will also extend to any users who are visually impaired, according to Content Marketing Institute’s Ann Gynn, who wants to see voice-activated content and tailored captions and subtitles on videos to meet their consumption needs.
Lisa Dougherty rounds out the calls for greater accessibility by warning brands that their reputation and customer relationships are at risk if there is not a laser focus on “making universally accessible and resonant content”.
More virtual events
OpenExchange CCO Michael Kolowich says that virtual events “are here to stay”, even when companies are in a position to start hosting in-person events again. He notes that brands have seen considerable benefits from webinars and digital conferences, and that the convenience and reach of an online event, coupled with content longevity, will make them “too compelling to walk away from”.
Zoom conferences were a big deal during the first wave of COVID-19 earlier in the year, but Mariah Obiedzinski admits that fatigue has set in and that many will pivot to “smaller, focused” events where greater intimacy will deliver more interesting insights. She also forecasts the return of some form of in-person conferences in Q2 or Q3 2021.
AI comes to the fore
New tech will make its presence felt next year, with Keywee’s Inbar Yagur predicting that there will be more trust and reliance placed on content optimised by AI, while MarketMuse’s Jeff Coyle forecasts the wider deployment of natural language generation to scale campaigns better.
AI will also go some way to solving the ROI problem, according to inPowered’s Peyman Nilforoush, who believes that cutting-edge tech can help companies to understand the mindset of consumers after the pandemic so that they can drive lead generation and conversions effectively.
Back to basics
Finally, LinkedIn’s Amber Naslund says that many marketers will target a “fewer-things-done-better” approach that goes back to basics and is rooted in making content simple, accessible and valuable for consumers.
Erika Heald at Erika Heald Marketing Consulting continues this point by saying that the “veiled sales pitch” will no longer be viable and that brands will aim to create “truly useful” content that is informative and entertaining so that they can connect with the ideal customer.