Let me start off by saying that I don’t want to revisit the chaotic trip around the sun that was 2020. With that being said, if you look hard enough, there were many valuable lessons to be learned that can be applied moving forward.
Marketers had to embrace the word “pivot” like never before, and businesses in many industries were forced to endure the laborious process of keeping customers updated with the latest regulations regarding pandemic protection protocols.
Life has not yet returned to anything resembling normal, but we’re likely closer to the end than we are to the beginning. In this article, I’ll outline 7 lessons advertisers learned in 2020 that can be used to thrive in 2021 and beyond.
1. Flexibility Matters
The past year has taught us that if you aren’t setting yourself up to handle unforeseen circumstances, you’re taking a major risk.
It’s fair to say that very few saw Covid-19 coming, but the pandemic reinforced the idea that being prepared to change strategies quickly is something that should be emphasized when putting together a marketing plan. Businesses that had already established a dynamic approach to marketing gained significant ground on those who were relying on the old way of doing things.
Before investing heavily in a particular advertising blueprint, ask yourself if it’s flexible enough to withstand unexpected obstacles that might present themselves down the road.
2. A Good Website is Invaluable
When you look at resource allocation as it applies to advertising, there’s a serious debate to be had as far as where dollars should be utilized.
With vast ad platforms like Google and Facebook – along with countless others – it’s easy to see how even the healthiest of marketing budgets can feel like they aren’t enough. In fact, some businesses sink so much money into these digital ad spaces that they forget about investing in a highly-functional website that has the ability to turn prospects into conversions.
In a time when an unprecedented amount of commerce is taking place online, there’s simply no substitute for a fast, intuitive website. It might be expensive to invest in updating an old site, but it’s even more costly to ignore it.
3. Virtual Events Are Viable
When lockdown orders were implemented in states across the U.S., events that had previously been scheduled for in-person attendance had to transition to the virtual space. If we’re being honest, it was never ideal – but it was the best that could be done given the circumstances.
As attitudes surrounding virtual meet-ups began to change (perhaps out of necessity), businesses have come around to the idea that these events might have their place in the future. They’re significantly cheaper to host than their in-person counterpart, and much more accessible to those who aren’t able or willing to travel.
Nobody’s suggesting that virtual events are going to entirely replace the real thing. However, when executed properly, a virtual product demonstration, webinar, or summit can be a flexible alternative to the traditional “event” model.
4. Smaller Brands Can Compete
There’s something to be said about having a well-known brand name, adequate resources, and an established customer base. While the big-name companies undoubtedly have several advantages, what they often lack is adaptability.
Small businesses that have built their companies by utilizing the digital tools at their disposal have proven that you don’t need to be a household name to thrive. Not every athletic-wear business needs to be Nike in order to be successful. Now more than ever, niche brands have a clear model to follow, as well as proof that you can be profitable without being the dominant player in the market.
5. Influencer Marketing Isn’t Going Anywhere
If you put together a list of 2020’s “winners,” social media influencers would be near the top. YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok personalities have been a major contributor to the marketing efforts of brands big and small.
Finding the right partner to be a social media influencer requires some background research. Businesses need to clearly identify their customer base and find a social media personality whose followers align with the interest and demographic. Then comes the issue of cost and return on investment. The good news? Regardless of your budget, there’s someone out there who can effectively put your brand in front of the right people.
6. It Pays to Be Socially Conscious
Collective emotions were at an all-time high throughout 2020. Whether it was in regard to the pandemic, racial issues, politics, etc., many brands who had previously been apprehensive to delve into the “social cause” world finally took the leap.
Obviously, the main obstacle to fully embracing social causes as part of a marketing strategy is that you run the risk of alienating a percentage of your customer base. Although that may be true in some cases, plenty of brands have found a way to focus on causes that everyone can get behind such as supporting frontline workers who have put themselves in harm’s way throughout the pandemic.
Numerous studies have been executed on the subject, and there seems to be a consensus among consumers that states they want companies to take a stand on the issues. It might be unfamiliar territory, but those brands which have been to work social causes into marketing campaigns have seen positive results across the board.
7. Customer Engagement is a Two-Way Street
Earning repeat business is all about making the customer feel valued. That means when someone takes the time to engage with your brand’s social media content, it’s important to respond and show that their opinion (good or bad) is heard and understood.
With more people engaging with businesses online than ever before, there’s no excuse for overlooking the value these customers can have. Even if you feel like you’re only responding to one person, the reality is countless others will see your interaction and internalize the sentiment that you really do care about your customers.
Although your first instinct might be to leave 2020 in the past (and who could blame you?), there was much to be learned and applied to the future. Businesses that embrace the “new normal” will continue to build momentum and reap the benefits of adaptability for years to come.