As 2020 winds down in the next couple of months there are still a lot of questions that we can’t answer.
How soon until there’s a vaccine for Covid-19?
When will the pandemic end?
When will we return to business as usual?
For small business owners, that last question looms large. With COVID cases spiking across the country and the probability that we’ll be back to only essential businesses opening their doors to the public, it’s crucial to take a long view of the marketing landscape.
Because there are so many unanswered questions, the marketing trends for 2021 have a slightly different focus than might be the case in a typical year. Here’s what’s on the horizon.
Focus on Customer Retention
I’ve talked a lot before about how much less it costs to retain customers than to win new customers. In 2021, it’s going to make a lot of sense to put your marketing budget into customer retention. Holding steady in a global crisis qualifies as a win.
Social media and email are the best tools you have available to drive customer retention. By encouraging existing customers to follow you on Facebook or subscribe to your list, you’re gaining the ability to stay in touch with them. You can offer special deals, keep them informed, and remind them of why they chose your product or service in the first place.
Product and Service Availability as a Priority
We’ve all experienced issues with product availability as well as with delayed deliveries due to the pandemic. The key to customer retention is ensuring that your customers have access to your products and services. And, if they don’t, letting them know why.
If you have the financial wherewithal, then it may make sense to increase your inventory and beef up your fulfillment to make sure that you can ship products out quickly. For companies providing services, you may need to think about alternative or extended hours, curbside pickup, and other adaptations to meet your customer’s existing needs. At the same time, you’ll need to communicate clearly about delays and shortages to minimize the risk that customers will abandon you for a competitor.
Marketing automation has been a trend in digital marketing for years now and that’s not going to change. 51% of companies were already using marketing automation as of the end of 2019 with a slight edge to B2C companies. However, 58% of all B2B companies said they planned to add automation.
Automation can include everything from simple fixes such as email autoresponders to complex solutions such as chatbots and digital assistants. Chatbot technology is within reach thanks to free chatbot builder tools like Chatfuel and MobileMonkey. You don’t need to pay a programmer to build an effective bot.
There’s no doubt that there’s still room for static content, meaning content that your followers read, watch, or listen to on their own. That said, one of the biggest content trends for 2021 is the rise of interactive content as a way of engaging customers and providing value at the same time.
Interactive content can take many formats, including:
- Interactive Videos
The reason for the rise is two-fold. First, interactive content is fun for your followers and can make them feel more engaged with your company and brand. Second, the data you collect – whether it’s in the form of quiz responses or information entered in a calculator – will help you learn about your audience. You can use the information you collect to fine-tune your marketing and increase new customer acquisition and customer retention.
Another key element of customer retention is list segmentation. With marketing budgets shrinking, it is far more cost-effective to segment your list than it is to send the same emails to everyone expecting to get a high conversion rate.
Segmentation can be done using any factors you choose, including:
- Previous purchases
- Product preferences
You have the option of segmenting your list based on the data you’ve collected from your subscribers or asking them to self-segment by sending out a survey or email where they can opt into and out of your content. Either way, the result is better targeting and a higher return on your investment.
Automated Bidding for Google Ads
In-house automation isn’t the only way to streamline your marketing in 2021. While automated bidding for Google Ads isn’t new – it was first introduced four years ago – it has been greatly improved in the past year.
The benefits of automated bidding are clear. By taking advantage of automation and letting it handle bidding adjustments, you can dedicate your valuable time to improving your PPC ads and increasing your marketing ROI.
Optimizing for Voice Search
Voice search optimization isn’t an option anymore – it’s a must. 40% of all internet users in the United States have used voice search and those numbers are only going up. If you’re ignoring voice search in your optimization efforts, you’re making a mistake.
You can optimize for voice search by making the content on your website conversational and accessible. Keep in mind that conversational still needs to apply to your audience. If you own a B2B tech company, your audience’s conversation may include jargon.
Instead of focusing on short keywords, try building your content around common questions and responses. Using questions in your blog headings and other content – and having a robust FAQ on your website – will make it easy for potential customers to find you using voice search.
Non-Linear Buying Journeys
The rise of digital has undoubtedly shaken up traditional marketing. When you consider the many ways that a potential customer can learn about a company or product, it’s hardly surprising that you can’t count on a linear buying journey to be the result.
How to respond? The trend is toward an omnichannel marketing strategy that includes:
- Website content
- Social media
- Mobile apps
Your goal should be to provide any customer or potential customer with a seamless experience across channels. Customers should get the same tone and information on Facebook that they do from a chatbot on your website, your mobile app, or your landing page.
Overall, agility is going to be the name of the game in digital marketing in 2021. We can’t know yet what the new year will hold, but businesses that remain flexible and adaptable have the best chance of continued growth and success.