The Marketer’s Guide to 2021

Published

2020 may be the year that many of us are eager to forget. But, here is the good news…it is almost over! Now is the time to take a moment and not just nail down your 2021 planning, but also begin to place some bets on how marketing is likely to change in next year.  It has never been more important to look into that crystal ball in hopes of figuring out just how things might unfold in these unprecedented times. Here are the top 4 bets I am hearing from our portcos and seeing in the broader markets.

1. Tale of two cities

COVID did not impact every industry in the same way, so you should not expect to see uniform recovery in 2021. As you probably know, segments like security were barely impacted because the needs, if anything, grew in the remote world many of us are working in. On the other hand, if you are selling into the energy sector, you know it will be a much slower recovery. 

Recovery Tactics: I would recommend that you remain agile and be ready to allocate marketing resources as early signals indicate some level of recovery. As well, don’t waste money in segments that while strong in the past, may not quickly recover next year.

2. Events will be back, but will be different

In 2020, many marketers felt dread as they saw their favorite tradeshows and events that they had long relied upon for demand gen literally evaporate. Many of you moved quickly to do creative virtual events and test new event platforms to try to make up for lost leads. As we start thinking about events in 2021, it is going to be a slow return to live events, probably end of Q3, and continued leveraging of virtual to drive both top-of-funnel and mid-funnel activity.

Recovery Tactics: The real win in 2021 is getting ready for hybrid events. Now, this isn’t just live events with streaming, but a new approach that seamlessly integrates virtual only, live, and live with virtual features into more-compelling experiences for attendees. You should be looking for a “1+1=3” kind of impact from your virtual and live events. Take a look at how portfolio company Bizzabo is delivering a whole new level of hybrid-event experiences.

3. Account based will accelerate

Well, it wouldn’t be one of my year-end blogs if I didn’t mention account based. As many of you know, this isn’t ABM, but ABX, an orchestrated approach between marketing and sales. Many of our portcos saw incredible success doubling down on account-based strategies in 2020, even focusing more on campaigns to drive existing customer retention and cross-sell/upsell motions. For 2021, expect to invest in better technology to scale your account-based initiatives to cover more segments and uncover more intent signals.

Recovery Tactics: How are you leveraging best-in-class intent data to drive more target-account engagement and pipeline? Driving more account-based engagement and funnel should be your goal in 2021. Portfolio company 6Sense is the leader in driving more revenue with the broadest, most reliable intent data. Check out these great resources to help you on your journey.

4. Test, Test, Test

One thing that never loses its impact is testing. Yet, across our portfolio, few orgs have the processes, mindset, and technology to drive meaningful testing initiatives. 2020 should have been dominated by testing given how much was changing daily. For many of our best portcos, early testing and discovering what was resonating with the market were keys to their success. In 2021, expect more of the same. As a very unpredictable recovery unfurls before us, be ready to drive structured testing initiatives to remain both in front of the curve and delivering results.

Recovery Tactics: At the heart of effective testing is an experimentation mentality. Portfolio company Episerver, now combined with Optimizely, is the leader in driving impact through experimentation. As you begin delivering your initiatives, create a culture of experimentation to both avoid missteps and drive confidence in your digital spend.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that marketers need to be ready for anything. As we think about how to be successful in this coming year, flexibility will win. There will certainly be new issues that we could never anticipate, so be ready to change on a dime and do what you do best…deliver results. Remember, great marketing is always in style. 

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  • Gary Survis

    Gary Survis, Operating Partner

    Gary Survis joined Insight in 2016 as a Operating Partner. Gary focuses on driving operational strategies and improvements within Insight and its portfolio companies. He leverages his experience to assist organizations in accelerating solutions in strategy, marketing, talent management, and sales operations. Prior to joining Insight, Gary was the…