12 predictions B2B marketers are making for 2021
We’ve entered a digitally transformed era in marketing (whether we wanted to or not). With a year like no other, who knows what’s to come in the following months. With 2021 on the horizon, I asked marketers to tell me what their predictions were.
Adam Leslie, product strategy leader, Dun & Bradstreet
“Our research and conversations with clients indicate that the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted marketing and sales activities in 2020. Teams have had to shift to virtual and online engagement– and those who have been slower to adapt and respond to the changing landscape have fallen behind. A renewed emphasis on digital means that having the right tools and insights in place is more important than ever. Instead of lamenting the dearth of events and traditional engagement, the most successful CMOs in 2021 are likely to be those who embed data and analytics into sales and marketing efforts to ensure maximum return on investment. It will be crucial to reach prospects at the right time, with the right information and the right product or service. We’re seeing a move towards quality over quantity as we move into a post-Covid-19 world.”
Annabel Rake, CMO, Deloitte in the UK and North South Europe
“The challenge for B2B marketers in 2021 will be balancing the physical and digital brand experience. In 2020, B2B marketing shifted fundamentally to virtual engagement; teams threw their weight behind new online events, webinars and podcasts to continue engaging and supporting their clients during lockdown.
In 2021, while the vaccine roll-out offers hope of a return to physical events and meetings, many virtual experiences will remain. People have grown to value the flexibility online experiences offer - allowing them to tap-in to expertise from anywhere and often on-demand. How you embed the human experience in that will be key, and how you do that in a meaningful, blended way alongside physical experiences will be critical for B2B marketers in the year ahead.”
David McGuire, B2B technology copywriter, co-owner, Radix Communications
“As 2020 has shown, making predictions can be a pretty futile business. But I feel pretty confident in saying the ceasefire we saw earlier in the year – when marketers led their organisations away from cashing in on COVID – is now well and truly over.
As we enter 2021, almost all the content being produced is about how to adapt to our newly-changed world of work. That’s no bad thing per se; these changes are real, and B2B audiences do need help and advice. But it does mean the content needs to work harder to stand out. And there’s a real challenge for writers to reflect the surreal nature of the present time, without underplaying the seriousness of a pandemic that has already claimed more than 1.5 million lives.”
Henk Campher, VP corporate marketing, Hootsuite
“We have already experienced the initial shockwave of COVID-19, signalling a pivotal moment for marketers to hone skills that go beyond tactical execution. It’s therefore crucial to incorporate a true understanding of the changing dynamics of customer relations, and those who realise that the new "high street" is social media will thrive. The real success will come to marketers who don’t neglect long term strategies for short term gains. Throughout the pandemic, customer acquisition and short term ROI has been a top priority for marketers—a focus that was named by 73% as a key outcome for the upcoming year.
Long term, it’s vital that investments are made on growth strategies, both in brand building and customer experience. Social is a crucial channel on which brands can deliver, as it allows them to understand the changing dynamics of customer relations and connect to them on a one-to-one basis. While a transactional focus has kept many businesses afloat this year, successful marketers will use online channels to build long term growth trajectories in 2021 and beyond.”
Iain Halpin, head of content, Just Global
“2020 has been a watershed year (in so many ways) and the agencies that struggled in 2020 will do no better in 2021 and, conversely, that those that have survived (possibly even thrived over the lockdown) will continue to prosper. We’re seeing huge interest in 1-2-1 ABM programmes as Sales Directors focus marketing spend on those accounts where they see real opportunity. And I have a sneaking feeling that brand-led digital campaigns aimed at net new accounts will generate some fantastic results.”
Ian Truscott, Rockstar CMO
"As we all know, due to the pandemic, in 2020, there was a swift B2B marketing planning and budget shift from in-person events to virtual events, content production, and publishing. But, this was already something being demanded by B2B buyers, who are increasingly spending their purchasing time researching and engaging virtually by consuming content and not talking to salespeople. You could argue that in 2020 we’ve been forced to deliver what the buyers actually wanted.
However, this shift was done quickly and fairly crudely by marketers working to an old model within the traditional silos, where content is almost an afterthought. In 2021 I’d like to think we hone this, developing a holistic, sophisticated approach to not just replicating what we lost with in-person but seamlessly feeding this virtual engagement through to a virtual sale, with a content experience delivered in a way that buyers will want to engage with."
Leeya Hendricks, CMO. Delta Capita
“Relationships are integral at a time where global growth rates have toppled as humanity continues to face a crisis. We are focused less on a hard-sell and rather leading on building our brand and nurturing leads with value-adding content, to help grow their business. ‘Reinventing’ our customers’ value chain, ourselves, our teams, and our marketing function, will be the theme for successful CMOs in 2021. What’s become clear is that we need to continue to reinvent ourselves to stay relevant to our customers. With retention marketing said to surge by 30% next year, CMOs will focus on creating new commercial and delivery models by increasing trust, loyalty, and retention through brand building.”
Matt Levine, West Coast VP, Kingpin
“Will everything be better in 2021? Schools, dining, malls, bars, everything reopens, and we get back to living our lives? Well, probably not all of that is going to happen in the first half, and I predict the first half of the year will very much look like 2020. That being said, GroupM is predicting Global Ad Spending to increase by 12.3% in 2021. I anticipate a continuing acceleration of Digital Transformation across organizations, forcing more companies to look at how they interact with all users. In the 2nd half, I see a reemergence of live, in person events, but significantly scaled back. B2B spending will continue to grow across all digital channels with a greater emphasis on personalisation and curated content.”
Mercè Cozens, founder, lead consultant & chartered marketer, Think Beyond
"I believe 2021 is the year that account-based marketing finally achieves a critical mass. A digital first experience goes without saying. Additional growth will come via partnerships and by increased marketing effectiveness so that CMOs have the tools to deliver on their marketing goals."
Ross O’Neill, senior ABM manager, EMEA, Cloudera
“I think it’s safe to say that B2B marketing will continue to focus on digital channels in 2021. I hope we will see more personalised interactions and less broadcasting. For example, the enforced shift to virtual events made us think harder about audience participation. As a result, we've been using live polls and Q&A to tailor presentations and demos during webinars. I know many others have been doing the same. In 2021, I think there will be more interactive content driving more personalised experiences. Think Bandersnatch for B2B!”
Sue Mizera, co-founder, TorchFish
“CMOs to reach the Boardroom in 2021! B2B Marketing’s CMO Survey (link) defined the path: think commercial, build customer-intimacy, keep developing your brand. The estimated boardroom arrival date, however, is 2030. Why wait? All the tools are in your hands while evolving, COVID-19 business demands require your immediate action. All you need is self-confidence in your contribution to the bottom-line through securing customer loyalty to your brand. Who else in the company can do this? Who else has the mindset or commands the “softer-skills” to win over hearts and minds? Go for it. You’re ready. The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Ashish Babu, CMO, TCS
"Storytelling will be about optimism and winning - We will need to pivot from resilience to hope, optimism and winning in 2021. Providing insights and solutions to our colleagues, customers, and communities.
A growing need to create a shared sales journey -With a lack of opportunities to prospect virtually, sales are looking to create a shared journey, with marketing expected to offer new opportunities for them virtually. ABM is one key avenue from which these contributions will originate.
Collaboration is King - From sales and marketing to leveraging your partner universe to drive visibility and more data visualisation, the pandemic has become a great equaliser pushing once siloed teams to work together to achieve the desired vision.
Hybrid Events will become the new normal - In-person events may be a distant memory, but marketers will be looking for venues that can provide both flexibility and a local and global offering to stand out in a crowded market."