By now, most of us feel that 2021 is the same old same old. We are still wearing our masks and working from home. International travel is still a pain with different testing and quarantine rules.
However, we do see a ray of sunlight due to the progress of vaccinations in the US.
Although we don’t know exactly when, eventually, the pandemic WILL end.
So, what’s next? What are the trends that we, as marketers, need to be aware of to proactively prepare for the post-Covid marketing era and the transition period?
Here are the five trends that marketers need to be aware of to plan and adjust accordingly.
1. Virtual communication is here to stay, but everyone is craving for in-person interactions
You may have seen this joke floating on the Internet during the early days of the pandemic.
It’s sad and true at the same time. COVID single-handedly propelled the mass deployment of virtual communications across all industries and households. Case in point: doctors’ visits and going-to-school were the most essential in-person interactions prior to Covid.
Well, now our kids are educated virtually, and we see our doctors on our computer screens.
When S#*t hits the fan, we just turn that fan off and install a virtual fan instead. LOL.
Well, the virtual fan is here to stay. Do you remember the struggle and drama we all went through learning using Zoom (TEAMS or whatever)? How about scrambling to move lamps around to give ourselves more lighting until we broke down and purchased selfie ring lights on Amazon? Remember cleaning all the clutter from our office, dining room or any place that would show up in the background of our video?
We are not going to let that go. No way. Especially after all the #drama of setting things up. Too much has been invested!
The kids may go back to school full-time, but they may also have options to attend classes virtually. We still prefer to see our doctors when we get sick. Heck, if we don’t want to drive for our appointments, we can schedule online visits and still get up-close-and-personal with our doctors.
Many companies are evaluating if it’s essential to have everyone in the office 5 days a week. It will be interesting to see how that unfolds in the next 12-24 months. I think it’s important to have in-person communications with your colleagues, customers, vendors, or even your managers.
That’s how we bond and form our relationships. The question is how to find the balance to maximize the benefits of virtual and in-person get-togethers.
- Event marketing is likely to take on a hybrid model with in-person and online components moving forward which will impact attendee pricing models and content distribution.
- Digital customer touchpoints continue to surge, you need to modify your customer journey and beef up your offerings online and on your websites.
- Sale teams (or all of us) need to continue to sharpen virtual selling skills, such as using a camera to record a greeting or a follow-up.
By talking to many marketers and sales professionals, I can tell that many of us are pretty DONE with virtual communications. We want to see, feel, and touch our colleagues (even the ones we are not particularly fond of…) and attend conferences in person.
Psst, who doesn’t like to go to sunny Scottsdale to attend #B2BMX………….in February?
The event industry will have a strong comeback in the near future. If you are event marketers, just get ready!!
2. Content is still king
During the pandemic, the biggest issue was how fast everything was changing. For B2B marketers, we don’t like when things are changing fast and all the time. Any little change in strategy has a big impact on marketing.
A change of strategy may require different channels to communicate. A change of messaging and creative concept may require us to re-create entire campaign plans with different copy and images selections of paid and social media.
Only marketers who are in the trenches know exactly what I am talking about. And I feel your pain.
With all the changes, the best way to communicate with your customers is through content.
Well, look at the explosive growth of TikTok. That’s all content, all right. Everyone is creating content for entertainment.
In the business world, content plays a critical role in communicating:
- Brand’s stand in social causes (purpose-driven content)
- Protocol and process changes to keep customer safe
- Education and show-and-tell of new technology and products (e.g. Covid Vaccine?)
Let’s use Legacy Health as the example since healthcare got hit hard during the pandemic.
During the pandemic, everyone is looking for answers and help. Their website starts with “How can we help?” It’s fitting and proper.
When you move down, you see two things that people ask about most:
- Schedule a doctor appointment
- COVID-19 Status Updates
At the same time, Legacy takes a stand on a social cause, which is very much purpose-driven content. You can see it on the landing page right below videos visits and vaccine updates.
Then, they showcase stories that are relevant to their customers. Again, it’s all content.
Here is another thing I really like about their scheduling of online visits. When you click on the “Video Visit Available” button, it immediately takes you to the scheduling page. When you scroll down, you see 5 tabs that show:
- Test your equipment
- How does it work?
- Insurance and cost
These 5 tabs are intentional. Not everyone is savvy on how to do an online visit. Legacy explains things very clearly, answers any questions you may have and helps you test the sound and video quality of your computer. All the content and information make sure you are ready for your online visits.
To sum it up, content is still king!
3. The digital customer experience is your product
Once upon a time, the surge of digital usage was mostly a holiday thing, like Black Friday or Cyber-Monday. Today, the digital customer experience is an everyday thing and has become super-critical. It needs to be easy for your prospects and customers to find the information you want to share. You also need to make it easy to buy.
In a way, you should treat the digital experience like your product, not as a cost center.
We spend tons of time and money to design, revise, test, and optimize our products. That mentality should also apply to the digital customer experience because that’s the gateway for your customers to engage with you. The engagements and impressions will also determine whether they will buy from you or not.
We can take a page from major e-commerce sites (Amazon, Wayfair, IKEA etc.) or any SaaS-based platform companies (Riverside.fm, Libsyn etc.).
I love Cash App’s experience of buying bitcoin. Bitcoin has been a hot commodity, but many people don’t know how to buy them. Cash App from Square makes it super-simple to buy and sell.
You download the Cash App and click on the Bitcoin button, then you can see Buy or Sell button. Then, click on Buy, that’s it.
They make buy/sell bitcoin easy, plus, their customer support is fantastic.
I’ve tried other platforms, none of them is as easy as Cash App. Other platforms have more features and can buy other cryptocurrencies, but the customer experience is just not that friendly.
Yes, this is their product. That’s exactly what you need to do: treat the digital experience like your own product.
You’ll get your money back when your digital customer experience is seamless and smooth.
4. Align sales and marketing
In this fast-changing world, both sales and marketing need to work together closely. Both sides need to change how they work.
Sales, stop complaining about the quality of leads and work together to define MQL and SQL.
Sales, stop complaining about lack of content, well, tell marketers the types of content you need.
Marketing, go out of your way to understand your salespeople. I know they are not pleasant sometimes but make the extra effort. They carry the company’s revenue pressure on their shoulders.
Marketing, make it easy for them to sort content. Explain clearly what each content is, tag them with keywords, target audience, industries or however your salespeople search.
Hold each other accountable.
I wrote several blog posts to explain how marketers can better support sales. Check out:
How Marketing Can Support Sales in a Changing Environment
How to Better Support Sales With Marketing Content
3 Content Marketing Ideas To Help Manufacturing Sales
Yes, it’s a cliché: teamwork makes dream work
5. Processes and workflow optimization is your competitive advantage
When digital marketing becomes complicated, marketers tend to get overwhelmed. The best way to overcome that is to understand the nuts and bolts of behind-the-scenes. In other words, you need to understand the processes and steps involved in how things are done and how data moves from one point to another.
So, if you are in email marketing, can you document each step from the theme and headline creation, sourcing and selecting content, building your email, sending out, and tracking analytics? You probably can describe it verbally, but can you put it in a workflow by brainstorming with your colleagues, including platforms/tool usage, the approval processes and the whole nine yard?
Here is a simplified workflow that I created to work with sales on account-based marketing. I showed the flow to Sales to let them know how we will use ABM campaigns to get target accounts to engage with us. With workflow, I helped sales understand our processes, then, I provided regular updates based on the campaigns.
Processes and workflows are mundane. No one wants to spend time on this in the marketing department. We tend to outsource that to IT, marketing ops, or agencies.
Well, if you want to be efficient and understand digital marketing, you need to go beyond just creative, email, campaigns and copywriting. Understand your processes!
Knowing how things work is going to be your asset if you want to continue to move up.
Ok, nothing about 2020 went according to plan, we were all thrust into unfamiliar territory. At the personal and professional level, we’ve learned a lot (I did).
Here are my biggest takeaways:
- Almost everything that needed to be done in person can somehow be done virtually
- With mandatory stay-at-home, we find alternatives to build human connections
- We adopted, adjusted, and made it work
As painful as it has been, we’ve proved that we are resilient and nimble. That’s how we need to think and act in marketing as well. Be resilient and nimble. Be ready for whatever gets thrown at us. We can do this!
If you have any questions about post-Covid marketing trends,
content marketing, sales/marketing alignment, account-based marketing (or you just want to talk about your marketing challenges), book a call with me.