Somehow, perhaps magically, we are almost to the end of 2020. I know that I will look back in a year, five years, and ten years with the perspective of time and hindsight, but right now I feel as if this year was the most momentous of my lifetime. From a personal perspective, I learned anew about the power of patience and the sanctity of home and family. As a marketing professional, I was forced to endlessly pivot, re-evaluate strategies and tactics regularly, and seriously reconsider how I lead teams and prepare for the future.
In short, I kept taking my favorite playbooks and doing some combination of revise, reject, and invent on an almost weekly basis. Even when I felt I had a handle on what to do next, new data and new insights popped up for consideration.
Advice I offered in April feels naïve and outdated already, and advice I got just last week caused me to pull back plans already in motion.
Let’s dig into the things I think need to be considered as we all revise our 2021 plans, again.
Much has been written about the massive shift to remote work, especially for the professional-class, and the growth in video conferencing solutions like Zoom and Microsoft Teams is truly astounding.
Companies of every size are changing their approach to future office space, remote employees, and expectations around in-person interaction. Many of these changes will have lasting impact, and as marketers we need to consider our approach at every level (perhaps elevator advertising is not such a great idea anymore?) and across every touchpoint.
But I think there is a more nuanced view to consider here. Think back to when people still went to gyms, and how regular users dreaded January and February and all the “resolution athletes” showed up to hog the treadmills and bang the weights on the floor.
By the time March rolled around, a good 80% or more of those people just seemed to disappear – perhaps they got their fill of fitness or just gave up – and the gym returned to normal attendance.
Now, considering the lesson in human psychology and behavior this provides, do we all think that everyone forced to work at home right now will stay there, even when given the choice? Perhaps, or perhaps they will long for the office environment they have known for the bulk of their professional life (we’ll exclude people just entering the workforce from this discussion).
As this pendulum swings over the course of 2021, marketing teams will want to pay close attention to the migration patterns of workers from remote to office and consider how to shape messages and offers that align with the swings.
People will be thinking a lot about where they spend their time, for both work and leisure, and marketing that acknowledges this reality and encompasses a genuine sense of place will be critical.
For B2B marketers, the return to offices can also be a theme, if treated respectfully. For some workers, they will be glad to be back at their desks, among co-workers, in the thick of office work. For others, the transition might be a bit rocky.
How can marketing teams launch thoughtful campaigns that hit on these relevant feelings and align with the state of mind of their customers? Consider something as simple as adding the ability for prospects to let you know the type of work situation they have – e.g., at office, at home, hybrid, etc. – so that you can connect with them in the most appropriate manner possible.
As part of the cycle of endless reinvention of virtual events over the past year, with increasing emphasis on creating experiences that fully engage people, some might think that 2021 is just execute more of the same. Although that may be generally true, I believe that there is room for some serious investment in making online events even better.
Consider 2020 as the year in which we threw every idea we could against the wall to see what stuck. Wine and beer tasting? Celebrity cameos? Musical interludes? Breakouts and quizzes and treasure hunts? You name it, we tried it. Perhaps to the point of losing sight of what we were really trying to achieve.
Now, step back, review everything learned throughout the year: in events you ran and those you attended, in best practices published, and in ongoing feedback from customers. Take a realistic pulse on what seemed to really engage people and what seemed to be better in idea than in execution.
Did all those wine and cocktail tastings advance your business goals? Do you need one webcast a week or one a month? How about the endless new podcast series we all created to fill the voracious appetite for content that we also created?
The future of online events is waiting to be written and 2021 is really when we are going to be able to find the strategies that work best.
Even as you consider all the changes needed for 2021, it is not too early to be thinking about 2022. If 2020 was chaos, and ’21 is about a return to some sort of new stability, then ’22 may very well be a year of massive growth opportunity.
As macroeconomic conditions (hopefully) stabilize and companies return to investing, the B2B market could ignite unlike anything we have seen in a decade or more. Use 2021 to be keeping an eye on the longer-term and getting ready to stand out and win big.
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