Trends and Changes in 2021 Marketing Strategy Planning

Illustration of 2021 planning and launching processes

If 2020 taught us anything as marketers, it’s the importance of being agile. Seemingly overnight, many of our clients had to make major decisions about how to approach the future of their operations. Throughout many industries, marketing budgets took a hit. In fact, in a recent survey of CMOs by Gartner, 44% reported facing midyear budget cuts due to the effects of the pandemic. This translates into everything from scaling back planned campaigns to staff reductions.

Closer to home, we asked our Client Services team to weigh in on the discussions they’ve been having with our clients around planning budgets for next year and beyond. We’re also sharing our thoughts around trends were seeing that you might want to consider as you plan.

A Common Trend: Reduced Marketing Budgets and Narrowed Focus

As noted earlier, clients are still dealing with the reality of working with less. This means they’re focusing more on what’s right in front of them or what they know has worked in the past. While some clients are looking to get more strategic with their marketing spend in 2021, others still aren’t sure of the direction their plans will take. However, the common theme we are seeing is that 2021 marketing budgets are being reduced across the board.

How Marketing Planning Discussions Look Different in 2020

In previous years, we would be heavy into strategic planning sessions with our clients right now. However, this year many of our clients are still reacting from the uncertainty left by COVID, which is paralyzing the normal strategic planning process. We are seeing a rush to finish initiatives on a project-by-project basis before the end of the year, leaving little time to think about 2021. On the other hand, some clients are looking for help developing strategies that align with their smaller budgets in 2021.

What to Consider as You Plan for 2021

While it’s hard to know what the future will look like, there are ways to think about building your marketing plan now that can carry it through. Here are a few of our suggestions:

Lean into digital. Times of uncertainty are also opportunities for growth. In 2020 we’ve seen just how critical technology is to our business and how reliant we are on it in our everyday lives. For companies that haven’t fully embraced the possibilities of digital transformation, now may be the time to start thinking about how to invest in digital efforts.

Plan in increments. Instead of mapping out an entire year, consider planning a few months at a time. This allows you to be nimble and build some flexibility into your plan so you can change course more easily if you need to.

Focus on metrics. If reporting and analysis aren’t part of your current marketing plan, they should be. With reduced budgets, it’s important to make sure the spend you do have is working as efficiently as possible. Being able to measure marketing campaign performance and make adjustments will be crucial in the coming year.

Choose Planning Over Panicking

It’s said that chance favors the prepared. Having a plan in place, even a loose one, can help you seize the opportunities you see coming and navigate situations you don’t. Staying still and waiting may mean you miss out. Plus, in the same Gartner survey, 73% of the CMOs asked were optimistic and expect the effects of COVID-19 to be short term. Let’s hope they’re right, but in the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan.

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