I have some good news and bad news, and I’d like to get the bad news out of the way first.
Here goes: We all lived through 2020, and it will likely go down in all of our memories as one of the worst years ever.
But here’s the good news: 2020 is coming to an end, and we have so much to look forward to in 2021.
Of course, making changes and setting goals for this upcoming year won’t be as simple as uttering the overused, “New year, new me.” We’ve all spent the last year grappling with a virus that’s caused an endless number of changes to our daily lives, after all.
And those changes aren’t just limited to how we operate as individuals. Businesses are entering a new landscape that will likely shift dramatically every few months or so in 2021.
While many of those shifts will be positive A vaccine! Companies opening their doors again! Safely seeing friends and family! they’ll necessitate many changes to business’ strategies, especially when it comes to marketing.
Uncertain times can cause uncertainty in how to move forward. But we’re not ones to recommend “waiting and seeing” when it comes to your marketing strategy. Instead, we want to offer some guidance on how to set marketing goals in 2021.
Pretty confident in handling 2021 and just need some direction on setting actionable goals? Download our free marketing goal setting template.
How to set marketing goals in a difficult year: 9 suggestions from marketing professionals
Capital Consulting Group is no stranger to setting marketing goals. But 2020 was a big year that impacted literally every person on the globe. For that reason, we decided to see how other marketers were thinking about their plans for the new year.
Over 100 marketers weighed in with their thoughts on how to set marketing goals to prepare for 2021’s shifting landscape. Hopefully some of our advice will make you feel confident in setting your own marketing goals for the year.
1. Commit to going digital
COVID-19 necessitated that most consumers stay at home. Nearly half of the world’s population was in lockdown in April 2020, and many countries are issuing new restrictions in anticipation of an increase in cases due to holiday travel.
As a result, most businesses have had to pivot to digital experiences. And the continuation of that trend is top of mind for many marketing teams.
Pablo Lopez, head of SEO at topflight Agency, believes 2021 will “be the start of a new era of doing business.” In his view, digital will overtake more traditional marketing as customers will continue to prefer or need to shop online. That means businesses should continue to shift their marketing efforts online, as well.
Lopez recommends adding a few of the following activities to your list of marketing goals:
- Amp up your SEO efforts by making sure your website is optimized for search.
- Refresh your website to make sure it’s updated.
- Run a paid campaign on a popular digital channel
- Increase your presence on social media.
Any action you take to improve your digital presence will serve you well in a year when we’ll likely all still be stuck at home, staring at our screens for entertainment and answers.
2. Go organic
Increasing your chances at snagging organic traffic will help you improve your digital presence in 2021 and hopefully in years to come. The most common recommendation our group of marketers had for improving and increasing organic traffic was to ramp up both the quality and quantity of your content.
David Reischer, who works in marketing at LegalAdvice.com, believes setting goals in 2021 “should entail a content marketing strategy that focuses on topical issues that are relevant and trending.” He adds that posting content on “a regular and frequent basis” can help you build a real community through your blog.
Building a community to increase organic traffic takes more time to build up than paid traffic. But someone who finds your site via an organic link, like a blog post they found through Google, is five times more likely to purchase your company’s product or service than someone who clicked on a paid ad. So in the end, that time and effort will pay off.
2021 will be the year to focus on your content offerings. Set a goal to build up your blog with regular posts. Or focus on increasing your company’s educational offerings, like case studies or white papers. Make sure whatever content you create follows SEO best practices so people have a better chance of finding your content via search engines.
3. Get (virtually) social
Increasing your social media presence and participation can also help you build connections and community with homebound consumers.
Jason Akatiff, co-founder of Boundery, puts it pretty plainly: “People are lonelier than ever. With virus cases still on the rise, we might be stuck inside our homes going into next year, unable to socialize in person or enjoy typical activities such as restaurants, bars, concerts, museums, etc.”
As a result, Akatiff has noticed that many of us are resorting to “connecting online in forums, chats, and online groups.”
The best part is, like organic traffic, you can build these social media connections for a relatively low cost. You can always invest in a paid social campaign. But taking the time and effort to connect with consumers in a genuine way can help you build a loyal and appreciative following.
However, JP Brousseau, CEO and founder of Phone Loops, points out that not all channels are created equal. They recommend focusing on “identifying your target audience and finding their social media platform of choice.” Brousseau suggests “analyzing your current customers’ activities so you can post on the websites they visit the most.” That way, you won’t waste your time crafting posts that won’t be seen by the right people.
Look at where your current social traffic comes from and set goals that will help you increase or improve the connections you make on your top channels. If you don’t have much of a social presence, pledge to experiment with different channels to reach more and different customers.
4. Keep your goals manageable so you can be flexible and agile
Thus far, we’ve largely suggested that you do more: boost your digital footprint, expand your content offerings, and broaden your social network. But many marketers pointed out the need to think small when it comes to your marketing goals for 2021.
But as Dayana Mayfield, content promotion expert and founder of Pitch & Profit points out, thinking small and simple “does not mean we can only have small goals. It just means we must prioritize a small number of goals.” Mayfield suggests taking on “three important initiatives and honing them, rather than spreading ourselves too thin and allowing ourselves to lose focus.”
CEO of PPCGenius.io, Stewart Dunlop, adds that thinking small can also mean planning in shorter increments. In a year that promises many upcoming shifts and changes, sitting down to map out your entire 2021 marketing plan might not be the best use of your time. Instead, Dunlop recommends planning in increments of three to six months. “Were all going to have to be more adaptable than weve been in the past if we want to accurately use our planned spends to the best of our capabilities.”
Planning in smaller chunks and frequently checking on your progress will help you respond more quickly to the inevitable changes 2021 will bring in customer behavior. With that in mind, Chris Wilks, digital marketing manager at BrandExtract, says the best plan you can make is a plan to be agile.
He recommends setting goals “like you would in other years, armed with the insights you’re able to pull from how things have gone this year.” However, you should also “understand that those goals may need to shift midway through the year, or even quarterly.” Instead of assuming your goals will remain the same throughout the year, Wilks says you should expect to revisit them regularly and adjust or even scrap them accordingly.
And in the case of throwing a particular goal out entirely, Danny Pollack, CEO of Bespoke Extracts says it’s important to have backup plans and backups to those backups in terms of what we will do if we face any scenario that remotely resembles what we faced in 2020…avoid being caught on our heels and scrambling for a plan.”
Set goals you can achieve or modify within several months. Make it another goal to check in with your progress more frequently at least once a month so you can fix what’s not working or adjust your expectations. Plan for big changes, like vaccinations and the ends of lockdowns, while also planning for COVID-related restrictions to continue before we reach herd immunity. Have backup plans in case your original plans won’t work for the current situation.
6. Dig into your data
Data-supported decisions have always been important. But they’ll be more important than ever in 2021. With all the hypotheticals around what might happen once enough people have been vaccinated, you don’t need to add question marks to your marketing strategy, as well.
Digging into concrete marketing data will help you make informed decisions about adapting to changes as they happen. If you see less traffic coming in from social channels as people are able to meet up with friends in person, for example, you can make an informed decision to decrease your efforts and spending there.
Using data means you won’t need to rely on guesswork to make decisions about your marketing efforts.
Set a goal to check in on your marketing data frequently. Make a list of what data points will be most important to keep an eye on, and monitor them diligently. Adjust your goals or create new ones only when the data supports doing so.
7. Up your emotional IQ
Just because you’re planning on crunching more numbers in 2021 doesn’t mean you should turn into a marketing robot. In fact, many marketers who wrote in with advice recommended the exact opposite approach.
Simon Elkjær, chief marketing officer at avXperten, says that “what sets 2021 apart from other years is that we have to be even more sensitive and aware of how we communicate with others who, like us, are going through a difficult time.” One of your most important goals for 2021, then, should be to find the right marketing tone. Elkjær believes finding that tone will help solidify your company’s image as a brand that “truly cares about their customers’ wellbeing.”
Valentina Lopez, co-founder of Happiness Without, agrees, adding that your marketing efforts should include actions that back up that empathy with your customers. She says, “As a way of meeting our audiences needs during this pandemic, our company hosted an event titled ‘Your Feelings are Heard and Valued,’ where mental health and peoples struggles during this difficult situation were tackled.” It was a huge success for Happiness Without and had a big effect on how consumers interacted with their brand. Lopez reports that “the use of our chat support increased by 93%, with a 76% increase in new users, just months after hosting the webinar.”
We’ve all been through a lot this year. Your marketing messages should reflect that. Shift your marketing tone to one of authenticity and empathy. Aim to connect with customers on a more personal level that makes them feel heard.
8. Focus on things you can control
Overall, 2021 will probably feel a lot like 2020. Lots of things will happen that will feel overwhelming and out of our control. It’s more important than ever to be realistic and focus on setting achievable goals.
To gain a sense of control around your marketing efforts, Julia Lemberskiy, co-founder and managing director of JJ Studio, recommends “focusing on activity goals that are in your team’s control.” That means that instead of setting goals centered around people’s reactions to your marketing (like the number of users you acquire or the number of followers you gain), you should focus on what your team can actually do.
Lemberskiy gives some of the following examples:
- Conduct at least 20 Facebook A/B tests.
- Create 15 new CRM automations.
- Build and test at least three landing pages.
Activity-based goals will “lead to improvement across your marketing activities, without quantifying exactly what the improvements will be right now,” says Lemberskiy.
Focusing on the actions you can take will give you concrete steps to achieve your marketing goals. No matter what the world looks like, you can make progress with action-based goals.
9. Stay hopeful
We’re all hoping things will get better in 2021. And things like approved vaccines and life-saving coronavirus treatments are a few reasons to be optimistic for what the new year will bring. That hopefulness should come through in your marketing efforts.
Elisabeth Thomas, a brand and content strategist at Summary Content Marketing, says, “Marketing strategy is just as much about the data as it is about reading the marketplace and the public’s mood.” While 2020 was “a year of immense uncertainty, fear, sadness, and loneliness,” Thomas believes 2021 will be a year of hope. She encourages brands to “capitalize on this unprecedented moment by showing the joy and positivity that is coming forth.” If they do, Thomas thinks “they will help amplify international healing and reap the rewards for their bottom line.”
Nerissa Zhang, CEO of The Bright App, thinks this hopefulness should extend to marketers themselves. On top reflecting hope, joy, and stability back at consumers, Zhang thinks marketers should “be ready to bring fun back into your marketing” in 2021.
We still have a long slog ahead of us before we see a return to anything near normalcy, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Your messaging and marketing efforts should reflect that. Think about ways your brand can project positivity and bring people joy in a dark time.
Think you know how to move forward with your 2021 marketing goals? Download our free goal setting template to document your plans.
2021 doesn’t have to be a lost year
Just because we don’t know what’s going to happen in 2021 doesn’t mean we have to proceed without a sense of direction. Set marketing goals that will help you increase and improve your presence in digital channels. Connect with customers in genuine, authentic, empathetic, and hopeful ways. And use data to back up your decisions.
If you need some assistance with setting meaningful, achievable marketing goals for 2021, Capital Consulting Group can help. Whether you need advice on where to focus your efforts or help sifting through your marketing data, we have you covered.
Schedule your free consultation call to help us create a tailored marketing plan that will help grow your business.