It goes without saying that 2020 has been a challenging year, but at the same time it has taught us how to adapt and find new ways to drive results both personally and professionally. The same holds true for B2B marketers. Many of their plans were turned upside down around mid-March and they had to find new ways to stay on plan and still hit their goals. Watching the marketing community pivot, and pivot quickly, has been an impressive thing to see. As we look into 2021, how are B2B marketers planning out their year? Where is their budget going and why? We believe these three big ticket items are going to be top of mind for them in 2021:
1) Looking at events through a different lens
We all know that events have changed, most likely forever. Yes, in-person events will eventually come back, but even when they do the event game has changed and because of that the way marketing departments plan out their event budgets is going to be drastically different in 2021. Their budget will drop into the following buckets:
- Virtual Events – for the last nine months of 2020, virtual events have seen a resurgence. They haven’t been this in demand since the recession of 2008 when travel and event budgets were slashed across the board. The main difference is this time virtual events are here to stay. In our recent webinar – 2021 Lead Generation: Virtual Event Domination – we talk about all things virtual, including how the overwhelming percentage of event budgets will go to virtual events in 2021. The technology and the ability to connect more effectively with your peers in a virtual environment has greatly improved, and because marketers have been forced to leverage virtual events with in-person not being an option, they’re seeing the benefits firsthand – they’re safer, more cost effective, more measurable, have longer term lead generation impact and generate better ROI than in-person events. Virtual events will see even greater adoption with B2B marketers taking a ‘digital first’ event strategy next year.
- Hybrid Events – when in-person events eventually come back with some level of consistency, most likely in the 2nd half of the year, the smart organizations will have digital extensions of those events. Hybrid events cater to both crowds – the folks that will be attending in-person and the folks that are staying at home. A large portion of professionals are going to shy away from in-person events for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean they’re not buyers. Putting together a hybrid event format enables them to still engage and consume your content from the comfort of their home, office or wherever they might be. As you look at potential virtual event platforms for 2021, but you know you want to execute some physical events as well, make sure the providers you’re speaking with have the ability to help you execute hybrid events. Like virtual only events, hybrid will see mass adoption next year
- Smaller scale in-person events – when they do come back, in-person events will be at a much smaller scale initially. It is hard to believe that folks will jump right into physical events that have 5,000, 10,000 or more people in 2021. The events will be smaller scale and more personal, but that could be a very good thing for many organizations. Some of the complaints about large scale physical events is that they are difficult to navigate and organizations/brands can get lost in the shuffle. Because of that, many marketers have felt for a long time that they weren’t generating enough awareness and quality leads from physical events which led to poor ROI. These smaller scale events will be safer and enable organizations to connect with their customers and prospects on a more personal level, leading to better pipeline and revenue growth as a result.
2) ABM will be a force to be reckoned with
ABM (account-based marketing) has been around for a good while, but just recently have companies started to do it right. In 2021, we believe ABM will become one of the dominate strategies for leading B2B marketers. There are a few reasons for this:
- Marketers are revenue generators now – the days of marketers generating large amounts of soft leads and saying, “look at me, I’m killing it!”, are gone. Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are a thing of the past. B2B marketers are heavily tied to revenue now and thus their focus must be on strategies that drive qualified pipeline and revenue growth. The economic impacts of COVID have forced companies to tighten budgets and focus on campaigns that are targeted, more personalized and generate higher quality conversions.
- Better customer retention – ABM isn’t just for acquiring new customers, it’s also a way to improve the customer experience and retain existing customers. It’s a lot more costly to bring on new customers than it is to keep existing ones. ABM offers a more personalized touch that keeps your customers engaged and turns them into brand ambassadors.
3) Quality content will be king
We’ve all heard the saying ‘Content is King.’ In our eyes, quality content is king and that’s true now more than ever. In the current environment it’s more difficult to catch the attention of buyers, so B2B marketers have to be savvy about the content they create (think buyer-centric content that educates) and how they promote it and deliver it. Here are the vehicles that will get your message and quality content to your targeted audience the right way:
- Email marketing – it looks like the remote workforce might be the new normal, with many organizations finding out they can be just as efficient working from home. Because of that, smart email marketing strategies will be a must. However, these emails will only be effective if they are offering prospects and customers something of value…
- Videos, webinars and virtual events – organizations will move away from static content and instead lean on content that is more engaging and provides better insight into buyer behavior. Short-form videos that tell a story and educate will continue to be huge in 2021. Webinars and virtual events, as highlighted earlier in this blog, will see even more adoption in 2021. They are content hubs that enable B2B marketers to interact with their customers and prospects a number of different ways, and they offer more insight into buyer needs/wants than any other form of content marketing. This insight will lead to more personalized/smarter outreach, better conversions and significant revenue growth.
Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ firstname.lastname@example.org