7 Sales & Marketing Trends to Watch in 2021
The phrase, 'survival of the fittest' when applied to business has not rung true over the last 12 months, with many well-established companies caught off guard by current circumstances. Instead, the proverb from Plato: “Our need will be the real creator” is probably more appropriate, which translated over the centuries to the more familiar, English proverb 'Necessity is the mother of invention'. Read here about some less obvious latest sales and marketing trends.
Compared to previous years, the feeling is that trends haven't really revealed themselves as yet and as the current situation evolves, we are expected to see some big things on the horizon. Current Blogs and articles discussing predictions in 2021 and beyond have played it safe and been non-committal. Therefore, the Secret Source Trends for 2021 reveal items that are either; ones to watch, exciting and disruptive. Our sources come from the talented Sales, Marketing and Executive Leaders across different sectors, size, shape and geography. Secret Source has also consulted our sentiment analysis specialists who via the surface and deep web environments have surfaced some very surprising intelligence amongst the opinions and challenges faced by business leaders currently.
You will notice that I have kept away from the word 'prediction' for good reason. Last year many people had 'predictions' and forecasts which look laughable now. Take the Prime Minister, with all his specialist advisors, who said himself: "This is going to be a fantastic year for Britain". Only a matter of weeks later he was battening down the hatches in an unprecedented national lockdown. Product and business launches were delayed, mergers shelved, events cancelled and sales pipelines shot to bits! Even the comedian Jack Whitehall (along with the rest of the world) retracts his predictions for 2020.
So for this reason, we willtake a look at some of the trends that may help, hinder or hurt sales and marketing professionals in the future.
1. AI Tools
With events cancelled and most of the sales and marketing community stuck at home, then it is no wonder that the digital transformation has happened at an alarming rate. The use of digital assets, forums, reviews, e-commerce have all spiked during the pandemic. With conversations and research all happening online, then so will the adoption of Sentiment Analysis or indeed Opinion Mining, as it is often referred to. Using AI tools to measure a brand, product or service is going to be a given, but also advantageous as keeping your finger on the pulse, in almost real time will bring with it competitive advantage. Machine learning tools have been around for a while, with well-established AI vendors algorithms learning during that time. For any B2B, B2C brands, Opinion Mining will become part of everyday monitoring for sales, marketing, product strategy, service and operational leaders. Discovering more regards the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns will give business leaders and analysts a clearer overall picture of challenges and pain points experienced in different sectors.
Hubspot Trends in 2021 suggests that AI predictive analytics will replace A/B testing altogether, as sales and marketing professionals will be able to obtain the data concerning what is going to work and when, all by sourcing (and understanding) the data that will inform them what is going to happen before it has even happened? With IoT (Internet of Things) and more accurate data crunched by some super clever AI software and tools, then life for a sales and marketing professional is going to get easier... isn't it? Scared, excited, head in the ground, ready to embrace, or all of the above? Read Hubspots' 'Marketing Trends to Watch 2021' To discover more regards how Secret Source is already using Sentiment Analysis.
2. Events Meet Social Networking
Other trending articles talk about events being cancelled and more Zoom, MS Teams calls happening throughout 2021 (other conference call platforms are available). More events on Zoom is surely a given!? However, how they are structured and run is still being developed. TikTok saw a stratospheric rise during Lockdown across the planet and is already having to reinvent itself. Linkedin saw a huge adoption throughout 2020 and with it is misuse, which has led to early adopters of the platform, like myself, thinking that Linkedin is turning more into Facebook. Whereas Facebook on the other hand has helped many small to medium-sized businesses (SMB) move online and continue to trade. With Facebook about to change again as huge pressure from Governments, associations and society on the whole, then we will witness disruption within social media. Already platforms are jockeying to be the next 'big thing' where some are quietly (relatively speaking) making their presence known. Platforms such as Clubhouse, setting out its stall as an invite-only audio app where participants can move around virtual rooms discussing different topics with deemed experts. No doubt using gamification style rewards system to encourage adoption and build equity into the platform, it already has the FOMO factor (the fear of missing out). Read Vogues' take on it here. Therefore, events companies using online platforms and online platforms creating events. So if you are not yourself either frantically setting one up, then no doubt you will be looking for interesting relevant events to attend.
3. Account Based Marketing (ABM)
Speaking with B2B Marketing Specialists in particular, ABM will get more prevalent and sophisticated, as Sales and Marketing professionals will need to think of more engaging ways to nurture their audience. This is a large topic in itself so be sure to follow Secret Source where we will reveal our ABM campaigns throughout the year on behalf of our customers.
4. Ding Dong
Remember post? Well it's back! Despite the pandemic, people are still comfortable ordering stuff and what is more, everyone is in! Deliveries saw a 31% Increase according to Royal Mail figures and this has contineud to rise. B2B Sales and marketing professionals need to embrace the physical world and remember that you cannot build trust on web alone. Door drops will see a resurgence and the use of personalisation to the recipient, then there is no better way to remind your audience that you are thinking about them. "Having a parcel delivered is the highlight of the day during lockdown, research by the Royal Mail has revealed" (Source: The Telegraph).
Combined with our point number three, ABM, then using physical items to help your audience is going to see a rise in adoption. Before lockdown Secret Source were differentiating in B2B with postal drops. Not basic flyers but actual personalised items that people can use to help them do their job more efficiently. Postage is differentiating, personal, and carried out in a non-intrusive fashion, whilst respecting the environment, physical marketing can be sustainable, so doesn't need to cost the earth.
5. Open Banking
Any business involved in Ecommerce will want to consider Open Banking as part of their overall strategy. Open Banking is a secure payment mechanism that offers a commercial advantage and can deliver up to 90% operational savings, combined with substantial risk mitigation to banks, payment providers and ecommerce merchants.
Tesco Bank has recently been disruptive and introduced Open Banking, which will offer benefits such as cost savings to the customer and vendor. Open Banking legislation will change how B2B and B2C companies transact with their customers. If you have ecommerce or indeed make either multiple transactions or large payments, then you may want to consider Open Banking as a viable option. Certainly, Secret Source is now offering it on all ecommerce website builds, as it only enhances the experience, not detracts from it and it gives clients more on their bottom line because the transaction fees are far more competitive. Soon all ecommerce sites will offer it, but for now it is first mover advantage. If you want to learn more, then Secret Source Specialists can show you how it works (Source: Payment Industry Intelligence)
6. Get More Human!
Your prospect audience are selecting partners they can trust and sifting through your competitors and all the usual, "This is my product/service it's better than the other guy..." white noise out there, whilst avoiding all the'clickbait', 'free cake!' content material. Instead, they are looking to deal with real people! It is tough for B2B sales and marketing people to stand out from a crowd. Take Captain Tom. He did not need a sales and marketing budget or 20-point plan. He inspired (and continues to inspire) people from all walks of life because he was doing something he believed in. He did not calculate or ask for what happened next. You do not have to aim for world peace, just a way of showing how your people actually help other people. We all agree that the world is in a tough spot right now. History has shown that some amazing brands, campaigns and ideas have risen up in such circumstances. So groups of people within businesses need to find a way to embrace change and make a difference to help their customers in their time of need. At Secret Source we are positive that we are going to see some amazing ideas, campaigns and extraordinary people in 2021. We hope to see even more collaboration, discoveries and innovation being driven by sales and marketing professionals in 2021
7. Marketing Budgets
In 2021, Executive leaders will need to go further than simply reallocation of budget. The innovators will be establishing new models, born from necessity, when it comes to budgeting. An increase in research budgets to gain more market intelligence over competition. Line items will include opinion mining for both B2B and B2C Sales and marketing professionals. Working with outsourced specialists will also rise where a physical location is no longer the normal mode of operation. Secret Source has seen an increase in outsourced marketing to cohesive teams, such as ours who can; research, wire-up, design, create, manage and report on campaigns. A shared service marketing execution model will give businesses access to the right talent whilst combining salary and sales/marketing budgets, offering consistency in marketing spend. Given the right Service Level Agreements (SLA) and deliverables are established then Outsourced Marketing can help grow a business. It is also rapidly scaleable because marketing hubs like Secret Source are attracting top talent who want to work with growing brands. The sheer variety of work and flexible working arrangements enables retention. When budget holders are having to do more with less and staff are remote anyway, then the switch to outsourced marketing has been an easy one for many companies, while for others it is more of a cultural barrier. Because of the word 'outsourcing' this business model might go by different names such as Marketing On Demand. The model will be adopted by more companies as they have to compete against their competitors that use an outsourced marketing agency.
2021 will see new ways of working (and living). This will bring with it new technology, reporting, strategies, models and tactics. As people continue to work remotely, then we will experience the positives and negatives of doing so. We hope that as we work further apart, business communities actually come closer together and that collaboration will be high up on the agenda for all businesses leaders, irrespective of their size or sector. We will be enbracing all of the above trends and the Secret Source Research Team will continue to scour the horizon for new emerging trends.