It's fair to say that in 2020, our lives and livelihoods were challenged to such an extent that it's difficult to know what's in store this year. We work with B2B and B2C brands across a wide spectrum of industries and each one has been impacted to varying degrees by coronavirus.
The marketing industry itself has faced its share of challenges as it adapted to new demands from clients, changes in the media landscape and changes in audience behaviour. Business models have shifted, and we've had to be dynamic and agile to face the challenges presented.
Yet the role of PR and marketing has bridged a gap for so many businesses, playing a vital role in their resilience - and we don't see the reliance on marketing diminishing any time soon. Here, Lis Anderson, director of AMBITIOUS PR shares her top five B2B marketing and communications trends for 2021.
1. The need to build a personal brand
Customers are becoming savvy to the ethics and ethos of the businesses that they are buying from. Increasing the visibility of CEOs, members of the board and senior leadership teams builds brand identity, showcases values, and demonstrates that they own their areas of expertise. When carried out correctly, a personal branding campaign can authentically engage an audience, driving leads through earned and owned media.
But it also has another distinct advantage; brands are now realising the power of reputation, having realised that crisis could strike at any time. The work that goes into building an honest and trustworthy reputation can make the difference between success and failure when crisis looms.
2. Reliance on human interest stories
A rapid move towards remote working and an increasing reliance on technology has led people to crave human interest stories more so than ever before. Once reserved for B2C campaigns, making communication campaigns more 'human' is now becoming even more important for B2B brands.
Whatever industry you operate in, take time to analyse your target audience and the topical events that are affecting their day-to-day lives. Then bring the audience into your brand story to bring it to life. Think research, case studies and plenty of imagery. Informed customer data and customer stories, when presented well, bring the kind of credibility to your brand that can truly influence buyers.
3. Communication channels will continue increasing
Channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, blogs and newsletters for engaging with your audience will only continue to grow in 2021. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for brands. Each platform requires its own brand style which means businesses need to mix up content with video, articles, posts so that each channel looks fresh and dynamic.
Sharing content is only half the plan; the other half is community management. When it comes to choosing the channels that are most relevant to your business, think less is more. If you nourish your network, you will get out what you put in.
4. Stakeholder engagement shifts up a notch
In times of change, not only is it important to continually engage with your audience, it's also crucial to maintain communications with stakeholders. Corporate communications have been challenged by the distributed workforce, so a strategic approach will be required by many organisations in 2021. Map each stakeholder audience that has a specific interest in your business, identify which aspects of your communications are working well and which require work. Then tailor influencer programmes around each business objective to remedy any stakeholder challenges.
5. The upheaval of 2020 will force a new way of thinking
Businesses have needed to pivot according to the specific challenges in their industry. Communications plans have had to be revised and continuously reviewed. But it's not all bad news. It has given many organisations a new perspective, challenging previous perceptions and the tendency not to challenge the status quo.
We've seen brands finding new ways to engage audiences and a greater requirement to measure marketing practices to see which are providing most value. 2021 will see more brands willing to 'test the waters' of new marketing approaches, bringing about healthy change for the industry and new ways to find success.
Copyright 2021. Article was made possible by site supporter AMBITIOUS PR, winners of Best PR Agency at The Drum's RAR Awards in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the national award based on client ratings.