How Has Digital Marketing Changed in 2020?

2020 is close to an end and with everything that has happened in the world, I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one who will not miss it. But before the end of the year, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what has forever changed in marketing and the learnings I will carry into 2021.

Leaving aside all the chaos created by this pandemic, 2020 was the year that lots of companies went through a massive process of digitalization, many of them without having planned it.

The way companies promote and sell their services or products was impacted. Some offline businesses had to build a website for the first time, so they can still reach their audience even during a lockdown. B2B companies had to come up with other ways to generate leads, as one of their main lead generation channels, tradeshows and conferences, was canceled.

It’s the year of digital sales, all digital events and digital-only marketing campaigns.

So what changed when it comes to digital marketing and the way we approach our audiences?

Spoiler alert: there is no earth-shattering, unheard of change, but rather approaches that focus on the end consumer. These approaches have been around for a while now, but companies “afforded” to bypass or ignore.

1. Empathy is no longer nice to have

I think this is the very first lesson many of us learned this year. With the uncertainty and the fear brought by the global pandemic, people started having little tolerance for brands talking about themselves and their products.

People still need to buy products and services, but they want information that is on point and answers their questions. Pitch-like message or communication that takes too much of our time is just not acceptable anymore.

Adapting the messages to focus on consumers’ needs and pains and moving away from boasting about a product or service is the new normal.

2. Marketing is not a peripheral department, it’s a connector for the rest of the business

Aligning marketing and sales around the same goals is a trend that emerged some years ago but not all companies were in a hurry to achieve it.

But as everyone is online these days and companies use the same digital tactics, it’s become harder and harder to achieve any results. Decision-makers all receive emails, LinkedIn messages, ads on social media or search engines from several vendors. And so in order to stand out, it’s obvious that we need to truly understand our own audiences, how our offering helps them, what they care about, and what concerns they have when making a purchase.

Marketing can do all of that: gather consumer insights, monitor how people react to a specific message or offer, and communicate that feedback back to the business. Especially in the B2B world, if marketing and sales are disconnected, and the leads marketing generates cannot be closed by sales, then it’s a lot of money wasted. And no company can afford to waste it anymore.

3. Content is still king, but some formats are better than others

High-quality educational content that brings useful information from established experts yields results. However, with so many brands creating content and fighting for a decreasing attention span meant that some formats become less popular than they used to be. Long-form written content is still useful but formats such as webinars, video interviews with industry experts, fireside chats, short-form content on Facebook, or even Instagram were in fact the rising stars.

4. Integrated channels and campaigns is the new baseline

Regardless of which channel is the best performing one for you, you cannot simply rely on being found on search engines, on social media, or via an ad. Instead, creating integrated campaigns than run across several channels is the way to go. Think of launching an educational webinar that you promote via your social media profiles, email to your subscribers, social media ads, your own blog as well as partners’ or collaborators’ blogs. And then continuing the conversation with people who attended, in a way that makes sense and provides value to them.

It’s not enough to think in terms of discrete campaigns to close new deals.

5. Spontaneity and imperfections are OK

With working from home being the norm now, it became perfectly acceptable to create a company video from your own bedroom, record it using a computer and no studio lights. As long as the content is truly educational or entertaining, not so well directed campaigns are perfectly OK. So the great news here is that creating video content became less expensive and time-consuming.

In August, my company launched an initiative to uncover the trends in digital marketing and spoke to ten of the most dynamic tech companies based in Romania such as UiPath, DRUID, or FintechOS. We were curious to learn their perspective and how these companies adapted the way they market and speak to consumers. We gathered lots of interesting ideas and insights and published them into an eBook that you can download for free.

What do you think forever changed in digital marketing? And what learning do you take away from a very challenging 2020?

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Author: Elena Iordache-Stoica

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