This year has left scars in every industry and business. As we come to the close of 2020, we can celebrate, but we must also use what we’ve learned these last several months and prepare ourselves for more uncertainty in 2021. We thought about the wisdom we’ve been forced into internally, what we’ve heard from our clients in hard-hit industries like hospitality, tourism, and retail, and combed through the successes we’ve witnessed and been a part of this year to compile a list of 7 lessons we should have all learned this year and what we need to take from those experiences into the new year.
When problems arose with Facebook ads, were you prepared to market on another platform or through email? When people were at home suddenly and consumed more digital and audio content than ever before, did you launch content that helped your brand? Being able to quickly send a marketing concept to a targeted audience in multiple channels and becoming accustomed to reaching your target audience in new ways must be a standard operating procedure to close out this year and start a solid foundation for the upcoming year.
With Instagram Stories surpassing visibility metrics over the feed, Reels (the TikTok answer from Instagram) going live, LinkedIn launching their own version of Stories, Twitter launching Fleets, and Facebook continuing to heavily favor video throughout their feeds, ad networks, and content, video reigns supreme. Informal, short snippets of relevant and relatable content should be ever-present in the back of your mind when planning content or campaigns. In short, the 15-second video is king of content.
With daily virus metrics updates and election vote counting refreshes every few minutes, we learned the value of collecting, analyzing, and understanding good data. If you haven’t already installed tracking codes into all of your marketing and advertising efforts online, you could be wasting valuable time. More importantly, you could be costing your company more than is necessary.
As professionals, we have always prepared for the proverbial bus that may come & run us over one day. This year, the bus’s name was COVID-19. At any moment, you or a key employee could be out of the game. What then? Having a network you can rely on, a trusted external partner to support you, and a system in place that can run, at least in the short-term, autonomously is vital to your success.
Before anyone feels triggered by the suggestion Pinterest is a secondary platform, it’s important to read further. Pinterest proved stability, solid advertising performance, and reliable SEO boosts in 2020. And, this year especially, reliability carries value.
Ads can draw attention to a brand, but unless the brand is already well-known, there is a lot more work to do. Having a customer advocate or influencer on your side can shorten the timeline between introduction and conversion. Leveraging these relationships (and thanking everyone who helps) can also help you to build and maintain brand loyalty. Through offerings, exclusive discounts, or fun graphics, a loyal following is more important than ever. Figure out what makes you unique, how you can solve a problem for your target customer, and push it now. Also, don’t forget to also cultivate relationships with other adjacent small brands that could help boost visibility and staying power. Local advocates, businesses, partners, vendors, and friends can all be a part of increasing your business’s strength. Build your community!
Partners, like marketing and branding agencies, don’t simply exist to fill a seat. In 2020, the role of these companies (like VanNoppen) was to extend extra support to small, local businesses and serve as a sort of crisis management team for businesses that did not have anyone to occupy that role. When the first lockdown orders came in the Spring, events were suddenly canceled that entire industries relied upon. Websites had to be live in days, not months. And digital marketing became a necessity (as it likely always was) instead of a nice addition. Marketing agencies stepped up and helped transition companies to remote workplaces, create digital structures quickly, and brainstorm ways to pivot brick and mortar businesses into the online space so they could weather the storm and perhaps even thrive. If you haven’t already worked with a professional to help modernize your business and make it easier for customers to find you online and do business with you from the comfort of their homes, do that before the end of the year.
Set up (and help your employees establish) good home offices with increased home network security (hackers have been hard at work even during the pandemic); established guidelines for expectations; access to cloud file storage, a phone system, a productivity chat software like Slack, up-to-date equipment (including a Zoom-friendly webcam); and provide employees with company-wide social media etiquette, privacy settings, and non-disclosure policies.
It’s also important to pay attention to international news and trends across the globe to pick up early on signals of economic challenges, shipping delays, or a new pandemic (though let’s hope that’s not on the radar anytime soon). You should also strive to stay relevant by contextualizing your brand for the current external conditions. As appropriate for your voice, show support for partners, social causes, and customer concerns. When times are chaotic and anxious, you want your brand to feel stable and secure so avoid making light of serious issues like politics, social campaigns, and calls for equity. Instead, decide if, when, and how you should lend your brand to the conversation - and keep the jokes to your industry, non-polarizing topics, and your company.