How to Create a Successful Marketing Strategy for 2021

Map pin connecting several red threads. Header image for planning a marketing strategy for 2021 blog post.
Map pin connecting several red threads. Header image for planning a marketing strategy for 2021 blog post.

It’s the start of a new year (say it with us now: thank goodness we have 2020 in the rearview), which means it’s time to plan your marketing strategy! But how do you set yourself and your team up for success in these unpredictable and unprecedented times?

Well, firstly, even though 2020 did cause quite a bit of upheaval - the general template for a marketing strategy is not that different than any other year.

What may be different are your specific marketing goals and KPIs, and you’ll want to look closely at how you're benchmarking against the previous year, given the extraordinary circumstances of 2020. But before you decide any of that you need a strong foundation in place and a clear strategy. 

Table of Contents

What Is a Marketing Strategy?

Broadly speaking, a "marketing strategy" can be defined as follows:

Your business’ plan for getting in front of potential users and turning them into purchasers.

Depending on if your business is more transactional or relationship-focused, marketing strategy can also own all the ways to encourage repeat website visits and purchases. Strategy goals are executed through a marketing plan, which breaks down the day-to-day structure for putting your ideas into action.

What Are the Different Kinds of Marketing Strategies?

A comprehensive marketing strategy typically involves utilizing a combination of several different distribution channels and marketing methods. These could include email campaigns, social media, SEO, and digital advertising. For true marketing success though, no matter how large or small your team, the marketing efforts from each of these areas should work closely together.

1. Social media

Hashtag symbol light up on black background. Commonly used in strategic social media marketing.

As a savvy digital marketer, your job is to stay on top of the tried and true channels while identifying interesting opportunities to reach new audiences and micro-communities in an ever-changing social media landscape.

How social media fits into your marketing mix depends on your buyer personas and your marketing objectives. But it’s an important channel that you can't ignore no matter how big or small of a role it plays in your overall strategy.

The top social platforms for digital marketing include:

  • LinkedIn - post company wins and news, connect with others in your industry, find influencers, and create posts that establish your authority in your space
  • Facebook - the demographic of Facebook users has shifted significantly in recent years. 65+ is the fastest-growing age range, reaching 40% in 2019. Whereas teens dropped from 71% in 2015 to 51% in 2018. Be sure to consider this when advertising on Facebook!
  • Twitter - 280 characters to get your message across, and a dialect of hashtags and gifs to understand. Twitter is the ideal platform for building your brand personality
  • Instagram - with over 1 billion users accessing the network every month, Instagram is incredibly useful for social media marketing. Follow hashtags to find influencers and create stories to share engaging behind the scenes glimpses

Authenticity on social media is one of the toughest balances to strike but also a key component to the success of your social marketing strategy.

One brand that does authenticity and values-based social media marketing extremely well is Dove. They understand clearly what their audience values and the issues they care about. In particular, these include body positivity and diversity. Dove's numerous campaigns throughout the year showcase individuality and highlight female empowerment.

Dove also had one of the best examples of social media marketing in 2020 and is a great brand to look to for how to use hashtags for marketing campaigns.

2. SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of those strategies that more and more people know about, yet still either do poorly or don’t focus enough efforts into. This is a fatal mistake costing you potentially thousands of website visits a day. 

And if you do organic SEO well, these visits cost you very little. This leaves you more freedom to spend marketing dollars on optimizing your website experience and lead capture flows - turning that organic traffic into paying customers. 

Content is king when it comes to attracting new users through SEO, and a blog is a great way to start. Try writing articles around specific keywords, particularly long-tail keywords, to attract customers more likely to convert after landing on your website. Invest in content marketing efforts by promoting the content you create on social media and other websites. 

3. Utilize influencers

More and more brands are learning how to effectively leverage influencers in their marketing strategy. In particular, micro-influencers are gaining a lot of notice for their niche subject matter and better audience engagement. 

When influencers have an engaged audience, their content gets shared - influencing sales for the brands they promote. It’s a win-win! See how Beyoncé did it...

Two of the top channels for brands that want to market using influences are Instagram and YouTube.

For example, popular YouTuber Bernadette Banner (1M+ subscribers) specializes in sewing and costume making. She works regularly with Skillshare who has sponsored a number of her videos.

I Made an 1890s Ball Gown Using Victorian Sewing Methods

She ties their service to her brand, not as a costume designer but as a videographer and presenter, stating that taking Skillshare photography, editing, and public speaking courses helped her to up her game when it came to producing her videos. People who follow her get a special promotion code to use Skillshare themselves.

Use Meltwater's Social Influencer tools to pinpoint those influencers who will relate the most to your audience type.

4. Email marketing

Even with new-fangled digital marketing channels continuing to pop up, email remains one of the most powerful touchpoints with customers. If you don’t already have one, you should set up an email newsletter. Hint: set up both an internal newsletter and an external one. 

Check your success metrics on a regular basis - weekly is recommended. You’ll soon have enough data to learn some key insights about your audience - and you can course-correct if needed. You should be tracking: 

  • CTR (Click-through Rate)
  • Open Rate
  • Goal completions from email

Other email marketing tips:

  • A/B test your subject line as often as possible
  • Don’t underestimate the power of segmenting your email list so you can market specifically rather than broadly. 

A catchy subject line is the hook-line-and-sinker gateway to improving your email open rate. Your subject lines should reflect who you are as a brand. Don't be afraid of experimenting to see what your audience responds to.

For some great examples of clever and fun subject lines, as well as extremely personable email copy, check out The Hustle (and even if you don't get to the emails, do it for their superb thank you page after you subscribe).

5. Audience insights

Know who your audience is beyond the basic demographic data. Audience insights help you formulate buyer personas for your various consumer groups.

Get to know their values, interests, and consumer behavior with a comprehensive social listening tool or consumer insights software. These insights will help determine which direction you choose to go with your promotion strategy, who you reach out to for influencer partnerships, and the products you develop.

6. Customer journey

Young woman looking out over winding road. Understanding your customer journey is crucial to successful marketing strategy.

Use 2021 to re-examine your customer journey and the push & pull tactics you're using. Given our different schedules, priorities, and routines while working from home, your users might be online at different times, meaning the right moment to reach out for the highest conversions may look different than before.

You want to ensure they keep coming back if they’re not ready to purchase. And when they are ready to buy, the purchase flow and CTAs should be straightforward. You don't want to make it confusing for someone to complete their checkout.

The last piece of the puzzle is to then entice them back again with a killer re-engagement campaign. 

7. Digital advertising

Incorporating retargeting ads into your marketing strategy could be a clincher for your growth strategy if you have the budget.

Use an omnichannel approach to increase your conversions (not to be confused with multi-channel marketing). Rather omnichannel marketing means interacting with the customer in adaptive ways based on their stage in the customer journey. 

A recent study from ClickZ found that engagement metrics increased dramatically when companies took an omnichannel approach to digital marketing: “Using three or more channels in an automation workflow earned an 18.96% engagement rate, while their single-channel counterparts earned a just 5.4% engagement rate.”

When considering your online display advertising don't shy away from creating ads that speak to a small segment rather than trying to speak to everybody. For example, check out these Microsoft ads that specifically target coders:

(Source: Aquisio.com)

Examples of Microsoft display ads for coders.

As the article states, these ads "won’t capture the attention of non-coders. And that’s okay, because they aren’t the target of the ad. But if you’re an engineer or programmer, your interest will be piqued because the ad is talking in your language."

8. Earned media

Invest in PR opportunities and initiatives to get the word out about a new product or partnership. The power of PR is in its ability to reach the widest audience possible while remaining relevant. (Make sure the PR team isn't spamming journalists with pitches that have nothing to do with that journalist's specialty).

You want your PR efforts to maximize sales and website visits, not to simply get eyeballs on your great news. Stay focused on the top journalists in your industry with a strong media relations solution.

9. Media monitoring

Another important tool for any marketing & PR team is media monitoring. Keep on top of all media forms from social media, online news, print news, broadcast, podcasts, and more to analyze where your mentions are coming from and identify opportunities.  

10. Competitor benchmarking

Lastly, there’s almost no point doing any of the above if you are operating in a void. You need to keep tabs on what your competitors are doing, how successful they are in their marketing and PR strategy, and what their followers are saying so you can measure yourself against them accordingly. Use a competitive analysis tool to automate this process. This will allow you to stay ahead and stay smart about your 2021 marketing strategy.

How Do You Write a Marketing Plan?

Your marketing plan is your roadmap for executing the strategy and achieving your marketing goals. It should entail a date-based timeline giving you plenty of buffer space for mapping out campaigns, including launch dates and targets for when you need specific assets to be ready.

All of the above strategic marketing channels have their own complexities. This means that throughout the year, you may well have a "marketing plan" for each strategy. For example, say you're company is planning a major product launch. As the marketing team, each strategy plays a role. Perhaps you want to schedule several teaser social media posts leading up to the launch, and for those posts you need specific content written. And maybe you want to find an influencer who will help promote the product after the launch.

So you need a carefully laid out social media marketing plan, a content marketing plan, and an influencer marketing plan. These should all strictly agree with each other so that all team members are on the same page and not stepping on toes (or missing opportunities).

Every marketing plan should include:

  • The goals for the campaign
  • Campaign KPIs
  • Timeline
  • Promotional materials needed, including press releases, social copy, and content
  • Marketing budget
  • Competitors
  • Team leads and responsibilities

5 Tactics For Your 2021 Marketing Strategy

To ensure smooth cohesion between all your marketing channels, make sure you adhere to these top marketing strategy tactics & tips:

1. Look at the year in review

First and foremost, you’ll want to assess your performance over the previous year. Look at your 2020 marketing plan and analyze the bright spots and the areas where you could have used improvement. Pull up what your strategy looked like in 2020 for easy reference on how you did.

Review your metrics

Data-driven decisions are important. But it can be very easy to get pulled into the weeds of looking at every single type of marketing metric - especially for data nerds.

However, it’s crucial to make sure you're pulling the most relevant metrics that tell the important stories for planning out the strategy for 2021. 

Recommended metrics for marketing teams:

  • MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads)
  • Conversion rates at key points in your consumer acquisition funnel 
  • Customer acquisition cost

It’s also recommended to run a SWOT analysis. Create a table to visualize your brand’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

2. Establish new marketing objectives and KPIs

Taking what you learned from last year, it’s now time to identify any new goals, and the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you want to connect to them for measuring success. 

This is another area where it’s important to be brutally honest. Don’t apply an impossible KPI to an impossible goal, but also don’t go too easy either. The best tactic is to strike a balance of reality, not cheat yourself out of potential growth.

A good place to start is to make sure you use the “S.M.A.R.T” goals structure:

  • Specific - If your marketing goals are too unwieldy it can be easy to ignore them once the year really gets going. Shoot for a narrow focus. 
  • Measurable - Avoid the trap of having vague marketing goals like “improve our brand image”. That’s a fine objective, but you’ll want to be able to tie a number to it to demonstrate progress.
  • Attainable - Your goals should be ambitious but not impossible. It should be reasonable to achieve them in the allotted time.
  • Relevant - Make sure your marketing message is timely. This is going to be especially important for 2021!
  • Time-based - Keep your team on track with deadlines and break down projects into manageable sub-tasks.

Looking for a way to execute, monitor, and optimize your marketing strategy in one place? Explore an all-in-one social marketing solution to stay on track with, and exceed, your goals!

3. Come up with a strategy

Haul out the whiteboard and start brainstorming! 

You’ve analyzed your successes, identified areas for improvement, and determined the goals you want to focus on. Now you have a framework with which to form a strategy and map out a marketing plan.  

There are a few things to keep in mind for an effective marketing strategy:

Define your buyer personas

Gaining a detailed view of your buyer personas is key. It largely dictates how you structure your marketing priorities, and the tactics you use to engage existing customers and attract new buyers.

Using sophisticated consumer insights software you can pinpoint what you promote to certain audiences, and when and where you promote it for maximum impact. You can also gain knowledge that will help you establish how you choose to market to certain groups.

For example, you might find out that a large percentage of your audience also follows a particular celebrity. This knowledge could be great fodder for reaching out to that person for an influencer partnership.

If you've already done a lot of research into your audience psychosomatics (which go far beyond demographic data) it will probably be worth doing that research again, keeping an eye out for changes. Remember that your audience could be behaving differently in 2021 given post-Covid circumstances.

Assess your resources & team skills

Everyone has something to contribute and your marketing strategy will benefit greatly from using the full potential of your team. Your marketing resources as well may be different this year due to the upheaval caused by Covid-19 during 2020.

Think creatively about non-traditional ways to get your products in front of new eyes, and don’t forget to check out what your competitors are doing!

Here are some tactics for a productive marketing team strategy session:

  • Indicate the focus of the session as specifically as possible. Give all attendees a few days to prepare ideas or questions. If everyone comes with a baseline understanding of what you want to get out of the session you’ll start out on the right track.
  • Use unexpected prompts to encourage creative thinking. Brainstorms are most useful when they produce out of the box ideas. So have a list of questions like, “How could we execute this with a lower marketing spend?” or “what if we used an ‘industry-adjacent’ influencer?”. 
  • End the meeting with clear action items for everyone on the team. These don’t have to be enormous deliverables. But they should be significant enough that when you regroup there’s enough momentum to move the project forward. 
  • Don’t forget to take pictures of the whiteboard! We can’t stress this enough: you will NOT remember everything that was on it. So be sure to document it and avoid wasting time guessing during the next meeting.

4. Create a marketing plan

Ok. So now you’ve discussed strategy and it’s time to put all those fun, amazing ideas into a marketing plan. We want ambitious but achievable benchmarks for successful marketing campaigns.

A useful tactic is to plan out your strategy in a weekly, monthly, and quarterly framework.

While there is no perfect template for the best marketing plan - and it should be specific to your brand - here are some top tips for success:

  • Set up a marketing campaign calendar. Identify the marketing campaigns you want to do throughout the year. Check out our downloadable social media calendar for ideas!
  • Apply dates to deliverables. When you have a timeline associated with each component of a marketing campaign, it helps everyone stay on the same page. 
  • Apply reasonable budgets. Make sure you’re allocating marketing funds where they are most needed to achieve the goals you set for this year. Think creatively about places you can save.

5. Execute! (And accept that things will change)

You’ve done the strategizing and now it’s finally time to put your marketing plan into action! 

Flexibility from a big picture strategy perspective is essential. 2020 certainly taught us that! And even if it’s not something like a globally disruptive pandemic, there will always be shifting priorities and unexpected happenings.

Be open to change, and don’t approach your marketing plan with such rigidity that you ignore or miss other opportunities.

Is Your Marketing Team Ready for 2021?

Learn more about how Meltwater's marketing solutions can help you level up through social listening tools, media monitoring, competitive intelligence, and more. Fill out the form below to schedule a free consultation.

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