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One unexpected impact of a pandemic? Marketers’ playbooks have been rewritten for the next decade

30-second summary:
Recent data from OpenX and The Harris Poll reveals how marketers are reacting to today’s “new normal.”
Marketers cut their budgets: 61% of marketers cut their budgets once COVID started, but if there is a second wave of COVID-19, 37% say they would not cut as much budget, if any at all, and 50% say they will put a strategy in place to facilitate even more online shopping.
Marketers shifted to an online-first strategy: 44% of consumers increased their online shopping since the onset of COVID. Consequently, 76% of marketers who offer the ability to buy online say they changed their marketing strategies to facilitate more online shopping.
Long-term impacts have been assessed and reflected in their strategies: 74% of marketers say they made changes to their marketing strategy during COVID-19 that will continue even when the pandemic is over, and 56% say they will continue to reallocate budgets to digital channels after the pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hyper-accelerated this past April, marketers understandably needed to react. Certain industries like travel enacted complete shutdowns, and even verticals that weren’t directly impacted, like auto, proceeded cautiously given the uncertainty around consumer spending habits.
Insight #1: Marketers adjusted to new online shopping habits, which are here to stay
According to “New Normal: Marketing in 2020 & Beyond” report mentioned above, 61% of market leaders cut their budgets once COVID started. The majority cut between 10-25%, yet 39% cut more than 25%.

As huge swaths of the population sheltered at home, spending habits did indeed evolve: the Harris Poll research found that 44% of consumers increased their online shopping since the onset of COVID, and 8% of consumers are now making daily online purchases.
Marketers, in turn, focused their energies on making it as easy as possible to sell online. 76% of marketers who offer the ability to buy online say they changed their marketing strategies to facilitate more online shopping and 39% added to their e-commerce offerings since the onset of COVID.

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Insight #2: Quickly pivoting to accommodate changed behavior has long-term implications
This yielded real results, as even in the face of vast economic uncertainty, 74% of marketers who offer the ability to buy online reported a post-COVID increase in online sales. In fact, 29% of market leaders say that even though total sales are down for the year, online sales are up.
From a more macro standpoint, it’s not just that marketers pivoted to digital media to drive short-term sales. Instead, this (hopefully) once-in-a-generation event forced marketers collectively to rethink the role that digital plays in their strategy. This is not about the next 10 weeks, or even the next 10 months. It’s about the next 10 years.
Insight #3: Lessons learned by marketers will inform 2021 marketing strategies
74% of marketers say they made changes to their marketing strategy during COVID-19 that will continue even when the pandemic is over, and 56% say they will continue to reallocate budgets to digital channels after the pandemic.
If there is a second wave of COVID-19, 80% of marketers feel they are ready, while 71% say their advertising/marketing strategy will differ from the first wave. Of this group, 37% say they would not cut as much budget, if any at all, and 50% say they will put a strategy in place to facilitate even more online shopping.
The past six months have changed marketing for good, and while we are all finding ways to cope with an incredibly challenging year, we are learning that marketers are no different: adapting, adjusting and trying to make the most of difficult circumstances.
Joey Leichman is VP of Buyer Development at OpenX, the world’s largest independent ad exchange and people-based marketing platform.

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Nine important marketing takeaways from 2020

30-second summary:
ClickZ’s quarterly advisory board meeting focused on unpacking the most important marketing takeaways for 2020 and what it means for 2021 and beyond.
Our Advisory Board members consist of thought leaders and luminaries who bring decades of marketing experience to the table.
Key themes from this quarter’s meeting include the importance of agility, the frenzied pace of digital transformation (and the accompanying digital backlash), and the need for more agility across the board when it comes to martech tools, messaging, and creative.

At the quarterly ClickZ Advisory Board meeting on December 3rd, our focus was on looking back at the most important things we’ve learned over the course of a very unusual year. We also looked ahead and made some predictions based on how these learnings can inform the next year and beyond. Our Advisory Board members consist of thought leaders and luminaries who bring decades of marketing experience to the table.

Key themes from this quarter’s meeting include the importance of agility, the frenzied pace of digital transformation (and the accompanying digital backlash), and the complexity, agility, and (a lack of) spontaneity in marketing that’s emerged as a result of wrangling remote teams.

#1: Data driven analytical teams that work remotely struggle with creativity
The inability to get in a room and spontaneously share ideas and engage together as a team has had a negative impact on creativity. The problem is pervasive across many different teams and groups as companies have adjusted to the rapid need to work remotely.
Prediction: Legacy technologies like email and phone calls can help foster human connection and creativity. Email continues to be an important channel as the need to connect remotely endures. Our experts recommend a renewed focus on investing in email and SMS as a key channel for 2021.

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#2: Live events aren’t coming back until 2022 (plan accordingly)
More than one advisory board member is pushing live events out the first quarter of 2022 based on the realistic timeline of events around the pandemic—namely, the widespread distribution of a vaccine that’s unlikely to happen in the U.S. until May or June of 2021. By the time people start getting comfortable with events and travel, we’ll likely be into the first quarter of 2022.
Prediction: In lieu of in-person events, picking up the phone and talking will be an essential way to inspire creativity and true connection in 2021. Zoom’s rigidity can hinder the natural propensity we have to let our hair down and actually talk (and listen) to each other. 2021 will still involve Zoom calls, but it will probably involve old fashioned phone calls too.
#3: Brands with a solid ecommerce and digital foundations did well in 2020
Digital-first brands with a sound ecommerce infrastructure were better prepared for 2020’s rapidly changing consumer shopping behaviours. They were also better equipped to move to digital/remote work.
This approach made them more agile and better at adapting to customer needs. These companies also tended to have a clear purpose, thus their marketing resonated with consumers. Companies that focused on people and talent as one of their key elements in 2020 were more successful than those that didn’t.
Prediction: 2021 will see a continued acceleration of digital transformation, data relevance, and a focus on recruiting top talent as a means to ensure long-term survival and maintain sustainable growth.
#4: Agility was a huge challenge in 2020
Agility posed a challenge to companies who were forced to work remotely, eliminating or reducing the ability to brainstorm together spontaneously. The 2020 post-COVID environment has required businesses of all sizes to pivot very quickly in a way that is constant, making the ability to think ahead, be creative, and plan strategically very difficult.
Prediction: The whole idea of agility, even for small companies, will change, particularly with the alignment between sales and marketing. This is probably one of the biggest challenges coming out of 2020.
Sales is going in one direction and marketing is lagging behind. It will be important to budget and plan in shorter time frames so that marketing and sales can be aligned and be more agile as external factors relating to the virus shift.
#5: There’s been a big shift to optimizing the customer journey which places more value on customer analytics
Customer analytics were more important than ever in 2020. Understanding how people use your products, how they move through the customer journey, what’s causing friction, and how companies can create better, more personalized, customer experiences is critical for developing relevant products, services, and messages for the post-COVID consumer.
Prediction: Customer analytics will (and must) become more responsive, so that brands can better connect with customers and deliver more personalized, empathetic, and meaningful experiences. The goal will be to improve customers’ lives, helping them even before you actually sell them anything.
#6: There’s been a striking shift in consumer shopping behavior driven by the pandemic
There’s been a massive acceleration in ecommerce penetration and in how consumers buy things. Amazon is the poster child for this shift. It took them twenty years to get to a million employees.
But in the past 10 months alone, Amazon hired nearly half a million employees (that’s an average of 1400 new workers a day). Demand for companies like Instacart has exploded. Consumers are using their phones to shop at Target and Walmart using apps to facilitate purchasing.
Prediction: Looking forward, retail media will become a massive channel for creating consumer awareness. Facebook, Google, and Amazon are becoming equivalent to the old media channels (NBC, CBS, and ABC) of the past. As we move into 2021, consumers will not only purchase goods from these platforms, but learn about new products from them.
#7: Every place where you transact is becoming a media platform, but creative is a challenge
Everything is a place to transact and that means everything can become a media platform. The consumer offer is linked to the credit card which can be used online or offline, giving consumers opportunities to be rewarded brands and stores through the financial institution they do business with.
Creative poses a challenge in this environment and will need to be the scaled so that it resonates with people whether it’s online or offline.
Prediction: Creative as a service is going to be a scaled mechanism that more advertisers are going to look to, especially now when they can’t deal with a creative team in person. Being able to tap into a marketplace of people who can help brands create unique, authentic content on the channel they’re working towards will be key.
#8: Best-of-breed technology is the only way to stay agile
Customer data and experience orchestration serve as that glue to effective martech implementation, but only in an environment of minimal complexity. The way marketers think about journey building is changing.
Simplifying the tools we use to create more agility is critical as we move into 2021 and beyond. Best-of-breed vendors are the only ones able to achieve this in the current overly complex martech ecosystem.
Prediction: A redefinition of marketing technology will be happening over the coming years, with AI and lifecycle experience at the center of this change. Best of breed will be the only way to stay agile in this environment. This means that martech platforms must be friendly to data from second and third parties so that it can come into the stack and actually be useful.
#9: Brands and businesses need to become more efficient
Rationalizing and tightening up the martech stack has been an essential strategy throughout the past year. In the highly uncertain environment that defines 2020, companies have been focused on the effectiveness and efficiency of their martech stack. This means making sure there are as few tools as possible and that they have a direct business impact.
Prediction: Martech vendors and platforms have been consolidating their tech tools and this will likely continue into 2021. The technologies that are most successful will be clearly focused on initiatives that have a direct impact on businesses’ bottom line.
While digital transformation will continue into 2021, digital backlash will occur within uncertain market segments and tools where the analytics and measurement aren’t clear.

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15 January Marketing Ideas to Start 2021 with a Bang

You guys. We’ve made it. We’re entering 2021 and finally saying goodbye to 2020. The year that brought us so many ~unprecedented~ times. We’ve experienced an actual pandemic, a turbulent election, the rise of TikTok, and so much more.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate all we’ve been through together.
Ah. Feels nice.
Okay, now it’s time to get to work. The holidays are over, your marketing plan is ready to go, and the world is your oyster when it comes to making a splash with your marketing in 2021.
To help you start ramping back up on your marketing, we’re sharing tons of creative January marketing ideas, including:
Quick and easy marketing ideas you can tackle this month to help you start off the year on the right foot.
Ideas to help you organize and streamline your planning so you’ll be on track to meet (and hopefully exceed) your marketing goals all year long.
January holidays, observances, and themes to help you plan your promotions, social calendar, and business events around.
Let’s kick things off!
Quick and easy January marketing ideas to get your year started right
1. Update your Google My Business profile
A robust Google My Business profile is more important now than ever. If you want to show up when local searchers are trying to find businesses like yours on Google or in Google Maps, a complete and optimized Google Business profile is the place to start.
Take a minute to make sure your profile is claimed and then take it a step further by optimizing your listing:
Populate the Q&A section of your profile with frequently asked questions.
Add some images or a video that showcase your business.
Make sure to respond to all reviews.
Get more tips to optimize your Google My Business profile here.
2. Create holiday roundup posts
The holidays might be over, but don’t miss out on the opportunity to squeeze every last drop of cheer you can out of the last month! You can still make the holidays part of your January marketing by creating and publishing holiday roundup posts on your blog or on your social media sites.
Here are some ideas:
Did your catering company work a holiday party? Post pictures or recipes!
You can also take advantage of #tbt (Throwback Thursday) on Twitter and Instagram and post pictures from just a couple of weeks ago to share with your followers.
Cleaning services or home goods shops can provide post-holiday cleaning or Christmas tree disposal tips.
The holidays are busy, and customers might have missed all you had going on, so this is an easy way to create content for your business while making sure they’re in the loop.
3. Announce upcoming events or promotions
Market your business both online and offline by highlighting upcoming events for 2021. Some upcoming holidays include President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, and St. Patrick’s Day.
If you have anything planned for these events, like upcoming Valentine’s Day deals at your spa or a special Valentine’s menu at your restaurant, let customers know! A calendar of promotions is a great way to keep customers informed about upcoming promotions or events your business is sponsoring or hosting.
4. Start a customer loyalty or referral program
Every business owner knows the value of a loyal customer. Loyal customers mean repeat business and are also more likely to refer other customers.
But how can you build customer loyalty? One way is through a customer loyalty or referral program, and January is the perfect time to launch one!
Here are some ideas for your customer loyalty program:
Create and print a simple stamp card for customers. Each purchase or service equals one stamp. After 10 stamps, customers can receive a free product, a discounted service, or a swag item.
Offer current customers a discount for each new customer they refer.
Create a tiered loyalty program so customers can move up in tiers based on their purchase history – the higher the tier, the better discounts.
Get more tips for creating and running customer loyalty programs here.
Make sure to promote your loyalty program on social media and in your location so customers can find out about it easily.
5. Run a Facebook ad campaign
If you haven’t tested out Facebook advertising, now is a great time to do so to get your marketing started off right. Think about a specific marketing goal you’d like to accomplish – say, getting more website visitors, growing your audience on Facebook, or collecting leads. You can do any of those with a specific Facebook ad.
If you have some great beginning-of-the-year specials or promotions, you can use them in your ad copy to entice new customers.
This gym is using Facebook ads to promote an offer for 3-day passes.
January planning ideas to set yourself up for success
6. Solidify your yearly goals or marketing plan
Whether you’re an agency marketer, a business owner, or a freelancer, it’s important to have both personal and professional goals for the year. Take some time at the beginning of the month to make sure your goals and your marketing plan are solidified.
As we know, things can change quickly, but having a documented plan or a growth strategy in place can make the difference between hitting your revenue goals for the year and missing them.
7. Create New Year’s resolutions for your business
Make your New Year’s Resolutions stick this year by sharing them with your online community—and ask your fans and followers to share theirs! This is a great way to engage your audience and get people in on your own resolutions.
Plus, you can create regular content based on your resolutions. Here are some examples:
Fitness centers can have a weekly accountability post to create a support community.
Restaurants and catering services can write blog or Facebook posts with healthy recipes.
Daycares can blog about toy organization ideas for playrooms and toy areas.
8. Start with a clean inbox
There’s nothing less exciting than seeing the number of new emails in your inbox when you get back from the holidays. Start out the new year with a clean inbox – go through those old emails you “starred” and never followed up on and either follow up or delete.
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If you don’t already use folders for your emails, create some to help you keep your inbox organized. If you’re like me, you probably have about 100 emails of ideas you want to try – those can go in an Idea folder that you can revisit throughout the year. You never know, you might just find your next great idea buried in your own inbox!
P.S. Did you know January 25-29 is actually Clean Out Your Inbox Week? Sounds like the perfect excuse to block off some time on your calendar and go through those emails…
9. Revisit what worked last year (and what didn’t)
Now that you have a full year of data available, take some time to see what worked in your marketing last year and what didn’t.
Here are some ideas of what to look at:
What content or webpages performed best for you?
What resonated with your audiences on social media – top posts, most engaging posts, etc.?
What email subject lines got the best open rates?
What marketing strategies, campaigns, or channels drove the most leads?
What didn’t perform as well as you thought it would – and how could it be improved?
10. Read up on 2021 marketing trends and predictions
With the new year comes a ton of new content around what to expect in the world of marketing and business in general. Find some articles or blog posts that will get you up to speed on what the experts expect to be big this year in your own industry—and jot down some ideas or trends that you might want to try out!
Here are a few resources to get started:
January marketing ideas around holidays and observances
11. Participate in a day of service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
January 18 is a national holiday to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and commemorate his Nobel Peace Prize for his Civil Rights leadership. Many communities participate in a day of service in his honor to continue his legacy of serving others.

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Take part in a community day of service with your customers or employees. You can organize your own event or get involved with events already planned in your local area. Create a buzz on social media and invite other small businesses to get involved. Banding together with others to better your local community is a great way to give back while fostering a good business reputation.
12. Save lives by donating blood or hosting a blood drive
The pandemic has impacted regular blood drives, which has led to a decrease in the blood supply – while the demand for blood donations has only increased. January is National Blood Donor Month, making it an excellent time for your business to get involved.
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You can get involved by either participating in a local blood drive or hosting one of your own. You can also run special promotions rewarding those in your community for donating blood during the month of January – if they bring in some kind of proof that they donated, they receive a discount on your products or services.
13. Hand out compliments on Compliment Day
Who doesn’t love a nice compliment? On January 24, take the time to say something nice in celebration of Compliment Day.
Here are some marketing ideas for Compliment Day:
Show another business some love on their social media or Yelp page. (They may return the favor by writing some positive reviews for you as well!)
Start a compliment train. Ask your followers to tag someone in your post and give them a compliment. The tagged person then tags another friend and gives them a compliment and so on.
Give your employees hand-written compliments to show them you appreciate them.
14. Let it snow and embrace winter
Much of the United States is covered in snow in January. Love it or hate it, you can’t stop it, so use it to your advantage! Make the snowy weather a little less gray with content, promotions, and these other marketing ideas celebrating the cold.
For example:
Daycares can participate by providing safety tips for playing or dressing children in the snow.
Contractors, construction, and snow removal companies can write about winter hazards in the home—carbon monoxide detectors, salt versus sand for ice and snow, or how to winterize drafty windows.
Give a snow-day discount. Anytime your city gets snow, offer a discount based on the number of inches you’ve received, like 20% off for 20 inches of snow!
You can also keep your customers up to date on the latest snow closures on your social media pages.
15. Encourage organization on National Clean Off Your Desk Day
I know what you’re thinking, and, yes, this is a real observance. With so many people working from home and becoming obsessed with cleaning and organization shows like Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and Get Organized with The Home Edit, not to mention the viral sensation GoCleanCo on Instagram, it’s clear people are spending a lot of time thinking about how to keep their workspaces tidy.
I wish my home office desk looked as organized as this one by The Home Edit.
On January 11, take some time to tidy up your desk and share your before and after picture with your social media audience. Then, ask them to share their results with you! You can even run a contest—one lucky person who shares their pictures will win a special prize.
Make your January stress-free and results-filled
January can often be a stressful time for business owners, but with the right marketing ideas and plan in place, you can relieve some stress without losing out on new customers and engagement. Happy new year!