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Covid-19 has significantly impacted business marketing strategies over the past year. Brick and mortar stores have rapidly transitioned online. Multichannel retailers have prioritised e-commerce overnight. Pureplay online brands have struggled to fulfil soaring consumer demand.

As every business quickly learned during the first lockdown, applying tried and tested marketing tactics is no longer enough. Now, marketers must make strategic decisions underpinned by data and specific goals.

But that’s easier said than done. As we enter 2021, here are five ways you can achieve marketing success in the year ahead.

Build trust
 
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We’ve always believed that trust is the essential ingredient to marketing success. After this year, we believe it even more.

We’re not the only ones. 70% of consumers believe brand trust is more important now than in the past, according to the Edelman Brand Trust Barometer 2020.

When times get tough, people want brands they can count on. In lockdown, a late delivery could mean the difference between a gourmet meal for two and cobbling something together from fridge leftovers (not speaking from experience, of course).

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And when it comes to finding brands they can rely on, people turn to their friends. 51% trust their friend or partner’s recommendation more than any other advertising.

That’s because they know their friends wouldn’t recommend a brand that could make them look bad. And they’re right. 95% wouldn’t recommend a brand they don’t trust.

In lockdown, online orders and referrals soared for many businesses. People weren’t just buying for themselves. They were telling loved ones about the businesses that could make their lives that bit easier in an unsettling time. 82% of consumers have recommended a brand over the past year.

Engage customers
 
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Brands that spoke to their customers like real people over the past nine months have flourished. The beginning of lockdown saw a flurry of generic emails offering support in an unprecedented time – most of which were immediately deleted. The brands that took the time to write heartfelt, thoughtful messages outlining real action were the ones consumers talked about.

But engagement is more than considered comms. It’s talking to your customers as individuals, with their own needs and desires. Are they first time shoppers looking for a good deal? Regular high spenders expanding their collection? Returning customers exploring new products?

Use your customer insights to create strategic segments. Then promote content tailored to each segment’s traits. Offer the new shopper a welcome discount. Promote accessories that complement the high spender’s previous purchase. Give the returning customer new product recommendations.

And don’t forget to make communication two-way. Ask for feedback using NPS tools and open text boxes. Encourage user-generated content. Respond to comments on social media. Use every touchpoint in your customer journey as an opportunity to build brand affinity.

It might seem like a lot of effort, but it’s worth it. On average, businesses with effective engagement strategies increase customer revenue by 23%.

Seamless digital experiences
 
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2020 has been the year of e-commerce. From food to flowers and fitness gear, people turned to online shopping to make their lives at home more comfortable.

But this explosion in sales shouldn’t lead online brands to become complacent. To drive repeat purchases – especially once shops permanently re-open – businesses must serve seamless digital experiences.

Focus on the basics first. A surprising number of businesses fall short at this first hurdle, to the detriment of their customer acquisition and retention strategies. Make your website easy to navigate, transparent (no unexpecting shipping fees at checkout) and updated in real time. There’s little worse than excitedly placing an order only for it to be cancelled hours later because the item is out of stock.

Put your foundations in place, then consider how you can delight customers throughout their journey. This could be with unexpected, on-brand copy (‘We like your style, Nick’), virtual product experiences or surprise add-ons (‘Here’s a free sample to say thanks for shopping with us’).

Once you’ve nurtured website visitors through to placing their order, promote content that drives the next best action. Your order confirmation page is a peak moment of delight. Your customer is excited about their order and engaged. Now’s the time to ask them to refer friends, give feedback, or follow you on social.

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Support this by showing consistent messaging offline with in-pack inserts. A customer who sees the same message on your homepage, post-purchase overlay and while unboxing is significantly more likely to take your desired action – whether that’s referring friends, shopping again or leaving a review.

brand purpose
 
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2020 has called out the brands falling short of their promises. Boohoo was exposed for underpaying its workers. Amazon faced growing calls for a boycott. Arcadia has gone into administration.

Meanwhile, other brands have stepped up to the mark. Brewdog produced hand sanitiser. Pret supplied free hot drinks for NHS workers. Glossier donated one million dollars to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Actions like these aren’t just good deeds, they’re smart brand-building. The pandemic has made consumers even more conscious of how (and where) they spend their money. Three in four consumers are now more likely to buy from and recommend brands that responded well to Covid.

Short-term marketing tactics, like paid advertising or sponsored posts, still have their place in your business strategy. But they shouldn’t be your marketing strategy. Look beyond driving the next sale to embodying a brand purpose that resonates with your target consumers. Your bottom line will thrive as a result.

core message
 
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The pandemic prompted many brands to suddenly change their priorities. This was the right thing to do – to an extent. Adapting is key to surviving. But there’s a difference between strategically adapting your offering to a changing climate and panicking.

Pinpoint the metrics that matter most to you. If you’re a challenger brand that suddenly acquired significantly more customers in lockdown, focus on retention. If you’re a legacy brand developing your ecommerce offering, focus on online orders.

Decide your most important metrics and stick to them. Don’t dart between acquiring new customers, driving repeat purchases, boosting average order value and countless other measurements of success. By prioritising your business goals, you can keep a clear focus that drives results, even when everything else is up in the air.

5 ways
 
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So, there we have it: five ways to plan for marketing success in 2021.

Underpinning it all is a concept we call extended customer lifetime value.

This accounts not only for the money customers spend directly with your brand, but from the new customers they introduce.

Referred customers are highly likely to be a strong fit for your target profile. They spend an average of 25% more on their first order, repeat purchase more often and are three times more likely to refer their friends.

By keeping an unwavering focus on your customer base, you can nurture advocacy to create a cycle of sustainable business growth. Equipping you to drive reliable long-term revenue for your business – in 2021 and beyond.

 

Tim Boughton is co-founder and chief technology officer at Mention Me.