8 key learnings from 2021 to craft your marketing plans for the year to come

As 2021 comes to an end, we realize we will be facing an equally challenging 2022. So what we can do best to prepare ourselves is to analyze, evaluate, learn from what happened in the past months of 2021. We gathered below 8 of the key learnings that must outline your brand’s strategy for 2022.

Social Media flying high

In 2021, companies have fought primarily for brand awareness. It was also the year when marketing budgets have increased, mirroring the needs of online presence, software investment, and more content.

The Hubspot‘s Not Another State of Marketing Report for 2021 shows that almost 70% of marketers choose social media as the primary approach to marketing, with SEO and Account-Based Marketing coming second and third.

While back in 2020, websites were the primary channel used in marketing, in 2021 social media gained a significant advance. Instagram and Facebook are still the main social networks used by brands worldwide, with Facebook offering the highest ROI.

What’s more, social engagement has dethroned as a success metric KPIs such as lead generation or onsite engagement, with an increase of 187% compared to 2020. Discussions, comments, likes and shares – all create that much-desired buzz around a brand and increase the chances that a certain post will go viral or popular enough to push brand awareness and even sales in an accelerated way.

This increased interest in social media is not a surprise in our country either, where the number of social media users increased in 2021 by 1 million (+ 9.1%) compared to 2020. Moreover, in January 2021, the figures showed that 62.6% of the total population of Romania used at least one social network, with an average of 2 hours and 16 minutes per day spent on socials.

If you’re wondering what to do with and on social media in the coming months, our advice is to speed up your engines, focusing on content tailored to your audience with high chances of engagement. Social media should continue to be at the forefront of your marketing strategy. If you target the Romanian market, go big on YouTube and Facebook, the two main channels for Romanians of all ages, but do not ignore the other social media platforms to reach and engage with specific audiences.

Listen and turn customers into brand advocates

We must all acknowledge that the last 18 months have been swampy land. We had to reorganize strategies, move from a calendar of activities, to learn new technologies and approaches, but perhaps most importantly, it forced us to listen more to those we communicate with. Trying to find out how and what to do better, we relearned how to combine actions with active listening driven by empathy.

Moreover, 91% of companies said that in 2021 they used customer feedback to make decisions. And that’s because the way people live and react today is different from what we knew about them two years ago. For example, a mother with three children is no longer the busy woman to whom we sold comfortable shoes – today, her primary needs may be to work from home and care for the family’s health.

In 2021,  as Hubspot‘s Not Another State of Marketing Report for 2021 shows, 83% of marketers are conducting market research.

Use the voice and opinion of those who are your customers or those you want as customers. Listen to their needs, worries, praises, and adapt your strategy to how their lives adapt to the context. During this period, research is one of the most important weapons you have at hand because it will help you anticipate actions for the benefit of your brand. 67% of marketers plan on increasing market research spend in the following years, as proof that they recognize how important it is to understand what is happening TODAY in the market before making decisions.

Play video

97.9% of Romanians watch online videos, making video the most attractive format of content you can create. At the beginning of the pandemic, back in 2020, there was a boom on all social networks regarding short-term video content (maximum 1 minute), a trend that emerged in a high volume of video content of different lengths. For example, even in our country, over 40% of social media consumers follow vlogs, a type of content with an average duration of over 20 minutes.

If you haven’t already, create video content and experiment until you find the ideal formula for your audience. But remember a critical aspect: a video is catchy because it is engaging and captivating, so choose the duration and dynamics carefully. Also, do not lose your brand’s personality and carefully analyze customer feedback because video materials generally involve more resources, and you need to invest in knowing what you can do better. Learn here more about video ads and their impact.

SEO is here to stay

In 2021, 69% of marketers say they invested in SEO, focusing on strategic keywords, localization and mobile optimization. Most of the aspects that marketing specialists pay attention to are keyword ranking, organic traffic and time spent on page. What is certain is that SEO optimization does not become an aspect of the past, although we are all inclined to keep our eyes mainly on social media.

For example, 36% of Romanians discover new brands and products via Search Engines, the second most frequent source after television ads. For 59.3% of Romanians, Search Engines remain the primary channel for brand research, even if all over the world such research is made more and more through social media. Moreover, beyond the already traditional aspects of search engines, more and more people are embracing the new functions – 23% of Romanians used voice search in recent months.

Invest in SEO focusing on two aspects: improvements from a technical point of view, based on the updates that the Google platform makes periodically, and quality content that not only ticks a series of keywords but is useful, complex and complete, with increased chances of being visited, shared or linked by as many people as possible. Read further on the essential elements for successful Search Engine Optimization.

Don’t give up on email marketing

It may seem surprising, but in 2021, 77% of marketers reported seeing more engagement with email over the past year. The reasons can be multiple, from the increased time spent by online consumers in the absence of other activities, to a permanent need for information from any source, through any channel.

What is certain is that email marketing is still an important part of the strategy puzzle. Email marketing is an excellent way to maintain relationships with existing customers, reactivate them periodically, and, why not, increase the customer base where the audience is carefully chosen.

Two aspects that you must pay attention to in the coming months are message personalization and mobile-friendly emails. An email that has at least a personal touch, whether it’s about the name or the inclusion of a recently ordered or wish-listed product, increases the chances that the recipient will pay more attention to the message. Use platforms like MailChimp, which allow you to easily automate messages and make sure they are suitable for any device.

Go big: Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) saw a huge increase of 190% between 2018 and 2020, and the growth continued at an accelerated pace during the pandemic as more and more companies sought to automate their conversion and optimization processes.

AI is used by marketers worldwide, especially for ad targeting and customization to increase the conversion rate through continuous optimization of campaigns and customer support and upselling, either through chatbot applications or automated email marketing.

Get familiar with Account-Based Marketing

This year, 70% of marketers report using Account-Based Marketing in their marketing strategy, up 15% from 2020. What’s more, 71% of them report that their ABM approach is highly effective or very effective.

Account-Based Marketing allows you to offer a personalized customer experience, an important asset nowadays,  when people seek more empathy, recognition, attention, care. For example, such an approach protects you from situations in which you disappoint potential customers in a certain region by the fact that you cannot deliver the products in their area.

Account Based Marketing helps you get exactly where you need to be, with the right message. This way you will have more chances to turn the views or visits into customers, because your message, product or service responds to a specific need, ideally identified. Moreover, it helps you follow a particular market’s evolution and dynamics to adapt the offer promptly, before losing prospects.

Last but not least, mind the privacy

Throughout your marketing efforts, remember that your message is not only influenced by the context that is sometimes unfavorable, but also by the personal preferences of consumers who may not even receive your message. In Romania, 42.7% of internet users used some form of ad-blocking software in the past month, which means that the targeting range for campaigns is much narrower than we would like to believe. And if we look even deeper, even the clients we think we have in our pockets may not be there, because we can’t track them completely – 51.9% of Romanians deleted cookies from a web browser in the past month.

With all these challenges in mind, build a strategy that addresses PEOPLE, not customers. Listen, analyze, adapt messages, and be open to new technologies and trends. The hardships haven’t stopped sed, but the opportunities for learning and improvement continue. After all, marketing has always been one of the most dynamic areas, which has gone hand in hand with the evolution of people’s needs.