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Essential Steps of a 2021 Marketing Plan

If there is anything we learned from 2020, it’s that you always need to be ready to pivot. We’ve always known this as business owners – in past years it has been enough to understand agile marketing terminology and have backup content tucked away for rainy days.   

It’s been a while since there has been a widespread pivot shift that affects the majority of industries. Think of the 2008 housing market crash, 9/11, and other critical events in history. We all had to drop our plans and react to the news at hand because the standard messaging and sales strategy would seem tone-deaf.  

2020 has been requiring this tone shift on a monthly basis.  

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As 2020 comes to an end, many business owners are feeling wary to even attempt a plan for 2021. The whiplash we’ve felt from the events has brought our confidence in predicting the future of our consumers to an all-time low. But, our customers need us more than ever – especially online. Everyone is trying to create some normalcy in their lives so that the connection between your brand and your customer needs to be nurtured and strengthened, or they’ll find the company that is pivoting and growing.   

If you slow down you die – so how do you plan for a seemingly un-plannable future?  

Set Specific Goals  

Your goals may look a little different this year, and they may not.   

For brick-and-mortar stores, you probably won’t take it personally if your in-person sales take a big hit this year, with social distancing rules still recommended. So, you will shift a strong focus on online sales.   

For B2B, software, and online companies, chances are your goals will look similar. Depending on the industry there may just be an expectation shift instead of a complete rewrite of your goals.   

The point of this year’s goal-setting is to create a baseline of success, no matter how much your small-picture or even large-scale strategy needs to pivot and shift throughout the year.   

Conduct a 2020 content audit  

Learn from your past successes and failures. The unique needs of 2020 won’t suddenly disappear on January 1, 2021, so this audit will be the most relevant information.   

What messages and information did your customers appreciate? What left them wanting? Build off of this information to tailor content specific to your 2021 strategy.  

To conduct a content audit of 2020 efforts, sift through your blog posts, specific discounts, social posts, messages, and tone shifts. Looking across channels and analyzing the impact of your efforts will help you identify what your customers appreciate and hope to see more of.   

Maybe you ran a successful “buy one donate one” campaign. That positive reaction to charity will most likely be mirrored in 2021.  

Understand your budget (as much as you can)  

Not many companies have the marketing budget that they had in past years. That’s why it’s important to understand what you’re working with early, and spread that budget across the year’s efforts.   

Budgeting is always important. If you shoot too high, you’ll run out of money before the holiday rush. If you shoot too low, you will miss out on opportunities to reach your audience and get those conversions. The difference with 2021 budgeting is we know that because it won’t look the same, we may not be able to plan the standard annual layout for paid strategy.  

Use your new budget as an opportunity to play to your strengths and cut out the practices that aren’t working well.  

Plan Early  

Planning early takes on a new value in 2021, past the normal best practice reasons. If you plan early this year, you have a plan to work with if you need to pivot, alter, and change your message and strategy on the fly.   

Having the building blocks of your annual strategy in place lets you map out what can stay the same, what needs to change, and what can be pushed into the future. If you don’t have that basic timeline, you will get lost in the details, and some great opportunities will fall through the cracks.  

We know that the end of the year can be the busiest time of the year, and 2021 may be the last thing on your mind, but even mapping out the themes and ideas per month will give you peace of mind come January 1.   

Focus on Digital  

Just as in 2020, in 2021 you will find your customers online.   

By investing in being present everywhere your audience is online, you cover your bases on being there when they’re researching your product. That means investing in an SEO strategy to be present on search engines, content strategy to continually entice those who see your message, and social strategy to share your tone, voice, and personality with your audience.   

If you have a B2C or D2C company, 2021 will be a crucial time to tighten up your social strategy and set up Instagram and Facebook and Instagram shops for direct-from-social purchasing. It’s also a perfect time to test out all of the free, creative social functionalities that rolled out in 2020, like IG reels 

Use Automation  

By incorporating automation into your annual strategy, you can cut down on time, effort, and resources spent on continuous manual marketing efforts.  

From email outreach to text message marketing to google ads, software companies are fine-tuning and streamlining automation functionalities every year, so it only gets easier and more valuable to start investing now.    

Use Retargeting  

People have a lot on their minds right now, and reminders of what they are spending time looking at will keep you front of mind and may eventually lead to a conversion.  

Retargeting on social and Google Ads is a cheap, effective strategy that you can create upfront and monitor and update throughout the year. It’s a low-risk, high-reward practice that gets more and more valuable the quicker you create it.   


2021 comes with its unique challenges, but there is always a plan that can be put in place, changed, pivoted, and improved. If you need help setting up your 2021 marketing plan, reach out to our team! 

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