If you were a creative in 2020, and are somehow still flexing that creative muscle in 2021, props to you.
2020 was a year that pushed marketers to the limit (and beyond) to shift, rewrite, redesign, rework, and rethink our strategies, stories, and (even) ourselves along the way.
That said, with those challenges came opportunities to learn valuable lessons. At the core of those lessons emerged a singular theme: our audience has changed. And what they expect from us as a brand has changed right along with it.
So as the dust settles on 2020, how do we as brand leaders use what we’ve learned to reach the 2021 buyer? How do we evolve our brand strategy and voice into one our buyers want to hear from — and engage with? How do we establish trust with the market today, and leave a legacy of transparency, credibility, and value in our wake?
Below we’ll break down the three fundamental lessons we’ve learned in 2020, and how you can put your brand in the best position possible to connect with your buyers going forward in 2021.
The 2021 buyer wants different experiences
Offices: closed. Budgets: cut. Sales: impacted. And buyers? More skeptical and informed than ever before. Where they did their research, how they made purchasing decisions, what budget remained, who they trusted to help them along the way — all of it turned on its head — and that’s only how they were impacted professionally. Personally? Our audiences were no doubt left exhausted-yet-reflective: constantly taking stock of what really matters.
So how do we as brand leaders shift how we interact with our new buyer? The answer is simple: naturally. Below are two quick ways for you to deliver experiences your customers want in 2021.
Meet your buyers where they already are
Many B2B tech brands are realizing that their website isn’t the only destination their buyers are visiting (or referencing) to learn about their solutions anymore. And due to COVID-19, they’re not coming to your trade show, your office, your conference, or your dinner party either. They’re turning to their peers via social media (for human interaction), and marketplaces (for reviews and easy purchasing).
So rather than fighting the wave, ride it. And ensure your brand is everywhere your traffic is.
Engage with your buyers, human to human
It took almost a full year of being locked up at home for us to complete the digital-social cycle, but we’ve finally arrived: all of us — and especially your buyers — miss people. We miss hugging, laughing, and meeting up. We miss being inspired by each other, in person. So rather than cooking up the same buzzword soup and tagline for your brand campaigns, assign a (real) face to your content.
Build your social media presence with more POV posts, interacting with buyers in the comments (and on their own posts), and elevating your top employees to do the same from their personal accounts. Build your marketplace profiles by showing love to the imagery, messaging, credibility, and experience of what your customers love most about you. Make sure you’re constantly updating the content, engaging in FAQs, featuring customer testimonials, and collecting fresh reviews so your buyers don’t just land upon your product — but a community they feel a part of.
The 2021 buyer has a voice
Remember when capturing customer sentiment was like trying to find a hidden treasure chest — except you didn’t know if when you finally FOUND the treasure chest, whether there would be gold coins or spiders in it?
The task of collecting customer feedback hasn’t just gotten easy, it’s become essential for B2B and B2C brands to compete. From protesting civil injustice, to demanding accountability, to boycotting the brands who don’t align with their values, the modern buyer in 2021 is passionate, compassionate, and empowered to make their voice heard.
So how do you capture their sentiment proactively — and what do you do with it?
Get to know what your customers care about
There are a litany of ways to capture customer sentiment, and there are even more layers to what truly satisfies them. From product fit, to brand engagement, to customer service, to loyalty, to moral alignment — all of these are elements your buyers are eager to share with you, and they’re all easily available for the taking.
Running review campaigns will help you understand what about your product sets it apart from your competitors. Posting thoughtful questions and discussions on social media will help you understand your buyers’ day-to-day challenges, tone, and desires. And recording sales calls can pull out intangible insights like what energy your brand incites in your buyer, and where in their journey they may be frustrated or forgotten.
Put their voice at the heart of your brand
Once you’ve captured that feedback, all that’s left is to amplify it. Sharing video testimonials about your product, adding customer-voted badges and awards to your social and marketplace profiles, hosting your customers on your podcasts and webinars — all of these methods give our buyers the stage, and establish a relationship no longer transactional, but based on trust, transparency, and partnership.
The 2021 buyer is a change agent
Buyers have made it clear that they intend to align their purchases (and wallets) with businesses that align to their values — even at the expense of a better deal or product. But standing up for something may not be as risky as you think.
Being amongst the first to draw a line in the sand will unlock a generational opportunity for courageous brands to establish the kind of life-long customer loyalty that many thought was no longer possible. Industry stalwarts, formerly untouchable by even a midmarket competitor, are seeing customers go with alternatives based on principle, and the grounds of shared values — in an effort to feel like they’re part of something bigger. But knowing where your company stands is one thing — how do you reflect it through your brand strategy?
Figure out exactly what your company values
Hopefully your company has already started down this path, but regardless, it’s time to solidify it, because indifference will be FIRMLY rejected in 2021.
Start by establishing these: What causes does your company support? And what does that support look like? Is it financial? Through service? Through promotion? What standards and expectations will you hold your employees, customers, and vendors to in 2021? And how will you enforce those standards when broken? What areas of growth will you hold your business to? And how will you hold yourself accountable?
Once you’ve established a firm set of brand values, it will be on you to effectively and fearlessly publicize them — internally, and of course to the market.
Practice what you preach
Performative was a buzzword in 2020 for a reason: a lot of companies took a verbal stand for what they believed in, but never saw through implementing any real change. But buyers don’t just expect you to say how you feel, they expect you to act on it, and there is PLENTY of action to be taken by tech brands in 2021. Whether it’s opening a new office in a diverse area, or holding users and even customers accountable. Following through on your principles may seem costly in the short-term, but assuredly invaluable overall.
Never in our lifetime have we felt the pressure currently being placed upon the brands we represent. But with that pressure comes incredible opportunity — to establish authentic trust with our buyers, to achieve true brand loyalty, and to build a legacy we can be proud of long after we hang it up.
To learn more about how you can build an effective brand strategy for 2021 from two of tech’s top creatives (Hillary Fortin, G2, and Udi Ledergor, Gong), check out this video.