writing a to do list - nothing is checked off yet
PHOTO: Glenn Carstens-Peters

When I received the reminder that this month’s article was due I thought, “Nooooooooo ... I’m too busy planning for 2021!”

The pandemic has added a great deal of complexity to 2021 planning for all of us. And while I don’t have a magic formula, I do have a collection of data and research to help in the process which might be useful for anyone else buried in 2021 planning and in need of some outside validation to support your strategy. I encourage you to download the complete reports referenced below — they are full of great nuggets of information.

General Background Information

If you are considering how and when to return to your offices, a report produced by Buffer on The State of Remote Work noted that 98% of employees said they’d like to work remotely at least some of the time.

Forrester has just released its predictions for 2021 and reports that “2021 will be the year that every company — not just the 15% of firms that were already digitally savvy — doubles down on technology-fueled experiences, operations, products and ecosystems.”

Deloitte has published its 2021 Marketing Trends which explores seven trends to drive engagement and growth for brands in an unprecedented 2021.

I always enjoy the Walker Sands State of Marketing reports. Despite the craziness of this year, its 2019 report is still informative. I’m on the look-out for the next version of this report.

Related Article: What Are the Bare Necessities of a Remote Marketing Team?

CMO Strategy

Gartner’s two-part CMO Spend Survey dives into how CMOs plan to grow revenue in 2021. Written this year, it takes into account the potential impact of the pandemic.

Some of the key findings from the survey:

  • To reconcile their economic optimism with their budget limitations, CMOs continue to pursue relatively conservative growth strategies, with 79% primarily relying on existing markets to fuel growth.
  • In-house spending is accelerating. One-third of marketing work shifted from agencies to in-house, but budget challenges curb future plans.
  • Martech has stayed strong over the past year. It has maintained 26.2% of marketing budgets despite, or perhaps because of, uncertain times.
  • Digital channels account for almost 80% of budgets in 2020. Survey findings reveal that 62% of CMOs expect total media spend to bounce back in 2021.

Some of the key recommendations:

  • Build flexible and adaptive plans. Volatility will persist in the year ahead, and you must have the right tools, processes and insight to evolve strategies and spending priorities with the changing environment.
  • Establish an organizational strategy by linking in-house and outsourced decisions to strategic capability objectives, taking into account near-term cost and ROI considerations.
  • Develop KPIs for technology investments by addressing martech’s potential impact on operations, such as improved campaign performance and higher productivity. Track martech adoption and usage rates, and apply these KPIs to manage technology investments that don’t meet thresholds.
  • Map channel investments and execution against evolving customer journeys. Ensure your journey mapping methodologies are adaptable to a changing environment by using data and insights to rapidly test, monitor and adjust.

The Dentsu 2020 CMO Survey examines the mindset and level of preparedness for CMOs across 12 global markets, including Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. The report investigates the strategies that separate frontier CMOs — those who are well-prepared — from follower CMOs, who believe they are less prepared for the future.

Related Article: Agile Marketing Your Way Through the Next Recession

Marketing Spend and the Pandemic

The MarTech Tribe, a consultancy based in Amsterdam, aggregated a number of data points relative to the impact of the pandemic. “Ninety-three percent of companies say that they are accelerating their cloud deployments, to support digital transformation. Moreover, 85% of CMOs report an increased openness to new digital offerings introduced during the pandemic, and 84% place an increased value on digital experiences.”

Related Article: Marketing in a Time of Crisis

MarTech and Marketing Operations

My absolute favorite infographic related to the martech industry is the MarTech Tribe’s 300 MarTech ROI Stats. You’ll need a magnifying glass because it’s hard to get 300 pieces of information into one supergraphic, but don’t let that get in your way!

Gartner raised a few points about martech in November 2019 that are still relevant today: “marketing leaders report utilizing only 58% of their martech stack’s potential. This comes despite continued investments in new technology, with marketing leaders spending 26% of their marketing budgets on martech.

Gartner research found that 29% of marketing leaders stated that training and upskilling existing martech talent is a major impediment to their martech stack effectiveness. Meanwhile, 27% of marketing leaders report either integration between martech solutions or identifying and recruiting martech talent as being the largest impediment to effectiveness.

Martech teams increasingly take a “best-of-breed” approach to selecting new technologies. Fifty-seven percent of marketers prefer to build their stack through various solutions from different providers, versus 29% who prefer an “integrated suite” approach. Marketers in North America and UK who prefer a best-of-breed approach report utilizing "more of their martech stack on average (60%) than those who prefer an integrated suite approach (53%).” 

Gartner’s marketing operations survey shows the following key findings:

  • Marketing operations leaders are becoming increasingly common. Forty-nine percent of marketers surveyed had a marketing operations leader in at least one team.
  • Fifty-two percent of marketing organizations primarily driven by effectiveness cited the presence of a marketing operations leader, versus 45% of marketing organizations driven by efficiency. (My commentary: Every organization should have a marketing operations leader. Marketing technology is a key success factor when it comes to meeting marketing and business objectives, without centralized oversight and strategy it’s almost impossible to cost-effectively meet performance goals.)
  • Marketing operations leaders help their organizations balance the trade-off between efficiency and effectiveness. Seventy-six percent of marketers surveyed felt they could not fully maximize the impact of initiatives when also striving for efficiency.
  • The existing marketing operations leader job will expand in the next 12 to 24 months to include martech management, research and insights and vendor management. (My commentary: Surprised this isn’t already the case across the board!)
  • Work efficiency and impact measurement were cited as top key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Approximately 43% of marketers surveyed still do not use any kind of modern martech to manage key marketing activities, hindering the marketing team’s ability to meet objectives. (My commentary: Seriously!?! How can that be? Even my 85-year-old dad uses marketing technology to manage his small business.)

Other useful reports from Gartner include one related to marketing organizations, and another that dives into marketing data and analytics.

The LeanData TOPO Marketing Technology Report 2019 has some useful data about technology usage.

In addition to the reports above, here are a number of articles related to 2021 marketing trends. It’s the time of year that everyone is producing prediction-based articles. The ones I’ve included here all have either some interesting data snippets or useful graphics.

  1. Digital Marketing Trends from TheeDigital 
  2. Digital Marketing Trends from The Tech Learn 
  3. Digital Marketing Trends from Cardinal Digital Marketing 
  4. Digital Marketing Trends from Smart Insights 
  5. Digital Transformation Trends (I included this because we should all be talking about digital transformation)

Hopefully this will save you some time in your own research. If I’ve missed any great reports let me know!