Any marketer who tried to stick to the usual playbook ended up having a pretty rough time last year. Before it could really get started, 2020 promptly slapped them in the face — and threw away the old rule book in the process. But if you made it to 2021 intact, you know that surviving without a playbook is possible. With a little creativity and rule-breaking, anything can happen in 2021. 

This year, I predict more marketers will finally break the rules and realize they can do more to create a truly immersive and engaging experience that connects brands with their audience. From the initial online search to taking the sales across the finish line, the way customers interact with brands will continue to evolve in 2021. As we move forward in the new year, I’ve tapped marketers from a variety of areas and different focuses—SEO, podcasts, sales enablement, et al.—to hear their predictions on what will happen in the next year. 

Business Conducted on Google, Rather Than a Website 

“This year we’ve seen Google come under increased government scrutiny over several practices, including zero-click searches. The risk of regulatory action may have tempered Google’s aggressiveness in expanding zero-click searches, at least for now. That said, in many areas we continue to see more and more business being conducted on Google search results itself — as opposed to your website. A good example of this is Local SEO, where some businesses now prefer using Google My Business to even having a website at all.”

– Cyrus Shepard, SEO Strategist at Moz 

Google Will Take a Backseat In Content Marketing

“The content marketing playbook we’ve been using is at least two decades old. Keeping the company blog front and center of our strategy is a tactic made for Google, not for people. As marketers aim to create more human-centric content, podcasts will rise to the forefront. Brands will rely on podcasts to create a connection with their audience and engage them with an experience laser-focused on people.”

 – Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO of Casted

Marketing teams will feel the pressure to bring quantifiable results

“In our digital-first world, marketing teams are feeling the pressure to bring quantifiable metrics back to the business. To a certain extent that focus on quantifiable metrics has left certain companies well behind in their approach to digital touchpoints. An investment in transforming your content often takes months if not years to demonstrate quantifiable metrics to the business. What we do know is that companies who took that leap years ago are currently well ahead of the curve and the ones who were paralyzed in making decisions until “quantifiable metrics” were available have fallen behind.”

– Kevin Croxton, CRO at Ceros

More Collaboration Between Marketing and IT 

“In 2021, we will see more collaboration between marketing and IT departments. With the rise of cyber-attacks, data can easily fall into the wrong hands. As marketing departments gain more data from customers, they need to make sure it is properly protected. A company’s IT department can help marketing by making sure new software is capable of holding and using vast amounts of consumer data safely. Additionally, I predict we’ll see significant consolidation within marketing tech stacks, allowing brands better control over their data.”

– Diaz Nesamoney, CEO of Jivox

Brands Can No Longer Rely On Physical Experience So They’ve Been Forced To Up Their Digital Game

“In 2021, I expect to see further innovation and deeper investment in immersive content. New tech will come to market and marketing teams will put a greater focus on UX. Once it’s safe to gather in public again, I think we’ll likely see some blending of the digital innovations into the physical world — both for safety and to provide a better overall experience.

– Brian Abent, CTO of Ceros

Marketing and Sales Leaders Working More Closely Together 

“Looking ahead, more of the customer journey is going to be done digitally, therefore marketers and sellers need to be more aligned. Right now, customers neglect to see the difference between sales and marketing when in reality there are significant barriers in organizations between these two groups. In 2021, more engagement between sellers and marketers needs to occur across pre-sale, during, and post-sale experiences. If the process is more unified, the buyer will be less likely to deal with disconnects, hand-off issues, messaging challenges, and more. Selling is more than the interaction between the actual sales rep and prospect. It’s everything that happens before they reach out to the rep and also what happens once you close the deal.”

– Tom Pisello, Chief Evangelist of Mediafly 

As we approach the new year, it provides marketers a new opportunity to learn from the mistakes made in 2020, adapt to the evolving business landscape and make a fresh start.

About the Author: Simon Berg is CEO of Ceros, a technology company with a cloud-based platform that empowers brands like Red Bull, United, Conde Nast, and Universal to create bespoke digital experiential content without coding.