The world of digital marketing is constantly evolving and often changes overnight, as you’ve no doubt witnessed during your career. What used to work several weeks ago may not even be relevant today.
Take a global event like the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. Adapting to the world’s “new normal” forced many marketers to rethink their strategies and implement new ones ASAP.
The same happens whenever a new social media platform launches or an existing one adds new features and outreach tools.
That’s why you must learn how to keep up with marketing trends before your team unknowingly falls behind.
You may think this is easier said than done, especially if you’re already busy running a department and short on time.
But this guide contains:
- four of the best tips and tricks to help you stay ahead of changing trends in marketing so you remain profitable and competitive.
- nine new and important marketing trends your team should be following.
- 25 incredible marketing resources to keep you in the loop going forward.
By the time you’re done, you’ll have plenty of great information to run with. So let’s dive in!
How to Keep Up with Marketing Trends When You Don’t Have Time
As a Chief Marketing Officer or Vice President of Marketing, you probably don’t have time to sift through dozens of resources each day to discover the latest social media marketing trends.
Sure, you’re probably checking out a few marketing articles here and there. But even that practice may be slipping off your already long to-do list.
Yet, like most things, learning how to keep up with marketing trends is all about learning how to work smarter, not harder. So these four tips will help you stay abreast without wasting too much time to do so:
1. Have the Latest Marketing Updates Come to You
Instead of scouring the internet for the latest marketing news, you’re better off setting up systems so these updates come right to you. There are two awesome strategies to accomplish this task:
- Sign up for Google Trends and Google Alerts. Once set up, Google will send you relevant articles, updates, and resources based on the specific keywords you chose to follow.
From there, you can simply scroll through the notifications while sipping your morning coffee. Spend just 10-15 minutes each morning doing this, and you’ll set up your team for success with the latest intel without having to invest much time to get there.
- Subscribe to newsletters from the top marketing websites. You’ll find a list of 25 killer marketing websites at the end of this guide, and you should consider subscribing to a few of their newsletters.
Though this strategy may require a bit more time than signing up for Google Alerts and Trends, your initial investment will pay off big later on. You’ll gain updated, relevant market intel delivered straight to your inbox.
Pro tip: Try not to sign up for every resource. Begin with a small handful at first and gradually add more as needed. You don’t want to overwhelm your inbox with too many updates, especially if you can’t get to them and they quickly pile up.
2. Follow Industry Leaders
If you’re not doing so already, it’s a smart idea to start following thought leaders in your space and in marketing. They’ll give you their unique perspectives, real-world advice, and expert opinions on the trends you read about in the latest news articles.
Follow a few of these industry leaders, and you’ll have an easy and effective way to build your strategies based on the latest trending data without having to source this on your own.
Have your team follow a few thought leaders as well. Your brainstorming sessions will be rich with ideas, and if you miss anything due to a lack of time, your team should be able to keep you in the loop.
Again, you’ll find a list of these experts in the Resources-To-Follow section at the end of this guide, so you don’t have to waste time tracking them down.
3. Build a Network of People Who Are Smarter Than You
When you join professional marketing groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, you’ll be able to see what everyone is talking about as trends emerge in real-time.
Even if you don’t chime in, but you check in every day, every other day, or once a week, you’ll get a better idea of what’s going on in the marketing space without having to find this information on your own.
If you have a team, you can even have your team do the research for you and come to you with important highlights. Adding smart people to your network or team, like those thought leaders just mentioned, ensures you don’t miss any important buzz. And you may even contribute ideas that help others and raise your clout, making it a true win/win.
4. Carve Out Time for Education
While the first three options take a semi-passive approach to keeping up with marketing trends, this final tip requires active participation on your part. But before you rule it out, this strategy is certainly worth the extra time.
Even if you set up marketing alerts and hop into daily group discussions about trends, there’s no substitute for staying educated in this space.
After all, what you’ve probably learned in college is already outdated by now. What you did in just the last five years may be just as irrelevant.
That’s why it pays to keep up with your education. And the same goes for your team.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to add another degree to your toolbelt every few years. But you must make time to learn something new each week (preferably).
The easiest and most effective self-education strategies include:
- Reading marketing ebooks, whitepapers, industry news sites, and internet marketing blogs
- Listening to marketing podcasts
- Checking out a marketing-focused TED Talk
- Signing up for marketing webinars
- Taking online courses
- Checking on content by leaders on social media
You’ll find that continuing education helps re-energize your thoughts and gives you a fresh perspective to try new tactics, making it ideal if you’ve hit a plateau or your team feels stuck doing the same ol’ stuff day in and day out.
Carve out dedicated time in your jam-packed schedule to get this done — at least one hour per week. And give your team time to do the same. You won’t regret it.
Now that you know how to keep up with marketing trends the easy way, let’s talk about the latest trends you may have missed (but can’t afford to ignore!)
9 Important Trends in Marketing Practices You Should Know About for 2021
While there are dozens of important marketing trends that should be on your radar, you may not have had the time to sift through all of them yet. So here’s a quick compilation of the top digital marketing trends of 2021 right here:
1. The 4 E’s Have Replaced the 4 P’s
If you’re wondering what the future of marketing looks like, this article on the topic makes a great case for replacing the 4 P’s (product, price, placement, and promotion) with the 4 E’s.
Engagement, experience, exclusivity, and emotion should all be a part of your marketing strategy, especially in 2021.
Put simply, people buy on emotion and, lately, they need to be part of a better buying experience before they make a purchase. So if your online store or brick-and-mortar don’t provide an enjoyable experience or tug at people’s emotions, you can forget about making a sale.
Your brand should also feel exclusive and special, and it should engage customers so they want to shop there over your competitors.
So think about how you can up your brand’s experience, engage customers better, provide an exclusive environment, and hit on their emotions — *hint* great storytelling works well here. Do this, and you’ll have a better chance of capturing customers and converting them for life.
2. Virtual Events Are the New Norm with COVID (and Beyond)
As seen in recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic upended how things were done both personally and professionally. While eliminating commute times and inefficient meetings may have been for the best, social isolation and business lockdowns proved more challenging.
However, if there’s one thing that worked well and will likely stick around long-term, it’s holding virtual events.
Attending virtual events allows you to soak up all the new intel you need and foster connections just like you would in-person. They’re also just as effective for driving leads and converting them.
Plus, going to or hosting virtual events doesn’t require you to leave the office (or house) or take extra time away from work. They can be done from anywhere, even if you’re on vacation.
So consider attending or holding small, intimate, virtual events even if the COVID-19 clouds start to lift.
3. Your Approach to Selling is More Important than When You Do It
Another subtle but powerful trend to note is being mindful of your sales approach instead of focusing on when you sell to potential customers.
While you may have honed in on the best times in the customer journey to sell in the past, you must now consider how you’re selling.
For example, if you’re not aware of what’s going on in the news, you could seem tone-deaf trying to sell in the middle of a catastrophic event. Do this, and you’ll turn off both potential and future customers, causing your brand’s sales to plummet as a result.
Here’s where those 4 E’s of marketing come into play (see the first marketing trend if you skipped over that one).
You absolutely must think about engaging customers, evoking their emotions when you do, fostering exclusivity, and creating an enjoyable shopping experience. These should take priority anytime you talk about improving sales with your team.
So on top of figuring out when to sell, make sure how you’re selling is up-to-date.
4. Using Artificial Intelligence and Automation is the Key to Growing Successfully
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will continue to dominate the future of marketing. Savvy marketers will be wise to take advantage of these tools and find more ways to use them to achieve their goals.
After all, research presented by Maryville University shows that “half of all tasks can be automated,” giving brands the ability to streamline monotonous, time-wasting tasks and boost efficiency. Automation frees up time for you and your team to work on other critical aspects of your marketing plan.
On the other hand, AI allows your team to improve your brand’s buying experience. It can offer personalized shopping experiences that are more relevant to customers and precisely tailored to what they’re looking for.
For example, AI may automatically offer customers suggestions about what else to buy based on their previous purchases. This will drive sales and create happy customers without any extra legwork on your end.
Chatbots are another form of AI intended to help your business enhance customer service. Rather than forcing confused or upset customers to sit on hold, they can quickly pop their question into a chatbox on your website and get the answers they need ASAP.
Pro tip: Make sure your chatbot is up-to-par with quick responses for the most frequently asked questions or issues. Long wait times or unhelpful responses make the experience more frustrating for customers.
5. Agility is Necessary for Success in Marketing
Being agile is another marketing trend that’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and it’s vital in these uncertain times.
While it’s still crucial that you have a marketing plan in place — you do have one, right? — you must also be willing to adapt and adjust as needed.
Changing certain aspects of your marketing mix will be one of the biggest keys to your brand’s success. As discussed in a previous guide, you and your team must be able to shift strategies to remain relevant to customers and prospects.
So whether that’s your messaging, strategy, ads, or even your product offerings, making these vital adjustments will ensure your brand thrives instead of plateauing, or worse, disappearing.
It’s also crucial that you focus on the top of your marketing funnel, so your brand stays top-of-mind when it comes time to make a purchase. During downturns, ad costs usually decline, which gives you a fantastic opportunity to engage your audience and test out new ideas.
So if you’re not doing this already, consider switching gears and practicing agility to reap a significant payoff in conversions and sales.
6. Influencer and Affiliate Marketing Will Continue to Grow
With all the different types of market trends out there, influencers and affiliate marketing are two of the strongest, newest forms your team should be taking advantage of.
The truth is — and always has been — that people buy from people they trust. And that’s exactly what makes influencer and affiliate marketing so valuable.
Capitalize on the large audience size of influencers by partnering with those that align with your brand. Then, let them do the hard work of selling for you (see examples below).
This Instagram influencer, KimPerryCo, which is a mom of three who promotes her pre and post pregnancy workouts, shares an affiliate’s special offer on her Instagram story (pictured above).
Well-known celebrity nutritionist, Kelly LeVeque, also does the same on her Instagram stories where she’s sharing an electrolyte drink mix for a partner she works with (LMNT, pictured below):
Because their audiences already trust them, they’ll have no trouble selling your product via social proof. At a minimum, you’ll at least boost your brand awareness.
Have your team make a list of potential affiliates to work with if you’re not doing so already. Start adding a small group to your marketing mix to test the waters. You may find that these brand ambassadors work really well for your company.
7. Video Marketing and Social Media Stories are Pivotal for 2021
According to one Renderforest, a company that helps brands make high-quality videos, survey, 78% of brands received more traffic to their website after using videos in their marketing.
Here’s an example of how Renderforest is taking their own advice:
So your brand will want to make every effort to create videos that help solve problems for potential customers. You should also consider creating short social media stories that give a behind-the-scenes peek at your brand, including why you do what you do and how you give back to the community.
By showing people what you stand for, you’ll attract the potential customers’ attention and guide them towards your brand and making a purchase. Videos allow you to hit on all 4 E’s mentioned earlier in quick, impactful, and memorable clips.
So if you’re not ready to outsource your marketing to influencers and micro-influencers, creating engaging videos and social media stories that capture attention all on their own may give you the boost you need to bust out of a plateau.
You’ll find a great example of this principle in action below:
And this marketing trend works even if you are using influencers; you’ll have another avenue to reach customers, and you won’t have to give away any commission.
All these benefits prove you should add this strategy to your marketing mix sooner than later.
8. Adding User Generated Content Helps Increase Sales
It’s also a good idea to include user-generated content on your website and social media platforms.
Put simply, this goes beyond basic customer testimonials and incorporates real-world pictures or videos of customers using your products.
You can add these photos to your product pages and throughout your social media to show how everyday people are already using and finding value in what you have to offer.
Here’s what that looks like:
In their product page pictured above, popular women’s clothing brand Lulus shows off customer submitted Fan Photos (red box) of people wearing their clothes to show what each item looks like on non-model body types.
This type of social proof lessens the risk for potential customers to make a purchase. It shows them that your brand is trustworthy and that customers who have already forked over their hard-earned cash don’t regret doing so.
To capitalize on this trend, consider asking customers to submit photos with your products in exchange for a discount. You’ll help drive sales and conversions when you prominently display this social proof on your website and social channels.
9. Making Your Social Posts Shoppable Will Drive Immediate Sales
The next marketing trend is a no-brainer that many brands aren’t using to its full potential. But it can speed up the buyer’s process and allow leads to make a beeline from the top of your funnel to a conversion.
See, social sites like Instagram allow you to make your posts shoppable. When users see your stunning product photo, they’ll also learn the price of your items. They’ll click on the post, which links back to one of your product pages, and learn more about what you’re offering. Your persuasive copy should compel them to make a purchase right then and there.
You can see how that’s done in the image below:
Shoppable posts are an easy yet effective way to drive sales without much extra effort for your team. It also makes the shopping experience that much easier and more enjoyable. People can simply shop as they scroll without having to stray too far from the app they’re already in.
Do this, and you’ll hit on at least three of the 4 E’s, making conversions much more likely to happen.
The Top 25 Marketing Resources to Follow Today
So far, you’ve learned how to keep up with marketing trends, and you’ve seen nine trends to run with in 2021 and beyond.
Below is a list of resources that’ll help you continue to stay on top of all things marketing.
When you have some free time, give each one a quick browse to see which resonate with your brand and provide useful information you can use starting today.
As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to sign up for every newsletter as your inbox will quickly become overflowing and overwhelming. That’s why it pays to give each a quick perusal to see which will be most valuable to you and your team. You should also ask your team which resources they find most helpful for their needs and unique style.
So here’s a list of the top marketing resources to keep on your radar:
- WebMechanix: The Breakdown
- Search Engine Land
- Marketing School
- Neil Patel’s blog
- Social Media Examiner
- Content Marketing Institute
- Ann Handley
- Marketing Profs
- Rand Fishkin
- Amy Porterfield
- Marie Haynes
- Google’s blog
- Search Engine Journal
- Jeff Bullas
- SEO Book
- Search Engine Journal
Final Thoughts on Staying Ahead of the Latest Marketing Trends
Before reading this guide, you may have felt like it was impossible to stay on top of the latest marketing trends. But now that you’ve made it to this point, you know exactly how to do this without wasting your time or your team’s resources.
Simply follow the four tips mentioned earlier to stay in the loop from now on. Then, start implementing the nine marketing trends sure to make waves in 2021 (or the ones you haven’t added to your marketing mix yet). Tackle these together, and you’ll be in great shape to score a leg up on your competition.
From there, check out some of the marketing resources shared just before this section to keep yourself and your team up-to-date and in-the-know.
By tackling all of these tips, you’ll find it easy to stay ahead of the latest marketing trends and take your marketing efforts to the next level. Conversions, sales, and hordes of new social followers are sure to follow soon after that.