2021 is Marketing’s Year: Act Now to Make a Big Strategic Impact

Momentum ITSMA Staff

February 1, 2021

The 2021 State of the Profession briefing provided a critical look at the impact of the pandemic and marketing trends and priorities for 2021.

2021 is Marketing’s Year: Act Now to Make a Big Strategic Impact

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Every year ITSMA holds a State of the Profession briefing and we talk about what we’ve seen and what we anticipate, but make no mistake – this is not about capital P Predictions. Instead, the 2021 State of the Profession briefing led by Dave Munn and me on January 27 and 28, provided a critical look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on marketing, and the marketing trends and priorities for 2021.

The briefing was based on ITSMA research, including the results from the recently completed 2021 B2B Marketing Trends Survey which reflects responses from more than 60 senior marketing leaders from our member community.

One of the brightest spots of the survey is the fact that marketing is valued. When we asked marketing leaders about how the pandemic changed their leadership’s perception of marketing, more than three quarters said that it improved and marketers are perceived as valuable to the business.

The esteemed perception of marketing is likely the result of how marketing stepped up in 2020 in the areas leadership cares most about, despite having to pivot just about everything they had planned to do last year.

We saw marketing contribute by:

  • Impacting revenue growth
  • Developing and expanding client relationships
  • Bringing insight and innovation to the business
  • Providing valuable input to guide business strategy

In short, marketing played a key role in companies’ overall strategic growth in 2020.

Now, the question is: how can marketers leverage this momentum and make even greater strides in 2021? The answer lies in the data.

When we looked at the survey responses, 15 companies stood out as what we like to call Strategic Growth Drivers. These are the marketers at companies that are seizing the moment to invest in growth and expand market share as we navigate our way out of the pandemic.

What Strategic Growth Drivers are doing differently from companies who are operating under budget constraints – whom we designated the “Aspirationals” – is that they are taking action around the four pillars of strategic growth that ITSMA identified in 2019:

  • Brand: Strategic Growth Drivers have plans to elevate the firm’s brand, positioning, and messaging to become change agents for business strategy execution.
  • Sales/revenue: Strategic Growth Drivers do more than generate and nurture leads; they collaborate with sales to influence business outcomes.
  • Customer experience: Strategic Growth Drivers keep the company customer-centric and focus on customer experience management and success.
  • Market/customer insight: Strategic Growth Drivers provide market, competitive, and customer insight that fuels senior leadership business decisions and equips their sales teams to have relevant conversations.

And, even though the Strategic Growth Drivers are ahead of the Aspirationals in many areas of marketing, there are three specific areas where all marketers need to invest time, resources, and creativity to improve:

  • Personalization
  • Orchestrated executive engagement
  • Sales and marketing collaboration

So, despite all the difficulties 2020 threw at us, we had a bit of good news: marketing stepped up during a year of uncertainty and improved its perceived value within the organization.

Even better news for 2021: marketing is in a position to build on that momentum and strengthen its role as a Strategic Growth Driver across the four pillars of Brand, Sales/Revenue, Customer Experience and Market and Customer Insight.

For details on ITSMA’s 2021 B2B Marketing Trends Survey, including examples of how and where marketing succeeded in 2020, marketing’s top priorities for 2021, budget, staffing, and event trends, as well as select data on ABM, Thought Leadership, and Executive Engagement, watch the replay of ITSMA’s 2021 State of the Profession briefing.