After 2020, how can we possibly hope to prepare for 2021?

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When you've had a year like 2020, can any of us be truly ready for 2021? Dave Chaffey, ClickThrough's Insights Director and Founder of looks into next year, and discusses the role of marketing playbooks in planning cycles.

After 2020, how can we possibly hope to prepare for 2021?

2020 has presented completely unexpected challenges for many businesses and great opportunities for some who have been fortunate to have been positively impacted by the pandemic. As 2021 and recession looms, the need to plan ahead and develop agility to compete effectively is self-evident.

Regardless of the nature of the impact of COVID-19 on your activities, it has certainly introduced more unknowns that make forecasting and planning to set goals more difficult. More than ever, to succeed in the year ahead will require a planned approach based on rational investments in paid, owned, and earned media plus building in sufficient agility to use new approaches.

Marketing playbooks are a great tool to give a business a solid foundation to compete which I've recommended for several years as part of digital transformation programmes to ensure continuous, always-on digital marketing activities are effective. So, it's great to see the blend of strategic and tactical data-driven marketing activities defined in our ClickThrough Marketing playbook

I've seen larger businesses adopt sales and marketing playbooks in the last couple of years, and have been involved in more projects to help refine them. Playbooks originated in the US where they were originally applied in sports like American football and baseball. The coach compiles a selection of different offensive and defensive techniques their team can deploy in different situations to help beat the opposition. They have also been used to define marketing best practices and processes which help an organization compete.

For me, playbooks are an essential tool for all businesses to define standard marketing operating processes for both always-on marketing and campaign activities. Without a playbook and corresponding templates and checklists to follow, there is a danger we are reinventing the wheel each time and there is a lack of consistency amongst people working towards similar goals. This approach combined with data-driven insight has always been a foundation as ClickThrough works with clients.

Some of the key activities to define in your playbook which I expand on in this introductory article are:

  • Investment priorities and best practices for communications.
  • Managing insight of audience behaviour, customer experience, media use, and the competitive marketplace.
  • Goal setting, strategy, and measurement processes.
  • Communications orchestration processes.
  • Integration of always-on and campaign activities across the customer journey.
  • Marketing technology and data and using them for performance optimization through structured testing.
  • Brand values and proposition and communicating consistently through tone-of-voice.

This collection of articles in the ClickThrough Marketing playbook from our specialists in media and experience strategy, planning, and execution cover many of the emerging options from the FAMGA (Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Apple) platforms that allow those businesses with the agile processes to exploit them. I'm a fan of the 70:20:10 marketing investment rule-of-thumb to apply the latest innovations through the 70:20:10 rule. As Google Evangelist Avinash Kaushik recently explained when discussing the application of machine learning at Google:

“70% of the time we're going to focus on things that we know that are very core to our business. 20% is where we're trying to push the boundaries. You get into the known unknowns. And the last 10% is a true crazy experimental stuff. Trying to figure out how to do uncomfortable things that we're going to fail at more than we will succeed at. But with every success, you build a competitive advantage.”


With this in mind, I hope you will find inspiration amongst our playbook coverage from adopting a strategic, data-driven approach to your marketing to help you test the latest innovations from the digital marketing platforms.

This article appears in the 2021 Digital Marketer's Playbook, a new, free 96-page guide in which ClickThrough's marketing experts share their thoughts on how to create a flexible marketing strategy for 2021. Get your free copy here.

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