budget planningPhoto by Sharon McCutcheon


Business marketing is a field that moves pretty fast under normal conditions. As technology evolves and systems get more intelligent, we have more information and outlets to spend valuable marketing dollars. If you don’t dedicate enough time to learn new skills and discover new mediums, you can become a dinosaur pretty quickly. And we all know what happened to the dinosaurs.

Many brands were caught flat-footed in 2020 when seemingly overnight, their in-person marketing plans were canceled. This included trade shows, prospect dinners, networking, lunch and learns, and even sponsored community 5k runs. The turn of events caused marketers to scramble and become more innovative, resourceful, and nimble. However, the painful truth is that many didn’t know what to do in absence of actual human-to-human contact.  Thus, the valuable leads their organization counted on slowed to a trickle.

The question for 2021 is “How do you manage and plan for – God forbid, more of the same lockdown environment?”

We all hope for a return to normal, but that is far from guaranteed, and not planning ahead for this scenario is marketing malpractice.

Atlas Rose, the marketing leadership company, advises its clients to create two marketing plans and be prepared to pivot in 2021. The company’s owner, Branden O’Neil says, “We’re going to step into 2021 with an enormous amount of unprecedented uncertainty. We don’t know if planned in-person events will go on as scheduled, or if they do, when that will be. We don’t have a choice but to plan for at least two sets of outcomes. The resources that marketing managers have is relatively known, but how we deploy resources will be more dynamic than ever before.”

He’s talking about money and where to spend it. Companies should be prepared to reallocate spends on digital assets. While it’s no reason to panic, it does take some planning. Whether it’s in person or online, marketing’s core function is to move the prospect through the sales funnel of awareness, interest, decision, and action. While that hasn’t changed, how we earn a buyer’s trust has. It takes longer in an online environment than it does if you can look at your customer in the eye and shake their hand.

“This is why our marketing funnels have to be solid. Really tight,” says O’Neil. He’s eluding to an exercise they do with their clients that maps out the as-is customer journey.

O’Neil adds, “We want to map out the reality, not what “should” happen. By doing this we can spot inefficiencies and communication gaps. For example, recognizing if there is a lack of an automated follow-up email or phone call after a customer makes a purchase. Or if there is a week of silence before there is an onboarding meeting.”

By spotting these weak points in marketing operations, you can keep customers engaged and excited to do business with you. The exercise also gives marketing teams plenty of work to do. But it’s necessary to get the maximum benefit from pay per click campaigns and other digital spending.

The analogy O’Neil uses with clients is, spending money digitally is a great move if you are gaining assets and interest. But spending more and more money won’t work if you have a hole in the bucket and you are losing them just as fast! That’s why we need to sure up our communication even after we get the lead too.”

We were already seeing a marketing digital transformation, but 2020 just accelerated it. Brands that don’t adapt may be left behind – for good. 

One impressive marketing move in 2020 was by the outdoor brand, Yakima Products. For months they had been working on a new product launch that was set to be unveiled at Specialty Equipment Market Association, (SEMA), the largest automotive aftermarket trade show of its kind. However, once it was canceled, they had to pivot. FAST.

Their solution was to create their own event; One that blended an online and offline experience. Instead of inviting consumers directly, they invited influencers in the outdoor and active lifestyle space. This meant magazine editors, youtube personalities, and others that had the audience of Yakima’s potential customers. They worked with the Portland, Oregon-based company, Brandlive to help with the details like a professional set, rented furniture, and other props to create the “outdoor adventure feel” they were going for.

“To have a similar impact to what SEMA was going to bring us, we needed to be creative and execute well. Targeting influencers not only allowed us to amplify our message but also gave the product validation. Honest reviews from influencers brings authenticity, which breeds trust, and ultimately, consumer confidence to make a purchase,” Says Greg Covello, Senior Brand and Content Manager at Yakima.

To make the online presentation feel more “real” and stand out, Yakima mailed a package of edible goodies and swag to each attendee to enjoy during the event.

To encourage sharing, each attendee received a full digital press kit including high-resolution product photos, descriptions, and other assets helpful to use in a magazine article or video.

Covello’s assessment? “We were happy how it turned out. We’re still measuring the impact, but I think it’s safe to say something similar will be part of our marketing outreach in 2021.”

We don’t know what the future holds, but if there is anything 2020 taught us, it’s that we need to have a plan B, and the time to prepare is now.


About Atlas Rose:

Atlas Rose is a Christian led marketing leadership company focusing on bringing executive-level help to small and medium-sized businesses. By offering fractional CMO’s integrated with their client’s leadership team, they effectively impact the company culture and mission. The result is a predictable, measurable, and effective lead flow for just a fraction of what a full-time marketing department would cost.  They can be reached at [email protected] or 762-5233-5007.