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December 31, 2020

Patrick Taylor


Senior Director, Performance Marketing

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Starting in March of 2020, we saw a huge shift in the digital ad ecosystem as the COVID pandemic wreaked havoc by canceling trade shows and putting previously set annual budget allocations in flux. As advertisers grappled with budget changes and buyers scrambled to adapt to remote work, conversion rates on digital ad channels dropped.

Then, as we adapted to the new normal of 2020, offline budgets transitioned online, bringing a whole new lens to the measurement of return on ad spend. Knowing that most organizations invest nearly a quarter of their marketing budgets into live events to drive leads and awareness, tech brands expected digital ads to step in and fill the pipeline.

Stakeholders had high expectations of digital advertising in its role of replacing lost revenue from in-person events, and digital marketers needed to validate that this shift in budget allocation was return-worthy. To successfully fill a pipeline with MQLs and SQLs required a solid strategy paired with ROI-driven measurement. 

Closer scrutinization of return on ad spend won’t be inherently unique to 2020 - it’s something that will continue to play out through 2021 as budgets remain in flux. Your organization can employ a return-worthy, measureable digital ad strategy in 2021 by following these core principles:

  1. Stay Informed: Stay apprised of buying trends, economic fluctuations, and your organization’s ongoing profitability. Your most in-demand solutions in 2020 may be vastly different to meet buyer demands in 2021, and your digital ad strategy may need to pivot accordingly. Keeping your finger on the pulse will help you adapt your marketing strategy to be relevant for both buyers and your organization’s bottom line.

  2. Be Flexible: As 2020 showed us, buyer behaviors and economic scenarios can change overnight for better or worse. Make sure your ad strategy in 2021 accounts for multiple scenarios and doesn’t employ tactics that require a long-term commitment. As web analytics and conversion metrics start dipping it’s a sign to begin shifting your strategy.

  3. Set Goals: Clearly lay out expected results, outcomes and KPIs for your ad strategy so that your organization knows exactly what success looks like. On top of that, make sure you can measure against these goals through proper CRM set up and revenue tracking associated with deals from ads. Connecting revenue directly to digital marketing efforts will make your team indispensable in the eyes of your board and execs.

Your 2021 digital ads strategy should look and feel different than it has in any other year prior. There will be some uncertainty as you plan out your budget, but there are ways to stay ahead of this uncertainty. Check out our playbook on managing your 2021 marketing budget for some ideas on how to do so.