Marketing in 2021: How to Make a Marketing Plan for the New Normal

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

2020 has been a turbulent year all around. It’s been incredibly confusing for marketers, however, who have had to contend with quick shifts in consumer behavior and therefore, digital trends. Not only has Covid-19 changed the game, but the socio-political climate has also seen a lot of upheavals, resulting in changing marketing trends. This year has sent marketers scrambling to adopt new best practices and strategies.

A big reason that 2020 has been a marketing hell is because of the rampant uncertainty it has birthed. There is almost no way of predicting social media advertising and media buying costs since the digital landscape keeps shifting. Moreover, consumers have taken to online shopping like ducks to water, but who knows how long that trend will last. If marketers, business owners, and entrepreneurs are to succeed in 2021, they must acknowledge and embrace a few facts about ‘the new normal.’

What the New Normal Means for Marketers in 2021

The changing trends have resulted in confusion and unpredictability. However, a few truths have come to light, and these should be kept in mind when creating a marketing plan for the next year.

#1: It’s essential to stay flexible

2021 is the right time to reevaluate any objectives, goals, targets, and KPIs you previously made for your business. For example, you were previously focusing on sales-based KPIs; perhaps this is the right time to reconsider that approach. Many SMBs are currently figuring out how to retain existing clientele instead of maximizing sales or rapid growth. A flexible business can survive anything that 2021 brings.

#2: Pre-plan for budget cuts

It’s not a secret that 2020 has been brutal on budgets. Even large companies have found their previously comfortable budgets slashed to near shreds. As the global economy teeters on the brink of survival, funds have started to decrease. A survey by Dun & Bradstreet showed that 70% of senior marketers had their budgets cut because of Covid-19, while 76% of them were put under extra pressure to deliver on their KPIs for that year.

A successful, forward-thinking marketer should allow for budget cuts. However, this depends on the kind of business you’re running, too. If your SMB occupies a niche that is still retaining its clientele despite Covid-19, you’re one of the lucky ones. Everyone else, however, should keep budgetary considerations in mind for 2021.

#3: Digitize and revolutionize

If you’re in the digital business, you have heard the saying, ‘content is the king.’ This phrase has become especially true during 2020, where Covid-19 forced the world to quarantine. Consumers have increased their social media consumption to the point where half of the world now uses social media frequently. We’re talking about almost 4 billion people here - you can imagine the possibilities.

What’s more, consumers have adopted new digital habits where they are turning to their phones and laptops as constant sources of entertainment. As a business owner, you must be where your consumer is. And since your consumer is online… well, you get what I mean. Any strategy that you create for 2021 must be focused on social media marketing. No matter how big or small your business is, the focus should be on online advertising and content marketing.

#4: Hire the right person for the right job

We just discussed how consumers have been flocking to social media since Covid-19 began. Not only have they upped their internet usage, but they have also started interacting with their favorite brands and businesses online. The boost in E-Commerce has people lining up to shop. And they shop from brands they deem to be transparent, honest, and dependable.

In a nutshell, you need to talk to your consumer. A two-way conversation channel is the best way to build brand credibility, recall, and brand love. To manage this, you will need to hire a social media manager and community manager, depending on the size of your business. Hiring relevant staff is a must-have for your 2021 marketing plan!

#5: Sharpen your social listening skills

The last two points we've discussed have led us here: the importance of social listening. Old-school marketers didn’t bother with a two-way channel of communication, but their new-age counterparts cannot afford that luxury. Consumer pressure is a real thing, and you should always be listening. The internet is a weird and wonderful place, and cancel culture is very real.

You must stay on top of any and all news about your brand by using relevant tools to ‘listen’ to what your consumers are saying. We will discuss specific tools and strategies further below. For now, it is sufficient to say that you should be present in whichever forums your consumers are. You will know which area of your business to work on if you listen to what your consumers are saying about it, thereby building brand credibility and trust.

The 5 Must-Have Additions to A 2021 Marketing Plan

Now that we’ve talked about what the new normal looks like, we can move on to discussing tangible actions. Insights are essential in that they act as keys which then unlock the perfect strategy for your business. Keep reading to find out the five crucial additions to your marketing plan for 2021.

#1: A kickass digital strategy

We've talked about how consumers now spend a lot of their time online, making the digital platform a vital one for any business. It’s not enough to accept this shift towards the digital, however. You must include action-oriented goals in your 2021 plan that will allow you to embrace the digital age as well as you can.

  • The first thing to do is to get your business as much exposure as it can get. Your brand should be present on all major social networks and any others that are pertinent to your niche. You should have brand pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, followed by YouTube if that is relevant. If you’re an E-Commerce brand, consider setting up a business account on WhatsApp to connect with consumers directly, and create trust. Plan out which platforms you will take on, what segment of your target audience will be there, and who will handle queries, questions, and more.

  • Next, you should allocate a sizeable budget of your marketing spend to digital promotion. Gone are the days when most of your budget would go into traditional advertising mediums. Research new ad formats and figure out the best way to optimize your spending to get as many views as you can. The more impressions your brand makes, the easier it will be to break through the clutter on digital.

  • Lastly, focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Since most consumers make purchasing decisions online, they will inevitably search for the things they need. You need to make sure that you have a solid SEO strategy that ensures your brand a top spot in search engine results. This focus on SEO will create credibility with your consumers and will ensure that they recall your brand as they browse online.

#2: Influencer Marketing

There’s a simple marketing truth that cannot be denied: people will buy what other people buy. Consumers make purchasing decisions due to a myriad of reasons, but the biggest are reviews and impressions. And right now, it’s all about who gives the reviews. You guessed it: influencers.

Online influencers have skyrocketed in 2020. So much so that influencer marketing and blogging has become a full-time job for some people. How does it work? Well, brands pay social media influencers to review and advertise their products in their digital space. This allows brands to piggyback on the influencer’s popularity and get the word out about their products and services.

Your 2021 marketing plan should have a bulletproof influencer marketing strategy. Outline the potential Social Media Influencers (SMIs) who are liked and trusted by their online communities. Then, reach out to them and see if they are willing to collaborate with your brand. The best way to get people’s attention is to do it through someone they trust. Therefore, any successful 2021 plan should have a strategy for influencer marketing.

#3: A CSR Plan

This one depends on the size of your business, but it should ideally be included in any and all marketing plans for 2021. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a necessity during these times. Consumers have become more socially aware and conscious due to the increase in information sharing online. They respond better to brands they can trust. And brands can build that trust by showing consumers that they are participating in social causes that are important to them.

Your 2021 marketing plan should include several CSR plans. These can range from donating a portion of profits to a charity of your choice or advocating for a greener world with a line of sustainable products.

According to Jacquie Chakirelis, director of the digital strategy at Quest Digital/Great Lakes Publishing, “people want to know the brand’s perspective on different topics, such as sustainability, inclusivity, and more.” She advises content marketers to “be prepared to invest in this content.”

So, you see, your consumers will look at you for some CSR efforts and matching content. If you want to stay relevant in 2021, appeal to the ‘woke’ consumer and plan some feel-good content. Let your consumers know that you care about causes that are important to them. Doing this will ensure that you not only get new consumers but also retain the ones you already have.

#4: Reliable Social Listening Tools

For any business to be successful in 2021, it must listen to its consumers. A lot of big corporations have pulled tone-deaf advertising moves in recent years, leading to several outcries from their consumers. We talked about cancel culture earlier in this article. I will explain what that is and how to keep your brand safe from it with a social listening strategy.

Cancel culture is precisely what it sounds like. If your brand puts out a message that appears tone-deaf or politically incorrect to your consumers, they can band together and petition to ‘cancel’ your brand. This means boycotting your products/services and unleashing a public volley of hate towards your brand. You can kiss your brand love and credibility goodbye.

A forward-thinking marketer can avoid being canceled by creating a social listening strategy. First, find out where your consumers spend their time online. Is it Facebook groups? Or is it online forums like Reddit? Perhaps it’s the comments section under YouTube videos. You need to ensure you are wherever your consumers are. You can use tools like Brand24 or Brand Mentions, among others to do just this.

Social listening will allow you to know exactly what consumers think about your brand. This way, if anything potentially problematic comes up, you can act on it in time and avoid being canceled.

#5: Meaningful Content

This one is the heart and soul of your 2021 marketing plan. Content marketing is what drives leads these days, with consumers being online almost all the time. It has now become super important not only to create content but to create content that evokes certain emotions in the viewer.

You would be remiss to adopt a content strategy where your brand acts like a content farm and nothing else. Don’t settle by churning out a lot of content that says nothing and connects with no one. Instead, focus on quality and put out content that goes straight to your consumers’ hearts and makes a lasting impression.

An airtight and relevant content plan is the crucial feature of your 2021 marketing plan. You can create one by looking at online trends and by going through insights that are specific to your brand and niche. Once you produce good content, your consumers will be hooked. They will start expecting quality from your brand, meaning they will come back again and again. You will be able to obtain and retain a tight community and loyal customer base if you focus on the right content strategy.


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