How often have you heard people say, “Is it 2021 yet?” If only the “Are we there yet?” sentiment was met with the same anticipation of arriving somewhere new and exciting that we experienced as kids! Instead, it’s driven by our desire to get through a time of unprecedented and unpredictable change that has impacted both our personal and professional lives, with the hope that things might turn around once the calendar changes. The business and societal changes from the pandemic to the widespread demand for civil rights, human rights, and racial justice have been a true test of our endurance and resilience. Lucky for us, it turned out that the murder hornets were overhyped!

For B2B CMOs, we don’t know what 2021 has in store for us, but one thing is certain — we should continue to expect the unexpected and embrace change as a constant. For starters, B2B CMOs must be proactive in developing a concise, coherent, and flexible plan that is in line with evolving business objectives. In their blog post, “Rethinking The Marketing Plan In A Socially Distant World,” my colleagues Craig Moore and Nick Buck provide a helpful marketing planning template and some great guiding principles for the planning process.

But what about the things to plan for? If we know what to expect in 2021, we might resurrect the true excitement and anticipation that “Are we there yet?” should bring.

Here are five things B2B leaders can expect in the year ahead and what to plan to do about them:

    1. Expect the unexpected. CMOs must establish early warning systems and monitor signals to respond to changing conditions that might affect their plans. Use business reviews to review all relevant internal and external performance indicators to identify the necessary steps for response.
    2. Don’t lose sight of long-term value when focusing on short-term wins. Recognize that reputation and customer engagement efforts provide long-term value that supports the functioning of the revenue engine in less obvious ways. Be careful about dialing those efforts back too far as you plan your demand generation efforts.
    3. Understand that your buyers are dealing with difficult situations. It’s been an emotional time, and many of us are dealing with difficult situations. Marketing leaders must understand the emotional drivers in decision-making and how they connect to the brand’s mission, vision, values, and purpose to be more relevant in the way value is communicated.
    4. Rebalance marketing metrics to understand customer impact. Most organizations claim to be customer focused; but, our recent metrics study found that 70% of metrics used by B2B marketing functions demonstrate organizational value vs. customer value, and 64% demonstrate impact on the buying process versus the customer lifecycle.
    5. Create an adaptive operating model for marketing. Define adaptability as a core principle of the marketing team’s way of working, promote it actively, and enable it consistently through the application of the right processes, tools, and employee development programs.

Download our 2021 Planning Assumptions guide for B2B CMOs and marketing leaders for a deeper dive into the trends outlined here. And, watch my and my colleague Adele Sweetwood‘s 2021 Planning Assumptions webinar for B2B CMOs to take a deeper dive into these five key areas that will be crucial for marketing leaders in 2021, and be ready to answer your team when they ask, “Are we there yet?”