The Ultimate Predictions for Growth Marketing in 2021

I'm a marketing guy, a pizza enthusiast and San Francisco resident. Also, I started this blog, Growth Marketing Pro and built it into a 6-figure passive income business in just 18 months. Before that, I was the Head of Marketing for a startup called PlushCare, which sold for $450 million.
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Hopefully 2021 is more normal than 2020. 

Between COVID-19, unemployment, and Donald Trump serving up conspiracy theories like it’s an olympic sport, 2020 is a year most of us would like to forget. 

But the show must go on. 

From Google to Facebook to webinars and Pinterest, here are our top predictions for growth marketing in 2021…

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1. Google still runs the internet 

Google’s search engine is still the kingmaker of the internet. 

Mark my words, hiring and firing decisions are made based on what a few engineers and product managers at Google decide. This will continue as long as Google is the gateway to the web. 

Allow me to illustrate:

  • According to our SEO tool, GrowthBar, VeryWellHealth.com’s organic traffic went from 8.4 million in November, 2020 to 17.7 million organic visitors per month in December, 2020. That’s more than 2x growth! That was as a result of the Google December algorithm update. Given that Verywell Health makes its money via advertising on-site, you can pretty much guarantee their revenue doubled overnight as a result of the update. That’s great for them!
  • Meanwhile, Wayfair, which has a public market cap of $24 billion market cap, saw its organic traffic decline by 14%. While it’s more difficult to discern what effect this will have on their revenue, there’s no doubt the impact will be measured in millions of dollars. 

Is this at all fair? Probably not. But we’ll continue to play the game in 2021. 

If you’re behind the eight ball, read how to build your own SEO strategy from scratch here

2. Webinars will do much more 

2020 was the year of webinar software. Zoom IPO’d, COVID hit, and they achieved a market cap greater than GE (yes, General Electric). 

Source: MarketWatch

My next prediction won’t surprise you: webinars are here to stay, both for communicating with friends and family and for selling products and services on the internet. 

At least 16% of the workforce will stay remote after COVID is over. Sales teams hoping to wine and dine clients will find it difficult to do so from their bedrooms. 

But there will be huge developments that will improve and streamline the selling process in 2021, including:

  • Proliferation of evergreen webinars. Selling while you sleep will get easier and easier. Webinars 1.0 are live. 2.0 is about automation and reducing the selling burden for marketers and salespeople. Tough-to-explain product features, objection handling, and tips and tricks will all be disseminated via automation. 
  • More automation via Zoom’s App Marketplace will make the selling and engagement process even easier. They’ve already announced hundreds of integrations with tools like HubSpot, Intercom, and Calendly, which will enable one-click engagement marketing and pipeline management. 
Source: Zoom

Webinars will continue to become more ingrained in organizations and sales/marketing teams will find ways to reduce manual labor with automation. 

3. Facebook’s CPMs suck 

The FTC and attorneys general from dozens of states have brought antitrust suits against Facebook. 

Antitrust suits take years to play out. For now, Zuck and Sandberg will continue to own the social media universe and nothing will change in 2021. Advertisers will continue to flock to the platform and CPMs will continue to rise. 

Source: NBC News

Speaking of which, I predict Facebook/Instagram advertising will become prohibitively expensive for most small businesses in 2021. That’s because…

  • CPMs are high 
  • Ad creative is tough: to win on Facebook/Instagram nowadays, you need great-looking (preferably video) creative. And you need to rotate it often. That’s expensive and will make it hard for bootstrapped businesses to compete in the ad auction. 
  • Great companies are relentlessly focused on the lifetime value (LTV) of their customers. Companies with high customer LTVs can spend way more on customer acquisition, which means they can afford to outbid the little guys in the Facebook ad auction. 

Unless you have coffers of cash or huge growth goals, I’d mostly avoid Facebook in 2021. But, if you decide to go for it, make sure to lead with strong creative, and utilize Facebook’s lookalike and open audience targeting capabilities. 

4. Emerging platforms

If you were running Facebook Ads five years ago you were way more likely to strike gold than you are today.

Growth marketing has always been about staying on the cutting edge. Emerging platforms and strategies always present opportunities for advertising arbitrage.

2021 will be no different. Platforms like TikTok are still relatively nascent for advertising. They only recently released a self-serve ad platform.

Particularly if your audience aligns with the TikTok audience, you should give it a try. Extra points if you have the ability to create really engaging video ad creative — that will make it possible to reach an extremely captive audience at a low cost-per-click.

Source: Influencer Marketing Hub

Other platforms to look into (depending on the product or service you’re selling) include:

5. Influencers hold the keys… for now 

93% of marketers use influencer marketing in their marketing mix.

Source: Oberlo

Platforms like Instagram and YouTube have given creators power like never before. Based on algorithms, new and engaging content rises to the top of social platforms and the owners of that content — influencers — are able to command huge followings. Those huge followings are a goldmine for digital marketers.

Brands will spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. You can get your piece of the pie in 2021. While it’s hot. 

Influencer marketing works because the ad content is organic, engaging and more believable than standard paid advertising. For the cost of a couple hundred bucks or an affiliate cut of sales, you can start using influencer marketing. 

But, as with every social platform, ads will continue to displace organic content. Influencers will see their reach diminish somewhat over the years, but I think they will retain much more power than the fallen Facebook and Vine influencers of the past. 

2021 will be the year of the influencer.

6. The (continued) rise of Amazon 3rd party sellers 

60% of Amazon’s ecommerce sales are now from third party sellers. Last quarter, that amounted to nearly $30 billion in sales. 

Source: The Seattle Times

In the trailing six months, multiple holding companies have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to buy and/or start Amazon businesses. Thrasio, SellerX, Heyday and others are in the business of consolidating and milking Amazon third party seller businesses for profit. 

Ecommerce companies — particularly vertically integrated ones — will not be able to look away from the Amazon opportunity any longer. Amazon is simply one of the best ways to reach the most consumers. 

For ecommerce marketers, this means that Amazon’s ad services will be a table stakes skill in 2021 and beyond

Marketers will need to understand the platform and acquire customers profitably. 

The good news is that tons of arbitrage still exists. Competition in the Amazon ad space isn’t as fierce and CPCs average less than half of Google CPCs at just $0.71

Now’s the time to jump on that whole “Amazon” thing if you haven’t already.

7. Pinterest at top of funnel

I once met an early investor in Pinterest. When I asked him what he saw in the company, he said “the world is visual and Pinterest is the only social platform that is visual-first.” 

Source: Pinterest

Turns out he was right. Of course now, many social platforms are visual. But Pinterest was first.  And it has a market cap of over $40 billion to prove it. 

To growth marketers in 2021, Pinterest presents a huge opportunity, but it’s best used as a top-of-funnel strategy. Because Pinterest users are in a perusing, creative mindsight, they’re primed for discovery.  

For visual products, Pinterest will be one of the best ad platforms for a while to come. 

8. Analytics will continue going deeper 

To be a growth marketer in 2021, you have to know your data. 

In 2020, Google acquired Looker and started really pushing Google Analytics 360 hard. They’re doing this because they know growth marketers and product people are serious about data. 

Source: Looker

The best growth marketers are using data to:

  • analyze their web traffic and funnel
  • see engagement rates on content
  • glean product insights 

To compete in 2021 you need to be fluent in web analytics. Proper analytics will help you nail down which landing pages to use, which product features perform best, and what advertising mix is optimal.

It’s super competitive out there, and just a small percentage change in your conversion rate can mean a huge difference in return on ad spend. 

9. SMS texting — your inbox is no longer sacred

Everyone saw it during this past election — text messages from candidates and volunteers vying for your vote. Given how overcrowded our email inboxes have become, SMS texting is a quick & easy way to break through the noise and guarantee your message gets seen and opened by the receiver.

It’s also incredible cheap. The typical costs associated with sending a text message can range from as little to 5 cents to 6 cents.

While texting via an autodialer is still illegal, peer-to-peer texting platforms have become a work around allowing organizations to communicate through individualized text messages sent one-by-one to an individual person.

The trend has also been picked up by weight loss supplement companies and though it’s a bit tacky as it stands, we predict this trend has only just begun. In 2021 we predict that companies will begin to think about texting as an acquisition channel and those who can execute in a way that is welcomed, will reap the benefits.

10. Growth marketing will be taken more seriously

After a year like 2020, every business owner is approaching this new year looking to either make up for lost revenue or build something new from the ground up. That means there are a lot of people looking to take growth very seriously in 2021.

With the shift to remote work and limited budgets, businesses will opt to hire marketing agencies and consultants who can help them quickly fill in the gaps and get the job done.

Conclusion

Marketing changes, but it also stays very much the same. In 2021, push yourself to get more data-driven and step outside the normal ad platforms like Facebook and Google.

It’s called growth marketing for a reason. You need to not only advertise intelligently, but think creatively. In 2021, you need to adhere to best practices and test rapidly or risk losing out to your competitors and destroying your finances.

Emerging platforms like TikTok really could be the answer for your company. Or perhaps, good old fashioned SEO is what you need. Plan, execute, repeat.


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