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What Can We Learn from the Top Digital Marketing Programs in 2021?

Heading into 2022, marketers are asking themselves what to expect with their digital marketing programs in the not-so post-pandemic world.

By: Michael Brito

Category: Analytics

Heading into 2022, marketers are asking themselves what to expect with their digital marketing programs in the not-so post-pandemic world. There’s some uncertainly with the economy, and it’s still unclear how businesses will adapt to the hybrid remote workforce.

HubSpot just released their 2021 State of Marketing report, and there is a wealth of information for marketers to help them prioritize in the coming year. They surveyed over 1500 marketers globally and provided critical insights coupled with strategic recommendations and best practices for marketing success.

Below are the top 10 digital marketing programs of 2021. Some fascinating data points and marketing stats should be considered moving into next year.

Digital Marketing Programs

Social Media Marketing

According to HubSpot, almost 70% of marketers surveyed say that social media was the primary approach to their marketing in 2021. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. For years, social media has been a channel to engage with customers, build brand advocacy, activate influencers, and tell brand stories.

My take: Social media marketing will continue to be a channel where marketers will find success. However, brands should segment their marketing execution and provide different approaches for each channel. Every social network is different based on audience, functionality, best practices, etc. This approach will require more work and budget, but the benefits of telling unique and relevant brand stories are worth it.


Search Engine Optimization

Only 40% of marketers surveyed prioritize SEO as a part of their digital marketing strategy.

My take: This is a huge miss for two reasons. First, Google is the gateway into the entire digital ecosystem. It is the home page for every consumer and B2B buyer. Second, the shelf life of long-form content lives forever in the Google search results. Brands must think twice about making more investments into SEO for 2022.


Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Almost 40% of marketers prioritized ABM or account-based marketing in their 2021 strategy. ABM is a specific marketing tactic for B2B brands and involves a strategic partnership between marketing and sales teams. They create customized programs and target accounts through personalized content, email, digital activation, and thought leadership.

My take: ABM is not easy. It takes patience and requires strong collaboration internally. ABM will not be successful without these two characteristics. It’s also important to note that ABM can also be integrated with more prominent influencer and thought leadership campaigns. A few ABM case studies from brands like Snowflake and GumGum used ABM successfully.


Content Creation

Almost 35% of marketers focused on content creation in 2021. This data point surprises me. Every digital marketing program requires content creation. I would expect this to be much higher than 35%.

My take: According to the same report, over 60% of marketers used video as a primary form of media within their content strategy in 2021. This is a good thing. Short-form video on TikTok or Instagram is a no-brainer for the Gen Z audience. And as stated earlier, long-form content, specifically video content on YouTube, has a shelf life of forever.


Targeted Paid Social

Just under 30% of marketers surveyed were focused on buying targeted social ads in their digital marketing. Posting social media content organically wastes time, energy, and budget. Organic reach is less than 1%.

My take: I’m glad to see that marketing and communications teams are allocating budget for paid social. Outside of demand generation, these teams use it for awareness and consideration types of content. However, just because marketers promote content doesn’t necessarily mean that it will perform. The content itself must tell a story and drive action simultaneously. I would say that all content marketing and storytelling should have some paid investments behind them.


Demand Generation

Over 20% of marketers prioritized demand generation marketing programs in 2021. HubSpot refers to this as “generating referrals.” I call it demand gen

My take: In the same report, marketers cited Facebook as the top social media channel to see the most robust ROI. I want to double click on this data point to see exactly how these marketers defined ROI. It would also be nice to understand whether these marketers worked for a B2B or consumer brand. If these business verticals segmented the survey, the data would tell a much different story.


TV Advertising

About 20% of marketers surveyed were focused on buying TV ads in 2021. This makes sense, given that most of the world was working from home. We’ll see how much this will change in 2022.


Inbound Marketing

Less than 20% of marketers surveyed were focused on inbound marketing in 2021.

My take: I am not a fan of using inbound marketing as a term, and I don’t think it makes sense to add that as a question on a survey. Inbound marketing is a more modern way of saying “pull marketing” involves creating unique digital and content experiences that will pull customers into a branded ecosystem.


Trade shows & Events

About 15% of marketers surveyed were focused on trade shows in 2021. It makes sense that this number is also low, given that there just weren’t many trades shows even happening in 2021.

My take: If 2022 opens back up, trade shows like CES and SXSW will be in full swing, attracting marketers and thought leaders across all industries. The benefit of using trade shows and events in marketing is that it could be integrated with ABM, influencer marketing, and thought leadership.


Out of Home Advertising

About 15 % of marketers surveyed were focused on buying media out of the home. This includes billboards, posters, bus stops, and more.

My take: This number will undoubtedly increase in 2022 as more of the business community goes back to work, public transportation reemerges, and more consumers start traveling again.


What’s Missing?

I think two critical digital marketing programs are missing from this survey, and I am not sure why-analytics and influencer marketing.

It could be that some marketers just don’t view analytics as a marketing strategy, or they don’t know how to use data to inform marketing programs. Whatever the reason is, data and analytics should be the cornerstone of all marketing programs in 2022.

With strong insights, all the digital marketing programs listed above could be improved and more laser focused with data.


I really hope you enjoyed this video. I do my best to create content that’s actionable and provides value to the work you do.

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