At the risk of cliché prognostication I believe it is worth pausing to note the significant shifts taking shape in the marketing industry, enabled and accelerated by the rapidly expanding martech landscape and the unforeseen impacts of the worldwide pandemic–both of which will continue to reshape our economy and lifestyles throughout 2021.

Here are the four “firsts” I consider most noteworthy and important for savvy marketers to recognize and respond to this year.

1. Value-First Martech Stack

Martech has burgeoned from 150 to more than 8,000 solutions over the last decade, a 5,233% expansion since 2011, according to ChiefMartech.com. Technologies support advertising and promotion, content and experience, social and relationships, commerce and sales, management and data (more on data in #2 below).

With so many options how can savvy marketers build an effective martech stack? By driving decisions based on value. Here are three questions to ask:

  1. Does the technology address a significant pain point (is it “mission critical”)?
  2. Is the solution easy to learn and integrate into your marketing organization?
  3. What is the quantifiable return in incremental revenue or savings (does the technology investment deliver ROI)?

2. Decision-First Data Culture

Data is the fastest-growing martech category. According to Martech Advisor, data-related technologies grew 25.5 percent last year. As we suggested via the Forbes Communications Council, data is only valuable to the extent that it elucidates the decision(s) you need to make.

Savvy marketers “start with the decision at-hand and leverage relevant data to inform a more objective, confident decision. Ultimately, this approach will have the added benefit of eliminating wasteful spending on costly data sources if they are irrelevant or not actionable for the marketing decisions being made.” While most organizations are still focused on boiling the ocean of data to identify insights, the “decision-first” approach will create a competitive advantage that enables decision making at the speed of the market.

3. Agile Decision Cycle

Marketing’s annual planning and media-buying cycle has compressed into a near-continuous loop. Savvy marketers make data-informed decisions, execute, optimize and refine. As a result, speed and agility take precedence over depth when it comes to insights. Technology is key to driving speed.

4. Digital-First, But Balanced Marketing Mix

The pandemic added force to the digital wave sweeping marketing, as more shoppers moved online. Digital is agile, surgical and transactionally focused. Even with the growing importance of digital, consumers still consume offline media and marketing; thus, such tactics continue to be part of a profitable and effective marketing plan.

In fact, when Keen’s savvy brand marketing clients run plan scenarios, most uncover significant untapped potential in traditional channels including TV, print and out-of-home. These investments sustain brand value and help reduce overall marketing expense over time.

In 2021 and beyond the quality of your decision making will define your impact–your ability to clearly define your brand’s opportunity and quickly access future-focused insights that reveal the most profitable and efficient paths to your goals. Learn more at KeenDS.com.