2020 vs 2021

How will independent businesses market themselves in 2021? What did we learn from 2020?

Congratulations, you survived 2020 (:

Did you read aloud to your loved ones at all during the year from hell? I’ll talk about that later but either way, I trust that you thrived despite the pandemic and the reality of remote work, as I hoped for 9 months ago. Or that you at least made a transition.

I’m writing to you today about how 2021 will be different from 2020 with respect to my own marketing strategy. Maybe this will help you – on that note, I also have a challenge and an opportunity for you that I’ll describe later in the week.

I know that the marketing strategy of my little business is a very narrow subject. But I’m less certain about the rest of the world. All I know is that the dual chaotic forces of the pandemic and of right-wing fascism are both global and unavoidable; let’s count on another year of uncertainty and hope to be pleasantly surprised.

To counter uncertainty In 2020, I continued a “daily” publishing experiment that I’d begun in 2019. The results were interesting:

  • Over 100,000 words published in the last 14 months
  • Over 13,000 words unpublished over that same amount of time
  • 132 articles published in 2020 alone
  • One article for about every two work days during that time

You could call this my 2020 coping mechanism.

But it was more than that. I noticed that I wrote or thought about what I published almost every single day of 2020. This is why I still think of it as daily publishing.

I came to a few other realizations through repeatedly writing about them:

  • That marketing is primarily about making something new/better, not just promoting or selling something
  • That there’s a difference between transforming and optimizing and you should know which is your focus
  • That a marketing consultant should look at all work through the spectrum of business model design – are the marketing activities aligned with your core business activities?
  • That knowledge workers can and should productize their value in a way that lets it be sold and delivered with little friction
  • That knowledge workers should define their own terms and ideas for themselves; that this is the core of brand messaging
  • That good marketing lets you connect your religious/philosophical beliefs and values to the work you do and the things you make
  • That positioning isn’t a one-off decision; it’s an ongoing practice
  • That content marketing, though often horrible in practice, is still the highest-value marketing activity

I’m pretty sure this all of this will be true in 2021, including the last point.

But I capped my 2020-survival with a holiday break from publishing and thereby a break from thinking about all this daily – marketing strategy, business model design, brand messaging, ideation, words themselves, etc., and so on.

This hiatus let some thoughts well up, perhaps.

Which leads me back to a Flannery O’Connor quote that had jumped out at me in 2020.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

To be honest, I’m not sure what she meant. Did she mean read to herself or read aloud – or does that distinction matter? 

I think it does matter and this why my 2020 content strategy will alter a little. In short, I will write these newsletter articles less frequently and read aloud a lot more.

2021 Is The Year of Video (for me)

Audio was hotter than Hades in 2020 (and it still is). Spotify spent 800 million acquiring podcast content and apps, Conan O’Brien is a podcaster now, and more people listen to Joe Rogan than almost any TV host alive. A podcast is the new blog; this is good because it’s hard to fake decent audio content.

But after some flirtations with audio podcasting in 2020, I decided to experiment with video. In December, I began reading aloud on YouTube, mostly doing straight reads of my own content, mixed with ad-libbing, and a sort of walk-through of the articles, books, videos, and other content that I have linked to in the article in question.

I like this approach not because I’m good on video – I’m pretty terrible honestly – but because it lets me show the viewer what I am looking at and inspired by, something I can’t do on an audio-only podcast.

Video is a weird and difficult format for me. And I’m not sure I’m going to stick with the “read aloud” format; but it’s a place to start.

Keep in mind: email marketing is still the king of all marketing.

Thus, I will still write to this email newsletter, but less frequently – maybe just once or twice a week. This will give me the time I need to work on video content; my four experimental videos from last month don’t even have intro thumbnails. Do you know what that means and why it matters? I didn’t until recently. I have so much to learn!

I’m curious what you’re wanting to learn this year – and what your marketing strategy looks like.

If you’re like me, you don’t know what 2021 holds but are looking forward to it anyway. Here’s to a safe and successful year.

Warm regards