2021 CEO Priorities: Digital Marketing or Bust

2021 yearly planner.

Despite the events of 2020, CEOs are focused on growth in 2021. And, despite continuing uncertainty as we head into 2021, CEOs are confident about the business environment 12 months from now. But many CEOs — 40% — believe growth will be slow going.

To achieve the growth necessary to survive and to be confident about what their business will look like by the close of 2021, CEOs need to figure out how they are going to achieve that.

And they may be at odds with what the CMO wants. According to Gartner research, the majority of CMOs believe recovery is going to be quick and sharp and are more likely to preserve the status quo in the meantime.

Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Headed

What we’ve learned in this past year is that the way we do business has changed forever. From a critical shift in how we work, learn, live and search, businesses had to get creative and aggressive to stay relevant in what will now be the most important arena to do business: online.

The status quo is simply not an option for most businesses moving forward. As such, CEOs need to understand that they have no choice but to embrace digital marketing tighter than ever.

Here’s the thing about making sound investments in digital advertising and SEO: Together, these two strategies support any long-term and short-term business goal you are pursuing. The combination keeps you relevant and visible online despite current events. And it allows you to be a reliable presence for your target audience.

Companies like Google have a lot planned in 2021 (the page experience update is just one of many). Without the skills necessary to navigate their own plans and changes to the search engines, websites will forever be lost — relegated to Page 2 and beyond of the search results (what we in the industry refer to as the best place to hide a dead body).

Budgets in Focus

As businesses pivot, digital channels are set to benefit from marketing budgets in the coming year more than offline investments.

According to Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey 2020-2021, digital advertising will be the beneficiary of the most dollars.

Digital dominates the channel mix per Gartner survey.
Click to view image larger.

It’s nice to see that SEO makes the top five priorities. The survey found that 69% said they would increase their investment in SEO, and 78% said the same for digital advertising.

B2C 2021 marketing budget outlook per Gartner survey.
Click to view image larger.

Winning 2021

If CEOs don’t win in early 2021, they may find their company’s future at risk. The risk to business leaders is so high that many will pay whatever it takes for the highest probability of success. That means hiring the best and brightest experts who live and breathe the digital marketing channel you want to win.

According to Gartner though, in response to the pandemic, 32% of companies have shifted work from agency services to in-house employees. Yet Gartner recognizes that “this shift from working with agencies to bringing work in-house is a long-term investment and involves more financial risk than relying on a contracted partner.

Make no mistake: Not hiring the best means leaders will probably fail to compete, and they will be held accountable for failures by an increasingly knowledgeable board of directors. The motivated business competition is going to have quick-moving, aggressive digital marketers, and any businesses not in the race early will be left behind.

Understand that your competition will pull ahead if you hesitate for one moment. If you are afraid to enter the game now, by April, you will likely face a competitor that started in January. Do you want to be that person who delayed the process? Does your job depend upon success? Does your business depend on it?

Let us know if you’d like to discuss your situation. Contact us to get a free quote for digital marketing services from BCI.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (6)
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2021 CEO Priorities: Digital Marketing or Bust

6 Replies to “2021 CEO Priorities: Digital Marketing or Bust”

It was really very interesting to learn about your journey in the SEO field. 25 years is a very long time. I think all of your articles speak about your experience in the industry.
Thank you for sharing this we learn more from these blogs.

Digital marketing is the act of promoting and selling products and services by leveraging online marketing tactics such as social media marketing, search marketing, and email marketing. The main advantage of digital marketing is that a targeted audience can be reached in a cost-effective and measurable way.

Learning the ins and outs of digital marketing can be easy if you have the time and initiative to do so. Unfortunately, when you’re running a business, time isn’t something we always have. Taking to an online platform also increases the number of companies you’re competing with. The pressure to be on top may push us to make mistakes that will cost us in the long run. Here are 5 digital marketing mistakes you should avoid.

1) Skipping research & testing
2) Improper focus and positioning
3) Not implementing personalised communication
4) Focusing on paid advertisements
5) Failing to capture repeat customers

I had one doubt in those graphs. It says the budget for digital marketing was around 13% and Social, SEO was 11.3%, 9.9% respectively. When we say digital marketing everything including paid search, social media, and SEO comes under it right?. What is that meaning in a separate budget for digital marketing?. does it means brands spend only 13% on digital and spend the remaining 80% on non-digital?. Quite unbelievable if that is the case.

Great read and not shocked with the push for Digital Marketing being the top. Already 1st week in 2021 we have dabbled with YouTube ads. More of a construction feel or gitty production of the ads but focused on local Philadelphia companies.


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