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2021 Flying Start Guide


While there may be continued uncertainty in every sphere, there is no reason why 2021 can’t be the year you transform your organisation, enter a new market, launch a business or get promoted. This flying start guide is for anyone responsible for the growth of their organisation: marketing directors, seasoned founders, budding entrepreneurs and sector partners.

Getting started

One thing is for certain, for better or worse, 2020 did not go to plan.


So your first step - after making a large cup of coffee and switching off your emails - needs to be taking stock of where you are and where you want to be this time next year. 


Do this by reviewing your previous year's plan if you have one, assessing recent competitor activity and gathering as much information as possible about the direction of the business in the next 1-5 years.  Then sum this up on one page and share with your team, manager or investors.  See 'Strategy on a page' in the download section.

Image by Devin Avery

Rule of three

Rule of three

Competitive busyness does not equal productivity and if you want to be successful in 2021 you have to be strategic with your time.

Prioritising in this way will allow you to do less, but oh so much better.

So be extra judicious about what so-called urgent distractions vie for your attention, because if by the end of the year you’ve achieved what you set out to, it will be because you kept focused.

The rule of 3 is a good way to keep on track.

Start by identifying the below:

  • 3 business goals

  • 3 ideal clients

  • 3 marketing goals

  • 3 things your brand or business stands for always

  • 3 things you will be known for in 2021


You can find more detail, guidance and examples in the rule of three download below.


Fluent in finance

Fluent in finance

Whether you are a business owner needing to get investors onside, or a marketing director negotiating your 2021 budget allocation, if you want to get buy-in for your ideas, it pays to get fluent in finance.

Understanding how your 3 marketing objectives support your 3 business goals and the effect they'll have on your 3 ideal clients is a good start point. But you also need to get real about return on investment (ROI)  and how you are measuring this.

Ensure your key performance indicators (KPIs) are common sense and stand up to scrutiny.


For example, do website clicks or followers really matter? If so, how? Where do they lead? How do they contribute to revenue or increased awareness for your ideal 3 clients?


Challenge your assumptions before presenting your budget asks, be prepared to explain the impact your proposed investments will have, and to spell out the opportunity cost if the proposed investments are not made.

Marketing focus

44% CMOs expect budget cuts in the coming year, so if you are a marketing director working with finance on your budget - I would highly recommend 'Marketing to the CFO' from the B2B Institute.

This extensive paper includes a handy chart for converting marketing language (brand halo effect, awareness marketing qualified lead) into finance speak (margin protection for range, customer preference, sales pipeline) and tips on how to prepare for annual budget meetings.

Image by Drew Beamer

Be human

Be human

Engaging customers, employees and suppliers (AKA people) in a human, authentic, transparent way is key to building brand recognition and advocacy.

Given the year we have all been through, this has never been so important, but being human isn't about getting your CEO to join Tiktok or making your client newsletter more 'informal'.

As our friends over at Brisque Marketing put it, even in very traditional businesses "you can still aim to sound more relatable and easier to understand, while showcasing what’s unique about your business. Remember humanised marketing is about creating better connections".

There are countless ways to create those connections: from personalisation of automated marketing, giving managers media training so it isn't always the big bosses who are wheeled out to the press, engaging in real conversations on social media, being transparent in your internal and external communications, to including interviews with employees and customers in your brochures or podcasts or simply having more images of a diverse range of people using your product or delivering your service.

Like with all good business strategies, humanising your brand starts with having a clear idea of who you are as a business, what you are aiming for, and a clear picture of the clients and customers you want to reach. 

Having that clear picture means you can get to grips with their challenges and deliver a consistent, differentiated experience.


To learn about buyer personas, good customer segmentation and how to build an outstanding client experience (CX) strategy, check out this blog.

Image by Tony Reid

Deliver on promises


Creating your 2021 plan, setting out your goals and targets with the rule of 3, being more human and getting approval from your budget holder is just the start. Now it is time to deliver on your promises.

Keep focused

Go back to your 3 marketing and 3 business goals on a weekly basis to check in with your progress and keep focused. You should also do a more formal quarterly review.  See downloads for my 90 day planning template.

Use technology

Technology and data can help you achieve your objectives more easily and more cost- and time-effectively but only 47% of marketers say they have a unified view of their consumer data.


You can take control of all this data and leverage MarTech (the intersection of marketing and technology) to harness its real power.


Learn about how to do this and the latest tech trends such as Omnichannel Marketing and Voice Search in my technology trends blog.

Stay agile

Assembling an agile team around you will position you well to deliver your goals, and there is lots of choice for businesses looking to make a splash.


Here is an evaluation of options to expand your team during busy periods.


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