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2021 Marketing Trends

January 25, 2021

Symposia Lab’s founder, Tim Haines, had the opportunity to speak with a friend and Hope College alum, Carolyn Buck. Carolyn currently works at Foresight Management in Grand Rapids — a firm that does energy efficiency and sustainability consulting to help accelerate a company’s journey toward sustainability. Carolyn’s personal journey to this position has involved 11 part-time jobs between herself and her husband and a trip overseas. After 7 years in Europe, Carolyn returned to the States and took a deep dive into freelance marketing because of her love for storytelling and relationships.

With this vibrant background, Carolyn approaches the marketing space with authenticity. She describes the role of authenticity in marketing this way “I think for me and marketing in 2021, authenticity is wrapped up in this demand for transparency. I think we’re going to see way more friends being asked to produce impact reports, to do better storytelling, to look at their products and say, ‘This is not just about this product that I’m selling on the market right now, but, Where did it come from? Who made it? How did it get there?’ The idea of authenticity and transparency are especially important in Carolyn’s industry with sustainability; however, sustainability, as Carolyn describes, is like an umbrella — it covers three main areas, ultimately asking the question: can you sustain your current business model based on how you are interacting with your people, the planet, and your profits?

These simple, yet profound questions led us to wonder if marketing is no longer simply a transactional process, but more of a conversation. Maybe the trend of conversational marketing is here to stay. Carolyn takes us back to kindergarten in her response to this question. She says “…conversational marketing could also be called Golden Rule marketing — treating people how you would like to be treated. So I think that conversational marketing is a shift more towards people, a human-centric version of marketing. Like, do you like to be shouted at by billboards and loud things? Probably not! Actually, you probably would like to have a human conversation because you have a problem that you would like solved and you’re asking for help.” Carolyn advises that in order to achieve human-centric marketing, we must listen first, “…because you cannot solve a problem that you don’t understand, you cannot help a person for whom you do not have empathy, you can’t truly translate what someone is saying and share a solution to the world if you don’t understand.”

As we enter 2021, Carolyn encourages us to embrace the trends of transparency, conversational marketing, storytelling, and generosity. She challenges us as marketers to “be good storytellers, read novels, and read books. Truly be the kind of marketer who loves stories and knows and understands them, not just one that delivers a great one-liner on a website”. She pushes us to “really be generous with your content because a generous person is the kind of person that someone wants to do business with.” In 2021, be people-centric.

If you are interested in learning more about Carolyn’s story, you can reach out to her on LinkedIn. Symposia is so thankful for her wise words and contributions to helping each of us become better marketers in 2021.