My Review Of 2021 Trends In The Online Marketing Space

12 Jan, 2022 By Bobby Klinck
My Review Of 2021 Trends In The Online Marketing Space

The past year was a challenging one for many people in the online marketing space. But before we move on, it’s important to look back on the big things that happened in the industry so that we can develop an informed plan for what we’re doing in 2022.

What have we seen? What are the trends? What are the changes that we’ve seen over the last year? How will these shape our new year? Let’s dive in.

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Why 2021 Was A Difficult Year

Last year was difficult for many online entrepreneurs. It wasn’t just that growth was slow. For some people, it was that their revenue was down by 40-50% compared to the previous year, particularly those who launched.

We also saw several major players in the space who had to pivot and change mid-year. They did that because the result wasn’t what they expected.

I talked to people who were affiliates for some of the big launches in our space and saw their numbers way down in 2021 from 2020. Several of my friends who are ads managers also said it was a rough year.

As I talked with people, I heard about the struggle over and over again. They were hoping to grow, but instead, they saw a contraction in what they were selling.

Why do I share this? Well, if 2021 was a rough year for you, I want you to understand that you’re not alone. Let’s normalize the notion that struggling happens.

Reasons For The Struggle

Understanding why so many people were struggling can help us figure out how to move forward. And for 2021, there were multiple reasons.

iOS Updates Impacted Online Businesses

One of the reasons a lot of people struggled was cause by iOS updates.

With iOS 14 updates, you could no longer track conversions. That had an impact on ad conversions from Facebook, Google, and other types of ads that were relying on those reports. 

Market Saturation and Sophistication

Many Facebook ads managers will tell you that ad costs were up significantly. Part of that was the iOS updates, but the other part was market saturation.

We saw ad costs increase significantly in my business. Getting a lead in the door was much more expensive. It was costing us two to three times as much as the cost of getting leads in 2020.

Also, the market has gotten more saturated. More competitors have entered the market, which meant more people were competing for the same dollars.

In addition, people have become more sophisticated buyers. Your target clients, the people who would potentially buy from you, have heard similar pitches in the past. They’ve been burned by these other programs and are less likely to believe your marketing than if they had heard it for the first time.

2020 Set Unrealistic Growth Expectations 

The online marketing space had a sugar high in 2020. As people weren’t able to go anywhere because of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, there were a lot of people trying to bring their businesses online.

If you were already in the online marketing space and you had solutions in place, you were positioned for that. I knew people who already had multiple seven-figure businesses in 2019 and almost doubled that in 2020.

Now that type of growth isn’t normal. It can happen early in your business, but once you get to the point that you’re making $7 million in revenue, to have an almost doubling of revenue in a year is a weird thing.

So, if you’re comparing 2021 to 2020, your point of comparison is abnormal. Whereas, if you compare 2021 to 2019 and 2018 and remove your 2020 numbers, you’ll see a more realistic growth pattern.

As a whole, 2020 set unsustainable expectations, which was a big part of the problem.

The Bright Spots For Holistic Marketing In 2021

There were definitely some bright spots in 2021. 

Often these came from people who had been doing things right for a long time and weren’t entirely reliant on the direct response model. The increase in ad costs wasn’t a huge problem for them. 

While people were more skeptical of a random ad on the internet, it didn’t affect them as much because they diversified their marketing or built their business on a different model.

I can think of multiple coaches whom I know had banner years in 2021. Some of them were newer coaches, but I can think of one coach in particular who had a great year.

She already had a good business in 2020, but she’s not someone who relies heavily on doing an ad into a webinar or event and then trying to sell to people. That meant she was well-positioned when all of these other things started to become a problem.

When I look at my business, I see the same result. We’re not astronomically up this year, but we’re also not down. We continued to see growth, particularly from the organic methods we been working on.

We’re continuing to use a more holistic marketing approach: building an audience, cultivating that audience, and having that growth comes from raving fans and referrals.

How Social Media Changed

Social media is like a weird microcosm of what’s happening in the industry at a larger level. I know a lot of people struggled with social in 2021.

Facebook Live

In our case, I will just be very candid with you: we saw our Facebook Lives engagement drop off a cliff.

When I was doing lives, it was as much just a way to do content and put it out there than anything else. But the efficacy of doing Facebook Lives and trying to get people to watch them and building around that didn’t seem to work for us.

Maybe some people continue to have success, but we’ve noticed fewer and fewer people seem to be doing Facebook Live. That was a sign that other people are likely seeing the same thing.

Facebook Groups

In our free Facebook Group, BADA$$ Online Marketers, we’ve seen engagement and value for the people in the group drop. It’s partly because Facebook continued to change what people see and many of them don’t see notifications.

We had a very active group in 2020, with around 60% of the members engaged. Now we’re down in the 30% range.

Personally, as someone who also participates in groups, many groups have become pretty useless these days. The posts were just spam, and there’s not a ton of engagement.

Internally, we’re talking about what we’ll do. Do we keep running our Facebook group? I don’t my team to do something that’s not really helping anybody.

Constant Changes

Social media seems to be changing in many ways faster than it was before. New platforms and features are constantly emerging, like Clubhouse and Reels.

If you want to be an early adopter in any social media platform, you’ve got to recognize that it might mean a fad and that you don’t get a ton of value. You should also make sure that it’s helping you build your business and not just building a vanity metric.

What Growth Looked Like in My Business

Before we finish up, I wanted to share a brief recap of my business and what we saw in 2021. 

Increased Revenue From Sales Of Our Products

We saw revenue from the sales of our products go up. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to be up in total because we didn’t do any affiliate launches in 2021. We stepped back and didn’t promote any launch-based programs as an affiliate.

We made that decision because we felt it was in alignment with our beliefs and how we are teaching people to build their businesses.

Removed All Sense Of Urgency

One big milestone for us was that our revenue from sales of our products went up even after we removed all sense of urgency in sales.

We had promotions where we did sales, but at our recent event, BADA$$ Online Marketing (BOM) Live, we announced our coaching program is open year-round. People can join when they’re ready.

We’re not making them join at a specific time. We didn’t even do any fast action bonuses. It was simply open, and if now is right for you, let’s do it. We introduced BADA$$ Online Marketing (BOM) Membership and said the same thing.

We’ve been so programmed in the online marketing space that the only way to sell is with urgency. I want my business to prove that you can still sell without that.

Now you have to do it the right way and think it through. You need a plan and make sure that you’re creating the right product that people actually want. Then you have to think about how you create a path for the customer to move them through.

It is possible. We grew our business despite removing all sense of urgency from everything we offer.

Mapped Out the Customer Journey 

In 2021, we dialed in on the customer journey. If I could tell everyone to do one thing in their business, this would be a critical part. But we don’t usually think about it in the depth we should.

In a previous post, I talked about launching a membership and the seven phases of building a business. This is the way we worked out what our customers should be doing at different points in their business to get maximum impact and solutions to their problems.

Mapping this process out really clarified a lot of things for our business. It allowed us to determine what I believe will be our product mix for the foreseeable future.

We’ve got BADA$S Online Marketing University (BOMU) for free where people can access full courses and learn about the fundamentals of building an online business.

We’ve got BOM Membership to help people who are in the first three phases of building their business. They aren’t at the point where their messaging and content marketing are dialed in, and they don’t have a thousand subscribers yet. The membership will help them focus build those foundations.

Then we have coaching after that. Now that we’ve done this work, we have a way to serve people at every level of business.

Set The Right Expectations In Hiring Contractors

We were reminded of the reality that contractors aren’t going to come and save you. Several times we tried to outsource specific tasks with terrible results. In fact, the only time that we had a positive outcome with a contractor was while working with my book team.

Part of the reason that worked well was that I had the right expectations. They’re going to have some marketing pieces for us, but I’m a marketer, so I know how to do the market stuff.

But the other times we hired agencies were complete disasters. It’s a good reminder that hiring someone to do something for your business won’t solve all your problems.

The chances of it working are quite low because they’re not as invested in your business as you are. They don’t know your audience as well as you, and they’re not going to be all-in like you are.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t hire contractors, especially for certain things that just don’t make sense to do in-house. But you shouldn’t outside the core parts of your business.

Learned Better Money Management 

We’ve gotten much better about money management, we but kind of fell prey to the dangers of a big influx of cash. We closed 2020 with our BOM Live event and had a huge influx of money from people buying the coaching program and paying in full.

As a result, we had a lot of money, and guess what tends to happen? Yup. Spending. Now, some of you might be really disciplined and don’t have this problem, but a lot of people would spend it.

We discovered that need needed better spending controls, like moving money into various accounts to set aside for the cost of goods sold, commissions to affiliates, payroll, and so on. These changes are putting us on solid financial ground.

If you’re earlier in your journey, you’re probably not going to focus on this too much, but I want you to at least be intentional about your money from the outset. It’s something that a lot of people aren’t doing, but it’s one of the things that will set you apart as a business owner.

Looking Forward To 2022

I hope that 2021 was a good year for you. It’s been hard for a lot of people, but I hope it’s been a good year for you. We’re excited about the year ahead, and I hope you are as well.

If you’re looking for training to help you build your online business, be sure to check out my FREE program, BADA$$ Online Marketing University.

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Bobby Klinck

Harvard Lawyer and Online Entrepreneur