1) Paying attention becomes a survival mechanism
In 2021, as in most years, businesses will thrive and survive due to many factors, but next year those who best discover the shift of the moment will be more equipped to evolve with their customers.
2020 showed us just how fast everything could change and simultaneously how fast we can respond and then change and re-respond. This is the commercial version of present moment mindfulness, I suppose.
Expect fear to be feeling number one for most of the year. Tune your strategic thinking to finding ways to be the light in the dark.
2) Everything gets smaller
From a practical standpoint, we’ve already seen this. Conferences, meetings, gatherings of any sort contracted, and we will all need to relearn how to gather again, no matter how much we think we crave it.
This trend will be driven by people’s desire for something that feels more personal than the market’s design to get smaller.
Design, a true barometer of change, has already moved in this direction. Take note of the larger headline fonts, muted color splashes of retro illustrations, and more white space on web pages.
Smaller also means less complex, and you can expect that to play out in a large dollop of nostalgia. Visions of families riding around their neighborhoods on bikes during 2020 sparked an emotional desire for simplicity.
3) AI gets practical
Almost every trend article you encounter this year will talk about AI in some fashion. While I mention it here as a trend, I do so for some of the practical things it now brings rather than the futuristic promise of the technology it implies.
Look in 2021 for a host of tools, services, and websites aimed at making writing easier. Tools like HeadLime and MarketMuse will change how content is created.
AI applications can already write an article based on a handful of fed keywords. Now, is this award-winning prose? Well, no, but is that blog post you paid someone $15 to write near as good as AI – probably not. AI writers can get you 80% of the way there, and then you, the brilliant content strategist that you are, can spend your energy on making it sparkle and getting it read by others.
This will shake up the content creation, social posting, and freelance industries dramatically.
4) Talent investment is back in style
Most large businesses understand the competitive nature of attracting and retaining their best people. Therefore, they often invest heavily in recruiting and employee branding initiatives.
Small businesses rarely can afford outlandish perks to attract talent, but one trend that I think will grow in small business is talent development.
Even if revenue is down and budgets are tight, I predict that small business owners will see the wisdom of creating training and mentoring opportunities to level-up, develop, and, let’s face it, send a clear signal that their people are an important piece of their success.
This has always been an important topic, but I think we’ll see a return to a fundamental commitment to employee engagement around things like profit and skill development that will not be limited to big biz only.
If you have training for skills, mindset, and even personal development, small business is a great target market right now.
5) Video gets personal again
I said this last year, so that’s the again part.
Video will continue to grow as a content medium and act as a bridge to a couple of other trends. Most notably, the acts of paying attention and getting smaller.
I think video, think of it as asynchronous virtual content, will take another big leap and bounce from the Zoom screens we are in front of to the more personal 1 to 1 platforms for sales, technical support even as a form of commenting and collaborating.
Expect the use of tools such as Loom and BombBomb to continue to grow. I mean, face it, who wants to read that 4 paragraph email when they can close their eyes and click play.
6) UX and SEO get attached at the hip
A few years ago, it was fashionable to talk about the marriage of content and SEO. Now that content is basically online air; it’s sort of passe to talk about the concept as two.
But there’s a newish player making waves this year – UX or user experience. UX isn’t really new as a concept. I mean, navigation and content structure are UX. So is site speed and security. However, with its mobile-first point of view, Google is going to raise the SEO bar another notch next year.
7) Coaching ranks swell
During 2020 some people found that corporate jobs weren’t so stable or fun anymore. Some were laid off and started that coaching or consulting business they had longed to start, while others took the pause as a moment to reconsider their life path in general.
My final prediction is that the number of people who decide to start coaching businesses and those who decide now is the time to get a coach will explode next year.
I think 2021 will be a year of recovery and personal development and, in some cases, one of changing priorities.
This crystal ball stuff is fun, but more than anything, stay curious this coming year, and you may indeed discover a new and exciting chapter in business and life because the only thing that I know for certain is that change is gonna keep coming.