5 predictions for 2021

Many of you will be glad to see the end of 2020 & for very good reason. With some exceptions, it’s been a very tough year for most people personally & professionally so if you’re reading this I hope you took some much-needed time out to completely rest & relax with friends, family & loved ones over the Christmas break.

I personally took a complete break from work from around midday on Christmas Eve until Monday 28th December, then did a little bit of light work in that week (although this was mostly just posting some daily thoughts in the Startup Week Community Facebook Group, deleting emails, reading, thinking & planning for the year ahead). I then started working properly on Monday 4th January.

Now we’re into 2021, here are my predictions for the year ahead:

1. It’ll be impossible to plan

If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that it’s now impossible to plan for things with any great certainty. Yes, you might have big plans for the next 6-12 months or 3-5yrs but you also need to get used to innovating & iterating on the fly, potentially changing your activities on a monthly basis. This is something that startups, solopreneurs, freelancers & micro businesses (0-9 employees) are better equipped to deal with than large enterprise level corporations so if you work in a large or medium-sized company, you need to learn how to adopt Lean Startup Principles. (I recommend watching my 11min book review video of ‘The Lean Startup‘ by Eric Ries below & then reading his follow up book on ‘The Startup Way‘ which suggests a middle ground between the constant innovation that startups are good at & execution that enterprise level companies are good at).

2. Not much will change in Q1

Not much is going to change in the first few months of 2021. If you’re expecting business to return back to normal soon, it won’t. Consumers & businesses will continue to struggle & therefore be reluctant & cautious to spend money but the business leaders that fail to invest in upskilling themselves & their team or exploring new ways of working will risk falling further behind & then ultimately going under. If you have any cash reserves set aside for a rainy day, now is the rainy day you’ve been waiting for & it’s time to start spending it in January on things that will pay off in the months ahead.

3. You need to take better care of yourself & your colleagues

People are going to become increasingly fatigued & burned out by doing everything online. Yes, holding meetings on Zoom, Teams & Google Meet can make you more efficient but it’s mentally & emotionally draining to do lots of them in a way that face-to-face meetings with real-life humans isn’t. Nothing can replace the positive energy you can get from another person so if you can have safe / socially distanced meetings with colleagues, customers or clients – even if it means walking & talking wearing masks, you should do it. It will be good for your mental health, maintaining social bonds & a nice bit of light exercise too. TAKE MORE BREAKS!

4. Marketing is becoming less effective

Following on from above, past techniques around digital marketing, content marketing, email marketing & social media marketing are going to become even less effective. Over the past year, I’ve had many conversations with people who are completely disengaging from online because they’re feeling completely overwhelmed with the sheer volume of sales & marketing messages they are being bombarded with on a daily basis, coupled with the fatigue they are feeling around digital communications with colleagues. Since the lockdown, there has been a massive surge because more people are now in sales mode, desperately selling what they have in order to survive & stay afloat. Some of the new content is good but a lot of it is bad quality so how do people know who to trust & how can you cut through the noise? In my opinion we don’t need more content, we need better curation, which is why niche networks led by trusted individuals or organisations with proven expertise & who have earned their stripes will become even more important in 2021.

5. You must pay to play!

If you don’t already have an audience or large network online, it will become even harder to grow one organically in 2021 unless you spend a lot of money on paid advertising with Google Ads & the major Social Media platforms, However, a much smarter way to spend your money will be to invest into individuals, organisations or businesses who have already invested time, money & effort on establishing their own large audiences & networks online & offline. Call it sponsorship or advertising but instead of expecting people to come to you, you need to go where the people already are & ‘pay to play’ inside their communities.

Now what?

I hope this blog has got you thinking & if you’d like my help overcoming some of these challenges, check out the new ‘5 Star Focus Programme‘ I’m running for business owners & leaders on the 2nd week of every month.

Alternatively, check out my 5 ways to boost your business with Newcastle Startup Week | Founders’ Friday | TRYBES blog.

Paul Lancaster

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