Director, Content Marketing
If 2020 was the year of survival, and 2021 was about adapting, refining our new processes, finding new ways to do business — then 2022 will be the year to thrive … through the resilience and innovation that have crystallized into new trends over the past two years. We’ll use all of the hard lessons we’ve learned. And for small businesses, this particular shade of bouncebackability is what “the hustle” looks like, today.
Whether this is the year that the Covid pandemic transitions to endemic or not, we’re living with it. We know the drill; we have more tools — technology, rapid tests, lockdown hacks, vaccines. The businesses who have survived or who were born to this landscape have succeeded through agility, empathy, creativity and innovation. We’ve rebounded from the deluge of supply-chain shortages, a diminishing workforce and the constant ebb and flow of restrictions and mandates; in fact 70% of businesses who adapted their business model in some way grew in 2022.
So what’s your hustle?
What do you do to hustle? You’re more attentive to your prospects. You win the hearts of your connections. You stay on top of your schedule. You tackle one task after another. You remain flexible. You envision. You execute.
Here are what we think the main tenets of thriving in 2022 will look like as we take on this new year:
Agility becomes key to small business success: The pandemic prompted a major onset of creativity from businesses and individuals alike. The path to success has evolved, making way for a wider range of variety in types of businesses and how they operate. A record number of businesses are forecasted to start up this year (5.4 million new businesses filed applications in 2021) … with an unignorable increase in creators turning their passion into a living, thanks to the Great Resignation.
Combining the art of creativity with a mastering of digital tools and reporting paves the way for small businesses to experiment, innovate and make smart, informed decisions based on data they can trust.
And communities continue to support these small businesses, especially with no end in sight to supply-chain shortages; local brick-and-mortars — who invest in tech, and have integrated online ordering and curbside pickup — will shine. Just as corporate employees are navigating a new hybrid workspace, the customer experience has become hybrid, too.
Broadening and evolving recruiting efforts opens the door to a breadth of new talents: Small-business recruiting in a labor shortage also means getting creative — and persistent. Businesses are actively considering and providing remote and hybrid work arrangements; and hiring for flexibility. Dismantling geographical boundaries makes way for a wider mix of lived experiences in our workforce.
Growing our networks extends beyond leads and prospects: Connecting reciprocally with other business leaders for inspiration and best practices helps our economic community in a time where we’ve all discovered the importance of supporting each other. In this Forbes small-business trends article, Anne Phey from Leadership Coaching School reminds us of the benefits of growing together, rather than alone. In addition to gaining business lead referrals, learning new market perspectives, and taking lessons from others’ experiences, forging these connections is also a way to “team up and form relationships that inspire and fuel each other’s growth,” she says.
A people-focused approach
We don’t thrive without each other. “Empathy is no longer a luxury but a powerful skill for normalizing life and work challenges,” Patrick Williams of Transformational Living shares in the same article. He suggests adopting the motto: “If we ask, ‘How are you doing?’ we really want to know.”
Attending to prospects looks more human, now: The last two years have seen some rough stuff in customer relationships, and we’ve all been called on to become more real, kinder and more empathetic. Retaining these attributes in your sales strategy can win potential customers’ hearts. The slick, always-closing bro mentality has become passé. The value lies in genuine connection; customers want to be heard, served, and understood. And they sniff out the b.s. with the adeptness of a cadaver dog.
Transparent communication as a major factor in the customer-relationship formula: Communicating through continued longer shipping times, higher prices and other changes brought on by the pandemic continues to be of utmost importance. Sales in a precarious or fragile business environment requires lead-nurturing in an intentional and empathetic way amid continued uncertainty.
Authenticity doesn’t end with the customer relationship, though:
Maintaining a happy workforce will improve employee retention: Williams also adds that, “You don’t have to know or share the whole story of an employee’s situation (or yours), but recognizing moods or behaviors and addressing them with care is appreciated.” And when business owners cultivate a people-first workplace, they up their chances of keeping their best employees loyal. When we take note of how employee expectations have evolved over the past two years, we find that family-first workplace values permeate the workforce, mental wellness takes priority, and employees value warm, interpersonal connections with each other. Equitable decision-making and meaningful work become the gold standard while cold brew in the break room takes a swift back seat.
Ongoing investments in tech
Using your CRM to address customer service: Here’s where the execution of that transparent communication bit happens. Sending out bulk emails about shipping delays and short staffing, and collaborating more effectively with others in your organization on responding to requests or complaints makes a big difference in customer loyalty. And these tools that support building genuine relationships will win out over the annoying sea of SaaSified AI bots.
Flexibility in CRM makes the process feel easier than before: The failure rate of CRM implementations hasn’t changed much since the ’80s, when CRM was just born. We see this stagnation as an epic fail. You want to work where you want to, how you want to — and fast. Every organization operates differently and every buyer’s journey unfolds differently. Modern CRM can reflect you and your processes.
Tech that best supports hybrid work becomes the critical infrastructure: The most successful companies this year will create more visibility into their cross-departmental work to create alignment. Tools that feel invisible and connect us in a natural yet intentional way, that promote innovation, execution and progress — that are fast and easy to implement and use — are no longer nice to have. And the lack thereof can deteriorate business.
Staying agile in the face of more unpredictability
Two years-and-change into Covid, uncertainty, fluctuation and worry, and we’re at the point where we know what it takes to make it … but now we’re tasked with finding what we need to flourish. We use the grit small businesses have always displayed but colored with the agility, creativity, humanity and emotional intelligence that will help us win over 2022.