B2B business owners and strategic planners have an extremely difficult job putting a plan in place for 2022, because the only thing they can be certain of is uncertainty.
- Will the pandemic force more lockdowns, or will conditions return to normal?
- If conditions do return to normal, will that happen over the course of a few months or a few years?
- If lockdowns re-emerge, how will they affect imports, exports and U.S. demand?
- Will corporate taxes, sales taxes and other business-related taxes rise in 2022? Will they rise dramatically? Will tax policies change dramatically?
- Will raw material shortages continue? How will shortages affect lead times for raw materials on the production side and finished goods on the sales side?
- Will our customers be optimistic or pessimistic about their business prospects for 2022? How will their attitudes influence their purchasing decisions?
These questions have no clear-cut answers and only scratch the surface of business trend analysis. So, can we identify any trends at all to prepare for 2022? The answer is “Yes.” Given the high degree of uncertainty in the U.S. and global economies, the primary trend for 2022 is flexibility. Contingency plans are essential. Business plans for 2022 must consist of best-case, worst-case and medium-case scenarios — and the company must be prepared to shift from one plan to another in a matter of months or perhaps even weeks.
Tough situation! Here are several ideas about what to expect and how to prepare.
Operations and Finance: Three Key Areas to Identify Trends in Your Industry
In view of business conditions as they exist today, three extremely important areas in which to identify trends are tax policy, property management and supply chain.
Tax policy is always a complex topic. Some have predicted aggressive increases and policy changes for corporate income taxes at the federal and state levels, along with a multitude of changes in other taxes that directly and indirectly affect corporate earnings.
Regularly meeting with your tax accountant and tax attorney to monitor developments is important. The problem with trying to navigate tax trends without these advisors is our tendency to clouded our judgement with political bias. Tax accountants and attorneys talk to politicians, numerous business leaders who are wired into political discussions, and their well-informed and highly experienced peers. Their assessments are not always 100% accurate, of course, but they are likely to provide the most fact-based assessment you can get. If you normally consult your tax advisors annually, consult them monthly to get ready for 2022.
About property management
Pandemic lockdowns forced B2Bs to implement work-from-home policies. Even if remote officing will no longer be required in 2022, you may want to allow it anyway for the sake of efficiency, employee satisfaction, and eliminating or leasing out unnecessary office space.
In both manufacturing and distribution environments, reducing or increasing square footage will be a key question for 2022. This brings the discussion to supply chain.
About supply chain management
Material shortages have plagued industries of all kinds in 2021, including food and beverage, automotive, textiles, home goods and construction. Even if your industry has not been affected directly, the ripple effect has almost certainly been noticeable. Determining how much space will be needed for inventory will be a major challenge in 2022. Not only is anticipating the onset and duration of a shortage difficult, but also predicting how quickly and violently a shortage will reverse itself is more difficult still.
From a space standpoint, businesses should identify options for short-term leasing to expand inventory and simultaneously develop plans to reduce or repurpose existing space to prepare for a reduction in business activity and/or prolonged material shortages. From a purchasing standpoint, long-term contracts may not be desirable in 2022 unless they include provisions for pricing and lead time adjustments resulting from rapidly changing business conditions.
Sales and Marketing: Flexible Terms and Digital Development
Just like you, your customers will be trying to maximize flexibility in 2022. This will require B2Bs to put in place highly flexible sales tactics and more sophisticated forms of multichannel marketing.
About sales tactics
Customers facing an uncertain 2022 may or may not be eager to enter or renew long-term contracts. Some customers will feel that things are bad and can only get better; others will feel things are bad and can only get worse! Preparing your sales team to offer purchasing agreements with flexible provisions that appeal to both states of mind is important. And more important than ever in 2022 will be your sales team’s ability to stay closely connected to customers and top prospects to monitor changes in their businesses and business outlooks. Sales will be won and customers retained by B2Bs that bring new products, services and purchasing terms to the table.
About omnichannel marketing
Omnichannel marketing in the B2B world means giving customers and prospects a consistent and integrated experience with your brand whether they are engaging your company on your website, social media pages, hosted webinars, hosted video conferences, email marketing campaigns, etc. Delivering a strong omnichannel experience will be critically important in 2022 for lead generation, because inquiries from prospects and existing customers alike will be won or lost on all the channels just mentioned. Your website must provide seamless integration with all your digital marketing channels, so that whether the lead comes from a web form, an email blast clickthrough, or a Twitter direct message, your response is consistent, fast and effective.
In short, if your 2022 Internet marketing plan hinges on cosmetic changes to the company website, you’ll merely be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. However, if you give customers and prospects a terrific experience everywhere they see you online, you’ll enjoy smooth sailing right into 2023.
AUTHOR BIO: Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing company that specializes in SEO. With decades of marketing, sales and management experience, Shorr has written for leading online publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur, and for the American Marketing Association.