The trends that will shape your business in 2024 and beyond

Trends That Will Shape Your Business in 2024 and Beyond

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Integrating our trendwatching practice into our daily operations isn’t just wise, it’s essential. As a consultancy that is well-known for our trendwatching work, we very rarely talk about how we integrate the practice within our own business. 

Like our trend-focused client consultancy, we scrutinise our own business throughout the year to identify actionable trends. We consider these trends across three critical levels:

  • Trends that impact our business operationally (such as increased remote working)
  • Trends that affect the services we offer (the rise of authenticity in external communications)
  • And finally trends that we research to help our clients stay ahead of the curve and their competition.

We focus on the last one in our external posts (see them all here), but today I’ll cover the ones that I’m looking at as a business leader who’s interested in taking our own business forward.

I aim to achieve a simple goal: I’d love to help you apply our trend articles to your business and benefit from the insight on a daily basis. How to take the theoretical and apply it in a practical fashion that will help you drive your business ahead of your competition’s.

We can monitor a vast number of trends professionally, but we can’t apply all we learn to our business, otherwise we’d be floating around in eternity. This is why we choose three trends that help give us focus (or help us fix what we’re doing) operationally and another three to help us direct the services that we’re offering.

The three that affect us operationally are:

  • AI & the AI revolution
  • The New Work Revolution – or talent acquisition & retention in a world in which we have remote work & increased flexibility
  • An increasingly connected post-pandemic world

In terms of how we’re adjusting our services to focus on needs that become more acute as time goes by, we’ve been taking a long, hard look at the following trends:

  • Authentically Human 
  • Human Made
  • Collaborative Marketing

Trends Affecting How Switch Works

AI & the AI Revolution

We’ve discussed this at length. To a certain extent it is the trend that’s impacting all trends, and a trend that will impact the ways in which we live and work over the next few years. There are so many ways in which this is affecting every aspect of work that it would take more than a paragraph or two to cover how we’re including this megatrend in our daily lives here at Switch.

Because it’s changing our daily lives. We use AI transcription tools to record and archive our calls. We use other tools to synthesise our conversations and others to build knowledge-banks for subjects or clients. We’re looking into AI to help improve the creative process and we’re looking at AI tools to help us produce better outputs across the board. We’re also pretty sure that we’ll look at this paragraph in a year’s time and think how basic our usage was.

And that’s where I’m getting to. What we’re doing around the AI megatrend is opening up ourselves to learning about new AI tools as they come along. We’ve set up a working group to look for new tools and to identify whether they can help us do better work. We’ve set a budget aside for tools we don’t even know exist yet. We’re preparing for a series of major shifts in our industry in ways that we are not even expecting. As cliche as it might sound, we’re expecting the unexpected, and we’re excited about it!

How you can benefit from this trend: This is a somewhat universal trend, one that crosses verticals and horizontals. At this stage our advice is to make a conscious decision to be on the lookout for AI innovations that could impact your industry and to be ready to adopt new tools and ways of working as quickly as possible.

The New Work Revolution

The world of work changed in the couple of years of the pandemic, and it’s still changing as we speak. At Switch we are constantly looking out to see how we can be better employers. We want to ensure that our employees are getting the best conditions possible, and at the moment that’s not the easiest task, which is why trendwatching is critical here.

People expect much more out of their jobs now -they want good conditions and they want great wages-  but they are also on the hunt for working conditions that respect them as human beings, that give them the flexibility to work from wherever they want to and to live a life that’s more fulfilling. 

Running a completely distributed team is not easy, working fewer hours every week is not easy, either, but we understand that if we want to secure the best talent and, more importantly, if we want to keep our people happy, we have to make the extra effort it takes to work on both.

We’re working 4-day weeks for more than half the year, and we encourage the team to work from practically anywhere in the world. This has allowed us to consistently keep an extremely low employee turnover. The benefits to this are immeasurable. We get consistency in the people we’re working with. Our training program centres around upskilling, not re-training people on things we’re already familiar with. And with a fully-distributed model, it’s also allowed us to not lose people when they decide to move homes. We also cast a far wider net when we recruit.

How you can benefit from this trend: Even with all the innovation and automation we’re seeing, human capital is still immensely valuable, so you need a workforce that’s nimble and dedicated. Take a long hard look at how you treat your people and challenge every notion you have that might make you be perceived as an inflexible or an inconsiderate employer. You might decide to change nothing, but at the very least you’d have considered all options.

Increased Worldwide Connectivity

The other major change in a post-pandemic world was the increased connections between people around the world. These barriers had made it very hard for us to specialise in an area of business that we wanted to focus on, but as times changed, so did Switch. We’re now working with clients from all over the world, specialising in high-quality content and strategies for B2B businesses across 22 different time zones. 

Our clients rarely care about where we are, because during the pandemic they got used to working with suppliers over calls, no matter where they were. And in that spirit, if we were the best fit for their needs, it made no difference if we were 20km away from them or 5,000 km away – as long as we’re OK to take calls in their time zone, we’re only judged on the quality of our work, not where we’re sitting while we’re on a call.

How you can benefit from this trend: Is your business as geographically dependent as you think it is? Are you looking beyond your immediate catchment area to see whether there could be opportunities beyond your traditional area of business? Have you tried recruiting from beyond your postcode?

Trends Affecting What Switch Does

Authentically Human / HumanMade

If you can’t beat them, join them, someone wise once said. We’re not sure we agree, and in that spirit, we’re tackling the big AI revolution sideways. While, as you read earlier, we’re embracing AI innovation wholeheartedly, we’re also conscious of the fact that we have to stand out in a sea of AI created (and curated) content.

It’s easy for any one of our clients (or potential clients) to simply use one of the hundreds of AI tools that can churn out vast volumes of content, so as an agency we have to focus on the areas in which we can bring real value, not the areas that can easily be replaced by a machine.

Anyone who’s used an AI tool to generate content will tell you that it probably takes as much time to get the machine to create something that you’re happy with as it would take you to write something out. But that will become faster.

Humans, especially the humans at Switch, however, can bring something completely different to the table. We can make sense of things in ways that Machines can’t (yet). We have context and we have a broader knowledge of the people we work with, the industries they’re in, and the peculiarities of each and every person we work with.

This allows us to work on strategies and to create content that’s highly personalised and that’s deeper than you could (currently) get from a machine. And we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to innovate that will keep us relevant in a sea of automation.

How you can benefit from this trend: Which parts of your business can be automated? Which parts of what you do can be easily replaceable by machines? This is the time to automate and replace as quickly as possible, all while elevating the areas in which a human touch makes all the difference. 

Immersion over Innovation

Even though this is primarily a B2C trend, this is one we can learn a lot from in our daily interactions with the brands we partner up with to create strategies and content for. In a sea of rapid innovation, we have to accept that our scope for innovation is relatively limited. 

We can (and do) innovate with the strategies we work on, and we’re constantly innovating in the ways we package our products, in the ways we communicate on behalf of our clients and in the ways we deliver our services, however these are relatively small innovations in comparison to the innovations happening in the world at the moment.

So our biggest strength, at the moment, is our level of immersion with the brands we’re working with. We’re partnering up with fewer brands than we used to, and we’re immersing ourselves much more deeply than we ever have in the past. We’re also allowing the clients we work with to immerse themselves much more deeply into our processes and with the people they’re working closely with at Switch. We’re breaking down walls that existed in the past, giving more direct access to the people clients are working with, to the processes we’re using, to the inner workings of the agency that we’d intentionally obfuscated in the past.

This gives the people using our services a much more immersive experience, and while it puts the onus on us to run a much tighter ship, it makes the process of working with us feel much more authentic.

How you can benefit from this trend: Like the trend above, this is an area in which you can benefit greatly from deeper human connections and deeper integrations with your clients. Are there areas of your service offering that can forge stronger connections? These would be the ones I’d be looking at improving and growing in 2024.

Collaborative Marketing in B2B

Collaborative marketing has been a thing for decades, so why am I bringing it up as a trend now? The change that we’re seeing is the new application of collaboration in B2B. And we’re not talking about influencers, here. This is not a collaboration between someone who’s making it their life goal to achieve influence and monetise it.

We’re seeing collaborations between business leaders and marketers from all businesses. People and brands who see that their area of influence can be used to grow other brands’ reach in a way that benefits everyone involved. This is a new currency of influence that’s created from scratch, and when used correctly it actually amplifies the reach of everyone involved and offers a great service to the audiences who are being reached, too. 

This trend is still on the rise, we haven’t officially identified it as a trend that’s going to dominate the marketing landscape yet, but it’s one we’re keeping tabs on and will probably include it officially as a trend in a year or two.

As time goes by we’re seeing that more and more B2B brands and business leaders are reaching out to others to grow their businesses by collaborating with others, using the people they’re collaborating with to also help spread the content that’s been created once it’s ready to be spread.

This emerging trend requires wider adoption before we officially recognize it, but it’s already on our radar.

How you can benefit from this trend: Who are the people in your industry who have the loudest voice (both online and in real life)? Can you reach out to them to create content with them? Mostly you’re going to be looking for people in areas that complement your business, but there might also be benefits in collaborating with people who you might traditionally see as your competition. It’s not a zero sum game, and there’s enough business to go around…

And in the end…

Trends are critical to running your business if you want to stay relevant. Sometimes it might seem overwhelming to make sense of all the changes that are happening around us. And when we’re overwhelmed we tend to go into ostrich-mode, hiding our head in the sand and hoping that if we hunker down and just work harder, we’ll get ahead because that’s what we always did.

It’s becoming tougher and tougher to justify that stance, so I’m hoping that by giving you practical and tangible uses of trendwatching in how we run our own business you can see ways of implementing this content in yours.

And if you’re stuck – reach out. We’re always happy to help brands identify the trends that could be game changers for them in the future.

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