We crave connecting with our people

In an ongoing series, we’ve been acknowledging that 2022 is going to be a watershed year. Out of every crisis in history, moments of great reinvention and change were born, and we are going to have many opportunities to capitalize on that in the coming year.

As we explore the last two trends in this week’s column and next, we’re going to examine some of the overarching themes that are emerging as clear patterns. My goal is to get you thinking about how you can take advantage of these trends as you work to serve your clients and employees, grow your businesses, and set the stage for future opportunities.

Last week we recognized that people are weary of having to be a grown-up during a crisis. The desire for play and simpler times is not a surprise, given the last 22 months. It was a trend that was already gaining some ground before the pandemic. That’s also true about this week’s trend, the hunger for experiences and connections.

In many ways, this is a more mature trend that is just continuing to influence our culture that simply got exaggerated by the pandemic.

Just a reminder, the six shifts are:

  • No time to wait.
  • Simplification.
  • Creating the blend.
  • The inevitable cycle.
  • Hunger for experience and connection.
  • It’s all about me.

Stuff was already on its way out. People were moving into tiny homes, shifting gift-giving to experiences, and thinking about how minimalistic they could get. We watched as families traded Christmas at home for an adventure and memories long before we were sequestered to our homes for months on end.

Another way this trend is showing up is in the formation of and popularity of affinity groups. We are eager to hang out with people like us, with shared passions, hobbies, causes or beliefs. Many of these types of groups existed before COVID, but when people are stuck at home and live on their computers, you can see how these groups increased their numbers and, even more important, their activity levels.

From a marketing viewpoint, this trend can yield incredible results if mined properly, especially the idea of like-minded people gathering together.

For many businesses, attending conferences and trade shows is an efficient and effective way to find a large group of prospects in the same place at the same time. Whether you exhibit or just mix and mingle with the attendees, there’s lots of opportunity to make connections, learn what the hot topics of the day are, and demonstrate your expertise in conversations.

Online communities serve the same purpose, but they also bring some additional advantages.

You can’t eavesdrop on people at a trade show without looking creepy or being asked to leave. But in an online community you not only can eavesdrop in real time, but you can go back and search for previous conversations to look for trends, common questions, unmet needs and insights on competitors.

You can also jump into conversations and offer advice and guidance. Remember, this isn’t the place to sell. It’s the place to help. But you will form some meaningful relationships and can earn quite the reputation for your expertise and willingness to be a resource.

Eventually, that will convert to sales.

Some brands are actually creating their own communities, gathering their biggest fans together and inviting prospects and others in as well. It’s like your own focus group, mixed with some R&D, and a customer advocacy program. They take time and attention, but you may find it your most fruitful marketing tactic of 2022.

The need to connect and be a part of something isn’t new. But the pandemic underlined the need for both for many people and has created even more opportunity for your brand.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.