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What Kind of Year Are You Planning to Have (Thinks Out Loud Episode 313)

What kind of year are you planning? Team collaborating on future vision

After the nightmare that was 2020, we’re all expecting this year to be dreamy. But is that right? Or will this just be "2020: Part 2"? What are you doing to make 2021 your best year ever? It all comes down to asking one key question, which is, "what kind of year are you planning to have this year?"

This episode of Thinks Out Loud looks at why we still face challenges ahead, why 2021 might not be all it’s cracked up to be… and, despite that, how you can make sure you get where you want to go.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

Thinks Out Loud Episode 313: What Kind of Year Are You Planning to Have Headlines and Show Notes

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Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

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Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 16m 33s

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Transcript: What Kind of Year Are You Planning to Have (Thinks Out Loud Episode 313)

Well, hello again, everyone, and Happy New Year! Welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter, this is episode 313 of the big show. And again, Happy New Year.
I am so thrilled to be back with you. I’m so looking forward to seeing where we go in 2021. And that’s kind of where I want to start.
We all know that 2020 was a crappy year, right? 2020 was a really, really not great year. Someone I follow joked on Twitter the other day that no one is going to write the wrong year on their checks this January. Okay, you and I both know nobody writes checks anymore, but any place you’ve got to write the date, I’m confident you’re going to write 2021, or any date that is not 2020, because we are just so glad to have that behind us.

Why 2021 Might Not Be All It’s Cracked Up to Be

And we all take it for granted that 2021 is going to be a better year. And I want to start by asking a question, which is, is it? Is it really going to be that much better than 2020? And there are a number of arguments for why the year isn’t going to be great.
And hear me out on this, because my intent here is not to bum you out or get you all depressed or anything along those lines, quite the opposite, I promise you. I also think we need to have a really clear-eyed view of what 2021 might actually be like.

Economy Won’t Recover Without Critical Mass of Vaccinations

For one thing, the economy probably isn’t going to get significantly better until the vaccine reaches critical mass, somewhere between, depending on who you listen to, 40 to 80% of the population. I’m calling it 50%, just because it makes math easy for other things I want to talk about.

We know that there’s a lot of data that younger consumers in particular continue to struggle. Now I’ve long suggested that millennials would be key post-COVID, and I still think that’s true, just not quite in the way that I originally meant.

What I Got Wrong in 2020

In fact, if I was going to look at my predictions from last year and say, "What did I do well, and what did I not do well?" I’m going to say I got that one wrong. Not because millennials will not be important. They’ll be incredibly important, but their ability to drive things forward in the short-term is definitely going to be impacted. It’s definitely going to be hurt.

We know according to Pew Research, that more folks between the ages of 18 and 29 are living with their parents, are living with one or both parents than at any time in decades. We know that they remain less well-off than prior demographic cohorts were at the same age. So their purchasing power, maybe not great. Now, the one reason that they might actually be okay is because if they’re living at home, if they’re living with parents, maybe they don’t have as much rent to pay. Maybe they don’t have as much mandatory expense in terms of housing and things like that, which may allow for more disposable income. But we’re going to need to see more data before I’m willing to go out on that particular limb at this point.

Slow Rollout of Vaccines

The other thing that we know is going to be true in 2021 is getting enough people vaccinated is going to take somewhere between three months and maybe as long as nine months. Right now we’re vaccinating about 1.4 million people per week. And Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that there’s no reason we couldn’t vaccinate one million people per day. But we’re falling pretty well short of that number.

Now, if you assume we’ve got to get 50% of the population vaccinated, and we started vaccinating one million people per day, starting today, I’m recording this on January 5th, it’s going to take us until mid-June to reach 50% of the population immunized. And if we can’t average a million people per day, or we need to immunize more than 50%, it’s going to take even longer. And that assumes everything goes well.

Mutant Virus Coming?

We also know that there’s this new mutant variation of the virus that spreads faster, which could result in more deaths than a variant of the virus with a higher mortality rate.

Obviously, I’m not a doctor. I will post a link to the reasons in the show notes, and you can check that out. Now, again, I am not trying to get anybody depressed or bummed out here.

How You Can Make Sure 2021 Will Be Great

I actually believe this is going to be a really good year. I am confident this is going to be a good year, and a much better year than last year.

We’re Better Prepared

For one thing, people are finding new ways to live. As much as we all hate the phrase, the new normal, we’ve adapted. We know what’s going on. And we’re much better prepared mentally than we were last January. If I’d asked you last January, what would you do if two months from now, we’re going to lock down the whole country, or we’re going to lock down the whole world for, oh, I don’t know, the next 10 to 20 months? What would you have done differently? I’m betting a lot. I’m really confident it’d be a lot. And that’s really one of the points I want to make today, because that’s actually one of my favorite thought exercises for planning.

Looking Back from the Future

What I want you to do is I want you to pretend it’s 2022, and it’s the first business day of 2022. It’s January 3rd. And you’re coming back into the office, whatever back into the office means. And you’ve just had in 2021 the best year you ever had. Just take a moment and think about that, picture that, you’ve just had the greatest 2021 imaginable, the best year in your company’s history, the best year in your personal history, this year crushed it.

What Did You Do to Make That Happen?

Now take a moment and ask yourself a question. What did you do that made that so? Did you grow revenues? Did you find new customers? Did you introduce new products? Did you improve customer experience? Did you do something different to control costs? Did you hire new people, or the right people to help you deliver on these items? What is it that got you to the best year you’ve ever had? Then I want you to ask yourself, okay. That’s what I did. Ask yourself what would prevent that from happening? Now I know if we did this exercise last January, you probably wouldn’t say a pandemic. I know I didn’t.

What Gets In Your Way?

But what will get in your way? Is it that the pandemic stretches on for another nine months, 12 months? Is it that the economy doesn’t recover until 2022? Is it that you’re worried about your own health, physical, mental, all of the above? Is it that your team has to continue to work remotely, or can’t get together regularly? Is it that you or your team needs better options for childcare, or schooling, or support with elderly parents? What are the things that get in your way? Because if you know what it is you want to get to, and you know what it is that’s going to get in your way, that’s how you begin map out your plan to get where you want to go.

What Will You Do to Get There?

And that’s what you start to ask yourself. You say, "Great, I understand this. What do I need to do?" What do you need to do to prevent these issues? Now, sure, some, like the potential for the pandemic continuing may be outside your control.

But if you knew that was going to happen, what would you do differently? What would your plan be if you knew the pandemic would be over in March? How would the plan differ if you knew the pandemic wouldn’t end until August? How would you do something different if you knew it wouldn’t end until October or November? That’s what you need to think about.

It’s In Your Control

And many of the things that influence what happens next year are in your control. What do your customers care about right now? What does your search data tell you? Both the searches you get from Google and Bing, and also your own website search. What does that tell you about what’s important to your customers? What about your social listening data? Whether you’re using BuzzSumo or Mention or similar products like that. Or even just ratings and reviews. What are those tell you about what’s important to your customers? What are the products and services that you offer that address those concerns?

And given that we know people are going to be cooped up for at least the next three months, possibly longer, how are you making those offerings more digital, more virtual, more mobile to help customers where they are? And I get it. Some industries are getting hit really hard right now. Obviously I do a lot of work in the hospitality industry, and they’re dealing with some very real challenges. There’s also incredible innovation to address the needs of customers in the industry, both for travelers and for local residents. If you think about what I referred to as "Backyard and Bundle," how do you meet the needs and adapt your offering to meet the changing needs of your customers?

Think about cloud kitchens or delivery for restaurants and all of the things that they’re doing there. If they can do it, you can too.

This Will Pay Off No Matter What Happens

And the other thing you need to remember is that doing this work will benefit you, regardless of whether things turn around in March, or whether they turn around in November.

Because your customers still need you to address their needs. And digital is still going to play a big role in people’s lives. Mobile is still going to play a big role. The skills you’re learning now, the skills you’re looking to adapt to now is how do you become more agile, and adapt to those changing needs? Because that’s what’s going to set you up for the kind of success you need not just in 2021, but as we get further out.

Trends I’m Watching in 2021

So there’s a handful of trends I’m paying very close attention to. I’m looking at the daily and weekly vaccination rates. I’m looking at how and where consumers spend their money by various cohorts, demographics like Millennials, Boomers, Gen X. Specific categories, what kinds of spending are increasing and what kinds of spending are declining? Looking for any particular spikes or valleys there. I’m paying attention to consumer sentiment in key categories, especially around discretionary spending. And I’m paying attention to what people are searching for, because that gives us a lot of clear insight into what matters.

What Kind of Year Are You Planning to Have Conclusion

So take a minute and look back as though you’re looking at this year in the rear view mirror. What did you do to get to the best year you ever had? What would prevent that from happening? What are you going to do to prevent those issues? And what is your plan for moving forward? And once you’ve done that, it’s really just a question to say, what kind of year are you planning to have? How can you make sure that 2021 is the year we all have hoped it will be?
I know you can do it. Sometimes the best way to move forward is to look back.
By the way, I want to give a shout out to my friend, Holly Zoba. Holly does a very similar process that’s very robust, and I’m going to provide a link to hers in the show notes where you’re looking at it as though you were looking at your obituary. Now, given everything that’s going on, I prefer to look at it one year at a time. But, definitely a great skill, definitely a great set of tools, and you should definitely check it out.

Show Closing and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week, but I do want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all our episodes by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 313. You can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find there to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week. You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, Overcast, wherever fine podcasts are found. Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud, or Thinks Out Loud. We should show up for any of those.

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Sponsor Message: SoloSegment

I’d also like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment uses machine learning, natural language processing, and all of the cool things that AI can do to understand customer behavior using anonymous behavioral data, and connect website visitors with the content they need to accomplish their goals. SoloSegment protects customer privacy, while helping you drive more leads and better business. You can learn more about it by going to Again, that’s

Show Outro

With that said, I want to say, thanks again so much for tuning in. I appreciate that you do this week after week after week for the last 313 episodes, it means so much to me. I hope you have a great rest of this week. I hope you have a great week ahead, and I will look forward to speaking with you on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as ever, take care everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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