2019 was an interesting year for Paul Davis Solutions. I started the year living in Cairo, Egypt with my family while my wife was finishing her master’s degree. It was wonderful to be building Paul Davis Solutions in the international marketplace, but we faced significant upheaval when my wife came down with an illness in February. After some scary health moments, we had to do an emergency move back to the United States.

Major health issues always makes you reexamine where you are going with your life. In the middle of 2019, I was looking for a job to attempt to reduce the stress of owning a business and give me time to focus on taking care of my wife.

But, business is more than a job that pays the bills. Building businesses, helping non-profits fulfill their mission, increasing the good in the world through win-win scenarios is the core of real-time marketing. And it is not so easily left for just an average job.

By the end of 2019, I had a renewed vision and passion for building Paul Davis Solutions. Not just a writing career, but a premiere marketing agency that helps people achieve their goals.

In all of the personal chaos, I have noticed several fundamentals and trends that were important in Paul Davis Solutions and I believe will be useful for any online business.

Here are my 7 lessons for online business from 2019.

Selling Matters

Online marketing, inbound marketing, and other techniques often seemed like they were replacing sales with marketing. It seemed like you could run and grow a business without doing the difficult job of qualifying your prospects, approaching them, presenting to them and answering objections, and closing them.

The basics of sales were all going to be set up so that your customers bought without you selling to them. Advertisement to landing page, landing page answers all the clients’ objections and closes them, they enter their contact information and voila! You have a customer without you doing any interaction at all.

That is the dream of many modern marketers.

But, as I have watched 2019, the abilities to sell and interact with your audience are more important now than they have been at any time in the past.

The people who are using the automated landing pages to close clients still do large presentations and interact with people on an individual basis. The ability to connect with and communicate to your audience and convince them to buy not just your product or service but you was a key part of business success in 2019.

Focus and Refocus Your Business Energy

Starting with marketing a non-profit in 2007, I have been working in various marketing capacities for 13 years. In that time, I have noticed that the people who continue to succeed are able to focus and refocus their efforts in their business. I saw it this year with one of my favorite brands, Screw the Nine-to-Five. Josh and Jill Stanton, the owners of the Screw, shut down their $300K online course to focus on selling.

The business owners who struggle to keep a brand moving and growing often are unable to refocus but pivot between a variety of ideas and target markets (changing both your market and your solutions at the same time is a sure way to be too much change).

If you want to change and grow in business, you need to see each pivot as an opportunity to focus on specific parts of your business. You are not shifting your core principles, you are just focusing and refocusing.

Technology Changes, People Don’t

2019 was a year of continued technological changes. The Internet of Things continues to grow more pervasive. AI and voice activated technologies are more affordable and more  effective. We are one year closer to having self-driving cars and there are more all electric cars on the road now than at any time in the past.

In other words, technology is swiftly changing. But, people are still people. We long for the same connections that the desert fathers and mothers of my Christian faith wrote about hundreds of years ago. We still long for joyful interactions with people around us.

In the face of changing technology and uncertain political times, in personal upheaval and health crises, I was reminded this last year that we are still people. If you connect with your market as people, you will build a fan base and grow your business.

Reaching the World, One Location at a Time

It was fascinating to work in Cairo, Egypt this year. We often do not realize how close people are together, how small this world really is. And, we often do not realize how different we all are. So many business people (and missionaries, teachers, community organizers, artists, pastors, salespeople, service providers, and so on) want to impact the world.

But, 2019 taught me that global access to information and communication means we need to be able to focus and build relationships in the locations where we are.

Increasing Use of AI

If you follow my writing, you will have heard about Go. It is the oldest board game still played in its original form and there are many lessons you can learn from its simple strategy and tactics. But, most recently Go made news because computing technology was finally able to beat a human master. What computers had done in chess decades ago it took till just two years ago for a computer (using machine learning and massive data sets, commonly called Artificial Intelligence) to beat a human master at the game of Go.

We are using AI and algorithms in more and more of daily life and I see this as a good thing. But, there are some limits to all technologies because a human always has the ability to choose. 2019 continued to show how we are using technology to increase our creativity and provide better services and resources to other people.

Extrovert vs Introvert

In 2019, I participated in a challenge lead by Selena Soo, a major introvert whose business, Impacting Millions, impacts millions! This year, I saw that much of what people think about introvert and extrovert is not valid for analyzing your business personality.

The dichotomy is valid and valuable for discovering how we recharge when we are overworked, how we rest. But neither one means that you will be more successful or not in a business that requires sales. You just have to change your style depending on your personality and your audience.

Offline Is the New Online

As I have grown as an online marketer, I am more convinced about the value of physical presence for connecting to people. From direct mail to events, 2019 continued to showcase the fact that we crave for and need offline connections.

These are the 7 lessons I learned from 2019. What are yours? Leave a comment below. And, come back tomorrow to read about my predictions for 2020.