Are you providing the same kind of service to your clients as you did 2 years ago? Are you making the same products as you were two years ago? While there is value in stability and constancy there is also the risk of stagnation and falling behind and (oh no!) the possibility of losing market share.
One of the keys to business success is to place yourself in a position of thought leadership. And one of the best ways to get there is by identifying trends and acting on them in a way that positions you as “the” business or business owner who is the best resource, the best manufacturer, the best solutions provider.
So how do you identify trends? It’s a lot easier than you think. Here are 10 things to consider once you’ve made the decision that you want to be top of mind to your customers:
- Accept and EMBRACE change. This is important. As a business leader your attitude towards change will set the tone within your business. Strive to promote discussions with key staff about what they see on the horizon.
- Ask questions/be curious. Put the topic of trends on the agenda of your next staff meeting. Have an open forum where you encourage questions about how the company does things and why. Could there be a different way? What is the competition doing?
- Get advisors. Join a mastermind group. Surround yourself with other business owners who are willing to share ideas.
- Follow industry publications and influencers. Follow the authors of the articles in the industry publications. Follow the speakers at industry conferences.
- Use tracking tools like Google Trends which keeps track of searches. What are consumers/customers searching? Key words can reveal interests or problems or issues that need to be solved.
- Understand the difference between short lived fads and long term trends. Decide where your company wants to be positioned. Remember the Pet Rock? Someone made a lot of money but it was short lived.
- Use focus groups. Ask your existing clients what is working for them and what you can improve. A simple question like what can we do to make this better, easier, more convenient, etc. can open the floodgates of ideas. And your client will be flattered you asked their opinion.
- Read! Read everything. Local newspapers, magazines, industry reports, even self-help books. Don’t like to read? Listen to podcasts or watch TED Talks. The point is you have to stay informed.
- Block out creative thinking time—take a hint from some of the greatest minds who say an idea came to them when they were away from the office.
- Network where your clients’ clients go. Spot trends that your clients might not yet see and offer a solution they can use.
It’s really important to also look at the big picture: watch customer reactions through a local, national and global lens. Look at demographics. Pay attention to the role of technology—is there an additional role or application on the horizon? Consider social factors. Stay on top of current events. It’s all inter-related and connected.