The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Change is the only constant in life.” And that is, of course, true. What’s also true is that change is the only constant in business.
Changes in such things as technology, laws and regulations, market demographics and consumer preferences can all influence the future direction of any industry, including the one you’re in. To secure the future survivability and prosperity of your business it’s vital to know what’s on the horizon. Where is your industry headed, and what can you do to stay ahead of the curve? The last thing you want is for your competitors to identify and seize upon opportunities while you’re still operating as though nothing has changed. That’s a sure-fire way to fall behind and, ultimately, drive your business into the ground.
But, let’s face it, predicting future market trends is not all that easy. What is relatively easy is spotting currently emerging trends, simply because the evidence for them is already out there, somewhere. But, let’s face it, predicting future market trends is not all that easy. What’s easier is spotting currently emerging trends, simply because the evidence for them is already out there, somewhere.
So what can you do to ensure that your business is well-equipped to capitalise on future revenue-generating opportunities? Here are some methods you may want to use to gain fresh insights into market trends:
Read industry publications & follow key influencers
When you have a business to run it can be difficult to find the time to read up on all matters relating to your industry. The key is to zero in on a few publications that have the greatest potential to keep you well-informed of what’s happening in your field, including market and industry trends.
Publications that commonly include the writings of respected industry thought leaders can be particularly useful. Industry experts who have done thorough and meticulous research, and who have chosen to share their findings and opinions with relevant publications and journals, often have insights that you can leverage to help your business plan for the future.
As far as online resources are concerned, Linkedin can be a great place to start. Established thought leaders and a wide variety of business owners, researchers and C level executives often share their industry insights on this platform.
Listen to your customers
While it probably wouldn’t be practical – or even desirable – to question each of your customers on what they perceive to be their future needs, challenges and opportunities (some customers may even see this as an unwelcome intrusion), there is likely a core group of customers with whom you have a long term business relationship and who would be more than happy to share with you where they see their future heading and the types of products they may require down the track to meet their requirements. What you may find is that there are common threads running through the feedback you receive which you can use to better plan your business strategy going forward.
In a scenario whereby it’s simply not practical to engage in one-on-one conversations with customers, there is always the survey option. While a survey is typically used to gauge customer satisfaction, it can also be used to acquire information on customers’ future wants and needs.
Attend trade shows
Some people enjoy going to trade shows, others dread the prospect. But either way, an industry trade show can be an excellent source of information – information you can make use of to plan for the future. The more booths you visit, the more industry experts you speak with (including your competitors) and hear presentations from, the better placed you’ll be to recognise and respond to market trends before your competitors.
Track your competition
However thorough you are with other aspects of your trend identification strategy, it’s always smart to keep an eye on what your competitors are up to. If one of your competitors announces a shift in their business focus, or that they’re opening a new interstate office, it could indicate that they know something you don’t about where your industry is heading.
Along with common-sense methods for tracking competitor activity – eg company websites, social media and industry publications – you might also benefit from using Google Alerts. Simply enter the names of businesses you want to track and you’ll receive, via your Google email account, notifications whenever those business names are mentioned online.
Following the crowd is not a good strategy for ensuring future business prosperity. But by researching what’s trending, and what’s likely to be trending in the future, you’ll be in a solid position to gain market share while leaving your competitors to play catch-up. You may not get it right every single time, but by continuously honing your trend analysis techniques you’ll be sure to reap rewards that will help lay the groundwork for long-term business success.