In the business world, change is the only constant. When you think you have it all figured out and your business is doing well, a new wave of innovations sweeps over your industry, changing the rules of the game. Then you have only two choices: adapt and survive or resist change and get left behind.
Entrepreneurs who fail to acknowledge these realities and refuse to get with the times are headed towards imminent collapse. The key to keeping your business afloat during periods of transition and taking it to the next level is to stay on top of industry trends and look into the future. Yet it’s just as true that keeping up with these trends in an industry that’s constantly shifting and bringing new challenges all the time is a lot easier said than done.
Fortunately, it’s not an impossible endeavor as some might fear. If you want your business to thrive in a competitive market, these tips will make it easier for you to identify industry trends and stay ahead of the curve.
Read industry research
What better way to find out what’s going on in your industry than reading industry research? For each industry sector, periodic reports and guides are being published either by industry leaders or independent organizations. The findings in these reports can prove extremely valuable to your business. There’s bound to be some information relevant to your specific area of activity that can guide you in the right direction.
If there are certain answers that you want to find out, partnering up with a market research agency might be the best idea, especially if you operate in the B2B sector. Analyzing B2B markets presents a very specific series of challenges that require specialized tools and capabilities that only professional agencies possess.
Subscribe to publications in your industry
While industry reports are not to be ignored, they can be very dense and contain a lot of information that doesn’t really concern you. Therefore, it might take a great deal of effort and time to go tough an entire report from beginning to end, only to find out a few scraps of information.
If you’re not willing to go through all that trouble, a different course of action is to subscribe to publications or follow influencers in your industry. This way you’ll benefit from a regular stream of relevant information in a condensed manner that’s easier to digest. A lot of the articles in these publications provide bite-sized content that translates and summarizes the long reports that you don’t have time to read.
You cannot feel the current if you don’t immerse yourself in the water. A less metaphorical way of expressing this idea is if you want to find out what’s going on in your industry and stay in the know you have to mingle with people from your industry.
You can learn a lot of interesting things by surrounding yourself with the right people. Conferences, training, networking events, or informal meetings with relevant people in or outside of your industry provide the opportunity to listen to different perspectives and gain a general idea of where things are headed. That’s networking at its best.
Engage with your customers
Colleagues and people with whom your share common business interests can indeed open your eyes and mind to new ideas, but they only represent one side of the equation. Your customers are at the other end of the spectrum and it’s just as important to listen to what they have to say as well.
Customer behavior and demands have the power to influence and even shape industry trends, so it’s vital to keep in touch with your customers and find out what they think and want. Take a look at the industry through your customers’ eyes and you’ll be able to see things in a whole different light which can spark new business ideas.
Keep an eye on your competition
You’ve put yourself in the shoes of your partners and your customers, now it’s time to find out what your direct competitors are up to. If they’re one step ahead of you, this will help you see where you’re lacking so you can fill in the blanks. If they’re behind, you can use their weaknesses to your benefit and gain an even bigger advantage.
While you don’t necessarily have to make decisions based on what your competitors are doing, this will give you an idea of what emerging trends you should keep an eye on in the future. Even if you’re way ahead, it never hurts to look over your shoulder and see what’s behind.
Browse the web
The online environment represents a valuable source of information for every subject under the sun, and industry trends make no exception. There are countless sites and blogs addressing topics that might interest you, so it’s worth taking the time to browse the web regularly in search of these posts and articles.
Obviously, you’ll have to sort through the content that you find online and look for quality pieces. But this is still a good way to spot trends early on and stay up to date with developments in your industry.
Monitor your business
It’s not always necessary to look outside your business to identify trends and gain insights into the direction things are going. Answers can also come from within your company. You have a variety of tools at your disposal that can help you measure performance, productivity, and other key indicators, allowing you to spot fluctuations that might point to changes in the market.
The changes that you experience in your business are often a reflection of what’s going on outside of it. So, if certain products/services are not selling as well as they used to or if your clients suddenly become interested in things that they previously ignored, chances are new trends are behind these changing attitudes.