Do you ever just sit and ponder what things would have been like if your company that introduced the mass-produced automobile to the market or that it was your business who popularized the iPhone? As ahead of the curve as these developments were in their time, there are several proven techniques that entrepreneurs and business executives can use to predict massive market trends before they materialize.
While from afar new business developments look random, there are often ‘tectonic shifts,’ if you will that occur beneath the surface–often shaking things up before shifts become visible to the general public. Hence, the key to predicting trends, as a business person, is simply a matter of recognizing the visual patterns as they come into view.
Here’s how you can prepare your business for success and identify trends before they fully materialize.
Understand the Current Business Environment.
On the surface, it might appear that developing an awareness of the business environment is merely about possessing a broad understanding of your industry. However, knowing your field goes beyond familiarizing yourself with top level news in your area. In fact, it extends to preparing yourself for environmental uncertainties. Doing so requires you to have knowledge of where you and your competitors fall on the game board so that you can estimate how changes in the competitive, regulatory, or technological landscape could impact your business.
Possessing this type of awareness does not come easy. It takes lots of deliberate research and planning to arrive at this state. Nonetheless, by regularly asking yourself how changes within the marketplace can impact your company, you will learn to prepare for things that your competitors can’t react to until after the fact.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Competitors’ Playbooks.
If you ever want to reach the point where your business can seamlessly adapt to your competitor’s moves, understanding how the competition operates is key. Although this begins with analyzing the current state of your competition, unless you study their prior responses to changes in the market, you’ll be basing any future decisions on incomplete information. Knowing how businesses in your field have behaved in the past, along with knowing where they are today can help you predict their next moves.
But what would this type of approach look like if you were to carry it out? Beating the competition to the punch requires you and your team to gather information as to what the competition is doing; this could mean monitoring their social media profiles, periodically reviewing their websites, or it could mean paying attention to statements that their executives make about current market conditions or future plans.
However, once you have built a complete profile on your competitors don’t rest on your laurels. Incorporate this advanced competitive intelligence into your decision-making process.
Focus on the Present While Planning for the Future.
As a small business or startup, it’s easy to become so mired in present-day challenges that you forget to look ahead to what’s new on the horizon. Instead, many entrepreneurs often experience deep highs and lows that come about because of a deeply project-centered approach to management. Hence, upon completing major projects, it’s not uncommon to find some business owners just sitting there waiting for whatever comes next.
Unfortunately, companies that adopt this approach end up having a tough time adapting to change. Indeed, many of them go out of business. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take as much to plan for tomorrow as one might think. The key lies in stopping periodically to reevaluate your current position and goal so that you may determine how best to proceed.
Know Your Audience
It’s hard if not impossible to overstate the importance of knowing your audience; this means understanding your current and future customers. Doing so requires building a comprehensive customer profile, sometimes referred to as a buyer persona. You can complete a customer profile by surveying a small but representative group of your clients to learn more about their needs, wants, and overall buying behaviors.
A great way to begin the process of organizing your buyers into personas is to schedule regular focus groups. In addition to using focus groups, you can also analyze buying patterns and social media activity. Another way to gain insight into customer behavior is to consult with your sales team.
Items that you want to pay close attention to include buying cycles, pain points, fears, goals, and other factors that influence your customers. Once you’ve successfully created the personas, you can build new offerings around each persona; this is an area where companies like Apple excel.
Enlist the Support of the Entire Team.
While your efforts are paramount to your firm’s ability to stay ahead of major trends, there’s only so much that you can do by yourself. Hence, to ensure lasting gains, you’ll need to make sure that everyone has ‘skin in the game.’ There’s no better way to do this than to create a continuous improvement plan that includes the entire organization.
Improving your business isn’t just about improving your products and services, but it also has to do with honing your processes and insights.
Expand Your Circle of Influence.
Anyone that you come into regular contact with during the course of business can share valuable insights with you; this includes distributors, manufacturers, media representatives, etc. However, it also includes those that you may not ordinarily look to for information.
Seeing around the corner of change often requires knowledge of the terrain beforehand. The best way to gain this type of information in the business arena is to broaden your scope of influence, which only requires you to bring others into your circle of influence. Widening your sources allows you to see things that you wouldn’t ordinarily see on your own.
Keep an Eye Out for Major Trends.
Massive shifts in the business environment have the power to drastically alter your company. These can include changes such as new business regulations, population changes, technological advances, etc.
You might be asking yourself what all of this has to do with you being able to predict impending market shifts. The answer is that connecting the dots across these seven areas gives you an aerial view of the market that your business occupies. And make no mistake, the ramifications of being able to see the big picture are massive. It means that while everyone else is scrambling to catch up, you’ll be two steps ahead.
In closing, let me be clear—no human being is capable of seeing the future. However, if you heed the tactics in this article, you’ll be well-poised to stay ahead of industry trends, while outmaneuvering the competition. And as we all know, that’s the stuff legends are made of – so let’s get started!
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