Have you ever wondered how some CEOs, executives and other leaders always seem to know what the next big trend will be? It’s not just luck! It takes time and dedication to stay ahead of the curve, especially in business. But, don’t worry, follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an industry leader:

Subscribe to trade journals.

Don’t subscribe to trade journals just to collect an impressive stack of magazines on your coffee table. Subscribe to these treasure troves of information and actually take the time to read them. Trade journals will give you a sneak peek at what your competitors are up to and what trends are expected to take your industry by storm. Most industries are rapidly changing, so you have to be consistent and read every issue of the trade journal to be completely aware of what’s going on around you.

See what customers are saying.

Don’t you wish there was a way to eavesdrop on your customers’ private conversations about your industry? Luckily, businesses can scour through discussion boards, forums and public social media messages to see what customers are talking about. Typically, customers will go online to complain or talk about how they wish a product or service was different in some way. Take note of what they’re talking about, and if you notice any patterns, present the idea to your business partners. It usually takes the market a long time to respond to what customers want, but if you take the time to listen to them, you can adapt much faster.

Talk to your wholesale distributor.

Are you a product-based business? Wholesale distributors are much closer to the end user than you are, so tapping into their knowledge could give you some insight on what’s around the corner in your industry. Wholesale distributors frequently visit retailers and engage with the staff and storeowners. In these conversations, distributors get valuable knowledge about what’s selling and what’s not, what competitors are up to and what customers have been asking about. Distributors are some of the first people to find out about the latest trends, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to talk with them.

Look to indirect competitors.

Businesses often make the mistake of only concerning themselves with what their direct competitors are doing and completely ignoring indirect competitors. Why is this an issue? Indirect competitors have the same target audience as you, but are selling a different product, so they may have a unique take on what customers want. For instance, if you are a shampoo company, an indirect competitor may be hair care products for women. If you notice that the majority of the new products being put out by the big name brands are designed to tame frizz, it would be safe to say that they might have research showing that’s what women want. Therefore, you could use this information to put out a shampoo designed to eliminate frizz! It wouldn’t hurt to look outside of your industry for less obvious indirect competitors, too. Any insight that you can gain will be helpful in the end.

How do you stay up-to-date with what’s going on in your industry? Share your tips in the comments below!