Do you analyze trends in your business? Maybe you just notice them, or maybe you just mention them when you’re doing a SWOT Analysis.
But intentionally making trend analysis a required part of your planning process is an often ignored way to uncover profitable opportunities for your business.
This is the time of year everyone starts talking about trends. Here’s the thing about trends, they are amorphous. While there are agencies and organization who publish some wonderful content on trends based on their observations and research, the good news is — you can do this too. And I’m going to walk you through the process.
What is a trend as it relates to small business
A trend is a behavior, attitude, awareness, reaction or perception that is becoming more and more popular or frequent over time. And, over time, a trend becomes “mainstream” where something new becomes a standard across the board.
Mobile devices, social media, internet, cards, HDTV — all of these are trends that have taken decades to take hold.
When you just think about these trends that I’ve mentioned, it’s easy to see that if your business didn’t adapt to these trends, you would most likely NOT be in business today.
Why it is important to analyze trends
Tracking and paying attention to trends is critical to the success and growth of your business because trends often create and exacerbate pains and challenges for customers and that creates opportunities for your business.
- Build your brand, message and a compelling story. As you go through the trend analysis process, you’ll find yourself crafting powerful stories that will create a powerful connection between you and your ideal customer.
- Create irresistible offers. You trend analysis will identify critical unmet needs that no other business is providing. This will help you create powerful and irresistible offers your customers will flock to.
- Stand out from the competition. Your competitors are NOT paying attention to trends. Most small businesses are focused squarely on just getting more customers with the offers they already have.
- Set value-based pricing and profit. When you create an offer that delivers something no one else will deliver, you can set a profitable price and still generate more of your ideal customers.
When is the best time to identify trends for your business?
You should always be paying attention to any trends that could effect your business. The key is to simplify the process so that you can catch the trends that are most relevant to your business.
I recommend keeping a folder, notebook, or document close by so that you can drop images, links, and thoughts.
The 3-Step Process for Analyzing Business Trends
No matter how you choose to track and analyze trends, your process will consist of three basic steps:
- Observe: Scan your environment, your customers, and even your own behavior and grab whatever news and data that you run into that triggers that thought – “This might change how I do business”
- Brainstorm: The next step is to brainstorm all the ways that this trend will impact your business. Don’t judge, or eliminate these ideas just yet.
- Strategize: In what ways can you begin to meet this trend or use this trend to create a better outcome for your customers.
Observe: How to identify trends for your business
This isn’t as difficult as you might think. The whole process always starts with you. After all, YOU are the expert in your business.
When you create categories for your trends, you can quickly and easily recognize them when you notice them.
Here are a few standard categories you can start with:
- Consumer Trends: These are overarching trends that all of use experience as consumers. You can grab these trends from your own observations and experiences as well as observations of consumer mindsets, behaviors, and attitudes around you. I like to use Trendwatching as a place to start.
- Technology Trends: Following closely with consumer trends are technology trends. Use the same process of combining your personal observations as well as articles and studies that you happen to run into.
- Economic Trends: We’ve been experiencing a major disruption about every 18 months or so. While all those disruptions aren’t always economic, they often impact the economy.
- Government and Regulatory Trends: Government and regulatory trends are when the government makes new laws or changes old ones. These can have a big impact on businesses, so it’s important to stay up to date on what’s going on.
- Industry Trends: Now we’re getting closer to your business. What behaviors, attitudes, and market changes do you expect to see in your industry that will have an impact on your business.
- Customer Trends: We’re getting closer still to your business. You’ll notice that all these other trends may have an impact on your customers. This is where you will put observations or survey and poll results, analytic results, anything that you’ve noticed about your customers.
Brainstorm: Generate a list of trends and uncover new ideas and opportunity
When you want to analyze trends to find opportunities for your business, brainstorming is your friend. The fun thing about trends analysis is that you get to flex your experience and your creativity at the sam time.
Here are some questions that you can ask yourself to assess how an industry trend will impact your business:
- What behaviors, attitudes, awareness, reactions or perceptions have you observed or noticed in this area?
- In what ways will this trend impact my customers?
- In what ways will this trend impact my products and services
- In what ways will this trend affect my competitors?
- What was your customer doing before this trend happened, and how do you envision them achieving their outcome with this trend as a reality?
- What challenges will this trend create for customers as they go after their desired outcome?
- What changes will I need to make to my business to adapt to this trend?
- What opportunities does this trend present for my business, and how can I capitalize on them?
- What risks does this trend pose to my business, and how can I convert those risks into opportunities?
- How long do you expect this trend to last, and how will it evolve over time?
By answering these questions, you can get a better understanding of how an industry trend will impact your business and make more informed decisions about how to respond to it.
Strategize: Come up with strategies based on your ideas
This is where things can get tricky. It’s tempting to turn ideas into strategies. But this will take you down the path to overwhelm.
Here’s the simple way to turn your brainstorms into strategies.
- Pick a single trend.
- What triggered this trend?
- What basic needs or wants does this trend address?
- How does your audience or customer currently meet these needs or wants?
- How do other businesses address these new needs or wants?
- How would you apply this trend to better meet those needs and wants?
- In what ways will this transform your customer’s life?
Here’s the bottom line. If you’ve been struggling with coming up with great offers or new products and services, your answer lies in doing some trend analysis. Once you organize your trend-watching system, you’ll always be ahead of the pack when it comes to standing out from the competition and giving your customers what they want.