Today’s most influential brands always seem to have an edge on the market. But how?
The answer is trends.
Many organizations struggle with truly understanding and acting on trends that impact their business. Some even miss the boat completely, like Blockbuster’s opportunity with Netflix back in 2000 or Kodak’s swing and miss into the digital photography revolution. And yet, those who do invest in analyzing the impact of trends on their business can see significant returns. How do you convince company leadership to start taking trend analysis seriously? These four concrete arguments can help influence managers to invest in trends analysis.
- Fortify decision making with accurate and objective forecasts of the changing marketplace. This kind of fact-based decision making is more important than ever in our fast changing marketplaces. Properly monitoring trends that could threaten part of your market gives you time to think through implications and develop plans to act. Sometimes you can even turn adverse situations into new opportunities. Teams can be quite creative when they see threats coming and have time to prepare a well thought-out response.
- Think beyond today and into tomorrow. A well-structured and executed trends analysis program gives managers the means to think beyond today and into tomorrow while making logical links to short-term activities. When managers understand the impacts and implications trends will have tomorrow, they can formulate opportunity and contingency plans they can act on today.
- Create a method to the madness. Developing a structured way of thinking about trends provides a reliable and repeatable method to realize marketplace impacts. Once you understand trends and their impacts you can start answering questions like:
- How do these trends affect what customers buy and don’t buy?
- How might these trends influence or change customers behaviors, thoughts and attitudes?
- What important goals, beliefs, and perceptions are emerging among consumers?
- How do the trends interfere with or support our plans?
- Do the trends increase or decrease our risks?
- What new opportunities do the trends represent for us?
- Develop situation and action plans. Once you have a handle on the impacts and potential implications of trends, you can develop action plans to address them. As you start formulating your plans you need to start testing ideas with customers to see what sticks and what doesn’t.
Analyzing and acting on trends effectively can uncover truths that connect, transform, and disrupt your business, leading to opportunities and success. With the right key sources and frameworks, you can start on the right track today.
The Right Sources
The first thing you need is a reliable source of information. The best information comes from published authoritative content, primary research of customers/consumers, and industry insiders such as professionals, experts, consultants, and academics.
Published information is often the backbone. Depending on the trends you’re trying to understand, you may need data and insights derived from published sources of news, technology, syndicated market research, stock analyst reports, social media, and other outlets.
Primary research with customers/consumers is also highly valuable. You might have access to customer experience tracking studies, a community of customers maintained by your Insights group, or other sources of primary research with your customers/consumers. Be sure you can tap into these rich-data sources.
Industry insiders, or experts, are another excellent source of trend insight. Having good published sources of information can help you track down experts when you need that professional insight to understand market impacts and business implications of trends.
Using Frameworks to Tease Out the Insights
Frameworks give you a structured, repeatable way of conducting research and analyzing information. This structure and repeatability becomes critical when you are trying to compare different situations, trends, impacts, and the actions that are available for you to take.
Take SWOT analysis for example. On the surface, this seems straight forward. Research everything you can about a company and sort the findings into the company’s strengths, weaknesses, and the market opportunities and threats facing them. But what trends should you be examining to discover the opportunities and threats facing the company? (Culture trends? Demographic trends? Technology trends?) And what aspects of the company should you be researching to determine their strengths and weaknesses? (Operations? Customer Experience? Products?) Using frameworks in your research approach brings thoroughness, clarity, and focus to your work.
Frameworks are also necessary for analysis. They help you sort trends into categories to better understand their impacts. Frameworks can be used to see where trends are overlapping or converging. You can use frameworks to find areas of intense competition and areas where competition is lacking. There are many frameworks available that you should be using to not only make sense of the information you’ve gathered, but to create roadmaps for pursuing opportunities you’ve discovered.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how sources and frameworks can help you make sense of trends, you’re probably wondering how to put this advice into action. For a great case study that demonstrates the value of applying these approaches, read this article about societal and innovation trends related to healthy packaged foods. The article discusses specific approaches used to identify opportunities in the healthy packaged foods space created by trends in the market. Some of the key sources used in this case study were industry trend experts that closely track trends impacting the market.
Looking for more help to make sense of the data deluge and reveal the possibilities to change your business future? Contact us and ask how we could help you get serious about trend tracking and analysis.
About the Author
Brian Reuter is Senior Vice President of Engine’s Accelerated Intelligence Service and Expert Engine. At Engine, Brian specializes in evaluating new opportunities for Engine Insights and Engine Insights clients. Starting as a Research Analyst, Brian worked his way up to Vice President and currently is leading Engine Insights’ Accelerated Intelligence practice. Brian manages a team that effectively leverages published information and expert insight to enable clients to make fact based decisions on innovation opportunities, competitive environments, new markets, trends, and customer insights. Brian is known for client-focused business development, marketing, and research design. He has developed and implanted overall business unit strategies for sales process improvement, marketing, client experience improvement, staff skills development, process and productivity improvement, and adjacent market growth. Brian was promoted to his first director-level position for continual initiative in expanding his assigned role of researcher to full project development and management. That type of motivation, paired with creative process improvement, has defined his entire career.
If you’d like to talk to Brian about how you can integrate trends into your strategy, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.