Predicting trends for your industry is like using a crystal ball to see into the future. Better information removes some of the sand to make things clearer. Bad or incomplete information will put more sand back in.
The January 19, 2005 issue of Cascade Business News will focus on trends in the economy in general as well as in specific industries. Here are a few ideas to help you notice changes in your industry and thus plan more effectively for the future. That’s the closest most of us can come to truly predicting the future.
The new phone book will be out soon. Before you toss it, make sure you check the Yellow Pages in your section to see what changes have occurred. If a competitor’s ad has disappeared, did they go out of business, or are they now so successful from referrals they no longer need Yellow Page ads? Or is still another explanation called for?
For those who are new to listings in the section, what type of competitors are they? New to the area, new in business or a business that was already established and continues to grow?
Quite often as a business expands into a new market, the owners place an ad in a new section of the Yellow Pages. For those that were there last year, how has the size and content of their ad changed? What services have they added or discontinued? How—if at all—have they attempted to change their image?
While you’re at it, the new issue of Cascade Business News’ Book of Lists will be out the first week of the new year. You can conduct a similar analysis from those lists. Which businesses have changed in either number of employees or the area of focus for their business? What impact will those changes have on your business or your industry?
It is important to look outside the area for trends. The world doesn’t revolve around Central Oregon. The recent explosion in the use of technology and cell phones as individuals’ only phone are examples of trends starting elsewhere and now coming to roost here locally.
Staying current through industry conventions and trade association literature is key to staying ahead of your competition.
Studying transportation plans and traffic studies, population projections and demographic changes, and real estate information such as trends for “days on market” will also help you determine where the next growth spurt will occur. In the early ‘90s, it was shown that while growth was beginning to occur on the east side of Bend, rising housing prices and few available building lots would soon push growth to Redmond and La Pine. Both of these areas were underdeveloped in the marketplace. Those who saw that trend coming were able to take advantage of those opportunities to either grow their business or grow their investment portfolio. Now the west side of Bend has exploded, and developers are expanding into Sisters and Prineville.
Ask yourself “Where is the next growth opportunity for my business going to come from?” That type of knowledge just might be more accessible than you think.
Jim Kress works at COCC where he helps businesses investigate trends and growth patterns in their industry. He can be reached at 383-7712.