Entrepreneurs: Be a Trend Tracker!

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The reason entrepreneurs—and, for that matter, anyone in business—should learn the art of trend tracking is to capitalize on the up-and-coming trends.  Being proactive in this endeavor will enable you to ride the wave of trends to help your business succeed.

I recently read an interesting article on Steve Jobs and how he tells consumers what they want in products before they even know it by producing items (think iPod, iPad and MacBook Air) without thought to structured consumer research.  Not many of us can do that to the degree of success that Jobs has enjoyed.  However, learning how to be a trend tracker can assist in your product or service development to meet the needs of consumers tomorrow.
So how do you become a trend tracker?   

Trend Tracking Tip #1:  Read current publications, especially the ones that you might not normally read.  Look for specific information about your industry and anything else that might impact your business, especially the trends.   

Trend Tracking Tip #2:  Monitor blogs and newsgroups about your industry.  This will help you to answer the question of what forces are shaping your business and influencing your customers.

Trend Tracking Tip #3:  Watch the top ten TV shows,  as these are reflections of customers’ attitudes and values and indicators of what they are going to buy.  Don’t forget to look at the commercials that air during these shows too!  That is also an important indicator to watch as it reflects what products or services these consumers may want or need.  The large companies that can afford to spend the millions of dollars to advertise, have conducted consumer research to find out just what consumers want. 

Trend Tracking Tip #4:  See the top ten movies.  They also influence consumer behavior from language to fashions.  My prediction is that the new up-and-coming hot word with kids and young adults will be ”EPIC.” Believing this, I would use this word in communicating to that specific target market.  You might remember that after Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones donned Ray-Ban® sunglasses in Men In Black, sales of the sunglasses
took off!

Trend Tracking Tip #5:  Talk to at least 150 customers a year about what they are buying and why.  Make a conscious effort to spend time with your customers in a casual setting to tap into what they are thinking.

Trend Tracking Tip #6:  Talk with the ten smartest and most creative people you know.  They can offer valuable insights and fresh perspectives that you may not have considered.

Trend Tracking Tip #7:  Listen to your children and their friends, or listen to your friends’ children if you have none of your own.  This can be a tremendous source of fresh ideas as well as guides on
the new trends.

With all the information you learn, be sure to write it all down!  This can be as simple as doing it the old fashioned way—as I do—by using a spiral notebook, or electronically using your PDA, iPod, or computer.  There is something to be said for putting the information in writing that gives credence to the information.  By documenting your findings, you free up valuable brain space so you can then process it all.

In a short amount of time, you will find yourself a trend tracker and will be making  more informed decisions for maximizing your business’s sales.  

Theresa Freihoefer is an instructor in the business department of Central Oregon Community College.  She can be contacted at tfreihoefer@cocc.edu.

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