#3: Track Trends (But Don’t Chase Shiny Objects)Reading Time: 4 minutes
What’s new? What’s old? What’s timeless?
30+ years ago I created customer personas for direct marketing.
20+ years ago I questioned whether large business trade shows were sustainable.
16 years ago I realized that social media would be a powerful marketing force.
10 years ago I saw the demise of the traditional office and the rise of remote and gig work.
5 years ago I realized that high-quality content would play a big role in marketing.
My work team adopted Monday.com, Canva, and Google Docs before they became popular.
I’m not bragging here. I’m just illustrating that observing and acting on trends can mean the difference between prosperity and business suffering or even obliteration.
So, how do you balance one eye on the present and the other on the future?
Know Who You’re Serving
The most important aspect of trend tracking and innovation is staying on top of consumer stats, facts, behaviors, and attitudes.
Shocking to believe, but 2/3 of companies canceled or postponed customer research during the pandemic. We have more access to data than ever before. We even know where people are driving and walking, where they’re stopping to buy, and what questions they’re asking their devices. And yet, many companies ignore customer needs and the signs of change.
Consume Relevant Data
Read, watch, attend events (safely) and talk to people who are smarter than you. Always be Curious. Hire people who are future-focused (but who can also get today’s stuff done).
Of course, getting stuff done today while thinking about next month, next year, or the next decade can be a challenge. But if you create a culture of curiosity, everyone will contribute ideas and facts that can shape your business’ future.
Don’t Shut Down the Futurists
Years ago, I suggested to a big trade show company that they move into consumer festivals. My plan was rejected three times and I was “forbidden” to bring it up to senior management. Three years after I left, the company bought a big consumer event which is now a significant part of their revenue stream.
Perhaps I was simply ahead of my time, but the experience of being treated like some crazy woman because I “saw the future” was demoralizing. Listen to people with big (and sometimes weird) ideas and embrace their thinking. “Not right now” is very different from “not right.”
(On the upside, that type of thinking led to my starting theONswitch 18 years ago, so things didn’t end too badly for any of us.)
Speaking of futurists…don’t simply create an “innovation” group within your company. Although having a person or team who has primary responsibility for trend-tracking makes sense, that function needs to be embraced and assimilated into the entire operation of your business.
Build a cross-generational team. Older workers have seen trends come and go and can offer your business unique perspectives on what withstands the test of time.
Avoid the “Shiny Object Syndrome”
Especially in today’s TikTokian and Twitchy (literally) era, business owners are often quick to jump on new media or a new market segment because it’s groovy. But like that adjective, some trends and technologies come and go. I recently came across a presentation that I did about Periscope and Meerkat. Do you even know what they are?
What’s truly timeless and what’s simply trendy? Don’t be afraid to incorporate new techniques into your business, but hold off on investing tons of time and money into risky new “toys.” Explore, test, measure, and move quickly but smartly.
Incorporate innovation into your life outside of work too. We all have habits and brand preferences we hold near and dear. But try to do one new (and maybe even weird) thing every week. If you market to consumers, watch some of the trending Netflix shows and sample products that new segments are buying. Experiment with new technologies and gadgets. Keep your brain fresh and expanding.
But then ask yourself, will this “trending thing”:
- Help me serve my customers or expand my market?
- Make me more money?
- Make life easier and better?
- Help humanity?
Trends will come and go, but critical thinking around new ideas is timeless!
|A great way to track trends
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|Why trends die. Although this article is 10 years old, it’s still super-relevant (as is NPR)|
|How to build an innovation culture|