Become A Fortune Teller in Just 10 Minutes – Part 1

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on November 12, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Social Media Marketing, Tips in 10

No, this Tips In Ten is not about how to become one of those costume-jewelry-wearing fortune tellers at the circus. This article (and the one that follows) is about staying on top of the trends that will impact your business.

Foreseeing trends and acting on them before everyone else does gives you two distinct advantages: You can act on opportunities before anyone else does and you can mitigate challenges before they actually happen. Imagine how different your business could have been if you knew the 2008/2009 recession was going to happen BEFORE it actually happened. There were plenty of people who accurately predicted it and acted accordingly.

Or, imagine how different your investment portfolio might be if you knew that Home Depot was going to be as big as it has become. If you foresaw the rise in do-it-yourself home renovations, you could have bought the stock really cheap a few years ago and seen your portfolio grow. (Obviously I’m not here to give investment advice but I’m just using it as an example to show you the impact of seeing and acting on trends).

About your trendwatching: How to schedule it and what to know
Trendwatching for your business can be done in three different steps. The first step, which I will show you in this issue, will take more than ten minutes. But once you’ve done this step, the second step (discussed in the next issue) won’t take any extra time throughout your week (it is included in the things you already do) and the third step might only take ten minutes every week or two. So once you have done the first step, it is only the third step that needs to be scheduled for a ten minute effort every couple of weeks to keep your finger on the pulse of trends in the economy and in business. That’s it!

I recommend that you schedule ten minutes every one to two weeks to do this. The reason is: if you schedule it less frequently than that, you won’t be able to see as many trends and you won’t be able to act on them as quickly. The ability to detect trends is a combination of seeing all of the clues and also seeing them evolve over time. But if you schedule it more frequently than that (like daily, for example), the trends won’t move enough from one day to the next and it won’t be a good use of your time.

Also I should point out that in a ten minute trendwatching period, you’ll only be able to trend-watch a few different trends. What I’m about to show you is going to help you zoom in on just a few things that can really help you. So don’t think that you’re going to stare into a crystal ball and immediately be able to see every possible trend that could impact your life, business, investment portfolio, personal health, the environment, the economy, etc.

And lastly, before we get into the actual how-to, you need to remember that trends are generalizations and trendwatching is an art, not a science and there are a lot of factors that can reverse a trend in a flash. Two examples of dramatic trend-reversals in the last decade were the tragic 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and, more recently, the quick intervention by world governments to prop up the failing global economy. Both of these extremely dramatic examples show that trends in particular directions can be reversed by external forces. They are difficult to foresee and they don’t happen often.

Now I’ll show you the preparation step to make your trendwatching really useful to you. If you don’t get it done now, do it as homework because you’ll want it done for next week’s issue.

Trendwatching Step 1: Preparation

Start a trends file: Your trendwatching will be more effective if you pull together all of your trend information into one place. I like using a mindmap (like MindMeister) or GoogleDocs but you might prefer some other format (like a spreadsheet or Evernote or even a piece of paper). You just want a place where you can jot notes and collect links or news items. It needs to be useful and you’ll end up adding lots of information to it.

Identify your areas of focus: Since you can’t possibly see all trends ahead of time, you need to identify a few potential areas where you want to focus in on to see trends. Usually this will be your industry or business model or customer needs or the marketing methods you use. Those four elements are good places to start. List a few of those and write down what the current situation is.

For example, a social media coach might list the following elements that they want to watch trends on, plus the current situation for each element:

  • Top social media: Blogs, Facebook, Twitter
  • Things my clients want to know: How to do it to grow my business
  • Ways I market my business: Social media, AdWords, word of mouth

(Of course there are other things that could be relevant but I’ll use these as examples).

Trends tend to move in similar waves to business lifecycles and the economy: A trend will have a period of growth, a peak, a period of decline, and a valley. So as you watch the trends, you’ll want to track where each of these trends are along that wave. Are they growing? Have they peaked? Are they declining? I’ll show you how to do that in steps 2 and 3. Be aware that this will tend to trend in one particular direction (growth to peak to decline to valley) but new innovations, new consumer adoption, and dramatic events can extend a particular stage of a trend or accelerate a trend through the stages. Blogs, for example, might be in an extended decline, Facebook might be in a peak but could quickly decline if something better came along (which may have been the case for Myspace when it was “replaced” by Facebook).

Determine the causes: Trends don’t just happen. The trends you are focusing on developed because of a number of influences coming together at the same time. Brainstorm what these factors might be and add them to your trendwatching document. It’s okay if you don’t get a comprehensive list and it’s okay if you’re not 100% accurate. Over time, you might think of additional factors that influence your areas of focus and you’ll want to add these, too, and you are free to make refinements as you go.

To briefly draw from our example, you might write:

  • Facebook. Influencing factors: A desire to be more connected with others; technology that allows for sharing; word of mouth to invite others on (“the more the merrier”); a consolidation of platforms (for games, video, blogging, chatting, pictures, etc.).
  • Twitter. Influencing factors: A desire to be more connected with others; a combination of desktop-based and mobile technology; a desire for real-time information.
  • How to use social media to grow business. Influencing factors: Businesses see other businesses succeeding and want the same thing; businesses recognize that more and more people are joining social media; businesses are always looking for new marketing opportunities.

These are just some quick ideas to illustrate what kind of influencing factors would contribute to the trend you are focusing on.

Identify the key influencers: Every trend has key influencers who become the big name in that trend. Sometimes they are early adopters and other times they are just well-known people who have jumped on board. Twitter, for example, has some key influencers like Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, Mari Smith, Justin Bieber, and Ashton Kutcher. Although they might each talk to different groups of people, they wield a fair amount of influence over their particular group.

That’s all you need to do right now. In the next issue of Tips In Ten I’ll show you how to take the information you’ve done here (or you’re about to do for homework) and use it to discover trends to help your business.

Trendwatching is fun, it’s really easy to do, and it can make a dramatic difference on your business by allowing you to act faster than your competition on opportunities and carefully prepare for challenges before others know those challenges are there!

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