When you start your own business, there is so much to learn that everything feels new and uncertain. The first few months of entrepreneurship can be exciting and overwhelming. However, once you’ve mastered the basics, you need to make sure you can stay ahead of the competition. This means keeping on top of market shifts and small business trends, not just in your industry, but in the marketplace as a whole.
No matter what industry you work in, you will likely be caught up in a continually evolving, competitive environment. At times, it may feel like the world is changing faster than you can keep up. However, successful business owners find a way to stay ahead of the curve. Doing so will help you connect with the public and remain open to new opportunities.
Getting ahead in a competitive industry is tough, but keeping up with current trends can help. With this in mind, here are 3 easy habits to build into your schedule to help you stay relevant.
1. Keeping up with the news
Following industry news is vital if you want to stay competitive. However, it’s also important to keep tabs on what’s happening socially, politically and on social media. Luckily, feeds on Twitter and Facebook can be incredibly helpful for providing an overall picture of what’s happening in the world.
With so many media outlets, it’s not hard to find a way to follow the news these days. However, many business owners may feel like they don’t have the time. You don’t need to expend all your resources on keeping up with the news. You can check for “trending” hashtags in the browse function on Twitter for quick updates or listen to the radio throughout the day. You can also set Google Alerts for keywords or phrases related to your industry.
You can keep up with industry news by subscribing to email newsletters and reading content from your competitors and other leaders in your niche. Again, updating your news feed on social media is useful, providing you follow the right people. LinkedIn is a great way to access relevant content and connect with like-minded business owners and contacts.
Keeping up with technology trends is also important. If you don’t, you may miss out on new ways to target consumers or connect with the public. It’s hard to imagine a business not knowing about the benefits of social media or neglecting their online reviews, but this happens more often than you might think.
According to a 2017 study, 24% of small businesses have no social media presence whatsoever. That’s about 1 in 4 business owners. The Clutch 2017 Small Business Social Media Survey says that business owners are either slow to adapt to new trends, feel skeptical of the benefits, or are too busy even to know it exists. These businesses could be missing out on hundreds (or thousands) of potential customers, qualified leads to their business website, and (in some cases) a whole lot of eCommerce trade.
Of course, not knowing about the existence of social media is an extreme example, but there will be other trends, such as mobile selling, video marketing, and artificial intelligence, that could catapult your sales and transform your business. It’s easy to ignore these trends or pass them off as fads. However, underestimating the influence they have on your customers could shorten the lifespan of your business.
2. Utilizing new tech
When change happens, it’s easy to slip back into “the old way” because it’s easier and more comfortable. As a business owner, it can be difficult to adapt to change when you know it’s going to cost you, especially if you have tight budget restraints. Change happens fast in the tech world, however, and being a “late adopter” could result in falling behind your competitors.
“I’ve met with companies of all sizes over the years and interviewed countless founders [who say] ‘Let’s wait and see if a collaborative app like Slack is really viable first; let’s hold off on embracing social media until we know more about the analytics involved; let’s move slowly with app development until the costs to hire a programmer come down.”
– John Brandon Contributing editor of Inc.com
The lesson here is that the rate at which you embrace change as a business will determine your ultimate success. Luckily, modern technology has paved the way for trend-watching to become an automatic part of business life.
For example, you can use automated tools to capture trends and help stay current. You could use an internal tool or outsource to a company like Trend Watching to monitor consumer behaviors, small business trends and changes in your industry. Again, tools like Google Alerts will send you emails when new and relevant content is published.
3. Adopting new trends
Being aware of new trends is only half of the battle. You also need to incorporate these shifts and changes into your business model. This requires flexibility and a willingness to accept new ways of working. If you’ve ever heard the term, “future-proofing,” you’ll know that keeping your feet rooted to the ground will not do your business any favors in the long-run.
So how can you track and adopt new trends with limited resources? You can automate trend-watching technologies, outsource research to a third-party, or appoint a member of your team to “trend-watching” duties. Your team can then work together to work out how to adopt them into your business. It might be useful to allocate a portion of your annual budget to research and the adoption of new technology.
Ultimately, only you can decide how you will integrate new trends into your business but staying ahead of the curve is a good starting point. Trend-tracking is critical to the success of any business. However, it’s important to remember that staying on-trend isn’t just about noticing what global happenings might impact the success of your business; it’s also about how trends and changes affect your customers.