From iced mochas to mobile marketing: how to spot trends

By Rieva Lesonsky

Learning to spot trends—and act quickly to take advantage of them—will help you succeed in your business. Don’t confuse a trend with a fad, which can be fleeting (think Pet Rock). Trends, which can last for decades, can be innovative products (like iPods or Barbie dolls) or they can be changes in how we live (like dual-income households and serving baby boomers in America).

How do you actually spot a trend? First, in order to “catch the worm,” you need to act like that proverbial early bird and get a head start. Read industry trade publications, which frequently give you the scoop on what’s new in your industry. Trends are not exclusive, so be sure to keep an eye on industries that are outside your own, but related to yours. Think about industries whose target markets have similar demographics to yours—whether that’s skateboarding teens or working moms.

You can also piggyback off an emerging trend that big businesses are investing in. For instance, a hot food trend (or fad) seems to emerge every year. At one point coffeehouses were a new concept. By being aware of what’s new and different, many smart entrepreneurs were able to start their own local coffeehouses before Starbucks got to their cities.

Many trends are born out of changing demographics. My generation (the baby boomers) has influenced many industries, and will continue to do so for many years.

In the same way, the tens of millions of Americans born from around 1987 to the present (the Millennials) will revitalize many businesses. In the next few years, look for this generation to get married in large numbers, which will definitely impact home and furniture purchases and lead to yet another baby boom.

While you should get in early, it’s not necessary to be first to market. Sometimes being second or third to market is actually easier, since you don’t have to explain the need for your product or service.

Want to read more about spotting trends? Check out these trend-watching sites: SpringwiseTrendcentral and Trendwatching. And of course you can subscribe to my free TrendCast e-newsletter.