At the beginning of the year it is customary to look at trends. In this post we briefly examine a trend that businesses need to follow or they will fall behind.
Will things get worse? How will I keep my business afloat? Where can I find opportunities to grow?
In the midst of economic uncertainty at the start of the New Year questions like these may cause anxiety but they are essential to avoid stagnation and decline. Looking at trends in your business and market is one way to orientate yourself and your business to the pathways that lead to growth and to avoid those that are heading smack into a solid wall.
Trend spotting can be valuable for any business. It goes without saying that whether you are part of a large corporation, a business proprietor or entrepreneur, a solid understanding and knowledge of economic trends is vital for adjusting and even capitalising on the expected economic conditions whether fair or foul.
Watch customer buying trends
Industry or market trends that directly affect your business are just as important. Buying trends and preferences, whether you are in business-to-business or consumer markets, are vital and need to be closely watched. To be on top of the labyrinth of your customer’s mind, you need to spend at least a few hours a week studying their needs and desires.
Trends for the smaller entrepreneurial business this year that need looking at include the continuing growth of business on the Internet, cloud computing, the ever-growing cell phone market, the need to reduce costs and find more effective ways to market products and services using traditional and on-line methods, particularly social media — all of which means creating greater customer value.
Magazines provide a case in point. As traditional media, magazines need to play catch up with using social media as part of their reader retention and acquisition strategies. The integration of social media with traditional offline media products such as magazines certainly looks set to grow. For those magazines that ignore this trend or are too slow to adapt, the consequences could be fatal. A woman’s magazine recently closed with the publisher saying that they took too long to integrate with social media and come out with a user-friendly digital edition. These digital editions or many of them are so cumbersome that it is hardly worth the effort trying the view them online. I subscribed to a newspaper digital edition and did not renew my subscription. Fortunately, it was only for three months.
But the malaise with magazines is deeper. In a highly competitive media space magazine content is just not cutting it with readers (circulation figures are drastically down) — not for all magazines but most of them. They just have not done enough reader research. They haven’t used creativity processes to find solutions to keep readers and deepen their reader experience. This is what comes from myopic thinking, looking at what the industry is doing and not examining other industries for break-out ideas.
Quickly grasp this
One trend that continues to grow and which is of great interest to us at ideaaccelerator.co.za is innovation. Riding out the economic storm, leading companies and entrepreneurial businesses have quickly grasped the importance of innovation — from new technologies, product development and marketing to consumer insights and business models.
Small businesses have innovated by reducing the costs of doing business, being more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, finding ways to attract good employees, and effectively marketing their products and services offline and online. Sadly, given the number of business failures, it’s clear that too few small businesses are innovative. But for those that continue to grow despite the current economic malaise, continuous innovation is core to their success. Among these innovators are those business owners who are quick to use the methods and techniques for new idea generation and creative strategic approaches that we have covered in past updates on ideaaccelerator.co.za.
Keep innovation constant
It’s not just the big ideas that are important for innovation. Take, for example, the following analogy from the cricket world. If we look at the double-century cricket score of Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s greatest modern-day batsman, we see that in the match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Newlands, he scored 224 from 325 balls. In that score only 31 balls were 4s and one was a 6 (325 balls, 31 x 4 1 x 6). It was the constant batting of smaller scores that allowed him to reach his record score.
Innovation needs to be a constant part of our business lives. A steady, constant flow of ideas is necessary if we want to be successful. Yes, sure the big idea can be earth-shattering, game-changing or make a large impact to our business or in the marketplace. But the big ideas are often few and far in between. We need to innovative every day even if it is sometimes in small ways. These have an accumulative effect.
The choice is yours if you want to stand still in such an economy. To stop growing, to hesitate and wait for change to happen to your business, means that you are prepared to put everything at risk. New ideas meet change head on and spur growth. If you want to embrace change, to not stop growing, then use innovation to keep your business from stagnating or even running into terminal decline and eventual closure.