When you're in the early days of forming a startup, it can be tempting to keep your head down with your eye on the prize. But, as many startups and high-growth companies can attest to, being aware of what's happening in the world around you is crucial to spotting opportunities and it's important to adapt your plans in order to maintain a startup's agility. Knowing the trends that are defining your industry allows you to test your business idea in the marketplace, and to establish if this idea has a chance of succeeding.

So, how do startups keep track of what's happening within the sector or vertical in which they operate? Here are three key ways:

Leverage your local network

Time is money, and while finding the time to step away from the day-to-day operations of your business can be time consuming -- and cost you financially if you're in the bootstrapping phase -- tapping into your network of resources is vital. Not only are you able to get in front of potential investors, but you'll also have the opportunity to meet partners, potential new hires and clients, and gain significant exposure for your brand. Be sure to follow up quickly with any connections you make at networking events via Twitter or LinkedIn, and set up meetings sooner rather than later if a pressing opportunity emerges.

Engage with governments and industry bodies

Many countries have government incentive programs and industry bodies specifically set up to get startups connected and provide funding. Here in the U.S., there are Small Business Administration loans available, while in Australia, government departments like the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science have various programs for startup funding. Doing your research and finding this information will not only allow you to access funds and resources to spearhead your growth, but will also help build your networks of contacts within the market verticals you're operating in.

Conduct industry research

Carving out a market niche is vital to your success as a startup, and doing industry specific research enables you to do this. For example, if you're a burgeoning edtech company, making sure that you know about all the issues affecting the wider education sector. That will enable you to develop a suite of products to address multiple issues rather than one standalone product to fix a smaller industry problem. Public libraries are a great resource where you can read up on competitors and use the business reference section to substantiate your marketing plan.

Additionally, subscribing to news sites that focus on these issues, conducting regular surveys with your target market and being aware of who the thought leaders are in this space can help you answer some vital questions, such as what are the top pain points for educators, students, and agents? How can your company and products help address these issues? When conducting this research, it's important to include findings within your marketing plan, as it shows potential investors, partners, and employees that you know your industry inside out, and know how to make an impact.

Knowledge is power, and tracking industry trends is vital. No one can predict the future, but companies that take stock of where they're at and include research findings within their marketing plans while building and maintaining their networks are more likely to reap the rewards in the long run.