Like it or not, your industry is changing. Everything changes; it always has, and it always will. You can keep up with and be part of the changes, or you can overlook and ignore changes and let others pass you by.
I don't know about you, but I prefer to keep up with what's trending in my industry. It's not always easy, especially in a field like marketing, but I've managed to recognize and change with what's shifting in my field. To help you do the same, here are seven ways you can identify and evolve with trends in your industry:
1. Take advantage of industry research and trends reports.
One of the simplest things you can do to better recognize trends is read research reports or solution guides. Often, industry leaders perform original research and compile their findings in one large report, and by taking the time to actually read through it beyond the executive summary, you can almost always find something in it that's valuable and relevant to what's trending right now in your space.
As the CEO of a content marketing agency, I like following a variety of marketing reports to stay on top of trends--whether it's reading about trends in content marketing from Content Marketing Institute's research reports or digging through a specific reports from ITSMA's report library.
These reports don't contain the word of god or anything, but reading a variety of reports can help you get a feel for the landscape and where things are headed. And you can use the info you gather for things like building keynote speeches or simply just making sure you're leading your company in the right direction.
2. Regularly follow publications and influencers in your industry.
Let's be honest--we don't all have the time or desire to read through every interesting report a leader in our space produces. If you aren't in it for the long read, a good alternative is making a point to read through top blogs and publications in your industry every day.
A lot of the articles in those publications will probably reference data from the longer reports you don't have time to read in full anyway, so you can still gather that info in a more conversational, easy-to-digest format. For example, I wrote an article on PR trends in 2016, and in that article, I include data from industry reports, along with my personal experiences in the industry--both of which help my readers evolve with trends.
3. Use different tools and analytics systems to identify the direction trends are heading.
Depending on your industry, your audience, your goals, and even the size of your company, different tools and metrics will be important to you to identify trends.
Fortunately for me, when I look at things like Google Trends, I can see from a big-picture perspective that the area my company specializes in--thought leadership--is steadily increasing in search interest. To break it down more specifically, my marketing team uses tools like Google AdWords and Moz to better pinpoint exact keywords and queries, and from there, we can analyze the big picture and the smaller picture to evolve with those trends.
Whatever you use, it's important to use a variety of tools together (from Google to your CRM system to a customizable analytics template) to track your customers' behavior, any correlations among a specific audience, and your performance.
4. Make it a point to surround yourself with smart people.
Have you ever heard the saying, "If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room"? Well, it's true--and especially so if we're talking about trends and evolving your company with them.
I spoke at the Collision Conference (and at ITSMA shortly after), and between the two, I feel like there are a lot fewer surprises that can blindside me--the countless intelligent people at those events gave me a better pulse on where the industry is heading.
5. Build and maintain a close group of advisers.
"Boards of advisers" never really got me excited as a young entrepreneur--and, honestly, I still don't care for them. The formality and structure of boards like these always seemed to stifle the kind of candid, conversational elements that make relationships so valuable.
Instead, I keep a very close group of friends, peers, and partners as my informal group of advisers. Together, they're able to show me all kinds of different perspectives, help me see things that weren't on my radar before, and spot what's coming around the curve. And I can do the same for them.
6. Ask the right questions, and listen to your customers.
Don't be afraid to ask current customers what's on their radars and what they see as future needs in their areas. You can get solid insight into trends in general, and you can start developing more specific plans for your company to grow and better service clients down the road. I love grabbing dinner with a current client, hearing more about what the next five years might look like for them, and finding out what they need from us along the way.
We recently did this with publishing books as a service. Enough clients indicated it as a future need, and we realized that if we want to grow with them, we needed to find some way (either through our own offerings or through partnerships) to meet this need. Without asking customers the right questions, we may not have started testing this service for them.
7. Learn to accept--and even embrace--change.
My team has battled this idea a lot in the past with leads whose leadership teams were reluctant to change or evolve with content marketing. And I get it--it's hard to try something different when you're in your comfort zone and things are going well for you.
However, if you get too comfortable and adapt to trends too late in the game, a competitor will beat you to the punch. Then, instead of staying ahead of those trends, you'll quickly try to play catch-up, which can cause even more problems in your execution. Accepting trends and change as facts of life and embracing them can help you avoid that.
Whether you're ready for them or not, trends change industries every day. Knowing what's coming around the corner and evolving your company alongside those changes can keep you competitive.