Do you know where your industry is headed? And how do you become the “Chief of What’s Next” for your business?
While there are tools and specialists you can employ to figure this out, none will be more effective than simply following these seven tips:
1. Study the 1,000lb gorilla in your industry
Unless you are creating a whole new industry category or product, chances are you have a leading giant in your industry. To use a play directly from CEO of Salesforce.com Marc Benioff’s playbook, watch and learn. It’s unbelievable what Marc was able to learn just by watching Oracle — the industry giant of the time — and it was a play that eventually led Salesforce.com to single handedly conquering Oracle.
Things to look for while watching your industry giant: their strategy, chinks in their armour, their overall direction, what businesses they are selling and buying.
2. Pick a “smart metric”
Everyone talks about smart goals and analyzing metrics from the past against those goals. However, a smart metric is completely different. A smart metric is a metric that indicates the future of your business.
For example, a smart metric (or “future indicator”) for a residential cleaning company would be the number of permits pulled for new houses in their area. They always know if their market is growing, shrinking, and what/where their opportunities are.
Personally, I love smart metrics. If you can find what they are for your industry, you can can sleep a little better on Friday nights.
3. Find a person you can either “follow” or get to know personally, who is an expert in your industry
There is an old adage that says you can’t lead somewhere you’ve never been, or give someone something you don’t have. I personally get frustrated when people listen to consultants who have no experience in the area for which they are consulting.
The reverse is true, however: When you either “follow” or build a relationship with an expert in your industry, it’s amazing what you can learn. And now, with blogs, you don’t even need a personal relationship with that person to be mentored by them. That being said, it never hurts to ask.
Years ago, I wanted to learn all I could about marketing, and while I never reached out or asked Seth Godin to be my friend personally, I subscribed to everything he wrote, read all of his books, and from a distance, Seth Godin mentored me in marketing.
Another mentor of mine was Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com. I was new to Software as a Service (SAAS) when we started building TSheets, and I had a lot of questions. I read everything Marc posted, and all of his books, and I even reached out to him personally.
It’s worth finding an expert.
4. Google Alerts for your competitors’ names, industry key words, etc.
This is simple and yet I’m surprised by how few actually use it. Set Google Alerts for your industry keywords, the giant in your industry, and even for private equity firms and venture capitalists that focus on your industry. The latter is something that isn’t typically done, but is effective in understanding the direction investors think your industry is headed.
5. Mergers and Acquisitions
An enormous amount can be learned about where your industry is headed, based on — as we just mentioned — where private equity firms are investing their money.
You can also learn a lot by paying attention to what the “giants” in your industry are merging with or acquiring. Don’t look at face value, however—look at the intellectual property and the strategy behind the acquisitions. Ask yourself why a company would be buying. If you don’t know why, it’s a good indication that you don’t know where people think your industry is headed.
One thing that has changed recently is that investors have become much more transparent online, especially in blogs. Find an investor that has invested heavily in a company in your industry and read what they are saying about it. There is usually more to their strategy than just a diversified portfolio. Find out the “why” behind each acquisition. You might as well use this new internet-transparency game to your advantage.
If you’re anything like me, you’re not a huge proponent of conferences. It can be easy to invest a lot of money into a conference and not get a good return. It can also be a distraction and a huge waste of time and beer money as well.
However, don’t underestimate a conference’s ability to provide insight into industry trends. It’s at least worth a fly-in to get an overarching, high-level view of how service providers from a particular industry are trying to position themselves, and an infrequent opportunity to talk person-to-person with a large number of service providers in your industry.
7. LinkedIn Interest Groups
It never hurts to be a part of industry interest groups. Shockingly, service providers and customers are unusually transparent in LinkedIn Groups. I’ve been consistently surprised by what I’ve been able to learn by taking a few minutes to read through Q&As and open dialogues that takes place in these forums.
Start using these seven ways to track industry trends today, and quickly become an expert on your industry. At TSheets, our industry trends expert carries the title “Chief of What’s Next” and is an invaluable part of our organization.
Let me know how these tips are working for tracking the industry you’re in.