5 Ways CMOs Can Monitor The Trends That Matter Most To Their Small Businesses
Here are some tips to keep on top of trends that could impact the way you go to market—and help grow—your small business.
by John Hall
Posted on 03-02-2020
Trendspottingmight be a CMO’s single most important task. But when you’re leading marketingat a small business and wearing many different hats, finding the time can betough. How can you hope to think about what’s next when you’re overwhelmed bywhat’s in front of you?
Planning can’t be pushed to the wayside. Here are some tips to keep on top of trends that could impact the way you go to market—and help grow—your small business.
1. Check Search Trends
One of the best ways to spot new trends is to check search data. Rising search volumes are a sure sign that a trend is spreading. Think of search reports as national or worldwide surveys you don’t need to conduct yourself. Plenty of free tools exist that display top trends and let you search for specific ones you’re interested in.
Say your CEO is thinking about partnering with a specific company. You can search the company’s name in one of the trends tools to gauge consumer interest in that company. High, sustained search volumes indicate greater potential marketing value than low, jagged ones.
Look, too, where interest is concentrated. Michiganders might search the company of interest more frequently than other Americans, suggesting the state may be the ideal place to announce the partnership.
One caveat: Search data is useful, but it can’t actually clue you in to consumer sentiment about the topic. For that, you’ll want to search for relevant poll data.
2. Look Into Niche Industries
What if the topic you’re interested in isn’t one that pollsters have looked into? Look at emerging industries: Most trends do not start in mature markets, which tend to be dominated by incumbents. Banks may be investing in blockchain now, for example, but fintech startups have been looking into it for years.
In marketing, many big-name brands and agencies are still betting on pay-per-click (PPC) and programmatic advertising. Look into emerging sectors like cannabidiol (CBD), though, and you’ll see that email, content, and social media marketing tactics are on the rise.
That said, don’t take any one company or industry’s word as gospel. Ask around: Only if you find a consensus should you assume it’s a trend.
3. Ask Your Customers
Some trends are specific to your brand. Will your customer service speed remain a differentiator, for instance, or have competitors in your space caught up?
To find out, check with your customers. Online survey tools work well for certain types of feedback, but don’t expect customers to spend a lot of time with them.
If you want yes-no or numerical feedback, send out a survey; for more in-depth topics, such as how your user experience could be improved, convene a focus group, which allows you to have extended conversations with customers. Keep the group size between six and 12 participants, and be sure to compensate them. Even gift cards or product credits show customers that you appreciate their input.
Because their livelihood depends on staying on top of trends, social media influencers are an excellent source of information and can provide insight beyond what you uncover via search. Beauty trends, for instance, can be hard to find through publicly available polls, search data, or customer comments. But you can bet Instagram influencers in the space know what looks and styles will be popular.
5. Sit In On Interviews
As CMO, you’re probably already part of the interview process for marketing hires. Instead of joining only for that final interview, get involved earlier. Not only will you gain more control over who’s on your team, but you’ll get fresh-from-the-market perspectives on new trends that matter to your business.
Come prepared with a list of questions about the topics you’re interested in, but don’t be afraid to let the conversation drift. If a candidate brings up something unprompted, dig deeper: Did she expect to talk about it because she sees a trend you do not?
You may not have a crystal ball, but you can predict what’s coming if you know where to check. Take advantage of processes you’re already a part of. Look up data that’s freely available online. No matter how busy or budget-hungry you are, you can still find ways to look forward.
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