December and January are usually when we see a lot of people write about the trends of the past year or the trends to watch for in the new year. While those articles are often entertaining and sometimes useful, there is a better way to follow trends. Spot them yourself.
Spotting trends is not difficult, and you already have the tools and resources at your disposal to spot the ones that are the most relevant for your industry and your business. So, while others are checking their newsfeeds, here are some things you can do to become your own trend spotter.
Tap Your Network
Your network is a great place to be getting information about events, technology, techniques and other trends you should find more out about. Ask colleagues and mentors what surprised them about the past year or concerns them about the upcoming year. Their view expands your horizon as it pertains to opportunities and threats to your business.
Talk to Your Customers
Once you get beyond the usual “health check” conversation, your customers can be a valuable source of insights into the trends you should be watching. When you finish talking about current challenges, ask them what future developments in the industry they are looking forward to the most. Not every conversation in this area will be productive, but some may yield a nugget or two that will be worth exploring. Added to your colleagues’ ideas, you can see where a groundswell may be forming.
Look at Your Sales Data
Your sales data can certainly tell you what products or services are your “bread and butter” and which are your profitability stars. Your sales data can also tell you whether a shift in customer needs is on the horizon too. For example, examine your RFP data.
- Are there customizations being requested that share a common need and could be developed into a standard feature?
- Are there a number of RFP requests that your company did not respond to due to the nature of the work not being compatible with your capabilities but similar in type and value?
- Is there a pattern in the geographic location of the companies sending RFPs?
Compile your findings from these three exercises and a picture of emerging trends may begin to develop. If not, share your findings with someone in your organization or industry whose judgement you trust and see if the information creates a connection for them. Even if the effort does not reveal any major discoveries, you will have a deeper understanding of your industry and customers, and your company’s ability to serve them.
If you are ready to make the most of analyzing data, including RFP data, in your organization, contact us to find out how we can help make your sales and manufacturing data more visible and easier to use.