By Rieva Lesonsky
A good rule of thumb in business is to always know more than the next guy. You don’t want to walk into an appointment with a small business lender and discover he or she knows more than you do about your industry. Your job as a small business owner is to constantly be learning about and then leading your industry. Feel like you don’t have time to keep up with the trends in your industry? You’ll have plenty of time when your competition puts you out of business.
Being an expert in your field can open doors to a myriad of marketing and promotional opportunities, especially if your industry or region has experienced tough economic times and you might need to work harder to convince bankers to give you a small business loan. Here are some resources to help keep tabs on industry trends:
- Google Trends. If you want to know what keywords people are searching for on a daily basis, make it a point to check Google Trends regularly. Most of the time people are looking for celebrity gossip or sports scores, but if you’re clever you could use some of the information for a promotion or two.
- Bureau of Economic Analysis. The BEA has important industry and regional economic industry information. Try searching for data on your industry and see what statistics come up.
- Trade associations also have valuable industry information. Search for associations online or consult The National Trade and Professional Associations (NTPA) Directory, available at libraries or online at www.associationexecs.com.
- The Small Business Administration has industry guides available on its website. You can also make an appointment with an expert in your industry at a Small Business Development Center or SCORE office.
- Keep your eye on your industry by staying connected to your social media platforms. Follow the Pinterest boards, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of competitors, and pay attention to what your followers are telling or asking you. Did you know YouTube has a trends blog?
- Stay in touch with your community and get out of the office once in awhile. You never know what trends you can spot while volunteering at a local school or community event.
- Talk to young people and ask what’s hot at the moment. Also, brainstorm with other businesspeople outside your industry and see if you can apply their wisdom to your industry.
- Get trends delivered to your inbox by subscribing to trend enewsletters like TrendHunter,Trendwatching and (my own) TrendCast.
- Attend tradeshows, seminars and virtual tradeshows. You can find out about shows in your area by visiting the Trade Show News Network.
- Once you’ve got a good handle on your industry, become a speaker. Speaking in front of crowds and getting feedback from your audience is always an enlightening experience and sparks new ideas. Plus getting ready for your speech forces you to research more … and keep learning.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports