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I recently got some tips from Christine Hayes, Director of Market Insight and leader of a very cool and innovative research team. She shared her thoughts on trend spotting and tracking; a process that can identify opportunities, predict competitor strategies and expose industry movements. Here are a few tips from the expert:
If you are looking to stay on top of what's happening in your market, you need to track the trends in products or services, buzz words and growth areas. This first step can be the hardest part. You have to catch the trend at an early point in its life, which can be difficult because the terminology used to describe it may vary widely. At this point, try looking back at the historic mentions of the trend terms in the news and in blogs over five years. Dig into any coverage peaks. Was there an event, like an acquisition or viral video, that fueled the increase in interest?
Once you identify a trend in your marketplace, you need an action plan for taking advantage of this learning opportunity. Find a tool to access and analyze media coverage from major news outlets, local and niche news sources, blogs, company profiles and business news like press releases, M&A filings, executive move announcements and social media. Think about what you'll need both in content and in technology to answer these questions:
Once you established your means of research, dig into the drivers of the trend. In particular, you want to look at the companies—your competitors if you're looking to turn this trend into an opportunity—that are in play in this space. Look at the companies that are mentioned in articles along with your trend. Acquisitions and hiring initiatives can tip off movement into a new market. Another way to spot companies in play is to dig in to peaks of media mentions or activity. What caused those spikes? Who were the key contributors to the activity?
You've discovered a trend at it's earliest point. You've set up the tools and resources to research and watch the life of it, and you've painted a picture of the marketplace as it stands today. *Pat yourself on the back* Now you have to watch it ebb and flow as you decide to enter into the trend or not. At this point, to keep a close pulse on the trend, you need to continue to look at a broad variety of media; newspapers, blogs, television, magazines, social. Keep a running analysis of the past 100 days coverage. Answer questions like who is talking about it? Where are they talking about it? What terms are they using to talk about it? How do they feel about the trend (sentiment)? If you're making the investment to capitalize on this trend, you need to know how your competitors are approaching the market. You also want to keep a close eye on the life stage of the trend. By definition, a trend is a practice or interest that is gaining popularity. You need to know when the popularity has peaked and adjust your plans accordingly.
Your research is fueling a business decision, therefore, you need to share insights with your team and stakeholders. You intimately know the sprawling spreadsheets, endless lines of data and false alarms, but to communicate your findings, leave the gory details out of the story if you want people to engage with your research. Think about how you can present your hard-earned insights in a succinct way. Data visualization has been a proven method for clearly communicating complex ideas and creating sticky stories. It is visual storytelling—the intersection of data and information. Christine shared with me some of her favorite examples of data visualization. Check out these resources the next time you're in need of a creative hand when presenting your trend spotting, research and monitoring analysis.
Christine's best practices can help our trend spotting, but without the right information or all the information, we cannot make an accurate assessment of a trend. Christine and her team use Nexis and Nexis Analyzer to research and analyze media coverage and trends.