Would you invest in the pizza trend today? That all depends on where you believe the trend is heading – up or down.
With hindsight, we can look at this trend and identify some of the factors that led to its growth: convenience, growing families, working moms, increased disposable income, swarms of hungry teens, delivery anywhere, anytime, etc. If you knew these factors in the 1970s, the pizza business would have been a great investment. Knowing the factors that would grow the trend, you could position your business advantageously in the growth cycle.
In hindsight, can you identify other trends that would have made a great business opportunity? Of course! Hindsight is easy. The critical question is:
Can you change hindsight into foresight?
If future trends can be identified based on changing lifestyles, then developing a business strategy based on those trends makes sense. Take the aging Baby Boomers for example. They are impacting the health industry with their concern over food quality, lifestyle issues and eating choices. With a huge amount of disposable income and leisure time, social activities, travel and hobbies are of great interest. Since there are many more boomers on the way, it would be safe to assume that the market demand for health-related products and leisure time activities will also substantially increase.
Identifying lifestyle trends is relatively easy. However, knowing how to market and serve them requires more thought. Most business owners are so exhausted with making it through today that they postpone planning for tomorrow. To complicate their situation, business trends are also changing. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, so positioning your business for the long term also requires a rethinking of today’s marketing and customer service strategies.
Take traditional advertising for example. In the day when the local radio station and newspaper were the primary source of news and information, it made sense to put your advertising message where the masses were looking. But consider how fragmented those two vehicles have become. With cable and the Internet, consumers have the option of thousands of radio stations, each one targeting a specific listening audience. The print media litters our landscape with so much advertising material that the average person has become numb. Add to that the growing number of other choices on our time–satellite TV, MP3s, CDs, magazines, the Internet, etc–and I challenge you to ask: “Am I spending my hard-earned money advertising to audiences that are no longer there?”
Considering all the advertising being thrown at us, is it surprising that we suffer from a feeling of mental and emotional paralysis – like kids in a huge candy store? It becomes increasingly difficult to sort out what’s best.
We’re living in the New Economy but continue to use marketing strategies from the old one. We’re numb to advertising – on just about everything – but we add to the clutter each time we approve another ad. We’re not sure if it’s effective but without an alternative, we do it anyway. We tout the importance of customer service but don’t take the time to train our staff. We know the value of ‘thank you’ cards but our database is incomplete. The shop needs a facelift; but that’s for another day. We’re overwhelmed with all the things we need to do. What we really want is for everything to stand still while we catch up. Fuggetaboutit.
“Trend cycles are emerging more rapidly as a result of technology, accelerated social diffusion, instantaneous communication and more willingness to accept–or inability to escape–new ideas,” states Hallmark trends expert Marita Wesely-Clough. “When everything is accessible instantaneously, the ability to assimilate, to differentiate and to choose becomes more difficult.”
(Next month: The Consumer is in Charge)