The 2022 HubSpot Inbound conference offered some excellent educational sessions for marketing teams, sales executives, and business leaders. One that I found particularly interesting was run by Trends, a paid newsletter that offers its members access to ideas, communities, and events that help them grow their business. Trends’ presentation highlighted the concept of business trendspotting. How do you find the real business trends versus fads, and then how do you capitalize on them? Let’s touch on the biggest takeaways of that presentation and what they can teach us about identifying and capitalizing on the right business trends.

The River of Knowledge

Before explaining Trends’ 3-step philosophy on trendspotting, the Trends presenter offered a visual for how to think about business trends. Finding a valuable trend isn’t akin to looking into a crystal ball and predicting the future. It’s about intercepting the uneven current of information and ideas that spread across society. He used the comparison of a river to explain this more clearly.

Trends begin in niche communities which exist far upstream, away from the view of the general public. As the knowledge flows down river, social media post, blogs, newsletters, and mainstream news start to disseminate it. Finally, near the bottom of the river’s winding branches, the trend becomes visible to the general public. The key to capitalizing on trends is tapping into that river of knowledge when the idea is still floating upstream, so you can be at the forefront of the conversation.

The Three-Step Process to Finding Valuable Business Trends

Trends highlighted a three-step philosophy to finding valuable business trends: First you must know where to look (Spotting), then you must validate the trend’s demand (Vetting), and then finally you must turn what you found into a viable business idea (Ideating).

Step 1: Spotting

In this first phase of business trendspotting, we’re trying to absorb what’s going on in an industry through our observations and seek out trends where they originate. Part of correct observation is knowing where to look. In Trends’ presentation, they recommended starting with these areas of opportunity:

  • Niche communities where you can access unfiltered conversations
    • Ex: Related subreddits, Facebook groups, or tools like Slofile which create a database of public Slack groups that can be searched and joined based on topics
  • Interviews with experts in the space
    • Ex: Tools like Interview Her allow you to find female experts in various industries
    • Ex: Cision owns HARO and ProfNet, which are resources that help content writers source interviews
  • Financial Filings like SEC 10K, Form 990, and franchise disclosure documents (FDDs) that can help you understand what publicly traded companies, nonprofits, government agencies, and franchisors are working on
  • Pitch decks for investors that can be found via a Google search of the industry name plus the words “pitch deck” and the file type (PDF)
  • Investor blogs that highlight certain industries
  • Email newsletters for smaller, more specific audiences

Step 2: Vetting

If you think you’ve spotted a trend, the next thing to do is decide whether it’s a real trend or just a passing fad. So, how do you go about that? Trends recommends answering three key questions: How many people have the need? Is that number going up or down? Are people spending money to solve it?

To determine how many people have the need, you must look at the size of the market. What’s the average monthly search volume around those keywords? What levels of traffic are the most popular websites getting around that topic?

Does that market need appear to be getting bigger or smaller over time? To figure out of the number is going up or down, you’ll use tools that are designed to monitor trends like Google Trends, Subreddit Stats, and Pinterest Trends.

The final piece of the vetting equation is uncovering whether people are spending money trying to solve for the need. This solidifies that the trend has high potential and is more likely to be long-lasting. Online tools like Jungle Sprout, for example, show information around search volume, sales trends, and purchasing patterns across Amazon so you can gauge the demand of different products. For social channels, Facebook and TikTok both offer ad libraries that will show what people are advertising and how well ads are performing across geographies.  

Step 3: Ideating

Once you’ve validated the trend as a potential opportunity, it’s time to think about how you want to capitalize on it.

On the marketing front, this could mean creating thought leadership content around the topic to draw inbound leads to your websites or landing pages. In depth blogs, podcast interviews, explainer videos, and eBooks are just a few of the marketing assets you could create.  

On the sales front, you’ll want to think about which products or services you could offer to create something of value. For example, could you unbundle a larger product or service to better target a niche audience?  Or, if the niche is already being served, try coming at it from a new angle? Trends also recommended looking for competitors’ three-star reviews to find the common theme of what their product or service may be missing. Could you improve on that?

At the end of the day, identifying any lasting business trend is going to take observation skills and data digging. The good news is, once you capture the idea or knowledge that’s still “upstream” on that proverbial river, you’ll have a secret weapon for innovative sales and scalable marketing. Trends’ presentation at Inbound really got my wheels turning on these concepts. Hopefully the takeaways shared in this post do the same for you!

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