Keeping on top of the emerging trends surrounding your business is important. This information can assist you in revising your business and marketing plans, provide information of the activities of your competitors and help you identify new areas to grow. But with limited time and resources, how do you do it? I asked Sharon Banks, senior manager for Market Intelligence at Citi* to provide some simple tips you can implement today:
Want a quick snapshot of the hot topics or key players in your industry? Go to Google and search on ‘your industry news.’ Scanning the search results can give you some insights on what’s top of mind today, as well as links to articles that you can quickly read or print for later. Get as specific as you can with the search terms you use; it will give you more relevant results. For example, typing in ‘residential construction trends news’ is more helpful than just typing ‘construction news.’ Search engine math (adding and excluding words) and the in title search command are useful: ‘intitle: Women’s Accessories +news –shoes’.
Sign up for newsletters
Visit the websites of leading trade organisations, publications or companies in your industry. Do they offer newsletters or distribute reports? Many e-Newsletters are FREE. Review the most likely, decide which are worth your time and sign up.
Join industry organisations
Industry organisations can offer access to events, forums, and resources not available to the general public. They can also help you develop new skills relevant to your trade that can give you an edge or keep you current. For contact details, search the Government and business associations directory at www.busines.gov.au/directory.
Contact the Australian Bureau of Statistics
The ABS has a wide range of business, industry and economic statistics which are regularly updated. Visit www.abs.gov.au.
Talk to your business banker
A good business banker will make it a point to keep up to date with the latest trends in finance and will also have access to useful economic data, industry reports and research. Leverage his/her expertise at various stages of your business lifecycle to ensure that you have the most appropriate financial solutions in place for your business.
Visit your competitors; take note of what they are doing well and what they are not. Don’t be afraid to use your competitor’s ideas to strengthen your own business or to highlight the things that your business does better.
Take a class
Many colleges and small business organisations offer quick half or full day classes to tune-up your skills and jumpstart your business. From technology-related courses to small business management techniques, investing time in a class can open the doors to new ways to save money, meet others, and look more favourable than your competition.
Get a sounding board
Business owners want to connect with people like themselves – people who know what it’s like to own a business and who face similar issues every day. Talk with other business owners in your area. What organisations do they belong to? Many small business networks offer monthly forums that let you discuss your business, meet new contacts and learn creative solutions to problems. Is there a business owner in your area that you admire? Call or email them. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to discuss their experiences with you if you just ask.
The best entrepreneurs keep in touch to keep ahead. Make connecting with people, organisations or resources part of your ongoing business strategy.
*Citi is a leading global financial services company, which has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 140 countries including Australia.
- James Balagot is the head of business segement, Citibank Australia (www.citibank.com.au)
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