How to analyze trends and determine which ones are likely to have the biggest effect

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Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest
Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest

To remain competitive and relevant, CEOs need to see far into the future and implement change in their organizations long before trends become mainstream. So how do CEOs find this vision? How do they prepare their businesses for the next big change so they don’t miss the next big opportunity?
Many seek advice from trend analysts. Some engage their leadership team to be innovative. Most are voracious readers of trade journals and business books. Still others spend time researching the marketplace and assessing trends to find insight and inspiration.
A backward glance says it all
The advertising industry has seen an enormous degree of change over the 21 years that I have led my company. The industry has been on a virtual treadmill.
We have eliminated complex processes such as art boards with Rubylith to computer files transferred via FTP sites. We’ve retooled our businesses with the birth of the Internet and the market demand for commerce websites. We have witnessed the proliferation of media channels, the impact that technology has had on consumers choosing what they watch and listen to and when they watch, the change from analog to digital formats, the wildfire adoption of social media and now the mobile revolution.
We used to have a one- to two-year lead time before some of this change hit the mainstream. Today, we are lucky if we have six months. And the rate of change seems to be coming nonstop at an accelerating pace. Looking back, it is easy to see the degree of change. But looking forward, the vision is not as crystal clear. It takes commitment, time and resources to help see what the future may hold.
Focusing toward the future
I belong to industry peer groups led by consultants who are charged with helping agency owners grow businesses and stay ahead of the curve. These consultants stay current with industry analysts and bring speaker resources to meetings to enlighten us on what we need to know.
In addition, I belong to business peer groups such as Vistage, an international peer organization that, for instance, put out an article at the end of 2010 entitled, “12 Trends That Will Define Business in the New Normal,” based on a book written by noted trend analyst William Higham, “The Next Big Thing — Spotting & Forecasting Consumer Trends for Profit.”
Higham’s top five vital trends include brand aid, simplicity, short termism, conscious consumerism and customer profiling. At a local level, Vistage hired a speaker who led us through a trends exercise to help us analyze how social change, technology, business processes, education, geopolitical and green energy trends would affect our businesses.
These types of experiences along with reports from futurists such as “The World in 2020: The Business Challenges of the Future,” published by The Futures Co., which cites eight contours of the 2020 global landscape, help me to understand trends that will impact the vitality of my business into the future. All this takes a tremendous commitment of time and resources, but it prepares me to lead my company into the future.
Bringing that vision to your internal team
As a discipline, CEOs need to find the time to analyze trends annually and determine which ones are likely to impact their businesses going forward. Focusing on the top three to five will allow CEOs to share these with their internal teams and brainstorm on innovations and solutions their company can bring to the marketplace.
I have found it helpful to prepare an annual vision report to paint the landscape of where we’ve been, where we need to go ― and to challenge the team to engage in what we need to do to get there and profit once we do.
I have been amazed by how this process has turbo-powered our ability to stay relevant and ahead of the curve.
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 21-year-old brand development, strategic marketing and digital media firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 25 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921 or [email protected], or for more information, visit