10 Steps to Turn Trend Following into a Competitive Advantage

Most major organisations conduct some sort of societal trend following. It might surprise you to hear that I believe that this is a huge problem!

Think about it. They are all following the same trends, attending the same trend “shows” & conferences, and getting the same or at least very similar reports. This results in them all working on the same ideas & concepts, and eventually launching very similar products and services that will struggle to compete effectively.

Have you never wondered why suddenly everyone is talking about a certain topic, or using similar slogans, or launching similar offers? Now you know why.

Here’s how to avoid this and develop a powerful competitive advantage.

 

Market Evidence

I want to start by sharing just one example of the problem I just mentioned. Think back a few years ago and you will see that many companies started using the idea of “YES” and “NO” in their advertising. In Europe these included:

    • The Swiss Migros Bank: see the videos here – only in French & German but still easy to understand whatever language you speak.
    • Coke’s Say Yes to Love campaign.
  • Coke say yes to love

 

 

These are just three examples from very different industries, but I’m sure there are many others in the country you yourself live in. (If so do drop me a line, or share in the comments below, I’d love to hear about other examples)

Clearly the trend for more independence and freedom has been emphasised in all three organisations mentioned above. Perhaps they are working with the same trend or advertising agency. Or maybe they are buying the same external trend reports. It certainly looks like it, doesn’t it?

Companies that develop concepts based upon this type of external resource alone, can find themselves in a race to be the first to market when using the ideas that are proposed to them.

Incidentally, it is not always best to be the first when introducing new concepts to consumers, especially when they require a period of learning new ways of thinking or working.

So what can you do about it? The vital step that many – dare I say most – organisations don’t take, is to turn the trends they are following into future scenarios.

The vital step that many organisations don’t take, is to turn trends they are following into plausible future scenarios. #Trends #Scenarios #Planning #Strategy #BusinessDevelopment Click To Tweet

Scenario planning not only ensures original thinking and ideas, but also takes the development of new concepts in-house, where it belongs.

Then, the new product and service concepts, the new advertising campaigns, the new promotions that are developed are unlikely to ever be the same as those of the competition and will therefore have a greater chance of success.

 

Turn Trend Following into Future Scenarios

Organisation working with progressed trends have generally established their own process for turning trends into future scenarios. They all follow a similar pattern to the ten-step process summarised below:

Following the process as summarised above and also including all five of the additional criteria mentioned, provides the greatest chance of success in building plausible future scenarios that get actioned by your business.

If you have never done a scenario planning exercise before it may seem daunting, at least at first. Therefore, it makes sense to have an experienced external guide to support you throughout the process.

These are some first thoughts on the importance of scenario planning and how to get started in it, based upon my own experience working with many of the major Fortune 500 companies. I would love to hear your own thoughts on the best way to get a company to move from trend following alone, to the more promising process of future scenario planning.

Don’t limit your competitivity by only conducting societal trend following. Turn them into proprietary future scenarios.  That will provide you with a real advantage. If you need help, let us know; we’re ready to support you. Contact us HERE.

7 Ideas to from Great Leaders to Make Your Leadership Style More Effective

I’d like to start this post with a story about some great leaders. As you know, I published my book Winning Customer Centricity a few years ago. And being the customer centric champion that I am, I wanted to ensure that people could buy it wherever they were and in whatever format they preferred.

This meant offering hardback, paperback and Kindle versions. It also involved recording an audiobook. Now you’re probably thinking, as I myself did going into it, “How difficult is it to read out loud?”

I went for my first day of recording with not much more preparation than getting my book printed off. What a mistake! Luckily we had technical problems and Tony Johnston, who helped me with the project, decided to redo the first part again a week or so later.

That extra time gave me the chance to do two invaluable things. Firstly, to get some coaching from two incredibly talented – and patient! – actors, Pamela Salem and Michael O’Hagan. Secondly, to better prepare myself by reading the book out loud several times, and then marking it up with pauses, emphases and other notes, to make the recording more agreeable to the listener.

However, after successfully recording the first half of the book, I again fell back into my usual ways of presentation mode on the second day, and Tony once again, generously offered to re-record it. So I went back to my dream team of coaches, and did some intensive voice training and exercises. And lucky for me – and Tony – it was third time lucky. You can judge for yourself by listening to a sample on Amazon.

By now, you’re probably thinking “Nice story Denyse, but what does all of this have to do with me and my business?”

Great question; let me answer it by simply saying “A lot!” Read on, to find my easily applied learnings that will make your leadership style more efficient and effective, no matter what industry you work in. And in addition, by adopting all seven behaviours, you will be portraying a more customer centric style and become a great leader yourself.

 

1. We should never stop learning

As we rise in the corporate world, we seem to forget that we don’t know it all! We sometimes even think that we should have all the answers, or worse still, believe that we do!

I’m often quoted as saying:

“A day without learning is a day without living”

It’s vital that we continuously strive to keep learning and challenging our every-day habits and behaviours. Lifelong learning should be everyone’s mantra.

This has become increasingly important because technical advances are coming almost daily, so we need to constantly rethink the way we work. We should be adapting and integrating those technologies which could improve our business processes.

 

2. We should accept help

Some people find it hard to ask for help or even to accept it when it is offered. This is foolish, since we cannot be an expert in every area of business. In fact if we lead a team, whether just a few people or many thousands, we should above all else, be an excellent people manager.

You can never know as much as everyone under you and that isn’t your job. So stop trying to always be right. Ask the help and advice of the clever people you hired and then make the right decision based on their input.

Great leaders understand this and surround themselves with experts in different areas where they may need support. Are you a great leader?

Great leaders understand they can't do it all and surround themselves with experts in different areas where they may need support. Are you a great leader? #Leadership #Leader #Learning #Business Click To Tweet

BONUS: #8 Prepare for the Unthinkable

I would encourage all leaders to revise their vision with these seven points in mind.

But I’d like to add a bonus idea that will truly impact the success of an organisation by preparing it for future challenges. And we all know that the world is constantly changing and usually not in the ways we expect.

To face such uncertainty, I tell my clients that they should not be content with following the latest fads and trends. Everyone is doing the same thing, so there is no real competitive advantage in doing so.

Instead, I encourage them to work with future scenario planning; and you should too. I will be sharing my 10-step process in an upcoming post so I suggest you watch out for it if you want to learn more about the topic.

 

These are just a few of the ways that the great leaders I have had the privilege to meet and advise, make a real difference in their organisations. I hope you have been inspired to make a few changes in your own thinking.

If you have something to add, then please do leave a comment; the more challenging the better!

The Great Trends Hoax: They don’t give a Business a Competitive Advantage

Do you follow trends? I bet you do! Everyone likes talking about the future, imagining what it might hold and then taking pride in seeing that they were “right”, that what they had “predicted” has come true. If this is how you work with trends, then you must read this post – urgently!

There are many trend providers today, from futurologists, to trend agencies, to gurus, all claiming to have “the truth”. An ex-colleague of mine made an interesting comment to me last weekend, as we hiked up to the top of La Dole, one of the small hills in the Lac Leman area of Switzerland where I live.

We were discussing trend following and she was comparing the providers with which her company had worked in the last five or ten years. Which of them “had got it right” and which ones hadn’t. I said that I wasn’t too keen on businesses working with trends alone, as there was no competitive advantage in doing so. She then made a wonderful comment: “You’re right of course. In fact when you go to these meetings to hear about the latest trends each year, you are sitting with a group of 20, 50, 100 or often even more people, all hearing the same presentations and “predictions”. If you all go back and start working on actions to respond to the future that was just presented, you’re all doing the same things and are in a way actually making the predictions come true”.

As I said, I have never really liked working with trends other than for developing plausible future scenarios, but she had put one of my concerns into words; you don’t gain competitive advantage from following trends. Whilst they may at best provide indications of some tactical actions you might take in the short-term, trends cannot help you develop your vision and strategy.

So if you want to achieve the real advantage of following trends and to get a head-start over your competition, then it’s time you started developing your own future scenarios. How? Well, here’s a 10-step approach that I have found has worked with many of my clients, which assumes that you are already following trends of some description:

10-Step Process

  1. Identify the most relevant trends for your category from all those that you are currently following. This evaluation is often best handled by your market research and insight group, who have access to a lot of information, both internal and external, and not just on trends. If this is a new area for you all, you may decide to seek some external support to help you make these first difficult choices.
  2. Invite a group of about 10-15 people from various departments within the organisation and who have ideas about what will happen in their different areas of the business, to join your “Futures” team. I have found that when invited, few refuse and in fact more ask to join the group when they hear about it, than you really need, so you’ll get the wonderful privilege of choosing the best and most complementary members.
  3. As a team, discuss each of the selected trends in turn and how it is likely to develop in the future, say in the next 10-20 years. Really push everyone’s thinking out of the “probable” and into the “possible”. Depending upon the number of trends, this may take several meetings to pass them all under review.
  4. The market research and insight group, who will ideally be leading the whole process, should then summarise the future of each trend and the forces that will be acting upon it. Agree on the two or three main trend drivers, that are common to the developments, and which when crossed will result in four to eight future worlds.
  5. Review these worlds in another “Futures” team meeting and decide if they are all relevant for your business, or whether their impact will in fact be similar; you are looking to eventually reduce the number of worlds to a more manageable size.
  6. Describe each future world and build a story around them; a day in the life tends to work well.
  7. Identify the challenges and opportunities for the business in each of the created new worlds.
  8. Share the conclusions with the “Futures” team and refine your selection of actions for best business preparedness.
  9. Illustrate each of the worlds that you have selected as being of most relevance. To make them inspirational for everyone with whom you share them, why not try something different? We work with storytelling, visualisation and videos to get the findings across in the most exciting way.
  10. Present to top management and enjoy sharing with them your identified opportunities and challenges, which from my own experience they will never have imagined before.

You will notice that the last step of the process is the presentation to management. Of course in reality it is only the beginning, as you will then need to support each business in defining solutions to answer the challenges and opportunities identified.

Additional steps for Regional / Global players

Also, if you work in a regional or global role, you will need to follow up with regional and global presentations, to ensure that everyone appreciates the necessity of working together on the trends, their progress and their impact on business. They also need to understand that it will be important to alert markets behind them on certain trends and what may happen to them, as well as to observe those ahead of them to prepare their own market for changes.

Scenario planning is a company project, not a departmental one, which is why trend following cannot be left to each market or business unit to do on its own. Have fun with your own scenario developments and enjoy the unique chance of inspiring the whole business with the opportunities and challenges you have identified. It is much more rewarding than presenting trends, which have merely grown or declined from one year to the next.

Have you had experience in developing scenarios yourself? If so, please share what worked or didn’t for you, and let me know if you would add any important steps from your own process, to the ones I have mentioned above.

For more information on scenario planning, vision and strategy development, please check out our website:  https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

If you would like our help in developing an inspiring story about what your business’s future worlds could be, and what challenges and opportunities may await you in 10, 15 or even 20 years from now, then why not contact us for an informal discussion? NO Obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C3Centricity.com uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

Sign up for more!

Insight Development Masterclass for Marketers & Researchers

$49.99

Get Immediate Access

Our Latest Podcasts

Write For Us

See Denyse at these Events

  • No events

Denyse’s Guest Blogging

Featured Author on Business 2 Community

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want me to catalyse your growth and profitability, just book a call.

Join Global Customer First Strategists!

Get our latest posts before everyone else, and exclusive content just for you.

* indicates required

Every CEO knows that a stronger customer focus can be the answer to many – dare I say most? – of their business challenges! So why do so many companies…

What makes a great website? What makes a website great for your customers? What makes a website great for your potential customers? The answers to these questions will help you…

Every business should strive to improve their customers’ experience with their products and services. Adopting a customer first strategy is therefore often mentioned as a company objective. Unfortunately, it rarely…

Mapping your customer journey is an important part of understanding and satisfying them better. Since the travel and leisure industries are still in turmoil after covid, I believe that now…

Most major organisations conduct some sort of societal trend following. It might surprise you to hear that I believe that this is a huge problem! Think about it. They are…

I’d like to start this post with a story about some great leaders. As you know, I published my book Winning Customer Centricity a few years ago. And being the…

The covid pandemic clearly highlighted those companies that truly care about their customers and which provide customer service excellence. If a company claims to be customer centric then it is…

How do you know when you have too many variants in your brand portfolio? In my opinion, the answer is that it’s when you can’t answer that question! Can you? One of…

In most countries, the population have a love / hate relationship with their police. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, to find myself writing about how they appear to be…

Do you consider your packaging to be a part of the product, protecting its contents and framing its on-shelf life? Or do you consider it to be an integral part…