Five Ways to Spot Business Trends

Editor’s Note: The Today’s Trend segment on the Small Business Trends Radio broadcast earlier today was about Five Ways to Spot Trends. I promised I would post it in full, so that no one would have to take notes during the program. Following is the transcript of that short segment:

Our Today’s Trend segment is actually not a trend per se. It is really about the topic of trendwatching, and how to spot trends. In this Today’s Trend segment, I am going to be giving you a few of my inside secrets about how I spot trends.

Before I start, a quick word of explanation. The trends I follow are business trends. Specifically, they are trends that affect small businesses, as opposed to trends that mostly affect large corporations.

So how do I follow business trends? Many many ways, but I will describe five of them.

  • First, I subscribe to magazines. I subscribe to over two dozen business magazines. Some of the magazines on my reading stack are: Wired magazine; Business 2.0; Inc magazine; InformationWeek; Forbes magazine. These are not all that I read, but they are ones I keep coming back to. Each one has something they are particularly good at covering.
  • Second, I read multiple newspapers. My hands-down favorite: the Wall Street Journal (free sites here). The front-page center-column article is especially good for pointing out trends. I also read other newspapers, many of them online: New York Times and Washington Post tend to have good business coverage. Also the TimesOnline from the U.K. Even my local newspaper, the Akron Beacon Journal, has a good business section that focuses on small business. It was the original newspaper in the Knight Ridder chain, founded by entrepreneur John S. Knight way back when places like Akron, Ohio were the Silicon Valley-like boom towns. Don’t overlook your local newspaper — like mine it may have a tradition of excellence stretching back a long long time, regardless of size.
  • Third, I use many of the RSS feed monitoring tools and specialty search engines that have hit the market at a dizzying pace over the past 12 months. Some of my favorites: Technorati;, especially the Popular bookmarks pages (see yesterday’s post); PubSub; Rollyo; Bloglines. If you don’t know what RSS is or don’t recognize these tools I just mentioned, you are not alone. This is a very new area, and I urge you to learn about them because in the future every business searcher will be using new tools like these.
  • Fourth, I read blogs. I have a select list of blogs that I regularly read because of the insights the authors provide. I read blogs not for breaking news (the media is much better at that) but because they give an unfiltered view of how people are thinking and what they find important. I also make it a point to read at least ten new blogs a week. I find new blogs through keyword searches in my RSS feed reader programs I just mentioned, and I find them through online roundups, such as Carnival of the Capitalists.
  • Fifth, I watch TV. Yes, I freely admit it. No intellectual snobbery here. I watch cable news and also financial shows. One of my favorite networks is CNBC, because they have the best up-to-date news about what is happening in markets and business. I also tend to watch Jim Cramer’s TV show, Mad Money, even though he makes my head hurt with all his jumping around, because I learn so much. I also watch the CSI and Law and Order shows. The reason I watch those, besides being entertaining, is that they often have plots involving the latest cultural trends in the United States.

So now you have a few of my inside secrets for how I spot and isolate business trends.

And that concludes the Today’s Trend segment.

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.