So much of your marketing success depends on your ability to get the right message in front of the right people at exactly the right time. To accomplish this, you need to know your audience - and the market that they inhabit - as intimately as possible.
But what happens if one day, suddenly and without warning, that market begins to change? Worse yet, what happens if this trend started while you weren't necessarily paying as much attention as you should have been? The answer is both unfortunate and straightforward: you'll be stuck playing "catch up."
This is a situation that you do NOT want to find yourself in. Here are a few key signs that indicate a market change may be taking place.
Product Innovation Is No Longer a Key Value Driver
You've worked hard to build a robust and stable business and nobody offers what you do in quite the same way. You've had a tremendous amount of success relying on this type of innovation up to this point as a result. However, if things start to shift in the opposite direction, you may be looking at a market change that you'll want to adapt to as fast as you can.
Simply put, product innovation - that is, the quality of what you do and how you do it - should always be the key value driver for your business. If you start to have to fall back on things like your prices, the reputation of your brand, or simply your ability to "out market" your competition, it's likely that your audience is reaching a maturity level that will represent a challenge in the future.
Look to Your Competitors
Competitors are not always a hurdle to be overcome. Oftentimes, they can be the "canary in the coal mine," so to speak, especially in a situation like this one. Take a look at some of the leaders in your industry, especially competitors that are larger than you are. What are they doing? Are they growing or retracting? Are they doing something that nobody else is doing because they can see something coming down the road that nobody else does? Keeping an eye on the health of your larger competitors can be a great way to stay ahead of the larger market trends that may be right around the corner.
Listen to Your Customers
Ultimately, the most important thing you can do to identify signs that your market may be changing requires you to see your marketing strategy as a two-way street. You're not just communicating with your audience; your audience is also communicating with you. If you're having a hard time getting solid insight into the direction of your industry and market alone, cut out the middleman and go right to the source: ask your audience what they see as their future needs in the areas you've dedicated yourself to serving.
Send out surveys or questionnaires asking for raw, honest insights into the questions you're asking yourself today. Take a current client or customer out for dinner and ask them what they see for the next five or even ten years in your industry. Never forget that without these people, your business wouldn't exist - so it's in your own best interest to listen to them as often as possible.