How to Spot Business Trends (That Matter)

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Sara Cravatts
Sara Cravatts

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Over on Trends, our community members have front-row seats to predictions and analysis on future business opportunities. 

But how does the Trends team consistently discover emerging ideas? Spoiler: Our analysts aren’t psychics — they’re skilled researchers implementing a tried-and-tested formula.

“We do not predict the future,” says Trends analyst Ethan Brooks. “We find surprising opportunities that exist right now.”

Brooks spilled the secrets on how the Trends team uncovers, proves, and expands upon hidden business opportunities, and breaks the process down into a formula that you can replicate yourself. 

While his presentation does a deeper dive into the process, the three top-level steps to leveraging useful business trends are:

1. Spotting: know where to look to find hidden demand 

When identifying trends, it’s important to consider what makes an opportunity worth betting on: A great trend is surprising, data-backed, and tied to real opportunities.

Finding valuable trends is often about knowing where to look. If you discover a business idea on a mainstream site or account, that means it’s likely too late to make it your own. 

But by implementing lesser-known tools and putting time into the digging, you can unearth something truly unique and worthwhile. 

Some effective spotting tools that Trends analysts utilize:

  • Niche communities: Read through groups on Facebook, Slack, Discord, Reddit, etc., and see where the enthusiasts are headed
  • One-on-one interviews with operators in the trenches 
  • SEC (Securities and Exchange Committee) filings: Search within quarterly and annual reports, which often disclose information about the company’s risks and competition 
  • Pitch decks from entrepreneurs: Look for them on Google
  • Niche VC blogs: They write about decisions behind their investments
  • Hedge funds: They often publish short-position reports and other analysis on the market

2. Vetting: tools and questions to help validate demand 

Once you’ve identified a trend you think has potential to take off, you need to do your due diligence and vet the idea before moving forward. 

Focus on being able to answer three questions in the vetting stage, using some of the tools listed below: 

1. How many people have this problem?
  • Look to journalism and research reports, subreddits, Keywords Everywhere, and Ahrefs 
2. Is that number going up or down?
  • Look to Google Trends, Pinterest Trends, and Subreddit Stats
3. Are they spending money to solve it?
  • Look to Similarweb (which estimates website traffic), SEC filings (annual filings can show business growth and industry trends), Crunchbase (gives info on VC investments), and Jungle Scout (shows Amazon searches and product sales data) 

3. Ideating: turning insight into valuable business ideas 

So you’ve identified and vetted an idea, and now you’re ready for the next step. 

To take an insight and turn it into something meaningful — whether that’s a new product, marketing campaign, or an entirely new venture — you need to implement a last step to bridge the gap between your idea and taking action.

Some of the Trends team’s favorite ideation tactics include:

  • Recent funding: Who’s raising money? Any business ideas you can copy, or products and processes you could execute better?
  • Unbundling: Split a big service down into niche services
  • Other geographies: What’s popular elsewhere that could work at another location?
  • Acqui-deaths: Look for business that were successful, but bought and closed by big corporations 
  • Three-star reviews on the App Store, Trustpilot, and Amazon: Three-star reviews are filled with constructive criticism from customers. By looking at the reviews of companies within your industry, you can gather ideas and feedback for your own venture 

Ultimately, “It’s not about access to magical data; it’s about knowing how to use existing tools a little bit better than most people, and about knowing how to see things and getting in touch with your own sense of curiosity,” says Brooks. 

For deeper insights into uncovering Trends, and for details and instructions on all of the above tips, check out the full video presentation here

 

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