If you were to say “spandex was so the 80s” 10 years ago, few would argue with you. Fast forward to 2015 and Spandex made a return as activewear. Did you see that coming? Probably not - but those monitoring that industry most definitely did.
Monitoring trends is what keeps your business up-to-date and in-the-know, so you know what your client wants before they do.
Most clients today aren’t looking for, say, a Federation tap installed in their bathroom. Today’s customer wants a simple standard mixer, maybe even an upmarket version. Trust us, they will tell you if they want a Federation style tap - you won’t have to try and sell it.
In the early 2000s, it was unusual for a plumber to have Jet Blasting equipment in their van or ute - it was considered specialist equipment and only specialised drain repairers would have it as standard. Fast forward to today, and if you don’t have it, you’re not a plumber.
Monitoring trends is future-proofing your business. It’s not just about knowing the latest taps, fixtures and fittings - trends affecting all of us can come from developments in technology, artificial intelligence and smart homes, fashion, finishes and home decor, new construction must-haves, and breakthrough equipment and techniques that make specific jobs easier. Many of these trends could mean you spend less time on each job, completing more jobs each day… and that leads to a healthier bottom line.
What is a trend, and why should I care?
The dictionary definition of a ‘trend’ is the general direction in which something is developing or changing. However to trend now means to be the subject of many posts on a social media website or application within a short period of time, reflecting our clients’ tendency to now seek ideas and answers online.
Trending topics reveal what is happening right now. They give you an opportunity to share your advice, information, products and services in immediate response to someone seeking them. Monitoring trends enables you to respond to what people are looking for with relevant solutions. You can offer solutions to your clients that are at worst, on par with where the industry is going, and at best, one step ahead of everyone else.
Where do I start?
If it’s new to you, monitoring trends sounds hard. How do you keep up with what’s happening in your industry, whilst still working productively?
Today, you simply can’t afford to run away or put your head in the sand at the first mention of social media. As we discussed in our Data: The Lifeblood of Your Business article, by 2020, millennials will make up roughly half of the global workforce, rising to 75% by 2030.
Your workforce and your customers are increasingly becoming digital natives. That means you have to get social.
Can’t face it? Outsource it… either to a social-savvy member of your workforce, or an external social media expert. You can’t afford not to be onboard with online.
Monitoring trends online
The good news is, most online tools for monitoring trends are free and easily accessible. Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn even Wikipedia are all the tools you can use to monitor trends. You can also check out Hootsuite which ‘listens’ to multiple social networks including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, FourSquare and Google+.
Everyone is familiar with Google. Use the Google Trends tool to see what people are searching for online, and how those trends develop over time. Compare search interest in your brand name versus a competitors, sign up to receive email notifications relating to your top trending search terms or trends around your topics of interest. If you need help, Google Trends lessons provides tips to help you improve your search results.
Twitter is the number one source of what’s happening in the world, and what people are talking about right now. One of the key benefits of Twitter is its flexibility, allowing you to control what you see, and how often. You can follow things, hear what people are talking about, and join the conversation if you desire.
Two of the best tools to use in Twitter are Twitter Lists, and Tweetdeck. Start by making yourself a Twitter List. Add accounts that deliver hot-off-the-press news in your industry. Keep it small - no more than 10 accounts - and add and remove accounts until you get the perfect list.
Once you’ve got your list, let Tweekdeck do the hard work for you. As a great option for beginners, it allows you to activate notifications to deliver updates directly to your desktop so trends and updates come to you.
Global thought leaders
Whether it’s a building company, tool or product supplier, industry body, or competitor business, there are many sources who share their research, experience, predictions, and thoughts on what the next big thing looks to be. Whether you’re looking for trends in Australia, Europe, America or globally, there are plenty of studies, surveys and articles available telling you what clients are asking for now, or soon will be.
A simple Google or Twitter search will pull you a wealth of sources as to what people from your industry are seeing. The World Plumbing Council aims to achieve the best possible plumbing for the world through growth and development of the world’s plumbing industries. With Australian member organisations representing most States and Territories, it’s worth keeping an eye on what they have to say about the industry.
Often what’s going to happen in Australia is first seen in the US and/or Europe, so they’re often good countries to follow. For example, the Home Innovation’s Builder Practices Survey reports on 1,500 home builders annually and what’s popular in new homes.
Their 2018 survey showed trends in undermount sinks, quartz countertops, single-bowl kitchen sinks, and elongated toilets. Also in the US, Housecall Pro published their trends for 2019 with some noteworthy predictions. Closer to home, follow industry news from national bodies like Master Plumbers, and/or one of their State or Territory-specific associations. All intel is good intel.
Expos, trade shows and events
By attending the latest trade shows and expos, you can get a good understanding of what trends are emerging, and find out what about ‘the next big thing’. Making the time, and spending the money, to attend industry events is an effective, easy way to keep on top of trends, but also network with others in the plumbing world to share insights.
With the rise of your clients going to the internet to find what they’re looking for, don’t find yourself in a position where your client knows more than you. Stay on top of your game to ensure your business remains relevant and on-trend. Because if Spandex can come back in vogue, then so can Federation taps.