Your business is always evolving – at least it should be if you’re interested in keeping current with where your customers are at. Whether you’re in retail, non-profit, or the academic sector, your marketing manager’s goal should be to be an avant-garde thinker that is growth oriented. The direction of that growth will be determined by what your customers want.

The next step is figuring out what that looks like exactly.

Forecasting Your Own Patterns

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll know that how you’ve done businesses has adapted over the years. Perhaps you’ve changed services or added new products. Maybe the change hasn’t been about product but about terms. Perhaps clients have sought more flexibility in contract terms that sheds light on how their own business models are evolving and adapting to their needs. Thinking further, perhaps clients have changed how they communicate with you or how many new ideas or inspirations they’re seeking from you? Whatever it is, pay attention to the changes. Track them, chart them, and you’ll begin seeing a pattern. You can use that pattern to forecast where you need to go next.

When tracking changes, you might be able to see that slowly customers are embracing a new model of product, service or terms. If that’s the case, then you can be proactive with the ones that are still behind the curve. You can reach out to them and let them know of the shift with others and offer them perhaps the same courtesy. They’ll appreciate the effort and your consideration in looking out for them.

Peeking Over the Shoulder of Your Competitors

It’s not exactly called cheating, but active market watching. Peeking over the shoulders of your neighbors is not the best idea when you’re in school. But when you’re out there in the real world, it’s smart to know what the business next to you is doing. Make it a point to routinely (monthly) check in to see what’s on their radar. What’s changed about how they do business from last month; what new customers do they have; what change in direction are they taking; what are their customers saying; how active are they on social or how has the social strategy changed?

My recommendation would be to take your top two competitors – one that is at the level you want to be and one that’s an immediate threat – and do a growth chart for them too. This way, when you’re reviewing your growth, you have something to compare it too. You can see how you stack up against the competition and how you’re doing on your desired trajectory.

When it comes to hacking your customer’s mind, the strategy you employ needs to be tactile and analytical. You need to be able to walk away with tangible data you can use to move forward with. The ultimate goal is to develop a regularly deployed system that can help your team determine what your customers are looking for and what’s important to them. Taking it one step further, keep in mind that your goal should be to forecast into what the market is looking for rather than just your current customer pool. This empowers your monthly check-ins to also be a part of the sales process that can help grow business.