In order to succeed in business you need to anticipate what your market will want or need before it’s completely obvious to all. Learning to spot trends will give you great insight into your prospective customer’s needs. It might also lead you to developing a great new idea, product line or a whole new business.

Leading entrepreneurs have some surprising uncommon traits. They have an uncanny ability to spot trends. The benefit of  spotting trends for entrepreneurs is rather obvious; If you can predict what’s of interest to people, you can tailor your product or service to appeal to your audience and build a following. What enables some entrepreneurs to be more adept at predicting their market’s tastes than others? In many cases it seems trend spotters are similar to inspiring leaders. They both use a different tactic to zoom in on what really matters to people to lure them into their camp. 

Know your market’s sensibilities

Being great at spotting trends and inspiring your audience requires pouring yourself into knowing everything possible about his target audience. An adept trend spotter will read what his audience reads and watch what they watch. He will follow everything that’s relevant to his market to become an expert on what they like and don’t like. The trend spotter will also be attuned to his prospective consumers’ problems, strengths and limitations as well as what they like and dislike about their competitors. Success at spotting a trend that results in developing a hot product could come from having the right timing. It could also come from satisfying a particular unmet need, solving an acute problem or energizing, inspiring and encouraging those who are looking for it.

Trend spotters look for common themes across disciplines and are always on the alert for what inspires their audience and what turns them off? They look to see the deeper reasons why people are attracted to a product, service or to a written work? Trend spotters try to uncover the psychological underpinnings behind the attraction to an item. They ask themselves, Does this thing tie into the audience’s value?

In Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action, he sheds light on how great leaders tap into people’s psyche to attract them into followers. Sinek says that great leaders inspire action by inspiring their target population to agree with their values and the purpose behind their product or service. His research places a spotlight on Apple computers, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King to showcase how people are drawn more to ideas, philosophies, causes and a purpose than to a mere product.

Sinek compares Apple and Dell to highlight the success of tapping into people’s beliefs to gain their following. Both companies offer great products but Apple is far more successful due to their approach. Apple says everything we do challenges the status quo; we believe and think differently. Customers largely agree with the company’s philosophy and thereby become interested in what the products do for them and then buy Apple products. He calls this the inside out approach to gaining support. These leaders or trend spotters gain influence and acquire followers by making his structure their structure. People are enticed by their product because they can share in the beliefs that are behind it.

Entrepreneurs appeal to their audience by creating a buzz around a common value that they both hold in high esteem. They focus on why people do things and why they would relate to the product before telling what it does and how the product or service provider does it.

Tune into your customer’s anxiety, stress and desire for answers and solutions

In order to become a top trend spotter, one needs to develop empathy for his audience. Tuning into your audience involves knowing the stressors that are most prevalent in their lives. Focus on becoming aware of the concerns that are top of mind for your audience.  Try to differentiate between universal, cultural, generational and individual struggles. Recognize the limits of their attention span for listening to you or to anyone. Ask yourself, ‘How much time are they willing to give you to hear about a product, service or an idea‘? The successful entrepreneur recognizes his audience’s primary issues and gives them what they need to resolve their problem.

Continuously read about trends

Rieva Lesonsky, Co-founder and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. GrowBiz Media produces the free TrendCast Newsletter, which highlights the trending information entrepreneurs need to know. She offers some great advice on how to spot trends and encourages people to both read trends and to talk to perspective customers to gain insight into trends.

Regularly read the leading publications and websites affecting your business. This could include industry publications, trade association sites, major newspapers, key business magazines, thought leaders and influential bloggers. Review information from a wide variety of sources — from international news on down to niche bloggers focused on specific aspects of your industry. Use tech tools like RSS feeds, e-mail newsletters or Twitter to keep on top of it all and get the information you want delivered to you when you want it.

Talk  to your prospective customers

Lesonsky says, “Use social media or online surveys to get input on what customers are thinking, buying, craving and doing. Use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to identify key influencers and trend setters in your target markets. In addition, pay attention to ratings and review sites — not just what customers are saying about your business, but what they’re saying about your competition”.

Know your customers diversions

The savvy entrepreneur taps into what his audience likes and finds a way to give them a new arena to lose themselves. This could take form in a new app, a power tool, cosmetics, a funny movie or dramatic play. He knows his audience’s preferences so well that he can predict the particular activity he’d choose for a release. Trend spotters will look for the groups and associations their audience follows and get to know the escape activity that piques their interest.

Most decisions are “Predictably Irrational”

Trying to understand what motivates people to make certain choices is an incredibly complex topic. What we do know is that people’s choices are frequently influenced by factors that are irrational. Therefore, you need to know more about the irrational things that influence a person’s decision in addition to knowing about his personal needs and tastes.

Behavioral economist, Dan Ariely’s book, ‘Predictably Irrational‘ challenges readers’ assumptions about making decisions based on rational thought. Ariely’s goal, by the end of this book, is to help you fundamentally rethink what makes you and the people around you tick. He presents a wide range of scientific experiments, findings, and anecdotes that are in many cases quite amusing, that  could help you rethink how people make decisions. His insights could also be useful as a background for entrepreneurs.

Top trend spotters will be astute at seeing both the rational and the irrational factors that influence decisions. In this way they may be more capable  of predicting what their audience will choose to look at or buy. Ariely sheds light on how irrationality happens the same way again and again and hence, is predictable. If you understand the predictably irrational influences combined with knowing about your audiences most acute challenges and sensibilities you’ll have a better chance for success in launching a new business.

Finally, connect the dots 

Successful entrepreneurs are able to view all the trends and make a calculation for which one will be most widely received. They delve into a topic deeply to get a proper read on the pulse of a given group. As Dan Ariely explains in his best seller Predictably Irrational, people don’t make decisions on cold facts. They’re influenced by seeming zany and irrational things and make many choices unconsciously. While no one is always correct, (in fact the odds are against us from guessing trends) some people have a better track record for guessing correctly what people want to buy, see and read. It could be a mix of intuition, luck, knowing the ‘predictably irrational’ things that affect people’s choices and of course as with everything, good timing.

Perhaps the people who are most consistent in spotting trends, predicting behaviors and guessing what people want ahead of the rest are able to imagine what others can’t imagine even for themselves. They collect relevant data and then read between the lines from what they read and hear to pick up on cues from their audience. The best trend spotters often become well-known entrepreneurs. If you become adept at this you could create products that improve lives and change the world.