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Luke Vorstermans
Freelance writer and author

Luke Vorstermans is a graduate of St. Mary’s University (1971) in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has developed a 30-year career in small business management, publishing, business consulting and ecommerce. His is the CEO of The Orion Group Ltd, a health and wellness company and a world leader in innovative aromachology products. (www.scentuelle.com).

He has traveled extensively across North America, Europe, Russia and Southern Africa, speaking, writing, and consulting on the process of change and its impact on individuals, society and the workplace.

Trends Worth Billions Part 3

With our daily time frames accelerating and demographics shifting, the need for businesses to get on top of their game becomes ever more important. For example, while the pizza trend took a couple of decades to get firmly rooted in our culture, consider how quickly the cell phone has become an essential ‘gotta have one' product. And camera phones, the next stage in positioning the trend, are moving even faster. Introduced four years ago in Japan , 57 million camera phones were sold by 2003, with expected sales of 338 million by 2008. If a non-essential trend product such as camera phones can foster that much growth, how will the growth of more essential products and services that serve an aging population fare?

Understanding trends gives you a profile of the marketplace, both what is beginning to appear now and what will be happening in the near and far distant future. They serve as an early predictor of how consumers are feeling, what products and services they will be seeking, and how businesses can respond to the anticipated needs. The best time to position a business is before the trend is well established. After all, market position is vital to the long-term success of a business.

Trend marketing is the foundation of future growth. It is the ability to pinpoint and respond to the changing needs of the customer and do so better than anyone else. While traditional marketing activities, such as customer service, branding, advertising and promotions are vitally important, unless you have identified your future customer, all these activities have no point. Before you can market, you have to know your market. Doesn't that make sense?

While conventional marketing competes over a limited market, trend marketing assumes the growth of a market because of changing demographics. The epitome of trend marketing is to be where the customer is looking before they know they'll be looking there. In other words, developing a business and marketing strategy based on how demographics will impact the marketplace in the future.

One advantage of trend marketing is the ability to reach the customer by narrowcasting the marketing message. Narrowcasting – delivering the message only to the desired market – is possible when the target market is isolated from the whole. This is in sharp contrast to traditional broadcast marketing, which has become considerably more elusive, extraordinarily expensive and wasteful of our natural and human resources.

A few years ago, conventional wisdom pointed to a reduction of paper usage based on the growing ability to store information electronically. Reality has a different face. Instead of conservation, the convenience of printing devices prompts us to print a ‘hard copy' of just about everything. And with the convenience of the ‘cc', documents are circulated (and printed) at an every increasing – and wasteful – rate. How much literature arrives in your mailbox that is trashed because it is has no relevance to you?

This is the attitude inherent in broadcast marketing – send the message to everyone. It is a lazy, expensive activity used by businesses that do not know their market. It may have worked in the old mechanical economy but we're not there anymore and our time-strapped, information overloaded consumer is looking for relief. Unlike Henry Ford's ‘any color as long as it is black' marketing strategy, today's consumers have a myriad of options.

These are extraordinary times to be in business. It requires intelligent planning. The uncertainty and chaos of the marketplace will only increase, particularly for businesses that continue to use yesterday's tools to reach tomorrow's customers.

As in all living systems, the business environment must move through cycles of change to stay healthy. During the 1920s and 30s, it was the growth of department stores that changed traditional shopping and sent shoppers downtown. The growth of suburban malls of the 1950s and 60s pulled shoppers out of the downtown core. The franchising boom of the 1970s and 80s steamrolled many ‘ma and pa' shops. In the 1990s and on, the big box retailers forced businesses to rethink competition. How business owners responds to this next cycle will depend on their willingness to see change as an opportunity.

Consumer demand drives the speed of business and defines how products and services will be delivered. Ultimately, the consumer is in charge. Knowing what they want, when they want it, and treating them with awesome respect is still the road to business success.

Luke Vorstermans is a business consultant specializing in Baby Boomer trends and products.




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