How is the U.S. economy doing right now? If your response is a frustrated shrug of the shoulders, I can’t say I blame you. As small-business owners, we try to keep on top of the latest data and statistics coming out of Washington, trade groups and the media. But for the past few years, we seem to have been stuck in a vicious circle–a month of promising economic news followed by a month of bad news. And with this being an election year, it’s not likely to get any better. So what can a small-business owner do?
Track trends at the local level. This is level of trend-watching is all too-often overlooked. Especially for small businesses that cater to a local customer base, such as restaurants, retailers or residential and business service providers, local trends can matter more than just about anything else.
How can you keep an eye on local trends? Unlike national or global trends, there’s no need to follow anything on Twitter or tune in to NPR (not that those are bad things to do).
Get out there. Go where your customers are—the mall, downtown, Restaurant Row—and see what’s going on. Are there crowds? What kind of people? What are they buying, wearing and doing?
Keep an eye on the competition. What kinds of businesses are opening (or closing) in your area that might be competing for the same consumer dollars you are? Visit competitors’ stores if you can (if not, consider sending in a friend or relative) and troll their Websites.
Share information. Talk to colleagues, friends and family about trends you’re seeing locally. Network with other business owners at local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce.
Of course, local trends don’t exist in a vacuum, and I’m not suggesting you ignore larger trends completely. But by keeping your eye on what’s happening in your local community, you get a fuller picture of the trends that affect your business.
Do you track local trends?
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