Capitalizing on the trend of the moment is often a quick way to boost sales. But what if your entire business is built around a trend?
Sure, there’s a chance that the trend you’re riding will stay the course for years to come, but unpredictable events can shift product popularity in the blink of an eye.
If you run a "trendy" business, you have three options: You can hope that luck is on your side, you can start formulating your exit strategy, or you can develop ways to expand your business beyond the temporary and into areas that are sure to stick.
If your business is riding the wave of a current trend but you don't have a plan for the future, it’s time to start thinking about your next move.
Build on a Trend
One very popular recent trend is the Rainbow Loom, a simple plastic loom that enables users to create bracelets, key chains, necklaces and other colorful items by weaving together small, stretchy rubber bands. The loom's popularity exploded in 2013, especially in the tween demographic (children between the ages of 8 and 13). Both boys and girls, and even consumers far outside that demographic, flocked to stores to get their hands on a Rainbow Loom.
The Rainbow Loom trend swept the nation, prompting the company to begin selling bulk rubber bands in distinct colors, storage kits, travel looms and other product accessories. Other businesses tried to etch out a piece of the loom's market share with copycat products or by offering related accessories. Some retailers even initiated events, like bracelet swaps and instructional workshops.
Keep the Momentum Going
By fostering continued interest in the main product by introducing useful accessories and new products, the company behind the Rainbow Loom is feeding the trend and extending its lifespan. But should rubber-band bracelets suddenly fall out of favor with consumers, Rainbow Loom will need a second hit in order to continue its current level of success.
“Many successful companies transitioned from one industry to a totally new one, once they realized that that initial business was declining,” explains Seena Sharp, author of Competitive Intelligence Advantage and managing director of Sharp Market Intelligence. “Rather than trying to make the original business maintain or grow (which wasn't possible), they understood the concept of product lifestyles. For instance, Nokia started as a rubber company, and Barney's sold the cheapest mens' and boys' clothing in New York City before changing their [business] models.”
Success Beyond the Trend
David Chasteau, director of marketing at Cape & Shield Consulting, uses what he calls the “firework marketing method” to tap into trends and get in front of the right audience to give business a boost of initial traction. But Chasteau say It’s difficult to maintain this momentum over time. He shares six tips he’s learned from his successes and failures in trying to do so:
1. Invest in your business for the long term. If you invest in the right tools and materials upfront, you’ll save time, money and headaches later.
2. Know where you want to go. Develop a long-term vision and a plan for reaching your goals.
3. Build a team of rock stars. Investing in your talent is equally as important as investing in the right tools. You’ll need great employees to support the areas in which your own skills are weak.
4. Make customer experience a top priority. Give customers the best possible experience to leave a lasting first impression of your product and company.
5. Foster lasting customer relationships. Follow-up with your customers after the sale's complete, and continue to engage them with your brand to remain top-of-mind.
6. Practice financial responsibility. Don’t be fooled into thinking you'll be able to sustain massive initial profits for the long haul. Planning ahead and spending strategically to ensure your cash reserves aren’t depleted when you need them most is one of the smartest moves you can make.
“I strongly advocate using the boost from big trends to get going,” Chasteau says. “But if you want to be in it for the long run, your game plan has to be different."
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