Photography of various hot air balloons

Scanning For B2B Market Trends

One of the easiest things to do in market strategy is write a list of market trends. One of the hardest things to do well in market strategy is to select and to articulate just those key market trends, changes, that are or will impact your business strategy now and in the future.  

Identifying relevant change is a sea of noise, is a key skill for strategy leaders and for product management.

Underpinning the ability of your organization to understand and react to market changes, is your ability to understand your external environment. “Scanning” is the term given to this ‘information search’. Which trends are most critical to your business depends on your vision and how you decided to react to changes in the market, competitor and customer needs.

searching ~ collecting ~ learning ~ interpreting ~ deciding ~ integrating

Be inspired to strengthen your executive scanning ability using this set of definitions compiled by Dimotakis et al (2019) below. Be aware that some changes will float by harmlessly and others have the potential to bump you out of the sky.

Then consider the 5W1H of how scanning for market trends works, or could work, in your organization.

Start by identifying WHO is responsible for looking outwards to anticipate how your market place is and may change?

Authors Definitions of Executive Scanning
Aguilar (1967) “Activity of acquiring information about events and relationships in a company’s outside environment, the knowledge of which would assist top management in its task of charting the company’s future course of action.” (p. 1)
Hambrick (1981) “Scanning – the process of learning about events and trends in the organization’s environment.”  (p. 256)
Etzioni (1986) “The term scanning is used to refer to search, collection, processing, and evaluation of information as well as to the drawing of conclusions, all elements in the service of decision making.”  (p. 8)
Daft and Weick (1984) “Scanning is defined as the process of monitoring the environment and providing the environmental data to managers. Scanning is about data collection.”  (p. 286)
Cowan (1986) “Scanning allows for the input of new information which alters one’s conception of reality.”  (p. 770)
Ghoshal (1988) “Environmental scanning is the activity by which organizations collect information about their environments.”  (p. 69)
Thomas, Clark and Gioia (1993) “Scanning involves information gathering; it usually is considered an antecedent to interpretation and action.”  (p. 240)
Danneels (2008) “Environmental scanning refers to the extent to which organization members devote their efforts to learning about events and trends in their organization’s environment.”  (p. 524)
Kor and Mesko (2013) “Managers utilize environmental scanning to identify new trends and opportunities, and integrate new ideas and knowledge with the firm’s existing capabilities, which is instrumental.”  (p. 233)

What market trends will colour the future of your market place, your business and the skills you need to flourish?

The Landscape of Your Market Place

Market trends are larger than any single organization. PESTEL is a common acronym providing a useful structure to thing about market changes. The political, economic, social, technology, environmental and legislative environment is one within which all market players (boats) must navigate. As in nature, the shape of the river banks change overtime.

Technology change is particularly pertinent for business to business technology companies. Many an organization is made obsolete by technology change. Examples include Blackberry and Kodak film. Many of the apps on your SmartPhone were once ‘things’, from torches to cameras. These technology changes can fundamentally alter how your B2B customer persona fulfills their needs.

Identifying Relevant Market Changes

Market trends are not buzz words. One must carefully think about the impact of change on your customers, competitors, your industry partners and of course your own organization. How will the banks and boundaries of the market be reshaped? The answer will depend on your particular business model and market place, and most particularly your customers needs. It’s not enough to say that AI or sustainability are important:

What specific change might your market sector experience as a result of changes in PESTEL elements?

When considering your market space, market trends is the easiest slide in the deck to start and the hardest to do well. Essentially you are laying out the ways in which you anticipate changes to your market space.

Further Resources on Market Strategy

About Jane Morgan

With 20+ years high-tech marketing & product development experience from Boston to Billund, Berlin to Bangalore, Jane has managed teams and tech products with millions of installs, and millions of revenue (annually). She's researched and developed market strategy for global markets, and established the blueprint for product management in many new teams. As an intrapreneur turned entrepreneur, she changed vowels in 2014 and founded JEM 9 Marketing Consultancy. Today she works with CEOs & business leaders to assist them in understanding and reaching customers. Speaker on market research, technology marketing and product management.