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The secret, he says, is to identify impending “surges,” or shifts in customer behavior and adapt quickly. That might sound like a mysterious or complicated form of trend-spotting but Michalowicz says the signs are actually easy to spot if you know what to look for. Unlike predicting what will happen five to 10 years in the future, “A surge is an imminent wave. What that means is that there’s an already measurable movement in the market from the early adopters,” he tells me.
To spot it accurately, all you need to do is listen and search for it online. “Early adopters are vocal and will speak out in forums or interviews or videos, and others — journalists, bloggers, etc. — will write about what early adopters are doing,” Michalowicz says. If you can’t find much information about the trend or a consistent uptake with early adopters, it may be a future trend, but it’s not a surge (an imminent wave).”
It’s important to discern the difference because being too early with a trend may mean wasted time and energy — and ultimate failure (compare the early social network Friendster to Facebook). For instance, Michalowicz notes that electric cars are currently in surge mode, while self-driving vehicles (a possible future trend) are not imminently upon us, and therefore don’t qualify as surging.
How else can you tell when a surge is coming? One clue, says Michalowicz, is the use of the word “traditional” appending a phrase, like “traditional PR” or “traditional publishing.” He notes, “When we see the word traditional, it means that the market has achieved an expected standard. When something is expected and consistent, that market is perfectly positioned to see a disruption.”Another useful trick is doing an online search for the phrase “the history of [your industry].” The reason, says Michalowicz, is that history repeats. By understanding past variations on a theme, you’re poised to recognize when new variations are emerging, such as the vogue for early 1960s fashion inspired a few years ago by the success of the television show Mad Men.
It’s great to build a steady, profitable business. But how can you break through and achieve rapid growth? That’s the question serial entrepreneur Mike Michalowicz tackles in his forthcoming new book Surge: Time the Marketplace, Ride the Wave of Consumer Demand, and Become Your Industry’s Big Kahuna.