Three “Must Follow” Trends to Thrive in 2013

How many of the following famous lines can you match to movies from the past?

“You talkin’ to me?!”
“Here’s looking at you kid.”
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
“I’ll have what she’s having.”

Great Hollywood scriptwriters know that lines can make or break a movie. So, when Patricia Ryan Madson, Stanford drama professor for thirty-five plus years and winner of the university’s highest award for most outstanding contribution to undergraduate education, told her students to stop preparing and just show up, she gave people pause. As did Mary Meeker, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, last week with her timely report on social media and the internet. According to Meeker, mobile (smartphone and tablet) sales have eroded the laptop/desktop market, and the Android operating system has actually surpassed Windows. What do scripting and tech developments have to do with each other, and why should we listen to Madson and Meeker?

Trend 1: Innovate…Improv-Style

De Niro, Bogart, Gable and Estelle Reiner knew instinctively what Madson meant when she said, “show up.” All those forever-famous lines above were unscripted! They were acts of improvisation whose magic occurred through the actors being fully present.

No matter how carefully we architect a script (or plan), it is bound to change when put in play with people who have scripts of their own. Professor Madson believes that the maxims of improv can be successfully applied to real-life.  You need a strategic business plan (a script) that allows you the freedom to adapt and respond in the moment to innovative trends and consumer feedback. This feedback, of course, is less likely to come from surveys, but rather from social media – the conversations that take place whether or not you initiated them.  Observe and listen carefully.

The most profitable products have a mix of script and improv.

Caterina Fake, and her programmer husband, Stewart Butterfield, started a game design company. They wanted to connect people through gaming. It was super creative and fun, but not very popular or profitable until Caterina noticed that there was one piece, just one small part of the entire game that every online player gravitated toward: photo sharing. Turns out photo-sharing was the best part, the most fun part, and where all their preparation turned to improvisation. Caterina and her husband scrapped the game and transformed the project into Flickr. In less than two years, the photo-sharing site — now owned by Internet giant Yahoo —turned into one of the Web’s fastest-growing properties. Flickr’s traffic grew to 3.4 million visits from December 2004 to December 2005. Over 100 million photos have been posted on the site to date.

You just launched your new product and digital marketing campaign. Now be still and listen. What are people saying? How are they reacting? Engage them with a genuine, thoughtful response to what you hear…in the moment. Then, adapt and thrive.

Trend 2: Innovate…Smart(ly)

In 2008, $700 billion in revenue was generated in the mobile market. By year-end, the smart-phone, hand-held device market will be a whopping $19 billion industry. So, what’s really “smart” here? Optimize your digital presence for this market. Oh…and dump the Flash – it doesn’t help you in the “iDevice” market. Everything is simple, direct and fast. If a customer can’t interact with your website on their phone or tablet and get what they want in seconds, they’re onto your competitor’s site…in a flash. And, in case you’re still wrestling with the whole website interactivity concept, stop wrestling and start writing content that compels client and customer (or future client and customer) interaction. Launch digital ad campaigns, mini-video commercials, SEO, and offer something for nothing…just get their e-mail address – these are the new mad men tactics in advertising. It also pays to ask, “Is there or could there be an app for that?”

Podcasts are going to boom in 2013. Share audio content. Meeker says there’s 41 minutes of unclaimed time in the car that could be yours, not to mention the hours on long flights. By the way – in January, our newsletter will be available this way too!

If you still aren’t convinced, consider this: 24% of all internet shopping traffic this Black Friday occurred on either a smart phone or tablet, up from 6% just two years prior. Can we buy what you’re selling from our phones? And if you think, “No, I sell consulting services,” think again! Offer a podcast, a newsletter or webinar, perhaps even a “tool.”  Meet people where they are, especially when they’re on your site.

Trend 3: Innovate…to Your Core!

You don’t have to be an expert in social media, app building, digital marketing or even technology to capitalize on a new trend. What is it you really do and why do you do it? The “why” is your core. Sound obvious? I agree. And, Simon Sinek is doing a great job keeping it front and center, so to speak.

Caterina didn’t let go of her core. She wanted people to interact, engage and share. She thought that would be through gaming. By responding to the feedback in the moment, she streamlined her offering to photo sharing, never losing sight of her mission: helping people connect.

What is your “core”? Put it out there; let everyone see it, respond to it and share it. Now more than ever they’ll tell you how they want it, with feedback faster than any survey or focus group in the past. And… it’s this “how” that will direct innovation.

Capitalize on these 3 trends and we’ll look forward to quoting from your forever-famous business script!

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