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Marketing: Don’t predict the future. Follow your audience instead

Let’s face it: marketers aren’t fortune tellers.

And while it’s tempting to try and predict the next big thing and capitalize on your psychic abilities, Rand Fishkin has a completely different theory

Before boarding the hype train, wait for a chunk of your audience to get there first.

Makes sense. If you jump on a trend too early, your potential customers may not be there yet. And when the dust settles, you may realize your audience never got there at all.

When marketers predict the future, the positives of getting it right fail to outweigh the negatives of getting it wrong.

Imagine jumping to #Web3 as a marketer in 2017. It seems like you’re spearheading a rising tide that’s bound to change the world. You’re certain everyone will follow…

But five years later, your risk averse peers are still making bucks on #Web2, because that’s where the majority of the audience is.

There are countless other examples of failed predictions, from Google Glass marketing to Voice Search SEO. Marketers are tempted to try new stuff, but forget an essential truth:

You only make positive returns when you capture your audience’s attention.

That’s why marketers who chase existing trends instead of trying to predict trends have greater returns. It’s less exciting but more predictable, and it leads to stable, consistent growth.

So unless you’re building a product, or you’re a venture capitalist, wait until you have substantial evidence that a chunk of your audience is adopting a trend.

Then invest, monitor your returns, and double down or back off depending on results.

Here are a few other things Rand recommends:

  • Don’t optimize for keywords you “predict” people may search in the future.
  • Don’t predict social media topic trends. Instead, add value to those that are already driving interest and engagement.
  • Don’t be the first to jump on new formats. Wait until your data shows your audience has started using it.
  • Don’t invest heavily in a new social platform unless you see plenty of your audience there as well. Create a profile, post from time to time, and monitor activity.

Yeah, that’s a lot of don’ts. But you can think of this as a reminder not to get ahead of yourself, especially if things are going well.

At the end of the day, the best way to stay on top of trends that are worth going for is to stay well informed. If only there was a marketing newsletter that could help… Oh, wait.