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I Predict You Will Read This E-letter

I Predict You Will Read This E-letter

February 20, 2014

I predict you will read this e-letter on how to make accurate predictions.  


Because well-researched, accurate predictions are the key to staying ahead of your competitors, wowing your customers, gaining credibility, and even being a hit at cocktail parties!  And I’m going to give you some tips on how to make good predictions.  

I also predict that you will want read my e-letter. Why? Because I’m going to make six bold predictions. That’s right, six! But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. That's for the next e-letter. 

Too Many Prognosticators Out There

Yogi Berra once said, "It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future." Yogi was right. Yet, the Sixteenth-Century French seer Nostradamus became famous and even synonymous with predicting the future. In fact, comedian Gilbert Gottfried quipped, “I went to a movie with Nostradamus and I asked him, ‘How did you like that ending?’  He said, ‘What, you didn’t see that coming?!”  

The problem is, far more than 50% of predictions are wrong. Consider that:

  • In 1920, The New York Times stated that a rocket would never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere.  In 1969, the Times actually printed a retraction.
  • In 1928, Herbert Hoover stated that the Federal Reserve did not predict a recession.  In 1929, the stock Market Crashed leading to the Great Depression.
  • In 1999, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, John Hamre was the first to predict the electronic doom and gloom of Y2K and likened it to El Nino.
  • In 2008, 80 years after Herbert Hoover, Ben Bernanke told the nation that “The Federal Reserve is currently not forecasting a recession."  We all know the results.  

But bad predictions have not stopped most business, financial, and entertainment analysts, as well as CEOs, media pundits, and millions of others, from constantly making predictions. I actually find that the CEOs with the most press coverage tend to be wrong more than anyone when it comes to making accurate predictions.  

Why Make Predictions?

A few answers come to mind.  First, if you are good at it, you can follow the right trends, make smart business decisions, and leave the competition behind.  Plus you can utilize accurate predictions for marketing purposes, much as author and forecaster Harry Dent has done for years. (Full disclosure: I have facilitated Harry.)

Dent has spent the last three decades using economic and demographic trends to predict major economic and marketing shifts with uncanny accuracy.  If you don’t believe me, click on the image and hear him yourself.  Dent predicted the stock market downturn of the early 1990s, the bull market of the late ‘90s, and the stock market crash of 2008, to name a few of the predictions he uses to market himself.  He is now predicting the DOW, which currently sits over 16,000, to drop down to 3,300! Talk about bold (and scary) predictions!

But, like any marketing, if something (or someone) sounds too good to be true, that may very well be the case.  The bolder and more “attention grabbing” your predictions, the more you are also setting yourself up to potentially crash and burn.  So, how good is Dent?  You decide.

Credibility Counts

The more your predictions are right, the more credible you become. Perhaps the most credible prognosticators today, thanks to new and improved technology, are weather forecasters. They can now predict storms with uncanny accuracy. During the last group of snow storms I had my eye constantly on the predictions of how much snow to expect so that I could work around it. How many of you leave the house with an umbrella if the meteorologists predicts rain? 

With accurate predictions, you can also be in the right place at the right time - like when the street vendor shows up to a baseball game with a box full of ponchos just as it's starting to rain. But running with incorrect predictions hurts.  When hardware stores stock up on snow shovels, but the winter passes with hardly a drop, they get stuck with a ton of inventory. I often speak in the clothing industry, and they have one of the hardest job of all. They must place their orders 12-16 months in advance and hope they have predicted the right color and fashion trends that will be hot one year in the future.

The toughest industry in the world to predict is the toy and novelty segment. What's hot today is dead tomorrow. Last time I spoke at the Variety Merchandise Show in Las Vegas, one fellow showed me a new item and predicted "this is going to be hot."  Nobody paid attention to him. Except for the market that is. The Redneck Wine Glass single-handedly doubled and tripled the size of several companies who told me they threw the dice on it and brought in container loads of them. Other retailers were left scratching their heads, wishing they could have predicted the consumer demand. That’s the power of making good predictions.

How to Make Accurate Predictions

There’s a toy called the Magic 8 Ball. You shake it and it answers your questions about the future.  It’s probably as accurate as most investors when it comes to predicting the stock market. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t bank on it for major life predictions. What the Magic 8 Ball lacks is the necessary evidence and research to make reliable predictions.

By looking at statistics and studying trends to figure out the probabilities, you can make well-informed predictions. Even as far back as the early 1960s, way before the Internet, predicating that the New York Yankees would win an American League pennant was a well-reasoned prediction, based on the fact that from 1921 through 1959, the team won the pennant 24 times in 38 years.

In business, you can look at the trends in buying power and how shifts in the workforce are coming. Consider that each day 10,000 Gen Yers are turning 21 and entering the workforce. Also consider that each day, 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65. Can you foresee some fact-based changes that absolutely lie ahead? Do you see any trends coming?  Could you make some reasonably accurate predictions about shifts in buyer behaviors and changes in the workplace? I think so.  

But don’t stop there; keep doing your due diligence - look for what matters to your demographic group and what is on the horizon.  Will they be early adopters based on the trends they embrace?  What is the next big thing in your industry?  Seek and you shall find.  

Trends Will Help You Make Predictions

Looking at the trends and lifestyles of Gen Y and Baby Boomers, you could make predictions and then position your sales and marketing strategies appropriately. 

Gen Y:

  • Friends are worldwide, not limited to their immediate surroundings
  • Tattoos 38% have tatoos and many love body piercings
  • Communication preference:  email, text, blog, post, tweets
  • Authority: They don’t respect tenure.
  • Info source: online, blogs, social media
  • Dress: Everyday casual day
  • The Purpose of Technology: "It's an essential tool, an integral part of our life"
  • Texting:
  • The average girl sends 80 per day
  • The average boy 30 per day
  • 15% send over 200 per day
  • Cell phone is main link to world: They don't even have a landline. They use it for texting, messaging, video, camera, social media, email, purchasing.
  • Their pysche: 38% can’t go 10 minutes without checking their devices for email or texts!
  • 80% like to multitask on mobile devices while watching TV
  • What were their societal influences?
  • 911 Terrorism
  • Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Murder in Columbine
  • The Girls Movement: Dixie Chicks,  TV Series “Girls,” Britney Spears
  • Hip hop, rap
  • They experienced downsizing and outsourcing
  • Their reality is an increased divorce rate with over 50% of marriages dissolving. Sadly, they assume that "most people who will get married will get divorced."
  • Reality TV and News Parody is their actual source for information
  • Facebook status is an essential part of their lives
  • Many of their relationship exist primarily online
  • The majority feel that the government  should solve America's problems

In contrast, Boomers are totally different:

  • Friends: Their neighborhood, clubs, and schools are the primary sources of thier social circles
  • Tattoos: rarely (unless drunk :-)
  • Prefered Communication: telephone. Their expectation is that everyone has a landline
  • Authority: They believe you must earn it.
  • Info source: TV, radio, newspapers
  • Dress: They dress up for religious services, going to the theater, dining out
  • The purpose of Technology: To get more done, thats why it's here.
  • Societal Influence:
  • Vietnam War
  • Cold War
  • Civil Rights
  • Equality movement
  • Landing on moon, which means that we can do anything if we put our minds to it
  • Women’s Liberation Movement
  • TV
  • Rock and Roll
  • Watergate
  • Job security and pensions
  • OK without government

Now, if you simply look at this data and say, "that's intersting," you have missed the boat! Now you are better equiped to predict which media to use and what angle to use in your message. Ask youself "Now that I know that Gen Y likes to watch parody shows like John Stewart, how can I create a newstory that would fit with his style?"  Take a look at the list and apply them to your business. You may be able to predict, for example, what approach will enable your employees to shine.  Or, you might harness the technology savvyness of your Gen Yers to train your Baby Boomer employees. 

6 Bold Predictions

In the next e-letter, I’m going to show you how I use data and trends, like those listed above, to make 6 bold predictions.

And, while you may not become Nostradamus, you too can hone your ability to use predictions to stay one step ahead of your competitors and win over your customers.  Here's my challenge to you: Look around and start asking the question to your suppliers and industry veterans, "What trends have you noticed?" You will likely get two types of answers. "I don't know," or, "Hmm, well, I have noticed that..."  For example, many retailers said, "I have noticed that many people come into our store now just to browse. They use their smart phone to scan the bar code of our products and purchase it on the spot, online, while they are still in my store!" Savvy business owners pay attention to the trends and adjust. "The only thing that is constant is change." 

My final question for you - where can you learn about trends that can impact you and your business? Next week I'll give tools that will help empower you. Stay tuned...  

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,