As an entrepreneur, it pays dividends to stay ahead of the curve. No where is that more true than in emerging technologies that stand to impact your industry.

Your competitors are marketing themselves in dramatically new ways, using tactics like content and email marketing. They’re taking advantage of new tools and services and preparing for artificial intelligence and machine learning. It’s in your best interest to prioritize the technological shifts within your field.

The best new technologies react to changes in customer behavior, expectations, and shifts in the marketplace. Technology can help automate businesses, which helps you to grow and attract new customers in today’s connected world. Let’s look at how one ‘traditional’ marketing form has evolved in the last few years.

Real World Example: Evolving Email Marketing Technology

Email newsletters were one of the first computer-driven marketing tactics to really catch on. Over two decades later, email still works. An automated email campaign that includes educational content, discount offers, and promotions for new subscribers is one of the highest return marketing channels. In short, email can turn readers into customers. But how do you keep up?

New email marketing technologies are focused around behavioral campaigns, where a specific action by a subscriber triggers a specialized email to be sent to them. For example, you can route a subscriber into a sales funnel for a particular product after they click on a certain link in your previous email. This is a high-impact way to automate your sales process beyond your own personal selling efforts.

When you tie in your behavioral email marketing provider with a customer relationship management (CRM) system that updates subscriber records based on every action they take with your company and website, you’re significantly amplifying your ability to reach customers with targeted offers at just the right moment.

If a subscriber puts an item in their shopping cart, yet they don’t check out, you can encourage follow through by having a behavioral campaign in place that delivers a timed discount for them to check out by the end of the day. Then, your connected CRM system will automatically be updated to learn that this customer responds well to timed discounts. This now becomes a strategy that can be replicated for months and years to come.

distracted email readers data

On top of that, email inboxes are getting more crowded than ever, and you’ll be competing with dozens of other companies for the attention of your readers. With 70% of Americans reporting that they read emails while watching TV, 52% from bed, 50% on vacation, 43% while on the phone, 42% from the bathroom, and even 18% while driving (yikes!), to say your readers are distracted is an understatement.

That makes creating a great email experience, having engaging copy and exciting visuals increasingly more important for holding the attention of your readers. You’ll need an email service provider that can meet these changes head on.

Even more importantly, now that more than two thirds of emails are read on mobile devices, choosing an email service provider that gives you the opportunity to optimize your email campaigns for a great mobile experience isn’t optional — it’s essential.

While you're laser focused on the everyday demands of running a business, it's difficult to identify, evaluate, and implement new technology. In a world of ever-changing options, here are three universal tips to get you started.

1. Establish a Testing Phase for New Technology

Don’t be afraid to try something new just because it might not succeed. There’s no guarantee of a silver bullet, as new technology isn’t about dramatic overnight changes to your business.

The reality of deciding to invest in new technologies and strategies means that sometimes you’ll be rewarded for staying ahead of the curve — other times, it may not pan out.

Reduce the need for immediate results or expectations of new technology, and you’ll create a company culture where early adoption is encouraged.

For example, if you come across an exciting new automated email marketing platform that can help you create a more consistent revenue stream — without the need to constantly write fresh email content — decide to test the platform without any firm expectations for success metrics that need to be achieved.

Have a goal in mind, but commit to your experiment for the sake of learning, not generating an instant profit. You’ll be much more likely to get something out of your testing phase, regardless of the end result.

2. Schedule Time to Research and Keep Up with Technology

If you don’t create the time in your schedule to stay up-to-date on the latest technology, watch trends, and keep an eye on new tools and services, you’ll quickly get left behind.

Don’t multitask while you’re getting up to speed with your communities, blogs, and publications — that defeats the purpose. Your goal is to actively search for new technologies, strategies, and techniques that you can apply to grow your business.

It demands your undivided attention. By dedicating time to seek out new technologies, you’ll help yourself to avoid relying on old strategies that may gradually become less effective.

3. Follow Influencers to Discover the Latest Trends

To stay on top of new technology that stands to impact your business, spend time watching these three sources:

Online Communities

One of the biggest benefits of joining online communities within your industry is that you’re gaining access to (in some cases) hundreds of thousands or millions of other people who are also working in your space.

From picking up on new product launches the day they go live to getting access to in-depth case studies about how to apply emerging technologies and more, learning from your peers and industry magnates should be part of your weekly routine.

Start by joining and bookmarking these online communities:

The more you contribute to these communities yourself, by asking questions, sharing opinions, and engaging with other people, the more you stand to gain from your membership.

Thought Leaders and Bloggers in Your Niche

Beyond learning from your peers in the online communities they frequent, many of the most active thought leaders in your space have publicly accessible blogs where they break down strategies they’re implementing, what they’re working on, and often offer to help readers who are building toward the same goals.

To find these thought leaders within your industry, start with notable bestselling authors, then begin expanding into the most successful contributors to top publications in your space. Look for prolific contributors in your online communities and gravitate toward entrepreneurs who’ve already built sustainable businesses in your niche.

Be sure to only build relationships with influencers that truly know what they’re talking about — and can back up their content with real results.

Regularly following along with their happenings will also give you the benefit of being able to spot potential collaboration opportunities for joint promotions.

Industry Publications and News Sites

By the time you see stories about an emerging technology or technique in one of the mainstream business publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, or Business Insider, you’ve already lost any shot at an early adopter advantage.

Identify and subscribe to authoritative publications and news sites that focus specifically on industry-related content that you care about.

If that’s marketing, you’ll want to keep a close eye on blogs like HubSpot, Buffer, KISSmetrics, and Skyword.

The HubSpot blog was one of the first marketing publications to report about ad retargeting when it began emerging as a marketing technology. Retargeting is simple. It’s based on research that suggests most consumers need to come in contact with a brand or be presented with a particular advertisement an average of seven times before they buy.

To find the most relevant publications within your niche, start by searching around on Google with a few keywords that describe what you want to stay up-to-date on. Take note of the websites that continue to bubble up to the top of search results and go from there.

Don’t Get Left Behind

It’s tough, as an entrepreneur, to prioritize setting aside time to keep up with industry trends and emerging technology. But in our rapidly changing business landscape, it’s keep up or get left behind. Use the steps above to move forward and keep your small business competitive.

How do you prioritize keeping up with new and emerging technology?