Successful business owners that have been around for a while know that in order to be successful, you shouldn’t only be concerned with meeting your customers expectations, but you should also become very good at anticipating and responding to their expectations. Essentially, you need to be a mind reader so that you can understand what it is that your customers are going to want as time goes on. If you aren’t able to do this, your customers will head to your competitor who has likely figured this out.

So, you may be asking yourself, just how to I anticipate what my customers are going to be demanding from me several months from now. It’s not as hard as it may seem, as long as you take the time to follow these five tips:

1. Look at your sales data

Keep an eye on the purchases your customers are making. Pat attention to what groups of customers are buying what items. What’s happening with your average order size?

2. Listen to see what questions your customers are asking

Regardless of what method your customers use to communicate with you – phone, email, a form on your web site – pay attention to what they are asking for. If customers start to ask for similar products, you’d better investigate further.

3. Keep an eye on your competition

See what other sites are doing. What new products are they bringing in? What are they putting on sale, what are they increasing the prices? All of these things will give you an idea of what’s happening in the market.

4. Keep an eye on web sites that discuss the product lines that you carry

It’s a good idea to watch these sites for indications of new products that in the pipeline, or for products they are touting as the next big thing. In addition to web sites, read magazines that focus on your market, read newspapers and watch TV shows that focus on your market. These are all great ways to keep on top of what people are talking about and what they may be predicting is going to take place in your market.

5. Trade Shows

Trade shows are a great way to see what’s coming in terms of the products you carry. These shows will give you an idea of what your customers are going to be looking for next. Manufacturers spend millions of dollars to gauge interest in new products. Trade shows give you a glimpse into what they think are going to be the movers and shakers in coming months. Also – be sure to sign up for newsletters offered by your suppliers and manufacturers at these shows. Getting their catalogs and getting on their mailing lists are also good ideas.

Keep on top of these 5 areas, and you’ll go a long way to being able to “read your customers minds” and have the products they are looking for, when they want them. If you aren’t on top of what they want, they will leave and find a competitor that is.