“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
– Helen Keller
Professionals Discuss Staying on Top of Trends
When it comes to maintaining a company’s competitive edge, it is critical for leaders to keep a finger on the pulse of their industry. From consumer trends to economic fluctuations, a well-informed leadership team is equipped to navigate challenges and seize opportunities. Here, several of the top leaders in our area share valuable insights about gathering information and keeping tabs on their specific industries.
Ann Trammell Bakhaus
Owner, Embellish Collection
“In the fashion industry, the journey starts well before the product hits the shelves. I make frequent trips to New York for market research, visiting four times a year to align with each season. Six months in advance, I meticulously scout for products, immersing myself in showrooms that house numerous international designers. This strategy enables me to stay ahead of emerging trends and source exclusive pieces that set my store apart. This aspect of fashion is what truly excites me as a fashion enthusiast.
To ensure I make the most informed decisions at market, I invest considerable time in preparation. I collaborate with a specialized retail financial planner who provides comprehensive insights into the industry’s current landscape. Additionally, I stay constantly informed by devouring industry-specific literature, including a subscription to The Business of Fashion. Their weekly articles keep me up to date with the latest happenings and invaluable market intelligence. Moreover, I make it a point to explore publications such as Women’s Wear Daily, Vogue Business, Harper’s Bazaar, Fashionista, and The Fashion Law. These resources provide a wealth of information on industry news, trend analysis, interviews, and legal aspects, equipping me with a well-rounded understanding of the industry.”
Market President, Truist
“Truist Commercial Community Banking’s unique community banking model combines a decentralized, regional structure with industry and banking expertise to support the full life cycle of a business. It’s a differentiator and enables us to get to know our clients’ businesses and industries, including their strengths and opportunities, so that our local leadership can provide solutions that make sense.
To put this into action, I collaborate with and draw upon a dedicated industry and advisory team who are experts in industry verticals and provide strategic advice and solutions to help our clients’ businesses succeed. We then combine this industry expertise with our local market knowledge and local decision making so we can customize solutions based on our clients’ individual needs.”
Vice President, Hughes Retirement Group
“Hughes Retirement Group is a family-owned retirement and investment planning firm with our founding office in Cleveland, and our newest location in Chattanooga. Part of the responsibility of acting as a fiduciary is making sure to stay on top of market and industry changes and trends so that we are always acting in the best interest of our clients. We do this through various industry reports and information supplied by companies such as Bloomberg, Morningstar, and Barron’s. We also spend time talking with industry experts and other advisors at various conferences and financial meetings throughout the year. A big topic we keep a keen eye on is income tax changes and how these can affect retirement. Our goal is to maximize our clients’ income in retirement while minimizing, if not eliminating, any income taxes due.”
Chattanooga Market Executive, Regions Bank
“I love reading. In fact, we have a room in our house that is dedicated to it. My go-to sources are the Chattanooga Times Free Press for local market news, The Wall Street Journal for broader market news, and American Banker for banking industry news. I have recently given in and adopted digital versions of some newspapers, but refuse to move away from reading physical books. I also really enjoy business news podcasts – if you see me running downtown, I’m probably listening to one. I love the efficiency of learning while exercising.
I am fortunate to work for a company that produces a constant supply of content via newsletters, podcasts, and webinars on topics including government affairs, interest rates, specialized industries, equity markets, and other helpful information. I believe it’s important to be intentional about scheduling time for productive reading or listening. To me, being well informed is a prerequisite to being a good banker, advisor, and leader.”
President and CEO, Hamilton Health Care System
“Healthcare trends are affected by a wide variety of influences, ranging from local and national economic indicators such as national debt, individual debt, housing starts, and even gas and food prices. The well-being of the whole person includes not just healthcare at the doctor’s office or hospital, but also other factors like the availability of healthy food and whether or not transportation costs allow the family to afford driving to the doctor. As a not-for-profit hospital and an integrated system, we care for patients and families throughout all stages and phases of life and their complete well-being. From local and national news publications to industry publications from American Hospital Association, Becker’s, Modern Healthcare, and Georgia Hospital Association, we seek important information so that we can best respond to the needs of our patients and families to support them wherever they are in their wellness journey.”
Co-Founder, Dynamic Labels USA
“We believe in building relationships that are beyond just transactional relationships with customers, suppliers, OEM engineers, and technicians so we can learn and understand more about technological advancements and stay abreast of the latest trends and offerings in our industry. Our team is always very flexible to meet individuals to build those relationships whether it is a prospective customer, competitor, or new OEM vendor, with an open mind to learn about any challenges, requirements, or new features.
Our entire team strongly believes in our core values of I.D.E.A.S which stands for Integrity, Drive, Ethics, Adventure and Simplicity. The core value of Drive (adventure, teamwork, excellence, and speed) plays a significant role to help us keep up with the top trends and deliver excellence. We believe in keeping our hearts happy by maintaining a culture and environment for our team to ideate, express, and persevere for excellence and speed.
Tradeshows, webinars, new launch events, customer interactions, staying agile and observant during visits to retail storefronts, reviewing marketing collateral or industry-specific magazines, newspaper articles, and advertisements all help us analyze the various developments and generational needs or preferences to tailor our offerings accordingly.”
CEO, Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics (CSMO)
“One of the primary ways CSMO stays ahead of industry standards is through membership in the Orthopedic Forum, a national physician sub-specialty organization. I’m sure many industries have similar organizations to bring businesses of similar size and those who are recognized as deploying best practices together.
We know our providers come from the best training programs, but that doesn’t mean the business side of our practice automatically stays at the forefront of orthopedic care unless we objectively measure ourselves against our peers. Rarely does a day pass that I am not communicating with an Orthopedic Forum CEO from around the country to either share our experiences or learn from others’ experiences. Such relationships are vital to stay current in the healthcare industry.
Shared information, benchmarking, and transparency help us perform at the highest levels and recognize where we can improve. Continuously evaluating our progress is ultimately best for our physicians, employees, and, most importantly, our patients.”
President, Builtwell Bank
“As a banker, there are multiple sources that I follow to stay abreast of current issues and trends. I have to keep up with the banking industry trends and issues, and I do this primarily with articles and statements issued from the various regulatory agencies (FDIC, Federal Reserve, Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions) and banking associations (Tennessee Bankers Association, Georgia Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers Association). Because our customers cover a broad array of industries, I am constantly reading publications that are global, national, and local to stay current on a wide variety of business and economic topics and trends. Lastly, I review local economic data that provides residential and commercial real estate transactions and other local business information to keep up with local activity and trends. Looking at where we have been economically, and perhaps more importantly, where we are going, is critical to being able to make the best decisions and deliver sound advice to our customers.”
Manager, Yocoubian Tailors
“Trends in the retail world are often baked into the items at market months before they hit the shelves. Brands and manufacturers are acutely aware of trends so that they are able to get them to retail markets as quickly as possible. Also, specific to our business, we look to see innovation and ideas that are happening in Europe. Trends generally start there and move to the States, so it can be like looking into the future. Digital platforms and social media are also a good guide for what is being embraced by the community. In addition, there are industry-only publications which track what is going on at all levels, both trends and economics. Finally, we’ll visit stores regionally to see what is going on in the Southeast.”
Managing Director, Decosimo Corporate Finance
“At Decosimo, we help business owners sell their companies and secure their financial futures. As such, trends in our industry are both client and macroeconomic focused. Typically, our clients operate in niche markets, meaning the most vital trends are those related to a client’s specific business and industry. Staying on top of these trends requires leveraging an owner’s expertise, understanding the specifics of their business, including their pipeline of sales and historical performance, and analyzing reports from industry associations in which they’re members. On the macroeconomic side, trade publications and market research platforms help us stay informed on banking and private capital markets.
Additionally, we often tap into our extensive network of business leaders and former clients for updates across industries. The benefit of combining this information and our relationships is that we are able to maximize the value our clients receive for their businesses.”
Jim Coleman, Jr.
President and CEO, Erlanger Health System
“I have an early morning pre-work routine that, I believe, helps me to stay on top of news, trends, and market information both locally and nationally. First, I scan the Chattanooga Times Free Press for topical content and local happenings. Then I move to the Tennessean and the Wall Street Journal. I review Becker’s Hospital Review and their daily emails as well. I’ve also learned to rely on colleagues who are also CEOs of other hospitals and CEO round tables where we can all share information, obstacles, and opportunities we all face. I am a board member of the Tennessee Hospital Association, which provides valuable market information routinely, but the key is relationships. I focus on these through local stakeholders, speaking with Erlanger associates, my leadership team, physicians, and patients to guide me daily in strategy and decision making.”
Tennessee Market President, FirstBank
“Staying informed about market trends is crucial. I rely on several resources from programs like Squawk Box for national industry insights to regional updates from the Tennessee Bankers Association and FirstBank’s own Capital Markets Group for economic indicators. I regularly engage with local professionals to determine the impact of rising interest rates and borrowing costs. Staying at the forefront of trends helps ensure that we are making good decisions for Chattanooga’s market.
The industry has experienced significant changes in recent years such as PPP loans and the rapid rise in interest rates. Alarming headlines of unstable banks, like Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse, have made the public more attentive to what’s happening in the banking sector. Our team is committed to helping customers navigate the current financial landscape, and we’re fortunate that FirstBank enjoys a strong liquidity position, diverse deposit mix, and history of being financially sound.”
President and Head of School, Baylor School
“Given Baylor’s richly diverse student body, where students come from 24 different states and 18 different countries, we use a variety of regional, national, and international resources to help us monitor markets and make informed decisions. From more traditional independent association data analysis to various demographic resources outside of our field, our team at Baylor is consistently trying to challenge assumptions and operate from an informed position. It’s important to us that our teachers, coaches, and other support staff stay at the top of their respective fields, particularly in the collegiate arena as a college preparatory school. Equally important, our admissions, development, and communications teams continue to find opportunities to share the Baylor message and the value of the Baylor experience. This holistic approach allows us to focus on developing both student leadership and continuing to grow as leaders ourselves.”
Head of School, Silverdale Baptist Academy
“As a best practice, public and private school enrollment trends on the national, state, and local levels are closely monitored throughout the year. However, no one could have predicted the post-pandemic changes that United States educational institutions faced the last three years. Without a doubt, relationships with our stakeholders and other local school heads are crucial in predicting and acting upon industry changes.
Our accrediting agency, the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), is another valuable resource. For the past 10 years, I have served as a commissioner for ACSI which affords me the opportunity to cultivate invaluable relationships with other educators worldwide. We often collaborate on enrollment forecasting, retention strategies, and academic advancement.
Lastly, the feedback of our stakeholders is priceless. Proverbs 15 teaches us that constructive criticism leads to wisdom and understanding. One-on-one conversations with our parents and students prove to be worth their weight in gold.”
SouthEast Tennessee Market President, First Horizon Bank
“As a bank so many Chattanoogans trust with their financial relationships, we track trends that impact businesses both on a macro-economic basis and on a local level. With the large geographic footprint of First Horizon, we can leverage expertise and insights across several markets, industries, specialty lines of business, treasury management, Chief Economist, and many others in the markets we serve. In addition, we utilize industry and trade data published by groups like the Tennessee Bankers Association.
In short, we have a whole team that can service any market imaginable, and that’s exactly what we’ve done throughout our 159-year history. We also have a strong group of business owners who serve on our local advisory board. They provide anecdotal information regarding the trends they are experiencing in their particular industries. It’s very interesting to see the comparison between the local and national economy. Our market remains strong, and we have a great team in place to guide our customers through any type of economy.”
President & CEO, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union
“Key publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg, and Forbes provide overarching coverage, analyses, and expert insights into the financial sector and other industries. Industry-specific publications like Credit Union Times, American Banker, and FinTech Magazine offer targeted information on emerging trends and technologies. For macro-economic insight, I review The Economist, Harvard Business Review, and Federal Reserve reports detailing GDP, employment, inflation, and other crucial economic conditions.
I also leverage news aggregators such as Google News and Apple News to customize my feeds and gain diverse perspectives. I follow industry associations like the Credit Union National Association, the American Bankers Association, and the Financial Technology Association for continuous updates and thought leadership. Additionally, the Chattanooga Times Free Press and Edge Magazine do an excellent job of covering the local business community. By utilizing these sources, our team stays informed to skillfully navigate the ever-changing financial services landscape.”
Owner, Jeffan International
“There are three critical industry trends that we follow closely: product trends, international logistics, and consumer buying behavior. To stay on top of trends, we attend several international furniture trade shows. We look for inspirations for unique products or materials that will become a part of our new collections in the upcoming seasons. In addition, Jeffan participates in key furniture tradeshows in High Point and Atlanta where we have permanent showrooms to launch new product introductions. Our customers are able to see these new products in person and provide immediate feedback. In these interactions, we also learn about areas where we need to improve to grow our partnership.
To stay up to date with what is happening around international logistics, we attend webinars from industry experts in this area. We also schedule routine meetings to touch base with key vendors and get updates on current situations. During the pandemic’s disruptions, we worked closely with them to find creative ways to minimize the impact to our business and were able to pivot quickly as a result.
Jeffan also has a direct-to-consumer brand called East at Main. We gain invaluable consumer insights through these direct interactions such as product categories that they are looking for as well as price point and color trends. We are also able to get immediate feedback on new products.”
Director of Marketing & Business Development, University Surgical Associates
“The healthcare market has become a moving target, especially for organizations like University Surgical Associates which are built on delivering exceptional patient outcomes and experiences. This makes staying on top of industry trends – more importantly, synthesizing them and applying where appropriate – mission critical to compete and thrive. While there are dozens of industry-specific channels vying for a leader’s attention, my go-to resources fall in two camps: trade organizations and curated news from healthcare thought leaders. In the first category, there’s ACHE, MGMA and AMGA and their associated member events and publications. My top three sources in the second category include Becker’s Healthcare, The Keckley Report, and AHealthcareZ. All provide digestible insights that inform strategy, operations, HR, marketing, and other disciplines throughout the practice.”
Yolanda M. Hayslett, MBA, SHRM-CP
Vice President of Finance & Operations, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce
“As a financial professional in the nonprofit industry, it is imperative that I stay abreast of current trends and emerging ideas within our local, regional, and national business communities. While our Chattanooga Chamber is not directly involved in a specific industry, we provide a support system that enhances our business landscape for our wide array of member businesses, including those in manufacturing, healthcare, finance, accounting, retail, hospitality, real estate, and a host of others.
A few ways that I stay sharp include reading industry-specific publications such as the Chamber Executive magazine and The Nonprofit Times, attending industry events and webinars, joining professional associations, interacting with Chamber colleagues and peers on social media, and by simply engaging with our members and stakeholders. These resources have proved invaluable in helping to stay on top of pressing issues that will impact our Chattanooga Chamber and the local business community.”
City President, SouthEast Bank
“My perspective on the market and industry is formed from a variety of sources, including banking colleagues, industry-specific news outlets, and various conversations with business owners about the general business climate. Additionally, SouthEast Bank’s emphasis on speed and certainty in making decisions requires a well-developed, industry-centric group of contacts that help keep me versed on specific industry trends. The data points I collect are just that, data points. Others in the market can take those SAME data points and perhaps see different trends. I always want to reconcile data point answers with my personal experience and that of associates.”
Founder & CEO, Variable, Inc.
“We are in the technology industry that uses cutting-edge hardware components and new algorithms as part of our product offerings. We stay ahead of the curve by constantly talking to our suppliers about new technologies they are working on that could enable us to serve our customers better. We also talk to our customers about industry trends that they are seeing and new products they want to see from us. Knowing both sets of information allows us to have the innovative spark moments that are often the beginning of new products. As a leader, educating myself on new supplier technologies and customer insights allows me to see further growth opportunities and set the correct strategic direction.”
Owner, Beaty Fabricating, Inc.
“Beaty Fabricating Inc. started in 1979, so I have been in this business over 30 years. I remember when I was in my early 20s and I was installing handrails, people would say, ‘This ornamental iron is coming back, isn’t it?’ The fact of the matter is, it never went out. Custom iron work is not trendy, the market has always demanded it.
I have always studied iron work and been to many places throughout the world to look at different designs and manufacturing processes. We do most of our own designing with inspiration from iron work that I have seen throughout various parts of the world, especially in Europe. I feel like this has benefited our company the most and is what has led us to become a leader of our industry.”
Owner, Scarlett’s Cabinetry, Inc.
“At Scarlett’s Cabinetry, we keep up with trends in the kitchen and bath business through social media, meeting with our manufacturing representatives, and our clients providing a lot of inspirational photos from influencers or apps such as Pinterest or Houzz. Reading features in high-end design magazines as well as buying books with published interior designs is a great way to just keep up! We are fortunate to share a showroom with The Tile Store, so gathering all the latest tile samples and countertop options for our meetings is very productive and helps us provide an extensive design service. A lot of our projects involve working with very talented interior designers, so it’s fun for them to bring their fresh ideas into our meetings to share. We pride ourselves on providing classic, timeless kitchens and baths – our 30 years of experience sure is helpful, too!”
Faced with sweeping demographic changes, vastly changing distribution channels, exploding new technologies, intense competition, and more, marketers must be increasingly innovative, savvy, and flexible in order to reach their goals. We asked these marketing leaders to share the biggest changes they’re expecting in the coming years, as well as how they plan to address them.
Watching the Market
We must be responsive to millennials, who are now the largest generational segment of the U.S. population. For the Tennessee Aquarium, this is more of an opportunity than a challenge because we have a great story to tell. We are located in the equivalent of an underwater rainforest that is rich in biodiversity, and we are here to make a difference in this precious environment. We know that millennials are more likely to engage with an organization that demonstrates a commitment to its mission, so a primary objective is to enhance the Aquarium’s reputation as the authority for freshwater animals. The changing media landscape, 24-hour news cycle, and social media interaction demand that we produce much more content. With our attractions, that’s fun work, but it’s also very time consuming to do. Personalization and customization of content, along with customer engagement, are priorities for all marketers. Our digital advertising campaigns are highly targeted and the creative is dynamic so that we can appeal to individual interests. We know that what people say about us is much more important than what we say about ourselves, so I probably spend at least half my time working cross-functionally with other departments to enhance the visitor experience. We carefully track satisfaction ratings and reviews on sites like Trip Advisor. For a number of years we have been the highest rated aquarium in the country for visitor satisfaction, and that’s a key differentiator that we can’t take for granted.
Consumers continue to seek greater engagement with the companies that provide products and services they use. This brings an increased need and demand for a consumer experience, tools, and resources that are interactive, personal, and portable. Companies must be focused on strategies that bring more one-to-one experiences to current and potential customers. We have done this in substantial ways by launching the Blue of Tennessee center in Nashville, adding a mobile center that assists members and customers statewide, and by adding chat support for online marketplace enrollment services. We know that it is also vital to have strategies that meet the growing need for mobility and portability. Before launching a new product or service, we have to consider how we can make it mobile or portable so that our members can use their benefits and manage their health as simply and efficiently as possible. And as companies strive to meet the need for consumer engagement and mobility, protecting and enhancing the brand must remain a priority. This means continually monitoring and managing issues through social media as well as being actively involved in supporting our communities.
For those of us who travelled by air prior to September 11, 2001, we remember how “easy” it could be: short security lines, few, if any restrictions on our carry-ons, and very few full-body searches at the security check point. Fast forward to today: longer security lines, the creation of the TSA by the federal government, and a much more stressful experience for the flying public. Previously we were more worried about what we were going to eat or drink at the airport. Today we have more time at the gate, and we worry about whether or not our iPhones, Droids, and laptops will have enough battery life to make it to our final destination.
Our business is unique as we must offer a venue for companies to market to air travelers, plus we must market the airport to those choosing between travel options. Advertising in the airport has continued to change to meet the changing demographics of the typical airline passenger. Historically, Chattanooga has predominantly been a business market, with direct service to five airline hubs, plus service to the main airport (DCA) in our nation’s capital. Allegiant Air has introduced a new concept in Chattanooga, as they handle two leisure destinations in Florida, in addition to several weekly charters to gaming destinations.With this mix of travelers in Chattanooga, many customers have noticed some unique advertising in the terminal and gate areas. These appeal to both the leisure and business traveler.
The challenge the Airport faces in the future is to target the right mix of travelers, through local business magazines and other strategically placed target marketing venues. Through internal market research and by monitoring social media outlets, the Airport must remain flexible and constantly adapt to the wishes of our customer base. We are in a great community, and we are very fortunate to benefit from serving a very dynamic city.
The greatest challenge facing today’s health care marketers is how to effectively switch from individual service to system thinking. With new bundled payment models, population health, and the rise of consumerism, marketers are compelled to take a holistic view of care resources to connect people and providers. Engaging in the operation of the health system is a must for marketers as the heightened expectations of consumers drive providers to craft an enhanced patient experience rivaling that of the retail or hotel industry.
Health care is highly insular and personal; being treated as a human is more important than ever. Marketers are perfectly positioned to provide insight into consumer motivation, behaviors, and triggers to ensure the experience is tailored in a way that ensures ease of access and connects disparate resources in a seamless manner that revolves around the person.
How one harnesses the power of influencers with the five generations of people for whom we provide health care services is a question that will plague marketers who operate on razor-thin budgets. As we move into a world with clinically integrated networks and medical homes, engaging, systematic internal communications will rise in importance as will fostering a strong, active brand ambassador program. Health systems employ thousands of people who, when well-equipped, can effectively connect community members to system resources. Health care lags the product industry in leveraging the powerful tool of brand ambassadors, and I envision this to be a focal point for marketers in the future.
Marketing has been revolutionized by smart phones. Less than a decade ago, people made travel plans via computer, travel agent, or calling a destination. Our screens were small, and the online experience on our phones was terrible. Today, we’ve moved into a world where purchases, including vacations, happen every second on our phones. So how do we inspire and gain customers via handheld devices? The answer is tied to both quality and time. The quality of the content must be high and the authenticity must be real. Generating engaging and inspiring content should be a part of everyone’s marketing plan. But the content must not only be created, it must be distributed. Too often organizations create great movie posters, but they leave them in the closet. The strategy must be to distribute the content via your paid, owned, and earned media channels. The combination of all three is what makes it possible to have enough frequency to have an impact for your brand. In looking at our audience, first we make sure the customer is qualified, meaning they have enough time and money to travel to Chattanooga. Then we look at their interests and don’t worry as much about traditional demographics. This allows us to deliver a highly targeted message to the potential visitor increasing their intent to travel to Chattanooga.
Beginning this fall, we will be kicking-off an effort to define the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) brand. It’s an exciting project that will engage students, staff, faculty, alumni and the Chattanooga community. UTC has a strong visual identity, but what’s the true meaning behind our blue and gold Power C logo? What are UTC’s strengths? What makes this school special? Why are students and alumni so passionate about UTC? What does this school mean to the community? I’m anxious to start digging deep in an effort to clearly define what UTC is and how it’s different than other universities in Tennessee and across the nation. The messages we develop will help everyone tell the UTC story. Instead of being a ‘best kept secret’, we’ll be shining a light on things we can all be proud of, and helping prospective students recognize the amazing opportunities available to them right here in the Scenic City. This is only the first of many exciting marketing and communications efforts we’ll be undertaking at UTC. I’m so fortunate to be part of this university, and this community. Together we can make real progress and have a tremendous impact. I think the potential is unlimited.