I try to keep a finger on the pulse of broad macro trends that could impact my buyer. This information can be accessed through a variety of different sources including media, analysts, or influencers in the space. To avoid the buzz words I try to break down those trends to what they really mean in layman's terms and how they might apply to the problems my company and/or product is looking to solve.
For broader buyer trends, I’ve found focus groups with prospects to be effective. It’s a way to get in the heads of prospective buyers and see what’s on their mind. You can get their reaction to several high-level messaging angles and through moderated conversation, you can uncover larger trends versus just buzz.Once you have the key message in place, I’d suggest qualitative research with buyers. I organize these as 1:1 interviews where you share a screen and ask a buyer (prospect or current) to react to written comms. The best way to get a good read is to write comms you’d actually use, so an email for instance, and ask them to read and react. We’ve done this verbally and by using a tool like Zoom where participants can highlight things that make them happy, angry or confused.
Definitely read what the analysts are talking about, as they guide the trends in technology buying. Gartner is the king of the hill, Forrester and IDC are good, and there are many others including (probably) specialists in your industry.
If you don't have a subscription to analyst research, you can see enough for this purpose in their public blogs, speeches, etc.
Talk to people! Talk to your customers. Do win/loss calls. Understand their pain points. Understand their eco-systems, how they acquire customers, what challenges their industry is facing. What keeps the executives up at night.
If you don't have access to the people you need, find them on linkedin and bribe them with amazon gift cards. If you have the budget use something like Alphasights or GLG to get you on calls to talk to people that know the industry extremely well. Or, use something like Respondent.io to source them yourself.