I was recently in a meeting with a client and he asked me something that has been weighing on my mind since. “How do we stay ahead within the industry?” To be honest, it caught me completely off guard and I had to really think for a moment before I responded.
I got asked this question a few months ago and not a day has gone by that I haven’t asked myself, “What can I do today to be ahead tomorrow? What am I going to learn today to set me apart from my competition? How am I going to benefit my clients and their businesses?” I made the commitment that day that I’m not going to look back in a year from now, but daily, and will have done something different to set myself apart both professionally and personally from the day before.
What I absolutely loved was that this particular client didn’t care about our education, our experience or even the past work we have done—but they cared about how are we constantly learning and striving to be cutting edge. And, most importantly, they cared about how we are going to be ahead of the game for them—to make us money. Our conversation reminded me that we are a team with our clients. There is no I. There is only us, and clients want to ensure that who they partner with is going to make sure every dollar goes into their pocket before it gets handed to their competitor.
Clients don’t always care about your education or where you have been or what you have done. They care about the value you can provide them. Don’t get me wrong, all of these things may serve a purpose for oneself, but, in the end, is the time you spend doing those things providing value for what you will be doing in this industry?
I currently just read “Epic Content Marketing” by Joe Pulizzi for the third time, and one of the things he has driven home for me is that no one cares about you; they care about themselves. So, in essence, create content other people care about. And if you are going to sell anything in this day and age, you need to tell people what you are going to do for them.
We are in a constant state of learning. We are all entrepreneurs constantly looking for ways to improve. And here are a few ways I personally stay ahead of the trends for my clients and myself.
1. Audio Books
My coworker Tim recently introduced me to audio books. I know it sounds crazy but it really never crossed my mind to be listening to educational and inspiring books on my commute to and from work every day (I have a long commute). So, he gave me a list of books and I am hooked. Not only am I being educated, but when I get to work or back home, I am more motivated and energized to climb mountains. But really—my energy is a bit too much sometimes, ask my husband.
2. Networking and Marketing Events
I love a good party! And I don’t want to miss out on any one of them. I am a big fan of networking and marketing events. I take part in a number of marketing organizations, but the most important thing about these events is that I get to talk to, listen to and meet people who are killing it in their business. This means I learn firsthand what they are doing right and what they have done wrong. I also get to meet others that in turn can help you with your business. My clients are my greatest asset, which means I am constantly out there rooting for them, getting their name out there and doing the best I can to meet the experts in the field not only for their marketing needs but for their expertise.
3. Entrepreneurial Spirit
I am an entrepreneur at heart. My husband tells me to calm down on a weekly basis as I am always thinking up the next big opportunity. We run a DIY blog, construction2style, as well as a home remodeling business. So, selfishly, I am always researching and wanting to stay ahead of marketing trends for my own benefit. That is another reason why I love working at Snap. Acting as the marketing arm to a ton of different businesses keeps me dabbling with a mix of industries. I love that every day is different and every day I get to learn about a new industry, what sets them apart from competitors, and how to make them money.
4. Surround Myself with Intelligent People
I surround myself with intelligent, kind, motivated and positive people in and out of work. I work with some of the most intelligent individuals within the industry. My coworkers are pretty sweet (despite the fact that they won’t let me play Christmas music year round). If they weren’t, I simply wouldn’t work at Snap. One of the best things about working at Snap Agency is that I learn something new every day by having conversations with them. I’d say most days I learn one to five new things. They are constantly staying ahead of the marketing trends and sharing all they have learned. We work in an open co-working space so some days it is just one big conversation. So while I work, I can listen and learn. And yes, sometimes I need to leave the room for some peace and quiet. 🙂
5. Scour the Internet for Blogs
As a blogger, I am a part of many influencer groups. Every morning I spend one hour searching for the latest topics or trends within my tribe that would interest me or my clients. This provides me with a great source of current information and the latest trends within a number of different sources. Blogs often provide an analysis of trends within a number of given industries, which I then use to inform the strategies I develop with my clients.
6. Support and Engage
I am always supporting and engaging with a ton of different tribes. Don’t now what a tribe is? Read up on it HERE. What I tell all my clients, friends and myself is to find your tribe and love them hard. Oftentimes I get asked, “How can we ensure we are not engaging with our competitors?” Then I know I am in the long haul to turn their thought process around. To me, if you engage with your competitors you will only prosper. Leverage, learn, support, help and work with one another. I know this is easier said than done depending on the industry you are in. But for me, I dabble in a ton of different tribes. I watch my clients’ “competitors” and see what they are doing well and not so well. When you support and engage within your tribe you learn, learn, learn and stay ahead of the cutting edge.
So I also asked a couple of my coworkers this exact question on how they personally keep themselves educated within the industry, and this is what they had to share.
Liz, Snap Copywriter and Editor
“As a copywriter/editor, I keep my nose in the books. I read trade publications such as AdWeek or Communication Arts advertising annuals. I also keep my eyes peeled for developing grammatical rules within Associated Press’ style guide (since AP is the universal style for our industry). The best way to build ideas for clients is to look at 100 different threads of thought since creativity is an inspired and collaborative beast.”
Regular intentional conversations with the smartest people I know.
“I stay ahead in my industry by reaching out to the smartest people I know and am candid about the challenges I’m working through. Through doing my podcast, I not only share the best of the best things I’m learning in my field (and by teaching, I learn about topics more deeply) but I actually pay people to dig deep into a field they are an expert in, and share with me their best tactics. Between this and just sitting down for coffee, or having casual conversations with other people in my industry and even clients who are very successful and savvy with their own businesses, I absorb a lot of business and marketing experience.”
Actively listening to thought leaders through social media.
I actively listen to leaders in the field. By being careful to curate and prune the lists on social media that I’m paying attention to and reading relevant articles and books, I get down to the practical aspects that other savvy industry professionals are finding to be the most important to focus on. I’m continually reorganizing key priorities in my working life and digital marketing focus, and, in this way, I’m able to clarify what’s most important and can cut out the nonessential.
Asking the right questions on each new digital marketing project I work on.
When it comes to creating value for my agency, personal brand and for clients, it’s all about asking the right questions. If I can stay on the cutting edge of what’s the best of the best of promotional tactics in digital marketing, I can also ask the right questions in the right way to explore a company’s main value propositions, target market and emotional hook to exploit their best features in telling the story online. In the end, many of the questions that I ask are timeless:
- What is valuable about this product or service?
- Why should anyone care about it? What is the emotional hook of the product or service and how can we make that visual?
- Who is the core audience for this? Who would be delighted to find it?
- How can we make the core goals of the website easy to accomplish by a visitor?”