No doubt you know what I’m talking about. You work at a marketing or PR agency or as a consultant and a new client or new project comes along and there you go – jumping in with both feet. And, as you probably also know, that process is typically trial-by-fire.
I don’t know about you, but I’m less interested in getting burned than I am in quickly mapping out a route to make myself an expert in these various niches and getting ahead of the game—and doing some awesome work while I’m at it.
Over time, I’ve built up an arsenal of tools and tricks to not only to learn about industries, but also to keep up with the latest trends. So even if you know nothing about, say, Quinceanera fiesta dresses or pneumatic tuggers, you can successfully promote them, market them, create content about them—you name it—with the right knowledge.
If you’re in the same boat, read on. I’ll bet that one of these ideas will help you quickly and easily get a grasp on virtually any industry or subject matter.
1. Alltop: An Excellent Starting Point
If you want to quickly know what people are saying about pretty much any topic, your best bet is to try news aggregator Alltop. This site features blogs, grouped by topic, that have been hand-picked by its staff. Search for the topic you are interested in, and they may just have a page for it. (Examples include Zombies and Network Security, just to name a couple).
2. Google Alerts: Ongoing Intelligence
Finding stories in an array of publications once required combing through periodicals by hand or hiring an expensive clipping service. Now, however, the magic of technology allows you to set up a Google Alert for an industry keyword (e.g. “cloud storage” or “project management”). Google Alerts are free and take just seconds to set up. You’ll be notified by e-mail or RSS when new stories emerge so that you can easily stay up-to-date on your topics of choice. And by the way? You should also have Google Alerts set up to track your name and business. That, however, is another blog post.
3. Using Twitter for News and Intelligence
Even if you’re not a Twitter power user, you can still use the service to find blog posts, articles and tweets about any topic. Using a social media dashboard like Hootsuite, you can set up a search for a particular keyword and easily monitor what’s happening in that fashion. Or, you can create a Twitter list that includes industry leaders, bloggers, and competitors. (Even better, you can make the list private so no one knows about your snooping—err, research). Plus, you can also use Twitter search as an alternative to Google to help you find people talking about a certain topic or links to relevant content.
4. Going Old-School: Books and Magazines
If you’re a marketer and you read an in-depth book or two about a client’s industry, you’ll probably be more knowledgeable than most of your competitors. Having a more informed grasp of a particular industry can not only help you create better content, but also better understand the context of industry trends.
5. Field Work: Venture Beyond Your Desk
Agency marketers or PR pros, this one’s for you. Get to know your clients—in the flesh! Get out and visit your client company’s offices. Spend some time there, talk to employees, and you’ll get a better feel for the company and its niche. Some of my best ideas have been generated though client visits. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to get out of the office for a bit?
6. Keep Your Info In One Place
Now that you’ve compiled an impressive pile of information and research, you need a tool that helps you store your data. I use Evernote to collect links, record information I’d like to reference and to create all sorts of lists. Evernote is cloud-based, so it syncs your notes between computers and smartphones. Plus, your notes are part of a user-friendly database that makes it easy to organize and retrieve notes. Competitors include SpringPad, SimpleNote, and OneNote, each of which has its own benefits.
By making a few tools part of your research routine, you’ll be able to quickly and efficiently grasp even the most obscure industries or subject matter—and be better equipped to help your clients tackle their marketing goals.
Do you use any other tools to help you better understand what your clients do and the fields in which they work?
Ashlee McCullen is a staff writer for Apron Addicts, a website about kitchen fashion and home style. She also writes about mobile technology and self-improvement.
Lead image by albertogp123 via Creative Commons