How much time last week did you spend looking outside the box you work in? Outside that office door of yours there’s a whole lot going on and as we get caught up running our businesses it can be easy to let the world go past … just a little!
Here’s the thing. With tech, industry, competitors and clients’ needs changing constantly, we need to devote time each week to looking at what’s going on out there. Easy? Not really. There are only so many hours in the day and we are all busy. But in order to be around for the long term and hopefully be a leader in your industry, you need your eyes wide open to new possibilities, ways you can do business, ways you can help your clients, and support & motivate your team.
How to do this is the least time possible? Work it into your daily routine. I’m as guilty as the next person of shutting myself off in order to get through my daily to do list, but, when I’m being good, here are some ways I keep up with the wide, wide world:
- Use a news aggregator (such as Feedly) to daily scan through articles, Google alerts, newsletters and updates. When you come across an article with tools you can implement, save it to Evernote or a private Pinterest board to review in detail later. While you’re scanning your feeds, share any of interest to your networks. Content marketing while you update your knowledge.
- Pick up the phone. Call a customer today just for a catch-up. They’ll appreciate the contact and you’ll get an insight into any challenges they are facing you may not be aware of. Customer service while you update your knowledge.
- When is the next trade event or expo in your area? These events are a fantastic opportunity to network with clients, prospects and key players in your industry and well worth your effort in getting out of the office for a few hours. Network while you update your knowledge.
- Organise a coffee morning. A quick Google search will flush out local contacts in your industry. Flick them an email asking if they’d be interested in a small group catchup. It’s highly unlikely they’ll turn you down.
- Do a monthly competitor analysis of a mixture of local, national and international competitors. What are they doing better than you? What do you offer that they don’t?
- Talk to your team. They see things in the marketplace you may not be aware of. Drinks once a month, weekly staff meetings or for those in the virtual world … a group Skype or Hangout, all great ways to listen to what your team has to say. Team building while you update your knowledge.
- Customer surveys are a great way of finding out what’s happening with your customers on a wider scale than the one-on-one conversations suggested in #2. Ask open ended questions to find out what’s changing in your industry and how you are meeting these changes.
- Listen. There are so many tools online where you can listen to what your competitors, team, prospects, clients and industry leaders are saying. (I use Hootsuite and Mention but simply Google ‘listening tools’ to see what’s available).
- Utilise social media. LinkedIn groups, Twitter lists, Facebook groups, YouTube channels … these are only a few of the possible tools you can use to keep up with what’s going on out there.
Any of the tips above will help you to keep abreast, or better … to lead … in your chosen field. To not do so means you could very well be left behind and without change we all risk a very finite future. Incorporate the above tips that work best for you in your daily routine and remember to note down (in Evernote, in a notebook, in a Word doc, in Dropbox …) articles, ideas and comments you need to act upon.