Keeping Up With The Fire Hose

The Fire Hose

The Fire Hose

Keeping up with the “fire hose” of the things I’m interested in is enough of a challenge. Add to that the, shall we say, “Dynamic” nature of my business of consulting in digital marketing, and it’s easy to see how specialization takes place. Being a generalist in any area, while of some value, limits your effectiveness with your customers….especially if your customers have wildly divergent businesses.

Granted, there’s a lot I bring to the table for them. As a rule, the business owners and entrepreneurs I work with are totally focused on their business passions and a number ore still working on become viable. They are all aware of the need for marketing, but having constrained resources (the usual 3: time, money, and personnel….many are solo-preneurs…) they try to start by doing it by themselves. A few searches on Google for resources or tips, a Facebook page, maybe a web site, and some even have a customer list they turn into an email list. By and large, they quickly realize that it’s possible to spend a LOT of resources and not seem to make much, if any, headway…

So, a couple more Google searches, maybe try to read a book on it, and, if they are part of a decent local business network, maybe asking a couple of colleagues what they are doing. They try tweaking a few things and wait a week (most of us are pretty impatient…..). Nothing seems to happen, or, maybe they get a “blip” in business….HOORAY!!!!

“So, ummmm…..what exactly did I do that caused that blip? Can I do it again, only better? How can I grow this into something that will drive my business?”

All good questions….

However, what I want to look at in this article is the work you do to “keep up” on your business. I will share with you a few things I do regularly to make sure I can be of the highest value to my existing and future clients.

  1. Inhale information – I know that sounds overwhelming, and it can be if you confront the thought as a whole instead of in tiny, bite-sized pieces. Here are a few of the streams of information from which I “drink” regularly:
    1. A regular set of web sites and blogs – In use this add-in for the Firefox browser called Morning Coffee. I have 12 sites that I scan for articles of interest to my audience and me loaded into it. I click the button once and Morning Coffee loads all 12 sites into my browser. This can take awhile if the sites you chose are graphics-heavy, as most are, but you can usually get to the first one pretty quickly and start going through the presented info while the others load. I have tried using feeds for this kind of info-gathering, but enjoy the whole pages more and find more “accidental” information this way.
    2. Online courses – I have been a Lynda.com subscriber for years, and have purchased a number of decent to great courses on Udemy and The Great Courses, too. The quality of online learning has improved over the year, and I’ve found that I can consume new information pretty well in this format. Others have not fared so well, but I would recommend trying it with a single course and see if it turns out to be as valuable to you as it is for me.
    3. Books – Both physical and e-book formats work for me. I have owned an Amazon Kindle device for a LONG TIME (about 10 years…) and love having it available with a number of books on it whenever I have the time to crack it open and read. There are also a lot of books, either no longer in print or that, for some reason, have never made it to Kindle, that I obtain and work through. I also don’t focus exclusively on marketing or quasi-technical topics. Marketing is a fascinating area because it really has to do with how people, individually and in various sizes of groups, communicate, interact, and think. So reading about social and cognitive science, history, creativity and leadership all feeds into a greater understanding of how we all “work together” in this world, both on- and off-line.
    4. Workshops & conferences – These can stretch from 8 people meeting “after hours” locally and hashing over what’s going on in their businesses to the classic conference attendance for your industry. My experience is that, if I can take away a single “golden nugget” from any of these that allows me to enhance my skill and expertise on behalf of my clients, it’s worthwhile. It’s true that you need to be selective, especially since some of them can get to be pricey and you can easily spend All Of Your Time going to them. Still, the events themselves, along with the chance to meet and converse with others in your industry or locale can prove invaluable.
  2. Deep Work – I read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport about a year ago. While I have run across several of the ideas in this book over the years, Newport has written a work that brings them all together with compelling evidence and examples of implementation for my work style, and it really made sense to me. I have incorporated a blocked amount of time regularly (daily) during which email is closed (critical…), the web is severely constrained (I use an app that will allow me access only to certain sites that I use for learning or research….so no Facebook, of course (among others…)) and I focus on a single, difficult, high-value project. I have found this enables me to raise the quality of much of what I am capable of for my clients and myself.
  3. Deepen and Strengthen – Make a short list of 3 strengths / skills you have, in order of strongest to weakest. Create a plan to take your strongest skill and develop it even further. You BECOME the expert in that area. Study, practice, and do whatever you need to do to make that particular “muscle” the ONE. What do you do with the other two? While ancillary, they can gain from some work on them, so create a plan that enhances them, too. Also realize that, over time, these may change or need to change, due to the arc of life and technologies in your industry. Be aware of what’s going on out there (see number 1 above!) and reassess your strengths / skills periodically. Additionally, ask colleagues, mentors and friends what THEY feel are your top 3 strengths / skills. You may be surprised at what you are perceived as versus what you think you are.

So there….have any practices or tips for keeping up? Please share!

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