The Stakeout

stakeout

We've all seen it, two or three haggard world weary detectives or a feisty amateur sleuth in a car or in an empty house or deep in the bushes, on a stakeout. It's a common feature and trope in crime and mystery movies, TV shows, and novels. Sometimes the detective is a bit bumbling and falls asleep or gets distracted or, even worse yet, gets caught and ends up missing a really important clue or piece of evidence like the money drop or the suspect leaving the house without the box he entered with. In mystery fiction, these bumbling episodes usually provide a bit of comic relief and ultimately everything works out despite the pitfalls. The bad guy is caught. Justice is served. The sleuth is hailed as a hero. 

Sometimes the need to stay on top of and current on a topic feels quite like a stakeout. A lot of time and energy goes into waiting and watching and listening for that one piece of information to come that you just know will make everything clear. Or the articles that will key you in on what the next big thing in your space might be. Or maybe you're anxiously watching regulatory bodies to see when new rules that affect your work might finally be published. Or perhaps you have a feeling a competitor might be making a big move, but just don't know when or what it will be. In the real world, when you need to keep on top of information, information that's vital to the success of your projects, there's no time to fall asleep on the job and fall behind.  

There's so much information out there, from so many sources, the information stakeout is even more important than ever before. You need to be proactive. Just like the suspect in a mystery novel won't confess to everything and the detectives must watch and listen and monitor them for important clues, so too must you if you want to stay updated and informed. You need to actively seek out new information and make the information stakeout a habit. You can't expect information you need to succeed to just show up and shout, "Hey! here I am!"

I conduct ongoing media monitoring and topic monitoring projects for clients, usually busy founders and entrepreneurs who need to be current and up to date on topics and trends and news for the sake of their work, but don't have the time to really focus on it. 

How do you keep on top of the information you need? Do you have a detailed monitoring plan? Do you overlook the importance of the information stakeout because…[insert excuse here]?

 

Why are information stakeouts a good idea?

  • Potential investors will expect you to be knowledgable about your space.
  • Competitors might be making big moves you need to be aware of.
  • Customers are out there and they are talking about problems YOU might have the solution to. 
  • Trends outside your personal, local sphere of influence can and will effect your biz in the future. 
  • Laws, policies, and regulations that might limit and influence how you do business could very well be being discussed right now. 
  • New products and services are being created every single day. 
  • Tons and tons of new content is created each and every hour; content you can use to grow your own expertise and share with your audience. 

 

Where do information stakeouts take place?

  • Social media
  • Press release archives
  • News databases
  • Subscription databases
  • Blogs
  • Company websites
  • Wikipedia
  • SEC filings
  • Government news services
  • Court record databases
  • Forums and communities
  • Customer reviews and feedback

Want to learn more about information stakeouts and how they can help you build or grow a better business? Let’s talk.  

6 Questions You Need to Ask (and Be Able to Answer!) Before Publishing Your Ebook

So you’ve written an ebook. That’s great! The hard part is over. Or is it?

If you’ve written an ebook and actually want people to read it, then you must know that your work isn’t even close to being done once you type the last word. Self-publishing and marketing your ebook can be just as much (or more!) work than writing it. Your decisions on publishing, marketing, and selling your ebook should always be research based. Having the necessary information you need before starting the publishing process can make your work and decision-making a whole lot easier. Having all the facts before you make decisions also means you will go into your self-publishing venture with more realistic expectations and goals as you understand the system, the market, and the challenges ahead of you.
No matter where you are in your ebook publishing journey, these 6 questions are something you need to be thinking about in order to make sure you’re publishing the smart way.

1. How factual are my facts?

It’s only natural to want the book you’ve spent countless hours researching, writing, editing, and formatting to be the best it can be. Your grammar might be top-notch and your formatting immaculate, but part of putting out the best work possible is making sure your facts and data are accurate and up-to-date, especially if you’re writing in a field or for an industry where information and statistics are dynamic and constantly changing. Having another set of eyes go over your book and fact-check using quality resources is a great way to ensure you’re putting your best work out there.

2. Who is my audience?

Knowing and understanding your audience is fundamental to successfully publishing, marketing, and selling your ebook. Think about and learn about your potential audience. Social media monitoring can be a great way to discover an untapped audience. Locate market research reports and studies for the demographics you’re looking to target and ultimately reach. Look for data on what your target audience reads, how they read, and where they learn about new books. Your audience should be one of the guiding forces when making decisions on how to publish and market your ebook, and being adequately informed on your audience’s interests, preferences, and habits will make your decision-making process a lot more fluid and strategic.

3. Who and what are my competition?

Treat your competition as a valuable source of information. Scan the genre, field, or industry your ebook is focused on with an eye towards seeing what others are doing and have done. What kinds of ebooks are out there? What marketing techniques have worked for other authors ? What hasn’t worked? Why? In order to price your ebook competitively, take a look at how your competition has priced their books. Are their books selling at these price points? You can learn a lot by looking at your competition and you’ll be able to map your strategy a lot easier when you know exactly what you’re getting into and any potential obstacles and challenges you may face along the way.

4. How will I reach my audience?

After all the work you’ve put into creating your ebook, of course you’ll want people to actually read it. But how will you reach your audience? Research the best venues for publicizing your ebook and begin thinking about social media marketing campaigns. The research you did into your competition and into your target audience will be highly valuable in answering this question.

5. Who are the top names in my genre/niche/industry?

When researching your competition, you’ll likely come across the big names in your genre, niche, or industry. Don’t ignore these names or let them intimidate you. While you may see them as competition, their popularity and success can benefit you. Could you contact them for blurbs? For reviews? Networking opportunities?

6. What are my options when it comes to publishing my ebook?

Before you publish your ebook learn everything you can about the process. Make sure you understand all your options. Will you do everything yourself or will you outsource certain parts of the publishing and marketing process? Research the pros and cons of different distribution methods and channels. Without understanding how the system works—and doesn’t work— you can’t make informed decisions. And if your decisions aren’t informed, your ebook’s success is on the line.

Whether you choose to do the research yourself or get help from a pro, being aware of and possessing the information and resources to confidently answer these questions just may be the key to successfully self-publishing and selling your ebook. Good luck!

Spark New Life into Your Biz and Ideas with These 8 Client-Tested Strategies

Has the Righteous Brothers’ hit “Lost that Loving Feeling?” suddenly become the theme song to the relationship you have with your work and the ideas and products you’ve been building? If it has, don’t worry. It happens to the best of us. After a strong start filled with excitement, passion, and a never-ending supply of brilliant ideas, it’s very common for that passion and excitement to start to fizzle. Doubt might creep in. FOMO and information overload might have you at a standstill. Your ideas might begin to seem boring or cliche. This is normal. This is okay. Luckily, there are quite a few ways to bring back that spark and reignite your passion, and bring back that loving feeling you once had.

Read on for 8 of my favorite, client-tested, ways to spark new life into your work.

1. Become a Follower.

Find 2 or 3 people in your niche or space, or a space you’re not in but might be interested in learning more about or breaking into.

Don’t just click “follow” and be done with it, though. Try to learn a bit about them: their backgrounds, interests, what others say about them, what they’re doing that’s working. Is there anything you can emulate? Put some real thought and time into choosing whom to follow and you just might be surprised at the relationships you can cultivate and the inspiration you can pick up.

2. Pinpoint Partnerships.

Do a little digging and find people looking to partner up for interesting collaborations. Or, be bold and suggest a collaboration idea to someone you admire (maybe one of the people you followed in tip #1?)

Don’t be afraid to stray from the obvious and well-worn collaborative paths and suggest a collaboration or partnership with someone in a space that might surprise your followers or potential customers and clients. Do you provide stylist services to women on a budget? How about starting a collaboration discussion with a local thrift shop to offer an affordable monthly subscription stylist and product service for thrifty fashion aficionados?

Or maybe surprise yourself and partner with a business in a space you never thought of working in. Are you a writer? How about approaching a restaurant blogger about writing a series of posts about unique menu copy? Be creative and take some time thinking about how you can help others and how others can help you.

3. Play a Game of “What If?”

When things are going a bit stale, introducing hypotheticals is a great way to bring back some life. Sit down, alone or with a partner, and think up some potential scenarios.  Let’s say you’re creating a bagel of the month subscription service. You might ask questions like “What if we offered a DIY option that lets customers make their own gourmet bagels?” or “What if we branched out into gourmet cream cheeses?” What would happen? What would you need to do? What would you have to stop doing? Take it as far as you can!

There are many approaches to this and none are right or wrong. Be creative and have fun. Don’t worry about facts and stats to back up any scenarios or assumptions you come up with. Let your ideas and assumptions flow freely. You don’t have to stick to purely practical what ifs, and don’t be afraid to venture into the more superficial realms that might not, at first, appear to be all that important.

Here’s some hypotheticals I’ve worked on with actual clients:

  • “What if we changed our packaging to blue and green?”
  • “What if we offered 30 minute sessions instead of 60 minutes?”
  • “What if we opened a pop-up shop?”
  • “What if we packaged three services together?”
  • “What if we sent handwritten thank you notes to all our subscribers?”

Once you’ve exhausted the “what ifs?”, it’s time to research your scenarios. Have others tried the same ideas? Any demographic information you might need? Does the info you find support your initial assumptions?

4. Spend Some Time Listening.

When was the last time you took the time to actually listen? I don’t mean spending five or ten minutes browsing Twitter or your newsfeed, but really, really listening?

Take a day or week or even longer to dig deep and find out what people are really saying about you, your brand, your niche, or your competitors. Don’t jump into the conversation, though! Let these listening sessions inspire you. You’re likely to come up with many new ideas and solutions. You might find cracks in the market or ways to reach an audience you didn’t even know existed, or ways to tweak your offering to address what real people are really asking for.

5. Play Catch Up.

Have you been slacking on keeping up with the news and trends in your space?

Spend some time catching up on what you might have missed. Set a goal to read at least 3 articles or posts per day on each topic you want to follow. You’ll discover plenty of new things that will spark some ideas, without being overwhelmed by tons of information coming your way. As an added bonus, you’ll be up-to-date and well-informed, which will make the work you do all that more efficient.

6. Learn Something New.

Is there one topic you always wished you knew more about? Or what about a skill you always wished you had picked up?

Take this time to learn. It doesn’t have to be anything related to your business or your industry. In fact, it’s even better if it’s not. Learning something new without the pressure of applying it to your work might just just be the spark you need to return to your work with a fresh, recharged mind.

7. Go Back to the Beginning.

Remember that feeling when you first started? When the excitement of planning and the rush of new ideas carried you though the rough times? When you were tracking down everything you possibly could about your idea, your industry, your niche, your competitors?

Recapture that. Go back to the beginning and take a look at your initial ideas from a new, more experienced perspective. Re-research some key points and things that have likely changed or evolved since you started, even if it’s only been a year or two. You’d be surprised how quickly information and new data is created and how much almost-certain facts can change as time goes by. Take a second look at any market or industry research you did. How did your assumptions back then color your findings? How do your current assumptions inform what you found then? I bet you’ll find a lot of new paths to take and new threads to follow, simply by going back to where you started.

8. Step Back. Reach Out.

If you’re really stuck, it might be time to get some professional help. Having an outsider take a fresh look at your business, your ideas, your services, or your projects can really make a huge difference.

Consider having an information audit done and having your information needs diagnosed and examined to find out exactly what information, research, and analysis you need to move forward. It’s not cheating to get help now and then when building your business or products. Slaving over that search engine when your time could be better used connecting with customers and clients, doesn’t means you’re more dedicated, passionate or involved than those who call in the pros. It’s all about prioritizing and knowing when–and whom– to ask for help.

Remember: Just because you seem to have lost that loving feeling, it doesn’t have to be permanent. The above tips are some of my favorite ways to get that spark back, through the power of sleuthing, researching, and diligent digging. It’s just another reason why research is one of the most important investments you’ll ever make towards your success.


Startup Sleuth can help you get back that loving feeling, all you need is a little sleuthing.