It’s the tingle at the back of your neck, the urge to look behind you when you walk up to your front door. Someone’s watching; you just know it. However, in the world of content marketing, you want people to watch you. You want to build an audience, want to take to social media, and you want your voice to be heard.

 This is all well and good, but the first key step in your marketing comes before you try and figure out how to “engage” your audience, or even before you come up with a name for your business. The first step is to, well… be that stalker Rockwell’s talking about in his 1984 hit, “Somebody’s Watching Me.”

1. “Stealing” Ideas

When you go into marketing, you most likely have an idea brewing already. Who knows, maybe you don’t and you’re in need of some inspiration. Whatever the case, the first thing you should realize is that someone has already done the thing you are trying to do. Think about it. You have a great blog post in your head and you decide to do some research so you can have evidence to back up your claims. It’s here that you discover that the post you were about to make has been written several times. Does this mean you should change your idea? No. If anything, it should encourage you even more. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute quotes Mark Fletcher, the founder of Bloglines.com, by saying, “Your idea isn’t new. Pick an idea; at least 50 other people have thought of it. Get over your stunning brilliance and realize that execution matters more.”

As much as we’d like to believe that we’re the first to do something we, most likely, are not. This is something that Pulizzi not only admits, but happily accepts. “Much of my speeches and my writings on content marketing are filled with the thoughts of others,” he says, and according to him a major benefit of his job is being able to travel around, meet such fascinating people, and gain new ideas.

2. Feeling out the Competition

We’ve already discussed why competition is a good thing. Knowing that there’s someone out there trying to do the same thing as you encourages you to try harder. Competition spurs on creativity, and that creativity makes you stand out and gives your audience the very best you can offer. However, there’s more to all of this than simply knowing that competition exists. You also want to know what your competitors are doing, how they’re doing it, and if it’s working for them. When it comes to marketing, if someone is doing better than you, the best solution is to find out how.

Destiny Malone lists several ways you can watch your competition via an article for Mannix Marketing:

  • Look at their websites
  • Follow them on social media
  • Google them
  • Check out their coupons
  • Read their reviews
  • Examine their ads
  • Drive by their business
  • Examine their signage
  • See where they advertise
  • See what they advertise
  • Sign up for their email newsletter

On top of all of this we recommend doing more than just following them. Start a conversation with them. Do more than just lurk in the shadows; comment on what your competition posts and start a conversation. This will not only get you closer to your competitors, but this will give you a voice in their audience. That way, when you do come out with your own content, the people in that audience may remember you from your prior activities.

3. Feeling out the Market

If you’re looking for a way to find out what your market is like before you jump in, there’s no better way than to watch others who are already a part of it. This goes along with the idea of watching your competitors. Not only is it a good way to see what you’re up against, but… it’s a good way to see what you’re up against. Not just from the competition, but the market as a whole. By watching what your competition is going through you’ll get a feel for what you will have to deal with.

Michael R. Hunter lists three reasons why watching those around you is a key marketing strategy:

  • You can learn from their mistakes.
  • You can model what works for them.
  • They reveal opportunities in the marketplace.

So, when it comes to marketing the first thing you want to do is watch and observe. Put Michael Jackson’s hook to good use: “I always feel like somebody’s watching me.” Start watching, the marketing will develop along the way