Keep your eyes open about the industry you’re in.

As a young marketing minion, I jumped from an NGO to an education company to a technology company in a rather short span of time. When people asked me if I have ‘industry experience’, I often scoffed — marketing is marketing, right? Well, wrong.

Today, as a super-specialist B2B tech content agency owner, I know that having contextual knowledge of the industry is everything. I get, retain and charge good price from customers because I know the space well. I can speak the lingo. For businesses this is especially valuable.

For instance, I met a client once who was struggling to explain his product to me, worried that I might not understand the jargon. I summarised his product back, in the industry lingo. Since then, he’s trusted me with practically all communication about his product.

I can do this not just because I do a lot of work in the industry, but also because I keep an eye (and ear) out for what’s going on. Knowing the industry is fundamental to doing great work, which often results in making more money. Here are some things I regularly do:

Subscribe to top newsletters: You don’t have to read through every newsletter that comes to your inbox. But even if you give it a cursory glance every now and then, you’d be able to make intelligent conversation with your customer.

Make Twitter lists of top people: Just search for key terms in the industry and maintain lists of top commenters — I had a Kubernetes list for the time I wrote for a application deployment product company.

Speak to friends in the industry: I have no qualms hitting a friend up and asking questions about their work. For instance, I called a cloud architect friend and asked so many questions about virtual machines and containers before writing about Kubernetes. (These friends don’t mind. They know I’ll do the same for them, of course.)

Identify top consulting companies and subscribe: Gartner, Forrester, Deloitte etc. have specialised areas. Go to their websites and subscribe to their content. Learn their reports and frameworks — Gartner magic quadrant, Forrester wave and things.

Follow podcasts: I’ve added Finshots to my list because I’m writing for a client in the investment space. Find ones that work for you and subscribe. Listen, even if passively, while doing chores or riding your bike or something.

As a freelancer or an agency, you’re distant from where the action takes place. All these are methods to get closer. You don’t need to carefully do all these things at all times, spending hours on it. Even little glimpses will come in handy some day.

Try it. Tell me if it works.