From visiting Annabelle’s candy factory as a kid (think Big Hunk, Abba Zabba and Look — yummy!) to doing the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory tour as an adult, I’m a sucker for the factory tour.
Love ’em, can’t get enough of them.
So I’m always thrilled when I get a new client and they offer me a tour. (It doesn’t even have to be a factory — I’ll tour anything including a golf course, a printing plant, and a university, to name a few.)
Tours give me a hands-on feel for the company and its products / services. When I toured the golf course, for example, I studied various types of turf, examined how balls rolled across the greens, and watched people play golf.
Learned more in an hour than I did reading reams of source material.
But the best part of doing tours is talking to the person giving the tour – and getting some of my best content ideas in the process.
It’s during the tour that the person giving the tour opens up in a way that doesn’t happen while sitting at a desk. All of a sudden, he or she is talking a mile a minute, pointing out things, introducing people and handing you things to look at or touch.
Best of all, if you pay close attention, you’ll hear the nuggets of information upon which you can build an entire message or marketing campaign.
On one tour, for example, the client said a few times that they had all new equipment. I finally asked, “Why is that important?” and she replied, “Oh, because we were outsourcing our manufacturing but the quality was really bad. So we invested in the equipment and now we produce everything in-house. Our quality is back up to close to 100% and we’re shipping product faster.”
I changed their entire messaging based on that one piece of information — which netted fabulous results for them that year.
Another client, Veterans Development Corporation, told me the story of how they got the West End Heating plant in Georgetown working again. The guys telling the story got all excited and animated and in turn I got excited — and ended up developing content for their revamped site around the messages buried in that story: fast response, deep know-how, creative approaches. They loved it.
Yes, yes, I can hear you thinking, you don’t have anything to tour because you make software, or something equally “flat,” and all your people do is sit pecking away at a computer all day.
So get up out of your chair and go for a walkabout anyway!
Going for a walkabout is one of my favorite ways to find ideas that become the basis for new content. What you’re doing when you go for a walk around your company is looking for “news” that you can can turn into case studies, application notes, blog posts, video, white papers, or newsletter articles.
Think like a reporter and sniff out the news by asking people what’s new and exciting and what kinds of projects they’re working on.
If they talk one-on-one with customers, ask them what customers are talking about. While you’re on the topic, ask which questions customers ask the most — you might be amazed at the answers.
If you work in a company that has a few buildings or multiple departments, go visit the other building or department and introduce yourself. Open doors, peek around cubicles, and go down hallways you’ve not been down before. If you need permission to visit an area (i.e. the clean room), ask for a guided tour.
In short, don’t be afraid to learn more about your company and the people in it. Once you make a habit of going for a walkabout, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.