Marketing is a high-intensity, high-competition industry that rewards creativity and demands diligence. Because of that, it can very easy for company marketing departments to fall behind the curve, and if not corrected, use techniques that are completely outdated. In order to stay ahead of the competition, you have to be intentional with your education and with your planning; here are five ways to do just that.

  1. Read Industry Publications

Instead of catching up on the latest dinner pictures on Facebook and Instagram, spend your time reading blogs, magazines, and e-books from industry leaders. These people stake their livelihood on delivering content and resources that their readers will want to read, and they thrive on unique ways to separate yourself from the competition. For that reason, you can’t go wrong by at least reading what they have to say and keeping your pulse on industry trends. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of 16 different marketing blogs you may be interested in.

  1. Engage Social Media

Twitter may not be the juggernaut that it used to (though it still commands a healthy dose of traffic in its own right), but it still provides you unparalleled and real-time access to conversations that you should absolutely be a part of. Use hashtags like #socialmedia or #digitalmarketing to find threads where industry leaders or your competitors are discussing the latest marketing news, and either chime in with your own comments or simply read and learn. While some threads will ultimately end up pointless, there are enough good ideas floating around out there that even hitting on a few could revolutionize your business.

  1. Join Groups

Facebook groups and online forums operate like digital think tanks for virtually every topic on earth, and marketing is no different. You can take your pick from thousands of groups with members discussing the latest trends every single day, and may even be able to network with many of them to gain further insight. Furthermore, several so-called marketing gurus have been known to haunt these groups as well, so you might get lucky and be able to connect with them as well. As always, you’ll want to take every piece of advice that you get online with a grain of salt, but it’ll at least help you keep your eyes and ears open to the world at large.

  1. Subscribe to Feeds

RSS is not nearly as popular as it used to be, but fortunately, many blogs and marketing websites allow you to simply input your e-mail address and have their content delivered right to your inbox. Not only will this allow you to have a smorgasbord of relevant content right at your fingertips, but it’ll also help you siphon through the junk and cut right to the meat. Find a few of your favorite influencers and follow their material religiously, rather than shooting all over the internet trying to find people that are worth reading.

  1. Streamline Your Operations

Ultimately, everything you read and digest comes down to application, so take some of the skills that you’ve been reading up on and put them into practice on a small scale within your own business. You’ll not only find out what works and what doesn’t, but you’ll also start to see how specific tactics can adapt to your specific company. Employ these different tactics especially in omnichannel operations. What is omnichannel operations? Simply put, it’s an integration of all the different channels of your business – mobile, desktop, social media, etc – and making sure they all deliver a coherent message. Staying ahead of the curve involves making sure that all facets of your business are in harmony, so make sure the strategies you employ work together. Who knows, maybe in your own marketing tests, you’ll be able to develop some new tactics that nobody else has thought of and may take years to duplicate.