General Advice

Digital Marketing Tools to Reach and Retain Clients

Diverse People Connecting With Social Media

Diverse People Connecting With Social Media

Who doesn’t want to create and nurture new customer relationships? In welcoming these critical connections, digital marketing tools can help your team with focus and organization, division of labor, scheduling, and task automation.

Below, you will find a list of great tools. Happily, many of them are either free or very inexpensive. Just one more plus on the path to customer integration.

Tools to Help Publish Content

To be successfully “found” by customers, great relationship development and a stellar reputation are critical. In addition, there’s no denying that written content can help, especially when published in the form of a blog. There are many tools to help you do just that. Here are some that we recommend:

  • WordPress: WordPress is one of the most important tools of digital marketing. This blogging platform can operate not only your blog, but your entire website. WordPress makes the process of publishing new content very easy for people within your organization. It also features thousands of “plug-ins” (the equivalent of apps for your blog) that allow you to customize your site in a numerous ways. WordPress is free, and can be downloaded atwww.WordPress.org/download. Remember, it’s preferable to install your blog within your website (i.e., www.yourcompany.com/blog), rather than through an external blogging service (i.e.,www.blogger.com/yourcompany).
  • Editorial Calendar for WordPress: Editorial Calendar is a WordPress plug-in (or app) that helps manage the posts for your WordPress blog in a calendar view. This free tool gives you a bird’s-eye view of the posts you and the team have in the queue, and when they will be released publicly. The tool also allows you to drag and drop posts from one day to another, and to edit posts on the fly. This plug-in can be downloaded at www.WordPress.org/plugins/editorial-calendar.
  • Google Drive: Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) helps you create lists, calendars, and content for your team to view, edit, and develop. With Google Drive, you can create online documents and spreadsheets and share them with others for group editing. It is a great tool for drafting blog posts, content calendars, or brainstorming. Google Drive is available for free atwww.google.com/drive.
  • HubSpot Blog Topic Generator: Do you struggle with the task of coming up with relevant blog post topics? HubSpot has created a helpful tool that turns keywords into blog post headlines. You can enter three nouns and the site will produce a handful of topics that you can use as blog post starters. You can use the tool for free atwww.hubspot.com/blog-topic-generator.
  • Evernote:  Evernote is a lifesaver for creating and sharing notes, lists, pictures, and virtually anything else you can imagine. It’s a great brainstorming and collaboration tool for use on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. You can create separate notebooks and tags that can be shared with others, and you can add ideas on the fly. When it’s time to write new blog posts, your ideas will be waiting for you in Evernote. Evernote offers both free and inexpensive paid versions at www.evernote.com. Its apps are available for free in the Apple and Android app stores.
  • Hemingway: The Hemingway app (www.hemingwayapp.com) helps turn lengthy prose into clear, reader-friendly language. You can paste blog posts into the app and receive instant suggestions for simplifying flowery language, word choice, and voice.

Social Media Tools

Once you start churning out blog posts, there are a number of tools available to help share them online, engage users, and monitor what customers are saying about your brand and competitors. Here are some worth experimenting with:

  • HootSuite: HootSuite is a tool that, among other things, helps manage multiple Twitter accounts and preschedule posts on various social networks. It offers free and paid versions atwww.hootsuite.com.
  • TweetDeck: TweetDeck (which is owned by Twitter) is similar to HootSuite, but also monitors Twitter for mentions of your brand, industry, or keywords that might signal a parachute moment for you. It can be accessed at www.tweetdeck.com
  • Bitly: Once you start sharing links online, it is important to shorten them and monitor their performance. Bitly (www.bitly.com) is a tool that helps you do just that. You can track how many times a link is accessed, in one convenient dashboard.
  • FollowerWonk: FollowerWonk is a tool that lets you dive deeply into your Twitter accounts and identify trends and users that can help amplify your message. It offers free and paid editions, and has some powerful reporting features at www.followerwonk.com.
  • Hashtags.org: This is a site that identifies and utilizes trending hashtags. Hashtags are words with the “#” symbol in front of them that allow users to communicate and connect around a topic, event, or concept. For example, entrepreneurs may include #startup within their tweet to connect with others who may also be using or viewing this term. Not surprisingly, the site’s URL is www.hashtags.org.
  • TweetAdder: This tool helps you zoom in on Twitter users who are connected to your brand’s topics. It helps monitor follower activity and identify users who can help grow your following and social reach. The tool is online at www.tweetadder.com.
  • JustReTweet: This site encourages its community of users to retweet relevant content from one another. While some may use a tool like this gratuitously, it may be helpful in connecting with Twitter members who are anxious to share your message with their followers. You can sign up at www.justretweet.com.

 

Tools to Help Gain Search Visitors

Along with tools for social sharing, there are a number of tools that can help you connect with search engines such as Google and Bing. Spending some time learning about and using these tools can help you position yourself to rank highly in search results when users search for your product or service.

  • Google Keyword Planner: Google offers a free tool that gives access to its database of search queries. This tool reveals which words are most often used by people who search for your product. If you are marketing fresh fruit, for example, this tool can help you determine how often users are searching for “organic fruit” versus “local produce.” Experiment with a few examples athttp://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanneer/Home.
  • Wordtracker: Wordtracker is a more focused, intensive version of Google Keyword Planner. It is an established, highly respected keyword research tool, and it’s available for a nominal monthly subscription fee. You can try some free queries and sign up atwww.wordtracker.com.
  • Raven: Raven is a comprehensive marketing platform with some powerful search engine marketing tools. It is very complex and worth the investment. It can be accessed at www.raventools.com.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast: This plug-in can be installed within WordPress to ensure that blog posts are optimized for the proper keywords. The plug-in guides your writing and can alert you when your keywords are not properly placed in your post titles, body copy, or elsewhere. It can be freely downloaded atwww.yoast.com/WordPress/seo.

Tools for Measuring Results

Peter Drucker is famous for saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” When you make great investments in time and resources for digital marketing, it’s critical to keep tabs on what is working what isn’t (as well as track how well those efforts generate a return for your labor). The following tools can help you do just that.

  • Google Analytics: This free tool is a must for digital marketers. Offered by Google, it is a metrics tool that can be installed on your website. Google Analytics gauges the activity within your site. It can reveal hundreds of facts, including where and how your web visitors found your site, where they came from, how long they stayed, and what pages they viewed. Though there are others analytics tools available, this one is highly recommended. It’s also compatible with many other services, and simple to understand. It can be downloaded and installed at www.google.com/analytics.
  • Visual.ly Google Analytics Report: Visual.ly offers a great, ongoing service to help you visualize your analytics results. With all of the data that Google Analytics offers, this tool can help you digest some of its more important facets. You can sign up for free atwww.visual.ly/google-analytics-report.
  • Ducksboard: Ducksboard is a dashboard product that can help put metrics on a screen for team monitoring. It works on a computer screen, mobile device, or flat-screen television. It is affordable, and a free trial is available at www.ducksboard.com.
  • Statigram: Statigram is a platform-specific site that helps monitor your brand’s Instagram activity. It can show how popular your account’s posts are, and how your followers are growing. It can also provide a geographical distribution of their locations. It is available for free at www.statigr.am.
  • Klout: Klout is a tool that helps you measure your social influence by assigning each account a Klout score. Klout uses proprietary formulas to rate users, and help track progress. It works with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and many more. Try it for free at www.klout.com.

Bridging Gaps With Wikis

File_000One great way to connect with the public is by building a Wiki. The word Wiki comes from the Hawaiian, meaning “quick”. And, that’s what a Wiki is: a fast and easy way to engage people. Specifically, it’s an online database that allows anyone to edit or add content. In creating a Wiki, you’re essentially inviting others to help take ownership of an issue. It’s democratic to the core. Everyone is on an equal playing field, and can suggest solutions that  might not have been considered.

Surely, you’ve heard of Wikipedia (an online crowd-sourced encyclopedia). The public is free to edit Wikipedia and update its web pages, allowing it to grow and change over time. Many other sites embrace the community like this, so Wikipedia is not the only game in town. Many are pop culture related, using the fans’ love of a property to create an ever-evolving online database.

Many Wikis are used for more practical reasons. The country of New Zealand, for example, posted its Police Act online in 2007, asking the public to make changes at will. At the end of a period of time, the administrators were able to gather those suggestions and determine which were viable.

Advantages of Wikis

Wiki is a tool that generates, by its very nature, a lot of support. It invites and allows people to feel vested in a project and create the end result. It also provides a lot of transparency, because the public can be actively involved in a program. Discussion pages track disputes and the exchange of ideas. As a plus, all the changes that are made are tracked automatically, minimizing the amount of work needed on your end.

Wikis can also be designed for use by a single organization. These internal Wikis are extremely efficient for sharing information in-house. Outsiders have no access, and the Wikis can be used in conjunction with other information-sharing apps. Viderity is able to help focus your efforts by creating and maintaining a Wiki that is tailored to your goals. Whether you’d like to open up a discussion publicly or internally, we can help make that happen–in the process, enriching your programs and opening the flow of communication.

Time For Spring Cleaning – Refresh Your Website For Higher Google Ranking

2015-03-28 19.14.15As tulips bloom, April deadlines loom.  Not that dreaded Tax Day, but rather Google’s April 21st Mobile-Friendly Website deadline. In recent news, Google ranks mobile-friendly websites higher in search results.  Per Google, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

If this is news to you, then here are few points to get you in the game:

So what does that mean for your website? If you’ve put off developing your website in either responsive design or a separate mobile site, then your site will have difficulty ranking in mobile search results.  If traffic to your website is predominantly mobile and your website is not mobile-friendly, then your traffic will most likely be decreased due to low ranking. 

Just how much of the traffic to my website is mobile?  There are several tools available for answering this, but the obvious choice is Google Analytics.  Google Analytics is able to segment the number of hits from desktop users versus mobile users.  Once you have the facts, you can determine if a responsive website becomes a high priority for Q2.

Try a few links using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.  The test  provides clear results as to whether your site is mobile-friendly or not.  In addition, it provides potential issues, a view of how the page displays on a mobile device, and suggested changes to your website.

Bottom-line: Don’t panic.  There’s still time to ensure your website ranks highly. Keep in mind that updating the mobile friendliness of your website doesn’t have to happen all at once.  Google’s algorithm will look at the mobile friendliness of each page.  If you have a page that gets more hits on mobile devices, start with that page and then address the remaining pages of the website. It’s these little updates that keep you fresher than the competition.

Women Approach Tipping Point in Tech

Womantech

Is the industry in for a gender reversal?

As a female CEO in the male-dominated IT industry, I spend a lot of time at the corner of Women and Technology. I watch that intersection, try to read the signs, see which way the traffic is going. Lately, there’s a lot of talk on the block.

Recent articles have asked “Are Women Advancing in IT?” or describe “What It’s Really Like To Be a Woman in Tech” or tell us “The Secret to Getting More Women Into Tech” or warn of “Tech’s Man Problem” or explain “Why We Need to Keep Talking About Women in Tech,” to pick just a few headlines.

Yes, this is yet another article on women in tech, but it occurs to me that all this talk may signal the last thrashings of issues that are going away, as women really come into their own. We may be approaching a tipping point for gender issues in technology—and by that, I mean the point at which they’re no longer issues at all.

Bigger and Better Numbers

One remarkable statistic from all that recent research: 60% of 2013 tech hires were women, doubling the 2012 rate. ±30% has been the plateau figure for years. A leap of this magnitude suggests that companies are not only hiring women for new positions, but replacing women in existing jobs with more women. (Quit rates for women in tech remain higher than for men, especially at mid-career.) Gender is clearly not the obstacle it once was—and the number of indisputably qualified women has jumped significantly.

These are reasonable conclusions, given recent success stories in academia. A lot of schools sat up and took notice when Harvey Mudd College quadrupled its female computer science majors in four years. It’s not lost on me that this took place after a woman became president of the college. But her strategies for the computer science program are based on common-sense ideas that both schools and workplaces can use (and are using) in cultivating a more diverse base of tech talent.

Closing the Gap

Women still earning 77 cents on the male dollar in other fields may begin to flood into technology, where the like-for-like pay gap is narrowing faster than elsewhere. Those mid-career quit rates do tend to reinforce the glass ceiling and keep average pay lower for women. But we’re far closer to parity in IT than in other private-sector industries.

The pay gap is smaller for federal government workers, too, which accounts for some private-sector attrition in tech fields. And in all three studies of government employees conducted over the past two decades, women have received more promotions and quality step increases than men, on a percentage basis.

Fairer treatment may be one reason I find far more women in director-level IT positions at federal agencies than in the private sector. This is anecdotal (and an impossible BLS search, triangulating high-level jobs in the information category with gender data on top of a public/private comparison), but I’m not the first person to make the observation. The federal government has made great strides toward gender equality following a 2010 EEOC report that identified obstacles to employment opportunities for women, specifically targeting federal-sector technology in recommendations to agencies.

Diversity Wins in the Marketplace

These encouraging signs bode well for federal institutions, if women improve government as they do technology businesses. According to ground-breaking research by the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT), women significantly boost useful innovation. Technology teams comprised of both women and men produce IT patents that are cited 26 – 42% more often than similar patents developed by men only. Related research shows that companies with the highest representation of women in senior management average 35% higher returns on equity and 34% higher returns to stockholders than those with the lowest numbers of female senior managers.

These are really just the benefits of diversity. Larry Page of Google has said, “We’ll more than double our rate of technology output to the world” by recruiting more women. Still, only about 20% of Google’s engineers are women. As the benefits of diversity become clearer and women drive more (and more measurable) positive business results, the competitive advantages of inclusiveness and equality will become clearer as well.

Toward Solutions

Larry Page’s remark reminds us that women’s issues are ultimately a guy thing, too. To get beyond an industry defined by “techstosterone,” we need men in our corner. Some companies already recognize this. The NCWIT study cites the famed IBM Women Inventors Community, which had sponsorship from a male executive and has always included men in its mentorship program. I like IBM’s approach on this a lot. The fundamental concepts—mentors, support networks, focused brainstorms—can work for any industry, but seem especially useful in IT, where the pace and detail-orientation often create an obliviousness to larger issues of diversity and equality.

As we deepen our understanding of the need for gender diversity at every level, more tech companies will begin to look less like boys’ clubs with a few dismayed female faces here and there. Maybe we’ll stop talking about women in tech and find ourselves conversing at the corner of Technology and People. That will be good for everybody.

Winning Government Contracts and Steering the Future

BooksBudget reductions at government agencies can heighten competition for federal contracts. Old programs are discontinued; departments are restructured; experienced workers leave, jeopardizing existing relationships. What expertise do you offer potential agency partners, and what are the terms that will define how that partnership works? Understanding contract types can help you level the playing field for your business and aid you in winning contracts and developing business relationships that last.

A recent article published by the Department of Defense offers some great insights into pending budget cuts and restructuring. Moving forward, the government will be looking for specialists in smaller quantities. A contract with single-digit full time equivalents may not offer a high enough payout for large companies seeking scale and high price to offset their costs. The small and nimble company may be just what some agencies are looking for. Being nimble means you make it look easy — and making it look easy means you’ve done your homework.

Are you ready for the “road less traveled” of specialized, smaller-scale projects? Understanding contracting needs and procedures can get you running at top speed down this road.

Four Ways of Getting There

Companies like Viderity — agile, able to structure and execute projects with continuity, speed, and precision (and leap white marble buildings in a single bound!) — often top the list of competitors for government contracts. Let’s review a few contract types that we typically see:

  • Firm Fixed Price
  • Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity
  • Professional and Administrative Services Support
  • Time & Material

A Firm Fixed Price (FFP) contract provides stability for both parties. The government receives flexible expertise, while the vendor is assured of adequate money—which vendors tend to appreciate! All fees are rolled up into direct labor rates. Well-defined deliverables are advertised and may include Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) as part of the requirement. FTEs are sometimes used to determine the best price for a project; using FTEs also helps to calculate how many employees it would take to meet contract obligations.  FFPs allow for adequate price competition, reasonable price comparisons, and realistic estimates. This type of contract can streamline the source selection process. FFPs are governed by Federal Acquisition Regulation Subpart 16.2.

The Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract acts as a control for potential individual task orders. Details of the contract are specified by Technical Objectives for precise needs delivered during a defined period of time. This contract provides delivery control and is great for quick, short-suspense requirements. A Task Order (TO) can be derived from the IDIQ to support specific labor categories or specific services.

Professional and Administrative Services Support contracts set terms for program management and administration. Contractors are experts, highly skilled and knowledgeable in specific labor categories, e.g., IT Specialist, Program Manager, etc.

Time & Material (T&M) contracts assist requirement holders when they are uncertain of extent, duration of work, or costs involved. The default to use for cost projection would be the labor hour at a specific fixed hourly rate.

Who You’re Working For

As you navigate the details, it’s easy to lose sight of what this work is really all about. Get familiar with “The Basics of Government Contracting,” if you’re not already. Study the agency you’re hoping to work with. It’s surprising how many companies come in unprepared, focused only on their own needs and not on those of their potential partners.

It may sound old-fashioned, but government contractors are supposed to serve the public interest! Approach each contract as if it were your first, with the care and precision taxpayers deserve. For Viderity, on any road we’ve traveled, that has made all the difference.

The Performance Review Checklist

Performance-review A performance review is one of the best tools a manager has to fine tune the performance of subordinates. A performance review is a regularly scheduled recap of the day-to-day engagements between managers  and employees. It should always include a plan, large or small, for the employee’s continued professional growth. A performance review is not about money. Raises are about money.

A performance review is not about filling out forms. Audits and inspections are about filling out forms. The review – or appraisal – is about feedback. It is a conversation about how much meaning and purpose a manager can create with an employee. No performance review can be successful unless the manager has already given good feedback and direction regularly throughout the year, making assessments and adjustments along the way, and building rapport and confidence with the employee. Only then can it all be successfully summarized into a concise review. In other words, the review itself is the culmination of the interactions between the manager and the employee throughout the year.  If a manager is saving things up for a year to spring on an employee all at once, well, that’s a performance review that won’t be helpful. In fact, it could probably do more harm than good. Do you know the vital steps to take before conducting an employee performance review? They’re at least as important as the steps you take during the review. With that in mind, here is a six-part checklist that covers all vital phases of the pre-review.

1. Hold periodic informal feedback sessions.
Your best bet for accomplishing this is to mark your calendar with dates and notes such as “Hold a ‘how ya doing’ talk with Hank” to remind you periodically throughout the year to sit down with employees to discuss their performance – outside the formal appraisal setup. That promotes a “no surprises” environment when you do the actual face-to-face appraisal later on. These informal talks create “check-up” points along the way, and help keep the manager and the employee focused on the worker’s development.

2. Keep a record of the informal sessions.
Nothing fancy, but try to keep notes of what was said, what was agreed upon and when you talked. Notes like that can help resolve disputes that might come up later during the formal review. This kind of documentation will allow you to respond with comments like, “When we talked in August, you said …”

3. Standardize your evaluation criteria as much as possible.
If you have two or more employees doing similar jobs, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the same standards to judge their performance – whether it’s straight productivity numbers, quality levels, revenue generation or other measurable criteria. The reasons for standardizing are threefold:
* It’ll make your life easier, in that you won’t have to reinvent the wheel for every review. You’ll have a predetermined set of standards that you can use each time.
* It’ll make more sense to your employees. They’ll have a clear understanding of what’s required and what they’re being judged on.
* It’ll help avoid lawsuits and charges of favoritism or discrimination. The main cause of complaints is fuzzy measurement. If Employee A thinks he’s being held to a different set of standards than Employee B, expect Employee A to complain – to a lawyer, in some instances.

4. Study the employee’s previous performance review.
Were goals laid out? Were promises made? Did subsequent events change any of the employee’s circumstances since the last review? It’s important to familiarize yourself with all of the components of the previous review, especially if the review was done by another manager. You don’t want to be caught off-guard or appear to be unaware of major agreements or problems.

5. Ask the employee to do a write-up of accomplishments.
Some people may expect you to remember everything. Fact is you can’t. No one can. That’s where the employee’s write-up, or “self evaluation,” comes in handy. You’ll (a) get a reminder of what the employee has accomplished since the last review and (b) have a basis for comparing your evaluation and resolving differences. The last thing you want is to walk into a review and get surprised by the idea that the two of you have totally different views on what happened since the last review.

6. Talk to customers, relevant co-workers and other points of contact for the employee.
Just about every employee does tasks that go unnoticed by a supervisor. It’s unavoidable, and no supervisor can be expected to know and see everything. A supervisor is, however, expected to do a little  legwork to learn as much as possible about the employee. Did she, without being asked or recognized, help out another employee with a difficult project? Did she go the extra mile for an important customer? As a responsible supervisor, you’ll want to find out about those instances. And the more you can find about, the better. Multiple sources will give you a better balanced view, rather than relying on one source who says the employee is great – or terrible.

 

PERFORMANCE REVIEW PREPARATION CHECKLIST

Prior to the meeting

  • Identify a time and date that is mutually convenient. Avoid re-scheduling!
  • Reserve a private place free from phone calls and interruptions!
  • Get employee input on his/her accomplishments, concerns, goals.
  • (Optional) Get employee-provided list of references: co-workers, customers, etc.
  • Seek input from those who interact and work directly with employee.
  • Review and compare performance: expectations versus actual.
  • Review skills, work experience, training/future training needs.
  • List major positive and negative incidents (Be specific, do not generalize).
  • Determine strengths and weaknesses.
  • Prepare and prioritize a tentative development plan.
  • Establish meeting objectives/agenda.

Conducting the meeting

  • Establish an open and positive climate.
  • Review the purpose of the review – Goal setting and problem solving.
  • Discuss performance goals and achievements.
  • Discuss strength and competencies, areas of potential growth.
  • Discuss area of development/opportunity/formal training (if any).
  • Encourage employee response.
  • Seek agreement on appropriate goals, development and timetable.
  • Summarize the meeting. If it is positive, end on a positive note. If it is not
  • positive, reinforce what must occur and set clear deadlines for
  • improvement/consequences.

Meeting follow-up

  • Prepare a formal, written review document.
  • Get employee signature, agreement.
  • File copies in personnel file, HR file.
  • Provide copy to employee.

 

12 Questions To Ask Your Clients Before and After a Project

Getting to know your client is an important part of determining if you’re a right fit for the project. Not Question only that, but you should always ask questions before-hand to compile information that you will later use to accurately design a website or logo for them. Wef you quote a client for a project without knowing what it truly entails, then you’re setting yourself up for the possibility of loosing valuable time and money.

Now we know that asking questions before you begin a project is vital, but what about after you’ve completed a project? Although this may seem somewhat insignificant it’s actually an important step to finalizing the completion and delivery of your project. Below you will find various questions that you can ask your client, even though you may not use every single question, make sure you select the ones you believe both you and your client will benefit the most from.

Questions to Ask Before You Begin a Project
Generally these questions are asked before you begin a project, however, you can also ask some of these mid-way through your project as well. Analyze your clients answers and get to work with the information you’ve put together.

1. What Does Your Organization Do and How Do You Do It?

This is an important question because it’s the first step towards getting to know your customer’s business structure. Wet will help you assess the company’s needs in terms of relative design, and it is also a gateway for strategic brainstorming.

2. What are your five biggest challenges?

Ask about the client’s overall challenges—beyond the immediate subject at hand. By getting a sense of the larger challenges facing your client, you can be prepared to offer insights and draw connections that the client might have missed.

3. What are your five biggest opportunities?

Find out what the client is truly excited about! Where are some interesting new growth areas for the client’s business? What are some new trends shaping the marketplace? What are some of the most compelling new developments that the client has in store?

4. What keeps you up at night?

Connect with the client’s challenges on a visceral level. What is it that keeps this client from getting a good night’s sleep? What are the “worst-case scenarios” that this client might be confronting? If you phrase the question in these stark terms, you might help prompt the client to answer with greater candor and specificity, allowing you to help your client focus in on the biggest problem areas.

5. What is Your Typical Customer Like?

This question will help you get a better idea of what the company comprises of. Wes the typical customer foreign to the market your client targets? How does the client interact with its customers? Does the typical customer speak a different language? These questions are vital to the aesthetics and/or usability of your design. Wef you were designing a logo for example, and your clients typical customer doesn’t speak your clients language, then you would have to make sure the logo is able to communicate effectively on a further level.

6. What Is Your Target Audience?

Different from what the typical customer is like, you must have a deep understanding of what audience your client is currently trying to target. Maybe their trying to steer away from their typical clients and move into a different niche, or your client is looking to redefine and expand their customer base, whether one or the other it doesn’t matter, knowing exactly what audience your client is aiming to target is key to the development and success of your design.

7. Do You Have Any Competitors, if so, How Do You Differ?

Although this may have an obvious answer (if you’ve done a fair amount of research) you should still ask this question to get a feel of what THE Client believes is their competition. More than likely they have a much better idea of who their competing with. Knowing your clients competitors will allow you to rule out any similarities between all of their existent designs. This will help you create a more unique and centric design for your client.

8. How Often Would You Like Me to Update You With Progress?

You don’t want to come off as annoying or dependent of your client for your every move. This question will help you align with your clients wants and update them only when they want to be updated. Excessive updates can easily discourage a client from using your services in the future.

9. How Do You Envision the Finished Project?

If you’re designing a website then it’s important to ask your client what THEY intend to use their website for, and how they envision it will look like. What good would it do if you were to complete a project only to find out it doesn’t do any of the things your client intended for it, or it doesn’t behave the way your client had thought it would?

Questions to Ask After a Project’s Complete
These questions can be asked right before your deliver your project, or immediately after it’s complete. The purpose of the following questions to make the transition from the beginning of the project to its completion as smooth as possible.

10. How Satisfied Are You With the Results?

This question will help you analyze the quality of your skills and how well you’re able to develop a design based on what your client needs. As you advance in your career, you’ll have plenty of chance to improve your skills, this question will create a chance for you do just that.

11. Do You Plan on Having Any Revisions and Updates Done to This Project?

Ask this question to avoid frustrations that can easily arise if a client believes they can abuse of you by excessively asking for changes and further revisions free of charge. Wef your client plans on having you heavily revise and make several changes to a project, then this question will allow you both to agree on a reasonable fee you may collect for additional services.

12. How Well Would You Rate Our Services?

Similar to the question asking your client how satisfied they are with the results, this question will allow you to assess and improve the quality of your services. This plays an important role in the succession of your business.

Zen Leadership

If you master Zen you’ll be a great leader. But if you study Zen just to become a great leader you’ll never master it. – August TurakZen

The practice of Zen in both business and daily life is centered on the paradoxical acceptance above. As instinctually conflicting as it may seem, to truly be a great leader you must release yourself of your innate desire to lead. We no longer live in a world where the business model of leadership is intimidation, and seeing oneself as the all-controlling dictator will only lead to failing performances of your employees. Demands and thre

ats only create fear and sub-par work. If someone is only concerned about being ‘adequate’ enough to maintain their position, then they will never have those singular breakthroughs that occur when they are genuinely interested in the success of the business.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to brew up some green tea and roll out the yoga mats though. Zen leadership simply means that the success and well-being of the entire team has to come before your own personal needs. Experiential wisdom should be the driving force in your organization’s growth, rather than a focus on theoretical knowledge and pre-formulated business models. You need to be willing to grow, adapt, and expand right along with your staff. Here are the 10 Keys to Zen Leadership that will help reveal the potential Steve Jobs inside us all.

1) Lead by Example

– Make sure that you personally are living up to the same expectations you have in others. If you insist on punctuality and enthusiasm, then you too need to be on-time and excited in order for others to live up to your requests. No matter how loud you may talk, people will always be more apt to do as you do then as you say.

2) Communicate Clearly

– You want everybody on board to have the same vision of objectives and success that you do. If Bill Lumberg taught us anything in Office Space, it’s that silence will get you nowhere. On the flip-side, you also don’t want to over-complicate things with too much information. Be clear and as simple as possible. Honesty is essential, as you don’t want anyone to think you are trying to manipulate them in any way.

3) Encourage Constructive Argument

– Allow for open debate and questioning within your personnel. Not only does vocalized disagreement lead to potential problems being resolved before they happen, but it also alleviates any potential angst between co-workers. People should feel free and willing to discuss issues with one another.

4) Accept Input and Welcome Change

– It should be as easy as possible for persons to give you feedback – both personal and business related. You should have an open channel for any and all comments, and you can not have any fear in potentially revising your vision. The best idea you haven’t thought of may come from the most unexpected employee, and they should not be deterred in any way from expressing their concept. Always believe in the potentiality of someone coming up with a better or more-efficient plan.

5) Give Credit and Acknowledge Others

– Never let anyone doubt that they aren’t an essential member of the team. Acknowledging everyone’s addition to the project, no matter how menial the task, will only improve enthusiasm and work-output from all angles. Do this throughout the course of a project, not just at completion. If praise is lavished upon you, then redirect it to people for whom the credit is actually do. Show pride in your team, while remembering there is no shame in being overly humble.

6) Review and Adjust – Don’t Rank and Punish

– If a goal wasn’t met, then figure out what errors occurred and how they can be resolved. Punishing someone for mistakes will only make them fear thinking out of the box again. Finding the problem and making the necessary adjustments will not only prevent a repeat of the error, but will promote further expansion of new ideas.

7) Have a Clear Vision of Defeat

– Make sure to have a clear understanding of what the warning signs are for a potential disaster. Rather then deny any occurring down-slope, recognize any happening failures before they completely fall apart. Don’t be afraid to start again from the beginning.

8) Be Willing To Adapt

– Feel no necessary commitment to previous business models. Evolution is constant and more rapid than ever – feeling that you need to stick with only one game-plan will result in you losing out to newer and upgraded networks. If there’s an easier way to do something, don’t be afraid to embrace it. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Don’t make things more complex than they need to be.

9) Relinquish Power

Your goal as a Zen leader is to enable your team to operate successfully without you. Levels of trust should be utilized for maximum output from your employees. You should feel secure in your people’s abilities, and be confident enough to delegate more responsibility once they are prepared. An appreciation for worker’s efforts will make them want to live up to the confidence you hold in them, and subsequently create a desire within them to do as much as they can for the team.

10) The Zen Leader is In All of Us

– Forget the notion of being a ‘natural born’ leader. The true Zen leader can arise from any and all of us. When leading through Zen, you are not controlling a group of people but rather uniting a group in a way that brings out the full potential of what their combined efforts may produce. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the Zen leader has the delicate vision to know how to correctly add them up. The humble desire for the overall success of the greater good is the first and most important step. Once these notions are realized, the beneficial ramifications, both business and personal, are vast and expansive.

Thank You Letters

Thanks Writing a thank you letter is a common courtesy. There are various times when writing a thank you letter is appropriate – anything from a formal, post-interview thank you letter to a casual, from the heart thanks to the person you went above and beyond to make a project a success. Writing a thank you letter will always serve as a kind and conscientious gesture.

A thank you letter demonstrates thoughtfulness, which is a characteristic many employers and people value. Since so few take the time to write a thank you letter, someone who does will indeed be remembered. Your thank you letter does not need to be lengthy. Just a few kind words will show that you put some time and thought into your message.

Please click here for some free sample thank you letters covering a variety of situations.

Leadership for Those Who Remain

After layoffs it’s difficult yet important for managers to maintain high morale anJoined handsd productivity for the  remaining. Their collective head is
spinning with fear and anxiety that you need to replace with confidence. It’s important to:

  • Stress the fact that the layoffs were not a reflection of the performance of the staff who were laid off.
  • Be open and available  assist with reprioritizing and rebalancing workloads among the remaining staff.
  • Focus on addressing relevant employee concerns and how the company will move forward.
  • Keep the programs and initiatives that serve to align employees and provide a return on investment. Examples include celebrating success and the achievement of milestones at a company and individual level.

Read “On the case: Go team! Pretty please?” for ideas on how to boost employee morale after a series of layoffs.