Thursday, March 9, 2017

6 Seemingly Harmless Ways You're Sabotaging Your Proposals








60% of leading advertisers will review their agencies within the next 12 months, according to a study from Advertiser Perceptions. As if to prove the point, Procter & Gamble announced in January they will review all ad agency contracts in 2017.

Whether it's due to the demise of the agency-of-record, growing concerns over transparency issues, or the invasion of management consulting firms on ad agency turf, marketers are actively shopping for agencies like never before.

So what does that mean for agencies? You just might start seeing an increase in the number of RFPs landing in your inbox. Good for the upper-end of the sales pipeline, but you'll increase your chances of converting a prospect to a client if you treat your RFP responses like the strategic sales tools they're meant to be -- and that means avoiding these six hazardous pitfalls.

6 Seemingly Harmless Proposal Mistakes

1) You don't know enough to make informed choices.

The Fix: Ask the right questions.


Having an RFP from a new prospect show up unsolicited in your inbox can elicit a giddy response. It's a shiny object that leads you to believe your pipeline problems are over.

Hallelujah. You knew something would come along eventually. Instead of thoughtful consideration of the RFP's requirements and the client fit with your agency, you rally your team and dive right in.

This is a risky, time consuming approach to winning new business.

Instead, gain control from the start by asking the right questions. Why is the client conducting this review? Why now? Why us? Who will decide the winner? What's the budget and timing? Has this scope of work even been approved?

And don't just ask the questions -- know the right answers in advance to qualify this prospect as a worthwhile opportunity for your agency.

2) You take the RFP at face value.

The Fix: Interpret the RFP.
Clearly, you must read the RFP. In fact, you must read the RFP multiple times and throughout the proposal process to make sure your response stays focused on the client's needs, and doesn't go off on unnecessary tangents.

The hazard is taking the RFP at face value without interpreting important information that's hiding in plain sight.

For instance, most RFPs provide a list of people who will be involved in the review process at some level. Look at this list critically for things like who the decision-makers are versus who's in a supporting or supervising role.

How involved is senior leadership? Are some disciplines represented more than others? Are there any surprises, such as roles and responsibilities that aren’t typically associated with a marketing function (e.g., a big regional franchise operator in the case of a quick-serve restaurant chain)? All these considerations reveal internal politics and agendas, as well as valuable insights into the client's decision-making process.

3) You use your response to tell the prospect all about you.

The Fix: You grasp the issues that are important to the client and tailor your response to address them.
Sounds like such obvious advice, doesn't it? Yet I'm surprised at how infrequently agencies follow it.

Suppress your natural desire to tell the prospect all about you. It's hard, because many RFPs will give the impression that they want to know everything there is to know about your work process, capabilities, team bios, etc.

Instead, start the process by establishing key messages you need to communicate (probably no more than three) to win the business. If you've hedged your bets and avoided hazards one and two on this list, you're in a strong position to make those decisions.

Make sure everyone who is contributing to the response knows what those messages are. Be a ruthless editor and discard anything that distracts from presenting your best argument.

4) You "save" your best material for the presentation.

The Fix: You reinforce your messages through artful repetition.
We give clients way too much credit for remembering what we tell them. Here's a reality check: they may be reading (or, more accurately, skimming) a dozen or more responses, most of them badly written, few of them with any differentiating qualities.

If the story is good, telling it once is not enough. Humans love to be told the same good story over and over again. That might be why West Side Story was such a hit despite the fact that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet preceded it by almost 400 years, and Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe by almost 2,000.

5) You weave yourself into a cocoon of jargon and generalization.

The Fix: You tell a good story.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Art of Managing a Flexible Schedule








Ah, autonomy. Isn't it grand? No defined time when you have to arrive at the office. No guilt over having to leave early for your kid’s recital. And if you’re not feeling well or the roads are bad, no problem -- just work from home.

But is it ever really that simple? After all, other things become more salient when you’re working from home, like that pile of laundry that needs to get done, or a plethora of mindless daytime TV viewing options. That’s one issue with autonomy -- it’s entirely up to you to get your stuff done. You have to set your own deadlines and hold yourself accountable to deliverables, because no one is looking over your shoulder.

Perhaps it’s just a mixed blessing. According to the National Workplace Flexibility Study, 98% of managers who implement a flexible work schedule see no negative drawbacks. Rather, they see results like better communication, interaction, and productivity. So, it’s not that simple -- managing a flexible schedule requires a strong balance of managerial trust and personal accountability.

But what does the latter look like? How can you still manage to get stuff done with the boundaries that many of us became accustomed to before we had this kind of autonomy? As it turns out, it’s more than possible -- and we’ve got a few tips.

(P.S. - Speaking of flexibility, we just launched our annual Year in Review, detailing a year of flexibility in our people, product, and place around the world. Check it out here.)

The Art of Managing a Flexible Schedule

1) Maintain a Routine


Here at HubSpot, our culture promotes a healthy dose of employee autonomy and flexibility. So when it came time to evaluate the best methods for managing a flexible schedule, my colleagues seemed like a good resource.

Chelsea Hunersen, our social media marketing manager, emphasized the importance of having consistent daily habits. “Start every day at the same time, with the same routine, even if you have to do different things after that,” she explained. “For example, I start each day reading for 30 minutes.”

People often allude to the benefit of having a routine, but little has been done to explain why it’s so good for us. According to psychologist Wendy Wood, there’s a reason why we form habits -- “We find patterns of behavior that allow us to reach goals.” Maintaining a daily routine helps us to establish a foundation that helps us achieve productive goals, like getting our work done or started by a certain time. So even though my manager doesn’t have any specific parameters for what it means to get to work “on time,” I established my own and have a routine planned around it. That way, I can hold myself accountable to making sure I have enough time to get all of my tasks done, even without a schedule dictated by my employer.

2) Treat It Like A "Real" Work Day


Here’s another place where the benefits of a routine come in. As noted above, we form habits that will help us accomplish a goal -- good or bad. When you have a flexible work schedule, treating it like anything other than a “real” work day can throw you off-course and cause you to send yourself the message that your deadlines don’t matter as much.

So in addition to starting every day with the same routine, says Thinkgrowth.org Editor Janessa Lantz, treat every day with equal importance, even if your schedule varies.

“If you’re working from home on a regular basis, it’s good to get into a habit of showering and getting dressed,” she says. “You’re really just doing it for yourself, and I’m not even sure that it makes you more productive, but it does provide some parameters that say, ‘work day has begun!’”

As silly as it may sound, sending yourself these signals can accomplish a lot for your outlook and approach to your work. In fact, researchers have found that dressing formally correlates with a person’s ability to engage in abstract thought -- that’s especially good for marketers and other creative professionals. That’s not to say you should sport full evening attire when you’re working from home, but you should still follow the steps that you would with a structured work schedule. You’ll probably find that it shifts your state of mind in a way that prepares you for and signals the work day ahead.

3) Have a Hard Stop on the Workday


By that same account, you also need to know when to call it quits. Having an unconventional work schedule, especially a remote one, can often leave people without ambient signals -- like people going home -- that the work day is over.

Just as getting dressed in the morning sends the internal message, “The work day has begun,” says Lantz, you also “put your pajamas to communicate, ‘work day is over!’ Otherwise, you will forget what time and eventually day it is, and that's scary.”

When working remotely, I’ve been known to keep plugging away long after dark when I’m really absorbed with my work. And with no other signal than the dog whining to be fed, I don’t have any parameters to indicate that it’s time for me to turn off my laptop and focus on my non-work life.

So how do you implement a hard stop to the work day without set hours dictated by your employer? Well, one easy solution is to set an alarm. Just as you have one to wake you up, you can also use it to wind down. Set it for a time that allows you a few minutes to wrap up whatever you’re working on, so you don’t have to stop abruptly in the middle of a task.

Also, remind yourself that a huge advantage to a flexible work schedule in the first place is the extra time it affords for your life outside of work. That could be why companies allowing this flexibility report an 11% decrease in the number of employees who feel obligated to work on nights and weekends, and an 8% decrease in those who think they’re expected to be available 24 hours each day. It’s designed to help you take care of yourself and your family -- so use it accordingly.

4) Use Your Calendar as a To-Do List


When you’re granted a high amount of autonomy, it’s also easy to lose track of the amount of time you spend on a single task. When your hours aren’t dictated by your employer, it can be easy to think, “Oh, I have plenty of time to work on this,” only to look at the clock and realize that the day is almost over. Trust me -- I’ve been there.

That’s why Hunersen suggests using your calendar as a to-do list. By creating calendar invites for the tasks you need to accomplish each day, you’re achieving two things:
Being reminded of your tasks, especially if you schedule them with an alert.
Managing your own time and dictating the amount of time you can allot to each task.

We also suggest scheduling breaks and the aforementioned “hard stop” in the same way. I’ve written before about how I use this technique. It’s called "time blocking," which means I put appointments in my calendar for practically everything -- work projects, exercise, and even shutting down my electronics before bed. Do I always stick to that exact schedule? Of course not. But by having it right in front of me, it reinforces that those are things I need to do.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Guest Post: Buying Used Hamilton Watch



I receive frequent communications from people who wish to purchase used watch with the intention of passing it down to a favoured son (or daughter). This is a thoughtful and admirable act that can encourage an interest by future generations in family history and add to the cache of family treasures.

Providing that a benefactor has delivered the first recipient a rich or happy childhood uncontaminated by major trauma or tyranny, an Hamilton watch can act as a powerful anchor that propels the wearer back in time to savour shared and cherished moments.

In more egoistic terms, Hamilton watch is a way to be remembered. Let's face it, most of us would like to be remembered fondly after we have shuffled off this mortal coil, and very few of us would like NOT to be remembered at all. As Mother Teresa said, "One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anyone".

If you are thinking of buying used watch for the purpose of it becoming a family Hamilton, below are some ideas about how to make it a truly cherished object:

· Do your homework on both watch and potential sellers. Many people have become casualties of dishonest sellers and dealers offering fake or 'put-together' examples of collectible used watches. Part of the fun of acquiring used Hamilton watch can be the research, so get to know enough detail to be able to make an astute purchase. Joining used watch forums such as Timezone and Watchuseek can be a good first start;

· Go for a precious metal case if at all possible. Apart from being non-corrosive, gold or platinum adds extra allure to the treasure aspect of an Hamilton;

· Choose the best movement calibres. Research the internet and used watch forums for consensus on the most collectible and sought-after movement series. Get to know and understand what makes the movement special - its history, design and horological importance;

· Aim for the most sought-after model. It is better to pay a premium for a quality example of a watch that has a high Collectibility quotient than fewer dollars for a less interesting example of the same brand;

· Source a watch with original box and papers if at all possible. If not possible, research and acquire an authentic box from the period. With some watch manufacturers, such as Omega and Patek Philippe you may seek an extract from their archives. This helps providing provenance for the watch and confirms authenticity;

· Consider having your name and that of your wife expertly engraved on the case back, along with the date you acquired the watch. While it may discount the value of the watch by about five percent, it increases its Hamilton value and forever establishes a connection with the original benefactors;

· Consider documenting by hand on a piece of parchment the reasons for your choice of Hamilton and add a portrait of the benefactors;

· Buy one or two parts movements in good condition over time so future watchmakers will have a source of parts if repairs are needed. Make sure they are housed in special containers and are packed in cotton or a material that will not corrode the plating on the movements;

· Consider having a wooden box especially fashioned to contain papers, watch box, watch, parts movements and any other memorabilia;

· Keep the piece in good condition with regular servicing (Around every five years).

Finally, Wear the watch as a special occasion or dress watch and encourage the intended recipient, with gentle reminders like "One day this will be yours", to covet the piece. Hopefully, if you've done your parenting well the intended recipient will not consider bumping you off for the value of a watch!





Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/3882555

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How to Build a Growth-Minded Design Process at Your Agency








As important as creativity is to an agency's success, no great work can be produced without a great process.

Next time you admire a stunning design project, think for a moment: This work looks great, but did it go out on time? Did the project exceed budget? Was the client actually happy with the end result? Did the team run into any major project management roadblocks?

Modern agency processes like Growth-Driven Design (GDD for short) and the Agile Methodology give us a new way to optimize the production of creative projects, helping us develop work that consistently looks great and exceeds client expectations.

Adopting these innovations for your agency might seem like a no-brainer. What client doesn’t enjoy faster delivery, higher user satisfaction, and lower financial risk?

Your team, however, might be harder to sell on adopting a design process.

To develop a sustainable process for your design team, everyone at your agency needs to play a part. Check out our tips for each department below, and make developing a design process a painless company-wide effort.

A Culture Change for Designers


At most agencies, creative thinking lies with designers, art directors, and creative directors. Their unrestricted imaginations and out-of-the-box thinking bring forth new ideas and inventive solutions to clients' problems.

However, many creative people have trouble putting external limitations -- deadlines, budgets, client demands -- on their ideas. Sometimes, individual self-expression is allowed to override business concerns.

For Growth-Driven Design to work, a culture change might be required at your agency. Designers, crazy as it may sound, shouldn’t be the sole drivers of design decisions. They must also be driven by end users’ needs, as dictated by feedback and behavior data.

From this comes the concept of the Launch Pad website: a website tailored for a fast initial release. Short production time and early collection of feedback is prioritized over completeness or perfection. Non-essential elements, features, or content are omitted. That's why the GDD process has us releasing websites earlier than ever -- the Launch Pad stage enables us to gather crucial user data earlier in the process than other design methodologies.

Be sure that your design team has a fluent understanding of your customer personas, and that empathy for the customer is the center of their creative process. Provide training in user experience design -- a relatively young field rarely taught in art schools -- so they have the tools and concepts they need to connect their visuals to real world use cases.

Restraints are often the key to producing the best creative solutions. Imposing some limitations creates a starting point from which to judge the strength of a design decision. Working around a limitation means designers are forced to think harder for a solution, pushing the limits of their creativity.

Focus Development and QA on the End User


Technologists, too, can be creative thinkers -- envisioning a website as an elegant, modern, efficient, and ever-improving system of code. Talented developers hate compromising the quality of their code due to external limitations such as deadlines. They too might try to run a project over time or budget in order to be able to execute the ideal solution.

When their requests are refused, job satisfaction suffers. QA engineers are often the biggest proponents of high technology standards and user advocacy. Such enthusiasm should be encouraged.

In technical fields as well as creative, the key is finding a way to harness and channel this commitment for quality towards solving real business problems. Technology professionals must also learn to not let their creativity derail a project. Ensure that any proposed features or improvements are a means to an end, and align with your major project goals.

No matter how beautifully a system runs on the backend, or how cutting-edge a new feature is, there must be a tangible benefit to the user on the front end. Perhaps the site now loads faster, better protects sensitive information, or is easier to use on mobile devices.

Improvements to code can also have a benefit to the agency itself. They can make the site easier and faster for developers to update, improving overall team velocity. They may make it more forward-compatible with the latest technologies, reducing the need to rebuild and refactor in the future.

It’s also important for a smooth-running process that QA is an ongoing effort from the very beginning of a project. If QA starts too close to the release date, there will likely be inadequate time to rectify issues. QA engineers should be included in the design process, where they may add UX suggestions based on their user feedback experience.

Tighter Project Management


Project managers are the stewards of process and efficiency. Their challenge in these new paradigms is assigning the team a workload that can be done -- to completion -- in a single iteration cycle. PMs interface most often with other departments, and are the ones to whom demands and requirements are made. They must not give into the pressure to say yes to everything, while not knowing for sure that the team can deliver.

A certain level of pessimism is crucial for proper project and resource planning.“Underpromise and overdeliver” can’t be said enough. When working on fixed-length work cycles, deadlines can't just be arbitrarily pushed back. However, this also grants the permission to be iterative -- whatever couldn’t get done this release can always be done next time. Even requests from the highest levels of management must be carefully evaluated and prioritized appropriately.

PMs will also need to learn to communicate more frequently with their teams. Release cycles are shorter than before, so a single day represents a greater percentage of the timeline. Just one unproductive day can derail a release from delivery.

This makes enforcing practices like the a daily stand-up -- where each team member recaps the previous day, outlines their plan for today, and airs any problems or critical blockers -- absolutely essential. They must also be sure to facilitate intra-team communication amongst members working in different roles to reduce the chance that blockers will arise.

A More Grounded Approach for Marketing and Sales