First, let’s get one thing out of the way. Traditional interviews don’t actually predict performance. Rather, the best way to predict performance is to test job-related skills in context. Nevertheless, there is a place for interviews in the hiring process. Interviews are a useful tool to build rapport, and even start a relationship, with candidates after their skills have been validated. They can, and should, also be used to answer unanswered questions from the hiring process.
Interviewing is often used as a synonym for candidate selection, but it shouldn’t. Interviews should only comprise a small part of the candidate selection process. In fact, if an “interview process”, a.k.a. a selection process, is designed properly then traditional interviews only need to play a minor role.
Rather than dealing with hypotheticals, I’m going to share a real blow-by-blow story about a recent hire we made. The process included a recruitment agency, marketing, online skills assessment using our own platform, interviews and reference checks. I’ll explain how each step worked and why we did things in a very deliberate order.
This is arguably the most important step. If you don’t define the role correctly the entire process will be flawed because nobody will have clarity about the kind of person you’re looking for.
A helpful starting place is thinking about the purpose of the role. Why does it exist? We wanted to hire someone who could help our largest customers get maximum value from their investment in Vervoe. That was our “why” for this role.
We wanted someone who had expertise in assessment and I/O psychology, was a natural with enterprise customers and would thrive in a startup.
Recruitment agency appointment
We don’t usually use agencies and I’m not advocating for, or against, the use of agencies. It depends on the situation. In this case we were looking for a candidate with a very specific skill set and we were almost certain that we needed to attract passive candidates. The people who met our criteria weren’t necessarily looking and, more importantly, they were probably working with a big company and therefore not looking for roles with startups.
So we wanted an agency to help with candidate sourcing, particularly market mapping ad outreach. In other words, we wanted the agency to find people and convince them it was an exciting opportunity.
This fact we were tapping passive candidates on the shoulder influenced the rest of the process. We had to convince candidates to talk to us rather than the other way around. So throwing them into an assessment wasn’t going to work. We had to sell to them.
So the agency approached them and had an informal conversation. After that the hiring manager met the candidates. Is this the most efficient use of time? No. But it was necessary given the caliber of people we were trying to attract. This wasn’t a high volume situation.
The purpose of the conversation with the hiring manager wasn’t to determine whether candidates can do the job. It was to sell to the candidate, get a feel for their motivation and give them visibility over the remainder of the process. It was about buy-in.
After speaking to the hiring manager candidates were invited to complete an online skills assessment, known as a Talent Trial. They had to opt into this stage.
We positioned the skills assessment stage as a two-way street. An opportunity for us to see how they perform job-related tasks, and an opportunity for them to get a realistic feel for the role and the product they’ll be working on.
It made sense. Every single candidate we invited to this stage successfully completed their skills assessment.
Then came the interview. It was a discussion with me and I only interviewed one person, whom we ultimately hired.
I didn’t focus on skills because I already had evidence the preferred candidate could do the job. She performed very well in the skills assessment, which was carefully crafted to reflect the role.
We discussed how we’d work together, including her preferred working style, how we can invest in her, some of the quirks of our team and what she can expect if she joins. It was lighthearted and fun, at least for me.
I’m a big believer in reference checking, but not for the reasons you might expect. References are almost always positive. It’s a rigged game. But, if done correctly, reference checks can be very effective in setting candidates up for success. They help understand what it would be like to work with the candidate, how we can support them and how we can get the best out of them.
They’re an employee onboarding tool of sorts.
We asked the recruitment agency to conduct two reference checks and send us detailed notes.
Meeting the team
We wanted one more conversation with the hiring manager and the team. At a startup it’s really important to bring existing team members into the process. In fact, I believe it’s important in any company. It increases the chance that existing team members will welcome the new hire, and gives the preferred candidate an opportunity to see who they’ll be working with. It reduces the risk for everybody.
A quick offer is a good offer. We didn’t make the offer after the final discussion with the hiring manager and team. We made it during that discussion. After meeting the team, and after everyone gave the thumbs up, the candidate spoke to the hiring manager privately and got the good news. She accepted.
The same, but different
Is a graphic designer at a major accounting firm the same job as a graphic designer at an early-stage startup? There is an obvious overlap is functional skills, but that’s where the similarity ends.
A designer at startup will have limited resources and even less time. They’ll be required to “ship fast” because the clock is ticking and everything is an experiment. Management will have a relatively high tolerance for mistakes, and decisions will be made on the spot.
Conversely, a large accounting firm will be far less tolerant of risk, decisions are made by committee, perfection will be prioritized over speed and autonomy will likely be low.
How similar do these roles sound now?
While the fundamental craft is essentially the same, the context is entirely different. Success is measured differently, and the respective operating environments have very little in common.
Context is everything
It follows that the best person to do the job at the accounting firm is probably not the best person to do the job at the startup. In come cases the same person might be able to excel at both roles, but they’ll need to apply themselves and behave quite differently.
This means that competence is dependent on context, something James Clear emphasizes in his book Atomic Habits.
There is no such thing is a “good graphic designer”. Rather, there is a good graphic designer in your particular context. That context might be unique to your company, or it might be broadly applicable to companies in your industry or of a similar size, for example.
This is a departure from the way many companies, and indeed many talent acquisition professionals, think about competency frameworks. It’s easy to associate competence with job titles in a generic sense. However, given people’s performance will depend on the context in which they operate, all notions of competence should take context into account.
How to build context into your recruitment process
When filling a role, it’s important to think of what it takes to be successful in that role at your company. It’s helpful to divide the requirements into two components. The first is the skills that are specific to the role itself and would likely be required in any context. In other words, what does the person in the role need to achieve? The second component is the skills that are unique to your context. In other words, how do you expect the person to approach their role? This can include cultural aspects, attitude, behavior and so on.
The next step is to come up with a way to test candidates for those skills. Following this logic, a generic “graphic designer test” doesn’t make much sense because it only addresses the first component. In order to identify someone who will excel in a role in your context, the test must take into account both components. It must be context-dependent because competence is dependent on context.
Thinking about candidate selection in this way will help you identify people who are more likely to be successful in your environment. This makes sense because it’s also unlikely that the people who want to work at a startup will also want to work at major accounting firms, and visa versa.
Originally posted on Vervoe.com
Written by: Omer Molad
What is Digital Marketing? You’ve probably heard of digital/online/internet marketing before. But since you’re reading this, you’re not exactly an expert. And that’s alright, we all start somewhere. The bad news is, digital marketing is extremely complex – the good news is, digital marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. People send their entire lives mastering just one aspect of digital marketing, and its always changing – but you can learn it without your head spinning if you know where to start and stay focused (hint: you’re in the right place). Let’s start with a simple definition: Digital marketing, aka online marketing or internet marketing, is any activity carried out with the intention of bringing more of your ideal customer to your business using the internet. Essentially, whether you’re simply getting someone’s attention or asking them to buy from you it’s digital marketing (if done over the internet). Online Marketing for Dummies: The Primary Marketing Channels A good internet marketing for dummies article wouldn’t be complete without a proper list of the main methods (we call them marketing channels) you can utilize to bring more people to your business:
● Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
● Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
● Social Media Marketing
● Content Marketing
● Pay-per-click Advertising
● Email Marketing
● Affiliate Marketing
Each of these marketing channels goes deep – and it can be difficult to personally master more than one. We recommend you learn a bit about each, and then find digital marketing specialists in each discipline to help your journey. Once we go through these primary channels, you should have a clearer picture of what a comprehensive digital marketing strategy looks like. Let’s go. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) SEO is the art of improving your websites visibility in Google. No doubt you have spent a lot of time, energy & money becoming a trusted and informed and authoritative leader in your industry in the real world, SEO is how you do that all over again but for Google. Whats the point? Well, when you are seen as the expert, and people are aware that you exist, you get alot of business. This is true in real life & in Google. One of the primary goals of SEO should be to bring new people to your business who have a specific problem or need that your business solves. Specifically, these would be people looking for a solution you provide, but they don’t know about you – yet. For example, let’s say you provide marketing services in Los Angeles, CA and you want to acquire more clients. A good SEO campaign would help your business show up in front of people who know they need marketing services, they live in Los Angeles, and they want to choose a provider. Are they going to search for your business by name? No. Because they don’t know you exist yet. They are going to search using the words they know: For example, they might search for “internet marketing company los angeles”. This is called a Keyword. Using some nifty SEO Tools, we can see that this “keyword” has a “search volume” of 300 – that means this phrase is typed into Google 300 times a month – that’s a lot of people needing marketing! If you want those 300 searchers a month to consider your business as a potential provider of the solution to their problems – then you need to have good SEO.
How does SEO work? It is broken down into 4 main categories:
1. On-Page SEO
2. Off-Page SEO
3. Technical SEO
4. Content SEO
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your website pages for maximum SEO impact – things like ensuring you have proper HTML markup on your content (if gives you more rankings push) keyword optimized titles, multimedia, schema etc.
Off-page SEO consists primarily of creating backlinks. In simple terms, these are links that live another website but send the person who clicks on them from where they are to where you are. You can think of this like other websites on the internet giving you a “referral” or a “vote” or “vouching” for you – they are effectively telling Google and the general public “we recommend you go over here and check out this website
Technical SEO has to do with optimizing things on your website so that Google can best understand, interpret & display information from your site. This can get very technical even to explain but it comprises things like site structure, page speed, code optimization, robots.txt, keyword cannibalization, etc.
Content SEO is about optimizing individual pieces of content on your website, and the structure of how they all relate to each other, to give your website the best chance of being seen by Google as an authority on the topics you cover.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Consider this SEO’s cousin, because this marketing channel also gets you results on the SERP (search engine result pages). Only, this cousin charges money to show your website. The primary way SEM works is through a method called Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) Pay per click means that you literally pay everytime someone clicks on your link. Where do you show up? Well, whatever platform you want to show up on. You start by heading to one of the big boys where everyone hangs out (Google, Facebook, Bing, Yelp, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Then, you pay them to prominently display your website or offer whenever someone searches for one of the products/services you sell (or really anything you want to pay for) – BUT you only pay them when a person clicks on your result. The amount you have to spend to accomplish this varies on competition. You can see the results of SEM on the search engine result page with the “Ad” or “Ads” icon next to it. Paid advertising is typically more expensive than other types of digital marketing – but it gets results FAST. If you need new sales ASAP, paid ads is the way to go. Social Media Marketing By now everyone knows about social media – and using it to grow your business is really what social media marketing is. We’re talking about being active on the social channels where your ideal customers are – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat, Pinterest, Quora, etc. There’s no denying that social media helps boost brand awareness and sales – pretty much everyone is spending a large portion of their day (and their entire time standing in lines) on social media. One key takeaway for a successful social media marketing campaign is to provide the right type of content for the platform – for instance, people typically don’t like long form content on Facebook, but will consume long videos on YouTube.
Winning at social media marketing means:
● Consistently creating relevant content for each platform
● Respond to your audience
● Provide value
● Be patient Content
Marketing Content marketing is all about providing valuable information to your audience in the form of consumable content. Consider the purpose of the content on your product/service pages, the posts you publish on your blog, and even the articles you publish on other websites that help position you as an expert in your industry/niche. These are all examples of content marketing (and optimization). For example, let’s say you are a tax consultancy and don’t have the budget for a huge brand presence. A smart content marketing move can be publishing an article titled “10 Common Tax Mistakes that Can Cost You Dearly.” A blog post like this can drive a significant amount of people (potential clients) to your website without having to pay for ads. Creating content that is valuable to your audience is an amazing way to get started in digital marketing. Pay-per-click (PPC) aka Paid Advertising As obvious from the name, Pay Per Click means you will pay for every click you get on your ad. Yes, it is similar to search engine marketing. But remember that PPC is just one of the many types of SEM (aka advertising). Facebook and Google Ads are by far the biggest platforms for Paid advertising. These platforms allow you to target your ideal buyer and show them ads. Facebook’s advertising lets you get REALLY specific with targeting. I’m sure you’ve heard of this before from Brexit, Cambridge Analytica, the Trump Campaign, etc. For example, you can show your ads to “men in Los Angeles aged 24 to 34 who like Quentin Tarantino.” Your marketing simply cannot be this focused in the “physical world”. Any advertising for dummies book, course or article you read will show you the power of ads. And in the online world, ads are extremely precise and very powerful. Email Marketing Email came long before all other channels and platforms you’ve read in this online marketing for dummies post thus far – but it’s still here – and it’s hugely important. Many entrepreneurs and marketers consider their email list to be their most valuable business asset. Email marketing is all about communicating directly with your target audience. It helps you retain long-term relationships, not just conduct transactional communications. For example, you can what’s called a “drip campaign”. These are automated email campaigns that follow up with users automatically. Write them once, and they keep working for years to come. There are plenty of email marketing tools to help you out with your campaigns and monetize your email list. Affiliate Marketing Affiliate marketing is basically getting paid by a company for referring people to their product. You see it all the time. Many big box retailers have affiliate programs – they pay you for helping them make sales. When a referral from you buys a product from the company you are an “affiliate” of, you get paid. Amazon is the perfect example. After signing up for their affiliate program you get a link for all their product pages, and will get paid 3-10% on things that they buy. You can put affiliate links in your blog posts, emails, on your social media, or send them directly to friends you think might be interested. If they click on the link and buy the product, the company you are an affiliate of pays you a nice little commission. Many people have made this their main business and are earning an insane amount of money through this. It’s a great way to get started making money online if you don’t have your own business. What’s Next? Now you have a basic understanding of online marketing. Of course, there’s a lot more to be said about the various marketing channels discussed here. But for now, you’ve built a solid base. So, which one of the channels you learned in this online marketing for dummies article will you use? There’s no one right answer, and you’ll probably want to use several of these in tandem to personalize your marketing campaign to suit your brand’s needs.
This article by Devin Schumacher first appeared on SERP Co.
Whether you’re starting a new business or running an established organization, one of the major dilemmas you need to address is determining the appropriate budget for marketing. After all, you don’t want to invest heavily in developing a hip, niche product, only to end up with a fantastic product in your hands without the go-to market plan and promotional means to drive awareness and sales.
In the mid-90s, Steve Jobs took Apple Inc. (which was on the brink of extinction) and turned it into one of the most valuable brands in the world. Jobs understood that a strong brand and marketing strategy is a powerful asset and a vital role in the success of any business. Today, Apple is one of many successful companies that spends more on marketing and sales than they do on research and development.
However, unlike Apple and other global corporations, many small businesses struggle to balance between spending on marketing versus other functional needs due to limited resources and capacity. This is why it is important to take time to evaluate your marketing objectives and to prioritize specific marketing initiatives to maximize your returns. Below, we will break down the marketing budget and discuss where to allocate your resources to optimize your marketing plan.
Before You Start
Refer to your marketing plan, if available. There are a few questions that you need to answer before you begin to set your marketing budget:
There are 6 common approaches to setting a marketing budget:
1. The random allocation approach—Possibly the most common method. Businesses that use this method follow no marketing strategy or plan. Budget is allocated based on impromptu efforts: “We need more sales; let’s have a campaign!”.
2. Keeping up with the Jones approach—Matching what the competitors are spending or reacting to a competitor’s increase in marketing efforts. Keep in mind that it is very difficult to establish what competitors are spending or how efficiently their budgets are being used.
3. The last year’s budget approach—Many organized businesses look at previous budgets and make upward or downward adjustments based on their evaluations.
4. The percentage of turnover approach—Organizations that use this method strive to establish an accepted marketing spend based on percentage of turnover (sum of money that the organization has collected from its normal business practices such as sale of goods and services). The generally accepted spend for a business in a steady state is 5%-8% of turnover and higher for new businesses or if there is a need to open a new market.
Note: If there are major changes in strategy, do not base your budget on previous budgets as those are likely to be irrelevant.
5. The task orientated approach—This method involves looking at your strategy and tallying up the costs of all planned marketing activities to arrive at the marketing budget. This may create a figure that you are not comfortable with, but it is the most strategic method.
6. The hybrid approach—Many businesses will incorporate several of these methods to come up with a realistic and flexible marketing budget that matches strategy with affordability.
Two Other Considerations
Aside from selecting the appropriate budgeting approach, you also need to think about what you’re really investing in. Remember that advertisements, trade shows, social media, mobile apps, etc. are only tools to help you gain and retain customers. Thus, your first consideration should be “how much is a customer worth?”
The most straightforward way to calculate customer lifetime value (CLV) is to subtract the revenue you earn from a customer by the money spent on acquiring and serving that customer, where the total revenue you can expect to get from each customer is your average order value divided by one minus the repeat purchase rate.
Let's say that the value of an average ticket at your establishment is $35 and anytime someone makes an order there is a 15% chance of the customer coming back and making a repeat purchase. Let's also assume that it costs you $10 to acquire each new customer. (Figures are purely assumptions for demonstration purposes.)
Thus, CLV = [$35 / (1 - 0.15)] - $10 = $31.17
The second consideration is “what is the average conversion rate from inquiry to customer?”
Conversion rates (CR) are calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the number of total impressions, then multiply by 100.
Your site had 2,000 visitors last month and produced 125 sales. (Figures are purely assumptions for demonstration purposes.)
Thus, CR = 125/2,000 x 100 = 6.25%
Knowing your CLV and CR helps to set the upper limit of your marketing budget. Obviously, your budget should stay below your total expected CLV, but if your conversion rates are high, you can allocate more resources on the driving channel. The point is that a marketing budget should not be perceived as an expense towards a single, immediate sale; rather, it is an investment in acquiring and keeping a customer for the long-term.
By this point, you’re probably still wondering how much other organizations are spending on marketing to gain a point of reference. The answer is: It varies by industry.
Below are some figures gathered in a 2017 CMO survey published by the American Marketing Association.
Percent of revenue by industry:
The SBA recommends that small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between brand development costs (promotion channels such as website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.) and the costs of promoting the business (campaigns, advertisements, events, etc.). This percentage assumes that your profit margin falls within the range of 10-12 percent.
Where to Spend
Using the SBA recommendation as a reference point, you may want to consider setting a 5% of revenue marketing budget for your regular marketing activities, with added spending on periods that require extra marketing efforts to meet changes in strategy or to upgrade/enhance your marketing foundation.
In general, your marketing foundation should include:
Essentially, your marketing foundations consist of establishing your brand, defining your missions and values, and building your basic communication platforms. Efforts toward building and maintaining your marketing foundations fall under brand development. You may also use budgeting approaches 3, 4, or 5 to determine the appropriate amount for your marketing foundations.
Depending on your industry, you may need to invest more in promotional campaigns during certain seasons or years to capitalized on additional traffic. You may also choose to run a couple of spontaneous campaigns to temporarily boost your sales. This is where you can tap into the remaining 2-3 percent of your marketing budget, or implement budgeting approach 1 or 2 to meet your marketing needs.
Separating your marketing budget into brand development and promotional campaigns helps to maintain a degree of flexibility and bridge strategy with affordability.
Finally, you need to determine whether you should use an in-house marketing team or outsource your marketing projects to an external agency.
In-House Marketing Team vs External Agency
While having a team of marketers in-house allows for greater control and access to marketing personnel, finding talented marketers takes significant upfront time and monetary investment, not to mention the ongoing costs or salaries, training, benefits, and technology infrastructure upkeep. Additionally, internal marketers are expected to stay on top of industry trends which may be challenging when they’re also fulfilling other responsibilities as full-time employees.
External agencies not only provide expertise on the subject matter, they also focus on all aspects of cutting-edge marketing practices and trends. Therefore, instead of getting sidetracked by your organization’s corporate culture, an external marketing team serves to enhance to your marketing visions and maximize your marketing capacities. Finally, agencies may be hired on a per-project basis, which makes them more affordable than a year-round, in-house marketing team.
Many types of marketing agencies exist in the marketplace, each with different sets of competencies, culture, and practices. Make sure you thoroughly interview each firm to discover the best fit for your needs and budget.
Setting your marketing budget may be a daunting task, but it is a necessary step to achieving marketing and business strategy synergy. Remember to reference your marketing plan before, during and after setting you budget, choose the appropriate budgeting approach, separate your budget for brand development and promotional campaigns, and consider outsourcing your shortcomings to the experts. Talk to a marketing specialist today to find out how you can increase the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts. Most importantly, treat your marketing budget as an investment towards gaining and keeping long-term customers.
Originally published on Vervoe.
It’s a much-debated topic and a growing trend, but most companies still don’t seem to take a deliberate approach to flexible working. Instead, they just offer a vague middle ground of “flexible working” on a case by case basis.
There are strong arguments for encouraging remote working and, conversely, arguments for bringing everyone together under the one roof. As recent examples highlight, there is no “one size fits all” answer. The key is to tailor your company’s approach to your objectives, operating rhythm, desired culture and workforce composition.
Back to the officeYahoo!
CEO Marissa Mayer famously abolished working from home in 2013, saying that “people are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together”.
It’s a powerful argument. It also contains an inherent assumption that working from home increases productivity, which may not always be true. But Mayer had to do something to shake up Yahoo!’s culture and she put collaboration ahead of flexibility, which is what she felt the company needed at that point in time.
In 2014 Reddit decided to consolidate its workforce in one location, San Francisco, and abolished remote working. Reddit’s reasons were similar to Yahoo!’s.
More flexible companies
Envato, a marketplace for creative assets, takes a very different approach, explicitly promoting remote and flexible working on its careers site. Remote working, travel, flexible hours, paid parental leave and secondments are just some of the many employee benefits Envato highlights.
Envato’s culture is different to Yahoo!’s and, importantly, its head office is not in Silicon Valley but rather in Melbourne, Australia. Envato chooses to promote flexibility and optionality as important features of its culture.
Automattic, the company that developed WordPress, is another company that promotes flexible working, citing talent as its primary reason. Automattic CEO, Matt Mullenweg, said that remote working “… has been amazing for the company in that we can attract and retain the best talent without them having to be in New York or San Francisco or one of the traditional tech centers.”
Automattic uses chat, alerts and an internal blog to communicate effectively and ensures staff are adequately supported with great tools. WordPress is the most dominant content management system in the world so Automattic doesn’t appear to be suffering from a lack of productivity as a result of its remote workforce.
The conclusion is therefore that it’s different strokes for different folks. It depends on your company’s situation and, most importantly, how you execute your desired approach.
Here are some of the questions you should ask before deciding which way to go:
Under the right circumstances, remote working can hugely advantageous. The key is to put the right processes in place and maintain a structure, as Automattic has done. Otherwise it can get messy and very quickly. If executed well, the benefits can be tremendous.
Originally published on Vervoe.
Good hire or bad hire?
You’ve done the hard work, you’ve made the decision and your shiny new hire has finally joined the team.
Great, now what?
So much is written about how to hire great people and what to look for when hiring. But that is merely the start of the journey.
After the hiring decision is made, the work begins. Your team has grown and, at some stage, you’ll need to decide whether the person you recently hired is adding value. If not, it might be time to make some hard decisions, or even revisit your hiring methods.
Here are five powerful indicators that you’ve made the right choice.
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
– Abraham Lincoln
There is a lot of talk about hustling in the startup community. It’s a badge of honor. But hustling is not a skill, it’s a behavior. It is therefore a choice.
Every startup hopes its team members will make that choice every day
You can encourage hustling by communicating your company’s vision and values, as well as creating a collaborative and fun work environment.
Without those things, even the best hustler may run out of steam.
When people buy into your company’s vision, they are more likely to become dedicated to your team. A dedicated team member is an excellent outcome, but it takes both sides to make that happen.
Making the right hiring decision isn’t just about hiring someone who is great in isolation. Rather, it’s about hiring someone who is great for your team. In other words, a great hire is someone who will eventually become dedicated to your team.
Dedication looks pretty much like hustling, but it’s sustainable. So look for sustained and purposeful effort. It’s a good indicator of both performance and engagement.
“Initiative is doing the right things without being told.”
– Elbert Hubbard
Having people who can do things well without being told is a gift. In his article, One Behavior Separates The Successful From The Average, Benjamin P. Hardy describes people who take initiative as follows:
“They don’t need to be managed in all things. They don’t just do the job, they do it right and complete. They also influence the direction for how certain ideas and projects go.”
But it’s not enough to just do things well. After all, that’s what is expected. It’s about doing the right things well. Knowing how to prioritize requires good judgment. Initiative coupled with bad judgment can be counterproductive.
When people take initiative, productivity increases and the confidence goes up. Team members know they can rely on each other to get things done.
3. Cultural Stretch
“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.”
– Bruce Lee
In his article, Hire for Cultural Fitness, Not Just Cultural Fit, Gustavo Razzetti argues that good hires should make the culture stretch, not just adapt to it.
That’s a great perspective.
When new hires form independent relationships with other team members, and impact them in a positive way, you can be sure that your culture is stretching. It’s evidence that they are adding something, not just assimilating.
It’s a beautiful thing to see the team growing. Not just in numbers, but in intellectual firepower and curiosity.
Any new hire that makes a contribution to the team’s growth is a leader in the making, if not a leader today.
“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
– Benjamin Franklin
There is always room for improvement, no matter who you are.
It’s a wonderful feeling to see people improve over time and, for high performers, improvement is not an option, it’s an irresistible desire. In his article, 76% of high-performance employees say trade mastery, not money, most important in career decisions, William Belk argues that “corporate culture and directive”should encourage team members to develop their skills in the pursuit of mastery. This will result in high levels of engagement and sustained innovation.
Improvement is therefore a strong indicator of performance. Assuming people are set up for success, strong team members will look for opportunities to hone their craft. An ethos of continuous improvement needs to be encouraged and, sometimes, leaders may even need to get out of the way to give the team space.
People with a capacity and willingness to improve their skills become more valuable over time. Rather than having their careers developed for them, people who aim for continuous improvement create opportunities for themselves. For companies who believe in empowering their teams, constantly-improving team members are obvious assets.
“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.”
– Boris Pasternak
Trying to hire people who will surprise us is a contradiction in terms. We hire people to perform certain tasks and we expect them to perform those tasks very well. High performers may exceed our expectations in the quality of their work, but that’s not what I’m referring to here.
Every so often, people do things that catch us off guard. These acts of wonder cannot be found in a job description, they require skills that we don’t necessarily associate with the person who surprised us, and they are not things we would have thought to do ourselves.
It’s something intangible, and there is no point looking for it. But when it happens, we know that we have someone special on our hands. We got more than we bargained for.
Then, You Know It’s Real
“To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.”
– Oscar Wilde
When I reflect on the five indicators of a sound hiring decision – dedication, initiative, cultural stretch, improvement and surprise – what stands out is just how human they are. They are, more or less, what Seth Godin would call “real skills”.
That doesn’t mean that technical skills, which Godin calls “functional skills”, aren’t valuable. Of course they are. They are the baseline, the minimum standard.
But it’s the “real skills” that make a new hire stand out. They influence how the work is done, the impact on the rest of the team and the propensity for growth.
When the time comes to assess a hiring decision, it is helpful to look beyond how individual tasks are performed and see each new hire through through a “real skills” lens. In addition to an assessment of performance right now, you’ll get a strong indication of what you’re likely to see in the future.
Editor's Note: This is a collaboration piece with Emily Bartels from Constant Clicks.
Whether you’re new to business or a seasoned entrepreneur, outsourcing marketing activities is a great way to increase your capacity and improve your project execution. But what are the most effective ways to outsource? What resources should be outsourced, and what should be done by you? Read on to find out the top marketing activities to outsource.
Your logo appears on everything that your company puts out, so if you don’t have a professional designer, you should definitely outsource to a marketing agency to find one that best fits you. A skilled designer will have a better eye for this rather than, say, relying on someone who has never done it. Logos mean a lot since they’re an integral part of the public's perceptions of your company. Being able to have your brand value aptly communicated in your logo is essential, and it’s a marketing activity that should definitely be outsourced to the right people. That is to say, don’t just give it to a friend simply because they have a graphic design degree; go to a marketing professional.
Creating images takes a long time, about thirty or so minutes (longer if it's your first time). That's a lot of time to be used on just one task, and if you’re the one running an entire company, that certainly is a waste of resources. If you want pretty images for your business, consider outsourcing this task to save on effort and time. Plus, with the right designer, you’ll get the quality content you need to engage your audiences.
Assets for the Brand
This means any business cards, printed materials, whitepapers, and sales/marketing items with your business name slathered on it. A professional designer will make sure that everything carries continuity while looking beautiful and polished. You’ll want to make sure that you hire the right kind of freelancer. If you want the project done, and you want it done right, you’ll want someone that is trustworthy. Ask for referrals, read reviews, and check their portfolio of previous works.
When it comes to brand design, don't hire different people for different projects as that may disrupt continuity. Instead, hire a singular designer or an agency that is an expert in the field and can handle anything related to design.
Curating Social Media Content
Curating social media is an important but time-consuming task for any content marketing strategy, but you shouldn’t have to be the one to do it. You should be spending time running and growing your business. Have the outsourced party work on this. Give them clear instructions on the style and format of your content and then let them have it. That way, you’ve got someone growing the social media aspects without you having to devote hours in a week online.
Replying to Comments
If you're on social (as your should be) or run any type of blog, you’re going to realize that replying to comments takes time. If you can, delegate this task to someone else. Whether it’s an assistant or a 3rd party, let them handle it. Even if it’s the mundane task of writing “thanks” to a bunch of different comments, it'll take about 15-30 minutes a day to reply to each comment if you're running multiple blogs plus social media and a couple online review sites. Multiply that by 365 days in a year, and you'll end up with 5,475 minutes a year, or 11.4 days based on 8-hour days. That's a full week's time spent on typing "thanks" on the reply line.
While there are free DIY platforms such as Weebly and Wix, they tend to be generic and require some time to explore. As a business, and especially if you're hoping to generate business leads on the website, you'll want an interface that's professional, polished, and optimized for mobile. Therefore, regardless of which platform you choose to host your website, you want to hire an experienced website designer who is familiar with your industry to ensure that the website is functional, easy to navigate, and aesthetically appealing.
A skilled website designer can create a customized look and make sure everything works as intended. If you're thinking of selling products online, then you should definitely put your money into designers who know exactly what they’re doing.
Search engine optimization is somewhat of a mystery with multiple trials and errors for a lot of people. This whole process, which includes countless hours of keyword research and tracking results, is rather lengthy. Make life easier for yourself and go to an expert for help. SEO optimization, if done right, has a huge impact on the business and will save you so many hours. SEO experts will find the right keywords and phrases to help more potential clients locate you on the google search, and give you the content you need to get people to flock to your site.
And it doesn't stop there. Relevant directories effectively help with NAP citations. However, directory submission takes time and involves lots of forms. If you don’t want to handle all the paperwork, outsource it.
The concept of guest blogging is simple: You write a blog article according to the requirements of a particular blogger and get a backlink in return. Since links are a primary ranking factor in Google, and guest blogging offers a strong opportunity to secure a link back from another website, guest blogging is a commonly used tactic for SEO.
Additionally, guest blogging establishes a relationship with the blogger hosting your post and taps into their audience for additional exposure. This, in turn, not only increases your web traffic but also helps you establish authority among an audience.
Many marketing agencies offer ghost writing services to help you generate quality content and send them out to influential blogs in your industry. They will also help you manage your relationships with other blogs for future partnerships.
Outsourcing is often seen with a downcast eye because people have had bad experiences with outsourcing and many small business owners want to save money by doing everything themselves. However, if you outsource the right projects to the right people, you’ll not only save money and time but also get great results. The level of execution on your marketing projects can make a huge difference for your company. That's why outsourcing the tedious details of running a company’s marketing campaign, including design works, website, content generation, social media management and SEO are considered the best components to outsource to the experts.
About the Guest Author:
Emily Bartels is a Content Writer and Developer at Constant Clicks that helps businesses to grow using digital marketing practices. She has been in this industry for 5+ years and specialises in writing educative content on SEO, Social Media, businesses. She loves to read trending news to keep her updated!
With the drastic increase in mobile usage, Google has been striving to deliver a friendlier mobile experience to its users. The shift from “local 7-pack” to “local 3-pack” is an attempt from the search engine giant to cater to the mobile screens.
This new focus on mobile is urging local businesses to make changes to the way they are conducting their online listing to stay on top of the search. Some small changes in SEO technique could prevent a business from taking a hit on their online visibility due to drops in their search rankings.
What is Google’s “Local 3-pack”?
Simply put, Google used to show the company information, or “cards”, for seven local companies in the search results on the first page; now they’ve trimmed that down to three.
As a result, Google changed the information that users see when they conduct searches for a specific type of business or service. For example, the local cards for the top seven results used to be prominently displayed at the top of the search results; now, the name, reviews and the type of business are displayed for the top three business on mobile. If a user wants more information, they must click on one of the businesses, which leads the user to that business’s local card. If searching from a computer, the local card for the selected business will still be shown but a map will also be displayed along with the contact information and location of 20 other similar businesses.
Google local 3-pack
Map and list of 20 businesses after clicking on the first result of the 3-pack. Contact information for the business appears here
Why it matters?
What Factors Affect Search Results?
The proximity of the user conducting the search is the number one factor in the local three pack rankings. If a user is standing directly outside of a business and searches for what it specializes in, then it’s likely that the business will be the first to show up in the search results. Since users are often at a distant physical location when they do a search on Google where more factors are taken into consideration, we want to explore some of the other factors that affect the search rankings .
Here are 4 tips that you can easily implement to enhance your local ranking on Google:
I. Having up-to-date information about the business on the Google My Business
This means that there should be a good description, as many high-quality photos as possible, the correct telephone number, address and business hours.
Note: For businesses with multiple locations, in the Google My Business listings, the correct phone number for each location should be listed and the name of location should not be included with the name of the business.
Example: A pizza shop located in the town of Carlisle would be called “Two Brother’s Pizza Shop” as opposed to “Two Brother’s Pizza Shop-Carlisle”
Google will check these against local directories and the company’s website to make sure that everything matches. If a discrepancy is found, this could hurt the business’ position in the local rankings. Make sure that this information is correct and up-to-date.
II. Increase your reviews on Google and other directories, such as Yelp.
How to encourage customers to review your business online:
1. Don’t post fake reviews. Google and other websites do have ways to weed out fake reviews and if they find these, your company could drop in the rankings.
2. Actively encourage patrons to review your business. A little bit of tact could be helpful here. If customers feel like you are begging for good reviews, this could hurt your chance of getting a review and paint the business in a bad light in the customer’s eyes.
3. Respond to any negative reviews promptly. It’s important for the business to acknowledge the customer’s complaint and to inquire as to what may be done to fix the problem. If appropriate, the business can work with the reviewer to find a remedy to the situation (and hopefully receive a better review after retaining the relationship).
4. Don’t neglect the positive reviews! Write a quick thank-you note to show your audiences that you appreciate their support.
III. Categorize your company appropriately.
If a company find that it is not doing well in a certain category, one option is to try to specialize the category that your business is under. An example would be changing the category of a grocery store that specializes in selling natural or organic items from “grocery store” to “health food store”.
IV. Have a mobile responsive site.
Google recently started giving preferential treatment to businesses with mobile responsive sites to provide for a better experience when people are browsing the web from their phone.
Getting a top spot in the Google search results takes ongoing efforts on the part of the business. Any changes to business products and services, location, telephone number, or operating hours should be updated immediately to ensure that the most up-to-date information is available. If a company finds that it’s no longer ranking well under a certain category, experiment with different categories and track the results to find out if there is a category that receives a better response. Finally, monitor your online reviews regularly, and quickly respond to any negative reviews.
With some time and effort, businesses can increase their chances in landing one of the top three spots.
What’s your favorite local SEO tip? Please share in the comments below!
Finding the right software to create an infographic that fits your visual storytelling needs can be difficult. Luckily, I tried out some of the top-rated ones for you. Canva, Piktochart, and Visme are highly rated in the IOT, and each one offers a unique experience depending on what you are trying to create, and for whom you are creating it.
I am relatively new to this process of creating infographics, and therefore have an objective view of the three platforms I investigated. If you, like me, need to create graphics fast and easily on platforms that have a short learning curve then I recommend one of these three Canva, Piktochart, and Visme. Each of these platforms offers a free experience along with an upgraded monthly paid for service, which gives you even more content to work with.
For the purposes of this post, I tried each of these platforms in their free mode. Let’s take a more detailed look at the functionality of these websites.
The first thing I would like to mention about Canva is that this platform is not used specifically for making infographics. This site offers a myriad of different templates for creating things like Facebook Posts, Presentations, Logos, Business Cards, and many more. I have been using the presentation portion of Canva for some time now but have never used it for infographics.
When you first visit the Canva page, it offers a very ‘new age’ home screen, and from the start, it is easy to use. After you create an account and choose infographics, they bring you to a page with a blank graphic, and numerous templates to choose from, or you can also choose custom dimensions. The templates are labeled as free, or they let you know how much each one costs to use.
If there is any doubt at this point about how to use this platform, there is a help button at the top left that will help get you back on your way to creating something beautiful.
The features on the left side also offer an elements option which includes things like graphs, royalty-free photos, grids, shapes, illustrations, etc. It then goes down the list to text, which gives you plain text or pre-made groupings to choose from.
You can also change the background of your graphic, and like the templates section, and they offer you multiple free templates from which to choose. Alternatively, you can upload your own design. Designs can be layered or moved from back to front depending on how you want them placed on the graphic.
Canva offers a lot of free content to choose from, and it gives any creator the ability to easily find ways to be creative in their visual story. In the event that the creator wants to collaborate, Canva offers an easy solution. Simply hit the share button and enter people's email addresses, connect it to social media, grab a link, or copy code to embed somewhere. You can also download it as a PNG, JPG, or PDF, along with presenting it straight from the site.
To sum up, here are the pros and cons for Canva:
Canva is by far the easiest infographic platform to use. It is straightforward, easy to find free content to use, offers lots of sharing and downloading options, and easily answers questions during creation. Additionally, I love that it autosaves what you have created in case your cat decides to close the browser for you unexpectedly. Any company should be able to utilize Canva’s free version without really needing to upgrade. Since Canva is so simple and straightforward, it offers a lot of freedom for expression. However, unlike Visme it does not offer video or analytic data. Here is the result:
I would like to mention here that Piktochart also offers multiple presentations. It, however, offers fewer options than Canva. You can create infographics, presentations, and printables, i.e. flyers and posters, although you should check with your printing vendor’s dimensions before choosing their printable templates. You can also expand the bottom of your infographic to make it as long as you like. Canva does not offer this, but Visme does.
After signing up and clicking on the infographic button, they bring you to a page where you have a few templates to pick from. There aren’t as many templates in the free version, and you have to ‘Level Up’ and use the pro version to fully utilize their pre-made layouts. They offer the same categories of items that we saw with Canva, but the graphics you can use are less rudimentary and are more colorful in the free version. You can also upload any image or graphic you want, or choose from for their large collection of free graphics if any sparks your imagination. They have limited offerings of free images, but you can just as easily upload an image from a royalty-free site.
For those of you who have limited design background, Piktochart provides some templates with photos and in color schemes. You can choose the colors around what you want your template to be focused on, and it will automatically change some of the graphics to fit that scheme.
The charts option does require some time for exploration because they offer almost every chart imaginable. You can even upload data from your Google Drive, SurveyMonkey, and Excel. My favorite feature is the chatbot who checks on you throughout your process and is always live to answer any questions you may have.
Overall, Piktochart is easy to use. A few downsides include the inability to collaborate through sharing and limited exporting options under the free version, all of which is available in Canva.
To sum it up, here are the pros and cons for Piktochart.
With what Piktochart offers it seems that any business could utilize this site without having to upgrade. The only issue may be collaboration, sharing, and downloading. This may cause inconveniences for a larger business, but less applicable in a smaller setting. They offer a huge selection of graphics to choose from that will meet any visual storytelling needs. I would consider this and Canva to be almost equal on the learning curve, and both equally as useful in the presentation world. Here is the result:
At first glance, Visme is a website created like Canva. It offers a wide variety of items you can create such as Social Media Posts, Menus, Flyers, Presentations, etc. It offers more items than Piktochart does, including the option to create custom dimensions as well. You can expand the bottom of the infographic to make it as long as you like. A downside is that you can only create a few free graphics before you have to upgrade and pay to create more.
At first glance, this site seems daunting. While it is easy enough to choose the template with which you’d like to start, the tools are labeled in a slightly confusing manner. After clicking on what you need, it brings up a screen that offers some help as to where to find items on their page, but this is hardly helpful. They do have a help section that is easy to find at the top of the page.
After having spent 30 minutes or more, this website is still confusing. It is definitely more difficult to use than Canva or Piktochart. They do offer more features to create advanced infographics, but that also makes their site more complicated to use. They also offer analytical data, which makes their site more valuable if that is what you’re looking for with an infographic.
The elements along the side are set up in the same way as the others, Canva and Piktochart. It includes basics (font/text, graphs, and figures), graphs, data, media, theme, and uploaded files. The downside to their pre-made groupings is that they are difficult to change. However, it is equally as difficult to make your own groupings.
Just like Piktochart, they offer a large quantity of graphics; however, you have to pay for most of the interesting and useful ones. They do offer a library of royalty-free photos to use, which is nice. They boast having a library of over 500,000 photos.
On another note, when you add items to the infographic, they snap to a grid and are nearly impossible to move around without it bringing other objects along for the ride. This interface is difficult to use and not as user-friendly as the other two platforms.
Additionally, the only available free exporting option is JPG. Sharing is also not available under the free version, but you can publish it to the web and get a sharable link.
To sum up, here are the pros and cons for Visme.
Visme is by far the hardest platform to use out of the three. It does offer more features, most of which requires purchasing. The free version is comparable to a demo and not intended for actual business use, especially for a larger organization. The upside to Visme is the built-in analytic data which allows you to see graphic views. Here is the result:
As we can see, none of these platforms hit all the desired points when used for free (which is to be expected), but depending on what you are trying to accomplish, one of them will fit the bill. If you want to pay to use one of them, I would recommend Piktochart because it offers everything Canva does plus video and sound capabilities, with an easy to use interface. Each of these platforms works well and offers a lot. Your preference will depend on your skill level as a designer, what you are looking for in a design platform, and what you are ultimately trying to create.
Qinghua Lao & ERC team