Creativity can be fickle. In fact most days I am an average writer. Some days I have an abundance of creativity and some days there is not a creative bone or cell in my body. Even my cat is bored to death with me. For the creative moments, you never know when their going to strike . I could be in the checkout line at the grocery store when my brain suddenly goes into over drive as if someone tripped the switch. A stenographer couldn’t keep up with the ideas flowing at these moments. It’s like a light goes on and every one and thing rushes into their place perfectly awaiting reveal. I’m certain I can hear the choir in the background singing “AWWWWWW” very faintly.
But most of the time my creativity is well just average. Those golden opportunities are golden for a reason. They don’t happen that often but when they do, that’s when you need to capture them.
Learning how to tame the wild animal that is creativity can help you become more productive on days when it’s abundant, and build a reserve for when it’s not.
1. Become The Notetaker/Voice Recorder:
You could carry around a notepad and paper and jot down the brilliant ideas as they come to you (if you still know how to write). Or, the record button on your cell phone works too. If it’s something you must remember by heart without an aid then there is something to be said about the act of actually writing something down. It seems whenever I manually put the words on paper, I don’t need the list. I’ve tested this theory repeatedly. After creating the list for the grocery store so I won’t forget anything and then forgetting the list. Brilliant! AW but you see it is because I wrote everything down and so I remember everything I had written on the list. Sometimes you have to trick yourself into these things. It Works! Ahhh the irony of trying not to forget anything and then forgetting the thing you made to not forget anything. Wait, what was I talking about again? I forgot!
The record button on your cell phone is great for capturing stray ideas and is probably the thing you will most likely have handy when an idea comes rushing in like Hurricane Andrew. Unless your in the middle of pleading to the judge why he should not give you a ticket for going 90mph in a school zone. So much for being prepared to capture your ideas as they come. It’s okay, you’ll have plenty of time trying to remember your brilliant idea from your cell – and No that is NOT short for cell phone.
2. Organize Your Thoughts:
Sometimes it’s hard to channel the barrage of creativity that’s floating around in your head. Often mistaken for writers block, it’s the classic sign of a premature start. You are not ready to write yet. Almost, but not quite, you’ve skipped a step. In this case, but not all, an outline is in order. Refer to the basics on creating an outline in a previous post. It may sound like added work but it’s not. Once you’ve created the outline you’ll be able to write the piece in record time. How fast can you type? Building an outline helps you get a handle on the unsupervised ideas floating around in your head. It will also ensure that your content has flow and makes sense to a reader.
Tip: Before the outline, open the flood gates by simply jotting down all the ideas in your head in no particular order. Then from these ideas build the outline in the order that makes sense.
3. Hold Brainstorming Sessions or Provide a Creative Outlet:
Experiencing a dry spell? Has the creative river run dry? Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like brainstorming with other people. It really doesn’t matter who it is either, as long as they have a pulse and can speak, your good. Most often my creative ideas are sparked by something totally unrelated to the topics themselves. However, if you have access to a group whose common goal is business related then scheduling regular brainstorming sessions is not only fun, it’s the most valuable use of an employees time that I can think of. People are brilliant and have unique angles. Sadly, most of their brilliance is lost on lack of a creative outlet. Don’t be that company that stifles the very thing that could make it successful. Everyone benefits in these meetings too! Everyone gets fresh ideas for tackling their daily challenges.
Stay tuned for my next post: Get The Most Out of Your Brainstorming Session
So you’ve got the clients attention and maybe even have a signed agreement. What now? If you missed the first part of this post please read it here
Planning Your Strategy
Plotting your strategy will take some thought and some time gathering data. Gathering data starts with the client. Get a feel for the clients goals, aspirations, and their expectations whether unrealistic or not. As previously mentioned, this phase may uncover and allow you to remedy any unrealistic ideas about what you can do for your client. With a better understanding of how he sees your services benefiting him, you are much liklier to end up with a satisfied client.
Armed with your clients revised expectations you are now ready to gather data. Look at the competitors styles and accomplishments. Try to get a feel for how they are doing it, and gauge your work load accordingly. In my business, a clients success on the internet is difficult to project and for that reason so is the workload. Often the strategies that worked for one client fall short of desireable for another client. If this is the case with your business try to do short phased work scopes. For example, present a 3 month detail of work to be performed instead of a 6 month or 1 year and every three months present a new one outlining the next stage of the process. Chances are you will have a much clearer direction after you have begun working the project, allowing you to more accurately define your direction.
More Benefits to Shorter Phased Work Scopes
Using short phased work scopes is a beneficial in the following ways.
- Helps prevent situations that require working outside of the scope and outside of payment agreements
- Provide flexibility in your project to change directions
- Allows for time to evaluate progress and make better decisions about your direction
- Giving information in small bits is easier for the client to understand
- Client feels less bound
Stay On Track
Besides the other benefits mentioned above of shorter work scopes, they also help you stay on track but make sure you understand what the client’s ultimate goals are. This is precisely how he/she defines success. If they aren’t sure or are vague-nail them down or suggest a fair and achievable goal that you both agree on. This is very important! If you are providing several different services within a larger service category, then these should be addressed individually. This will prevent any issues, or failures (perceived or otherwise) from contaminating the entire project down the road.
Everyone, no matter what industry they are in, has had a difficult client. These types can range from never satisfied to the “know it all”, to the “silent but deadly” type. There are also those clients I categorize as “hope-less”, the ones that will resist even impeccable service and finely tuned management. They simply refuse to see anything you do as positive and despite your best attempts you will never win them over.
The truth is, in my business of managing other people’s success online, 100% customer satisfaction can be difficult to obtain, regardless of how much impact you have on their bottom line. “Chasing the dragon” accurately describes the client /provider scenario that morphs over time. The more successful you make them the more success they want. Wanting more success isn’t such a bad thing, nor is it unreasonable necessarily. The problem occurs when the bar gets so high you inevitably disappoint them. What’s worse, is the lack of credit or recognition you receive for the successes up to that point. In the client’s eyes, you failed to meet their current demand, therefore, well…you suck overall!
“Success” in its very basic meaning is a relative term, ie; everyone defines it differently as it applies to them and as I’ve just mentioned, is often a variable within a single project. Herein lies the dragon that you must tame.
Agreements, Proposals and Scope of Work (The Who, What, How, and Where?)
Depending on the size of the project you may already have a legal document containing the usual standard language that serves a valid purpose by stating you will provide a service for the customer for x amount of days and he will pay you x amount of money for that service. It continues to also state that shall either party default on that agreement then a lawsuit could and may occur. You may even have some language in there about “no guarantees” to protect yourself even further. While these agreements serve a purpose, there is too much wiggle room to prevent the dragon from getting lose and wreaking havoc on your project. Why? Because these agreements are too broad. They are meant to deter against default of payment and have very little to do with the actual details of the project.
How to Tame the Dragon Starts with a Discussion
Avoiding inevitable failure in the clients eyes starts with getting on the same page with him/her. In doing so you give yourself the opportunity to decide what “success” really is as it relates to your project. The more specific you are, the better. The process starts with a discussion seeking to define “what” “how long” and “how many.” You may even throw cost into this if you’d prefer especially if this becomes the actual and only agreement between you and your client. Note: This discussion could also uncover some unrealistic expectations that your customer has. If you are unsuccessful at navigating them back into the waters of reality, this is your opportunity to walk away unharmed. Don’t hesitate to take it, if you feel it’s necessary.
Upon verbal agreement of how long and how many, you are then ready to complete quite possibly the most important document that will exist between you and your client. It’s the one that keeps the dragon at bay and you from being charred.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – Defining and Creating the Project Scope
It happens on a regular basis. A client comes to me with his finished site, proud of its spectacular look with moving graphics and fancy navigation that spins around when you hover over it with your mouse. After he proudly proclaims of his readiness to do internet marketing, I watch the deflation occur as I tell him his site will need to be entirely rebuilt if being found on the internet is important to him.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to include a marketing professional in your web design project. Moving graphics require coding that is not read by search engines. Too much of it surrounding your HTML (the content that is understood by search engines) is likely to be missed or skipped over. As a rule of thumb, keeping all moving graphics or text within the header of your site is the best policy for providing a “content rich” website that will have a much better chance at being found or ranking in the SERP’s.
This is just one of the very important reasons you should include a web marketing professional in your web design project, however there are thousands of others. Often people lump web designers in with internet marketers and vice versa. What is important to remember is that although their services may overlap in relation to that website, their purpose is very different.
A web designer is interested in two things 1. The way the site looks, and the client satisfaction in how it looks. Internet Marketing professionals care much less about how a site looks and more about its functionality for users and marketability to search engines. Asking or expecting your web designer to make your site “SEO Friendly” is like asking an electrician to build a house. The biggest downside of excluding a marketing professional in the web design process is that trying to make changes after the fact is sometimes more difficult even impossible without a complete redesign. Internet marketing has a huge focus on code/content that is the framework of your website. Just like a house, if you take the frame away the entire house comes crashing down.
Presenting proposals to clients for SEO projects can be a hectic and stressful process especially for the small business client whose expenditures are almost always on a tight budget. Some feel like they might be throwing money at a losing battle…their business, and at this point are unsure it being worthy of success at all. After having done an initial analysis on their competition and current web presence you conclude that with a strong back linking campaign and onsite seo/copywriting they could turn their business around and take a strong position in the search results for their keyword. Naturally you have already shared this exciting news with them but somehow at the moment when you present the proposal, it seems forgotten; the excitement lost in dollar signs. What can be done to make this proposal process less stressful for both the client and the SEO professional? Here are a few things I have come up with for a win win proposal:
Upon introduction discuss:
A) What is their budget? Or, how much do they want to spend on a marketing campaign and SEO for their website
B) Ask them questions that quantify the value they place on ranking well in search results or driving traffic to their website. Let’s face it. Getting noticed online can bring endless value to the customer in hard revenue. It is important however to help them make that connection when you are selling something intangible like services.
C) Ask them if they have ever paid for SEO services/copywriting before, and if they haven’t, get them familiar with cost immediately. That way they can do their own math along the way and thus no surprises. Many people are unfamiliar with the process, therefore unfamiliar with its cost.
D) When presenting the proposal, include the estimated final result of the services being recommended i.e, what this will do for the customer, is it better ranking in search results, driving traffic through a pay per click campaign, increase conversions, etc. That way the cost and value can offset each other yet again for the customer.
E) Make sure your pricing is clear cut and if you offer an hourly rate only, try to estimate how long each process will take or give maximums (not to exceed x amount of hours). Small business owners are much more comfortable knowing in advance how much they are spending.
F) And as always deliver what you promise in the time frames outlined. It is always better to under promise and over deliver and because SEO and online marketing are not exact sciences, don’t promise the number one spot in google’s search results, instead promise the top 3 but only if your totally confident it can be done!