November 6, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


1.  Improving Your Contact Page

Often the contact page is an afterthought in designing a website, with a scattered presentation of basic information. But in a recent seminar on MarketingProfs.com, Krista Miller pointed out that your contact page may not create the best impression of your organization.

This key page may not make potential clients and customers feel welcome. The types of enquiries that you’re open to may not be known. And commonly asked questions are not being answered on the spot, which could cut down on unnecessary enquiries in the first place.

She offered six ways to optimize your contacts page:

  • Create a welcoming environment: Include a quick greeting, thank potential clients and existing customers for visiting, and encourage anyone with a question to reach out.
  • Personalize the page with images: Give customers a sense of your organization with a headshot, photo of your team, or a picture of the office.
  • Set appropriate expectations: Outline your office hours and availability and mention expected response times.
  • Detail collaborative opportunities: State the types of collaboration that you’re open to and welcome.
  • Provide answers to frequently asked questions: You can avoid responding to the same questions over and over by answering them on the contact page (or linking to a FAQ page).
  • Include other ways to make contact: Offer a variety of contact methods by sharing email addresses, phone numbers, or social media links. The idea is to make, not avoid, contact.

As those suggestions show, a contact page takes thought to ensure it’s worthy of the name.


2.  Here’s How To Network Properly

Don’t waste your time on networking events.

Networking is important but Derek Coburn, author of Networking Isn’t Working, says you’re probably not getting the success you want from such activities.

“The most basic problem with traditional networking events is that they are mixing bowls for professionals who are there for different reasons. Everyone is focused on his or her own personal agenda, whether it’s signing a new client, creating awareness for their business, or connecting with someone in the hopes of developing a mutually beneficial relationship. Everyone is playing a different game,” he writes in Harvard Business Review Blogs.


  • Host your own events: This gives you control over the attendees, setting, and the outcome. It’s an opportunity to provide something of value for existing and prospective clients as well as other contacts. Make sure you pick an event they will appreciate.
  • Double date: Apply that same approach more intimately by inviting just a few people. “The next time you have four tickets to an event, invite a current client, connection or strategic partner. Ask them to bring someone they think you should meet and you do the same,” he says.
  • Reconnect with dormant ties: Check through your customer relationship files for people who have fallen out of contact. Send an email asking how they are and mentioning something you once had in common. Invite those who respond favourably to have a 15-minute catch-up call.

Those networking opportunities can pay off.


3.  Seven Guarantees In Leadership

Leadership challenges can seem unpredictable. But if you’re a leader, consultant Ron Edmondson says there are seven things you can count on:

  • Every decision you make will produce multiple responses, with some people agreeing, others disagreeing, and still others not caring either way.
  • Change is inevitable.
  • You will many times feel under-appreciated — particularly if you are seeking appreciation. “Great leaders are not as concerned about what other people think as they are about doing the right thing,” he writes on his blog.
  • You can never adequately predict how people will respond.
  • You will seldom be 100% certain. There is a level of risk with every decision you make.
  • Some days you may feel you haven’t accomplished anything (yet when you look back, sometimes those will be your best days).
  • You will make mistakes —lots of them— but also learn even more from them than the things you do right.

He guarantees those seven leadership truisms.


4.  Key Questions For Performance Reviews

Performance reviews have come under assault in large organizations as too cumbersome, expensive, and not frequent enough to help performance. But it helps to sit down with your employees and ask these five questions, consultant Eric Jacobson says in his blog:

  • What have I done to help —or hinder— your job performance?
  • What can I do in the next review period to help you achieve or improve?
  • What conditions here enable you —or make it hard— to do your best work?
  • What do you want most from your job?
  • How can I help you reach your career goals?


5.  Zingers

  • Trim your to-do list: Best-selling productivity author Tim Ferriss says everyone these days is asking: “Why is it so impossible to get everything done?” The answer is stunningly easy: You’re doing too many things. Before you try to do it faster, he says, ask whether it should be done at all. (Source: Barking Up The Wrong Tree Blog)
  • Skip the Plan B? It always helps to have a Plan B, right? Not necessarily. Research found that subjects in an experimental test were less successful in performing their tasks when they thought about a back-up plan. (Source: Forbes)
  • Do a draft in advance: Consultant Art Petty urges you to kill any group wordsmithing meetings for a vision, mission, strategy, or scope statement. The output of these sessions is typically a series of awkwardly constructed sentences reflecting compromises on the part of the person-in-charge. Instead, take a stab at a draft yourself, bounce it off some colleagues and, only when you have something workable, take it to a larger group. (Source: TheBalance.com)
  • Ask about budget size: In selling, it’s critical to know the size of the prospect’s budget. To avoid being blunt, consultant Jeff Mowatt suggests asking, “There are several options we can present depending on the budget you have in mind. Is there any budget I should be aware of?” (Source: Jeff Mowatt.com)
  • It’s not just the yawn: The more senior you are in an organization, the less sleep you are likely to get. Skills affected by lack of sleep include: assessing risk and anticipating consequences, producing innovative solutions to problems, displaying emotional intelligence, multitasking and decision-making, and comprehending and communicating effectively in rapidly changing environments. (Source: Hult International Business School)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:  Using an Agile Approach

Question:  Can an “agile” approach be helpful to those of us outside the IT world?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

The editorial team at MindTools.com sums it up well:

“Ultimately, traditional project management is often best in a stable environment, where a defined deliverable is needed for a fixed budget. Agile is often best where the end-product is uncertain, or where the environment is changing fast.”

Agile approaches are particularly appropriate for managers who are “feeling their way forward” to find an optimum model for a service, product or business. Typically they are in new or fast-moving organizations (like a start-up), in a fast-changing environment (like IT), or face highly complex situations.  Perhaps you face similar circumstances.

The methodology is also helpful with urgent projects that can’t wait for a full, traditional project to be set up.

Agile Project Management is built around a flexible approach:

  • Team members work in short bursts on small-scale but functioning releases of a product or service design.
  • They then test each successive version against customers’ needs, instead of aiming for a single final result launched only at the end of the project. This approach is faster than long planning followed by a demonstration or pilot project. Customers are engaged early, as soon as there is a minimum viable product, and their feedback can have a big impact — the end product is more likely to be one they want.

Another important and practical insight is that creative work requires a different tempo — functioning best in uninterrupted free-flowing blocks of time set aside for constructive daydreaming.

Structuring an Agile process:

We’ve seen good results come from teams working in a scrum format. (Here’s a guide.) And the process is different from perhaps more familiar project management techniques:

  • The process starts with a “product owner” — one participant who represents the interests of the key stakeholder, client or user. He or she identifies the list of priority tasks and requirements the final design must meet. The timeline for the set of tasks will vary, but often it is just a couple of weeks.
  • In addition to a small tight team with the skills and experience needed to get the job done, you will also need a scrum “master” or facilitator to keep the team moving along. The drum beat comes from daily 15-minute scrum meetings to report on progress and anything blocking the team’s work.

For teams working on bigger projects, this can also be structured in a sprint format, developed in the agile technology sector, where a few key players (perhaps including customers/clients) will come together in a retreat setting for fast, focused, iterative development of a project over just a week or two.

Note that teams are self-directed and are free to accomplish deliverables as they choose, as long as they follow boundary rules set prior to the project. This flexibility can save on costs and, more importantly, ensures that the final product or service meets customers’ needs.


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8020Info helps strategy teams think better together as they develop and effectively implement research / stakeholder consultations, strategic plans, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:  Make It Easy

The theme around our water cooler this week has been: “Make It Easy”.

The idea caught our attention in another context: on blogs reacting to How to Read 100 Books a Year, which provides advice to those who want to read more but feel starved for time.

Bloggers suggested placing books in convenient spots in your home, travel bag or workplace, making them easy to notice and pick up whenever you have a few minutes — in other words, make it incredibly easy to get into reading your book (or e-reader).

But the idea generalizes. Consider how it improves customer service, for example:

Blake Morgan writing on Forbes.com, notes that the Customer Experience Board surveyed 97,000 customers and found that “meeting and even exceeding customer expectations is not enough [for success] — what impacts customer loyalty numbers is minimal customer effort.” In other words, making it brain-dead easy to complete a task, transaction or interaction.

And it pays off:  She also quotes a recent McKinsey customer experience survey of 27,000 US consumers. It found that companies focused on providing a superior and low-effort experience across their customer journeys (such as bringing customers onboard, making account changes and resolving problems) realized 10-15% more revenue and a 20% increase in customer satisfaction.

Sometimes the biggest barrier isn’t time or dollars — it’s the mental effort. Think how easy it is to buy a book with just one click on Amazon, or music on iTunes. Making a purchase on-the-go using your mobile has also become remarkably fast and easy. It’s no surprise that Staples, the office supplies store, adopted the positioning line: “That Was Easy”.

Our practice often connects with clients managing change as part of their strategy implementation. Making the first new steps as effortless as possible is one of the best incentives to encourage staff or customers to adopt a new approach. And after a few easy steps, you’re on your way.

Have a comment on “making it easy”?  Take 30 seconds and share them with us here.


8.  Closing Thought

“Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”

— Voltaire