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Project Management: Communication is the lost currency of business

February 28th, 2014
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Communication is the lost currency of business.

When thorough and effective communication is not present in business, everything else seems a little off.

George Bernard Shaw said it best: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I’m sure we have all run into situations where we thought something was taken care of, but the memo didn’t get through clearly, and then you became angry at Joe in Accounting for not compiling those numbers for the important meeting with the VP. The scenarios are endless and the consequences can be devastating, all from one communication mishap.

Here are a few tips that have improved the communication within my team that you can use to aid your own communication efforts.

 

Silos are for farms, not businesses

I see companies operate in silos much too often.

Departments only two feet away from each other have zero idea what the other team is working on.

Closed lines of communication are a missed opportunity for sharing transferable discoveries that can potentially achieve commingled goals.

For example, if your team is working on a project that you think could have discoveries or beneficial concepts that may apply to a different project elsewhere in your organization, you should try to share that information whenever possible.

A quick summary of your team’s projects distributed in a weekly update email or during a peer review session can help build good communication by spreading vital information companywide.

Ultimately, it takes a proactive effort to share information with other departments in order to help eliminate the poor communication that often results when groups work in a vacuum.

 

Optimize your meetings to avoid more meetings

I understand this isn’t a new concept, but we’ve all attended meetings that were pointless and a waste of valuable time. Too often, objectives aren’t set and leaders aren’t identified.

Here are a few ways I try cut down on the wasted meeting time:

  • Set an agenda, and send it out to participants. If you are running a conference call, make sure to send the agenda to attendees at least a day in advance for review to ensure you don’t miss anything.

The agenda should always include a spot for a meeting objective and room for you to include the attendees and their roles. Keep the meeting to the agenda so topics don’t get too off track, which leads to more wasted time.

  • Delegate a note taker. Probably the most crucial role in a meeting, this person helps to capture the most important points and action items and sends it as takeaways to all attendees for reference.

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Online Marketing: 3 website optimization insights I learned from baking

July 26th, 2013
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Ever since I was a little girl, baking has been a hobby of mine.

There has always been something satisfying about attempting to master the complexities of baking.

Although the realist in me knew I wasn’t going to hit the big bucks through baking, I have found a few ways to apply some of the lessons I’ve learned from baking to my work as a research manager at MECLABS.

In today’s MarketingSherpa blog, I wanted to share three insights into how I think about testing and marketing as a result of my baking attempts.

 

Don’t stick with the directions on the box

Some of my best cakes have come from getting creative and literally thinking outside the box by adding different ingredients, or from asking friends what kind of crazy cake ingredients they’d like to try.

When working with one of our Research Partners to create a testing strategy, I often find myself confined to my own thought track – which I’ll admit can cause the creativity of test ideas to become stale and truthfully, can even get a little boring sometimes.

So, brainstorming with others in our peer review sessions is a great way to add those “new ingredients” to a test design to hopefully help our Research Partners learn more about their customers.

 

Beware of offering coupons in the Sunday paper too soon

Betty Crocker’s coupons excite me every time, and it’s a marketing tactic that stretches all the way back to 1929.

That’s when the company first decided to insert coupons into the flour mixture part of the box mix. And, I’ll admit the tactic works on me because I often find myself staring at the Save $1.00 off TWO boxes of cake mix coupon and debate a trip to the store.

But, here’s the big question … am I being motivated to buy more because of my aggregate experience with the product, or because of the value proposition offered in the coupon?

Before I even saw the coupon, I wasn’t planning on buying cake mixes, but now I’m thinking about it – why should I buy more cake mix from you?  It will cost me more regardless of the coupon savings.

Now, I understand the idea of incentives and they can work – people have a hard time letting savings slip through their fingers, but offering incentives right off the bat isn’t always the best answer to increasing conversion and here’s why …

At MECLABS, we generally stress incentives should be the last resort in your testing efforts to see a quick win. The reason for this is offering incentives can skew your understanding of true customer motivation, as you can tell from my coupon example above.

My need for cake mix is why I initially purchased, and a coupon incentive may not be the optimal solution to keeping me as a return customer or attracting new customers.

So, before you worry about the coupons and other incentives, try to make sure you have the basics covered first:

  • A website that visitors can easily navigate and find what they’re looking for.
  • A simplified purchase flow for potential customers.
  • Easy, accessible support for your customers when they can’t figure things out.

If those items are in place and you’ve tested for the optimal user experience, then you can begin to explore incentives.

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Who’s Running Your Marketing Department, You or Legal?

April 23rd, 2013
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I’ve recently been involved in projects for some big-name companies. We carry on through the project path and set up our testing strategy to optimize its landing page. Everyone’s all excited, and then BAM, roadblock. The party fizzles momentarily because these words are muttered:

“We have to get it approved by Legal …”
“Legal needs to approve this …”
“We’ll need to run it by Legal …”

As a research manager, those words translate into:

  • Nine more meetings added to the calendar
  • A three-week extension to launch the test
  • Wondering what the results would have been if our ceiling hadn’t been capped by Legal

Now let me be clear, in no way am I suggesting you subvert or choose not to follow the proper legal procedures within your company. I simply wrote this blog post to inspire you to push the legal department a little harder, so you can push the boundaries with your marketing.

The beautiful part about testing is we can shut down a test immediately if a treatment is failing miserably, or if legal issues arise. At MECLABS, we stress that at minimum, we will come out of any test with a learning – regardless if it produced an increase in revenue. Our creative teams are eagerly waiting to improve website design and copy.

But, we know your website and copy may prove to be better than ours. All we want is the chance to test the waters and learn from the results.

I worked with a Research Partner and we were pretty limited to testing these elements on the landing page:

I can’t even imagine the results we would have produced if Legal would have approved additional testing.

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