Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Importance of Having a Good Routine

I can't even begin to tell you how many self improvement books I've read over the years. My friends would tell me that I need many many more. :-) But little by little, I've picked up a few important things over the years that I feel have been helpful in my everyday business life.

One of those things happens to be the creation - and adherence to - a good morning routine. Aside from the captain obvious tasks of showering, shaving and breakfast, there are certain routine items that I endeavor to do on a daily basis each and every day that I feel get me in the mode for a highly productive day. Granted, there are some mornings that doing each and every task is nearly impossible, but for the most part it is good to revert back to these items that I will list below. I encourage you to create your own list of tasks to accomplish each morning, so that you can finish most days like I do...with a sigh of relief.

My morning routine:
  • Read - I am a reading machine. Typically I start off with 3 chapters of the Bible. For me this is important to connect with something other than the 8,000 other priorities that come up during the day. Quite frankly, all that other stuff doesn't mean anything. It's best to start with something that is uplifting, and will remind us of the importance of living a good, decent life.

    After that, I like to read a lot of technology articles. I use ZDnet off my iPad to keep up to date on trends in the industry, as well as Mashable for Social Media, TechCrunch and even LinkedIn articles that are shared.

    Sometimes I'll get into a good book on Kindle - the latest was 18 Minutes - Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done.
  • Finances - I'll check how healthy the business is doing, and review a few charts that show past and future trends. This is also an important step, because it gives me a bird's eye view of how the company is doing, and helps to identify what needs to be focused upon in the short and long term. There are a variety of tools for this. such as your own online bank account, as well as your accounting software such as Quickbooks, Peachtree or Freshbooks (online).
  • Projects - At the beginning of the week, I'll review the projects that need to be accomplished in that given week. But moreover, that review occurs once a day as well. The reason is similar to the above: to get an overall picture of what needs to be accomplished on that day, and where each project stands.

    Microsoft Project is great for this sort of work. Combined with a good tasklist, it keeps things grounded in reality throughout the day.
  • Calendar and Tasklist - I use Google Apps for my calendar and tasklist. The benefit is that the items can be reviewed on any laptop, and especially on my best tech friend, my iPad. The important thing is to continually review them throughout the day, and stay focused on what needs to be done now...and next.

    If a phone call comes in or an email needs to be addressed, I've gradually gotten into the discipline of putting necessary items on the tasklist or calendar, rather than jump to that task immediately and lose focus. Very important.
  • Social Media - Before you say Facebook is a waste of time, I'll say that I agree - IF you are in the wrong network. But for me I am connected with lots of business associates, so it makes sense to put out a little post in the morning saying hello, and scanning the news feed to see if I can help my friends in any way (even with a link to a good resource).

    Of course, LinkedIn is a great business-minded Social Media network. If you are connected with people that legitimately interact with you, instead of simply writing once "Hi, I'd like to add you to my network on LinkedIn" and then never hearing from them again, then it's ok. :-)
That's the general routine that I like to adhere to these days. There are certainly a whole lot more routine items you can use. The main point here is that you should find a set of tasks that will help you to start, then roll through your day in a manner that will make it more enjoyable and less worrisome.

Announcement: We are moving to Tumblr! All the old blogs will remain here, but new blogs will be written and posted to our Tumblr account. Details forthcoming in the next few weeks. Thank you for your readership all these years! =)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What You Should Be Showing On Your Website: A Depth Chart

A few days ago, my colleague and I got into an  "energetic discussion".

One of our clients was very gung-ho about adding tons of Slideshows to their new website. Unfortunately, this is a bad way to attract search engines, and an even worse way to keep interested potential clients on a website.

However, since my motto is typically the customer is always right, I capitulated to the wishes of our customer, and asked our developer for this project to look into which slideshow system would be best suited (design and features) for this website. Shortly thereafter, he asked me to call him. Here's how the conversation went:

    "Tom, why did __________ hire you?"

    "Because they knew we were gonna build them a great website."

    "Do they trust your expertise?"

    "Well...yeah, I hope so."


In my warped, 'life is a beautiful place with happy puppies and kittens' brain, I consider this a pep talk. :-)

Truth be told, he is 100% right! When a potential customer comes to a website, there is a certain expectation that they have, one that if not available, will be a barrier to doing business with the customer. Today I'm going to talk about a simple, 1,2,3 depth chart for your website, which is considered part of best practices for engaging your users and continuing them into the sales funnel that you are creating.

Level 1: Home and Landing Pages - This is the place where your content should be clear, concise and abbreviated. If you are dazzling your first time visitors with slideshows or video, this is the best place to do it. Just make sure that the content is not overkill, with too much text, too many pictures, or too many moving items. It should be clean, crisp and easy to read, and most importantly, focuses the visitor in on just a few products, services or solutions that are your best sellers.

Level 2: Category-level and summary pages - Once a visitor clicks through on a menu item, such as a list of services, they should see a decent number of the offerings from your business or organization. Even if it is a blog post, they should see a nice listing of the many blog posts that you have written for your audience. If it is an eCommerce site, you should have categories of items, that if the user clicks, will take them to the next logical level (subcategory) of items. Example: If I am on a clothing website, and I want to buy a pair of jeans, I might click on the jeans and then next expect to be seen some subcategories of jeans, such as loose fit, tight fit, etc.

Please note that level 2 pages can be a group of pages 2, 3, 4 or more in depth, but the point is that on this level, you are guiding people to an end result, which is...

Level 3: Here is where the customer is looking for the bottom-line about a product, service, solution or even blog post. If they have navigated this far into your website, they are their to get very specific, very detailed information. It could be do-it-yourself guides, whitepapers or an explanation of your process used when taking care of clients. The main thing to remember is that here you are dealing with people that are looking for facts and figures. They are very close to calling you, buying something, or signing up.

...and as I learned a few days ago, don't put slideshows on level 3. :-)

The post-script to this story is that I decided to go back to the client and negotiate with the client, giving them the reasons our developer laid out. Thankfully, based on his expertise that I was able to convey, the customer decided to move the slideshows to a place where it would not prevent their future users from clicking through and continuing the sales funnel.

I also was able to prevent the developer yet another headache that he might have gotten from banging his head against a wall after  dealing with me. ;-)