Friday, 26 April 2013

Unhappy client syndrome - have you eliminated it?

Clients are your customers and they do pay (don't they?) to keep you in work and the company going. They can be demanding, ignorant of your business nuances, and fail to recognise that a project is a partnership so they have to participate to make it happen.

On the other hand, clients often still have gripes about their developers that sound believable: fail to meet deadlines, don't perform as expected, produce work that doesn't meet the business needs, don't listen, and so on. Why haven't we managed to sort out these mainly communication-based problems?

Well, communication takes time and effort. It isn't good enough to have your company processes outlined on your website and in a company brochure. Many clients don't read these or only glance at them at the beginning of the relationship. It may well be that your description is still pretty technical as far as they're concerned and they don't understand it. You and your people need to reinforce the principles as well as draw your client's attention to them when needed in plain English.

There is a gap between the specialisms of business and technological development. It has been closing and some people have managed to straddle them. (These are the people most in demand at the moment. See our earlier blog, The Thorny iMedia Salary Debate, 12th April 2013.) Misunderstanding is generally at the bottom of most dissension. A Project Manager will know full well that this is the case as most of their time is spent on exercising control to avoid this and mitigation to appease the situation, so that the team can get on with their work. A Project Manager/Account Manager is there to take the strain between client and developers.

Now if you feel that none of this applies to you, well done indeed. Perhaps your company receives glowing reviews from your clients. Do you know? Are you checking what people say about you? You may not be able to employ people full time to check out and report back on tweets, postings and electronic reviews like large businesses do, but you can schedule time to check the social temperature on your company from time to time. You might be pleasantly surprised and be able to incorporate praise on your own media platforms. If there are criticisms you need to look into their validity and decide how to avoid such negativity again.

There are companies that specialise in reviews, (just think of Tripadvisor), and this fashion is spreading into all areas. Just take a moment to think about the implications especially if you're an agency by looking at 5 places to look for client reviews and recommendations for a Website Design Agency, from WWDC (which web design company), 27th March 2013. They list themselves at the top.

Happy browsing!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Just the job

There's a cartoon doing the rounds of a man going for a job interview with Ikea. As he enters the room the interviewer points to a neat collection of pieces of wood and screws on the floor and says 'Have a seat'. On the one hand this joke is saying that Ikea means flat-pack furniture. On the other hand it's suggesting that to get a job at Ikea you have to able to assemble their products. Not quite as funny but possibly true.

It has been said (possibly by C Northcote Parkinson ... he of the famous law) that the ideal job advertisement will only solicit one applicant and they will be perfect for the job. In the case I read, but can not find at this time, an applicant for a position as security guard is obliged to attend an interview in the middle of the night at a gym and (the clincher no doubt) must bring a pair of boxing gloves.

Interactive media rarely requires boxing gloves (although we have heard stories of fisticuffs) but the challenge is the same: how do you fine-tune your job advert to get the best applicants and then how do you interview them.

Spool back almost a year to May 2011 and pity poor London agency Poke, who lost a copywriter to the White House (yes really). They needed a replacement in a hurry and crafted what Andy Headworth on the Sirona Says blog wonders might be simply the best job advert ever written. It certainly takes a while to read through but it's significant that the applicant is set a series of tasks building on the link to President Obama. Only at the end is the question posed: 'What do you think it takes to be a good copywriter at a digital agency?'. It's somewhat like Frodo Baggins fighting his way to the depths of Mordor and being asked 'What do you think makes this ring precious?'

Assuming you get more than one applicant for interview, the strategy will probably either be 'assume they can do the job because they've done one like it before', or 'they have the certificate', or 'test them to destruction'. All have their place, and we know of one person who was so good at the programming task he was set that he was hired before he left the building.

Does your company have a set strategy for recruiting and do you, like Poke, bring some fun into the process? We'd love to know. Of course, you may sometimes let staff interview potential employees.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The thorny iMedia salary debate!

This topic is always controversial even with well defined industries but we suffer from split identities even now. A lot depends on how you, yourself, define the job area you are in – IT, marketing, creative, business – not by job title either! The job title problem is ongoing for our industry and growing.

2013 has thrown up a few surprises already. In the US, salaries generally seem to be on the rise with hybrid tech/business skills commanding the most. But in the UK the trend still seems to be stagnant or downward. However, the salary surveys do not compare like with like and that's why you need to look carefully at the area the survey says it covers and whether it lines up with your definition of yourself.

Take Computer World's IT survey 2013, for example. It covers some of the iMedia jobs like the back-end database development, the project management roles and the hot tip business intelligent analysts. If you go to the link use the drop down menu for job title – very interesting, just for this. Yes, it's US based but gives a useful comparison based on job title, years of experience and location.

Robert Half International also covers this type of area in the Salary Guide for Technology (for the US and Canada). This has a useful Glossary of job descriptions too covering: Administration, Applications Development, Consulting and Systems Integration, Data/Database Administration, Internet and E-Commerce, Networking/Telecommunications, Operations, Quality Assurance (QA) and Testing, Security, Software Development, Technical Services / Help Desk / Technical Support.

Aquent (UK) worked with the American Marketing Association to produce their salary survey. If you're in marketing-related iMedia jobs then this might make more sense for you. Their findings are mixed, by the way. For a stronger UK perspective try Marketing Weekly and its survey with Ball and Hoolahan (recruitment specialists). They look at about 25 sectors and show comparisons on salaries since 2007.

Are you in gaming? Develop's salary survey might suit you more. But, they find the trend is down – sorry.

Back to America if you consider yourself creative. Robert Half International's Salary Guide Creative, looks at the following categories – Design and Production Interactive, Content Production, Advertising and Marketing, and Public Relations. Over 50 job titles are listed within these areas so it’s really quite comprehensive.

It might be fun to play with Monster's UK salary interactive advisor. We just wonder if it'll really recognise your job title! Good luck.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Secrets of success in agencies

How would you measure success? Is it a consistent increase in the number of clients? Is it an expanding company? Is it winning awards? Is it happy staff? Is it happy clients? All of these seem to feature to some extent. We've taken a look at how some iMedia agencies are defining their success to gain some insights.

Tremor Video claims, in this recruitment ad, that it is successful because it drives results through technological innovation whilst representing the brand and objectives of their clients. It is expanding rapidly, needing to increase staff as a result.

OMD is a communications agency that puts people before product and profit. They believe that by creating a happy working environment they will spawn better creativity in their staff. They are positive about winning so many awards too. And they're looking for a communications planner.

Maybe you will create a winning product for social media and define success that way. My Social Agency summarises a few Apps – Thumb, Chirp and Vine – that might feature. Got any ideas?

It seems that success means different things to different market segments. In the end it must be about winning clients and keeping them. Why clients choose one agency over another would appear to be the million dollar question. Alchemy Interactive defines its Top Ten Tips for Choosing a Web Design Agency. They cleverly define these on their site, offer them to educate prospective clients and explain how they meet the criteria. Neat, eh!

Their Top 10 are:
  1. Agency’s track record,
  2. Availability and responsiveness,
  3. Team size suitable for needs,
  4. Age of agency proves robustness,
  5. Approachable, professional staff,
  6. Transparent Terms and Conditions,
  7. Capabilities of agency (some are biased not balanced),
  8. In-house or outsourced work?
  9. Online marketing experience as well as web design,
  10. Work meets code standards.
All that remains is for you to define your success in your terms. That should give you a boost in the unseasonable cold spell.