Friday, 27 June 2014

Dissatisfied clients

It’s interesting that we recognise that dissatisfied clients are not good for business. We should really have some form of complaints procedure: but do we? How do you tap into your clients’ real opinions? Let’s hope you don’t wait until they just leave or not renew their contract with you.

It’s hard winning new business and worse if your reputation has been sullied with poor reviews on the increasing number of review sites aimed at specific service sectors including online businesses. See Choosing the right web design agency for your business, Mash Web Design, Adam Collins (21.6.2014).

Yes, some complaints are unjustified. The clients have not fully understood the nuances of what was offered and the consequences for their decisions despite you explaining. But, it is so important that you educate them until you are confident they fully understand the compromises they have made and the results to be expected. Very often the compromises are cost-driven of course.

However, we have to accept that there are ‘questionable’ businesses out there that don’t appear to care for long-term relationships with their clients and/or don’t provide for the changing and maturing needs of clients. The closest I got to finding specific reasons for clients’ dissatisfaction was the recognition of why new clients appeared when they had not been happy with their previous digital partner. So, companies like WOM web solutions are upfront and use reasons they have found for dissatisfaction to their advantage. They say,
... unlike typical web companies, we don’t move around or change our name to avoid the fallout from dissatisfied clients.
Other companies have won new business as a result of clients’ needs maturing, so that if they initially got a cheap quick solution for their presence online by using templates, then they progress from that position to want more. Brass Tacks Web Design highlights this dissatisfaction as a reason to move to them.
"...these templates can be limited in flexibility and originality and some people find themselves outgrowing the stock solution quite quickly. We also find that some clients coming from these providers are unhappy with the service they receive.
If you feel that your clients will tell you how they are feeling, think again. Stephen Attree from Myers, Listers, Price solicitors, in Unhappy Clients Don’t Complain … (5.6.2014), quotes stats from a survey that covered accountants, bankers and solicitors. Well, if people don’t complain about them, will they about iMedia companies? Hard to say. But Stephen is clear that the clients who don’t complain take their business elsewhere.

Naturally, there is the other side where you are the aggrieved party. If you are a freelancer have you felt ripped off? Have your clients refused to pay properly? Maria Brophy attacks this practice including reference to freelance web designers in How to Never Get Ripped Off AGAIN – for Freelancers (undated), She gives some sound tips for you if this is happening.

Business is not straightforward. There can and will be gripes on both sides. But, it is true that if you know about the gripes you can begin to address them in a variety of ways before you lose business over them. Listen to your people and listen to your clients.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Inbound Marketing - is it affecting you?

Just as you think you are getting to grips with the vagaries of your clients – including their marketing departments – you suddenly start getting new requests in new projects and radical changes wanted in older projects. It’s hard to adjust to the pace of change for all aspects of iMedia design let alone tune in to how digital communication is changing the way people interact with information. Once people’s behaviour changes, you can bet that marketing will home in on that and devise different strategies to attract potential clients’ attention.

That’s what inbound marketing is all about. It’s a reaction to people’s changing behaviour patterns particularly when they use social media channels. What’s more, marketing devises strategies and analytics to show that they are having better success than before with people’s behaviour. So not only do you have to change the style of interaction (interface and look and feel), but you have to check results in a way that your clients want and create reports for them. All these add to your time and cost of development. It’ll help if you understand what is driving your own clients to do this. A good intro to the concepts and stats of inbound marketing can be found at: Outsourced Marketing blog 22 May 2014, How B2B Inbound Marketing Compares With Outbound.

You just need to know a couple of basics. Outbound marketing tries to influence potential customers through face-to-face interaction, adverts, press, news stories etc. They are the more traditional approaches. Inbound marketing is more subtle. It doesn’t try to blatantly sell a service or product. It informs the potential customer about the service or product, it shows reactions from people who have used these, it makes sure more detailed information is available and ratified when a person is ready to probe for more, it builds the confidence in the brand and its online presence and waits for the person to be ready to buy. These changes in tactics line up better with the online behaviour of people who don’t want to have a hard sell approach. They can opt out of that easily online ... and do.

This is why content becomes so important. It is being used to influence a conversion process from fact-finding research ... to customer ... then to loyal customer. It reflects the journey a person makes from general search to trusting a company. The person is at a distance, so the interaction is different. Sites that reflect this journey approach can be seen at Discerning Digital, where they define the process as
  1. Attract
  2. Convert
  3. Close
  4. Delight
Mogility (28 May 2014) also reflects this conversion process based on customer satisfaction with every experience of the digital environment.

High quality content that is refreshed and kept current helps the conversion process, according to Parker-Wilks Marketing, and trustemedia.

Yes, it still is all about generating leads but in a different way. Julie Topka, 9 April 2014 in TME Marketing, cites 7 steps to the perfect marketing plan, that includes inbound marketing. Interestingly she encourages you to focus on prospects not customers although you have to have built quite a strong understanding of the niche of potential customers as your first task. Again, the good quality and applicability of the content features strongly.

Hopefully this intro to inbound marketing will allow you to better understand where some of the requests from your clients originate. Your clients, in turn, will build a better trust with you if you demonstrate understanding. Perhaps we can all learn from this inbound strategy?!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Assessing risks in digital projects - sort-after skill but elusive

If you look at the job adverts for any Project Manager/Team Leader in digital companies then one of the top ‘wants’ is assessment / mitigation / avoidance of project risks. Once you try to find a definition of such risks to check if your experience meets the need, you get unstuck. A definition seems to be the ‘holy grail’ for iMedia!

The problem at one level is that there is a school of thought that wants to define and control risks while the other approach appears to accept that risks are necessary and that without them you’re not innovating, not moving forward, not succeeding in digital. Where does your company sit on this fence? How do they define the skills they want for a Project Manager? Can you do both – control and innovate?

Naturally, you don’t want your projects to fail, so you need to define and control or avoid as many lurking pitfalls as possible. But each digital project will throw up some variations in delivering the solution and these need the innovation/creativity to provide the workable answers. It’s true that the greater the innovation the greater the risks all round. Others may well learn from your mistakes and reap the rewards on your innovatory shoulders – but can you afford this? Can you afford to take the hit from an innovatory project on the premise that you’ll reap rewards later? It’s a business conundrum. Most businesses take the view that primarily you have to meet your clients’ needs and your budget. If there are risks, your clients have to know them and accept them. Many clients don’t want you learning on-the-job at their expense. Research - well isn’t that innovation - is a costly item.

The UK government’s Major Projects Authority has estimated an increase of over 15% in projects at risk between 20012 and 2013. This is billions of pounds. It doesn’t define which of these projects have a digital component but you can be sure that many do. It’s a sobering thought.

The Technology Strategy Board have defined a need for an innovator centre that is meant to help digital companies experiment in an attempt to get ideas to market more quickly and cheaply because this will contribute to the UK’s economy. You may be able to take advantage of this. The centre is due to open later this year.

Risks in projects can come from a variety of sources, including the diverse number of people involved across clients and developer teams as well as the actual software and hardware components and processes involved. So it might well be that a Project Manager should coordinate risk assessments across the expertise sectors involved in the project. This might include a risk assessment from the clients as to how the project might be received by their company and end users.

Why should the expertise for risk assessment reside with one person when a digital project crosses so many functions? If any marketing personnel are involved, they should be made aware of the very high threat of risk as perceived in their area. 58% of European marketeers, in a recent survey about their fast-changing role in the digital environment, foresaw risks in success for them caused by lack of skills, confusion over roles and responsibilities in their company and resistance to new programs. See the ‘key findings’ section in Discerning Digital’s summary of the Five most interesting takeaways from the Adobe summit (21.5.2014).

Perhaps the most down-to-earth recent account of risks in digital projects that should help you define the areas you might need to include in Risk Assessment is at Simpleweb in their blog Risk Assessment: How to avoid a disaster when you’re growing rapidly (29.5.2014).

They cite:
  1.  Look for changes (including indirect risks)
  2. Avoid if you can, mitigate if you can’t
  3. Know your strengths and weaknesses (lead the tech, don’t let it lead you)
A good start, but not the whole answer. Anyone got any risk assessment forms/templates for iMedia?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Exceptional copyright ... and Werner Heisenberg

It's been good news and bad for the progress of the UK government's widening of copyright extensions. Basically, copyright exceptions are those things you are allowed to do with a copyright work without actually infringing the copyright. Traditionally this has been things like criticism and review ... and for reporting of news. In the UK it's known as fair dealing and in the US as fair use, although they are not exactly the same thing (but don't expect me to even try to explain the difference here ... even if I could).

I'll just remind you that when you publish something, or make it available to the public (again similar but not the same) you need to have the right to do so. On a web site you operate internationally by default, even if your intended audience is only in one country. So everyone building a web site needs to have some basic understanding of intellectual property.

There were five new categories of exception that were supposed to enter UK law this week.
  • Public Administration
  • Disability
  • Research, Education, Libraries and Archives
  • Parody
  • Private copying
Two of these have proved particularly bothersome to the copyright community (the last two) so they are being further discussed while the others became law on June 1st.

Private copying starts off as putting CDs on your iPhone but has wider implications such as making copies of your wedding photographs.

Parody is more fun.

The UK is not alone in having no parody exception. This surprises many foreigners, given our comic traditions. Generally, being able to parody something has relied on your ability to persuade the real rights owner to let you do so. I always think of the French and Saunders TV show take on Alien 2 in this context (although I have no idea how they got permission to do it). The basic premise was that if you needed some tough people to take on the alien hordes then you got them through the pages of the Spotlight casting directory. The joke-within-a-joke being that in media this is exactly what you do do!

I won't go into the basics on parody. I recommend the IP Kat for that (and regular reading too). Suffice to say that it has to be funny and has to be fair. But then Heisenberg enters the room.

In quantum physics, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle basically says the more you know about something's position, the less you know about its momentum/speed. I paraphrase this as meaning that the closer you look the fuzzier it gets.

As the IP Kat points out, adding a parody exception might not necessarily protect you from infringing moral rights or from an accusation of defamation.

There's a great French CD called 4 Beadochons dans le vent which is a collection of what sounds like Beatles songs but which put French lyrics to the melodies. The French lyrics sound rather like the original English. For example Assaut Sur Mon Grand-père to the tune of I Saw Her Standing There. Incidentally, Quatre Garçons Dans Le Vent was the French title for A Hard Day's Night. This hasn't (to my knowledge) been released in the UK but maybe a parody exception would allow it to be? Perhaps not, if it could be argued that the whole CD, with its Sgt Pepper parody cover design, was not fair dealing.

Clearly you (still?) need to tread carefully if you go down the parody path on your web site.


Just in case you didn't notice that a British judge asked the European Court to double-check that it was OK to look at a web site on your computer ... it is. The Register reports.

[As usual, nothing on this blog should be taken as legal advice. However much I think I know about copyright, I really know less.]