Business

Saved by Strikingly Site Builder

Back in September of 2013, I was one of many folks who were laid-off from their jobs. Still, not that uncommon.  However in my case, this was my third layoff in 6 years!  After 25 years of jumping through corporate hoops I decided corporate America was showing me that they just didn’t care enough about hard working, dedicated professionals. So screw those corporate monkeys, I decided to start Gannon Solutions – a digital consulting agency to help small and mid-sized businesses with their digital needs. My focus was everything from strategy, innovation, content marketing to corporate identity, branding and simple web design.

Now how to get started? First things first, you have to have a website with strong SEO to simply be legit and get your name on the web. Seed money was a factor in the beginning and not being a developer myself, I began researching ways to get my site up and running fast and inexpensively. That’s when I came across Strikingly. It wasn’t the first web builder I found. There is just a ton of them out there. In fact, Strikingly was one of the last ones I found. Saving the best for last served my purpose perfectly.

Strikingly has one of the easiest user interfaces I’ve worked with. It is very intuitive to users. The simple interface allows you to test different features without worrying that you’re going public. You can save as you go and publish once your happy with the look. It also has mobile previews that I found very helpful, as I wanted to be sure to have a responsive site that looked great on all devices.

My business is operating well, I’m happy to say. I hire developers to assist me in creating all different kinds of websites from native code to open sourced templates; but I always provide my clients with the option to use Strikingly because of its simplicity and low cost. You’d be surprised how quickly that can make a a trusted bond as a consultant. Too many consultants are in the market charging far too much for web development. I often think of it as how some people profit from the under-privileged during a disaster. Web sites are a single channel for a business, albeit an import channel. As a consultant, one should never take advantage of a business simply because development is a higher skill. Strikingly helps me to provide a simple, inexpensive solution to a single channel opportunity.

So when Strikingly asked me to blog about their service, I was happy to oblige.  I love how gannonsolutions.com turned out.  I keep it updated and fresh with new content.  I also made a resume site at shawngannon.com with Strikingly. Both sites are optimized for SEO and have garnered much attention. I’m a pretty satisfied customer. Thanks Strikingly for helping me out in a pinch!

 

 

Is the Sales Department dying?

Is the Sales Department dying?

Let’s just view the Sales Department in its current form as a department in steep decline.  But more similar to the metamorphosis in which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. “Sales Departments” as we know them are a changing profession.  They are, in fact, evolving to Client Engagement.  And in today’s marketplace it is actually Product Departments and Marketing Departments that are also key to engage more closely with clients to define gaps and opportunities.  I see it as a progressive partnership — Client Engagement: the direct link to clients and closest partnership-builder to be aware of clients’ holistic business strategy. Marketing: the brain that digs through terabytes of data to find opportunities.  Product Development: the technology solution building company and client products and enhancements to fill the gaps towards new revenue streams.

Technology actual helps us connect to people more than ever before.  Don’t believe the hype that we have become a society of drones tweeting and posting thoughts to the cyber-sphere just to be heard.  As with any evolution, a dramatic event abruptly disrupts the status quo.  Our thinking is still status quo without acknowledging the precipice of change.  Are we truly prepared for the next abrupt industry development?

From a client’s perspective, you don’t want to be sold an idea that you’re not interested in.  You’re looking for a partner to develop and grow new ideas for revenue and brand awareness.  Sales alone cannot make that connection; that’s where Marketing and Product development bridge the gap.  Businesses need to think of Marketing and Product as data scientists instead of merely channel executioners.  This is where friction is instigated between role definitions in companies.  We’re all trying to find opportunities for revenue and happy customers but with different approaches.

Progressive companies don’t just develop a product then go sell it out of the box. They instead, look for ways to develop and scale solutions through client partnerships. In today’s electronic world Information is free and abundant – collection is difficult but more so is putting the insights it provides to action.  Data is often not being used properly to grow partnerships with current and potential customers on a relevant basis.

This is where we can leverage technology and a new partnership in our own business units.  Sales: become Client Engagement and look for the solution to a client’s holistic need by strengthening a partnership not just a relationship.  Marketing: collect the necessary information to illuminate a path towards innovation.  Product: consider data and need to work together in defining the solutions most relevant to clients.

Finally, lose the friction and silo behavior between departments that exist so often.  Be partners with each other.  At the end of the day, better partnering makes for more opportunity.

 

Photo by Elizabeth Rose.

Gannon Solutions Philosophy

At Gannon Solutions, we care about vision and strategy first. We research and deliver engaging planning. We design and develop beautifully tailored websites and products cunningly optimized for all devices. We are a full-service digital firm. That means we partner with you from inception thru analytics to help you stay relevant to your current customers and attractive enough to attain new.

Gannon Solutions connects you to customers in meaningful, innovative ways.

Go to slideshare link below to learn more.

Gannon Solution Digital Marketing Strategy and Product Development from Shawn Gannon

 

The Power of Web Content Management Systems – A Company View

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Our goal as business people whether you are in marketing, sales, IT or support of a Fortune 500 company or a one-person-shop in a small business, the goal is still the same – deliver a consistent experience across all customer touch points.  The siloed nature of big corps and small can make that a difficult feat.  Yet we all strive for it.

What to do, what to do?  The answer for Gannon Solutions is web content management systems (CMS).  Now a CMS all by itself isn’t going to solve the many facets involved with integrated messaging.  No sir.  But with the proper strategy, it can be the most relevant foundational piece to begin that journey. You see websites aren’t (or shouldn’t be) built as they once were.  The idea of IT receiving “requirements” based on a product manager’s explanation of a designers rendering from a senior manager’s vision seems barbaric and inefficient. Not too mention we’ve seen this game of “documentation telephone” often leaves a developer writing native code that offers only a percentage of value expected by the business.  And the communication divide often felt by marketing and sales departments as an example generally leaves little room for a development team to know the intricacies of how to execute on say, the appropriate ad serving software, video streaming or sophisticated customer personalization tool.

Now I’m not pointing fingers, because believe you me I have been there.  Repeatedly.  But what are we to do and how do we sell the right solution into our companies?  Here are some considerations you might find useful to those looking for the precise solution to begin the journey of delivering consistent customer value:

  1. Always have vision.  Is it obvious?  Sure.  But do you know what it means? That’s the real question.  Vision is meant to place a company’s potential in the realm of the possible, not the impossible.  It is long-term and can be achieved through a singular or subsets of missions.  Not just mission statement.  Think literally mission.  A mission has to be attainable based on the way your company is positioned today or the mission being applied to reposition your company for the achievable future.
  2. Find the right strategy.  Formulating strategy is not as obvious as just knowing you need one.  I once read something that always stuck with me when considering crating an accurate strategy – Keep it simple by considering just two critical factors:  predictability (How far into the future and how accurately can you confidently forecast demand, corporate performance, competitive dynamics, and market expectations?) and malleability(To what extent can you or your competitors influence those factors?).
  3. Facilitate a conversation about CMS capabilities.  Q: “But we’ve got a great website, why do we need to invest in another technology?” A: Read the first sentence of this blog again.  A CMS can be the tie that binds company silos.  Ah, but now what to look for:
  4. Easy-to-use-interface.  A must-have for tech and non-tech to get on the same page.
  5. Single view to the customer with omnichannel delivery.  A CMS should be collecting data for personalization to render to the indented customers cross platform.  Conversions, impressions, etc. to achieve company goals.
  6. Automation for all possible content channel messaging.  A CMS can scale to translate your content through your current channels and expand to reach new channels that align with your company vision.  Customize for scalability.
  7. SEO.  Yep, what’s the point of a cool site when no one finds it.  Take care when developing content to adhere to titles, meta descriptions and keywords.  Leverage the alt attributes and link backs.  All this becomes far more manageable in a CMS and is truly important in Google’s rankings.
  8. Support.  Every CMS has a support component.  Whether it’s an active community online or a 24/7 call-in line, use them.  When you add a CMS to your business, you’ve just joined a club.  Research the CMS’ support channels to find the right solution for your individual business’ needs.
  9. Integration flexibility.  Insists on aligning with a CMS that has simple integration to your current line of business applications.  If you begin to see that options become too limited, it’s time to look at your business applications.  Don’t stifle your efforts to a scope of work that doesn’t include an internal audit of current technology.
  10. Scalability.  Today’s strategy is tomorrow’s learned mistake.  That is OK.  But be certain you’ve found a CMS that is continually supported and upgraded to allow your company to pivot on demand.  This is the riskiest part, I’ll admit.  No one knows the future.  We all aren’t CEO with ultimate decision-making power.  However, a CMS can be the best tool in your arsenal to keep up with an ever-changing environment.
  11. Bring everyone together.  Yes communication between the silos.  Tap the shoulder of a developer.  Invite key stakeholders to a luncheon.  Never underestimate the power of informal conversation while you research.  It’s just the right thing to do.

This is a high-level list of considerations.  Many more exist based on the culture and size of your organization.  But big or small, there are ways through technology that can align your efforts to meet company goals.  Solutions are out there.  Research.  Then, research again.

Feel free to ask us for help, too, by the way.  We love this stuff!

The Professional Passion Entrepreneur

The Professional Passion Entrepreneur

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Harvard Business Review has reported that today’s workforce of 17 million independent workers should rise to 23 million by 2017.  Those numbers speak of a growing number of full-time employees working as an independent contractors on off hours.  Moonlighting, if you will. Why now?  What has changed?  Perhaps it is based on the recent years of economic turmoil.  More workers find the need to supplement their salary to makes ends meet.  Or possibly there is a fear of change management resulting in one’s unemployment with no fallback plan.  Or is it shear entrepreneurialism with a constant curiosity for growth and challenge?

 

For me I say yes to all three.  I’ve taken the entrepreneurial road as a weary traveler from corporate misfortune.  I needed something else in my life that didn’t revolve around impressing the boss.  It was time I began to impress myself.  And as I take the next step to establish a full-time position back in some part of the corporate world, I think these many months of working on my own have given me an invaluable perspective on business, success and what I am looking for in my next challenge (surely not just a paycheck). The truth is that I am looking for more meaning in my work.  The days of punching in and punching out are over.  There just isn’t a time in my day or evening that I’m not thinking, rethinking and planning for some way to improve, sustain and perfect what I am doing.

 

You may think that I have lost perspective and balance in my life.  Well I’d have to agree; but there you have it.  Single, childless and no hobby leave me seeking fulfillment through friends, family and work. Turns out I’m not alone.  People of my generation are seeking more meaning out of their careers…even at the risk of lowered salaries.  This shift certainly isn’t how things were when I began working decades ago.  It speaks to today’s GenX and GenY workforce.  We now have the experience to be in positions of real power and influence.  And I hope we are using that power wisely.

 

I’ve come across an infographic that sums up my position quite succinctly.  I would love to know if you agree with it.

INFOGRAPHIC - What makes you happy at work V2

Another Example of great Customer Service

Another Example of great Customer Service

Quality customer service is one of the most appealing offerings any company can provide to its customers. Often forgotten or difficult to support, when any company makes a gesture of simple human touch, it will always strengthen the brand and it’s value. Basecamp did just that to me recently. I plan to stay a loyal customer to any company that treats me so well.

Thank you Basecamp.com!

Responsive Websites vs Native Apps

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A strong mobile strategy is essential for your business. But what presence will you build: a responsive website or a native app? It’s a hot debate, especially when resources are limited or you have existing web properties to consider.

It’s not a simple question with a one-size-fits-all answer. Since every company and business plan is unique, the mobile presence you need will depend on many factors. At Sourcebits, we’ve built a wide range of both responsive websites/web apps and native apps for iOS, Android and Windows.

To help you evaluate the mobile format that’s best for your needs, we’ve highlighted the pros and cons of responsive websites vs. native mobile apps. Consider these factors as you determine which is best for your business. And keep in mind — some companies have BOTH a responsive website and a native app, depending on their needs and resources.

Responsive Websites/Web Apps

Pros:

  • Lower development cost (usually) compared to native app
  • Single URL that works for web and mobile
  • Simpler, less expensive marketing because it’s a single brand property
  • Greater speed and flexibility of deploying updates or bug fixes
  • Faster and wider audience reach since one browser fits all
  • Easier and cheaper to find teams with web development skills
  • Can be packaged like a native app through PhoneGap

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work properly on some devices and old browsers
  • Doesn’t incorporate all the smartphone features like the accelerometer or GPS, or phone dialing, that a native mobile app can leverage (an update based on comment feedback: APIs and code libraries are evolving that could solve these issues for web apps)
  • Works only when mobile internet/wi-fi is available vs. native apps that can run locally(an update based on feedback: HTML has local caching that allows a web app to work offline, with limited functionality. A web app by its nature is still more reliant on the Internet than a native app.)

If you’re going to build a website from scratch, our web engineers recommend you focus on a responsive design and build the mobile version first, as mobile browsing is on the rise and this is the smallest screen. You can then expand to larger screens — tablets and desktops.Responsive design should eliminate the fluff of the desktop experience so users can quickly access the content they want, otherwise you will lose them.

For more about responsive web design, download our free whitepaper here.

A side note about web/hybrid apps (which I’ll explore more in a future post): At Sourcebits, we’ve developed an easy framework for creating responsive web apps that can look like native apps. ChocolateChip UI offers built-in CSS, HTML, and JavaScript support, and includes phone gap so you can package your web app with native coding and submit it to the app stores.

Native Apps for iOS, Android and/or Windows

Pros:

  • Far more popular with consumers
  • Better UX than responsive web apps
  • Incorporates all smartphone features like a camera or GPS
  • Benefits from inclusion in app stores, for organic and promoted discovery
  • Native apps can operate without an Internet connection
  • It stays on the mobile device once installed (unless it’s uninstalled)

Cons:

  • Built only for a particular operating system
  • Time-consuming and higher development costs
  • Needs app store review and approval with every update
  • Needs additional app marketing strategy

Native apps are far more popular among users – and amongst our clients. Despite being more expensive and time consuming to develop, the benefits often outweigh the cons.

Roughly 3 out of 4 (78%) of our clients have decided to build native applications vs. web apps. iOS tends to win out over Android, although many companies build apps for both operating systems. At Sourcebits, we have teams dedicated to each platform – and they have strong opinions about the pros and cons of Android and iOS. In an upcoming blog series we’ll share the heated debate that’s broken out between the teams, along with our tips and tricks for both platforms.

Looking at the chart above (source here), you can see the majority of users spend their time in native apps.

But that doesn’t automatically mean native is right for you. Carefully and holistically consider the combined factors of your targeted user experience, budget, mobile marketing plan, and overall business development. You want to get the best ROI for your money, time, and talent.

  • I’ve also created a SlideShare that looks at 8 factors to consider when developing a mobile presence. It compares web vs. native apps across cost, Internet requirements, marketing, deployment speed, audience size, smartphone features, platform support and outside oversight. Check it out.

Posted originally on April 2, 2014 by Elliotte Bowerman is VP of Marketing for Sourcebits, a global leader in mobile app design and development. Sourcebits has created more than 500 products, including 30+ chart-topping apps. Clients include many top enterprises (SAP, Intel, Coca-Cola, P&G) and startups (Skyfire, Touch of Modern, Posterous, Twitpic). Subscribe to the Sourcebits newsletter for mobile tips and tricks.

Craig’s List Creepers and Cons – 11 Ways to Find Resources Safely

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I’ve had recent experience finding the right developer(s) to extend my network and body of client-opportunity.  Business is a diverse marketplace, so having an experienced tribe of subject matter experts (SME) can make your business agile and ready to take on projects.  All work doesn’t always have to fall within your company’s wheelhouse, but SMEs can help you quickly to meet the challenge.  Plus fear can be a driver for failure.  If you are a conscious learner with a ravenous hunger for each new lesson, fear is mute.  There is nothing more frightening and exciting for an entrepreneur than walking into a project in an industry we personally know very little about.  Having the proper network of SMEs means that you will likey have a connection to an industry, market with insights to measure success. 

Today’s lesson: Craig’s List. 

It’s not Craig’s List fault, per se, that they’ve developed a free platform for Creepers and Cons.  It just so happens to be the perfect habitat for that species to thrive.   However, Craig’s List can be useful for connecting your various “needs” with “solutions” if leveraged properly.  For example, finding the right developer to build a site that looks good, works intuitively and drives traffic can be key to growing a business can be very difficult.  It’s asking a lot.  After all a visitor’s first impression can inspire them or deter them from moving forward and contacting your client. But how does one go about choosing the right person or developer?  One way is Craig’s List.  It is simply riddled with folks looking to offer their expertise.  But be wary.  Not everyone on Craig’s List is on the up and up.  Still, not everyone is a narcissist looking for his or her next con.  What to do?  What to do?

From experience, I’ve learned a thing or two about seeking resources on Craig’s List.  Here are some tested procedures that may protect you from falling prey to creepers and cons: 

  1. Ask around before you even tap Craig’s List.  Talk to your friends and family or other trusted contacts in life.   Ask them for recommendations.
  2. Before committing to Craig’s List, remember it has a tremendous wealth of information that may help you better define the type of resource you seek.  There is nothing wrong with having a look at some of the offerings out there.   Many swear by it as a viable lead generator, after all.  I just say, be aware of your surroundings.  It is akin to walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood alone as dusk.  Check your back.
  3. So you’ve done your research, asked your friends & family, perhaps even spoken to a referral or two.  You should have made a list that tasks each individual need for a specific resource.  Now it is time to wade into Craig’s List.
  4. Enter Craig’s List and search for each task within the appropriate category.  When reading posting results, do your best to be pragmatic and read without emotion.  See the listings’ wording of each skill they offer for what it is.  Do not enhance what has been written with your own words and expectations.  If someone posting says they has experience with Worpress and other CMS technology, accept for now that WordPress experience may only exist until it and other CMS technologies can be verified through examples and recommendations. 
  5. Collect a good number of skilled prospects.  Reach out to a few and begin an email dialog utilizing Craig’s List emails.  DO NOT give out any personal information at this point.
  6. Place your own advertisement on Craig’s List with the robust research you’ve done to find exactly the resource you seek.  Again, utilize Craig’s List email so as not to reveal personal information. 
  7. Follow the same instructions at #4.  Narrow your leads to a few and ask for their contact information.
  8. Contact them as anonymously as possible.  Block your cell phone or send emails from a safe account.  Begin a dialog to test and verify what has been discussed via Craig’s List.  In your mind, play the part of research analyst seeking information and verifying data.  Narrow your prospects.
  9. You should be down to finalists 1 or 2.  Then and only then is it time to have a face-to-face meeting in a public location. Choose a local coffee shop or something equally benign.  Ask the finalists bring their portfolio (or electronic visual) and at least 3 written references.
  10. Don’t give up now.  You’re at the homestretch!  Verify everything in the portfolio and call each reference using similar scrutiny.  Remember, this is you and your business you are protecting.  Don’t get lazy.  Discuss scope of work and agree to rates.
  11. Make your choice and execute some detailed agreement in writing prior to work being performed.  Business is best accomplished when both sides know the rules of engagement.

Boy that seems like a lot of work!  Well, it is.  You need to protect yourself.  And importantly, you need to protect your clients who assume you are working on their behalf with the utmost in quality and ethical behavior.  No one said being an entrepreneur was easy, but it is rewarding.  Take the proper steps wherever you can and minimize the shortcuts.  Shortcuts may get you there, but image where you may end up. 

This is another lesson I’ve learned in a hurry.  Fortunately I make mistakes quickly and learn from them immediately.  Take my advice; you’ll save yourself a lot a grief and cash!  Good luck friends.

Read more dubious advice here: Top Eleven Things I Have Learned in a Hurry

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