Category Archives: Tips & Resources

The Shortlisting Process

 

In the previous article we outlined a brief summary of what shortlisting is and why it is used. Now we will look at the process itself in more depth, including information on evaluation criteria and the actual scoring system.

Evaluation Criteria

Prior to actually sifting through the sellers and compiling a shortlist- companies should publish their evaluation criteria. These are the essential components by which each seller will be judged. So for example, time at which they can start the work, essential skills, experience, cost, location and any preferred skills. These are just some common examples but each business will have their own specific set of requirements.

When applying, any sellers that don’t meet a company’s essential requirements will be automatically rejected. Those that do meet these requirements will become eligible for the shortlist and that’s when more thorough evaluation will take place, such as scoring.

Scoring

When it comes to comparing proposals, buyers will often be faced with a variety of vendors who are all offering similar things. Therefore the ability to pinpoint which proposals are the most suitable is paramount and this can be achieved using a scoring system.

Obviously, binary answers such as whether a supplier can begin work before a certain date can only be scored in two different ways, 1 and 0 for yes and no respectively. However, when assessing more subjective requirements, such as essential skills, experience and preferred skills, a more comprehensive points system may be required.

For example, when asking sellers to provide proof of experience- the buyer can then judge how far that proof met the requirement- 0/not at all, 1/partially met, 2/met and 3/exceeded expectations. This type of scoring system is a useful technique but it has to be applied in the same way to all sellers that are being assessed, in order to guarantee fairness.

Only applicants who meet all of the requirements will be eligible for the shortlist. However, if that number is particularly high then buyers can choose the highest scoring proposals to take forward. It’s at this stage where factors such as preferred requirements can make such a big difference.

Standing Out

Many businesses will complete background research in to prospective sellers and this can have an effect on their eventual decision. For example, many buyers will utilise sourcing platforms as a way of finding the best sellers. Furthermore, the sellers own website can provide a wealth of information, including case studies, bios and the way in which they approach business.

Reputation is another important factor and one that is often a deal breaker. The cheapest vendors may be tempting but are they reputable and how will their partnership affect the buyer? Reputation can be a difficult quality to gauge but this is where websites and social media presence play such a vital role.  The way in which sellers interact with other customers will be indicative of how they interact with a prospective buyer.

Finally, we should point out that there is an x-factor element to the shortlisting process. As already mentioned, the competition can be tough and the difference between landing on the shortlist and not can be marginal. In fact, sometimes buyers can simply go with their gut and choose a supplier who they feel they can personally work with.

How to Write Shareable Content

There has been a very noticeable shift in the approach to content production in recent years. Whilst in the past the emphasis has been on quality, now the measure of success is the likelihood of a post going viral. The more people that share your content on their own social media channels, the more likely that the article or blog is read by other people and the greater degree of exposure it gains. Writing shareable content requires a whole different set of rules- many of which we will take a look at now.

Lists

Creating content which is simplistic and easy to read is always going to attract more visitors. It is for this reason why many websites are now producing lists instead of straightforward articles. In fact, Buzzfeed have built an entire empire on this approach.

Even if you don’t go down the list route, try to create content with small chunks of information, rather than blocks of text. These types of blogs are much more palatable and readers are more likely to share them on their own social media.

Title

We know that titles are incredibly important and when posting online they can often make or break your content. In order for your work to be shared, it has to be read and an evocative title is paramount.

When considering titles, think about whether there is a different or more exciting way of describing your content. It’s worth noting that numbers in titles and titles which come in the form of a question are particularly successful. Also, it goes without saying that dramatic titles will of course attract more clicks.

Pictures

As we have already established, people are more likely to engage with content when it’s immediately effective. One of the ways in which you can make an instant impact is through visuals. Just in the same way that a title can attract readers, a compelling image can do the exact same thing.

The visual appearance of content is becoming just as important as the work itself. This has probably got a lot to do with the changing face of social media. Sites such as Instagram and Pinterest rely heavily on images and this is affecting how posts are constructed.

Platform

You should always take into account the platform on which you post your blogs. For example as we have established, when posting on Instagram and Pinterest, the visual is everything. Positing on Facebook should take into account multiple factors such as images, titles and the way in which people interact with the site. When sharing content on Twitter, the emphasis is on hashtags as these are what drive traffic to your tweets.

You have to remember, when people share your work it will most likely be on one of these networks. Therefore, content which has been created with social media in mind has a greater chance of success.

Emotion

Whether you like it or not, emotional content attracts more attention than informational. You only have to look at the typical types of posts which go viral in order to understand what they have in common. The reason behind this idea is that emotional pieces have a greater impact upon us and we are much more likely to share them with other people.

Just take a look at Facebook, we don’t react to posts with an “I agree” button, we react with emoticons.

Controversy

Following on from the idea of emotion is creating content which is outright controversial. We know this is a successful technique because we see it all the time. Sites will share posts with a shocking title or picture in order to entice people into clicking. Whether the content lives up to the title is beyond the point, they have already gained a new visitor. We call this clickbait.

Creators should be cautious with this tactic. Being associated with clickbait can be damaging to your reputation and may actually deter visitors from interacting with your content. Even if you don’t post clickbait, engaging with controversial topics can still be somewhat risky. You are much more likely to offend a large proportion of readers. This is something which should factor in to your overall approach.

Content – an easy route to success?

Content is a business’ best friend – that’s what we’re told and to some extent this is true. However, publishing copious amounts of content is not a sure-fire way of improving your search engine rank. This misconception is one that many business owners and marketeers have, resulting in missed targets and the belief that content doesn’t work for them.

Let’s set the record straight – content does work, but making it work takes a lot of skill and effort.  Here are some tips on how to take your content to the next level.

Get a strategy 

Before you start writing any content you need to have a clear idea of who you’re writing for. Depending on your business this audience may well be different for each piece of content you produce.  The more specific you can be in who your audience is the more successful your content is likely to be. Now you know who your audience is you need to start creating content topics that will address their specific information requirements. Conduct some basic research to find out what questions your target audience have and what their needs are and then tailor your topics accordingly.

Don’t just create content

You’ve identified what your audience wants to know so now you need to create content that compels them to do something positive – that ‘something’ could be to purchase, to continue to other pages of your site and investigate your offering further, to react to your content, to share your content each of these is a metric that can be measured and used to determine your content’s success.  The more your audience interacts with your site once they’re there, the higher regard the search engines will have for it.

In order for that positive action to take place your content needs to be relevant to your audience and engaging.

Optimise for success

Without properly optimising your content you may as well not bother producing content at all.  SEO and content go together like gin and tonic – don’t judge, it’s been a long day. The problem is many people writing content aren’t copywriters and either don’t think about optimising their content for search engines, or try and cram in so many keywords that it loses its meaning and purpose. Both of these approaches will have a negative effect. Keywords should be considered before writing commences and remain front of mind so they can be inserted strategically and coherently.

Also, it’s all too easy to regurgitate old content to save time, but in order to really make your content favourable with the search engines you should be looking at creating original content. Repurposing content should be saved for new channels.
The next two pointers are where the magic can really happen.  A bit more time and dedication is needed but focusing on internal and external link building can take you from the realms of ‘nice results’ to ‘fantastic results’…

Internal link building

By using internal linking within your website, you can strengthen it in the eyes of the search engines. So, every time you create content and publish it on your website, link it to and from other relevant areas of the site.  Put some real thought into your links and make them as user friendly as possibly, avoiding the common ‘homepage’ and ‘contact us’ links.  Maybe it’s a link to another article that addresses a related topic, maybe it’s a link to a product mentioned in the copy; the key is to link to lesser viewed content deep in your site. You want to keep visitors engaged with your site for as long as possible, visiting as many unique pages as possible and internal linking can help you achieve this.

External link building

Your content will show higher up the SEO rankings if it is linked to from high quality external websites.  Therefore, it is highly advantageous if you can spend time distributing your content for other sites to pick up on.  Collate a list of contacts such as journalists and highly-regarded bloggers in the aim they will cover your news or product launches and link back to your site.  Distribute your content via social media sites and people will pick up on it too.  But, link building is only as good as your content.  If your content sucks then no one will link to it.

 

 

How to be better at Product Development

 

lightbub

When running any business, no matter the size, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the bigger picture without paying enough attention to the single most important area of your business – product development.  I’ve written many an article on brand development, marketing and service delivery which all stress the importance of delivering an offering that meets the needs of your consumer and product development is at the very heart of everything. If your product doesn’t meet your customers’ needs or expectations, you will have no customers to make happy!

This is especially pertinent to new businesses, where it’s all too easy to lose sight of what really matters.  Here are six tips to help strengthen your product development lifecycle and increase your chance of success:

Give it the time it deserves – ‘More haste, less speed’ – it’s an old ‘un but a good ‘un and it’s highly relevant here. Rushing product development can be hugely detrimental.  Often an outstanding product idea is prioritised for a quick launch, because it’s so amazing, then it is pushed at every stage of the process and the end result is often far below the initial expectations.  When you are certain that you’re on to a winner it can be so tempting to miss out stages of the product development life cycle, such as market research or reduced product testing, but do so at your own peril.  Failing to validate your ideas and assumptions may get your product to market sooner but if you miss something crucial it could completely flop when launched.  Development of great products takes time and patience.

Involvement from the outset – avoid unnecessary delays and lessen the likelihood of them occurring by involving all parties from the word go. Designers, engineers, research and logistics teams working together from the initial ideas stage will identify and iron out any complications as soon as possible, meaning less pressure and time wasted further down the line.

Account for unpredictability – product development is far from straight forward and with so many steps to market it’s easy for something unexpected to crop up. Make sure your project plan has adequate time built in for contingencies, such as additional testing stages, should the need arise.

Set realistic timelines – taking into account all the points above, it’s important to set achievable launch dates. All too often senior management will have a launch date in mind, which is often unfounded and unachievable.  Far from giving focus, this approach often results in immense pressure being put on the product development team.  Start by working backwards and ask to see a detailed, realistic project plan first with anticipated launch, then agree a date from there.  If step 2 above has been followed, and all teams have been involved to draw up the plan, then everyone will be clear on what’s expected of them.

Stay agile – harder for larger organisations to do but this is where small, flexible businesses will do well. Remaining flexible in your approach to product development can save you precious time and money in the long run and allows you to remain innovative. Yes, you want to develop a product but rigidly following your plans can leave you blinkered and prevent you from looking in different directions that may produce better results.

Don’t stretch resources – as tempting as it may be it’s better to concentrate on developing a few products that excel than having your employees juggling multiple product launches badly. This is particularly pertinent to young businesses where building up your product portfolio slowly and mindfully and getting an understanding of your customers’ response to the products, is the safest move.