How to be better at Product Development



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.


Does Honesty Pay in Interviews?

Business people waiting for job interview. Four candidates competing for one position

From an early age I think most of us have been taught that honesty is the best policy, but what if this lifelong value ruins your chances of achieving your goals? Is it OK, then, to bend the truth a little now and then?

In my view, absolutely not. It just isn’t ethically correct to lie your way into a job that another candidate has legitimately worked hard for. That’s not to say it’s not tempting…

Your CV

We all know that to be in with a shot of an interview your CV has got to make a lasting impression, and you may feel that the only way to make an impression is to add a few extra (false) details here and there. It can’t hurt can it? Well, maybe not initially, but imagine being called in for an interview and being asked to talk about the qualifications or skills you lied about on your CV. It’s making me squirm just thinking about it. Not only that, let’s say, for argument’s sake, you’ve made it through the interview process and have landed the job on the back of a false CV. What happens if your new boss asks you to work on something you’ve falsely stated you can do? Imagine having he or she stood over you when you have no idea what you are doing. No, unless your blagging skills are top notch and you are bold enough to see your lies through, no matter the consequences, it just doesn’t seem worth the stress.

And if that’s not enough to put you off, you’ve also got to remember that interviewers can easily do a little digging online or make a few phone calls to verify that the information you have given them is correct. If you’re going to lie, you really need to cover your tracks well.

The interview

No matter how much you prepare, you just can’t predict the questions that may come up in your interview. That said, it’s definitely worth researching common interview questions and thinking about how you would answer them. The National Careers Service website is well worth a look. It offers all sorts of advice and support to help you prepare for interviews. Its ‘Top Ten Interview Questions’ is a great place to start and can help you get into interview mode if you are struggling. Try to spend some time thinking about how you will answer tricky questions. Bluffing your way through tricky questions may seem like the best approach, but, actually, your honesty in these situations may take you further.

Be positive

If asked about your weaknesses try to keep your response short and sweet, elaborating, instead, on how you are trying to improve in these areas. Always try to turn negative points into positives. And instead of lying about the things you can’t do, go to town talking about the things you can do; your knowledge and enthusiasm in these areas is sure to impress the interviewer.

Honesty all the way

Honesty has got to be the best policy, hasn’t it? If you are honest, people take you for who you are and if you land the job it means you’ve earned it on your own merit. Something to be proud of. Plus, if you are straight down-the-line, you are probably more likely to get on with the boss who may well have chosen you for your honesty and constructive responses. Interviews are really more about strategy than anything else.

If you don’t land the job you are after first time, don’t be disheartened, put it down to fate, hold on to your values and try again.

Good things come to those who wait. So they say.


What are the Simplest Steps to Promotion?


The majority of working people feel like they are owed a promotion. Whether its long days at the office, being underpaid or sacrificing precious time with your family, we all expect to be rewarded for hard work. So, why are so many employees stalled on their way up the career ladder? There are a number of potential reasons why. Here, we will look at the main reasons why your promotion is eluding you and how to tackle these problems.

Be Deserving

It may sound harsh but this is the problem facing many individuals who are looking to advance. You have to remember, the people who are promoted are those who exceed expectations. If you are putting in the minimum effort, or even an adequate job, this is usually not enough to stand out. You may believe you are sacrificing a lot for your job but you need to examine your work objectively- are you really doing enough to warrant a promotion?

The good news is, all is not lost- there is always time to aim higher. Those who are given greater responsibility, usually earn it through hard work. This means putting in more hours and using this time to give your boss more than they asked for. Productivity is incredibly important and this should be one of your main goals. Once you are excelling within your current position, ask your boss if you could take on more work. Yes, this does mean increasing your workload but this is usually what it takes to garner success.

Be a Leader

The majority of promotions facilitate a move into a position of leadership. Therefore leadership skills are paramount. If you are working hard without reward, you should ask yourself whether the problem could be to do with your potential as a leader. Qualities such as trustworthiness, teamwork and the ability to remain cool under pressure are all prized among employers.

Fortunately, there are ways in which to improve on your managerial potential. For example, ensure you have a strong working relationship with your peers. This illustrates your ability to work within a team, something that will be noticed by your boss. Conversely, although team work is important, don’t be afraid to stand out for all the right reasons. Also, try to approach every obstacle in a calm and positive manner- even if you don’t particularly feel like it. Managers are faced with problems on a day to day basis and potential candidates will need to be able to cope with this pressure.

Be Vocal

It may seem obvious but you need to make sure that your boss actually knows that you are looking for a promotion. Those who quietly get on with their work may appear settled within their role and therefore could be overlooked when a position opens. In fact, there are many workers who don’t like the idea of a managerial position so you could forgive your boss for making that assumption.

The way in which you broach this subject with your employer will depend on you, your job and the relationship between the two of you. As a rule, it’s best to approach the subject softly- after all you don’t want to put them in an awkward position. Organise a meeting with your boss to discuss your role within the company and the potential for advancement. Try to appear eager but focus on factors such as taking on more responsibility and personal productivity as opposed to positions and wages. Once your employer is aware of your ambitions, there is a much greater chance that they will consider you in the future.

Earning a promotion can take a lot of hard work and determination but the potential benefits are definitely worth the extra effort for those seeking a step up.



Simple Ways to Improve your Adwords Performance


Google Adwords. What the Dickins…? I know. If you suffer with Googlephobia creating high ranking Adword campaigns may seem impossible, but don’t worry, you’ll be pleased to know that Google Adwords isn’t as complicated as it may seem. In fact, with a few tricks up your sleeve, you can be on your way to creating successful Google Adword campaigns before you know it.

Google Adwords

So, the purpose of Google Adwords (if you’re not familiar) is to generate traffic to your website, which in turn will help generate conversions. When key search words are entered by a user on Google, the highest ranking ads that correspond with the search terms will appear at the bottom and the top of the page – the top of the page being the preferred and most beneficial position. When someone clicks on your ad, you pay Google Adwords a fee (your bid).

Google Ad Rank

It’s important to explain Google Ad Rank before we go any further. The position of your company’s ad will depend on your ad rank. This is determined by the combination of your bid (the amount you are willing to pay each time your ad is clicked on) and your quality score (determined by a Google metric based on your ad’s clickthrough rate [CTR], keyword relevance and the quality of your landing page).

Now, it’s fairly easy to create Google Adword campaigns; once you’ve logged in, followed the prompts and entered your billing information, you’re away. The tricky bit (some might say) lies in the ability to create successful Adword campaigns in terms of rankings and clickthrough rates.

Choose the right keywords

Well-chosen keywords and phrases will give your ad the best chance of being displayed to the right people. Your keywords should match the search terms customers would enter into Google to find products or services like yours. Your keywords should also match the keywords on your landing page. Your landing page must then, of course, meet the user’s expectations as expressed via their search query. To get ideas for keywords, you can use Google Keyword Planner. This is a free Adwords tool that helps you choose relevant and high-ranking words for your ads. The Keyword Planner is also useful for selecting the most relevant keywords from your own website – the quality of this will depend, however, on the quality of the content on your website.

Identify Negative Keywords

This might sound weird, but makes sense when you think about it. As a pay per click (PPC) advertiser your objective is to attract traffic that will lead to conversions. It’s therefore important to avoid key words or phrases that are too general as these may lead you to pay for clicks from people who aren’t at all interested in what you have to offer.

Once your Adword campaigns are up and running you can use Adwords to view the search terms that are triggering your ads to be displayed. Search terms that aren’t valuable to you can be added as negative keywords which will prevent your ad from being displayed when those keywords are entered.


Use all relevant ad extensions

Ad extensions are an Adwords feature that enable you to display additional information with your ad. Various ad extensions are available such as sitelinks, callout extensions, location extensions, reviews and more. Use the ad extensions that are relevant to your business to help your business stand out from your competitors.

Optimise your ad text for longer headlines

The most important part of your ad is the headline as this is the part that will most likely grab the viewer’s attention. Google now enables you to place more information in the headline where it’s most likely to be noticed. By doing this, ads have a 6% increase in CTR compared to ads with the standard headline and description. It’s important to note that headlines must be a complete phrase or sentence and end in punctuation such as a full stop or question mark.


As soon as your Adword campaign is running, Adwords will start collecting data regarding the ad’s performance. You can use Adwords to see performance statistics for your campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on this on a regular basis (weekly) to see how well your ad campaign is doing and whether adjustments can be made to your ad based on the data.

Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking is a free AdWords tool that enables you to find out how many ad clicks are turning into actual customers. It can also help you identify which ad campaigns and keywords are proving to be most successful to your business. It’s a great way to review progress and make adjustments where necessary.

Final Thought

Google Adwords can be a great way of driving traffic to your website. It’s not for the fainthearted that’s for sure, but with the right knowledge, Google Adword campaigns can lead to a great return on investment. Kerrrching!