Product

The Office is a Product

July 23, 2021
office space the movie

In 2021, getting people back into the office requires some complex negotiation.

Apple is going hybrid. Someday.

Google is going remote-first. Maybe.

Facebook is going… metaverse.

Oof.

With 2021 looking as every bit as low fidelity and unsure as 2020, a lot of digital companies are planning and forming committees and writing op-eds and on and on….

I thought it would be useful to take a large step back from the corporate whack-a-mole and get to the foundation of what is really happening out there, for the people who use office space.

What is an office, really?

An office is a just a product. A product, as defined by Melissa Perri in Escaping the Build Trap, is a vehicle of value. It transports value from one party the other. Both parties need to find value in this way, and the value doesn’t necessarily need to be equal in value or symmetrical in scope.

Like all products, offices are unique and have unique value propositions for their users. Many businesses treat offices like communal areas and shared spaces where employees who uses computers, dry-erase boards and code to create value for their customers can gather and attend morning scrum before putting on sound-proof headphones for the rest of the day.

Most software and computer engineers I’ve worked with do not and have not found this useful or appealing. For those types of employees, remote work is here to stay forever.

Which begs the question: what do we do with this office? What good is this space anymore? Should we get rid of it?

What unique value proposition does returning to the office offer your employees?

An Exercise in Growth

Considering that the office has a UVP, leveragable elements, and real competition (like wearing sweatpants, no commuting, and lunch-time naps), we can really look at an office as a product of the employees and business that use them. Most importantly, an office also has network effects. All of this means getting people to return to the office is a exercise in product growth

As I learned in Reforge, we can start to understand, strategize and execute on initiatives that impact adoption and retention by answering six essential questions:

  • How does your product grow?
  • What are you points of leverage?
  • Where and when does my current grow slow or stop?
  • How do we improve our constraints or horizon?
  • How do I align individuals, team and the org around these constraints?
  • What new information do I have that changes our underlying assumption?

Once we understand and can sufficiently answer these six essential questions (for any product) then we can truly understand the value that the office provides its users.

The Network Effects of IRL Offices

Right now, across the world, people are working remotely. The only way to “meet” is by scheduling time on their calendar or sending them an ad-hoc request to join a video feed of whatever room they are currently in and forcing them to turn their camera and microphone on. Then you have to force them to focus on a talking head on a screen instead of the dozens of other pressing things that are as-or-more-than important than you, a real-life, talking human.

Its not easy.

And its also leading to more 30-minute meetings that have ever been held in the history of the world, which is leading to meeting fatigue and less productive hours during the work week. From my own perspective, this doesn’t work.

There are a lot of great product teams and businesses out there trying to solve this, and I’m sure they will:

  • Spot Meetings is trying to get people to take non-video meetings (and take a walk) by giving them smarter ways to capture notes and action items.
  • Loom is trying to get people to record themselves and their screens for 5 minutes and send a link
  • Atlassian is creating more tools for Confluence and JIRA that are meant to help product teams get out of the perma-meeting era of our lives.

But all of these don’t account for one great value prop: talking to people in real life is great. Like truly great. Seeing your coworkers and friends in person is objectively 1000x better than a video call of any kind. It is what makes us human.

But the biggest problem is getting people to come back to the office is an network problem. If one-or-two people start coming back a few days a week, they’ll always say “Why come into the office when everyone is remote anyway?”

Nobody drives in New York, the traffic is too bad.

This is a problem that can overcome in two ways: a carrot or a stick.

Right now, most offices are using a stick, e.g. you must come to the office X days a week after X date. Some companies are starting with carrots, e.g. come into the office with your dogs, free-lunch, ice cream trucks, happy hours, etc.

This is because meetings that happen in person are more productive and being around people is generally a good thing for your health.

But the UVP of the office is not ice cream, or whiteboards. Its certain not more meetings.

The UVP of offices is the walk back from the kitchen or lunchroom where you see your teammate walking to a meeting and you can get an answer on something that has been bothering you that morning.

Its the 2-second interaction at the end of the day where you’re reminded that your coworker is a really good person and has your back.

Those are the kind of things that provide value and compounds the network effects. Its also the thing that Corporations cannot gamify or mandate with carrots or sticks. They just sort of happen. They take time.

So if you’re able to, give it a few more months. Let people come back on their own terms. If they like it, great. If they want to stay remote, great. As long as the bottom-line isn’t impacted, what does it matter?

Well, time is money.

North-star KPI: PIO

So lets continue with the exercise. How do you even know what you’re doing is helping if you’re not measuring it?

I introduce: People-in-office. The metric we can start to measure and run experiments on. You can introduce carrots like weekly happy hours in person, guest speakers, etc. and measure which type of carrot is most impactful for your business.

You can also implement sticks like a mandated return-to-office but guess what? People still won’t be there 5 days a week. The genie is out of the bottle. So this KPI covers that too.

Use this metric to and run experiments to get people to come back. Treat your office like a product. Grow your product like your business depends on it. For some, it actually might.

Content Strategy

The Basics: Content Strategy for Social Media

May 19, 2017
use-social-media-to-distribute-content

Creating quality content to share with readers and prospective customers is a given when trying to grow a blog or business, but equally important is the way you share that content.

It’s not enough to put something out on social media and hope that the masses find their way to it; you have to know how to use social media properly and have a well-orchestrated strategy for dispensing your content.

If you don’t, your content will likely fall on deaf ears and you won’t experience the growth you were hoping for by publishing your content in the first place. What your exact strategy ends up being will depend on a number of variables, but there are several steps you must take and several important factors to consider when you develop your content strategy for social media.

Seriously, Get To Know Your Audience

I’ve said this before.

If this isn’t your first step, it should definitely be towards the top of your list on things to do. You have to know what kind of people you’re trying to reach with your content. What demographics are imperative for you to reach? What demographics will be difficult to reach? Are there any groups that you may have overlooked that you may be able to reach?

Once you know your target audience, you will have a better idea of what kind of content to create, how to create it, and how to present it. If you don’t know your audience and know the content you’ll be creating, you’ll have no idea of what to do from a social media standpoint.

For starters, go and talk to them. Ask experts their opinion. Send them an email and ask for their expertise.

(I use a tool called Mailshake to help maintain these 1-to-1 communications.)

Once you have the information…

“Find your niche to make you rich.” – Andrew Davis

There are a slew of different social media networks, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Some are an out-right waste of time. Figure out which one (or ones) will work best for your strategy. You can try joining every social media outlet that exists and seeing what sticks, but that’s not necessarily an effective use of your time. Instead, find one or two (maybe three) that are going to work best for what you’re selling and dedicate your efforts to those channels.

This is where knowing your audience ahead of time is mandatory. What social networks does your target audience spend the most time using? Where will your audience be most receptive to your content? These are the fundamental issues of any social media strategy.

Time Frames and Frequency

This is another nuts and bolts aspect of your strategy, but it should not be overlooked.

So much of your success in social media is timing, and you have to know when to post and how frequently to post. Again, part of this will be influenced by knowing your audience.

When your audience is expecting content, you need to make sure you deliver content.

At the same time, you don’t want to bombard them with material and clog up their timeline, especially if you’re just producing content for the sake of producing content and sacrificing quality.

Once you get started and have built up an audience, you may be able to poll your readers to get some feedback on timing and frequency. Until then, try to post as much content as you can, as long as it’s quality content that will get your readers excited and wanting to share it with others. By monitoring the results, you’ll be able to learn more about the idea timing and frequency for your social media campaign.

Check Out the Competition

Don’t worry, this isn’t being sneaky or underhanded. In fact, if you’re doing things right, your competition will probably check you out too. The fact of the matter is that it never hurts to check out what you’re up against in order to gain any edge you can.

All you have to do is take a close look at the social media pages of a few of your competitors or a few similar companies to try to pick up a few ideas. How frequently do they post? How do they engage with their customers? What is their tone? How do they mix in their content amongst everything else they do on social media?

Learning what your competitors are doing can give you great insight into what your strategy should be. Even after you’ve built your strategy, you should continue to check up on your competition to see how they’re adapting and see if there are any adjustments you can stand to make.

Have Goals and Objectives

There’s no point in having a plan if you don’t have goals that you’re always striving to meet. So create a list of concrete objectives for your social media endeavors and keep them in mind when developing your strategy. Are you seeking a certain number of followers? Do you need to generate a certain amount of traffic for your content? Are you seeking engagement from your readers?

Determine what it is exactly that you need out of your social media department and keep it in mind when developing a strategy; don’t lose sight of your purpose. After all, your social media strategy needs to benefit your brand as a whole, so have a goal to reach that you believe will take your brand to the next level.

Marketing

The Only Content Marketing Metric That Matters

February 3, 2017
content-marketing-metric

When it comes to engaging with consumers, an effective content strategy is essential.

Producing educational content targeted for specific keywords can help attract more traffic and raise awareness of your brand.

Content about your industry and how your product or services stack up can help persuade your audience to enter your marketing or sales funnels.

Even when dealing with pure conversions, content has a power that can produce leads, improve the customer lifetime value, and increase loyalty.

All of these are possible outcomes of a successful marketing strategy, important data points to measure and benchmark for content marketers in any industry, but one metric stands apart.

The only content marketing metric that matters is the one you’re trying to measure.

The Target Metric

Content marketing is a numbers game. Every piece of content you produce should be tracked and measured according to the metric you’re aiming to benchmark. It takes time to establish this benchmark and understand what works with your content marketing and what doesn’t.

What is the only content marketing metric that matters?

Conversions, obviously.

But what about awareness-content; content for targeting the top of the funnel?

Measuring conversions for that content would be a waste of time. If you’re measuring the success of your content marketing based on conversions, and only conversions, you’re setting yourself up for failure. The conversion metric isn’t the most important.

If you’re measuring the success of your content marketing based on awareness, and only awareness, you’re again doomed to fail.

Awareness fills up the funnel, but you’ll start to watch your bounce rate soar.

The target metric is the most important benchmark for the asset in question. You need to establish a goal for every piece of content you create, and each piece of content you create should have just one goal.

This is your target.

Determining The Target Metric

Set up your metrics carefully, or you could end up damaging your relationship with your audience. You shouldn’t be providing a solution to your audience’s problem through media while backhandedly selling them your solution at the same time. You must be willing to give something away and trust in your consideration content to lead the audience down the funnel.

Above all else, be authentic with your audience. They can sense it.


Read the rest of the post on Kapost

Marketing

Guide to Content Marketing Automation

September 30, 2016
content-marketing-automation

Marketing automation has become an important part of marketing strategies in today’s world.

It saves time and can dramatically increase the number of people who end up viewing the marketing materials a business sends out.

Of course, the use of automation is something content marketers must adjust to. The ease and usefulness of automation can easily be negated if marketers don’t utilize it properly.

Here are a few tips to help content marketers utilize automation the right way and get the most out of it:

Add A Personal Touch

Automation is going to be inherently impersonal, and so content marketers have to go out of their way to make sure that’s not the case. The key is in creating content that will benefit the customer. Find a way to speak to them personally instead of it being obvious that the message is automated and going out to a countless number of others. By no means will this be easy, but you have to find a way to relate to the customer and let them know that you are trying to help them and not just waste their time with an automated message.

Start Broad

Early in the automated campaign, don’t get too specific about what your company can do or what it’s trying to accomplish with this marketing campaign. Instead, go broad and create content that mentions challenges that will be faced by a variety of businesses and individuals. This will help you relate to as many people as possible without making it obvious that you’re after their business.

Once you start to get people’s attention by providing content that is appealing and relatable for the masses, then you can start to mention what you bring to the table and what you can offer them. But you should always be concerned about not promoting yourself too soon.

Set Goals

Never set off on a marketing campaign without specific and concrete goals in mind. The last thing you want to do is embark on an automated marketing campaign blind without any sense of why you’re doing it or what you hope to get out of it.

From the beginning, you should have goals in mind, and your content and distribution should reflect those goals, as should any call to action you include in your campaign. You do not want to waste time, content, and money running an automated campaign if it’s not going to help the firm’s long-term and big-picture goals. Make sure you set goals and have a clear idea on how an automated marketing campaign can help you accomplish those goals.

Schedule Things with Precision

Stop if you’ve heard this before, but timing is everything. Whether you’re using email, social media, or any other resource, always schedule things in a way that will make your audience receptive to the material. There are plenty of tools that will allow you to schedule material to go out at any time you choose, so make sure you utilize those tools. It’ll enhance your chances of sending out the right content at the right time, which is one of the main advantages of automated marketing.

Respond to Feedback

You may not want to respond to feedback directly, but always look for feedback and take it into account when making adjustments to your marketing campaign. By looking at third party sites, you can usually gain some insight into how customers are responding to your automated marketing campaign. This information, while it should be taken with a grain of salt, can be invaluable. With it, you can make proper alterations to your content and your marketing strategy to fit your audience.

Don’t Rush Things

Taking your time may be the best advice you can heed during an automated marketing campaign. For starters, there are so many variables with such a large-scale campaign that you can’t find the perfect fit or solution for all of them at one time. You have to think about any automated campaign as a long-term project. Take your time in learning about individuals so that you may have a better understanding with regards to what tactics will be most effective. You may not experience instant success with this strategy, but if you put in the time and effort, it will pay off over the long haul.

Focus on Content not Offers

Don’t let the automation aspect of the campaign distract you from the most important thing of all, which is content. The one thing you need to do in a marketing campaign before you can do anything else is win people over with quality content, and that needs to remain the focus. Don’t just whip up something in a hurry thinking it won’t matter and don’t become too consumed too quickly with making offers and trying to make sales.

Creating useful content is the best way to get people’s attention and get people on board with what you’re selling. No matter what other marketing methods you use, your top focus should always be producing quality content.

 

Marketing

Guide to Snapchat Marketing

May 29, 2016
snapchat-marketing

Shared experiences can produce powerful conversations that have a lasting impression on an audience; a sense of comradery with a group of strangers. They can transform the way people think, influence their buying decisions and change the sentiment of a brand. For marketers, experiential marketing is wonderful. It can feel like capturing lightning in a bottle. You are able to see, up close, the connection your message is creating. But despite all the fuzzy feelings, there is something important missing: the ROI.

TL;DR – Measuring the effectiveness of live event marketing is hard. Use Snapchat.

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