Marketing Agencies, Are They Worth It?

Marketing Agencies, Are They Worth It?

I’ve been there, directing or managing a sales and marketing operation and needing marketing support to deliver. You don’t have dedicated marketing resources for what you need, or you do have marketing resources but there are aspects that you need more support with.   

Then you get a warm referral from someone you know, you start talking needs and prices, and then you sign up with a marketing agency for support of some kind.   

Maybe it’s putting articles out, or looking after your social media. Maybe it’s keeping your website updated with case studies. Or maybe it’s PR, or just maybe you go as far as wanting creative support and ideas.  

Then, gradually, after several months, you find yourself wondering… 

Is it all WORTH it? 

You might find yourself feeling like marketing agencies are a waste of time if your experience is like many others! Feeling like you are either being pestered to provide all the content and ideas that you thought you were paying them for, or that you are chasing them to deliver what they said they were going to deliver!  

You don’t have TIME to check up on these folks all the time to see if they are delivering what they promised. If you find you are being let down, you can find it is a bitter pill to swallow and it leaves you heavily biased against marketing agencies in the future!   

What I Tell People Who Ask “Is a marketing agency worth it?” 

Marketing is a widely misunderstood subject with a great many subcategories that are often even MORE misunderstood.  

Marketing agencies are worth it if you find the right people to work with who understand your business AND have the skills to make a difference, PLUS have the time to do what they say.   

If I tell people we focus on HELPING people with content marketing and organic SEO through blogs and web page updates, they mostly look at me as though I am talking in a foreign language.  

When I tell people we are a marketing agency, they will often assume we make flyers and posters, or we do PR campaigns.  

“If I have learnt anything through 20 years in Technology and Engineering companies, outsourcing is never easy.” 

Whether that’s getting hundreds of engineers set up in a faraway country with an aim to save time and money on a multi-million-pound development (which is hit and miss), or trying to get people to understand you and your business so that they can market you, without you having to spoon-feed them constantly, it can be a thorny road.  

I also know that employing people directly, trying to get as many competencies and skills in as few people as possible for the best price can be just as frustrating and challenging, not to mention how many people get comfy and a little lazy in their jobs past their probation period.  

Determined to Be DIFFERENT… 

So, having been down the road where so many companies find themselves, when my partner and I decided that we were going to launch a marketing agency and focus on helping people get found, I knew we were going to be DIFFERENT.  

We were determined to be different. 

With my background in industries like F1, Aerospace, H2 Fuel Cells, Rail, Electronics, IoT and Software through a career climbing from a project engineer to director overseeing sales & marketing operations, we knew what was MISSING from those I want to help.  

How many marketing agencies have a chartered engineer and engineering fellow on hand to translate for you?  

Add to that my partner, Andrea, who has 20 years of being a successful marketeer for her own business start-ups, running networking organisations, and has amazing communication skills which help her get over the line with businesses and allows her to easily translate technical terms in a simplistic way.  

Let’s not forget about our marketing team who are highly motivated, always on top of the trends and full to the brim of innovative and inspiring ideas. 

Andrea and Fred, Marketing agency

How many agencies have this kind of SUPPORT on hand?  

Imagine a world where a techy oriented company can talk to a marketing agency, and for those marketing folks to GET what they do, really UNDERSTAND them, have TECHNICAL competence, and a passionate and motivated team focussed on getting you found?  

Well, that’s what we’ve done with CREATIVE in TIME!   

Working With Us 

Does it sound too good to be true?  

That’s because there aren’t many agencies like us. It works perfectly. Once you’ve explained your business and how you help your customers, we can delve into the technical depths of what you do. This ensures we can translate it into simple language for your customers to understand HOW you can help THEM, and WHY they would choose YOU!  

I hate to say it but WHAT you do is of mostly no interest to your potential clients.  

With over 20 years working around techy oriented companies, I always found myself being the bridge between the proper techies and the more financial and business’ type folks. I could understand both sides without being an expert in either.  

I could explain the benefits of developing a bit of tech in a way a techie couldn’t, they will tell you all about what they need to do, I will tell you the benefits of what they need to do, and how much it will all cost.  

So, we realised we would be the bridge for complex or techy companies that need marketing support, we have built a team of amazing marketing execs that get trained by us in what our customers do, how they help people and why they should work with them.  

One Way We Are Different 

There’s one more ingredient in our mix other than our techy know-how. Whilst we are extremely familiar with CORPORATE environments including CxO level folks, we are persuading those same types to allow a little more fun to be injected into their messaging and put a little less “corporate” out there. 

People engage with FUN content, rather than the same old boring corporate messaging saying how amazing they are and how people should just buy their products over and over again.  

So, if you want to engage with people in a fun (and not quite so corporate way), if you do techy things that are often hard to explain to people outside of your business, then you could do with some help from some honest, decent and hardworking marketing folks just like us! You’ll be glad you did!  

Click here to get in touch with us now!

Fred RJ Warner 

Business Support is a Critical Resource for SMEs following COVID Lockdown

Business Support is a Critical Resource for SMEs following COVID Lockdown

Remember life before COVID?

Do you remember life before COVID? It probably feels like a long distant memory of more stable days and greater freedoms, when stories of ‘BirdFlu’, ‘SARS’, ‘Ebola’, ‘Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease’ and ‘Swine Flu’ would grace our Smart Phone and TV news screens as we went about our daily lives, never really impacting us here in Europe and the UK.

A chance to reflect for business owners?

Now, as we approach the end of the second year of COVID mania and media sensations regarding ‘Coronavirus’, ‘Lockdown Announcements’ and ‘Business Support’ through ‘Furlough Schemes’, is it time to reflect on how lockdown has changed our lives? Again and again, we ask how did lockdown affect small businesses? What should businesses do after lockdown? Will there be another lockdown announcement? What business support will be available?

How Lockdown affected Business Owners?

Businesses in the UK have not only faced repeated lockdowns forcing many to close, but we’re also seeing inflation running at its highest for many years, driving up the cost of materials and labour, and we really don’t know what is going to happen over the next 12 months regarding the coronavirus pandemic, economic health and spiralling debt levels.

Businesses are being told to help their staff work from home wherever they can, encourage people to get fully vaccinated, get booster vaccines, limit close contact with people, implement social distancing, let fresh air into your workplaces (which is a great idea as long as it isn’t too cold), and to wear a face-covering when possible.

To add pressure to all of this, business owners are facing increasing challenges regarding the emotional wellbeing and mental health of their workforce. SME leaders in particular tend to have the least support available to them to support staff who feel worried, feel anxious, have mental health concerns, or who are less able to cope with lockdown restrictions due to the nature and size of their business.

Business owners need to provide compassion to their employees for the loss of loved ones or family requiring hospitalisation, and for employees needing support for long covid symptoms, all the while not really having a yardstick of any kind to know how honest or loyal employees are really being.

From Furlough to Fear for Business Owners

Business owners initially cheered when the government announced the furlough scheme and provided debt funding to prop them up, and most business leaders assumed that things would be settling after a year or so at the most.

We are now soon to enter the third year of the COVID pandemic and the mounting concerns for SME owners are also centred around their rising debt levels, facing a higher risk of financial exposure than ever due to spiralling material costs and a shortage of labour available to bring home their potential revenue, knowing that further COVID restrictions could finish them off for good.

Acting the part for your employees

In addition to the financial pressures thanks to COVID and government regulations, as employers you are expected to turn up looking positive and strong for your employees.

Offering advice and understanding for their mental health, support for their anxiety and sympathy for their positive COVID test after positive test requiring them to self isolate.

Along with making sure you have hawk-like reactions for anyone displaying symptoms or showing symptoms, and ensuring your own mental health is in good shape, whilst wondering if coronavirus and national lockdowns will ever end.

COVID impacts businesses differently

One thing that has been absolutely clear as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is that the impact is certainly not the same for all companies. Not only do different sizes of businesses cope in different ways, but the services the business provides and the manner in which they provide them makes for a wide variation across the sector, in particular SMEs.

We were all used to seeing the growing dominance of Amazon pre-covid, and they were certainly in the right place for when it hit. Internet shopping became a must for many regardless of their inclination regarding shopping this way, and Amazon has been able to grow and dominate during this time.

The hospitality sector has found that if people are either not allowed or too frightened to eat and drink out then their businesses are not viable. But what about all of the businesses that don’t get much of a mention in the media?

The UK’s Business Makeup

Our nation is made up of a wide variety of companies from manufacturing, R&D, engineering, financial services, legal services, construction, tourism, technology and so many more. This provides a level of resilience for hard times, but how are we distributed in terms of sizes?

How many businesses are there in the UK?

According to the UK government report on ‘business statistics’ published in 2020, there are almost 6 million private companies in the UK, up from 3.5 million in 2000, however, the proportion that employs people has fallen from 32% in 2000 to 24% in 2020, representing a huge rise in self-employment.

How many self employed business owners are there?

Of the 6 million businesses, 4.5 million have no employees, meaning these are generally self-employed. Considering they make up 76% of business in the UK, they contribute 7% of turnover generated in the private sector.

How many UK businesses are less than 9 employees?

Approximately 1.4 million have 1-9 employees and extracting the data in the report we can approximate that they provide around 14% of the turnover generated and makeup 23% of UK businesses.

How many UK businesses have 10-49 employees?

There are around 200,000 businesses in the UK that employ 10-49 people, making 15% of the turnover generated by private companies, whilst representing 4% of the total number of businesses.

How many Medium & Large business?

There are 36,000 medium (50-249 employees) and 8,000 large employers (over 250) in the UK. They generate 16% and 48% of the turnover nationally, meaning in reality that 8,000 companies out of 6 million generate 48% of the turnover in the sector. The large sector employs 39% of people and medium employ 16%. The 8,000 large companies will involve many day to day names you recognise and you probably know several people that work for them.

So what does that mean for UK Business Support?

These numbers may be very interesting to you or even not very interesting at all, but what does it mean? Different businesses have different needs, and the people they serve are very different.

Is there a Coronavirus grant funding to support businesses in the UK?

The good news for many UK companies during lockdown was the launching or availability of multiple business support initiatives by the government. We’ve had the furlough scheme, Kickstarter scheme, business rates relief, VAT breaks, the recovery loan scheme, bounce back loans, ‘eat out to help out’ to name but a few.

The funding schemes provided through channels such as the British Business Bank, high street banks and their associated partners have helped a multitude of businesses stave off collapse due to the impact of COVID19.

Business Support of varying natures can be accessed through growth hubs like the Leicestershire Business Growth Hub, with business advisers available to listen to your challenges and signpost you to either available funding, support, resources and more. If you are wondering about more support, read on to the bottom of this article to find more resources.

Different Business owner approaches to lockdown measures

The nature of businesses and the opinions of their respective leaders have had a high impact on the measures taken during the national and local lockdowns of 2020-2021. We’ve seen a large scale moving of office workers to a work from home culture and the subsequent explosion in the use of video meetings and video networking events, many with some really positive outcomes. How you can operate also had some dependency on whether you were deemed as an ‘essential worker’ or ‘essential service’.

Many companies rely on their staff being co-located to have efficient operations, especially in fast-paced environments where different teams tend to shout across to each other throughout the day to carry out their jobs effectively. There is also the reality that a lot of low skilled roles have a tenuous but undeniable link to work integrity.

Managing people remotely compared to sitting in a room with a team is also very different and has forced large scale changes to the work approach.

Some business owners shut down their operations very quickly and often unnecessarily at the beginning of the pandemic, whilst others hung on too long before facing the reality. The furlough scheme was used very differently, with many businesses taking the opportunity to dodge furlough and move straight to redundancy knowing few questions will be asked.

Others used the furlough schemes even when they had the work and revenue for their staff and used the scheme as an opportunity to protect or even enhance their bottom line (EBIT or profit). How many times have you phoned an organisation and heard them using COVID as an excuse for providing you terrible customer service? Sometimes this was genuine, but it’s also been used to increase profits at the expense of customers.

Is working from home really the answer?

We’ve gone from having to think about your support bubble, social contact and social distancing to facing a reality for many in having very little human contact day to day causing a wide variety of mental wellbeing issues. How to reduce pressure on the NHS? We are told we have to work from home.

We also have to consider what age group people are in when we ask this question. It is a very different prospect for a healthy 25 year old to attend the workplace than for a 60 year with health complications. The medical reasons for people having a different approach are self-explanatory, but as an employer, it makes it a very difficult prospect to deal with.

Working from home comes with many potential benefits. People spend less time travelling to work and have more time in the day, people can get out and walk during the day in their local surroundings improving their physical health, there has been a widespread uptake in people getting pets and enjoying the outdoors.

People talk about work-life balance now in a way they would never have dared before, taking care of themselves, talking about their mental health. But it’s not all as rosy as people like to often make out.

How can working from home have a negative impact?

Training and developing staff can be more challenging remotely, and creating a team environment of people working together remotely can be really difficult. Ensuring staff get enough social contact during the day whilst also ensuring people are working when they are meant to be working (and not slacking off) are all issues faced by business owners.

The net result is that there really isn’t a single ‘one size fits all’ approach to this problem, and working from home on a temporary basis is in no way similar to making it a long term measure. Of course, no one talks about what facilities people have in their homes.

Some have the fortune to have a home office, garden room or nice environment, but for many they are sharing a small house with a number of other people and working from their bed all day (particularly young people), making for a very negative potential outcome on mental wellbeing for these groups, not to mention the physical health aspects of using a laptop sitting on a bed day in day out.

How can we move forwards with Business Support?

For many companies, the business support they need can be grouped into categories as outlined below, and taking action in each of these areas will make a real difference:

Revenue: Can I sell my products and services effectively?

Revenue for a business has become a challenge for many new reasons, from not having enough customers to having plenty of potential customers and no way to service their needs. This can be from staff shortages or a lack of material availability as we’ve seen in the construction industry.

Cash flow: Can I pay everyone’s wages whilst revenues fall?

For many businesses, the winter COVID makes people afraid to go out. There is no support from the government financially whilst they put measures in place effectively scaring people from going to the hairdressers, eating out with friends or having their Christmas party with their work. With more than half of businesses expected to not have a Christmas party for their staff this year, it is grim reading for many hospitality outlets that would otherwise be very busy.

Mental health and wellbeing

Keeping up with the demands of UK expectations on employers with respect to mental health, COVID support, understanding the need to self-isolate, getting your head around different restrictions from week to week is enough to deter many people from wanting to employ at all, and may be enough for many small business owners to give up altogether.

Digital Transformation

Many companies have moved forwards tremendously with digital transformation during the COVID pandemic, and a wide variety of funding has been made available to support these initiatives through local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and growth hubs, but many companies simply have not done enough to cope with the shift towards being a digital online business.

For business owners that aren’t technically advanced there is a real risk of finding a partner to assist with transformation to later find they have not served you well but relieved you of a lot of your money.

Outsourcing

Business owners are often very adverse to reaching out for help from other companies. If you really know what you are doing in a particular area it can be great to train and mentor staff internally, but so many business leaders hurt their company by refusing to seek help from outside agencies and consultants without having a deep knowledge of a particular area.

One example of this is in Digital Marketing, where owners seldom know how to develop their online business to improve the chances of being found, not realising that most website designers have little knowledge in this area, and thinking marketing is about creating leaflets and fliers.

Digital Marketing is one example of a business function that most SMEs benefit significantly from outsourcing due to the owners lack of knowledge in this area. For more on Digital Marketing refer to CREATIVE in TiME.

Networking

Speaking to other like-minded business leaders and owners can be a really helpful way of staying positive, finding out different ways to solve your challenges, meet new people, get access to vital support that you were not aware even existed, understand the best way to implement workplace rules, get more information about other business support initiatives, to name a few.

But where are these? Some private companies have successfully created networking events, whilst there are many others that are paid and require a lot of commitment and input from their members, which many do not have the time or desire to be part of.

Awareness

One of the biggest challenges for business owners is that they are simply not AWARE of the business support available to them either as a result of lockdown announcements, COVID and the pandemic.

If you speak to many SME owners they are so busy fighting day to day to win and deliver their offering to customers that they do not find the time to research the kind of funding and support on offer.

If you are a business owner or leader, reach out to your local growth hub and LEP (local enterprise partnership) to find what is available for you!

More information

If you would like more information on these topics, feel free to reach out to the author, Fred Warner, who is a Business Champion at the Leicestershire Business Growth Hub or find more information on the Business Growth Hub website.

About the Author Fred Warner

Fred Warner is a Business Mentor, Adviser and Consultant to a wide variety of SMEs both small and large. Fred has a passion for helping small businesses grow, plan, create strategies, and deliver. In addition, Fred also runs a Digital Marketing Agency called CREATIVE in TiME Ltd with his partner. Fred has 20+ years in leadership, sales & marketing, technology & products, transformation & business change in industries from F1, Aerospace, Rail, Electronics, Software to Beauty & Leisure.

Planning Impossible Timescales

Planning Impossible Timescales

Every project plan needs an outline

How do you put a project plan together and keep your head when you are asked to plan impossible timescales? You are not alone, in fact, many of us are asked to achieve miracles every day!

Let’s take a scenario, it’s a Thursday afternoon, you’ve been called into the big boss’ office with no notice. Your boss starts explaining a new ‘thing’ that they wish to launch to win to make the most of a new commercial opportunity. Maybe it’s a new software platform, maybe it’s a new type of electronic widget (you can imagine what you do for a living here to help your imagination).

Then comes the news you expected, your boss wants this whole thing to be ready to go in 6 months! Yes, you heard it, you are now expected to create a project plan for impossible timescales! Your brain is racing, knowing the last project like this took 18 months and you are still firefighting daily issues with the product or service that was launched. 

So, what do you do? Follow these steps whilst taking deep breaths and you will be amazed at the results.

Establishing your stakeholder expectations before creating a project plan

So, when you are being asked to create a project plan for impossible timescales, following this path, and make detailed notes:

Ask your boss for an overview of WHAT needs to be delivered.

Make sure you understand WHY the business wants to do this (so important)

Find out WHERE they intend for this to be done

Ask HOW they think you are going to deliver it

Clarify WHO is going to be available for the project,

Confirm WHEN they want it (6 months in this case)

Finally, and importantly ask HOW MUCH they think it’s all going to cost, (this is where they give you their guesstimated budget). 

So what are we doing here? You are gauging your stakeholders expectations, getting the picture in their head onto paper. This stage is absolutely essential in defining the overall expectations. If your boss tells you she thinks it should cost £0.5m, you have a ball park of what to aim for in planning. You’ll know that going back with a £10m project budget won’t fly, so if you are struggling to achieve the scope (the WHAT) for £0.5m then you can have a far more constructive conversation with her when you go back.

Creating a plan with impossible timescales 

The next stage is now the crucial building stage. You need to now establish all the same answers to the questions above to see if it is going to fly. If you go away and make a project plan that mimics what they asked for without an understanding HOW you are going to actually deliver it, you will likely fail. If you don’t answer the many many unanswered questions of WHAT you are going to have to do, you are walking down the classic project management failure. These are the same failures that blight corporations everyday, but now you can be different!  

Maybe you feel you have no choice, your boss doesn’t care about reality, just that he or she has a Gantt chart and project plan document that echoes their wishes to present to some higher stakeholder. 

But what real value does this have to anyone? A scenario can be that you kick off the project and spend 2 months working with the stakeholders trying to figure out exactly what they want. You gradually realize this is an 18 month project at 5 x the cost of their budget, and now you are seen as the project manager who is failing the company. The project plan with impossible timescales is now running way behind schedule, over budget, and failing. It was you presented the original plans, not your boss, so who is going to get the blame?

The 7Q Approach – a NEW way to project plan

  • You write down your understanding of WHY you are undertaking this project.
  • Then, specify yours and your teams understanding of WHAT they need to deliver, writing down all assumptions, caveats, dependencies, etc.  
  • You specify WHERE the work is going to be done and delivered (maybe multiple locations).
  • You breakdown HOW you are going to do it (break down the big chunks of works into smaller pieces).
  • Then you assume WHO is going to do it, (staff, subcontractors, etc).
  • From here you can figure out a timescale, or WHEN it can all be done.
  • Then sum it all up into a project budget (HOW MUCH).

So, let’s go back and take a different path. Once you have gauged your stakeholders estimates for WHAT, WHEN & HOW MUCH (scope, cost and time), now you can go away and have a real crack at the 7Q approach (7 questions of a project plan).  

This can be done in an afternoon or over a couple of days, run a couple of iterations, from the HOW MUCH you go back to WHY, WHAT, WHERE, HOW, WHO, WHEN & HOW MUCH again, making changes as you see them. 

THEN you can go back to your stakeholders with some genuine estimates, with details, assumptions, possibilities, and so much more. 

So, let’s say your stakeholders don’t like the new WHEN (scope) and HOW MUCH (schedule)! What can you do? If your WHEN and HOW MUCH are out of alignment, you MUST change WHAT you are doing, HOW you are doing it, or WHO is doing it. That’s right, the key steps to meeting impossible timescales is to ‘De-Scope’, find and easier path, or find cheaper resource. De-scoping is effectively offloading work. You can always persuade your boss that the other work can be done at a ‘later stage’. You can even build a roadmap showing the future phases after the initial project has been successful. 

Getting the WHAT (scope) down to an absolute minimum is the GOLD to realising impossible timescales. Work out the bare essentials, the absolute minimum that you could get away with delivering whilst keeping people happy. 

An impossible timescale example!

You talk to a builder and say: “I want a 4 bed house in 4 months for $40k.” The builder may say, “for $40k you can have a 1 bed chalet, not a 4 bed, and I can do that in 3 months.” You say, “ok, how much for a 3 bed?” “A 3 bed will be $140k and take 6 months.” What is happening here? You are iterating, you have your wishes, the builder gives you what can be done, so why do corporations not follow this basic approach, often sticking stubbornly to the original ask.

Its normally because the project manager is ignored by the corporate boss’, who in this example will tell the top brass that you will be delivering the 4 bed for $40k in 6 months, and they’ve forced some poor project manager into showing in documents what is effectively a delusion. 

So, you keep negotiating with your stakeholders, going back and forth to come up with a project plan that is achievable and minimise scope (WHAT) as much as possible, then, and only then, can you deliver to an impossible timescale. 

Want to learn some more about Fred? Check out his LinkedIn here! 

Or check out some more of Fred’s top tips here: How to Create a Project Plan Cost Budget 

How to Create a Project Plan Cost Budget 

How to Create a Project Plan Cost Budget 

If you are running or thinking about running a project, and you need a project plan, one of the fundamental questions to answer is normally: HOW MUCH will this project cost? 

This means different things to different people. If all the people who work on the project don’t have their hours counted (which you really should by the way), then you may need to just cost up spend outside your business (for example materials, sub-contractors, subscriptions, etc). If you are including hours of the staff worked, and using a day rate to cost this up, you’ll need an estimation of how much effort the project will take in order to create a project budget. 

So, deciding from the above which path to take, you can set about building a project plan, and then you can cost it up. 

Cost can be thought of as either price per day or week for time taken, plus fixed costs (e.g. if the design agency quote a fixed price for a website, or quote a price per day that they spend, you may have very different outcomes). A new laptop will have a fixed cost, a subscription to Adobe Photoshop will be dependent on how long you use it for. 

Producing a cost estimate

In order to produce a cost estimate, you need to summarise the following (representing 7Q – the seven questions to a project plan in this specific order): 

  • WHY are you doing this project – having a focus on this helps decide what needs doing and what is a nice to have for costing purposes 
  • WHAT is it that needs to be achieved (this is the project scope) 
  • WHERE is all this going to be done (location of preparation and delivery can be different places, can affect costs) 
  • HOW are we going to achieve it (this is essentially the plan of work broken down into smaller sections).  
  • WHO is going to do it – different people or companies have different prices. You’ll need to consider availability of people or companies needed. 
  • WHEN is it going to be done? You may think this is the date that your client or boss is asking for, but it is important to work through WHAT, WHERE, HOW & WHO to be able to calculate WHEN (TIME), and see if your answer aligns with the wish list from your boss or client 
  • HOW MUCH (COST) can really only be estimated when the above are known. 

Let me be totally frank here (or even Fred), most project planning and execution failures come down to one of three things: 

  • You don’t deliver WHAT is required 
  • You don’t deliver WHEN it is required 
  • You don’t deliver the WHAT for HOW MUCH it was meant to cost 

What could be going wrong

I have worked and mentored many many project and programme managers on often extremely technical and complex items with many high-risk unknowns and potential hiccups but let me make it simple. 

If you produce a plan that contains the following: 

WHAT we need to do (Scope) 

WHEN we need to do it (time scales) 

HOW MUCH it will cost (budget) 

You are missing key fundamental questions that need answers. 

For example: I am going to: 

WHAT: Build a rocket 

WHEN: Next week 

HOW MUCH: Budget $1000 

What value does this have to anyone? Can it be done? Will it fail? Many project managers feed their clients or boss’ the answers that they’ve been given. Your job as a project manager is to take these inputs, work out the specification for the rocket, then proceed along the 7Q.  

For example, do you understand WHY you need a rocket? If it is to go on display in a museum, this is very different from a manned mission to Mars! 

When you understand WHY you are undertaking the project, you can provide greater detail to WHAT, work out WHERE you will design and build it (for cost planning), then work out HOW you will deliver the project. You need this to then decide WHO is needed for the project, this will have great cost implications. One person may earn 3 x another worker, so going for the highest paid worker may impact your project spend unnecessarily. 

Assuming you have all these nailed, you can calculate WHEN or how long it will take. Remember, you can’t say how long something will take without knowing these, otherwise its a pure guess, not a plan. 

Get costing! 

Now, you have 6 of the 7 questions captured, you are ready to start costing. Don’t start costing before you have estimated or planned the first 6!! 

You are now in a position to simply add all the items up with a cost against each item, and hey presto you have a budget or HOW MUCH the project will cost. 

You can now compare your costs with the client or boss’ request, and see if it lines up with peoples expectations, or see if they are miles apart. 

Next, you iterate, i.e. Go round the loop of 7Q or the seven questions a couple more times to refine your previous estimates.  

Revisit the WHY – challenge all of the assumptions you’ve been given, maybe the WHY for the rocket turns out to be to launch a new GPS satellite, that changes the whole project plan! 


So, you can have a project cost estimate by answering seven questions!!  

Want to learn some more about Fred? Check out his LinkedIn here!

Or check out another one of our blogs, our most recent: 5 Ways to Increase Conversions on Your Site.

TASKS vs OUTCOMES – Change your life TODAY 

TASKS vs OUTCOMES – Change your life TODAY 

If you sit down first thing in a morning (at work or at home) and say to yourself “What would I like to achieve today or this week?” and write down your answers, I GUARANTEE you will make MASSIVE progress.  

You should note this advice is very different to what many folks will advise. Most people advise you to create TASK lists! WRONG, throw away all of your task lists, burn them (preferably in a sustainable way), and say “Goodbye Task Lists, Hello MASSIVE future“. 

So I wander around the office on a Monday morning and someone proudly shows me their task list for the day, I read through it, “ordering some stuff, doing some expenses, blah blah,” then down near the bottom I find it, “Get back to that customer about our proposal we sent last week”. WTF is this little golden nugget doing wallowing down at the bottom of the task list? Because this lovely person is avoiding the most IMPORTANT items, the things that will really add VALUE to your business! Instead they will focus on menial crap for over half the day rather than making a real difference, and possibly not get round to it at all as other menial crap also finds its way in. 

  

What are tasks? 

TASKS are boring, they are nitty gritty, they don’t see the big picture, it’s way too easy to end up writing down loads of things that “need” doing without really taking you any closer to any of your dreams, goals or outcomes, task lists are a way of avoiding what is most important. 

I remember someone once saying “ok, write down your task list, prioritise it, then throw away the bottom 20%, because you know you’ll never do it”. This was absolutely true, as time went on it was higher, maybe 50% at least.  

The only thing that matters is achieving the OUTCOMES you are aiming for, however, I grew to realise that this approach was all wrong, I needed to start with outcomes. 

If you think of a task and you are afraid of forgetting it, you can write it down, however, put it in a bucket (or a backlog in AGILE project management), and every now and again sift through the bucket to see if anything will make a big difference in achieving your goals.  

You only let yourself sift through the bucket on planned times of the month, not as a distraction. 

  

TASKS lack focus on OUTCOMES.  

If you always focus on outcomes, you will naturally complete the most relevant tasks to achieving that outcome, but you will waste far less time on tasks that do not achieve that outcome. 

So, what are outcomes?  

Ask yourself, WHAT would you like to have achieved at the end of the week? The answers will be much more powerful than the question “What should I do?”. Doing stuff can be a waste of time if it is not aligned to a greater objective, and will see you achieve a load of low value outputs. 

Here’s a table of Tasks vs. Outcomes:  

Tasks Outcomes 
I need to upload new imagery to the site. I want my website to look more modern. 
I need to chase invoices. I need to stabilise my cashflow. 
Check out my marketing analytics. Create strategy for effective marketing plan going forward. 

YES, I agree that we all have menial stuff to do, but do it when you aren’t going to be very productive anyway, like a Friday after lunch or something, and keep the time focussed and short. 

By ditching the task list and focussing on OUTCOMES, you will stop writing down menial tasks that merely help you hide from WHAT YOU NEED TO ACHIEVE.  

No more BS, focus right down on what you need to deliver to add value, and, by the laws of the universe and statistics you WILL, if you do this all the time! 

Death to TASK lists, YES to OUTCOMES. 

Want to learn some more about Fred? Check out his LinkedIn here!

Or check out another one of our blogs: The Top 10 Marketing Tools for Your Business