Website 101 for the creative types

You are a Musician. You are a Band. You are a Writer. And you want to set up a website for yourself; your book, your music, your life. Heck, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?

So I was speaking with this friend of mine from college, a musician. It surprises me that it took him this long to break away from the staid stable corporate job and chase his musical dream.

This post comes out of a couple of back-and-forth emails…. All you musicians, bands, writers: please take note.

The first point to understand is that the website is merely a tool, a medium. It’s a medium to reach out to your audience, to reach out to your would-be-sponsors, to get published, to be hired, to be loved (and your end-product to be purchased. And read / listened) by people. That’s why you are here, right? Or why are you here? Put your novel up on a blog. Put your music up on Myspace.

The second is that the website is just one of the many tools you use. An email is a tool. Your Facebook and Mypace pages are tools. Your tweets are tools. Your live gigs are tools. Your book-reading sessions are tools. Your Youtube video is a tool.

Third: What sets the website apart is that most often than not, it is the first thing that your would-be fan sees when (s)he types your name on the search page. It is first impression, and you would like to make a good one.

Okay? Now back to your website. First, answer these questions.

1.       What are you offering?

You have a band. You have had a couple successful gigs; a few fans; a stalker … You are on your way. Answer this, then. What does your band stand for? Not the simple ‘Avante-garde-pop with a bit of punk and some Ali Farka Toure influence” or the “A bildungsroman on growing up in the capital city of India”– that’s what you do. That’s what you have created. Who are you? What do you stand for? What is your promise to your audience? What should they expect from you?

2.       You are a brand. What’s that brand? What is your brand image?

You are a mystical sufi-influenced rock band. You are an anonymous writer. Then why do you want to make yourself public, like a frog? It’s self-defeating. If you are Where’s Fluffy, you should not have a twitter feed, leave alone a web-page. You understand what we are getting at?

3.       What do you want to achieve via the website? Why should you have a website? What purpose does it intend to serve you?

This is important. The first question should not be ‘why not a website too’, but rather ‘why a website’? My friend is, in my opinion, a genius; and I feel he needs to have a website. But I am a fan and a friend. He is the artiste; he is the one in charge of his image. If the website does not add to his image, then why invest the energy into it? If the website does not help in reaching out to the influencers (music producers, record labels, publishing houses et al) or the audience (readers, listeners); then why have a website?

4.       A one-liner.

Now write a one-liner about your offering to the world. Your world-view, your music, stems from that one-liner. Your website obviously is an extension. Think about the above three points, when you are getting at this. Speak with your agent if you have any. Ensure you are coherent and consistent; in all the media outlets.

Now fill in the gaps and create your website.

  • There are hundreds of places from where you can buy your domain. (GoDaddy etc are common ones)
  • There are myriad website templates that you can pick up online. Google them. Ensure that they mirror your image. A spartan wordsmith should not have an orange-and-red-and-green flames-and-popups, and a glam-rock band should not have a plain-white background, bare-details website.
  • Link all your other tools into the website.
  • Your twitter feeds into your website.
  • Your Facebook posts do the same.
  • I should, with one click, go to your Myspace page where your music could be listened to.
  • I should, with one click, read a sample story or an excerpt of your soon to be published novel.
  • You should have a homepage that gets the attention you want. And is brief.
  • You should have a page which mentions what other people are saying about you.
  • Normally, you should have a page which gives your detailed contact information.
  • If you have a blog, link to the website.

And that’s just the basic stuff.

But you are on your way already. You know what you are looking for; I don’t think you need any more advice from this uncreative old suit.

You are the creative mind. So show the creative.

Wow us!

Last Question: What is our pedigree? Why should you listen to us?

There is an option. Don’t. But we’d read through a bucket-load of information on this topic available on the internet, spoke on this to a few creative people we know, and this piece is well-researched. And well, we have been marketers. Not books, not music bands, but other things; companies, products and services.  Some of them were excellent companies, super services and mind-blowing products. Some of them were rank bad. Just like there are good and bad writers, and good and bad musicians…

And good and bad marketers.

So do some more of your own reading, and get at your website. Or don’t. But don’t go in blind, please…

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The ‘Right’ price for your shovel, (or) what has ethics got to do with it?

Remember this old post where we had written about The right price for your products?

Taking it forward from there, we would like to bring to you this post from HBR.

After a Blizzard, what’s a fair price for a shovel?

We discussed, and what follows was the quick post one of us wrote, and in fact insisted upon over email.

Haha..simple, pricing objective needs to be clear….it is not just about one season profit.

Also if we are assuming that the shopkeeper will gather inventory before the start of winter, then why won’t the consumers do the necessary preparation for the season and buy shovels and other necessities?

….now, there could be some lazy bones like me who will start digging a well when they are thirsty…also, there could be some instance where shovels will break…now, if a shopkeeper wants to squeeze money from those cases in point, it is absolutely fine, if the pricing objective is being met.

i.e if my business (my shop’s sales) is unpredictable and I am not sure about sustainability till/ during next season, and I am really in a cash crunch situation, I would milk the cow by increasing the price……think if I don’t have this unpredictable  cash crunch situation, but I increase the price, what will happen if rest of the season (even next year season) is normal winter – I will lose customer loyalty………………………………..

NOW, OF COURSE if it is not about me, but we all lobby and increase the price at once (and there is not a game theory defaulter), enjoy the profits (you may never enjoy this in future, as consumers would be extra cautious (prepared in advance) from next time onward – But not all; humans are humans) 

Shortstack: How to evaluate your Facebook page

Do you keep in touch with Shortstack? we have been, and think that their blog (sociallystacked) is a little bit excellent. Do read often, strongly recommended.

Here’s the read-today of the day.

How to evaluate your Facebook page – a checklist.

We love checklists. (Sometimes) Operations Consultants like us love checklists. Here’s one, and (what we assume is a) good one. And a practical one. So go take a dekko. Cheers.

Business proposal management and RFP response- Part 3

The Characters in a Proposal Management endeavor, and their responsibilities:

  • Leadership

—  Recommend / Approve pursuit team resources

—  Makes final call Bid/No Bid decision

  • Pursuit Lead (from Operational Vertical or Sales)

—  Owns the Business Opportunity

—  Determines sales strategy and win themes (working with Leadership)

—  Performs content review

—  Complete executive summary (working with Proposal Specialist)

—  Provide direction to pursuit team

—  Responsible for overall soundness of final proposal

  • Sales (The Sales representative could be chosen to be the Pursuit Lead in many cases)

—  Explains the client scenario and provides client viewpoint

—  Communicate key issues within client that affect win / loss

  • Solution Architect

—  Develop tie between prospect’s business and host organization’s capabilities and solutions

—  Develop delivery approach, service and technical solutions

—  Provide costing and pricing support

  • Proposal Manager (Sometimes the Proposal Manager doubles up as the Pursuit Lead)

—  Schedule internal governance checkpoints

—  Timelines and milestones management for RFP

—  Action items tracking and escalation to Practice Leads

—  Issue Management and escalation to Practice Leads

  • Proposal Writer

—  Provide presentation development support: to sub-teams and Solution architect; documentation edit – theme alignment

—  Analyze incoming client RFP requirements and ensured response is compliant

—  Coordinate research, editing, writing and production with designated staff (along with Proposal Manager)

—  Follow-up on missing information (along with Proposal Manager)

—  Manage content (along with Proposal Manager)

  • Other Stakeholders

—  Finance / Legal / Compliance etc.

 

 

*Previously on Business proposal management and RFP response: Expectation Setting. Introduction. When NOT to bid.

HBR Post: Strategy and the Uncertainty Excuse

Go to HBR. Read this. Please. (click here).

Absolutely superb, superb article. The last paragraph is a killer!

Without making an effort to ‘do strategy,’ though, a company runs the risk of its numerous daily choices having no coherence to them, of being contradictory across divisions and levels, and of amounting to very little of meaning. It doesn’t have to be so. But it continues to be so because these leaders don’t believe there is a better way.

So many companies we have seen fall into this trap. We refer to this amongst ourselves as the ‘tactical trap’; and which has also been called the ‘bias-for-action trap’.

Tactics. Execution. Strategy. Planning. THESE ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

How to know when NOT TO bid for an RFP

This comes as the response to a comment to a previous article: it makes sense to expand on the point.

The former Chief Commercial Officer at my previous organization, Rob, championed and created the template for a “Pond Map” which every practice / vertical leader had to create for his/her practice. The concept was about ‘which pond do you want to fish in?‘ i.e. who is your client? Parameters were created to define and drill deep into the identity of the client for each practice. And every new RFP and every new proposal was expected to go through this pre-defined pond map (note: pre-defined by the practice), and were rejected if the client requirement and the pond did not fit.

A Few observations:

  1. Everyone likes to throw a bowl of spaghetti on the wall, hoping that some will stick. Maybe some will… but the resources used up for this exercise is immense and eventually worthless, especially for an organization which does not have infinite resources.
  2. It trained me and many other strategy team members to ask a basic question to every practice leader, even at the business-case stage – ‘who is/are the client that you would DEFINITELY NOT go for”. Unsurprisingly, the most common response from almost every practice leader was – ‘you know, I don’t think anybody is out of our pond”.
    Well, if everybody is in your pond, you don’t even know what is your pond. And that would get us back to spaghetti throwing.
  3. One common refrain from Sales and Practices was that – There is sureshot money here, would you not go for this deal? While it was not openly said, I think answer is ‘Yes’. every deal is a sureshot win until the prospective client chooses someone else. The process has to be more important than a hunch.

This lets the organization rationally judge and say YES or NO to go for a project. That is: you have yourself defined your pond. This deal falls out of the pond. So this project is out, we are not bidding for it. Even if the tool is not used, the concept is certainly something that every organization should embrace.

Helps in way too many things too. Consider this: if you have defined the opnd you want to fish in, how easy does the initial market identification and market sizing become?

This was one smart, smart tool. The tool is copyrighted by Rob (link), thus I don’t think I can speak about the specifics (parameters and all) here. So decided to just share with you, reader of this blog, the concept.

*Previously on Business proposal management and RFP response: Expectation Setting. Introduction.

Business proposal management and RFP response- Part 2

Introduction: Understand!

The client has asked for a proposal. Or the sales/ research team has found out about an RFP. And you are responsible for the RFP response.

That’s a fun part of writing a business proposal: whatever your role may be: Proposal Manager; Solution Architect; Solution design team member; Sales; Marketing; Account Manager; Product Manager; Subject Matter Expert; EA to the CEO…. It does not matter. You might be called upon to write a proposal. It will be expected that since you know the subject matter, you can handle a project and you can communicate (and communicate well, I hope), you will be able to get the proposal out the door.
What now? What should be your first step?

Understand! Simple as it may seem, understanding the client, the RFP and the purpose your deliverable document expects to serve, is the first step to get a good proposal written.
And it is often (and sadly) neglected in the crazy quest for content; for the SME, and for the financial proposal.
Not saying that they are not important. They are extremely important – but you are putting the cart before the horse if you concern yourself with the price you quote before you have understood the proposal.

Points to remember: 

  1. Understanding is the key to success:
    You will have to understand your client and their need, if you want to win this deal. Here’s a basic (non-extensive) checklist. Get 30 minutes from the sales rep or the senior management representative and try to get answers to these questions (and then document the findings). They will not think that these are stupid questions to ask, take it from me.
    a. Why has the client chosen to float this RFP? Why does the client want to see your proposal?
    b. What does the client want through this proposal– direct and implied?
    c. What is the biggest pain-point of the client organization? What are the other known pain-points?
    d. Who is / are the decision makers and influencers to this deal? Are the organizational pain-points (as above) the pain points of the decision makers too? Why?
    e. What are the business drivers? Example: Cost reduction? Efficiency improvement? Productivity improvement? Unhappy clients? Lack of quality resources? Management mandate? Introduction of a new service?
         This is absolutely critical. If you have not identified the business drivers, you will NOT win this deal.
    f. What is the as-is state with the client? (If this is mentioned in the proposal already – make 3-4 bullet points on this, and discuss to ensure. What meets the eye through the proposal might not be the absolute truth on-ground)
    g. Who will be adversely affected by the changes due to the implementation as per the RFP? Is one of the influenced parties in the decision-making team?
    h. How is this proposal different from others (or not)?
    i. Who are the other clients bidding for this proposal?
  2. “Every proposal is different. Every client is different”.
    Very true. You will hear this from your sales team often.
    But…
    More often than not, the same template, the same flow, the same content with minor changes will be put in your proposal. And then your proposal will not win.
    Don’t!
    You are the master of your proposal. Take ownership. If your proposal deserves and demands to be different from the standard, then for all practical purposes, make it different. Similarly, don’t be different for different’s sake.
  3. The proposal / RFP response is NOT an informational tool, it is a marketing tool.
    Many experienced proposal managers will tell you – “Answer the question!”
    And they are right. Do answer the question. Never fail to answer the question.
    But….
    If you just answer the question, then you are depending on your product being so good that it does not matter what your competitors say or project, unless they lie (and lie they would not)
    Are you really THAT good?
    If you are not, you will have to project yourself and market yourself. Heavily.
  4. Don’t lie.
    Apart from the fact that you should never lie…
    You are also ensuring that a failed due-diligence will ensure that the client is a no-go zone for you; and what’s more, word does get around.
    Does that mean you’d have to only stick to the straight and narrow? No, of course not. Project your forte. Ensure that your efforts to improve your foibles are heavily highlighted. Market yourself. Sell yourself.
    You can do all that without lying. Trust me, you can.
  5. Take ownership. You, and only you, are accountable for this proposal. Everyone else is a responsible party, or an influencer.

And if your sales team insists that the proposals and RFP response does not win you deals: They are wrong!
While you do need efforts in other areas also, good proposals do indeed win you deals.
And bad proposals definitely, definitely, definitely lose you deals.

 

 

*Previously on Business proposal management and RFP response: Introduction.