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WordCamp Rhode Island Coming Up

September 24, 2016
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* Update — you can find my slides here: http://beingajile.com/slides/formula-for-custom-proposal-writing.pdf

I will post the talk when it’s available on WordPress.tv

Ok WordCampers! Rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties, cause it’s coooold out there today! Well, not really. It’s the middle of September and you can definitely feel a chill in the air, but it’s not super cold. Anyways, we all know what the middle of September means – WordCamp is coming back around!

WordCamp Rhode Island, largely put on by the wonderful people over at Linchpin Agency, is being held at New England Tech next weekend from September 30th to October 1st. If you’re interested in going and need directions, just look here – https://2016.rhodeisland.wordcamp.org/location/

I have signed on once again this year to be a speaker. My talk is entitled The Formula for Custom Proposal Writing. Still putting the slides together, but I’ve got my talk all mapped out.

Essentially, I’ll be giving away secrets about proposal writing and taking listeners through the blueprint that I use to put together solid custom web proposals. I’m super excited because I’m really passionate about writing web proposals. I’m also very grateful that I get to share my knowledge with the fantastic WordPress community.

Next weekend is going to be a lot of fun (partly because a friend of mine is flying in, yayy!!) So, if you’re not doing anything next weekend, and you’re just dying to know how to write good custom web proposals, then check out my talk — The Formula for Custom Proposal Writing.

How many people out there have a specific morning routine that consists of keeping up-to-date with what’s going on in your market, your industry, and your competitive landscape? I do! And for those of you in business, you probably do too. Well, what if you could shorten that routine? When I started in the web industry, I knew keeping up to date with the pulse of the technological community was something that just had to be done. Hence, my morning business review! I built something that really helped me shorten the time I spend online listening to the heartbeat of the industry, and I wanted to share it with all of you!

When I moved from freelance and contract web development work to business development, a whole new ballgame took shape. It wasn’t about div’s, stylesheets, includes, and semantic markup anymore; it was about competition, leads, emerging technologies, concepts, and timing. Being seen as the expert was a must, even though the experts were behind the scenes working on the solution. You have to know what’s new, what’s changed, what’s worth taking a look at, and what’s worth talking about. So, what did I do? I started going to good sources to get information. Moz Blog, Mashable, TechCrunch, Harvard Business Review, and more.

The chaos of a morning routine…

I began by viewing the industry blogs, business reviews, industry leaders’ tweets, Linkedin streams, and so on. But hopping from one source to another online takes time. I would start my morning routine for work before I got into the office. I would get up early, usually at 5am. Drink my morning coffee while watching the morning news. Then I’d hop online and look at these different blogs, go to Twitter and see what people were talking about. As I grew in my craft, I started to look at alternate sources like AMEX Open Forum and Smashing Mag, but I also looked at what agencies were talking about. It was (is) important to know what the competition is up to.

I would go to the gym around 6:30am, get to the office around quarter to 8, then continue with my search. There’s so much information out there for business development people, that it’s exhausting just thinking about which sources to read, to believe, to leverage. It also got to be a lot of running around online. I needed a place where I could bring all these different sources together, compile information, and make that information work for me as I continued to build relationships and sell web projects.

Bringing ideas to life…

So, I had this crazy idea! What if I could build a website that pulls in all the sources I look at in one easy-to-access place? Wouldn’t that shorten the time I spent in the morning? Of course it would! So, I started fleshing it out.

The first thing I did was put up a quick website under the name TheWebward.com – think forward or westward. I used WordPress, the open-source, awesomely easy application to build websites with. Even though I did front-end development, I knew bringing in RSS feeds wasn’t going to be easy, so I looked for a plugin. And I found one—WP RSS Aggregator. It did exactly what I needed it too. I ended up with a little over 50 RSS feeds that I pulled into this website. Then I separated them by pulling them into different pages — Agency, Design, Sales, Strategy, Tech, WordPress, and so on. I had all my blogs and sources in one location, and categorized accordingly.

Screenshot of WP RSS aggregator plugin in dashboard

Check out the WP RSS Aggregator plugin – it’s super easy to pull in the feed, all you need is the feeds URL, and you can choose how many previous articles you want it to pull in. Then use a shortcode to get it to display on the front-end. I ended up doing the past 5 articles because I look at the feeds often, and that was plenty for me!

Screenshot of the Webward.com

All my design RSS feeds pulled into one single page!

Continuing to add more features…

But well-known blogs weren’t the only sources I went to during my morning business review. I also went to social media, company postings, groups, and more. So, I used a few different plugins for this feature:

  1. Easy Twitter Feed Widget — which allows you to display Twitter feeds on your website.
  2. Custom Facebook Feed Plugin — which allows you to display completely customizable Facebook feeds of any public page or group. *Note – it cannot pull in private groups.

Working with these two plugins was super easy. The hard part was working it out with the respective social channels. For the Easy Twitter Feed, I had to go into Twitter and create all the widgets with the person’s (or company’s) Twitter handle to get the Twitter ID, which allowed me to pull the feed into my morning business review website.

Twitter Widgets

Now, I’m sure there’s probably an easier way to do this instead of creating dozens of widgets, but I need to get more familiar with Twitter’s API and their developer documentation (which I’m in the process of doing), so as soon as I come up with a better way to do, I’ll let you know!

It was kind of the same thing with the Facebook groups and pages. FB no longer adds the page/group ID to the end of the URL, so I had to look at the source code for the page, find their ID, and pull it into my morning business review.

Source code for FB group to find group ID

Then it was just adding a shortcode on the back-end page to get a display like this on the front-end:

Facebook Groups on The Webward

And this:

Easy Twitter Feed Widget front-end display

I aptly named this area of TheWebward — The SocialSphere.

The SocialSphere on TheWebward
The SocialSphere

Making my morning business review even better…

For a long time that was what my morning business review consisted of; Daily RSS Feeds and The SocialSphere. But I always thought about how I could make it better. I’m pulling in all this information. Some articles I like and some seem like they’d be super helpful. Others I couldn’t read right way. So, I created a reading list! I use the “Press This” button that comes with WordPress and allows you to capture articles that you want to share. When I find an article that I like or that I think might be useful, I save it. I’ll also put it in one (or two) categories, and attach tags to it like “analytics,” “strategy,” or “mobile.” This helps me class certain articles to fit with certain personas (I’ll explain later!).

The reading list eventually turned into the Article Library which separates interesting and useful articles into different subsections. My train of thought behind this was simple: as a biz dev guy I’m engaged with different types of people (or personas) and they are interested in different things. Some like content, others like education, or marketing tips. But I knew I was going to create personas and eventually attach articles to them to be used as a starter kit for my sales “toolbag” — pretty neat, eh?

Building buyer personas and developing a sales toolbag…

If you’re in business development, then you know what buyer personas are. They are a representation of the types of people you engage with to buy your product or service. Buyer personas list out their demographics, communication preference, major goals, pain points, etc. And this essentially helps you market your message and your sales pitch to them. So, I created a few buyer personas as Custom Post Types, which actually isn’t that difficult to do in WP. I also created custom taxonomies for my buyer personas that reflected the industry they were in, the role that they played, and their affect or emotional mood. Then I used Advanced Custom Fields to add more fields where I could put in their age, location, pain points, challenges, and so on.

How cool is that? Let’s look at the Tech CEO (one of my buyer personas):

Tech CEO Buyer Persona


As you can see all these different fields are on the backend like so:

Back-end Custom Post Type Buyer Persona

I also made a few spots to attach useful PDF’s, articles, and areas of interests (tags) that were already a part of the reading list.

Tech CEO Buyer Persona

If I’m engaged with a Tech CEO and I’m trying build rapport or trust with them, I can always come to my morning business review and pick an article or two they might be interested in. Or if I need talking points, I can just look at the “areas of interest” and choose a topic. It’s really just a way for me to use all the information that I’m pulling in to my website.

This is going to be different for you because we all work in different industries and we all have different buyer personas. But I wanted to show what’s possible when you start fleshing out ideas! WordPress helps because it’s super easy to use and easy to integrate with other mediums.

Adding some good vibes…

Because this was the site that I visited first thing in the morning, I needed to make it feel like home, or be inspirational. I added a big slider with nice images of the sunrise, skylines I like, and more to put me in the right frame of mind. I added an image of a “virtual high-five” to get some daps for when I needed to get pumped-up (fist bump!). Then I also used the Quote of the Day plugin by QuoteTab to pull in a new quote everyday.

Homepage of TheWebward.com
Today’s ‘Good Morning’ Quote!

This gave me inspiration. I pulled in Morning quotes, Happy quotes, Leadership quotes, Motivational quotes, Life quotes, and the list goes on. So, everyday I wake up, I go to TheWebward.com and the homepage consists of inspirational quotes, messages, and sliders that just give me good vibes. Then I hop over to my Daily Feeds page and see what’s new! It’s pretty awesome!

What’s next for my morning business review?

That’s a great question and I have a few avenues I’d like to explore. That’s why I have a Sandbox on the website! But I’ve recently put a calendar (courtesy of The Events Calendar Plugin) on it where I enter in my usually meetups, NIM groups, and WordCamps/DrupalCamps. But I wonder if there isn’t a way to integrate that with the WordPress.com WordCamp calendar. There might me, but I’ll have to do some digging. Here are the big ideas that I have (and in the name of sales):

  • Business Intelligence Engine — I know, sounds fancy, right? Well, it probably is and it may be a little outside my development wheelhouse. But I think it would be really cool to be able to set certain metrics on the site, like pulling in quantitative results and figuring out when the best time to reach out to a certain company would be. I’ll have to do a lot more digging here, but if anyone knows of open-source business intelligence software, give me a shout!
  • Case Studies — I’d eventually like to add a field for Case Studies because these are an oh so important tool in the salesmen’s toolkit!
  • Company Profiles — I’d have to do some research here too, but what’s one of the things biz dev people need? Lists, right? Everyone hates cold-calling, but if I could pull in company profiles and figure a way to attach the people I know to those companies, I might be able to do something with that. I’ll have to look more into LinkedIn’s developer documentation, and other sources like Data.com
Turning a chaotic morning into a well-oil business machine…

Yeah, that’s right! My morning business review, TheWebward.com, really ups my game in keeping up-to-date with what’s going on in the technology space! I love it! Without it, I’d still be hopping from one source to another to yet another. It literally cut my morning routine by about half the time. I can spend more time reading articles, developing cool new features, or putting in a little extra time at the gym!

So, if you’re in the business development world, I highly recommend building something like this! It’ll make your job easier and it’ll free up more time for your personal stuff! If you need any help, don’t hesitate to reach out! And, if you read the stuff I read, and follow the people I follow, then by all means, use away!

Working With Premium Themes

July 12, 2016
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We’ve all seen it — the vividly pictorial mountain landscape as the main hero image for the newest theme out there. It screams out professionalism and beauty all in the same sweeping breath. It entices us to click ‘buy’ or ‘activate’ and then…nothing…”wait..where’d the cool picture go?” Working with premium themes (and free ones) can be a discouraging activity, but it can also be a largely rewarding experience when you figure it out!

I recently redesigned my portfolio website at adamlamagna.com, and what I mean when I say “redesigned” is that I used a pre-made theme. It’s called Uncode – Creative Multiuse WordPress Theme, it was hard to use at first, but I’m going to shed some light on that in the following post. I’ve used several premium themes on a number of my digital properties. The ones I’m familiar with are Divi, Nexus, and Harmony by Elegant Themes, Brook by Korra, and Uncode by undsgn. I’m also familiar with some free themes like Sydney by aThemes, and pretty much the entire suite of WordPress.org’s 20-something series—TwentySixteen, TwentyFifteen, etc. Working with themes is a skill that should be learned by everyone (my little sister learned how to do it) so people can have the freedom to put there stuff out there!

First, the differences between free and premium themes…

I’m not sure if there is a huge difference working with premium themes versus free themes, both need to be configured (some more than others), most are compatible with the suite of popular plugins including page builders, and given an eye for design… sites can look downright professional regardless of whether or not they cost money. So, I would say this answer depends greatly on your budget because the only real difference I see is the cost.

Premium themes do sometimes include premium plugins that you would have to pay money for if you didn’t buy the theme. They’ll also include pre-made templates (which is nice if you don’t have that eye for design like myself!), but some free ones include templates too. Years ago, a WordPress user would be browsing the themes repository and find a theme they liked, usually because they thought it looked cool. They clicked on the button to activate the ‘live preview’ and fell in love with the theme. But when they installed the theme and activated it, it looked nothing like the live preview! Now, that’s only sometimes the case. With many free and almost all premium themes, there will be pages, posts, portfolio pieces that are pre-made and configured for you. Most times, all you have to do is import the ‘dummy’ content with it, and you’ve got your site. Now just substitute your own content; images and text, and you can be up and running in a day or two depending on the size of your site.

The premium theme battle…

I’m torn between the premium themes I’ve used. For the sake of this post and not making it too long, I’m going to review 3 premium themes that I’ve used and have familiarity with. They are:

  • Divi by Elegant Themes
  • Brook by Korra
  • Uncode by undsgn

I’m also going to look at a few different factors:

  • Documentation
  • Support
  • Configuration Process
  • Ease of Layout/Intuitiveness
  • Responsive
  • Cost

Let’s begin…

DIVI BY ELEGANT THEMES

About two (or so) years ago, the Divi theme made a splash! It was released in 2013 as the most intuitive page builder and theme on the market. I personally know a lot of designers that use Divi to this day because Elegant Themes keeps iterating on it that improves the experience and the output. It is a cool and versatile theme.

Divi’s documentation is pretty vast and easy to understand, they also have video tutorials explaining the page builder and theme options. When I dove into building my first Divi website, it was pretty straightforward. All you do is click ‘Use The Divi Builder’ and you can start to create cool layouts.

Screenshot of Divi builder


It’s pretty intuitive right off the bat. As you can see from the above screenshot, it asks you to insert columns. You can choose how many.


Screenshot of Divi Builder columns


After you’ve decided how many columns that particular row will be, you can start adding modules, and the list of modules is pretty vast; images, text, headings, contact forms, call-to-actions, blurbs, etc.


Screenshot of Divi builder modules


Again, it’s pretty straightforward without having to read tons of documentation. So we click on a module, let’s create a ‘blurb’ – it’ll ask you for some information, like the title of your blurb, if you want to make your blurb a link, if you’d like to use an icon, etc. But the cool thing about the Divi Builder is that there’s instructions right in the module itself. See below:

screenshot of the blurb module on Divi


If you’re not all that familiar with modules or building websites in general, then those instructions really come in handy! What’s the end layout look like, though? Well, let’s see.

DiviBuild
The Divi Builder on top, and its output on the bottom

Now, it might not look like much, but it took me about 5 minutes to make that layout. And the more familiar you get with the modules and Divi Builder, the quicker you’ll be able to do it. Divi also has ‘Theme Options’ which are kind of like the global site settings. You can add your logo, favicon, integrate with MailChimp, enable social media icons and responsive shortcodes, fonts, smooth scrolling, and more. Responsively, the layout breaks down the way it should, with the left columns going above the right ones.

So, overall:

  • Documentation: Good documentation, easy to understand.
  • Support: Really great, quick to respond and informative.
  • Configuration Process: Relatively straightforward in the Theme Options
  • Ease of Layout/Intuitiveness: Super easy, build pages in minutes. Easy to get started without reading the documentation, but the deeper you dig into the modules, the more a beginner will need help and have to refer to the documentation or support.
  • Responsive: Works well on tablet and mobile.
  • Cost: Elegant Themes has a yearly (or a one-time lifetime) subscription model. I would recommend paying the extra dollars for the lifetime membership. See here for more details: https://www.elegantthemes.com/join.php

Overall, Divi is a pretty kick-ass theme!

BROOK BY KORRA

I find Brook to be a light and responsive theme that can’t be configured with a page builder (well…unless you add one in with a plugin, but let’s not!). Regardless, it does have a some good things going for it! It seems to me that Brook is geared toward blog sites, in fact this site that you’re reading now is done with the Brook theme! Again, it doesn’t have a page builder, so the way to configure the homepage is a little trickier. You’ve got to have your homepage as your latest post page, which you’ll find in WordPress core under Settings —> Reading. Now, you will need some content before this theme looks remotely close to what the ‘live preview’ looks like on Themeforest, and they give you an option to import the demo content. Right from the beginning the theme was a little more difficult to work with than the Divi theme, but I really liked the look of the live preview, so I knew I could get it to work.

But I had to read the documentation, and if it’s one thing Brook had going for it—it’s the documentation. It’s plentiful and easy to digest, from installing WP and getting the child-theme setup to widgets and theme options.


Brook Theme customizer


The Theme Options for Brook are in the native Theme Customizer seen above. It gives you options to add a logo and favicon in the General tab. You can change the layout of the header, sidebar, and footer. You can pick your own typography, color sets, and background and do a lot more.

One thing I noticed was that in order to get the carousel on the homepage to work properly, you had to crop all your featured images to be the same size. Otherwise the carousel will scale up to the largest sized photo in your featured images. But within a post, there are more options to add a certain sized featured image for different areas, the theme just recommends that you install the Advanced Custom Fields plugin. If your post was going to be in a widget area in your footer and you wanted to use a square image instead of a rectangular one, there’s options to do that. In fact, there are more post setting options to choose from when using the Brook theme and Advanced Custom Fields:

Back-end of Brook post settings


There are also different WYSIWYG formats and elements. So if you’d like to add a dropcap, like at the beginning of this sentence, you can! It adds a little more flavor to your site to be able to put cool elements in your post. You can also add different font sizes, icons, highlighted text, cool buttons and links, image sliders, Google maps, and more! I think it’s a really cool theme to use if you’re blogging about anything, but it’s not super intuitive, you have to read the documentation in order to get it!

  • Documentation: Plenty and easy to understand!
  • Support: Good support.
  • Configuration Process: Pretty straightforward with the Theme Customizer that is native to WordPress, but the homepage is a little more difficult to configure and the documentation will need to be referenced.
  • Ease of Layout/Intuitiveness: Not really easy. For beginners, this theme might be a little difficult to get right, but read the documentation and reach out to support with any questions.
  • Responsive: Works well on tablet and mobile, they even have a tablet and mobile screen option to choose from in the Theme Customizer, it’ll give you a break down of what your page will look like.
  • Cost: $44 on Themeforest.

Overall: This theme might not be for a beginner, but it is a super cool theme to use. I love it! People have commented to me that my blog looks really cool, and I agree. It’s simple, light, not too flashy, and it puts the content front and center (which is important!)

UNCODE BY UNDSGN

My new portfolio site that I mentioned above was done with Uncode, and I will say that this was the most difficult theme to use out of all 3 of them, and this one has a page builder. The page builder is Visual Composer, but Uncode’s customized version of it. When I downloaded Uncode and imported the demo content, it broke my site. I will say that this is a hosting provider issue, apparently I did not have enough memory space with my hosting provider, so that was an issue. Simple fix though, I just called up my hosting provider and they told me how to add more memory. I will say with all the themes I’ve used, I’ve never had one that has maxed out my memory.

When you install Uncode, it tells you to install about 9 different plugins to work the way the live preview does. It has two premium slider plugins included, Layer 5 and Revolution slider, so that’s cool.  And they also have upwards of 60 different layouts preconfigured with the Visual Composer (VC). Which was nice, because if I didn’t have those page layouts already configured, I’d have no idea how to create them. VC is pretty intense.


Visual Composer screenshot


It can separate the elements by content or structure, widgets or WooCommerce (if you have that installed, you don’t need it if you’re not selling anything). But then when you drill down, the options for a single element are super complex. Because there’s not only the element, but the container that it’s in. You can adjust the row settings, the column settings, the element settings. Divi was the same way, but not nearly as many options as Uncode, which could be good or bad depending on how much freedom you want with your layout.

Icon settings for visual composer
Element settings

Row settings - Visual Composer
Row settings

 

Column settings - Visual Composer
Column settings

So, for every element, you essentially have 3 different components to adjust. And you have to watch out for the overrides. Let’s say you leave a color blank, well it’s going to grab the default color that you have configured in your ‘Uncode Theme Options’ – it took me a while to figure out what was going on when I couldn’t get the text to be light on a dark background, even though I had those settings placed in the element. It was because of the default settings in Theme Options here:

Uncode Theme Options
Uncode Theme Options

There are a lot of different theme options, from typography to social media (connections) to individual pages, posts, portfolio pieces, and content blocks. What are content blocks, you ask? Well, they are Uncode’s very own custom post type. Built in to make cool headers, footers, or other content to be used globally if need be. But you have to make sure that when you are adding a layout, you either need to override the theme options, or the look will be what the defaults are set at.

Content blocks took me awhile to figure out too. When you look at a page from the front end:

Classic Agency page - Uncode theme


It looks super cool!! But then look at that same page from the back-end:

Classic Agency - Uncode - backend


You’ll notice that the Heading text in the back-end page is not “Thinkers & Designers” like the front-end page says it is. And the featured image in the right hand corner is not the featured image on the page, so how does this exist? Good question, it exists in content blocks. If you scroll all the way down on the back-end of the page, you’ll notice this little area:

Page options Uncode


Page Options —> Header, and you can select the type of header that you want, which will be placed at the top of the front-end output of the page. The page layout with Visual Composer will start below the content block header, unless you don’t have a content block selected. There are little intricacies like this across the entire site. I was pulling my hair out at times, but the support is really awesome! They also have a lot of documentation, I would strongly recommend starting there because even for a seasoned site builder, who’s used to configuring themes, this one took me awhile.

LAMA website - home page

Now, I will say that the end product looks really cool and the design is worth the hassle, but be prepared to connect with support if you are a beginner…and even if you’re not.

  • Documentation: Lots of it!
  • Support: Great support.
  • Configuration Process: Not straightforward, there are lots of interconnecting pieces to this theme and you have to be familiar with all of them to get stuff to work, and to troubleshoot.
  • Ease of Layout/Intuitiveness: Not really easy. The Visual Composer was not that intuitive for me because there are just soooo many options. After a few days you’ll get used to it and be able to design layouts quicker.
  • Responsive: Works well on tablet and mobile.
  • Cost: $59 on Themeforest.

Overall: This theme did frustrate me, more so than the Brook theme, which I thought was way easier to use. Uncode is big, it’s a lot of code, it’s got a lot going on. But the design is freaking awesome, so it’s definitely worth it in my mind. There’s a cool plugin called VC-Particle Background that I use on my homepage, check it out – adamlamagna.com

Continuing to work with premium themes…

I’ll most likely always work with premium themes, I do think they’re fun to use and can look really really good if configured properly. If you’re just starting out and not sure whether a premium theme is right for you, check out some of these links below!

How to Get the Most Out of a Premium WordPress Theme

Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Premium WordPress Theme

Enjoy your day!

I Am My Own Worst Critic

February 22, 2016
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I’ve had two really bad performances in my career as a tech professional. One was with about 8 stakeholders from an association in New York (a well-known association) where I presented with my Director of Strategy at the time (who totally saved the presentation) and the other was yesterday at WordCamp Miami. Of course, I am my own worst critic, so it probably wasn’t as bad as I thought is was. But I know how good I can be (*insert humility here)!

My talk Coffee’s for Closers (but only if you have an established sales process didn’t get bad reviews. In fact, I got about a dozen positive tweets and a few people reached out to me to ask where they could find my slides online. Which I think is great and I appreciate everyone who said something about the talk, and everyone who sat in on the talk. But I really think people thought it was good because my slides have some really great content. I talk about Pre-sales activities, Engagement, and Post-sales. I grid out the four essentials of each stage and it’s compelling information especially for the small agency or freelancer who is unsure of their sales process or even how to start.

But I felt like my speaking style was hurried, rushed, uncomfortable. And it’s absolutely killing me today! I. Hate. This. Feeling. But, there is a silver lining. And if I can take a line from Elisha and Elyssa (@WhollyART) who have an awesome website (WhollyART.com) dedicated to positive principles, that “you need to love yourself ” and I do, I’m just a little upset with myself right now! Which I feel will give me the strength to continue speaking at events like these. Because I’m better than that!

I’m also trying to take another principle from @WhollyART and write in my genuine voice. I’m laying my cards out on the table and telling everyone that I absolutely hated my talk, and feel really embarrassed about it. And now it’ll be online for everyone to see. I also got asked a few really great questions that I’d like to take this opportunity to answer because I don’t feel like I gave the greatest answers yesterday.

So, let me see if I can remember them all:

  1. What’s the difference between a $2,500 project and a $15,000 project?
    • The answer is about $12,500 (*insert sarcasm). But in all honesty, I’ve worked for a small agency that charged $2k to $10k and I’ve worked for a large agency that’s charged $50k to $300k. The biggest difference I see between the two agencies is process, plain and simple. With the smaller agency, clients had a little more say in the project. I know that sounds weird, but clients would come to us with their IA already set in stone, they would have ideas for designs, etc. With the large agency, the process of delivering projects uncovered all those things as the project progressed. For example, the large agency would test information architecture and refine it before we implemented it. Our design process started with IA, went into wireframes, style tiles, and then mockups. The development was based on user stories. It was a more in-depth process, discovery was imperative with the large agency, while the smaller agency would usually start by putting together a few different designs. Which isn’t necessarily bad, just different. I think the main difference is process.
  2. How do you talk about money with a client? What if they won’t give you their budget?
    • Talking about money with a prospect or client is absolutely imperative. You can’t be afraid to ask them about their budget. I generally ask in a very nonchalant way “is there a number range we’re trying to stay between with this project?” as if the question is just routine and no big deal. Some times I actually get a “yeah, our budget is x-amount of dollars.” But more often than not, I get a “I’m not sure what our budget is quite yet.” or “we’re really unsure of what things like this cost, so we’re open in terms of budget.” — So, what I generally do is say “well, typical projects of that scope and size usually cost between $25k and $75k (big range), but you’re probably going to fall somewhere around $50k, give or take. Is that something that your team would be able to spend?” And if they don’t balk at the price, then continue with the conversation. If you can hear their jaw drop, maybe they’re not the right fit.
  3. If you’re a small agency and growing, what type of person should you hire to start a sales branch of your business?
    • This is a great question. So, there are a few different choices.
      • 1. The top salesmen from one of your competitors – offer them more money and they’ll come work for you. But you’ll need to have leads and resources to give this person, but they will sell, sell, sell for you.
      • 2. A sales manager or sales lead from any company in the tech industry – this person will know how to manage other people and manage sales. They’re able to think “big picture” stuff and have leadership skills.
      • 3. The failed entrepreneur – this person has failed in their own business, but they’re fighters and will do everything it takes to get the job done. They’ll work late hours, they’ll learn marketing, they’ll look for partnerships, they’ll cold call people, they will do everything in their power to be successful. I’d pick this guy.
  4. What if a client tells me their budget is $15k, and they want to do a project that I know will only take me $5k to do it. Do I charge $15k, or do I charge $5k?
    • This is another interesting question. But I would do everything in my power to get as close to their budget as you can (obviously, without being unethical). Most likely, agencies can charge higher rates. This depends on a number of different parameters including market size, location, type of client. But if a client comes to you and says we want to do this project and our budget is $15k, then you come back and say “I’ll do it for $5k” – that client is going to start to wonder why things are so cheap. That’s a huge disparity – $10k between those two numbers. Now, it wouldn’t be that much of a difference if your client had a budget of $100k and you came at $90k. But telling a client that you’ll charge them $5k when they already told you their budget is $15k, will make your client shop around to other agencies. There is always that possibility that they will think you’re missing something. And this is a classic example of value perception. They already value that project that you’ll potentially do at $15k (that’s why they gave you that budget), they don’t see the technical side of things, they see a number. And when you come back with $5k, that value (no matter what the actual value is) to them doesn’t seem valuable at $5k. When a client gives me a budget on a web service project, I try to get as close to that budget as possible. And obviously you want to add value (which you can do) but maybe it’s time to revisit your rate.
  5. What are the features you want to look for when shopping around for a CRM for a small agency or even just one person?
    • When shopping around for a CRM you want to look at a few different things. The two most important things are a ‘Contacts’ list and a ‘Deals/Opportunities’ list. Without these, there is no CRM. You need a place where you can keep track of your contacts and all their associated data – phone number, email, company name, etc. and a place to keep notes on them is great too. You also need a ‘Deals’ or ‘Opportunities’ list so you can keep track of what stages opportunities are in so there’s no confusion what you need to do as the deal progresses. Other things I look for are features that log activities, you want to be able to log the emails you have with someone or the phone conversations, etc. HubSpot has a great feature called Sidekick, which will let you send emails right from the CRM, check it out! Also being able to create tasks for yourself, and schedule upcoming calls and meetings is something else you want to look at.

If I’ve forgotten any, I apologize! But I want to take this time to say thanks for all who came to my presentation.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson. I know a number of people who have had horrible speaking experiences and end up never speaking again. I cannot be that person! So, I’ll get back on the saddle and give it another shot. But before I do I’ll be reading a number of public speaking books and I will definitely be prepared for the next talk I give! Upwards and onwards!

WordCamp RI and the Open Source Community

October 2, 2015
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As you all may know, last weekend was WordCamp Rhode Island. It was awesome! I had a fantastic time. My talk – Coffee’s for Closers – went really well. I got a lot of great feedback and compliments afterwards. But I want to talk briefly about the different types of sessions and the community itself.

There were three tracks this year for WordCamp RI – 1) WordPress for Beginners. 2) WordPress for Developers. 3) WordPress for Business. This was the first year we had something like this, and it turned out to be very successful. I think it was the biggest representation of the open source community in Rhode Island ever! Nice job, everyone!

It really had something for everyone. If you were just getting into WP and wanted to know how to set yourself up with a .org CMS, instead of a .com, that was available. If you were a hard core developer and wanted to know how to contribute to WordPress core, that was available. And if you were a part of the business community in WordPress (selling WP sites), then there was something for you too!

Unfortunately, I was unable to see very many talks because I was stuck behind a booth (which I enjoy!) talking to people about WordPress, letting them take some Oomph swag, and just being there to answer any questions. But there were a couple talks that stuck out. In case you didn’t realize, I was most comfortable in the WP for Business track!

Aileen McDonough, owner of 3amWriters (they are creative communicators) talked about content – Content is King – her stage presence was elegant and her knowledge is vast. She talked of tools to use to make your lives easier as content creators much easier. Thanks for telling me about TweetDeck! Super cool!

Then there was Brett Cohen from eMagine (a digital agency), he talked about landing bigger clients. Their whole strategy for getting clients is based on outbound sales. Even Brett will admit they get clients”the hard way!” But he talked about starting eMagine and the successes/failures he went through to turn it into one of the east coast’s premier digital agencies. He gave me some great advice on landing better clients.

Jesse Friedman, from Automattic, gave the Keynote speech. It was awesome! He was funny, serious, and heartfelt. He talked about how far the internet has come! Look at what we’ve done in just a short amount of time. He discussed how important it is to be a part of the open source community and giving back to it. And thanked us all for being at WordCamp. His keynote was inspirational!!

All in all, WordCamp was a fabulous weekend. I met some terrific people and companies, and had a wonderful time helping those who had questions. It’s just nice to be a part of a community that accepts any one at any skill level. The open source community just wants people to be jazzed about the open source community….and WordPress!

Presentation & Slides from WordCamp RI

September 30, 2015
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Hey everyone, the open source community had a great turnout for WordCampRI. My presentation went really well and is up on WordPress.tv – check it out below!


And if it’s hard to see my slides, you can follow along with the PDF version here – http://beingajile.com/pdf/coffee.pdf – there’s more text on this version because I wanted to keep my talk as text-free as possible. I wrote a short post on WordCamp and the Open Source Community, it’s a great group of organizations, companies, agencies, teams, and individuals, I’m honored to be a part of it!

Hope you enjoy!

And if you ever want to check out the scene of the real Coffee’s for Closers, enjoy this video! PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN!