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Signs Of A Good Project Management Team

Published on March 5, 2014
Tags: Internet Communication

Project management teams are the backbone of many successful businesses. Typically, a dedicated team will use their skills and expertise to plan, organise and implement different projects for various clients. In this article we’ll discuss how we approach projects here at Ampheon, and we will also be looking at what makes a good project management team.

At Ampheon, the initial stage involves selling our services to prospective clients. Once a client has signed up, that’s where the project manager steps in. Our team and the client will then work together to produce a high-end brief which covers the client’s requirements.

The first step is asking the client what problem they want to solve, and it’s the project management team’s duty to find the solution. As a simple example, the problem could be a lack of online presence, and the solution could be to create a blog.

A good project management team understands that no two clients are the same. When looking at how to tackle the client’s problem, it’s also important that all options are considered. This can sometimes mean that when a client appears to have a definitive solution to their problem, we would need to pitch other possible ideas. To be able to use initiative and come up with other solutions, the team must contain experts in the field of the client’s business area.

In effect, it is our duty to take away the administrative duties of a project from clients as much as possible. But, it’s the client’s deliverable at the end of the day, and the responsibility and control must lie with them.

Perhaps the most significant element within project management is communication, and this applies to pre, during and post-project. Without good communication between client and service provider, the project is doomed from the start. The project must be clearly defined from the outset; this means that the client must know what they are getting and how they are getting it.

There must be initial agreements on who is responsible for delivery, as well as on the frequency of communication. Does the client want updates daily? monthly? Do they want to receive these updates via e-mail? telephone? post? The client chooses the level of communication they wish to receive, which further asserts their control of the project.

From our experience, it is best to have a single point of contact, as this reduces the possibility of information being miscommunicated or not communicated at all.

Communication is particularly vital in cases where the client has its own project management team. In cases such as these, the project manager will need to agree with the client’s internal project manager on who is taking lead, and we’ll also need to decide on what team is responsible for what duties.

A good project management team is one that continues to execute high-level communication throughout the project. If there’s a change in the client’s requirements, this must be dealt with accordingly. The change could require a simple minor adjustment, but it may be a big change that would need a second-sign off. If this is the case, more time may be needed to complete the project, which could mean the client would be charged more for the service.

Organisation is another factor that can make or break projects. To help us achieve excellent organisation, our team has moved away from singular communications and instead have opted for a centralised online management tool. This tool organises and stores everything in one place, which helps to ensure that nothing is lost.

A good project management team will establish a good methodology for the way they handle each project. We at Ampheon use PRINCE2 (Projects in Controlled Environments), a UK government standard framework that covers projects of all scales. With the majority of project management teams using this standardised tool, communication is simplified and there is less chance of making mistakes.

Receiving client feedback during the project is also essential. At our company, this involves moving a project from the development stage into the testing environment. The client has the chance to see and trial the project, and report back on what they like or don’t like so that changes can be made if necessary.

After a project has been signed off and completed, a good project management team will always follow-up with the client. We send a ‘lessons learned’ report, which details feedback from both teams and suggests areas for future improvement. This report benefits both sides, and helps us to grow and develop with each new project we take on. 

By Chelsey Evans

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Updates to Google Places Dashboard: Integrating Google+ Local

Published on April 15, 2013
Tags: Internet Communication

Businesses of all shapes and sizes have come to rely on Google Places in order to manage the information that appears in search results concerning their company. Generally, it’s a great way of allowing local customers to find out more about your business before they visit you.

There were mixed reactions when Google started to replace their Google Places tool with Google+ Local; businesses – especially small ones – could now be easily found by potential clients, and they could promote their business while interacting with their existing clients. On the other hand, Google+ Local was found by some to be unreliable and just plain confusing. The whole process of updating the way listings are managed from Places to Google+ Local has been slow and frustrating, but there’s now a new step in the process that should help business owners to manage their existing listings.

So what updates have Google introduced in order to make Google+ Places a more viable application? Basically, a staged upgrade has begun in the Google Places Dashboard which offers some new functions and also keeps within the themes of the Google+ design in general. Here is a quick run-through:

Better Integration

The new dashboard shares several features with Google+, including the possibilities of using the social aspects such as sharing images and posts. This, of course, will only work if the business owner has already signed up for a Google+ account, but it is well worth getting an account for. This integration means that users will be able to smoothly navigate around the dashboard without getting stuck when they try to incorporate content from Google+.

New Layout

The new update means that the dashboard now resembles other Google layouts; for example, the navigation links are in the left-hand column, and the rest of the page is more consistent with the Google+ design. Separate tabs for AdWords, your Google+ Local page, and listing information management should also make the dashboard much easier to use.

Faster Data Updates

Speed was a big issue before – it could take far too long for simple edits to appear on a business’s Google+ Local page. The updates should help make this process quicker in general, but Google has also said that updates will be much faster, too; in fact, all updates should be completed in less than 48 hours. This could be the most important update to businesses who rely on getting customers through Google; before, even just a week of having the wrong phone number on their listings could damage their business and push away potential clients. Now, any changes should appear within just two days.

There are also other services that the new Places for Business dashboard will be incorporating: for the first time, businesses who don’t have their own location but who travel to their customers will be able to list their services, opening the door for many more small businesses and sole traders to start using Google+ Places.

Whether the dashboard will be a total success remains to be seen, but these updates could prove to be extremely useful for business owners of all types.

By Chelsey Evans

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How to use Twitter for Marketing Purposes

Published on April 15, 2013
Tags: Internet Communication

It may seem that social media sites may not bring a great deal of customers to your business – compared to search engine results or pay per click campaigns, for example – but Facebook and Twitter are your word-of-mouth publicity for the digital age, and you shouldn’t underestimate them. Creating a Facebook profile and sharing photos and videos is usually the first port-of-call for businesses trying to build a social media presence online, but Twitter can be just as useful a tool for engaging with your existing clients as well as any potential customers. Here are just a few tips on how to use Twitter when marketing your company.

Build Your Brand

At its most basic level, Twitter allows you to expand your brand to another area of the internet. Twitter is hugely popular, and although it can be a challenge getting your message across in 140 characters or less, it gives you a chance to communicate with people on both a mass and individual level. Making use of hashtags and trending topics will also help you to locate users that could be interested in your business but who don’t yet know who you are. It’s also an opportunity to be a bit more creative and show your company’s fun side; post unique images, ask your customers questions, or start a Twitter contest in order to gain new followers. The characters you can type may be limited, but that doesn’t mean your ideas have to be.

Improve Your Customer Service

Twitter is great for communicating with customers. Don’t just follow your clients back, though; engage with them. If they ask you a question, reply (as soon as possible) – they’ll remember this and think of you (rather than your competitors) the next time they want something that your business sells or provides. You can make use of private messaging for more individual requests, but replying via a Tweet will show others that you care about your customers, and that you take the time out to respond to them on an individual basis.

Create Useful Online Relationships

This can be both in terms of customers and other businesses; Twitter can help you to build relationships with others that will benefit your company. It can be as easy as following users back, Retweeting their messages, and encouraging others to follow them as well. If you help to promote one of your suppliers, for instance, they’ll more than likely return the favour, and it may help your communications in the future if you need to discuss business matters with them.

None of this is rocket science, but it can end up taking up a lot of your time, so be selective in what you use Twitter for; some businesses Tweet about all kinds of irrelevant things that go on in their office, for example, but if you don’t have the time, don’t do it – it can make a company seem ‘cool’ and ‘real’, but it can also annoy your followers.

By Chelsey Evans

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Multilingual Website - Things To Consider

Published on March 18, 2013
Tags: Internet Communication

Thanks to the internet, smartphones, tablets and other technological advancements and devices, the world seems to be getting smaller by the day.  People in Asia can just as quickly get in touch with you as people in the UK. Even if you’re a small business, this means that you have to take other countries – and therefore, other languages – into consideration when creating a website. Making your site accessible to a wide range of countries can help build your brand and increase profits considerably – if you do it right. Many things can get lost in translation, and the language barrier is just as present online as anywhere else.

So, aside from the actual coding and building of the site (which professional web development companies can help you with), what are the main things to consider when creating a multilingual website? Here are just a few pointers.
1. Be Aware Of Cultural And Language Differences
If you want to attract customers from all over the world, you’re going to have to offer your website in a variety of different languages, but make sure you take cultural differences into consideration. For example, using one version of Spanish to appeal to both Spanish and Latin American people is showing a lack of knowledge concerning the intricacies of the two languages – they’re not the same, and a Spaniard could be insulted by Latin American Spanish and vice versa. It’s the same with China – with such a big and important market, you should know the differences between the languages spoken in various different parts, as mixing them up could cost you business.
2. Take SEO Differences Into Account
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is an invaluable tool for marketing your business online, but care needs to be taken when you’re reaching out to a world market. You can get programs that will translate your content into several different languages (although you’ll need to make sure that it is done properly and won’t insult foreign businesses with a seemingly poor grasp of their native tongue), but you can’t assume that popular keywords will be translated correctly. Instead, use Google Trends to match the English word against popular translations. 
3. Do Research Into Social Media
While it’s true that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are used the world over – and used to promote businesses and market products, as well – you shouldn’t assume that all of your potential customers will be signed up to them. For example, the governments of some Asian countries block websites such as Facebook, so trying to reach out to, say, potential Chinese customers using popular social media probably won’t be money well spent. Instead, spend a little time doing research into the country’s own similar social websites, or adjust your marketing budget to accommodate the differences in internet usage in different countries.
Creating a multilingual website or international brand can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but if you do it right, it could be the best move your business ever makes.

By Chelsey Evans

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How To Create Effective Email Marketing Campaigns

Published on March 18, 2013
Tags: Internet Communication

Some businesses are moving away from using email campaigns to promote themselves and their products, however, it is still one of the quickest, easiest, and cheapest ways to communicate with potential clients from all over the world, and as long as you carefully plan your campaign and target it specifically to your customers, email can still be extremely effective when it comes to converting visitors into buyers:

1. Plan Your Objectives 
What is your main objective? Do you want to attract new customers? Build on your relationships with existing clients? Or get useful feedback that will help you to strengthen your brand? Knowing what your targets are will help you with planning your email strategy – when and how often you will email the customers, what the content of the email will be, and which calls to action you’ll include in the body of the message. Smart-targeting your campaigns to your visitors’ demographics is also very effective; organise your subscribers into subsets and write tailored emails for each category by looking at their age, gender, background, purchase history etc.
2. Opt-In And Opt-Out
Permission is an important part of email campaigns – with so many people worried about spam, it is vital that you get people’s permission before you start sending them messages. This can be done simply with an ‘opt-in’ choice, and if you really want to gain the trust of your subscriber, go for a ‘double opt-in’ option. This involves sending the subscriber a confirmation email with a link that they then have to click on to verify their wish to be included in the mailing list. Just as important is including an ‘opt-out’ link at the bottom of every email you send, and make it obvious; people want to know that they can unsubscribe at any time.
3. Include Topical News And Entertainment Items
If you want to add something extra to your emails, alluding to topical news items in your messages will help to grab people’s attention. If you target the types of popular culture references to your audience, they’ll be more likely to read the entire email and remember your brand in the future. Plan ahead for upcoming events, and use social media such as the trending topics on Twitter to see what people are talking about at the moment.
4. Be Mobile Friendly
An important point to consider is the rise of smartphones and tablets. Mobile devices are getting more and more popular and you need to ensure that your emails will be readable on a small screen. This means avoiding bombarding people with huge blocks of text, and remember that the first line of an email is especially important as it is often displayed as the preview on smartphones, so make sure it’s engaging and informative.
5. Test Everything
Lastly, test each email before you send it – make sure it’s readable, that the links work, and that the logos and other images are placed properly. Keeping track of open rates, click rates, and sales will help you to improve your campaign in the future, so make sure you make use of reporting tools with regards to your emails.

By Chelsey Evans

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Disclaimer: The contents of these articles are provided for information only and do not constitute advice. We are not liable for any actions that you might take as a result of reading this information, and always recommend that you speak to a qualified professional if in doubt.

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