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5 Things 2020 Taught Me About Remote Leadership

leadership lessons

Only one year ago, I shared how the trend was moving to remote work. According to a survey from CloudApp, more than 50% of younger generations were working from home at least part of the week, new startups were launching remote, and companies like GitLab were carrying the torch of possibility.

Little did I know how much that would be accelerated due to a global pandemic. In March, we were thrust into the unknown, and “2 years of digital transformation talks were crammed into 2 weeks,� said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. The tech world moved remotely. Here is what I have learned over the year leading a marketing org and company that previously was not remote.

1. Find your comfort zone

I started like most of you. Unsure of what to do and how to make it work. My first day was spent in my basement on an IKEA kids chair and laptop on my lap.

Day 1 of remote work.

Some remote setups are better than others.

I was literally and physically out of my comfort zone with my nice desk, big monitors, and complete quiet. It has taken time to adjust, to find a groove. I still haven’t quite figured it out and may not ever figure it out until we return to the “old normal.�

What I have learned is that it’s important to adapt and find peace with a new situation. At the very beginning, my team and I did 10-minute standup chats every morning. It was a chance to replace the familiar morning conversations that happen casually at the start of work. Those have gradually faded to a normal weekly cadence, but was a helpful way to stay connected.

I take productivity breaks at home, make sure to play with my kids during that time, so they aren’t desperate for my attention during an important meeting. I also try to separate work and home as much as possible, but I have definitely had a toddler join me on plenty of Zoom calls. These things have helped me to find some sort of comfort zone with change.

Once you find a new normal spot, you will be able to lead better. You can find ways to help others when you have taken care of yourself.

2. Capture the moment

Remote Startups
Be nimble as a remote leader.

Leading marketing at CloudApp, in which screen recorder and screenshot for mac and PC products help remote workers stay connected, I saw a unique moment to capture an audience and help them along the way with some remote work tips and tricks. We put out dozens of content pieces, including podcasts, webinars, blog posts, and guides. The content exploded and had over 100k views directly tied to it over a 45-day span.

Obviously, this moment was a chance for our company to lead and help in the situation. In my 15 years, I have found there are constantly opportunities like this for companies to step up and help their community. It’s important to be flexible and build in time for campaigns that capture a cultural moment in time.

These campaigns generally run hot for a few months and then peter out, but provide a good opportunity to build global awareness of your brand and strengthen ties with your community. Going through this exercise of trend content will also help you to learn how nimble your team is and how you can try and create success with similar campaigns in the future.

3. Over-communicate

remote team video conference
Meet often with your remote team. Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

It’s amazing the amount of side, informal conversations you have on a daily basis when you are side by side with your team. In remote work, those meetings are gone. How can they be replaced? I’ve taken a combination of technology and virtual meetings to do so.

Slack or Microsoft Teams can compensate for some conversations; just make sure to use them wisely. It’s important to block off time for yourself to not be available on these channels.

1:1s and team meetings can provide opportunities to give pass downs from other teams and stay connected as a team. It’s important to protect these on your calendar and not continually reschedule or cancel.

4. Project Management

All projects and campaigns should have a process to ensure they are launched on time and have good results.

Kick-off call – this can be a great time to identify the expected outcomes and timeline for a project or campaign. Everyone who is involved in cross-functionally should be invited to the kick-off call. I also love to use this time to introduce how we will track success along the way.

Project Management software – Having a place to track updates and make assignments is key to scaling, especially with multiple projects running simultaneously. Asana and Jira are both great options for project management.

The key is clear outcomes and milestones along the way. It is also helpful to have a lead for the overall project to help coordinate and ensure updates are put into the project management software.

Quick updates – these can be done with a CloudApp screen recording, a 15 min stand up meeting, or just over email/slack, whatever your company preference is. The key is to have some sort of check-in on measurement to ensure progress and accountability.

Post mortem – sometimes these can be too fluffy. Including things that went massively wrong along with the wins can be helpful in refining the process and making it smoother the next time around.

5. Have fun and celebrate

last minute gift ideas
Don’t forget to celebrate.

I still do a terrible job at this. I am a much more fun leader in person than I am remote. What I have learned, though, is that there needs to be time to celebrate. The best thing we do at CloudApp is a Cloud9 channel in Slack. This is a place that every organization can celebrate small and big wins.

Finding time to celebrate asynchronously and also in team meetings really creates a culture that wants to continue winning and connects to a leader who can help to continue that focus.

Image Credit: rebrand cities; pexels

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What Remote Work Looks Like in 2021 and Beyond

remote work

Remote work has been growing in popularity for a while now. In fact, before the novel coronavirus, over 50% of younger generations worked from home at least some of the time, according to a study from CloudApp.

The pandemic completely shifted the professional landscape. According to a Stanford study, 42% of the US labor force began working from home full-time in 2020, while just 26% of them operated out of a traditional business premise. (The remaining 32% weren’t able to work.)

In other words, remote work went mainstream. The question now is, how long will it last? Keep reading to learn our remote work predictions for 2021 and beyond.

7 Remote Work Predictions for 2021

So, what will remote work look like in 2021? We dusted off our crystal ball and took a look into the future. Here’s what we see happening in the coming year:

1. Remote Work Will Continue to Grow

In 2021, many workers will return to the office, construction site, warehouse and retail sites. Wherever it was, they worked before the pandemic hit. But many of them will also continue to operate out of their home offices. This return to the workplace is especially true for white-collar workers.

For example, major tech companies like Twitter, Shopify, Square, and Slack have announced that their employees can work from home indefinitely if they choose.

So, while we don’t expect to see 42% of American professionals working remotely for all of 2021, we do think that the percentage of remote workers around the world will continue to grow beyond the 2019 statistics.

Remote Work growth in 2021 and beyond.

2. Asynchronous Communication Will Become the New Normal

As more and more workers adopt a permanent remote work lifestyle, the need for asynchronous communication will skyrocket.

If you’re not familiar with the term, asynchronous communication is any form of communication that does not happen in real-time. In general, emails, Trello comments, phone messages, etc., fall into this category.

Synchronous communication is the opposite. This communication type happens in real-time, which means that in-person meetings, voice calls, and Zoom meetings are included.

The benefit of asynchronous communication for remote workers is clear. These folks can’t simply walk down the hall and talk with their colleagues. They might also be located in different time zones from their teammates. Asynchronous communication allows remote workers to converse with each other despite these hindrances.

If you plan to work from home (or somewhere other than a company office), we suggest using asynchronous communication tools like email, Slack, Trello, etc.

A screen recorder can also be useful for explaining complex processes and workflows to colleagues. You simply hit the record button, perform the process, and send the footage to your team. They can then watch the recording and grasp what you’re trying to tell them.

chatbot persona
Remote Work growth in 2021 and beyond.

3. Use of Visual Communication Tools Will Grow

We believe the use of visual communication tools will also increase in 2021, which totally makes sense when you think about it…

Again, remote workers aren’t able to converse with colleagues in-person — at least not on a regular basis. But seeing who you’re speaking to has numerous benefits. That’s why, according to Hubspot, nearly 100% of people claim face-to-face communication is vital to long-term business relationships.

Fortunately, visual communication tools will allow you to see your colleagues (and the projects they’re working on) while you speak to them, even if you’re working thousands of miles apart.

  • Video Conferencing: The pandemic made Zoom a household name. In all likelihood, you’ve attended a Zoom meeting or two (or 20) in the past few months. But there are other video conferencing tools that will allow you to host face-to-face meetings remotely. Some of our favorites include Highfive and ClickMeeting.
  • Screenshot Tools: Written communications are often unproductive. It can take a while to write and edit complex messages that are easy to understand. Fortunately, a screenshot tool can be used instead. Simply snap an image of your screen, annotate it with arrows and text boxes, and send it to your teammates.
  • GIF Creators: A GIF is a soundless video that loops continuously. You see them all the time on social media. As it turns out, they can be handy business tools as well. Record a quick GIF of your screen (or yourself via your computer’s webcam) and send the footage to your team. They’ll definitely appreciate the fun communication channel.

4. Company Culture Will Take Another Leap Forward

Organizations in every industry obsess over company culture. After all, if your culture isn’t great, nobody will want to work for you, which is obviously not ideal. This is why the “cool” companies offer catered lunches and technology budgets to their staff.

But when it comes down to it, culture is really about engagement, not fun perks. If you can engage your teams in their jobs, your company culture will naturally improve.

Engaging remote employees has unique challenges. Because these workers operate independently so frequently, it’s easy for them to lose touch with the businesses they’re employed by and become disengaged.

In 2021, company culture will need to take another leap forward and find ways to keep remote workers engaged. We predict that many organizations will stay connected by stressing communication more than they have in the past — and they’ll encourage employees to connect with each other socially during work hours.

remote team video conference
Image credit: Anna Shvets from Pexels

5. Organizations Will Re-Evaluate Their Retention Strategies

As remote work becomes normal for many professionals worldwide, organizations will need to reevaluate their retention strategies. After all, staffers will have more employment options than ever before because geography won’t keep them from accepting new job offers.

With this in mind, companies of all kinds will need to think long and hard about why their employees want to work for them and not a competitor. Perks like stipends, unlimited paid time off, and technology budgets can help in this regard.

But we also suggest going deeper. Try hard to connect your employees to your company’s mission and values. If they believe in the work they’re doing, they’ll stick around for longer.

Retention is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be. According to PeopleKeep, it can cost anywhere from 16% to 213% to replace an employee, depending on the position they vacate. You don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on turnover in 2021, do you?

6. Communication Skills Will Increase in Importance

We’ve talked a lot about communication so far…

Yes, we believe that asynchronous communication strategies and the use of visual communication tools will explode in 2021. But that’s not all. We also predict that the need for dynamite communication skills will increase in importance as well.

Both managers and the remote employees they oversee will need to become communication experts to maintain productivity and effectiveness.

What will this look like? Here are a few ideas:

  • More Effective Tools: Communication is easier with the right tools. We encourage you to experiment with different options like Slack, Zoom, Trello, CloudApp, and others. Then choose the ones that work best for your organization and run with them.
  • A Hands-On Approach: Management professionals will need to get more hands-on with their staff in order to keep them in the loop and engaged. This probably means regular check-ins, pep talks, and making sure they’re always acting with empathy.
  • Total Commitment: Lastly, managers and remote employees will need to commit to communication. Both parties need to make staying in contact with other colleagues and managers a priority. If either side drops the ball in this regard, communication will suffer.

7. Virtual Onboarding Will be Essential

Did you know that great employee onboarding can boost retention by 82%? Unfortunately, 88% of companies don’t onboard well…

Here’s the thing: onboarding is even more important when dealing with remote workers. Why? Because you can’t simply give new hires an employee handbook and say, “Come find me if you have any questions.” Well, you could, but it would be horribly ineffective.

At least an in-office employee in this scenario has a few coworkers nearby they can talk to. Remote staff will be all alone in their home office, thinking, “Wait, what?”

A remote work maintains its prevalence in 2021; companies will need to find ways to improve their virtual onboarding processes. A few ideas include investing in cutting-edge onboarding technology, asking experienced team members to mentor new hires via phone calls, Slack chats, Zoom meetings, etc., and getting to know new hires on a personal level.

The Future of Work

Remote work is the future. Take another look at the seven predictions above to prepare yourself and your company for the coming changes. You’ll be glad you did! But don’t stop there. Begin to implement them into your organization’s strategies and workflows.

What do you think? Will remote work look differently in 2021 than what we laid out in this blog post? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Top Image Credit: andrea piacquadio; pexels

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How to Create a Successful Product Release Marketing Plan

product release marketing

There’s always a new software or product launching in today’s ever-changing, fast-paced digital world and hoping to make traction. First impressions are extremely powerful, so it’s important to make a memorable impact. A successful product release marketing plan will capture your users’ attention and make a lasting impression.

Potential users will not buy a product if they don’t understand its purpose, capabilities, or benefits. People want to know exactly what they’re getting in return for your money, and they want to know quickly. 

Every successful product release marketing plan will be unique according to its own set of goals, requirements, and limitations, but understanding the fundamentals of what will help make your product stand out and showcase the most important aspects.

successful product release marketing plan
Learn the fundamentals of what makes a successful product release marketing plan

Pre-launch product release marketing plan checklist

A product release marketing plan summarizes the ideas, activities, and processes used to release a new product in the market. This includes market and user research, beta testing plan, press releases, user onboarding plan, and more.

Market and competition research 

There are endless options in today’s world, which means recruiting and onboarding new users can be one of the biggest challenges to overcome. Thoroughly research competitors and similar products currently available or solutions to the problem you are trying to solve. How do you fit into the competitive landscape? What makes you different from your competitors and current alternatives on the market? What are their strengths and weaknesses, and what are yours? 

Coming up with an original idea or angel can feel daunting, but demonstrating and focusing on your x-factor will help demonstrate value and influence potential users to choose you instead of your competition. 

Even if you are opening up an entirely new market, your potential user base will likely already use an alternative solution. No matter what, having tactics to reach your target market, knowing what platforms and sales channels you plan on using is important. Having a different marketing and sales process than your competitors may be a key advantage.

market research and your product release marketing plan
Even if you are opening up an entirely new market, your potential user base will likely already use an alternative solution.

User persona

The goal is to create a positive experience while fulfilling a user’s needs. Get clear on who your ideal customer is and the relative size of your target market. How do you position your company in the market to appeal to a specific user? 

It’s important to focus on the end user’s overall experience and consider their perceptions, emotions, and responses to a company’s product, as opposed to focusing too heavily on the product itself.

Define a user portfolio or persona according to a specific demographic, including age, where they live, career, marital status, etc. Define their personality, traits, and interests. Are they creative? Outgoing? Environmentally conscious? And finally, what motivates them?

Well defined and useful personas take time to develop, and they may evolve and change over time as your business or users grow. The more specific you are, the better.

Brand messaging

Customers aren’t interested in purchasing products from faceless corporations. People buy from people. Your brand messaging should reflect this notion. Connect with your audience on a fundamental and human level with consistent, targeted, and clear messaging.

Your goal is to provide your user with value. Avoid trendy styles, flashy features, or distracting buzzwords. Keep things conversational by providing clear and concise brand messaging that sound like themselves and their peers. Your users want to know the benefits, not the features of your service or product.

Benefits describe how it will directly improve your user’s life or meet their needs. For example, instead of featuring how many megabytes a device has, define how many songs, pictures, documents, etc. that will hold instead. 

Consider your target market according to psychographics and demographics defined in your user persona. Using this information gathered will help strengthen your messaging and result in convincing, appealing, and relatable messaging. Don’t worry about getting this right the first time. As you move through the launching process, your messaging will evolve and improve. 

Create a successful product release marketing plan with clear brand messaging
Connect with your audience with consistent, targeted, and clear messaging

Beta testing

Beta testing before a product release launch is a significant step as it provides insight into where the user encounters problems or experiences confusion. If several people encounter similar problems, it’s safe to say those aspects need more work.

  • Ask your users to externalize thoughts and feelings while they interact with the prototype.
  • Create a realistic environment where distractions are not eliminated
  • Takes structured and unstructured notes, including what you see, hear, and the time they spend on a task.
  • Make sure you record the session.
  • Don’t explain or name specific buttons, elements, or concepts.
  • Don’t guide or help the participant perform the task.
  • Remain objective throughout and avoid jumping to conclusions

A beta test taps into how the user perceives the solution, rather than just the reasoning behind certain product features. It’s important to limit guidance and explanation, but enough to reduce any uncertainty. If a user doesn’t understand something without an explanation, then you need to consider a solution that will address that issue through your design. 

During your beta test, it is also a great opportunity to review and improve your messaging and get some real-user feedback.

Define goals

Like every aspect of your product release marketing plan requires a goal. A launch that lacks concrete or specific goals is not going to be as effective. Typically, they will align with your marketing campaign and business goals, and ultimately it comes down to getting leads.

Define your goals clearly, including key metrics, to help capture as many leads as possible. Think of a product launch as a powerful lead generation tool. Numbers don’t lie. When it comes to digital marketing and product launches, this is a golden rule to live by!

Choose the key indicators that require tracking. With endless analytics tools and data to track, it’s essential not to lose focus by measuring everything. Get clear on what you need to measure. 

product release marketing plan goals
Define product release marketing plan goals clearly to help capture leads

Press release

Write a rough draft press release early in the pre-product launch, and come back to it later to revise and improve on it. The goal of a press release is to tell your product story. When done well, it’ll engage and resonate with your users. It is typically broken down as follows:

Begin with the most important information: the what, where, when, and how. 

In the middle, provide descriptions and secondary information. 

End with a paragraph that describes the company and provides contact information.

There are several ways a well-written press release can be utilized:

  • Send it to journalists.
  • Link to it your social media platform of choice
  • Publish it on your blog

Launching your product 

Before you get into the launch, review your user’s journey. This will help ensure a smooth launch and positive user experience. 

  • How will users make purchase decisions?
  • Do they require anything before purchasing the product offered?
  • Are you offering a free trial? A demo? A promotional launching price?
  • Who is the best person for them to speak with?
  • How do you showcase value?

With this information, you can better outline your conversion path and user journey.

As you can see, putting together a successful product launch plan requires a lot of work and effort. If done well, the launching portion is much shorter and straight-forward. This can be anywhere from a single to a week.

product release marketing user’s journey
Review your user’s journey to help create a smooth launch and positive user experience.

Promotion and platforms

First things first, where are you going to promote your message? Consider who the product was created for, how it benefits those users, and the problem it solves for them. State the specifics in short snippets that resonate with your audience. The key is authentic content that aligns with your user. Avoid blasting every channel, and focus on refining your list down to the right platforms or channels. Will your users respond well to email, paid advertisement, or social media posts?

  • Newsletters
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google Ads

Email marketing and newsletter is almost always a stellar way to connect with audiences. Set up a series of emails or drip campaigns that automatically sends emails based on specific timelines or user actions. The goal is to get your audiences excited about the launch, and some exclusive sneak peeks. Once you’ve launched, continue your email marketing campaign as a way to engage, and showcase key benefits.

Turn your launch into an event.

You don’t need your launch to be live or flashy to turn into an event. Rather, it’s all about capturing the essence of an in-person event to boost your launch. Leverage apps, host a webinar, or provide live social chat. Ultimately, you want to show customers, and the press live demos of the new product for an exclusive first look.

Organize your sales team

This is the time for your sales team to shine, so work with them to ensure they are organized and prepared for the launch. This will help capture more leads and create a better user experience. 

As mentioned above, if you are running an event, create an organized system that ensures your sales team to speak with customers. 

product release marketing event
Leverage apps, host a webinar, or provide live social chat during the product release marketing event.

Ongoing product release marketing strategy 

When you’ve developed and launched a new product or service, you want to ensure you have created the best experience. This will greatly increase the likelihood of creating loyal users and increases the chances that they will complete targeted or directed actions.

Go-to-Market Guide

Create an organized go-to-market guide that includes all launch activities, planning, and goals in one place or document that is clear, complete, and easily shareable. 

Creating your go-to-market-guide can include information about market research, pricing, competitive analysis, user personas, social media plans, and any relevant information that will help create a successful product release marketing plan after the launch.

Your Releases

Your releases should also include lots of how-to tutorials. You can create these using a free screen recorder or even a GIF maker. Also, look to use a screenshot tool to add imagery to all of your customer support help docs. 

Another aspect to keep in mind is collecting and leveraging user feedback.

When you’re searching for a product, service, or company, you probably ask close friends, family members, or colleagues for recommendations. Alternatively, you may google reviews and testimonials.

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews and testimonials are hands-down the most effective lead generation techniques. This is one of the easiest and best parts as your satisfied customers will write this for you. It’s the difference between you telling someone about your strengths versus someone else singing your praises. 

Provide satisfied customers an opportunity, and an incentive, to leave a review. Ensure testimonials are front and center of your ongoing product release marketing strategy.

Image Credit: Oladimeji Ajegbile; Pexels

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7 Tips to Create the Perfect Product Onboarding Checklist

onboarding checklist

Product onboarding or user onboarding can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. Making a user onboarding checklist is easier said than done. Ultimately, you want your customers to understand your product, and to see the value in it. Customer onboarding can ensure both of these goals are reached. Here are seven tips to create the perfect product onboarding checklist.

With the right checklist and tools, you can achieve an exceptional and memorable onboarding experience that attracts loyal customers.

Check out our top tips to create the perfect product onboarding checklist.

what is product onboarding?
Product or user onboarding showcases the benefit of using your product.

What is product onboarding?

First things first: what is product onboarding?

Product or user onboarding is a process that shows users the benefit of using your product. It’s meant to be an intuitive and seamless system with step-by-step tutorials, guidance, and milestones throughout. It’s one of the first touchpoints a user has with a product, which is exactly why a great onboarding experience is imperative to your success.

We’ve all experienced an app, a website, an online form, or an onboarding system that was difficult to navigate, or overly complicated. Chances are you probably did what most people would do in that situation – you exited it and never returned. This is exactly where a lot of companies lose potential clients.

6 tips for the perfect product onboarding checklist and experience.

1. Simple and snappy

We’ve all heard the acronym, KISS – keep it simple, stupid. This is precisely the attitude you want to take when creating the perfect onboarding checklist and experience for users. It’s important to quickly showcase your brand and a product’s value. One of the most difficult aspects of great onboarding is breaking down large goals into manageable and bitesize tasks.

Break steps down into simple, compelling, and manageable steps that effectively engage the user. If the process is not clear in the first few seconds, they’ll likely click off. It’s important to make a lasting impression, so make sure you hook your user and get straight to the point.

Take Slack, for example, they’ve gone through a number of user onboarding iterations. They’ve successfully pared down their content so users can quickly familiarize themselves with the interface.

Bitesize tasks for the perfect product onboarding checklist
Break steps down into simple, compelling, and manageable steps.

Here are just a few things to keep in mind to simplify your process:

  • Predictable and seamless elements, such as buttons
  • Effective navigation, such as clearly labeled icons
  • Frictionless and invisible interactions
  • Purposeful and clear tasks or goals
  • Guided behavior with design patterns, and clear hierarchy and readability
  • Key features that catch the user’s attention

Users are familiar with completing tasks step-by-step, so this is often recommended and preferred. Group similar components together, and make sure each completed step is clearly indicated.

2. Copy that resonates with your user

Less is definitely more when it comes to word count. Showcases your product or explain the platform and set user expectations with short, clever copy that resonates with your target audience.

Copy grabs users’ attention.

Your copy should grab the users’ attention in a few words or short sentences, and thus, it should convey the essential message and your unique selling proposition, quickly and simply. Content that is short, clear, and in line with your target audiences has a much better chance of making an impression.

Provide detailed steps.

Avoid vague wording, such as “customize your profile.� Instead, be specific and show the user the steps -exactly- that need to be taken. Focus on an action you want your users to take, and make that action crystal clear. Some examples include:

  • Enter your email address
  • Add a profile picture
  • Create a user name
  • Choose a password

Provide the why in the steps.

Take this a step further by providing the user with a reason. Simply asking a user to perform an action won’t motivate them. Back your tasks up with stats, or other motivating factors. You should know exactly who your target user is, what they are familiar with, and the intended end goal.

What are they trying to accomplish, and what are their expectations? Taking the time to identify these means you can appropriately solve their problem by creating a process that guides and motivates users seamlessly through a series of tasks.

Informal language, emojis, etc., can help showcase your brand’s personality and make your checklist more user-friendly.

Snappy content and a simple call to action that gets straight to the point, means you’ve got the ingredients for a great user onboarding experience.

3. Measure your user’s progress

Seamlessly guiding and leading your user through the user onboarding process is imperative. Don’t leave your user in the dark – show them their process and clearly map out their journey.

During a lengthy or unique process in onboarding.

If your user onboarding process needs to be a bit longer, provide a progress indicator so users have a visual for how long the form will take, or how many steps they have left. Think of it as showing them the light at the end of the tunnel and eliminating distractions along the way.

The light at the end of the tunnel can be done in a few ways. Provide a simple progress bar with icons or a slider, or divide your form into shorter steps, such as Amazon’s checkout process. When contemplating features or elements, always consider if it’ll enhance or diminish your users’ experience.

Start with what’s absolutely essential and ensure that every feature has a purpose. Only include and add features that you can clearly defend the need for. Design cues play a major role in how a user will interact with your design, so make sure they’re communicated clearly.

Even the tiniest tweak to your user onboarding process can have a massive impact.

For example, increase the chances of your user staying on task by removing site navigation. Keep in mind that humans are visual creatures, which is exactly why certain designs resonate, while others go completely unnoticed. Even the shape of your button can predict whether or not someone instinctively understands how to accomplish a task.

4. Rewards and little wins

When we perceive a task as difficult, or time-consuming, we’re more likely to procrastinate and put it off.

Alternatively, if we feel motivated, see the value in something, or receive a quick win, we are more likely to begin a project, task, job, or so forth.

Providing users with a quick win upfront is a great way to get them started. Make sure it’s an integral part of your onboarding process. Duolingo for instance, asks its user what language they want to learn and provides them with a list of options as well as the number of learners for each option.

Don’t present it to the baby.

Keep in mind that oversimplifying can become tedious and overbearing. Once you’ve built up a user’s confidence and they have become familiar with your interface, you can begin rewarding the user by reducing the amount of guidance and instructions you provide.

Incorporate more innovative and abstract ways to move users through tasks, quickly. Implement elements, such as keyboard shortcuts, to accomplish tasks more seamlessly, while simultaneously making your onboarding process more user-friendly.

5. Motivate users with gamification elements

Building off the idea of little wins and rewards, every application or experience must present its user with some sort of motivation to engage or to give them purpose, like engaging in something that is bigger than themselves.

Most people require some level of challenge in their lives to stay motivated.

Whether you’re challenging yourself, a friend, or completing tasks to win some sort of reward, winning feels satisfying when you’ve been sufficiently challenged. Take video games, for instance, video games get a bad rap for being extremely addictive, and mind-numbing, but it takes hard work to complete a difficult game.

Users enjoy challenges, whether challenging themselves, working to win awards, or competing with others. It turns out that nothing makes us happier than hard work. We all like to be challenged, especially if we are rewarded.

Gamification elements are a great motivator.

Gamification design increases user engagement because it’s rewarding and motivating. Seamlessly including a few relevant elements, such as leaderboards and badges, into an existing system allows designers to tap into the same benefits of playing a game.

Product onboarding checklist motivation
Most people require some level of challenge in their lives to stay motivated.

When users feel that they are making progress, developing skills, or overcoming challenges, it provides them with a sense of accomplishment.

Gamification is notorious for being difficult to implement well, as gameplay elements can appear completely out of sync, distracting, and may even deter users that don’t respond well to it. Earning a trophy is only satisfying if it is the result of successfully overcoming a challenge.

Every element used needs to optimize and motivate people’s feelings in order to make tasks fun and engaging experience. The key is understanding your users and identifying their motivations, which will vary according to the task, objective, and player.

When done well, game elements set clear tasks that lead to awards when they successfully accomplish the tasks. When a clear goal is attached to a task, it provides users’ with a sense of purpose, motivation, and a reward to look forward to.

Challenging the user to try something that’s incrementally harder than the previous task provides that sense of progress, challenge, and reward.

6. Add visuals, videos, or GIFs

We live in a world of imagery and videos to help improve customer engagement and understanding.

Creating videos with a screen recorder and GIFs with a gif-maker will improve the onboarding process. Product how-tos can be quick to make and provide more value than just text alone.

7. Test and revise

Once you’re done, it’s time to test your user onboarding process. A great user onboarding process is all about trial and error, which means it’s an ongoing process that may need revising. User onboarding is conversion-oriented, and thus crucial to any business, as they’re the tool that turns leads into buyers. You can’t afford to have a poorly designed user onboarding process that doesn’t create a positive, painless experience.

The best way to learn how your audience will respond to your user onboarding is with thoughtful A/B tests. A/B tests provide the perfect opportunity to determine which features convert the most leads.

Tailor your onboarding process to create a great experience that encourages them to keep coming back.

You want your onboarding process to be a great experience, a process that fits your brand, fulfills your business needs, boosts conversions, and makes a lasting impression on your users.

Target audience

Get clear on who your target audience is so you can speak directly to them. We also suggest always staying open to feedback, testing regularly, and revising it to ensure you continue to meet your goals.

Instantly test the effectiveness of your product onboarding checklist with users and get invaluable insight based on direct input and real user interaction with CloudApp.

Comparing slightly tweaked variations is one of the best ways to create a successful onboarding process and get concrete data on which variation attracts more customers. Simple changes can help you analyze different results and optimize accordingly.

The post 7 Tips to Create the Perfect Product Onboarding Checklist appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Avoid Burnout and Loneliness from Remote Work

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Remote working has exploded in popularity over the past few years. The prevalence is great if you value freedom and are self-motivated, but the downside is remote work loneliness. Here is how to avoid burnout and loneliness from remote work.

You Need a Plan to Avoid Burnout and Loneliness from Remote Work

At the beginning of your remote work, it’s easier to avoid loneliness while working from home, but as time goes on — having tips for remote workers to avoid loneliness will go a long way. Not only can these tips improve your productivity, but it can also help avoid burnout from remote work and ensure you enjoy a long, healthy career as a remote worker.

As a remote worker, I’ve found staying mindful of remote work loneliness is key when trying to avoid the effects of said loneliness. While working from home you want to improve relationships with clients, stay on track with work and family — and remaining positive and productive.

Check out the 7 tips for remote workers to avoid loneliness and ways to avoid burnout from remote work.

People often have this idea that remote workers sit around in their pajamas, maybe watching tv while they do work, or catching up on tasks around the house, like laundry.

Initially, the “lounge in scrounge” might seem like a good idea — but anyone who is a remote worker knows this is not how you avoid burnout from remote work.

Avoid the trap.

There are a couple of ways to avoid falling into this trap. One of those ways is to set your schedule ahead of time with dedicated working blocks, and short dedicated breaks.

Use your breaks to eat lunch, get up and move, or just step back from your work for 5 to 10 minutes.

Keep in mind that you have the option to create a schedule outside of the normal 9–5 working hours. If nine-to-five is not your peak hours — don’t confine yourself to them.

Don’t try to multi-task, and take care of too many things at once. That is a sure way to get burnt out, as you will likely feel as if you’re doing a ton, but have nothing to show for it.

Have a dedicated workspace at home, rather than moving around the house throughout the day, and that will make a huge difference in how you feel and your productivity.

woman face on desk

Take dedicated breaks to ensure the line between work and personal hours don’t start to blur.

2. Build-in social time into your schedule.

As mentioned above, not everyone is built to be productive during regular 9–5 work hours. We recommend taking advantage of that flexibility, get to know what times you work best, and build in time for extra socializing during your less productive times.

When your office is in your home, the line between work and personal hours can start to blur. Making plans after-work, before the workday begins, or throughout the day forces you to get you out of the house and off of the computer.

Secondly, when you work remotely, it’s common to miss out on spending time working or socializing with your teammates. The best way to get around this is to make plans with friends or family members during the week.

Taking social breaks gives you something to look forward to, prevents feeling disconnected or isolation from your team and community, and helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Maybe you start work later in the day, or much earlier, either way, you likely have the opportunity to build in more socializing. What that schedule looks like is totally up to you.

Some ideas may be to grab breakfast or coffee with a neighbor, spend time with your children before taking them to school or daycare, or take your dog to the park with a friend who also has a dog in the area so you can socialize while the dogs play.

If you prefer social plans at the end of the day, this helps you create a clear end time to your workday. A specific end-time is essential if you want to avoid burnout from remote work.

No matter what that time is — setting your schedule so that it includes time to socialize during your workweek helps you avoid loneliness while working from home.

3. Take a break from your home office.

One of the best tips for remote workers to avoid the loneliness that I can recommend is to get out of your home office and find someone to work in the world.

Try working outside of your home at least one day per week. One of the biggest challenges we face as remote workers are the moments when we feel alone. When remote work loneliness begins to creep in, it can greatly impact productivity, connection to your teammates, and your all-around wellbeing.

Of all the tips for remote workers to avoid loneliness, the top one might be just making it your number one priority to recognize loneliness and have a list of ways to combat that loneliness.

Consider starting by taking a break from your home office. The break could include going to a co-working space, a coffee shop, a college, or a local library. Whatever you choose, just make sure you make time to surround yourself with other people. During COVID, these options may be limited — but find something, someplace, and someone to help yourself out.

woman at desk

4. Spend time with other remote workers.

For most of us, it’s most beneficial to interact with other remote workers. These are the people who understand your lifestyle, the challenges you face, and can offer you some support.

As remote working has exploded in popularity, and more of us become aware of our susceptibility to remote work loneliness, coworking spaces have begun popping up. These offer the perfect solution for remote workers that want to avoid loneliness at work.

Maybe you have a friend or two who also works remotely, schedule some time to meet up and work together. Even when you aren’t interacting with other people, the change of scenery often helps you feel like you’re a part of a bigger community.

5. Stay connected with your community.

To take this a step further, make sure you’re making an effort to be part of your local community, whether that’s a community of remote workers or something entirely different is up to you.

The key is to connect with others who share your values, support or share something in common, or appreciate the same things you do. Being part of a community is one of the best ways to avoid burnout from remote work because it provides you with a place to feel connected to other people.

Being part of a community can be as simple as joining a sports league, volunteering, participating in a small group that does an activity together, an online forum, a group in your neighborhood, and so forth.

6. Communicate with your team with videos and phone calls.

It’s so easy to communicate exclusively with your team through instant messaging platforms, text messages, and emails.

Initially, it might feel great to have so much flexibility and independence, but over time, that level of isolation often leads to remote work loneliness. It also makes you much more likely to blur the line between work and personal life as you quickly send and answer messages at all hours of the day.

In order to avoid burnout from remote work make sure you are regularly communicating with your team, and scheduling meetings, and check-ins. The communication not only helps structure your workday and increase productivity, but it also helps you feel more connected to the team as a whole.

It’s important to feel like you are part of something bigger, and part of a community.

To avoid loneliness while working from home, make it a point to schedule calls and meetings to brainstorm, discuss ideas, or present your point of view on a subject with one or more of your team members.

Scheduling calls and meetings are especially important if you need to explain a complex concept or there is a disagreement or misunderstanding with a teammate.

Trying to resolve these issues through a series of emails or texts can easily lead to frustration and even more miscommunications. If you’re already struggling with remote work loneliness or symptoms of burnout, you’ll likely increase these feelings as more and more miscommunication and misunderstanding may be happening on a regular basis.

Instead, hop on a video or audio call. There are so many video conferencing software, screen recording explainer videos, and calling options that save you so much time.

Take advantage of these options to not only communicate more effectively, but to also help you avoid burnout from remote work. Seeing or even just hearing a team member’s voice will reduce our frustration, misunderstanding, and sense of loneliness.

Plus, you will save tons of time writing out lengthy explanations of complex ideas. Take advantage of cultivating a collaborative and healthy work environment with the right communication tools.

red phone

Final words on how to avoid loneliness while working from home.

As a remote worker, I actively take every measure to avoid burnout from remote work. When I feel valued, and part of a team, I’m more productive. I also communicate clearly and provide an accurate flow of information with my team members.

The smallest miscommunication can jeopardize a team, project, and lead to remote work loneliness.

Technology and better forms of online communication in the workplace have made working remotely far more manageable.

Slack for instance, allows me to quickly share images, documents, comment in threads to keep conversations organized, create custom channels, integrate tools, message or voice call clients or team members individually, or tag individuals so they don’t miss anything important.

Slack may be the perfect platform to help keep clients and team members up-to-date.

There are tons of resources and platforms, like CloudApp, and Slack, that have allowed me to implement much better ways to maintain positive relationships with teammates, increase productivity, and avoid burnout from remote work.

Remote work has quickly become a growing trend across many industries, and for good reason.

Make the most out of your remote work with a little planning and the right tools to make it work.

Image Credit: Elijah O’Donnell; Pexels

The post Avoid Burnout and Loneliness from Remote Work appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Complete Guide to Remote Work Success

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The COVID-19 world has hastened remote work for many businesses and people. The shift pushed some companies into work-from-home support that would have otherwise never strayed from the office. That’s led to frustration, confusion, and a multitude of tests and suggestions for how to find remote work success.

In our experience, what seems to do the trick is being supportive of your team and yourself. Leaders need to craft their own space and habits, then help others find similar setups. There’s no silver bullet, unfortunately. You’re going to face trial and error, mistakes, and frustration as people not only deal with new working situations but the underlying causes that have forced them remote.

So, we’ve put together this quick guide to help you start thinking about your own remote workspace and what you can to help others as a team member, leader, or manager. When in doubt, rely on your instincts and look for opportunities to be helpful and respectful to your team. Offer them support you would want in this case.

Now, let’s begin with the most crucial aspect of success, finding the space to feel comfortable enough to be productive.

black female remote worker on phone and laptop at desk
Image Credit: Christina Morillo; Pexels

Find Your Best Time and Space To Work

You can find any number of articles, guides, podcasts, and LinkedIn posts that promise you the 100% best trick to work remotely. Pick a dozen, and you’ll have a broad range of advice that often directly contradicts itself. Don’t squeeze yourself into a shape defined by someone else. Find the work style and time that best fit your natural inclination and the tasks you have to do each day.

The unfortunate news is that remote work is different from your regular office work, so you’ll need to do some testing to determine the best fit. The great news is that you, generally, can tweak and customize a broader range of things to match what you need.

Two chief areas to start with are your surroundings and the time of day that you use to tackle different tasks.

The element you might have the most control over is your surroundings. Carve out a personal workspace and get it how you like, especially in terms of temperature and things like having a fan near you.

If you need white noise, grab a small machine, hit up a music app or YouTube channel to keep you engaged. There are plenty of options for mimicking the background noise of an office or coffee shop if that’s your jam, or a pair of noise-canceling headphones can give you silence even though the upstairs neighbors are home and running around.

Another thing to check is the amount of light in your work area. Natural, brighter light can help many people find the right motivation for getting tasks done on their to-do list. Creatives often report that dimmer lights make it easier to dive into work and avoid outside distractions. Play around with your space and find a comfortable spot.

Once you know where you’ll work, get in touch with that inner voice. Talk about when you are best able to focus. When does checking email make you feel good versus frustrated? When can you tackle a project and be most effective? When are you most prone to distraction?

Understanding yourself can help you carve out portions of the day to set aside for meetings, emails, small tasks, and those more significant projects that require your focus. As a remote worker, you may not be able to set your hours entirely, but you will likely have options to adapt your schedule to what feels best for you.

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Remote work on your time with asynchronous communication

Mix Meetings With Asynchronous Communications

Remote work eliminates most of the visual cues we have about our coworkers. It’s much more challenging to learn who is free versus busy, engaged or struggling. The remote office makes it hard to know who needs a hand or who would be frustrated by an interruption. We often feel this most when pulled into a meeting that could have been a Slack note or email.

However, there’s also the risk that someone needs that real-time check-in to avoid becoming overwhelmed or taking the wrong track on a project. So, you’re going to want to have ways to check in with people that require real-time interactions and those that can happen at someone’s leisure — asynchronous communication channels like Slack and SMS messages, emails, and notes in your project management software.

Establish regular communication policies with your team members and leadership to keep everyone on task for the week or day. Give people a chance to share updates as they start their day, not necessarily at the same time.

Meetings are a widespread, useful practice to help everyone have a chance to ask questions or discuss roadblocks. Leaders can keep these short and sweet during crunch times but allow other meetings to be a little longer and more social. Team building activities have to take place during meetings now, so include at least some weekly time for engaging with everyone. Keep things positive and encourage a deeper connection.

For project management, ask everyone what they feel needs to be done “in-person� and set tasks accordingly. Feedback can often happen in your project management tools, with links and comments to give clarity, making them an excellent opportunity for asynchronous efforts instead of additional meetings. If you go that route, however, always clarify the feedback requirements from each team member.

Support people when they need to reach out for help through whatever channel they prefer. And reach out when you need a hand.

Get Your Tools Together

The blend of synchronous and asynchronous communications is a good jumping-off point for thinking about the tools you and your teams need.

Put together multiple communication elements and try to integrate them when possible. This helps people customize interactions and can ensure they don’t miss urgent requests. For example, linking email to Basecamp or Slack for direct mentions can ensure your team sees these critical messages. Make this even more effective by limiting when someone can be tagged directly so that you have a policy that backs up and supports what teams deem as necessary.

If you’re going to need new tools, start by looking at what you already use. Get recommendations based on what integrates well with your tools, especially your CRM, ERP, and mission-critical software. If your business revolves around a specific toolkit, expand with options that support it instead of duplicating or replacing it.

You may need individual adjustments to facilitate the changes in how you work. If you now use a desktop and laptop on different days, working from files on Google Drive or OneDrive can limit any data loss or accidentally working on an obsolete version. These can also be shared with team members, keeping everyone working on the right file.

The Rise of Video

The rise in video calls and conferences will also change the tools people need. Leadership should give teams webcams, microphones, headsets, or other required business equipment. Pair that with screen sharing and recording tools to make it easy for everyone to lead when it’s their turn. Services like CloudApp can roll many screen capture and sharing tools into one option, and integrating with your messaging services makes it easier to get this information to your entire team.

On a personal note, look at your new day as a remote worker. What is working, and what is getting in the way? Where do you need help?

There is a bevy of apps to help us focus or set aside time for email versus a more in-depth, more focused project. Many are tailored to specific work styles or needs, helping you meet a specific goal. Try many and see what works. There’s a growing trend of applying the Pomodoro Technique to remote work. That’s focusing on one task for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break. Rinse and repeat.

Engage With Other Remote Workers

A core challenge with remote work is the feeling of isolation. Communication tools can help with this, but you’ve got to individually work to engage with people outside of traditional work channels or discussion points if you want to create a community that can help with the burden.

Think about your last office. People stopped by desks to share news, briefly chatted when getting a cup of coffee, tried a new lunch spot together, and much more. There were multiple opportunities to build rapport, and few were pre-planned.

Remote work demands some planning. For new members and managers, an introductory chat can help people get to know each other. Keep these brief and light so that people get used to each other. Ask questions about the other person on the line to help them open up and share something and resist the urge to interrupt or immediately jump to your own story.

For broader communication channels, think about ways to share non-work items on a group level. Many companies will use specific Slack channels to share about their lives, such as photos of kids or pets, favorite vacation spots, or other news. Yes, monitor these for appropriateness, but there’s a lot of opportunities to connect and share.

A favorite thing for staff is to rely on GIFs, emojis, and images to share ideas or celebrate things. They’re an opportunity for fun and can get people excited about news or events. They’re also eye-catching, helping people pay attention — making them great ways to respond to important team news, too. GIFs associated with a TV show can also help people find a common interest and connect, without having to play 20 questions to find the overlap.

Carve Out Time For Yourself

Remote teams often face a complex work environment. Work and home pressures blend, and different priorities crop up throughout the day. Add in the fact that many families may have children at home learning or face caregiving needs, and the workday can become a challenge to manage.

You and your coworkers and employees need time for yourselves on that day, where you don’t have any specific requirements or needs. You’ll all want a moment to stop and take a break. Build that into your day and encourage your team to do the same.

Set rules for remote work hours and ensure that this includes time to take a break. If employees like structured breaks, have them share this info on a team sheet or page. If people are expected to be available at specific times, help them find a way to fit their breaks into this schedule. Keep things flexible and support your teams how they prefer.

An essential part of this isn’t mandating what someone does for a break. You can set a time limit but avoid trying to restrict activities or actions. Specifying meditation or a wellness app, requiring physical activity, or trying to get everyone on a Zoom call for stretches isn’t going to feel like a break for a portion of your team. It may instead increase stress and hasten burnout.

Let people unplug during this time, too. Respect their boundaries and allow them to set up quiet hours or do-not-disturb settings on messaging apps. Help them step back and take this time.

If you’re a leader, create this time for yourself, too. Remote cultures require more leadership by example. So, not setting your own break or continually working during the time you list as your own will set the expectation that teams and employees should follow suit. You deserve a break, and so does your team — and they’re legally allowed it in most cases, too. Make it easy to take, and your team will reward you for it.

Follow an Updated Cybersecurity Plan

IT plays a significant role in keeping operations running smoothly during remote work. They need to update and manage a cybersecurity plan that covers every employee and everyday activities. Support people as they set passwords, help them understand tools, practice anti-phishing tactics and policies, and more.

This set of 10 security tips for your remote teams can be a great place to start.

The exact mix of new actions and protocols needs to come from your experts or consultants. No pre-defined handbook or guide can tell you everything you need to do because steps and requirements change based on your technology stack. Trust your experts and implement what they suggest.

For leaders of remote teams, your significant work here is to give employees a checklist to follow and verify. Mandate its completion and offer people help when they struggle with something. Technology can be challenging even for savvy users. If you’ve never updated router firmware and changed its password away from a default, you’ll likely face some jargon that can be hard to follow.

Prep your teams, use communication tools to guide people and simplify as much as you can. One thing that works wonders in our visual age is giving people video and screenshots of each step with clear annotations.

Trust the Adults

The last and most crucial piece of successful remote work — whether you’re on the team or leading it — is to trust others. Without trust, everything else falls apart. Your business was like this already in an office. The difference is that it can be a little more difficult to check up on people and get feedback. Tackle processes there to get to a place where you have a rhythm.

Employees need to feel trusted by managers. They want to accomplish their work and get through their lists. Few things are worse than feeling like they’re always in trouble or under the microscope.

Remote work in the age of COVID-19 is already stressful. Give people some breathing room to help alleviate some of that pressure. And remember that everyone is experiencing this as a collective burden. Some days are going to be hard for team members, and some will be hard for you. Prioritizing help instead of a taskmaster approach will get your team back to performing.

Trust that your team wants to be engaged and active. Encourage them to ask for help when they need it, and trust that they will. You may have some team members who struggle and need extra support or a reminder of their role. That’s normal, even without remote work in the equation.

You and your managers have chosen the best people for the work you need done. Trust them to be up to the challenge. Work to continually build that trusting and encouraging culture to get the most out of everyone and have people who want to be part of your journey for the long term.

Top Image Credit: rfstudio; Pexels

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The Future of Work is Confusing

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The lines have been drawn and the debate is hotter than before. Remote! That is the future of work. We get to work on our time, be more productive, and spend quality time with our loved ones. Sure it’s hard to get a hold of co-workers, we miss out on those serendipitous lunch interactions, and team morale is low.

Wait, I changed my mind. Offices, yes offices — offices are the future of work!

Maybe the real answer is a mixture of both.

The last four months have been a whirlwind of digital transformation, remote work playbook building and chaos. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven “two years‘ worth of digital transformation in two months” according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

With the recent news of pushing social opening until Summer 2021, and most office work closed down through the end of 2020 — what will it all look like when we get “back to normal?â€� You be the judge – all remote, all office, hybrid of both?

The Future of Work is All Remote

Vindication, that is the easiest word to describe people who have been beating the drum about remote work over the last decade or more.

Lack of Commute.

No Chatty Co-workers.

No Pants?

Remote work is time efficient.

If you have ever lived in a big metropolitan area you know the pains of getting on a train, bus, boat, or car and traveling far distances to get to your office. Many people I worked with in the Bay Area would commute 2 hours every day. They would listen to books, podcasts, music to pass the time that could have been spent with their families, roommates, pets, even Netflix.

A recent report we put out of CloudApp usage March — April 2020 showed that people were using that morning commute time that was once unproductive, to work 2-3x more than normal. Office workers discovered new found freedom in their ability to get rid of wasteful time on the road in favor of starting work early.

Working remote can also allow space to have that 30 min haircut appointment over your lunch break, run to the dentist , pick up your kids from school, take your dog for a walk, and all kinds of other things that aren’t possible when you are in an office environment.

Remote work is cheaper.

This applies to businesses and to employees. With remote work you are able to work and live where you want. Gone are the expensive rents of a big city or the need to provide a large HQ to lure talent.

Remote work as the future provides a chance for a company to hire wherever it wants. That broadens the talent pool and removes the competitive factor of a few geographical areas.

Chris Herd, Founder and CEO of Firstbase had this to say on my podcast The DNA of An Experience. “With an office, you can hire the best person that you can afford within a 30 mile radius. The benefit of a remote setting is that you’re not in that position where you’re hiring in a 30 mile radius.”

Imagine the cash infusion for a little startup that doesn’t need to spend $10-20k a month on rent for its 50 person office.

The money saved with remote work for both sides of the coin are large enough to consider it a piece of the future of work.

Remote work is all digital.

In 2019, we at CloudApp did a survey of 1000 office workers and found that 50% of office workers list chatty co-workers or social media as their biggest time wasters. In a digital world, there are no co-workers stopping at your desk or office noise distracting you.

Meetings are also less frequent to help people avoid “Zoom fatigue�. In a digital remote world, you have more control over who you interact with and when.

Tools like Zoom for real time video, CloudApp for asynchronous video communication, Asana for task management, and Slack for informal collaboration can be a great foundation for your digital tool kit

The Future of Work is All Office Based

The familiar future we have all grown up with. Wake up, commute to the office, connect with co-workers, commute home, repeat. There is something to be said about a routine that our brains are already conditioned to accept.

Office based work is comfortable

The tech world is based on companies having a really great HQ. As I talked about in a previous post, Apple, Google, Facebook, Adobe, and others count on their offices being a shining star to lure talent. These offices provide a semblance of home with food, gyms, and even dry cleaners to help make your life outside of the bubble HQ a little easier.

The modern office is meant to be comfortable and provide chances for people to congregate and have unplanned interactions. Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe always called these “serendipitous interactions� where someone from product is meeting with someone from marketing on the basketball court or cafe unplanned.

The truth is we feel the office is comfortable because it hasn’t been new to us like remote work has this year.

Office based work is collaborative.

I’ve heard a common thread in my conversations with other leaders during this time. “I miss the brainstorming, the energy� There is something different when humans get together. Its hard to manufacturer that vibe over video conferencing

Many people would say that a lot of time is wasted in the office with conversations about Game of Thrones, sports highlights from the night before, or family vacations. However, maybe those conversations are what we all need to feel connected and to build trust in people that help us provide for ourselves and families.

The Future of Work is a Hybrid

The future of work is going to be a hybrid. 2020 will be a catalyst for both office workers and businesses to realize that partial remote work isn’t evil. It can be nice to have an unstructured day at home once or twice a week. Over the past few weeks I have been testing out this model (albeit in an empty office). Here is what I have learned

It is nice to separate work from home.

I’ve always worked from home. Last minute edits on a board deck late at night, early morning email responses. However, the last 4 months have been non stop work at home with a desk in my bedroom. I’m sure many other people are in similar situations. Maybe a small apartment, a space with roommates, or like me a house full of kids.

Since March I have definitely found my mind is more frequently cluttered with work thoughts that I used to be able to shake away when I was at home. My computer randomly turns on in the middle of the night and illuminates me awake, or I’ll forget to silence notifications and will hear that Slack noise pop through when I am playing with my kids.

Whatever it is, having my office 100 percent home based has been a challenge for me mentally.

My wife suggested a few weeks ago to go into our office a couple of times a week. I followed her advice and found it to be super quiet without anyone here, but also energizing and productive.

It was nice to have some separation.

Human connection is good.

We aren’t meant to connect one hundred percent over video. Initially there was an abundance of company led lunches, games, and other things over video. I would expect that has moved more toward the norm of video all being focused around business means.

That human connection drives us to work for something greater, to feel that the sum is greater than its parts.

The future of work will bring a lot of remote workers. People who found that the big city wasn’t working anymore and they needed a change. In this hybrid model, businesses will need to find budget and resources to support getting everyone together once a quarter, even once a month if teams are close enough.

The human connection will drive mental and job satisfaction. It is a key piece of the future of work.

The Future of Work is confusing — but what isn’t?

Its hard to really grasp what the future holds at the moment. We are all in the middle of developing and bracing ourselves for all scenarios. If there is anything good to come out of this year, its that we have all learned different ways to work that we didn’t know were previously possible.

Its obvious, we all use technology more.

We all know the effort it takes to connect digitally.

We all know what we took for granted in an office setting.

The future of work is definitely confusing, but at least after this year the possibilities are more endless than ever before.

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Customer Experience with a Millennial Mind

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It’s not how we’ve always done it, and that’s a good thing. Here is a guide to creating a customer experience with a millennial state of mind.

Millennials’ communication styles are different from prior generations. Younger workers appear to have a clear preference for visual content, particularly videos. When faced with an issue, they’ll watch a YouTube tutorial to figure out how to fix their broken vacuum rather than dust off the text-heavy owner’s manual.

Many millennials’ preferred methods of connection and communication involve an abundance of emojis, GIFs, memes, and acronyms.

How will your business connect to this generation? How do you create a customer experience that will make an impact and create a loyal customer out of this generation? Chances are, many of your employees are part of this generation and the customers they’re interacting with are their peers.

Enabling your employees with the communication tools necessary to connect in the ways that are natural for them is essential in providing high-quality customer interactions that can improve satisfaction, increase referrals, and drop churn like it’s hot.

The Ultimate Guide to Stand Out with Millennials

Business owners who pay attention and apply the technologies that are central to the millennial’s world do so by using the tools they already interact with on a day-to-day basis.

As you learn millennials’ language and communication styles, you’ll gain insight into creating a high-touch, personalized experience using software specialized just for that. Customized and highly personal is the key to creating a meaningful experience while simultaneously improving your bottom line.

Here are five key concepts that will help you break through the noise and tailor your customer experience to Millennials.

  1. Be Authentic
  2. Show, Don’t Tell
  3. Work Around Their Schedule
  4. Speak Their Language
  5. Know Your Audience

1. Be Authentic

‍Millennials conduct copious amounts of research before they make just about any purchasing decision. Because so much is available, data has shown that millennials are more likely to make decisions for their money and their life based on their values.

A Nielsen report found that 73% of millennials will pay more for a product that is sustainable— and the word “sustainableâ€� is equated with “trustworthinessâ€� in a millennial’s mind.

How will you stand out? Emanate authenticity.

Our millennials are people who been inundated with choices their whole lives and their generation is spoilt with them. You can bet the one thing — they know how to differentiate everything. The Millennial knows the better from the best — it’s kind of like knowing the difference between a pair of Yeezys and a pair of Feezys, or Ray Bans from Ray Berries.

Your product and team have a story. Tell it with transparency to invite connection with people both in and out of your company.

Be Trustworthy

Trustworthiness and transparency allow you to connect with customers in an authentic way. Go beyond the taglines and offer information. Present knowledge that isn’t typically required or shared on a product label or business brief — such as the brand story.

Tell how your brand may be contributing positively to the world, and how much your company upholds honesty and integrity with its employees and clients.

It’s often independent initiatives that provide this information to millennials, but this extra effort is important — don’t pass up the opportunity to do it. You extra effort could be the very thing that sets your company apart from the competitors.

Some examples of ways to communicate authentically include having an ‘About Us’ page on your website.

Have your social media engagement up-to-date and interesting to create community. Opt for live-streams with a webcam recording software as opposed to a formal press release information.

Couple these well-founded efforts with communication software that speaks the way millennials do, and you’ve found yourself a pair of listening ears. Have your spots at least for 8 seconds — that’s the amount of time it takes for millennials to decide whether they’ll move on to their next option.

Be careful with using AI to completely replace your customer support. If not done properly, your AI effort can cost you customers and loyalty.

Authenticity in Action from G2

G2 Crowd, for example, embraces this concept by creating personalized videos to share with their potential customers.

Using screen recording software and annotated screenshots have enabled the company to grow to over $7m in its sales pipeline because of the connection aspect that videos provide.

Matt Lazares, G2 Crowd Enterprise Account Executive, said of video capture software “…We are able to reach out to people that we typically can’t connect with.â€� (Read more here.)

2. Show, Don’t Tell

Counter-intuitively, but not surprising, millennials value efficiency and speed over service.

They are, after all, the generation of convenience. Quick, efficient, speedy — all reasons why products like cupcakes, makeup, and even bike parts can be bought from vending machines.

It stands to reason that the customer experience journey today should steer away from clunky information portals and automated messages and focus on talking with customers the way they talk to each other. Use intuitive apps to show exactly the message that needs to be conveyed.

Find ways to showcase your product through tutorial videos, use cases, and images that can be key to building loyalty.

Clear Messaging is key

Frustration exists in communication when messages aren’t clear. Lousy messages are prevalent in companies from customer support to onboarding, marketing, and sales departments (to name a few).

Take a close look at your customer and potential customer you’re trying to work with. Think about the work required to answer a question that’s rather easy to show, but arduous to explain via chat/email/over the phone. All customers have their preferences — but your millennial customers are special and you want to reach them.

There’s also the inconvenience of schedules not matching up to jump on a call and do a “quickâ€� demo. Think screen recording software — millennials love it. 

A brilliant solution is screen recording software. It works like this: a sales rep takes a recording of her screen. She can explain every step of her demonstration clearly as a talking head in the top corner of the computer screen as she simultaneously runs through her process.

The person may even use the GIF creator to show another client a quick method to navigating her product’s dashboard–super simple, and easier seen than told.

The use of a screen recorder, snipping tools, and a GIF creator completely cuts through wordy, textual barriers to deliver precise communication. Using a screen has to be authentic — it’s real. A screen is efficient — no-extras communication needed. It’s also a sleek, streamlined communication tool that optimizes the customer experience.

Video, video, video

Customer support teams using product management tools like screen record and screen share mitigate time-consuming (and frustration-inducing) processes.

Product management tools help them promote the effectiveness of their product and actively soothe the customers who are most likely to churn. Utilizing these tools creates an experience where information is clearly stated without pain points that arise when using chat, phone calls, and tutorials that don’t cover specific questions.

It is safe to say that productivity software that implements video will find success and create a long-lasting impact with millennials.

Why not make a quick video to show exactly how your product works?

A staggering 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every day. (That’s billion, with a b.) Our society is used to watching videos, likely because video content is a great tool to learn, easy to consume, and a convenient way to digest and retain information on-the-go.

Understanding the value of video is huge for sales teams. Today’s customers are 95% more likely to remember a call to action after watching a video, compared to 10 percent who read a call to action in text format.

Videos and GIFs create a unique experience from other ways of receiving information.

There’s data to prove that your videos will be a hit: a Ragan study reported that more than 60 percent of millennials say they understand information faster when it’s communicated visually, versus just 7 percent who don’t.

3. Work Around Their Schedule









best live chat software
Generation Y has seen a significant rise in the number of employees working remotely. Gallup found that from 2012 to 2016, the number of employees working remotely rose by four percentage points, from 39% to 43%, and employees working remotely spent more time doing so.

Nontraditional schedules are becoming the norm thanks to innovations in technology and companies vying to have competitive benefits packages (like extended parental leave policies, unlimited PTO, etc.).

Additionally, millennials are prepared to work after they leave the office, and often do. These facts have contributed to the demand for digital, cloud-based collaboration tools and productivity software. Being able to provide digital communication outside the 9-to-5 is invaluable, and it may also be the only time to reach some of your customers.

Providing content with video recording software that can be referenced at any time is not only convenient, but ensures that you’ve got an evergreen piece of material with the potential to make an impact the more it’s passed around and viewed.

As cloud computing quality and accessibility continue to mature, demand increases.

Businesses are shifting to cloud-based collaboration software solutions and consequently find eager and adaptable users (both in-house and for communicating with customers). Providing visual references to your customer makes the customer feel that you’re aware of and sensitive to their time and specific needs, further nurturing the customer journey.

4. Speak Their Language

Consolidating the number of products an individual uses is key for millennials’ need for efficiency.

Using screen recording software takes a small amount of time and helps to avoid any miscommunication, because of the personalized demonstration aspect. Clear, concise interactions are key to making customer interactions positive (and ensuring they’ll continue the conversation).

In most cases, the ability to send a quick and easy video recording prevents company reps from having to hop on a call to explain something to a customer or keep a customer engaged in a chat (and good luck if you type something wrong).

Chances are high that you have experienced a time when you, perhaps begrudgingly, spent too much time on the phone with customer support or hearing a sales pitch. The right tools can eliminate those issues.

Visual communication appeals to customer success and support, product, and sales teams in businesses because of the intuitive nature of the product and concentration of a myriad of connection-driven needs in one hub.

Companies save time, and their customers save time. Businesses also use the product management tools of this communication software in a wide variety of ways, including:

  • Onboarding new customers
  • Prospecting and closing new clients
  • Demoing product features
  • Providing product feedback
  • Reporting and tracking bugs and issues
  • Building team training/knowledge wiki
  • Explaining complicated workflows
  • Sending updates to teams or clients
  • Answering customer support tickets

5. Know Your Audience

‍Generations Y and Z are heavily visual creatures. If you’re already struggling to connect with this subset — it’s time to sprint so that you don’t miss out on connecting with the next round of tech-savvy humans that are beginning their entrance into the workforce.

Younger individuals today are growing up with the internet, smartphones, and social media as a rule, not an exception.

They’re already well-versed in the areas that millennials had to learn. Millennials may remember the sound of dial-up internet while Generation Z doesn’t know life before WiFi.

According to Forbes, Gen Z individuals use an average of five screens (compared to a millennial’s three). These include a smartphone, laptop, TV, desktop, tablet, and even a smartwatch. This drives home the importance of shifting toward value in technology.

What’s more, if they’re interested in learning something new, Gen Zers will take it upon themselves to learn it.

Our millennials are highly proficient in self-education.

Thirty-two percent of Gen Z (7 to 24-year-olds) watch lessons online and conduct research by watching videos. Using visuals will help you to secure Gen Z as well.

Key Takeaways to Millennial-Approve Your Customer Experience

‍Affecting the customer experience all comes down to authentic communication, communication style, and the ease with which you do it. The common thread above is the significant need for more video content and adaptation to communication software.

Find productivity software that employs features such as screen recorder, snipping tools, and GIF creators. These are the features that will help you talk with your millennial customers to create a positive experience.

Someone who has a positive experience with your company is more likely to become a loyal customer.

Seventy percent of the customer’s journey is dictated by how they feel they are being treated. When you’re using your video capture software to walk a customer through a process or a complicated question be authentic.

Use the technology to facilitate a deeper connection with your customer.  You will have created a millennial-approved, positive and forward-thinking customer experience.

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5 Product Discovery Tips for Building Solutions Customers Will Buy

solutions customers buy

Products aren’t made… They’re discovered.

It doesn’t matter if you think you have a “brilliantâ€� idea – what matters is if the customer thinks so, too, and is willing to pay for it.

You see, customers don’t buy anything they don’t want. So the question is, how do you figure out what customers want and give it to them? Product discovery.

Here’s how product discovery works, why it matters, and some tips for pumping out products your customers are virtually guaranteed to buy.

Let’s start with a brief explanation.

‍What Is Product Discovery?

Product discovery is a process of rooting into the mind and emotions of your target market to understand exactly who they are, what they care about, and all of the problems they wished they could solve.

Those problems will lead you to discover the solutions they require and the products that must be created to deliver them.

‍Why Does Product Discovery Matter?

visual technology and business


Product discovery matters because creating products that don’t serve customers will ruin a business. And so do products that make customers say “meh.�

Businesses don’t survive that long with apathetic customers settling for 10th best in a competitive market.

What you should be aiming for is to hear the customer say, “This is what I’ve been waiting for!â€�

And the only way to get that kind of reaction is by identifying your markets’ genuine needs. Too often, products are built on assumptions made by your team and company – instead of your customers’ preferences.

Products should be evidence-based and informed by listening to customer desires, which is the process behind product discovery.

‍How Does Product Discovery Work?

The “what� of product discovery is straightforward, but the “how� is a little trickier to grasp.

The first step is challenging your assumptions as we mentioned in the last section. If your executive team pushes product initiatives forward, then you have to challenge the assumptions they’re making about customers’ likes and dislikes. If your product team suggests features based on past experiences, they need to be closely examined.

Regardless of where product ideas come from, they must be weighed against fresh customer insights and reliable data.

What you think you “know� about your customers should be rephrased as what you “hypothesize� about your customers. And then move to the next step:

Conduct empirical research.

There are 2 types of data you can collect for empirical research:

  • Qualitative
  • Quantitative

Qualitative data is subject and is all about how your customers and prospects feel about your brand and products.

Customer surveys such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) help you understand the way customers currently view you and your solutions. It helps you empathize with your customers and see their journey through their eyes – allowing you to develop better customer experiences and products.

Quantitative data is all about the numbers.

Did customers open the onboarding emails after they subscribed to your app? Did you get more sales from customers who bought products in the last 6 months or the last 12 months? How many customer complaints have you received after rolling out a new feature?

This kind of data and much more like it will give you direct insights into customer behavior, and when cross-checked with qualitative data, will begin to form a clear picture of who your customer is and exactly what they want.

Again, every assumption must be challenged and compared to real data.

Once armed with this data, you can create “living� documents that are updated as you learn more about your customers.

The first document we recommend creating is a customer persona. This is a list of demographics, psychographics, and verified behavior of your customers.

Another worthwhile document to have is the customer journey map. It documents the path prospects follow to become customers. It usually starts with some kind of “first contact” and ends in a renewal of service or another purchase.

And then there’s the empathy map.

It helps you to visualize the behaviors and attitudes of the user in a way UX teams can follow and reference when thinking about how and why a user interacts with their products.

Create those three documents to give you and your company the best progression-growth-map to follow.

There are plenty more progression-growth-map-docs you may wish to produce as you go through the product discovery process.

‍5 Tips for Effective Product Discovery

The product discovery process is messy, sometimes confusing, and different for every business and market. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few fundamentals you can use to make it easier and more effective.

‍Begin by Empathizing With Your Audience

Empathy should always be the starting point in product discovery. It forces you to look through your customers’ eyes and see the world as they do. The goal is to eliminate projection, assumption, and “intuition� and replace them with accurate observation and genuine understanding.

The key is to get specific.

Imagine just one customer. Describe everything you know about that one customer.

  • What’s their perspective?
  • What are their hopes and dreams, needs and desires?
  • What are the fears and pains tormenting them?

Fill this one customer with all the attributes and characteristics you’ve discovered about your real customers.

The process will give you a robust image you can use to pinpoint the problem they need to be solved, the solution they require, and the right way to package it into a product they would buy.

‍Constantly Uncover Customer Problems

Product discovery isn’t linear, neat, or tidy. It’s chaotic.

The only way to get the data you’re looking for is to embrace the mayhem. This is especially true when it comes to discovering your customers’ problems.

There is always more to learn, and the day you stop is the day new products won’t be discovered. You have to remain hyper-curious about all the challenges your customers want to overcome because if you don’t, your competitors will.

  • Survey your customers.
  • Conduct customer interviews.
  • Monitor social media.
  • Collect reviews.
  • Listen to customer complaints.

‍Map Everything

We already mentioned empathy and customer journey maps, but you can map virtually anything to help you visualize each step and how they fit together.

  • A customers typical day.
  • Specific customer experience.
  • The Customer’s journey to discovering your product and using it.
  • Map out your own processes running behind the scenes that support your customer’s journey.

Drawing visual maps help you think. The visual map externalizes complex and abstract mental concepts and makes them concrete, easily understood, and more “real.�

The added benefit is that once it’s out of your head, you’re not spending time thinking of the map while maintaining it in your mind – you can just think about the map you’re looking at, freeing up critical mental energy.

I’d encourage everyone on your team to draw maps of processes, strategies, concepts, and ideas. If you want to see an explosion of growth — at the very least, have managers and decision-makers draw this visual map.

‍Don’t Settle for the First Solution You Devise

Coming up with an idea to solve your customer’s problem is easy… The first time.

But that initial idea is probably not the right one to make into a product. It’s really easy and feels really good to move forward on the first idea presented (especially if it’s yours), but you have to verify that it matches more than one dimension of what the customer wants.

Map your solution idea to the opportunities you find by analyzing the market and your customers. The act of identifying and drawing the map is a reminder of the customer’s actual needs and mitigates the risk of teams running with an idea and forgetting about the preferences of the people they’re building the solution for in the first place.

  1. Map many solutions.
  2. Generate tons of ideas.
  3. Mash them together and pull them apart.

That’s how you find the idea that sticks out as the true solution and the viable product for your customers.

‍Break Your Team out of Their Silos

Everyone on your team specializes in something:

  • Marketing
  • Designing
  • Coding
  • Selling

In your team’s specializations, they’re expected to perform the function of their role without assuming the tasks or responsibilities of anyone else’s role – a buzzing hive of perfectly divided labor. You’ll need all hands on deck when figuring out which product to make.

Encourage teams to pull everyone out of their silos and come together during product discovery to leverage each other’s perspectives and unique knowledge.

It’s also helpful to get everyone’s opinion on what product to move forward with building, first. The type of heavy collaboration this involves isn’t easy.

There will be plenty of disagreements and arguments, but if you can work past them, you’ll tend to develop better products that your entire organization believes in – inspiring them to work even harder to make the product as perfect for the customer as they can.

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