Ask any startup what their biggest challenges are and “demand generation” will probably make the list. It’s not a new company problem, though. Established organizations also need to answer the question, “how do we get people to care about us?”
In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about demand generation, from its definition to the tactics companies use to create and measure it.
What is Demand Generation Marketing?
Let’s start with a definition, just to make sure we’re on the same page:
Demand generation is a holistic marketing and sales approach that aims to build interest in a product or service, educate potential customers on its benefits, nurture them until they’re ready to buy, and, ultimately, convince them to make a purchase.
The field of demand generation spans many different disciplines including content creation, paid advertising, conversion techniques, and customer success strategies.
Demand Generation vs. Lead Generation
Demand generation vs. lead generation — What’s the difference? While these two terms are often used interchangeably, the truth is they’re *not* the same. Understanding the differences between them is key to building a successful demand generation strategy.
As discussed above, demand generation is a full marketing and sales framework that guides prospects from complete strangers to paying customers. In other words, it creates demand for a product, then works to turn said demand into company revenue.
Lead generation, on the other hand, is the practice of identifying potential customers and acquiring their contact information so that they can be marketed and sold to in the future.
So the main difference between demand generation and lead generation is that lead gen is just one component of demand gen. Is it important? Absolutely! But without a complete demand generation strategy in place, it’s more difficult to convert leads into paying customers.
Make sense? Cool. Now if we just knew how to generate demand for a product or service.
How Do You Create Demand Generation?
Or, put another way, “What are demand generation activities?” Great questions! In this section we’ll outline how you can create demand for your products and/or services usings specific, proven activities. Let’s take a look…
1. Clarify Your Goals
As with most things in the world of business, a successful demand generation strategy should start with clear goals and objectives. What do you hope to achieve? Make sure every goal you set is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
- Specific: Be as specific as possible about what you’re trying to do. You don’t want to “Improve sales,” you want to “Boost sales of Product X by 17% in Q1 of this year.”
- Measurable: Make sure you’ve chosen specific metrics to measure while working towards your goals. That way you can track progress and make needed adjustments.
- Attainable: We’d all love to “boost sales by 1,000%”. But for most companies, that’s not realistic. Only set goals you and your team are actually equipped to achieve.
- Relevant: When choosing your goals, stick to ones that align with overall company objectives. You don’t want to be at cross purposes with other departments.
- Time-Based: Lastly, ensure every objective you put in place has a practical deadline. This will make your chances of accomplishing much higher.
We also suggest setting milestones for each goal, AKA short-term objectives you can focus on to help keep you inspired while working towards bigger aims.
The last thing we’ll say in regard to demand generation goals is that they should be set and worked on by both marketing and sales teams. This will ensure alignment between departments and help your company avoid erroneous and unproductive aims.
2. Define Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach with your demand generation strategy? If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find success.
You need to know exactly who your ideal customers are, their goals,the challenges they face on a regular basis, and where they hang out online. That way you can create content and messaging that resonates with them.
If you’re completely lost when it comes to defining your audience — either because you’re a brand new start up or you’ve just never taken the time to assess your target market — don’t worry. All you have to do is study the data and use it to build buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a fictional character that’s created to represent a subset of real-world consumers. Ideally, the buyer personas you create will have a gender, age (a range is fine), occupation, income level, motivations, goals, challenges, and interests.
Here’s a really good example:
To find the kind of information shown above, dig into your current customer data, which can be found in website and social media analytics dashboards and by talking to experienced sales reps and customer success professionals.
For companies without a well of data to mine, we suggest researching your industry as a whole by reading websites, engaging in forums, and viewing social media content. While this kind of information won’t be as helpful as your own data, it’s still valuable.
3. Map the Customer Journey
At this point you should have clear goals and a well-defined audience. Now it’s time to map your customer journey. Ask yourself, “what’s the logical path my prospects will take from complete stranger to paying customer?” This journey is vitally important to demand gen!
Take a look at the graphic from Resourceful Selling below. It does a great job of illustrating typical journey stages, as well as desired customer actions and content ideas for each.
The first funnel shows the general stages that each lead goes through on their journey from stranger to customer. The second shows the actions each lead needs to take to move from one stage to the next. And the third funnel shows various marketing and sales materials you can use at each stage to keep prospects flowing through and revenue coming in.
We’ll talk more about content types in the next section. But before we get there, take a look at your own funnel and answer these four questions:
- What action does a lead need to take to move to another stage in the funnel?
- What qualities do I want my leads to possess to move to subsequent funnel stages?
- What actions does a lead need to take to be removed from my funnel altogether?
- What conversion rate do I hope to achieve for each funnel stage?
By answering these four questions, you’ll be able to map a customer journey that works for your company’s unique demand generation strategy.
4. Create Your Content
Now that your customer journey is mapped out, you need to create (or assign) content to each stage of your funnel. The tactics below have been separated into suggested stages. But that’s all they are: suggestions. Feel free to add content as you see fit.
Top of the Funnel Content
Content at this stage of the funnel should be designed to attract your ideal audience and make them interested to learn more about your offerings. It also needs to be highly engaging, which is why we always recommend including visual elements.
- Paid Advertising: From Facebook ads to Google Adword campaigns, paid advertising can expose your brand to a lot of potential customers. Just make sure you have a solid strategy in place and keep an eye on ROI so you don’t lose money.
- Blogging: Long-form blog articles (like this post!) are a great way to improve your company’s SEO efforts, build a relationship with your target audience, and educate them on the latest happenings and inner-workings of your industry.
- Social Media: In all likelihood, your ideal customers spend a lot of time on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Meet them there! Just remember, social media should be a conversation, not a one-way announcement platform for your company.
- Video Content: Video is one of the most engaging marketing platforms. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy to use and affordable tools to help you capture quality footage. For example, CloudApp will allow you to quickly record your screen, free of charge.
Remember, your audience might not even know they have a problem at this stage of the funnel. If they do, they certainly don’t know how to solve it yet. Make sure your top of the funnel content is highly educational and *not* overly sales focused.
Middle of the Funnel Content
Once your prospects reach the middle of your funnel, they understand they have a problem and know there are solutions available to help them. Your content at this stage should work to build relationships and begin to explain why your company’s solution is the best option.
- Email Marketing: It’s been around for over four decades, but email marketing is still one of the best ways to nurture leads. Use this channel to keep your company top of mind, promote specific pieces of content, and deliver targeted offers.
- Downloadables: A downloadable is any piece of content that requires an email address and/or some other contact details to access. eBooks, white papers, guides, and even some high-end webinars fall into this category.
Middle of the funnel content should be highly educational, persuasive, and targeted directly at potential customers in this specific stage of the buyer’s journey.
Bottom of the Funnel Content
Customers at the bottom of the funnel are ready to buy. They just need one last push to get them over the edge. This is usually done via current customer review and testimonials, and content that expounds upon the features of a particular product or service.
- In-Depth Research: Take time to dig into customer data to see how your offerings help them. Or do an honest comparison of your’s and a competitor’s tool. Then publish the results so that almost-buyers have the details they need to complete a purchase.
- Case Studies: Case studies, AKA customer success stories, show potential buyers what others have achieved with a specific product. They should be very inspirational. If possible, include screenshots of customers using your tool so that its value is clear.
Do your best to ensure your bottom of the funnel content is concise, promotional (but not at the expense of bashing your competitors), and data driven. Your customers want the facts and they want them quickly when they reach this stage.
How Do You Measure Demand Generation?
You’ve created a demand generation strategy, complete with buyer personas, a customer journey map, and relevant content for each stage of your funnel. Congratulations, you’ve come a long way. But we’re not done yet.
How do you know your strategy is effective and helping you achieve the goals we talked about earlier? You learn to measure your demand generation efforts. Here’s how:
1. Define Your Metrics
First things first, decide which demand generation metrics you’ll track. The ones you choose should correlate with the goals you’re trying to achieve.
For example, if one of your goals is to increase your conversion rate from stage one to stage two, you might want to track lead magnet downloads. If you want to increase brand awareness, website traffic could be a KPI worth monitoring.
2. Track Metrics Over Time
Have you chosen a few important metrics? Great, start tracking them. Doing so will help you better understand your audience and how to adjust your strategy to better meet their needs.
Just remember to give yourself time. You need to acquire a bit of data before you make any drastic changes. That way you know you’re reacting to solid trends and not just momentary blips on an analytics dashboard.
3. Adjust as Needed
Finally, take what your data tells you and act on it. There’s no point in tracking downloads, website traffic, conversion rates, or anything else if you don’t use the information to improve your business. Look for patterns, make adjustments, repeat.
Pro Tip: Use a tool like CloudApp to make GIFs of your analytics. That way you can easily share them with colleagues and enhance understanding across your organization.
Demand generation is an important marketing and sales approach. By educating your target audience on the problems they have, how to solve them, and why your company’s products and/or services are essential to their success, you’ll boost sales. You’ll also improve brand authority, develop deeper blonds with your customers, and score more referrals.
Follow the steps we outlined above and you’ll be able to create and distribute the right content at the right time and guide your prospects through the sales funnel.
Image Credit: ekaterina bolovtsova; pexels
B2B Growth in the Light of Digital and 5G Era – Middle East Market – ReadWrite %
The telecommunication industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region grew moderately between 2010 and 2014. Increased revenues resulted in a 1.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in 2014. The market flourished even when compared to the American and European telecom industries.
B2B Growth in the Light of Digital and 5G Era
Notably, most operators have invested in mainly the fiber and mobile markets (4G and 5G). The industry’s revenue is anticipated at 1.7% CAGR, which amounts to $7.1 billion. This rapid growth can be ensured by deploying innovative digital transformation and technologies.
The Telecommunication Industry in MENA Region
MENA Telecommunication market growth in B2B, especially in the context of their ongoing Digital Transformation and the preparation of 5G network and new services deployments.
The MENA Market Trends and Forecasting
By 2025’s end, the MENA region will mark its stellar achievements in the telecom sector. This will be done with digital revolutions and the integration of new technologies and services—the data provided below spells out the telecom industry’s potential milestones by 2025.
There were 375 million mobile users in the MENA region in 2017. This amounts to 64% of the total population. It is projected to increase to 69% (459 million unique mobile subscribers) by 2025.
Mobile Operator Revenues
The revenue generated from mobile users was $68 billion in 2017. Trends and forecasts show that this will become $78 billion by 2025. The operator capital expenditure (CAPEX) from 2018-2020 is $34 billion.
In 2017, smartphone connections were 49%. This percentage will be 74% by 2025’s end.
Telecom Market in the Digital Transformation Era
Evolving Core Telecom Market
- A great demand for data.
- The decline of voice revenue due to the high demand for over-the-top media services.
- A challenging regulatory environment.
Growth in digital services
- Growth in B2B (Business to Business) services such as IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and megaprojects (E.g., smart cities).
- Growth in B2C (Business to Consumer) services such as digital across entertainment, digital lifestyle, and emerging services.
- Growth in areas like mobile financial services (MFS), digital advertising, and e-commerce.
- Deployment of new access technologies (E.g., 5G, Fiber, Edge, NB-IoT, LTE-M).
- Network virtualization and digitization of front-end and back-end.
- IT full-stack modernization and Exchange-to-Exchange (E2E) orchestration.
Changing Consumer Behaviors
- Demand for a seamless customer experience.
- Increasing demand for digital interactions across the customer journey.
- Evolution of enterprises powered by Industry 4.0.
Internal efficiencies and transformation
- Enhancement of efficiencies and agility with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), analytics, and AI.
- Optimization of operating models and process re-engineering.
- Culture change and talent acquisition/ re-skilling for new capabilities.
Industries that will be impacted by 5G
5G technology will ensure the efficient control of energy and power production. Furthermore, it will be used to process tower monitoring and remote transmission. It will also improve security.
Manufacturing 5G use cases are tied to the mission-critical concept of factory automation (the processes that must happen in extremely tight time frames to ensure revenue stability without any loss).
In this industry, 5G will also enable abilities like real-time production inspection and assembly line maintenance.
5G will facilitate remote telesurgery and patient monitoring. This will enable doctors to provide care from afar. The network could help augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications.
5G will improve smart cities’ prospects, including transportation, smart buildings, and smart metering.
Thanks to 5G, the emergence of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) is growing faster than expected.
Enterprise concerns regarding 5G and Internet of Thing (IoT)
1. IoT Use and Cases
IoT is associated with a positive investment profile. It is a key driver of the fourth industrial revolution. However, a surprising number of enterprises are still unconvinced about it.
40% of enterprises cite poor understanding of its benefits and use cases as a concern, the joint-top answer. IoT’s game-changing potential may be lost if these basic concerns are not addressed.
2. Immature Strategy
While the 5G investment is set to catch up with IoT spending over the next two years, doubts surround its readiness and relevance. 34% fear that 5G is immature, while 32% believe it is not relevant to overall technology and business strategy.
This is instructive since Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) providers position 5G as much more than just a better mobile connection. Findings suggest that 5G has yet to punch its weight as a driver of strategic change.
3. Security and OPS
Both 5G and IoT will give rise to a new horizon of connectivity endpoints. While this can help catalyze new value propositions and closer customer relationships, it may also open the door to new cyber threats. Tellingly, this ranks as the highest concern for both technologies.
Enterprises also struggle to see how both technologies integrate with legacy systems or function with other emerging technologies.
Select 5G use cases for enterprise and B2B
Here are the three main pillars in which 5G might affect the use cases for KSA:
- Mission-critical utilities –water active grid & energy active grid
Global electricity demand is growing at a tremendous pace. To manage this demand, new technological solutions such as smart grids and virtual power plants have emerged.
Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) are connected entities that optimize energy flow through the entire network. VPPs help owners gain maximum profit while keeping the electric network’s balance at the lowest cost available. Typically, they combine several types of resources.
Semi-Autonomous vehicles: Fully autonomous, self-driving cars may not be a reality just yet. However, semi-autonomous vehicles with intelligent driving systems installed by default will take to the highways in 2021. And by 2022, 100% of the new vehicles shipped by OEMs will have smart telematics and other connectivity systems.
New Solutions for vehicles: The greater state of connectivity will result in multiple new technological innovations and business models. These include new fleet management solutions, in-car payments and connected commerce, remote diagnostics and OTA updates, predictive maintenance, usage-based auto insurance, and more.
Smart Street Lights: A connected system that manages street light schedules, combined with LED lights, can decrease energy costs by up to 77%. This will generate a positive ROI in four years.
Connected CCTV Systems: They can streamline more data in real-time to ensure better monitoring of traffic conditions and public safety. For example, smart streetlights equipped with a video camera and/or gunshot detection sensors can deliver real-time information to officials so that they can respond faster.
Intelligent Parking: Smart parking stations can send 5G data about free parking spots and pricing straight to the driver’s onboard vehicle system. Such solutions can reduce traffic congestion by 8% and generate $93,700 in monthly revenue per parking space.
Connected Traffic Lights: New real-time traffic management systems can emerge and deliver a greater level of control over traffic flow in response to specific demand levels. The integration of 5G will allow for the creation and deployment of traffic strategies in response to real-time conditions like rush hour and congestions.
City managers could also use other strategies to prioritize public transport and optimize the overall traffic flow to reduce stop-start driving. This will reduce pollution.
How can 5G contribute to MENA operators?
1. Customized Pricing
Most providers offer multiple pricing plans with different data limits and other features. One plan might have low set-up fees and high overage charges, while a second offer the inverse.
When evaluating their options, most companies choose a standard plan rather than requesting a customized offering. This is because they lack insight into their connectivity needs and usage patterns.
Without this information, they often pay for unnecessary features, such as a data-volume allowance that far exceeds their requirements.
2. IoT Solutions
Solutions that are easy to adapt must be implemented. Real-time data analysis and the provision of rapid actions to changing needs will drive various sectors. Considering the MENA region and KSA landscape, smart cities, health care, and energy will be the leading sectors.
3. New Products & Services
With the enhancements of 5G, businesses will further change their working traditions. Virtual offices, holographic communications, and real-time live translations might easily become part of the new business environment and customer services. As Saudi is a service-oriented country, some of the new solutions could easily be monetized.
4. Smart Cities
Due to the government’s investments in improving the nation’s quality of life, there is vast potential in the adaptation of these services with a particular focus on security.
This article concludes that introducing the 5G network with digital reforms will create many opportunities for the MENA Region. It will assist investors and the telecom industry. Furthermore, it will lead to economic growth potent enough to enable the region to compete with the rest of the world.
Additional sources you may wish to read:
GSMA – The Mobile Economy Middle East and North Africa 2018
Ericsson, NGMN, TechRepublic, Tech Pro Research, ZDNet, CNET
TM forum Analysis, And Press Releases of Telco Op.
Additional Links on this Subject from ReadWrite:
- As Oil Flags, Middle Eastern Capital Flowing to IoT, Smart Cities
- Big Data in the Telecommunications Ecosystem
- Are Telecoms Being Overlooked in Smart City Deployments?
- Not Just Connectivity, Telecom Must Leverage the Most of IoT to Deliver Value-Based Services
Top Image Credit: jo kassis; pexels
The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology – ReadWrite
It’s not news that technology has become an important factor in almost every aspect of our lives. More people are getting rid of traditional satellite TV and moving to streaming services, Alexa letting us know when to water our plants, and the average person spending almost 3 hours and 30 minutes of their day just on their phone. It’s safe to say technology is an essential part of our day-to-day lives.
It isn’t just limited to entertainment and convenience in our personal lives either; many of us could not do our jobs without technology. Whether we’re graphic designers whose entire role exists within a computer, to supermarkets whose tills use complex software to keep the shop running.
The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology
Our lives revolve around technology in many ways, which raises the question of why the UK is falling behind in adopting newer technology such as AI and deep learning in the workplace?
What if diversity in the technology industry is a related factor in whether or not your business will fall behind.
What does diversity have to do with technology?
A criticism often given to technology is that its level of diversity and inclusivity fall behind many other industries.
The technology sector is currently expanding 3 times faster than the rest of the UK economy, but the diversity numbers fall beyond other areas. Gender diversity is estimated at just 19% in tech, and this is compared to 49% in other industries. When you get to higher-level executive roles within the tech industry, gender diversity falls to just 5% of women in senior positions.
From a business perspective, McKinsey’s Diversity Matters Report found companies with high diversity levels are 33% more likely to outperform competitors.
There are four types of diversity that can be found in the workplace.
- Internal – These are things individuals are born with that are difficult or impossible to change, such as ethnicity, age and gender.
- External – Refers to characteristics an individual is not born with, but are shaped by their experiences and circumstances such as education and appearance.
- Organizational – This refers to whether organizations have a wide variety of job functions, union affiliations and work locations.
- World View – Dealing with the experiences that shape how an individual views the world, such as their political leaning or cultural background.
When a company looks to create all four types of diversity, they create an inclusive environment where there is no status quo on how an employee should look, or be. Research shows employees who feel they work in an inclusive environment work harder and are more likely to tackle difficult tasks with a positive attitude due to their sense of purpose and loyalty.
These varied issues don’t just lead to a better work environment — they lead to a better product.
How does diversity create a better product?
Timnit Gebru, a Microsoft researcher and co-founder of Black in AI, says the lack of diversity will definitely affect the development of artificial intelligence and progress in computers:
“There is bias to what kinds of problems we think are important, what kinds of research we think are important, and where we think AI should go.
When problems don’t affect us, we don’t think they’re that important, and we might not even know what these problems are, because we’re not interacting with the people who are experiencing them.”
Gebru’s argument is that because there is a lack of diversity within technology, there is a lack of diversity in the technology it produces, especially when it comes to complex artificial intelligence.
When we look back at only 19% of tech workers being female and how Apple’s first promised “expanse” health app tracked blood alcohol but not menstruation cycles, you can understand why a more gender-diverse team may have seen this addressed before public release.
For many people, adopting new technology can be difficult because the technology is simply not built for them.
We’ve seen soap dispensers with sensors programmed to only recognize lighter skin tones that simply don’t register darker skin tones. Then there is voice recognition, with many examples of people having to fake southern English accents so that Alexa can actually understand requests and statements.
If the newer technology can’t recognize your voice — this creates an idea that technology is not designed with a diverse society in mind. Therefore, it can’t be used by a diverse society. Some of the voice programs have AI — so it’s just a matter of ML that will eventually get your voice tones — so keep trying to be understood!
A Microsoft report shows only half of UK employees use AI to work faster, compared to 69% of employees worldwide.
The demand for AI and deep-learning technology is not going to slow in demand anytime soon.
Industries increasingly see uses for it, not only to solve complex data problems but to predict customer behavior and habits. However, only 32% of UK employees actually feel their workplace is doing enough to prepare them for the growing necessary use of technology.
Technology relies on not just testing in developmental stages, but real-world applications to evolve and improve.
With the UK’s slow adoption rate of some technologies, it limits a technology company’s ability to fully realize the potential of some applications.
When you look at technology through the lens that it may not be made for you, and therefore may not work for you — it becomes easier to see why people have a negative bias towards it in some countries.
Is there any way diversity and technology can work together?
Part of why it’s important to be critical of technology is because it’s become so important to us, and we’ve seen the incredible work it can do with regards to diversity and inclusion.
One of the many ways technology can improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace is through dedicated diversity and inclusion technologies. 43% of D&I technologies are used for the purpose of talent acquisition, including candidate sourcing and selection, and the key to many of these technologies is artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence can help remove unconscious bias in recruiting throughout the entire hiring process.
AI has actually been used to write job postings, where it can write factual descriptions without leading statements or biased language that could be seen as exclusionary.
We’re also seeing AI being used in applicant screening, where it can be programmed to ignore demographics like race, age – all of which have been shown to give candidates an unfair disadvantage whilst applying for jobs.
Research shows applicants with “white-sounding” names have a 25% chance of being called for an interview, whereas applicants with “BAME-sounding” names only have a 10% chance of being invited to interview.
AI will screen CVs without registering this information instead of focusing on relevant skills, experience, and keyword matching to ensure it’s the best talent for being interviewed for roles.
Technology can also be used to improve existing problems in the workplace, not just focus on finding new talent. We’re seeing increased use of intelligent automation in employee benefits and compensation.
By combing through multiple sources, a cognitive bot can offer accurate insight into the compensation and benefits patterns across your organization, giving an unbiased view of gaps across your workforce and creating an even working environment.
Technology has its part to play
Compared to many industries, technology as we know it is an incredibly new industry. But, it’s important to note that while it still has a long way to go to become the diverse, inclusive space it needs to be to create the most cutting-edge technology, it is actively working towards this and helping support other industries in this pursuit.
The biggest takeaway is that technology is still a product of human design, which means it is not a completely unbiased creation.
If we want to create programs and tools that the wider workforce can adopt, it needs to be designed by groups that represent the wider workforce and can look from a variety of angles.
Image Credit: fauxels; pexels
5 Remote Working Tips for the Modern Workplace – ReadWrite
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed everything, including how we work. Many people have become remote employees, at least temporarily, for the first time in their careers.
While remote work has many benefits, it can be a difficult working arrangement to adjust to for some people — especially when other family members and/or roommates have been forced into quarantine at home. Home and work-life are constantly colliding.
We’re here to help and have created this brief guide with remote working tips to help you be as productive as possible during this new remote working era. Let’s dive in!
The Remote Working Era
Remote work has been growing in popularity for some time. In fact, in 2019 48% of U.S. workers worked remotely at least once per week. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, pretty much everyone has become a remote worker.
While the current circumstances are quite undesirable, remote work, in general, has numerous benefits — even as we all shelter in our homes and practice social distancing:
- Most employees are 22% more productive when working from home.
- The average person has 43% less meetings than they did before the pandemic.
- Most people have 2.5 more hours in their schedules than they did before COVID-19.
These are promising stats and proof that there is a silver lining, albeit a small one, to the current pandemic we’re all facing. We just have to take advantage of it.
5 Remote Working Tips for the Modern Workplace
Remote workers have the potential to be more productive than their in-office counterparts. But you have to follow a few tips, tricks, and best practices to reach this level of efficiency. Here are five remote working tips you can implement right now to become super productive during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
1. Remove Distractions
Distraction is an ever-present concern, whether you’re working remotely or in-office. In fact, one in three millennials list chatty co-workers as their biggest distractions in the workplace. Now that we’re all working from home due to social distancing best practices, chatty co-workers are much less of a concern. But self-quarantined family members can make it hard to focus, too.
What’s the game plan? How can you concentrate on your work for solid stretches of time, even when the world around you seems intent on distracting you? We have a few suggestions:
- Lock Your Door: This is one of the most important things you can do to avoid distractions. Why does this work so well? Because you’re physically blocking distractions from entering your workspace. Your family members won’t be able to just burst in and ask you a million questions that take your mind away from the task at hand.
- Wear Headphones: We also recommend working with headphones on. Again, this is another way to block out distractions. If you can’t hear what’s going on in the room next to your home office, you won’t be tempted to postpone your work and engage with the commotion. Similarly, when your family and/or roommates see you in headphones, they’ll be much less likely to interrupt you unless absolutely necessary.
- Turn Off the TV: You know what really kills remote productivity? Netflix, Hulu, Disney+… The streaming networks are so convenient and will suck you in if you’re not careful. For most people, it makes more sense to never turn the TV on during work hours, that way they’re not tempted to watch “just one more episode!”
- Mute Your Notifications: If possible, turn off your phone and log out of your email while doing your most important work. A text or email, even if it’s job-related, is a distraction that will keep you from doing your best work. If you’re not willing to turn off your phone and log out of your email because you need to be reached in case of an emergency, try silencing your notifications so that you’re not breaking focus as often.
- Prioritize Deep Work: Deep work is a popular phrase that was originally coined by Cal Newport in his 2016 book of the same title. According to Newport, deep work is “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” In other words, it’s the practice of setting aside time to focus on one (keyword, one) important task. By doing this, you naturally eliminate distractions.
If you follow these five quick tips, you’ll be able to quickly reduce distractions and focus on your work for longer stretches of time, guaranteed.
2. Keep a Standard Routine
It can be tempting when working remotely to wake up late, wear your pajamas all day, and start work whenever you feel like. You don’t have to commute to the office, so what’s the harm in a more relaxed schedule and work wardrobe? A lot actually…
Many experts encourage remote workers to keep a standard routine that’s very similar to the office schedule they’re accustomed to. Get up in the morning, take a shower, get dressed, etc.
For some folks, setting a standard routine is difficult when working from home. Without a standard time to clock-in, it’s too easy to base your day around how you feel in the moment. But this rarely leads to high levels of productivity.
Instead, follow these three tips to help you keep a standard routine:
- Know Yourself: When are you most productive? Some people work best in the morning, others excel in the midnight hours. Neither is right or wrong, they’re just different. The key is knowing how you work best and then planning your schedule around your natural tendencies and preferences.
- Have an Accountability Partner: Just because you work best in the morning, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be excited to get up, get ready, and start working every morning. That’s why having an accountability partner can be so effective. If you know that your colleague is expecting you to check-in at a specific time before work, you’ll be more incentivized to get yourself out of bed on time.
- Reduce Meetings: We suggest scheduling company and team meetings for specific days only. Meetings are widely known to be incredibly unproductive for most organizations. But you can’t simply not meet. Instead, plan meetings for specific days and then give your team the autonomy to complete their work by the required deadlines.
- Have Fun! It can be easy to forget to have fun, but its important to help with mental health.
3. Use Calendar Blocking
Calendar blocking is the practice of blocking out time on one’s calendar to focus on specific tasks. Simple, right? Unfortunately, very few people actually do this consistently. Here are a few tips to help you properly calendar block:
- Prioritize: There are a million things you could do every day. But some projects and tasks will be more important than others. You need to prioritize these activities and make sure you block off enough time on your calendar to accomplish them.
- Eliminate: Look at your list of tasks and ask yourself, “What does not need to be on my calendar right now?” After you answer that question, cut any tasks (especially meetings!) that don’t fit your current schedule or aren’t one of your immediate top priorities.
- Prepare: You want to be ready to hit the ground running as soon as you begin working. This means starting the day with preparation is unproductive. Before you clock-out, decide what you’re going to work on and when the next day. Then block out time for each one of those tasks in your calendar.
- Review: There’s one final task you should accomplish before you shut down your computer and exit your home office: a daily review. How was your day? Did you achieve everything you planned to? Were you able to stick to your calendar? Now use these insights to plan an even better day for tomorrow.
4. Take Productivity Breaks
As the old saying goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” While it may seem counterintuitive, breaks throughout the day will actually increase your productivity levels. They’ll also make your day more enjoyable, which is equally as important and worth mentioning.
But breaks can be tricky when working remotely for a couple of reasons.
- First: It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your work that you forget to stop for a quick breather. When working in a regular office, this is less of an issue because you’re usually able to see your colleagues take occasional breaks and are reminded to do the same.
- Second: Some remote workers are afraid to take breaks at home because it’s so easy to become distracted while doing so. What if your significant other has the TV on in the living room and you hear it when venturing to the kitchen for a snack? Do you have the willpower not to sit down and watch with them? Not everyone does. To combat this issue, use the techniques we outlined above in the “Remove Distractions” section.
It’s crucial that you don’t just try to take breaks, but you actually schedule time for them in your calendar. That’s right, use the calendar blacking strategy for breaks too!
If you’re wondering how to take a productive break, we have a couple of ideas for you:
- Go Outside: Enjoy the sun and listen to the birds. Sip a cup of coffee or tea while you’re out there or consider meditating if that’s your thing. Whatever you do, plan two or three times (at least) during the day that you can break from your work and reset in nature.
- Leave Your Work Zone: What if it’s raining and you can’t go outside? Simply go to another room or area of your home. This physical split from your normal work environment will help your brain “turn off” for a few minutes and rest.
- Play a Team Game: Get your colleagues involved in your break time and play a game with them while you all rest and rejuvenate. There are plenty of apps that will allow you and your remote teammates to play trivia, go on digital scavenger hunts, and more. To really up the ante, divvy out rewards for those who win the games!
Breaks, as crazy as it sounds, will definitely help you become more productive as you work remotely. Give them a try and see for yourself!
5. Manage Your Technology
Technology can be a great asset when it comes to productivity and time management. From communication tools to automation solutions, allow the various software applications available help you get more done in less time. Here are a few top options in this regard:
- CloudApp: CloudApp combines screen and webcam recording, GIF creation, and screenshot features into one solution that makes team collaboration between remote employees quick and easy. Why send a long-winded email when you can simply record yourself explaining your thoughts or an annotated image pinpointing your exact areas of concern?
- Calendar.com: Calendar is a popular calendar app used by industry heavyweights like Fox News, Forbes, and CNN. Your most precious asset is your time. This app helps you spend it wisely by allowing users to quickly schedule meetings and block off time for productive deep work. It also features AI and machine learning to tailor the Calendar experience to each user and detailed analytics so you can discover exactly how you’re spending your time and refocus your efforts when needed.
- Slack: In all likelihood, your organization has been using Slack for years. Now that your entire team is working remotely, it’s an even more valuable tool. If you’re not familiar with it, users can converse with each other via text, voice, and video chat; organize conversations into specific channels; and easily search past conversations with Slack’s handy searchable history feature.
- Zoom: Zoom has held the title of “most popular video conferencing app” for quite a while. But ever since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, usage of the tool has really exploded — with good reason. Zoom is a great way to connect with your team and host meetings. It also comes with some useful features including HD audio and video, meeting transcripts, and virtual backgrounds.
- PandaDoc: We all create, send, and sign documents regularly. PandaDoc will help you do it much more efficiently with its suite of time-saving features that include customizable templates, a drag and drop editor, esignature capability, convenient document storage, and integrations with other top tools.
- Google Docs: Many companies already use Google Docs to craft blog posts, proposals, and other written documents; then easily send them to each other. But if your organization doesn’t use the tool to collaborate on specific projects as well, it’s missing out. Google Docs is a quick and easy way to work with your team and get writing jobs done faster than ever before.
- Project Management Apps: Tools like Trello, Asana, and Airtable help keep teams on the same page and focusing on the right goals. They also allow colleagues to converse about projects, send important files to each other, and more. We suggest researching each of these three apps in greater detail (if you aren’t already using one of them) and choosing the tool that best fits your team’s needs.
At least a piece of the modern workplace is remote. These tips will help you to maximize your place in the future of work.
Top Image Credit: kelly fairytale; pexels