When we thank our clients, we want the expression to be genuine and to strike just the right note. However, it takes a sneaky amount of time to organize the perfect gift, and when we’re short on time — as we often are — it’s easy to table the task for the next day…and the next…and the….
Now it’s nearly Thanksgiving, and it almost feels too late for client gifts.
Or is it?
Waiting does have its benefits. For one, your options are whittled down, which can be a welcome relief. Ten types of mugs requires less effort than wading through 100. Your time crunch may also cause you to consider creative options you may not have otherwise. Always wanted to hand deliver your client gifts? This might be the year. And finally, if you haven’t already, this is the perfect excuse to evaluate and trim your recipient list. That client you haven’t worked with in ten years, but have optimistically sent annual gifts? Your time crunch makes it easier to pause them this year.
All of that description does nothing to solve the real question: what can I send my clients on a short timeframe? To get you started, we asked the ever-thankful MJM team what they’d suggest when needing a last minute gift. Here are their best ideas, for local or nationwide clients.
Wreaths or floral arrangements. These can likely be delivered or, if you’re really in the holiday spirit, set aside an afternoon for you and your team to run around town spreading cheer and handing out office-brightening arrangements.
Coffee and treats. Let your clients know a week in advance that you’re sending breakfast. Then, on the appointed day, arrange for delivery of a spread of things such as bagels, parfaits, doughnuts, coffee, and orange juice. Be sure to include a gluten-free option.
Event tickets. Purchase tickets to a well-loved local event that will put everyone in the holiday spirit.
Digital gifts. Gift an audiobook, music, or even a three-month subscription to a streaming platform. Personalize this with a note that tells about a book that was meaningful to you or a documentary you’d recommend they watch.
Writing utensils. What professional isn’t always hunting for just the right pen? Send 2-3 pen options and let your recipients vote for their favorite. Follow-up with a whole package of the winning pen for those who voted.
Set-up an online store. Many screen print retailers and sweet treat companies will set up an online store for you featuring products you select. Once your “store” is ready, all you have to do is send your clients a greeting with a link to visit, pick an item, and have their chosen gift shipped to them directly.
Keep in mind that your gift should be just that: a gift. This shouldn’t be an attempt to sell, and it isn’t necessary to put your logo all over your gift. However, it’s still appropriate to brand your gift so that your clients easily connect it to your business. Tissue paper in brand colors, logo stickers, or handwritten notes on office stationery can all add light touches of branding, especially when time is short.
If all else fails, extend the season by sending a gift that celebrates the new year instead, or consider using this time to plan a Valentine’s Day gift so that way you’re ready when February rolls around.
It was my first day at a new job and I walked in, quite literally, to phones that were ringing off the hook. Curious, I approached the area where a pair of receptionists, who, as pleasant as could be, were fighting a losing game of whack-a-mole with the blinking red lights on their consoles. When I asked why today had such a high call volume, they told me “It’s always like this.”
If job security had a ringtone, I had a lot of it.
However, as awesome as that was, this company wasn’t ready to handle the results of their marketing. Their team had executed a focused strategy to get their name out and it worked.
Focus on Operations First
But little attention had been paid to the infrastructure and operations necessary to handle things like call volume or adequate parking. Even more broadly, no one had considered how mundane things like poorly-designed forms or long phone wait times can undo months — and in this case years — of strategic marketing.
When your prospective customer finally picks up the phone or fills out the contact form on your website, you must be ready to follow through on your promises. Jimmy John’s couldn’t promise “Freaky Fast Delivery” without putting in place everything possible to guarantee that delivery is, in fact, freaky fast.
Marketing Comes Last
In other words, what many people don’t realize is that operations is the first step to effective marketing. At MJM, we take that even further. To us, operations is marketing and well-designed operations lead to a stellar patient experience that, in turn, leads to word-of-mouth referrals. Only once those things are in place should full-scale marketing efforts be launched.
That was a welcome mindset for the receptionists whack-a-moling their way through phone call after phone call. I paused the company’s marketing that very day so we could focus on operations for a time. When we restarted our marketing plan a few months later, the phones were still ringing with one notable exception: we’d gotten better at handling our call volume.
https://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/MJM-Marketing-is-your-last-step-01.jpg11822084Matt Jensenhttps://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/mjm-logo-nav.pngMatt Jensen2021-07-22 11:12:322021-07-26 16:42:45Marketing is Your Last Step
While there are many ways to communicate — speaking, dancing, singing, painting, and even non-verbal communication — writing remains the most elegant and valuable form for individuals to master. A well-written paragraph can sell your product, launch your brand, or galvanize your followers.
Powerful writing creates movement.
But what elevates writing from mediocre to good? One simple approach can help you write better regardless the medium. Social media, brochures, brand narratives, web copy — you’ll write with more power when you amplify contrast.
Classic literature uses contrast to great effect, creating power and momentum. Good versus evil. Angels versus demons. Weak versus strong. Our most famous stories, movies, comics, superheroes, and heroic rescues all use contrast to connect the reader with the story.
Businesses can also use contrast to connect audiences to their social media posts, brochures, websites, and anything else they write. Here are some examples:
Heroes versus Villains
In your business space, who is the hero and who is the villain? Don’t be afraid to employ contrast and paint a picture for your customers about good vs. evil. You can find villains all around your business: competitors, market forces, cultural frustrations, impossible challenges. Find the force that pushes against your company and create contrast with your product or service.
Future Glory versus Future Pain
Great business writing isn’t shy about painting a detailed picture of a glorious future that includes your product or service… and how dismal the future will be without it. A little drama makes the customer’s choice clear.
Pain Point versus Product Benefit
Whatever your business or service, you likely have created a list of customer pain points and product features and benefits. Don’t be afraid to bring these together! Find tension and contrast between these two lists and use it to strengthen the power of your message.
Now versus Later
There is power in immediacy, in acting now rather than later. Use your writing to amplify the value of acting now instead of putting off decisions about your product or service.
Take this lesson from generations of authors and use it to improve your business writing. The difference between good writing and mediocre writing is that good writing employs contrast. Mediocre writing is bland and boring.
So don’t be lukewarm! Be hot, or cold, or better yet, stage a battle between the frozen arctic wind and the sweltering tropical sunshine.
https://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/iStock-483302642adj-sm.jpg7031250Logan Wanghttps://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/mjm-logo-nav.pngLogan Wang2021-05-25 17:04:082021-06-02 14:02:25Level Up Your Writing With Contrast
There are plenty of marketing strategies that aren’t worth the time, dollars, or guesswork.
Building customer personas isn’t one of them.
The vast reach of social media and the web in general can be a siren song to many marketers and business leaders — it seems logical that the more people who see and hear your message, the better.
But the reality is, blanketing your message to large groups that only meet your basic demographics is diluting the message for your true prospects and wasting it on people who never were your prospects in the first place.
Enter the customer persona. A well-researched one will lessen your workload and target your marketing dollars toward your best prospects.
Personas also help you empathize with your customers. It’s easy to only think about what your business wants from those who use your products and services without considering what they need from your business. Increasingly, consumers are seeking companies they trust. One way to build trust? Empathy. One way to empathize with your customers? Personas.
What exactly is a persona?
A persona is a fictitious character who represents a group of real customers with common traits. Creating a persona is much like a novelist creating the heroine for his next bestseller. Except in this case, instead of using your imagination, you’ll draw from research. This can include surveys, data analysis, and demographics.
However, since data points can’t be marketed to, personas must also include details about customer attitudes, beliefs, goals, and motivations. It’s not enough to know that most cataract patients are in their late 60s to early 70s and are 60% female. You need to note that on the day of their surgery they’re likely to clear their calendar, dress a little nicer, arrive with plenty of extra time, and feel nervous.
A persona is useless unless it gives insight into what your customers are thinking, feeling, and doing while they try to meet their needs. That’s the information you need in order to see how best to help them succeed.
How do you build a persona?
Like many things, there’s no one right way to create a customer persona; however, at MJM we recommend these steps to our clients who are just starting out.
Gather your customer data. This likely begins with basic demographic information. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to glean that data from your Google Analytics and website logs. This will give you a base you can use to build your persona. Demographic data largely reinforces what you already know so use it only to begin seeking insights you may not already have.
Identify customers you can talk to and ask them lots of questions. MJM strongly recommends gathering as much firsthand insight as possible. The only way to truly do that is to take the time to talk (and listen!) to your customers. You may even consider specifically seeking out those whose experience was less than ideal as their assessment can point out gaps in service your satisfied customers may overlook.
Group customers and look for patterns. Find similar responses and traits from the customers you’ve spoken to and build a persona around them. Highlight the beliefs, goals, and frustrations that bring this group to life. Give your fictitious customer a name or title and attach a photo to make the character memorable and more realistic.
Have fun with this! Some of our clients have found that they enjoy the process and when it’s done, they’re relieved to have that “person” to return to time and again to make wise marketing decisions.
https://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/MJM-Personas-Blog-Image-2021.jpg6811200Brady Holmhttps://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/mjm-logo-nav.pngBrady Holm2021-04-23 11:20:332021-06-02 14:02:25Save Time, Dollars, and Guesses with Customer Personas
When you’re a nonprofit, every cent can truly make a difference. At Matt Jensen Marketing, we’ve discovered a lot of tricks over the years to help nonprofits develop lean and efficient marketing systems that can deliver high-impact messages while keeping operating costs low. Here are a few of our favorite services that offer special rates and features for qualifying 501(c)3s and why you should be using them.
Nonprofit employees usually wear a lot of hats, designer and social media guru often among them. If you are struggling to fill your feed with consistent, on-brand messaging, Canva may be the solution. Canva is an easy-to-use design platform that allows you to create custom graphics for social media in a matter of minutes. You can even use it to create print pieces like newsletters and brochures.
While a light version of Canva is available for free, qualifying nonprofits can apply to upgrade to the premium version at no cost. The huge benefit of this is the ability to use Canva’s Brand Kit, which allows you to save your brand logos, fonts, and colors so you can easily apply them to any design. You can also create templates for your team to have at-the-ready. Learn more about Canva for nonprofits here.
Donors love the ease of being able to give online, but those transaction fees can really add up. Enter Shopify.
Shopify is traditionally known as an e-commerce platform, but they can also make it simple for you to process donations and even sell merchandise. Their drag-and-drop builder also allows you to easily update your website content and share your story, no coding experience necessary. Learn more about how to apply for Shopify’s discounted nonprofit rates here.
Source: Constant Contact
Emails are the bread-and-butter of most nonprofit communications, so it’s important that they represent your mission well. Using a premium email marketing service like Constant Contact can help you put your best foot forward.
Constant Contact offers a 20–30% discount for qualifying nonprofits and includes an easy-to-use email builder as well as event sign-ups, polls, and other useful tools. They also make it easier to organize your mailing list and send targeted messages to specific segments.
You probably need no introduction to Google. But did you know that they offer discounts on their services for qualifying non-profits? With G Suite for nonprofits, you can set up email accounts with your domain name, making them look more professional and less likely to get trapped in spam filters.
You’ll also get more storage in Google Drive than you would with a typical free Gmail account, allowing you to create templated documents and presentations that you can easily share among your team. On top of G Suite, Google also offers nonprofit discounts and grants for Google Ads, YouTube, and Google Maps. Learn about all of Google’s nonprofit tools here.
If all of this information is still making your head spin, Matt Jensen Marketing is here to help! We have experience working with nonprofits both big and small and can provide the guidance and training your team needs to start marketing your nonprofit like a pro. Contact us to get started.
“Hello, thank you for calling ABC Office. How may I help you?”
“Hi, I need to check the activity on account #4145.”
The caller gives his name and as the receptionist pulls the account up on her computer, he explains that it actually belongs to his dad. “It’s okay though. He asked me to check on it,” the caller says confidently.
But the receptionist can’t find the caller listed as an authorized user anywhere. Now what?
The receptionist needs help with her next steps. She needs to know what her employer’s policy is in these cases and ways to represent that position, all while expressing respect to the customer. In other words, she needs a script.
What is scripting?
Scripting, at its most basic, is a pre-written set of lines used to guide interactions with your customers. Answering the phone is a very practical example of how scripts work. However, a true scripting process ensures that all your team members are equipped with the confidence and security they need to deliver the right message at the right time. From greeting the people who walk through your doors to answering questions on social media to taking calls from upset customers, a well thought out script allows your team to respond in a way that best represents your company’s values and builds trust.
Scripting benefits your customers, too. They’ll receive consistent, on-brand communication that guides them toward making an appointment, placing an order, or signing up for your email list. Ideally, there should be a script for every aspect of your customer’s experience, from the very beginning to the very end.
The best scripts are the ones that work for your business. They can be as detailed or as minimal as needed. Their main goal is to give simple guardrails and ideas your team can work with so that everyone starts from the same place. Scripts provide your customers and your team members security and consistency, even when staff, protocol, climate, or technology change.
Want to try scripting, but not sure where to begin? Follow MJM on social where we’ll share our pro tips for getting started. We promise to break it down into small tasks that build toward big payoffs.
Want to take it one step further? Contact us for a consultation. Our experts can assess your scripting needs, help craft your messaging, and even train your staff.
https://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Scripting-Blog-Header-Image-01.png9651667Alison Raaenhttps://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/mjm-logo-nav.pngAlison Raaen2021-01-15 11:44:262021-06-02 14:02:25Scripting: The Security Blanket Your Business Needs
I used to dread calling the doctor’s office. It wasn’t that it led to stepping on the scale (though that also wasn’t always pleasant) or the occasional shot or two.
It was that it led to music. Invariably, I’d be put on hold while the scheduler took another call, and for a few torturous minutes, I’d be accosted with a screechy, tinny distortion of The Four Seasons.
Vivaldi and I were not impressed.
My doctor’s office needed more than just higher quality on-hold music; they needed to examine their customers’ experience. Sure, they’d covered all the expected bases, but with a little insight and attention to detail, that office could have — in keeping with today’s analogy — gone from passable high school band to South Dakota Symphony Orchestra in no time.
What are your customers really buying?
Business leaders all agree that making customers and clients feel taken care of is paramount and worth the investment. But what they sometimes overlook is that customer care extends far beyond an aesthetically pleasing website and timely delivery of goods and services.
That’s not as far-reaching as it sounds, and even better, can usually be done gradually with a few simple changes. Whether you’re designing the experience at a coffee shop or a healthcare center, here are a few strategies to get your customers raving about their time with you:
Experience your customer’s point of view. Start back at a Google search and move to filling out your website’s contact form. Call your business for directions, park in the customer section of your lot and sit in your waiting room or public area. Walk through the entire experience, being mindful of ways to improve. And don’t just do this once; do it on a regular basis.
Take every sense into account. What do customers smell when they visit your location? Is the space too dark or too light? If there’s seating, is it comfortable? Consider the noise level and background music. Are they pleasing or distracting? Look at accessibility. Are counters too high for someone in a powerchair to see over?
Train your staff. Customer care goes beyond being friendly and helpful and doesn’t always come as naturally as we assume. Be intentional about training your staff to show empathy toward customers, clients, or patients. These changes can often be simple to implement. Instead of calling patient names across the waiting room, staff at Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls make a point of walking to patients before greeting them. It gets the interaction off on a personal note and puts patients at ease. Another business realized that handing its clients off from one professional to another, while efficient for them, was disorienting for their clients. They adjusted their workflow so that clients worked with the same representative from the beginning to the end of their experience.
Making your customers feel valued and cared for is crucial to your business. The kind of marketing a loyal ambassador provides is priceless, but with some mindful changes you can tap into its benefits. (And this time Vivaldi *will* be impressed.)
Over the last few months, I, like most people, have been asking myself a lot of questions. Small questions like, “Do I have enough toilet paper?” Hard questions like, “When will I see my friends again?” And big questions like, “What will our world look like when this is all over?”
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend WordCamp — what is usually a one-day WordPress conference in Minneapolis but now, like so much of our lives, had shifted to being entirely virtual. Where better, I thought, to start finding answers to at least some of my questions, many of which are connected to our increasing dependence on the digital world.
As someone who has designed a website or two, I have been filled with a mixture of sadness at how much of our interactions have become virtual and curiosity about how we can work to make these spaces more meaningful and more inclusive. At WordCamp, I was pleased to discover some unexpected insights that left me feeling more motivated and optimistic than before. (Although no answers on the toilet paper front.)
SEO… It’s Not Just for Bots
I will be the first to admit that I was somewhat of a reluctant web designer. My teachers would stress how important it was, and I would be like, “Yeah, but the paper—it’s so romantic!” This changed when I realized it was arrogance, not romance, that was constraining my thinking.
By forcing my own notions of “good design” on the user, I wasn’t listening to what they actually needed or wanted. I had to shift my thinking into designing for the medium that would be most beneficial to the audience I was talking to and not just the medium that I wanted to create in.
What does all of this have to do with SEO? The prevailing attitudes towards SEO are that it is either a.) A game that can be won and lost or b.) A giant pain in the butt that Google has forced upon us all. While there may be some truth in these attitudes, SEO work can become more purposeful if we spend less time obsessing about search rankings and inscrutable algorithms and more time focusing on what’s really important: the user.
In one of the sessions I attended, Tyler Goldberg of CYBERsprout explained that, contrary to popular belief, Google is not out to get you when it comes to SEO. Google’s primary goal is deliver the content that is the most relevant and useful to the user. So if your goal is the same, you will be helping Google and, in turn, Google will help you.
While the SEO game can still be conned by those with deep pockets and black hat practices, it is definitely changing for the better. Google recently announced that it will be adjusting its algorithm to reward websites who provide a good user experience. This means content that is well-formatted and engaging and designs that are intuitive and easy-to-use. In other words, good SEO is really just good human-centric design.
We All Win With an Accessible Web
Many of us have only recently begun to rely on digital-only services as a lifeline to the outside world, but for people with disabilities, the web has long been a vital tool to help them live richer and more independent lives.
I am ashamed to say that when I first began designing for the web, accessibility was not something I put too much thought into. But the more I have learned about it, the more it has provided depth and purpose to my work.
In her session about web accessibility, Mychelle Blake of Firelink (and fellow Sioux Falls resident!) shared the importance of considering it at every stage of the process. There is no plug-and-play solution that will make a website accessible—it needs to be baked in from the site structure to the content to the design.
During this session, I was struck by the eerie similarities between SEO and accessibility. When it comes down to it, they are both about having empathy for the end user and delivering them a positive experience. Often, both SEO and accessibility are afterthoughts—something that comes secondary to the overall design. But, when we stop seeing these aspects as burdens or hoops we have to jump through and start working them into our overall purpose and strategy, we can start to design a web that is better for everyone.
As our reliance on the web grows stronger, it is more imperative than ever to create a web that useful, just, and, above all, human.
https://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/MJM-Wordcamp-Blog-Graphic-2020-09-08-01-1.jpg5871200Kirstie Wollmanhttps://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/mjm-logo-nav.pngKirstie Wollman2020-09-09 14:05:332021-06-02 14:02:25Designing for Humans in a Robot’s World
This week marks our third week “back at work” after quarantine. For nearly four months our team, like most teams, had been among the millions worldwide who suddenly found themselves working from home. While MJM has always had a few remote team members (two on the West coast and one in the Twin Cities) the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to abruptly transition to an all-remote team. We tried to be positive and embrace the new normal, but it presented a fair amount of challenges. I would even say that there was some grieving for what was lost in the daily face-to-face interactions.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that grief, in a time when we are all trying to navigate how to mourn the more grievous loss of life, and I think a big part of the disorientation many are feeling has to do with the loss of the physical spaces we shared. When we go to the places where we work, play, or get coffee, that physical change of place functions as a cue or marker. The erasure of those spaces — and the movement to those spaces — has left us in a trackless sea of mingled social interactions, mostly mediated through our screens.
Finding our place
Physical places help us situate ourselves, both mentally and emotionally. Driving back into your hometown after years away brings a wash of memories. Walking through the halls of your elementary school calls up faces of classmates and teachers. And it’s why “I can still remember where I was when I heard the news” is such a common experience.
This link between memory and places has long been established. In order to remember their speeches, Roman orators like Cicero would use the “method of loci” to create mental maps of a place — a home or a street of shops — called memory palaces and then mentally associate items to be remembered with each location. To recall the information stored in these memory palaces the speaker would then mentally move through the space, collecting their key points like a shopper in a well-organized grocery store.
In order to remember their speeches, Roman orators like Cicero would use the “method of loci” to create mental maps of a place — a home or a street of shops — called memory palaces and then mentally associate items to be remembered with each location.
Our spatial memory even extends to printed material, and especially content in books. We often remember where on a page we read a certain piece of information (an advantage that is lost when reading in the endless slippery scroll of a digital device.) In a 2014 study done at Norway’s Stavanger University, researchers noticed that subjects were able to more accurately recall the plots of stories they had read in print, when compared with stories read on an electronic device:
“‘When you read on paper you can sense with your fingers a pile of pages on the left growing, and shrinking on the right,’ said [lead researcher Anne Mangen.] ‘You have the tactile sense of progress, in addition to the visual… Perhaps this somehow aids the reader, providing more fixity and solidity to the reader’s sense of unfolding and progress of the text, and hence the story.’”
This may be one reason that readers seem to prefer print books, and often report a deeper emotional connection to the content of a physical book.
Even on a neurological level, our experiences and memories are coded in a way that time and place are deeply intertwined with the content of the memory. Researchers monitoring brain activity during a study that involved having participants play a virtual reality game found that,
“[N]euralrepresentations of the content of the experience had become linked with the spatial and temporal context. Such evidence provides strong evidence for the theory that memory formation and recall involve association of event with context, especially spatial and temporal context. This linkage creates a mutually reinforcing interaction of event and location. We tend to remember both or neither.”
The unifying power of sharing space
If physical spaces shape our memories of the past, they also generate innumerable intangible benefits in our daily lives. Sharing space with others unifies us, almost accidentally, through countless small quotidian interactions. One of the biggest losses we’ve all felt in this season of quarantine and social distancing has been the loss of those incidental interactions that we’d grown accustomed to in our favorite third places1. In his book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg first brought the idea of “third places” to the attention of the wider public:
“Most needed are those ‘third places’ which lend a public balance to the increased privatization of home life. Third places are nothing more than informal public gathering places. The phrase ‘third places’ derives from considering our homes to be the ‘first’ places in our lives, and our work places the ‘second.’”
Working from home meant that our “first place” (home) and our “second place” (work) collapsed into one seemingly borderless experience. And now, at a time when our need for some escape from our work and home spaces is most acute, many people are concerned that those third places that formerly offered escape are in danger from both social and economic pressures.
By sharing space before the pandemic, both at work and at home, we unconsciously created a vast bank of shared experiences with members of our community and with our coworkers. At a distance, over Zoom calls and Slack messages, we’re still drawing on that bank of shared experiences, but without opportunities to replenish those connections our mutual connections are being stretched, becoming thin and tenuous. But with cases still on the rise and most traditional third places closing their dine-in spaces, if we’re going to rebuild those connections it’s probably going to have to happen in outdoor public spaces.
Back at work
The MJM space opened back up for business on July 6th. We have gone to great lengths to mitigate the risk of infection, both to ourselves and to clients and vendors. We wears masks when moving around our space, and nixed the communal coffee pot. We also rearranged all our work areas to provide at least 8 feet between each worker. (Brady Holm, our design lead, put together a great post outlining how our process of working together to develop a new office layout was a perfect microcosm for our experiences in remote collaboration.)
As I write this at my appropriately socially-distanced desk back in the MJM space, I believe it’s worth the trouble. Ideas flow quicker in person, and feedback in matters large and small is better. There are daily accidental conversations that connect us and move us forward in our creative work as well as in our friendships — conversations that we never would have scheduled a Zoom call to have, but that came about because we happen to be sharing the same physical space. It’s good to be back at work.
1“The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele and is marked by a playful mood, which contrasts with people’s more serious involvement in other spheres. Though a radically different kind of setting for a home, the third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends…They are the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy, but sadly, they constitute a diminishing aspect of the American social landscape.”
“Life without community has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community. It is no coincidence that the ‘helping professions’ became a major industry in the United States as suburban planning helped destroy local public life and the community support it once lent.” (Ray Oldenburg, quoted by Project for Public Spaces)
https://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Value-of-place-header.png9001600Tim Murrayhttps://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/mjm-logo-nav.pngTim Murray2020-07-30 14:33:582021-06-02 14:02:26The Value of Physical Place in Work, Memory, and Life
As our local team began planning the return to our office space, we needed a plan for rearranging our office layout in light of social distancing guidelines necessitated by COVID-19. In the past, we gathered together in a conference room or around a whiteboard wall for this task. Or we just started moving furniture around to see how it felt. This time would have to be different. This time we would need dedicated remote collaboration space to plan how we’d rearrange our physical space.
Finding the right tool
Thankfully we had been exploring some remote collaboration tools to help recreate some of the benefits of shared physical space. We recently tested Milanote for collaborative visual tasks like assembling mood boards, and Miro for facilitating remote workshop type activities. Both tools have features that allow for organizing (and reorganizing) ideas spatially. This is a key ingredient for recreating some of the magic of a shared physical space.
For our office layout, we chose to use a collaborative Miro board and run this a bit like an asynchronous, remote workshop.
Creating space for remote collaboration
To start, we created a template that had two necessary components: a floor plan of the office space, to scale, and multiple copies of desk diagram demarcated with social distancing safe zones, also drawn to scale. And we set some parameters and principles to guide the exploration. The goal was to arrive at an office layout that allowed for socially distant socializing and collaboration. The principles and goals were noted alongside the floor plan to keep them always at hand.
With the basic template created, we set up individual workspaces for each team member to test desk arrangements. We each had several days to explore on our own, playing games of Tetris with our office furniture between project work. All the layouts were visible to the team – this allowed for some cross-pollination to occur. We saw clever ideas for efficient use of space used in one layout cascade across others.
Once everyone had some time to test their ideas, we came together to share our layouts and discuss. This discussion was invaluable as we each found insights that altered how we approached our own solution to the challenge. And the collaborative tools in Miro allowed us to test some of these new ideas together during our video meeting. We gave everyone a few additional days to make some revisions based upon insights gleaned, and then reconvened for a dot voting exercise to identify the layout the team felt best achieved our objectives.
What we learned
Having a tool to capture and spatially organize your team’s ideas in a virtual setting can do a lot for recreating that sense of shared space.
Group brainstorming can have fantastic outcomes, but one of its shortfalls is it frequently doesn’t allow for individual time to think and explore. Those who prefer time to process and develop their ideas are often uncomfortable inserting themselves into live brainstorming sessions. Their ideas often go unspoken and unappreciated. Building in some time on the front end for individual processing is crucial to ensure teams don’t miss out on these ideas. And it can help inject some initial quality into the developing ideas of all members of the team.
Thankfully, one of the advantages to working remotely is the opportunity to rethink normal work activities like group brainstorms.
From our experience facilitating a remote workshop with our team, we found there is a general pattern to effective group brainstorming. Start with a group briefing, allow for individual time to think and process, then gather together to discuss and develop ideas further. This pattern can be built into remote collaboration activities – or completely live brainstorms, too. It requires some forethought and initial setup, but it pays dividends when you see the outcomes.
https://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/MJM-Arranging-Space-2020-07-22-01.png11342000Brady Holmhttps://mattjensenmarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/mjm-logo-nav.pngBrady Holm2020-07-27 12:03:052021-06-02 14:02:26Remote Collaboration for Arranging Space