Our annual Sandstorm Guac Off date is officially set - Saturday, August 29th. So what's a 'Guac Off' you ask? Well, it is our official Sandstorm guacamole contest. I remember the first year that we did it, so randomly, it came up in conversation when Alma and I were bickering about who makes a meaner guacamole. I think the funniest thing about our now annual guacamole contest is that Alma nor myself has ever won.
Can marketing and design firms in big business cities (like Chicago and New York) be leading indicators for the upswing in the economy? I think so. And here's my theory. We are getting flooded with a ton of interesting, exciting, and good sized RFPs from a lot of the large and mid-sized businesses in the area. Companies that were holding their budgets close are starting to explore how they 'may' want to spend their money Q3 and Q4. Which is so exciting - it almost feels like 2006 - 2007 again!
So we're not going to get too excited too fast, because we've seen RFPs sit and sit, but the fact that they are increasing so rapidly (and all of them needed to be finished yesterday) that I am optimistic for the future, and my friends, and family who are looking for a marketing or design job.
You're ready to conduct a formal usability study and have some of your customers or potential prospects available to participate in this study (5-6 users is fine, but don't forget the gratuity). These one-on-one sessions start out with a single user interacting with a web site or wire frame completing a set of tasks, and then a moderator asking them follow-up questions regarding the experience. These sessions usually involve a quiet room, a camera and tracking software to watch a user's expressions and their navigational habits. After the study, the data is analyzed and a formal usability report with key findings and recommendations is written.
The goal of any usability test is to figure out what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, and learn what your users want. So what are you waiting for?
Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes, and thank you to my staff for singing happy birthday to me via conference call while I am out in Colorado. I loved the song more than you know - and am overwhelmed with appreciation for all of the hard work you dedicate to helping Sandstorm grow... Thank you.
I'm in Colorado this week, on a 'working vacation'. Living an oxymoron. So who came up with this idea of a working vacation anyway? USATODAY wrote an article on top 5 destinations for a working vacation, yet CNN wrote 5 ways to stop working on your vacation.
So do we or don't we work while on vacation? Is it to stay ahead, or is it to survive? Is this a U.S. Phenomenon? Either way, it's a personal choice, and I often have to remind myself that I make the choice every time I open up my laptop or answer my cell phone. I am choosing to let my work life enter my vacation. And this week I'm good with it. My next vacation I might not answer that cell, nor that email, and I'm comfortable with that as well.
I know it feels like no marketing and design firms are hiring right now. And when you go to careerbuilder.com (one of our fav clients we've had for over 6 years now) and do a search for web design, web development, graphic design, marketing and copywriting positions it seems like the opportunities are pretty slim. But here's the reality. Most marketing, interactive and web design firms are boutique, and boutique firms generally don't have HR departments, and they often don't post on the large job boards because they often can't manage the masses of resumes. So what do they do? (we are hiring despite what the media conveys).
I can't speak for all, but I can tell you a little about our marketing agency. We always go to referral sources first. We ask our employees if they have any friends. We utilize our social media connections to see if they have any friends or family that would be a great fit. We go to Craigslist. And we give Creative Circle a call. You know we always mean to post our open positions on our web site, but we often don't get to it. I think mostly because we're always looking for a blended position - someone who has a few primary skills with secondary skills that compliment others on our team, and it's tough to write a job description that is always fluid and in motion... kind of like our company.
The Sandstorm staff just can't stop going on vacations! It's like we're all playing tag around the office - but heck, it's the summer and we all love a vacation. I'm not sure when it started, I think it was Janna going on a long birthday weekend, then Lisa just got back from her week away in Door County, Holly went to a music festival, Alma is hitting the Harry Potter museum and movie (she calls it a Harry Potter Holiday), and I am heading out to Keystone Colorado with the family. Our marketing firm sure knows how to use our PTO days :)
I have written about how we are using social media as a lead generation tool (with modest success), and I've been dying to try out social media as a recruiting tool, so when we finally had the opportunity to grow our staff we gave it a try and... SUCCESS! Thanks to a combination of twitter and facebook, social media was THE tool that uncovered our latest and greatest staff member! But we didn't use social media alone. We used recruiters, craig's list, and other job posting sites for this particular position.
In the past, we've had success with recruiters and craig's list - so like integrated marketing, we will continue to recruit in multiple ways, but I have to say for our web design firm, it's really most fulfilling using social media. For all the job seekers out there, I would recommend following the companies you most want to work for... and post your success stories here!
It feels like we're always behind when updating our web design portfolio on the Sandstorm website. Does anyone have any feelings on how often we should be updating our creative work - monthly, weekly, quarterly, whenever we have time to? It's great that fresh work is always being produced, and I'm proud of the quality of award winning work we do, and want to give ample time showering our clients with pride and love by showcasing them on our web site... but right now our timing is pretty random. We're always working on content in our web site and changing that almost daily (as part of our SEO and keeping the site fresh), but those portfolio pieces tend to lag a bit. Maybe I should assign the portfolio update task to the new guy at our web design firm (he he he).
At our web design company, we often become friends with our clients, and some of our clients are referred to us by our friends. So the whole business client/friend relationship becomes one. Just yesterday I heard our client/my friend say - 'hey at Sandstorm, you buy a web site and get a free BBQ'. (she was coming over to my place for a BBQ after our brainstorm as we haven't seen each other for awhile and I was interested in catching up, and the weather was just so nice we just had to eat outside). So I was thinking, would the call to action "buy a web site, get a free BBQ" create buzz?