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Rick's Process Work

First Steps

The first thing I'm trying to do is to break down my life and business into the different types of tasks that I have to do to accomplish my goals. I'm finding that there are four big areas of tasks in my business life: (a) getting more clients, (b) serving my clients, (c) creating things for me and my clients, and (d) self promotion.

Inside each of these areas are a number of goals I'm trying to accomplish, or perhaps they're milestones that I have to reach. For the first group, for instance (and I hope this isn't getting boring for anyone who really wants to offer some help here) in the first group (a) getting more clients:

(i) Prospecting, (ii) Selling, (iii) Teaching and (iv) Boarding New Clients.

I guess I could have put teaching under prospecting, but it's so important to me, I wanted to break it out on it's own. Under each of these, there are probably a million tactics that I could choose from (well, maybe not for boarding new clients). For this project, I will focus on three of these tactics.

Under (i) Prospecting, I find the following tactics that I'm either using now, in some fashion, or willing to try if I can get them scoped out and optimized. They are:

1) Bait & Post, create something of value and then post to the blog in the hopes of building a list.

2) Webinar Creation, work with an expert to provide some value to my target market.

3) E-Mail blash, send out an offer to my list.

4) Network Trolling, go through my various social networks and find out what people are doing and whether I can help them.

5) Banner Advertising.

There may be tons of other tactics that fall under the general heading of prospecting under the more general heading of "Getting More Clients." I will choose three from this list for this project.

I see now how Ari has more than 200 processes in his Manual of Ari.

A Bit of Redirection

After asking a question of Avi on one of the discussion boards, I find that I must start by mapping out the processes that I'm using today. Only by first optimizing, automating or outsourcing the things that are eating up my time now will i ever get to the point where I can set up new processes to get me where I want to go.

An incomplete analysis of my day tells me that most of my time is spent in Gmail, responding to client demands, family communication and interesting, but distracting, news. This is where I'll find the time I need to get ahead. Now, to start analyzing how I'm using Gmail in an effort to find ways to use it better.

In fact, that's where I'll start, by digging into Ari's blog to learn more about how he manages his Gmail.

Anwering Ari's Question

A response to Ari's question about the processes in our day provides some direction.

A study of the way I'm currently running my business suggests that nearly all of our internal processes are driven by clients. While this seems like the way a customer-service-focused business should be run, it's very disruptive, especially for me, the guy tasked with keeping us innovative and on the cutting edge.

Here are the three most time-consuming processes for us. I'm open to any suggestions for ways I can optimize these processes.

1) Respond to client requests for information. Typically, these flow along these lines:
a) client e-mails for a status update (in rare instances they call)
b) we pull up the client's Google Doc, a shared document we share with the client and use to provide a near real-time status report on achievements, current efforts, press coverage and notes from calls and e-mails. We sell accounts on this transparency, but almost no clients take advantage of it. They just e-mail us. So, we check the document to see where we are.
c) If my assistant Cassandra gets the mail, she asks me if I've done anything that is not on the Google Doc. Usually, I get the mail message and I ask Cassandra is there is anything she hasn't put on the doc yet.
d) When we're sure the doc is up to date, we copy and paste the details into an e-mail and send it back to the client.
e) In many cases, the client really wanted a status on a particular project. Sometimes it's not even a project they have assigned to us yet. They clarify our request and we answer them more specifically.
f) we grumble and then get back to what we were working on, if we can remember what that was.

2) Return client phone calls.
a) A client calls. Cassandra takes a message and puts it on my desk. If I'm out of the office she texts me.
b) When I return to my desk, I make a clear spot, pull out a note pad to draw on, pull up the client's Google Doc and return the call.
c) The client asks a question or shares a brainstorm or bounces an idea off of me. I sound interested if possible. Make appropriate notes in their document and sign off.
d) I am happy for the call as it gives me one more opportunity to touch my clients during the week (we have a weekly meeting with most of our clients, bi-weekly for others), but I'm disappointed often by the content of the call. If the idea is a good one, i feel we should have thought of it. If it's not, I hope I let the client down easy as I cannot lie to them, even to save their feelings.
e) I grumble about how I wish there was a better way to initiate ad hoc calls to my clients with real value and a way to deflect their calls to e-mail, where it's easy to let them down.

3) Periodic Client Meetings
a) On a regular basis, we get our clients and their teams together on a conference call to discuss their PR efforts and successes. The day and time of this call is set up at the beginning of the engagement.
b) The meeting begins with me reading down the Client Google Doc and answering any questions about our achievements over the previous period. If there are none, I go down through our current efforts and ask if there have been any changes that would require us to discontinue or change any of that work. I then ask for company news that I am not privy to and that they are ready to share.
c) The client shares some information with me, but we're already 15 minutes into the meeting so they don't go into much detail, requiring me to followup with their domain expert later to get the story.
d) I leave the meeting with a list of company people to call and grumble because we just spent an entire meeting going over a document I update for them on a near real-time basis and end up with nothing I can work on until I do more fact finding. I would like the meeting to be my fact finding meeting.
e) I realize that without this periodic meeting to share my successes, my clients will forget why they're paying me and cut me from their budget. Still, I would like to spend less time in this meeting or make it more productive.

If I could streamline these three processes, 40% of my day would change radically.

Optimizing The Processes

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