Productivity tools can be viable alternatives to work

Ever since some smart chap, or chappess, came up with the idea of a check list and impressed the boss the world has been beset with a search for bigger, better tools to replace what was essentially a very good idea.

Taken to the it’s illogical conclusion this search can lead even the most sensible people to a point where the productivity tools themselves are a very viable alternative to work.

If your team is not distributed, your tools don’t need to be either.
Gantt charts, mind maps, flow charts, to do lists, issues registers and all manners of witchcraft will not be of much use if you’re woefully disorganised. Conversely if you’re a maniacally organised person you will probably just gain ulcers rather than time when you install ‘Project widget 2.0’ on your PC.

One of the big problems with a lot of smoke and mirror systems is that everyone in the market place is clamouring to make the next big thing when what is really needed is a good clipboard and check list.

If you can describe your entire project on one hand-written piece of paper and all the stakeholders live in the same town you need a photocopier and regular communication, not Microsoft Project.

If you managed to write about your plan for world domination on one bit of paper and no-one understands what the project is about you have problems that are nothing to do with web based collaboration.

If your team is not distributed, your tools don’t need to be either. The whiteboard industry is still alive and well, and a stack of post-it notes on the office wall will still work when your broadband is down.

So before you run out and attach your hopes for better efficiency to the latest shiny productivity tool, apply some old fashioned common sense. That is of course unless you’re looking for an alternative to work, in which case the search starts here….

Another bite of the apple: Postcripts for the electronic age

Out in the real world where sales people send physical letters it’s common practice to use a postscript, or P.S. at the foot of a letter or proposal. It increases engagement with the item, and gives you a little extra punt at the end of your message.

Truth be known you’ll probably find that a percentage of people read the postscript first as it stands out at the bottom of the page. This is by design with companies deliberately folding material into the envelope so the order of viewing is letterhead, footer and finally the body of the text.

It works either way around; If you see it first it distracts you from all the fine print in the body, or if you do read it last it’ll help to seal the deal with a cherry on the bottom. Either way, it’s a powerful addition to the letter when used with care.

Next time you get one of those annoying Readers Digest sweepstake mailers because your cousin signed you up, don’t throw it out.

Open it up slowly and think about what you see first, they spend a great deal more energy and money on designing their mail outs than most other companies and have been known to abuse the awesome destructive power of a P.S. more than once per mail-out.

So, how to get the same little kick in the tail for your emailed sales pitch?

The nature of email is that you see the header and then scroll down a bit, maybe. A foot note in the electronic age is going to viewed last, if at all.

Without any research done I’m willing to bet that a huge percentage of emails get skimmed and you have maybe the first ten lines of text to deliver a message before the reader falls asleep, or hits delete.

You can’t hide your laurels at the bottom of an email in the same way. Special offers need to be up front and above the fold to ensure you engage the customer before your 20 seconds are up and your hopes of early retirement evaporate into the recycle bin.

What you really need is a second bite of the apple, and you need to grab a bit more precious engagement time to harness P.S. goodness and avoid being part of the mindless information consumption culture.

So why not just grab the fruit and chomp away? Send a second email a short time after the main pitch. Keep it light, a few quick lines to say “Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you about…”

Make sure the whole thing fits on the screen without scrolling to increase the chances of it getting read. Go as far as dropping your ten line signature file, disclaimer and silly environmental message.

Saying ‘Cheers’ is more than enough thank you very much.

The funny thing is that most people read their newest emails first. So for a lot of people your stealthy double send has the same effect as the cleverly folded parchment lovingly slipped into an envelope.

You can take this a wee bit further and learn from some often quoted thinking in the customer service industry. The theory goes that if you make a minor error and correct it quickly and efficiently you’ll see better conversion and retention of customers than if you just mechanically roll out ‘good’ service.

So: By all means send out your emailed proposal in a form email with terms and conditions, formal quotation and twenty five reasons why your widget or service is better than Joe Bloggs. The thing you also need to do is forget the attachment. That’s right, forget it.

Follow up 5 minutes later with a very quick email, 3 or 4 lines tops. “Sorry, I forgot the attachment..” Now you’ve got your foot note in, you’ve corrected an error and you got a chance to prove you’re human all in one shot.

P.S. If you read this far, my entire premise is probably flawed.

P.P.S. Would a third email be too much? I think so.

Telecom New Zealand DNS Fail

This tickled my fancy, so just had to write a up a few words about it.

Telecom is the largest telco in New Zealand, and it appears they can’t run a robust DNS setup for their own domain. Their ISP, Xtra, had some problems last year with their DNS, which caused problems for many of it’s customers, but this time around it’s their own corporate domain, that has fallen into the cyber bit-bucket.

I was looking for a bit of info on mobile plans, as you do, and went to surf to the site and got a timeout. Odd I thought but it might be my connection so I lept on the VPN to work. Nope, same result. Log into a cloud server in the US. Nup. No DNS entries.

A quick look at the dnc website at tells me that they’ve paid their bill, so my cunning plan of registering their domain under my name if they’d let it lapse was dashed. However the odd thing is that the largest telco in New Zealand appears to be running their two DNS servers on the same subnet.

100707-telecom-name-serversThat’s not such an issue unless that subnet is out. Which it appears to be right now. Neither DNS server is pingable, which might be the normal state of affairs, but ‘dig’ can’t talk to them either, which is an indication that not all is right in the world of Telecom DNS servers.

So, Mr Telecom, might be time to get with the rest of the world and host a secondary DNS with another provider. Telstra or Vodafone maybe?

100707-digging-telecom-dnsAlternately, I could run one for you in the US for a few bucks a month, it’d save quite a bit of egg on face me thinks.