5 Tips to Work With Your Creative Agency and Get Better Results

5 Tips to Work With Your Creative Agency and Get Better Results

There’s a lot a creative agency can do for your brand. But if you haven’t worked with one before, you might not know how to start off on the right foot. To get the best work from your creative agency, you want to approach things as a true creative partner. Hence, it’s important to know what to expect from your engagement, what role you’ll be playing, and how to be the best team player.

Having worked with thousands of clients over the last decade, we’ve seen the good, bad, and ugly of client-agency relations, and we’ve noticed that most issues come down to a lack of education or communication. So today we thought we’d give you a primer on what to expect once you start working with a creative agency, plus our best tips to collaborate in a positive and productive way.

How to Work With Your Creative Agency

Each agency is unique, with its own production process, communication style, and creative philosophy, but there are a few general things you’re likely to encounter. To make sure your engagement goes as smoothly as possible, here’s how to help your agency at every stage of the process.

1) Write a Strong Creative Brief

The creative brief is likely the first ask you’ll get from your creative agency. This document is the key to a successful project. It will ask you to detail all of the important information about your project, including goals, deadlines, budget, branding guidelines, etc. As this is the document that will keep you and your creative agency on the same page—literally—it’s important that you take time to fill it out fully and thoughtfully. A few tips to make your brief as useful as possible:

  • Include the right amount of information. You should fill out the brief in detail and provide any relevant supporting materials (such as brand guidelines, sales materials, etc.), but don’t drown your creative agency in documents. Remember: The goal of the brief is to efficiently and succinctly explain what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Get everyone’s input. Sometimes people will dash off a creative brief without getting their full team’s input, which causes issues down the line when there are internal conflicts about certain details. Make sure to get approval before you send the brief back to your creative agency.
  • Watch your language. You may be highly familiar with your industry’s buzzwords and acronyms, but your agency may not be. Write your brief in plain English.

2) Ask the Right Questions During Your Kickoff

Depending on the engagement, your kickoff may be in person, on the phone, or via video chat. There are several goals for this meeting:

  • Meet the team. You will meet the creative team that will work on your project (or at least the main crew), which may or may not include: Account Director, Producer (or Project Manager), Strategist, Creative Director, Art Director, Designers, Developers, Copywriters, Animators, etc. This is your first opportunity to get to know each other and get a general sense of each other’s vibes.
  • Go over the brief in detail. You’ll also cover the creative agency’s process, talk timelines, and discuss other pertinent project details.
  • Ensure both teams are aligned. This is the opportunity to clarify any confusion, flag any potential issues, and address any outstanding unknowns.

Of course, nobody wants a rocky kickoff, so there are a few things you can do to make everything go smoothly:

  • Know your goal. If you’re not sure what you’re trying to achieve, your agency won’t be able to help you. Make sure you have a clear vision before your kickoff.
  • Ask questions. Don’t feel silly or shy. It’s better to be redundant now than sorry later. Even if you think it’s something simple or obvious, ask away (e.g., do you work in Google Docs or Word?). Here are a few starter questions if you’re not sure what to ask:
    • Who will my point of contact be? There are a lot of moving parts involved in marketing—and just as many stakeholders. From strategy to content creation, you will have a lot of people doing a lot of different things. Hence, you need to identify the one person who will be your go-to throughout the process. Simultaneously, you should identify the point person on your end. (If you’re reading this, it’s probably you.) This person should facilitate communication, consolidate feedback, keep an eye on deadlines, and generally manage the project. You should also identify the stakeholders who will need to approve things on your end. (Trust us, things can get awfully messy when you have a dozen people chiming in on a thread—two days past a project’s due date.)
    • What’s the best way to communicate? Your creative agency will have a tried-and-true production process in place, but when it comes to communication, you should identify the most effective way. If you prefer emails over conference calls, or Skype meetings instead of Slack, let them know.  
    • What materials do you need from us? We can’t tell you how many times a project has been held hostage by a missing asset. Thus, we can guarantee your agency will love you for asking this. Whether it’s a mandatory asset or a nice-to-have, they’ll appreciate you being a proactive and considerate partner.
    • What are common roadblocks or pitfalls we can avoid? Another huge benefit of hiring a creative agency is that they have insider knowledge about what works and what doesn’t, based on their experience with many clients (often in your same industry). Accordingly, they also know exactly what issues can derail or delay a project—especially the ones that are in a brand’s control. They will greatly appreciate your interest in proactively preventing these things.
    • How can we help make things go smoothly? Beyond the obvious (stick to timelines, provide specific feedback, don’t ghost us), there are likely a few simple things you can do to set yourself up for success.
  • Make sure the right people are in the room. Don’t leave a key stakeholder out of the conversation (and thus require everyone to repeat the same information later).

3) Understand the Process

Every agency has its own production process and infrastructure. (If you’re interested, here’s a peek into our creative approach.) But, in general, your creative engagement will include the following phases:

  • Discovery: This is the “learning” phase, when your creative agency dives into your brand to learn about your unique needs, the problems you’re facing, your previous attempts to solve them, etc.
  • Insights: Having gone through the discovery phase and done additional research (e.g., survey, content audit, analytics review, etc.), your team will surface key insights that should inform what approaches are going to yield the best results for your objectives.
  • Ideation: Next comes the brainstorm phase. Depending on your involvement, this may or may not include your team. Either way, once ideas are vetted, your creative team will pitch you concepts and you’ll select the winner.
  • Execution: Your team will dive into creative execution, creating and iterating content based on your feedback.
  • Measurement: Once your creative work is live, your team will track success based on predetermined metrics.

You don’t want to move from one stage to the next until everyone has given their sign-off, so make sure your creative agency builds approvals into the timeline. (Trust us, you don’t want a higher-up to reject an idea that’s already moved into the execution phase.)

4) Be an Active Collaborator

Your creative agency isn’t just a gun for hire. Good work relies on a good partnership, and there are a lot of proactive things you can do to make collaboration easier.

  • Define your audience for your agency.Who are you going after? What does their social media look like? What types of content are they used to seeing? What do they find valuable? The more you help your team understand your target personas, the easier it will be to create work that resonates.
  • Share visual inspiration. It’s often easier to show someone what you’re envisioning instead of just describing it with words. Share images, mood boards, storyboards, sketches, GIFs, motion graphics, or anything that lets you communicate the desired tone, visual aesthetic, or overall vibe you’re going for. (We once had a client share a whiskey label as inspiration, and we loved it.)
  • Share your knowledge. Two teams are better than one, and knowledge-sharing is one of the biggest benefits of getting to work together. Whether it’s tools, tips, resources, or convenient hacks, it’s smart to clue each other in. (For example, here are 100+ tools to help your content marketing.)
  • Address issues early and often. Your creative agency is invested in doing good work, so make sure to voice your concerns or clarify issues as they come up.
  • Challenge each other. A creative agency knows about creative work, and you know your brand. But you may both have additional insights to share that can change the direction of a project.

5) Close the Feedback Loop

Naturally, as there are many moving parts in the creative process, you don’t want any miscommunication or oversights to interrupt or delay work. Hence, it’s crucial to have very clear communication during these stages, especially when it comes to feedback.

  • Identify who owns what. Know who will be managing things on each side. That way you know who to contact for questions, edits, or any other issues.
  • Speak up. Be vocal about how you think the agency is performing, how your experience is, and how it could be better. A good agency wants to know how they’re doing and how they can improve things.
  • Talk solutions, not content. Feedback can be tricky, which is why it’s important to view projects through the lense of problem/solution. “I don’t like the blue” isn’t a useful statement. “Let’s use a bolder color that will stand out in people’s social feeds” is a more problem/solution-oriented way to address issues.
  • Consolidate feedback. For the sake of time and efficiency, your point person should be in charge of collecting and consolidating feedback. This includes getting approvals and resolving conflicting feedback. (It’s much easier for your creative agency to work with a single checklist of edits instead of 32 comments from 7 different people.)
  • Be responsive. It’s hard to stick to timelines if your creative agency is stuck waiting for a logo to be sent over. Respond within a reasonable amount of time—or at least acknowledge that you’re working on an answer.

Keep Nurturing Your Relationship

The best clients are positive, proactive, and eager to educate themselves about both their industry and best practices. Whether you work with a creative agency on a single project or you work together for a decade (shoutout to Intuit, our oldest client), building a good relationship is your best bet to do work you can both be proud of. To keep things going…

Of course, no matter what you’re working on, not every creative agency will be the right fit for your brand. If you’re on the hunt for a different one, here’s how to find and vet a creative agency. Or you can always hit us up. We’d be happy to talk about what you’re looking for.

Source & Credit: columnfivemedia | Katy French

How to Choose a Unique Brand Name?

How to Choose a Unique Brand Name?

An iconic name will give your brand great value. The process of selecting a simple, memorable brand name is not easy, but if you make an effort, you can have a name with the highest recall value. In this article we discuss How to Choose a Unique Brand Name?

A brand name should help you communicate with your customers and give you the right exposure in the search result.

Your brand name should also be catchy and define your product or service. Thus, let’s check out a few tips on how to choose the right brand name.

What Makes a Unique Brand Name?

There is no formula for selecting a unique brand name. A good brand name adds meaning to your business and communicates the brand essence while cultivating positive emotions.

A brand name should stand out from your competitors and be memorable. It should be easier for people to interpret or search for on Google.

Your brand should grow with the company and maintain its relevance. You can trademark the brand and domain name to avoid any copyright issues later on.

You should also make it visually appealing when you translate it through different designs, colours, and icons. When you decide on a name, think about it as an extension of your business practice.

Tips on Choosing a Unique Brand Name

  • Develop a strategy to choose a name

  • You need to determine what your name aims to accomplish and how your brand name will work with existing products or service names. What kind of name do you need – descriptive or founder’s name?

    The descriptive name may be based on the product or service, and the founder’s name is the owner’s name. Nestle and Ford are practical examples of founders’ names.

    When you generate unique names, you need to have an objective in mind. Name generating tools can help, but they may not provide you with unique options.

    Today, however, most businesses are using a combination of names for their brands.

  • Brainstorm and generate potential names

    Host a structured brainstorming session by gathering your creative thinkers and stakeholders. Start by writing down all the adjectives that describe your product the best.

    Do write a description of how you want your customers to feel when they connect with your brand, as a free association of words about your products may help you.

    Generate plenty of potential names and create a long list. Evaluate the names based on your criteria.

    Aim to find a name that meets your criteria or raises an eyebrow. When you spell the name, it should have a positive vibe.

    A Possible Brainstorming Session Can Have You Thinking According to Different Categories:

    1. Fabricated name – A name from a combination depending on your service or product. Example: Kodak
    2. Founder name – Based on a real person’s name. Example: Betty Croker
    3. Descriptive name – Describes what you make. Example: General Motors
    4. Acronym name – Uses an initial or abbreviation for easy remembrance. Example: GE (General Electric)
    5. Metaphor name – An imaginary or creative name. Example: NIKE
    6. Spell name – Made from two spellings. Example: Facebook

    You can challenge your creative team to come up with possible names in all the categories. The more the choice, the better it is for you.

  • Easy to remember and distinct

    A brand name should have a high recall value and be easy to remember. A complex name does more harm than good, as it will get harder for people to reach you.

    Catchy brand names such as Apple and Target are easy to remember, and it is way better than having a name with three or four letters. At the same time, your brand name should be distinct.

    Generic names work if you target the local market. But if you’re looking to target the global market, you’ll have to think of something out of the box.

    Generic names make it difficult for global brands, and you won’t get the required recognition.

  • Vet and test your brand name

    Once you decide on a name, you will need to vet the frontrunners. Nothing is frustrating if the name is not available. Check for the name and whether you can trademark it.

    If it is already registered, it’s back to square one.

    Choose the names that are on number two or three on the list. Once you have a name that resonates and is available, don’t take much time to register it.

    When you clear the legal part, it is time to test with mock-ups. Test your top three names with people around you.

    Follow These Simple Testing Ideas:

    1. Run a targeted ad campaign to target all your customers, but only for a week. You will get to know the results.
    2. Now, see which pages got more conversions and engagement on your page.
    3. Build a brand landing page for each name. You can use an identical copy to change the brand and logo.
  • After naming

    After you complete the naming part, create your corporate identity with a logo. Logo and brand name are interlinked, so don’t forget. Create your own brand story and brand messaging.

    You can use this throughout your marketing and sales materials. Your brand should have a strong visual identity, so you will need to consider this factor.

    It is important to use your brand name on your content page, especially if it is a new business. Also, don’t forget to register your domain and buy hosting from a reliable provider.

To Conclude,

Brands are more than companies and logos; it defines what it truly stands for. If you choose a unique name for your business, it can create the right buzz.

They can position you as a pacesetter and value your proposition. The brand name differentiates your product from the rest of the market.

A poor brand name can negate the position you build in the market. You may even have trouble generating interest in your company.

It can force you to spend extra time on various marketing efforts. It might limit your opportunities if you are looking to expand to other business markets.

Your brand name is one of the long-term developments for your company. You need to consider the best name, as it will become the most important piece of your business identity.

Why Digital Marketing Is A Must-Have For Real Estate In A Post-COVID World?

Why Digital Marketing Is A Must-Have For Real Estate In A Post-COVID World?

According to a recent online survey, approximately 92% of buyers research about a product before considering to purchase it. The reason a company should have a strong digital presence is to make the brand name stand out in a crowd of competitors.

The real estate market is slowly gaining momentum after two years of slowdown due to COVID-19 outbreak. Real estate agents will get busier and competition among them also will tighten. As a real estate agency, would you stand out from your competitors? As in many industries, implementing digital marketing for real estate services has now become a new normal. Digital marketing plays a crucial role for building brand awareness for your real estate agency, widens exposure and opens up opportunities to attract more customers to your business. As the digital market has opened up abundant opportunities with the number of internet users increased globally, the real estate industry has greatly benefitted from digital marketing.

This article discusses the importance of digital marketing for real estate.

Why using Digital Marketing for real estate is the right choice?

As the Internet extends its tentacles into every aspect of daily life, everybody turns to a search engine for every piece of information. No one wants to waste time asking information from others when a mobile or computer can get the information within seconds. Therefore, you need to establish digital presence to boost your brand’s visibility. After all, this is the place where your leads hang around and you don’t want to miss out while people finding you in their search. Look at big brands like DLF, SOBHA, EMAAR and BRIGADE group, they have built their brand identities to command large share of the market.

Benefits of Digital Marketing:

Digital marketing strategies evolve with time and get much better. Now a days, digital marketing has a reach that extends beyond urban cities and is developing in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Gone are the days when you had to search amidst thousands of properties for your dream home. Hassle-free buying experience and time-saving are the new mantras for real estate. Using digital marketing, the process of buying a home has changed monumentally in the past few years. Those who take advantage of the digital approach are able to transcend the usual marketing efforts.

Let’s take a closer look at all of the ways that real estate companies can benefit from digital marketing.

Start By Having Your Website

Have a professional agency design and develop to smart looking website that is easy to navigate and efficiently informative. One that is developed from the customer’s point of view works best. Do not go overboard about talking ab out yourself only. Visitors to a website do not want to be bored reading a lot. Have a distinct ‘call to action’ form that generates leads right at the top banner itself. Ensure your property listings are current and providing relevant information that buyers seek. While showcasing the highlights of the project, a good idea is to showcase lifestyle and benefits that are beyond just the apartment and the projects amenities. Sharing knowledge of the neighbourhood helps in a big way and aids buyers in making their decision. A dynamic website collates leads for you when powered by google ads that brings your website to the forefront of people searches on the internet as against being lost somewhere behind. SEO (Search engine Optimisation) is what powers this for you.

Do not get a website developed by a freelancer as there are many elements that are needed to have the best, and in our experience one person does not know all and for that matter can do all for you.

Connect with Ebani Advertising at [email protected] in case you have the need for a dynamic website to handling your real estate Social Media Marketing needs that propel your business to success. Ebani Advertising has developed and manages websites for a host of developers and agencies in Dubai and India.

Search Engine Optimization:

Today 90% of home buyers use the internet. According to the National Association of Realtors, 44% of all buyers search online for property listings as the first stage of their journey. Is your website easily navigable, enabling visitors to find what they’re looking for, sort through multiple search results, compare listing, and finally sell from you? How fast, secure and mobile-friendly is your website? Because, a top-notch website optimization, a regularly updated blog page and an informative social media presence are the key elements of any real estate digital marketing strategy. A blog is a great way to not only level up, but to provide clients with helpful advice on the selling or buying process of a home or property.

Connect with Ebani Advertising at [email protected] in case you have the need for a dynamic website to handling your real estate Social Media Marketing needs that propel your business to success. Ebani Advertising has developed and manages websites for a host of developers and agencies in Dubai and India.

Stronger Reputation:

The fact is that real estate agents live and die on their reputation. A prospective buyer takes a closer look at the agent’s online presence before making any sort of final decision. The process of buying and selling homes is built on word of mouth. Here, social media marketing gives an edge to real estate agents to stand apart from the crowd. Buyers and sellers are also likely to rely on online reviews. The more positive reviews a real estate agent/firm garners, the higher is the sales of business. ORM (Online Reputation Management) is that key here.

Connect with Ebani Advertising at [email protected] in case you have the need for a dynamic website to handling your real estate Social Media Marketing needs that propel your business to success. Ebani Advertising has developed and manages websites for a host of developers and agencies in Dubai and India.

Focus on Video Content Marketing:

Real estate buyers know that property photos aren’t always accurate. These images alone can’t really convey interior design, natural light quality, and neighbourhood vibe. If your property has all those things going for it, you ought to use real estate video content to show them off. The top real estate agents often rely on video content of each property that they are selling. From specific project videos, to individual agent videos, to community and neighbourhood vide videos; there is so much that can be conveyed through videos. While a few real estate developers and agents also use client testimonial videos to share experiences that help build trust of other prospective customers. Video content is a great way to use as a pull methodology to get prospective buyers in the door without having to dedicate any additional resources to the task.

Connect with Ebani Advertising at [email protected] in case you have the need for a dynamic website to handling your real estate Social Media Marketing needs that propel your business to success. Ebani Advertising has developed and manages websites for a host of developers and agencies in Dubai and India.

Share Expert Knowledge:

The knowledge offered by top real estate companies to clients is not common place. They provide transparency that builds trust. As big developers mostly do not circumvent laws that govern the real estate business, they enjoy the confidence of buyers. Smaller and independent project developers tend to cross the line and are not necessarily transparent about permissions and plans which is a big reason why buyers are always cautious about a real estate investment. Customers are looking to do business with realtors who can provide transparency and immediate answers for their queries related to their property investment. All details about the project, plans, government sanctions and permissions, features, amenities, the look and feel of the project, pricing etc. can be shared without any confusion leading to a more transparent and efficient dealing. It saves time as the buyer can physically visit the property after clearing all doubts. Digital easily allows for sharing of all of the above in the form of digital brochures, walk-through videos, digital floor plans to attachments of government sanctions and permissions, etc.

This is largely done via content on your social media handles such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. that reaches prospective buyers. A clear strategy is needed and the market is dynamic and situations (such as this pandemic) and factors keep changing. All social platforms today help you promote your business by paying. This amount is far lesser than what conventional media costs while helping you reach your relevant audience singularly. A great strategy is one that efficiently communications to your audience and keeps them interested in you. You

Connect with Ebani Advertising at [email protected] in case you have the need for a dynamic website to handling your real estate Social Media Marketing needs that propel your business to success. Ebani Advertising has developed and manages websites for a host of developers and agencies in Dubai and India.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising:

Pay-Per-Click, also known as PPC advertising is an excellent strategy for real estate developers /agents looking to generate new leads based on ads that they pay for every time the ad gets clicked on. PPC is a great digital marketing option for real estate professionals seeking potential clients who may genuinely be interested in their offering, as they only pay when someone clicks through their ad. With PPC advertising, you can bring potential customers directly to your real estate website.

Connect with Ebani Advertising at [email protected] in case you have the need for a dynamic website to handling your real estate Social Media Marketing needs that propel your business to success. Ebani Advertising has developed and manages websites for a host of developers and agencies in Dubai and India.


These are just a few digital marketing tactics that work to form a successful real estate marketing strategy. It has never been easier for a real estate developer/agent to reach out to their target audience in a more direct manner. At the end, a successful digital marketing strategy will help  generate and convert more leads into buyers.

Connect with Ebani Advertising at [email protected] in case you have the need for a dynamic website to handling your real estate Social Media Marketing needs that propel your business to success. Ebani Advertising has developed and manages websites for a host of developers and agencies in Dubai and India.

Every Company Needs a Narrative

Every Company Needs a Narrative

Companies are missing a big opportunity – to craft an inspiring corporate narrative.

How do I define narrative? It’s not a story. Stories are generally self-contained in that they have a beginning, a middle and an end. I see narratives, in contrast, as open-ended. There’s some kind of threat or opportunity looming in the future, and it’s not at all clear how things are going to work out. The resolution of the narrative hinges on the choices and actions of those involved, which makes it a potentially powerful call to action.

In the corporate context, a narrative should be about the customer, not the corporation. Building a successful narrative requires a deep understanding of your customers: How are their needs evolving? What are the big opportunities that would excite and inspire them? What are the challenges or obstacles they would confront in seeking to address those opportunities? What actions will they need to take in order to overcome those obstacles and achieve the opportunity? Are those actions something that the company could help them to pursue?

Unfortunately, very few companies are good at crafting an inspiring, customer-focused narrative. One of the best examples comes from Apple. In the 1990s, Steve Jobs articulated a narrative that was condensed by his marketers into the slogan “Think different.”

To understand the impact of this slogan and its supporting narrative, we need to go back to the early days of digital technology. Many people felt it took away our personas and made us data points. It put us in cubicles and made us cogs in a machine. The Apple narrative suggested that a new generation of digital technology would enable us to express our unique potential and personality. To harness the real potential of this new generation of technology, we needed to think different. Would we do that?

To make this narrative more credible, Apple told stories about famous people like Einstein, Picasso, Bob Dylan and Muhammad Ali who did “think different” and what they were able to accomplish. When sharing this narrative in the marketplace, Apple made very little reference to itself. It was all about the customers and the opportunity available to customers, if they would take action. It’s one of the reasons that Apple in the early days became the equivalent of a religion – it spoke to something that was a deeply felt need among people at that time.

That’s just one example. There are a few others including “Just Do It” by Nike and “Belong Anywhere” by Airbnb – slogans that embody inspiring narratives. So why are they do hard to do?

We live in a world where customers are becoming more powerful and demanding. They have the ability to access more options, gain more information about those options, and switch from one vendor to another easily if their needs are not being met. More broadly, trust is eroding in our institutions. People are increasingly tuned in to how companies and others are pursuing their own interests, often at the expense of the needs and interests of their customers.

In part, this is the result of intensifying global competition. As companies experience mounting performance pressure, their time horizons shrink, and they become obsessed with internal efficiency.

In that kind of world, there’s an opportunity for powerful differentiation. Customers will be drawn to a compelling corporate narrative with a long-term view that demonstrates a deep understanding of their needs and aspirations and, importantly, that helps them to see what actions they need to take to address those needs and aspirations. Creating such an authentic connection with your customers is also an opportunity to rebuild some trust.

These narratives can also inspire and motivate a growing number of third parties who seek to help customers achieve more meaningful impact. In the Apple example, its corporate narrative was a key element in spawning a large ecosystem of companies seeking to develop new applications and digital tools that could help customers to “think different.”

But there’s an even more compelling reason to embrace corporate narratives at this point. As I discuss in my new book, The Journey Beyond Fear, fear has become a dominant emotion around the world. In a business context, there are many forces drawing out this fear. Competition is intensifying on a global scale, workers increasingly feel they are at risk of losing their jobs to robots, the pace of change is accelerating, and extreme events come in out of nowhere to disrupt our best-laid plans.

While there are reasons for fear, fear is also very limiting. We are all seeking ways to move beyond fear to cultivate emotions like hope and excitement that will help us to achieve more impact that is meaningful to us. I believe corporate narratives can play a powerful role in helping us to move beyond fear — if we can do them correctly.

Getting Started

First, resist the temptation to hand this off to your PR team. Corporate narratives will only have impact if they are deeply authentic. Recall the example of Apple. A key reason for the success of that narrative was the fact that both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak thought different every day of their lives — it wasn’t just a marketing slogan. Sure, the marketing team can play a role in taking the message out to the market, but the key is to get the C-suite actively engaged in crafting the narrative and developing a deep understanding of the untapped opportunities available to their customers. In the end, you want all your employees to embrace the narrative and understand the implications it has for the work they do in terms of where and how they can help customers to address the opportunity ahead.

Second, expand your horizons beyond the product or service you offer. Explore the broader context of your customers and what their bigger unmet needs and aspirations are. Tie those back to your own personal needs and aspirations – the most powerful opportunities are the ones that excite and inspire you as well.

Third, be clear about the actions that your customers can take. Make sure they aren’t too overwhelming but also not so easy that they can be done without much effort.

Finally, find some stories of people who have already addressed the opportunity you’ve identified. Then put it all together into a simple and compelling narrative that can speak to your customers and, if possible, condense it into a slogan to get their attention and motivate them to want to learn more.

To create more value in a world of mounting performance pressure, we need to expand our horizons. Developing a deeper understanding of the unmet needs and aspirations of your customers is part of that expansion. Then you can look ahead to frame an opportunity that will be truly inspiring to them. And you can look within to find ways you can be more helpful to your customers in addressing that opportunity. If done right, your customers and your company will move past the fear-driven instinct to shrink your horizons, and focus on the longer-term opportunities ahead.


Corporate narratives offer a powerful opportunity for differentiation. A good narrative helps companies go beyond the fear of things like ever-increasing competition and an unyielding the pace of change. Unfortunately, very few companies are good at crafting an inspiring, customer-focused narrative. To do one well, resist the temptation to simply hand task off to your PR team. An authentic narrative should be led by the C-suite. Second, go beyond your product or service to truly understand your customers’ unmet needs. Finally, find some stories of people who have already addressed the opportunities you’ve identified.

Credits: John Hagel III | Harvard Business Review
John Hagel III  recently retired from Deloitte, where he founded and led the Center for the Edge, a research center based in Silicon Valley. A long-time resident of Silicon Valley, he is also a compulsive writer, having published eight books, including his most recent one, The Journey Beyond Fear. He will be establishing a new Center to offer programs based on the book.

Why You Should Invest in Unconventional Talent?

Why You Should Invest in Unconventional Talent?

What do an administrative assistant, exercise physiologist, and music composition major have in common? They are all among our top hires for software developer roles.

Many stellar engineers have no formal certifications or degrees; some didn’t go to college. We believe that there’s no single “best” route to a role. Often, less-travelled roads can provide invaluable experience and unexpected perspectives.

We’ve walked these unconventional paths ourselves as a self-taught hacker and a first-generation college graduate. We’ve worked at companies where we were the “only” on a team — the only Black engineer, the only trans engineer, or the only woman — and we’ve been told, implicitly and explicitly, that we don’t fit the mould. We’ve been in the room when hiring committees passed up qualified candidates in favour of those with more traditional pedigrees.

Those experiences fuelled our passion to hire differently and to encourage other leaders to do the same.

The importance of building diverse organizations has been well-established. Diversity is linked to greater innovation and performance; McKinsey recently found that more diverse companies had higher profits than their more homogeneous counterparts.

In contrast, a lack of diversity can lead to convergent thinking. People who share training and experiences tend to reach a consensus faster because they view problems the same way. However, the long-term impact is less harmonious, resulting in narrower thinking and products that don’t meet their potential.

Building teams with different skill sets and life experiences requires intention. By designing inclusive hiring practices — and letting go of the notion that there’s one ideal candidate type for a role — we can create more opportunities for a range of candidates who are more than capable. Here’s how.

Focus on potential rather than pedigree.

We asked developers at Gusto to talk about their backgrounds and noticed a common theme: many discovered a passion for building software through a mix of self-study, experimentation, and formal classes. Others found their love of engineering through seemingly unrelated jobs, including being a paralegal and a video editor.

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We both began our careers with different toolsets than we use today. Many, if not most, skills can be taught on the job; what matters is the desire and core capabilities to succeed. Jobs are changing so rapidly that adaptable learners are in high demand. Many top companies, including Google, Apple, and Bank of America, now focus less on “official” qualifications — many are no longer requiring traditional degrees — and we’re excited to see this trend continue.

The truth is that the skills that seem ideal for a role today may no longer even be a fit in a year. When you’re screening and interviewing candidates, look for ways to explore the capabilities that will enable the individual to thrive as everything around them changes. Consider asking questions like the following:

#1.Describe a problem and how you contributed to a solution. A candidate may exhibit problem-solving abilities in unexpected ways. They may have maximized yield in their garden or reorganized a charity event to be more impactful.

#2.What were you doing the last time you looked at a clock and realized you had lost all track of time? An open-ended question like this can help you uncover intellectual curiosity and understand what motivates someone.

#3.Describe a project you’re proud of that involved working closely with other people. Give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness and teamwork; for example, by discussing how they raised up their team and vice versa.

Look for the sparkles in your talent pool.

Unconventional hiring is an exercise in holding up diamonds to the light. You’re training your eye to spot what glitters, which might be someone’s volunteer or advocacy work, music, writing, or an insightful Twitter thread.

One of our most prolific interviewers bases her questions on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile — but not the section you might think. She jumps to interests and the people they follow, rather than starting with education, endorsements, or even experience. Those sparks can be more telling than a job title.

Events and contests can also help you expand your talent pool to people who may not yet see themselves as experienced professionals. We find coding competitions to be rich sources of passionate and unconventional talent. One of our best hires for security engineering was a financial analyst who excelled in a cybersecurity contest. In these contests, sparkling doesn’t necessarily mean winning. Runners-up often make strong candidates because they’re less focused on rushing to complete a challenge and more interested in methodically solving a problem.

Help unconventional candidates envision themselves at your company.

Recruiting non-traditional hires sometimes involves convincing someone they can flourish in a role they can’t yet imagine. Job descriptions, your company’s LinkedIn profile, and your website’s careers section are all venues to reinforce your culture and ethos. Use those opportunities to authentically describe what it’s like to work at your company, then consider how those descriptions may resonate with candidates with different career experiences and backgrounds. For example, look for ways to minimize jargon; insider language could discourage candidates from applying, even if they have a real shot.

Another way to welcome unconventional applicants is to paint the big picture of a role rather than a checklist of specialized skills, degrees, or years of experience. When crafting job descriptions, we focus on what the candidate can expect to do day-to-day and what we’re looking for at a high level, such as an “interest in complex product development problems.” If we mention specific programming languages, we’ll clarify that you don’t need to know them because there will be training on the job.

When writing job descriptions, focus on the essential components of a given role. For every requirement or responsibility, keep asking why it’s crucial. For example, when we’re writing the job description for an engineering role, we could require that applicants have experience with Amazon Web Services, the cloud service provider we use, but why? We need engineers who understand cloud computing — and the security needs and scale that come with it. That experience with cloud services is essential, but a specific provider is not. We need someone who knows how to drive a car, not someone who knows how to drive a particular make and model. The job description should reflect that; otherwise, we narrow the applicant pool unnecessarily.

Break convention for onboarding and training.

Unconventional hiring transcends recruiting and interviewing. To help a wide range of hires flourish, you need support them at every stage of the employee lifecycle. For example, you might reassess short- and mid-term goals and milestones for the role if a candidate will be learning on the job. In this case, instead of measuring whether a new hire solves a specific problem in their first 30 days, you could evaluate how they’re contributing to the team’s creativity and their peers’ well-being.

Another piece of the puzzle is communicating that you expect new hires to spend time and energy developing new skills. Skill-building opportunities can take various forms, from mentorship to office hours to formal curricula.

Inclusive hiring is just the beginning; ongoing investment is key to supporting candidates once they’re on board.

We encourage every company to think beyond the confines of traditional hiring. Prepare for new hires who shake up your worldview and challenge assumptions about career paths. Continue investing in their growth. Together, chart an unconventional course toward the destination: an inclusive workplace for extraordinary talent.


The importance of building diverse organizations has been well-established. Diversity is linked to greater innovation and performance, and research has shown that more diverse companies have higher profits than their more homogeneous counterparts. But building teams with different skill sets and life experiences requires intention. By designing inclusive hiring practices – and letting go of the notion that there’s one ideal candidate type for a role – you can create more opportunities for a range of candidates who are more than capable. It requires thinking beyond the confines of traditional hiring. Prepare for new hires who will shake up your worldview and challenge assumptions about career paths. And then continue investing in their growth. Together, you can chart an unconventional course toward an inclusive workplace that welcomes extraordinary talent.

Credits : Debbie Ferguson and Fredrick “Flee” Lee