Best Digital Marketing Agencies

From startups to Fortune 500s, every business needs to leverage digital marketing in today’s day and age.

But sometimes, you’ll need a little guidance with your digital marketing strategy. Whether you’re unsatisfied with your existing plan, need help with a new campaign, or just want some consultancy, a digital marketing agency can provide you with the assistance that you need.

The truth of the matter is this; every company can benefit from hiring a digital marketing agency. The trick is finding the best one that’s the right fit for your organization.

Some agencies specialize in SEO, while others are experts in social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, and CRO.

But the best digital marketing agencies offer a wide range of solutions. These full-service digital marketing companies will be an ideal solution for most businesses.

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You can use this guide to help you find the best digital marketing company for your business.

The 10 Best Digital Marketing Agencies of 2020

After researching hundreds of different digital marketing agencies, I’ve narrowed down the list to ten options.

Below are the most well respected and trusted agencies on the market today. Check out the in-depth reviews for each agency below.

We’ll discuss their service offerings, what they specialize in, what budgets they work with, and what business types will benefit the most from their services.

Best Digital Marketing Agencies Reviews

WebFX

• 20+ years of experience
• Full-service marketing firm
• 91% client retention rate
• Wide range of industries
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WebFX is an award-winning digital marketing agency with 20+ years of experience in this space. As a full-service digital marketing firm, WebFX has everything you need to improve your digital marketing strategy.

The exceptional service and proven results speak for themselves. WebFX has a 91% client retention rate, which is nearly 500% higher than the industry average.

WebFX is best known for its SEO services. They’ve driven 255,000+ Google page one rankings for their clients. In addition to search engine optimization, WebFX also provides:

  • PPC services
  • Social media marketing services
  • Web design services
  • Content marketing services
  • Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
  • Amazon optimization
  • Lead generation services

Ultimately, WebFX can help you increase your website traffic and drive conversions from multiple angles and points of emphasis.

Whether you’re a small business interested in local SEO services or a large-scale ecommerce company in need of a website redesign, WebFX has an option for you. In the past five years, WebFX has helped its clients earn more than $ 1.5 billion in revenue by generating 4.6+ million leads.

They work with businesses across a wide range of industries, including education, food and beverage, finance, automotive, industrial, legal, home and repair, insurance, medical, professional services, nonprofits, real estate, retail, tech, tourism, and more.

WebFX can accommodate budgets of all different sizes. Whether you’re looking to spend $ 300 per month or $ 10,000+ per month, this will be a top digital marketing agency for you to consider.

97th Floor

• 15+ years of experience
• SEO, paid media, creative, & automation services
• Customized game plans
• Clients include Adobe & ESPN
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97th Floor is another full-service digital marketing agency boasting a long list of awards in this category.

Founded in 2005, 97th Floor has worked with some big brands over the past 15 years. Some of their top clients include Adobe, Dell, Salesforce, the Utah Jazz, Time Warner Cable, Intuit, LinkedIn, HP, Kaplan, ESPN, and more.

97th Floor offers digital marketing services across four main categories—SEO, paid media, creative, and automation. Top services in those categories include:

  • Link building
  • Keyword research
  • Technical SEO
  • Retargeting
  • Social media ads
  • Audience testing
  • Copywriting
  • Graphic design
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Lead nurturing
  • Analytics

Overall, 97th Floor aims to reach current and prospective clients across every potential digital channel to maximize consumer interaction with your brand.

After your initial consultation, 97th Floor will give you a customized game plan for your strategy. You’ll be provided with a dedicated marketing team based on factors like work experience, industry knowledge, area of expertise, and even common interests.

97th Floor has experience working with startups, established enterprises, market leaders, and everything in between.

But with that said, it’s a better option for larger businesses with substantial marketing budgets. Consider hiring 97th Floor if you have a monthly marketing budget of $ 10k-$ 25k. They even have plans for companies with marketing budgets of $ 100k+ per month.

Rise Interactive

• 16+ years of experience
• Interactive Investment Management
• Analytically-driven approach
• Large suite of tools
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Rise Interactive is a full-service digital marketing agency that was founded back in 2004. In addition to the US locations, Rise Interactive has established a presence in Mexico and Argentina as well.

Like the rest of the agencies on our list, Rise Interactive goes beyond just specializing in one or two aspects of digital marketing. But Rise has a unique spin on their approach.

This agency developed a proprietary multi-channel strategy called “Interactive Investment Management.” The idea behind this approach is to fluidly optimize media content to whichever tactics or channels drive the highest ROI.

Rise is a top choice to consider for businesses that prefer an analytically-driven approach to digital marketing.

You’ll also benefit from a suite of tools to provide you real-time performance metrics, analysis, and optimization for your campaigns and strategy as a whole.

Some of Rise Interactive’s top digital marketing services include:

  • Paid search
  • SEO
  • Amazon marketing
  • Programmatic advertising
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Marketplace listing
  • Web design
  • Content marketing
  • Customer experience analytics

As you can see, Rise offers ways for brands to reach consumers beyond basic search engines. The marketplace listing services are perfect for ecommerce businesses that sell products on multiple platforms.

Unlike some of the other options on our list, Rise does not have specific monthly budget requirements to be considered as a client. They work with companies of all different shapes and sizes.

DigitalMarketing.com

• 17+ years of experience
• “Capture it All” technology
• 3,150+ successful campaigns
• Clients include Ferrari & CBS
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As the domain name obviously implies, DigitalMarketing.com is all things digital marketing.

Since 2003, this full-service digital marketing firm has worked with some of the fastest growing and most well-established brands in the world. Some of their top clients include Ferrari, AT&T, Activision, Fox, CBS, Coca Cola, Warner Brothers, Microsoft, Boeing, LG, Mercedes Benz, and Bank of America.

DigitalMarketing.com has its own technology called “Capture it All” that uses data to simulate beta tests to help plan the best possible course of action for your marketing campaigns.

The top digital marketing services provided by DigitalMarketing.com include:

  • SEO
  • Content marketing
  • PPC management
  • Social media advertising
  • Public relations
  • Reputation management

The PR and reputation management services are definitely unique compared to some of the other agencies on our list. Not every full-service digital marketing has these types of service offerings.

For more than 15 years, DigitalMarketing.com has created 3,150+ successful campaigns across 90+ different industries. This has resulted in billions of dollars in revenue for their clients.

Like most marketing firms, DigitalMarketing.com does not have prices listed on its website. They also don’t require you to disclose your budget to receive a quote. Contact them today to schedule a free consultation.

Ignite Visibility

• 7+ years of experience
• 160+ happy clients
• Unique marketing services
• Reasonably priced services
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Ignite Visibility is a San Diego based digital marketing agency that was founded in 2013. While the firm is a bit newer compared to some of the other agencies on our list, it has 160+ clients and manages roughly $ 100 million in advertising per year.

As a full-service digital marketing firm, Ignite Visibility specializes in:

  • SEO
  • PPC management
  • Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Public relations
  • Website design
  • Website development
  • Reputation management
  • International SEO
  • Franchise marketing
  • Amazon media management

If you take a look at the list of services, you’ll see a couple of unique standouts compared to some of the other agencies we’ve reviewed so far, like international SEO and franchise marketing.

Another reason to like Ignite Visibility is because their services are reasonably priced. Most of their prices start around $ 2,000 per month, making this firm an affordable option for small businesses.

WebiMax

• 12+ years of experience
• Full-service digital marketing agency
• 97% client retention rate
• Services as low as $ 400/month
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WebiMax was founded back in 2008. This award-winning agency made Inc. 500’s list of fastest-growing companies for three straight years.

Clients of WebiMax are extremely satisfied with the results they’re getting. That’s why WebiMax has a 97% client retention rate, which is as good as it gets in such a competitive industry.

WebiMax has 50+ marketers on their team, but it’s still on the small side compared to some of the other organizations on our list. This is an ideal solution for those of you who prefer working with smaller teams.

WebiMax is best known for its reputation management services. In fact, this agency made our list of the best online reputation management companies on the market today.

But WebiMax does so much more than just improve online reputations. As a full-service digital marketing agency, they also specialize in:

  • SEO
  • PPC marketing
  • Local marketing
  • Online reviews
  • Social media marketing
  • Lead generation
  • Web design
  • Online PR

As a WebiMax client, you’ll have access to an online portal where you can manage all of the details associated with your account. The reporting dashboard gives you real-time results for marketing campaigns, including keywords, traffic, analytics, and other live stats.

WebiMax has dashboards and online portals for social media monitoring, local listings, and reviews as well.

Pricing for WebiMax services starts as low as $ 400 per month. Contact them today for a free consultation.

Mad Fish Digital

• A Certified B corporation
• Small team for a personal touch
• Wide range of services
• Great for non-profits
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Mad Fish Digital is a Certified B corporation. This digital marketing firm chooses to work with businesses that have a positive impact on their communities and the environment.

So if your company’s values align with Mad Fish Digital, you should definitely consider working with this full-service digital marketing agency.

Mad Fish Digital is one of the smallest firms on our list. Right now, they’re only working with roughly 50 clients. But that’s definitely a positive factor for those of you who want a personal touch and extra attention.

Top Mad Fish Digital services include:

  • Content strategy
  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Data-driven design
  • Visual storytelling
  • Branded video campaigns
  • PPC
  • Lead generation and CRO
  • Brand awareness
  • SEO
  • Keyword mapping and on-site optimization
  • Technical SEO

As you can see, Mad Fish Digital covers all aspects of digital marketing. They specialize in certain industries, such as healthcare, higher education, sustainability and environment, SaaS, B2B, banking, hospitality, event planning, and more.

Mad Fish Digital is innovative, genuine, and fully accountable for your campaigns. They’ll keep you informed through each step of the process.

If you have a nonprofit, environmentally friendly, or sustainable organization, Mad Fish Digital will be a top agency for you to consider working with.

Split Reef

• SEO & CRO services
• Social media marketing
• Reputation management
• Offices in Ohio & Florida
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Split Reef is a digital marketing agency with offices in Ohio and Florida. They provide a wide range of digital marketing services, including other offerings like custom web applications, iOS and Android app development, progressive web apps, and more.

Split Reef’s top digital marketing services are:

  • SEO
  • CRO
  • Social media marketing
  • Reputation management

The list of services is definitely a bit smaller compared to other full-service digital marketing companies on the market today.

But Split Reef still makes our top ten list because of the other services they provide that fall outside the scope of digital marketing. If you’re also in the market for custom design and development, you can use Split Reef as an all-in-one solution.

For example, let’s say you want to create an app designed for wearable devices, like a smartwatch. Split Reef can help you design the app, develop it, and then handle your digital marketing as well.

Split Reef also specializes in responsive web designs and website speed optimization.

Another unique niche carved out by this agency is the legal industry. Split Reef has extensive experience with digital marketing for law firms. They have a team of legal content writers, and other tools that are specifically designed to boost traffic and conversions for legal websites.

While the two are definitely unrelated, Split Reef is a top choice for mobile app marketing and law firm marketing.

No matter what type of budget or project you have in mind, Split Reef can work with your budget. Services start in the $ 1,000-$ 5,000 range and go all the way up to $ 50k+.

Max Audience

• 10+ year of experience
• Served more than 780 clients
• Prioritize your ROI
• Wide range of services
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Max Audience has offices across the US from Los Angeles to Dallas and New York. For the past 10+ years, this full-service digital marketing agency has served more than 780 clients across a wide range of industries.

Their services have resulted in millions of leads generated and billions in total client revenue.

Top solutions provided by Max Audience include:

  • SEO
  • SEM
  • Email marketing
  • CRM marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Marketing automation
  • Brand management

Max Audience has worked with small organizations and large companies throughout the world. They prioritize ROI with all digital marketing campaigns.

In addition to digital marketing services, Max Audience also provides web design services and messaging solutions for its clients. The messaging solutions will help you reach your customers across various digital touchpoints.

Max Audience leverages automation to maximize ROI in marketing campaigns. They follow the lead of Fortune 500 companies and B2B organizations by applying cost-effective and fail-proof automated campaigns.

Prices for the Max Audience digital marketing services are unavailable online. You’ll need to speak to their sales team for a custom quote.

Location3

• 20+ years of experience
• A pioneer in digital marketing
• Serves global & local businesses
• Specialized marketing for franchise brands
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Location3 is a full-service digital marketing firm that specializes in marketing services for franchise brands. They work with national franchise chains like Honey Baked Ham, Advantage Rent a Car, and Edible Arrangements.

Founded in 1999, Location3 prides itself as a pioneer in digital marketing. With 20+ years of experience in this space, the firm serves global, national, and local businesses.

The top services offered by Location3 include:

  • Local listings management
  • Paid search
  • Paid media
  • SEO
  • Content creation
  • Local SEO
  • Web analytics
  • Franchise development

Another unique standout of Location3 is its intuitive technology solutions. They have a property platform called “LOCALACT” that is designed for franchise systems and companies with a significant brick and mortar footprint. These custom online dashboards allow Location3’s clients to scale and power their digital marketing campaigns in real-time on a national and local level.

If you own a franchise and need assistance marketing your locations online, Location3 will be the best option for you.

How to Find the Best Digital Marketing Agency For You

With so many options to choose from, finding the best digital marketing agency for your business can be challenging. To find a firm that will deliver the best results for your company’s needs, there are certain factors that must be taken into consideration.

This is the methodology that we use and recommend here at Quick Sprout to evaluate the best digital marketing firms. Keep these elements in mind throughout your search.

Business Objectives

Why are you seeking help from a digital marketing agency? What are you trying to accomplish?

Some common objectives might include brand awareness, increasing your site traffic, reaching prospects on new channels, or increasing your conversions.

Do you need help with just one or two specific aspects of your existing digital marketing strategy? Or do you need consultancy to start from scratch?

A local startup trying to drive more traffic to its website won’t have the same objectives as a global enterprise trying to optimize conversions. It’s important that you clarify your goals before you start your search. This will make it much easier for you to narrow down your options.

Specialty Services

The vast majority of digital marketing agencies offer the same services. You’ll see quite a bit of overlap from company to company.

Common digital marketing services include:

  • SEO
  • PPC
  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Content creation
  • Lead generation
  • CRO

However, some organizations specialize in one area over another. They usually make it clear of their areas of expertise by highlighting those services on their websites. I also pointed out any specialty services in my reviews above.

For example, one agency might specialize in technical SEO and link building, whereas another puts more focus on local search listings or marketplace optimization.

There are even industry-specific solutions for things like mobile app marketing, law firm marketing, digital marketing for franchises, and digital marketing for nonprofits.

In addition to the basic digital marketing services listed above, some agencies offer specialty solutions outside of this scope. You can find firms with services for things like web design, online reputation management, app development, and more.

Experience and Reputation

Try to find a marketing agency that’s been around for a while. The majority of the options on our list have been in business for 10-20+ years.

The best firms will have awards and recognition for their work. Some of these awards might reflect on their specialty services, as we mentioned above.

For example, if a reputable publication awards a firm as the top digital marketing agency of the year, you know that it’s a company you can trust.

I’d recommend digital marketing agencies that have experience working with your type of business. If you’re a startup company, find an agency that works with startups. If you have a franchise or Fortune 500, then you’ll need a firm that works with those types of organizations.

Some digital marketing agencies will share metrics like client retention rate, and clients served on their website. Both of these are a good indication of an agency’s reputation. Beyond that, it’s always a smart idea to read customer reviews on third-party platforms before making a decision.

Case Studies and Portfolio

Check out some of the case studies and client portfolios while you’re evaluating a prospective digital marketing agency.

Lots of agencies will share stories from their top clients online. If an agency claims to have worked with big brands like Coca Cola, LinkedIn, Adobe, Microsoft, or another global brand, what does this mean for your business?

On the surface, this boosts the agency’s credibility. But in practical terms, an agency that provided marketing services for Microsoft doesn’t really benefit a small business with just 30 employees across two local locations.

Case studies will show you exactly what they did for various businesses. If the results of those case studies align with your business objectives, then you should consider working with that agency.

Budget

Price is always one of the most important factors to consider when you’re evaluating a marketing agency.

Often times, it can take three, six, or even 12 months to know if your marketing campaigns are actually working. This isn’t something that you can measure overnight. You don’t want to a year to pass only to learn that the agency you hired didn’t really deliver what you were expecting.

Find an agency that offers services in a budget that you’re comfortable with. This could be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Some agencies have services starting at $ 10k, $ 25k, and even upwards of $ 50k to $ 100k+ per month.

Don’t just blindly enter a long-term contract agreement. Start with one or two services to build some trust and establish a relationship with an agency.

Digital marketing is an ongoing process. It’s important to find an agency that you can work with for the long-term at an affordable rate.

Conclusion

There are thousands of digital marketing agencies in the world today. But these are the top ten options that I’d recommend right now:

  • WebFX — Best overall digital marketing agency.
  • 97th Floor — Best digital marketing agency for large businesses and enterprises.
  • Rise Interactive — Best digital marketing firm for marketplace advertising and listings.
  • DigitalMarketing.com — Full-service digital marketing agency providing technology to simulate results for campaign optimization.
  • Ignite Visibility — Best digital marketing agency for small to mid-sized businesses.
  • WebiMax — Full-service digital marketing agency specializing in reputation management.
  • Mad Fish Digital — Best digital marketing agency for nonprofits and sustainable businesses.
  • Split Reef — Best agency for mobile app marketing and law firm marketing.
  • Max Audience — Best digital marketing agency for CRM marketing and automation.
  • Location3 — Best digital marketing agency for franchises and multi-location companies.

All of the choices on this list are full-service digital marketing firms. But they each have unique standouts and services that appeal to different business types and marketing objectives.

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Quick Sprout

What are Your Top Productivity Strategies?

When you think about it, most things in life are subjective. Your favorite color, food, band, or movie? They are your personal favorites — no matter what anyone else says. In other words, there’s no right or wrong answer. In a way, the same is true of productivity strategies. What makes a top productivity strategy for me may not fly with you. And, what works for Elon Musk, Oprah, or your best friend may not be a useful technique for you.

Like your favorite food or music — you want to share your favorites with others. Who knows? Maybe all the famous ones would agree with you? That’s why we’ve collected some of the top productivity strategies for you to implement. Hopefully, you can use them to boost your productivity.

But, if one way to productivity doesn’t work for you, then try out the next suggestion you hear about. Or, even better, make some adjustments and make it your own. You will find a strategy that will work for you. Just keep trying.

Stack your habits.

“You probably have powerful habits and connections that you take for granted each day,” James Clear writes in “Atomic Habits.” “For example, your brain is probably very efficient at remembering to take a shower each morning or to brew your morning cup of coffee or to open the blinds when the sun rises — or thousands of other daily habits.”

But, did you know that you can “take advantage of these strong connections to build new habits?” It’s possible with something called habit stacking.

Basically, this is where you “identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.” And, you’ll use the following formula to achieve this: After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].

Here’s an example from Clear; “After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.” After meditating, you would write your to-do-list for the day. And, after that, you would begin working on your first task.

The key is to make sure that “the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.” When it is, you’ll have clear goals that will add-up to small wins over time.

Stand on your (Eisenhower) soapbox.

A priority matrix is one of the most effective ways to prioritize your lists. In turn, this will make you more productive since it encourages you to focus only on what you need to get done. And, even better, it keeps distractions at bay by ensuring that you don’t fall into the urgency trap.

One of the most popular priority matrixes around is the Eisenhower Matix. I’ve written and spoken about this before. Named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and first supreme commander of NATO, this principle is extremely simple to do.

“Create a four-quadrant box and place all of the items on your list into one of the following quadrants,” explains Calendar’s Angela Ruth:

  • Urgent and important. Tasks that you will do immediately.
  • Important, but not urgent. Tasks that you’ll schedule for later.
  • Urgent, but not important. Anything that can be delegated to someone else.
  • Neither urgent or important. These should be eliminated from your list and schedule.

“If you have multiple items in the urgent and important box, assign each item a number,” says Angela. “For example, if you have a task that’s due to today, then that would be assigned the number one since that’s your main priority for the day.”

Get magically whisked away to 1918 with the Ivy Lee Method.

For over a century, this has been a popular productivity technique that’s helped people regain control of their schedules.

Named after Ivy Lee, a productivity consultant hired by leaders like Charles M. Schwab, this is a night routine that only takes 15-minutes. When your home is quiet, “jot down the five or six most important things you want to accomplish the next day.” Next, you’ll put them in order, “starting with the most important task first thing in the morning.”

“The Ivy Lee Method is so effective because by planning your day the night before, you reduce decision fatigue and reserve your energy for your most meaningful work. You wake up knowing exactly what you’ll be working all day instead of wasting valuable time and energy making decisions in the morning.”

Write over 40-books using this 15-minute morning routine.

Anthony Trollope is a fascinating historical figure. From 1843 to 1883, he wrote 47 novels, 17 non-fiction books, two plays, and over 20 articles and letters. What makes this even more impressive? He did this while holding down a full-time job as a post office inspector.

So, how was he able to achieve such a feat?

Well, he had a dedicated morning routine that supercharged his productivity.

“It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5.30 A.M., and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy,” Trollope noted his Autobiography. “It had at this time become my custom, and is still my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient of myself, to write with my watch before me, and to require of myself 250 words every quarter of an hour.”

“This division of time allowed me to produce over ten pages of an ordinary novel volume a day, and if kept up through ten months, would have given as its results, three novels of three volumes each in the year.”

So, let’s break this down.

Because he already had a packed schedule, Trollope had to get creative by finding any possible free time. That meant waking up early and writing before going to work.

Next, he had to make sure that he didn’t waste any of this valuable time. He accomplished this through timed writing sessions. It’s similar to the Pomodoro Technique, where he only concentrated on writing for specific amounts of time — aka, no multitasking.

Finally, Trollope also tracked his progress. He was known for keeping track of how many pages he wrote each day to keep the momentum going.

As Trollope himself discovered, “A small daily task — if it be really daily, — will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules.”

Adhere to the Five Project Rule.

Throughout my life, I’ve known so many people who are always jumping from one thing to the next. The problem isn’t that they aren’t motivated or driven. It’s just that they never finish what they started.

“If you’re always starting interesting projects and not finishing, then no matter how hard you work, you’re just busy, not productive.”

It’s true. You may have learned some things along the way. But, you don’t get that release of dopamine when you finish something. That may not sound like much, but when you feel good and proud of your finished result, you want to keep repeating that behavior.

Additionally, there’s the Zeigarnik Effect. In a nutshell, this refers to “the tendency to better remember unfinished tasks than completed ones.” As such, this creates cognitive tension where uncompleted tasks stay on the top of your mind until finished.

While that can be used to your advantage, like overcoming procrastination, it can also be a distraction. Besides, at some point, you may have to circle back to this unfinished project. And that can be a waste of time and energy. It’s pretty great always to finish what you start.

A simple way to start finishing what matters is to use the “Five Project Rule.” It’s a concept described by Charlie Gilkey in “Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done.”

“You will never be able to do all the things you think you might want to do,” Gilkey told John Lee Dumas. “And that’s just part of being human. But when you accept that fact, you can get down to three to five active projects.

“Active projects are the ones that you’re pushing for,” says Gilkey. “You’re working them. They’re on your virtual or physical desktop. You’re touching them daily.”

Adopt an A/B schedule.

As Andee Love explains in a Fast Company article, this is where you divide your “schedule between ‘A’ and ‘B’ weeks for different types of work.” The reason why this is effective is that it keeps you energized since it lowers the cost of context switching.

If that’s something you would be interested in, then here’s how to get started:

  • Examine your current schedule. “Look closely at how many hours you’re spending on each task, or the role your work demands,” writes Love. “Then imagine what it would look and feel like if you put each into its own block, day or week.” For example, could you schedule all of your meetings in one or two days per week?
  • Communicate. Once you’ve blocked out your time, let others know. Personally, the easiest way to do this is by sharing your calendar. Remember, if someone wants to meet with you, for example, they’ll see this is only an option on select days.
  • Tinker. Play around with your new schedule until it works for you.
  • Keep your health in mind. Don’t forget to “build adequate rest breaks, movement, and time for healthy eating into your schedule.”

Pop from location to location.

Here we have a productivity hack from Joel Runyon on Impossible HQ. It’s called ‘Workplace Popcorn,” and it goes like this:

  • List everything that you need to do today. Be as specific as possible.
  • Break that list into three equal sections. “These sections should be equal in terms of how much time they’re likely to take to complete,” writes Runyon. “If you’re not sure how long a task will take, guess.”
  • Here’s where the popcorn fits in — find three different places to work. So, for your first list of tasks, you would work from home. You would “pop” over to a coworking space for the second list. And, for the third list, you could work from a cafe.

Follow the Law of Least Effort.

Are you sitting down for this? Long hours don’t make you more productive. According to a Stanford study, productivity declines after someone has worked for more than 50 hours. It’s such a dropoff that putting in more hours would be pointless.

“Busyness is not a means to accomplishment, but an obstacle to it,” writes Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a Stanford scholar and author of “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.” That’s because we often define ourselves by our “work, dedication, effectiveness, and willingness to go the extra mile,” so working less is often viewed as a barrier to success.

I know. Getting more done by doing less may sound like a pipe dream. But it’s possible. One such way to achieve this is adopting a spiritual law of success known as the Law of Least Effort.

Kabir Sehgal and Deepak Chopra explain in a CNBC article that this “law is based on the idea that nature’s intelligence functions with the effortless ease of action and without resistance.” And, it’s easy to incorporate into your life:

  • Accept your current situation. It’s a simple way to stop “reacting to the events around you and instead encourages you to simply acknowledge them” and stay in the present.
  • Take accountability for your current situation. Don’t point fingers or let negativity drag you down. Admit your mistakes, learn from them, and grow.
  • Detach yourself from ‘who gets the credit.’ Stop getting caught up in nonsense that throws you off track. Instead, “focus on the items that truly matter and give meaning.”

Tap into the power of solitude.

“It’s important to spend time around people,” writes Amy Morin. “You can improve your habits and learn new things when you’re surrounded by interesting people.” And, as found in the popular 80-year Harvard study, relationships help us live longer and make us happier.

However, spending too much time around people “might also be a bad thing,” states Morin. “Our digital devices often make us feel like we need to be connected 24/7.” And, even worse, “all of the noise, activity, and hustle can wear you out (and ironically can leave you feeling lonelier than ever).”

That’s why despite getting a bad rap, we should occasionally embrace solitude. In addition to being “an essential component to your health and well-being,” spending time alone can make you more successful by:

  • Helping you get to know yourself better.
  • Breaking down “we vs. them” mentality, which can improve relationships.
  • Being alone fosters creativity.
  • Improving your psychological well-being.
  • Allows you to plan your life.

Additionally, in “Time Management,” written by Fabien Weisberg, solitude, can “help you become better at managing your time effectively.” The reason? “Being alone is when you need to figure out what you need and want to do.”

Does this mean that you have to go off the grid and disappear for an extended period? Nope. “Just 10 minutes of alone time each day could be enough to help you rejuvenate from the daily grind,” writes Morin. Too bust for this simple activity? Then block out some alone time in your calendar in advance like you would with an appointment or meeting.

During this time you could go for a walk, meditate, or sit quietly in your office. Just remember to “silence your electronics and allow yourself to be alone with your thoughts.”

Do you have a favorite productivity strategy? Let us know all about it!

What are Your Top Productivity Strategies? was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

The post What are Your Top Productivity Strategies? appeared first on KillerStartups.

KillerStartups

How This Founder Is Innovating In Mental Health By Bringing Matchmaking To Therapy

Alyssa Petersel founder and CEO of My Wellbeing, a platform that matches therapy-seekers with therapist recommendations, shares how she’s doing things differently in the mental health space, how she navigates something called “Mentor Whiplash,” and what’s been fundamental to growing her business.
Forbes – Startups

AgileFall – When Waterfall Sneaks Back Into Agile


This article previously appeared in the Harvard Business Review

AgileFall is an ironic term for program management where you try to be agile and lean, but you keep using waterfall development techniques. It often produces a result that’s like combining a floor wax and dessert topping.

I just sat through my a project management meeting where I saw AgileFall happen first-hand. The good news is that a few tweaks in process got us back on track.


I just spent half a day with Henrich, the head of product of a Fortune 10 company. We’re helping them convert one of the critical product lines inside an existing division from a traditional waterfall project management process into Lean.

Henrich is smart, innovative and motivated. His company is facing disruption from new competitors. He realized that traditional Waterfall development wasn’t appropriate when the problem and solution had many unknowns.a

This product line has 15 project managers overseeing 60 projects. Over the last few months we’ve helped him inject the basic tenets of Lean into these projects. All are Horizon 1 or 2 projects – creating new features for existing products targeting existing customers or repurposing existing products, tools, or techniques to new customers. Teams are now creating minimum viable products (MVPs), getting out of the building to actually talk with users and stakeholders, and have permission to pivot, etc.  All good Lean basics.

AgileFall in Real Life
But in our latest meeting I realized Heinrich was still managing his project managers using a Waterfall process. Teams only checked in – wait for it – every three months in a formal schedule review. I listened as Henrich mentioned that the teams complained about the volume of  paperwork he makes them fill out for these quarterly reviews. And he was unhappy with the quality of the reports because he felt most teams wrote the reports the night before the review. How, he asked, could he get even more measures of performance and timely reporting from the project managers?

At first glance I thought, what could be bad about more data? Isn’t that what we want – evidence-based decisions? I was about to get sucked down the seductive path of suggesting even more measures of effectiveness when I realized Henrich still had a process where success was measured by reports, not outcomes. It was the same reporting process used to measure projects that used linear, step-by-step Waterfall.

(To be fair to Henrich, his product team is a Lean island in a company where Waterfall still dominates. While his groups has changed the mindset and cadence of the organization, the folks he reports up to don’t yet get Agile/Lean learning and outcomes. They just want to see the paperwork.)

In both managing down and up we needed a very different project management mindset.

Lean Project Management Philosophy
So our discussion was fun. As the conversation progressed, we agreed about the ways to manage projects using a few operating principles of Lean/Agile project management (without ever mentioning the words Lean or Agile.)

  1. It was the individuals who were creating the value (finding solution/mission ft) not the processes and reports
  2. However, the process and reports were still essential to management above him.
  3. Having the teams build incremental and iterative MVPs was more important than obsessing about early documentation/reporting
  4. Allow teams to pivot to what they learned in customer discovery rather than blindly follow a plan they sold you on day one
  5. Progress to outcomes (solution/mission ft) is non-linear and not all teams progress at the same rate

Pivoting the Process
With not too much convincing, Henrich agreed that rather than quarterly reviews, the leadership team would to talk to 4-5 project managers every week, looking at 16-20 projects. This meant the interaction cycle – while still long – would go from the current three months to at least once a month.

More importantly we decided that he would focus these conversations on outcomes rather than reports. There would be more verbal communication and a lot less paper. The reviews would be about frequent delivery, incremental development and how leadership could remove obstacles. And Henrich’s team would continue to share progress reporting across the teams so they could learn from each other.

In sum, the radical idea for Henrich was tha this role was not to push the paperwork down. It was to push an outcome orientation down, and then translate its progress back up the chain. While this was great for the teams, it put the onus on Henrich to report progress back up to his leadership in a way they wanted to see it.

I knew the lightbulb had fully gone on when near the end of the meeting Henrich asked his team, “Going forward, who are the right team members to manage a Lean process versus a Waterfall?” And I smiled when they concluded that Lean could be managed by fewer people who could operate in a chaotic learning environment, versus a process-driven, execution one.

I can’t wait for the next meeting.

Lessons Learned

  • AgileFall is a seductive trap – using some Lean processes but retaining the onerous parts of Waterfall
  • The goal of leadership in Lean product management is not to push the paperwork down. It’s to push an outcome orientation down and translate its progress back up the chain


Steve Blank

7 Key Culture Elements That Drive Value In A Startup

office-business-drive-valueAs an entrepreneur, it’s never too early to set the culture you need for a thriving business, as well as thriving employees, customers, partners, and vendors. In fact, in my experience, cultures are very hard to change, so if you don’t get it right the first time, the road ahead will forever be difficult. “The Art of War” culture as an analogy for business doesn’t always work anymore.

I’m seeing more and more business success stories like the one in the classic book “Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives” by Kip Tindell. He is the Founder of the very successful Container Store, while still making Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list for seventeen consecutive years.

He offers a set of seven principles and values for his ultimate win-win philosophy and harmonic balance among all stakeholders, as a roadmap for any company to develop a profitable, sustainable, and fun way of doing business. I recommend that every aspiring entrepreneur and serious business professional take each one of these to heart from day-one of their startup:

  1. Talent is the whole ball game. When you surround yourself with hugely talented, passionate, dedicated, and genuinely kind people, you will succeed in whatever you do. Tindell’s mantra is that one great person is equal to three good people. Start with only the very best people, demand excellence, and train them to stay ahead of the pack.
  1. Craft mutually beneficial relationships. This requires spending the extra time needed to really get to know your employees, vendors, and customers, and letting them get to know you. Know the issues they face, and search for ways to help them, make them happier, more productive, and more profitable. The result is more win-win than win-lose.
  1. Reframe selling as an activity that improves customer’s lives. If you get to know your customers well enough, you can provide solutions that make selling and service the same thing. It’s a win-win deal that keeps customers coming back, helps your company, and incents customers to bring in their friends through word-of-mouth and social media.

  1. Great communication is the best leadership. How can people trust their leaders if they’re not being fully informed about what’s at stake? The objective is to communicate everything to every person. It starts with daily ongoing communication between team members, and extends to the top with executive updates and informal listening sessions.
  1. Simultaneously deliver the best selection, service, and price. Stick with what you know and do it better than anyone else. Keep is simple, and think solution rather than item-based, for the proper perspective. The best relationships with vendors give you price and selection leverage, and the best service relationships bring customers back.
  1. Team members must act intuitively, based on training and motivation. Intuition is nothing more than the outcome of previous training and experience. More training on your solutions and customer needs means better intuition and anticipation of how to help customers. Happy and motivated employees won’t be afraid to use their intuition.
  1. Build and maintain an air of excitement in your company. Faithfully following the first six principles will build that sense of excitement where everyone wants to be there and feels the sense of energy, customers and employees alike. You can’t force that feeling of warmth and caring, it has to be authentic and come from the hearts of talented people.

The great management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Today company culture is more important than ever in driving strategy and value, not the other way around. A great culture in an entire business infrastructure of executives, employees, vendors, and customers working together to achieve a common goal of everyone thriving.

No leader can “create culture,” but they must create the environment where the desired culture can emerge and flourish. Leaders do this by driving values, values drive behavior, behavior drives culture, and culture drives performance. High performance makes new leaders. This is the self-reinforcing circle of excellence every business needs to succeed. Are you driving the right values in your business?

Marty Zwilling
Startup Professionals Musings

Gousto, a UK meal-kit service, raises another $41M as business booms under lockdown

Food delivery — be it ready-made restaurant meals, groceries, or anything in between — has seen a huge surge of activity in the last few weeks as people have sheltered in place to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. Today, one of the startups that’s built a business specifically in meal-kits in the UK is announcing funding to double down on its growth.

Gousto, a London-based meal-kit service, has closed £33 million ($ 41 million) in funding, money that it’s going to be using to continue investing in its technology — both in the AI engine that it says customers use to get more personalised recommendations of what to cook and eat, and in the backend tech used to optimise its own logistics and other operations — and in building more capacity to meet rising demand and expanding next-day delivery in the near future (it mainly operates on a three-day turnaround between ordering and delivery currently).

The company said that it’s currently delivering some 4 million meals to 380,000 UK households each month and is on course to cross 400 million meals delivered by 2025. It offers currently a choice of more than 50 recipes each week and gives people the option to tailor what they get, with the whole system running in an automated packing process, working out to average price per meal per person to £2.98 at its cheapest.

The funding — which was being raised before the novel coronavirus hit — is being led by Perwyn, with participation also from BGF Ventures, MMC Ventures and Joe Wicks — a hugely popular YouTube fitness coach who has built a lifestyle brand around healthy eating. This brings the total raised by Gousto to around £130 million ($ 162 million). It’s not disclosing its valuation with this round. It has 100 employees today and plans to expand that to 700 by 2022.

CTO Shaun Pearce said that Gousto was in high-growth mode before COVID-19, operating on forecasts of growing 70% year-on-year. That number — as with so many other delivery and specifically food-based delivery businesses right now — has spiked upward in recent weeks, not just from paying customers but also for Gousto’s own efforts to do something for the relief efforts, with food businesses like Gousto’s some of the remaining “key” businesses that have been allowed to stay open when others like restaurants have closed.

“We continue to be laser-focused on our vision to become the UK’s most-loved way to eat dinner. This additional investment is not only a validation of our track record, but it is also an endorsement of our strategic vision of the future which is rooted in investing in innovative technology to transform the way we search for, shop for, and cook our food,” said Timo Boldt, CEO and founder, in a statement. “In these challenging times, we want to continue offering people more choice and especially more convenience. We will maintain our close relationships with the government and other charitable partners to ensure those already struggling don’t see their situation worsen.”

In the last several weeks, Pearce said Gousto has also seen big changes in customer behavior from pre-existing customers, with a 28% increase in family boxes. “Those who buy from us want to buy more,” he said.

Gousto’s has also been trying to do its part in relief operations. It’s been working with the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to produce meal kits for vulnerable people, and it has donated some 6,000 meals to The Trussell Trust foodbank network and to the homeless charity, Shelter. It’s also ensuring that when its system is overcrowded that NHS employees get priority access to its ordering platform. (This is in addition to the contactless and other safety procedures that Pearce said that Gousto has put in place to minimise the risk of spreading the virus both to its workers and customers.)

Meal kit services in recent years have taken a beating in recent years, typified perhaps most publicly by Blue Apron, which saw its stock drop drastically after going public in part because of the huge amount of competition (not just from other pure-play meal kit companies but a plethora of others like Amazon that have added on meal kits to other existing business lines such as other grocery delivery).

Pearce said that Gousto’s growth and popularity and flexibility that it offers users by way of the AI engine to craft recipes they might actually want to use sets it apart from current competition, which in the UK includes HelloFresh, Mindful Chef, offerings from most major grocers, and many more.

“We continue to be impressed by Gousto and its dedication to its customers,” said Andrew Wynn, founder and managing partner at Perwyn, in a statement. “The business has adapted quickly to continue providing an essential service to so many. This reaffirms the decision we took far before COVID-19, that we’re investing in the right people and a business set for even greater success.”

 

Startups – TechCrunch