26 Apps to Optimize Your Work Day

As a digital marketing company, we are always interested in the latest and greatest applications that can help to optimize our workday and improve productivity. We all know that sales can be a tough business. Our sales team knows that success in sales is all about mastering sales skills such as strategic prospecting, active listening and time management. Our sales team also recognizes the importance of having a positive attitude and a good balance between work, sleep, exercise, relaxation, socialization and winding down time.

We found this Infographic, courtesy of Hussle, that we thought would be helpful for our Financial Advisor and Enterprise audience. It’s a great read on some fantastic tools for time management, organization, exercise and more, that can help you to be more productive while also finding time to indulge in some much needed down time.

Here’s Hussle’s ‘Work Day Productivity Hacks” infographic to help supercharge your day!

26 Apps to Optimize Your Work Day


A Quick Guide to Choosing the Right Images for Your Website


You know the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, that definitely holds true for your website and and blog as well. One way to increase engagement and conversions on your website is by using images. However, it is only certain types of images that will be effective in doing so.  Choosing the right images for your website can often prove to be a difficult and time consuming process.

Here are a few simple guidelines to help you choose the right images to help engage your audience:

Natural Vs. Staged

I suppose there was a time back in the day, when artificially lit sets and over bright smiling people were considered a great idea, but that time has definitely passed. Today’s potential customer has been over-saturated with too perfect and staged stock shots. What people are looking for these days is honesty. The natural/candid style of shot is quickly becoming the preferred style of image for many sites. The reason for this is not just a contrary swing in style; it’s a natural choice for those who are looking for authenticity. If you’re using stock photos that are too polished and insincere looking, it casts a poor light on to your business. It gives off a feeling of insincerity and falseness that may drive potential clients away.

Out of date

When you’ve perused the millions of photos on either pay or free stock sites, you’ll see that some have aged gracefully, and some have not.

If you’re showing a scene with someone at a computer screen, be sure it is a recent image. Nothing says ‘I’m not current’ like an old fashioned monitor sitting on a desk. Or, someone using a 10 year old flip-phone. Images of a family can be timeless, but watch out for telltale signs of family photos that are clearly from years ago.

Seen this one before

Last but not least, we should talk about popular stock images.

When you’re using a site like ‘istock’ or ‘Getty’, one of the filters you can use is ‘popularity’. This means that you can select photos based on how often they’ve been used before. I would advise against that, unless the image is for something benign like a photo of a calculator or something inconsequential.

If you’re looking for anything that will be used as a feature image, remember, someone somewhere has possibly chosen the same image. There is nothing quite as awkward as seeing an image you’re using for your site, also being used by the dentist down the street, or in a piece of junk-mail, or worse, on your competitors site.

Be original. Try and use images that you’re confident your competition isn’t using.

Hiring a photographer and getting original photos is always the best solution, but second best is using something that both looks good and is singular to your site alone.

…But where do I find the right images?

1) Sources for Free Images

Once upon a time, all photos had to be purchased, but things have changed in recent years. There are many sources for photographs and images that cost you nothing, or very little (sometimes just a link to the photographers webpage).


This site has been around now for a very long time, and you can find a lot of great images here. The main difficulty with this (as with other free sites) is quality. For every fantastic photo, there can often be quite a large number of not-so-great photos. As with anything else in life, you sometimes have to search for a bit to find the gold.


Another great site for free images is Pixabay.com. I’ve personally had a lot of success finding great images here. If you’re looking for something here, whether it’s images of luxury, happy families or shots of business people, you’ll find lots of great shots here.


This site is a bit different. Compfight sources all of its photos from flickr.com. For this site, you need to tweak the settings from ‘any license’ to ‘commercial’. Once that is done, search away. You’ll find the photos here are of a much higher caliber than some of the other free sites, and that’s due to Flickr’s reputation as one of the leading photography portals in the world.

Rather than payment, use of these photos is by accreditation. You simply need to include a link on your page to the photographer’s Flickr page; this is shown to you when you click the photo.

2) Sources for Paid Images


This site is a great source for photos and images. Years ago, it was much like Flickr, but has since been bought by Getty Images, the leading stock company in the world…. which leads us to…


The big time. Getty is just about the biggest player on the block for photography. They also own most of the other stock companies…


This is another site owned by Getty images. This is the site that I would use the most often and would recommend to anyone. It compiles all the stock companies owned by Getty, so you’re getting the best of the best.


Now that you know where to find the images and have an understanding of what constitutes a great modern and engaging photo, all it takes now is some time. Although you’re not supposed to judge a book by it cover, we all know that we do. Take the time to properly choose the right images that best represent your business to your customers and prospects. A well-picked image will be remembered and will reflect well on you, but a poorly chosen image will also be remembered, and potentially reflect negatively on your business.


Financial Advisors: Here’s How To Recharge And Refresh For Greater Success

This post was authored by Marie Swift and originally appeared here on GuideVine.

“Summertime – and the livin’ is easy,” or at least it should be. But in today’s digital world, it can be hard to take a real break and recharge.

Larry Rosen, a noted psychology professor, researcher, and author of the book iDisorder, warns in a recent Reuters article that if a financial advisor is constantly connected, it will eventually wear them down.

“Given the ‘epidemic proportions’ of our addiction to smart phones, learning how to sign out and turn off is becoming vital for our mental health and well-being,” said Reuters reporter Hilary Johnson in her piece, Advisers Should Recharge Selves, Not Phones, in Summer, before moving into real life stories and advice from financial advisors Gordon Bernhardt, founder of Bernhardt Wealth Management; Nancy Popovich, a managing director with The Wise Investor Group; Colleen Schon, a managing director at Anthem Advisors; and Joe Belfatto, a partner at wealth management firm Massey Quick. (This piece is well worth the read).


A recent infographic (below) from Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, provides a good visual of how to make the most of any downtime. She says weekends – especially Sunday nights – can become a springboard to a productive week.

weekend success Infographic

In addition, here are some quick tips gleaned from years of reading and studying other successful business people. You might want to try some of them this summer:


Speaker and book author Juliet Funt says that, if we are not careful, today’s always-on world will rob us of something she calls “white space.”

“White space is improvised or scheduled time and thought for which we have no predetermined agenda or plan. It is open, uncommitted time during which our thoughts can be fluid, flexible and free-form,” Funt says. “It is time during which strategic thinking occurs, creativity soars and focus returns.”

She encourages us to daydream and to notice when the world makes us wait – and to relish it because that is an opportunity to become more calm, confident, patient and present. One way of embracing Funt’s advice is to study other people in airports and hotel lobbies. Without being obvious about it, do a little “people watching” try to imagine what is going on in their lives and feel empathy or joy based on your perceptions of what might be going on with them. For instance, if someone seems stressed or absent minded, smile and nod in passing, or just beam a little loving kindness their way. They may not them feel better, but you sure will.


In an article penned for Inc.com, Margaret Hefferman, author of A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better Than the Competition, asks, “when did you last spend time alone?” She talks about the importance of solitude, saying things that should resonate with today’s busy financial advisors:

“As business leaders, we find ourselves besieged by peers, colleagues, employees, board members, assistants, family members. Nobody gets enough of our time – and that includes ourselves. Instead, life becomes an unending tennis match, in which we’re constantly responding to whatever comes over the net: successes, mistakes, challenges, doubts, and needs. The most essential quality of an entrepreneur isn’t boldness or creativity. It’s stamina.”

Amen to that! We need stamina and patience i to be resilient and effective in the midst of a tidal wave of activity. Getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating right are important, too. And if your workout is solitary, without noise and digital stimulation (perhaps even outside in nature), then you accomplish two things at once: being alone in a way that keeps both mind and body in shape.


Beginner’s Mind, according to Wikipedia, is a concept in Zen Buddhism. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few,” says Shunryu Suzuki in his classic book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. “Zen is not some fancy, special art of living. Our teaching is just to live, always in reality, in its exact sense,” he continues. “So we should be concentrated with our full mind and body on what we do; and we should be faithful, subjectively and objectively, to ourselves, and especially to our feelings.”

“When you do something, you should do it with your whole body and mind,” Suzuki continues. “You should be concentrated on what you do. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. You should not be a smoky fire. You should burn yourself completely. If you do not burn yourself completely, a trace of yourself lf will be left in what you do.”

The concept of having a beginner’s mind should make total sense intuitively, even if you are not a Buddhist or everyday Zen person. Try being fully present when people are talking to you, to enjoy each bite of a crunchy apple as if it was the first you’d ever tasted, to delight in your team’s insights, and to let others be smarter than you because, after all, you are just a beginner – you don’t have to be the all wise and powerful Oz.

These are just a handful of things that you can do to recharge. We hope you found them useful and get to practice them or something else that helps you rebuild, if not this weekend, then at least this summer.

How To Leverage The Buyer Journey To Increase Your AUM

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What’s the relationship between the buyer journey and selling? (if you haven’t read my post on the definition of the buyer journey, make sure you read that one first before moving on.)

Well, as it turns out, the entire profession is changing and traditional selling and relationship techniques are becoming less effective because buyers are becoming more knowledgeable. In fact, they’re coming to the table with more knowledge than ever before and it’s making sales people too transactionally focused (i.e. order takers — please make this trade or please sell this fund).

Understanding the journey can help you connect with your client or prospect on a much more fundamental level. If you’re a financial or insurance advisor who excels, you’ve likely adopted the technique of understanding your buyer’s journey without even knowing it. When you connect with your clients or prospects throughout this journey, it will help you build trust. Why? Because each stage is buyer centric and not sales centric. The buyer doesn’t physically buy or decide to buy until after they diagnosed their problem and are satisfied with their list of solutions to solve that problem. Asking for the sale too early, makes you disingenuous and breaks trust because you’re just in front of the client or prospect for you, not them.

What does this have to do with AUM? What is the relationship between AUM and trust? Well, with my limited financial advice knowledge, AUM is basically all about the amount of money (measured in market value) that an investment company manages on behalf of investors. Is it safe to assume that the more trust that a client or prospect has with you the more they are willing to invest with you and thus increase your AUM? Well, according to Joachim I. Krueger, from Psychology Today, interpersonal trust is defined as the willingness to invest in another in hopes of being rewarded with reciprocity, while accepting the risk of being betrayed. According to this definition, increasing trust levels with your clients, enables a desire to invest in you as an individual and by doing so, they hope to be rewarded with, for example, the reciprocity of service, advice and financial gain and they accept the risk of loss. Higher trust = higher willingness to invest (i.e. higher AUMs).

Here are 3 rules I follow when working your way towards serving your clients or prospects at each stage of the buyer journey:

  1. Be helpful. If they are in the awareness stage, work with them to help them identify the complete picture of their symptoms. If they are in the consideration stage, send them helpful articles or connect them to people who might know more about problem they are experiencing than you do.
  2. Don’t ask for the sale too early. In the movie Glengarry Glen Ross you hear the term ABC – Always Be Closing. This only applies to buyers who are at the end of their buying journey. Yes, I know, you want to make the sale, you want to be the solution to your buyer’s problem, but that might not serve the interests of your buyer and it won’t help you establish trust. Asking too early could actually break trust.
  3. Be authentic. If they are in the decision stage, presenting them with 2 solutions you know they’ll never choose and then your solution isn’t authentic. Have confidence in your practice and business and place competitive solutions beside yours. It will help you weed out customers who might not fit your business and it will help you improve your services or products. Remember the relationship you are trying to establish and the types of individuals you are looking to acquire as clients. For example, clients who are price shopping (vs value shopping) will always choose the cheapest option no matter what. Even if you win their business today, they are bound to be troublesome and costly later.


Have you ever used any of these techniques in your selling practice?


How to Drive Sales Using the Customer Buyer Journey

Liferay Accelerates Mobile Application Development

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Today, Liferay Inc., a leading open source portal software company announced the release of a Mobile SDK that will ship with Liferay Enterprise Edition 6.2. You can read about all the technical benefits here, but, so what does this mean from a business standpoint? Mobile application development isn’t a new concept and for the most part, major industries, like financial services, have figured out a way to get to market with mobile apps either through the use of partners or through their internal capabilities. So, the process of creating mobile apps already exists. How does this move by Liferay change your world and is this relevant?

It’s quite obvious that investments in mobile technologies are increasing year over year and month over month due to the ubiquity of smartphone and tablet usage. In short, user experience and adoption are driving investments in mobile application development. In fact, mobile internet usage is expected to exceed desktop usage in 2014. With this in mind, overtime, your user base will increasingly expect more than just default mobile views of your application, they’ll start to expect mobile application functionality and much like how you’ll lose business with a terrible looking website, you’ll start losing your users with poor mobile user experiences.

So, what happens now? What happens now with no mobile SDK? In short, redundancy. Building a rich internet application, followed by the implementation of a mobile application across multiple devices can only be streamlined to a point, for example, at the database layer. This redundancy results in higher exponential costs for design, development and testing and much longer development cycles. Not a good combination if you’re striving to create amazing user experiences.

With the mobile SDK and beyond, Liferay will continue to create and add to the plethora of services that can be consumed in a mobile application context. And the more shared services, content & collaboration features available to you when you build your applications, the less redundancy you’ll encounter and the quicker you’ll be able to get to market with a mobile version of your applications.

This is an extremely positive announcement from Liferay and aligns very closely to our lean development principles. For us and our customers, it means we can extend the benefits of our development practices to mobile and accelerate the release of those applications even faster and most cost effectively by using Liferay as a central application hub.

The Importance of Software Configuration Management for Portal Projects

Many enterprise organizations treat large scale portal projects like regular application development projects. This potentially leads to many downstream negative impacts affecting the maintainability and stability of a portal environment. A common pitfall that many organizations fall victim to, is the lack of the proper software configuration management (SCM) processes for their portal projects and on going support models. Much of this is due to the perception that the skill sets required for a portal implementation are the same skill sets their current non-portal application implementation teams’ possess, leading to higher downstream costs.
So how can organizations stop themselves from over spending on future maintenance and enhancement costs? Well, aside from replacing your traditional application development team with an expert portal team, there is a rather small investment that can be made up front to help with the transition. Our team’s are strong believers in the proper creation of software configuration processes and practices but let’s not go overboard, there are other factors that play into the successful deployment and maintainability of a portal such as portal governance, but proper software configuration management is most certainly a key success factor.
You may be asking yourself why it’s important to consider the up front investment of the creation of proper SCM processes and when exactly should these processes be created. Typically, once the implementation of a portal project begins, there is a rather substantial amount of time spent configuring the infrastructure that is going to be used to support the portal environment from development, to test, to staging, to production. We strongly recommend that the creation of SCM processes occur as a parallel activity. This provides you with three benefits:
  1. It will help accelerate the return on investment of your portal investment and don’t forget the downstream risk and cost mitigation as a result of the creation of these processes.
  2. By doing these activities in parallel, it will reduce design gaps between the environment configuration and SCM processes. In one of our recent customer scenarios, they had set up their environment prior to establishing SCM standards and began development. When it came time to deploy the solution, they came to the sudden realization that their environment did not match their deployment methodology. This directly impacted the application’s performance and at times rendered the application unusable.
  3. Assuming you are using subject matter experts (SME), you can blend your current environment and software teams with the SMEs. This will help with knowledge transfer and will also help give the SMEs the proper eyes on both the organizational and technical environments within your organization.

What is Software Configuration Management?

So, we’ve established the benefits of why SCM and why create SCM standards early. But what is it? The act of creating SCM standards can be grouped into two primary activities; Release Management and Code Promotion, and the Creation of a High Level Infrastructure Architecture.
Release management and code promotion focuses on code deployment and testing, auditing requirements, business processes and, code and configuration release (note that this is specific to portal).
High level infrastructure architecture focuses on answering questions like:
  1. What database will be used for this portal application?
  2. How will we be performing user access and authentication?
  3. What kind of network infrastructure will be configured?
  4. How will we handle disaster recovery?
Ok, I’m convinced, but what kind of people do I need?
This blog post would not be complete if we did not tell you what kind of team would be required for this crucial step in your portal initiative. We’ve typically provided customers with a team of three. Not all of them would be full time and the time spent would be highly dependent on the complexity of your organizational and technical environment. Here are the profiles of those individuals all of whom should have multiple years of experience with an enterprise portal:
  • Software Architect
  • Knowledgeable and experience in portal implementations
  • Enterprise application design and development experience
  • Portal experience
  • Software Developer
  • Experience working on structured enterprise application development projects
  • Enterprise Portal experience
  • Experience working on enterprise development teams with regimented code and configuration release management processes
  • Integration Architect
  • Experience in network infrastructure
  • Experience with server configuration
  • Experience with setting up enterprise architecture, E.g. Failover, load balancing, etc..
Let’s recap.
  1. Creating proper SCM standards and processes early in your portal project is strategic and can provide you with downstream risk and cost mitigation
  2. This activity should be performed in parallel with the configuration of your technical portal environment to accelerate the ROI of your portal investment
  3. The team performing this task should be subject matter experts and should be blended with your existing non-portal application team to transfer knowledge around best practices and to gain experience with a portal project

Innovation as a Swear Word

If you work in a large corporation, or perhaps even a small one, here are a few pointers to turn ‘innovation’ into a swear word. Note that the goals of doing this are really to decrease your organization’s competitiveness, create unhappy workers and demonstrate a general lack of respect for the livelihood of others.

  1. Don’t reward “out-of-the-box” thinkers. After all, who needs to retain good talent? There’s obviously plenty of that out there.
  2. Make sure you continue to use and embrace the processes that are broken and if someone points out an improvement, be sure to discipline those actions. In fact, just go ahead and put them in the storage room. And don’t forget the red stapler.
  3. Always believe that everything is okay and that no changes will ever be needed.
  4. When encountering an issue in your department or work, just point the finger at someone else and ensure you don’t lift another finger to solve it because someone else will obviously figure it out.
  5. Whenever possible, try to squeeze your valuable partners and vendors for everything they’ve got until they either go out of business or stop wanting to do business with you. After all, who needs external subject matter expertise. You can obviously do it all yourself! While you’re at it, attempt to solve world hunger on your own because everything is core to your business.

If you’ve got more to add to this list, please feel free to share. And if you’re actually following some of these principles, know that running downhill will always be easier than running uphill but that racing to the bottom won’t necessarily imply that you’re a winner.

Music Meets Technology

I am classically trained in tabla, a drum that originally comes from India and I’ve been a software developer for the past decade. In my experience, the theme of “collaboration” often arises in both music and software development. Steve Jobs describes the creative process as “just connecting things”. Similarly, collaboration can be described as connecting things that come from different origins or the act of creation.

These days musicians of different genres of music are creating more unique collaborations than ever before (i.e. Jazz meets Indian classical). To do this, musicians need to figure out how to communicate in order to create music together. Often this is unchartered territory that is organized by relying on the foundation of their daily practice.

Similarly developers need to collaborate on several different levels. They need to work with other individuals of different backgrounds (education, working style etc.) and make systems communicate (i.e. the inclusion and customization of open source code within your application). They too, might be travelling unchartered territory so will need to rely on basic principles learned during previous working experiences to make progress.

Below, I describe 3 basic principles that I believe will increase the chances of collaborating with others in music and software development.

Show up

Creativity still requires a systematic approach. Professional musicians make sure that they practice daily, stay on top of the music scene by regularly putting out recordings and perform often. Similarly developers need to make sure the stay on top by showing up to work (even if you work from home – ha ha) but also by being diligent about steadily working towards solving a problem by working smarter and not harder. I had a manager once who said that he always made sure he learnt at least one new thing each day. By doing this you’re ensuring that you are steadily working towards solving your problem and not being lazy.

Steal like an artist

Paraphrasing Austin Kleon: “steal like an artist”.

Nowadays material is rarely purely original, so choose ideas that make sense and re-use them! For musicians, you cannot “steal” a main melody line unless you sample it and pay royalties. You can definitely try to mimic the feeling or concepts behind a piece though. This might be an instrumentation configuration, a stylistic approach or even the bass line or beat. In software you cannot steal software implementations, but you can “steal” approaches to software design such as the Agile approach philosophy, architectures or design patterns.

Use  Etiquette

In both music and software development there are known etiquettes that when followed will make you easier to work with. An example of following etiquette in the musical sense is by listening to musicians that you are playing with and responding. Conversely, an example of not following etiquette is when a musician does not listen to anything else but themselves. A guitarist can play the meanest lick but if it’s not placed in the right part of the song it might sound irrelevant. Similarly developers can step on each other’s toes when checking in their code and not paying attention to merging conflicts. The developer might have written a great piece of code, however if it is not checked in properly it will not be effective or may clobber someone else’s work.

In both software development and music the end product is tangible, however, it’s only you as the artist or developer that intimately knows the details of the process you used to get there. In my experience in order for the collaborative process to happen, you need to: show up, steal (like an artist) and use etiquette.