DPM Podcast

DPM Podcast: How To Get Website Content From Clients (with James Rose from Content Snare)

By 07/11/2019 November 15th, 2019 No Comments

Ben Aston:

Are you still waiting for your web project to go live? Let me guess, you’re waiting on the content or maybe the client sent you the content, but now you’re waiting for them to send you the content that matches the site. Well, it’s a challenge for anyone working in web development. And agencies will be only too familiar with this problem, but it’s one that can be solved. Yes, there is a way to do this better, so keep listening to this podcast to understand how you can ditch endless email trails, massive attachments and messy Google Docs, gather content and files in one place with automated content reminders with a tool that we’re going to be talking about today.

Thanks for tuning in. I’m Ben Aston, founder of the Digital Project Manager. Welcome to the DPM podcast. Whether you’re a seasoned project manager, a digital producer, or something else entirely, maybe you just found yourself somehow in charge of managing projects; just know that today in your headphones, you’re joined by thousands of others in the same boat. Trying their best to start, plan and deliver better projects. We at the DigitalProjectManager.com are here to help you become more confident and skilled as a project manager. And we’re here to connect you with others who are managing and leading projects too.

If you really want to level up and take your PM game to the next level, check out our DPM school and be sure to sign up for our pro membership to get access to all our curated resources. Finally, while you’re listening to the show, please subscribe and join our mailing list on the DigitalProjectManager.com to stay up to date with all that’s going on.

Today I’m joined by James Rose. James is the co-founder of Content Snare that we’re going to be talking about and at Jira technology. He was once a web designer and now he’s trying to help designers and developers regain their lives, work less and get better clients. So hi James.

James Rose:

Ben, it is very awesome to be here. Other than the fact that I’m currently being attacked by pathogens received from an Uber driver the other day.

Ben Aston:

Well glad you could make it. So, I mean, tell us what you’re doing now. You’re running your own FaaS product and you’re also running a development shop. Can you tell us a bit about those?

James Rose:

Yeah, so we’ve been in the software game for a very long time now. I think we founded our business in 2010, so we built our software product back then and then we ended up building software for other people, like our client, you know, typical agency type thing. So that’s our development shop, Aktura Technology. Yeah. And I mean that’s fairly… We just build custom stuff for people.

But in that process we also used to build a lot of websites and as your intro might suggest, content is a big problem for a lot of people and it was for us. And through our… I guess I did a lot of networking with web designers and it seemed to be a really big problem with everybody and at the time we were trying to find another problem to solve because software’s kind of where our heart is and it sort of clicked in. I went, “Man, we’ve got to build something to help our own process for content collection and all these other web designers need help as well, these other agencies.” So that’s kind of how Content Snare started and that’s now what we have. We have a SaaS, I guess it’s software product or platform that helps people collect content from clients on time and without all the delays and the messy attachments and everything that usually comes along with that process.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Cool. So let’s talk about Content Snare in just a minute. But first I want to backtrack on how you got to this place where you’re building a SaaS tool to help agencies. What’s your background in the agency world?

James Rose:

Well, I mean it’s really just our own. So unlike you, I did not start out in a large agency. I was an engineer back in the day doing control systems engineering or automation engineering. So at some point we were actually basically writing code for industrial processes, I guess. But then that’s sort of tied over into actually creating software products. So Content Snare is actually our third product. And you know, previous ones have sold out or whatever. But that’s where we started. The website’s only happened because… Like the digital agency only happened because as you know, if you do anything on computers, everyone assumes you know everything else about computers. So you tell people you’re in software and they’re like, “Can you build me a website? And while you’re at it, like recover some data off my hard drive and build me like an Uber app, clone, but for puppies for $2,000?”

So that’s how we got into websites. A bunch of people asked us about it. We had been building our own websites previously back in the days when you just made websites to try and get them ranked on Google and make money off ads back in those days. So we kind of had some experience and we thought, “You know what, we’ll just do good websites for people because it seems that a lot of people are kind of like not having great relationships with their web developers. And if we just do a good job, then we should be able to create a decent agency.” And that’s kind of what happened. We just started out with websites and then ended up doing other stuff like Facebook ads and Google ads and actually getting into digital marketing before coming full circle back into only websites because we just wanted to focus on being good at that one thing. And that’s how our agency started.

Ben Aston:

Nice. And so you’re an agency without an office, right?

James Rose:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ben Aston:

So how, I mean that’s… I know for a lot of people listening, they’ll be in a similar kind of spot there. They’re trying to manage their remote teams and remote developers often who are hard to get hold of. How do you make remote working actually work? Particularly when working with developers who can be unresponsive, what are your tips?

James Rose:

Yeah, so it’s definitely an ongoing challenge, and we’re not through it yet, for sure. But there’s definitely a couple of things. So I find a lot of the issues with vanishing developers that you mentioned and unresponsive developers tends to be because of hiring contractors. So, I can’t remember who told me about this a long time ago, maybe it was James Schramko, but he only, whoever it was, they only hired full time. And when we switched to that model, which again we don’t absolutely stick to that, but for a lot of our developers they’re on essentially full time. So they show up at whatever their 9:00 AM is and go home at their 5:00 PM. But we are flexible but we expect a full work day every day unless something else… that they just tell us that they’ve got something on or whatever and we’re happy to be flexible.

But the fact that they are expected to work for us every day, it makes such a difference. It’s huge. And so we don’t really have issues with people just vanishing anymore, like at all.

Ben Aston:

Well lucky you.

James Rose:

Yeah. I mean we’ve definitely had some full time people disappear. Like I remember one guy in the middle of a big project just vanished for four days and I was like, “Where were you?” And he’s like, “Oh, I went up into the mountains and was hanging out there. I was still working on the project, I just didn’t have access to Slack.” And I was like, “That’s not okay. You know, at least tell us or whatever and we could probably work around that.” But needless to say, he doesn’t work for us anymore.

So that’s kind of the answer I feel for people that don’t want to… Like if you need access to people and you want them to be there every day and they’re not, then move them on quickly.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean you talked about Slack and that being a comms channel for you and your remote team. Tell us about what other tools you use to manage your projects internally?

James Rose:

So these days it’s pretty much just Jira. When we were doing websites, we used Teamwork Projects. So we’ve actually, I don’t think I said that yet, but we shut down the website part of the business just because we’re doing too much stuff. So having the software agency and Content Snare is plenty, so we shut down that. But Teamwork Projects was a really good system I found for smaller… I don’t know how it works on big projects because we run all of our big stuff through Jira and a classic Kanban style board and you can set sprints and assign people and have stakeholder review.

So as we move people through, sorry, move features through the process then there might be a peer review stage, so another developer has to review it before… There’s like business logic built in so that if they don’t check the code out or whatever and look at it, then it can’t progress to stakeholder review and then the client has to hit a button to approve it and only then can it be rolled out to the staging server. And after it’s been tested, then it could go to the production server. So it’s kind of like a pretty in depth process for software. And Jira is one of the few that allows you to build in all these rules. But-

Ben Aston:

Yeah.

James Rose:

… Like that.

Ben Aston:

Which can be annoying.

James Rose:

Oh man. Like, I did not set it up. Jira is an absolute dog of a tool. I’m not saying it’s the most amazing.

Ben Aston:

No, I know, but you’re right though.

James Rose:

Once it’s—

Ben Aston:

But you’re right. I think the fascinating thing about Jira is that people make this assumption, “Okay we’re going to bite the bullet, we’re going to get Jira.” And then you get deer and then you’re like, “Okay, who can set this… Can anyone set this up?” And then it’s the same when you’re setting up new boards or new projects, right. There’s normally one person who knows how to do it and they’re like, “Um, yeah. They’re away.” “Okay, well the project start then.”

But the great thing, I mean, the best and the worst thing about Jira is these workflows. And you can define these rules and it won’t let you do stuff. So you can’t move the card past a step if you haven’t ever… if it doesn’t adhere to the workflow, you can’t do it. Which is incredibly frustrating as a project manager. But in terms of the workflow and ensuring that all the steps get done, it can be really powerful. And—

James Rose:

Yeah. Which is I guess like you say, it’s frustrating for some things, but then it can also help manage that. You know, we’re talking about managing remote developers before and it’s like a constant balancing act. Eh?

Ben Aston:

Yeah, for sure. Now one of the things that I know that your massively keen on is productivity hacks. you mentioned your, well I read it somewhere, your Zapier stats. You’ve automated 9,000 tasks or something this month. What I’m sure are PM listeners would love to know are which of your Zaps can we copy? What are your favorites Zaps and what are you automating that you’ve found to be increase your productivity?

James Rose:

That’s an awesome question. Like-

Ben Aston:

You probably don’t even know because it’s all automated and you’ve forgotten it’s even a thing.

James Rose:

You’re kind of right in a way. But I’ve actually had to go through them all lately because I get this question sometimes and especially because I’m in the middle of recording how I use Zapier at the moment into like a course. And so I’ve had to go through and be like, “What Zaps can people actually use?” You know, like to me it works normally the other way. Like you have to know how to use Zapier, know what’s possible, dig into the tools that you’re already using and see what you can trigger workflows on or what actions you can take in those tools with Zapier. And then with that knowledge you can build automations knowing that, “Okay, when this happens I want this other thing to happen.”

Like one, this is like super simple, right? But in Jira I had an automation that monitors every time someone moves a feature from one, or like a bug fix or something from one column, one stage to another in Jira. And when it gets rolled out onto our pre-production service of right before it hits the public, it drops, it rolls all of those features up into a list. Like a digest that’s called in Zapier and drops that into my Trello. Because I use Trello to manage my own personal to do list and life basically.

And so it drops a little card in which has a list of all the features that were just rolled out in the last week. Right? And I can quickly scan through those and then create a video about all of those features. It just saves me… I don’t even have to log into Jira. I just see this is everything that’s been rolled out and I can go and make a video to explain all those new features to people. Which I think it’s so simple, but it saves me a ton of time and mucking around.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And that’s awesome.

James Rose:

Yeah, but I mean there’s setting up documents. Like for example, you know, you’ve just been interviewed on my podcast and when you booked in you would have answered a whole bunch of questions about yourself and things we could talk about on the show. You can actually use Zapier to create templated documents.

So I have a workflow that we’re going to go through during the podcast and it’ll actually duplicate that document and fill out all the bits of information with like your name, all your details about your website and stuff like that and puts it all in a document that I’ve got there for quick reference during the podcast. So that’s another massive time saver. It’s all just random stuff like this.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s that it’s anywhere, anytime that you’re finding you’re copying and pasting stuff, you shouldn’t be copying and pasting it. There’s probably a way to get that information in there without you doing anything.

James Rose:

Oh, double entries huge. Like if you’re putting the same information into multiple tools, that’s the clear use case. But also when you change something based on something that happened in another tool. I don’t know if you… Like if someone, once you’ve sent someone an email for example, you might have to go over into your CRM and move that person into… Like you sent them a proposal and you move them into proposal sent stage or something in your CRM. That’s the kind of stuff that can be easily automated with tools like Zapier.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, definitely. James Rose: Yeah.

Ben Aston:

Like for us it’s for our Master in Digital Project Management School, but we’ve got it all connected to Pipedrive and Google Sheets. And so yeah, when different things happen it gets changed everywhere so that we’re not having to copy and paste or change statuses of things in different places when people sign up and pay and things like that.

James Rose:

Totally. I think a great use—

Ben Aston:

So—

James Rose:

Oh sorry. Just quickly a great use case of project management is like overviews and dashboards and stuff. Because a lot of people will just change their decision for what project management tool they’re going to use based on reporting.

But a lot of time you can actually create your own dashboards just by feeding all of the activity into like a Google Sheet or something. And then creating your own dashboards and reporting and telling yourself exactly what you need to know every day.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, yeah, that’s a good use of it. But yeah, check out, I call it Zapier. James calls it Zapier.

James Rose:

The CEO calls it Zapier, so I’m going to roll with that.

Ben Aston:

Okay, you win. Cool. So let’s talk about Content Snare then. And going back to this challenge as web development agencies trying to get content from clients and trying to get the right content from them and trying to get it in a timely manner and in the right format. And you know, it’s a nightmare because clients often don’t have copywriting resources in house or the clients have got a million things to do and it’s the last thing on their priority list. So talk to us about Content Snare, it’s a content workflow tool, but what does that mean exactly?

James Rose:

Yeah. So it started out very basic, right? Like the original idea was literally just a way… we just wanted to eliminate the email trials because as you know, it’s like, “Oh send me your homepage content.” And then they send like a third of it or a half of it and they’ve sent a picture that’s like way too small and then a logo that’s like 16 pixels. And they’re all attachments and you have to download them all and stick them in a client folder and then request changes on the images that were wrong and tell them why you can’t use that bit of content. And then they’ll send you something else that’s got like red highlighting in it saying, “Can you link this word to this page?” We’ve all been there. It’s crazy.

And we end up with these email trails. I’ve had one that, I’ve had several actually, that are so big they lock up Gmail. I use Gmail still, just the web interface. And once they start cracking a hundred emails long, they start really slowing down Gmail and literally freezing on my Beastie desktop computer. So it’s insane. And there was no solution. I just went looking for a solution and all I wanted to do was just have everything in one place. So we knew what was done, which bits of content essentially were finished, which ones needed revisions, like if it wasn’t suitable for… Like we’ve asked for a homepage or header, like just the main heading, right? And it wasn’t long enough or it was too long. We can reject it and say, “Actually this is too long. Can you come back and fix this?” And also lock them in and say the maximum a hundred characters or whatever it is. You know?

So this is all the stuff we were dealing with and that’s why this is basically what we built into the product. So in short, the first version was really just a bunch of… kind of like a form. Imagine a standard web form but they can access it through the same link. They can come back whenever they like and continue filling where they left off. There’s no having to save things, it just automatically saves as they type it in. They close the browser, come back later and it’s right where they left off. And the big part was chasing them up automatically through email. So being like, you know, I used to have time scheduled every week to go through and see who we were waiting on and send all these emails out being like, “Hey, I noticed you’ve done this bit but not this. Can you send us throughs?” Whatever. So Content Snare will actually send those followup emails for you. And that’s essentially, at a basic level, that’s what it was.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. I think that reminder functionality, particularly if it’s coming from a tool, is a really powerful feature because I think as project managers we can be chasing and chasing people for content and not getting it. But when it’s the system emailing you saying, “Okay it’s due tomorrow, just a reminder.”

James Rose:

Yeah, they can kind of blame it on the tool.

Ben Aston:

Yeah.

James Rose:

People seem to be in two distinct camps with this. They’ll either want to email them manually still and actually switch off the reminders because they want it to come from their personal, you know, be able to change the wording each time and whatever. But then some people are like, “Oh no, it’s great for client relationships because I can just blame it on the tool.” Like they haven’t done the work but the tool automatically emails them. It’s just how it is.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Nice. And so what’s in their roadmap for the tool? How do you see it evolving?

James Rose:

Oh man, there’s so much. I’ve probably got five years worth of development on our road map. No, but what we’re realizing is that the more larger agencies and enterprise that come on. So we’ve had some really, really large companies come on lately. Like legitimate household names that almost every single person would know the name of. And that blew my mind. I’m like, “What are you guys using this tool for?” So I just kind of laugh when they signed up.

And what we’re learning is people need more workflow stuff. So multiple collaborators for example. So getting… there might be multiple people within an organization that are responsible for different parts of content, whether that’s different pages or even different sections within each page. And so that’s what we have to do a lot of thinking about over the next few months just to try and work out how we make that work in a simple way. Because that’s always been our thing is for clients it has to be insanely simple.

That’s our next big release is changing the way clients enter content to make it like focusing on one thing at a time. Like if there’s only ever one piece of content shown on the screen at a time, not like a traditional form anymore because we find it’s kind of overwhelming for people. So this new version that we’re releasing is all about just making things simple. And then yeah, it’s going to be workflow like commenting, kind of like Google Docs where you can tag people in certain parts of content.

That’s what it’s all going to be about is collaboration, workflow, and just getting multiple people involved. It’s going to be a hell of a thing, undertaking, but we’ll make it work.

Ben Aston:

Nice. Yeah. I think as you’re working with bigger companies that that’s the bigger challenges. Yes, you’re happy having… You’ll be maybe working with a marketing team but they will be working internally with stakeholders and it’s like, okay, well where are they managing? Where’s the approval processes happening for that content in order to get it into your tool?

James Rose:

Yeah. And that’s the other thing, approval. Approval processes is another thing that comes up a lot. And yeah, thanks for mentioning that. I forgot about that. But that’s a huge… Because right now it’s pretty much just like content is approved or not. And you know now, in the future we’re going to have to add multistage workflows where the manager might have to approve it and then the CEO and then the marketing person. You know? Whatever.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, yeah. It’s fun, right? I think this, as a project manager, this can be one of the most frustrating things because you think, “Hey, I’m doing my job. I’m getting on our side. We’re there and we’ve stuffed the site full of lorem ipsum and it’s looking great.” And then you’re like, “But I’m just waiting for you clients. Just give me what I need.” And yeah, sometimes it’s copy and sometimes it’s image assets or video. But it can be… If you don’t have the content, then the thing’s not done.

In terms of like, I mean you mentioned workflow, but in terms of content strategy and how that fits into the content architecture and how the tool helps agencies and clients evaluate what content they need on what pages and that kind of content hierarchy, how do you support that?

James Rose:

So right now it is fairly simplistic. It’s really like the strategy would be done somewhere else, right? Like it’s not a… I wouldn’t call it a full planning tool yet. It’s really just defining the pages and what needs to go on each page. Right?

Ben Aston:

Right.

James Rose:

And some of the more time-savings stuff that people use is being able to save these bits and pieces as templates. So either saving a whole page, sections of pages, whatever. Or even the entire content requests that you would send to someone. You know, a classic example there is the initial questionnaire or briefing form. Some people actually use Content Snare for briefs because briefs can be quite large. And so they’ll just have that set up as a template and send it to the client and then they can come back and fill that out in multiple sittings unlike a typical form.

But then yeah, I mean it’s really… Some people actually sit down with their clients with Content Snare in front of them and then build out all the different bits and pieces and then send it to the client right there, and then over the next few weeks they can come back and fill it out. Planning is something I’ve been thinking a lot about because there’s… I think we’re definitely going to build a site map tool at some point where you can plan a hierarchy of pages of first. But when it comes to, you know, it depends how granular you want to go here. Some people will do wire-frames at that point. Right? And I don’t think we should be a wire-frame tool because there’s plenty of others out there. So we’re actually looking at integrations and stuff with some other good wire-frame tools. But I don’t know totally how that’s going to work yet.

Ben Aston:

Nice. Well, I think that Content Snare fills this gap in the process, which is you need some stuff from your client in order to get something live and if you want to prevent that back and forth with emails or a million Google Docs and things getting lost, try contentsnare.com and see how it works for your projects. But James, thanks so much for joining us today.

James Rose:

Ben, mate, it’s been awesome. Thank you so much.

Ben Aston:

So I wonder what you use to manage content. If you are using a tool or you’ve got an incredible process, I’d love to hear about it. Comment on the post below and let us know what you’re using and how you manage it. And also head to thedigitalprojectmanager.com to join our membership where you’ll find 3000 people in our Slack team having all kinds of interesting conversations about content and development and managing projects through different tools.

So come and join the team. And if you’ve liked what you’ve heard today, please subscribe and take a couple of minutes to leave a review out. We love to know what people think. But until next time, thanks for listening.

Ben Aston

Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedigitalprojectmanager.com. I've been in the industry for more than 15 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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