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The Most Important Skill

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Light Painting


There has been a theme running through the week and through my head. I’ll call it learning.I gave a presentation on Monday about web 2.0 technology and how to use some of the tools on the internet for marketing. There was a woman in the audiance who told me that she doesn’t use her cell phone because she doesn’t know how to retrieve voice mail messages from it. There was another in the room who doesn’t use email because he just doesn’t get it.

While showing some buyers a home that exactly fit their needs they told me that they did not want to buy it because of the wall paper in the dining room and the paint colors through out. It seems that they don’t know how to paint or remove wall paper and don’t have the resources to hire the work out. Neither buyer felt that they could learn how to paint or remove wall paper, so it was on to the next house.

The ability and the desire to learn new things is a skill that not everyone has and I am begining to think it is the most important skill. There is seldom a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new. Sometimes it takes time, and research but I think that a person can learn anything they want to.

The picture in this post is a light painting. A friend used the term in a conversation. I had no idea what she was talking about. I checked with Google and read up on it. It looked like fun. So I took my camera, set the shutter speed for oh so slow, aimed at some neon signs and paned back and forth. When I have some time I plan to experiment a little more.

There are some great places on the internet to learn new things. There are forums, blogs and there is youtube. I have found videos on a variety of topics that interest me and have used them to teach myself new things. I also love Amazon.com, often I can find a book that I can learn from.

There is always something new to learn, and always a way to learn it. If I hear a word I don’t know the meaning of I look it up. If someone mentions some software or a web site that I am not familiar with I look it up.

I have a hard time understanding why a business person would not be able to learn some of the basic skills needed to run a business. I can’t imagine not wanting to learn something or not being able to. The more difficult something is to learn the more rewarding it is once it is mastered.

I wonder where today will take me and what I will need to learn.

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Genuine Chris Johnson

    April 24, 2008 at 6:26 am

    I’m going to say–like Skellie did a while ago, a good candiate is improvement. Really similar.

    It’s increasing the RATE you improve on an iterated basis. That way you can ‘start out way behind,’ and eventually catch up.

    My take on the new most important skill is FINISHING STUFF. But that’s just me.

  2. Norm Fisher

    April 24, 2008 at 6:39 am

    Love your first “light painting.”

    I conducting some training for our new MLS system recently in a computer lab setting. It was obvious to me that a handful of people had never experienced the internet. One person panicked when she saw someone else’s username in the login fields. “What do I do?!!!” A couple were completely lost having to navigate to a web address. I felt almost helpless to help them. I guess this is something that I need to learn.

  3. Marc Grossman

    April 24, 2008 at 6:55 am

    I don’t understand how people can stop learning. Personally, and I know this may sound drastic, but if you stop learning, you may as well hang it up. What’s the use?

  4. Teresa Boardman

    April 24, 2008 at 7:09 am

    Chris – good point, with some things I am a starter not a finisher, I think it is an attention span thing.

    Thanks Norm, I did it while I was out shooting the town and plant to experiment some more.

    Marc – i think it is something like grow, change adapt or die.

  5. Jim Duncan

    April 24, 2008 at 7:28 am

    One thing that I look forward to every day is learning. I learn something new each and every day, and try to learn something from each client that I can apply to another.

    Home inspections are one of my favorite venues for learning. I learn something new on each one – and that makes me better at what I do (and more confident, too!)

  6. Teresa Boardman

    April 24, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Jim – me too, I have learned many things by watching the inspections.

  7. Vance Shutes

    April 24, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Teresa,

    Great picture!

    Recently, I was told how naive I am in thinking that all Realtors use the phone every day, making at least 20 calls a day. So perhaps naivete extends elsewhere in thinking that all Realtors will readily adapt to new technology, as you learned via your audience.

    “I have a hard time understanding why a business person would not be able to learn some of the basic skills needed to run a business. I can’t imagine not wanting to learn something or not being able to. The more difficult something is to learn the more rewarding it is once it is mastered.”

    This is absolutely true! And perhaps the best reward is the satisfaction at having overcome the fear which held us back before learning the new skill.

  8. Benn Rosales

    April 24, 2008 at 8:45 am

    None of the things you’ve mentioned are necessary to sell real estate. That is why so many get away with not learning. What leaves me blank is how dire it is to communicate with your clients. How are clients not let down by such a sweeping lack of communication? How in the world are you not pressed by the sheer desire of others to communicate with you? Anyone who has left their cell phone somewhere for an afternoon by accident can attest to how day shattering it can be w/o such an important piece of technology, so how is it so many can live w/o it? I am a firm believer that once you embrace a technology, one becomes dependent on it and cannot live without it. Those that do not have it do not know what they’re missing, or do they?

    In other words, is there an urgency to check and respond to email if there is no email? Maybe they know more than we- maybe they are the better hands on agents… hrm.

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    April 24, 2008 at 8:48 am

    This is my argument that technology and Social Media is not a challenge of generations, but of a willingness to learn. I’m with Benn, most don’t learn because they are making do with what they currently know and don’t see the value. I have yet to figure out how to motivate someone to be motivated for knowledge. Maybe it’s because I can’t understand and therefore don’t try very hard.

  10. Charleston real estate blog

    April 24, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Teresa, I wouldn’t call the desire for knowledge or the ability to learn a *skill* but everyone would be better as a result.

  11. ines

    April 24, 2008 at 10:57 am

    some of us could be considered professional learners! You and I and many others know that the Internet is an amazing source of information, but how are those people that can’t work their voice mail going to turn on a computer and actually surf the web?

    I agree with Matthew about the “willingness to learn” and not a challenge of generations. That photo is amazing…..The iphone takes some pretty amazing light paintings without the need for slow shutter speed.

  12. Teresa Boardman

    April 24, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Benn – I see email and phones as being necessary in our jobs to sell real estate. I don’t agree with the old fashioned notion that face to face is more important. I work with many people who are on a mission and they are on the internet. They expect me to be on the internet for them helping and don’t necessarily need to see my face.

    Mathew – that is where my frustration comes in sometimes. Too many people say “can’t” instead of trying to learn. Can’t is one of the worst four letter words in the English language.

  13. Jill Foster

    April 24, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Thx for the post. It’s thought provoking. And I’m wondering if people who resist learning new things are particular types of learners aka just audio or visual or tactile. I wonder too if the issue of confidence or lack thereof impacts a person’s ability or willingness to engage in different concepts. Hmm.

    My working theory is people are stuck in a poor habit – consciously or not – which causes them to shy away from learning new frontiers. It doesn’t seem as simple as people refuse consciously to not learn.

    Ah then again, there’s your clients who rejected a potential home because they don’t want to learn wall papering, etc. I’d like to think they’re overly attached to that ‘perfect home’ concept from the get go. Maybe I’m realizing my own resistance to the notion that some folks want to avoid learning.

    …working through the hypotheticals still. Thx for post.

  14. Bill Lublin

    April 24, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Teresa ;
    You are so much fun to read that I almost want to buy you an “H” (yes, I would spend the extra money for a capital and you wouldn’t even have to use it until the next person misspelled your name)

    I think that the point you make is so basic that its scary – people that don’t like new things don;t learn much – people that like new things like to learn- travel, technology, the web- its all form not substance –

    My son’s father in law doesn’t have an internet connection, but he is constantly learning and growing – instead of the web he uses the library, instead of using his cell phone, he’s teaching himself to play the guitar, instead of taking a digital photo, he’ll paint or draw – but its still treating life as a journey with endless posibilities.

    First we don’t know what we don’t know
    Then we learn what we don’t know
    Then we learn how to do things with thought an effort
    Then we learn how to do them effortlessly

    and then, if we want to enjoy life to the fullest – we start all over again 🙂

  15. Glenn fm Naples

    April 24, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Teresa – the picture really caught my attention. Yes, we have a great opportunity to learn something new everyday. Learning something new each day, is like investing in one’s self – it can be a great investment.

    Buyers in today’s real estate market can be picky due to the inventory of available properties. I truly wonder if their reaction had been the same, if there was less inventory on the market?

  16. Christopher Mancini

    April 24, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Great post. It is amazing how little people try to learn new things. Even when there is the opportunity for improving their career, most people are reluctant. I know my parents, even though they had miserable jobs, made no money what so ever. They continued to do the same routine of wake up, go to work, come home, have dinner, watch tv and go to bed. It was rather disturbing. I think that is why I work so hard and never stop learning. I do not want that life.

    Chris

  17. Marc Rasmussen

    April 25, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    What amazed me is that some of the highest producing agents barely know how to use email or their cell phone. You have to love referral business.

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Business Marketing

Simple ways to improve your organic reach on Facebook

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Facebook continues to make businesses and pages pay to play, but businesses still have a shot of improving their organic reach, according to experts in the field.

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Facebook open on laptop with white desk and small potted plant, open to organic reach.

Facebook organic reach is not dead, but you will need to work harder to get eyes on your pages. Here’s a rundown of what experts are saying will help you reach your audience. Facebook is still the top social media platform that marketers use and where consumers tend to look for and follow brand pages. So don’t despair!

Those running Facebook business pages have been seeing ever diminishing returns on their effort at getting their content in front of their audiences and fans, especially since around 2016. Yet Facebook remains the #1 platform for building an audience. Once upon a time, Facebook was incredibly fertile soil to grow our entrepreneurial and creative gardens in, at little to no cost to us. Many businesses are seeing a drastic reduction in reach, meaning that a tiny percentage of people are seeing our posts, even among those who follow our pages.

Have you ever heard something like, “The first one’s always free; that’s how they get you”? This has long been a business philosophy to hook prospective customers, used by savvy marketers and drug dealers alike. Facebook went and took that to the next level, introducing an easy-to-use platform where almost anyone could find and engage with their target audiences of customers, fans, members, and more.

Of course, there had to be a reckoning, and now that Facebook has more than 2.6 billion active monthly users worldwide, they continue to change the rules. Consider the amount of users and the amount of posts being made, and it makes more sense that Facebook tries to narrow the audience for any single post to a reasonable chunk. Otherwise, our brains would explode (okay, my words, not an actual medical opinion). Really, you don’t need to reach everybody, because not everybody is interested in what you’re offering. You need to reach the right people who are going to engage and build a smaller, engaged loyal group of diehard customers.

Community is key
Here are some of the latest tips and best practices to increase organic reach in 2021, provided by Facebook pros. Mark Zuckerburg keeps bringing up the concept of community, and the algorithm favors engagement, not only on Facebook, but across platforms. Nobody wants products and services constantly jammed in their faces.

This is a conversation, not a one-way portal into your customers’ brains and wallets. A constant barrage of salesy content, urging people to buy buy buy, grows real tedious real fast. “If you build it, they will come.” Only instead of a baseball field in the middle of nowhere, work to build a community.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you creating conversations?
  • Are you using your platform to act as a resource and provide helpful or inside information in your niche or area of expertise?
  • Are you asking your audience what they want and would like to see more of from you?
  • Are you taking current events and trends into account, reacting to local/national/world news at all, and creating timely posts?
  • Are you using a variety of post types (photos, videos, links) and taking advantage of Facebook’s built in post tools?
  • Are you taking data into account for what content people are responding to favorably and when?
  • Do you ever invest in Facebook ads or boosted posts for important content or events?

Find the answer to these questions to reevaluate your strategy, work on promoting a dialogue with your audience, and ideally you will see more engagement on your pages, fruitful interactions that ultimately lead to loyal customers and bigger sales.

Create Conversations
Zuckerburg himself comes back to this point repeatedly in his regular updates on the state of all things Facebook and how the algorithm works, saying Facebook will “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.” Not every industry lends itself to deep thoughts, but it can be simple enough to engage your audience with community questions. People love giving their opinions or talking about a shared interest.

Community questions can be fun, lively, and create fun interaction between your audience and the business. A simple This or That question posted on one of the background color templates can get the conversation started. If people don’t have to invest a lot of time to answer, then great! Depending on the industry, these can be easy one-offs: Red wine or white? Beach vacation or mountains? TikTok or Reels? Mac or PC? Harley Davidson hogs or Kawasaki crotch rockets? Early bird or night owl?

Hot takes, unpopular opinions, are another way to get people chatting. I’m not espousing trying to stir up controversy here, unless that is appropriate for your business, but people get emotional as all get out for something as simple as pineapple on pizza or beans in chili. What’s a popular or common opinion in your field? How can you introduce a hot take to get people chatting? For an entrepreneurial page, you could put out a hot take on a cluttered desk, or making lists, or standing desks.

Sure, these conversations may start out superficial, but who knows? When people begin interacting on your page more, they begin seeing more that you post, and that’s when you can introduce something a little weightier, asking them to share their expertise or advice on a relevant topic.

Become a resource
Whether your business is a science journal, digital marketing, interior designing, or a Texas Hill Country resort, your business and your audience is unique. Real estate agencies have become good at this, so we’ll use them as an example. If you are selling or leasing properties in Austin or San Francisco, sell the area. Don’t only post the properties you’re selling or agent profiles. Post those, yes, but also post industry news and local attractions.

When people are interested in moving to a new city or a new neighborhood or investing in opening a business there, they need to know why the area is attractive. What is the business climate? What are the financial perks associated with living there? What is the area known for (local restaurants, live music hiking trails, swimming holes, no traffic)? Has the area made a list for quality of life, affordability, great job prospects in X industry? Sharing blogs, articles, infographics, videos, and photos highlighting any of these can help your page serve the interests of your target audience. This is a good thing.

Ask your audience
This is a simple tip for keeping things closer to your audience’s interests, helping you identify areas where your page may be lacking–and opportunities for growth, and keeping the conversation going. Be careful not to overuse this one, but it’s an important tool.

  • Try a simple question, such as “What would you like to see more of on this page?”
  • Create a poll, which is much faster to answer, and helps you narrow answers down to what you really want to know.
  • Similar to the community questions, ask them to share something that has helped them. A classic example would be “What is the best entrepreneurial advice anyone has even given you?” Or “Please share some tips to fight procrastination.” Or “What is the top time-saving tool you use in your business (or for scheduling)?” Having your page followers (and hopefully others) chat with each other this way is helpful for them and for your organic reach.

Take current events and trends into account
This one’s simple: Read the room. This goes both ways. If there is renewed interest in, say, downtown lofts or sea shanty dances on TikTok, can you use this momentary heat to bring interest to your page? On the other hand, if there is a natural disaster, tragedy, or financial crash that has caused great suffering in an area? That’s a good moment to review your scheduled posts and delete or postpone anything that could be unintentionally triggering or offensive.

Some types of businesses are better suited to jumping on the latest trend. Do you have a bar or restaurant with a fairly young, social media savvy crowd? Go ahead, Photoshop that Bernie-Sanders-in-mittens image sitting on your patio (only if you can do it as the trend is hitting). Are you targeting an area that has recently been hit by extended power outages? I’m sorry to tell you, but this is not the time to promote that popup restaurant where diners experience eating in the dark.

Mix it up and use native Facebook tools
Of course you want to stay on brand, but please don’t get caught in a rut where all of your posts are one type. Consistency is one thing, but beware that this doesn’t turn into monotony. Assess where you can change things up. Add photos, videos, links to relevant blogs and articles, or community questions. Different people respond differently to different types of input. Use all the tools at your disposal to generate interest, draw people in, and get them reacting to and engaging with your page.

Facebook and all social media platforms have built in tools. They want you to use them. Often, this is a Facebook effort to capitalize on a similar, competing app. Trust me when I say, you will get brownie points (higher reach) when you take the time to use these native tools. Facebook Watch, Facebook Live, Facebook Stories, even using a background color template from the Facebook options, are all ways to show Facebook you’re paying attention and want to optimize the tools they are giving you.

Use provided data
You need to be able to look for patterns, evaluate the factors that made a particular post popular, and know when your customers and followers are likely to see your page and interact with it. Facebook provides a number of insights in the platform, but there are numerous external marketing tools you can purchase or sometimes use for free (depending on how many pages and platforms you are running, and how in-depth you want your data to be).

Posting willy nilly is not the most effective way to be. Decide what data is useful to you and make time to study it, and be willing to make changes to your content strategy based on the data. Like many other aspects of marketing, expanding your organic reach is a mixture of art and science, a balancing act of intuition and cold, hard numbers. Use them.

Consider paying to play
I know, I know, this story is about organic and not paid reach, but the fact is strategically paying for a Facebook ad or boosting a post to highlight a launch, event, special deal, or other important news will bring more people to your page. If the other tips, tools, and best practices referred to here are in place, once they find your page, you have the ability to keep their attention through organic means.

Keep on truckin’
These tips should help you expand your page’s organic reach. More importantly, they should help you build and support a community, earn loyal followers and customers, and generate positive buzz about your business. Keep working on becoming a resource and sharing helpful information. Have fun with it and experiment with new media and types of posts. Know yourself. Know your audience.

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Business Marketing

Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.

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Man working in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.

Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.

Four-Day Workweek Trials

In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.

“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.

Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.

With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.

“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”

Trial Results

Company Productivity
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.

However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.

The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.

Employee Well-Being
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.

What’s in store for 2021?

Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.

“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.

The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.

For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.

Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.

If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.

But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.

“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.

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Business Marketing

Should your content management system go headless?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) You may be familiar with your typical content management system, but had you heard of a ‘headless’ model? Let’s dig into it together.

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Person using content management system with hands on keyboard and small bit of desktop visible.

At some point, you have probably worked with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. If you haven’t already, you at least know that this computer software is used to manage website content.

But, have you ever heard of a headless content management system before? We didn’t. So, we set out to find out what it’s all about and how beneficial, or not, it can be for your company.

What is headless CMS?

Unlike your classic CMS, headless CMS is a back-end only content management system. It decouples where your content is stored and authored (body) from the front-end where your content is displayed (head).

This CMS isn’t tied to a particular output like a web page. Content is transmitted as data over an application programming interface (API). It’s a content repository that delivers content seamlessly to any device.

Benefits of Headless CMS

More versatile
Headless CMS isn’t your classic “monolithic” CMS so you aren’t constrained to an all-in-one system that might work for websites but not mobile devices.

Content is consumed by customers in more than one place now. Headless CMS provides a more versatile way to deliver multi-channel content to websites, Android and iOS apps, and even IoT (internet of things), like a smartwatch or in-store kiosk.

Businesses will benefit from this because only one back-end is needed to manage and publish content for different services and products.

No need for specialized developers
Developers aren’t tied to a specific programming language or framework. A developer can choose between using Javascript, PHP, Ruby, or any language they prefer.

If you already have a talented developer, you don’t have to scramble to find someone else who specializes in a specific system or language you are moving to. Your current developer can do the job for you in the best way they know-how.

Better Security
Security is important. Not being married to the front-end, headless CMS has a security advantage a regular CMS doesn’t. Usually, content provided to a headless CMS is read-only, and the admin portion lives on a different server and domain.

With the back-end detached from the presentation layer, there is a smaller target area to attack. Also, layers of code can be used to hide the content-delivering API making it safer than a traditional CMS.

Real-time collaboration
With two separate systems, content editors and web developers can work concurrently. This shortens a project’s timeline and helps get your product and services to market quicker. Also, content editors don’t have to spend more time creating the same content for each system. Designers and developers can take care of that.
Downsides of Headless CMS

As with anything, headless CMS isn’t perfect and isn’t for everyone. It has its disadvantages.

More technical
Little technical involvement is called for in a traditional CMS. As a result, the tool can be picked up quickly by almost anyone.

A deeper understanding of CMS, coding languages, and front-end technologies is needed when using headless CMS. You must have a developer that can build the web or app just for you.

Increased maintenance
With the body separated from the head, there are two systems to maintain. Implementation and maintenance could potentially become complex.

Bigger price tag
Building a system from scratch costs time and money. With a traditional CMS, there is one account, and, most likely, one payment. With headless CMS, you’ll have multiple payments for the CMS, a developer, and the infrastructure running your website or app.

Your custom CMS also isn’t coming from a pre-built content management system. All that hard work takes time (and patience) to get it done right.

Conclusion

Headless CMS lets you create a unique user experience and allow for cross-platform publishing, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all content management system.

Before you jump ships, take inventory of all your content needs. Does your content need to be published on different platforms? Will a simple stand-alone website work for you? Only you can decide what works best with your business, but we hope this information helps.

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