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Nov

2

2017

The Swell in Front of You

Staying in forward motion, even when things look bleak, does more for lining up your success than you realize. (Don’t forget: If you’re afraid you’ll fall, at least fall forward.) I like to think of what happens when you’re standing in a still pool of water.  As long as you stand still, nothing happens.  If … Continue reading The Swell in Front of You

May

26

2017

How to Create a SMarketing Service Level Agreement

Published by in category Business, Daily | Comments are closed

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At most companies, it can feel like marketing and sales are far from being on the same team. According to the 2017 State of Inbound report, fewer than half of marketers would describe their respective companies’ Sales and Marketing teams as “generally aligned.”

And that’s a problem.

Here at HubSpot, we’re lucky to have a strong, healthy relationship between marketing and sales. Our marketing and sales executives started out on the same team in the company’s earliest days, and that collaboration has trickled down throughout the organization as it continues to grow. But it wasn’t just luck, of course.

That alignment — which we call “Smarketing” — is largely the result of a conscious decision to work together, set goals, and create agreements between both teams.

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One of the most critical steps, it turns out, is creating a service level agreement (SLA). Traditionally, an SLA serves to clearly define exactly what a customer will receive from a service provider.

But we suggest creating a Sales and Marketing SLA: An agreement that details both marketing goals (like number of leads or revenue pipeline) and the sales activities that will follow and support them, like following up on leads qualified by marketing. Both teams use this document as a commitment to support each other, based on concrete, numerical goals. And guess what — 81% of marketers whose companies have this type of SLA have an effective marketing strategy.

soi-01.pngData from the 2017 State of Inbound Report

But if you don’t have a Sales and Marketing SLA in place, fear not: We’ve outlined four steps to create one below, as well as ways to get started on aligning your sales and marketing teams.

How to Create a Sales & Marketing Service Level Agreement

Aligning Marketing and Sales

Before you begin to draft your SLA, you’ll have to make sure your Sales and Marketing teams are aligned — or, as we put it before, achieve harmonious Smarketing. That’s accomplished in two main parts.

1) Have Marketing commit to a number.

As a marketing department, not only should you have a concrete strategy and reporting goal, but also, you should have a concrete numerical one that aligns with the sales team’s mentality.

Sales professionals are greatly driven by their quotas — the numerical goals that correlate with their compensation and job security. If Marketing commits to a similar, related numerical goal, it shows that the team is being held accountable in a manner similar to Sales.

2) Communicate, celebrate, and address the achievement — or lack thereof.

Maintaining strong communication regarding how each team is performing on goals boosts transparency. If either team isn’t reaching their goals, addressing that confirms their importance, while celebrating hitting those goals can aid motivation.

If you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to setting these goals, check out our free Marketing & Sales Lead Goal Calculator, designed to help you determine and track the goals that will eventually become part of your SLA.

How to Make an SLA

1) Calculate the Marketing Figures and Goals

In order to calculate the marketing side of your SLA, you’ll need the following four metrics:

  • Total sales goal (in terms of revenue quota)
  • % of revenue that comes from marketing-generated leads (as opposed to sales-generated ones)
  • Average sales deal size
  • Average lead-to-customer close %

Then, it’s time to do some calculations.

  • Sales quota * % of revenue from marketing-generated leads = Marketing-sourced revenue goal
  • Marketing-sourced revenue goal / average sales deal size = # of customers needed
  • Customers / average lead-to-customer close % = # of leads needed

It might also be a good idea to reevaluate the marketing side of the SLA each month, as a variety of factors can change the numbers used in your calculations over time. To do so, create a document that tracks your SLA calculations by month, which should include the following metrics:

  • # of marketing-generated leads
  • # of those leads that became customers
  • Revenue from those closed customers
  • Total revenue closed that month from marketing-generated leads only
  • Total revenue closed that month

You will also need:

  • The average sales cycle length

With the figures above, you can re-calculate the metrics you started with on a monthly basis, or whatever timeframe is used in your business — quarter, year, etc. Just make sure the same measure of time is used for both Sales and Marketing to maintain alignment. Have a look:

  • # marketing-generated leads that became customers / # marketing-generated leads = lead-to-customer close %
  • Revenue from closed customers / # of marketing-generated leads that became customers = sales deal size
  • Total revenue closed from marketing-generated leads / total revenue closed = % revenue from marketing-generated leads

You could also take it one step further, and incorporate quantity and quality into these metrics. The above calculations provide you with a quantitative volume goal of marketing-generated leads. However, we know that not all leads are created equal, and as a result, some may be considered higher- or lower-quality than others.

For example, a decision-making executive might be a more valuable contact than an intern. If that’s the case, you can do the above analysis for each subset of leads, and set up separate goals for each type/quality level.

Want to take it even further? Measure in terms of value, instead of volume. For example, a CEO may be worth $100, for instance, while a director is $50, a manager is $40, and so on.

2) Calculate the Sales Figures and Goals

The sales side of the SLA should detail the speed and depth of following up with marketing-generated leads. A few years ago, HubSpot enlisted an MBA student’s help in performing an analysis to determine the optimal number and frequency of follow-up attempts for each lead — if you have the time and resources for that, great. But many businesses don’t. According to the InsideSales Fall 2016 ResponseAudit Report:

  • If leads are responded to in fewer than five minutes, the chances of actually contacting them are 100x higher than waiting 30 minutes. On average, only 7.7% of leads are contacted within the first five minutes.
  • In terms of follow-up, “the best practice is 6 phone calls, 3 voicemails, and 3 emails, for a total of 12 touches.”

Not all leads may be fit to send to Sales immediately. Perhaps they need to meet some minimum level of quality, like reaching a certain activity level, which can only take place after being nurtured by Marketing. That’s perfectly fine — as long as your leads get some immediate follow-up.

The first moments after lead conversion are critical in maintaining a relationship with your leads, and either Sales or Marketing should take action to start building that relationship, make nurturing easier, and set up the sales rep for success when she eventually does reach out.

But this advice is futile if you don’t consider the bandwidth of your sales reps. Sure, in a perfect world, they’d make six follow-up attempts for each lead — in reality, though, they may simply not have enough hours in the day to do that. For that reason, you’ll also need to factor in the number of leads each rep is getting (based on the Marketing SLA), how much time they spend on marketing-generated leads versus sales-generated leads, and how much time they have to spend on each one. If you’re looking to conserve time, some of the follow-up — email, in particular — could be automated, so look into options there.

3) Set up Marketing SLA Reporting

Now that you have your SLA goals, it’s time to track your progress against that goal — daily.

To start, graph the goal line. Multiply 1/n — n is the number of days in the month — by your monthly goal. That should determine what portion of your monthly goal you need to achieve each day. You’ll want to graph that cumulatively throughout the month and mark your cumulative actual results on the same chart. We call that a waterfall graph, and it looks something like this:

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4) Set up Sales SLA Reporting

For the Sales SLA reporting, you’ll have two graphs — one monitoring the speed of follow-up, and the other monitoring the depth of follow-up.

To graph the speed of follow up, you’ll need the date/time the lead was presented to sales, and the date/time the lead received her first follow-up. The difference between those two times equals the time it took for Sales to follow up with that particular lead.

Take the averages of lengths of time it took for Sales to follow up with all leads within a particular timeframe — day, week, month — and graph it against the SLA goal.

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To graph the depth of follow-up — e.g., the number of attempts — look specifically at leads that have not been connected with, since the goal of the follow-up is to get a connect. For leads over a certain timeframe that have not gotten a connect, look at the average number of follow-up attempts made, and graph that against the SLA goal.

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And One Last Step

When it comes to what should be in your service level agreement, there’s one final piece: Review these metrics on a daily basis to monitor your progress, and make sure both Sales and Marketing have access to the reports for both sides of the SLA.

This step helps to maintain accountability and transparency and allows for both teams to address issues — or congratulate each other on productive results.

What best practices have you observed in creating a service level agreement within your organization? Let us know in the comments.

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May

25

2017

6 AI Startups We're Keeping an Eye On

Published by in category Business, Daily | Comments are closed

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The other day, I was airing some grievances to a friend. The whining topic du jour: artificial intelligence, or AI.

“Every time I hear about it, I think, ‘Sure, that’s cool,’” I said. “But sometimes I wish it would slow down — there’s so much happening there, and so fast.”

“Well, I have bad news for you,” my friend told me. “It’s not going away anytime soon.”

He was right. AI continues to be all the rage in the worlds of both tech and business, and is growing at a lightning-fast pace. At the most recent Google I/O, an entire suite of new AI-related product features were unveiled. Microsoft, meanwhile, launched an entire investment arm dedicated to this type of technology. And as research from CB Insights indicates, in 2016, over 500 AI startups raised roughly $5 billion in funding.

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But which ones are going to stick around?

We thought you might ask that — that’s why we sought out the six that have piqued our greatest interest. We’ve listed them below and summarized what it is that they’re trying to do … and why they’ve got our attention.

6 Artificial Intelligence Startups to Watch

1) Bizible

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What the Company Does

In its earliest days, Bizible’s revenue attribution product provided technology to help its customers better assess spending activity and make better decisions. Now, its new revenue planning product uses machine learning to help B2B marketers plan for every revenue-related scenario. Think: The product crunches the historical revenue attribution data to help predict what GeekWire calls “‘what if’ scenarios — like increasing marketing spend … or reducing event sponsorship budgets.”

Why We’re Paying Attention

We love it when companies examine what they already do best and say something like, “Wait a minute — we can use this information to make something even better.”

In Bizible’s case, that was the marketing expenditure data it already organized and helped customers analyze. The next step, the company decided, was to help marketers make even better use of that data — with the help of intelligent algorithms that predict the results of a given current spending track, and provide budgetary alternatives that address the aforementioned scenarios.

It’s that AI technology, CEO Aaron Bird told GeekWire, that helps marketers “have a good understanding of causality in the past … in order to do a good job of planning the future.”

2) UiPath

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What the Company Does

New-York-based UiPath is known best for its robotic process automation (RPA) technology — the kind that helps to automate what can become tedious business tasks, like data entry. As PYMNTS explains, eliminating the need for human labor on such processes can help “companies save money by offloading these tasks from human contractors.”

Why We’re Paying Attention

To be completely honest — the type of technology being created by UiPath scares us a little. The potential drawback of human job elimination by way of AI continues to be a hotly-contested topic, and while it does make us slightly shake in our boots, we can’t help but be fascinated by the companies that throw their respective hats into that particular automation ring.

But we also find ourselves drawn to the UiPath Academy — a “free of charge, self-led online learning environment where anyone in the world can enroll and train to obtain a UiPath RPA certification.” The point of that certification? Creating more RPA experts that can help companies implement and make the best use of technology like UiPath’s.

From a certain perspective, that could be seen as UiPath’s method of countering the potential job elimination resulting from widespread RPA — by cultivating a population of experts who know how to make the best use of AI within certain organizations.

3) vHive

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What the Company Does

In the B2B realm, most marketers don’t spend a ton of time thinking about how they would make use of a fleet of drones — at least, we don’t. That is, until we learned about vHive: The maker of cloud-based technology for enterprise-level organizations that want to use drones to manage field operations.

Why We’re Paying Attention

Drones are an area of technology that’s seen mixed results over the past decade. Many brands continue to experiment with numerous uses of drones — one of the most interesting cases we’ve come across is telecom company BT using drones to provide internet service in places impacted by war and natural disasters.

But at the same time, few brands seem to be able to truly make it work — some are missing sales estimates, laying off members of their drone teams, or closing up shop altogether. So when we learn about startups in this realm receiving high amounts of funding — vHive secured $2 million from VC and private investment in its first round — it makes us ask, “Okay, so what’s different about this one?” Perhaps it’s the focus on fleet management, or the target audience of enterprise-level companies, but we’re curious to see how this works out.

4) Agolo

1-bAe4KxebpLs9xJw-huwmLA.jpegSource: agolo

What the Company Does

Another player in the New York AI field, Agolo’s technology is designed to synthesize and summarize the media most important to professionals in order to do their jobs. Here’s a peek at how it works:

Why We’re Paying Attention

Information overload is a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away — at least, not anytime soon. And as bloggers, we often have to monitor a high volume of news about marketing and technology. That’s why intelligent systems like Agolo’s tend to make us positively giddy — they can help us figure out what we need to do, and automatically find and summarize the news that’s going to help us best do our jobs.

But that benefit isn’t limited to bloggers. Marketers from every industry struggle with staying on top of the news and content they need to see in order to remain informed about competition, regulations, and more.

5) Vault

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What the Company Does

Another Israel-based startup, Vault’s technology has a primary focus on the entertainment industry. It uses big data to help professionals in this sector address and resolve both marketing and financial decision-making problems — partially with its box office sales prediction technology.

Why We’re Paying Attention

Even though it’s been a while since I actually visited a movie theatre, I still positively geek out over box office rankings. After all, I’m both a consumer and a marketer, and I like to see the products — software and films alike — that amass an eyebrow-raising audience.

That’s something that makes one of Vault’s products, Deep Audience, so interesting to us — its ability to take the entertainment industry’s media assets, like movie trailers or a script, and apply an algorithm that can analyze who’s going to be drawn to it.

From there, entertainment marketers can make important decisions about how to package and communicate the product to this audience, depending on size, composition, and other factors. Our hope: The Deep Audience becomes available and applicable to marketers within industries beyond entertainment.

6) All Turtles

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What the Company Does

Okay, so we may have cheated a bit on this one. All Turtles is actually a self-described “AI startup studio” that provides guidance and other resources to founders of companies within this sector. The approach, according to its website, is to tackle “one frontier at a time,” starting with AI.

Why We’re Paying Attention

The act of AI startups receiving funding isn’t exactly rare news — after all, that’s how we found out about many of the companies on this list. What intrigues us about this one, however, is that it’s a startup for startups: one that was founded by Phil Libin, who’s held executive roles in both the VC and tech sectors.

That’s a powerful combination of skills and experience. We’re curious to see how it’s applied and carried out in an area of business and technology that, in the grand scheme of things, is still in its earliest stages — but shows no signs of ceasing to grow at full-tilt.

Types of Intelligence

What stands out to us about many of the companies listed here is the potential impact their work could have on a number of populations. Automated business processes, predictions, and fleet management are all very cool — but we’re eager to see how many of these brands develop technologies that will benefit individuals on a personal level. AI certainly has the ability to help professionals do their work more seamlessly. But it could also have a positive impact on, for example, aging populations, by automating in-home assistance that can keep seniors healthy in their homes longer.

In any case — these are just some of the reasons why we’re watching the world of AI unfold.

Which AI startups are you keeping an eye on? Let us know in the comments.

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May

3

2017

Need to Convert Traffic Into More Leads? Experts Bust Common CRO Myths [Live Hangout]

Published by in category Business, Daily, Promo, Social Media | Comments are closed

Many marketers have to find out the hard way that more website traffic doesn’t always translate to more leads.

Unless your site is optimized to drive visitors to take action and engage, you can attract thousands of visitors and never see one of them convert into a lead. That’s where conversion rate optimization comes in.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a systematic approach to increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that convert into customers, or more generally, take any desired action on a webpage.

Marketers can drastically increase the returns on their marketing activities by examining every conversion point in their website experience and making CRO a part of their day-to-day work.

Unfortunately, many marketers are trying their luck at conversion rate optimization without a holistic and scientific approach, which can do more bad than good. That’s why we’ve invited Unbounce‘s Senior Conversion Optimizer, Michael Aagaard, to debunk common myths for our audience in a live hangout with HubSpot Academy.

Michael began his career in CRO in 2008 as a freelance consultant, learning and applying these tactics in a variety of industries and companies. He routinely speaks at digital marketing conferences on CRO, and has published numerous informative posts on the Unbounce blog.

In this HubSpot Academy Master Class, Michael will explain the most common misconceptions around conversion rate optimization, and how to adopt a CRO mindset that can dramatically improve the marketing results you achieve through optimization.

Whether you’ve been tinkering with CRO on your website for years or you’re not sure how to get started, this Master Class will include new insights and actionable takeaways you can use right away. Click here to save your spot! 

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Apr

26

2017

6 Business Challenges Every Small Business Struggles With (And How to Fix Them)

Published by in category Business, Daily | Comments are closed

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In the first few years of business, small companies come up against a lot of different challenges. Some are harder than others to overcome — and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail by the end of their first year. By the end of their fifth year, 50% go under; and by the tenth year, that number rises to 80%.

With survival rates like that, it’s easy to understand why folks face the first few years of business with trepidation. But in fact, many common business problems and challenges are actually fixable, from difficulty finding customers, generating leads, and building an email list, all the way to hiring the right people and balancing quality and growth. Many times, you’ll find you need to take a step back, take the time to understand the pain points you’re feeling, and re-think your strategy.

Here are six challenges every small business faces, along with some tactical advice about how to fix them. (And if one of the challenges you’re facing is growing your email lists and generating leads, then be sure to save your seat for our live workshop that’s taking place on Thursday, April 27 at 1:00 P.M. EST.)

6 Small Business Problems & How to Fix Them

1) Finding Customers

This first one isn’t just a small business problem. The marketers at well-known companies like Apple and Toyota and McDonald’s don’t just sit around waiting for the leads to come in: Even the biggest, most successful companies have people working hard every single day to find new customers.

But for small businesses that aren’t a household name, finding customers can be particularly difficult. For example, there seem to be so many channels you can choose to focus on … how do you know what to prioritize and where to allocate resources?

How to Fix It:

Finding customers starts with figuring how who your ideal customer actually is. Spraying and praying doesn’t work for anybody — you need to make sure you’re spreading the word to the right people.

Craft an idea of what your target customers look like, what they do, where they spend time online by building your buyer personas. (Here are some free buyer persona templates to get you started.) Creating very specific ones can dramatically improve your business results. Once you’ve built your buyer personas, you can start creating content and getting in front of your target customers in the places they spend time online and with the messages that they care about.

2) Hiring Talented People

Hiring is often one of the biggest challenges for small businesses, especially since small business executives tend to feel under-resourced to begin with. Hiring new employees is a big deal and a complex process, and the cost of onboarding is an average of over $4,000 per new employee for most companies. And if you don’t hire well, employee turnover can be very, very expensive.

But, as CEO of 2020 On-site Optometry Howard Bernstein said in our panel on how to start a business, it’s impossible to know everything yourself. That’s why finding and hiring the right people — and the people who are really excited about what you’re doing — matters.

How to Fix It:

It’s easy to hire with a short-term mindset: send out a job description, screen applicants, and make a decision. But because of the high costs of hiring right, it’s important to invest a significant amount of time in the hiring process. Don’t settle for good employees when you can find great ones, even if it takes longer. It’s the great employees that will help your company get to the next level.

Just like you create buyer personas for your customers, create candidate personas for your job candidates. Your personas should be different for each new role that you’re hiring for, but will share some underlying traits around company culture.

Next, take ownership of attracting candidates to your company’s brand and make them interested in learning more. This will help you build a recruiting pipeline that will give hiring the same predictability as sales. Then, turn those leads into applicants.

3) Spreading Brand Awareness

It can sometimes seem like today’s biggest brands seemed to have popped up out of nowhere. How did they become a household name? How did they grow that quickly? Can your business grow like that, too?

Of course, most of these companies’ hard work, failures, and rejections happened behind the scenes. But there are strategies for spreading the word about your brand and building a great reputation that you can start right away.

How to Fix It:

There are many ways to spread brand awareness, but the three I’ll touch on here are PR, co-marketing, and blogging.

  • PR: Public relations is less about paying for a spot in a news blog, and more about focusing your voice and finding your place in the market. I recommend reading this great post from FirstRound Capital on what startups and small businesses often get wrong about PR, which also includes some great, tactical tips on how to figure out who’s covering your industry, building relationships, and working with reporters. You can also download our free public relations kit to learn how to maximize your public relations efforts with inbound marketing and social media.
  • Co-marketing: Partnering with another brand will help you inherit some of their image and reputation and create brand evangelists outside your circle. It’s a fantastic way to gain a large volume of new contacts alongside your organic marketing efforts. You can read our ebook on how to get started with co-marketing for more helpful information.
  • Blogging: Running a consistently high-quality blog will also help you build brand awareness. Not only does a blog help drive traffic to your website and convert that traffic into leads, but it also helps you establish authority in your industry and trust among your prospects. Many people find out about HubSpot because of our blog posts. It’ll also help you build an email list, which brings us to our next point …

4) Building an Email List

As if it isn’t hard enough to build an email list, did you know your email marketing database degrades by about 22.5% every year? That means you have to increase your email list by almost a quarter to just maintain it, never mind grow it. It’s the marketing team’s job to find ways to constantly add fresh, new email contacts to your lists.

But what many people call “building an email list” is actually buying an email list — and buying an email list is never a good idea. I repeat: Never a good idea. Not only will your email deliverability and IP reputation be harmed, but it’s also a waste of money. If your current strategy is to buy or rent email lists, then it’s time to regroup and find better places to put those resources.

How to Fix It:

Instead of buying or renting lists, build opt-in email lists. An opt-in email list is made up of subscribers who voluntarily give you their email address so you can send them emails. One great way to build an opt-in list is by creating great blog content and making it easy for people to subscribe — which, at the same time, will help you increase your online presence, build up search authority, and create evangelists from your content.

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[Example of a subscribe CTA on Help Scout’s blog.]

You can also revive older lists that you think are mostly decayed by creating an engaging opt-in message and sending it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in and promising to remove all contacts who don’t respond.

To learn more strategies and tips, register here for our live workshop on growing your email subscribers.

5) Lead Generation

Another problem most small businesses share is lead generation — specifically, generating enough leads to keep the sales team happy. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone: Only 1 in 10 marketers feel their lead generation campaigns are effective.

But generating leads that are both high quantity and high quality is a marketing team’s most important objective. A successful lead generation engine is what turns website visitors into prospective customers and keeps the funnel full of sales prospects while you sleep.

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[Lead generation is part of the “convert” stage of the inbound methodology.]

How to Fix It:

To make the lead generation process work for your business, you need to first optimize your existing website for leads. Your website is the most important tool you have for turning prospects into customers. Look through your website and ask yourself:

  • Do each of your webpages clearly guide visitors to take action, or do they leave them wondering what to do next?
  • Do you use a tool that automatically pulls the submissions from your forms and puts them into your contact database, like HubSpot’s free lead generation tool?
  • Are you creating custom landing pages for every single campaign that you run?
  • Do you have lead generation CTAs on each of your blog posts? (Do you have a blog at all?)

Prioritize the most popular pages on your website first. Most businesses have a few, specific pages that bring in the majority of their traffic — often the homepage, “About” page, “Contact Us” page, and maybe one or two of your most popular blog posts. Read this blog post to learn how to figure out which pages to prioritize, and how to optimize them.

Finally, be sure to take advantage of free lead management software. Affording marketing in general is a big challenge in and of itself, so finding and implementing the most robust free marketing tools can be a game changer. HubSpot Marketing Free, for example, has features like a form-scraping tool that scrapes any pre-existing forms you have on your website and adds those contacts to your existing contact database. It also lets you new pop-ups, hello bars, or slide-ins — called “lead flows” — that’ll help you turn website visitors into leads immediately.

6) Balancing Quality and Growth

“There’s this mix of building scalability early, versus doing what you have to do to get it all done,” Nick Rellas, co-founder and CEO of Drizly, told our panel of startup executives about starting his own business.

This is a tricky one, especially since every situation is different. You’ll see this problem arise in all areas of business: in product development, in marketing and content creation, in hiring, and so on. For example, many business executives will push growth at all costs. But if you grow your company too quickly, you’ll find yourself having to hire quickly. This can overwhelm your experienced team members because it takes a while to train people. And if you don’t train people well, it can end up backfiring.

How to Fix It:

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer here. “Depending where you are in your business’ lifecycle,” says Rellas, “the scale will tip one way or the other, but I do think you need both at different times.”

What it comes down to is not obsessing over every detail, but obsessing over the right details. Obsessing over product perfection, for example, might not be as important as obsessing over customer service. It’s better to put your fears aside and launch a product that isn’t perfect because you can always update and improve it. After all, once your products are in the hands of your customers, you can learn much more quickly what’s working and what isn’t.

Obsessing over customer service, however, is worth the extra effort. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos puts it well in his 2016 letter to shareholders: “There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.” (“Day 1” is what he refers to as a period of growth and innovation, whereas “Day 2” is stasis, irrelevance, and slow demise.)

While these are just a few of the many business challenges facing small businesses every day, there are many others out there. Are there other challenges your small business is facing that you want to bring up? Share with us in the comments below — and don’t forget to share your ideas for solutions, too!

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Apr

19

2017

How to Make a Good First Impression: 11 Tips to Try

Published by in category Business, Daily, Professional Development, Tactical | Comments are closed

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Did you know that it only takes a tenth of a second to make a first impression?

In other words, when you meet someone for the first time, you need to be on your game from the very beginning. This includes being aware of everything from the words you choose to the body language you convey.

Whether you’re meeting new connections, team members, potential employers, or customers, I’ve put together a list of tips designed to help you put your best foot forward and make a killer first impression.

11 Tips for Making a Good First Impression

1) Be mindful of your body language and posture.

Effective body language goes beyond simply standing up straight and having a firm handshake — although those things are definitely important, too. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, keep your posture open — don’t tightly cross your arms or legs, don’t ball your hands into fists, and don’t hunch over in your seat. Lean in when you talk to show you’re actively listening and engaged in the conversation. And don’t be afraid to take up some space at the table, either. If you normally use hand gestures or move around to communicate, don’t hold back. These nonverbal cues can make a powerful subconscious impact, so be aware of your body language and posture during meetings in general, but particularly initial pitches or interviews.

What behaviors should you aim to avoid? It’s smart to refrain from tapping, touching your face too often, placing objects in front of yourself, blinking excessively, and sitting or standing too close to others (respect the bubble, people). Some body language habits can suggest dishonesty, so be mindful to avoid those tics — avoiding eye contact, touching your mouth, and others — too.

2) Modulate your pitch and tone of voice.

A high-pitched tone of voice can make you seem childish or nervous — especially if you tend to “uptalk” or use a rising inflection at the end of your sentences. In fact, it has been shown that people perceive those who have a rising intonation as less knowledgeable, no matter what they are actually saying.

Not sure if you’re guilty of this? Try practicing your presentations or recording yourself reading aloud. You’d be surprised at how different you sound to others versus in your own head.

On the other hand, faster speakers are considered to be more confident, according to a study performed at Brigham Young University. However, even if you’re talking fast, be sure to avoid using filler words such as “um,” “ah,” “like,” and other similar phrases whenever possible, as it shows hesitation. Try practicing not relying on those filler words in front of a camera to train yourself.

3) Choose your words wisely.

Words matter even more than you think. Positive and persuasive words and phrases will often open doors and make people feel comfortable in your presence, which can ultimately make them more willing to work with you.

For instance, let’s take a look at many marketers’ favorite show: Mad Men. Some of Don Draper’s best pitches (e.g., Carousel & Lucky Strike) were full of positive language. That said, positive language doesn’t need to be cheesy or new-agey as Draper illustrates. Instead, positive language can be used to uplift your audience by simply being clear and simple.

This point is especially valuable if you’re making a first impression in a job interview. You want potential employers to find you positive, flexible, and capable, so use language that reflects optimism and agency instead of negativity.

4) Dress the part.

Regardless of how little you personally care about fashion or style, what you wear matters. While you want to look clean and neat, it’s also important to match or slightly exceed the relative level of formality of the person or business you are meeting with — whether that is business formal, highly casual, or something in between.

“You are your brand, especially if you are a business owner, so making sure that your look communicates your best self is important,” explains Laurel Mintz, CEO of Elevate My Brand.

If you want to show off your personality, try including one accessory that could be considered a memorable item or even a conversation piece. This could be anything from a unique piece of jewelry to a fancy tie to a pair of fun socks.

5) Make eye contact.

Focus on the person or people you are speaking with. It’s hard to get to know someone when you’re looking down at a screen, so make an effort to make some eye contact with everyone in the room.

However, keep in mind that eye contact can also backfire, according to a study by the University of British Columbia. If people aren’t already persuaded or inclined to be on your side, they may focus more on your mouth or any presentation materials you’re showcasing instead of your eyes, making attempts at eye contact a challenge.

6) Know your audience.

Do your research. If your meeting is planned in advance, you should know plenty about the person or business that you’re meeting with before you arrive. This might mean that you Google the people you’ll be meeting with, the company founders/co-founders, their history, their competition, their main products, and any other relevant info before you walk into the room.

Looking for a helpful tool to help you gather some background information? Check out Charlie App. This app scans hundreds of sources to uncover information about the person you’re meeting with and sends you a one-pager with all the details. Pretty cool, right? LinkedIn is also a good place to check out who you’re meeting with and learn more about them.

7) Come prepared.

There’s nothing worse than an unproductive meeting. To make a great first impression, be sure that you’re respectful of everyone’s time. If you’re meeting with someone working remotely, plan accordingly. That said, if you’re being productive and everyone has the bandwidth, it might be okay if the meeting runs long — just make sure you check in with the group before making the call.

Meeting time management is a key aspect of building an engaged group of clients or colleagues. Plus, it shows respect for their schedules.

8) Be authentic.

When you’re meeting someone for the first time, don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you don’t know the answer to something they ask, don’t fake it. The ability to lean into your weaknesses shows that you are self-aware.

However, be sure not to over emphasize your shortcomings. It might seem shockingly simple, but avoiding the “report card problem” or highlighting weaknesses and how you might fix them could cause you to only showcase the negatives, or at least make them the biggest part of your overall impression. While you don’t want to hide any weaknesses (people will likely figure it out anyways), you do want to be honest and move on to the good stuff — especially at the beginning of a business relationship.

9) Put your phone away.

That goes for tablets, laptops, and other electronics, too.

If you need to use technology to deliver a presentation, that’s one thing. But unless you’re projecting your computer or tablet screen to present to the entire room, turn off sounds and vibrations on your mobile devices, and put your screens away. Give your complete and undivided attention to the people you’re meeting for the first time to convey your commitment, focus, and let’s face it, your good manners.

10) Make a connection.

Pay close attention to who you’re meeting with for the first time and try to forge a connection based on what they share with you. Whether it’s their alma mater or their hometown, forging a connection outside of the professional conversation can be a great way to strike up a rapport.

That being said, don’t be too creepy. Avoid making comments about their appearance that could be perceived as inappropriate and stick to connections you might have in common. Those are more genuine than compliments anyway.

11) Don’t forget to follow up.

After an initial meeting, don’t forget to follow up by sending any necessary information — notes, presentation docs, next steps, and so on — or sending a thank you note.

These small gestures will help prove that you’re on the ball, and that you’re making them a priority, rather than just another task to check off your to-do list.

Sending out updated information after a meeting can also be a way to get a second chance at a first impression. How so? It helps to show another side of you or your business — perhaps a more responsible side. In fact, a Stanford study revealed that adding more external factors can actually mitigate the effect of a negative first impression.

Don’t let a negative first impression get in the way of your ability to get to know someone. Follow these nine tips to ensure that the first time you meet with someone won’t be the last.

What are your best tips for making a great first impression? Share them below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Apr

12

2017

6 Websites Every Growth Hacker Should Bookmark

Published by in category Business, Canonical, Daily | Comments are closed

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I’ll start by saying this: I am officially obsessed with growth hacking these days.

I never thought of myself as a growth marketer, let alone a growth hacker. Maybe that’s because it’s a somewhat new concept — or a new name for a classic concept, at least. But as a content creator, I’ve learned how imperative it is to know how to grow any sort of property, whether it’s a blog, a podcast, or a brand.

That might be what I love the most about the HubSpot Growth Stack, for example. It was built with the idea that every marketer stands to benefit from understanding how growth hacking works. But where do you learn this stuff? Download our free marketing tool that helps you generate more leads and learn  about website visitors.

A Google search for “growth hacking” yields a plethora of results. But as the term gains more popularity, filtering the results for the best resources becomes more difficult. Fear not — we combed through these sites and narrowed them down to six of the most comprehensive resources. So start reading, and get ready to grow.

6 Websites Every Growth Hacker Should Bookmark

1) GrowthHackers

GrowthHackers

Let’s start with the obvious. When you want to learn how to grow, the URL “growthhackers.com” seems like a natural place to start. Its founder and CEO, Sean Ellis, was pretty much a “growth hacker” before that label was really a thing — since 2008, he’s served in interim growth roles at companies like Eventbrite and Dropbox, helping them scale in their early stages.

GrowthHackers is a community of resources and experts that “helps teams unlock their company’s full growth potential.” And it’s within that community section of the site where the greatest wealth of knowledge lives. From a forum of growth-related posts, to a section on growth case studies, to the Growth University, this destination is one of the most comprehensive growth hacking resources available online.

2) KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics is one of the leading analytics platforms that marketers use to obtain the data they need to grow. But beyond the product itself, the company provides a plethora of resources for growth hackers; for example, its blog and series of webinars.

The blog might be one of our favorites. Its entries are a mix of tactical content and great stories, like this one about how Calendly pulled off double-digit growth. Plus, if you’re looking for fundamental knowledge about any area of growth, KISSmetrics has organized these types of blog posts into collective academy guides. If you’re just getting started, we recommend checking out this catalogue of entries synthesized for the “The Basics of Analytics.

3) Quick Sprout

Quick Sprout

Quick Sprout is largely the work of Neil Patel — a name with which anyone even remotely involved with digital marketing is familiar. We like to call him a “growth rockstar” — he founded the aforementioned KISSmetrics shortly after graduating from CSU Fullerton.

On Quick Sprout, Patel does growth consulting work and leads an online “university” on growing website traffic. It’s also home to one of his many valuable blogs, where he provides tips on conversion, marketing tech, and more. For a handy growth marketing crash course, check out this post on “How to Become an Innovative Growth Hacker in One Month.

4) Coelevate

Coelevate

Brian Balfour is another growth expert who cut his teeth in the startup sector. In fact, he’s been known to quote the words of investor Paul Graham: “Startups = Growth.” And on Coelevate, he frequently pens essays about many topics under this umbrella, like “10 Reasons Why Companies Fail At Growth” and “Traction vs Growth.”

Balfour speaks with a unique skill set. In addition to serving as the co-founder of startups like Viximo and Boundless Learning — which were both acquired — he also worked in venture capital (VC) as an entrepreneur-in-residence. He views growth from the perspective of both the entrepreneur and the investor. In addition to his words on Coelevate, you can follow his insights on the blog for Reforge, his growth program creation business.

5) Andrewchen.co

andrewchen.co

Since its 2009 founding, one thing has been certain about Uber: It’s experienced unequivocal brand growth. And it’s the kind of growth that can only be achieved with the right scale, which experts like Andrew Chen are brought on board to oversee.

And in addition to serving as Uber’s head of rider growth, Chen continues to share insights on his own website, Andrewchen.co. His knowledge stems from his experience, much like Balfour, as both an entrepreneur-in-residence in the VC sector, and as what he calls an “entrepreneur-out-of-residence” — in both capacities, he’s helped to grow early-stage businesses like Barkbox and Tinder.

6) OkDork

OkDork

Noah Kagan, the person behind growth blog OkDork, is one of those folks who’s so accomplished that we have to ask, “How many lives have you had?” Today, Kagan’s day job is “Chief Sumo” with the Sumo Group, the maker of tools to help companies grow website traffic. It’s the latest in a string of product launches and marketing successes he’s experienced, with brands ranging from Facebook to Mint.

Kagan calls OkDork a guide to “marketing, business musings, online communities and other things to kill time while you are at work.” That community part is key. He invites readers to participate, comment, and exchange thoughts. And since its December 2016 debut, his podcast, “Noah Kagan Presents,” also calls OKDork home. Check out “The 5 am Challenge” — it happens to be one of this early riser’s favorite episodes.

Continual Growth

“Growth” can be a little bit of a big, scary term at first. Building and scaling a product or service from scratch might seem like something that requires the help of an expert, or a large team. But as these sites show — that’s not the case. With the right approach, resources, and amount of experimentation, you can become a self-taught growth hacker.

From online communities to the HubSpot Growth Stack, you’ll be well on your way. But be patient — you might have to use a combination of these resources and go back to them as you work your way through projects. That’s why we suggest you bookmark all of these sites. Growth takes time, but it’s more than possible.

What are your go-to growth hacking websites? Let us know in the comments.

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Apr

5

2017

12 Growth Experts to Follow

Published by in category Business, Canonical, Daily | Comments are closed

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Growth hacking is one of those topics that remains awe-inspiring. There’s still a bit of elusiveness, but everyone wants to get in on it. After all, who doesn’t — whether holistically as a person, or when speaking of a business — want to grow? And while there might be many definitions surrounding the buzzword, we like growth hacker Aaron Ginn’s summation:

A growth hacker is someone whose passion and focus is pushing a metric through use of a testable and scalable methodology.”

This definition emphasizes how much entrepreneurs and seasoned professionals alike can learn from the depth of understanding possessed by growth hackers. It’s their abilities to draw connections between how a company is performing and the actions needed to lead to healthy, rapid growth, that improve performance and set a company up for success. Download our free marketing tool that helps you generate more leads and learn  about website visitors.

But who are these growth experts? Where are they, and how can marketers find their insights and learn how to apply them? And since the term’s become so popular, how do you cut through the noise to find the most applicable expertise?

We’ve rounded up some of the top growth experts who have some of the best content and insights on growth hacking on the web. Following each of them will help you discover actionable strategies and best practices, so you might want to bookmark this page as a directory for future reference.

12 Growth Hacking Experts to Follow

1) Brian Balfour

Founder and CEO, Reforge

Follow @bbalfour

brian-balfour-building-a-growth-machine.jpgSource: Heavybit

You can count Brian Balfour as another growth expert who cut his teeth in the startup sector. In fact, he’s been known to quote the words of investor Paul Graham: “Startups = Growth.” But here’s where Balfour’s unique skillset and knowledge comes in — not only was he the co-founder of startups like Viximo and Boundless Learning, both of which were acquired, but he also worked in venture capital (VC) as an entrepreneur-in-residence.

In other words, he’s seen both sides of the coin: The startup, and the investor. That experience lent itself to his previous role as VP of growth at HubSpot, as well as his position back in the business driver’s seat as founder and CEO of Reforge, a creator of growth programs. Follow his insights on his blog, Coelevate, or on the Reforge blog.

2) Andrew Chen

Head of Rider Growth, Uber

Follow @andrewchen

Andrew_Chen_portrait_017.jpgSource: StartCon

Say what you will about Uber, but there’s one thing that most of us can agree on: It’s experienced unequivocal brand growth since its 2009 founding. But growth like that needs to be properly scaled, which is when you bring in an expert — like Andrew Chen.

Like Balfour, Chen has worked as both an entrepreneur-in-residence in the VC sector, and independently as what he calls an “entrepreneur-out-of-residence.” In both capacities, however, he focused on growing early-stage businesses, like Barkbox and Tinder, wearing the hats of both a business owner and an investor. The man loves growth — in fact, he even publicly identifies as the “plus one to” Zendesk’s own growth marketing expert, Brianne Kimmel.

Follow Chen’s insights on his website.

3) Sean Ellis

CEO, GrowthHackers

Follow @seanellis

sean-ellis-text-1024x512-canva-min.pngSource: Popcorn Metrics

It could be said that Sean Ellis was a growth hacker before that term became, well, a thing. In August 2008, he became the “interim growth executive” for Eventbrite — a role that set the tone, it seems, for his career trajectory. Since then, he’s also served in interim growth roles with companies like Dropbox in their earliest stages. In other words, he helped some of the most recognizable names in tech — say it with me — grow.

Formerly the founder and CEO of marketing software company Qualroo, Ellis now has the same title at, quite appropriately, GrowthHackers: A community of resources and experts that “helps teams unlock their company’s full growth potential.” He also shares tips on his blog, Startup Marketing, where he (and we) recommends getting started with this post on “The Startup Pyramid.

4) Nir Eyal

Best-Selling Author, Consultant, and Public Speaker

Follow @nireyal

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Nir Eyal’s LinkedIn profile is a visual feast for those who can’t get enough of stories about those who have led emerging companies to profitability and acquisition. It was his experience of that kind with companies like Sunshine Business Development and AdNectar that lent to the expertise that went into his best-selling book, Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products, which answers the question — among others — “How do successful companies create products people can’t put down?”

Aside from the book, Eyal’s tips and insights can be found on his blog. And get this — if you really want to pick his brain, you can even schedule time to chat with Eyal via his website.

5) Noah Kagan

Chief Sumo, Sumo Group

Follow @noahkagan

C7rlXGRXQAAGkA2.jpgSource: Sumo.com

Sometimes, we meet people who have done so much in such a short period of time that it forces us to ask, “How many lives have you had?”

That’s what we think when we look at the experience leading up to Noah Kagan’s role as Chief Sumo with the Sumo Group, the maker of tools to help companies grow website traffic. From Facebook to Mint, Kagan has helped to launch and market several products and services.

Kagan’s blog, OkDork, is what he calls a guide to “marketing, business musings, online communities and other things to kill time while you are at work.” But it’s also a community — he invites readers to participate, comment, and exchange thoughts. And, OkDork now houses the podcast he launched in December 2016, “Noah Kagan Presents.”

6) Brianne Kimmel

Growth Marketing, Zendesk

Follow @briannekimmel

dXiKQuKg.jpgSource: Twitter

Zendesk is one of those SaaS companies that just keeps killing it, despite a constantly-evolving environment. And that’s a big element in successful growth — having the agility to adapt to a changing market.

Within the walls of Zendesk, the aforementioned Brianne Kimmel oversees the marketing and growth strategies to embolden the company’s conversion. It’s not exactly her first rodeo, either — before her role there, she also contributed to the growth of companies like Hotwire and HotelClub, which is now an Orbitz company. And while we have yet to find a personal blog to host her insights — but, cough, we’d love to see one — she does share her expertise and insights as an instructor with General Assembly.

7) Fareed Mosavat

Senior PM, Growth, Slack

Follow @far33d

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It’s probably fair to count Fareed Mosavat as one of those marketers who mastered growth before it became a buzzword. Looking at his work experience, it’s clear that he’s set foot in a number of big-name, early-stage tech companies and led the growth of major products. From RunKeeper to Instacart, Mosavat knows how to take data and use it to build something significant.

When he wrote about his decision to join Slack on his Medium publication — which we highly recommend for thoughts and insights on growth — he credited the company’s deeply ingrained principles of “playfulness, empathy, diversity, and craftsmanship” with its “endless opportunity for meaningful growth and product work.” So he’s not all about data — he’s someone who also places equal importance on a qualitative, cultural approach to growth.

8) Neil Patel

Co-founder, KISSmetrics and Hello Bar

Follow @neilpatel

neilpatel-blog-post_header-img.jpgSource: Pioneers.io

If you work in the digital marketing space in any capacity, chances are, you’ve at least heard of Neil Patel. He is, for lack of a better word, a bit of a growth rockstar. According to his LinkedIn profile, it wasn’t long after graduating from CSU Fullerton that he founded KISSmetrics, which has become one of the leading, most recognizable analytics platforms.

Today, Patel continues to juggle various outlets as a growth expert. He founded Crazy Egg, which creates a website heat map for marketers to observe which sections of a page get the most engagement. Then, there’s Quick Sprout, where he consults and leads an online “university” on growing website traffic — he also maintains a blog there, where he provides tips on conversion, marketing tech, and more.

As if that doesn’t keep him busy enough, Patel also keeps his own website up and running, where he has yet another blog full of teachable moments, “from ‘aha’ to ‘oh sh[*]t’.” Plus, he’s got a podcast: “Marketing School.

9) Sujan Patel

Co-founder, Web Profits (among many others)

Follow @sujanpatel

Zz01MGRkZGQzMzdkYzZjZGNjMjRlNWQ3YmYyOGMzZmJmYw==.jpegSource: Infusionsoft

Like everyone else on this list, we imagine that Sujan Patel is rather busy. In addition to his most recent role as the co-founder of growth marketing agency Web Profits, he’s also the co-founder of Mailshake, as well as one of the minds behind LinkTexting.

On top of that, Patel is constantly sharing his ideas and perspectives with the public, both as a regular contributor to Forbes, and through his personal blog. If you’re looking for inspiration, we recommend checking out his roundup of growth marketing underdogs.

10) Eric Peters

Senior Growth Marketing Manager, HubSpot Academy

Follow @EricPeters0

Many marketers are faced with the lofty task of growing a brand or comprehensive strategy from scratch. They might be part of a newly-created marketing department, or building their own presence as an entrepreneur. And for many of them, the first step toward that growth is taking a free certification course in their HubSpot Academy Learning Center. Eric Peters is responsible for driving growth for HubSpot Academy’s free courses, which come with a suite of free marketing and sales tools to apply to what you’re learning in the HubSpot growth stack.

But he’s no stranger to this kind of growth marketing. Before HubSpot, he was tasked with measuring and optimizing how users flowed through the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) company he previously worked for. In other words, it was his job to figure out the monetization part of that user movement — from acquisition, to activation, to upgrades. In the tech realm, it’s a path with which many marketers are familiar, or eventually have to master.

Peters often shares his insights with the public on the HubSpot Academy blog, and in videos like the one below.

11) Rebecca Rosenfelt

Product Manager, Airbnb

According to Crunchbase, Rebecca Rosenfelt arrived at Airbnb when it acquired her company, Inhabit Vacations. It was a brand that looked to provide travelers with truly local tastes, by connecting visitors to certain cities with the people who called it home. Today, Airbnb offers a similar service, by offering users curated experiences in a variety of cities.

It’s all part of Airbnb’s global growth strategy, and its efforts to cultivate a recognizable presence, including internationally, for not just home sharing, but also, a truly local experience anywhere in the world. It makes sense that Rosenfelt was picked as the person to initiate and oversee that growth — not only did she have the travel sector experience, but she also has the business chops, from her early work in global consulting to her ownership of a real-estate-focused magazine.

And while we certainly think of Rosenfelt as an expert, it seems as though she might be a bit modest about it — as far as we can tell, she no longer has a Twitter presence or personal blog. However, she does share her insights through a number of speaking engagements, like this one for Traction Conf:

12) Alex Schultz

VP of Growth, Facebook

Follow @alexschultz

140206_Facebook_Internet_02.jpgSource: Wired

At this point, we’d like to assume that the folks at Facebook know a thing or two about growth. In the span of 12 years, it’s gone from a small, academic-only online toy, to a publicly-traded, consistently growing media distribution platform. And since 2007, Alex Schultz has been the person in charge of that growth.

But for all the years he’s been with the company, Schulz was no stranger to tech marketing before his tenure at Facebook. He previously managed affiliate marketing in the U.K. for eBay, and in 1996, he’s said to have launched a website, paperairplanes.co.uk, “to help everyone have more fun with paper airplanes.” Take flight, indeed.

Get Growing

At first, growing something like this from scratch might look to be a daunting task that’s successfully executed by only a select few. But as these experts have shown, it can be done — and they’re more than willing to share their knowledge.

Plus, there’s a plethora of quality resources to help you master your growth, from blogs to HubSpot’s growth stack. As a next step, start to formulate a gradual plan, with manageable actions and benchmarks. And fear not — as this list shows, there’s always someone out there who will be willing to help.

Which growth experts would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Mar

30

2017

How to Re-Manufacture Your Marketing: An Inbound Marketing Guide for Manufacturers

Published by in category Business | Comments are closed

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Manufacturers have the chance to reach a wide audience, improve their sales, and increase their revenue with the help of inbound marketing and automation. While older marketing techniques such as cold calling, print ads, and trade shows remain effective to a degree, supplementing these strategies with effective online marketing can help you get better results.

Why is Inbound Marketing Important for Manufacturers?

A majority of B2B customers perform research online before making a buying decision, and the types of people that manufacturers target aren’t just any B2B customer. These companies market to serious individuals including scientists, plant managers, and engineers. These customers are also looking for complex and expensive services and products that need to give them exactly what they need.

By taking advantage of inbound marketing, manufacturers can effectively boost their ROI while further separating themselves from competitors that are performing poorly. There are many ways you can utilize inbound marketing to enhance your overall marketing strategy.

Generate More Traffic Through Inbound Marketing

While you may already have a website, you may not be getting the kind of traffic you have the potential to attract. Consider the main objectives of your marketing efforts, which are to attract, convert, and close. Without the ability to attract, the rest can’t follow, making inbound marketing through your website crucial to success.

Unlike other marketing methods such as print ads and mailers that rely on outreach to customers’ locations, inbound marketing can help bring in a steady stream of traffic from people actively looking for your services.

The key to getting plenty of high-quality traffic to your website is to write large amounts of relevant, valuable content that draws and engages readers. It’s also important to maintain a blog with regular updates that keep people informed while consistently boosting traffic.

Many businesses underestimate the value of a blog with fresh content, but the kind of people manufacturers want to attract will be actively looking for more information for these products and services. An in-depth blog can educate visitors regarding common roadblocks in the industry, tell them how your products or services can help solve their problems, and which issues they might be facing that you can help ease.

It’s important to refrain from being too promotional with a blog. However, educating prospects and showcasing your company as an industry authority can boost traffic and help you rank higher for certain long-tail keywords that people search.

Different types of content can also help carry people through the sales cycle, giving them more incentives to share the messages you convey.

Increase Brand Awareness

Another benefit of inbound marketing is a higher level of visibility, resulting in more brand awareness. Because of this visibility, you can gain a better reputation that helps convince potential customers to choose you over competitors.

Valuable content such as blog posts, guides, ebooks, white papers and videos can all work together to provide prospects with valuable information. Webinars can also be a great asset to your marketing strategy. You’ll likely find that these types of content are more effective at brand awareness than other offline strategies, lending your business credibility that it might otherwise lack.

Experience Better Lead Generation

If your business isn’t targeting people specific to your products or services, your marketing efforts will be too broad to be efficient. You need to make sure that you’re only targeting a select group of people who will benefit from what you have to offer, separating “leads” from uninterested parties.

Manufacturers often sell expensive equipment or high value services, which makes lead generation more of a challenge because of highly selective buyers. At the same time, leads become more valuable when they’re willing to spend more on a product or service.

Rather than relying only on cold calls or print ads, you can see a better reach and response when you use inbound marketing and marketing automation in conjunction with other marketing efforts. Utilizing valuable content offers as promotion in your traditional print ads or cold outreaches will help increase the demand for such content pieces. This will help you attract and convert more leads, making some of the traditional marketing methods more effective as well as warm up prospects for a sales conversation.

Because leads are at the start of the sales process, you should focus on creating “top of funnel” content such as blog posts and videos that helps attract visitors and build brand awareness. Then use content offers as lead magnets such as guides, white papers, free consultations to improve conversion and the volume of leads generated from inbound marketing.

Improve Lead Nurturing Abilities

Once you’ve attracted high-quality leads, your work has only just begun. It’s time to nurture them and see them through the sales cycle to become long-term customers. This process can take months or even years in the manufacturing industry.

Keep in mind that each prospect is likely to be in a different stage of the sales process, with some further along than others, but most will need a long period of nurturing before they make a purchase.

Fortunately, inbound marketing can help automate this process and nurture those valuable leads, using content that guides them along. This gives your leads plenty of attention and information, while allowing you to spend more time focusing on running your business.

One effective way to nurture leads using inbound marketing is to deliver automatic targeted emails that guide prospects to convert them into customers. These emails can direct them to ebooks, guides, consultations, and case studies that convince them that you can meet their needs.

Take Full Control Over Your Marketing

Inbound marketing also gives marketers better insight into how well their campaigns are performing, while making it easier to adjust them accordingly.

Ultimately, inbound marketing is integral to a successful marketing campaign for manufacturers. You’ll be able to attract, engage, nurture, and convert leads more effectively while wasting less resources and money in the process.

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Mar

15

2017

The Sky's the Limit: 7 Weird Inventions That Were Big Marketing Hits [Infographic]

Published by in category Business, IGSS | Comments are closed

It’s happened to all of us. We see an advertisement or some other reference to a seemingly useless product. And yet, it “sells like hotcakes,” as the saying goes — and you think to yourself, “Well, I could have invented that.”

But there’s a reason why these products sell. They come with a use that’s somewhat niche in nature, but highly novel. Think about some of the products you may have come across in a SkyMall catalogue — a wall-mounted electric fireplace? A foldable pet ottoman? They sound completely frivilous, but if I’m being honest, even I might buy them.

There are some inventions, though, that have earned a status as household names, as well as tons of money. What are they, and how did they come to be? Well, you’re in luck — this infographic from SilverDoor answers those questions about seven of the most popular ones. To learn more about the challenges marketers face today, download the free  2016 State of Inbound report here.

So read on, and be prepared to ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

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Mar

14

2017

How to Write a Business Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide (With Examples)

Published by in category Business | Comments are closed

Not all business ideas are good ones. Take my friend Eric, for example, who had the idea of a cell phone that doubles as a taser. Probably not the best product to have on the market.

A lot of people have business ideas — it’s whether these ideas are any good that really matters. That’s precisely why, if you intend to actually build a business from your idea, it’s helpful to create a business plan so you can build out your concept in detail and prove that it can really work, both logistically and financially.

(Check out our comprehensive guide on how to start a business to learn more about fleshing out the details of starting a new business.)

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a living document that maps out the details of your business. It covers what your business will sell, how it will be structured, what the market looks like, how you plan to sell your product or service, what funding you’ll need, what your financial projections are, and which permits, leases, and other documentation will be required.

At its core, a business plan helps you prove to yourself and others whether or not your business idea is worth pursuing. It’s the best way to take a step back, look at your idea holistically, and solve for issues years down the road before you start getting into the weeds.

This post covers tips for writing a business plan, followed by an outline of what to include and business plan examples. Let’s start with some basic, overarching tips before we dive in to the details.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Narrow down what makes you different.

Before you start whipping up a business plan, think carefully about what makes your business unique first. If you’re planning to start a new athletic clothing business, for example, then you’ll need to differentiate yourself from the numerous other athletic clothing brands out there.

What makes yours stand out from the others? Are you planning to make clothing for specific sports or athletic activities, like yoga or hiking or tennis? Do you use environmentally friendly material? Does a certain percentage of your proceeds go to charity? Does your brand promote positive body image?

Remember: You’re not just selling your product or service — you’re selling a combination of product, value, and brand experience. Think through these big questions and outline them before you dive in to the nitty-gritty of your business plan research.

Keep it short.

Business plans are more short and concise nowadays than they used to be. While it might be tempting to include all the results of your market research, flesh out every single product you plan to sell, and outline exactly what your website will look like, that’s actually not helpful in the format of a business plan.

Know these details and keep them elsewhere, but exclude everything but the meat and potatoes from the business plan itself. Otherwise, you might risk losing your readers’ attention.

Format for easy skimming.

Your business plan shouldn’t just be a quick(ish) read — it should be easy to skim, too. That’s where formatting becomes particularly important. Use headers and bullet points, bold or highlight the key lines or metrics you want the reader to take away, and even attach labeled tabs to your copies (paper and digital) for easy reference.

You can (and should) change it as you go.

Keep in mind that your business plan is a living, breathing document. That means you can update your business plan as things change. For example, you might want to update it a year or two down the road if you’re about to apply for a new round of funding.

How to Write a Business Plan

Here are the key elements in a business plan template:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Company Description
  3. Market Analysis
  4. Product and/or Service
  5. Organization & Management
  6. Marketing & Sales Plan
  7. Financial Plan
  8. Appendix

Here’s what goes in to each of the elements of that business plan outline:

1) Executive Summary

The purpose of the executive summary is to give readers a high-level view of the company and the market before delving in to the details. (Pro Tip: Sometimes it’s helpful to write the executive summary after you’ve put together the rest of the plan so you can draw out the key takeaways more easily.)

The executive summary should be about a page long, and should cover (in 1–2 paragraphs each):

  • Overview: Briefly explain what the company is, where you’ll be located, what you’ll sell, and who you’ll sell to.
  • Company Profile: Briefly explain the business structure, who owns it and what prior experience/skills they’ll bring to the table, and who the first hires might be.
  • Products or Services: Briefly explain what you’ll sell.
  • The Market: Briefly explain your main findings from your market analysis.
  • Financial Considerations: Briefly explain how you plan to fund the business and what your financial projections are. 

Example of an “Overview” section of the Executive Summary (from Bplans):

Jolly’s Java and Bakery (JJB) is a start-up coffee and bakery retail establishment located in southwest Washington. JJB expects to catch the interest of a regular loyal customer base with its broad variety of coffee and pastry products. The company plans to build a strong market position in the town, due to the partners’ industry experience and mild competitive climate in the area.

JJB aims to offer its products at a competitive price to meet the demand of the middle-to higher-income local market area residents and tourists.

2) Company Description

Next, you’ll have your company description. Here’s where you have the chance to give a summary of what your company does, your mission statement, business structure and business owner details, location details, the marketplace needs that your business is trying to meet, and how your products or services actually meet those needs.

Example of a “Company Summary” section (from Bplans):

NALB Creative Center is a start up, to go into business in the summer of this year. We will offer a large variety of art and craft supplies, focusing on those items that are currently unavailable on this island. The Internet will continue to be a competitor, as artists use websites to buy familiar products. We will stock products that artists don’t necessarily have experience with. We will maintain our price comparisons to include those available on line.

We will offer classes in the use of new materials and techniques.

We will build an Artist’s Oasis tour program. We will book local Bed and Breakfasts; provide maps and guides for appropriate plein-air sites; rent easels and materials; sell paint and other supplies and ship completed work to the clients when dry.

We will expand the store into an art center including: A fine art gallery, offering original art at, or near, wholesale prices; Musical instruments/studio space; Classrooms for art/music lessons; Art/Music books; Live music/coffee bar; Do-it-Yourself crafts such as specialty T-Shirts, signs, cards, ceramics for the tourist trade.

3) Market Analysis

One of the first questions to ask yourself when you’re testing your business idea is whether it has a place in the market. The market will ultimately dictate how successful your business will be. What’s your target market, and why would they be interested in buying from you?

Get specific here. For example, if you’re selling bedding, you can’t just include everyone who sleeps in a bed in your target market. You need to target a smaller group of customers first, like teenagers from middle-income families. From there, you might answer questions like: How many teenagers from middle-income families are currently in your country? What bedding do they typically need? Is the market growing or stagnant?

Include both analysis of research that others have done, as well as primary research that you’ve collected yourself, whether by surveys, interviews, or other methods.

This is also where you’ll include a competitive analysis. In our example, we’d be answering the question: how many other bedding companies already have a share of the market, and who are they? Outline the strengths and weaknesses of your potential competitors, as well as strategies that will give you a competitive advantage.

Example of a “Market Analysis” summary section (from Bplans):

Green Investments has identified two distinct groups of target customers. These two groups of customers are distinguished by their household wealth. They have been grouped as customers with < $1 million and >$1 million in household wealth. The main characteristic that makes both of these groups so attractive is their desire to make a difference in the world by making investment decisions that take into account environmental factors.

The financial services industry has many different niches. Some advisors provide general investment services. Others will only offer one type of investments, maybe just mutual funds or might concentrate on bonds. Other service providers will concentrate on a specific niche like technology or socially responsible companies.

Market Segmentation

Green Investments has segmented the target market into two distinct groups. The groups can be differentiated by their difference in household wealth, households of < $1 million and >$1 million.

  • < $1 million (household worth): These customers are middle class people who have a concern for the environment and are taking personal action through their choosing of stock investments based on companies with both strong economic and environmental performance records. Because these people do not have an over abundance of money they choose stocks that are of moderate risk. Generally, this group has 35%-45% of their portfolio in stocks, the remaining percentages in other types of investments.
  • >$1 million (household worth): These customers are upper middle class to upper class. They have amassed over $1 million in savings and are fairly savvy investors (themselves or the people they hire). These people are generally concerned about the rate of return of their investments but also have environmental concerns.

4) Products and/or Services

Here’s where you can go into detail about what you’re selling and how it benefits your customers. If you aren’t able to articulate how you’ll help your customers, then your business idea may not be a good one.

Start by describing the problem you’re solving. Then, go into how you plan to solve it and where your product or service fits into the mix. Finally, talk about the competitive landscape: What other companies are providing solutions to this particular problem, and what sets your solution apart from theirs?

Example of a “Products and Services” section (from Bplans):

AMT provides both computer products and services to make them useful to small business. We are especially focused on providing network systems and services to small and medium business. The systems include both PC-based LAN systems and minicomputer server-based systems. Our services include design and installation of network systems, training, and support.

Product and Service Description

In personal computers, we support three main lines:

1) The Super Home is our smallest and least expensive line, initially positioned by its manufacturer as a home computer. We use it mainly as a cheap workstation for small business installations. Its specifications include …[additional specifics omitted]

2) The Power User is our main up-scale line. It is our most important system for high-end home and small business main workstations, because of …. Its key strengths are …. Its specifications include ….[additional specifics omitted]

3) The Business Special is an intermediate system, used to fill the gap in the positioning. Its specifications include … [additional specifics omitted]

In peripherals, accessories and other hardware, we carry a complete line of necessary items from cables to forms to mousepads … [additional specifics omitted]

In service and support, we offer a range of walk-in or depot service, maintenance contracts and on-site guarantees. We have not had much success selling service contracts. Our networking capabilities …[additional specifics omitted]

Competitive Comparison

The only way we can hope to differentiate well is to define the vision of the company to be an information technology ally to our clients. We will not be able to compete in any effective way with the chains using boxes or products as appliances. We need to offer a real alliance.

The benefits we sell include many intangibles: confidence, reliability, knowing that somebody will be there to answer questions and help at the important times.

These are complex products, products that require serious knowledge and experience to use, and our competitors sell only the products themselves.

Unfortunately, we cannot sell the products at a higher price just because we offer services; the market has shown that it will not support that concept. We have to also sell the service and charge for it separately.

5) Operations & Management

Use this section to outline your business’ unique organization and management structure (keeping in mind that you may change it later). Who will be responsible for what? How will tasks and responsibilities be assigned to each person or each team?

Includes brief bios of each team member and highlight any relevant experience and education to help make the case for why they’re the right person for the job. If you haven’t hired people for the planned roles yet, that’s OK — just make sure you identify those gaps and explain what the people in those roles will be responsible for.

Example of an “Personnel Plan” section of the Operations & Management section (from Bplans):

The labor force for DIY Wash N’ Fix will be small. It will consist of a part-time general manager to handle inter-business relationships and corporate responsibilities. In addition, DIY Wash N’ Fix will employ three certified mechanics/managers; their duties will consist of the day-to-day operation of the firm. These duties fall into two categories: managerial and operational. Managerial tasks include: scheduling, inventory control and basic bookkeeping. Safety, regulatory issues, customer service and repair advice are the operational tasks they will be responsible for.

Additionally, customer service clerks will be hired to perform the most basic tasks: customer service and custodial. DIY Wash N’ Fix will have a single general manager to coordinate all outside business activities and partnerships. The business relationships would include accounting services, legal counsel, vendors and suppliers, maintenance providers, banking services, advertising and marketing services, and investment services. Laurie Snyder will fill this general management position. She will be receiving an MBA from the University of Notre Dame in May 2001.

The daily management of the business will be left to the lead mechanic. Even though DIY Wash N’ Fix is not a full service repair shop it can be expected that some customers will attempt repairs they are not familiar with and need advice. Therefore, we intend to hire three fully certified mechanics. The mechanics will not be authorized to perform any work on a customer’s car, but they will be able to take a look at the car to evaluate the problem. To reduce our liability for repairs done incorrectly we feel only professional mechanics should give advice to customers. The primary function of the mechanics will be customer service and managerial responsibilities.

6) Marketing & Sales Plan

This is where you can plan out your comprehensive marketing and sales strategies that’ll cover how you actually plan to sell your product. Before you work on your marketing and sales plan, you’ll need to have your market analysis completely fleshed out, and choose your target buyer personas, i.e., your ideal customers. (Learn how to create buyer personas here.)

On the marketing side, you’ll want to cover answers to questions like: how do you plan to penetrate the market? How will you grow your business? Which channels will you focus on for distribution? How will you communicate with your customers?

On the sales side, you’ll need to cover answers to questions like: what’s your sales strategy? What will your sales team look like, and how do you plan to grow it over time? How many sales calls will you need to make to make a sale? What’s the average price per sale? Speaking of average price per sale, here’s where you can go into your pricing strategy.

For more help with your marketing and sales strategies, go to our online guide for how to start a business and scroll to the “Marketing, Sales & Services Tips for Startups” section.

Example of a “Marketing Plan” section (from Bplans):

The Skate Zone plans to be the first amateur inline hockey facility in Miami, Florida. Due to the overwhelming growth of inline hockey throughout the United States, the company’s promotional plans are open to various media and a range of marketing communications. The following is a list of those available presently.

Public relations. Press releases are issued to both technical trade journals and major business publications such as USAHockey Inline, INLINE the skate magazine, PowerPlay, and others.

Tournaments. The Skate Zone will represent its services at championship tournaments that are held annually across the United States.

Print advertising and article publishing. The company’s print advertising program includes advertisements in The Yellow Pages, Miami Express News, The Skate Zone Mailing, school flyers, and inline hockey trade magazines.

Internet. The Skate Zone currently has a website and has received several inquiries from it. Plans are underway to upgrade it to a more professional and effective site.  In the future, this is expected to be one of the company’s primary marketing channels.

7) Financial Plan

Finally, outline your financial model in detail, including your start-up cost, financial projections, and a funding request if you’re pitching to investors.

Your start-up cost refers to the resources you’ll need to get your business started — and an estimate of how much each of those resources will cost. Are you leasing an office space? Do you need a computer? A phone? List out these needs and how much they’ll cost, and be honest and conservative in your estimates. The last thing you want to do is run out of money.

Once you’ve outlined your costs, you’ll need to justify them by detailing your financial projections. This is especially important if you’re looking for funding for your business. Make sure your financial model is 100% accurate for the best chance of convincing investors and loan sources to support your business.

Example of a “Financial Projections” section (from Bplans):

The following table is the projected Profit and Loss statement for Markam.

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Image Credit: Bplans

Appendix

Finally, consider closing out your business plan with an appendix. The appendix is optional, but it’s a helpful place to include your resume and the resume(s) of your co-founder(s), as well as any permits, leases, and other legal information you want to include.

There you have it. We hope this has helped you get a better idea of what a business plan should look like. Now it’s time to turn that business idea into a reality. Good luck!

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Mar

10

2017

7 SaaS KPIs You Need to Track in 2017

Published by in category Business | Comments are closed

ThinkstockPhotos-512115792-544430-edited.jpgThe software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry has experienced exponential growth over the past several years and shows no signs of decline. Even the poorest segment is projected to see a compound annual growth rate of 19.7 percent through 2019. And by 2020, it’s projected that SaaS deployment will be more than 25 percent greater than traditional software deployment.

SaaS is going nowhere soon. However, with rapid growth comes the potential of market saturation. In order to stand out, SaaS vendors need to be smart about their marketing strategies. In fact, the inability to market products was cited as a cause for 14 percent of startup failures in a recent survey.

While you may be familiar with the concept of key performance indicators (KPIs), there are a number of unique aspects to consider when marketing your SaaS product:

1) Qualified Marketing Traffic

You already know the importance of website traffic. Reporting on unique visitors and traffic per channel should already be part of your reporting routine; however, as a SaaS company, it’s important to dive a bit deeper. Most SaaS websites have a log-in link on the site, usually in the top navigation. Providing a cloud-based solution, customers need to log in, which means they need to revisit your website. As your app users increase, so will your overall traffic. This can yield false data, ultimately showing higher traffic growth due to marketing initiatives, which may not be the case.

It’s important to track these returning customers independently, as they can skew your traffic numbers. As a marketer, it is important to track what percentage of visitors are already customers and which are qualified marketing traffic. Being able to differentiate between these two groups will allow you to set actionable traffic KPIs and build a solid traffic-generation plan.

There are a number of ways to identify this traffic as returning customers. One way to do so is to use event tracking to count each time a visitor reaches a log-in screen or clicks the link in the navigation. Another way is to use in-app analytics to identify log-ins and usage per month as well. Being able to separate these two data points will allow you to accurately track traffic growth each month, with a keen eye on qualified marketing visitors, as opposed to returning customers.

2) Leads by Lifecycle Stage

Anyone who’s been in the marketing or sales game for any amount of time knows the importance of leads. A basic lead is a prospect who’s starting to do his or her research. However, breaking leads into subcategories outlines exactly where they are in the buying process.

Marketing qualified lead (MQL): A prospect who has taken additional research steps, such as downloading ebooks and returning to your website.

Sales qualified lead (SQL): A prospect who has moved beyond the initial research phase, is most likely evaluating vendors, and is worth a direct sales follow-up.

The sales process for SaaS products can range anywhere from a few days to close to a year. Having a firm grasp on your lead qualification definitions (lead, MQL, SQL, etc.) will help identify if and where leads might be getting stuck in the funnel. As much of the research is done by the prospect, it is often up to him or her to take the next step and request a demo or a free trial. Because of this, marketers should measure leads not only as an overall metric, but also monthly per lifecycle stage. Doing so can yield great insight into lead-nurturing opportunities and even guide sales follow-ups appropriately.

3) Lead-to-Customer Rate

Driving customers is your ultimate goal, right? Consider the importance of lead-to-customer rates.

This metric shows exactly how well you’re generating sales-ready leads—and improving over time. It outlines, on average, how many leads turn into paying customers. In other words, it shows whether your sales process and lead-nurturing methods are working or not.

Lead-to-customer rate is easy to calculate. Take your total number of customers for any given month, divide it by the total number of leads, and multiply that number by 100. For example, five customers in a month with 500 leads would result in a 1 percent lead-to-customer rate.

The most streamlined way to gather these data is by implementing closed-loop reporting. By integrating your customer relationship management software with HubSpot, each time a deal is won, that contact is marked as a customer within your HubSpot reports. Having a clear view of how different customers close will provide unique data into which campaigns were most successful and into common behavior across all customers. This too will help shape new marketing campaigns throughout the year.

4) Churn

If driving customers is your ultimate goal, then maintaining your existing ones is equally important.

Churn measures how much business you’ve lost within a certain time period. It is one of the most important metrics in tracking the day-to-day vitality of your business. And while churn is certainly a reality, tracking it can save your business from complete disaster.

Churn can help you better understand customer retention by specific insight on activity. Generally, companies report churn in terms of customers or revenue. No matter how you track it, it’s best to refine by dates and compare time periods.

As most SaaS businesses are based on annual subscriptions, keeping customers is as important as acquiring new ones. When tracking churn on a monthly or quarterly basis, be sure to dig deeper than just the revenue numbers or customer count. Identify the personas of these churned customers as well as the industries or anything else unique that can help shed some light on why they failed to renew. It can be prudent to discuss this information across departments, including sales, marketing, and customer success.

5) Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Customer lifetime value (CLV) is the average amount of money that your customers pay during their engagement with your company. The metric provides businesses with an accurate portrayal of their growth and can be explained in three steps:

Find your customer lifetime rate by dividing the number 1 by your customer churn rate. For example, if your monthly churn rate is 1 percent, your customer lifetime rate would be 100 (1/0.01 = 100).

Find your average revenue per account (ARPA) by dividing total revenue by total number of customers. If your revenue was $100,000, divide it by 100 customers and your ARPA would be $1,000 ($100,000/100 = $1,000).

Finally, find your CLV by multiplying customer lifetime by ARPA. In this example, your CLV would be $100,000 ($1,000 x 100 = $100,000).

CLV shows what your average customer is worth. And for those still in the startup mode, it can display the value of your company to investors. As mentioned prior, most SaaS businesses operate with subscription-based models. Each renewal yields another year of recurring revenue, ultimately increasing the lifetime value per customer.

6) Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Customer acquisition cost (CAC) shows exactly how much it costs to acquire new customers and how much value they bring to your business. When combined with CLV, this metric helps companies guarantee that their business model is viable.

To calculate CAC, divide your total sales and marketing spend (including personnel) by the total number of new customers you add during a given time. For example, if you spend $100,000 over a month, and you added 100 new customers, your CAC would be $1,000.

Customer acquisition should be a primary focus for new companies. Fully quantified CAC rates help companies manage their growth and accurately gauge the value of their acquisition process.

7) CLV-to-CAC Ratio

CLV-to-CAC shows the lifetime value of your customers and the total amount you spend to acquire them—in a single metric. This metric displays the health of your marketing program, so you can invest in programs that are working well or change campaigns that aren’t.

Finding your CLV-to-CAC is easy; simply compare your CLV and CAC. Generally, a healthy business should have a CLV that is at least three times greater than its CAC. Any lower (say, a 1:1 ratio) and you’re spending too much money. Any higher (a 5:1 ratio) and you’re spending too little and probably missing out on business.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a number of nuances to consider when reporting on key marketing and sales data for SaaS-based organizations. Obviously, these metrics can be applied across all industries and company types and should be monitored on a regular basis. It’s important to start off 2017 on the right foot by putting in place necessary reports and setting benchmarks for each. Start by looking into 2016’s data to see a baseline to which you can measure against, and as we wrap up Q1 2017, see how this past quarter stacks up to past years.

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Dec

7

2016

How to Create an Annual Marketing Plan [Free Tool]

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Do you take a good, hard look at your team’s marketing strategy every year?

You should. An annual marketing plan helps you set your marketing on the right course to make your company’s business goals a reality. Think of it as a high-level plan that guides the direction of your team’s campaigns, goals, and growth.

Without one, things can get messy — and it’s nearly impossible to put a number on the budget you’ll need to secure for the projects, hiring, and outsourcing you’ll encounter over the course of a year if you don’t have a plan.

Of course, this type of planning takes a lot of time and effort. So if you’re strapped for time before the holidays, give our new Marketing Plan Generator a try. This tool simplifies yearly planning and lays your strategies, initiatives, and goals out in a template so you can identify what’s most important for the coming year.

Once you’ve filled in your information, you’ll come away with a plan that helps you:

  • Outline your annual marketing strategy
  • Identify your most important annual initiatives
  • Nix the projects that won’t help you hit your 2017 goals
  • Track the right metrics throughout the year
  • Align your team through a common mission

Pro Tip: The best way to set up your 2017 marketing plan is to start with quick wins first, that way you can ramp up fast and set yourself (and your team) up to hit more challenging goals and take on more sophisticated projects by Q4. So, what do you say? Are you ready to give it a spin?

You can find our Free Marketing Plan Generator right here.

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Nov

30

2016

8 Proven Ways to Stay Focused in A Busy Office

ThinkstockPhotos-506435716-519714-edited.jpgIt can be hard to stay focused in a busy office. There’s always something going on–meetings, conversations, or donuts to eat in the kitchen. Not to mention your coworkers coming up to you to ask about your job. The nerve people have! Fortunately, you don’t actually have to be available to your coworkers all the time. There are proven ways to keep yourself on task while keeping others away from you at the same time.

You’re not wrong if you think you might be spending a bit too much time on non work related tasks. A study found 89% of employees admit to wasting time at work, and of those, 2% waste 5 hours a day. There’s a chance there’s a guy hanging around your office getting paid to pretend to work.

Before we discuss how to keep yourself on task, you might be wondering what people are doing all day if they aren’t working. The study also uncovered that:

  • A married employee was looking at a dating web site and then denied it while it was still up on his computer screen
  • An employee was caring for her pet bird that she smuggled into work
  • An employee was shaving her legs in the women’s restroom
  • An employee was laying under boxes to scare people
  • Employees were having a wrestling match
  • A sleeping employee claimed he was praying
  • An employee was changing clothes in a cubicle
  • An employee was printing off a book from the Internet
  • An employee was warming her bare feet under the bathroom hand dryer

So, in an effort to protect you from yourself and those around you, here are some ways to stay focused.

1) Put On Headphones

Headphones tell the world, I am too busy for other people’s noise. Become visibly annoyed if anyone requests you remove them. Bonus points if you play them loudly enough that it sounds like your own personal desk concert.

2) Grow Plants

Try creating a forest around you made of various plants, or perhaps grow a hedge. You won’t be able to look out, and no one will be able to look in. Is she or he in the office today? Everyone will wonder, no one will know.

3) Practice Quiet Hours

If you can’t beat ‘em, set strict rules they must follow. Enforce quiet time for a few hours a day to give everyone the chance to listen to Jerry’s heavy breathing. No chips or crunchy snacks allowed. Be very fanatical about it so people know you’re serious.

4) Change Your Environment

Outside influences like air temperature, air quality, smells and colors can affect your focus. Take it upon yourself to make office updates. Purchase air filters, light Pine scented candles (the scent is proven to increase alertness!), and paint the walls around you a productive shade of blue.

In an effort to not cut into your work time, make your renovations at night when everyone else has gone home for the day. What a surprise when they show up in the morning! Don’t worry, your company will surely foot the bill.

5) Use Privacy Accessories

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Pick up a computer privacy hoodie. This guarantees no will try to talk to you – not now, not ever!

6) Write a To-Do List

And then throw it out the window! Clients and coworkers will ask you to complete other high priority tasks that they need RIGHT THIS MINUTE PLEASE. This is okay. The point is, for a few moments while writing out your list you will feel in charge of your life.

7) Keep Your Desk Organized

Keep your desk clean and your mind uncluttered. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to clean your desk just so and to put things back where they belong. Inspect each item’s placement carefully. If they are moved the next morning, you know Susan has been messing with your things and she had better stop calling you paranoid.

8) Drink Coffee

Drinking coffee helps you concentrate and keeps you alert. Just be sure not to drink it within the first two hours of waking up, as this is when your body’s natural adrenaline keeps you awake and coffee can interrupt this cycle. Also avoid drinking it before any big meetings or on an empty stomach – you don’t want to be running to the bathroom all meeting, or coming across as a jittery or anxious. Never drink coffee after 1pm, it can keep you from falling asleep at night and cause a vicious cycle of becoming exponentially more tired with every day that passes!

If you really are looking for some ways to stay productive, Hubspot Partner Big Sea put together the tips their team of designers, developers, and marketers uses to get stuff done.

Nov

18

2016

How to Run a Competitor Analysis [Free Guide]

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When was the last time you performed a competitor analysis for your brand?

Too often, a competitor analysis is reserved for the early days of a company or the launch of a new product. For others, analyzing the competition doesn’t go further than scrolling through their social media accounts every morning.

Whether it’s lack of time or understanding, many marketers are not taking full advantage of a proper competitor audit. Yet, knowing how your competitors are positioning their product and brand story is a key way to ensure your content remains compelling to your persona.

In our new ebook, How to Run a Competitor Analysis, we’ll show you how to compare your competitor’s weaknesses against your own strengths and vice versa. You’ll learn how to:

  • Identify your direct and indirect competitors
  • Analyze your competitor’s content strategy for quality and reach
  • Grade your competitor’s SEO strategy and increase your own authority
  • Equip your salespeople to compete during the decision stage of the buyer’s journey

Then, we’ll show you how to organize all of your research in a single document to align your entire team.

Fair warning, this is not the ultimate guide to replicating your competitor’s every move. But with our competitor analysis guide, you’ll discover how to run an efficient, on-going analysis that sets your brand apart.

download how to run a competitor analysis

Nov

18

2016

How to Run a Competitor Analysis [Free Guide]

Competitor Analysis.jpg

When was the last time you performed a competitor analysis for your brand?

Too often, a competitor analysis is reserved for the early days of a company or the launch of a new product. For others, analyzing the competition doesn’t go further than scrolling through their social media accounts every morning.

Whether it’s lack of time or understanding, many marketers are not taking full advantage of a proper competitor audit. Yet, knowing how your competitors are positioning their product and brand story is a key way to ensure your content remains compelling to your persona.

In our new ebook, How to Run a Competitor Analysis, we’ll show you how to compare your competitor’s weaknesses against your own strengths and vice versa. You’ll learn how to:

  • Identify your direct and indirect competitors
  • Analyze your competitor’s content strategy for quality and reach
  • Grade your competitor’s SEO strategy and increase your own authority
  • Equip your salespeople to compete during the decision stage of the buyer’s journey

Then, we’ll show you how to organize all of your research in a single document to align your entire team.

Fair warning, this is not the ultimate guide to replicating your competitor’s every move. But with our competitor analysis guide, you’ll discover how to run an efficient, on-going analysis that sets your brand apart.

download how to run a competitor analysis

Nov

10

2016

The Free Growth Tools I Recommend For Modern Businesses to Grow & Scale

growth-tools.jpg

If you’re growing a company, chances are you’re challenged with choosing the right tools to help you grow.

Both at HubSpot and at other businesses I’ve helped advise, I’ve seen marketing and sales teams experiment with all sorts of different tools they’ve hoped would drive growth. Some of these tools did help the team grow. Others slowed growth down or blocked it altogether. At HubSpot, we’ve seen opportunities to build new growth tools for marketing and sales teams and we’ve worked hard to fill those gaps.

One of the most important lessons I’ve taken away from growing businesses is that most growth problems come not from ideas, but from execution. You might have a growth-driven team, a great vision, and the dedication to achieve your lofty goals. But having those things isn’t enough to actually grow.

To execute on your strategy, you’re going to need a powerful set of tools that leverage every stage of the customer experience, from the first point of contact, through the sales and marketing process, and over the lifetime of the customer.

The foundation of a strong growth stack starts with the following:

  • A CRM system that serves as the foundation for all the other growth tools you’re using, which is where all of your customer data is stored.
  • A marketing platform to attract the right people, convert them as leads, and communicate with them through the purchase process and once they’re a customer.
  • A sales platform that helps your sales team identify the right people, connect with them, and close them as customers.

Some companies are in the position to implement a growth stack right off the bat and then enhance and customize it with the right collection of integrated tools. Others need to start with free tools and build to a full growth stack over time. (Note: There is a free version of the HubSpot Growth Stack.)

For those companies just getting started, here is my shortlist of the best free growth tools for modern businesses. The list comprises a blend of free HubSpot tools and those from other companies that we’ve used and recommend.

The 11 Free Growth Tools I Recommend

A Free CRM

1) HubSpot CRM

You can’t build a skyscraper without a solid foundation. A CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool) is just that — it acts as the base layer of growth where all your business functions’ information is organized and can be easily analyzed. In all honesty, it’s impossible to grow and scale your business without a CRM.

Your CRM is the software that sits at the core of your digital system. It tracks every interaction your sales team has, stores all your marketing leads and customer data, and improves communication across your organization. The more you grow, the more important this becomes.

The problem is, most traditional CRM systems are hard to implement and use — especially for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with limited time and resources. Sales teams have trouble adopting them internally, and you can bet that doesn’t help your business grow whatsoever. If you’re looking for a clean and intuitive CRM that’ll make your sales reps more efficient — regardless of their experience levels — I’m very proud of the free CRM our team at HubSpot has built.

hubspot-crm-screenshot.png

Free Growth Tools for Marketing

2) Trello

I’m a big fan of visualizing progress. Growth teams tend to have a lot of ideas, a lot of projects, and a lot of experiments going on at the same time. We’ve found Trello to be the best tool for tracking that progress. Each idea, project, and experiment can live on its own card, which teams can use to take notes, assign tasks, set due dates, and so on.

Here’s a real example: Our VP of Marketing Kieran Flanagan uses it to track, from start to finish, all the experiments his growth team runs. What’s especially remarkable is that his team members are located in various parts of the US and Europe, but with Trello they’re able to stay organized and effective, and make a big impact on business growth.

trello-sample-promo-board.png

The folks at Trello put together their own list of business growth apps, inspired by ours. Check it out here.

3) Hotjar Heat Maps & Visitor Recordings

Data beats intuition. You can’t really know what your audience wants without getting inside the heads of the people who already regularly visit your site to find out why they visit your site, and Hotjar’s tools are perfect for just that.

These guys are on the cutting edge of helping people figure out what drives people to different parts of their website. They’re making it possible for people to build and grow their website in a way that actually resonates with people. We actually just launched an integration with Hotjar that shows Hotjar poll responses in HubSpot users’ contact timelines.

The Heat Maps and Visitor Recordings are my favorite parts of the tool, though, and here’s why: They visualize what people are doing when they get to your site by showing clicks, taps, and scrolling behavior. This is so important for a business because each of these actions shows what people do and care about on your site. It’ll also help you find the biggest opportunities for improvement and testing. (And you should always be testing.)

hotjar-heatmaps.jpg

Image Credit: Hotjar

4) Google Keyword Planner

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key to growing traffic, which is a big driver of business growth in the online age. Simply put, you need to do it, and you need to do it well. If you want more people to find you on Google, you’ll need a keyword tool to help you prioritize which keywords to focus on.

There are a few good keyword tools out there, but Google Keyword Planner is a great starting point for narrowing down the right keywords, gauging competition around each one, and learning how many people are searching for them.

google-keywords-planner-1.png

5) GrowthBot

Bots are pretty freaking cool, and there’s business value to them too — they can make simple processes more efficient, giving your team time back in your day and helping you intelligently answer questions around your business. I could not be more excited about bots. That’s why I spent a lot of time this year building a chatbot for growth professionals called GrowthBot. I originally started building it because I wanted it myself, but others have told me they find it helpful, too.

So how does it work? By connecting to a variety of marketing systems (like HubSpot, Google Analytics, and more), GrowthBot is able to give you more convenient access to information you already otherwise have, and give you access to information you didn’t know you had. In the first case, you could ask it the question, “How was organic traffic last month?” and it’ll tell you. In the second case, you might ask it, “Which public SaaS companies are using HubSpot?” or “Which PPC keywords is uber.com buying?” and it’ll spit back the answer in just a few seconds.

growthbot-examples.png

6) HubSpot Marketing Free’s Lead Flows

A big mistake I see growing marketing teams making is spending all their time driving traffic to their website, but not turning that traffic into leads. Problem is, if you’re not learning about the people who are showing interest in your business, you’re leaving critical lead and sales numbers on the table.

To help you take a page that gets a good amount of traffic and turn that traffic into leads, some really smart folks created a feature within HubSpot’s new free marketing tool called Lead Flows. Lead Flows are unobtrusive widgets — pop-ups, dropdown banners, slide-ins — that you can add to any of your website pages. Best part is that they involve no technical setup or coding whatsoever, so you can set them up in minutes (seriously, minutes) without having to make changes to your existing site. Let us know what you think of Lead Flows on Product Hunt.

hubspot-marketing-free.gif

7) Buffer

There’s a lot you can do with social without spending any money. Social media is an amplifier. It takes time, but if you build a following, it is a great way to take that awesome content you’re producing and spreading it further and wider.

For social media marketing on all the major networks, Buffer is a great place to start. It connects your business’ Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+ accounts in a single platform and lets you share text, links, photos, and videos, either immediately or to schedule for later.

buffer-schedule-posts.png

Image Credit: Buffer

8) Canva

Tools that make creating visual content easier are important for growth, especially for a business with limited design resources. Being able to create great images in a short amount of time will help make your website, your emails, your social media posts, and every other marketing asset more engaging and attractive to your audience. Simply put, better visuals = more engagement = more traffic = business growth.

Canva makes it easy and fast for people who aren’t designers by trade (like me, as my team knows well) to create visual content quickly.

canva-example-1.png

Image Credit: Entrepreneur’s Organization

Free Growth Tools for Sales

9) join.me Free Conference Calls & Screen Sharing

The easier you make it for your sales team to interact with leads and prospects, the better they’ll be at closing customers, which you most definitely need if you want to grow your business. join.me isn’t software — all your reps have to do to start a call is open up the desktop or mobile app or log in online.

There are a lot of meetings tools out there, but this one is one of the fastest, most reliable, most intuitive, and easiest to use. And if you use HubSpot’s free CRM, you can start a join.me meeting directly from your contact timeline.

hubspot-join-me-integration.png

Image Credit: join.me

10) HubSpot Sales Templates

Your sales reps are probably wasting a lot of time writing the same emails over, and over, and over again. There’s a lot of value in streamlining the emailing process while still making sure sales reps are sending high-quality emails. If your sales reps can get their hands on personalized email templates, that’ll save hundreds of hours over the long term. Templates, a feature of HubSpot Sales, lets you access personalized email templates for free from within your inbox.

What makes this tool particularly powerful for sales teams is that you can build a shared library of templates everyone can use. You can also aggregate data on how often emails with certain templates get opened or clicked, which helps you hone in on the approaches worth sharing.

HubSpot-Sales-Email-Templates.png

11) HubSpot Sales Email Open Tracking & Notifications

This is one of my favorite email tools, not just for sales teams, but for personal use. It sends instant desktop notifications when the emails you send get opened. You’ll see who opened the email, at what time, on which device, and where they were located when they opened it. If you want to look at all your notifications, or all your notifications on a specific email, then you can view the full history in a stream.

hubspot-email-activity-stream.jpg

This list of free tools is a starting point for those looking to grow from startup into sustainable. Down the road, you’ll want to integrate your growth tools together into a true growth stack. For those looking to take the next step, we’ve mapped out our version of a complete growth stack over on Product Hunt. Take a look and let our engineers know what you think.

hubspot-growth-stack

Nov

10

2016

The Free Growth Tools I Recommend For Modern Businesses to Grow & Scale

growth-tools.jpg

If you’re growing a company, chances are you’re challenged with choosing the right tools to help you grow.

Both at HubSpot and at other businesses I’ve helped advise, I’ve seen marketing and sales teams experiment with all sorts of different tools they’ve hoped would drive growth. Some of these tools did help the team grow. Others slowed growth down or blocked it altogether. At HubSpot, we’ve seen opportunities to build new growth tools for marketing and sales teams and we’ve worked hard to fill those gaps.

One of the most important lessons I’ve taken away from growing businesses is that most growth problems come not from ideas, but from execution. You might have a growth-driven team, a great vision, and the dedication to achieve your lofty goals. But having those things isn’t enough to actually grow.

To execute on your strategy, you’re going to need a powerful set of tools that leverage every stage of the customer experience, from the first point of contact, through the sales and marketing process, and over the lifetime of the customer.

The foundation of a strong growth stack starts with the following:

  • A CRM system that serves as the foundation for all the other growth tools you’re using, which is where all of your customer data is stored.
  • A marketing platform to attract the right people, convert them as leads, and communicate with them through the purchase process and once they’re a customer.
  • A sales platform that helps your sales team identify the right people, connect with them, and close them as customers.

Some companies are in the position to implement a growth stack right off the bat and then enhance and customize it with the right collection of integrated tools. Others need to start with free tools and build to a full growth stack over time. (Note: There is a free version of the HubSpot Growth Stack.)

For those companies just getting started, here is my shortlist of the best free growth tools for modern businesses. The list comprises a blend of free HubSpot tools and those from other companies that we’ve used and recommend.

The 11 Free Growth Tools I Recommend

A Free CRM

1) HubSpot CRM

You can’t build a skyscraper without a solid foundation. A CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool) is just that — it acts as the base layer of growth where all your business functions’ information is organized and can be easily analyzed. In all honesty, it’s impossible to grow and scale your business without a CRM.

Your CRM is the software that sits at the core of your digital system. It tracks every interaction your sales team has, stores all your marketing leads and customer data, and improves communication across your organization. The more you grow, the more important this becomes.

The problem is, most traditional CRM systems are hard to implement and use — especially for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with limited time and resources. Sales teams have trouble adopting them internally, and you can bet that doesn’t help your business grow whatsoever. If you’re looking for a clean and intuitive CRM that’ll make your sales reps more efficient — regardless of their experience levels — I’m very proud of the free CRM our team at HubSpot has built.

hubspot-crm-screenshot.png

Free Growth Tools for Marketing

2) Trello

I’m a big fan of visualizing progress. Growth teams tend to have a lot of ideas, a lot of projects, and a lot of experiments going on at the same time. We’ve found Trello to be the best tool for tracking that progress. Each idea, project, and experiment can live on its own card, which teams can use to take notes, assign tasks, set due dates, and so on.

Here’s a real example: Our VP of Marketing Kieran Flanagan uses it to track, from start to finish, all the experiments his growth team runs. What’s especially remarkable is that his team members are located in various parts of the US and Europe, but with Trello they’re able to stay organized and effective, and make a big impact on business growth.

trello-sample-promo-board.png

3) Hotjar Heat Maps & Visitor Recordings

Data beats intuition. You can’t really know what your audience wants without getting inside the heads of the people who already regularly visit your site to find out why they visit your site, and Hotjar’s tools are perfect for just that.

These guys are on the cutting edge of helping people figure out what drives people to different parts of their website. They’re making it possible for people to build and grow their website in a way that actually resonates with people. We actually just launched an integration with Hotjar that shows Hotjar poll responses in HubSpot users’ contact timelines.

The Heat Maps and Visitor Recordings are my favorite parts of the tool, though, and here’s why: They visualize what people are doing when they get to your site by showing clicks, taps, and scrolling behavior. This is so important for a business because each of these actions shows what people do and care about on your site. It’ll also help you find the biggest opportunities for improvement and testing. (And you should always be testing.)

hotjar-heatmaps.jpg

Image Credit: Hotjar

4) Google Keyword Planner

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key to growing traffic, which is a big driver of business growth in the online age. Simply put, you need to do it, and you need to do it well. If you want more people to find you on Google, you’ll need a keyword tool to help you prioritize which keywords to focus on.

There are a few good keyword tools out there, but Google Keyword Planner is a great starting point for narrowing down the right keywords, gauging competition around each one, and learning how many people are searching for them.

google-keywords-planner-1.png

5) GrowthBot

Bots are pretty freaking cool, and there’s business value to them too — they can make simple processes more efficient, giving your team time back in your day and helping you intelligently answer questions around your business. I could not be more excited about bots. That’s why I spent a lot of time this year building a chatbot for growth professionals called GrowthBot. I originally started building it because I wanted it myself, but others have told me they find it helpful, too.

So how does it work? By connecting to a variety of marketing systems (like HubSpot, Google Analytics, and more), GrowthBot is able to give you more convenient access to information you already otherwise have, and give you access to information you didn’t know you had. In the first case, you could ask it the question, “How was organic traffic last month?” and it’ll tell you. In the second case, you might ask it, “Which public SaaS companies are using HubSpot?” or “Which PPC keywords is uber.com buying?” and it’ll spit back the answer in just a few seconds.

growthbot-examples.png

6) HubSpot Marketing Free’s Lead Flows

A big mistake I see growing marketing teams making is spending all their time driving traffic to their website, but not turning that traffic into leads. Problem is, if you’re not learning about the people who are showing interest in your business, you’re leaving critical lead and sales numbers on the table.

To help you take a page that gets a good amount of traffic and turn that traffic into leads, some really smart folks created a feature within HubSpot’s new free marketing tool called Lead Flows. Lead Flows are unobtrusive widgets — pop-ups, dropdown banners, slide-ins — that you can add to any of your website pages. Best part is that they involve no technical setup or coding whatsoever, so you can set them up in minutes (seriously, minutes) without having to make changes to your existing site. Let us know what you think of Lead Flows on Product Hunt.

hubspot-marketing-free.gif

7) Buffer

There’s a lot you can do with social without spending any money. Social media is an amplifier. It takes time, but if you build a following, it is a great way to take that awesome content you’re producing and spreading it further and wider.

For social media marketing on all the major networks, Buffer is a great place to start. It connects your business’ Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+ accounts in a single platform and lets you share text, links, photos, and videos, either immediately or to schedule for later.

buffer-schedule-posts.png

Image Credit: Buffer

8) Canva

Tools that make creating visual content easier are important for growth, especially for a business with limited design resources. Being able to create great images in a short amount of time will help make your website, your emails, your social media posts, and every other marketing asset more engaging and attractive to your audience. Simply put, better visuals = more engagement = more traffic = business growth.

Canva makes it easy and fast for people who aren’t designers by trade (like me, as my team knows well) to create visual content quickly.

canva-example-1.png

Image Credit: Entrepreneur’s Organization

Free Growth Tools for Sales

9) join.me Free Conference Calls & Screen Sharing

The easier you make it for your sales team to interact with leads and prospects, the better they’ll be at closing customers, which you most definitely need if you want to grow your business. join.me isn’t software — all your reps have to do to start a call is open up the desktop or mobile app or log in online.

There are a lot of meetings tools out there, but this one is one of the fastest, most reliable, most intuitive, and easiest to use. And if you use HubSpot’s free CRM, you can start a join.me meeting directly from your contact timeline.

hubspot-join-me-integration.png

Image Credit: join.me

10) HubSpot Sales Templates

Your sales reps are probably wasting a lot of time writing the same emails over, and over, and over again. There’s a lot of value in streamlining the emailing process while still making sure sales reps are sending high-quality emails. If your sales reps can get their hands on personalized email templates, that’ll save hundreds of hours over the long term. Templates, a feature of HubSpot Sales, lets you access personalized email templates for free from within your inbox.

What makes this tool particularly powerful for sales teams is that you can build a shared library of templates everyone can use. You can also aggregate data on how often emails with certain templates get opened or clicked, which helps you hone in on the approaches worth sharing.

HubSpot-Sales-Email-Templates.png

11) HubSpot Sales Email Open Tracking & Notifications

This is one of my favorite email tools, not just for sales teams, but for personal use. It sends instant desktop notifications when the emails you send get opened. You’ll see who opened the email, at what time, on which device, and where they were located when they opened it. If you want to look at all your notifications, or all your notifications on a specific email, then you can view the full history in a stream.

hubspot-email-activity-stream.jpg

This list of free tools is a starting point for those looking to grow from startup into sustainable. Down the road, you’ll want to integrate your growth tools together into a true growth stack. For those looking to take the next step, we’ve mapped out our version of a complete growth stack over on Product Hunt. Take a look and let our engineers know what you think.

hubspot-growth-stack

Nov

3

2016

10 of the Best Podcasts About Business and Management

management podcasts.png

Today’s workforce is always on the go and multitasking. We’re busy, we’re distracted, we’re ambitious, and we’re always on the hunt for new sources of inspiration. That’s why business management-oriented podcasts are so perfect for today’s professionals.

A recent comScore survey found that 22% of U.S. internet users listen to podcasts at least once a week. It makes sense. Whether commuting to our offices, schvitzing at the gym, or sitting at our desks, podcasts provide hands-free enrichment. Enthusiasts listen in order to strengthen and freshen skills, to learn about new business success models, and to explore new perspectives on leadership and management – all while going about our regular routines.

Let’s be frank. Who has the time to keep up with all our favorite blogs and social feeds nowadays? Since the majority of podcasts are light in tone and conversational in structure, they make it easy to explore business challenges and trends from multiple perspectives. Listening in on these discussions can feel like having coffee with a group of expert colleagues, deliberating the latest trends in a freeform conversation.

Here are some highly recommended management and leadership podcasts.

10 of the Best Podcasts About Business and Management

1) For social media and the entrepreneurial grind: Gary Vaynerchuk

AskGaryVee Podcast

Source: her heartland soul

Outspoken thought leader Gary Vaynerchuk has taken his colorful personal brand to new heights with his hit podcast, The #AskGaryVee Show. Vaynerchuk delves into a variety of topics such as business management, entrepreneurship, millennialism, social media, ethics, leadership, and self-starting.

In episode 192, Vaynerchuk reveals that he’s finally starting to think about having a different perspective on work, perhaps recognizing that there are important things in life beyond the non-stop hustle that makes him famous. On the other hand, this man has taken just three vacations over the course of his life. (And he’s not alone — 53% of Americans haven’t taken a vacation in the past year.) So, if you have thick skin and you’re looking to get both practical and inspirational information on how to create the career you were meant to have, Vaynerchuk is your man.

Wildly entertaining, crass and impassioned, Vaynerchuk’s podcast will have you hooked. New episodes go up sporadically, but there are typically several uploaded each week.

2) For perspectives from the top: Jill Geisler

What great bosses know Podcast

Source: Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know

What Great Bosses Know is hosted by Jill Geisler — a leadership, management, and news media expert who teaches at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication. In this podcast, Geisler shares practical lessons for managers who want to be great bosses.

In “How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge,” for example, Geisler gives an overview of her tips for getting recognized as management material, even when serving in a junior role. People who emerge as rising stars in organizations, Geisler says, consistently offer constructive solutions to problems – and take the lead on implementing them. They constantly learn, grow and connect what they’re doing to overall organizational strategies. They stay calm under pressure, and they’re generous with resources and information, but always in a way that doesn’t detract from their own productivity. And there are fewer of them out there than you might think — 51% of managers say they’re not even engaged at work.

If you’re looking to build the essential skills that inspire others to perform at their best, this engaging and practical podcast is likely to give you plenty to chew on. Geisler posts two episodes each month.

3) For getting your leadership development fix: Richard Rierson

Dose of Leadership Podcast

Source: Dose of Leadership

Former U.S. Marine Richard Rierson’s Dose of Leadership Podcast is a fantastic place to find educational and inspiring interviews with dozens leaders from a wide swath of industries. The podcast focuses on leadership development and ethics, featuring influencers of all types, from entrepreneurs, to authors, to military heroes, to faith-based leaders.

“Fear and uncertainty are never going to go away,” said Rierson in a rare solo episode in which he explored the importance of confidence. Along with being calm, consistent, and courageous, Rierson explained that being confident is one of the “Four Cs” that form the core of a leader’s personal charisma.

Interviewing some of the bigger names in business — such as Barbara Corcoran, Steve Forbes, Fred Smith, and Bob Burg — Rierson’s podcast is a must if you’re working on leadership development. His episodes don’t air on a regular schedule, but two to six episodes come out over the course of most months.

4) For exploring the success mindset: Nathalie Lussier

off the charts business podcast

Source: Nathalie Lussier Media

Digital strategist and entrepreneur Nathalie Lussier’s podcast, Off the Charts Business, is packed with short, actionable advice to move your business forward. In iTunes, it’s listed under a section for “Inspiring Women’s Voices”, thanks in part to Lussier’s interviews with women entrepreneurs and business experts across the globe. The guests provide a diverse range of perspectives on professional success, management, and work-life balance.

In one episode, Australian coach Leonie Dawson — who runs the Shining Biz + Life Academy — discussed the importance of documenting goals for the purpose of business planning. That’s huge — 82% small business owners say that envisioning their goals have helped to actually accomplish them.

“The more that you’re in tune with where you’re going,” she said, “you will very, very naturally see what it is that you need to start doing and what you need to stop doing, in order to make sure that your business and life goals come true.”

Airing bi-weekly, Lussier’s episodes discuss what it takes to run a growing business — like productivity skills and the right mindset. This thought leader provides loads of inspirational and actionable advice on email marketing, digital product development, website creation, business management, and more of the best business resources.

5) For freelance development: Daniel DiPiazza

Rich20Something podcast

Source: Daniel DiPiazza

Rich20Something host Daniel DiPiazza is a self-taught millennial entrepreneur. DiPiazza is an advocate for being your own boss, and takes a friendly approach to professional self-discovery, freelancing, leadership, and business organization. Freelance advice is a hot space to be in, too — the rise of the gig economy seems to have inspired a new generation of side-hustlers and aspiring “solopreneurs.” But it can be scary to get started, which might be why DiPiazza welcomed guest Mark Dhamma, a performance coach for entrepreneurs, to talk about facing one’s fears.

DiPiazza’s podcast has yet to settle into a set schedule, but there are typically four to five episodes each month. You can access them via YouTube or iTunes.

6) For faith and communication: Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley Leadership podcast

Source: Stitcher

The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast takes a faith-infused approach to leadership, efficiency, communication, and lifestyle. An author of dozens of books, Stanley is a big believer in character, clarity, courage, and competency as the pillars of leadership.

In one episode, guest Glen Jackson — co-founder of brand communications agency Jackson Spalding — explains the first three of his “seven pillars of preeminence.” To build a truly exceptional organization, Jackson believes, leaders must build trust, strong relationships, and a focused marketing communications program. And, he discusses how you know when you’ve achieved preeminence.

Stanley is a pastor, communicator, author, and founder of the North Point Ministries in Alpharetta, Georgia. His podcast has a lot to offer business professionals of all backgrounds — episodes are posted on a monthly basis.

7) For team building and success stories: Jesse Lahey

Engaging Leader podcast

Source: Engaging Leader

The Engaging Leader podcast, hosted by author and HR consultant Jesse Lahey, is dedicated to discourse about leadership and communication principles. Knowing that meetings are a point of contention — 33.4% of their participants say it’s not a productive use of time — consultant Karin Hurt came on the show to talk about “How to Lead Meetings That Get Results (and That People Want to Attend).” Her advice was to overtly state the objective of every meeting, and to invite only the people who truly must attend if those objectives are to be met.   

Lahey conveys key business lessons through storytelling and humor, often sharing engaging stories as springboards for giving over valuable advice about work-life balance, teamwork, and leadership development. Episodes are published on the 1st and 15th of each month and last 30 minutes.

8) For book-driven business insights: Jeff Brown

Read to Lead Podcast

Source: Read to Lead Podcast

Hosted by seasoned broadcaster Jeff Brown, each Read to Lead episode examines a different business book. Brown drills down to talk about each book’s take on personal development, leadership, business, productivity, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

At one point, Brown was joined by management coach and author Michael Bungay Stanier to discuss his latest book, The Coaching Habit. Among other topics, Stanier explained what he sees as the three most common and potent self-perpetuating obstacles to professional achievement: overdependence, overwhelm, and disconnect.

This podcast could be especially valuable If you love reading, but don’t have the time to pick up every business book you’re interested in. It’s a great opportunity to get an inside look. Although Brown doesn’t air on a set schedule, you can access all of his episodes on iTunes and his website.

9) For learning to lead and live intentionally: Michael Hyatt

This is your life Podcast

Source: Michael Hyatt

Publishing executive Michael Hyatt co-hosts his weekly This Is Your Life podcast with emcee-for-hire Michele Cushatt. Some recent episodes have covered things like charisma, handling critics, software recommendations, and getting the most out of vacations.

Hyatt and Cushatt once took on topic of “the cult of busy” in the “6 Ways to Reclaim Your Free Time” episode. With some sobering tough love, they made a compelling argument for individuals to take responsibility for their own busyness levels. After all, 61% of U.S. professionals say they’re too busy to do the things they want, and that’s a problem. That means smart time management requires sometimes saying no.

“It may be that you have a fear of missing an important opportunity. It may be that you have a fear of disappointing other people. It may be that you have some other kind of fear

that keeps you stuck in this area,” said Hyatt, “but the real problem is us.”

Hyatt strives to help each of his listeners “live with more passion, work with greater focus, and lead with extraordinary influence.” With recurring themes including the importance of life planning, writing, healthy lifestyle, and influence, Hyatt’s podcast delivers well-rounded inspiration. New episodes go up every Monday morning on his website.

10) For growing and marketing brass: HubSpot

The Growth Show Podcast

Source: Stitcher

Hosted by HubSpot’s VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson and CMO Kipp Bodnar, The Growth Show is an exploration of all things relating to business growth. Anderson and Bodnar take turns at the helm, welcoming expert guests to talk about growth: organizational, cultural, conceptual, and team.

In one episode, Bodnar welcomed Candor, Inc.’s Kim Scott, whose “radical candor” framework has transformed the way companies like Apple, Google, Twitter, and Dropbox handle team management. Encouraging us all to unlearn the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” Scott championed an approach to feedback whereby managers maximize their abilities to “challenge directly” and “care personally.” The most effective and revered managers, Scott said, are invested in their team relationships enough to give honest feedback, even when it’s negative.

Can’t Hurt to Download

If you’re looking for an easy way to learn about taking your career to new heights, management podcasts are a great solution. Always available with new and engaging insights, this could be the connection between you, greater skills, and stronger leadership. Plus, they’re a great way to add a productive edge to what might otherwise be “time-sucks,” like your commute, cleaning, or getting from point A to B.

What are your favorite management podcasts? Let us know in the comments.

free guide to podcasting

Nov

2

2016

7 Tried-and-True Strategies SaaS Businesses Are Using to Grow

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Back in 2011, Marc Andreessen announced in a seminal WSJ essay that “software is eating the world.” Five years later, his thesis was right — software as a service (SaaS) companies have and will continue to takeover or disrupt large parts of the economy.

This change has been fueled by technology: It’s now easier and cheaper than ever before to develop software, and with 3.5 billion people having access to the internet, the potential customer base for SaaS companies is vast. This perfect storm of rapidly lowering barriers to entry, plus access to more customers, has seen software take precedence over hardware.

While technological advances have spurred software development, it’s the subscription model favoured by many SaaS businesses, which has transformed it into a thriving industry. SaaS companies typically charge a subscription for their product, which is delivered and stored within the cloud. The subscription business model means companies reach profitability over time and must continually provide value, otherwise their clients will become at risk of churning.

View our free guide to growing your SaaS company.

Clients often prefer being able to make smaller, monthly payments, while investors like businesses that generate predictable recurring revenue, which makes it easier to forecast and understand the business’ health.

And when it comes to business health, growth is critical to success. That’s why we’ve put together a roundup of strategies SaaS businesses can use to ramp up their lead generation efforts. Need inspiration for your own strategy? Check out the ideas below.  

7 Strategies SaaS Businesses Are Using to Grow

1) Content Marketing

Businesses around the globe are leveraging content marketing to build their brand, attract visitors to their website and generate leads. A key advantage of content marketing is that it has a compounding return, meaning that just like a smart investment, it increases in value over time.

Importantly, content continues to drive leads, whereas other forms of marketing, like pay-per-click (PPC) advertising will only do so for as long as you continue spending. It’s for this reason we think of content as an asset that businesses own, whereas online advertising is rented. This distinction is important for SaaS marketers to consider.

Looking for content marketing inspiration? Here are three SaaS businesses that use content to generate leads:

Dropbox

The file sharing and storage service has many types of potential customers and attracts them with targeted content at the Dropbox, Dropbox Business, Dropbox Tech, and Dropbox Developer blogs. They also host a number of webinars to communicate their credentials to prospective clients

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Intercom

Intercom’s content marketing strategy focuses on product management, design, startups, and marketing. The customer communication platform is fast becoming known for the quality of the Inside Intercom blog, podcast, and books, all of which help build their brand and drive qualified leads.

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Moz

Moz has developed a reputation for its thought leadership content. They publish a blog post each day, as well as create authoritative guides, and of course, release their Whiteboard Friday videos, all of which generate leads.

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While content should be a key part of your strategy it’s important not to overlook content distribution. In short, it’s no use investing in content creation if you neglect distribution. Want to learn more? Check out this post by HubSpot’s VP of Marketing, Kieran Flanagan, on why you should spend 50% of your time on distribution.

2) Product Trials

The product trial is fast becoming an important source of lead generation for the SaaS industry. Nothing beats “test driving” a product and your business should consider making a trial available via your website if you don’t already.

Trials are a particularly effective lead generation tool if you’re selling to a tech-savvy audience that want to experience the product, rather than speak with a sales rep. Product trials are typically self-serve, so you can continue to generate leads with little ongoing marketing investment.

However, it’s important to mention a few guardrails. You need to ensure people have a positive experience when trialing your product, so you should consider providing some onboarding or support, depending on the complexity of your product and your unit economics. This could be either through one-to-one calls, group webinars, automated emails, or a combination of all three.

The value of product trials is that they are a strong indicator of buyer intent. A prospect is investing their time getting to get to know your product. At HubSpot, we know that people running a trial have a higher propensity to buy — we call these folks product qualified leads (PQLs) and we track them very carefully.

The key is to strike a balance between demonstrating value without overwhelming the prospect and doing it in a light-touch and cost effective way. This requires some trial (pun intended) and error, but with ongoing optimisation, product trials can become a stream of highly qualified leads.

3) Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO works hand in glove with content marketing by making your content discoverable on search engines like Google, Bing, Yandex, and Baidu. You should think of SEO in two separate, yet complementary categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. 

On-Page SEO

The good news about on-page SEO is that it’s entirely within your control. You need to create content that people want to read, link to, and share, but there’s also other factors to consider. These include keyword strategy, internal linking, use of titles and descriptions, as well as page load time and UI. For a detailed look at what makes a well optimised website, check out this on-page SEO guide.

Off-Page SEO

People frequently think off-page SEO refers solely to link building, but there’s more to it than that. While links are important, it’s the quality of those links that matters. High quality links from trusted and authoritative sites trumps quantity every time. Social media is also important, as shares and links from influential social accounts are another quality indicator.

The best way to gain links and shares is by creating a distribution strategy. HubSpot’s Global Head of SEO & Growth, Matthew Barby, recently gave a talk at SearchLeeds called ‘There’s more to life than “great content” which explores this in more detail.

4) Referral Marketing

There’s a growing body of research that shows referrals are one of the most effective types of leads. Although referrals are typically low cost and close relatively quickly, there’s a referrals mismatch among sales and marketing, with 56% of sales reps calling referrals “very important’, yet only one-third of businesses having a program in place.

There’s a lot of debate on whether or not companies should incentivise referrals. One school of thought is that you won’t generate many referrals without an incentive, while the opposing view is that if you incent too heavily, you may get low value quality referrals. The best advice is to test which works for your SaaS business and then optimise for that.

Before focusing on optimisation, the most important part is launching your referral program. There’s software available which can power your referral program from start to finish, but at minimum we suggest you create a landing page on your website where people can make referrals. To ensure you get quality referrals explain what makes a good referral. This could the person’s job title, industry, or size of the company they would for. You should also clearly say if, how, and when people will get incentivised.

Marketing teams can make it easy for sales, customer success, and support teams to ask for referrals by drafting templates they can use. The most important part here is making it easy for sales reps to make the ask, and empowering them to do so.

5) Google AdWords

While inbound marketing can greatly reduce your AdWords spend, millions of people still click on search engine ads each day. If you don’t want to miss out on a portion of potential leads you should still continue to invest in PPC, especially with ads becoming more prominent in Google search results.

PPC remains popular for several reasons. It delivers targeted traffic to your website and is highly scalable, meaning you can increase or reduce spend based on the needs of the business on any given day. It also has a lot of inherent predictability — both in terms of cost and results — which appeals to CFOs or those that have traditionally controlled marketing budget. 

The best advice is to run a series of tests and see what activity generates the best ROI for your business. There’s a great variation in competition between industries, but the fact remains you can generate significant levels of traffic and leads from PPC if you’re willing to pay for it. HubSpot has launched the Ads Add-On so our customers can run inbound and paid campaigns from within the software.

6) Co-marketing

Many SaaS businesses decide to collaborate by running a co-marketing campaign with other companies that either complement their product offering, or share a similar point of view or approach to business.

There’s no hard and fast rules about co-marketing, but typically the companies involved create a piece of content, such as an ebook, host a webinar, or publish some research. The leads generated and the costs incurred are also shared by the companies participating.

Both companies have the opportunity to leverage each other’s following, and potentially reach a different audience. If both teams are aligned, co-marketing can be very effective. However, it’s important to ensure both teams are in agreement and understand expectations from the start.

By joining forces with other prominent companies you can create a highly desirable piece of content and generate leads. Co-marketing, when executed effectively is a cost effective approach to generate leads, increase the reach of your brand, and demonstrate thought leadership. HubSpot frequently partners with other companies in co-marketing campaigns, such as this example of HubSpot and LinkedIn:

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7) Retargeting

Regardless of whether your key conversion metric is an ebook download, online purchase, or free trial, the fact remains that most website visitors never take the action you want them to. Using retargeting (also known as remarketing) you can dramatically increase conversions by re-engaging people that left your website.

Retargeting tracks your website visitors and then displays online adverts as they visit other sites around the web. Many ecommerce sites lead the way with retargeting by offering contextual offers to lure back website visitors. Just think of the time you were looking at an item of clothing online, left the website, and then saw adverts (often with a discount) promoting that pair of jeans on your favourite websites or social media. That’s retargeting in action.

Regardless of industry you can (and should) utilise retargeting to turn hard earned website visitors into customers. And most retargeting software now enables marketers to target people beyond website visits. For example, you can launch a campaign based on events — such as opening an email or attending a webinar — while some tools let marketers target people with similar characteristics that haven’t visited your website yet.

Retargeting is a valuable tool for marketers as it gives your brand another chance to establish trust, credibility, and familiarity with website visitors. (HubSpot customers: You can leverage retargeting within the HubSpot Marketing Platform by using the AdRoll integration.)

These are tried and tested strategies to help SaaS businesses grow, but as always, we recommend you test, analyse, and optimise them to see what drives the best results for your business.

What lead generation strategies does your SaaS business use? Share your best strategies below.

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