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Jul

26

2017

AI and Big Data Are Changing Our Attention Spans

Published by in category Daily | Comments are closed

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What catches your attention?

The business of answering that question attracts hundreds of billions of dollars every year. As long as there have been things to buy, there’s been a market for human attention.

Long ago, capitalizing on human attention consisted of little more than the call of a street vendor over the din of a crowded village market.

Much later, the first one cent copies of The Sun hit the streets of New York, inspired by the realization of its editor that it was much more valuable to sell each reader’s attention to advertisers than to make money off newspaper sales directly.

Today, that concept has been taken to an extreme. Thousands of algorithms on millions of servers auction off your every click and tap, anticipating which emails you’ll open, which search results you’ll read, even how your eye might dart around the page.

Google and Facebook rely almost exclusively on directly reselling human attention. Machines are starting to help optimize email subject lines and article titles based on what might catch your eye. The playbook is simple: attract human attention with cheap or free stuff — cheap newspapers, Google search, interesting reading material — and optionally resell that attention to the highest bidder.

Where are we headed? In the face of this transformation, what can we expect? Answering these questions is hard. To go any further, it’s important to understand how attention works.

How Attention Works

Your attention is like a spotlight cast on a stage. You’re the spotlight operator. You can point the spotlight at specific things on stage, but you can’t control what actually appears on the stage.

The stage is your awareness, and it contains the sum total of information accessible to your mind at this moment. That includes the words on your screen, the sensation of pressure from your chair, and background noises in your environment, as well as the never-ending stream of random thoughts that pop up in your head.

As you read this, you are volitionally casting your spotlight on the words you’re reading. You’ll keep this up for a little while, but inevitably, the spotlight will move without your permission, attracted by an unexpected noise behind you, or someone walking into your field of view, or a stray thought about what you want for lunch.

This is the nature of attention. It darts around, scanning continuously for what’s interesting. This was an invaluable benefit in our ancestral environment. It was rare we might need to focus on one thing for more than a few moments at a time, but essential not to miss that snarling predator lurking in the bush.

As a result, if you try really hard to pay attention to only one thing, you’ll quickly find your attention elsewhere. In fact, usually, your brain decides to change the subject of your attention without your conscious input, much less your permission. You might have already drifted off into a different thought a few times as you read this. Your brain expects a little hit of feel-good neurotransmitter every time your attention jumps to something interesting. Novelty feels good.

This is precisely what makes it hard to reliably capture people’s attention. Generally, people themselves don’t understand what catches their attention or why. Most shifts in attention are unconscious, so it’s impossible for people to articulate why their attention does what it does. They only notice what it does after it has happened. Certain colors of call-to-action buttons work better on a landing page than others not due to any conscious decision by anyone, but due to the unconscious preferences of billions of brains.

Certainly, there are some things that work very well on all of us: bright colors, flashing objects, and attractive scantily clad people are all widely used to great effect. For a new parent, there’s nothing better than an iPad to quell a tantrum from a cranky toddler, and that’s because looking at colorful moving images feels good.

But beyond the obvious, the target of your attention is largely determined by neural mechanisms cultivated over decades of interacting with the world and anticipating the reward from different stimuli. Your brain is constantly moving about the spotlight of attention on the lookout for potential sources of pleasure and pain.

Attention in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

The best approach we’ve developed for understanding what captures people’s attention is empirical. We record as much as we can about what’s in their awareness — or what’s on stage. We then try to record where the spotlight is cast  — by recording a clicked link or opened email. Then, we look for patterns.

Each of those components is going to evolve dramatically over the next few years. The environments where we spend our time increasingly facilitate data collection. Algorithms for working with language, audio, and video are rapidly becoming more sophisticated. Hardware and cloud service improvements are accelerating research and discovery in artificial intelligence. There are several implications:

1) We’ll have more data on both attention and awareness.

Eye-tracking has long been used in psychology, marketing, and consumer research, in both academia and business. It works great for studying cognitive development in infants and can even be used to A/B test their preferences.

Shops already use realtime facial expression APIs to track ad viewers’ age, gender, mood, and interest level. Google’s Project Soli is a miniature solid state radar that can detect the movement of your hand and other objects near your phone. We appear comfortable with inviting Amazon Echo’s Orwellian always-on microphone into our homes.

How long before we see Amazon announce Prime Plus, requesting permission to occasionally activate your front-facing camera, Echo microphone, and motion tracker in exchange for free 30-minute drone delivery?

2) The arms race for attention will expand.

Attention is zero-sum, because every click your competitor gains, you lose. This accelerates competition. That’s why your email inbox is a battleground of people vying for your attention. So is the results page for every Google search. This will be increasingly true of everywhere you spend your attention.

3) Screens will remain the primary conduit of human attention.

Screens are everywhere. Not only did our glossy paranormal hand rectangles become globally ubiquitous in just 10 years, they’ve fundamentally transformed how humans interact with the world. While technology often advances unpredictably, screens are probably likely to persist for a while. That’s because out of the five senses you have — the five ways of putting information into awareness — vision has the highest throughput to the brain. We are multiple breakthroughs away from anything faster.

4) Humans will spend huge amounts of time in virtual worlds.

The $100 billion video game industry continues to boom. Games will become dramatically more immersive as virtual and augmented reality go mainstream. People will routinely spend time in deep and engaging virtual environments with limitless content to explore and hundreds of millions of other real and simulated people to interact with. That could transform how we spend our leisure time, how we learn, and how we meet other people.

Content in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Think of “content” as all things that attract human attention that can be represented as data. That includes almost anything online that humans make, from blog posts and dance music to short stories, video game livestreams, entertaining social media posts, and more. The more quality content you can produce, the more attention you can scoop up, continuing to sate our limitless thirst for customization and novelty.

1) Generative algorithms for text, images, sound, and video will improve dramatically.

Machine vision, automatic speech recognition, and natural language processing have made tremendous advancements in the past five years. Algorithms can already generate extremely convincing content from scratch.

The next generation of photo and video editing tools will make it trivial to rewrite any record of reality, replacing pixels using algorithms that are aware of what they’re looking at.

Adobe claims to be working on a Photoshop for audio, making it easy to generate an audio clip of anybody’s voice saying anything at all.

Today, you can ask a neural network to hallucinate arbitrarily many images of bedrooms or cats or sailboats, most of which look real enough to fool people. Or you could use a neural network to create a language snippet to insert into an email by reading a company’s website.

Eventually, you might ask a machine to produce a fantasy novel. Say you theme it similar to Harry Potter … but with a Game of Thrones flair. And let’s maybe have the bad guy win this time.

This is a very a long way off, past multiple breakthroughs in semantics and discourse, but current techniques can already generalize well enough to spit out a cohesive and useful paragraph of text.

2) Machines will help us produce content.

Machines will play a much bigger role in helping us produce the content that captures human attention. We’ll see a proliferation of collaborative agents in products that assist us in our workflows. Machines will suggest assets to include in the content you’re making, or subsets of content to include. Executive control will remain with creators, but the ideation and production process will become increasingly automated. Think Clippy the Microsoft Office Assistant, but with a much bigger brain. 

3) To cut through greater noise, humans will keep innovating.

Demonstrating that content was created by a human will become much harder. There’s no way you can imagine this article having been written by a machine, but one day, that won’t seem so ridiculous.

Machines are cheap, so as machines contribute more to creating content, the places where we consume content will be flooded. Early adopters of those techniques will benefits, but the late adopters will find that to stand out, they’ll have to produce content that is demonstrably beyond machines’ capabilities in an effort to keep attracting interest.

4) Machines will help us allocate our attention.

Work will become increasingly symbiotic. You’ll spend more of your time deciding among things and less collecting and preparing things. Machines will find relevant documents and emails, do Google searches in the background, and perform other functions that can be defined as a semi-structured set of tasks. As the deluge of content on our screens grows, tools will emerge to stem the flood. 

Broader Implications

Attention is an essential currency in the global transaction ecosystem. Understanding it is critical for anybody in sales and marketing. Despite the fact that attention is zero-sum in any given transaction, it’s important to remember that the pie is growing dramatically.

Leisure time has grown by seven hours per week since the 1960s, and we will unlock much more free time as we shift toward self-driving vehicles. Economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper suggesting that high-quality video games are contributing to an increase in unemployment among young men.

Uber, Upwork, and Crowdflower support the emergence of a global market for part-time, on-demand work at a variety of price points. Y Combinator and Elon Musk are calling for a universal basic income plan.

To connect these dots, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which wealthy corporations and governments support a basic minimum wage, and in return, people spend their time and attention generating training data and validating models. It would generally be simple tasks, easily performed on a phone, and would involve only skills or data that machines don’t have yet.

Data on human attention exposes the unconscious information locked away in our minds. That information is valuable and important, because in the aggregate, it is an encoding of everything humans want — not just of our buying preferences and creature comforts, but also of our ethics and values as a species. We want machines to understand us, and monitoring human attention may be a good way to collect the necessary data.

With the curtain pulled back on how powerless we are to control our attention and how valuable it is to everyone, perhaps we’ll all find ourselves being a bit more careful with how we spend our attention.

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Jul

26

2017

The Best Time to Post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ [Infographic]

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

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Social media is one of the best ways to amplify your brand and the great content you’re creating. But it isn’t enough to just post content to social whenever you feel like it. Some times are better than others.

So, which one is best?

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer. Different businesses may find different days and times work best for them. In fact, timing often depends on the platform you’re using, how your target audience interacts with that platform, the regions and corresponding time zones you’re targeting, and your goals (e.g., clicks versus shares).

Learn how to use social media to amplify your content marketing by taking  HubSpot's free Inbound Certification course here. 

That said, there is ample data out there on the best times to post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Earlier this year, the great folks at CoSchedule looked at a combination of its own original data and more than a dozen studies on this very topic — from the likes of Buffer and Quintly, just to name a couple — and compiled it into the infographic below.

Bookmark this post as a go-to set of guidelines, and refer to it next time you need to find the optimal posting times for your business.

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The Best Times to Post on Social Media

With many businesses facing a growing global audience, varying time zones have become a growing concern, especially when it comes to the best times to post.

To start, let’s take a look at the U.S. About half of the country’s population is in the Eastern Time Zone, and combined with the Central Time Zone, that accounts for over 75% of the total U.S population.

Given that sizable share, if you’re targeting a U.S. audience, try alternating posting times in Eastern and Central Time Zones — we’ll get into those specific times in a bit.

If you’re targeting users outside of the U.S., conduct some research to find out where they live and which social media channels they’re using. That kind of data is available through studies like Smart Insights’ Global Social Media Research Summary, or We Are Social’s annual Digital Global Overview.

1) Best Time to Post on Instagram

Instagram is meant for use on mobile devices. Half of its U.S. users use the app daily, though it would appear that many engage with content more during off-work hours than during the workday.

  • In general, the best times to post on Instagram are on Monday and Thursday, at any time other than 3-4 p.m.
  • The best time to post videos is 9 p.m.-8 a.m., on any day.
  • Some outlets have reported success on Mondays between 8-9 a.m., correlating with the first morning commute of the week for many.

2) Best Times to Post on Facebook

People log in to Facebook on both mobile devices and desktop computers, both at work and at home. How it’s used depends heavily on the audience.

  • On average, the best time to post is 1-4 p.m., when clickthrough rates have shown to be at their highest.
  • Specifically, 12-1 p.m. is prime time on Saturday and Sunday.
  • During the week, the same goes for Wednesday at 3 p.m., as well as Thursday and Friday between 1-4 p.m.
  • The worst times are weekends before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

3) Best Times to Post on Twitter

Like Facebook, people use Twitter on both mobile devices and desktop computers, both at work and at home. How it’s used also depends heavily on audience — but people often treat it like an RSS feed, and something to read during down times like commutes, breaks, and so on.

  • Good times to tweet average around 12–3 p.m., with an apex at 5 p.m. — which makes sense, given that it correlates with the evening commute.
  • Weekdays tend to show a stronger performance, though some niches might have more active audiences on the weekend.
  • If your goal is to maximize retweets and clickthroughs, aim for noon, 3 p.m., or 5–6 p.m.

4) Best Times to Post on LinkedIn

Roughly 25% of U.S. adults use LinkedIn, largely for professional purposes, during weekdays and the work hours. It’s used with slighly less frequency than some of the other channels on this list, with more than half of users visiting less than once a week

  • Aim to post toward the middle of the week, between Tuesday-Thursday.

  • When aiming for a high clickthrough rate, post on these days during times that correspond with the morning and evening commute — roughly 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. — as well as the lunch hour, around 12 p.m. 

  • Some have also seen a positive performance on Tuesdays, between 10–11 a.m.

5) Best Times to Post on Pinterest

Pinterest users skew heavily female, and 25% of users are active on this channel daily.

  • Interestingly enough, Saturday evenings are said to be the best time to reach users, especially between 8-11 p.m.
  • Some have also seen a strong performance on the later side of Friday afternoon, around 3 p.m. 
  • Contrasting many of the other channels we’ve listed here, evening commutes tend to be some of the worst times to post to Pinterest. That could be due to the fact that it’s not as “browseable,” with many pins requiring navigation away from the channel.

6) Best Time to Post on Google+

People love to debate whether or not Google+ is a social media channel worth investing in — though according to my colleague Chris Wilson, some marketers have experienced success with it.

But if you’re going to use it, you might as well do so effectively — which includes posting at the optimal times.

  • People seem to be most active on Google+ during the start of the workday, between 9-11 a.m.
  • That’s especially the case on Wednesdays, around 9 a.m.
  • Some marketers have also seen success during the lunch hour, posting between 12-1 p.m.

There you have it, folks. Happy posting, tweeting, and pinning.

What days and times have proven to be the most successful for your business? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Jul

26

2017

The New Type of Landing Page That Increased Our Contacts by 69%

Published by in category Content, Daily | Comments are closed

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Welcome back. If you’re just tuning in, allow me to catch you up: This post is the second in a two-part series on our experiment to move gated offer content onto a site page, and test different conversion methods. If you missed Part I, check it out here.

Back in Part I, we saw significant increases in organic search traffic only on offers that already were performing well for search. Also, our Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) test failed. So in Part II, we turned our focus to running more CRO tests.

In order to avoid putting many more conversions at risk, we decided to test the offers we’d already experimented with to find a conversion method that worked well. We tested two of the three offers we experimented with in Part I, but this time, our approach was a bit different. New Call-to-action

Let’s walk through what we did for Part II of our CRO Test, followed by the results of both tests.

Does Un-gating Offers Improve Conversion Rate?

The Hypothesis and Objective

In Part I, we hypothesized that by partially gating the content on our newly-created HTML offer pages, we could provide a better user experience and still generate leads from it.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 10.11.26 AM.pngStanding landing page/form
Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 2.32.27 PM-1.pngPartially un-gated offer/form

But in reality, page visitors:

  1. Decided the content was not valuable enough for them to exchange contact information to see the rest of it.
  2. Expected to be able to read the entire offer, and were put off by the experience of running into a form upon scrolling.

So, we took each of these findings and used them build two tests within Part II of the experiment, each with its own sub-hypothesis, but a shared objective: to increase net submission and contact numbers, so that they’ll surpass those of the original landing pages pointing to gated PDFs.

CRO Test #1

Hypothesis: By hiding all of the written content behind a partial gate template — with the blur effect pictured below — readers arriving at the site through search will be intrigued enough by the topic to convert on the page.

CRO Test #2

Hypothesis: By setting the expectation of a gated offer early on — by using a form that looks and reads just like our normal landing pages, but opens into an HTML page upon form submission instead of an offer download — more people will fill out the form.

The Experiment

With conversion rates way down on our previous CRO tests, we thought to ourselves, “If we want to get our conversion rates back to their original levels, let’s make the landing page look like it usually does, but with the organic gains of having the offer content on the page itself.”

So, we pitched the idea of a brand new, gated template that looks and reads just like our regular landing pages, with one key difference: When the user clicks the form submission button, the page opens into an HTML page, instead of leading to a thank-you page with a PDF download button.

My colleague, Patrick Wilver, built this template for us. Here’s a GIF of the template in action:

editorial calendar

You might be wondering, “But what about SEO? Can Google crawl and index that hidden content?”

The answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

While that HTML content exists behind a CSS layer initially blocked by the template, it turns out that Google is still able to successfully crawl and index it. Our theory was that, because Google has much more high-quality and optimized content to crawl on the landing page, organic traffic will still flow to the page. Plus, if you can increase organic traffic significantly to the landing page, while also retaining the high conversion rates of the original landing page design — jackpot.

The only other difference between this template and our normal landing pages is that this one uses a shorter version of our typical landing page lead generation form, requiring less information and investment from the user.

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The Results

CRO Test #1

While the submission rates for this variation were still much lower than those of the original landing page, they were slightly higher than those of our CRO tests from Part I. So when push comes to shove, it seems, the partially-gated template is simply not effective for lead generation.

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It was time to move onto Test #2.

CRO Test #2

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.

Using the new un-gated template, the two offers we tested both achieved significant increases in net organic submissions and contacts, compared with the original landing pages.

  • Organic submissions increased by 47.44% and 63.09%, respectively.
  • Organic contacts increased by 63.64% and 76.05%, respectively.

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In other words: The landing-page-style gated template is an effective one for lead generation.

By lifting conversions to their original rates — or better — while simultaneously getting that boost in organic traffic from the crawlable offer content, both offers achieved significant increases in net organic submissions and contacts.

What We Learned, and What’s Next

So … Is It Okay to Hide Content Like This?

We know that the offer content lives behind a layer of CSS, which blocks it from being shown to the user, but still makes it crawlable by search engines like Google. That’s clever and all, but as with every decision we make here at HubSpot, we had to ask: “Is this the right thing to do?”

We’ve mulled over this question, and we think the answer is, “Yes — it’s okay.” Here’s why.

1) We’re not tricking the search engine or the user.

There’s a black-hat SEO tactic that comes to mind here called “cloaking” — which refers to methods of manipulating SERP ranking, like hiding content written in white text with a white background, or serving different content to search engines than you do to your users.

But the key difference between cloaking and what we’re doing is that, once users actually open the gate, they seeing the exact same content the search engines see.

When you have a business need, we don’t discourage gating content — but we strongly advise against hiding in the ways we described above. However, content can still be gated in a way that provides a better user experience, which was part of the impetus behind this experiment.

2) Mobile favors hidden content, so Google has been relaxing its policies.

As web usage has shifted toward mobile, expandable and hidden content has become more acceptable. With more people searching on mobile devices than they do on desktops, Google has had to adjust its algorithm to accommodate the fact that mobile design actually favors hidden content. Better web designers hide content on mobile pages because it makes them look cleaner, and avoids bombarding visitors with masses of text, so that it’s easier for them to find what they’re looking for.

transition-2.pngSource: Google

For that reason, if Google were to penalize hidden content, they’d effectively be penalizing mobile. But if, somewhere down the line, Google decides to stop indexing the content on these pages, that would call for a modified template design.

Next Steps and Recommendations

In Part I, we learned — much to our chagrin — that we could increase organic traffic by putting offer content onto an HTML site page only for offers that were already receiving strong search traffic. That reinforces to the idea of historical optimization: If a page already performs well in organic traffic each month, and you increase the depth of that content and optimize it even further for search, then odds are, you’re going to see outside returns.

For that reason, we recommend focusing on transferring only the offers from PDF > HTML that are already generating high organic traffic, and have pre-existing search authority. To begin prioritizing, try pulling a list of your most popular offers, and rank them by organic traffic.

In the meantime, we’ll continue putting our findings into practice, and will keep you posted on anything valuable that we discover along the way.

Have you ever conducted similar tests? Comment below with your best experiment — and hey, we might even feature it on our blog.

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Jul

25

2017

How to Start Using Video in Your Marketing

Published by in category Daily, Video Marketing | Comments are closed

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Whenever a new app or technology is released, marketers are among the first to experiment with it — and to start creating new content with it.

That’s because marketers are constantly competing for their audience’s attention — and often by the most innovating and engaging means possible.

And right now, that means creating video content.

There’s no getting around it — marketers must create video content if they want to broaden their reach and connect with audiences across platforms — such as on blogs, YouTube, social media, and search engines. Download our free guide to learn how to create and utilize video in your  marketing to increase engagement and conversion rates. 

Video content isn’t up-and-coming anymore. Audiences want to see more video content, and other marketers and publishers are creating more videos in response. In our 2017 State of Inbound report, nearly half of marketers reported they’d be investing in creating YouTube and Facebook videos in the coming year. And according to Cisco, video content will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic by the end of this year.

Are you ready to start creating video content as part of your marketing strategy? We’ll give you some ideas for videos you can film and offer up some tips for integrating them into your marketing.

20 Video Marketing Ideas to Try

Many marketers know that they need to start using video, but when it comes time to sit down and create one, they’re lost for what to do. Here are a few ideas for both pre-recorded and live videos that your business could actually use.

Pre-Recorded Video Ideas

Beginner

  1. Create short “thank you” videos from your team to new customers or customers that you upsell.
  2. Film a screencast demo of your product.
  3. Create an animated GIF of how to perform a function of your tool.
  4. Film 15-second testimonials from real customers and evangelists.

Intermediate

  1. Film extended customer testimonials and user cases.
  2. Create longer product demonstrations and whiteboard-style instructional videos.
  3. Do a short introduction of the company, its mission, and vision.

Advanced

  1. Create a full product demo.
  2. Turn blog posts into short, how-to videos and summaries.
  3. Film longer interviews with key members of the company.
  4. Shoot live presentations performed by company members and add in their slides in post-production.
  5. Create videos for each of your calls-to-action (one for “call us,” one for “sign up for a free trial,” one for “tell your friends and get free credits,” etc.).

Live Video Ideas

Beginner

  1. Use Facebook Live or Twitter to broadcast from cool industry events you, your manager, or your CEO are attending.
  2. Use Google Hangouts or Skype as a way to thank customers on a special occasion (one year of working together, etc.).

Intermediate

  1. Hold a live Q&A / Ask Me Anything session with employees or visitors.
  2. Live stream a conversation with a thought leader or influencer who is relevant to your audience.
  3. Live stream relevant in-office events to showcase your company culture and thought leadership events.

Advanced

  1. Show a live demo with your sales reps and include an open Q&A.
  2. Film a live presentation with open Q&A.
  3. Stream a “day at the office” with a company executive.

How to Use Video into Your Marketing Strategy

So, now that you have the topics and the inspiration to create video content, you might be wondering where to use the videos. In some cases, the platform is self-evident — Facebook Live videos have to be shared on Facebook. But you can invite people to tune in on Facebook Live broadcasts in advance — and you can embed the recordings outside of the platform, too.

Here are a few ideas for where to use video content up and down the funnel:

1) Leverage user-generated content.

Marketers are great storytellers, but customers can sometimes be more effective. By showcasing how products can be used, user-generated content (UGC) can be more convincing — and powerful — than traditional marketing videos. Encourage customers and fans to create user-generated content by asking for it — by hosting contests, giveaways, or otherwise incentivizing participation.

In the case of GoPro, its evangelists used the product to capture the content to tell a tear-inducing story of a kitten rescue, but just because your brand doesn’t sell cameras doesn’t mean you can’t use UGC as well. Ask fans to take photos, videos, or share content on social media about how they use your products and why they love your brand — it’s more convincing than traditional advertising anyway. This content can be shared on social media platforms, on landing pages, and in marketing emails.

2) Tell customer stories.

Happy customers are your best advocates, and we use customer success stories to inspire video content here at HubSpot. Our audience learns about similar success they can achieve with our products, and we can share the content with prospects and leads in marketing emails and on our website to let our advocates speak for us.

3) Invite the online community to in-person events.

Try as we might, marketers simply can’t invite our entire audience to join us for a live, in-person event. And when that happens, live broadcasting options on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram are great opportunities to invite a broader audience to participate in an event — virtually. Live streaming content and then reposting it on different channels is a way to make your audience happy — and to repurpose content, too. For example, The INBOUND Studio repurposed this Facebook Live interview with actor Jeffrey Tambor on Instagram and YouTube.

4) Share behind-the-scenes looks.

Going behind-the-scenes is a neat way to give loyal fans and audience members a unique perspective on your brand personality or product. You can do this live or with ephemeral messaging on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, or you can create a pre-produced video like the one below that zeroes in on something audience members might not know much about. This content can make for great social media fodder, or you can use it to build rapport with leads and customers trying to learn more about your brand during the conversion and closing process. 

5) Explain concepts and products to your audience.

They say a picture says a thousand words, and sometimes, video is the best platform to explain a concept or define a term for your audience and users. Videos like these are helpful, easy to digest, and go a long way towards helping people succeed using your product or service. Videos like Asana’s below can be used on YouTube to capture search traffic there, or can live within blog posts or your company’s knowledge base to help out customers.

6) Say thank you.

Saying “thank you” can go a long way, and it can even make for compelling video content. In the short and simple video below, Warby Parker provides a personalized customer service experience that makes the customer feel special, acknowledges feedback, and serves as a mini-advertisement — since the employee is talking about making a customer happy. If you’re just getting started, filming short thank you videos can foster customer loyalty and build brand awareness on YouTube.

What marketing videos are you going to start making this year? Share with us in the comments below.

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

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Jul

25

2017

How We Grew Our Organic Traffic 120% in 5 Months with 4 Simple Steps

Published by in category Daily, SEO | Comments are closed

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As a B2B texting software, one of our main goals at Text Request is maximizing value, both for ourselves and our users. That’s what led us to focusing on organic traffic.

Billions of people are looking for answers or solutions to their questions or problems, and we’re trying to add value. So we saw organic search as a symbiotic relationship we could tap into.

As the guy responsible for our content and SEO, I’ve only found one “secret” to growing organic traffic. I’ll share this secret in a bit, but first I’ll walk you through the steps we took to grow our organic traffic 120% in 5 months, and what we learned through it all.

Start With Small Changes

We started making changes at the end of December 2016, and the first step was making technical updates to our website.

  • We updated our International Targeting inside Search Console to focus on the U.S. (which is where our target audience lives).

image1-12.png
Image Credit: Think With Google

Then we adopted a new content strategy from Rand Fishkin (founder of Moz). The strategy is: find the best piece of content on your target keywords or topics, and create something 10X better.

So that’s what we did!

Starting in 2017, we looked at what content was available on our target search terms, and then created content we thought was 10X better. It worked! But the question we had to answer first was: What does 10X content look like for our market?

Create 10X Content

The most powerful pieces of content bring in traffic, leads, and backlinks. They’re normally what add the most value to everyone, and that became the essence of our content — add value to everyone.

We said, “Okay, everything needs to be 10X content, and that means it has to be valuable for three audiences.”

Me / Text Request

If this doesn’t add value to me, how can I expect it to add value to anyone else? It became important to make sure we could do two things with all new content:

  • Use it to inform and direct company discussions.
  • Link back to it in other relevant content on our site.

Our Targets

To bring in our targets, we had to provide something valuable, something that answered their questions and provided solutions to their problems.

An important piece in this: we had to know our targets’ wants and needs. Thankfully, our team has spent countless hours talking with and learning about our customers. Otherwise, this would have been much more difficult!

Our Competitors

Brands are always looking for information that validates and promotes their position. We thought if we created this content, our competitors would use it, and come to see us as leaders in the space.

This was a bit of a long shot, but it’s working! Nearly all of our competitors, and brands in similar niches, link to our content, which strengthens it and helps more of our targets find us.

If it sounds like this content takes a lot of time to create, it does. That’s why we only publish every other Tuesday. But we do publish high-quality content regularly, and it’s paying off!

The 80/20 Rule Still Applies

Even following these criteria, it’s been difficult to know exactly what will resonate with our audience before we publish it.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much keyword research and competitive mapping we do. The 80/20 rule still applies. If you’re not familiar, this means about 80% of our traffic comes from about 20% of our content.

I don’t think this means we should change our strategy, but that we have to keep producing to find what’s most helpful.

Revamping Existing Content

We’d made some technical updates to our site and started publishing 10X content, but we still had a bunch of older blog posts that needed help.

They weren’t 10X content, and my understanding of SEO had evolved a lot in the time since we started posting. So we saw revamping existing content as an important part of our SEO strategy.

I started asking myself questions as I reviewed each post, like:

  • Can I tell this story clearly with fewer words?
  • If I wrote this today, would I still feel comfortable publishing it?
  • What graphics would support this?
  • Is there any new research available on this topic?
  • What articles are related to this one? What can I link to?

Responding to questions like these kept me from just spot editing, and made sure each piece began adding real value to everyone.

Over the five month period, I was able to revamp 55-60 of our posts, and I’m confident that made a huge impact on our organic search traffic.

Getting Backlinks

Backlinks are one of the biggest ranking factors for organic traffic, so they had to be part of our plan. From December to May, we grew our total number of backlinks by about 60%, which, in addition to driving referral traffic, boosted our standing with search engines.

Our backlinks mostly came from 3 places:

  • HARO: About one in six pitches were published with a link to Text Request.
  • Guest Posts: We wrote for other publishers, and occasionally had a freelancer contribute on our behalf.
  • Earned Links: We used a lot of research in our content that other brands found valuable enough to link to. This was the biggest source of our backlinks, which I took to mean we were doing the right things.

Our Results

In December 2016, we had a total of 10,663 organic sessions. In May 2017, we had 23,483 organic sessions, meaning that our simple four-point strategy more than doubled our traffic in only 5 months!

I think it’s important to note, too, that our bounce rate and time-on-page both improved during this process. Clearly, if you create 10X content, everyone wins.

In poor practice, we didn’t set any goals or milestones before implementing our strategy. That’s something we could have done better. Although, we really didn’t know what would be realistic.

It’s safe to say, though, that these results exceeded my expectations, and I’ll be thrilled to keep them up moving forward!

What We Learned

It Takes Patience

Anyone in SEO will tell you results take time. As an agency friend of mine said, “The results of SEO work done today might not become apparent, and might not be discovered by search engines, for weeks or even months.”

I have to agree. In Search Console, I’ll regularly see where we finally “got credit” for a backlink months after it was published. I believe our record is a press release that took two years, four months to register.

image4-3.png

It’s possible — even likely — that a significant portion of our results came from things we did well before this case study. During the case study, our results still came in stages.

January’s organic traffic was 45% higher than December’s, but February had flat growth. March was up again, April was flat, and in May we peaked at 120.2% growth.

Then there were publishing cycles to deal with. Ours is three weeks, but guest posts could take anywhere from five days to two months! I felt like I was always waiting for something.

Sometimes you have to keep your head down and stick to your plan, even if you aren’t seeing immediate progress. It can take a lot of patience to grow organic traffic, but that patience pays off!

Our 1 “Secret” to “Hacking” Google

People, myself included, often get too caught up in the minutia of SEO to see the bigger picture.

SEO is commonly thought of as a set of technical laws. When you follow them, Google rewards you. When you disobey, you will be punished.

But every algorithm update focuses on one key concept: adding value to Google’s users.

Search engines care most about the people using their site to search. So when you add value to their users, you’re rewarded with traffic.

The thing is, value comes in many forms. Website speed adds value, especially since 40% of viewers leave a site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds.

Page engagement adds value, particularly since most viewers spend less than 15 seconds viewing a webpage. If you give people a reason to stick around for longer, to keep scrolling, and to click through, Google will send more people your way.

When done right, 10X content is powered by this “secret.” If things are fast, engaging, helpful, and enjoyable, everyone wins. This is how we were able to quickly grow our organic traffic, and it’s how you’ll be able to grow yours, too!

 

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Jul

20

2017

Why Your Design of Experiments Is Probably Wrong

Published by in category Daily, Inbound Marketing | Comments are closed

Design of Experiments.jpg

Sometimes, I think that we here at HubSpot are just a bunch of mad scientists.

We love to run experiments. We love to throw bold ideas at the wall to see if they stick, tinkering with different factors, and seeing how what happens can be incorporated into what we do every day. To us, it’s a very hot topic — we’re writing about it whenever we can, and trying to lift the curtain on what, behind the scenes, we’re cooking up on our own marketing team.

But we’re going to let you in on yet another secret: Experiments are not designed to improve metrics. Download our free introductory guide to A/B testing here.  <http://offers.hubspot.com/an-introduction-to-ab-testing/> ” src=”https://no-cache.hubspot.com/cta/default/53/db238795-8fb2-4ed9-916d-c978f32aaeae.png”></a></p>
<p>Instead, experiments are designed to answer questions. And in this post, we’ll explain some fundamentals of what experiments are, why we conduct them, and how answering questions can lead to improved metrics.</p>
<h2>What Is an Experiment?</h2>
<p>In a forward-thinking marketing environment, it’s easy to forget <em>why</em> we run experiments in the first place, and what they fundamentally are. That’s why we like referring to the term <i>design of experiments</i>, which refers to “<a href=a systematic method to determine the relationship between factors affecting a process and the output of that process.” So, much like the overall point of conducting experiments in the first place, this method is used to discover cause-and-effect relationships.

To us, that informs a lot of the decision-making process behind experiments — especially whether or not to conduct it in the first place. In other words, what are we trying to learn, and why?

Experiments Are Quantitative User Research

From what I’ve seen around the web, there seems to be a bit of a misconception around experimentation — so please, allow me to set the record straight. As marketers, we do not run experiments to improve metrics. That type of thinking actually demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what experiments are, and how the scientific method works.

scientific methodSource: Carson-Dellosa Publishing

Instead, marketers should run experiments to gather behavioral data from users, to help answer questions about who these users are and how they interact with your website. Prior to running a given experiment, there may have been some misinformed assumptions about users. These answers challenge those assumptions, and provide better context to how people are using your online presence.

That’s one thing that makes experimentation such a learning-centric process: It forces marketers to acknowledge that we might not know as much as we’d like to think we do about how our tools are being used.

But if it’s your job to improve metrics, fear not — while the purpose of experimentation isn’t necessarily to accomplish that goal, it still has the potential to do so. The key to unlocking improved metrics is often the knowledge gained through research. To shed light on this, let’s take a closer look at assumptions.

Addressing Assumptions

In reality, many marketers build an online presence based on what I call a “pyramid of assumptions.” That often happens when we don’t thoroughly answer the following questions prior to that build:

  • Do we know who is finding a particular page?
  • Do we know why they are visiting a particular page?
  • Do we know what they were doing before visiting a particular page?

When you think about it, it’s kind of a looney concept to build online assets without these answers. But hey — you’ve got things to do. There are about a hundred more pages that you need to build after this one. Oh, and there’s that redesign that you need to get to. In other words, we understand why marketers take these shortcuts and make these assumptions when facing the pressure of a deadline. But there are consequences.

If those initial, core assumptions are wrong, conversions might be left on the table — and that’s where experimentation serves as a potential opportunity to improve metrics. (See? We wouldn’t leave you hanging.) The data you collect from experiments helps you answer questions — and those answers give you context around the customer journey. This context helps you make more educated decisions on what to build, and why. In turn, these educated decisions help to improve metrics.

Experimental Design: A Hypothetical Framework

The Experiment Scenario

Let’s say you’ve been hired as the marketing manager for the fictional Ruff N’ Tumble Boots Co., a.k.a., RNT Boots. Now, let’s say this brand has a product detail page for its best-selling boot, which goes in depth as to why this particular boot is perfect for the most intense hikes. This page’s conversion rate is “okay,” at best, with about 5% of visitors purchasing the boot. And overall, the page is well-designed.

But did you catch the assumption that this page makes? It was built with the presuming mentality of, “People are buying the boot for hiking.” Core assumptions, like this one, must always be validated on high-value pages.

The hypothesis: By modifying the value proposition of the product details pages, we’ll be able to observe any difference in purchase rate between them and build better product pages with higher conversion rates.

The objective: In the scientific method, your objective should be to answer a question. Here, our objective is to learn the optimal way to position the boot product in our online store. Improving metrics is a potential downstream effect from gaining this learning.

Success indicators: If this experiment shows a difference in purchase rate between value propositions of +-3 percentage points or more, we will consider it successful. A result of this degree will signal whether people purchase this boot for hiking — or not.

The Experimental Design

First, we need to determine whether our experiment can hit statistical significance within a reasonable amount of time — one week or less. Here’s a calculator that can help with this step.

AB Calculator.pngSource: VWO

Then, we need to establish the control of our experiment: the untouched, unmodified, pre-existing assumption that the value proposition of product pages should be activity-focused. In this case, that activity is hiking.

Next, we’ll determine three variants, or experiment groups pertaining to product page value propositions:

  • Variable A: Work or task; e.g., construction or landscaping tasks.
  • Variable B: Seasonal; e.g., snow, mud, or hot weather.
  • Variable C: Lifestyle; e.g., these boots fit into and are imperative to a lifestyle that is athletic and outdoorsy, but also trendy.

The Results

This experiment has three likely outcomes.

1) The control group will outperform the variant groups.

This isn’t necessarily bad — it means that the experiment has validated your preexisting assumption about the product page’s value proposition. But, it also means that the value proposition isn’t what’s causing the less-than-stellar conversion rate. Document and share these results, and use them to figure out how you will determine the cause.

2) One or more variant groups will outperform the control group.

Wowza — you just learned that most people do not visit this page to purchase the boot for hiking. In other words, the experiment has invalidated your preexisting assumption.

Again, document and share the results, and figure out how you’ll apply these findings. Should you fully swap out the value prop of the product details page? Should you also move the needle on your target audience? These are the questions that should stem from an outcome like this one.

3) Nothing — all groups perform about the same.

When nothing changes at all, I like to always take one step back, and ask a few clarifying questions:

  • Did different buyer segments show contrasting behavior on different variants?
  • Are these segments evenly distributed?
  • Could it be that none of these value propositions are resonating with our audience?
  • Are they not resonating because users arrive at the product page already having decided to buy the boots?

In sum, according to your hypothesis, this outcome is inconclusive. And while that means going back to the drawing board and redesigning your experiment (and its variables), use the answers to the above questions to guide you.

If you’re not eager to jump back into another experiment — after all, they can require resources like time and labor — there are some alternatives to consider.

Was an experiment the only way to challenge these assumptions?

Aha — here we are, back at the great do-we-need-to-run-this-experiment question. The honest answer: Probably not.

There are other tactics that could have been applied here. For example, something like a quick survey or seamless feedback tool could be added to the purchase flow of the boot.

However, that type of tactic is not without its flaws. Sometimes, for instance, there’s a difference between what people say on a survey, and the behavior they actually carry out.

As marketers, we sometimes refer to this concept as the “lizard brain”: When someone might say that they plan to use the boots for hiking, but in reality, is more likely to purchase the boots if he can be convinced that he’ll look good in them — which creates a degree of consumer bias.

So if you’re going to “build a story with surveys and interviews,” as my colleague, HubSpot Tech Lead Geoffrey Daigle puts it, “validate that story with data.”

Your Experimentation Checklist

Now that you have all of the context on what experiments are, why we run them, and what we need to run them, let’s circle back and answer the original question: When should you run an experiment? Here’s your criteria:

  • A page has enough traffic volume to statistically prove experiment results within a reasonable amount of time.
  • The page is built on top of unvalidated assumptions, and you’ve identified:
  • What the unvalidated assumptions are.
  • The stability of those assumptions.
  • You are unable to validate assumptions by leveraging other methods.
  • And as for determining alternatives to experiments, here’s a checklist of questions to ask:

    • Do you have existing quantitative or qualitative data that you can leverage?
    • Can you run a quick survey?
    • Can you run a moderated user test?
    • Can you run a user interview?

    How do you approach the decision-making process and design of experiments? Let us know about your best experiments in the comments –and hey, we might even feature it on our blog.

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    Jul

    18

    2017

    12 Truly Inspiring Company Vision and Mission Statement Examples

    Published by in category branding, Daily | Comments are closed

    content-inspiration

    Where does customer loyalty come from?

    Think about those brands that you purchase from over and over, even when there are cheaper options out there. Do you usually fly on a particular airline? Do you buy your coffee from the same place every morning? Do you recommend a specific restaurant whenever out-of-towners ask for suggestions?

    Often, the reason we stay loyal to brands is because of their values. The best brands strive to combine physical, emotional, and logical elements into one exceptional customer — and employee — experience.

    When you successfully create a connection with your customers and employees, many of them might stay loyal for life — and you’ll have the chance to increase your overall profitability while building a solid foundation of brand promoters. But achieving that connection is no easy task. The companies that succeed are ones that stay true to their core values over the years and create a company that employees and customers are proud to associate with.Click here to download our ultimate toolkit for social and PR branding.

    That’s where company vision and mission statements come in. A mission statement is intended to clarify the ‘what’ and ‘who’ of a company, while a vision statement adds the ‘why’ and ‘how’ as well. As a company grows, its objectives and goals may change. Therefore, vision statements should be revised as needed to reflect the changing business culture as goals are met.

    Check out some of the following company vision and mission statements for yourself — and get inspired to write one for your brand.

    The Difference Between Mission and Vision

    Let’s start with a bit of a vocabulary lesson. A mission statement declares an organization’s purpose, or why it exists. That often includes a general description of the organization, its function, and its objectives.

    A mission statement often informs the vision statement, which describes where the company aspires to be in the future. These two statements are often combined to clearly define the organization’s reason for existing and outlook for internal and external audiences like employees, partners, board members, consumers, and shareholders.

    So, what does a good mission and vision statement look like? Have a look at the examples below.

    12 of the Best Vision & Mission Statement Examples From Real Companies

    1) Life is Good: “To spread the power of optimism.”

    life is good mission

    The Life is Good brand is about more than spreading optimism — although, with uplifting T-shirt slogans like “Seas The Day” and “Forecast: Mostly Sunny,” it’s hard not to crack a smile.

    There are a ton of T-shirt companies in the world, but Life is Good’s mission sets itself apart with a mission statement goes beyond fun clothing: to spread the power of optimism. This mission is perhaps a little unexpected if you’re not familiar with the company’s public charity: How will a T-shirt company help spread optimism? Life is Good answers that question below the fold, where what the mission means is explained in more detail, with links to programs implemented to support it: its #GrowTheGood initiative and the Life is Good Kids Foundation page. We really like how lofty yet specific this mission statement is — it’s a hard-to-balance combination.

    2) sweetgreen: “To inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food.”

    Notice that sweetgreen’s mission is positioned to align with your values — not just written as something the brand believes. We love the inclusive language used in its statement, letting us know that the company is all about connecting its growing network of farmers growing healthy, local ingredients with us — the customer — because we’re the ones who want more locally grown, healthy food options.

    The mission to connect people is what makes this statement so strong. And that promise has gone beyond sweetgreen’s website and walls of its food shops: The team has made strides in the communities where it’s opened stores as well. Primarily, it provides education to young kids on healthy eating, fitness, sustainability, and where food comes from. The sweetlife music festival attracts 20,000 like-minded people every year who come together to listen to music, eat healthy food, and give back to a cause — the sweetgreen in schools charity partner, FoodCorps.

    3) Patagonia: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

    Patagonia mission

    Patagonia’s mission statement combines both the values that bring them market success (building safe, high-quality products) and the values that contribute to a better world (philanthropic efforts to help the environment). For the people behind the brand, “a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them.” In the name of this cause, the company donates time, services, and at least 1% of its sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups around the world.

    If your company has a similar focus on growing your business and giving back, think about talking about both the benefit you bring to customers and the value you want to bring to a greater cause in your mission statement.

    4) American Express: “We work hard every day to make American Express the world’s most respected service brand.”

    Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.

    — Simon Sinek (@simonsinek)
    April 16, 2014

    The tweet above is from Simon Sinek, and it’s one that we repeat here at HubSpot all the time. American Express sets itself apart from other credit card companies in its list of values, with an ode to great customer service, which is something it’s famous for.

    American Express Values

    We especially love the emphasis on teamwork and supporting employees, so that the people inside of the organization can be in the best position to support their customers.

    5) Warby Parker: “To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially-conscious businesses.”

    Warby Parker objective

    Speaking of quirky, this “objective” statement from Warby Parker uses words that reflect a young and daring personality: “rebellious,” “revolutionary,” “socially-conscious.” In one sentence, the brand takes us back to the root of why it was founded while also revealing its vision for a better future.

    The longer-form version of the mission reads: “We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket,” which further shows how Warby Parker doesn’t hold back on letting its unique personality shine through. Here, the missions statement’s success all comes down to spot-on word choice.

    6) InvisionApp: “Question Assumptions. Think Deeply. Iterate as a Lifestyle. Details, Details. Design is Everywhere. Integrity.”

    InVision Values

    These days, it can seem like every B2B company page looks the same — but InvisionApp has one of the cooler company pages I’ve seen. Scroll down to “Our Core Values,” and hover your mouse over any of the icons, and you’ll find a short-but-sweet piece of the overall company mission under each icon. We love the way the statements are laid out under each icon. Each description is brief, authentic, and business babble-free — which makes the folks at InvisionApp seem like trustworthy, B.S.-free types.

    7) Honest Tea: ” … to create and promote great-tasting, healthy, organic beverages.”

    honest tea mission

    Honest Tea’s mission statement begins with a simple punch line connoting its tea is real, pure, and therefore not full of artificial chemicals. The brand is speaking to an audience that’s tired of finding ingredients in its tea that can’t be pronounced, and have been searching for a tea that’s exactly what it says it is.

    Not only does Honest Tea have a punny name, but it also centers its mission around the clever company name. For some time, the company even published a Mission Report each year in an effort to be “transparent about our business practices and live up to our mission to seek to create and promote great-tasting, healthier, organic beverages.”

    8) IKEA: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”

    IKEA vision

    The folks at IKEA dream big. The vision could have been one of beautiful, affordable furniture, but instead, it’s to make everyday life better for its customers. It’s a partnership: IKEA finds deals all over the world and buys in bulk, then we choose the furniture and pick it up at a self-service warehouse.

    “Our business idea supports this vision … so [that] as many people as possible will be able to afford them,” the brand states.

    Using words like “as many people as possible” makes a huge company like IKEA much more accessible and appealing to customers.

    9) Nordstrom: ” … to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.”

    Nordstrom history

    When it comes to customer commitment, not many companies are as hyper-focused as Nordstrom is. Although clothing selection, quality, and value all have a place in the company’s mission statement, it’s crystal clear that it’s all about the customer: “Nordstrom works relentlessly to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.” If you’ve ever shopped at a Nordstrom, you’ll know the brand will uphold the high standard for customer service mentioned in its mission statement, as associates are always roaming the sales floors, asking customers whether they’ve been helped, and doing everything they can to make the shopping experience a memorable one.

    10) Cradles to Crayons: ” … provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play.”

    cradles to crayons mission

    Cradles to Crayons divided its mission and model into three sections that read like a game plan: The Need, The Mission, and The Model. The “rule of three” is a powerful rhetorical device called a tricolon that’s usually used in speechwriting to help make an idea more memorable. A tricolon is a series of three parallel elements of roughly the same length — think “I came; I saw; I conquered.”

    11) Universal Health Services, Inc.: “To provide superior quality healthcare services that: PATIENTS recommend to family and friends, PHYSICIANS prefer for their patients, PURCHASERS select for their clients, EMPLOYEES are proud of, and INVESTORS seek for long-term returns.”

    A company thrives when it pleases its customers, its employees, its partners, and its investors — and Universal Health Services endeavors to do just that, according to its mission statement. As a health care service, it specifically strives to please its patients, physicians, purchasers, employees, and investors. We love the emphasis on each facet of the organization, by capitalizing the font and making it red for easy skimming.

    12) JetBlue: ” … to inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground.”

    Jb-for-good-3.jpg

    JetBlue’s committed to its founding mission through lovable marketing, charitable partnerships, and influential programs — and we love the approachable language used to describe these endeavors. For example, the brand writes how it “set out in 2000 to bring humanity back to the skies.”

    For those of us who want to learn more about any of its specific efforts, JetBlue’s provided details on the Soar With Reading program, its partnership with KaBOOM!, the JetBlue Foundation, environmental and social reporting, and so on. It breaks down all these initiatives really well with big headers, bullet points, pictures, and links to other webpages visitors can click to learn more. Finally, it ends with a call-to-action encouraging website visitors volunteer or donate their TrueBlue points.

    Which company mission statements have inspired you the most? Share with us in the comments below!

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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    Jul

    18

    2017

    9 Brands That Thrive Without a Traditional Marketing Budget

    Published by in category Advertising, branding, Daily | Comments are closed

    no-marketing-budget.png

    “Brands So Popular They Don’t Need to Advertise!” “10 Companies That Don’t Do Marketing!” You’ve seen the headlines, you’ve rolled your eyes, and you’ve probably still clicked through.

    But, let’s be honest, we all know there is no such thing as a brand that doesn’t advertise.

    And really, wouldn’t that take some of the fun out of it? We love being wooed by brands. And as marketers, we love figuring out how to woo our audiences. The thing that sets the brands on this list apart is simply how they allocate their marketing dollars.

    They defy the best practices that most marketers live by today, and it sets them apart and generates buzz because of its inherent uniqueness. So, here are 9 brands that don’t do traditional marketing and what you can learn from each of them.

    9 Brands That Don’t Do Traditional Marketing

    1) Zara

    Zara’s first retail fashion store opened in 1975 and, as of 2016, it boasted 2000 stores in 77 countries. They’ve built an empire based on their reputation as a company whose technology and automation allows them to analyze trends and consumer feedback to get fashion from the runway to the racks in a matter of days.

    image4-2.pngImage via: HuffPost

    They eschew traditional marketing tactics in a few ways. First, they target men, women, and children in highly populated cities. Second, they produce cheap, fashionable clothing, with a high attention to detail. And third, they only produce a limited number of each piece to create a sense of urgency among their consumers.

    They’ve also mastered the art of influencer marketing. The Duchess of Cambridge gave the brand a huge international boost when she wore a dress of theirs the day after her wedding to Prince William.

    The Takeaway for Your Brand?

    Target your product or service well, don’t be afraid to rely on word of mouth, and foster an influencer channel that is loyal to your brand. Today, you’ll find more traditional marketing channels available to Zara’s fans (think Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook). But the retailer built its empire with well-placed retail, on-trend offerings and some serious word-of-mouth.

    2) Krispy Kreme

    I know what you’re thinking: “Of course doughnuts don’t need advertising!” Well, Krispy Kreme agrees with you. When asked how they measure ROI in digital, apps, and social, Dwayne Chambers, Chief Marketing Officer at Krispy Kreme said, “The brand was built on word of mouth and we have not been a big spender on traditional media … Everything [we] do with digital has to answer the question ‘how do we engage with our consumers as a brand.”

    Instead of investing in TV commercials, Chambers says they invest in their employees. “Everybody at the stores is a marketer,” he explains. Every Krispy Kreme employee attends training at Krispy Kreme University. Here, they are taught doughnut making, customer service, and … marketing!

    image6-1.pngImage via: SavannahNow

    They also invest in unique, highly visible locations, and always have a large window from the outside into the doughnut making. Another way to “eliminate the barriers between the brand and its customers and an invitation to step in and sample,” says Chambers.

    The Takeaway for Your Brand?

    What barriers can you eliminate between your brand and its customers? Start by educating your team on your brand values. It might sound silly to teach your marketers to be marketers, but many times we hone in on metrics instead of who our brand is and how it should be communicating.

    3) Sriracha

    This spicy favorite has been making headlines for years. But the popular hot sauce brand has about 80 followers on Pinterest, and until 2014 they didn’t have a Facebook page or an updated website. Today, you’ll find the Huy Fong Foods brand on most digital media channels, but CEO David Tran insists, “I don’t advertise, because I can’t advertise.”

    He refuses to save money by importing cheaper chilis (all Sriracha chilis come from a family farm near Los Angeles, CA) or outsourcing production. And his strategy to focus on quality over cost-cutting seems to be working. Bon Appétit named Sriracha the “Ingredient of the Year,” and the company sells more than 20 million bottles of their sauce every year.  

    Sriracha circulated their product amongst Asian chefs, before it caught on with the rest of the world. The brand also get huge boosts from internet influencers. The Oatmeal famously wrote a “love letter” to Sriracha, and the sauce has even spawned cookbooks from chefs like Randy Clemens. The Sriracha name can’t be trademarked because it’s a location in Thailand, and that means anyone can use the logo. Does Tran mind? Of course not. He considers it free advertising.

    image5-1.pngImage via: HuffPost

    The Takeaway for Your Brand?

    Take quality seriously and run with any free advertising you can get (within reason, of course). Also, get your brand in front of the right people early on. Sriracha first, ahem, caught fire with the chefs who knew pepper sauces best. Once they fell in love with the unwavering quality, they were happy to share the sauce with others.

    4) Trader Joe’s

    Google Trader Joe’s. Go on, do it. You’ll find their website and a Google+ page with one whole follower. That’s right. One of the most popular millennial brands has zero social media presence. What they do have is a business model that speaks to their people. And cookie butter. They have cookie butter.

    As Behance noted in a recent article, “The ‘Trader Joe’s difference’ is its remarkableness … The sum total of all that is not a branding illusion, but rather a distinctly remarkable Trader Joe’s experience of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that is unique from any other grocery retailer in the U.S. (and obviously in the world).”

    The one piece of marketing the food brand, owned by Aldi, does produce is The Fearless Flyer. The flyer is a print and online newsletter with a little quippy copy and a whole lot of discounts. It’s a staple for the brand, and the only promotional materials you’re likely to see from them.

    image8.pngImage via: Trader Joe’s

    The Takeaway for Your Brand?

    Yes, from the copious samples to the niche snacks you find yourself eating in bed at 11pm, Trader Joe’s has done an enviable job at branding themselves as an affordable, quality food chain.

    By purchasing directly from suppliers, kicking unpopular items to the curb faster, and foregoing traditional costs like marketing, they’re able to price their products in a range that is seriously affordable and seriously addicting. Don’t be afraid to eschew what’s expected in the marketing world, and take the road less fearlessly flown to create a truly one-of-a-kind customer experience.

    5) Costco

    In 2015, the United States (and much of the rest of the world) was still clawing its way out of the worst global depression since WWII. It was also the year that Costco became the second largest retail brand in the world. Today, it’s holding on to a respectable spot in the top 10, and they did it all without advertising.

    image7.pngImage via: Colombus Business First

    Costco prides itself on not having an advertising strategy, which allows them to reinvest two percent of their annual budget back into the company every year. It also allows them to pay workers an average of $20 an hour, leading to industry-low turnover rates, low prices, and stocks that have nearly tripled in value, resulting in very happy investors.

    The Takeaway for Your Brand?

    Consider a membership over marketing if it’s right for your company. Costco’s membership simultaneously creates FOMO, while offering clear value and exclusivity. With a more than 90% renewal rate, it’s clear their business model is working.

    Are there ways you could create urgency for your customers to make a purchase? A membership provides you with a built in channel of qualified leads with which you can share exclusive discounts and offers, and expect a higher conversion rate in return.  

    6) Kiehl’s

    Is consumer experience the most effective form of marketing? That’s what cosmetic company Kiehl’s has long held as truth. “The key is to recognize that in terms of brand equity, all that really matters is that the customer develops a positive image,” says Dartmouth marketing professor Kevin Keller. “Experience or word of mouth is probably the best way to do that, he continues.”

    image2-23.pngImage via: Ogilvy

    Kiehl’s created an unforgettable customer experience by offering extensive samples to customers, which gives way to lower-pressure sales. The skin- and hair-care company built a brand name for itself by offering a 100% money-back guarantee, staffing more than twice the industry average, and offering free consultations.

    This attention to detail is what has contributed to more than 150 years as a successful brand. The company even maintained its “no-advertising” style even after it was acquired by L’Oreal. A move that garnered them more — you guessed it — free advertising.

    The Takeaway for Your Brand?

    Today, Kiehl’s runs big-budget marketing campaigns like the rest of us. But it’s noteworthy that they were able to thrive for so long without one. While you may be tempted to go with that big “Send a 3D version of Your Face into Space” campaign idea, remember that it’s sometimes the attention to your customer’s experience that contributes to a legacy brand.

    7) Spanx

    Some of you may be thinking, “This is all great, but what if I just can’t afford to run advertising campaigns?” I hear you, and so does Spanx founder Sara Blakely. When Blakely started her undergarment brand, she didn’t run marketing spots because she couldn’t afford to. She also grew her billion-dollar brand without any help from outside investments or debt.

    Blakely told Forbes, “The power of women discovering the brand from other women was actually a better strategy. The aunt telling her niece; one woman to a college friend. There’s something about saying, ‘look, feel my back, no lines,’ that’s powerful.”

    image1-11.png Image via: Neiman Marcus

    The Takeaway for Your Brand?

    Word of mouth is an admirable strategy, but sometimes it’s not enough to support your business. By combining word-of-mouth marketing with an influencer focus, Blakely and Goldman’s duel-punch strategy focused on developing their relationship with everyday users as well as celebrities. Do a gut check on your marketing or brand strategy to see if you’re paying less attention to one than the other, and try a more balanced approach for a bigger impact moving forward.

    8) Lululemon

    Ok, ok, I know that Lululemon just announced they were launching their first-ever advertising campaign. But let’s look back at a simpler time. In 2016, Lululemon reported that 90% of their business transactions take place at full price.

    That’s a huge percentage, and it shows that Lululemon has created high brand value for itself. But just how did they do it without advertising for the first nearly two decades? In CEO Laurent Potdevin’s own words, “People ask us ‘Why don’t you do more traditional marketing?’ And we say, ‘Why would we?’”

    Image via: HuffPost

    For years, they relied on the word-of-mouth, grassroots efforts rooted in how much their customers loved their product. Those poster-themed, inspirational tote bags you still see everywhere, the (mostly) friendly staff, and the conversion of stores into hubs for classes and community events all contributed to the brand’s rapid growth and popularity. But with even faster expansion of the athleisure industry, Lululemon finally threw in the $38 towel and announced in March of 2017 that they would be devoting more resources to traditional marketing.

    The Takeaway for Your Brand?

    Don’t be afraid to pivot. Even the most successful marketing strategies can grow stale. Lululemon was smart to spot competition creeping in and be open to expanding upon their impressive community-driven efforts. Don’t wait until you’re too far behind to catch up. Stay on top of industry and niche growth, and pivot your marketing efforts accordingly — even if that pivot is creating a marketing strategy for the first time ever.

    9) GoPro

    This high-def camera company is another brand that dabbles in traditional marketing these days. But that’s not how they built their now-legendary social media following. Instead of the product, the end result is featured most prominently in GoPro’s videos. Their Instagram account is primarily user-generated content and boasts more than 12 million followers.

    But it’s their YouTube account that really sets this camera company apart. A steady stream of engaging, thrilling content has fostered a community of nearly 5 million subscribers. Those are people who find enough value in GoPro’s content that they subscribe to GoPro’s YouTube channel so that they never miss a post.

    The Takeaway for Your Brand?

    It’s easy to think your company can’t invest in video until you actually have budget to invest. Jump into marketing’s biggest trend by sourcing user generated content, or grab your iPhone to film your boss introducing your latest eBook. Video can be a powerful way to build your audience and bring interest to your marketing efforts. Don’t wait until tomorrow to set your marketing on fire.

    Is There Such Thing As Traditional Marketing Today?

    Think big, think small, but please, think outside the box. These brands all have a few things in common. They’ve honed in on a pertinent user pain point, need, or want, and met those needs with either superb quality or the right price. These brands have also let their product or service do a bit of the talking.

    We’re always told that we need to loosen our grip on life a bit (Just me? Ok, cool.), maybe these brands are a good reminder that it’s alright to loosen the grip on our marketing efforts a little too.  

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    2017

    22 of the Best Motivational Speeches of All Time

    Published by in category Canonical, Daily, productivity, Professional Development | Comments are closed

    motivational-speech.jpg

    It was halftime during one of my 7th grade football games. And we were losing 14 – 0. With our knees planted in the grass, my team was quietly huddled, drenched in sweat and defeat. We all knew the game was over.

    That’s when our assistant coach bursted through our circle and shattered our pity party, delivering one of the best motivational speeches I’ve heard to this day.

    I can’t directly quote him because he said some things that are inappropriate for a blog post (and, in hindsight, probably for a bunch of 13-year-olds too). But the point is, he harnessed the power of words to rejuvenate a physically and emotionally drained team. And we came back clawing to win the game.

    Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

    Just like in sports, being motivated at work is crucial for your performance. This rings especially true when you have a looming deadline, an important presentation to give, or colleagues or customers depending on your performance.

    To help you stay motivated, no matter what your job throws at you, we decided to compile 22 of the best motivational speeches from business, sports, entertainment, and more. If you want to get fired up for a project, watch these videos. Trust me, I was ready to write a 5,000 word blog post after I saw them. And while the messages vary from speech to speech, they will put you in the optimal frame of mind for tackling and crushing your next big challenge.

    (Disclaimer: Some speeches — *cough* Al Pacino *cough* — may contain NSFW language.)

    22 of the Best Motivational Speeches

    1) J.K. Rowling: “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination” (2008)

    In J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech, the Harry Potter author explored how two phenomena — failure and imagination — can be crucial to success. While failure can help you understand where your true passion lies, and where you should focus your energy moving forward, imagination is what will allow you to empathize with other people so you can use your influence to do good.

    We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

    2) David Foster Wallace: “This Is Water” (2005)

    From the opening minutes of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, in which he questions commencement speech conventions, it’s clear that Wallace has some serious wisdom to share. The crux of his speech: Many of us are oblivious to our own close-mindedness. We picture ourselves as the centers of our own, individual universes, instead of seeing the bigger, more interconnected picture.

    If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important, if you want to operate on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you’ll know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer hell-type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred — on fire with the same force that lit the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.”

    3) Brené Brown: “The Power of Vulnerability” (2013)

    The video above is an animated excerpt from researcher Brené Brown’s speech, “The Power of Vulnerability.” In the speech, Brown explores how our fear of not being good enough (among other fears) drives us to shield ourselves from our own vulnerabilities. The alternative to wearing this emotional suit of armor: Embrace vulnerability through empathizing with others.

    Empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable choice. Because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. “

    4) Al Pacino: “Inch by Inch” (1999)

    Yes, this speech is from a football movie (Any Given Sunday), but trust me: This isn’t your stereotypical rah-rah-go-get-’em sports speech. It’s deeper than that. It’s about life, and loss, and … gosh darn it just listen to Al Pacino, he’s pouring his soul out!

    Either we heal as a team or we’re gonna crumble, inch by inch, play by play, till we’re finished. We’re in hell right now, gentlemen, believe me. And we can stay here and get the $&#@ kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell, one inch at a time.”

    5) Steve Jobs: “How to Live Before You Die” (2005)

    Considering the YouTube video of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech has 24 million views (not counting the 10 million+ additional views from duplicate uploads), it’s likely that you’ve seen this one already. In the speech, Jobs plays on two themes: connecting the dots (anecdote: how taking a calligraphy class helped inspire the design of the Mac) and love & loss (anecdote: how getting fired from Apple helped inspire his greatest innovations). Perhaps the most memorable part his speech comes at the end, when he quotes the (now-famous) lines from the final issue of his favorite publication, The Whole Earth Catalog:

    Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

    6) Ellen DeGeneres: Tulane University Commencement Speech (2009)

    Ellen’s speech, as you might expect, has its humorous moments. But it also explores some of the very personal and tragic episodes in her life that helped push her into comedy in the first place. Two key themes of DeGeneres’speech: overcoming adversity and being true to yourself. ForDeGeneres, that meant pushing onward with her career after her sitcom was canceled in response to her publicly coming out as gay.

    Really, when I look back on it, I wouldn’t change a thing. I mean, it was so important for me to lose everything because I found out what the most important thing is … to be true to yourself. Ultimately, that’s what’s gotten me to this place. I don’t live in fear. I’m free. I have no secrets and I know I’ll always be OK, because no matter what, I know who I am.”

    7) Will Smith: Speech from The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

    Here’s another speech from the big screen, this time from the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness. In the scene above, Will Smith’s character explains to his son why he shouldn’t pursue basketball (because he’ll end up being “below average”) before having a major change of heart.

    Don’t ever let somebody tell you … you can’t do something. Not even me. All right? You got a dream. You gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.”

    8) Sheryl Sandberg: Harvard Business School Class Day Speech (2012)

    In her speech to the HBS class of 2012, Lean In author and tech executive Sheryl Sandberg deconstructed the idea of the “career as a ladder.” For Sandberg, a career is about finding opportunities where you can make an impact, not about chasing titles and planning out a meticulous path. “If I had mapped out my career when I was sitting where you are, I would have missed my career,” she commented. What’s more, Sandberg eschews the traditional wisdom of keeping emotions out of the workplace. For Sandberg, you need to care not only about what you’re working on, but also who you’re working with.


    “If you want to win hearts and minds, you have to lead with your heart as well as your mind. I don’t believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time … It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time.”

    9) Dan Pink: “The Puzzle of Motivation” (2009)

    Commissions, bonuses, other incentives … in the business world, these are the things that motivate people, right? According to Dan Pink in his 2009 TED Talk, such extrinsic motivators (a.k.a. “carrots and sticks”) could actually be doing more harm than good. The most recent sociological research suggests that the real key to producing better work is to find intrinsic motivation inside of yourself.

    There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And what worries me, as we stand here in the rubble of the economic collapse, is that too many organizations are making their decisions, their policies about talent and people, based on assumptions that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted more in folklore than in science.”

    10) Denzel Washington: “Fall Forward” (2011)

    In his 2011 UPenn commencement speech, Denzel Washington highlighted three reasons why we need to embrace failure in order to be successful. First, everybody will fail at something at some point, so you better get used to it. Second, if you never fail, take that as a sign that you’re not really trying. And third, at the end of the day, failure will help you figure out what path you want to be on.

    Fall forward. Here’s what I mean: Reggie Jackson struck out twenty-six-hundred times in his career — the most in the history of baseball. But you don’t hear about the strikeouts. People remember the home runs. Fall forward. Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn’t know that—because #1,001 was the light bulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.”

    11) Sylvester Stallone: Speech from Rocky Balboa (2006)

    I had to put this one next since it plays along the same themes as Denzel Washington’s UPenn speech. In the scene above, from the 2006 film Rocky Balboa, the title character (played by Sylvester Stallone) is having a heart-to-heart with his son. The advice he gives him: Don’t let your failures or the adversity you face slow you down. Keep. Moving. Forward.

    Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

    12) Elizabeth Gilbert: “Your Elusive Creative Genius” (2009)

    Following the extraordinary success of her book, Eat, Pray, Love, people began asking author Elizabeth Gilbert the same question over and over and over: How are you going to top that? In her 2009 TED Talk, Gilbert explores that question while also examining how our ideas of genius and creativity have shifted over the generations. While once seen as separate entities or states of being that anyone could tap into, genius and creativity have increasingly become associated with individuals. And according to Gilbert, that shift has been putting more and more pressure on artists, writers, and other creatives to produce great work.

    I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance. And I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years.”

    13) Charlie Day: Merrimack College Commencement Speech (2014)

    Best known for his role in the sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, actor Charlie Day had lots of wisdom to share during the 2014 commencement speech at his alma mater, Merrimack College. Day explained to the audience how college degrees are inherently valueless, since you can’t trade them in for cash. Instead, it’s you, your hard work, and the risks you take that provide real value in life.

    You cannot let a fear of failure or a fear of comparison or a fear of judgment stop you from doing the things that will make you great. You cannot succeed without the risk of failure. You cannot have a voice without the risk of criticism. You cannot love without the risk of loss. You must take these risks.”

    14) Frank Oz/Yoda: Speech from The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

    This speech fromThe Empire Strikes Back felt like a natural follow-up to Charlie Day’s speech. In the scene above, Yoda — voiced by Frank Oz — is teaching Luke the ways of the force. One of his key teachings: Whether or not something can or can’t be done (e.g., lifting an X-Wing out of a swamp) is all in your head. So instead of doubting yourself, believe in yourself.

    “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

    15) William Wallace: Speech From the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297)

    OK, I’ll admit it: I couldn’t find a recording of the actual speech Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace gave at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 (the historian I spoke with said something about “nonexistent technology” and me “being an idiot,” but I digress). Historical accuracy aside, there’s no denying that Mel Gibson’s version of the speech from the 1995 film Braveheart can help get you pumped up.

    “Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live — at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!!!”

    16) Orlando Scampington: “The Pillars of C.L.A.M.” (2015)

    Sometimes humor is the best motivator. So here’s an INBOUND Bold Talk from self-proclaimed author, thought leader, dreamer, cat owner, visionary, and “believer in unlimited human potential,” Orlando Scampington. As you’ll soon realize upon reading the quote below, it’s hard to explain what his speech is actually about — so I think it’s better that you just dive in and enjoy.

    “Culture is the bitter drunken coachmen lashing motivation into the ungrateful workhorses, so they drag the wagon of growth down the road of success. I think that’s a very accurate analogy.”

    17) Kurt Russell: “This is Your Time” (2004)

    The Miracle on Ice is still considered the biggest upset in Olympic hockey history. And for good reason. The Soviet Union won six of the last seven Olympic gold medals, and the U.S. team consisted only of amateur players. It was obvious the Soviets were better. But, in the movie Miracle, which told the incredible story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, Kurt Russell’s character — Coach Herb Brooks — knew that this game was different. The U.S. was better than the Soviets that day. And his speech conveyed such a strong belief in his team that they pulled off one of the greatest sports moments of the 20th century.

    “If we played ’em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game… Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can! Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players, every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time.”

    18) Jim Valvano: ESPY Speech (1993)

    Less than two months before he lost his battle to cancer, Jim Valvano delivered one of the most impactful and timeless speeches about living life to the fullest. My words can’t do it justice, so be prepared for some laughter, tears, and thought.

    “I just got one last thing; I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get your emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day, and Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm,” to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.”

    19) Mel Gibson: “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” (2002)

    The movie We Were Soldiers takes place in one of the most racially charged decades in American history, but Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore — played by Mel Gibson — delivered such a rousing speech that it brought an incredibly diverse group of soldiers together as one unit. He knew if his troops could set their differences aside, then they would form a true brotherhood, increasing their chances of survival as a whole. That way, the memories of their lost brothers could live on forever when they returned home.

    “I can’t promise that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear before you and before Almighty God: that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me God.”

    20) Kal Penn: DePauw University Commencement Speech (2014)

    In 2014, Kal Penn delivered an uplifting speech that DePauw University will never forget. He advised graduates to strive for success but to not let it loosen their grip on the things that actually matter, like staying connected with loved ones, being adventurous, and acting selflessly. He also comforted millennials everywhere, convincing them that their futures are full of potential and promise because their generation’s identity is rooted in innovation.

    “Opportunity is all around us. You’re graduating at a time where youth unemployment is high. And yet your peers are refusing to sit idly by. You’re the most active, service-driven generation, the most imaginative, the most tech-savvy. You’re creating opportunities, inventing gadgets, placing an emphasis on social responsibility over greed. So stop worrying so much. Why are you worried?”

    21) Charles Dutton: Speech from Rudy (1993)

    In the film Rudy, Sean Astin’s character, Rudy Ruettiger, quits the Notre Dame football team because he has to watch one of his last games from the stands. After two years of grueling practices and never once being apart of the team on the sidelines, he’s done dealing with the humiliation. But his friend Fortune — played by Charles Dutton — flips the script on him. He shows Rudy that he shouldn’t be humiliated. He should be proud because he’s proven to everyone that his perseverance and heart can carry him through any challenge. He just needs to realize that himself. And the only way he can do that is if he stays on the team for the rest of the season.

    “You’re 5 feet nothin’, a 100 and nothin’, and you got hardly a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in with the best college football team in the land for two years. And you’re also gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this lifetime, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody – except yourself. And after what you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen. Now go on back.”

    22) Vera Jones: “But the Blind Can Lead the Blind…” (2016)

    Last year at INBOUND, Vera Jones told a moving story about the life lessons she’s learned from raising her blind son. She explains how having faith in your future and letting it lead you toward your true purpose will help you overcome blinding obstacles. She also discusses how following your passion and trusting your vision develops empathy, which is a critical leadership skill.

    “Passionately play your position no matter how bad things get. You are significant. Why we are here is not for our own glory. Ultimately, we’re here to lead and serve everybody else. By doing that, we encourage others to do the same.”

    Seen any other motivational speeches that should be on this list? Share them in the comments section below!

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    2017

    How We Generated 1 Million Facebook Video Views: A HubSpot Experiment

    Published by in category A/B testing, Daily, Social Media | Comments are closed

    social-media-experiment-coverage-compressed.jpg

    Gone are the days when social media publishing and engagement could be tacked onto the daily responsibilities of an intern — as were many of the first roles in social media.

    Today’s growth-minded organizations need a team of people ideating, creating, publishing, and promoting content on social media to drive meaningful returns on investment — and this requires time, effort, and creativity.

    Manage and plan your social media content with the help of this free calendar  template.

    Marketers are realizing this and dedicating more time, resources, and staff headcount to social media. In the 2017 State of Inbound report, more marketers said they planned to add social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to their marketing efforts than in the previous year’s survey.

    Here at HubSpot, we’re constantly evaluating and changing the way we create content on social media to adapt to the way people want to stay connected. As our audience’s preferences for social media content evolve each year, so does our strategy.

    In our survey, nearly half of respondents said they wanted to see more social media content — and more videos, especially. So we’ve run a few experiments digging into what our audience wants to see, how they want to engage, and where they want to interact on social media.

    We have our strategies, process, and results to share that might inform your strategy, but our greatest piece of advice for any social media team — no matter the size — is to always experiment. The social media space changes so much every month — it’s important to figure out what works, but it’s also important to remain agile so you can try new things whenever you can.

    How We Increased Video Views 20X by Creating Native Social Media Content

    Social media has changed.

    That might read like the biggest understatement in the world, but hear me out.

    As part of our previous social media strategy, our posts were connected to lead generation goals — and most had a strong tie to our brand and promoting our content. Now, our content is all about our audience — and not all about us. We needed to refocus and remember that our audience members are people, just like us. If we wouldn’t want to see a piece of content in our Facebook News Feeds, why would our audience? We wanted to test the effect of focusing our content on our audience — what they want to learn about, what their goals are, and even what struggles they face.

    In short, we wanted to be more social, and less promotional.

    This doesn’t mean we recommend doing away with sharing blog content or ebooks on social media entirely. After all, it’s hard to come up with new ideas for creating social media videos to share every day of the week. We’re just saying you shouldn’t post a link to a blog post or ebook on Facebook and call it a day. Instead, get inspired by the ideas and salient points, and repurpose your content into Facebook videos, Instagram albums, or Snapchat Stories. You can still use the good ideas — but use them to create native social media content that performs better for the medium.

    If your current social media strategy sounds like our previous, all-about-us approach, don’t worry — read on to learn how we’ve changed things up.

    1) Different Video Topics

    The Goal:

    We examined our audience and learned what they did engage with in our previous social media strategy. Then, we researched the broader social media and digital landscapes. We wanted to learn what marketers and salespeople were already engaging with and finding relevant, and how we could create content more specifically for them, instead of distributing our content on social media channels for our goals.

    The Experiment:

    We created a list of topics and headlines we believed our audience would respond well to — that were more lifestyle and culturally-oriented — and immediately started creating content. Then, we started brainstorming culturally relevant and popular topics and saw how we could creatively present them to this audience in a way that makes sense for our audience and their world.

    Our audience is made up of marketers and salespeople who want to learn how to grow and get better at their jobs — so instead of using our social media channels to simply push out content we were producing on our blogs, offers, and external channels, we’ve started creating content specifically for our Facebook audience based on what we know about what they like (like this video about making coffee to improve productivity — two things busy people love):

    The Results:

    We went from an average of 50,000 video views per month to 1 million views in our first month performing these experiments. Our engagement rate also shot up as the content resonated with our audience and they started liking, commenting, and sharing our posts.

    Take a look at our engagement rates from our previous social strategy (orange indicates reach, and pink indicates clicks):

    social-strategy-v1.png

    And here’s what our views and engagement rate looked like under our new strategy:

    social-strategy-v2.png

    Pretty big jump, huh?

    Key Takeaway for Marketers:

    When you start evaluating how to generate more Likes, comments, and shares from your Facebook audience, think about how you yourself use the platform. You might not be as interested in sharing a post that’s highly specific to one brand or organization, but you might engage with a post that’s highly relevant to you, right?

    Conduct some detailed persona research, analyze your Facebook audience insights, and learn more about how they’re spending time on the platform instead of simply using Facebook as a means to only promote what you’re doing. Create social media content specifically for your audience, and you’ll get better results.

    2) Different Video Design Devices

    The Goal:

    We wanted to test our videos to see if different designs and formats would lead to different engagement rates.

    The Experiment:

    We tested the effects of some new design devices. These included starting videos with a human face, putting title bars throughout the duration of our videos, ensuring there were captions throughout, adding a “Best with Sound on” animation, and providing a CTA with the goal of audience engagement.

    • Human face: We felt that people would respond best to a human face as they would feel connected. Here’s an example.
    • Title bars: People are scrolling so fast we wanted to grab their attention and make sure they knew what our video was about in that quick motion. It also helps if someone gets distracted during the video, they will always know the topic. Here’s an example.
    • Subtitles: Our historical data showed that about 95% of people watched our videos without the sound on. We wanted to meet them where they were at and make sure that our videos could still be watched in that format. Here’s an example.
    • “Best with Sound On” animations: Knowing our audience primarily watches with the sound off, we wanted to make sure our videos that benefitted from sound were noted as such. Here’s an example.
    • Call-to-action: To help facilitate how people could engage with our video, we ask them questions, or ask them to respond in some way to our video. Here’s an example.

    The Results:

    In January 2017, the average Facebook view earned 4,500 views. By May 2017, our average number of Facebook video views had increased to 56,000 per new video. Additionally, our average number of video engagements (Likes, comments, clicks, and shares) during this time period increased from 100 to 496. Finally, our percentage of Facebook viewers who watched videos with the sound off decreased from 95% to between 60-70% per video.

    Key Takeaway for Marketers:

    The design devices we added are designed to make for an easier viewing experience for the audience and crafted based off how people are using social these days. We are serving up videos to our audience how our audience wants to see them, and the results show that it’s working. Use different devices and tools, such as the ones we tried, to make your videos easier to consume for your audience — no matter where or how they’re watching.

    3) Different Video Sizes

    The Goal:

    We want to create videos that are eye-catching and attract our audience’s attention in the Facebook News Feed to increase our video views and engagement on the platform.

    The Experiment:

    We’ve started experimenting with different video sizes and formats to improve engagement and increase video views. The default Facebook video size has an aspect ratio of 16:9 (a rectangle), like the video below. When viewers click the video to watch on mobile devices (where roughly 90% of Facebook users access the platform), it only takes up part of the center of their screen in the News Feed:

    facebook-aspect-ratio-vox1.png

    And when viewers click in to watch the video, it takes up so little space that Facebook queues up another video for them to watch next — or potentially navigate away to if they get bored with the original video:

    facebook-aspect-ratio-vox2.png

    Conversely, when we post Facebook videos with a 1:1 aspect ratio, the video takes up 78% more space on the mobile News Feed — and it takes up more space when the viewer clicks to watch it, too.

              facebook-aspect-ratio-hubspot1.png        facebook-aspect-ratio-hubspot2.png

    The Results:

    We haven’t experimented with mobile Facebook video sizes enough to report on it — yet. Luckily, our friends at Buffer have us covered — they partnered with Animoto to experiment with optimal Facebook video sizing for mobile earlier this year.

    Buffer and Animoto found that square videos (1:1) outperformed landscape videos (16:9) in both views and engagement. Over the course of the experiment, square videos achieved 30-35% more views and 80-100% more engagement than the landscape format. You can dig into all of the results in Buffer’s blog post for all of the findings — including the interesting note that landscape videos outperformed square videos for desktop users.

    Since the odds are that most of your Facebook fans will access your content on mobile devices, filming videos in a square aspect ratio will most likely drive more engagement and more video views for your content on the platform. But, if you’re specifically targeting desktop users for a campaign or ad, landscape videos might be a better choice.

    Key Takeaway for Marketers:

    Film videos in 1:1 aspect ratios to take up as much space as possible on your audience’s mobile phones — because that’s where they’re interacting with you the most. Next, we’ll be trying to film in 9:16 aspect ratio to take up the entire screen — like an Instagram or Snapchat Story — and we’ll keep you posted how those perform in future posts.

    Tl;dr: Native Social Media Content

    Overall, we averaged 50,000 total Facebook video views per month last year, and this year so far, we’re averaging about 1 million total video views per month. Some of these additional views may be attributable to Facebook ad spend on another video campaign (more on that in a subsequent post), and although using paid ads and sponsored posts on social media is part of the game, creating good content matters too. And we think our overhaul of how we create Facebook videos was the primary growth lever.

    Think about creating content for social media the way you think about optimizing blog posts with on-page SEO elements.

    You know all about on-page SEO — how to create titles, headers, meta descriptions, and URL structures that help your blog posts and webpages rank in search engines. Think about these video devices and strategies like on-page SEO — but for social media.

    Subtitles, title bars, animations, and video sizes all work together to make it easier for your audience to view your videos and interact with them the way they want to — primarily on mobile devices, and without turning up the volume. And of course, engaging topics get viewers interested in clicking and watching something on their News Feeds in the first place.

    Next Steps

    We’re going to keep iterating on what works, scrap what doesn’t, and brainstorm more ways to keep our audiences engaged and entertained by our content. The ultimate goal of social media is to be just that — social — and we want to hear from our audience, learn what they like and dislike, and keep creating cool stuff for them to enjoy.

    What experiments is your social media team running? Share with us in the comments below.

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    14

    2017

    How to Write a Video Script [Template + Video]

    Published by in category Content Marketing, Daily, Video | Comments are closed

    how-to-write-a-video-scipt.jpg

    Movie producers and inbound marketers aren’t that different when it comes to creating and editing video content.

    We’re both telling a story, and whether that story is about a protagonist or a product, we’re both trying to captive our audiences and make them believe in the story we tell.

    What happens at the end of the story is a little different, though.

    Download our free guide here to learn how to create high-quality videos for social media.

    While movie directors might want viewers to come away from their work feeling or thinking something, inbound marketers want viewers to come away from it planning to do something — whether that’s subscribing to a blog, filling out a lead form, or signing up for a product trial.

    Most marketers wear a lot of hats and let’s just say, out of all the hats worn, the videographer one isn’t always their favorite. That’s because creating videos can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to it. 

    And if you’re more of a copywriter than a videographer, as I am, you might overlook how important the planning stage of video production is — the part where you really solidify your video concept, goals, and script. Contrary to what I previously thought, you can’t just rewrite a blog post and call it a day — there’s a specific way to write a script so that it shapes an effective video.

    So that’s what we’re going to tackle in this blog post: how to write an effective video script to ensure the best possible product emerges from your editing software, and lives wherever you’re publishing.

    How To Write a Video Script

    1) Start with a brief.

    Although it might seem like this is an easy step to skip, it’s not worth it.

    Starting with a brief allows you and your team to document the answers to the most important project questions so everyone involved in creating the video can get on the same page. When you’re three-quarters of the way through the editing process, and your boss or colleague wants to completely redo that whole shot where you demonstrate how your product solves a problem, that’s a huge problem — for you.

    When pesky predicaments like this one stand in the way of progress, you can just refer back to the brief that documents the goals and project plan your team mapped out together, and say, “Actually, that’s not what we agreed to.” 

    Then, you can move forward.

    Focus on your goals, topic, and takeaways when developing your brief.

    A brief doesn’t have to be fancy, nor does it have to follow a specific formula, but there are several key questions it should include to craft an effective video script. 

    • What’s the goal of this video? Why are we making the video in the first place?

    • Who is the audience of this video?

    • What’s our video topic? (The more specific, the better. For example, if you’re in the house painting business, you might choose a topic like, “buying the right paint brush”).

    • What are the key takeaways of the video? What should viewers learn from watching it?

    • What’s our call-to-action? What do we want viewers to do after they’ve finished watching the video?

    You can easily create a brief in Google Docs to serve as a living, breathing template that you revise over time — and that your team can collaborate on.

    2) Write your script.

    Once you’ve picked a topic, it’s time to write the script.

    Just like the brief, the video script doesn’t have to be fancy. You’re not trying to submit this script for any awards — its purpose is strictly functional. A good script makes it easy for the people on camera to get their messages across while sounding and acting naturally.

    Write conversationally.

    Writing a script is not the same as writing a college paper or marketing research report. You want to write the script how you want the video subject to speak. Saying, “I’m gonna create a video after reading this blog post” on camera will read much better than, “I am going to create a video after reading this blog post.” Keep sentences short and crisp — I recommend avoiding compound sentences, if possible.

    Make it thorough.

    A script doesn’t just include dialogue. If your video will require multiple shots, characters, or scenes, include these details. Be sure to include any necessary information about the set or stage actions, such as a wardrobe change.

    Basically, you want the script to be thorough enough that you could hand it off to someone else to shoot, and they’d understand it.

    Write for the audience and the platform.

    Is your audience made up of young teens, middle-aged professionals, or older retirees? Will your video live on Instagram, YouTube, or your website? Make sure you’re keeping it conversational for the people you’re trying to connect with — and infuse humor, tone, and inflection accordingly. Furthermore, if you’re writing a short-form video for Facebook, you might want to consider keeping your script choppier with sentence fragments — but if you’re producing a long-form explainer video for your website, make sure you’re as thorough as possible.

    Differentiate the main narrative from B-Roll, text overlays, and voiceovers by using different formatting or callouts.

    If your video will transition from the subject speaking the primary narrative to a close-up shot of your product with a text overlay, you’ll want to call these things out in your script so anyone who reads it knows what’s supposed to be read on-screen — versus incorporated into the editing process.

    Take a look at how the folks over at Wistia did that in the video script for Wistia’s scripting tips below. Text overlay is called out with a big, bold “TEXT,” audio is called out in all caps (REWIND SOUND), and B-roll or additional details are called out in italics (with glasses on). (Note: It might help to watch the video first for the excerpt of this script to make sense).

    how_to_write_a_video_script_example_keep_conversational

    Source: Wistia

    Script every single word.

    It’s understandable to think you can just jot down the main bullet points for a script, and then just wing it on camera, especially if you know your subject matter. This approach makes it tough to communicate a message as clearly and concisely as possible (which you should aim to do in every video you create), and it usually results in a lot of re-dos.

    So, we suggest scripting every last word. Trust me — doing this will keep you organized during filming and save you loads of time later.

    Make it brief.

    When it comes to marketing, shorter videos are more compelling than longer videos, and to make short videos, you need a short script. Don’t write a script any longer than two pages. If you can keep it to one page, even better. It’s also worth doing two to three rounds of edits solely focused on cutting all unnecessary fat in your writing. Reading it out loud to listen for opportunities to make the language more conversational, or sentences shorter, can also help.

    The result is a video that’s succinct, engaging, and allows for a simple editing process.

    Use this script template.

    Writing a script from scratch is way harder than starting with an example. To give you a head start, download this Word Doc video script template we used to create this video with Wistia:

    Have your script ready? Neat. Now it’s time to …

    3) Do a run-through.

    Now that you know how to write a script, it’s time for a table read — the part where you practice bringing that script to life on camera.

    Why practice? Because some words look great on paper, but once you read them aloud, they just don’t sound right. The table read is where you really get to fine-tune the tone and nix anything that sounds too proper, improper, robotic, or otherwise inappropriate for the message you aim to convey.

    Check out the video below on how to do a table read:

    Oh, and one last tip …

    When it’s time to shoot, use a laptop and a chair as a teleprompter.

    Since you don’t need a fancy script, you don’t need a fancy teleprompter to remember your lines. But you do need help remembering your lines. You can actually just use two things you already have — a chair and a laptop — to keep your lines handy as you’re shooting.

    For more tips for using the tools at your disposal to make a killer marketing video, check out our video guide to shooting videos with an iPhone.

    Are there other tips you have for video marketers when it comes to putting together a great script? Share your advice with us below!

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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    14

    2017

    How to Do ABM Without Selling Your Soul

    Published by in category Daily, Inbound Marketing | Comments are closed

    inbound-abm.png

    Mayo on a sandwich. Hot sauce on a taco. Hot fudge on a sundae. All things that — when used correctly — make the thing they complement way better.

    But If you use too much of any of them, or use them in the wrong context (hot sauce on a sundae? No thanks.), or simply use them wrong (gobs of mayo, instead of a thin layer), you’ve ruined a perfectly tasty snack.

    As a marketer, the same concept applies to everything you do. If used correctly, every technology and tactic has the power to create better connections with your potential customers. If done without care, it can drive a wedge between you and your buyers.

    Take social media. At HubSpot, people ask us all the time: “Will social media work for my business?” The answer? Yes, absolutely! But only if you do it in a way that fits in with the way your buyer wants to interact with you.

    On social, people feel interrupted if you’re just sending spammy mass messages. If you’re not providing them with quality content that their mom, friend, or coworker could have sent them, you’re just another brand in the crowd. Or worse, a brand annoying them in their personal space, where they don’t expect to see brands interrupting. When you’re cold, interruptive, and irrelevant, nobody wins.

    It’s not just social. It’s virtually every tactic in today’s marketing playbook. Email, ads, popup forms, video, and all the rest. Do it in a human-friendly way, and everybody wins. Do it in a permissionless, cold, disruptive way, and you’re in trouble.

    Account Based Marketing fits squarely into this thread. Done right — in a customer-centric and human-friendly way — it can play an impactful role in an effective marketing strategy. Put simply, a company-centric B2B approach doesn’t have to be spammy.

    What is ABM, Anyway?

    Account-based marketing looks slightly different depending on who you ask. But at its core is one central theme: the idea of company-centricity.

    If you’re B2B, you’re selling to businesses. Generating five thousand leads doesn’t matter much if those leads aren’t within the businesses you want to sell to. This idea of company-centricity applies to everything in ABM. You generate accounts (rather than leads). You engage with all the key stakeholders within those accounts. You close accounts. And you measure account engagement and growth.

    What is ABM Not?

    More often than not, the concept of ABM is associated with targeted outbound. It looks like this: choose a set of companies you’d like to market and sell to. Use online databases to build an org chart for those companies. Use tactics like cold email and calls, direct mail, and live events to engage the key stakeholders at those accounts that you found in your research. Close deals with those accounts. Then “land and expand” into other parts of the business using similar tactics.

    This outbound-heavy interpretation of account-based marketing is misguided and miserable

    We see examples of soul-less ABM emails all the time. I’m sure you do too. Rather than call any one company out — here’s a compiled fictional example of the types of targeted outbound emails we get.  

    abm email.png

    Now, technically this is an account-based email.  It reflects a unique data-point on my company: The Business Insider article.  It demonstrates the land and expand practice of branching off of a colleague of mine’s interest. But it still feels cold, right?  There are a few things wrong with this type of ABM email from a recipient experience standpoint.

    First, even though my colleague had an interest — there’s no consideration as to whether I even know that colleague or a demonstrated understanding of how or if we work together.

    Second, while I appreciate the mention of the recent article on us, it has nothing to do with the purpose of the email. It almost feels as though it’s in there just to prove that the sender took the time to Google us. Crummy experience for the recipient. Poor results for the sender. Nobody wins.

    So, even though the email is personalized to my context — It still feels like cold outbound and odds are, I’m not going to bite. 

    My email inbox is littered with emails like these. So is my voicemail. What about yours?

    The good news: ABM doesn’t have to look like this. There’s a better way. One that’s warmer, more human, and a whole lot more buyer-friendly.

    How to do ABM the Right Way

    What does ABM done right look like? In this section, we’ll walk you through it, step by step.

    Get specific about your target.

    Who do you want to market and sell to? Imagine your ideal customer were to walk through the door. What would they look like? What would they sound like? What would they talk about? We call these ideal customer profiles buyer personas.

    A few important best practices to remember when creating your buyer personas, as it relates to an account-based strategy:

    If you’re B2B, your personas should include insights about the person’s company. What size is it? What role do they play? Who do they report to? Are they a decision-maker or an influencer? What’s their budget and what other things are they spending it on? What industry are they in? Where are they located? What other tools do they use? While, in the end, it’s the people that make the buying decisions, their company dynamics play a big role in the purchasing process.

    It’s perfectly okay — and, often, necessary — to have more than one persona in the same company. At HubSpot, we sell both marketing and sales software, so it’s vital that we understand the core characteristics and motivations of both marketing and sales leaders. Sometimes, the same person plays both roles. More often than not, we’re marketing to the two separately. To do so effectively, we need to understand not only the nuances of marketers and salespeople individually, but also the way they interact in the workplace.

    Marketing and sales should be tightly aligned in the creation of personas. Personas aren’t an arts-and-crafts project undertaken by the marketing team on a rainy day. They’re the glue that holds every function at your company together. If you’re a marketer, take into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the types of accounts they’re interacting with most. 

    What generalizations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best? If you’re a salesperson, what lessons can you pass along to your marketing counterparts from the front lines? What’s driving conversations forward? Sales and marketing should be in lockstep throughout the inbound process; that’s especially important in the creation of personas.

    A common question that often comes up around personas and ABM: if you’re B2B, should you select one specific set of a few companies to target? The simple answer: in general, no. Even if your target “universe” of potential customers is small — big banks, universities, etc. — think about what your target persona has in common.

    Let’s say your primary decision-making persona is the VP of risk management at a big bank. Do the VPs of risk management at Wells Fargo and CitiBank have vastly differents sets of motivations and priorities? Do they hang out on different social networks? Are they concerned about different changes in the market? Probably not.

    The personas you create should be very specific to your best customer fit, but broad enough to be applicable beyond a single person at a single company.

    Create valuable content for those personas.

    Next up: creating content. ABM and Inbound are in lockstep here. Once you’ve gotten clear on your target, it’s all about creating content that’s personalized, relevant, helpful, and valuable for your potential buyers.

    The bitter truth: today’s buyer doesn’t care about your company. They don’t care about how you’ve just launched the coolest widget since sliced bread. They don’t want to book a 15 minute meeting with you, if they’ve never heard of your company. They want things that’ll make them better at what they do, or teach them something they don’t know, or fill in a blind spot in their day. Even better if it makes them look good to their colleagues and managers.

    How do you ensure that you’re creating content your target personas will actually want to engage with? By combining two key concepts: personas, which we covered above, and the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service. The journey is a three-step process:

    • Awareness Stage: At this point, a buyer is trying to solve problems, get an answer, or meet a need. They’re looking for top-level educational content to help direct them to a solution.
    • Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it. In HubSpot’s case, our customers might realize they have a problem organizing and managing their sales processes, and in the consideration stage, they’re considering the different strategies for addressing that: Excel, adopting a CRM, outsourcing sales, etc.
    • Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution. In HubSpot’s case, our buyers have determined that they’ll adopt a CRM in the consideration stage, and now it’s time to compare HubSpot to the other CRMs, and to make a final decision.

    Once you’ve defined your personas and mapped out the buyer’s journey for each one, the next step is to ensure that you have at least one piece of content for each of your personas, at each stage of their journey. Here’s how to visualize that process:

    buyers journey content map.png

    Whether you’re B2B, B2C, or anything else, this process is pivotal. The best part: its simplicity. You’re answering two questions: who’s your product or service for, and what does their path to you look like? Answer those questions, and you’re well on your way to an effective content strategy.

    Get that content in front of the right people at the right companies.

    Once you’ve mapped out and created your content, you’re ready to ship it out into the world. The key concept: engage with your personas where they’re at. But how do you do that? In the world of traditional ABM, you’d use targeted outbound: a combination of cold emails and calls, direct mail, and other strategies.

    But how can you get your content in front of your most important accounts without using ineffective interruptive tactics? HubSpot Partner Kuno Creative puts it well (in this case, IBM is a target account):

    It’s not as hard as it sounds. First, I create blogs, some visual content like an infographic and maybe a video or podcast about a very specific topic that I know will interest the IBM account team. I publish my content on our website and promote it using search engine marketing and paid media ads with messaging and keyword phrases that highlight the benefits to the account team.

    I even mention IBM, possibly even the people on the team, in my content and social media posts. Companies like IBM are always looking for company mentions on social media and are likely to pass them along to their team members. Once I get their attention and attract them to my website, I can use retargeting strategies to remind them of our content and bring them back for more.

    Remember: how you promote your content depends entirely on your target persona. Are the members of the account teams at your ideal customer companies on LinkedIn? Quora? Do they go to industry meetups? Do they follow other industry blogs? When they search on Google, what do they search for? Align your content promotion with your persona’s defining patterns.

    As you create relevant content, the stakeholders at your target accounts will naturally come to you. In traditional ABM, a fishing analogy is often used: ABM is spear-fishing, whereas inbound is casting a wide net.

    Think about it this way: what good is spearfishing if there aren’t any fish within a mile of your boat? If there aren’t any fish to catch, it doesn’t matter whether you use a net or a spear; you’re out of luck. Your content is your bait. It’s what brings the people that matter into your company’s sphere of trust and influence.

    Turn interest in your content into truly engaged leads using your conversion method of choice: landing pages, pop-up forms, or live chat.

    Identify your Accounts

    Let’s say you’ve done all the right things so far. Defined your personas, including company characteristics. Created content and put it in front of the right people at the right companies. And actually generated interest and engagement from companies that fit your target persona. What happens next?

    If you didn’t choose a specific set of accounts on which to focus your efforts during your persona development, now’s the time. What’s the best way to home in on the right accounts? Here are a few ideas:

    • Dig into what you know about the company. Explore both demographics, the job titles and other traits of the people in your database, and firmographics, the characteristics of their companies (size, industry, location, etc.). Match up the data you’ve collected on your leads and accounts with the personas you put together at the beginning of the process.
    • Work closely with your sales team. They’ve worked accounts before. Chances are that their gut on what makes a good-fit account is spot-on.
    • Think in terms of revenue. Which of the accounts has the potential to bring the most business at the end of the day?
    • Use account scoring to determine which accounts are actually engaged with your company, and how many contacts at each one have interacted with you. Here’s what that looks like in HubSpot:

      Account score.png

    Once you’ve decided on your target accounts, use your automation tools to mark the target accounts in your database:

    set target account.png

    Pro tip: Use tools that make tracking companies easy. A filterable database of companies and an integrated company profile — where you can see all associated contacts, create custom properties, communicate with your contacts at the company, and view all past and future engagements — are two absolute musts.

    Company profile.png

    Expand your Reach

    If you’re B2B, the natural next question is: how can we make sure to engage more than just one member of the buying team at an account? Here are two ideas to get your mind rolling:

    • Create content that helps one persona influence another. As an example, at HubSpot, we created an offer called “100 Stats, Charts, and Graphs to get Inbound Marketing Buy-in.” It’s designed to help a marketing manager make the case for inbound to his or her management team, and has helped our marketing and sales teams to bring the decision-makers into the conversation.
    • Make your content easily sharable. Include sharing links on your thank-you pages and in your follow-up emails, to help get more of the buying team exposed to your content.

     

    sharable content 1.png

    Nurture your accounts using company-level insights.

    Once you have an engaged audience within a target account, use company-level data to continue the conversation with those accounts, and pull them through your marketing funnel. The best ways we’ve found to do that:

    • Create drip email campaigns. Below is an simple example. The workflow enrolls contacts within target accounts whose title includes “marketing,” sends them a specific nurture email, then alerts their account rep if they’ve opened the email.

      Sample nurturing flow.png

    • Website personalization. Adapt the content on your website to specific audiences based on both lead and company intelligence. For example, show a VP at one of your target accounts a specific call-to-action when they land on your pricing page next time around.
    • Online ads. Ad platforms today are a whole lot more sophisticated than they were even five years ago. Show ads to your target buyers that align with their specific context — in just the right places online. Use an ad platform that syncs with your CRM to show personalized, targeted ads to the members of your target accounts. Many of these platforms even automatically update your ads as new data is added to your CRM. 

    Report on Company Engagement, not Just Leads

    If you’re B2B, contact-level metrics like leads generated and website conversion rates only tell a part of the story. ABM requires a deep understanding of the company-level dynamics too. Here are three reports that our best customers use to report on their ABM success:

    • Growth of companies over time. How many companies are in your database? Break down your chart by lifecycle stage — to determine how many marketing-qualified accounts you’ve generated — or by original marketing source.

      New Companies by Source.png

    • Reach within target accounts. How many contacts from each of your target accounts do you have in your database? How engaged are they, from a high level?

      Reach within Target Accounts.png

    • Breakdown of contacts within a specific target account. What job titles do your known contacts hold? Are you generating enough interest from decision-makers? Where are your gaps? Use this report to find out.

      Contacts by job title.png

    • Engagement of contacts within a specific target account. How engaged are the contacts within a specific account? Who are the most engaged? 

      Most Engaged Contacts from HubSpot.png

    • Most popular content within target accounts. Of those most-engaged contacts, what type of content are they actually engaging with? Use this report to determine the most relevent topics with which to nurture those accounts. 

      Most popular content within target account.png

    The elephant in the room: Isn’t Inbound wasteful?

    ABM experts sometimes bring up the idea that inbound and other popular demand gen strategies are wasteful, because they focus energy across a broad target, and end up producing leads that’ll never end up closing.

    There are two vital questions to ask yourself as you think about spending your time on the right marketing strategies.

    First, where’s the leverage, and which strategies scale? Leverage is the concept of using a small initial investment to gain a disproportionately high return. Put in a small initial effort, and see that effort yield exponentially greater results over time. The concept of leverage is especially important on teams with limited bandwidth. 

    At HubSpot, the leverage has come from Inbound. How do we know? Check out this stat: over 90% of our blogs leads come from old posts (i.e. posts published prior to the current month). That means the work we did last month, last year, five years ago, continues to pay exponentially greater dividends.

    Put another way, if HubSpot’s blogging team took next month off, we’d still hit 92% of our lead goal. Will all those leads end up closing? No. Does every single one fit into our ideal persona? No. But because we’ve carefully mapped out our personas and created content that’s truly aligned with their motivations and goals, the blog continues to be the primary source of qualified accounts for our sales team.

    As you think about ABM, apply this same concept. Where can you find leverage? If you’re working with four different internal teams to create a unique piece of content for each stakeholder within a specific target account, how does that scale? How does the output of your effort relate to the input? What happens when, inevitably, a big chunk of your target accounts don’t close? Where do you go for your next customer?

    Second, which strategies give you the most flexibility to pivot over time? Here’s another example, from our own past. When we started HubSpot over a decade ago, we sold marketing software. We wrote content about marketing, and that content generated us a ton of leads. But that content did more than just win us customers in that moment. It positioned us as a trusted source of thought leadership, and gained us an avid following of brand evangelists: people who would support HubSpot, even if our product wasn’t a fit for them at that very moment. 

    But what about when HubSpot’s product improved? What about when we launched a new sales productivity tool in 2014, then a CRM in 2015? Because of that content we’d built years earlier, we already had a base of loyal followers ready to jump on the new tools.

    If you focus your efforts closely on one specific set of target accounts, what happens when the market shifts, or your priorities change, or new technologies come about, or you launch a new product line? How do you find your early adopters and brand advocates?

    Use these two concepts — leverage and flexibility — to inform how you combine ABM and Inbound.

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    Jul

    13

    2017

    29 of the Best Office Pranks & Practical Jokes to Use at Work

    Published by in category Canonical, Daily, Office Life | Comments are closed

    best-office-pranks-compressor.jpg

    For anyone who’s watched the TV show “The Office” as religiously as I have, the classic “stapler in Jell-O” trick surely sounds familiar. It’s pretty much what the name describes: Simply make a batch of Jell-O, but make sure your colleague’s stapler is hidden inside the mold. As I said — classic. But what other, less conventional pranks are out there to add some kicks to an otherwise average day at the office?

    We asked our friends and combed the internet for more examples of some of the funniest office pranks, and pulled together this list to serve as inspiration for your own work pranks. Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.Every company has a story or two about that funny office prank of yore. Whether you’re doing some early April Fool’s Day research, or just feeling a little tricksy, it’s time to get a prank of your own in the books. Here are some ideas.

    Funny Pranks to Pull on Your Coworkers

    1) When Halloween is around the corner, these caramel onions are no match for other tricks (or treats).

    caramel-onionsSource: Rant Lifestyle

    2) And speaking of Halloween, here’s what nightmares are truly made of.

    toilet-terrorSource: Rant Lifestyle

    3) Fish food (hopefully) included.

    drawer-fish-tank-prank.jpgSource: Reddit user jihadaze

    4) We hope nobody called the paramedics.

    toilet-prankSource: BuzzFeed

    5) Tighten the zip-tie, throw it … and run for your life.

    febreeze-prankSource: Emlii

    6) The perfect use for those sticky notes that keep piling up.

    post-it-car-prankSource: Reddit, Bzbzbzbz

    7) Never ask your work buddy to unlock your phone for you.

    keyboard-shortcut-prankSource: Gottabemobile

    8) That’s one way to make sure everyone’s alert before a meeting.

    grand-entrance-prank.jpgSource: Reddit user JJ0EE

    9) At least it’s not glitter?

    balloon-prankSource: Reddit, williebeth

    10) For trolls, by trolls.

    trolled-prankSource: Dose

    11) Oh look, a budget trip to the beach.

    vacation-prank.jpgSource: Imgur user Sanjeev

    12) That’s it. You’re suspended.

    suspended-chair-prank.jpgSource: WorldWideInterweb

    13) Hey everyone, there’s cake up for grabs in the kitchen.

    find-the-toenail-prank.jpgSource: Reddit user blinhorst

    14) “I don’t know, I feel like my boss is always watching me.”

    boss-pics.jpgSource: Imgur user DecentLeaf

    15) Simple, yet brilliant.

    tumblr_mkpkuiO73X1r2svb2o1_500.jpg

    Source: Tumblr

    16) I’m not even mad. I’m just impressed.

    cubicle-homeSource: Reddit user BOOMTimebomb

    17) This could actually make your cat-loving co-worker’s day.

    cat-lover-prankSource: Reddit user cstyves

    18) “You said you wanted to spend more time with nature.”

    seeds-in-keyboardweeds-in-keyboard-prankSource: BoredPanda

    19) For the prankster with NO SOUL.

     

    This is just cruel 😂 #officeprank #aprilfools #krispykreme #mean #notcool

    A post shared by Free Humor (@scotchandsarcasm) on May 12, 2017 at 12:02pm PDT

    20) Just the adrenaline rush you needed.

    tumblr_mo9kxw4mvd1soeifio1_500.png

    Source: Tumblr

    21) Warning: It could scare the bejeezus out of you, too.

    chair-foghorn-prankSource: Reddit user 12q9et

    Funny Pranks to Pull on Your Boss

    22) “For the man who never has enough time.”

     

    Accounting is getting their toilet replaced, so we decided to play a little #prank on my boss before they install it #officeprank #workingefficiently #multitasking

    A post shared by Alice (@alicetaywong) on Jul 17, 2015 at 4:33pm PDT

    23) … Or anyone, really, who never has enough time — regardless of decor preferences.

    bathroom-cubicle-prank.jpgSource: 22words

    24) About that whole, “At least it’s not glitter” thing …

    25) Sometimes, you’re not sure how to ask for another day off.

     

    Morning after that long weekend.. think they’ll notice? Back to that #workgrind #mondaysbelike #struggleisreal #readyfortheweekend #officeprank bringing the #laughs😂

    A post shared by L Weaver (@elleweav) on May 30, 2017 at 5:54am PDT

    26) Congratulations, you finally learned about your manager’s celebrity anti-crush.

     

    #officeprank

    A post shared by Alice Lei (@alicerabbit1) on Aug 1, 2015 at 4:04pm PDT

    27) When words just aren’t enough to express your sentiment.

     

    Thanks @mg2418 and @p2theslingshot for the birthday mug! Love you guys! #smartass #birthday #officeprank #fridayfun #coffee #coffeetime #middlefinger

    A post shared by David Miclette (@davidmiclette) on Apr 28, 2017 at 5:54am PDT

    28) “Hey chief, I found a spider on your desk, but don’t worry — it’s been handled.”

     

    #tbt to when I did a simple, but cruel joke to my co-worker. I’m just now realizing I may be the reason she left… oops. :p #officeprank #scaredofspiders #donotmove #loveyoumeanit

    A post shared by Devan Harrold (@devanalyse) on Apr 27, 2017 at 8:41pm PDT

    29) And finally, for the boss who has everything, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

    giphy (9).gif

    Source: Giphy

    What’s the best office prank you’ve ever pulled off? Let us know in the comments.

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

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    Jul

    13

    2017

    Marketers Weigh In: Instagram or Snapchat Stories?

    Published by in category Daily, Office Life, Social Media | Comments are closed

    snapchat-vs.-instagram-debate-compressed.jpg

    Be honest: Do you spend a lot of time during your work day chatting with colleagues on messaging apps, like Slack?

    It’s okay — so do we. And while some of our messages are GIFs and emojis (okay, the majority of our messages), we also get into lots of lively Slack discussions (okay, debates) about news stories and product announcements in the marketing technology space.

    So when my colleague, senior growth marketing manager Niti Shah, sent around a link to Apptopia’s analysis of Snapchat’s slowing user growth, it sparked a discussion of who uses which app for sharing disappearing messages, and which is better — Snapchat Stories, or Instagram Stories.

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    snapchat vs insta hubspotters.png

    The conversation evolved from there, so we wanted to open it up to our inbound.org community members, too. 

    So we asked marketers the following:

    1. When do you prefer to use Snapchat, and when do you prefer Instagram for Stories?
    2. When do you use Snapchat vs. Instagram for different marketing purposes?

    And now, we’re sharing some of marketers’ biggest reasons for why they prefer each platform — read on for some of the highlights of the debate below.

    Why Use Instagram Stories?

    1) There’s more engagement.

    The most resounding point that came up again and again — on both inbound.org and on Slack — was Instagram’s size advantage: While Snapchat hit 166 million users earlier this year, Instagram Stories alone has already racked up an impressive 250 million users.

    And that’s probably because any one of Instagram’s 700 million total users can click on Stories to start seeing ephemeral content from accounts they follow. So it’s no surprise that marketers at HubSpot and on inbound.org saw the advantages of leveraging their reach with existing audiences on Instagram to share ephemeral content.

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta1.png

    Marketers found that Instagram Stories achieved higher levels of engagement than Snapchat Stories, so their sharing habits have dwindled on Snapchat — and in some cases, dropped off significantly.

    insta-nick.png

    Some even went so far as to delete Snapchat from their devices altogether.

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta3.png

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta4.png

    2) It’s is easier for individuals and businesses to use.

    Because Instagram has been around slightly longer than Snapchat, users were already familiar with the interface when Instagram Stories was unveiled last August. So it’s no surprise so many members of our community found it easier to use compared to Snapchat.

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta7.png

    Benjamin Choy cited Instagram’s business tools, which are managed through Facebook’s impressive ads manager, as another compelling reason for marketers to spend more time and effort on Instagram.

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta8.png

    A couple of my colleagues cited the ease of permanent and Stories sharing all in one app, and my colleague, growth marketing manager David Ly Khim, made a great point about Instagram’s messaging capabilities compared to Snapchat: Individual direct messages don’t disappear, as they do on Snapchat.

    insta-david aja.png

    Others were more blunt about their opinions of Snapchat’s usability — or lack thereof.

    insta-emma.png

    3) It’s more visual for retailers on the platform.

    Because Instagram is such a visual platform, some marketers have found their audience members and customers to be more engaged than on Snapchat — especially when it comes to sharing (or re-gramming) pictures of products.

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta6.png

    4) The audience is already there.

    Like we mentioned earlier, because so many millions of users were already on Instagram when it introduced the Stories feature, many marketers find it easier to share content on the platform they were already using to share photos and videos.

    insta-amanda.png

    The built-in audience makes it easy for some marketers to prioritize the platform over Snapchat. Instead of rebuilding an existing audience of users, they can activate existing fans and attract new ones by sharing different types of content on Instagram.

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta2.png

    But one Instagram fan only likes Instagram — and not Stories.

    insta-alyssa1.png

    Why Use Snapchat Stories?

    1) Users can share spontaneous, unpolished posts.

    Snapchat was the original ephemeral sharing and messaging app, and it made its mark for showing a more authentic and unpolished side of social media, especially compared to the perfectly curated posts on Instagram feeds. 

    And as it turns out, that original feeling is what keeps some of its users engaged to this day.

    snap-karla.png

    2) It’s a less competitive space for brands to stand out with customers.

    While some think Snapchat makes it too hard to discover and follow other users, Richie de Wit thinks Snapchat audiences could be more engaged because they have to seek your brand out so intentionally. Plus, because Instagram is so saturated with accounts, Snapchat could be a way to grab people’s attention more easily.

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta9.png

    3) It’s a more personal, private space for sharing with friends.

    The most commonly cited argument for using Snapchat was for private use to communicate with friends and family — not necessarily for brands.

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta.png

    My colleague, senior growth and acquisition marketer Lindsay Kolowich, uses Instagram for personal branding — and she doesn’t post Stories. Instead, she saves her authentic and spontaneous content for her private network of Snapchat friends.

    snap-lindsay.png

    And in such a connected and social world online, some marketers find it valuable to have one network that’s just for them, and not for personal or business branding.

    inbound.org-snapvsinsta5.png

    4) It’s popular among younger audiences.

    One of Snapchat’s biggest value propositions has always been its appeal to younger social media users — like teens in high school, and college students in their early 20s. Younger millennials were among the early Snapchat adopters, and they’re still the Snapchat diehards today.

    So it’s no surprise that when we asked our resident youth culture expert, Clifford Chi, about Snapchat, he was a big fan. 

    (Just kidding — he’s an intern writing for the HubSpot Marketing Blog.)

    snap-clifford.png

    So while Snapchat might be on a user growth downturn right now, who’s to say how its demographics and popularity will change when Chi and his classmates graduate, start working in social media marketing, or purchasing ad space? They’ll probably start with Snapchat — and app they already know and love.

    Why Use Instagram and Snapchat Stories?

    This is only a sampling of a couple of discussions, but the vast majority of people I asked chose Instagram Stories for marketing and Snapchat Stories for personal sharing.

    So, does that mean that Snapchat is out, and Instagram is in? Not so fast.

    Marketers should always seek to meet their audience where they already are — and not recreate them on a different platform just for the sake of it. If you’re engaging with your audience and your customers on Snapchat, don’t stop simply because Instagram might be more popular. Both networks are constantly innovating (and copying each other) to offer more business tools to make products more competitive — so stay tuned for our coverage of social media news every month to see how Snapchat and Instagram stack up against each other.

    Many thanks to the HubSpot employees and inbound.org community members who participated in this discussion. Where do you stand on the debate over Instagram versus Snapchat for ephemeral content? Share your opinion with us in the comments below.

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    Jul

    12

    2017

    How Takeout Improved Our Candidate Experience: A HubSpot Experiment

    Published by in category Daily, hiring | Comments are closed

    Takeout-recruiting-compressor.jpg

    Here at HubSpot, we take culture pretty seriously. After all, we have an entire code dedicated to it, and it doesn’t just apply to our internal environment — it also shows up when we’re recruiting new people to join our team. We have an inbound recruiting mission of attracting top talent through a world-class candidate experience.

    That’s why, one January night that started like any other — watching Netflix in my pajamas and eating chicken tikka masala from my favorite Indian takeout joint — I decided to respond to a mobile customer satisfaction survey from the food delivery platform that I use, called Grubhub.

    Grubhubsurvery.png

    I had been thinking a lot about mobile, and how it could play a role in our inbound recruiting efforts at HubSpot. So, when I got an automated text that night saying “Grubhub here! Tell us about your order from India Quality Restaurant,” I wanted to know: How could we recreate that kind of seamless experience for HubSpot’s candidates? Boost your resume and join 30,000 marketers by getting inbound  marketing-certified for free from HubSpot. Get started here. 

    So read on — and find out how takeout inspired our approach to recruiting and interviewing.

    How Takeout Improved Our Candidate Experience

    The Hypothesis

    We all know that texting for business is nothing new. You might get a text message when you pay your wireless, make a hair appointment, or confirm a time slot at the dentist. But texting hasn’t played a role in HubSpot’s recruiting and hiring process since its earliest days, when developer recruiting was essentially managed on one VP’s smart phone.

    Eleven years later, whether or not a candidate receives or accepts an offer to work at HubSpot at the end of her interview process, we want her to enjoy their time with us. That experience has a big impact on whether or not candidates advocate for HubSpot in the future, the Glassdoor reviews they leave, and the likelihood that they refer friends or pursue future opportunities with us. That’s why we ask for feedback — so we can learn how we can improve. And until recently, we used what we called a Net Promoter Score survey (NPS), that was distributed via email.

    But when you consider that, today, people spend more time browsing on mobile than they do on desktop, we couldn’t help but wonder if following up with candidates via text, instead of emailing them for feedback, would make it that much easier and engaging for them to actually respond.

    So, we came up with a bit of a unique hypothesis: If our candidate NPS survey was more like Grubhub’s, and the survey was sent via mobile instead of email, response rates would increase. The objective, then, was to get a higher volume and quality of feedback that could enable us to even better improve the recruiting experience.

    The Experiment

    The Candidate NPS Survey Today: Email

    When candidates globally have a face-to-face interview with HubSpot, they receive an automated email at 7:00 PM that evening with a link to take a short survey with three questions:

    1. On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend HubSpot to a friend based on your experience?
    2. Which department did you interview with?
    3. Anything else you’d like to share with us?

    CandidateEmailSurvey1.png

    From there, my colleague Danielle McLellan analyzes the results and synthesizes the feedback, so the recruiting team has some tangible insights into what is (not) working well.

    For context, the response rate to date on the email survey hovers around 55%.

    The Introduction of Mobile

    There was just one hiccup with implementing my mobile survey distribution idea: I’m not mobile development savvy, so executing an automated text survey was pretty foreign. But, I could still perform research with the best of ’em, so I gathered some information on mobile survey vendors, and chatted with HubSpot’s developer team about the feasibility of two options:

    1. Buying the tech to create this feedback system.
    2. Building that tech internally for the same purpose.

    We ended up going with a scrappy, but reliable, solution that combined two platforms: Textit.in + Twilio.

    Textit.in is a mobile messaging platform with pretty intuitive usability. You build a visual workflow of the desired text series, upload contacts’ phone numbers, and schedule the workflow to start at a certain time and date. While it’s not highly sophisticated, for the purposes of this experiment, it provided the solution we needed.

    Twilio, a cloud communications platform, provided us with a virtual phone number that could easily be connected to Textit.in. All in all, this technology cost us about $60, showing how frugally something like this experiment could be replicated by other marketers.

    Only candidates interviewing in our Cambridge office received the mobile survey, as establishing an international virtual phone number would have required additional steps that, considering our deadline, time simply didn’t permit. That said, we had a population of roughly 220 Cambridge candidates to work with.

    The Process

    We ran the experiment from February 13 – March 31. Once the technology was up and running, here’s how it worked:

    1. Collect Phone Numbers. Our recruiting coordinators added candidates’ mobile phone numbers to a shared Google spreadsheet by 4:00 PM daily, with information like the candidate’s full name, date of her face-to-face interview, and the department she interviewed with.
    2. Schedule Text Workflow. I then imported that information into Textit.in, and set up a workflow to have that group of contacts receive the mobile feedback survey via text at 7:00 PM on the evening of their respective interviews. To make sure we didn’t change any variables aside from the method of communication, we kept the following variables consistent across all messages:
      • Time of send.
      • The series of questions asked of candidates, with the exception of one trigger question: “Hi, HubSpot CareerBot here! Thanks for interviewing today, we’d love your feedback. Will you answer a few quick questions about your experience? Y/N”. (By the way — shout out to my colleague Noah Gilman for coming up with the “CareerBot” name.)
    3. Collect results. I then created another spreadsheet to track the following results:
      • Who did (not) respond to the survey.
      • Each person’s NPS score.
      • Any open-ended comments.
    4. Analyze results. McLellan analyzed those results to look for patterns and other actionable outcomes.

    CandidateMobileNPS-1.png

    For the sake of privacy, the above example isn’t one from an actual candidate, but one that I made up to illustrate how the system works — though, the part about Dave’s beard is true.

    Results

    Takeout recruiting results.png

    As predicted, the volume of responses to the mobile surveys outnumbered those from email considerably. Even better: We saw an improvement to our percentage of promoters and the overall candidate NPS score via this medium.

    And thanks to the higher volume of responses, we also were able to gain better insights from more open-ended comments. We observed that, no matter what the medium, our recruiters were receiving high praise from candidates, and — although, yes, I’m biased — the best part of this experiment was getting to read that feedback. Here are a few of our favorites:

    Julia Blatt and Kelsey Freedman were awesome coordinators and made my day great! Everything was timely and went smoothly. Thanks to Becky, Gus and Amy!”

    The entire interview experience was amazing. The recruiter was flexible to accommodate my scheduling requests at every stage of the interview. I was well informed on each stage of the interview which certainly helps the preparation. The follow ups have been prompt and timely.”

    My recruiter, Noah, has done an absolutely amazing job throughout the process. Very transparent and informative. Send him my thanks.”

    (P.S. We’re hiring.)

    Next Steps and Takeaways

    Across the board, the mobile results indicate an improved follow-up experience for candidates — and that candidates are more likely to give us feedback via mobile. And based on these positive results from the experiment, we know there’s a place for mobile in our recruiting process … and that there could be in yours, too. Remember the statistic from above about how many people are browsing on mobile than desktop? Keep that in mind next time you’re looking to improve a user experience.

    We’ll continue to carry out additional tests of this kind to collect more directional benchmarks — things like language modification, timing, and scalable technology. Also, we’d like to expand the experiment to our global offices and will be formulating a timeline and corresponding plan to do so.

    If you’re curious about what else is going on in our world of inbound recruiting, check out the Move On Up blog, which gives readers a peek inside culture and careers at HubSpot.

    And in the meantime — I would highly recommend India Quality Restaurant to a friend.

    How has your team enhanced its recruiting experience? Let us know about your best experiments in the comments –and hey, we might even feature it on our blog.

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    Jul

    12

    2017

    The Short Attention Span Solution for Marketers (Hint: It’s Email) [Infographic]

    Published by in category Daily, email marketing, IGSS | Comments are closed

    short-attention-span-solution-compressor.jpg

    Email marketing might be entering a mid-life crisis.

    According to Entrepreneur, 2017 marks its 40th birthday, with 1978 cited as the year when the first marketing email was delivered. The sender, the story goes, was Gary Thuerk, an employee of Digital Equipment Corporation — an infamous legend, of sorts, who’s referred to by some as the “father of spam.”

    Yet — somehow — it seems that email marketing is doing a better job than a lot of other digital communication at prolonging a viewer’s attention span.

    The stereotypical “mid-life crisis” often involves change that comes after years of overall evolution and improvement. And in a way, email marketing isn’t so different. It’s gone through a number of modifications to make it better, more user-friendly, and less spammy since 1978. And now, Litmus reports, the average time spent reading an email has increased by nearly 7% since 2011. New Call-to-action

    But how is that possible, given our oft-cited dwindling attention spans? As it turns out, email marketing might be an exception to that rule for a number of reasons, ranging from improved sending platforms to more mobile-friendly consumption experiences to generally better content.

    Want the details? You’re in luck. Litmus breaks it down in this the handy infographic below.

    How to Cure a Short Attention Span With Email



    email-attention-spans-increasing-design.png


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    Jul

    12

    2017

    How to Deliver Data-Driven Web Design to Clients [Free Ebook]

    Published by in category Daily, marketing agency | Comments are closed

    data-driven-web-design.png

    As agencies continue to adopt principles of Growth-Driven Design, their client service-offerings must shift to reflect the new needs of this approach.

    Continuous improvement cycles — the structured, on-going validation process within Growth-Driven Design — is one of the primary advantages for clients and agencies over a traditional web design and development offering.

    Agencies maintain a steady, ongoing pipeline of work, while clients experience incremental improvement in results and refinement of their web properties.

    As a part of implementing continuous improvement cycles within an optimization program, agencies must leverage data to make informed decisions around website development efforts. This data is often acquired by research methods such as user testing, A/B and multivariate testing, session replays, optimization-focused analytics reports, usability reviews, or on-page surveys.

    During a testing period, agencies can present the results of specific optimizations made to a website around increases to both unit and top-level goals such as revenue, leads generated, average order value, completed purchases, and more. Previously, if done at all, traditional web design and development projects may have been evaluated against site-wide metrics, which are often less reliable given the number of variables impacting results.

    By using these approaches in an optimization program to test design variations against a control, agencies can more definitively show the impact around web design and development efforts. And because optimization services rely on data, agencies get quicker client buy-in, and reduce the inefficiency of back-and-forth decision-making on design choices.

    Looking to offer conversation rate optimization services to your clients? Download the ebook here to learn more about how to implement CRO services today.

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    Jul

    8

    2017

    How to Focus: 5 Ways to Overcome Distractions at Work

    Published by in category Daily, productivity | Comments are closed

    overcoming-office-distractions.jpeg

    When I was a sophomore in college, I developed a terrible addiction to Facebook. By the time finals week arrived, I couldn’t go 30 minutes without a dose of dog videos.

    I was officially distracted. And after a week of all-nighters, I realized my attention span was inferior to a squirrel’s.

    Checking my RescueTime dashboard confirmed that I could only concentrate on distracting videos … and not my books. I had spent 50% of the week on Facebook, which means I could’ve actually slept before each exam. Why couldn’t I focus on my studies during the most critical time of the school year?

    Distractions can infest any place of work. They might seem tiny in the grand scheme of things, but when compounded together, they can ravage your productivity. In fact, entire companies lose 31 hours per week to attention-sucking activities. That’s like losing the contributions of a whole employee.

    Fortunately, I’ve researched some science-backed tips for maintaining focus, interviewed HubSpot employees about their concentration habits, and fleshed out the deepest insights in this blog post. So take a look at these five productivity hacks to effectively overcome distractions and stay laser-focused at work.

    How to Focus at Work: 5 Productivity Hacks

    1) Plan the work day around one main project.

    Do you “eat the frog” first thing in the morning? Or do you just plop it on your desk and let it fester, reminding you that the worst part of the day is still yet to come?

    Prioritizing your main project ahead of lesser tasks on your to-do list is crucial for productivity. Humans possess a cognitive bias towards completing as many tasks as possible — because regardless of magnitude, finishing something always feels amazing.

    This is why we tend to work on a lot of easy, short tasks first, while putting our main project on the back burner.

    Crossing things off your list is addicting. But don’t give into the temptation of completing the simple tasks first. Since they’re short and quick, you can easily finish them at the end of the day. Your major tasks have much more pressing deadlines and require a lot of time and effort. So do the big tasks first to avoid scrambling through them last minute.

    Jami Oetting, who manages HubSpot’s content strategy team, plans her week out so she can eat the frog every morning.

    “I start the week listing off all my priorities prior to my team’s weekly stand-up meeting on Monday. This is my time to consider all the projects the team is working on, what needs to get done by the end of the week, and how I could be most effective,” she says. “Then, I map out the tasks that need more focus or larger chunks of time to accomplish. After prioritizing this list, I’ll block off time on my calendar to accomplish one ‘big’ project each morning.”

    Your brain’s peak performance period starts two hours after you wake up, and lasts until lunch time. So why waste these optimal morning hours on things you could do in your sleep?

    The end of the day is also the worst time for doing meaningful work. You’ve already exhausted your daily energy on an assortment of trivial tasks. So when it’s time to chip away at your main project, you’ll either drown in complacency completing it or put if off until the next day, repeating a vicious cycle of procrastination.

    2) Block the obvious distractions for greater focus.

    Your phone buzzes. A new like on Instagram! Did the picture get as many likes on Facebook? You click to open a new tab. The funniest Chevy ad spoof is the first post on your newsfeed. This is must-see content.

    20 minutes later, you’re reading an article about Mark Zuckerberg running for president when your manager walks by your desk. Which reminds you … your blog post is due tomorrow. And all you’ve written is the meta description.

    Does this sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone because it happens to everyone. It’s also the reason why it takes 23 minutes for people to refocus on their original task after an interruption. Distractions breed more distractions.

    So right when you walk into the office, throw your phone in your desk drawer and keep it there all day. Lock it up if you can. And download a site blocker like Block Site or StayFocusd to restrict access from all the websites that veer you off the path of productivity.

    Even email, which is supposed to streamline the day, sidetracks you. In fact, we spend 20.5 hours of our work week reading and answering emails. That’s half of our work week! So if an uptick in unread emails always seems to lure you away from your current task, don’t open your Gmail tab in the morning.

    Remember, unless it’s an absolute emergency, you can respond to anyone’s email within a few hours. So designate time blocks for internal communication. This way, you can channel your undivided attention on a major project and slash the time wasted switching from one task to another.

    Sophia Bernazzani, a staff writer for HubSpot’s Marketing Blog, blocks off time for both email and Slack to maintain her concentration throughout the day.

    “It’s impossible to focus if I have too many incoming notifications. So I commit to only answering emails at the beginning and end of my day,” she says. “I also set myself as offline on Slack and snooze my notifications to minimize distractions when I’m working and save them for when I’m taking a break between tasks.”

    3) Take short breaks.

    Do you pride yourself on lunch being your only break? Do you believe allocating the rest of your attention on work is the only way to achieve optimal productivity?

    Well, according to researchers at the University of Illinois, constantly working without a break actually hampers concentration over time. Taking short breaks throughout the day is what sustains your focus.

    “Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness,” says Alejandro Lieras, the experiment’s leader. “And if sustained attention to a sensation makes that sensation vanish from our awareness, sustained attention to a thought should also lead to that thought’s disappearance from our mind!”

    Lieras describes a psychological tendency called habituation. An example of this is putting your shirt on in the morning and noticing the feeling of smooth cloth touching your skin. But after some time, your brain acclimates to the shirt and you won’t sense its softness anymore.

    The same thing happens with work. Applying nonstop tunnel vision to a project actually withers your attention to it over time.

    The brain is wired to recognize and react to change. So take mental breaks to let your brain distance itself from your work. When you return, you’ll perceive your current task with a fresher lens and engage more deeply with it.

    Alicia Collins, a multimedia content strategist at HubSpot, considers mental rest a pivotal part of the creative process.

    “Taking short breaks throughout the day is a great way to sort out your priorities and boost your focus. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or stuck on a particular issue, I take some time to eat lunch away from my desk or go for a walk around the block,” she says. “These simple activities help clear my head and enable me to tackle problems from a new, creative angle.”

    There are several productivity techniques that leverage short mental breaks, like the pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes and then rest for 5 minutes. A study by the Draugiem Group also discovered that the employees with the highest productivity spent 52 minutes working, followed by 17 minutes of rest.

    You can test each method and stick to the one that enhances your focus and productivity the most.

    4) Don’t stuff yourself at lunch.

    I have a love-hate relationship with the food coma. By noon everyday, I’m so starved that I gobble up the most filling meal I can find. It tastes incredible. And after devouring my plate, I love placing my hands on my bloated belly, admiring the fact that I’m full and satisfied.

    When it’s time to get back to work, though, you’ll find me slumped in my chair. My brain feels like it’s in a fog. So I just sit there and barely even attempt the easy tasks on my to-do list.

    Eating rich meals fulfills your hunger, but it also dulls your mental acuity. Your digestive system expends so much energy digesting all the fat and carbs that it chokes the circulation of oxygen to your brain. This devastates your ability to focus.

    One way to resist a daily indulgence is to snack on light, healthy foods throughout the morning. This stabilizes your blood sugar and combats growling-stomach hunger. You’ll notice you’ll eat less and select healthier options for lunch, allowing you to stay sharp for the rest of the day.

    Karla Cook, a HubSpot Marketing Blog editor, usually eats a salad with whole grains and vegan protein for lunch, and avoids anything processed. Her motivation? To be productive in the afternoon, she needs to feel good.

    “When you eat bad things, you feel bad. It’s pretty much instant retribution,” she says. “Eating a solid, healthy lunch is a super simple way to set the course of your afternoon.”

    5) Limit Auditory Distractions.

    Background noise in the office — like colleague chatter or the clacking of a keyboard — can shatter concentration. According to several studies, ambient noise causes stress, which triggers a release of cortisol into your body.

    Cortisol is designed to ease that initial stress, so your body can return to homeostasis. But too much cortisol disrupts your prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that regulates your ability to plan, reason, and remember things.

    These subtle, but potent noises will fracture your focus, so invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or find a quiet space to work.

    Aja Frost, a staff writer for HubSpot’s Sales Blog, likes to explore every nook and crannie of HubSpot’s Cambridge office to find her own quiet spaces.

    “I look for places that are slightly tucked away, like a booth or a small table. These places are always really quiet — and free from distraction,” she says. “When I’m ready for a more social atmosphere, I’ll go back to my desk or an area of the office that gets more people randomly walking by.”

    How do you maintain your focus? Teach us your productivity hacks in the comments below!

    Learn more about HubSpot Classroom Training!

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    Jul

    8

    2017

    6 Viral Video Marketing Examples That Will Never Get Old

    Published by in category Daily, Video | Comments are closed

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    Oh, hi there. Have you heard the news about video? It’s becoming really important for marketers to use. Imperative, even. Perhaps mandatory.

    “Sure,” you must be thinking. “And in other news, the sky is blue.”

    Okay, we get it. You know how important video is. That much is clear. In fact, 94% of marketers plan to add either YouTube or Facebook video to their content distribution efforts in the next 12 months. And that’s great — but we have a question. What makes a video viral?

    According to Dictionary.com, to go viral means to become “very popular by circulating quickly from person to person, especially through the internet.” And when executed well, that virality can last for a while — in fact, I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite ways to reminisce about my childhood is to ask my peers, “Remember that old jingle that went like … ?” Download our free guide to learn how to create and utilize video in your  marketing to increase engagement and conversion rates. 

    So not only have we hand-picked our favorite viral marketing videos below — we’ve also explained what we believe makes them so effective. And given the aforementioned ability of viral videos to maintain evergreen popularity, you’ll notice that not all of them are terribly recent. So, let’s get right to it, shall we?

    6 Viral Video Marketing Examples

    1) Dallas Zoo & Bob Hagh: Breakdancing Gorilla

    The Video

    We start off with a bit of an unusual example. It all started when Dallas Zoo Primate Supervisor Ashley Orr captured this video of Zola, a footloose and fancy-free gorilla splashing around and dancing in a kiddie pool. Check it out:

    But as if that wasn’t already fun enough to watch, Star-Telegram Video Producer Bob Hagh noticed that the gorilla’s “choreography” bore a striking resemblance to a routine from the movie Flashdance, which was performed to the song “Maniac.” Seeing an opportunity for a quick laugh, Hagh dubbed the dancing gorilla video with the same track.

    I added some music to this. pic.twitter.com/UwjhTKpaeu

    — Bob Hagh (@BobHagh)
    June 22, 2017

    Within less than a week, the video was picked up by the likes of CNN, Maxim, and ABC, to name a few — just have a look at the search results for “dancing gorilla maniac.”

    Why It Works

    How many times have you watched a video and thought, “This reminds me of … “? That’s precisely what Hagh did here — took a video that was already cute, and added something simple to make it even more shareable.

    After Hagh’s “enhanced” version of the gorilla video went viral, I resolved to start observing those fleeting moments when I think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be funny if … ?” And while there’s no guarantee that acting on those thoughts would have viral results — and we wouldn’t recommend investing a ton of time in something that isn’t likely to pay off — Hagh’s experience makes us say, “You never know.”

    So start paying attention to what you normally think of as silly ideas, and if there’s a low-effort opportunity to act on them, do so — but don’t just do it once, and pay attention each time, analyzing any metrics that you’re able to pull around performance. See who responds to each experiment and how, and it could inform your video marketing strategy.

    2) Dollar Shave Club: “Our Blades Are F***ing Great”

    The Video

    The video below is over five years old, and yet, out of all of Dollar Shave Club’s YouTube videos — of which there are more than 50 — it remains the brand’s most popular, with over 24 million views.

    Why It Works

    There’s something to be said for putting a face to a brand — in this case, it’s Dollar Shave Club’s founder, Michael Dubin. Employees can have up to 10X as many followers on social media as the companies they work for, and content shared by them receives as much as 8X the engagement. In other words, viewers like it when the people behind a brand advocate for it.

    That’s exactly what this video does — and following its success, Dubin hasn’t disappeared into the shadows, and to this day, continues to personally appear in the vast majority of Dollar Shave Club’s videos.

    We get it. Founders and executives are busy. Where the heck are they supposed to find the time to appear in all of these marketing videos? To us, the answer is: They make the time. By publicly making that investment in their respective brands’ content, an executive sends the message that she still believes in her brand, and that she hasn’t let its success change her character. It’s a unique form of thought leadership, but if Dollar Shave Club’s growth and popularity is any indication — it works.

    3) IBM: “A Boy And His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie”

    The Video

    Here’s another video that you can file under: “Oldie, but goodie.” Sure, this marketing video falls within the B2B sector to advertise IBM’s data storage services — but similar to the very B2C brand Dollar Shave Club, the example below remains its most popular video on YouTube, with over six million views.

    “Even nanophysicists need to have a little fun,” the video’s description reads, explaining that, to make the video, “IBM researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope to move thousands of carbon monoxide molecules … all in pursuit of making a movie so small it can be seen only when you magnify it 100 million times.” Today, it holds the Guinness World Records™ title for the World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Film.

    Why It Works

    Re-read the first part of the video’s description. “Even nanophysicists need to have a little fun.” Replace that job title with any other, and depending on your industry, it could apply to your work, as well. All marketers deserve to have a little fun. The question is, “How?”

    It presents another opportunity to start paying closer attention to those “Wouldn’t it be cool if … ?” thoughts, and thinking about how you can actually act upon them to create remarkable content. That’s especially important in B2B marketing, where creatively communicating your product or service in an engaging way is a reported challenge.

    So, we’ll say it again: Write down your ideas for cool things to do, and present them at your next marketing conversation with a plan for implementing them.

    P.S. Want to see how this film was made? Check out that bonus footage here.

    4) TrueMoveH: “Giving”

    The Video

    TrueMoveH, a mobile communication provider in Thailand, triggered leaky eyeballs everywhere when it published this video in 2013. To date, it has over 20 million views and continues to be the brand’s most popular YouTube video.

    We’re not crying. You’re crying.

    Why It Works

    Let’s think about some of the ads that have given us “all the feels,” as the kids would say, like Budweiser’s 2014 “Puppy Love” Super Bowl ad which, in January 2016, Inc. called “the All-Time Most Popular Super Bowl Ad.” They’re popular, and people continue to talk about them long after they’ve aired. That’s because they invoke empathy — and that can highly influence buying decisions, especially when there’s a story involved.

    This video tells a story. It follows the tale of a man who was unequivocally generous throughout his life and, in the end, repaid when it mattered most. The best part: Not once throughout the story is the brand mentioned. In fact, it isn’t until the end that TrueMoveH’s general business category — communication — arises.

    Start with your industry. Then, think of a story you want to tell — any story at all, as long as it invokes empathy. Then, figure out how that story ties back to what your brand does, and use it to create video content.

    5) Tripp and Tyler & Zoom: “A Conference Call in Real Life”

    The Video

    Then, there’s the flip side of empathy — the kind that takes some of life’s biggest annoyances and applies humor to them. That’s exactly what podcast hosts Tripp and Tyler did in the video below, to illustrate what a conference call would look like if it played out in real life.

    Why It Works

    This example is an interesting case of co-marketing. Tripp and Tyler made the video in partnership with Zoom, a video conferencing provider — but Zoom isn’t mentioned until the end, when the story being told in the video is largely over. It’s as if the video says, “Ha ha, don’t you hate it when that happens? Here’s a company that can provide a solution,” and then quietly exits.

    What are some of the biggest annoyances your customers or personas have to deal with? Do they align with the problems that your product or service is designed to solve? If the answer is “no,” then, well … you have some work to do.

    But if the answer is “yes,” find the humor in those problems. They say that “art imitates life,” so don’t be afraid to act it out, and use these common frustrations to create engaging content.

    6) Poo~Pourri: “Imagine Where You Can GO”

    The Video

    Poo~Pourri, the maker of a unique bathroom spray, is known for its vast array of viral videos. And while we’re a bit too bashful to share its most popular one on here, here’s another one — which has earned over 13 million views — that’ll give you a general idea of what the brand is all about.

    Why It Works

    Let’s face it: Generally, what goes on in the bathroom stays in the bathroom. It’s a taboo topic — but it’s one that everyone experiences, and one that Poo~Pourri approaches and communicates with bravado.

    This brand’s products were created to solve a problem that people typically don’t like to discuss publicly, but still needs to be resolved. So Poo~Pourri created video content that says, “Hey, we’ll address and talk about it, so you don’t have to.”

    What are some of the discomforts/uncomfortable topics around the problem that your product seeks to resolve? Start a conversation about them — the one that your customer wants to have, but is too embarrassed to do so.

    And guess what? It doesn’t have to pertain to bodily functions. It can also be about bigger grievances, like wanting to quit your job. That’s the approach that HubSpot has taken with its Summer Startup Competition, for which we created the video below. The opening line? An unabashed declaration of, “Quit your job.”

    So, there you have it. From tear-jerking to hilarious, these viral videos illustrate the endless possibilities of how your brand can create similar content — the kind that could keep people talking about it far down the road.

    What are your favorite viral video marketing examples? Let us know in the comments.

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2010 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

    free guide to video marketing

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    Jul

    7

    2017

    15 Uncomfortable Things That Will Make You More Successful

    Published by in category Daily, Management, Office Life, pop culture, Professional Development, TOFU | Comments are closed

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    In a truly beautiful letter to his daughter Yolande, Sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois extolled the virtues of being uncomfortable.

    Yolande was headed to a new school halfway around the world from the neighborhood and people she knew. It was years before women had the right to vote, and decades before the Civil Rights Movement.

    Du Bois knew she would have more than a few fish-out-of-water moments. Instead of trying to shield her from them, he asked her to revel in them:  

    Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely. Enter into the spirit of your big bed-room. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul. Above all remember: your father loves you and believes in you and expects you to be a wonderful woman.”

    I am no W.E.B. Du Bois. I have neither his fortitude nor his stunning way with words. What I do have, however, is a small history of uncomfortable experiences that have made me stronger, and an endless sea of animated GIFs through which to illustrate those experiences.Boost your resume and join 30,000 marketers by getting inbound  marketing-certified for free from HubSpot. Get started here. 

    Here are a handful of uncomfortable situations in which you should take De Bois’ advice and “Take the cold bath bravely.” You’ll be better off as a result.

    (And remember: Investing in your career and developing new skills can often feel daunting — especially when you have a day job. If you’re looking for something you can work towards at your own pace, check out this on-demand marketing course.)

    15 Uncomfortable Things That Will Make You More Successful

    Brace yourself. It’s about to get awkward.

    1) Learning to Take a Compliment

    Source: Reaction GIFs

    Tell me if this sounds familiar: You work exceedingly hard. You’ve honed your skills. You know when you’ve done great work and take a quiet pride in it. And yet, the moment someone verbalizes it in the form of a compliment you can’t seem to string two words together. Instead, you revert into one of the following

    • The babbling-response.
    • The self-deprecating response. 
    • The total and complete blackout. 

    That nonsense has to stop. Here’s how to take a compliment:

    1. Realize that someone is paying you a compliment.
    2. Let them finish.
    3. Seriously, let them finish. 
    4. Take a breath.
    5. Smile and say “Thank you. That’s really good to hear.” 
    6. Move on in the conversation. Don’t over-explain. Don’t undercut yourself. Just thank them sincerely and move on with a question about how their work is going. 

    Why is this so hard? According to a study by Acknowledgment Worksnearly 70% of people associate embarrassment or discomfort with the process of being recognized. Sometimes, this response is caused by the dissonance we feel when someone contradicts our own self-doubt.

    But that doesn’t explain why people who are genuinely proud of themselves still balk at hearing that same praise from others. For those people, it often comes down to a learned-response. In other words, you are awkward when you receive compliments because I am awkward when I receive compliments — or, if not me, then your mom; your co-workers; your icons. We’re all making each other squirm. 

    One way to turn that discomfort on its head is to realize that the compliment has more to do with the person giving it than with you. “When someone is complimenting you, they are sharing how your actions or behaviors impacted them,” explains Business Psychologist Mark Goulston. “They are not asking if you agree.”  So don’t rob them of that moment. 

    2) Public Speaking

    speaking.gif

    Source: Giphy

    You knew this one was coming, right? Fear of public speaking is so common it has its own phobia name: Glossophobia.  

    Now, I don’t think I need to go into the reasons behind this particular juggernaut of discomfort. We’ve all been there. Having that many eyes and ears on you is stressful. It makes you feel as though any mistake or imperfection will be amplified a thousand times. I’m also certain you realize how compelling a good public speaker can be, and how much it can advance your ability to lead and inspire.

    So all that leaves is the classic glossophobia question:  How do you get over it? The answer is a mix of substantial and superficial changes.

    Know the essential points.

    Do not attempt to memorize your speeches. Instead, memorize your key points and your pivot lines. Pivot lines are the sentences that will move you from one key point to another. They act as navigational guides for your audience and a momentary comfort zone for you. Use these pivot lines to reset, take a breath, and move to your next key point. 

    Understand that everyone wants you to succeed.

    You are not going into battle. You are not facing a firing squad. These people you are talking to are all decent, interested folks. Many of whom also suffer from glossophobia. So know they are friendly, and talk to them like it.

    Fake it.

    For this last point, I turn to Harvard Associate Professor Amy Cuddy. She is a brilliant researcher and a  self-proclaimed introvert who noticed something fascinatingly simple about skilled public speakers: They all looked comfortable, and they all appeared to be in command — even if that appearance was all a big ruse.

    So she studied what happens to people’s mindset when they stood up straight, casually used the space around them, and otherwise “power-posed.” Turns out the physical act of power-posing can send biological triggers to your brain to reduce cortisol levels and increase testosterone, calming you down and empowering you simultaneously.

    (Here’s a blog post on science-backed tips for better public speaking if you want to learn more.)

    3) Working With Data

    math-1.gif

    Source: Reddit

    If you don’t take to math easily, then delving into data can be intimidating. But learning to use data to find opportunities and underscore your points is a game-changer in your career.

    The trick to mastering data is to learn it in context. Start by getting to know the core metrics that reflect your work. Play with spreadsheets at the close of a month. Learn to recognize trends. Alter the data to see how moving one metric would influence the others. The more time you spend with the data the more natural interpreting it will become.  Once you’ve done that, you can dig into the tougher stuff. Here are a couple of resources to get you started:

    4) Waking Up Early

    Source: ReactionGIFs

    It’s exhausting, this modern life. While it may seem like you should squeeze as many extra minutes of sleep out of the morning as possible, the opposite is usually true. Your energy, focus and mental capacity are at their highest during the morning hours and proceed to wane throughout the rest of the day.

    Take advantage of that time before breakfast when the chaos of the day has yet to set in. For most people, waking up early is a learned practice. 

    First, make sure you’re cognizant enough to make the decision. Putting your alarm clock right next to your pillow is bound to result in you hitting snooze from a dazed state. You can’t be expected to make smart choices while you’re still dreaming. In addition, waking up early needs to become a pleasant experience. So if the thought of going straight from your warm bed to a shower or treadmill seems abrupt, then don’t do it. Instead, move from your bed to the cozy corner chair in your living room and read for a bit with a mug of coffee. What you do early on doesn’t matter, what matters is that you use the time in productive ways. (Read this blog post for more tips on becoming a morning person.)

    5) Taking Critical Feedback

    Taking-Bad-Feedback

    Source: ReactionGIFs

    This one stings sometimes, but it’s important. Learning to hear criticism without turning your back to it can be one of the most fortifying achievements of your career.

    Think of critical feedback as a cheat sheet. In giving you direct feedback, your manager or colleague is giving you a shortcut  — your own personal konami code — to becoming better at your job.

    Sometimes, even with the best intentions, taking feedback well can be a struggle. Your impulse will be to protect yourself; to get defensive, or stop listening. So, be conscious of it. Much like accepting a compliment, take a breath when you realize critical feedback is coming your way. Listen to it all without interruption. Write down what you can. Then, ask questions to make sure you’re interpreting it right. 

    6) Giving Critical Feedback

    Source: Giphy

    The only thing worse than taking critical feedback is giving it. I’ve written about this before: Whether you’re a manager or a friend, feedback is an opportunity to help someone get better. Don’t waste it. Good coaches give feedback directly and with respect. Don’t try to soften the blow or talk around the feedback. Doing so may make you feel better but it will only serve to confuse them.

    If you’re struggling to be direct, try one clear line followed by detail. For example, “John, what you’re doing isn’t working. Let’s talk through why…”

    In addition, feedback is always most constructive if accompanied by recent concrete examples. Telling someone they have a bad attitude isn’t helpful — it’s far better to point to a precise moment in which that bad attitude showed up, and then explain how moments like that can become detrimental in aggregate. Ultimately, knowing how to improve is as important as knowing what to improve. The person receiving the feedback should leave the conversation feeling empowered to change, not broken down. (Here are some more tips on how to give negative feedback without sounding like a jerk.)

    7) Fighting through Conflict

     Source: ReactionGIFs

    You know what’s more uncomfortable than fighting through a conflict with someone? Settling for an uninspired compromise, and then gossiping about that person over drinks with your coworkers. That’s WAY more comfortable than conflict. (Not to mention, way less productive.)

    There are two ways conflict negotiations get botched: Either one side gives in too easily, or both sides are too inflexible to make resolution possible. The cleanest way through conflict is to try to discover what’s motivating the other person. Comment trolls aside, it’s pretty rare for someone to be argumentative for no good reason. Discovering the reason will help you find a better route to solving the conflict. That’s why your best asset in settling conflict is a collection of genuine questions and a patient ear to hear the answers.

    8) Exercising

    Exercise Gif

    Source: Giphy

    I keep waiting for the study that says that exercise isn’t all its cracked up to be. It’s fair to say that study isn’t coming. Not only is exercise good for your physical health, the ties between exercise and mental capacity are becoming undeniable. (Thanks, science.)

    If you like working out, skip right ahead.  If you don’t, here are the only things I’ve found to work. 

    Find your reason.

    Maybe you want to lose weight. Maybe it helps you think more clearly. Maybe you have three kids, a constantly buzzing phone, and a dog all demanding your attention and exercise is your only chance to be alone. The reasons don’t matter.  Just find the one that feels authentic for you and use it. 

    Make the time.

    Treat exercise like you treat showering. It’s just something you do; a non-negotiable daily ritual. (Psst … here are 10 little ways to sneak in exercise at work.)

    Get over it.

    I used to hear about “runners’ highs,” a sort of delusion that sets in after you’ve done it enough that actually makes you believe jogging is fun. That may be the case for some people. It never happened for me, and wanting to like running made it easy to give up when I ultimately didn’t. Du Bois’ advice is worth hearing again here: “Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.”

    Find your genre.

    The softer alternative to the above point is to find the exercise format that you hate least. If a crowded gym makes you want to run for the hills, then work out at home or outside on your own. If you find jogging boring, join a class or sports league. Work at it — it’s worth it.

    9) Unplugging

    Source: Giphy

    I love the internet. And smartphones? They’re like personal escape hatches that you carry with you all the time. But maybe “all the time” is not such a good idea.

    According to a TIME poll of more than 5,000 people, 84% of respondents said that they could not go a single day without their cell phones, and 20% said they check them once or more every 20 minutes.

    It’s not the frequency of usage that’s the problem; it’s what that level of usage does to our focus. Using our smartphones at night can make it a lot harder to sleep. When we use our smartphones nonstop it can be harder to think clearly.

    So, here’s an experiment. For two weeks, set aside some screen free time blocks in your day. During that time fight the urge to open your laptop, watch TV, or glance at your phone. Sustain it for 60 minutes or more and see if you’ve gained better focus at the conclusion of the experiment. Then, go find some cat videos on YouTube to celebrate.

    10) Networking and Making Small Talk

     brie.gif

    Source: Giphy

    Everyone has a small-talk formula. Some people start with the weather (nice, mild winter we’re having, eh?), while others ask how things are going with you at work. But here’s the trick to mastering small talk: Get fascinated by it and the person wielding it. It’s a little like being dealt a hand of cards, you can use what you have to get to bigger and more interesting plays.  

    If someone asks you how work is, don’t say “fine” — or worse, “busy.” Tell them it’s good and follow up with, “You know, there’s one project in particular that you may find interesting.” If you’re doing the asking, take any opportunity to dive deeper. Use each question as a spring board to the next one. Eventually, you’ll hit on something substantial. 

    11) Admitting a Mistake

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    You know that moment right after you realize you’ve accidentally made a mistake? You know, that moment when the dread plummets into your stomach in one sweeping motion? Uncomfortable doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    However, even that can be turned around. The most effective way to replace that sinking feeling in your gut is to assess the situation and take action. Ask yourself:

    Is it immediately reversible?

    On my last blog post, I had a glaring typo. This was not some extra spacing after a period, this was a blatant blemish smack in the middle of my post. And I missed it. Thankfully Claire Autruong caught it and let me know via Twitter so I could edit the post before it was too late. Claire is my favorite person of the week. (Incidentally, she is also a full-stack freelance marketer — inbound certified and nice as can be — if you’re looking.)

    Who should know?

    Whom does your mistake affect? Who is in the position who can help you solve it? Quickly scan the list of people that need to know about your mistake and contact them explaining what happened and what you’re doing about it.

    What’s your plan?

    If the mistake isn’t immediately reversible, you’ll need a plan of action. A good plan is the best antidote to mistake-induced discomfort. Shift from panic to determination as soon as possible, and that discomfort will subside.

    12) Getting in Over Your Head

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    Of all the uncomfortable moments, getting in over your head is probably the one most worth pursuing. Sure, it’s a little scary , and there’s always the chance of failure, but nothing stretches you more or makes you more creative than having no idea what you’re doing.

    So how do you put yourself in an over-your-head style situation? Raise your hand. When there’s a project no one wants, step up. When there’s a problem that has existed for years, have at it. Then break it down. Take big challenges and tackle them piece by piece. It may not always be fun, but you will almost always be better for the effort. 

    13) Disagreeing With Your Boss

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    There’s a reason my boss is my boss. He’s really freaking smart. He’s exceptionally good at what he does. So in the times I find myself disagreeing with him there are usually a few moments of internal back and forth before I’m ready to say so aloud. But I do so because I’ve learned that staying quiet is more damaging than polite.

    It took me becoming a manager myself to realize how constructive disagreement can be. A perspective that is never tested grows shallow. Sometimes a dissenting opinion will make you reconsider. Sometimes it will make your stance stronger. Either way, the exercise of hearing different angles advances your thinking and improves your outcomes.

    So spit it out. “I disagree on that point.” If that feels too direct consider framing it as a question. “What about a different approach?” Most importantly, don’t save up for a major disagreement. Practice coming at issues from different angles now. The more you present constructive counterpoints the easier it will become, and you’ll be more likely to speak up when it matters most.

    14) Promoting Yourself

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    Periodically we survey our team to get a sense for how each employee is feeling about the company and their own career development. One theme that sometimes comes back is how to get ahead without being self-promotional. Usually the comment goes something like this: “It seems like the company always recognizes the same people. I do good work, but it seems like no one notices.”

    The honest response to these comments is: You’re right.

    Growing companies are chaotic. They churn with activity: breakthroughs and setbacks, new projects and discoveries. Keeping up with it all isn’t practical, so managers rely on signals, and tasteful self-promotion is a valuable signal. 

    Self-promotion is sometimes misused to serve the ego, but there’s a way to pull it off that also also serves the company.

    We are taught not to be overly self-promotional. We are encouraged to value the achievement rather than the accolades. That message is almost right. It focuses on what matters most but fails to recognize that talking about an achievement can fuel its fire. Promoting an achievement can galvanize others to bring their ideas to it and ensure future efforts learn from it. And yes, it can get you noticed.

    The trick here is being judicial. Not everything you do deserves broader attention. But some things do. In those cases, talking about them doesn’t make you an attention junkie it makes you a good communicator. If the personal attention makes you uncomfortable, focus your advocacy on the work itself. Draw attention to the discovery, milestone or lessons uncovered by your effort. The company will be better for it and you will too.

    15) Admitting You Don’t Understand Something

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    I was a good six months into my job as a product marketer for a software company before I finally owned up to not knowing what an API was. I mean I knew what an API was. I’d Googled it, obviously. API stands “application programming interface” and constitutes a set of “subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software.” Thanks Wikipedia. (I’ll hit you up on that next fundraising round), but for all my internet research, I didn’t really understand what an API did.

    Then it came time for me to explain that my company, HubSpot, was opening up more of the helpful little buggers to the public and I did not know where to begin. So, I went to my product manager and did what any ego-protecting protagonist would do, I tried to fake it.

    “How would you describe this  —  in layman’s terms — to the average reader?” I asked.

    Smooth. Always blame the reader.

    “Well, developers are pretty accustomed to APIs so don’t worry about needing to educate them on it.”

    Not smooth.

    I folded.

    “Ok, then, how would you explain it to me? I mean, will you explain it to me? I don’t get it. “

    And thus began my relationship with APIs. I still don’t understand all the details of how they work, but I’m much smarter for having gotten over myself and asked the question.

    Don’t fake it until you make it. Get over yourself and ask the question.

    I’ll stop there …

    … but this is really just the beginning. Who knew there were so many uncomfortable things in the world? (Michael Cera. Michael Cera probably knew.)

    From negotiating salary to reading “some good, heavy, serious books” as Du Bois suggests, this list could go on and on. Hopefully it will, in the comments below.

    What uncomfortable moment have you conquered as a professional? Which are you still working on that you’d add to this list? Share with us in the comments. 

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

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