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Jun

27

2017

10 of the Best Ads from June: Boomerang, Bugs, and a Perfectly Useless Chatbot

Published by in category Daily, marketing agency | Comments are closed
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It’s finally, finally summer.

To celebrate the sun emerging (and the temperature in our offices dropping to subarctic extremes), I attempted to find some summery ads to feature in this month’s roundup. Instead, I ended up with a weird chatbot, a novelty phone, and several ways to kill bugs. 

Regardless of seasonal appropriateness, this month’s ad roundup showcases some inventive ad formats and new concepts from agencies around the world. Check them all out below. 

10 of the Best Ads from June

1) Bufdir (The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs)

This heartwarming ad from Oslo-based agency Kitchen (Leo Burnett/Publicis) racked up 120 million views in just one week — and the hype is completely deserved.

To emphasize the importance of community in raising a child, “The Lunchbox” tells the story of a young boy who finds himself without a lunch at school. After wandering the halls of his school to kill time, he returns to his desk to discover each of his classmates have pitched in an item for a complete meal. 

 

2) Arby’s

Chatbots are shaping up to be an inescapable trend in 2017, and it seems like every brand is jumping on the wagon — regardless of industry. 

With the ad world fawning over Domino’s pizza tracking tool, Arby’s teamed up with Minneapolis-based agency Fallon to create a high-tech chatbot of their own: The Arby’s Pizza Slider Chatbot. Despite the name, this little Facebook Messenger bot will not actually help you order a pizza slider (or anything) from Arby’s. In fact, it’s designed to do absolutely nothing helpful. 

Check out my conversation with the bot below. (Unsurprisingly, the Arby’s Pizza Slider bot has no time for vegetarians.)

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3) Howler Magazine

Back in the late 80’s, Sports Illustrated released an exciting new offer: Buy a subscription to the magazine, and you got a free football shaped phone. If this ad was any indication, people were psyched. The kitschy little device convinced literally millions of people to shell out $55 for an SI subscription.

Fast forward to 2017, and the folks at Howler, an American soccer magazine, teamed up with Kovert Creative to produce a delightful, celebrity-studded spoof on the classic campaign. Their version features — what else? — a soccer ball phone, and includes appearances from comedians Sarah Silverman, Will Arnett, and Jack Black, among others.

Unfortunately for novelty phone aficionados, Howler only made one soccer phone. And according to their website, it’s already taken.

The Soccer Ball Phone

Introducing the Soccer Ball Phone! We teamed up with some of our favorite comedians to parody those iconic magazine commercials that were all over TV in the early ‘90s. Go to https://fifa.wtf/soccerballphone for a special subscription offer now!

Posted by
Howler Magazine on Tuesday, June 13, 2017

 

4) Showtime – Ray Donovan

The copywriting shines in this ingenious promo spot for Showtime’s crime drama, Ray Donovan, now entering its fifth season. The first half of the ad features an ominous, threatening voice over from series star Liev Schreiber. In the second half, Schreiber’s phrases are repeated in reverse order, taking on a completely different tone: reassuring and protective. The ad — created in-house at Showtime — perfectly captures the title character’s duality.

 

5) Nutella

Using a special randomizing algorithm, Ogilvy & Mather Italy developed seven million unique jar designs for Nutella. Each colorful package is 100% one-of-a-kind, but if you’re looking to pick one up, you’re late to the game: According to the agency, all seven million of the limited-edition jars sold out in one month at Italian supermarkets. 

 

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6) SM Supermalls

This Father’s Day ad from the Phillipines went viral for its heartwarming (and hilarious) twist ending.

Created by Tribal Worldwide Philippines for SM Supermalls, the ad follows a family as they prepare for the daughter’s extravagant birthday bash. Throughout preparations leading up to the event, the father looks like he’d rather be anywhere else. We soon find out he’s not quite as unemotional as he seems. 

Daddy’s Girl

Most of us share an emotional bond with our moms. But with our dads? It’s a bit more complicated. Watch now and share with us your own #DadsDayFeels!👨❤ #HaveAHappyDadsDay

Posted by
SM Supermalls on Saturday, June 10, 2017

 

7) Delta

According to research from Wieden + Kennedy New York, singles who feature travel pictures on their Tinder profiles are more likely to be swiped right. But if you can’t afford to travel to an exotic locale for the selfie opportunities, Delta has you covered. 

The airline worked with W+K to create the #DeltaDatingWall, a mural in Brooklyn that features perfectly Instagram-sized selfie backgrounds of cities around the world. So if you want to trick your future husband into thinking you visited Honolulu and Zurich in the same day, this is the ideal place to do it. 

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8) Nature Conservancy Brazil

To bring attention to the not-so-distant consequences of climate change and inspire some environmental urgency, the Nature Conservancy Brazil launched a line of apocalypse supplies called The Products of Tomorrow.

Presented in slick, futuristic packaging, the products seem innocuous at first: an apple wrapped in a silver bag, a canister of sunscreen, a bottle of water. But on closer inspection, the details paint a scary vision of our future: the apple is only 3% fruit, the sunscreen is SPF 350+, and the bottled water is “low-acidic rain water.”

 

9) Bacardi

In this colorful, BBDO New York-produced ad for Bacardi, the residents of a idyllic Caribbean town are quite literally caught in a repetitive loop. Inspired by Instagram’s Boomerang effect, the summery spot features a catchy beat from Major Lazer. 

 

10) Flora

Who says print ads can’t break some new ground? This Brazilian magazine ad for Mat Inset insecticide from WMcCann invites consumers to “Discover two ways to kill insects.” One is the product, and the other is this delightfully low-tech innovation:

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Jun

27

2017

Onboarding Checklist: A 90-Day Framework for Content Teams

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

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Houston, we have a turnover problem.

As the years pass, there seem to be a growing number of studies on employers struggling to retain their people — and the high costs associated with the resulting turnover. What’s at the bottom of it? Is it workplace culture? Is it missed salary expectations? Or can it all be lumped under the crucial umbrella of communication?

It’s that last point that’s often at the root of employee dissatisfaction — and good communication starts before new hires even begin work. Many times, the key is providing the foundation of a formal onboarding program. It’s something that 98% of executives say is crucial to employee retention, as it can help bring new hires up to speed quickly and accurately, as well as establish mutually realistic expectations between employees and managers. Download our free guide here for more interviewing and screening tips to build  your team.

But onboarding new content team members — both full-time and freelance — can be challenging. Sure, it’s an important part of talent retention, but how can it be efficiently and effectively carried out, especially with limited time and resources? Below, we’ve outlined a process you can put into practice for a new content team member’s first 90 days on the job — a period of time when 20% of turnover can occur — as well as listing specific considerations for onboarding freelance content team members.

90-Day Content Team Onboarding Checklist

Before Day 1

You don’t need to wait for your new hire to arrive for her first day at work before you start integrating her into the company. In fact, you can start the onboarding process as soon as she accepts your job offer — and here are a few of the ways how.

Prepare Essential Documents

First, ensure that you have all the relevant administrative forms ready for when your new hire arrives. In the U.S., these include forms like a W-4 and an I-9, depending on the employee’s work authorization. A checklist can be especially helpful here, as there are a number of registrations and laws that might apply to any hiring you do, depending on the size and type of your company. Details are available through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. Also keep in mind any internal documents you need your employees to sign or complete, like non-disclosure agreements (NDA).

It might also be helpful to prepare something that employees can read to get a sense of your company’s history, values, objectives, environment, and culture. Many employers create a handbook for this purpose, but feel free to look outside the box here — HubSpot, for example, uses a Culture Code.

Some of this material should include information about buyer personas, especially for new content team members — it’s essential that they know exactly who your organization’s ideal customer is. That can be part of a style guide that specifies the tone of voice for all official content — with specifics like that in mind, it’ll help your new hire ramp up on writing content that resonates effectively.

Once your new hires start to include designers, add things like iconography, fonts, color scheme, and ideal logo specifications within your style guide. That can help to ensure your brand is reflected with integrity, regardless of who is producing your content.

Assign Mentors

No matter how thorough your handbook or culture code might be, new hires will most likely have more questions that they only think to ask once they’re in their new work environments. That’s one reason why mentors can be so helpful — so that new employees have someone, or a group of people, to show them the ropes and help them assimilate.

Assign each new hire a mentor — this should be someone different from the employee’s manager and can be either higher or lower-ranking — and schedule bi-weekly meetings for the next 90 days. Group mentoring and peer mentoring are both viable options.

Days 1-30

The first 30 days of a new employee’s tenure are all about learning. Avoid rushing her to start contributing to high-level business objectives within this period — remember, these initial days of exposure can make or break your new hire’s retention, so allow for a learning curve.

Arrange the first meeting between your new hire and her mentor within the first week of starting — that serves as a great opportunity for the new hire to ask any questions about the company, products and services, culture, customer base, and facilities. During this meeting, it’s a good idea to collaboratively develop a 90-day plan for the new hire, with key milestones that she should aim to reach by certain intervals during this time period. That way, your new hire can keep pace with what’s expected of her, which allows her to seek out specific advice and ask the right questions about targets.

Add Context to Introductory Materials

As the new hire progresses through her first month of work, new opportunities will arise that will provide context to some of the introductory materials she received, like a culture code or handbook. It’s around this time when the new hire should observe things like client presentations, brainstorming sessions, and other team meetings to help bring her up to speed about the specific projects to which the organization’s products and services are applied.

Even more important, however, is the new hire learning not only about the company’s objectives — but also, the content team’s specific role in achieving these goals. Discussing the parameters around these objectives can clarify her responsibilities and show how her work has an impact on the company’s enterprise value. Documentation can help, as well as a visual that illustrates these workflows. Here’s one that shows, for example, the steps involved in creating an infographic, clearly depicting which content team member is responsible for each stage of the process:

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Visual aids that clarify roles — like workflow diagrams — can be especially helpful when you’re working with freelancers who might “come and go” on the team for short-term projects. Plus, visuals can help with memory — people remember 55% more information when a relevant image is paired with it — which is important for new hires who are absorbing a lot of material in a short period of time.

Learning Core Tools

Finally, if there are any core tools or new software that the new hire needs to use for her job, this is the time for her to develop those competencies. Schedule any necessary trainings on how to use internal databases, content management systems, or other resources that have a learning curve.

Days 31-60

In days 1-30, your new hire was focused on learning, and on gleaning the context of how her work fit into the company’s goals, products, and services. Now, it’s time to begin acting on that context and becoming well-versed in those tasks that make a contribution to the organization.

Adding Collaboration and Context to Processes

During this period, new hires should become accustomed to routine processes and can start contributing to the content team’s projects. And while it might be too soon to have them play a major role in mission critical projects, they can still observe the tasks carried out around it, while contributing to it on a smaller scale.

Let’s say your new hire is a copywriter. One effective way to have him scale up his workflow — so he can get to the point of writing copy for high-stakes properties like product pages or downloadable content — is to assign one or two in-depth blog posts that require similar research and cross-team collaboration as higher-level initiatives, but on a smaller scale. Be sure to offer constructive feedback on all tasks in this phase, celebrating small wins while also identifying areas of improvement, so that the employee can continue to grow and improve.

Given this introduction to cross-team collaboration, this stage is a good time for new hires to have conversations with the folks from other teams that they might be working with in the future, like sales and PR. Set up a plan for your new hire to schedule informal lunches or coffee meetings with these other employees, to help facilitate an understanding of how each department works together to fulfill the company’s objectives.

Continue the Feedback Loop

Keep in mind that as new hires progress through their first several weeks, milestones and benchmarks may shift or need to be tweaked. Continue regular employee-manager meetings during this period to modify and finalize the 90-day plan as necessary with concrete performance goals. That type of thing can help to boost motivation — 38% of workers whose managers set clear priorities and goals are engaged in their work, compared to 4% of those whose managers don’t.

By Day 90

Independence and More Collaboration

In the final 30 days of this onboarding framework, the focus should be on fostering independence and autonomy for your new hire. With a thorough understanding of the company, its offerings, interdepartmental relations, and processes, new hires should be ready to start holding themselves accountable and playing a bigger role on significant projects.

For writers, tasks within this period that involve required assets from other teams — like design — are ideal, as they serve as a test of collaboration skills.

Assess and Move Forward

At the end of 90 days, assess the success of this framework, identifying areas of success and improvement for the future. It’s important to note that the employee-manager relationship doesn’t end here, so continue to meet on a regular basis — perhaps weekly — to continue to assess skills and interest as the new hire progresses in her career.

Wherever possible, use data to verify success. If your employee has written copy for new product pages, for example, examine its impact on factors like conversion rates. Blog posts can be assessed based on traffic.

Onboarding Freelancers

Scaling a content team often requires the addition of freelance professionals, like writers and designers. Because freelancers often work remotely, documenting work duties and maintaining frequent communication is crucial.

If you anticipate taking on a large number of freelancers, it might be helpful to create introductory assets — like videos — that cover policies, guidelines, and processes that freelancers will need to follow. This way, you only have to explain the process once and you can share the same video with every new freelancer that joins your team.

Remember when we covered the introductory materials that are helpful to full-time new hires? Keep your freelancers in mind as you create those, as even though they might only join your team on a project-by-project basis, understanding the style and culture of your organization can help them to add a more authentic voice to the work they do for you.

If you want to onboard your freelancers successfully, remember that they’re real team members — not just replaceable labor. Include them in relevant strategic discussions, just as you would regular employees and communicate frequently. We recommend platforms like Slack for staying in touch, as it allows you to communicate using direct messages, audio calls and video calls.

Communication is Vital

Even when the first 90 days concludes, maintain communication that emphasizes how invested you are in your new hire’s future. Listen to concerns, identifying gaps whenever possible, and when new interests are expressed, formulate a plan for how those things can be incorporated into the employee’s main responsibilities in a way that has a positive impact on the company.

How do you ensure a smooth onboarding process for content team members? Let us know in the comments.

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Jun

24

2017

We Asked Our Audience What They Really Think of PDF Ebooks: A HubSpot Experiment

Published by in category A/B testing, Content Marketing, Daily | Comments are closed

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I don’t know about you, but I barely print anything anymore.

Seriously, think about it — when’s the last time you had to type Command + P and print out a document? Between e-tickets, virtual payment options, and online signature tools, I think the last thing I printed out was the lease for my apartment.

So you can imagine my surprise when HubSpot’s audience started telling us they still like to print out our ebooks — which are often 20 or 30 pages in length — instead of viewing them on a web page.

In 2017 — during the era of self-driving cars, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence — our team here at HubSpot is constantly striving to test and implement the most modern techniques for content creation to provide cool, useful resources for our audience. But as it turns out, our perceptions of what our audience actually values when they download out content were a little … off.

In this post, I’ll dive into our hypothesis, how we tested it, and what we’re learning about our audience — and how they actually like to consume our content.

What We Do

I work on HubSpot’s Marketing Acquisition team creating content offers — such as our downloadable ebooks, guides, and templates — that our audience exchanges their contact information for in order to download them.

If you’re familiar with the inbound marketing methodology we’ve been teaching here at HubSpot for more than 10 years, I operate in the “Convert” stage of the process of helping new people discover and learn about HubSpot:

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When a person happens upon HubSpot for the first time online — via a blog post like this one, through social media, or by conducting a Google search — they might see a bold, brightly-colored call-to-action (CTA) encouraging them to learn more about a particular topic or product.

And in order to get that information — from an ebook, a guide, a template, a webinar, or an event — the person has to hand over their contact information. This ensures they can receive an emailed version of the content offer or event registration, and it also converts them from a visitor into a lead.

My job is to create content that visitors are so interested in learning more about that they exchange their phone number, email address, and professional background information. And to make sure we keep converting visitors into leads for the health of HubSpot’s business, I make sure that ebooks, guides, and events are helpful, fascinating, and ultimately educate our audience on how to do inbound marketing.

What We Wondered

For the most part, my team’s job has entailed creating PDFs that visitors can download once they submit a form with their contact information.

More specifically, this has meant creating a lot of PDFs.

And although people were filling out forms and downloading our content offers, we started wondering if we should offer them something different — something more cutting-edge — than a file format created back in 1993. And we wondered if changing the format of our content offers would change conversion rates, too.

We decided to run a survey — and a little test.

We wanted to know if our core persona who we marketed these content offers to still liked PDFs and found them useful. So, how else would we find out than by creating an offer?

I created two different version of the same content offer — one in PDF format, and one in web page format. Then, once someone downloaded the offer, we sent them a thank-you email, and we asked them which format they preferred, and why.

What We Learned

More than 3,000 individuals submitted their information to access the offer, and roughly 9% responded to our question, which gave us more than 300 responses to learn from.

And much to our surprise, 90% of the respondents preferred downloading a PDF to reading our content on a web page.

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We gleaned a ton of valuable information about our core audience from this survey, and the qualitative feedback was incredibly helpful, too. Our key takeaways about format preferences were:

  1. Our core persona likes to print offers.

  2. People viewing our content want to be able to download it and come back to it later.

  3. People don’t think our web page offers look as good as PDFs.

  4. Some people are potentially defaulting to the format they know best.

  5. People liked having both print and online versions.

It’s incredibly helpful to learn what’s going on behind the decisions and choices our audience makes to inform future strategy when it comes to content creation. But this information leaves us with a challenge, too: How do we get our audience excited about content living on interactive web pages, too?

Content living on web pages can be crawled by Google to improve websites’ domain authority (and SEO superpowers) — and PDFs can’t be. So we’re making it our mission to keep offering our audience different options for consuming content the way they want to — while innovating and testing new ways to offer content our core persona is just as excited about in a web-based format.

I’ll be back with more details about that next experiment, but in the meantime, download one of our latest content offers, and let us know if you like the format in the comments.

What’s your opinion? PDF or web page? Share with us what you learned in the comments below.

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Jun

24

2017

Which Fictional Boss Are You? [Flowchart]

Published by in category Daily, Leadership | Comments are closed

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I know I’m literally ten years late to this, but I just started watching Mad Men on Netflix. And guys — newsflash — it’s a really good show

The old school ad strategies, the fun outfits, the drama — I love it all. Except Don Draper’s management style. That, in my humble opinion, could use a little work.

I know my stance might be colored by several generation gaps. I’m a millennial, and according to some reports, we need to be told we’re smart and wonderful every two seconds or we turn to avocado toast dust — but it seems to me that Draper could afford to encourage his team a little bit more. Or at the very least, not rely so heavily on cryptic one-liners and mysterious stares to drive the direction of major projects. 

I probably won’t ever relate to Don Draper’s unconventional leadership style on Mad Men, but there are plenty of other fictional bosses from TV and film to aspire to — or avoid becoming. 

To help you discover your fictional boss alter ego, the folks at GetVoIP spun up this clever flowchart. So go ahead: Take a break from your morning grind, and answer the questions below to figure out which beloved (or notorious) fictional boss your leadership style most aligns with. It’s still kind of work related, right?

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Which fictional boss did you get? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Credit: AMC 

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Jun

23

2017

What We Learned From Spending $100k On Facebook Ads

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

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For a three-person digital marketing team like ours, the prospect of having a big ad budget seemed like a distant dream. So when we were suddenly given $100K to spend on Facebook ads, we were positively giddy.

And unbelievably nervous.

As a lean SaaS startup, we have to be very wise with our marketing investments. Couple that with our low cost-per-sale ($24/monthly for our starter plan), and you can see that being cost-effective while still spending on ads is a challenge.

In May of 2016, we had the honor of working with Facebook Canada. We received a small grant to kickstart our advertising initiatives, and had the opportunity to spend two full days with one of their ad reps.

Other than working with the Facebook team, we are completely in-house. On one hand this was an advantage — since we could make changes to the program in seconds rather than days — on the other hand, we were on our own for creative, landing pages, and analytics.

We ran an early prototype campaign with some decent success. In fact, it performed in the same neighbourhood as our other digital advertising initiatives. Cool beans.

But that was just the start. We’d tasted success, and knew that we were only scratching the surface. So, naturally, we made a pitch to our company’s executive team to increase our digital marketing budget so we could prove that Facebook was a viable avenue for growth. Our commitment to the business: generate trials at a cost-effective rate of $50/trial.

Our pitch was a success, and we found ourselves with a considerable ad budget. Now it was real — it was time to build out an end-to-end Facebook Ads strategy.

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Admittedly, we were quite nervous. Our credibility was on the line.

Here’s what we ended up learning from that process, wrinkles and all. Read on to the end to see our results.

Lesson 1: Fully commit resources or your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) will rise swiftly.

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We received our first lesson early on. We had become complacent with the success of our ad creative in May 2016, and tried to replicate that again. Using the same ad creative from AdWords, we launched on Facebook Ads. Initially, it worked. We generated trials at an acceptable rate.

But we mistakenly saw this initial success as a sign that we could set it and forget it. We went back to focusing on our other digital marketing strategies, like creating organic content, while our CPAs gradually rose.

Facebook CPAs have a nasty habit of rising suddenly — I mean, literally blowing up overnight. One morning, we logged into our marketing dashboard and saw that we were generating trials at twice our target CPA of $50/trial. This was crazy business, and we needed to act fast.

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Fixing this problem took a lot of time and resources, and a few calls with our dedicated Facebook Ads guru (shout-out to the brilliant Mike Empey). The problem was Ad Frequency

What happened was that our Facebook ad frequency had risen so high that our addressable market was seeing ads 3-5 times a day. Ugh. So of course CPAs rose accordingly — we were irritating people to no end.

We resolved to take two actions: first, we swapped in new creative. In fact, we created 5 new ads to push into market. This had an immediate impact, and gave us a deep understanding of how detrimental ad fatigue can be.

Second, and more importantly, we committed to a new process for our creative. We call it “the conveyor belt.” Here’s how it works:

  • Week 1: Design and launch new ad creative in 1-3 ad sets. Test and analyze results.
  • Week 2: Push all variations to all ad sets. Turn off old ads. Analyze initial results.
  • Week 3: Pick winning variations from ad sets. Analyze and deconstruct results.
  • Week 4: Assess week 1-3 learnings. Apply those learning to new ad creative.

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The side benefit of this process is that we’ve tested so many ad variants that we now have a repository of “winning variants” that we can quickly call out of retirement if our CPAs rise.

Lesson 2: Segment your audiences to effectively manage ad set CPAs.

Initially, I think we underestimated the amount of ad sets we’d need to manage. Looking back, I cringe to think we only launched our prospecting campaign with three ad sets: USA, Canada, and Europe (today we manage between 50 and 70 ad sets, depending on ad performance).

We weren’t even going beyond some basic audience targeting.

No age specification. No regional targeting. No device targeting. Just a giant ad campaign.

We were confident in our ad creative and landing page conversion rates, but forgot the importance of audience profiling. 

It’s no wonder that our results were really hard to interpret. I remember naively saying to Valerie Hamilton, our digital marketing specialist, “Europe is performing well today. What’s the story?”

We didn’t know. Were women converting better than men? Was a certain age bracket doing better than another one? We had no clue.

And at this point our CPAs were still floating about 25% higher than our target. It would have been a dramatic understatement to say we had some optimization work to do.

We started to analyze our lead generation activities across demographic lines. We used a combination of Facebook Ads, Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Salesforce data. What we found out was that we did remarkably better with people aged between 24-45. This totally makes sense, too.

Folks older than 45 are typically in a more senior role, and rarely the ones actually building or trialing our product. Instead, they are often the ones marshaling their team to demo our software.

Our first action was to split out this age range and only focus on where we saw the most success. By cutting more expensive CPA audiences, we were able to reduce our CPA.

Since then, we’ve adjusted our messaging to the >45 crowd by including more language about “their team” and “data transparency.” We’ve also focused a lot more of our ad buys on video assets instead of advertising our free trial.

It’s worth mentioning that we had good reasons for avoiding audience segmentation. First, we didn’t have the capacity to manage dozens of ad sets. Second, we wanted to keep our addressable market as large as possible and let our learnings help us figure out where to whittle down.

Lesson 3: Geographic bidding makes sense when you know regional lifetime values (LTVs).

The other side of the demographic coin for us was splitting out geographies. Treating Europe as a homogeneous advertising market just didn’t make sense for our business at the time (see Lesson 8, where we experimented with world-wide delivery).

While our European campaign was performing well enough, it was clear that we were missing an opportunity. For instance, we knew that leads from specific geographies often convert to customers at a much higher rate, and that their LTV was much higher on average.

In broad outreach campaigns, for example, we saw that we were attracting a high number of leads at $15/trial from Greece and Hungary. But while we have great customers in that part of the world, we’ve run a number of internal reports that show paid leads from that region convert at a much lower rate.

Despite paying such a low CPA, these leads were not converting and we were paying far too much for them. Internal reports (plus complaints from our sales team) had us digging deep into the data.

This is when the lesson clicked for us; we realized it was okay to spend a lot more on leads from, say, the Netherlands, because their LTV and conversion rates were much, much higher.

By splitting out different geographies, we enhanced our ability to match CPA targets to an appropriate LTV.

Lesson 4: Matching ad creative and landing pages.

This is textbook digital marketing, true. But it was a challenge for our scrappy digital marketing team to prioritize this while managing a $100K budget and driving all the day-to-day campaigns required for a fast-growing startup.

Plus, we could rationalize pushing this aside because our landing page was performing reasonably well.

But when you’re spending $100K and your CPAs continue to fluctuate, every conversion opportunity is magnified ten-fold.

With our small team and only one dedicated designer, we needed to call in the big guns. We went with Unbounce, and it’s had a measureable impact on our landing page conversion rates, helping us grab an 18% conversion rate for Facebook Ads leads. 

As we design ad creative, we create its sister landing page. From there, we can make tweaks to the page to improve conversion rates. Little things like form position, who we featured in our testimonials, and even which button colours we chose amounted to some big improvements.

Lesson 5: The one-two punch of video advertisement.

We’ve always been huge users of video to demo the product and create awareness. We’ve created explainer videos that talk about our primary unique selling proposition and give a glimpse into the product, and these videos have been quite successful in garnering views, holding attention spans, and increasing conversions.

As we launched on Facebook, we put ad dollars behind one particular video. Again, good success, but we felt like we could do better. 

This decision was more on gut feel (it still counts!) that video had a big role to play. I mean, just scroll through your Facebook feed right now. The challenge for us was that we’d committed to the business that we’d generate trials at or below our target CPA for that entire $100K. 

Video doesn’t have that wonderful direct line to trial that a prospecting campaign does. So, we took a chance, and our product marketing manager, Chris Wolski, called up an Ottawa video production company we now affectionately call “The Rascals.”

We created a fun, 35-second explainer video that we thought would play well on Facebook and Instagram. The fact is that we generated a hundred thousand views before we could blink.

How? People were actually sharing the video with friends and family, even tagging others in the comments section. We noticed lively conversations taking place directly on the posts themselves, as if the videos weren’t advertisements at all. Here’s that video:

Facebook makes it easy to create remarketing programs by creating lists of users that engage with your video. We set up a list for anyone that watched more than 10 seconds of the video. This was a new cost-effective avenue for generating leads well within our target CPA. Video remarketing leads typically come in at about $30/trial, including the initial video buy.

More importantly, it expanded our reach on Facebook and Instagram exponentially. And we’ve seen traffic to our site go up as a direct result of these ads.

Lesson 6: Create video specifically for Facebook Ads.

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When we launched on video, we didn’t really know what to expect. Lots of views? Engagement? Shares?

As a metrics-obsessed company, we knew we needed to establish a KPI. After doing some research and chatting with peers and the account team at Facebook, we decided on Cost-Per-10-second view.

We chose this KPI to help us drive better video engagement and brand recognition. If someone was interested enough to pass over cat videos and baby pictures to watch 10 seconds of our B2B software video, then we were doing something right.

This KPI has fed directly into our production process, too. We’ve worked with The Rascals to ensure that each video includes text to account for the fact that Facebook’s default setting is to mute video. We’ve also added captions to the mix because videos on Facebook autoplay with the sound off; a whopping 85% of Facebook videos are played with no sound. We would have had disastrous results if we’d relied entirely on the audio within the video to tell our story.

The overall result has been slashing our Cost-Per-10-second view by 50%. This is huge because it means for the same dollar of spend, we’re effectively doubling our reach. And you can bet this metric is front and center on our internal social media dashboards.

Lesson 7: Ask for advice and trade ideas.

I could rant for days about how much we learned from Facebook— they were truly fantastic, and the attention we received ensured we’d be successful. That said, there are no special or secret tricks. You can find everything through a Google search for “Facebook Ads Tips.”

Putting all those tips and best practices together into a single campaign, however, is where the real challenge lies.

Throughout the process we sought advice from those who’ve been there before us, who have been learning from others years before we even thought of going this route. It probably comes as no surprise that our team now pays close attention to what other advertisers do on Facebook. In particular, I think Shopify is a leader in this respect. They do a great job of integrating video.

We’ve also struck up a friendship with the team over at PageCloud , and have enjoyed freely sharing ideas. Many of those conversations have spawned new ad campaigns and experiments. Which leads me to …

Lesson 8: Boldly experiment.

We allocated a percentage of our budget towards experimentation. When we heard about a new product from Facebook called World-Wide Delivery (WWD) we sort of rolled our eyes and remembered what we had learned about geographic bidding from Lesson 3.

But our friend Mike Empey at Facebook persuaded us to give it a try. So we did. What did we have to lose?

The experiment was a huge success and with just a small percentage of our daily budget we were able to practically double lead volume. In fact, this contributed to us setting daily trial record numbers for 3 days in a row.

When the dust had settled, we analyzed the lead quality, made adjustments to our copy and landing pages, and added WWD campaigns to our arsenal of ads.

Lesson 9: Advertising is still top of the funnel.

Asking someone to start a trial of your software is a lot like calling a friend and asking them to catch up with you over coffee in an hour. The message is out of the blue and entails a time commitment. No matter what their interest level is, they simply may not be able to do it right then.

As we stressed about hitting our trial CPA numbers, we started to lose sight of what we were really trying to do, which was raise awareness and leave our audience with positive first impressions.

In chasing those numbers, we ended up making a series of small decisions that led to us making a big mistake: we’d cut so much content from our landing page that it had basically become just an image with a signup form.

Sure, that page converted well. But it also pissed people off. Some people were getting so upset that they were commenting on the ads themselves.

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At this point, we’d driven down CPAs to about $10 under our target CPA. Our hands were sore from the amount of high-fives we’d collected and shoulders we’d patted. But in that process we committed an egregious error: we forgot about the customer.

We were so caught up in the metrics that we forgot that leads are people.

So, we did the only reasonable thing. We added essential content back into our landing pages (including video content from Vidyard into every landing page), and worked on optimizing that content so the customer could wring as much value from it as possible.

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Of course, CPAs rose. But our ad relevance and positive scores rose along with it.

That was the kind of customer-centric tradeoff we were willing to take.

Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: a version of this post first appeared on Inbound.org, HubSpot’s community for inbound marketers. 

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Jun

23

2017

10 YouTube Pre-Roll Ads You'll Actually Enjoy

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

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You technically can’t skip these ads. But you wouldn’t want to anyway.

Last year at Sundance, YouTube unveiled a new ad format to brands: the unskippable, six second “bumper” ad. To prove it was possible to cram a compelling story into such a short window, they recruited a handful of creative agencies to test drive the format — and the results were pretty convincing. 

After that, huge brands like Under Armour and Anheuser-Busch adopted the new six second ad format to tell quick but gripping stories that actually stuck with audiences.

In fact, according to Google, 90% of bumper ad campaigns boosted global ad recall by an average of 30%. That’s pretty impressive for taking up only six seconds of someone’s day.

It might seem like you can’t accomplish much in that amount of time, but with a little creativity, brands can use it to forge an emotional connection with their audience and implant a vivid memory of those feelings in their minds.

Why Six Second Pre-Roll Ads Work

Suffering through 15, 30, or even 60 second pre-roll ads prompted so many head shakes and back button clicks that eventually YouTube added a skip button to their ads in 2009. In theory, though, an ad’s first five seconds are enough to hook viewers and hold their attention for the rest of its duration.

But we all know this rarely happens. Whenever a YouTube ad pops up and shields you from your favorite video, what do you usually do? You immediately glue your eyes to the skip button’s countdown clock and wait … until those lingering seconds finally slug by.

Fortunately, the six second pre-roll ad better engages viewers. When YouTube plays such a short ad for them, it’s not as annoying as a full length ad. And when brands craft these ads into fast, captivating stories, they can resonate well with audiences.

This lets YouTube sustain their ad business while helping brands create a more enjoyable and memorable user experience for its viewers.

So if you’re leveraging YouTube’s six second pre-roll ads right now, then hats off to you. If you’re not, here are 10 examples you can reference to inspire YouTube viewers faster than a Vine could in 2013.

10 Exceptional Examples of Six Second Pre-Roll Ads on YouTube

1) YouTube

To further promote their new ad format’s creative potential, YouTube challenged filmmakers and ad agencies to retell classic pieces of literature in just six seconds.

These are some of the most complex novels ever written. So creatives needed to convey each story’s core in a simple yet spellbinding way.

Rethink, a Canadian agency, did just that. Their rendition of Hamlet is clear and concise (we all know that everyone dies when modern day Claudius spams the buy button). But it’s also unexpected and funny because it gives us a glimpse of how Hamlet could’ve transpired in today’s digital age.

2) Old Spice

You’re probably not surprised that this is an Old Spice ad. But you’re also probably laughing so hard you’re crying like that guy’s armpit.

When you watch this ad, you’re so amused that you forget Old Spice is trying to sell you deodorant. And while you’re still mid-chuckle, your favorite video begins. It’s a seamless transition. And viewers crave that. All advertisers should strive to satisfy their audience, and Wieden & Kennedy, Old Spice’s agency, know exactly how to indulge theirs.

3) Chipsmore

I know you fell for it too.

When I first saw the red face of doom, disappointment started spilling over me. But, luckily for us, the Chipsmore’s Cookie Guy saved the day.

The thing is, we just wanted to watch the ad. Imagine how someone who wanted to watch a video after it must’ve felt.

They were probably frustrated at the initial sight of the “broken” video link, then surprised when the Cookie Guy appears, which grabbed their attention. And, finally, delighted when their favorite video starts.

This ad takes its viewers on an emotional roller coaster. And, honestly, who doesn’t have fun on those?

4) Road Lodge

This is a prime example of insanely honest marketing.

Road Lodge sets the expectation that their hotel is best suited for relaxation. And not so much for partying.

You might think they’re deterring potential customers from their hotel — and you’re right — they are. But it’s actually a good thing because these people would never stay at their hotel in the first place. 

And since their honesty signals confidence, builds trust, and shows that they value their customers’ experience more than short-term profits, their target market becomes more attracted to them.

Road Lodge knows that if you’re brutally honest about your product or service, then you won’t disappoint your customers. This makes it a lot easier to maintain their loyalty.

5) Under Armour

When you play baseball, nothing matters more than your stats. They’re a direct measurement of your performance and can even define your value as a person.

Under Armour sought to uproot this belief.

In six short seconds, Droga5, Under Armour’s agency, injects purpose into ball players everywhere, motivating them to place their value in their character instead of their numbers.

6) Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes uses swift video cuts and a roaring engine to engage their viewers’ senses. This way, their audience can actually see and hear the intensity of reaching 60 MPH in only 3.8 seconds.

7) Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures used this pre-roll ad to promote the full Jason Bourne trailer, which garnered over 14 million views.

And since the ad is chock full of non-stop action, it piqued viewers’ interest and generated tremendous hype around its trailer release.

8) Burn

Burn’s pre-roll ad is so effective because it’s snappy and visually engaging. And since you can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, a flaming fist across the face will definitely catch your eye.

The slow-mo effect also makes the ad seem longer, intensifying your viewing experience.

9) Airbnb

Family vacations are the best.

You get to explore incredible places and create timeless memories with your loved ones. Is there any other way you would want to bond with your family?

Airbnb agrees too. So their agency, TWBA, produced a charming ad that showcases the benefits of a family vacation: loads of fun and connection.

10) Geico

The Martin Agency, Geico’s creative partner, deserves a lifetime supply of car insurance for this masterpiece.

“Unskippable” was so refreshingly original, it won AdAge’s 2016 Campaign of the Year. And for good reason too. It sympathizes with your annoyance of pre-roll ads, so it ends before you can skip it. But it’s also so unique and witty that you’ll actually watch the entire ad.

Geico says this ad is impossible to skip because it’s already over. But really, this ad is impossible to skip because it’s so clever.

Seen any ads that top these? Share them in the comments below!

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Jun

22

2017

14 Essential Tips for an Engaging Facebook Business Page

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

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Whether you’re setting up a brand new Facebook Page for your brand, or you just want to make the most of your existing one, it’s probably a smart move — Facebook is home to nearly 2 billion monthly active users.

It should be easy enough, right? Just slap together a photo, a couple of posts, and expect the leads and customers to roll on in, right?

Wrong.

If you’re not creating a Facebook Page with a comprehensive strategy to get noticed, Liked, and engaged with, the chances of actually generating leads and customers from it are pretty slim. For example, you can’t just choose any picture — you have to choose one that’s the right dimensions, high-resolution, and properly represents your brand. Download our Facebook Live guide to learn how to increase your social  following and brand awareness through live video.  

But it doesn’t end there — so we compiled the tips below to make sure you’re creating an engaging page that takes full advantage of everything Facebook marketing has to offer.

14 Facebook Business Page Tips

1) Don’t create a personal profile for your business.

We’ve come across many well-meaning marketers and entrepreneurs who create personal profiles for their brands, instead of an actual Facebook Business Page. That puts you at a huge disadvantage — you’re missing out on all of the content creation tools, paid promotional opportunities, and analytics/insights that come with a Facebook Business Page. Plus, a personal profile would require people to send you a friend request in order to engage with you, and the last thing you want to do is make that more difficult for customers.

And while you’re at it — don’t create an additional public, “professional” profile associated with your business. For example, I already have a personal profile on Facebook that I largely keep private; the practice I’m talking about would be if I created a second, public one under the name “AmandaZW HubSpot,” or something along those lines. People usually do that to connect with professional contacts on Facebook, without letting them see personal photos or other posts. But the fact of the matter is that creating more than one personal account goes against Facebook’s terms of service.

2) Avoid publishing mishaps with Page roles.

We’ve all heard those horror stories about folks who accidentally published personal content to their employers’ social media channels — a marketer’s worst nightmare. So to avoid publishing mishaps like those, assign Facebook Business Page roles only to the employees who absolutely need it for the work they do each day. And before you do that, be sure to provide adequate training to those who are new to social media management, so they aren’t confused about when they should be hitting “publish,” what they should be posting, if something should be scheduled first, and who they should be posting it as.

To assign these, on your business page, click “Settings,” then click “Page Roles.”

Also, when sharing content on behalf of your brand, make sure you’re posting it as your brand, and not as yourself. You can check that by going into your settings and clicking “Page Attribution.”

3) Add a recognizable profile picture.

You’ll want to pick a profile picture that’s easy for your audience to recognize — anything from a company logo for a big brand, to a headshot of yourself if you’re a freelancer or consultant. Being recognizable is important to getting found and Liked, especially in Facebook Search. It’s what shows up in search results, pictured at the top of your Facebook Page, the thumbnail image that gets displayed next to your posts in people’s feeds … so choose wisely.

When choosing a photo, keep in mind that Facebook frequently changes its picture dimensions, which you can find at any given time here. As of publication, Page profile pictures display at 170×170 pixels on desktop, and 128×128 pixels on smartphones.

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4) Choose an engaging cover photo.

Next, you’ll need to pick an attractive cover photo. Since your cover photo takes up the most real estate above the fold on your Facebook Page, make sure you’re choosing one that’s high-quality and engaging to your visitors, like this one from MYOB’s Facebook Page:

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Keep in mind that, like profile images, Facebook Page cover photo dimensions also frequently change, so we advise keeping an eye on the official guidelines. As of publication, Page cover photos display at 820×312 pixels on computers, and 640×360 pixels on smartphones.

5) Add a call-to-action (CTA) button.

Since Facebook first launched the feature in December 2014, the options for brands to add call-to-action buttons to their Facebook Page’s have vastly expanded. These are things like “Watch Video,” “Sign Up,” or “Book Now” — and each can be customized with a destination URL or piece of content of their choosing.

It’s a great way for marketers to drive more traffic to their websites, or to get more eyeballs on the Facebook content they want to promote. This is a great way for marketers to drive traffic from their Facebook Business Page back to their website. Check out how Mandarin Oriental uses the “Book Now” button in this way, to make it easier for viewers to make reservations.

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To add a call-to-action to your Page, click the blue “Add a Button” box.

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You’ll then be able to choose which type of CTA you want to create, and which URL or existing content on your Facebook Page you want it to direct visitors to. To get data on how many people are clicking it, simply click the drop-down arrow on your button and select “View Insights.”

6) Fill out your ‘About’ section with basic information, and add company milestones.

We’ve arrived at one of the most important sections of your Facebook Page: the ‘About’ section.

Although visitors no longer see a preview of your “About” text when they land on your page — instead, they have to click on the “About” option on the left-hand column next to your content — it’s still one of the first places they’ll look when trying to get more information about your page.

Even within the “About” section, however, there are many options for copy to add. Consider optimizing the section that best aligns with your brand — a general description, a mission, company information, or your story — with brief, yet descriptive copy. By doing so, your audience can get a sense of what your Page represents before they decide to Like it.

You might also want to populate sections that allow you to record milestones and awards — like when you launched popular products and services — as well as the day/year your company was founded, or when you hosted major events.

7) Post photos and videos to your Timeline.

Visual content has pretty much become a requirement of any online presence, including social media channels. After all, it’s 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.

And while photos are a wonderful way to capture moments and an actual look at your brand, you should probably invest a good amount of time and other resources into video. The 2017 State of Inbound report cited video as the “main disruptor,” with 24% of marketers naming it as a top priority.

“Watch video” is one of the CTAs that Facebook allows brands to add to their Pages for a reason — because it’s becoming one of the most popular ways to consume content. But it’s not just pre-recording videos. According to the social media channel’s newsroom, “People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live.” So don’t be afraid to give viewers an in-the-moment look at what your organization does, but do make sure you’re prepared.

Not sure what your videos should look like? Here’s a fun one that we put together on business lingo.

8) Determine the ideal timing and frequency for your posts.

An important consideration in your Facebook content strategy should be how frequently you post, and when. If you don’t post frequently enough, you won’t look as reliable or authentic — after all, how much faith do you put in a brand that hasn’t updated its Facebook Page for several months? Post too often, however, and people might get sick of having their feeds flooded with your content.

Here’s where a social media editorial calendar can be particularly helpful. Like any other online content, it can help you establish a schedule for when you share particular posts according to season or general popularity. You’ll probably have to adjust your calendar several times, especially in the earliest stages of setting up your Page, since you’ll want to check the performance of your updates in your Facebook Insights (which you can navigate to via the tab at the very top of your page). Once you’ve observed popular times and other analytics for your first several posts, you can tailor your posting frequency and strategy accordingly.

Wondering how to schedule posts? You can either use an external publishing tool like the Social Inbox within HubSpot software, or the Facebook interface itself. For the latter, click the arrow next to the “Publish” button and click “Schedule Post.”

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9) Leverage Facebook’s targeting tools.

Facebook allows you to target certain audiences with specific updates — be it gender, relationship or educational status, age, location, language, or interests, you can segment individual page posts by these criteria.

Just click the small bullseye symbol on the bottom of the post you want to publish, and you can set metrics for both a preferred audience, and one you think might not want to see your content.

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10) Pin important posts to the top of your page.

When you post new content to your Facebook Page, older posts get pushed farther down your Timeline. But sometimes, you might want a specific post to stay at the top of your page for longer — even after you publish new updates.

To solve for this, Facebook offers the ability to “pin” one post at a time to the top of your page. You can use pinned posts as a way to promote things like new lead-gen offers, upcoming events, or important product announcements.

To pin a post, click on the drop-down arrow in the top-right corner of a post on your page, and click ‘Pin to Top.’ It will then appear at the top of your page, flagged with a little bookmark. Just keep in mind that you can only have one pinned post at any given time.

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11) Decide whether you want Facebook fans to message you privately.

If you want your Facebook fans to be able to privately message you directly through your page, definitely enable the messages feature. You can do so by going to your settings, clicking on “General” on the left-hand column, and then looking for “Messages” on the list of results.

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We recommend enabling messaging on your page to make it as easy as possible for your fans to reach out to you — but only do so if you have the time to monitor and respond to your messages. Facebook Pages now have a section that indicates how quickly a brand responds to messages, so if you don’t want that section saying that you’re slow to answer, you might just want to skip enabling that feature.

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12) Monitor and respond to comments on your page.

Speaking of monitoring the interactions your fans have with your page, don’t forget about comments. You can monitor and respond to comments via the ‘Notifications’ tab at the very top of your page. While it may not be necessary to respond to every single comment you receive, you should definitely monitor the conversations happening there (especially to stay on top of potential social media crises.

13) Promote your page to generate more followers.

Now that you’ve filled your page with content, it’s time to promote the heck out of it.

One of the first things you can do is to create an ad promoting your Page. To do that, click the three dots at the top menu bar above your posts and select “Create Ad.” From there, Facebook will let you start creating an ad from scratch based on your goals — things like reach, traffic, or general brand awareness. Choose yours, then scroll down and click “continue.”

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After that, you can choose your targeted audience (similar to what you did with your promoted posts above), where on Facebook you want it to be placed, and your budget — you can learn more about paying for Facebook Ads here.

You’ll probably also be asked to add some creative assets or copy. Remember, you’re paying for this, so choose something that’s going to grab attention, but also has high quality and represents your brand well.

14) Finally, measure the success of your Facebook efforts.

There are a couple of ways to execute this step. You can use something like the social media reports tool in your HubSpot software, and you can dig into your Page’s Insights, which allow you to track Facebook-specific engagement metrics. Here, you’ll be able to analyze things like the demographics of your Page audience and, if you reach a certain threshold, the demographics of people engaging with your page and posts. As we mentioned earlier, the latter is especially helpful to modify your Facebook content strategy to publish more of what works, and less of what doesn’t. You can access your Facebook Page Insights via the tab at the top of your page.

How have you set up top-notch Facebook Pages? Let us know in the comments.

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

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Jun

22

2017

The Simple Test That Doubled Leads in One Week

Published by in category Daily, lead generation | Comments are closed

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We’ve talked about the best practice of matching your offer and blog post topic as tightly as possible many times on the HubSpot Marketing Blog. But just in case you haven’t heard of this best practice before, I’ll give an example.

Let’s say you have a post explaining different types of commercial cooling systems that gets a steady amount of organic traffic each month. The best fit offer for this post would be a quiz to determine the right cooling system for your business, or a cooling systems pricing comparison sheet.

Because the offer closely aligns with what brought the visitor to your blog post in the first place — an interest in learning about commercial cooling systems — it’s natural for visitors to want to consume this additional content and convert on a lead form. On the other hand, an ebook on ventilation best practices probably wouldn’t convert traffic as well, since it’s not as well-aligned with the topic of the blog post.

A few years back, we did an audit of our highest organic traffic posts on the HubSpot Blog to see if our offers were as optimized for conversion as they could be. We found several areas to more tightly align blog post topic with offer topic, and saw CVRs climb. For example, conversions from this post increased considerably when we swapped a generic marketing offer for a press release template.

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The bottom of the post CTA

Fast forward to today. It had been a while since we took a look at those posts. After all, all of the optimization work that could be done had been done, right?

But then I started digging into the conversion rates of the offer landing pages themselves … and discovered a whole new gold mine of opportunity.

Here’s the quick and dirty of how I doubled leads from 50 of our top-performing blog posts in one week by analyzing landing page CVRs.

Gathering the Data

First, I created a massive spreadsheet that included data on:

  • Blog post traffic
  • Leads generated from blog posts (HubSpot customers, you can do this via attribution reports. Learn how here.)
  • Conversion rate of offer landing page

Here’s what that looked like (this snapshot features some of our worst-converting blog posts — clearly, there’s some work to be done):

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Blog data: URL, views, leads attributed, and CVR

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Separate tab with offer LP submission rate data

Then, I sorted by highest number of blog post views and highest number of leads generated, and started comparing to offer landing page CVR. This helped me prioritize my optimization efforts so I could see where the potential to move the needle was the greatest — i.e. an offer with a 70% submission rate but 800 monthly views wouldn’t be as good an opportunity to increase raw leads as one with a 45% submission rate and 15,000 monthly views.

The sweet spot was high blog post views + low number of leads generated + low landing page submission rate.

Auditing the Offers

Then, for the top 150 viewed blog posts, I manually audited and noted the URL of which offer LPs were being used. I found that some offers were tightly aligned to the topic of the blog posts while others were not. I also found that some of the offers we were directing visitors to were out of date — not the best experience.

Next up? Some VLOOKUP magic to match offer landing page submission rate to the blog posts that offer was being linked from. It quickly became clear that some of our best-performing blog posts were pointing to some of our worst-performing offers. I also spotted a few trends in subject matter among our lowest performers, such as social media, career development, and content creation.

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Finally, I went through our offers library and identified the content offers with the highest submission rates, and sorted them by topic category. These would be the replacements for the laggards.

The Results

After all this number crunching, I was able to identify 50 blog posts that represented our lowest-hanging fruit. I went through and swapped out these posts’ CTAs (or created new ones from scratch) for the most tightly-aligned offers with the highest submission rates.

The results were even better than I expected. After one week, these posts generated 100% more leads than average — even while post traffic was down 10%. This seemingly small tweak made a big impact on our leads.

We’ll be keeping an eye on how this pans out long-term. But in the meantime, here are a few takeaways and lessons learned I hope will be as valuable for your team as they were for ours:

  • When deciding what offer to pair with what blog post, don’t neglect to check the submission rate of the offer landing page. As we found, this is an easy way to quickly increase the number of leads you’re generating from your best-performing blog posts — especially if you have multiple offers on the same or similar topics.
  • Regularly audit your offers to ensure the content isn’t out of date. Outdated content will create a negative visitor experience and hurt your conversion rate.
  • Regularly audit the conversion paths of your top blog posts. Set aside time for optimization every few months so you can ensure you’re using your content to generate the most possible leads. Optimization isn’t a one-and-done thing.

Have you ever done a similar optimization project? Comment below with your best experiments and hacks to increase conversion rate below (and hey, we might even feature your experiment on our blog).

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Jun

17

2017

The Greatest Marketing Growth Hack of All Time (Hint: Cupcakes)

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

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A few years ago my team at RJMetrics was launching a short survey over the holidays. It’s a tough time of the year to get attention, especially when you’re a B2B SaaS company. At some point, someone suggested a cupcake giveaway.

So we did.

Ten participants were randomly chosen to receive a dozen cupcakes, and people LOVED it.

  • They sent email responses to the request saying they hoped they got the cupcakes.
  • They tweeted delighted responses about the campaign.
  • When we delivered them, they tweeted pictures of them and their co-workers enjoying the cupcakes.

The response to the cupcake campaign was completely out of proportion to the $50 cost to us.

So we decided to make cupcakes a bigger part of some other marketing initiatives. Prior to this first cupcake encounter, we would use iPads as an incentive to promote our webinars. You know, that post-registration page that says “Tell your friends you’re joining us for a chance to win!” We decided to scrap the iPad in lieu of cupcakes…and our conversion rate skyrocketed.

No joke.

People would rather receive a dozen cupcakes than an iPad.

And inevitably we would ship the cupcakes and see a cupcake photo plus a tweet like: “RJMetrics has the best webinars, and you might win cupcakes!”

So there it is, the greatest marketing growth hack of all time. The next time you’re trying to motivate people to do something for you, offer the chance to win some cupcakes.

The Psychology of Cupcakes

Now, let’s talk a little bit about what’s happening here. There are a few good theories. I first shared a version of this post over on ThinkGrowth.org and the responses there aligned pretty closely to what I hear whenever I share this story. 

Cupcakes seem like a more achievable prize.

In the case of the survey, the odds of winning cupcakes were actually better than the odds of winning an iPad — we were choosing 10 winners instead of 1. But for webinars, the odds were exactly the same — only 1 winner. Still, there’s something about a dozen cupcakes that just seems more possible.

One commenter summed it up perfectly:

The Lake Wobegon Effect

As in Lake Wobegon of Prairie Home CompanionThis theory was presented by HubSpot’s co-founder and CTO, Dharmesh Shah and is a variation on cupcakes seeming more achievable, but with a little more detail on the psychology of why they feel more achievable:

Valuing Experiences Over Things

Another theory on why this is so effective is that people actually want the experience of winning cupcakes more than they want the experience of winning an iPad. Winning an iPad is kind of a lonely experience, tell your co-workers and they’ll probably feel bored or jealous.

But winning cupcakes? That’s a community experience. You can gather your co-workers around to share in your success, eat cupcakes together, take a picture. And maybe on some sub-conscious level we all just want that feeling of community more than we want an iPad.

My hunch is that if you ask someone outright, they will always tell you they would prefer to win an iPad, but actual behavior reveals we might want something a little more meaningful.

The Element of Surprise

This is a less popular theory, but personally, I think it carries a lot of weight. In marketing, all strategies erode over time. Andrew Chen calls this “The Law of Shitty Click-Throughs.” He uses the example of the internet’s first banner ad: 

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But by 2011, Facebook ads were converting at .05%.

And we see this play out again and again in marketing. As more businesses adopt a tactic, the better people become at tuning it out, and the effectiveness of that tactic wears off:

We’re just not used to seeing cupcakes show up in marketing. It surprises us, forces us to pause and pay attention. And attention, after all, is what marketers are always chasing.

If the surprise theory is true, this holds implications beyond cupcakes. It means there’s an enormous edge given to marketers who can navigate the balance of being familiar enough that people feel comfortable, but surprising enough that people actually pay attention.

I’ve recently fallen in love with CBInsights newsletter. The author of the newsletter and founder of the company, Anand Sanwal, has an amazing sense of humor and I’ve found myself hooked on his storylines. Here’s one of this latest newsletters:

How many business communications lead with “I love you”? Or talk about bromances in a way that makes you want to keep reading?

And you actually want to read the copy because Anand is constantly dropping little remarks like “a not very useful graph” that are so refreshingly honest about the things marketers are often trying to hype. I mean this graph is interesting, but he’s right, it’s not very useful 😂

And of course, this is all held together by a core of content that is top-notch commentary on the tech industry.

Why do I love this newsletter so much? Yes, it’s providing incredibly useful information, but I’m constantly surprised and delighted by what Anand is writing. I read what he’s writing because it’s different from how everyone talks about similar things.

He’s not giving away cupcakes, but there’s still power in the art of surprise.

Now it’s your turn.

After I published this post on ThinkGrowth.org I heard from two marketers who were already implementing the cupcake test. So, the time to try this strategy is now. It won’t be crazy effective for too long!

But seriously, cupcakes or no cupcakes, keep your eye out for opportunities to share a little joy with your audience. We’re all busy and distracted and overloaded with information. Ask yourself how you can add just a little more humanity to your marketing, how you can create moments for your audience to connect with other humans, how you can make them pause and maybe … just maybe … how you can even make them smile.

Editor’s Note: This post was adapted for the Marketing Blog from ThinkGrowth.org, HubSpot’s Medium publication. You can check out the original version here

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Jun

17

2017

How to Make an iPhone Video: A Step-by-Step Guide

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

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You might know that video is important, that your audience wants to see it, and you might even want to make it a part of your strategy. But you’re still asking the big question:

“How?”

If you aren’t producing video content because you don’t think you have the ability, time, or resources to do it, we have some good news: Your answer to the video content question could be sitting in your pants pocket. (Hint: It’s your iPhone.)Check out our interactive guide to creating high-quality videos for social  media here.

You or a member of your team most likely already owns a great video camera — one that’s easier to use than a traditional, high-tech setup. In this post, we’ll walk you through our tips and best practices for filming high-quality marketing and social media videos with your handy iPhone and a just a few other tools. And if you don’t have time to read them all, we’ve demonstrated how to do it in the video below.

P.S. We filmed it with an iPhone.

How to Shoot Videos with an iPhone

1) Find a quiet place to film.

This might seem obvious, but if you’re filming at work or out in public, the sight of a phone might not tip people off to keep the volume down if they’re nearby. If possible, book a conference space, hang signs telling people to steer clear of where you’re shooting, or bring a coworker with you to block off the area where you plan to film.

2) Make sure your iPhone has enough storage space.

Have you ever experienced the dreaded moment when you were unable to capture a video because you got this pop-up notification?

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If this notification pops up while you’re filming a video, your phone will stop recording, and you’ll have to start over. To prevent this, make sure you have enough space before pressing “record.” Delete as many unnecessary files and apps as you can, and if needed, purchase iCloud storage for files to free up more space on your device itself.

To do this, navigate to “Settings,” select “General,” “Storage & iCloud Usage,” and tap “Manage Storage” to buy more space for as little as $0.99 per month.

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3) Turn off notifications.

Another distracting iPhone feature that could interrupt your filming is how frequently your device receives notifications. Before you start filming, set your iPhone to Do Not Disturb mode to keep notifications going in the background so you can film uninterrupted.

Swipe up on your phone and tap the crescent moon icon to put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode, and tap it again when you’re done to return your phone to normal settings.

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Pro tip: Do Not Disturb is a great way to watch YouTube videos, play games, and sleep uninterrupted, too.

4) Use a tripod.

I don’t care how steady you think your hands are — they probably aren’t steady enough to film a video. 

Now, it’s one thing if you’re scrappily putting together a Snapchat Story, but if you’re filming a video for your brand — especially one that will live permanently on your blog, YouTube channel, or other social media assets — you’ll need the help of a tripod to keep the video steady and clear.

You can purchase full tripods, or smaller versions for your desk on Amazon, at Best Buy, or other vendors.

5) Light your video.

This point is especially important if you’re filming in an office building with lots of overhead lighting. You don’t need to buy anything fancy for this step — in fact, our friends at Wistia put together this guide to a DIY lighting setup. You need enough light to give the impression of natural light, which means it’s coming from a variety of different light sources, and not just directly overhead. 

If you don’t have the time or budget to purchase a lighting setup, find a room or location with plenty of natural light — and remember to turn off the overhead lights — to keep your video subject looking good.

6) Use a microphone.

Make sure you use some sort of microphone to minimize the impact of distracting ambient noise. The expression “the silence is deafening” is real — especially when it comes to video production. 

You don’t need a fancy microphone and boom setup like in the movies, although those would be a great investment to make if you plan to film a lot of videos. You can use something as simple as a microphone that plugs into your iPhone’s headphone input to get great audio for your videos — and you can buy one here.

7) Film horizontally.

When people view videos on mobile devices, the video automatically rotates according to the orientation of the device it’s being viewed on. So, it makes more sense to film horizontally so your video can be viewed if the user rotates his or her phone, or is watching on a large tablet or computer screen. If you film vertically and the viewer’s screen is rotated, the video will appear more constricted.

There are exceptions to this, of course — if you’re filming a video specifically for Snapchat or Instagram, for example, you should film your video vertically on your iPhone, because that’s how the videos will be consumed. But if you’re filming for Facebook, YouTube, or another video hosting site, film horizontally to help viewers get the best possible viewing experience, no matter what device they press play on.

8) Don’t use the iPhone’s zoom capability.

Simply put, iPhone’s zoom will most likely make your video look bad.

We’ll elaborate: Unless you have the ultra-fancy iPhone 7 Plus camera, zooming in on an iPhone will simply enlarge the image — it won’t get you closer to what you’re filming — so it’ll make your final video pixellated and blurry-looking.

Instead, physically move your filming setup closer to your subject to eliminate the need to zoom in.

9) Lock your exposure.

The iPhone does a fantastic job of finding the subject to focus your camera’s exposure — which is great for taking a photo. But when it comes to filming a video, its super-powered exposure will continue adjusting and readjusting according to movement — leaving your final video occasionally blurry and out of focus.

You can solve this problem by locking the exposure while you’re filming. Before you press record, hold down your finger on the subject of your video until a yellow box appears around the person or object and the words “AE/AF Lock” appear:

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10) Edit on a computer.

Once you’ve filmed your video, you need to edit it and get it ready for publication. And although the iPhone offers a lot of visual editing tools within its interface, it’s best to use editing software on your computer to fine-tune the images. Software like iMovie and Adobe Premiere Pro let you add sound, captions, and adjust filtering to make your video look (and sound) as professional as possible. 

Lights, Camera, Action

You don’t need a ton of expensive equipment to film and edit engaging videos — you just need to follow the steps above to film something that looks professional with the help of your handy iPhone. If you don’t have an iPhone, never fear — we’ll create some guidance for Android devices soon. In the meantime, download our guides to creating videos for social media to get started distributing your content today.

What are your tips for filming videos on the iPhone? Share with us in the comments below.

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Jun

16

2017

How to Write Catchy Headlines and Blog Titles Your Readers Can't Resist

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

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It’s one thing to write great content, but it’s another thing to get it read and ranked — which is where nailing the title comes in.

Titles are what sell the content. They represent it in search engines, in email, and on social media. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the most common questions we get concern crafting titles.Ready to take your blog to the next level? Take our free inbound marketing  certification course here. 

How long should my headline be? What words should I use? What words should I avoid? Should I optimize it for search, or for social? Or both?

Luckily, we’ve come up with a simple formula for writing catchy headlines and blog titles that you can reference from here on out. So let’s just dive right in, shall we?

A Foolproof Method for How to Write Catchy Headlines and Titles

1) Start with a working title.

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of coming up with a perfect title, start with a rough draft: your working title. What is that, exactly? A lot of people confuse working titles with topics. Let’s clear that up:

Topics are very general and could yield several different blog posts. Think “raising healthy kids,” or “kitchen storage.” A writer might look at either of those topics and choose to take them in very, very different directions.

A working title, on the other hand, is very specific and guides the creation of a single blog post. For example, from the topic “raising healthy kids,” you could derive the following working titles:

  • “How the Right Nutrition Can Strengthen Your Kids’ Bones”
  • “A Parent’s Guide to Promoting Your Child’s Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Well-Being”
  • “X Recipes for Quick & Healthy Dinners Your Teenagers Will Gobble Up”

See how different and specific each of those is? That’s what makes them working titles, instead of overarching topics. It’s also worth noting that none of those titles are perfect — they should just be specific enough to guide your blog post. (We’ll worry about making it clickable and search-friendly later.)

2) Stay accurate.

Accuracy is critical when trying to finesse a title, because it sets clear expectations for your readers. While I’m sure lots of people would love to click into a post that said “10 B2B Companies Killing Facebook So Freaking Hard They Don’t Need Any Other Marketing Channel” … it’s a little bombastic, no?

Unless, of course, you truly did find 10 B2B companies rocking Facebook that hard, and you could confirm that all 10 of them had stopped using other marketing channels. First and foremost, your title needs to accurately reflect the content that follows.

One way to ensure accuracy? Add bracketed clarification to your headline, like we did in this blog post:

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In a study of over 3.3 million paid link headlines, we found that headlines with this type of clarification — [Interview], [Podcast], [Infographic], etc. — performed 38% better than headlines without clarification. Again, it’s all about setting clear expectations. Thanks to the brackets, these readers knew exactly what they were getting themselves into before they even clicked.

So if you remember nothing else from this blog post, let it be this: The most important rule of titles is to respect the reader experience. If you set high expectations in your title that you can’t fulfill in the content, you’ll lose readers’ trust.

Accuracy encompasses more than just hyperbole, though. With the example working title above, you’d also want to confirm all of the examples are, indeed, B2B. Or even that they’re all companies — instead of, say, individual bloggers that target B2B audiences. See what I mean?

3) Make it sexy.

Just because you have to be accurate doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to make your title pop. There are a lot of ways to make a title sexier.

Of course, all of this hinges on understanding your core buyer persona. You need to find language that resonates with them, and know what they find valuable. (Haven’t created or refined your buyer personas yet? Download this free template to create your own buyer personas for your business.)

Once you’re armed with knowledge of your buyer persona’s preferred style, try testing out some of these tips for making your headlines a little sexier:

  • Have some fun with alliteration. The title and header in this blog post, for instance, play with alliteration: “Foolproof Formula.” It’s a device that makes something a little lovelier to read, and that can have a subtle but strong impact on your reader.
  • Use strong language. Strong phrases (and, frankly, often negative ones) like “Things People Hate,” or “Brilliant” pack quite a punch. However, these must be used in moderation. As one of my coworkers likes to say, “If everything is bold, nothing is bold.”
  • Make the value clear. As we mentioned above, presenting the format and/or contents to a reader helps make your content a little sexier. According to our research, templates tend to be particularly powerful for CTR: We found that adding “[Template]” to our titles got the most average views of all bracketed terms.
  • Make it visual. Is there an opportunity to include visuals within your post? Make that clear in the title. Our research revealed that headlines featuring the word “photo(s)” performed 37% better than headlines without this word.
  • Focus on the “whos,” not the “whys”. Want to intrigue your audience? Focus on the “who”: Headlines including the word “who” generated a 22% higher CTR than headlines without it.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a post titled, “15 of Our Favorite Brands on Snapchat.” How might we punch up our accurate-but-boring working title? Here are some options:

  • 15 Brilliant Brands Who Are Killing It on Snapchat
  • Snapchat Success: 15 Inspiring Brands Who Just Get It
  • 15 Must-Follow Brands That Are Seeing Snapchat Success

4) Keep it short.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long or short your title should be. It depends what your goals are, and where your headline will appear.

Do you want this post to rank really well in search? Focus on keeping the title under 70 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search engine results.

Are you trying to optimize your title for social sharing? According to our own analysis at HubSpot, headlines between 8–12 words in length got the most Twitter shares on average. As for Facebook, headlines with either 12 or 14 words received the most Likes.

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Additionally, headlines with eight words had a 21% higher clickthrough rate than the average title, according to the folks at Outbrain.

The lesson? It’s always a good idea to run a few tests to see what works best for your particular audience.

Let’s say I was writing this blog post: “Think Social Media Is Just for Kids? Here Are 10 Statistics Guaranteed to Prove You Wrong.” To shorten it, I would simply try to rephrase it and cut out extraneous words. For instance, I might do something like this:

  • Before: Think Social Media Is Just for Kids? Here Are 10 Statistics Guaranteed to Prove You Wrong
  • After: 10 Stats That Prove Social Media Isn’t Just for Kids

See? It’s that easy. Try sounding out the title in your head to make sure it’s easily digestible for your readers. The less of a mouthful you can make your titles, the better.

5) Try to optimize for search and social.

I say “try” because, sometimes, trying too hard to optimize for these things can make your title sound strange. Remember: You want to optimize your title for your audience above all else, but if you can optimize for both search and social, that’s great.

The secret to thinking about all three at once? Focus on keywords that you know your audience is already searching for, then look into the search volume for those keywords.

Once you have a keyword in mind, you’ll want to be sure to place it as closely as possible to the beginning of your headline to catch your reader’s attention. (Again, you should keep your headline under 70 characters so it doesn’t get cut off in search engine results.)

Another important consideration? Make sure your headlines are tweetable: “The 120-130-character range is the sweet spot for high clickthrough rate, according to an analysis of 200,000 tweets with links,” explains my colleague, Senior Marketing Manager Lindsay Kolowich. “This leaves enough space for people to include a short comment if they choose to manually retweet and cite you.” 

Here’s an example: Let’s say I’m writing a post titled, “X B2B Companies Using Facebook in Cool Ways.” Looks like there’s some wiggle room to optimize it without compromising clarity, right?

If the goal is to rank for the term, “Facebook Marketing,” I’d recommend something like this:

“New to Facebook Marketing? Here Are 10 B2B Companies Doing It Right”

This new title works for a few reasons:

  • It’s 56 characters long. This means that it’s short enough to not be cut off in search engines and it’s short enough to be retweeted.
  • The keyword is in the beginning. By moving “Facebook Marketing” to the beginning of the title, we’re ultimately increasing the odds that we’ll grab our audience’s attention.
  • It’s human. I wasn’t kidding when I said you should focus on optimizing for your audience first. This title presents both a pain point and a solution all wrapped up in one.

(Download this ebook for more data-backed SEO strategies we recommend.)

6) Brainstorm with someone else.

Once you’ve refined your title using the tips above, it’s time to come up for air and connect with another human. Title brainstorming is an essential part of the process.

Here at HubSpot, we spend a decent amount of time and brainpower coming up with our titles. The final step before scheduling a blog post is pulling another member of our team into a back-and-forth title brainstorm in a chat room. One member of the duo will post the title they recommend into the chat pane window. The other person will then refine that title even further, or suggest other angles. After several back-and-forths, the duo will agree on the title that’s accurate, sexy, concise, and SEO-friendly.

Only when both parties agree on a title do we schedule our post for publishing — which can take as little as five seconds and as long as ten or so minutes. While that seems like a long time, it’s essential to put our best feet forward with each post we publish.

What’s your process for crafting titles? Let us know in the comments.

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

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Jun

16

2017

How to Build A Business Plan That Actually Works [Free Template]

Published by in category Daily, Promo | Comments are closed

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We’re living in a golden age of startups and side hustles, where it seems like more people than ever before are striking out on their own with new business ventures.

Whether you’re just beginning to think about starting a business, or already drafting a formal document with your current business goals, it’s crucial to clearly define the scope of every aspect of the company — from mission, to target customers, to funding and finances, and beyond. 

When you’re just getting started, it can be tempting to think of a business plan as just a catchy company name and a quick description of what you’re selling. But in the back of your mind, you’re probably aware that planning a business involves thinking through a huge number of details and decisions. It can be daunting to consider the full scope of all that starting your business really takes.

HubSpot and General Assembly have teamed up to help get you started on the right foot with our free Business Plan Template. Inside, you’ll find templates and checklists to help you:

  • Sell the story of your company
  • Describe your product line and plan for how to stand out among competitors
  • Put together the necessary financial projections to make a strong start
  • Plan longer-term goals and metrics
  • Consider legal formalities that require attention
  • Create your buyer persona and determine your product/marketing fit

Click here to download your Business Plan Template and get started.

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Jun

15

2017

Does Influencer Marketing Actually Work? A HubSpot Blog Experiment

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

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I ran my first experiment in influencer marketing in middle school. My mom had bought me a pair of practical (her words) but hideous (my words) sneakers — and insisted I wear them to gym class.

Believing — maybe rightfully — that my reputation hinged on having cool footwear, I convinced my mom to buy a second pair as a gift for my friend Kelly’s birthday. Kelly was the coolest girl in sixth grade. Everything she did turned into a trend.

Kelly wore her sneakers to gym, probably at behest of her mom. Next thing I knew, everyone was rocking my ugly shoes. I was trendy, not lame. The experiment was a total success.

I didn’t think about influencer marketing again until I joined HubSpot. On the blog team, we’re always looking for ways to scale traffic — which gets continually harder as your audience grows. We’ve already captured much of the “low-hanging fruit.” Partnering with influencers could help us reach new readers while bringing our current ones fresh insights and promoting worthy thought leaders. Win-win-win.

When I started experimenting with influencer marketing strategies for the HubSpot Sales Blog seven months ago, I was operating under a few key assumptions:

  1. If one influencer is good, 23 is better.
  2. A huge name on a standard quality blog post is better than an unknown name on a great quality post.
  3. Partnering with influencers is an efficient and scalable way to grow traffic.

Turns out, those assumptions were mostly — even completely — false.

Experiment #1: Is Influencer Marketing a Silver Bullet?

Let’s go back to November 2016, when I set out to create a blog post that received 10,000 views or more in its first 30 days.

For context, average views per Sales Blog post for November was 3,180.

I decided to create an influencer round-up (a type of post gathers quotes from multiple influencers on a single theme or topic). Harnessing the reach of some of the biggest names in sales through their social shares would surely push the post over the 10K line.

Since there are relatively few sales influencers, and their expertise is pretty varied, I chose a broad theme for the round-up post: How to Have Your Best Sales Year Yet. Each month received its own section and covered a different aspect of selling, from qualifying to giving demos.

Then it was time to get the influencers on board. First, I identified 30 sales experts and thought leaders, and wrote a personalized email to each one.

Twenty-three influencers agreed to participate. That’s approximately 77% of the 30 I approached — a great response rate that was likely bolstered by the personalized emails.

Next, I wrote custom questions for each influencer based on their area of expertise. I collected their interview answers for the post through a combination of phone and email interviews. I also asked each influencer to commit to promoting the post on LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as their email newsletter if they had one.

After the post went live, I created custom tracking URLs for each influencer to use for their share(s). This step allowed me to see exactly how much traffic every individual was responsible for. I also created a custom image for social media each influencer with a quote from their interview:

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From start to finish, the entire post took me roughly 18 hours. A standard, non-influencer post takes me 45 minutes to an hour. That’s a big difference in time.

The Results:

The post ended up getting around 9,100 views in the first 30 days. The influencers were responsible for 4,143 of those views — each sharing their link on Facebook and Twitter within three days of the launch date, with several sharing the link on LinkedIn as well.

Sounds like our influencer strategy worked, right? Well, not quite.

When I dug deeper, I discovered the influencer traffic wasn’t distributed evenly. In fact, one person was responsible for 77% of all influencer traffic.

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Some influencers drove less than 20 views each.

These results killed my first assumption: If one influencer is good, 23 is better.

Experiment #2: Is Targeted Influencer Marketing a Silver Bullet?

With this in mind, I had two goals for the next post in my influencer marketing experiment:

  • Feature as many “heavy hitters” as possible.
  • Feature the influencers’ products — giving them a clear incentive to promote the piece beyond being quoted as a thought leader.

I chose The 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of All Time as the theme, since it would enable me to satisfy both criteria. I sent an email to each author with a custom URL and a polite request for them to share it.

The Results:

All in all, the influencers drove around 5,700 views. Guess who was responsible for 60% of those views? The same influencer who was responsible for 77% of the traffic for the first post.

It’s not surprising this influencer is such a reliable source of traffic. He has more than 1.7 million Facebook fans. A mere 0.002% of them clicked on the link to the HubSpot Sales Blog.

What is surprising is that the other influencers are driving such little traffic. It takes roughly the same amount of time to get a quote from the other influencers as this superstar one, but the results are completely disproportional.

Experiment #3: Looking for a Scalable Solution

Is the solution to concentrate solely on massive influencers? Unfortunately, there aren’t enough out there in the sales space.

What if we skipped the time-consuming process of picking a theme, finding experts, reaching out to them, developing questions, transcribing and editing their answers, and putting everything together into a post? What if I started with content that already existed, cutting out the creation process entirely?

I started handpicking influencers based on their network size and asking to publish their original content and/or repurpose some of their existing content — along with a social share, of course.

This strategy requires much less time. Each post would receive fewer page views, but I’d be able to produce more in the same amount of time — meaning we’d drive more overall traffic.

It’s also great for the influencers. They’ve already done the hard work of content creation; now they can sit back and enjoy its amplification. We send their posts out to our 50,000-plus email subscribers and give them the option of adding in-line links and a CTA to their website or virtual offers.

I started this experiment with an excerpt of a book from a well-known author, who has a sizable audience.

The Results:

The post got 2,143 views — and 1,200 of those came from the HubSpot Sales Blog email subscribers. Because the author didn’t use the tracking URL I sent her, I can’t say definitively how many views her Facebook and LinkedIn posts generated, although it’s likely around 300. Not that impressive.

We see similar results whenever we publish posts for “the name” versus the content. If the writing isn’t relevant, insightful, or helpful, it doesn’t seem to matter who’s got the byline — the post tends to strike out.

There goes my second assumption: A huge name on a standard quality blog post is better than an unknown name on a great quality post.

Experiment #4: Content First, Influencer Second

With that in mind, I decided to focus on content first, influencer second. I looked for sales experts with unique perspectives and ideas and largely ignored the size of their audience.

A sales leader I found on LinkedIn is a perfect example. He’s not a recognizable name, but he’s built a solid following (almost 10,000 followers) by consistently posting entertaining, helpful articles on LinkedIn.

His posts we’ve published get an average of 4,600 views.

Tom Niesen, CEO of Acuity Training, belongs in this category as well. He wrote a post about upfront contracts that generated roughly 6,000 views before Sandler Training shared it on social and drove 1,000 more.

These partnerships might not create one massive traffic spike, but they’re lightweight for me to manage, generate content I’d be happy to share with our readers no matter who wrote it, and are a scalable way to work with influencers to produce content that consistently performs above average.

My third assumption: Partnering with influencers is an efficient and scalable way to grow traffic — still true, if it’s the right influencer.

3 Influencer Marketing Takeaways

It turns out influencer marketing has gotten a bit more complex since middle school. After running these four experiments, here are my three main takeaways.

1) If you’re trying to drive traffic, use your time and energy to get one major influencer on board rather than five to 10 mid-level ones.

An influencer’s impact depends on both their audience size and engagement — you can get similar results from an influencer with tons of followers and low engagement and one with a medium following but crazy-high engagement.

I recommend looking at the influencer’s average Facebook post performance. If they’re receiving 600-1000+ reactions and 500+ shares on any given post, they’re probably a major influencer. Validate this by giving them a dedicated tracking URL to share and seeing how much traffic they drive.

2) That being said, quality still matters.

Weak content rarely performs well even with a “big name.”

When evaluating content for the Sales Blog, I ask myself these questions:

  • Are the ideas relevant?
  • Have we covered this material in other posts?
  • Does the author give enough explanation, detail, and instruction that the reader can immediately apply the concepts?
  • If they make a controversial argument, do they sufficiently back it up with research?
  • Is the post engaging from beginning to end?

If the answers aren’t all “yes,” then I’ll ask the author to edit the piece.

3) Prioritizing content leads to posts that get traffic on their own merits.

I’m proud of our readers. They’re not star-struck — if a post is great, they read it and share it, regardless of the byline.

Ultimately, our best “hack” for growing traffic? Publishing great content. That’s an assumption I’m happy to operate under.

How does your content team approach influencer marketing? Let us know in the comments.

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Jun

15

2017

How to Avoid Burnout at Work: 7 Strategies from HubSpot’s Manager of Culture

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

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Doesn’t it seem like we don’t go a day without hearing about employee burnout — mostly what a problem it is?

In a survey conducted last year by Morar Consulting, 95% of human resources professionals blamed the loss of good employees on job burnout. Headlines call it a “crisis.” Type the words “employee burnout” into the Google search bar, and one of the autocomplete phrases likely ends with, “is becoming a huge problem.” And yet, despite all the research pointing to how bad it is — for reasons ranging from physical health to how much employers lose on turnover because of it — it continues to be a huge problem.

But what are you supposed to do about it?

Many of us recognize these patterns in friends and family, but rarely ask that question of ourselves or, sometimes, our employees. So many people are afraid to take time for themselves until it’s too late and we reach — you guessed it — burnout status. Download our free guide here for more interviewing and screening tips to build  your team.

That’s why I decided to enlist the help of an expert: HubSpot’s Manager of Culture and Experience, Tamara Lilian. I asked her about the many ways her team goes above and beyond to prevent employee burnout here — and, perhaps even more important, how employees and employers everywhere can put them into practice in their own environments.

So, what did we learn? Read on to find out — or listen to our interview with Lilian by pressing “play” below.

How to Avoid Burnout at Work

For Employers and Managers

1) Learn how to recognize signs of burnout.

This tip applies more to individual managers than it does to employers as a whole. When workloads are at a peak for everyone, and there’s plenty of stress to go around, it can be difficult to remember to observe what — and how — others around us are doing. And when it comes to signs of burnout, it’s often difficult for people to recognize them even within themselves.

That’s why it’s so important for managers to be able to recognize them — and take the necessary actions to address and resolve them. And while that can be tough for new managers, Lilian says, with some knowledge and information, it’s certainly not impossible.

“We’re stepping up our manager training, and we’re working on trainings to support them with their teams,” she explains. That includes things like knowing how to manage workloads in a way that mitigates burnout before it even happens, as well as supporting employees during their time off.

Actionably, what does that mean? To start, if you have people on your team who are particularly overeager to tackle things, recognize that it’s a great attitude to have, but check in regularly to make sure that person isn’t biting off more than she can chew. That way, you’re working to manage her workload in a way that prevents burnout.

And while employees should also be encouraged to take time off when they need it, make sure they know that they should truly be offline during their times out of the office. For that reason, it’s fair to request as much advanced notice as necessary, so you can work together to make sure there’s a support system in place at the office that can allow that person to fully disconnect.

2) Set the tone with a company (or team) culture code.

Here at HubSpot, we have a Culture Code, a document created to represent our people, culture, and values. It was written by CTO and Co-founder Dharmesh Shah with the mentality that, to build the best company, he would build it much like an engineer builds a product with code.

But the keys here are the three aforementioned things that the Culture Code was built to support: people, culture, and values. And no matter how big or small your team or company, you can still build a “code” guide the way your team operates. In fact, there are a few things from HubSpot’s own that can be applied to a number of environments, says Lilian. These are things like:

Transparency

“We share everything internally, from executive leadership meeting decks, to finances, to board meetings,” Lilian explains. “That creates trust, which in turn makes people feel valued.”

One easy way to add more transparency to your team or company culture is to always add context to major changes or decisions, especially when they impact the things your employees work on. If there’s a sudden pivot, explain why, and acknowledge that it’s sudden.

Trust

“Speaking of trust,” says Lilian, “in the Culture Code, we have a three-word policy: use good judgment. There’s no employee handbook you receive on Day One, because we put an enormous amount of trust in our employees.”

Showing that you trust your employees can manifest itself in a number of ways, but a big one is to stop micromanaging. Autonomy is also a big part of our culture here at HubSpot — which means that while managers are encouraged to maintain strong communication and be available for help whenever it’s needed, they trust us to get our work done on time, ask for help when we need it, and keep them updated on projects.

In other words, employees are given a large degree of control over their own work, which has been shown to correlate with both higher productivity and overall wellness. It also allows employees the freedom to independently discover the ways in which their work contributes to an organization’s overall success, which can lead to a greater willingness to ask questions — instead of being afraid of looking like they don’t know something. Being able to obtain that information without being judged for it can encourage creativity, too, as transparent, comprehensive answers can encourage new ideas.

People > Perks

“Sure, the free beer, being able to bring your dog to work, and having a gym on-site are cool,” says Lilian. “But that’s not what keeps people here. Keeping people motivated, challenged, and welcomed with an inclusive work environment is what keeps people here.”

That said, as you begin to build your team, remember that perks don’t go unappreciated. Free coffee is great for most of us, let alone free beer. But also think about the things for which the novelty isn’t quite as likely to wear off — things like the engaging work that Lilian referred to. If your team isn’t producing quality work, don’t assume that it’s due to laziness. The issue could just be a lack of interest. Have a conversation with employees about that to find out what’s making them lose interest, and together, figure out how to make it more engaging.

3) Lead by example.

Riddle me this: If you never see your boss take a vacation, how good are you going to feel about taking one? Probably not great — you wouldn’t be mirroring the example set by your manager to never take time off.

“You have to lead by example,” says Lilian. “For example, our CEO, Brian Halligan, just took his one-month sabbatical. If he can take that time off, then others definitely can.”

In the end, leading by the example of taking time off when you need it ends up benefitting everyone. Not only will it permit you the time you need to disconnect and recharge — which boosts productivity — but also, you’re showing your team that it’s an important thing to do.

They say that actions speak louder than words, but this tip partially goes back to the idea of knowing when to recognize burnout. Don’t just take time off — encourage it, too. If you’re planning to take some time off and realize that it’s been a while since your employees have, bring that up in your next conversation. Even if that person responds that she’s too busy to take time off, discuss the importance of breaks and that you’re ready to work with her to make sure all bases are covered while she’s out.

For Employees

4) Use the resources made available to you.

And while we’re on the topic of the old “I don’t have time” excuse, when it comes to taking care of yourself, “you need to make the time,” says Lilian.

She points to the the Healthy@HubSpot program, which includes things like on-site fitness classes, a kitchen full of healthy snacks — including fresh fruit and vegetables — and standing desks. And while not every workplace will have the budget for these types of resources, it’s important to take advantage of those that are available.

healthy@hubspot.png

For example, maybe your workplace has a nice outdoor area. Weather permitting, don’t let it go to waste — eat lunch there, or sit there for five minutes when you’re feeling particularly stressed (more on that later).

Sometimes, though, taking advantage of what’s made available to you comes down to your colleagues. “It sound so simple, but just grabbing coffee with someone you work with can have an impact,” says Lilian, “or turning a meeting into a ‘walking meeting’ outside.”

She also encourages making time to do these things with people who you don’t necessarily work with regularly. “Getting to know folks from other parts of the business can benefit the quality of your work,” she explains, by gaining more neutral and fresh insights or ideas.

5) Get away from your desk.

I’ll never forget a quote I once read from Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport in the article “25 Ways to Practice Self-Care”:

I know what you’re thinking. The time to take care of yourself is when you have time to take care of yourself. Bright-and-early Saturday morning yoga. Sunday afternoon hike. But that’s not where my head’s at. I’m talking 3:18 p.m. on a Tuesday. When you’re sitting at your desk, ready to throttle your boss. Or quietly seething that your colleague got credit for something that your colleague totally didn’t do. That’s when you need to get up and walk away. And go do something. Anything. On such days, I head out for a coffee. Not because I need a coffee, but because I need to get out. I wander down to this little joint in a giant office complex on the Hudson River. And, then, instead of walking back to the office, I park it on a bench. And I just sit there. Breathing actual nonrecycled office-building air. Watching the ferries pull up to the dock. Because sometimes doing a better job means not doing your job at all.”

In other words, when you’re starting to feel like you might lose it — whether it’s the result of a frustrating project or a co-worker’s annoying whistling — step away. Now.

Lilian emphasizes the importance of getting away from your desk — even if it means doing your work somewhere else. “Results matter more than hours, or where we produce them. You can actually see this in the HubSpot offices, as we create ‘nomad desks’ where folks can work from in addition to their main desk,” she explains. “But we have plenty of collaborative workspaces to grab a seat at any time, if you need a change of environment or feel more creative or inspired in a different area.”

6) Take the time you need — with good judgment.

This practice falls along the lines of taking advantages of the resources made available to you. If you have paid time off — use it!

According to Project: Time Off’s 2016 State of American Vacation, the use of paid vacation has been dwindling among U.S.employees since 2000. In fact, last year, 55% of them didn’t even use all of their vacation days, with an average of .2 days taken off per employee.

I don’t know about you, but those numbers make me sad. If you’ve read the text leading up to this point, then you already know that taking time off can aid productivity. But if the refresh-and-renew benefit isn’t your thing, think of it this way: “By giving up this time off, Americans are effectively volunteering hundreds of millions of days of free work for their employers,” writes the Project: Time Off report, “which results in $61.4 billion in forfeited benefits.”

Okay, so maybe you’re worried about leaving your team in a lurch by taking time off. You’re in luck — there’s a fairly simple solution for that. “This goes back to using good judgment,” Lilian explains. “If you’re looking to take a week’s vacation with your family, make sure your team is set up for success while you are gone.”

Not sure how to start? Here are two key points:

  • Let your team know when you’ll be out of the office as far in advance as possible. My colleague, Sophia Bernazzani, uses the rule of one week notice for every day that you’ll be out of the office — so if you’ll be off for ten business days, let your colleagues and manager know about it ten weeks before you leave.
  • Be prepared to hustle before you leave in order to get ahead on the time you’ll be out. Not only will you be minimizing the amount of extra work your colleagues have to share in your absence, but also, you’ll (hopefully) be returning to that much less to catch up on when you return.
  • Make sure which regularly-occurring tasks you’ll be out for. For example, let’s say you and a colleague take turns doing something each month, like compiling a monthly performance report. If you’re going to be away during the time when it’s normally your turn, work with a colleague to rearrange the schedule so that she doesn’t have to unexpectedly take it on.

7) Don’t check in during your time off — and don’t feel bad about it.

Part of the point of working so hard before you leave for your vacation is to make sure you can completely step away during your time off. And yes — a lot of people “do a significant amount of work while on vacation,” Robert Blendon, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor told NPR. “So they’re taking their stress along with them wherever they go.”

The point of a vacation is to leave your stress behind, or at least to try your best to detach from it, so you can feel rested when you get back to work. Keeping that source of stress present during your time off is like going to the dentist with one cavity and leaving with four. It defeats the purpose of why you went there.

So please — don’t come back to work with four cavities. Disconnect when you’re away, and get the rest you need.

They Say It Takes a Village

Remember, preventing job burnout requires efforts from both managers and employees. The latter can’t be afraid to ask for the things they need to be well and do the best work they can — but their supervisors also have to create an environment where it’s not discouraged. Start making some of these incremental changes, and you’ll be well on your way to your own healthy workplace.

How does your team prevent job burnout? Let us know in the comments.

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Jun

14

2017

Want to Learn Graphic Design? 8 Tips & Tricks for Beginners

Published by in category Daily, Design, DIY, Graphic Design | Comments are closed

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For many of us, the thought of high school conjures memories of ample notebook doodles. Hand-drawn bubble letters, pictograms, and stick-figures would decorate homework, tests, and papers — and teachers, of course, were constantly asking us to knock it off.

And so, most of us did, perhaps because we figured out that we just weren’t that good at drawing on paper. But when some of us were in high school, we didn’t yet have the numerous digital options for “drawing” our ideas. But now, machines can help us bring them to life — and it’s become a career path for many people.

Graphic design is something that marketers can always benefit from learning, even without a formal education. In those cases, we enter a world of do-it-yourself education, with repeated recommendations like, “learn Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign,” or, “read a book about basic design principles.” And as much as those help, learning fundamentals, navigating new tools, and developing a personal style make for a tricky balancing act. New Call-to-action

That’s why we put together this list of tips that we wish we had received at the onset of our respective DIY graphic design journeys, along with some tools that can help you with them.

8 Tips for Learning Graphic Design

1) Always keep an ear to the ground.

As marketers, we already know how much there is to learn from influencers. After all, 49% of folks trust the people they know above anyone else for product or service recommendations, and in the digital age, that includes influencers.

Influencers — who according to NeoReach are “individual[s] with an online presence who … influence the opinions and behaviors of your target audience” — are often willing to share the secrets to their success in their content. If you make a point to listen to and engage with them, you’ll become more familiar with the online design world, which can help you discover more tips from other industry experts, become comfortable with relevant terminology, and stay on top of trends.

Wondering how to engage? Turn to Twitter or Instagram as a place to start conversations with these influencers. You never know who might respond to your questions — and any positive connection you make can only help you learn more. Following along and joining the exchange can naturally lead you to become a part of a design community that will support you throughout your journey.

What to Do Right Now

Create a targeted list of influential designers on Twitter, so you can follow their daily insights without having to pick out their tweets from a sea of friends, coworkers, and news sources. You can use the Social Monitoring tool in your HubSpot software to do this by following the people on this list, specifically as they discuss topics that matter to you.

Add a variety of influencers to this list — a mix of those who are well-known among most designers, those that personally inspire you, and those whose work you do not enjoy. That last point may seem counterintuitive, but consistently observing the work of that group can help you understand why you don’t like it, which is a key part of understanding design.

If you’re not sure how to discover designers to follow, try 365 Awesome Designers, which features the work of one designer each day.

2) Collect inspirational work.

Once you decide to learn design, start building a catalog of work you think is successful. That can be as simple as bookmarking images in your web browser, making a Pinterest board, or saving items to a folder on your computer. Like a list of influencers, a catalog of inspiring work will help you to identify trends — both past and present — in design as you begin to recognize patterns in the work of others. You’ll also start to understand your own personal style preferences and interests. If you find yourself continually saving infographics, for example, you might start looking into specific resources to learn how to create them.

Your catalog will also serve to inspire designs you create in the future, which is underscored by the idea that “all creative work builds on what came before” — a line from Austin Kleon’s TEDx talk. If you can reference items in your catalog quickly, you’ll be better equipped to begin your own projects.

What to Do Right Now

Get acquainted with leading designer portfolio sites like Dribbble and Behance. These platforms showcase an abundance of high-quality work from leading designers across the spectrum — everyone from web and UX designers, to graphic designers and typographers. The designers on these sites often provide insight into their design processes, which will be key as you start your own creations.

Setting aside time in your day to review these sites might be hard on top of your workload. One way to naturally work it into your day is to use the app Panda, which replaces your “New Tab” in Chrome with an aggregated stream of content from various sources, including Dribbble. Each time you open a new tab, you can discover and save something that catches your eye. Fair warning, though: An application like this might be distracting to some.

3) Dissect the process.

One of the most pivotal moments in my design journey was when I recognized that every single illustration, infographic, and icon I had ever ogled over was the product of someone mastering how to combine shapes and lines. That’s not to say that other factors don’t play a role — just wait until you try and learn meshes in Illustrator — but fundamentally, these designs were built up from simple shapes.

Analyzing the process behind a design will allow you to understand the steps required to produce a piece of work. Depending on your current skill level, you may have a leg up in knowing which tools were used, or which aspect was created first. But don’t let that stop you — examining the construction of a design will let you flex your creative muscle. Educated guesses will do far more to teach you than doing nothing at all. Plus, you’ll likely find that:

  1. You know more than you think you do.
  2. When you identify holes in that knowledge, you’ll know what techniques or concepts you need to explore to narrow the gap.
  3. There’s more than one way to achieve a desired result.

What to Do Right Now

A quick way to expedite the learning curve when dissecting a design is to download a free vector or PSD design resource, and dig through the layers to see how the designer constructed the object — you can find a number of those files here.

Once you pick your file, open it in Photoshop, then open the Layers Panel (which you can learn to use here) and un-collapse some of the folders, so that you can see the layers contained within them.

By simply changing the visibility of the layers, you can begin to see how the designer used each shape to build upon one another. You can also begin to understand how to use Photoshop Effects, like drop shadows and strokes.

4) Get specific with your online search queries.

As you begin creating your own designs, you’ll likely hit an obstacle where you think to yourself, “Hmm. How the heck do I do that?” Chances are, others have wondered the same thing. Like many self-taught disciplines these days, the majority of my own technical design knowledge was gained by watching a YouTube tutorial while I actively followed along.

The key is to be really specific with your searches, so you can find a highly relevant tutorial. Searching for something like “how to create an icon” might deliver really broad search results. Instead, type in exactly what you want to learn, like, “how to create a flat icon with a long shadow.” Boom.

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What to Do Right Now

Browse a design terminology glossary to find the specific terms for techniques you’re trying to learn. That can help you find what you’re looking for online much more easily, in addition to helping you familiarize yourself with the language.

5) Reproduce your favorite work.

Let me be clear: Under no circumstances should you infringe on anyone’s copyrighted work. Never reproduce someone else’s work and try to pass it off as your own.

That said, re-creating a design you like — without advertising it as your own work — will help you gain a deeper understanding of design technique. As with dissecting a design, it’ll help you learn new technical skills that’ll come in handy when you’re creating your own designs.

You’ll have to get creative with the method you choose to recreate the design, so this exercise will utilize both the left and right sides of your brain. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t duplicate a design exactly — remember, the process is more important than the result.

What to Do Right Now

Find a design piece you think is successful — which should be easy if you’ve created an inspiration catalog — and use your preferred piece of software to recreate it, whether that’s Photoshop, Illustrator, or another software. It’s really up to you to choose how you go about actually creating it. Use specific search queries and tap into your design community relationships as resources.

6) Embrace negative space.

white-space-in-web-design.jpgSource: Apptension

The proper use of negative space is often overlooked by beginner and advanced designers alike. What is negative space (or “white space”)? It’s the space in your design that’s not occupied by any visual or written element. A design piece that doesn’t incorporate enough negative space is like a sentence with no spaces – itisdifficulttocomprehend.

Jan Tischold, one the most influential typographers in history, stresses this importance: “White space is to be regarded as an active element, not a passive background.” The effective use of negative space is just as crucial as the design itself. Don’t believe me? It’s scientifically proven that white space improves legibility and comprehension.

What to Do Right Now

Learning to effectively use white space won’t happen overnight. You’ll have to try out different options to find what works for each design. First, I’d recommend reading some of the articles on this list, compiled by David Kadavy, author of Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty. Then, try to put some of these theories into action.

Remember, there’s no hard-and-fast rule to using white space. It takes practice. Eventually, you’ll find that exercises in resizing elements of your composition and changing the layout will lead to a natural understanding of the amount of breathing room required.

7) Don’t be afraid to get feedback.

On some level, everyone is afraid of criticism. We’re afraid our ideas will get shot down and we’ll be sent back to square one. Learning to accept constructive criticism is no easy task, but it’s key to becoming a better designer.

Paul Arden, who was the creative force behind Saatchi & Saatchi at a pinnacle of its success, wrote this in his best-selling book, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be:

If, instead of seeking approval, you ask, ‘What’s wrong with it? How can I make it better?’, you are more likely to get a truthful, critical answer. You may even get an improvement on your idea. And you are still in a position to reject the criticism if you think it is wrong. Can you find fault with this?”

The takeaway: Design critics allow us to incorporate others’ viewpoints into our work and improve upon our ideas. You always have the option to reject the feedback — but considering it in the first place is what’s important. Design is subjective in nature, and just because someone else has a different opinion doesn’t mean you’re wrong. In fact, trusting your intuition is equally important. Just make sure you have the means to back up your design decisions.

What to Do Right Now

The best way to get feedback is to have a one-on-one conversation with an experienced designer. If you don’t know anyone in the design world, that can be difficult. Fortunately, the internet is filled with communities of designers eager to give feedback — that’s why we suggested finding influencers and peers to engage with.

If you haven’t had time to become a part of a community, now’s the time to step outside of your comfort zone and take action. Inbound.org offers a great feedback center where viewers can comment directly on your design. Other great forums include The Crit Prit, and Reddit’s Design Critiques.

8) Pick a passion project.

If you only listen to one piece of advice from this post, let it be this one.

We all know how hard it is to work on something you don’t want to. It just plain sucks. Picking a project that you aren’t passionate about will likely lead to frustration, as you’ll likely feel reluctant to devote the time and effort necessary to complete the project. And you would be remiss to ignore the fact that, at some point in your career, you’ll have to design something you may feel less than thrilled about.

But that likely won’t occur until you’ve learned a thing or two and have advanced your design skills. In the beginning, it’s OK to focus on passion projects.

When you’re taking the time to teach yourself graphic design and the consequences — like money lost on a wasted design class — are minimal, passion is a major motivator. When you pick something you care about, you’ll compel yourself to work through the frustration that comes with the sometimes tedious nature of design.

It’ll also provide direction. Time and time again, the hardest part of learning design is not knowing what to design. Be decisive and choose something you can work on for a length of time.

What to Do Right Now

Align your interests or current situation with your projects. If you’re a blogger, try creating the header image for your next post. Voice your willingness to work on an offer with your content team. Looking for a job? Redesign your resume and try to further your personal brand by creating a logo. There’s a number of ways to work design into your day, but it’s up to you to pick something that matters to you — don’t design something simply because you think you should.

And Above All

It’s important just to get started. It’s easy to be intimidated by the sheer amount of learning associated with graphic design, but remind yourself that even the most talented designers were newbies once, too.

What makes the creative field so special is that everyone’s journey is unique — there’s no one way to approach DIY design. You’ll find your own means to discern what you want and need to learn.

Design is an iterative process, so keep reworking your ideas and projects. As you progress, you’ll develop your own workflow and one day that design that took you all day will only take you an hour. Trust me, I’m living proof.

What other tips do you have for self-taught designers? Let us know in the comments.

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Jun

14

2017

The 10 Best User-Generated Content Campaigns on Instagram

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

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When it comes time to make a purchasing decision, who are you more likely to trust — a brand, or a fellow consumer who uses the product?

We’re more likely to take recommendations from friends and family members than brands when it comes time to make buying decisions — and that’s the logic behind user-generated content on social media.

New Call-to-action

User-generated content, or UGC, consists of any form of content that’s created by users and consumers about a brand or product. UGC isn’t paid for, and its authenticity makes the user the brand advertiser as well.

UGC is particularly prevalent on Instagram, where brands can easily repost and regram UGC from users’ accounts. And it’s worthwhile for brands to do this — 76% of individuals surveyed said they trusted content shared by “average” people more than by brands, and nearly 100% of consumers trust recommendations from others.

In this post, we’ll discuss just how successful UGC on Instagram can be — as well as review 10 brands using it successfully.

Why User-Generated Content?

In this year’s Internet Trends Report, Mary Meeker presented some compelling data about the success of UGC for brands on Instagram. Check it out:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

UGC can generate more engagement on Instagram — meaning more comments and likes on posts. And engagement is critically important to brands’ success on the platform — because the more users engage with your stuff, the higher your posts are prioritized in the Instagram feed, and the more likely it is that new users will find your content on the Explore tab.

A lot of global brands are sharing Instagram content reposted, or “regrammed,” from fans and users. Take a look:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Now that we understand the importance of UGC, let’s dive into how some of these brands are killing the UGC game on Instagram.

10 Examples of the Best User-Generated Content on Instagram

1) The UPS Store

No, we don’t mean UPS, where you might go to send care packages or holiday gifts to your loved ones. We mean The UPS Store, which uses its Instagram to showcase the customers you might not think about as readily — small business owners. Small business owners on Instagram post content using the hashtag #TheUPSStoreCustomer, which The UPS Store then shares to its own account, like so:

This is a clever UGC campaign other B2B brands should take note of — especially if the products and services themselves aren’t especially sexy. Instagram posts featuring packing tape, shipping peanuts, and cardboard boxes might not be visually interesting, but behind-the-scenes stories of real people and brands The UPS Store is helping are.

Takeaway for Marketers: Use UGC to showcase an unexpected or unique aspect of your brand. Whether it’s content from your customers, your users, or members of your community, ask other Instagrammers to submit content that shows “the other side” of what your brand is all about.

2) Aerie

Women’s clothing company Aerie’s #AerieReal campaign is #UGCgoals. The campaign is simple, but powerful.

There’s been broad debate and outcry over the excessive use of photo editing in marketing advertising — centered around its impact on the young women consuming magazines and images on social media. There’s been particular concern around the impact edited photos can have on women’s self-esteem and sense of a healthy body image.

So Aerie made a pledge to stop retouching photos of models in its bathing suits. And for every Instagram user that posted an unedited photo of themselves in a bathing suit (using the hashtag #AerieReal, of course), Aerie now donates $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Takeaway for Marketers: Give people a reason to get involved in your campaign that’s bigger than Instagram itself. Whether it’s an awareness campaign or a donation drive like Aerie, customers want to buy from companies that support important causes. If you can, partner with a cause or charitable organization your message resonates with to get Instagrammers excited about your UGC campaign. You’ll do good for the world, you’ll drive engagement on the platform, and more people will learn about your brand via word-of-mouth if it catches on.

3) Buffer

Social media scheduling tool Buffer uses the #BufferCommunity to showcase the photographs and personalities of its many different users around the world. These images aren’t promotional — or even remotely brand-centric — and that’s what makes them so effective (okay, the cute puppy probably helps too).

Buffer’s tools are about making it easier to share and strategize on social media, and these photos implicitly share the message that Buffer’s community members can work from anywhere, on a variety of different projects, thanks (in part) to its ease of use.

Takeaway for Marketers: Cultivate a brand personality so strong that your users want to share their life with you on social media. Create a great product, excel at helping customers succeed, and curate a presence on social media your users want to keep engaging with. Then, ask them to share with you so you can continue adding personality and diversity to your content to show what your community is all about — helping people be better at social media, in Buffer’s case.

4) Wayfair

Online furniture store Wayfair has a fun UGC campaign that lets customers showcase the results of their online shopping sprees. Using the hashtag #WayfairAtHome, users can post their home setups featuring Wayfair products:

Then, Wayfair reposts UGC and provides a link so users can shop for the items featured in a real customer’s home — an ingenious strategy for combining customer testimonials and design inspiration all-in-one.

Wayfair has another UGC campaign that’s not as popular, but it’s an adorable effective way to show its products in action with the help of the #WayfairPetSquad.

 

So much room for activities! #wayfairpetsquad @nala_cat

A post shared by Wayfair (@wayfair) on Apr 9, 2017 at 6:16am PDT

Takeaway for Marketers: Leverage UGC to help Instagram users find and shop for your products. Remember, people trust customer testimonials, and if you show them being successfully used by real people, it’s easier to get them to your website to start shopping.

5) IBM

Software giant IBM uses UGC on Instagram primarily from its customers and community members using the hashtag #IBM. Its UGC strategy is simpler than some described previously, but it does a great job at providing an inside look at one of the biggest technology companies in the world.

It’s cool to see real humans working at IBM and using its products and services to do things you and I do every day — like taking artfully posed photographs and conducting group brainstorms.

Takeaway for Marketers: Showcase the human side of your brand — especially if your product or service can’t be easily visualized, as in the case of IBM. Source content from customers, employees, and community members to show what your product looks like in action so other Instagrammers can picture themselves using it, too.

6) Netflix

Popular video streaming service Netflix uses UGC to promote fans’ posts about specific shows and movies — and hashtags the title to help spread the word about new premieres.

 

“HEY, WHERE MY BAE’S AT?” 🎤🙆🏻~@mirandasingsofficial #HatersBackOff via @ginalee

A post shared by Netflix US (@netflix) on Oct 14, 2016 at 3:22pm PDT

Netflix is leaning into creating more original programming, so getting the word out about new releases is a key part of its social media strategy. UGC shows other people are getting excited about new shows too — and makes Instagrammers coming across Netflix’s Instagram intrigued to see what the fuss is all about.

 

Brunch in Stars Hollow. Via @alovelybean #GilmoreGirls

A post shared by Netflix US (@netflix) on Nov 26, 2016 at 9:42am PST

Takeaway for Marketers: If you’re making an announcement or releasing a new product, use UGC to get the word out about your fans and customers trying it out for the first time. You’ll help create a feedback loop to help more and more people on Instagram learn about you — and what new product they can get involved with.

7) Hootsuite

Social media management software company Hootsuite uses the hashtag #HootsuiteLife to promote UGC about what it’s like to work at Hootsuite around the world.

Hootsuite’s culture is something the company is proud of — and it uses this fun way of living and working to attract talented people to come with them. #HootsuiteLife is all about employees and community members showcasing how much fun it is to work at Hootsuite all over social media. It uses the hashtag to empower employees to share their days with the rest of the world on social media.

A secondary UGC campaign — #LifeofOwly — lets employees show off the company’s lovable mascot in action, too.

Takeaway for Marketers: Collaborate with your recruiting and HR teams to see if you can combine forces to drive social media engagement and help hire new people simultaneously. If your organization has a lot to offer and you want to showcase your culture, events, and perks, team up to create an employee UGC campaign that empowers employees to share and helps attract great new talent.

8) Starbucks

Every December, Starbucks launches the latest #RedCupContest to promote its holiday-themed seasonal beverages and — you guessed it — red cups. It encourages coffee drinkers to submit shots of their coffees for the chance to win a pricey Starbucks gift card — and drinkers always deliver (there are more than 40,000 posts of red cups and counting).

The #RedCupContest is a smart UGC campaign. It incentivizes fans to participate and engage online by offering a prize, it promotes a seasonal campaign, and it helps generate sales — because you have to buy a red cup to take a picture first.

Takeaway for Marketers: Use a contest to promote and generate buzz around a UGC campaign. Offer a prize for participation (using a branded hashtag, of course) to get people excited about commenting, posting, and sharing on Instagram.

9) Adobe

Creative software company Adobe uses the hashtag #Adobe_Perspective to source and share content from artists and content creators using its software to do their jobs every day.

It can sometimes be hard to imagine what you can do with a software without seeing it in action, and this UGC campaign lets Adobe show off its capabilities while engaging with its community of users.

#Adobe_InColor is Adobe’s Pride Month-themed UGC campaign that’s already generated nearly 300 posts in just the first few weeks of June. This UGC campaign lets Adobe showcase the talent of its customers and the values and culture of its community clearly and easily on social media.

 

All the colors of citrus ❤️ Link in bio for more of @wrightkitchen’s work.

A post shared by Adobe (@adobe) on Jun 9, 2017 at 9:12am PDT

Takeaway for Marketers: Encourage customers and users to share their results from successfully using your product. These images will help give prospective customers an idea of what they can expect, and great results will speak for themselves to promote your product. And if you’re doing a cultural campaign, open it up to your entire community, and not just employees, to generate awareness and buzz around a culture initiative you’re proud of.

10) BMW

Car company BMW uses #BMWRepost to share Instagram posts of proud BMW owners and their wheels:

 

Make everyday feel like a holiday. The #BMW #3series Sedan. #BMWrepost @bmwf30driver

A post shared by BMW (@bmw) on Jun 11, 2017 at 1:01pm PDT

BMW sells luxury cars to owners who are undoubtedly proud of their achievement, and this campaign gives owners the opportunity to show off — and lets BMW show off its proud and loyal base of customers. If I were on the hunt for a car and saw this many happy BMW users, I might consider one of its cars for my purchase. (I don’t know how to drive, but you catch my drift.)

 

A trustworthy partner to take you around the globe. The #BMW #X5. #BMWrepost @hunterdreier

A post shared by BMW (@bmw) on Jun 10, 2017 at 8:12am PDT

Takeaway for Marketers: Give customers and users a platform from which they can brag about their purchase. You don’t need to sell luxury items — there are plenty of everyday brands with cult followings who love to get engaged on social media about why they love shopping and buying from certain brands. Create a hashtag that lets customers share why they love you, and they’ll love you back.

What’s your favorite UGC campaign on Instagram? Share with us in the comments below.

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Jun

13

2017

The Best of B2B Marketing Content: 9 Examples

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

B2B-Marketing-Examples-compressor.jpg

Here at HubSpot, some of the most awe-inspiring moments take place when we get to take new products and features for a test drive. We transform, if it’s even imaginable, into even bigger geeks than we normally are, squealing with the excitement typically reserved for iPhone launches and new seasons of Netflix series. But alas — this glee is caused by software we use every day at work, and will eventually get to share with other marketers.

Many B2B marketers have seen B2C content at least once and asked, “Why do they get to have all the fun?” But the moments like the one we described above are the ones that remind us: B2C companies haven’t locked down all of the truly interesting marketing angles. We’re passionate about our product — and that means our audience can be, too.

And for every B2B product, there are even more B2B users out there looking for information, inspiration, and knowledge — whether it’s from their peers, or from the organizations looking to provide them with solutions. The point? No marketing, including content, is uninteresting if you look at it the right way. New Call-to-action

Done right, B2B content marketing can certainly match — and sometimes, maybe even rival — the creativity and appeal of the best B2C ones. And we want to recognize the brands that are breaking that mold and creating great content that grows fervent, dedicated audiences. Below, you’ll find a few of our favorites.

9 Exceptional B2B Content Marketing Examples

1) CB Insights: Newsletter

B2B Marketing CB Insights Newsletter-1.png

What It Does Well

There are two things I love about the CB Insights newsletter. First, it’s surprisingly funny (the subject lines alone make it worth it). Second, you learn a lot just by reading the newsletter, no need to click through a bunch of links.”

Janessa Lantz, HubSpot Senior Marketing Manager

We love how this newsletter illustrates the willingness of CB Insights to not take itself too seriously. Yes, it shares some of the finest insights on technology, venture capital (VC), and emerging businesses, but it does so with fun images that ultimately relate back to the subject — e.g., the above photo of Oprah that’s been adapted as a meme, since, well, that was the topic of the newsletter.

But the messaging remains relevant, even among the hint of silliness. After all, CB Insights designs technology for people in the VC space, so it’s tasked with creating content that will appeal to a broad audience: customers, prospective customers, tech enthusiasts, and investors. And so, under such subject lines as “so sad: tough to have a VC dad,” it includes relevant data. Yes, gifs are hilarious — but in some contexts, they’re also worth $147 million.

Takeaway for Marketers

When you’re dying to create truly unique, cutting-edge content, it’s easy to stray from your organization’s mission and focus. So while it’s great to think outside of the box, use clever subject lines, or even write every email with an overarching humorous tone — keep it relevant and include the information that the people reading it signed up to receive in the first place. Then, keep it human.

2) Mattermark: Raise the Bar

B2B Marketing Mattermark-2.png

What It Does Well

Raise the Bar rounds up the best stories about a variety of different industries, giving me a great snapshot of trends to watch and news stories to follow without having to search for them myself.”

Sophia Bernazzani, Staff Writer, HubSpot Marketing Blog

One of the best things about well-curated content — especially the kind that pertains to your line of work — is that it eliminates a lot of work. Keeping up with news and trends is never easy when you’ve already got a full plate, so when someone else is able to hand-pick the things you need to know, it can feel like you’ve struck gold.

That’s what Raise the Bar does, by compiling a “daily digest of timely, must-read posts on sales, marketing and growth engineering.” And, that was the intent all along. In a 2016 blog post announcing the launch of the newsletter, Mattermark’s Co-founder and CEO, Danielle Morrill, wrote, “We’re turning our focus toward sifting through the mountains of content out there around sales, marketing, and growth to help the community of DOERS who grow companies.”

Takeaway for Marketers

Think about the problems that your product or service already aims to solve for customers. Then, turn that into relevant content that’s going to both save time for and inform your audience — and make it easy for them to access it.

3) MYOB: End of Financial Year

b2b marketing myob

What It Does Well

MYOB, a provider of business management solutions in Australia and New Zealand, helps companies manage their finances, in part by connecting them with bookkeepers and financial services professionals. It has two main audiences:

  1. Small businesses that are just learning the ropes
  2. More established companies that need greater insight into all facets of their operations.

Each audience has its own set of concerns and corresponding hub of information on MYOB.com — and MYOB has built a content strategy for each one that shows how much it understands its customers.

MYOB recognizes that many businesses are figuring out accounting and financial decisions as they grow, so it’s created content that positions the brand as a go-to resource to help those businesses navigate each stage of their development. The End of Financial Year center, for example, is angled to fit the needs of each customer group, providing tips for those just starting out, and guides for breaking through new stages of development.

Takeaway for Marketers

When you begin to brainstorm and map out ideas for content, ask yourself, “Do I really understand my audience?” If you have any doubts as to how the idea will benefit or be useful to your audience, the answer might be “no” — and that’s okay. Like everything else, audiences (and people) evolve, so it’s okay to go back to the drawing board in instances like these for a refresh.

4) Unbounce: Page Fights (R.I.P.)

What It Does Well

If you’ve ever seen a growth marketer on the heels of a successful optimization experiment, you know that her energy is electric. Unbounce, a landing page software company based in Vancouver, understands that excitement and decided to leverage it to create an engaging microsite, Page Fights, in collaboration with optimization company Conversion XL.

The project came to a close after one year, but during its existence, Page Fights contained live streams of marketing optimization expert panels who critiqued landing pages in real time. It was content that expanded far beyond the written word — and that was one thing that made it so great.

Sure, Unbounce has a successful blog, but it saw Page Fights as an opportunity to expand beyond that copy. It knew that the web — especially within marketing and web design — was becoming increasingly crowded with content. To address that, it diversified the format of its expertise, to keep its audience engaged and learning.

Takeaway for Marketers

The internet is only going to become more crowded. And as the human attention span dwindles, that makes it even more important to create content that engages and maintains your audience’s attention.

So while we don’t recommend abandoning blogs completely — after all, written content is still vital to SEO — we do emphasize the importance of diversifying content formats. Marketers who incorporate video into their content strategies, for example, have seen 49% faster revenue growth than those who don’t. And remember that tip to “keep it human” we mentioned earlier? That’s a great thing about live video in particular — it can help portray brands (and their people) as candid and genuine.

5) Deloitte University Press

B2B marketing DU Press

What It Does Well

Deloitte is a professional services company specializing in consulting, tech, auditing, and more. It works with a massive cross-section of industries, from government agencies to life sciences — and that broad range of knowledge is a major selling point. That’s why creating informed, useful content for individual, specialized audiences is core to its marketing strategy.

But Deloitte has also used that wealth of knowledge to position itself as a resource for those who want to know what it knows. So among its specialized hubs are educational content centers, including Deloitte University Press. Much like some of the other remarkable B2B content we’ve come across, it curates not only different pieces of highly helpful content — but also curates a variety of content formats. From blog posts, to webcasts, to podcasts, Deloitte University Press has a bit of everything for those who want to learn about its specialties and the industries it works with.

Takeaway for Marketers

Creating a content strategy to please a wide-scale audience like Deloitte’s is challenging. It can quickly become unfocused. But if your company has a number of specialties, creating content microsites for each of them is one way to keep that information organized, discoverable, and easy to navigate. Plus, it can never hurt to establish your brand as a go-to resource, so as you create these content hubs, consider adding a “knowledge center” among them that’s dedicated to teaching your audience the valuable things it wants to learn.

6) First Round Magazines

B2B marketing First Round Magazines

What It Does Well

Here’s another example of a brand that does a great job of leveraging different categories of knowledge. First Round, an early-stage VC company, recognized the knowledge among entrepreneurs and leaders that wasn’t being shared — knowledge that could be highly beneficial to their peers — and created the First Round Review as a place for it to be shared. It serves, reads the manifesto, to liberate the ideas and expertise that are “trapped in other people’s heads.”

But liberating that much-untapped knowledge can lead to the same problem we alluded to above — an unfocused mass of content that makes it difficult to discover exactly what you’re looking for. That’s why First Round organized the Review into a collection of nine online magazines, each specializing in a different aspect of building a business.

Takeaway for Marketers

If you’ve ever wondered how to leverage the wealth of knowledge outside of your organization — and inside your professional network — here’s a great example. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the entrepreneurs and leaders you’ve met, or simply just admire, to figure out how they can work with you to create content with teachable experiences that your audience will value. Sharing useful, relatable first-hand accounts conveys empathy, which helps to invoke trust among readers.

7) NextView Ventures: Startup Traction

b2b marketing nextview

What It Does Well

We absolutely love stumbling across B2B companies with an active presence on Medium. A great example is Startup Traction by VC firm NextView Ventures: a Medium publication that focuses on “tips & stories for seed-stage startups.”

But why would NextView want to create an entirely separate blog that isn’t even on its website? Well, it’s an exercise in creating off-site content: the material you own but doesn’t live on your website. When executed correctly, it can give publishers a huge boost in discoverability, variety, and quality, especially when making use of a highly popular platform like Medium.

Because Startup Traction isn’t attached to the company’s main URL, it provides an opportunity for NextView to experiment with different tones, voices, and stories — all from a variety of experts that might already be using Medium to discover and contribute unique content. Plus, with Medium’s built-in ability for people to recommend, highlight, and search internally for relevant content, it makes the work published there that much more shareable.

Takeaway for Marketers

Take advantage of the availability of off-site content platforms. As my colleague, Sam Mallikarjunan, writes in “Why Medium Works,” it can take up to six months of consistent publishing on your company’s blog before it gains significant traction. (And we’re not discouraging that — stick with it, and find ways to supplement those efforts.) But off-site content diversifies your audience by engaging readers who might not have otherwise found your website. Medium, for example, connects your content with the people most likely to read it. Plus, you’re creating a publication on a platform that comes with a built-in audience of at least 6.3 million users.

8) Wistia: Instagram

What It Does Well

At risk of sounding like a broken record, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of B2B brands maintaining a human element. That’s why we like it when companies use social media channels to give audiences a “look inside” at the people who make the great products and services they love.

Wistia, a video hosting platform, does that particularly well by sharing visual content on Instagram that lifts the curtain on its people — and dogs. It not only aligns with its brand — after all, the company does provide technology to businesses that want hosting solutions for their visual content — but it’s also just smart. Among its other advantages, visual content can help boost a viewer’s retention of things like brand information.

Takeaway for Marketers

Please, please, please don’t neglect to incorporate visuals into your content strategy. Of course, having a presence on visually-focused channels like Instagram and YouTube is vital — but when it comes to your written content, don’t afraid to use visuals there, as well. After all, articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.

But if you can also create content that aligns with the core of your product or service, that’s also great. As we mentioned before, Wistia creates visual content technology — so it makes sense that it would have unique visual content. Identify what your business does particularly well, and then make the most use of the channel that best aligns with your strengths.

9) Zendesk Engineering

b2b marketing zendesk engineering

What It Does Well

Yes — more offsite content. This time, it’s from Zendesk, a maker of customer service software that’s done something unique with its Medium publication, Zendesk Engineering.

Zendesk might be an expert in the solutions provided by its product, but behind that product is a chorus of highly skilled experts — the people who build and engineer the software. The company realized that there’s an audience to be tapped that’s seeking insights and expertise on the technical side of the product, so it used that to build an entirely independent content property.

Takeaway for Marketers

Dig beneath the surface of the solutions your company provides. You offer solutions — but what is your process? What have you learned that makes you do what you do so well, and how did you get there?

Sure, topics like engineering might be traditionally “unsexy.” But when leveraged and communicated in a storytelling manner, they can make for remarkable content.

And the List Doesn’t End There

We’re optimistic that the digital realm is full of strong B2B content marketing efforts — and, we want to hear about them. But even more than that, we want to hear how these examples inspire you. As they show, there’s a world of content opportunities out there, just waiting for creative B2B marketers to take on.

What are your favorite examples of B2B marketing content? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Jun

13

2017

Internet Ad Spend Is About to Surpass TV Ad Spend [New Report]

Published by in category Advertising, Daily, mobile marketing | Comments are closed

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There are few things I look forward to more every year than the release of Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report.

It’s clear, it’s visually interesting, and most importantly, the results are always fascinating — with tremendous implications for marketers.

Meeker’s report is chock-full of data about how the way users operate online is changing. And man, are things changing. Voice queries are replacing the typical internet search, Netflix and other streaming services are replacing cable television, and social media is overtaking traditional cable TV habits.

Another way the internet is changing TV? Advertising. In her report, Meeker predicts that in 2017, spending on internet advertising will surpass spending on TV advertising for the first time — and eventually exceed $200 billion.

In this post, we’ll dive into how this change is taking place, and what the future of advertising looks like — in 2017 and beyond.

The State of Internet Advertising in 2017

Here’s a visualization of Meeker’s prediction — which also shows the rapid trajectory of internet advertising spend since the 1990s:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

As you can see from Meeker’s slide, internet advertising spending will exceed $200 billion this year — beating TV advertising spending for the first time.

The magnitude of this can’t be overstated — the first television ad aired in 1941, and the first internet ad was placed in 1994. It took the internet only 24 years to disrupt and outpace the 76-year-old TV advertising industry — making it almost three times faster and more agile.

Meeker’s report also outlined where the bulk of internet advertising dollars are spent — and to nobody’s surprise, online advertising is growing at an explosive rate on Google and Facebook (20% and 62% year-over-year, respectively).

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

This data means that the online inbound marketing world is disrupting — and outpacing — the traditional outbound marketing world. But it’s reflective of other trends and changes, too.

What the Future of Online Advertising Looks Like

The Future of Online Advertising Is Mobile

Roughly half of all internet ad spending was on mobile advertising in 2016:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

And that breakdown is no surprise — because people are spending more time online — and more time online on their phones — than ever before:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Meeker’s report highlights this trend — and points out the massive potential for growth in the mobile advertising space. There’s an opportunity for $16 billion worth of growth as the amount of mobile online advertising catches up to the time people are spending online on mobile devices:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

This gap between time spent on mobile devices and money spent advertising specifically on mobile devices could be indicative of the relatively new mobile advertising space — advertisers might not yet know how to engage such a new swath of potential prospects.

But it could also be a result of the rapid rate at which mobile ads are reported and blocked, too. As it turns out, internet users — particularly on mobile devices — are quick to block ads they’re not interested in viewing:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

There’s a huge opportunity for marketers and advertisers in the mobile online space, but it needs to be carefully and strategically done — so as not to irritate users enough for them to block those ads. We’ll surely continue to see more ads online — and on our smartphones.

The Future of Online Advertising Is Social

Google is eating up the majority of mobile advertising revenue dollars, but it’s followed closely by Facebook. What’s more, revenue from ads on Google and Facebook made up 85% of online advertising revenue in 2016:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

So, as advertising spending and consumption shifts from TV to online, and specifically to mobile online, keep an eye on where ads start appearing online, too. Facebook online advertising revenue is growing faster than Google ad revenue at 62% year-over-year — and as it turns out, ads on Facebook drive direct purchases, too:

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Mobile ads and targeted pins on Pinterest see high purchase rates, too: 

Internet Trends 2017 Report from
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

As users continue spending more and more online time within social media apps, advertisers will shift their strategy to create targeted, shoppable ads that live in social media feeds to keep users within apps and mobile devices and to make it easier for them to buy.

The Future of Online Advertising Will Be Closely Monitored

As the rates at which online and mobile ads are blocked by users indicate, many ads are perceived as obtrusive, disruptive, and unhelpful to many people. And it’s true — poor quality ads can drive people away from your site if they create a poor experience for your visitor.

Perhaps that’s why Google and Facebook have started taking steps to penalize publishers advertisers that create disruptive, misleading, and otherwise low-quality ad experiences on their platforms in recent years. Mobile and social media advertising offer a lot of opportunity for reward, but marketers and advertisers need to be mindful of the high stakes when they start creating. Pop-ups, overlays, and clickbait could get you penalized and blocked from future success, so stay tuned for more guidance on mobile marketing and social media advertising.

To download and review Meeker’s full Internet Trends Report, click here.

Where are you dedicating most of your digital advertising resources? Share with us in the comments below.

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Jun

10

2017

Google Strikes Another Blow to Intrusive Ads: Here's What You Need to Know

Published by in category Daily, SEO | Comments are closed

google-intrusive-ads.jpg

We all know those moments when we stumble upon what looks like a golden piece of content. And just as you’re about to dive in — an ad appears.

You can’t just close it, either. Before you can get to what you visited that site to see, you have to wait, as a countdown clock in the corner of the ad taunts you with, “Close this ad in 5 … 4 … 3 … ”

At this point, does anyone else just hit the “back” button with an angry mutter of, “Nevermind, I’ll read something else”? That’s because ads like these tarnish your online experience. They keep you from getting to the content you want to see. They’re intrusive. Google knows that — and now, it wants to prevent that from happening to Chrome users. New Call-to-action

Last Monday, Google announced that it would further crack down on websites that feature intrusive ads like these. And while that might sound great for many, what does it mean for content creators who rely on ad revenue? Don’t panic — you’re not doomed.

Below, we’ve broken down what marketers need to know about these new guidelines (spoiler alert: Google isn’t doing away with ads altogether), and what you can do to prepare for their rollout.

What’s New in Google Ad Blocking

A Better User Experience Without Revenue Loss

To repeat our earlier spoiler, it’s not Google’s intent to do away with ads completely. Rather, the goal appears to be for webmasters to move away from digital ads that interrupt a user’s content consumption — but not to lose critical ad revenue in the process.

The problem with intrusive ads, writes Google SVP of Ads & Commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy in the official announcement, is that they motivate users to install browser plugins that block ads altogether. And ultimately, that widespread blockage takes “a big toll on the content creators, journalists, web developers, and videographers who depend on ads to fund their content creation.”

Given Google’s algorithmic history, this announcement doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. It’s penalized sites with heavy above-the-fold ad content since 2012, and last year, it announced that mobile sites with intrusive pop-ups wouldn’t rank as well — both among consistent changes that, at least on the surface, appear to be motivated by an endless quest to improve user experience.

This particular move is largely the result of Google’s partnership with the Coalition for Better Ads, which recently developed Better Ads Standards — it appears that those standards serve as the foundation for Google’s new ad recommendations to content creators. Once publishers modify their ads to meet the new standards, they can then use Google’s Ad Experience Report to test if they’re in violation of the new standards.

The Penalty

But it’s not entirely clear how, in a broader sense, what the penalty will be for those in violation. The official announcement makes no mention of search ranking implications, though given the search engine’s history within this realm, we wouldn’t be surprised if websites in violation perform as well in search results.

What was clear in the announcement, however, is that within Google Chrome — which as of May 2017 had just over 63% of global desktop browser market share and 49% on mobile — the ads in violation of the new standards will be completely blocked. The browser already “prevents pop-ups in new tabs based on the fact that they are annoying,” Ramaswamy writes. Now, Google plans “to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018.”

The Criteria for “Bad Ads”

Using combined data from its own surveys and those conducted by The Coalition for Better Ads, Google outlined what constitutes a “bad ad” on its DoubleClick blog. Here’s a quick summary of the findings:

  • Ads that Interrupt. Remember those taunting countdowns we opened with? That counts as an ad that interrupts: one that “forces you to wait 10 seconds before you can” access the content you want. That’s especially true on mobile, where 74% of users would describe these ads as “extremely or very annoying.”
  • Ads that Distract. These are ads with ornate animation or that play loudly, automatically, as or after content loads. As one colleague said to me, speaking for many of us, “Those scare the heck out of me.”
  • Ads that Clutter. Many ads also cause a page’s load time to slow down. They’re what Google calls “high-density displays,” and they can make it even longer for users to get to the content they came to a site to see.

Google also created these handy images to show how much “bad ads” annoy mobile users: 

Mobile_Graph..max-800x800.png
Source: Google

… as well as those on desktop:

Desktop_Graph..max-800x800.png
Source: Google

3 Ways to Make Your Ads Better

Within the same DoubleClick post that outlines the worst practices for ad experiences, Google also lists three key elements of the best ones, which content creators can use to guide their revisions:

  1. Immediate. When ads themselves load quickly, and don’t slow a page’s load time, people tend to engage with them more. Using Google’s AMP framework for advertising can help — that’s what Time Inc. did, resulting in an increased clickthrough rate, among other measurables.
  2. Immersive. These are the ads that, in a way, assimilate with the content being viewed, making it less distracting and less likely to interrupt or interfere with the consumption experience. It’s part of what Google calls “native advertising,” in which ads are designed by the publisher of the site where they appear, and not by the advertiser. (Read more about that here.) That way, ads can more seamlessly fit in with your site’s format and purpose.
  3. Relevant. It’s never been easier to learn more about the people who are consuming your content, by tracking analytics or through simple research. Those are some of the things that comprise “programmatic technology,” Google says, and having that information can help content creators build ad experiences that are relevant to their users. And relevance, we’ve found, correlates with engagement — maybe that’s why 72% of marketers say creating relevant content was one of their most effective SEO strategies.

The 1 Thing You Should Do Right Now

Remember, Google says that these changes won’t fully take effect until early 2018. With that said, however, it’s never too early to start creating a better ad experience based on the criteria above, and using the tools provided by Google to determine if it meets the new standards.

And again — the official announcement may not have specifically stated any search ranking implications for those in violation of the new standards, but at risk of sounding like a broken record, Google’s algorithmic history has us suspecting that that could very well be the case.

When all else fails, put yourself in the shoes of a site visitor, and honestly determine if you have any of these responses to your own ad content:

  • I don’t care.
  • How do I make this go away?
  • No. Back to the search results.
  • GAH! That ad was LOUD!
  • I’m bored.

If any of those thoughts occur to you, then it’s probably time to revisit and re-strategize your ad experiences. We’ll be here to keep you posted on Google’s changes — and whatever implications come of them for marketers.

Will you change your ad experiences in response to the new standards? Let us know in the comments.

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Jun

10

2017

Charles Duhigg on the Power of Setting Smart Goals [Master Class]

Published by in category Daily, Sales and Marketing | Comments are closed

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As any inbound certified member of our community knows, setting SMART goals (that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) is the keystone managing (and measuring) highly productive sales and marketing teams.

Aligning these goals is what keeps marketing and sales teams in lock-step.

For example, marketing may have a Service-level Agreement (SLA) with sales to generate 100 marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) per month, and in return, sales agrees to “work” at least 80% of those MQLs generated by marketing, and provide feedback to marketing about which ones resulted in the most productive conversations, and new business.

This relationship gives marketing teams perspective. They can look ‘down’ the sales funnel to identify which campaigns, content, and touchpoints generate the best conversations for sales. Conversely, it gives sales teams a view to the top of the marketing funnel, allowing them to prioritize MQLs from the campaigns, content, and touchpoints that have led to success in the past.

When both teams have this view, magic happens. They work together as one revenue team, and collaborate to maximize efficiency and revenue.

Aligning sales and marketing teams might seem like a job for the managers of these teams, but it truly needs to happen at all levels of the organization. The HubSpot Growth Stack, a combination of our marketing and sales software, is built to enable this interaction between teams. It’s a truly powerful example of the 1+1=3 mentality that drives many of our teams here at HubSpot.

On June 22, join Pulitzer-prize winner and best-selling author of Smarter Faster Better, The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg, to the HubSpot Academy Master Class stage. Click here to register for this live event.

In this master class, HubSpot Academy Inbound Sales Professor Kyle Jepson, is going to be interviewing Charles on the power of setting SMART goals, and why productivity is at the heart of growing companies through proper alignment between marketing and sales. The more value we can muster from every bit of effort these teams put forth, the faster we can grow and scale.

HubSpot Academy Master Class Featuring Charles Duhigg

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