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Sep

6

2017

8 Brainstorming Ideas to Inspire Brilliant Pitches

Coming up with fresh, new ideas isn’t easy. And when your job requires churning them out on a daily basis, it can be easy to hit a wall. (Not to mention frustrating.)

That’s why brainstorming sessions can be so helpful. But, as many of you probably know by experience, some brainstorming sessions are more productive than others.

Ever been to one where you left feeling like your team didn’t really come away with anything useful? It’s draining — and it can feel like a waste of you and your team’s time. Great brainstorming sessions, on the other hand, can be wonderfully revitalizing.

The best way to get the creative juices flowing isn’t by sitting your team around a conference table and asking them to shout out ideas as they come to them. It’s by creating an atmosphere that breaks people out of their traditional mindset.

Here are a few creative ways to help liven up your brainstorming sessions to improve your team’s output of ideas.

8 Brainstorming Ideas to Inspire Brilliance

1) Come up with bad ideas first.

The best brainstorming sessions come when everyone in the room feels comfortable throwing out all of their ideas, regardless of whether or not they’re gold. But some members on your team might be worried they’ll sound stupid or uninformed if they pitch ideas that aren’t well thought-out. Studies have shown people are especially apprehensive when people in positions of power are present — this apprehension can lead to major productivity loss in brainstorming groups.

One way to loosen people up and get the ideas flowing? Start out brainstorming sessions by spending 10 minutes coming up with a bunch of bad ideas first. You might throw one out yourself first to show them what you mean. This will help you set a much more open and playful tone than a formal atmosphere would. Gerry Graf of Barton F. Graf 9000 has his team come up with 4,000 bad ideas before coming up with good ones.

Once you’ve spent some time sharing throwaway ideas and having a few laughs, you can refocus on brainstorming ideas that could work. And who knows: An idea that isn’t so great on its own could spark some really ingenious ones that inform the direction of the rest of the meeting.

2) Break and build ideas.

One way to turn a few ideas into many is by breaking them down or building them up. If you’re starting with a really general theme, try breaking it down into parts and details and seeing if other ideas branch from it. Or, you can do the opposite, and build up a more specific idea to have it cover a broader perspective.

One way to break down or build up ideas is to have each person in the room jot down two or three ideas on their own pieces of paper. Then, have them trade papers with other members of the team, and build off their coworkers’ ideas. You can rotate papers several times, and start a discussion based off the new ideas that emerge.

3) Play word games.

Word games can be powerful ways to help remove you from the traditional mindset that tends to produce generic, unoriginal ideas. If you’re trying to get out of an idea rut, try adding a few games to your meeting to drum up some out-of-the-box thinking.

One great word exercise is creating a “word storm.” To create a word storm, write down one word, and then brainstorm a whole slew of words that come to mind from that first word. Try thinking about the function of that word, its aesthetics, how it’s used, metaphors that can be associated with it, and so on. Let the ideas flow naturally, and don’t over think it — this is meant to be a creative exercise.

Once you’ve listed out a bunch of words, group them together according to how they’re related to one another. The goal? To come up with those less obvious words or phrases your audience might associate with whatever project you’re working on.

Source: CoSchedule

You can record the word storm on a piece of paper or a whiteboard or by using this online word storm tool to create a visual map — which you can save, export, and send to the team after the meeting.

Mind mapping is another powerful brainstorming tool to visualize related terms and ideas. Create a diagram starting with a central idea, and then branch out into major sub-topics, then sub-sub-topics. You can create mind maps either on paper or a whiteboard, or by using something like MindNode app.

Finally, another word game you could try is coming up with what Creative Bloq calls “essence words”: Words that capture the spirit, personality, and message you’re trying to put across — even if they seem crazy. You might find that it helps spark other ideas down the line.

4) Create a mood board.

Combining imagery, color, and visual-spatial arrangements can help surface emotions and feelings that will spark fresh, new ideas. It’s also been proven to significantly improve information recall in comparison to more conventional methods of learning.

While there are many ways to use visual prompts in brainstorming, creating a mood board is one of the most common — especially in coming up with new branding and design concepts.

A mood board is simply a random collection of images, words, and textures focused on one topic, theme, or idea. Like with mind mapping, the visual components of the mood board can be anything branching off that central topic.

Source: Behance

Mood boards can either be physical boards (e.g., a poster or cork board) or virtual (e.g., a Pinterest board). You can also use a tool such as the MoodBoard app to help you collect, organize, and share all the visual components needed for your board.

5) Play improv games.

Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like a little improvisation. This may sound silly, but hear me out: The more relaxed and playful the environment is (without being distracting), the more your team will feel comfortable thinking and sharing freely with one another.

Corey Blake, the CEO of RoundTable Companies, told The Huffington Post about a time he and his executive team opened a brainstorming session with a series of improv games. “That experience opened our minds and readied the team for play before diving into more traditional brainstorming,” Blake said. “The result was a deeper dive into our exploration and more laughter and fun, which increased our aptitude for creativity.”

If your team can relax briefly and laugh together, your creative energy will be much higher when you refocus on the project at hand.

6) Doodle.

Did you know that doodling can help spur creative insight, increase attention span, and free up short- and long-term memory?

Sunni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, wrote that, “When the mind starts to engage with visual language, you get the neurological access that you don’t have when you’re in linguistic mode.”

While many brainstorming sessions are based on talking and reading, doodling helps people break out of the traditional mindset and think about familiar things in a different way, perhaps leading to unexpected connections.

What should you doodle? Here are two ideas from Brown’s book:

  • Take an object and visually break it down into its tiniest parts. So if you start with the word “dog,” you might draw paws, a tail, and a collar. Thinking about all the elements of that object and the environment it is found in will allow you to view an object in a new way.
  • “Take two unrelated things, like elephants and ice cream, and draw them in their atomized parts,” writes Jennifer Miller for Fast Company. “Then create drawings that randomly fuse these parts together. Like trunk-cones or melting ears. Brown has used this technique to help journalists think up unique story angles.”

Source: FastCompany

7) Change your physical environment.

Switching up your physical environment isn’t just a fun change of pace; it can actually affect the way your brain works. Neurobiologists believe enriched environments could speed up the rate at which the human brain creates new neurons and neural connections. That means where you conduct your brainstorming sessions could have an affect on the ideas your team comes up with.

Try holding brainstorming sessions in rooms that aren’t associated with regular team meetings. If you can’t change the room itself, try changing something about the room to stimulate the brain, such as rearranging the chairs or putting pictures on the walls. Another idea is to have your team stand up and walk around while brainstorming, to encourage fluid creativity.

8) Don’t invite too many people.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a rule when it comes to meetings that applies to brainstorms too: Don’t invite more people than could be fed by two pizzas.

Now, we’ve all probably crushed a pizza on our own before, but generally speaking, two pizzas could comfortably feed between six and 10 people — but more than that, and people will be hungry — not to mention, unproductive.

Keep brainstorms smaller so everyone has a chance to surface ideas — and so the conversation doesn’t become cacophonous with interruptions and diverging tangents. A group of 10 people or fewer will still be able to feed and build off each others’ ideas — without drowning anyone out or getting too off-track.

Sep

6

2017

What Is a Pillar Page? (And Why It Matters For Your SEO Strategy)

Just when you thought you understood SEO … search changed. Again.

“Understood” is a strong word. Search engine algorithms change at such a rapid tick, it’s hard to keep up with the best strategies to optimize your blog to rank on the first page of SERPs. But this change is a biggie, so hang onto your keywords for this one.

Human search behaviors have changed, and so have the technologies used to interpret and serve up search results. Optimizing blog content to rank for long-tail keywords is no longer the best way to rank in search engine results — and your blog architecture has something to do with that.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the ways search has changed, the scoop on topic clusters, and how pillar pages fit into the equation.

What Are Topic Clusters?

As we mentioned before: The way people search has changed, and in turn, that’s started to change the way SEOs and bloggers create content. Here’s a basic primer — but for more details, read our latest research and blog posts about the evolution of search.

People are submitting longer, more conversational search queries.

Picture yourself before entering a Google search. If you were trying to find a place to eat sushi, would you search for “restaurants,” or would you search for “Japanese restaurants near me”?

If you’d go with the second option, you’re among the majority: 64% of searches are four words or more, and we’re seeing a growing number of these longer-form conversational search queries that help people find the exact information they’re looking for.

This is, in part, due to the rise of voice search. Between Siri and Google Assistant, 20% of mobile Google searches are conducted via voice search, and thanks to the rise of Amazon Echo and Google Home devices, this percentage will surely be on the rise.

But voice search isn’t the only reason people are submitting longer queries. For one, there’s a lot of content out there — and quality is greatly outweighed by quantity. People are submitting more detailed queries to sort through the junk get the information they need, faster. People are also skimming content more — often relying on the headers of blog posts or Google’s featured information to get simple answers to questions quickly.

Search engines are getting better at sorting through the thousands of pieces of content out there to serve up the best, most accurate results possible, too. More on that next.

Search engines are better at providing exactly what searchers want.

Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving to provide the best possible answers to searchers’ queries. Some of these changes include penalizing too many irrelevant internal links, interpreting conversational queries as an entire thought instead of individual keywords, and using machine-learning to serve up more accurate interpretations of specific terms.

What all of this means: Google is helping searchers find the most accurate information possible — even if it isn’t exactly what they searched for. For example, if you searched for “running shoes,” Google will now also serve you up results for “sneakers.” This means that bloggers and SEOs need to get even better at creating and organizing content that addresses any gaps that could prevent a searcher from getting the information they need from your site.

Now, your site needs to be organized according to different main topics, with blog posts about specific, conversational long-tail keywords hyperlinked to one another, to address as many searches as possible about a particular subject. Enter the topic cluster model.

Topic clusters help more pages rank to give searchers better answers.

The way most blogs are currently structured (including our own blogs, until very recently), bloggers and SEOs have worked to create individual blog posts that rank for specific keywords. The result is disorganized, and hard for the user to find the exact information he or she needs. It also results in your own URLs competing against one another in search engine rankings when you produce multiple blog posts about similar topics.

Here’s what our blog architecture used to look like using this old playbook:

Old structure-2.png

Now, in order to rank in search and best answer the new types of queries searchers are submitting, the solution is to use the topic cluster model: Choose the broad topics you want to rank for, then create content based on specific keywords related to that topic that all link to each other, to create broader search engine authority. Using this model, this is what our blog infrastructure looks like now — with specific topics surrounded by blog posts related to the topic, connected to other URLs in the cluster via hyperlinks:

New structure-2.png

This model uses a more deliberate site architecture to organize and link URLs together to help more pages on your site rank in Google — and to help searchers find information on your site more easily. This architecture consists of three components — pillar content, cluster content, and hyperlinks:

Cluster model-2.png

Next, we’ll dive into pillar content — which represents the primary topic bloggers and SEOs are trying to rank for, by creating more specific pieces of cluster content.

What Is a Pillar Page?

A pillar page is the basis on which a topic cluster is built. A pillar page covers all aspects of the topic on a single page, with room for more in-depth reporting in more detailed cluster blog posts that hyperlink back to the pillar page.

Pillar pages broadly cover a particular topic, and cluster content should address a specific keyword related to that topic in-depth. For example, you might write a pillar page about content marketing — a broad topic — and a piece of cluster content about blogging — a more specific keyword within the topic.

Pillar pages are longer than typical blog posts — because they cover all aspects of the topic you’re trying to rank for — but they aren’t as in-depth. That’s what cluster content is for. You want to create a pillar page that answers questions about a particular topic, but leaves room for more detail in subsequent, related cluster content.

For example, here’s our pillar page about Instagram marketing. It provides a thorough overview of how to use Instagram, and it’s hyperlinked to specific pieces of cluster content — like this blog post about how to write good Instagram captions. In this case, we’re trying to rank for topics related to Instagram. The pillar page serves as a 101 guide to Instagram marketing, and the piece of cluster content dives into one specific aspect of Instagram marketing — writing great caption copy.

How to Create a Pillar Page

The first step to creating a pillar page is to stop thinking about your site in terms of just keywords. Start thinking about the topics you want to rank for first — then, brainstorm blog topic ideas based on more specific keywords related to the broader topic.

Think about the top interests and challenges of your core audience personas to give you ideas for pillar page content. Choose a topic that’s broad enough that it can generate more related blog posts that will serve as cluster content, but not so broad that you can’t cover the entire topic on a single pillar page.

For example, in our case, “social media” was too broad of a topic, but “Instagram captions” would have been too narrow. “Instagram marketing” is broad enough that we’re able to link many more blog posts that dive into Instagram in greater detail, but still specific enough that we could write a comprehensive pillar page about it.

Pillar pages should answer any question or query a searcher might have about a topic — which will make them want to click on your pillar page when they enter a Google search term that your page ranks for. Then, they’ll click into your pillar page to get the answers to their questions, which will link out to more specific pieces of cluster content hyperlinked on the pillar page.

For example, here’s what that looks like on our Instagram marketing pillar page:

instagram caption pillar page.png

These paragraphs cover aspects of Instagram marketing, and these hyperlinks direct to more specific pieces of cluster content related to the topic. Make sense?

If not, don’t worry — we’ll teach you more about pillar pages and how to construct them soon, along will more killer examples. Dive into our latest research to learn more about this new way to organize and build your content, and watch the video below to see how the topic clusters and pillar pages work in action.

content-strategy-tool

Sep

5

2017

12 of the Best College Logo Designs (And Why They’re So Great)

What makes a college logo great?

Think about your alma mater for a second. Do you have a school bumper sticker with the logo emblazoned on it? A hat? A sweatshirt? A flag? Or perhaps all of the above?

If you still bleed your school colors and rock your school swag whenever possible, then chances are, your university did a pretty good job designing its logo. According to the principles of great logo design, the best logos are simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, and appropriate.Click here to download our ultimate toolkit for social and PR branding.

Want to see some examples of awesome college logo designs? You’re in the right place. I chatted with my colleague, Tyler Littwin, art director here at HubSpot, to choose 12 of the best college logo designs from American universities. Check them out and learn what about their design makes them stand out — in a good way.

12 of the Best College Logo Designs

1) University of Texas

university-of-texas-logo.png

Source: University of Texas

University of Texas’s longhorn silhouette is the hallmark of classic and timeless logo design. The logo hasn’t changed since its introduction in 1961, and it remains one of the most iconic college sports logos in the world.

“Any logo that works as a single color design is fantastic,” says Littwin. “It’s simple, iconic, and has a great tie-in to the ‘hook ’em horns’ hand symbol.”

hook-em-horns-hand-sign.jpg

Source: Awful Announcing

2) University of North Carolina

unc-monogram-logo.png

Source: Carolina Athletics

The interlocking NC, one of the University of North Carolina’s athletics logos, features another timeless design — this time with attention-grabbing colors. Walk into a packed crowd at the Dean Dome, and you’ll see a sea of Carolina Blue, the official school color of UNC that dates back to the late eighteenth century.

Tyler gives UNC’s logo two thumbs up. “Classic,” he says. “A+ from me. Beyond the logotype, the color is a great bit of branding.”

3) Ohio University

ohio-university-attack-cat-logo.png

Source: Ohio University

The “Attack Cat,” which represents Ohio University’s bobcat mascot, replaced a simple green paw print in 2002 as the school’s official athletics logo. While many OU alumni were disappointed with the change — citing it as too intense — Littwin likes the new design.

As an objective observer, he says, “It’s a good integration of an illustration with type. The whiskers create a nice baseline for the arced text. There’s also an overall nice balance: The bobcat is recognizable and ‘Ohio’ is still 100% legible.”

4) University of Oregon

oregon-university-logo.png

Source: GoAbroad Blog

University of Oregon’s “O” logo has hidden meaning: The inside of the “O” represents the shape of the school’s track, Hayward Field, while the outside of the “O” represents the shape of Autzen Stadium, the school’s football field.

“As iconic and simple of a logo as you could ask for,” says Littwin. “I am also a huge fan of the yellow and green color scheme. It reminds me of the Oakland A’s, the Norwich Canaries, and so on.”

5) University of Notre Dame

notre-dame-logo.png

Source: Wikimedia

The Notre Dame monogram is the university’s most recognizable logo, and it’s used for athletics and academics alike. The school’s official brand standards call it “recognizable,” “representative,” “welcoming,” and “approachable.”

As for what Littwin thinks? “I’m a sucker for really basic logotypes like this one, UNC’s, and Iowa State’s. They’re wonderfully old-school and no-nonsense. Always going to get my vote.”

Even Notre Dame’s trademarked “Fighting Irish” logo is impressively well-designed for such a unique mascot. “I prefer the stylized ‘ND’ logo, but there’s something really vintage and cool about this surly Irishman,” says Littwin. “Normally the more cartoony logos lose me, but this one is a keeper.”

notre-dame-fighting-irish.png

Source: fathead

6) University of Miami

university-of-miami-logo.png

Source: Wikimedia

A reporter from the University of Miami’s official student newspaper said it best: “There are thousands of universities across the nation, but only one gets to be The U.”

The Miami athletics’ iconic split-U logo wasn’t created until 1973, several years after the student-athlete scholarship fund first commissioned a logo redesign. It was designed by publicist Julian Cole, the first graduate of UM’s radio and television department, and graphic artist Bill Bodenhamer, who both were also responsible for designing the Miami Dolphins’ current logo.

“If you think about it, it was quite a stretch,” said Lisa Cole, one of Cole’s daughters. “They took the U and said, ‘This is the university.'”

But it worked, and a hype surrounding the “U” developed over the following few years. It was used for slogans like, “U gotta believe.” Littwin calls it “minimalist and recognizable to a brilliant degree.”

Even an effort to find a logo replacement in 1979 by Henry King Stanford — the university’s president at the time — failed, thanks to heavy student campaigning against the change. Nowadays, as with the University of Texas’ longhorn symbol, the “U” has its own hand symbol. “Throwing up the U” means holding your hands in the air like this:

throwing-up-the-u.jpg

Source: PalmBeachPost.com

7) Clemson University

clemson-university-logo.jpg

Source: UNC Charlotte

Clemson’s tiger paw logo is another one of the most widely recognized collegiate logos in the United States. Although it seems timeless, it actually wasn’t introduced until 1970 — the end of a rebranding campaign that began when the school first admitted women and minorities in 1950.

The logo itself represents a tiger’s paw print, rough edges and all. An actual tiger was chosen as the subject for the logo, and the print comes from a cast that was made for the design. In fact, do you see the slight indentation at the bottom of the paw print? According to Clemson’s official website, that comes from “a scar that the tiger who had been chosen as the subject for the logo had received before the cast was made.”

The genuine paw print makes for a cool design. “The rough paw print is great and somehow works when paired with the more formal-looking type lockup,” says Littwin.

Another subtle intricacy of the logo? The 30-degree angle represents the 1:00 p.m. kickoff typical for football games at the time.

8) Bowdoin College

bowdoin-college-logo.jpg

Source: Bowdoin College

While Bowdoin’s mascot has been the Polar Bear for over 100 years, this particular version of its logo is fairly recent: It was made official by the university in 2008. A student reporter for the school’s official student newspaper explains: “The new logo is intended to serve as a consistent and timeless graphic identity for the College.”

Previously, the polar bear logo had been unofficial — and it had been represented by everything from a “cartoonish” running polar bear on student keycards, to a “more aggressive” profile of a bear with its mouth open as if it were snarling.

“Noting that in the wild, polar bears have no predators other than man, and that a ferocious, growling mascot was not the image the college was looking to project,” wrote the student reporter, “[VP for Communications and Public Affairs Scott] Hood said that there’s ‘something appealing about having a mascot that is looking directly at you.'”

Littwin agrees — that’s what makes this logo so strong. “The polar bear seems remarkably calm and composed,” he says. “I trust him.”

9) Hofstra University

hofstra-university-logo.jpg

Source: CAA Sports

The Hofstra Pride logo was “developed to build a strong visual identity” for its athletic department, according to its official usage guide. It’s represented by a pair of lions, male and female, that appear to be charging in the same direction. Furrowed brows and windswept manes give them a sense of determination and strength.

“The Pride conveys both the teamwork and togetherness that are traits of lions living in a pride, that have a close bond and work together for the good of the entire group,” reads the guide. It was created for the university’s athletic department in 2005.

“A very clever and awesome design,” notes Littwin. “It’s rare to see a university get both sexes of a mascot into the same logo. Well done, Hofstra.”

10) Missouri Western State University

missouri-western-state-logo.jpg

Source: American Association of Colleges of Nursing

Missouri Western State University started using the Griffon logo in 1973, several years before the school became a fully funded four-year state college. Why a Griffon? Because “it was considered a guardian of riches, and education was viewed as a precious treasure,” reads the school’s official website.

The logo symbolizes more than just a mythical animal, though. Notice anything special about its shape? If you look closely, the outline of the Griffon resembles the shape of the state of Missouri. Check it out:

state-of-missouri-outline.jpg

Source: ArtFire

Littwin loves the hidden message. “It’s a clever design that also works even if you don’t pick up on the geographic reference,” he says.

11) Florida International University

florida-international-university-logo.jpg

Source: Florida International University

The Panthers (originally the “Golden Panthers”) replaced the Sunblazers as Florida International University’s nickname in 1987 when Roary the Panther became its official mascot.

The logo represents a cool perspective — it seems to be coming out of the logo directly at the reader.

Littwin agrees. “I love the head-on perspective of this,” he says. “There’s something atypical and nicely menacing about it.”

12) University of Hawai’i

university-of-hawaii-logo.jpg

Source: Miracle Mamaki

The University of Hawai’i “H” logo was created for the athletic department in 2000. While the “H” clearly stands for Hawai’i, the school’s official website says it also represents the Hawaiian expression “ha,” meaning “breath” in Hawaiian. “The spirit of life passed on to us from one person to another, generation to generation, with lessons and success,” the website reads.

The cool patterns you see on either side of the “H” were inspired by Hawaiian kapa designs, which derive from native Hawaiian art. “I really like the kapa aesthetic and the simplicity of a one letter logo,” says Littwin.

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Sep

4

2017

Should I Quit My Job? 9 Signs It’s Time

And that’s actually pretty great.

None of us will be happy in our careers every day of every year. If that’s what you’re looking for, good luck. But you should find satisfaction in the work you do regularly.

Because as nice as it is to talk about work/life balance, it’s also important to remember just how much of your life is actually spent at work (Spoiler alert: You’ll spend roughly 35% of your waking hours working). Shouldn’t you find contentment during that time?

Here are nine signs it might be time for a new job. They’re not hard-and-fast rules, but they are signals it’s time to consider a new position. Check the pulse on the rest of your life and explore how a new job might make that pulse stronger or weaker.

9 Signs You Should Quit Your Job

1) You’ve Been There More Than 5 Years (And Still Aren’t Happy)

If you’ve been at your job for more than five years and are still totally happy, don’t panic. Instead, ask yourself if you’re still building skills, feeling challenged, and being rewarded accordingly. Getting comfortable at a job is one thing, getting complacent is another.

Powerhouse companies like Netflix actually believe job hopping is a good thing. Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer for Netflix, has said, “You build skills faster when changing companies because of the learning curve.”

According to entrepreneur and author Penelope Trunk, the learning curve flattens after about three years. Trunk believes that job hoppers learn faster, make better first impressions, and improve the bottom line quickly because they know they’ll be moving on within a matter of years.

Regardless of whether you’re pounding the pavement for a new job every five years, it’s important to routinely assess whether you’ve reached a growth ceiling in your current role.

2) You’ve Been There Less Than 5 Months

Starting a new job always comes with unique challenges. Maybe you’re not getting along with your boss as well as you thought you would. Or perhaps the daily tasks associated with your role are actually very different from what you discussed during your interview.

Before quitting a job you just started. Ask yourself three things:

Is there anything I can do to make this better?

Try talking to your boss about shifting your job responsibilities to be more in line with your expectations. Or take your boss to coffee and get to know them better.

How will I explain this short tenure to future employers?

Before you quit or start looking for a new job, decide how you’ll explain your short stint at X company to potential employers. Simply saying, “I didn’t like what I was doing” or “I didn’t get along well with my boss” might cause interviewers to pause.

Can and should you give the position more time?

Are you really sure that things won’t get better? Can you make it to the one-year mark so that you avoid some raised eyebrows on your resume in the future? Ask yourself if the challenges of leaving after a short time are worth the benefits of getting out of a negative work environment ASAP.

3) Your Job is Affecting Your Mood Outside of Work

A recent study found that about three quarters of “the weekend effect” (the increase of your happiness on the weekends) comes from the quality of your workplace.

How happy you are at your job is directly correlated to whether or not you view your boss as a partner and whether you believe you work in a trusting environment, according to the research. If you answer positively to both of those questions, your mid-week mood will more closely match your mood on the weekends.

This is another great area to regularly check in with friends and family about. Ask them if they notice you talking about work with increasing negativity, or if you’re coming home in a frustrated mood more weeks than not. Everyone has bad days, and even bad months, but if the majority of your days are ending under a cloud, it’s time to take control of your life and either adjust your attitude or your job.

4) You’re Not Learning

If you’re not learning from the people around you or solving new problems in your job, it may be time to look for something new.

In today’s fast-moving and competitive job market, it’s important to continually expand your skillset to advance in your career. If you’ve been solving the same problems for a few years, you’re likely not growing too much.

Share your frustrations with your manager and ask if there are ways you can take on more or different responsibilities within your team. Can you grow the headcount you manage or take over the new video initiative your team has been on the verge of implementing for years? If that answer is no or a vague “we’ll see in a few months,” it’s probably time to move on.

5) You’re Not Earning

In 2014, the average raise an employee could expect was 3% of their overall salary, and the actual raise they received was less than 1%. The average raise an employee received when taking a new job, however, was between 10% and 20%.

It’s important to track the monetary growth potential you have at your current company. Sure, you’re likely not going to receive a 20% raise every year you stay at your job. But if you’re not going to receive a similar raise over the course of three to four years, it might be time to look for something new or talk to your boss.

Talking about a raise can be awkward, so do your homework ahead of time to build confidence and a strong case for your argument. Research median salaries in your field on sites like Glassdoor, and adjust numbers for cost of living in your city and state, and for inflation.

6) You Don’t Align with Team or Company Culture

It happens. Maybe your company was acquired or you have a manager you don’t see eye to eye with. Regardless of the cause of the shift, it’s important that you align with the new direction. If you don’t, it can be easy to lose faith in your boss and your company, making it much harder to excel at your job.

If your new manager’s strategy includes buying email lists and spamming them like there’s no tomorrow, it may be time to look for a new position. Talk to your boss and tell them you’re having a difficult time understanding the reasons behind this new direction.

7) Your Company is Change Averse

Is your company tracking MQLs like it’s 1999? Are they unwilling to implement any fresh marketing strategies you suggest? It’s tough, but it might be time to hit the job boards. 

A company that isn’t changing with or leading the industry is one that is likely to stunt your career development and maybe even your professional reputation. If you’re working for a team that refuses to evolve, it’s easy to fall behind on industry trends your peers (and future job competition) are becoming well versed in.

8) You’re Daydreaming About Your Side Hustle

Ah, the side hustle. Maybe you teach a couple of night classes at the local community college. Maybe you offer consulting advice to young entrepreneurs. Or perhaps you make soap out of wood bark in your backyard.

Whatever your side gig, it can be a great way to develop professionally and personally. But what happens when you can’t think about anything but your side hustle? What happens when your day job isn’t satisfying you enough?

This is another time to get really honest with yourself. Poll your close advisors, family, and friends, and get to the bottom of why you’re devoting so much brainpower to your hustle right now. Whether it’s a phase, a funk, or a change you need to make, it’s important that you have enough motivation to bring the best to your day job.

9) It’s Affecting Your Physical Health

Did you develop an ulcer from last year’s Black Friday marketing campaign? Have high blood pressure at 25? If work is so stressful that it’s having a physical manifestation in you, it’s definitely time to reevaluate whether your job — or even a career in marketing — is right for you.

No job is worth taking a long-term toll on your body. Start by talking to your boss about the cause of this stress. Ask about lightening your workload, vacation, or even shifting to a less taxing role on the team. If none of that’s possible, it might be time to look for a job that’s less demanding. Acknowledge what your body needs. Own it. And never be ashamed of it.

Leaving your job is a big deal. Make sure that it’s the right choice. Never act too quickly, and be honest with yourself about the motivation behind the move. But whenever possible, choose to work for a place the empowers, challenges, and supports you. That’s a job you’ll never regret taking.

get a free inbound marketing assessment

Sep

4

2017

Should I Quit My Job? 9 Signs It’s Time

And that’s actually pretty great.

None of us will be happy in our careers every day of every year. If that’s what you’re looking for, good luck. But you should find satisfaction in the work you do regularly.

Because as nice as it is to talk about work/life balance, it’s also important to remember just how much of your life is actually spent at work (Spoiler alert: You’ll spend roughly 35% of your waking hours working). Shouldn’t you find contentment during that time?

Here are nine signs it might be time for a new job. They’re not hard-and-fast rules, but they are signals it’s time to consider a new position. Check the pulse on the rest of your life and explore how a new job might make that pulse stronger or weaker.

9 Signs You Should Quit Your Job

1) You’ve Been There More Than 5 Years (And Still Aren’t Happy)

If you’ve been at your job for more than five years and are still totally happy, don’t panic. Instead, ask yourself if you’re still building skills, feeling challenged, and being rewarded accordingly. Getting comfortable at a job is one thing, getting complacent is another.

Powerhouse companies like Netflix actually believe job hopping is a good thing. Patty McCord, the former chief talent officer for Netflix, has said, “You build skills faster when changing companies because of the learning curve.”

According to entrepreneur and author Penelope Trunk, the learning curve flattens after about three years. Trunk believes that job hoppers learn faster, make better first impressions, and improve the bottom line quickly because they know they’ll be moving on within a matter of years.

Regardless of whether you’re pounding the pavement for a new job every five years, it’s important to routinely assess whether you’ve reached a growth ceiling in your current role.

2) You’ve Been There Less Than 5 Months

Starting a new job always comes with unique challenges. Maybe you’re not getting along with your boss as well as you thought you would. Or perhaps the daily tasks associated with your role are actually very different from what you discussed during your interview.

Before quitting a job you just started. Ask yourself three things:

Is there anything I can do to make this better?

Try talking to your boss about shifting your job responsibilities to be more in line with your expectations. Or take your boss to coffee and get to know them better.

How will I explain this short tenure to future employers?

Before you quit or start looking for a new job, decide how you’ll explain your short stint at X company to potential employers. Simply saying, “I didn’t like what I was doing” or “I didn’t get along well with my boss” might cause interviewers to pause.

Can and should you give the position more time?

Are you really sure that things won’t get better? Can you make it to the one-year mark so that you avoid some raised eyebrows on your resume in the future? Ask yourself if the challenges of leaving after a short time are worth the benefits of getting out of a negative work environment ASAP.

3) Your Job is Affecting Your Mood Outside of Work

A recent study found that about three quarters of “the weekend effect” (the increase of your happiness on the weekends) comes from the quality of your workplace.

How happy you are at your job is directly correlated to whether or not you view your boss as a partner and whether you believe you work in a trusting environment, according to the research. If you answer positively to both of those questions, your mid-week mood will more closely match your mood on the weekends.

This is another great area to regularly check in with friends and family about. Ask them if they notice you talking about work with increasing negativity, or if you’re coming home in a frustrated mood more weeks than not. Everyone has bad days, and even bad months, but if the majority of your days are ending under a cloud, it’s time to take control of your life and either adjust your attitude or your job.

4) You’re Not Learning

If you’re not learning from the people around you or solving new problems in your job, it may be time to look for something new.

In today’s fast-moving and competitive job market, it’s important to continually expand your skillset to advance in your career. If you’ve been solving the same problems for a few years, you’re likely not growing too much.

Share your frustrations with your manager and ask if there are ways you can take on more or different responsibilities within your team. Can you grow the headcount you manage or take over the new video initiative your team has been on the verge of implementing for years? If that answer is no or a vague “we’ll see in a few months,” it’s probably time to move on.

5) You’re Not Earning

In 2014, the average raise an employee could expect was 3% of their overall salary, and the actual raise they received was less than 1%. The average raise an employee received when taking a new job, however, was between 10% and 20%.

It’s important to track the monetary growth potential you have at your current company. Sure, you’re likely not going to receive a 20% raise every year you stay at your job. But if you’re not going to receive a similar raise over the course of three to four years, it might be time to look for something new or talk to your boss.

Talking about a raise can be awkward, so do your homework ahead of time to build confidence and a strong case for your argument. Research median salaries in your field on sites like Glassdoor, and adjust numbers for cost of living in your city and state, and for inflation.

6) You Don’t Align with Team or Company Culture

It happens. Maybe your company was acquired or you have a manager you don’t see eye to eye with. Regardless of the cause of the shift, it’s important that you align with the new direction. If you don’t, it can be easy to lose faith in your boss and your company, making it much harder to excel at your job.

If your new manager’s strategy includes buying email lists and spamming them like there’s no tomorrow, it may be time to look for a new position. Talk to your boss and tell them you’re having a difficult time understanding the reasons behind this new direction.

7) Your Company is Change Averse

Is your company tracking MQLs like it’s 1999? Are they unwilling to implement any fresh marketing strategies you suggest? It’s tough, but it might be time to hit the job boards. 

A company that isn’t changing with or leading the industry is one that is likely to stunt your career development and maybe even your professional reputation. If you’re working for a team that refuses to evolve, it’s easy to fall behind on industry trends your peers (and future job competition) are becoming well versed in.

8) You’re Daydreaming About Your Side Hustle

Ah, the side hustle. Maybe you teach a couple of night classes at the local community college. Maybe you offer consulting advice to young entrepreneurs. Or perhaps you make soap out of wood bark in your backyard.

Whatever your side gig, it can be a great way to develop professionally and personally. But what happens when you can’t think about anything but your side hustle? What happens when your day job isn’t satisfying you enough?

This is another time to get really honest with yourself. Poll your close advisors, family, and friends, and get to the bottom of why you’re devoting so much brainpower to your hustle right now. Whether it’s a phase, a funk, or a change you need to make, it’s important that you have enough motivation to bring the best to your day job.

9) It’s Affecting Your Physical Health

Did you develop an ulcer from last year’s Black Friday marketing campaign? Have high blood pressure at 25? If work is so stressful that it’s having a physical manifestation in you, it’s definitely time to reevaluate whether your job — or even a career in marketing — is right for you.

No job is worth taking a long-term toll on your body. Start by talking to your boss about the cause of this stress. Ask about lightening your workload, vacation, or even shifting to a less taxing role on the team. If none of that’s possible, it might be time to look for a job that’s less demanding. Acknowledge what your body needs. Own it. And never be ashamed of it.

Leaving your job is a big deal. Make sure that it’s the right choice. Never act too quickly, and be honest with yourself about the motivation behind the move. But whenever possible, choose to work for a place the empowers, challenges, and supports you. That’s a job you’ll never regret taking.

get a free inbound marketing assessment

Sep

4

2017

I Tried These Productivity Hacks for a Month So You Wouldn’t Have To

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not the most together person in the world.

I eat three meals a day, but one of them is usually takeout. I hit snooze so often it should be considered a nap. And I definitely don’t drink enough water. But I imagine I’m not alone.

There are plenty of productive members of society like myself who work and go to school and have fulfilling lives — those lives just don’t always involve waking up at 5 a.m. for morning meditation or listening to stimulating podcasts on their commutes the way so many famed morning routines do.

So here’s to the snoozers, the night owls, and the TV binge-watchers. I celebrate you, and I want to help you figure out if any of the most dreadful-sounding productivity hacks will actually work for you.

Over the course of a month, I spent each week trying out a different productivity hack to see if it made me more productive — in the morning, and throughout the day. Some of these techniques were brand new to me, while others had been feebly attempted (and abandoned) before.

Keep reading for a detailed explanation of why I went on this productivity journey, or skip ahead to the hacks you want to read more about:

Why I Tried Out Productivity Hacks

I spent a month this summer testing out different productivity hacks as part of a larger initiative my fellow HubSpot Blog team members participated in. Traditionally, during the summer months, we experience a slight dip in traffic due to seasonality — after all, we want you to enjoy summer vacations away from your email inbox, even if it means missing some of our blog posts.

With that in mind, we decided to take a month to run different experiments and report on the results — and I decided to devote time to testing out different productivity hacks so I could report on the results to you fine people, our readers.

I spent each week trying out a new hack — with varied results. Read on to learn more about how I became the most productive woman in the world in just 30 days (just kidding).

4 Productivity Hacks (& Results)

1) Eating Breakfast Every Day

Before the Experiment

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. But between the aforementioned snoozing and my lengthy commute time to work, eating breakfast before work was darn near impossible for me.

And by the time I got to work, which was usually slightly later than I wanted for the previously mentioned reasons, I would dive right into my to-do list — only to find myself ravenous and ready for lunch by 10:30 a.m. Or worse, scarfing down a Pop-Tart to tide myself over until my immediate sugar crash as a direct result of eating said Pop-Tart.

But starting your day with a healthy breakfast can have a huge impact on your productivity. The food we choose throughout the day impacts not only our productivity, but also our moods, focus, and energy. In fact, a study found that the more servings of fruits and vegetables people ate throughout the day, the more engaged, happy, and creative they were.

As it turns out, 31 million Americans (roughly 10% of the population) end up skipping breakfast every day — probably for reasons like mine. So I committed to a full week of making — and eating — a healthy breakfast.

During the Experiment

I quickly realized that changing the way I sleep and get up in the morning would require a lot longer than a month to complete, and I needed a healthy breakfast solution that also didn’t take too long once I finally made it into the office.

The solution? Smoothies.

Luckily, HubSpot’s Cambridge office has a fully-stocked kitchen with a lot of the materials and equipment needed to make a healthy breakfast. With the help of plant-based protein powder and spinach I brought from home, I was able to quickly make healthy smoothies that were easy to consume and fairly tasty. I can’t, however, speak for their appearance:

smoothie is gray.jpg

Look, my smoothie matches my gray desk divider!

Gray smoothies notwithstanding, this was far and away my favorite productivity hack of the experiment.

Results of the Experiment

Ironically, my interest in smoothies was to save time so I could dive right into work, but dedicating time to making and consuming breakfast before I got started with every work day helped me be more productive. I ended up taking a few minutes before getting started to a) enjoy my breakfast, b) surf Twitter without feeling guilty for procrastinating and c) prioritize my day.

Besides the health benefits of eating healthful foods first thing in the morning, I think there’s also something to be said for forcing yourself not to dive into work right away and reflect on your priorities. It’s easy when you’re swamped in to-dos to feel so stressed and overwhelmed that you start working the second your eyes open. But by making breakfast or spending your morning doing something not directly work-related, you can organize your thoughts, prioritize the mounting list of tasks we all have, and enjoy a little “me time” — and debriefing on which projects and tasks to tackle to make your day as efficient as possible.

There were definitely days when I wanted a Pop-Tart (but I promise, I didn’t have one). Also, one day that week, I decided to treat myself to a technically healthy but fairly enormous breakfast at a vegan diner. Delicious? Absolutely. But I also fell into a food coma shortly after and had a less productive day than my smoothie days.

2) Exercising Every Morning

Before the Experiment

For those of you already rolling your eyes, trust me — I know how you feel. Working out is the worst.

But actually, it’s not. Apart from the health benefits we all know and forget as our sneakers collect dust from the corners of our closets — like decreased risk of chronic disease, weight control, better sleep, and stronger muscles and bones — it can have a positive impact on your productivity all day.

Regular exercise can improve your memory retention, sharpen your concentration, help you learn faster, make you more creative, and lower stress. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t say no to literally any of those things.

I’m still in the process of recovering from an ankle injury, so I wasn’t exercising at all before starting the experiment for a week — let alone exercising in the morning. Saying I was not excited about trying out this productivity hack was an understatement, but I wanted to do it in the morning to get it out of the way — and to achieve those promised benefits even sooner.

During the Experiment

I decided to work out using 30-45 minutes Pilates videos every morning — mostly because I wanted to do something that would be low-impact on my ankle, but partly because I didn’t want to actually have to leave my house to get a workout in.

On the first day of testing out this hack, as my alarm went off 45 minutes earlier than normal and I stared at my yoga mat, I said out loud to no one in particular, “I already hate this.”

Luckily, I had a supportive family member who got up when I did and motivated me to keep going:

philates-2.jpg

We’ll call our workout routine “Pilates with Phil”

Unfortunately, his support waned the longer the workout went on every morning.

philsleeping-1.jpg

Results of the Experiment

As a side effect of exercising and waking up early, I started getting tired and falling asleep much earlier, which definitely made me feel more productive at work. I felt more alert and focused at the start of my day — having already been awake for a couple of hours — and I found myself making healthier eating choices (see above) after starting my day off on the right foot. On a few of these days, I didn’t even feel the need to drink coffee once I got to my desk!

I’ll confess that, halfway through the week, I snoozed through my alarm and worked out in the evening instead — but it definitely weighed on me as one more item on my to-do list, and getting it done early in the day was far superior.

So, while I don’t think I can commit to daily morning exercise, I can confirm that getting up and moving once a day definitely made me feel more alert and relaxed, which lasted for the entire rest of the day.

3) Using the Pomodoro Technique

Before the Experiment

Before I tested out this productivity hack, I was familiar with the concept of blocking off time for specific tasks, as well as blocking off time for breaks, but I wasn’t doing it with any particular rhyme or reason.

Simply put, I would totally disregard calendar appointments I’d set for myself and would stay in a groove if I hit one — until I looked up from my computer, hours later, with bloodshot eyes, wondering what had happened to the rest of my to-do list.

old calendar example.png

Not exactly easy to follow.

So for the next week of my experiment, I decided to test out the Pomodoro Technique — and no, it isn’t a delicious cooking method as I previously thought. It calls for working in 25-minute bursts with short breaks in between. Once you’ve completed four Pomodoros (25-minute increments), you could take a longer break before starting work again.

It sounded like a great way to balance the demands of my writing workload writing several blog posts per week in addition to various other meetings and projects.

During the Experiment

I cannot overstate the degree to which this time management method did not work for me.

I downloaded the Pomodoro Technique Chrome extension to remind me of when to start working and to take a break, and I grew to hate that little tomato — a real shame, since it’s one of my favorite fruits/vegetables.

pomodoro break.png

Tomatoes will never be the same.

I really missed being able to get into the groove working on a project — particularly when it came to writing blog posts, which typically takes more than 25 minutes.

I even tried hacking together my own Pomodoro Technique calendar when I couldn’t handle the tomato reminders, but the pop-up calendar reminders irked me even more.

pomodoro calendar.png

I was in notification hell.

By the Wednesday of the week I started testing out this productivity hack, I was back to my old ways — and loving it.

pomodoro calendar 2.png

Writing blocks, how I missed thee.

Results of the Experiment

The Pomodoro Technique definitely didn’t work for me, but I don’t think it’s the fault of the technique itself — I think it doesn’t work for my particular job requirements, which involve multiple daily deadlines.

When I write blog posts, I don’t necessarily need (or want) my time split into 25-minute bursts — I want to get blog posts out the door so I can get started on the next one.

My very unscientific assumption is that the Pomodoro Technique works better for people working on longer-term projects and daily tasks, rather than deadline-driven bloggers and creators turning things in every day.

4) Freewriting Every Morning

Before the Experiment

When I come home from writing blog posts all day, the last thing I want to do is sit down and write more — even if it’s creative writing on my own.

So when I read that morning freewriting can increase productivity, I was skeptical about whether or not it would work for me — wouldn’t it just be adding more work to my plate?

Before I tested this productivity hack, the closest thing I did that could be called morning freewriting was my morning tweeting. So I decided to try it out for a week.

During the Experiment

I blocked off 30 minutes each morning for freewriting when I got into the office each day and went to work. And let me tell you, it was hard.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything else to write about besides marketing topics for the blog — it’s that I didn’t want to write paragraphs. I wanted to write lists.

I’m in the process of moving, and I’m a bridesmaid in two upcoming weddings, and during these 30-minute blocks, I honestly couldn’t stop myself from creating list after list of things I needed to do — like this one:

bridesmaid list.png

A Maine wedding without bug spray is a non-starter.

apartment list.png

I learned from this experiment that a comfy rug is essential to at-home workouts.

Over the course of the week, I eventually started writing longer pieces with more sentences and fewer bullet points — and freewriting shifted into journaling.

Results of the Experiment

I don’t know that I did freewriting exactly correctly — technically, it was freelisting. But going through the motion every morning got me in the right mindset to braindump — which any blogger will tell you is a critical part of the writing process, when you write down any and everything you know about a topic before filling in gaps in knowledge with more research.

As a side-effect of the list-writing, I believe I was a more productive worker by handling and organizing my personal to-dos before getting started on work tasks. It was a lot less stressful knowing I had an organized game plan for calls to make and research to do on my lunch break and during personal time after work too.

There’s No Such Thing as “Hacking” Productivity

Like many other things in life, there isn’t an easy way out when it comes to working efficiently and successfully at your job every single day. There will be days when you crush your to-do list, and there will be days when you eat Pop-Tarts and get hit with a wicked case of writer’s block.

My biggest lesson from this experience was that all hacks aren’t created equal — it’s about figuring out how and when you work most productively, and optimizing your strategies from there.

My strategies could still use a little tweaking, and my next big experiment will be trying to change my disastrous sleep habits to kick the snooze button to the curb. But until then, I’ll be drinking smoothies, attempting to work out, and avoiding every tomato I come across.

Sep

1

2017

How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy for Virtual Reality

Customers are more inclined to engage with or purchase from brands they feel the strongest connection with. This isn’t a new development. What is new is the definition of the term “engagement” itself, or more accurately, what defines a customer’s engagement.

For many customers today, an experience is inauthentic if it’s not interactive. Meaning, they have to be able to reach out and feel like they’re grabbing the thing you’re selling, which is a far cry from the days where leaving a comment on a blog post counted as a sufficient interaction.

71% of consumers think a brand that uses virtual reality is forward-thinking. And however you feel about the term “forward-thinking,” one thing is for sure: these brands stand out and gain consumer attention.Click here to sharpen your skills with the help of our content marketing  workbook.

Despite what you might think about VR, it’s not a completely inaccessible marketing tactic. Creating a content marketing strategy for virtual reality isn’t that different from a normal content marketing strategy, but it requires an understanding of engagement through interactivity.

How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy for VR

Keep Your Existing Audience in Mind

How does your ideal customer consume your content already? Is it through a weekly webinar or Q&A? Or maybe a daily vlog from the CEO’s desk? Whatever content routine you’ve created, you can continue that strategy while incorporating VR technology.

For example, if your primary medium is Facebook video, you can start producing virtual reality content on Facebook Spaces Although Spaces is still in beta, it’s poised to become a Facebook standard in the not-so-distant future. There’s no better time than the present to start thinking of ways to make it benefit your brand.

Does your business have an app? One emerging trend for app-based businesses is to infuse virtual reality content for use with a Samsung or iPhone paired VR headset. Take mega-ticket marketplace Stubhub as an example. They’ve now added a 360 degree virtual reality view to every ticket purchase, allowing customers to see the view from their actual seats.

Screenshot via Recode

These virtual views have been available on Stubhub.com for a while now, but used to be standard (rather than 360 degree) images. Thanks to the incorporation of VR, the brand has enhanced their customer’s existing experience, and helped them better navigate to a purchase.

Just think of how many times you’ve decided against buying tickets because you weren’t sure about the view. Stubhub is effectively solving this problem by tweaking their existing content to enable VR capabilities.

Don’t Just Content, Create An Experience

The notion of a content marketing strategy combined with virtual reality might be misleading. After all, virtual reality is not about the content, it’s about the user experience. Thus, your content creation strategy should aim to be immersive for the consumer, giving them an in-depth view at your product offerings.

Store “Walk-Throughs”

Take the customers through your store, showing them your best inventory and product offerings first hand, like Shopify. The e-commerce giant is about to release their all-new thread studio, which is a VR app that will take consumers into a virtual studio to view t-shirt designs and other apparel.

Image via Shopify

Once they’ve mixed and matched colors and found the design that’s best for their project, they are sent to Shopify’s print-on-demand provider, Printful. From here, they can turn their virtual vision into a real-life, tangible product. As brick-and-mortar stores continue to shut their doors, they’ll be replaced by these virtual stores that allow consumers to walk through and browse without leaving the house.

Seek Long Distance Customers — Yes, Really

Not that you should only seek customers who live far away, but VR will make it easier to craft content to a more widely located buyer pool.

Just think about how VR will transform the home buying process. If you’re a realtor, you’ll be able to take potential buyers through a completely virtual tour of your property. People from around the world can see a home inside and out like they’re visiting in person.

Forbes writes about this in their article about VR in real estate, only they add another possibility to the mix. They posit that realtors would be able to allow their clients the ability to make custom changes to the home through the VR app, helping the user experience become more interactive, and giving clients a clearer vision of what it’d be like to live in the property.

Show Consumers What Products Will Look Like

Giving consumers a visual of what furniture and household items will look like is an important way to encourage them to purchase.

Home improvement giant Lowe’s has already added a VR element that mirrors the home customization idea. Called Holoroom, it takes customers through a model home to provide a look at what the space would look like with their products.

IKEA has been adopting a similar concept for years, in the form of an augmented reality product catalog. They also recently launched an augumented reality app called Ikea Place.

ikea-place.png

Image via: Architectural Digest

For the record, augmented reality is very similar to virtual reality, only the former layers artificial elements on top of a realistic background whereas the latter generates an entirely artificial environment.

Provide an Emotional Journey

Honor Everywhere provides a virtual reality experience to terminally ill military veterans, allowing them to “visit” the war memorials in Washington D.C. Volunteers are bringing VR headsets into assisted-living centers to give to the veterans and let them enjoy the experience.

honor-everywhere.jpg

Image via WTOP.com

Although there’s nothing quite as unique as this cause, you can still find ways to take customers on an emotional journey through your own VR content.

“Emotional” doesn’t have to mean sadness: think in terms of what your audience is most passionate about and produce content that addresses those areas.

For example, if you’re writing a travel blog that doubles as an affiliate site, your goal is to truly sell the one-of-a-kind experience a customer will feel by purchasing your vacation package. Through the immersiveness of virtual reality, you can take effectively transport them to the beaches of Rio de Janiero, or atop the Eye of London in a millisecond of time.

You can even take a page out of the always adventurous MythBusters’ playbook, and give consumers a first person tour of a wrecked ship that rests in shark-infested waters.

There’s nothing like a swim among sharks to rouse people’s’ emotions.

Embrace Your Location

If the goal is to immerse your virtual audience into a new space, then it only makes sense to show them a fun location.

Offer them a virtual tour around your city, show them a famous landmark, take them to a special event. It’s mid-July at the time of this writing, so a San Diego company might want to show their audience around Comic Con — just an example.

Use Outside Content

Perhaps the most underrated — or under talked about — aspect to content marketing is the cultivation of a community of users, many of whom can contribute their own content.

Thanks to tools like Facebook Spaces, Periscope, and now YouTube, your brand can easily integrate user-produced VR videos onto your website.

Reach out to consumers through channels like social media, email marketing campaigns, and calls-to-action on your website.

What to Do as a Content Creator?

Should you overhaul your entire content strategy to make room for virtual reality? For most of us, the answer is no.

But 2017 is the year we should at least start acknowledging its existence, and begin experimenting with it. Content creators should A/B test with and without virtual reality technology, then gauge the user’s response.

Rather than dedicating your entire site to VR, start with individual posts or pages, then begin building as you see fit.

Free Content Marketing Workbook

 
Free Content Marketing Workbook

Sep

1

2017

How to Identify Which Experiments to Run

The last time I made an appearance here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog, I wasn’t shy about my love of experiments.

At the same time, I wasn’t shy in my sense that, all too often, they’re conducted for the wrong reasons. We talked about how the purpose of online experiments is to answer questions about how people use your website.

But how do you know which questions to ask? And how do you know whether experiments are even a viable option to answer your questions in the first place? Before you jump in, you need to make sure you know these things.Click here to start A/B testing using our guided instructions and tips from  professionals.

Not sure where and when you should start? Fear not — we’re here to help. Let’s get to it.

How to Tell If You Can Run Experiments

Before you come up with experiments to run, you need to make sure you can accurately run them. Experiments should be completely off the table until you have an established online presence and means to track behavior. To do that, you’ll need five things.

1) Traffic

In order to trust that the results of an experiment are unlikely to be influenced by randomness, you need to have a high volume of traffic. Some experiments require larger sample sizes than others — even hundreds of thousands, in some cases — but typically, you’ll need a minimum of 100 unique page views per day to reach statistical significance within a reasonable amount of time.

2) Goals

In an experiment, your hypothesis is the statement you’re working to prove. But what is it that you’re trying to improve as a result of this test? Those are your key performance indicators (KPIs) — the quantifiable measures of the experiment’s success. Without those, you have no North Star to guide the purpose of your experiment, or the objectives behind it.

3) Tracking

In order to measure and observe the performance and results of your experiment groups, you’ll need to establish which data you’ll be tracking and monitoring. In the digital realm, that might include factors like:

  • Which pages are people visiting?
  • Where did they come from?
  • What are they doing once they arrive at those pages? Are they converting, bouncing, or taking another action?

4) Baseline Metrics

Even if you’re hoping to make improvements to your funnel, before you start an experiment, you should have an established, recorded funnel conversion rate (CVR). In other words, before you begin, you should be able to track:

Funnel visit -> retained customer

If you try to start an experiment without that information, you’ll have no benchmark to compare where you were prior to running it — and therefore, you won’t know if you’re any better or worse off as a result.

5) You’ve picked all of the low-hanging fruit.

Make sure you’ve fully built out and iterated on all of the basic requirements for your funnel to work or even operate correctly. For example, in the ecommerce sector, you might want to do something like optimize your online product catalogue. But you can’t do so until you’ve made sure every product is listed there, you have a complete online checkout system, and have a way for visitors to contact you for customer service.

We have a phrase for this step: “Don’t start hanging up pictures before you paint the walls.”

How Do I Know If I Have These Five Things?

If you find yourself asking that question, we recommend running an A/A test — an experiment where you go through all the motions of running and tracking an experiment, without actually changing anything. We do this in three steps:

  1. Run the dummy test for five business days.
  2. Take the test down.
  3. Analyze the results.
    • Do you have 500+ unique users enrolled in the experiment?
    • Can you track both experiment groups full funnel?
    • Is funnel CVR about equal for both experiment groups?

So, do you have those five things? Nice job — you’re already ahead of the curve. But experimentation still only makes sense when you can identify questions worth answering through quantitative research.

Identifying experiments

First things first, you need to pick a funnel that you want to optimize through experimentation. Once you have your funnel, identify the unanswered questions you have about how your audience moves between its stages. To identify unanswered questions, we need to take stock of what we already know.

Identifying who moves through your funnel, and why

Do you know exactly who’s entering the funnel and from where, with quantitative and qualitative data to back it up? How about why they’re entering the funnel, with the same supporting data? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, this is where you should start.

Next, if you look at your funnel, can you figure out why people aren’t converting between steps?

buyers_journey-resized-600-1.png
Source: Apolline Adiju

Identifying knowledge gaps for how people move through your funnel

Let’s look at the following conversion:

Basic visit > purchase

Our goal is to identify why people do not convert between steps in our funnel. To find out, we need to list reasons why we think people are not converting, and seek out data to back up our claims. We will know that we have listed the right reasons when we can account for more than 100% of unconverted users, with supporting data.

  • Are people not purchasing because:
  • They have unanswered questions about the product? (Let’s say this reason accounts for 5% of non-purchasing users.)
  • They aren’t ready to make a purchase yet? 10% of non-purchasing users
  • They don’t see how the product fits into their lives? 40% of non-purchasing users
  • The product doesn’t align with what they are looking for? 5of non-purchasing users
  • There are better-priced alternatives? 10% of non-purchasing users
  • There are alternatives with more or better features? 10% of non-purchasing users
  • They lack confidence in the product or the company that sells it? 30% of non-purchasing users

Note: These percentages total >100% — each given user often has multiple reasons for deciding not to purchase.

If you find that you’re struggling to put together a list of reasons as to why people don’t convert, you’ll need to gather qualitative feedback from your customers.

Once you’ve put together a thorough list, take a step back and look for areas of opportunity. For example, on the list above, hone in on, “They don’t see how the product fits into their lives,” and ask, “Why?” Assuming we have product market fit, there must be something we don’t understand here. Otherwise, how can 40% of non-purchasing users be unable to see themselves using the product? It could become a fundamental question that we aim to answer through quantitative experimentation.

To boil it down: Experiments answer questions. To identify experiments, you need to identify gaps in your knowledge, and to do that, list what you do know — that will help you more easily identify what you don’t.

Next Steps

We hope that this post has provided you with the tools to identify when you should run experiments. In my next post, we’ll get into ways you can discover the unanswered questions about your funnel, and prioritize those questions to maximize your investment in a given experiment. Plus, we’ll provide a helpful framework for doing so.

How do you identify which experiments to run? Let us know your approach — and hey, we might even feature your experiment on our blog.

Free Guide AB Testing

 
Free Guide AB Testing

Aug

31

2017

How to Use Excel: 14 Simple Excel Tips, Tricks, and Shortcuts

Sometimes, Excel seems too good to be true. All I have to do is enter a formula, and pretty much anything I’d ever need to do manually can be done automatically. Need to merge two sheets with similar data? Excel can do it. Need to do simple math? Excel can do it. Need to combine information in multiple cells? Excel can do it.

If you encounter a situation where you need to manually update your data, you’re probably missing out on a formula that can do it for you. Before spending hours and hours counting cells or copying and pasting data, look for a quick fix on Excel — you’ll likely find one.Click here to download our collection of free Excel templates that will make  your life easier.

In the spirit of working more efficiently and avoiding tedious, manual work, here are a few Excel tricks to get you started with how to use Excel. (And to all the Harry Potter fans out there … you’re welcome in advance.)

How to Use Excel

If you’re just starting out with Excel, there are a few basic commands that we suggest you become familiar with. These are things like:

  • Creating a new spreadsheet from scratch.
  • Executing basic computations in a spreadsheet, like adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing in a spreadsheet.
  • Writing and formatting column text and titles.
  • Excel’s auto-fill features.
  • Adding or deleting single columns, rows, and spreadsheets. Below, we’ll get into how to add things like multiple columns and rows.
  • Keeping column and row titles visible as you scroll past them in a spreadsheet, so that you know what data you’re filling as you move further down the document.

For a deep dive on these basics, check out our comprehensive guide on How to Use Excel.

Okay, ready to get into the nitty-gritty? Let’s get to it.

14 Excel Tips to Try

1) Pivot Tables

Pivot Tables are used to reorganize data in a spreadsheet. They won’t change the data that you have, but they can sum up values and compare different information in your spreadsheet, depending on what you’d like them to do.

Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say I want to take a look at how many people are in each house at Hogwarts. You may be thinking that I don’t have too much data, but for longer data sets, this will come in handy.

To create the Pivot Table, I go to Data > Pivot Table. Excel will automatically populate your Pivot Table, but you can always change around the order of the data. Then, you have four options to choose from.

  1. Report Filter: This allows you to only look at certain rows in your dataset. For example, if I wanted to create a filter by house, I could choose to only include students in Gryffindor instead of all students.
  2. Column Labels: These could be your headers in the dataset.
  3. Row Labels: These could be your rows in the dataset. Both Row and Column labels can contain data from your columns (e.g. First Name can be dragged to either the Row or Column label — it just depends on how you want to see the data.)
  4. Value: This section allows you to look at your data differently. Instead of just pulling in any numeric value, you can sum, count, average, max, min, count numbers, or do a few other manipulations with your data. In fact, by default, when you drag a field to Value, it always does a count.

Since I want to count the number of students in each house, I’ll go to the Pivot Table and drag the House column to both the Row Labels and the Values. This will sum up the number of students associated with each house.

Pivot Table

2) Add More Than One New Row or Column

As you play around with your data, you might find you’re constantly needing to add more rows and columns. Sometimes, you may even need to add hundreds of rows. Doing this one-by-one would be super tedious. Luckily, there’s always an easier way.

To add multiple rows or columns in a spreadsheet, highlight the same number of preexisting rows or columns that you want to add. Then, right-click and select “Insert.”

In the example below, I want to add an additional three rows. By highlighting three rows and then clicking insert, I’m able to add an additional three blank rows into my spreadsheet quickly and easily.

insert Spaces

3) Filters

When you’re looking at very large data sets, you don’t usually need to be looking at every single row at the same time. Sometimes, you only want to look at data that fit into certain criteria. That’s where filters come in.

Filters allow you to pare down your data to only look at certain rows at one time. In Excel, a filter can be added to each column in your data — and from there, you can then choose which cells you want to view at once.

Let’s take a look at the example below. Add a filter by clicking the Data tab and selecting “Filter.” Clicking the arrow next to the column headers and you’ll be able to choose whether you want your data to be organized in ascending or descending order, as well as which specific rows you want to show.

In my Harry Potter example, let’s say I only want to see the students in Gryffindor. By selecting the Gryffindor filter, the other rows disappear.

Filters

Pro Tip: Copy and paste the values in the spreadsheet when a Filter is on to do additional analysis in another spreadsheet.

4) Remove Duplicates

Larger data sets tend to have duplicate content. You may have a list of multiple contacts in a company and only want to see the number of companies you have. In situations like this, removing the duplicates comes in quite handy.

To remove your duplicates, highlight the row or column that you want to remove duplicates of. Then, go to the Data tab, and select “Remove Duplicates” (under Tools). A pop-up will appear to confirm which data you want to work with. Select “Remove Duplicates,” and you’re good to go.

Remove Duplicates

You can also use this feature to remove an entire row based on a duplicate column value. So if you have three rows with Harry Potter’s information and you only need to see one, then you can select the whole dataset and then remove duplicates based on email. Your resulting list will have only unique names without any duplicates.

5) Transpose

When you have low rows of data in your spreadsheet, you might decide you actually want to transform the items in one of those rows into columns (or vice versa). It would take a lot of time to copy and paste each individual header — but what the transpose feature allows you to do is simply move your row data into columns, or the other way around.

Start by highlighting the column that you want to transpose into rows. Right-click it, and then select “Copy.” Next, select the cells on your spreadsheet where you want your first row or column to begin. Right-click on the cell, and then select “Paste Special.” A module will appear — at the bottom, you’ll see an option to transpose. Check that box and select OK. Your column will now be transferred to a row or vice-versa.

Transpose

6) Text to Columns

What if you want to split out information that’s in one cell into two different cells? For example, maybe you want to pull out someone’s company name through their email address. Or perhaps you want to separate someone’s full name into a first and last name for your email marketing templates.

Thanks to Excel, both are possible. First, highlight the column that you want to split up. Next, go to the Data tab and select “Text to Columns.” A module will appear with additional information.

First, you need to select either “Delimited” or “Fixed Width.”

  • “Delimited” means you want to break up the column based on characters such as commas, spaces, or tabs.
  • “Fixed Width” means you want to select the exact location on all the columns that you want the split to occur.

In the example case below, let’s select “Delimited” so we can separate the full name into first name and last name.

Then, it’s time to choose the Delimiters. This could be a tab, semi-colon, comma, space, or something else. (“Something else” could be the “@” sign used in an email address, for example.) In our example, let’s choose the space. Excel will then show you a preview of what your new columns will look like.

When you’re happy with the preview, press “Next.” This page will allow you to select Advanced Formats if you choose to. When you’re done, click “Finish.”

Text to Column

Excel Formulas

7) Simple Calculations

In addition to doing pretty complex calculations, Excel can help you do simple arithmetic like adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing any of your data.

  • To add, use the + sign.
  • To subtract, use the – sign.
  • To multiply, use the * sign.
  • To divide, use the / sign.

You can also use parenthesis to ensure certain calculations are done first. In the example below (10+10*10), the second and third 10 were multiplied together before adding the additional 10. However, if we made it (10+10)*10, the first and second 10 would be added together first.

Simple Math

Bonus: If you want the average of a set of numbers, you can use the formula =AVERAGE(Cell Range). If you want to sum up a column of numbers, you can use the formula =SUM(Cell Range).

8) Conditional Formatting Formula

Conditional formatting allows you to change a cell’s color based on the information within the cell. For example, if you want to flag certain numbers that are above average or in the top 10% of the data in your spreadsheet, you can do that. If you want to color code commonalities between different rows in Excel, you can do that. This will help you quickly see information the is important to you.

To get started, highlight the group of cells you want to use conditional formatting on. Then, choose “Conditional Formatting” from the Home menu and select your logic from the dropdown. (You can also create your own rule if you want something different.) A window will pop up that prompts you to provide more information about your formatting rule. Select “OK” when you’re done, and you should see your results automatically appear.

Conditional Formatting

9) IF Statement

Sometimes, we don’t want to count the number of times a value appears. Instead, we want to input different information into a cell if there is a corresponding cell with that information.

For example, in the situation below, I want to award ten points to everyone who belongs in the Gryffindor house. Instead of manually typing in 10’s next to each Gryffindor student’s name, I can use the IF THEN Excel formula to say that if the student is in Gryffindor, then they should get ten points.

The formula: IF(logical_test, value_if_true, value of false)

Example Shown Below: =IF(D2=”Gryffindor”,”10″,”0″)

In general terms, the formula would be IF(Logical Test, value of true, value of false). Let’s dig into each of these variables.

  • Logical_Test: The logical test is the “IF” part of the statement. In this case, the logic is D2=”Gryffindor” because we want to make sure that the cell corresponding with the student says “Gryffindor.” Make sure to put Gryffindor in quotation marks here.
  • Value_if_True: This is what we want the cell to show if the value is true. In this case, we want the cell to show “10” to indicate that the student was awarded the 10 points. Only use quotation marks if you want the result to be text instead of a number.
  • Value_if_False: This is what we want the cell to show if the value is false. In this case, for any student not in Gryffindor, we want the cell to show “0” to show 0 points. Only use quotation marks if you want the result to be text instead of a number.

IF THEN

Note: In the example above, I awarded 10 points to everyone in Gryffindor. If I later wanted to sum the total number of points, I wouldn’t be able to because the 10’s are in quotes, thus making them text and not a number that Excel can sum.

10) Dollar Signs

Have you ever seen a dollar sign in an Excel formula? When used in a formula, it isn’t representing an American dollar; instead, it makes sure that the exact column and row are held the same even if you copy the same formula in adjacent rows.

You see, a cell reference — when you refer to cell A5 from cell C5, for example — is relative by default. In that case, you’re actually referring to a cell that’s five columns to the left (C minus A) and in the same row (5). This is called a relative formula. When you copy a relative formula from one cell to another, it’ll adjust the values in the formula based on where it’s moved. But sometimes, we want those values to stay the same no matter whether they’re moved around or not — and we can do that by making the formula in the cell into what’s called an absolute formula.

To change the relative formula (=A5+C5) into an absolute formula, we’d precede the row and column values by dollar signs, like this: (=$A$5+$C$5). (Learn more on Microsoft Office’s support page here.)

Excel Functions

11) VLOOKUP Function

Have you ever had two sets of data on two different spreadsheets that you want to combine into a single spreadsheet?

For example, you might have a list of people’s names next to their email addresses in one spreadsheet, and a list of those same people’s email addresses next to their company names in the other — but you want the names, email addresses, and company names of those people to appear in one place.

I have to combine data sets like this a lot — and when I do, the VLOOKUP is my go-to formula. Before you use the formula, though, be absolutely sure that you have at least one column that appears identically in both places. Scour your data sets to make sure the column of data you’re using to combine your information is exactly the same, including no extra spaces.

The formula: =VLOOKUP(lookup value, table array, column number, [range lookup])

The formula with variables from our example below: =VLOOKUP(C2,Sheet2!A:B,2,FALSE)

In this formula, there are several variables. The following is true when you want to combine information in Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 onto Sheet 1.

  • Lookup Value: This is the identical value you have in both spreadsheets. Choose the first value in your first spreadsheet. In the example that follows, this means the first email address on the list, or cell 2 (C2).
  • Table Array: The range of columns on Sheet 2 you’re going to pull your data from, including the column of data identical to your lookup value (in our example, email addresses) in Sheet 1 as well as the column of data you’re trying to copy to Sheet 1. In our example, this is “Sheet2!A:B.” “A” means Column A in Sheet 2, which is the column in Sheet 2 where the data identical to our lookup value (email) in Sheet 1 is listed. The “B” means Column B, which contains the information that’s only available in Sheet 2 that you want to translate to Sheet 1.
  • Column Number: If the table array (the range of columns you just indicated) this tells Excel which column the new data you want to copy to Sheet 1 is located in. In our example, this would be the column that “House” is located in. “House” is the second column in our range of columns (table array), so our column number is 2. [Note: Your range can be more than two columns. For example, if there are three columns on Sheet 2 — Email, Age, and House — and you still want to bring House onto Sheet 1, you can still use a VLOOKUP. You just need to change the “2” to a “3” so it pulls back the value in the third column: =VLOOKUP(C2:Sheet2!A:C,3,false).]
  • Range Lookup: Use FALSE to ensure you pull in only exact value matches.

In the example below, Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 contain lists describing different information about the same people, and the common thread between the two is their email addresses. Let’s say we want to combine both datasets so that all the house information from Sheet 2 translates over to Sheet 1.

VLOOKUP

So when we type in the formula =VLOOKUP(C2,Sheet2!A:B,2,FALSE), we bring all the house data into Sheet 1.

Keep in mind that VLOOKUP will only pull back values from the second sheet that are to the right of the column containing your identical data. This can lead to some limitations, which is why some people prefer to use the INDEX and MATCH functions instead.

12) INDEX MATCH

Like VLOOKUP, the INDEX and MATCH functions pull in data from another dataset into one central location. Here are the main differences:

  1. VLOOKUP is a much simpler formula. If you’re working with large data sets that would require thousands of lookups, using the INDEX MATCH function will significantly decrease load time in Excel.
  2. INDEX MATCH formulas work right-to-left, whereas VLOOKUP formulas only work as a left-to-right lookup. In other words, if you need to do a lookup that has a lookup column to the right of the results column, then you’d have to rearrange those columns in order to do a VLOOKUP. This can be tedious with large datasets and/or lead to errors.

So if I want to combine information in Sheet 1 and Sheet 2 onto Sheet 1, but the column values in Sheets 1 and 2 aren’t the same, then to do a VLOOKUP, I would need to switch around my columns. In this case, I’d choose to do an INDEX MATCH instead.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say Sheet 1 contains a list of people’s names and their Hogwarts email addresses, and Sheet 2 contains a list of people’s email addresses and the Patronus that each student has. (For the non-Harry Potter fans out there, every witch or wizard has an animal guardian called a “Patronus” associated with him or her.) The information that lives in both sheets is the column containing email addresses, but this email address column is in different column numbers on each sheet. I’d use the INDEX MATCH formula instead of VLOOKUP so I wouldn’t have to switch any columns around.

So what’s the formula, then? The INDEX MATCH formula is actually the MATCH formula nested inside the INDEX formula. You’ll see I differentiated the MATCH formula using a different color here.

The formula: =INDEX(table array, MATCH formula)

This becomes: =INDEX(table array, MATCH (lookup_value, lookup_array))

The formula with variables from our example below: =INDEX(Sheet2!A:A,(MATCH(Sheet1!C:C,Sheet2!C:C,0)))

Here are the variables:

  • Table Array: The range of columns on Sheet 2 containing the new data you want to bring over to Sheet 1. In our example, “A” means Column A, which contains the “Patronus” information for each person.
  • Lookup Value: This is the column in Sheet 1 that contains identical values in both spreadsheets. In the example that follows, this means the “email” column on Sheet 1, which is Column C. So: Sheet1!C:C.
  • Lookup Array: This is the column in Sheet 2 that contains identical values in both spreadsheets. In the example that follows, this refers to the “email” column on Sheet 2, which happens to also be Column C. So: Sheet2!C:C.

Once you have your variables straight, type in the INDEX MATCH formula in the top-most cell of the blank Patronus column on Sheet 1, where you want the combined information to live.

INDEX MATCH

13) COUNTIF Function

Instead of manually counting how often a certain value or number appears, let Excel do the work for you. With the COUNTIF function, Excel can count the number of times a word or number appears in any range of cells.

For example, let’s say I want to count the number of times the word “Gryffindor” appears in my data set.

The formula: =COUNTIF(range, criteria)

The formula with variables from our example below: =COUNTIF(D:D,”Gryffindor”)

In this formula, there are several variables:

  • Range: The range that we want the formula to cover. In this case, since we’re only focusing on one column, we use “D:D” to indicate that the first and last column are both D. If I were looking at columns C and D, I would use “C:D.”
  • Criteria: Whatever number or piece of text you want Excel to count. Only use quotation marks if you want the result to be text instead of a number. In our example, the criteria is “Gryffindor.”

Simply typing in the COUNTIF formula in any cell and pressing “Enter” will show me how many times the word “Gryffindor” appears in the dataset.

COUNTIF

14) Combine cells using “&”

Databases tend to split out data to make it as exact as possible. For example, instead of having a data that shows a person’s full name, a database might have the data as a first name and then a last name in separate columns. Or, it may have a person’s location separated by city, state, and zip code. In Excel, you can combine cells with different data into one cell by using the “&” sign in your function.

The formula with variables from our example below: =A2&” “&B2

Let’s go through the formula together using an example. Pretend we want to combine first names and last names into full names in a single column. To do this, we’d first put our cursor in the blank cell where we want the full name to appear. Next, we’d highlight one cell that contains a first name, type in an “&” sign, and then highlight a cell with the corresponding last name.

But you’re not finished — if all you type in is =A2&B2, then there will not be a space between the person’s first name and last name. To add that necessary space, use the function =A2&” “&B2. The quotation marks around the space tell Excel to put a space in between the first and last name.

To make this true for multiple rows, simply drag the corner of that first cell downward as shown in the example.

Combine with And

We hope you found this article helpful! Bookmark it to keep these handy Excel tips in your back pocket.

Other Excel Help Resources:

Free Download Excel Templates

 
Free Download Excel Templates

Aug

31

2017

August Social Media News: Facebook Watch, YouTube Messaging & More

We’re about to hit September, and you might be feeling anxiety about you or your family heading back to school, the busy season at your office, or the prospect of a limited number of beach days left in the year.

We feel you — because even though we took a summer break, social media networks sure didn’t.

Social networks are constantly innovating new products and making tweaks that are hard to keep up with, which is why we started writing this monthly social media news roundup.Click here to learn about using social media in every stage of the funnel.

From Facebook to Snapchat, from new product launches to small tweaks, here’s a list of what’s new in social media this month. The list isn’t exhaustive, but you can expect to learn the major highlights — what was launched, what changed, and what these stories could mean for marketers.

And if you don’t have time to read this whole post, we made a short video to give you the biggest headlines below:

11 of the Biggest Social Media News Stories This Month

Snapchat

1) Snapchat has partnered with college newspapers on Discover.

The ephemeral messaging app will share original content from U.S. colleges and universities on Snapchat Discover — in specific editions for each college’s location.

Business Insider noted that this is the first time parent company Snap Inc. has partnered with smaller publishers to create original Snapchat Discover content — where previously, it’s worked with outlets like Vox, BuzzFeed, and The New York Times.

What is typical is Snapchat’s push to engage younger users — between the ages of 18-24, the demographic segment where Snapchat is most popular. More than half of eMarketer survey respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 said they use the app all the time.

social_media_by_age_emarketer_01.png

Source: eMarketer/Recode

It’ll be interesting to see how this content performs — for Snapchat, and for the partner colleges creating the content. Young users are the app’s path to growth — or at least, its path to preventing decline — more on that next.

2) Snapchat has more users, but less value.

Parent company Snap Inc. hosted its 2017 Q2 earnings call, and the results weren’t exactly 🔥.

Snapchat grew by seven million users in the last quarter, but that was still a miss — while it hit 173 million users by the end of Q2, investors anticipated it hitting 175.2 million instead. Its share price declined by roughly 6% as the company also reported its average revenue per user was $0.02 lower than predicted.

Snap Inc. has had a rocky journey since its IPO earlier this year. It will be interesting to see what they innovate next to compete with Facebook and Instagram in the battle for the most popular camera and sharing app.

Facebook

3) Facebook’s News Feed algorithm will start penalizing sites that aren’t optimized for mobile.

Facebook announced a few new tweaks to its News Feed algorithm — most notably, perhaps, was the announcement that links to sites that aren’t optimized for mobile viewing.

Facebook will now start taking link loading speed into account when deciding how to rank posts in the News Feed, to improve user experience for more than half of users who access the site via mobile devices.

If your site isn’t already optimized for mobile users, this ebook can help you get started.

4) Facebook has started autoplaying News Feed videos — with the sound on.

I received this notification when I opened up my Facebook app just last week:

video with sound facebook-1.png

Facebook has been gradually rolling out volume-on video autoplay for several months, but this announcement marks a big change to what’s largely been a silent world, with more than 85% of Facebook users preferring to watch videos without sound.

5) Facebook launched new camera features, including GIF recording and 360-photo capturing.

Facebook made a few big upgrades to its in-app camera this month. Swipe right on your News Feed on the mobile app to start broadcasting live, or to create a GIF and immediately share content on your Facebook Story or in a new post.

facebook licacap2-3.gif

6) Facebook launched the Watch tab for original video content.

Facebook’s going all in on video content this month — most notably, with its launch of the Watch tab, where creators and networks are developing original content specifically for the social network.

newsroom-hero_final-blue-11.png

Source: Facebook

Tap the video icon to see what creators like MLB, A&E, and Refinery29 are creating for Facebook, in yet another move to keep more people coming to its site to get what they need — namely, entertainment.

Instagram

7) Instagram launched Instagram Live — with two users.

Instagram will now let you go live with a friend — featuring a split broadcast screen like the one shown below.

Live-with-a-Friend-796x443.jpg

Source: Instagram

Now that you can save live broadcasts and share them to your Instagram Story for later viewing, users might be more interested in trying out a broadcast to engage and activate a bigger audience the way Facebook Live has succeeded. (We’ll be trying it out on our Instagram soon — make sure you’re following us.)

8) Instagram (and Facebook) launched comment threading.

Instagram and Facebook rolled out a small UX change that will make engagement and interactivity a bit easier for users — by launching threaded comments.

instagram comment threads.png

Source: Instagram

Any user knows the pain of trying to track down a friend’s comment when they’ve been tagged in a popular post on Facebook or Instagram, and this change solves that problem — and might make users more keen to tag friends in comments (which signal engagement in both apps’ news feeds).

9) Instagram users can now edit Story and Direct Message replies.

Last month, Instagram announced the ability to reply to Stories and Direct Messages with photos and videos.

And this month, users can reply with melded photos and videos that manipulate the original image — like in the example below.

reply-2-en.png

Source: TechCrunch

The next time you see a photo or video you want to reply to, tap the thumbnail in the upper right-hand corner to edit it with drawings or emojis, and add your own half-selfie to it.

Pinterest

10) Users can now pinch to zoom in on photos.

Pinterest added a few new ways to search for images, as well as a subtle UX change that now allows users to pinch and zoom in and out on photos of pins.

pinterest zoom-2.gif

Source: Pinterest

This might seem like it’s not worth even writing up, but this change is a nod to other visual-first social networks, like Instagram and Facebook. As Pinterest becomes a more shoppable social network, with the ability for users to tap and buy specific products within pins, it will be interesting to see how the competition heats up.

YouTube

11) YouTube added in-app messaging and vertical video capabilities.

At the very end of this month, YouTube unveiled a whole new visual identity — including a new logo for the first time.

Two of the big changes that marketers will want to make note of? The new in-app messaging feature, and the responsive video display that now shows vertical and square videos.

The new in-app messaging lets users share videos with friends without having to leave the app, which is the new name of the game for social networks — getting people to do what they want, without having to leave the platform. Plus, this feature is also a step toward YouTube competing with Facebook for a bigger piece of the video-watching pie.

youtube_1-7.png

Source: YouTube

And in another change, YouTube now supports vertical and square video formats, in addition to horizontal video. Remind you of anything — like, perhaps, every other social network?

Vertical videos were made popular by Snapchat, and are all over Instagram and Facebook now. The same goes for square videos. Why? Because these formats take up a greater share of the mobile user’s screen — keeping them more engaged in the app while they spend time streaming. Marketers should consider making YouTube part of their video distribution strategies besides just social media.


Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

 
How to Use Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel E

Aug

30

2017

What Makes Good Copywriting? 6 Characteristics of Top-Notch Copy

Mad Men fans everywhere remember the pivotal first scene where we learn just how talented Don Draper is at his job.

Faced with an almost-impossible copywriting task, he rose to the occasion to solve a huge problem for his client, Lucky Strike. In spite of research warning customers of the dangers of cigarettes, Draper delivered the iconic slogan — “It’s toasted” — to differentiate the brand from its competitors.

Now, we definitely aren’t advocating for smoking cigarettes (or many of Draper’s health choices). But fictional or not, you can’t deny the memorability and catchiness of that tagline.Click here to sharpen your copywriting skills with the help of our content  marketing workbook.

It’s easy to recognize good copywriting when you see it, but there are actually several characteristics that really separate outstanding writing from the rest of the pack. Want to know them? Read on below to find out.

6 Good Copywriting Examples From Real Brands

1) It tilts your perspective.

Sometimes, all a message needs to break through is a slight shift in angle. We’ve grown so accustomed to blocking out marketing messages, we don’t even see them anymore. One of the most powerful things a copywriter can do is break down a reader’s guard with an unexpected approach. Every story has a myriad of angles — your job as a copywriter is to find the one that resonates.

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Source: Silence Sucks

The above ad from Sage Therapeutics pressing the importance of talking about postpartum depression works because instead of asking readers to care about something they don’t know, it puts them in the position of experiencing the struggle that mothers suffering do. Did they miss some readers who quickly passed by the ad thinking it was for adult pacifiers? Most definitely. But the ad resonated that much more thoroughly with those who read it.

The next time you sit down to write, try out this approach. Don’t take the topic head on. Instead, ask yourself why it matters. Each time you write down an answer, challenge yourself to push it further. Find the larger story happening behind your message.

2) It finds connections.

In 1996, Steve Jobs let the cat out of the bag. He was speaking with a journalist from Wired on the topic of creativity and explained:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile.”

Let’s say you have to write an ad for a new pair of sneakers. You could take the assignment head on. You could write about the elasticity of the shoe’s sole or the lightweight design. Indeed, many have. Or you could put all of that aside and instead draw the connection between the product and the experience it evokes.

Run_ad

Source: Pinterest

Two things are happening in this ad. First, the copy recognizes that for many, running isn’t about running at all — it’s about solitude, peace, and restoring sanity to an otherwise hectic life. Second, not only does Nike connect the ad to the experience of running, it actually connects to the sound that those shoes make as they hit the pavement.

This ad is about the complexity of one’s life fading away and being replaced by simplicity and clarity. As the copy progresses, the sentences simplify and the copy’s complexity is slowly replaced by the simple and rhythmic pounding of words: run, run, run, run. The same rhythm one hears when all but their footsteps have faded away. That’s connection.

3) It has a stunning lead.

The following are all headlines or leading sentences from Urban Daddy, an email-based magazine drawing attention to new products, experiences, and eateries.

  • “Six days. That’s how long you have until 65% of your body is turkey.”
  • “There are 8,760 hours in a year. And just one hour in which a stand will be dispensing gratis latkes with homemade applesauce and sour cream in Harvard Square. Yeah, it’s not fair. But 60 minutes is 60 minutes.”
  • “Ewoks. Talk about living.”

What’s common among each of these leads? They make us want to read the next line. I mean, seriously, how much do you want to know where that Ewok thing is headed?

There’s an adage in copywriting that’s loosely credited to copywriter and business owner Joe Sugarman, which roughly states that the purpose of the headline is to get you to read the first line. The purpose of the first line is to get you to read the second line, and so on. In short, if your first line doesn’t enthrall your readers, all is lost.

4) It is born out of listening.

Seeing its plans to launch yet another gym in the greater Boston region, an outsider might have called the Harrington family a wee bit crazy. The market was already flush with gyms, including a new breed of luxury ones that seemed to be in an arms war for the flashiest perks. Gyms across the region were offering massage services, smoothie bars, and fleets of personal trainers. And GymIt wouldn’t have any of that.

What did GymIt have? An understanding of its core audience. Before launching its new gym, the brand did a ton of listening to its primary market of gym-goers. For many in GymIt’s target market, the added benefits associated with luxury gyms were nice to have, but came with a lot of baggage — namely expensive rates and overly complex contracts.

GymIt decided to simplify the gym-going experience for people who predominately cared about getting in and working out. The copy in its launch campaign and across its marketing materials reflects that understanding.

GymIt__gyms_in_Boston_ma__health_clubs

In an older blog post, Copyblogger‘s Robert Bruce put this nicely. “Humble yourself and truly serve your audience, listen to their needs and desires, listen to the language they use,” he said. “If you listen carefully, your audience can eventually give you everything you need, including much of your copy. Get out of their way.”

5) It avoids jargon and hyperbole.

Groundbreaking. Revolutionary. Business Solutions. Targetable Scale. Ideation. Evidence-based approaches. Industry wide best practices.

Have I lost you yet?

When writers struggle to convey what is truly special about their company, product, or service, they sometimes fall back on jargon or hyperbole to underscore their point. The truth is, good copywriting doesn’t need dressing up. Good copywriting should speak to the reader in human terms.

This isn’t to say you should never celebrate awards or achievements. Just be direct in the way you explain that achievement. This homepage from Basecamp does a nice job of highlighting its popularity in concrete terms.

basecamp-copywriting-example.png

6) It cuts out excess.

Good writing gets to the point — and that means cutting out excessive phrases, and rewording your sentences to be more direct. In an ad celebrating its “academic” readership, The Economist playfully demonstrates this below.

economist-1

How do you rid excess words from your writing? It’s half practice, half knowing where to cut. This article from Daily Writing Tips is one of the most effective summaries I’ve found on precise writing. Included in its tips:

  • Reduce verb phrases: For instance, turn “The results are suggestive of the fact that” to “The results suggest.”
  • Reduce wordy phrases to single words: You can change “in order to” into “to.” Another example: Turn “Due to the fact that” into “because.”
  • Avoid vague nouns: Phrases formed around general nouns like “in the area of” or “on the topic of” clutter sentences.
  • Read the full list of brevity tips here.

In general, if you can afford to cut without losing the meaning of a sentence, do so. Push yourself to strip down your word count. Turn 50-word homepage copy into 25, then push yourself again to make that 25-word sentence into 15 words. It’s not about brevity so much as it is about making sure every word counts in your writing.

Since my last point was about getting to the point, I’ll keep this brief: Words matter. Every time you sit down to write an ad, web page, video script, or other content for your company, you have the opportunity to break through to people. Find those opportunities in your marketing and make sure that you’ve made the most of them.

Free Content Marketing Workbook

 
Free Content Marketing Workbook

Aug

30

2017

10 of the Best Ads from August: The Eclipse, Sugar, and the Worst Voice Assistant Ever

Advertisers got creative in August, experimenting with the increasingly popular six-second ad format, contributing to the buzz surrounding the solar eclipse, and building a mountain of sugar in Times Square.

Let’s take a look at some of the last great ads of summer 2017:

Click here to check out the best marketing and advertising examples we've ever  seen.

10 of the Best Ads from August

1) SafeAuto

Say hello to the world’s worst voice assistant: a stylish wooden box named Fârnhäan. In a brutally funny take down of our growing fascination with artificial intelligence, insurance company SafeAuto developed a vaguely German-accented AI device who always gets it wrong — very wrong.

In a series of 30-second spots, Fârnhäan flubs question after question, with hilarious results. “Fârnhäan, what’s in baklava?” one man asks. Fârnhäan responds: “Sugar, cabbage, pickles, and just a touch of toothpaste for color.” Who knew?

 

2) KIND

On August 22, healthy food manufacturer KIND dumped 45,000 pounds of sugar on Times Square to demonstrate how much sugar the average child consumes annually.

Accompanied by several child-shaped statues (made of a sugar look-alike material to avoid attracting swarms of bugs), the art installation was orchestrated by Magnetic Collaborative, a London-based marketing shop.

Photo credit: KIND 

3) Canon

If you follow virtually any media site in 2017, you’ve probably heard the news that millennials are collectively killing everything from diamonds, to fabric softener, to lunch. But if Canon has any say in the matter, this ruthless, avocado-hungry generation won’t do away with point-and-shoot cameras.

To convince twenty and thirty-somethings to put down their beloved iPhones and opt for a real camera instead, Grey NY set up a wacky Rube Goldberg Machine, manufacturing some perfect photo-ops that could only be captured on a Canon — naturally.

 

4) Volkswagen

To showcase the unique design of Volkswagen’s new fastback Arteon, German agency Grabarz & Partner enlisted the help of Pete Eckert — a blind photographer famous for his otherworldly “light-paintings.”

Eckert brought his signature long-exposure techniques to the project, producing a series of mirage-like images of the new model. “The new Arteon represents expressive, avant-garde design. Pete Eckert has presented this design in a unique way,” said Xavier Chardon, Volkswagen’s head of marketing, to Adweek. “The images he has created are genuine works of art and have a very special atmosphere that only he can create.”

 

5) JetBlue

There are now souvenirs for workaholics who never take a vacation, celebrating the very place they never, ever leave.

JetBlue worked with MullenLowe to produce a line of delightfully kitschy keepsakes to remind you of the vacation you need to take. The line of mugs, decorative plates, candles, and other trinkets usually reserved for tourist trap gift shops feature phrases like: “Paper jams are my jam,” and “Remember the free bagels?”

“If your last good memory is that time free bagels were left in the break room, we feel for you,” said Heather Berko, manager of advertising and content at JetBlue. “These Office Souvenirs are just our way of reminding everyone there are blue skies and fresh air waiting to provide much happier memories.”

Photo via: Adweek

6) Carlsberg

This Danish brewery’s founder died in 1887, but that didn’t stop him from hosting a TED Talk in Copenhagen in August — courtesy of FCB agency Happiness in Brussels.

J.C. Jacobsen, who founded Carlsberg back in 1847, showed up (via actor) to give a talk entitled, “Why You Should Answer Every Question With Probably.” The topic plays into Carlsberg’s longtime slogan: “Probably the best beer in the world,” but it ended up being a surprisingly insightful meditation on the value of uncertainty.

 

7) Hitotoki

This just might be the most beautiful clock ever created — and it only took 30,000 objects to make.

To celebrate the do-it-yourself spirit their brand embodies, Japanese stationary company Hitotoki teamed up with agency Dentsu to assemble a 24-hour clock with a hand-crafted set of hands for each minute of the day — 1,440 total. Against a backdrop of lovely Hitotoki paper (of course), the team mesmerizingly assembles each arrangement using every object imaginable — cupcakes, confetti, even a miniature spaceship.

You can watch a real-time version of the Hitotoki clock on their website.

 

8) Chiquita

Is there anything bolder than slapping a logo on the solar eclipse?

Chiquita saw an opportunity that wouldn’t come along for another seven years, and they jumped on it (with help from Wieden + Kennedy). Who can blame them really? It really does look like a banana.

“It took an intense knowledge of celestial bodies and an unrelenting love for bananas, but we did it,” Chiquita wrote on their YouTube channel. “On August 21, Chiquita will move the moon in between the sun and the earth. For a fleeting moment before and after the totally overrated total solar eclipse, the sun will appear to be an enormous fiery banana. This phenomenon shall henceforth be known as the Chiquita banana sun. Please enjoy it.”

 

9) Air New Zealand

A flightless bird might not seem like the most natural spokesperson for an airline, but you’ll change your mind after meeting Air New Zealand’s latest pitchman — a tiny, adorable kiwi.

After getting some devastating news from a doctor (“You’ll never fly … because kiwis don’t have wings”), our fluffy little hero discovers that the convenient flight options from Air New Zealand still allow him to get around in the sky.

 

10) Zappos

In this series of quick, clever spots for online retailer Zappos, the creative team at barrettSF had a little fun with the phrase, “Save the drama for your mama.”

Each ad plays off an alternative version of the saying, e.g.: “Save the drama for your daughter’s diorama.”

What were you favorite ads this month? Talk to us on Twitter.

marketing-campaigns

Aug

30

2017

How to Create 30 Days Worth of Instagram Posts in One Day

Did you know that 50% of Instagram users follow a business, and 60% actually use Instagram to learn about a product or service?

In fact, there are currently over 700 million Instagram users, and that number is expected to reach the one billion user milestone by the end of 2017. How’s that for a potential audience for your business?

Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks out there — and with good reason! Businesses and individuals alike love connecting with each other through the image-dedicated platform by sharing inspiring images and videos with their communities.

For the marketers behind those brand Instagram feeds, it’s important to keep your audience engaged and loyal to your brand to really take advantage of the expanding network.Click here to access a month's worth of Instagram tips & free templates. 

Unfortunately, keeping your audience engaged is no easy feat. It requires constantly coming up with new ideas and creating a variety of content pieces to post every single day. 

At HubSpot, our social media team works on our Instagram content schedule well in advace, making sure to keep a stock of posts handy to schedule out everyday. If you’re a marketer wearing lots of different hats at your company, though, you may find it difficult to work far as far in advance.

But wouldn’t be great if you had your whole month of Instagram posts ready so you can have one less thing to worry about?

Not sure how? Don’t worry. We have a few tips to share.

How to Create 30 Instagram Posts in One Day

Creating a bulk of content for any channel requires a few hours of focused energy, some inspiration, and the right tools. 

Before we dig in, be sure set aside time to focus energy on your Instagram content. Start by blocking off time on your calendar to create all of your posts. Start with two hours. We promise: creating 30 posts at once will be easier than you think. 

Once you’ve found your focus, it’s time to look for inspiration.

1) Look to your favorite brands for inspiration. 

The best way to create variety is to get outside of your own bubble. Don’t just look around your office or at your past Instagram posts to draw inspiration for new posts.

Instead, start your creative process by looking at the brands you personally follow. Look at brands you admire (or even your friends) and look at what types of posts people tend to engage with. 

Getting inspiration from other people is one of the quickest ways to come up with new unique ideas. Or, if you want to even get out of the Instagram feed, check out Designspiration. It’s a great collection of designs to get your creative juices flowing. 

2) Start jotting down your ideas in one place.

As you look around Instagram and elsewhere for new content ideas, make a list of things you like and dislike. It can be anything — colors, quotes, images, types of posts, etc. 

Even if you don’t use some of your ideas right away, it’s important to keep a running list of the thoughts that flit through your mind when you’re getting inspiration. After all, you never know where that idea might eventually lead.

3) Use a mixture of phone pictures and created pictures using a tool like Spark Post.

While many Instagrammers spend tons of time each day taking new pictures on their phones, you aren’t limited to just posting photos that you actually go out and take. Instead, mix it up by having a stock of images you design alongisde those you take. 

Pro Tip: Not a great designer? No problem. Use a free design tool like Adobe Spark Post. With their free templates and easy-to-use interface, you can make beautifully designed images in no time. To get you started, we have 30 free exclusive Spark Post templates to offer you in our 30 day Instagram guide.

To get you started, we have 30 free exclusive Spark Post templates to offer you in our 30 day Instagram guide.

4) Use our 30 Day Instagram Guide and Free Instagram Templates to easily create 30 unique posts.

One easy way to come up with 30 unique Instagram posts is to focus on a new idea or aspect of Instagram each day. That’s why HubSpot teamed up with Adobe Spark and Iconosquare to create this full 30 Days of Instagram guide.

Each day is focused on a different aspect of Instagram marketing. From different content creation ideas to promotional tactics to reporting and analysis, the guide is jam packed with ideas and examples from the best of the best. 

The guide also includes 30 exclusive Adobe Spark templates for you to use to help you create your 30 days worth of Instagram posts. Check it out and get cranking!

5) Use a scheduling software like Iconosquare to schedule your content for the next 30 days. 

Once you’ve successfully created 30 (or more) Instagram posts for the month, don’t forget to get scheduling! Use a software like Iconosquare to schedule out a whole month’s worth of Instagram posts, then let yourself relax!

30 days of instagram

 
30 days of insta

Aug

29

2017

How Chance the Rapper Made Millions By Giving Away Things for Free [Video]

Aug

29

2017

16 Email Subject Lines You’ll Probably Want to Click

I’d venture to guess you get tons of emails in your inbox every day.

From coupons, to daily deal sites, to newsletters, to password resets, to your mother wanting to know when you plan to visit — it’s a lot to sift through, never mind actually open.

So what makes you want to take that extra step to actually open an email? Often, it’s the subject line. After all, it’s your very first impression of the email — and from it, you’ll do your best to judge the content on the inside.Click here to download our free ebook featuring 104 email marketing myths,  experiments, and inspiration.

If you’re an email marketer, or just someone who happens to send emails on behalf of your company, you don’t want to be one of those ignored (or — gasp — deleted) emails in your subscribers’ inboxes. You’ve got to make sure your email subject lines are top-notch — and what better way to learn how to do that than by examining some great examples of subject lines? Let’s take a look at what makes a great subject line, followed by a few examples that, old or new, we’re crazy about.

What Makes the Best Email Subject Lines?

Before we dive into these fabulous examples, let’s look at what common elements you might find in a subject line. There were eight different components we found again and again in our top performing email subject lines:

1) Urgency

There’s a phrase that, for many of us, is reminiscent of classic infomercials: “Act now!” And while we wouldn’t encourage using that exact language in your content, we do agree that communicating urgency and scarcity in an email subject line can help compel readers to click (or act) — when phrased creatively and strategically. But because you don’t want to be known as “the brand that cried wolf,” use these subject lines sparingly, and try to limit them to when the occasion genuinely calls for immediate action.

2) Curiosity

Sometimes, subject lines work because of their ability to send the message, “You will benefit from opening this email.” But other times, it’s good to maintain some sense of mystery — especially if it pique’s the recipient’s natural curiosity and interest. Because they require opening the email to get more information, they can result in, well, a higher open rate. But make sure the subject line, while enigmatic, still aligns with your brand. Too obscure, and it could end up being seen as spam.

3) Offers

Here’s where that benefit of opening a given email comes in. At the end of the day, people love new things and experiences — especially when they come free, or at least discounted. Open with that by including it in your subject line. Personally, I’m much more inclined to open my daily newsletters when there’s an offer of or allusion “free stuff” directly mentioned in my inbox.

4) Personalization

No two email subscribers are exactly the same — and, sometimes, that means the emails you send them shouldn’t be, either. At this point in time, marketers have never had more ways to learn about their subscribers’ preferences, jobs, or general (dis)likes. So when you send them content, on occasion, make it catered toward the individual.

5) Relevance and Timeliness

When we subscribe to an email list, much of the time, it’s because we want to be kept informed, or at least learn more about a given topic (more on that later). Similar to piquing your audience’s curiosity, crafting email subject lines that incorporate trending topics or timely headlines can help you establish your brand as an authority within your industry — and can compel people to click to read.

6) Name Recognition

Let’s face it: We all have famous people who, at some point, we presently or previously have admired. And when you understand your audience’s preferences and interests, you can pique their interest by including the names of this admired, recognizable individuals by including them in your content — and mentioning them in your email subject lines. But take heed: This tactic really only works when it aligns with your brand, product, or service, so keep it relevant, rather than just throwing out a recognizable name for the sake of recognition.

7) Cool Stories

At risk of sounding like a broken record, here’s another place where curiosity comes into play. By front-loading your email subject line with a compelling allusion to a story that the message tells — but can only be read if opened or clicked — your audience is like to become intrigued, and want to learn more. Again, make sure the story is relevant to your brand. Otherwise, it might just confuse your readers and prevent them from opening the email.

16 Email Subject Lines to Inspire Your Own

1) Warby Parker: “Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring”

Not too long ago, a HubSpot alum received this email two weeks before he needed to renew his prescription — talk about great timing. And when you’re eye prescription is expiring, it happens to be an excellent time to upgrade your glasses. By sending an email at the right time, Warby Parker increased its chances of this email getting opened.

But timing isn’t the sole reason we included this example. This subject is brilliant because it appeared at the right time and with the right tone. Using conversational words like “uh-oh,” keeping the subject line sentence case, and leaving out the period at the end, the subject line comes across as helpful and friendly — not as a company trying to upsell you.

2) Groupon: “Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”

It’s hard to be funny in your marketing, but Groupon’s one of those brands that seems to nail it again and again. After all, who can for get this classic unsubscribe video?

This subject line is no exception. The quip, “(Unlike Our Nephew Steve),” actually had us laughing out loud. Why? It’s completely unexpected. The first part of the subject line looks like a typical subject line you’d get from Groupon, highlighting a new deal. The parenthetical content? Not so much — making this one a delightful gem to find in your inbox.

3) Clover: “👗 Free (Cool!) Clothes Alert 👖”

First of all, we have a not-so-secret love for emojis in email subject lines. Personally, I’m partial to turquoise — so when I see an email implying that I might somehow be able to obtain a free turquoise dress, chances are, I’m clicking.

That’s part of what makes this subject line work. It draws the recipients eye by using visual content (emojis), and it hints at an offer of something free. That hints at an incentive to open the email: There’s a something to gain inside.

4) King Arthur Flour: “The timer’s going off on your cart!”

Similar to Warby Parker, this subject line makes use of urgency. If I don’t take action on my King Arthur Flour shopping cart — like actually buying them — it will be cleared, and I’ll have to start all over again.

Okay, so maybe this is a low-risk scenario. But when it comes to my baking goods, personally, I don’t like to take any chances, or risk forgetting what I was going to buy. That’s where the personalization aspect of this subject line comes in: King Arthur Flour — especially its online shop — tends to attract both professional and home bakers who take all things culinary a bit more seriously than, say, someone who only buys flour on occasion from the supermarket. And wouldn’t you know? Those are the same bakers who probably don’t want to spend time building their shopping carts from scratch.

The moral of the story: Know your audience when you’re writing email subject lines. Is there something that they take seriously more than others? If so, incorporate that into your copy.

5) Manicube: “*Don’t Open This Email*”

Ever been told to not do something? Being asked to refrain from something can actually have the opposite effect — you now want to do that thing even more.

That’s the strategy behind Manicube’s subject line. It’s a simple but effective way to make people curious enough to open your email. (Just be sure that the contents of your email actually have something worthy of that subject line.)

6) Refinery29: “I got Botox—& THIS is what it looked like”

Okay, so maybe your business doesn’t involve Botox. But still — are you intrigued? I am, and despite my better judgment, I clicked.

That’s the power of leading your emails with a story: It sparks curiosity, which works in two ways. There are times when our natural curiosity can pique our interest without context, such as in the example above. But in this case, the subject line implies that there’s an intriguing story ahead. Why the heck did this person get Botox? And what did it look like? As the saying goes, “Inquiring minds want to know.”

Think of the stories behind your industry, and then, find ways to include them in email newsletters and frame them within the subject line in a way that piques your recipients’ collective curiosity.

7) Zillow: “What Can You Afford?”

Imagine getting this subject line in your inbox from a website showing apartments for rent. It’s both exciting and encouraging (“Here are a bunch of apartments right in your budget. Yay!”), but also kind of competitive — pitting your cash against what the market offers. Would you click it? I certainly would.

Personalizing emails to cater to your audience’s emotions — for which there’s a broad spectrum, when it comes to real estate — is key to getting people to open your emails. You don’t have to be a psychologist to know how to take advantage of them, either. In addition to principles like urgency, crafting an email subject line that implies scarcity is another great way to increase your conversion rates.

8) UncommonGoods: “As You Wish”

When writing emails, you should also think about the recognizable names and reference that make people tick. For example, take this subject line from UncommonGoods forwarded to us from HubSpot’s Content Director, Corey Wainwright, who happens to be a die-hard fan of The Princess Bride. Apparently, “As You Wish” is a pretty big reference to that movie (I know, I know — I need to watch it again), so when she saw this subject line in her inbox, she just HAD to click.

Even though she knew logically that the email was part of a larger-scale send, it almost seemed like it was tailored to be sent personally to her — after all, why else would it include a reference to Princess Bride in the title?

UncommonGoods knows its buyer persona like the back of its metaphorical hand. While it may not send emails to individual subscribers with references to their favorite movies in the title, it does have a general understanding of its subscribers and their interests.

9) TechCrunch: “Google sees smartphone heroics in Oreo. It’s The Daily Crunch.”

If you’re subscribed to a newsletter from a publication like TechCrunch, chances are, you signed up because you’re either interested in or want to learn more about technology. To reflect that, the media outlet crafts its daily email roundups (“The Daily Crunch”) with a subject line that reflects one of the latest, most compelling news items in the industry.

Here’s the thing: Staying on the cutting edge is hard, especially with something that evolves as quickly as technology. So by writing email subject lines that reflect something that’s recent and relevant, TechCrunch is signaling to email recipients that opening the message will help them stay informed and up-to-date on the latest industry news.

Think about the things that your audience struggles to keep up with — then, craft an email roundup and matching subject line that reflects the latest news in that category.

10) Eater Boston: “Where to Drink Beer Right Now”

Okay, you caught me: I’m a beer lover. (One of the many reasons I like working at HubSpot.) But that’s not what hooked me here. The subject line arrived in my inbox just at the time I needed it: at 6:45 on a Wednesday evening. Absolutely. Genius.

Think about it: You’re just over hump day and want to decompress with a few coworkers after work. Right as you’re about to head out, you get a notification on your phone that says, “Where to Drink Beer Right Now.” Perfect timing makes this subject line something you can’t help but click on.

For your own emails, think about how timing will affect how people perceive your emails. Even if you send an email in an off-peak hour, you could get higher engagement on your email — if you have the right subject line.

11) BuzzFeed: “Not Cool, Guys”

Okay, we admit it: We love BuzzFeed. If nothing else, its staff knows how to write great copy — and that sentiment includes an exceptional email marketing team. Many of my colleagues have signed up for BuzzFeed’s daily emails, and pretty much any day of the week, they win for best subject line in their inboxes.

While there are a few of BuzzFeed’s subject lines here and there that aren’t anything to write home about, it’s the combination of subject lines and the preview text that is golden. They’re friendly, conversational, and, above all, snarky.

Here’s the text that followed the subject line above: “Okay, WHO left the passive-aggressive sticky note on my fridge. Honestly, who acts like this?” That conversational tone and snark pull us in over and over again — and it’s the preview text that completes the experience for me.

We’re not all equipped to be snarky writers, but most email platforms have the preview text easily available to edit. How can you use that little extra space to delight your customers (oh, and probably improve your email stats)? Maybe you could use the subject line as a question, and the preview text area as the answer. Or maybe it’s a dialogue: The subject line is one person, and the preview text is another.

You get the idea. By using that space, you have more opportunities to attract new subscribers.

12) Thrillist: “DO NOT Commit These Instagram Atrocities”

No matter how humble people are, most don’t like to do things wrong … so why not play on that natural human tendency in an email subject line, especially if you’re in the business of helping clients (or prospective clients) succeed? Thrillist certainly does in the subject line above, and it makes the language even more vibrant by using DO NOT — a great takeaway for B2B marketers.

Instead of using the typical contraction “don’t,” Thrillist spells it out and adds the all-caps for effect. That way, you’ll notice the subject line in your inbox, and then not, finder it harder to resist clicking on it.

Think about how going negative in your marketing might be a good thing. For example, many of us have anxiety about looking silly and stupid, so figure out how you can play to those emotions in subject lines. Of course, it’s important to back up that subject line with encouraging, helpful content, so that you’re not just ranting at people all day.

Getting negative can get your subscribers’ attention — this subject line certainly caught mine.

13) Buffer: “Buffer has been hacked – here is what’s going on”

Next is a subject line from Buffer. Back in 2013, Buffer got hacked — every tech company’s worst nightmare. But Buffer handled it exceptionally well, especially on the email front.

What I admire about the subject line is that it’s concise and direct. In a crisis, it’s better to steer clear of puns. People want to see that you’re not only taking the situation seriously, but also be reassured that the world isn’t ending.

Because of the way the subject line is worded and formatted, you feel like Buffer is calm and collected about the issue, and is taking your personal safety into consideration. That’s pretty hard to do in just a few words.

14) Copy Hackers: “Everything you wanted to know about email copy but were too afraid to ask”

Here’s another great example of leveraging your audience’s full plate to your email marketing advantage. Who hasn’t refrained from asking a question out of fear of looking silly or out of the loop? Excuse me, while I sheepishly raise my hand.

” … but were too afraid to ask” is one of those phrases that, to us, probably won’t go out of style for a long time. People seek insights from Copy Hackers — an organization dedicated to helping marketers and other professionals write better copy, as the name suggests — because, well, they have questions. They want to improve. And when that audience is too afraid to ask those questions, here’s Copy Hackers, ready to come to the rescue with answers.

What does your audience want to know, but might be too embarrassed to ask? Use that information to craft your content — including your email subject lines.

15) Wag!: “🐶 Want a Custom Emoji of Tullamore & 6 Months FREE Walks? Book a Walk Today for Your Chance to Win!”

First of all: For reference, Tullamore is my dog.

Second: Another emoji for the win — especially when it’s a cute dog.

Here’s a great example of how personalization goes beyond the email recipient’s name. Wag!, an on-demand dog-walking app, includes the names of its customers’ pets in a portion of its email subject lines. But this type of personalization is more than just a first-name basis. If there’s anything I love more than free stuff and baking goods, it’s my pup. Wag! knows that, and by mentioning Tullamore by name in the subject line — in tandem with an offer, no less — it catches my attention and piques my interest.

16) Quirky: “Abra-cord-abra! Yeah, we said it.”

Last, but certainly not least, is this punny email subject line from Quirky. Yes — we’re suckers for puns, in the right situation.

What we like most about it is the second part: “Yeah, we said it.” The pun in the beginning is great and all — it refers to a new invention featured on Quirky’s site to help everyday consumers detangle their numerous plugs and cords — but the second sentence is conversational and self-referential. That’s exactly what many of us would say after making a really cheesy joke in real life.

Many brands could stand to be more conversational and goofy in their emails. While it may not be appropriate to go as far as Quirky’s subject line, being goofy might just be the way to delight your email recipients.

These are just some of our favorite subject lines — and since we receive plenty of them, we’ll continue adding the best ones as we discover them.

104 email marketing myths, experiments, and inspiration

 
Free Download 104 Email Myths

Aug

29

2017

Here Are the Top Employer Branding Challenges [New Report]

Around here, we’re not exactly shy about our nerdiness.

We love data. We love running experiments. And upon the release of a new report that combines the two, we gleefully geek out and immediately devour the results — always keeping in mind what they mean for marketers.

One of the more recent instances of this phenomenon is Hinge Research Institute’s 2017 Employer Brand Study. It’s full of data about the latest challenges faced by B2B firms, especially those within the realm of professional services — with particular emphasis on recruiting and retaining the best talent.Click here to download our ultimate toolkit for social and PR branding.

As it turns out, a lot of that comes down to branding — specifically, branding your firm as an employer, as well as a service provider.

In this post, we’ll dive into the report’s findings, and what marketers need to know when it comes to building a brand as an employer.

What Is Employer Branding?

According to BusinessDictionary, a brand is the “unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these … creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.”

In the past, we’ve written about the importance of and ways to brand your business based on an audience of current and potential customers, as well as buyer personas. But when it comes to recruiting the best talent to help your organization grow, branding remains key — but how you position your company as an employer might look different than the way you do as a service provider.

In no way does that mean you should falsify your brand for a different type of audience. It just means that you might use different (factual) information to build a value proposition as someone who’s hiring, as opposed to that for your products and services.

In a nutshell, your employee brand should encompass three key pieces:

  1. Your employer value proposition (EVP). According to Hinge, that’s “an engaging appeal to prospective employees … made up of a set of characteristics, features, and values that describe what it’s like to work in your organization and how it improves employees’ lives.” But in order to authentically communicate that, you should also include …
  2. The voice of your current employees. From their perspective, what’s it like to work for your company? How would they describe the culture? What do they love most about it?
  3. Specialized marketing content. That can include any current content you have that establishes your firm as an authority or thought leader — in some cases, this content might need to be repurposed for employer branding and recruiting purposes, but anything that builds your appeal as an exciting place to work is worth considering.

The Top Employer Branding Challenges for Marketers

The Methodology

In publishing the Employer Brand Study, Hinge sought to answer several questions — for the exhaustive list, check out the full-length study here. But we wanted to dig into the two that intrigued us the most:

  1. What challenges are professional services firms faced with today?
  2. What is marketing’s role in employer branding?

In answering these questions, Hinge surveyed a sample of 801 professionals, who fell into one of two categories:

  1. Talent-Evaluators: employees who are directly involved in the company’s recruiting and hiring efforts, who were asked to answer questions about these internal processes.
  2. Employee-Candidates: employees who are generally removed from recruiting and hiring efforts, who answered questions about how they approach their own respective job searches.

Here’s a breakdown of how each category was represented:

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-1.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

And, a look at the industries represented:

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-2.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

The Data

What challenges are professional services firms faced with today?

When Hinge asked respondents to identify their top professional challenges, they weren’t restricted to one particular business category. And yet, have a look at how many of the top challenges fall within the realm of recruiting, developing, and retaining talent:

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-3.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

In fact, over half of the respondents identified “attracting top talent/recruiting” as their biggest challenge, making it the second-highest-cited difficulty facing both talent-evaluators and employee-candidates. In fourth place, meanwhile, there was the reduction of turnover.

In other words: People operations — as we call them here at HubSpot — impact all areas of a business. Not only does something like turnover lead to extensive costs to employers, but it also leaves individual teams and employees in a lurch when they lose talent. In addition to their own workloads, they now have to take on the tasks of those who have left, all while trying to find fitting replacements.

Notice that “maintaining a positive public image” is also on the list. That’s reflected in recruiting efforts — according to Harvard Business Review, a company’s bad reputation can cost it 10% more than a firm with a good reputation to acquire a new hire.

So how can firms manage their reputations in a way that heightens their appeal to talent? It goes beyond doing the right thing — which, yes, is imperative — and often involves managing their brands, too.

That’s where marketers come in. After all, the subject of the study was employer branding — and branding is a category of marketing. That could be why Hinge also posed the questions to respondents: “What is marketing’s role in employer branding?” Next, we’ll explore those findings.

What is marketing’s role in employer branding?

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-4.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

When looking at the previous two charts side-by-side, it’s interesting to note the similarities between the top challenges identified by professionals, as well as those named as the biggest responsibilities of marketers within employer branding. Both questions generated answers identifying lead generation (whether in the form of a customer or talent pipeline), a positive public image (or making the firm seem attractive), and best leveraging technology (we include maintaining a website and focusing on social media here) as priorities.

But we want to dig into some of those marketing responsibilities a bit more, especially “creating content for digital marketing.” We’ve covered a lot on the topic of content strategy, including that within the digital realm. And while creating quality, valuable content can attract an audience of business leads — one of the main principles of inbound marketing — it could potentially do the same for talent leads.

When I was preparing for my interviews with HubSpot, one of the first things I did was voraciously read the Marketing Blog. Of course, that’s the team I was interviewing to join — but reading that content, as well as looking further into the downloadable offers created by the team — provided me with some insight into the company’s culture, and got me thinking about the creative process. What do brainstorms look like there? How are all of these ideas for blog topics and downloadable content generated? It was very intriguing and contributed to my excitement to be part of it.

But before I read the blog, I did a general search for information on the company. I read Glassdoor reviews, perused the Culture Code, and even came across the HubSpot culture and careers blog, Move On Up. And while that first piece — the Glassdoor reviews — weren’t technically owned by HubSpot, the company was still managing its presence there, by providing a detailed response to every reviewer. And when combined, all of that content composed a cohesive presence: the employer’s brand.

See what we’re getting at?

What to Do With This Information

Now, just for fun, let’s have a look at the report’s findings with regard to “Top Criteria Candidates Consider When Evaluating Opportunities”:

Research-EmployerBrandStudy-5.jpg
Source: Hinge Research Institute

Aha! The top response from employee-candidates was, “firm culture.” And while your firm might have a remarkable culture, it won’t do anything to benefit your recruiting efforts if you keep it a secret. It should be part of your employer brand and communicated across the content you produce.

And if you don’t already have an established culture — or Culture Code, like we have here — here’s a great opportunity to establish one. Not only will this work toward your recruitment efforts, but it can also force you to acknowledge exactly what type of business and team you want to have, and how (or if) your actual culture presently aligns with what you’d like it to be.

These principles can guide the type of hiring decisions you make in the future, and can even influence the way you manage your current teams, ideally supporting talent retention.

That speaks to the importance of internal employer branding, too. I’m a big fan of the phrase, “Practice what you preach.” While it’s much easier said than done, the employer messaging you broadcast externally should truthfully reflect what actually happens inside your company. The last thing you want to do is focus all of your employer branding efforts on recruiting outside talent, only to have those new hires enter the company to witness something completely different, or high turnover — that can position them as flight risks.

So, remember: As you build your employer brand, think about where you want your workplace culture to be — and just how much you’re currently missing the mark on those criteria. An important element of branding is honesty, with both target audiences, and with yourself.

Oh, and by the way: We’re hiring.

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New Call-to-action

Aug

28

2017

12 Free Social Media and Brand Monitoring Tools We Love (and Why)

Reputation is everything. And on the internet, that couldn’t be more true.

It’s important to always know what people are saying about you — whether it’s your customers, your competitors, or the press. And on any given day, it can be tricky to keep up with what your audience is sharing across a variety of social media platforms.

So, we’ve rounded up some of the best free social media and brand monitoring tools from around the vast web of social networks.Click here to learn about using social media in every stage of the funnel.

Nearly all of these tools are free, but some offer paid versions with more features and capabilities. Let’s dive into each one — and see if you want to test them out today.

12 Free Social Media and Brand Monitoring Tools to Try

1) TweetDeck

tweetdeck-exmaple.png

TweetDeck lets you create a more customized Twitter interface to monitor different users, hashtags, search terms, and lists. From one panel, you can look at Twitter content from the groups you want — whether that’s customers, competitors, or employees.

TweetDeck is a great tool to use during events or live-tweetstorms to keep up with live conversations — while also keeping an eye on you or your brand’s notifications and mentions.

2) Social Mention

socialmention-example1.png

Social Mention aggregates all of the blog, microblog, image, and video content related to the search term you provide from a variety of search engines and social networks. This makes it easier to digest and view what’s being said about your brand in one comprehensive view.

socialmention-example2.png

3) Followerwonk

followerwonk-example.png

Followerwonk lets you quickly and easily search users’ Twitter bios and profiles for mentions of you or your brand. Log in with your Twitter credentials to check it out, or subscribe to the paid versions to get even more social insights.

4) SumAll

sumall-example.png

SumAll connects to a variety of different social accounts — including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn — to provide you with insights about your followers, interactions, and engagements. The paid version provides content recommendations and automatic post scheduling.

5) Mentionmapp

mentionmapp-example.png

Mentionmapp connects to your Twitter API and see what’s going on in your Twitter network. You can see who mentions you the most, as well as who retweets you the most (using Retweetmapp). It’s interactive, too. That way, you can click through and see how your interactions are connected — if you want to keep an eye on the impact or reach a positive (or negative) tweet about your brand can have.

6) Klout

klout-example.png

Source: Klout

Klout connects to your Facebook and Twitter accounts and provides suggestions of content you should share with your network — as well as the ability to share said content natively from the app.

7) Hootsuite

hootsuite-example.png

Hootsuite works like TweetDeck — but for all of your social networks. From your Dashboard, you can carry out social monitoring, scheduling, campaigns, and analytics — all in one place. Hootsuite integrates with Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+, and although it’s free for individuals’ accounts, businesses and enterprises have to purchase paid versions.

8) BoardReader

boardreader-example.png

BoardReader does what its name suggests — it crawls message boards and discussion panels to see what people are saying about you and your brand in the dreaded comments sections, which otherwise seem impossible to parse through. Commenters often have stronger words than social media posters, so make sure you have a thick skin before diving in.

9) BuzzSumo

buzzsumo-example-1.png

BuzzSumo aggregates data about the number of links to your domain and pieces of content receive — on social media, and via backlinks. These insights can help you determine which content formats perform best on each network, giving you ideas for web pages and pieces of content to replicate again. It’s freeup to a certain number of links, but after that, you have to pony up some cash for the Pro version.

10) Google Alerts

googlealerts-example.png

You can set up Google Alerts to see where people are mentioning you or your brand in search results, too. Enter specific terms that might be included in news story titles, and you’ll receive regular emails updating you to mentions from around the internet.

11) Native Analytics Tools

twitteranalytics-example.png

A few social networks provide free analytics to users — or, sometimes, analytics viewing is included in a business subscription for brands. Above is an example of what Twitter Analytics looks like for individuals, with more data and insights provided for business accounts.

12) HubSpot

hubspot social inbox example.png

If you’re a HubSpot customer, HubSpot Social Inbox lets you set up specific streams for users and search terms you want to monitor. Check out this video tour of different HubSpot tools to get an idea of how it works.

Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

 
How to Use Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

Aug

28

2017

5 Myths About Video Marketing, Debunked

By now, you’ve probably heard video marketing is a powerful tool for generating leads and capturing new customers.

So why aren’t you using it yet?

For many small to medium businesses, the reluctance to adopt video comes from a fear of the unknown. Video marketing feels expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to track. And these would be valid reasons … if any of them were still true in 2017.

Video technology has come a long way in the past five years. We’ve gone from “put it on YouTube and hope the millennials find it” to video enablement platforms which empower small businesses to create, share, and analyze videos without the agencies, actors, or expense. Some 70% of businesses report that video now their top channel for driving conversions, according to Demand Metric.

If you haven’t seen what video can do for your company, t’s time to stop putting it off.

5 Video Marketing Myths, Debunked

1) Video is too expensive.

Sure, HBO’s Westworld may have beaten The Game of Thrones’ record with a price tag of $10 million per episode, but you don’t have to play their game. In fact, stay as far away from it as possible.

Video doesn’t have to be expensive. Today’s buyers and consumers actually appreciate authenticity over production value.

According to Fast Company, consumers prefer lower quality but “authentic” goods and services over those of a higher quality but which seem “inauthentic.”

This craving for authenticity is why we’re seeing such an explosion in micro-influencer marketing and user-generated content. With both of these marketing strategies, brands rely on their own buyers to create content, usually with little more than an iPhone.

With your own video content, don’t stress over having a low production budget if you have something valuable to say. Here at Vidyard, we produce Chalk Talks where we ask experts within our company to chat about topics like outbound sales, analytics, and video strategy in front of a chalkboard. The videos have been shared thousands of times, and the cost? A few minutes of someone’s time and a lot of colored chalk.

2) Video is cumbersome.

What many small business owners typically mean by this is “I don’t know where to begin.” When they think of video, they imagine a time-consuming process of coming up with scripts and storyboards, procuring actors and equipment, and hiring someone in jockey pants to operate the clapperboard and shout, “Action!” Yet modern video marketing is worlds apart from Hollywood and requires a lot less effort.

When it comes to camera equipment, the age-old aphorism still holds true: the best camera is the one that’s with you.

Today, most iPhone cameras rival all but the top-of-the-line DSLRs and video equipment and are a great substitute. You can easily capture videos of yourself, your office, events, and customers giving off-the-cuff testimonials when your sales and account teams pay them a visit.

And when it comes to actors, don’t worry that you can’t afford Gal Gadot: you don’t need her. Your employees will do a far better job because they actually know your products, your customers, and the details of your industry. After the initial awkwardness of seeing themselves on camera fades, you’ll have all the actors you need.

And finally, not everything needs to be scripted. Writers are great and preparation has its place but a lot of great content can be created with little or no forethought. Take entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. He built a media empire from selfie videos recorded on his mobile phone. The below video of him giving advice to young entrepreneurs might be what the internet would call “potato quality” but it still gets the powerful point across.

 

 

3) Our industry doesn’t really use video.

What most brands hopefully mean by this one is “our industry doesn’t use video yet.” Video is industry agnostic and the demand is being driven not by businesses, but the people who work within them. Remember, both B2B and B2C are really just B2H (business-to-human), and humans love video. One need only look at the numbers for a reminder:

  • 82 percent of all internet traffic will be video by 2021, up from 73 percent in 2016. – Cisco
  • 55 percent of people watch videos online every day. – Invisia
  • 500 million hours of video are watched every day on YouTube alone. – Buffer

In fact, the industries with the greatest opportunities are those where video has classically been underused. Just look at the recent proliferation of online video in places like real estate, where agencies are suddenly embracing everything from drone flyovers to virtual reality walk-throughs. To see similarly outsized gains ask yourself, “what would the people who make up our customer base, business or otherwise, like to see?”

4) Video is hard to track.

Videos can indeed be difficult to track, but only if you’re using a bare bones video hosting platform like YouTube or your website’s video feature. These platforms only show you total video views which is like measuring your website’s success based solely from visits.

What if 95 percent of your video’s viewers dropped off in the first three seconds? You’d never know. A true video enablement platform, on the other hand, can give you insights into how people watch your videos, who they are, what they liked and didn’t like, and what they did afterward.

You see, video has some unique characteristics that make it highly trackable. Because it’s linear and people watch it from end-to-end, video enablement platforms can tell you what parts viewers watched, where they skipped, and where they revisited. From this, you can automatically infer an individual’s interest in particular products or value propositions that appeared in the video.

And, with CRM and marketing system integrations, you don’t have to spend all your time on these analytics. You can trigger actions based on how your viewers watched the video. Did they only complete 25 percent of it? Better send them a different video. Did another viewer rewatch the part where the product is shown over and over? Better ping your sales team because you might have a qualified lead on your hands.

5) Video doesn’t have enough uses.

Of all the excuses, this one invariably makes our editor cough and spit out her coffee in surprise. Video is perhaps the most dynamic and repurposable type of content that you have: It increases open rates for email, boosts click through rates for landing pages, encourages shares on social media, increases time on page for websites, and drives more leads than text alone. And, with a great video editing platform, you can optimize one video for all channels.

A good video editing platform provides small to medium businesses with the tools they need to easily cut up, edit, and optimize one video into many formats for many channels. This scales easily because users can easily A/B test videos just as they would an email and can render dynamic content to personalize videos to viewers, such as inserting logos, names, or even swapping out different products. With the right tools, video has more uses than you’ll know what to do with.

Video is easier than you think.

Once you have the epiphany that unscripted and low production value videos are both desirable and trackable, you’ll also realize that it’s useful for more than just marketing and sales. You can use video in your customer support to demonstrate how to use your product, in your internal communications to update your remote teams, and as a way for people within your company to communicate on a day-to-day basis.

So, knowing that video isn’t nearly as expensive, difficult, or untraceable as you previously thought, are you ready to stop putting it off?

 

Intro to Lead Gen 

 
Free Guide Use Video in Buyer's Journey

Aug

25

2017

9 of the Best Free Video Editing Software to Try

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you already know you should incorporate more video content into your marketing.

But like most new strategies, you might need to prove its ROI before you get budget. And that can be tricky, because to make a great video, you need a few things — like a camera and editing software.

You might already have a high-quality camera built into your smartphone, but to edit your raw footage to prepare it for publication and distribution, you may need to hop on the computer.

Click here to learn how to create and utilize video in your marketing to  increase engagement and conversion rates.

There’s a good chance you already have video editing software installed on your computer. For Windows, that’s Windows Movie Maker, and for Macs, it’s iMovie. But depending on your particular skill set and what it is you’re trying to accomplish with your videos, you may find that these options aren’t packed with enough features.

The good news: There are several free video editing solutions you can download that run the gamut from super simple to Hollywood-level powerful. Use these to start making videos today.

9 Easy Video Editing Software to Use Today

1) Machete Video Editor Lite (Windows)

machete-lite-04-620x449.png

Source: Softonic

At the simple end of the spectrum is Machete Video Editor Lite, which allows you to cut, copy, and paste different sections of video. As the Machete website puts it, Video Editor Lite was “designed for quick and simple ‘slicing’ of your video files.”

The program’s intuitive interface means you won’t have to waste time shuffling through technical support documents. And because Video Editor Lite doesn’t re-encode your video files when you slice them, you don’t have to worry about losing video quality.

The main downsides to the program? It only supports the AVI and WMV video formats, and it doesn’t allow for audio editing. Still, if you have zero video editing experience and only need to make simple edits, it’s a great option.

2) Avidemux (Windows/Mac/Linux)

avidemux-screenshot-update.png

Source: Softonic

Like Machete Video Editor Lite, Avidemux allows you to do basic video editing (no audio editing) without having to worry about loss of video quality. But Avidemux also has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

For starters, the program supports multiple video formats, including AVI, DVD, MPEG, QuickTime, and MP4. What’s more, Avidemux comes with several filters that allow you to perform a host of different functions, from flipping and rotating clips, to adding subtitles, to adjusting colors and brightness levels.

And while the learning curve for Avidemux is slightly steeper compared to Machete Video Editor Lite, the upside is that there’s an extensive Avidemux wiki that covers everything you need to know.

3) WeVideo (Cloud-based)

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Source: WeVideo

Cloud-based video editing software (i.e., software that you access via a browser instead of downloading directly to your hard drive) is growing more and more popular. And one of the programs leading the charge is WeVideo.

Compared to the first two programs on this list, WeVideo definitely offers some more advanced features and functionality, including audio editing capabilities, a library of commercially licensed music, and the ability to share videos in 4K resolution. However, the free version of WeVideo isn’t without its limitations.

One major downside is that you’re only given 10GB of cloud storage. If you’re making a one-off video, this is fine. But if you’re planning to edit multiple videos, you’ll definitely need more space. The free version also puts a WeVideo watermark on your videos, which isn’t ideal.

For a complete breakdown of the differences between WeVideo’s free and paid options, check out its pricing page.

4) VSDC Free Video Editor (Windows)

vsdc-free-video-editor-screenshot.jpg

Source: Softonic

In experienced hands, the VSDC Free Video Editor can produce some seriously professional-looking video. In addition to supporting nearly every major video format, the program offers advanced video effects, including object transformation and color correction, as well as advanced audio effects like volume correction and sound normalization. And unlike WeVideo, the VSDC Free Video Editor is truly free. You can use the program’s full feature set without having to deal with pesky watermarks.

Unfortunately, there is one catch. If you want technical support, you need to pay. (And because there is a bit of a learning curve, there’s a good chance you’ll need to.) Support for the VSDC Free Video Editor costs $9.99 for one month and $14.99 for one year.

5) Wondershare Filmora (Windows/Mac)

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Source: Wondershare

Wondershare Filmora (formerly Wondershare Video Editor) is the perfect option if you want to start out with basic video editing functionality while also having the opportunity to get more advanced as you go.

The program’s “Easy Mode” strips away the complexity so you can drag and drop video clips, choose a pre-designed theme, add some music, and produce a finished video in a matter of minutes. Go into “Full Feature Mode,” however, and you’ll be able to do much, much more — from adding transitions, filters, and overlays, to playing video clips in reverse, to using split-screen effects.

Sound too good to be true? Well, you’re right: The free version of Wondershare Filmora adds a watermark to your videos that you can only remove through upgrading to their paid service.

6) Blender (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: Blender

The open source program Blender is more than just a video editor: It’s a full-blown 3D animation suite, which allows for modeling, rendering, motion tracking, and more.

On the video editing side, there are a ton of features, including transitions, speed control, filters, adjustment layers, and more. There are also 32 slots available for adding video clips, audio clips, images, and effects, which means you can produce some incredibly complex video.

For the amateur video editor, all the functionality that’s available can be a bit overwhelming. But if you’re looking to produce truly professional-quality video — without having to deal with watermarks — Blender is a solid option. The best part: “You are free to use Blender for any purpose, including commercially or for education,” according to its website. For the fine print, check out its licensing info.

7) Lightworks (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: ZDNet

Like Blender, Lightworks is definitely on the more advanced (and powerful) end of the video editing software spectrum. In fact, it’s a program that’s been used to edit some well-known and award-winning films, including Pulp Fiction, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The King’s Speech.

There are two different licenses you can choose from with Lightworks: “Free” and “Pro.” (The latter of which, as you might have guessed, requires that you cough up some cash.) The main difference between the two licenses is that the Pro version offers more features, including stereoscopic output and advanced project sharing. But the free version is still quite powerful, providing 100+ effects and supporting multicam editing.

8) Shotcut (Windows/Mac/Linux)

shotcut-screenshot.png

Source: Shotcut

Shotcut is another open source video software — and it’s completely free. It’s possible to use Shotcut to create professional-looking videos, but the interface is tricky to use. Perhaps that’s because it was originally developed for the Linux platform, which looks and feels a lot different from the typical Windows or Mac UX.

With dedication — and time spent in the Shotcut frequently asked questions and how-to guide sections — it’s possible to use this software to create and export high-quality videos, completely for free.

9) HitFilm (Windows/Mac)

hitfilm screenshot.jpg

Source: HitFilm

HitFilm Express is a free video editing and visual effects software — which means you can use it to add more than 180 special effects to your videos, including 3D editing.

Possibly the coolest HitFilm feature is its wealth of tutorial videos — users can practice applying special visual effects in movie tutorials based on Star Wars, Westworld, and more.

Of course, upgrading to HitFilm Pro grants access to more visual effects, better high resolution and 3D rendering, and better audio syncing between audio and video files. It costs $349 for use on three computers, but if you’re not ready to fully invest, HitFilm Express users can purchase lower-cost expansions to use more tools in their software.

To see the complete list of differences between HitFilm Free and Pro, check out their “Compare Versions” page.

Free Guide Use Video in Buyer's Journey


Free Guide Use Video in Buyer's Journey

Aug

24

2017

How and When to Use Direct Mail as Part of Your Inbound Marketing Strategy

Direct mail regularly gets a bad rap as an exclusively outbound-focused tactic that doesn’t keep up with the ways buyers want to consume content.

But in the right situations, direct mail could be a crucial differentiator in a world where 78% of consumers have unsubscribed from a company’s email list because the company was sending too many emails.

Just as a product that’s similar to a dozen competitors will struggle to take off, marketing that looks like everyone else’s simply won’t be memorable. Classic digital marketing tactics like email have become so overcrowded that approaching inbound creatively is crucial to standing out from your competition.

The key to doing direct mail right is keeping it aligned with your inbound marketing funnel.Click here to download our free guide to digital marketing fundamentals.

Never forget your main objective: you want to lead prospects back online to continue nurturing them there. Any piece of mail you send must direct prospects online to help you track them throughout the process — whether that’s including a link to a landing page or a code they can enter on your website. Plus, the more information you have about what kinds of offers they respond to, the better you can speak to their pain points and specific needs.

Identifying Your Potential Direct Mail Audience

Prior to beginning any marketing campaign, your team should be laser-focused on your potential customers’ preferences and needs.

Your number one priority is standing out to those who are most likely to buy your product. This fundamental step shouldn’t change when you’re considering incorporating direct mail into your marketing. Inbound is all about meeting prospective customers where they are.

If your target customers don’t check their mailboxes often, they’re probably not a good fit for direct mail.

Given the plethora of other places to spend, it’ll be hard to justify spending on direct mail over, for example, paid content promotion on social media if your target audience is addicted to their smartphones.

However, if your potential customers are old enough to own homes or apartments and are likely to check their mailboxes often, direct mail could prove to be effective. It’s all about understanding what your audience needs.

If you’ve identified that sending a letter or postcard is an effective way to reach your particular prospects, you can begin to think about the moments in the buyer’s cycle when it’s best to reach out with the personalized touch of a physical piece of mail.

Being Conscious of Your Prospects’ Stage in the Buyer Cycle

A prospect finds a piece of content useful and subscribes to your blog to stay in the know. So what’s your next step?

Keep in mind that all your prospect did was subscribe to an email list. That means they’re probably still a pretty “cold” lead. If they found a blog post through organic search or because they saw a headline that looked interesting on LinkedIn, they’re not going to appreciate receiving any type of content that attempts to make a hard sell, let alone a postcard explaining your pricing.

Think about the number of coupons and offers that you’ve discovered in your mailbox, only to toss them in the recycling bin immediately. Those pieces of mail probably weren’t relevant to needs you’d expressed.

You need to make the content you’re offering via direct mail speak to the individual. That means that if at all possible, you want to segment your mailing list in the same way you’d segment an email list. Can you match a physical offer on a piece of paper to the article or offer the prospect just opened online?

Ultimately, striking at the right time with direct mail comes down to maintaining awareness of your prospects’ stage in the buyer’s cycle. Craft the direct mail piece that stands out from the rest by showing that your company understands their leads.

Creative Ways to Incorporate Direct Mail — at the Right Time

Let’s return to the recent blog subscriber.

The typical inbound marketing response is to send them an email, thanking them for subscribing and assuring them that you’ll keep them updated when the next blog is published. Rather than sending a follow-up email, though, what if you responded with a direct mail piece?

You could thank them for subscribing to your blog and direct them to some of your most popular blogs. You could even direct them to a landing page with a video that contains a personal message. It certainly stands out from the mundane marketing messages they see on a daily basis.

Rather than sticking with a complete email campaign, you could use a direct mail piece to encourage your prospect to check out an ebook or other offer you’ve created.

You could also provide them with a case study from a business similar to theirs and include compelling stats. The key is to help educate them on how to address whatever problems they’re trying to solve.

Further down the funnel, once a lead is more familiar with your brand, you might host an event they’d find useful. Invitees often perceive physical event invitations as more personal — just as an invitation to a wedding or large birthday party is likely to feel more genuine when you find it in your mailbox rather than your inbox.

Drive event attendance and track your offline efforts effectively by putting a QR code on the invite that motivates invitees to register online.

Direct mail is particularly useful when you’re trying to target a specific geo-location, age bracket, or household income level. It comes back to meeting your customers where they are. If you’re running a campaign on a local level, generate buzz in your community by sending out a visually compelling piece of direct mail that neighbors are apt to discuss.

Keys to Direct Mail Marketing Success

1) Focus on the trackability of your campaigns.

You should already be using a marketing automation solution to track your typical inbound efforts. In order to make the most of your direct mail efforts, you must also track these campaigns to decipher what’s working and what’s not.

Without tracking — a function of driving recipients online – you won’t have a true understanding of what pieces are resonating with your prospects (and what topics they’re actually interested in). 

2) Keep it visual.

Remember what the last long, descriptive brochure you read said? Me neither. Lean away from long sentences and blocks of text. Instead, spark your recipient’s interest with a beautiful image that’s relevant to the content or event you’re offering.

3) Provide a clear next step.

It’s best to limit yourself to one CTA per piece of direct mail — and make it obvious. It’ll limit confusion and make it easier for you to evaluate the piece’s ROI.

4) Target people who are checking their mail (and particularly the ones who are hard to reach online).

It won’t matter how compelling the image or copy on your postcard are if your recipients aren’t seeing it. Consider setting up automation to send physical mailers to recipients that have expressed interest in your company, but haven’t responded to digital outreach after a certain amount of time.

5) Always tie it back to online efforts.

The only way you’ll truly know how direct mail is influencing your bottom line is to track everything. Your mailers should have unique codes or phone numbers with unique extensions.

Prospects should go to landing pages that track their journey and trigger next steps in your marketing automation or sales process. Make sure you’re setting yourself up to prove the effectiveness of your campaign.

Remember, providing information to prospects when they’re ready is a foundational principle of inbound marketing.

If you can automate sending the right information at the right time, you’ll be primed to turn leads into customers.

Marketers commonly paint direct mail with an outbound brush, but classic mail can be an effective marketing tool with the right approach. With creativity and a targeted approach, you have the chance to speak to your prospects in a personalized and genuine way.

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