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Aug

11

2017

How 11 Students Built a Company’s Inbound Strategy with HubSpot Certifications

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

If you’re familiar with the HubSpot Academy, then you know it offers online certifications and free tools to help people all over the world learn how to market, sell, and grow an inbound business.

Recently, HubSpot Academy launched its Education Partner Program, which helps college and university professors teach inbound marketing, sales, and provides guidance on using the HubSpot Marketing Software and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The mission of the program is to bring the theory and practice of running and growing a business into the classroom — and to give students the hands-on experience they need to launch their careers right out of school.

But when it came time to drive even more value for this program, there was much more we could for students. The program already provided educators with the software, resources, community and support to build leading marketing classes. We wanted to do even better at providing students with valuable, market-ready skills — by way of certification.New Call-to-action

Here’s what happened when we challenged 11 marketing students to get their HubSpot certifications in one semester — and build an inbound strategy for a real company in the process.

How HubSpot Certifications Helped Build an Inbound Strategy

The Hypothesis and Objective

The Certification

HubSpot Academy certifications are designed to help marketers stay up-to-date on the latest marketing and sales techniques, while also boosting their resumes. They allow users to take their inbound skills to the next level, with a confirmed completion of a qualifying exams.

When we looked at which certifications were being assigned by Education Partner Program professors — and which ones students were receiving — the HubSpot Marketing Software Certification (HSMC) was missing. But we didn’t despair at that finding. Rather, we looked at how we could address those barriers to adoption.

To say that the HMSC is “difficult” is a tremendous understatement. It involves an exam, a mastery of the Inbound Methodology, a practicum component, and a proven ability to achieve results using the HubSpot Marketing Software.

Having this certification can help a marketer stand out during a job search — especially a recent graduate.

InboundMethodology-5.png

The prospect of more students receiving their HMSC was a mutually beneficial goal for instructors, students, and their respective institutions. We wanted to show that students could get their HSMC within a single semester, so we created an experiment to do that, with the mentality that if it was successful, we could roll it out across the entire Education Partner Program community.

The Framework

The biggest HSMC adoption barrier for students seemed to be the practicum component, which requires users to carry out actual inbound marketing activities using HubSpot Marketing Software — and achieve tangible results. That meant we would need a real business to agree to let these students use its HubSpot portal to complete these tasks, while working toward the HSMC.

But a barrier to adoption didn’t have to be a deal-breaker. In fact, it turned out to be quite the opposite — in addition to building an experiment to show that students could get their HSMC within a single semester, our objective would now also require them to complete real-world marketing work on behalf of an actual business. Around here, we call that a “win-win.”

Using those factors as a foundation, we determined our hypothesis: Students will be able to earn their HubSpot Marketing Software Certifications within a single semester.

The Experiment

What We Did

To test the hypothesis, we first pitched the experiment to Randy Harrison, a senior member of the affiliated faculty at Emerson College’s Department of Marketing Communication. He had previously spoken of his desire for his students to become certified, and was eager to give them the real-world experience that came with completing the HSMC.

Since HubSpot has roughly 30,000 customers, we (optimistically) figured that at least one of them would be willing to let a classroom of eager students do free marketing work on behalf of the company. The idea was that the customer would add the students as users in its HubSpot portal, who would then work to complete the practicum requirements of the HSMC by way of the aforementioned marketing work.

But Professor Harrison was already way ahead of us. After we approached him with the experiment he convinced one of his business contacts to not only become a new HubSpot customer — but also, allow his students to carry out the marketing work for their HSMC.

Before jumping right in, we established some guardrails. If the experiment was successful, we wanted it to be designed to scale — and more seamlessly replicable by other educators in the future:

  • Every student should become certified.
  • The class would visit the HubSpot office at least once.
  • A member of the HubSpot team would visit the class at least once.
  • Professor Harrison would work with a member of the Education Partner Program team to design the course.
  • Professor Harrison would document this experience and allow it to be used publicly.

How We Would Measure Success

Success would be measured according to the following metrics:

  • Every student meets the practicum component of the certification.
  • 80% of the students complete the HSMC in its entirety.

The Spring 2017 semester began — and we were ready to get to work.

The Results

All in all, the experiment was a success.

Every student completed the practicum component with flying colors — which meant they were able to accomplish the objective of applying the Inbound Methodology to build and execute an inbound strategy for a real business.

Meanwhile, 66% of the students passed the entirety of the HSMC — which meant they both completed the practicum and passed the certification exam. And while we didn’t reach the 80% metric we originally established, the benchmark was high enough for us to take the experiment out of beta, tweak it to even better set up students for success, and replicate for the following semester.

And finally, here’s our favorite part: The company that became a customer for this experiment hired four of the students before they even graduated.

Where We Go From Here

Next Steps

As we mentioned previously, following the success of the experiment, we structured it in a way that has allowed it to become an official offering of the Education Partner Program. Working with our Customer Success team, we have established a system to match professors who want their students to obtain the HSMC with HubSpot customers, using criteria like product fit and shared expectations.

How Marketers Can Use What We Learned

When we carried out this project, we didn’t just learn more about Education Partners — we also learned some valuable lessons about experimentation in general.

Go Big

Pick experiments that, if they’re successful, will produce significant results. Design them with impact and scale in mind — for many, time is the most valuable resource, so don’t let it go to waste on an experiment that will only have minimal impact.

In our case, we needed a way to dramatically increase the value of the Education Partner Program for participating schools, professors, and students, and knowing whether the students could become HSMC in one semester was crucial to that. Even if our hypothesis was proven wrong, we would know to look for a different potential value source.

Recycle When Possible

Unless your company was founded yesterday, you likely have a wealth of resources to draw upon for your experiments — things like previous experiments, marketing collateral, fellow employees, and historical data.

Notice that we didn’t actually create any net-new assets to conduct this experiment — the only investment was sweat equity and time. Additionally, the other major stakeholder in the experiment, Professor Harrison, agreed to document the experiment, regardless of the outcomes. That meant we would be creating a new value point for the program, as we paved the way for other professors to get their students certified … or cautioned educators on what we learned, had it failed.

And About That Documentation

Document everything like your life depends on it. Use the scientific method, and be sure to debrief when it concludes — remember, if it succeeds you’ll be repeating it, and regardless of the outcome, you want to discuss ways to improve upon it.

And remember this: Many times, an experiment is more valuable if it fails. For that, we use this famous quote from Thomas Edison — “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What are some of the ways you’ve used HubSpot Academy certifications? Let us know about your best experiment in the comments — and hey, we might even feature it on our blog.

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Jul

20

2017

Why Your Design of Experiments Is Probably Wrong

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

Design of Experiments.jpg

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

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

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

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

Experiments Are Quantitative User Research

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

scientific methodSource: Carson-Dellosa Publishing

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

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

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

Addressing Assumptions

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

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

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

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

Experimental Design: A Hypothetical Framework

The Experiment Scenario

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

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

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

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

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

The Experimental Design

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

AB Calculator.pngSource: VWO

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

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

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

The Results

This experiment has three likely outcomes.

1) The control group will outperform the variant groups.

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

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

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

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

3) Nothing — all groups perform about the same.

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

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

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

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

Was an experiment the only way to challenge these assumptions?

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

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

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

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

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

Your Experimentation Checklist

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

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

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

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

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    Jul

    19

    2017

    Marketers: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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

    nice-things.jpg

    The next evolution of marketing is upon us.

    The sharp uptake in consumer use of messaging apps, the shift in content consumption from text to video and audio, and the finally consumer-ready advancements in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and voice recognition all signal that marketers and consumers alike are in radically new times. Everytime consumer behavior evolves, marketers have new opportunities that were never before available.

    I was talking to a colleague the other day about these changes, and she noted how endlessly marketing channels shift. “There aren’t many other fields where the game reinvents itself so often,” she said.

    “That’s because we fuck everything up,” I told her.

    Let me explain.

    Scorched Earth Marketing AKA “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

    There is a desperation at play in most marketing organizations. A low grade panic to solve for short-term needs  —  the lead goal that month, for example, or a choice media placement. Attention is as fleeting as Snapchat videos, and for many companies, grabbing a moment of it can feel like gasping for oxygen. I get it. I have been there myself, so I’m not passing judgement.

    The enemy of remarkable marketing is impatience.

    There is so much competition for attention these days that the moment a blue ocean channel or new marketing strategy opens up, marketers flock to make the most of it. At the root of the problem is the channel-based mentality that causes us to obsess over hacks and mechanics more than a great message and engaging experience.

    Early adoption is a good thing. It can be the breath of fresh air marketers and consumers alike are looking for. And typically the early days leveraging a new channel or format in your marketing strategy are as pure and innovative as they should be.

    But then something happens. We cross the line into a sort of scorched earth marketing mentality where we forget the reason consumers were drawn to that channel to begin with — and we beat the living daylights out of it.  We start to solve for our own goals, instead of our customers’.

    New channels emerge in part because we marketers ruin old ones.

    Our earnest exploration of emerging channels all too often turns into rabid gaming of the system if we aren’t careful. And consumers, exhausted by our antics, are forced to move on to find new communication and content channels free of spam and brands. It happened with email. It’s happening with content. And if we think messaging and video are any different, we’re kidding ourselves.

    How We’re Messing Up Content

    Remember when content first emerged as the antidote to disruptive advertising and direct marketing? It was eye-opening.

    Before content, if you were a marketer you were primarily using email and advertising to gain prospective customers. Those were the channels and, oh, did marketers use them. They so overplayed them that consumers began to adopt technology to filter them out. They blocked ads. They set up inbox filters. They reduced the noise and took control of their own purchase process. Much of that process began not with the company but on Google, where a buyer would do all the independent research they needed before making a decision.

    So instead of pummeling buyers with ads or email, smart marketers started to create useful content designed help the consumer rather than sell them. If good and relevant, this content would find its way to the top of the search results page and, without costing the company anything in ad spend, deliver a compounding stream of incoming traffic.

    The world of ebooks and webinars took shape in earnest. Let’s offer something of true value that consumers would otherwise pay for in exchange for nothing but their contact details and permission to reach out.

    It sounds silly today because of how commonplace ebooks and lead forms have become, but it was genuine and mutually beneficial at the start. It was a new way of interacting with online consumers when quality, trustworthy information was scarce.

    But then we (marketers) scorched the earth.

    The volume of content went up, the quality often went down. Content farms popped up. And brands started to fund the spread of bad content through paid channels. As content offers increased, they became less valuable, and then they crossed the line into utter noise.

    image5-1.jpg

    Good content still exists, but you have to sift through an awful lot of cheap content to get to it. So where did we go wrong?

    We over-solved for the long tail.

    The long-tail of search was what initially made content so exciting. You may not have had enough authority to win a top spot in the search results for highly competitive keywords, but there were any number of keyword variations you could shoot for.

    It was field-leveling. I get it. I pitched it. But the problem with solving for keyword variations is there are thousands of them out there, which means you have to make thousands of attempts to capture that traffic. All of that has lead to high volumes of mediocre content.

    We’re guilty of this too. In the past, we created hundreds of individual blog posts mapped to long-tail keyword variations that got repetitive. We didn’t realize how much it would all add up and clutter the internet.  Since then, we’ve implemented a strategy to update old posts with higher quality and updated information instead of launching into a new post and to redirect repetitive or irrelevant content.

    On our Sales Blog, we’re focusing on topics over keywords, mapping each new post to a larger topic or pillar page. This creates a more organized site architecture that’s easier for Google to crawl and index and signals our authority on a subject, rather than a bunch of long-tail keyword variations.

    While marketers were busy filling the web with content, Google also got smarter about how it handled search queries. Updates to the algorithm enabled Google to start serving up content that better matched searchers’ intent — not just their keywords. With this in mind, exact keyword optimized content only addresses a sliver of the question and isn’t going to help you get found in the same way it once would have back in 2012.

    SEO has changed. It doesn’t reward content for the sake of keywords anymore. SEO in today’s world comes down to architecture and quality content more than it does keywords. And this is a very good thing for readers. It means that instead of writing mountains of content, our new goals should be about creating more value out of less content.

    How We Risk Messing Up Messaging

    Facebook Messenger will be the next great marketing channel, and it is arguably the best way to engage with the Facebook community as a marketer. My first reaction when I started to see messaging rise as a communication channel was, “Thank god you can’t buy Messenger accounts like you can buy email lists.”

    This is an important point: You can’t buy and sell lists of Messenger addresses. You can’t be spammy or impatient in the same way that is possible via email.

    That said, marketers are inventive. We can still mess up messaging.

    We have to resist the urge to treat messaging like email. This is not a mass communication channel. It’s not a high-volume communication channel. Messaging should be reserved for short, on-demand, personalized exchanges. They should be triggered, whenever possible by the customer, not the company.

    Email is company driven. Messaging is customer driven.

    Even with behavior-triggered marketing automation, email is still pretty much a guessing game of what the recipient will find interesting. Messaging apps and the bots that live within them allow the recipient to pull the content they want from your repository. It can be completely custom. You can and should have endlessly differing content subscriptions with endlessly differing cadences based uniquely on the person at the other end. That is the promise of messaging: A frictionless exchange that gives the user exactly what they’re seeking and nothing more.

    As marketers we need to respect Facebook’s ecosystem and the experience of the conversational UI that is a messaging interface. Let’s have bots help us deliver rich, personal, and helpful experiences. Let’s use Facebook Instant Articles to load web experiences within Facebook instantly. Let’s give our prospects and customer exactly what they need and nothing more.

    Ok, so lets say we all agree with that in concept, here’s where our resolve will be tested. Messaging conversion rates are incredibly high right now. Like … gold rush high. In early experiments we’ve run at HubSpot, we’ve seen 4X the conversion rate on Facebook messenger versus email.

    image1-10.png

    HubSpot’s Messenger bot allows prospects to book a meeting with a sales rep.

    There’s a reason those conversions are so high right now. It’s because marketers haven’t yet eroded the trust of consumers on messaging. For the sake of everyone, let’s keep it that way.

    If appeals for a better customer experience aren’t enough, consider this. At this time there is one company that largely controls messaging. Facebook has the keys to the castle on more than 1.2 billion users. Its primary incentive is aligned with the happiness of those users. So if Messenger gets abused, Facebook could turn around and remove this option for marketers. And they’d be right to do so.

    image4-1.png

    Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report outlines the potential of messaging for businesses.

    How We Risk Messing Up Video

    Remember when infographics first became popular? There were infographics on everything.  Infographics on account based marketing. Infographics on geo-political conflicts. Infographics on world octopus day and shades of poop. Some were interactive and meticulously researched. Others were little more than powerpoint slides and poorly sourced. The internet was absolutely littered with them.

    image2-22.png

    Source: Google Image Search

    Infographics became so prevalent over the past 10 years it prompted Megan McCardle, former senior editor of The Atlantic, to call the whole practice a plague, writing:

    The reservoir of this disease of erroneous infographics is internet marketers who don’t care whether the information in their graphics is right … just so long as you link it.

    We can be better than this. And we have a chance to be. Today, we are on the verge of the same reckless abandon happening with video.

    Video, once a resource-intensive format has become vastly simpler to create. Marketers can stream video at the touch of a button, and pre-produced videos can now benefit from everything from free b-roll sources to voice over marketplaces. This democratization of video production has come just in time for a mobile- and social-led surge in video consumption. The combination of the two creates the perfect conditions for marketers to run amok.

    I can’t believe I have to say this, but, let’s make video responsibly.

    A responsible video strategy starts with being specific about why you’re making a video in the first place.  How does this video fit into your marketing strategy?

    image6.png

    Is it designed for top-of-the-funnel awareness? Build it to be native to Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram (Pick one — don’t one-size-fits-all it). Solve for time spent watching. Don’t try to drive conversions — drive interactions.

    Is it designed to inform buyers on their way to a decision? Incorporate it into your sales process. Wistia, Viewedit, and Loom all offer quick video recording solutions to create custom explainer videos for your buyers. Use it as a way to save your prospects time with the basics before hopping on a call. Record a recap video after a demo. Solve for personalization over anything else. These videos should feel like a direct portal into the customer’s sales rep or account manager.

    Don’t know? Don’t make a video.

    Want it to solve for all of the above? Really don’t make a video.

    image3-1.png

    HubSpot’s Marlon De Assis-Fernandez puts his cartoonist skills to work in a prospect video.

    Just because a format has gotten easier doesn’t mean we should run it into the ground. Videos should be an integral part of our strategy rather than an add-on or afterthought.

    In the past, we’ve made videos just because someone said, “We need a video!” It felt flashy and impressive to have a video for a campaign launch. But because we didn’t consider if video was really the right format for a particular story or how someone would actually discover the video, we saw disappointing results and ultimately, decided it was a waste of time.

    The problem isn’t that video isn’t effective or valuable. We just didn’t ask the right questions before pressing the record button.

    Let’s Save Ourselves From Ourselves

    Every time people flee from overcrowded channels into new untouched ones, companies crop up to build on them. But evolving with customers is less about predicting the next big marketing channel and more about seeing through it to the customers on the other side.

    It’s time we stop obsessing over channels, and start focusing on the people within them. Because if history has demonstrated anything, it’s that what’s new now may be scorched earth tomorrow. So yes, dive in. Explore every new channel that comes our way. But more importantly, look at the bigger picture of what the adoption of a channel says about how people want to interact with each other and brands.

    Let’s make our mark on marketing by doing it the right way.

     

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    Jul

    14

    2017

    How to Do ABM Without Selling Your Soul

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

    inbound-abm.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What is ABM, Anyway?

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

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

    What is ABM Not?

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

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

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

    abm email.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How to do ABM the Right Way

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

    Get specific about your target.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Create valuable content for those personas.

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

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

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

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

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

    buyers journey content map.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Identify your Accounts

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

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

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

      Account score.png

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

    set target account.png

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

    Company profile.png

    Expand your Reach

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

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

     

    sharable content 1.png

    Nurture your accounts using company-level insights.

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

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

      Sample nurturing flow.png

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

    Report on Company Engagement, not Just Leads

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

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

      New Companies by Source.png

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

      Reach within Target Accounts.png

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

      Contacts by job title.png

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

      Most Engaged Contacts from HubSpot.png

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

      Most popular content within target account.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Jun

    17

    2017

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

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

    growth-hacking-cupcakes.png

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

    So we did.

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

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

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

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

    No joke.

    People would rather receive a dozen cupcakes than an iPad.

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

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

    The Psychology of Cupcakes

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

    Cupcakes seem like a more achievable prize.

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

    One commenter summed it up perfectly:

    The Lake Wobegon Effect

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

    Valuing Experiences Over Things

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

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

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

    The Element of Surprise

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

    Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 11.14.22 AM.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Now it’s your turn.

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

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

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

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    May

    27

    2017

    8 of the Top Marketing Challenges Marketers Face Today [New Data]

    Published by in category Daily, Inbound Marketing, marketing data, Professional Development | Comments are closed

    top-marketing-challenges-2017-compressed.jpg

    Every marketer faces different challenges. Although we typically share similar goals, some teams are stuck on hiring top talent, while others are having trouble finding the right technology for their needs.

    Whatever the case may be, there’s always at least one area that you can stand to improve. In other words, there’s always room to optimize the various components of your strategy and turn your marketing into an even more effective revenue generator.

    Curious about what kinds of obstacles other marketers are up against?

    soi-anchor-cta-2017

    We polled thousands of marketers on the challenges they face, as well as the tactics they’ve used to meet those challenges head-on. Here are some of the most common challenges marketers reported struggling with … and their solutions.

    The Most Common Marketing Problems We Face, According to the 2017 State of Inbound Report

    According to our report, generating traffic and leads and proving ROI are the leading challenges marketers face. Here’s a look at this year’s data:

    top-marketing-challenges-blog copy.png

    Image Credit: The 2017 State of Inbound Report

    Let’s go through each of these top challenges and how marketers can address them.

    1) Generating Traffic and Leads

    Why It’s a Challenge

    Generating enough traffic and leads was the top marketing challenge, according to the 2017 State of Inbound report. We started asking this question with this answer as a new option last year — and we’re glad we did.

    Clearly, marketers are struggling with producing enough demand for their content. And as the years progress and competition stiffens, this will only become truer. With so many options of platforms for marketers to publish their content and even more ways to promote it, it’s hard to know where to focus your efforts.

    What Can You Do?

    When it comes to creating content that produces enough traffic and leads, marketers should ask themselves two questions: Are you truly creating high-quality content — the type of content people would pay for? And, do you know the type of content your audience actually wants?

    For example, HubSpot Research has found that 43% of consumers want to see more video from marketers in the future, while only 29% want to see more blog posts. To learn more about how the way people are reading and interacting with content is changing, check out this HubSpot Research report.

    Once you know you’re creating the type of content your audience wants, the focus shifts to promoting it in a way that makes your audience take notice. More than ever before, people are being flooded with content. Consumers don’t have to use a search engine to find answers. Instead, articles fill their news feed or buzz in their pocket via mobile notification.

    Needless to say, the content promotion playbook is not the same as it was five years ago. To make sure your traffic and lead numbers continue to rise, check out this comprehensive guide to content promotion.

    2) Providing the ROI of Your Marketing Activities

    Why It’s a Challenge

    Measuring the ROI (return on investment) of your marketing activities has remained a top marketing challenge year-over-year. But, it also continues to be a vital way for marketers to understand the effectiveness of each particular marketing campaign, piece of content, etc.

    Plus, proving ROI often goes hand-in-hand with making an argument to increase budget: No ROI tracking, no demonstrable ROI. No ROI, no budget.

    But tracking the ROI of every single marketing activity isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have two-way communication between your marketing activities and sales reports.

    What Can You Do?

    When it comes to providing ROI, there’s a strong case to be made for dedicating time and resources to establishing links between marketing activities and sales results. This means using both marketing software (like HubSpot) and a CRM solution (like HubSpot’s free CRM), and then tying them together to close the loop between your marketing and sales efforts with a service-level agreement (SLA). That way, you can directly see how many leads and customers are generated through your marketing activities.

    We’ve found there’s no better combination than having an SLA and doing inbound marketing. According to this year’s report, inbound organizations with SLAs are 3X more likely to rate their marketing strategy as effective compared to outbound organizations with misaligned marketing and sales teams.

    (Use this ROI calculator to simulate the potential ROI you could realize by conducting inbound marketing.)

    3) Securing Enough Budget

    Why It’s a Challenge

    Securing more budget is a pressing challenge for marketing globally. And often, getting more budget is easier said than done — especially for smaller organizations that aren’t working with sizable nor flexible marketing spend.

    But the key to securing more money for your team might not be that complex. Here’s what you can do.

    What Can You Do?

    The key to unlocking budget lies in being able to prove the ROI of your marketing efforts. According to our report, organizations that can calculate ROI are more likely to receive higher budgets.

    Again, success with inbound marketing also plays a large role in driving higher budgets. Effective strategies obviously produce results, and our data shows those who feel confident in their marketing strategy are more than 2X as likely to get higher budgets for their marketing teams. But remember, inbound marketing is a long game. If you get off to a slow start, you shouldn’t back off — in fact, you might consider doubling down.

    4) Managing Your Website

    Why It’s a Challenge

    Managing a website was the fourth biggest challenge for marketers in 2017. And chances are, your website’s performance is high on your list of priorities. It’s an asset that works around the clock to draw in visitors, convert them, and help you hit your goals, after all.

    Issues with website management include a variety of different factors, from writing and optimizing the content to designing beautiful webpages. Here are a few things marketers can do to deal with this challenge.

    What Can You Do?

    First, read this report to see how your website stacks up against over 1 million other websites. It also includes a deep analysis on the four most critical elements of website performance and design, from average load time and website securityww to mobile friendliness and SEO.

    If your primary challenge with managing a website has to do with the skills and resources you have available, you aren’t alone. This is especially true for small companies who don’t have all the talent in-house required to cover content, optimization, design, and back-end website management.

    One solution? Hire freelancers and agency partners. To find freelancers, we recommend:

    • Tapping into your personal and professional network by posting on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks with a description of what you’re looking for.
    • Browsing freelance writers and designers based on their portfolios and areas of interest. For writers, check out Zerys and Contently. For designers, check out Behance & Elance.
    • Browsing HubSpot’s Services Marketplace, which lists a wide variety of designers from partner companies and agencies we’ve deemed credible.

    Overall, you can make website management easier on your team by hosting your website on a platform that integrates all your marketing channels like HubSpot’s COS.

    Finally, for the projects you want to keep in-house, here is a list of ebooks and guides that might be helpful to your team:

    5) Identifying the Right Technologies for Your Needs

    Why It’s a Challenge

    Finding the right technologies was the fifth biggest concern for marketers this year. Oftentimes, this is because feedback on technology is scattered. Marketers might turn to colleagues, friends in the industry, and/or analyst reports to figure out which technologies best fit their needs — only to find that feedback is spread across emails, social media, and so on from people of varied reputability.

    When you’re looking for a tool, software, or piece of technology to solve a specific marketing problem, where do you go to find it?

    What Can You Do?

    For those of you looking for a tool, software, or piece of technology to solve a specific marketing problem, we recommend taking a look at Growthverse: a free, interactive, online visualization of the marketing technology landscape that focuses on the business problems marketers are trying to solve, and leads them to specific pieces of marketing technology that aim to solve those problems. We’ve found it to be a really well-visualized map of carefully curated marketing technology resources.

    growthverse-2017.png

    It’s worth noting that the main tool in top marketers’ arsenals is a platform for automating their team’s marketing efforts. We found that although our respondents indicated using an array of specific products, the larger trend was telling: The top marketers use marketing automation software in some form or another. Meanwhile, 40% of marketers cite marketing automation as a top priority for the next year.

    6) Targeting Content for an International Audience

    Why It’s a Challenge

    Targeting is a key component of all aspects of marketing. To be more effective at targeting, one of the first things any marketer needs do is identify their buyer personas to determine who it is they should be marketing to. If you’re expanding internationally, it can be a big challenge not only to figure out the best ways to market to an international audience but also to organize and optimize your site for different countries.

    What Can You Do?

    Download our free ebook, The Global Marketing Playbook. There are some really helpful tips in there that’ll help give you some direction on global marketing, including how to identify your top three growth markets, how to explore local trends, and tips on choosing the best localization providers.

    Remember, your website visitors might speak a plethora of different languages and live in totally different time zones. To make your content appealing to a wide audience, you’ll need to keep your global visitors top-of-mind when creating all your content. This means being aware of seasonal references, translating units of measure and monetary references, and giving translators the tools and permissions to customize and adapt content for a specific audience when they need to.

    Finally, be sure you’re optimizing your website for international visitors, too. For more tips and resources on global marketing expansion, browse our international inbound marketing hub.

    7) Training Your Team

    Why It’s a Challenge

    As companies scale and technologies continue to evolve, training your team will become a greater challenge for marketers. Whether it’s training them on the concepts and tools they’ll be using every day or making sure they’re achieving their full potential, the struggle is real across the board.

    To combat this, I’ll share some tips I’ve used during my trainings to make sure the concepts and tool tips stick and have a lasting effect on your team and your marketing.

    What Can You Do?

    To get an overall idea of where your team stands, take a few minutes to assess each of your team members’ marketing strengths and weaknesses, levels of expertise, and passion/commitment to your company. Then, objectively rate the priority (or level of importance) of their expertise and their contribution to bottom line objectives (ROI) to date. Here’s a simple assessment tool from Lean Labs to help you evaluate your team so you can figure out who needs recognition and who needs coaching.

    Next, check out this awesome resource from HubSpot Academy, The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Training. It’s a guide that’ll help you navigate all the marketing training options you have, from quick daily habits to more rigorous, career-launching investments.

    You also might consider requiring your team members to rack up some online marketing certification. HubSpot Academy, for example, offers certifications, documentation, and training programs to help people master the basics of inbound marketing. Google also offers training and certifications on analytics with their online Analytics Academy.

    What about new hire training, specifically? We recommend creating a training plan for new team members. Here at HubSpot, each new marketer is given a 100-day plan like this one to lay out specific goals and help new hires demonstrate their effectiveness.

    8) Hiring Top Talent

    Why It’s a Challenge

    Hiring top talent was the eighth biggest challenge marketers reported experiencing this year. Why? Many companies are shifting more resources to inbound marketing, which means higher and higher demand for top marketing talent. But supply simply isn’t keeping up. From sourcing the right candidates to evaluating for the right skills, finding the perfect person could take months … or more.

    What’s more, the type of marketing talent companies are looking for is changing, too. In Moz and Fractl’s analysis of thousands of job postings on Indeed.com, they concluded that employers are seeking marketers with technical and creative skill sets. And the quick rate at which the demand for these jobs are rising has caused a marketing skills gap, “making it difficult to find candidates with the technical, creative, and business proficiencies needed to succeed in digital marketing.”

    What Can You Do?

    Employers are looking for marketers with a diverse skill set that includes digital marketing, content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing. To find the best inbound marketer for your team, the first thing you should do is decide what that person needs to be able to achieve for your business.

    Ask yourself: What will the new marketer’s tasks and duties include? What skills do those tasks and duties require? What goals or challenges will the new marketer face? Use your answers to these questions to write a compelling job description. (Here are 37 pre-written marketing job descriptions to help you get started.)

    Next, post your jobs where talented inbound marketers will find them. While traditional job sites like Indeed.com, CareerBuilder.com, or LinkedIn will help you cast a wide net, we recommend checking out Inbound.org, which is the only job listing service in the world that’s exclusively focused on inbound marketing and sales jobs.

    Finally, focus your job description and new hire 100-day plan what people value most in their careers. This year, the data shows that 58% of people consider opportunities for growth when looking for a new job, while 50% are looking for a good work/life balance.

    Does Your Company Face Any of These Marketing Issues?

    A thorough analysis of your marketing strategy and its current performance will help you discover where your biggest marketing opportunity lies. This will allow you to focus on improving the areas that need the most attention, so you can start making your marketing far more effective.

    If you’re faced with a challenge and want ideas on how to best tackle it, you can always consider getting some help by any of the various types of marketing training that are available. Learn more about what other organizations are prioritizing and tackling in the 2017 State of Inbound report.

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

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    May

    24

    2017

    9 Inbound Marketing Stats You Need to Know in 2017 [New Data]

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

    Stats_From_State_of_Inbound.png

    The inbound movement has always been about one thing: being relevant and truly helpful to your audience.

    This approach shouldn’t change, but as technology and internal company relationships change, marketers and salespeople must learn how to adapt to better serve their customers.

    To better understand how our relationships with consumers and coworkers are changing, we collected data from more than 6,300 marketers and salespeople from around the globe, which we’ve compiled in the 2017 State of Inbound report. It examines the relationship between company leadership and employees, details on collaboration between marketing and sales teams, and a look at what the industry’s foremost marketers are adding to their strategy in the coming year.

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    Check out the full report here, or view some of the most interesting highlights below.

    9 Stats You Need to Know From the 2017 State of Inbound Report

    1) 68% of inbound marketers believe their organization’s marketing strategy is effective. [Tweet this]

    Last year, we started to examine marketers’ thoughts on their organizations’ marketing strategy and found that inbound marketers are much more likely to be satisfied with their organization’s approach.

    We’re happy to report that this trend continued. 68% of inbound marketers believe their organization’s marketing strategy is effective. However, the majority of outbound marketers (52%) do not think their strategy is effective.

    2) 1/3 of marketers think outbound marketing tactics are overrated. [Tweet this]

    It’s not simply the effectiveness of the inbound philosophy that encourages us, but the success of inbound when compared to alternative methods. Each year, marketers tell us that outbound practices are overrated.

    While we admit we might be a bit biased, when we cut the data, marketers agreed. According to this year’s data, 32% of marketers rank outbound marketing practices such as paid advertising as the top waste of time and resources.

    SOI17-blog-overrated-marketing2.png

    3) C-level executives and individual contributors disagree about the effectiveness of their organizations’ marketing strategy. [Tweet this]

    Over the years, we’ve continued to examine the relationship between marketers and salespeople. This year, we discovered an interesting trend in the data: Company leadership and individual contributor employees are struggling under a growing corporate chasm.

    This means that leadership and employees often view their company, its performance, and its future very differently. For example, while 69% of C-level executives believe their organizations’ marketing strategies are effective, only 55% of individual contributors agree. Leaders who want their business to grow must learn how to effectively communicate the organization’s vision and goals with their employees.

    4) Marketers struggle most with metrics-driven challenges. [Tweet this]

    Marketers find tracking and making sense of their metrics a challenge. This year, 63% of marketers admit that their top challenge is generating enough traffic and leads. This is followed by 40% who struggle proving the ROI of marketing activities and 28% who are trying to secure enough budget.

    All three of these top challenges are metrics-driven. Without the proper tools to track concrete campaign results, these areas will continue to be a struggle.

    SOI-blog-top-challenges4.png

    5) Organizations with an SLA are more than 3X as likely to be effective. [Tweet this]

    When we began publishing this report nine years ago, much of our data revolved around the adoption of inbound marketing. As the message spread, we began to see why it’s crucial for both marketing and sales teams to adopt the inbound methodology together. One of the main ways this is done is through a service-level agreement (SLA).

    Despite the fact that only 22% of organizations say they have a tightly-aligned SLA, the benefits of having one are clear: 81% of marketers with as SLA think their marketing strategy is effective. In fact, there is no combination of factors more strongly correlated with marketing success than being both inbound and having an SLA.

    SOI17-blog-strategy-effective2.png

    6) 38% of salespeople say getting a response from prospects is getting harder. [Tweet this]

    While marketers struggle with tracking the metrics of their campaigns, salespeople admit that getting a response from prospects is a growing challenge. However, as you dive deeper into the data, you see the problem starts long before salespeople begin contacting prospects.

    38% of salespeople say that they struggle most with prospecting. While there is an abundance of new technology and platforms to help salespeople connect and develop relationships with prospects, many are finding it difficult to incorporate this technology into their daily routine. In fact, 19% of salespeople say they’re struggling to incorporate social media in their sales process, and 13% say using sales technologies is now harder than it used to be.

    7) Marketers think video and messaging apps have the potential to disrupt. [Tweet this]

    As marketers prepare for the future, many plan to use a variety of content publishing platforms. In the past, content marketers poured their efforts into their email, website, and blog strategies. But with the rising trend of content decentralization, marketers are now seeing the benefit of publishing on a variety of channels.

    In our study, marketers are paying more attention to video’s global appeal, with 48% planning on investing in YouTube and 39% looking to add Facebook video to their strategy. In addition, many marketers are experimenting with messaging apps, while others continue to focus on more visual platforms such as Instagram.

    But don’t think the age of the blog is over. 53% of respondents say blog content creation is one of their top inbound marketing priorities.

    SOI17-blog-distribution-channels3.png

    8) 45% of salespeople say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry. [Tweet this]

    Getting a response from prospects is not the only challenge salespeople are facing. According to our 2017 data, 45% of salespeople say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry. Another 23% of salespeople say their biggest challenge using their CRM is manual data entry.

    The more time salespeople spend on data entry, the less time they have to do what they are skilled at: closing deals. Not only is manual data entry time consuming, it can also be detrimental to the business. Storing contacts in an unorganized way or not properly using a CRM can lead to a disjointed sales strategy. Businesses should look to sales tools that include automation, integrate with their other platforms, and provide insight into the full customer journey.

    9) Marketers and salespeople don’t see eye to eye on the quality of marketing-sourced leads. [Tweet this]

    We know there’s a disconnect between marketing and sales teams around the definition of a quality lead, but this year’s report shows a drastic gap.

    59% of marketers say they provide salespeople with very high-quality leads, but only 25% of salespeople agree. In fact, the majority of salespeople — from the C-suite to individual contributors — rank marketing leads last, behind referrals and sales-sourced leads. This data continues to highlight the importance of SLAs.

    SOI17-blog-source-leads.png

    Want more data-backed insights? This is just a preview of the State of Inbound report. Download the report for free to discover how inbound marketing and sales is evolving.

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

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    May

    23

    2017

    The Top 8 Ways B2B Brands Are Reaching Customers in 2017 [Infographic]

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

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    “Being a B2B marketer is a piece of cake,” said no one, ever. “A real walk in the park. Easy-peasy.”

    The truth is, no marketer has it easy — but sometimes, it seems like B2B marketers have it especially tough. Their work doesn’t always get the same kind of spotlight that B2C marketing might, especially when it comes to things like word-of-mouth. Industry figures reflect this: Only 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, for example.

    But that’s not to say being a B2B marketer has to be tremendously difficult. And there’s no reason why it can’t be fun, too. It seems like much of that success exists in marketing to the customer — not entirely unlike account-based marketing. That’s the philosophy behind Koyne’s 2017 State of Customer Marketing Report:

    Customer marketing is not just renewal or repeat purchase efforts, but the complete set of activities undertaken by a company following a customer’s purchase of products and services in order to help those customers be successful and productive, as well as advocate for the company.”

    Sounds good — but what does that look like? What are some of the best ways for B2B marketers to execute customer marketing, and why? To answer that question, Digital Marketing Philippines pulled some of the most interesting data from Koyne’s report and compiled it into the infographic below. Read on to learn more.


    B2B Customer Marketing Trends


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    May

    17

    2017

    State of Inbound 2017: Your Go-To Business Report for Marketing and Sales Research [New Data]

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

    SOI 17 Blog Header Image.png

    Generate more traffic, more leads, more customers. That’s always been the purpose of marketing and sales.

    But while the goal remains the same, the audience — and their preferences and behaviors — has not. People don’t want to just read content anymore. They want immersive video experiences. When it’s time to research a purchase or service a product, they don’t want to wait to talk to a rep on the phone. Instead, they’ll turn to an artificial intelligence-powered bot.

    The way your customer shops and buys is drastically changing.

    And in the age of the buyer, it’s up to businesses to adapt. That’s why we produce the State of Inbound research report each year: to help you stay up-to-date on all the marketing and sales changes that matter for your business.

    soi-anchor-cta-2017

    But for a moment, let’s dig deeper. While last year’s State of Inbound report introduced the growing disconnect between businesses and their customers, this year we look at what causes this divide in the first place.

    There’s a corporate chasm forming between executives and their employees, and when misalignment forms inside the four walls of a business, that can impact everything from employee retention to customer satisfaction. Consider these discrepancies:

    • 69% of executives believe their organization’s marketing strategy is effective, but only 55% of individual contributors in marketing agree.
    • 31% of executives believe that there’s tight alignment between their marketing and sales teams, but only 17% of both managers and individual contributors agree.
    • This trend continues on the department level: 45% of sales reps say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry, yet only 21% of executives said this is so.

    In the 2017 State of Inbound report, we’ll break down the divide, as well as uncover international marketing priorities, new content distribution trends, and buyer communication preferences. Download our most data-packed edition of the State of Inbound today. 

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    May

    16

    2017

    Account-Based Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing: 4 Common Questions Answered

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

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    Account-based marketing or inbound marketing? Which one should you use?

    Well, maybe that’s not the right way to think about it. As it turns out, the two strategies are actually pretty complementary when done well.

    With all the confusion between account-based marketing and inbound marketing, we thought we would clear the air — and hopefully help show you how the two work together.

    What Is Account-Based Marketing?

    Account-based marketing (ABM) is a targeted approach to marketing based on an account, or a company, rather than an individual buyer. For the official definition, let’s turn to where the Internet goes for answers: Wikipedia. According to their definition, ABM is “a strategic approach to business marketing based on account awareness in which an organization considers and communicates with individual prospect or customer accounts as markets of one.”

    To simplify it though, let’s put it this way: Instead of marketing to individuals, ABM is about marketing to all decision makers within a target company at once.

    Here’s a visual explanation from Terminus, an account-based marketing company.

    Note: HubSpot is an
    investor in Terminus, the creator of this slideshare

    Are Inbound Marketing and Account-Based Marketing Antithetical?

    Because account-based marketing dictates targeting a specific company instead of attracting a wide range of individuals, it can be easy to assume that account-based marketing and inbound marketing are incompatible. But that’s not true. Inbound and ABM can actually be used in conjunction with one another since they share a few core principles.

    Context is central to the inbound methodology, and to account-based marketing as well. Having the right context on your potential buyers and the pain points they’re looking to solve helps you in the following areas:

    • Tight sales and marketing alignment. There are many natural points within the ABM process that foster a closer relationship between Sales and Marketing. Each team needs to work together to achieve company goals, and ABM brings marketers closer to Sales’ thinking — typically focused on accounts instead of leads.
    • Highly targeted, personalized content. The cornerstone of ABM is focusing on specific individuals within an organization, and the content and messaging you send with ABM should be highly personalized and targeted to specific individuals within an account.
    • Customer happiness, retention, and upsell. Because ABM zeroes in on a core set of specific accounts, focusing on those clients’ happiness, retention, and potential to utilize more of your product/service through upselling can be a viable growth strategy.

    Inbound is about adapting to the way people want to shop and buy. Account-based marketing fits nicely into that philosophy in that it enables marketers and salespeople to take a thoroughly personalized approach to a handful of accounts.

    In a smaller addressable market, you can leverage ABM for your lead generation strategy, and lean on your online presence, content, and the influence you’ve built through inbound to close the deal.

    Where Do Inbound Marketing and Account-Based Marketing Diverge?

    So if the two approaches share a commitment to personalized, relevant content, how are they different?

    They diverge in two places.

    The first concerns scalability. Account-based approaches work well when you have a smaller addressable market. For example, if there are only 100 companies you can sell into because you offer a highly specialized or perhaps enterprise-level product, creating an individual marketing plan for each potential account is reasonable. But if your company sells to a wide and diverse market of thousands, account-based marketing is harder to scale. That’s where you’d want to use a broader inbound approach.

    The second area the two practices diverge is in the channels and tactics they prioritize. Account-based marketing relies on outbound channels like email and targeted advertising. When done well these tactics can extend a personalized experience — but if you’re not careful, uninvited outbound tactics can become spammy and disruptive. When done poorly, ABM can start to resemble the spammy approaches inbound was set up to counter.

    How Can I Do Account-Based Marketing?

    To ensure you keep humans at the center of your account-based marketing strategy, stick to the principles. Make account-based marketing about tailoring the way you communicate with your target company and be wary of any tactics that may overwhelm them.

    There are five primary stages to account-based marketing that work hand-in-hand with inbound marketing. Let’s walk through each and detail how you can conduct ABM in a human-friendly way.

    abm_cloud_stages (1).png

    Identify

    Account-based marketing begins with Sales and Marketing identifying and selecting relevant accounts. When beginning this selection process, firmographic data, such as company size, number of employees, location, and annual revenue, can give you an understanding of accounts you may want to target. Similar to inbound marketing, you can also use buyer personas to understand the day-to-day lives and challenges of your target buyers, and then determine content and channels to approach them.

    Expand

    In large sales — where ABM is typically used — buying decisions are generally made by numerous individuals within a company. ABM helps establish a relationship with each potential buyer and engages them in the purchase decision.

    At the expand stage, creating unique, company-specific content that interests each potential buyer within the organization is important. Whether your product is for marketers, operations leaders, or anyone else, ensuring that you identify and engage with everyone in the buying decision is crucial to winning a customer.

    Consider the challenges each of your stakeholders faces in order to create compelling content. For example, Finance may be concerned with pricing, while Operations might be focused on user access, ease of use, and security. With this context, you can create targeted content and interactions that match each individual’s concerns and challenges.

    Engage

    Here’s where Sales and Marketing come together and join the party to engage with stakeholders across various channels. For example, if one of your stakeholders prefers email, then equipping salespeople to reach out to that person with a helpful and relevant message can get a conversation started. This stage is largely about developing relationships with and getting to know all the buyers who will make the final decision.

    Advocate

    Next, you want to nurture bonds with a few stakeholders who can serve as advocates within the organization. The modern buyer is not looking for more information about products or services and can tune out information they don’t want to hear. So it’s up to both Marketing and Sales here to provide value — and talk about the product when and where necessary.

    Measure

    Finally, reporting at the account level can give you data on what’s working, what’s not, and how to improve over time. Within HubSpot, you can report on company growth, revenue, job titles, engagement levels, and much more — all at the account level.

    So, where do you go from here? If you’re a company that sells into a smaller addressable market and has its sights on a handful of highly critical accounts, you can learn more about building an ABM strategy without abandoning your inbound philosophy in this webinar.

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    May

    10

    2017

    Creative Work Relies on Failure

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

    Everyone wants to be creative, yet many of us are too fearful to pursue our most creative ideas. Why? Our fearful reaction is not a matter of choice — it’s often a knee-jerk reaction that can be attributed to our biology.

    According to Adobe’s State of Create report, “At work, there is tension between creativity and productivity.” That could have something to do with previous research indicating that there’s a natural association of uncertainty with ideas labeled as “creative,” and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

    So when you’re pursuing a creative path, this hurdle can feel insurmountable. How do you tackle and, ultimately, dismantle it?

    Creativity vs. Fear of Failure

    In my experience — and that of many creative professionals — the most familiar form of fear come is really that of failure. It’s a hesitancy to branch outside the norm and risk exposing yourself to the judgment of others. But that fear alone is not what inhibits your path to creativity. Not acknowledging is what’s truly damaging. Nelson Mandela summarized that notion quite well: 

    I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

    The traditional narrative about the creative process tends to leave out fear. We hear about and romanticize the lone genius’ bursts of inspiration but that isn’t always accurate. As David and Tom Kelley note in Creative Confidence, “A widely held myth suggests that creative geniuses rarely fail.” They go on to cite UC Davis Professor of Psychology Keith Simonton, who found that many of the world’s most famous creative people — like composer Wolfgang Mozart and scientist Charles Darwin don’t give up at the first sign of failure. Rather, they keep experimenting until they find what works.

    That’s one of the things that makes fear a necessary and important part of creative work — learning how to work with it. Unfortunately, in many organizations, fear tends to dominate, often stifling what could have been some of our most creative work. Only 4 in 10 employees would even describe themselves as creative, and out of those who do, less than half think they’re “living up to their creative potential.” Those are forms of fear, and even if you’re not aware of it, you’ve likely let it take control before. 

    But how do you recognize it? Here are some familiar “traps” you might be falling into.

    Letting Fear Hinder Your Creativity

    Scenario

    In the middle of a brainstorm, someone pitches an off-the-wall idea that the whole team thinks is edgy and hilarious. These ideas are often followed by a flurry of enthusiastic statements that start with things like, “what if we….” or, “imagine if…”. Despite the team’s excitement, you decide the client will think it’s too offbeat, so you pitch your safer — a.k.a., less creative — plan B.

    When you focus on what seems like the safer path and make decisions purely based on risk-avoidance, you lose sight of supporting your actual objective. That’s common in group dynamics, and even has a name: Groupthink, which occurs “when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation,” according to Psychology Today. It’s often masked as rational thinking, but playing it safe is actually the enemy of good creative work — the more you stay in the same place, the less effective your work becomes. Conversely, doing good creative work requires comfort with risk.

    Letting Fear Dictate Your Creativity

    Scenario

    Your competitor releases a new product or service, or updates its branding/website, thereby staking its claim as the industry leader. Your fear of being outshined prompts a response focused solely on beating your competition, instead of doing what’s going to benefit your customers — and therefore, your business — the most.

    While most people are aware that their respective brands must constantly innovate and evolve, letting fear control your efforts is also dangerous. When fear fuels your motivation and objectives, your work can become less meaningful due to a lack of passion or enthusiasm behind it. Plus, spending an unbalanced amount of time trying to keep up on every trend saps your resources and focus. When you succumb to fear, you often end up paying the price in the long run, with results like a bad user experience or looking like a copycat. As Karen Martin wrote in her book The Outstanding Organization, “When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.”

    Why You Need Failure

    Yes, there is a right way to fail. When you creatively experiment — just as Mozart and Darwin did — there are times that you will fail. But when you fail in this manner, you learn from it. For this reason, it is important to accept and even honor your creative failures. View them not as a hindrance to creative success, but as a powerful conduit that gets you closer to your goal next time around. Accept that failure is an option, and one that you are quite capable of recovering from, with the right perspective.

    In my experience, the only way to overcome your fear — or at least prevent it from sabotaging your day-to-day — is to reframe it. When you think of the framework for failure, replace the word “failure” with “learn.” That approach encourages confidence and a willingness to learn, which are vital for high-quality creative work.

    At my company, C5, our vision is to help build a world where everyone can have a healthy and fulfilled life. We take this mission seriously in the work we create, the clients we work with, and the way we interact with each other. But “healthy” and “fulfilled” don’t have to translate to “rainbows and sunshine.” Fulfillment really comes from the fruit of your labor, which only grows through hard work and, sometimes, results that you weren’t hoping for. Knowing that, we believe that sometimes rising to the challenge is its own reward.

    In our organization, we are pursuing an effort to remove unnecessary sources of fear and anxiety from how we approach our work. Letting our creativity come to front doesn’t mean we do things flippantly, take uncalculated risks, or play roulette. But we do cultivate environments in which we can take intentional risks.

    We’ve outlined some of the pieces that, to us, comprise a calculated risk.

    Determining Objectives of the Situation at Hand

    Naturally, your actions are influenced by your goals. But creativity can always be cultivated within confines. In fact, structure is often beneficial. Just because you have always done something one way, doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it. When strategizing how best to achieve a goal, consider alternate solutions, try new methods, and conducts A/B tests. For example, when Microsoft Internet Explorer requested an infographic from our agency, we ended up pitching a video concept, instead, because we felt it would deliver the message more effectively. The client agreed, and the “Child of the ‘90s” spot we created for them garnered over 49 million views.

    Learning to Operate From a Place of Conviction and Commitment

    If you have a unique or unusual creative idea, lead with confidence. Whether you’re pitching it to a client or trying to secure budget from management, if you drown in self-doubt at every stage, it’s likely to show. You should certainly listen to valid objections, but remember that passion and enthusiasm are contagious. Again — Microsoft would have surely rejected our pitch had we not made a well-supported, confident case for it.

    Allowing the Freedom to Fail, Learn, and Grow

    Nurturing an environment that not only encourages but demands experimentation is vital to push your creative boundaries. You can help cultivate this at every touch point in your organization, whether it means building out longer timelines, schedule regular out-of-the-box brainstorms, or encourage employees to work on their own passion projects. Pushing your team to experiment will only benefit you. Our agency has even closed up shop for a “hack day,” during which everyone — from accountants to designers — collaborated on creative solutions in a consequence-free environment.

    Be Brave

    As you face creative challenges, I encourage you not to give into fear — in fact, give it a chance. Without fear, there is no bravery. And without bravery, no risks are taken. And you can’t improve if you aren’t taking risks. Learn from what doesn’t work, and use it to build something even better.

    What are some of the creatively-charged risks you’ve taken? Let us know in the comments.

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    May

    4

    2017

    How to Design & Optimize Landing Pages [Free Ebook]

    Published by in category Inbound Marketing, Landing Pages, lead generation | Comments are closed

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    Landing pages are an essential component of any well-crafted, effective inbound marketing strategy. Whether your goal is to generate leads, sell products, or collect data, your landing pages are where the action happens.

    With the growing challenge of attracting and holding people’s attention online, it’s more important than ever to design your landing pages to trigger instant conversions. Otherwise, you won’t be able to gather information about the people visiting your website — which will in turn make it very difficult to understand them, market to them, nurture them, determine how fit they are for your product or service, and ultimately convert them into paying customers.

    Want to start generating as many leads as you can for your business? Then it’s crucial that your landing pages are planned, designed, executed, and always working correctly. If you want to learn more about how to do just that, then you’ve come to the right place. We just released a brand new guide: How to Design & Optimize Landing Pages. 

    This free ebook will teach you:

    • What landing pages are and why they’re important.
    • What an optimized landing page looks like (with examples).
    • How to A/B test your landing pages.
    • How to measure the success of your landing pages.

    Ready to build high-converting landing pages for your website? Download our free introductory ebook on landing page design and optimization and you’ll have all the knowledge you need to start boosting your site conversions today.

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    Apr

    29

    2017

    9 Link Building Email Outreach Templates That Actually Work

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

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    Thanks for joining me here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog today. I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you all a few things you might not know about me.

    I’m ambidextrous (I can write with both hands), I’m the adoptive mother of three cats (one of whom is named Kitty), and before coming to HubSpot, I spent a lot of time writing and sending link building outreach emails.

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    Inbound links back to your website play an important role in achieving your inbound marketing goals. They also require strategy and diligent work to come by. I would know — I worked very hard to earn inbound links for a long time.

    Whether you’re just starting out with inbound link building or you’re getting fatigued by nobody replying to your outreach emails, I wanted to help you out. I’ve created nine different templates for killer outreach emails that you can borrow and adapt for your own link building strategy.

    What Is Link Building?

    Before we dive into the templates, let’s quickly review the basics of inbound link building. If you’re already caught up to speed, skip ahead to check out the templates.

    Inbound links, otherwise known as backlinks, are links pointing toward your website from another website.

    Here’s an example: Check out this publishing volume experiment analysis on the Moz Blog. If you’ll notice, the previous sentence contains a link pointing toward Moz’s website. That’s a backlink. And if you read the article, you’ll notice it contains a link pointing back to our website here at HubSpot. That’s a backlink, too.

    Now that we all understand what inbound links are, why are they important?

    1. Inbound links drive traffic to your website. In the example above, the HubSpot blog earned traffic from any of Moz’s blog readers who followed the link to HubSpot’s website.
    2. Inbound links improve your search engine rankings. Inbound links tell search engines that your website knows what it’s talking about — otherwise, why would someone link to it? The more inbound links you earn from high-quality sites, the higher your website will rank in search engine results pages (SERP).

    To sum up, inbound links are valuable because they help your website rank higher in search, which helps more people find your organization, start clicking around, and eventually become a lead.

    Link building is the process of obtaining those inbound links. When your website is a high-powered, well-respected content engine, other sites and individuals online will link to your content organically — without you having to ask. But if you’re like a lot of other inbound marketers out there, your website still has a ways to go.

    A dedicated link building strategy starts with an ask — usually via email — and that’s where these templates come in.

    Link Building Outreach Rules

    But before we get to the templates, some rules.

    There are right and wrong ways to go about improving your site’s SEO, and inbound link building — when done correctly — is generally regarded as one of the right ways. You’re pitching your content to publications that might be interested in sharing it with different audiences. A backlink is just the cherry on top.

    However, there are wrong ways to go about asking for inbound backlinks, and I want to make sure you sure understand the rules of the road before you start emailing.

    1) The best way to generate quality backlinks is to publish exceptional content publishers organically cite.

    That being said, a dedicated backlink outreach strategy can be helpful for newer websites or if you’re promoting a specific piece of exceptional content. The more content you produce and, in turn, promote with social media content and backlinks, the more search engine authority your site will accumulate.

    2) Only pitch guest posts or backlinks that add value for the reader.

    Instead of asking your contacts to randomly link back to your site somewhere on theirs, ask publishers if you can write for their blogs or conribute new ideas and data for content they’re already working on. Offers such as these will result in quality backlinks that provide readers with valuable information.

    3) Send individualized emails to specific publishers.

    Never, and I mean never, mass email an enormous contacts list with a pitch template. It’s spammy, impersonal, and likely won’t get you the results you want anyway. Adapt the templates below if you like them, but it’s critically important to individually craft specific emails for particular publishers.

    The first step of your outreach process should always be researching publications and specific people who might be interested in your content. You shouldn’t start with typing up an email and sending it to everyone in your industry with a website. Read on for new ideas for how to ask for an inbound link — in ways that are polite, clever, and might just get you that backlink.

    Note: These email templates are based on emails I’ve sent and received. Any references to industries, companies, or individuals are meant to illustrate these fictitious email examples.

    9 Link Building Outreach Email Examples to Try

    1) The preview

    If you don’t have any connections with the person you’re pitching, offering a preview might be an effective way to share your content. With this type of email, you’re asking first if the recipient would like to see the piece of content you’d like them to link to. The key to getting a reply is making sure you’ve personalized your email and enticed the reader with enough details to get them to reach back out.

    Interest in new infographic about social media stats?

    Hi Sophia,

    Happy Friday! I’m reaching out because I’m an avid reader of your work on the SocialVille blog — I loved your latest piece about social media news.

    I just followed you on Twitter, and I saw you’ve been tweeting about Facebook’s F8 conference. What did you think of the event?

    I work over at SocialWorld, where we conduct market research and collect data for social media analysts and experts. We recently produced an infographic detailing a breakdown of the social media market and what changes you can expect over the next year.

    Would you be interested in checking it out? I’d love to see what you think.

    Let me know if you’re interested, and I can send you the infographic to take a look.

    Best, Jack

    2) The exclusive offer

    If you’ve produced new research or data with surprising or intriguing results, it might be worth pitching your content as an exclusive before pressing publish on your own blog. An exclusive offer to a top-ranking publication in your industry could get you a lot of traffic from a single link, so it might be worth adjusting or reconsidering your own publication schedule.

    When pitching to top journalists whose inboxes are probably flooded, keep your subject lines detailed and your emails short to communicate as much information in as few words as possible.

    Exclusive: New data about Snapchat ads

    Hey Sophia,

    I’ve been reading your coverage of the competition heating up between Snapchat and Instagram, and I wanted to let you know that we’re releasing new data about Snapchat ad usage this week.

    Among other insights, we found a surprising number of brands and publishers that were regularly advertising and publishing on Snapchat have started transitioning over to Instagram, where they achieve higher ad clickthrough rates.

    I’d be happy to give you exclusive early access to our full report to be the first to write about it on the blog this week — what do you think?

    Best, Jack

    3) The DYK

    Everyone likes to learn a fun fact. Couch your pitch as a “did you know” moment to pique the recipient’s curiosity to read the rest of your content for more fun and new information. If you were able to teach them something new, they may want to feature your fresh insight for their own readers.

    DYK bots are more popular than blogs?

    Hi Sophia,

    Did you know that there are more than 100,000 active bots on Facebook Messenger?

    If you aren’t already communicating with your audience via Facebook Messenger, you could be missing out on an opportunity to provide better customer service — and faster.

    We rounded up more Messenger bot usage stats in a new report that I’ve attached below. Do you think it would be a good fit for an article on the SocialVille blog? Thanks in advance for checking it out, and let me know if you have any questions.

    Best, Jack

    4) The personalized pitch

    The most critical part of a successful outreach email is personalization. I’m not talking about addressing your email to the correct name and spelling everything correctly — although you should definitely do both of those things. By showing the recipient that you know who they are and what they’re about, your pitch reads as genuine, and you read as a comprehensive possible partner.

    It’s easy to write, “I loved your last article about [subject],” but it takes some digging and understanding to write, “I love reading your monthly social media news series. Did you catch the latest Facebook update that came out today?” Make sure your email shows that you’ve taken the time to understand what the person is all about and what they regularly cover.

    Hi from a fellow Snapchat diehard

    Hi Sophia,

    I know you’ve been closely following the social media smackdown between Snap Inc. and Facebook — and I know who we’re both rooting for. So I wanted to show you this interactive timeline we created that compares the growth trajectories of the two companies.

    Snap Inc. is similar to Facebook in a lot of ways, but its path to growth into the billions is mired with more competition. But this competition hasn’t limited Snapchat’s engagement — users are spending up to half an hour a day inside the app.

    I noticed that you publish a social media news roundup every month featuring the latest stories and research, and I wondered if you thought this timeline could be a good inclusion. Let me know if you have any questions about the data!

    Thanks, Jack

    5) The offer

    Nobody likes having extra work on their plate, so why not pitch doing the work for them? If you pitch a great idea alongside an offer to write a guest post, the recipient might be more inclined to say “yes.” But remember to do your due diligence before pressing “send.” If the person you’re pitching has already written about a specific angle a few times before, make sure you’re pitching something new and different to avoid getting ignored.

    Offer to write up new report for SocialVille?

    Hey Sophia,

    You’ve written previously about successful Facebook ads and headlines, and I wanted to share some new research my team has put together about effective Facebook ad copy. We found that Facebook ads under 20 words in length performed significantly better than longer ads, along with a ton of other eye-opening stats.

    Do you think this would be a good fit for the SocialVille blog? I’d be happy to write it up for you to take the legwork out of it. Let me know if you’d like me to get started.

    Thanks for your consideration, Jack

    6) The mention

    Everybody likes to see their name in print. A clever way to angle for a backlink is to mention a product or an individual in a published piece, then circle back and share it with them. Ask for their feedback to get them reading the post, and they might link to it or share it on social of their own accord.

    Your data featured in our latest report

    Hey Sophia,

    I love reading your stuff on the SocialVille blog! In fact, we featured your recent data about the impact of tools on productivity in our report on the growth of productivity as a business — I’ve attached the PDF below, and we’ve also shared it on Twitter.

    I wonder if you’d be able to check out the report and let me know what you think or if I missed any important stats.

    Thanks in advance for checking it out, and thanks for such an interesting write-up.

    Best, Jack

    7) The social proof

    Social proof is the concept that consumers will be influenced by what others are already doing. For example, if you head to the bottom of this blog post, you’ll notice that we ask you to subscribe, noting that 300,000 marketers have already subscribed. That’s social proof in action: You might be more likely to subscribe now that you know hundreds of thousands of people are already doing it.

    So, if you’ve published a great piece of content that people are responding positively to, tell people that when you pitch it for backlinks. They might be more inclined to cite you if other people in their field are already doing so.

    Guide to Instagram ad analytics

    Hi Sophia,

    I’m sure you get a lot of content submissions, but I wanted to bring to your attention to a new guide we released about the ins and outs of Instagram ad advertising.

    This helpful how-to guide tells you everything you need to know about advertising on Instagram and how to drive ROI, in addition to sharing real-world examples of ads that delivered results. Shameless #humblebrag here — the guide has been downloaded more than 5K times and has been retweeted more than 4K times — so I wanted to make sure you had a chance to check it out.

    Do you think it would be a good fit for the SocialVille blog? I’d love to get your thoughts.

    Best, Jack

    8) The joke

    Tread carefully with humor, but if you’ve perused their social media and they seem like they would appreciate a goofy joke, it could be a smart way to get your recipient’s attention.

    As in the rules of the workplace or cocktail parties, avoid making jokes about politics, religion, or anything rated PG-13 and up.

    What do cats, cooking videos, and your latest blog post have in common?

    … they all went viral on social media!

    Forgive the silly joke, but I knew cats would get your attention. I loved your recent piece about social media predictions for the coming year, and I wondered if you’d given any thought to predictions for where SEO is headed, too.

    Here at SearchWorld, we predict that AMP and machine-learning will take center stage in Google’s quest to make search easier and more intuitive for the searcher.

    We put together a report about how SEO has evolved and other predictions for where we think it’s headed next, and I think it would be a great reference if you decide to write a follow-up piece about the future of SEO. I’ve attached the report below — take a look, and let me know if there are any changes you’d suggest!

    Thanks in advance, Jack

    9) The response

    This is another risky outreach strategy, but it could pay off if you do it properly.

    The ultimate way to demonstrate that you’re an avid reader (instead of just saying so) is to respond to someone’s work with an opinion — even if it’s divergent. Other options besides the counterpoint in the example below could include:

    • A case study of you taking their advice and applying it to your brand
    • A different content format on the same subject — for example, a video explainer instead of a blog post
    Quick question about your Facebook F8 recap

    Hey Sophia,

    Thanks for writing such a thorough recap of Facebook’s F8 conference. It was super helpful for those of us who couldn’t attend in person or watch the live stream!

    I thought you made an interesting point about the competition heating up between Facebook and Snap Inc., but I think you could be missing a bigger idea here. I think it’s not as much a competition for users as it is a competition for features innovation vs. features execution.

    I wrote up my take on the brands’ competition on our blog today and cited your recap — would you like to take a look? Maybe we could collaborate together on a blog post or video on how social media marketers should best evaluate the two companies’ competing apps.

    Thanks, Jack

    Email Link Building Best Practices

    So, you might have noticed that these aren’t the traditional templates you can copy and paste into your own inbox.

    And that’s because I don’t want you to simply plug in these emails and replace them with your own pitch. Part of the reason successful link building takes time and effort is because you have to craft a personalized email every time. You should use the guidelines I’ve outlined above, but copying and pasting the same exact message is just bad news for all involved. Don’t do it.

    Below are more of my link building outreach email best practices:

    1) Edit, then edit again.

    Nothing makes me less interested in responding to a pitch email than when there is immediately a typo or grammatical error as early as the subject line — or my name. Double-check to ensure that all names are spelled correctly, that capitalization is perfect (Hubspot vs. HubSpot), and that punctuation is perfect.

    On the other side of editing, cut your email down wherever you can. It’s better for your email to be on the shorter side than too long, so try to delete any extra words and phrases that aren’t completely necessary.

    2) Keep your subject lines short and sweet.

    My rule of thumb for subject lines is to avoid making them complete sentences. Stick to the important details to communicate as much enticing information in as few words as possible. If your brand name is recognizable, make sure to name drop yourself, too.

    3) Don’t fake flattery.

    If it’s easy to tell when someone’s compliments are inauthentic in person, it’s even easier to tell via email. Don’t flatter people you’re contacting for the sake of it — genuinely compliment their work, their insights, or their achievements, and take the compliment a step further to add value with your own content.

    4) Do the legwork before you send.

    Demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about by doing your research before you press “send.” When you think you’ve found the right person to pitch, take some time to research what they’ve written about in the past and what they discuss on social media. Pay attention to timing, too. If an author has just written about social media statistics, they might not want to write about the same angle one week later, so try to bring a new or related pitch to the table.

    5) Don’t follow up more than once or twice.

    Let’s face it — we’re all busy. Even if your outreach email is impeccable, it could get lost in someone’s inbox during a busy morning. You should feel free to reach out once to follow up, but don’t go overboard in pestering someone if they’re not getting back to you. After one or two follow-ups, let your pitch go, and reach out to them with another pitch further down the line.

    For more link building strategies and best practices, the pros over at Moz can point you in the direction of more replies and backlinks and fewer ignores and “no”s. For more must-have SEO strategies to tackle in 2017, check out our free guide here.

    Do you have an email link building outreach email that got you great results? Share with us in the comments below.

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    Apr

    1

    2017

    How Do Consumers Really Feel About 2017's Digital Trends? [Infographic]

    Published by in category Daily, featured-1, IGSS, Inbound Marketing | Comments are closed

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    As we approach the year’s second quarter, Google is already returning over 46,600 results for “digital trends 2017.” And if you’re in the digital marketing space, there seems to be an unspoken rule that you must always have an opinion on what the key trends will be for the year ahead.

    But could it be that we’re all stuck in an industry echo chamber? As it turns out, some new research from Code Computerlove might burst that bubble.

    Code Computerlove surveyed 1,000 U.K. adults to find out what they really think about these trend predictions — things like voice search, virtual reality, and chat-bots. That data was then compared to what’s actually making the most noise online. Some key findings included:

    • Mobile payments are the most sought-after technology in 2017.
    • 9 out of 10 consumers claim to have no interest in using augmented reality in the near future.
    • 1 in 5 people surveyed aim to spend less time in front of screens this year.

    With that many people aiming to spend less time in front of screens this year, brands have to make their digital interactions count — a poor initial digital experience can carry a long-term impact. Curious to know what else your brand needs to know about these trends? Check out the infographic below.



    Digital_Trends_2017_green_pink.png


    Learn Inbound Marketing over the weekend.

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    Mar

    29

    2017

    My Campaign Sucks…Now What?

    Published by in category Inbound Marketing | Comments are closed

    BestEmailCampaigns.jpgWe’ve all been there.

    It took three months to launch that marketing campaign from start-to-finish.  Yes, there were many hurdles along the way, but you pulled it together with the help of your team and even launched on time. You pop the champagne and toast to a job well done.

    A week goes by.  There is a little bit of action…maybe a top of the funnel (TOFU) form fill or two, but nothing to write home about.  After all, you’ve not collected nearly enough data to start compiling reports and making decisions.

    A month passes. The campaign numbers still aren’t great.  Panic starts to set in.  Your client, your boss, and your team are getting antsy.  But has your campaign even run for long enough at this point to know whether or not it is performing well?  What does “long enough” mean?  Hell, what does “performing well” even mean?

    Let’s get acclimated

    Now, before we jump into campaign optimization or how to analyze performance, let’s make sure we’re talking apples to apples. I will start by defining what I mean by a “campaign” and touch on the evolution (and importance) of the buyer’s journey.

    I appreciate the thoroughness but… I just want to optimize my campaign

    Is your idea of a campaign the same as mine?

    Let’s get aligned on this whole campaign idea. The word “campaign” is defined differently depending on your industry and your typical marketing practices.  To set a baseline, here is a definition that I like to use:  

    Campaign (n.): A multi-touch digital ecosystem, aligned with the buyer’s journey, that helps marketers capture lead information, nurture and qualify leads, and finally empowers both the lead and the salesperson for a sales conversation.

    Here are the key parts:

    1) Multi-touch:

    Your campaign should live across the various channels where your target personas spend their time (i.e. your website, paid advertising platforms, social media platforms, etc.) and include multiple touch points per channel.  One form on a single landing page is not a campaign.

    2) Digital ecosystem

    All pieces of your campaign should work together and constantly communicate with one another.  Ideally, the pieces are strategically managed via a clearly defined marketing-technology stack.  Check out the example below:

    digital ecosystem.png

    3) Aligned with the buyer’s journey

    Your campaign should facilitate a seamless buyer’s journey, and more importantly, a journey that a consumer actually wants to go through.

    buyerjournet.png 

    4) Capture lead information

    A typical lead capture transaction occurs when the marketer provides something of value to the potential lead in exchange for their contact information.

    5) Nurture and qualify leads

    This is the most complex part of a campaign (so we found a video to better explain below).  A good measure of how well you are doing with nurturing is the quality of your sales conversations.  The golden rule is: not everybody is ready to buy because they gave you their email, and you shouldn’t sell to somebody just because they are interested in your product. 

    6) Empowers both the lead and salesperson

    Primarily, your objective as a marketer is to prepare the lead for a sales conversation.  Secondly, to prepare your salesperson to have an effective sales conversation catered towards the potential buyer’s objectives (depending on your average sales cycle this process can take a day or several months).

    If your campaign meets the above criteria, fantastic!  We are aligned.  If it doesn’t quite match up, no worries, I promise there are still plenty of valuable takeaways (including a free campaign optimization checklist).

    Why should you care about the buyer’s journey?

    If your campaign does not support the way your target persona wants to buy, it will be nearly impossible to see positive results.

    The buyer’s journey has fundamentally changed.  Think about it, compare how you would buy a car today compared to ten years ago?  Or even how your parents bought their first car?

    Things are changing in the world of buying and selling, and they’re changing at an exponential rate.

    But why?

    Two words: access & information.  One of my favorite marketing/sales influencers, Daniel Pink, sums it up nicely in his book “To Sell is Human.” 

    Pink sums up his argument with the term “information asymmetry.”  Essentially, the cause of the change in buyer behavior is a result of the gradual shift of an informational advantage from the seller to the buyer.  In today’s economy, the buyer has all the power! 

    What does this mean for our marketing?  Well, we need to ensure that our campaign is aligned with the way modern consumers make purchases.  If not, it is destined to fail.  So, before you worry about optimization, ensure your campaign assets and tone reflect this “seller beware” world.

    For more information on how the buyer’s journey is evolving, and what we should do as marketers and salespeople, take a moment to watch the video below:

    What should I do before my campaign launches?

    Before a campaign ever launches it’s imperative to get our ducks in a row from an expectation standpoint.  Aligned expectations will improve the likelihood of a successful campaign.

    The first step is to establish your campaign benchmarks—what you expect/desire to happen. These are your “expected values.” There are a several sources you can use to determine those benchmarks.

    1) Your company’s historical campaign data (preferred)

    No two businesses or industries are the same, so what better to use as a benchmark than your own company’s past performance?

    2) Your closest competitor’s data

    If you are fortunate enough to have access to this information, it’s a huge competitive advantage.  There are also tools out there, like SpyFu, to help you gather some key data points.

    3) An Industry Standard

    While industry averages are often grossly simplified, they are better than nothing at all!

    Bonus: HubSpot recently launched a great tool that allows you to get benchmark data for email open rate across various industries.

    4) Your best guesstimate

    This is your last resort, but if necessary, make your best guess based on heuristics and what you know.  Here is a cool article on how heuristics can be applied to marketing.

    What should you benchmark?

    You should establish benchmarks for all key campaign metrics.  Some examples include: email open rate, form conversion rate, social media impressions, average time on page, etc.  However, they will vary based your specific campaign’s infrastructure. 

    The golden rule: If a metric can be analyzed and potentially contribute to the success of a campaign’s objective, benchmark it!

    Speaking of Campaign Objectives…

    Yes, it’s true that most businesses market with the intention of increasing revenue.  But, not all campaigns are designed with this as the primary intention.  Other campaign objectives include increasing brand awareness, event attendance, asset downloads, and more.  Before determining the tactics and building the campaign infrastructure, ensure that all the stakeholders are aligned on its objectives.

    Now, there are a few different values that will help you determine if you’ve reached your campaign objectives:

    1) Goal valuesideal (but achievable) campaign performance metrics

    2) Expected values – an accurate prediction of your campaign performance metrics

    Hint: these are your benchmarks established in the “What should I do before my campaign launches?” section

    3) Observed values – the real-world metrics you observe from your campaign

    Let’s put numbers two and three aside for now, we’ll need them for statistical analysis later, and discuss establishing goal value statements.  Although it may be a little cliché, assure your goal statements meet the criteria of the tried and true S.M.A.R.T acronym.

    Long story short, if your goal value statements match the S.M.A.R.T framework, you are off to a good start.  Rather than bore you with the gory details (here is a crash course on SMART goals), I’ll provide you with a quick example instead.

    A bad goal value statement is: Achieve a good email click-through-rate for campaign nurture emails.

    A good goal value statement is: Achieve a click-through-rate of 2% on nurture email #3 within 90 days of campaign launch.

    After you have established all the necessary goal value statements, be certain your stakeholders are also aware of them.  You can do document these in your marketing automation software portal.  If you are a HubSpot customer, you’re in luck – there is a built in goal setting feature for campaigns.

    goals-5.png

    Get your campaign optimization checklist 

    Now can we see if my campaign needs to be optimized?!

    Yes, let’s get to it!  First, you need to determine if your campaign needs optimization by comparing our observed results to what we expected (our benchmarks).  We are going to use the chi-square goodness of fit statistical test to compare these two values. Here’s the formula to calculate Chi-square:

    equation.png

    Assuming you already launched your campaign (and completed the recommended pre-launch work) you should have all the variables needed. (O is observed value and E is expected value, or your benchmark)

    For more in depth coverage of using this test you can watch the tutorial below.

    Let’s jump into an example to make this more concrete.  We’ll use the same numbers in the video walkthrough below for consistency. As a marketing strategist, you want to know if a recent campaign email is performing well, or if you should take action to optimize it. 

    Let’s say you sent a campaign related email to 1000 people and 3% of people clicked through the email to your landing page.

    This gives you an observed value of 30 or O = 30

    Since this is your first campaign, you are comparing your email performance to industry benchmarks.  After doing some research, the industry benchmark you found is 1.1% for email click through rate.  If we sent an email to a 1000 people in our industry, we would expect 11 to click through.

    This gives you an expected value of 11 or E = 11

    Now, plug it into the formula and solve!

    equation solvedd.png

    Get 33.18?  Great, but we’re not finished yet.

    Now, to see if the campaign email needs to be optimized, we need to compare our observed chi-square to a critical value for chi-square critical.  Looking at those old handy chi-square distribution tables I see the critical value is 3.84 at with a significance level of .05 (recommended).

    33.18 > 3.84

    Result: Your email is significantly outperforming your established benchmark so you should not focus on optimizing it at this time and spend your resources elsewhere.

    Luckily, there is a savvy chi-square goodness of fit tool from Social Science Statistics that does the calculations and compares them to critical value for you (especially if you are like me and just hate distribution tables).

    Understand that you only analyzed one specific part of your campaign, but this methodology can be applied to nearly any measurable campaign statistic with a discrete outcome (i.e., convert vs did not convert).

    Now you can be confident that you are spending your resources on optimizing the right campaign piece.

    OK, I have a list of what I should optimize, where do I start?

    With our nifty campaign optimization checklist of course!  You may be thinking, “but I have several underperforming pieces, how do I prioritize them?”  A good place to start at the beginning of the buyer’s journey, starting from from left to right.  Or, in HubSpot terms, optimize the campaign assets associated with the Awareness Stage first, then the Consideration Stage, and finally the Decision Stage.  Which makes sense. If your awareness stage is broken, most people aren’t converting to the Consideration Stage in the first place.  Why optimize something for such a small subset of your potential leads?

    Another way to think about optimization priorities is to order them by potential positive impact on campaign results.  While this is good in theory, it doesn’t account for other important variables such as the time and effort it would take to complete the task. Fortunately, to set priorities, you can use a process that is simple as P.I.E.

    P.I.E stands for Potential (what is the potential positive impact on the campaign results), Importance (how critical is it to your overall business objectives), and Ease (how difficult is the task to complete).

    For more information on PIE or to learn other prioritization methods check out ConversionXL’s comprehensive article on the subject. 

    In order to determine the priority order of your campaign optimization task list, assign each letter of P.I.E. a score of 1-10, then take the average of those three numbers.  Organize those averaged numbers by activity from largest to smallest, you will have your list of priorities!

    Campaign Optimization Checklist

    When analyzing campaign performance, it is easy to get lost in the weeds.  Always remember the big picture!  If you are worried about your campaign’s performance, likely you are experiencing one of the following challenges:

    1) You do not have enough eyeballs on your campaign.

    2) You aren’t converting those who do engage with your campaign into leads.

    3) You aren’t properly nurturing and qualifying leads for sales conversations.

    The Campaign Optimization Checklist was built, and even color-coded, with these three challenges in mind.  As a bonus for making it all the way to the end of this article, I have included the first pages here.  There are even more tips and tricks in the full version!

    Remember that pressing the launch button is never the final step in a campaign. There is always an email subject line to improve, a form to optimize, and a nurture workflow to refine.

    Now what are you waiting for, get the full checklist and start optimizing!

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    Mar

    25

    2017

    What Can Your Business Learn From Restaurant Marketing? [Infographic]

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

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    In February 2016, the U.S. magazine Bon Appétit released its inaugural culture-themed issue, in which it explored — among other topics — just how we became so obsessed with food.

    Some believe it began with food permeating popular culture — for example, with televised cooking and restaurant exploration shows. Whatever it is, this obsession has left marketers from several other industries wondering, “Can I do that?”

    Actually, you can. There’s a lot of advice out there about restaurant marketing — how chefs and owners of these establishments can not only brand themselves to reach celebrity status, but also how they can, you know, grow these businesses in the first place. The following infographic from our friends at Oddle is just one example.  Download our step-by-step guide to creating your digital strategy here.

    But as it turns out, many principles of restaurant marketing can be applied to other industries — including those within the B2B sector. After all, we want to accomplish the same things, like establishing a strong digital presence, creating a great experience (online and off) for customers, and gaining word-of-mouth traction. So which restaurant marketing best practices can be applied to your business? Read on to find out.



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    Mar

    23

    2017

    4 Ways to Use Audio in B2B Marketing

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

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    When you’re trying to get somewhere — by foot, train, bus, or car — how do you pass the time?

    I’m one of those people who always has to be listening to something. Whether it’s a new Spotify playlist or the latest episode of a podcast, I use pretty much every opportunity to consume audible content.

    I’m hardly the only one who’s partial to audio in this way. According to the 2016 Edison Research Infinite Dial report, despite our content consumption becoming increasingly digital, we still love sound and sound alone. Online radio listenership, for example, has increased by 35% since 2005. But what does that have to do with us?  Manage and plan your social media content with the help of this free calendar  template.

    We believe that this listening behavior creates a tremendous opportunity for marketers — especially those in the B2B sector — to create branded, audible content. Audio is often associated with consumer marketing, but those kind of assumptions create a missed opportunity for B2B brands. After all, here at HubSpot, we create content for marketing and sales professionals in a variety of formats, and if you read our blog, it’s no secret that we’re constantly nagging you to do the same — even with audio. So let’s explore the ways that can be done, starting with a look at the science behind the act of listening.

    The Listening Process

    Before you start creating audio content, it might be helpful to understand how and why people listen. The act of listening, according to Merriam-Webster, is “to hear what someone has said and understand that it is serious, important, or true.”

    It also helps satisfy different physiological goals. We listen to alter our moods, stay alert, and figure stuff out. In humans, that’s been the case for pretty much as long as we’ve been in existence. The process starts when we receive auditory stimuli, which our brains then have to interpret. That’s aided by other senses — like sight — and helps us better figure out what we’re hearing.

    Once our brains have interpreted these auditory signals, we follow a series of steps that consist of recalling, evaluating, and responding to the information we consume:

    Hurier_Listening_Process.png

    Source: Matthew Edward Dyson

    It’s that third step in the process — recalling — that might be the most important one for marketers. Numerous studies have discovered how listening triggers a widespread network of activity throughout the brain. That activity is what links auditory stimuli so strongly to memory.

    That might be why we love to talk about things we’ve heard, like a great song, for example. We’re actually sharing a story about our memory of what we heard. And that comes back around to what we do as marketers. We share the stories of and about our brands in a way that will get people to pay attention and listen to us.

    So, let’s get started, and begin creating content that people will listen.

    4 Ways to Use Audio in B2B Marketing

    1) Podcasts

    Branded Podcasts

    According to Edison Research, podcast listenership has been on a steady rise since 2006 — in fact, it’s grown by 25 percentage points. 

    EdisonPodcast listenership.png

    Source: Edison Research

    People often make the mistake of thinking that podcasts are largely consumer-facing. We think of those that are aired on public radio or hosted by celebrities for the masses of bored commuters trying to pass the time. But in reality, there are a number of B2B podcasts out there, like Duct Tape Marketing, ZenDesk’s Relate, and HubSpot’s The Growth Show.

    But when it comes to creating branded podcasts, many B2B marketers make similar objections that we used to hear about blogging — such as, “I don’t have time,” or, “I don’t have anything to say.” Podcasts, like blogs, follow the pillars of inbound marketing, in that you’re creating valuable, educational content for people who are searching for information on what your business does best. That’s one way The Growth Show works, for example. Because HubSpot’s marketing, sales, and CRM software comprise a growth stack, we use our podcast to discuss related topics with business leaders who have accomplished notable growth, and who have good stories.

    “Companies — especially B2B companies — have such a hard time telling their organization’s story,” says Kierran Petersen, The Growth Show’s associate producer. “Creating a branded podcast is the perfect opportunity to do that. It’s such a personal way to give people insight into what you do, by showing your audience who you actually are.”

    That’s where the answer to the second objection — “I don’t have anything to say” — comes in. When people tell us that’s why they can’t invest time in blogging, we usually say, “Write what you know.” The same thing goes for podcasting, but instead of writing, you’re speaking about what you know. And for some, that might even come easier than writing.

    Of course, creating a branded podcast isn’t as simple as recording 30 minutes of stream-of-thought remarks on your business. It helps to approach this content creation the same way you would for a blog, and create an editorial calendar to plan and outline different topics, as well as people who you’d like to interview. You should also consider how you’re going to distribute that content and the different platforms that your audience can use to consume the podcast. For beginners, we recommend free tools like SoundCloud, or experimenting with different ways to share the audio across social media.

    Repurposing Blogs as Podcasts

    If you’re still feeling a bit uncertain about creating an original podcast, you can start on a smaller scale by repurposing your existing content. On some blogs, you may have come across the option to listen to an audio version of the post. That’s one fairly easy way for businesses to create original audible content — take what you’ve already written, and turn it into a spoken-word version.

    There are several ways to pull that off. Some brands turn their blog posts into full-blown podcasts of varying length, complete with an introduction, music, quotes, and sound effects. That’s what National Public Radio — better known as NPR — often does with its various news stories. Notice how this piece, for example, has both full text and audio, the latter of which can be heard below.

    But others, like The Atlantic, take a different approach, and dictate the full text of articles, treating it like an audiobook. Check it out:

    There’s no “right” way to repurpose existing content for audio this way — that largely depends on the length of the piece, or if you want to abridge the writing for the spoken word. The important thing to remember is that it’s not impossible, and with a bit of creativity, there are numerous ways for B2B marketers to create audible content of this kind.

    2) Audiograms

    Snippets

    In February, you may have noticed that HubSpot’s co-founders, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, penned a special post on the Marketing Blog dedicated to the 2016 year in review. But it didn’t end there. Across our online presence, HubSpot distributed year-in-review messages in various formats, including nifty little audiograms.

    “But what’s an audiogram, Amanda?”

    I thought you might ask that. Well, an audiogram is a snippet of — imagine that — audio that overlays a still image. We curated a collection of these on our website, and posted some on Facebook, like this quote from Bertie Ocampo, Hubspot’s APAC event & field marketing manager.

    Audiograms can be shared on Instagram, too, which is “mobile first, so odds are good that folks will have their headphones in,” says Marissa Emanuele, HubSpot’s social media manager. But she encourages providing context — don’t just post a snippet over a picture and expect people to understand its purpose. “Audiograms are always better,” she explains, “if they incorporate text or captioning of some kind.”

    … Or Longer

    This strategy can also work with longer audio files, says Chelsea Hunersen, a social media manager at HubSpot. “We’ve shared some videos,” she says, for example, “that play an episode of The Growth Show, with an image that says, ‘this is audio’.”

    That means you can use this same technique with audio samples that are “longer than 30 seconds,” says Hunersen. So when you’re thinking about ways to distribute your podcasts, here’s one — consider turning them into audiograms, or pairing them with these images-as-video.

    3) Facebook Audio

    finalhero.png

    Source: Facebook

    In December 2016, Facebook announced its latest live content feature: Live Audio. “Sometimes,” read the official announcement, “publishers want to tell a story on Facebook with words and not video.” That’s usually due to two reasons:

    1. Audio is often a bit lower-maintenance than video, in that it requires less hardware — like cameras — and lower connectivity.
    2. It’s also a bit easier on the listener. “Audio is a really low commitment way to consume content,” explains Hunersen. “I can have the audio open in my browser and listen to something like I would a podcast, even if I don’t watch it at the same time on Facebook.”

    Facebook Live Audio has flown a bit under the radar since this announcement, and it’s unclear whether or not it’s actually available to marketers yet — so far, we haven’t seen it used. Plus, Hunersen explains, “It’s supposedly only available on Android” devices.

    But it does present another audio content distribution option for marketers, however: To double a podcast recording as a Facebook Live broadcast.

    How does that work, exactly? Well, perhaps you’ve seen videos of radio hosts broadcasting live videos of themselves in the recording studio, and sharing a visual version of the interviews they’re conducting, for example. Here’s one example of a German radio station that created this kind of content with independent musician Astronautalis:

    While that example might fall into the B2C realm, it can easily be adapted by B2B organizations. It also shows how a Facebook Live stream of your podcast recording or interview can be repurposed as pre-recorded video later on. Film a brief intro from your guest, and follow it with a clip of one of the most interesting moments from the conversation. It also brings up a great way to keep the audience engaged — ask them for questions they’d like to ask your guest in real-time.

    4) Other Spoken Content

    When marketers set out to create content, accessibility isn’t always something that’s top of mind. For individuals with visual impairment, for example, something like an infographic or a flowchart isn’t the most consumable piece of content.

    That’s just one reason why adapting your visual and written content into audio versions can be so valuable. Not only does it create a way to consume what you’ve created in a portable way, but also, you’re making it available to a broader audience.

    It’s like creating audible versions of books, for example — that allows people to enjoy or consume novels or nonfiction when reading isn’t an option, like while driving. B2B marketers can do the same thing with their ebooks and whitepapers. But be certain that it’s still interesting to the listener. There’s nothing less engaging, for example, than a computerized dictation of written content. When you record the spoken versions of this content, make sure it’s read aloud by someone who can bring energy to the words, instead of just reciting them in a monotone fashion.

    Start Talking

    I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited. I feel a newfound motivation to get out there and create something for people to listen to, and I hope you do, too.

    As these examples show, using audio in B2B marketing doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking — it can be as simple or as large-scale as you want, depending on your resources. You can create something completely new, or repurpose what you’ve already got.

    Just remember: Always keep it engaging. And whatever you create, we can’t wait to hear it — we’ll be here, listening.

    How have you used audio in your marketing? Let us know in the comments.

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    Mar

    21

    2017

    What Is Guerrilla Marketing? 7 Examples to Inspire Your Brand

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

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    The word “guerrilla,” in its written form, seems very intense. It conjures images of rebellion and conflict. Put it next to the word “marketing,” and it makes a lot of people ask, “Huh?”

    But guerrilla marketing isn’t some sort of combative form of communication. After all, that would be highly disruptive, which violates the inbound methodology. In fact, it’s actually a very unconventional form of inbound marketing, in that it raises brand awareness among large audiences, without interrupting them.

    Because it’s so unconventional, however, it’s not the easiest concept to explain. Guerrilla marketing is often best understood when it’s observed, so that’s how we’re going to approach its best practices and takeaways here.  Get our

    We’ll start with some basics around where it came from and how it works, followed by an examination of how it’s been carried out successfully.

    What Is Guerrilla Marketing?

    Roots of Warfare

    When we hear the term “guerrilla marketing,” it’s hard not to think of guerrilla warfare — which makes sense, since that’s where this style of marketing got its name. In the warfare context, guerrilla tactics depend largely on the element of surprise. Think: “Ambushes, sabotage, raids,” according to Creative Guerrilla Marketing.

    But how does that translate into the work we do every day? In marketing, guerrilla techniques mostly play on the element of surprise. It sets out to create highly unconventional campaigns that catch people unexpectedly in the course of their day-to-day routines. You’ll see what that looks like in some the examples below.

    The term itself was created in the early 1980s by the late business writer Jay Conrad Levinson, who wrote several books about guerrilla tactics in a number of professional areas. Of course, at that time, marketing in general looked very different, and while guerrilla marketing is still used today, the ever-growing digital landscape is changing what it looks like. Again — you’ll see what that looks like in some of the examples below.

    Budget-Friendly

    What marketers really enjoy about guerrilla marketing is its fairly low-cost nature. The real investment here is a creative, intellectual one — its implementation, however, doesn’t have to be expensive. Michael Brenner summarizes it nicely in his article on “guerrilla content,” where he frames this style of marketing in the same context as repurposing your existing content, like taking certain segments of a report, and expanding each one into a blog post. It’s an investment of time, but not money, per se.

    In a way, guerrilla marketing works by repurposing your audience’s current environment. Evaluate it, and figure out which segments of it can be repurposed to include your brand.

    Types of Guerrilla Marketing

    As niche as it might seem, there are actually a few sub-categories of guerrilla marketing, as outlined by the firm ALT TERRAIN:

    • Outdoor Guerrilla Marketing. Adds something to preexisting urban environments, like putting something removable onto a statue, or putting temporary artwork on sidewalks and streets.

    • Indoor Guerilla Marketing. Similar to outdoor guerrilla marketing, only it takes place in indoor locations like train stations, shops, and university campus buildings.

    • Event Ambush Guerilla Marketing. Leveraging the audience of an in-progress event — like a concert or a sporting game — to promote a product or service in a noticeable way, usually without permission from the event sponsors.

    • Experiential Guerilla Marketing. All of the above, but executed in a way that requires the public to interact with the brand.

    We know — without context, the whole idea of guerrilla marketing can be a little confusing, so let’s see how it’s been executed by a few other brands.

    7 Guerrilla Marketing Examples to Inspire Your Brand

    1) Bounty

    bounty02.jpgSource: TOXEL.COM

    Here’s a fun fact about your neighborhood marketing blogger: I. Spill. Everything. Coffee? Check. Olive oil? You got it. Generally, I am simply a mess, and like to have paper towels nearby at all times.

    Naturally, I couldn’t help but be impressed by this guerilla marketing installment from paper towel company Bounty. By installing life-sized “messes” throughout the streets of New York — a giant, knocked over coffee cup and a gigantic melting popsicle — the brand found a unique way to advertise its product and the solution it provides, with minimal words.

    You might ask, “Wouldn’t a concise billboard ad accomplish the same thing?” Well, not really. Culturally, we’re starting to opt for every possible way to eradicate ads from our lives. That’s why we love things like DVR and ad-free options on streaming services like Hulu and YouTube. This campaign, unlike an ad, isn’t as easy to ignore. After all, if you stumbled upon a melting popsicle the size of your mattress on your way to work, would you stop and look? We would.

    The big takeaway: Identify the biggest problem that your product or service solves. Then, find an unconventional way to broadcast that to the public — preferably without words.

    2) The GRAMMYS

    Okay, this one might not be entirely fair, since it wasn’t pulled off “in real life.” But how cool would it be if it was? To promote the nominees for its Album Of The Year category, the GRAMMYS music awards show created a video to show what would happen if posters for the nominated artists just began singing.

    It might sound impossible to actually carry out something like that. But imagine — what if you could create musical posters for your brand? Again, it’s different than a billboard ad, because when we walk by a wall of paper advertisements in, say, New York City, we don’t expect them to start moving. Now, we’ll admit that this idea isn’t exactly a budget friendly one, as it might require some technical work to bring to fruition. But even if you could include a single moving or digital image among a sea of still ones — in a place where it would come as a surprise, like a brick wall — it would catch people off guard and, therefore, get their attention.

    The big takeaway: Think about the things that your audience might just pass by every day — and make those things do something that’s both unexpected and interactive.

    3) Frontline

    ad-mall-frontline.jpgSource: Marketing Ideas 101

    When I first saw this photo, I’ll admit that I fell for it. “Someone, get that dog away from those flies!” I frantically thought. Then, I realized that the dog wasn’t real, and neither were the flies. The former was a photo, and the latter were actually humans.

    That’s because Frontline, the makers of flea and tick prevention products for dogs, were able to fill the entire floor of this large, public space with this image. The brand knew that many people walk across that space every day, and that a good number of people would also see it from the building’s upper levels, creating the dog-and-insect illusion. It’s hard to miss — and to not look twice.

    Again, this campaign is different than traditional marketing, because it’s not just plastering a single message somewhere that’s likely to be ignored. It creates a form of accidental human interaction that reminds the viewer what the product does.

    The big takeaway: Figure out how humans might involuntarily interact with your marketing messages. While your product or service may not address the issue of, say, insect removal, there are ways to make people part of the campaign.

    4) Burger King

    1487011320-bk.jpgSource: seventeen

    Breaking up is hard to do in person, let alone when it’s publicly played out online. That’s what happened — allegedly — when one Instagram user left a comment on this post sharing a tale of his “girl” procuring food from Burger King. There was just one problem. This guy does have a girlfriend, but she was nowhere near a Burger King. So, who was he referring to? The drama ensued, via Instagram comments:

    BG_IG_Breakup.jpg

    After the comments began to make headlines, many speculated that the entire exchange may have been staged by Burger King. And if it was, we can’t help but salute them — what a way to get your brand into the zeitgeist. Burger King has roughly one million followers on Instagram. Compare that to the 2.1 million followers of its chief competitor, McDonald’s. And while we’re not sure how many followers the former had before this famous breakup, it makes sense to assume that this at least drew more attention to its social media presence, at least on this particular platform. People may have already been observing the brand on Instagram, but before now, were they actively discussing it?

    The big takeaway: Guerrilla marketing has gone digital. Think about where your audience already exists digitally — then, give ’em a show. While we can’t condone lying, we can applaud creativity, so don’t be afraid to use the comments to get people talking.

    5) UNICEF

    I’m as guilty as anyone of wasting money on bottled water. I have no excuse. I have a reusable one. My workplace offers filtered water from a machine, not a traditional cooler, and yet, it remains a bad habit.

    That’s why this guerrilla marketing campaign from relief organization UNICEF resonated with me. It posed the question, “What if those bottles of water you waste money on were filled with dirty water?” It was a way of reminding the privileged masses that in too many parts of the world, entire populations have no access to clean drinking water.

    So instead of frivolously spending that money on bottled water, UNICEF suggested putting it toward efforts to bring clean drinking water to these areas. It did so by creating makeshift vending machines that sold bottled dirty water, with each button labeled as a disease caused by a lack of clean drinking water.

    The big takeaway: Guerrilla marketing works in the not-for-profit sector, too. And while scary, saddening images are often an impactful way of communicating your mission, there’s a way to convey it by creating something less in-your-face and interactive for the public.

    6) GoldToe

    guerrilla-marketing-company-new-york-city.jpgSource: ALT TERRAIN

    Are you an underwear company looking for an unconventional way to market your product? Why, just try placing an enormous pair of briefs on an iconic charging bull statue.

    Really, we can’t make this stuff up.

    It’s so simple, in theory, that it sounds like fiction. But when the GoldToe brand needed a way to tease and promote the launch of its new undergarments, that’s exactly what it did — casually placed these new items of clothing on statues throughout New York. And while we can’t be sure that it’s the route GoldToe took, we sincerely hope that those bull-sized briefs were made with leftover manufacturing fabric, helping to make this campaign even budget-friendlier.

    The big takeaway: Don’t overthink it. Sometimes what looks like your silliest idea might be the best one.

    7) Greene King

    When you make plans to catch up with friends and family, what are the two things around which you inevitably gather? We’ll take a stab at guessing:

    1. Food
    2. Drink

    When pub and brewing company Greene King feared that small, neighborhood establishments — notably, the pub — would start to be overtaken by large corporate retail, it launched a campaign to communicate just how important these local businesses really are. Even better, the content was almost entirely created by those who understand this predicament best: Pub owners, bartenders, and patrons.

    These individuals were given cameras to capture video of the most meaningful moments and gatherings they’ve experienced inside these local pubs — from weddings, to funeral receptions, to birthdays. These videos were shared on Greene King’s YouTube profile and posed the question, “Without these neighborhood meeting places, where would we share these moments?”

    The big takeaway: It’s okay to get a little sentimental with guerilla marketing. Think about the emotions invoked by what you offer. Then, invite your audience to create content around what your brand means to them.

    Guerrillas in the Wild

    Starting to make a little more sense?

    When we set out to write this post, we were disappointed with just one element of it — we found virtually no B2B examples. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible within that sector. It just requires extra creativity.

    Hopefully, you’ll be inspired by these examples, especially if you’re promoting a smaller brand. Don’t be afraid to crowdsource the content for these campaigns, for example — after all, it’s creative approaches to your work that help maintain guerrilla marketing’s budget-friendly, inbound nature. Remember: Catch people where they are, and insert your brand there. Don’t interrupt, but invite them to participate.

    How have you used guerrilla marketing? Let us know in the comments.

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    Mar

    16

    2017

    Good Bots vs. Bad Bots: How to Tell the Difference

    Published by in category Canonical, Inbound Marketing, productivity | Comments are closed

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    Navigating the web these days can make a person feel like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

    There’s so much to be seen here that — until somewhat recently — was fairly unheard of. And we don’t know what’s good or bad. It’s as if we’re constantly coming across a new cast of characters and are forced to ask, “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?”

    Replace the word “witch” with “bot,” and you might be summing up the modern digital landscape. There’s a lot of talk about AI, but it can be confusing. Is it helpful, or harmful? Is it going to make us better at our jobs, or take them away from us? And these bots of which we’re constantly speaking — which are good, and which are bad? Download our free guide to web design here for more tips on designing a  user-friendly website. 

    As it turns out, there are ways of distinguishing them. It requires a bit of a discerning eye, but you certainly don’t need to be an expert — you just need the right information. So, without further ado, allow us to present our tips for distinguishing good bots from bad bots. 

    Good Bots vs. Bad Bots

    The Good Bots

    Copyright Bots

    These bots search the web for content that’s potentially been plagiarized. Think: Illegal uploads, copying someone else’s work without proper attribution, or other improper use of proprietary content. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, these bots are commonly used within the realm of social media, especially where original content creation is a major part of the platform’s use. One prime example is YouTube’s Content ID, which is assigned to copyright owners on the network.

    Data Bots

    According to eZanga, data bots are those that provide up-to-the-minute information on things like news, weather, and currency rates. With that criteria, tools like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Siri could be classified as data bots — especially since eZanga also calls these “media” bots. However, one technology developer, Botler, classifies one of its products as a data bot — “a new way to quickly store and access info that is important.” Its primary use, it appears, is for the academic sector, as it allows course information to be easily shared between students and faculty.

    Botler.pngSource: botler

    Spider Bots

    Think about what a spider does — it crawls. Search engines do the same thing, by crawling the web’s content to produce query results, and using spider bots to do so. Google, for example, has its very own Googlebot, which uses the constantly-evolving Google algorithm to determine which sites to crawl.

    These days, spider bots aren’t limited to search engines. The Siemens Robotics Lab, for example, has developed spider-shaped robots that combine the ability to autonomously perform physical tasks with information-crawling capabilities. How does that work, exactly? Siemens Research Scientist Hasan Sinan Bank explains:

    The robots use onboard cameras as well as a laser scanner to interpret their immediate environment. Knowing the range of its 3D-printer arm, each robot autonomously works out which part of an area – regardless of whether the area is flat or curved – it can cover, while other robots use the same technique to cover adjacent areas.”

    Trader Bots

    These bots might be my favorite. They’re the ones that crawl the web to help you find the best deals on something you might be looking to buy online. eZanga notes that these bots are used by consumers and retailers alike — for the latter, the biggest advantage is their ability to “help inch out the competitor by posting a better price.

    As for the consumer, these bots come to mind with tools like Honey: A browser extension that automatically presents coupons and discount codes when you’re about to initiate a site’s checkout process. Here’s how it works on Amazon, for example:

    HoneyTraderBot.gifSource: botler

    The Bad Bots

    Click Bots

    Each year, Incapsula publishes a Bot Traffic Report, which measures and analyzes the website traffic generated by bots. And in 2016, bad bots accounted for 28.9% of that traffic — outnumbering the good bots by 6%.

    One of those bad bots is often found to be the click bot — the kind that fraudulently click on ads, causing data reported to advertisers to be skewed. But not only does that result in misinformation for marketers, but if you’re using pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, those clicks add up to wasted dollars on fake visits that didn’t even come from humans, let alone your audience.

    Download Bots

    Similar to click bots, download bots also fraudulently game engagement data, but for download counts, instead of website visits. If it sounds familiar, it might be because of a 2012 incident involving Apple, in which many iPhone app developers were using “third-party advertising services guaranteeing top rankings,” according to AdWeek.

    Imposter Bots

    It’s easy to confuse imposter bots with click bots, since the former work by “masking themselves as legitimate visitors,” according to the Incapsula report. But the intention of imposter bots is much more malicious than generating a false clickcount. Instead, their purpose is to bypass online security measures. And of the aforementioned traffic generated in 2016 by bad bots, imposter bots accounted for over 84% of it. They’re often the culprit behind distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks — in fact, you might recall a day in October 2016 when it seemed like half of the internet, including Twitter, stopped working. That was a DDoS attack, and an imposter bot dubbed Mirai was responsible for it.

    bot-report-2016-graph-2.pngSource: Incapsula

    Scraper Bots

    Web scrapers achieve the opposite effect as copyright bots. Rather than protecting proprietary content, scraper bots are designed to steal and repurpose it elsewhere, often unbeknownst to its owner.

    itemeditorimage_55b0075c5aaaa.pngSource: Distil

    Spam Bots

    You would think that spam bots (often spelled “spambot”) have been around long enough that they would have become a thing of the past, like VCRs and the plague. But it seems that they’re just getting smarter, and finding new ways to permeate our lives.

    These are the bots that basically distribute “spammy” content like unwarranted emails, or senseless comments on articles and blog posts. More recently, you’ve probably come across them on social media — one 2015 study found that nearly 8% of Instagram accounts, for example, are actually spambots.

    It’s worth noting that in 2014, Instagram made efforts to purge the network of millions of spam accounts — but people were less than thrilled about it. Even if they weren’t “real,” it seems that many Instagram users were upset to see their followings drastically shrink.

    instagram.0.0.jpgSource: The Verge

    Spy Bots

    Have you ever received an email from a complete stranger, and wondered how that person got your contact information? Maybe the sender got it from someone you know, or is just particularly good at research.

    But it also might be the work of a spy bot, which is the kind that mines data about individuals (or businesses) and often sells it. There’s a reason, after all, why the HubSpot Email Marketing Software prohibits the use of purchased or third-party lists. Emailing people who didn’t ask or expect to be contacted by you completely contradicts the inbound methodology.

    Zombie Bots

    Contrary to what the name might suggest, zombie bots don’t try to eat humans. Rather, they’re the kind that find a way to permeate your computer’s security system, but take it a step further than imposter bots — once they gain access, they operate in the background, often using your computer to transmit viruses and other malware.

    It might begin with one machine, but often this type of bot activity leads to an “army” of zombie bots — a.k.a. a “botnet” — which Cloudbric describes as “a network of zombified sites [that] receive commands from the head zombie, who is likely a spammer, a hacker, or a mercenary.” Many times, the motivation behind this is financial, as these “head zombies” have been known to sell this type of hacked computer access to others, allowing them to use it for similarly malicious distribution.

    But Don’t Be Afraid

    As terrifying as some of these bad bots might sound, don’t let them scare you — there are ways to prevent them from encroaching on your content and technology.

    First, awareness is a good first step. Now that you’ve reviewed the different types of bots out there, you might be able to more easily recognize any potentially harmful activity. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and if you suspect any malicious bot activity, let your network administrator know as soon as possible.

    But try to prevent these attacks before they can even start. Always make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date, and learn more about the security protocols available for your iOS, web hosting platform, or internet service provider.

    What other bots should marketers be aware of? Let us know in the comments.

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    Dec

    7

    2016

    How to Create an Annual Marketing Plan [Free Tool]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    You can find our Free Marketing Plan Generator right here.

    Marketing Plan Generator

    
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