Everything You Need to Know to Start a Retail Business

I worked in three different retail stores while growing up. The most memorable experience I had was working at a clothing store on Cape Cod when I was 18. The store had been recently renovated and looked beautiful — the desk with the cash register was designed to look like it was built from parts of a large fishing boat and the nautical theme continued to the inventory, floors, and gift boxes.

The store manager was also incredible — she was meticulous, caring, a natural problem solver, highly organized, and knew our products inside and out. She trained all employees to ensure we were prepared to assist any customer who entered the store in a way that was helpful and on-brand. My experience working at this store was a prime example of everything a retail business should be.

From your store’s appearance to inventory to the manager you hire, there are a multitude of factors that impact the creation of a prosperous retail business Follow along and we’ll cover the steps you should take to start your retail business, the resources and tools you’ll need to manage your store, and how to find the right employees to work in your store. 

But first, a critical question.

Now that you understand what type of store falls under the definition of a retail business, you might be wondering how to actually go about starting one. Let’s review 11 steps that are critical when beginning your retail business.

Each of these 11 steps should be thoughtfully considered and completed when building your retail business as some are actually federal and state legal obligations. Also, these steps aren’t listed in any specific order so feel free to jump around and work through them in any way that makes sense to you.

1. Create a Business Plan

One of the first things anyone looking to start a business should do is create a business plan. This is the document that details all aspects of your company including what you’ll sell, how your business will be structured, who your target audience is, and your financial information. 

Creating a business plan is crucial because it provides you (and your partners) with a comprehensive overview of your business at once making it easy for you to determine what will or will not work and what needs to be modified. Your business plan should be concise, yet informative and detailed. It’s also important to remember this is a living document, meaning you can always make changes as you start to implement different aspects of your plan.

Discover how to create a business plan to help you kickstart your company.

2. Choose Your Legal Structure

Disclaimer: This post is not legal advice for your company to use when choosing your legal structure or building your retail business. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand these processes. This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy. In a nutshell, you may not rely on any of this piece as legal advice, or as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding. 

When starting a retail business, you’ll have to choose a legal structure. Legal structures are recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and determine which income tax forms you have to complete and submit for your business. Here are five common business legal structures for your consideration:

Learn how to choose the right legal structure for your new business.

3. Name Your Business

Your business’ name should be catchy, easy to say and repeat, unique, and convey meaning. This way you know it’ll resonate with your customers and be memorable.

You should also search the web to ensure it hasn’t been used. To double check your name hasn’t already been taken, you can search for a trademark through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database. If you are beginning a C Corp or an LLC, you’ll need to visit your Secretary of State’s website to ensure your business entity’s name hasn’t already been used. (Here’s what the Massachusetts Secretary of State website looks like for reference.)

4. File for an Employer Identification Number

You’re most likely going to need to file for something called an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, when you start your business. This is an identifier almost every business in the US and US territories — provided by the IRS — must obtain. Your EIN is what your business will use to report income tax activity.

You can check with your state to make sure you need an EIN as well as review the IRS EIN checklist to make sure you qualify. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to apply for your employer identification number.

5. Understand Other Retail Business Laws

One final legal step for you to complete to set up your business — understand all other retail business laws at both the state and federal levels. We’ve covered a lot of the tax information you’ll need to be aware of, how to legally name and trademark your business, and how to file for an EIN. But you’ll also want to make sure you have all other legal matters taken care of before opening up your retail business. 

Every state’s government website should have a section that reads something like “starting a business”, similar to this one from the Massachusetts government site. Here, you’ll be able to work through a checklist of items to make sure everything you’re doing is legal. You’ll also be able to acquire any other necessary retail business papers and permits. In terms of government laws related to your business you should have a general understanding of tax, employment, and labor, antitrust, advertising, environmental, and licensing laws among other retail laws

Our recommendation to you is hire a lawyer or consultant to help you throughout this process — or at least get you started. The last thing you want to do is go through the effort or starting your retail business and then find yourself in legal trouble. A lawyer or consultant can ensure you consider and understand all retail business laws and requirements. 

Now, it’s time to get out of the legal mindset and move onto some more creative aspects of your retail business.

6. Pick a Location and Make Your Store Attractive

Your store’s location and appearance matter. This is how you’re going to make sure you have the foot traffic and visibility you need to kickstart and maintain a high volume of customers. It’s also how you’ll attract customers and make them want to enter your store.

Retail Store Location

If you decide to go with commercial space for your retail business — which is a building intended for stores or companies to conduct business and make a profit — make sure your location is a good one by chatting with other businesses next door and nearby. You can even conduct an informal foot traffic study by hanging out in the area to observe the number of people who shop there as well as the type of clientele to determine whether or not it resembles that of your buyer personas.

When looking at commercial spaces, you should also think about whether or not you want to rent/ lease the space and work with a landlord or buy the space so you have full control. 

Learn how to create buyer personas for your business to enhance your marketing strategy.  

You might decide to conduct your retail business out your of your home rather than a commercial space. While this will save you a lot of money because you won’t be putting any towards a separate building or retail space, it might feel slightly less professional to your customers. It may also be harder to bring in foot traffic depending on the location of your home. 

No matter what type of retail location you choose, be sure to look into your city’s zoning and planning details. These are typically provided by every town’s zoning commission and tell you whether or not changes to the area, such as construction or traffic, will create any problems or limitations for your store.

Retail Store Appearance

From the way your inventory is presented to your choice in cashier counter to your window displays, everything your customers see and experience should feel and look professional, clean, and beautiful. This way customers want to enter your store and feel excited to do business with you. 

You can make your store look great and feel inviting by using visual merchandising techniques to help you design it in a way that’s well-organized, well-lit, and on-brand. You can also hire a consultant to come in and help you lay out your store in a way that’s visually appealing.

7. Find Your Inventory

Finding the right inventory to sell is crucial. You need to give your customers a reason to come to your store by providing them with unique items they’d have a hard time finding anywhere else — especially since online shopping is so common today due to its convenience. To help get you started, you can search for one of a kind items and unique pieces at fairs, trade shows, and festivals

Here are a couple more things to think about when trying to determine how you’ll source your business’ inventory:

Current Trends

Keep up with current trends within your retail niche (clothing, jewelry, accessories, etc.) to determine the type of inventory you should sell. With the help of social media, retail blogs, and magazines, and by simply learning about what’s doing well in other retail stores similar to yours, you’ll be able to determine the ideal inventory for your brand and buyer personas. These resources will ensure there’s a base of customers looking for the type of inventory you’re going to be selling.

Supplier

Consider the type of supplier you want to get your inventory from — this might be through a manufacturer, individual maker, or wholesale.

  • Manufacturer
  • Individual Maker
  • Wholesale

Working with a manufacturer gives you a lot of flexibility because they help you create products that don’t already exist. Although you can determine the design, quality, and look of the product you crate, this also means working with a manufacturer can become expensive and time-consuming. 

Individual makers are people who create unique pieces of inventory themselves. An example of this would be someone in town who makes knit scarves and hats and sells them to you to then sell in your store. This is a great way to ensure your store has one of a kind pieces. It also means you’ll have to take the time to find talented makers who create quality items that are on-brand and would appeal to your buyer personas. 

Using wholesalers is a great option if you want to sell products in your store that are already being sold by other stores and online retailers. You’ll receive wholesale items directly from the company that makes them for a lower price but you’ll have less say when it comes to your selling margins, as the wholesaler will have control over them.

8. Create Store Policies and Procedures

Creating store policies and procedures for your customers and employees is critical if you want to maintain a sense of order within your retail business. Policies and procedures between your business and customers may include things like your return and exchange policies or whether not you want to allow pets in your store. Policies and procedures between your business and employees may include things like dress code and scheduling expectations.

By creating these store policies and procedures you avoid making customers and employees feel confused about the way something works within your business or at your store. This also helps you set standards for the way you want people to interact with your business on a regular basis.

9. Develop a Customer Service Plan

When starting your retail business, you’ll want to think about how you’re going to develop a customer service plan. Customer service is how you help your customers solve problems, teach them how to use your products, and answer their questions. Your customer service plan details the ways you’re going to do this. Customer service work is proactive. Meaning the point of developing a customer service plan and related policies is to solve for your customer’s problem prior to them even realizing they have an issue.

Let’s cover a few ways you can implement a customer service plan for your retail business through customer-friendly policies, employee training, and customer-loyalty programs.

Customer-Friendly Policies

By creating customer-friendly policies, you’ll make shopping at your retail store simple and stress-free for your customers. For example, you can can create return policies that allow your customers to bring an item back for a full refund with or without a receipt.

Other policies that prevent pain points and enhance customer service include a 100% satisfaction guarantee or complimentary hemming when you buy a piece of clothing in store.

Employee Training

You should train your employees about how to handle different situations with your customers such as exchanges, complaints, and refunds. Training will provide your employees with the exact steps they should take to ensure a professional interaction with your customers that resolves the issue at hand.

Your customer service training should also cover how you expect your employees to deal with larger customer issues and disputes. Provide them with a way to escalate an issue to you — or your store manager — when they’re unable to reach a resolution that satisfies your customer on their own.

Customer Loyalty Program

By proactively providing an incentive for people to return to your store with a customer loyalty program, you’ll likely increase your sales and number of promoters (the people who tell their network about your business). You also enhance their experience doing business with your business as well because you’ll be providing them with discount codes, details about sales, information about your latest products, and any other exciting event or piece of news you have to share.

10. Recruit a Team of Employees

It’d be difficult to grow your retail business without bringing on some team members. You may start as your sole employee, but as your business flourishes you’ll likely need some assistance. You can determine the most important qualities you’re going to look for in candidates, whether they’re related to personality, prior retail experience, or culture-fit. Then you can select and tailor specific retail interview questions to help you narrow down your pool of candidates. (We’ll cover more details about which skills you should look for in your candidates shortly.)

11. Host a Grand Opening

You might choose to have a grand opening for your retail store. This marks the date in which you are officially open for business. Grand openings may include celebratory beverages, food, and sale items to excite your new customers.

Prior to your grand opening, you might also have a soft launch, or soft opening, for your business. Soft launches are when you, the business owner, invite a group of guests to your store to essentially test everything out. These events are a great way to make sure everything works perfectly before your grand opening — meaning this is your last chance to ensure your customers love your inventory, your store is appealing to your guests, and your everything in your store, such as your POS system, functions perfectly. 

You’ve officially worked through all 11 steps required to build your own retail business — congrats! Now, you’ll need to create your retail marketing strategy.

Every retail business should have a retail marketing strategy — this will serve as the marketing plan you’ll use to promote your business. It’ll be the way you get the word out about your business and help you build your base of customers and promoters. Here are six steps to work through when creating your retail marketing strategy.

1. Define your positioning.

Defining your positioning is a critical part of your marketing strategy. That’s because your positioning is what makes your retail business stand out and differ from your competitors. Think about what it is that makes your business unique and use those details to define your positioning. This might be where or how you source your inventory, how you display all of the items in your store, or your impeccable end to end customer service experience.

2. Define your audience.

Once you define your positioning, you should be able to get a better idea of the audience you’re going after. Think about what type of consumer would appreciate your positioning, the products you sell, and how you sell them. By clearly defining your audience, you’ll be able to create buyer personas to help you develop a steady customer base and understand their wants and needs. 

Learn how to create buyer personas for your business with easy to use templates.

3. Create your mission statement.

Your mission statement is another critical part of both your retail marketing strategy and your business as a whole. It’s a formally written statement explaining your business’ goals and values — it essentially explains the reason why your business exists, the purpose it serves its audience, and how it differs from competitors. Your mission statement is what you and your employees can turn to when you need guidance or inspiration, and it’s what your customers can turn to when they want to learn about who you really are as a business and brand. And if you need some help envisioning what yours should say, you can always review mission statement examples from other companies. 

Naturally, as your company evolves and grows, the details of your mission statement may also shift. That’s alright because your mission statement is a living document, meaning it can (and should) be updated over time as you see fit.

4. Decide on your branding.

Your retail business’ branding should feel like a combination of your audience and mission statement. Meaning you should think about what type of branding your chosen audience will respond well to and how it’ll help you represent and depict your company’s goals and values. 

You should study the branding of your competitors to ensure yours stands out and looks unique to your customers. Lastly, make sure your branding is memorable — you want someone to look at any piece of your marketing and know it’s yours.

5. Think about your content marketing strategy.

A great retail marketing strategy includes a content marketing plan. This consists of media you create for your retail business such as written and visual content. A comprehensive content marketing strategy will help you establish a strong online presence and promote your business

For example, a common way to establish an online presence through content marketing is via social media. Social media marketing allows you to promote your business through various platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Once you determine the different aspects of your content marketing strategy, you’ll want to ensure you plan and schedule all of that great content you’ve just created.

Content marketing schedule

Once you have developed your content marketing strategy, you’ll need to make sure the actual content you’ve created is posted, distributed, and shared when you want it to be. Create a content marketing schedule that you and your team can work from to ensure all content is shared as planned.

There are a number of different content marketing scheduling software options, such as CoSchedule, to help you do this. Depending on your business’ needs, you may also choose to use a much broader marketing automation software such as HubSpot, or a more specific social media automation software such as Hootsuite. These software options speed up the scheduling process, ensure your content is shared on time and as planned, and allow you to dedicate employees to certain content.

6. Decide on your budget.

You’ll need to set a marketing strategy budget to work within when developing all of these different pieces to your plan. Think about how much money you want to put towards each of these steps so everyone on your team is aware of the parameters they’ll need to work within. 

When determining your budget, you might find that you’re a bit limited to the amount you can put towards each of these retail marketing strategy steps simply because you’re a new business with fewer resources. That’s alright and totally expected — just remember to expand your budget when necessary as your business grows. 

To help get you started, you can consider the following recommendation regarding marketing strategy budgets by the US Small Business Administration: If you’re doing less than $5 million a year in sales and your net profit range is 10-12%, spend 7-8% of your gross revenue for marketing and advertising. 

Now that you’ve worked through the steps to building your retail business from the ground up and have a better understanding about how you can approach the creation of your retail marketing plan, let’s discuss some of the resources and software you’ll need to run your retail business.

Resources and Software Every Retail Business Needs

The following six resources and software are tools often used by retail businesses. As you start planning your business, you may think of more tools you’ll need depending on the retail business you’re opening. The following list will get you started most likely need to be modified for your store needs.

1. POS System

One of the most important tools you’ll need to run your retail business is a point of sales system or POS. 

A point of sales system is a software that allows you to conduct customer checkouts and accept multiple forms of payment such as cash, credit cards, and mobile payments. The software also prints receipts, scans inventory barcodes, and stores cash. There are a number of retail-focused point of sales systems to choose from to help you manage all of your customer transactions which we’ll discuss shortly. Without a POS system, it would be exceptionally time-consuming and difficult to keep track of all of your sales and payments.

Here are some POS systems for retail businesses to help kickstart your search for the perfect one for your business: 

You may also want an inventory management software for your retail business. This will keep track of all information about your inventory to understand which items you need to replenish and how often you need to do so. These days, many POS systems, including the five we just listed, have inventory management systems built into them so you may not need to worry about finding another software.

2. Stock Keeping Units

Typically, retail businesses will have some type of stock keeping unit, or SKU, system to keep track of every single piece of inventory they have. A SKU — which is typically located alongside an item’s barcode — is a combination of numbers and letters used to identify and organize each piece of your inventory by characteristics such as size, color, and brand. 

what-is-a-sku

Source

Instead of having to come up with your own SKU, POS systems with included inventory management capabilities also have SKU creation features.

4. Retail Blogs

Every business owner needs inspiration every now and then. Retail blogs are a great way for you to keep up with the latest retail trends and learn about what is and isn’t working well for other similar businesses. Retail blogs, such as The Retail Doctor and Medallion Retail, are focused on topics including growth, industry trends, new software, and in-store business vs. online business.

6. Employee Scheduling Software

As your retail business grows, you’ll most likely find yourself adding members to your team. Managing any number employees — and their schedules — is simple with an employee scheduling software, such as Ximble or TSheets, which allows you to organize and update your business schedule so your employees know exactly when to show up for work. 

Now that you have a better understanding about the resources and tools you’ll need to start your retail business, let’s talk about how you’re going to find the right employees to work in your store.

What to Look For In a Retail Employee Candidate

Who are the people that are going to help you grow your business? What traits should your employees possess to ensure they’ll be impactful additions to your store? Let’s cover some of these important characteristics to help you identify candidates who will be quality employees.

Communication Skills

Retail employees need to be great communicators — they’re interacting with your customers every day. They must be able to communicate details about your inventory to help them find the items they’re looking for. If someone calls your business with a question or issue, they’ll need to communicate their answer or provide a solution. Lastly, your employees need to be able to communicate with you about things such as their schedule and how their experiences with your customers are going.

Positive Personality

Whether your employees are chatting with your customers in person or online, about a topic that’s good or bad, your employees need to maintain a positive attitude. They act as the face of your brand and you want them to represent your business well. So, hiring people with a positive, can-do attitude that’s ready to tackle any situation that may arise — even if it’s a complex and involves an unhappy customer — is important.

Patience

You’re bound to have an unsatisfied customer at one point in time. Your employees must be patient as they listen to the issue in which the customer describes. They also need to be patient while working with that customer to find a solution. Otherwise, it’d be difficult for your employees to turn your customer’s negative experience around.

Empathy

Empathy is feeling and understanding another’s emotions. Whether a customer is in a rush, has to purchase a sympathy gift, or is unhappy with an item of yours, your employees must be empathetic. This is how they’ll find a solution that fits the needs of the given customer. Empathy is what will help turn a customer’s negative experience into a positive one so they’ll continue doing business with you in the future.

Dependability

Whether you have one employee or 10, they need to be dependable. You depend on your employees to represent your business, work hard to delight your customers, be professional and kind, and simply show up to work (on time, of course) when scheduled.

Prior Retail Experience

Requiring your employees to have prior retail experience is up to your discretion. You may choose to focus on personality traits and culture fit instead of work history. However, if you do want employees with prior experience, you could look for candidates who have worked in other stores before or even have an education in fashion, design, or communications.

Start Selling

Starting a retail business is hard work. But, by following the steps we discussed, you can make it happen. Remember there are a lot of moving parts that come with starting a retail business that may change, such as your business plan and mission statement, as you begin putting your ideas into action. Start by obtaining the right resources and tools and hiring the right people to help you start growing your retail business.

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22 Striking Examples of Minimal Design That’ll Kickstart Your Creative Process

Whether you’re curating an Instagram feed or designing a web page, there are plenty of advantages to minimalist design.

Rather than bogging your audience down with vibrant patterns or paragraphs of text, a minimalist approach allows you to focus on a few key components of your brand you feel are truly important.

However, minimalist isn’t as simple as white space. To avoid creating boring or uninspiring designs in your attempt to become minimalist, it’s critical you take a look at some successful examples of minimal design, ranging from posters to logos, to kickstart your creative process.

Minimalist Graphic Design

1. Braga Da Cruz

These Braga Da Cruz jewelry store business cards, designed by Luke Halota, are a good example of how minimalism can help brand name stand out on the page. Halota uses grids to center the company name on one side, with a small, unobtrusive logo placed above. On the back, he makes sure to use simple white space to make Francisco Cruz the focal point.

2. Visme

Minimalism doesn’t have to be boring. Here, Visme created a pop-up ad where the primary focus remains on the “Join us!” blue button, which contrasts nicely against the orange background. Additionally, to grab the viewer’s attention, Visme placed a large lion’s head image on the left side of the ad.

3. Heather Shaw Book Design

Heather Shaw ensures true simplicity in her Ocean Conservancy book, which grabs the reader’s attention with minimal text and colors. The information is plainly outlined and easy-to-follow. Additionally, there’s a lightly outlined sketch of an ocean behind the text — while not overbearing, it adds texture to the design.

4. Helix Sleep by Stefanie Brückler

These Helix Sleep referral cards look both sleek and helpful. Stefanie Brückler uses contrasting colors and clean font to ensure the cards can do their jobs without seeming unoriginal.

5. Pixite by Peter Komierowski

On his page, Komierowski explains, “I was asked by Pixite to create a set of nature-inspired shapes for their app Fragment.” Ultimately, his design is aesthetically-pleasing and fun, with simple, cohesive lines that form the shape of a fox.

6. Mastercard by Pentagram

One of the most iconic minimalist designs, Mastercard’s financial design is undoubtedly a staple of the brand. The simple red and orange circles signify connectedness and seamlessness. The circles are recognizable enough that Mastercard can use the icon in place of any brand text, and still convey its ownership.

Minimalist Web Design

1. Huge Inc.

Huge Inc.’s homepage is clean and polished, with minimal text to ensure a new viewer doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the page. Additionally, the small details — like the black that appears in the logo as well as the second half of realtor.com, and the small jagged line in the bottom right corner — signify a sense of cohesiveness.

2. Bedow

Bedow, a Stockholm-based design studio, knows its viewers priorities, and thus doesn’t waste time with a busy homepage — instead, they include a short blurb about their studio, and then leave a section of white space before displaying some of their designs.

3. Reducing the Obvious

One of the more simple designs in the list, Reducing the Obvious’s design is compelling and mysterious, with little information displayed on the homepage. However, the page is still helpful and inviting, with a small “Use buttons to navigate!” command in the bottom left.

4. Jorgeriera Flores

Jorgeriera Flores’ page is fun and inviting, with a blinking, life-like design and a clean navigation bar. Additionally, the creature’s nose serves as a “J”, demonstrating Flores’ attention-to-detail.

5. Design Co.

Oftentimes, minimalist design enables a brand to convey its purpose more powerfully than it could with a busier page. Design Co., for instance, is able to capture the viewer’s attention with its compelling message — spreading the creative spirit across 7,107 islands — by ensuring its background, while colorful, is devoid of distracting add-ons. Additionally, the small white logo serves to reinforce their main point.

6. Evoulve

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 2.21.14 PM

It’s impossible to see a page like this and not find yourself curious to explore further. Evoulve does a good job expressing a sense of innovation and sleekness — with its world-icon and bright, futuristic design — without needing any additional text or imagery to compel the user to explore further.

7. Tim Brack

Brack’s use of white space and overlapping elements serves to create a clean and inviting homepage. Additionally, the photo of himself with a pig highlights a sense of playfulness and humor, and you’re able to obtain most relevant information — including Tim’s title as art director — instantly, without any distraction.

8. Tinker

Minimalism is often accomplished best when a brand knows exactly why a visitor might come across their website. In this case, Tinker understands its viewers are looking to browse and potentially purchase a watch, so it aims its design-elements to drive attention toward that single purpose.

9. ETQ Amsterdam

The close-up of the shoe offers a new viewpoint, making ETQ’s homepage intriguing and original even in its simplicity. Additionally, the small white font looks simple and clean against the photo background.

Minimalist Logo Design

1. UBAR

The bold block text and black-and-white contrast lends itself well to Simon McWhinnie’s UBAR design. The simplicity allows the text to dominate the logo and evokes a sense of power and strength.

2. Cloud Bed by Michael Spitz

If you have one product you sell well, why complicate it? This logo, designed by Michael Spitz, communicates the brand’s product — bedding — without text. Additionally, it’s clean and calming, particularly with the use of light blue and white, which ensures a sense of calmness for the viewer.

3. Varnom Ross by Bibliothèque

Varnom Ross’s logo is bold, powerful, and striking. Additionally, the replicated box shape around the Varnom, used again as the “o” in Ross, signifies a sense of cohesiveness.

4. The Row Apartment Homes by PurdyLogo

This logo looks retro and funky, but it uses plenty of white space, as well as white lines within the letters, to maintain simplicity. Additionally, the colors work well together, ensuring “Row” stands out most prominently in the logo.

Minimalist Poster Design

1. Miselu

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 2.30.44 PM

Miselu’s graphic design undoubtedly supports the notion that less is more. On their page, Miselu explains the design as “simultaneously edgy, approachable, and clearly expresses our core business: music”. Ultimately, these posters, along with their other designs, reinforce their core products while remaining simple enough to be adaptable as their brand changes over time.

2. Ilmars Rumpeters

Ilmars Rumpeters created multiple simple covers for Jauna Gaita magazine, and this one in particular stands out as attention-grabbing and bold, with its vibrant colors and intriguing font. With minimalism, you want your focus to be on one or two elements — in this case, Rumpeters succeeded in drawing primary attention to the apple, and then to the magazine title itself.

3. Paul Rand

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 2.39.15 PM

Paul Rand, a famous logo creator and graphic designer, created this poster to advertise the International Design Conference in Aspen, 1966. Ultimately, the piece is intriguing and complex even in its minimalism, causing viewers to likely pause and wonder over the significance of the black splatters or egg-shape in the background.

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Author: Caroline Forsey

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The 9 Best Marketing Articles of All Time, According to HubSpot’s Marketing Team

One of the best ways to tell if a show or movie is worthwhile is if people never get tired of re-watching it. Whether it’s the hit television show Friends or the classic movie Forrest Gump, most people never turn down an opportunity to watch Ross pivot his couch or witness Forrest develop into a ping pong celebrity — even if they’ve already watched it 27 times. 

Content marketing is in its infancy compared to television and film, but some of the best writers and publications in our industry have already crafted articles that we revere as the Friends or Forrest Gump of the space.

To pinpoint some of these articles and share them with you, I asked nine marketers at HubSpot what their favorite marketing article is and why. Check out the ones they read on repeat.

1. What Creativity Looks Like in Marketing Today | Harvard Business Review

Recommended By: Caroline Forsey, Staff Writer at HubSpot, Marketing Blog

Why She Loves It:

“It’s tricky to choose a single marketing article as my favorite, but the one that has had a lasting impression on me is HBR’s ‘What Creativity in Marketing Looks Like Today’. Mark Bonchek and Cara France do a great job distilling the wisdom of senior marketing executives from dozens of top brands, varying from Old Navy to OpenTable. One of my favorite lines is this one — ‘People are the new channel. The way to amplify impact is by inspiring creativity in others’. Ultimately, I’m a fan of anything HBR, and this piece in particular is a good one to check out if you want to learn more about what top brands are doing to stand out in the industry today.”

2. SEO Is Back. Thank God. | New York Magazine – Intelligencer

Recommended By: Braden Becker, Senior Staff Writer at HubSpot, Historical Optimization

Why He Loves It:

“This article took a brilliant position on search engine optimization (SEO) and how search engines have stood the test of time as new channels break into a marketer’s arsenal. Lots of articles assert the importance of SEO, but few of them consider the implications sites like Google have on how the public finds, consumes, and expects to see information online. The piece boldly defends the positive role ranking algorithms play in an industry that is often saturated with manipulation and clickbait. It’s something both consumers and marketers can learn from, and I gained a ton of respect for New York Magazine after reading this.”

3. ‘We want these platforms to be healthy’: Why top marketers won’t quit Facebook after 2018 scandals | Digiday

Recommended By: Amanda Zantal-Wiener, Senior Staff Writer at HubSpot, News & Trends

Why She Loves It:

“As someone who lives a ‘double life’ as a marketer and a tech writer, I found this article both intriguing and valuable. It explores Facebook’s rocky year from an interesting lens: one that’s of interest to those who live in the trenches of the tech industry and those who cover it alike. Throughout 2018, I studied and reported on the consumer sentiment toward and use of Facebook, despite these events. But it’s important to ask an audience of marketers and growth companies the same questions. This article does a great job of that.”

4. How to Become a Customer Acquisition Expert | Brian Balfour

Recommended By: Christina Perricone, Content Marketing Strategist at HubSpot

Why She Loves It:

“Marketing has expanded into a field with countless designations — simply calling yourself a marketer is no longer a sufficient response to the question, ‘What do you do?’ Balfour explains how to build yourself into an indispensable, T-shaped marketer by layering your skills as you progress. This evergreen piece teaches us that marketers are experimenters, risk takers, and problem solvers, proving that nearly anyone has the propensity to be successful in this field if they have the patience to build and stick to a plan. It’s a gem for any marketer who is struggling to determine their path.”

5. An Incomplete Guide to Inclusive Language for Startups and Tech | Buffer

Recommended By: Karla Cook, Editor & Team Manager at HubSpot, Marketing Blog

Why She Loves It:

“This is article is a must-read for anyone who creates content. It’s a reminder that the seemingly inconsequential choices we make about language on a daily basis actually hold a lot of power. Creating content with inclusive language in mind can seem tricky or even silly to some (especially when the word choices seem minor), but this article poses the question: why not just try?”

6. Why Marketing Analytics Hasn’t Lived Up to Its Promise | Harvard Business Review

Recommended By: Josh Chang, Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot, Analytics & Paid Acquisition

Why He Loves It:

“I love this article because while everyone knows marketing analytics is important, HBR illustrates the many challenges of doing marketing analytics right so that it has a significant impact on the overall business. Many companies suffer from having too much data and not knowing what to do with it. But if you have the right data, systems, processes, and people in place, you can better ensure that marketing analytics isn’t wasted and has a tangible and positive impact.”

7. 4 Lessons We’ve Learned, Sometimes the Hard Way, About Inclusive Marketing | Think With Google

Recommended By: Sammi Kim, Associate Marketing Manager at HubSpot, Leadership Rotational Program

Why She Loves It:

“Written by the SVP of Global Marketing at Google, this article speaks to the importance of inclusive marketing. I was impressed by how the first lesson was that the diversity among marketers at Google directly impacted their marketing campaigns. And based on the article’s third lesson on the importance of excluding stereotypes from marketing campaigns, I strongly believe that having diverse marketing teams will help run more nuanced, empathetic campaigns.”

8. Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company | Medium – Startups

Recommended By: Nate Medina, Associate Marketing Manager at HubSpot, Leadership Rotational Program

Why He Loves It:

“I love this article because it tells the intimate story of a founder who had ambitious dreams, but ultimately, didn’t pan out the way he expected. In the pursuit of trying to create a billion dollar company, however, he learned that success isn’t just about money. It’s about creating something you’re truly interested in rather than something that you chase revenue with.”

9. The Strange Thing That Happens In Your Brain When You Hear a Good Story — And How to Use It to Your Advantage | HubSpot Marketing Blog

Recommended By: Clifford Chi, Junior Staff Writer at HubSpot, Marketing Blog

Why I Love It:

Don’t worry, this isn’t a shameless plug of one of my blog posts or even of HubSpot. Last year, Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, marketing executives at Contently, wrote a book called The Storytelling Edge and they promoted it by releasing one of the book’s chapters on our marketing blog.

Anyways, this is my favorite marketing article because it uses neuroscience to prove that storytelling is much more than a trendy buzzword. In their excerpt, Joe and Shane weave in compelling psychological and neurological evidence into a narrative about how storytelling is the best way to capture people’s attention, bake information into their brains, and forge close, personal bonds. And in an industry where 5% of branded content attracts 95% of attention, their article makes you realize that content marketers can’t just write listicles and ultimate guides anymore. We must tell gripping stories.

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3 Easy Ways You Can Speed Up a Video

Transitions are arguably the most important element of any piece of creative work. Whether it’s an article or video, engaging someone throughout its entirety requires you to elegantly weave your individual ideas and thoughts together into a cohesive narrative. Otherwise, if you abruptly hop from one point to another, you’ll throw your audience off and confuse them, increasing the likelihood that they’ll disengage with your work.

If you’re a video editor, you know that one of the most common and effective transitions when creating videos is shooting a clip in slow motion, and then speeding up the ending during post-production. To show you how to do this, we’ve put together a guide that fleshes out three easy ways you can speed up a video and, in turn, craft engaging transitions in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Discover videos, templates, tips, and other resources dedicated to helping you  launch an effective video marketing strategy. 

1. Use the Speed/Duration command in Adobe Premiere Pro.

If you want to use the Speed/Duration command in Adobe Premiere Pro to speed up one of your videos, follow the instructions below.

1. In your Timeline Panel or Project Panel, select one or multiple clips.

2. Click “Clip” and then choose “Speed/Duration”.

Image Credit: Adobe

3. Change your clip speed to your desired percentage. The higher your percentage, the shorter the duration of your clip will be.

4. To keep your clip’s audio at its original pitch, click “Maintain Audio Pitch”.

2. Use the Rate Stretch tool in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Premiere Pro’s Rate Stretch tool adjusts your clip’s duration by altering the clip’s speed so the entire clip fits within the desired duration, no matter how much you shorten it. To use this tool to speed up one of your clips, follow the instructions below.

1. Click on the Rate Stretch tool

2. Shorten your clip by dragging either edge of it in toward the middle of your clip. This will speed it up.

Image Credit: Adobe

3. Use the Time Remapping tool in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Time Remapping is another tool in Adobe Premiere Pro that you can use to speed up one of your video clips. To do this, follow the instructions below.

1. Right-click on your clip, select “Show Clip Keyframes”, “Time Remapping”, and then “Speed”.

2. After you do this, the clip will be shaded blue and a horizontal line will appear across it. To increase the speed of your clip, drag the line up toward the top. The change in speed will be displayed as a percentage of your clip’s original speed. Time Remapping doesn’t alter your clip’s audio.

Image Credit: Adobe

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How to Change Twitter Handle

These days, Twitter is often used as another channel for professional connection — for instance, if you’re a freelance writer, you might use Twitter to gain a following and allow readers to engage with you.

Alternatively, as a business, you likely use Twitter for many of your marketing purposes — in fact, 75% of B2B businesses use Twitter as a part of their marketing strategy.

But what if your Twitter username, otherwise known as handle, is “crfx14” or “catlover22”? (You know … just as a random example … )

If you feel your Twitter handle doesn’t appropriately represent you in 2019, there’s an easy fix. Here, we’ll show you how to change your Twitter handle, as well as how to change it on Twitter’s Mobile App.

Disclaimer: If you change your username, your followers will see a new username next to your profile — but it won’t necessarily affect your existing followers, Direct Messages, or replies. You’ll want to alert your followers so they know to Direct Message or reply to your new username.

Click here to access a free Twitter for Businesses kit.

1. Go to “Settings and privacy” from your profile icon drop-down menu.

2. Under Account, click the text box beside “Username” and type a new username in the space. If the username is taken, Twitter will prompt you to make a new one. If the username is available, you’ll see a green “Available!” notification.

3. Click “Save changes” at the bottom of the screen.

How to Change Your Twitter Handle on Twitter’s Mobile App

1. Within the mobile app, click on your profile icon and then select “Settings and privacy”.

2. Click “Account”.

3. Click “Username”.

4. Under “New”, type in a new Twitter handle. If you need help, Twitter provides a list of suggestions for alternative handles.

 
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10 Impressive Ways to Start a Cover Letter [+ Examples]

According to Addison Group, only 18% of employers rank cover letters as important.

But if you had to flip through a hundred cover letters a day, and each one began, “To whom it may concern, I am applying for the digital marketing position at your company,” how important would you rank them?

A cover letter might not always be the most important thing to a hiring manager, but if your resume or connections aren’t enough to get you through the door, a powerful cover letter could be the what gets you an interview.

For instance, a hiring manager might only read your cover letter if your resume raised questions about why you’re applying for the position, or why you’re leaving your current role. In these cases, your cover letter can be a crucial factor in whether or not you move forward in the hiring process.

Use these free cover letter templates to save time.

Your cover letter is an opportunity to showcase your personality, display your interest in the job, and include relevant information that otherwise wouldn’t be surfaced in your application. But there’s a fine line between standing out and coming across as brash or gimmicky. An ideal cover letter leaves the hiring manager with a positive and memorable impression of you, something a resume alone won’t always do.

So, where do you begin when writing a cover letter? More specifically, where should your beginning begin? Recruiters read a ton of cover letters — especially if the company is growing quickly and hiring non-stop. What does this mean for you? You need to get their attention right away. To help you overcome writer’s block, and hook your reader right away, take a look at some sharp opening sentences you can use for inspiration.

Read on to find out eight ways to grab an employer’s attention with an exceptional cover letter introduction.

How to Start a Cover Letter

1. Start with humor.

Employers are humans too, and they’ll often appreciate a good joke, pun, or funny opening line as much as the next person. If done tastefully and respectfully, starting your cover letter off with a joke can be an excellent way to stand out.

Plus, a joke can still include a powerful explanation for why you’re the right person for the job, without coming off as boastful. For instance, think about something you love to do or something you’re really good at, and then imagine how friends or family might make a joke about it — if you’re really good at analyzing data, for example, a joke or pun related to that might be a good way to exemplify both your skills and personality.

Here’s a good example of using humor to bring attention to your skills, from The Muse (you’ll notice this is one of our picks for most creative opening lines, earlier in this article):

“I considered submitting my latest credit card statement as proof of just how much I love online shopping, but I thought a safer approach might be writing this cover letter, describing all the reasons why I’m the girl who can take Stylight’s business to the next level.”

Right away, the personality displayed here grabs the reader’s attention. Even better, this applicant uses humor to convey an important message to the employer — she loves shopping, and she’s well-versed in ecommerce as a consumer — which might’ve otherwise not come up on her resume or phone screening.

2. Start with passion.

For an employer to know you’ll stay dedicated to the role and company, they’ll want to ensure you’re passionate about what the job entails. Passion is more incentivizing than a paycheck.

For an employer, demonstrating how your passion matches the required skillset is a promising sign that you’d enjoy your job — if you enjoy your job, you’re more likely to stick around longer, help drive company growth, and become a dedicated member of the team.

Consider starting your cover letter with a few lines that showcase your passion: “I’ve been passionate about writing since I was ten years old. My love for writing has led me to write two personal travel blogs, get published in a local newspaper, and pursue two summer internships at publishing firms. Now, I’d love the opportunity to combine my writing skills with my interest in storytelling as a content marketer at Company A.”

If you don’t have extensive work experience in the industry you’re trying to break into, but you’ve been unofficially preparing for years, let the employer know. In the above example, the candidate’s resume would probably look weak, with only internships indicating professional experience. Her cover letter introduction, however, shows the employer she’s been writing for audiences and advancing her natural ability for years.

3. Start with an accomplishment.

Employers like seeing numbers. It isn’t enough to mention you’re a “digital marketer with proven success in SEO strategies.” Proven success? Okay, can we see?

It’s more powerful to provide statistics. You want to show the employer you’re capable of solving for long-term results. How have you contributed to your company’s bottom line? For instance, did your Facebook marketing campaign grow your social media following, or has your blog content increased organic traffic?

Consider starting your cover letter with something like this: “Over the past year as digital marketing manager at Company A, I’ve generated $30k+ in revenue, increased organic traffic to our blog by 14%, and almost tripled our social media ROI.”

Even if you don’t have the work experience to report impressive numbers, you can still offer proof when opening with an accomplishment. Think about the qualitative feedback you’ve received from employers. For instance, how would your boss compliment you or tell you you’re doing a good job? An accomplishment can be as simple as your boss sending you an appreciative email regarding your diligent meeting notes.

In this example from The Muse, the applicant provides an example of a skill for which he’s been previously acknowledged: “My last boss once told me that my phone manner could probably diffuse an international hostage situation. I’ve always had a knack for communicating with people — the easygoing and the difficult alike — and I’d love to bring that skill to the office manager position at Shutterstock.”

Even though the applicant doesn’t offer numbers as proof of success, they do manage to highlight some proof of their past performance in the form of a former boss’s praise. The candidate’s candid and funny explanation — that his last boss liked his phone manners — is another good way to brag about accomplishments without, well, bragging.

4. Start with excitement for the company.

Employers want to know why you like their company, and they’ll appreciate an explanation on why you’re interested. But it’s imperative your reasoning is thoughtful and considerate, and specific to the company. For instance, if you’re applying for a financial position, don’t write about your interest in finance; write about how your interest in finance relates to the company’s goals.

You don’t want to just say, “I’m excited to work at Company A because I’m passionate about finance, and I think my skills and experiences will be a good match.” Sure, you’ve explained why you want to work in the financial industry, but you’ve done nothing to explain why Company A specifically suits your interests.

Instead, you’ll want to mention something about the company and culture in correlation to your interest in finance. Take a look at this example from Glassdoor: “When I discovered Accounting Solutions was hiring, I knew I had to apply. I’ve been waiting to find a company where I feel like I can make a difference while working as an accountant. Not only are your clients awesome, but the overall mission of your company is something I believe in, too.”

This candidate shows they’ve done their research and care about Accounting Solutions in particular. Remember, employers want to hire people who have a demonstrated interest in working at their company. They want someone who will enjoy the nature of the work, but just as importantly, they want a candidate who enjoys the work culture and the company mission as well.

5. Start with news about the company.

Mentioning company news in your introduction indicates you’ve done research on the company. Plus, including company news might give you the chance to incorporate your own values, as well. If the company just won an award for its innovative solutions in the computer industry, for instance, you might add how you value forward-thinking methods in technology, as well.

Here’s an example of an introduction that uses a newsworthy event, from Indeed: “When I saw that Company ABC was featured in Fortune Magazine last month for its commitment to renewable energy and reducing waste in the workplace — all while experiencing triple-digit revenue growth — I was inspired. With my track record of reducing costs by 30%+ and promoting greener workplaces, I’m excited about the possibility of taking on the account executive role to expand your company’s growth and work towards a more sustainable future.”

The candidate does a good job demonstrating how Company ABC’s news aligns well with the candidate’s personal achievements. She shows she’s done her research on the company, and also indicates she values similar environmental efforts in the workplace.

6. Start with what they don’t know.

According to one seasoned hiring manager, a cover letter that begins, “I am writing to apply for [open position] at [name of company]” is grounds for nearly instant rejection. Of course you’re applying for this job — why waste your lede with something so boring and obvious?

Your cover letter should never directly state what they already know — or restate what’s already listed on your resume. Instead, start your cover letter by offering something new, expanding on what the employer already knows about you, and presenting new details about what you can bring to the company. Impress employers by telling them something about your skills or experiences they don’t already know.

To offer new information not displayed on his resume, one of my colleagues at HubSpot wrote this cover letter introduction: “My resume will tell you I’m Content Marketing Certified. Your records will tell you I’ve interviewed for a few different HubSpot positions in the past. What neither one will tell you is that I’ve been working with your customer success team to build a new campaign strategy for my company–one of your latest (and largest) clients.”

The candidate wrote an introduction that captured the reader’s attention and demonstrated he wasn’t interested in wasting anyone’s time. This is a memorable and impressive tactic. Consider writing a similar introduction, where you provide information absent from your resume.

7. Start with what you can bring to the table.

A hiring manager here at HubSpot told me she always looks for cover letters to tell her how the company and applicant can benefit each other.

Any employer is going to want to know why you think you can grow from the position you’re applying to. An employer is more inclined to hire you if she thinks you have a genuine, intrinsic motivation to work hard in the role.

A hiring manager is also going to want to know how you’ll contribute to the company’s larger vision and goals. It’s important for the manager to know what you want to get out of the role, but it’s equally important to know how you’ll help the company grow. How will the company benefit from you, over someone else?

Here’s an example: “I am seeking opportunities to improve my writing ability in a forward-thinking environment, while growing organic traffic and optimizing content to beat out competitors in search engines. At Company A, I believe I will find that match.”

See how it works? In the example above, the candidate explained how she’d benefit from the role. She also explained what Company A could get out of the transaction — increased organic traffic, and optimized content — so the hiring manager is informed of the equality of the potential relationship.

8. Start with a statement that surprises them.

When applying for a role at HubSpot, one of my colleagues began her cover letter like this: “I like to think of myself as a round peg thriving in a square hole kind of world.”

Doesn’t that make you want to keep reading? It certainly kept me interested. Of course, you’ll only want to include a bold statement if you can follow it up with some concrete supporting information. My colleague, for example, continued by writing this: “What does this mean? It means that my diverse background makes me a well-rounded candidate who is able to comprehend, develop and execute various functions in business.”

While the rest of her cover letter veered on the side of professional, her opening line was casual, quirky, and surprising. Plus, you feel her personality in the line, and when an employer feels like a real person is behind the cover letter, she’s going to want to keep reading.

Want to see some of the above examples in their final form? Take a look at some of our favorite cover letter examples in this blog post.

Free Template Social Media Content Calendar

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5 Ways Your Boss Wants You to Improve This Year

It’s a tradition to set New Year’s resolutions, and for many people, these goals involve improving things in their personal lives, like health and wealth. Consider how much time you spend on your career, however, and you’ll see it makes sense to set some resolutions relating to the workplace, too.

Try some of the following ideas to more deeply engage with your work life this year, and chances are your boss will recognize the investment.

Click here to download our free guide on how to succeed in your new marketing  job.

1. Create a Culture of Mentorship

Every workplace is filled with people who have vast experience, but don’t get an opportunity to put all their knowledge to work. Take a poll around your office to see what talents and skills people have and would be willing to share with others. You may find that people who are whizzes at building complex spreadsheets would welcome the chance to pass that knowledge on to others. A mentorship can make them feel good and improve productivity and confidence among those learning new skills.

Don’t limit people to skills directly tied to work, either. The boss’s executive assistant might have a black belt in karate, and teaching a self-defense class or two could let them apply those talents and make a real difference in someone’s life.

2. Stay on Track

A good leader works with their employees to create annual performance goals. If those objectives aren’t revisited until the middle or end of the year, it could be too late to catch up. Start the New Year by scheduling a monthly meeting with yourself to review your progress. If you aren’t getting to tasks that are critical to your career, sit down with your supervisor. You might need to adjust some goals, or your boss may have to curtail outside requests that are taking you away from the strategic goals you built together.

3. Pair Complaints with Solutions

Bosses are used to having employees complain to them, but no one wants to be known as the employee who does nothing but complain. You’ll be more respected and feel more empowered if you can suggest a couple of ways to fix what’s frustrating you.

“When you identify a problem, instead of coming to me to report the problem, try to come with the problem and your proposed solution,” says Paul McHardy, Technology Specialist at USDISH. “Nothing makes a boss’s job easier than when their people are proactive in providing solutions to issues. It helps the decision-making process of what to do much easier, and you earn major bonus points for being the one to solve it.”

4. Be the Brand

The company you work for has invested a lot of resources into building a strong brand, and you represent that brand whenever you’re in the public eye.

“Any time you attend a conference, business dinner, trade show, association meeting or social event, make sure you are representing both yourself and your company in the best ways possible,” says Jessie West, M.Ed., West Coaching and Consulting. “Share your expertise on LinkedIn, speak to a business group about your company’s products and services and maintain your professional reputation when using social media.”

5. Work Smarter, Not Harder

If you aren’t already looking for ways to be more efficient at work, make this resolution a key part of your career goals this year. Believe it or not, innovators aren’t just people like Steve Jobs who change the course of an entire industry. Innovators can be people like the director of a national nonprofit who implemented the use of a shared document to keep check-in meetings with their team on track.

“If you have an organizational or another idea that would help things run more smoothly in the office, let your boss know! They will likely appreciate it . . . and implementing it could make everyone’s jobs a lot easier,” says Valerie Streif, Senior Advisor with Mentat, a San Francisco-based organization for job seekers.

In the example above, creating a place where the leader and their employees could note things they needed to talk about during the week allowed for a level of preparation that made sure the check-in was efficient and effective.

Resolutions have a way of failing before January even ends. Commit to making things different with these career resolutions, and you’ll be happier with your work, your professional relationships and your outlook.

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7 of the Best A/B Testing Tools for 2019

In the marketing industry, we treat experts like they’re village elders, soaking up every tip and trick they have to offer so we can implement them into our own work, desperately hoping for similar results.

But, when you really think about it, marketing is always changing and experts often don’t have visibility into your unique context.

This naturally begs the questions — what should you do when you can’t find a solution to one of your problems on the internet? To find the answers to your unique problem, consider channeling your inner Sherlock Holmes and become an investigator. Investigators forage for information that’ll lead them to the answers of their own specific questions. And, as a marketer, one of the best investigative tools at your disposal is A/B testing.

Every company has a different set of customers, so there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for designing the most optimal website, crafting the most compelling copy, or building the most effective product. To figure out which website design, line of copy, or product feature will produce the best results for your company, you must discover what your unique set of customers prefer.

To help you do this, we’ve curated seven of the best A/B testing tools for 2019 that’ll help you optimize your website design, copy, product, and, most importantly, help you find the answers to your own specific situation.

Learn how to run effective A/B experimentation in 2018 here.

1. VWO

A/B Testing Tools - VMO

Image Credit: VWO

G2Crowd Rating: 4.2/5.0 (130 reviews)

Trusted by over 4,500 enterprise brands including eBay, Target, and Virgin Holidays, VWO is an A/B testing and conversion rate optimization platform tailored specifically for enterprise brands. In their suite, you can build A/B tests, Split URL tests, and multivariate tests with a drop-and-drop editor.

To gauge the performance of your tests, VWO offers a robust reporting dashboard. VWO also offers a SmartStats feature that leverages Bayesian statistics to help you run faster tests, give you more control of your tests, and reach more accurate conclusions.

2. Optimizely

A/B Testing Tools - Optimizely

G2Crowd Rating: 4.3/5.0 (104 reviews)

With 24 Fortune 100 companies as customers, Optimizely is a digital experimentation platform for enterprise marketing, product, and engineering teams. Using their powerful A/B and multi-page experimentation tool, you can run multiple experiments on one page at the same time, allowing you to test various variables of your web design.

Optimizely also offers testing on dynamic websites, various experiment dimensions like ad campaign, geography, and cookies, and various experiment segmentation parameters like device, browser, and campaign.

3. Omniconvert

A/B Testing Tools - Omniconvert

G2Crowd Rating: 4.5/5.0 (47 reviews)

Omniconvert is a conversion rate optimization platform that offers an A/B testing tool, as well as survey, personalization, overlay, and segmentation tools. Using their A/B testing tool, you can run A/B tests on desktop, mobile, and tablet. Additionally, you can turn winning versions of an A/B test into the control for a future test and leverage Frequentist or Bayesian statistics to validate your tests.

Omniconvert also blends their segmentation tool with their A/B testing tool to let you test over 40 segmentation parameters, like geolocation, traffic source, and visitor behavior, to improve your website’s user experience, product features, and content’s ability to engage and convert. If you work for a medium-sized business, Omniconvert could be a great A/B testing solution.

4. Crazy Egg

A/B Testing Tools - Crazy Egg

Image Credit: Crazy Egg

G2Crowd Rating: 4.0/5.0 (28 reviews)

Crazy Egg is a website optimization software that offers A/B testing, heat mapping, and usability testing tools. Their A/B testing tool lets you test variations of every single page on your website by adding one snippet of code to the pages you want to experiment on.

Crazy Egg also lets you build A/B tests without any coding experience, sends more traffic to the optimal variant of your test once it recognizes it’s the winner, and offers intuitive conversion tracking and reporting tools. If you work for a small business, Crazy Egg is definitely a tool you should consider.

5. AB Tasty

A/B Testing Tools - AB Tasty

Image Credit: AB Tasty

G2Crowd: 4.4/5.0 (25 reviews)

Trusted by brands like Sephora, Ugg, and Carrefour, AB Tasty is a conversion rate optimization software that offers A/B and multivariate testing, data insights, marketing, and personalization tools.

Using their experiments tool, you can build and run A/B tests, split tests, multivariate tests, and funnel tests with their visual editor. You can also leverage their advanced targeting to test based off various criteria like URL, geolocation, weather, and more. To help validate your tests, AB tasty offers reports that display your tests and their confidence levels in real time. If you work for a medium-sized business, AB Tasty could be best suited for you.

6. Freshmarketer

A/B Testing Tools - Freshmarketer

G2Crowd Rating: 4.5/5.0 (24 reviews)

Freshmarketer, which is the marketing arm of the business platform Freshworks, is a conversion rate optimization software that offers A/B testing and split URL testing. Their A/B testing tool can test, target, and validate your experiment, integrate with Google Analytics, and even track the amount of revenue your experiments have generated.

Freshmarketer’s Split URL testing tool can help you test multiple variations of URLs, turn winning test variations into real web pages, and grasp the effectiveness of your web design by offering heatmaps of every variation of your split URL test. Freshmarketer could be the A/B testing solution for you if you work for a small business.

7. Convert

A/B Testing Tool - Convert

Image Credit: Convert

G2Crowd Rating: 4.7/5.0 (21 Reviews)

Trusted by brands like Sony, Unicef, and Jabra, Convert is an A/B testing and web personalization software that offers A/B testing, split testing, multivariate testing, and multipage experiment tools. Convert also offers an advanced segmentation tool that allows you to segment users based off their historical behavior, cookies, and JavaScript events.

Additionally, Convert can gauge the performance of all your tests by reporting on a large mix of metrics, from your variations’ click-through-rate to its return-on-investment. If you want to use Convert in conjunction with your other tools, they offer a ton of integrations with third-party tools, like WordPress, Shopify, and HubSpot. Convert is best suited for small businesses.

The Ultimate A/B Testing Kit

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The Ultimate Guide to Relationship Marketing

There are plenty of studies that highlight the importance of customer retention — oftentimes, customer retention has been found to be even more critical to your company’s success than customer acquisition.

For instance, research conducted by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company found as little as a five percent increase in customer retention can result in an increase in company revenue by 25-95%.

Alternatively, American Express discovered retained customers buy more often and spend more than newer customers — they’ve seen your worth and they’re invested loyally in your brand, so it makes sense they’re willing to turn to your business for their needs, again and again.

Need further convincing? Consider this — in 2016, I began using JetBlue for my flights to and from college in North Carolina. Why? Because I could earn points for every dollar spent on a flight (points which never expired), and I appreciated the airline’s customer-first mentality. Plus, I liked the free snacks.

Once I graduated college, I took it a step further, paying $99 for a JetBlue Plus credit card, which allowed me to earn more points on every dollar I spent using the credit card. I could use these points for future flights, but alternatively, I could also use them on car rentals, hotel stays, or purchases with JetBlue retail partners, like Amazon.

Then, a few months ago, I convinced my friend to get a JetBlue credit card, so she could reap the same benefits.

I’m not trying to convince you to fly JetBlue, but I am trying to show you the power of relationship marketing. By offering unparalleled rewards for long-term customers, and demonstrating a true desire to cultivate a deeper relationship with their audience, JetBlue doesn’t need to spend much time or effort on acquiring new customers — its existing customers are doing the heavy-lifting for them.

Download our free guide to learn how to more effectively use and measure  customer loyalty programs for your business. 

Here, let’s take a look at some relationship marketing examples, and then explore how you can implement a strong relationship marketing strategy, today.

1. Domino’s

In the past couple years, Domino’s has taken its fair share of risks for the sake of innovation and improvement — including a series of ads called Pizza turnaround, in which they showcased a series of negative customer reviews, read by real Domino’s employees, before promising a new and improved recipe.

These self-deprecating ads appeal genuinely to viewers, but clearly go against any traditional sales playbook … which is why they work. By admitting their mistake, Domino’s re-invented its brand as transparent and honest — and who wouldn’t want to buy from a company like that?

Additionally, Domino’s has conducted other genius marketing campaigns like the Domino’s wedding registry, in which soon-to-be-married couples can create their own pizza registry. Domino’s has also done a fantastic job tapping into their digital audience — at one point, the company even allowed people to order pizza using a simple pizza emoji. Now, half of Domino’s sales are through digital channels.

Ultimately, there are plenty of risky steps Domino’s has taken to cultivate a loyal, long-term customer base. They accepted short-term losses for long-term gains by slowly and strategically re-inventing their product and their brand, and then engaging with their audience on their customer’s favorite digital platforms.

2. Marriott

Undoubtedly, a 35-minute film is not the most traditional avenue a hotel can take when it wants to increase sales — and yet, that’s exactly what Marriott chose to do with their film, “Two Bellmen Three“.

This film, along with other influencer content like “Snapisodes“, which mimic TV travel documentaries, enables Marriott to appeal to a younger demographic and build brand awareness on youth-dominant platforms like Snapchat. Best of all, their content rarely resembles an advertisement, and is typically focused on providing an audience with fun or helpful information on various travel destinations.

3. GE

Relationship marketing is ultimately about offering both new and existing customers valuable content — regardless of where they are in your buyer’s journey. Good relationship marketing should appeal to the random viewer as powerfully as it appeals to your long-term customers, to ensure your customers can grow with you for the long-haul.

GE does a great job of diversifying its content, and the platforms on which it promotes, to ensure it satisfies as many people as possible. For instance, GE created two sponsored podcasts, which have collectively resulted in nearly 8 million downloads. Additionally, the company has a popular YouTube channel, and a blog that ranges in topics from Arnold Spielberg to 3D printing.

By consistently offering a diverse range of quality content, GE shows its desire to satisfy its long-term customers even at the expense of short-term wins.

4. ArmorSuit

ArmorSuit’s warranty policy begins like this — “Most warranties are limited to 30 days or one year, but with our Lifetime Replacement Warranty, our customers can request for a replacement screen protector for a lifetime. This way, you never need to purchase a whole new kit when a replacement is needed.”

This way, you never need to purchase a whole new kit — a phrase you’ll likely never hear in traditional sales transactions. ArmorSuit’s lifetime warranty represents the company’s steadfast commitment to keeping its customers satisfied. While it might seem ridiculous to offer a lifetime warranty, it makes sense for building strong relationships with ArmorSuit’s customers — when the company’s customers then need other products related to tech, they’ll most likely check out ArmorSuit’s website first.

5. Panera

In 2014, Panera issued a statement promising its customers it would remove all artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives from all Panera products by the end of 2016. The company remained transparent throughout the process, publishing progress reports to demonstrate a level of accountability and transparency to its customers.

Undoubtedly, it was a risky decision to admit they’d previously used unhealthy ingredients in their food — but it paid off big-time in 2016, when the brand could officially say “100% of our food is 100% clean”.

Now, they continue to focus on cultivating strong relationships with their customers through personalization. For instance, they alert loyalty members about new food offerings they feel will meet the member’s “flavor profile”.

They also meet their customers where they are — 26% of Panera’s orders are generated digitally, and they offer home and business delivery, rapid pickup, and catering. Their commitment to health and convenience has resulted in 28 million Panera loyalty members, and 13 million email newsletter subscribers.

Next, lets explore how you can create a strong relationship marketing strategy for your own business.

1. Provide personalized, customer-focused service.

When you’re creating a relationship marketing strategy, and when you’re engaging with your customers, your primary concern should never be focused on your product or service. Instead, your concerns should always revolve around the customer — Would the customer want to see this ad? Would the customer be excited about this Instagram post? Does our new product delight the customer?

Additionally, it’s critical you create channels for direct support when your customers need help. Perhaps you implement a Facebook Messaging Bot for service-related concerns. Alternatively, maybe you answer your customer’s questions via Instagram DM. By meeting your customers where they want to be met, you’re proving your willingness to help them despite the hassles it might entail for your overall business process.

2. Engage with the customer where they are.

The reason Marriott’s strategy works isn’t just because of the content they create — it’s also because of where they post that content. Creating videos specifically for Snapchat enables Marriott to appeal to a younger demographic on a platform already popular with that audience.

Similarly, it’s critical you do your research to learn which platforms are most popular for your ideal demographic. By reaching out to them through those channels, you’re demonstrating a level of helpfulness and understanding that will encourage those users to interact with your brand.

3. Offer incentive and rewards for customer loyalty.

To cultivate a long-term relationship with your customers, and to create lasting brand loyalty, it’s critical you continue to engage with customers even after they’ve purchased a product. Consider what you can offer them once they’ve become customers — perhaps they can get a discount on additional products, or receive personalized recommendations based on their preferences.

Consider Panera — by creating a loyalty rewards program, Panera continues to incentivize its customers to purchase additional products, and slowly forms a more meaningful relationship by gathering information about each customer and then using that information to offer unique suggestions depending on their individual food preferences.

4. Create valuable content that tells a compelling story.

If a customer has already purchased your product, they don’t need to see additional product advertisements to become brand loyalists — instead, they need to feel your business offers valuable content regardless of their purchase intent.

Marriott’s film isn’t meant to immediately convert a viewer into a paying customer. Instead, its purpose is to increase brand awareness, so that down the road, when that viewer is ready to book a hotel for an upcoming trip, they’ll remember the compelling film they saw once and think of Marriott.

5. Collect feedback regularly.

A relationship works two-ways — to truly develop a meaningful connection with your customers, then, it’s vital you ask them for feedback. What do they want to see from your brand? What do they like about your product? What do they wish you wrote about on your blog? This information is critical to ensure you’re consistently improving your relationship marketing strategy to best-fit the needs of your specific audience.

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Author: Caroline Forsey

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The Ultimate Collection of Free Content Marketing Templates

Does any aspect of your job intimidate you?

For content creators, sometimes the most stressful part of the role can be opening a completely blank document to start a new project.

Whether it’s writing a blog post, designing an infographic, or creating an ebook, it’s challenging to start creating a new piece of content from scratch, especially if you’ve never done it before.Click here to download our full collection of free templates for designing  stunning visual content including infographics and more.

Here in the HubSpot content shop, we want to take the work out of it for you. Instead of trying to master how to create every type of content in existence, cut down on the stress and inefficiency and read about our collection of nearly 400 free, customizable content creation templates.

We’ve broken this list down by each type of content marketing template represented. Jump ahead if you specifically want:

Content Planning & Calendar Templates

A Content Planning/Goal-Setting Template

(Download the content planning template here.)

HubSpot teamed up with Smart Insights to create a content planning template that will help you put together an effective content marketing plan for either your business or those of your clients. These templates will help you complete a SWOT analysis on your content marketing efforts (and develop a plan to improve them), define the right objectives and KPIs for that plan, brainstorm content ideas and map these across your funnel, and create a timeline for your content plans.

download free content planning template

A Content Mapping Template

(Download the content mapping template here)

You know you need a content marketing strategy in place to support the success of your inbound marketing and sales organizations. But how do you get started? We’ve created a content mapping template so you can walk through your target audience’s buyer’s journey. The template helps you identify buyer personas, their challenges and needs, and to brainstorm content that provides solutions. You’ll come away from the template with tons of targeted blog post ideas to attract your audience to your site and convert them into leads.

download content mapping templates

A Buyer Persona Template

(Download the buyer persona content template here.)

Marketing with buyer personas means marketing smarter. This buyer persona template will help you easily organize your research to create your very own buyer personas. Use it to create beautiful, well-formatted buyer personas that you can share with your entire company, while learning best practices for persona research along the way.

get the free buyer persona template

3 Blog Editorial Calendar Templates

(Download the blog editorial calendar templates here.)

Having an editorial calendar for your marketing content will save you a whole lot of time — not to mention sanity — as you plan your content release timeline. We realize there isn’t a one-size-fits all solution, so we’ve created three editorial calendar templates to use at your leisure: one for Google Calendar, one for Excel, and one for Google Sheets. (Read this blog post for a step-by-step guide for using the Google Calendar template.)

download the free blog editorial calendar template

2 Social Media Content Calendar Templates (for 6 Social Networks)

(Download the social media content calendar templates here.)

With so many different social networks to manage, a social media manager’s life becomes a lot easier when they can plan which content to share on each account — and when. This easy-to-use social media content calendar for Microsoft Excel lets you organize your social media activities far in advance. Use it to plan your updates and learn how to properly format your content for the six most popular social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

get the free social media contet calendar template

10 Social Media Tracking & Reporting Templates

(Download the social media tracking & reporting templates here.)

Equipped with a social media calendar, you still need a way to track, report on, and even budget for the social media campaigns you run during the year. These 10 planning templates help you do just that: Track your social media followers, report on each post’s performance, manage your paid budget for promoted posts, and more. Download them using the above link or the below graphic.

10 social media tracking, budgeting, and reporting templates

On-Page SEO Template

(Download the on-page SEO template here.)

The more content you publish to your website, the more traffic sources you’ll want to prioritize. One of those sources is organic traffic. To make on-page SEO easier, we’ve rolled out a handy planning template to help you create a website structure that organizes each webpage, what its purpose is, how long it should be, and how to optimize the metadata associated with each new page you publish.

On-page SEO template

Written & Editorial Content Templates

5 Blog Post Templates

(Download the blog post templates here.)

Here’s the thing with blogging: There isn’t one, easy template you can fill in to produce a quality content offering. You need to spend some time brainstorming a title, outlining core content, and so on. While our templates are by no means a fill-in-the-blank type of deal, they’ll walk you through the critical steps for creating the following five blog post types:

  • How-To Post
  • List-Based Post
  • Curated Collection Post
  • SlideShare Presentation Post
  • Newsjacking Post

We’ve seen these formats crush it on our blogs, and we would love for you to use them to hit your own goals.

get free blog post templates

5 Ebook Templates

(Download the ebook templates here.)

Year after year, marketers cite lead generation as one of their top content marketing goals for the year. If you want to succeed at lead gen, then you need content offers — like ebooks — to help you get there. Our internal creative design team went to work building five, beautiful ebook templates — in both PowerPoint and InDesign — for you to download, customize, and use.

get free ebook templates

A Press Release Template

(Download the press release template here.)

While public relations has adapted to be more lovable and less spammy, press releases can be effective when used correctly. Our press release template takes this into consideration and provides an inbound-optimized version. This means the template can help you script press releases and do so in a format optimized for sharing on your company blog. It’s built in Microsoft Word, so you can easily adapt and customize as needed for your PR needs.

download free press release template

50 Call-to-Action Templates

(Download the call-to-action templates here.)

Redesigning your call-to-action buttons can improve clickthrough rates by 1,300% or more. That means visitors will spend more time on your website, and it’ll encourage them to become leads. To help you design clickable calls-to-action, we’ve built 50 pre-designed CTAs for you. These CTAs are super easy to customize, so you don’t need to know any fancy design programs — just PowerPoint.

Bonus: There’s also a handy free tool in there that lets you track your CTA clicks in real time so you can see the exact number of clicks that your designs are reeling in.

download free call-to-action templates

Design Content Templates

195+ Visual Marketing Templates

(Download the visual marketing templates here.)

Not a designer? Not a problem. We partnered with graphic design software company Canva to create over 195 visual marketing templates that are easy-to-use, work for any industry (finance, dentistry, agriculture, law — we’ve got ’em all), and are completely free. Best of all, they’re ready to edit in Canva’s online design tool, which is included for free with this set of templates. The templates include…

  • Infographics templates
  • Facebook ad templates
  • Facebook post templates
  • Twitter post templates
  • Email header templates
  • Blog title templates
  • Facebook cover photo templates
  • Twitter header templates
  • LinkedIn cover photos templates

download free Canva design templates

15 Infographic Templates

(Download the infographic templates here.)

We’ve created fifteen, pre-designed infographic templates right in PowerPoint (+ five bonus illustrator templates). That way, marketers can skip the frustrations and start creating the graphics right away. Within each template, we even provide guides to teach you how to use the templates effectively.

download free infographic templates

5 SlideShare Templates

(Download the SlideShare templates here.)

Creating a SlideShare presentation in PowerPoint doesn’t have to be daunting. With the right and tools at your disposal, you can easily create an engaging, visual presentation — all without fancy design programs, huge budgets, or hiring contractors.

To help you make a SlideShare of your own, we’ve created some free PowerPoint presentation templates for making awesome SlideShares — so your presentations will look great and be a breeze to put together. (Read this blog post for tips on how you can update and edit the templates to suit your specific needs.)

download free slideshare templates

37 Pre-Designed CTA Templates for Ecommerce Marketers

(Download the ecommerce CTA templates here.)

Every marketer uses calls-to-action (CTAs) to generate leads from their website content. If you’re in the business of ecommerce, however, purchases are just as important as downloads when it comes to your website visitors. The CTA templates above are starter designs specifically for marketers who want to direct attention to their product pages and, ultimately, drive transactions within their online store. Get these templates by clicking the link above.

Social Media Content Templates

100 Social Media Graphics Templates

(Download the social media graphics templates here.)

Visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than any other type of content. But we know well that creating visual content takes more time and resources — which why we’ve created these 100 customizable templates for you. These templates are in PowerPoint, so they’re very easy to edit — no Photoshop skills required. Simply customize the text on an image, save it, and post it to social media.

download free social media graphics templates

5 Social Media Cover Photo Templates

(Download the social media cover photo templates here.)

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have trouble keeping straight the different size dimension requirements on different social media networks. To take the guesswork out of it and to avoid frustrating re-designs, we’ve created five templates in PowerPoint that are pre-sized for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. You can customize them for your social networks without researching design specifications — don’t worry, we’ve got it covered.

download social media cover photo templates

11 Facebook Cover Photo Templates for Businesses

(Download the Facebook cover photo templates here.)

With how frequently businesses change and improve on their Facebook pages today, it’s crucial that you have new material in the pipeline. Double-down on your Facebook designs with these 11 templates dedicated to your Facebook cover photo. Get these designs by clicking the link above or the graphic below.

11 Facebook cover photo templates

Email Content Templates

15 Email Templates for Marketing and Sales

(Download the email templates for marketing and sales here.)

Did you know that workers spend almost one third of their time at work reading and replying to emails? There are many ways you can streamline your inbox to save time, but you ultimately will still have to create and send emails. That’s where these content templates come in. We’ve written the copy for 15 emails marketers and sales reps are likely to send over and over again to save you time and get you results.

download email templates

There you have it, content marketers: nearly 400 templates to help you start creating content easily and quickly and further your inbound success.

Free Download Content Creation Templates

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