How to Get Paid Without Spending a Dime [Free Invoice Template Generator]

As marketers, we think a lot about what it means to deliver a consistent, on-brand experience across all of our different channels.

We recognize the importance of this unification, as it helps to improve brand recognition, foster loyalty, and improve the overall customer experience.

Not to mention, it forces us to establish a formalized process for creating and executing on each piece of marketing collateral.

However, when it comes to invoicing, many of these strategic efforts tend to drop off. Suddenly, we cast aside branding, scramble for an existing document we can clone, and get to itemizing.Use the free HubSpot Invoice Template Generator to create professional  invoices in minutes.The result? A pile of mismatched invoices and a disconnected plan for getting paid on time.

Now fighting disorganization, especially when it comes to your business finances, can be both time-consuming and frustrating. That’s why we created Invoice Template Generator — a free invoicing tool designed to save you time and resources in 2018.

Invoice Template Generator guides you through the invoice creation process by prompting you to fill out form fields within an actual interactive invoice template.

Once you complete all of the fields, you’ll have an opportunity to download the invoice as a PDF that can be easily emailed to your customer.

Many aspects of the tool are fully customizable, allowing you to:

  • adapt the invoice based on whether or not you sell products or services
  • adjust the currency
  • add notes or payment terms
  • add your business logo
  • customize the color scheme

Ready to get started? Click here to begin creating a professional, on-brand invoice today.

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The 6 Biggest Marketing Lessons HubSpot Learned in 2017

One of the big themes for me in 2017 was what it means for marketers to do the right thing. Outbound marketing that relies on spamming, irrelevant advertising, and other tactics that are almost as bad for the business as they are for the customer is obviously not the right thing. Better analytics has brought a lot of focus and measurability to marketing, but creates the tendency to do what’s best for the business versus what’s best for the customer.

And even well-intentioned inbound marketers who are trying to pull versus push … well … sometimes we just pull a little too hard.

It’s hard for goal-oriented, data-driven marketers to stop doing things that hit the numbers … even if we know these tactics fail to create the best experience for our prospects or scorch the earth for future efforts.Discover a framework for running more impactful, measurable marketing  campaigns.

One of our goals as a marketing team in 2017 was to push ourselves to do the right thing, even if that meant more difficulty for us or even missing our goals. It was a tough year and yes, we missed some numbers, but wow … we also learned a ton, and I wanted to share some of our biggest lessons here. I think they have big implications for marketers in 2018.

1. We can break our email addiction and still hit our goals.

Marketers have been touting the death of email for years, and while I wouldn’t say the channel is dead, you’ll be hard pressed to find a marketer who will argue that engagement on email is what it was five years ago. At the start of 2017, HubSpot’s CMO asked our team to see if we could break our addiction to email.

Could we shift conversations to emerging platforms like Facebook Messenger, and cut our reliance on email? The answer was a resounding yes.

In 2017, our team cut email volume in North America by 50% while increasing engagement by 28%. That’s wild.

One tactic our team used to achieve this was moving from two weekly email sends per week to one and then focusing on making that one send count: better segmentation, lots of testing, and creating more interactive content (like the webinar promotion email that includes a countdown shown below).

abmcountdown.gif

 

2. Offsite messaging has earned its place in inbound marketing.

Another one of the reasons we have been successful at reducing our reliance on email is that we got serious about testing emerging channels. Here’s an offer email we sent earlier this year that gives people the option to access content via Facebook Messenger or a form:

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 2.12.51 PM.png

If people choose Facebook Messenger, our chatbot automatically delivers the requested content to them in their Messenger app instead of their inbox. We’ve seen offers delivered via Facebook Messenger result in 2.5x lifts in open rates and 6x lifts in click rates vs. email.

This improved performance is partially a function of the channel (it’s great to get push notifications on someone’s home screen), but partially a function of it being a channel that aligns with how people want to shop and buy today, and how they want to engage with companies.

3. Onsite messaging is now playing an integral role in inbound sales.

For the past decade, lead forms have been the go-to way for prospects to express interest in working with your company. But just because something has worked, doesn’t mean it will keep working.

This year HubSpot’s marketing team got very serious about testing alternatives to lead forms. We rolled out onsite messaging across our entire website.

Yes, this meant hiring more salespeople to respond to the influx of one-to-one communications.

Yes, this meant responding to a lot of irrelevant inquiries with a personal, human response.

Yes, it was expensive and took some internal training and systems finagling.

But …

We’re producing 20% more qualified opportunities as a result of adding an onsite messaging option.

Customers today expect to get answers to their questions right.now. For serious buyers, a lead-form is just too long of a delay. And all of the short-term costs will decrease as we get more serious about chatbots. Onsite messaging is now an integral part of our inbound sales playbook and we’re looking to start even more conversations in 2018.

4. B2B podcasting doesn’t need to be boring.

Picasso is famously credited with saying, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

But there’s a high probability he stole this aphorism from T.S. Elliot.

Regardless of credit, what’s true for artists is true for marketers: Copying is one of the fastest ways to get good at something really quickly.

The problem is that you very quickly end up in a world where every marketer is doing the same thing. So sometimes, doing the right thing as a marketer means intentionally separating from the herd.

We started The Growth Show back in 2013, and “boring” is probably an unfair descriptor. Actually the show has built an engaged core audience, but it never turned into the kind of massive audience builder that consumer podcasts can be. We gave ourselves a pass, it’s a B2B podcast, right?

But in 2017, our growing podcast team pushed us to get a little weird, launching a podcast called Weird Work where we interview professional mermaids, ASMR content creators, and writers of dinosaur erotica. The reception to this little series has been so cool:

  • We made it on the top 100 podcasts list in iTunes
  • Achieved New & Noteworthy status in the iTunes store (this is the promised land for podcasters everywhere)
  • Were named a “Top 10 Podcast Right Now” by Inc.
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It’s tough to measure the business impact of such a “brand” play, but one way to think about content like this is in terms of ad spend. You can pay to advertise on someone else’s podcast or you can create your own audience and advertise there. We calculate that the value of the Weird Work audience is equivalent to $12,000 in ad spend every month.

Sometimes not following the herd pays off in a big way.

5. The future of SEO is topic clusters.

Google has been moving toward rewarding creators who create topic clusters for some time. This means that instead of Google looking at every individual post as its own SEO opportunity, it now looks at the scope of content being created by a given URL and sends more traffic to people who appear to be experts on a given topic.

We’ve been shifting to this strategy for new content creation for a while. But 2017 was the first year where we began to tackle 10+ years of legacy content, and re-working our architecture to fit the topic cluster model.

Why did it take us so long? Because this work is hard! We actually started a topic cluster project addressing the resource site architecture back in January of 2016 and it was so complicated we had to table it. In May of this year, we finally pushed it live and the results were astounding.

In the months following launch, traffic to our resource pages increased by 107%.

HubSpot’s blog team has also begun to rework older posts around select topic clusters. Here’s the impact of one of the first clusters we did; check out that average rank going up and to the right:

The days of throwing content at the wall to see what sticks are officially over. Doing the right thing today means creating content only when it meets a demonstrated user need. (BTW, HubSpot also released a tool earlier this year that makes it easier than ever to find and create your own Topic Clusters).

6. Doing fewer things better.

Every marketer has felt the pressure to churn out offer after offer and our team has not been exempt from that pressure. It’s hard to place bigger bets on a smaller number of activities.

Our co-marketing team feels this pressure every single week. In a given quarter, this team typically executes 15-20 campaigns. But we finally stopped and said, what if we could do less and take bigger swings? So we rolled the effort of four to five campaigns into one big campaign — 4 Days of Facebook.

We went big with our partners (Facebook and Gary Vaynerchuck), we went big with our promotion (Facebook Messenger), and we went big across the company (getting buy-in from multiple marketing teams and regions to support the campaign).

The results? Our biggest acquisition campaign ever, in all of HubSpot’s history. It generated 10x the leads of a typical acquisition campaign and 6x the lifetime value of projected customers.

And it brought together so many things: new channels (Facebook Messenger), new ways of selling (acquiring users for HubSpot’s freemium funnel), live video, and amazing partnerships (Facebook!).

This was hands down my favorite campaign from the entire year and all because our co-marketing team committed to doing fewer things better.

Looking forward to 2018

I’m excited about these results. But most of all, I hope the results we’ve seen in 2017 encourage you to be a little bolder in your strategy, to push a little harder for the right things (even if you’re unsure about the results), and to occasionally miss some quantitative goals in order to learn some big things.

Good luck out there!

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What Is Lagom, and How Can It Create a More Balanced Approach to Work and Life?

When the Global Innovation Index 2017 was released, Switzerland and Sweden led the pack — as they have in previous years.

What makes this part of the world such a beacon of creative thought?

As someone who was fortunate enough to live and work in Sweden, I’ve come to believe the answer might be hiding in a single word: “lagom.”

Like many other non-English concepts, lagom defies quick or simple translation. It’s more of a cultural belief than mere letters strung together to signify objects or actions.Download our complete productivity guide here for more tips on improving your  productivity at work.

But what is it, and how can we use it at work and in life?

Finding lagom takes some practice, especially for those who were not brought up in Nordic countries where lagom is as natural as fjords and icy winters. And yet, it might be the key for businesspeople who are mired in a losing, imbalanced approach of creating products and then searching in vain for users — not to mention, those who simply want to find better work-life balance.

The Barrier of Black-and-White Thinking

A barrier to embracing a lagom mindset is the prevalence of binary thinking. Left or right. Yes or no. Certainly, there are times in life when such starkness makes sense; no one would argue, for example, that at a train crossing, you would sit partway on the tracks instead of either stopping or going.

But in the business world, effective solutions and answers are rarely black-and-white. Unfortunately, many struggle to see shades of gray when it comes to product development or product-market fit. 

That sheds some light on why throwing convention out the window sometimes leads to success.

“Why can’t I connect travelers with local hosts for a whole new travel experience?”

“Why can’t I combine riders with independent drivers via an app for better taxi experiences?”

“Why can’t I create a taco shell made with Doritos?”

Lagom at Work

Despite some trends toward blended products — lagom in a product context — it isn’t easy to see how to incorporate this concept of varied perspectives into your business. I struggled to see it myself, in fact, until I attended an international hackathon in Ireland.

Our team was comprised of eight engineers and two marketers, including myself. The challenge: Come up with a new kind of conference identification badge that people would love.

After brainstorming, we dismissed the notion of a traditional paper name tag encased in plastic, instead opting for an electronic one with image and video capabilities. 

Those who have read Arthur C. Clarke’s 3001: The Final Odyssey might be vaguely reminded of the nanochip inserted into everyone at birth to allow for more seamless introductions. Our suggestion, I’m proud to say, was less invasive — but just as compelling.

We hoped that the badge would spur serendipitous moments for conference-goers via an embedded tracking mechanism. Our goal was to make it the centerpiece of a novel, productive conference experience. On that, everyone agreed — but soon, the classic engineer-marketer battle ensued. 

Sometimes, engineers tend to be product-centric and marketers, well, market-centric. In our scenario, the former focused on the ability to solve our problem using the product, while the latter concentrated on the user experience and costs.

It wasn’t until we reached a blended, balanced approach — lagom — that we managed to create the final product that both sides had hoped for.

A great product only sells if it satisfies a market that’s willing to pay for the solution. Any product lacking balance is destined for a bumpy and potentially fatal debut. 

Product-Market Fit Through Balance

Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstrom, co-authors of Nail It then Scale It, hit the proverbial nail on the head when they rhetorically asked:

With this question, Furr and Ahlstrom referred to a phenomenon that I’ve seen in over two decades of working with entrepreneurs and corporations: Achieving early product-market fit exponentially increases a startup’s chances for success. Getting there, however, requires finding lagom. 

Let’s face it: You’ll get feedback on any solution … eventually. But entrepreneurs are often blinded by a passion for a specific solution. Instead of listening to unadulterated feedback, they might peddle products in search of an audience. Watch one episode of “Shark Tank,” and you’ll immediately see why that’s a disastrous approach.

A key milestone for me, which was essentially my “aha!” moment, was the realization that striving for product-market balance required exceptional listening ability. The only way to see a situation, or a product, from more than one viewpoint is to listen and accept others’ ideas — then, challenge and question everything they’ve said with curiosity and sincerity.

Balance.

The only way to do that — the only way to balance your company vision with the needs of your market — is through repeated, meaningful customer conversations. 

Always Focus on the Customer

Customers naturally focus on their needs. As an entrepreneur, I realized that instead of guessing at those needs, I could learn what they are through conversations with my audience. Only by actively seeking market insights could I craft my business strategy, make better product decisions, and promote customer loyalty.

This epiphany has become the basis of everything I do and teach. By shifting from the “what” to the “why,” I’ve become aware of just how much of our decision-making depends on the internalization of others’ ideas.

Most of us would like to believe that we make decisions consciously and individually. But back in the early 2000s, Harvard professors determined that 95% of purchase decisions are made subconsciously, posing quite the challenge to marketers.

That’s why better business decision-making requires us to unearth our customers’ innermost thoughts and feelings. Yes, it takes practice just like any skill. Those of us who didn’t grow up in Nordic countries may find the pursuit of lagom — by way of talking to customers, and perhaps even strangers — challenging at first.

But doing so springs us from the trap of self-centeredness and facilitates raw, human-to-human connection. That’s where lagom — and true balance — really begins.

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This Facebook Ad Experiment Generated $1.1 Million

We write quite a bit about the most effective ways to use Facebook.

How can you grow your audience? How can you reach the right people? And what’s the best way to use ads?

And in March, when Facebook launched its mobile-only Collection ads feature, marketers responsible for ad spend took note. Now, instead of simply publishing a single image or video, brands could now pair this visual content with something like a product catalog related to it.

One marketer — Digital Spotlight CEO Ash Aryal — decided to test the new feature, investing a $177,843.34 spend to see how Collection ads stacked up against single video ads. 

Even better: The results were compiled into the comprehensive, interactive infographic below. Scroll through to see how the experiment turned out.



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10 Free Templates Every Small Business Needs in 2018

Owning or working for a small business can be extremely rewarding.

You have a good view of the business operations, your work is visible, and you have an opportunity to make a big impact during the company’s critical growth years.

But then there are the less glamorous aspects — from tight budgets and limited resources to lack of direction and leadership — that can really start to weigh on you.

Use the free HubSpot Invoice Template Generator to create professional  invoices in minutes.

It would be nice if someone would throw you a bone every now and then, right?

That’s why we took some time to round up 10 completely free templates that you can lean on to streamline your workflow, save time, and get more done.

10 Free Templates Every Small Business Needs in 2018

1) Professional Bio Templates

Let’s face it: Writing about yourself can feel, well, awkward.

The good news is we’ve created 40+ fill-in-the-blank bio templates that you can use to put together an impressive, professional narrative that you’ll want to share.

Use these professional bio templates to give your team page a refresh. We recommended collaborating with a couple of colleagues you work closely with as you fill these out to ensure you’re speaking to all of your awesome skills.

Professional Bio Templates

2) Invoice Templates

For larger businesses, investing in paid invoicing software is a good way to keep your payments organized, but for small to mid-sized businesses, paying for a solution isn’t always an option.

If you’re looking for a cost-free way to stay on top of your billing, check out these free invoice templates for Microsoft Word. These invoice templates come in different colors and styles, so you can pick one that best suits your business.

Invoice Template Example

*Bonus* We also just launched a free invoice template generator that allows you to create professional invoice PDFs in just a few clicks. Check it out here.

3) Company Newsletter Template

Want to keep your contacts and customers engaged and informed about your business? Try sending a monthly company newsletter.

This clean and concise template makes it easy for you to plug in things like updates, accomplishments, awards, and upcoming events to share with your community.

You can also adapt this template to use internally for an employee newsletter featuring new hires, promotions, culture events, and changes in existing policies.

Company Newsletter Templates

4) Employee Timecard Template

Keeping tabs on employee hours is a really important part of running a business. Aside from ensuring your employees get paid (and get paid on time), having a log of hours can also help to resolve conflicts, evaluate employee engagement, and plan quotes in service-based industries.

With the help of this timecard template, you can keep all of your employee hours organized by week, month, and year. And don’t worry about busting out that calculator: the template takes care of totaling each line for you.

Employee Timecard Template

5) Business Letterhead Templates

An on-brand letterhead, while it may seem like a small detail, can go a long way when it comes to establishing credibility and trust through written communications.

In many cases, your letterhead serves as a first impression to potential customers, so you want to make sure it represents your business well. Additionally, your letterhead typically houses valuable contact details, so you’ll want to convey that information in a really clear and concise way.

Business Lettehead Templates

6) Email Templates

Think about how much time you spending crafting emails on any given day. One hour? Two hours? More than five hours?

Aware that email can be a serious time suck, we created 15 email marketing templates to simplify all of your marketing and sales needs — from PR and blogging outreach to customer reference emails.

These fill-in-the-blank templates are especially helpful when it comes to reducing the time you spend on emails that you’re sending on a repeat basis.

Email Template

7) Meeting Agenda Template

We’ve all been in our fair share of meetings that have gone off the rails. But unproductive meetings suck up valuable time that could be better spent on impactful projects.

To keep things on track, try using a simple meeting agenda template.

Fill out this template a few days ahead of your meeting and send it out to all of the participants. Doing this in advance will give folks time to prepare for the meeting accordingly — and ultimately eliminate any confusion.

Meeting Agenda Template

8) Infographic Templates

When you work at a small company, design resources can be hard to come by. But that doesn’t mean your content creation efforts need to suffer as a result.

These free infographic templates can be used by designers and non-designers alike to create quality inforgraphics right in PowerPoint or Illustrator.

Use these infographic templates to visualize your latest research report, create a shareable blog post, or promote a piece of gated content on social media.

Infographic Template

9) Social Graphic Templates

With the help of these Canva templates, you can create stunning social media images for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.

These templates are designed to meet the dimension requirements for each network, so you can spend less time hunting down accurate aspect ratios and more time boosting your social media engagement.

Social Media Template

10) Small Team Status Board Template

If you’re working on a really small team — let’s say 1-10 people — you might find this status board template useful.

The template provides a column for each member of your team where they can add high-level status updates. This can be updated daily, weekly, or monthly to keep everyone on the same page about priorities, progress, and opportunities for collaboration.

Not to mention, the handy color-coding system allows you to determine the current standing of the task (good, needs attention, waiting on someone, etc.) at a quick glance.

Status Board Template

Save Time in 2018

So there you have it: 10 incredibly useful business templates that will help you save time and hit the ground running next year.

Can you think of any other templates you lean on for support? Share them with us on Twitter @HubSpot.

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Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Podcast in 2018

I’ve become a morning walking companion to people I may never meet.

How is this possible? They take me along in their earbuds as they stream my podcast, Build a Better Agency

It’s a wonderful sign of things to come for marketers willing to venture into the podcasting universe.

Once a fringe platform, podcasts are now surprisingly mainstream. According to Nielsen, six out of 10 people understand what they are, and 112 million Americans — 40 percent of the nation’s population — have listened to at least one. Though podcast listeners lean male, it isn’t by much: 56 percent are men, while 44 percent are women.Discover instructions on how to get a podcast up and running.

Marketing professionals must not only be aware of these statistics, but they must also leverage them in their own campaigns. When 67 million men and women are monthly podcast consumers, it’s a niche that deserves serious contemplation. Add to that fact the amazing statistic that 63 percent of podcast listeners made a purchase based on something the host recommended, and you have yourself a veritable gold mine.

Of course, you have to crawl, then walk, then break into a steady trot to glean the benefits.

A no-nonsense primer from a podcast experimenter.

In my case, I’d written blog posts, conducted webinars, and published articles in places like Forbes and Fast Company for some time. These content producers worked, but I felt a different portal would help connect with more agencies and leaders in an accessible, easy to find, on-demand format.

As a longtime podcast listener myself, I recognized that the podcasting platform was the next logical step for me — especially if I wanted to reach a narrow audience of mid-sized agency owners and leaders as an authority in my field for more than 23 years. And as a long-time professional, I hired Predictive ROI, an Agency Management Institute agency, to produce the podcast so I wouldn’t make as many rookie technical mistakes.

Still, opening yourself up to podcasting is a little like breaking the lid on Pandora’s box. Until you do it, you have no idea what to expect. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t head off issues before you go live.

Expect a certain amount of learning as you go, but be ready to explore the technology before fully launching your podcast. You wouldn’t open a bakery with your very first pie, so don’t hit “publish” until you get the lay of the land and make a plan. (Being a podcast guest prior to launching your own is a smart idea, too.)

Podcasting in the beginner’s circle.

Even if you’ve never been in front of a mic before, you can map out the first phase of a solid podcast schedule. From there, you’ll be able to branch out.

1. Create a checklist to keep yourself on task.

I asked myself tons of questions repeatedly before committing to podcasting. They included everything from the niche audience I wanted to reach to whether being the host of a podcast was a short-term fad or a long-term interest. I also considered what podcast style I preferred to offer the public, including a show prep and publishing schedule.

Obviously, your checklist will be individualized, but be sure it includes a section on technical elements. Setting up audio, iTunes, accounts, and interviews can be tricky if you haven’t done your homework.

2. Set up your basic show format.

Every interviewer prefers to run his or her podcast in a particular way. Many podcasters ask guests the same questions, but as a listener, I find that gets stale in a hurry. Sure, it’s less prep work, but it makes the host look lazy. I preferred interviewing subject matter experts but wanted to occasionally keep the door open to produce a solocast. My compromise was a 4–1 ratio of interviews to solocasts.

I was reasonably confident that I could have a few questions on hand and then launch into a conversation on the fly from there. A big risk? Maybe. But I believed I could pull off a 45-minute to 60-minute conversation without a safety net.

3. Leverage the heck out of your network.

The first 10 episodes set the tone for any podcast launch, so make sure you line up high-profile, interesting, engaging guests who won’t be turned off if you have very few — or no — listeners. My friends came through in a big way for me, offering me rock stars from day one. Not only did they help publicize the podcast, but they also generously allowed me to ride on their social media coattails.

4. Track your downloads.

Rob Walch was one of my recent podcast guests who offered an important consideration for any podcasters: You have to stay on top of your downloads. Rob’s suggestion is to hit at least 500 downloads an episode to feel sure you’ve broken the cycle of only having people in your inner circle tune in.

What’s a reasonable download number for your, quote, “success”? Only you can determine this, but it helps to keep a steady eye on the numbers. Starting to see a downward trend in listenership? Go back to square one and ask those tough questions again so you can pivot before your podcast loses traction.

5. Produce great content consistently.

Does everyone have a bad episode once in a while? Sure. And if you’ve planned in advance and have great content in the bag, you can simply not release it in lieu of a better one. Before you release your podcasts publicly, try to have several on hand. That way, you get the relief of a buffer zone.

Don’t try to start too quickly. You can always ramp up your delivery later. With my travel schedule that sees me on no fewer than 200 planes a year, I decided to get 10 episodes in before I proved to myself I could sustain the effort. August and September 2015 were a flurry of set-up and recordings, and we opened our podcast doors — virtually — in October 2015. Since then, we’ve published a new episode weekly without fail.

6. Prepare to become a podcast promoter.

Your target personas won’t find your podcast without a little help, so promote it like your life depends on it. I utilized our company’s email list, my personal social channels, and myriad other platforms. In addition, I requested that each guest promote his or her episode.

We were fortunate to get on iTunes New and Noteworthy, landing us in the top five of several of its subject-specific lists during our first month.

7. Learn how to monetize your podcast.

Finally, it’s important to figure out how to earn an income based on your podcasting. One way is to promote your book, workshop, or online course, creating thought leadership at the same time.

If you have a narrow audience lacking depth or width and you just can’t sell advertisements or sponsorships, you can still make numbers work in your favor.

Sound like hard work? It is, but it’s totally worth it if you strategize. Two years after unveiling my first episode, we have 110 five-star reviews, and episodes are downloaded in more than 125 countries. I’m pleased to say we’ve also earned a presenting sponsorship from HubSpot. Podcasting hasn’t just been a feeder for the business, but a phenomenal marketing opportunity as well.

Have you thought about taking the podcasting plunge? The water’s a bit choppy at first, but there’s plenty of room for another swimmer!

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10 Out-Of-Office Messages to Kick off Your Holiday Season

When it comes to the final days before vacation, people tend to fall into one of two camps: 1) those who watch the clock incessantly, and 2) those who are so busy before they leave, they might even forget to put up an out-of-office email message.

If you’re anything like I am, you probably fall into team two. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to get creative. But if you plan ahead, you might be able to craft some hilarity.

Out-of-office messages run the gamut. From funny, to clever, to snarky, we’ve come across some of the best — from Google, and from colleagues.

Here are some of the gems we found. And once you’re back from vacation? Well, not to rush you, but this email productivity guide can help you get back on track after your out-of-office time.

1. The Not-So-Tropical Getaway

We’ll give this guy first place, since we almost feel bad for him. Almost. Rather than using an out-of-office message for a tropical vacation, he used one to explain his absence during what would likely be a snowstorm. Not only did it give us a chuckle, but it also generated a certain amount of empathy — which is often the key to good content.

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 11.16.36 AM.png

Source: New Relic

2. The Sorry-I’m-Not-Sorry

If your email client allows it, you could always just use an image to express your out-office-sentiment, like this one. After all, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words — and, visual content is still essential to successful marketing.

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Source: Barry Moroney

3. The Popular Film Reference

Are you familiar with the film Field of Dreams? If not, allow us to fill you in. It centers around baseball and a family in Iowa, but saying any more might spoil the plotline. 

Movie synopses aside, the opening line of this out-of-office message was taken directly from the Field of Dreams script — fitting, given the sender’s travels to Iowa. So before you leave, research some famous quotes about the place you’re visiting. It might test the recipient’s knowledge, but more likely, it’ll just make them smile.

Screen Shot 2016-11-30 at 11.32.32 AM.png

Source: New Relic

4. The Scavenger Hunt

When my colleague Sam Mallikarjunan went on vacation, he set an out-of-office message that was both clever and smart. First, he sent the recipient on an imaginary scavenger hunt to “the highest peak of the tallest mountain.” He used humorous absurdity to make it clear that he would not be checking email while he was away.

Plus, he incorporated a delightful technique to let people know that if they really wanted him to read their emails, they should probably send them again after his return. Not only does that keep the sender accountable by saying, “If this is really important, you know when to reach me,” but it also helps Mallikarjunan truly vacate his work while he’s away. And that’s hard to do — And if you struggle with it, check out these tips.

SMOOO2

Source: Sam Mallikarjunan

5. The Blunt Approach

Josh Kopelman, we salute you.

Not only did Kopelman manage to turn his out-of-office message into an epic poem of sorts, but also, he actually went through the trouble of creating a delightfully snarky, vacation-specific email address for his recipients.

Giving the option to contact an email address containing “interruptyourvacation” provides two things — 1) A dose of humor, and 2) discouragement from actually doing what the name suggests. Plus, he prefaces it with a request for empathy, by explaining that he promised quality time to his family.

Here’s where honesty is a helpful device. Sure, Kopelman is truthful about the fact that he’s on vacation, but he also lets the recipient know that he or she would be interrupting important family time if the first option is chosen. It states a point simply, and uses humor to avoid making it sound like he wants the reader to feel guilty.

Josh Kopelman OOO.png

Source: Gizmodo

6. The Third Person

When HubSpot Marketing Manager Karsten Köhler is out of the office, he doesn’t mess around. In fact, he’s turned his auto-responses into a running series of commentary for fictional cartoon character Troy McClure.

Each time McClure makes an appearance in these out-of-office messages, he “speaks” on behalf of Köhler and alludes to the previous auto-responses in which he starred. It’s a mild form of self-deprecating humor — as if to say, “I know, I’m out of the office again” — made only funnier by the made-up teaser title included in the last line.

As with the Field of Dreams example, don’t be afraid to use a pop cultural reference that audience would recognize. Instead of bemoaning your absence, they’ll have something fun and familiar to laugh at.

Karsten OOO

Source: Karsten Köhler

7. The Twitter Method

… and then, there was the out-of-office tweet. We’re not entirely sure where it originated, but it has two sides.

If you actually want people to be able to reach you, and you’re more likely to be checking Twitter than email while out of the office, it might be an effective way for people to reach you.

But if you tend to use social media during vacation and really do want to be left alone, we would suggest offering a different communication method in your auto-response.

8. The Liquid Update

We wish we could find the original source of this one. It’s made several lists, and its author is likely a legend within his or her network.

That said, even though we’ve been preaching honesty as the best policy, be careful with messages that are this transparent. Make sure you’re familiar enough with your audience — and your boss, for that matter — to know that this sort of out-of-office message will be met with a snicker, and not with concern.

I am currently out of the office and probably out-of-my-mind drunk. Enjoy your work week.”

9. The Guessing Game

There’s a term that we like to use around here called “snowbirds,” which is used to describe those who once resided in the northern part of the U.S., only to flee to warmer parts of the country during the winter.

And although I had mixed feelings about my own parents joining that population in Florida, I couldn’t be too upset when my dad suggested flying down from Boston for a Red Sox spring training game.

Naturally, I had to take the day off — and couldn’t let folks know with any old generic auto-response. Instead, I made a guessing game of it.

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 12.32.27 PM 

10. The Out-of-Office Mad Libs

If you’re feeling a bit stumped for inspiration — be it the eggnog or a full calendar of engagements to blame — there’s a template for that.

Luminary Labs, to the joy of those suffering from writer’s block everywhere, came up with a Mad-Libs-style out-of-office message generator that lets you simply fill in a noun, verb, or adjective to describe why you’re out of the office and when you’ll be back.

Might we recommend it as a team-bonding activity for your company holiday party? Here’s how one such exercise turned out:

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Author: Amanda Zantal-Wiener

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Are Google’s Featured Snippets Eating Your Blog Traffic?

The HubSpot Marketing Blog has been around since 2006.

Think about that for a moment. It’s been 11 years — with is plenty of time for successes, failures, changes, and growth. And within that tradition, the Marketing Blog has been no exception.

The Marketing Blog has been a key part of HubSpot’s inbound business. The more posts we published, the larger our audience grew. In 2014, we celebrated reaching 1.5 million views a month. And now, we take pride in our 4.5 million monthly visits.

But then, earlier this year, we noticed that our traffic was falling flat. Then, it declined. In such a short period of time, we had gone from impressive growth to stagnation — and what’s worse, we couldn’t figure out why.Click here to get everything you need to get your website ranking in search.

Sound familiar?

We have an answer — but the news isn’t exactly, well, good. As it turns out, Google is likely eating your blog traffic — specifically, its featured snippets.

Here’s how we found out.

How We Discovered What Happened

While we spent several months trying to figure out what was going on with our traffic, for the purposes of this post, we’ll be focusing on the data we collected that led to our discovery of featured snippets eating blog traffic. To read about the full methodology, visit our research report.

When we looked at the existing data available on this matter, we discovered that, at the root of the issue was that search is simply changing. The number of featured snippets on search engine results pages (SERPs) has grown 328% since summer 2015. On top of that, just under one-third of Google searches now returns a featured snippet.

That may not sound like a huge amount, but when you also consider that, according to Moz, almost half of today’s searches result in zero clicks, it indicates that people might be getting the answers they need directly on the SERP — no page visits required.

In other words, the trends indicated that we were likely losing traffic to featured snippets, whether that snippet received any clicks or not.

What That Means

To put that into context, consider that on SERPs with no featured snippet, we found that the first result can expect to bring in about 33% of the total clicks. The second result accounts for 18%, and the rest, 11% or under.

But we couldn’t just take their word for it. We had a deeper look to see if this was, in fact, happening with our own blog posts, highlighting a few that particularly stood out to us.

With a featured snippet, position #1 is, well, a losing result. That’s because the featured snippet gets such a high ratio of clicks — about 50%, versus 33% — decreasing clicks on the remaining results below it to the point that some of the top 10 become nearly obsolete.

So, yeah — with featured snippets appearing on a third of all Google SERPs, there’s a good chance that they’re eating your traffic.

We suspected that might be the case with a few of our own blog posts, and picked out three examples for which our page rank on the SERP didn’t fluctuate significantly year-over-year — in fact, in some cases, it remained in position #1 — but we didn’t capture the featured snippet for the highest-volume queries or keywords.

Here’s how much the raw traffic on those posts decreased.

1. “How to Make a Chart or Graph in Excel”

Query: “how to make a graph in excel”

Monthly search volume: over 8,000

How we appeared in the SERP: Position #1 — but didn’t capture the featured snippet

The result: 38% decrease in visits from 2016 to 2017

2. “16 of the Best Job Interview Questions to Ask Candidates”

Query: “best interview questions”

Monthly search volume: over 9,000

How we appeared in the SERP: Position #4 — didn’t capture the featured snippet

The result: 35% decrease in visits from 2016 to 2017

3. “15 Hidden Instagram Hacks and Features”

Query: “instagram hacks”

Monthly search volume: over 1,000

How we appeared in the SERP: Position #1 — but didn’t capture the featured snippet

The result: 24% decrease in visits from 2016 to 2017

It boils down to the click-through-rate (CTR) from the SERP. Featured snippets were the primary reason we’ve seen our blog traffic flatten this year — even though we ranked well, someone else accounted for half of the clicks, ultimately bringing down our raw traffic.

What to Do About the Featured Snippet

Moving forward, there are some things that can be done to fight these changes. Here are the two primary ones we’re testing.

1. Capturing the featured snippet.

We’re optimizing existing posts that are currently not capturing the featured snippet, and creating new posts with the featured snippet — as well as other search features — in mind.

2. Finding the green space.

Snippets are not going away — and as long as they’re around, they’ll continue to eat blog traffic — sometimes, despite your best efforts. So even with optimization, we won’t ever completely replenish the traffic we lost. To counter that, we’ll work to identify subject matter gaps that created content and clusters in new topic areas where our audience is seeking answers.

… for now, at least. What’s your plan? Feel free to weigh in on Twitter, or let us know if you have a question about it.

marketing

 
Click here to get everything you need to get your website ranking in search.

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Author: Amanda Zantal-Wiener

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