9 of the Best Free Video Editing Software to Try

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Easy Video Editing Software to Use Today

1) Machete Video Editor Lite (Windows)

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Source: Softonic

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

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

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

2) Avidemux (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: Softonic

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

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

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

3) WeVideo (Cloud-based)

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Source: WeVideo

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

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

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

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

4) VSDC Free Video Editor (Windows)

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Source: Softonic

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

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

5) Wondershare Filmora (Windows/Mac)

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Source: Wondershare

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

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

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

6) Blender (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: Blender

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

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

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

7) Lightworks (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: ZDNet

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

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

8) Shotcut (Windows/Mac/Linux)

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Source: Shotcut

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

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

9) HitFilm (Windows/Mac)

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Source: HitFilm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identifying Your Potential Direct Mail Audience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Conscious of Your Prospects’ Stage in the Buyer Cycle

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

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

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

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

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

Creative Ways to Incorporate Direct Mail — at the Right Time

Let’s return to the recent blog subscriber.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keys to Direct Mail Marketing Success

1) Focus on the trackability of your campaigns.

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

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

2) Keep it visual.

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

3) Provide a clear next step.

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

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

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

5) Always tie it back to online efforts.

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

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

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

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

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

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28 Funny Twitter Bios to Brighten Your Day

Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of making an impact on social media is coming up with something profound in 140 characters. That’s right; I’m talking about the tweet.

A tweet is short, sweet, and to the point. And crafting one often leaves us staring blankly at that little blinking cursor, hoping for a way to rephrase the tweet to let up some characters for an image, a link, or that ever-essential hashtag.

Unsurprisingly, a Twitter bio is equally challenging. You mean to tell me that I have 160 characters (thanks for the extra 20?) to explain to the Twittersphere who I am, what I do, and why my Twitter is worth following?Click here to learn how to grow your network and become an influencer in your  industry.

It might not seem like a big deal, but keep this in mind: Your bio is one the main things people use to decide whether or not to follow you on Twitter — so what you write in your Twitter bio needs to count.

Today, we’re taking a moment to highlight some of the most amusing and entertaining bios we could find. We’ve scoured far and wide and am proud to present to you with 28 of the funniest bios — from real people, beloved brands, and fictitious characters that pepper the Twittersphere.

28 of the Funniest Twitter Bios We Could Find

1) @TheMikeTrainor

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Why we’re amused:

Comedian and writer Mike Trainor makes my inner seven-year-old want to ask him to pull my finger. Also, imagining Mr. Trainor saying, “He who smelt it,” while looking as dapper as he does in his profile picture is a little slice of added amusement. Plus, we can’t help but love this bio’s self-deprecation, in its allusion to the fact that one of his shows is “still airing somehow.”

2) @UberFacts

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Why we’re amused:

UberFacts fills our brains with seemingly unnecessary information all day, every day. Though with the rise of popularity in bar-hosted trivia nights and games like Trivia Crack, I wouldn’t say we’ll never need to know things like this:

3) @NelsonFranklin

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Why we’re amused:

I [verb describing feelings of having a strong liking for] this. American actor Nelson Franklin gets us. We’ve seen enough “Actor/Entertainer/Jazz Pianist” Twitter bios — seriously.

Franklin took it upon himself to create a bio that not only asks his followers to test out their imaginations, but one which will also withstand the test of time. I mean, no matter what Nelson Franklin becomes in life, “Noun/noun/noun” is likely to be pretty accurate.

4) @mikeindustries

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Why we’re amused:

Mike Davidson, former VP of Design at Twitter, is a connoisseur of sorts — and while he has an impressive background, we do enjoy his present credential of, “Currently chillin’.”

We also can’t help but wonder: Does the Twitter bio 160 character limit have to do with the aesthetics of a Twitter page’s design? Is Mike Davidson to blame?

5) @JamieAmacher

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Why we’re amused:

Some people aim to save neglected pets. Jamie Amacher aims to save neglected houseplants. Buffalo, NY resident (and coworker of mine at Mainstreethost), Amacher knows the importance of keeping plants alive indoors — especially since, here in the Northeast U.S., we don’t get to see much plant life outside during winter.

I must say, it’s a noble act; sacrificing a Twitter bio front-loaded with accomplishments. for the sake of our forgetful nature and thirsty houseplants.

6) @sixthformpoet

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Why we’re amused:

Like a homeless individual asking me for beer money, I can respect this. The mysterious Sixth Form Poet is an author (as she or he is quick to remind us) of the book The Sixth Form Poet, and offers up this Twitter handle on the book’s cover as authorship. The Sixth Form Poet has attracted 143k fans to date, which is fitting, considering this 2013 tweet:

7) @Lord_Voldemort7

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Why we’re amused:

Harry Potter fans, rejoice — or cower in fear. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has a Twitter, and he’s not afraid to share his truth — in the form of a clever use of Christina Perri lyrics.

8) @shelbyfero

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Why we’re amused:

As we mentioned above, we always appreciate a bit of tasteful self-deprecating humor, and Shelby Fero gives us just that in her Twitter bio. Though, according to HiTFiX (and her impressive Twitter following of 122k), it seems that people are crazy about her — at the very least, on Twitter. And, if you’re curious about her work, she’s also conveniently included a link to Google search her instead of providing a website.

9) @KevinSpacey

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Why we’re amused:

Huh. Well, whoever he is, we wish him the best of luck on his creative endeavor.

10) @sweetestsara

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Why we’re amused:

Sara Rubin is a video producer at BuzzFeed. You can thank her in part for many of the fantastic BuzzFeed videos you see circulating around social media and love are obsessed with. If you’ve seen any of the videos in which she’s, you know she’s an overall lovable and whimsical character — not to mention, hilariously awkward and anxious, like a good handful of us.

Her Twitter bio is just as imaginative and adds a touch of fantasy that I think provides a welcomed breather from some of the more serious Twitter bios out there.

11) @JohnCleese

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Why we’re amused:

John Cleese is an English writer, actor and tall person (according to his website). As he is also a comedian, we’re allowed to find it incredibly humorous that he mentions in his Twitter bio that he’s still alive, contrary to rumor. Plus, he’s doing “the silly walk” in his app, and we invite you to see for yourself just how silly it is. (Monty Python fans, rejoice.)

12 & 13) @arnettwill & @batemanjason

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Why we’re amused:

First off, it’s clear to me that BFF Twitter bios are the BFF necklace of 2017. Actors Will Arnett and Jason Bateman wear their BFF-dom proud for all of the Twitterland to see — but it’s not the first time they’ve taken their affinity for one another to the public eye. In 2013, they were seen strolling down the street on a sunny afternoon in 2013 while having some fun with the nearby paparazzi:

14 & 15) @AlisonLeiby & @alyssawolff

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Why we’re amused:

In a similar fashion, writers Alison Leiby and Alyssa Wolff have obviously made a BFF pact to dedicate their Twitter bios to one another. Again — we approve.

16) @Lesdoggg

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Why we’re amused:

What do we love about comedian Leslie Jones’ Twitter bio? It’s simple and to the point. Plus, we can’t help but snicker at the humor in its simplicity — she lets us know about her line of work, without any jokes. That’s okay; luckily, her on-screen work and actual tweets provide plenty of hilarious fodder.

17) @shondarhimes

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Why we’re amused:

For many of us, Shonda Rhimes is a legend — and our Thursday nights would be so much less interesting without her. She’s the writer behind such hit shows as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” and yes: People love to tweet their plotline opinions to her. She stops that madness with a concise, funny quip in her bio: “It’s not real, okay?” Yes, Ms. Rhimes.

18) @aparnapkin

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Why we’re amused:

Comedian Aparna Nancherla’s Twitter handle (@aparnapkin) is seemingly a play on her name, which is silly enough. Based on her bio I’d be willing to guess that her Twitter feed is equally as amusing.

That assumption is backed up by TIME, as her feed was named one of The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2014. Out of about 328 million monthly active users on Twitter, that ain’t too shabby – she’s definitely considered a comedian in this culture, if I had to guess.

19) @notzuckerberg

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Why we’re amused:

In case you haven’t already guessed, this is NOT Mark Zuckerberg. But that doesn’t stop @notzuckerberg (a.k.a., Twitter user @afterthatsummer) from tweeting as if (s)he were the “Zuck.”

The fake Mark Zuckerberg is pretty funny, as proven by his Twitter bio and tweets like this:

Touché, fake Zuck. Touché.

20) @AnnaKendrick47

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Why we’re amused:

We’ve always been rather amused by Anna Kendrick’s self-deprecating humor in general. Take, for example, this pinned tweet:

Plus, we love the location she listed. (Same here, Ms. Kendrick.)

21) @FirstWorldPains

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 10.15.27 AMWhy we’re amused:

This account pokes fun at “first world problems,” where people complain about things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things: cold French fries, getting the wrong coffee, a cell phone dying, or — as @FirstWorldPains mentions in its bio — the absolutely terrible moment when you really, really want to write a good online bio, but can’t think of anything. #worstdayofmylife

22) @Charmin

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Why we’re amused:

Charmin, as we know, sells toilet paper. We’re all adults here, and we all know what it’s used for. Charmin’s Twitter bio is entertaining because, considering its industry, the brand gets the awkwardness out of the way immediately, letting us all know that, hey, quality toilet paper is a good thing … and a good bathroom trip — or, “the go,” as it’s called here — should be enjoyed.

Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a good, TP-related riddle?

23) @ComedyCentral

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Why we’re amused:

Because we see what you did there, Comedy Central. Also, this:

For some of us, cheese is always the answer, no matter what the problem.

24) @YourAwayMessage

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Why we’re amused:

Are we the only ones who remember the days of AOL Instant Messenger, a.k.a., AIM? Think back, if you can, to a time before Slack, Twitter, and even Facebook — and maybe, just maybe, it’ll all come back to you.

If looking at this bio (and its accompanying profile image) gives you an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, then you already know why it’s amusing. Remember AIM profiles? And sub-profiles? And away messages? Or the sound of that creaky door opening when your ~*cRuSh*~ signed on?

Also, the location being “the den” is on point. If this doesn’t hit home for you, view this BuzzFeed article, or move on to the next!

25) @TheEllenShow

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Why we’re amused:

Ellen DeGeneres entertains us on social media, television, real life, etc. She’s just plain amusing. So it should come as no surprise that her actual bio on Twitter is pretty darn amusing. According to her bio, she has a second job as an ice road trucker — hmm — and her tweets are both real, and spectacular. Well, she’s not lying about her tweets. After all, see below. So, what does that tell us about her second job? We buy it.

26) @tomhanks

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Why we’re amused:

Fame didn’t get to Tom Hanks’ head. He’s a normal person, just like you and I, having issues with fluctuating weight. Sometimes, he gains people’s approval — and other times, not so much. To that, we say, “Tweet on, Tom.”

27) @FranksRedHot

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Why we’re amused:

If you’re as big a fan of Frank’s RedHot as we are, then you know how easy it to actually but that — ahem — [stuff] on everything. Of course, as marketers, we agree that the brand might as well put it on Twitter, too.

28) @popchips

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Why we’re amused:

We wish eating popchips was in our job descriptions — since, when they’re around, we certainly eat them like it’s part of our collective responsibilities.

Find Your Twitter Humor

It’s true — exercising humor while also tweeting as a responsible business is often a fine line to walk. But as these examples show, it’s possible to be both self-deprecating and funny on social media, as long as it aligns with your brand.

And, as always, we’ll continue bringing you the latest news and tactics in conquering social media.

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Nobody Tells Leaders When They’re Doing a Bad Job. Here’s How to Do It Right.

Two threads on Hacker News recently have shed light on the utter failures of leadership in tech. The first was an honest question: “Women in tech, how do you find non-toxic work environments?” The second was in response to an article, “Why Good People Leave Large Tech Companies.”

These threads read like the Inept Executive Handbook  –  failures to address cultural issues, ignorance of the reality of day-to-day life for their employees, mishandling of everything from HR complaints to stock options.Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

My intention isn’t to be unnecessarily hard on executives, all humans are prone to error, but executives are at the greatest risk of believing a single version of reality  —  our own. I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, we often get it wrong.

And if you’re relying on your open door policy to keep a pulse on things? I’m sorry, but you’re just not doing enough.

The executive title is a funny thing. The higher you ascend in an organization the more isolated you tend to become. It starts getting harder and harder to get a true picture of how effective you are at leading a team.

Executives, if you want the actual truth, you need to stop assuming people will show up to tell you, you’re going to have to work for it. Why? Well we’re all subject to the idiosyncrasies of human behavior. As a senior leader, you invariably get isolated from an honest assessment of your behaviors. The main reason it happens is fear.

The people in the best position to provide leaders with honest feedback on what’s working and what’s not have the most to lose by providing that feedback.

Even in the most progressive and supportive environments people are reluctant to provide honest feedback on their leaders  —  self-preservation is an exceptionally strong motivator.

We’re trying something a little different at HubSpot to ensure our senior leaders know exactly what they’re doing that’s having a positive impact and what’s not. That’s where I come in. My job at HubSpot is to be the person that tells executives the things others won’t or can’t.

Yes, it’s a weird role.

I want to share this process because I believe it’s time for executives to stop expecting that someone will speak up if something needs to change. It’s time for executives to get serious about honest feedback.

My 3 Step Process for Honest Executive Feedback

1) Identify a broad set of people surrounding the leader in question and conduct in-depth feedback interviews with them.

To get a comprehensive set of feedback I will interview an average of 18 people that interact with the executive being reviewed. I break the interviewees into the following groups:

  • Direct reports/Team Members  —  not much explanation need on this one
  • Peers  —  these are people operating at the same level as the executive being reviewed and have a working relationship with that person
  • Associates  —  these are people that the executive works with cross-functionally to get work done
  • Manager  —  that’s pretty clear
  • Self  —  yup, that’s right, the executive does a self-assessment answering the same questions as everyone else

For each person giving feedback I will conduct a 30-minute interview and capture their sentiments through handwritten notes. As soon as an interview ends I take a half hour and transcribe my notes into a master document that will ultimately contain notes from all the interviews for a particular 360.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Woah, that’s really inefficient … you should just take notes on your computer or better yet record the interviews”.

You’d think so.

But, what I’ve found is that nothing reduces the level of candor quite like typing (no eye contact), and the reminder that an audio record of the conversation will live on. So, old school pen and paper it is.

2) Compile the interview findings into a 360-feedback report for the executive.

When all the interviews are complete and the notes have been transcribed into a master notes document, I read the notes multiple times to draw out key feedback findings and capture them in a separate document that will become the Executive 360 Feedback Report. To qualify as a “finding,” an issues needs to have been mentioned by at least 5 different people  —  this is all about uncovering the signal in the feedback noise.

Then I match up the quotes from each feedback interview with the appropriate finding I listed in the feedback report, and finally, write an overall summary of that finding to add clarity and context to the supporting quotes.

The feedback findings are presented in 4 sections:

  1. The first section covers Strengths/Positive impacts.
  2. The second covers What Gets in Your Way/ Negative Impacts.
  3. The third section is Stop/Start/Continue which contains all of the specific advice interviewees provided when I asked them “If you could give [Leader]specific advice to be more effective, what would you tell them to stop doing? What would you tell them to start doing? What would you tell them to continue doing because it’s working?”
  4. The fourth section is the Self-Assessment. As I mentioned above, the leader receiving the 360 feedback is asked the same questions as the people I interviewed. Their self-perceptions and perspectives are detailed in the report so the executive can compare their own point of view to that of those providing feedback.

My intent is to be as impartial as possible, but I am also filtering the feedback through the lens of HubSpot. There are some behaviors that, in a different organization, would be a strength. The core goal of this program is to provide effective and actionable feedback that is calibrated to the context of the unique attributes of our organization.

3) Share the feedback with the executive and their manager.

This is arguably the hardest part of the process. At HubSpot we consider feedback to be the breakfast of champions; that doesn’t mean it’s always yummy. While The feedback I provide centers on strengths and positive impacts, the part everyone always wants to dig into are the Negative Impacts and What Gets in Your Way.

In every 360, there are inevitably pieces of negative feedback the executive is surprised to learn, finds tough to face, or disagrees with entirely. That’s to be expected. There are some key things I focus the executive on when delivering this feedback to make the experience as palatable as possible.

The first thing I coach executives to consider is how can you derive even more success from your strengths and the behaviors that have a positive impact on the organization and the people around you. I caution people when they consider the Negative Impacts/What Gets in Your Way findings to not jump to the conclusion that “I need to work on all this right away”. As you might suspect, it’s more complicated than that.

When thinking about the things that are having a negative effect or are getting in the way of greater success you must think more broadly than just “I need to work on that”. You need to consider the following:

  • Is this negative impact a function of the role I have and no change on my part is going to really affect the sentiment of the finding?
  • Is this the result of how I fundamentally behave as a person and making a change in this area will take me years of effort which won’t address the issue right now?
  • What if I figure out how to minimize the negative impact the behavior is having rather than trying to change who I am?
  • Is this something that I have the capacity to change with relative ease and the change will make a tangible difference in my effectiveness as a manager and leader?

If you’re still with me I want to make something really clear  — the sole purpose of this effort is to make good executives better, by keeping them tuned into the actual reality, not just the reality in their own heads. Getting an Executive 360 isn’t an indicator that things are going poorly for that person. It’s an indicator that there are even greater heights of achievement for that person, and it’s critical they understand what to lean into and what needs work. That’s why the feedback review itself takes a two-part form:

Part One

I conduct a one hour review session with the executive to go over the findings to ensure there is clarity around all the feedback contained in the Executive 360 document. During that conversation, we make some initial judgments together on the strengths to lean into and the negative-impact areas where either making a change would be effective or minimizing the impact of something is the right approach.

Depending on the nature of the feedback and the approaches needed to move forward, we arrive at a conclusion on the level of involvement I might have in helping them take action on the feedback they now have.

Part Two

I conduct a half hour session with the executive’s manager to review the overall findings. In that session, I provide a summary document that only contains the positive and negative findings. This document does not include the quotes for each finding, the Stop, Start, Continue section or the self-review.

Given the highly personal nature of the feedback, it is the recipient’s decision to share the more detailed version of the feedback with their manager. During the session with the executive’s manager, I will also share the general gist of the conversation I had with the executive and any next steps we might have decided.

It is essential for both the manager and the feedback recipient to be aware of the findings since much of the development work that results from the document and the review will be done by the executive and their manager. The 360 itself, while a valuable tool to get clarity into how people perceive an executive’s effectiveness, won’t change behavior.

That’s on the shoulders of the executive to do the hard work of leaning into strengths and developing strategies to address the things that get in their way. My role in that is to provide further coaching at the discretion of the development partnership between the executive and their manager.

As you’ve probably guessed, this level of feedback is a lot of effort and laden with emotional landmines.

Leadership is in the eye of the beholder.

There are a lot of reasons people may choose to follow a leader  — vision, inspiration, power, fear  —  those are just a few. Regardless of people’s motivation to follow, the way you lead will have a significant impact on your ability to drive success in your organization. Often the way you lead is referred to as your leadership style.

The funny thing about your leadership style is that you don’t define it  —  your followers do.

Leadership is in the eye of the beholder. “Wait” you say, “I’m the one leading, so I’m setting my leadership style”. Actually, you are exhibiting the set of behaviors you are using to lead. Your followers, the ones observing and being affected by those behaviors, define your leadership style.

Think of it this way. While one person you lead might see your approach as demanding and blunt; another might see you as decisive with high expectations; yet another might see you as an unreasonable jerk who doesn’t listen.

Who’s right? They all are.

And the best leaders aren’t naive enough to believe that their actions or good intentions are perceived the same way by every person.

So if you want honest feedback on how you’re doing, stop assuming that it’s just going to show up. It’s on you to get out there and uncover the issues — and the opportunities.

Editor’s note: a version of this post first appeared on ThinkGrowth.org. 

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7 Digital Marketing Strategies That Work: A Complete Guide

There’s no question that, in the modern landscape, a big part of your marketing strategy is digital. Consumers and businesses alike are almost always online — and you want to be able to reach them and observe their behavior where they spend the most time.

But when you’re growing a business, it seems like this ever-evolving landscape can quickly become overwhelming. There’s already enough to do — how are you also supposed to create, fine-tune, and maintain an agile digital marketing strategy?

We’ve compiled a list of seven digital marketing strategies that marketers can adapt to help their teams and businesses grow, as well as a crash course on the meaning of digital strategy and marketing campaigns.

Click here to download our free guide to digital marketing fundamentals.

What is Digital Strategy?

In short: Your digital marketing strategy is the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goal(s) using online marketing. The term ‘strategy’ might seem intimidating, but building an effective digital strategy doesn’t need to be difficult.

In simple terms, a strategy is just a plan of action to achieve a desired goal, or multiple goals. For example, your overarching goal might be to generate 25% more leads via your website this year than you drove last year.

Depending on the scale of your business, your digital marketing strategy might involve multiple goals and a lot of moving parts, but coming back to this simple way of thinking about strategy can help you stay focused on meeting those objectives.

Despite our simplification of the term ‘strategy’, there’s no doubt it can be difficult to get started actually building one. Let’s see what a digital marketing campaign looks like, and then, we’ll jump into those seven building blocks to help you create an effective digital marketing strategy to set up your business for online success.

What is a Digital Marketing Campaign?

It’s easy to confuse your digital strategy with your digital marketing campaigns, but here’s how to distinguish the two.

As we’ve already outlined, your digital strategy is the series of actions you take to help you achieve your overarching marketing goal. Your digital marketing campaigns are the building blocks or actions within your strategy that move you toward meeting that goal.

For example, you might decide to run a campaign sharing some of your best-performing gated content on Twitter, to generate more leads through that channel. That campaign is part of your strategy to generate more leads.

It’s important to note that even if a campaign runs over the course of a couple of years, it doesn’t make it a strategy — it’s still a tactic that sits alongside other campaigns to form your strategy.

Now that we’ve gotten to grips with the basics of digital strategy and digital marketing campaigns, let’s dig into how to build your strategy.

How to Build a Comprehensive Digital Strategy

1) Build your buyer personas.

For any marketing strategy — offline or online — you need to know who you’re marketing to. The best digital marketing strategies are built upon detailed buyer personas, and your first step is to create them. (Need help? Start here with our free buyer persona kit.)

Buyer personas represent your ideal customer(s) and can be created by researching, surveying, and interviewing your business’s target audience. It’s important to note that this information should be based upon real data wherever possible, as making assumptions about your audience can cause your marketing strategy to take the wrong direction.

To get a rounded picture of your persona, your research pool should include a mixture of customers, prospects, and people outside your contacts database who align with your target audience.

But what kind of information should you gather for your own buyer persona(s) to inform your digital marketing strategy? That depends on your businesses, and is likely to vary depending on whether you’re B2B or B2C, or whether your product is high cost or low cost. Here are some starting points, but you’ll want to fine-tune them, depending on your particular business.

Quantitative (or Demographic) Information

  • Location. You can use web analytics tools like Google Analytics to easily identify what location your website traffic is coming from.
  • Age. Depending on your business, this may or may not be relevant. It’s best to gather this data by identifying trends in your existing prospect and customer database.
  • Income. It’s best to gather sensitive information like personal income in persona research interviews, as people might be unwilling to share it via online forms.
  • Job Title. This is something you can get a rough idea of from your existing customer base, and is most relevant for B2B companies.

Qualitative (or Psychographic) Information

  • Goals. Depending on the need your product or service was created to serve, you might already have a good idea of what goals your persona is looking to achieve. However, it’s best to cement your assumptions by speaking to customers, as well as internal sales and customer service representatives.
  • Challenges. Again, speak to customers, sales and customer service representatives to get an idea of the common problems your audience faces.
  • Hobbies and interests. Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience. If you’re a fashion brand, for example, it’s helpful to know if large segments of your audience are also interested in fitness and well-being, as that can help inform your future content creation and partnerships.
  • Priorities. Speak to customers and people who align with your target audience to find out what’s most important to them in relation to your business. For example, if you’re a B2B software company, knowing that your audience values customer support over a competitive price point is very valuable information.

Take this information and create one or more rounded personas, like Marketing Molly below, and ensure they’re at the core of your digital marketing strategy.

2) Identify your goals & the digital marketing tools you’ll need.

Your marketing goals should always be tied back to the fundamental goals of the business. For example, if your business’s goal is to increase online revenue by 20%, your goal as a marketer might be to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year to contribute towards that success.

Whatever your overarching goal is, you need to know how to measure it, and more important, actually be able to measure it (e.g., have the right digital marketing tools in place to do so). How you measure the effectiveness of your digital strategy will be different for each business and dependent on your goal(s), but it’s vital to ensure you’re able to do so, as it’s these metrics which will help you adjust your strategy in the future.

If you’re a HubSpot customer, the Reporting add-on in your HubSpot software brings all of your marketing and sales data into one place, so you can quickly determine what works and what doesn’t.

 

3) Evaluate your existing digital marketing channels and assets.

When considering your available digital marketing channels or assets to incorporate into your strategy, it’s helpful to first consider the bigger picture to avoid getting overwhelmed. The owned, earned, and paid media framework helps to categorize the digital ‘vehicles’, assets, or channels that you’re already using.

Owned Media

This refers to the digital assets that your brand or company owns — whether that’s your website, social media profiles, blog content, or imagery, owned channels are the things your business has complete control over. This can include some off-site content that you own, but isn’t hosted on your website, like a blog that you publish on Medium, for example.

Earned Media

Quite simply, earned media refers to the exposure you’ve earned through word-of-mouth. Whether that’s content you’ve distributed on other websites (e.g., guest posts), PR work you’ve been doing, or the customer experience you’ve delivered, earned media is the recognition you receive as a result. You can earn media by getting press mentions, positive reviews, and by other people sharing your content on social media, for instance.

Paid Media

Paid media is a bit self-explanatory in what its name suggests — and refers to any vehicle or channel that you spend money on to catch the attention of your buyer personas. This includes things like Google AdWords, paid social media posts, native advertising (like sponsored posts on other websites), and any other medium for which you directly pay in exchange for visibility.

Gather what you have, and categorize each vehicle or asset in a spreadsheet, so you have a clear picture of your existing owned, earned, and paid media.

Your digital marketing strategy might incorporate elements of all three channels, all working together to help you reach your goal. For example, you might have an owned piece of content on a landing page on your website that’s been created to help you generate leads. To amplify the number of leads that content generates, you might have made a real effort to make it shareable, meaning others are distributing it via their personal social media profiles, increasing traffic to the landing page. That’s the earned media component. To support the content’s success, you might have posted about the content to your Facebook page and have paid to have it seen by more people in your target audience.

That’s exactly how the three can work together to help you meet your goal. Of course, it’s not compulsory to use all three. If your owned and earned media are both successful, you might not need to invest in paid. It’s all about evaluating the best solution to meet your goal, and then incorporating the channels that work best for your business into your digital marketing strategy.

Now you know what’s already being used, you can start to think about what to keep and what to cut.

4) Audit and plan your owned media.

At the heart of digital marketing is your owned media, which pretty much always takes the form of content. Every message your brand broadcasts can generally be classified as content, whether it’s your ‘About Us’ page, your product descriptions, blog posts, ebooks, infographics, or social media posts. Content helps convert your website visitors into leads and customers, and helps to raise your brand’s profile online — and when it’s optimized, it can also boost any efforts you have around search/organic traffic. Whatever your goal, you’re going to need to use owned content to form your digital marketing strategy.

To build your digital marketing strategy, you need to decide what content is going to help you reach your goals. If your goal is to generate 50% more leads via the website than you did last year, it’s unlikely that your ‘About Us’ page is going to be included in your strategy — unless that page has somehow been a lead generation machine in the past.

It might more likely that an ebook gated by a form on your website drives far more leads, and as a result, that might be something you want to do more of. Here’s a brief process to follow to work out what owned content you need to meet your digital marketing goals:

Audit your existing content

Make a list of your existing owned content, and rank each item according to what has previously performed best in relation to your current goals. If your goal is lead generation, for example, rank them according to which generated the most leads in the last year. That might be a particular blog post, an ebook, or even a specific page on your website that’s converting well.

The idea here is to figure out what’s currently working, and what’s not, so that you can set yourself up for success when planning future content.

Identify gaps in your existing content

Based on your buyer personas, identify any gaps in the content you have. If you’re a math tutoring company and have discovered in your audience research that one of your persona’s biggest challenges is finding interesting ways to study, but you don’t have any content that speaks to that concern, then you might look to create some.

By looking at your content audit, you might discover that ebooks hosted on a certain type of landing page convert really well for you (much better than webinars, for example). In the case of this math tutoring company, you might make the decision to add an ebook about ‘how to make studying more interesting’ to your content creation plans.

Create a content creation plan

Based on your findings and the gaps you’ve identified, make a content creation plan outlining the content that’s necessary to help you hit your goals. This should include:

  • Title
  • Format
  • Goal
  • Promotional channels
  • Why you’re creating it (e.g., “Marketing Molly struggles to find time to plan her blog content, so we’re creating a template editorial calendar”)
  • Priority level (to help you decide what’s going to give you the most “bang for your buck”)

This can be a simple spreadsheet, and should also include budget information if you’re planning to outsource the content creation, or a time estimate if you’re producing it yourself.

5) Audit and plan your earned media.

Evaluating your previous earned media against your current goals can help you get an idea of where to focus your time. Look at where your traffic and leads are coming from (if that’s your goal) and rank each earned media source from most effective to least effective.

You can get this information from tools like Google Analytics, or the  Sources Reports in your HubSpot software.

You might find that a particular article you contributed to the industry press drove a lot of qualified traffic to your website, which in turn converted really well. Or, you might discover that LinkedIn is where you see most people sharing your content, which in turn drives a lot of traffic. The idea here is to build up a picture of what earned media will help you reach your goals, and what won’t, based on historical data. However, if there’s something new you want to try, don’t rule that out just because it’s not yet tried and tested.

6) Audit and plan your paid media.

This process involves much of the same process: You need to evaluate your existing paid media across each platform (e.g., Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to figure out what’s likely to help you meet your current goals.

If you’ve been spending a lot of money on AdWords and haven’t seen the results you’d hoped for, maybe it’s time to refine your approach, or scrap it altogether and focus on another platform that seems to be yielding better results. (Check out this free AdWords guide for more on how to leverage it for business.)

By the end of the process, you should have a clear idea of which paid media platforms you want to continue using, and which (if any) you’d like to remove from your strategy.

7) Bring it all together.

You’ve done the planning and the research, and you now have a solid vision of the elements that are going to make up your digital marketing strategy. Here’s what you should have so far:

  1. Clear profile(s) of your buyer persona(s)
  2. One or more marketing-specific goals
  3. An inventory of your existing owned, earned, and paid media
  4. An audit of your existing owned, earned, and paid media
  5. An owned content creation plan or wish list

Now, it’s time to bring all of it together to form a cohesive strategy document. Let’s revisit what digital strategy means: the series of actions that are going to help you achieve your goal(s) using online marketing.

By that definition, your strategy document should map out the series of actions you’re going to take to achieve your goals, based on your research to this point. A spreadsheet is an efficient format — and for the sake of consistency, you might find it easiest to map out according to the owned, earned, and paid media framework we’ve used so far.

You’ll also need to plan your strategy for a longer-term period — typically, something like 12 months is a good starting point, depending on how your business is set up. That way, you can overlay when you’ll be executing each action. For example:

  • In January, you might start a blog which will be continually updated once a week, for the entire year.
  • In March, you might launch a new ebook, accompanied by paid promotion.
  • In July, you might be preparing for your biggest business month — what do you hope to have observed at this point that will influence the content you produce to support it?
  • In September, you might plan to focus on earned media in the form of PR to drive additional traffic during the run-up.

By taking this approach, you’re also creating a structured timeline for your activity, which will help communicate your plans to your colleagues — not to mention, maybe even help keep you sane.

Your Path to Digital Marketing Strategy Success

Your strategy document will be very individual to your business, which is why it’s almost impossible for us to create a one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy template. Remember, the purpose of your strategy document is to map out the actions you’re going to take to achieve your goal over a period of time — as long as it communicates that, then you’ve nailed the basics of creating a digital strategy.

If you’re eager to learn more about this realm, and how you can build a truly effective strategy to help grow your business, check out our simple guide to digital marketing strategy.

 

 
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Four Days of Facebook: Learn How to Grow Your Facebook Audience Fast

As we approach 2018, two things about the near future of marketing are clear: the way we approach social is transforming, and messaging apps are undeniably on the rise.

Now more than ever before, having a coherent, actionable Facebook strategy to grow your business is absolutely essential. But as you probably know from experience, this is easier said than done.

Register for Four Days of Facebook and learn how to grow your audience faster than ever before

To teach you how to grow your business in the new era of social, HubSpot and Facebook are teaming up to bring you “Four Days of Facebook,” a series of live, virtual events about leveraging Facebook for ads, messaging, and so much more.

We’ve enlisted Gary Vaynerchuk, HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, and a powerhouse group of social experts from Facebook and HubSpot for a week packed with educational workshops, live talks, and more.

Each day includes a unique agenda of top-notch video content to help you navigate the rapidly changing Facebook ecosystem like a pro. You won’t find this inside knowledge anywhere else, so register now to get reminders for the event, and join us every day of the week for exciting product updates from Facebook and HubSpot — plus a few daily surprises.

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What’s the Best Way to Write a Blog Post? Marketers Weigh In

I write content for the HubSpot Blog every day, and after more than a year of doing it, I like to think I have a good system.

It starts with drinking seltzer and listening to instrumental pop music, and it usually ends with a finished article. But I wondered if others might have better strategies and more efficient hacks than Polar’s Dragon Whispers seltzer and 2Cellos’ cover of “Despacito.”

So I asked the rest of my teammates about their processes — how they source ideas, and any of their hacks and tricks for putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard), and getting the job done.

Unsurprisingly, I got a lot of good advice — from not allowing yourself to delete anything written during the first draft, to saving the introduction and title for last — so I wanted to open up the discussion to a larger group of marketers on inbound.org.

Whether you’re an experienced blogger or are just getting started, I’ve compiled suggestions for every stage of the writing process — along with some general tips for writing clearly and concisely, staying focused, and knowing when you’re done writing.

Click here to download our free guide on how to double your blog traffic and  leads.

14 Helpful Blogging Tips

Sourcing Blog Post Ideas

1) Source inspiration from sites like Quora, Reddit, and inbound.org.

When you’re at the very beginning of the writing process and wondering what topic or idea you want to tackle, Paul Skah recommends finding out what types of questions your target audience is asking before getting started.

Sites like Quora, Reddit, and inbound.org, where people ask and discuss common questions and challenges, can inspire blog post ideas. Once you have an idea of what to write about, you can choose specific keywords to target.

2) Or, ask your colleagues and peers common questions to guide your blog post’s focus.

Shauna Ward recommends finding blog post inspiration by asking members of your own team what your audience wants to know. Whether you’re targeting your blog post to attract new visitors or help convert leads, your colleagues will give you the specific guidance you’re looking for.

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3) Don’t be afraid to freewrite if you have writer’s block.

My colleague Eric Peters recommends writing — about anything — if your blog post is having a slow start. In fact, morning freewriting has been recommended to improve general productivity for anyone.

Getting Started on New Posts

4) Start with a completely blank document and brain dump everything you know about a particular subject.

Caroline Cotto‘s method for starting the blog writing process is to do a brain dump — to write anything and everything you know about the subject in a blank document, and then, go back and find themes, arguments, and gaps in information to continue researching and writing about.

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5) Outline blog posts with a working title and headings to guide your brainstorming and writing as you go.

HubSpotter Emma Brudner, meanwhile, believes in starting out with a bit of guidance — namely, a title and headers to organize the blog post’s content as you write.

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6) Do your research first, then bullet out main points, then write it all out.

My colleague Meg Prater has a different method — starting with research. After she thoroughly researches a blog post topic, she jots down the points and facts she wants to include in bullet format, then organizes them into an outlined version of the full blog post.

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7) Write your introduction once your post has evolved.

Tatiana Morand advocates for saving the first for last — the introduction. Revisiting the introduction — once you’ve worked out your arguments, main points, and body content — can help ensure it captures the reader’s attention and sets them up for the rest of the blog post.

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Writing and Finishing Posts

8) Focus on clarity, not complexity.

HubSpot Marketing Blog Editor Karla Cook offered a plethora of writing advice below, but my favorite suggestion was to “focus on clarity, not complexity.”

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Instead of trying to write complex sentences using technical vocabulary and multiple phrases, write so your reader can get the necessary content as efficiently as possible. And that means writing sentences that are clear, concise, and get to the point — not necessarily in the most artistic fashion. Remember, you’re writing a blog post — not a short story.

9) Write first — delete later.

My fellow HubSpot bloggers Aja Frost and Amanda Zantal-Wiener are avid believers in banning the delete key while writing the first draft of a blog post. They advise to write as much as possible, even in stream-of-consciousness style, and then to go back and delete when it comes time to edit.

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10) Keep your writing process nimble. Take breaks and come back to content later if you need to.

Lydia Cockerham advises bloggers not to be afraid to take breaks or go on a writing marathon, depending on how the words and inspiration are flowing. She mixes longer and shorter writing chunks to take breaks and allow time to think and brainstorm during the process.

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11) But make sure you make decent progress before stepping away from a blog post to stay motivated.

On the other hand, Ivan Kreimer suggests not stopping until you’ve finished writing a certain number of words to keep yourself motivated and to complete your blog post in good time — his threshold is 750 words.

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12) Rely on multitasking to help you stay focused while writing.

Kenny Pattle uses multitasking to keep himself focused and on-track while writing blog posts — by setting 30-minute timers by completing other tasks on breaks. By planning other tasks and projects while working on a post, you can stay focused by the necessity to stay productive and get everything done.

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13) If music doesn’t work for you, create your own soundtrack.

Instrumental Britney Spears just isn’t for everyone, so Ward recommends skipping the tunes and creating your own ambient noise soundtrack to keep you focused while you write if music doesn’t help you stay focused.

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14) Come up with at least 5-10 title options to choose from.

Once you’ve finally finished your blog post, it’s time to get it ready for publication — and that means choosing a title. As the blog post evolves, so too does your original idea for it, and that includes your working title. Joe Goldstein recommends reviewing the finished blog post, creating as many as 10 of them, and choosing the best fit for the piece with multiple options in front of you.

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5 Mistakes That Will Bankrupt Your Agency

These days, agencies tend to get caught up in near-constant talk of creativity, innovation, and disruption. But all that noise can drown out the real reason you’re in this business: to make money.

The truth is that you’re trying to make a living — for yourself, your family, and your employees. And no matter how hard you work to serve clients, when you don’t make money, it’s pretty tough to sustain enthusiasm.

Even when you are making money, this is a tough business. That’s why it’s crucial to avoid certain catastrophic mistakes agencies make every day.

Draining Water From Your Own Pool

Even smart agency owners make some of these painful mistakes. They don’t willfully sabotage their own efforts, but they fail to realize the long-term impact these seemingly innocuous decisions carry.

You might even recognize yourself in these five financially draining errors — and not realize how harmful they are to your bottom line.

5 Mistakes That Will Bankrupt Your Agency

1) Your pricing is too basic.

Nine times out of ten, agencies present clients with a single price and package. However, when you do this, nine times out of ten, they’ll push back.

Instead, always give them three options. Build the middle option first because this is the one they’re likely going to choose. This option should be your ideal sale and what’s really best for the client. According to a study on the center-stage effect, consumers feel that options put at the center of a range of options are the most liked.

Once you’ve constructed your “middle” option, strip some of those deliverables away to create a first option. This bare-bones option is priced about 20 percent to 25 percent lower than the middle option.

As for the third option, add some bells and whistles — not ones that are meaningless to the client, but factors that take things above and beyond the minimum standard. Price it about 30 percent to 35 percent higher than the second option.

When you present these three options, more often than not, clients will talk themselves into the second option. What’s beautiful about it is that they feel like they have control over their budgets and over the work.

2) You give it away for free.

Virtually all agencies have a gaping hole called scope creep: allowing the scope of a project to get larger without the price rising accordingly. If we could control it, we would all be driving nicer cars and taking better vacations.

I’m not suggesting you nickel-and-dime your clients to death, but you do have to plug that hole. Of course, we can look at our clients and be frustrated that they keep asking for more and more. But the truth is that the blame sits squarely with us.

Often, your scope documents are too vague, failing to define deliverables in a way that leaves no room for interpretation. Or maybe they’re too broad, without any boundaries.

If you have account people managing client project budgets, they may not understand agency math. You expect them to be good stewards of your profitability, but they don’t understand the game they’re playing — no one has taught them the rules.

In most agencies, leaders never take the time to teach employees how an agency makes money. Thus, they fail to understand that everyone, every single day, either makes the agency money or costs it money by over-servicing clients or not negotiating better with vendors.

When employees don’t understand that, they believe their jobs are not to make money, but to keep clients happy. Naturally, the easiest, fastest way to do that is by over-servicing clients. Voilà: scope creep.

Don’t take my word for it: It turns out that by overservicing just once a week, an agency can give away a whopping seven figures of essentially free work.

3) You let clients slowly pick you to death.

When your scope documents are too vague, you’ll get clients exceeding them in no time at all, asking for the 12th or 13th revision. Yet chances are good that no one will issue a change order. This is especially true if your scope documents are loose because you know you’re standing on shaky ground.

However, the biggest reason is that by the time you’re far enough along to consider a change order, your account executive is thinking, “The client wants to make a minor change. By the time I calculate the change order costs, write up a document, send it to the client, and get him to sign off on it, we could have just made the change. So why waste more time and irritate the client by issuing this change order? Screw it. I’m just going to make the change.”

Here’s the easy fix: In all of your scope documents, include language that describes a flat fee for changes beyond the number of changes allowed. Clearly define the deliverables and the timetable.

If, for instance, you’re working on a brochure for a client and you’re going to give the client four revisions, include this: “With this estimate, you are going to be granted four revisions. Any revisions after the fourth revision will cost a flat $250.”

4) You put out small fires at the expense of the raging inferno.

You’re so busy running around with a fire extinguisher, chasing after the drama of the day, that you don’t really have a vision for how you want to move your agency forward. How do you want it to be different a year from now?

If you really do want to grow your business — not necessarily in the number of bodies, but in fulfilling your vision for your agency — it won’t happen without planning.

5) Your new business plan sucks.

Have you ever caught yourself saying any of these phrases? “Well, we grow based on referrals.” “We’re going to hire a guy.” “We’re just too busy taking care of clients to chase after clients.” “We’re really lucky the phone is still ringing.”

If so, you don’t have a plan. Sure, all of that may be true today, but if you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know it ebbs and flows. That’s why you need a consistent new business program to keep your sales funnel full. It’s getting tougher and tougher to find great client prospects, and the time period between meeting them and signing them is stretching out.

If you don’t drum up new business now, chances are you won’t start until the minute you get the sense that your most valuable client — your gorilla — is unhappy. Or, even worse, the dread will strike the minute you get the phone call that he or she is done. By then, it’s too late. New business is a muscle you exercise every single day, no matter how busy you are.

If you’re the agency owner, new business should be your primary responsibility, taking up 40 percent to 60 percent of your time. You’re not always out pitching or calling on prospects; maybe you’re writing content. But not spending time on new business is a big money-sucking mistake agencies make every day.

If a Shark Stops Swimming, It Dies

Above all, make sure you’re constantly evolving, growing, and refining. Even at the best and most profitable agencies, there’s room for growth and improvement. Whatever solutions you’re using now, different options will exist a year from now. Our world is changing too fast for us not to keep up with it. And that doesn’t happen without a plan.

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29 LinkedIn Tips for Professional Networking, Business & Marketing

In April, LinkedIn announced it had reached 500 million members, making it one of the most popular social networks for professionals and one of the top social networks overall. But are you using LinkedIn to its fullest potential?

With new social networks sprouting up constantly, LinkedIn is a platform that often gets underutilized or put on the back burner. But the truth is, LinkedIn can be extremely powerful — especially when you’re aware of all the platform’s hidden features that don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve. Get a free two-week planner on how to run successful LinkedIn Ads here.

So to help you learn how to use LinkedIn effectively, this post is chock full of LinkedIn tips you may be overlooking … but definitely shouldn’t.

What Is LinkedIn?

About LinkedIn

Before we dive in, here’s a quick little primer on LinkedIn for those of you who may be new to the social network. LinkedIn launched in 2003 and is currently the fourth most popular social network among U.S. adults. The social network is primarily centered around careers, and it enables users to connect and share content with other professionals, including colleagues as well as potential employers, business partners, and new employees. If you’re a business on LinkedIn, it can also be a fantastic marketing tool.

Now, are you ready for a treasure trove of LinkedIn tips? Let’s get our hands dirty.

29 Top LinkedIn Tips

1) Customize your public profile URL.

Make your personal profile look more professional (and much easier to share) by customizing your LinkedIn public profile URL. Instead of a URL with a million confusing numbers at the end, it will look nice and clean like this: http://www.linkedin.com/in/amandazantalwiener. For detailed instructions on customizing your URL, click here.

2) Add a LinkedIn background photo to your personal profile.

In June 2014, LinkedIn finally jumped on the cover photo bandwagon and starting rolling out the ability for users to add a background photo to their personal profiles. Give your LinkedIn profile a little bit more personality by adding a background photo of your own. Just keep in mind LinkedIn is a professional social network, so choose your photo accordingly.

LinkedIn recommends a background photo size of 1584 x 396 pixels, and that it must be a JPG, PNG, or GIF file under 8MB. 

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Check out how Sam Mallikarjunan, Executive Strategist at HubSpot, uses his background photo:

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3) Add a ProFinder Badge to your profile.

Over the years, LinkedIn has made some changes to the types of Badges it offers. But depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, you might want to consider adding a ProFinder Badge, which is used to identify freelancers within LinkedIn’s ProFinder — a service that matches contractors with project managers seeking help. Freelancers can display a ProFinder badge on their profiles to show prospective clients their skills, expertise, and recommendations.

4) Take advantage of the blog/website links on your LinkedIn profile.

Instead of using the default anchor text links in the Websites list within your LinkedIn profile’s Contact Info section, you can now add links to your portfolio and social networks, to name a few. Plus, you can also add links to your work under each job description —  so if you want to increase clicks, make sure you populate those areas with the online presence to which you want to draw the most attention.

Even cooler: If you produced multimedia for a given job or assignment, you can now upload those files. For example, if you’ve produced podcasts and want to feature that work, you can add links to something like SoundCloud tracks.

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5) Search engine optimize your LinkedIn profile.

SEO isn’t limited to blogging — it turns out, you can also optimize your profile to get discovered by people searching LinkedIn for key terms you want to get found for. You can add these keywords to various sections of your profile, such as your headline, your summary, or your work experience. 

6) Add, remove, and rearrange entire sections of your profile.

LinkedIn also enables you to reorder entire sections of your profile in any way you prefer. When in edit mode, simply hover your mouse over the double-sided arrow in each section. Your mouse will turn into a four-arrowed icon, at which point you can click, then drag and drop to another position on your profile.

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Find a full list of sections to add to and remove from your profile here.

7) Take advantage of Saved Searches.

LinkedIn allows users to save up to ten job searches and three people searches. After conducting a search, clicking the Save search option at the top right allows you to save a search and easily run it again later. You can also choose to receive weekly or monthly reminders (+ daily for job searches) via email once new members in the network or jobs match your saved search criteria.

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8) Find a job through via LinkedIn’s job postings.

Now that you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile, use it — and LinkedIn Jobs — to help you land a fabulous new position. Using its Advanced search feature, LinkedIn allows you to search for jobs by keyword, title, industry, location, company, function, experience level, and more. Also, based on your application history and saved searches, LinkedIn can send suggestions of jobs you might be interested in, relating to location, company size, and industry.

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9) Get endorsed for your skills.

Back in 2012, LinkedIn launched a feature called Endorsements, which enables users to endorse their connections for skills they’ve listed in the Skills section of their profile — or recommend ones they haven’t yet listed. These endorsements then show up on your profile within that same Skills section, as you can see in the screenshot below.

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Okay, so you can’t guarantee your connections will endorse you for those skills, but because it’s so easy for your LinkedIn contacts to do (all they have to do is click on the + sign next to a particular skill on your profile), you’ll find that many of them will do it anyway. Also, when people visit the site, LinkedIn will often prompt them to endorse their connections passively. Just make sure your profile is complete and you’ve spent the time to list the skills you want your contacts to endorse you for — it will definitely give your profile a bit of a credibility boost.

You can also remove endorsements if you find people are endorsing you for skills that don’t accurately describe your strengths,

10) Use Open Profile to send messages to people you’re not connected to.

With the exception of your fellow group members (more on this later), LinkedIn only allows you to send messages to people who you share a first-degree connection with. But did you know some people let you send them messages anyway, even if you’re not connected? The ability to be part of the Open Profile network is only available to premium account holders, but it allows those users to be available for messaging by any other LinkedIn member (regardless of their LinkedIn membership level) if they choose to be.

There are other options for sending messages to those with whom you’re not yet connected, like sending a request to connect with a note — though we don’t recommend overdoing this one. Or, if you have a premium account, you can use InMail.

11) Check your Network Updates (or share your own).

Found on your LinkedIn homepage, Network Updates are essentially LinkedIn’s version of the Facebook News Feed. Check this feed periodically for a quick snapshot of what your connections are up to and sharing, or share updates of your own, such as noteworthy content related to your industry/career, content you’ve created yourself, etc. You can also sign up for email notifications, and sort by Top Updates or Recent Updates to filter your feed in one way or the other.

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12) Be identifiable.

Allow others to see who you are if you view their profile. To enable this, visit your Settings (click your thumbnail image in the top right and click Privacy & Settings) and click “Profile viewing options” under “Privacy.” Make sure you check off the Your name and headline (Recommended) option, as it will allow you to take advantage of the next feature on our list.

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13) Check out who’s viewed your LinkedIn profile.

How? With the Who’s Viewed Your Profile feature, of course. This tool, which is accessible in the main navigation via the Profile dropdown, enables you to identify which other LinkedIn users have visited your profile page (so yeah, exactly what it sounds like). In fact, LinkedIn gave this coveted creeper feature a facelift in February 2014, so the information it provides is even better than ever. You can also see how you stack up against the profile views for your connections, people in your company, and other professionals like you.

Has someone been checking out your profile that you might want to connect with? This might be the “in” you’ve been waiting for to connect. (Remember, if you don’t make yourself identifiable via the above, you won’t have access to this feature. It’s a two-way street!)

14) Export connections.

Want to transfer your LinkedIn connections to another contact management system? Luckily, LinkedIn enables you to export your connections. Go to your account settings, and under “Basics,” click “Getting an archive of your data.” That will allow you to download a file that includes data on your LinkedIn account, including your connections.

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15) Easily find new connections — or connect with old ones!

Speaking of connections, the Connections tab in the top navigation offers a variety of other tools to grow and connect with contacts in your professional network. When viewing your connections, click the right-hand side display that says, “Manage your synced and imported contacts” From there, you’ll be able to sync your email contacts to see who’s on LinkedIn, and who you can invite to join.

16) Leverage the perks of LinkedIn Groups.

Did you know that if you’re a member of the same group as another user, you can bypass the need to be a first-degree connection in order to message them? As long as you’ve been a member of LinkedIn for at least 30 days and a member of the particular group for at least 4 days, LinkedIn allows you to send up to 15 free 1:1 messages to fellow group members per month (across all groups you belong to).

In addition, group members are also able to view the profiles of other members of the same group without being connected. Join more groups to enable more messaging and profile viewership capabilities — and be sure to participate in the discussions.

17) Share your LinkedIn status updates on Twitter.

Ever since the big LinkedIn/Twitter breakup of 2012, you can no longer automatically sync your tweets to publish on LinkedIn. But don’t fret — as long as you add your Twitter account to LinkedIn, the opposite is still possible. So if you’re ever posting an update to LinkedIn that you’d also like your Twitter followers to see, you can easily syndicate that update to Twitter by selecting the Public + Twitter option in the dropdown menu within the LinkedIn update composer.

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18) Leverage @mentions in your status updates.

In 2013, LinkedIn rolled out the ability to tag or @mention other users and companies in status updates — much like the way it works on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Want another LinkedIn user or company to see your status update? Include the @ symbol immediately followed by the user’s/company’s name in your status update. As a result, that user/company will get alerted that you mentioned them, and their name will also link to their profile/page in the status update itself.

19) Optimize your LinkedIn Company Page.

The design of LinkedIn Company Pages has changed a lot over the years. Make sure yours is set up correctly and optimized for the latest layout, featuring a compelling and high-quality banner image. We’ve published an entire free guide about how to optimize your page for the latest design. Here’s how HubSpot’s Company Page currently looks:

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20) Create targeted LinkedIn Showcase Pages.

LinkedIn Showcase Pages are niche pages that branch off your main Company Page. Think of them as extensions of your main Company Page that allow you to promote specific products or cater to your individual marketing personas, providing a more personalized experience for your Company Page visitors.

LinkedIn users can also follow specific Showcase Pages without having to follow a company’s main page or its other Showcase Pages, allowing your business to tailor the page closely to the audience specific to the page.

To create a Showcase Page, go to your Company Page and click “Manage page.” Then, at the top, click “Admin Tools,” and select “Create a Showcase Page.” Find more information about Showcase Pages here.

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21) Post Company Status Updates (and target them!).

Make the most of your LinkedIn Company Page by publishing Company Status Updates for all your page followers to see. This will give LinkedIn users even more reason to follow your Company Page, growing your LinkedIn reach. For a high-level guide to these updates, click here.

Been using Company Status Updates for a while? Why not step it up a notch and leverage the power of segmentation with LinkedIn’s targeting options, which enable you to target your status updates to specific users? Company Page administrators can target their updates using criteria like company size, industry, job function, seniority, geography, language, or by including/excluding company employees. These targeted updates will appear on the Company/Showcase Page itself for those users as well as in the users’ Network Updates feed on their LinkedIn homepage.

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22) Check out LinkedIn’s Content Marketing Score & Trending Content resources.

If you’re a LinkedIn Business Solutions customer, you can learn how impactful your organic and paid LinkedIn content is with the Content Marketing Score and Trending Content resources. Your Content Marketing Score measures user engagement with your Sponsored Updates, Company Pages, LinkedIn Groups, employee updates, and Influencer posts (when applicable). It then provides recommendations for how you can improve your score, and thus the effectiveness of your LinkedIn content.

23) Experiment with LinkedIn Ads and Sponsored Updates.

If you’re looking to complement your organic LinkedIn marketing efforts with some paid advertising, LinkedIn Ads are a smart choice. One of the biggest benefits of LinkedIn advertising: the targeting options. LinkedIn’s PPC ads let you target specific job titles, job functions, industries, or company size, to name a few — you know, the people who are more likely to want/need what you sell.

If you want to get started with LinkedIn’s advertising platform, check out our free guide to advertising on LinkedIn here.

24) Create your own industry LinkedIn Group, and join other relevant groups.

Consider creating a LinkedIn Group of your very own, like HubSpot did with our popular Inbound Marketers Group. Create a group based on a relevant industry-related topic, and become a LinkedIn Group administrator. You can then use this group to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, grow a community of advocates, generate new marketing content ideas, and even generate new leads — more on that next. You should also consider joining (and getting executives from your business to join) other relevant groups and participating in discussions to exhibit thought leadership in your industry.

25) Email your LinkedIn Group.

One of the perks of managing a LinkedIn Group is the fact that you can email all the members of your group — up to once per week. These emails take the form of LinkedIn Announcements, which are messages sent directly to the email inboxes of group members (if they’ve enabled messages from groups in their settings). It’s a prime opportunity for generating leads from LinkedIn, particularly if you’ve built up a robust group of users.

26) Experiment with publishing content on LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

Good news! You no longer have to be a LinkedIn Influencer to publish new articles to LinkedIn. Publishing is available to all users, ever since a February 2014 feature announcement. Experiment with how this feature can support your marketing goals by creating content for the platform and promoting it via your Company Page. For example, you could experiment with syndicating content from your business blog to LinkedIn Pulse and using it to promote subscription to your full blog.

To publish an article, click “Write an article” on the update box on your LinkedIn homepage. From there, you’ll be taken to the publishing platform, where you can compose your draft.

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27) Recruit new talent via LinkedIn Jobs.

Looking to fill a position or two on your marketing team — or another department within your company, for that matter? Then be sure to build out the Jobs section of your Company Page, which you can use to promote your available job openings.

The look and feel of your Jobs page depend on what information and images you choose to include, such as a list of jobs, people at your company, a summary section for your careers, what employees are saying about working at your company, and recent updates. Furthermore, if you’re actively recruiting candidates with specific skills and expertise, this goes both ways — you can use LinkedIn’s various search criteria to find the best fit.

Here’s another look at HubSpot’s Company Page — notice how the job listings are prominently displayed on the right.

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28) Add the Company Follow and LinkedIn share buttons to your website/content.

Promote your company’s LinkedIn presence and help grow the reach of your Company Page by adding the Company Follow button to your website. Also consider adding the LinkedIn Share button to your various content assets like blog posts, emails, and landing pages to extend the reach of your content to LinkedIn users. 

29) Analyze your LinkedIn marketing performance with the Analytics tab on your Company Page.

So … how are your LinkedIn marketing efforts faring? Use your Company Page Analytics to evaluate the performance of your Company Page. This feature offers data about the effectiveness of your page’s status updates, engagement, and reach, as well as information about your page’s followers — demographics, where they came from, how your following has grown over time, how your data compares to other companies.

Linking Up

Ready to get started? Great. With so many changes and features added to LinkedIn since its very first launch, we can’t wait to see how the network continues to make itself indisposable to job seekers, marketers, and other professionals.

free planner: how to run successful LinkedIn ads

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Talking the Talk: The Beginner’s Guide to Designing a Chatbot Conversation

Nothing will impact the way we communicate quite like chatbots.

Whether you need to summon a Lyft, book a flight, or even test out a new shade of lipstick, it’s now safe to say, “There’s an bot for that.”

By plugging into the messaging apps we already use to talk with friends every day, chatbots sit at the intersection of convenience and utility, redefining what it means for brands to be helpful for their customers.

And the numbers live up to the hype. Today, messaging apps have over 5 billion monthly active users, surpassing that of the top social networks. On Facebook Messenger alone there are 100,000 bots, not to mention the growing offerings on Kik, Slack, WeChat, and more.

Needless to say, bots are the future of brand communication.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t frustrate the hell out of you from time to time.

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Image: Why Chatbots Fail

Let’s face it. Aside from the one-year-olds in your life, humans are really good at conversation. We remember contextual details. We get sarcasm. We read between the lines.

Bots don’t.

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Image: Giphy

No matter the amount of headlines you read proclaiming that it’s the “Year of Chatbots”, natural language processing technology is still early, and there will still be those bots that make you want to sling your phone against the wall.

Besides, an entire lifetime of conversations has taught us to expect those we talk with to be relevant, clear, and brief. But, as more and more marketers race to this new communication channel without carefully considering the customer experience, we risk messing up messaging.

It’s safe to say, the greatest challenge of creating a bot is developing the conversational flow.

Don’t get hung up on development. Thanks to platforms like Motion.ai, building a bot is as easy as drawing a flowchart, meaning you can get the whole process done without knowing a line of code.

However, crafting a productive conversation is an art. There’s no absolute template to follow.

It’s really the double-edged sword of messaging. When done well, bots provide a scalable way to have one-on-one conversations with buyers unlike any other communication channel us marketers have gotten our hands on. Yet, bots fail when they don’t deliver an experience as efficient and delightful as the complex, multi-layered conversations people are accustomed to having with other humans on messaging apps.

If this sounds like nothing you’ve ever done before as a marketer, you’re not alone. Designing a great chatbot conversation will take more than some witty copywriting.

To help you wrap your mind around the concept, we’ve created the Inbound Messaging Framework — a beginner’s guide to structuring chatbot conversations that keep the greater customer experience in mind.

So, get out those dry erase markers. It’s time to whiteboard your first chatbot conversation.

The Inbound Messaging Framework

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Connect

The first step of the Inbound Messaging Framework is to connect with your audience. Before you write a line of copy, understand your audience enough to know the messaging app where they’re most likely to spend their time so you’re available when their problem arises. For example, with its wide reach, Facebook Messenger could be the best option for audiences over the age of 18. But it overlooks the teenage demographic, who has proved loyal to Kik.

Engage the user in a conversational tone authentic to the feel of the messaging app, but remains true to your brand’s personality. For example, notice how the Sephora bot for Kik welcomes users with a casual tone and isn’t shy with the emojis.

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Image: NewsWhip

The Sephora bot begins the conversation by getting to know the customer as if they’ve walked into the store and are greeted by a personal stylist. The bot then recalls these details to cater product suggestions accordingly.

This sort of personalization is just the beginning of what the Connect stage could be in the future. Imagine chatting with a bot that remembers your exact shade of foundation or recalls your shipping address automatically. As bot building platforms make connecting to your business’s CRM even easier, personalization will have a new whole meaning for marketers.

Understand

A common misconception with chatbots is that they’re supposed to be chatty. Remember, with each joke or silly GIF, you’re adding another barrier between the user and the solution they’re looking for.

Instead, the goal of the Understand phase is to lead the user through a series of dependent questions to to collect the necessary information to understand their intent or problem.

Here’s where the flow-charting begins. The progression of questions is neither random, nor one-size-fits-all. Start with a leading question that helps you narrow down the user’s intent as much as possible. Then, use the answer to alter each follow-up question until you’re able to hone in on a solution.

As described on the Prototypr blog, one method is to consider the who, what, when, where, and why of the situation and order your questions with the most telling variable first. For instance, Spring, a personal shopping bot, begins by asking whether the user wants women’s or men’s items to cut the product options in half from the start.

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Image: SendBird Blog

Deliver

You’ve heard it said before: bots are the new apps. We’ve grown tired of having to download an app we’ll never use again. In fact, half of U.S. smartphone users download a whopping zero apps per month. But since bots are accessed via messaging apps, there’s no longer a need to clutter up your phone with new downloads.

The best bots complete a transaction or deliver a solution without forcing the user to leave the conversational interface. Thankfully, most bot building platforms provide a variety of rich media options to help make this a reality, including image carousels and buy buttons.

Note how TechCrunch’s Facebook Messenger bot delivers content via Instant Articles to prevent mobile users from having to load their website.

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Refine

The process doesn’t end when the user closes the chat window. The best bots apply what they’ve learned from each and every interaction and use it to make subsequent experiences more unique and streamlined.

As Clara de Soto, co-founder of Reply.ai, told VentureBeat, “You’re never just ‘building a bot’ so much as launching a ‘conversational strategy’ — one that’s constantly evolving and being optimized based on how users are actually interacting with it.”

We’re swimming in data these days, and the more we market within the world of messaging, the more we’ll find this to be true. Consider updating the options in the menu based on the options users select or altering the syntax of questions that cause users to bounce.

Remember, building a bot is one thing, but understanding the cyclical nature of this field is another. The conversational flow is the heart of your chatbot and should be something you come back to refine time and time again.

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