10 of the Best Ads from May: Hot Dogs, Rhinos, and an Accidental Viral Hit

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In May, agencies got creative with alternative advertising mediums.

While there were still plenty of traditional video and print ads on our radar, some crafty designers and copywriters turned to apps, bottled scents, modeling clay, and even an icy road trip to get their messages across. 

Among other things, this month’s roundup features an accidentally viral print ad, an unusual Tinder profile, and a pop-up travel agency that uses custom scents to encourage spur-of-the-moment excursions. Check them all out below.

10 of the Best Ads from May

1) Visit Sweden

In a clever stunt to generate some tourism buzz, the entire country of Sweden recently listed itself on Airbnb.

Gothenburg-based agency Forsman & Bodenfors (you might know them as the agency behind Volvo’s “Epic Split” ad) developed a stunning video to advertise the listing, showcasing Sweden’s natural beauty and explaining Allemansrätt — The Right of Public Access that enables Swedes and visitors to explore the countryside freely. 

 

2) Syoss

While most hair care ads depend on formulaic, slow-mo shots of unnaturally swishy, sparkly, CGI-enhanced hair, this new work for Syoss by walker Zurich highlights a hair dilemma most of us can actually relate to: where do you find the time to properly style your hair before your morning commute?

Laced with existential dread (and fabulous copywriting), the ad portrays harried commuters as helpless victims of lost time and bad hair. “With this film, we wanted to create something that was different to the usual mould that hair ads stick to,” Pius Walker, Creative Director at walker Zurich, said to Adweek. “We’re lucky enough to have a client who allows us to do this and push away from the conventional.”

 

3) Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Sudan is the last male Northern White Rhino on Earth, and he needs some help finding a mate. So naturally, he joined Tinder.

Since Sudan can’t mate under normal conditions, scientists at Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy need to raise money for research into Artificial Reproductive Techniques to help him breed through one of the 7,000 Southern White Rhinos currently in existence.

Ogilvy Africa launched a campaign around the effort, starting with signing Sudan up for a Tinder account. When users on the dating app swipe right to “match” with Sudan, they’ll be sent a link to donate money via the app’s messaging system. 

Chris Wall, Ogilvy’s late vice chairman who passed away earlier this month, was notably one of the writers on the viral campaign. 

 

4) Thalys

Particular smells can conjure vivid memories and stir up old emotions, but can they spur us to travel somewhere new? In this inspired campaign for French rail company Thalys, Paris-based agency Rosapark set out to bottle scents that captured the essence and energy of different European cities.

Thalys then set up a pop-up travel agency in a Brussels art gallery, inviting people to select trips on the spot based on their favorite bottled scents. The stunt is captured in the artful spot below.

 

5) Merck Consumer Health

In an effort to change the perception that you can’t learn new skills after a certain age, German pharmaceuticals company Merck Consumer Health teamed up with Ogilvy Italy to film this “social experiment” with parents of the Turin diving team. 

As the parents watch their children practice in the pool, they’re asked if they would ever take up diving themselves. Their responses are pretty unanimously: “I’m too old to start.”

Perfectly on cue, 79 year-old Pino Auber executes a perfect dive from the highest-platform, spurring applause from the parents. We learn that Auber didn’t start diving until age 57, setting the ad up for its main message: “Today we’re living longer. There’s always time for a first time.”

 

6) The Friars

Thanks to some seemingly lazy but actually ingenious copywriting, this simple ad for an English pub went viral in May after someone uploaded an image of it to photo-sharing website Imgur.

The ad features a text conversation between the owner of The Friars, a Bridgnorth-based pub, and designer Dave Blackhurst. At first glance, it looks like Blackhurts simply used a real conversation as the ad, but it turns out he cleverly fictionalized the whole thing. 

“The irony is I don’t have a smartphone, I have a Nokia C2, so it took me about three minutes to come up with the idea but a few hours to put it together with an online message generator and Photoshop,” Blackhurst said to a local paper, The Shropshire Star.

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Image Credit:
Tom Wysocki on Twitter

 

7) Oscar Mayer

In an effort to bring hotdogs to every remote corner of America, Oscar Mayer’s team of professional “Hotdoggers” (yes, this is their official title) hopped into the iconic Wienermobile and trundled off towards Whittier, Alaska.

The branded adventure, orchestrated by Mcgarrybowen, Olson Engage, and Starcom, was documented in the below film. Watch as the two Hotdoggers — Kayla and Franscico — heroically navigate precarious roads on their quest to bring nitrate-free joy to Whittier’s 220 citizens. 

The whole thing is like a fever-dream version of Ice Road Truckers — in a good way. 

 

8) Play-Doh

In honor of the company’s 60th birthday, Play-Doh teamed up with DBB Paris to create a series of epic, imaginative sculptures for use in a print and poster campaign. 

“I had written a series of headlines that each described one aspect of this world that is governed by the imagination and positive values,” Jean-François Bouchet, senior copywriter at DBB Paris, said to Adweek. “And with [senior art director Emmanuel Corteau], we thought it would be wonderful to actually hand-make the ads and be 100 percent in the DNA of the brand. We also wanted to speak both to parents and adults, who could each discover a multitude of details in each print and experience the excitement of a child in front of a Christmas shop window.”


Image via
Adland

 

9) Apple

In this charming, energetic spot from Apple, the iPhone 7 plus’ new Portrait Mode setting helps transform a quiet neighborhood barber shop into a popular destination.

When one of the barbers starts snapping professional-looking pictures of satisfied patrons and displaying them in the window, word quickly spreads — and pretty soon there’s a line around the block. The ad excels at showing how easy it is to use Portrait Mode, without boring us with the specific details. 

 

10) Alzheimer’s Research U.K. (in collaboration with Shazam)

To raise awareness for the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer’s Research U.K. worked with agency Innocean Worldwide U.K. to create “The Day Shazam Forgot.”

The popular app, which can identify song names on the spot, started to temporarily “forget” the names of songs and artists. Once the app “remembered”, users would be directed to a page on Alzheimer’s awareness and encouraged to donate.

What were your favorite ads from May? Let us know in the comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Image Credit: The 2017 State of Inbound Report

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

1) Generating Traffic and Leads

Why It’s a Challenge

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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

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

2) Providing the ROI of Your Marketing Activities

Why It’s a Challenge

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

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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

3) Securing Enough Budget

Why It’s a Challenge

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

4) Managing Your Website

Why It’s a Challenge

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

5) Identifying the Right Technologies for Your Needs

Why It’s a Challenge

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

6) Targeting Content for an International Audience

Why It’s a Challenge

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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

7) Training Your Team

Why It’s a Challenge

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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

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

8) Hiring Top Talent

Why It’s a Challenge

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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

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

Does Your Company Face Any of These Marketing Issues?

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

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

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

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How to Get Started With Paid Search [Free Guide]

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In 2016, 96% of Google’s revenue came from paid search (or pay-per-click) advertising. Clearly, marketers are taking advantage of AdWords, but what does a great PPC campaign even look like? How do you ensure it drives ROI for your company? How do you even do a Google AdWords campaign?

To help you get started the right way, we’re breaking down the basics of how to use paid search below.

The following is an excerpt from the ebook How to Use Google AdWords, just one of the resources included in The Ultimate Free Google AdWords PPC Kit we created with our friends at SEMrush. The kit includes the full ebook, a template, and a checklist — everything you need to manage keywords, campaigns and ad groups successfully. If you’d like to access the full kit, click here.

How to Use Paid Search

All too often, companies — small businesses especially — think that if they just pay to be on a search engine, they don’t have to invest time and resources in search engine optimization to rank higher organically. 

It’s important to make clear that paid search is not a replacement for anything, but should instead be used to complement other inbound marketing strategies. Paid online advertising takes a lot of time and effort, a lot of resources, and a lot of management, and it’s something you really need to invest in.

Let’s take a look at some of the useful things you can do with paid search.

Landing Page Testing

One great way to use paid search is for testing and optimizing your landing pages. So, for instance, here’s the search engine results page for “cat food for older cats”, and you see some paid results for this specific search query:

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You can take that one ad and actually set it to go to two different destination URLs, and therefore, to two different landing pages.

So for a cat food ad, you could have one ad going to a page with one offer (a guide on feeding techniques for your older cat), and the other to a page for another offer (an actual product page for cat food).

You could also have the ad go to two different landing pages that are for the same offer. For example, if you wanted to test a feature of your forms, you could have two versions of the same landing page, each with a different form layout, and send the ad to each of those. This is called A/B testing, a very important and highly recommended practice for optimizing your landing pages.

Paid search is a great way to do landing page A/B testing because it allows you to direct traffic to your choice of pages, split this traffic to different pages, and ultimately find the pages that convert at the highest rate.

Finding New Keywords

In addition to landing page testing, you can also use paid search to find new keywords for your campaign. Google AdWords generates a Search Terms report that displays all of the keywords for which your ad has been displayed.

In other words, if you are bidding on the keyword “red shoes”, Google might serve your ad when someone searches “red tennis shoes.” Even though you did not bid on the exact word, the keyword “red tennis shoes” will be included in this report because that’s what the user searched. The report also contains information about the performance of each of the keywords, so you can determine if it’s worth adding that keyword to your campaign.

Below is a sample Search Terms report. On the left hand side is the list of keywords. The ones that show the green “Added” box next to them are the ones that are already in this paid search account.

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The keywords that don’t say “Added” next to them are not currently included in the account. Again, this is a list of the keywords that people are actually typing into the Google search, so it is extremely valuable information.

Take, for instance, the keyword “search engine optimization tutorial'” from the list above. That is an excellent keyword for my campaign, and I’m not buying it yet. Not only that, but I wouldn’t have known about that keyword unless I had generated this report! And to top it all off, I’m able to see that when somebody searches for this keyword and clicks through to my ad, they convert on one of my offers at a rate of 21%.

Now, this high conversion rate tells me not only that I should be buying this keyword, but also that maybe I should consider using this keyword for search engine optimization as well. Maybe I should make a landing page geared toward this keyword, or an offer built around this keyword.

You should use the information in these Search Terms reports, and also in Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner, to discover new keywords that will help you further optimize all of your SEM campaigns. For more information on keyword research, check out this blog post: How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: A Beginner’s Guide and the Ultimate keyword research checklist.

Getting in the Game

Another great way to use paid search is to, as we say, “get in the game” and rank higher than your competitors. Let’s look at PetSmart.com, which holds the number one ranking in the organic search results for the phrase “cat food”.

For the phrase “dog food”, they don’t rank number one, but they’re still above the fold, meaning that you don’t have to scroll down to see the result when the page comes up. This is great, of course, but their high rank for these keywords does not mean they shouldn’t bother running any paid search ads.

If you do a little research, you’ll find that “pet food” is also a big keyword in this space, and PetSmart ranks far below the fold for it. On top of that, they’re not running a paid search campaign with Google AdWords either. But their competitor, Petco, does have a paid search campaign, and so their ad appears on the results page, while PetSmart does not. So this is a sample instance where running a paid search campaign makes a lot of sense.

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Paid Search Can’t Stand Alone

When you think about how you should use paid search, one of the best ways to think about it is to use it as a complement to your inbound marketing efforts. You can use paid search to maximize your coverage on the search engine’s result page (SERP).

For instance, here we have the search term “inbound marketing.” You’ll see that there’s an organic search listing for HubSpot that ranks second on the page (just after Wikipedia), but we’re also buying the keyword “inbound marketing,” which displays our paid search ad for it.

So now we have that natural search ad, the paid one, and, if you scroll down the page, you’ll find yet another organic search listing for HubSpot via SlideShare. This widespread coverage on the search engine results page for “inbound marketing” helps to establish HubSpot as an authoritative figure for inbound marketing, and drives more traffic to our pages.

The good news is — you can do this for your business as well! Take the opportunity to establish your company as a leader in your industry by increasing your presence on search engines with paid search campaigns.

Ready to get started with the full ebook, template, and checklist? Click here to access the complete Ultimate Free Google AdWords PPC Kit. 

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The Harmful Effects of Sleeping With Technology [Infographic]

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Did you know that the average technology user in the United States spends nearly 11 hours per day looking at screens?

Sure, a lot of that time is spent at work on computers and mobile devices, but the rest of it is spent at home. And as it turns out, exposure to screens and other technologies can have adverse health impacts — especially if it’s too close to bedtime.

Two-thirds of Americans report that they have trouble sleeping, and too much technology could be the cause. Webpage FX created the following infographic that outlines how technology is being overused, the health impacts it can cause, and how you can improve your sleep habits with a few simple changes.

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How to Create a SMarketing Service Level Agreement

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At most companies, it can feel like marketing and sales are far from being on the same team. According to the 2017 State of Inbound report, fewer than half of marketers would describe their respective companies’ Sales and Marketing teams as “generally aligned.”

And that’s a problem.

Here at HubSpot, we’re lucky to have a strong, healthy relationship between marketing and sales. Our marketing and sales executives started out on the same team in the company’s earliest days, and that collaboration has trickled down throughout the organization as it continues to grow. But it wasn’t just luck, of course.

That alignment — which we call “Smarketing” — is largely the result of a conscious decision to work together, set goals, and create agreements between both teams.

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One of the most critical steps, it turns out, is creating a service level agreement (SLA). Traditionally, an SLA serves to clearly define exactly what a customer will receive from a service provider.

But we suggest creating a Sales and Marketing SLA: An agreement that details both marketing goals (like number of leads or revenue pipeline) and the sales activities that will follow and support them, like following up on leads qualified by marketing. Both teams use this document as a commitment to support each other, based on concrete, numerical goals. And guess what — 81% of marketers whose companies have this type of SLA have an effective marketing strategy.

soi-01.pngData from the 2017 State of Inbound Report

But if you don’t have a Sales and Marketing SLA in place, fear not: We’ve outlined four steps to create one below, as well as ways to get started on aligning your sales and marketing teams.

How to Create a Sales & Marketing Service Level Agreement

Aligning Marketing and Sales

Before you begin to draft your SLA, you’ll have to make sure your Sales and Marketing teams are aligned — or, as we put it before, achieve harmonious Smarketing. That’s accomplished in two main parts.

1) Have Marketing commit to a number.

As a marketing department, not only should you have a concrete strategy and reporting goal, but also, you should have a concrete numerical one that aligns with the sales team’s mentality.

Sales professionals are greatly driven by their quotas — the numerical goals that correlate with their compensation and job security. If Marketing commits to a similar, related numerical goal, it shows that the team is being held accountable in a manner similar to Sales.

2) Communicate, celebrate, and address the achievement — or lack thereof.

Maintaining strong communication regarding how each team is performing on goals boosts transparency. If either team isn’t reaching their goals, addressing that confirms their importance, while celebrating hitting those goals can aid motivation.

If you’re not sure where to begin when it comes to setting these goals, check out our free Marketing & Sales Lead Goal Calculator, designed to help you determine and track the goals that will eventually become part of your SLA.

How to Make an SLA

1) Calculate the Marketing Figures and Goals

In order to calculate the marketing side of your SLA, you’ll need the following four metrics:

  • Total sales goal (in terms of revenue quota)
  • % of revenue that comes from marketing-generated leads (as opposed to sales-generated ones)
  • Average sales deal size
  • Average lead-to-customer close %

Then, it’s time to do some calculations.

  • Sales quota * % of revenue from marketing-generated leads = Marketing-sourced revenue goal
  • Marketing-sourced revenue goal / average sales deal size = # of customers needed
  • Customers / average lead-to-customer close % = # of leads needed

It might also be a good idea to reevaluate the marketing side of the SLA each month, as a variety of factors can change the numbers used in your calculations over time. To do so, create a document that tracks your SLA calculations by month, which should include the following metrics:

  • # of marketing-generated leads
  • # of those leads that became customers
  • Revenue from those closed customers
  • Total revenue closed that month from marketing-generated leads only
  • Total revenue closed that month

You will also need:

  • The average sales cycle length

With the figures above, you can re-calculate the metrics you started with on a monthly basis, or whatever timeframe is used in your business — quarter, year, etc. Just make sure the same measure of time is used for both Sales and Marketing to maintain alignment. Have a look:

  • # marketing-generated leads that became customers / # marketing-generated leads = lead-to-customer close %
  • Revenue from closed customers / # of marketing-generated leads that became customers = sales deal size
  • Total revenue closed from marketing-generated leads / total revenue closed = % revenue from marketing-generated leads

You could also take it one step further, and incorporate quantity and quality into these metrics. The above calculations provide you with a quantitative volume goal of marketing-generated leads. However, we know that not all leads are created equal, and as a result, some may be considered higher- or lower-quality than others.

For example, a decision-making executive might be a more valuable contact than an intern. If that’s the case, you can do the above analysis for each subset of leads, and set up separate goals for each type/quality level.

Want to take it even further? Measure in terms of value, instead of volume. For example, a CEO may be worth $100, for instance, while a director is $50, a manager is $40, and so on.

2) Calculate the Sales Figures and Goals

The sales side of the SLA should detail the speed and depth of following up with marketing-generated leads. A few years ago, HubSpot enlisted an MBA student’s help in performing an analysis to determine the optimal number and frequency of follow-up attempts for each lead — if you have the time and resources for that, great. But many businesses don’t. According to the InsideSales Fall 2016 ResponseAudit Report:

  • If leads are responded to in fewer than five minutes, the chances of actually contacting them are 100x higher than waiting 30 minutes. On average, only 7.7% of leads are contacted within the first five minutes.
  • In terms of follow-up, “the best practice is 6 phone calls, 3 voicemails, and 3 emails, for a total of 12 touches.”

Not all leads may be fit to send to Sales immediately. Perhaps they need to meet some minimum level of quality, like reaching a certain activity level, which can only take place after being nurtured by Marketing. That’s perfectly fine — as long as your leads get some immediate follow-up.

The first moments after lead conversion are critical in maintaining a relationship with your leads, and either Sales or Marketing should take action to start building that relationship, make nurturing easier, and set up the sales rep for success when she eventually does reach out.

But this advice is futile if you don’t consider the bandwidth of your sales reps. Sure, in a perfect world, they’d make six follow-up attempts for each lead — in reality, though, they may simply not have enough hours in the day to do that. For that reason, you’ll also need to factor in the number of leads each rep is getting (based on the Marketing SLA), how much time they spend on marketing-generated leads versus sales-generated leads, and how much time they have to spend on each one. If you’re looking to conserve time, some of the follow-up — email, in particular — could be automated, so look into options there.

3) Set up Marketing SLA Reporting

Now that you have your SLA goals, it’s time to track your progress against that goal — daily.

To start, graph the goal line. Multiply 1/n — n is the number of days in the month — by your monthly goal. That should determine what portion of your monthly goal you need to achieve each day. You’ll want to graph that cumulatively throughout the month and mark your cumulative actual results on the same chart. We call that a waterfall graph, and it looks something like this:

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4) Set up Sales SLA Reporting

For the Sales SLA reporting, you’ll have two graphs — one monitoring the speed of follow-up, and the other monitoring the depth of follow-up.

To graph the speed of follow up, you’ll need the date/time the lead was presented to sales, and the date/time the lead received her first follow-up. The difference between those two times equals the time it took for Sales to follow up with that particular lead.

Take the averages of lengths of time it took for Sales to follow up with all leads within a particular timeframe — day, week, month — and graph it against the SLA goal.

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To graph the depth of follow-up — e.g., the number of attempts — look specifically at leads that have not been connected with, since the goal of the follow-up is to get a connect. For leads over a certain timeframe that have not gotten a connect, look at the average number of follow-up attempts made, and graph that against the SLA goal.

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And One Last Step

When it comes to what should be in your service level agreement, there’s one final piece: Review these metrics on a daily basis to monitor your progress, and make sure both Sales and Marketing have access to the reports for both sides of the SLA.

This step helps to maintain accountability and transparency and allows for both teams to address issues — or congratulate each other on productive results.

What best practices have you observed in creating a service level agreement within your organization? Let us know in the comments.

To learn more about the transactional email add-on, contact your CSM.

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8 Signs of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

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We write a lot about artificial intelligence here at HubSpot. You might be excited about it, or slightly concerned that AI will take your job — and then take over the world.

And while AI is important and interesting, I’m going to ask you to put a pin in that so we can talk about another type of intelligence: emotional intelligence.

Download our leadership guide for actionable advice & guidelines from  HubSpot's Dharmesh Shah. 

Emotional intelligence doesn’t involve bots or machine learning, but it still could have a huge impact on your job, your success, and your happiness at work. By now, we all know that success isn’t just about what you know — it’s about how you work with the people around you, too. And whether this involves networking, an inter-departmental project, or managing direct reports, other people will have a huge impact on if you get your next promotion, new job, or have opportunities presented to you.

In this post, we’ll run through a quick review of emotional intelligence — what it is, why it’s important, and how to be an emotionally intelligent leader at work.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

The term was first defined in 1990 by two behavioral researchers named Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, and it was more broadly popularized by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

Emotional intelligence is defined as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.”

So, what does that actually mean, in plain English?

Emotional intelligence, or EQ (a play on intelligence quotient, or IQ), refers to your ability to handle emotions — your own, and those of others. It’s the ability to recognize and understand your emotions, having control over them, and help others do the same. And as you can imagine, these people skills can be just as important to professional (and personal) success as technical skills.

In fact, there’s actually no correlation between a high level of cognitive intelligence (IQ) and a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ). Psychologist Daniel Goleman thinks that the measurement of IQ is too restrictive and doesn’t accurately reflect if an individual will be successful, in their career or life in general.

Goleman and Dr. Richard Boyatzis created a framework of behavioral qualities that demonstrate EQ. In this post, we’ll explore 10 of these behaviors that leaders can use to show EQ and foster it in their teams.

8 Qualities That Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

1) Adaptability

Are you flexible to changes on your team and within your organization? Are you resilient when confronted with conflict and difficulty? Are you able to quickly manage the expectations and needs of both the people you report to and the direct reports on your team?

Adaptability is a key trait of emotionally intelligent leaders. Whether you’re dealing with a bad month of metrics, an interpersonal conflict between team members, or a company crisis that requires an all hands response, leaders need to be able to quickly react and respond to new and changing information. They also need to be able to respond to change with compassion and diplomacy — even if the changes might not be to their preference. Grudges, overly emotional reactions, and negative one-off complaints are unproductive, can contribute to low morale, and are generally signs of low EQ.

Leaders should set examples for emotionally intelligent adaptability by encouraging teams to present constructive feedback in team meetings or 1:1s. Leaders should also acknowledge pain points that come with change and encourage team members to brainstorm solutions and techniques for quick recovery.

2) Optimism

Are you able to motivate team members and people around you in the workplace? Can you change the mood with a joke or positive outlook on a tough situation? Are you able to help someone stuck in a negative mindset see a different perspective?

Just like adaptability, optimism is critical for leaders to motivate and uplift a team during tough times at work. Now, optimism doesn’t mean you’re relentlessly positive, no matter what. It means you can see the bigger picture of a difficult situation or bad mood to get perspective and keep moving forward — instead of getting bogged down in negativity.

Leaders should encourage team members to look at all sides of a problem to gain perspective, come up with creative solutions to challenges, and help point it out for them when they can’t do it themselves.

3) Initiative

Do you try to identify and solve problems before they arise? Do you volunteer to make things better for your peers and your team? Do you always follow up on conflicts and questions brought to you by team members? Do you not only complete the asks of your role, but look for ways to get even better results?

The ability — and eagerness — to take initiative is another sign of emotional intelligence in leadership. In fact, doing the bare minimum can sometimes be perceived as selfish — even if you are technically getting your job done every day.

Leaders with a high EQ seek out ways to improve and excel — and that includes helping team members take initiative, too. Leaders should identify and cultivate strengths in their team members and help them get to the point where they’re confident and capable enough to take initiative, too. Other examples include volunteering to take on additional work, team projects, or simply helping others complete tasks in the office.

4) Conflict Resolution

Do you moderate interpersonal conflict discretely and effectively? Do you help team members navigate disagreement or clashing priorities in a way that’s respectful to everyone involved? Do you advocate for your team to make sure members feel supported and heard?

Let’s face it — if you work on a team, conflict is bound to happen, even among the closest of colleagues. When that happens, leaders have to help come to solutions that make everyone involved feel heard, respected, and resolved.

Emotionally intelligent leaders should provide team members with plenty of opportunities to talk — in person, via phone or video call, or as a team — to resolve issues and air challenges before they devolve into unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Leaders should empower team members with conflict solutions, new processes, and more of that adaptability to prevent future problems before they arise. And sometimes, the greatest conflict resolution a leader can offer is letting a team member vent and get a problem off their chest.

5) Professional Development

Do you encourage team members to learn and cultivate new skills? Do you help team members identify strengths and target areas of improvement? Do you deliver constructive and actionable feedback? And when the time comes, do you advocate for team members to seek new opportunities, even if those opportunities aren’t working with you anymore?

As Saturday Night Live writer and actor Tina Fey once said, “in most cases, being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.” She’s obviously a very emotionally intelligent leader, and we encourage leaders to take it a step further than that for best results.

Hire talented people and develop their skills and talents so they’re the best they can be — even if that potentially means losing them as a team member. Emotionally intelligent leaders can prioritize the development of others over their own desire to have the best team possible. These leaders should help employees identify talents, improve on strengths and weaknesses, and help team members take on new opportunities they might not without a leader’s encouragement.

6) Empathy

Do you put yourself in teammates’ shoes when addressing challenges and problems with them? Do you acknowledge others’ feelings and opinions and respond to them? Do you share your own emotions and worries with team members to help them feel understood?

Effective leaders must be empathetic in order to also be emotionally intelligent. Empathy means not just listening to team members, but making them feel heard and understood, too. Leaders should constantly seek to understand the perspective of their team members to effectively communicate changes, feedback, and news — both good and bad.

Empathetic leaders can deliver feedback in team members’ preferred method of communication, tailor meetings and communication according to different personalities and styles, and adapt their leadership style to what’s most effective for motivating and helping the larger group.

7) Trustworthiness

Do teammates confide in you? Do you know when to keep information confidential, and when to escalate it through the proper channels? Do teammates feel comfortable bringing concerns to you when they arise?

Trust isn’t just about keeping secrets your team members confide in you — it’s also about creating an environment of mutual trust where team members feel supported and comfortable.

Emotionally intelligent leaders should provide team members with multiple avenues for providing feedback, airing grievances, and voicing questions or concerns — without feeling vulnerable or wrong for doing so. They should encourage team members to support and rely on each other, work collaboratively, and share knowledge and skills for better team outcomes.

8) Self-Reflection

Do you analyze your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement on a regular basis? Do you engage with your direct reports and your supervisors to get 360-degree professional feedback? Do you set monthly, quarterly, or annual goals for improvement and personal development?

In addition to all of the above, one of the most meaningful ways leaders can cultivate their emotional intelligence to drive better team outcomes is to pause and reflect on themselves. It can be challenging to critique yourself, which is where collaborative feedback comes in. Emotionally intelligent leaders constantly seek feedback from peers and other leaders to analyze and strategize how to constantly improve — in meetings, 1:1s, and by seeking to learn from other sources.

These are only eight examples of emotional intelligence in leadership, but focusing on these traits will help leaders cultivate emotional intelligence in team members to help them be as productive and successful as possible. For more information on improving and cultivating emotional intelligence in leadership, download HubSpot co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah’s ebook here.

What signs of emotional intelligence do you value? Share with us in the comments below.

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How to Personalize Transactional Emails With Dynamic Content

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According to the latest Radicati report, the total number of business and consumer emails sent and received in 2017 is likely to reach 269 billion. And that number is expected to jump to 319.6 billion by 2021.

Email marketing isn’t going anywhere.

But there’s a big catch. With so many emails landing in our inboxes, there needs to be something unique about your emails so that you stand out from the crowd.

You’re probably already acutely aware of this, and have already started to incorporate personalized elements into your promotional emails.

But what about transactional emails?

Transactional emails are those triggered by a user interaction on your site, such as a purchase receipt or a delivery confirmation. Most companies don’t give too much thought to these types of messages, but they represent an important marketing opportunity to interact with your customers at their most engaged.

Research from IBM company Silverpop’s 2015 Email Marketing Benchmark Study found that transactional emails enjoy an average open rate of about 45%, compared to just 20.8% for non-transactional emails.

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Data source: IBM

The click-through rate for transactional emails also has a significant edge on other marketing emails at 10.4%, while the average CTR for non-transactional emails is 3.2%.

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Data source: IBM

So before you write off these messages as boring, think again. In fact, you can harness transactional emails to amplify your marketing efforts. Their potential is way beyond just welcoming a new subscriber or sending ecommerce-related updates.

What is a Transactional Email?

There’s a general perception that transactional emails are only sent after a customer has bought something from your website — an order confirmation email, order shipment email, order delivered email, etc.

In reality, transactional emails have a broader defintion.  A transactional email is a message sent to a subscriber because of a certain action they took on your website, such as visiting a particular page, signing up for blog updates, or abandoning a cart. 

Personalization in Transactional Emails

We all love to receive emails that are tailor made for us. And that is the reason why personalized campaigns help improve click-through rates by around 14% and conversions by 10%. We all know this is true for promotional emails, but few marketers have begun to further optimize their transactional emails with advanced personalization. 

As a general rule of thumb, your transactional emails should be 80% informational and 20% promotional. Transactional emails are intended to deliver important information, so you can’t compromise this with too much promotional content. The key is to give users the information they need and expect, and offer them a personalized next step to continue their journey with your company. 

To help you start harnessing the power of your transactional emails, we’ll take a look at three impressive examples of optimized and personalized transactional emails sent by real companies. Each example represents a different type of transactional interaction, enabling you to create messages that are extremely relevant to recipients and profitable for your business.

The Welcome Email

The welcome email is the first email you send to a person who has opted in to receive your emails, or someone who has made their first purchase on your website. As your first direct interaction with a user, the welcome email is an important chance to start things off on the right foot.

To help you gather data for a positive personalized experience, It’s important to ask for a few key pieces of information about your new subscriber at the time of sign up. The information can be used to tailor your welcome email to resonate with the subscribers.

If you have asked for their name, you can go ahead and open with a personalized greeting . Isn’t it natural to like someone saying “Hey Joe” rather than just a “Hey there”? If you have collected their zip code, providing local store information is also a good idea.   

Here’s a simple yet awesome welcome email from Upwork. They have made good use of the of the subscriber information they collected at sign-up. The global freelancing platform makes the person feel special with just a few simple, personalized lines.

They welcome Mike and provide all the information he needs to know to get acquainted with the platform. Prominent CTAs can be used to guide the user back to the website for more relevant info.

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The Purchase Email

After a customer makes a purchase, there are 3 types of emails that are usually triggered: order confirmation email, order shipment email and order delivered email.

We know none of these sound exciting, but they’re important to the customers who are waiting to know the status of their order and should thus be very important to marketers as well.

To interact with your customers at their most engaged, you should customize these emails with relevant content. Apart from the basic dynamic information of the order, you can make best use of upsell and cross-sell techniques, which direct users to content or products relevant to their purchase.

When someone purchases something from your website, you get an idea as to what kind of apparel they like or what kind of holiday destination they prefer. Dynamic content for these type of emails can be fetched on the basis of the customer’s current purchase, past purchase history or any other real-time interaction.   

It might seem a little dicey when it comes to recommending products, but if used carefully, recommendations have the potential to make a strong impact. After all, it costs 5 times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one.  Also, convincing your existing customers to buy from you is easier than convincing a new subscriber, isn’t it?

Make sure you do not bombard the customer with a big list of recommendations or they might soon lose interest in you or feel overwhelmed. Restraint on the number of suggested products serves to keep the customer engaged.

We love this purchase confirmation email from Teespring. It provides all the essential information about the order — which the subscriber needs to know. But they’ve also taken full advantage of relevant cross-sell opportunities, presenting the user with customized information about other products. 

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Cart Abandonment Email

It’s a nightmare for a business to see abandoned carts. But they exist in big numbers. According to a SalesCycle report, around 74.52% carts were abandoned in 2016.

But it is possible to recover some lost carts through email marketing. And personalization of cart abandonment emails makes things easier. Generally, when a subscriber receives relevant suggestions, they are more likely to take the desired action.

Lux-Fix.com, a fashion retail brand, implemented an email personalization program to get 85.7% rise in email conversion rates and a 136.2% rise in recovered sales from cart abandonment emails.

By personalizing the email with products the customer or prospective customer was looking for, you can create context and remind them about their interaction with your brand. Also, you need to make sure that when they click on a product image or description you send in your email, you take them to the exact product page on your website.  

Moreover, you can also cross-sell in this type of email. By giving color options of products they put into the cart or recommending similar products that they may like, you are actually broadening the horizon of your brand in more ways than one.   

You can also segregate the cart abandoners on the basis of what caused them to do so. By implementing your knowledge regarding shopping habits, stage of a particular subscriber’s journey, etc. we have a few ideas you can make use of:

  • First time visitor/ price-sensitive visitor:  a discount works the best
  • Those deterred by shipping cost: offer free shipping
  • If someone puts a product in the cart and it is out-of-stock: send an email when the product is back in stock

This email by MCM is an excellent example of cart abandonment emails. The top menu is in place and there’s a major focus on reminding the subscriber about what they left in the cart. Apart from all this, they have cross-sold well by adding some similar products that the subscriber may like.   

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Don’t Forget Your Transactional Emails

Personalization plays an important role in increasing the probability of your email campaign’s success. While personalization often gets limited to just promotional emails, it’s important to consider personalization options in your transactional emails as well to improve open and click-through rates.

Customized transactional emails can perform even better with this targeted approach.  

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6 AI Startups We’re Keeping an Eye On

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The other day, I was airing some grievances to a friend. The whining topic du jour: artificial intelligence, or AI.

“Every time I hear about it, I think, ‘Sure, that’s cool,’” I said. “But sometimes I wish it would slow down — there’s so much happening there, and so fast.”

“Well, I have bad news for you,” my friend told me. “It’s not going away anytime soon.”

He was right. AI continues to be all the rage in the worlds of both tech and business, and is growing at a lightning-fast pace. At the most recent Google I/O, an entire suite of new AI-related product features were unveiled. Microsoft, meanwhile, launched an entire investment arm dedicated to this type of technology. And as research from CB Insights indicates, in 2016, over 500 AI startups raised roughly $5 billion in funding.

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But which ones are going to stick around?

We thought you might ask that — that’s why we sought out the six that have piqued our greatest interest. We’ve listed them below and summarized what it is that they’re trying to do … and why they’ve got our attention.

6 Artificial Intelligence Startups to Watch

1) Bizible

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What the Company Does

In its earliest days, Bizible’s revenue attribution product provided technology to help its customers better assess spending activity and make better decisions. Now, its new revenue planning product uses machine learning to help B2B marketers plan for every revenue-related scenario. Think: The product crunches the historical revenue attribution data to help predict what GeekWire calls “‘what if’ scenarios — like increasing marketing spend … or reducing event sponsorship budgets.”

Why We’re Paying Attention

We love it when companies examine what they already do best and say something like, “Wait a minute — we can use this information to make something even better.”

In Bizible’s case, that was the marketing expenditure data it already organized and helped customers analyze. The next step, the company decided, was to help marketers make even better use of that data — with the help of intelligent algorithms that predict the results of a given current spending track, and provide budgetary alternatives that address the aforementioned scenarios.

It’s that AI technology, CEO Aaron Bird told GeekWire, that helps marketers “have a good understanding of causality in the past … in order to do a good job of planning the future.”

2) UiPath

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What the Company Does

New-York-based UiPath is known best for its robotic process automation (RPA) technology — the kind that helps to automate what can become tedious business tasks, like data entry. As PYMNTS explains, eliminating the need for human labor on such processes can help “companies save money by offloading these tasks from human contractors.”

Why We’re Paying Attention

To be completely honest — the type of technology being created by UiPath scares us a little. The potential drawback of human job elimination by way of AI continues to be a hotly-contested topic, and while it does make us slightly shake in our boots, we can’t help but be fascinated by the companies that throw their respective hats into that particular automation ring.

But we also find ourselves drawn to the UiPath Academy — a “free of charge, self-led online learning environment where anyone in the world can enroll and train to obtain a UiPath RPA certification.” The point of that certification? Creating more RPA experts that can help companies implement and make the best use of technology like UiPath’s.

From a certain perspective, that could be seen as UiPath’s method of countering the potential job elimination resulting from widespread RPA — by cultivating a population of experts who know how to make the best use of AI within certain organizations.

3) vHive

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What the Company Does

In the B2B realm, most marketers don’t spend a ton of time thinking about how they would make use of a fleet of drones — at least, we don’t. That is, until we learned about vHive: The maker of cloud-based technology for enterprise-level organizations that want to use drones to manage field operations.

Why We’re Paying Attention

Drones are an area of technology that’s seen mixed results over the past decade. Many brands continue to experiment with numerous uses of drones — one of the most interesting cases we’ve come across is telecom company BT using drones to provide internet service in places impacted by war and natural disasters.

But at the same time, few brands seem to be able to truly make it work — some are missing sales estimates, laying off members of their drone teams, or closing up shop altogether. So when we learn about startups in this realm receiving high amounts of funding — vHive secured $2 million from VC and private investment in its first round — it makes us ask, “Okay, so what’s different about this one?” Perhaps it’s the focus on fleet management, or the target audience of enterprise-level companies, but we’re curious to see how this works out.

4) Agolo

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What the Company Does

Another player in the New York AI field, Agolo’s technology is designed to synthesize and summarize the media most important to professionals in order to do their jobs. Here’s a peek at how it works:

Why We’re Paying Attention

Information overload is a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away — at least, not anytime soon. And as bloggers, we often have to monitor a high volume of news about marketing and technology. That’s why intelligent systems like Agolo’s tend to make us positively giddy — they can help us figure out what we need to do, and automatically find and summarize the news that’s going to help us best do our jobs.

But that benefit isn’t limited to bloggers. Marketers from every industry struggle with staying on top of the news and content they need to see in order to remain informed about competition, regulations, and more.

5) Vault

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What the Company Does

Another Israel-based startup, Vault’s technology has a primary focus on the entertainment industry. It uses big data to help professionals in this sector address and resolve both marketing and financial decision-making problems — partially with its box office sales prediction technology.

Why We’re Paying Attention

Even though it’s been a while since I actually visited a movie theatre, I still positively geek out over box office rankings. After all, I’m both a consumer and a marketer, and I like to see the products — software and films alike — that amass an eyebrow-raising audience.

That’s something that makes one of Vault’s products, Deep Audience, so interesting to us — its ability to take the entertainment industry’s media assets, like movie trailers or a script, and apply an algorithm that can analyze who’s going to be drawn to it.

From there, entertainment marketers can make important decisions about how to package and communicate the product to this audience, depending on size, composition, and other factors. Our hope: The Deep Audience becomes available and applicable to marketers within industries beyond entertainment.

6) All Turtles

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What the Company Does

Okay, so we may have cheated a bit on this one. All Turtles is actually a self-described “AI startup studio” that provides guidance and other resources to founders of companies within this sector. The approach, according to its website, is to tackle “one frontier at a time,” starting with AI.

Why We’re Paying Attention

The act of AI startups receiving funding isn’t exactly rare news — after all, that’s how we found out about many of the companies on this list. What intrigues us about this one, however, is that it’s a startup for startups: one that was founded by Phil Libin, who’s held executive roles in both the VC and tech sectors.

That’s a powerful combination of skills and experience. We’re curious to see how it’s applied and carried out in an area of business and technology that, in the grand scheme of things, is still in its earliest stages — but shows no signs of ceasing to grow at full-tilt.

Types of Intelligence

What stands out to us about many of the companies listed here is the potential impact their work could have on a number of populations. Automated business processes, predictions, and fleet management are all very cool — but we’re eager to see how many of these brands develop technologies that will benefit individuals on a personal level. AI certainly has the ability to help professionals do their work more seamlessly. But it could also have a positive impact on, for example, aging populations, by automating in-home assistance that can keep seniors healthy in their homes longer.

In any case — these are just some of the reasons why we’re watching the world of AI unfold.

Which AI startups are you keeping an eye on? Let us know in the comments.

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How to Leverage User-Generated Content in Your Marketing Strategy

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These days, the phrase “content is king” still holds true (to an extent). But the rules surrounding content production as well as our understanding of it as marketers has changed. No longer is it about having content in spades, it’s all about quality.

Having one great piece of content is always going to be better than 10 second-rate pieces that don’t add any value for readers. However, if you can consistently produce great content on a regular basis, that’s enough to dominate the online marketing realm.

Unfortunately, about 70% of marketers still lack an integrated or consistent content strategy, based on research from Altimeter. Creating great content is hard, and many marketers still don’t have sufficient knowledge or adequate resources to produce high-quality content on a regular basis. Some produce generic content, which is akin to replicating a cola brand. You’re not innovating and it’ll never be as good as Coke, in which case no one’s going to buy/drink it.

Let’s face it, most brands don’t have the resources or expertise to compete with larger, more established companies with bigger marketing budgets. So how can they create high quality content at scale?

Well, one great way is to crowdsource. No one knows your readers better than they know themselves, and you simply can’t compete with the collective knowledge of an entire audience.

In this article, we’ll focus on why brands should let their users help create value in content.

How to Leverage User-Generated Content

Owned Media vs. Earned Media

Source: The Keep-calm-o-matic

Different types of media can be utilized to improve your organization’s value creation initiatives. One type is “owned media.” This refers to the content that your organization has 100% control over, including your company’s official website, company blogs, and your official social media pages.

Owned media may also come in the form of case studies, whitepapers, and ebooks. These types of media are not only controlled in terms of production, they’re also controlled in terms of distribution, because much of it is “gated”. The primary goal of owned media is to provide value to provide value through content marketing to generate and nurture leads.

Though there are many advantages to having complete control over your content, it doesn’t always work well to build trust with your audience because it isn’t “peer reviewed”. In some cases, owned media can also end up being over-technical, product-centric, and self-serving, hence the lack of appreciation from users. There’s only so much a brand can achieve if all their conversations and interactions are one-way.

The media type at the opposite end of the scale is “earned media.” Simply put, this refers to the media exposure earned by your brand through word-of-mouth. This exposure could stem from your own SEO efforts, high-quality content you publish that goes viral, great customer experience delivered, or pretty much anything else your brand does that compels individual users to create content with your brand’s name on it.

As the title suggests, “earned media” is the type of media or exposure your brand has earned by doing something positive or negative. These also come in various forms, including reviews and feedback, recommendations, press coverage, and articles, amongst others. The reason earned media works so well to build relationships is because it places users into your media channel, turning attention away from your brand and onto your audience.

In terms of building awareness and trust, earned media can be a gold mine. It helps build your community through social proof, and provides you with user-created value that leads to more opportunities for engagement. Not only does it facilitate improved ways to learn about your prospects/customers, it opens up a dialogue for two-way conversations so users can interact with your brand.

Oh yeah, it’s also free.

Benefits of User Generated Content

Why wait for people to start talking about your brand when you can create a channel for them to make themselves heard and facilitate User-Generated Content (UGC)? Every piece of content a user produces on your website or site’s outpost becomes branded UGC. Brands can provide a means for their users to collaborate with them via their website, forums, and social media platforms to power up these channels with activity.

For the users, they create UGC to express themselves and gain recognition. It’s a win-win situation, as brands greatly benefit from the buzz. Here are just some of the advantages for brands:

  • UGC helps brands understand their target audience better.
  • UGC improves site engagement and time spent on the website.
  • UGC increases customer satisfaction through conversations.
  • UGC provides means for other users to connect, which then, builds a stronger community.
  • UGC improves the brand’s search engine ranking and online visibility.
  • UGC is inherently peer-reviewed, making it more trustworthy.

More importantly, UGC creates a competitive advantage for brands that is inherently difficult to replicate because communities can’t just be copied.

Think about the power of sites like Wikipedia, whose moderators are crowdsourced users that help make the site better because they care about being part of an active community. Imagine how difficult/expensive this would have been to accomplish with owned or paid media. Now you see the power of user-created value.

Another great example would be the Inbound.org community, which has over 170k professional marketers who are happy to share their knowledge with other members. Everyone has their own opinions and experiences so this creates an unrivaled source of marketing expertise that makes the community extremely attractive for anyone looking to learn about sales/marketing.

Potential Challenges of Building a Community

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You can’t build an empire in a day. In today’s highly connected world, there are plenty of challenges brands face when trying to build an online community.

While UGC is definitely a cost-effective approach, one bad apple can ruin the bunch. The first problem with UGC is that since it comes directly from users, it can’t be controlled by the brand. This opens up areas for concern with trolling, negative comments and various legal compliance issues, just to mention a few.

As the name suggests, it’s the user that generates the content. Thus, it is their content and they can essentially create whatever they want, whether it’s good for your brand or not.

Which leads us to another challenge, how to maintain and moderate UGC. This is where the community manager comes in. He or she must be able to keep users engaged and set the tone for what themes, subjects and topics users should contribute towards. An experienced community manager should also know how to create content, handle PR issues and provide support to users.

Another challenge is the amount of time need to build a community. It’s not a one-time, big-time deal. Like in-house efforts, UGC requires resources, continued effort and time for it to work.

Some brands launch online communities that offer many features, which can lead to high development costs. For instance, some have extensive communications, search and analytics functions. These features can require huge amounts of resources to develop, all of which could potentially go to waste if the feature doesn’t get used or is fundamentally flawed.

Apart from the above, other potential issues include developing an authentic brand voice, respecting boundaries, keeping your community engaged, and policing content. Though this might seem a little daunting, I can assure you that the benefits of having an active community far outweigh the development and maintenance costs.

How to Encourage Users to Create Value

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At this point you’re probably asking “how do I get users to create value in the first place?”

First, you need to give them a reason to become part of your community. You need to make them WANT to be part of the “squad.” You can tap into their innate desire to belong to a community and help others or you can focus on the opportunity to learn from industry experts.

When a brand engages with their audience online, it sets an example and encourages other users to participate and join the conversation. This is highly evident on social media, especially on Facebook and Twitter where users can communicate with brands directly.

It’s important to know who your audience is at this point, so you can develop themes to ignite their interest. Much like producing owned media, you should first listen to your audience to find out what they’re interested in and what they’re concerned about. Then use this information about your audience to develop themes, topics and subjects that focus on their needs, wants and desires. The more user-centric your system is, the better it’ll work.

To help you along the way, here are the basic principles to creating an online community:

  • Encourage participation through incentivizing.
  • Set a standard for members to follow.
  • Think in terms of the collective.
  • Be honest and transparent with members.
  • Promote your community to attract new members.
  • Be persistent and contribute regularly to develop a voice.
  • Allow members to be independent.

The Power of Communities

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In its simplest form, members of a community help each other grow. Communities offer people support, encouragement and expert knowledge along with providing a sense of belongingness.

For brands, communities can be just as powerful. The stronger your community, the more likely it is that it will help you sustain your business. When it comes to establishing your brand as an industry leader and thought innovator, there’s not much that’s more compelling than having your own strong community.

Not convinced? Here’s the proof:

  • 86% of Fortune 500 companies report communities provide insights into customer needs (Sector Intelligence)
  • 71% of companies use customer collaborations for market research (Aberdeen)
  • 64% of companies state the brand community has improved their decision-making (Innsbruck University)
  • 53% of Americans who follow brands on social are more loyal to those brands (Convince & Convert)
  • 80% of brands say that their community building efforts have resulted in increased traffic (HubSpot)

Think about companies like Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, and Alibaba. The nature of their business models depend entirely on their communities. The larger they are, the more value they provide to individual members. But, keep in mind that these are extreme cases whereby the products are essentially the communities themselves.

Though many businesses won’t have the need or ability to create a community-centered website, they can always have a presence on social media and via blog comments, which can be just as beneficial. Online communities can help further showcase your brand’s products or services and attract new members to come aboard. Bottom line, you need to bring your community into your marketing.

Think of it as a channel for free marketing and PR. Now, who wouldn’t want that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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