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

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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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Clips 101: How to Use Apple’s New Camera App

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Marketers and readers agree — videos and social media make up the next great frontier of content marketing and distribution.

The harder question to answer: How do we quickly and easily make those shareable videos our audiences want to see on social media?

Check out our interactive guide to creating high-quality videos for social  media here.

There are a lot of ways to create video content directly within social media apps. Think: Facebook Live, Periscope, and Snapchat Stories. But these videos are live, spontaneous, and unpolished. They’re authentic — but sometimes, you might want to create something more technical and creative.

Here’s where Clips comes in — Apple’s solution to easy social media visual content creation. Read on to learn all about the app, what you can do with it, and how to use it.

What is Clips?

Clips is a mobile photo and video editing app that helps users quickly and easily create shareable visual content for social media and its Messages app.

Its simple interface features a record/capture button, filters, emojis and geotags, and cards. If these features sound familiar, it’s because Clips borrows some of the most popular and engaging features from apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.

But Apple isn’t trying to create another photo and video sharing app that would inevitably compete with these other platforms. Instead, it’s created one to easily film, edit, and upload visual content to apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.

Apple takes Clips a couple steps further with two other cool features: automatic subtitling and a widget to add music from Apple Music. Let’s dive into how to use all of these neat video editing tools to make a highly shareable social media video.

How to Use Clips

Download Clips free of charge in the iOS App Store. As the name of the parent company might suggest, Clips is currently only available on iOS devices.

How to Record

When you open up Clips, you’ll see a big, red recording button. You can toggle between photo and video recording, or you can select a photo or video already recorded on your device. Tap the red button to capture a photo, or hold down the red button to record a video.

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You can record Clips up to 30 minutes in length at a time.

How to Add Automatic Subtitles

Tap the bubble text icon on the top of your Clips camera view, and choose the font style the way you’d like your subtitles to appear.

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Then, when you start recording, Clips will automatically subtitle the words you’re speaking. I had to record this video several times to get it right — you have to speak very clearly and slower than usual into your device’s microphone. Here’s what a short Clip with automatic subtitles looks like:

How to Add a Filter

Tap the triple Venn-diagram at the top of your Clips camera view and different filtering options will appear. Tap the one you like, then record your photo or video as normal.

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How to Add Emojis & Geotags

Tap the star icon at the top of your Clips camera view and choose a sticker to add to your photo or video. Here’s what one looks like in action:

How to Add a Card

Clips has a few options for static or moving images you can customize with your narration or music (more on that next). Tap the letter T at the top of your Clips camera view and select a card you want to use for your photo or video. Here’s an example I chose to wish someone a happy birthday:

How to Add Music

Clips gives you the ability to add music from your own library, or its library of stock soundtracks, by tapping the music note in the upper right-hand corner of the Clips camera view. Tap a track to download and select it for your Clip

How to Share Clips

Tap the downward-pointing arrow in the upper-left hand corner of your Clips camera view to look at your work. From there, you can create a new video or share the Clips you’ve already created.

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When you record several Clips in one sitting, they’ll be woven together into one large recording when you go to share. To avoid this, tap the arrow after each recording to create a new video project altogether.

Next, tap the sharing icon in the lower right-hand corner to pull up the screen below:

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From here, you can easily share your Clips via Messages, email, or you can save your Clips to your device.

Where to Share Clips

In addition to the channels above, you can easily share Clips where they were designed to be shared — on social media. If you tap the “More” ellipses, you can add other social networks to your sharing options, as shown below:

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Clips is a fun, easy-to-use app that allows you to create highly shareable images and videos. By adding a few embellishments like subtitles, filters, and emojis, content is easier to consume and share on a variety of platforms — without having to film and edit a video with professional equipment and software.

Have you tried creating video content using Clips yet? Share with us in the comments below.

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9 Reasons Your Marketing Agency’s Retainers Aren’t Bigger

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I’ve seen the inside of hundreds of marketing agencies over more than a decade, including my own.   

Most marketing agencies struggle to generate recurring revenue. Many suffer through the ups and downs of the cash-flow roller-coaster because they never make the switch to recurring-revenue engagements.

Some inch their way to consistency by securing one, two, and three thousand dollar per month engagements. But, those low fees aren’t usually enough to justify much work, and after failing to make a big impact on their client’s business, they get fired after 6 months or a year.

On the flip side, I’ve also had the opportunity to see many agencies prosper as they’ve secured bigger and bigger clients that stick with them for years. When I met Stream Creative (now a Platinum HubSpot Partner) in 2010 at HubSpot’s INBOUND event, they told me they had no recurring revenue. Every year I’d ask them, “How much revenue is from recurring contracts now?” Every year, their percentage would go up. Last year, their response was, “All of our clients start as retainers, and now we add projects on top of that.”

I have hundreds of stories like this. This kind of success continues to fuel me in my mission to help agencies grow their recurring revenue. It’s why I started HubSpot’s agency partner program in 2008, and why I’ve launched an agency partner program at my new company, Databox.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of some common dumb moves that prevent agencies from winning new retainers, landing bigger ones, or losing those precious few ongoing contracts — and what to do instead.

9 Reasons Your Retainers Aren’t Bigger

1) Your Own Marketing Sucks

You wouldn’t hire a dentist with rotten teeth or hire an account who has filed bankruptcy 6 times over.

So why the hell would a company hire an agency that doesn’t prioritize their own marketing?

I’m not going to lecture you on how to do this. If you don’t know how to market your own business, you have bigger problems.

But if you want to start winning more, get more at bats by doing inbound, internet marketing.

If you need some inspiration, follow the lead of Impact Branding, a HubSpot Diamond Partner who now gets more than a quarter million visitors to their site every month. “We’ve grown from two to thirty-two people and the majority of our clients have found us through our online marketing. The smartest decision I made as a startup agency was to dedicate time to it and when we were bigger, to dedicate a full time person to it.”

2) Your Clients Are More Tech-Savvy Than You

Marketing technology is a given these days. Clients expect you to have expertise in the software products they’ve chosen.

When I ran my own little agency, marketing software was pretty new. Google Analytics, Moz, and Constant Contact were really the only well-known tools. There was such a lack of tools, we often edited websites with Notepad and configured our own email server for sending email campaigns.

 When I joined HubSpot in 2007, web content management systems were still pretty new and HubSpot was really just a blogging platform with some keyword research tools and a form builder built into it. Today, HubSpot is a full marketing and sales growth stack that makes it possible to execute a multi-channel marketing campaign. And at Databox, our average paying customer visualizes key performance indicators from more than five different tools.

You need to be a tech-step ahead of your prospects.

3) You Aren’t Aligned with Marketing Technology Vendors

Marketing technology isn’t just a fact of life you must adapt to. It’s a massive business development opportunity for agencies.

Here’s why: marketing technology is booming. Investors have been putting billions of dollars behind marketing technology companies (known as martech) and it’s cousin, salestech, for more than a decade now. There are a bunch of marketing technology companies generating hundreds of millions of dollars — and a few generating more than a billion dollars in annual revenue. In fact, marketers are expected to spend more than $120 Billion over the next 10 years.

Where do you think they’re investing all that money? They are putting much of it into marketing and sales, or what they like to call it: customer acquisition. In fact, they’re putting more into sales and marketing than they make in many cases, as investors continue to put money behind them and their unprecedented growth curves.

When I started HubSpot’s agency program, partnerships between martech companies and agencies was a pretty new idea. But, today, most of these companies have agency partner programs. And the benefits of partnering are great for agencies.

In addition to earning commission when you resell their products, you can also do co-marketing to generate leads, buddy up with their sales teams to get referrals, and market and sell your expertise directly to their install base. In other words, you can leverage their customer acquisitions machines to generate new clients for you.

If you pursue these partnerships to help you win new clients, you can’t fake your way through it, though. First assign someone from within your agency to identify, learn and drive adoption of new software programs.

“Clients hire us because of our experience identifying and using technology to improve their marketing and sales results. They’ve come to depend on us for evaluating new technology and presenting new opportunities to them. Even though HubSpot is a broad “all-in-one” marketing and sales platform, our average client uses more than 5 pieces of software integrated with it,” said Elyse Meyer, owner of Prism Global Marketing Solutions. Her firm won HubSpot’s Integrations Innovations Award for leveraging HubSpot and other software that is integrated with HubSpot to drive client results.  

Maybe you’re just not that into technology, though, and this doesn’t feel natural. If for no other reason, do it for the leads. “Not only do our clients get better results, but we get more opportunities with larger companies that are looking for a tech-savvy agency that can focus on their business holistically,” Meyer added.

And if you’re clinging to your “We’re technology agnostic” line, stop it. Like any other personal or business relationship, the benefits of picking a mate are greater than going it alone. Plus, I usually find that technology-agnostic agencies are actually just technology-ignorant. I bet your prospects will make the same conclusion.

4) You Look and Sound Like Everyone Else

If you work at an agency and you haven’t read Blair Enns, “Win Without Pitching Manifesto“, you are doing yourself a disservice. He says it as concisely as possible:

The world does not need another generalist design firm. There are enough full service advertising agencies and marketing communication firms. The world is drowning in undifferentiated creative businesses. What the world needs, what the better clients are willing to pay for, and what our people want to develop and deliver, is deep expertise. Expertise is the only valid basis for differentiating ourselves from the competition. Not personality. Not process. Not price. It is expertise and expertise alone that will set us apart in a meaningful way and allow us to deal with our clients and prospects from a position of power.

As I was building HubSpot’s agency program, Enns and fellow agency luminaries David Baker and Tim Williams started warning me that the sheer volume of HubSpot partners marketing themselves with the same message and the same tactics will soon make them all look like a commodity.

And even though demand for inbound-certified practitioners still outweighs supply, inbound agencies do tell me they are being shopped around more and more and under-cut by new entrants all the time.

But this doesn’t mean your agency shouldn’t do inbound marketing. Inbound is an unstoppable movement driven by buyer’s interest in self-educating, self-serving, and ultimately, being served better.

What it does mean is that you must differentiate yourself by establishing an expertise no one else can match in another way. A great example of this is TREW Marketing, an inbound marketing agency and HubSpot partner that helps companies market to engineers. But they don’t market to all kinds of engineers. They’ve specialized even further than that. They focus on working with specific types of manufacturing companies like control and automation companies, embedded semiconductor solutions, and just two other specialties that I (nor you, probably) will understand even if I name them.

Here’s an excerpt from their website: “TREW helps design and embedded companies generate demand for their wireless chips, reconfigurable FPGAs, UI development software, and electronic control solutions (to name a few!) in this rapidly changing space.” Find another agency with that on their website. Go ahead, I dare you. They even wrote the book on inbound marketing to engineers.

“By focusing on these niche markets, we bring our collective knowledge of what works to each client, making it a win-win for both agency and client,” explains Rebecca Geier of TREW Marketing. “Not only can we serve them better than anyone else because we understand their products, markets and technical buyer, we can do it faster and more effectively than any other agency. Based on our knowledge and relevant experience with similar industries, we can help them create a differentiated position, develop content engineers are seeking, and drive conversions to fuel demand and business growth.”

5) You’re Trying to Be All Things to All People

Most agencies are small. According to Digiday, “Two thirds of advertising agencies in the U.S. employ fewer than five people.”

There is no way you can be an expert at everything. Instead, partner with firms who are truly experts at things and focus your own resources on developing one or two core competencies.

“Thousands of HubSpot customers use our website templates. We’ve worked with hundreds of them one-on-one to lower their Cost per Customer Acquisition with Conversion Rate Optimization.” said Joe Jerome, owner of Brand Builder Solutions. “Not only does our efficiency allow us to beat the competition on price, but we’re continuously investing in our processes and systems around this type of work.”

I personally know several other agencies who outsource their work to Jerome’s team because his quality is high and because he stays in his lane. He doesn’t offer the kind of services his agency partners do. Therefore, agencies trust him not to steal their clients. And Jerome is often in a position to refer agencies work too.

Find partners who are experts at one or two things, and be more like them too by building your own deep expertise in one or two things.

6) You’re Not Using Data To Justify Investments

Marketing results are more predictable today than they’ve ever been. It’s not an exact science, but over time, more and more things have become measurable.

Just a few years ago, it was possible only to measure CTR of paid ads and not ultimate conversion rates. Now that’s easy. As technology continues to advance, marketing and sales activities will become even more measurable and improvable based on data.

And if you’ve been doing digital marketing correctly, you know the longer you work with a client, the more data you can collect, and the better you can predict the outcome of future marketing activities.

When you’re starting out a relationship, it’s hard to predict how much value or ROI you can deliver. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though.

According to a survey we ran at Databox, most agencies use data in their sales process sometimes, but only 30% require their clients to give them access to data every time. In addition to putting forth a more relevant and customized proposal to the client, there must be a reason these agencies always request access. Maybe they close deals more often because they do?

Here’s how they do it …

Without even asking for anything from your prospect, you can use tools like HubSpot’s website grader to evaluate issues with a prospect’s website or competitor grader to evaluate how they compare against their competition. You can use a tool like SEMRush to evaluate ways to increase organic search traffic.

Don’t stop there. If the prospect has Google Analytics setup, ask for access so you can evaluate issues and find improvement opportunities. If they’re already using tools like HubSpot or Databox, ask for access to those, so you can look for opportunities deeper in the funnel.

If you want to make this process systematic, consider developing standardized report templates for your agency that allow you to quickly view the data the way you want to view it, like HubSpot Platinum partner, FullFunnel did, “We’ve created templates for our core funnel metric reports that make it even easier and quicker to roll out new reports to new clients and prospects.”

By doing this in your sales process, you’ll demonstrate your approach to data-driven marketing and set the stage for using data to justify future investments too.

8) You Are Too Focused on Top of the Marketing Funnel Services

There are not enough agencies that know how to grow sales for their clients.

I’m not suggesting you should stop building or re-designing websites, ignore search engine optimization, or social media marketing, but at a minimum, you need to be able to connect those efforts to sales.

To do that in a B2B or high-ticket B2C client, you need to serve the sales leader as much as you serve marketing. Marketing is essentially a support function for sales, so it’s ludicrous that an agency wouldn’t.

In the early days of HubSpot, we taught agencies how to generate leads for clients, which certainly helped turn top of the funnel results into client revenue. Then, as marketing automation became popular, generating qualified sales leads became the norm.

Today, generating qualified leads is no longer good enough. Agencies need to help drive CRM usage, align sales and marketing goals and messaging and enable sales teams with training and content for use during the sales process.

Many agencies have told me they’ve doubled their retainer sizes by offering sales enablement services. Other than the fact they have no reason to lie to me, I believe them. Why? Enabling a sales team is a time-consuming activity when done right. And it is a very quick return on investment when done right too. In one case, an agency reported they created a “a more stable pipeline and consistent flow of opportunities” just be getting the sales team to send out a sequence of pre-written templated emails to one additional prospect per day.

9) You Aren’t Introducing New Ideas to Clients

Typically, companies hire agencies because (a) they don’t think they can execute on certain concepts in-house or (b) because the same old stuff isn’t working as well as it once did.

It’s an enviable position to be in where clients are expecting you to pitch them new things. Most companies are expected to just do what they’re hired to do.

If your agency isn’t introducing new ideas to clients, you’re not only failing to deliver on expectations, you’re squandering an opportunity to retain and grow your client accounts.

Don’t have ideas of your own? Leverage technology to find opportunities for improvement. LeadG2, a HubSpot Platinum Partner leveraged SeventhSense, a send-time personalization solution, to do just that. Email marketing is an extremely important marketing channel for many of their clients, and they were at a loss on how to improve deliverability, opens, and click-through rates. By using SeventhSense to send emails to individual recipients based on the recipient’s activity profile, they achieved “a 26% Increase in open rate, 141.38% increase in read rate, and a reduction in hard bounces to almost zero.”

There are plenty of technology companies with clever ways to help your clients grow traffic, leads, and sales. Don’t feel like you have to figure it out all on your own.

Do These Things to Land Bigger Retainers

Most agencies really struggle to grow. The most common blocker I’ve seen is they take on project after unprofitable project.

While conventional ‘marketing agency’ wisdom says you need to go upstream to get bigger retainers, my work with HubSpot partners proves you can get bigger retainers from small and mid-sized businesses too. Sure, it helps to go upstream and you can gradually move upstream if you want. But, don’t fool yourself into thinking you need to go out and miraculously land big clients to get there.

Instead, stop making the mistakes above. Alternatively, start doing the things below.

  • Commit to consistently doing great marketing for yourself
  • Get tech-savvy
  • Partner with marketing technology companies
  • Differentiate yourself from all other agencies
  • Become an expert at one or two things
  • Use data to convince prospects to hire you and clients to pay you more.
  • Use real-time data to improve the results you deliver and ensure you hit goals that are meaningful to your clients.
  • Offer down-funnel services like CRM setup and sales enablement in order to deliver and prove ROI more easily and more convincingly.
  • Always be introducing new ideas to existing clients

Start doing all of these things and I guarantee you’ll never have cash flow problems again. Instead, you’ll start growing revenue and profit consistently. Oh yeah — and you’ll have bigger retainers too.   

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How to Differentiate Your Agency by Applying a Planning Approach

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“Be useful. Be different. Be consistent.” 

These are the markers DigitasLBi Chief Strategy Officer, Fern Miller, puts down as her starting points for differentiating her agency brand. And this advice comes following her first-hand experience of being the client on her own agency’s brand.

In a talk for The Art of New Business on the topic of differentiating your agency through a planning approach, here were some of her other key takeout’s:

It’s Terrifyingly Rewarding to Take Care of Your own Brand

But it is worth it.

Your own brands’ behaviour is important, and not simply because competition for agency services is higher than ever, but because the relationship between building your agency brand and the growth of your agency is more than a casual one.

Clients are looking for people to build their brands with them. And the first place they rightly look is the brands of those they are willing to entrust with theirs.

Start With Culture

This is an industry with a high churn rate. And that churn is expensive. But culture is the biggest defence against it.

Culture is a powerful thing, particularly when you don’t have a physical product to sell, and what you are selling is your people. Culture grows. Culture can’t be defeated. And it can be a driver of new business success – because not only is it a unifier for the agency, but clients feel an attachment to it as their agency brand too.

Develop Your Positioning

All great brands have great strategy at their heart, and tell great stories around that strategy. Why would your own agency brand be any different?

Fern advocated for the need to always agitate around your core proposition to ensure it is right, working and competitive, and an anecdote she shared from being the marketeer of the DigitasLBi brand showed just that:

The merger of two separate agencies, LBi and Digitas, required a new logo for the newly created DigitasLBi entity – that was a unicorn, as a confident symbol to represent ‘a quest for digital mastery’. But over time it became unidentifiable at a global level and they needed to unify what it meant to people at a local level.

The outcome was each office getting its own custom unicorn. From the expected (a unicorn on a bike for Amsterdam) to the unexpected (a Robocop unicorn for Detroit), they added meaning to a positioning. This wasn’t just a redesign; this was a global story merging with local, cultural relevance to give the DigitasLBi network something to stand for and rally round.

It is powerful narratives like these that separate great from good brands, and in this case, agencies.

Make Your own Content

DigitasLBi embarked on a host of no-ordinary ways to show what they were about through their content.

A massive agency rave with hundreds of people pledging devotion to creativity and tech. They had Buzzfeed, Guardian Labs, Facebook Atlas, Mondeo Bank, Gay Star News, Mashable, Unilad and Contagious speak at an event program held in their basement. They were the first agency to sponsor the first Digital Pride. And they showed they were thinking about what their clients wanted with a change to the client-agency dinner party model by inviting the families of their clients to a family-day showing them all sorts of tech, and how to make stuff.

In terms of how this approach rewarded them, they won 2 Lions, a Grand Prix at the BIMAS, Digiday’s European agency of the year, Campaign APAC’s digital network of the year and shortlisted for Campaign’s UK Digital Innovation agency of the year.

No Time Like the Present

While we feel a lot of love for your own brand, doing work on it can be terrifying, and it is easy to get lost in dependent behaviour of being distracted elsewhere.

But none of these are good habits. And all impede new business. Planning on your own brand for it to be differentiated is a modern tool to grow your agency. 

So…

”Be useful. Be different. Be consistent.” 

The Art of New Business breakfast talk series exploring modern ways to grow an agency are running throughout 2017. So if winning new business and the growth is even a blip on your agency radar then secure yourself a ticket to the next event and discover some of these fascinating insights for yourself. 

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Dan Cunningham is an Account Director at sports marketing agency, Dark Horses. In a set-up unique from the rest of the sport marketing world, Dark Horses is co-owned by the advertising agency, Lucky Generals, and is a new breed of sports marketing agency that believes the moment you see yourself as the favourite, you’ve lost the race.

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10 Job Interview Questions to Stop Asking Candidates

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When I get a job interview, there’s a lot to prepare. I diligently research the company and my interviewers, pore over Glassdoor interview questions, and print out copies of my resume and portfolio.

When I interview someone else, it’s easier to prepare. I don’t have to put together the perfect outfit, I don’t have to worry about how to find the restroom, and at the end of the day, I don’t have to worry about if I got the job or not.

Boost your resume and join 30,000 marketers by getting inbound  marketing-certified for free from HubSpot. Get started here. 

A quick Google Search for job interview questions brings up some of the most common asks you might have already answered 20 times over the course of your career. They’re popular, but that doesn’t mean they’re good questions. In fact, they could be hurting your chances of the candidate accepting an offer.

Nobody wants to feel stressed out, put on the spot, or tricked during a job interview. After all, you wouldn’t want to experience that in your day-to-day job, so why do we demand it of candidates?

Be mindful of the different personality types, cultures, and backgrounds that are applying for open roles at your company, and consider retiring some of the more common interview questions in your arsenal. Instead, try these alternatives that might give you more helpful information about the candidate — without making them feel awkward in the process.

10 Job Interview Questions to Stop Asking (and What to Ask Instead)

1) What can you tell me about yourself?

You might be surprised to see such a traditional interview question at the top of our list, but it’s not as great of an opener as you might think. In fact, from the candidate’s perspective, it might tell them that you haven’t read their résumé, browsed their portfolio, or checked out their LinkedIn profile. Candidates don’t want to brief you on their entire job history during the short time they have to make a first impression — they want to have a conversation.

Instead, ask a question based on what stood out to you most from their resume and application. Show the candidate you’re taking them seriously and want to learn more about them, beyond what’s on paper.

2) Why are you leaving your current job?

This question could lead to an awkward answer that doesn’t cast the candidate in their best light. The answer could be highly personal, and it isn’t that helpful for learning more about the candidate.

Instead, ask them about their favorite part and biggest challenge of their current role. You’ll learn more about their priorities, dealbreakers, and culture fit — without the conversation becoming too negative.

3) What’s the project you’re most proud of?

It’s useful to learn what projects a candidate enjoys working on most, but you could take this question further by asking something broader. 

Instead, ask them to talk about how they produced a piece of work with multiple different teams. The answer will reveal how they work dynamically and as a project manager — useful traits for most marketing and sales teams.

4) What’s your biggest weakness?

Simply put, it’s presumptuous to assume that you understand what a candidate’s perceived weaknesses are. The answer could exclude candidates from other cultures or industries who aren’t familiar with yours, and it puts candidates in a negative state of mind.

Instead, ask them to describe a challenge they faced in a role and how they handled it. The answer will teach you more about their problem-solving skills, without putting them in the awkward position of personal self-reflection.

5) What’s your five-year career plan?

HubSpot Inbound Recruiting Manager Hannah Fleishman has made more inclusive hiring her mission, and she suggests replacing this interview question. “It can be a loaded question, especially for women, professionals who are thinking of starting a family, and even aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a company one day.”

Instead, Fleishman suggests asking candidates a more specific question: “How does this role fit into your long-term career plans?” The answer will give you the information you’re really looking for — if the role and your organization present opportunities for them to grow.

6) What makes you passionate about your work?

Candidates don’t have to be passionate to be successful in a role. Sure, it helps — but passion is such a subjective topic, it’s not necessary for a job interview.

Instead, ask them what makes them passionate about a company. The answer will tell you about their culture priorities and if they’ll fit with the larger team they’ll be working with.

7) Are you a team player?

Generally speaking, we advise against asking yes or no questions. Open-ended questions are more conversational and will give you more information about the candidate.

When it comes to this question, the answer is valuable, but a candidate is unlikely to self-identify as an individual worker. Likewise, your company probably doesn’t have any roles that are completely solitary — everyone has to attend meetings or work on campaigns at some point.

Instead, ask the candidate what their ideal team dynamic is. You’ll get the same answer you’re looking for — if they work well with others — while allowing them to elaborate on their preferred working environment.

8) How many people do you think flew out of JFK Airport last year?

Brain teasers might be entertaining to ask — and they might teach you a thing or two about a candidate’s problem-solving abilities — but brain teasing questions like this one create too much stress for the candidate. They’re usually ridiculously hard to solve and put the candidate on the spot — without revealing a ton of helpful information.

Instead, ask the candidate how they’d solve a problem that’s common on your team. The answer will be more useful, and it won’t take the candidate by surprise.

9) Sell me this pen.

If you’re hiring for a sales role, you should know: “Sell me this pen” has become such a frequently-asked question, it can be easily answered in a quick Google search before the interview. It might not give you the candidate’s true selling abilities — something you need to know before investing time and resources in training them.

Instead, ask them how they would handle a common roadblock your sales team faces. The answer will prove if they’ve done their research, and it will give you an idea of their persuasion skills if they were on a call. 

10) What’s your salary history?

Fleishman also suggests avoiding questions or discussions of salary or benefits until an offer has been extended to the candidate. “Salary history shouldn’t determine what a candidate’s offer package is,” she says. “This question can actually discriminate against minorities who are more likely to be under-compensated compared to their peers — which is why cities in New York and Massachusetts have banned it from interviews.”

Instead, scratch this question altogether from your list altogether.

The interview is only one piece of the puzzle for the candidate, but by asking more thoughtfully-phrased questions, you could be doing yourself and the candidate a favor. For more recruiting and hiring ideas for your next open marketing position, download our free ebook.

What’s a common job interview question you wish would be retired? Share with us in the comments below.

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

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

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

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

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

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


B2B Customer Marketing Trends


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15 Fashion Brands You Should Follow on Instagram for Marketing Inspiration

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No other B2C industry has thrived on Instagram quite like the fashion industry.

Between their carefully curated photos, expertly targeted ads, and decisive adoption of Instagram Stories, fashion and beauty brands have become masters of consumer engagement on the visual content platform. And brands from any industry could learn a thing or two from these inspirational feeds. 

Back in 2015, business intelligence firm L2 found that fashion and beauty brands were growing their community size and engagement rates on Instagram at a rapid rate. 


Source:
Digiday

The L2 report also found that among fashion and beauty brands, Instagram had firmly become the social media platform of choice — far outranking Facebook and Twitter.


Source:
L2

In 2017, the industry’s love affair with Instagram isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Digiday recently checked in with a number of fashion and beauty social media insiders at SXSW’s Decoded Fashion and Create & Cultivate events, confirming that Instagram remains a top priority in their digital marketing strategies.

“Instagram is always a priority for us,” Rosi Sanchez, a social media strategist at Fossil, told Digiday. “We have more reach and a larger new follower group there, so it leads to more conversions. Until we get to 1.5 million or 2 million followers, it’s going to be our number one priority.”

Fossil isn’t alone. Social media strategists from more established brands like L’Oréal USA, Shopbop, and Murad also indicated that Instagram was their top social media priority for the foreseeable future.

Brands from any industry looking to level up their visual storytelling chops should keep a close eye on fashion brands for inspiration. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of 15 fashion accounts — both big and small — who are crushing the Instagram game. Take a look below, and start planning your next big Instagram push. For a deeper dive on how to build a presence on Instagram, check out our complete guide to Instagram marketing

15 Fashion Brands to Follow on Instagram

1) Everlane @everlane

While Everlane’s account has no shortage of beautiful product imagery, they also feature photos of their customers wearing Everlane clothes, inspiring travel photography, and tips on food and art destinations in different cities around the world. 

  
 

2) Nike @nike

The behemoth athletic brand has enthusiastically embraced video content, and can be regularly found sharing clips with their impressive 7.1 million follows on Instagram. Their feed features a motivational mix of professional athletes and regular, everyday fitness enthusiasts. 

  
 

3) Teva @teva

Teva’s Instagram feed is perfect proof that it’s possible to give your brand a modern update without losing the spirit of what made you successful in the first place. Their feed includes customer-generated photos of their sandals out in the wild, as well as sleek product shots highlighting their new styles. 

  
 

4) Zara @zara

Zara has made a name for itself by emulating the marketing of more expensive, luxury brands, and their Instagram feed is no exception. Their account looks like a high-fashion magazine, with professional editorial shots of their men’s and women’s styles.

  
 

5) Fossil @fossil

If you like photos of neatly organized items, then Fossil’s Instagram is definitely for you. The accessories brand curates an impressive feed of food, fashion, and celebrity influencers like Kristen Bell. 

  
 

6) Kate Spade @katespadeny

Despite being a well-established label, Kate Spade’s Instagram has a distinct personal touch that sets it apart from similar brands. Their social media manager shares daily outfit pictures, snaps from around New York, and behind-the-scenes shots of the design process at the Kate Spade studio.

  
 

7) Fjällräven @fjallravenofficial

The Instagram feed for Swedish outdoor apparel brand Fjällräven is less about their products, and more about the adventurous spirit that has defined the company for almost 60 years. 

  
 

8) Madewell @madewell

Apparel brand Madewell is known for their relaxed, classic styles, and their Instagram clearly reflects this aesthetic. With bright, sunny images of their latest products and collaborations with brands like Vans, their feed is a fashion lover’s delight. 

  
 

9) The Row @therow

Another account that focuses less on their products and more on visual inspiration, The Row features vintage photos of art, architecture, and fashion — only occasionally sharing images of their actual products. 

  
 

10) Asos @asos

British online fashion and beauty retailer Asos keeps their feed updated regularly with colorful and bold product images and editorial snaps from their latest campaigns. 

  
 

11) Aerie @aerie

Scrolling through Aerie’s Instagram feed is like taking a tropical beach getaway. The lingerie and bathing suit brand has been applauded for their commitment to unretouched photos in their print ads, and they continue the effort on their Instagram account by celebrating a diverse range of women and body-positive messages. 

  
 

12) Eileen Fisher @eileenfisherny

Eileen Fisher keeps the emphasis on their quality materials and environmentally friendly production processes Instagram presence. By featuring images of women from all walks of life, they prove that style is truly ageless. 

  
 

13) Anthropologie @anthropologie

With colorful close-ups of their brightly patterned styles, Anthropologie’s feed is a visual smorgasbord of inspiration. We especially love the travel shots featuring their clothes around the world. 

  
 

14) Girlfriend Collective @girlfriendcollective

This leggings startup has yet to even officially launch a full collection of clothing, but they already boast an impressive 60.2k followers on Instagram. Thanks to a free leggings promotion they advertised earlier this year on Instagram and Facebook, the brand has enjoyed explosive social media growth. Their feed keeps customers engaged with stunning product photography of their minimal styles, and screencaps from inspirational movies.

  
 

15) J.Crew @jcrew

J.Crew has mastered the art of follower engagement on Instagram. With daily-updated Stories and regular contests to select new styles for clothes and accessories, their vibrant feed keeps customers inspired and interested.

  
 

What fashion brands do you follow on Instagram? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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7 Design Podcasts That’ll Get the Creative Juices Flowing

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If you’ve worked among designers, or are one yourself, there’s something that’s quickly observed: Designers, it seems, are often working with their headphones on.

Much of the time, that’s the result of creative work presenting an opportunity to plug in, and tune out distractions. Whether it helps you focus, or you’re signaling to colleagues that you don’t want to be bothered, or you just think headphones look cool, many creative professionals appreciate a little welcomed background noise.

But what’s everyone listening to? And could that auditory activity serve as a learning opportunity? 

While listening to music on the job has been known to improve workplace performance, podcasts serve as a great way for graphic designers — and many other creative professionals — to both learn something new and get inspired as they work. But there are dozens of podcasts out there, even on design alone. So to save you some of the trouble of previewing every show, we’ve collected a list of 10 interesting design podcasts that you can start listening to, right now.

7 of the Best Podcasts for Graphic Designers

1) Design Matters With Debbie Millman

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

Design Matters with Debbie Millman

Design Matters was, according to Debbie Millman’s website, the “world’s first podcast” dedicated to design. With 281 episodes available at the time of writing this post, there’s no shortage of inspiring insights to be extracted from interviews with artists from every point on the creative spectrum.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You usually listen to music while you’re working, but want to learn something from a podcast instead.
  • You’re curious about the intersection of design and business.

2) 99% Invisible

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

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Serving as a “weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture,” podcast episodes from 99% Invisible don’t just scratch the surface of a dozen topics in a limited time frame. Instead, host Roman Mars uses each installation as an opportunity to dive head-first into one, single unconventional topic. Think: how the design of electricity grids, nature documentaries, and shipping containers work.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You’re the type of person who observes design everywhere — whether it’s during your commute or while staring at a row of condiments.
  • You want to know how every corner of design — including architecture and engineering — influence marketing aesthetics.

3) Adventures in Design

iTunes | libsyn | SoundCloud

adventures in design

“As a department of one,” writes one iTunes reviewer of Adventures in Design, “it’s nice to hear others ‘talk shop’ and not censor themselves.” 

Launched in 2013, this podcast is one that focuses on the projects, process, and inspirational ramblings of its talented guests — from logo design, to the struggles of finding and working with clients. And those guests? Well, they’ve ranged from hockey legends to the global creative director of an international athletic apparel brand.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You feel a bit isolated in your design work, and want insights from the folks who get you.
  • You work with a variety of clients and want to gain inspiration from a number of industries.

4) The Deeply Graphic DesignCast

iTunes

Deeply Graphic DesignCast

When it comes to tangible, immediately applicable advice, the Deeply Graphic DesignCast is a go-to resource for many creative professionals. Hosted by no less than six design professionals, the content comes with a diverse set of insights from each one’s real-world experience. That makes sense — it’s the product of web consulting agency The Deep End. Judging from the broad array of episode topics, from working with subcontractors to designing a mood board, these folks have seen it all … and, they’re sharing it with the world.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You could stand to hear some expertise from client-facing designers.
  • You work in an agency setting and want to hear from like-minded professionals.

5) The Accidental Creative

iTunes | Stitcher

Accidental Creative

One of the coolest things about The Accidental Creative is that it seems to have come about, well, by accident. It’s the product of (and hosted by) author Todd Henry — an expert, speaker, and consultant on design, architecture, and other applications of creative work in business. That content is reflected in the podcast itself, with subject matter ranging from productivity tips for creative professionals, to explaining your job to non-designers.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You could use the help of a creative consultant, but can’t quite pay for it yet.
  • You’re great at what you do, but want to know how to be even better.

6) Typeradio

iTunes | Stitcher

Accidental Creative

It’s a bit difficult to classify exactly what Typeradio is about, and it seems that its creators wish to keep it that way. The website and production alike are no-frills, and it appears to be recorded all over the place: Moscow, Amsterdam, and via Skype, to name a few.

Each episode seems to explore different issues experienced by designers around the world, from their work, to their interpersonal relationships at work and at home — the September 2016 episode with graphic and type designer Ilya Ruderman explores everything between his “first typographic memory,” and how his relationship with his wife influences both his routine and creative work.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You want to listen to something that, as one iTunes reviewer put it, “Often revelatory. Sometimes silly and irreverent. Usually very entertaining.”
  • You’re looking for audible design content that’s profoundly unpretentious.

7) Design Story

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

Design Story

Does it sometimes seem like B2C designers get to have all the fun? It doesn’t have to be that way — we know that B2B design can be just as exciting, and that both categories can draw ideas from each other.

That’s why we love Design Story — the monthly podcast from Fulcrum, an agency that helps clients align their business policies and creative goals. And that’s what each episode does, by exploring and sharing the stories behind the point where design intersects with things that we traditionally see as leaving little room for creativity: science and leadership, for example.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You’re a creative designer who also wants to succeed in business — or a manager who wants to better leverage and embrace creativity.
  • You love both data and good stories, and love it when they’re combined.

Tune In

Got those headphones ready? Good. It’s time to start listening.

One common thread that surfaces among all of these podcasts is their shared relatability. Each one explores the trials and tribulations of people with heavy exposure to design at work and at home, and who want to share how those experiences can benefit other creative professionals.

So, what do you say? Let’s turn up the volume.

What are your favorite design podcasts? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Author: Amanda Zantal-Wiener

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