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Author: Anna Ray

ElevateYourIGGame

7 Ways to Elevate Your Instagram Game

7 Tips to Elevate Your Instagram Game And Growing Your Following

So you have an Instagram but following, but you’re not sure how to grow it. Do more Instagram Live sessions? Comment on other people’s posts? Buy followers? Yes, yes, heck no.

We’ve put together 7 actionable tips to help you boost your Instagram game to baller status so you can grow your following without resorting to cheap tactics and bots. This advice is for people, solopreneurs and huge, established brands. And it’s all based on some insight from the Marketing king himself Mr. Seth Godin who literally wrote the book on online communities.

Nike did not invent the running tribe. There were already runners before Nike showed up. What we do when we lead a tribe often is we find people who are already connected and we merely show up to lead them.

For most businesses, we don’t even lead them. We merely service a tribe that already exists so that when you find a group of people who share an instinct, an interest, a connection, a leader, a goal, you give that group of people something with which they can take action.

The way I abbreviate that long sentence is “people like us do things like this.”

To succeed on Instagram, you have to tap into that community and give them some leadership. Here’s how:

1. Be Present By Posting Every Day

Consistently post. It’s the most basic part of the recipe. It’s so basic you want to skip over this tip and get to the good stuff but i’m telling you: this IS the good stuff. Watch what happens if you post everyday.

According to research by Tailwind, you should post every day.

But of course, it’s not as easy as posting every day. Are your posts gaining followers? Are they–at the very least–maintaining the followers you already have? Posting too much content that’s boring, irrelevant, off-brand, unattractive–bye-bye followers!

Which brings us to tip #2….

2. Show your personality!

Social media loves a good personality, and the only thing better than a person with personality is a brand with personality. (Don’t believe us? Check out Wendy’s.)

But what does personality look like on Instagram?

@MrOrlandoSoria is an interior designer who only occasionally talks about interior design.

A post shared by Orlando Soria (@mrorlandosoria) on

He has a cult following because he’s hilarious! If you’ve ever seen anyone use a pretend microphone and the words “reporting live using a spatula [or other object] as a microphone,” they got it from Orlando.

His interior design work is top-notch but it’s truly the least interesting part of his Instagram presence. If this picture wasn’t enough of a taste, check out his “murder” highlight. He also has a running joke about how he’s a grown human man living inside your phone. He yells at dogs, “excuse me, dog-ma’am!” And every person and entity in his life has its own hashtag: orMOMdo, orlanDAD, #chateualando, just to name a few.

Tip: Just have fun! If you’ve had your head underwater in analytics and strategy, come for air and just have fun for a while.

@AdamSCarpenter’s claim to fame is zany dance videos but now he does all sorts of shenanigans. Come to think of it, his might be the single weirdest profile I’ve ever followed but me and 50,000 followers can’t be wrong! (…Right?)

As instagram has evolved, so as Carpenter’s style. Now his stories are much less dance-centric and more about silliness with his brother (?) and friends. He tells really dumb jokes, plugs his podcast, and continues to be a complete goof in public.

Tip: Carpenter has always approached his feed with incredible creativity. Think outside the box. Enjoy yourself. And get your friends involved. Followers love watching friends have fun.

3. Avoid Bland–Shake Things Up!

There are only so many beautifully-styled living rooms and plates of food, selfies, travel photos, and romantic sunset shots you can post before your followers just get bored. Real life has drama. It has ups and downs. It has bad and good. It has beautiful and boring. Shake things up!

This works even if your brand is hyper focused in one specific area.

@AlmedaPottery is Jon Almeda’s Instagram account that features nothing but miniature pottery. LIterally, the only thing on his page is miniature pottery, but you can’t look away.

Every photo is different. The colors, settings, backgrounds all change (but remain complementary). He makes movies of his work and demonstrates creative, fascinating uses for his tiny vases.

He is consistent with his pottery, but he varies his photography styles and backgrounds to show off the unique features of the pieces, and to engage his followers who are forced to ask yet again, What will he do next?

Tip: If you have a limited scope, that’s okay! Find creative ways to showcase it, to highlights its unique features and strengths.

You can see from fashion blogger @LeanneBarlow’s Instagram page that she’s a pretty classic fashion blogger. Everything (everyone) is gorgeously styled, beautiful, colorful, happy, bright. Like many fashion bloggers, she’d also post about food, family, exercise and travel. But, everyone gets bored, even of beautiful people.

A mostly self-taught seamstress, Barlow put her sewing skills to work creating fashion and, in October, she launched a project unlike every other fashion blogger: #TheMonthlyDressSeries. Each month she chooses a theme related to the month (often a holiday within the month) and designs, sews and models a gown of her own imagination.

She’s gained thousands of new followers since the launch but, more importantly, she’s gained a much more engaged community. Everyone wants to know what the dress is going to look like! What will Leanne think of this month? We all wonder.

She didn’t just vary up topics. She differentiated herself from the entire category, started new brand collaborations, reached more people, and has a project that both she and her community are crazy about.

That’s the power of variety.

Tip: Throw rules out the window. Try something that’s never been done before, something you can’t wait to share with the world.

4. Be a Platform for Others

If you follow beauty at all, then you are already familiar with the Kim Kardashian of the beauty influencer economy @Hudabeauty. Based out of Dubai, she started her empire as a humble blog that has grown into millions of followers (25.3M as of this writing), her own line of makeup and beauty products, and global influence.

Integral to her strategy–which includes frequent postings, an almost unceasing Instagram story (instead of several stories, it’s more like an uninterrupted movie of her life), and lots of video tutorials–is her brand as a platform. From the beginning, @Hudabeauty was about sharing the work of other people, artists, influencers, YouTubers, and followers in her her community.

It seems counterintuitive that putting others’ work front and center would win you followers. But when you’re where people want to be, you get tons of followers and engagement, as well as loyalty and appreciation. You’re bringing together people with a shared interest, giving them tools and inspiration, and possibly an enormous boost in their own following. That’s power. That’s influence.

Tip: Not sure what to offer? Try being a platform for others. It can be people you want to be like, people you admire, or a platform for a community that doesn’t exist that you would like to create. Start giving people a space to express themselves to the world!

5. Create a Hashtag

You already know that to succeed on Instagram, you have to get good at the hashtag game. But if you want baller status: create your own hashtag.

Ali Cerda is the entrepreneur behind @inspiralized, which is the Instagram community behind her veggie spiralizer the inspiralizer. She’s a food, health and wealthness influencer who also posts about motherhood, fashion and family (vary it up!).

She encourages her followers to use #inspiralized (with almost 35,000 posts!) when they create her recipes. It’s valuable data for her, and it makes it easy to engaged with her followers. She leaves encouraging comments on posts, and is there anything more thrilling than getting a comment from an Instagram influencer?

Community-building is not easy but a hashtag is a quick way to increase interaction and engagement. It’s a way to see what is resonating most with your audience, too. And, perhaps most importantly of all, it fosters identity, connection to something bigger.

Tip: Create a hasthag around something your community loves, something related to one of your skills/the brand’s features.

6. Create a Community   

Ralphie Jacobs @SimplyOnPurpose is an Instagram influencer unlike almost any other. She doesn’t have a company. She isn’t out to make money or grow a blog audience (though, fueled by demand from her Instagram community,  she has begun doing in-person workshops).

She is a mother of 4 who felt compelled to share her positive parenting strategies with a wider audience, so she converted her personal page into a business page and got to work spreading her message.  That’s it—her work is to help parents. In the year or so since she’s started, she’s grown from hundreds of followers to over 35 thousand.

Through Instagram stories, she has taught her community strategies for raising well-behaved, thoughtful kids; hosted Q&A sessions; and helped parents everywhere to manage their families and find the joy in parenthood.

Occasionally she issues a challenge to her community, like the No Yell Challenge where she encouraged parents to go a whole week without yelling at their kids. She posted encouraging stories throughout to provide support to parents and answer questions.

Her most popular by far, however, has been #IAmThisKindOfMom which encourages moms to post their strengths as a mother.

There’s very little parenting advice on social media that avoids judginess, but she has shown us that it is possible–and highly in demand. Through actionable advice, direct responses to community questions, and behind-the-scenes glimpses into her own family dynamics and struggles, she has made a safe community for frustrated moms to talk about their challenges and to overcome them.

Creating a community requires you to tap into what’s already there and connect them to something larger. Instagram makes it easy to reach people, and hashtags with purpose give them something to identify with.

Consistent, quality engagement with your community foster strong connection with and among your followers, and is crucial to brand growth.

As Seth Godin said, We want to be respected by those we aspire to connect with, we want to know what we ought to do to be part of that circle.

Hashtags, Q&A’s, live video, responding to comments, doing challenges, encouraging your following to use their hashtag—it all brings your circle closer together. It connects your followers with you and with each other.

Tip: Give your followers a challenge. Promote it on your stories and in your post, and use a unique hashtag. Participate by checking in every day to share your progress and challenges, and to answer questions.

7. Follow the Cats

There’s a reason cat accounts are an easy 6-figure following: cat people know what’s up! It sounds like I’m joking but, truly, @catsofworld and @fosterkittendiary are masterclasses in Instagram strategy. They have interesting, funny, heartwarming, cute (!) content that’s highly variable but consistently worth watching–and sharing! They post every single day and engage with followers.

Their strategies are completely different. @catsofworld is a platform for cat videos. We never meet the person running the account and there’s no associated brand or business (that we know of….). Instead of just one aesthetic or kind of cat video, it covers a whole range.

@fosterkittendiary’s Barbra Sundquist absolutely is. Her followers love her for her kind, gentle nature, her willingness to answer cat-related questions, and her insistence on writing thank yous to all who send goodies to her foster cats.

 

Sometimes we see instagrammers and think, But I’m so different and I could never do that. Watching animal accounts on Instagram is a good way to see past the strategists and straight into the content strategy itself.

Tip: Follow for two weeks. Study then. How many strategies is each account using? What makes their content so shareable? How does each cultivate community?

At the end of two weeks, use your notes to up your own Instagram game.

Your Turn

You already have a a community. Do they know it?

Take ideas from what these influencers have done and give your community some pride. They’ll bring their firends and before you know it, you’ll be breakign 7 figures.

Looking for More?

We found some handy guides to help you learn eve more!

MayBlogImage

Don’t Ask–Call: How to Take a Call to Action from Lame to Badass

Why A Call To Action?

Have you ever ignored your check engine light?

Me too. Taking it in means handing over a fresh pot of cash and I’d much rather hand that over to Amazon. As long as there are no funny sounds or smells, I just keep driving.

Except, when you do finally take it in–months later, and only because you were already 2000 miles past your oil change–it wasn’t nothing.

It was a minor issue that is now a big fat hole in your checking account.

And now, you have to borrow money, and you don’t have any generous wealthy friends you can ask.

via GIPHY

Yep. Now what?

Asking Is Hard. Rallying is fun–And WAY More Effective.

People get awkward asking for money. We get awkward selling ourselves. We talk around and around and don’t get to the point. We feel awkward/ashamed/embarrassed/unworthy/indebted/blah blah blah. Nobody wants to give you their money, okay? (And you don’t need their pity money!)

Remember that Sarah McLachlan SPCA commercial we all hated? Just in case you don’t:

Ugh. It’s awful. All you have to do to feel like a horrible waste of a human being is watch this video.  Because we don’t want to feel bad about dogs! We love dogs! We want to adopt all the dogs!

But when we feel bad about ourselves, we don’t want to help other people. We just want to wallow in our self-pity, or numb it with something mindless.

So don’t ask people. Just sidestep that sand trap completely.

Instead, show people what you can offer them. Give people a vision for their future that is bright and lovely. Give people a way to feel good about themselves.

Why?

Because people who feel good about themselves are more generous.

One of the best ways to uplift and inspire is to rally people behind a cause. In life and in marketing, we all love a cause.

You go asking for money, you’re a charity case. But pull out a megaphone and rattle off to your parents the 10 things you’ll accomplish when that car is fixed, the places you go, the people’s lives you’ll change, the impact you’ll leave on the world–they want to be a part of that! We all want to be a part of that!

Unlike an actual cause, though, your VTAs don’t have to be big or grand. In fact, the more concrete the better.

Give them a reason to click. Make them say, Yes! Yes I do want to be/do/watch/get/be a part of/shop/read/download right now!

The Principles of Great CTAing

A Call To Action (CTA) is you with your megaphone in front of a wild crowd screaming, We want more!

You are calling them to action. Or, put another way, you are causing (them) to act.

1. Make a pushy button.

Think of a CTA as a giant red button labelled “push here”. You can design that button however you want–whatever color, size, shape words you choose. Your goal is to get them to push it. How will you make this the pushiest button in the history of buttons?

via GIPHY

2. Make it the most obvious element on the page.

Make it easy to find. Delis have big signs, Order here. Pick up here. Doors say push and pull. Your microwave says start.

On a webpage, make it big and bright. It should be the first thing they notice. It may be the only thing they notice.

3. Now answer the question, So what?

The person is thinking, why do I care? What do you want from me? Why do I get out of this?

Give them the benefit up front. Remember, you’ve got a megaphone and a crowd. You’ve got a toddler and a pushy button. This is not an ask. This is is a cause! Make them want to throw money at you!

The Best Calls to Action…Cause Action

And if you’re going to get people to take action, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Keep It Clear

Search engines don’t exactly have a call to action. I mean, the whole reason you go to Google is to do one very specific action: to search.

But Google deserves mention because its super simple design is part of its success.

  • No distracting text or images. Everything on the page supports the purpose of the page (which is to search the internet)
  • You don’t have to read anything, solve any puzzles, do any clicking around to know exactly what to do.
  • It doesn’t even bother showing a magnifying glass, a symbol common to most search engines, because it doesn’t need to. And it doesn’t include what it doesn’t need.
  • There is one action you can take, and everyone who visits the page takes the action.

Keep it Simple

This is a beautiful design. The copywriting is compact and effective. The page has no purpose beyond getting you to join, and the page’s copy and design support that objective.

The CTA is the first thing you see, and the only thing you have to read. If you already know about Hulu, click the button to get what you’re after. But if you’re not clear about Hulu, or not ready to commit to a subscription, it’s easy to see what to do next.

There is one clear CTA and it dominates the page. Everything supports it.

Everything except for the other instruction and the arrow, and somehow they manage to be both noticeable and completely undistracting.

Pretend Your Readers Are Dumb

Isn’t the first rule of web design, Don’t make me think? It should be.

If it isn’t already tattooed on your psyche, let’s sear it to your brain: Don’t make your site visitors think! It is the absolute rule of a call to action (see next bullet for more).

Imagine that your users can’t figure anything out unless it is spelled out and decorated in bright flashing neon arrows.

Because otherwise, you might end up like a government website (oh no!).

I’ve chosen a few government websites to make this point because government websites are, historically speaking, the worst.

Take Medicare.gov as an example of you should absolutely never do if you ever hope to have a successful business (or government entity).

Don’t do this: Medicare.gov

Why do I feel like this website it simultaneously yelling at me and beating me with fake feather pillows? I feel assaulted and confused and ready to flee.

You created your website to drive a certain action (like getting money, for example). There’s one you want more than all the others, so make that one the most obvious–make it the shiny red button that says PRESS HERE.

This site has no button. It has no sign posts, and suddenly I’m lost and forgetting why I came here in the first place….

And  just as I was getting frustrated and beginning to orient myself, I got a pop-up. How many problems can you point out?

If you care at all about your site visitors, if you want your business to be at all successful, don’t be like Medicare.gov. Help your visitors get to where they want to go.

And don’t give them “Next Step” without telling them what the next step is. I want to at least know where my information is going.

Do This: FAFSA, Healthcare.gov

We can all agree that medicare is kind of a disaster, but there is hope, even for government websites!

In fact, here are two other federal websites that, love ‘em or hate ‘em, are beautifully-crafted with clear, effective, compelling calls to action.

Ah,

I’ve talked in this piece about having a single CTA. But what about having two?

If you can do it as effectively a these guys, proceed with two. Notice that they followed all the rules. Their buttons are pushy; page hierarchy, color, and design points you directly to the buttons; you don’t have to read anything else to understand what the buttons do.

Important note: Limit your options to two. I have yet to see anyone pull off 3 options effectively. Why?

It goes back to our rule up top: don’t make people think. Picking between two options is pretty easy, but three requires some decision making, and that scares people off. Make it simple, clear and easy.

Remove Barriers, Remove Barriers, Remove Barriers

I signed up to do surveys for WNYC , which does some really great podcasts. I love public radio. I want all stations to make great programming and to get lots of listeners.

And so I want to point out a few things that WNYC–and any other stations seeking feedback–can do to be more effective.

  1. Get me on board! You’re not interested in my thoughts. My thoughts shape your programming! Tell me that the future of WNYC’s programming is in my hands!
  2. Wait, I thought you were interested in my thoughts. Now I’m supposed to be interested in finding out–yours? What will I find out by taking a quick survey?
  3. “Quick” is usually code for “not quick” and now I want to know which quick you mean.
  4. Displaying the hyperlink distracts from the purpose of the hyperlink. Embed it in the text, make it prominent, make it highly clickable (like a generic“Start Survey” or a punchy “ It’s Survey Time!”)

You have a cause, WNYC and other radio stations. I want to be a part of it–that’s why i signed up tfor your surveys.

Just because I signed up doesn’t mean I’m going to take your surveys, though. It’s the internet and I get distracted. Keep me engaged. Keep rallying me to your cause. Keep showing me it’s worth my time to help you. Make it easy for me. Make it so easy that before I can think about not doing it, I”m already done.

Now get some sharp copy and a shiny red button.

When All Else Fails, Clean Out Your Inbox

Email marketers know where it’s at. They have to. They depend on you opening their emails. When you unsubscribe, they lose a customer.

As a result, they’ve got the CTA down to an exact science. The best emails are image-heavy, perfect for skimming, easy to click.

This one from Banana Republic puts the cause front and center (40% off) and gives you two options. It puts the fine print in white which obscures it just enough to keep you focused on the shopping.

This donate button is from a political campaign. I didn’t bother reading the preceding text, and I don’t doubt the email was designed that way.

For those who needed a little convincing, the campaign offered a cause to get behind.

For those already convinced of the cause, they got right to the point.

It’s the perfect button. It not only calls me to action (donate!) but tells me how much. I was worried about how much to give, but now I know that $3 doesn’t make me a cheapskate.

WNYC, I hope you see this one. The booking site wants my feedback, but they know most people have no incentive to give it. So what have they done?

  • Offered the pushiest of buttons (starrrs!)
  • Removed all the barriers
  • Made it basically impossible NOT to give feedback. I mean who can resist those stars?

“Leave your feedback” is a straightforward invitation–I know exactly what it means–and if I don’t feel like accepting (many won’t), they still get the feedback they want.

Time For The Megaphone

You know why you started your business. You know all the good it can do for your customers.

Now get out there and tell them about it.

DesignSmackdown_002

Design Smackdown: Building a Website that Sells in 25 Words or Less

I broke my toaster yesterday, and it’s the stupidest story you’ve ever heard. But I’m going to tell you anyway because at its core is a lesson we all need to learn about good design.

The toaster was my husband’s, which he’s had since before we were married four years ago. It’s beautiful, it’s sturdy. It toasts 4 slices at a time and allows you to choose from 5 different settings so that you can defrost your bagels while warming your bread and not ruin either one. The LED displays the time so you know exactly how much time is left. It’s a premium toaster.

Except for one fatal flaw: the tabs that you press down so you can actually toast the bread? They’re plastic. They’re just glued on to some skinny metal legs.
Which I know because yesterday when I went to make toast by pressing down on the lever–as you do– the damn tab came right off in my hands!

Without it, you can’t press the toast all the way down, and there’s too much strain for glue to be helpful. I know because I tried after the first one broke off six months ago.

I now have a perfectly wonderful toaster, and no way to use it.

Design For Form and Function

Whether you believe that form follows function or function follows form, we can all agree that function matters.

To design a beautiful, practical toaster that breaks when used to do the very thing it was created for is to design it badly.

To build a website that is beautiful and functional requires skilled design. And with websites, a skillfully designed website cannot be accomplished without excellent copywriting.

There are so many wonderful platforms today that can build beautiful websites for people. They’re well-designed, professional-looking and customizable. There are so many beautiful websites that look impressive and slick but you can’t find a damn bit of information you’re looking for. Or you can, but it isn’t clear and intuitive. You stumble over the writing.

Great web design doesn’t leave copy to the end. It integrates it into the design process from the beginning. The copy–the words, the phrasing, the language–you use on a web page are both the structure and the embellishments of your design.

Get it right and you get your goal.

Get it wrong and a whole lot of people leave your site frustrated and empty-handed, perhaps never to return.

Like form and function, copy and design go hand in hand.

What does a good copy-design relationship look like?

Copy and Design, Hand in Hand

Good designers know that website visitors don’t read every word on a web site. We scan pages, using the hierarchy of design to orient us. We view headlines (big and bold), subheadings (smaller, bold), keywords, visuals and layout to take us down a page and to glean information.

When a web page is difficult to scan, users tend to click away from the page, opting for an easier site. When information is hard to find because of poor design, we click away then too. There are billions of websites  on the internet right now and more created every second. If your website is difficult to read, to navigate, why not go find a better one?

Presenting information in a quickly digestible way is crucial to the success of your business.

Your job as the designer, then, is to make the page easy to scan.

As copywriter, write copy that blends in, that supports the design, that guides the user through the page–and do it all without ever being noticed.

There are four elements you must follow to have a well-designed, well-written (ie beautiful, functional, non-frustrating) website:

  1. Good balance of text and copy. Sites that are too word-heavy are difficult to read, and highly unattractive. Sites with too few words are often missing important information.
  2. An effective call to action (CTA) The call to action should be so natural you don’t even realize the call was made.
  3. Clear menu headings (including words and structure). Your visitor isn’t there to think about where to go, but to be led to his destination. Lead the way. Make navigating intuitive.
  4. Straightforward copy. Concise, economic, efficient. Words are for function, not decor.

We’re going to break down all of these elements using real examples in a segment we’re calling:

DESIGN SMACKDOWN: WHO WILL GET MY MONEY?

Two sites are going to faceoff in a competition of great design. The winner gets me as their customer.

ROUND 1: BLOGGING PLATFORMS

Squarespace vs. Wix

SQUARESPACE

1 squarespace 1 home

Wow. There are 25 words on the page, but it looks like there are no more than 7. I see immediately how beautiful and sleek Squarespace can make a website.

Balance. It says exactly what I need to know and not a thing more. “Make your own website” is a 4-word summary of the product (bonus points for efficiency) and their pitch (3 words!) changes periodically (“make it beautiful”, “make it loud” etc), reflecting the platform’s versatility.

CTA. I’m invited to start a free trial, and immediately assured that I won’t even need a credit card (a question that immediately popped up when I saw “free trial”). It doesn’t give details, just quietly removes the barriers. Perfect.

Navigation. At the top I have three clear options and I don’t have to think at all about what each one does. I scroll down and see “Trusted by” and don’t bother reading the rest because the layout makes it clear that this is a well-established, widely-used, trustworthy site for people of all industries.

1 squarespace 2

Copy. They highlight four benefits of using Squarespace (design, marketing, online shopping, all-in-one platform) and there’s not an extraneous word to be found. All the copy is focused on me and how Squarespace will achieve my goals. The visuals are effective at answering the “how” and the two options “Get Started” and “Learn More” (with Get Started being more prominent–I just want to click it!) are effectively designed to get me to yes.

WIX

2 wix 1 home

Balance. Just for comparison, I counted the number of words on this page: 32. It feels like there are a lot more words here than on Squarespace’s homepage, and they’re not all that valuable. Like, what does “stunning” mean? Squarespace showed exactly what it meant by “beautiful”, “loud”, “fresh” and the blinking cursor drove home the message of customizability.

“Wix unites beauty and advanced technology to create your stunning website. It’s easy and free.” None of that is bad exactly, but they already used “stunning” and, like, do we need advanced technology? The only thing that really matters to me is “It’s easy and free.” That’s what needs to be front and center!

CTA. Get Started. I like that. It gets right to the point and without scaring me off.

Navigation. I have to think about what I want, what part of the menu to click on. I see now why Squarespace decided to forego the header menu and to focus instead on four main benefits. In this case, visual is way more effective.

Copy. These descriptions look twice as long with too-small font that makes me not want to read. The pictures don’t support the text (Why the spreadsheet? Why the review? And what do they have to do with code?)

2 wix 2

It’s jargon-y. You have to explain wix code to me. It may be a small barrier, but as long as it’s there, I can trip.

When I scan Squarespace’s page, I can pick out keywords like “marketing” “online store” “grow your audience”. I can’t do that with Wix.

WINNER ROUND 1: SQUARESPACE!

ROUND 2: ONLINE SHOPPING

Target vs. Walmart
TARGET

3 Target 1 Home

I immediately notice: Easter. Pickup. Search. Save. Take note, those are four keywords that help me navigate without thinking. The colors are attractive, the visuals uncluttered, and the search bar at the top is prominent. I don’t have to think about how to get where I want to go. I just scroll down.

Balance. Initially I thought there were very few words, but now I see there are two menus at the top. (Take note: it’s excellent design when you can trick me into thinking the page is less crowded than it is.)

Very few words, and mostly action-oriented: “spend” “save” “get”. The pictures show me what I may want and the words tell me why it’s a good idea to buy.

CTA. Get the deal is perfect. I always want a deal! It supports the rest of the page, and I almost don’t notice that the deal means I have to spend first.

Navigation & Copy are where this site shines. I want to show two examples.

3 Target 2 news exclusives

You could say this in two words, “news and exclusives” but here’s what’s clever about their approach. Saying “news on exclusives” makes it clear that it’s newsworthy, and it elevates Target’s brand a smidge by showing it’s not the same old stuff here day after day. It also keeps readers engaged because who doesn’t like to be in on the scoop? Also, Target is a brand that does exclusives. I want to know what and when the next one is, and Target wants to remind me of that competitive edge.

3 Target 3 Featured

Featured categories is so economical. Great use of color, clear images, and words. I can find what I want just by looking at the pictures, or I can read the text. Well done.

WALMART

4 Walmart 1 Home

ACK SO MANY WORDS. My eyes don’t move easily in any direction, and I’m not sure where to look first. It takes some brain power to orient myself and decide where to go.

Balance. I don’t know where to go, so I just keep scrolling. The featured products have LOTS of information: reviews, number of reviews, number of stars, a small title, sometimes info on shipping. All that information makes me think and process, and that’s a drag in online shopping.

CTA. Is there a CTA here? I feel like I’m shouted out from all directions.

4 Walmart 2 categories

Navigation. “Show all categories” is a barrier, and we don’t want barriers. I was going to comment on Walmart’s lack of order here, but when I went I looked back at Target’s to compare, I realized they didn’t have any either. It was just an illusion. Let that be a lesson to you.

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4 Walmart 3 showcase

Copy. Yes! Finally they did something brilliant. The images are clear and so is the copy. They support each other in giving me direction. I want to start a DIY and paint my walls and cook my food.

WINNER ROUND 2: TARGET!

ROUND 3: APPLE vs. SAMSUNG

APPLE

5 Apple 1 home

Full disclosure: I’m a devoted Apple fan, and this is why. Their work is so clean and beautiful. This website is just about perfect in every way. Its visual, letting the products speak for themselves with just a few words sprinkled throughout to support the visuals.

Balance. They’re advertising ONE THING, but by showing just a peep of the iPhone 8, they make it clear that there’s more to scroll to. At the top is a header menu in case I want to look at something specific. But, it’s black and white and stays in the background–no distracting me, no competing for attention, no burdening my brain with extraneous thoughts or decisions.

CTA. It’s rare to find a site that doesn’t use CTAs and even rarer to find one so seamlessly integrated. Notice that though the entire image is a link, there’s still a CTA, but it acts as a selling point, a benefit, instead of a call to action. Geniusly executed.

Navigation. Just like with the products, you don’t have to think at all here. Scroll down and click on what’s most beautiful. But, if you are looking for something specific, there’s a discreet little menu that follows you around. You only notice it when you need it.

5 Apple 2 home pod

Copy. Homepod tells you to watch the film, to fill your curiosity about this little-known product. I love that “freedom calls” doesn’t say anything explicit about water resistance or the sim card. It’s all implicit in the visuals. Showing the five watches supports the tag line.

The site is filled with clean visuals supported by short sentences that are packed with power. It’s so easy to look around, understand what I’m seeing, and to spend money

SAMSUNG

6 Samsung 1 home

Immediately I’m presented with a choice: Do I want the 9 or 9+? Which means that already I’m having to think and process. A well-designed site is so intuitive you don’t even have to think.

Balance. This is a word-heavy home page. It’s not terrible, but as with Wix, the copy isn’t supporting the visuals so much as competing with them.

CTA. “Learn more” sounds boring and I’m already bracing for a pitch. As a general rule, you should avoid “learn more” always. Keep your CTA benefit-oriented.

Navigation. A lot of information is being thrown my way, and in no particular order. When I scroll up for the menu (barrier!), I have to read every word of the submenu to know decide (barrier!) where to go.

Copy. Look at this.

6 Samsung 2

I’m only going to point out three barriers. I welcome you to add more in the comments.

  1. Try it the Galaxy for 30 days. Sounds like a benefit, but the subtext is, “you may not like it and just in case that’s true, we’ll make it easy to return.” Thumbs down.
  2. The camera. Reimagined. Tells me nothing about the camera or why I should care that it’s been reimagined. Also, you’re trying to sell me on a camera by showing me a black square.
  3. Do more with your Galaxy S9 and save on accessory bundles.* What more can I do? WHY THE ASTERISK??

Samsung undercuts its own products over and over again.

WINNER ROUND 3: APPLE!

The Secret? Always KISS

We talked about copy and design going hand in hand. Now it’s time to KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

  • Keep your sites people-centered (not product or business-centered).
  • Remove barriers. Make it easy for your people to buy!
  • Use engaging visuals and brief but powerful phrases. Discourage thinking. Encourage moving.
  • Let your product do the talking

It’s much easier to critique sites than to build them great in the first place. But looking at different sites in terms of what’s effective, what’s frustrating, what’s easy to navigate, what compels me to buy–and what doesn’t–can inform our design decisions.

And also our shopping decisions.

Congratulations to all our winners! I’m off to buy some stuff.

IraGlass

Ira Glass Created a Radio Show That is (Still) More Popular Than The Bachelor

SXSW is in town March 9-18! We’re shining a spotlight on four speakers and their work that revolutionized our world.

Ira Glass is the creator and host of This American Life, a radio show that first aired in 1995 and not only paved the way for podcasts, but almost single-handedly ushered in an era of live storytelling.

Glass brought a new voice to radio–literally. Now we’re used to podcasts where people talk to each other conversationally, casually. But if you’ve ever listened to news radio of any kind, you know that “radio voice” sounds decidedly un-casual. Broadcasters also had deeper, more resonant voices while Glass has a higher-pitched nasal quality to his speech (listeners have complained about his voice for years; Glass takes it in stride).

This American Life (TAL) aired in 1995 as Your Radio Playhouse (it became This American Life the following year) and earned its way to national prominence through cold calls, enthusiasm and original marketing.

He talks in this interview about how they exceeded their initial goal (they wanted to be on 60 stations by the end of the first year but got on over 100) and that they did it using two clever tactics:

  1. To stations who picked up the show, Glass and his staff would mail a Snickers bar. Such a simple idea, but they stood out because no one else was doing anything like it.
  2. They created entertaining promos for local stations to air during their pledge drives, which are famously boring for listeners to bear. So, Glass’s proposition to station owners was: pick us up because we’ll make you money. He and his staff came up with funny promos that delighted otherwise-suffering listeners (nobody enjoys a pledge drive) and the plan worked! Glass says half of the first 100 stations to pick up TAL did it because of the promos.

Glass has hosted the show for over 20 years now–over 600 episodes–and has never gotten stale. It’s heard by over 5 million people each week via both radio and podcast. (To put that in perspective, in January, the same number of people tuned in to watch the season premier of the Bachelor.) It consistently made the top 10 for years, and more recently has been bumped out by its own shows. Last year, one of its own spinoffs S-Town beat it in the rankings.

Radio people aren’t known for innovation or business savvy (perhaps unfairly?), which makes Ira Glass that much more remarkable. He is constantly pushing the boundaries of what radio (and storytelling) can do.

You’re Terrible At What You Love. Do It Anyway.

When he was 19, Glass began an internship at NPR as a tape-cutter. It’s almost unfathomable in this digital age, but radio programs used to be edited by literally cutting tape-recorded segments together–and throwing the ones that didn’t work into a literal trashcan (instead of an icon of one).

It turned out to be great training, though. He made great connections with the staff, got great at editing (and great radio is all about editing), and began his career reporting.

If this were an ordinary story about a successful figure, right here I would begin detailing how Glass had always loved radio and writing and had followed his passion into the NPR studios that day. It would trace his path from lowly, tape-cutting intern to senior staff reporter. It would highlight his incredible, innate talent for storytelling. It would likely be embellished with childhood anecdotes about winning storytelling contests, or working on his school paper. We would look back on his life and know that he wa destined to be the king of radio.

But this isn’t that story. In fact, it isn’t even close to that story. For when glass started out, he was a horrible reporter.

I feel like I should say that again. When Ira Glass, the undisputed king of modern radio, started out as a radio reporter, he was horrible. So horrible that it took him years to get good.

Many years, in fact. He says it took him longer to get good than anybody he’s ever met. For most of a decade, at least, he was bad. How bad? Take a look at this clip from his eighth year as a reporter.

We love stories of prodigy. We love to be wowed by Mozart, who was writing operas at 12, or Tara Lapinski, who won a gold medal at age 14, or the stories that pop up now and then about 16 year olds going to college.

The thing about those stories is this: they’re not interesting, and they’re not helpful. Because most of us aren’t born amazing at anything. We just slobber and totter around and fall around a lot.

But all of us have something we really want to do.

So what happens when you’re exceptionally bad at the thing you want to do? Give up, right? If you want to be a singer, but you have a lousy voice or no sense of pitch, what’s the point of pursuing singing? You’ll never be great. (Incidentally, Derek Sivers has a great chapter in his book about his own lousy cum amazing singing.)

It is far more difficult to pursue the thing you’re horrible at, but that you want more than anything to be good at, than to go with what comes naturally to you.

Most stories that we tell as a culture are about young people that change the world. They’re about underdogs who win big. They’re about innovators and rebels. They’re about disruptive technologies and overnight successes.

They’re not about people who dedicate decades to one quiet thing. They don’t tell about the 20 years of dedication to the thing you’re horrible at. The stories we hear are about hard work, not heart work.

Glass’ is a story that deserves to be told because it’s the story we all need to hear, over and over again. It is the ultimate tale of triumph. It is a story we could all live ourselves if we want.

It is the story I’ll tell you today.

When Glass was 19, he took an internship at a radio station. The year was 1978. His skill level was virtually zero.

He spent the next eight years learning the ins and outs of radio programming from writing, to editing, to reading stories on the air, to music, transitions, the elements of storytelling, and how to combine them all into good reporting.

At this point, after nearly a decade, he had not gotten it down. He tells us he was bad, and it’s easy to think that it’s his own modesty or self-deprecating personality doing the talking.

But at least one other successful radio producer and reporter backs him up. There’s nothing in here showing any talent at all, she says of one of his stories from the time.

He kept doing it anyway.

In 1990, 12 years into his tenure, he moved beyond producing and reporting to become co-host of a weekly (local) radio program that ran for 5 years.

It wasn’t until 1995, 17 years after starting in radio, that he started what would become This American Life.

He started at age 19. It took him nearly another lifetime to get to This American Life.

What do you badly that you would dedicate a whole lifetime to getting good at?

What if the thing you’re terrible at is the thing you’re destined to be great at? What if all those years of learning are precisely why you end up on top?

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

[I]f you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal, and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.

Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to close that gap, and the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

Ira Glass on Taste

An Incomplete List of All the Times Ira Glass and TAL Changed the Game:

-TAL hosts live shows, which has become normal for podcasts. TAL’s shows, however, are often complete with musical numbers, live dance and theatrical performances. They’re available for download through their website.

-TAL developed its own app where you can access the entire 600+ episode archive and stream anytime.

-Its annual pledge drive is a 1-minute pitch by Ira Glass himself. Each year, they exceed their needs for the show. On years where they don’t need the money, you don’t hear a pitch. They’ve established enough trust with their listeners (and created enough value) that when they ask, we respond. It’s how Serial season 2 was created, and S-Town, too.

-In 2014, they put some of the surplus into creating a spinoff. Serial went on to shatter records and bring podcasting into the mainstream. Podcasts were so new at the time that they had to create a video to teach people how to listen to them.

-TAL was, briefly, an Emmy award-winning TV show on Showtime. It’s currently available to stream and on DVD.

-In addition to three Emmys, it’s won tons of other awards, including the prestigious Peabody 8 times. (Listen to the award winning episodes here.)

-In 2014, they announced they’d be parting ways with their longtime distributor Public Radio International (not NPR, many are surprised to learn) to distribute the show via PRX in an effort to further democratize public radio.

-In 2015, it signed a deal with Pandora to stream TAL and Serial.

-In 2016, resident TAL geniuses developed Shortcut, a way to turn TAL podcast moments into video clips shareable on social media.

-Also in 2015 it changed up its partnership with WBEZ, the station they’d worked under since the show’s beginning in 1995, because they were forming their own production company.

-For a few years, ending in 2017, he toured with two dancers in a show he co-created called Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.

-Glass produced two feature films by comedian Mike Birbiglia, and a podcast to promote the second movie.

-But, even after all that, you may know him best from his advice to creatives where he explains the gap between starting out with good taste but having terrible execution. It’s an excerpt from a (brief) 4-video series on storytelling that you should definitely watch.

I could go on–that’s how influential Ira Glass and his shows have been. Instead, I will leave you with this:

Three Business Lessons We Learned from Ira Glass:

  1. Assemble a great team. Glass is talented, hardworking, and enthusiastic about new projects. Without an amazing team, though, he couldn’t have done half of what is on this list. In fact, the show wouldn’t even have gotten off the ground. Collaborate, cooperate, and trust.
  2. Take creative risks. This is true even if you’re not in a creative industry. Push the envelope! You’ll learn more, you’ll keep getting better, and then you’ll be able to apply that mastery to other areas. By his own admission, Glass started out terrible. He was 19 and didn’t figure out how to sound good for nearly 10 years. It’s no coincidence that it’s only been the last 10 or so years that TAL has really taken off (Glass is nearly 60). It takes time, effort, experience and practice, yes, and risk.
  3. Mastery opens doors. Glass is a master storyteller and a successful businessman. He developed these skills over the years and they paved the way for new, diverse, interesting (and lucrative) opportunities beyond radio. People worry that focusing closes doors but in fact, it’s more often true that getting to the top of what you love is the best way to get into (often by invitation) other industries, fields and opportunities.
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See Ira Glass March 11 @ 3:30 PM

Further Reading & Recommendations

20 years of This American Life has made Ira Glass a seasoned interviewer, but did you know he is also an excellent subject? He’s insightful, interesting and relatable. Here are a few of my favorite essays and interviews:

Q&A: Ira Glass on Structuring Great Stories, Asking Hard Questions I promised he was a good interview subject and now you can see why.

Radiowaves Podcast Interview Probably my favorite Ira Glass interview because it manages to be wide-ranging without losing the listener or being boring. It’s linked above because it’s not just about Glass and TAL, but shares insight about business and marketing that can apply broadly.

Ira Glass’s Manifesto This is basically everything I wrote above but from his perspective and with sound clips that aren’t included here. His path from peasant to king; his advice on pitching (and finding) great stories; and how to tell great stories.

Public Radio and Capitalism I mentioned above his innovation to public radio pledge drive, and how their success there has allowed This American Life has been able to do ambitious shows and create record-breaking spinoffs. Here’s more on the money side of public radio, from Glass’ perspective. It’s worth a read because though he’s talking about radio, what he’s saying can apply to any business.

Ira Glass on Storytelling is a quick 4-part series (total runtime: less than 20 minutes) about how to tell great stories. It includes his quote about good taste. Watch them.

EstherPerel

What Esther Perel Teaches Us About Human Behavior Will Change The Way You Design

SXSW is in town March 9-18! We’re shining a spotlight on four speakers and their work that revolutionized our world.

Esther Perel is a couples therapist unlike any other.

First of all, you can eavesdrop on her sessions via her podcast Where Should We Begin (and you absolutely must).

Second, she offers more enlightening, challenging perspectives on modern relationships than anyone out there. Anyone.

Her first book Mating in Captivity questioned everything we thought we knew about successful long-term romantic relationships. We want security in our marriage, but also intimacy, and eroticism, passion and desire. But the safety, security and intimacy of marriage are often exactly why we don’t experience passion and desire. How to maintain erotic tension over decades of togetherness, child-rearing, and mundanity?

Her second book, The State of Affairs, examines infidelity with the same scrutiny, her advice and her insight completely unconventional.

The thing about Esther Perel is that she is a master of her work. Listening to her podcast, you witness the expert skill she has honed over decades and thousands of hours of sessions. You see the self-examination she must have done to get to a place of such penetrating discernment. In listening to her, you understand yourself better, and how you fit in the world around you.

In web design, we aim to create beautiful websites that are easy to navigate. Our aim is to offer clarity, to make it easy to get to your goal in the site, whether that’s reading a blog, buying a product, or finding contact information. This is a weird analogy, I know, but Esther Perel is a master designer. She knows how to get you from A to B to C efficiently but also humanely. Spending time with her teaches you about your own design.

Her parents are Holocaust survivors. She observed that there were survivors who survived–who simply did not die–and there were survivors, like her parents, who came back to life. Vitality informs her understanding of relationships, and the individuals in them. Of relationships, she says, When you pick a partner, you pick a story. And that story becomes the life you live and the parts of you that become expressed.

It doesn’t seem like a speaker like this has any place on a blog about business, technology, and entrepreneurship, but just the opposite is true. The people we serve, the very individuals we’re catering to, are human and therefore her words are deeply relevant to our work. Better understanding means better design.

But even more than that, we can learn from her way of thinking. She observes the world closely, makes connections and associations and examines her assumptions and experiences. She is constantly improving her craft, studying, teaching, talking, writing, listening to couples and other therapists and experts. She is a master and that makes her an invaluable teacher. Learning from her work will make you better at your own.

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See Esther Perel March 9 @ 2:00 PM

AmberVenzBox

We’d Like (You) to Know Amber Venz Box, Entrepreneur, Disruptor and Innovator

SXSW is in town March 9-18! We’re shining a spotlight on four speakers and their work that revolutionized our world.

I think of Amber Venz Box is smart, savvy, and fashion-forward. In 2011 she leveraged her love of–and good taste in–style and disrupted the retail industry and transformed fashion blogging into a serious money-making machine.

She founded rewardStyle, a platform that allows select (it’s invitation only) fashion, beauty and lifestyle influencers to earn money for the sales they, ah, influence.

She also created LIKEtoKNOWit, which you’ve no doubt seen hashtagged on Instagram. CNBC reported in November that rewardStyle influencers have generated over $1 billion in global retail sales. With LIKEtoKNOWit, the double-tap of an Instagram picture (ie “like”) sends an influencer’s complete outfit details direct to your inbox. Its influence reaches far beyond Instagram (including a deal with Google) and has generated over $700 million in sales.

The best part: Venz Box’s platforms have given thousands of women the opportunity to launch their own businesses. Fashion blogging began as an industry that offered little more than bragworthy perks. Now through affiliate marketing and Venz Box’s platforms, these influencers can earn an easy 6 figures.

She’s given women (because influencers are overwhelmingly women) an avenue to start and run their own businesses, no MBA or corporate drudgery required. Retailers profit, followers are thrilled, and women around the world build thriving businesses.

3 Business Lessons From Amber Venz Box:

  1. Follow Your Talents. Venz Box designed and sold distressed denim skirts in grade school.She started her own jewelry line in high school.In college, she started working at a jewelry store where the owner invited her to sell her own line as well. It wasn’t long before she was making more selling her own designs than she was as an employee ($100,000 according to Business Insider).

    It’s easy to get caught up in “figuring out” what to do with our lives, what business to start, how to make money. Venz Box focused on what she was really good at and getting it out in the world.

  2. Teachers can make sweet money, too. The rewardStyle conference (#rStheCon) is an invitation-only event that brings together influencers and brands. Not only is it a great opportunity for networking and deal-making (which puts more money in everyone’s pockets) but it’s also a way to teach both how to be better at their work.
    Through workshops, panels and breakout sessions, conference attendees learn how to earn even more money. And, the conference itself is an opportunity to make money and get incredible visibility (because of course the influencers are Instagramming everything and the brands are hosting highly photogenic parties).
    Bring people together, show them how to be better at their work (that is, ideally, on your platform) and reap the benefits.
  3. Marry your interests to a money-making industry. Venz Box loved fashion and would likely have gone on to great success continuing as a personal shopper and jeweler. She achieved something far bigger by combining her interest in fashion with a technology platform. Often the greatest innovations spring from unlikely pairings.
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See Amber Venz Box March 12 @ 12:30 PM

4000

How a College Student Transformed a $4,000 Bill Into $40,000 Profit a Month

For the month of February, we’re talking all about college student entrepreneurs. Our 4-part series looks at four very different businesses started by studentpreneurs and the key takeaways that can help you in your business. Questions? Suggestions? Want us to feature your business? Drop us a line! anna [at] atxwebdesigns [dot] com.

Who: Zaid Al-Quraishy

What: Online Courses

Where: University College Dublin

The Problem: He wanted to grow his online business.

The Solution: He started selling his online courses on Udemy.

Zaid Al-Quraishy was a college student and entrepreneur when, one day, his car broke down. Repairing it would cost $4,000. Though his online business had generated enough money for him to buy the car, it wasn’t enough to allow him to repair it. He was stuck.

Al-Quraishy is an “ethical hacker”. He isn’t out to take down websites, steal money, or otherwise harm people through the web. Mostly his courses teach how to test security of certain technologies and protect against malicious attacks.

Through his own website, he offered ethical hacking courses for Arabic speakers. He had an archive of videos and materials that had been supporting his student expenses. When his car broke down, a friend suggested he try offering his courses on Udemy. The only catch was: they would have to be in English.

So, he translated his courses and the supplementary materials into English. Then, made more even courses to put on Udemy. What could have been an enormous hassle turned out to be a lucrative opportunity.

He currently offers 8 courses that range in price from $10 to almost $200.

The best part is: he doesn’t have to run any of it. Udemy allows him to not only offer his courses to a (much) wider audience but in showing reviews, ratings, and numbers of students, also does a good chunk of the marketing for him.

He’s had over 130,000 students (and at a minimum of $10 per class, we’d say he’s done all right). Side Hustle School reports he brings in $40,000 per month (all right, indeed).

Top 3 Lessons and Takeaways:

1. Do Your Best, Outsource the Rest. Al-Quraishy grew his business by focusing on his strengths, creating great courses, and outsourcing the rest. Now instead of spending time and energy on the technical aspects of delivering the courses, on marketing and customer service, he can focus on building and improving his courses.

2. Capitalize on What you Know. Al-Quraishy knew all about hacking and was able to package his knowledge in a way that was accessible to others. You don’t have to take a class or learn a new skill to start a business. What are you already good at? What do you already know a lot about? Start there. Then, go back and read #1.

3. Make Passive Income. It’s what every entrepreneur aims for, but not everyone can make money in their sleep. Al-Quraishy’s business was already generating passive income, and he scaled up in a major way by migrating to Udemy (and outsourced a lot of the hassle). If you’re already making passive income, how can you increase efficiency (like adopting a new system or platform) to maximize your profit?

newlywed

How a Newlywed With a Performing Arts Degree Beat Out Bank of America and Transformed the Blogosphere

For the month of February, we’re talking all about college student entrepreneurs. Our 4-part series looks at four very different businesses started by studentpreneurs and the key takeaways that can help you in your business. Questions? Suggestions? Want us to feature your business? Drop us a line! anna [at] atxwebdesigns [dot] com.

Who: Naomi Davis

What: Lovetaza.com (originally called The Rockstar Diaries)

Where: The Juilliard School

The Problem: Wanted to connect with her friends and family thousands of miles away.

The Solution: Started a blog and regularly posted life updates.

Naomi Davis was a lifestyle blogger before lifestyle blogging was even a category, back when blog titles (including hers) still had “blogspot” in the url. In 2007, she was in her final year at Juilliard in New York City and newly married to her husband Josh. She started her blog to keep in touch with friends and family back in Utah, but it quickly reached a much larger audience.

The blogosphere then looked much different than it does today. Instead of beautifully designed websites featuring styled photos by professional photographers (and an assembly of advertisements down the sidebar), blogs were little more than internet journals. They were personal, reflecting one’s personal tastes and preferences because blogs hadn’t yet become synonymous with brands and marketing. Davis’ reflected her talent for design, and early on showcased an appealing aesthetic. Take a look at this archived page from January 2010. Everyone on it is beautiful and happy, and everything featured is beautiful and stylish.

So of course it became a smash hit. Mr. Davis, a Columbia graduate, had a successful career in banking. He was Vice President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch before leaving to work full-time managing the blog (which by 2014 had become a thriving business) and related projects, including creative video, fashion and product collaboration with top brands. In 2017, Forbes named her on their list of Top 10 Parenting Influencers.

No official word on how much the blog brings in each year, but if living in a 3-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is any indication, the business is pretty successful.

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Top 3 Lessons and Takeaways:

1. Do you. Love Taza (Davis’ blog and brand) has flourished because of Davis’ distinctive tastes. In her blog’s early years, she also ran an Etsy shop which sold headbands. Now her blog regularly features fashion, home decorating, makeup, kids style, art, design, photography and videography. Most striking, perhaps, is her penchant for mixing bright colors–like on their walls, as well as in both their former living room (with the bright yellow piano) and their current living room. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. It’s what will set you apart from everyone else.

2. Sometimes It’s Nice to Have a Break. Years ago, Salon ran a piece featuring Davis’ blogs and the many like hers in which the writer called blogs like Love Taza “weirdly uplifting.” There’s no stress or drama on these blogs. Everything is beautiful and everyone is happy. Many businesses set out to change the world, and leaders to become the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. But sometimes, it’s just nice to see people being happy.

3. Just Start.  Don’t worry so much about the details that you never get off the ground. Do the things you’re good at. Do them consistently. Share them with the world. Who knows–maybe 10 years from now it’ll be you on the Upper West Side.

glasses

How David Gilboa Lost His Eyeglasses, Made $1 Billion, and Changed the World (With the Help of Some Friends)

For the month of February, we’re talking all about college student entrepreneurs. Our 4-part series looks at four very different businesses started by studentpreneurs and the key takeaways that can help you in your business. Questions? Suggestions? Want us to feature your business? Drop us a line! anna [at] atxwebdesigns [dot] com.

Who: David Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal

What: Warby Parker

Where: The Wharton School

The Problem: Eyeglasses are incredibly expensive, especially to people with limited income.

The Solution: Sell glasses online directly to the consumer, and donate a pair for each pair sold.

When David Gilboa lost his eyeglasses, he had a problem.

They were his only pair, and they cost $700. As a full-time student, he couldn’t afford to replace them so he spent an entire semester squinting in lecture halls and, as he put it, complaining to anyone who would listen about the exorbitant cost of glasses. Why were they so expensive?

He asked this of everyone, but it was Neil Blumenthal, with some experience in optometry, who took it seriously. Blumenthal and Gilboa got with two other friends and spent 18 months brainstorming and refining the idea for the company that would become Warby Parker.

From the beginning, they wanted the company to make a positive impact. In addition to drastically reducing the price of eyeglasses and making it easy for customers to try on various styles, they also implemented a social mission into their business model. Like Tom’s, for every pair purchased, they donate a pair.

It sounds like another do-good company started by Millennials, but in fact, Warby Parker is a unicorn.

Prior to its founding, customers had few choices about eyewear. One single company owns and produces all the eyewear you have to choose from. And what they don’t own, they have exclusive licensing agreements with (glasses with fashion labels, for instance). They set the price, and the consumer has no other option but to pay.

It was a crazy idea, that a couple of college students could disrupt an enormous, powerful, deeply-established monopoly like Luxottica, and many people told them so. People with far more experience told them there was no way their idea could work.

The company was founded in 2010. By 2015 they were valued at over $1 billion.

Top 3 Lessons and Takeaways:

1. Choose Mentors Wisely. Everyone told them why it Warby Parker could never work. The mentors they trusted asked tough questions, but were also encouraging and positive. That’s what a great mentor is for: to help you clear the challenges and remind you of your own potential.

2. Think Long-Term, Then Bottom-Line. Building a company with a legacy requires thinking about the big picture. There will always be the bottom line to consider, but what about the purpose of your company? What impact are you making 5, 10, 50 years down the road?

3. Focus. The four founders didn’t rush to start their business. They carefully considered it, talked, sought advice, tested and planned for a year and half before their launch. As their company has grown, they’ve continued to focus on what they do best. Should they ever go public, go international, or roll out other products, it will be when it’s best for the company–and its customers. In Gilboa’s words, I can’t think of many businesses that have failed because they were too focused.

most important features (1)

The Five Most Important Features of Your New Website

Business owners love a sexy website. They tell us to make their website look cool. They want their users to be impressed by it, to spend time (and money) on it.
What they don’t usually think about are the really practical but crucial elements of a website that we don’t notice until they’re not there–or, worse, done poorly.

1. User Experience

Each website has its own purposes and objectives. None of them can be achieved if it isn’t stupid-easy to navigate the site. I think this is the single most important element of any and every site because I have no patience for websites that confuse me or present me with broken links or missing pages.

As we always say: know your target audience. Know why they’re there. Know what they want. Know how to get them to what they want.

The key to nailing this part? Test, test, test, then test some more. It doesn’t matter what’s on your site or how good it looks if people can’t get what they need, or leave out of frustration.

2. Mobile response

Do I need to say this? 80% of internet users own a smartphone. Hell, you’re probably reading this from yours! Make it mobile responsive.

3. Analytics

Installing Google analytics is so easy that I’m sure you already have it on your site. The question is: are you using it?

It’s the end of the year and you’re planning your marketing for next year (right?). Your analytics will tell you almost everything you need to craft the web site piece of your marketing strategy. How are people finding your site? What keywords are they using? How long do they spend? How many pages do they visit? Which pages to they visit?

You want to know traffic sources, keywords, and user behavior so you can audit your marketing, determine your ROI, and craft growth strategies for the future.

4. About

I hate when I got to a website and can’t figure out what the company does or what their product is for. Have you had this? You go to the about page and it says a bunch of lofty things about how the company has been utilizing innovative technology since 1986 and is a leader in its industry. What does that even mean?

Just one sentence somewhere on the site about what you actually do would be very helpful to the lost visitors who wander to your website from a social media link and wonder, What the hell am I doing here?

Point ‘em in the right direction. Send ‘em home.

5. Social Media Links

It may be a Millennial thing, but I always check out social media links when I visit a new website. It’s a great way to get a feel for the business. I want to know if they’re posting funny memes or if I can see Instagram updates on their Facebook feeds. Do people like them? Is there a new product coming out? Is it a cool company?

 

Put your social media links up and invite people along (it’s an easy way to grow your following–and effortlessly generate more leads).

dumb business decision

When The Dumb Business Decision Is Actually the Smart Business Decision

Back in the day (10 years ago) YouTube was this website where random people from all over the world could upload random videos—and random they were. Remember when Charlie Bit My Finger was a sensation? There were virtually no production values. People had digital cameras and it was a big deal if its quality was more than a few megapixels (who even talks like that anymore?). There was no HD—pretty much everything was 240p quality. And if you did create a smash hit like Charlie Bit My Finger (or Charlie the Unicorn? Shoutout!), you had no way of getting money from it.

Man, things have changed so much.

Now kids grow up wanting to be YouTubers—like it’s a legitimate career. Just kidding—thanks to advertisers and sites like Patreon, it is a legitimate career. Congratulations, Kids!

Patreon is a platform that puts the money making in the hands of creators. Instead of relying on ad revenue (especially after a change in YouTube’s algorithm left it drastically reduced)**, creators can produce content directly for their audience who can, in turn, directly support the creators’ efforts. Support can be given for as little as $1 a month.

In December, Patreon announced that they’d be changing their fee structure. I’m not a Patreon creator so I don’t entirely understand the ramifications of the decision, but they must have been huge because Twitter blew up. Many creators were upset with the changes claiming It would significantly hurt their revenue. Subscribers were upset about the change in fees and a good chunk of them left the platform. It was pretty ugly.

So what do you think Patreon did?

Better yet, what would you have done if it were your company receiving the backlash?

Defend it using the same logic that was used to make the decision in the first place? Explain to your base why these changes are good for them? Talk about your vision moving forward?

That’s what most companies do. They make the decision that’s best for the company (ie profit and growth) and either think little of their target audience or simply underestimate the impact it would have on them.

So it’s remarkable that, just days later, Patreon issued an apology and officially rescinded their decision.

We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.

Wow.

Evidence that sometimes the smart business decision is the dumb business decision.

Maintaining integrity and authenticity with your customers–especially your core customers, your target audience–is how to build a business that lasts. It’s how you recover from dumb decisions, and it’s how you leave behind a legacy. Establishing trust is the real smart business decision.

seo or marketing

SEO, social media marketing, or both? The different between the two, and which you should invest in the most

What is SEO?
Boring, Factual Answer: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. The purpose of optimizing your site for search engines is to drive traffic to your site organically. That’s it.

More Interesting Answer: What was the last thing you searched for? Did it take to you a website you’d never visited before?

Chances are you used Google, which performed over 5 billion searches today alone. (In contrast, Bing didn’t even crack 1 billion.) And while I don’t know the chances of finding a website you’ve never visited before, I know that Google’s my #1 referral to new websites. It’s rare that a friend or business card, or even a social media link, directs me to a new website. And when it does happen, it’s still outnumbered by the Google referral machine.

When you implement the technical and strategic components of SEO into your marketing efforts, it will take time for your work to pay off. When it does, though, you have potentially 5 billion daily Google searches (and hundreds of millions from other engines) in which to be seen.

Drive traffic. Generate leads. Make sales. Much of it without any additional effort from you. That’s the value of a great SEO strategy.
What is Social Media Marketing?
Boring Factual Answer: Social media marketing is driving traffic via social media websites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

More Interesting Answer: Social media marketing is your opportunity to connect with your audience, foster great relationships, and build brand visibility and loyalty. Social media demands both creativity and authenticity, which takes great strategic planning and execution. It’s fun! And one of the best investments you’ll make in your business.

But. Before you get too excited about social media, make sure your SEO work is top-notch.

In this day and age, if you don’t have a website, do you even exist? You may as well not because no one is going to be able to find you.

For this reason, you must have a solid SEO strategy in place before you do anything else. You want people to be able to find you (it’s necessary to your business’ growth) and it’s the most low-effort way to go about getting traffic (and leads and sales). Invest in a good strategy. It will pay off.

Then invest in good social media marketing.

(By the way, you don’t have to wait to invest in either of these. So much can be done before spending your first penny! Social media takes a considerable investment of time (the platforms reward frequent engagement) but you don’t have to do paid marketing up front. You can invest good money in SEO and also implement a good social media strategy for free. But when it comes to money prioritization, start with SEO.)

Don’t take my word for it! Kissmetrics and Digital Current both have good pieces to help you make this decision.

content marketing trends

Top Five Content Marketing Trends in 2018

The new year is here (hooray!) and these are the five trends we’re most excited about:

1. High Quality Content

There is a lot of noise on the internet and way too much mediocre content. But as platforms up their games (with things like stories, filters, and user-generated content campaigns, just to name a few), content improves, too. Boring ads and gimmicks just can’t compete.

We’re excited to see more great writing, videos and campaigns that add value to the user experience instead of just selling to followers.

2. Video

Video is a part of content, but it gets its own section here because we expect video to be a big player this year.

We’ve already seen video come to dominate Facebook newsfeeds, and it’s growing on other platforms like Twitter and Instagram, too. Videos are going to have to be better than ever to outperform the competition.

The downside is that we’ll also see more video ads. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve seen YouTube ads that are so good that I didn’t even skip them to get to the video. But, 2017 brought with it those awful Facebook video ads that cut in at weird times and are designed to be unskippable. I am sorry to say that I think this year will only bring more.

3. Chatbots

I find chatbots a little annoying because they don’t go away and I don’t find them helpful.

But, then I remember that it was only a few years ago that voice recognition software became useful. Remember when voice recognition on phones made you want to chuck your phone through a window? I don’t remember the last time the computer couldn’t get me where I wanted to go.

I think we’re seeing the evolution of chatbots and if they save me from customer service emails and wait times on the phone, I’m all for it. (PS Here’s a cool if only tangentially-relevant story about bots and humans.)

4. Augmented reality

I am loving the direction of AR. Sephora Virtual Artist and Ikea Place are two of my favorites from this list but we’re still in the very early stages of the technology. I loved this Forbes list of 11 creative uses for AR in marketing. Admittedly I get a little freaked out knowing my face is stored in some marketing department’s database, but just so long as no one steals my eyes, right?

5. Podcasts

There is no form of media I love more than a well-produced podcast, so I was excited to see this list of branded podcasts, only one of which I’d ever heard. eBay’s podcast Open for Business was a 13-episode run produced by Gimlet and it was so good!

According to Journalism.org, fewer than half of Americans have ever listened to a podcast, and fewer still listen to them regularly. But, listenership is on the rise.

I hope 2018 brings more great branded podcasts. Even if you already have a strong audience base, branching into podcasts is going to reach an entirely different audience. If you’re thinking of getting into the podcast game, now’s the time. Really all you need is some dedication and a good microphone.

net neutrality

Net Neutrality: What Now?

In December, just before the FCC’s vote, I explained why net neutrality is important to small business owners. On December 14, the vote to scrap net neutrality regulations passed, and with 2018 upon us, it’s a good time to ask how this decision will affect business owners and what you can do about it.

The short answer is: nothing is going to happen immediately. The rules were just passed and and change is going to take time. Plus, the cable companies are under close scrutiny right now. They’re unlikely to take any action until the heat is off a little bit.

Lawsuits will be filed this year, though, and states are making decisions about how to protect neutrality. No doubt that will all lead to suits and countersuits, and no one can say how it will all shake out.

Your work is to stay on your representatives. Keep calling them, keep telling your friends and networks to call them because for most, their incentive is your vote.

3 Things You Can Do

  1. Call Your Representative. You can find out here who your representatives are, whether they support or oppose neutrality (or are undecided), and how to contact them. You can also always send mail, but I advocate making at least one phone call. Here’s why.
  2. Email the FCC leadership. The names and emails of the five, two of whom are net neutrality supporters, are in this Lifehacker piece, which includes other suggestions of things to do as well.
  3. Donate to the legal battle. This is America, where disputes get resolved through lengthy and expensive legal battles. Support the legal defenders with a donation.
  4. These are three things you can do in the next 10 or 15 minutes to defend net neutrality, but this is an ongoing issue with much remaining to be seen.

If you want to learn more, I recommend these balanced informative pieces published by TechCrunch and Forbes on the regulations and what’s next.

social media platform

The Right Social Media Platform for Your Business

How the hell do you choose the right social media platform?

Facebook has 2 billion users and offers the best ROI. LinkedIn just crossed half a billion users. YouTube viewers watch a billion hours of clips per day (!). Twitter has only (“only”) 330 million users (there are 330 million people in the United States) but half a billion tweets per day (which comes out to over 7,000 every second!). How do you possibly get your message to your audience?

Dang. That is actually a really good question! It wasn’t until I started writing this out that I realized how ludicrously incomprehensible this all is. Let’s get some perspective:

Right now, our planet has about 7.6 billion people living on it. Roughly half use the internet (official count in 2015 was 3.2 billion). And about one-tenth of those live in the United States. Which isn’t to say that all 320 million Americans use the internet–actually only about 284 million Americans do. There are 7 continents, approximately 193 countries, and most of the world’s population is on the Asian continent.

And, if you’re like me, none of this means a thing because I have no grasp of the abstract. So, thank you, Tim Urban, for creating this incredible visual so that people like me can begin to think about grasping the concept of one billion.

Wow.

I was going to get on here and tell you some good strategy tips, but if you’re reading this from Austin, TX, your corner of the internet is like sand on the beach, man. One grain of sand on a very large, sandy beach filled with sand dunes.

Which turns out to be great news, after all!

The entire world of 7+ billion people is connected by, like, 10 websites.

And you’re going to be just fine.

Here’s your job:

  1. Know your market.
  2. Work with its influencers.
  3. Be better than your competition.

That’s it! That’s your job.

Take your tiny miniscule corner of the internet and communicate with your audience. I suggest doing it directly through the influencers because they’re really good at their jobs and working with them frees you up to run your business, but whatever. The point is for you to learn your customer’s well enough that you know who their influencers are and where they hang out. If you can figure out those two things, you’re well on your way to dominating the competition.

And through it all, get on LinkedIn. It’s still a small enough network that you can really establish yourself there. Get to know people in your industry. Comment on their thoughts and posts. Share some of your own. It’s the most direct way for you to build your business and your (personal) brand.

It’s a big world out there. It’s crowded and noisy, but your business is not to worry about what other people are doing. It isn’t about the platform. It’s how well that platform enables you to connect with your audience. You choose the right platform for your business by going where your audience is and engaging with them. Don’t look to impress everyone or get the biggest following. Ultimately the only currency that matters is connection. Connect with your audience and you’re golden.

leveraging linkedin

4 simple strategies to start using today

Early in 2017, the world’s largest professional network LinkedIn broke 500 million users. That’s no small amount, and yet, in a world of over 7 billion people, where Facebook has 2 billion users, 500 million is kind of–dare I say–small?

That’s the great advantage of LinkedIn right now. It’s enormous, but it doesn’t feel enormous. It offers tremendous opportunity but it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

Or does it?

Last month we told you why you need to be all over LinkedIn.But for most people who use Linkedin, a picture and some basics about their job is all they ever do. We know that it can be nerve-wracking to put yourself out there on LinkedIn. Staying within your profile is safe. And anyway, what do you have to say that’s going to help anyone?

We get it.

So today we’re going to give you 4 strategies that you can start using today to build your network, raise your profile, and grow your brand.

1. Write Posts

The great thing about writing a LinkedIn post is that the best ones are just quick thoughts. You don’t have to worry that you’re not a writer. Here are some ideas to get you started:

-Observations. If you don’t already, start paying attention to what you pay attention to. We all make observations and notes to self about what we see going on around us that could be improved. Start sharing yours.

-Ideas. Share ideas of thought leaders in your industry with some of your commentary. Share your own ideas for the future of the industry, how you would like to make it better, how it could be improved or how it might change or how a certain technology or platform could impact it, or is impacting it. You have a million ideas, I’m sure. Share one now and then.

-Help other people. You’ve worked your way up the ladder, you’ve started a business, you’ve spent years doing something that you’re really good at (or not). What can you say to help someone starting out? What about someone mid-career? What about a challenge you overcame or a lesson you learned that might help another person?

-Articles. Sharing interesting pieces is a great way to leverage LinkedIn. Just don’t let this be your only strategy. You want to share your own original work, too.

2. Build Relationships

LinkedIn has 500 million people on it. Go get to know a few of them. Help them with their work. Accept help with yours. You can do this by:

-Posting content

-Commenting on posts.

-Saying Congratulations and Happy Birthday when LinkedIn prompts you to.

Using groups, or creating a group and inviting others to it.

-Creating partnerships: This Entrepreneur article suggests using groups to find businesses related to your work that can help you serve clients. Real estate agents, for example, would partner with insurance agents and mortgage brokers.

3. Consistency

Don’t feel like you have to write a post everyday. The strategy of consistency is that you interact with other people on at least a weekly basis. Use LinkedIn for more than your professional updates. The more you interact with other people and their work, the more you get to know people and understand their needs. Then, it’s easier for you to make content that’s valuable, and that’s how you’ll create a network of people that you can both help and be helped by.

4. Don’t Be a Me-Monster

This might be the most important thing about leveraging LinkedIn: it isn’t all about you. So much advice is about being an authority, being a thought leader, creating content. Think instead about building relationships. You don’t win over people by talking only about yourself. Add value to other people’s lives.

entrepreneur life

The good, the bad and the ugly of entrepreneur life. Are you up for it?

Everyone wants the entrepreneur life. Wear hoodies to the office (when you go to the office), which will be equipped with game rooms and cafeterias that serve ice cream and churros (mmm). Your work isn’t for a punch clock or manager, or even a paycheck. You set your hours. You assemble your team. You work really hard on something you love and ultimately build a company that changes the world. Then, you just live on top of the world getting profiled by magazines, signing book deals, getting paid enormous amounts for speaking engagements, and maybe best of all, living it up on your private island with former presidents. Hell yes. Entrepreneurship is good.

Except when it’s not. Companies–most of them–collapse. Money is lost, sometimes millions (sometimes more). Years are lost. After years of devotion to an idea, you have nothing to show for it. Or, your company does great! It’s top of the world–and then the iPhone comes along.

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Most entrepreneurs aren’t Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg. Most entrepreneurs run much smaller businesses. You may not be dealing deals worth hundreds of millions or the collapse of enormous companies, but you will still experience the same hardships, setbacks, wins, and losses.

It’s the entrepreneur life.

The Good.

Do we need to talk about the good? Setting your own schedule. Owning an island and starting your day kitesurfing. Traveling to 20 countries a year. Wearing hoodies (or shirts made just for you). Being the youngest self-made female billionaire in America. The excitement, challenge, and satisfaction of growing your own company. There is no ceiling to what you can do.

The Bad.

Stress. You basically die to everything else in your life so that you can devote all your time energy and focus to building this business. Fear. Oh the fear. The cost to personal relationships. Failure.

The Ugly

The highs and lows of entrepreneurship are greater than with any other job. The ugly parts are uglier, too. Tim Ferriss has talked about his struggles with depression, suicide and burnout.

The ugliest thing, though, may be just the intensity of the scary feelings. Not having a boss means you’re not responsible to anyone–except your entire company, which can include the board, the shareholders, investors, and not just employees but the family who depend on them. The stakes are so high. It’s wonderful when it goes well, and utterly brutal when it doesn’t.

Even if you don’t have a board and investors to think about, it’s your company. It’s an extension of you, and you have people counting on you to succeed. You’re counting on you to succeed. You’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life and your body and mind pay the price.

As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be prepared to experience all the good, the bad, and the ugly. Success demands dedication to your work, and all the good and bad that comes with that. You know you’re up for the good, but there’s a hell of a lot of bad and ugly that comes with it. Are you up for it?

Read two more takes on the good, the bad and the ugly of entrepreneurship here and here.

provable roi

How to Create a Provable ROI in Social Media

How do you measure the return on investment from social media? Understanding the value of social media is important but really comes down to experimentation. I mean honestly, it’s hard to tell how much revenue a Tweet you sent out last week brought in, or if your last Instagram post boosted your bottom line. Many businesses are struggling to grasp the financial impact social media marketing is having for them.

You track your return from the quantitative data you receive from experimenting. That’s right, this will help your businesses determine what works best for their brands. We’ve broken down the process and listed a few simple steps to follow.

1.   Set Social Media Goals

Before you can get into measuring your return, you need to set goals! Your goals should be quantifiable and linked to a specific campaign. Why? This will allow you to track individual links that you share on Twitter, Facebook or other social media channels. Also, to ensure you get the most accurate number, you really want to set your goals based on actions that convert a casual browser to a lead, and ultimately a paying customer.

2. Track Your Goals

Once your goals are defined, the next step is to track them. Tracking is an extremely important part!

3.  Measure Your Social Media Expenses

In order to figure out whether you’re getting a positive or negative ROI for social media campaigns, you have to measure how much you’re spending. This includes; man hours, content, social media tools and ad costs. After all your time is valuable and expenses add up.

As you can see, tracking your social media ROI isn’t impossible. You just have to take a planned and strategic approach. Happy experimenting!

humans of new york

Humans of New York: A Case Study in Social Media Viral Content

Humans of New York began in 2010 as a project by Brandon Stanton to take 10,000 photos of New Yorkers. In the beginning, the point of each photo was visual storytelling. Every photo was beautifully composed, colorful, vivid. His first book, published in 2013, was a collection of these photos, but even while it was being published, his style had already begun to shift.

Instead of the photography taking center stage, he focused on individuals. He would ask, while taking their picture, about their biggest fears, regrets, loss. Humans of New York became a series of portraits both photographic and literary. His second book was published in 2015 focused on these stories. Sometimes they were a sentence and sometimes a page, but no longer were they merely visual.

Stanton wasn’t a professional photographer, at least not in the beginning. He had worked as a bond trader in Chicago. When he was fired, he bought a camera and moved to New York to take 10,000 photos of its people.

And so another guy moved to New York to pursue his art. It’s not a remarkable story and it’s likely it would have never been anything but some obscure guy’s hobby that we would never have come to know–except that he shared his work on Facebook.

He began photographing in late 2010, and in two years garnered 60,000 likes. That was a good number, especially in 2012, but it’s nothing to what he has today: 18.2 million. He’s traveled with the UN, to the Met Gala, to the White House to interview to President Obama himself.  Both of his books have been #1 New York TImes Bestsellers.

For a jobless, broke New York transplant, he’s done pretty well for himself.

But once again his creativity has shifted, and this time his audience has not followed along.

In early Fall 2017 he launched Humans of New York: The Series, a weekly Facebook video series (I can’t quite call it a TV show) that tells longer versions of New Yorkers’ stories through video. It is, of course, beautifully shot and produced. The stories are evocative, funny, and personal, just like his photo series. Really, fans of his Facebook page should be thrilled by this development, right? Even more stories! Followers always want to know more about the people whose stories he shares. Now we get know quite a bit more.

And yet, the Series page has only 906k likes. (Just for the sake of comparison, his Instagram account has over 7 million followers.)

Why is that? He’s years into this work with millions of followers around the world and more than a dozen who were inspired to carry out HONY projects in their own cities.

I think HONY is a masterclass in human connection. That is, HONY didn’t gain millions of followers by sharing gorgeous pictures or telling good stories. It gained millions by giving his followers something to connect over. Each photo gets thousands of comments, most of them quite compassionate. And the reason the commenters are kind and empathetic–instead of ugly internet trolls–is that the stories are just specific enough to be universal. Every follower reads a story about him or herself. It’s not about the subject. It’s about me.

The Series is packed with beautiful stories. I’ve never watched a disappointing episode. And yet, they lack that magical quality that the photos have. I see the person telling the story and i’m touched or I laugh. But I don’t see myself, not quite. And with 30 minutes of stories, there isn’t an easy entrance point to a conversation via thread. You can’t name the person in the film (there are no names), and it’s weird to mention time markers. What stuck out to me may not be what what you remember.

If you want your content to be shared, it must be creating connections, building a community. THat’s what great content does: connects you to a greater whole.

2018 marketing goals

How to Set Awesome 2018 Marketing Goals That You’ll Actually Stick With

Everybody has big goals for the new year. You want growth, revenue, influence, more customers, bigger campaigns, better awards–setting the goals is the easy part. Achieving them? That’s a whole different ball game.

Conventional advice tells you to set SMART goals, goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused, time-bound. Instead of saying, I want to make more money in 2018, you say, I want to increase profit 10% in the first quarter.

Experts also advise breaking it down into small pieces so you don’t get overwhelmed. Break it into steps and pieces and achieve it one task at a time.

Conventional advice earned its place on the front pages of google: it works. Setting SMART goals and working toward them little by little is a great way to achieve a goal.

Unless you’re me because that just sounds so boring I just want to quit right now.

I don’t want SMART goals! I don’t want steps! I want excitement and spontaneity and the thrill of chasing an impossible goal–and getting lost in the process and discovering something even newer and more exciting along the way!

Or maybe you’re not like me at all, but you still struggle with goals. That’s okay! We can do this together.

Set Awesome Goals

Think you don’t need help with this part?

Wrong.

Your problem is you aren’t thinking big enough! Basketball players don’t train every day for years just so they can sometimes make a shot off the backboard.* They want that slow motion, jumping over the heads of their opponents, put it straight in the basket kind of slam dunk shot.

This is no time to get psyched out by fear. What do you really want with your business?

Running a business isn’t easy. What are you working so hard for? Be brash. Go big.

Only then should you be realistic–but only about achieving it. It’s going to take time and dedication, and probably the achievement of lots of smaller goals as you work your way to it. What are you going to do to achieve those goals? How will you overcome the naysayers? What will you say when your own self-doubt tries to talk you out of it?

Write down your questions, your doubts, all the reasons that pursuing this crazy goal is a stupid waste of time, that you’ll just fail anyway.

Then, one by one, come up with solutions.

See Them Through

Now that you have awesome (!) goals written down (because writing them down is the first step to achieving them), you need a plan for success.

We already talked about SMART goals. We talked about breaking them into mini goals. We have not yet talked about big wins and motivation.

Big wins are when, instead of saving money by cutting back on Starbucks lattes, you negotiate a big raise at work. Focus on big wins instead of little tactics and details. It gets you further, it feels great, and it’s great motivation.

Which is important because motivation won’t get you far. Gretchen Rubin is a researcher who studies happiness, good habits, and human nature. She writes that motivation doesn’t drive behavior:

Instead of thinking about motivation, I argue that we should think about aims, and then concrete, practical, realistic steps to take us closer to our aims.

Instead of thinking, “I want to lose weight so badly,” think instead about the concrete steps to take, “I’ll bring lunch from home.”

She has a quiz to help you figure out what sort of practical, realistic steps will be best for you–or, more specifically, your “tendency”. Each tendency (there are 4) is a different way of responding to expectations. For example, I’m an Obliger, so I respond to outside expectations. If you expect me to meet a goal, I’ll meet it pretty easily. Meeting my own goals, though, requires a system of outer accountability (ie a buddy to help keep me on track). Other tendencies respond to reason (the “why” of a goal) and desire.

You’re setting awesome goals. Set yourself up for success, too.

wow audience improve seo

Wow Your Audience and Improve SEO

In today’s society, to truly establish yourself as a leader and wow your audience you need to create longer and more in depth content. This will truly help show your audience what you know that benefits them. There are 6 reasons why you want to write longer content that is deeper, offers more facts, and engages your audience in a better way. You can truly delve into a topic with more words than reading longer content or watching longer videos. The first step, start with longer features and higher quality. Secondly, dig deeper include more visuals. There are different types of content that lend themselves to digging deeper.

Feature Articles — A featured article requires more research and has a different format that’s shorter than blog posts have. Often a long article consists of quoting other authorities, books, individuals to further the points being made in the article. To demonstrate your authority, knowledge, and expertise you need to write long articles that will help be useful to you and your audience.

Case Studies — Typically a case study covers so much and the content is usually longer. You must define the problem, offer the solution and share the results via the case studies that you publish. This will certainly keep people reading. People like reading how a solution worked for other people, so case studies are a great choice for longer content.

White Papers —The intent of a white paper is to give authoritative information to guide the readers to answers about an issue that matters to them. A white paper is traditionally used in government and education circles. It will describe benefits, present a set of questions, tips or points about the topic, as well as recommendations and solutions.

Instructional Videos —Videos are known to grab the attention of the audience, and what better way to demonstrate your knowledge and build authority than a long, in depth video tutorial on an important topic for your niche.

If you choose to include longer more in depth content to wow your audience, it needs to be more appealing visually. Make sure to add in images, plenty of bullet points, subheadings, and headers. Also, it’s okay to send people to new pages for the rest of the content it’s essential good for SEO in today’s search engine climate.

marketing 2018

How to Create a Great Marketing Strategy Going into 2018

I have all sorts of practical advice for your 2018 marketing plans:

  • Audit your marketing for 2017. Check your ROI and where it’s greatest. What went right and what could improve?
  • Reach out to your customers. Offer gift cards in exchange for feedback.
  • Survey your almost-customers. Ask what you could do better.

But none of those will do you much good if you miss the bigger picture, the greater message, the whole point of your marketing: the people who will pay for your product. Your people.

Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, thought leader, blogger, author  and the Internet’s resident marketing guru. The Internet has lots of great thought leaders in marketing, but I think that Seth Godin is the most insightful. He did a Q&A on Tim Ferriss’ podcast and was asked what most marketers do wrong.

Here is part of his response:

Nike did not invent the running tribe. There were already runners before Nike showed up. What we do when we lead a tribe often is we find people who are already connected and we merely show up to lead them.

For most businesses, we don’t even lead them. We merely service a tribe that already exists so that when you find a group of people who share an instinct, an interest, a connection, a leader, a goal, you give that group of people something with which they can take action.

The way I abbreviate that long sentence is “people like us do things like this.”

People like us do things like this.

It’s easy to get stuck thinking about marketing tactics and platforms. How should you tweak your Facebook strategy to get more engagement? What influencers do you tap for your next campaign? Should you post 3 times a day on 5 networks? Or do 5 times a day on 2? Which should those be?

None of those questions do you any good if you don’t know the who. Who are you trying to reach?  And why do they care about seeing your posts?

Your job as marketer is to answer these questions. Answering these questions will help you tap into the tribe that will buy your product.

Study your market. Understand them better than anyone else. Get why they do things the way they do.

Then, craft your marketing strategy.

Prove That You Get It

I wrote a post last month about the eggs that understood me.  They could have a more expensive business model because they could charge a high price for eggs. And they could charge a high price because the company understood that people like me would pay for them.

As you craft your marketing strategy for the coming year, audit your 2017 marketing, survey your customers and almost-customers, find which social media platforms your audience hangs out on and which influencers they rely on for product advice. Then, craft your strategy around them.

Not around platforms, but around people.

Your people.

product-feed

Use Product-Feed Advertising on Social Media

For nearly 15 years, marketers have been relying on product display ads to boost advertising campaigns. A few short years ago targeting capabilities, advanced analytics, and product ads opportunities, weren’t available. It’s time to carry these results over to other marketing channels, get your marketers excited and improve advertising.  How can you do that?  Simple, with Product-Feed-based advertising.

Product-feed advertising on social media may be your solution for delivering highly targeted personalized ads to your audience. We have listed four advantages that product–feed advertising has to offer that you may want to consider.

1. Boost Ad-Performance

No one enjoys seeing ads they care nothing about. In all honesty, reaching the right people with the right message isn’t always easy but by automating the process, feed-based advertising creates efficiencies. It will boost ad performance in ways that truly move the needle.

2. Consistency

Feed-based advertising allows you to reach your audience with relevant products at the right time. Consistency is important not only as consumers return to your website, but also in the ads they view.  Although people move from device to device they are almost always logged in as themselves on social channels. Which means, you have access to a personalized and authenticated data.

3. Accelerate the Process

The purpose of programmatic feed advertising is to addresses the issue by accelerating the development process. This makes things easier for marketers. Rather than rely on a creative agency or in house team to put them together, assemble ads from the product feed itself. It will not only save you save time but money.

4. Ability to Scale

Feed-based advertising streamlines the process so that you can combine the right ad and or destination with the data you have. You can effectively manage and optimize social ad campaigns on Instagram and or Facebook at scale.

Conclusion

If you want a simple strategy that can be personalized, boost performance and retargeted for maximum impact, then get feed based advertising!

It will not only deliver consistent customer experiences but it will accelerate the creative development process.

savvy marketing

How a Savvy Marketing Strategy Brought in Over $450 Million

In November, the New York Times reported what was maybe the most shocking story they’ve done all year.

An old, damaged painting was sold at auction, among a fierce and lengthy bidding process–let that sink in for a moment before you continue reading–for a hefty sum.

Hm, no. Law school debt is a hefty sum. A mansion in Beverly Hills is a hefty sum.

This painting?

Sold! To the highest bidder for $450.3 million.

$450.3 million! I’m not even sure how one person–never mind 4!–can produce that kind of check and not have it be for a small island, or at least some sweet Manhattan digs. A painting?

Here’s what (also) caught my attention, though, and why I’m sharing this here today, emphasis my own:

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” considered either the most important old master work to be auctioned in a generation or a damaged painting hyped by savvy marketing, sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, a record for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed the sale of Picasso’s “Women of Algiers,” which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015.

Now that’s an interesting line. A painting beat out Picasso–by a lot–and it might not even be a master work by Da Vinci? Is it really fair to put this on the marketers?

But Christie’s marketing campaign was perhaps unprecedented in the art world; it was the first time the auction house went so far as to enlist an outside agency to advertise the work,

Aha!

creating a video that includes top executives pitching the painting to Hong Kong clients as “the holy grail of our business” and likening it to “the discovery of a new planet.”

A new planet? Are you even kidding me? Savvy does not even begin to cover the savviness of this marketing team. How on Earth did they pull that off?

I’ll tell you how: they knew their market! They knew that if there was any chance at all that this could be a real Da Vinci, then it was virtually invaluable–there would be almost no limit to what a serious art collector would pay to have it in his or her collection.

They pulled out all the stops.

They told a story that resonated with that audience.

They pulled off one of art’s most successful marketing campaigns in history.

I love this story!

When we talk about knowing your audience, this is what we mean. Price doesn’t matter. If you have something that someone wants, and you communicate its value to them, there is no limit to what you can do with that.

I mean, don’t be an ass about it. Don’t run the great name of marketing through the mud by manipulating your audiences just so you can go swimming in your piles of money.

But if you have an amazing product, it deserves an amazing story. Tell it. Because your customers want it.

most important features

The Five Most Important Features of Your New Website

Business owners love a sexy website. They tell us to make their website look cool. They want their users to be impressed by it, to spend time (and money) on it.

What they don’t usually think about are the really practical but crucial elements of a website that we don’t notice until they’re not there–or, worse, done poorly.

1. User Experience

Each website has its own purposes and objectives. None of them can be achieved if it isn’t stupid-easy to navigate the site. I think this is the single most important element of any and every site because I have no patience for websites that confuse me or present me with broken links or missing pages.

As we always say: know your target audience. Know why they’re there. Know what they want. Know how to get them to what they want.

The key to nailing this part? Test, test, test, then test some more. It doesn’t matter what’s on your site or how good it looks if people can’t get what they need, or leave out of frustration.

2. Mobile response

Do I need to say this? 80% of internet users own a smartphone. Hell, you’re probably reading this from yours! Make it mobile responsive.

3. Analytics

Installing Google analytics is so easy that I’m sure you already have it on your site. The question is: are you using it?

It’s the end of the year and you’re planning your marketing for next year (right?). Your analytics will tell you almost everything you need to craft the web site piece of your marketing strategy. How are people finding your site? What keywords are they using? How long do they spend? How many pages do they visit? Which pages to they visit?

You want to know traffic sources, keywords, and user behavior so you can audit your marketing, determine your ROI, and craft growth strategies for the future.

4. About

I hate when I got to a website and can’t figure out what the company does or what their product is for. Have you had this? You go to the about page and it says a bunch of lofty things about how the company has been utilizing innovative technology since 1986 and is a leader in its industry. What does that even mean?

Just one sentence somewhere on the site about what you actually do would be very helpful to the lost visitors who wander to your website from a social media link and wonder, What the hell am I doing here?

Point ‘em in the right direction. Send ‘em home.

5. Social Media Links

It may be a Millennial thing, but I always check out social media links when I visit a new website. It’s a great way to get a feel for the business. I want to know if they’re posting funny memes or if I can see Instagram updates on their Facebook feeds. Do people like them? Is there a new product coming out? Is it a cool company?

Put your social media links up and invite people along (it’s an easy way to grow your following–and effortlessly generate more leads).

marketing roadblocks

Tips to Avoid Digital Marketing Roadblocks

Have digital marketers made the transition to the super-connected, mobile, digital marketplace? Not yet. According to the Adobe Digital Roadblock report, two-thirds of marketers expect their role to change over the next year, and over three-quarters expect changes over the next three years.

Marketers have shown at this day and age they must reinvent themselves! So how can you reinvent yourself and mature in digital marketing? Well some of the common themes are people, product and process. I have chosen the top 5 Roadblocks for you to avoid.

Hiring digital talent – Roadblock #1

Our enterprises must focus on digital-savvy talent in order to reinvent ourselves.

From digital social marketers, creative development and data analysts all these roles make a big impact in this industry. However, these roles are not rising to meet the demand and marketers will struggle with finding potential hires who possesses the characteristics to operate in a highly technical environment. Marketers should be looking to hire dual digital talented individuals. For example, look for candidates that are creative and analytical, possess leadership skills and digital acumen skills. You can reinvent your marketing ecosystem you just need to hire the right digital talent.

Data avoidance – Roadblock #2

If we don’t hire the digital talent to execute digital campaigns, our success will remain doubtful. We must have luminaries who understand data not just read data. Marketers tell us they believe the ideal marketer should take more risks, but by embracing the strength of data analysis, risks can be significantly reduced. We must arrange and schedule workflow to accommodate the constant feedback loops that permeate our digital world. For those seeking to reinvent themselves, embrace data!

Social media blackout -Roadblock #3

Our digital roadblock concluded that 61 percent of marketers believe social media will be the most critical marketing vehicle to deploy in the next few years. The fact that most brands are growing their social media marketing budgets, leads us to believe the future predictions that social media spend will double in the next five years is accurate.

We must adopt a social strategy and cultivate a social identity that supports that identity through a disciplined approach to audience engagement. Our enterprise must maximize ROI, be organized to leverage the speed, volume, and intensity of social media. Teams must be able to entertain, inform, educate, and persuade all at the same time, all while directing traffic to engage our offerings.

Lack of testing-Roadblock #4

Can you believe that half of the marketers stated that they used the “trusting my gut instinct” on where to invest marketing budgets. How can you rely on that? No need for gut instinct- testing allows us to approach senior leadership with quantifiable results, which may be leveraged in other business areas. Big Data is available to shape customer profiles, track consumer behavior, and monitor ROI. When we can show lift through testing based on data, we are able to justify marketing spend and improve productivity.

Technology adoption -Roadblock #5

Brands in any vertical have to embrace technology or suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, marketers tell us they are more comfortable adopting new technologies once they become mainstream. However, competition is too fierce to hold off consumer engagement.

There is seemingly no end to the integrated tools we have at our disposal such as dashboards that enable analytics, attribution, tag management, content management, and integrate marketing with business IT systems. If we adopt these tools, we can make reinvention possible.

Ultimately, our attempts to reinvent ourselves as digital marketers must point to digital ecosystem management. We must transition our brand and have the ability to dovetail creative development, asset deployment, and customer experiences with financial management. Let’s tear down these roadblocks and explore the frontier together!

net neurality

Why I, As A Small Business Owner, Support Net Neutrality

This article expresses my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of ATX Web Designs or anyone who works for it.

On November 21 the FCC announced its plan to repeal net neutrality. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said it was to stop the government from “micromanaging” the internet.

Look, the government is not micromanaging your internet. You can go to literally any website in the world right here from your US computer. You can do dark and evil things–for better or for worse!–and no one in the government is going to stop you. There is no micromanagement happening here.

Further, Pai stated that the repeal will allow consumers to “buy the service plan that’s best for them” which, don’t we already? And–here’s where you come in– give “entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

Uh, when the was the last time you were happy that someone threw up a wall on your route to work, then gave you “technical instructions” to innovate to innovate yourself a new route to work?

Never. Because it sucks. This isn’t about small businesses being able to innovate. This is about big (ass) businesses getting even bigger and richer by making you pay for access to your consumers.

It is genius. It is brilliant. It is terrible.

You are a small business owner. You paid for your web redesign and you paid for SEO optimization. You can now pay your bills and your employees because the things you did to set your business up and get the word out to your market–they worked! And they didn’t require any technical information or innovation. You paid some very skilled people to help you get started and now you have just as much access to your market as your biggest, gnarliest competitor.

Now, conceivably, with an unneutral internet, you could grow big enough to effectively slow down consumer access to your competitor’s website (by speeding up access to your own). Like I said, it’s pretty brilliant.

Except, now your ability to reach your customers is also in the hands of a giant, extremely wealthy telecommunications company.

The (Real) Final Frontier

I like the internet. I like the organic subcultures. I love that some kids built an empire from the college dorm. I love that Ze Frank just started making weird videos one day and got people around the world (!) to make an Earth sandwich and that not only did people come together to do it but that it spawned a generation of YouTubers making great content, content that is educational and funny and creative, content that drives entire ecosystems of the internet and, in many cases, actively betters the world.

Maybe that’s not why you love the internet, but at the heart of it is the reason we’re all here: it’s a space and a tool that connects us to one another. We can use it to launch our businesses and grow our platforms, or we can keep in touch with our grandkids. We can watch silly cat videos or spend the weekend binge-watching seasons 1 and 2 of Stranger Things.

The point is: you get to decide. I get to decide. We get to do whatever the hell we want on the internet. If we want a subscription to YouTube or Netflix or HBO Go, it’s up to us. No one decides, or charges us more for wanting All The Things.

In a world where everything costs money, the incredible, unmatched freedom of the internet is literally free. If you can make it to a library, you can make it to the entire world.

What else is out there that is even close to that?

I’m a small business owner. I imagine that if you’re reading this, you are too. It’s not that we use the internet everyday; it’s that we depend on it.

And to me, that’s the most outrageous part. People with lots of money and power and influence are giving themselves even more money, power and influence–at my expense.

“And suddenly what we’ll have instead of an infinite variety of crap is a finite amount of crap. And a finite amount of crap is just crap, whereas an infinite amount of crap? Is hope.” source.

I’m with Hank Green on this one.

An Ostensibly Unrelated but Equally Important Thing: My favorite podcast ReplyAll did a show in April of this year about another FCC decision that impacts internet users. The decision allows Internet Service Providers to sell your (!) search history to advertisers. Which doesn’t seem like a big deal except that now everything you’ve ever put in your search bar is up for grabs. Like Net Neutrality, it seems like an issue that we know is bad, and we have trouble imagining just how bad it could be. Have a listen. Let me know what you think:

Want to Learn More About How Net Neutrality Impacts You?

Lots of people explain it way better than I can. I’m partial to this video analogy by Hank Green, and his 3-minute for/against debate. NPR put together this good primer article. Public Knowledge works to promote an open internet by shaping policy. To read more about it or to take action, visit their website.

social media platform

The Right Social Media Platform for Your Business

How the hell do you choose the right social media platform?

Facebook has 2 billion users and offers the best ROI. LinkedIn just crossed half a billion users. YouTube viewers watch a billion hours of clips per day (!). Twitter has only (“only”) 330 million users (there are 330 million people in the United States) but half a billion tweets per day (which comes out to over 7,000 every second!). How do you possibly get your message to your audience?

Dang. That is actually a really good question! It wasn’t until I started writing this out that I realized how ludicrously incomprehensible this all is. Let’s get some perspective:

Right now, our planet has about 7.6 billion people living on it. Roughly half use the internet (official count in 2015 was 3.2 billion). And about one-tenth of those live in the United States. Which isn’t to say that all 320 million Americans use the internet–actually only about 284 million Americans do. There are 7 continents, approximately 193 countries, and most of the world’s population is on the Asian continent.

And, if you’re like me, none of this means a thing because I have no grasp of the abstract. So, thank you, Tim Urban, for creating this incredible visual so that people like me can begin to think about grasping the concept of one billion.

Wow.

I was going to get on here and tell you some good strategy tips, but if you’re reading this from Austin, TX, your corner of the internet is like sand on the beach, man. One grain of sand on a very large, sandy beach filled with sand dunes.

Which turns out to be great news, after all!

The entire world of 7+ billion people is connected by, like, 10 websites.

And you’re going to be just fine.

Here’s your job:

  1. Know your market.
  2. Work with its influencers.
  3. Be better than your competition.

That’s it! That’s your job.

Take your tiny miniscule corner of the internet and communicate with your audience. I suggest doing it directly through the influencers because they’re really good at their jobs and working with them frees you up to run your business, but whatever. The point is for you to learn your customer’s well enough that you know who their influencers are and where they hang out. If you can figure out those two things, you’re well on your way to dominating the competition.

And through it all, get on LinkedIn. It’s still a small enough network that you can really establish yourself there. Get to know people in your industry. Comment on their thoughts and posts. Share some of your own. It’s the most direct way for you to build your business and your (personal) brand.

It’s a big world out there. It’s crowded and noisy, but your business is not to worry about what other people are doing. It isn’t about the platform. It’s how well that platform enables you to connect with your audience. You choose the right platform for your business by going where your audience is and engaging with them.  Don’t look to impress everyone or get the biggest following. Ultimately the only currency that matters is connection. Connect with your audience and you’re golden.

marketing millennial

Marketing the Millennial

Did you know Millennial’s spend 6 hours a day checking email? Yes, it’s true!  According to research done on CMO.com. Those results are spread across a wide range of demographics, but the numbers don’t lie. The results show that  70% of Millennials check their emails while watching tv, 50% check their emails while in bed, 40% check their emails while on vacation and 42% check their emails while in the bathroom. Their involvement in email far outstrips the usage of any other group.

I mean seriously, Millennials were pretty much born with the digital spoon in their mouth. Which would explain why millennial’s tend to create their own rules of engagement via email. Did you know a millennials believe it’s appropriate to use emojis when communicating with a direct manager? Seriously, emoji’s have meaning to the millennial. Do the older generations even find that to be an appropriate means of communication? I think not! However, as a marketer, it’s important to know that the millennial does consider it appropriate.

Let’s put some numbers into perspective so 70% of the millennials check their emails “While Watching TV” this means they are watching tv on their smartphones, tablets, and watches. Email alerts typically pop up all the time and they read them. Email is not only relevant for millennials, it also remains to have the highest ROI for direct marketers. Marketers need to keep the following in mind to ensure they grab millennial mindshare and don’t just add to the noise in Millennials’ inboxes:

  • Make sure your emails are mobile friendly.
  • Contextual email is everything.
  • Pictures are worth a thousand words—optimize emails for images and allow for quick feedback through emojis.
  • Less is more—Quality over quantity will win the day.

If you use the tips listed above, focus on the target audience and your email marketing strategy, you can really get skin in the game. After all, millennials truly are your biggest customer.

2018 Marketing Strategy

How to Evaluate Your Marketing Efforts for the New Year

The year began with a list of goals on your whiteboard. Break 1M on Twitter. Double your monthly website traffic. Hit $3M in sales. You invested in a marketing strategy designed to help you hit these goals, and now the year is coming to a close. How did you do?

It’s pretty easy to see the wildly successful campaigns and the flops, but most of your work is in between. How do you know what to budget for the coming year? How do you decide not just where to put your efforts but what exactly they should look like?

What Didn’t Work? (And What Did?)

As you plan for the new year, you want to know how to adjust your strategy for maximum results. A few things to consider:

Social Media Engagement

Find your engagement rate by totaling up all the engagements (like, comments, shares) and dividing by the total number of likes for the page. Your rate should be between 0.5 and 1%. Less than half a percent indicates you need to adjust your strategy. More than that and you’re doing great! Maybe figure out why it’s so high and see how you can keep that going—and maybe apply it to other channels.

Social Media ROI

Now take a look at how much time, energy and money went into achieving that engagement rate.

Did you make more than you spent?

Did a higher engagement rate convert to increased sales?

Non-Social Media ROI and Conversion Rate

With the other marketing campaigns you ran:

Where did your sales come from?

What was your conversion rate? Are you pleased with it?

What you were trying to achieve; what you did achieve; where you fell short

What Could Be better?

This isn’t time for strategy–yet. Look at how you performed and decide where it could be better, or maybe just where you want it to be better. Based on what you learned above from this year, choose 3 areas to improve in 2018.

  • Company growth
  • Profit
  • ROI
  • Likes, follows
  • Influence
  • Community
  • Brand engagement
  • Conversions (via social media, email, organic search traffic, etc)
  • Partnerships
  • Web traffic
  • Keyword rankings

Compare what you wanted with you got. If you achieved your goals, great! Could you still do better? If you didn’t achieve them, could do better? Or different perhaps?

New Year, New Goals

Now that you  know what went well and where you want to improve, it’s time to get ready for the year ahead.

One of the things most companies lack is an effective marketing strategy. The thing is that your market is made up of people, and people change behavior based on trends and prices and economies and your competition and so many factors and forces, both seen and unseen. You can’t possibly devise a strategy that sees into the future and accounts for all possible variations factors and circumstances. (But if you can, we want to hear from you!)

For your marketing strategy to be effective, it must also be dynamic. It must respond to changes in the market—and respond effectively. Like, you can’t just watch your market go to snapchat and then start a snapchat account. That may not be the best use of and resources. Maybe you want to start an influencer campaign instead. Maybe things are shifting to video so you should start producing video—but how long should the video be? What sort of content should be in the video?

And a million other factors to be considered and properly executed.

It’s a lot to get right, and a lot of time to invest to keep getting right. But the growth potential is enormous. Get a team working for you that understands your business, your needs and your market, and can adapt quickly to changes.

And if you’re not sure where to start, give us a call.

facebook-insights

How to Get the Most from Facebook Insights

In today’s society, social media sites are a huge contributing factor for sales. Facebook, is especially great for small businesses to generate new leads and build their online presence. Why? Because potential customers spend most of their free time online. According to Social Media Today, the average person will spend nearly two hours on social media every day!

How do you know what type of customers you’re attracting to your Facebook page? Well now there is a new easy tool to use that is called “Facebook Insights”. It has the ability to show you all kinds of statistics about how your Facebook business page is performing. I know you’re probably thinking I’m about to give you the “sales pitch” or be told the elongated “too much information” spill. Surprisingly no, I actually have simplified and highlighted a few of the essential benefits that Facebook Insight has to offer.

  • Your top posts. Facebook Insight allows you to see your most popular post you have. It also shows you what kind of content, posting times, and days are best to receive more likes and clicks from your audience.
  • See who your best fans are. You can see who your most-engaged followers are. Which includes; the location, age, and interests. This is especially beneficial to business owners because it can help you refine your marketing strategy and increase the traffic to your page.
  • How you compare to competitors. Yes, that’s right, Insight helps you see how your business page compares to the competitors page. Awesome right? It can also show you the top five competitor pages and how they are engaging and growing with their fans.
reach millenials

How Do We Reach Millennials? Two Case Studies.

We’re always being asked by clients “How do we reach Millennials?

Millennials aren’t so different from other markets, but no one confounds businesses quite like them. They don’t buy homes, watch TV, get married. They move back in with their parents. How can you possibly reach a market that moves back in with their parents?

Speaking as a Millennial, I have some ideas.

Attractive look, easy feel.My generation has a keen eye for design, and especially ease of use. We grew up with the internet and know both how ugly a website can look (remember Angelfire?) and also how beautiful web design has become. We have no patience for websites that are difficult or ugly to navigate!

Authenticity over legitimacy.  What inspires trust with my parents: a company with Credentials and a Plan that can Solve Your Problems. Companies that use stock photos and jargon and have men in suits with degrees and 30 years of experience were considered more trustworthy.

Yeah. Right.

We saw the housing bubble burst, your banks fail, unemployment soar–and all because those credentialed, experienced decision-makers. You don’t need to have a bunch of degrees or a sweet (suite) office–in fact, we kind of prefer you not. Show us your personality and we’ll decide if you’re trustworthy.

We recently had two clients who wanted to connect with the millennials in their market. Here’s how we helped them out:

Vista 360 Health

I don’t have before pictures of this site which is fine because virtually all health insurance-related websites suffer from the same problems. I chose Cigna to be our stand-in. Take a look:

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 6.15.56 PM.png

Aaaa! That’s what I think when I see this page. I don’t where to look or what to click. There’s so much text and way too much information. There’s pictures and calls to action and buttons and colors and everything is just out there. No clear design hierarchy or path for navigation. In short, I am overwhelmed.

Take a look at it now:

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 6.25.33 PM.png

Wooooooow it’s so beautiful! And clear! Far from being overwhelmed, the bright colors, clear shape, and obvious design hierarchy make me want to hang out at this site forever! I feel like a real human created it.

I click on Individuals and look at this:

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 6.28.16 PM.png

  1. No awful stock photos (Millennials hate stock photos)
  2. Diversity!
  3. Bitmoji–not necessary but it shows me they know their market (me).
  4. Intuitive design. I can read the copy, or I can just click the buttons. They’re clear to see and easy to understand.
  5. Again, the whole page is clean and inviting. Remember up top how we said that attractive look and easy feel was fundamental? This is what we’re talking about.

Bottom line: this website is beautiful. I can find my way around without getting stuck or frustrated. I can tell the company put a lot of thought into making it easy for me, which means they value me. I like a company that values good design and a human touch. They’ve made me a happy customer.

Public Employees Credit Union

Before:

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 5.13.00 PM.png

Oh, dear. I think this is even worse than Cigna. Problems:

  1. It’s all crammed together–it doesn’t even use up the whole screen!
  2. I have to go trekking around the page just to find what I’m looking for–
  3. –and there’s so much information strewn about that I keep getting distracted and confused
  4. I don’t get any sort of human touch from this site. In fact, I think they may have hired a robot to smush as much information into an 800 pixel square as it could manage
  5. Absolutely no sense of design, and therefore no understanding of me.

In short: I don’t want to do business with this place.

After:

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 8.47.04 PM.png

There it is! This is a site I’m happy to navigate.

  1. They cleaned up the design. I can find my way around the site now.
  2. It’s got a cohesive color scheme. It’s not like Millennials go around judging websites on the merits of their design, but we’re very attuned to it even if we’re not conscious of it. Getting it right shows us that you value us.
  3. Instead of looking like a robot dit it, it looks like actual humans run this credit union, and like those humans value my goals, priorities and choices.

Bottom line: Millennials are wary of banks (see: bailout, shady business practices). I know credit unions are different, but it’s still a financial institution. It’s more crucial than ever to show that you understand us and value us. This website acts as a great resource for me (because I’ll do a bunch of research before ever picking up the phone to talk to you) and shows a business that, when I’m ready to talk to, I can trust.

Times Are A-Changing, But They’re Mostly The Same

Millennials may behave differently than what you’re used to, but at the bottom of it are the same basic needs: we have problems we need you to solve, and we want to trust you to do it. We just want to see more of the people than the corporation.

wrong-message

Are You Sending The Wrong Message With a Poorly Designed Website?

How important is your online presence to your users? Seriously, think about the last time you came across a website that just made you laugh because of how poorly it was designed. Did that make you second guess or affect your decision to do business with them? Imagine walking into a poorly designed storefront,  that is unorganized, and smells of dead rodents. Would you continue to shop there or would you walk out and find a similar storefront that sells the same products and or services with a better user-experience? There have been countless times that I personally have come across websites that were not designed with the end-user in mind. Do you think I reached out to this particular business?  Take a wild guess….NO!  I searched for another vendor or business that was more appealing. I mean honestly, if you don’t care about your online presence, imagine what users are thinking about your company?

According to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form a first opinion of your brand once they’ve perused your company’s website. Let’s be honest, if you don’t meet the consumer’s expectations and needs in that moment, you will more than likely lose that potential business. No one wants to wait 1-3 minutes for a website to load especially if it’s non-mobile-friendly. Unfortunately, this happens way too often. Many companies focus on spending thousands of dollars on marketing and neglect investing money on their poorly designed websites.

Does this sound like you? Consider the following tips before you invest money into your marketing budget:

Think like the user

Keep the end-user in mind. First impressions continue to be a primary factor for an end-user. When you have a poorly designed website, your credibility is on the line. A negative first impression of your business can greatly impact you and help others negatively voice their opinion about your business to all their friends and family. A website is a representation of the quality of a company’s products and/or services, so make sure your site accurately represents your business.

Focus on Design Principles

What constitutes a well-designed website? Focus on usability, utility, and have a user-centric website. Don’t forget the rule of thumb, simplicity is key! You want to ensure you condense your content that way your users can find the information quickly and effectively. Remember to keep in mind who are your users and how are they going to use your site. If you focus on these design principles, your website will not only look attractive but it will help increase leads.

followers-sales

Is There An ROI To The Amount Of Facebook Likes? Do Followers = Sales?

Social media is a marketing tool, so does that mean that more likes and follows means greater business growth, sales, and money? All our hours developing a badass content calendar,  making shareable videos for Facebook ads and crafting perfect 120-character tweets–those are dollars in the bank, right?

Well, often yes. But it’s not quite that simple.

What Social Media Is (and Isn’t)

Social Media is a marketing tool. It is a great way to connect with your customers, engage them, and maybe above all: to build community. Usually building your brand also grows your business.

But social media itself doesn’t make money. If anything, it costs money–and potentially lots of it. Total up the time and resources you spend on making awesome content or putting together influencer campaigns and it can be a spendy venture.

A huge following on Facebook and Twitter should mean you’re getting lots of referrals to your website and that that traffic is converting to sales at a high rate. Social media is a great (!) referral source, a way to get new customers in the door and out via the register.

Analyze This

So how do you know if your Facebook efforts are paying off?

Analytics, my friend. Google Analytics will show you your referral sources and whether they converted to sales. (It will also tell you a  million other things, all for free, so if you’re not already using it, what are you waiting for?) Facebook Insights will show you the results of your campaigns, boosted ads, engagement, page growth, and even demographics. Twitter and Instagram (and just about every major platform out there) all have their own business analytics options, and there are entire companies who specialize in getting you this data.

Size Isn’t Everything

Surely someone on the internet has calculated how a following corresponds to sales. And it’s likely that if you got a million followers this year, you’re going to see a (considerable) boost in sales. But, it really isn’t about the numbers.

The reason social media is such a powerful marketing tool is referrals. People talking about your stuff, tagging friends in pictures, sharing posts, tweeting about their new workout gear–whatever it is, those person-to-person recommendations are more valuable than any campaign you could produce in a studio.

Don’t worry so much about the numbers. Build a community of engaged customers and the sales will take care of themselves.

all-over-linkedin

Why Every Entrepreneur And Business Owner Should Be All Over Linkedin Right Now

There are 300 million people in the United States, and 500 million people on LinkedIn. Are you one of them? You should be. In fact, we think that if you’re a business owner, you should be all over LinkedIn.

It’s a big network, yes, but more importantly: it’s a big network filled with other professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners. On this platform, you have direct access to your peers, as well as future (and current) employees, and other thinkers in your field. Use it to build your business through networking, conversation, and exchanging ideas

LinkedIn allows you to connect with your audience in a way that virtually nothing else can. No ads or marketing (though arguably posting on LinkedIn is totally a form of marketing). No podium to stand behind or website to navigate or email app to open. Just you and your audience. It’s your best social media tool for building connection and relationships, and establishing yourself as a thought leader.

Three Ways to Establish Yourself (and your business!) on LinkedIn

Networking (duh)

To be clear, we’re not talking about networking as that slimy thing people do when they give out business cards, talk about themselves and their business and never listen to what you have to say, but will happily email you four months later asking for a favor.

No.

We mean networking where you make connections with other people with whom you have something in common. We mean connecting person to person by:

-Sharing your ideas, successes and struggles (!) on your page.

-Congratulating people on their successes.

-Asking for help when you need it.

-Offering help when you have it.

In other words: building lasting relationships.

Thought Leadership

As a business owner, you have a valuable perspective on your industry, one that can probably help other people, and can definitely spark conversations with others in (and outside of!) your field. Perhaps the greatest value of LinkedIn is being able to disseminate these ideas to an audience who can benefit from them. Your page can be a lab for new ideas, and a venue for valuable discussions with others in your field.

LinkedIn allows you to write and publish your own posts. Use it to give value to your contacts. It will help you grow, professionally and personally.

Groups

Straight from LinkedIn.com: LinkedIn Groups provide a place for professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share content, find answers, post and view jobs, make business contacts, and establish themselves as industry experts.

Facebook has a very popular group option—but a ton of people aren’t on Facebook and don’t want to maintain an account. You already have a LinkedIn, as do 500 million other professionals. Talk shop, post jobs, ask for help. Or, build a group for your customers and use it as an unbeatable option for market research.

LinkedIn was built for people like you. Use it like a pro.

two-thoughts

Two Thoughts that Just Might Revolutionize Your Marketing Strategy

If you work in marketing at all then you know two things: Seth Godin, and Seth Godin’s unmatchable insight.

Just this week I was doing some client work and came across this 2016 Q&A he did on the TIm Ferriss show.

(I’m going to sidetrack for a moment to ask: do you listen to the Tim Ferriss Show? I don’t listen to every single one, but every single one I do listen to is worthwhile. Just recently he sent out the intro and first chapter of his new book Tribe of Mentors to his email list and it was so good. I’m looking forward to reading the rest!)

I pulled these two questions from the beginning of the interview because there’s so much to chew on in just these two questions. Sometimes I get so into the metrics of marketing that I forget what we’re actually doing. This was a good reminder.

How do you build a tribe from scratch?

In the modern world we can get confused because it might seem that our job is to build a tribe from scratch but most of the time that’s not what happens.

Nike did not invent the running tribe there were already runners before Nike showed up…. What we do when we lead a tribe often is we find people who are already connected and we merely show up to lead them

For most businesses, we don’t even lead them. We merely service a tribe that already exists so that when you find a group of people who share an instinct and interest a connection a leader a goal and you give that group of people something with which they can take action

The way i abbreviate that long sentence is: people like us do things like this.

What’s the one thing that most marketers do wrong?

This is easy. We’re selfish. We’re narcissists–infantile narcissists who believe that our need for more and our desire for attention trumps everything else. We justify and rationalize our work and interrupt people spam people, yell at people, deceive people and play the short term game again and again and again. Successful marketers are successful because they don’t do that. It turns out that’s scarce. The folks who are willing to build a story that’s true, to earn permission, to create a product or service that spreads merely because it’s remarkable–that mindset almost never shows up.

boost-sales

Boost Traditional B2B Sales Through Digital Marketing

As we all know, traditional B2B sales have a patterning process where field representatives meet with their customers, educate them on the product and attempt to close the deal. However, that is not the case in today’s business climate. Many B2B sales are declining because they are finding it hard to adapt to the new modern, sales cycle and the several marketing channels. Let’s face it, technological innovations have changed the world around us. There are now well-designed solutions and support to obtain information about products.

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t immediately reach for their phone and start googling something that’s on their mind. We look for general information, solutions, the latest trends, celebrity gossip and last but not least the infamous consumer reviews on restaurants and products. Seriously, nowadays the internet can answer just about anything.

Unfortunately, many B2B sales organizations aren’t taking advantage of today’s digital technology and marketing. If the B2B sales organizations understood the process better, they could increase their sales and be more efficient.

Let me show you three effective ways you can boost your B2B sales all by leveraging digital marketing.

1.    Stay connected to your customers

With today’s digital technology and marketing, you are able to stay connected to your customers, educate and support them anytime, anywhere. Online content never sleeps! Consider this your 24/7 marketing depot for your business. This is very important because today’s customers spend a lot of time self-educating through digital channels. You have the ability to lead and influence your customers to make the selections and best purchasing decisions for them.

2.    Know your customers

Digital Marketing can give you access to an abundant amount of data so you can really know your target audience. With online digital channels, you can learn about the people who have visited your website, track returning visitors, show you what they viewed and even tell you what device they used. It’s pretty scary to think about as a customer but as a business owner, this is a great benefit. This can help you understand your customer’s expectations across all platforms. When you know your customers, it will be easier for you to deliver the most relevant content.

3.    Interact with your customers online

Yes, you can now interact with your customers through a website. Businesses can now build effective online tools that complement the sales process for them. So, a website can’t provide an actual sit down meeting, but it can deliver a great user experience. It’s important you personalize the content so you can extend your customer relationships. This can actually be more convenient than any “in person” sales contact.

Remember, at the end of the day, both traditional sales and digital channel process will ultimately be decided by the consumer. However, digital marketing is an essential part of any B2B sales strategy. It’s always ready to help drive sales, so use it wisely and to your benefit. Enjoy!

legal-is-no-different

When It Comes to Your Brand, Legal is No Different than Customer Service

I’ve written before on the blog about Derek Sivers and his book Anything You Want. It’s just such a good read! It’s a slim volume broken down into like 2 and 3 page chapters, each one a little morsel to help you think differently about your business. I always feel both more inspired and more thoughtful after spending a few minutes reading it.

I wrote in September about the genius piece of content that was the CD Baby confirmation email. He makes a point in the book that it’s the little things that matter, those tiny human touches that make your customers go crazy for your business.

I agree.

One of Sivers’ examples is about how two lines of programming code cleared up the phone lines AND thrilled customers. CD Baby used to ship via FedEx each day at 5 PM, so customers would call and ask what time it was at the warehouse and see whether they could still get an order shipped that day. Sivers added a countdown to the site that, by the way, is in use by many online outlets–most apparently Amazon–that gives the numbers of hours left before the next shipment.

We don’t think of that as part of marketing–it isn’t really–but marketing and branding are so closely linked that it might as well be. It reminded me of Netflix’s recent cease and desist letter, which is another little piece of branding genius.

Some guys started a Stranger Things-themed bar in Chicago. Naturally, corporate giant Netflix wanted to shut it down. But, Netflix is a savvy corporate giant and so it knows that  brand-building can happen anywhere and that legal is no different than customer service.

Totally.

Live by this. Do all your business with this as your foundation, and you’ll be set for life.

going all in

Why Your Business Should Be Going All In On Marketing Before 2018

Why Your Business Should Be Going All In On Marketing Before 2018

We talked last month about how important it is to start marketing for the holidays months before the holidays arrive. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, New Years. They’re all coming up fast. People have gifts to buy, sales to take advantage of, and New Year’s resolutions to spend money on! They want what you’re offering and they want a good deal.

The problem is: you’ve got competition. You’re not the only one with your product, and yours really isn’t the only one on the market.

Always Be Closing Marketing

Corporations sponsor things like conferences. Really big corporations sponsor really big things like stadiums and arenas.

Can you imagine that? You’re planning your marketing budget for 2018 and it includes a an $18B line item for stadium naming rights. How’s that for competition?

The point is: your marketing can’t just be good. It has to be better than your competitor’s.

That’s why your marketing is so important. You have to be thinking about your market, but also about your competitor. Your campaigns have to connect with your customers better than your competitor’s does. And just like in a real game, you have to always be upping your game, outsmarting your opponent, changing your strategy mid-game so that when that shot opens up, you get nothing but net.

The Year Is Almost Out. What Do You Have Planned?

Facebook ads. Influencer campaigns. Sales and sales pages and extra big discounts.

Those are great! Truly. But think about your marketing as a way to connect with your customers. You know your customer better than anyone. You know the problem your business is helping them solve. Right? (If I’m wrong here, you need to rethink your marketing strategy and ensure it includes some damn good research.)

Now zoom out a little and figure out how can you add value. What can you give these people, in this busy, crazy (but beautiful, cheery, feel-good) season that would really add value to their lives.

Or, to their Facebook feeds at least.

Put out content that’s funny, pretty, inspirational, useful, helpful—whatever’s going to connect with them.

(But, like, genuinely connect. Don’t be all smarmy about it.)

How Will You Ring In The New Year?

I’m not talking about watching the ball drop!

You’re going all in for the rest of this year, you’re killing the competition and connecting with your customers. Whatever big business goals you have for the new year, go after them in full force right now(!).

Connect with them now so that after the holiday madness has passed, you can ring in the new year with new customers.

begin marketing

Don’t Wait! Why You Should Begin Marketing for the Holidays Now

Don’t Wait! Why You Should Begin Marketing for the Holidays Now

Between September 25 and December 25 is a 90 day window. It’s when school is back in session, Fall has officially begun, and people are just starting to think about the holidays. Pumpkin starts showing up in treats and drinks, and the beginnings of holiday decorations are popping up on the shelves. This is the time to launch your holiday campaign.

If You Don’t Have a Campaign Ready to Launch

What are you waiting for? Move your other stuff to the back burner and spend the next week putting ideas together. This is the shopping season! This is Black Friday time! Be ready to not only have offers, but to ensure that people are going to take advantage of them (because it doesn’t matter how good your deals are if people don’t know about them!)

Four Steps to Crushing the Holidays

  1. Release New Products at the Beginning of Fall. It’s no coincidence that Apple holds its keynote in September. They hype up their new products, get reviews, do the ad blitz, release the products, and get enough buzz generated to carry them through the holidays. If you’re not a giant like Apple, you have to be really strategic about your release date. You don’t want it too soon so you don’t have the holiday momentum, and you don’t want it so close to the holidays that people have already bought their gifts. Take your leads from your market.
  2. Hype hype hype. Effectively building hype means talking about the product, building anticipation for the release date, and instilling FOMO in your following. Start out with teasers and leading up to a date of reveal. When you reveal what you’ve been working on, give a tour of the product (no details! But enough that they know they want it) and host a giveaway. As you work toward the official launch date (and you should set a launch date–see #1), it’s a great idea to get collaborators on board to reach a wider audience and to showcase the awesomeness of what you’re selling
  3. Collaborate & Influence. Maybe the best tool in your arsenal is jealousy. You want your instagram followers to go all Veruca Salt on your product–so give your golden egg to a few people with good followings. Have them talk about it. It can an influencer type relationships or a collaboration where you work with someone else or help promote their thing, too. Maybe a mix of both? The point is: you want people to see how cool it is to use the product (which is different from just seeing how the product is).
  4. Limit the Opportunity. So now you’ve got the word out and you’ve got buzz going and people waiting in line (sort of) to get your product. So what do you do to drive them to your site? Keep that sale window short. Have a 24-hour black friday sale. Have a Halloween sale. Have something that is time-limited so that people don’t put it off and lose interest. Or! Have a sale that goes a few months,. But be sure you emphasize the limited quantity.

All of this takes great strategy and execution, which is why we say to start planning now! Get in front of people multiple times so they want it. Then hype it, execute, and enjoy the holiday season.

email subscribers

Get Email Subscribers

Get Email Subscribers—Without Annoying Your Readers or Playing the Guilt Card

8 years ago, I came across a site offering surely the best freebie I’ve ever encountered. It was a PDF called A Brief Guide to World Domination, and all it cost was my email address. But, even better than that PDF—if you can believe it—was the email that came after it. Chris Guillebeau, the site’s author, laid it out very clearly right off the bat:

Here’s the deal: I’m going to send important information to you, and I have one, maybe two chances to get it right. If I disappoint you, you’ll click the "unsubscribe" link and I’ll be gone from your life forever.

Have you ever read a welcome letter like that?

It’s the only one I’ve ever gotten (and why I’m still a subscriber). These days I have a whole separate email account for subscriptions I’ve gotten just for the lead magnet. I read very few of them. They’re annoying to me as a subscriber, and they’re time-intensive and costly for the companies to produce. So, let’s talk newsletters, subscribers, and opt-ins.

Getting a bunch of subscribers is the easy part. You do a great lead magnet. You host a giveaway. The better the lure, the more people will sign up.

But then what? A good open rate is about 25%. Why aren’t more opening their email? DIdn’t they sign up for it?

Maybe. more likely they signed up for the “freebie”—which actually isn’t free at all because it cost them their email address. And because they hate the email but want the freebie, they entered the address of the account they never check, which means that no matter how good your content, they will never open it. They’re not even going to see it.

Stop Wasting Your Time on Getting Subscribers

Instead of thinking about getting them, think about what they get from it. Why should they be on your list? What are you giving them? Instead of focusing on the number of subscribers, focus on the quality of your content and letting your readers know that if they like your blog, there’s even more (better!) content by signing up. You want them to want to sign up.

Delete all of those annoying pop up windows that ask for your email address the second you enter the site. I haven’t even gotten to see your damn website! Why the hell am I going to give you my email address?? I don’t know why anyone even responds to those forms, but I can tell you: you’re the only one who loses. Exit-intent pop=ups, or one that comes up at the end of posts are the only acceptable forms.

Then, always give your subscribers value. You can make money off your list, but just like with your business, you cannot let this drive your decision-making. Customers first and the rest will follow.

My favorite newsletters are consistent, brief, and high-quality. They’re enjoyable and easy-to-read, and they benefit my life. They include: This American Life. ReplyAll. Tim Ferriss. Ramit Sethi.

The reason you’re reading this right now is because you know how valuable a good email list is. Why is an email list valuable? Because of the quality people.

Never ever forget that, and you’ll have readers for years.

long or short

Should My Social Media Posts Be long or Short?

Should My Social Media Posts Be long or Short?

Long or short, your posts need to be good. Different platforms lend themselves better to one or the other. We’ll take a look at how to do the best content on each platform.

The Case for Short Posts

Most social media channels don’t allow for long posts. They’re made to share content that is visual (instagram), easily shared (Twitter), or FOMO-inducing (Snapchat). This works great as you can share a great visual, meme, quote, joke or thought that’s quickly viewed, engaged with and–hopefully–passed on. Keeping it brief (but engaging!) means it’s more likely to be seen or read, engaged with, and passed on.

Instagram. Instagram, like Twitter, is a platform designed for brevity. And yet, length can work to your advantage. Instagram stories allows 15-second clips with a shelf life of 24 hours and, in general, Instagram is a short-format platform. It’s mainly visual, so captions should be brief, as should talking on stories. Still, a mix of longer stories and shorter ones, like longer captions and shorter captions, is the a great way to tell stories. And telling compelling stories is a good way to increase followers and keep them engaged long-term.

YouTube Ads are my favorite thing to talk about. Many of the short ones are unoriginal and awful to sit through, but so many advertisers have gotten smart about it! I’ve sat through long ads just because they were so engaging that even once the 5 seconds had passed, I still wanted to know what would happen next. So, if you do produce video content—as you probably do if you’re managing a Facebook page— imagine you’re producing a YouTube ad and you only have 4 seconds to grab your viewer. How would you immediately engage your audience? How do you keep them watching?

The Case for Long Posts

Generally, your posts are not going to be very long. Shorter posts are great for daily sharing and conversation. Long posts are for more in-depth discussions. However, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (Medium) all have ways to publish longform content and you should use these strategically.

Blogging is the most obvious place for long posts, but you don’t have to have a blog to share a more in-depth post.

Share:

-A lesson you’ve learned from your life that will resonate with people

-An anecdote that illustrates a new idea you want to share

-A how-to or informative guide that’s relevant to your business

The thing about a long post is it has to be super good. You can recover quickly from a lousy short post, but if people take the time to read your long post and get to the end and feel like they’ve wasted several minutes of your life? That’s bad for your brand.

Whatever you decided: make them worthwhile! Just like your business is adding value to your clients’ lives, so should your social media presence. Before everything you create, ask how your follower will benefit from it. If lengthening will make it more valuable, add more content. But if it’s better with fewer words (even if you really loved that story in the second paragraph), cut it. Ultimately your posts are a service to your followers. Make it A-1.

startup

Can We Talk About StartUp?

Can We Talk About StartUp?

Every so often I meet a person who doesn’t listen to podcasts.

This is crazy to me. It’s like you telling me that you still rent DVDs from Redbox. ??

If that’s you, I can just direct you here and then ask you to come back when you’ve decided to join this millennium. (And I’ll be so excited when you do. There are just too many good podcasts in this world!)

Now the rest of you: do you listen to StartUp?

I was an early listener, but then I stopped listening for a while and just happened to come back when they were doing the season on Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel. I don’t normally find anything interesting about pervy men, but Dov. I get the controversy. He’s odd and smart, enchanting in the way Steve Jobs was: an obsessive perfectionist whose life revolved around–was inextricable from–his business. But, ultimately he was extricated from his business.

American Apparel is rightly controversial and, like anything controversial, makes for a fascinating story. Listen for the business side of it. They talk about its manufacturing, business model, marketing, growth and–of course–its downfall. And because Dov was so tied in with the business, it’s also his story, which is upsetting, disturbing, and hard to turn away from.

I hated their marketing, but I never tire of hearing how different business devise their marketing strategies. Hearing his was repulsive and interesting, if you can imagine that.

Or don’t imagine it. Just give it a listen here and let us know that you think in the comments!

But probably the best episode of the whole series is the very first one. That’s saying a lot because this show is so well-produced and covers all kinds of interesting companies, people, and stories.

It’s just that: we’ve all been that stumbling, inarticulate Alex Blumberg, just trying to craft our damn elevator pitch! It sets the tone for the entire show: authentic, funny, painful, nerve-wracking, exciting. For anyone who’s ever struck out on their own, this is a must-listen. Listen to StartUp season 1 here.

And if you aren’t someone who listens to podcasts, what do you do when you drive? Or clean? Or get ready for work or bed or lunch? What is that world even like?

seconds or thirds

If Something is Bad, Do You Go Back for Seconds? (Or Thirds?)

My favorite candy bar is made of dark chocolate and infused with mint flavor. It’s got this texture that feels like you’re eating slightly crispy, crystalline chocolate that makes it feel kind of like eating a thin mint cookie. And, because I’m a hippie, I love that not only is it soy, gluten and emulsifier free (real chocolate doesn’t need emulsifiers), it’s also fair trade.

So of course it’s also stupid expensive.

I don’t buy candy or junk food (because I would eat it all. Every last thing.) except, on special occasions, this sweet, sweet indulgence. I enjoy every bite of that tasty, snobby chocolate.

And then, the thing you never want to happen to your snobby chocolate happened to mine.

I brought it home one day and opened it to find it covered in chalky awfulness. That’s right. Unlike every other time when I would rip into that thing as soon as it rang up on the register, I had waited.

Patiently.

All the way to my house.

And it was ruined.

But, it was a fluke, right? That’s not going to happen when I go back for next week’s groceries.

Oh yes it is. It happened the next week. And the week after. Three times my perfect chocolate bar was ruined (!).

I thought about going to social media or customer service, or even back to the grocery store. Why didn’t I?

Because it was too much damn energy. I just wanted my chocolate! I was mad that I couldn’t have it! Instead of resolving it, I just took my business and left.

Consistency Builds Trust

They got it wrong three times. I was willing to consider the first two flukes. A bad batch. An issue. Whatever.

But three times? That’s a company problem.

transform your blog

Transform Your Blog Into A Lead-Generating Machine

Here’s the only good thing about shopping at Costco on a Saturday: free samples. I hate crowds, parking, and waiting in lines, but oh man do I love free samples. And you know what? It works! I never would have bought that bag of sausages with the special sauce if the lady hadn’t given me a piece fresh out of her little portable oven.

Your blog is a kind of free sample. It gives a taste for the quality of your work, establishes trust, and is totally free! You don’t want your blog there just talking up real estate on your site. You want it to be a resource for your visitors—and ideally, you want it to be the reason visitors come in the first place (like samples on a Saturday). Because if people go to your site to seek out your advice on something, or your reviews of a new product, you’ve established yourself as an expert in the field and a trusted resource. That’s how you get good business, loyal customers, and great referrals. In short, it’s how you generate leads.

Establish Yourself as the Expert

Everybody claims to be the best in an advertisement. This is your chance to show them that you actually are the best. You can solve the very problem they’re coming to you to get solved. As an expert, you understand not only what you do, but what that particular customer wants. When you can demonstrate that, you’ve got yourself a sale.

Write Great Pillar Articles

Pillar articles are in-depth articles that serve to both establish your expertise and drive traffic to your site. Write about four for your site, each one 1000 words. Take your time, do your research, and ensure that they’re engaging, readable, informative, and helpful. That’s how you rise up the search results rankings and get more and more people checking out your business. This is one area you probably want to hire out for. Read on to see why.

Use Calls to Action

Calls to Action are your opportunity to upgrade that reader to a customer, thought perhaps not directly. Put an opt-in form at the end of the post and make them a subscriber. Ask a question to get them talking in the comments or on your forum. Ask them to share the post on social media. Or direct them to your online store. Done right, your pillar content brings in new traffic and directs them to customerhood.

Produce High-Quality Content

Because these articles are so so crucial to your business, get them professionally produced. Get a designer to put together infographics. Get a writer to write the post with calls to action. Get someone to do the research for it. Since this will be the first thing many see, you want it to be stellar, the best content on your site.

Everything on your blog should be providing value to your customers. Produce your posts with that in mind, then direct them to the part of your site that will most benefit them. You’ll have no problem generating leads.

steve jobs

Steve Jobs, Beyonce and You: This is How You Take Your Content Seriously

As if the Apple store experience weren’t cool enough, as if Apple weren’t already worth $800B, now Apple has reinvented retail yet again, transforming it into a social, educational, entertainment experience.

Which is to say: Apple is a destination. And in becoming a destination, it has established itself as the freaking Beyonce of the tech world with Today at Apple as its Lemonade.

Whatever you say about Jobs, you cannot say he didn’t take his shit seriously. He practically willed Gorilla Glass into existence. And he is the reason Apple continues to grow, transform, innovate, and dominate years beyond his passing.

You Don’t Have to Be an Asshole to Make Millions

First, Steve Jobs is renowned for his assholery–which, please, the world doesn’t need more a-holes okay?

So don’t be an a-hole but do learn this lesson: But it stemmed from his profound love of his products. He wanted to make the best things, make them beautifully, make them perfect, make them better than anything else out there could ever be. (I would argue he succeeded.)

Apple’s products are your web content.

If you don’t take it seriously, no one else will either.

You Do Have to (Probably?) Be a Control Freak

Steve Jobs was a control freak. He didn’t just insist on the visible, functional, important piece of his products (like the unscratchable Gorilla Glass on iPhones). He wanted even the inside of his computers to be beautiful. Which makes sense except that MacBooks, by design, are made to only be opened by Apple personnel. The consumers would never know, but he did it anyway. That’s how seriously he took his products.

In 2011, Beyonce put out a music video for “Run the World (Girls)”. At first glance, it appears to be a pretty run-of-the-mill pop music video. She dances. Backup dancers dance. It’s visually appealing. But two, far-fetched, beyond control freak things set this video apart from all other videos:

1. She flew in dancers from Africa to teach her to do a specific dance. But not famous dancers. Her team spent 4 months tracking down two guys from a random youtube video because no other dancer in this country, apparently, could dance quite like they did. She insisted on learning directly from them.

It must be a pretty important dance, right? Like there’s some crazy dramatic twist, an epic climax wherein she and a hundred people perform this carefully, beautifully choreographed number and the viewers have no choice but to respond with breathless wonder and awe.

Ha! The song opens with the three of them performing the routine. Total screen time? About 50 seconds (!). And I bet most viewers never even notice the two dancers flanking the queen.  

2. But maybe my favorite crazy detail in this video is the four seconds beginning at 00:31. It’s a lion, guys. A full-grown, black-maned, king of the jungle lion. For no reason other than to make Beyonce look badass. (Success!)

A lion!

Four seconds!

Can you imagine the logistics that went into to producing that shot? Like, last I checked there weren’t lions roaming around America. She couldn’t just go to the Savannah and stick it in the back of her Jeep (for so many reasons). It had to be scouted, transported it and trained to sit in the front of the camera so that it didn’t turn grumpy (violent) and shred everyone around it (which is what I do when I’m hangry). All of that for a four-second shot.

A shot, by the way, in which nothing at all happens.

I’m not saying you have to be Steve Jobs or Beyonce (as if you even could).

I’m saying that these people are at the top (and Jobs has been dead for 6 years) because they took their content seriously. They continually reinvented the game, upped the stakes, innovated, created, crafted, and, ultimately, changed the world forever. (And definitely for the better.)

Now it’s your turn to build a business that matters and content that rocks.

startup_

Startup- Here’s how to spend your investors money wisely

Marketing. Really great marketing.

Because it doesn’t matter how great your management is or how brilliant your content or how ingenius your business idea. If people don’t know about it, if people know about it but don’t understand how it improves their lives, your work is for nothing.

Invest in Market Research

It is so easy to start a business. Most fail. This is crucial to succeeding. You can’t just launch a business and say, Here we are! Give us your business! That’s not going to work. You have to first get in front of them and second persuade them with your pitch. Whether that pitch is a video or landing page or tweet, you don’t have much time to convince them, which is why knowing your audience is everything.

Who is your ideal customer? What do they read? Where do they hangout? Why do they need your product? What do they do in their freetime? What words are going to resonate with them, compel them to be interested? How will you solve their problem? How will you help them understand how you will solve their problem? You’ve got to answer these questions so you can craft effective marketing campaigns.

Launch a Killer Campaign

Because you’ve done your research, you know what sort of visuals, colors, words to use, and you know where to put your ads and where to guest blog, which social media platforms to leverage and which influencers to partner with. When all is accounted for, running a good campaign costs a pretty penny. You take all the information you gathered to craft a campaign that elevates your brand, brings traffic, and ends up in sales.

Rack Up 7-13+ Touches
https://www.onlinemarketinginstitute.org/blog/2013/10/why-it-takes-7-to-13-touches-to-deliver-a-qualified-sales-lead-part1/ But, you’re doing more than looking for sales. You’re actually cultivating relationships. This is the fun part of building a business in 2017, and it’s also going to help your business build long-term success. Your campaigns need to be well-crafted and fresh to get eyes, and they have to establish a connection to keep those eyes on your channels. Whatever form of content you’re producing, tell a story that connects to your audience.

Don’t Do It Alone

It’s so time intensive to do marketing right. It’s complex, involved, and always shifting. Few startups have the capacity to do it well, and that’s part of why so many fail. Entrepreneurs work really hard to make excellent products, they pay for beautiful websites, they get investors and hire great people—and then they fail because the people who would have been happily loyal to them didn’t know about their product, or didn’t see its value.

You worked so hard to make your idea a reality. You worked so hard to build a good company. Don’t do all that work just to see it all collapse. Market market market. Market smart. Market often. Market well. And as your business grows and changes, shift your strategy along with it.

video, podcast, blog

Should my Content be Video, Podcast, Blog or all 3?

It’s easy to feel like you should be on every social media channel. Get a facebook, a twitter, and instagram, a youtube, a pinterest, a blog so that you can reach everyone. The more people who see your page, the more who will follow, the bigger influence, growth, and revenue = social media jackpot!

Except, people don’t just follow you because you’re around. They follow you because you’ve got good content, because you’re providing videos they want to watch and share, or memes or information. Basically, like in all things business, you have what they want.

The problem is, every platform is a little different and if you put the same content on all the platforms, you just come off as stale and lame. But if you produce different content for every platform–well, you don’t have time for that as a startup.

So how do you choose?

  1. Do the thing you’re best at. Not everyone presents well on camera, and not everyone is interesting to listen to, or can write engaging blog posts. Think about your strengths and interests and those of your team. It’s going to take dedication so choose a form of content that can be produced both well and consistently.
  2. Go where your market is. Not everyone is on facebook as their primary platform. Instagram is influencer-heavy. Both lend themselves well to video. If your market includes commuters, people who exercise and students, a podcast may be a good fit. Blogs are great for every website because they’re easily integrated into SEO-optimization strategies (in fact, they’re often a cornerstone) but they, too, require writing skills, good visuals, and a bit of technical knowledge.

Videos and Podcasts and Blogs, Oh My!

Video marketing is said to be the big thing of 2017. The American Marketing Association says that 85% of US search traffic will be driven by video by 2019. Engaging video content is already king on social media. Every major social media platform now includes options for video, whether it’s a disappearing snapchat-style video, live streaming, or improved options for sharing.

Of course, the payoff for viral video is significant. It’s what everyone hopes for. But creating viral video may be one of the most energy and time-intensive options. It requires scripting, equipment, editing, music, not to mention content that quickly engages your viewer. In other words, unless you have a really great company to make your videos and the budget to spare, it’s probably not the best option to start with. (Then again, if you have the strategy and the means to execute, go for it! But don’t bother with trying to maintain other social media channels as you get it off the ground.)

Podcasts have a very low barrier to entry. All it takes is a microphone and a computer. But for a well-produced podcast, a podcast that gets listened to and that gets advertisers and a strong listener base (which is the reason you’re putting it out, right?) then you should at least get an editor. Plenty of podcasts start out without one, but production values will be much better which means more people will be willing to listen and share. You can invest in nicer equipment and greater sophistication as you go, but since podcast is all sound: make it good from the start.

In addition to the technical aspects of a podcast, it requires a weekly commitment. Are you going to interview a new guest each week? In person, by phone or by skype? Think about the time it will take to find, research, book and interview guests. If it’s not an interview show, what value will you be providing your listeners and who will be in charge of producing that content? How will you promote it? How much time will you devote each week to producing and recording?

Blogs are arguably the easiest and most low-maintenance form of content. They also help to boost your SEO rankings, and all you need is a solid writer. A good blog should always be a part of your website and your social media strategy. Like podcasts and video, it’s a great way to build brand awareness and establish your company as a leader in your field. Video is showing up more and more in search results, but people still visit websites and scan pages for their answers. It’s easy to share information at a glance, to tell a story in the time it takes to scroll down the page. Plus, embedded graphics are shared on social media sites, providing another avenue for visibility and traffic.

No matter what you choose, you’ll have to invest some money and time. You need a strategy for engaging and growing your audience, converting views and likes to sales, and a consistent production schedule. Commit to one and make it amazing.

Business

The business you’re trying to start will most likely fail

The Business You’re Trying to Start Will Most Likely Fail. Here’s How You can Beat the Odds

The two business decisions that will make the greatest impact on your company immediately and long-term are: your team and your marketing.

Your Team: Hire for Talent and for Team

Your company is as good as your team. Don’t just hire great individuals. Hire great teams. Ensure that your team’s individuals can work well together as people and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Hire with an eye for growth and development. Look for people who can lead well, which means not just looking out for their own promotion but are great at mentoring and supporting, and who care about other people as much as themselves.

Most employees in the US are disengaged which means they aren’t contributing their best ideas and energy. That means that the company misses out on the strengths of their employees and taken to scale, that’s working with just a fraction of a work force.

At a startup, you have the opportunity to hire smart hard workers who will bring their A game, and stay with their A game. You build a strong company culture that values performance, creativity, the unique strengths, skills, and talents of each team member so that instead of working with the equivalent a fraction of your workforce, you’re working with a workforce powerful and effective beyond your team’s individual contributions.

It sounds simple enough but this is so often overlooked. People who look great on paper aren’t 100 in the interview, but we hire them because they’re good enough. People who are fabulous in interviews and give all the right answers are never given actual hands-on exercises or introduced to other team members and by the time it’s apparent they’re a bad fit, team dynamics have already taken a hit.

Take care in hiring your people, even if it takes longer. Surely you know from your own experience that all it takes for a good person to leave a company is one bad manager. People are your greatest investment. Protect them.

Your Marketing: Authentic and Finely Crafted

It’s not easy to convey a company’s personality through the internet. The companies that make it look easy do it with a stellar marketing team.

Go look at the instagram page of any big brand. Look at how beautifully the photos are taken, how they all follow a color palette and design scheme. Watch what times and days they’re posted and the interactions they have with their followers.

Naturally when we try to tell a story about ourselves, we end up talking about ourselves. You can’t do that with a brand or company because you exist to serve other people. Therefore, your story must be about them. Most companies struggle to communicate their value, and that’s fatal.

Anyone who’s written an admissions essay knows how hard it can be to speak interestingly and illuminatingly about our purpose. It’s just hard! You write and re-write and tweak and hire a tutor and freak out. It’s the same with storytelling as a business but arguably the stakes are a little higher.

That’s why it works so well to get someone else to do the storytelling (which is all marketing really is). As listeners, they know what’s boring/interesting about it, the pieces that will be valuable to your base, the parts than can be clipped down for a tweet or edited into a video. They take what you’ve been working so hard to achieve and present it so that others can relate. Instead of hearing an idea, they’re evaluating how it will benefit their life. That’s what you want.

Doing marketing right is so complex and time-consuming. Producing stellar content and ensuring vibrant, engaged social media channels are full-time jobs unto themselves, and with the high stakes of startup it’s crucial to start with a good strategy well-executed. It will ensure you grow from the very beginning.

Your team is going to set the course and your marketing is going to ensure that you have enough business to keep on that course. So choose your people wisely, even if it takes a long time, and market like your business depends on it. Because it does.

Money-Wisely

Startup- Here’s how to spend your investors money wisely

Marketing. Really great marketing.

Because it doesn’t matter how great your management is or how brilliant your content or how ingenius your business idea. If people don’t know about it, if people know about it but don’t understand how it improves their lives, your work is for nothing.

Invest in Market Research

It is so easy to start a business. Most fail. This is crucial to succeeding. You can’t just launch a business and say, Here we are! Give us your business! That’s not going to work. You have to first get in front of them and second persuade them with your pitch. Whether that pitch is a video or landing page or tweet, you don’t have much time to convince them, which is why knowing your audience is everything.

Who is your ideal customer? What do they read? Where do they hangout? Why do they need your product? What do they do in their freetime? What words are going to resonate with them, compel them to be interested? How will you solve their problem? How will you help them understand how you will solve their problem? You’ve got to answer these questions so you can craft effective marketing campaigns.

Launch a Killer Campaign

Because you’ve done your research, you know what sort of visuals, colors, words to use, and you know where to put your ads and where to guest blog, which social media platforms to leverage and which influencers to partner with. When all is accounted for, running a good campaign costs a pretty penny. You take all the information you gathered to craft a campaign that elevates your brand, brings traffic, and ends up in sales.

Rack Up 7-13+ Touches
https://www.onlinemarketinginstitute.org/blog/2013/10/why-it-takes-7-to-13-touches-to-deliver-a-qualified-sales-lead-part1/ But, you’re doing more than looking for sales. You’re actually cultivating relationships. This is the fun part of building a business in 2017, and it’s also going to help your business build long-term success. Your campaigns need to be well-crafted and fresh to get eyes, and they have to establish a connection to keep those eyes on your channels. Whatever form of content you’re producing, tell a story that connects to your audience.

Don’t Do It Alone

It’s so time intensive to do marketing right. It’s complex, involved, and always shifting. Few startups have the capacity to do it well, and that’s part of why so many fail. Entrepreneurs work really hard to make excellent products, they pay for beautiful websites, they get investors and hire great people—and then they fail because the people who would have been happily loyal to them didn’t know about their product, or didn’t see its value.

You worked so hard to make your idea a reality. You worked so hard to build a good company. Don’t do all that work just to see it all collapse. Market market market. Market smart. Market often. Market well. And as your business grows and changes, shift your strategy along with it.

Market

If You Market, They Will come

In 2014, the number of websites on the internet crossed 1 billion. It was a milestone in internet history. It had barely been around 20 years and it hit its first billion. Today, which is 8/26/17, websites are popping up at a rate of 100 per 17 seconds.

I haven a little trouble understanding numbers, so let’s get visual with it:

troubleThe difference between $1M and $1B is the difference between sitting down for dinner and sitting down for a fresh juice in the world’s tallest tower–more than 1000 chairs up.

All of which is to say: there is a lot of damn noise on the internet. A lot of places for people to visit. A lot of competition to face. It’s like shouting on the side of a freeway yelling into traffic. You’re drowned out by the traffic and the sheer speed of the cars.

How to Get Noticed In a Loud, Fast, Crowded World

Strategy. That’s how you do it. You’re going to market differently in a nightclub than on a freeway than on a YouTube video. But, what will those differences look like? How can you be sure you’re being effective?

HIRE OUT. I know I’m saying that as a marketing agency, but seriously. We live and breathe internet marketing. We know about getting eyes on your site and traffic to your pages. We know about growing social media audiences and engagement. We know how to design your site so that people want to hang out on it (man, there are few things worse than ugly, clunky websites), and can use it to buy your products.

Marketing Builds Your Brand’s Awareness, Loyalty, and Competitive Edge

Social media. Being a channel that people love to follow and share takes lots of work. Not only do you (we) make unique content, but it has to be fresh, engaging, and frequent. It goes further when there’s a human there to cultivate relationships. Influencer marketing is said to explode this year. You have to know how the influencers are, then they have to want to work with you. There is so much more to say about the significance of social media to your company’s security and growth, but we’ll just leave you with this piece of advice: leave it to the professionals.

Search engines. In 2015, The Atlantic reported that people visit 96 websites a month. When you account for the email, social media and shopping websites we typically visits, plus a few random google searches here and there–there aren’t that many opportunities for discovering your site. A marketing agency builds your site with search engine optimization in mind so that it’s ready to rank the second it goes live. It’s beautifully, carefully designed with the ideal customer–based on in-depth market research–in mind.

It’s virtually impossible for people to stumble onto your website. It has to be plugged into the information superhighway, and positioning it at the right stop on the way (so to speak) takes skill, planning, and flawless execution.

User design, user experience, advertising, email lists, landing pages and so on and so forth. Marketing is big in terms of all that it encompasses and in terms of its importance to your success. In this day and age, brand is everything. That’s how you build your customer base and get referrals and, ultimately, succeed.

Everyday, new websites are born and die (yes, new websites die). Marketing your website and your company is complex, long-term, and energy intensive–and crucial to your success. Market it right. Your customers will come.

Zero-sum

In This Zero-sum Game, Call in the Marketers.

You can’t do everything. FIrst of all, you don’t have the time, and second of all, you’re not that good. But you can do one thing and I bet you can do one thing better than anyone else. It’s the reason you’re here, starting your business and working round the clock everyday to get it off the ground. You’ve got something to share, something that only you can offer. As an entrepreneur, then, your most important job is getting that thing into the world. As the leader, you set the vision and guide your team to achieve it.

That’s it.

But. If you don’t get the word out, and if you don’t get to your target market, not even your best work is going to matter. How can it if the very people it’s designed to benefit never hear of it?

To do that, you need a top search engine ranking which means a great SEO strategy. You’ll need excellent content on a consistent basis; great user interface and user design; a good social media strategy that will include separate content and daily maintenance; and succeeding at the online marketing game (not to mention the ground marketing game) is not easy. It takes lots of time and energy, and great execution. It should be a sustained priority.

Which means: you can’t do it yourself. Don’t put it on your team, either. Optimizing a website takes at least an experienced developer, a great writer, and a dedicated social media manager. Outsource it so you and your team can focus on building the best company.

You Have One Job

Look, your business is your baby. I get it. It depends on you for its very survival. It needs to be held and changed and fed every three hours, and there isn’t anyone else who can—oh, sorry. I thought we were talking about an actual baby.

No, your business is not an actual baby. It’s a business. You’re its leader. If you’re in all of the details and you’re not letting your people–that presumably you hired–do their job, then you’re failing at two jobs.

1. You’re providing lousy leadership.

2. You’re not doing the thing that only you can do!

With startups, especially in the early days, there will be fires and meetings and learning curves, and they will take your time, energy, and attention away from your most important job. That’s just reality. Don’t make it worse by giving yourself more jobs.

Focus Only on High Impact Activities

“If you service low-impact activities, therefore, you’re taking away time you could be spending on higher-impact activities. It’s a zero-sum game.”  Cal Newport

Perhaps the most important aspect of your company is your marketing.

Remember that.

Everything feels important in your new company. It seems you’re indispensable to its success. Do not make the mistake of getting involved in every little thing, especially something as complex and time-consuming as marketing. Like Cal Newport says, it’s a zero-sum game and diverting your attention is costly.

Focus on being great. Let your marketing focus on getting your great work seen by the world.

Build-a-Business

This how you Build a Business That Matters

We all want to be the Richard Bransons of the world, hosting the Obamas on our private island. But honestly, what a boring goal. I mean, sure, the Obamas are badass, and the photos look amazing, and the dinner conversations are unbeatable, no doubt. But the most amazing companies are amazing for what they’ve become, not their earnings reports or achievements. It’s always in the building.

Build Something Awesome

For example, Zappos pioneered a no-boss policy. What? Who does that? How awesome is it to be the company that not only dominates the two 2-day shoe market (and now much more), but also piloted a brand new approach to workplace culture and operations, one well-suited for the 21st century? Like, super awesome.

I’m not getting paid to say this but: Zappos rocks. They have a 365-day return policy! Great customer service! A kajillion shoes to choose from (including cute heels in wide sizes–very hard to find) AND two-day shipping. #goals amiright?

^^This is the kind of enthusiasm and excitement you want for your company. Sorry, but screw profit. Be remembered for something. Don’t just be a business. Transform the way business is done.

Or Ruthlessly, Rampantly Successful

I don’t really want you to be another ruthless, rampant Amazon because I experience all kinds of cognitive dissonance about it. 2-day shipping! Free movies! Free TV shows! Everything I could ever want to buy sent right to my door stop in a single click! Like, Amazon is the best.

But, ugh. At what cost? To people, to the environment, to my own ability to delay gratification? Well I can answer that last part: I no longer wait for anything. If I can’t have it on my door in 2 days–MAX–then forget it. I’m no longer interested.

Still. They went from books to global e-commerce overlords, and now they even own our precious snowflake grocery stores!

That’s some kind of transformation.

You Do You

I know google isn’t the only multi-hundred-billion dollar company with a BA campus but I think they’re the only ones with a dinosaur (ie so they’re my fav)

Virgin America invented the foldable boarding pass, and definitely the coolest plane interiors

Tom’s popularized the one-for-one business model.

charity: water is still maybe the only charity/company to have a 100% giving model–and still be thriving!

In other words, there are tons of right ways to go about building a successful business, and to innovate in areas that aren’t directly related to your product. To really stand out as a company and brand, you have to explore those avenues. You’ll surely make some mistakes along the way, but you might also change the world

Content-Sucks

Your Content Sucks and No One is Reading It. Here’s Why

Were any of you around for CD Baby? I wasn’t, but I read Anything You Want by Derek Sivers, the founder and architect of CD Baby and you should really go read that book It’s quick and awesome, like a dip in a freezing cold river. In the meantime, I’ll share with you the most memorable and beloved part of CD Baby. Oh, but first let me back up.

CD Baby was around in the earlier days of the internet, when CDs were around and before Amazon was the Great Overlord of Earth. So, you’d go to this site and order a CD and they’d send you a confirmation email. But not just any confirmation; the most charming email you’ll ever get from a company. And today, it shall serve as our case study.

Thanks for your order with CD Baby!

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow. A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing. Our world-renowned packing specialist lit a local artisan candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy. We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day.

We hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. In commemoration, we have placed our picture on our wall “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.com!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sigh…

We miss you already. We’ll be right here at store.cdbaby.com patiently awaiting your return

See what I mean? You’ve got to get this book! It’s great for entrepreneurs, but also everyone.

When I talk about good content, ^this^ is what I’m talking about. This was around before content marketing was even a thing but it’s still one of the greatest of examples of good content in the history of the internet.

What is “Good” Content?

The simplest measure of good content, and the one we’ll be talking about today, is how engaged you were. How do you know? Ask this simple question: Do I want to keep reading? It doesn’t matter the reason. Some content is informative and some is funny and some is gossipy and some is super technical. That’s what makes it such a useful question; it applies to all kinds of content. If you wanted to keep reading, it was good content.

Good content tells a story

This CD Baby email is telling several stories. It’s telling the story of a company that values creativity. It’s telling a story of customer care and experience. It’s telling one hell of a story of CD delivery. And when you’re done, you feel so good. In that way, it’s also telling you the story of a company that you want to remain loyal to.

As you develop content, keep in mind the stories being told and ask yourself if they’re true. Ask yourself if they’re stories that you want to read. This would be a good moment to dip into Simon Sinek’s golden circle talk, but I’m not even going to get into that because I don’t need to. You’ve met great story tellers in your life. It doesn’t matter what they talk about because they make everything so interesting.

Be a storyteller. Let your content tell the story of your company, your values, your people, your personality.  And if you’re not a good story-teller, hire someone who is.

Good Content Feels Like a Person Made It

Wendy’s Twitter account made a splash not too long ago for its wit and sarcasm. It doesn’t act like a sales machine or a promobot, and its certainly not beholden to stiff corporate decorum. Their Twitter account is always interacting with its followers in funny ways. At a time when retail and restaurants are taking a hit (thanks, Millennials), this fast food restaurant has 2 million followers. McDonald’s has nearly 3.5M.

It’s not because of the product, or because people love the CEO or believe in the company’s mission. It’s because those 140 characters are really good. These aren’t corporations just checking the box on social media. They have people managing their accounts, and a strategy directing them, and they’re successful because of it. People want to read and engage and connect–even with fast food restaurants in 2017.

If you forget everything else about this article, remember this: you are a human being. So is everyone who is going to read/watch/listen to your content. Be real! If you’re smart or snarky or deep, just own that. Apply it every time you create. Your content will stop sucking and start gaining followers.

Your-Idea

Your Idea Sucks—But Can It Still Be Successful?

Remember* grape nuts? Definitely one of history’s worst cereals (I mean grape nuts?). But also, possibly the most genius.

In 1944 they launched a campaign to promote breakfast as the most important meal of the day. That’s right. They didn’t promote their cereal or their company. They promoted breakfast. Through radio advertisements and pamphlets at grocery stores, they sold America on the idea that eating breakfast increased productivity (profit).

Grape Nuts Have Always Been as Bland and Awful as They Sound

Cereal had been around for decades. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the same Kellogg of Frosted Flakes and father of the namesake to Kellogg School of Management, introduced the first cold cereal in 1878, and Americans had been eating it pretty happily ever since. But Grape Nuts had ambition. They weren’t just going to be another cereal, waiting patiently on the shelves to be consumed. Nope. They were going to be Cereal. They were going to Breakfast for the whole entire nation. And they knew that to be successful at that, they would have raise cereal’s profile first.

Cereal started as a health food. There was a belief that indigestion was caused by eating too much meat and spices, and that heavy, indulgent foods taken at breakfast led to indigestion and sin. Cereal would keep people healthier and more pure. Kellogg did not start the cereal company—in fact it was his brother—but he had a patient by the name of CW Post who who did.

Post was something of a marketing genius. He took the healthy-tasting, unappealing cereal that of Kellogg, coated it with sugar, and marketed it as a solution to health problems.

So Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal of the Day?

The true genius of it all is that for entire swaths of the world’s history, breakfast has not been a thing. Maybe we’ve stumbled on to something new here, and that thousands of years of civilization has been doing it all wrong. Maybe that’s why there is still research promoting it as the most important meal of the day while still others say not really.

See, it’s not really up to you to decide what is a good idea and what isn’t. Like, how did Google Glass flop and Crocs are—cool?? It’s all about story.

The story cereal told resonated with people. First it was adherents of the Clean Living Movement, later it was women busy supporting efforts of the Second World War. And then: kids. Can’t you still name every cereal mascot?

I don’t want to say your idea doesn’t matter, but it almost doesn’t matter how good or bad your idea is. I mean, Shake Weights and Snuggies, right? You can have the best idea in the world but if you can’t communicate to your audience why it matters to them, isn’t it the same as having the worst idea?

*It was only in doing research for this article that I learned Grape Nuts actually still exist.

Thanks to Priceonomics’ How Breakfast Became a Thing and The Atlantic’s The Most Contentious Meal of the Day for informing much of this article.

Social-Marketing

Does Social Marketing Always Need to be Social?

Marketers know the social sphere matters, but they can’t explain why they need to invest in social marketing. Thankfully, all that is changing using real numbers and relevant metrics.

Now, I know most social marketers consider their actions to be marketing. However, marketing and social actions are two different things. One uses social networks to generate defined, immediate, measurable results and the other uses social networks to build social engagement, brand loyalty, and customer satisfaction. This is exactly why it’s hard to measure the real impact of social actions. The two sets of metrics aren’t interchangeable. Social networks build themselves around brand-building metrics and marketers rely on hard ROI.

Thankfully, when it comes to connecting soft social actions with hard ROI, marketing outcomes are moving in the right direction. The social market is developing and evolving rapidly. Yet marketers fail to realize they need to stop justifying their social actions with notions of long-term community building. Don’t’ get me wrong, long-term community building is important on social networks, but if it isn’t paired with a focus on actions that produce measurable impact, then even the largest and most carefully curated social network is valueless.

Rather than exclusively thinking of social networks as platforms for taking soft social actions devoted to brand building, remember that social actions can drive meaningfully measurable results. There’s certain software, you can easily track the impact for direct social actions and measure click-throughs and conversions. Recent developments on the top platforms make it clear these networks’ efforts to court marketers are increasingly moving away from social actions and toward enabling functional advertisements. The impact of social actions is gradually becoming more clear, but the impact of marketing on social networks is definitely measurable now.

Marketing-Strategy

What’s Your Marketing Strategy? Mobile First or Mobile Only?

Did you know, that mobile device account for approximately 40% of all online sales. Today’s customer is always connected on mobile even when they browse the web on their desktop. The smartphone is on 24/7! So let me ask you what is your marketing strategy? If your strategy is not mobile first, it’s definitely not customer first.

Our websites must be responsive to all possible screens and devices. The mobile first strategy does not ignore the fact that customers also access our E-commerce sites on desktops and laptops devices it recognizes that responsive design gets us there. For example, in a mobile first approach, our methods and goals start with the mobile, smartphone screen in mind.

We’ve found that page load times must be 3 seconds or less to keep the bounce rate at low percentages. Your content strategy needs to be accomplished in a “bite sized” approach. This way you can present value to the customer without requiring excessive scrolling. Ensure you design with the smallest screen in mind that way you can transition to each larger screen in succession.

Consider this detail, your new competition in marketplace is being born mobile. In the not too distant future, mobile only may well be the destiny for all us marketers. So ask yourself, what is your market strategy are you mobile first or mobile only?

Audience-and-Improve

Wow Your Audience and Improve SEO

In today’s society, to truly establish yourself as a leader and wow your audience you need to create longer and more in depth content. This will truly help show your audience what you know that benefits them. There are 6 reasons why you want to write longer content that is deeper, offers more facts, and engages your audience in a better way. You can truly delve into a topic with more words than reading longer content or watching longer videos. The first step, start with longer features and higher quality. Secondly, dig deeper include more visuals. There are different types of content that lend themselves to digging deeper.

Feature Articles — A featured article requires more research and has a different format that’s shorter than blog posts have. Often a long article consists of quoting other authorities, books, individuals to further the points being made in the article. To demonstrate your authority, knowledge, and expertise you need to write long articles that will help be useful to you and your audience.

Case Studies — Typically a case study covers so much and the content is usually longer. You must define the problem, offer the solution and share the results via the case studies that you publish. This will certainly keep people reading. People like reading how a solution worked for other people, so case studies are a great choice for longer content.

White Papers —The intent of a white paper is to give authoritative information to guide the readers to answers about an issue that matters to them. A white paper is traditionally used in government and education circles. It will describe benefits, present a set of questions, tips or points about the topic, as well as recommendations and solutions.

Instructional Videos —Videos are known to grab the attention of the audience, and what better way to demonstrate your knowledge and build authority than a long, in depth video tutorial on an important topic for your niche.

If you choose to include longer more in depth content to wow your audience, it needs to be more appealing visually. Make sure to add in images, plenty of bullet points, subheadings, and headers. Also, it’s okay to send people to new pages for the rest of the content it’s essential good for SEO in today’s search engine climate.

digital marketing roadblocks

Tips to Avoid Digital Marketing Roadblocks

Have digital marketers made the transition to the super-connected, mobile, digital marketplace? Not yet. According to the Adobe Digital Roadblock report, two-thirds of marketers expect their role to change over the next year, and over three-quarters expect changes over the next three years.
Marketers have shown at this day and age they must reinvent themselves! So how can you reinvent yourself and mature in digital marketing? Well some of the common themes are people, product and process. I have chosen the top 5 Roadblocks for you to avoid.

Hiring digital talent – Roadblock #1

Our enterprises must focus on digital-savvy talent in order to reinvent ourselves.
From digital social marketers, creative development and data analysts all these roles make a big impact in this industry. However, these roles are not rising to meet the demand and marketers will struggle with finding potential hires who possesses the characteristics to operate in a highly technical environment. Marketers should be looking to hire dual digital talented individuals. For example, look for candidates that are creative and analytical, possess leadership skills and digital acumen skills. You can reinvent your marketing ecosystem you just need to hire the right digital talent.

Data avoidance – Roadblock #2

If we don’t hire the digital talent to execute digital campaigns, our success will remain doubtful. We must have luminaries who understand data not just read data. Marketers tell us they believe the ideal marketer should take more risks, but by embracing the strength of data analysis, risks can be significantly reduced. We must arrange and schedule workflow to accommodate the constant feedback loops that permeate our digital world. For those seeking to reinvent themselves, embrace data!

Social media blackout -Roadblock #3

Our digital roadblock concluded that 61 percent of marketers believe social media will be the most critical marketing vehicle to deploy in the next few years. The fact that most brands are growing their social media marketing budgets, leads us to believe the future predictions that social media spend will double in the next five years is accurate.

We must adopt a social strategy and cultivate a social identity that supports that identity through a disciplined approach to audience engagement. Our enterprise must maximize ROI, be organized to leverage the speed, volume, and intensity of social media. Teams must be able to entertain, inform, educate, and persuade all at the same time, all while directing traffic to engage our offerings.

Lack of testing-Roadblock #4

Can you believe that half of the marketers stated that they used the “trusting my gut instinct” on where to invest marketing budgets. How can you rely on that? No need for gut instinct- testing allows us to approach senior leadership with quantifiable results, which may be leveraged in other business areas. Big Data is available to shape customer profiles, track consumer behavior, and monitor ROI. When we can show lift through testing based on data, we are able to justify marketing spend and improve productivity.

Technology adoption -Roadblock #5

Brands in any vertical have to embrace technology or suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, marketers tell us they are more comfortable adopting new technologies once they become mainstream. However, competition is too fierce to hold off consumer engagement.

There is seemingly no end to the integrated tools we have at our disposal such as dashboards that enable analytics, attribution, tag management, content management, and integrate marketing with business IT systems. If we adopt these tools, we can make reinvention possible.

Ultimately, our attempts to reinvent ourselves as digital marketers must point to digital ecosystem management. We must transition our brand and have the ability to dovetail creative development, asset deployment, and customer experiences with financial management. Let’s tear down these roadblocks and explore the frontier together!

marketing the millennial

Marketing the Millennial

Did you know Millennial’s spend 6 hours a day checking email? Yes, it’s true! According to research done on CMO.com. Those results are spread across a wide range of demographics, but the numbers don’t lie. The results show that 70% of Millennials check their emails while watching tv, 50% check their emails while in bed, 40% check their emails while on vacation and 42% check their emails while in the bathroom. Their involvement in email far outstrips the usage of any other group.

I mean seriously, Millennials were pretty much born with the digital spoon in their mouth. Which would explain why millennial’s tend to create their own rules of engagement via email. Did you know a millennials believe it’s appropriate to use emojis when communicating with a direct manager? Seriously, emoji’s have meaning to the millennial. Do the older generations even find that to be an appropriate means of communication? I think not! However, as a marketer, it’s important to know that the millennial does consider it appropriate.

Let’s put some numbers into perspective so 70% of the millennials check their emails “While Watching TV” this means they are watching tv on their smartphones, tablets, and watches. Email alerts typically pop up all the time and they read them. Email is not only relevant for millennials, it also remains to have the highest ROI for direct marketers. Marketers need to keep the following in mind to ensure they grab millennial mindshare and don’t just add to the noise in Millennials’ inboxes:

  • Make sure your emails are mobile friendly
  • Contextual email is everything
  • Pictures are worth a thousand words—optimize emails for images and allow for quick feedback through emojis
  • Less is more—Quality over quantity will win the day.

If you use the tips listed above, focus on the target audience and your email marketing strategy, you can really get skin in the game. After all, millennials truly are your biggest customer.

how search can help

How Search Can Help You

Consumers use search engines to ask questions, find solutions and gain knowledge on a certain subject. As a marketer, you want consumers to identify with your company, products, and services. First, you need to identify what types of thoughts and search terms define certain areas. Marketers must develop a hybrid solution that satisfies both what the consumer wants and what the company is selling.

For example, people might associate any fuel-efficient vehicles with the term “hybrid”—although this term doesn’t refer to all types of fuel-efficient vehicles. A company that sells an “all-electric car,” wants to be a thought leader for fuel-efficient vehicles. But, because this company does not sell hybrid cars, they must explain that to customers somehow. For instance, they could say something like “All-Electric Car offer better MPG than any Hybrid”. By doing this, the electric car company is maintaining its position as a leader for people looking for fuel-efficient vehicles. They are not only using a solution that aligns customer needs but product sales. This helps them become top of mind for customers.

If you want to engrave yourself on the minds of your consumers you need to be there whenever they look. Choose terms that describe a customer need and go with a paid and organic search engines. The higher you rank on the search results page, the better your chances are of becoming a thought leader.

boost b2b sales

Boost Traditional B2B Sales Through Digital Marketing

As we all know, traditional B2B sales have a patterning process where field representatives meet with their customers, educate them on the product and attempt to close the deal. However, that is not the case in today’s business climate. Many B2B sales are declining because they are finding it hard to adapt to the new modern, sales cycle and the several marketing channels. Let’s face it, technological innovations have changed the world around us. There are now well-designed solutions and support to obtain information about products.

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t immediately reach for their phone and start googling something that’s on their mind. We look for general information, solutions, the latest trends, celebrity gossip and last but not least the infamous consumer reviews on restaurants and products. Seriously, nowadays the internet can answer just about anything.

Unfortunately, many B2B sales organizations aren’t taking advantage of today’s digital technology and marketing. If the B2B sales organizations understood the process better, they could increase their sales and be more efficient.

Let me show you three effective ways you can boost your B2B sales all by leveraging digital marketing.

1. Stay connected to your customers

With today’s digital technology and marketing, you are able to stay connected to your customers, educate and support them anytime, anywhere. Online content never sleeps! Consider this your 24/7 marketing depot for your business. This is very important because today’s customers spend a lot of time self-educating through digital channels. You have the ability to lead and influence your customers to make the selections and best purchasing decisions for them.

2. Know your customers

Digital Marketing can give you access to an abundant amount of data so you can really know your target audience. With online digital channels, you can learn about the people who have visited your website, track returning visitors, show you what they viewed and even tell you what device they used. It’s pretty scary to think about as a customer but as a business owner, this is a great benefit. This can help you understand your customer’s expectations across all platforms. When you know your customers, it will be easier for you to deliver the most relevant content.

3. Interact with your customers online

Yes, you can now interact with your customers through a website. Businesses can now build effective online tools that complement the sales process for them. So, a website can’t provide an actual sit down meeting, but it can deliver a great user experience. It’s important you personalize the content so you can extend your customer relationships. This can actually be more convenient than any “in person” sales contact.

Remember, at the end of the day, both traditional sales and digital channel process will ultimately be decided by the consumer. However, digital marketing is an essential part of any B2B sales strategy. It’s always ready to help drive sales, so use it wisely and to your benefit. Enjoy!

product feed advertising

Use Product-Feed Advertising on Social Media

For nearly 15 years, marketers have been relying on product display ads to boost advertising campaigns. A few short years ago targeting capabilities, advanced analytics, and product ads opportunities, weren’t available. It’s time to carry these results over to other marketing channels, get your marketers excited and improve advertising. How can you do that? Simple, with Product-Feed-based advertising. Product-feed advertising on social media may be your solution for delivering highly targeted personalized ads to your audience. We have listed four advantages that product–feed advertising has to offer that you may want to consider.

1. Boost Ad-Performance

No one enjoys seeing ads they care nothing about. In all honesty, reaching the right people with the right message isn’t always easy but by automating the process, feed-based advertising creates efficiencies. It will boost ad performance in ways that truly move the needle.

2. Consistency

Feed-based advertising allows you to reach your audience with relevant products at the right time. Consistency is important not only as consumers return to your website, but also in the ads they view. Although people move from device to device they are almost always logged in as themselves on social channels. Which means, you have access to a personalized and authenticated data.

3. Accelerate the Process

The purpose of programmatic feed advertising is to addresses the issue by accelerating the development process. This makes things easier for marketers. Rather than rely on a creative agency or in house team to put them together, assemble ads from the product feed itself. It will not only save you save time but money.

4. Ability to Scale

Feed-based advertising streamlines the process so that you can combine the right ad and or destination with the data you have. You can effectively manage and optimize social ad campaigns on Instagram and or Facebook at scale.

Conclusion

If you want a simple strategy that can be personalized, boost performance and retargeted for maximum impact, then get feed based advertising!
It will not only deliver consistent customer experiences but it will accelerate the creative development process.

the wrong message

Are You Sending the Wrong Message with a Poorly Designed Website?

How important is your online presence to your users? Seriously, think about the last time you came across a website that just made you laugh because of how poorly it was designed. Did that make you second guess or affect your decision to do business with them? Imagine walking into a poorly designed storefront, that is unorganized, and smells of dead rodents. Would you continue to shop there or would you walk out and find a similar storefront that sells the same products and or services with a better user-experience? There have been countless times that I personally have come across websites that were not designed with the end-user in mind. Do you think I reached out to this particular business? Take a wild guess….NO! I searched for another vendor or business that was more appealing. I mean honestly, if you don’t care about your online presence, imagine what users are thinking about your company?

According to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form a first opinion of your brand once they’ve perused your company’s website. Let’s be honest, if you don’t meet the consumer’s expectations and needs in that moment, you will more than likely lose that potential business. No one wants to wait 1-3 minutes for a website to load especially if it’s non-mobile-friendly. Unfortunately, this happens way too often. Many companies focus on spending thousands of dollars on marketing and neglect investing money on their poorly designed websites.

Does this sound like you? Consider the following tips before you invest money into your marketing budget:

Think like the user

Keep the end-user in mind. First impressions continue to be a primary factor for an end-user. When you have a poorly designed website, your credibility is on the line. A negative first impression of your business can greatly impact you and help others negatively voice their opinion about your business to all their friends and family. A website is a representation of the quality of a company’s products and/or services, so make sure your site accurately represents your business.

Focus on Design Principles

What constitutes a well-designed website? Focus on usability, utility, and have a user-centric website. Don’t forget the rule of thumb, simplicity is key! You want to ensure you condense your content that way your users can find the information quickly and effectively. Remember to keep in mind who are your users and how are they going to use your site. If you focus on these design principles, your website will not only look attractive but it will help increase leads.

provable roi

How to Create a Provable ROI in Social Media

How do you measure the return on investment from social media? Understanding the value of social media is important but really comes down to experimentation. I mean honestly, it’s hard to tell how much revenue a Tweet you sent out last week brought in, or if you’re last Instagram post boosted your bottom line. Many businesses are struggling to grasp the financial impact social media marketing is having for them.

You track your return from the quantitative data you receive from experimenting. That’s right, this will help your businesses determine what works best for their brands. We’ve broken down the process and listed a few simple steps to follow.

1. Set Social Media Goals

Before you can get into measuring your return, you need to set goals! Your goals should be quantifiable and linked to a specific campaign. Why? This will allow you to track individual links that you share on Twitter, Facebook or other social media channels. Also, to ensure you get the most accurate number, you really want to set your goals based on actions that convert a casual browser to a lead, and ultimately a paying customer.

2. Track Your Goals

Once your goals are defined, the next step is to track them. Tracking is an extremely important part!

3. Measure Your Social Media Expenses

In order to figure out whether you’re getting a positive or negative ROI for social media campaigns, you have to measure how much you’re spending. This includes; man hours, content, social media tools and ad costs. After all your time is valuable and expenses add up.

As you can see, tracking your social media ROI isn’t impossible. You just have to take a planned and strategic approach. Happy experimenting!

modern day marketing

StartUp or well established, your business will fail if you’re not doing modern day marketing

StartUp or well established, your business will fail if you’re not doing modern day marketing

Marketing is crucial whether your business is a startup or well established one. Marketing has evolved significantly over time and businesses cannot survive in the current market if they continue to use outdated, ineffective marketing techniques. The goal of marketing is to make your brand more visible to a wider audience.
Marketing methods include direct TV ads, mail marketing and radio spots. All these can still get you results, but your focus should be getting buyers to come to you, not you going in search of them. The desire to attract more customers has led marketers to a continuous search for new methods to grab the attention of new customers. Since the new modes of marketing have moved away greatly from the traditional methods, how can you take advantage of the current marketing techniques?

Current Mistrust of Companies and Advertising

The average consumer has developed some level of mistrust for companies and advertising. The constant bombardment of more and more advertisements by businesses with the desired intention of getting consumers to buy something, have added to their distrust. Consumers feel that these new, faceless companies have hidden agendas and they are not interested in what is best for them; the consumers. The result is a decline in the returns on the traditional ways of marketing and advertising.

Enthusiastic Buyers

Consumers today can access information more readily and easily than before. With only a click on Google, all information on different brands and the products and services you need are readily available. The advantage with this availability is that the average consumer can now “pick, choose and refuse” before making a final decision. More and more consumers are conducting online searches before they buy anything. Consequently, the traditional ways of marketing and advertising are now ineffective because users are searching this information for themselves, making the new, inbound method more effective.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is very different from the traditional marketing method. The aim is to maximize you brand’s reputation and visibility so much, so that customers can find you easily when they start their online search to buy anything.

The Different types of Inbound Marketing

How then, can you make yourself more accessible and visible to consumers without making it too obvious? There are several ways to do this, but all will combine to create stronger, mutually useful links.

  • Content marketing. This is one of the best mainstay in your inbound marketing strategy. Content marketing provides the opportunity for you to develop a continuous series of videos, whitepapers, articles, podcasts, eBooks, webinars and other types of content to engage your clients. Be aware though that your subject matter must address the needs of your customers. If you can do this, you will build a great reputation in the industry and your content can assist in providing visibility in other areas like social media and SEO.
  • SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a pool of approaches intended to help you get a higher ranking for related queries in search engines. Because your users are searching for information related to your product, you need to use this approach to help them find you. Although SEO is challenging, when combined with content marketing, it is a great place to begin.
  • Social media marketing. This is a great way to build an audience. Here you can engage with new people by updating your content regularly and interacting with influencers. Eventually, you will attract more attention and you will be able to organize your content and post them to attract more viewers.

The Benefits

When compared to an outbound approach the inbound approach is a better strategy because of the distinct benefits it brings:

  • Increased trust. Once you allow your users to find you naturally instead of you forcing your message on them, they will obviously develop a trust in you. How will this affect you? Your initial conversion rates will increase and most likely will lead to the beginning of confident, trusting consumer-brand bonding that will help strengthen your ability to retain your customers as time goes on.
  • Lower costs. Inbound marketing promotions are likely to be less costly than their outbound equivalents.
  • Long-term development. Although inbound marketing does not deliver a big remuneration initially, it eventually compounds in value as your reputation progresses. The reward eventually is a ROI that becomes so extensive that nearly no direct ad promotion can compete with it.

Nevertheless, if you message, timing and selection of medium are fitting for your audience, outboard promotion and marketing can be effective. However, you can improve an effectual outboard approach with a corresponding inboard arm. It is likely that inboard marketing will continue to evolve, however, the central principle will not change; if you provide your customers with what they need, they will certainly trust you to satisfy their needs always.

real estate agent

If You’re A Real Estate Agent READ THIS!! Top 4 Ways To Land More Leads & Clients Using The Internet

Use videos, photos and social media to get your clients to see the lifestyle they could enjoy in a new home.

Real estate is a thriving but competitive industry and with so many real estate agents clamoring to get their piece of the pie, entry into the market gets more challenging every day. Every agent small or large depend on content marketing. It has the potential to provide substantial exposure even on a low-cost budget and can transform your business extensively.
When compared to other industries, real estate companies have a better chance of surviving in a competitive market. People are always looking for some place to live and this creates the potential for you to reach thousands of clients. If you are selling mid-market homes in Fort Lauderdale, (for example) you have an explosive potential market to people living in Florida. Consequently, you will find prospects in other states who want to buy a house in Fort Lauderdale.
With these possibilities, content marketing can be profitable for you because it can place your listings in front of unexpected prospects.
The real estate industry is also visual and applicable. Chances are, if someone is not interested in real estate, they might be eager to share content about a lovely condo or a prominent house.
Since real estate is relatable, it does not require a pro to know and share that type of content. However, if your business is about pest extermination, you will have a much smaller audience of potential sharers, even though anyone could become your client.

Use Video to Sell a Completely New Lifestyle

The real estate is a visually alluring industry, but many agents have not used it to their advantage. The standard photos of the past are no longer appealing and workable. You have a better chance using the 360-degree video, which produces an exceptional experience, where virtual reality allows your clients to tour their future homes.
The use of these visual opportunities makes you stand out among your competitors. Influencers most likely will shy away from sharing photos of unattractive houses. It is important then that you have new and interactive content that will be much more appealing, thereby increasing the likelihoods of it going viral.
Yes, you need to use a video, but it is better to use a video that provides a walk-through tour of a house rather than a set of videos. Ensure too, that you check out the shops, restaurants and the local scenery and include these in your photos and videos. This allows prospective clients to have a knowledge of what the area offers. Bear in mind too that you are not only trying to get them to purchase a house but you are selling them a complete new lifestyle. A video is ideally
suited for painting that picture for your prospects.

Turn luxury homes into shareable content

If you specialize in selling only lower-end houses, you might want to look at luxury properties as a means of making content marketing stress free. Prospects tend to be more eager to share content about a magnificent million-dollar house rather than a starter home costing $100,000.
Even if you don’t sell luxury homes look at them. Why not visit a luxurious house and create a video while touring the place? On the other hand, you could tour the cheapest, most awful house you can think of. This kind of content is what people will want to share. Maybe you can’t buy it, but it will create shares, generate backlinks and will increase traffic to your website.

Demonstrate how to renovate a Fixer-Upper

The creation of educational content is one more strategy you can use to get backlinks to your website. The real estate industry is ideally suited for content creation. Why? Because of the numerous possibilities that exist for creating content for persons who want to take on DIY home improvement ventures, flip houses, or just need to hire a contractor for big renovation project.
Another strategy you could use is to create video series, and as you walk through these properties, you tell persons about the improvements required. Similarly, you could show before-and –after pictures, which would indicate the amazing makeover of a fixer-upper. As people begin to share this content on social media it makes prospects aware of what to expect in an upcoming home purchase.

Build Links with Local Companies

While you’re crafting content for prospective buyers, don’t overlook the influencers and businesses in your locality. For example, in Fort Lauderdale (as mentioned before), you would probably want to sell homes in a specific section of the town where numerous businesses are located and would appeal to the interest of your clienteles.
You could visit every store, interview the owners, and then indicate to potential homebuyers the advantages of living in the area. Doing this allows you to “kill two birds with one stone.” You not only get potential homeowners to buy but the owners of local business will become interested and willing to share that content on both their websites and on social media.
What are the benefits for you? With every 10 companies you feature, you could total seven or eight backlinks and shares, which is an incredible ROI that will multiply your visibility to the persons who are following those companies. The bonus for you is that because all those followers live in the area they will be interested in buying a house there.
Real estate helps prospective homeowners to get a glimpse of the lifestyle they would enjoy living in their new homes. The use of photos, videos and other content is a great way to attract homeowners to your website. While you are trying to entice homeowners, think about what would interest influencers and what they would want to share. If you provide them with value and a reason to share your content, you are well on your way in achieving your goals.