Clip Art Through the Years: A Nostalgic Look Back

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When I was growing up, it was a pretty big deal to have a computer with an operating system other than DOS. If you had an Apple, or even a computer with Windows, your house was the place to be. Not only were you likely to have the coolest games, but also, you probably had access to clip art libraries, which made for hours of entertainment — for me, at least.

Today, it’s hard to imagine a world where you can’t procure an image just by searching for it online. When I was in school, the only way to include a picture in a book report, for example, was with enough luck to find what I was looking for in a magazine. Clip art opened up a whole new world of visuals for academic assignments — not to mention, the newsletters that my childhood, future-writer self liked to put together for fun.

But today, clip art has become a bit of a thing of the past, at least since Microsoft retired its version in 2014. That’s an important distinction — clip art isn’t limited to Microsoft, and actually had several predecessors before it found its way into the likes of Word and PowerPoint. New Call-to-action

And maybe its retirement was for the best — when I think back to some of its more popular images, they would look positively antiquated today. But where did clip art come from, anyway? Today, we’re honoring its legacy with a trip through time.

The History of Clip Art

The 1980s

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Source: Computer History Museum

It all began with the idea to create a digital library of images. That was made possible by a program called VCN ExecuVision, a presentation program created in 1983 for IBM personal computers. Think of it as a primitive version of PowerPoint. But the $400 software didn’t come with these image libraries — instead, they were available on separate floppy disks that had to be purchased for $90 each.

But despite this seemingly trailblazing effort on behalf of IBM, it was really Apple who may have emerged as a leader in the digital image space, at least around the early-to-mid 1980s. That’s partially due to the 1984 development of MacPaint, which was released alongside Apple’s word processing program, MacWrite. As the story goes, they were the only two applications pre-installed on this historic Macintosh 128K.

But what made MacPaint so important was its role as the first program that allowed users to manipulate bitmap images: The “simple line art,” according to The Atlantic, that comprised “early electronic clip art.”

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Source: DigiBarn

Not long after that, however, the T/Maker Company collaborated with Apple to develop another word processing program, WriteNow. While it’s not clear if that particular program came equipped with its own image library, the same company began producing and selling groups of bitmap images under a new name: ClickArt.

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Source: Vetusware

The 1990s

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Source: MakeUseOf

By the mid-1990s, T/Maker was the largest distributor of unlicensed images, with a library of roughly half a million in 1995. Microsoft took note of ClickArt’s success, and thought to eliminate the extra step of having to install additional software to access artwork. So in 1996, Microsoft Word 6.0 came equipped with 82 clip art images — a miniscule amount compared to the 120,515 files available on openclipart.org today.

And yet, Microsoft became the brand most strongly identified with the idea of clip art, despite its predecessors having laid much of the groundwork. That could be because its in-app nature — across the entire Microsoft Office Suite — made adding art to documents and presentations a groundbreakingly seamless process.

The Early 2000s

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Source: Wayback Machine

By August 2000, at least 41% of U.S. households had computers with internet access, indicating that people were using it more and more for consuming information and media. And like so many other things — books, for one — clip art was becoming available for purchase online via sites like clipart.com, which is still in existence, but today looks a bit different than its 1996 counterpart above.

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And while clip art isn’t exactly one of those things that we think of as having suffered “death by download” — like books, music, and movies — the ability to procure images online made something like Microsoft’s in-app feature obsolete.

Clip Art’s (Semi) Retirement

In December 2014, Microsoft announced that it would be doing away with any in-app art libraries.

“The Office.com Clip Art and image library has closed shop,” the statement read.

Instead, users would now have to use either images from their own devices, or those found through Bing Image Search, where they’re now automatically sent when searching for art within Microsoft apps — step-by-step directions can be found here.

The announcement, for many, read as the end of an era. What would become of cartoonish images of urban landscapes, or out-of-date business travelers with flip phones? As it turns out, if that’s what you’re looking for, you might be in luck.

Clip Art in 2017 and Beyond

For those who need a fix of this kind of old-school imagery, not all hope is lost. There are still plenty of resources out there to find these pictures, including the aforementioned sites openclipart.org and clipart.com. Plus, as The Atlantic so astutely points out, if you search Bing images for “clip art,” you might find some of those fittingly nostalgic results:

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And perhaps this version of clip art isn’t really gone for good — after all, NPR once noted Microsoft’s penchant for revitalizing its older pieces of technology, like Clippy.

In any case, clip art has certainly taken many forms over the years — and we’re curious to see what shape, if any, it takes in the future.

Which clip art images make you the most nostalgic? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

8 Ways to Start a Sales Call So Prospects Don't Hang Up On You

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How do you feel when your phone rings and you realize you’re receiving a call from a salesperson?

For most business people, it’s interruptive, annoying, and distracting.

But if it’s your job to call prospects, you don’t have to fall into the category of “pesky sales rep.”

To kickstart a productive, professional conversation, you need a strong opening.

Your opening should do two things:

  1. Get the prospect into a receptive frame of mind
  2. Make it easy for them to make a positive decision

Here are eight call openings will engage the prospect so they don’t immediately hang up.

1) “My research shows that your company is in the process of … ”

This shows you are interested in them and you’ve spent some time finding a reason for calling. It also shows you aren’t trying to sell them something right away.

2) “One of my clients, [name] at [company], mentioned to me you are [looking for, might be a good fit for] … ”

Talking about a mutual connection gives you instant credibility. Your prospect will be curious to know why his contact thought he might need your product or service.

3) “I was looking at your LinkedIn company profile, and saw that one of your major projects this year is … ”

Referencing their LinkedIn page and company goals proves you’re interested in discussing something of value to them rather than just pushing your products and services.

4) “We’ve been working with a couple of similarly sized companies within your industry, and they are experiencing two major problems. I wondered whether they were causing you concern as well … ”

This piques your prospect’s interest, as they will be wondering what those problems are, and whether they are facing them too.

5) “I read your [Twitter, Facebook] post the other day about … ”

This opening tells the buyer you’ve done your homework and are calling about a relevant and timely topic.

6) “I see your [annual report, newsletter] was released on your website last week, and it’s looking like you’re expanding your operations in … ”

Reading their marketing materials reveals genuine interest in their company. It also implies your recommendations will be pertinent and helpful.

7) “[Name], in reading your company blog, I noticed that you’ve had some good reviews from customers on your new [product] and I was wondering … ”

Your interest in their blog can open new doors to discuss results that your products have achieved for other clients.

8) “[Prospect], I was speaking to one of your business managers yesterday and he said that a growing part of your business is through [product, niche, market]. As that’s the case, I can … ”

Bringing up your prospect’s coworker tells them to take you seriously, while focusing the discussion on an emerging revenue source ensures you’re talking about a company priority.

These openings highlight the prospect’s business before even mentioning what product or service you represent. Simply calling and listing what your company sells is a sure-fire way to get the phone slammed down.

The purpose of a connect call should always be demonstrate your professionalism, credibility, and expertise.

When you do that, you give the prospect a reason to at the very least discuss options with you, making it likelier the call will end the way you’d like — with a second call scheduled.

If you’d like some additional help with your calling technique, then please download our free report “100 Ways To Improve Your Sales Success” or visit my sales blog.

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Source: 8 Ways to Start a Sales Call So Prospects Don't Hang Up On You
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Want to Learn Graphic Design? 8 Tips & Tricks for Beginners

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For many of us, the thought of high school conjures memories of ample notebook doodles. Hand-drawn bubble letters, pictograms, and stick-figures would decorate homework, tests, and papers — and teachers, of course, were constantly asking us to knock it off.

And so, most of us did, perhaps because we figured out that we just weren’t that good at drawing on paper. But when some of us were in high school, we didn’t yet have the numerous digital options for “drawing” our ideas. But now, machines can help us bring them to life — and it’s become a career path for many people.

Graphic design is something that marketers can always benefit from learning, even without a formal education. In those cases, we enter a world of do-it-yourself education, with repeated recommendations like, “learn Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign,” or, “read a book about basic design principles.” And as much as those help, learning fundamentals, navigating new tools, and developing a personal style make for a tricky balancing act. Download our full collection of blog design examples here to inspire your own  blog design.

That’s why we put together this list of tips that we wish we had received at the onset of our respective DIY graphic design journeys, along with some tools that can help you with them.

8 Tips for Learning Graphic Design

1) Always keep an ear to the ground.

As marketers, we already know how much there is to learn from influencers. After all, 49% of folks trust the people they know above anyone else for product or service recommendations, and in the digital age, that includes influencers.

Influencers — who according to NeoReach are “individual[s] with an online presence who … influence the opinions and behaviors of your target audience” — are often willing to share the secrets to their success in their content. If you make a point to listen to and engage with them, you’ll become more familiar with the online design world, which can help you discover more tips from other industry experts, become comfortable with relevant terminology, and stay on top of trends.

Wondering how to engage? Turn to Twitter or Instagram as a place to start conversations with these influencers. You never know who might respond to your questions — and any positive connection you make can only help you learn more. Following along and joining the exchange can naturally lead you to become a part of a design community that will support you throughout your journey.

What to Do Right Now

Create a targeted list of influential designers on Twitter, so you can follow their daily insights without having to pick out their tweets from a sea of friends, coworkers, and news sources. You can use the Social Monitoring tool in your HubSpot software to do this by following the people on this list, specifically as they discuss topics that matter to you.

Add a variety of influencers to this list — a mix of those who are well-known among most designers, those that personally inspire you, and those whose work you do not enjoy. That last point may seem counterintuitive, but consistently observing the work of that group can help you understand why you don’t like it, which is a key part of understanding design.

If you’re not sure how to discover designers to follow, try 365 Awesome Designers, which features the work of one designer each day.

2) Collect inspirational work.

Once you decide to learn design, start building a catalog of work you think is successful. That can be as simple as bookmarking images in your web browser, making a Pinterest board, or saving items to a folder on your computer. Like a list of influencers, a catalog of inspiring work will help you to identify trends — both past and present — in design as you begin to recognize patterns in the work of others. You’ll also start to understand your own personal style preferences and interests. If you find yourself continually saving infographics, for example, you might start looking into specific resources to learn how to create them.

Your catalog will also serve to inspire designs you create in the future, which is underscored by the idea that “all creative work builds on what came before” — a line from Austin Kleon’s TEDx talk. If you can reference items in your catalog quickly, you’ll be better equipped to begin your own projects.

What to Do Right Now

Get acquainted with leading designer portfolio sites like Dribbble and Behance. These platforms showcase an abundance of high-quality work from leading designers across the spectrum — everyone from web and UX designers, to graphic designers and typographers. The designers on these sites often provide insight into their design processes, which will be key as you start your own creations.

Setting aside time in your day to review these sites might be hard on top of your workload. One way to naturally work it into your day is to use the app Panda, which replaces your “New Tab” in Chrome with an aggregated stream of content from various sources, including Dribbble. Each time you open a new tab, you can discover and save something that catches your eye. Fair warning, though: An application like this might be distracting to some.

3) Dissect the process.

One of the most pivotal moments in my design journey was when I recognized that every single illustration, infographic, and icon I had ever ogled over was the product of someone mastering how to combine shapes and lines. That’s not to say that other factors don’t play a role — just wait until you try and learn meshes in Illustrator — but fundamentally, these designs were built up from simple shapes.

Analyzing the process behind a design will allow you to understand the steps required to produce a piece of work. Depending on your current skill level, you may have a leg up in knowing which tools were used, or which aspect was created first. But don’t let that stop you — examining the construction of a design will let you flex your creative muscle. Educated guesses will do far more to teach you than doing nothing at all. Plus, you’ll likely find that:

  1. You know more than you think you do.
  2. When you identify holes in that knowledge, you’ll know what techniques or concepts you need to explore to narrow the gap.
  3. There’s more than one way to achieve a desired result.

What to Do Right Now

A quick way to expedite the learning curve when dissecting a design is to download a free vector or PSD design resource, and dig through the layers to see how the designer constructed the object — you can find a number of those files here.

Once you pick your file, open it in Photoshop, then open the Layers Panel (which you can learn to use here) and un-collapse some of the folders, so that you can see the layers contained within them.

By simply changing the visibility of the layers, you can begin to see how the designer used each shape to build upon one another. You can also begin to understand how to use Photoshop Effects, like drop shadows and strokes.

4) Get specific with your online search queries.

As you begin creating your own designs, you’ll likely hit an obstacle where you think to yourself, “Hmm. How the heck do I do that?” Chances are, others have wondered the same thing. Like many self-taught disciplines these days, the majority of my own technical design knowledge was gained by watching a YouTube tutorial while I actively followed along.

The key is to be really specific with your searches, so you can find a highly relevant tutorial. Searching for something like “how to create an icon” might deliver really broad search results. Instead, type in exactly what you want to learn, like, “how to create a flat icon with a long shadow.” Boom.

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What to Do Right Now

Browse a design terminology glossary to find the specific terms for techniques you’re trying to learn. That can help you find what you’re looking for online much more easily, in addition to helping you familiarize yourself with the language.

5) Reproduce your favorite work.

Let me be clear: Under no circumstances should you infringe on anyone’s copyrighted work. Never reproduce someone else’s work and try to pass it off as your own.

That said, re-creating a design you like — without advertising it as your own work — will help you gain a deeper understanding of design technique. As with dissecting a design, it’ll help you learn new technical skills that’ll come in handy when you’re creating your own designs.

You’ll have to get creative with the method you choose to recreate the design, so this exercise will utilize both the left and right sides of your brain. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t duplicate a design exactly — remember, the process is more important than the result.

What to Do Right Now

Find a design piece you think is successful — which should be easy if you’ve created an inspiration catalog — and use your preferred piece of software to recreate it, whether that’s Photoshop, Illustrator, or another software. It’s really up to you to choose how you go about actually creating it. Use specific search queries and tap into your design community relationships as resources.

6) Embrace negative space.

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Source: Apptension

The proper use of negative space is often overlooked by beginner and advanced designers alike. What is negative space (or “white space”)? It’s the space in your design that’s not occupied by any visual or written element. A design piece that doesn’t incorporate enough negative space is like a sentence with no spaces – itisdifficulttocomprehend.

Jan Tischold, one the most influential typographers in history, stresses this importance: “White space is to be regarded as an active element, not a passive background.” The effective use of negative space is just as crucial as the design itself. Don’t believe me? It’s scientifically proven that white space improves legibility and comprehension.

What to Do Right Now

Learning to effectively use white space won’t happen overnight. You’ll have to try out different options to find what works for each design. First, I’d recommend reading some of the articles on this list, compiled by David Kadavy, author of Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty. Then, try to put some of these theories into action.

Remember, there’s no hard-and-fast rule to using white space. It takes practice. Eventually, you’ll find that exercises in resizing elements of your composition and changing the layout will lead to a natural understanding of the amount of breathing room required.

7) Don’t be afraid to get feedback.

On some level, everyone is afraid of criticism. We’re afraid our ideas will get shot down and we’ll be sent back to square one. Learning to accept constructive criticism is no easy task, but it’s key to becoming a better designer.

Paul Arden, who was the creative force behind Saatchi & Saatchi at a pinnacle of its success, wrote this in his best-selling book, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be:

If, instead of seeking approval, you ask, ‘What’s wrong with it? How can I make it better?’, you are more likely to get a truthful, critical answer. You may even get an improvement on your idea. And you are still in a position to reject the criticism if you think it is wrong. Can you find fault with this?”

The takeaway: Design critics allow us to incorporate others’ viewpoints into our work and improve upon our ideas. You always have the option to reject the feedback — but considering it in the first place is what’s important. Design is subjective in nature, and just because someone else has a different opinion doesn’t mean you’re wrong. In fact, trusting your intuition is equally important. Just make sure you have the means to back up your design decisions.

What to Do Right Now

The best way to get feedback is to have a one-on-one conversation with an experienced designer. If you don’t know anyone in the design world, that can be difficult. Fortunately, the internet is filled with communities of designers eager to give feedback — that’s why we suggested finding influencers and peers to engage with.

If you haven’t had time to become a part of a community, now’s the time to step outside of your comfort zone and take action. Inbound.org offers a great feedback center where viewers can comment directly on your design. Other great forums include The Crit Prit, and Reddit’s Design Critiques.

8) Pick a passion project.

If you only listen to one piece of advice from this post, let it be this one.

We all know how hard it is to work on something you don’t want to. It just plain sucks. Picking a project that you aren’t passionate about will likely lead to frustration, as you’ll likely feel reluctant to devote the time and effort necessary to complete the project. And you would be remiss to ignore the fact that, at some point in your career, you’ll have to design something you may feel less than thrilled about.

But that likely won’t occur until you’ve learned a thing or two and have advanced your design skills. In the beginning, it’s OK to focus on passion projects.

When you’re taking the time to teach yourself graphic design and the consequences — like money lost on a wasted design class — are minimal, passion is a major motivator. When you pick something you care about, you’ll compel yourself to work through the frustration that comes with the sometimes tedious nature of design.

It’ll also provide direction. Time and time again, the hardest part of learning design is not knowing what to design. Be decisive and choose something you can work on for a length of time.

What to Do Right Now

Align your interests or current situation with your projects. If you’re a blogger, try creating the header image for your next post. Voice your willingness to work on an offer with your content team. Looking for a job? Redesign your resume and try to further your personal brand by creating a logo. There’s a number of ways to work design into your day, but it’s up to you to pick something that matters to you — don’t design something simply because you think you should.

And Above All

It’s important just to get started. It’s easy to be intimidated by the sheer amount of learning associated with graphic design, but remind yourself that even the most talented designers were newbies once, too.

What makes the creative field so special is that everyone’s journey is unique — there’s no one way to approach DIY design. You’ll find your own means to discern what you want and need to learn.

Design is an iterative process, so keep reworking your ideas and projects. As you progress, you’ll develop your own workflow and one day that design that took you all day will only take you an hour. Trust me, I’m living proof.

What other tips do you have for self-taught designers? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: Want to Learn Graphic Design? 8 Tips & Tricks for Beginners
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10 Powerful Persuasion Techniques to Use in Your Next Sales Email

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Communication is the lifeblood of sales. Successfully closing deals, providing value, explaining complexities — they all rely on your ability to express yourself clearly and persuasively.The sales email is a special breed of communication. You only have a very small window of opportunity to capture your reader’s attention and convince them to move one step closer toward a purchase. Use these writing techniques to ensure your emails pack the most punch.

10 Persuasion Techniques to Apply in Your Sales Emails

1) Know your audience

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a writing tip. But it’s the foundation upon which your email’s effectiveness is built. If you don’t understand your audience — whether it’s the prospect who’s hesitant to buy, or the happy customer you’d like to upsell — you won’t be able to write persuasively.

2) Social proof

Why it works: Social proof describes the tendency to make choices based on other people’s decisions, because we believe those decisions reflect the right choices.

Marketing teams already leverage the concept of social proof through customer case studies and displaying customer or social share counts.

How to use it: Reference high-profile customers or the size of your customer base. For a more targeted use, point out how many of your prospect’s competitors and peers use your product.

Examples:

  • The McDonald’s slogan “Billions and billions served” calls out the company’s giant customer base.
  • Yelp’s success is a result of its user-generated content: Crowdsourced reviews that leverage the power of social proof.

3) Get your foot in the door with a small ask

Why it works: Once a prospect says “yes” to a small ask — the proverbial foot in the door — they’re more likely to agree to future requests.

How to use it: Ask your prospect a question that they are unlikely to say no to.

Examples:

  • If you sell software that tracks target accounts’ trigger events, an easy way to get a first “yes” is to confirm that your prospect’s sales team wants to improve their prospect outreach.

4) Include a headshot in your email signature

Why it works: When we make eye contact with people, we feel a subconscious sense of connection. In one Cornell University study, researchers edited images of the Trix rabbit mascot, then asked adults to pick between several cereal boxes bearing different versions of the image. Participants most often chose the box where the rabbit was directly looking at them.

How to use it: You can’t make actual eye contact through email, and by no means should you include a massive photo of yourself in the body of an email — that’ll just make prospects uncomfortable.

But it can be easy to forget that there’s a person on the other end of your emails. Including a small headshot of yourself in an email signature is a subtle way to remind prospects that you’re human too.

5) Agitate and solve

Why it works: Just because your prospect is aware they have a problem in one area or another doesn’t mean they’re prepared to solve it.

But emotion is a powerful thing. Whether it’s subconscious attachment to the old way of doing things causing inertia, or fear of making the wrong decision, your prospect won’t always warm to your product immediately.

To convince them, you’ll often have to talk about the problem in emotional terms, then swoop in with a solution to demonstrate how you can help.

How to use it: While you should never attempt to over-exaggerate a business pain or spin one out of thin air, use the agitate-and-solve technique when it’s clear they haven’t fully conceptualized the cost of inaction.

Find out what matters to your prospect. Is it personal professional achievement that drives them forward? A desire to grow the business’ bottom line? Then show how inaction will only worsen their current situation, and demonstrate why your product would help.

Example:

  • An office supply salesperson could seek out its competitors’ clients who had been impacted by late shipments. She should probe into the significance of these delays, getting prospects to talk through the immediate and ripple effects. Then, she can describe her own company’s efficient service and customer support.

6) Include a reason why

Why it works: Giving people a reason why you need something — no matter how ridiculous — makes it far more likely they’ll do what you ask.

Psychologist Ellen Langer conducted a study in which experimenters asked to skip ahead in line at a Xerox machine. When they asked, “I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”, they were allowed to skip the line 60% of the time — not a bad outcome.

But when they asked, “I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”, 93% were allowed to skip the line.

Despite the fact that everyone else in the Xerox machine line needed to make copies, they complied with the request simply because the experimenters provided a reason.

How to use it: We wouldn’t recommend making up ridiculous excuses to get your prospects to sign a contract — that’s not good for anybody. But even providing a simple explanation — “I’d like to set up a meeting with you because I can help with X strategy” — could pay huge dividends.

Example:

  • Instead of writing, “I’d like to set up a conversation so we can discuss your project management software strategies,” try this instead: “I’d like to set up a conversation to discuss your marketing strategy because we’ve seen similar companies increase their lead generation by 40%.”

7) Remind prospects it’s their choice

Why it works: Nobody likes to be told what to do — especially when the person telling them to do something is a salesperson. And even if you’re not being pushy or aggressive, many prospects will still chafe at the suggestion that you know what’s best for them.

A simple reassurance that you’re not attempting to push your preferences or worldview onto your prospect is powerful. Across 42 psychology studies involving 22,000 subjects, it’s been demonstrated that using a phrase like “But the decision is yours” could double the chances that someone would say yes to a request.

How to use it: You don’t want to overuse this one — tempering every recommendation you make by reminding prospects they have no obligation to listen to you isn’t a great idea. But when you’re asking for a larger commitment or are dealing with a jumpy prospect, dropping in a reminder that you’re not here to force them into anything can be a powerful technique.

Example:

  • A software salesperson could write this message to a prospect skittish about switching platforms:

When we last spoke, you mentioned that you were worried about migrating your system from your current tool to ours. Sales Engineer Sally put together this high-level overview of the process, which is designed to be as easy on our customers as possible — we can discuss this on our call tomorrow. In the meantime, based on our previous conversations I strongly believe this switch is the best long-term solution for your company — but of course, the decision ultimately rests with you. Let me know what you think.”

8) Use assertive language

Why it works: Prospects want to know what will happen to their business and their own professional brand if they buy from you. If you communicate in a way that makes it seem like you can only potentially deliver value, you’ll automatically become less persuasive.

The amplification hypothesis provides the science behind this phenomenon. Researchers found that increased “attitude certainty,” or the sureness with which you express a belief, can actually change other people’s attitudes toward that value. This works both proactively and reactively: Speaking about your product’s benefits with certainty will strengthen your prospect’s belief that it’ll be effective, while responding vaguely to a prospect’s expression of doubt can help weaken their objections.

How to use it: Obviously, you should never be evasive about objections that require a legitimate response or guarantee a result you know isn’t certain. But cull qualifiers or weak language where they don’t serve any purpose, and ensure your writing is crisp and assertive so certainty permeates your emails.

Example:

  • Instead of writing, “You mentioned that your close rates are lower than you’d like, so let’s schedule some time to discuss your sales process. I think I’ll be able to make two or three solid recommendations for how to move forward,” try: You mentioned that your close rates are lower than you’d like. We should schedule some time to discuss your sales process. Once I learn more about how you follow up with a lead, I’ll recommend an approach that’ll ensure nothing is slipping through the cracks.”

9) Be a little funny.

Why it works: According to a study from researchers at the University of Oxford and the University College London, laughing puts people at ease and makes them likelier to open up. That might be why we usually feel closest to our funniest friends. 

Laughter is also associated with lower stress, a stronger immune system, and general happiness.

How to use it: Lightening the mood will help your prospect trust you and give you sensitive details about his company, its financial state, pain points, and business strategy, as well as his professional ambitions and anxieties. You’ve also got a better shot of hearing back when you crack a joke or two. With that in mind, add a funny GIF, image, or line.

Example:

  • Your prospect mentions loving House of Cards in their bio, so you use a Kevin Spacey meme. 

10) Use “ultimate terms.”

Why it works: Certain words carry good or bad connotations powerful enough to influence action. According to Changing Minds, ultimate terms fall into three categories: “God words,” which have positive connotations, “Devil words,” which have negative ones, and “Charismatic terms,” which fall under neither good or bad but are words associated with intangible, observable phenomena (like “progress.”).

Also known as “power words,” these terms invoke basic needs in either a positive or negative way to appeal to the reader. Find a full list at Changing Minds.

How to use it: Don’t overdo it — lists of power words have been widely circulated for years, and any prospect who’s ever seen a billboard will know exactly what you’re doing if you use power words in every sentence.

Example:

  • Use power words sparingly before or in a request where it’ll pack the most punch. For example, get a prospect who thinks buying software will render his position redundant to come around by writing that new technology will empower him to work on more long-term, strategic projects.

How do you make your sales emails more persuasive? Let us know in the comments below.

This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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Source: 10 Powerful Persuasion Techniques to Use in Your Next Sales Email
blog.hubspot.com/sales

The 10 Best User-Generated Content Campaigns on Instagram

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When it comes time to make a purchasing decision, who are you more likely to trust — a brand, or a fellow consumer who uses the product?

We’re more likely to take recommendations from friends and family members than brands when it comes time to make buying decisions — and that’s the logic behind user-generated content on social media.

Download our essential guide to Instagram for business for more helpful tips  and tricks.

User-generated content, or UGC, consists of any form of content that’s created by users and consumers about a brand or product. UGC isn’t paid for, and its authenticity makes the user the brand advertiser as well.

UGC is particularly prevalent on Instagram, where brands can easily repost and regram UGC from users’ accounts. And it’s worthwhile for brands to do this — 76% of individuals surveyed said they trusted content shared by “average” people more than by brands, and nearly 100% of consumers trust recommendations from others.

In this post, we’ll discuss just how successful UGC on Instagram can be — as well as review 10 brands using it successfully.

Why User-Generated Content?

In this year’s Internet Trends Report, Mary Meeker presented some compelling data about the success of UGC for brands on Instagram. Check it out:

UGC can generate more engagement on Instagram — meaning more comments and likes on posts. And engagement is critically important to brands’ success on the platform — because the more users engage with your stuff, the higher your posts are prioritized in the Instagram feed, and the more likely it is that new users will find your content on the Explore tab.

A lot of global brands are sharing Instagram content reposted, or “regrammed,” from fans and users. Take a look:

Now that we understand the importance of UGC, let’s dive into how some of these brands are killing the UGC game on Instagram.

10 Examples of the Best User-Generated Content on Instagram

1) The UPS Store

No, we don’t mean UPS, where you might go to send care packages or holiday gifts to your loved ones. We mean The UPS Store, which uses its Instagram to showcase the customers you might not think about as readily — small business owners. Small business owners on Instagram post content using the hashtag #TheUPSStoreCustomer, which The UPS Store then shares to its own account, like so:

This is a clever UGC campaign other B2B brands should take note of — especially if the products and services themselves aren’t especially sexy. Instagram posts featuring packing tape, shipping peanuts, and cardboard boxes might not be visually interesting, but behind-the-scenes stories of real people and brands The UPS Store is helping are.

Takeaway for Marketers: Use UGC to showcase an unexpected or unique aspect of your brand. Whether it’s content from your customers, your users, or members of your community, ask other Instagrammers to submit content that shows “the other side” of what your brand is all about.

2) Aerie

Women’s clothing company Aerie’s #AerieReal campaign is #UGCgoals. The campaign is simple, but powerful.

There’s been broad debate and outcry over the excessive use of photo editing in marketing advertising — centered around its impact on the young women consuming magazines and images on social media. There’s been particular concern around the impact edited photos can have on women’s self-esteem and sense of a healthy body image.

So Aerie made a pledge to stop retouching photos of models in its bathing suits. And for every Instagram user that posted an unedited photo of themselves in a bathing suit (using the hashtag #AerieReal, of course), Aerie now donates $1 to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Takeaway for Marketers: Give people a reason to get involved in your campaign that’s bigger than Instagram itself. Whether it’s an awareness campaign or a donation drive like Aerie, customers want to buy from companies that support important causes. If you can, partner with a cause or charitable organization your message resonates with to get Instagrammers excited about your UGC campaign. You’ll do good for the world, you’ll drive engagement on the platform, and more people will learn about your brand via word-of-mouth if it catches on.

3) Buffer

Social media scheduling tool Buffer uses the #BufferCommunity to showcase the photographs and personalities of its many different users around the world. These images aren’t promotional — or even remotely brand-centric — and that’s what makes them so effective (okay, the cute puppy probably helps too).

Buffer’s tools are about making it easier to share and strategize on social media, and these photos implicitly share the message that Buffer’s community members can work from anywhere, on a variety of different projects, thanks (in part) to its ease of use.

Takeaway for Marketers: Cultivate a brand personality so strong that your users want to share their life with you on social media. Create a great product, excel at helping customers succeed, and curate a presence on social media your users want to keep engaging with. Then, ask them to share with you so you can continue adding personality and diversity to your content to show what your community is all about — helping people be better at social media, in Buffer’s case.

4) Wayfair

Online furniture store Wayfair has a fun UGC campaign that lets customers showcase the results of their online shopping sprees. Using the hashtag #WayfairAtHome, users can post their home setups featuring Wayfair products:

Then, Wayfair reposts UGC and provides a link so users can shop for the items featured in a real customer’s home — an ingenious strategy for combining customer testimonials and design inspiration all-in-one.

Wayfair has another UGC campaign that’s not as popular, but it’s an adorable effective way to show its products in action with the help of the #WayfairPetSquad.

 

So much room for activities! #wayfairpetsquad @nala_cat

A post shared by Wayfair (@wayfair) on Apr 9, 2017 at 6:16am PDT

Takeaway for Marketers: Leverage UGC to help Instagram users find and shop for your products. Remember, people trust customer testimonials, and if you show them being successfully used by real people, it’s easier to get them to your website to start shopping.

5) IBM

Software giant IBM uses UGC on Instagram primarily from its customers and community members using the hashtag #IBM. Its UGC strategy is simpler than some described previously, but it does a great job at providing an inside look at one of the biggest technology companies in the world.

It’s cool to see real humans working at IBM and using its products and services to do things you and I do every day — like taking artfully posed photographs and conducting group brainstorms.

Takeaway for Marketers: Showcase the human side of your brand — especially if your product or service can’t be easily visualized, as in the case of IBM. Source content from customers, employees, and community members to show what your product looks like in action so other Instagrammers can picture themselves using it, too.

6) Netflix

Popular video streaming service Netflix uses UGC to promote fans’ posts about specific shows and movies — and hashtags the title to help spread the word about new premieres.

 

“HEY, WHERE MY BAE’S AT?” 🎤🙆🏻~@mirandasingsofficial #HatersBackOff via @ginalee

A post shared by Netflix US (@netflix) on Oct 14, 2016 at 3:22pm PDT

Netflix is leaning into creating more original programming, so getting the word out about new releases is a key part of its social media strategy. UGC shows other people are getting excited about new shows too — and makes Instagrammers coming across Netflix’s Instagram intrigued to see what the fuss is all about.

 

Brunch in Stars Hollow. Via @alovelybean #GilmoreGirls

A post shared by Netflix US (@netflix) on Nov 26, 2016 at 9:42am PST

Takeaway for Marketers: If you’re making an announcement or releasing a new product, use UGC to get the word out about your fans and customers trying it out for the first time. You’ll help create a feedback loop to help more and more people on Instagram learn about you — and what new product they can get involved with.

7) Hootsuite

Social media management software company Hootsuite uses the hashtag #HootsuiteLife to promote UGC about what it’s like to work at Hootsuite around the world.

Hootsuite’s culture is something the company is proud of — and it uses this fun way of living and working to attract talented people to come with them. #HootsuiteLife is all about employees and community members showcasing how much fun it is to work at Hootsuite all over social media. It uses the hashtag to empower employees to share their days with the rest of the world on social media.

A secondary UGC campaign — #LifeofOwly — lets employees show off the company’s lovable mascot in action, too.

Takeaway for Marketers: Collaborate with your recruiting and HR teams to see if you can combine forces to drive social media engagement and help hire new people simultaneously. If your organization has a lot to offer and you want to showcase your culture, events, and perks, team up to create an employee UGC campaign that empowers employees to share and helps attract great new talent.

8) Starbucks

Every December, Starbucks launches the latest #RedCupContest to promote its holiday-themed seasonal beverages and — you guessed it — red cups. It encourages coffee drinkers to submit shots of their coffees for the chance to win a pricey Starbucks gift card — and drinkers always deliver (there are more than 40,000 posts of red cups and counting).

The #RedCupContest is a smart UGC campaign. It incentivizes fans to participate and engage online by offering a prize, it promotes a seasonal campaign, and it helps generate sales — because you have to buy a red cup to take a picture first.

Takeaway for Marketers: Use a contest to promote and generate buzz around a UGC campaign. Offer a prize for participation (using a branded hashtag, of course) to get people excited about commenting, posting, and sharing on Instagram.

9) Adobe

Creative software company Adobe uses the hashtag #Adobe_Perspective to source and share content from artists and content creators using its software to do their jobs every day.

It can sometimes be hard to imagine what you can do with a software without seeing it in action, and this UGC campaign lets Adobe show off its capabilities while engaging with its community of users.

#Adobe_InColor is Adobe’s Pride Month-themed UGC campaign that’s already generated nearly 300 posts in just the first few weeks of June. This UGC campaign lets Adobe showcase the talent of its customers and the values and culture of its community clearly and easily on social media.

 

All the colors of citrus ❤️ Link in bio for more of @wrightkitchen’s work.

A post shared by Adobe (@adobe) on Jun 9, 2017 at 9:12am PDT

Takeaway for Marketers: Encourage customers and users to share their results from successfully using your product. These images will help give prospective customers an idea of what they can expect, and great results will speak for themselves to promote your product. And if you’re doing a cultural campaign, open it up to your entire community, and not just employees, to generate awareness and buzz around a culture initiative you’re proud of.

10) BMW

Car company BMW uses #BMWRepost to share Instagram posts of proud BMW owners and their wheels:

 

Make everyday feel like a holiday. The #BMW #3series Sedan. #BMWrepost @bmwf30driver

A post shared by BMW (@bmw) on Jun 11, 2017 at 1:01pm PDT

BMW sells luxury cars to owners who are undoubtedly proud of their achievement, and this campaign gives owners the opportunity to show off — and lets BMW show off its proud and loyal base of customers. If I were on the hunt for a car and saw this many happy BMW users, I might consider one of its cars for my purchase. (I don’t know how to drive, but you catch my drift.)

 

A trustworthy partner to take you around the globe. The #BMW #X5. #BMWrepost @hunterdreier

A post shared by BMW (@bmw) on Jun 10, 2017 at 8:12am PDT

Takeaway for Marketers: Give customers and users a platform from which they can brag about their purchase. You don’t need to sell luxury items — there are plenty of everyday brands with cult followings who love to get engaged on social media about why they love shopping and buying from certain brands. Create a hashtag that lets customers share why they love you, and they’ll love you back.

What’s your favorite UGC campaign on Instagram? Share with us in the comments below.

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Source: The 10 Best User-Generated Content Campaigns on Instagram
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

15 Bad Habits That Make Salespeople Seem Pushy (And How to Correct Them)

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Salespeople get a bad rap. In HubSpot Research’s newest study, Buyers Speak Out: How Sales Needs to Evolve, respondents were asked to submit the word they most associated with salespeople.

The #1 response? “Pushy.”

Yikes.Persistence is part of being a salesperson. In fact, 80% of sales require five or more follow-ups. And there’s an obvious difference between consistently adding a bit of value with each check-in and doggedly pursuing prospects who have, in no uncertain terms, told you they’re not interested.

But the contrast between persistence and pushiness isn’t always so clear. If you’re doing any of the things on the list below, you might be coming off as pushy without even realizing it.

15 Reasons Buyers Think Salespeople Are Pushy

1) You call or email without new updates to share.

What you think: You’re keeping yourself top-of-mind and on your prospect’s radar.

Why it’s pushy: You’re keeping yourself top-of-mind, all right — as that annoying salesperson who won’t stop calling. Don’t reach out unless you have something new to share; otherwise you’re taking up your prospect’s time without providing any value.

2) You ask the same question multiple times.

What you think: You haven’t gotten the information you need, so it can’t hurt to ask again … right?

Why it’s pushy: Your prospect has already answered your question to the best of their ability, so why keep beating a dead horse? Try phrasing your question a different way or coming at it from a different angle to avoid exhausting your prospects.

3) You start talking about your product right away.

What you think: Your product is great! Why wouldn’t a prospect want to hear about it?

Why it’s pushy: Never lead by talking about your product. Unless your prospect is already quite familiar with your product’s value proposition, starting with the value it brings and how it will change your prospect’s business is a more effective way to get a conversation started.

4) You use a lot of declarative words and phrases (“should,” “have to,” “need to,” etc.)

What you think: You try to spend time during each sales call giving advice and sharing best practices with your prospects.

Why it’s pushy: Your intentions are noble, so keep doing what you’re doing. The problem here is a matter of semantics. Telling a prospect repeatedly what they “should” or “have to” or “need to” do comes off as bossy and condescending even if your only intent is to help. Instead, try phrases like, “Businesses like yours have seen success …” or “What we’ve found drives results is …”

5) You make statements instead of asking questions.

What you think: You’re an expert on the vertical you sell into, so there are a few safe assumptions you can make about your prospect’s business.

Why it’s pushy: While your prospect’s business might function like the hundreds you’ve seen before in their industry, you don’t necessarily know the specifics. Even if you have a pretty good sense of what the answer might be, asking questions such as, “So I’ve seen X problem a lot at companies like yours, are you experiencing something similar?” shows your prospect that you care about their unique perspective, while simultaneously showing off your expertise.

6) You start every objection answer with “But … “

What you think: You’re just trying to handle objections, and “but” is the first filler word that comes to mind.

Why it’s pushy: Constantly saying “but” comes off as argumentative and puts prospects on the defensive. Instead, try the Ransberger Pivot:

  1. Acknowledge your prospect’s objections.
  2. Understand their hesitation, or ask questions until you do.
  3. Find a common goal burned in your prospect’s objections, and build on it to convince them your offering is the best way to achieve that end.

7) You treat all objections equally.

What you think: You (understandably) want to make the sale, so sometimes you find yourself on autopilot when answering objections.

Why it’s pushy: There’s a significant difference between, “This problem is a priority for us, but let’s wait until next quarter to talk … “ and “We’ve had seven straight quarters of losses — we just can’t afford to implement anything right now.”

Not all objections are created equal. Some can be resolved simply by educating your prospect. Some are a result of inertia and can be mitigated by creating a sense of urgency. But there are always objections that stop a deal in its tracks, and treating those like minor concerns that can be talked away won’t endear you to your prospects. Learn to spot the difference between brush-offs, points of confusion, and true blockers.

8) You won’t let your prospect off the phone.

What you think: Your prospect actually picked up! You’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity and cover as much as possible.

Why it’s pushy: Your prospect is busy. Really busy. If they’re a good fit for your product, schedule a longer call when they have more time and follow up with helpful resources so you stay on their radar.

9) You keep bringing up new, seemingly unrelated, offerings.

What you think: You’re trying to pique your prospect’s interest by mentioning new product lines or services that could benefit them.

Why it’s pushy: Offering an add-on or trying to go for an upsell isn’t inherently bad. Just be sure you’re telling a coherent story that ties all your offerings together. Making it clear that you’re tailoring a specific set of products for your prospect avoids the impression that you’re throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.

10) You don’t know when to say when.

What you think: If you just try a little harder, maybe your prospect will buy.

Why it’s pushy: It’s unfortunate, but let’s face it — you won’t win every deal. At some point in most closed-lost deals, it becomes apparent that there’s no more you can do, and continuing to pester a prospect will leave a bad taste in their mouths. So know when to throw in the towel. Your time is better spent on prospects who stand a good chance of closing.

11) You don’t try to get buy-in from your prospect.

What you think: You’ve gone through this sales process hundreds of times before, and you know what makes sense for your buyers.

Why it’s pushy: Besides the fact that it’s just not smart to try and run a sales process without confirming your prospect is okay with it, it’s also bad manners. At every step of the way, check to see whether your proposed next steps make sense. Not only will your prospect appreciate your solicitousness, getting their buy-in on small steps will psychologically make it easier for them to say “yes” to the big ask — would you like to buy?

12) You talk fast and interrupt.

What you think: You’re naturally a fast talker and an enthusiastic person.

Why it’s pushy: You’re understandably excited about your product and eager to share its value with prospects. But blazing through a conversation creates the impression that you’re just waiting until your prospect’s done speaking so you can talk again. Cutting prospects off is a no-no as well — in fact, the less you speak, the more useful information you’re likely to get.

13) Your calls-to-action don’t align with your prospect’s buying stage.

What you think: You can tell your buyer has the business pain your product solves, and you want to help them by jumping into a formal sales process.

Why it’s pushy: Just because you can tell a buyer suffers from X business pain doesn’t mean they’ve realized it yet. So even if a call-to-action will eventually be useful for them (like a product demo), offering it when they’re still in the education stage just makes it seem like you’re rushing them along because you want to close a deal. Instead, move the sales process forward by teaching your buyers about their problems and helping them devise a solution that includes your product if appropriate.

14) You won’t take no for an answer.

What you think: You know certain commitments make prospects far likelier to close, so if at first you don’t succeed in getting the buyer’s phone number, an introduction to the signing authority, or a meeting with Procurement, you keep trying.

Why it’s pushy: Your prospect has rejected your request for a reason. They don’t feel comfortable giving you the information or help you’ve requested, and asking again will only make them more uncomfortable.

The issue probably stems from how and when you asked. If you haven’t explained why your ask will benefit your prospect and timed it appropriately, of course they’ll say no. It’s fine to ask for their personal number on the first call (provided you give context, such as, “It’ll make it easier to answer questions and schedule future meetings if we have each other’s cells.”) However, it’s typically not a good idea to ask for an intro to the decision maker — you haven’t yet proven your value. 

15) You don’t vary your outreach.

What you think: You have the buyer’s email address, so when you’re trying to connect with them or engage them after they’ve gone dark, you keep sending emails.

Why it’s pushy: It’s the “boy who cried wolf” effect. After a while, your buyer will completely tune out your messages. The ssalesperson-seems-pushy-compressor-181681-edited.jpgame holds true no matter which channel you’re using — if you keep calling them or nudging them on social media, you’ll quickly become a nuisance.

To avoid this issue, spread your outreach across multiple mediums. Here’s a sample schedule:

  • Day 1: Email.
  • Day 3: Call (leave a voicemail.)
  • Day 4: Like their post on LinkedIn.
  • Day 6: Call (don’t leave a voicemail.)
  • Day 8: Email.
  • Day 10: Send a break-up email.

Simply mixing up your outreach decreases the chances you’ll seem stalkerish.

The behavior that comes off as pushy to buyers likely sparks from your excitement to share insights with your prospects and help as many as possible. This isn’t a bad attitude to have. But realize that you won’t get through to prospects who are frustrated with yet another “pushy” salesperson. Avoid these bad habits so you never lose a deal for the wrong reasons.

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

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

The Best (& Most Unique) Response to "Sell Me This Pen"

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Sell me this pen. Possibly the best sales one-liner in history. Haven’t heard it before?

Coined by Jordan Belfort, a.k.a. the Wolf of Wall Street, I suggest you block out two hours of your day to watch one of the best sales movies of all time. Don’t like movies? Read his book.

In the last 10 years, I have seen many sales leaders use this question as part of their interview process to whittle out the can-dos from the can-nots.

Why Ask a Sales Candidate to “Sell Me This Pen”?

There are three standard responses to this question, which illustrate the three selling styles typically used by salespeople.

The first is known as value-added selling, where a candidate attempts to create interest by highlighting the various features of the product which make it desirable.

  • “This pen is gold — that positions you as a person of value to your peers.”
  • “This pen has refillable ink cartridges, so you’ll never need to buy a new one.”
  • “Compared to other pens, this pen is very smooth and comfortable to hold.”

The majority of people without selling experience will utilize this method. Even those who have received thorough training may succumb to the pressure of an interview and lead with comments along these lines.

The problem with value-based selling is that you show zero knowledge of what the buyer feels is important to them and thus are simply shooting in the dark with your assertions of value.

The next evolution in this method is solution based selling — where a candidate successfully asks me questions about what I look for in a pen and if I have any problems with my current one. They can then build the case that this pen will solve my needs.

  • “What is the most important thing for you when it comes to buying a pen?”
  • “What color pen are you in the market for?”
  • “What were the strengths and weaknesses of the last pen you owned?”

Candidates with an enterprise sales background normally demonstrate a strength in this area. However, many of them still hit a roadblock when the questions they ask lead to a conclusion the customer needs a product which the seller doesn’t have, i.e. a red pen instead of a black one. Furthermore, a buyer simply may not be willing to talk about their problems to someone they don’t know.

This is why it is important to find reps who demonstrate the third technique — problem creation. Instead of asking open questions, they establish a clear “ladder” for buyers to follow using questions which place the prospect in a mental state where they begin to feel a problem they didn’t originally realize they had. Ultimately, the buyer arrives at a pre-set conclusion which the sales representative has orchestrated. This outcome is a rarity — a rep who can successfully use the problem creation method is a one in a million find.

The Best Answer to “Sell Me This Pen” I’ve Ever Heard

Given that a vast majority of the sales community knows this example, I found initially that when I brought it up in interviews it drew a number of cliché or pre-prepared responses.

I came up with the idea to instead start bringing a pair of sunglasses to my interviews, which I would place next to my notepad and the candidate’s resume as they presented.

At one stage in the interview — normally toward the end — I would place my iPhone carefully on the middle of the table and say, “Sell me these sunglasses.”

I would get a number of responses, each falling into one of two buckets:

  • Feature-based selling: The candidate lists of a bunch of exciting features that the sunglasses have.
  • Solution-based selling: The candidate asks me questions about my daily life to see if the product could potentially solve any of these for me, such as, “Do you have trouble seeing while driving?” or “Do you like to go to the beach?”

After 34 interviews, I found the unicorn.

The candidate sat there in silence and didn’t ask any questions. Seeing the iPhone, they simply turned on the flashlight (which can be done without knowing the passcode on the latest versions), and said, “How would you like some sunglasses now?”

After 34 people failing before them, they went on to be the highest performer and my most loyal employee.

The moral of the story is that good sales people often solve problems but the best are able to create and then solve them.

I would love to hear about your experience below. If you are hiring, please try this and send me your feedback!

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn and is republished here with permission.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

6 Websites Every Growth Hacker Should Bookmark

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I’ll start by saying this: I am officially obsessed with growth hacking these days.

I never thought of myself as a growth marketer, let alone a growth hacker. Maybe that’s because it’s a somewhat new concept — or a new name for a classic concept, at least. But as a content creator, I’ve learned how imperative it is to know how to grow any sort of property, whether it’s a blog, a podcast, or a brand.

That might be what I love the most about the HubSpot Growth Stack, for example. It was built with the idea that every marketer stands to benefit from understanding how growth hacking works. But where do you learn this stuff? Download our free marketing tool that helps you generate more leads and learn  about website visitors.

A Google search for “growth hacking” yields a plethora of results. But as the term gains more popularity, filtering the results for the best resources becomes more difficult. Fear not — we combed through these sites and narrowed them down to six of the most comprehensive resources. So start reading, and get ready to grow.

6 Websites Every Growth Hacker Should Bookmark

1) GrowthHackers

GrowthHackers

Let’s start with the obvious. When you want to learn how to grow, the URL “growthhackers.com” seems like a natural place to start. Its founder and CEO, Sean Ellis, was pretty much a “growth hacker” before that label was really a thing — since 2008, he’s served in interim growth roles at companies like Eventbrite and Dropbox, helping them scale in their early stages.

GrowthHackers is a community of resources and experts that “helps teams unlock their company’s full growth potential.” And it’s within that community section of the site where the greatest wealth of knowledge lives. From a forum of growth-related posts, to a section on growth case studies, to the Growth University, this destination is one of the most comprehensive growth hacking resources available online.

2) KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics is one of the leading analytics platforms that marketers use to obtain the data they need to grow. But beyond the product itself, the company provides a plethora of resources for growth hackers; for example, its blog and series of webinars.

The blog might be one of our favorites. Its entries are a mix of tactical content and great stories, like this one about how Calendly pulled off double-digit growth. Plus, if you’re looking for fundamental knowledge about any area of growth, KISSmetrics has organized these types of blog posts into collective academy guides. If you’re just getting started, we recommend checking out this catalogue of entries synthesized for the “The Basics of Analytics.

3) Quick Sprout

Quick Sprout

Quick Sprout is largely the work of Neil Patel — a name with which anyone even remotely involved with digital marketing is familiar. We like to call him a “growth rockstar” — he founded the aforementioned KISSmetrics shortly after graduating from CSU Fullerton.

On Quick Sprout, Patel does growth consulting work and leads an online “university” on growing website traffic. It’s also home to one of his many valuable blogs, where he provides tips on conversion, marketing tech, and more. For a handy growth marketing crash course, check out this post on “How to Become an Innovative Growth Hacker in One Month.

4) Coelevate

Coelevate

Brian Balfour is another growth expert who cut his teeth in the startup sector. In fact, he’s been known to quote the words of investor Paul Graham: “Startups = Growth.” And on Coelevate, he frequently pens essays about many topics under this umbrella, like “10 Reasons Why Companies Fail At Growth” and “Traction vs Growth.”

Balfour speaks with a unique skill set. In addition to serving as the co-founder of startups like Viximo and Boundless Learning — which were both acquired — he also worked in venture capital (VC) as an entrepreneur-in-residence. He views growth from the perspective of both the entrepreneur and the investor. In addition to his words on Coelevate, you can follow his insights on the blog for Reforge, his growth program creation business.

5) Andrewchen.co

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Since its 2009 founding, one thing has been certain about Uber: It’s experienced unequivocal brand growth. And it’s the kind of growth that can only be achieved with the right scale, which experts like Andrew Chen are brought on board to oversee.

And in addition to serving as Uber’s head of rider growth, Chen continues to share insights on his own website, Andrewchen.co. His knowledge stems from his experience, much like Balfour, as both an entrepreneur-in-residence in the VC sector, and as what he calls an “entrepreneur-out-of-residence” — in both capacities, he’s helped to grow early-stage businesses like Barkbox and Tinder.

6) OkDork

OkDork

Noah Kagan, the person behind growth blog OkDork, is one of those folks who’s so accomplished that we have to ask, “How many lives have you had?” Today, Kagan’s day job is “Chief Sumo” with the Sumo Group, the maker of tools to help companies grow website traffic. It’s the latest in a string of product launches and marketing successes he’s experienced, with brands ranging from Facebook to Mint.

Kagan calls OkDork a guide to “marketing, business musings, online communities and other things to kill time while you are at work.” That community part is key. He invites readers to participate, comment, and exchange thoughts. And since its December 2016 debut, his podcast, “Noah Kagan Presents,” also calls OKDork home. Check out “The 5 am Challenge” — it happens to be one of this early riser’s favorite episodes.

Continual Growth

“Growth” can be a little bit of a big, scary term at first. Building and scaling a product or service from scratch might seem like something that requires the help of an expert, or a large team. But as these sites show — that’s not the case. With the right approach, resources, and amount of experimentation, you can become a self-taught growth hacker.

From online communities to the HubSpot Growth Stack, you’ll be well on your way. But be patient — you might have to use a combination of these resources and go back to them as you work your way through projects. That’s why we suggest you bookmark all of these sites. Growth takes time, but it’s more than possible.

What are your go-to growth hacking websites? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

7 Ways You're Projecting Insecurity Over Email

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Insecurity is poison to a sales relationship. If your prospect picks up on any anxiety or self-doubt, they’ll lose respect for you — and more importantly, they won’t believe your recommendations are valuable.

So what can you do to project confidence? It’s tricky, especially because in sales you often go from feeling like a champion to a failure in single week (sometimes a single day).

One of the easiest areas to tackle is email. Prospects can’t see your face or hear your voice, meaning following these suggestions will instantly make you seem confident. Here are seven things making you appear insecure and how to fix them.

1) Writing too much

Emails that go on and on scream insecurity. After all, if you believe your message is powerful and compelling, you don’t need to write a book.

Next time you’re sending an email for the first time that’s three-plus paragraphs, stop and pick out the most compelling point. Delete the other sections. You can send these in follow-up emails. (As an added benefit, this makes your messages more varied and gives the buyer a reason to keep opening them.)

Just make sure you don’t leave out the call-to-action — that’s one of the most important parts of your message.

2) Apologizing

Do you begin emails with lines like:

  • “Apologies for contacting you out of the blue.”
  • “Hope I’m not bothering you.”
  • “I’m sorry to trouble you.”
  • “I know we haven’t met, but …”
  • “Hopefully you don’t mind me reaching out.”
  • “I know emails like these can be annoying, so I’ll get right to the point.”

These lines areusually used with good intentions: Reps want to show consideration for their prospects. However, starting with an apology implies you don’t think you’re worthy of the buyer’s time.

If you believe in your product’s value, and you’ve done some basic qualification to ensure your prospect is a potential fit, then you’re not wasting their time. You’re helping them.

3) Using too many emojis

Emojis can add personality to your email and make it a little more memorable. But it’s easy to go overboard. If every line has its own symbol, you’ll look like you’re trying way too hard.

How many emojis is too many? It depends on your market. In many conservative industries, just one smiley face would be completely inappropriate. Yet someone in an informal, modern industry tends to be far more receptive.

Factor in your company brand as well. If it’s playful, you can be playful too. If it’s relatively buttoned-up, reign in the emojis and smiley faces.

My final recommendation: When in doubt, leave it out. You can always wait and see what your prospect does. If they use a smiley face or emoji, you’re free to use one too.

4) Using exclamation marks

I admit, I used to have a real exclamation mark problem. Any time I wrote an email without one, I worried I came across as cold.

But then I realized most of the emails I got from other people didn’t include exclamation marks, and I wasn’t reading them as rude. Those messages simply seemed professional

Now, I never use exclamation marks. They’re never necessary — especially not in a sales context. You sound 10 times more composed and sure of yourself when you’re not ending any sentences like this!

5) Going too far with flattery

Reps often throw in phrases that highlight their prospect’s intense work schedule. That includes statements like:

  • “I’m sure you’re busy …”
  • “As [title], you must have a lot on your plate …”
  • “I know your schedule is probably jam-packed …”
  • “Is there any way I could borrow just a few minutes of your time?”
  • “You can’t have much extra time, so I promise I’ll be quick.”

Unfortunately, prospects interpret these lines as: “You’re busy, and I’m not.” You lose a lot of authority in their eyes. If your time isn’t in-demand, your product must not be, either.

To avoid this, stop mentioning how busy your prospects must be. Come out and ask for their time instead.

Here’s a revised CTA:

“I have some recommendations around X. Are you free at [time] on [day] to discuss them?”

6) Using wishy-washy words

Words that weaken your statements will make you seem less confident. To illustrate, here’s a watered-down line:

“I think your company may be able to benefit from [solving X, doing Y].”

Using “I think” or “may” would be fine, but both in the same sentence sounds like you’re totally unsure.

Read through your email for wishy-washy language like:

  • “Just”
  • “Maybe”
  • “Potentially”
  • “Might”
  • “I think”
  • “I believe”
  • “I’m guessing”
  • “I suspect”
  • “I have a hunch”
  • “I’m not sure, but …”
  • “I could be wrong, but…”
  • “It’s possible that …”
  • “There’s a chance …”

Remove these terms when possible. Obviously, you don’t want to make promises you can’t keep or statements you can’t back up — saying “You could be losing $20,000 per year” is preferable to “You’re losing $20,000 per year” unless you can definitively prove the latter.

7) Writing in caps

You might be confused by this point: Doesn’t using CAPS LOCK make your message (and by extension, you) seem more important?

In fact, it does the opposite. Capitalizing entire words comes across as overly aggressive — as though you don’t trust your message to sound urgent on its own.

Compare these two email subject lines:

  • How ReadQ can hire engineers 3x faster (URGENT)
  • How ReadQ can hire engineers 3x faster

Which would you be more likely to open? Probably the second. It seems less spammy and more legitimate.

There’s almost never a justifiable reason to use caps lock in a sales email, so pretend this button on your keyboard doesn’t exist.

When it comes to sales, fake it until you make it. You might be a brand-new SDR or a recent hire and nervous behind your computer screen, but there’s no reason your prospects have to know that. An assertive email will help you capture their interest, build credibility, and down the line, win the deal.

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Source: 7 Ways You're Projecting Insecurity Over Email
blog.hubspot.com/sales

The Best of B2B Marketing Content: 9 Examples

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Here at HubSpot, some of the most awe-inspiring moments take place when we get to take new products and features for a test drive. We transform, if it’s even imaginable, into even bigger geeks than we normally are, squealing with the excitement typically reserved for iPhone launches and new seasons of Netflix series. But alas — this glee is caused by software we use every day at work, and will eventually get to share with other marketers.

Many B2B marketers have seen B2C content at least once and asked, “Why do they get to have all the fun?” But the moments like the one we described above are the ones that remind us: B2C companies haven’t locked down all of the truly interesting marketing angles. We’re passionate about our product — and that means our audience can be, too.

And for every B2B product, there are even more B2B users out there looking for information, inspiration, and knowledge — whether it’s from their peers, or from the organizations looking to provide them with solutions. The point? No marketing, including content, is uninteresting if you look at it the right way. New Call-to-action

Done right, B2B content marketing can certainly match — and sometimes, maybe even rival — the creativity and appeal of the best B2C ones. And we want to recognize the brands that are breaking that mold and creating great content that grows fervent, dedicated audiences. Below, you’ll find a few of our favorites.

9 Exceptional B2B Content Marketing Examples

1) CB Insights: Newsletter

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What It Does Well

There are two things I love about the CB Insights newsletter. First, it’s surprisingly funny (the subject lines alone make it worth it). Second, you learn a lot just by reading the newsletter, no need to click through a bunch of links.”

Janessa Lantz, HubSpot Senior Marketing Manager

We love how this newsletter illustrates the willingness of CB Insights to not take itself too seriously. Yes, it shares some of the finest insights on technology, venture capital (VC), and emerging businesses, but it does so with fun images that ultimately relate back to the subject — e.g., the above photo of Oprah that’s been adapted as a meme, since, well, that was the topic of the newsletter.

But the messaging remains relevant, even among the hint of silliness. After all, CB Insights designs technology for people in the VC space, so it’s tasked with creating content that will appeal to a broad audience: customers, prospective customers, tech enthusiasts, and investors. And so, under such subject lines as “so sad: tough to have a VC dad,” it includes relevant data. Yes, gifs are hilarious — but in some contexts, they’re also worth $147 million.

Takeaway for Marketers

When you’re dying to create truly unique, cutting-edge content, it’s easy to stray from your organization’s mission and focus. So while it’s great to think outside of the box, use clever subject lines, or even write every email with an overarching humorous tone — keep it relevant and include the information that the people reading it signed up to receive in the first place. Then, keep it human.

2) Mattermark: Raise the Bar

B2B Marketing Mattermark-2.png

What It Does Well

Raise the Bar rounds up the best stories about a variety of different industries, giving me a great snapshot of trends to watch and news stories to follow without having to search for them myself.”

Sophia Bernazzani, Staff Writer, HubSpot Marketing Blog

One of the best things about well-curated content — especially the kind that pertains to your line of work — is that it eliminates a lot of work. Keeping up with news and trends is never easy when you’ve already got a full plate, so when someone else is able to hand-pick the things you need to know, it can feel like you’ve struck gold.

That’s what Raise the Bar does, by compiling a “daily digest of timely, must-read posts on sales, marketing and growth engineering.” And, that was the intent all along. In a 2016 blog post announcing the launch of the newsletter, Mattermark’s Co-founder and CEO, Danielle Morrill, wrote, “We’re turning our focus toward sifting through the mountains of content out there around sales, marketing, and growth to help the community of DOERS who grow companies.”

Takeaway for Marketers

Think about the problems that your product or service already aims to solve for customers. Then, turn that into relevant content that’s going to both save time for and inform your audience — and make it easy for them to access it.

3) MYOB: End of Financial Year

b2b marketing myob

What It Does Well

MYOB, a provider of business management solutions in Australia and New Zealand, helps companies manage their finances, in part by connecting them with bookkeepers and financial services professionals. It has two main audiences:

  1. Small businesses that are just learning the ropes
  2. More established companies that need greater insight into all facets of their operations.

Each audience has its own set of concerns and corresponding hub of information on MYOB.com — and MYOB has built a content strategy for each one that shows how much it understands its customers.

MYOB recognizes that many businesses are figuring out accounting and financial decisions as they grow, so it’s created content that positions the brand as a go-to resource to help those businesses navigate each stage of their development. The End of Financial Year center, for example, is angled to fit the needs of each customer group, providing tips for those just starting out, and guides for breaking through new stages of development.

Takeaway for Marketers

When you begin to brainstorm and map out ideas for content, ask yourself, “Do I really understand my audience?” If you have any doubts as to how the idea will benefit or be useful to your audience, the answer might be “no” — and that’s okay. Like everything else, audiences (and people) evolve, so it’s okay to go back to the drawing board in instances like these for a refresh.

4) Unbounce: Page Fights (R.I.P.)

What It Does Well

If you’ve ever seen a growth marketer on the heels of a successful optimization experiment, you know that her energy is electric. Unbounce, a landing page software company based in Vancouver, understands that excitement and decided to leverage it to create an engaging microsite, Page Fights, in collaboration with optimization company Conversion XL.

The project came to a close after one year, but during its existence, Page Fights contained live streams of marketing optimization expert panels who critiqued landing pages in real time. It was content that expanded far beyond the written word — and that was one thing that made it so great.

Sure, Unbounce has a successful blog, but it saw Page Fights as an opportunity to expand beyond that copy. It knew that the web — especially within marketing and web design — was becoming increasingly crowded with content. To address that, it diversified the format of its expertise, to keep its audience engaged and learning.

Takeaway for Marketers

The internet is only going to become more crowded. And as the human attention span dwindles, that makes it even more important to create content that engages and maintains your audience’s attention.

So while we don’t recommend abandoning blogs completely — after all, written content is still vital to SEO — we do emphasize the importance of diversifying content formats. Marketers who incorporate video into their content strategies, for example, have seen 49% faster revenue growth than those who don’t. And remember that tip to “keep it human” we mentioned earlier? That’s a great thing about live video in particular — it can help portray brands (and their people) as candid and genuine.

5) Deloitte University Press

B2B marketing DU Press

What It Does Well

Deloitte is a professional services company specializing in consulting, tech, auditing, and more. It works with a massive cross-section of industries, from government agencies to life sciences — and that broad range of knowledge is a major selling point. That’s why creating informed, useful content for individual, specialized audiences is core to its marketing strategy.

But Deloitte has also used that wealth of knowledge to position itself as a resource for those who want to know what it knows. So among its specialized hubs are educational content centers, including Deloitte University Press. Much like some of the other remarkable B2B content we’ve come across, it curates not only different pieces of highly helpful content — but also curates a variety of content formats. From blog posts, to webcasts, to podcasts, Deloitte University Press has a bit of everything for those who want to learn about its specialties and the industries it works with.

Takeaway for Marketers

Creating a content strategy to please a wide-scale audience like Deloitte’s is challenging. It can quickly become unfocused. But if your company has a number of specialties, creating content microsites for each of them is one way to keep that information organized, discoverable, and easy to navigate. Plus, it can never hurt to establish your brand as a go-to resource, so as you create these content hubs, consider adding a “knowledge center” among them that’s dedicated to teaching your audience the valuable things it wants to learn.

6) First Round Magazines

B2B marketing First Round Magazines

What It Does Well

Here’s another example of a brand that does a great job of leveraging different categories of knowledge. First Round, an early-stage VC company, recognized the knowledge among entrepreneurs and leaders that wasn’t being shared — knowledge that could be highly beneficial to their peers — and created the First Round Review as a place for it to be shared. It serves, reads the manifesto, to liberate the ideas and expertise that are “trapped in other people’s heads.”

But liberating that much-untapped knowledge can lead to the same problem we alluded to above — an unfocused mass of content that makes it difficult to discover exactly what you’re looking for. That’s why First Round organized the Review into a collection of nine online magazines, each specializing in a different aspect of building a business.

Takeaway for Marketers

If you’ve ever wondered how to leverage the wealth of knowledge outside of your organization — and inside your professional network — here’s a great example. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the entrepreneurs and leaders you’ve met, or simply just admire, to figure out how they can work with you to create content with teachable experiences that your audience will value. Sharing useful, relatable first-hand accounts conveys empathy, which helps to invoke trust among readers.

7) NextView Ventures: Startup Traction

b2b marketing nextview

What It Does Well

We absolutely love stumbling across B2B companies with an active presence on Medium. A great example is Startup Traction by VC firm NextView Ventures: a Medium publication that focuses on “tips & stories for seed-stage startups.”

But why would NextView want to create an entirely separate blog that isn’t even on its website? Well, it’s an exercise in creating off-site content: the material you own but doesn’t live on your website. When executed correctly, it can give publishers a huge boost in discoverability, variety, and quality, especially when making use of a highly popular platform like Medium.

Because Startup Traction isn’t attached to the company’s main URL, it provides an opportunity for NextView to experiment with different tones, voices, and stories — all from a variety of experts that might already be using Medium to discover and contribute unique content. Plus, with Medium’s built-in ability for people to recommend, highlight, and search internally for relevant content, it makes the work published there that much more shareable.

Takeaway for Marketers

Take advantage of the availability of off-site content platforms. As my colleague, Sam Mallikarjunan, writes in “Why Medium Works,” it can take up to six months of consistent publishing on your company’s blog before it gains significant traction. (And we’re not discouraging that — stick with it, and find ways to supplement those efforts.) But off-site content diversifies your audience by engaging readers who might not have otherwise found your website. Medium, for example, connects your content with the people most likely to read it. Plus, you’re creating a publication on a platform that comes with a built-in audience of at least 6.3 million users.

8) Wistia: Instagram

What It Does Well

At risk of sounding like a broken record, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of B2B brands maintaining a human element. That’s why we like it when companies use social media channels to give audiences a “look inside” at the people who make the great products and services they love.

Wistia, a video hosting platform, does that particularly well by sharing visual content on Instagram that lifts the curtain on its people — and dogs. It not only aligns with its brand — after all, the company does provide technology to businesses that want hosting solutions for their visual content — but it’s also just smart. Among its other advantages, visual content can help boost a viewer’s retention of things like brand information.

Takeaway for Marketers

Please, please, please don’t neglect to incorporate visuals into your content strategy. Of course, having a presence on visually-focused channels like Instagram and YouTube is vital — but when it comes to your written content, don’t afraid to use visuals there, as well. After all, articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the number of social shares than articles with fewer images.

But if you can also create content that aligns with the core of your product or service, that’s also great. As we mentioned before, Wistia creates visual content technology — so it makes sense that it would have unique visual content. Identify what your business does particularly well, and then make the most use of the channel that best aligns with your strengths.

9) Zendesk Engineering

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What It Does Well

Yes — more offsite content. This time, it’s from Zendesk, a maker of customer service software that’s done something unique with its Medium publication, Zendesk Engineering.

Zendesk might be an expert in the solutions provided by its product, but behind that product is a chorus of highly skilled experts — the people who build and engineer the software. The company realized that there’s an audience to be tapped that’s seeking insights and expertise on the technical side of the product, so it used that to build an entirely independent content property.

Takeaway for Marketers

Dig beneath the surface of the solutions your company provides. You offer solutions — but what is your process? What have you learned that makes you do what you do so well, and how did you get there?

Sure, topics like engineering might be traditionally “unsexy.” But when leveraged and communicated in a storytelling manner, they can make for remarkable content.

And the List Doesn’t End There

We’re optimistic that the digital realm is full of strong B2B content marketing efforts — and, we want to hear about them. But even more than that, we want to hear how these examples inspire you. As they show, there’s a world of content opportunities out there, just waiting for creative B2B marketers to take on.

What are your favorite examples of B2B marketing content? Let us know in the comments.

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

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Source: The Best of B2B Marketing Content: 9 Examples
blog.hubspot.com/marketing