The Most Searched Agency Services, According to the Time of Year [New Data]

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According to the latest Top Agency Trends Report from Agency Spotter, marketers and brands search for different services depending on the time of the year. Knowing which services to offer and emphasize at different times of the year could help your agency stand above your competition. These search trends, based on seasonality, come down to a couple of different factors based on what companies are looking to accomplish at different times of the year.

The report covers marketing services trends based on data from more than 120,000 unique users and three years, data on service seasonality, the top 25 agency services being searched, and the rise of project-based engagements.

Let’s dig in.

Marketing Services Searched More in the First Half of the Year

As companies begin the new year, they are looking to establish initiatives that are relatively quick fixes and do not take as much time to implement. Business leaders often take a look at their marketing data from the past year and see which areas need more attention or may have fallen down the to-do list.

Looking at the Trends Report, we can see that services like content marketing, PR, SEO, data analytics, shopper marketing, and events all perform better in the first half of the year. From the top 25 agency services for 2016, content marketing took the 7th spot as the most searched service from marketers all year. Interestingly, if you divide the list into H1 and H2, you can see that content marketing was 9th in H1 but did not even make the Top 25 in H2.

Content marketing is becoming increasingly important for all companies to utilize because it helps attract and inform customers and potential customers. But if you think about it, companies don’t generally set a content calendar at the end of the year — they tend to do that at the beginning of the year. Same thing goes for SEO and PR.

Check out the list below to see which keywords fall off or perform better at a certain time of year, and then optimize your site accordingly.

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Agency Services Perform Better in H2

Taking a look at the data, services like ecommerce, branding, UX design, email marketing, and CRM automation all perform better in the second half of the year. These align with initiatives that take more planning and are services that many companies want to have ready before the start of a new year.

Design-based services like ecommerce, branding, and UX all have to do with experiences that directly interact with customers. A website redesign or branding makeover are usually planned in the middle of the year so that companies are ready to debut their new look in the new year.

As you can see in the report, ecommerce went from 18th most searched in H1 to 5th in H2, branding from 12th to 6th, and UX took the 9th spot despite not even appearing on the H1 list.

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Services Shopped Consistently Year Round

There are also agency services whose demand remains stable throughout the year.

The big services like advertising, web design, digital, social media, and marketing perform all year. Use this data to better understand the behavior of your customers and when they are searching.

Finally, here are the biggest shifts from 2015 to 2016:

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Knowing what services perform better throughout the year can help your agency strategically position business development, staffing, and other factors to help your agency rise above the competition. For more information about the marketing service industry, download the free Agency Spotter Agency Trends Report.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

How to Turn Your Marketing Team Into Your Agency's Best R&D Department

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Every time I try a new recipe for a dish at a party, I try a little sample before I serve it to my guests — and not just because I’m always hungry (which I am). I do it because I would never want to serve something new to my guests that I can’t be sure actually tastes good.

How can I confidently stand there and say to my friends and family, “Go ahead and try it! You’ll love it!” when I have no idea what it’s really like?

I bet you probably do this with new recipes, too. But if your agency doesn’t use a similar process when it introduces new products or services to clients, you could be leaving them with a bad taste in their mouths.

If you’re going to sell your clients on something new, you’ve got to have a solid understanding of how it works, how well you can deliver it, and what the impact on the clients will be. You can’t confidently recommend a product or service to your clients if you don’t know what it’s like. And what’s the best way to find out?

You’ve got to give it a try.

How to Turn Marketing Into R&D

Most agencies don’t have the luxury of devoting an entire department purely to research and development. My agency sure doesn’t. What we do have is a marketing team that’s equipped to test potential new services internally before we make the decision to release them to clients.

A perfect example of this in action is Influence & Co.’s first venture into creating full-length books. One of our core services is helping turn leaders into consistent content creators, and over time, we started noticing a trend of clients asking if we could help them take the next step and write and publish their own books.

Without trying it first, we couldn’t answer that question truthfully. So we decided to test a process for writing a book on my co-founder, John Hall. The end result, “Top of Mind,” was published by McGraw-Hill and released in April.

By asking ourselves some important questions and detailing a plan in our documented content marketing strategy, we were able to transform our marketing team into a one-of-a-kind R&D department — and it’s already changed how we market and introduce new services to clients.

To turn marketing into a testing machine and create your agency’s own R&D team, start by asking yourself the following questions:

1) What exactly are we testing? 

This first step seems intuitive, but you might be surprised by how easy it is to jump into an exciting idea before nailing down exactly what your goals are. Are you testing a potential process for a brand-new service offering? Maybe you’re testing your team’s capacity?

When we set out to write our first book, our test was to determine whether our current content marketing teams had the skill sets required to produce it. The main goal was to learn whether we had the ability to create a book efficiently enough to make a profit and to explore how that process actually works.

This understanding of what you’re testing and why brings your marketing and leadership teams together and keeps them focused on your goals. With that foundation, marketing can begin transitioning into R&D to answer those driving questions.

2) How will we measure the success of our test? 

Just like you shouldn’t begin a content marketing program without matching your key metrics to goals, you shouldn’t start a test without understanding how you’ll measure its success.

For my agency, because our goal was to test whether we could efficiently and profitably create a book with our current team, we measured success by tracking how many hours each team member spent on the project. We also recorded details of the exact process we used so we’d understand how much it cost and what might need to change to make it work better for a client.

Success was measured by whether we could create and publish an awesome book and do so within a timeline and budget we thought clients would agree to.

3) What will expanding this test to clients look like? 

Imagine that your new R&D team tested this service, measured its results, and found that it achieved the goals set out from the beginning. Congratulations! Your next step, then, would be to go ahead and roll out this service offering to all clients, right?

Not yet.

When you test a new service internally, your team should constantly ask itself, “What would make this different for a client?” “How would a client respond differently than we do as the internal client?” and “What works better or worse for an external client?”

These kinds of questions will help your team avoid a stalling phase in which your test worked internally but you’re unsure what to do next. Instead, you’ll be able to expand this test to its next phase: select client testing.

This is critical because your R&D team will behave differently from your normal clients. Once you’re confident in your test and in your decision to move forward, consider rolling it out at a major discount to one client as a beta tester. This will help your team understand how actual clients interact with your new service and processes before you spend resources introducing it to every one of them.

Setting Up Your R&D and Client Services Teams for Success

Your marketing-team-turned-R&D-department will get into a groove after it’s got a test or two under its belt, and specific processes will evolve with each one. Still, there are a couple of best practices you should follow each time to set up your teams for continued success:

Track your time carefully. 

Regardless of your specific test goals, you need to know how much time you’re spending and what you’re investing in this research for two big reasons: to understand how much it costs your agency to test new services and to get an idea of what to charge your clients.

Be transparent with clients. 

When we signed on our first client to expand the book test, we told him directly that we’ve successfully completed one so far but that he’d only be the second project. We set up a system for collecting feedback and offered him a discount. Disguising your test as a totally normal full-fledged service won’t help your agency or your clients. Everyone needs to be clear that this is still a test so that expectations are realistic.

Introducing new services to your clients and trying out a new recipe aren’t exactly the same. But by giving your marketing team the resources and support to transform into your own R&D team, you might discover that the ideas and approaches that make testing successful aren’t all that different. So before you encourage clients to try your latest service, give it a try yourself.

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Source: How to Turn Your Marketing Team Into Your Agency's Best R&D Department
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

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

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In May, agencies got creative with alternative advertising mediums.

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

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

10 of the Best Ads from May

1) Visit Sweden

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

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

 

2) Syoss

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

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

 

3) Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy

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

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

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

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

 

4) Thalys

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

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

 

5) Merck Consumer Health

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

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

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

 

6) The Friars

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

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

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

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Image Credit:
Tom Wysocki on Twitter

 

7) Oscar Mayer

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

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

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

 

8) Play-Doh

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

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



Image via
Adland

 

9) Apple

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Source: 10 of the Best Ads from May: Hot Dogs, Rhinos, and an Accidental Viral Hit
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

How to Personalize Transactional Emails With Dynamic Content

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

Email marketing isn’t going anywhere.

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

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

But what about transactional emails?

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

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

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Data source: IBM

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

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Data source: IBM

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

What is a Transactional Email?

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

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

Personalization in Transactional Emails

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

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

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

The Welcome Email

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

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

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

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

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

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The Purchase Email

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cart Abandonment Email

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Don’t Forget Your Transactional Emails

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

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

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Source: How to Personalize Transactional Emails With Dynamic Content
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

Marketers, This Is the Best Way to Truly Serve a Nonprofit

We all want to do good in the world. Agencies have a strong tradition of taking on pro bono work for nonprofits — this sometimes means designing a logo or creating a brochure; other times it’s sponsoring an event, or even just simply offering advice.

Those things serve an immediate need, but they don’t necessarily make a lasting impact.

If you want to make a substantial difference, dive deeper: Adopt a nonprofit for one year, and treat it like a paying client. It’s a mutually beneficial strategy: The nonprofit gets high-quality attention and resources, and the agency gets an infusion of positive exposure.

How Agencies Can Serve Non-Profits

Finding a Great Match

There are thousands of amazing organizations out there — choosing just one is difficult. To select a nonprofit that will benefit from your services, send out an application that asks organizations to explain their mission and goals.

One requirement of your adoption should be that your agency will make a quarterly presentation to the nonprofit’s board, updating them on progress and next steps. Why does this matter? Because community and business leaders tend to be active in the nonprofit scene, so the potential connections could prove invaluable.

When making your selection, consider each nonprofit’s board membership. Does the board include individuals who would be beneficial for your agency to get in front of? Any potential business prospects? The nonprofit itself probably won’t be able to hire your agency after the yearlong adoption, but if you can score just one client from its board, that’s a great return on investment.

Partnering with a nonprofit benefits your agency beyond the bottom line. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, nearly two-thirds of CEOs are increasing their corporate social responsibility efforts, in part in pursuit of intangible benefits such as bolstered consumer trust. Studies have shown that workplace philanthropy initiatives improve employee morale, increase motivation, and boost the company’s reputation among employees. It will also improve your agency’s reputation and broaden its exposure.

Begin the relationship like you would with any other client. Take the nonprofit through your discovery process to learn everything you can about what it’s trying to accomplish, the resources it has available, what’s worked for the organization in the past, and what’s been challenging.

An All-Around Win

When you adopt a nonprofit for a year, you change its trajectory. My agency has been doing this for more than a decade, and we’ve never had a nonprofit say we didn’t make a difference.

Just taking nonprofits through our discovery process points them in a better direction. We help them articulate their message. We force them to get clear about who they are, what they do, who they help, and what they need from the community to deliver those services. 

How can you make the biggest impact? Help nonprofits create events or improve upon them. For instance, one nonprofit we adopted held an annual event that brought in $25,000. We revamped the soiree, and it now nets more than $300,000 each year. Talk about a sustainable, lasting difference.

Adopting a nonprofit is, of course, about leveraging your resources to do good, but there’s no reason why you can’t get some traction out of the initiative, too. Once you make your selection, send out a news release. Throughout the year, report on your progress and what your partnership has accomplished.

5 Steps for Making a Big Difference

Any work you do for a nonprofit helps it carry out its mission. But to maximize the good your agency does, take these five steps.

1) Create your adoption plan.

Drum up a PR plan for how to get the word out to nonprofits about your adoption initiative. Press releases work well — it’s a feel-good story, so the local media will usually be more than happy to spread the information. Consider calling up your local United Way and asking it to notify the nonprofits it serves.

2) Select the nonprofit.

Use specific criteria to select the perfect nonprofit for your agency. The organization should align with your company culture and champion a cause you and your team care about. Also, consider what difference you’ll be able to make in both the short and long term — even if your team is passionate about a cause, it won’t be a good partnership if there’s not much of an impact to be made.

3) Align with the proper vendors.

In some cases, the nonprofit may have needs that go beyond your agency’s skill set. If that’s the case, it helps to have a network of vendors you can call on to join the cause. These vendors can include audio companies, videographers, web developers, photographers, or others.

4) Treat the nonprofit like it’s a paying client.

The discovery process is essential for figuring out what the nonprofit needs. Learn what resources it has available and what its team can take care of. Think through what you can do for the nonprofit, as well as any skills or strategies you can add to its toolbox so it can sustain the marketing strategy year after year.

5) Keep the process going.

If you’re doing things right, word will get out about your nonprofit work. Be sure to maintain a spot on your website to outline your initiative, share news, and provide the application for other organizations to apply next year. Make sure the application deadline remains the same year after year so nonprofits always know when to apply.

If you want to truly make a difference, adopt a nonprofit for a year. The organization and the community it serves will benefit, your agency will get great exposure, and, if you do it right, you’ll net some new clients along the way. It’s good for business, and it’ll make you feel good, too.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Reasons Your Retainers Aren’t Bigger

1) Your Own Marketing Sucks

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

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

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

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

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

2) Your Clients Are More Tech-Savvy Than You

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

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

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

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

3) You Aren’t Aligned with Marketing Technology Vendors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) You Look and Sound Like Everyone Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) You’re Not Using Data To Justify Investments

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how they do it …

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

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

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

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

7) Despite Your Claims, You’re Not Actually Data-Driven

All digital agencies say they’re data-driven. But, do you really use data to adapt your marketing plans? Did you do it once a long time ago for one client or do you make data-driven decisions every day for every client? Do you adapt your marketing mix for each client each month based on the performance of the campaigns you ran? Do you tweak your campaigns or content calendar to ensure you hit client goals each week? Do you tweak ad campaigns and social promotion daily as you gather data in real-time?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you’re a rarity.

Most agencies I’ve interviewed cut and paste some data into a KPI scorecard, send it off to the client and call it a month. Or worse, they cut and paste some screen grabs from a few different tools into a powerpoint presentations, add a few sentences of interpretation and email it off to the client each quarter.

These agencies are treating “reporting” as a thing they have to do to cover their ass.

What makes this pro-active really shameful, this is not how most data-driven agencies sell themselves. Many of these same agencies set numeric marketing goals with prospects during the sales process, but don’t hold themselves accountable to achieving them. They might revisit the goals at their quarterly review, but most don’t ever re-visit them.

Don’t get me wrong. Most agencies do produce results and are able to show a lot of “up and to the right” graphs to clients. But, they could be doing much better if they adapted client marketing plans more frequently.  

There are a few agencies that do this right. Some agencies have established consolidated near-real-time views of marketing data from different sources and made these views accessible via all devices to clients and all agency employees. By making it easy to monitor data against the goals set, monthly reporting almost becomes unnecessary and marketing results can be incrementally improved.

I know a few agencies who even use mobile, slack and email alerts to let software monitor when issues arise or when goals are unlikely to be achieved. Like a software company monitors when their software or servers are down, these marketers are receiving alerts when specific metrics aren’t where they need to be. Then, they’re adapting their activities to ensure achievement of the goal.

That is what it means to be a data-driven, agile marketing agency.  

Need a system for this? Read HubSpot Diamond Partner, Kuno Creative’s process for visualizing and monitoring sales and marketing data.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9) You Aren’t Introducing New Ideas to Clients

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

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

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

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

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

Do These Things to Land Bigger Retainers

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

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

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

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

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

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Source: 9 Reasons Your Marketing Agency's Retainers Aren't Bigger
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

15 Fashion Brands You Should Follow on Instagram for Marketing Inspiration

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

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

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



Source:
Digiday

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



Source:
L2

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

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

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

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

15 Fashion Brands to Follow on Instagram

1) Everlane @everlane

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

  
 

2) Nike @nike

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

  
 

3) Teva @teva

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

  
 

4) Zara @zara

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

  
 

5) Fossil @fossil

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

  
 

6) Kate Spade @katespadeny

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

  
 

7) Fjällräven @fjallravenofficial

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

  
 

8) Madewell @madewell

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

  
 

9) The Row @therow

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

  
 

10) Asos @asos

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

  
 

11) Aerie @aerie

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

  
 

12) Eileen Fisher @eileenfisherny

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

  
 

13) Anthropologie @anthropologie

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

  
 

14) Girlfriend Collective @girlfriendcollective

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

  
 

15) J.Crew @jcrew

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

  
 

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

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

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Source: 15 Fashion Brands You Should Follow on Instagram for Marketing Inspiration
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

15 Questions to Make You a More Empathic Person

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We know empathy — the ability to understand and relate to the emotions of others — is a core competency of creativity, leadership, and being an all-around happy, successful person.

Consciously approaching situations with an empathic perspective enables us to devise more inventive, impactful solutions to problems, form meaningful relationships, and ultimately, understand ourselves more thoroughly and with more self-acceptance. 

But is empathy a static trait? Or are we capable of improving our own capacity for empathic thinking?

“You can learn [empathy] with time and dedication” said Annie McKee, author of Primal Leadership and Happy at Work, in Harvard Business Review. “It starts with having a dream– a vision of the future that means enough for you to put in the hard work needed to change old habits. And, you need to accept how important empathy is at work — and perhaps […] the realization of the damage done by not having it.”

So what does strengthening our empathic fitness look like in practice? The team at Sub Rosa, a strategy and design practice based in Manhattan, believe it begins with asking yourself some tough questions. To help more people embrace an ongoing habit of acknowledging and consciously improving empathy, they developed Questions & Empathy, a card deck with 49 questions designed to provoke authentic discussions and strengthen empathic thinking.

The deck has been used in workshops across a number of different industries and disciplines — from the Fast Company Innovation Festival to West Point. Each question is aimed at uncovering a deeper truth about the way we navigate the world — one we might not have discovered without direct provocation. 

“Some of us are naturally predisposed empaths, but for the rest of us, it’s a skill that is learned and developed,” explains the guidebook for Questions & Empathy. “It requires curiosity and imagination, and it’s a muscle that we must constantly train. Doing so will help you discover greater purpose, inform sound decisions, build deeper relationships, and create better solutions.”

In their ongoing work with empathy, the team at Sub Rosa has identified seven key components of empathic thinking, and given each archetype a title and core purpose:

  • Inquirer: Interrogate assumed truths
  • Convener: Anticipate the needs of others
  • Alchemist: Test and learn at all costs
  • Confidant: Summon the patience to observe and absorb information
  • Sage: Inhabit the here and now
  • Cultivator: Purposefully nurture and actively develop
  • Seeker: Be confident and unafraid to take risks or pivot

The Questions & Empathy deck is designed to put you in the mindset of each archetype, challenging you to explore different areas of empathic thinking through uncommonly direct questions and self-reflection.

We’re sharing 15 of our favorite questions from the deck below, broken down into sections corresponding to five different components of empathy. So gather your team, your friends, or just a pen and paper, and approach each of these questions with an open mind. There are no right or wrong answers.

15 Questions to Strengthen Empathic Thinking

Interrogate assumed truths.

Challenging preconceived notions enables us to better navigate a world of diverse belief systems and conflicting opinions. Part of embracing empathy in your daily life means pushing to discover the big, messy, underlying reasons behind the beliefs and patterns you’ve always accepted without question.

Sometimes, we need to excavate the “why” behind seemingly fixed points, and demand contemplative responses from ourselves and others. 

1) When have your instincts led you astray?

2) What are your personal biases that most interfere with finding truth?

3) What types of questions make you most uncomfortable?

 

Creatively anticipate the needs of others.

There are times in your professional and personal life when it’s up to you to intentionally cultivate space for other people to grow and thrive. This means learning what others need to be successful, and figuring out how to give it to them without compromising your own sense of well-being. 

4) What about you most comforts others?

5) What makes an experience meaningful?

6) How do you balance being self-serving and selfless?

 

Constantly test and try.

To constantly improve yourself and your work, you need to be willing to test, fail, and pivot accordingly — often over and over again. Remaining curious and patient in the face of failure is not without its emotionally charged challenges, but it creates resilience, focus, and a deep, first-hand appreciation for the victories and losses of those around you. 

7) When does your curiosity create difficulty?

8) Who has challenged you to be better than you once were?

9) How does iteration inform the outcome of your work?

 

Summon the patience to observe and absorb information.

Understanding is formed in those silent, observant moments of a deep conversation — when we stop planning what to say next, and focus instead on absorbing everything we can. You might be surprised how much you come to understand about the people around you when you give them a secure, nonjudgmental space to confide. 

10) What role can silence play in a conversation?

11) What should people better understand about you?

12) When are you most observant?

 

Inhabit the here and now.

“Be present” isn’t just a self-help mantra — it’s a reminder to acknowledge how you feel in a given moment, and recognize the feelings of those around you. When you feel yourself becoming untethered from the present moment or clouded with concerns about the past or future, make a conscious effort to bring yourself back and check in. 

13) Where do you feel most present?

14) When negative emotions arise, how do you deal with them?

15) How do you stay grounded when the world gets overwhelming?

 

How do you plan to strengthen your empathy this year? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: 15 Questions to Make You a More Empathic Person
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

How to Leverage Social Intent Data in Your Next Nurturing Campaign

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As marketers, capturing buyer attention is everything. Without it, we’re just throwing more content, emails, ads, and offers into the abyss. Yet, there has never been a harder time to earn buyer attention.

Thanks to advances in technology and the abundance of information on the internet, today’s buyers have a lot more knowledge and power. They can learn about our companies and products through many channels — online and offline.

Meanwhile, technology has made it much easier for marketers to create more content, push ads, and send emails, — and we’re doing it more, more and more.

The convergence of these two forces has resulted in diminishing returns for marketers. Our prospects are overwhelmed by the amount of content they’re exposed to, and they are tuning us out.

Consider that the average office worker receives 121 emails a day. With that staggering number in mind, it’s not surprising that people are unsubscribing from emails at higher rates. Research shows that the number one reason users unsubscribe from email lists is because they get too many emails in general, not necessarily because they don’t like the content.

At Socedo, our nurture emails get a 1% CTR on average. A 2% CTR is now considered “good”.

At this point, simply turning up the volume doesn’t work anymore. As marketers, we need make sure that our engagement is more targeted and valuable.

To get there, we need to listen to our customers before we act.

Instead of pushing what we “think” customers want, we should wait for them to tell us what they care about. Instead of starting a campaign because a senior leader thinks it’s a good idea, we can use customer data to inform the campaign strategy, content and execution.

What is Intent-Based Marketing?  

Intent-based marketing is a methodology of listening to signals that show a prospect is researching a specific topic or problem area so you can send the right message at the right time.

It’s the kind of marketing that aims to listen, learn, and then engage. For example, an intent-based email would be sent to a prospect as soon as they show interest in a relevant topic, and the email would reference the prospect’s interest and provide relevant content.

While intent-based marketing has been around for awhile now, marketers have traditionally just focused on buying intent.

But intent-based marketing is not just about serving the right ad or message to trigger a purchase. It’s about responding to people’s intentions in the right way, wherever they are in the buying journey. It is this level of personalization and relevant engagement that will make people choose your brand versus your competitors.

You can start this process by gathering intent data from the broader web.

What is Intent Data?

Intent data is generated from actions that tells you what a potential buyer is interested in.

It includes internal data (collected from engagement with your owned digital properties, such as website clicks, email opens, downloaded offers, etc.) and external data (collected from activities outside of your owned digital properties, such as social media platforms, user reviews, competitor mentions).

At this point, marketing automation platforms have enabled us to nurture leads, and personalize our emails, website content and ads based on the data we’ve collected. This is a great start, but it’s not enough.

If the only actions you’re tracking are email clicks, webpage visits and other engagements with your company, you are only tracking leads that are “in-market”, or actively in the buying process. In reality, the majority of the B2B buying cycle is over by the time a buyer lands on your website. According to Corporate Executive Board, prospects have made 60% of their buying decision before talking to a sales rep.

The buyer journey starts when someone starts to do research on the web to increase their understanding of a problem they want to solve. This is known as the Discover stage within the buying journey.

According to Forrester’s Business Technographics Survey in 2016, buyers use 15 vehicles during the Discover stage. More than half of these vehicles are online, and thus represent sources of digital insight.

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Source: Lenovo’s presentation on Intent-Based Marketing at B2B Marketing Exchange 2017

Social Media-Based Intent Data

Social media is a good place to start because there is a wealth of intent data that exists within social media platforms and much of that data is public.

55% of B2B buyers search for information on social media and 84% of CEOs and VPs use social media to make purchasing decisions.

Social intent data includes any action potential leads take on social media. Today, many people go to social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn to learn about and discuss news and business issues in our industry. Some of us go on Quora to get perspectives on how we might tackle certain business challenges, or go on Meetup.com to find in-person events where we can gain a broader view of our industry.

On Twitter, we can identify potential buyers based on their tweets and following relations. On LinkedIn, we could find potential buyers by looking at people’s group affiliations (i.e., specific product user groups), the influencers they are following, the articles they are sharing and commenting on. On Quora, we could do the same by looking at who is asking questions related to our product category. On Meetup.com, we could see people’s profiles and their meetup attendance history.

At this point, there are data providers that can tell you which contacts or prospects in your marketing automation database are showing interest in your space, based on keywords present in social media conversations.

With contact/lead level intent data from social media, you can start to segment your leads, use this data to trigger personalized emails in real-time, and to score your leads.  

How to Leverage Intent Data from Social Media

1) Start With Social Keyword Research

Finding the right keywords to use to target and trigger your marketing campaigns requires you to look at keyword research a little differently. You’re not looking for the keywords leads are using to find your website, because that’s only a small percent of their overall activity.

Instead, you want to know:

  • Which influencers your leads follow
  • What topics your leads research most
  • The events, news or keywords your leads care most about
  • Which competitors they’re following

Other than your own social accounts, who else do your leads follow? This information will give you a mix of obvious influencers in your industry, but it will also reveal connections that you may not have realized existed.

2) Look for Keywords and Hashtags Mentioned

This is another important set of social intent data that will tell you what topics your leads are researching — even if they aren’t actively performing the research directly on your site.

Social intent data means you aren’t limited to the keywords strictly associated with search research. Event hashtags, industry topics or other keywords could all indicate a good fit and need for your product or service — especially from your more passive leads who aren’t actively searching Google.

3) Identify Social Activity With the Greatest Opportunity

Unlike traditional lead scoring, where your leads’ actions are limited by the amount of content you create and promote, tracking keywords and social actions in this way could give you hundreds or even thousands of results. You can track as many keywords as you want, but you don’t want to create a campaign around every one. You want to prioritize the keywords where you see the most opportunity.

There are two main factors you should use to evaluate the opportunity of potential keywords:

  1. Volume: How many users are engaging with each hashtag or keyword in a set timeframe?
  2. Lead Engagement: How much do leads who take that social action engage with your company?

The first point is straightforward. The second point requires you to compare your social keywords with the lead scoring you already perform. If leads using a particular keyword also tend to visit your website, engage with your emails and download your offers, then other leads using that keyword are likely people you want to market to.

On the other hand, if a keyword has been used by a lot of leads in your system, but that’s the only thing these leads are doing and they don’t have a high lead score, you should not spend time crafting content on that topic.

Here is a sample report you can run to compare the minimum lead score of the different keywords identified in step 1. By comparing the keyword research above with your existing lead scoring you can gain an even better idea of which social activities indicate qualified leads. Eventually, you can incorporate social actions into your lead scoring model alongside email clicks and form fills, to keep your pipeline full with the most qualified leads.

This sample report has dummy data:

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Next, look at how many leads are using a specific keyword or social activity to know whether or not you should focus on it. We’ll talk about measuring and improving this list in the last step, but this data will give you a good place to start.

3) Conduct a Content Audit and Start Planning

When you perform research on social keywords, you may learn things you expect, i.e., your audience is engaging with a social keyword you’re already creating content around. You may also find a few surprising keyword opportunities that you weren’t focusing on at all. The least surprising keywords are where you want to start.

Before you begin creating campaigns, you need to determine what content you’ll use to educate and nurture the leads taking these specific social actions. This process begins by auditing the content you already have.

For each potential keyword, ask:

  • Do I already have content on this topic?
  • How does that content perform? Does it need to be rewritten or revised?
  • What’s my specific message or call to action for people who are interested in this topic?
  • What new content do I need to develop for this audience?

At the end of this process, you should have a clear idea of the buyer personas you’re targeting for each keyword and the message you want to send to properly nurture them. Your keywords will end up in one of three buckets:

  • Keywords you’ve actively targeted and rank for. These have always been your main SEO focus. You have good quality content on the topic and know the best way to target the audience.
  • Keywords you create content for but haven’t made a priority. Before this research, you may have known there were opportunities here but didn’t realize how valuable they were. The content created probably needs revisions and you may need to create some new content to support it.
  • Keywords you didn’t know your audience cared about. These are the ones that really surprised you. You currently have no content to support these campaigns and need to develop the right messaging to approach this new audience.

All these keywords still present strong opportunities. As you begin creating campaigns, you’ll be able to test out the process on keywords you know you have strong messaging for while you build out your content and messaging for the rest.

4) Leverage Social Intent Data in Your Email Nurturing Campaigns

Once you have the social actions that indicate a qualified lead, you can create marketing campaigns around lead actions like following a relevant influencer, mentioning a specific keyword, or using a relevant hashtag. 

Start by focusing on two to three of your strongest keywords, and build campaigns around those. Based on your content audit in Step 3, you should be able to identify a few “low hanging fruit” keywords where you already have good content to share. Your early concern shouldn’t be building out long sequences either. Create one to two follow-up emails per campaign and see how they perform.

Once you feel like you are getting good results in terms of email open rates and click-through rates, you can expand these initial campaigns and move on to other keywords where you already have content to promote.

Here at Socedo, we are currently sending 500-1000 real-time emails per week that are triggered solely from social media actions. Here’s an example of the email we send out when a lead uses the keyword #ContentMarketing, a topic we blog about frequently:

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This email averages a 38.8 % Open rate and a 4.8% click through rate. It performs twice as well as our typical nurture emails.

Depending on how broad each social action is, you may need to further segment your campaign or send it to everyone who uses that hashtag. For example, we found that while leads using a keyword like #ABM had a variety of job titles, almost all the leads following particular accounts are senior decision makers.

Consider Leveraging Social Intent Data

By turning to intent data from the broader web and social media, you can understand your buyers, segment your accounts and prospects into the right campaign tracks, trigger real-time emails and more accurately score your leads.

Use these five steps to start your intent-based marketing campaign but remember to constantly return to each step to further improve and refine your campaigns as you learn more about your audience and the right way to target them.

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Source: How to Leverage Social Intent Data in Your Next Nurturing Campaign
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

The Best Advice for Marketers in 2017: Insights from 11 Experts

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Don Draper wouldn’t know what hit him. Gone are the decadent days of the liquid lunch, three-piece suits, and Madison Avenue dominating the marketing landscape. Modern marketers have to be a jill-of-all-trades, with one foot in the real world, and one in cyberspace.

We live in an age of digital disruption and a constantly evolving marketing playground. 96% of B2C marketers believed they were experiencing “significant change” in 2014. That number would likely be 100% today.

Radio, television spots, billboards, full-page spreads in glossy magazines, and direct mail packages have been replaced by their online counterparts. In fact, companies with a comprehensive strategic vision combined with digital tactics perform 26% better on average.

Even online, though, certain tactics have already become obsolete. Banner ads and email blast campaigns, for example, don’t really cut it anymore. Evolve, or perish. Embrace digital, or be left behind. Diversify your channels, or risk being invisible.

Today, your marketing mix should include social media, SEO, influencers, PPC ads, a mobile-first mentality, segmented and transactional email, remarketing, content marketing, detailed buyer personas, big data, analytics … and probably about a dozen more components I’m forgetting at the moment.

Obviously, that’s a lot of moving parts. So what’s a marketer to do? Where do you focus first if you want to improve?

As always, you turn to the experts. I reached out to a handful of experts and influencers, asking them two simple questions:

  1. What’s the most important advice you can give a marketer in 2017?
  2. What are some traits and qualities that make a marketer successful?

Here are their responses. Read, learn, enjoy.

Marketing Advice for 2017 From the Experts

1) John Rampton, Due

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A prolific contributor to The Huffington Post, Forbes, and Entrepreneur, Rampton is an online influencer, serial entrepreneur, and CEO of Due

Question #1: “Don’t get stuck in a rut, relying on the same tactics year after year. Continually reassess what you’re using and doing because online marketing, social media marketing tools, and audience preferences change faster than you realize. You will be left behind. I re-evaluate what we’re doing at least once a year and stay on top of new platforms and channels I need to incorporate in an upcoming marketing strategy revision.”

Question #2: “A successful marketer needs to be flexible, open, an active listener, and creative.”

2) Ann Handley, Annhandley.com

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Handley hardly needs an introduction: she’s a bestselling author, keynote speaker, LinkedIn influencer, and chief content officer at MarketingProfs. Forbes named her the most influential woman in social media. See what all the fuss is about at her personal website.

Question #1: “Us[e] voice and tone consistently across all channels and accounts to convey brand. Your tone of voice is a differentiator in a sea of same, yet most organizations vastly undervalue it. Most spend a lot of time on the visual elements of their brand — but not a lot on tone of voice (what you sound like). So — embrace tone of voice as your gutsiest, bravest asset!”

3) Hiten Shah, Quick Sprout

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Shah’s list of SaaS startups reads like a who’s who of success: He’s the co-founder and former CEO of Kissmetrics, co-founder of Crazy Egg, and co-founder of Quick Sprout.

Question #1: “Always strive to find uncommon ways of marketing yourself and your business. That’s how you’ll discover some of the biggest, high leverage opportunities that others have not caught on to yet.”

Question #2: ” A childlike curiosity will serve you well not only in marketing, but also life in general. Never lose it.”

4) Michelle Killebrew, Nomiku

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With over 16 years of high tech marketing experience, Killebrew has led teams at both IBM and Fisher Investments. She describes herself as a marketing technologist, and is currently working with Nomiku.

Question #1: “This advice is a longstanding truth: Always put the customer first. Customer-centricity has always been a foundation to good marketing, but it’s becoming exponentially more critical as the customer has more control and less attention, more options and less tolerance for poor experience.”

Question #2: “Marketers must be inquisitive with a true thirst for learning. The landscape is changing daily — everything from the consumer expectation and attention, effective channels, strategies and methods, and the technology required to execute it all. Marketers must be inventors with a love of experimentation and iteration to serve their customers well and stay competitive.”

5) Michael Lykke Aagaard, Unbounce

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Aagaard is an international speaker and senior conversion optimizer for Unbounce, the landing page and conversion specialists. With stints in Europe and North America, Aagaard describes himself as a practitioner and theorist on the subject.

Question #1: “Do everything you can to understand your target audience. The better you understand what reality looks like through their eyes, the easier it will be for you to make the right marketing decisions. In online marketing, we’re seeing everything through a digital lens. It can be easy to forget that you’re in the business of influencing real human behavior and decision-making — not just moving numbers around in a spreadsheet. Your marketing activities will only be effective if they have real impact on your real target audience. My best advice is to invest heavily in customer insight and market research.”

Question #2: “Having a strategic approach to problem solving is absolutely crucial. You need the ability to approach a complex situation, look at the data, cut through the clutter, carve out the best way forward and then ‘attack’! Also, being bold enough to admit when you’re wrong is very important. Stubbornly clinging to cherished notions and personal darlings rarely leads to insight or better results.”

6) Michael Brenner, Marketing Insider Group

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He’s the CEO of Marketing Insider Group, an internationally recognized keynote speaker, and an in-demand author, blogger, and contributor. Brenner has passion for and insight on both leadership and marketing strategies that work.

Question #1: ” Set a measurable and customer-centric goal focused on the impact you create for them and your company. My favorite metric to use is subscribers. Subscribers will tell you if the content you create is actually helping your customers. And subscribers have the added bonus of having real value to your company!”

Question #2: “Successful marketers have the courage to support the best ideas from across the organization. Not the stuff you did last year, or the thing your boss thinks will work, but the ideas that create real impact for customers.”

7) Laura Bilazarian, Teamable

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Bilazarian is the CEO and founder of Teamable — an employee referral and diversity hiring platform. Previous investment banker, Vietnam hotel builder, and rugby player, she’s a graduate of the Wharton Business School.

Question #1: Be authentic and hold yourself to a high standard in terms of the quality of content that you associate with yourself and your brand. Make it genuinely data-driven and tactical. Go back to the standards of a college thesis with the content you create — cite scientific sources, offer unique and contrarian insights supported by data, and so on. Learn real data science so that your experiments lead to the right conclusions with the minimum input. Understand how to optimize ROI with limited resources. Learn from your cutting edge customers and put what they’re doing out into the world, again in a scientific manner, so that the discipline your product supports evolves forward.”

Question #2: “Data-driven, creative, contrarian, and intuitive. That’s the kind of marketers we need today.”

8) Talia Wolf, GetUplift

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Wolf was previously the founder and CEO of Conversioner, and is the founder and chief optimizer at GetUplift, a boutique conversion optimization agency. She’s a guest blogger, keynote speaker, trainer, and advocate for using emotional targeting and persuasive design.

Question #1: “You’re not the hero of the story, your customer is. Most businesses tend to focus their entire marketing strategy by talking about their product or service, the features they provide, and their pricing. However, no matter what you’re selling, customers care more about the why than the what. If you make it about them, they will listen, they will read, they will convert, and they will come back.”

Question #2: Skills and techniques can be taught, but passionate, dedicated people are extremely rare and should be held on to. It’s not about how advanced they are, or if they know how to set up a campaign in AdWords or a variation in an A/B testing platform. It’s about their passion to learn, grow, and drive the company forward.”

9) Jason M. Lemkin, SaaStr

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Lemkin is a SaaS founder, investor, and enthusiast, as well as the driving force behind SaaStr, a company that provides advice, wisdom, and investment funds to four to five SaaS startups each year. He previously worked at Adobe, and is a top three most popular author on Quora.

Question #1: “Understand what playbook works at which stage. Eventually, all playbooks converge. That, and protect your brand at all costs. Later, that and the quality of your team is all that will matter.”

Question #2: “Humility. A great marketer knows what she knows how to do, and what she doesn’t, and she seeks out help wherever she needs it. An arrogant marketer — or worse, a defensive marketer — is one destined for a series of short stints.”

10) Shama Hyder, Marketing Zen

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Hyder is a digital marketing strategist, bestselling author, CEO of Marketing Zen, a web and television personality, and a prolific guest contributor to sites including Forbes.

Question #1: Marketing today is an entire ecosystem and it is evolutionary. The best marketers approach it in that way — by constantly learning, measuring progress, and focusing on the bigger picture.”

 

11) Lars Lofgren, I Will Teach You To Be Rich

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Lofgren is the senior director of growth at I Will Teach You To Be Rich, the lifestyle and finance company started by Ramit Sethi. He previously worked in growth and marketing for Kissmetrics before switching to his current position.

Question #1: “If there’s only one thing you do as a marketer, work to be a solid copywriter. It’s the foundational skill of all marketing and also has the highest leverage. It’ll help you with every single campaign and every single project. It also teaches you the core concepts of marketing such as target market, value props, positioning, persuasion, sales, and so forth. And as most marketers are terrible copywriters, it’s the fastest way to uplevel your own career and set you apart.”

Question #2: A relentless drive for truth. The best marketers don’t delude themselves about what’s working and what’s not. They’re great at self reflection, taking feedback, and understanding when the market wants something different than what they’re offering.”

What Marketing Means in 2017

If there’s a running theme here, it’s that you need to be excruciatingly careful with your brand, and an all-consuming sense of curiosity is worth more than any formal credential.

Your brand is your digital word. Protect it. Your curiosity can keep you on top of emerging trends, new tech tools, and developing platforms, channels, and tactics. It can allow you to stand out.

Modern marketing isn’t about where you studied the field, or what company you interned for, or even how clever you can be with taglines and slogans. It’s recognizing that not only have the rules changed, but it’s an entirely new game. It’s customers first and foremost: where are they (online), how are they accessing (mobile), what do they want and expect (premium service and experience)? Your job is to identify and then think like them.

Are you up for the challenge? Do you have the right people in place to make it happen? The individuals here are walking the walk, and talking the talk. Their advice is good advice.

Are you set up to follow it? If yes, then do. If not, make the necessary changes. Your future self will thank you.

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Source: The Best Advice for Marketers in 2017: Insights from 11 Experts
blog.hubspot.com/marketing