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

5 Podcast Episodes That Will Make You a Better Agency Leader

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It’s one thing to read thought leadership on where a certain industry is going, or to talk about theoretical best practices in a given role or situation. It’s another thing entirely to get tactical, practical advice on what to do today about a specific problem — delivered by someone who’s actually been in your shoes.

Agency leaders get plenty of the first type of guidance through industry publications and events. But when it comes to the second bucket, they’re often out of luck. Unless you have a group of networking contacts to talk shop with, you’re often left flying blind, potentially doomed to repeat the exact same mistakes peers at other companies have made countless times.

In need of some tactical advice? In lieu of dramatically increasing the time you spend networking and building your cadre of personal contacts, Drew McLellan‘s podcast is the next best thing. 

Each episode of “Build a Better Agency” affords listeners a sneak peek into the world of someone deeply entrenched in the agency world, and the conversation always ends with at least one tactical takeaway. 

We’ve partnered with Agency Management Institute by becoming the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast because we’re confident that the insights and real world examples in every episode will help our agencies grow and profit.

Here are a few of my favorite episodes, sorted by the issues discussed. Take a listen if you’re grappling with the same problems.

1) Defining Your Agency

  • Guest: Jami Oetting
  • Listen if: You can’t quite seem to get your content off the ground

Does it feel like you’re putting in a ton of work into your content, but it’s not quite working for you? Learn how to create content that actually delivers results from someone who built an agency-specific publication from the ground up, as well as how to adjust unrealistic expectations on time to ROI.

2) Increasing Your New Business Odds

  • Guest: Peter Levitan
  • Listen if: You’re not getting new business as often as you’d like

Sales doesn’t always come natural to agency leaders, but learning how to effectively pitch and win new clients is critical for survival. Discover some of the mistakes you could be making when it comes to selling your services, and learn a few practical ways to differentiate yourself against competitors.

3) How to Do Website Development and Still Make a Profit

  • Guest: Brent Weaver
  • Listen if: You’re almost ready to swear off website redesigns because they’re so painful

A website overhaul is never as easy as it seems in the beginning — but it doesn’t need to be as expensive, time-consuming, and painful as they often end up becoming either. Heading off future roadblocks by doing rock solid discovery at the start of website projects is the key; learn how to do just that and save yourself a headache.

4) What Your Agency Needs to Do to Charge a Premium

  • Guest: N/A — this one is all Drew
  • Listen if: You’re ready to seriously up your agency’s game

You might think that your agency is dominating, but could you be leaving opportunity on the table? Take your rose-colored glasses off and get practical tips on how to assess whether or not your agency is best-in-class — and if not, how to get there.

5) How to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader

  • Guest: Aaron Agius
  • Listen if: You’re having a hard time standing out

Increase your mindshare, increase your market share. Discover how to create a distinct voice that gets noticed by prospective customers and keeps current clients engaged. 

If you give one of these episodes a listen, let us know what you think in the comments. If you’re looking for more advice or personalized guidance, head over to the Agency Management Institute’s website and peruse their content, workshops, and remote coaching options.

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Source: 5 Podcast Episodes That Will Make You a Better Agency Leader
blog.hubspot.com/marketing

7 of the Best Mother’s Day Ads We’ve Ever Seen

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Sometime in early May each year, search volume for “When is Mother’s Day” begins to reach a panicked spike.

Consider this article your official reminder: Mother’s Day is this Sunday (May 14th), and we have a selection of hilarious and heartwarming ads about moms to get you in the spirit.

From a lighthearted garden gathering with the royal family to a moving tribute to mothers of sick children, each of these campaigns celebrate those authentic moments that bond us with our moms.

A word of caution to those of you currently in the office: you might want to get some tissues ready. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

7 Great Examples of Mother’s Day Advertising

1) Moms Explain What Their Kids Do in Advertising | MRY (2015)

If you work in the digital marketing or advertising space, you’ve probably struggled at some point to concisely explain what your job entails to your family. To celebrate Mother’s Day 2015, the folks at digital agency MRY posed a seemingly simple question to their moms: What do you think I do for a living?

The answers — delivered via web cam by the moms themselves — range from “Online Advertising Through the Computer for Any Kind of Internet Kind of Thing” to “Annoying Pop-Up Creator” — and more than one childhood art project is unearthed for some unsolicited praise.

2) The Body Shop | British Roses for the Queen (2016)

The Body Shop enlisted the help of London-based agency Mr. President to produce this candid, home video-style ad featuring a cast of (very convincing) royal family doppelgangers celebrating Mother’s Day in the royal garden.

Allison Jackson, a BAFTA-award winning director best known for her lookalike photos of celebrities, was brought on to ensure the video looked authentic.

3) SickKids vs. MomStrong | Sick Kids (2017)

A somber follow-up to the SickKids vs. Undeniable ad released in 2016, this Mother’s Day spot from SickKids Hospital underscores the agony and strength of mothers with chronically ill children.

If the anguish depicted seems real, that’s because it is — Cossette Toronto, the agency behind the ad, cast real mothers in the short video, gently revealing personal, often unseen moments of pain and resilience.

4) FlyBabies | JetBlue (2016)

After watching this ad from Boston-based agency MullenLowe, maybe you’ll think twice before judging the mother with the screaming baby on your next flight.

For Mother’s Day 2016, this JetBlue stunt offered passengers a 25% discount on their next round-trip flight every time a baby cried on the plan. With four babies on the plane, their odds of getting a completely free flight were pretty good. This ad ultimately achieves the unachievable: getting airline passengers to clap and cheer each time a baby cries.

5) Swear Like a Mother | Kraft (2017)

74% of moms admit they’ve accidentally sworn in front of their kids before. The other 26%? “Full of sh*t”, suggests Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing.

To champion Kraft’s message of giving yourself a much-deserved break once in a while, CP+B Boulder asked Mohr to share some of her tips for those not-so-perfect parenting situations. Because being a mom is tough, and it’s healthy to remind yourself you don’t have to be perfect.

6) Texts From Mom | Samsung (2015)

Long ago, your mom taught you how to do things like eat, roll over on your belly, and use the bathroom. Some things are just not as intuitive as think, so don’t be too hard on your mom for her lack of texting expertise.

This R/GA-produced Mother’s Day spot takes a hilarious look at some of the texts you might get from your mom, and reminds you to give her a call this Sunday.

7) Tattoo | American Greetings (2017)

In this heartwarming spot for American Greetings, MullenLowe took inspiration from a friend of creative director Allison Rude. After her father died, the friend discovered a card from her father, and got a meaningful handwritten line tattooed on her wrist. In the ad, a daughter gets a similar inked tribute to her late mother.

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Source: 7 of the Best Mother’s Day Ads We’ve Ever Seen
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The Responsibility of Advertising and PR to the General Public in 2017

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There’s been a lot of talk recently about the responsibility of journalists to tell the truth.

However, there seems to be one part of the news-making equation that has so far been given a free pass, and that’s the information provided to newsrooms by PR.

Due to cutbacks in journalism, and the demands of the new media environment we live in, short staffed newsrooms are tasked to produce high quantities of content every day. Some are even faced with unprecedented output quotas to compensate for the newly diminished workforce.

Something has to give in this scenario, which means an increasing percentage of journalistic output is reliant on the information fed through by PR.

According to the PR Census 2016, the PR industry employs 83,000 people in the UK. In comparison, a Labour Force Survey released in June 2015 discovered that 64,000 people were involved in a job role concerned with journalism (e.g. editor, reporter etc.). That’s a big difference, so perhaps it’s time we started talking about the responsibility those working in PR and advertising have to the general public.

This responsibility is one taken seriously by the vast majority of PR professionals. David Woodward is a former journalist who is currently a strategy director at Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading public relation firms. He is acutely aware of the situation PR currently finds itself in.

Our business is founded upon relationships with a free press. Professional journalists rely on us to tell them the truth, and in turn share that information with audiences who hold all of us accountable. Increasingly, we are also content creators ourselves. Of course, branded content is not journalism. But we must never deceive and always be completely accurate in what we say and advise our clients to say.

In an industry which has the sole purpose of spreading the good word about a client, towing the ethical line when pitching to journalists has been a stumbling point for a selection of brands throughout history.

This needs to stop. As an industry we need to ensure a certain code of ethics is adhered to. And while agencies are bound to the rules of bodies such as the PRCA, legislation shouldn’t be the only thing stopping false claims getting out into the world.

Here are three ethical pillars of public relations and advertising professionals — that under no circumstances should be breached. It’s a steadfast list, which leaves the door open for the odd superlative here and there. After all, we are in the business of marketing.

1) Tell The (Whole) Truth

This is the over-arching theme for this entire post, so to include it as a separate point might appear redundant. However, I believe it’s an area worth indulging in. As does Becky Merchant, an account manager at the Stand Agency in London.

It is the responsibility of Public Relations practitioners to ensure that all their communications are accurate and they offer truthful and insightful stories to cover. While organizations no doubt have to be more transparent these days, 2017 is no different from other years; it’ll always be the responsibility of PR to represent clients in an accurate and honest way.

While accuracy and honesty might have been the responsibility of PR ever since Edward Bernays set up shop in New York City back in 1919, it’s certainly the case that things have come in leaps and bounds since then. Take the 1940s for example, a time where claims like the one below were allowed to go out in front of millions without being questioned …


Camel Ad Image via AdAge

Camel cigarettes actually ran with this slogan for eight years, and it was even featured as an advert in the American Medical Associations official journal. It will come as no surprise to learn that the recent nationwide survey was carried out by an agency who had supplied said physicians with cartons of camel cigarettes just days earlier.

While it’s tempting to look back and laugh, it’s worth reminding ourselves that these practices are still happening today for example …

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Image Credit: Apple

Yes, the iPhone 3G courted controversy when the announcement press release read like this…

Just one year after launching the iPhone, we’re launching the new iPhone 3G that is twice as fast at half the price.

Neither of these claims turned out to be true, and when consumers decided to complain, the matter went to court. Apple’s lawyers responded with a less than solid defense

No reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position could have reasonably relied on or misunderstood Apple’s statements as claims of fact.

Arguing that consumers shouldn’t believe their own marketing messages is probably the exact opposite of what you should be doing. As you would expect, this bonkers reaction generated a lot of negative coverage across the media. The whole thing could have been avoided through a bit more honesty from the get go.

2) Don’t Misrepresent Statistics 

As the previous point touched on above, calling something a nationwide survey — when It really isn’t — is bad form. Besides the fact that journalists will probably ask for at least some documentation to back up your claims, lying about the public’s perception of certain issues is just not cricket.

When it comes to sharing internal statistics or survey results, there really is no excuse for anything but the cold hard facts.

Here are a few golden rules to stick to when carrying out your next piece of market research.

  •  If you’re commissioning a survey through a third party, ensure they adhere to the market research societies code of conduct, these are based upon the ESOMAR principles.
  • For UK wide surveys, a pool of 1,000 respondents is the minimum response rate to be considered usable by most media publications. Of course, the more comprehensive the research the better, and the number should certainly be higher when tackling serious topics.
  • The statistics need to be 100% accurate. Manipulating data in order to support your message or branding will inevitably blow up in your face. Just ask Volkswagen …


Image credit: Fortune Magazine

 Around 10.5 million Volkswagen cars worldwide were sold under the pretense that they were fitted with a ‘ground-breaking clean diesel’ engine … that never actually existed. In September 2015 it was revealed that in fact these vehicles were emitting 40 times the level of emissions they said they were.

Civil suits could inflict Volkswagen with an excess of $45 billion in fines, and the company’s reputation has been almost irreversibly tarnished. And let’s not forget about the environmental impact of all this.

While manipulating data led to more green-thinking consumers purchasing a Volkswagen in the short term, it has put a big question mark over the future of the company in the long term. Now that’s what I call bad PR.

3) Be Thorough 

Contrary to what you might think after reading this article, not all misinformation is down to PR. Some of it is down to a message being misconstrued by journalists.

A hastily put together press release which is not clear can be just as damaging as one that is full of bare faced lies.

As explained earlier in this blog, the pressure on journalists in 2017 is astronomical, meaning the time dedicated to sub-editing copy is at a minimum. This means mistakes are more likely to get through unless your press release is clear and concise. If it’s not, you run the risk of being ignored completely, or your message being lost in the final story.

To avoid these outcomes, you need to be competent on the fundamentals, and it’s always handy to brush up on these in an industry that moves at a thousand miles an hour.

  • Keep your messaging clear. If a journalist doesn’t know what the news hook is within the first two lines, you haven’t done this.
  • Your copy must be spot on grammatically. Because this isnt’ acceptabel.
  • Your information must be correct. (See points 1 and 2)
  • If you’ve included a contact for journalists to follow up with, make sure they are available to talk to. The line “XXXX was unavailable for comment” never looks good.
  • Be prepared. Brush up your knowledge on the publication you’re pitching to, and always have additional information and imagery on hand, just in case.

The Rewards

Brands being open and honest with the public is proven to be the most important thing to consumers time and time again. An industry survey conducted by Cohn & Wolfe in 2014 stated that the number one behavior people demanded from brands was “to communicate honestly about products and services.”

In 2015 a survey revealed that 85% of people were more likely to support brands that are open and honest. And just last year, a survey by Label Insight found that 94% of consumers said transparency from brands and manufacturers was important and impacts their purchasing habits.

So with that in mind, how can an open and honest PR and Marketing agenda reward your brand?

You’re doing your bit for journalists, and stemming the tide of fake news.

This is not just good news for society as a whole, but will result in better relationships within the media – leading to increased coverage of open and honest stories.

Customers will appreciate your transparency, and be more inclined to buy into your marketing and use your services.

The stats don’t lie. And while this is easier said than done in a world of shareholders, quotas and deadlines, companies who strive to stick to a core principle of ethical responsibility will reap the rewards.

You stay out of trouble!

The less time spent in the courtroom the better.

It’s a cut throat world out there, where companies with the best marketing thrive and the rest settle just to survive, if they can even do that. And while journalists and bodies like the Advertising Standards Agency  and the PRCA are in place to protect the public from spurious claims, it’s vital that individuals assess the ethics workload and ensure the information the public is exposed to is legitimate. 

I’ll give Weber Shandwick’s Woodward the final word on the responsibility of PR…

“The top line is this: we help organisations manage and protect their reputations, either through what they say or what they do. When fake news damages or harms reputations and breaks the public’s trust, we will take steps to undo the damage by insisting on truthful reporting. We have to hold our partners and vendors to the same high standards. We won’t intentionally do business with any business that deliberately traffics in fake news or distributes content to fake news sites.”

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

3 Strategies to Increase Employee Retention

employee-retention-strategies.pngYou started young. You were still growing when you started your first business. You felt the thrill of making something out of nothing. Or maybe you needed a taste of the real world and you got a job after college. Either way, here you are now.

You’ve got a business.

You worked through the tough times. You had credit card debt and you put it all on the line because you knew there was something there. Now your relentless entrepreneurial commitment has, at the very least, led to putting food on the table. Or even better, perhaps you’re killing it, driving a Tesla to your hip office with brick walls and an industrial ceiling.

Check out our comprehensive guide on how to start a business. 

The only problem … one of your key employees left this week. It wasn’t about the money. It was “about the future … the opportunity ahead. It’s not you. It’s me”.  

You’ve got other key players in your business that you need to stick around to make it tick. What are you going to do to make sure you don’t lose another?

I was the one that went to college, got my MBA, and stepped on the first few rungs of the ladder. I worked for some huge software companies and consultancies. I was told by my manager one day that I “lacked a sense of urgency.” He offered some advice … when I walk down the hall, I should “walk faster and smile less, because perception is reality.”

I was fired.

I started my own software business on the antithesis of his advice, and sold to private equity 14 years later. I built a culture that attracted some of the best talent and kept them around for the long haul.

Through the years, I learned three strategies that you can begin to implement today to ensure you keep your key employees around not only through thick and thin but, as Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, says, “coming to work on the balls of their feet climbing the stairs two at a time.”

3 Strategies to Increase Employee Retention

1) Motivate from the inside.

Look at the organizations around the world that drive their followers to do unbelievable things. Look at SpaceX, Google, HubSpot, and the tens of thousands of charitable entities driving people to do amazing things.

What do they all have in common? They have followers and employees that believe in a vision and mission so much so that it’s aligned with their personal values or even becomes their own mission. These are the people that are passionate and committed. They are not leaving that organization any time soon. So what can you do to motivate and therefore retain your key employees?

Try it out: Start the dialog around why you’re doing what you’re doing. Bring your employees into the conversation. Spend weeks on this, if not months. Don’t rush it, but be deliberate about it.

Identify a purpose. The why… Watch Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” TED talk. With purpose comes dedication. With a purpose comes the person that goes well beyond the job description. With a purpose you have an employee who is by your side faithfully.

It’s not the salary. It’s not the bonus. Those are nice, and the money is necessary, but it’s not what really drives people and keeps them around. You may even find a couple other little things like a vision and values come out of this little exercise, as well.

2) Trust your employees like they’re family.

I don’t mean trust that they’ll pay you back for the $20 you let them borrow at the casino 3 months ago. And I’m not talking about the trust it takes to open up and spill your soul. I’m talking about the trust it takes to give them something important to figure out, knowing that it’s going to be ok.

Giving them a project without necessarily weighing in on it, uninvited. Give them a little dang breathing room. If failure is too common, figure out why, but have some faith that you hired the right people for the job. Because, here’s what happens: The employee starts to own it. I mean really, really own it. They begin to take pride in it. And nothing drives someone as much as pride, except maybe autonomy and mastery… Yep. That’s Dan Pink.

Try it out: The next time you give someone a project or something to figure out, let them own it. Give them the desired outcome and ask them to report in on regular milestones.

Here’s the one rule: You need to let them own it and intervention can only happen if it’s going to hurt the business. That’s it. Mmmmm. Try it. Hey, try it at home with your kids too. But don’t hold me responsible for that one.

3) Create a cadence that form good habits.

So think about all those nasty habits you have. Ok, you don’t have any, but others do … like your grandmother who smokes a pack a day and she’s almost 90. And your college friend that hasn’t grown up yet still drinks too much because cool kids drink, right? Why is it that we don’t do good things as habitually?

Well, we do actually. You have a morning routine. I’ll bet you work out, brush your teeth, and clean yourself. Let’s open that up to the office now. Every business has a cadence — your team meetings, your company meetings, your financial reporting, Taco Tuesday, etc … There are other things, however, that you can start to make routine that will help drive employee engagement and therefore retention and loyalty.

Sustainability is all about the habit forming cadence. Recognition and feedback often lack consistency. Cadence. Career and professional development often lack consistency. Cadence. Attention to strategy often falls on the way-side. Cadence.

Try it out: Identify a few things in your company that are hard to keep top of mind. For example, employee recognition. This is something we tell ourselves we need to do better. I’ve even talked to some entrepreneurs that set calendar reminders to give props to their employees. It can be easier.

Get your employees helping you out. Establish a peer to peer recognition program and set it up with a cadence that creates a habit. It might be a weekly or monthly routine. Or find something else you need to do better. Turn it into a cadence. Turn it into a habit.

At one point, while building my business, we ran into a difficult period. We were losing money. We needed to either let some people go or reduce compensation across the board. I reached out to my key employees and told them the scenario. I needed to ensure they were behind me on this. All of them confirmed they were on board. I made the difficult announcement and over the six month recovery, we didn’t lose a single employee.

We had built a strong culture and money was not the key motivator. There was trust and autonomy. And our best habits were driven by a cadence.

Put These Strategies Into Practice

If you’re successful at embracing these three strategies, you will never ever lose another key employee, even in the tough times — or at least it reduces the likelihood.

In fact, you’ll have their friends hitting you up for jobs. You’ll have customers and clients asking to work for you. And you’ll see your employees walking in the door with smiles on their faces. They’ll arrive to work in the morning “on the balls of their feet climbing the stairs two at a time.”

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

13 Project Management Terms You Should Know [Infographic]

The legendary management consultant Peter Drucker once famously wrote, “There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.”

This nugget of wisdom is especially relevant to project managers. Effective project management is all about cutting through the clutter to focus on the things with the biggest impact on the project’s bottom line — the basic pillars that hold your project up. There’s no use optimizing the details if your core process is flawed.

This handy infographic from Taskworld identifies 13 basic, big-picture project management terms you should know to keep things running smoothly and on-schedule from kickoff to post-mortem.

Some of the areas listed might seem self-explanatory, but they’re worth your attention as you start planning out your next big project. They’ll help you communicate your goals effectively, allocate resources efficiently, and keep your team focused and supported. Check them out below.

How do you make sure your big projects stay on track? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

Why Agencies That Conduct Market Research Grow Faster

You’re a busy marketer. Your days are full of client meetings, brand research, marketing strategy sessions …

Who has time to do market research for their own marketing agency?

If you think market research is for clients only, better think again. As a marketer, it’s equally important for you to understand your market, its wants and needs, the state of your competition, and your place in the marketing ecosystem and pecking order.

Make no mistake — market research for your own firm is no purely-academic exercise. Think of it this way: the better you know your audience, the more easily you can turn prospects into clients. Incredible as it may seem, most professional services firms, including marketing agencies, don’t know their audiences as well as they should. As a result, they’re missing out on opportunities to gain more clients and get more business out of current ones.

So why don’t more marketing firms do research? Well, because many think, for some reason, their clients are “different” so that the input won’t yield any insights. Others think research simply won’t impact growth.

We beg to differ.

We’ve conducted our own research on research (yes, really) and discovered that there are some significant benefits for marketing firms. Firms that regularly research their client markets (at least quarterly) grow more than ten times faster than firms that don’t conduct research. 

If you’re willing to go all-in and conduct research on a frequent, more-than-quarterly basis, your firm can really take off, compared to agencies that do no research. Our research confirmed that more than one-third of high-growth firms conducted target audience research regularly and at least once a quarter (see below chart). Virtually none of the no-growth firms conducted frequent research.


Data from Hinge’s 2017 High Growth Research Report

Research not only drives growth, it also impacts profitability. For instance, when Hinge studied the effects of research on growth and profitability, we found that firms that conducted frequent research realized 19.9% profitability, whereas firms that did not conduct research reported only 11% profitability.

What makes research so effective? There are a number of ways that firms become better positioned to secure prospects and grow their client relationships through research. These include:

  • Having a clear understanding of emerging issues and trends in order to determine which services to develop and offer.
  • Uncovering areas in which your firm has misjudged or misread their clients, such as what market influences are keeping them from growing their relationship with your firm.
  • Identifying purchasing or other types of patterns that you haven’t noticed since you are so deeply engrossed in your day-to-day interactions with your clients.

As Hinge has done research for ourselves and our clients, we’ve identified ten research questions that can drive growth and profitability. Below is a sample of the questions we have found to have a big impact for our clients.

Why do your best clients choose your firm?

Understanding what great clients find appealing about a firm can help the firm attract others like them.

What are those same clients trying to avoid?

This is the flip side of the first question and offers a valuable perspective. The answer can provide clues as to how to avoid being ruled out during the early rounds of a prospect’s selection process. The answer can also help shape business practices and strategy.

What is the real benefit your firm provides?

Firms are often surprised to hear the true benefit of their service, as viewed through their clients’ eyes. Once they understand this, they are able to enhance or even develop new services with other real benefits.

So what’s the best way to conduct research?

Believe it or not, Rule Number One is do not do it yourself. That’s right. Have someone else do it for you. Why? Because respondents are more likely to provide honest answers to a third party. If you insist on doing the research yourself — which is better than doing no research at all — be aware that you may capture only a portion of the overall picture.

Here are three more tips for conducting effective research:

1) Phone interviews are best. 

Nothing beats a live interview. Even reluctant participants will open up to a skillful interviewer. In fact, the greatest insights are often volunteered outside the scope of the questionnaire.

2) Online surveys are second best—but they don’t have to be second rate. 

An online survey will never capture the same insights as an interview, but a well-crafted online survey can still reap valuable information. Surveys also tend to be easier and less expensive to implement. Just remember, your response rate is likely to be very low.

3) Don’t limit it to your current clients. 

Cold prospects are more difficult to get on the phone, but they provide—by far—the most accurate picture of your marketplace. Clients who got away offer invaluable insights into your weaknesses. Similarly, lapsed clients can help you understand how to become more relevant and engaged.

And what should we do with all this research?

There are any number of ways you can use it, limited mostly by your goals and imagination. Here are just a few ideas on how you can use your research to enhance your reputation, generate leads and bring in more clients:

  • Tweak or redefine your positioning to differentiate your firm from competitors.
  • Introduce new services that prospects have indicated want.
  • Use it as an entrée to bring former clients back into the fold.
  • Offer new services to current or former clients.
  • Anticipate clients’ needs.

Most important, you can boost your credibility with your target market and increase your visible expertise by pulling data and results from your research findings to write blog posts and articles that address urgent market challenges, to publish a research study, and as fodder for speeches, seminars, and webinars.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get researching. The sooner you get started, the sooner your firm will reap its rewards.

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing

10 of the Best Ads from April: Hygge, Apocalypse, and a Robot Baby

Although we haven’t been fortunate enough to see more than a few scattered days of sunlight here in Boston, I’m told it’s technically spring.

In addition to rain, April also brought us some stunning new creative work from agencies around the word. Our monthly ad round-up features a German-produced animated short, a delightful Danish beer ad, and a clever insurance spot from Japan starring a rugby team from New Zealand. 

Did you miss any of these ads from April? Scroll down to check them out, and get inspired to tackle your next big project. 

10 of the Best Ads from April

1) AIG Japan

New Zealand’s national rugby union team, the All Blacks, hit the pedestrian-heavy streets of Toyko in this unexpectedly charming spot for AIG Japan. The three-minute ad opens with the uniform-clad players tackling seemingly random (and reasonably stunned) Tokyo residents — but things quickly take a heartwarming turn.

About half-way through the TBWAHakuhodo-produced video, it becomes apparent that the All Blacks were actually saving people from unpredictable disasters — a car running a red light, a pile of debris falling from a construction site, and a sudden laptop fire.

“[The ad] was an arresting way to show our fantastic relationship with the All Blacks, demonstrate the idea of risk prevention, and create a strong connection to the Japanese audience,” said Matthew Walker, AIG Japan’s senior vice president and regional chief marketing officer.

 

2) Carlsberg

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen ponders the secret source of his home country’s enviable happiness in Carlsberg’s latest UK campaign. Produced by London-based agency Fold7, the ad follows Mikklesen as he peddles his way through Copenhagen, magically passing through hedges, into stylish, minimal apartments, and over a rustic table set for a hyggelig gathering.

His tour ends (where else?) at a Carlsberg brewery, where Mikklesen enjoys a cold Carlsberg pilsner and decides that this is the real secret of Danish happiness … probably.

 

3) Student Flights

If you’re young, you better enjoy traveling while you can — before you become an uncool, perpetually exhausted parent. That’s the message of this spot for Student Flights, a company that specializes in travel deals for the university set.

To really drive that message home, Johannesburg-based agency TBWAHunt Lascaris convinced a hip millennial to carry around a wailing, pooping “Babybot” for a few days at a music festival. The poor guy in question, Loyiso Madinga, is promised a free trip to New York if he can survive a weekend with Babybot unscathed. His initial assessment of the challenge? “How hard could this be … right?”

As expected, having a baby at a music festival isn’t super fun — even if that baby is Wifi-enabled and made of metal. 

 

4) Netto

Ever wonder where the Easter Bunny came from? European supermarket chain Netto teamed up with German agency Jung von Matt and production house Mill+ to share their whimsical imagining of the egg-laying rabbit’s origins (Hint: it starts with a hen and a rabbit meeting each other at a night club.)

Set to a innocent, heart-wrenching rendition of “Beautiful, Always,” the animated short packs a surprisingly poignant punch. It’s sure to make even the coldest little hearts grow three sizes.

 

5) The New York Times

Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky (of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan fame) lends his talents to this Droga5-produced spot for The New York Times. The stark, one-minute ad series is part of the Grey Lady’s first brand-focused ad campaign in a decade.

Aronofsky met with several New York Times photojournalists, asking them to recount their experiences covering some of the most impactful stories from recent years. As the photojournalists discuss their fieldwork and motivations, images from the trips in question flash across the screen.  

 

6) Unilever

Pricey, trendy beauty products aren’t necessarily worth the hype, according to Unilever’s latest marketing stunt. Vice’s digital agency Carrot invited a group of real beauty influencers to try a fake new shampoo: Evaus (Spoiler alert: that’s just discount hair care brand Suave spelled backwards).

Packaged in a sleek, minimal bottle, Evaus products were a big hit with the influencers, who raved about how shiny and soft their hair felt after 10 days of using the line. When producers reveal that the “startup” hair care brand is really just $3 Suave shampoo poured into fancy schmancy bottles, the influencers are shocked — and then seemingly delighted at the great value.

“We found seven of 10 women think higher-priced brands are more trustworthy,” Jen Bremner, Unilever marketing director explained to AdAge. “That really was the inspiration. We wanted to peel back the labels and convert the skeptics.”

 

7) Entourage

To promote Entourage, a French app aimed at reconnecting neighborhoods with their homeless populations, TBWAParis decided to take an unconventional, offline approach to viral marketing: writing directly on banknotes.

The agency asked homeless community members to pen short messages directly on paper bills. Each hand-written note reveals something that homeless people wish everyone else knew. Take this example from the case study video below: “For me, Pierrot, homeless for 19 years, this bill has a lot of value, but not as much as a hello.”

The hope is that the simple messages with encourage Parisians to download the Entourage app, which helps people offer support and make social connections with homeless folks in their neighborhood.

 

8) SubHub

When the inevitable robot apocalypse finally spells fatal disaster for the human race, won’t you wish you shelled out to see that Sia concert?

Goodby Silverstein & Partners produced this cinematic, YOLO-fueled spot for StubHub, encouraging you to buy those concert tickets “before it’s too late.” The ad balances sleek, action-movie pacing with an unexpected, hilarious ending.

 

9) Pedigree

BBDO New York resurrected a little-known story from the Revolutionary War to promote Pedigree’s “Feed the Good” campaign.

In 1777, General George Washington and his troops were in the midst of a battle against British Forces Commander-in-Chief William Howe when one of Washington’s men discovered Howe’s dog wandering lost near the American camp. Instead of harming the lost pup (as some of Washington’s men reportedly suggested), Washington benevolently returned the dog to Howe with a kind note. The true story reflects Pedigree’s belief that dogs bring out the best of us.

 

10) Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Here’s one for the IT guy or gal in your office.

In this playful Publicis New York-produced ad for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a sad, bobble-head IT employee named Brian is forced to deny his colleagues’ earnest requests due to inadequate legacy technology. That is, until his office gets Hewlett Packard Enterprise — at which point Brian transforms Pinocchio-style from a plastic bobble head doll into a guy who can finally say “yes.”

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Source: blog.hubspot.com/marketing