Category Archives: Marketing Strategies

Twitter Ads Campaigns: A Simple Setup Guide

Twitter is a great marketing channel for driving traffic and generating leads. In fact, 63% of Twitter users follow small businesses — it’s no wonder that companies can see actual growth from this platform.

If you’re not yet using Twitter for business purposes, or want to get better at it, keep reading. You’ll learn how you can use Twitter ad campaigns to reach the audiences you care about.

Do you already have a Twitter account? If so, you know how to use its free functions: tweeting, following, and customizing your profile. But because businesses are meant to grow, so too is your social media presence.

To expand your reach and grow your follower list on Twitter, consider supplementing your organic efforts with the paid promotional opportunities Twitter has built right into the platform. Using Twitter Ads is an easy way to get your tweets in front of the audiences that don’t yet follow you, which is particularly useful for generating new leads for your business.

And you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune on it, either — Twitter ads can be effective even on a relatively small budget.

So, how do you get started? Let’s walk through the basic steps to setting up a Twitter ad and how to decide on the best structure for your campaign.

How to Advertise on Twitter

1. Choose between “Promote Mode” and “Twitter Ads.”

get-started-twitter-ads

Visit this menu screen to get started. The first decision you need to make when setting up your Twitter ads is whether you’d like to promote individual tweets or run an entire ad campaign for a specific purpose.

Promoted Tweets vs. Twitter Ads

Promoted tweets will allow your tweets to appear in the Twitter streams or Twitter search results of specific users. Running Twitter Ads is a more holistic campaign, using multiple groups of tweets to accomplish a single goal for your brand. Depending on your objective, Twitter Ads can display your username in places other than a user’s newsfeed, such as the “Who to Follow” section to the right of their Twitter homepage.

To learn more about promoted tweets, skip to the next section below this list of steps.

How do I choose?

If you’re simply looking to get more eyeballs on a webpage, promoted tweets might be just the thing you need. In this option, you pay a flat monthly fee for as long as you’re promoting a tweet. It’s perfect for gaining focused exposure on (and generating leads from) a particular aspect of your business.

If you’re looking to grow your follower base and/or build up your audience, Twitter Ads offer a bit more firepower. In the steps below, you’ll learn how to harness it.

2. Select your Twitter Ad’s objective.

twitter-ads-objectives

Promoted tweets are fairly easy to set up, and you can learn about this process in the section at the bottom of this blog post. To launch a Twitter Ad campaign, however, your next step is determining your objective. You have eight objectives to choose from, and you can see an elaboration of each objective once you select one on the Twitter Ads page linked in Step 1 of this article.

  • App installs
  • Followers
  • Tweet engagements
  • Promoted video views
  • Website clicks or conversions
  • App re-engagements
  • In-stream video views (pre-roll)
  • Awareness

Promoted Accounts

Ad campaigns focused on followers, the second objective listed above, are also known as “Promoted Accounts.” This type of campaign allows you to promote your profile, rather than a series of tweets, in your target audience’s newsfeeds and on the profile pages of the other accounts they care about.

3. Fill in the details your ad campaign.

Once you choose an objective, you’ll be taken to a page where you can name your campaign, a start and end date for your campaign, and your campaign’s total budget. Depending on the objective you chose in Step 2, you might have other details to fill in that are unique to your ad. If your objective is app installs, for example, this step will require you to connect your app to Twitter, and then select this app from the dropdown shown below.

twitter-app-installs-dropdown

When determining how much money you want to invest in a Twitter Ads campaign, you’ll set a daily budget and an optional total budget. Throughout the day, your daily budget will pay Twitter your set amount at the specific cadence you can set yourself.

The cadence of your promoted content can be set to “Standard (recommended),” which shows ads to your target audience at intervals Twitter deems most efficient; or “Accelerated,” which shows your ads as much as possible throughout the day. Accelerated ads cater to ad campaigns you want to perform well in a short amount of time.

4. Create an ad group within your campaign.

twitter-campaign-ad-groups

Next, you’ll create an ad group for your campaign — there should be at least one pre-created on the lefthand side of your Twitter Ads page. To create more than one ad group, select “Copy ad group” to the righthand side of your current ad group and you’ll see new ones appear in your ad campaign’s framework, as shown above.

Ad groups are individual ads that consist of their own budgets, audiences, and start and end times — but operate under the umbrella of your larger campaign.

For example, if you have a two-week Twitter Ads campaign with the objective of website clicks and a budget of $100, you can also create one or more ad groups that run for just a couple of days each, promote separate webpages on your website, and target different types of Twitter users. You’ll see how to set these parameters in the next few steps.

In the “Details” tab, shown above, enter an ad group name, a start and end time, a budget for the ad group, and a bid type. Bid types allow you to “bid” on a promoted ad placement. Ad placements will cost different amounts depending on your audience and where the ad appears on Twitter, and you can set your ad group to bid for placement in one of three ways:

  • Automatic bid: This type of bid permits Twitter to bill you the most cost-effective amount every time your audience engages with your ad content. The cost Twitter bills you is based on your ad group’s budget and audience parameters.
  • Maximum bid: This type of bid gives you full control over how much money you’re willing to pay every time your audience engages with your ad content.
  • Target bid: This type of bid allows you to specify how much money from your ad group’s budget you’d like Twitter to bill you every time your audience engages with your ad content. The price you’re billed will reflect the daily average cost of each ad placement within your audience.

5. Select your target audience for each ad group.

Beneath the “Details” tab of your ad group, select “Targeting.” This is where you’ll set the parameters of your target audience.

It’s important to customize your audience to be a good fit for your company and your message. That way, you’re only paying for engagement from folks who might have some interest in downloading your content or learning more about your product or service. A more targeted audience is more likely to help you generate qualified leads.

What are my options?

To select an audience for each ad group you create, you’ll customize the following criteria:

  • Gender: If your product or service caters primarily to either males or females, you should take advantage of the gender targeting option.
  • Age: Setting an age range is helpful for advertisements that are promoting a product or event that has either a particular age restriction or scope of interest.
  • Location: You’ll want to target by location if you run a local business, or if you sell primarily to specific regions (whether that’s your city or North America).
  • Language: This criterion might need to be used in tandem with the location filter, described above, if an ad is targeting a region of the world that speaks a language other than English.
  • Device: This is a great targeting option if your product or service caters more specifically to people on the go, or if your website visitors are most likely to convert on your offer when they’re in the office.
  • Audience features: These include keywords, movies & shows, conversation topics, events, and related interests.

You can also select which devices you’d like your promoted tweets to be displayed on — any combination of desktop and the various mobile devices.

Targeting by Keywords

Targeting by “keywords” — an option included in the “Audience features” field, listed above — allows you to reach people that search, tweet about, or engage with specific keywords. For example, if I’m promoting HubSpot’s ebook, How to Use Twitter for Business, I might filter my audience by keywords I consider relevant to this advertisement, like this:

twitter-keywords-audience-targeting

This audience targeting criterion is helpful if you want to know exactly how many Twitter users are currently using a keyword. As you can see in the screenshot above, the keyword “marketing” is being used by 7.67 million people. This data can help you decide between topics that seem similar but have different levels of popularity you wouldn’t know about otherwise.

Targeting by Interests and Followers

Targeting by interests and followers allows you to create a list of Twitter usernames and then target users whose interests are similar to the interests of those users’ followers.

A great use of this type of targeting is when compiling a small list of the top influencers in your industry. For example, to promote HubSpot’s How to Use Twitter for Business ebook, I’ll want to target an audience of users interested in social media. Targeting by interests and followers allows me to say, “show these tweets to people who are like so-and-so’s followers.” As a result, I’ve created a large audience that’s still tailored to the topic of my content.

With this targeting option, you can also add a list of interest categories. So, for example, I could say, “show these tweets to people interested in marketing, social media, or lead generation.” Again, this creates a broad audience focused on the topic of the content or products you’re promoting.

6. Select the creatives you’d like to run with each ad group.

Your last task in creating a Twitter Ads campaign is to choose the creatives you want to run with each ad group belonging to your campaign. “Creatives” are simply the tweets you want to promote, and you can select them from the list of tweets that appear under each ad group’s Creatives tab. Select the “Creatives” tab beneath the Targeting tab to get started.

This is the fun part. You can either select from existing tweets in your account or create new ones.

To compose a new tweet, click the blue quill icon to the far right of your Creatives screen. When crafting a new tweet, you can check the “Promoted-only” button if you’d only like to promote it through your Twitter Ads campaign, and not have the tweet appear organically on your followers’ newsfeeds. See what this option looks like below.

promoted-only-tweet

In addition to promoting your tweets on your audiences’ timelines, you can also choose to have your tweets appear in users’ profiles and the detail pages of specific twitter conversations. The benefit of this type of targeting is that it helps you define a more qualified audience, since these people are actively looking for or engaging with those specific keywords that are relevant to your offer. You can select this option on the righthand side of your Creatives tab, as shown below.

where-your-promoted-ads-appear

7. Review and launch your campaign.

Finally, select the “Review your campaign” button, as shown above, to look over your campaign details. If everything looks correct, hit “Launch campaign” at the top-righthand corner of your screen to run the campaign.

How to Promote a Tweet

Promoting tweets allows you to show critical pieces of content to a wide audience and drive views to the landing pages that generate leads for your business. This Twitter Ads option gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of the content you want potential viewers and customers to see.

Here’s a quick definition of this ad so you can understand how it differs from the ad campaign we walked you through in the above section:

Here’s how to promote a tweet:

1. Select “Promote Mode” from the campaign menu and click “Get started.”

You’ll start from the same place you start when creating a full, multi-tweet Twitter Ads campaign: This menu screen. Once there, click “Get started.” When you’re done, click “Next” on the top-righthand corner of the page.

2. Select your promoted tweet’s country and timezone.

Currently, you can only promote tweets to audiences in the U.S., the U.K., and Japan. Start creating your ad by selecting of these three options, as well as your intended timezone. When you’re done, click “Next” on the top-righthand corner of the page.

3. Choose either “Interests” or “Location” as your targeting method.

Twitter can promote tweets to an audience based on their interests or location. Choose one of these methods and follow Step 4 or Step 5, below, depending on your choice.

4. Choose up to five interests associated with your target audience.

audience-interests-promoted-tweets

If you choose to target an audience based on their interests, select this option, hit “Next,” and Twitter will take you to the page shown above. Here, you can select a maximum of five interests related to your ideal audience.

Keep in mind the more interests you select, the more types of people your promoted tweet will appear in front of.

5. Choose up to five locations associated with your target audience.

audience-location-promoted-tweetsIf you choose to target an audience based on their location, select this option, hit “Next,” and Twitter will take you to the page shown above. Here, you can search a specific city, state, and country where you want your ad to appear.

You can select up to five locations where you’d like your tweet to be promoted. Keep in mind you can only place promoted tweets in front of users who live in the U.S., the U.K., or Japan.

6. Review your ad criteria and select “Proceed.”

Once you’ve customized your audience’s interests or location, hit “Next” and Twitter will show you an overview of your ad criteria, including your bill.

Sound good to you? Review your ad criteria and check that you agree to the Twitter Promote Mode’s Terms of Service at the bottom of this page. Then, click “Proceed” on the top-righthand corner of your screen.

7. Add your billing information and launch your promoted tweet.

If you haven’t yet added billing information, Twitter will ask you to enter it in the following screen. Select “Save” and follow the prompts to officially promote your tweet.

There you have it! No matter which type of Twitter ad you create, be sure to keep an eye on your campaigns as they run and continue to optimize them for better results in the future.

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What's a Website Title (Title Tag) & Why Does It Matter for SEO?

To consider what a title tag is, and why it matters for SEO, let’s start with an example.

Let’s say I’m a true beginner in the marketing industry, and I don’t even have a firm grasp on what marketing is — so I turn to Google, and I type in my question, “What is marketing?”

With my question, I’m likely not looking for “marketing best practices” or “10 best marketing campaigns of 2018”. Sure, both of those titles have my keyword “marketing” in them, but they won’t answer my direct question.

So Google, understanding my intent, serves me this:

Undoubtedly, you can see how a title benefits both a user and a search engine.

While HubSpot’s “What Is Marketing? [FAQ]” piece needs to be compelling — and follow other SEO tactics — to land on page one of Google, it will never reach its desired audience with the wrong title.

A title, then, enables users to see what a web page’s content is about — and, equally importantly, tells search engines how it should rank the page.

A search engine knows the title of a web page by finding a title tag in the code — for instance, on “What Is Marketing? [FAQ]”, a search engine will find this in the HTML:

Along with being helpful for search engines and users, a title tag is also useful when someone has multiple tabs open. For instance, let’s say a user is researching marketing extensively, and using your resource as one of many (or, procrastinating on Facebook … ).

When the user needs to return to your web page, she can find the correct tab via your page’s title:

Now that we’ve covered why website titles matter, here are a few best practices when it comes to creating a good title tag:

  • Keep it short, ideally under 60 characters
  • Don’t use caps
  • Don’t overdo keywords in the title — for instance, don’t title your piece, “What Is Marketing? Marketing Tips, Marketing Facts, Marketing General Information”
  • Write compelling copy that would make you want to click on the link
  • Make it relevant to the page itself
  • Make your <h2> keywords different from the title tag
  • Include your brand in the title, i.e. “Best Advertising Campaigns – Advertising Age

To further strengthen your titles, take a look at How to Write Catchy Headlines and Blog Titles Your Readers Can’t Resist.

1. 10 Best Nike Sneakers in 2019 [Buying Guide]

2. Top 15 Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century – Advertising Age

3. The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags for 2019 – HubSpot Blog

4. 34 Essential Things to Know Before You Visit China – Y Travel Blog

5. A Novel Way to Boost Client Satisfaction – Harvard Business Review

6. SEO Is Back. Thank God. – New York Magazine

7. Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company – Medium

Improve your website with effective technical SEO. Start by conducting this  audit.  

The Social Media Content Calendar Template Every Marketer Needs [Free Template]

“We have a 9 a.m. meeting? Hold on — let me just click around the internet like a maniac to find something for the morning tweet.” 

Sound familiar? Scrambling for social content is nothing new. We have meetings. We run late. Things come up. And it’s really hard to get any meaningful amount of work done when you have the next social media update looming over your head every 30, 60, or 90 minutes. It all moves so fast that you might periodically feel a case of the vapors coming on, which is why pre-scheduled social media content should be your new best friend.

To make social media content easier for companies to plan and schedule across the accounts they manage, we created a social media content calendar template. And recently, we updated to be better, faster, stronger, and just generally prettier. 

You can fill it in at the same day and time every single week to prep for the following week’s social media content. That means when you burst through the office doors at 9 a.m., you won’t be in panic mode looking for something to push out to your Facebook fans — you already took care of that last week.

This blog post will walk you through exactly how to use the template to stay on top of your social media content planning for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

Note: HubSpot customers can also schedule content through Social Inbox, or use this spreadsheet to organize their content and subsequently upload it to Social Inbox. Detailed instructions for doing this exist in the cover sheet of the template.

How to Use the Social Media Calendar Template to Plan Your Content Schedule

When you open up the social media content calendar template, you’ll notice the bottom of the Excel spreadsheet has several different tabs, most of which are dedicated to a specific social network.

social-media-calendar-excel-tabs.png

The reason you’ll want a different worksheet for every social network is simply that every social network is a little bit different. You can’t just craft one, single social media update and use it across LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. You can certainly promote the same piece of content across all six of those networks, but that doesn’t mean you’ll craft your update in the same way for every single one of them. (In fact, you may even want to add additional tabs if you’re active on other networks, like Quora or YouTube.)

This following sub-sections will walk you through how to fill out each of the four tabs you see in this template — the updates for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. But before we get to that, let’s just walk through the “Monthly Planning Calendar” so you know what that’s for.

Monthly Social Media Schedule 

The tab “Monthly Planning Calendar” provides an overall snapshot of your monthly social media campaigns. It’ll help you coordinate better with other stakeholders, not to mention keep all the moving parts straight in your own mind. Here’s what it looks like:

social-media-calendar-month-view.png

There are three sections to take note of when you edit this template for your own purposes. First, the color-coding key: These are the types of content or campaigns around which you might coordinate, like ebooks, webinars, blog posts, product launches, and so on. Though only some of these might be relevant to you, they’re there to indicate what you may want to put in there — so be sure to edit these categories to align with your own campaigns.

The other two sections you’ll need to edit are the Month and Year at the top of the calendar (duh), as well as the cells below each day of the week. In those cells, you should enter the type of content you’ll be promoting that day and color-code it to align with the campaign it’s supporting.

Instead of deleting all the content in this spreadsheet each month, I recommend copying this worksheet twelve times over, and creating a separate sheet for each month. (If that gets to be too overwhelming, you can always save those tabs as a separate file.)

Planning Your Twitter Content Calendar

Alright, now let’s get to the social media content. This section will be the lengthiest, because all subsequent sections will draw on the instructions we go through here. So if you read one section in this whole post, make it this one.

Let’s say you want to add some tweets to your scheduling template. Skip over to the “Twitter Updates” tab, where you’ll see this:

Social media calendar template for Twitter content

The first four columns, “Day,” “Date,” “Time,” and “Date & Time” are there for your convenience, and if you choose to use a third-party app for pre-scheduling your tweets (like HubSpot’s Social Inbox), then these columns will be useful. For now, just fill in the date on which you’d like your updates to publish to Twitter, and the time at which you’d like them to go out. The “Date & Time” column will automatically change based on what you input in the previous two columns.

Now, let’s move over to the “Message” column. Here, input the copy you’d like to appear in your tweet, bearing in mind you should cap it at 116 characters to allow enough room for a link, and at 115 characters to allow room for an image. (Read this blog post for a full character count guide.) This spreadsheet will auto-calculate the number of characters you’ve entered to keep you on-point, turning yellow when you’ve reached 95 characters, and red when you’ve reached 116 characters.

After you’ve composed your tweet, paste the URL you’d like to include in your tweet in the “Link” column. Be sure to include UTM parameters so you’ll know whether all of these tweets are actually driving traffic, leads, and customers. This is an important step to remember if you’d like to be able to demonstrate ROI from social. You can also use the “Campaign” column to add an associated campaign, which helps which more robust tracking and reporting.

Finally, in the “Image” column, attach the tweet’s image (if you have one). For Twitter, we recommend images that are 1024 x 512 pixels. (Click here for a full cheat sheet of social media image sizes.) If you’re having trouble attaching your image to the spreadsheet, follow these steps:

Step 1: Right-click the cell in which you’d like your image.

Step 2: Click “Hyperlink,” then click the “Document” button, and finally, click “Select” to choose your image.

Step 3: In the “Choose a File” window, select the image from your computer and click “Open.”

Step 4: You’ll now see the image attached to the “Insert Hyperlink” screen. Feel free to edit the “Display” text to change the file name, then click “OK.”

Note: This process is simply for organizational purposes. If you decide to upload the spreadsheet to your social media publishing software, it will not attach — you’ll have to do that with your marketing software. If you’re a HubSpot customer, details for how to bulk upload your Twitter content to Social Inbox can be found within the downloaded template.

Planning Your Facebook Content Calendar

Now, let’s talk about how to plan your Facebook marketing in advance with the template. Navigate on over to the tab in your template labeled “Facebook Updates.”

Social media calendar template for Facebook content

Facebook updates work similarly to Twitter updates, with the exception being bulk uploading your content is not possible in Social Inbox.

The first three columns, “Day,” “Date,” and “Time” are there for your convenience. Head on over to the column labeled “Message” and input the copy you’d like to appear in your status update, corresponding to the days and times you’d like those updates to run. Then, move to the “Link” column and input the link you’ll be, you know, linking to in the update. (Don’t forget that tracking token.) If you’d like the update to be tagged to a certain campaign, include this in the “Campaigns” column. Finally, attach an image just like you did with your Twitter updates — if you’re using one, we suggest you edit it to be 1200 x 900 pixels. (Click here for a full cheat sheet of social media image sizes.)

Planning Your LinkedIn Content Calendar

LinkedIn updates are the most unique, because you have both Company Pages and Groups to consider. To demonstrate the difference between Company Page updates and Group updates, let’s navigate over to the column labeled “Title (For Group Discussions Only).”

Social media calendar template for LinkedIn content

LinkedIn Groups let you post a few kinds of updates, one of which is called a “Discussion.” You will only fill out the “Title (For Group Discussions Only)” column if you’re looking to post a Discussion to your LinkedIn Group — because Discussions are the only update you’ll be posting that requires a title. If you’re not posting a Discussion to a LinkedIn Group, you don’t need to fill out this field, because your update will not have a title.

You’ll fill out the next column, “Message,” for every type of update you post, whether it’s for a Company Page or a Group. Simply input your copy into this column, and then navigate to the next two columns, “Link” and “Campaign” to input the URL to which you’re directing readers with the tracking token you’ll use to track activity, and the associated campaign if one exists. If you’d like to use an image for an update, attach it per the instructions laid out in the “Twitter” section. We recommend editing the image to 700 x 520 pixels.

Planning Your Instagram Posting Calendar

Now, let’s move on to how to set up your Instagram photos and videos in advance with the template. Navigate on over to the tab in your template labeled “Instagram Updates.”

Social media calendar template for Instagram content

Instagram updates work similarly to Facebook updates, in that content can’t be uploaded in bulk to Social Inbox like it can with Twitter.

The first three columns, “Day,” “Date,” and “Time” are there for your convenience. Head on over to the column labeled “Message,” and input the copy you’d like to appear in your post’s caption, corresponding to the days and times you’d like those updates to run. Keep in mind that although Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long, they cut off in users’ feeds after three lines of text. The exact length of these three lines depends on the length of your Instagram handle. (Read this blog post for a full character count guide.)

Next, move to the “Link for Bio” column and input whichever link you plan to put in the bio when you publish the accompanying Instagram post. (The reason you’d put a link in your bio and not the photo caption itself is because clickable URLs aren’t allowed anywhere except the single “website” box in your bio. See #13 in this blog post for more on how that works.) Oh, and don’t forget that tracking token.

If you’d like the update to be tagged to a certain campaign, include this in the “Campaigns” column. Finally, attach an image just like you did with your other social media updates — we suggest you edit it to be 1080 pixels x 1080 pixels. (Click here for a full cheat sheet of social media image sizes.)

Planning Your Pinterest Content Calendar

Alright, now let’s go over how to set up your Pinterest pins in advance with the template. Navigate on over to the tab in your template labeled “Pinterest Updates.”

Social media calendar template for Pinterest content

Pinterest updates work similarly to Facebook and Instagram updates, in that content can’t be uploaded in bulk to Social Inbox like it can with Twitter.

The first three columns, “Day,” “Date,” and “Time” are there for your convenience. Go to the column labeled “Message,” and input the copy you’d like to appear in your pin’s description, corresponding to the days and times you’d like those updates to run. Then, move to the “Link” column and input the link you’ll be, you know, linking to in the update. (Don’t forget that tracking token.)

If you’d like the update to be tagged to a certain campaign, include this in the “Campaigns” column. Finally, attach an image like you did with your other social media updates — we suggest you edit it to be 735 pixels x 1102 pixels.

Planning Your Google+ Posting Calendar

Finally, we come to Google+.

Social media calendar template for Google+ content

Update: Google recently announced it is shutting down its Google+ platform. Please consider using the template and instructions below for any potential social networking platform Google launches in the future, and check back with us for an updated template that reflects this rollout.

Start in the “Message” column, and input your status update. Then move over to “Link” column, where you’ll input the link to which you’re directing readers. If you’d like the update to be tagged to a certain campaign, include this in the “Campaigns” column. If you’re attaching an image, you could use multiple different sizes, but 960 pixels x 960 pixels works best. (Click here for a full cheat sheet of social media image sizes.)

Content Repository (Or, Where to Source Social Media Content)

This template also provides you with a tab called “Content Repository,” which should help you keep track of all your content and maintain a healthy backlog of fodder to make sourcing social media content easier.

social-media-calendar-content-repository.png

As you create more assets, you’ll likely want to resurface and re-promote those pieces down the line, too. To ensure you don’t lose track of all of that content, record it on this tab so you’re never at a loss for what to publish on social. If the content you’re promoting isn’t evergreen, be sure to include an expiration date in the column marked “Expiration” so you don’t promote it when it’s jumped the shark.

This tab will also help you maintain a healthy balance of content: A mix of your own content and others’, a mix of content formats and types, and mix of lead generation content vs. MQL-generating content vs. traffic-friendly content.

Don’t Forget to Interact With Your Followers

Whether you use this spreadsheet to plan your content out in advance or upload to a third-party app, you’ll still need to supplement these updates with one the fly content. Breaking news hits? Whip up a quick update to share it with your network. Someone in your network tweets something interesting? Give it a retweet with some commentary. Got a fascinating comment on one of your updates? Respond with a “thank you” for their interaction or an additional follow-up comment.

Coming up with and scheduling your social media content in advance is a huge time-saver, but it should go without saying that you still need to monitor and add to your social presence throughout the day.

Finally, we encourage you to experiment with your social media publishing. This template provides publishing dates and times for each social network, but you may find those are way too many updates for you to fill, or perhaps too infrequent for your booming social presence. You should adjust your social media publishing frequency as needed.

Free Template Social Media Content Calendar

When Is the Best Time to Post on Instagram in 2019? [Cheat Sheet]

In high school, one of my friends was determined to find the perfect time to post her Instagram photos to maximize the amount of likes she got. She was surprisingly scientific about it, posting at different times of the day and jotting down each of her posts’ “likes per minute.”

After weeks of testing, she figured out which post time raked in the most likes, and, from then on, she could easily get 200 likes on all her Instagram posts.

My friend’s rather scientific method to maximize her Instagram likes still makes me chuckle to this day. But since I’m a marketer now, her desire to build a strong Instagram presence also resonates with me.

To build a sizable Instagram following, you need to create compelling content that your audience actually craves. But if you don’t post your content at the right time, most of them will never see it.

So how do you figure out the optimal post time for your specific audience?

The best way to find an ideal posting time is by testing the timing of your posts to see which post time generates the most audience engagement.

But if you don’t have enough resources or time to conduct your own tests, Sprout Social, a social media management platform with over 24,000 customers, has you covered. Last year, they analyzed their customer data to see what time and day their social media posts generated the most engagement. They also segmented the data by social network and industry.

Looking at their aggregate customer data for Instagram, you can see that the following days and times — in Central Daylight Time (CDT) — are ideal for generating the most engagement on the social network:

As stated above, although 2 – 3 PM is considered the best time of day to post on Instagram, the day of the week on which you post can change how much engagement you actually get at 2 – 3 PM.

Why? Think about the little differences in your daily mood and routine — the ones you might not realize you have — and how they affect your behavior. The same goes for everyone following your Instagram account. Here are some additional insights about optimal post timing from data by Sprout Social to show you what I mean:

  • Posting at 5:00 AM CDT from Tuesday to Friday generates some of the highest engagement — people usually check their phones right when they wake up.
  • Posting from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM CDT during the weekdays also generates a lot of engagement — people usually check their phones during lunch or when they start to run out of mental energy toward the end of the work day.
  • If you want to post on the weekends, post on Saturday around 11:00 AM CDT when people eat brunch or hang out with their friends.

So, when Instagramming, don’t go by this time range alone. Consider both the day of the week and the industry you’re in (we’ll talk about the latter in just a minute).

Best Time to Post on Instagram for Each Day of the Week

On average, here are the best times to Instagram during the week:

  • Sunday: 10 AM – 2 PM CDT
  • Monday: 11 AM – 5 PM CDT
  • Tuesday: 5 AM, 9 AM – 6 PM CDT
  • Wednesday: 5 AM, 11 AM, *3 PM CDT
  • Thursday: *5 AM, *11 AM, *3 – 4 PM CDT
  • Friday: *5 AM, 9 AM – 4 PM CDT
  • Saturday: 11 AM CDT

* = particularly high levels of engagement

Want some easy marching orders based on this data? Post to Instagram between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM CDT from Tuesday to Friday. You’ll get the most consistent engagement that way.

The general data above about optimal post timing is a great starting point for growing an engaged Instagram audience. But if you want to get more granular, here are the best times to post on Instagram if your organization is in the technology, B2C, education, healthcare, and non-profit industries, according to Sprout Social’s research.

Best Times to Post on Instagram for Technology Companies

  • Best Time: Wednesday at 10:00 AM CDT
  • Most Consistent Engagement: Wednesday to Friday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM CDT
  • Best Day: Thursday
  • Worst Day: Sunday

Best Times to Post on Instagram for B2C Companies

  • Best Time: Saturday at 11:00 AM & 1:00 PM CDT
  • Most Consistent Engagement: Everyday from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM CDT
  • Best Day: Wednesday
  • Worst Day: Monday

Best Times to Post on Instagram for Educational Organizations

  • Best Time: Monday at 8:00 PM CDT
  • Most Consistent Engagement: Weekdays from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM CDT
  • Best Day: Monday
  • Worst Day: Sunday

Best Times to Post on Instagram for Healthcare Companies

  • Best Time: Tuesday at 1:00 PM CDT
  • Most Consistent Engagement: Tuesday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM CDT
  • Best Day: Tuesday
  • Worst Day: Saturday & Sunday

Best Times to Post on Instagram for Non-Profit Organizations

  • Best Times: Tuesday at 3:00 PM & 9:00 PM, Wednesday at 3:00 PM & 4:00 PM, Thursday at 2:00 PM & 3:00 PM, and Friday at 10:00 AM & 2:00 PM,
  • Most Consistent Engagement: Weekdays from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM
  • Best Day: Tuesday
  • Worst Day: Saturday

Every brand’s audience is different. To build a sizable, engaged Instagram audience, you need to know who your followers are. And one of the best ways to get to know your audience and capture their attention is by knowing exactly when they like to surf the app

instagram data

Everything You Need to Know to Start a Retail Business

I worked in three different retail stores while growing up. The most memorable experience I had was working at a clothing store on Cape Cod when I was 18. The store had been recently renovated and looked beautiful — the desk with the cash register was designed to look like it was built from parts of a large fishing boat and the nautical theme continued to the inventory, floors, and gift boxes.

The store manager was also incredible — she was meticulous, caring, a natural problem solver, highly organized, and knew our products inside and out. She trained all employees to ensure we were prepared to assist any customer who entered the store in a way that was helpful and on-brand. My experience working at this store was a prime example of everything a retail business should be.

From your store’s appearance to inventory to the manager you hire, there are a multitude of factors that impact the creation of a prosperous retail business Follow along and we’ll cover the steps you should take to start your retail business, the resources and tools you’ll need to manage your store, and how to find the right employees to work in your store. 

But first, a critical question.

Now that you understand what type of store falls under the definition of a retail business, you might be wondering how to actually go about starting one. Let’s review 11 steps that are critical when beginning your retail business.

Each of these 11 steps should be thoughtfully considered and completed when building your retail business as some are actually federal and state legal obligations. Also, these steps aren’t listed in any specific order so feel free to jump around and work through them in any way that makes sense to you.

1. Create a Business Plan

One of the first things anyone looking to start a business should do is create a business plan. This is the document that details all aspects of your company including what you’ll sell, how your business will be structured, who your target audience is, and your financial information. 

Creating a business plan is crucial because it provides you (and your partners) with a comprehensive overview of your business at once making it easy for you to determine what will or will not work and what needs to be modified. Your business plan should be concise, yet informative and detailed. It’s also important to remember this is a living document, meaning you can always make changes as you start to implement different aspects of your plan.

Discover how to create a business plan to help you kickstart your company.

2. Choose Your Legal Structure

Disclaimer: This post is not legal advice for your company to use when choosing your legal structure or building your retail business. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand these processes. This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy. In a nutshell, you may not rely on any of this piece as legal advice, or as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding. 

When starting a retail business, you’ll have to choose a legal structure. Legal structures are recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and determine which income tax forms you have to complete and submit for your business. Here are five common business legal structures for your consideration:

Learn how to choose the right legal structure for your new business.

3. Name Your Business

Your business’ name should be catchy, easy to say and repeat, unique, and convey meaning. This way you know it’ll resonate with your customers and be memorable.

You should also search the web to ensure it hasn’t been used. To double check your name hasn’t already been taken, you can search for a trademark through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database. If you are beginning a C Corp or an LLC, you’ll need to visit your Secretary of State’s website to ensure your business entity’s name hasn’t already been used. (Here’s what the Massachusetts Secretary of State website looks like for reference.)

4. File for an Employer Identification Number

You’re most likely going to need to file for something called an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, when you start your business. This is an identifier almost every business in the US and US territories — provided by the IRS — must obtain. Your EIN is what your business will use to report income tax activity.

You can check with your state to make sure you need an EIN as well as review the IRS EIN checklist to make sure you qualify. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to apply for your employer identification number.

5. Understand Other Retail Business Laws

One final legal step for you to complete to set up your business — understand all other retail business laws at both the state and federal levels. We’ve covered a lot of the tax information you’ll need to be aware of, how to legally name and trademark your business, and how to file for an EIN. But you’ll also want to make sure you have all other legal matters taken care of before opening up your retail business. 

Every state’s government website should have a section that reads something like “starting a business”, similar to this one from the Massachusetts government site. Here, you’ll be able to work through a checklist of items to make sure everything you’re doing is legal. You’ll also be able to acquire any other necessary retail business papers and permits. In terms of government laws related to your business you should have a general understanding of tax, employment, and labor, antitrust, advertising, environmental, and licensing laws among other retail laws

Our recommendation to you is hire a lawyer or consultant to help you throughout this process — or at least get you started. The last thing you want to do is go through the effort or starting your retail business and then find yourself in legal trouble. A lawyer or consultant can ensure you consider and understand all retail business laws and requirements. 

Now, it’s time to get out of the legal mindset and move onto some more creative aspects of your retail business.

6. Pick a Location and Make Your Store Attractive

Your store’s location and appearance matter. This is how you’re going to make sure you have the foot traffic and visibility you need to kickstart and maintain a high volume of customers. It’s also how you’ll attract customers and make them want to enter your store.

Retail Store Location

If you decide to go with commercial space for your retail business — which is a building intended for stores or companies to conduct business and make a profit — make sure your location is a good one by chatting with other businesses next door and nearby. You can even conduct an informal foot traffic study by hanging out in the area to observe the number of people who shop there as well as the type of clientele to determine whether or not it resembles that of your buyer personas.

When looking at commercial spaces, you should also think about whether or not you want to rent/ lease the space and work with a landlord or buy the space so you have full control. 

Learn how to create buyer personas for your business to enhance your marketing strategy.  

You might decide to conduct your retail business out your of your home rather than a commercial space. While this will save you a lot of money because you won’t be putting any towards a separate building or retail space, it might feel slightly less professional to your customers. It may also be harder to bring in foot traffic depending on the location of your home. 

No matter what type of retail location you choose, be sure to look into your city’s zoning and planning details. These are typically provided by every town’s zoning commission and tell you whether or not changes to the area, such as construction or traffic, will create any problems or limitations for your store.

Retail Store Appearance

From the way your inventory is presented to your choice in cashier counter to your window displays, everything your customers see and experience should feel and look professional, clean, and beautiful. This way customers want to enter your store and feel excited to do business with you. 

You can make your store look great and feel inviting by using visual merchandising techniques to help you design it in a way that’s well-organized, well-lit, and on-brand. You can also hire a consultant to come in and help you lay out your store in a way that’s visually appealing.

7. Find Your Inventory

Finding the right inventory to sell is crucial. You need to give your customers a reason to come to your store by providing them with unique items they’d have a hard time finding anywhere else — especially since online shopping is so common today due to its convenience. To help get you started, you can search for one of a kind items and unique pieces at fairs, trade shows, and festivals

Here are a couple more things to think about when trying to determine how you’ll source your business’ inventory:

Current Trends

Keep up with current trends within your retail niche (clothing, jewelry, accessories, etc.) to determine the type of inventory you should sell. With the help of social media, retail blogs, and magazines, and by simply learning about what’s doing well in other retail stores similar to yours, you’ll be able to determine the ideal inventory for your brand and buyer personas. These resources will ensure there’s a base of customers looking for the type of inventory you’re going to be selling.

Supplier

Consider the type of supplier you want to get your inventory from — this might be through a manufacturer, individual maker, or wholesale.

  • Manufacturer
  • Individual Maker
  • Wholesale

Working with a manufacturer gives you a lot of flexibility because they help you create products that don’t already exist. Although you can determine the design, quality, and look of the product you crate, this also means working with a manufacturer can become expensive and time-consuming. 

Individual makers are people who create unique pieces of inventory themselves. An example of this would be someone in town who makes knit scarves and hats and sells them to you to then sell in your store. This is a great way to ensure your store has one of a kind pieces. It also means you’ll have to take the time to find talented makers who create quality items that are on-brand and would appeal to your buyer personas. 

Using wholesalers is a great option if you want to sell products in your store that are already being sold by other stores and online retailers. You’ll receive wholesale items directly from the company that makes them for a lower price but you’ll have less say when it comes to your selling margins, as the wholesaler will have control over them.

8. Create Store Policies and Procedures

Creating store policies and procedures for your customers and employees is critical if you want to maintain a sense of order within your retail business. Policies and procedures between your business and customers may include things like your return and exchange policies or whether not you want to allow pets in your store. Policies and procedures between your business and employees may include things like dress code and scheduling expectations.

By creating these store policies and procedures you avoid making customers and employees feel confused about the way something works within your business or at your store. This also helps you set standards for the way you want people to interact with your business on a regular basis.

9. Develop a Customer Service Plan

When starting your retail business, you’ll want to think about how you’re going to develop a customer service plan. Customer service is how you help your customers solve problems, teach them how to use your products, and answer their questions. Your customer service plan details the ways you’re going to do this. Customer service work is proactive. Meaning the point of developing a customer service plan and related policies is to solve for your customer’s problem prior to them even realizing they have an issue.

Let’s cover a few ways you can implement a customer service plan for your retail business through customer-friendly policies, employee training, and customer-loyalty programs.

Customer-Friendly Policies

By creating customer-friendly policies, you’ll make shopping at your retail store simple and stress-free for your customers. For example, you can can create return policies that allow your customers to bring an item back for a full refund with or without a receipt.

Other policies that prevent pain points and enhance customer service include a 100% satisfaction guarantee or complimentary hemming when you buy a piece of clothing in store.

Employee Training

You should train your employees about how to handle different situations with your customers such as exchanges, complaints, and refunds. Training will provide your employees with the exact steps they should take to ensure a professional interaction with your customers that resolves the issue at hand.

Your customer service training should also cover how you expect your employees to deal with larger customer issues and disputes. Provide them with a way to escalate an issue to you — or your store manager — when they’re unable to reach a resolution that satisfies your customer on their own.

Customer Loyalty Program

By proactively providing an incentive for people to return to your store with a customer loyalty program, you’ll likely increase your sales and number of promoters (the people who tell their network about your business). You also enhance their experience doing business with your business as well because you’ll be providing them with discount codes, details about sales, information about your latest products, and any other exciting event or piece of news you have to share.

10. Recruit a Team of Employees

It’d be difficult to grow your retail business without bringing on some team members. You may start as your sole employee, but as your business flourishes you’ll likely need some assistance. You can determine the most important qualities you’re going to look for in candidates, whether they’re related to personality, prior retail experience, or culture-fit. Then you can select and tailor specific retail interview questions to help you narrow down your pool of candidates. (We’ll cover more details about which skills you should look for in your candidates shortly.)

11. Host a Grand Opening

You might choose to have a grand opening for your retail store. This marks the date in which you are officially open for business. Grand openings may include celebratory beverages, food, and sale items to excite your new customers.

Prior to your grand opening, you might also have a soft launch, or soft opening, for your business. Soft launches are when you, the business owner, invite a group of guests to your store to essentially test everything out. These events are a great way to make sure everything works perfectly before your grand opening — meaning this is your last chance to ensure your customers love your inventory, your store is appealing to your guests, and your everything in your store, such as your POS system, functions perfectly. 

You’ve officially worked through all 11 steps required to build your own retail business — congrats! Now, you’ll need to create your retail marketing strategy.

Every retail business should have a retail marketing strategy — this will serve as the marketing plan you’ll use to promote your business. It’ll be the way you get the word out about your business and help you build your base of customers and promoters. Here are six steps to work through when creating your retail marketing strategy.

1. Define your positioning.

Defining your positioning is a critical part of your marketing strategy. That’s because your positioning is what makes your retail business stand out and differ from your competitors. Think about what it is that makes your business unique and use those details to define your positioning. This might be where or how you source your inventory, how you display all of the items in your store, or your impeccable end to end customer service experience.

2. Define your audience.

Once you define your positioning, you should be able to get a better idea of the audience you’re going after. Think about what type of consumer would appreciate your positioning, the products you sell, and how you sell them. By clearly defining your audience, you’ll be able to create buyer personas to help you develop a steady customer base and understand their wants and needs. 

Learn how to create buyer personas for your business with easy to use templates.

3. Create your mission statement.

Your mission statement is another critical part of both your retail marketing strategy and your business as a whole. It’s a formally written statement explaining your business’ goals and values — it essentially explains the reason why your business exists, the purpose it serves its audience, and how it differs from competitors. Your mission statement is what you and your employees can turn to when you need guidance or inspiration, and it’s what your customers can turn to when they want to learn about who you really are as a business and brand. And if you need some help envisioning what yours should say, you can always review mission statement examples from other companies. 

Naturally, as your company evolves and grows, the details of your mission statement may also shift. That’s alright because your mission statement is a living document, meaning it can (and should) be updated over time as you see fit.

4. Decide on your branding.

Your retail business’ branding should feel like a combination of your audience and mission statement. Meaning you should think about what type of branding your chosen audience will respond well to and how it’ll help you represent and depict your company’s goals and values. 

You should study the branding of your competitors to ensure yours stands out and looks unique to your customers. Lastly, make sure your branding is memorable — you want someone to look at any piece of your marketing and know it’s yours.

5. Think about your content marketing strategy.

A great retail marketing strategy includes a content marketing plan. This consists of media you create for your retail business such as written and visual content. A comprehensive content marketing strategy will help you establish a strong online presence and promote your business

For example, a common way to establish an online presence through content marketing is via social media. Social media marketing allows you to promote your business through various platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Once you determine the different aspects of your content marketing strategy, you’ll want to ensure you plan and schedule all of that great content you’ve just created.

Content marketing schedule

Once you have developed your content marketing strategy, you’ll need to make sure the actual content you’ve created is posted, distributed, and shared when you want it to be. Create a content marketing schedule that you and your team can work from to ensure all content is shared as planned.

There are a number of different content marketing scheduling software options, such as CoSchedule, to help you do this. Depending on your business’ needs, you may also choose to use a much broader marketing automation software such as HubSpot, or a more specific social media automation software such as Hootsuite. These software options speed up the scheduling process, ensure your content is shared on time and as planned, and allow you to dedicate employees to certain content.

6. Decide on your budget.

You’ll need to set a marketing strategy budget to work within when developing all of these different pieces to your plan. Think about how much money you want to put towards each of these steps so everyone on your team is aware of the parameters they’ll need to work within. 

When determining your budget, you might find that you’re a bit limited to the amount you can put towards each of these retail marketing strategy steps simply because you’re a new business with fewer resources. That’s alright and totally expected — just remember to expand your budget when necessary as your business grows. 

To help get you started, you can consider the following recommendation regarding marketing strategy budgets by the US Small Business Administration: If you’re doing less than $5 million a year in sales and your net profit range is 10-12%, spend 7-8% of your gross revenue for marketing and advertising

Now that you’ve worked through the steps to building your retail business from the ground up and have a better understanding about how you can approach the creation of your retail marketing plan, let’s discuss some of the resources and software you’ll need to run your retail business.

Resources and Software Every Retail Business Needs

The following six resources and software are tools often used by retail businesses. As you start planning your business, you may think of more tools you’ll need depending on the retail business you’re opening. The following list will get you started most likely need to be modified for your store needs.

1. POS System

One of the most important tools you’ll need to run your retail business is a point of sales system or POS. 

A point of sales system is a software that allows you to conduct customer checkouts and accept multiple forms of payment such as cash, credit cards, and mobile payments. The software also prints receipts, scans inventory barcodes, and stores cash. There are a number of retail-focused point of sales systems to choose from to help you manage all of your customer transactions which we’ll discuss shortly. Without a POS system, it would be exceptionally time-consuming and difficult to keep track of all of your sales and payments.

Here are some POS systems for retail businesses to help kickstart your search for the perfect one for your business: 

You may also want an inventory management software for your retail business. This will keep track of all information about your inventory to understand which items you need to replenish and how often you need to do so. These days, many POS systems, including the five we just listed, have inventory management systems built into them so you may not need to worry about finding another software.

2. Stock Keeping Units

Typically, retail businesses will have some type of stock keeping unit, or SKU, system to keep track of every single piece of inventory they have. A SKU — which is typically located alongside an item’s barcode — is a combination of numbers and letters used to identify and organize each piece of your inventory by characteristics such as size, color, and brand. 

Source

Instead of having to come up with your own SKU, POS systems with included inventory management capabilities also have SKU creation features.

4. Retail Blogs

Every business owner needs inspiration every now and then. Retail blogs are a great way for you to keep up with the latest retail trends and learn about what is and isn’t working well for other similar businesses. Retail blogs, such as The Retail Doctor and Medallion Retail, are focused on topics including growth, industry trends, new software, and in-store business vs. online business.

6. Employee Scheduling Software

As your retail business grows, you’ll most likely find yourself adding members to your team. Managing any number employees — and their schedules — is simple with an employee scheduling software, such as Ximble or TSheets, which allows you to organize and update your business schedule so your employees know exactly when to show up for work. 

Now that you have a better understanding about the resources and tools you’ll need to start your retail business, let’s talk about how you’re going to find the right employees to work in your store.

What to Look For In a Retail Employee Candidate

Who are the people that are going to help you grow your business? What traits should your employees possess to ensure they’ll be impactful additions to your store? Let’s cover some of these important characteristics to help you identify candidates who will be quality employees.

Communication Skills

Retail employees need to be great communicators — they’re interacting with your customers every day. They must be able to communicate details about your inventory to help them find the items they’re looking for. If someone calls your business with a question or issue, they’ll need to communicate their answer or provide a solution. Lastly, your employees need to be able to communicate with you about things such as their schedule and how their experiences with your customers are going.

Positive Personality

Whether your employees are chatting with your customers in person or online, about a topic that’s good or bad, your employees need to maintain a positive attitude. They act as the face of your brand and you want them to represent your business well. So, hiring people with a positive, can-do attitude that’s ready to tackle any situation that may arise — even if it’s a complex and involves an unhappy customer — is important.

Patience

You’re bound to have an unsatisfied customer at one point in time. Your employees must be patient as they listen to the issue in which the customer describes. They also need to be patient while working with that customer to find a solution. Otherwise, it’d be difficult for your employees to turn your customer’s negative experience around.

Empathy

Empathy is feeling and understanding another’s emotions. Whether a customer is in a rush, has to purchase a sympathy gift, or is unhappy with an item of yours, your employees must be empathetic. This is how they’ll find a solution that fits the needs of the given customer. Empathy is what will help turn a customer’s negative experience into a positive one so they’ll continue doing business with you in the future.

Dependability

Whether you have one employee or 10, they need to be dependable. You depend on your employees to represent your business, work hard to delight your customers, be professional and kind, and simply show up to work (on time, of course) when scheduled.

Prior Retail Experience

Requiring your employees to have prior retail experience is up to your discretion. You may choose to focus on personality traits and culture fit instead of work history. However, if you do want employees with prior experience, you could look for candidates who have worked in other stores before or even have an education in fashion, design, or communications.

Start Selling

Starting a retail business is hard work. But, by following the steps we discussed, you can make it happen. Remember there are a lot of moving parts that come with starting a retail business that may change, such as your business plan and mission statement, as you begin putting your ideas into action. Start by obtaining the right resources and tools and hiring the right people to help you start growing your retail business.

5 Reasons to Get Excited About the HubSpot Platform in 2019

 This time last year, we put a stake in the ground by announcing that HubSpot was building a centralized platform.

We believe the world has changed. We see businesses using more kinds of software, not less, that all needs to work together. To help our customers grow better in this environment, HubSpot is evolving from an “all-in-one” suite into an “all-on-one” platform.

Delivering remarkable end-to-end customer experiences is a team sport. Our goal in becoming a lovable platform is to make it easy to complement HubSpot with a rich landscape of apps built by other companies, or custom apps built uniquely for your business by an agency or your own developers.

We want to make it easy for our customers to orchestrate all of this.

In collaboration with our growing collection of platform partners, we made great progress in that mission over the past year. Here are our platform highlights from 2018:

1. We listed 94 new apps in our directory, growing our platform partner ecosystem by 70%.

Good platforms are flywheels: More customers attract more developers, who build more apps, which attract more customers, and so on. Customers get an ever wider set of capabilities, while developers get an ever wider audience they can distribute their apps to.

That flywheel is starting to accelerate on our platform, and it’s inspiring to see the wide variety of innovative companies who are bringing new integrated apps to our customers.

We welcomed 94 new official apps into our ecosystem in 2018, bringing our integrations count to over 200 across 17 categories, that help grow our customers’ businesses.

One of the categories that grew the most in 2018 was Calling. Just within that category, you can find 21 different apps for video conferencing, integrating with cloud-based phone systems and call centers, inbound and outbound SMS, voice-powered chatbots, AI-driven analysis of phone calls, and more.

In 2018, the top 20 most popular apps in our ecosystem by total number of installs were:

  1. Zapier — integrations automation
  2. Mailchimp — email and marketing automation
  3. Slack — collaboration hub for work
  4. WordPressfree content management system
  5. SurveyMonkey — survey collection
  6. Eventbrite — event management and ticketing
  7. Salesforce — CRM
  8. Databox — KPI dashboards
  9. GoToWebinar — video conferencing
  10. MagneticOne Mobile — business card sync
  11. Automate.io — integrations automation
  12. Hotjar — heat mapping
  13. UberConference — video conferencing
  14. Zendesk — support ticketing and customer service software
  15. Shopify — ecommerce platform
  16. Typeformonline form and survey-building
  17. PandaDoc — proposal software and eSignatures
  18. Unbounce — landing page building
  19. Import2 Wizard — seamless data sync
  20. PieSync — integrations automation

As you might expect, many of these were our earliest partners, and it’s great to see their continued success. But we were also excited to see new partners quickly gain traction. The 10 fastest-growing new apps in our ecosystem last year were:

  1. Import2 Wizard — seamless data sync
  2. Typeformonline form and survey-building
  3. Slack — collaboration hub for work
  4. Zoho Analytics — informative sales reports and dashboards
  5. GetSiteControl — online form and survey-building
  6. CircleLoop — advanced calling
  7. OrgChartHub — organizational chart building
  8. Map My Customers — mapping and data visualization
  9. Jira — project management
  10. Skyvia — cloud application and database sync

Many more exciting apps are in the pipeline now and will be launching over the course of 2019.

We also built a number of native integrations last year, including Zoom, Slack, Shopify, Stripe, Youtube, and Workplace by Facebook.

We deliberately invest in a small number of native integrations relative to our ecosystem’s size. This allows us to focus our developers’ time on the handful of companies that we know will be the most valuable for our customers. For instance, we were launch partners for some of Slack’s new APIs, enabling a deep integration between our two products. We were a launch partner for Workplace by Facebook. And we built a groovy new YouTube integration for actionable video metrics.

Whenever we build an integration ourselves, we look for ways to enable other partners in our ecosystem to build off those same extension points. For instance, when we built our Shopify integration, we also created the Ecommerce Bridge API, which enables companies to sync and manipulate ecommerce data using HubSpot functionality. One of our integration partners, Unific, enables customers to connect their Magento, Shopify, Bigcommerce, or WooCommerce store to HubSpot using this API. We also recently added a tight integration with Zoom and are working to make it possible for other video conferencing providers to plug into HubSpot in the same way.

2. We added 95 new API endpoints and hosted our first annual platform partner day.

Our product teams have been enthusiastically opening more APIs and UI extension points to enable developers to build and integrate more kinds of apps on our platform.

Last year, we added 95 new API endpoints (for a total of 355), creating programmatic access to tickets, products, line items, CRM pipelines, GDPR compliance features, and more. We launched an Ecommerce Bridge API and Analytics API to facilitate deeper integrations with a wide range of partners in ecommerce and analytics categories. And we unveiled a new Workflow Extensions model that lets partners create branded, native-like actions for customers within workflows across our Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub products.

Last spring, we also hosted our first annual Platform Partner Day at our headquarters in Cambridge. Over 60 of our top integration partners joined us to meet with our engineering and marketing teams, learn about upcoming product releases, and discuss how we can jointly create better apps and integrations for our shared customers.

We’re now gearing up for our second annual Platform Partner Day this spring with exciting new developments to share and even greater opportunities to collaborate.

3. Customers adopted integrations at a record pace.

There’s a positive correlation between the number of apps a customer connects to HubSpot and their growth on our platform. It makes sense: The more our customers invest in a unified experience for their customers, the more they can accomplish.

App adoption across our customer base in 2018 was record-breaking. The vast majority of our customers now have at least one other app integrated with HubSpot, and the average number of apps per customer jumped by more than 50% year-over-year. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of additional app installs.

We’re energized by this number, which indicates that customers are seeing benefits from our platform. But it’s also exciting for our platform partners who are seeing greater adoption among our customer base.

4. We connected our platform partners, agencies, and startups.

Some of the most valuable opportunities we can offer platform partners are connections with programs and communities across HubSpot.

For instance, our global network of thousands of agencies and consultants helps businesses leverage our software to grow better. Increasingly, these providers are adding our platform partners’ products to the solutions they’re delivering to clients. This gives their clients more capabilities, expands their own service offerings, and lays the foundation for a powerful go-to-market channel.

We’re seeing our agency partners leverage our platform in powerful and innovative ways. For example, Nextiny, a Platinum agency partner has curated a “tech stack” of apps from HubSpot’s platform ecosystem that they regularly deploy together for clients. Nextiny used this stack to overachieve on key business goals for their client, Jeeves Florida Rentals, and their success landed them a 2018 Impact Award for Integrations Innovation.

Nextiny

To facilitate these types of relationships, we launched the Apps for Agency Services program last spring. It provides a structured way for platform partners who qualify to help agencies sell and service their software, including sales enablement tools and a free subscription for their own internal use.

HubSpot for Startups is another thriving program partners with over 1,500 accelerators, incubators, and VC firms (like Y Combinator and Sequoia Capital) to provide startups with educational resources, event programs, and startup-friendly discounts on our software.

Last year, we enabled platform partners to provide special discounts to qualified startups to help them build relationships with new ventures.Airtable_HSFS

To further build momentum between our platform partners and startup community, our platform marketing team researched the most commonly used apps for startups in our ecosystem and curated collections of apps for startups and free apps (including those with a freemium offering) in our directory.

We were inspired by all the successful connections between platform partners, agencies, and startups that happened last year. We’re committed to facilitating even more of them in the year ahead.

5. We launched HubSpot Ventures and announced co-investment from Amazon Web Services (AWS) in programs to grow our ecosystem.

In addition to expanding our platform’s APIs and extensibility and creating new app distribution opportunities for partners, we also made a couple of big announcements about growing the ecosystem itself.

In December, we launched HubSpot Ventures, a new $30 million fund to invest in startups that align with our mission to help millions of organizations grow better. Some of the previous investments that we have made include Blissfully, Grow, Lorem, Privy and Terminus.

At the same time, we announced a three-year commitment with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help startups grow better. All AWS Activate members have access to HubSpot for Startups and AWS now offers Activate memberships and credits to participants in HubSpot for Startups too. AWS will also support HubSpot’s platform partner program by co-investing to build an ecosystem for HubSpot partners, including content tailored to developers.

And, in the spirit of investing in our platform partners, we also extended HubSpot for Startups discounts to all certified platform partners who aren’t yet HubSpot customers but want to make the switch.

Onward and Upward in 2019

We’ve got big plans for our platform ecosystem in the year ahead. For customers, we’re eager to bring you more apps and integrations that will expand your business’s digital superpowers. To see the latest ones, check out the new and noteworthy category in our directory.

For partners, we’re dedicated to creating more opportunities for you to build your business on our platform. Last year, our entire executive team went on a field trip to learn from some of the best platform companies in the Bay Area. Our overarching takeaway was this credo: A platform should be measured by the success of its ecosystem. In 2018, we added three key hires to our team who are specifically tasked with helping our ecosystem succeed. Samantha Ceppos, our director of global partner and platform marketing, scales our ecosystem and ensures our partners are always looped in to changes and updates. Elizabeth Ruscitto, our director of developer relations, is leading the charge in improving our developer documentation, tools, and support. You can access our latest resources and sign up for a developer portal for free here. Hugh Durkin, our director of platform partner success, is focused on shaping our platform partner program to help partners grow their businesses within our ecosystem.

Are you interested in joining us as an app platform partner? Learn more about the program here.

We’re eager to grow better together.

 

7 Creative Company Profile Examples to Inspire Your Own

We all know about the infamous rivalry between Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. At the end of the day, they both sell coffee — but they’ve each cultivated strong, unique brands, and have attracted very different audiences as a result.

You can often overhear heated arguments regarding the topic, with people vehemently claiming one coffee chain to be better than the other.

But let’s say you didn’t know about the rivalry, and you’d never heard of either Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts before.

Instead, you stumble across these two very different company profile statements:

Image courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts

Image courtesy of Starbucks

From their opening paragraphs alone, I’m willing to bet you’re persuaded to check out one brand in more detail over the other. It isn’t just the language itself that gives you a sense of their business — it’s the design, the font, and the color.

Ultimately, your company profile matters. It can intrigue a new visitor to check out your products or services in more detail, and nudge potential customers into choosing your business over competitors.

Here, we’ll explore seven of the most creative company profile examples, to ensure you’re able to create a company profile in 2019 that will attract and engage the right audience. Once you’re done perusing these impressive examples, take a look at our template to get started designing your own.

Company Profile Examples

1. Starbucks company profile

Starbucks’ company profile has it all — the company’s mission, background story, products, store atmosphere, and even folklore regarding the name. Best of all, they somehow manage to pull off sounding both genuine and grandiose. I don’t know many other coffee stores that could claim, “our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit”. Starbucks’ company profile is a fantastic example of a store with a common household product — coffee — managing to stand out from the competition through their mission and values.

2. Nordstrom company profile

If your company has an interesting and lengthy history, you might consider creating a visual timeline, like Nordstrom did on their company profile. The profile reads like a creative story from the very first line — “In 1887, John W. Nordstrom, at 16 years old, left Sweden for the United States. He arrived in New York with $5 in his pocket, unable to speak a word of English.” With a good balance of image and text, the timeline serves as a reminder of Nordstrom’s stability and growth.

3. Diehl Group Architects company profile

For both cleanliness and ease-of-use, take a look at Diehl Group Architects’ company profile. The web page uses clickable boxes to separate topics, allowing users to choose which subject they’d like to learn more about. Additionally, the entire design — including the page’s background, which displays a floor-plan — mirrors the company’s purpose.

4. Bloomberg company profile

If both video and text are available on the same page, 72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service. You might consider using a compelling video to convey your company’s story, like Bloomberg does in their company profile.

Additionally, Bloomberg’s profile proves the company knows its audience — they offer a few quick statistics, and then link to other areas of the site, such as Careers and Tech. While another business might do well offering a creative, long-form story, Bloomberg’s typical demographic is likely more analytical.

5. Nike company profile

You can get a sense for Nike’s two primary purposes almost instantly — fitness, and people. When you first open their company profile you’re greeted with videos of people of different ages, gender, and nationalities playing sports.

Additionally, their initial introduction is this: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world”. Below, beside the asteric, it says, “If you have a body, you are an athlete”. As you scroll, you’ll see information on their internal diversity and inclusion initiative, their global community impact, and their sustainable business program, with very little mention of their products.

Nike’s company profile portrays a larger, grander vision, compelling an audience to believe in their brand even before they purchase a product.

6. Seattle Cider company profile

Seattle Cider Company’s profile is fun, and engages the user through compelling graphics that demonstrate the company’s cider process. The page flows seamlessly, and provides critical information regarding the product before displaying the company’s mission and values. This profile is a good example of a company that understands its users’ concerns (in this case, quality ingredients), and addresses those issues while still displaying personality and flair.

7. Delta company profile

Delta’s page is well-organized by topic, and showcases the company’s values, including efforts to engage with the community and promote sustainability. They’ve included brief meta-descriptions below each category. The design allows for users to click-through if they want to learn more. Overall, Delta’s company profile is simple and uncluttered, but includes all the necessary information to demonstrate why Delta is unique.

Company Profile Template

  • Company name
  • Established date
  • Physical address per location
  • Contact information

About Us / Our Story / Our Beginning

[Here, you’ll want to include a brief introduction to your company, including where, when, and by whom the company was founded, the company’s mission statement, and/or the company’s vision and purpose. In this section, you don’t necessarily want to include products or services — instead, focus on your bigger meaning, and how you stand out from competitors. Tell your story in a compelling way — for instance, HubSpot starts their About Us section with, “More than ten years ago, we had a vision — an inbound world”. HubSpot doesn’t mention their products until further down the page.]

Our Mission / Values

[Here, you’ll want to say what your company stands for on a larger scale. What is your ultimate goal, and what do you hope your products or services will give people? Take a look at 17 Truly Inspiring Company Vision and Mission Statement Examples for ideas.]

Our Team

[Provide a picture or brief paragraph describing your team — you might focus on leadership, or provide an explanation of your company’s culture. Ultimately, this section should help users understand how your employees can uniquely serve them.]

Our Product / Services

[Describe a high-level overview of what your product is, and how you hope it will positively impact the user’s life. You can link to a Product page if necessary, so keep this section relatively general.]

Business Plan Template

The Quick & Easy Guide to Fixing HTTP Error 405 (Method Not Allowed)

In a world hooked on instant gratification, one of the worst things a brand can do is not give their audience what they want. If your website visitors see an error page when they’re looking for help or information to do their jobs better, they could get annoyed and lose trust in your brand, permanently damaging your reputation.

Unfortunately, 405 Method Not Allowed Errors are rather mysterious. They indicate what happened to your website, but they don’t tell you why it happened, making it challenging for you to pinpoint its cause and correct the issue.

To help you fix your 405 Method Not Allowed Error and avoid losing brand trust, we’ve fleshed out exactly what the issue is and its most common solutions.

Image Credit: Testing Nook

Fortunately, there are three common and effective solutions for fixing most 405 Method Not Allowed Errors.

How to Fix 405 Method Not Allowed Errors

1. Comb through your website’s code to find bugs.

If there’s a mistake in your website’s code, your web server might not be able to correctly answer requests from a content delivery network. Comb through your code to find bugs or copy your code into a development machine. It’ll perform a thorough debug process that will simulate the exact situation your 405 Method Not Allowed Error occurred in and allow you to see the exact moment where things went wrong.

2. Sift through your server-side logs.

There are two types of server-side logs — applications logs and server logs. Application logs recount your website’s entire history, like the web pages requested by visitors and which servers it connected to. Server logs provide information about the hardware running your server, revealing details about its health and status. Sift through both types of server-side logs to uncover any alarming information about your server or website.

3. Check your server configuration files.

The last way to find out what’s causing your 405 Method Not Allowed Error is by taking a look at your web server’s configuration files. You can usually find instructions for solving unintentional redirects there.

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48 C# Interview Questions Any Interview Worth Their Salt Will Ask

With over 7,000 C#.Net programming jobs advertised every month that have an average salary of over $90,000, the demand for this type of developer has exploded. But why is the C#.Net labor market so hot right now? Well, more and more engineering departments are adopting C#.Net to build their software because it’s similar to other common C-type languages like C++ and Java. This makes the language intuitive to learn — in fact — it’s the fifth most popular programming language for building software.

To help you prepare for your next C#.Net developer interview and land the job, check out the following C#.Net interview questions most interviewers will ask you.

48 C#.Net Interview Questions

1. What is C#?

2. What are the advantages of using C#?

3. What are an object and class?

4. What is an Object Pool?

5. What is an abstraction?

6. What is polymorphism?

7. Is C# managed or unmanaged code?

8. How do you inherit a class in C#?

9. What’s the difference between Interface and Abstract Class?

10. What are sealed classes in C#?

11. What’s the difference between a struct and a class in C#?

12. What’s the point of using statement in C#?

13. How is Exception Handling applied in C#?

14. What are boxing and unboxing in C#?

15. What are the three types of comments in C#?

16. Can multiple catch blocks be executed in C#?

17. What’s the difference between static, public, and void? What’s the outcome of each one?

18. What are value types and reference types?

19. What’s the difference between ref and out parameters?

20. Can “this” be used within a static method?

21. What are Arrays in C#?

22. What is a jagged array in C#?

23. What’s the difference between Array and ArrayList?

24. What’s the difference between System.Array.CopyTo() and System.Array.Clone()?

25. What’s the difference between string and StringBuilder?

26. What are delegates in C#?

27. What’s a multicast delegate?

28. What is a Reflection in C#?

29. What is a Generic Class?

30. What are Get and Set Accessor properties?

31. What is Multithreading?

32. What is Serialization?

33. What are the different ways a method can be overloaded?

34. What is the accessibility modifier “protected internal”?

35. What are the different ways a method can be overloaded?

36. What is an object pool in .Net?

37. What are the most commonly used types of exceptions in .Net?

38. What are accessibility modifiers in C#?

39. What are nullable types in C#?

40. What’s the difference between is and as operators in C#?

41. What are Indexers?

42. What are Singleton Design Patterns?

43. Given an array of ints, write a C# method to total all the values that are even numbers.

44. Is it possible to store mixed data types like int, string, float, and char all in one array?

45. Describe dependency injection.

46. Write a C# program that accepts a distance in kilometers, converts it into meters, and then displays the result.

47. What’s the difference between the “constant” and “readonly” variables when using C#? When would you use each one?

48. Which preference of IDE do you have when using C#? Why?

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Form Layouts: 6 Best Practices and Great Examples to Follow

Have you ever tried completing a form on a website and felt confused or lost while doing so? Did the placement of the form field labels and the fields themselves not make any sense? Were the form’s title and submission button not in locations that were easy for you to spot?

These factors, among several others, are major aspects of a web form’s layout that have the potential to either enhance or diminish its user experience (UX). By implementing a successful layout, you’ll create a great experience for your visitors as well as initiate a positive — and hopefully long-lasting — relationship between them and your brand. 

In this guide, we’ll review six best web form layout practices as well as examples of each practice to help you get started. But first, let’s review what web form layout actually is and why it’s so important.

 

Why does web form layout matter?

Almost every website has a web form of some kind. Your web form layout plays a large role in how well your form converts. That’s because a great form layout leads to seamless form completion and improves the submission process for your visitors. Visitors will easily convert since you’ve created a web form that’s hassle-free and feels both professional and thoughtful. 

In contrast, a poorly planned layout will lead to a confusing and difficult-to-work-through form that may frustrate your visitors and even cause them to abandon your site entirely, diminishing your conversions.

Now that we understand why getting your web form’s layout right is so important, let’s dive into how to create an optimal layout for your web form. Below are six best practices to follow when arranging your content.

Form Layouts: 6 Best Practices and Great Examples to Follow

We’ve curated this list of best practices, to apply to virtually every type of web form. We’ve also included great examples of each practice to help you better apply the concepts to your own forms.

1. Use a single-column layout

When it comes to your layout, you should keep the location and order of all your fields as straightforward as possible. This means you should use a single-column layout. By organizing your fields this way, your visitors won’t miss a field, they’ll complete the fields in the order that makes the most sense, and they’ll be able to submit your form faster than they would if you used a multi-column form.

Great example:

Source 

This example shows you what a single-column format should look like. The layout is just about as streamlined, straightforward, and minimalist as it could possibly be, which is exactly what you want. This way, you decrease the amount of time your visitors need to work through your form and there’s no possible cause for error or confusion.

2. Align copy to the left

Align all of your form fields to the left side of the web page. This is the most natural way to lay out your form because it’s how the vast majority of people learn to read content — by moving from right to left. If you aren’t using inline form field labels (which are located directly in the form fields themselves), you should also align your labels to the left. Again, this natural flow will help your visitors complete your form more efficiently without feeling confused about which label belongs to which field.

Great example: 

left-side-web-form-alignment

Source

This photo depicts left side alignment for both the form’s fields and labels. The form is organized in a way that makes it clear for visitors and therefore allows for speedy completion and submission processes. There’s no question about which labels belong with which fields and working right to left through the form is both natural and hassle-free.

3. Use a one-page layout

When creating your forms, you should use a one-page layout so there’s only one form located on each page. If you have a short form, everything should easily fit on a single page, making this an easy layout to implement. 

If you have a lot of form fields, you should break up them up into a multi-step form. When you do this, there will be multiple web pages with separate portions of the form, making the amount of work your visitor needs to complete appear more manageable. (If you do have a multi-step form, you can also add a progress bar at the top of the page so your visitors know how much longer they’re going to be working through it.)

Great example:

one-page-web-form-layout

Source 

Due to the large number of form fields that visitors are required to complete, this is a multi-step form spread across three separate web pages. By organizing the form this way, reviewing and completing it doesn’t feel like it’ll be a long, tedious process.

Rather than looking at a long list of form fields that need to be completed, seeing only a few fields at a time makes the form feel less overwhelming. (The progress bar at the top of the page also helps with this, especially since it clearly labels the names of the web pages the visitor needs to work through.)

4. Create a mobile-friendly layout

These days nearly everyone carries some type of mobile device with them at all times. No matter if they’re on-the-go, traveling, commuting, or simply sitting in the comfort of their own home, it’s no secret that people are signing up for your newsletter, registering for an account, and buying your products via their smartphones and tablets. That’s why it’s critical your site includes mobile-friendly forms.

Great example:

mobile-friendly-web-form-layout

Source 

This example displays many important aspects of a successful mobile form layout. The form has a clear title at the top of the small screen, a clear and simplified option to add (or scan) credit card information so a visitor doesn’t have to type our the series of numbers on such a tiny keyboard, a straightforward, single-column, and multi-step layout, minimalist design, and more. This form is laid out in a way that allows users to easily understand and complete it via a mobile device.

5. Add inline form field labels

Inline field labels and text make it exceptionally easy for visitors to understand where they should be placing their responses in your forms. They take the guesswork out of which label belongs to which field, making it simple for visitors to move through the form without hesitation. They also keep your form looking clean, minimalist, clutter-free, and sleek.

Great example:

inline-form-fields-web-form

Source

Since these field labels are inline, the form looks simplistic and shorter than it would if the labels were located outside of the entry fields. Visitors will have no issue determining where they need to input their information. Sometimes when the field labels are located above, below, or to the side of the fields, it’s hard to determine which label belongs to which field.

6. Use inline error messages

Using inline error messages in web forms is an effective way to ensure someone understands there’s an issue with a field they tried completing. They also direct that visitor to the exact location of the error so there’s no time wasted determining where the problem is.

Once you create your inline messages, be sure to add some context about why the error exists and how your visitors can correct it. This not only saves your visitors time when fixing the error(s), but it also saves you and your fellow employees from having to work through invalid responses once the form’s submitted.

Great example:

In this form, the error message appears inline, meaning the invalid field is highlighted red. The form includes an error symbol next to the field to further highlight the fact there’s an issue and where the issue is located. Lastly, the message explains why the error exists and how to fix it.

Back To You

With a successful web form layout, you’ll create a great user experience for your visitors that’ll leave a positive, lasting impression on them. Your layout should streamline the form completion and submission processes for your visitors so there isn’t any confusion or uncertainty regarding the form itself. Get started improving your form’s layout today by thinking about these practices and how you can incorporate them into your own forms to enhance UX and boost your conversions.

9 Reasons for Leaving Your Last Job That Hiring Managers Will Completely Understand

Out of all the questions hiring managers can potentially ask you during an interview, “Why did you leave your last job?” could be one of the hardest to answer.

To effectively answer this question, you need to frame your response in a way that shows hiring managers that you know what’s important to you and how to handle less than ideal situations. But you also don’t want to sound ungrateful for the opportunities you had in your previous role, or come off like you’re still bitter about how you left things with your last employer.

It can be challenging to explain why you decided to leave your last position without throwing your old company under the bus. But if answered thoughtfully, this question can help you highlight your flexibility and self-awareness.

To help you nail this question at your next interview, we rounded up nine reasons for leaving your last job that hiring managers will completely understand. And even if you’ve only worked in your current role for a short amount of time, these reasons can help you frame your decision to depart your last role in a way your potential new employer can truly respect.

1. You’re looking to level up in your career, and your current company has limited opportunities for career growth.

Career stagnation can be incredibly frustrating. If you’ve worked hard at the same company for a few years, and you haven’t been promoted or even promised a promotion, you have every right to leave your current job. If you can communicate that you haven’t been able to climb the career ladder at your preferred pace during your interview, you’ll show hiring managers that you’re ambitious and goal-orientated.

2. You don’t feel challenged or fulfilled at your current job.

No job is perfect, but if you don’t feel any satisfaction at work, it’s definitely time for a change. Work becomes a chore if you don’t feel mentally stimulated or emotionally fulfilled. And hiring managers will completely understand why you’re leaving your current role, if this is the case. They’ll also be impressed with your internal need to be passionate about your job.

3. The nature of your work is not what was promised to you.

Did your current employer promise you a copywriting job, but now you somehow work in product marketing? If they’ve baited-and-switched you like this, wanting to leave the company is more than understandable. They promised you something, but failed to honor it — so why stay?

Leaving your job to find a new role that actually meets your expectations will also show hiring managers that you can stand up for yourself and pursue what you truly want in life.

4. You’re burnt out.

If your job’s heavy workload or endless stress make you hate going to work, it’s time for a fresh start somewhere else. Burnout can make work and, in turn, life miserable and most hiring managers have experienced it at least once in their careers, so if you need a new change of pace, they’ll definitely be able to empathize with you. They’ll also respect your willingness to take care of your mental and emotional health.

5. You feel undervalued at your current job.

When your current manager underestimates your potential or doesn’t know how to leverage your skill set to its full potential, work can become frustrating and dull. So why work for a company that doesn’t challenge you or allow you to make a impact?

If you can genuinely convey these frustrations and aspirations during your interview, hiring managers will perceive you as someone who truly wants to make a difference at their company — and that’ll only boost your chances of landing the job.

6. You want to make a career change.

In a world where most industries never stop changing, it’s common to leave a job to pursue a new career path. But even if you think your lack of experience in an industry is a vulnerability, you shouldn’t fret. Most hiring managers actually like hiring candidates from other industries because they can bring a fresh perspective to their team and company.

7. You want a better work life balance.

Sometimes employers forget that people work to live and don’t live to work. If your current job steals too many hours away from your personal life, it’s time to go. Life is for living, so if you can express your desire to work in a new role that provides a better work life balance, hiring managers will admire the respect you have for your own time.

8. Your values don’t align with the company’s values.

Whether you were never a good fit at your current company or a merger or acquisition altered its values, a moral conflict with an employer is totally a justifiable reason to leave. If you stand firmly behind your own beliefs, you shouldn’t have to compromise your ethics to drive results for a business you don’t support.

Hiring managers also want to hire people whose values align with their company’s, so clarifying that you both have similar principles will help you out tremendously during an interview.

9. You had to leave the company due to family or personal reasons.

Life happens. If you left your last job because you needed to take care of your family or nourish your physical or mental health, hiring managers won’t knock off any points during your interview. In fact, this reason will most likely bump up your score because you’ve proved that you can prioritize what’s truly important in life.

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What Does HTTP 302 Mean?

If you’ve spent any time on the internet at all, chances are you’ve encountered an HTTP status code.

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In simple terms, HTTP status codes are essentially standard response codes used to show the relationship between all the things that go on in the background when you travel from web page to web page: things like the user agent (i.e., your web browser), the web page you’re trying to load, and any third-party web applications you might be running.

Because of the complexity of how all those things interact, there are a ton of possible HTTP status codes you can run up against. HTTP status codes can be used to identify and diagnose the particular blocker preventing you from loading a resource, or give you more information about the journey you took on the way to a page.

What Does HTTP 302 Mean?

One of the most common HTTP status codes is HTTP 302. This status occurs when a resource or page you’re attempting to load has been temporarily moved to a different location — via a 302 redirect.

As opposed to 301 redirects — which are used to permanently direct users from one location to another — 302 redirects are temporary. You usually won’t notice a 302 redirect if it’s set up correctly. The web server serving up the 302 redirect should immediately indicate the new location of the page to your browser, and should send you there right away.

If you want to see when you’ve encountered a 302 redirect (or any type of redirect), consider using an application or Chrome extension (like this one, Redirect Path). This type of tool will show you directly in your browser when you run into a redirect.

It’s important to note that an HTTP 302 status code is caused by the web server you’re attempting to reach. It’s not an issue with your web browser, or anything you can control on your end of things.

If you’re thinking about setting up 302 redirects on your own website, you should know that these types of temporary redirects aren’t appreciated by Google. Google’s crawler will follow and honor a permanent 301 redirect, but will ignore any temporary 302 redirects you set up. If you want to maintain your search ranking on a page you need to redirect to a new location, opt for a permanent 301 redirect instead.


The Ultimate Guide to Cryptocurrency

When I first heard of cryptocurrency, I thought it was similar to PayPal or Venmo … a simple, digital exchange of money. You can imagine my surprise when I learned that cryptocurrency wasn’t only a digital exchange, but an exchange of a completely new currency.

I could hardly wrap my mind around it. I was this emoji personified: 🤯.

How could a brand new (albeit invisible) currency work? What could you buy? Did people actually accept it? What stopped people from not believing in it?

I had lots of questions … and I still do. Cryptocurrency is a complex, ever-changing topic that affects consumers, investors, and business owners alike. Below, we tackle some of those questions and highlight the most important aspects of cryptocurrency. By the end, you should have enough of an understanding to chime into those dinner party conversations with a fact or two.

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency. Since its conception in 2009, which occurred in response to the banking crisis and housing market crash, hundreds of other cryptocurrencies have been created … and have failed.

Your Cryptocurrency Dictionary

Before we dive into the world of cryptocurrency, let’s review a few key terms frequently used in this guide and when discussing the concept.

Altcoins

Altcoins is slang for “alternative coins.” Altcoins refer to every other cryptocurrency besides Bitcoin.

Blockchain

All cryptocurrency transactions are recorded on the blockchain, a public record used to verify digital currency transactions and prevent scams. Transactions are recorded on blocks, and a new block is added to the chain roughly every 10 minutes. We explain blockchain further in the video below.

Cryptography

Cryptography refers to the act of writing in or deciphering a code. Cryptography (where we get the “crypto” in cryptocurrency) is a type of mathematics that creates secure transactions and online environments, i.e. “encrypted” accounts or currency.

Fiat

Fiat currency is paper money like the US dollar or Euro.

Mining

Cryptocurrency mining is a proof-of-work (PoW) system where miners solve math problems to validate every cryptocurrency transaction. These minters get cryptocurrency in exchange for their time and resources. These complicated mathematical calculations also increase the security, transparency, and value of cryptocurrency. Mining is only one way — the hardest way — to obtain cryptocurrency. The reward for solving these math problems varies per currency but is more profitable than any other method (besides an outright purchase).

Nodes

Nodes are computers that are part of the global cryptocurrency blockchain network. They serve to verify transactions recorded on the blockchain. Even if one node attempted to validate an incorrect transaction, the transaction wouldn’t go through as they require multiple validations (and that node would be disconnected) … making cryptocurrency a virtually incorruptible network.

Private Key

A private key is a secure “password” that gives cryptocurrency owners access to their wallets. Each wallet has its own private key, and without it, users couldn’t access their coins.

Public Address

A public address is similar to an email or physical house address. (It looks like this: 1GV5Vye4LCfpkM9V5oFSQsZk8kq2vBxvCK.) To send cryptocurrency, you simply need the recipient’s public address. It’s the only public-facing piece of data on the blockchain, and each transaction uses a unique address.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Cryptocurrency by Feature

Both support and speculation exist in the world of cryptocurrency. Some hate it, some love it, and most are confused by it. It’s a brand new concept that sparks a whole barrage of questions and concerns.

Below, we explain the core features of cryptocurrency and the positive and negative perspective of each.

Feature

Benefits

Drawbacks

 

Security Cryptocurrency transactions are secure and private, creating valuable anonymity despite their very public (yet non-identifying) validation method on the blockchain. Security, privacy, and anonymity make it easy to use cryptocurrency for less-than-legal purposes.
Affordability Cryptocurrency has low transaction costs and in-between fees you might find at banks or payment gateways. Cryptocurrency isn’t accepted by everyone, which could cancel out its affordability altogether.
Volatility The volatility of cryptocurrency can yield a high-reward (high-risk) investment. Due to its volatility, cryptocurrency turns many people off from investing … which could lower its value over time.
Decentralization Cryptocurrency isn’t regulated or valued by a financial institution or central government, which eliminates the middleman, a penchant for corruption, and creates a truly global currency. It’s monitored by a peer-to-peer internet protocol. Many people relate cryptocurrency to the Silk Road … such a decentralized, deregulated asset couldbe used for both legal and illegal purposes. There’s also no way to recover lost coin.
Digitalization Cryptocurrency doesn’t deal in physical coin or paper money, leaving little room for loss, theft, or misuse. Cryptocurrency is purely digital, and you can’t recover lost coin or repeal validated transactions. The “invisibility” of cryptocurrency can also make it hard to trust.
Inflation

Cryptocurrency isn’t inflationary — there’s a set amount that can be mined and circulated.

Cryptocurrency will likely never become a central currency because of its non-inflationary, inflexible elements.
Creation Cryptocurrency is released through mining, which anyone can do with the proper resources — a computer and internet. Cryptocurrency mining consumes a ton of energy and resources.. (In fact, miners are on track to use more energy than Argentina.)

How is Cryptocurrency Created?

Cryptocurrency is released into the economy through the process of mining, as we defined above. But how do these digital coins become a legitimate currency in the first place?

Cryptocurrency creation depends on three main things:

  1. A community of people who believe in the purpose of the coin and network … and who will eventually mine and evangelize it
  2. A code to create and encrypt the software and blockchain network on which the currency will operate (which is relatively easy as most cryptocurrencies are based on the open source code of Bitcoin available on Github)
  3. The confidence of merchants to value and do business with the currency, further building trust among consumers, investors, and the general public

There’s obviously a lot more that goes into creating a cryptocurrency, but these are the main three elements that lead to its legitimacy and acceptance. Third parties like WalletBuilders also offer to create cryptocurrency for you.

Creating Your Own Cryptocurrency

Nowadays, a lot of businesses are creating their own cryptocurrencies — through a crowdfunding process known as an initial coin offering (ICO). ICOs are when startups raise money by creating their own digital token that can be spent on current or future products or services.

Companies who participate in ICOs exchange their token for established cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Some ICO investors keep their tokens for future use or trade them on cryptocurrency exchanges as they would stock.

To learn more about creating or investing in an IPO, check out our guide here.

Types of Cryptocurrency

As of today, there are over 2,500 active cryptocurrencies, most of which serve as more than a simple payment system. Below we’ll review a four of the most popular, listed from oldest to newest.

1. Bitcoin

Bitcoin (BTC) is the first and most famous cryptocurrency. It’s been around for almost 10 years and has been hailed as the “digital gold” of the industry.

Today, 1 BTC is equal to $4,087.63 USD. There are currently 17,433,962 BTC in circulation, and the max supply is 21 million BTC.

Psst. Read more about Bitcoin in our ultimate guide here.

2. Litecoin

Created in 2011, Litecoin (LTC) was introduced as the “silver” to Bitcoin’s “gold.” It was intended to be used as a lighter, more nimble currency for everyday transactions. Litecoin is a replica of Bitcoin, just on a much smaller scale — it’s faster to mine, holds a smaller value, has a greater market cap, and operates on a much more flexible algorithm.

Today, 1 LTC is equal to $32.42 USD. There are currently 59,665,588 LTC in circulation, and the max supply is 84 million LTC.

3. XRP by Ripple

XRP is the cryptocurrency released by Ripple. Founded in 2012, Ripple was formed to expedite and improve cross-border payment transfers and the global payments system as a whole. The company itself is more of a network to process IOUs, and XRP serves as a currency transfer tool and token against spam — the currency itself holds no real value ( meaning you can’t buy anything with it).

Ripple designed XRP to function on a unique blockchain that validates its transactions over 200 times faster than Bitcoin. XRP also requires no mining — the only way to attain the currency is to purchase it on a cryptocurrency exchange.

Today, 1 XRP is equal to $0.370595 USD. There are currently 40,762,365,544 XRP in circulation, and the max supply is 100 billion XRP.

4. Ether by Ethereum

The Ethereum network hosts both a decentralized computer system and payment system, through its main token, Ether (ETH), along with a handful of others. Ether can be traded as a cryptocurrency, but it’s more commonly used to pay for transaction fees and services on the Ethereum network.

Launched in 2015, Ethereum uses blockchain to replace centralized computing systems (like Google, Apple, and Amazon) that regulate, censor, and control user data on their applications. A decentralized network gives power back to the users and removes the security risk of a centralized system. Along with payment transactions, Ethereum also processes and validates programs and contracts, such as insurance payouts. Ethereum’s average block mining time is 12 seconds.

Today, 1 ETH is equal to $117.59 USD. There are currently 103,925,546 ETH in circulation, with no set limit on its total coin supply.

Other top cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin Cash (price: $207.34 USD), EOS (price: $2.66 USD), Stellar (price: $0.124446 USD), and Tether (price: $1.02 USD).

How to Get and Store Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency can either be earned or purchased. You can earn cryptocurrency, by mining it or completing tasks in exchange for it.

You can purchase cryptocurrency in a few different ways. For one, you can invest in an ICO (as we explained above). You can also purchase cryptocurrency from another individual through sites like LocalBitcoins.

The easiest (and arguably most secure) way to buy cryptocurrency, though, is on an exchange like Coinbase or GDAX. Cryptocurrency exchanges simply require fiat money to make the purchase, typically from a debit card. You can also seek out a Bitcoin ATM, which operates just like your typical bank ATM.

So, what do you do with your cryptocurrency after you earn or purchase it?

Well, all cryptocurrency technically lives on the blockchain. But individual owners keep track of and manage their cryptocurrency through wallets.

Your wallet stores your private key and public address. Without your private key, you cannot access or verify purchase of your cryptocurrency, so it’s essentially the most valuable piece of your cryptocurrency ownership.

The most popular type of wallet is a software wallet like Coinspace (which also serves as an exchange). You could also use a desktop or paper wallet, which we explain further in our guide to Bitcoin here.

Note: Cryptocurrency is a largely unregulated and tumultuous market, and it’s notorious for scams. That being said, we highly recommend doing plenty of research before investing in any cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrency Resources

This guide simply scratches the surface of the cryptocurrency world. If you want to learn more about mining, purchasing, or investing in cryptocurrency, check out the resources below:

Over to You

Between mining, blockchain, and wallets, there’s a lot that goes into cryptocurrency. It’s well-established in our economy, but it sure hasn’t triumphed every marketplace and merchant.

If anything, cryptocurrency is a sign of how advanced and open-minded our economy is. We’re willing to take new risks and try new things in order to businesses, bank accounts, and futures secure. Is cryptocurrency guaranteed? Absolutely not. But it might be something worth exploring you’re looking to spice up your portfolio or try something new.

Mobile Form Design: A Beginners Guide to Converting Mobile Users

Think about a time when you were on the train, walking to work, sitting in the airport, or simply laying on the couch, and you had to complete an online form of some kind (an order form, shipping form, survey, etc.) on your smartphone or tablet. Did you have a positive or negative experience? Did the mobile form you completed function properly? Was it easy to read and submit on your mobile screen?

Due to their convenience, as well as the fact that most of us are almost always carrying a device, mobile forms may be something you complete frequently. If the online form you’re completing has a mobile-friendly design, then this process really is a convenient one. However, if the form you’re trying to complete is not mobile friendly, you might quickly become frustrated, angry, or ditch the site completely.

In this guide, we’ll review the most effective ways to design your business’s mobile form to help you boost conversions and create a great user experience. There are a variety of ways to achieve this, including obvious action buttons, clear form fields, minimal form fields, automated actions, a beautiful design and layout, and more.

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But before diving into all of those details, let’s first define mobile form design to better understand the concepts and guidelines we’re about to review.

Mobile vs. Desktop Form Design

Today, your website visitors aren’t just browsing your site, viewing your content, and completing your forms from their desktop computers — they’re also completing these tasks from their mobile devices. That means it’s absolutely critical for your form to be simple to review, complete, and submit via a mobile device.

Why Is Mobile Form Design Important?

Great mobile form design allows for a positive user experience which ensures a happy website visitor who’s more likely to convert to a customer and become a returning user.

The design, layout, and functionality of your mobile forms play a large part in your website’s overall user experience due to the number of people who browse items, make purchases, and shop via their mobile devices every day. If your forms aren’t mobile-friendly, you may experience fewer conversions, a loss in mobile site traffic, and an increase in unhappy and frustrated customers. And who wants that?

Why Should Mobile Form Design Differ From Desktop Design?

Think about the difference in the display or screen size between a mobile device, such as an Apple iPhone, which typically ranges from 4.7” to 6.1” in size, and an iMac desktop computer, which typically ranges from 21” to 27” in size. Clearly, it’s safe to assume a form that fits an iPhone screen wouldn’t fit a desktop screen perfectly.

If your mobile visitors cannot easily read, complete, and submit your form, you may lose their business. So creating a mobile-friendly form that fits the screen of any mobile device is crucial to creating a great user experience in order to leave a lasting impression on your visitors and help you boost conversions.

What Is Responsive Web Design?

If you want to take mobile form design a step further and ensure your entire website is functional on all types of devices, you can implement a responsive website design. 

Responsive web design takes the user’s screen size, platform, orientation, and environment into consideration. This is a simple and effective way to create a great user experience since so many people are constantly visiting and browsing different websites on a variety of devices.

There are a number of ways you can make sure your site has a responsive design. For example, if you’re a WordPress user, there are several responsive WordPress themes that you can install and use to design your site. Additionally, if you’re building, or have built, your site with software such as Squarespace, your site may automatically come with responsive web design

Today, responsive web design is a popular choice for businesses due to the sheer number of people visiting websites via a variety of different mobile devices. But for now, let’s get back to discussing mobile form design.

Mobile Form Design: 10 UX Guidelines

When creating a mobile-friendly form, there are some steps you’ll want to take to provide the best user experience possible for your visitors. Let’s review 10 of these UX guidelines that you can begin implementing in your own forms today.

1. Minimize the Number of Form Fields

Ever heard the saying, “less is more”? Well, that’s exactly what you should be thinking while creating your mobile form. 

Between the size of a mobile device’s screen, the amount of content you need to place in your form, and the number of form fields (form fields are the boxes in which your visitors add their responses), it’s easy to accidentally make your form feel cluttered. Remember to remove all unnecessary fluff and only keep the form fields for information that you absolutely need

In addition to narrowing down your number of form fields to only the necessary, you’ll also want to make sure your form fields are labeled clearly with the fewest words possible. You should also mark the optional form fields as “optional” or include an asterisk next to the required form fields to streamline the process. 

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2. Automate Actions When Possible

If you accidentally mistype your street address and the form corrects the spelling for you, the form autocorrects your response.

If you begin typing your shipping address and a box pops up with the rest of your address asking you if you want to “autofill” the rest of the form fields with your saved address, then your form is autocompleting your response for you.

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By implementing autocorrect and autofill features on your mobile forms, you’ll improve user experience through a quick, efficient, and straightforward process.

3. Use a Single-Column Layout

When you’re completing a long or multi-step form, list all of your content in a single-column layout. 

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This is true for forms on both desktop and mobile devices for a few reasons — single-column form layouts are:

a. Easier to read

Placing all of your form fields in a single-column format allows your visitors to focus on only one item at a time, making your form easier to read.

b. Less daunting

If you look at a form, especially in a tight space as you would on a mobile device, and see a large amount of content smushed together, you may feel overwhelmed. That’s why separating your content by rows and placing your form fields in a single-column format make your content look and feel less daunting.

c. Quicker to complete

When you place your multi-step form in a single column, leads are able to complete it more quickly than they would a multi-column form. That’s because the format makes the form easier to read and work through step-by-step.

4. Use Input Constraints for Form Fields

If your mobile form includes short or long responses, you should enable input constraints. Input constraints place a limit on the number of words or characters a person can type into your form field.

Writing long responses on a mobile device isn’t always easy due to the size of the keyboard and screen. And if a visitor is unsure about the amount of detail required for a response, they may over-explain, which could end up being a time-consuming process for you and your visitor. 

An input constraint will typically say something like, “You’ve exceeded your maximum of ___ characters”.

There are other types of input constraints that limit input options, like dates on your forms. For example, if someone was trying to make a reservation for a table at your restaurant and accidentally selected a date in the past, your constraint would prevent them from actually being able to select and confirm that date. By setting input constraints, you’ll save your lead time while completing your form fields, and you’ll also prevent yourself from having to review a long-winded or invalid answer.

5. Create Clear Action Buttons

After taking the time to complete a mobile form, it’s likely that a lead will want to make sure their form is submitted properly to ensure you and your team are able to receive and review their information.

By using large, bold, and visible buttons labeled with clear actions on them, such as “Submit”, “Next”, or “Complete”, your lead will feel confident about their form submission. These action buttons help you streamline the form completion and submission processes for your leads to avoid any unnecessary confusion or concern.

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6. Provide Scanners For Payments

Have you ever tried entering your credit card details in a form via your smartphone? Typing a bunch of numbers on such a small screen with a small keyboard can be a tedious process.

Card scanning apps, such as BlinkID and card.io, have become increasingly popular for that exact reason. When making a purchase, your visitors can click a button that takes them to a screen where they can use their mobile device’s camera to take a secure photo of the front and back of their card, whether that be their license or credit card.

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With just a couple of pictures, your leads will be finished with one of the most time-consuming parts of your mobile form completion process. These card scanning apps keep your visitors efficient as well as frustration and error-free.

7. Explain Need For Specific Information

While completing a simple email signup or a registration form, have you ever been asked to provide personal information that has nothing to do with the signup form itself? 

This is a common phenomenon in all types of forms (not just mobile). Asking someone for personal or other sensitive information without explaining your need for it can be a bit sketchy.

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If you’re asking a question that doesn’t necessarily relate directly to the reason your visitor is filling out the form (whether the field is required or optional), then you should create some type of summary box or notification that they can click on to read a short description of the reason why you’re asking for this information. This way, your form will feel professional and thoughtful.

8. Provide State of Success or Completion

No matter what type of mobile forms you have on your website, you should provide your visitors and leads with their current state of progress, success, or completion while they work through them. 

If you have a long, multi-step form, you should include a progress bar at the top of your form so your visitors are aware of how much longer they’re going to be working through the form. 

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Additionally, once your leads submit their forms, you should direct them to another screen or page that says something like, “Success!” or “Thank you for submitting the form!” so they know their submission worked.

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9. Include Error Messages

While completing your mobile forms, your visitors are bound to make a mistake here or there. Your mobile forms should flag these errors in real-time so your leads can remain efficient and accurate.

For example, if someone adds the incorrect zip code alongside their street address, make sure your mobile form flags that error so there is no time wasted and your business is sure to receive accurate information.

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In your message, give your lead applicable, easy-to-understand information that clearly shows the exact location of the error as well as how they can fix it.

10. Consider the Form’s Appearance

Appearance and first impressions in business always matter. That goes for your mobile forms, too, because nobody wants to complete a dark, difficult to read, cluttered, and unattractive form.

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You want your mobile form to be highly functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. You can create a professional-looking form by branding it with your logo and colors. Your mobile form’s appearance should contribute to its readability and positive user experience. 

To achieve this look, use:

  • Simple, easy-to-read typography
  • Minimal form fields
  • Bright and bold action buttons
  • Single-column layout
  • A color palette that doesn’t feel overwhelming

Back To You

It’s no secret that, today, your website visitors are completing and submitting your web forms via their mobile devices. That’s because it’s convenient and efficient, as most people carry some type of mobile device with them everywhere, making it crucial for your forms to be mobile-friendly. Otherwise, your forms will be difficult to read, complete, and submit, which may frustrate your leads or cause you to lose their business completely. By considering your mobile form design and implementing these guidelines, you’ll enhance your mobile form user experience, build positive relationships with your leads and customers, and boost your conversions. 

How to Use Porter's Five Forces to Outmaneuver Your Competition

In March of 1979, Harvard Business Review published an article about a business analysis model that countless MBA students still study to this day.

Coined by Michael Porter, a professor at Harvard Business SchooI, Porter’s Five Forces is a model that draws from industrial organization economics to identify and describe the fundamental economic forces that shape every industry. More specifically, it explains how these forces dictate every industry’s competitive intensity, potential for profitability, and attractiveness to other entrants.

Porter’s Five Forces has become a fundamental model that most businesses use to grasp the dynamics of their industry and, in turn, drive their business strategy. And it can help you do the same, too.

But the way you apply this model to your own business is totally dependent on the nature of your industry. Once you understand these economic fundamentals, though, you’ll be able to extract insights from the model that are specific to your unique situation and apply them to your business.

To help illustrate this, we’ve fleshed out the five fundamental economic forces at play in every market and provided an example analysis in each section, so you can see how each of these forces might play out in your specific industry.

Porter’s Five Forces Examples

Competition in the Industry

Competition plays a huge role in your industry’s profitability — the potential to produce a high return on investment — and, in turn, its ability to attract new entrants. If there’s a lot of competition in your industry, it’s harder to turn a profit. Customers have a rich pool of options to choose from, so if your prices are too high, they can just strike a deal with a supplier who will sell to them at their preferred price. 

In other words, customers typically wield more power than suppliers in competitive industries. This usually leads suppliers to undercut each other’s prices until their revenue barely exceeds their costs, plummeting their profits and discouraging new players from entering the market.

If there’s less competition in your industry, it’s easier to turn a profit. Customers can only choose from so many suppliers, so if they want to buy your market’s product or service, they must accept the higher prices or else they won’t be able to buy it. This potential for high probability encourages new players to enter your market.

To help you examine the competition in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the competition in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

From little league to college, baseball players all around the country primarily use aluminum baseball bats to train and compete. Louisville Slugger, Rawlings, Marucci, DeMarini, and AxeBat are the leaders in the high-end of this market. Their target customers are travel or college baseball players who are willing to pay a premium price for the best bats that can perform at a high level and stay durable for multiple seasons.

Easton, Mizuno, and Adidas serve the middle of the market, and Anderson, Combat, and Dirty South serve the low-end of the market. Their target customers are less competitive players who probably just play baseball for fun and friendships.

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Potential of New Entrants into the Industry

If new players can enter your market quickly and cheaply, they can sell their minimum viable product, which is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, at a much lower price than you and your competitors can while still covering their product development, marketing, and sales costs. As a result, they can snatch established player’s market share and threaten incumbents’ position in the industry more easily.

The frequency of new players entering your market hinges on your industry’s barriers to entry. If it costs a lot of money and time to build a minimum viable product and cover essential overhead expenses, startups can only afford to build an unsophisticated product that’s sole differentiating factor is a slightly cheaper price. With these high barriers to entry, they wouldn’t be able to compete, discouraging them from entering your market.

However, if building a minimum viable product and covering essential overhead expenses don’t cost that much money or time, your market’s low barriers to entry will encourage most start-ups to enter.

To help you examine the potential of new entrants in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the potential of new entrants in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

The barriers to entry of the aluminum baseball bat industry are very high. You would have to spend a lot of money on research and development to figure out how to differentiate your product in a saturated market, purchase a bunch of raw materials to manufacture the bats, and build expensive facilities and machines to actually produce them.

You would also, at the least, have to hire a product, marketing, and sales team to run this startup’s daily business operations. This startup would have to charge close to an industry-average price to cover the initial overhead of creating a minimum viable product, crafting an enjoyable brand experience, and generating revenue. And since each incumbent in this industry would have a better, more trusted product than this start-up’s simple product, there’s no way they could compete with a slightly cheaper price as their only selling point.

Power of Suppliers

The number of suppliers or competitors in your market directly affects your company’s ability to control prices. When there are only a few suppliers in your industry, each supplier holds a ton of pricing power because if a consumer doesn’t accept your prices, you and your fellow suppliers can easily find someone else who will.

When there are a lot of suppliers in your industry, each supplier holds less pricing power. Your market’s customers have a rich pool of options to choose from, so if your prices are too high, they can just strike a deal with a supplier who will sell to them at their preferred price.

To help you examine the power of suppliers in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the power of suppliers in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

With 11 major suppliers in a massively popular industry — and five or less brands competing in each segment of the market — the suppliers hold a lot of pricing power. Almost every baseball player, from little league to college, needs an aluminum baseball bat to train and compete, so they’re very dependent on these suppliers, which gives them even more pricing power.

Power of Customers

The number of customers in your industry directly affects their ability to control prices. If there are only a few customers in your industry, they hold most of the power. Since suppliers depend on customers to generate revenue, suppliers must adhere to their customers’ pricing demands or their customers will just do business with one of the many other suppliers who are willing sell their product or service at a generous price.

On the flip side, if there are a ton of customers in your industry, the customers hold significantly less power. Since customers depend on suppliers to purchase necessary products or services, they must accept the prices suppliers set or else they won’t be able to buy any of the market’s products or services — the suppliers can sell to plenty of customers who are willing to pay a prettier penny.

To help you examine the power of customers in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the power of customers in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

Every single baseball player, from little league to college, needs an aluminum baseball to train and compete, so each supplier in the aluminum baseball bat industry has a huge potential customer base to market and sell to. Since there are such few suppliers and so many customers in this market, the customers don’t hold enough power to drive the prices down.

Threat of Substitute Products

Substitutes are products from different industries that consumers can use interchangeably, like coffee and tea, and they can significantly shape your industry. If your product has cheaper or superior substitutes, you not only have to compete with other players in your industry, but you also have to compete with businesses in other industries. This high multi-market competition can plummet your prices and profit.

If your product doesn’t have cheaper or superior substitutes, though, the businesses who produce these substitutes don’t pose as much of a threat to you or your direct competitors. This low multi-market competition might only drop your prices and profits slightly.

To help you examine the threat of substitute products in your own industry, here’s an analysis of the threat of substitute products in the aluminum baseball bat industry.

Instead of buying aluminum baseball bats, players could buy wood bats from suppliers who only manufacture wood bats, like Baum Bats, Old Hickory, and Sam Bat. But the odds of this happening are extremely low. Even though individual wood bats cost less than individual aluminum bats, wood bats break much more frequently.

For instance, one $250 aluminum bat can last longer than five $100 wood bats, so replacing aluminum bats with wood bats would actually cost more money. Players can also hit the ball farther with aluminum bats, which makes it the superior product. Additionally, wood bat manufacturers make the most money by focusing on a specific market of baseball players who only use wood bats, like professional baseball players, summer college league players, and top-flight travel baseball players. In sum, there’s a low threat of substitutes in this industry.

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The Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing

If you’ve ever came across Tim Ferriss’ iconic book on how to just work four hours per week, you’ve probably dreamed of sipping a Mojito on a beach while your money worked for you in the background while you sleep. One of the main ideas he constantly talks about is the concept of passive income.

After all, having an income chart like this is the main goal of many online entrepreneurs:

For many entrepreneurs looking to build an online business, or marketers looking to monetize their web traffic, affiliate marketing is often how they got started with generating income.

Affiliate marketing is one of the world’s most popular methods of generating passive income online, and there are many tried & tested strategies when you are just starting out.

If you’re looking for a complete guide to affiliate marketing, read more to find out how you can promote products as an affiliate to create an additional source of income.

There are typically four parties involved in affiliate marketing:

  • The affiliates – the promoters of the product
  • The product creators – the creators of the product
  • The networks – the networks managing the affiliates
  • The consumers – the end users of the product

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Image via Digital Ads Online

You don’t always need a network to become an affiliate, but the other three parties (the affiliates, the product creators, and the consumers) form the core of an affiliate program.

Who are the affiliates?

An affiliate, also known as a publisher, can be an individual or a company. Typically, these are other bloggers or content creators operating in the industry of the product they are creating.

They help promote the product or service by creating content like blog posts, videos or other media.

They can also promote their content to get transactions by putting up ads, capturing search traffic from SEO, or building an email list.

When one of their visitors creates a transaction, which could be a purchase or submitting a lead form, the affiliate gets a commission. How much commission is structured depends on the affiliate program terms.

Who are the merchants?

A merchant, also known as the product creator or advertiser, is typically the creator of the product or services. They offer revenue sharing and commissions to people or other companies (affiliates), which have a significant following on their brand.

The merchant can be a company like HubSpot, which offers a commission to every affiliate who’s able to get their visitors to make a purchase.

Or it can be an individual like Pat Flynn, who offers an affiliate program with his podcasts.

The merchants can be anyone from a solopreneur to a big company, as long as they are willing to pay their affiliates to help them gain a transaction.

Sometimes the merchant does not even have to be the product creator, as in the case of the Amazon Associates Program.

Who are the affiliate networks?

An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between the merchants and their affiliates. In some cases, a network is not necessary, but some companies choose to work with a network to add a layer of trust.

The network manages the relationship and provide third-party checks and balances. Third-party checks can be important because they bring down fraud rates.

Some popular networks include ClickBank and ShareASale.

Some merchants choose to work with an affiliate network because they lack the time or resources to track, report, and manage payments to the affiliates. They might also choose to work with multiple affiliates or publishers within the affiliate network.

Who are the consumers?

The consumers or the customers are the one who makes the transaction. They are the ones who purchase the product or submit the lead form in order for the affiliate to gain the commission.

How does affiliate marketing work?

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Image via Digital Ads Online

As an affiliate, you are typically paid whenever your visitor creates a transaction. The transaction could be anything from a click, lead form submission, or a sale. In the majority of cases, affiliate marketing is performance-based, which means you only get paid as an affiliate if your visitor takes an action.

Here are some common affiliate marketing models:

Pay-Per-Click (PPC): The affiliate gets paid for all clicks that were generated, regardless of whether a lead or sale happened. This is fairly rare, since all the risk is on the product creator.

Pay-Per-Lead (PPL): The affiliate gets paid for every lead they generated. This could be an online form submission, trial creation, or any pre-purchase. This is a shared risk on both the merchant and the affiliate.

Pay-Per-Sale (PPS): The affiliate gets paid for every sale they generated. This is the most common model, since all the risk is on the affiliate.

To become an affiliate, you first need to sign up for a program like the Amazon Associates or HubSpot Affiliate Program. After signing up, you will get an affiliate link which contains a unique ID. You can then use this link in your promotional content.

Whenever your visitor clicks on your unique affiliate link, a cookie is inserted in their browser to track actions.

When they make a transaction that is a qualified action (could be a sale or lead form submission, depending on the terms of the program), the merchant is able to record this action and attribute it to you as an affiliate so they can make a payout.

There are different structures when it comes to payout, which varies based on affiliate program terms.

Commission payouts by the company are usually given on a monthly basis, but this varies depending on the affiliate program terms.

It could be a weekly payout or a monthly payment for all the leads or sales you’ve made.

You’ll want to pay attention to the payout structure when choosing an affiliate program to join, which ultimately depends on the goals you have.

Do you need to pay to join an affiliate program?

There are typically no upfront costs when it comes to joining an affiliate program, but your variable ongoing costs will depend on how you want to promote the products.

When it comes to affiliate marketing, most people think it’s a process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s or company’s products.

While affiliate marketing can seem straightforward — just find a product you love, promote it, and earn a piece of profit with every sale you make — there are actually a few moving parts you need to take note of.

For instance, you might want to understand the commission structure of the company or product creator. Are you looking for commission per sale or commission per lead generated? Are you looking at recurring commission or a one-off payment?

Depending on your goals, this will affect which product you choose, how you plan to promote the product as well as how much time & resources you want to invest.

For instance, if you choose to promote your content via paid ads, then that’s a cost you have to account for. You will have to compare how much you’ve spent to promote each piece of content or to generate each purchase against how much commission you’re getting for each referred sale.

Or, if you have a blog and website, then you will have to pay for hosting. In this case, this should be a flat fee spread out across all your referred sale.

Use this marketing plan generator to calculate how much you need to invest to get a basic marketing plan up and running.

How much can you make from affiliate programs?

You might be wondering, what are established affiliates earning? (established affiliates are those working full-time.)

A poll was held on the STM Forum on “How much do you earn in a year?”:

Almost 20% of established affiliates report making more than $1 million per year. While this seems like an unattainable figure, reporting on revenue is only one side of the story.

Making money from an affiliate program is more about the profits than the revenue you’re getting.

An affiliate making $5000/day might be worse off than another affiliate making $500/day with no cash outflow because the former might be spending most of his revenue on paid acquisition.

At the end of the day, before becoming an affiliate, you have to align your expectations to your earning potential. What kind of industry or niche you operate in, and what kind of work you do depends a lot on how much you want to make.

If you focus on ads like Adwords or Facebook to promote your affiliate products, how much money you invest is as important (if not more) as how much you make.

How do you choose an affiliate program?

I commonly hear two misconceptions when it comes to affiliate marketing.

  1. Affiliate marketing is dead.

    It seems like every year in the world of online marketing, people have mentioned some variant of X is dead (SEO, Ads, Mobile). The test of time is a pretty good test — if something has stayed around for a while, there’s a better chance of it still staying around for a while.

    Everything evolves, and there are tactics that don’t work the exact same way as they did before. Affiliate marketing, of course, is no exception to that rule.

    Affiliate marketing has evolved from a get-rich-quick scheme into something that requires affiliate to build real trust with their audience in order to reap the rewards of the work that’s been put in.

  2. Affiliate marketing is easy to do.

    According to Three Ladders Marketing, only 0.6% of affiliate marketers surveyed have been around since 2013, which means that affiliate marketing takes time and effort to build and make money.

    Choosing the right product to promote, working with the right company, fostering relationships and updating content are all core essentials of excelling at affiliate marketing.

According to Pat Flynn, one of the pioneers of creating passive income through providing value to his audience, there are two important rules when it comes to affiliate marketing:

  1. Only recommend products as an affiliate that you’re extremely very familiar with. If you are not confident in the product and do not feel it will help people, do not promote it.
  2. Never tell anyone to directly buy a product. Always recommend products based on your experience and in the context of what you’ve done.

When it comes to choosing the right products, David Gonzalez — founder of an affiliate management agency, suggests that you should think about these 3 components when choosing a product to promote:

  1. Your audience – will the product resonate with them and make them grateful you promoted it?
  2. Product quality & value – would you advocate your best friend buying it?
  3. Profitability – does the offer have highly competitive conversions & payouts?

At the end of the day, become successful at affiliate marketing requires you to nail down the fundamentals of marketing. Authenticity is hard to fake, especially when it comes to building your own personal brand.

A brand that promotes products incessantly without any regard for bring real value to its audience will find affiliate marketing to be a short-lived source of income. Choosing the right products to promote, stemming from a true passion for what the product does, forms the basis of all your promotional activities.

While there are many tactics to scale your promotion, the golden rule of affiliate marketing stays the same: only promote products you love & treat your audience like humans.

Build your own brand, choose products that you love, create authentic content and you will be on your way to building a real source of passive income.

In the past year we’ve really invested into our solutions to make it worthwhile for solo-bloggers, solo-preneurs to tap on our software and educational content to grow their audience and business.

For instance, we’ve introduced a free tier as well as a $50/month option for people who are just getting started to utilize email marketing, forms on top of their blog.

The 15 Best WordPress Video Themes in 2019

If you’re someone who produces videos professionally, sells video content, or simply creates videos as a hobby, you need a place to share your work online. Not every WordPress theme is set up to house your artwork — you’ll need a video theme that will create the experience you want your visitors to have the moment they enter your website.

With the variety of WordPress video themes available, finding just one to use on your website may feel time-consuming and tedious. The good news is we’ve curated this list of 15 of our favorite WordPress video themes (in no specific order) to help you through the process.

The 15 Best WordPress Video Themes in 2019

There are video WordPress themes tailored to a variety of different needs. Whether you’re looking to add your videos to a multi-purpose WordPress theme, or if you’re hoping to create a video-based site for your blog, portfolio, or other creative work, there are a number of options available. We’ve compiled the following list — which includes feature descriptions and a few key takeaways — to help you determine which option best suits your needs.

Multi-Purpose Video Themes

Multi-purpose video themes are WordPress themes that aren’t necessarily completely video-focused, yet have strong and unique video-related features. These themes are ideal for anyone who doesn’t need their website to revolve around their videos and would actually benefit from a wide range of additional features.

1. Bridge 

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Bridge is a multi-purpose theme ideal for sharing your business’ videos with customers. It provides you with options to integrate your videos in different layouts and sections. You can create section video backgrounds so your video takes up the entire width of the screen and add different transitions (including fades, animations, and more) to the beginning and/ or end of your videos. The video slider feature lets you place multiple video clips in one section so your visitors can slide right and left through all of your clips.

Key Takeaways:
  • Section video backgrounds
  • Video transitions are included
  • Slider feature 

2. Brooklyn 

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Brooklyn is a multi-purpose WordPress video theme, meaning it’s ideal for virtually any type of business. The theme is easy to use due to its drag-and-drop page builder that allows you to add and embed your videos with the click of a button. There are options to feature photo and video galleries on different website pages as well as create fullscreen video backgrounds. There is also a video widget to make adding, editing, and formatting your website’s videos quick and straightforward.

Key Takeaways:
  • Drag-and-drop page builder
  • Video galleries
  • Fullscreen video backgrounds

Blogging Video Themes

If you’re a video blogger these themes might be ideal for you — they’re built for people who want to include written blog content alongside videos on their website.

3. Videoblog 

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Videoblog is a blog and magazine video theme that gives you the ability to list your latest or featured posts on your homepage. The rest of your site pages are formatted in two-column, magazine layouts so your written, video, and photo content are all aligned in an organized manner to enhance user experience.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for blogs and magazines
  • Latest and featured posts listed on your homepage
  • Two-column layout

4. TheMotion

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TheMotion is a video blogging theme with a feature called Live Customizer that allows you to add all of your video content, test it out in different sections, and see your changes in real time. The theme offers a variety of ways to feature videos on specific website pages in two columns. The theme has a sleek, modern design with the option to add a video slider so your visitors can easily move right or left through your collection of videos.

Key Takeaways:
  • Live Customizer feature
  • Sleek, modern design
  • Video slider

5. Vlog 

Vlog is a video theme built for blog and magazine content. The theme is compatible with YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion to make sharing your video content simple. You can group your videos into playlists to keep related content together so it’s easy to find for your visitors. You can also set your video’s thumbnail as your featured image for your article or blog post so you don’t have to deal with any images if you don’t want to.

Key Takeaways:
  • Created for blogs and digital magazines
  • Compatible with YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion
  • Can group videos into playlists 

Portfolio and Photography Video Themes

If you are looking to share your portfolio, feature your videos and photos in a gallery, and possibly sell your work straight from your website, the following portfolio and photography-based video themes may suit your needs.

6. Reel Story 

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Reel Story is a video theme ideal for sharing your portfolio. The video portfolio module allows you to create a three-column grid layout with a “projects category” filter so your visitors can easily browse your work and locate specific items they may be searching for. The theme is also Retina-ready, meaning it’s optimized for sharing hi-res, professional content and videos.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for sharing video portfolios
  • “Projects category” filter for browsing videos
  • Retina-ready

7. Fargo 

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Fargo is a photography and video WordPress theme ideal for sharing your content in a gallery format. The theme’s Smart Galleries allow you to move from written content to photo content to video content seamlessly. Fargo’s flexible navigation includes customizable transitions that create an interactive, 3D experience for your visitors while they browse your different site pages.

Key Takeaways:
  • Created for sharing photography and video content
  • Smart Galleries
  • Flexible navigation with customizable transitions 

8. PhotoNote 

PhotoNote is a video theme ideal for photographers. The theme has a touch-enabled slideshow on the homepage so your visitors can slide through your landscape and portrait photographs. It’s compatible with YouTube and Vimeo so you can quickly add your videos to the top of your site pages — and make them fullscreen if you choose. PhotoNote comes with two different “skin colors” (light or dark) for your theme’s background so you can ensure your content pops off the page.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for photographers
  • Touch-enabled slideshow
  • Compatible with YouTube and Vimeo 

9. Inspiro

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Inspiro is a video theme built for professional photographers and videographers who want to share their content in a portfolio format. The theme features formatting options that allow you to create custom, fullscreen slideshows that include both your photos and videos. On each slide, there is a “video lightbox”, meaning your video appears to jump off the screen as the entire background dims — this helps your visitors focus on the content they’re viewing. The theme also works for professionals who are hoping to sell their work because it includes a WooCommerce integration.

Key Takeaways:
  • Built for professional photographers and videographers
  • Custom, fullscreen slideshows
  • WooCommerce integration

10. Primero

Primero is a theme created for photographers and videographers. The theme also has several portfolio options for you to display all of your work in custom galleries. You can embed your photos and videos inline with text or other photo or video content.

Key Takeaways:
  • Created for photographers and videographers
  • Ability to enable portfolio, gallery-style layout
  • Can embed photos and videos inline with other content

Filmmaking Video Themes

Videographers, directors, and producers may benefit from these WordPress themes. They have layouts and customizable options tailored to sharing and displaying videos of many lengths, topics, and genres.

11. FilmMaker

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If you produce your own movies and videos, FilmMaker could be a great WordPress theme option for you. The theme gives you the ability to create fullscreen video backgrounds or add a parallax effect to your site pages — the parallax effect provides a 3D, cinematic experience for your visitors while they scroll down the page.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for movie and video producers
  • Fullscreen video backgrounds
  • Parallax effect 

12. The Producer

The Producer is created for professional video production work. The theme is responsive, meaning your video content will look high quality and fit the screen no matter what type of device your visitors are on — whether that’s desktop, mobile, or tablet. You can also add the credit roll effect to the end of your videos to list all of your producers, designers, and more.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for professional video production
  • Responsive design
  • Credit roll effect

Creative Video Themes

Creative video themes are versatile and flexible enough to be used for a variety of business needs and different industries, however, they’re still all created specifically for video-based websites.

13. Focus

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Focus is a great option for displaying all types of videos, whether you’re sharing your work for professional or personal use. The theme has integrations with YouTube and Vimeo so you can easily transfer your content over from those platforms to your website. The theme also has creative layout and template options suited for video blogs and even educational video sites.

Key Takeaways:
  • Suitable for business or personal use
  • Integrates with YouTube and Vimeo
  • Template options for video blogs and educational video sites

14. VideoBox 

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VideoBox is a creative video theme with a WooCommerce integration for anyone who may want to sell their video or photo content. The homepage layout includes a slider that allows you to feature multiple, fullscreen videos or photos for your visitors to click through. VideoBox has a minimalist design with a dark color scheme making it easy for your visitors to focus on your content.

Key Takeaways:
  • WooCommerce integration
  • Homepage slider
  • Minimalist design with a dark color scheme 

15. VideoPro

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VideoPro is a creative video theme with a responsive design and also includes layout options ideal for a variety of video types such as movies, games, news, entertainment, education, and more. VideoPro integrates with sites like YouTube and Vimeo, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook, so you can easily embed, import, and share your content. VideoPro also has a feature that allows you to create a multi-episode video series on your website — displaying related videos below whichever video is being watched by a visitor at any given moment.

Key Takeaways:
  • Responsive design
  • Video and social media integrations included
  • Multi-episode video series feature

Back To You

WordPress video themes allow you to display your content, mix and match your videos with photos and written content, sell your content, and more. Whatever your needs, there is a video theme that will work for your WordPress website. Try installing one of the themes above, or check out the number of other video themes in the WordPress theme library. By applying your unique content you can create a website that works for your business needs.

free guide to video marketing

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: What’s the Difference?

Year after year, WordPress ranks as one of the top website building tools available. This easy-to-use CMS (content management system) software is beginner-friendly, offers a variety of plans, and allows you to quickly create and manage a unique and functional website for your visitors.

If you’re looking to build a site on WordPress, one of the first questions you may find yourself asking is, “What’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?”

 

WordPress.org is a self-hosted, free platform in which you purchase and manage all aspects of your website including your domain name, add-ons, security, and code. WordPress.com hosts your website for you, offers multiple payment plans, gives you access to a domain name, and a variety of default features.

Below is a useful table that compares the key differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

Feature WordPress.org WordPress.com
Cost Free. Free, $4 per month, $8 per month, or $25 per month.

Hosting Provider and

Additional Features

Need to purchase hosting provider, create a custom domain name, purchase plugins, themes, and all other add-ons. Must manage your entire website, code, and security. WordPress offers a hosting service, domain name, security, and backups. You can upgrade your account and create a custom domain name and choose a third-party hosting provider as well.
Customization Must purchase and install your own themes to customize your website. Customize your website with any WordPress-compatible theme of your choice. If you upgrade your account, you can also use premium themes, third-party themes, or custom themes.

Integration with Social

Networks

Must install plugins to enable all social media sharing on your website. Your website can integrate with social media networks. If you upgrade your account, sharing functionality with social media accounts is included.
Plugins Find and install plugins to enhance your website’s functionality. Features such as sharing, stats, comments, and polls are included. You can also add plugins to your website for other features.
Support WordPress.org support forums.   WordPress.com support forums and personal support are available. With an upgraded account, you have access to live chat and email support.
Link to Download Get started here. Get started here.

Let’s dive into each of these features and review the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com in more depth.

Cost of WordPress

There are a number of different WordPress plans to choose from that range in price. No matter your budget, you can find an option that meets your needs without breaking the bank.

Cost of WordPress.org

WordPress.org is always free. However, because it’s only a publishing platform, you’ll have to purchase every other element of your website including your third-party hosting provider, domain name, as well as your themes and templates, plugins, and add-ons. You’ll also have to find a way to manage your website’s security and maintain and edit your site’s code.

Cost of WordPress.com

WordPress.com has four different plans that range in price.

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There is a basic plan that is always free, a plan ideal for personal use that costs $4 per month, a premium plan that costs $8 per month, and a business plan that costs $25 per month. As you work your way up through the more expensive plans, the more features and levels of customization you will be able to take advantage of on your website.

If you choose the free option, you will be offered WordPress hosting, a domain name, and minimal access to WordPress support. If you choose one of the three paid options, you’ll be able to add a hosting provider of your choosing and a custom domain name. You will also be offered extensive support and customization options.

WordPress Hosting Providers

A hosting provider gives your website a place to “live” on the internet. Choosing the right hosting provider for WordPress is crucial because it will impact your site’s functionality, speed, reliability, security, and more. Let’s review the differences between website hosting with WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com.

Hosting for WordPress.org

If you choose WordPress.org you’ll have to self-host your website, meaning you’ll have to purchase a third-party provider, such as WP Engine or InMotion Hosting. There are hundreds of hosting providers available, so we’ve created a guide to 19 of the best WordPress hosting providers of 2018 for you to review.

Hosting for WordPress.com

WordPress.com offers different hosting packages for you to use. If you pick a paid version of WordPress.com, you can decide whether or not you want to use WordPress’ hosting service or if you want to use a third-party provider — as you would with a WordPress.org plan — you already feel strongly about or have prior experience using.

Pros and Cons of Self-Hosting

There are plenty of benefits that come from self-hosting your WordPress website, as you would with a WordPress.org site. However, there are also a lot of challenges to be aware of that often make WordPress.com plans preferable.

The pros of self-hosting include having complete control over everything that goes into the creation of your website, and the ability to manage your website’s security and edit your website’s code. You also have the opportunity to find, buy, and install a third-party hosting provider of your choosing, create a custom domain name, and find different themes, plugins, and add-ons that work for your site and needs. If you choose the self-hosting route, you use the WordPress platform for free.

The cons to self-hosting include having to actually spend the time to find, purchase, and install an ideal third-party hosting provider for your site, learn how to create a domain name, and identify the themes, plugins, and add-ons that make the most sense for your website. You also need to have some type of knowledge in web development as you’ll be the one managing your website’s code and updates.

WordPress Customization

WordPress is a completely customizable CMS. With the help of the hundreds WordPress themes and templates available today, you can achieve virtually any look imaginable by customizing every element of your website.

WordPress.org Customization

With WordPress.org, you are required to find and install your desired third-party themes, such as StudioPress, Pixelgrade, and Stylemix Themes, on your own. WordPress does not offer you access to their free themes the way WordPress.com does, so the level of customization you want to achieve is dependent on your own theme research and the options you decide to implement on your website.

WordPress.com Customization

The free version of WordPress.com comes with dozens of free themes that you can choose from and implement on your website. The free plan does not let you add any third-party or premium themes to your website.

However, with a paid plan, you can use premium, third-party themes as you would with a WordPress.org website. If you choose this route, WordPress.com allows you to easily install your third-party or premium theme so you can get started customizing your website in just minutes.

WordPress Website and Social Media Integration

It’s no secret that social media marketing has become a powerful tactic to promote brands, products, and websites today. Integrating your WordPress website with your social media channels is an easy way to manage all of your interactions in one place, broaden your impact, and increase conversions. It’s also a great way to simply ensure your website visitors know about your social media channels and vice versa.

WordPress.org Social Media Integration

WordPress.org does not come with any social media channel integration. You’ll need to install plugins on your website to enable social media sharing and integration. There are a number of social media plugins available in the plugin library, such as Social Media Widget by Acurax and Jetpack, to help you with tasks such as social media posting from your website and creating beautiful sidebars with links to all of your social accounts for your site.

WordPress.com Social Media Integration

With a free WordPress.com account, you can integrate your own website with social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. This will just require a bit of work on your end. By publicizing your website, or connecting it to your multiple different social accounts, you can integrate your accounts and access them from your WordPress dashboard.

If you have a paid WordPress account, all social media integration comes included and ready-to-use so you can access all of your social accounts from WordPress with the click of a button.

WordPress Plugins

If you’re looking to add to the array of features you have on your WordPress website, you’ll need to install plugins. Plugins are how you enhance your website’s functionality by adding capabilities that don’t come standard with the software. Since there are over 56,000 options available, we created a list of 25 of the best WordPress plugins to help get you started.

WordPress.org Plugins

You’ll need to find and install plugins yourself with a WordPress.org website. Since WordPress.org is simply a platform and there aren’t any features that come standard with the plan, you’ll want to install some plugins on your own. You can search for specific topics or things you need in the WordPress plugin library to narrow down the thousands of search results and find an option suited to your specific needs.

WordPress.com Plugins

With WordPress.com plans, some social media, customer interaction, and analytics-related features (that do not come standard with a WordPress.org plan) such as sharing, statistics, comments, and polls, are automatically included. To add to these default features, you can install WordPress-compatible plugins of your choosing. If you pay for the most expensive WordPress.com plan, you can also install custom plugins.

WordPress Support

While building your website, you may run into a roadblock here or there, or have a question about how to complete a task. WordPress has varying levels of support based on the plan you choose.

WordPress.org Support

With WordPress.org, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to customer support as this plan does not provide any access to one-on-one assistance. Instead, you can access the WordPress.org support page which contains a number of forums that you can use to problem solve. Other than that, you can always try searching for answers to your questions on the internet.

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WordPress.com Support

Free WordPress.com plan users can take advantage of community support and forums available, which are similar to the support pages that WordPress.org users have access to. This is a very basic level of support that leaves you to do most of your own problem-solving.

If you are a paid WordPress.com user, you will have 24/7 access to live chat and email support with WordPress experts in addition to the community support and forums. 

Back To You

Understanding the key differences between WordPress.org and the various WordPress.com plans is key to determining which type of website best fits your needs. WordPress.org is a great option if you’re looking for complete control over every aspect of your site. WordPress.com is preferable if you need some assistance building your website and want more automation. 

Once you’ve reviewed and considered all of the plan options, you can get started by downloading your WordPress.org or WordPress.com account and utilizing the variety of features you have access to design a website perfect for your specific needs.

The Leader's Guide to Effective Change Management

The only constant in life is change.

[Enter any tried-and-true marketing tactic] is dead.

Winter is coming.

We’re reminded daily about how change is coming, and to succeed in business, we must remain agile. Sure, that all makes sense in theory, but in practical application, to change how we operate or serve customers is no small feat.

According to Mckinsey, 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.

Yikes.

This doesn’t mean employees are wrong — they simply lack understanding and buy-in.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to guide your team through the end result and help establish this comfort and buy-in.

The good news is there are tons of change management methodologies that you can adopt and adapt to your business.

At IMPACT, we’ve gone through quite a bit of change recently. We’ve almost tripled in size in just over a year, and what was once a small core team, is now a fairly good sized-agency that requires a much different approach to implementing change than the good ol’ days (a.k.a. last year).

After struggling to implement a change to our client onboarding process, we decided to take a step back and re-evaluate our approach to change management.

Below I’ll share with you the key change management models and tools we reviewed, and how you can avoid becoming another statistic.

Yes, there are tools and models, which I will get to below, but at the core of any strong change management program is your people.

No model will work if you continue to let employee resistance and lack of management support sabotage your efforts.

4 Common Change Management Models

No need to dust off your old college business school books. Here are the top 4 change management models most commonly referred to when researching the “how” behind change management.

1. Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze Model

Picture an ice cube. The Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model is exactly what it sounds like:

  1. Unfreeze
  2. Change
  3. Re-freeze

This sounds like the most simplistic model on the surface, but there’s a lot to unpack.

In the unfreeze stage, you are essentially breaking down the current way of doing business and noting what needs to change. It’s crucial in this stage to obtain two-way feedback of what needs to change (vs. solely top-down).

After noting and communicating the need for change, gather the key stakeholders necessary to proactively implement what needs to be done.

Once everyone has bought in, “re-freeze” in the sense that the change is institutionalized and consistently used in the new manner.

In our experience, this model focuses more on process than people. If you have a smaller team with less emotion to manage, this could be a good option.

2. The ADKAR® Model of Change

The ADKAR® model breaks down the human side of managing change.

The idea is you should work through each letter of the acronym, focusing heavily on the individuals within your company.

Awareness. Here, the goal is to learn the business reasons for change. At the end of this stage, everyone should be bought-in.

Desire. This is dedicated to getting everyone engaged and willingly participating in the change. Once you have full buy-in, the next stage is measuring if the individuals in your company want to help and become part of the process.

Knowledge. In this stage, you’re working towards understanding how to change. This can come in the form of formal training or simple one-on-one coaching so those affected by the change feel prepared to handle it.

Ability. Next, you must focus on how to implement the change at the required performance level. Knowing the required job skills is only the beginning; The people involved need to be supported in the early stages to ensure they are able to incorporate change.

Reinforcement. Lastly, you need to sustain the change. This final step is often the most missed.An organization needs to continually reinforce change to avoid employees from reverting back to the old way of doing things.

Unlike Lewin’s model, this focuses on people-side of stage. We like its idea of using reinforcement to make your changes stick and this model takes it a step further. It’s a good approach to consider if you have a larger team or more complex problem you’re trying to solve.

3. Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change

In is 1995 book, Leading Change, Harvard Business School professor, John Kotter, lays out 8 stages all companies must go through in order to see effective change management.

  1. Create urgency through open dialogue that leads others in the organization to want the change as much as you.
  2. Form a powerful coalition of change agents in your organization. This can go beyond leadership and manager.
  3. Create a vision for change to reinforce the why behind it and the strategy to achieve the end result.
  4. Communicate the vision regularly to ease team anxiety and reinforce the why.
  5. Remove obstacles to pave the way for the needed changes to happen.
  6. Create short-term wins to keep up morale and show the team you’re moving in the right direction.
  7. Build on the change by analyzing what went well and didn’t go so well in your quick wins to keep pushing to the desired end result.
  8. Anchor the changes in corporate culture as standard operating procedure and reinforce why change is necessary and embracing it is part of your company culture.

If you have a more agile team, this model’s iterative short-term wins and building based on what you learn as you go, sync nicely with the agile methodology.

4. Kim Scott’s GSD Model

Okay so maybe this one isn’t as common yet, but it soon will be, so you might as well get ahead of the curve!

Kim Scott outlines the GSD model (get stuff done) in her bestselling book, Radical Candor, which is a process of the following steps:

  1. Listen: Listen to the ideas of your team and create a culture where they listen to each other.
  2. Clarify: Make sure these ideas aren’t crushed before everyone has a chance to understand their potential usefulness.
  3. Debate: Create an environment where it’s okay to debate and make the ideas even better.
  4. Decide: Select the idea that will best solve the issue.
  5. Persuade: Since not everyone was involved in the listen-clarify-debate-decide stages, you have to effectively communicate why it was decided and why it’s a good idea.
  6. Execute: Implement the idea.
  7. Learn: Learn from the results, whether or not you did the right thing, and start the whole process over again.

We included this in our mix at IMPACT because of how much it focuses on obtaining ideas from the frontline. People buy into what they help create and Kim Scott’s GSD model provides a framework to make that happen.

Now, there are many more models for you to choose from than just these four, but realize there may not be just one model that fits your organization best.

If you’re anything like us at IMPACT, you may want to take a page from several of these models to improve your communication and effectiveness in times of change.

A Change Management Plan in Action

Below is a real example of how my team approached a major change and the change management steps we took to ensure everyone was on the same page and moving in the same direction.

Step 1: Determine What Needs to Change and Craft the Message

In the course of 3 months, IMPACT completely restructured the agency-side of our organization. In March, our agency team looked like this:

image4-7

This structure worked for us in 2017, but as we came into the new year with an even larger team, our quarterly team survey results told us a different story.

For the first time in several years, not everyone could see their future at IMPACT.

Some had no idea what was going on or why certain decisions had been made. And what stung the most is we had a few happiness scores below seven, which we haven’t had since 2015.

Ouch.

In our February leadership team meeting, we debated for hours why some in the company were feeling this way.

After several ideas, we all determined one area we should focus on was our structure. We were setting our managers up for failure with competing responsibilities and in doing so, we made it extremely difficult for them to effectively communicate with their teams, coach them in their careers, and ensure they could see their future at IMPACT.

The ones who did better in this area suffered in others, like client results and retention.

It was a huge issue that needed to be solved immediately.

This leadership team meeting was the beginning of step 1 in our change management plan:

Determine what needs to change and craft the message.

In our monthly all-hands meeting following that leadership team meeting, our CEO, Bob Ruffolo, explained the why behind our decision that we needed to make a structure change — the what.

He explained the survey results, our thought process, and everything that led to the conversation.

Then, he explained that we had outgrown our current structure, placing too much responsibility on our current managers. We inadvertently set up our teams to fail and that wasn’t ok. — the message.

In order to improve this situation, we needed to create a structure that scales.

Planting the seed for a change is seriously just the first step. After this meeting, we knew there would be fear and confusion, so we got to work on step 2.

Step 2: Identify Your Stakeholders and How to Manage Them

We knew that a complete structure change would not go well if it was strictly a top-down initiative. We needed help and a core coalition to get it off the ground.

However, not every single person would need to know every single detail of what was going on.

While all teams were involved, most were focused with how they would personally be affected in a day-to-day sense, as well as in relation to how they work with other teams.

To keep communication clear, and to ensure everyone had a voice and a chance to enact Kim Scott’s debate stage, we needed to identify stakeholders across the agency team.

In this case, our stakeholders were the managers of our teams. We were essentially changing their job responsibility, so it was prudent to include them in the conversation.

Although we created a committee of stakeholders, what we failed to do was take our communication a step further by managing the other agency team members more closely.

The matrix below outlines a way to segment your team and your communication with each segment so you can better communicate across the board.

We only had our managers involved, and we updated the rest of the team all at once in our monthly all-hands. Next time, we will definitely create a strong communication plan based on this matrix.

Stakeholder Power-Interest Grid Diagram

Image from Mindtools, which adapted from Mendelow, A.L. (1981). Environmental Scanning – The Impact of the Stakeholder Concept,’ ICIS 1981 Proceedings, 20.

Once we identified our key stakeholders, we met with each one and some of their teams to get their feedback, pushback, concerns, and ideas about the structure change.

In full transparency, not all these meetings were fun. There was high emotion and rigorous debate, but, at this point, we had not zeroed in on our exact plan, and they helped us understand the team’s concerns and ideate on the best way to structure for scale — together.

Step 3: Systematically Communicate

This is an area we got wrong in this scenario.

In step one, we announced at a company meeting a pretty earth-shattering idea. Our managers felt blindsided and not all the team members were convinced a structure change was needed.

We learned the hard way that surprising people in a company meeting was not the way to go.

Our intention was to be transparent about what was discussed in our leadership team meeting, but there was definitely a better way to do that had we been more systematic in how we communicated to the team.

After identifying key stakeholders, this is the path we are focusing on now:

CEO/Leadership team (if it’s a leadership decision) > communicates to the next level management > who then communicate to the frontline managers and key stakeholders >who then communicate to the the rest of the team.

Managers can communicate to their own teams in a style that they know will resonate and create shared understanding. They can also help identify issues and concerns so we can all co-create a solution.

This eliminates group-think and reduces the timeline to extinguish fear.

Although our path was a little messier here, once we received all team feedback, we all agreed to what our new agency structure should be:

Then we moved onto Step 4.

Step 4: Get Organized With Incremental Steps

At this stage, everyone knew a change was coming, but no one knew how we were going to make it happen.

This was the time to get organized and get buy-in on the “how” of change management.

Now that we knew what our new structure would be, we developed a project plan with the incremental steps to get us there by the end of the quarter.

We created a video explaining the structure and project plan for all teams to review in their weekly meeting.

Our managers and key stakeholders were involved and accountable for different parts of the plan, and in our all-hands meetings, we updated on the progress of the plan so everyone could stay informed.

In our plan, we also mapped out some “quick wins” in the first month so the team could feel major progress was happening.

In our case, this was selecting new team managers for those teams whose Principal Strategist moved over to the Strategy team.

We interviewed internally and selected our new managers within 3 weeks of rolling out our initiative, which was exciting for our new managers and exciting for the team to see we’re already making huge steps.

Step 5: Equip Your Managers to Handle Emotional Response to Change

It’s one thing to have great communication and a solid-looking plan — but change is hard.

Everyone responds in their own way, but what we didn’t think about was this concept of The Change Curve. Ok, let’s be honest — we didn’t even know this existed.

image2-1

Image from Insights.com, Kubler Ross The Change Curve

After our initial all-hands meeting, we had people all over the Curve. We then in essence said, “Managers, figure it out!”

As we went through the process, we learned another lesson the hard way: We needed to adapt our communication and management style for each individual based on where they were in responding to change.

The graphic below by Expert Program Management shows how you change your response along The Change Curve to gain buy-in sooner and give better coaching to your managers.

image1-26

By meeting team members where they are at, our managers could adapt their communication style to coach each team member through the process, allowing for more personalized, effective transition.

Note: This doesn’t have to be advice just for managers. Our teams operate in scrum, and in their team retrospectives, a shared understanding of this tool could have facilitated more understanding and stronger conversations and problem solving within the team.

Step 6: Manage by OKRs

In order to stay focused throughout the quarter, we created an objective and corresponding key results (OKRs) for our structure change.

The objective was essentially “make the structure change happen” and we measured by tracking the milestones from our project plan.

Each all-hands, we would update the team on how we were doing on our objective and show the percentage complete so they could see visible progress. (We use 7Geese as a way to continually check in and measure our key results.)

This was also a time for those working directly on the project plan to celebrate and give themselves a pat on the back. There was a ton of work involved, and they deserved to be recognized for crushing it.

By breaking down exactly what needed to happen, we were able to keep the team focused and motivated to reach our goal.

Step 7: Continue to Communicate like Crazy

As I mentioned in step 1, discussing the idea is seriously only the first step. To keep everyone motivated, organized, and informed, we had to communicate like crazy.

There three types of communication we focused on: motivational, informational, and two-way.

Our motivational communication often came from our CEO to continually reinforce the why behind this major change.

Informational communication came from updates on our OKRs in our all-hands meetings, as well as one-off videos from the team working on the project plan to update on progress.

The most important one that we focus on the most now, however, is two-way communication. We started off slow in this area, but after getting feedback in our Q2 team survey and from individuals on the team, we doubled down on this much more in the last month of the transition.

By ensuring you have a regular cadence of two-way communication, you ensure the team understands what’s being shared, but you also learn and address if there’s underlying dissent or miscommunication.

Although I put this as the last step, this is the most crucial.

Communication must happen throughout your entire initiative or you’ll risk falling short and potentially damaging company morale in the process.

If you focus on the 3 types of communication above, you will reach your goals faster with a happier team to boot.

Change is Cyclical

The reason I included Kim Scott’s GSD model is it most relates to our company culture. We are always looking for ways to improve, which means we have a lot of change going on all the time.

There is rarely a beginning and a clear-cut end like the more traditional models. I’m sure we’ll discover more tweaks we need to get our structure right, and that’s okay.

The point is change really is constant, and developing a model that works for your business is the best way you can manage the people-side of change and set everyone up for success.

As a leader, you can choose a model, or a mix of models like what we do at IMPACT, to help organize effective, lasting change in your organization.

By incorporating your team via the communication methods outlined above, you can empower and enable your team to take action — and have pride in the change they helped make.

Change isn’t easy and it isn’t going anywhere, but when you can figure out a model that works best for your company, you and your team have no limits. 

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How to Write a Business Letter That Won’t Get Ignored

Nowadays, writing a letter can seem completely archaic. I mean, do people even send mail anymore or do they only communicate through email and messaging?

In the business world, letters are actually still crucial for collaboration. To convince someone to offer you a job, you need to write them a compelling cover letter. And to persuade someone to speak at your company’s event, you need to write a gripping pitch.

A lot of professionals overlook the importance of writing high-quality business letters because they seem outdated. As a result, most people don’t actually know how to write one.

Fortunately, if you’re in the same boat, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ll teach you how to craft a persuasive business letter for any purpose and situation.

To teach you how to write a business letter in more detail than the snippet above, let’s take a look at a letter I wrote to Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot’s CTO, when I was a wide-eyed college student trying to convince him to speak at my school.

I’ll analyze the most important parts of my letter — the introduction, body text, and call-to-action — and explain how and why they can strengthen your own business letters.

Business Letter Example

October 1, 2016

 

Dharmesh Shah

HubSpot

25 First Street,

Cambridge, MA 02141

 

Dear Mr. Shah,

When my freshman year of college ended, I was fortunate enough to work as a digital marketing intern at a startup called SlideBatch. They were introducing a new content marketing tool to the market, and my job was to apply that tool to their clients’ social media marketing campaigns and prove that SlideBatch was an effective marketing solution. I was so excited to get to work, but I had one small problem. I didn’t know what content marketing was. So, I did some research on the Internet and discovered HubSpot’s Marketing blog.

Fast forward a year and half, and I’m still reading HubSpot’s Marketing blog and leveraging its insights at my third digital marketing internship. Reading your blogs changed my life. I entered college believing financial advising was my destiny. But, after learning about HubSpot’s inbound marketing philosophy — how helping people is the ultimate way to increase brand trust and engagement — I was hooked. Shortly after my internship with SlideBatch ended, I decided to pursue digital marketing instead of financial advising. I’ve haven’t looked back since.

HubSpot’s influence on my life is the reason I’m writing to you today. I’m certain if you spoke at my school, DePauw University, about your life, HubSpot, and the inbound marketing philosophy, there would be hundreds of undecided students who start pursuing digital marketing. I know this because DePauw’s McDermond Speaker Series is one of the best platforms for business leaders to showcase their passion for their industry, company, and work. Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics, Angie Hicks of Angie’s List, and Bill Rasmussen of ESPN have all successfully used the McDermond Speaker Series to inspire the world’s next generation of business leaders, and I know you could, too.

We would be honored if you spoke at our school. Thank you for your time and consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

 

Clifford Chi

313 South Locust St.

Greencastle, IN 46136

555-555-5555

cliffordchi@aim.com

Introduction (first and second paragraphs)

To instantly grab Dharmesh’s attention and entice him to read the rest of my letter, you’ll notice I didn’t lead with the standard “I’m writing to you today because…” introduction. Instead, I engaged him with a story about how I discovered HubSpot and how his company changed my life. I thought this would strongly resonate with him because I assumed, as a co-founder of HubSpot, he would love to see how his life’s work has benefited others.

In your own business letters, you don’t necessarily need to tell a story to immediately hook your reader and persuade her to read on. But you should definitely describe how she’s made an impact on your life. This is what will truly grab and hold her attention.

Body text (third paragraph)

After my introduction, I swiftly segued into why I was writing to Dharmesh — to ask him to speak at my school. Personal anecdotes are an effective way to engage readers, but I’d lose Dharmesh’s attention if I didn’t cut to the chase.

Once I stated my letter’s intent, I quickly pitched the benefits of speaking at my school and bolstered the reputation of my school’s speaker series. By emphasizing how speaking at my school could inspire hundreds of students to pursue digital marketing and highlighting the group of impressive speakers Dharmesh could join, I focused on the dividends he would reap from being a McDermond Series Speaker, rather than how my school would benefit from his guest appearance.

So whether you’re trying to convince someone to hire you or speak at your school, you must first persuade your reader that doing what you ask of them will ultimately benefit them and be in their best interest.

Call-to-action (fourth paragraph)

In my last paragraph, I politely ask Dharmesh to speak at my school again.  Even though I already asked him this earlier, it’s important I end my letter with a clear next step. It packs more of a punch and crystalizes the desired action in his mind.

Strong call-to-actions are a crucial element of a persuasive business letter. Because if you don’t tell your reader what to do next, you might as well have never written your letter in the first place.