Category Archives: Mobile Marketing

Where do Shoppers Research Products? We Asked 300 Consumers [New Research]

In 2018, 40% of people used social media channels for aspects of product research.

With younger generations getting more and more connected to social media platforms, the amount of product research done on these platforms is likely to grow. In fact, 16 to 24-year-olds already conduct product research more on social than search engines.

Throughout the past few years, social media channels have embraced their new role as product research platforms, devoting certain areas or features of their platforms to brands and products.

For example, Facebook Ads is considered an alternative to Google Ads, YouTube is a go-to site for learning about new products, Instagram offers Shoppable posts, and Reddit users regularly participate in discussion threads about products. Meanwhile, Pinterest continues to position itself as a tool for advertisers by improving its ad software.

With all the social media platforms and product marketing opportunities out there, it might be hard to drill down on which platforms are key to your product marketing strategy.

By now, you might be on all the major social media platforms. But, as they expand and evolve, you might still wonder which you should focus your time and efforts on if you’re selling a physical product. To determine this, it can be helpful to find out which social channels your specific audience is using to look for products, and then create social strategies that meet them where they are on their preferred platforms.

To learn more about the social networks people prefer to surf for product research, I conducted a poll of 304 people using Lucid Software.

Source: Lucid Software

When asked which channel they turned to most often for product research, 51% of respondents said Facebook.

This result isn’t shocking. Facebook is the second-most used social platform globally, followed by YouTube. Since Facebook is one of the first and most successful social media platforms, you probably should be marketing your brand or products on it if you aren’t already. But, you definitely shouldn’t count out other platforms — like Instagram or Pinterest — just yet.

Below, I’ll give you a rundown of the opportunities each social network listed in the poll above offer when it comes to marketing physical products. I’ll also highlight the key differences that you’ll want to consider when weighing which social product marketing strategies are right for you.

Which Social Media Platform Should You Market Products On?

Facebook

Facebook has a whopping 1.59 billion daily active users and has been around since the early 2000s. Its audience includes multiple age groups and spans the globe, making it a solid place for most brands to market themselves.

When it comes to marketing your product, you have many different options on Facebook. Here are a few examples.

Free Promotion

By now, you probably know that any company can create a Facebook Business Page for free. Once you create a business page, you can begin to share posts about your products and offerings. If you have happy customers, you can even ask them to review your business on Facebook so prospects researching you can see how you’ve pleased your customers in the past.

Aside from creating a page to highlight your brand, you can also post your products in Facebook’s Marketplace. Marketplace listings can include product shots, pricing, product specifications, and purchasing information. Although individual users often use the Marketplace to sell items they no longer want to other people, Facebook Business pages are also eligible to use this feature.

You can also consider talking about your products or offerings on Facebook Stories. This might take a little extra effort because it will require you to film or create content in the Story format, but research says it can be beneficial. In fact, a 2018 survey revealed that 62% of people were more interested in a product after learning about it in a Facebook Story.

Paid Promotion

Because Facebook’s feed algorithmically favors posts from individual accounts over businesses, you might decide that you want to put money into Facebook Ads.

Facebook Ads has a solid track record. It’s estimated that 2 million businesses were advertising on the platform in 2018.

With Facebook Ads, you can create advertisements with a certain goal in mind, such as conversions or in-store foot traffic. The detailed ads software also allows you to target specific audience demographics.

As a Facebook advertiser, you can either promote a post you’ve already created to ensure that it shows up on feeds of users in your demographic, or you can create native ads that might show up in feeds or on Facebook’s sidebars. While promoted posts look like an average post with a simple tag stating they’re promoted, the native ads look more like traditional ads to make it clear to users that the content they’re seeing is paid for.

If you want to launch video-based ads, Facebook also allows you to promote video content or buy in-stream ad placements that appear in Facebook Live videos or longer videos that other users have uploaded.

YouTube:

If how-tos or video tutorials are part of your content marketing strategy. YouTube will be a natural fit for your brand. This is because YouTube users are three times more likely to prefer watching a YouTube tutorial video compared to reading the product’s instructions.

More and more companies are taking notice of YouTube’s product marketing opportunities. In 2018, 45% of marketers said they planned to add YouTube to their 2019 strategy.

With a branded YouTube channel, you can publish video content such as demos, tutorials, or customer testimonial videos that give solid details about why your product is valuable.

By filming your own videos, you can insure that you’re highlighting all the great aspects of your product that make it stand out from its competitors.

Alternatively, if you don’t have time to create your own videos, sponsoring an influencer’s content, tutorial, or review related to your product allows you to tap into that content creator’s audience as they tell their followers more about your offerings.

Aside from creating your own account or hiring an influencer to give a review or tutorial, you could also consider paid advertisements. YouTube offers a few ad styles including TrueView, Preroll, and Bumpers.

These ads allow you to submit a short video ad to YouTube which is then placed at the beginning or in the middle of videos with metrics and demographics that match your brand’s target. To learn the ins and outs of setting up an ad and determining which style is right for you, check out this guide.

Instagram

Although Instagram ranked in third place in the poll above, you shouldn’t disregard Instagram — especially if you’re targeting Gen-Z or millennials who make up the platform’s primary audience.

For years, Instagram’s visual layout has made it a hot spot for influencer marketing. Influencers regularly post sponsored photos and videos about their experiences with products. Like YouTube, these influencers also regularly publish video posts or Stories that present tutorials, reviews, and unboxings related to a product.

Aside from influencer marketing, many brands also promote their products on Instagram Stories, Instagram Live, and through standard video or photo posts on Instagram Feed.

Here’s an example where Kylie Jenner, the CEO and Founder of Kylie Cosmetics, films a Story-based product tutorial for her company’s Instagram account:

Kylie Jenner promotes KylieCosmetics on the brand's Instagram Stories

Along with free strategies, Instagram now offers Shoppable posts. With Shoppable posts, you can promote a product in an Instagram post that links to your Facebook Catalog. Here’s an example of what a Shoppable Post looks like:

A necklace is shown in an Instagram Shoppable post

To be eligible for Shoppable posts, you must have an Instagram Business page that’s linked to a Facebook Catalog. This feature is also only for businesses selling physical goods.

Here’s a blog post that goes into detail about how to use and optimize Shoppable posts.

Pinterest

Pinterest encourages people to pin image-based posts that inspire them to digital boards, mimicking the process of creating a physical inspiration board.

Because people come to this platform to be inspired to do something, such as travel or home decorating, they might find themselves pinning all sorts of product-oriented images to a themed board. For example, someone who wants to redecorate their office might create an “Office Inspiration” board and pin photos of furniture or decorative items that they’d like to buy

Here’s an example of what these boards look like:

Office Inspiration Pinterest Board showing various office products

To make it easier for people to find your products, you could consider starting a Pinterest account and making a few boards to highlight your products. For example, if you’re marketing a travel company, you could make a board for each country that you offer packages to. On each board, you could place images of trip activities that link to your website.

Then, if someone is trying to plan a trip to a country you sell a package for, they might come across one of your posts and pin it to their own “Travel Inspiration” board.

To give you a real-world example of how brands use Pinterest, below is a Wedding Registry board created by Target which features images of products that a bride and groom might want to add to their gift registry.

Target products presented in Target's own Wedding Registry Ideas Pinterest Board

Each of Target’s pinned images links to the company website so users can share the pin on their own Pinterest board, or click straight through the post to buy or register the product.

If you have an advertising budget, you can also consider launching pay-per-click ads on Pinterest. Pinterest Ads enables your posts to be seen by people in a specific demographic that matches your own. The platform also allows you to A/B test different photos and target ads to Pinterest users on your contact lists.

Want to learn more about Pinterest Ads and effective experiments to run? Check out this blog post from a PPC and Pinterest expert.

Reddit

Reddit encourages users to create discussion threads in themed online communities, called subreddits. As the platform has evolved, many users have created both threads and subreddits devoted to talking about products, like fast-food restaurants or video games.

Below is an example of a subreddit, or online community, that Reddit users created to talk about all things related to Xbox One.

XboxOne Subreddit discussions on Reddit

However, because comments with promotional language in them often get downvoted or buried in feeds by more engaging Reddit threads, you’ll need to be creative if you want to engage with audiences on this platform.

While you might want to keep an eye on Reddit or experiment with it, don’t put all of your time and resources into it — at least right now. As it evolves, the platform may become an easier platform to market your brand on, but at the moment, Reddit marketing strategies still require more brainstorming and time than tactics on other social platforms.

Although this platform has been called one of the “trickiest” for marketers to crack, some bigger brands have figured out how to reach the platform’s discussion-oriented users.

For example, some brands will create subreddits related to their product, while others will interact by commenting on threads related to their industry.

Aside from creating content for free on Reddit, you can alternatively pay into sponsored posts or ads, similarly to Facebook or Twitter. These ads will appear in a user’s feed or as a promoted comment in a thread or subreddit.

To learn more about the ins and outs of Reddit marketing, click here for tips and examples of how other brands have cultivated the platform.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s platform, which emphasizes networking and career-related chatter, might be well-suited for product marketing in B2B, academic, or professional industries. People who do product research on this platform might be looking for a service, tool, or software that can either help to escalate their careers or make their workdays easier.

If you’re marketing products like software, online courses, business-related publications, or anything that can help a professional or student do their job better, LinkedIn will be a great fit for you. However, if you sell more general consumer-facing products like makeup or home decorations, you might want to put more product-marketing efforts into other platforms on this list — like Facebook or Instagram.

While the professional nature of LinkedIn and its audience might not be suited for all brands, the platform still offers a variety of opportunities to brands that align well with it. For example, research shows that 80% of B2B leads come straight from LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is very similar to Facebook in that you can post about your product or service for free, or purchase ads or post promotion to get information about your business front and center on feeds. To see a few great ad examples, check out this post.

Twitter

Twitter has 126 million daily users from a variety of backgrounds, geographic locations, and industries. Its broad demographic might provide solid marketing opportunities to many different types of businesses. Because of its broad user base, you might want to create an account on Twitter and post regularly for brand awareness purposes.

If you’re interested in video marketing, you can also experiment with Twitter’s live video feature and use it to film a tutorial or Q&A related to your product.

Aside from posting about your product for free, you can also pay into targeted ads or promoted tweets. Twitter claims that its advertising ROI is 40% higher than some other social channels.

While the ROI of Twitter advertising and its user base sounds promising, you might be wondering why it ranked so low on the poll shown above.

Ultimately, what might make Twitter rank last in the product research poll is its platform’s trend-oriented nature. The platform encourages people to connect with each other and post tweets or comments about current events, trending hashtags, or their thoughts on other specific topics.

Yes, brands and product discussion are both prevalent on the platform, but users might go to Twitter to learn more about what’s going on in the world, rather than new products. When people are asked to pick which platform they do the most product research on, it’s not surprising that Facebook or YouTube might seem like a more obvious choice than Twitter.

While you should be on Twitter due to its sheer user base and advertising ROI, you’ll want to keep its audience’s need to stay trendy and informed in mind as you’re creating posts and advertisements for the platform. This might help you make social content that both engages these audiences while still weaving in information about how valuable your product is.

Identifying the Right Platforms for Product Marketing

While running ads and product promotions on all of these platforms could be helpful and lead to conversion, you’ll want to primarily focus on the platforms with audiences that already align well with your brand.

For example, broader audiences are actively looking for products or researching brands on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest while Reddit and Twitter users just want to follow trends. Similarly, if you’re marketing a B2B company, you might see a better ROI from ads on a professional network like LinkedIn than ads on a more consumer-friendly platform like Instagram.

To learn more about all the major social channels and what drives their audiences, check out this detailed blog post that highlights the five types of social media platforms.

The Ultimate Guide to Advertising in 2019

When you hear the word advertising, what comes to mind?

Do you think of banner ads on your favorite website? Super Bowl commercials? How about the billboards along the highway or posters in the subway stations?

While most of us have a pretty good idea of what advertising looks like, it’s a little harder to nail down exactly what it means — and how to do it well.

From the printing press to pop-up ads, advertising has certainly changed with the times. Despite this, though, the need for advertising hasn’t changed, and neither have the techniques and best practices that make for quality advertising. That’s what we’ll cover in this guide.

Whether on a billboard or the back of a restaurant menu, advertising can go to work for your company in a variety of ways. Here’s how:

  • To raise awareness for your brand
  • To drive potential customers to your business
  • To promote sales for both new and existing products
  • To introduce a new product or service to the market
  • To differentiate your product from your competitors’

Advertising can also be executed in various ways. Radio commercials, billboards, branded t-shirts, and social media endorsements all count as advertising. Here are the different formats and channels that advertisers have been using for years:

  • Print advertising and posters
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Outdoor ads and billboards
  • Public transit ads
  • Sponsorship of TV shows and events
  • Radio
  • Sponsored web content
  • TV commercials
  • Online pop-ups and search engines ads
  • Social media ads

Advertising can look like many different things. Below, we’ll cover how to advertise on these mediums.

Marketing includes a number of different channels, such as social media, email marketing, public relations, SEO, and paid advertising.

Alternatively, advertising is just one part of marketing.

A company’s overarching marketing strategy will typically include an advertising plan. The advertising zooms in on the specific process of creating and publishing the persuasive messages to get customers to take action.

A Brief History of Advertising

Advertising is one of the oldest segments of business, save for currency and trade. Once products and services arose, so did the need to make them known.

The oldest confirmed piece of advertising dates back to 3,000 B.C. Technically, it was a print ad from ancient Egypt promoting the capture and return of an escaped slave. Incidentally, the ad also mentioned the slave owner’s shop — a rug business — which inherently advertised his storefront, too. The slave was never caught, but the rug owner did discover a brand new method of bringing in traffic: advertising.

Let’s fast-forward about 4,000 years. Here’s a brief look at the past five centuries of advertising:

1472: The first poster advertisement is placed on church doors in London.

1650: The first newspaper ad — a reward for 12 stolen horses — is published. (What’s with the reward-based advertisements?)

1704: The Boston News-Letter prompts its readers to place ads in its paper.

1870: The Powers style of ad copy is born. This style packed a punch — it was short, to-the-point, truthful, and convincing. Powers said the focus should be on why the consumer should buy your product or service — a message that still resonates for good reason today.

1880: Postcards become one of the hottest new ways to reach customers.

1893: Retailer Sears, Roebuck, & Co. joins the mail-order bandwagon by issuing their own catalog. 

1902: Unilever creates the “longest client-agency relationship in advertising history” when it hires J. Walter Thompson Company to advertise its Lifebuoy Soap.

advertising-history-unilever

1902: Mellins Food advertises its brand on 25 airship flights, becoming the first brand to take this approach.

advertising-history-mellins

1904: The Campbell’s Kids are created, piloting the change in advertisement focus from a single ad to an entire campaign.

advertising-history-campbells

1922: Radio ads are born, and businesses purchase 10 mins for $100. Two years later brands would increase their investment by sponsoring an entire radio show, a concept that would eventually become known as “sponsored content.”

1925: Advertisers start to appeal to emotions, focusing on what pleasure customers would receive from their product or service. This old Ford ad exemplifies this perfectly.

advertising-history-ford

1975: VCRs are introduced, and consumers begin to record shows and, therefore, skip advertisements.

1990: Computers become more popular and accessible at home, with over 5 million homes connected to the internet.

1994: The first email spam campaign launches. Banner ads are also introduced.

1995: Search engines like Yahoo! and Alta Vista are born. Ask Jeeves and Google would follow in 1997 and 1998, respectively.

2005: YouTube and Facebook (for college students only) launch.

2008: Brands start to realize the importance of having an online presence for their potential customers. Procter and Gamble pilot the concept of the content hub with BeingGirl.com.

advertising-history-beinggirl

2012: Online videos reach 169.3 million viewers.

2013: Sites like Pinterest and Instagram join the social network scene.

History teaches us that advertising is an ever-changing concept, just like shopping habits and how and where consumers spend their time. Whereas almost 140 years ago, postcards were the newest form of advertising, brands today are building chatbots for Facebook Messenger and integrating artificial intelligence into their marketing and sales platforms.

Things in the advertising world move fast.

The Modern Era: How to Advertise Online

As of today, there are almost 4 billion people using the internet. This number is up 300% from 2005. Point being, internet usage is skyrocketing, and it’s not stopping.

advertising-statistaIf you’re not advertising online, you’re behind the curve, my friend. Not only does the internet offer you direct access to more than half the global population — including more than half of your target audience — but it also provides so many different channels on which to advertise.

Marketers now have the flexibility to reach their target audiences on multiple fronts, in multiple ways, for multiple budgets. Their are also a number of tools (many of which are free) that can help you execute your advertising strategy.

Here are the most common ways to advertise online:

Paid Search Advertising

Whether Google, Yahoo, or Bing, all search engines have their own paid advertising. This is referred to as pay-per-click, or PPC, and involves bidding on keywords and placing ads at the top or sides of search results.

When someone performs a query using one of those search engines, advertisers have the ability to display ads above organic search results. That’s what makes PPC so powerful — it gives your advertisements prime real estate in front of people already searching for relevant topics.

Featured Resource

Here’s an example on Google:

advertising-google

The top four listings in the red box are advertisements. The lower portion, in the blue box, are organic search results that come up as a result of search engine optimization.

Check out our guide to PPC for more information. 

Social Media Advertising

Social media platforms know how valuable their content is, and that’s why they offer the option to sponsor or boost posts. Social ads put your message in front of your target audience and encourages them to engage, click-through, and buy. More and more, social media sites are prioritizing ad space over organic content because, well, it brings in more revenue.

If you’re a budding business or new brand, consider running some social media advertisements. These will not only advertise your products and services but also promote your social media pages and grow your following.

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter each have their own version of ads like these.

Here’s how they appear on their respective feeds:

Facebook

advertising-facebook

Instagram

advertising-instagram

LinkedIn

advertising-linkedin

Twitter

advertising-twitter

Featured Resources

Native Ads and Sponsored Content

Sponsored content has been around since 1922, when brands would sponsor entire radio shows. Today, sponsored content refers more to native ads and blog or article content subsidized by brands.

Have you ever read a Buzzfeed article that heavily referenced or recommended a certain product or service? It was likely sponsored by a certain brand.

Check out this article, 10 Reasons To Put Away Your Phone On Your Next Trip, promoted by agoda, a hotel or destination booking site. Does it blatantly promote agoda’s services? No. It’s primary purpose is to entertain and inform, although agoda is referenced a few times throughout the content.

At the top, the byline reflects agoda’s sponsorship, just before the content starts. And, as you scroll down the page, another ad sits within the content.

Sponsored content is a great way to promote your brand in content your audience is already familiar with.

Banner and Display Ads

Banner and display ads are an extension of search ads and follow a similar PPC model. But instead of a text-based ad, consumers see a more visual advertisement.

advertising-banner

Banner ads are typically the horizontal boxes on top of a web page, whereas display ads are smaller in nature and shown on the side (like in the screenshot above).

Read our 10-step guide to creating banner ads for more information.

Whether you opt for traditional print ads in magazines or subway stations or choose online promotion on social media or search engines, there are a few rules that make for great advertising. Below are some advertising best practices to apply to all your ads.

Advertising Best Practices

There are a lot of best practices, tips, and tricks when it comes to advertising. It’s an art that’s been perfected over the years, and with the rise of modern advertising and new media, best practices continue to manifest.

In this section, though, we’re going to cover five famous advertising concepts that still work today — regardless of what advertising method or medium you’re using.

When used correctly, these advertising techniques will do wonders for your brand and products.

Appeal to Emotions

While you may not consider the ASPCA a business, their unforgettable Sarah McLachlan commercial is the perfect example of using emotional appeal to entice people to take action.

For most of us, the images in that commercial are hard to watch — we may even turn away. But since it tugs at our heartstrings, we’re more likely to donate to animals in need after seeing the horrors they’re going through.

Studies show that people rely on emotions, rather than information, to make brand decisions. Emotional responses to ads influence a person’s intent to buy more than the actual ad content.

Whether you try to evoke happiness, sadness, fear, or anger, appealing to emotions can help your target audience feel your message — not simply read or hear it.

Create Positive Associations

When consumers associate your product with a feeling of happiness, state of achievement, or accomplished goal, they’re more likely to take notice, remember your product or service, and make a purchase.

Actually, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of this before without even realizing it. Have you ever seen your favorite celebrity or Instagram influencer posing with a product or brand and found that you wanted to be, do, or look the same? Companies create this subconscious connection in advertising hoping that you associate your positive feelings with the product or service they’re promoting.

Catchy songs like “Nationwide is on your side” is an example of helping people associate friendliness with the Nationwide brand. Coca-Cola has a brand advertising campaign that associates their product with friends, family, and fun. When you consider what refreshments to serve at a party or bring on a picnic, Coca-Cola wants you to think of them.

As you create your advertisements, consider what feelings, desires, or goals with which you want your brand to be associated. Weave these feelings or goals into your advertisements through stories or videos. Look for influencers who align with your brand’s core values and demeanor and include them to promote positive association.

Establish a Bandwagon Effect

People want to fit in. It’s human nature. Neither you nor I are immune to it.

And it’s this base human desire that makes the bandwagon effect so effective. People don’t want to be left out. They find value in their peers’ opinions, and they certainly don’t want to be the only ones not using the latest and greatest product.

Brands like Maybelline understand this concept well and use it to their advertising advantage. One tube of their top-selling mascara is purchased every two seconds, a statistic that establishes social proof and further supports their claim of “America’s Favorite Mascara.”

advertising-maybelline

Use customer testimonials, survey data, or shareable content to advertise your brand as one worth following or buying into. Take another approach by promoting a discount for sharing your brand with a friend or family member — so your audience will do the selling for you. Either way, use your advertising to create an inclusive environment people will want to join.

Focus on Benefits Over Features

Features and benefits are two very different things. Features are the details of the product or service you’re selling, such as the measurements of a couch or the ingredients of a protein bar. Benefits, on the other hand, explain why a person should buy a couch or protein bar from you and how their life would, well, benefit from such a purchase.

Advertising should focus on the benefit your product or service brings, not explain what you’re physically selling.

Consider how Southwest Airlines advertises. Instead of explaining, line by line, what a Business Select ticket offers, Southwest paints a picture of what life would be like if you made a purchase. In this advertisement, they focus on the benefits.

advertising-southwest

Rather than wasting precious ad space on your product specifications or service details, talk about the ways a purchase might positively impact your customers. If you do it right, your creative, benefit-packed advertisement would then inspire them to research the features on their own.

Use Storytelling

Not unlike our desire to fit in is our penchant for a good story. Storytelling helps paint a bigger picture of a brand or company, not simply promote a single product or service. Also, when stories resonate with someone, it’s far easier to motivate him or her to take action.

Storytelling is the one technique you should try to infuse in all your advertising. In fact, if you haven’t started crafting your brand’s overall story, you should definitely do so. Research shows that stories that illustrate a brand as “necessary, believable, and integral” are the most effective for engaging and influencing consumers.

Dove employs storytelling in its campaign partnership with Operation Homefront. The videos feature real stories of military men and their families being reunited. The advertisements don’t directly promote Dove products but instead tell the Dove brand story (and pull on a few heartstrings, too).

Determining your brand story will help you learn how to best discuss your brand in all marketing efforts, not just advertising.

Next, let’s take a look at some of the most memorable ad campaigns, a few of which put these best practices in action.

Five Memorable Ad Campaigns

The best advertisements are the best teachers. Whether it’s the copywriting, design, medium, or target audience, well-executed campaigns can always teach you something new about advertising or positioning. (Consider Westinghouse Electric’s “We Can Do It” ad…)

Here are five campaigns that left a noticeable mark on advertising history:

Nike: Just Do It

In the late 1980s, Nike launched their “Just Do It” campaign.

At the time, Reebok was outselling Nike, and Nike needed to act fast to compete against the sneaker conglomerate.

But it wasn’t just the three-word phrase that earned global attention. Their new ad campaign also focused on real people wearing and working out in their products, as opposed to simply featuring clothes and sneakers themselves.

advertising-nike

This powerful combination of people plus product helped Nike go from $800 million in 1988 to $9.2 billion just 10 years later.

The Absolut Vodka Bottle

Did you know Absolut’s “Bottles in the Wild” ad series is the longest uninterrupted campaign in history? The campaign was Absolut’s attempt to grow their name internationally, especially throughout the United States. It featured the Absolut bottle in different cities and countries worldwide.

advertising_absolut1-1

It launched in 1985 and ran until 2000 — lasting an impressive 25 years.

Absolut’s campaign helped grow the company from a tiny slice of the vodka market share (2.5%) to over half the U.S. imported market share.

To this day, the Absolut brand is the fourth largest spirit company, thanks to their focus on the overall story, not just the product itself.

Miller Lite

The folks at Miller Lite used differentiation to reach their goal: to get “real men” to willingly drink light beers. With their “Great Taste, Less Filling” campaign, they maintained a leading position in the light beer market for several decades after this first campaign aired.

advertising-miller

Volkswagen

Though Volkswagen has officially discontinued its production of Beetles, its iconic “Think Small” campaign will be forever ingrained in advertising history.

Doyle Dane & Bernbach (DDB) advertising agency knew it had to change the mind of consumers if it wanted to compete with industry leaders. So, VW admitted that though the Beetle was, in fact, tiny, it was still a force to be reckoned with and worth a purchase.

advertising-volkswagen

Authenticity and honesty went a long way in this seemingly small campaign.

Dos Equis

With its edgy, cool, and sophisticated aesthetic, it’s no surprise “The Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign put Dos Equis on the map.

This campaign created a positive association between the Dos Equis beer and the feeling of sophistication and poise. Sales quickly jumped by 22% after the campaign launched.

advertising-dosequis

Even more impressive was how Dos Equis found success in a time when craft beers grabbed a foothold in the market and imported beer took a 4% hit. This campaign was major component of that success.

To learn how to grab the attention of your audience, learn from the professionals. These campaigns are a great example of how brands have used real stories, real people, and real talk to grow their businesses.

Advertising Helps You Grow Better

Equipped with a dense, dynamic history, advertising is an incredible tool to add to your marketing tool box.

Between print ads, radio sponsorship, TV commercials, and social media promotion, the opportunities to advertise and promote your brand are endless.

To best connect and engage with your audience, speak your customer’s language, appeal to their emotions, and tap into their desire to be a part of a community, create a clear and authentic brand story to illustrate how your brand aligns with their values.

By applying these tried and true practices to your advertising, you’ll build a magnetic brand that attracts customers, establishes a following, and generates revenue.

Do this and your brand will grow into a household name that stands the test of time — just like advertising itself.

 

How to Make a QR Code in 8 Easy Steps

“Really? We’re talking about QR codes?”

Fair reaction. For several years now, QR codes have been at the center of the popular “___ is dead” trope we marketers love to argue when talking technology. We’ve even debated it ourselves on this blog.

But if there’s one thing the QR code debate shows you, it’s that there sure isn’t a consensus — the efficacy of QR codes still hotly contested.

Nonetheless, there’s no denying the popularity and convenience of the QR code. Keep reading to learn how to create your own QR code, and how you can encourage your customers to scan them when they come across your content.

What Is a QR Code?

QR codes, short for “quick response” codes, are square-shaped black-and-white symbols that people can scan using a smartphone to learn more about a product.

These encrypted squares can hold links, coupons, event details, and other information that users might want to take with them for referring to later.

QR codes usually look something like this:

Although not every QR code is shaped like a perfect square, they’re most often found looking like the image above — with varying patterns displayed inside. You’ll often find them on direct mail, signage, billboards, and even commercials where you can quickly scan the code on the screen using your phone.

QR Codes vs. Barcodes

Does the rise of QR codes mean traditional barcodes are a thing of the past? Of course not. Traditional barcodes are still a common way for businesses to identify consumer packaged goods (CPGs) and manage their product inventory. 

        Barcode example             QR code example

Images via Wikimedia Commons | Wikimedia Commons

However, there are a number of differences between barcodes and QR codes — both in their uses and their characteristics. Here are three important differences:

QR Codes Are Shaped Differently

Barcodes are typically rectangular in shape, requiring scanning devices to read the barcode’s data horizontally. QR codes are often square-shaped, displaying their data vertically or horizontally. 

QR Codes Hold More Data

Due to a QR code’s square shape, it can hold much more data than a barcode. In fact, QR codes can hold hundreds of times more encrypted characters than a barcode.

QR Codes Hold Different Data

QR codes are often used differently than barcodes. Barcodes hold key product information at the point of sale, such as the price and name of the manufacturer. QR codes offer more passive and intangible information, such as location data and URLs to promotions and product landing pages.

How Do QR Codes Work?

Originally designed in Japan for the automotive industry, marketers adopted the barcodes because of their large storage capacity and ability to translate additional information to consumers beyond what creative and/or packaging could convey.

If a consumer sees a QR code somewhere, they can take out their mobile device, download a free QR code scanning app, and “scan” the barcode to gain access to additional information, like so:

Person scanning QR code with a scanning mobile app

So if you wanted to create, say, a bus stop advertisement promoting your podcast, you could display a QR code on that printed ad that brings people right to your iTunes page when they scan it with their phones. Pretty simple, right?

How to Make a QR Code

The QR code creation process is pretty straightforward. Here’s how to get started.

Step 1: Select a QR code generator.

There are tons of QR code generators out there. The best ones give you many options for using your QR code, and compatibility with most mobile QR code reader apps.

Other things to look for when choosing a QR code generator are whether you can track and analyze performance, and if it allows you to design a code that’s unique to your brand.

Some QR codes, for example, display logos and other icons within the code that immediately tell people what information they’ll get from scanning it.

Step 2: Choose the type of content you’re promoting.

Let’s select one of the QR code generators above and do a walk-through together. I’ll select qr-code-generator.com, one of the eight preferred QR code generators above.

First, select what type of content you want your QR code to show the person after they scan it. You can choose from one of 10 types, as shown in the screenshot below. For our purposes, we’ll promote a URL that directs users to our podcast.

Icons detailing types of content a QR code generator can promote

Step 3: Enter your data in the form that appears.

Once you select the type of content you’re promoting with this QR code, a field or form will appear where you can enter the information that corresponds with your campaign.

If you want your QR code to save contact information, for example, you’ll see a set of fields where you can enter your email address, subject line, and associated message.

To save a link to our podcast, we’ll simply enter the URL in the field that appears, like so:

QR code URL form

Step 4: Consider downloading a dynamic QR code.

See the option below for “dynamic”? One significant pitfall to making a QR code is that you can’t edit the data it contains once you print it. But with dynamic QR codes, you can edit this data. 

Dynamic QR code generator

With a free membership to QR code generators like qr-code-generator.com, you can print a dynamic QR code, scan it, and pull up an editable form where you can modify the data your visitors will receive when they scan the QR code themselves.

Step 5. Customize it.

The fun part of creating QR codes is customizing the design of the codes to your brand. Want your code to look like your logo? Go for it. Want it to reflect your website’s design scheme? No problem.

Using qr-code-generator.com, we can customize our QR code by clicking the button to the top-right, as shown in the screenshot below. Keep in mind not every QR code maker offers this design option — depending on the QR code you’re looking to generate, you might find some tools limited in their functionality.

Customize your QR code with a logo

Of course, you can customize your QR code further — adjusting the colors, adding a logo, creating social options, and more. 

Keep in mind, however, that some customizations can make it more difficult for QR code scanning apps to properly read the code. It’s a good idea to generate two versions of your QR code — one plain version and another with your preferred design.

Step 6: Test the QR code to make sure it scans.

Because a customized QR code can make it difficult for some mobile apps to “read,” don’t forget to check to see if the QR code reads correctly, and be sure to try more than just one reader. A good place to start is the free tool Google Goggles, which takes a picture and then tells you what link or item it “reads to.”

Another great free tool is QR Code Reader, which automatically takes you to whatever it “reads.” Apple’s Passbook also offers a built-in QR code reader on iOS 7, so you should test to make sure your code is readable there, as well.

Step 7: Share and distribute the QR code.

A QR code won’t be able to do its job unless its seen. So make sure you come up with a distribution plan for sharing the code. This could include displaying it on social media, in print ads, on clothing, or in physical locations where people will pick up there phones to scan it. 

Along with sharing the code, you might also want to include text instructions in your various promotions that show less tech-savvy people how to scan it. This way there’s no friction if people want to scan the code but don’t know how to. 

Scroll down for more tips on properly displaying a QR code.

Step 8: Track and analyze performance.

Just like any marketing campaign, you should follow up on any collateral or campaigns using QR codes to see whether they’re actually working. How much traffic comes from each specific code? Are people scanning your code but not redeeming their offer once they get to the landing page? Or are they not even compelled enough to scan your QR code?

Knowing this will help you troubleshoot and adjust your poorly performing QR codes to more closely mirror those that work well. I recommend you include a UTM tracking code on your URL so you can better measure performance — this is particularly important if you use closed-loop marketing analytics, and are used to more in-depth reporting on your campaigns.

How to Use QR Codes (And How Not to)

Now that you see how simple the QR code creation process can be, let’s talk about some best practices that’ll help increase the likelihood your QR code actually gets used.

Display your QR code where it’s convenient for people to scan.

Put QR codes in places where scanning is easy, and there’s enough time for the consumer to actually scan the code. While you may often see QR codes on billboards and TV commercials, they’re not exactly the most user-friendly locations. Think of places and mediums where consumers have the time to scan the code, and, ideally, a Wi-Fi connection as well.

Optimize the QR’s destination page for mobile devices.

Mobile-optimize the page to which you’re sending people. Consumers will be on their phone when scanning the QR code, so they should be brought to a page with a positive mobile experience.

Include a CTA that prompts people to scan your QR code.

Offer a call-to-action (CTA) with the code — that is to say, tell people what they’re supposed to do when they see the code, and what they’ll receive if they do it. Not everyone knows exactly what a QR code is, and those that do won’t be motivated to scan it unless they’re sure there’s something worthwhile on the other side. 

Don’t limit your QR code to one mobile scanner.

Don’t require a special QR code scanner. Your QR code should be app-agnostic so anyone can scan your code with any reader. A lower barrier to entry makes success more likely for you and the user. 

Use your QR code to make someone’s life easier.

Don’t use a QR code just for the sake of using one. For instance, it’s common for marketers to think, “How can I bridge the offline experience with the online experience? Uhhh … QR code!” That’s not wrong … but it’s not always right, either.

If you have content that makes sense to deliver to a mobile user, and you have an appropriate channel to do it (see use #1 at the beginning of this section), it’s more likely your QR code will drive results. For example, in South Korea, grocery store chain Tesco drove tremendous national business growth by using QR codes in subway stations (I guess they have mobile service in their subway stations) to let riders order their groceries while they wait. It’s a great example of using QR codes for the right end-goal, at the right place and time. 

This article from Search Engine Journal has some more examples of good times to use QR codes, as well

If after reading this you’re not convinced QR codes are the right move — or you just want some additional ways you can connect the offline world to the online world — consider also adding a short, memorable URL people can type in easily on their mobile phones in your creative. 

The future of QR codes could also mean an evolution — augmented reality apps certainly stem from the same concept, after all. Consider the AR News App, which lets readers augment a newspaper story into a child-friendly article by downloading an app and hovering over stories with a special marker (sounds pretty close to a QR scanner, doesn’t it?).

It may be that QR codes aren’t quite dead, but just the first step in a long evolution.

 

The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution

Year after year, hundreds of marketers report increased efforts and spending on their content marketing — or the intention to do so.

But great content is a waste if your audience doesn’t know it exists.

Content distribution is an integral, if not the most important, part of your content strategy.

In recent years, there’s been a rapid influx of content … met with dwindling demand. With almost 4.5 million blog posts published every day, there’s only so much content we can consume. Marketing influencer Mark Schaefer argues that, because of this “content shock,” content marketing may not be a sustainable strategy for every business.

While I won’t agree or disagree with this theory, I will equip you with the tools you need to distribute the content you create. By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to build a content distribution strategy that gets your content in front of — and consumed by — your audience.

Although the content distribution process happens after you create your content, it should be step one of your content marketing strategy. You should know where and how you’re going to publish and promote your content before you put the proverbial pen to paper — otherwise, your time and resources could go to waste.

Where should I publish my content, you ask? Through the various content distribution channels we discuss next.

Content Distribution Channels

Content distribution channels are the channels through which you share and promote the content you create. There are three types of content distribution channels: owned, earned, and paid. The channels you use to distribute your content will vary based on your audience and resources.

Owned Content Distribution

Owned channels are the content properties your company owns. You can control when and how content is published on your owned channels. These include your website and blog, your social media profiles, your email newsletter, or a mobile publishing app.

Earned Content Distribution

Earned channels (also known as “shared” channels)are when third parties promote or share your content. These third parties could include customers, journalists, bloggers, and anyone who shares your content for free — hence the name “earned”.

These channels include public relations, social shares and mentions, guest articles and roundups, and product reviews. They also include forums and communities like Reddit or Quora — while posting on these sites is free, the content is owned by these third parties and therefore falls under earned channels.

Paid Content Distribution

Paid channels refer to when your company pays to distribute your content on certain channels. This primarily includes pay-per-click (PPC), paid social advertisements, and paid influencer content.

The following diagram illustrates how these three content distribution channels overlap and how you can combine them to enhance their impact and reach.

If 70% of marketers lack a content strategy, how many do you think have a content distribution strategy? I’d bet not many.

Moreover, some marketers recommend that you spend 20% of your allotted content marketing time creating your content — and the other 80% promoting it. Sound like something you’re doing? If not, this is where a content distribution strategy comes in handy.

A content distribution strategy is important for a few reasons:

  1. It boosts your content impact past curation and creation. As I said above, great content is practically useless if nobody’s reading it. A content distribution strategy gets your gorgeous content in front of the right eyes.
  2. It aligns your team and the teams with which you collaborate to create and share the content. Depending on the size of your company, you may have several cooks in the content marketing kitchen. (I know we do at HubSpot.) A content distribution strategy aligns all these different parties and ensures you’re all collaborating efficiently.
  3. It sets goal benchmarks against which you can measure your distribution performance. Content distribution can be vague — a simple press of the “Publish” button, and you’re done. A content distribution strategy helps you set benchmarks and hard goals to chase while publishing and promoting your work.

Here’s how to build a content distribution strategy for yourself.

1. Research your target audience.

Content distribution is all about getting your content in front of your audience. You can’t do this properly if you don’t know where they are and what they like to read. Before you build your strategy any further, research your target audience so you know precisely who will be consuming your content.

Start by collecting demographic data from your website visitors, email subscribers, social media followers, and customers. Take a look at your audience’s gender, age, income, location, education, and related categories. You can pull this information from Google Analytics or your social media analytics tools.

Next, collect feedback directly from your customers, email subscribers, and social media followers. Ask them about their pain points and needs as well as how they feel about your current content and distribution efforts.

Use these two data points to create your buyer persona. Your buyer persona(s) act as models of your ideal customers and content consumers and represent their pain points, information preferences, and motivations as you build out the rest of your content distribution strategy.

2. Audit your content.

You may already have some published content out there, such as blog posts, videos, social media content, and more. While your new content distribution strategy doesn’t involve removing that content, you should perform an audit to understand if it’s helping or hurting your distribution efforts. Auditing your current content will also remind you of which topics you’ve already written about and which ones you can expand on.

A thorough content audit is comprised of three main parts:

  1. Logging your content. Logging your content can be done manually or with a tool. (We recommend the latter, especially if you’ve been publishing content on multiple properties and channels.) Tools like Screaming Frog can help you crawl and collect your content, listing each URL, title, and description in a spreadsheet. The free version crawls up to 500 URLs. If you opt for a manual content audit, follow the steps in our blog post here.
  2. Assessing your content impact. If you crawl your content with SEMRush, the tool will also list content length, social shares, and backlinks. This information can help you assess the impact of each piece of content, alerting you to anything that needs to be updated, rewritten, or erased.
  3. Identifying your content gaps. You can also identify gaps in your content using the Ahrefs Content Gap tool or by performing keyword research to discover new keywords or keyword phrases to add to your content, thus helping it rank higher and for more terms.

Check out this blog post for 30+ more content auditing tools.

3. Choose your content distribution channels.

Your content distribution channels are arguably more important than your content itself, hence why this step comes before content creation and after target audience research. Once you know your target audience, you’ll have a much better idea of how to get your content in front of your followers and customers.

Depending on your analysis, you may post on forums and communities like Reddit or Quora — and pay to promote your content on those sites, too. Alternatively, you may choose to exclusively share content on social media channels, or perhaps you find that traditional PR is your best route.

Regardless of which content distribution channels you choose, ensure they align with your audience’s preferences and behaviors.

Also, be sure to optimize your owned distribution channels — your blog, email newsletter, and social media profiles — as these are relatively inexpensive and in your control. Even if research shows that your audience prefers forums to social media or news sites to company blogs, never neglect your owned properties as these reflect on your brand and product.

As you work through this step, set aside time to optimize your blog-to-gain readership, brush up on how to send email newsletters (or start sending them), and learn about organic social media marketing.

4. Decide on your content types.

After you determine your distribution channels, consider what types of content you’d like (and have the resources) to create.

Many companies choose to publish all of their content on their blog and then repurpose and re-publish it. Blog posts are universally consumed, easy to repurpose and localize (i.e. translate into other languages), and simple to share — not to mention that almost 50% of buyers read a company’s blog while making purchase decisions. For these reasons, we recommend building a business blog and then expanding your content types from to share on other channels.

Consider these content types — and how you’ll repurpose and distribute them — as you create your blog posts:

  • E-books
  • Podcasts and interviews
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Testimonials
  • Webinars
  • Checklists and listicles
  • Datasheets

5. Set your content distribution KPIs and goals.

Goals help us recognize where we’re going and what success might look like when we get there. Your content distribution strategy should involve setting goals for your content key performance indicators (KPIs) and their subsequent metrics:

key performance indicators related metrics
Traffic/reach Unique page views by channel and source
Engagement Bounce rate, average time on page
Top content (and falling content) Top page views, top exits
Impact Click-throughs, conversions, backlinks
Sentiment Comments, social shares

These metrics may vary based on your distribution channel (i.e. you can’t track comments on your email newsletter or top exists on your social media ads), so be sure to choose the metrics that correspond best to each channel. It might take a few months to establish a baseline for each channel, especially if you haven’t used it before.

Set SMART goals for your content using these metrics. Here’s an example:

  • Specific: I want to increase our blog’s organic traffic by boosting backlinks from other reputable websites and blogs. This will increase our search engine ranking, thus bringing in more organic traffic.
  • Measurable: I’d like 30 new backlinks to our blog.
  • Attainable: We’re already generating 10 new backlinks each month without an intentional strategy, so I believe 30 new backlinks this month with our strategy is feasible.
  • Relevant: This goal aligns with our broader organic content marketing strategy and could also boost our earned media as we get mentions from press outlets and third-party bloggers.
  • Time-bound: I’d like to receive these backlinks within the next month.

6. Build an editorial calendar (and include distribution).

Content marketing and distribution require lots of planning to be successful. This is where an editorial content calendar can come in handy. You can create one in Excel or Google Sheets, or even use Google Calendar. Tools like CoSchedule, Asana, and Trello are helpful, too.

Your editorial calendar, like your content distribution strategy, helps your team stay aligned and work towards common goals. It also gives your writers and editors a roadmap for what they’ll be working on in the coming weeks and months.

Here’s what your editorial calendar may look like (using this post as an example):

content-distribution-content-calendar-social-1

Your editorial calendar is the perfect place to include your content distribution plans and goals. Here’s what that may look like on your editorial calendar:

content-distribution-content-calendar-social-2

See how the right-hand columns now include categories like “Publish Destinations” and “Repurposing Plans”? Your editorial calendar should serve as your hub for all content creation and distribution plans.

Manage and plan your social media content with our free Social Media Content Calendar Template.

7. Create your content.

After you research your audience, audit your content, decide on your distribution channels and content types, and build your editorial calendar … it’s time to create your content. Content creation will vary based on your resources, team size, industry, and brand, so to get the most pointed, applicable advice, check out our Guide to Content Creation.

As you work on your new content, check out these tools:

  • AnswerthePublic, which can help you flesh out topics and understand what your audience is searching for
  • Canva, which can help you build gorgeous infographics and images
  • Vidyard, which is a video hosting and publishing platform made for marketers
  • Anchor, which is a free podcasting tool for beginners

We’ll talk more about content distribution tools in the next section.

8. Distribute and market your content.

You’ve created your content … now it’s time to put it out in the world. Following your editorial calendar and chosen distribution channels, publish and market your new content. As for any marketing channel, be sure you follow rules to optimize your posts on each channel.

For example, our team at HubSpot paid for ads on Reddit and found that it was helpful to organically engage with Redditors as well as pay for ad space. Alternatively, if you’re posting on (or paying for) social media, be sure to follow the guidelines for the best times to post and share content — the same goes for sending emails.

9. Measure and analyze your results.

As always, be sure to keep an eye on your content distribution results. Remember those KPIs, metrics, and SMART goals you established in step five? Time to pull those out.;

After you’ve published your content, take a look at Google Analytics, your social media analytics dashboards, and your blog performance — depending on where and how you distributed the content. Make sure you set a routine time to measure and analyze (weekly, monthly, or quarterly) so that you can establish a baseline and know which numbers you can beat the following week or month.

Whew! So, that’s what it takes to build a content distribution strategy. Be sure to iterate on this process; these guidelines may change as you expand your content efforts and scale your team. Now, let’s talk about the tools you need to get it done.

Content distribution can be an arduous process, but thankfully there are many content distribution tools out there to help you get your work discovered and consumed.

Content Tools

These tools help you publish your content on additional networks and forums to reach broader audiences.

Medium

Medium is a content platform that individuals and businesses alike use to publish content. You can use Medium in addition to or in lieu of your traditional blog. (We recommend in addition to your blog as this will give your content the broadest reach.)

Medium is where thousands of readers consume content. It’s a one-stop-shop platform for all kinds of content … kind of like Amazon is for products. For that reason, consider publishing to Medium to increase the number of people who see your content.

Price: Free and paid

LinkedIn Pulse

LinkedIn Pulse is similar to Medium except it lives on LinkedIn. While there isn’t a homepage that aggregates all the published content, it’s still a helpful tool for getting your written content in front of your followers (for free). You can publish on LinkedIn Pulse through your personal or company LinkedIn pages by simply clicking “Write an article”.

Note: LinkedIn Pulse is also a mobile application that you can download to receive daily headlines and trending news.

Read more about publishing on LinkedIn Pulse here.

Price: Free

PR Tools

These tools help connect you with journalists and publications to help expand your earned distribution channels and gain backlinks.

PR Newswire

PR Newswire is a press release distribution network. The platform helps you target and contact journalists and outlets by specific industries, geographic areas, and topics. It offers packages for state and local, regional, and national press.

Price: Paid

HARO

HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out, which is an online platform that connects journalists and sources. In this case, you’d be the source.

When you sign up for HARO, you’re sent daily emails with journalist queries. Respond to these queries to be potentially featured in an article. This is a reactive content distribution tool, but it’s helpful for getting press mentions and backlinks.

Price: Free and paid

Social Tools

These tools help distribute your content on social media and amplify your posts.

HubSpot

HubSpot is an all-in-one marketing software, meaning its useful for email marketing, analytics, and social amplification. I’ve placed it in the “Social Tools” section because its Social Inbox is incredibly helpful for content distribution.

From your Social Inbox, you can monitor, schedule, and post content to your social networks. You can also access information from your email marketing campaigns so you have the big picture of your readers and customers.

Price: Free and paid

ClickToTweet

ClickToTweet is a tool that equips your readers to share soundbites of your content on Twitter with a single click. You create your content soundbites, and ClickToTweet provides a link. When readers click that link, the tool opens their Twitter with the content soundbite already ready to post.

It also links to your Twitter account and content — allowing your readers to distribute your content for you.

Price: Free

GaggleAMP

GaggleAMP is a social amplification tool that allows you to aggregate your employee’s social networks and post company content directly to them. Employees have the option to review and improve content before it’s posted or allow it to go through automatically. This is a great alternative to constantly bugging your staff to post on about your business.

You can also use this tool to link to social networks from partners, customers, brand advocates, and more.

Price: Free and paid

AddThis

AddThis is an on-page social sharing tool. It allows your readers to share your content without bouncing from your page (and potentially getting distracted). You can also integrate AddThis share buttons into your email newsletter and other assets.

Price: Free

Analysis Tools

These tools help you measure and analyze the impact of your social posts and other distribution efforts.

Mention

Mention is a social media monitoring tool that provides social media listening, publishing, crisis management, and more. You can use Mention to monitor any mentions of your brand name, content, or social networks and respond accordingly. This is a great tool for measuring the impact of and engagement around your content and see who is promoting it for you.

Price: Free and paid

SharedCount

SharedCount is a tool that helps you measure the engagement of your social media posts. Simply input a URL, and SharedCount will report on its likes, shares, comments, and other engagement measures. While it can’t help you distribute your content, it can alert you to which pieces are performing well and which pieces may need to be updated or scrapped.

Price: Free and paid

Additional Tools

Outbrain

Outbrain is a paid amplification tool that aggregates your content at the bottom of other articles. You can set up content campaigns with an RSS feed or specific URL(s), and Outbrain will place them under related content, encouraging readers to click and read yours.

Outbrain works with an impressive network, including digital publications like NYT and Mashable.

Price: Pay-per-click

WiseStamp

WiseStamp is an email tool that allows you (and your employees) to share your latest content in your email signature. Your email signature is often a forgotten but important piece of digital real estate that practically everyone who opens your emails will see. WiseStamp helps you make the most of that space.

Price: Paid

Distribute Your Content to Grow Better

Amazing content is a waste if no one is consuming it. Content distribution is a critical piece of the content marketing puzzle. It’s is also the key to boosting your brand awareness, collecting loyal followers, and encouraging your readers to click, act, and become customers.

Put these content distribution tips and tools to get your content in front of your audience.

14 of the Best Public Relations Examples to Inspire Your Next Campaign

Sometimes, a press release about your company’s new product launch, significant hire, or acquisition fails to pick up the coverage you were expecting. Journalists crave juicy stories and viral marketing campaigns, but standing out in a sea of conventional pitches is one of the biggest challenges for any public relations professional.

When you need a dose of inspiration, blogs like PR Examples are a great place to find the most compelling PR plays. To save you some time, we curated a list of the absolute best of the best to get the creativity flowing for your next campaign.

Read on to get inspired by some of the best minds in public relations.

1. Lyft & Netflix: Strange Mode 

Industry Relations

With over 360,000 people who binge watched Stranger Things 2 within a day of its release, it’s clear the show created unprecedented amounts of hype leading up to its premiere date. One of the stunts that built up this hype was Lyft and Netflix’s Strange Mode prank. By immersing Lyft customers in an environment that was as terrifyingly strange and eerily similar to Hawkins, Indiana, they made Stomranger Things fans feel like they were actually in the Upside Down.

2. HostelWorld: Even Divas are Believers

Customer Relations

Traveling the world can give you some of the best experiences of your life, but it can also thrust you into situations that you’ll want to scrub from your memory, like staying the night in a hostel. There are countless hostel horror stories online and hundreds of videos that mock their hospitality scattered throughout social media — so needless to say, they don’t have the best reputation.

But HostelWorld, a hostel booking website, decided to team up with Mariah Carey to freshen up their image and showcase the pleasant reality of staying in a modern day hostel. Together, they blasted through affordable accommodation stereotypes by spotlighting the lesser known luxuries of hostels like having access to the same facilities as more expensive accommodations, but at a cheaper price, and being able to connect with other fellow travelers.

HostelWorld’s message is simple: if hostels are nice enough for divas like Mariah Carey, then they’re nice enough for everyone..

3. Lawyer.com: Choosing Lindsay Lohan to Be their Spokesperson

Customer Relations

Picking Lindsay Lohan to be your company’s official spokesperson could spark a lot of backlash. But when you connect people with lawyers, the move can produce loads of smiles, publicity, and customers. Lawyer.com’s brilliant marketing play resonated with audiences because Lohan’s troubled past and her frequent brushes with the law makes people who might’ve gotten in a little trouble feel like they’re not alone. It also makes them feel better about themselves. If a high-status celebrity needed a lawyer — multiple times — then maybe it’s not so bad if you need one too — right?

4. Stabilo Boss: Highlight the Remarkable

Corporate and Social Responsibility

There have been remarkable women throughout history that might not have been celebrated as they should have been. Stabilo Boss — the company that sells highlighter pens — started a campaign to highlight these women and their incredible accomplishments. 

Stabilo took famous black-and-white photos from historical moments and drew a yellow highlight line to showcase the woman in the photo that made it all happen. The Boss PR campaign highlighted women like Katharine Johnson, the NASA mathematician responsible for the calculations that sent Apollo 11 to the moon. Other examples include Nobel Prize winner Lise Meitner ando First Lady Edith Wilson.

The campaign blew up on social media and went on to win multiple awards.

Photo credit: Ads of the World

5. Logitech: BS Detection Spoof

Industry Relations

Hours after April Fools Day, almost every marketing publication rounds up the best spoofs, pranks, and stunts that distracted everyone at work that day. One of the funniest spoofs that earned a spot in all the major roundups this year was Logitech’s fake Business Speak Detection product video. By giving their product a punny, yet subtly accurate name, the video pokes fun at most businesses’ obsession and overuse of buzzwords. But it also has the feel of a real product overview, which makes it even more hilarious.

6. Old Spice: Paper Blazer Ad

Marketing Communications

Photo Credit: PR Examples

When Fragrance brands advertise in magazines, they usually show off their aromas by drenching an ad with their latest cologne or perfume. But Old Spice realized people usually don’t enjoy unexpectedly pungent scents violating their nostrils when they’re flipping through their favorite magazine. So in typical Old Spice fashion, they gently ribbed other fragrance brands by inserting a paper blazer doused in their new cologne, Captain, in their print ad in GQ magazine. Then they wrote about how these paper blazers can help men attract attention not only with trendy style, but also with masculine smell. The only drawback of the blazer is that it’ll turn into papier-mâché on you in the rain.

Humor and cleverness is one of the best ways to appeal to your audience and gain earned media attention, and it seems like Old Spice can leverage them both on any marketing channel.

Photo Credit: PR Examples

7. Star Wars: Passing the Box-Office Baton to The Avengers

Social Media

Avengers: Infinity War just shattered Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ record for the biggest opening weekend ever by grossing over $250 million. LucasFilm, the studio that created and produced Star Wars, wasn’t bitter though. Instead, they were proud of their friends over at Marvel Studios, and sent them a heartwarming congratulatory tweet. By applauding them for their incredible accomplishment, and not sulking about their broken record, Star Wars earned the respect of movie lovers everywhere — not to mention some media coverage for the gesture.

8. Johnnie Walker: Jane Walker

Corporate and Social Responsibility

 

 Photo Credit: PR Examples

To promote gender equality and honor the many achievements of women throughout history, Johnnie Walker launched a female version of its whisky on International Women’s Day called Jane Walker. The limited-edition bottle featured a woman on their iconic logo, instead of a man, which connected the brand to individuals who also support their commitment to social progress.

In March 2018, Johnnie Walker released 250,000 bottles of Jane Walker, and for every bottle sold, they donated $1 to organizations that empower women. This tangible impact helped their campaign gain even more support and publicity.

9. AirBnB & BBC Earth: Night at Blue Planet II

Industry Relations

Blue Planet II is considered the greatest nature series of all time, with its first episode attracting over 14 million viewers and earning the title of Britain’s highest rated TV show in 2017. Watching the show can almost place you into the habitat they’re filming, but BBC Earth wanted to take things to the next level for their biggest fans: they offered them a chance to experience what it’s like to be a researcher and filmmaker for Blue Planet II.

To do so, they teamed up with AirBnB to run a contest for their members, and two lucky winners got to spend three days and two nights in the Bahamas on the research and exploration vessel used in the show’s filming. During their expedition, they lived with and discussed work with researchers and dove deep into the Atlantic Ocean in a submarine with filmmakers to observe some of nature’s most unique underwater wildlife. By offering a once in a lifetime opportunity, BBC Earth could get more people to watch their hit show, and AirBnB could build their brand affinity.

Photo Credit: PR Examples

10. SpaceX & Tesla: SpaceX Sends a Tesla into Outer Space

Public Affairs

Everyone knows Elon Musk wants to send humans to Mars. So when SpaceX launched their newest rocket, Falcon Heavy, into space, it made some headlines. But when the Falcon Heavy suddenly shot a cherry-red Tesla Roadster blasting David Bowie’s 1971 hit “Life on Mars?” into orbit, it was being called the greatest automotive PR stunt in history.

The car will now float between Earth and Mars for millions of years, and serve as reminder for current and future generations to always reach for the stars. The success of both launches also improved SpaceX and Falcon Heavy’s reputation. Falcon Heavy is now the most powerful rocket on earth, so it’s realistic to say it can launch heavy satellites and future space stations into orbit, shuttle cargo to Mars, and even transport humans to the moon. And that’s exactly what Elon Musk needs the public to think if he wants to accomplish his ambitious goals.

11. BBC Scotland: Scotland From the Sky: Glen Coe

Integrated Marketing and Communications

In 2017, Rough Guides, a renowned travel guidebook, named Scotland the most beautiful country in the world. And a big reason why it’s such a spectacle is because Glen Coe, a Scottish valley that cuts through the ruins of an ancient super-volcano, is one of the most striking landscapes in the world.

BBC Scotland’s immersive, 360 degree video of Glen Coe grips viewers because they’re able able to experience the landscape from an intimate point of view at every possible angle, which makes them feel like they’re actually there. Publicity of this video benefits both Scotland’s tourist industry and BBC Scotland because it compels people to travel to Scotland and consume more of BBC Scotland’s content.

12. State Street Global Advisors: Fearless Girl

Corporate and Social Responsibility

On the morning of International Women’s Day, the world woke up to find a four-foot high statue of a girl across from the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street in New York. She is standing tall and brave, hands on her hips, in a dress and high top converse. 

Fearless Girl, as she is called, was commissioned by the investment management firm State Street Global Advisors as a part of their campaign to pressure companies to add more women to their boards. By standing up to Charging Bull, she is standing up for gender diversity on Wall Street. 

fearless-girl-PR-campaign-exampleSource: Forbes

Some argue that the girl’s defiance toward the bull — and male-dominated corporate boardrooms more generally — is controversial. There has been lots of pushback to the statue, but in general, this PR campaign received widespread support for the women’s movement and diversity in the workplace and remains outside the New York Stock Exchange.

13. ALS Association: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Corporate and Social Responsibility

A few years ago, videos of people dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads flooded social media, now known as the Ice Bucket Challenge. The viral sensation of 2.4 million videos was a way to raise awareness of a neurodegenerative disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The idea was to raise money for the ALS Association and research on the disease. 

 

The viral challenged raised more than $115 million dollars, with almost $80 million going towards research. The campaign was a massive success — awareness and funding for ALS has skyrocketed, all thanks to millions of people giving themselves brain freeze.

14. Guinness: Guinness Clear

Corporate and Social Responsibility

Guinness pushed a series of ads to promote its newest product: Guinness Clear. This completely transparent, refreshing beverage “will keep you hydrated and help you stay in control.” Their secret recipe? It’s just water.

This lighthearted PR campaign is actually trying to address a more serious issue — binge drinking. The company hopes that consumers will drink more of their “Guinness Clear” to remember their nights and not overdo it while still having fun. Guinness hopes the ads will drive conversation and healthier habits.

 

 

Designing for Humans and Bots, Too: How a HubSpot Designer Approaches SEO

In the early days of the web, design and SEO weren’t really friends — websites with good SEO often had a weak design, while websites with impressive design often weren’t great for SEO. During that era, there was some crazy stuff going on involving stuffing keywords into content, bad website navigation, and just plain ol’ outdated design.

When I joined HubSpot, I partnered with our SEO team to design online experiences that could grow organic traffic to our website at scale. Knowing the reputation that SEO has amongst designers, I was skeptical about being able to produce engaging designs while delivering the traffic and lead counts for which I was accountable. However, I welcomed the challenge!

Luckily, I was in for a surprise. Working with our company’s SEO team over the past year has led me to realize that the goals of SEO and design don’t have to be at odds with each other — in fact, they’re intertwined around anticipating and delivering value to your customers.

Designing with SEO in mind ultimately creates an excellent customer experience.

Here, I’m going to explore how you can use SEO-minded design to increase traffic while still maintaining an engaging user experience — but first, why is it even important?

The Impact of SEO-Minded Design

At its core, our team is looking to deliver traffic to our website, which impacts our ability to acquire leads and product sign-ups.

I see design as an integral part of being able to deliver these KPIs, because we directly influence what visitors — and search engines — see on a given page.

Ultimately, designing pages to provide a thoughtful and valuable experience for visitors affects whether our content appears in a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) or not.

For instance, if users find our navigation confusing, they might exit our page quickly — which will indicate to the SERPs that our pages are outdated or don’t match the keywords at hand.

There are plenty of other design-related factors that could influence SEO — take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Google Ranking Factors in 2019 to learn more.

Next, let’s explore how your team can practice SEO-minded design.

How to Practice SEO-Minded Design

There are a few concepts that tie SEO and design together that are helpful in balancing the best practices of both areas, and I want to cover four in particular today. Let’s dive in.

1. Don’t neglect the mobile experience.

Google has shifted to mobile-first indexing, which means that it uses the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking.

The crazy reality is that Google may never see a desktop version of your website.

This change makes it imperative to ensure content quality isn’t compromised when designing for smaller screen sizes. Hiding content on mobile but showing it on desktop is like clipping a bird’s wings — crawlers (the bots that scour the web for new content) won’t be able to explore the breadth of your website and gain enough context regarding the value your content provides.

In practice, this means that your site navigation should be fully available to mobile users.

Additionally, you’ll want to ensure the link structure on mobile isn’t dramatically different from navigation options offered on desktop. Plus, text content and images should remain available to ensure crawlers have enough context to understand what your website is about.

I’ll be the first to admit that reducing content for mobile is a bad habit I developed earlier in my career, and it’s really tough to break.

To better embrace responsive design, I’ve shifted my mindset from trying to
replicate the experience across all touchpoints, to delivering the
best experience possible on each platform.

This gives you the freedom to optimize conversion flows on a per-platform basis, leveraging what you know about the needs of your users when they visit your site through different devices.

In support of mobile-first indexing practices, search engines also heavily weigh the mobile friendliness of your website. As a result, you should pay close attention to the following things when designing your site for mobile devices:

  1. Size of tappable areas: Ensure there’s enough space for a person to tap on a link with their fingers. Tap targets of at least 48 pixels in size are considered standard by search engines like Google.
  2. Using legible font sizes: Text sizes should scale to ensure legibility on each device. Using fonts that are too small will result in penalties from search engines.
  3. Image asset file sizes: When exporting images and other media content, try to optimize the file size for web so it doesn’t take forever to load. User attention span is short and if pages take too long to load, potential visitors will abandon your site.

We used this approach when building HubSpot’s Business Templates directory, which launched in March 2019. The content we offer is in the form of editable document templates, which users can download and use. Since the templates are offered for Microsoft Word, Excel, and PDF — typically desktop applications — we realized users probably wouldn’t find much value in downloading the templates to their mobile devices.

On mobile, I decided to prioritize the option to email a link to themselves to download the template later, enabling users to achieve their goals regardless of the platform they were on.

 

Slight modifications in the download experience between desktop and mobile create an optimized experience for each platform. These screens show how email to self is the primary option on mobile, while downloading is prioritized on desktop.

I also made a very simple change to my workflow to ensure I’m considering responsive design at every stage of the design process. When I set up a new file in Sketch (the main software our team uses for interface design), I always create two “artboards” next to each other — one for desktop, and one for mobile.

As I’m designing a screen for desktop, I concurrently arrange the same content to the mobile screen size without deleting anything, then make adjustments needed based on the mobile context. It’s not quite a mobile-first approach, but it’s a step in the right direction.

An example of a file set up for a responsive design approach.

2. Make navigation meaningful.

The better your navigation is at surfacing the way your website is structured, the better crawlers will be able to discover content and understand what your website is about.

But clear navigation isn’t just for bots — it also helps visitors navigate your website and find interesting, relevant content. Think about your own experience visiting a website for the first time. Perhaps you’ve found an article on Google that you enjoyed reading and want to see more articles by that author. A well-organized website makes that content readily available to you.

You’re probably familiar with several modules that are commonly used to organize content: “Related” feeds, “People also search for”, “People also bought …” — these features are commonly employed on ecommerce and directory websites. Although they might seem gimmicky, they can be valuable to customers for the following reasons:

  • Reinforces content categorization. Visitors will learn about how you define categories on your website and the type of content that belongs in each. This empowers them to find specific content without aid.
  • Promotes discovery of relevant content. This allows websites to deliver value for customers beyond their original query, encouraging customers to perceive us as knowledgeable, helpful sources for information. When they see content from us in the future, they may be more likely to trust us.
  • Helps with decision making. These components reduce the cognitive load of having to recognize versus recall data, and customers feel reassured that they are not alone. However, it’s important to use this data wisely to be helpful — and to not abuse it.

Other UI components like breadcrumb navigation and table of contents may have a bad reputation in the design world, but they’re useful for leveraging complex information architectures.

These components help manifest how your website is organized — and let crawlers and visitors more easily find their way around your website.

From a user perspective, clear navigation acts like road signs, telling you more about where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. There’s nothing worse than having to resort to the Back button on your browser because you don’t know where else to click.

3. Give people what they want.

How many times have you searched Google for answers and clicked on a link that gave you different content than what you were expecting? We can probably agree that getting content that doesn’t answer our question is a frustrating experience, and can result in a loss of trust.

Search engines want to serve quality content that answers the queries they receive — which makes designing pages with relevant content one of the most important parts of enabling strong SEO. After all, when search engines don’t deliver quality content, they lose customers and revenue as a result.

Understanding what will be valuable to visitors comes from understanding their intent behind a query. Being familiar with user goals lays the foundation for you to create content that will deliver value.

There are a few simple ways to learn more about user goals (short of being able to read their minds) that I like to practice on a regular basis:

1. Keyword Research

Keyword research examines the terms that people are typing into search engines, the number of times it’s being searched in a given time period (usually monthly), and a few other metrics that help you determine the value and difficulty of pursuing a search engine ranking for that term.

Examining the full queries people are searching allows you to uncover more about the user’s knowledge of the keyword and intent behind their search. Matching the specificity of your content to the user’s expectations is critical for ensuring you deliver value.

For instance, here’s an example to consider:

In the first example, someone searching for “business plan proposal template download” might expect a page that enables them to directly download a business plan template, and connotes a high level of specificity and intent — this customer is likely in the consideration phase of their search, and probably already knows what a business plan proposal is and how to use it.

On the other hand, someone typing a query like “business plan proposal template examples” might not know what goes into a good business plan, and might be interested in a high-level article that gives them more context, as well as a few different options.

Keyword research also serves as a good litmus test for how well your copy resonates with customers. You can use metrics like monthly search volume (MSV) to see which keywords are commonly typed into search engines. This can help you understand how customers are referring to relevant concepts in the real world. You might consider this when weighing the cost and benefits of leveraging a commonly known term versus teaching a new one.

However, it’s important to understand the limitations of using keyword research when incorporating it into your process. Keyword research shows you what users are searching for, but doesn’t tell you what they’re actually looking for.

People searching for the same term might be looking for very different things, and that depends greatly on the context that prompted them to enter a query. You can use keyword research to help you form a hypothesis about user intent, but you can’t draw any conclusions about causality from it. Using keyword research can be a powerful tool, but only if you take its findings at face value and use it properly.

2. Empathy Exercise

Once I’ve looked at the words people are searching for, I start to analyze the possible intent behind their query. For each page or asset I’m creating, I’ll create a brief list of the keywords, goals, and content a visitor might find valuable to accomplish their goals.

This simple empathy exercise helps me consider the context in which people are visiting, and map out the modules that would create value to users.

Here’s a template to help you get started with your own empathy exercise:

empathy-exercise

For the Business Template directory, I made a list that looked something like this:

example-empathy-exercise

The context behind a user’s search query can have a huge impact on their expectations for your content — so while performing the empathy exercise, it’s important to know that you might not capture every use case or scenario.

I use this empathy exercise to form a hypothesis about a user’s goals, and then determine what content might be most valuable on that page. This sets a benchmark of the content that must be included, which allows me to wireframe modules that will showcase essential content.

We can build off this foundation and add content that oru marketing team or stakeholders may require, as long as it doesn’t prevent customers from reaping the most value.

3. User Research and Testing

User testing or research is another helpful tool in evaluating the assumptions you bring into a project. It’s incredible how often your assumptions could be off-base from the actual values your customers hold, so it’s critical to get their direct insights whenever possible.

On our team, we’ve incorporated both moderated and unmoderated user testing into our arsenal using programs like Validately and Respondent, both of which allow you to recruit and screen users to test your designs.

When used together, these three methods can give you a stronger understanding of the context behind people’s search terms, as well as the goals they might expect your content to help them meet.

4. Apply accessibility best practices.

Making your content accessible for all visitors is an important but often overlooked step in the design process. There are a lot of common explanations for why accessibility hasn’t been prioritized — unfortunately, some of these might sound familiar:

“Accessible design isn’t as visually interesting and looks boring.”

“It takes extra time to make something accessible for all.”

“It only impacts a small subset of our customers.”

The truth is that accessibility isn’t that hard, and it’s unacceptable to make excuses about why we can’t do it. Making content accessible impacts SEO because it creates a better user experience and helps search engines understand what your content is about.

If it sounds daunting, these are a few simple things you can do to improve the overall customer experience and positively impact your SEO:

1. Add descriptive alt text.

Alt text helps people who have visual impairments understand what non-text content on your website is about. Technology like screen readers are used to help people with visual impairments interact with websites, and these tools read the alt text you provide when it encounters an image, video, or other non-text content.

Additionally, in cases where images aren’t able to load (like slow or unstable internet connections), alt text appears in place of the image so users can still understand the content they’re unable to see.

People aren’t the only ones who use alt text — search engines do, too. Crawlers use alt text for two things:

  • Understand what an image is about. Capturing the topic and purpose of your image in the alt text description helps search engines rank your image in image searches and drive additional traffic to your website.
  • Understand what your website is about. This helps search engines better understand what your website is about and the value it delivers to users, which impacts what SERPs your page is seen on.

Designers, developers, and marketers can work together to ensure that descriptive alt text is implemented on all content. Collaborating and keeping each other accountable for this practice can drive traffic to your site, and help us create an inclusive experience for all.

2. Create a clear content hierarchy.

Using headers to establish a consistent visual hierarchy makes content more digestible for both people and crawlers alike. It’s difficult for people to read long bodies of text, so headers play an important role in providing users a way to quickly scan and find their way through long pieces of content.

Headers should be visually distinguished, clear, and descriptive, and tell readers (and crawlers) exactly what lies ahead.

3. Write descriptive anchor text.

It’s relatively common to see buttons and CTAs that say “Read More” or “Learn More”. Unfortunately, this isn’t very helpful for visitors or bots in understanding what they should expect to see next.

When effectively used, CTAs and hyperlink copy should help set the visitor’s expectation about what a linked page is about, allowing them to evaluate whether or not it would be valuable for them to visit the page.

Anchor text is also read by screen readers for visitors with visual impairments, and using links that aren’t descriptive can be especially confusing for users who don’t have the visual context of where your CTA lives.

Designing with SEO in mind will help you create a stronger, better customer experience. Ultimately, the best thing you can do in any situation is put the customer first.

By using a collaborative, intentional approach to design and SEO, we can drive measurable impact for our businesses — and create more inclusive experiences for all.

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags for 2019

Did you know an Instagram post with at least one hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement than a post with no hashtags?

Hashtags are powerful. They can help your posts reach a target audience, attract followers in your niche, increase engagement, and develop a more positive and recognizable brand image.

Here’s the thing, though: with great power comes great responsibility (#spiderman).

Hashtags can skyrocket your business to new heights, but if used too frequently or without a clear strategy in mind, they become pointless and inefficient, e.g.: #happy #superhappy #ecstatic #jumpingforjoy #whatsanothersynonym.

We want your business’s Instagram posts to receive optimal engagement, so we’ve put together an ultimate guide for using Instagram hashtags in 2018. With this guide, you won’t just attract followers — you’ll attract the right followers.

Why are hashtags important?

Hashtags are essentially Instagram’s sorting process. With around 95 million photos posted on Instagram every day, it’s difficult for Instagram to efficiently deliver the right content to the right people. Hashtags help your post get discovered by viewers most interested in seeing it.

Krystal Gillespie, HubSpot’s Social Media Community Manager, explains the importance of hashtags this way: “Hashtags are like a funnel. For instance, #marketing is incredibly broad and attracts all types of posts. We’ve found #digitalmarketing or #marketingmotivation gives us a more specific, targeted reach. The audience searching for these hashtags are also trying to narrow their search to what we offer related to Marketing, so we’re actually reaching more of the right people.”

Essentially, hashtags are a better way to categorize your posts. They help you reach a target audience, and more importantly, they help your target audience find you. These users are more likely to engage with your post because your post is exactly what they wanted.

Adding one of the most popular Instagram hashtags to your post doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see more interaction. Since the hashtags above are so popular, they are being used by millions of people, so your post will most likely be obscured by the competition. Narrowing your hashtag topic is important, but we’ll get to that next.

Here are some of the top Instagram hashtags of 2018.

1. #love

Instagram users build their photo galleries on good feelings. For this reason, the #love hashtag is ever present next to the pics of friends, family, vacations, and beautiful scenery.

2. #instagood

Occurrences of this hashtag are inspired by the @instagood Instagram account, which scours the Instagram community for excellent photos and videos that are just too #instagood not to share. Add this hashtag to your content for a chance to be reposted.

3. #style

This hashtag has more than 400 million posts associated with it, making it one of the top tags in 2019. It’s used for beautifully edited photos of outfits, vacations, luxury products, and anything aesthetically stunning. Tag #style on a gorgeous outfit inspiration or new product, and Instagram users looking to add a little glamour to their lives will find you.

4. #dogstagram

We all know that the internet loves cute puppies, so it shouldn’t be surprising when a hashtag for our beloved doggos trends on Instagram. It’s always a good idea to include man’s best friend in an Instagram post — your followers will love it and you’re almost guaranteed dozens of heart emojis in your comments.

Source: Instagram

5. #me

This is the quintessential selfie hashtag, indicating to the Instagram community that the photo it’s captioning is a picture of you.

6. #fashion

People often turn to Instagram to see what styles are “in”, looking at posts ranging from fashion week to everyday outfit inspirations. This means that a significant portion of the content on Instagram revolves around fashion — in fact, there are more than 700 million #fashion posts on Instagram today. You will find celebrities, luxury brands, clothes, makeup, and other aspirational images tagged with #fashion.

7. #cute

#Cute puts your content in a pool of Instagram photos and videos that elicit “awes” from all over the Instaverse. If you think your puppy is the cutest puppy that ever lived, it deserves a photo with this esteemed hashtag.

8. #tbt

#Tbt stands for “Throwback Thursday,” and encourages Instagram users to post an old photo of themselves or an event they’re reminiscing over. Everyone likes content from the good old days — here’s your hashtag for enjoying the nostalgia.

9. #foodporn

I hope you’re hungry! The #foodporn tag is brimming with mouthwatering posts of desserts, pizza, recipe videos, and so much more. This hashtag is for the best of the best when it comes to delectable treats on Instagram — find the most original, delicious, and tantalizing food pictures on the internet under this hashtag.

10. #photooftheday

Managing a business account? This hashtag is a surefire way to attract more followers and repeat visitors. If you plan to post daily content, all around a common theme, add the #photooftheday hashtag to increase your exposure.

11. #instamood

#Instamood is all about the vibe or emotion a photo or video elicits. Pretty scenery, a day at the beach, or a night out with good people were all prominent under the #instamood hashtag in 2018. Landscapes are a popular starting point when figuring out what to post on Instagram, according to Jumper Media, and they fit into this hashtag perfectly.

12. #follow

This hashtag — currently tagged on half a billion posts — is a tactic used by public accounts looking to gain more followers. It’s a ubiquitous tag, non-specific to any one type of content creator, so you’ll see #follow on fashion accounts, travel blogs, makeup tutorials, celebrity fan pages, and much more. The idea is that if a user comes across content that they like on your explore page, they might be motivated to follow the account for more of that content.

13. #iphonesia

#Iphonesia is dedicated to the burgeoning community of Instagrammers in Indonesia.

14. #food

Meal pics are the bread and butter (no pun intended) of a people-oriented Instagram account — and 2018 was no exception. Use the #food hashtag to caption your next delicious Instagram photo.

15. #motivation

On Twitter, #MondayMotivation encourages inspiring quotes and messages to help people start the week off on the right foot. On Instagram, the #motivation hashtag has come to caption anything from a photo of a user after a big gym session, to a computer screen right before he or she gets to work.

The above 10 hashtags might have helped define Instagram over the last year, but there are still plenty more that end up trending every year. The following hashtags can help inspire photos and videos that Instagram users always seem to find captivating — and are sure to in 2019.

16. #Instagramhub

This hashtag isn’t specific to one type of post — #instagramhub is a place for active Instagram users to demonstrate their presence on the platform and reach larger audiences. By including this popular hashtag, influencers on Instagram are able to connect with as many users as possible.

1. #life

This one goes out to all the photos and videos that encompass the essence of your life.

2. #beautiful

Instagram is the place to go to put your best foot forward — whether it be your amazing getaway, a new hairstyle, or a breath-taking sunset, #beautiful photos encompass the best of what the platform has to offer.

Instagram Hashtag #beautifulSource: Instagram

3. #travel

Away for the weekend? Show your followers where you are, using this hashtag to indicate you’re traveling somewhere new.

4. #fitness

Get in on a trending community of workout warriors with photos and videos from your best exercise sessions, using the #fitness hashtag to share the moment.

5. #happy

Sometimes the best part of feeling good is sharing that sunshine with others. The #happy group of posts is full of radiant people and lighthearted content that brings us joy. Tag a photo of a cute kitten or one of yourself after getting a promotion with #happy.

6. #repost

Reposting is a common function on Instagram that allows you to share content from other users, with credit back to the original user. Use the hashtag, #repost, to tell others on Instagram that you were inspired by this photo or video.

7. #igers

#Igers is short for “Instagram users.” If you’ve got a photo or video that encompasses the Instagram community, show your solidarity with this colloquial hashtag.

8. #photography

At its core, Instagram is a photo sharing media, so it makes sense that there are some stunning and artistic images shared in #photography. Instagram is unique in that a user could be scrolling through the #photography posts and see National Geographic and professional photos next to amateur photographers.

9. #instadaily

This hashtag is similar to #photooftheday — one of the most popular hashtags of 2018 above this list — and is perfect for Instagrammers who post every day.

10. #bestoftheday

The #bestoftheday tag offers a glimpse into the massive amount of varied content that is posted to Instagram every day. Here, you’ll find some of the most noteworthy images on the platform — images of beautiful spots around the world, award-winning photos, yummy recipes, adorable animals, and so much more.

11. #followforfollow

Interested in building a fast list of followers on Instagram? #Followforfollow tells everyone who browses this hashtag that you’ll follow users who choose to follow you. This hashtag is always trending highly.

12. #likeforlike

#Likeforlike is similar to the #followforfollow hashtag explained above. Use this hashtag if you want to increase engagement on your Instagram account, telling users that you’ll like their photo or video if they like yours.

13. #tweegram

There is plenty of multi-platform sharing across social media sites, and in #tweegram, you’ll find images taken from Twitter, Pinterest, and more. #Tweegram is best known for quotes, screenshots of Tweets, and memes.

14. #summer

The summertime is the best season to enjoy fun vacations, fruity drinks, and time by the pool. This tag is full of Instagram users enjoying the long summertime hours on the beach or showing off the breezy outfits keeping them cool under the hot #summer sun.

15. #nofilter

Instagram offers so many different filters to help enhance photos, it’s practically assumed that any picture on Instagram has been edited. But if you’re posting a pic that was beautiful all by itself, let the world know that this gem didn’t need a filter to look so nice.

16. #ootd

#Ootd stands for “Outfit of the Day,” a hashtag dedicated to Instagram users who love showing off new clothing and styles on a regular basis.

17. #instafood

This popular tag is different from other food hashtags because it accompanies food pictures that are gorgeous, creative, and, most importantly, worthy of Instagram. Instagram posts are  known for being aesthetically appealing, and #instafood is no different. Use this tag if you’re posting a photo of a colorful, unique, and sumptuous dish!

18. #fun

If it’s not fun, it’s not Instagram-worthy. Make it known to millions of Instagram users that you had a blast in your latest photo or video with this popular hashtag.

1. Keep your hashtags organized.

To create an efficient hashtag system, you can use Excel or an Instagram analytics tool. If you choose an excel sheet, you’ll need to manually keep track of which hashtags you use, how often, and which ones correlate to your most popular posts. Over time, you’ll see relationships between certain hashtags and your most popular posts, and this can help you decide which hashtags work best for your brand.

If you have a more advanced social media team, you might want to consider a tool like Iconosquare, which automatically stores top hashtags and provides reports on which hashtags reach the most people.

For smaller businesses with limited budgets, Krystal Gillespie says that, “an excel sheet is the best way to start. Once you get more advanced I would highly recommend using a tool to track the data. A manual system can get overwhelming when you’re posting three times a day and using about 20 hashtags per post.”

2. Figure out your magic number.

Most top brands — 91% of them, to be exact — use seven or fewer hashtags per post, so it’s easy to assume that’s the magic number for everyone … right? Krystal explains that this isn’t always the case: She told me HubSpot has been more successful with hashtags ranging in the low 20s.

The point is, you can’t know how many hashtags work best for you until you test it. For HubSpot, it took the team several months to find a number that worked best, and during our trial period, we ranged from seven to 30. Give yourself the same flexibility for trial and error.

3. Narrow your hashtags.

There are two big reasons more specific, smaller-volume hashtags are better for your brand: first, you can compete in a smaller pool. HubSpot, for example, doesn’t typically use the hashtag #marketing because it’s too broad. If you search #marketing, you’ll find pictures of restaurants, inspirational quotes, before-and-after hair style pictures, and memes.

The randomness of #marketing leads me to the second reason specific hashtags are a good idea: as a user, I’m more likely to find what I need if I search for something specific, and when your business comes up for my specific search request, I’m more likely to be happy with what I found.

Krystal explains: “Keeping a hashtag close to the interests of your brand really helps. We try to use hashtags tailored for a specific topic and then narrow it down further — for instance, we’d use #SEOTips if our marketing post was mostly about SEO.”

Think of it this way: #dogs is more popular, but it has a wide demographic. If I search #goldenretrieverpuppies and I find your post, I’m more likely to engage with it because it’s exactly what I wanted.

4. Research what other people are hashtagging.

An easy way to generate hashtag ideas is to make a list of your followers or competitors and research what they’re hashtagging on their own photos. It can also be particularly helpful to research what influencers in your industry are hashtagging — by definition, influencers are people with a large social media following, so they must be doing something right.

5. Test out related hashtags.

When you type a hashtag into Instagram’s search bar, Instagram shows you related hashtags in the scroll-down menu. Instagram also delivers related hashtags on the next page after you click on a hashtag. This is a simple way to create a longer list of hashtags to try out.

6. Follow your own hashtag.

Another way to use Instagram hashtags for your marketing purposes is to follow your own hashtag. Krystal explains, “On Instagram I actually follow the hashtag #hubspot so I can find anyone who talks about us and connect with them. As long as your account isn’t private, people will be able to find you via the hashtag.”

Following your own hashtag is an effective way to engage with other people talking about your brand and develop better relationships with them.

7. Create a brand campaign hashtag.

This is the trickiest item on the list, but if done successfully, it can pay off big time. Some businesses have successfully attracted followers by creating their own campaign hashtag. A campaign hashtag needs to be funny, clever, or at least memorable in order to work.

Campaign hashtags are particularly useful for promoting a new product or upcoming event, or even just inspiring people. Red Bull, for example, encouraged followers to post Red Bull pictures with a #putacanonit hashtag (see what I mean about clever?). LuLuLemon, rather than running a more traditional ad campaign, developed a positive connotation for their brand by asking followers to post real, active pictures of themselves with a #sweatlife hashtag.

Now that we’ve covered the importance of using Instagram hashtags for your business, you might be wondering how to search for Instagram hashtags within the app, or how to use the search function to find related ideas. If you’re unsure of the technical process for hashtag searching, here’s how:

1. Open Instagram and tap the search icon.

Instagram wants you to use hashtags, and has made it extremely easy to find the perfect ones for your post. To start, open the Instagram app on your mobile device and tap the magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen.

Instagram home screen with magnifying glass icon and search bar highlighted in red

2. Tap the search bar at the top of your screen.

The search screen on your Instagram might first send you to a newsfeed-style page with suggested content based on topics you’ve demonstrated an interest in on social media. To switch to a hashtag search, tap the search bar at the top of this page, as shown in the screenshot above.

3. Tap “Tags.”

Once you’ve tapped the search bar at the top of your screen, Instagram will give you four options with which to filter your search. Instagram refers to hashtags as simply “Tags,” as shown in the screenshot below. Tap this “Tags” option, then tap the search bar above it, and begin searching topics for which you want to find a trending hashtag.

You don’t have to include the pound sign (#) in your search — your results will be the same with or without it — but you will need to use this pound sign in the caption of your photo once you choose a hashtag.

Search page where you can search hashtags on Instagram

4. Browse hashtags based on post count and current content.

Voila! You should see multiple options for hashtags based on your search. Browse around at each related hashtag that Instagram suggests for you — you might find that a hashtag with slightly fewer posts includes photos or videos that are more in line with the content you’re posting.

Happy hashtagging!

The 14 Best WordPress Appointment Plugins in 2019

As a marketer, one of your main goals is to collect high-quality leads for your sales team — but, when those leads try to make appointments to learn more about your products or services, are they being delighted as well as they could be?

Ultimately, creating an efficient, streamlined process for client appointment scheduling is essential for satisfying your prospects and ensuring you don’t lose their interest simply due to a lack of simplicity.

If you have a WordPress site, you’re in luck — there are simple, clean, easy-to-use appointment plugins you can implement to ensure you’re delighting your prospects every time.

Plus, optimizing your scheduling process doesn’t just help your prospects — it also helps you make scheduling the least time-consuming thing you have to do.

Here, we’re going to dive into our favorite 14 WordPress appointment plugins. But first — what are some characteristics of an exceptionally good one?

The Characteristics of the Best WordPress Appointment Plugins

What makes a good appointment plugin? There are nine criteria that a plugin should meet to cover all of your bases:

  1. A customizable appointment booking system where you record your availability or the availability or your staff.
  2. The ability for clients to self-book based on your availability.
  3. Integrations with common calendar tools like Google Calendar, Outlook, and iCal.
  4. Automatic meeting notifications.
  5. Lead generation tools to capture client information and create a database for future communication and lead generation.
  6. Payment integrations.
  7. Multilingual and multi-currency options.
  8. Adjustable time zones and time format.
  9. The ability to embed the calendar on your WordPress page.

An expansive collection of calendar integrations opens up your field to more new users. Most of the below tools hit all of the criteria above, so any of these would be worth considering for your business needs. However, when selecting the one that best serves your target market, make sure to focus on these elements before choosing your plugin.

1. HubSpot WordPress Plugin

Price: Free

The HubSpot WordPress Plugin includes several lead generation tools like popup forms, a web form builder, and kickback emails. Additionally, you can integrate it with your other HubSpot freemium tools, including the Meetings app.

Native within the WordPress plugin, you can use the following to collect client data on your WordPress pages:

  • Banners
  • Scroll Boxes
  • Embedded Forms
  • Pop-ups

Once you collect client data, all that information is sent to the HubSpot free CRM (or anything else you integrate with), so you can get a full view of website behavior.

Additionally, the analytics tool helps you find important information like bounce rate, time on page, and traffic source to help you improve your conversions. Additionally, no API integrations or extra coding is necessary. It’s free, and very easy to sign up and give it a try.

Finally, all of this can integrate with the Meetings app. However, while there is a free version that includes a custom meetings link, you have to upgrade to have the ability to embed your calendar on your WordPress website.

2. Amelia Appointment Booking WordPress Plugin

Price: $59

The Amelia plugin is a fantastic appointment tool for enterprises and chains because of its expansive set of functionalities.

Designed with simplicity and mobile optimization in mind, the plugin helps you manage multiple employees and schedules by providing customizable booking forms and a responsive availability calendar. You can use this to manage both customers’ and employees’ schedules.

Booking an appointment is an easy two-to-three step process, where customers can fill out your contact information, the type of service and location desired, the specific staff members requested, and more.

The plugin is compatible with multiple payment gateways and you can set it up so customers pay directly through your on-site booking system. Plus, email notifications are sent out when an appointment is booked.

You can filter and sort the calendars as needed (by day, week, month, year, and view), and Amelia provides a shortcode to easily embed and sync your calendar on your WordPress site. If you need help with site design, it also offers demo sites.

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3. Appointment Booking Calendar Free WordPress Plugin

Price: Free, but additional features cost extra

This is one of the stronger free appointment booking plugins out there. It has some limitations — namely, the free version only works with PayPal, and in order to accept money through another service, you’ll need to invest in the premium version. It works with iCal, Outlook, and GCal.

Some solid features include:

  • Availability displays
  • Frontend customer self-booking with captcha
  • Customer database creation (available for download and print)
  • Individual customer file editing
  • A downloadable customer database sourced from created appointments

Once an event is created, you can edit as needed and notify participants. Plus, you can display multiple pages for your calendar.

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4. Bookly Appointment Booking and Scheduling WordPress Plugin

Price: Free, Pro is $89 per month

Bookly is designed to help your customers book appointments across multiple platforms and for various group sizes.

Designed for mobile use and translatable between a wide selection of languages, this WordPress plugin is a leader in the pack in terms of plugin usability.

You can display your availability and allow clients to self-book — this remains true even for recurring appointments and group bookings. You can arrange for custom notifications to be sent both to you and to your customers on multiple devices, and editing events is easy.

Administrative functions can be performed and function smoothly within the plugin, so managing time-off, holiday parties, individual employee schedules, and bookings can all be managed or assigned.

Bookly is compatible with a variety of currencies and integrations like WooCommerce, PayPal, and Stripe. Check out the site to see the entire list of payment integrations.

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5. Appointment Booking and Online Scheduling Free WordPress Plugin

Price: Plans range between $15 per month to $99 per month

Booking appointments has never been easier than with vCita’s appointment booking plugin. Whether you need to schedule group events or one-on-one sessions, this is an effective tool for getting those events on the customizable calendar.

It also makes it easy to keep in touch with clients by allowing you to send documents like invoices, reminders, event change notifications, and follow up messages. Additionally, it lets you send follow up emails to increase communication.

Operating via the mobile app is simple and intuitive, smoothly functioning between multiple calendars, employee schedules, and payment types.

Automation has never been easier than with this app, but you can also exert control when it comes to contacting your clients with the built-in messaging and call service.

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6. Book an Appointment Online PRO WordPress Plugin

Price: $39

With slick mobile and desktop booking design and text reminders, this plugin makes it nearly impossible to forget an appointment.

Aside from clients being able to choose what type of appointment they want, when, and with whom, you can use PayPal directly within the plugin once you pick a time. It’s integrated with Google Calendar so your appointments are inputted directly into your personal GCal as well as your clients’.

The plugin works with multiple currencies and both 12-hour and 24-hour time formats, so managing international clients is a breeze. Booking employees by shift or by hour is available, as well as booking internal team events like retreats, vacations, and sick days.

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7. StartBooking

Price: The basic plan is $6.39 per month, the business plan is $15.99 per month

StartBooking is a decent choice for users looking to keep variety in the equation for their appointment booking calendar. Managing multiple clients and staff members is easy with this simple service.

You have the option to offer multiple options to book from in the following categories:

  • Times
  • Services
  • Hours
  • Employees
  • Days
  • Users
  • Locations

The plugin’s strength is in its form capabilities — you can customize and embed appointment forms on your site using the provided shortcode.

The system creates a customer profile and tracks their history once you book, so you can monitor and evaluate your connection with your users as you see fit. Booking groups and classes are a breeze, and you can send customized batch notifications to attendees as needed.

StartBooking offers a secure connection so processing online payments (through Stripe specifically) is safe and easy. It works across mobile devices and with your GCal, but if you have another type of calendar, you might want to use another plugin.

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8. BirchPress

Price: Tiered pricing, starts at $99 per year and goes to $249 per year

BirchPress is similar to other appointment booking systems on this list with the customer-facing appointment booking calendar. However, this system is particularly customizable. Forms templates are provided and can be altered to reflect your design and question needs.

Notifications and reminders can be edited and automatically sent when events are generated or changed.

BirchPress has a ton of options when it comes to integrating with calendars — if you use iCal, Android, Outlook, or GCal, you’re good to go, and embedding it on your WordPress site is easy with the provided shortcode.

However, when it comes to payments, it only integrates directly with PayPal. If you use another service, you need to use WooCommerce process payments. However, credit card booking, aside from a third-party source, is easy.

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9. Booking Calendar

Price: Custom pricing based on your needs

Booking Calendar is a popular plugin that works especially well with hotel and Airbnb-style appointment creation. It offers a simplistic client-forward booking form to get meetings on your schedule. Once the event is created, a database is built as client bookings increase.

Customized notifications can be sent out to both you and your clients regarding the event in question, and you can even include captcha.

The plugin is optimized for mobile and integrated with PayPal and Stripe so that you can manage all of your booking steps in one place and across devices.

Additionally, this is a fantastic calendar plugin for developers because it works with jQuery.

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10. Easy!Appointments

Price: Free

Easy!Appointments is an open source plugin that allows you to build calendars and forms into your WordPress page using shortcode. Calendars can be divided into individual client calendars, locations, employees, and services. Group booking is simple and you can assign multiple employees to an event.

You set the buffer times and hours available for clients to book, and it all syncs with your GCal. Specialized calendar URLs are sent out for you to share with event participants. It has a flexible REST API endpoint.

You can design the event notifications as you need for the following changes:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Provider
  • Location
  • Topic
  • Service change
  • Cancellations
  • Reminders

It’s available in 21+ languages and is optimized for mobile devices.

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11. PinPoint Booking System

Price: Limited free version, PRO version is $70

PinPoint is a super simple one-page appointment booking plugin. It’s a front-end, Ajax-based client booking system that can switch back and forth between currencies, time zones, users, and languages.

You can choose between European or American date formats, as well as AM/PM or 24-hour time format. Additionally, you can embed it in widgets, or edit the calendar appearance with the CSS Editor.

This is a great option for organizations that provide room bookings for individuals and groups. Admins can control as many calendars as they need using the PRO version. Both the free version and PRO version allow you to display your availability and include locations in your events.

You can search for pre-existing events or specific data like discount codes using the search sidebar. Set up booking forms, email or SMS notifications, or promos and discount codes.

It integrates with PayPal, GCal, iCal, and AirBnB. If you use the WooCommerce add-on, you can integrate with other payment portals like Stripe.

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12. Calendarize it!

Price: $30

Calendarize it! Is a WordPress plugin that works best with the Gutenberg Editor. It’s a bit on the expensive side but should cover all your needs. Embed the calendar on your site with a shortcode, or explore the expansive add-on library.

It works with WPBakery Page Builder (formerly known as Visual Composer) so you can drag-and-drop elements to construct your own plugin customized to your needs.

Paid add-ons expand the functionality. CSS Editor is also a free add-on, which you can use to adjust your calendar’s branding, font, color, style, or template.

Users can also attach social sharing buttons and include maps with events. Once the appointment has been created, Calendarize it! creates client profiles and allows client’s to leave reviews.

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13. MeetingBird

Price: $49

MeetingBird isn’t specifically a WordPress appointment plugin, but the features included make it worth noting here. For one, it has strong integration capabilities, and can hook into your CRM or marketing stack. Additionally, it lets you integrate with support tools and help desk software like Zendesk.

With customized colors and complex translation capabilities, you can easily show your availability to your customers and incorporate buffers between events.

Upon the generation of the event, a customer creates an account and chooses their desired meeting time, which is then synchronized with your Google Calendar (and other integrations you’ve set up) if you choose to do so.

Both you and the client will receive reminders and notifications of event changes automatically.

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14. CozyCal

Price: The starter plan is free, the Pro plan is $10 per user, per month and billed annually. If billed monthly, the price jumps to $20 per month.

CozyCal is a very flexible working calendar for those with a crammed schedule. The calendar has four critical elements it allows you to set:

  • Event time
  • Event length
  • Free times
  • Buffers

It’s important to note, you can only integrated this plugin with Stripe or GCal. You can include a specialty URL designed for easy client booking that you can share with the relevant parties.

It’s designed to adjust to customers’ timezones and currencies to make international appointment booking and transactions smooth. Notifications are simple to set up so both you and your customers won’t forget your meeting.

Customized forms collect client information and funnel it into a client database for you to use, and floating booking buttons can be set up to appear on the purchase page when customers checkout.

Group and class bookings are available, or if you prefer, individual and round robin-style appointments. Assigning employees to clients is simple from the administrative dashboard or from the team booking calendar.

Umberto Pellegrini from The Influencer Marketing Factory said it best:

“We are huge fans of CozyCal. This WordPress appointment scheduler is perfect for SMEs and created to convert visitors into leads right on the hosting website. Great UX and design, easy to manage, fast and reliable. We really love it. To quote the CEO Alessandro Bogliari, ‘this tool, mixed with the other ingredients, gives us the opportunity to make magic happen.”

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There’s a huge market for appointment booking plugins out there in the tech sphere. It’s critical you evaluate which one you need based off of your clients, and your own team’s workflow.

If you want a super easy way to get your appointment scheduling streamlined and off the ground, check out HubSpot Meetings.

How to Write a Creative Brief in 7 Simple Steps [Examples + Template]

The first step in any successful project is drawing up a game plan with a clear objective. That’s why marketers love creative briefs. But if you’re just starting out in a creative role, or are taking on your first gig as a designer or consultant, you might not know how to write one effectively.

 

The idea of a creative brief sounds simple, but it can be hard to wrap a bunch of important details into just a few pages.

Whether you’re a consultant pitching a creative brief to a client, or a project manager presenting a brief to your team, it can be helpful to start by speaking with project stakeholders. These discussions will help you drill down on the company mission, project goals, and challenges your team faces. Then you’ll be able to write a compelling brief that focuses on what’s really important to your company or client.

Once you’re fully informed and ready to write, use these seven helpful steps to draft a solid brief in a short amount of time. If you’re still having trouble organizing your thoughts, I’ve included a fill-in-the-blank template to help you in the sixth step.

1. Write about the brand and the project’s background.

This area is meant to set the tone of your entire brief. It allows you to show your team or your client that you understand their mission and project motivations. It also provides a list of company goals that you can keep in mind while aiming to develop an on-brand project.

Set the scene with one or two sentences that sum up the brand’s mission. Follow this with a few sentences that give background on the brand and what led to the development of the project.

While some creatives have put this information all together in a quick paragraph, others separate it with headers like “Brand Statement” and “Background.”

Here’s an example of how the brand statement and background was discussed in a fictional creative brief for Hush Puppies:

2. Highlight challenges and objectives.

Next, write a short paragraph about the brand challenge(s) that your project aims to solve for. Then give more detail on how the project will offer a solution.

This section will be helpful in emphasizing why the project needs to happen. The goal aspects will help you and your team align on the project’s expectations.

If the company or client hasn’t identified any major challenges, you can focus this section on goals and objectives. Explain what a successful project looks like and how it will benefit the company.

If there are a lot of objectives and challenges, you can split these up into two subsections with headers like “Challenge” and “Objective.

Here’s an example of a sample creative brief for PayPal that offers separate sections for “The Problem” and “The Goal”:

PayPal Sample brief showing The Problem and The Goal

And here’s an example of a sample brief for RedBull which just focuses on the objective:

3. Describe the target audience.

To know what type of content will engage your audience, you and your team need to know your audience. This section requires you to drill down on a specific type of audience and describe what’s important to them.

Along with basic demographics like age, gender, and geography, you should also include factors like customer pain points and motivations in this section of the brief. If you or your client has developed a detailed buyer persona already, this would be a great place to include some of this character’s information.

Here’s how the sample brief for PayPal noted above thoughtfully explains a new product’s target audience:

PayPal sample brief target audience

4. Walk through the competitive landscape.

Knowing what your competitors are doing is advantageous for the whole team. You can use competitive data to come up with ideas that they haven’t tried yet, learn from their failed projects, or build a project that improves on a strategy they’ve used in the past.

Include a quick list of competitors with similar product or service offerings. Briefly list a few things your company has in common with them, how your brand has differentiated itself already, and a few areas where this project can help you get ahead.

5. Offer a brief distribution plan.

When the project is done, you’ll need to make sure your audience actually sees it. List a few channels or platforms that you plan to announce the launch on, as well as any promotional content you plan to create.

When drafting this section, think about your target audience. Don’t waste time on a promotional strategy that they won’t see. For example, if you’re promoting a project to Gen-Z, you’ll want to invest in social media rather than billboards or newspaper ads.

Along with listing distribution points, you should also include messages or captions that will go along with promotion.

Here’s a sample brief where a specific promotional message is directly stated:

Gray's Cookies brand message

In this section of the brief, you should also note the appropriate voice for your audience. While some audiences, like those in the business world, might prefer more formal language, others might engage more with a casual, relatable tone.To acknowledge the best brand voice, you could write something like, “Our brand voice is a casual and care-free tone because it speaks to younger Gen-Z audiences.”

6. Organize with a template.

Having trouble with the flow and organization of your brief? Here’s a simple template that could help. Copy and paste it into a document and fill in the blanks. You can also add to it or adjust it as needed for your project.

[Inset Company or Client Logo at top]

COMPANY BACKGROUND:

For ___ years, ______ [Brand Name] has been serving customers in the ____________ [group/job field/geographical area] with ____________________ [product or service].

[Brand Name] has made achievements including __________,__________, and ___________. We have also launched marketing campaigns that have touched on ____________,________, and ____________. With the launch of _________ [project name] they hope to ___________.

CHALLENGE/OBJECTIVE:

With this project, the company aims to solve problems related to ____________________, while also expanding on ___________ and improving on _____________.

TARGET AUDIENCE:

Our target audience is ____ [gender], in the age range of _ and _, and live areas like ____, _____, and ______. They enjoy _____, dislike ______, and might work in fields like _____, _____, and _____. They want more of ________ and their daily pain points include ________.

Their favorite products might include _______ and ______. They learn about these products through channels including ________, _________, and _______.

COMPETITION:

Our three biggest competitors [are/will be] ________, ________, and _______. These competitors offer _____, ______, and ______. We are ahead of them in _____ and ______, but we are behind when it comes to product offerings like __________ and _________.

DISTRIBUTION:

We will promote the launch on platforms and channels that our demographic regularly engages with. These will include ________, ________, and _______.

We will also release content including _______, _______, and ________ to gain attention from our audience and inform them of the project.

Below are a few messages we will use:

  • _________________________________________________.
  • _________________________________________________.
  • _________________________________________________.

7. Share the brief.

Once you’ve drafted a creative brief, share it with the team you’ll be working with. You’ll also want to circulate it around the company via Slack, email, or presentations. If you’re a consultant working outside of a client’s company, encourage your clients to share the brief internally.

As you or your clients spread awareness, you should be open to answering questions or taking feedback from colleagues in case they have any great ideas. This strategy will improve team alignment, increase support of the project, and insure that all of your colleagues are on the same page.

26 Ideas for Your 2019 Small Business Marketing Strategy

Whether you’re in the process of launching a new business or already have one, having a strong online presence for your brand is extremely important.

In fact, 97% of people learn about local businesses online more than anywhere else.

Small business owners looking for a way to track ROI and brand awareness need digital marketing. Not only is digital marketing a must-have for promoting your products or services, but optimizing your online assets is also critical to your business’ overall success.

For local businesses, it’s equally as important to have essential and updated information readily available for potential clients.

If you’re a small business owner with little experience in online marketing, this might all sound like a foreign language to you. Have no fear — we’ll go through what all these words mean, and why you should care about them!

In this post, we’ll help you build and optimize your marketing strategy using inbound marketing, setting you up to attract new clients and ultimately grow your business. Organic traffic (someone finding you on their own through internet search) is the most cost-efficient way to acquire new business.

We are going to answer the following questions and provide marketing tips about promoting your small business:

  • How can I make a website? How can I make a website without a developer?
  • Why isn’t my website appearing in Google?
  • Why is my competitor above me in Google?
  • What is blogging?
  • Why does blogging matter?
  • Why do I need social media accounts?
  • How do I get more traffic to my website?

The Core Elements of Small Business Marketing

If you haven’t officially started your business, check out this comprehensive guide for how to start a business. It outlines everything you need to become an officially established small business, including tax and licensing information, and all the other resources you’ll need to get up and running.

If you’ve already officially launched your small business, check out these free apps for startups and understand the most important things you’ll need to begin leveraging inbound marketing and acquiring new customers from organic search:

Website

Having a professional-looking website is one of the most important assets you will create for your small business. This is where you will show who you are, what you offer, where you are, and how a potential customer can get in touch with you.

Blog

To start a blog, you can use an inexpensive or free website tool to make a free site and use one of their templates. Even if you only publish once a week, it will improve your website’s visibility online and help educate your potential customers on why they should trust your company. If you’re planning to write your posts yourself, check out this beginner’s guide to writing.

Once you start writing, you can add a call-to-action on your posts for visitors to subscribe to your blog and receive emails This is a great way to start collecting leads and offering potential customers a way to get information if they aren’t ready to buy anything from you yet.

Email Tools

Email marketing is a critical part of your marketing toolkit. In fact, 73 percent of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email.

This strategy is an easy, free, and scalable way to communicate with both new and existing customers.

Once you have an email marketing tool in place (many are inexpensive or even free), experiment with emailing out newsletters (with your sleek new blog posts), and other promotions to your database. We know small business owners don’t have tons of free time to devote to digital marketing, so consider using marketing automation to make this process even easier for yourself.

To get started planning your email marketing strategy, check out this guide and template from HubSpot.

Conversion Tools

We’ve been talking a lot about the assets you need to grow your business, but haven’t really covered how these will help drive revenue yet. One simple way to start generating leads or customers from your website is to implement a conversion tool.

A simple, free option is HubSpot Marketing Free. By using this tool to add a pop-up widget to your website, you can start collecting email addresses of potential customers. From there, you can send out promotions and offers and convert them into paying customers. You can also implement any of these 24 conversion tools to help you optimize your website and use it to drive leads.

Social Media Accounts

Social media might seem like it’s just a fun platform for people to socialize and connect, but it’s actually a powerful business tool. Social media can help you increase traffic, improve your search engine rankings, and engage with potential customers.

Determine your brand’s identity.

Having a consistent brand identity to promote your business will make you look more professional and help you attract new customers. According to a study from Facebook, 77% of people are loyal to brands.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has described a company’s branding as “what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In other words, your brand is the feelings and emotions people have when hearing your company name. It’s is a combination of your brand name, logo, aesthetic, and the design of all your assets.

Identify your buyer persona.

When you imagine a customer searching for your product or service, what are they like? What are their pain points? What is their job? Creating a buyer persona that tells a story of your ideal customer can help you make a website that’s optimized for them.

By learning more about your target customer through creating a buyer persona, you can better figure out what types of things they may be searching for so you can include those terms on your website.

Design a logo and other assets.

To start getting the creative juices flowing, consider your color scheme and peruse palettes with Adobe Color or Coolors. You can create your own or look through pre-made or customized color palettes.

To create a logo, I’d recommend checking out Upwork and Freelancer, or reaching out to a marketing agency. There are free and less expensive options for designing your own logo online, although using a freelancer or agency can give you a higher quality product and connect you with a designer who can change and update your brand assets as your company grows.

Build your website with a CMS template.

If you’re a fairly tech-savvy small business owner, you’ll probably want to build your own website. If you choose to do this, you can use a CMS (content management system) to do so.

Most CMSs offer pre-made templates for your site that you can get for free or purchase, then customize to your brand (we’ll get to branding later). There are a handful of inexpensive and even free options for various skill levels — from beginner all the way to advanced.

Once you’ve created your website, most CMS platforms offer plugins to help you optimize your content for search (look for SEO plugins). This will help you rank better in Google — which we’ll discuss more in depth in a bit.

Track your site with analytics tools.

If you’ve never made a website before and aren’t entirely comfortable with the technical elements, there are a variety of free tools and services to help you get started. When you create your website, make sure you implement Google Analytics or HubSpot Marketing Free (both of which are free products) so you can easily track who’s looking at your site.

Consult agencies or freelancers for web design help.

If you aren’t on the technical side and want a website built for your small business, you can use a freelancer or a marketing agency that specializes in web design. This is a great option for businesses that already have a website but need it to be updated and revamped for SEO (search engine optimization) to help improve your Google ranking.

To find a freelancer or marketing consultant in your area, you can use Upwork (filtering by design/creative) or Freelancer. To find a marketing agency, try looking through HubSpot’s Agency Partner directory. All HubSpot Partners are SEO experts and will help you rank in search engines and be found online.

Boost your Google ranking with SEO.

If you already have a business, have you ever searched for yourself or your product/service online? If so, did you think, “Why isn’t my website showing up on Google?” If so, you probably thought, “How do I rank on Google?” or “How can I improve my Google ranking?”

There are a lot of factors that play into why a certain site or page appears in the top spots on the Google (or other search engine) search engine results page (SERP). Backlinko reports some of Google’s top factors, which include having relevant keywords (and their placement on your site), the length of your content, having high-quality content, how fast your page loads, how often you post content, and more.

When it all boils down, Google essentially tries to find the best piece of content to present to the person searching. For example, if I’m searching for the best salon in Newport, Rhode Island, it wouldn’t be helpful for me to find a web page of a salon that has closed down and is located in Newport, Kentucky. It would, however, be helpful for me to find a salon in my area with great Yelp reviews, an easy-to-navigate website, and contact information readily available. Google always wants to surface the most relevant, highest-quality piece of content.

To rank higher on Google, you can leverage the power of SEO, or search engine optimization. To start learning everything there is to know about this powerhouse marketing tactic, check out The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2017.

HubSpot explains SEO as “techniques that help your website rank higher in organic search results, making your website more visible to people who are looking for your brand, product, or service via search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.” In other words, it’s the basic concept of structuring your website and blog posts to be in the best shape for appearing first on search engines.

SEO strategy usually consists of a few things. These include buyer persona research, keyword research, and on-page SEO research. These three areas can help you learn how your target market is searching online, and position your business to get discovered by the right people.

Research keywords opportunities.

Keyword research is an extension of buyer persona research. You can use the personas you’ve created to search for the best keywords for your brand, then use a tool like KW Finder to find related keywords for your target audience.

Then, you can do some on-page SEO research and optimization. This is where you put those keywords in the correct places on your website — like in the meta-description, page titles, and H1 tags.

Optimize you website for mobile devices.

Most Google searches are done on mobile devices, so it’s important to have a site that looks clean and easy to navigate when someone enters it on their smartphone. A mobile site can also be beneficial for SEO, with search engines like Google announcing that they will reward you with a higher ranking if you have a mobile site.

You don’t have to be a tech expert to build a site that looks good on mobile. In fact, most CMS platforms like HubSpot already offer mobile-optimized templates.

Write optimized blog posts.

Content and blogging are extremely important when it comes to your search engine ranking. The more often your desired keywords appear in your high-quality and helpful content, the more likely you are to appear in search results. A great way to become an authority on your topic, product, or service is to blog. For HubSpot, most of our traffic comes from our blog and content marketing campaigns.

Make sure you’re writing with SEO in mind — use this SEO checklist for bloggers, or a WordPress plugin like Yoast.

Experiment with photo and video content.

According to HubSpot Research, more than 50% of consumers want to see videos from brands. Additionally, most social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram are embracing more visual layouts. To keep up with these trends, it’s a good idea to make a few marketing videos. If you use these tips, producing a few can be quite inexpensive.

Hire a freelancer to help you scale your content.

If you need some help creating regular blogs or promotional content, consider hiring a freelancer over investing in a full-timer. Try Upwork for a freelance blogger, videographer, or photographer. You could also consider hiring a marketing agency for a larger project.

Launch business pages on Facebook and Yelp.

If your business is focused on a local area, the most important accounts for you are Facebook, Yelp, and Google’s business feature. Having high Yelp reviews improves your authority online and helps your search ranking. You can claim your business on Yelp for free, customize your profile and add pictures, and start asking for reviews.

The same thing goes for registering your Google business page. You can register your business with Google (for free) and add pictures. (If you’ve ever searched for your business in Google Maps and been disappointed not to see it, it’s because you haven’t claimed it yet!)

On Facebook, you can create a Facebook business page so that people can find your location and hours.

For any business, having up-to-date social media accounts will help you be found and engage with prospects. Create a Twitter account for your business, Facebook page for business, learn how to use Instagram for business, create a Pinterest page for your business (if relevant), and use them as a way to discover new clients. You can also try your hand at using Snapchat for business if you’ve already mastered the basics.

Build out your social media strategy.

While Facebook and Yelp will be great tools for local searches and reviews, platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter will offer you even more opportunities to share your posts, content, and promotions.

If your customers can purchase your products or services online, these platforms will also give them another way to find you.

Be sure not to spread yourself too thin by joining too many platforms at once. To make strategizing easier, here’s a guide to the five types of social media platforms and the pros and cons of each.

Use social media for customer service.

Once you’re on your chosen platforms, be sure to answer customer or follower questions when they ask them through post comments or direct messages. This will make your company look responsive and credible. Here are some great examples of how brands have used Twitter for customer service.

If you have the means, consider hiring a social media manager with community management experience. On top of posting content on a regular schedule, community managers are charged with responding to questions or concerns of followers. Interested? We just published a guide on what it takes to be a great social media community manager.

Build interesting landing pages.

A landing page offers your potential customers a free resource in exchange for filling out a short form of contact information. When they receive the resource, they might be even more pleased by your company and more interested in buying the full product.

Because landing pages raise your chances of customer conversion, you want yours to look enticing. To get started, read this landing page guide to learn more about what makes this strategy successful. Then check out these free and professionally designed templates.

Plan an email marketing strategy.

Once you start creating regular content and building out landing pages, you’ll want to share them with the prospects who seem most interested in learning more about your product. For this reason, we suggest building an email marketing strategy.

While you want to be careful not to bombard those who sign up for your email list with too many emails, you want to send just enough to keep your prospects informed and engaged. Here’s how our metrics improved when we streamlined our email marketing strategy.

If you’ve never sent regular newsletters before, you can use HubSpot or a number of other affordable tools to create and send an email with a professionally designed template. Many email tools also offer basic analytics that allow you to track open and click rates.

Offer coupons in newsletters or on landing pages.

Placing a coupon in your marketing emails can engage and delight your audience. After buying a product or service at a discounted rate, they also might be more willing to pay for it in full price. If you have a subscription service, it can also be helpful to offer prospects a code for a free trial so they can test it out.

Share your distribution channels on your website.

Once you have a few social media accounts and can allow people to sign up for your newsletter, highlight this on your website so your visitors can follow you. One way companies do this is to display all of their linked social icons and a newsletter sign-up call to action on all pages of your website. A good place to include these are on the top right corner or on the footer of each page. This way they are visible, but aren’t distracting from any content.

Offer a free webinar.

A webinar allows potential customers to sign up for a short online course hosted by you. These courses are usually between 30 minutes to an hour and allow you to give tips and answer questions related to a topic your brand is familiar with. While this strategy can help you boost your credibility in your field, they can also offer you potential leads and sales opportunities.

Consider PPC Advertising.

If you’re working hard on SEO, but are still looking for an extra boost, consider PPC — or pay-per click — advertising. With this search engine marketing technique, you use Google AdWords or Bing Ads to show up higher. and as an advertised listing, in search results. Before you dive in to PPC, you’ll want to make sure your landing page is as optimized as possible. If you are paying by the click and those who click on the page don’t convert, you will lost advertising dollars.

To help you get started, read this ultimate guide. Then, use this PPC planning template to plan an optimized campaign. You can also use a few handy tools and software to edit, track, and report on your campaigns.

Advertise on social media.

Most of the major social media platforms offer affordable advertising options that can help you target your posts to a specific audience. While many small businesses have been advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for years, Instagram now allows brands to advertise through its Shoppable tool.

Experiment with influencer marketing.

Is there someone in your area with a high social-media following who’s considered an expert in a field your company exists in? If you’re able to reach out to them, see if they’d be willing to share an experience they’ve had with your product or service social media. This will alert their follower base of your product. These followers may also trust your product more because an expert is endorsing it.

If you can’t find an influencer to volunteer, you can also consider paying one or two on a freelance basis. To learn more about this strategy, check out our Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing.

Try co-marketing.

Is there a local business in your area that isn’t a direct competitor but offers a product or service to a similar target audience? Consider working with them on a cobranded campaign where you promote each other on social media, via email, or in your blog. While you’ll give your partnering company added promotion, it will also allow their fanbase to learn more about you.

Draw up a go-to-market strategy.

Once you’ve activated all the tools you need to promote your product or service, you’ll need to create a promotional plan that aligns with the customer journey. Consider which content will attract, engage, and delight your prospects and how you will convert them into a customer.

To help you plan out this process, use this template.

Encourage happy customers to share their experiences.

When a happy customer talks about how great your company is on social media or a review site, your product or service looks like a good investment. Even on social media, word of mouth is still a huge factor in someone’s purchasing decision. If a prospect sees a friend raving about you on Facebook, or photo post of a meal from your restaurant on Instagram, they might be more likely to go.

If customers are telling you they love your product, encourage them to share about the experience on Yelp, Google, or social. If you have a physical business, you might also want to place signs up with your account handles so customers know who to tag if they post a picture of your product.

Try out marketing experiments.

If there’s a new social platform you’re interested in, or a new marketing trend, don’t be afraid to experiment. If an experiment goes well, you could be considered ahead of the game.

When you experiment a new marketing strategy, be sure to have a solid hypothesis or question in mind. Also prepare for what your next steps will be if you get good or bad results. Here’s a quick guide to leading a successful marketing experiment.

Small Businesses Need a Strong Digital Presence to be Found

Well, there you have it. You probably have a long road ahead to build your online presence, but any steps you can make will have a huge impact on your business. Some things like blogging definitely take a few months to start kicking in and sending you traffic, but social media accounts and posts can have immediate effects.

The 13 Best Smart Home Devices & Systems of 2019

In 2019, smart home systems and devices are more impressive and all-encompassing than ever.

Using a smart system is no longer just about asking Alexa to tell you the weather or play that new Drake song — now, you can use smart devices to grill chicken at your next family barbecue, turn the lights off in the living room while you’re watching a movie, or vacuum your floors.

Your home devices provide a sense of convenience, particularly when they’re ordering pizza or calling your sister, but in 2018, they can also tackle more serious tasks, like acting as your home security system when you’re out of town. In other words, they aren’t just for fun anymore — they also fulfill some substantial needs.Before we get into our list, let’s define what we mean by smart devices versus smart systems. A smart system is the overarching command center that controls your individual products — think, Alexa or Google Assistant. Essentially, a smart system is what you speak to when you want something to happen. A device, on the other hand, is an individual product that reports back to that system — think, Amazon Echo or Philips Hue lightbulbs.

Now, let’s delve into our list of the 13 best smart home devices and systems of 2019, so you can decide for yourself which systems and products will best enhance your life.

Best Smart Home Systems

When looking to purchase a smart-home system, you want to look into  reviews and its integrations.

While the reviews will show you how good or bad the technology is, the integration information will show you how many products you can actually connect your system to. 

As you’re researching integrations, you should also consider any smart devices you already have that might be compatible or incompatible with the system. Today, most good smart home systems are powered by state-of-the art technology and offer a long list of third-party integration possibilities. For example, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant connect to smart thermostats like Nest of Ecobee4 — not just thermostats made by their own companies.

If your devices all connect well together, work well, and are easy to use, your smart home experiences will run much more smoothly.

Here are four major smart home systems that we recommend.

1. Amazon Alexa

With more than 20,000 third-party integrations, Alexa is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive smart home ecosystems available today. While you have likely heard of using Alexa in Eco-speaker form (“Alexa, what’s the weather today?”), you might not know that Alexa is now built into plenty of other smart products, including thermostats (i.e. Ecobee4) and TVs (i.e. Fire TV).

Alexa makes every aspect of your smart home easy to access and control. You can use Alexa to speak to apps like Spotify just as easily as you can ask her to turn off the lights. Since Amazon’s ecosystem is one of the most prevalent in the industry, most smart products integrate seamlessly with Alexa, including products made by Philips, Samsung, Nest, and Schlage — meaning, Alexa can now close your garage, lock your doors, and adjust your home’s temperature. To know if Alexa will work with a certain device, just look for the ‘Works with Amazon Alexa’ tag.

Ultimately, Alexa’s ability to integrate and speak to most other smart devices and apps (Alexa has the most third-party integrations of any smart system) makes her one of the best choices for your smart home.

2. Google Assistant

If there’s any true runner-up to Alexa, it’s Google Assistant. Even though Google Assistant has less third-party integrations, it can often answer questions and complete commands Alexa can’t, thanks to Google’s major ownership of the search engine space. Research from Dentsu digital agency 360i found Google Assistant was five times more likely to give a correct answer than Alexa. Ultimately, Assistant wins when it comes to understanding how people naturally speak.

For instance, if you tell Assistance “I don’t like this song” on Spotify, it will skip to the next one, while Alexa will simply tell you, “Thumbs up and down are not supported on Spotify.” Small differences like this could sway you towards Assistance, since it’s often more helpful (and less literal) than Alexa.

Assistant can also integrate with products from most major brands, including Philips, Belkin, August, Nest, and popular apps such as Spotify and Uber.

3. Wink Hub 2

Wink Hub 2 is touted as the “first smart home hub designed for the mainstream consumer.” Unlike Alexa or Assistant, Wink doesn’t have any brand loyalty, allowing you to pick and choose different smart product brands and merge them seamlessly with one another.

Wink Hub 2 supports smart home protocols including Bluetooth LE, Kidde, Lutron ClearConnect, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and more. If you’re looking to create a fully integrated smart home with kitchen and wall appliances in-sync, this might be your best option. You can also download the Wink Hub app and control commands, like light switches or garage door, from your phone on-the-go.

4. Samsung SmartThings Hub

This Samsung system unites a wide variety of smart devices from different brands including smart thermostats, Wi-Fi router, lightbulbs, and security devices. Users with the smart system get a SmartThings Hub wall mount and can get full access to the smart devices connected to the hub through the SmartThings IOS or Android app.

Samsung’s SmartThings Hub has been growing its own smart-device offerings for the past few years. In fact, the Hub’s product lineup recently grew with the addition of the SmartThing Wi-Fi plug, SmartThings Lightbulb, and a SmartThings Cam.

Through the SmartThings Hub, you can also set compatible smart devices to do various actions like turning on or off when you walk in or out of a room. While you can give voice commands to the SmartThings wall hub or app, you can also integrate and Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to the system. 

 

1. Best Speaker: Amazon Echo (2nd Generation)

Price: $99.99

If you’re looking for a relatively affordable device to cater to your everyday needs, you probably don’t need to look further than Amazon Echo. The speaker connects to Alexa to play your favorite music, make phone calls or send messages, answer questions, and set alarms for you, i.e. “It’s 6 p.m., time to head to your tennis lesson”. It also connects to other smart products in your home, so you can use it as your liaison between you and your sprinklers.

The speaker fills your room with 360° audio, and uses noise cancellation technology to ensure you can be heard from any direction. With the Echo, you can turn the TV on, order a pizza, and create a shopping to-do list — without ever leaving your couch.

Image courtesy of
Amazon.

2. Best Lights: Philips Hue

Price: $49.99/one bulb

The Philips Hue bulbs enable you to control both intensity of light — dimming or brightening on-command — and the color of your lights. You can create special color-coordinated moods (i.e. choose the “energize” theme on your app for a specific room you’re in, or sync it with your music). You can also set color-coordinated alarms, ensuring you wake up every morning to a bright pink bedroom.

These bulbs work with most smart home systems, making them arguably the most flexible option. If you don’t want color, you can also purchase Philips Hue White.

Philips Hue lightbulbs
Image courtesy of
MeetHue.com.

3. Best Light Switch: TP-Link HS200

Price: $37.88

Philips Hue bulbs and similar smart lights are fantastic and effortless — until someone flips a light switch, in which case, your bulbs won’t work until you flip it back.

For true ease-of-use, consider buying smart light switches, which you can control from your phone or smart home whether or not your physical light switch is up or down. Using the app Kasa, you can create scenes and smart actions — for instance, you might tell the app you’re “watching TV downstairs,” and the switches will automatically turn off all upstairs lights.

TP-Link HS200 works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but you might need to consider other options if you primarily use Apple HomeKit, Wink, or another smart system.

TP-Link HS200 light switch
Image courtesy of
Amazon.

4. Best Thermostat: Ecobee4

Price: $249

The Ecobee4 allows you to control air temperature with voice commands, but unlike other smart thermostats, it also works as its own Amazon speaker (rather than simply working with an Amazon speaker), so it can do everything your Alexa or Assistant can do, including play music, shop, and control other devices. Of course, if you already own a smart speaker, you might want to consider a cheaper thermostat option.

Ecobee4 integrates seamlessly with apps and other home ecosystems like Alexa or Apple HomeKit. Plus, it’s able to control the room you’re in, rather than the room it’s installed.

Ecobee4 thermostat
Image courtesy of
EcoBee.com.

5. Best Security: NetGear Arlo Q

Price: $119.94

While some of these smart devices are more for convenience and entertainment, the NetGear Arlo Q is a truly useful tool for home security. The NetGear Arlo Q records high-quality video and audio, and even produces exceptional quality images of people in pitch-blackness.

You can customize whether your camera automatically records when you’re not home, or set it to a time-based schedule for when you’re at work. While it’s on the pricier side, it offers seven days of video and audio backup for free, making it a worthwhile investment compared to some of the other smart security systems.

NetGear Arlo Q home security system
Image courtesy of
Amazon.

6. Best Grill: Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker with SmartChef Technology

Price: $166.99

Anyone who grills regularly knows the inconvenience of it — walking in and out of the house to check the meat, hoping the temperature is hot enough but won’t burn your steak, and adding coals or lighter fluid when necessary. This tool handles all that, alerting you on your smart device when your grill is preheated, what the internal meat temperature is, and when your meat or fish is fully cooked. The 725 square-inch cooking space and four internal chrome racks allow you to grill for both large and small occasions.

Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker with SmartChef Technology
Image courtesy of
Amazon.

7. Best Cooking Device: Perfect Bake Pro

Price: $86.49

If you struggle to figure out what you can make with the half a cup of flour, three eggs, and handful of blueberries you have in your fridge, you might be in luck — this smart device allows you to input what food you have, and then generates recipes you can use with those items.

You can autoscale the recipe for the amount of people or even amount of ingredients you have (i.e. “only have ¼ cup of chocolate chips”), or generate a shopping list from recipes you want to make. Best of all, you can use the bowl to measure your ingredients as you pour them in — the smart bowl tells you when you can stop pouring.

Perfect Bake Pro
Image courtes
y of Amazon.

8. Best Vacuum: Ecovacs Deebot N79S

Price: $229.98

I’m personally willing to pay triple this price for any device that can vacuum my floor for me, but at $229, the Ecovacs Deebot N79S is a pretty impressive deal. It integrates with smart home systems and other apps, offers a manual steering option, and cleans surfaces surprisingly well. It also has a long battery life.


Image courtesy of Amazon.

9. Best Television: LG Smart TV

Price: Varies based on screen size and features.

 
LG was the company to offer Alexa and Google Assistant connectivity in its smart TVs.
 
With a smart TV, you can connect your streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, your cable box, and other video devices all in one place. Many smart TVs, like LG’s products, also offer voice control capabilities that allow you to ask the TV to search for a movie or show. 
 
If you’re just starting to develop your smart home and only want a basic smart TV with integrations to major streaming services, you can purchase an LG TV with 4K, Google Assistant, and Alexa capabilities for between $499 and $900.
 
One of the most affordable models we found was the
LG Class 4K Smart UHD TV with AI ThinQ®. This model runs between $499.99 and $699.99 depending on screen size. For those who don’t have Alexa or Google Assistant, the TV comes with LG’s voice control software called AI ThinQ.
LG UHD Smart TV with AIThinQ

Image courtesy of LG.
 

16 Stats That Prove the Importance of Local SEO

When you’re looking for a local business that’ll fix your favorite pair of shoes, sell you the book your friend recommended, or bake a spaceship-themed cake for your kid’s birthday — how do you find it?

You pull up your favorite search engine for a little online research, of course.

Your customers are no different. When they’re looking for a product or service similar to what your local business sells, they’re going online to find it.

Did you know that 88% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone visit or call a store within a day? In fact, nearly 46% of all Google searches are seeking local information

A strong local SEO strategy is key to driving more people to your store, whether you have one storefront or five hundred. Take a look at these 16 local SEO facts and see why utilizing SEO could help your organization. (And to learn which parts of your site to optimize for local searches, check out this post.) 

16 Local SEO Stats  

      1. 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information. (Source: GoGulf)
      2. 72% of consumers that did a local search visited a store within five miles. (Source: HubSpot Marketing Statistics
      3. 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else. (Source: SEO Tribunal)
      4. 88% of searches  for local businesses on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours. (Source: Nectafy)
      5. 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site. (Source:  HubSpot Marketing Statistics)
      6. By 2021, mobile devices will influence more than $1.4 trillion in local sales. (Source: Forrester)
      7. 18% of local smartphone searches led to a purchase within a day, whereas only 7% of non-local searches led to a sale. (Source: Think with Google)
      8. 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase. (Source: SEO Tribunal)
      9. “Near me” or “close by” type searches grew by more than 900% over two years. (Source: Chat Meter)
      10. 72% of computer or tablet users and 67% of smartphone users want ads that are customized to their city or zip code. (Source: Think with Google)
      11. By using location-based coupons on mobile can lead to a 9916% increase in incremental mobile revenue. (Source: WordStream)
      12. Local searches result in purchases 28% of the time. (Source: Joel House Search Media)Local-SEO-Stat-3
      13. Search result information will send 70% of consumers to a physical store. (Source: Joel House Search Media)
      14.  92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results. (Source: SEO Expert)
      15.  Global retail ecommerce sales will reach $4.5 trillion by 2021. (Source: HubSpot Marketing StatisticsLocal-SEO-Stat-4

16. 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information. (Source:
Think with Google

The Simplest Answer to, "What Is Product Marketing?"

Pop quiz: If you had to define product marketing right now, what would you say?

A lot of folks have difficulty answering this question — but don’t worry, it’s not your fault. Although product marketing is a prominent department across both B2B and B2C companies, it’s pretty hard to find a good definition of it anywhere … even on Google.

What makes it especially difficult is that it’s one of the few job functions that touches product, marketing, and sales. It all comes down to knowing the target customer and testing to find ways to learn more about them and how best to interact with them.

The thing is, product marketing doesn’t stop once the product has gone to market (if it did, well, product marketers at a one-product company wouldn’t have much to do after the product’s launch). The process of marketing a product lasts well after its launch to ensure the right people are aware of the product, those people know how to use it, and that the needs and feedback of those people are being listened to over the product’s lifecycle.

Inspired by HubSpot’s former product marketing director, Rick Burnes, let’s talk about where to start in product marketing, the steps you need to take to launch a product, and what other aspects of your business can support this product as it grows.

For Rick’s entire SlideShare, explore the presentation below.

Now, let’s get into it. What does product marketing process look like before, during, and after a product is launched?

Product Marketing Starts With Your Customer

As Rick Burnes shows us in the slides above, HubSpot’s early years faced a challenge that lots of small businesses face: product ambiguity. Except for the slight majority of people who perceived HubSpot as “marketing services” — which is indeed part of our product stack — our perception consisted of numerous other terms that our audience used to describe us.

This is a chief reason businesses implement a formal product marketing operation, and it starts with your buyer persona.

A great product means nothing if it doesn’t get the attention of the people who would benefit from it. So, who’s your audience for this product? How (and where) are you reaching them, and what’s the story you’re telling to present this product to them? When preparing to launch a product, working with the rest of your marketing team to identify your customer and this messaging is critical.

Seven Critical Steps of Product Marketing

When product marketers know exactly whom their product caters to, the marketing can begin. Here are seven things product marketers may do before, during, and after their product enters the market:

  1. Product Research: A helpful and well-made product isn’t made in a vacuum, and it also isn’t marketed in one. In the weeks and months prior to a product launch, product marketers work with the product’s developers to test the product both internally and externally through controlled beta environments.
  2. Product Story: Products are also brought to market in the form of a story. What problem does the product solve? Who’s facing this problem? How does it solve this problem? What does it do that competitors don’t?
  3. Product-Focused Content: Product marketing’s next stop is the desks of the content creators. Here, product marketers may create and A/B test various marketing copy, blog content, case studies, and landing pages on their website — all dedicated to literally describing the product.
  4. Product Launch Plan: No product marketing team is complete without a written launch plan, spelling out every last stage of the marketing process and who’s responsible at each point.
  5. Product Launch Meeting: When the product is launched, everyone involved meets the day it’s rolled out. Much like a rocket launch, this is the product marketer’s finest hour — it’s the climax of a product marketing campaign.
  6. Community Engagement: As product marketing generates enough buzz around the product within the industry, it’s common for the marketing team to capitalize on what the market is saying about them. This includes reaching out to partners, influencers, and existing customers for commentary.
  7. Sales Enablement: As a product is being prepared for the marketplace, the sales team is waiting in the wings to develop a sales strategy around this new business opportunity. It’s the product marketing team’s job to meet with sales staff before, during, and after the product is rolled out to the public. This ensures the messaging created for this product is consistent all the way through to the first sales call.

As you develop your product marketing team, and your product marketing strategy, think about how the elements above might take shape, and who you’ll need to work with to make it a success. Want more information on product marketing? Click below.

Product Marketing Kit

 
Product Marketing Kit

The 67 Best Instagram Captions for Every Type of Post

If you’re anything like me, you take about four minutes choosing a filter for your Instagram photo, and about four hours deciding on a caption.

Worst of all, after much creative effort and advice from friends, I’m usually barely able to write a caption that goes beyond, “Had a fun day with friends!”

And I’m a writer — go figure.

Next time you’re contemplating a caption to go with your Instagram photo, take a look at our complete list of captions for any mood you need to evoke or audience you want to connect with.

You can incorporate many of them into an Instagram business strategy (just make sure your audience would indeed find your caption funny, clever, or the right amount of savage.) 

Click one of the following links to jump to a section:

Funny Instagram Captions

  1. [Employee]’s favorite exercise is a cross between a lunge and a crunch … S/he calls it lunch.
  2. I need a six-month holiday, twice a year.
  3. We tried to be normal once. Worst two minutes of our lives!
  4. There are 16-year-olds competing at the Olympics and some of us still push on “pull” doors.
  5. Namast’ay in bed.
  6. That awkward moment when you’re wearing Nike’s and you can’t do it.
  7. I’m just a girl, standing in front of a salad, asking it to be a cupcake.
  8. What if we told you … you can eat without posting it on Instagram?
  9. We know the voices in our heads aren’t real, but sometimes their ideas are just too good to ignore.
  10. We don’t know what’s tighter: Our jeans or our company culture.
  11. Friday … Our second-favorite F word. 
  12. We don’t care what people think of us. Unless they’re our customers. We definitely care what customers think of us.
  13. All you need is love … and investors. All you need is love and investors.
  14. Hi, we’re [company name]. We build amazing apps and eat amazing apps.

Clever Instagram Captions

  1. Patience — what you have when there are too many witnesses.
  2. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s the Clarendon filter.
  3. “Life is short.” False — it’s the longest thing you do.
  4. Happy Sunday! There may be no excuse for laziness, but [I’m/we’re] still looking.
  5. Rejection is just redirection.
  6. Better an “oops” than a “what if.”
  7. You have stolen a pizza our hearts.
  8. The world is changed by your example, not your opinion.
  9. Seven billions smiles, and these are our favorite.
  10. Stop working hard and start working smart.
  11. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When [company name] gives you [type of product], you make money.
  12. Imposter complex is just a byproduct of success.
  13. Life is simple. It’s just not easy.
  14. The best times begin at the end of your comfort zone.
  15. When nothing goes right, go left.

Savage Instagram Captions

  1. What’s a queen without her king? Historically speaking, more powerful.
  2. Be a little more you, and a lot less them.
  3. We’re an acquired taste. If you don’t like us, acquire some taste.
  4. Well-behaved people don’t make it into history books.
  5. Be sunshine mixed with a little hurricane.
  6. We got 99 problems, but an awesome marketing team ain’t one.
  7. Sometimes you just need to do a thing called “what you want.”
  8. You can’t do epic stuff with lame people. And we got the best in the biz.
  9. It’s not called being bossy, it’s called having leadership skills.

Song Lyrics for Instagram Captions

  1. “I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist.” — Sia, “Chandelier”
  2. “I live for the nights that I can’t remember, with the people that I won’t forget.” — Drake, “Show Me a Good Time”
  3. “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” — Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance”
  4. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” — John Lennon, “Imagine”
  5. “If you give, you begin to live.” -Dave Matthews Band
  6. “Outlining my findings, using life as a stencil.” — Kero One, “In All the Wrong Places”
  7. “Feeling good living better.” — Drake, “Over My Dead Body”
  8. “Say oh, got this feeling that you can’t fight, like this city is on fire tonight” — OneRepublic, “Good Life”
  9. “Time makes you bolder” — Fleetwood Mac, “Landslide”
  10. “If I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe” — Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All”
  11. “The rest of the world was in black and white, but we were in screaming color.” — Taylor Swift, “Out of the Woods”
  12. “Lightning strikes every time she moves” — Calvin Harris, “This Is What You Came For”
  13. “We aren’t ever getting older” — Chainsmokers, “Closer”
  14. “Sing with me, sing for the years, sing for the laughter, sing for the tears” — Aerosmith, “Dream On”

Business Instagram Captions

  1. Good evening, [city]! We’re in town for [event] at Booth [#]. Stop by and say hi!
  2. “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.” -Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
  3. Our [#]-person squad completed the [road race name]! And we did it all for the post-run sneaker selfie. 👟
  4. We got product in the pipeline … check back for an exciting announcement on [date]!
  5. Diversity isn’t a recruitment metric — it’s an ingredient for success. At [company], we thrive on the unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of our people.
  6. Spot the CEO. 😉
  7. At [company name], our best asset is our people.
  8. We had a great time with our customers at [meeting/event]! @[client/partner], you guys rock.
  9. Thrilled to have [customer] at our office today! Come back any time. 😊
  10. [Company name] is off for [holiday]! We hope you all have a safe long weekend.
  11. Big things have small beginnings. [Company]’s HQ began right here.
  12. “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” -Herman Melville
  13. How many [company name] employees does it take to spell “TEAM”?
  14. Want to work with these awesome people, working on a lot of awesome things? We’re hiring! Click the link in our bio to see our current openings.
  15. Check, check, one, two … is this thing on? [Company name] is now on Instagram! Follow us to learn about our culture, product, and (awesome) people. 

instagram captions

 
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15 Free Professionally-Designed Landing Page Templates

When it comes to turning web visitors into leads, 68% of B2B CEO’s use strategic landing pages as part of their strategy.

A strong landing page usually offers your website’s visitors a resource, such as a piece of content, in exchange for contact information. Sharing or hyperlinking to the URL of a landing page, rather than a homepage, also increases the likelihood of turning traffic into conversions.

While landing pages can play a vital role in lead generation, they don’t have to be complicated. In fact, you should aim for a page that’s concise and inviting, rather than complex and overwhelming. Rather than just placing a rigorous contact form on a page, it can be more productive to tease an interesting offer or a free resource in exchange for only a small amount of information.

Even when you know what you’re going to offer and what information you’d like to receive from a visitor, the idea of building a landing page can still feel daunting.

If you don’t have the bandwidth to build a page yourself, have little experience in design software, or have limited resources to hire a designer, using a pre-designed template could be the most efficient way to launch a professional looking page in a short amount of time.

We’ve put together a list of 15 free, easy-to-use templates that can guide you through the process of building your next landing page.

15 Free Professionally-Designed Landing Page Templates

1. Royce

Available on Squarespace

Royce is specialized for event reservations. There is no navigation bar, but the layout features a customizable background image, a headline, and a call-to-action button that says “RSVP.”

Royce Event Landing Page

To fill out the form and reserve a spot, visitors can click the RSVP button to see a form appear, or scroll down below the fold to see a static reservation form. This is an interesting template because it amplifies visuals and keeps the layout simple while still offering visitors two ways to convert.

Royce RSVP Submission Form on Royce Landing Page

2. Invest

Available on HubSpot

This design includes a photo, customizable text, no navigation (to keep visitors focused on your offer), and a short form. Users can also customize and add other elements such as the icons seen at the bottom of the image. Below the fold, users can also add more information about the offer or company.

Invest Landing Page Template from Hubspot

3. Hubstrap

Available on HubSpot

The Hubstrap template has a simplistic look and feel but devotes a bit more room to text. This might be a good option if your content offer has less imagery to go with it. For example, you might use this page to describe an offer or a long whitepaper on a topic related to your industry. Users can similarly personalize the design and add drag-and-drop sections to the page.

Unlike the above landing pages, this example does include navigation. However, it’s simple enough that it doesn’t detract from the offer.

Hubstrap Landing Page

4. Landing Form

Available on HubSpot

This template includes a background image with a dark overlay, a headline, text, bright call-to-action buttons, and a form. It eliminates the navigation bar but includes a button at the top of the page. The image also has a dark overlay to keep it visible, but less distracting. As you scroll below the fold, this template also includes spots for more imagery and details that could relate to the product or offer.

Landing Form Landing Page Template from Hubspot

 

5. Gradient

Available on HubSpot

Gradient is sleekly designed for a content-based offer. It has a simple layout with a form, headline, description text, photo, and logo, but continues the theme of no navigation. Like the other HubSpot templates, users can add a photo or product shot, a background image that appears behind a gradient color, and descriptive text. They can also adjust or change the gradient background’s color.

Gradient Landing Page Template from Hubspot

6. University

Available on Wix

This layout may be useful for those seeking leads for an educational event, course, or a similar service. The form is more detailed, but the layout itself also allows room for more text and imagery. Above the fold, you can see a headline, supporting images, and a form. If you keep scrolling, there are additional sections where more text and imagery can be placed.

University Landing Page Template from Wix

7. Skyline

Available on Wix

This template may be helpful to a company or individual that hasn’t yet launched a website or product but still wants to gain early leads in the meantime. Above the fold, there’s a giant headline area, where the template has “Coming Soon” printed.

When you scroll down, you can see a quick description of the company and a box where visitors can add their email. Users can also add a photo or video to the background.

Skyline Landing Page Template from Wix
Under the fold of Skyline Landing Page from Wix

8. Online Store Coming Soon

Available on Wix

This template is very simple. Like the above “Coming Soon” template, the text could be edited to use this layout for a different purpose. There is no navigation and any information about the company is off to the corners. This layout allows space for a clear product shot, as seen with the shoes. Headline text, a small amount of descriptive text, an email box, and a button are pre-designed in the layout. Users can also link their social media accounts to the icons under the “Notify Me” button.

Wix's "Online Store Coming Soon" Template.

9. Lead-Gen Landing Page

Available on Wix

This template seems specialized for B2B products. It allows users to edit and customize the text and images through Wix. Users can also place background videos into the layout. The page is designed to be long, with the form and call-to-action above the fold followed by sections that detail different aspects of a company or firm, such as staff information.

Lead-Gen Landing Page from Wix

10. Fagri

Available on WordPress.org

Fagri was designed broadly for multiple purposes and industries. According to its description, the theme’s widgets, such as the contact form are customizable. Users can also change the text and images. Although there is a navigation bar, the layout’s design still draws attention to the text, call-to-action buttons, and the contact form.

Fagri landing page from WordPress

11. Real Estate Landing Page

Available on Wix

Although this template doesn’t offer a resource for information, it can be edited and customized to include an offer. As you scroll down the page, the background image can remain static. With the current page’s design, there is room to add company information below the fold. There is also a second form at the very bottom so visitors will have another chance to convert.

Real Estate Landing Page

12. Construction and Lawyer Landing Pages

Both Available on WordPress.org

WordPress also offers two similar Lawyer Landing Page and Construction Landing Page templates. Although the original designs are targeted at the two job fields, they can be customized to fit other brands and industries. Both have a header image, overlaid text, and an arrow pointing to a decently sized form above the fold. They also both offer the visitor a free quote.

13. Gardenhouse

Available on MailChimp

Gardenhouse Landing Page from MailChimp

This template does not include a navigation bar, which forces a visitor to focus on the given offer. Towards the bottom of the page, it can be customized to include logos or other company information. Like all MailChimp landing page themes, this layout is optimized for mobile and will automatically adjust to different screen sizes.

14. Bandmates

Available on MailChimp

This template is also pretty simple with room for customization. It similarly removes navigation and keeps the company logo, text description, and a subscribe form above the fold.

Users can also drag in more elements, like text or form boxes, into the design. Just below the form, users can include a product shot or another image. The blue background allows the form and call-to-action button to pop, but these colors can also be customized to fit your brand.

Bandmates Landing Page from Mailchimp

15. O-Book

Available on Unbounce

Unbounce layouts come with its subscription, but here’s one of the landing pages that you can test out with a free 14-day trial. This template is focused on book-specific lead generation. There is a clear spot for a product image, headlines, detailed description text, and a form box.

The top navigation is minimal, but it does include social media buttons. Since this layout is only free for a trial period, this might be a better option for a company that has already gained revenue from landing pages and is looking to test out a more detailed, but affordable design.

O-Book Landing Page from Unbounce

Landing Page Best Practices

The above templates already follow a number of landing page best practices. For example, many of them exclude a navigation bar, which may detract attention or clicks away from the offer on the page. Most of them also leave room for a photo or video. While photos offer a great product tease, videos have also been seen to increase conversions by 86%.

To learn about other landing-page best practices, check out this guide.

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The 15 Best WordPress Booking Plugins in 2019

The more you can automate, the more you can focus on delivering value for your customers. However, it can be difficult to create automated processes without diminishing the customer experience.

Fortunately, certain tools are able to provide both efficiency for you and satisfaction for your customers — and one of those tools is a WordPress booking and scheduling plugin.

In fact, a myriad of WordPress booking plugins exist to help you save time while actually providing a smoother and more convenient experience for your customers.

Take a look at this list of WordPress booking plugins, which can help you free yourself up to focus on the more important aspects of your business by increasing your efficiency, eliminating stress, and providing clarity.

The 6 Characteristics of the Best WordPress Booking Plugins

How do you know which plugin is best for your business? Good WordPress booking plugins do the following:

  1. Provide customers with your work hours and availability.
  2. Allow them to choose a time.
  3. Encourage customer input.
  4. Save the input in a customer database.
  5. Automatically save your event to the calendar.
  6. Send confirmation notification to you and your customer, and tells you both if there are changes to your event.

If the tool does all of the above, you’ve got a keeper. However, each tool varies in their pricing structure, so make sure to find the one that best fits your needs.

1. HubSpot Meetings

Price: Plans range from free to $3,200 per year, based on your needs

Hubspot Meetings is a simple yet powerful booking app that allows you to share your calendar and availability with anyone through a unique link.

It starts out for free, but on the paid tiers, you can also embed the calendar onto your site so clients can pick and choose bookings based on your availability, even if they don’t have access to your unique link.

The app integrates with the HubSpot WordPress plugin, and it also pipes all the data directly into the HubSpot free CRM, making this a winner on the data integration and organization front.

2. Bookly

Price: Free, or Pro for $89/month

Bookly is a WordPress plugin designed to smooth your scheduling system while simultaneously creating a customer database from the booked appointments.

The process is automated and is integrated with the WPML plugin to facilitate multilingual web pages. Optimized for mobile use, Bookly allows you to offer discounts and options for recurring payments and appointments.

Additionally, Bookly lets you do group bookings, so this service is perfect for companies offering appointment-based services such as tutoring, beauty appointments, massages, etc.

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3. Booked

Price: $49

Booked is a frontend shortcode calendar for booking appointments with strong backend features to help you manage your bookings or appointments. This widget translates your calendars if needed, and enables you to customize the colors to match your branding.

You can show your availability as well as when you’re on vacation — additionally, you can build in buffers before and after every meeting, or for a certain amount of time after the present date to incorporate time to prepare.

The customer creates an account and selects their time, but you can manage your appointments from the backend and send out individualized notifications if needed. There’s also an option for your users to “Add to Google Calendar.”

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4. Team Booking

Price: Pricing starts at $28/month

Team Booking is a customizable booking app that integrates specifically with Google Calendar. It allows you to divide your availability by room, employees, time, or service offered.

Team Booking is a collaborative tool and comes with shortcodes on the frontend, so it’s user-friendly and easy to maintain a group calendar, as well as an individual one.

Calendar events are available times customers can book. Once the event is booked, notifications are sent to each party involved. Customers can pay directly with PayPal or Stripe, and once they book or fill out a reservation form, their information is saved in a customer database that you can download.

Team Booking is integrated with WPML and converts time zones to eliminate confusion with international companies or teams.

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5. WooEvents

Price: Pricing starts at $39 per month

WooEvents is an event scheduler that lets customer sign up and schedule their own events based on availability, but also lets you sell tickets. It has a calendar function with email notifications for event changes, but also provides a mapping function for people to find the event location.

You can sell custom types of tickets, see your event status, and limit how many people can book. Once they’ve booked, their data is entered into a customer database.

WooEvents works with iCal and Google Calendar. You can manage all of your current events, delete past ones, and set up recurring events for the future.

Users can pay through the WooEvents widget as it boasts integrations with several companies like PayPal and Stripe, and it has short code for placing links on your site.

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6. Booking Calendar

Price: Custom pricing based on your needs

Booking Calendar operates directly out of your WordPress site and allows you to manage reservations and bookings without leaving WordPress. Plus, it develops a client database once the booking is made.

Bookings are kept in your WP database, so there’s no need to have a database management tool. It’s optimized for mobile and can process payments through third-party services like Stripe or PayPal. It’s one of the most-installed WP plugins out there.

Available functionalities for Booking Calendar depend on your needs, number of clients, and budget, but the premium version offers tons of features that are easily customizable to your business needs.

It’s not just good for services, either — huge hotel chains, equipment rental companies, and doctor offices can use this plugin for appointments or resource scheduling.

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7. WP Simple Booking Calendar

Price: Tiered pricing ranging from free to $139/month

WP Simple Booking Calendar is ideal for house or apartment rental companies. It’s aesthetically pleasing with a simple, user-friendly design. Additionally, shortcodes are provided for you to embed on your site.

Users can see the unbooked dates for properties they’re interested in, and managers can easily alter bookings from the backend as needed. WP Simple Booking Calendar allows for website translation, which is crucial if your website is booking international clients.

The free version should be more than enough for most people, but pricing goes up to $139 per month if you need more advanced services.

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8. Advanced Booking Calendar

Price: The plugin is free, Pro is $56.10 USD for six months, or $72.93 USD for one year

Advanced Booking Calendar is an excellent mobile-optimized WordPress booking plugin, and works particularly well for hotels or B&B rental companies. It offers a calendar that displays availabilities, which allows you to adjust prices seasonally, per room, or for certain services.

It’s a little different from others in this list because it works with your Google Analytics account to monitor a user’s trajectory through your booking form. This enables you to identify warm leads and friction points.

Once a guest creates an event, every person involved receives a notification confirmation (email templates are provided) and customer data can be stored in the form of cookies.

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9. WP Quick Booking Manager Pro

Price: Pricing starts at $26 per month

The WP Quick Booking Manager Pro plugin has a strong administrative backend feature that makes this tool appealing for those who want more power over their calendar. Here, administrators can edit, add, confirm, decline, or delete events, and change the CSS from the backend.

This is an excellent plugin if you run a hotel or are renting out apartments and B&Bs because it allows for photo galleries, and also boasts a PayPal integration.

Additionally, there’s no cap on the number of events or bookings created in the calendar, and you can book directly from the website, which shows your full calendar availability.

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10. WooCommerce Easy Booking

Price: Custom pricing

WooCommerce Easy Booking has many of the features of the other calendar plugins and widgets here, but its pricing structure is really what sets it apart. You can rent WooCommerce as needed, from daily to annually, an option which other products don’t offer.

Visit the website and answer a few simple questions to calculate your individual price. The eCommerce toolkit works well with this, and both are optimized for the mobile experience.

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11. EDD Bookings

Price: Prices range from $80 per year to $250 per year

EDD Bookings makes the dream of single-page admin design a reality. Each calendar can be customized by category, color, and time zone to reflect the needs of users, all of which is optimized for mobile.

Emails notify involved parties once the customer creates an event or appointment, and there’s no cap on how many events can be generated. Events can be sorted by multiple filters, including length of session, price of service, etc., and activities can be assigned to certain employees.

On the backend, EDD Bookings provides an analytics dashboard and customer database, as well as accounting tools and payment integrations including PayPal.

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12. Amelia

Price: $59

Amelia is a round-the-clock WordPress booking service with a minimal, intuitive design made to smooth your booking workflow. The plugin requires as little as 2-3 clicks per booking, and offers online payment options. It has a dashboard explaining crucial KPIs to monitor, and an analytics tool to provide that data.

Amelia is simplistic and can be customized to reflect your brand colors. It’s integrated with Google Calendar, WooCommerce, PayPal, and Stripe, and provides quick booking shortcodes for your web pages.

Your users can choose the time, date, place, service, employee, or other necessary filters to find the right time slot. Amelia sends SMS notifications to you and the customer, and you can manage appointments from the administrative dashboard if needed.

Amelia is unique in that it suggests demo sites with a WordPress theme for your site to emulate based off of your industry’s standards, so that you remain neck-and-neck with your competition is terms of mobile optimization, service, and user-friendliness.

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13. Event Booking Pro

Price: $33 for six months, $170 for extended license over six months

Event Booking Pro is an exceptional WordPress booking plugin if you’re looking for a solution that provides ticket-selling software. It’s made with single-page bookings in mind to keep everything as simple as possible.

Shortcodes are given so you can embed your calendar or events on your website, which will display your calendar availability as well as which days you’re unavailable.

PayPal works through the site so you can sell tickets and send coupons. You can sell tickets with Event Booking Pro, and you can customize notification emails that get sent to any user who books with you.

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14. WordPress Pro Event Booking Calendar

Price: $33 for the regular license, $125 for the extended license

WordPress Pro Event Calendar operates similarly to the other booking plugins on this list, but stands out in some critical ways — one of which is the ability for customers to enter their individual events.

The plugin has an advanced filtering system that allows you to sort your customer database swiftly and efficiently. The event calendar plugin is integrated with Google Maps and Facebook, as well as in ICS format.

The plugin also enables you to embed calendars to your web pages and set up events on a recurring schedule. It also offers the ability to curate the events and edit as needed.

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15. BirchPress

Price: Tiered pricing, ranging from free to $249 per year

BirchPress is a booking plugin that allows you or your customers to create events in a calendar by inputting their information into a customized form.

The plugin allows you to send customized emails to your customers without needing to use a separate email marketing system, and makes it easy for them to pay online with WooCommerce or PayPal.

Additionally, the admin capabilities make it easy to manage bookings — whether they’re changed, canceled, or rescheduled. It integrates with iCal and Google Calendar, and is very user-friendly for developers.

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These are just the most popular WordPress booking plugins in 2019. Whatever tool works best for you and your business workflow is the one you should go with, because when you’re running a business, time is money.

If you want a comprehensive booking tool that integrates with both WordPress and a free CRM, check out HubSpot Meetings.

Blog - Website Redesign Workbook Guide [List-Based]

The 4 Best Content Management Software Tools in 2019

These days, websites are so much more than words and pictures on a page — while design and content are still important, it’s becoming increasingly critical to put thought into the platform your site is built on, as well.

Oftentimes, we let our developers make this choice for us. And, while it’s true that they need to have input, marketers should have a seat at the table, as well.

After all, if development resources because a bottleneck to website content changes, that can prevent speed and agility in your marketing campaigns.

Your developers and engineers want a certain set of criteria — including control, security, access to underlying code, and customizability, all of which are important. Marketers, on the other hand, need easy access to make quick updates, the ability to integrate the software with other tools, and access to support.

Without a good integration between your content management software and your other systems, something as simple as trying to successfully send a follow-up email after a form submission can turn into a massive time suck.

Ultimately, the content management software that a website lives on can greatly affect a marketer’s ability to succeed.

Here, we’re going to explore the characteristics you need for any content management software tool, as well as our four favorite options for marketers.

Characteristics of the Best Content Management Software Tools

Here are some of the features marketers should feel good about in a content management software tool.

1. A powerful, flexible editor.

As marketers, we need to be able to do things like quickly produce a landing page for a Facebook campaign, make simple layout changes to a page (like adding a column, or testimonials module), and easily edit content on existing pages (like changing some of the text of your homepage to promote your upcoming annual conference).

A powerful WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) editor is critical, so if you can, make sure you’re comfortable with making changes within the content management software tool.

2. The ability to test.

It’s important you’re able to understand what’s working, so you can do more of the good stuff. You need to be able to easily run tests on outcomes for different headlines, layouts, and more. It’s especially critical when doing something like a paid campaign, where maximizing results is tied directly to spend.

3. The opportunity for increased collaboration.

Chances are, you have a team of people working on one website.

You may have a developer who works on complex design pieces and integrations, a marketer who runs the day-to-day and manages campaigns, and content creators who write blog posts.

The ability to collaborate within the content management software tool and set permissions makes life a lot easier — and ensures issues don’t arise, like your social manager accidentally overwriting the developers’ code.

4. Accessibility to support.

Oftentimes, your developer can fill this need — but that can get expensive if you’re paying by the hour. It’s maybe not mission critical, but it sure is nice to have a support team you can call for help when you really need it, especially when it’s halting your ability to launch a campaign.

5. Ability to integrate with the rest of your tools.

Last, but probably most importantly, you need your content management software to offer the ability to integrate with the rest of your tech stack. Generally, the best choices here are going to be open platforms or all-in-one solutions.

Ideally, it should at least have the ability to integrate forms with a mailing tool (for lead/ mailing list collection), as well as your CRM or some kind of database so you can personalize content. Additionally, you’ll want to integrate with your CRM so you can customize pages, and add pages quickly and easily.

Now that we’ve explored five critical components of any content management software tool, let’s explore our four favorites.

1. HubSpot

HubSpot is way more than just a content management software tool, since it lives on top of your CRM.

HubSpot’s content management software tool has nice features like A/B testing, but it’s particularly powerful when it comes to features like personalized content and smart content. If you’re using HubSpot’s marketing platform, it also works seamlessly with forms, your email list, and database management.

For instance, let’s say you want a list of everyone in your database who visited your pricing page in the last 30 days. With HubSpot’s content management software and CRM, this is incredibly easy to do.

It scores well on the design side, too — like any content management software tool, it offers predesigned templates, a developer platform, and a network of partners certified on the content management software.

There are also some great out-of-the-box features designed to help with content creation — like the ability to natively host video and add forms and calls-to-action in the video using the native editor, along with video analytics and a YouTube analytics integration.

Some of the features marketers will love on a platform level are the ability to partition content so it’s easier for teams to work together. Additionally, you can publish content behind passwords and easily personalize content. Best of all, there’s high-quality security and hosting, which takes the worry out of the technical side. And, of course, you get top-notch analytics since everything is working together.

2. Squarespace

Squarespace offers beautiful out-of-the-box designs with tons of customization options. You can download any theme and change colors, fonts, and other design elements with ease. It seems to be geared more towards the end user than the developer, so most edits are made in a WYSIWYG design editor.

Behind the scenes, they boast high-quality, secure hosting — something that isn’t always top of mind when selecting a content management software tool, but probably should be. It also allows for unlimited bandwidth and storage, which isn’t always the case if you’re buying hosting on its own.

It’s also nice to have a support team, and Squarespace has a team that answers support tickets, so you’re not totally on your own or stuck calling a developer for every single question. Additionally, they offer incredibly useful help documentation.

Squarespace offers tons of modules and integrations, although you might want to check their built-in integrations to make sure the rest of your tech stack will play well with Squarespace.

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3. Wix

Wix features tons of templates and has a free plan that gives you unlimited pages. If you need to get an online presence up and running right away, it’s a great choice.

They also have paid plans that give you some additional features, including increased storage, the ability to add forms, a calendar, and access to VIP Support.

It’s important to note, Wix is a bit tougher to customize — they don’t give access to CSS, although they do say you can “take full control of your website’s functionality with JavaScript and Wix Code API’s.”

Additionally, it can be challenging to insert third-party code (like tracking code), so eventually, as your business grows, you or your developer may want something with a bit more customization capability.

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4. WordPress

And finally, last but certainly not least, we come to WordPress. WordPress is everywhere — it’s a popular platform and has a large eco-system of developers, designers, and plenty of others who are familiar with it.

The content management software tool itself is free, although you’ll need to pay for hosting and probably a template at the very least, and more likely a developer or designer to help you get it up and running.

Your ease-of-use here will likely depend on how it’s set up and which theme you use — some have simple WYSIWYG editors, while others are more complex. This is a decision you’ll definitely want to chat through with your developer, since once it’s built, there isn’t much you can change.

It’s also incredibly customizable. There are a ton of plugins and add-ons you can use to help with anything from SEO, speed, automatic image resizing, and more.

WordPress doesn’t offer support, but you can mitigate this problem if you have a good developer and a good host. There’s also a massive network of web professionals that you can hire.

On the hosting side, I’d recommend a hosting platform that specializes in WordPress, like WP Engine, as I’ve found that their support teams are well-versed in WordPress — which means they can help with questions and offer additional resources. Using a popular theme with plenty of existing help documentation, or even a support team, can also make a huge difference.

It’s important to note, the openness of the platform results in a vulnerability to hacking (this is another reason to get a good host). Be aware that addressing security should be part of the initial plan and not come as an afterthought to design, since security breaches are hard to fix and require technical expertise.

While these are four popular choices for marketers, there are many more out there. The options are endless for content management software tools. Ultimately, it’s critical you consider your workflow, your team, and the workflows you have in place to help you make the best decision.

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Can Facebook Ads Influence Integration Adoption? Here’s What We Found.

Platforms are embedded in our daily lives — whether we realize it or not.

Have you recently … Ordered food from a service like GrubHub or made a reservation using OpenTable? Booked a ride using Lyft? Used your phone to check your email? All of these seamless interactions require systems to talk to each other via open platforms.

What about at work? How many tools do you use to do your job? Do you spend a lot of time updating disparate systems, or do you use a connected stack of technologies to keep things up-to-date? If it’s the latter, you have a platform to thank for your saved time.

A platform makes it possible to connect tools, teams, data, and processes under one digital roof. It’s the nucleus of all systems and allows you to connect all your favorite tools seamlessly using integrations. An integration allows disparate systems to talk to each other. By joining tools via integrations, a change made in System A automatically carries through to System B.

Leveraging platforms and integrations hasn’t always been commonplace. A couple of years ago, HubSpot Research found that 82% of salespeople and marketers lost up to an hour per day managing siloed tools — a costly mistake.

Today, employees recognize that integrating technologies to do their jobs isn’t an option but a requirement. Individual employees are opting to connect their tools and, on average, leverage eight apps to do their job.

Employees and businesses alike run on connected applications. Okta found that it’s small-mid sized customers (defined as companies with less than 2,000 employees) average 73 apps — up 38% from last year. While larger customers (companies with over 2,000 employees) leverage closer to 130 apps — up 68% from the past year.

From personal life to work, platforms have become a staple in our day-to-day. These platforms are well-oiled machines that initiate seamless connections between technologies. Today, the consumer not only anticipates but also expects their systems to connect — raising the bar for companies to make it possible.

But more tools shouldn’t mean more friction. At HubSpot, we want to help our customers connect their tools on our platform to reduce friction and grow better. Customers should have tools and solutions to solve their needs, regardless of if HubSpot built them. Connecting tools allows for uniform data, processes, and experiences. This year, we’re experimenting with ways to expose integrations to our customers to increase adoption.

However, as a platform scales, it becomes increasingly tricky for customers to navigate exhaustive lists of integrations and identify what’s relevant to them. We recognized this at HubSpot and began experimenting with paid ads to see if this could be a valuable distribution channel to our customers.

Our Experiment on Paid Integration Ads

At the end of Q4, the Platform Marketing team decided to use some leftover budget to try a channel we hadn’t yet proven viable for integration adoption — paid ads.

We hypothesized that we could influence the adoption of an integration through paid ads. To test our hypothesis, we ran a retargeting campaign for three integrations on Facebook. The ads were surfaced to HubSpot’s retargetable audience.

These ads featured three HubSpot-built integrations: Slack, WordPress, and Eventbrite. We selected these integrations because they are natively built (built by HubSpot) and structured in a way that allowed us to measure multi-touch attribution.

By leveraging Google Tag Manager on the in-app integration directory, custom UTM parameters, and funnel reports, we were able to measure all steps from viewing the ad to installing the integration. Before launching the campaign, we tested our Google Analytics custom funnel reports by completing all actions — including installing the integrations to make sure they worked as designed.

Before running the campaign, we made the conscious decision to split our budget evenly across all three integration ads — regardless if one ad outperformed the others. We did this to minimize variables for the experiment.

Because we ran ads through November and December, we decreased spending from $130 dollars a day to $5 a day on and around holidays. We did this to “pause” the campaign on days where the ads would get lost in the noise, as this data could skew overall results.

Lastly, we determined our success metrics. Because we didn’t have apples-to-apples benchmark data for integration paid ads, we worked with our paid team to establish reasonably similar benchmark data. While it wasn’t a direct comparison, we were curious to see how ads could influence multi-step actions. We evaluated our performance based on click-through rates (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and cost per acquisition.

Experiment Results

The integration ads surpassed our benchmark data for click-through rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and cost per acquisition at the 7-, 30-, and 44-day marks — supporting our initial hypothesis and prediction.

The 30-day CTR for our integration ads was higher than the 7-day and 30-day CTR for the benchmark data, which is surprising as we expected the audience to become more fatigued over time.

Fatigue can be measured by the frequency a user views the same ad. For example, at HubSpot, we look at if a viewer has seen the same ad over 2.5 times within 30 days, which we consider high. Additionally, we kept an eye out for an increasing cost per acquisition.

Paid ads for these integrations was attractive to our retargetable audience and a legitimate acquisition point for HubSpot. It helped us influence adoption of integrations — resulting in hundreds of installs in the featured technologies. It also provided us with a data point we’ve been curious to see — the cost of an install.

When considering the value and acquisition cost of an install, it’s helpful to understand the impact on the business. At HubSpot, our customers with integrated stacks of technologies tend to be more successful — and they stick around.

This makes sense — as the more apps installed, the higher the likelihood someone will stick around. This is a common finding among platform companies.

On a recent trip to San Francisco HubSpot’s VP of Platform Ecosystem Scott Brinker found that “a common pattern on platforms is that the more apps a customer integrates into their system, the higher their retention rate will be — for both the platform and the apps integrated into it.”

Connecting their tools allows customers to access all their data in one core system while staying flexible and adaptable to their needs as they grow.

Since HubSpot doesn’t currently charge integrators to be part of our ecosystem, spending money to drive a net new install may seem counterintuitive. When weighing the long-term benefits of an install for customer value and retention, we are able to determine what is a reasonable cost per install. The experiment cost was worth the insight, as it allowed us to gain a baseline understanding of the cost per acquisition of an integration install.

Ultimately you can determine if the long-term value outweighs the upfront cost. (While directional value is a good baseline, you’d ideally look to lifetime value [LTV] to establish actual value.)

What This Means for HubSpot — and For You

Our experiment with paid ads outperformed our expectations and helped us reach a larger audience than we anticipated. It became clear that this was and is a viable channel for us to increase adoption of integrations and better understand the cost per integration install.

Future looking, we could alter who we target to see how it impacts CTR. We could leverage enrichment software like Datanyze or Clearbit to see if users have tools and cross-reference install data to create a list of folks using tools we integrate with but have yet to connect to. Alternatively, we could leverage this data to target a group of users going through onboarding to encourage them to connect existing tools to HubSpot.

Additionally, we could look through the required steps to connect an integration and consider how we could reduce them to simplify the process for our users and potentially increase our CTR.

Not a platform company? No problem. This retargeting campaigns can be leveraged to evaluate other valuable actions for your users, such as sign-ups, free trials, or event registration.

FB Ad Examples

 
Facebook Ad Examples

7 Ad Design Tips to Help Your Brand Cut Through the Noise

Before your copy can persuade an audience to buy your product, your design must persuade them to buy your copy. In advertising, your design catches your audience’s eye and points their attention to your copy. Then, it’s your copy’s job to hold your audience’s attention.

To help grab people’s attention in your advertisements, we’ve put together a list of seven ad tips, supported by examples, that’ll help your brand cut through the noise. Read on to learn how to craft creatively refreshing ads that will convert your audience into customers.

7 Ad Design Tips to Help Your Brand Cut Through the Noise

1. Stand Out From The Crowd

Estee Lauder Ad

Image Credit: VeryGoodCopy

In a world where countless brands fight for a limited amount of attention, the only way your advertisement can grab people’s attention is by being original.

As a marketer, though, it can be tempting to leap onto the latest trend that all your competitors have already pounced on. If everyone else is implementing the latest tip or trick, it must work, right? To captivate an audience, though, you must resist this urge.

Cliches repel attention. They sap your advertisement’s creativity and can’t activate the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for experiencing emotions. But how exactly do you create an original advertisement? Consider one of Estee Lauder’s print campaigns from the 1960s.

Back then, Estee Lauder’s main competitors like L’Oreal, Revion, and Helena Rubinstein all ran vibrant, colorful ads in magazines. Every makeup ad was beautiful and rich. But even though they seemed eye-popping at first glance, audiences became accustomed to these types of ads — they all looked the same. They started blending in with each other.

Realizing that no one could differentiate between the brands running full-color makeup ads flooding magazines during that time period anymore, Estee Lauder did something so controversial it was deemed “radical”, “stupid”, and even “ugly”: they ran their ads in sepia.

Estee Lauder’s print advertising move received its fair share of criticism, but they’re ability to be original helped them immediately stand out from the crowd and rake in 25% more responses than their previous color print campaigns.

2. Turn Your Ad Into a Game

Fisher-Price Ad

Image Credit: AdWeek

The brain is wired to predict things. It’s an evolutionary trait that allows us to anticipate what’s going to happen next and quickly react to it. That said, advertisements that are predictable only require a shred of thought to understand, so they’re too easy to grasp and, in turn, too boring to engage anyone.

With this in mind, if you can scrap predictability from your advertisements, you force your audience into a deeper level of thinking to digest your message, compelling them to pay more attention to it.

One of the best ways to ensnare your audience attention and get them to interact with your advertisement is by turning it into a game. By framing your advertisement like a game that can be beat, just like Fisher-Price’s ad above, your audience has the opportunity to earn an intellectual reward if they spend just the right amount of mental energy playing your brand’s game and grasping your advertisement’s message, which is something most people won’t ever pass up.

3. Convey One Message — And One Message Only

Citizen Eco-Drive Watch Ad

Image Credit: VeryGoodCopy

Sometimes, marketers think the more benefits and features they include in their ads, the higher their conversion rate will be. But trying to read a jumbled ad requires a lot of thought and energy, so cramming an ad with a bricks of copy doesn’t actually grab people’s attention. It repels it.

To immediately hook people and persuade them to read the rest of your ad, consider conveying one message per ad. Spotlighting your product or service’s main benefit or feature will make it easy for your audience to understand its value and increase the likelihood of doing business with you because they’ll leave your ad remembering only one message: your product’s or service’s main feature will benefit their lives somehow, someway.

For example, in Citizen’s ad for their Eco-Drive watch, they only use a single line of copy and a simple image to convey their product’s value to their audience — the watch is powered by light.

4. Make It Visual

Lego Ad

Image Credit: VeryGoodCopy

When we were babies, we relied on vision to associate objects with behaviors, like a ball meaning play time. Vision was the only way to learn about the world.

That’s why you can understand visual information in 250 milliseconds and why your visual system activates over 50% of your brain. Visual storytelling is the best way for people to grasp concepts and data easily.

For instance, in LEGO’s ad, they only use two images, a simple lego creation and a shadow of a dinosaur, but you can instantly form a concrete understanding of its core idea — with Legos, you can create anything.

5. Leverage Hyperbole

Nikol Paper Towels Ads

Image Credit: Brilliant Ads

Exaggerating your product’s benefits, in a clever and obvious way, is one of the best methods for slipping some humor into your advertisement, which can capture your audience’s attention and trigger an emotional response from them.

For instance, Nikol’s paper towels obviously can’t turn grapes into raisins, but this ad highlights the product’s absorbent powers in such a clear and artful way, they didn’t need to write a single line of copy.

6. Show, Don’t Tell

Siemens Ad

Image Credit: Brilliant Ads

Showing your audience something is much more engaging and interesting than telling them it. Relying on implication to convey a message is mysterious, making it more fun for your audience to figure out.

For example, in Siemens’ creative ad, they show the benefits of their product by unexpectedly placing their washers and dryers in a library to show you that they’re so quiet, even a librarian wouldn’t need to shush them.

7. Swap Connotations

Heinz AdImage Credit: Brilliant Ads

In relation to food, the word “hot” has multiple meanings: having a high temperature and being spicy. Heinz brilliantly used the connotation of high temperature to highlight the spiciness of their ketchup, and their creative method of communicating the value of their product helped them instantly attract people’s attention.

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The Non-Programmer's Guide to Using APIS

Even if you don’t know what an API is, you’ve undoubtedly interacted with one.

Today, we take connectivity between technology largely for granted. For instance, we don’t question when we use OpenTable to make a reservation at a nearby restaurant.

Alternatively, if you use Kayak.com to book flights, you’ve probably never wondered, Wait a minute … how does Kayak know JetBlue has an open seat in 27A?

Ultimately, any time you need applications to communicate with one another, you need an API, or application programming interface.

Here, we’re going to explore what an API is, and why you’d need to use one. Even if you’re not a programmer and don’t need to know extensive technical jargon, you should still understand the basics, since nowadays, integrations between technology are often critical components of anyone’s job.

What is an API?

At its most basic definition, an API lets one piece of software talk to another piece of software.

To understand an API in action, let’s consider a real-life example — HubSpot’s integration with Typeform. Typeform, a tool that supplies mobile-ready quizzes, contact forms, and signup forms, needs to integrate with HubSpot’s Forms API to to interact with the forms tool and seamlessly send submissions from Typeform forms into the HubSpot CRM.

To do this, Typeform’s API and HubSpot’s API need to talk. An integration can act as a translator, ensuring each API’s information is correctly translated for the other application — in this case, the integration may ensure that Typeform form fields are correctly mapped to the corresponding HubSpot fields.

Isaac Takushi, a HubSpot Developer Support Specialist, explains — “You can think of APIs and the ‘endpoints’ they comprise as access points for different information. Each API endpoint may only have one specific job. When combined, however, different endpoints can support powerful, multifaceted integrations.”

Kayak.com, for instance, needs some API to communicate with JetBlue’s systems. When you search “Boston to Charlotte” in Kayak, JetBlue’s booking API will essentially receive this request from Kayak, pull up information related to that request, and send it back. However, Kayak will need its own API or code to understand and act on the information the JetBlue API returned.

To use an API, you’ll want to check out the API’s documentation for access requirements. For instance, HubSpot’s Contacts API requires authentication:

Similarly, you’ll need an API key to access Google’s API, Facebook’s API, and Twitter’s API.

Once you have access requirements, you can use a tool like Postman or Runscope to manually interact with an API. These third-party tools, or “REST clients,” allow you to make one-off requests to API endpoints without coding. They’re great for getting a feel for what your backend systems may do automatically. Check out this resource on how to make your very first API request with Postman.

If you’re not quite ready to jump in on the deep end with a REST client, try punching the following into your browser:

https://restcountries.eu/rest/v2/name/united

This is a public API endpoint from the free REST Countries service. Specifically, we’re using the “Name” endpoint, which accepts country names as search queries. A successful search will return potential country matches, along with key information about each nation. In this case, we’re searching for countries with names that contain the word “united.”

You should see following block of JSON data returned:

Congratulations! You just made an API request from your browser!

The endpoint returned raw data (formatted in JSON) on countries with “united” in the name.

It may not look pretty, but remember that APIs are designed for applications, which don’t require the styling humans expect on an HTML web page. While you can easily Google “countries that begin with ‘united’,” applications cannot. They might have to rely on services like REST Countries to look up that information.

If you’re unsure whether you should use your in-house developers to create APIs or look externally, check out First vs. Third-Party APIs: What You Need to Know.

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