How to Motivate Your Staff in a Way that Benefits Your Business

When it comes to running a successful business, having the right tools and processes in place are a must. But as any business owner knows, your employees and staff are the keys to ensuring these processes run smoothly and operate at the maximum level. Often, all that separates an under-performing staff from a top-performing one is simple motivation. People enjoy being challenged and engaged, and if employees feel ‘stuck’ doing the same thing day in and day out, your customers can tell, and profits will suffer.

This is why many innovative business owners are turning to gamified employee motivation solutions, which take an innovative, real-time approach to employee motivation. With individual, team, and even location performance metrics recorded and showcased in real-time, employees know exactly how their performance stacks up to the rest of their peers, resulting in higher performance outcomes and increased profits.

What are some added benefits of employee motivation?

With happier, more engaged employees, your team can drastically increase customer satisfaction, upsells, and repeat customer visits. Too often, teams can get bogged down by sales targets, weekly quotas, and location comparison charts, and everything just starts to run together, making little to no sense for the staff actually on the floor. With gamified employee motivation solutions, employers are able to turn motivation and competition into the new normal and create an easy-to-understand set of metrics to grade performance and success.

Other benefits of a gamified employee motivation approach include:

  • More Involved, Engaged Employees: When employees understand how their day-to-day performance is impacting the bottom line of an organization, they are more involved and dedicated to that end goal. By tracking employee performance metrics in a live, universally-accessible location, employees are more motivated to make decisions based on the good of the company. Your organization can expect to see more engaged employees offering up more suggestions and opinions to help move your business forward.

  • Better Accountability and Performance: Employees are also more motivated to perform at a higher level across the board. Most everyone enjoys a little competition, and with gamified employee motivation solutions, the competition is exciting and performance-based. When one Subway franchise implemented an innovative employee motivation solution, the team actually saw an incredible increase in inventory accuracy, less food wastage, and increased employee morale.

  • Increased Customer Satisfaction: Your employees are the face of your organization, and they help set the entire tone for a customer’s visit to your place of business. If team spirit is down or if performance has dipped, it can drastically impact your customer satisfaction rates. When employees actually have ‘skin in the game’, so to speak, and are actively aware of how their actions and output are impacting the company as a whole, they’re more likely to be happier – and make customers happier at the same time.

How to get started with employee motivation.

If you’re not thinking about finding new, innovative ways to motivate your staff, you could be giving up the chance to take both your employees and your organization to the next level of performance. More engaged employees means happier customers, which can lead to increased customer frequency and drive higher profits.

To truly increase your bottom line and step up your employee motivation game, Mobivity’s re•up is the only solution that helps organizations monitor, measure, and reward employees to maximize performance and profits. The re•up solution actually displays employee progress and goals on easy-to-read tablets and monitors so every single person — regardless of location or team — knows exactly how your organization is performing as a whole and at the individual employee level. Your employees are your most valuable asset, and an oft-overlooked source of revenue growth. With Mobivity’s re•up, your organization can:

How to get started with employee motivation.


Mobivity’s re•up works in tandem with the rest of the re•currency suite of solutions to collect customer data at the point of sale and leverage it to drive insightful, proactive decision making. Ready to learn more? Schedule your 1-1 call today to hear about how re•up can be used by businesses to motivate higher performance by their staff.

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Here's How to Add a Link to Your Instagram Story [Pro Tip]

Instagram Stories has extended the amount of time people spend in the app by approximately ten additional minutes. But, while that extra time means more attention and focus on your brand, it won’t translate to much if you can’t get that traffic back to your site.

If you have over 10,000 followers or you’re a verified user, you have an incredibly effective tool at your disposal — the swipe up link. This link enables you to post exciting content regarding a new product, service, or event, and then encourage those users to “swipe up for details”.

But with all that power comes some responsibility. How do you add a link to your story, and how can you use it to its fullest advantage? Let’s dive into that now.

How to Add a Link to Your Instagram Story

I used HubSpot’s official Instagram account for these instructions, since my personal account isn’t verified (I also, you’ll be surprised to hear, don’t have 10,000 followers … ).

1. Take a photo or upload one to your Instagram Story, and then click the icon at the top right that looks like a chain.

2. Here, click “+ URL” to add a link to a web page. If you were interested in linking your Story to your IGTV video, you could choose that option, instead.

3. Type the URL into the text box. When you’re finished, click “Done” in the top right.

4. When you’re ready to publish, click the “+ Story” button at the bottom right of your Story. Now, your published Story has a “See More” swipe up link.

 

Instagram Swipe Up Link Examples

1. @Detoxinista Recipes

Food bloggers such as @Detoxinista use Instagram Stories’ swipe up link to embed recipes on the platform. They wisely post images of delicious-looking food, which incentivizes users to swipe up to learn how to make it themselves. The link isn’t a direct advertisement, but users are directed to Detoxinista’s website, where they can find her cookbook and become familiar with her brand.

2. @Alifedotowsky Clothing Items

If you’re a Bachelorette fan, you might’ve noticed the growing trend among Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants to become product influencers and embed swipe up links in their Stories. As a fashion and style blogger, Ali often takes pictures or videos of outfits she’s wearing, with swipe up links so users can buy the items online. She also often incorporates discounts if users swipe up, further incentivizing a user to purchase an item from a brand’s website.

3. @Popsugarfitness Summer Sculpt Series

One of the most effective ways to use the swipe up feature is to offer your followers something of value, for free. @Popsugarfitness, for instance, introduced a Summer Sculpt series with a tempting offer — “Swipe Up for a 10-Minute No-Equipment Booty-Shaping Workout”. Who could say no to that? Ideally, as users obtain more value from your site, they’ll spend longer on it and become stronger brand advocates.

4. @Reebok Be More Human Campaign

Reebok created a powerful and timely campaign called “Be More Human”, celebrating women’s empowerment through fitness. On their Instagram Stories, they raise awareness for the campaign by showing famous women like Gigi Hadid or Danai Gurira, and when you swipe up, you learn more about Reebok’s campaign and how you can get involved. On the site there are opportunities to purchase t-shirts or donate money, but it’s evident Reebok is committed to staying focused on their messaging above all else, a noble pursuit.

30 days of instagram

 
30 days of insta

Example SMS Web Pages for retailers

Vincent van Gough, Pablo Picasso, Michelangelo… These great artists never had any trouble creating masterpieces. It comes as natural to them as sending SMS does to us. But sadly, we can’t all be artists who with a flick of a brush, create a masterpiece.

Sometimes creativity doesn’t come as naturally to some as it does to others, and for those who aren’t a grandmaster artist, or don’t have someone in your office who is a creative genius, we know it can be hard to think of brilliant eye-catching designs.

With our SMS Web Pages feature you can create a bespoke landing page, include big bright images, extra text and a call to action. All to entice your customer to buy or take action.

When creating an SMS Web Page there are few things you need to think about and include on your page, very much like an SMS, and without these key things it will fail to entice your customers.

Now for those of you who struggle to come up with ideas or just struggle to visualise their ideas, below we have added a couple of example SMS Web Pages just for retailers. Hopefully these will give you some ideas and help you to create your very own bespoke landing page and entice your customers to buy from you.

Sell a product
The best way to sell a product is visually. Have you ever seen a pizza on TV and all you want that evening is a pizza? So by including a couple of images of the item you are trying to sell, a little description of it, and call to action where they can buy it, you will get a great return.

Sell a product landing page

Promote a sale
Whether it’s a summer sale, winter sale, Black Friday sale, or just a flash sale, SMS Web Pages is perfect for promoting your sale. Simply add details of your sale, a nice big image and a call to action, send this to all your customers at the beginning and towards the end of the sale.

Promote a sale landing page

We hope these examples have helped you create a great landing page. But if you would just prefer one of our design team to create you your very own SMS Web Page, please get in contact with us and we can give you a bespoke quote.

The Tactile Shopper: Brick & mortar retailers’ unique edge over online-only players

Photo by rawpixel

“It has long been the argument that only a fool would suggest that brick-and-mortar retail is doomed. It is just mediocre, uninspired, undifferentiated retail that is endangered. You either rise to the occasion, or you die.”

By Aaron Dauphinee, Chief Operating Officer, Wise Marketer Group

This is the view of Kevin Coupe, Founder of MorningNewsBeat.com, in response to a recent article in the New York Times suggesting that reports of the death of retail have been highly hyperbolic.

Yes. Retailers need to reinvent how they engage with their customers as new business models emerge to better meet consumer needs and expectations.  They need to have poignant strategies for adopting and responding to consumer uptake of new technologies. They need to not only recognize, but also genuinely adjust for shifts in consumer behaviors due to changing economics, politics, and social virtues.

But, no.  Physical retail space is not going to evaporate away overnight nor is the “in-person” shopping experience going away forever.*  Why?

Physical retail space is not going to evaporate away overnight nor is the “in-person” shopping experience going away forever.

 

One reason is simple. Not every shopper wants an online experience to be his or her only path to purchase for every product.  For some consumers, not being able to touch and physically interact with products will always, consciously or sub-consciously, influence their purchase decision process. For those people, that lack of “touch” will corrode their sentiment to the interactions that they have with the brand and will, ultimately, be a detriment to establishing loyalty.

Last year I happened upon a summary of research that supports the view that touch influences purchase decisions.  Zachery Estes, of Italy’s Bocconi University in Milan, and his research colleagues found that consumers “are more likely to buy things similar in shape to whatever we have in our hands while shopping.” For example, a Kit Kat candy bar will be chosen over a Snickers candy bar when consumers are holding their mobile phone in their hand.

Estes also suggests that some consumers have a personal bias built into their purchase decisions stating, “[some consumers] are very high in need for touch, which means that when they go shopping they need to grasp the products on the shelf.  They pick them up.  They feel the weight. They look at the label. They see how it feels.  When they go to buy clothes they feel the material to see if they like it or not.”

Telecommunications, personal computing, and electronics retailers have long pioneered retail store formats that place an emphasis on interactive and tactile-driven retail experiences that educate their customers.  Originally this was due to product complexity and a lack of understanding by the consumer.  However, as devices have become more and more commoditized with mass adoption, and e-commerce competition intensified, some of these retailers are investing to redefine their in-store customer experiences.

 

Last year, Apple launched their “Today at Apple” program to emulate town squares within their stores for customers to learn how to use their products better.  Their teams of Creative Pro’s are highly trained team members who are also artists, photographers, and musicians and who can teach a broad spectrum of programs to customers within their designated in-store educational spaces.

Two of the five pillars in Best Buy’s “Renew Blue” strategy announced in 2012 have contributed significantly to store layouts in their retail spaces.  A focus on “reinvigorating the customer experience” and “working with vendors to innovate and drive value” have resulted in the removal of rows on rows of shelving to create brightly lit and branded areas for Samsung, Apple, Sony, Microsoft, LG, and other select vendors.  The spacious display tables showcase only a few key products and allow customers to interact directly with them before they make their purchases.

It is certainly worth noting that both of these retailers have also made significant investments in their e-commerce channels so I’m not suggesting that a strict focus on brick-and-mortar will win the day outright.  But as retail business models shift towards a fusion of the online and offline (even Amazon had to adjust), some retailers are well-poised to make gains by focusing on customers who have a predisposition for engagements that are tactile in nature.

These “high-touch” shoppers provide bricks & mortar retailers with a unique opportunity to prove out the value of, and even re-define, the in-store experience.

 

The ability to identify these customers and adjust marketing efforts to cater to them will not require additional data beyond what is by-and-large already available within most loyalty and reward programs.  These “high-touch” shoppers provide bricks & mortar retailers with a unique opportunity to prove out the value of, and even re-define, the in-store experience.

*Technology could evolve. at some future point, to where a virtual “in-person” environment is sophisticated enough to be exactly the sensory equivalent of being physically present on the floors of Le Bon Marché in Paris. My point is that the consumer need for this type of experience will not fleet away irrespective of technology advancements.

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Content Marketing vs. Marketing Content: Where You’re Getting It Wrong

In the marketing world, content is at the core of everything we do. And for demand generation activities, in particular, it’s content that fuels nurture campaigns, content syndication, and retargeting ads. It also can help arm your sales team with the collateral they need to seal the deal. It’s hard to think of an area of the customer journey that content marketing doesn’t touch. But there’s a core piece of this content puzzle that marketers have been getting wrong—or perhaps missing altogether.

I’m talking about marketing content.

Not long ago, I wrote a LinkedIn article about this idea that my team didn’t love at first. I called it F#*k Content Marketing. My point was that it’s time to abandon the “old way” of marketing and embrace change. It’s time for our entire marketing teams (and eventually, our entire organizations) to start maximizing the use of the content that our content marketing teams work so hard to create. Click To Tweet

The Problem With Content

Looking at how much content is out there, unused, makes me think about a conversation my Uberflip co-founder and I had nearly six years ago. Content marketing was on the rise, and we wanted to start a company that empowered marketers. But it felt as if everything by way of an authoring tool had already been done. This got us thinking about what happens after. What do marketing teams do once they’ve created all this new content?

I apologize in advance to any content marketers reading this, but according to SiriusDecisions, 60 to 70% of all content churned out by B2B marketing departments sits unused. When we think of that from a demand generation perspective, there’s so much missed opportunity in that content that’s just sitting.

Your content team may take a step back once the “publish” button is clicked, aside from a few social posts. But for the rest of the marketing team, there’s so much more that needs to be done.

Rethink What You Already Have

Instead of having your content team create more and more content to meet your demand generation goals (I’m talking webinar follow-ups, content syndication, and display ad campaigns), what if you spent your time rethinking the way your existing content is consumed?

First, look at your existing content to see if it can be repurposed by your content team. Why have your team spend time creating something from scratch if you can leverage what you already have? (And, bonus: If a piece of content already exists, chances are your team will be able to turn your request around faster.)

While you’re at it, look at your company website and blog to see if the content is organized in a way that is optimized for lead generation. Is your best performing top-of-the-funnel content easy to find? Is your middle-of-the-funnel content directing your prospects to customer stories and case studies and your bottom-of-the-funnel content to the demo page? The way you organize your content can guide your prospects down the funnel.

Order Matters

I’m going to throw out another stat that might make you want to take on this job: Organizations are 57% of the way through the purchase decision process before they engage with a sales rep. In other words, you should make sure that the content your team is offering does the talking for you.

One of the things we often see is marketers organizing content by publication date. The articles on your blog from 2016 may still be valuable, but I’m not scrolling through years’ worth of posts to find them.

And if not by date, some marketers organize by resource type—infographics, blogs, ebooks, videos, podcasts. But it’s unlikely that someone coming to your site with a question about SEO or social media will care what format they find their answer in. Take this into account when evaluating your website and encourage your content marketing team to start organizing using topics instead. They’ll get more views on their content, and you’re likely to get more leads from it.

The way the content is structured on your website is where content meets user experience. Optimizing the way your content is organized will it easier to discover your assets and help your team to meet your marketing goals. It will also guide your prospects through the buyer journey.

Create Personalized Content Experiences 

Much like how marketers must strategically organize their content, they must also think through the experiences they create with that content. Rather than looking at each blog article or video as an engagement resource on its own, we need to take a step further and think of how that asset fits into the larger content puzzle. When we send someone to a blog post through an ad or email, where will they go next? What elements on the page compel them to engage further?

These are a few ways you can create highly personalized experiences that will make your audience want to consume more:

  • Contextual calls-to-action: Place a targeted, and relevant CTA below or beside an asset someone is already consuming; the user is more likely to consume more because it directly applies to the content they just interacted with.
  • Overlay calls-to-action: Rather than sending users away from your content to a dead-end landing page, why not gate your assets with an overlay CTA instead? This creates a more integrated approach to lead generation because you’re creating the feeling that the answer they need is “just out of reach.” And it doesn’t disrupt their experience.
  • Content recommendations: Using automated suggestions and recommendations, you can make sure your audience’s interactions with your content are meaningful, and guide your prospects along the path to purchase.

To truly engage your audience, you’ll want to create experiences that make them feel as if your content is exclusively for them.

Involving the Rest of Your Team

Just as content and demand partner to create and distribute content experiences, you’ll want to include the rest of your team. After all, the best way to market your content is to get your entire organization to start marketing with your content.

Content no longer lives exclusively in the content marketer’s domain. Your sales team should leverage content when prospecting customers, and your customer success team when engaging customers. To have the most impact, use it at every stage, with everyone on your team.

So, while I wouldn’t suggest telling your boss that they should “F#*k Content Marketing,” I’d recommend reevaluating how your content is used across your website and organization. And while you’re at it, start focusing on the content experience.

The post Content Marketing vs. Marketing Content: Where You’re Getting It Wrong appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

35 Creative Book Marketing Ideas from Publishing Pros

New tools have made becoming a self-published author much easier but, as a consequence, the already-crowded book market has become even more saturated. As a self-published author, you’re not just responsible for writing the book — you also have to market it if you want it to be read. To help, we put together a…

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Improving Customer Engagement with re•currency

In the restaurant industry, customer engagement refers to the connections a business makes with their guests. No matter the communication channel, brands must understand their customers’ preferences to avoid annoying them with repetitive, dull, impersonal, or too frequent messages that do not add value to their lives.

To have truly effective engagement, businesses need to get to know their customers, and their customers’ spending habits. Capturing data at the POS-level has made it easier for restaurants to identify trends that allow them to engage more effectively. To make the best use of the data collected at your restaurant, we’ve identified three ways to enhance the conversations you have with your customers.

1 – Capitalize on Seasonality

It sounds simple, but one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind with your customers is capitalizing on the trends happening during different seasons. Let’s break it down. You know that with summer just around the corner, your customers will be looking to cool off. Why not help them beat the heat with a cold treat? For example, this summer Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt is adding smoothies and shakes as a way to expand beyond the standard self-serve cup. “Summer is the perfect time to launch these new products,” said Orange Leaf Marketing Director Kristen Campbell, “and we’re thrilled to engage our guests in a fun, new way.” The next time the thermostat reads 104 degrees, send a message to your customers reminding them that your slushies are the best (and the biggest) in town. They’ll be thankful for the added value your brand provided on a day when they were already feeling amped for summer.

“Summer is the perfect time to launch these new products,” said Orange Leaf Marketing Director Kristen Campbell, “and we’re thrilled to engage our guests in a fun, new way.”

But this is just one example of the countless ways to drive seasonal engagement. This fall, promote pumpkin-flavored-anything (trust us, it just works). When winter rolls around, people will be wondering what present to buy their loved ones for Christmas. Why not a gift card to your restaurant? Stay relevant and useful for your customers by contacting them when they might need you most.

2 – Understand Time of Day

Updating your marketing offers based on the time of year is an easy way to relate to customers, but you can get even more granular by changing the way you communicate to customers based on time-of-day as well. When executed strategically, the time of day you reach out to your customers could get them to return more frequently.

For example, your customers typically have patterns related to what time of day they visit your restaurant. On weekdays, there’s probably a standard early morning and lunch crowd of busy office employees kicking off their morning with a bagel or grabbing a quick lunch in between meetings. Sending a message to your early morning visitors promoting your lunch special may entice them to stop in again later that day. Or, if you send a weekend promotional message to your weekday lunch visitors, you might be able to get them to come in on a day they normally wouldn’t. Take it even further by attempting to create an entirely new day-part to bring your customers back, like Taco Bell’s since-abandoned Fourth Meal campaign. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what triggers your customers to visit your locations, even at times that aren’t normally part of their routine.

3 – Be Aware of Buying Patterns

Personalization is powerful in targeting today’s shoppers; in fact, it’s starting to become expected. One easy way to make your customers feel like you’re catering to their needs is by analyzing what they buy to make suggestions based on those preferences.

If you take time to analyze your sales data and notice that your morning customers tend to buy coffee without any of your delicious food offerings, use this knowledge to suggest a muffin with flavor notes that pair well with your most popular roast! The possibilities can seem endless, and data is your friend in finding a way to build customer groups that may be willing to try something new that your brand has to offer.

Now You Try

Implementing one or all of these tactics will undoubtedly help you improve the communications you send to engage with your customers, and ultimately help drive results for your bottom line. Experiment with these ideas and make moves based on what will work best for your brand. The key is to know what message to put out there, and to use data to help you make informed decisions.


Interested in learning more about how the re•currency suite could help jumpstart your business and drive customer frequency? Give us a call at (877) 282-7660, chat with our team on this page, or fill out the form below to start the conversation today.

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8 Things You Should Never Say on Slack (Or Any Other Work Chat)

Many companies these days use Slack or another work chat application to communicate more efficiently and spend less time writing emails. Whether you currently work for a company that uses Slack in place of email, or are about to start a new job and are not sure what the company’s communication tools are, it’s always a good rule of thumb to be cautious about how you behave in front of co-workers both in person and in a digital chat room.

Though most people are used to the fast ways we communicate through texting and chats, learning what’s appropriate and inappropriate behavior in a digital workspace can be tricky to navigate.

Before you become known as the co-worker who drives everyone crazy on Slack, consider avoiding these 8 words or sayings.

8 Things You Should Never Say on Slack

1. “Bro” or “Dude”

Chatting with you co-workers on a work chat can seem harmless, but you are a professional now and, regardless of how laid-back your work office is, you should always address your co-workers by their first names. Referring to someone as “bro” or “dude” gives off major college vibes, and even if you are fresh out of college, you don’t want your co-workers to continually think of you as the unpolished graduate.

2. “That’s not my job.”

If a boss, manager, or co-worker asks you to do something on your work chat and it’s not something you typically do for them, you should either politely decline, or if you have the time to spare, help them out. It’s never a good idea to respond by saying it’s “not your job” to do something, especially on a work chat where tone can be hard to interpret.

3. “Like” and “Literally”

Most people struggle to avoid using these words when speaking and what’s worse than hearing someone say these words at the beginning and end of all their sentences? Reading it on a work chat or in an email. Avoid these filler words.

4. “I’m bored.”

The history of your chat can always come back to haunt you and the last thing you’d want to have your manager see is your chats about how boring your job is, or how not busy you are at work. Beware of leaving a digital trail of your disinterest in your job.

5. “I’m feeling …”

Using Slack to have a significant conversation is not the best course of action. Work chats should be used for action items and professional discussions, any emotional conversations you need to have with a manager or co-worker should happen in person.

6. “Maybe we can …”

Using tentative language has no place in a work chat. Lean in. The point of using Slack is to get answers quickly, so don’t leave the door open for a lot of back and forth. Instead, be assertive in what you’re asking or answering. Give a firm yes if you can do it, or a no if you can’t. Don’t waste time; Slack and other communication apps are supposed to make collaborating easier!

7. “No worries.”

Again, tone can often be hard to read in an e-mail and saying, “no worries” can be read as passive aggressive, or too short and laid-back. Instead of writing something of as “no worries,” be more direct and only apologize if you truly are sorry for something.

8. Cursing

In general, you should avoid cursing at the office. The last thing you want is to be known as the co-worker who is always dropping the f-bomb. Even if you don’t curse out loud in the office, it might be viewed as disrespectful by some co-workers, especially anyone who works above you. Moreover, cursing sets the tone for the chat and if you’re always cursing, you’re creating the volatile tone in the chat.

New Call-to-action

 
New Call-to-action

What You Missed This Month in Google

It’s hard to believe we’re approaching Labor Day weekend here in the U.S. — the unofficial “end” of summer — but alas, here we are, with another recap of the month’s top Google news items.

What You Missed Last Month in Google

1. The Big August Algorithm Update

Google globally rolled out a core algorithm update on August 1 — nicknamed, according to Search Engine Land (SEL), the “Medic Update.”

While Google hasn’t confirmed what percentage or type of pages have been impacted by the update, SEL’s analysis points to sites concerning health and lifestyle showing the greatest shift — specifically, those “that offer medical or health information that could impact your physical well-being” or “offering advice on major life decisions, such as pages on parenting, purchasing a home, a vehicle and so on.”

These are often referred to as “your money or your life” pages [YMYL], which Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines define as sites that “could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.”

Here’s a look at the top 20 “losing” sites following the algorithm — many of which offer alternative or so-called “natural” health advice:

Source: Sistrix

As with all of Google’s algorithm updates, the change was likely made to improve the quality of Google’s search results. Read full story >>

2. Mr. Page Is Cordially Invited

Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., has been formally invited by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to testify at a September hearing on foreign influence on social media.

Should Page accept, he will testify alongside Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on the topic.

Hearing details for the foreign influence operations and their use of social media platforms

Source: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Media Advisory

This visit to Washington, D.C. is the latest for many Silicon Valley executives over the past year, especially since it was discovered that social media sites were weaponized by Russian actors to spread misinformation and influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Since then, Facebook has uncovered similar election interference activity on its site — and all three companies (Google, Twitter, and Facebook) recently purged several accounts from their sites after discovering coordinated misinformation campaigns based in Iran.

Google has not yet confirmed if Page will appear at the hearing, which is scheduled for September 5. Read full story >>

3. The Pixel 3 Is (Probably) Coming

Earlier this month, The Verge reported that Google is likely to release the latest generations of its Pixel smartphones — the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL — and that it’s rumored to do so a major press event this fall.

The official product announcement, it’s speculated, will take place on October 9 in New York.

But for reasons unknown, the Pixel 3 XL has been plagued with leaks ranging from product photos to an official “unboxing” video.

Why so many product launch leaks? Apparently, a number of units were stolen and sold on the Ukrainian black market for a cool $2,000 each. (The actual price of the Pixel 3 XL is yet to be determined, but the current generation — the Pixel 2 — currently retails for $649.) Read full story >>

4. Make Google Say It

Earlier this week, Google announced a number of updates to its Cloud Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text technologies — namely, that its WaveNet machine learning capabilities can now translate written text to spoken work 17 new (less robotic-sounding) voices, as well as new languages.

Another update: the ability of users to optimize the audio output for wherever it’ll be played — like speakers or headphones.

Want to take it for a spin? You can do so right here.

Meanwhile, with speech-to-text, TechCrunch reports that it’s now easier to transcribe multi-person conversations, like a meeting or conference where several people might be speaking at once. Those different voices can now be distinguished by the technology — as long as you let it know how many different voices exist within the audio sample. Read full story >>

5. Good News

Google Assistant has a new skill — and it’s sharing news that’s a bit more, well, feel-good than some recent dominating headlines.

With a simple command of, “Hey Google, tell me something good,” Assistant users can get the day’s roundup of positive news stories. (In its official statement, Google used the example of beekeepers who are helping to recover the bee population in Detroit.)

The stories are curated — from a vast range of news sources, the company says — by the Solutions Journalism Network, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of fighting “negative news fatigue.” Read full statement >>

Until Next Month

As always, we’re watching all things Google. We’ll continue to pick out top news items, algorithm updates, and trends.

See you next month, and until then — have a fabulous rest of the summer.

Featured image credit: Google

How small businesses can squeeze every penny out of SMS

Being a small business is hard, money is very tight and it takes time to establish and get a firm foothold in the market. It is imperative that small businesses keep a firm grip on their spending, don’t go crazy and blow all their budget at once, and to be able to track exactly where it is going, and what they are getting out of it.

Spending £1,000 on some leaflets, may seem like a good idea, but there is no way of knowing if it will work, and no real way to track the return of investment, so this is probably not the best idea to grow and get new customers for small businesses.

But being able to spend anywhere from £10 to £300 on something that you can easily track, will bring back a great return, and is easy to do, is something that all small businesses should do.

In steps the mighty SMS.

SMS is low cost, you are able to track exactly who clicked your URL in your message, how many people received the message, who went onto purchase, along with loads of other great things SMS marketing can do.

Those stats alone should get your mouth watering for SMS, but this post isn’t about telling you how amazing SMS is, we have other blogs for that advantages of sending SMS online and what SMS can do for your business. This blog is about helping you save every penny when using SMS marketing.

We have outlined 5 ways that all small businesses should do when using SMS marketing to save money.

1. Make the most out of the special offers and price breaks
Make sure that you make the most of any introductory offers. For example, Text Marketer run a Double Credits offer for all new customers, so buying 1,000 credits will get you 1,000 free, but buying the full 10,000 credits will get you 10,000 free credits! So stock up on them!

Also make sure that you take full advantage of any sales or offers. Over the past few years, Text Marketer have done Spring Sales, Summer Sales, Black Friday Sale, Flash Sales, the list goes on. So buying your credits when a sale is on will help you save a bit of money.

Finally, most SMS providers offer price breaks when you purchase more credits, like most businesses, the more you buy, the cheaper the credits are. So instead of buying 6,000 SMS credits at 3.3p, why not buy 12,000 SMS credits at 3p. You would be saving money on the price per credit and the extra credits can then sit on your account and you can use them throughout the year.

2. Track who is active and remove customers
What’s the point of sending to customers who haven’t engaged with you in over a year. Removing customers who have not clicked your link, been in contact with you, or done any of your required actions before sending another bulk marketing message will save you money.

Have a look at your past few sends, maybe 6 or so over the past few months, and see which of your customers have not clicked your link on any of those occasions. You could then put all these customers into their own contact group and send to these less frequently, checking each time if anyone has engaged with you and moving them back across to the main group if they have.

3. Don’t go over 1 message
Why spend double or even triple the amount when you don’t need to? By simply shortening your message and ensuring that it is only a single message will save you money. Sending a 2, 3, or even 4-part message will increase your costs.

If you really need to include a lot of information in the text, then why not include a mobile landing page. This can have as much information as you desire and include a couple of enticing images as well.

4. Do it yourself and keep it simple
Text marketing is so simple, or at least it should be anyway. Don’t be fooled by providers offering over the top prices for amazing features and managing it all for you. Sending a text message to your customers is swift and simple. If you just want to keep it simple and cost effective, then all you need is the ability to upload your contacts, type the message, and click send.

5. See what works for you
Test, test, and test again. All businesses are different, and sending a certain message at a certain time might work for them, but it may not work for you.

Make sure you test different times to send with different offers in. This way you will be able to track and see what works best for you, meaning your SMS campaigns in the future will be optimised and bring you the best returns.

We have already done a load of research on when the best time is to send, so if you are a retailer, click here to see the best times to send. Or if you work in the food industry, click here to see when the best time is for you to send your SMS campaigns.

 

If you are a small business and need any advice on SMS marketing, then please don’t hesitate to give us a call and one of our expert team will be able to advice you.

If haven’t started your SMS journey yet, why not sign up for a free account and get 10 free credits to test with.

 

Online Trading Has Been Cleverly Marketed and Its Popularity is Increasing

It used to be that market trading was limited to a certain type of investor. For most people, the idea of playing the stock market or trading currencies simply wasn’t an option that they even considered. Of those who tried, only around 6% succeeded in becoming professional traders.

Yet, the arrival of online trading has ensured that just about anyone can do this, now with a better chance of success. How has this method become so popular that it is seen as a mainstream option for just about every type of investor?

A big part of the success of the online approach to trading is how it has been marketed as an easy and enjoyable way of making money. This has blown away the traditional image that many people had about trading.

Clever New Technology

Marketing teams all around the world now know that people love to see great new technology at work. To help convince you that trading can be fun and modern, these sites use slick platforms that are a pleasure to work with.

You can typically pull up interesting graphs, useful statistics and all sorts of other handy information. This makes it is easy to feel like a professional no matter when and how you trade.

Of course, at its heart, this process is still pretty much the same as it ever was. The basic concept of buying and selling stock or other commodities hasn’t really changed but the ways of doing it have definitely moved with the times.

Free Demo Accounts

We all love to try something for free, especially when it could make us money. To this effect, marketing teams have realized that demo trading accounts are an excellent idea. They give newcomers the chance to get comfortable with the idea of trading without risking their own money.

With a demo trading account, it is possible to try trading and choose the level of account you need accordingly. The type of account you choose then determines how much you can trade and the level of support you receive.

Putting your own money at risk is thrilling – but using a demo account first makes it seems like a natural progression rather than a leap into the unknown.

Mobile Trading

Mobile marketing is a huge part of any brand’s approach, shown by the fact that in 2016 just over half of all digital advertising budgets went on mobile ads. And it makes double sense to target potential traders with it: most people now have a mobile device close to them all day long, it makes a lot of sense to trade with one, too, and it is incredibly simple to stay on top of the markets all day.

All of this makes trading more accessible and enjoyable for lots of people who might not have otherwise tried it. Anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to invest in this way now knows that it is simple to give it a try.

The post Online Trading Has Been Cleverly Marketed and Its Popularity is Increasing appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

Advertising Tactics To Amplify Your Loyalty Program Part 1: Showcasing Rewards

I’m convinced there is one crucial aspect on the path to great loyalty that deserves more discussion than it presently receives in the industry: how to advertise loyalty programs to the broader market, and especially to individuals that may not have received previous exposure to these programs. Loyalty pros understand that, compared to traditional advertising, it’s hard to beat the effectiveness of loyalty ecosystems when it comes to inspiring long-term customers. After all, loyalty strategies are designed to keep customers engaged over time, and more importantly, keep them immersed in the underlying narrative and core values of a brand. And there is a universe of literature on topics like incentivization and engagement, rewards, and technology that supports this notion. But –  loyalty programs often need an initial amplification within the market to draw in the first wave of members, stimulate growth, and avoid stagnation.

Without effective program advertising, loyalty purveyors face the burden of unoccupied or under-occupied programs – which can be huge cost centers. Simply applying “advertising” to what is effectively just another platform for further marketing can pose its own set of challenges, especially amidst contemporary consumer reticence and suspicion about marketing and advertising in general. If this struggle sounds familiar, the tactics presented in this, the first in a three-part series, will help you understand how to best amplify your programs by applying effective advertising concepts. In this first installation, we’ll dive into execution ideas that can showcase the aspect of loyalty that most excites consumers – the rewards themselves.

Put your best foot forward (by showcasing your rewards)

Why do people want to join your program in the first place? Often it is because they crave access to great rewards and incentives, and they especially value exclusive experiences and perks that are off-limits to the general market. Oracle reports that 60% of online US adults consider special offers or treatment to be an important aspect of their loyalty program patronage. When developing a communications strategy to draw in members, it usually makes sense to highlight the tangible value that customers can expect to receive after signing up.  Success here relies on the perfect blend of strategy and creative. Here are three execution ideas to bring the best you have to offer to your eager audience:

1) Programmatic Advertising

This can be a budget-friendly solution to reach an audience when there is available data to suggest they will be interested in your mix of rewards. For example, an individual consistently searching for cheap flights might respond well to programmatic online advertising if your loyalty program offers incentives like vacation getaways or airline coupons.

The CVS ExtraCare program allows you to get 2% back of all your purchases, and rewards are paid out four times a year. And CVS does a great job with their digital ad banners, getting straight to the point and communicating the deals with clean and clear creative:

2) Influencer Marketing

The research speaks for itself: 90% of consumers trust peer reviews, but only 33% trust traditional advertising. And it’s not just friends that secure this affinity; about the same number of consumers respond well to recommendations from strangers such as celebrities and bloggers. The human side of loyalty engagement can be a powerful motivator, and the intimate way that great rewards benefits real people is something that your business should be leveraging as an advertising tactic.

3) Targeted Channels

Great movie rewards? Try commercials that run before the movie starts in a national theatre chain. Discounts and exclusive reservation access to the hottest restaurants? How about advertising in trendy food and leisure publications? These might not sound like familiar advertising channels for loyalty programs, but for the astute marketing manager looking to highlight their rewards to the consumers who actually value them, hyper-targeted channels maximize ad spend. The takeaway: fewer ads that are better targeted yield better results…and consumers themselves agree. 75% of shoppers would prefer fewer ads that were better aligned to their actual needs and interests.

VerizonUp is a rewards-rich loyalty program featuring a diverse offering of incentives in the realm of music, sports, experiences, and more. So, for Super Bowl LII, Verizon created a premium lounge that offered members even more great rewards, such as player experiences, ticket giveaways, and celebrity interviews. The visibility of the installation created an effective advertising platform to encourage potential new members to explore the program.

This is the first in a series on leveraging advertising tactics to propel loyalty engagement.  Stay tuned for the next entries!

Lanndon Lindsay has been navigating the intersections of loyalty, marketing, and advertising for the past several years and has applied his talents on behalf of such notable brands as Anheuser-Busch, Kimberly-Clark and Red Bull, among others.

The post Advertising Tactics To Amplify Your Loyalty Program Part 1: Showcasing Rewards appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

Incorporating Email Personalization in Your ABM Strategy to Boost Engagement

Today, email is not just about promoting your brand offerings. It is about giving your subscribers and customers a personalized and relevant experience and creating accessible emails to reach out to each and everyone, including people with disabilities.

The email address is an asset that needs to be used thoughtfully. Gone are the days of batch-and-blast emailing; email marketing is about delivering value to the subscriber.

While email personalization is about sending the most relevant emails to your subscribers at the most suitable time, account-based marketing (ABM) focuses on targeting the most relevant audience to market your brand. Email is one of the most powerful marketing channels, and by combining personalized emails with ABM strategy, you will be able to boost engagement and get the desired results.

In this blog, we’ll take you through the ways to build a successful ABM strategy by incorporating personalization into your email campaigns and its benefits.

Why Should You Use ABM for Your Email Campaigns?

ABM focuses on creating and executing highly-targeted and customized campaigns to address the needs of each individual set of accounts and their decision makers. Email marketing, when aligned with ABM, can help garner better results. Using ABM in your email campaigns will help you to understand each target account’s priorities and needs, and add value to their business.

Here are the benefits of implementing an ABM strategy in your email campaigns:

Targeted Approach

ABM targets specific groups of accounts that share similar business needs, challenges, and firm demographics. Therefore, instead of marketing to a large group of people, it markets to a specific list of prospects. This helps in determining whom to address while creating email campaigns for a particular B2B business.

Relevant and Appealing Emails

Since the target group is fixed, marketers can create relevant content that appeals to each of them. This helps in creating specific and appealing emails that have higher chances of engagement than generic emails. Personalized and targeted email campaigns improve click-through rates and conversions of your email marketing campaigns.

Easy Tracking of Metrics

Since ABM campaigns help to send relevant content that focuses on the quality rather than quantity, there is less data that needs to be tracked. It is therefore much easier to measure metrics and performance for ABM campaigns as compared to regular campaigns.

Improved ROI

ABM targets the biggest and most superior groups of accounts with personalized content that is most likely to drive conversions. It is, therefore, the most popular campaign that delivers the highest return on investment for any B2B business.

Aligned Sales and Marketing

ABM involves an equal contribution from both marketing and sales. It includes targeting specific accounts, engaging them, and generating revenue from them. For this, the marketing team needs to work closely with the sales team to make the campaign successful.

Steps to Build Personalized Emails for a Successful ABM Campaign

Your marketing automation platform can help you in creating and executing your personalized email campaigns.

Here are the steps to build a successful ABM campaign with personalized emails:

Step #1: Identify Your Target Accounts

The first and most fundamental step to create an ABM strategy is to identify the target accounts, determine their relevance and importance, and link them to your organizational goals. You should have a clear idea of what type of customers you need for your business. Build a list out of your most relevant target accounts and study the anatomy of each of them. Find out the key decision makers in the organization and build a strategy to approach them.

Step #2: Collect All Necessary Data

The more data you have of your customers/target accounts, the more efficiently you will be able to personalize messages. Collect data such as their business needs, interests, their role in the organization, the type of products or services they are looking for, and other personal information to deploy personalization in the emails that you send them.

Step #3: Segment the List

Once you have identified your target accounts, it is time to segment them into various groups to send specific messages. Segmentation is a vital part to create personalized and targeted campaigns. Segment the accounts based on their role, gender, business needs, and interests. This will help you in crafting only relevant content and targeting them to the right audience.

After putting efforts to identify relevant prospects, the last thing you want is to provide them with the same email experience as everyone else on your list. Creating personalized emails will provide your target accounts a unique experience, engaging and converting them into leads and customers.

Step #4: Create Personalized Content for Specific Target Accounts

To craft personalized content for your emails, you need to determine the key pain points of your target accounts and address their problems and demands. Send newsletters, blog posts, infographics, whitepapers, or any other form of content that will help your prospects in addressing their specific business challenges and needs. Track their behavior on your website and send automated emails based on their actions.

Here’s How Email Personalization Is Set up in Marketo

Marketo allows you to use data tokens to personalize newsletters by including the subscriber’s name in the subject line or the body of the email, as well as use images or graphics more relevant to your industry or business. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to creating a personalized email using Marketo.
 1) Create a New Program

To do so, log in to Marketo’s Marketing Programs and click on New Program.

New Program Marketo Example

You will see the control panel with four areas of action: Audience, Email, Schedule, and Approval.

Choose Target Audience in Marketo Example
 2)  Define Your Target Audience

For this, you have two options in the Audience tile: either import a new list or edit a smart list to create the target audience.

For example, we choose from the smart list by clicking on Edit Smart List, which opens the following tab.
Next, from the list on the right pane, add filters by drag-and-drop and set the condition. Here we have set filters for State and Job Title.

State and Job Title in Marketo Example

You can add as many categories and filters as you need to target.

In the Audience tile, you will be able to see the number of people to whom the email will be sent and the number of people who have unsubscribed or been blacklisted.

Audience Segments in Marketo Example

 3) Create an Email

By clicking on the New Email option in the Email tile, you’ll be able to choose from the different options of templates in the template picker window.

 4) Add Personalization Tags

Once your template is ready, insert token tags to personalize. To do this, click on the insert token button for the From Name, Subject Line, and Email Content.

Template in Marketo Example

5) Set the Token Name and Default Value for Each

For example, for personalizing the subject line, set the token name as {{lead.First Name}} and the default value as Hello Friend! In case the token value is not available, it will fetch the default value and display it.

Insert Token in Marketo Example

6) Personalize with Dynamic Content

For this, click on the desired section in the email content and select Make Dynamic in the Settings option.

Dynamic Content in Marketo Example

Now, select the segments for which you want to show dynamic content and save the selection. You can add different segments for different content sections.

Segmentation in Marketo Example

Segmentation in Marketo Example 2

7) Save and Schedule 

Next, you’ll need to save and schedule the email by selecting the send date and time at the Schedule tileThat’s it! You can activate a triggered campaign using a smart campaign and track the performance of your email. The goal of your emails is to present your business as the most suitable solution by sending them resources they are looking for. By sending personalized content to them, you will draw them to use your business’ services and products.

Step #5: Promote the Content on the Right Channels

Once you have created the right content, it is time to channelize and send it efficiently. Choose the right medium to send your message. All businesses are not active on all mediums. For example, social media and traditional advertising might not be suitable channels for the CEO of a company; an email would be the right medium to communicate with them. The distribution time is also an important factor to consider. You need to figure out what channels and time are best suited to get the desired results out of your ABM campaign.

Step #6: Analyze Data and Metrics

Analyzing the performance of your campaign is as important as running it. By studying the metrics, you will get insights into which content worked in engaging your target accounts and which one needs tweaking. As you begin to learn what content engages your target group, you will be able to refine your content to get better results. The data will help you in making the desired changes and guide you in improving the overall success of the campaign.

Benefits of Combining ABM and Email Personalization

Creating relevant and personalized content that addresses the specific needs and challenges of your target accounts is the most vital tactic of an ABM campaign. More so, combining personalization with ABM in emails yields the following benefits:

Deliver a Personalized Experience

When your business goals and target accounts are predetermined, it is easier to strike the right chord. By tracking the behavior and interest of the decision makers at each of your target accounts, you will be able to provide them a personalized experience. This will increase the chances of turning them into customers.

Accelerate the Buyer’s Journey

Personalized, contextual, and relevant email content increases the chances of conversion. When your target accounts receive content that speaks directly to them and addresses their challenges, they are more likely to use your products and services. When they receive suitable solutions for their problems, they will advance faster in the buyer’s journey.

Get Insights into Individual Customer Data

When you have a limited and more targeted set of people to address, the tracking is more accurate. You will be able to have a detailed analysis of your email campaign and insights into each individual customer/prospect’s data. This will help you in further making changes and optimizing your campaign strategy or content.

Wrapping Up

ABM is a powerful marketing method which when combined with email personalization will yield you great success in your business. Use this deadly combination in your email campaigns to stay focused on the right business goals and get maximum conversions.

The post Incorporating Email Personalization in Your ABM Strategy to Boost Engagement appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Top 25 Creative Reddit Marketing Ideas for 2018

As the fourth most visited website in the U.S. with over 138,000 active communities, business owners and marketers are persistent on trying to reach Reddit users. But this platform has a reputation for being a tough site to market on, so we asked experts to share their best strategies for Reddit marketing. Here are the…

The post Top 25 Creative Reddit Marketing Ideas for 2018 appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Structured Data Can = MehSEO

In 2011, Google, Bing & Yahoo announced Schema.org which got SEOs all excited to start marking up website content to turn it into “structured data.” The benefit would be that search engines would be more certain that a text string of numbers was in fact a phone number, or at least they would be more certain that you wanted them to think it was phone number. The search engines could then turn the structured data into eye-catching fripperies designed to seduce searchers into surrendering their clicks and revenue to your fabulously marked-up site (aka “Rich Results).

It also could help your fridge talk to your Tesla.

So pretty much every SEO marked-up their audits and conference presentations with recommendations to mark up all the things. LSG was no exception. And we have seen it work some nice SEO miracles.

There was the ecommerce site that lost all its product review stars until we reconfigured the markup. There was the yellow pages site that got a spammy structured data manual action for merging a partner’s review feed into its own. There is the software vendor and its clients that (still!) violate Google’s structured data guidelines and get away with it. There have been countless Knowledge Panels that have needed the tweaking one can only get from a perfectly implemented https://schema.org/logo.

But structured data is not a killer SEO strategy for all situations, and it’s important that SEOs and clients understand that often it’s more of a future-proofing game than an actual near-term traffic or money-generator. For example, let’s take this UGC site that generated about 22 million clicks from Google over the past three months and see how many clicks are reported as coming from “Rich Results” in Google Search Console:

So less than one-half of one-half of 1% of clicks came from a “Rich Result.” Not particularly impressive.

The good news is that Google is in fact using the structured markup. We can see evidence of it in the SERPs. But it’s likely the content of this site doesn’t lend itself to eye-popping featured snippets. For example, many of the Rich Results appear to just be bolded words that appear in the URL snippets in the SERPs, kind of like this:

Rich shotland

It also may just take time before Google trusts your markup.

So before you drop everything and prioritize structured markup, you may want to consult Google’s Structured Data Gallery to get an idea of which types of content Google is pushing to markup. You also should check the SERPs to see what your competitors are doing in this area and how their marked-up content is being displayed. This should give you a good idea of what the potential is for your site.

And remember,”you can mark-up anything, but you can’t mark-up everything…” – Tony Robbins?

The post Structured Data Can = MehSEO appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

MMA CEO & CMO Wrap Up

#ShapeTheFuture

The MMA hosted another spectacular show this year, with executives from all over the world gathering to share their knowledge to help define the future of mobile marketing.

In March 2018, we had the pleasure of presenting The Future of Messaging as a Platform with Subway at the Mobile World Congress. This week at the MMA CEO & CMO Summit in Sonoma, CA, we revisited that topic and showcased the actual results of a Rich Communications Services (RCS) trial we launched in partnership with Subway and the Google RBM platform.

The trial took place in February 2018 across several Subway markets. The Subway team wanted to see what kind of impact RCS capabilities could have on their offers, as RCS allows for richer images, branding, and interactions. They were not disappointed as the initial test, which was a price promo offering two Footlong subs for $11.99, showed a staggering 140% higher conversion rate than SMS.

The next test was a meal deal offer. A meal deal is a higher price point when compared to the price promo offer, which gives customers a discounted price on a single item. Because of the nature of the deal, conversion rates were lower, but still remarkable at 51% higher than SMS.

These results are further proof that consumers expect personalization and options. The future of mobile communication and commerce is here, and RCS incorporates rich media and transactions – all from within the messaging app. We are excited about the work we do with Subway, and are proud to help them execute their omnichannel strategy.

Below is the full presentation given by Carissa Ganelli, Chief Digital Officer of Subway and introduced by Mobivity CEO Dennis Becker.

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“What’s next for mobile? I don’t know. I have some ideas. What I do know, is that it’s not going to be a point solution. It’s going to be omnichannel. It has to be everywhere. You have to think broader than just mobile. You have to think consumers, and how consumers like to interact. And you really have to think about all the underlying, supporting systems that are required to deliver on those consumer expectations.”


Interested in learning more about how the re•currency suite could help jumpstart your business and drive customer frequency? Give us a call at (877) 282-7660, chat with our team on this page, or fill out the form below to start the conversation today.

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27 Fun Corporate Team-Building Activities & Outing Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

Starting to notice some droopy shoulders around the office? Sounds like it’s time to plan a team outing.

Team outings are a great way to facilitate bonding with your team members, reduce employee stress, and give them the chance to get to know one another outside of the office.

And, you know, they’re really fun.

But how do you find ideas for a great team outing? Maybe you start with a Google search for “team outing ideas” and stumble upon an article that suggests “field trips” and “professional development activities.” Sounds like a starting point, but where’s the real excitement?

Next time you plan an outing for your team, cut the trust falls and get one of these ideas on the calendar instead.

Large Group Games

1. Scavenger Hunt

Find a beautiful day, break everyone out into groups, and have a scavenger hunt around the city. You can organize one yourself, or use an app like Stray Boots. Your team will feel nice and rejuvenated after some fresh air and fun challenges. Be sure to take plenty of silly pictures — you can even have a slideshow when everyone regroups at the end.

Four people on a scavenger hunt, a team building activity for large groups

2. What’s My Name?

You might have seen this game played before. It goes by different names, and the more people who play, the better it is.

What’s My Name is an activity where each player is assigned the name of a person — dead or alive — and displays that name on their back, head, or part of their body such that only the other players can read the name. You can write these names on index cards or Post-it notes. Once everyone has been assigned a name, the players mingle with one another, treating their coworkers the way they’d treat the person listed on that coworker’s card. They can also ask questions about their own hidden identity until they correctly guess who they are.

What’s My Name has no complicated rules or potential for competitiveness. It’s simply an empathy-builder — a critical ingredient of good company culture — allowing employees to find out what it would be like to be treated the way someone very different from them might be treated every day.

3. Cook-Off

Here’s a culinary team-building activity that could end in dessert or disaster — in a fun way. Creating new dishes together requires creativity and will require everyone to put their team and leadership skills into action. Divide your team into smaller teams, pick a food category, and challenge each team to whip up something delicious. The category could be anything from ice cream, to salsa, to pizza.

One fun twist you could add? Pick a single ingredient that all teams must use, like maple syrup or Oreos. Or, have each team get creative with the shape of its food — you can make pizzas into almost any shape.

Group of female coworkers in an ice cream cook-off

Source: Teambonding.com

4. Sneak a Peek

What do you get when you add a test of memory to a game of pictionary? Sneak a Peek. In this game, people break off into groups of at least four and take turns recreating objects from memory.

Using LEGOs, clay, building blocks, or a similar set of construction items, one game leader will craft an object or structure for every group to recreate. A member of each group then has 10 seconds to “sneak a peek” at the structure (which is concealed from view), return to their groups, and describe what they saw to their group members so they can recreate it.

Each group has their own LEGOs, clay, or building blocks. If after a minute of recreating the structure, it isn’t complete, another member of each group sneaks a 10-second peek at the game leader’s object and comes back to further instruct the group. This rotation continues until a group is confident they have recreated the item. The object of the game? Be the first group to recreate it.

Not only does this game help employees practice project management, but it shows you how to accomplish tasks using input from a variety of sources. It’s also just a fun way to see how good your coworkers are at retaining information.

5. Board Game Tournament

Here’s one way to spark your team members’ competitive sides without having to leave the office. Organize a team-wide board game tournament. Especially if your team is pretty big, it might be easiest to pick a single game, then have people sign up for specific time slots when they’re free to leave their desks and spend some time playing the game.

Some great games with reasonable play times include Boggle, Jenga, or even games using good ol’ playing cards. Don’t forget to incentivize with prizes for first, second, and third place.

Three male coworkers playing in a board game tournament

Source: Glassdoor

6. Office Trivia

Who says trivia night only takes places at the bar? Office trivia is the perfect way to bring a large group of colleagues together and challenge the brain in areas that don’t necessarily apply to their daily jobs. Break the company into teams of four or more and offer small prizes for the teams who score the most points.

Want to write your own trivia questions? For reference, trivia questions are generally sorted into categories — four or five trivia questions per category — with optional bonus questions at the end of the game. While you can give each question a point value, you can also assign each team a certain amount of points per category that they can bet, instead. Each team can then bet as many or as few points as they want per question until they’ve used all their points for that category.

Not prepared to create your own trivia questions? Hire a trivia organization to host a trivia night at your office. There are tons of national trivia companies who’d be happy to host an event right on site — District Trivia, The Trivia Factory, and the Big Quiz Thing are just a few of them.

Small Group Activities

7. Improv Workshop

Comedy and improv events are fun, interactive experiences that’ll have your employees roaring with laughter while teaching them useful communication and soft skills, like focus and trust. Depending on your budget, you could do anything from simply playing improv games with your employees to bringing in professionals to run competitive, fast-paced activities.

Improv workshop with a small group of coworkers

Source: Al-Jazeera

8. Two Truths and a Lie

This is a classic house party game, but it’s also an excellent icebreaker when integrating coworkers who don’t yet know one another.

Two Truths and a Lie is simple: Start by organizing the group into a circle and give each person the floor to introduce themselves. In addition to giving their name, however, each employee also says three things about themselves — only two of which are true. It’s up to everyone else in the circle to guess which statement is the lie.

9. Karaoke Night

What better way to get your employees to break out of their shells than to have them get up and sing some karaoke? You can even have a contest for best group karaoke performance. Bonus points if there are feather boas and cowboy hats involved. This works best for a more extroverted group, so if your team isn’t into strutting their stuff on stage, consider an idea on this list that caters more toward those personalities.

Head of a microphone used for karaoke night, a team building activity for companies

Source: derekgavey

10. The “Suddenly” Story

If you’ve ever told stories around a campfire, you might have told a variation of The “Suddenly” Story. This activity is the choose-your-own-adventure book of team building activities. You’re not just telling a story — you’re piecing a story together using the (often hilarious) imaginations of your coworkers.

To tell The “Suddenly” Story, gather your team in a circle, and offer the opening three sentences to a story about anything. At the end of the three sentences, say “Suddenly …” and pass the story onto the person next to you. It’s their job to take your three sentences and build on the story with another three sentences, followed by “Suddenly …” Each mention of “Suddenly” allows the story to take a turn. What that turn looks like is up to the next person in the circle.

The “Suddenly” Story helps people find ways of building on content that came before them, while also being creative when all ears are on them. Try it the next time you want to get your department together for a break, and you’re sure to get everyone laughing.

11. Go-Kart Racing

Nothing like a little competition to bond a group together. An adrenaline-pumping event like kart racing is a great way to get employees to interact with one another in a totally new and fun way. Just make sure everyone pays attention during the safety lecture.

Small group of coworkers going go-kart racing in red uniforms

12. Concentration (Marketing Edition)

Here’s a professional spin on the 1960s game show. The original game show, called Concentration, put 30 numbered tiles up on a board, each tile with an identical tile somewhere else on the board. What made them identical? They had matching prizes on the back. Over time, as contestants opened up more tiles, they had the opportunity select tiles they knew would match up and win the prize written on the back.

Businesses — especially marketing departments — can have a field day putting logos, slogans, and company names on the back of their own tiles and having players match up every piece of the brand. As your business grows, you can even put the names of your own products, employees, and job titles on the backs of your tiles to see how well your coworkers know the company they work for.

Teamwork Games

13. Professional Development Workshop

Want to encourage your employees to bond while providing them with an opportunity to learn and further their career? Offer a shared learning experience either at your office, or at an off-site workshop or conference. The activity could be specifically related to your employees’ jobs, or it could be something broader, like a negotiation or leadership skills workshop.

Coworkers sitting around a lecturer hosting a professional development workshop

14. Jigsaw Puzzle Race

Jigsaw puzzles can be a tedious thing to put together alone. Maybe you have one set up at home and make progress on it for a couple of hours every weekend. Put your numerous brilliant colleagues on the case, however, and a jigsaw puzzle becomes a fun problem-solving challenge. Break the company into teams for a multi-puzzle race, and suddenly you have a test of teamwork that electrifies the entire office.

Grab several copies of the same jigsaw puzzle and turn your weekend activity into a contest to see which team can complete the puzzle first. Offer prizes just like you would in a game of office trivia. Just be sure each team has the same number of people and choose your puzzle size wisely. A 1000-piece puzzle, for example, might be a bit time-consuming for a team of just five or six people.

15. Room Escape Games

Here’s a great bonding activity that requires leadership skills, teamwork, logic, and patience. Room escape games — Escape the Room, Puzzle Break, AdventureRooms, etc. — have become a wildly popular team-building exercise for groups around the globe.

Here’s how it works: A group of people gets “locked” in a room for one hour. During that one hour, they have to find hidden objects, solve puzzles, and figure out clues to locate the key that will set them free. And it’s not easy: Only 20% of players actually make it out before the hour is up.

Escape the Room

Source: Escape the Room St. Louis

16. The Egg Drop Challenge

Chances are, you played this in school or summer camp. The Egg Drop Challenge is a beloved tradition that challenges teams of kids to create small structures around an uncooked egg in order to protect the egg from a high fall onto hard ground. Each team is given specific items they can use to build the structure that protects the egg, but nothing more. So, why not offer the same challenge to your coworkers?

Straws, newspaper, tape, and cardboard are just some common items provided during the Egg Drop Challenge — as you can see in the sample egg fortress below. For your coworkers, however, consider making it even more challenging and allow them to use simply anything available in the office.

The height of the fall is up to you, too, but be sure to set an altitude that’s consistent with the materials each team has to work with.

Egg taped to four toilet paper rolls and a sponge for an egg drop challenge

Source: Buggy and Buddy

17. Laser Tag

Another great way to get your adrenaline pumping? A good old game of laser tag. Not only is it great fun, it’s also an opportunity for employees to exercise their strategy and logic skills, as well as teamwork skills. Bonus: Determine teams ahead of time and have people dress up.

Group of coworkers playing laser tag as a teamwork game

18. Catch Phrase

In this classic party game, players team up and take turns describing words and phrases to their teammates without saying the word or phrase itself. Phrases can include celebrities, expressions, or just simple things found around the house. If my phrase is “needle in a haystack,” for example, a clue I might give to my teammates could be “a pointy object buried inside farm equipment.”

Catch Phrase is the perfect way to get your employees together and teach them how to communicate with one another. (Don’t worry, everyone will be having so much fun, they won’t realize that’s what you’re doing.)

This game is often played with a basket of phrases on slips of paper, but it became so popular, Hasbro made an electronic version.

Outings and Events

19. Volunteer

Giving time to support a good cause isn’t just good for the soul; it’s also a great way for your team members to bond. Place-based volunteering ideas include things like volunteering at a local soup kitchen, helping build a Habitat for Humanity house, or delivering gifts to children’s hospitals during the holidays. Skill-based volunteering is a cool way to stretch your employees’ expertise: It’s when your team volunteers its time and uses its professional skills — anything from marketing to app development to writing — to help a nonprofit.

Try VolunteerMatch.org for either type of volunteering opportunities, and Catchafire.org for skill-based volunteering opportunities.

People standing outside with shovels and wood chips while volunteering, one of many team building activities for companies and corporations

Source: VolunteerSpot

20. Mystery Dinner

Mystery dinners are one of the most beloved traditions here at HubSpot. On a single night, you send a group of folks from different teams within your company to dinner somewhere in your city (or at someone’s house). The dinner is hosted by one of your company’s leaders and paid for by the company. These dinners allow random groups of people from the same company to spend an evening chock full of good food and conversation together.

What makes them a mystery dinner? The only thing participants should know about the dinner ahead of time is the date and time. Then, on the afternoon the dinner is supposed to take place, send each group an email with the name of the restaurant they’re going to and who they’ll be going with, so they can arrange transportation together.

Optional: Give every dinner host the name of a restaurant or bar to invite everyone to congregate at once the dinners are over.

Mystery Dinner

21. Kayaking/Canoeing

Nothing says “let’s work together” quite like trying not to end up in the water. Want to take advantage of the outdoors? Grab a paddle and head down to the closest river for a great spring or summer outing.

Many public rivers and ponds have boat houses where you can rent kayaks and canoes — and you can encourage folks to rent multi-person ones and pair up with people they don’t usually work with.

Five coworkers kayaking on a company outing

22. Trampoline Park

Hey, who says trampolines are just for kids? Take your team to a trampoline park for some jumping fun and a chance to work off the day’s stress. Many cities have local places with trampoline activities — if you’re in the Boston area, check out Skyzone for trampoline dodgeball and basketball games.

Team Outing Ideas: Trampoline Jumping

Source: Mustbeart

23. Something Touristy

Embrace your city! Pick a hot tourist destination and go as a team. You can even do a Segway tour. (Fanny packs: optional.) It’ll be fun to laugh at how silly it feels to be a tourist in your own city, and you might even learn something new.

Yellow Duck Tour boat on the water

Source: Wikimedia

24. Painting Class

If you’re looking for a slightly more relaxing activity, take a group painting class. Paint Nite hosts painting classes by local artists at various bars throughout major cities for painting on canvases, wine glasses (like in the picture below), and so on. It’s a great way to let your team members unwind, catch up over some drinks, and express their creativity.

paint-nite.jpg

25. Cooking Class

In the mood for something a little more… culinary? Change up the usual outing to a bar or your local restaurant, and try a cooking class. Through a service such as Kitchensurfing, you can hire a professional chef to come cook a fancy meal for you in your home or office kitchen. Between the multiple courses prepared before your eyes, your team will have plenty of time to strike up a conversation and enjoy the delicious aromas.

HubSpot employees taking a cooking class

26. Explore a New Place

Few things more fun than getting out of the city and exploring for a day. So, why not do it with your team?

For bigger events — maybe on a quarterly basis, when you have more budget to use for outings — charter a bus and take your team to a new place. You can all take a historical tour of the new place, grab lunch at a restaurant serving the town’s finest, or take in a local attraction together.

ptown-outing.jpg

27. Sports Game

Round up the team and head out to a sports game. What a fantastic way to rev up team spirit while combining both competition and camaraderie.

team_outings_baseball_game

Source: Wikimedia

Now you’re ready to show your team a great time while increasing their happiness and creating a great company culture. And hey, you might just be the “cool boss” now. How cool would that be?

Want more? Read The Power of Teamwork: 31 Quotes That Celebrate Collaboration.

download free guide to company culture

Rethinking Native Advertising: Why It’s More Than Another Format

By Dale Lovell, Chief Digital Officer, ADYOULIKE

By definition, native advertising is a form of paid media where the advertisement is relevant to the consumer experience, integrated into the surrounding content and is not disruptive. Simply put, native advertisements look and feel like the content that surrounds them. The ads sit within the editorial feed sections of websites, and the ad works in the same way as existing editorial; for example, you normally will have to click on the content in order to interact with it.

Native advertising has experienced significant growth in recent years, as marketers have sought to break through the increasingly cluttered digital landscape. However, to date, marketers have treated native as just another format—another arrow in their digital advertising quivers. Quite frankly, this viewpoint sells native advertising short.

“Native advertising”—although the term comes from the advertisement matching the look and feel of the editorial surrounding it, in that it is native to the publication it sits on—is actually better used as a term to describe the advertising format that is indigenous—native—to online. Native advertising isn’t another digital ad format. It is the digital ad format.

Think about it. Banner ads were essentially adopted by early websites to replicate the standard ad blocks seen in newspapers. A banner says, “This is where the ads can sit—in these standard block units.” Video ads, even still today, are quite often repurposed TV ads. All are formats that came before the advent of the internet.

Native advertising is different. Like the digital medium itself, native ads take elements from other media, but use them correctly for the digital world. Native advertising is the first “native” advertising format of the digital world. We are barely 20 years into mass internet usage, and far, far less for mobile browsing. Native advertising is the format all future digital advertising will take.

Native advertising is in part a consequence of and reaction to some major digital consumer trends—mobile, social media, video, content, ad blocking, the decline in print and many smaller and subtler changes. It’s only when you look at the journey that digital has taken over the last 20 years that it all suddenly clicks into place. For some people, native advertising is the solution that digital publishing has been waiting for—the format that will transform the fortunes of struggling digital publishing business models and usher in a new golden age in publishing. For others it’s a symbol of the death of publishing as we know it, the death of editorial independence and the last-ditch—“dead cat bounce”—effort of an industry that has been searching for a business model for 20 years or more, and failing.

But native advertising is fundamentally not a revolution in advertising—despite what many vested interests may try and tell you. It’s an evolution. It is a medium born out of major changes in consumer habits online. It’s the evolution of advertising formats for a mobile-first world. It’s the evolution of advertising content for a world that is continuously engaging with the feed, where interruption is only OK if you do it in an entertaining or informative way. It’s the evolution of publishing and platform revenue models for publishers that can no longer afford to rely on dwindling returns from print. It’s the evolution of the newsroom and editorial jobs. It’s a technology that can actually help against ad blocking and help distribute the countless pieces of content brands that publishers are creating on a daily basis.

Native advertising will continue to influence and affect our daily lives for many years to come. In today’s era of privacy, particularly with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect on May 25, native advertising’s importance will be accelerated thanks to the inherent and overt value exchange it provides to the consumer. It behooves marketers to immerse themselves in the creative, technological and commercial aspects at play behind these ads. Going forward, they will not just represent an important part of the digital ad ecosystem. They very likely will represent its entirety.

The post Rethinking Native Advertising: Why It’s More Than Another Format appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

Grocery Loyalty Drivers vs. Payments

What drives grocery store loyalty? According to a recent survey by Minerva Insights & Solutions, convenient location is not just a driver, but a necessity. But though a necessity, location doesn’t give a consumer an additional reason to choose one store over another – when multiple choices are available. With Amazon offering some grocery options – even in areas where recently purchased Whole Foods locations aren’t a viable option – consumers have multiple choices, even in so-called food deserts.

Beyond location consumers look at items like price, fresh produce and assortment and quick check-out.

One of the quickest check-out methods is  using payment cards at the point of sale yet some stores are considering eliminating some of these payment options. Meaning that some consumers who rely on grocery purchases to add to their points totals for airline, hospitality or other affinity cards will no longer have that option, and will have to choose a grocer’s other amenities over full card payment options.

Kroger is one of the more popular grocers and, according to the Minerva Insights & Solutions report: Twenty-six percent of those surveyed said they had shopped at the grocer over the past month, putting it third on the list. Walmart topped the survey with half of shoppers visiting there in the previous 30 days. Kroger ranked eighth in terms of customer satisfaction at 71 percent. Trader Joe’s (93 percent) topped the list, followed by Costco (90 percent).

According to Bloomberg News, Kroger, which already stopped accepting Visa credit cards at its Mariano’s subsidiary in California, is considering expanding the ban across the company’s other stores. There are a pair of drivers behind the decision. The grocer’s own loyalty program features a card co-branded with MasterCard. And, the grocer is objecting to Visa’s interchange fees.

Merchants have long complained that interchange fees, the cost of accepting cards, are too high. Most quick service restaurants didn’t accept credit cards until the interchange formula was changed several years ago.

But the decision to eliminate a payment choice could hurt Kroger more than any money it saves on interchange. As a recent MarketWatch article points out, consumers are very loyal to their payment cards, and don’t like to switch from one to another. However, there are consumers who will use certain cards for some purchases and other cards for other purchases, particularly when the rewards are different for different types of purchases. Discover and some other card issuers offer rewards programs that shift from quarter to quarter.

Citing a CreditCards.com survey, MarketWatch said just over a quarter (28 percent of consumers had never changed their “primary” credit card, with more than one in 10 (12 percent) having chosen their primary card a decade or more ago.

Phil Britt is a reporter for The Wise Marketer.

The post Grocery Loyalty Drivers vs. Payments appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

How to Work From Home: 20 Tips From People Who Do It Successfully

Working from home is awesome … right up until the cat throws up on your computer. And your neighbor, who you can only assume is building a time machine, starts firing up all sorts of power tools and noisy machinery across the street.

For many modern professionals, working from home every once in a while is a luxury that our respective companies afford us. But which environment actually allows us to be more productive: the home office or the office office?

In the office office, your coworkers often pose the greatest threat to keeping you from getting some real, heads-down work done. They drop by your desk, engage you in conversation, and invite you to lunch. The social benefits of a workplace are definitely nice to have, but they can become a challenge if you’re easily distracted.

At the home office, however, I find that it’s easy for you to become your own worst enemy. Because when you’re not surrounded by coworkers, you’re free to drop those pesky inhibitions. At the home office, no one’s watching. You don’t necessarily feel that same peer pressure or communal obligation to get stuff done. (Also: You don’t have to wear pants.)

Below, I’ve compiled a bunch of great work-at-home tips and tricks from some of my awesome coworkers.

How to Work From Home: 20 Tips for Telecommuters

1. Get started early.

When working in an office, your morning commute can help you wake up and feel ready to work by the time you get to your desk. At home, however, the transition from your pillow to your computer can be much more jarring.

Believe it or not, one way to work from home productively is to dive into your to-do list as soon as you wake up. Simply getting a project started first thing in the morning can be the key to making progress on it gradually throughout the day. Otherwise, you’ll prolong breakfast and let the morning sluggishness wear away your motivation.

“When I work from home, I wake up, put on a pot of coffee, and start working immediately — much earlier normal working hours. I only start making breakfast once I’ve hit a wall or need a break. I’m a morning person and find I can get a ton done in the early morning hours, so this works really well for me.”

Lindsay Kolowich

2. Pretend like you are going into the office.

The mental association you make between work and an office can make you more productive, and there’s no reason that feeling should be lost when telecommuting.

When working from home, do all the things you’d do to prepare for an office role: Set your alarm, make (or go get) coffee, and wear nice clothes. Internet browsers like Google Chrome even allow you to set up multiple accounts with different toolbars on the top — for example, a toolbar for home and a separate toolbar for work.

“Get fully ready for the day and pretend you’re actually going to work. Otherwise, you might find yourself back in bed.”

Anna Faber-Hammond

3. Structure your day like you would in the office.

When working from home, you’re your own personal manager. Without things like an in-person meeting schedule to break up your day, you can be quick to lose focus or burn out.

To stay on schedule, segment what you’ll do and when over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. Google Calendar makes this easy.

“Are mornings for writing while you’re in the office? Use the same schedule at home. While you probably will get tasks done faster at home than at work, this structure will help keep you focused and productive.”

Ginny Mineo

4. Choose a dedicated work space.

Just because you’re not working at an office doesn’t mean you can’t, well, have an office. Rather than cooping yourself up in your room or on the couch — spaces that are associated with leisure time — dedicate a specific room or surface in your home to work.

“Have a place you go specifically to work. It could be a certain table, chair, local coffee shop — some place that’s consistently your ‘work space.’ It helps you get into the right frame of mind.”

Sam Mallikarjunan

5. Don’t stay at home.

Is your home office just not getting it done for you? Take telecommuting a step further and get out of the house. Coffee shops, libraries, public lounges, and similar Wi-Fi-enabled spaces can help you simulate the energy of an office so you can stay productive even when you don’t sit in an official workplace.

“I get out of my home to work, and go to a Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or other WiFi enabled establishment with actual tables, chairs, and people. It helps simulate the work environment for me — white noise, chatter, that kind of thing — that usually helps me work better than utter silence. It also removes the distractions I typically have at home like the urge to finally actually clean my room, do laundry, or watch TV.

I also refuse to play into the trope of being some jerk sitting at Starbucks not doing any real work, so I feel motivated not to mess around on Facebook all day to show there are still people who actually get stuff done at a coffee shop!”

Corey Wainwright

6. Make it harder for yourself to mess around on social media.

Social media is designed to make it easy for you to open and browse quickly. At work, though, this convenience can be the detriment of your productivity.

To counteract your social networks’ ease of use during work hours, remove them from your browser shortcuts and, according to Fast Company, log out of every account. You might even consider working primarily in a private or, if you’re using Chrome, an “Incognito” browser window. This ensures you stay signed out of all your accounts and each web search you conduct doesn’t autocomplete the word you’re typing. It’s a guarantee that you won’t be tempted into taking too many social breaks during the day.

“I remove all social networks from my toolbar bookmarks. Even if I don’t mean to browse them, some uncontrollable impulse subconsciously clicks on them when I experience downtime. You can get sucked in without knowing it (or even intending to), so eliminating the gateway to those networks keeps me on track.”

Alec Biedrzycki

7. Commit to doing more.

Projects always take longer than you initially think they will. For that reason, you’ll frequently get done less than you set out to do. So, just as you’re encouraged to overestimate how much time you’ll spent doing one thing, you should also overestimate how many things you’ll do during the day. Even if you come up short of your goal, you’ll still come out of that day with a solid list of tasks filed under ‘complete.’

“Our team has a daily standup meeting each morning where we share what we’re working on for the day. On days I’m working from home, I tend to slightly overcommit on what I’ll deliver that day. It helps keep me honest, so even if I get the urge to go do something else, I know I’ve already committed a certain amount of work to my team.”

Corey Wainwright

8. Work when you’re at your most productive.

Nobody sprints through their work from morning to evening — your motivation will naturally ebb and flow throughout the day. When you’re working from home, however, it’s all the more important to know when those ebbs and flows will take place and plan your schedule around it.

To capitalize on your most productive periods, save your harder tasks for when you know you’ll be in the right headspace for them. Use slower points of the day to knock out the easier, logistical tasks that are also on your plate. Verily Magazine calls these tasks “small acts of success,” and they can help build your momentum for the heavier projects that are waiting for you later on.

“For me, the most productive times of the day are usually early in the morning or late at night. I recognize this and try to plan my day accordingly. Also, music that really pumps me up doesn’t hurt.”

Brittany Leaning

9. Save calls for the afternoon.

Sometimes, I’m so tired in the morning, I don’t even want to hear my own voice — let alone talk to others with it. You shouldn’t have to give yourself too much time to become productive in the morning, but you can give yourself some extra time before working directly with others.

If you’re struggling to come up with a reasonable work schedule for yourself as a telecommuter, start with the solitary tasks in the morning. Save phone calls, meetings, and other collaborative work for when you’ve officially “woken up.”

“Take advantage of morning hours to crank through meaty projects without distractions, and save any calls or virtual meetings for the afternoon.”

James Gilbert

10. Focus on one distraction … like a baby!

There’s an expression out there that says, “if you want something done, ask a busy person.”

The bizarre but true rule of productivity is that the busier you are, the more you’ll actually do. It’s like Newton’s law of inertia: If you’re in motion, you’ll stay in motion. If you’re at rest, you’ll stay at rest. And busy people are in fast-enough motion that they have the momentum to complete anything that comes across their desk.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find things to help you reach that level of busyness when you’re at home — your motivation can just swing so easily. HubSpot’s principal marketing manager, Pam Vaughan, suggests focusing in on something that maintains your rhythm (in her case, it’s her daughter).

“When I work from home, my 20-month-old daughter is home with me, too. It seems counterintuitive, but because I have to manage taking care of her and keeping her happy and entertained while still getting my work done, the pressure helps to keep me focused. When she’s napping or entertaining herself, I go into super-productive work mode.

It’s the same idea for why some people work better when they have very busy schedules — you learn how to manage your time VERY efficiently. The ‘distraction’ of my daughter (I mean that in the most loving way possible) means I can’t possibly succumb to some of the other common distractions of home — putting in a load of laundry, turning on the TV, doing other household chores — or else I’d never get any actual work done.”

Pamela Vaughan

11. Plan out what you’ll be working on ahead of time.

Spending time figuring out what you’ll do today can take away from actually doing those things. And, you’ll have planned your task list so recently that you can be tempted to change your schedule on the fly.

It’s important to let your agenda change if you need it to, but it’s equally as important to commit to an agenda that outlines every assignment before you begin. Try solidifying your schedule the day before, making it feel more official when you wake up the next day to get started on it.

“If I’m planning on working from home on a certain day, I’ll make sure to get any work done ahead of time that requires me to be in the office — for example, if I’m working on a task that would be infinitely easier to complete with access to my large monitor screen, or need to schedule meetings with coworkers that are best had in person. Plan out your week in advance to optimize for the environments you’ll be in.”

Niti Shah

12. Use technology to stay connected.

Working from home might help you focus on your work in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off the larger operation happening in the office. Instant messaging and videoconferencing tools can make it easy to check in with coworkers and remind you how your work is contributing to the big picture.

“Part of what enables us to work from home so much more often now is the array of apps and tools designed to help remove distance as a barrier between team members. Finding the right tools to keep you and your team connected is important for staying productive at home.

At HubSpot, we use Slack to keep conversations going remotely, Trello to keep us organized around priorities, and Google Hangouts plus Webex to make remote meetings more productive. Getting the right stack of support tools to fit your work style makes a big difference.”

Meghan Keaney Anderson

13. Match your music to the task at hand.

During the week, music is the soundtrack to your career (cheesy, but admit it, it’s true). And at work, the best playlists are diverse playlists — you can listen to music that matches the energy of the project you’re working on. Video game soundtracks are excellent at this. In the game itself, this lyric-free music is designed to help you focus; it only makes sense that it would help you focus on your work as well.

Want some other genres? Take them from startup marketer, Ginny Mineo, who offers her own work music preferences below.

“When I’m powering through my inbox, I need some intense and catchy rap/R&B (like Nicki Minaj or Miley Cyrus) blasting through my headphones, but when I’m writing, Tom Petty is the trick. Finding what music motivates and focuses me for different tasks (and then sticking to those playlists for those tasks) has completely changed my WFH productivity.”

Ginny Mineo

14. Use laundry as a work timer.

You might have heard listening to just two or three songs in the shower can help you save water. And it’s true; hearing a few of your favorite songs start and end, one after another, can remind you how long you’ve been in the bathroom and shorten your wash time.

Why bring this up? Because the same general principle can help you stay on task when working from home. But instead of three songs off your music playlist, run your laundry instead.

Doing your laundry is a built-in timer for your home. So, use the time to start and finish something from your to-do list before changing the load. Committing to one assignment during the wash cycle and another during the dry cycle can train you to work smarter on tasks that you might technically have all day to tinker with.

“It’s already been said, but waking up early and getting things done before other people get online works for me. I also usually do laundry when I work from home and I set mini deadlines for myself corresponding to when I have to go downstairs to switch loads. If I’m working on an article, I tell myself I’ll get to a certain point before the wash cycle ends. Then I set another goal for the dryer.”

Emma Brudner

15. Communicate expectations with anyone who will be home with you.

Of course, you might be working from home but still have “company.” Make sure any roommates, siblings, parents, spouses, and dogs (well, maybe not dogs) respect your space during work hours. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re home.

“If anyone else is going to be at home when you’re working, they just have to be clear that when you’re in your ‘office’ (in my case, my signal to the family is having headphones on), you’re working — even if it looks like and feels like you’re hanging out at home. It’s easy to get distracted by the many things that have to be done around the house during the day.”

Sam Mallikarjunan

16. Take clear breaks.

It can be so easy to get distracted as a telecommuter that you avoid breaks altogether. Don’t let the guilt of working in the building you sleep in prevent you from taking five to relax. Rather than just opening YouTube and watching some comfort clips, however, use your breaks to get away from your desk. Go for a walk outside or spend time with others who might also be in the house.

“Breaks, like making and eating lunch, can recharge you to do better work. Don’t assume you need to be working 100% of the time while you’re home to be more productive.”

Ginny Mineo

17. Interact with other humans.

Remember: You’re working from home, not the moon. Interacting with other people during the day is allowed, even if they’re not your coworkers. In fact, it’s a good idea to see another face during the day when most of your work day is solitary.

“Go outside and find a human to interact with — ordering your coffee, running an errand, whatever. It keeps you sane.”

Corey Wainwright

18. Prepare your meals the night before.

When you’re in your own home, it can be tempting to spend time preparing a really nice breakfast and lunch for yourself, chopping and cooking included. Don’t use precious minutes making your food the day of work — cook it the night before.

Preparing food ahead of time ensures you can actually use your meal times to eat, and that you aren’t performing non-work tasks that spend energy better used at your desk.

“Cooking at home is time you wouldn’t have spent meal prepping if you’d been in the office that day, and I find the minutes can really add up in the end. To mitigate that, I try to cook and prep my meals the night before, just like I would for a day at the office.”

Lindsay Kolowich

19. Pick a definitive finishing time each day.

You might be under the impression that working from home establishes more work-life balance, but be careful with that assumption. Working from home can also feel like being at a casino — you can get so caught up in your activity, in a relaxing environment, that you lose complete track of time.

In lieu of coworkers, whose packing up and leaving the office reminds you to do the same, set an alarm at the end of the day to indicate your normal work day is coming to an end. You don’t have to stop at exactly that time, but knowing the work day is technically over can help you start the process of saving your work and calling it quits for the evening.

“If you work from home full-time (or on a regular basis), it’s really easy to let your work life bleed into your personal life. Maintaining a boundary is important for both halves of the equation.”

Tyler Littwin

20. Keep the TV on in the background.

“I spent my first two years out of college working from home as a freelance writer. Of all the tips, tricks, and secrets I’ve uncovered for being more productive at home, one stands out above the rest: Putting on the History Channel. No joke. Just keep the History Channel running in the background at a low volume, and I swear, you’ll get stuff done. (I’m not exactly sure why this trick works, but I can only assume it has something to do with ancient aliens.)”

– Me (Erik Devaney)