Tuesday, 28 February 2017

How to Start a Business in 2017: A Complete Guide for Startup Entrepreneurs


When you start an online business, there are thousands of questions that need answering. How much money do you really need to start a business? How do you register it with the government? How do you build a website? Who’s your target customer, and what tactics and messaging should you use to reach them?

You’ll quickly find that coming up with the idea for a new business is the easy part. Actually executing on that idea is where it gets interesting.

Execution is what differentiates a great thinker from an entrepreneur.

Everyone wants more visitors, more qualified leads, and more revenue. But starting a business isn’t one of those "if you build it, they will come" situations. In order to build a successful company, you’ll need to create and fine-tune a business plan, assess your finances, complete all the legal paperwork, pick your partners, choose the best tools and systems to help you get your marketing and sales off the ground … and a whole lot more.

We’re here to guide you through that process. In this post, you’ll find a library of the best free tools and resources to help you start selling and marketing your business. Keep scrolling, and you’ll find a guide on how to start a business, from the paperwork and finances to defining your business goals to building and growing your business online.

Free Tools & Resources for Startups

Before we dive into our list, we want to make sure you know about our scholarship program HubSpot for Startups. It's a 90% scholarship for seed-stage startups that includes all of HubSpot's software and tools to help you acquire customers and grow, as well as unlimited technical support and access to HubSpot's community of thousands of founders worldwide, You can learn more and apply to the HubSpot for Startups program here.

Now, let's get into HubSpot's best free marketing and sales tools and resources, followed by a complete guide for how to set up and finance your business.

The Best Free Marketing Resources

Marketing Plan: A Blueprint for Start-Ups

A 20-page guide that covers how to build a sales and marketing machine, which demand generation activities with the biggest return on investment, and more.

HubSpot Marketing Free

Our free marketing tool that gives you insight into what every lead does before and after they fill out a form. It includes built-in analytics that make it easy to learn which pages, offers, and traffic sources are driving the most conversions for you.

Website Grader

Enter your website URL and email address, and we'll send you a detailed grade on your website's performance, mobile, SEO, and security, along with detailed tips and resources for making impactful improvements on your website.


Press Release Templates

Downloadable press release templates you can customize, along with a corresponding guide to building a press release and promotion plan.

Case Study Templates

Downloadable case study templates that show you a sample case study structure from top to bottom, along with business case study examples, tips on finding the right candidates, advice on how to reach out to them, and sample interview questions to inform your case study content.

386+ Content Creation Templates

Free templates for all your visual content creation needs when you're first starting a business. The kit includes 100 social media image templates, 8 PowerPoint presentation templates, 50 call-to-action templates, 15 infographic templates, 5 ebook templates, 5 blog post templates, and more.

How to Create Email Newsletters

A guide with tips for writing, designing, optimizing, and measuring a successful email newsletter -- including some awesome, real-life examples of great email newsletters.

The Best Free Sales Resources

Email Signature Generator

A free tool that creates a professional email signature you can easily add to your Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, Yahoo Mail, or any other email provider.


21 Sales Email Templates

A list of 21 email templates that have been used with great success by real companies like us here at HubSpot, as well as folks at Troops, Chet Holmes International, FEED Agency, and Groove. These email templates have closed a $100,000 deal, seen an 80% response rate within 24 hours after a phone call, and received a 33% response rate after the prospect went dark.

Sales Call Scripts

An easy-to-follow sales call checklist that can help you build rapport and develop trust, understand the prospect’s pain points, identify key decision-makers, and secure a follow-up meeting.

Daniel Pink's Sell Like a Human Video Series

A monthly video series where Sales Expert Daniel Pink and special guests will solve your biggest sales challenges in under 30 minutes.

Sales Process Template

A simple, easy-to-follow sales process template to help managers coach their inside sales reps into following a proven, standardized process from discovery to close. It also includes which key activities sales reps must follow to keep deals moving forward, and important sales strategies for increasing productivity, efficiency, and data visibility.

Sales Close Rate

Compare your sales close rate against your industry competitors using data from over 8,900 companies segmented by 28 industries.

Sales Email Copywriting Course

The language and tone you use in your sales emails can make or break your sales deals. This course was created by Joanna Wiebe, the creator of Copy Hackers and the original conversion copywriter. In it, she covers how to write sales emails that help you close more deals.

The Best CRM

HubSpot CRM is the only free CRM that lets you manage your pipeline, automate the most tedious sales tasks, and make it easier to close deals quickly. You'll end up doing more deals and less data entry. Plus, you can manage up to 1,000,000 contacts, users, and storage without any expiration date.

Now that we've covered the best tools and resources for starting a business, let's get into how to actually start one.

How to Start a Business: A Complete Guide

Starting a business involves a whole lot of moving pieces, some more exciting than others. Brainstorming business names? Fun! Filing taxes? ... Not so fun. The trick to successfully getting your business off the ground is to meticulously plan and organize your materials, prioritize properly, and stay on top of the status and performance of each and every one of these moving parts.

From registering with the government to getting the word out about your business to making key financial decisions, here’s an overview of what you'll need to do to start a successful business.

The Legal Paperwork

Business Structure, Government Registration, Taxes & More

The not-so-romantic part of a starting a new business is all the paperwork and legal activities. This includes things like determining the legal structure of your business, nailing down your business name, registering with the government, and -- depending on your business structure and industry --  getting a tax code, a business license, and/or a seller’s permit. 

Furthermore, businesses are regulated on the federal, the state, and sometimes even local level. It’s important to check what’s required on all three of those levels. When you register your business with the government, be sure you’re covering registration on all the levels required for your business’ location. Your business won’t be a legal entity without checking these boxes, so stay on top of it. 

Clearly, it can be overwhelming to figure out what legal steps you need to take for your particular case, so let’s break it down. Below, you’ll find a brief explanation of what goes into each one of these steps, along with links to helpful resources where you can dig in to the details. (Note: These steps are for starting a business in the U.S. only.) 

Legal Structure: The 4 Common Business Types

The legal structure of your business will determine what you need to do to register with the government, how you’re taxed, what risks you need to take on, and so on. Many people starting a business will choose to register either as a corporation or a Limited Liability Company (LLC) because those two structures will give owners limited liability protection. But, on the other hand, there’s a lot more paperwork and expense associated with a corporation or LLC.

Here’s a list of four common business structures, along with the pros and cons of each and how taxes work for each one.

1) Sole Proprietorship

Example: Freelance graphic design.

What it is: A sole proprietorship is a business that’s owned and run by one person, where the government makes no legal distinction between the person who owns the business and the business itself. It’s the simplest and most common way to operate the business, and the business can even have its own distinctive name if you register what’s called a Doing Business Name (DBA). We’ll get back to that in the “Naming Businesses” section.

Pros: It’s easy and inexpensive to create a sole proprietorship because there’s only one owner, and that owner has complete control over all business decisions. Tax preparation is also pretty simple since a sole proprietorship is not taxed separately from its owner

Cons: It can be dramatically more difficult to raise money and get investors or loans because there’s no legal structure that promises repayment if the business fails. Also, since the owner and the business are legally the same, the owner is personally liable for all the debts and obligations of the business.

How taxes work: The individual proprietor owns and manages the business and is responsible for all transactions, including debts and liabilities. Income and losses are taxed on the individual’s personal income tax return at ordinary rates. In addition, you are also subject to payroll taxes, or self-employment taxes, on the money you earn. (More on self-employment taxes later.) Find IRS tax forms here.

2) Partnership 

Example: Multiple doctors maintaining separate practices in the same building.

What it is: A partnership is a single business where two or more people share ownership, and each owner contributes to all aspects of the business as well as shares in the profits and losses of the business.

Pros: It’s generally pretty easy to form a business partnership, and it doesn’t tend to be super expensive, either. Having two or more people equally invested in the business’ success allows you to pool resources. It also means you have access to more than one person’s skill set and expertise.

Cons: Just like a sole proprietor, partners have full, shared liability if the business goes south. That also means that partners aren’t just liable for their own actions, but also the actions of their partner(s). There is a variant on partnerships called a limited liability partnership, or LLP, that protects against that -- which is how most law firms are organized, for example.

Finally, when more than one person is involved in decisions, there’s room for disagreement -- which means it’s important to have an explicit agreement over how the obligations and earnings will be split, especially if/when things go wrong.

How taxes work: To form a partnership, you have to register your business with your state, a process generally done through your Secretary of State’s office. Find IRS tax forms here

3) Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Example: A small design firm.

What it is: LLCs are a type of business structure that's more complex than sole proprietorships and partnerships, but less complex than corporations. They are called “pass-through entities” because they’re not subject to a separate level of tax. Most states don’t restrict ownership on LLCs, and so members can include individuals, corporations, and even other LLCs and foreign entities. Most states also permit “single-member” LLCs, those having only one owner.

Pros: Founders have a lot of flexibility when it comes to governance issues.

Cons: LLCs are often more complex than sole proprietorships or partnerships, which means higher initial costs, and certain venture capital funds are hesitant to invest in LLCs because of tax considerations and the aforementioned complexity. That being said, they’re simpler to operate than a corporation because they aren’t subject to as many formalities.

How taxes work: LLCs have the benefit of a “flow-through” tax treatment, meaning that the owners -- not the LLC -- are the ones who are taxed. Having only one level of tax imposed makes taxes easier. Find IRS tax forms here.

4) Corporation 

Example: Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Toyota Motor, and almost all well known businesses.

What it is: A legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners, and has most of the rights and responsibilities that an individual possesses (to enter into contracts, loan and borrow money, sue and be sued, hire employees, own assets, and pay taxes.) It’s more complex than the other business structures, and it’s generally suggested for larger, established companies with multiple employees.

Pros: They make seeking venture financing easy.

Cons: Because they’re complex than other business structures, they can have costly administrative fees, and more complicated tax and legal requirements.

How taxes work: Corporations are required to pay federal, state, and in some cases, local taxes. Any profit a corporation makes is taxed to the corporation when earned, and then is taxed to the shareholders when distributed as dividends, which creates a double tax. The corporation does not get a tax deduction when it distributes dividends to shareholders. Shareholders cannot deduct any loss of the corporation, but they are also not responsible directly for taxes on their earnings -- just on the dividends they give to shareholders. Find IRS tax forms here.

Choosing & Registering Your Business Name

Establishing a business name is a little more complicated than making a list and picking your favorite. You’ll use the legal name of your business on all your government forms and applications, including your application for employer tax IDs, licenses, and permits.

If you’re using a name other than your personal name, then you need to register it with your state government so they know you’re doing business with a name other than your given name. 

First thing’s first: Before you register, you need to make sure the name you want is available in your state. Business names are registered on a state-by-state basis, so it’s possible that a company in another state could have the same name as yours. This is only concerning if there’s a trademark on the name. Do a Trademark search of your desired name to avoid expensive issues down the road.

Speaking of who’s using which names online, see if your desired domain names are available by doing an online domain search. Do the same with your desired social media handles. If the domain name and/or social media handles you want aren’t available, then some of you might consider changing your business name. 

For new corporations and LLCs: Your business name is automatically registered with your state when you register your business -- so you don’t have to go through a separate process. There are rules for naming a corporation and LLC, which you can read about here.

For sole proprietorships, partnerships, and existing corporations and LLCs (if you want to do business with a name other than their registered name), you’ll need to register what’s called a “Doing Business As” (DBA) name. You can do so either by going to your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending which state you’re in. Learn how to do that here.

Want to trademark your business name? A trademark protects words, names, symbols, and logos that distinguish goods and services. Filing for a trademark costs less than $300, and you can learn how to do it here.

All About Business Taxes

Business owners are obligated to pay specific federal taxes, and the amount of those taxes is determined by the form of business entity that you establish. All businesses except for partnerships need to file an annual income tax return. Partnerships file what’s called an information return

Any business that’s owned and operated in the United States needs an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which you can apply for on the IRS’ website here.

Once you’re registered, it’s time to figure out which taxes you’ll be responsible for.

Self-employment tax (SE tax) is a Social Security and Medicare tax for people who work for themselves, i.e. business owners. SE taxes require filing Schedule SE (Form 1040) if your net earnings from self-employment were $400 or more. (Note: There are special rules and exceptions for fishing crew members, notary public, and more, which you can read about on the IRS’ website here.)

When you have employees, you (as the employer) have certain employment tax responsibilities that you need to pay, as well as forms you need to file. Employment taxes include Social Security and Medicare taxes, federal income tax withholding, and federal unemployment (FUTA) tax. Learn more about employment taxes for small businesses on the IRS’ website here.

Excise taxes are also something you need to consider, depending what you sell, where you operate, and so on. For example, in the U.S., there’s a federal excise tax on certain trucks, truck tractors, and buses used on public highways. See which excise taxes you might be responsible for on the IRS’ website here

Seller’s Permit

If your business sells tangible property to the public either as a wholesaler or retailer, then in most states, you need to apply for a seller’s permit. “Tangible property” simply means physical items, like clothing, vehicles, toys, construction materials, and so on. In some states, a seller’s permit is required for service-oriented business, too, such as accountants, lawyers, and therapists.

The seller’s permit allows you to collect sales tax from buyers. You’ll then pay that sales tax to the state each quarter by putting the sales tax permit number on the state’s tax payment form. 

You can register for a seller's permit through your state's Board of Equalization, Sales Tax Commission, or Franchise Tax Board. To help you find the appropriate offices, find your state on this IRS website

Business License

Almost every business needs some form of license or permit to operate legally -- but the requirements vary, which can get confusing. Which specific licenses or permits does your business need? To figure that out, go to this SBA.gov website and select the state from which you’re operating your business. It’ll tell you the specific license and permit requirements in that state. 

Financing your Business

From the day you start building your business until the point where you can make a consistent profit, you need to finance your operation and growth with start-up capital.

Some founders can finance their business entirely on their own dime or through friends and family, which is called “bootstrapping.” This obviously gives the business owners a ton of flexibility for running the business, although it means taking on a larger financial risk -- and when family’s involved, can lead to awkward holiday dinner conversations if things go wrong.

Many founders need external start-up capital to get their business off the ground. If that sounds like you, keep on reading to learn about six of the most common kinds of external capital you can raise.

1) Seed Financing 

If you’re looking for a relatively small amount of money, say, the investigation of a market opportunity or the development of the initial version of a product or service, then seed financing might be for you. Oftentimes, this money will come from the founders themselves, from friends and family, from angel investors, and even from potential customers.

There are many different kinds of seed financing, but the one you’ve probably heard of most is called seed round financing. In this case, someone will invest in your company in exchange for preferred stock. If your company gets sold or liquidated, then investors who hold preferred stock often have the right to get their investment back -- and, in most cases, an additional return, called “preferred dividends” or “liquidation preferences” -- before holders of common stock are paid. 

2) Accelerators

Accelerators are highly competitive programs that typically involve applying and then competing against other startups in a public pitch event or demo day. In addition to winning funding and seed capital, winners of these programs are also rewarded with mentorship and educational programs.

Although accelerators were originally mostly tech companies and centered around Silicon Valley, you can now find them all over the country and in all different industries. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, here’s a list of the top accelerators in the United States to get you started.

3) Small Business Loan 

If you have a really rock-solid plan for how you’ll spend the money in place, then you might be able to convince a bank, a lender, a community development organization, or a micro-lending institution to grant you a loan. 

There are many different types of loans, including loans with the bank, real estate loans, equipment loans, and more. To successfully get one, you’re going to need to articulate exactly how you’ll spend every single penny -- so make sure you have a solid business plan in place before you apply. You can learn more about SBA.gov’s loan programs here.

4) Crowdfunding

You might ask yourself, what about companies that get funding through platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo? That’s called crowdfunding, which is a newer way of funding a business. 

More importantly, it typically doesn’t entail giving partial ownership of the business away. Instead, it’s a way of getting funding not from potential co-owners, but from potential fans and customers who want to support the idea, but not necessarily own it. What you give donors in exchange is entirely up to you -- and typically, people will come away with early access to a product, or a special version of a product, or a meet-and-greet with the founders.

When you crowdfund your business, you open an account on those platforms and publish a detailed description of your business, your goals, and how much money you need and why. From there, anyone with an internet connection can contribute money toward helping your business via an online donation. The better story you tell in your crowdfunding campaign website, the more likely you’ll be to get donations.

5) Venture Capital Financing

Only a very small percentage of businesses are either fit for venture capital or have access to it. All the other methods described earlier are available to the vast majority of new businesses.

If you’re looking for a significant amount of money to start your company and can prove you can quickly grow its value, then venture capital financing is probably the right move for you. However, even though venture capital financing is fashionable, it’s rarely available to startups. In fact, many people believe it should be avoided altogether unless you’ve got a billion dollar idea.

Venture capital financing usually means one or more venture capital firms make large investments in your company in exchange for preferred stock of the company -- but, in addition to getting that preferred return like they would in series seed financing, venture capital investors also usually get governance rights, like a seat on the Board of Directors or approval rights on certain transactions. VC financing typically occurs when a company can demonstrate a significant business opportunity to quickly grow the value of the company but requires significant capital to do so.

Well, there you have it. We hope this post has helped give you a better idea of what it takes to start your own business -- from setting up all the legal and tax paperwork, all the way to actually marketing and selling your product or service. The execution is up to you. Good luck out there!


from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-start-a-business

3 Unusual Tactics For Making Your Testimonials More Persuasive

I bet you’ve seen this sort of advice before…

When using a testimonial, you should always:

  • List the customer’s first and last name
  • Include their photo
  • Avoid unbelievable, over-the-top praise

Those are all fine tips to follow, but they’re really just starting points.

Optimizing your social proof requires just as much strategy and testing as improving a headline, hero image or call-to-action button.

Because if you just stick to blindly following ‘best practices,’ you could be missing out on a huge opportunity to squeeze more conversions out of your website or landing page. Here’s why:

Social proof affects different audiences in different ways. The complexity of your offer, the demographics of your visitors and a host of other factors all influence how persuasive your testimonials will be.

And that means you may want to try optimizing them in ways that seem counterintuitive at first.

Or even just plain strange.

I’ll get into more detail about this in a moment. But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what typically makes for a convincing and credible testimonial.

Don’t use testimonials unless you’ve seen these tips…

Plenty of articles have already been written offering great advice for using testimonials. And those tips can generally be summed up as:

  • Include a photo and other details
    Providing the customer’s first and last name, location or any other relevant details makes testimonials more realistic. But an even bigger factor is including a (real) photo of the testimonial-giver. There’s plenty of research to back this up.
  • Use testimonials from people your customers can relate to
    According to implicit egotism theory, we generally trust people who are either like us or who we aspire to be like. And that means strong testimonials are often from folks who reflect how your prospects see themselves.
  • Use testimonials from people with authority (if possible)
    The most powerful testimonials come from people your audience sees as an expert or otherwise having authority. In essence, you’re ‘borrowing’ the positive feelings people have toward these individuals (this is called the Halo Effect) when you get their endorsement.
  • Reinforce a specific benefit
    Emphasis on specific. Vague testimonials that say things like “great experience” or “tremendous value” won’t connect with anyone. And it might even hurt your conversion rate. Instead, testimonials should be used strategically as ‘proof’ to support specific claims you’re making on your pages.
  • OR

  • Quash a serious objection
    Research by MECLABS shows that placing testimonials near sources of anxiety (such as the ‘Add to Cart’ button) can ease objections and improve conversions. Bottom line: don’t just randomly sprinkle testimonials throughout your website. First, consider the role they’re playing on the page.

These tips make sense, right?

And if you’ve been in the conversion optimization game for any length of time, I suspect you’re already familiar with most of them.

Now, let’s dive into 3 lesser-known techniques for making your testimonials more credible, engaging and persuasive.

1) Try ‘long-form’ testimonials

Far too many articles give out generic advice like:

“Always keep your testimonials very short.”

Well, no. Not always.

Short, specific quotes from customers may work fine in certain situations. But sometimes a big, juicy testimonial can provide the exact dose of social proof that your page needs. Why?

For the same reasons that long copy can sometimes be more persuasive than short copy. Long-form sales messages often work great when your product is complicated, your audience has loads of objections or the price-tag is high.

As veteran ad man Jay Conrad Levinson puts it:

“Don’t be afraid to use lengthy copy. Of all the things people dislike about marketing, ‘lack of information’ comes in second, after ‘feeling deceived.’”

The trick is to ensure your long-form copy — or long-form testimonial — is interesting and relevant to your audience. Here’s an example:

Long-form testimonials make up the majority of content on Noah Kagan’s sales page for his How To Make A $1,000 A Month Business course. And some of them run well over 500 words!

Now, these testimonials work like sales copy in a number of different ways. But I want to point out one specific technique that makes them so effective: storytelling.

Several testimonials on the page tell raw, human stories about a problem the person was up against and how they discovered a life-changing solution thanks to Kagan’s course.

Take a look at this example:

Dave’s story kicks off with an emotional (and relatable) problem.


He then goes on to tell a story about how the course helped him, eventually building to the ‘climax’ detailing how his life changed afterwards:


In fact, some of the most effective long-form testimonials start with an emotional problem.

Here’s a prime example from the Sweat Block homepage, which was optimized by the team at Copy Hackers. This testimonial follows the tried-and-true problem-agitate-solve copywriting formula:


Now, a customer probably isn’t going to just hand you over a problem-agitate-solve testimonial by fluke. You may need to give them some guidance first.

So ask specific questions when requesting a testimonial. Things like:

  • What made you seek out our product/service?
  • What was the exact problem you needed to solve? How did it impact your life?
  • How did our product/service solve this problem? How did it improve your [business/social life etc.]?

But even if you don’t take a problem-focused approach, the key to using effective long-form testimonials is to make sure they tell a gripping story.

One that will resonate with your target audience in a powerful way.

2) Show your warts (really, it’s OK)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you should post a testimonial that outright bashes your company.

That’d be weird. And, well, kind of dumb.

But I am suggesting that by leaving some minor ‘warts’ in your testimonials you can convey trust and credibility — if you do it the right way.

One study found that 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both positive and negative scores. And a whopping 30% suspect faked reviews when they don’t see anything negative at all.

As master copywriter Bob Bly puts it, “showing your warts” can be an effective marketing technique provided you:

  • demonstrate why your product’s weakness isn’t important or
  • show how you’ve designed your product to overcome the weakness

This tactic works because arguing against your own self-interest builds credibility.

In this Unbounce article, marketer and entrepreneur Pratik Dholakiya suggests testing a landing page testimonial that tells people who your product isn’t right for. This might involve including a line like:

“This product isn’t for [so and so], it’s for [so and so].”

The beauty of this approach is that it sends the message you want happy, long-term customers; not just quicks sales for short-term gain.

Some brands have used not-so-shiny testimonials in more creative ways to reinforce a key message.

For example, Ship Your Enemies Glitter used to feature a reviews section that told an unfiltered story about their product — one testimonial even mentioned a customer’s pending divorce.


OK, this is an extreme example.

The point is that people are skeptical of both online reviews and testimonials. But by slipping in a few “warts” (in a strategic way), you can give your social proof a shot of credibility.

3) Make your testimonial the ‘hero’

Got a beauty of a testimonial?

One that’s credible, relatable and aligns perfectly with the goal of your page?

Then don’t bury it way below the fold! Instead, play that sucker up big time in the hero section for every visitor to see.

Emphasizing the right testimonial immediately sends the message to prospects that your product solves problems for people who are just like them.

I used this strategy while optimizing a key sales page for LivePlan, which is a SaaS product that helps entrepreneurs write professional business plans.

Research showed us that many prospects had niggling doubts when they hit the page. They often wondered:

“Will this software work for my specific industry?”

It was a big barrier to signing up.

So we created a landing page that targeted just a segment of LivePlan’s traffic: people who wanted to write a business plan specifically for a café.

But instead of us telling the audience “this works for café entrepreneurs like you,” we wanted to prove it to them by making a relatable testimonial the hero of the page.

So we emphasized a quick story about how café owner Brian Sung used LivePlan to write a business plan faster and with less effort. Then we A/B tested the new page.

Here are the two hero sections we tested:


The testimonial-focused variant hauled in a 72% boost in paid conversions, which translated into a 53% increase in revenue (when you consider average order value).

There were a few other variables at play here. But ultimately, I believe that this relatable testimonial proved the hypothesis that LivePlan customers needed to feel confident that the product would work for their industry before signing up.

Other companies have also seen ‘wins’ by playing up testimonials like this as well. For example, Highrise saw a 102% lift in conversions when they tested a giant image and quote from one of their customers.

But again, having the right testimonials is key here. You can’t just pick one at random.

If you know headlines focused on “saving time” convert well, playing up a testimonial about how a customer “saved money” isn’t going to cut it.

Consider your goals and strategy for the page. Then select your social proof accordingly.


It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with testimonials, user-reviews or client logos — the bottom line is the same:

Social proof affects different audiences in different ways.

Following best practices is a great starting point. But to squeeze the most persuasive value out of your testimonials, you need to consider things like your audience’s level of awareness and their thought sequence as they hit your page.

Now, maybe the 3 tactics outlined here aren’t a great fit for your prospects. That’s fine.

But it is important that you make an informed, strategic decision about how you use any type of social proof.

Because just tossing testimonials randomly on a page isn’t doing your visitors — or your conversion rates — any good.

About the author: Dustin Walker is a copywriter and partner at Good Funnel — a marketing agency that does in-depth customer research to help online businesses fire up their revenue. Follow Dustin on Twitter @dustinjaywalker.

from The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog https://blog.kissmetrics.com/making-testimonials-more-persuasive/

How Marketers Should Think About Customer Marketing in the Engagement Economy


Author: Chandar Pattabhiram

I frequently cite the statistic that only 13% of marketing leaders are working to retain and grow customer relationships through improved customer experiences. But now, we exist in the Engagement Economy—a new era, a digital world where everyone and everything is connected—and keeping customers is quickly becoming more important than acquiring them.

This is because the Engagement Economy is rife with business models where the cost for the customer to switch is low. For example, look at ride-sharing apps or even your banking options. Lyft and Uber constantly compete for attention and brand affinity. Meanwhile, Bank of America and Wells Fargo know that, for the right offer, a consumer will change an entirely new financial institution with virtually no headaches. Although it’s on a larger scale, the same paradigm applies to the B2B world, too, where an organization can switch out cloud-based applications with minimal long-term commitment.

Retention Marketing Is Outdated

So what can you do? Smart brands must understand that in order to compete in the Engagement Economy, they must rethink their approach to engaging with their customers. This begins with getting rid of the phrase “retention marketing.” It’s a complete misnomer. Instead, you should think of retention as an outcome of smart marketing across the entire customer lifecycle.

This starts with acquisition—the kind of outreach that you and a majority of marketers are probably already comfortable with—but from there encompasses adoption, cross-sell, and advocacy.

Marketing leaders must strategically market—allocating people and program dollars—across each stage of the lifecycle in order to thrive today and in the future. Let’s take a closer look:

customer marketing redefined

It’s Time to Implement Adoption Marketing

After a person buys a product or service, marketers are prone to two major missteps:

  • Immediately trying to market additional products or services
  • Entirely stop marketing to their new customer

Either of these errors is a classic case of a brand forgetting that it needs to put the customer first.

The happy medium between these two extremes is adoption marketing—continuing to market to customers in a way that ensures their success, and continues to create and deliver value. This starts with each one of your customers getting the most value out of what they have purchased.

How can you do that? Start by understanding the current state of adoption for each solution/product/capability that a customer has purchased. You can usually get to this understanding through technology—for example, you could use the insights from customer success software, your CRM, and your marketing platform. From there, design a programmatic way—via direct communications, customer communities, education programs, marketing nurture, and more—to provide personalized tips, best practices, and case studies to maximize their value.

Not only is it a nice thing to do, it’s just smart business; the more your product becomes indispensable to someone, the less likely they are to replace you with the competition. And it costs far less to keep existing customers than it does to acquire new ones.

Without some form of adoption marketing, attempting to sell a customer anything else–be it another product or the renewal of a service–is a fruitless pursuit.

Cross-Sell Takes On More Importance

Once a customer is fully adopted (and happy), this is when you can begin to think about selling additional products or services. Cross-sell marketing shouldn’t be something you think of only when you have a new feature or product to announce. It is an integral part of the customer journey and like acquisition, it requires dedicated resources—people and budget. In the Engagement Economy, cross-sell becomes even more important because retention increases when a customer has adopted multiple products.

At its core, the act of cross-selling is rooted in behavior marketing: you need to listen to what your customer does with a product or service, learn what else they need to do their job more effectively, and engage with them by offering them complementary products or services that will provide further value.

A great example of this is Kaspersky Lab, a multi-billion dollar enterprise security software provider (and a Marketo customer). Kaspersky created a Loyalty Behavior Score for each of their customers in order to understand the health of every customer at every stage of their lifecycle based on their adoption. They then use this score to measure their cross-sell and upsell opportunities, engaging with the best customers at the best times to offer new products and services. The net result: they have increased their cross-sell revenue and increased customer retention.

Advocacy—Going from a Customer Like to Customer Love

So you’ve gotten your customer to successfully adopt your product. Happy customers are more likely to advocate on behalf of your brand.

Here are two important criteria for identifying your brand advocates:

  • Never confuse customer loyalty with advocacy. We can be loyal to a brand without advocating for it, and this can be due to “locked in” loyalty through airlines, cable providers, software providers, etc.
  • Never assume a strong correlation between the most lucrative customers and your best brand advocates. The brand advocate who goes “over the top” to showcase passion for the brand may not be making the big dollar investment, but providing huge value in other ways.

The average company has a very small pool of advocates to choose from. I think of it like the “1 Percent Rule” that applies to content consumption on the internet. In terms of brands with established or fast-growing customer bases, 90% of customers are lurkers, 9% of customers are likers, and 1% of customers are lovers.

Lurkers use a brand’s product or services. As an organization, you have little insight into how the lurkers truly feel about the product because their engagement with the brand is low. These are the customers who are most likely to swap your product for a different one. You’re also not going to get much value out of these customers because it will be difficult to sell them on new products or services.

Then there are the likers. This 9% generally enjoy using your product but do little to advocate on your behalf. Likers provide value to your brand in that they are a more reliable source of revenue, but are untapped potential because they could be (and should be) advocating for you.

The trick is to convert these likers into the final group, the “one percent” of customers, which are the lovers. Lovers are your all-star brand advocates. Not only are they happy using your product, they’re ready to shout it from the rooftops and engage in advocacy activities—from customer references to media opportunities to online reviews. And, in an age where review sites like Yelp carry significant weight, having someone willing to sing your praises is invaluable to your business. If you can move even 1% of your likers over to the lover category, that’s a 100% advocacy increase!

Customers for Life

Keeping the customer for life is essential, but that means that you must engage with your customers at every step of their journey, and do it in the ways that they most prefer. In the Engagement Economy, by approaching customer marketing in the right way, you have a chance to build lasting relationships and win the ongoing battle for the heart and mind of the customer.

Interested in learning more about the Engagement Economy and how it will affect you and how you market? Join me at the Marketing Nation Summit, April 23-26.

This post is adapted from The New Customer Marketing Lifecycle in the Engagement Economy published on MarTech Today.

How Marketers Should Think About Customer Marketing in the Engagement Economy was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post How Marketers Should Think About Customer Marketing in the Engagement Economy appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

from Marketo Marketing Blog http://blog.marketo.com/2017/02/how-marketers-should-think-about-customer-marketing-in-the-engagement-economy.html

February Social Media News: Weather on Facebook, SNL on Snapchat & More


We spend a lot of time on social media sites -- globally, it’s around two hours per day. But for all of that time spent social networking, we may not always know what’s going on behind the scenes with the sites themselves.

To help you save time while staying informed, we’re launching a monthly social media news roundup.

This month, we’ll discuss Snapchat’s growth and content diversification, Google’s step into live-streaming, and other changes worth knowing about. The list isn’t exhaustive, but you can expect to learn the major highlights in the social media space this month -- what was launched, what changed, and what these stories could mean for marketers.

10 of the Biggest Social Media News Stories This Month

1) The Washington Post starts curating content for Snapchat Discover.

The Washington Post announced it would become Snapchat's first editorial partner to provide breaking news updates on the platform. The Post will publish multiple times per day as headlines break in its print and online newspaper editions so Snapchatters can easily consume the content in a more visual way. Snapchat is all about innovative visual content, and this step moves Snapchat in the direction of becoming a content destination site instead of just a content sharing site. Here's what it will look like on the Discover tab (when a Snapchat user swipes to the left):


Source: The Washington Post

2) Saturday Night Live produces its first skit exclusively for Snapchat.

NBC's Saturday Night Live produced its first short comedy sketch published exclusively on its Snapchat Story. Snapchat plans to produce a series of shorts from Saturday Night Live and other shows on the network. To watch the next short, add Saturday Night Live on Snapchat (@nbcsnl).

SNL is a viewewship juggernaut -- almost 11 million people watch it each week. If it sees success with posting original content on Snapchat outside of its regular distribution strategies on YouTube and other social media platforms, marketers might consider producing their own "shorts" on Snapchat and seeing how they perform.


Source: Saturday Night Live via Snapchat

3) Snap Inc. files for $3 billion initial public offering (IPO).

Snapchat's parent company, Snap Inc., filed for a $3 billion IPO on February 2nd. After rebranding as a camera company and launching Snapchat Spectacles in September 2016, marketers eagerly waited to hear what they would do next.

Snap Inc. now faces intensified competition from other social media platforms with larger user bases that have adopted features similar to Snapchat's. For example, Instagram launched its own version of Stories last year, and it currently has more users making Stories than all of Snapchat's total user base. Marketers should keep an eye on how Snapchat evolves and which platform is better suited for ephemeral content for their audiences.


Source: Securities and Exchange Commission 

4) Snapchat launches first original reality show on A&E Network.

Snap Inc. announced its forthcoming partnership with A&E to produce "Second Chance," an unscripted reality television show about breakups on Snapchat. The show will diversify audiences for both Snapchat and A&E and get existing Snapchat and A&E audiences on the other platforms. Marketers who aren't already advertising on Snapchat may want to start doing so as it grows its audience even further with original content.


Source: Deadline

5) YouTube launches mobile live-streaming for creators with 10,000 subscribers or more.

YouTube took a big step toward competing in the live streaming video space by launching mobile live video recording for users with over 10,000 subscribers at the beginning of February. YouTube hopes to beat out the competition -- Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, and Instagram have similar live streaming features -- by providing higher quality to the thousands of creators already publishing frequently on the platform. Given the searchability of YouTube videos in Google Search, marketers might consider broadening their video strategy to include live video on YouTube, too.


Source: YouTube

6) Facebook adds a weather tool to desktop and mobile apps.

In early February, Facebook started rolling out its in-app weather tool that lets users see five-day forecasts on their Facebook News Feed. Additionally, users can receive notifications about weather alerts at specific times -- like before they leave the house in a rainstorm. Facebook continues to make the site a destination, one-stop shop for users, so marketers should make sure to dedicate strategy and budget toward producing content and ads for the platform with a massive, engaged user base.


Source: TechCrunch

7) Facebook cracks down on discriminatory advertising.

On February 8th, Facebook updated its advertising policies to explicitly prevent discrimination on the platform. Previously, it was possible for advertisers to target based on race, ethnicity, and other demographic traits. In recent months, Facebook has taken steps to be more responsible to its community of users -- by starting the Facebook Journalism Project in part to prevent fake news, for example. Marketers should make sure to review the new advertising policies to ensure that ads aren't potentially discriminatory against users.

facebook_ad_policies.pngSource: Facebook

8) Instagram experiments with publishing photo albums.

At the beginning of the month, Instagram started beta-testing the ability to publish up to 10 photos in a single post on the platform. It's only being tested with a few Android users for now, but when it's rolled out to all users, the Instagram news feed will start looking more like Facebook's if users can publish photo albums, or galleries. If your audience is highly engaged on Instagram, or if you market physical products, galleries could be a unique approach to generating engagement. Here's what uploading looked like in one user's app:


Source: Twitter

9) Medium announces new subscription service.

Medium CEO Ev Williams announced that Medium would launch a subscription product to develop additional revenue streams apart from simply advertising. This news came shortly on the heels of the layoffs of 50 Medium staff members to move toward a model where storytelling quality is prioritized over clicks and shares. Medium publishers should keep their eyes peeled for updates on any algorithmic changes coming with this new direction that could impact their readership.


Source: TechCrunch

10) Pinterest adds Visual Discovery to search through your camera.

Pinterest launched new visual search tools that will enable users to point and shoot their camera and receive suggested Pins based on photos they capture. Users capture photos through Pinterest Lens, the in-app camera, and the app starts suggesting Pins related to their search. For example, Pinterest says that if users take a photo of a pair of shoes, the app will suggest clothing Pins that could work as an outfit with the shoes. This tool makes visual discovery much easier, and users might be more willing to purchase from the app when their ideas have context from suggested Pins. Marketers and sellers on Pinterest should improve Pinterest strategies to fully take advantage of the ability to be found as a result of this update.


Source: Pinterest

Did we miss any big social media stories? Share with us in the comments below.

Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/social-media-stories-february

ICYMI: An Animated Guide to Google's Biggest 2016 Algorithm Updates [Infographic]


Sometimes, it seems like keeping up with a search engine's algorithm is like learning a new language. Only, it's a language that keeps updating over time and changing with things like technological advances, evolving topic interests, and constant improvements to user experience. And often, it seems like those changes are quiet -- like there's no way to find out about them unless you, say, subscribe to a blog that keeps you in the loop.

While many marketers make the time to do that -- which is great -- there are days, weeks, and months when constantly keeping up with Google's algorithm is a task that gets pushed to the wayside. But SEO is more important than ever, and has many implications for inbound marketing, especially as mobile usage continues to rise. It's not just about traffic anymore. SEO and its accompanying algorithm updates are soup-to-nuts measures of user experience.

But what pieces of the user's experience are reflected in these algorithm changes? And is there a way to keep up with them in manageable chunks, as many people like to do when they're learning a new skill? Yes -- starting with the infographic below. Stop wasting time on SEO strategies that don't work with the help of this free PDF guide >>

You see, some years, the algorithm undergoes more changes than in others, and 2016 was a big one. Luckily, the folks at E2M compiled the major Google algorithm updates from that year into this visual, animated representation. So relax -- you've got this, with a fun, informative image to help.


seo myths 2017

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/googles-biggest-2016-algorithm-updates

5 Services Your Agency Shouldn't Offer in 2017

The success of a marketing agency isn't just tied to what you do (and do well) but also to the services you don't provide.

The services we're going to discuss today are -- in our judgment -- firmly in the "don't" column. They're either paths that have already been well-trodden by other big players, obsolete tactics that are starting to lose relevance, or services that don't fit well into the modern marketing playbook.

If you're thinking of adding any of the following four services in 2017, it might be time to change up your agency's approach this year.

5 Services Your Agency Shouldn't Offer in 2017

1) Facebook Killed the Video Ad

Video is touted as an excellent way to engage customers and convert leads, but it can also be relatively expensive and inconvenient to produce. If you agency hasn't yet made the leap into video production, consider your next move carefully -- investing in digital video capabilities is a high-risk, high reward strategy.

But how high is that reward, exactly? Late last year, Facebook drew ire when it revealed it had been artificially inflating video viewership statistics since 2014. If major video platforms have a history of inaccurately reporting views, it raises some big questions about the dependability of video ROI. 

If concerns about ROI don't give you pause, think about this: specialized video marketing agencies have been doing video longer, know the marketplace better, and will have larger budgets. They're also beginning to build in advanced features, such as interactive video, and 360-degree video ads. As a video neophyte, you're unlikely to be able to offer these capabilities if you're building a video service from the ground up in 2017.

2) Hang Up on Appointment Setting

Appointment setting has always been a weird fit in the marketing universe. Essentially, it's like running a sales bullpen as a service (SBaaS?), which really has nothing to do with the typical content generation and placement duties of a traditional agency. Therefore, it's going to be difficult and expensive for any agency to boot up an appointment setting service from scratch -- and again, what's the benefit?

The ROI of cold calling has always been low -- and it's been getting lower. A survey from the middle of last year shows that a large majority of sales professionals think that the effectiveness of cold calling has shrunk dramatically over the last several years.

A lot of people just don't have phones at their desk any more, and most will simply hang up on numbers that they don't already know. That's why it's probably a good reason to hang up on appointment setting in 2017.

3) Market Research: Don't Compete, Collaborate

For your dollar, it's nearly always going to be more lucrative to partner with an existing market research service than to build one of your own. As with video, the incumbents are going to rule -- they've been around longer, know their subject better, and have more money to burn. In this case, however, it's better to adopt that old maxim, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

There's absolutely no shame in collaborating with a pre-existing market research agency. In fact, marketing collaboration has increased across the board. Last year, most client-side marketers (52%), collaborated with external agencies. The most common reason for this was a skills gap. If client-side marketers know that it's okay to collaborate in the case of a skills gap, agencies should know it too.

4) Approaching the Link Building Apocalypse

Remember the "Mobilegeddon?" A new revision of the Google search algorithm set to raise the visibility of mobile sites at the expense of their desktop-bound competitors. The effect wasn't initially epochal, but it did cause several major sites to drop in the rankings. Soon, link building may undergo a similar collapse.

Back in September, a new update to the Google algorithm known as Penguin went online. Its goal has been to find and penalize sites that operate in ways designed to game SEO. Link building isn't shady by definition, but many companies have been using it in shady ways.

One example is by building private blog networks (PBNs) with no purpose except to link back to agency generated content. This Fall's Penguin update -- plus a secretive update that launched in February -- appears to be specifically targeted at PBNs. Now, the black-hat link building community has been thrown into turmoil.

As with most of the services listed above, if you've been link building for a while, and you've been doing it in a balanced and organic manner, you're probably in the clear. If you haven't been link building at all, and don't know where to begin, 2017 probably isn't the best year to start.

Stick with What Works

To make it as a marketing agency, you don't necessarily need to break new ground -- but agencies should probably avoid the well-trodden paths. In the examples above, the marketplace of ideas is either so crowded that a new player can't really get a toehold, or the edifice is beginning to crumble. Black-hat SEO tactics never have a great deal of longevity, and even venerable tactics such as cold-calling are seeing their last days.

With that in mind, the principles for agency success still haven't changed. Iterate on successful strategies. Collaborate when necessary to aid in the success of your clients. Keep on like this, and when you find the idea that does put you over the top, Facebook-like success may not be out of reach.

New Call-to-action

from HubSpot Marketing Blog https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/services-your-agency-shouldnt-offer-in-2017

Monday, 27 February 2017

Thinker, Mover, Shaker, Spy: How One Man and His CIA-Backed Company are Changing the Way the Government Collects and Analyzes Your Data

The name Alex Karp may not mean much to you now — but it’s about to. That’s because Alex is the brains behind Palantir, the closest thing to a “killer app” the U.S. government has — a system which allows one to discern meaningful context and insights from a swamp of seemingly meaningless data.

With scraps of what appear to be unrelated information, Palantir can craft intuitive charts, visual graphs and vital forecasts — showcasing ties and links on everything from the locations of wanted criminals to hotbeds of human trafficking.

What does this mean for the rest of us? Everything.

What is Palantir?

The name “Palantir” comes from a fictional stone in the Tolkien universe that allowed the user to see things happening in different areas — much like a crystal ball. This modern version ties together wisps of information to track, monitor and make connections in everything from wars to law enforcement.

A few of Palantir’s more notable moments include:

  • Helping U.S. forces track down and kill Osama Bin Laden
  • Assisting the Marines in Afghanistan by doing forensic analysis of roadside bombs to predict insurgent attacks
  • Sifting through 40 years of documents to convict Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff
  • Locating Mexican drug cartel members who murdered an American customs agent
  • Finding the hackers who installed spyware on the Dalai Lama’s computer

How Palantir Works

Emerging from its secretive cocoon of James Bond-like technologies and insights, Palantir is poised to change business as well. Pharmaceutical companies use Palantir to help them analyze and predict drug interactions. Hershey uses Palantir’s technology to help it increase chocolate sales. J.P. Morgan Chase uses Palantir to help it in the fight against mortgage fraud.

Imagine someone using your identity to open a home equity line of credit and siphoning funds to a computer in a cybercafe in Nigeria. Palantir can piece together these connections across data from bills, home and I.P. addresses to help eliminate the problem before it balloons into a massive loss (and a huge headache for whoever has had their identity stolen) — and it can do it all in seconds. Staff at J.P. Morgan Chase estimate that Palantir has saved them hundreds of millions of dollars.

In short, the brainchild of an eccentric philosopher is quickly becoming one of the most lucrative and profitable private tech companies. You may recognize the name of its largest stakeholder too — Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor behind PayPal and Facebook. And Palantir is poised to potentially go public — making Karp Silicon Valley’s newest billionaire and doubling Thiel’s original investment in the company.

But Karm fears the change that money will have on Palantir. An “I.P.O”, he says, “is corrosive to our culture, corrosive to our outcomes”. But at the same time, Palantir has to make money in order to thrive. It seeks out big contracts with major players and counts Democratic strategist James Carville, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, and former C.I.A. director George Tenet among its advisers.

But what does all of this mean for you?

Big Brother vs. Big Data

One need only look back a few decades to remember that making money and changing the world are often at odds with each other. While still graduate students at Stanford, Sergey Brin and Larry Page wrote that “advertising-funded search engines will be inherently biased toward the advertisers”. Then they founded Google, which makes fistfuls of money off of advertising.

Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg championed a “society of complete openness” while being incredibly secretive about how it mines the information you share to target ads to you. A search engine and a social network are one thing – but something that can tie everything about you together in seconds – has much more serious and far-reaching implications.

But Palantir knows that privacy concerns about it are not unfounded. Courtney Bowman, a former employee at Google, now works at Palantir as a “civil liberties engineer” — helping lawmakers understand how to use modern technology while keeping privacy safeguards in place. One of Palantir’s features includes a series of safeguards designed to limit who can see what. Another feature includes an “audit trail” to let investigators see that certain rules and regulations with regard to data handling, were followed precisely.

And although these features are wired into the system, using them is not required. “What keeps me up at night is that we have to keep thinking about this as we grow into new marketing and new regions,” says Mr. Bowman. “[a]s you move into higher levels of computing complexity, you can’t retreat into the argument that [the technology of finding hidden things] is neutral.”

With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility

We’ve seen what could happen when commerce and surveillance combine. One Palantir employee pitched a Washington law firm on ways that they could expose WikiLeaks – which included cyberattacks and disinformation.

Although the idea was never formally executed, the pitch papers and emails between the two groups were posted online by hacktivist group Anonymous. Because of the sheer size of Palantir, coming to a consensus on how its service is used can be difficult. According to an article in the New York Times, some employees don’t want Palantir helping Israel because of their position against Palestinians. Palantir still has contracts with the Israeli government. But currently, they are not working with China. Nor are they working with tobacco companies.

At its core, Palantir still has a great deal of finding itself to do. As the company continues to grow, it’s easy to lose sight of its goals as it scales to accommodate massive growth and change. Palantir’s ability to remain steadfast in the face of corruption and very hot, sensitive issues will remain a focus, as will its very difficult decision as to whether or not it should go public.

Still, there’s a great deal of untapped potential for technology like this – especially for marketers. What are your thoughts on this kind of big data mapping and analysis? Do you feel that Palantir is poised to become the next big game changer in commerce much as the Internet was decades ago? Or do you feel it’s more of a fad that will only see limited use outside government, military and law enforcement areas?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

from The Kissmetrics Marketing Blog https://blog.kissmetrics.com/thinker-mover-shaker-spy/

How Digital Connectivity Impacts Marketing Teams

improve team collaboration

Author: Nina Brakel-Schutt

In a 21st-century buzzword tournament, “connect” would make the finals. It’s the de-facto relationship verb of digital life, and it seems to take on new meanings every year:

  • “We connected yesterday.”
  • “I’m losing connectivity.”
  • “Can we connect these software platforms?”
  • “Stay connected on the move!”
  • “Connect with us on Facebook.”
  • “It’s all about the connected devices.”
  • “We have to make one-to-one connections with our customers.”

You get the picture. Everyone and everything is connecting. But that doesn’t mean people feel connected or necessarily benefit from it. Why?

My colleagues and I at Widen, a digital asset management (DAM) provider, decided to investigate this. We surveyed 200 marketing, creative, and IT professionals about connectivity. We also conducted one-on-one interviews with 21 participants. In this blog, I’ll share key insights from our 2017 Connectivity Report and how it impacts marketing teams:

People Connect to Satisfy Human Needs

Our biological and social programming have made connectivity fundamental to life. Digital technology only feels “connective” insofar as it contributes to our relationships, abilities, accomplishments, and general wellbeing. However, digital connectivity can backfire.

“Collaboration,” a cornerstone of connectivity, is a good example. Business technologies flout their collaborative features all the time. Their formula is usually the same: We’ll connect your team; you can communicate with each other; ergo, you’ll be more collaborative…right?

Not necessarily, based on the results we found:

  • 53% of survey respondents say the best way to achieve a feeling of connection at work is by collaborating with co-workers.
  • 76% say that the most successful collaboration happens in person.
  • Not surprisingly, 62% of survey respondents want to maintain work connections in person.

So, a collaboration platform wouldn’t necessarily provide that feeling of connection that people seek through face-to-face collaboration. At the same time, we found some interesting results when we dug deeper:

  • Only 7% of participants feel that being connected means being part of a team or group.
  • And, only 8% feel being “connected” means being together in a physical space.

Yes, that seems contradictory. We have more tools and technologies at our disposal than ever before, and digital channels have paved the way for constant connectivity. Our technology says connectivity can happen anywhere, but our genes say we need to be together in physical spaces. Our language describes both of those interactions with the same word: connect (and its derivatives).

Culturally, we’re starting to accept meanings of connectivity that defy physical location. But we overwhelmingly experience the value of connectivity by being together. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were never alone–one-bedroom studio apartments and Netflix didn’t exist. For survival, they evolved to connect in person.

How Connectivity Impacts Marketing Teams

It’s common wisdom that marketing campaigns need to spark a connection. Great stories, photos, and videos speak to the collective human experience. But how can we expect that experience to emerge from teams that feel disconnected?

Meaningful, authentic relationships (both social and emotional) are the secret to making people smarter, happier, more productive, and more expressive. Marketing teams must cultivate connectivity before they can share it with their audiences. Sometimes, digital tools improve the quality of connection; other times, they degrade it.

Let’s take an example from Brad Grzesiak, CEO of the app development firm Bendyworks, who we interviewed for our research. He started sending employee engagement emails last year, then collated and posted the responses for everyone to see.

Each week, they sent three email questionnaires:

  1. One email is about what employees are doing to keep teams in sync.
  2. Another email is about the company (e.g. “Have you ever been afraid to suggest an idea at work because you thought someone might shoot it down?”) to encourage employees to voice concerns about the company and ideas they might not think to raise otherwise.
  3. The third email, sent on Fridays, is an ice-breaker style personal question (e.g. “What’s your earliest memory?” to start conversations that probably wouldn’t have happened among employees otherwise.

This is a good example of how email technology can improve access to information, ignite difficult conversations, and foster deep personal connections.

But doesn’t email often create the exact opposite result? Any given day, lengthy, cryptic emails invade our inbox. Extracting the useful information is almost as fun as reading an Apple user agreement. We also hesitate to bring up sensitive, difficult topics in emails because the margin for misunderstanding is so high. After work, we continue to check email incessantly rather than be present with friends and family (who might be staring at their own devices anyway).

Connective technologies are not “double-edged” swords. They’re swords with thousands of edges, some known, some misunderstood, and some to-be-discovered.

So let’s return to collaboration—the enigma that invited contradictory answers from our survey participants. In-person and digital collaboration aren’t mutually exclusive options. Teams need to think of them as complementary steps.

For, say, a content marketing manager, I’d recommend the following approach to collaboration:

  1. Ask your team to share prep work and background information before planned meetings.
  2. Brainstorm and talk about strategy in person during short, structured meetings.
  3. Continue to manage execution by phone, email, IM, Basecamp, Slack, etc.
  4. Hold a weekly standup or huddle at the same time every week for status updates.
  5. Conduct unscheduled check-ins to spend individual time with team members.

While this seems incredibly simple, it takes discipline. How often are meetings hijacked by sidebar conversation? Do you really spend equal one-on-one time with all your team members? Have you ever lost half your day to a brainstorming email thread gone rampant?

Connectivity is intrinsically valuable, but we can’t assume that all tools will contribute to it. That is a downfall of buzzwords–they can mislead us into believing that two things are the same when in fact they’re different.

So, to set the record straight: The most digitized team isn’t necessarily the most connected. “Digital connectivity” can be an oxymoron. Meaningful, personal relationships built on authentic engagement are the best markers of connectivity.

What other factors are critical to a marketing team’s success? Share your thoughts below!

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How Digital Connectivity Impacts Marketing Teams was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post How Digital Connectivity Impacts Marketing Teams appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

from Marketo Marketing Blog http://blog.marketo.com/2017/02/how-digital-connectivity-impacts-marketing-teams.html