Our Solutions News Blog was envisioned to gather and share information from the very best to help you and your business to become more effective.
Advice for achieving and maintaining customer centricity at a time when customers expect nothing less.
Customer centricity is all the rage in today's world of marketing; a world where technologically empowered consumers expect more and more from businesses and their marketing. Fortunately for marketers, technology continues to advance at a remarkable rate for businesses, as well. However, all of the technology in the world can't salvage a marketing strategy that isn't wholly focused on these empowered consumers.
In this Q&A, captured during the 2016 Direct Marketing News Marketing&Tech Innovation Summit, Vivek Sharma, CEO and cofounder of email marketing technology provider Movable Ink, a Summit sponsor, spoke with DMN's Editor-in-Chief Ginger Conlon about the opportunities in customer-centric marketing, the balance between marketing on a contextually relevant level, and relying too heavily on marketing technology.
Source: Direct Marketing / Written By: Perry Simpson
“I feel stuck. Where should I go from here?”
It’s not uncommon to feel like there’s no obvious next step in your career. It’s hard work to guide yourself, especially when you’re walking into the unknown.
So what do you do when you feel stuck? Do you jump ship? Apply for a new role within your company? Or just stick it out? In the right context, any of those options could work out just fine. But how do you know which direction is right for you?
If you’re in marketing or a part of a big team, chances are you work with individuals with many different skill sets. Maybe you sit next to a woman named Tracie who’s a jane of all trades. It seems like there’s nothing she can’t do! Your other co-worker, Seth, might be the go-to-guy for all things analytics and reports. Sometimes he even holds team workshops on metrics and reporting tools.
Despite their differences, both Tracie and Seth are most likely equally valued by the company. Their roles represent two common directions an employee might pursue in one’s career, depth and breadth, and both are excellent paths to get yourself unstuck.
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Source: Hubspot / Written By: Rebecca Corliss
When was the last time YOU listened carefully, reflectively, meaningfully and thoughtfully to a ''world-class", college commencement speech?
If your kids recently graduated, then probably recently - - BUT DID that commencement speaker's message REALLY hit home for YOU - - as well as your child? If YOU graduated from college or grad school a while back, do you even remember what YOUR commencement speaker had to say, share, his or her life-forging reflections, admonishments, hard-won lessons shared?
Each of the 7 speeches here is unique, wildly different than one another, each profound in its message. Each addressed the subject of how to embrace, manage/master or understand the rest of your adult life - - from highly-original vantage points and unexpected, deeply reflective "life-lesson processes" - - that might be relevant to YOU right now - - as YOU grapple with a tumultuous, and massively, changing world. There are a lot of BIG IDEAS left to think up and explore.
Cheetos Made Lip Balm? 18 of the Weirdest Product Releases From Famous Brands, and 16 of Them Flopped!
When it comes down to it, the underlying goal of any type of advertising or big idea is to solidify a company’s brand identity in the minds of consumers. Brands who succeed in doing this become virtually synonymous with goods or services: Starbucks to coffee; Coca-Cola to soft drinks; Nike to athletic equipment.
Sometimes, though, a brand’s identity is so intertwined with a type of product that any attempt to branch out can be, well ... really weird. Like, is-this-an-April-Fool's-Day-joke weird.
Take Colgate, for instance. Long associated with toothpaste, toothbrushes, and all things oral hygiene, it made the unfortunate decision to try its luck in the ready-to-eat dinner market by introducing a line of frozen foods called "Kitchen Entrees." Needless to say, these products didn’t stay in grocery store freezers for long, as consumers were unable to disassociate the minty fresh taste of Colgate toothpaste from Colgate spaghetti.
But this wasn’t the only instance of a brand launching a disconnected product line. In fact, it’s happened a number of times and surprisingly, not all have failed. Check out this interesting infographic from Plumbworld chronicling the weirdest examples of brands branching out.
Source: Hubspot / Written By: Matthew Kane
Social media advertising is a great tactic to use to supplement your other inbound marketing efforts. That said, each comes with its own strengths and weaknesses, and acknowledging these can help you put out the most suitable, engaging content possible.
Social media has become a cornerstone of marketing strategy; it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, social media is a tool you should be using everyday to interact with consumers.
Let’s dive in and examine the pros and cons of advertising on each of the four major social media platforms.
The Good: One major benefit to using LinkedIn is its user base, which consists mainly of business professionals. Over LinkedIn, your ads are almost always seen by business-minded individuals, like yourself. This makes it a social media platform with high conversion rates. Like Facebook, you can also target to niche groups in categories like demographics, employee title and location.
The Bad: Don’t expect a high click-through-rate for your ad here. However, while you’ll rack in less overall clicks on LinkedIn, the users behind the clicks are much more qualified than they are on the other social media channels. On Facebook, you may get as many as 1 in 200 impressions; on LinkedIn, it’s common to receive 1 in 500.
Another downside using LinkedIn is the cost of running an ad campaign. It’s normal to pay up to four or five dollars a click. The extra cost may be worth it you, however, because you’re reaching a higher-quality audience for your business and bypassing those who aren’t interested automatically.
Example: Here’s a perfect example of effective LinkedIn advertising. MarketShare used LinkedIn display ads to drive traffic to their site by targeting an audience of marketing professionals they were looking for.
The company garnered significant results by utilizing this method: the ad received a .10% click through rate, which was double the number MarketShare expected. They also reported seeing more qualified leads coming in through from different verticals. Success! You can view the MarketShare case study here.
The Good: Twitter allows you to target people based on their current interests. Every time someone sends out a tweet with a hashtag, you have the ability to target them via social media advertising; this is just like keyword targeting on Google AdWords.
Another way you can effectively target a particular audience on Twitter is by honing in on a particular user. Find someone, like an industry influencer, and target their set of followers to extend your ad’s reach.
The Bad: Even though Twitter has a great ability to target users through keywords and hashtags, targeting by interest isn’t as easy. The selection of interests to choose from are extremely limited. The closest interest category for a B2B inbound marketing agency to choose from is “Marketing.”
Choosing this category will not prove to be very effective, since it includes such a vast industry. Twitter has the potential to being a great channel to advertise on, once they expand their categories for advertising.
Example: Even the most traditional companies can benefit from advertising on social media. Take for example, the Girl Scouts organization. Girl Scouts had developed a new mobile app that helped customers better find where products were sold, which, in effect, will drive sales.
The outcome of this ad campaign was a victory for Girl Scouts. Over 19,500 viewers downloaded the app; which was much more than expected. The key takeaway from this: use photos of your products to supplement tweets and entice visitors. Just like with tweets, an advertisement with an image is multitudes more effective. View their success story here.
The Good: Since the search engine giant created this social media platform, it’s no wonder they added SEO benefits to it. Any activity on your company’s page is calculated into your search optimization. For someone in your circle, your company’s page will appear before others that are not in their circles. People using Google+ are usually more tech-driven than those on Facebook or Twitter. If you think this is the right audience for you, it could be advantageous to use your marketing tactics there.
Google+ features “+Post ads” that post on Google’s Display Network, which increases the reach of your advertisements considerably. This is a major plus, because visitors don’t have to be directed to another website to with their clicks.
The most unique aspect to these ads is that an advertiser doesn’t pay for an ad if someone doesn’t click on it. They only pays for as many clicks as it gets. The one downside of this is that Google counts hovering over the ad for more than two seconds as a click.
The Bad: This social media network hasn’t received nearly as much engagement as the other three sites mentioned in this blog. It only has 540 million users; compared to the others, this is very low. It also doesn’t support advanced targeting options like Facebook does. On here, you can segment ads based on demographic targeting, contextual targeting and device targeting.
The promotion policies are also very restrictive, so contests, promos and giveaways aren’t a possibility, which stops many companies from advertising here. For this reason, the best way your business can use this site is for its SEO feature. This feature is also limited, however; if you’re not in someone’s circles, it won’t help Google get your website seen by those users.
Example: Toyota has been noted for its impeccable use of advertising on Google+. Toyota not only ran a campaign on +post ads, they also used hangouts to their advantage.
They used hangout to connect dealers with potential customers, so they were able to nurture them through the sales funnel at the first point of contact. Toyota experienced dramatic results from this campaign, including a 50% higher engagement rate than industry averages. See the complete success story here.
The Good: Facebook has the largest audience, at over 1.19 billion registered users. The major plus with advertising here is the visibility it could give to your company. This makes Facebook a great choice for a small businesses. With the option to advertise based on location, you can easily increase your reach. Unlike LinkedIn, it’s a very cost-effective option. You can spend as little as a dollar a day per ad.
Another pro with Facebook ads are their advanced targeting options. When advertising on Facebook, you can target viewers based on six different categories: location, gender, likes/interests, relationship status, workplace and education.
They also do their own form of A/B testing for you. Facebook lets you create multiple ad variations and uses the best performing ad set from those variations. This gives you very valuable information into the effectiveness of each ad your company is producing.
The Bad: Facebook as an advertising only has one crucial drawback you should keep in mind: the metrics that Facebook provides regarding ad performance are (currently) pretty miniscule compared to other sites.
Example: BarkBox used Facebook’s targeting abilities to their advantage and has greatly benefited from it. The company received half of their daily conversions and one-third of their daily traffic from Facebook.
They did this by targeting dog lovers with Facebook’s custom audiences option. Using targeted keywords of people who “liked” different dog breeds, they expanded their business and grew their subscribers to 5,000 per month from Facebook alone. You can see the full success story here.
The Bottom Line
Paid social media advertising can be very beneficial to your business. For best results, use this along with other inbound marketing tactics to really take your business (and profits) to the next level. Learn more about the perks of social media advertising in our ebook, “Social Media Paid Advertising” below.
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Written by Lindsay Kolowich / Hubspot Blog
One key part of being a great marketer is understanding how (and why) people think and act the way they do. It's much harder to create compelling content marketing, for example, if you don’t know why it would be compelling to your audience in the first place.
Before you jump into the tactical nitty-gritty of marketing, it’s really helpful to understand how people operate … which is essentially what the entire field of psychology attempts to explain. Understanding some key principles of psychology can take your marketing from good to amazing, all because the right audience is reading and identifying with it (and most likely converting on it, too).
Psychology and Marketing: 10 Important Principles of Psychology You Should Use
Have you ever played the game where one person says a word, and the other immediately responds with the first thing that comes to mind?
That's kind of how priming works. You're exposed to one stimulus, and it affects how you respond to another stimulus. Psychology Today gives the example of two groups of people reading the word "yellow" followed by either "sky" or "banana." Because people have a semantic association between the fruit and its color, the "yellow-banana" group will recognize the word "banana" faster than the "yellow-sky" group recognizes "sky."
What's this got to do with marketing? Lots. Using subtle priming techniques, you could help your website visitors remember key information about your brand -- and maybe even influence their buying behavior.
It's been tested before. In a study by Naomi Mandel and Eric J. Johnson, researchers manipulated the background design of a website to see if it'd affect consumers' product choices. Participants were asked to choose between two products in one category (like a Toyota vs. a Lexus). According to Psychology Today, "they found that visitors who had been primed on money (the website’s background was green with pennies on it) looked at price information longer than those who had been primed on safety. Similarly, consumers who had been primed on comfort looked at comfort information longer than those primed on money."
So if you're trying to make use of priming in your marketing, think about the small details. They could be the difference between someone buying your highest product price point and bouncing from your page.
Introduced in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the concept of “reciprocity” is simple -- if someone does something for you, you naturally will want to do something for them.
If you've ever gotten a mint with your bill at a restaurant, you've been the victim of reciprocity. According to Cialdini, when servers bring a check to their patrons without a mint, the diners will tip according to their perceptions of the service given. With one mint, the tip jumps up 3.3%. Two mints? The tip jumps "through the roof" to roughly 20%.
In your marketing, there are a lot of ways to take advantage of reciprocity. You don’t have to be rolling in dough to give something away; it can be anything from a branded sweatshirt, to an exclusive ebook, to a free desktop background, to your expertise on a difficult subject matter. Even something as simple as a hand-written note can go a long way in establishing reciprocity. Just be sure you're giving away the free thing before you ask for something in return.
3) Social Proof
Most marketers are aware of this concept already, but it was too important to leave out from this list. If you're not familiar with it, social proof is the theory that people will adopt the beliefs or actions of a group of people they like or trust. In other words, it’s the “me too” effect. Think of this like an awkward middle school dance -- few people want to be the first one on the dance floor, but once a few people are there, everyone else wants to join in. (Keep in mind, this desire to conform doesn’t go away when you get older and less bashful about your dance moves.)
One easy way to make the most of social proof is on your blog. If you're not already, use social sharing and follow buttons that display the number of followers your accounts have or the number of shares a piece of content has. If those numbers are front and center and you already have a few people sharing your post, people who stumble on your post later will be much more likely to share.
4) Decoy Effect
You'll often see this effect in pricing models -- one price point is intentionally included to entice you to choose the most expensive option.
In Dan Airley's famous TED talk, "Are we in control of our own decisions?", he describes an ad from The Economist outlining their latest subscription packages. Here's what they offered:
Online subscription: $59
Print subscription: $125
Online and print subscription: $125
Crazy, right? You could get the print only subscription and the online and print subscription for the same price. Why would they offer that?
That's what Airley thought, too. He reached out to the folks at The Economist, but he never got a straight answer from them.
So he decided to run his own study with 100 MIT students. He gave them the pricing packages outlined above and asked which one they'd want to buy. When all three options were there, students chose the combo subscription -- it was the best deal, right? But when he removed the "useless" option (the print subscription for $125), the students preferred the cheapest option.
Turns out that middle option wasn't that useless after all -- it gave students a frame of reference for how "good" the combo deal was and enticed them to pay more for that deal.
So if you're looking to increase conversions on a landing page with two options, you might want to add a third. It could help increase the conversion rate of the option you'd ultimately want people to take.
Ever gone to buy airline tickets and seen a tagline that says “Only 3 seats left at this price!” Yup, that’s scarcity (another Cialdini concept). This psychology principle goes back to the simple formula of supply and demand: The more rare the opportunity, content, or product is, the more valuable it is.
In 1975, Worchel, Lee, and Adewole conducted a study to see how scarcity affected people's perception. At the start of the study, they asked people to rate chocolate chip cookies. According to an article by my colleague Lanya Olmstead that describes the experiment, "[The researchers] put 10 cookies in one jar, and two of the same cookies in another jar. The cookies from the two-cookie jar received ratings twice as high as the 10 cookie jar even though the cookies were exactly the same."
But if you want to properly use this principle, you need to be careful how you word it. If you approach the scarcity concept as if there used to be a ton of a product or service, but due to popular demand there’s a few left, people will be very receptive. On the other hand, if you approach it from the angle that there are only a few products total, so get it now, the principle won’t be as effective. Check out this post from Nir and Far for a deeper explanation on why that distinction is important.
Ever wondered why it's so hard to resist a sale at your favorite clothing store?
Often, it has to do with anchoring -- people base decisions on the first piece of information they receive. So if my favorite store typically retails jeans for $50, but I find them on sale for $35, I'll be ecstatic. "I just got a crazy deal on these jeans," I'll think. I'll probably even buy them. But if my friend typically shops for jeans that are $20, she won't be nearly as impressed.
For marketers, anchoring is important to know -- especially if you're ever running a sale. You'll want to clearly state the initial price of the product (this is "setting" the anchor), and then display the sale price right next to it. You might even explain how much of a percentage off your customers will receive with the sale.
7) The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
Ever heard about a product and then start seeing it everywhere you look? You can thank the The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. It starts happening after you encounter something for the first time, and then you start noticing it cropping up in everyday life. Suddenly you see ads for the product every time you watch TV. And when you go to the grocery store, you happen to walk down the aisle and spot it. And alllllll of your friends all have the product.
It's weird right? Here's why you're suddenly seeing this new thing everywhere.
According to PS Mag, this phenomenon (also called "the frequency illusion") is caused by two processes. "The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you unconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence."
For marketers, this phenomenon is precisely why nurturing is incredibly important. Once someone starts noticing your brand (aka clicking around on your website), you'll want to help them start seeing you "everywhere." Send them targeted nurturing emails and retargeting ads based on their behavior, and you could increase the possibility of them converting.
8) Verbatim Effect
According to a study by Poppenk, Joanisse, Danckert, and Köhler, people are more likely to remember the gist of what someone said, not the specific details. So when you attend a session on how to blog for your business, you're most likely going to remember details like "Have another person edit your work," not "Send a Google Doc three business days ahead of time to a peer so they can edit your work. Don't forget to use Track Changes so you know what you missed!"
They called this the "verbatim effect." And it can have a huge effect on how your content performs.
To begin with, people are spending less and less time actually reading online. According to data from Chartbeat, more than half of your visitors will spend less than 15 seconds on your site. So if people aren't reading your content and not likely to remember specific details, what's a marketer to do?
I'd recommend spending even more time than you already are on perfecting your headline. Not only should it be search- and sharing-friendly, but it should also accurately describe what's in your article. This way, when people are looking for more information on a given topic, they'll think of that one helpful article they read a while ago and Google the topic to find it again. If you've done the work, you should appear in the search results. If you need some help writing compelling headline copy, check out this post on our blog.
People have a limited amount of space in their short-term memory. In fact, most people can only remember seven pieces of information (plus or minus two pieces in any given situation) at a time.
To cope, most people tend to cluster similar pieces of information together. For example, if you had a whole grocery list of random items, most people would tend to mentally group items into certain categories (dairy, grain, meat, etc.) to be able to better remember what exactly was on the list.
So when you're creating content, keep clustering in mind. How can you design and lay out your content to increase memory retention? One way to do it is by grouping similar topics together -- either under numbered bullet points or with different header sizes. Besides being much easier to scan, your writing will be much easier to remember and recall down the road -- especially if you’re creating long lists of content.
10) Loss Aversion
Loss aversion means pretty much exactly what it sounds like: Once someone has something, they realllllly don't like to lose it.
When Daniel Kahneman studied this concept, participants were given mugs, chocolate, or nothing. Then, they were asked to make a choice, they were given two options: If they were given an object, they could trade their objects, or if they were given nothing, they could choose one of the two items. The result? Roughly half of the participants who started with no items chose mugs, but 86% of those given mugs to begin with stuck with that item.
Moral of the story? People don't like to lose what they've already gained.
Though this could open up some semi-sketchy doors for certain types of marketers, loss aversion could have a significant factor in freemium products and increased product adoption. For example, you could ungate a feature for the free version of your product for a certain amount of time. After that time period is up, that feature could be removed unless you upgrade to becoming a paying customer. While you certainly have to be careful how you play to this psychological need, loss aversion is a very important concept for every marketer to know.
Written By: Ginny Soskey / Hubspot Blog
Calling out other people's grammar mistakes has become a favorite internet pastime.
From news articles and blog posts to emails and tweets, if there's an error in there, someone's going to remark on it. Especially if it's made by a brand. (Hey, we're guilty of it, too.)
And who could blame them? I also feel a certain sense of pride when I find a typo in a popular book. Sometimes I circle it with a pencil -- you know, in case the publisher ever puts out a call for typos and I need to find it easily. You never know.
But here's the thing: Grammatical errors don't necessarily mean the author didn't know better. I could go on for days about the differences between "whether" and "weather" -- and yet, for some reason, that one trips me up on a regular basis, especially when I'm texting.
Why? Because our brains are wired in a way that makes us all susceptible to grammar slip-ups.
Let that sink in for a second. No one is safe from making grammar mistakes -- not even the Chief of the Grammar Police.
In fact, some of the most common grammatical errors don't happen because the writer is being careless; they happen because the writer is focused on their writing at a much higher level than the order of letters in a word.
Let's dig in to why.
It's Not Your Fault
Think about how quickly you need to access words and interpret meaning when writing an email or having a conversation. Our brains don't just stow away every individual word in our vocabularies in enormous storehouses, ready to be called upon, one-by-one, at a moment's notice.
Instead, most linguistic researchers agree that words are stored in groups according to the relationship between words. They call the process "word priming."
How does word priming work?
In a study outlined in David A. Sousa's How the Brain Learns to Read, subjects were presented with pairs of words. The first word was called the "prime," and the second word was called the "target." The prime was always a real word, but subjects were told the target could either be a real word or a non-word (like spretz). In the experiment, researchers showed the subjects the prime and the target, and the subjects had to decide as quickly as possible whether the target was a real word.
In every case, people were much faster and more accurate in making decisions about target words that were related in meaning to the prime (like swan/goose) than they were if the prime and target were unrelated (like tulip/goose).
Researchers suspect the reason it took less time for people to identify related pairs is because these words are actually physically closer to one another among the neurons in the brain, and that related words might be stored together in specific cerebral regions.
Another way of framing our tendency to pair words together is that it simply becomes a habit.
Dr. Tom Stafford, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Sheffield who studied Wikipedia edits to see what they reveal about how the brain processes language, told The Washington Post, "When you first start typing, you don't have any habits. And then as you become fluid, that skill is based on the assemblage of routines that you don't have to think about."
Both sets of research are complementary: Scientists have found that when people form habits (like learning to group related words together), the neurons in their brains can change their firing patterns so that these habits become more automated and take less mental energy when they're repeated.
What does this have to do with grammar mistakes?
Andrew Heisel of The Washington Post uses this example:
"If a friend texts that she’s 'going to a concert' and you want to tell her you’re also going, you might type, 'I’m going, to,' instead of 'I’m going, too.' Your brain is used to hearing the word 'going' followed by the word 'to' (as in going to work/school/etc.) and it just saw the phrase used that way in your friend’s text. Conversely, in sentences that should end with the preposition 'to,' people often write 'too' because that word more frequently concludes a sentence."
We all start out our emails and text messages and tweets with a specific concept we want to express, such as the fact that we're also going to the concert. But when we actually type these concepts out, we unconsciously think about several options (like "going to" vs. "going, too") and pick one. This process happens so quickly that we sometimes select the wrong one.
We're especially prone to error when we're choosing between two words or phrases that sound the same.
“Usually we pay a lot of attention to pronunciation while we’re typing because it’s usually a really good cue how to spell things,” says Maryellen MacDonald, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. “When someone types ‘Are dog is really cute,’ it’s not that they don’t know the difference between ‘are’ and ‘our’; it’s that the pronunciation of ‘our’ in the mind activated the spelling ‘our’ but also ‘are.’”
This can happen with even the oddest of homophones, like when people mistakenly write "28" when they meant to type "20A." An error like that puts the classic your/you're and there/their mistakes into perspective a little bit more.
Grammar Takes a Back Seat to Meaning
In the end, it all comes down to generalization -- what WIRED's Nick Stockton calls "the hallmark of all higher-level brain functions."
Generalization is the grouping strategy that helps our brains respond quickly to situations similar to one we're already familiar with. It's what helps us take in information, combine it with our habits and past experiences, and then extract meaning from it. And it's fundamental to our ability to communicate.
But, at the same time, it makes us prone to grammatical mistakes no matter how well we can write. Typos aren't usually a result of stupidity or carelessness, Dr. Stafford explains. Instead, they often happen because trying to convey meaning in your writing is actually a very high-level task.
"As with all high-level tasks, your brain generalizes simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas)," writes Stockton.
Of course, you should still proofread everything and get a fresh pair of eyes to look over your written work. But at least you can rest easier knowing that you made that typo in last week's blog post not because you were ignorant or negligent, but because you were hyper-focused on conveying meaningful information to your readers.
I know I will.
Written By: Lindsay Kolowich / Hubspot Blog
"By using every available channel, businesses are able to reach customers no matter where they are. But balancing the perfect media mix to maximize their efforts and sales opportunities is an art."
Case «» Study
Chick-fil-A® Has The Recipe for Success
Announcing the opening of a new store, Chick-fil-A achieved a phenominal response by combining print and digital marketing tactics. The strategy was simple, yet effective. 5,000 mailers were sent out to advertise the new store, offering free food promotions that require online validation. Recipients claimed their coupons online by completing a short survey. Upon completion, they could then share this offer with their friends via social media
THE RESULTS? On opening day, more than 14,000 customers walked through the doors, with 2,800 attributing their decision to the direct mail campaign. Furthermore, Chick-fil-A was able to captue key demogaphic information for future marketing campaigns.
Communication skills are more important than ever, but what if your grammar doesn’t quite make the grade?
Technology has reshaped how we communicate in the business world. Fifty years ago, you would have walked over to your coworker’s desk or called up to the second floor to ask a question. Now, whether your coworkers are in the next cube or half a world away, it’s standard practice to email, instant message, or text. An increasing number of employees are “working with people they have never met and communicating with them largely through email," Will Ellet, adjunct professor of writing at Brandeis International Business School, told CNBC.
No matter what format your written communication takes, it needs to be clear and concise. Misunderstandings can lead to costly mistakes. Given that the average business user sends and receives over 100 emails a day, no one has time to read rambling messages that don't get to the point quickly.
We could all use a little refresher on our business writing skills. And thanks to a wealth of free classes and resources online, we can improve our grammar and writing from the comfort of our own desk chairs -- without spending a dime.
To get you started, we've put together a list of tips for quickly improving your written communication skills. Check 'em out. (And if you're looking for more, here's an excellent list of helpful websites and tools that address common grammar questions and errors.)
12 Quick Tips For Better Business Writing
1) Develop a daily writing habit.
Practice makes perfect, so set aside just ten or fifteen minutes each day to free-write. In other words, just get your thoughts down without worrying about proofreading. (You can then use a tool like Grammarly to help spot mistakes after you've finished writing.)
2) Try to read every day, too.
In addition to writing each day, a daily reading habit is also a great way to increase your vocabulary and expand your writing repertoire. Pack a novel alongside your lunch or peruse a magazine—even blogs can be a great source of quality writing (if we do say so ourselves).
3) Capitalize when you're supposed to.
Email subject lines, blog post headlines, and report titles should be capitalized just like book titles.
4) Avoid using exclamation points.
Often, we rely on exclamation points too heavily as a crutch.
"Don't ask punctuation to do a word's job," warns Beth Dunn, chief writer and editor on HubSpot's product team. "It dilutes your message." Instead, she suggests working on making our words convey more precisely what you want to say. When in doubt about whether to use an exclamation point, consult this flowchart.
5) Always think about your audience.
You can be casual with your coworkers and peers, but when communicating with management or clients, it’s a good idea to write using more formal grammar. Keep in mind that "formal" doesn’t necessarily mean stilted or old-fashioned.
6) Cut the filler phrases and buzzwords.
Wordy phrases such as “due to the fact that” should be swapped out for their simpler, more straightforward synonyms. (In this case, “because” gets the job done.) Some buzzwords may be trendy, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're effective in communicating ideas clearly. Remove them from your business communication unless you’re sure that everyone understands exactly what “synergy” means.
7) Take advantage of free writing courses online.
Massively open online courses (MOOCs) are only multiplying, and you can find free courses offered by Coursera, Udemy, and edX, as well as universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT.
8) Use templates.
Templates can save you some serious time and effort. If you have to send out similar letters or memos on a regular basis, create a template with customizable fields. You can always personalize your communication with a sentence or two.
Here are 78 free content creation templates for ebooks, press releases, SlideShares, infographics, and more to help you get started.
9) Make sure you address people correctly.
Avoid accidentally insulting someone by triple-checking names, gender, personal pronouns, and titles.
Dustin Wax of Lifehack writes, “If you’re not positive about the spelling of someone’s name, their job title (and what it means), or their gender, either a) check with someone who does know (like their assistant), or b) in the case of gender, use gender-neutral language.”
10) Study commonly misused words and phrases -- and never get them wrong.
It is "peek," "peak," or "pique"? Which one is correct: "first-come, first-served" or "first-come, first-serve"? There are a lot of commonly misused words and phrases out there that you should know.
For example, what's the difference between "that" and "which"? In short, "that" introduces essential information, meaning the stuff that would turn your sentence into nonsense if you took it out. It does not get a comma. On the other hand, "which" introduces non-essential information and is preceded by a comma. (For an in-depth explanation, read this post from Grammar Girl.)
When in doubt, do a quick Google search. It's worth it.
11) Drop the word "very" from your vocabulary.
Florence King once wrote, "'Very' is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen."
You’ll be amazed at the difference removing it makes in your writing.
12) Read your writing out loud.
Before you send anything important, read through it out loud quickly. It may seem a little strange, but reading your writing out loud is one of the most effective ways to catch typos, grammar errors, and awkward phrasing.
These self-paced, self-study tips will help you improve your writing and communication skills in no time.
Written By: Allison VanNest / Hubspot Blog
Ever since I've been old enough to hold a book, I've been crazy for comics. To this day, few things provide me with more pleasure than the combination of pictures and words, telling stories together in ways that neither can do on their own.
As PR, marketing and journalism become increasingly visual disciplines, it makes sense that practitioners can learn much from great examples of comics, so here's a preliminary list of works that I think have a lot to say to communicators. You won't find many superheroes or spaceships here - my own tastes tend a bit more toward the indie end of the spectrum, where artists have more freedom to experiment with what they say and how they say it. Though this list may be limited - these selections are overwhelmingly American, for starters, and I wish there were more women authors - it's only the beginning of what's out there. I'd love to hear additional suggestions!
UNDERSTANDING COMICS, by Scott McCloud
An explanation of the aesthetics of comics in the form of a comic itself, this book is actually one of the greatest - and most enjoyable - textbooks on general visual communication out there. In expounding on the power of the cartoon image and demonstrating how the essential nature of comics makes it one of the most engaging art forms, it's a book that provides incredible insights that are applicable across nearly all forms of communication.
BUILDING STORIES, by Chris Ware
You'd be forgiven if, at first glance, you thought Chris Ware's work consisted of a series of infographics, thanks to his clean style and penchant for cramming his images full of innovative constructions and intriguing detail. His commitment to using every imaginable visual tool came to a head in Building Stories, which is actually a series of 14 smaller works packaged together to tell the story of the residents of a single apartment house, each piece designed and printed in a completely different style. It's a treasure box of visual inspiration that shows the boundaries of how and what the medium is capable of communicating.
GOVERNMENT ISSUE: COMICS FOR THE PEOPLE, 1940s-2000s, by Richard L. Graham
Did you know that the U.S. government has been using comics as a tool for communicating with audiences since the 1940s? This compilation brings together some of the best (and strangest) examples of federally-funded funnybooks, intended to educate the public on everything from military etiquette to financial planning to fire safety. It's a great way to see the many communications uses that comics can be put to. (Pair it with Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, 1870s-1940s to enjoy a look at the commercial side of this history.)
WHAT IT IS, by Lynda Barry
Don't let Lynda Barry's deceptively childlike images fool you - hiding beneath the playful, chaotic surface of this book is a mature and inspiring manual about how to get over your fears and communicate with confidence. Drawing from a personal period of writer’s block after years as a celebrated cartoonist, it intersperses autobiography with instruction in a bid to give readers the courage to create. (If you like this, be sure to follow up with Barry's Picture This, which helps readers learn how to draw without fear, and Syllabus, which brings her unique teaching methods to life.)
PALESTINE, by Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco is a pioneer of first-person journalism in the medium of comics, and this book, compiled from individual comics released in the early 1990s, is his groundbreaking work in the field. Developed from experiences and interviews conducted in Gaza and the West Bank in 1991 and 1992, it demonstrates definitively that graphic storytelling is a respectable, effective form of reporting - paving the way for it to be embraced for every possible kind of story, no matter how serious.
ASTERIOS POLYP, by Dave Mazzuchelli
The story of an architecture professor undergoing a personal crisis, this fictional tale is a master class in visual thinking. Seeking out connections is both a visual and narrative theme of the book - the characters are mostly drawn in starkly different styles, but, when they communicate successfully, these styles mesh together on the page. The protagonist's inner life is depicted via charts, graphs, posters and other tools. By bringing a human dimension to what could have been abstract thinking about the way we communicate, it provides a series of tactics and strategies that can be reimagined to tell any human story.
INFOMANIACS, by Matthew Thurber
In this surreal tale of technology run amok, reality can be photoshopped, physical objects can be downloaded, and, at one point, a page of the story is obscured by a pop-up ad. It's a freewheeling, ribald satire of life in the Information Age, and a reminder to communicators that our work is plumbing strange new territory - and maybe even changing the fabric of reality as we know it.
Written By: Jeff Lewonczyk / Ketchum Blog
"Clients are beginning to associate the tactile experience of print with luxury. Digital is cheap, fast, and easy. Who want's to be identified with any of those things?" MARY-FRANCES BURT, Creative Director, Burt&Burt
"Print communications have potential to bring a more unique, engaging and memorable experience to the audience than digital communications. Personally, I prefer the printed page for certain information because of the flexibility in presentation, the tactile qualities, the construction and the protability...I find digital presentations too repetitious and boring after a short period." PHILIP MCCORMICK, Owner, Design Works
" Print still has an impact on communication. In a fast paced digital world where things change every minute, the tactile presence of a printed piece feels more permanent and special." SUE TAUBE, Art Dirctor, Taube/Violane, Inc.
Consumers Still Trust Traditional Media Over Online Ads % of North American consumers who trust the following forms of advertising:
Click HERE »» to Discover Ten Top Reasons to Print
Source: The Modern Media Mix / Written By: Domtar / GDUSA 2014 Print Design Survey
When it comes to business, we talk too much about social media and expect too little. It’s like the old joke about sales people: one person says, “I made some valuable contacts today,” and the other responds, “I didn’t get any orders, either.” Companies measure the market results of their sales investments. But few have measures or even have accountable managers in place for their social media investments, and only 7% say their organizations “understand the exact value at stake from digital.” Meanwhile, according to a Gallup survey, 62% of U.S. adults who use social media say these sites have no influence on their purchasing decisions and only 5% say they have a great deal of influence.
Technology changes fast — remember MySpace and Friendster? — but consumer behavior changes more slowly. As a result, people tend to overhype new technologies and misallocate resources, especially marketers.
When banner ads first appeared their CTR was 10%, but that soon fell due to heavy usage by firms, and clutter. Research has long demonstrated that ad elasticities are generally very low, that firms often persist with ineffective ad media (because they have the wrong measures or no measures), and that companies routinely over-spend on ads (due to ad agency incentives, the fact that ad expenses are tax-deductible, and companies’ use-it-or-lose-it budgeting processes). Other research indicates that traditional offline consumer opinion surveys (when they use representative samples) are better at predicting sales than clicks, number of website visits or page views, positive or negative social media conversations, and search (although online behavior is good at tracking the reasons behind week-to-week changes in sales.)
With new media, therefore, great expectations are common and missing the goal is understandable: it takes practice and learning. But changing or dismantling the goal posts is a different story.
It’s now common to say that social media is “really” about awareness, not sales. Companies that “get” social media should be “relentless givers [who] connect instead of promote.” In fact, forget “traditional” ROI (that lovely qualifier), focus on consumer use of social media and, instead of calculating the returns in terms of customer response, measure the number of visits with that social media application. How convenient: to be evaluated with a metric without tangible marketplace outcomes. But it’s wrong, a circular argument, and smart companies should not follow this flawed business logic.
The value of any advertising, online or offline, depends on what effects it has on purchases. As Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, and other ad execs have emphasized, “our job is to sell our clients’ merchandise, not ourselves.” Those effects are difficult to measure, because consumers buy (or not) for many different reasons and even good ads in the right media have both carryover and wear-out effects that vary over the product life cycle and an ad campaign. But to justify an investment by activity and not outcomes is a tautology — we advertise because we advertise — not a meaningful business argument.
Even an activity measure, moreover, assumes the consumer can see the ad. Did you know that a display ad is deemed “viewable” if at least half of each ad is visible on your computer or smart phone for a minimum of one second? Data released in 2014 by comScore indicated that more than half of online display ads appear on parts of a web page that are not viewable. In response, the Interactive Advertising Bureau noted that for various reasons 100% viewability is “not yet possible,” but the industry should aim for 70%. In other words, hope that “only” 30% of your intended ads are not seen by anyone for at least a second!
Further, what we now know about shopping and social media activity says that online and offline behavior interact. They’re complements, not substitutes, and you ignore these interactions at your peril. The vast majority of communications on social media sites are between friends who are within 10 miles of each other. The same is true about the available data on buying behavior. As Wharton professor David Bell documents, the way people use the internet is largely shaped by where they live, the presence of stores nearby, their neighbors, and local sales taxes.
For years now, we have heard big talk about the big data behind big investments in social media. Let’s see who is behind the curtain. It’s time to expect more from social media and prove it. The Association of Advertising Agencies has refused to endorse the 70% goal and wants 100% viewability, which means if an advertiser buys 1 million impressions from a site, that site must display that ad as many times as it takes to ensure a million viewable impressions. In 2014, The Economist guaranteed those who buy space on its apps and website that readers will spend a certain amount of time there. For instance, it will guarantee that a site containing an ad appearing for three weeks will receive X hours of readers’ attention — documenting, not assuming, engagement with the medium.
Other companies try to trace the links (or not) between online platforms and sales outcomes. They buy point-of-sale data from retailers and have systems that purport to match Facebook or Twitter IDs, for example, with a given campaign and subsequent retail sales for a product. The validity of these approaches is still to be determined. And the FTC has raised concerns about privacy issues and disclosure practices, and has urged Congress to pass legislation to give consumers the right to opt out. But shining light on what does and doesn’t happen here will be a good thing.
Business success requires linking customer-acquisition efforts with a coherent strategy. You can’t do that if you are not clear about the differences between hype and reality when it comes to buying and selling. And we should care about this distinction for reasons that go far beyond making even more ads more viewable. Companies’ abilities to make better use of their resources are important for society, not only shareholders. It spurs productivity, and productivity — not just tweets and selfies — is what spurs growth.
Source: Harvard Business Review / Written By: Frank Cespedes
As organizations flatten out, employees don't have to corner senior management in an elevator to get their thoughts heard. They could just schedule a meeting, or even walk up to a leader's office or desk. So is there even a need to have an elevator pitch at the ready?
Absolutely. Although accessibility to managers has increased, the amount of time those managers have at their disposal has decreased. And that means the clearer, crisper, and more concise you can make your idea, the more likely it is that your senior-level listener will tune in.
Salespeople trying to connect with C-level prospects should have a variety of pitches at their disposal, but each should adhere to the principles of the classic elevator pitch. This infographic from Bplans explains each component of an elevator pitch to ensure you hit the highs and provide all the necessary information. Just remember that brevity is a virtue -- according to the graphic, an ideal elevator pitch should clock in at a minute or less.
Source: Hubspot / Written By: Emma Snider
Company culture is something that is very close to me. I refer to myself as an HR-driven CEO, and I mean it. If someone at VaynerMedia is unhappy, it is entirely my fault. Period.
Because of that, I spend a good amount of time making sure my ideas on company culture are loud and clear. Not all companies have great culture, and it can be difficult to change when it’s been one way for so long. But it is possible to improve and shift until those changes are permanent.
The first step is something tactical, something you can execute on right away. I don’t care where you work, you probably have had a meeting that you found to be totally useless, right? This piece of advice is practical as hell, and it’s this: Cut all meetings in half. Seriously. Meetings can be some of the least productive places in an office, and when people feel like their time is being wasted, they get upset, and feel undervalued. Cut meetings in half. I promise everything will still get done, you’ll just eliminate the banter and tangents that usually happen.
The second step I would advise you to take: Hang around. Yes, seriously. Find ways to shift your busy schedule so you can be in the office more. Spend as much time with your employees as you can, and not just leadership. Everyone. Let them learn by being around you. Emulate the culture you wish to have and let people soak it in. Learning by osmosis can be tremendously successful in this regard.
When you’re doing that, there is one thing you need to do that might not be the first thing on your mind, and that is to listen. The best way to get things done is to be a great listener. No one ever talked their way through a problem. And this is step three. Straight up. Not only do you need to be a great listener, but you need promote that standard within the company. Hire for this skill and you will not be sorry, especially when looking for project managers. Someone who can listen without interrupting and asks a lot of questions is a good listener.
And what about hiring? That absolutely plays into company culture, of course. Let those doing the hiring learn by osmosis, like I talked about above. If you’re someone who has a hard time choosing between candidates, my answer is this: Hire like you mean it. Don’t hesitate with decisions; just make a damn call. At some point, you have to just do it. And if you're going "No Gary, seriously they're both great" ... maybe you need to hire both of them. Figure it out.
Now, you’re probably wondering what the last piece of advice is going to be, right? What is the ending thought I am going to leave you all with? Well, you might be saying right about now “Gary, this is all great, but what if my company culture is just seriously messed up?” I hear that. I get it. Sometimes things are just so bad you aren’t sure how they got there. And to that, here is my final, last ditch effort piece of advice: Nix the leadership. Everything stems from the top. They are the ones who set the tone in meetings. They also control the overall sentiment individual teams have, since employees look to leadership as a guide. If the system is broken, fix it by refreshing your team.
Now I want to see you execute on these steps. If you need to change company culture, take action. Now. Nothing will happen till you actually make the moves. It’s all about execution. You could read 10 more articles like this, but who cares. In the end, you have to go for it. Who knows; your company future could be in the balance here. Culture should be your priority, and that starts now.
Source: HubSpot Blog / Written By: Gary Vaynerchuk