Category Archives: Digital Marketing

7 Marketing Automation Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

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I have money in my savings account because my bank has a built-in auto-deposit process. I’m not logging into my account every day and moving money around, but when I do log in, I can see the progress I’ve made toward my goals by setting my account to automate deductions.

Think of marketing automation like auto-deducting money from your checking account and putting it into savings: The automatic process lets you invest in your future goals in an easier way than if you did it manually.

Marketing automation can play a significant role in the success of your inbound marketing strategy, but there is a right way and a wrong way to use it. Learn more about HubSpot's latest tools to power your growth here.

We want to help you understand marketing automation, and how and when to use it to your organization’s benefit. In this post, we’ll discuss traps marketers can fall into when incorporating marketing automation and alternatives that solve for these challenges.

What Is Marketing Automation?

Quite simply, marketing automation refers to the software that exists to automate marketing actions — actions like email, social media, and more. All of these automated actions are designed with the concept of lead nurturing in mind. In other words, marketers are creating and automating various types of content with the goal of actively attracting, qualifying, and moving prospects through the sales funnel towards a purchase.

And the marketing automation industry is huge — Emailmonday estimates that 49% of companies use marketing automation software, and Marketing Automation Insider estimates that the industry is worth $ 1.62 billion per year.

The trouble is, because marketing automation software has grown so significantly as a part of the inbound marketing movement, some marketers aren’t adopting it correctly. Let’s dig into some of the most common marketing automation mistakes below.

7 Common Marketing Automation Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

1) You’ve invested in marketing automation without an inbound lead generation strategy.

The Problem:

You’ve purchased and started using marketing automation software, but you don’t have a strong content strategy in place yet. As a result, you aren’t attracting enough qualified leads to your website, so the ROI of your marketing automation software is low.

To solve this problem, you might be considering buying an email contact list to build the size of your database.

The Solution:

Before you buy an email list, don’t.

You see, it’s not a sound lead generation strategy to purchase email contact lists for a few reasons. For one, people don’t generally like being contacted unsolicited, and you don’t want to irritate potential customers. Additionally, purchased email lists have generally high churn rates — because the leads are often unqualified — meaning your database won’t have the long-term growth that you’re looking for.

Instead of going that route, focus on developing an inbound marketing strategy aimed at attracting folks that actually want to hear from you. Write blog posts, create content offers, calls-to-action, and landing pages, and optimize your website so it will rank well in organic search. These efforts will ensure that your content is being discovered by your audience. Then, once you start generating more leads, you’ll be able to nurture them effectively with automated emails and social media posts.

2) You don’t have a goal for your marketing automation.

The Problem:

You’re sending out multiple automated email and social media messages without an end goal in mind. 

The Solution:

Take advantage of the ease of use marketing automation software provides and invest time and efforts into determining your goals first. Once you have them, you’ll want to assign these goals to each automated effort — social media, email workflows, and so on — to ensure it’s easy to track progress.

After all, marketers need a way to measure success when it comes to marketing automation, and one means of doing so is by evaluating goal attainment. For example, here at HubSpot, the Visual Workflows App (currently in beta) lets you set a specific goal for each automated workflow. A goal might be a new lead transitioning into a marketing-qualified lead based on certain behaviors, such as downloading a specific number of content offers.

HubSpot Visual Workflows also allows you to track the percentage of contacts in each workflow that achieve the goal, which is another great way to measure the success and ROI of your marketing automation.

3) You don’t segment your email list.

The Problem:

You have a database full of qualified leads, but you’re using marketing automation software to blast out tons of emails that aren’t customized at all. As a result, your leads are churning because your emails aren’t useful to them.

The Solution:

Develop a lead nurturing strategy that includes email list segmentation so you’re sending specific emails to specific people that they’re more likely to open.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, 77% of email marketing ROI came from targeted, segmented campaigns in 2015, and segmented emails generate 58% of all revenue. Seems like a must-have strategy, right? Unfortunately, only 42% of email marketers are sending targeted messages.

With the right marketing automation software, it’s easy to execute an email list segmentation strategy that delivers strong results. For example, HubSpot customers can use the Visual Workflows App to target their emails based on dozens of criteria, both demographic and behavioral.

Need inspiration? We recently published a blog post with 30 ideas for email list segmentation from real brands.

4) You send too many emails.

The Problem:

Perhaps your email list isn’t segmented, or maybe you’re a little overzealous with your marketing automation software. Whatever the reason, you’re annoying potential prospects by sending way too many emails.

The Solution:

Strategically send fewer emails.

When it comes to your email database, focus on quality over quantity. It’s better to have a lower volume of leads with higher engagement rates than a massive database of people who don’t open your emails.

Why? Because higher quality leads are more likely to become customers.

A staggering 78% of customers recently surveyed by HubSpot Research have unsubscribed because the brand was sending too many emails. To avoid sending one of many such emails, make sure that every single email you send provides value to leads in a way that they won’t be able to help but click.

5) You’re only automating your email marketing strategy.

The Problem:

You use your marketing automation software to send out emails, and not much else.

The Solution:

Take advantage of all of the features your software offers to maximize efficiency.

There are probably a lot of little tasks over the course of your work day that don’t seem time consuming individually. However, if you add up all of the time you spend posting on social media, updating contact information, and other tasks, you end up with a large chunk of your day spent on things that can probably be automated.

Poke around your marketing automation to see which processes you can make more efficient. For example, in the HubSpot software, users can bulk update lead contact information instead of clicking into each record and changing details there.

The more processes you automate, the more time you’ll have each day to strategize with your team about content, lead generation, and lead nurturing tactics to keep attracting quality leads to your site.

6) You’re only sharing your marketing automation efforts within your marketing department.

The Problem:

You have marketing automation set up only for email marketing, social media, and other lead activities that are only impacting your marketing team’s bottom line.

The Solution:

Use a “smarketing” approach, and make your marketing automation work for sales reps as well.

Think bigger than just the marketing team: What processes would help your sales team if they were automated?

For example, if there were a process in place that alerted reps to when their leads were checking out parts of your website, that would help inform their next call or email. When a lead fills out a form, it could trigger a specific email send from marketing and a follow-up call from their sales rep. Marketing automation software also helps users set follow-up tasks and to-do lists, which reps could use to keep track of the many leads they’re working at a given time.

Take your sales and marketing alignment to the next level by making processes easier for team members across the board to achieve their goals with the help of marketing automation.

7) You use too many different tools.

The Problem:

Roughly half of marketers use marketing automation software, and those who do often combine different strategies into a “Frankensystem” of tools to achieve their bottom line.

For example, they might start on a whiteboard, move to a spreadsheet, then shift onto an online flowchart maker, and only then will they use marketing automation software. This system is problematic in a few ways — it’s time consuming, numbers can be incorrectly analyzed, and communication is complicated.

The Solution:

Invest in all-in-one marketing automation software.

The point of marketing automation is to make things easier and more efficient, and your team won’t achieve that if you’re spending too much time updating different documents or manually targeting your leads database.

All-in-one marketing automation software offers a variety of criteria options to target your audience, as well as visualization tools so you can see how your marketing automation efforts are working together. That means you’ll be spending less time writing out numbers and emailing spreadsheets to your team members, and more time implementing strategies designed to qualify leads.

What’s the biggest challenge you encountered when you purchased marketing automation software? Share with us in the comments below.

Product Launches INBOUND 2016


HubSpot Marketing Blog

Google’s AMP: A Marketer’s Guide to Accelerated Mobile Pages

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Did you know that, on average, smartphone users touch their phones 2,617 times each day?

According to the survey conducted by dscout in the spring of 2016, smartphone users also spend an average of 145 daily minutes on their mobile phones.

In other words, we’re leaning on our mobile devices more than ever before. In fact, data from HubSpot Research revealed that a whopping 33% of respondents use their smartphone as their primary device for internet use.

Unsurprisingly, Google has responded to the growth of mobile search by launching The AMP Project, or Accelerated Mobile Pages. In short: AMP was designed so publishers could build web pages that load more quickly on mobile devices.

What do marketers need to know about this new project? We’re glad you asked. Let’s walk through some of the most common questions and answers below.

What is AMP?

AMP enables content to load near-instantaneously by removing JavaScript from the page. It prioritizes text-based content, then loads additional content after the remainder of the page has rendered.

Google’s decision to launch this open-source initiative was rooted in the importance of improving the user experience (UX) for the millions of mobile searchers worldwide. (And, in part, to compete with Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles.)

Google has partnered with several different publishers and platforms to start using AMP on its content — Twitter, Vox, BuzzFeed, and the Washington Post, to name a few. It’s also created a carousel of “Top Stories” in Google Search that highlights web pages and articles built with AMP.

Here’s an example of what an AMP-formatted story on the Top Stories carousel looks like once you click:

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Source: Search Engine Land

You can test what AMP looks like on your own mobile phone now. Open up your Google app and type in the newsworthy topic of your choosing (I chose Mars):

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Pretty fast loading speed, right? As you also probably noticed, articles with the lightning bolt AMP designation can appear in a carousel of results at the top of the search engine results page.

AMP-formatted websites also appear in the main Google search engine results page, as shown below:

AMPdemo.gifSource: Search Engine Land

If this seems like a big shift, you’re right. Let’s explore why AMP will be so impactful on mobile search and search engine optimization (SEO).

Why Does AMP Matter?

The biggest benefit of AMP is improved user experience: When mobile searchers find the information they’re looking for faster, they’re less likely to navigate away from a website. The AMP Project Product Manager, Rudy Galfi, said that the median time for an AMP-formatted page to load is 0.7 seconds — in comparison, the median load time for other web pages is 22 seconds.

More than half of site visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on a website before navigating away, so AMP has a huge impact on publishers’ ability to attract and keep potential customers on their blog and landing pages. Google found that 29% of smartphone users will immediately navigate away from a site if it loads too slowly or if they can’t find the information they’re looking for.

Users are spending more time searching on their mobile devices than on computers all over the world. If you’ve optimized your website and email for mobile devices, AMP is a way to optimize your content for mobile search, too.

Another benefit of AMP is content visibility. AMP-formatted content is published in the AMP carousel at the top of a Google search results page, and the lightning bolt icon denotes AMP-formatted pages in search results. These layout and design changes help AMP content stand out in the crowd to users searching for information, which could drive more clicks and traffic.

How Does AMP Impact SEO?

According to Advanced Web Ranking, the first position in Google search results achieves an average clickthrough rate of 31% internationally. The second position? Only a 19.5% clickthrough rate. So, search rankings are very important to marketers.

The ultimate goal of inbound marketing is to get your website discovered by potential customers, and discovery in search engine results is key to making that happen. Blog posts and news articles formatted with AMP HTML code is one of many tools, such as keywords, headings, and alt-text, that marketers can use to optimize their content for search results.

But AMP is not a direct search engine ranking signal and sites that format their pages with AMP will not see an immediate leap in search rankings. Instead, Google Senior Director of News and Social Products, Richard Gingras, told AdAge that AMP is one of many features and signals Google looks at when determining rankings.

“If we had two articles that from a signaling perspective scored the same in all other characteristics but for speed, then yes we will give an emphasis to the one with speed because that is what users find compelling,” explained Gingras.

So, what’s the takeaway for marketers? Speed is a signal that impacts search rankings, but that doesn’t mean AMP formatting alone will get your site on the first page of Google.

But, it could contribute to higher rankings in combination with other strong signals. For example, if fewer visitors are immediately navigating away from your content because it loads quickly and is relevant to their search query, that would signal to Google to increase the ranking in search because it’s highly useful for users.

How to Use AMP

In order to implement AMP on your own web pages, you’ll need to build and develop new version of web pages with AMP HTML.

The reason you can’t simply build one web page with AMP for desktop and mobile search? AMP removes third-party JavaScript to speed up the page’s load time for mobile users, so the same web page would be simplified and less exciting for the viewer on their computer.

Remember, AMP is designed to improve user experience, so when you create a separate AMP version, you ensure that desktop and mobile visitors alike enjoy your content. Marketing Land recommends using rel= “canonical” tags so Google doesn’t downgrade your content because it’s been duplicated.

The AMP Project website provides specific instructions and tutorials for how to build a web page with AMP code. Additionally, they offer a portfolio of AMP examples for AMP design inspiration.

Below is a video from The AMP Project that explains the ins and outs of what goes into an AMP-formatted page:

Source: The AMP Project

If you’re a HubSpot customer, AMP is coming to the HubSpot Marketing Platform in early 2017. With this setting, blogging teams won’t have to hire a developer or learn how to code AMP with the resources outlined above. Instead, users will only have to check a box in order to create AMP-formatted blog posts to get discovered in mobile search.

Here’s what it will look like:

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See the check box above the “Save changes” button? That’s the entire process for creating pages formatted with AMP in HubSpot Software. Easy, right?

What’s Ahead

Expect to see more results appear in the AMP carousel when you search for content on your mobile device, and keep an eye out for new developments in mobile optimization from Google’s competitors among search engines, software, and social media networks.

For now, head to The AMP Project to learn more about AMP, and look for HubSpot blog content in your AMP carousel soon.

What are your strategies for optimizing your blog for mobile search? Share with us in the comments below.

Learn about all the product launches from INBOUND 2016


HubSpot Marketing Blog

The Most Shared Phrases and Topics on LinkedIn [New Q3 Data]

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LinkedIn is best known as the world’s largest professional network — in other words, users aren’t there to look at cat memes or read celebrity gossip. Instead, they’re looking to connect with people in their industry, network, keep up with industry news, and look potential job opportunities.

For marketers, paying attention to this difference in user purpose is key when building your social strategy. The more looped in you are on what people are talking about, the easier it becomes to use that information to craft helpful, targeted content. And that’s where this data study comes in.

My company, ClearVoice, recently conducted a study that provides data and insight specifically on the most popular posts on LinkedIn. The data was generated by Content Studio — our comprehensive index of the most popular content and influencers on the web — and includes insights from the third quarter of 2016. 

Want to build these trends into your LinkedIn strategy? I’ll walk you through them below.

Top 20 Most Common Phrases on LinkedIn

Here are the top 20 most common phrases in headlines used on LinkedIn, followed by the number of shares that phrase received in the third quarter of 2016:

  • Successful People: 91,729
  • Right Now: 88,182
  • First Time: 76,578
  • Job Interview: 72,357
  • Best Employees: 70,964
  • Best Reasons: 68,167
  • Employees Quit: 66,773
  • Finally Offering: 61,468
  • Science Says: 53,756
  • Study Finds: 43,810
  • Next Big: 41,740
  • People Want: 47,808
  • Helps One: 31,433
  • Work Helps: 31,433
  • Crazy Hours: 31,319
  • Stop Touting: 31,113
  • Touting Crazy: 31,288
  • Make Better: 31,113
  • Now Available: 31,019
  • Announce Shares: 30,309

How to Put the Data to Work:

To make the most of this insight, you’ll want to build a LinkedIn-specific strategy with these popular phrases in mind. To help you navigate that process, check out the following best practices and tips:

  • Use the phrases (naturally) in your titles. According to HubSpot, “How Successful People Stay Calm” by Dr. Travis Bradberry was once one of the most-shared LinkedIn posts of all time, with nearly 2,000 shares. Notice it includes that popular phrase “successful people” in a natural way.
  • Rework existing titles. Your content doesn’t have to be new for you to incorporate these findings. Let’s say you want to republish part of your whitepaper, titled “SEO Strategies for 2016,” on LinkedIn. Instead of publishing as is, rework that title to include a popular search phrase — for example: “New SEO Strategies to Try Right Now.”
  • Put quality first. These phrases won’t increase shares if you don’t have many connections or produce poor content. In fact, there are plenty of articles that use these phrases and still don’t perform. To avoid falling into that trap, use these phrases to improve the reach of your high-quality content.

Top 20 Topics Shared on LinkedIn

ClearVoice also looked at the top 20 topics LinkedIn users share most often, which offers a snapshot of the current content-sharing landscape. As these keywords tend to fluctuate in real time based on what’s going on in the news and in pop culture, this is an area you will want to check regularly. 

Here are the top 20 topics found in the titles of the most-shared content on LinkedIn:

  • Social Media: 323,535
  • Real Estate: 115,577
  • Big Data: 113,750
  • Internet of Things: 78,418
  • Artificial Intelligence: 71,578
  • Virtual Reality: 71,108
  • Machine Learning: 68,334
  • Content Marketing: 66,951
  • Performance Evaluation: 60,841
  • Data Center: 50,928
  • Customer Experience: 50,267
  • Pokémon Go: 48,670
  • Emotional Intelligence: 46,887
  • Digital Transformation: 46,186
  • Open Source: 43,558
  • Digital Marketing: 42,525
  • 5-hour rule: 40,423

How to Put the Data to Work:

Start by looking at the topics on our list and note which ones are related to your industry. Don’t try to create content on topics that do not make sense for your brand.

For example, Pokémon Go was extremely popular with the general population in Q3, and not surprisingly, marketers found ways to use it to their advantage — this related article managed to garner over 1,000 shares.

Let’s look at three other examples that highlight how marketers can put this data to work:

  1. Consider pairing popular topics with news. This post combined a popular topic (“social media”) with a recent news story and earned 1,000 likes in just one day. This is particularly impressive when you consider most LinkedIn users don’t go to the platform looking for celebrity news updates.
  2. Focus on popular topics that are related to your field. This post (about “machine learning,” which is the #7 most popular topic on LinkedIn) earned 259 shares.
  3. Try combining popular topics in your title. Caveat: When it makes sense. This post combined “machine learning” and “big data,” related fields which both made the most popular topics list.

How to Pair Phrases From Each List

Pairing the two data sets together will provide you with powerful headlines. For example, “How Successful People Use Social Media” or “Content Marketing Strategies that Work Right Now.”

Here are two examples of posts that used the combined power of the most popular phrases and the most popular topics:

  1. “Want to Make Better Hires? Stop Over-Policing Employee Social Media.” In addition to using the popular phrase “make better,” the title of this post also includes the popular topic “social media.”
  2. “Why should every marketer be excited by Virtual Reality right now.” This post is almost a triple whammy, using “marketer,” “right now,” and “virtual reality.” If they had added “digital” in front of “marketer,” it would have included one popular phrase and two popular topics. Either way, the double whammy seems to have worked — this post has received 345 likes and 85 shares in four months.

Ready to Boost Your LinkedIn Content Strategy?

Use this data as a starting point to create fresh, useful content that your LinkedIn audience will want to read and share. And while including these phrases in your headline or writing about these topics doesn’t guarantee high shares counts, it will give you a clear advantage, so use the information wisely.

What success have you had with including any of these terms or topics in your content? Let us know in the comments below.

free guide to using linkedin
HubSpot Marketing Blog

12 Great Landing Page Examples You’ll Want to Copy

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Landing pages exist to serve one purpose: getting website visitors to convert to the next stage in the buying journey. Although their purpose is simple enough in theory, actually designing a successful landing page requires some detailed planning and creative testing.

Regardless of what your business is selling or the conversion action you hope to instigate, it’s helpful to get inspired by seeing what other great landing pages look like. And because there’s no one “right” way of doing a landing page, you’ll want to check out examples from lots of different industries for different stages of the buying process.

Want to get inspired? Check out the great landing page examples below. Build and promote landing pages that generate more leads with the help of this  free optimization guide.

Disclaimer: I don’t have access to the analytics for each of these landing pages, so I can’t tell you specifically how well they convert visitors, contacts, leads, and customers. But many of them do follow best practices while also implementing a few new experiments that could give you ideas for your own landing pages. 

12 Great Examples of Landing Page Design

1) Lyft

We love that on Lyft’s landing page, they zero in on their drivers’ main motivation: earning money easily.

We also love that, in addition to the “Apply Now” form, drivers can type their city and the number of hours they might drive for Lyft in a week to calculate how much they’d make. When visitors fill out that information and press “Calculate,” they aren’t taken to a new page. Instead, they see a dollar amount followed by a new call-to-action button to “Apply Now” (which, once clicked, takes drivers up to the form).

By offering these two conversion paths, they’re able to address two different types of people in the conversion path: those who are ready to make the decision now and those who need a little more information before they convert.

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2) The Professional Wingman

Okay, so the whole idea of having a professional wingman to help you find dates and a meaningful relationship is already pretty cool. But when you’re faced with the prospect of hiring one, it also raises questions. How does it work? How much does it cost? Is this really going to help me?

That’s why we love this landing page for Thomas Edwards, the original Professional Wingman himself, which outlines exactly what a complimentary coaching session is going to achieve. Plus, it’s clear that it’s complimentary, thanks to the boldly-colored call-to-action button above the fold.

Once you click that button, you aren’t taken to a new page. Instead, an interstitial form appears right there. And while it does request a lot of information — some of it a bit personal — it also sends the message that The Professional Wingman is going to take this seriously, but only if you do, too.

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3) Muck Rack

This landing page design has it all. It’s visually appealing and interactive, offers scannable yet descriptive headers about Muck Rack’s services, and uses quotes from industry professionals as social proof. Plus, the page is intuitive and easy to navigate.

The cool part about this landing page is that it can appeal to both of Muck Rack’s audiences. The top of the page is split into two, featuring their two different services side by side. Once a visitor moves his or her mouse over either of the “find journalists” or the “build free portfolio” CTAs, a very simple form appears — and that’s important, so as not to distract the user from the task at hand.

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4) Cigital

There are a few things that make this Cigital landing page work. It has simple and relevant imagery. The headline is straightforward and the description of the ebook informs viewers of the specific value they will get by downloading it. There is only one call-to-action — “READ THE EBOOK” — that stands out on the page thanks to a bright yellow CTA button.

The only thing we’d change about this landing page is that we’d remove the navigation bar at the top. They tend to distract visitors and lead them away from the intended action. Not only is this a landing page design best practice, but we’ve also conducted A/B tests that’ve shown removing navigation links from landing pages increases conversion rates.

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5) Khan Academy

The hard part about using your homepage as a landing page is that you have to cater to several different types of audiences. But Khan Academy’s homepage does that very well. This page is clearly designed for three different types of visitors: those who want to learn something, those who want to teach, and parents who are interested in using Khan Academy for their kids. Plus, how motivational is the emblazoned “You can learn anything” text at the top? 

The remainder of the page is designed for viewers who are not completely familiar with Khan Academy. It colorfully and largely spells out the key benefits of using the learning platform — all of which are easy to scan and understand. There’s also a recurring CTA: “Start learning now.” As soon as viewers feel they have enough information, they can click the CTA to get taken back up to the form at the top of the page without having to scroll.

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6) Club W

A little bit of delightful copy can go a long way on your landing page. We love the playful little aside — “(Hint: It’s Wine)” — that Club W included below the header of their corporate gifting landing page. It humanizes the brand and makes them likable, which could have a positive impact on their conversion rate.

The images below that header make a nice use of negative space, showing the user exactly what his or her gift recipient might actually receive, should they choose to gift with Club W. And, of course, there’s that bold call to action — “Email Us”.

The one thing we’d change? The CTA prompts the users email software to open, which drives traffic away from the site and the browser entirely. A form might be more effective here — not only would Club W be able to dictate what information it wants to capture, but also, it would keep the user on-site.

club w.gif

7) Codecademy

I like this page because it’s simple in both copy and design. The image above the fold is a computer screen displaying an HTML bracket with a blinking cursor — a whimsical, clear visual to accompany the form on the right.

The form itself is simple and only requires an email address, username, password, and a validation that you’re not a robot to create an account. Or, you can just use your Facebook or Google Plus login, shortening the conversion path even further.

For visitors who need more information before creating an account, the landing page also offers a video below the fold that explains their concept and value by way of a real-life success story. Again, this helps make the potentially intimidating world of coding more approachable for beginners.

Those who need even more convincing can continue scrolling for additional testimonials and other forms of social proof.

codecademy.gif

8) Poached

I don’t think we’ve ever lived in a time when, culturally, we’ve been so food-obsessed. Poached has turned that into a B2B model with a platform to connect proprietors and culinary talent.

When you visit the homepage, there’s no mystery about what you’re there to do — the giant “Post a job” and “Choose a city” calls to action help with that. And once you click on one of them, you’re taken to a no-frills form to become a member or log in, or a list of jobs in each city. It’s colorful and comprehensive — and, it makes us hungry.

poached.gif 

9) Breather

Here’s another example of clever, delightful design on a landing page. As soon as you visit Breather.com, there’s an instant call to action: indicate where you want to find a space. Plus, it uses location services to figure out where you are, providing instant options nearby.

We love how Breather used simple, to-the-point copy to let the visitor know what the company does, followed immediately by the CTA to select a city. And if you need to scroll down for more information, you can see that Breather played with the microcopy with personality (“no commitment, ever”), reminding us there are real humans behind the design. That brings us a little closer to the brand. The negative space and soothing color scheme are also aligned with the product — essentially, room to breathe.

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10) Startup Institute

Visitors to your website won’t hand over their personal information without knowing what they’re going to get in return. On its landing page, Startup Institute makes abundantly clear what will happen after you apply by listing a Q&A right beside the form. It might prompt some people to say, “They read my mind!”

To avoid hesitancy to fill out a form, use your landing page to set expectations upfront. That clears the air, and can also weed out the people who don’t take your content, product or service seriously.

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11) Edupath

Who is your landing page’s target audience? While most of Edupath’s website content is directed toward students, there are sections dedicated to advising parents on helping their teenagers through college applications and SAT preparation. The landing page below is in one of these sections.

When parents fill out their teenager’s name, email address, and mobile number, a link to download the Edupath app is sent directly to them. The folks at Edupath know students are likely to do something if their parents ask them to — especially if it means they don’t have to surrender their phones.

Plus, it’s an easy, one-click process. This whole conversion path is a clever and helpful way to get the apps on more students’ phones by way of their parents.

edupath.gif

12) Taster’s Club

If there’s anything we enjoy more than a fine whiskey, it’s a whiskey club homepage that makes it easy to either join or learn more about membership. Case in point: Taster’s Club, which immediately serves up those very two CTAs on its landing page — which also happens to be its homepage.

For those to wish to learn more, clicking that CTA will immediately scroll the user down to colorful, image-rich details on what a Taster’s Club membership includes. Keep scrolling, and you get user testimonials.

But clicking the “Join Now” button is where the real fun begins. After doing that, you get to pick your poison — that is, the type of whiskey you like the most — and view the membership or gifting options available for it. Once you make your selections, you’re taken to an easy-to-navigate checkout page to enter your payment information. Good design and ease of use? We’ll drink to that. 

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Want more landing page design inspiration?  Check out some of our favorite HubSpot landing page examples .

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

how to design landing pages that convert


HubSpot Marketing Blog

Proven Tips for a Top-Notch Alumni Engagement Program

gradcapz.jpgYou know it’s bad when they start making parody videos about the horrors of alumni fundraising campaigns. Nothing can sap alumni energy for your school like getting donation calls again and again and again… But you need your alumni engaged to maintain your school’s relationship with them. You want them to be motivated to act on behalf of your institution and yes, donate, at the times and ways they’re able.  

 Alumni involvement may have its most valuable payoff through alumni’s power to connect with potential students with an authenticity no one else can match. Alumni can give your prospects a view into life at your school and what life might look like for them once they have a degree from your institution. 

The best way to get alumni to engage with your school is when interactions with them have nothing to do with asking for money. Here are some proven tips how to inspire engagement from alumni: 

Alumni Respond to Personalized Emails

People won’t bother with emails that don’t hit on their personalized interests and concerns. Use everything you know about each alum to tailor email content based on their unique history with your school — both off and online. Customize content based on data points such as their graduation date, program, and their preferred social media platforms. 

An email with a subject line “Join us for an alumni lunch” isn’t terribly inviting. Try an email with the subject line “Nursing program alumni lunch – come network!” instead. Now that’s a subject line that makes it clear why this email is directed to the recipient and what she’ll gain by reading it.

You need a rocking subject line to get alumni to open your emails, but don’t let the personalization stop there. Send happy birthday and graduation anniversary emails. If the career center is organizing a job fair for graphic arts students, invite recent graduates as well as current students. 

For more on email marketing for schools, check out this free resource >> 

Continue the Conversation via Social Media

Social media is the most effective option for the “little” yet highly impactful conversations you can have with alumni. Keep track of how their social media preferences change over time. 

For nearly all alumni, regardless of graduation year, LinkedIn is one of the most important platforms for career networking. LinkedIn’s Alumni Tool is a valuable tool helping people find and connect with fellow alums, but by itself, it won’t spark conversation or motivate action. Having a LinkedIn group for alumni can do that. 

If your school hasn’t already set up an alumni group, chances are good one of your alumni has. You don’t want competing groups. You can always ask the group owner for someone on your team to be added as a group administrator. Either way, your social media specialist should be an active presence in the group connecting people, sharing school updates, and asking for alumni feedback on relevant issues. 

Personalization works well in the LinkedIn group too. You can have multiple sub-groups. Create sub-groups based on different programs or industries where alumni can target their job and business networking efforts.

Use other social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, to promote more social activities and interactions. Having alumni-specific accounts on social media provide a space where alumni interests are front and center. Social media is also the ideal channel for encouraging and sharing alumni generated content (AGC). 

Alumni Generated Content, You Say

Alumni are rich sources for your content machine. Whether they’re posting career or personal updates, sharing stories about their time at your school, or attending school events – alumni always have entertaining or informative content of interest to prospective students, current students, and other alumni.

Use your social media accounts to solicit their stories and posts. Ask specific questions, such as “Tell us three things you wish you knew by the time you graduated?” Then curate the most interesting responses. You can drop these into emails, reports, and your website.

Asking alumni to contribute an article for a school newsletter or a blog post. Or to be interviewed in a webinar, is another useful way to source content. In fact, don’t be surprised if alumni are just waiting to be asked to write something. Alumni want to give, but they can’t always give money. Especially recent grads still paying off school loans. Inviting them to engage with your school by providing content is valuable way they can donate rather than hitting the “donate” link.

In-Person Engagement Still Matters

Attending or speaking at in-person events is another opportunity for alumni to give back without opening their wallets. In-person events are spring-boards for interesting AGC, as well as ways to connect potential students with alumni. Invite alumni to speak at regional open house events for prospects or make themselves available for applicants to contact with questions. 

Active regional and national alumni groups can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to having a full calendar of alumni events. As with your social media alumni accounts, people on your team should be actively involved in giving them event ideas and being an extra pair of hands promoting the event. Using the information you have about alumni in your database, you may well be able to uncover alumni who’d be interested in specific events that the local association doesn’t know about.

If you want lifelong engagement from your alumni, market to them based on their specific interests and concerns as intently as you do in your search for new students. Alumni are the core of your school. The number of active students can only grow by so much, but your alumni pool is an ever-growing resource. If you want alumni engagement, you need to engage with them first.

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HubSpot Marketing Blog

8 Personalities to Look for When Assembling a Content Team

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Not having enough of the right people on your content team is a problem for many of today’s marketers. In fact, 38% of B2B marketers say HR and staffing issues are responsible for delayed success in content marketing, and 22% blame a lack of training and education.

Developing, executing, and measuring a content marketing plan can be difficult under the best of circumstances. But when you’re not adequately staffed, even the most well-conceived content marketing plan can struggle.

That’s why it’s so crucial to have the right roles outlined and fulfilled by the people who can execute them the best. We’ve identified eight personalities that can strengthen your team. As you learn more about them, you might notice that many possess the same qualifications — things like an ability to meet deadlines, good interpersonal skills, and task-specific marketing knowledge.

Check out more about these personalities below — they’ll help bring your content strategy to fruition. 

8 Personalities to Look for When Assembling a Content Team

1) The Taskmaster

This person is your project manager — the one responsible for the successful execution of your projects and campaigns. While creative, the taskmaster should also be proactive and action-oriented. After all, this person is your closer, or as we like to say around here, the overseer of getting stuff done.

The importance of well-executed project management is especially clear when comparing high-performing companies to low-performing ones. According to the Project Management Institute, in a workplace culture that emphasizes project management, 71% of projects actually meet their original goals. Compare that to the 51% of projects in non-project-management cultures, and it’s clear — companies that prioritize project management do better — period.

The taskmaster has a lot on his or her plate — things like budgets and being able to identify and prevent possible issues. But there’s technology out there that can benefit the taskmasters of the world, like the Projects app in your HubSpot software.

2) The Wordsmith

Not only does this person write well, but he or she is agile enough to do so in different voices and tones, based on your content topics and personas. In other words, the wordsmith brings your ideas to life through language. Plus, this person is able to create compelling work quickly — like the rest of the team, he or she should be deadline-driven enough to keep deliverables on track.

To state the obvious,  you can’t create content without a content creator. And it’s not just about writing — it’s about being able to do it well. These days, that’s a rare asset — American businesses spend up to $ 3.1 billion on training employees for basic writing skills.

The wordsmith should be well-versed in the goals and audience of the content — that’s what’s going to help him or her make it engaging. In many ways, this person is a translator who’s able to convert abstract ideas into tangible composition. And being able to work independently, as well as part of a team, is essential here, as the wordsmith must understand the ideas being communicated by his or her colleagues, and work with it autonomously.

3) The Grammar Geek

While the wordsmith gives the content life, the grammar geek is an editor makes your brand look smart. He or she holds brand values high and serves as the champion for consistency and quality across all channels.

Here’s why your grammar geek is so vital. If you publish content that contains errors, you risk losing sales. For some businesses, in fact, a single typo was speculated to result in an 80% drop in sales.

The grammar geek has a passion for language — preferably, the one in which your content is being published. But he or she also understands how to write specifically for the format of what you’re producing. Digital content, for example, sometimes takes on a different voice than print, so make sure this person is fluent in both.

And make sure this person works well with your wordsmith — chances are, they’ll have to share a back-and-forth to get a polished finished result.

4) The Artist

The strongest content teams have someone who can turns ideas and data into beautiful visuals. The artist supports your content marketing efforts by designing images, infographics, logos, and collateral — online and print — that adhere to brand style guidelines.

Compelling visuals are imperative in today’s landscape — articles with one image for every 75-100 words get twice as many social shares than articles with fewer images. You’ll need someone who can create them in a way that aligns with your brand, and is proficient in the technology used to create them. An innate sense for color, text style and layout wouldn’t hurt, either.

Make sure this person will thrive in a client-facing role, too — he or she will likely have to communicate with multiple parties and be able to understand their respective visions.

5) The Growth Hacker

Of course, it’s always good to have a master of numbers and data on your team. How else can you accurately measure and analyze the ROI of your content marketing? This person love metrics, A/B testing, and proving that ROI. In fact, it’s possible your growth hacker has a t-shirt with Peter Drucker’s famous management quote, “What gets measured, gets managed.”

The growth hacker should be more than just a data hound, though. This person truly understands what Peter Drucker meant when he wrote, “Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results.”

Your growth hacker helps reveal what’s effective. That, in turn, shows the team how to funnel its time and talents into the right actions to produce the right results. That requires an ability to develop, execute and report on a comprehensive content strategy — on that both attracts potential customers and retains existing ones. Plus, this person should be able to collaborate with sales and operations, because you’ll need their help to meet objectives.

6) The Social Butterfly

Your social butterfly is in charge of content distribution, promotion, and amplification. They have an affinity for social media and branding and enjoy interacting with people online.

Why is this team member important? You can thank the rules of good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing. After all, After all, content consumption on Twitter has increased by 25% in the past two years alone — and 76% of its users are likely to recommend a brand after a positive social media interaction with it.     

Like the rest of your content team, the social butterfly must understand the goals of the project and the audience — that’s necessary in order to effectively communicate on social media. This person should be generally skilled in content distribution and promotion, and know how to engage influencers to drive interest around the brand and build customer loyalty. And it doesn’t hurt if this person knows how to manage paid promotions and campaigns on such social networks as Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and Snapchat.

7) The Risk-Taker

Every content team needs someone who challenges colleagues to try something new. Your group needs this dreamer to come up with the occasional crazy idea — because it might just work after all — and, you won’t know if you don’t try.

This individual’s unique perspective keeps your content approach from getting stale, or lost in any project chaos. And while the risk-taker role is a scary one for some teams to embrace, there’s evidence that taking risks can be beneficial — when done with caution.

But maybe that fear comes from a desire to emulate other brand leaders; if the big guys are doing it “this way,” we should, too. Or, a team may be afraid of looking dumb or silly. If you find yourself a little uncertain about the risk-taker role, ask yourself, “What content have I seen that’s really stood out to me lately? Was it the same-old-same-old, or was it something different, edgy or new?”

Obviously, your risk-taker should have a big-picture mindset, and a sense of adventure. This person shouldn’t be too preoccupied with what other people think, either. But remember: He or she must know how to take a calculated risk.

8) The Rule-Follower

To keep the risk-taker (and everyone else) in check, make sure you fill the role of rule-player. This person ensures that your content follows industry best practices. If you’re in a regulated industry, this role becomes even more important — violate any codes of conduct, and your content marketing efforts might get your company into hot water.

This rule-following team member is someone who executes on the finer, more mundane parts of the strategy. Though unsexy to some, the details are important, and they need to be thoroughly ironed out before your content goes live.

To that end, the rule-follower has a meticulous and methodical personality, with the ability to ask critical questions. And believe it or not, there are some who find joy in the execution, so to speak, and not just the strategizing — this person should have that quality.

Make It a Combo

So what happens if you can’t have a team this large? Not every company has the capacity for an eight-person content team. That’s okay — combinations are possible, and some are more important than others.

  • Make sure you have one risk-taker and one rule-follower. The risk-taker can come up with all the outta-this-world ideas, and the rule-follower can reel them back to earth. One becomes the yin to the other’s yang.
  • However, your taskmaster and growth hacker can be combined. Both are usually super-organized and meticulous; they like numbers, project management tools, and spreadsheets, and it’s fairly easy to find these traits in the same person.
  • You cannot combine your wordsmith and your grammar geek. Everybody needs an editor, right? Or as Ann Handley wrote, “Editors are not optional. Period.” And while wordsmiths can make great editors, it’s always challenging to review your own work — that’s why they call it a “second set of eyes.”
  • But, you can combine your social butterfly with your wordsmith. Creative types have a natural affinity for promotion, and your wordsmith should be able to compose the right kind of copy for your social networks.

Most content marketers are familiar with the pain of trying to do too much with too few resources. The usual result? We end up doing little to none of it well. Having these personalities on your team will help you produce better, more consistent content that your audience will want to click, read, and share.

How have you made the most of your content team? Let us know about your top content personalities in the comments.

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HubSpot Marketing Blog

9 Lead Generation Mistakes Marketers Need to Stop Making

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For many businesses, the key to making sales is to first generate leads.

Leads are valuable because they’re the people who have indicated organic interest in your content and your business by giving you their information in some way, whether it’s by filling out a form to download an ebook, completing an online survey, or something else.

But leads don’t grow on trees. Some marketers have trouble generating enough leads to feed their sales team. Others generate plenty of leads, but they’re not good leads, and your sales team is having trouble closing them into customers. Others just have no idea where their leads are coming from. Download the beginner's guide to converting website visitors into leads for  your business here.

These are all common problems marketers have with lead generation. In this post, we’ll go over many of these problems and talk about how to fix them.

(P.S. – Need help diagnosing your website’s lead gen issues? The folks at IMPACT Branding & Design are providing expert website critiques live at this year’s INBOUND event with the help of special guests like Marcus Sheridan and HubSpot’s Luke Summerfield. Sign up here to reserve a slot.)

9 Lead Generation Mistakes Marketers Need to Stop Making

1) You’re buying leads, not generating them organically.

If you’re having trouble generating leads, it can be tempting to buy email lists so you can feed your sales organization with something — anything. But buying or renting contacts out of desperation will cause you more long-term (and short-term) harm than good.

There are a lot of reasons buying email lists is never a good idea. Not only will sending emails to purchased lists harm your email deliverability and IP reputation, but there’s a good chance the people on your purchased list have never heard of your company — making them far more likely to mark you as spam. They’ll also think you’re super annoying. And you’re not annoying, are you?

Bottom line here is that quality email addresses simply aren’t for sale. The whole point of generating leads is to eventually nurture those leads into customers. In order for your leads to become customers, the leads you generate need to actually want to hear from you.

How to Fix It

Your leads need to opt in, plain and simple. This means your contacts chose to give you their information in exchange for something valuable, like a content offer, webinar, event, and so on. Focus on creating offers that are valuable in some way for your target audience, and then package that value and put it behind a lead capture form.

Growing a healthy, opt-in email list takes time, but it’s worth its weight in gold down the line. And once you have people to email, be sure you’re creating remarkable email content that makes people want to actually open your emails and stay subscribed.

2) You don’t offer lead gen content for people in different stages of the buyer’s journey.

Not everyone who visits your website is going to be in the same stage of their buyer’s journey. Think about the folks who are landing on your website for the very first time. Do you think they’re ready to see a demo of your product? Or do you think they’d be more likely to want to download a helpful piece of content, like a step-by-step guide?

Some of your site visitors might be ready to buy, but most won’t — and you need to give them the opportunities to learn more about your business and what you’re selling before asking them take any sort of purchase action.

Creating valuable content to teach and nurture your leads down the funnel is time-consuming, which is why so often you’ll browse a business’ website and see nothing but “Buy Now!” and “Click Here for a Free Demo!” all over the place.

How to Fix It

There is no one-size-fits-all CTA for everyone who visits your website. To maximize clickthrough rates, you’ll want to cater to visitors who are at all different stages of the buyer’s journey using CTAs.

So, yes — you’ll need to spend time creating a variety of offers you can put behind landing page forms that cater to people at different stages. Folks who are just starting to get to know you might be interested in offers like checklists, contests, and templates. Visitors who are a little further down the funnel might be interested in email courses, kits, and whitepapers. Folks even further down might be ready for a demo.

Make sure you’re creating content that cover the whole funnel, and that you’re offering this content on your website so there’s something for everyone. (Need ideas for lead gen content? Here are 23 ideas for you.)

If you want to take personalization a step further, use smart CTAs. Smart CTAs are CTAs that change depending on the person viewing the page — his or her interests, location, pages viewed already, items or services bought before, and so on. Unsurprisingly, personalized CTAS actually convert 42% more visitors than basic calls-to-action. They make for a better user experience for your user, and higher conversion rates for you: a win-win! You can learn more about smart CTAs here.

3) You aren’t using your blog to generate leads.

HubSpot’s blog is responsible for a significant percentage of our marketing team’s incoming leads. In fact, we found that 76% of our monthly blog views come from “old” posts (in other words, posts published prior to that month). We always joke that if the entire blogging team went on vacation for a month, we’d still hit a good portion of our leads goal. (We’re still working on that one.)

But we find that marketers aren’t fully taking advantage of blogging as a lead generation powerhouse. Either folks aren’t blogging at all, or they’re not putting lead capture forms or CTAs on their blog — sometimes because they don’t have any valuable content offers to put behind a form.

But one of the biggest benefits of business blogging is converting the traffic it brings you into leads. Just like every blog post you write is another indexed page, each post is a new opportunity to generate new leads. Here’s what that looks like in numbers: If each one of your blog posts gets about 100 views per month, and your visitor-to-lead conversion rate on the blog is about 2%, then you’d get two leads from a single blog post each month. If you write 30 blog posts per month, you’d get 60 leads in a month — two from each blog post.

Keep blogging consistently like that for a year, and thanks to each blog post’s compounding value over time, each post you write will drive value for you in the form of traffic and leads. By the end of 12 months, you’ll end up getting 4,680 opt-in contacts per month, not just 720 opt-in contacts (60 leads*12 months).

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How to Fix It

Generating leads from your blog posts is simple: Just add a lead-generating call-to-action to every blog post. Most of the time, these CTAs will lead to landing pages offering free content like ebooks, whitepapers, checklists, webinars, free trials, and so on. Promote your content offers by blogging about subject matters related to them, and then put CTAs that lead to the asset’s landing page on every one of those blog posts.

What that CTA looks like on your blog posts is up to you. On HubSpot’s blog, we use three main types of CTAs on our blog: end-of-post banner CTAs on every single post, and slide-in CTAs and anchor text CTAs on select posts. Read this post to learn when it’s appropriate to use end-of-post banner CTAs, anchor text CTAs, or both.

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As for slide-in CTAs, we’ve found these to perform better than end-of-post CTAs — which makes sense because visitors see them sooner since they slide in at about 25%-50% of the way down the post. Learn how to add slide-in CTAs to your blog posts here.

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4) You aren’t using the best lead generation tools.

You know that people are coming to your website, but do you know what who they are? How about what they’re doing once they get there, or what they’re doing before and after taking certain actions? If you’re unable to answer these questions, then you’re going to have a hard time connecting with the people who are visiting your site or learning what’s resonating with them and what’s not.

But these are questions you can and should answer — but you need the right tools to do it. There are some great tools out there that can help you learn about your website visitors and convert them into leads.

How to Fix It

The trick is finding the best combination of tools that’ll give you the most insight and the best bang for your buck. There are a few different tools and templates out there that’ll help you create different lead gen assets you can put on your site.

At the simplest level, these 50+ free, customizable CTA Templates will help you create clickable buttons you can put on your blog, your landing pages, and elsewhere on your site. Use them to create CTAs that lead to a landing page form.

Speaking of forms, a form embedding tool will come in handy when it comes to actually collecting information from your site visitors and converting them into leads. If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can create and embed forms using HubSpot. Non-HubSpot customers can use a tool like Contact Form 7, JetPack, or Google Forms, and then use Leadin’s free Collected Forms tool to automatically capture these form submissions on your website.

Finally, a lead capture and contact insights tool like Leadin by HubSpot (which is free) will help you capture leads using pop-ups, dropdown banners, or slide-ins (called “lead flows”). It’ll also scrape any pre-existing forms you have on your website and add those contacts to your existing contact database.

Here’s an example of a slide-in CTA created using Leadin, HubSpot’s free conversion tool:

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5) You have a “right vs. wrong” testing mindset.

Knowing that you should test your website and constantly work on improving it is one thing. What most marketers have trouble with is seeing testing and experimenting not as a way to prove your ideas, but as a way to find something better.

I like the way Andrew Anderson put it in his post on ConversionXL: “The real challenge is in getting yourself and your organization ready to accept one really simple truth: Being wrong is far more valuable than being right.”

Often, this will manifest itself in someone having an idea for how to improve a part of their website. Perhaps they think removing distractions from a landing page will increase conversion rates on that page, for instance. What happens here is that most marketers will limit what they test in a way that skews the data to help them reach that conclusion, often without meaning it. After all, it feels bad — and might look bad — to have an idea or make an assumption and have it proven totally wrong.

How to Fix It

“The first and most vital step to dealing with this is to focus all discussions on the comparing of actions and not on validating opinions,” writes Anderson. “It isn’t about if Tactic A or B works, it is how well does Tactic A or B or C or D and so on compare to each other.”

In other words, treat every idea that’s brought to the table the same, whether or not you think it’ll “win.” This makes the testing program less personal and encourages a more holistic approach. Remember: by nature, a program that tests your website is meant to prove yourself and others wrong, and that’s a good thing.

You and your teammates need to check your egos and adopt this mindset to avoid finger-pointing. Instead of rewarding people for being right, which reinforces that toxic mindset, focus on the system and the outcomes more holistically.

6) You aren’t optimizing your top pages for lead generation.

Not all webpages should be treated the same. In fact, if you look at traffic numbers to specific pages on your website, you’ll probably find that the vast majority of your traffic is coming in to a few, very specific pages — maybe your homepage; your “Contact Us” page; maybe one or two popular blog posts. With so many people landing on those pages, why would you treat them like any other ol’ page on your website?

Because so many people are landing on those pages, it’s very important that you create opportunities for people to convert on those pages, lest you leave potentially massive lead numbers on the table.

How to Fix It

First, figure out which of your webpages are the four or five most popular for traffic. (HubSpot customers: You can do this in HubSpot by going to Reports > Page Performance, then filter the report by Views.)

Then, optimize those pages for leads. This means making sure you create calls-to-action (CTAs) that stand out from the page, and then place them where people naturally look on your website. Our natural eye path starts in the upper left-hand corner of a website and moves on from there, according to an eyetracking study.

Another way to increase the conversion rate on a page that already gets a lot of traffic? Create special offers specifically for your most popular pages, and gate them behind landing page forms. I know, I know, creating a brand new offer can time-consuming — but it could be much more effective for lead generation than optimizing button color, language, images, and so on. For example, the folks at Eastern International College created a quiz for students on which college major they should choose, which they linked to on their popular Careers page.

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At the end of the quiz, they promised to send the quiz results in exchange for people’s name, phone number, and email address as a lead capture tactic.

Read this blog post for more tips on how to generate leads from your most popular webpages.

7) You’re not using social media strategically for lead generation.

Although social media is most effective for top-of-the-funnel marketing metrics like traffic and brand awareness, it can still be helpful as a source for lead generation — and a low-cost one, at that.

If you’re finding that social media isn’t generating very many leads for you, there’s a chance you’re not doing it strategically enough. At least that’s what Jeremy White, a serial entrepreneur and conversion consultant, wrote in a post on CrazyEgg’s blog.

“It’s not that you can’t get leads on social media; it’s that we’re not taking what’s there,” he wrote. In other words, you might be doing it wrong. If your social strategy is to post your new ebooks to all your social media channels and that’s about it, then don’t expect to bring in a whole lot of leads from those posts. The spray-and-pray technique isn’t enough.

How to Fix It

One way to generate more leads from social media is to sprinkle blog posts and offers that have historically generated higher-than-average leads numbers for you in with the new posts and offers your team is creating.

At HubSpot, we’ve found that one of the best ways to generate leads is simply to link directly to landing pages for blog posts and offers that have historically performed well for lead generation. (Learn how to do your own blog lead generation analysis here.)

We’ve also found that linking directly to an offer’s landing page can be more effective — as long as your post copy sets the expectation that you are, in fact, sending people to a landing page. In the Facebook post below, we set that expectation by putting “Free Template” in brackets in front of the offer title.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re using some of the features on each social network that are specifically designed to help you generate leads.

On Twitter, your lead gen tweets should contain a value proposition, a short URL linking to the landing page with a form, and an image to ensure the post stands out. (Here are some social media image templates you can use to create those images.)

Twitter also offers lead generation cards that can help you generate qualified leads at a lower cost than most of the other major ad platforms. Twitter cards let you embed rich media that don’t count toward your tweet character limit that allow your fans and followers to do things like download an app, visit a landing page, give over their email, or use a coupon — all without leaving Twitter. (HubSpot customers: You can connect your Twitter lead gen cards to HubSpot by following these instructions.)

On Facebook: There are a number of great ways to generate leads from Facebook, the best of which I’ve rounded up in this blog post. For example, one way to easily generate leads is by simply using the call-to-action feature available for Pages. The feature lets you put a simple call-to-action button at the top of your Facebook Page, and it can help drive more traffic from your Facebook Page to lead generation forms like landing pages and contact sheets.

Here’s an example from Tough Mudder’s Page, and you can learn how to insert your own Facebook CTA button here.

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On LinkedIn, B2B businesses can take advantage of the perception that LinkedIn is the most sophisticated of social platforms, and a place where B2B relationships are most likely to be built. Like on Facebook, you can publish your lead-generating content directly to your business’ Facebook Page alongside actionable copy and a compelling image.

8) Your forms are too long or too short.

How long should your lead capture forms be? Striking a balance between asking too much and too little on your forms is a common problem marketers gripe with.

If your form’s too short, more people might be willing to fill it out, which is great for leads numbers — but the quality of those leads might not be very high. If your form’s too long, though, fewer people might be willing to fill it out, meaning you’ll get fewer leads out of it. On the bright side, the people who do submit their information could end up being higher quality leads.

So what gives? What’s the “magic number” of questions to ask on your forms?

How to Fix It

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how many fields to put on your forms. Your “sweet spot” will depend entirely on your goals: Do you need more leads, or do you need better leads? Essentially, the length of your form will lead to a tradeoff between quantity and quality of the leads you generate. In general, shorter forms usually result in more overall leads, while longer forms will result in fewer, but higher quality leads.

“Think of every field in your checkout as a hurdle your prospect has to leap over,” writes Copyhackers’ Joanna Wiebe. “Then ask yourself if it’s worth the possibility of losing a sale — or thousands of sales — because you want to fill a database.”

You can’t possibly know how many form fields you can pull off without conducting conversion research and running your own tests. Even then, you have to compare the ROI of additional information with the ROI of increased conversions. How much does having a phone number really help the sales team? Is it enough to warrant a potential decrease in conversions?

It’s important that you don’t make this decision without involving your sales team. They have a better idea of what information will actually help them close deals. How much does asking for a phone number actually help your sales team — and is it enough to potentially lose leads over? Speaking of talking with your sales team …

9) Your definition of a qualified lead isn’t well communicated with Sales.

You know the definition of a lead in the general sense of the term: It’s a person who has indicated interest in your company’s product or service by giving you their information in some way, like by filling out a form to download an ebook or completing an online survey.

A marketing qualified lead, or MQL, is a lead that’s been deemed more likely to become a customer compared to other leads, based on lead intelligence. MQLs have metaphorically raised their hands and identified themselves as more deeply engaged, sales-ready contacts than your usual leads, but who have not yet become full-fledged opportunities. In other words, from a marketing perspective, your sales team should be talking with them.

But sales teams tend to have their own system for qualifying leads. Sales qualified leads are leads your sales team has accepted as worthy of a direct sales follow-up. Agreeing on that quality threshold is where things tend to get muddy. Both the quantity and quality of leads needed and the sales process are mutually agreed upon by both Marketing and Sales.

How to Fix It

That’s exactly where the conversation begins. To align Marketing and Sales on what constitutes a qualified lead from both sides, you’ll have to learn to speak each other’s language. Similar to your marketing qualified leads, Sales has its own definition of “qualified”: sales qualified leads are leads they’ve accepted as worthy of a direct sales follow-up.

Both teams need to align on their definitions of a marketing qualified and sales qualified lead. And there’s no one-size-fits-all definition for one, either — an MQL at one company may be completely different than an MQL at another company. You should do your own internal analysis of your leads and customers to create your business’ definition of an MQL. Read this post to learn how to get started defining an MQL for your business and communicating that definition with Sales.

There are plenty more lead generation mistakes I could add to this list, but these are some of the most important ones we see marketers make often. For our readers out there who want to get more and better quality leads, we hope this post will help you prioritize where to focus your time and resources.

What other mistakes can you add to this list? Share your ideas and experiences with us in the comments.

Intro to Lead Gen
HubSpot Marketing Blog

Facebook Advertising Advice: 10 Tips From Experts at Trello, WeWork & More

facebook-ad-tips.jpg

Facebook started as a way for college classmates to communicate, and it’s since evolved into a hub for content creation, sharing, and advertising.

Over one billion active users engage on Facebook every day, which represents a tremendous opportunity for advertisers to leverage their content in front of potential customers.

The variety of targeting options available allow marketers to get the greatest value out of each ad dollar spent on this vast network, making it an ideal place to drive conversions, downloads, and lead generation. In fact, Social Media Examiner found that 55% of social media marketers use Facebook as their primary platform, and eMarketer learned that nearly 68% of all social media ad spending is on Facebook Ads. Download this free guide for data-backed tips on creating the optimal Facebook  Ad.

We decided to consult with a variety of successful social media marketers to learn more about their strategies for Facebook Ad targeting. Whether you’ve been advertising on Facebook for years or are just starting out, check out these lessons from the pros to maximize your social media advertising ROI.

10 Strategies for Facebook Advertising

1) Keep track of qualitative metrics.

Matt Diederichs, Social Marketing Lead at Hootsuite:

We focused on two metrics [in our Facebook Ads campaign] — video views and offer redemptions. Video views are primarily an efficiency spend, looking at the gross number of video views we can get for our investment, at the lowest possible CPV (cost per view). In the offer redemption area, we can go a bit deeper and also calculate our CPA (cost per acquisition) for each person who redeems the offer. These help us to understand whether it’s worth our investment to pay for direct customer acquisition.

Through all of this, we [also] look really hard at qualitative feedback. Facebook’s Reactions allow us to see not only how many people ‘like’ our content, but also when people ‘love’ or uh … [don’t] love our content. We also aspire for our content to be shareable, so we look for post shares and for comments on Ads. To us, that’s a leading indicator of content resonation.”

2) Take advantage of Facebook’s precise Ad targeting.

Shari Medini, Co-Host of the Push Pull Sales & Marketing Podcast:

You can target any audience [using Facebook Ads]. Almost everyone is on Facebook, and we all share incredible amounts of information about ourselves. Facebook compiles and organizes all of that data for their Ads platform so that marketers can go as broad or as narrow as they’d like. You want to target moms of young children in a 15-mile radius from a [children’s] clothing consignment store? Facebook lets you do that. You want to get young men in the sales profession between the ages of 30 and 35 to click through to your site? Facebook lets you do that.”

Andy Odom, Digital Marketing Director at Santander Consumer USA

Use the Audience Insights feature in your Ads Account to research all of Facebook, fans of your Page, or people in any custom audience to gain better insights into who they are and how to target them. You can upload [an email list] as a custom audience and serve special ads just to them.”

 Haidi Zhu, Head of Performance Marketing at WeWork:

[With Facebook Ads,] we start by analyzing the demographics of our current members to better understand who they are based on location, interests, industry, and more. We use this data to develop audiences to identify potential members and further segment down to deliver ads that feature the WeWork offerings, locations, and services that we strongly believe will benefit them most.”

3) Test different creative assets for best results.

Frank Emanuele, Co-Host of The Marketers Next Door Podcast:

Always A/B test your creative [assets]. It’s easy to think you know what will capture your audience’s attention, but you’ll be surprised when you actually test it. I always compare at least two options and track their performance carefully. Then I put my spend toward the top performer to get the most bang for my buck. I often find that the creative I liked best actually isn’t my top performer.”

4) Pay attention to what visitors do after they click.

Alicia Palmieri, Senior Social Media & Content Specialist at 2U:

2U uses the “Learn More” call-to-action because it performs well with the type of thought leadership [education] content we share.

Our end goal when advertising on Facebook is to get people to view longform, data-rich content. Since we host most of this on our website, we work with our web analytics team to track behavior of people coming from our Ads. This helps us ensure that we’re targeting the right people and providing engaging content that they will enjoy.”

5) Don’t force new trends into your Ad strategy.

 Rachael Samuels, Social Media Specialist at Sprout Social:  

It’s important to have a clear objective for your ads, clear KPIs and a desired cost-per-conversion. Identifying these metrics, setting up proper tracking and keeping a pulse on performance is key to determining ROI from social advertising.”

Aaron Moreno, Digital Advertising Specialist at Sprout Social:  

The social landscape is constantly evolving, and our social team is constantly adapting to meet the needs of our community and stay authentic in our social presence. It’s great to be aware of trends, but you shouldn’t force a trend or new network if it’s not the right fit for your brand. You have to determine a trend’s genuine value offer before diving in headfirst. If something isn’t resonating with your audience, there’s no reason to continue chasing the hype just to be seen doing it — your audience could see that as a major turnoff.”

Chelsea Hunersen, Social Media Manager at HubSpot:

The principles of creating a good post and grabbing attention are the same no matter what the medium. For example, providing clear value and connecting about [your audience’s] real needs is something I always try to do. I’m less concerned about using a new medium like video or canvas just to use it, but I will try it if the technology gives us a better way to reach our audience.”

6) Find inspiration from your competition.

Rebecca White, Community Manager at TrackMaven:

Being able to tell what your competitors are promoting on social is invaluable. Comparing our Facebook spend with that of our competitors gives us a level playing field on which to evaluate the impact of our content.”

7) Publish videos that are short and sweet.

Erica Moss, Community Manager at Trello:

Because [Facebook offers] such a small amount of real estate, it’s important to get to the point quickly with one specific call-to-action, whether it’s a discount to redeem, an event to attend or a prompt to learn more about your product or service. Avoid lofty or flowery language.

When considering images, faces and bright colors pop more (high-res only), and video can be super impactful for ads when kept to 30 seconds or less. Bonus points if your video has closed captioning so that users don’t need audio to consume your message.”

8) Don’t fixate on vanity metrics alone.

Jenna Dutcher, Content Marketing Manager at Localist.com:

Facebook Ads can be a valuable tool, but only if you put effort into actually optimizing and measuring them. We’re big fans of A/B testing here at Localist, and always have at least two iterations of an ad running, sometimes 10-20 versions, where we’ll test things as small as capitalization, imagery, headlines, and CTAs.

You also need to be mindful of what you’re measuring. Success can’t just be based on how many people click or view an ad — what does 500 clickthroughs to a post mean to you and your company?  Be sure to tie superficial metrics like this to an acquisition goal or metric that you actually value, like cost-per-download or cost-per-lead.

9) Focus on the mobile experience.

Jason Myers, Social Media Manager at The Content Factory:

Try composing, or at least previewing, your Ad on a mobile device. Most people view Ads on a phone screen which is why those with stark, text-free images and simple messages get more engagement.”

10) Experiment with video.

Ben Kessler, Director of Marketing at WeWork

We are always eager to test new products and the latest betas to innovate with our marketing. This includes 360” video, renderings, and more, all developed by our in-house team. Because WeWork is truly something you need to experience in person, we’ve seen a lot of success with video to convey our brand and message within Facebook.”

Learn From the Pros

Now that you’ve learned different strategies for successful Facebook Advertising, apply them to your next campaign. A common thread among the responses we received for this article was the importance of constantly testing and evaluating results.

Don’t hesitate to change tactics midway through a campaign to drive greater value and conversions from your Ads. If you’re unsure where to begin with launching an Ads campaign, we have a step-by-step guide to start you off on the right foot.

What advice would you give for Facebook Advertising best practices? Share with us in the comments below.

free guide to facebook advertising


HubSpot Marketing Blog

26 Last-Minute DIY Halloween Costume Ideas for Tech Geeks & Marketers

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Halloween is a fun holiday, and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Halloween doesn’t have recognizable songs or vacation days associated with it, and it falls on a busy time of year for most people in the workforce. (For example, here at HubSpot, we’re currently gearing up for INBOUND 2016.)

But that doesn’t mean you should skip the festivities at your office Halloween celebration. How many days of the year are you encouraged to dress up and goof around at work? Probably zero. Download free Halloween-themed stock photos here to dress up your content.

We want you to have fun this Halloween, so we’re taking the work out if it for you. We’ve compiled a list of DIY Halloween costume ideas that are easy to put together, inexpensive, and work appropriate. As a bonus, many are marketing and technology-themed, so even if your family and friends don’t get your costume, your colleagues definitely will.

26 Last-Minute Office Halloween Costumes for Marketers & Tech Geeks

Evergreen Office Costumes

1) Alt Text

This was our Director of Content Corey Wainwright‘s office Halloween costume a couple of years ago. It’s great because you don’t even look dressed up if you have a casual office dress code, so you can just blend in.

All you need is to dress in 90s alternative garb — she went with black jeans, combat boots, and a flannel — and tape a piece of paper to yourself that says something like img2017.jpg. Or if you want to follow best practice for good alt text, you can put something more descriptive, like “alt_text.” Your choice, you SEO rebel you.

2) SEO Ninja

Speaking of dorking out on SEO, you could be everyone’s favorite LinkedIn title — the SEO ninja. Dress in all black, put on a black ski mask (kinda creepy if you already have one, but we don’t judge here), and tape keywords all over yourself.  

3) Mobile App

Wander around holding an appetizer — candy, cheese and crackers, chips and dip … whatever you have on hand. Boom. You’re a mobile “app.”

This costume also doubles as a great way to introduce yourself and make friends at a party.

mobile-app-costume.png

Source: Opportunity Max

4) Instagram

Another way to turn handing out food into a costume: Dress up like a hipster and hand out graham crackers.

5) Ghostwriter

Grab a white sheet and cut a hole for your head and arms. Dob some black ink spots on the sheet, get a book and one of those feather quills (or just get a feather, I suppose), and you’re a ghostwriter.

6) White Space

Dress in all white — add white face paint and a white wig if you’re ultra-committed. Then add a hint of color somewhere on the outfit, like a colored tie or scarf, or even a paint splotch. That color splotch will make the white space more prominent, transforming you into “white space.”

7) Error 404 Page

You’ve most likely encountered a funny error 404 page before, and you can make it a funny costume, too. Grab a sheet of paper, write “Error 404: Costume Not Found,” and tape it to your outfit.

 

A photo posted by RachAel Klopfenstein (@theklopf) on Sep 5, 2015 at 12:33pm PDT

8) (Monty) Python

If you’re into programming code, British comedy, and low-effort costumes, being (Monty) Python is perfect. Dress up in anything remotely snakelike in your closet: olive green clothing, snakeskin accessories, and fake vampire teeth that can serve as your fangs.

Then, to amp up the dork factor on this costume, add two coconuts or a gold chalice to embody Monty Python on his quest for the Holy Grail. 

9) Facebook

Grab face paint or eyeliner and write “book” across your cheeks. Just like that, you’re the world’s biggest social network for Halloween.

And for your sake, we hope your colleagues actually get it:

10) Unicorn

Here’s another tech-friendly, double-entendre costume: Be your own version of a tech unicorn. Here at HubSpot, we love this tech icon, and you can easily make your own version of a unicorn horn with help from this article.

 

A photo posted by Claudia Valles (@clapvalley) on Feb 12, 2016 at 6:05am PST

11) Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are nothing to joke about — they can seriously threaten your technology and data security. But on Halloween, you can dress up as a play on phishing emails for an easy DIY costume. All you need are a stick, a piece of string, and an envelope. Bonus points if you own a bucket hat and vest to complete the ensemble.

12) Copycat

Here’s a technology spin on a classic Halloween costume. All you’ll need are cat ears, eyeliner-drawn whiskers, and a sheet of paper. Write “Control + C” on the paper, tape it to your outfit, and you’re a copycat.

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Source: BuzzFeed 

13) Fully Vested

If you work in a company where people would get the joke, put on a bunch of vests (at least three, but even more is encouraged) and that’s about it. You’re fully vested.

14) Nerd

What I love about the nerd costume is that it’s effortless and always unique — there are many ways to be a nerd in this day and age. Are you a tech nerd, a video game nerd, or a book nerd? The sky is the limit with this costume. Show up wearing glasses with your favorite accessory, such as a magic wand, book, or lightsaber, to complete the effect.

Topical Office Costumes

15) Pokémon GO Trainer

Pokémon GO had roughly 45 million people walking around in cities glued to their phones in summer 2016 (and I was among them). To pay homage to the explosion of this tech trend, you’ll need a t-shirt that’s red, yellow, or blue. Using fabric paint or permanent marker, write Valor (for red), Instinct (for yellow), or Mystic (for blue) on your shirt. Spend Halloween walking around pointing your phone at objects, and you’re the spitting image of a Pokémon GO trainer. Gotta catch em all, right? 

 

A photo posted by Odinia (@marshmallowsie) on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:44pm PDT

16) Beyoncé Singing “Hold Up”

If you work in content or social media marketing, you’ve probably read by now that video is growing in popularity among your audience. Beyoncé knows it too — she released her second visual album, Lemonade, earlier this year. Channel Queen Bey in her video featuring the song “Hold Up” by wearing an all-yellow outfit and carrying a toy baseball bat around.

Beyonce-Lemonade-Halloween-Costume.jpg

Source: SheFinds

17) Peach

Peach was introduced in early 2016 and never really took off. Pay tribute to the social networking app that experienced the circle of life more quickly than some others by dressing up as a peach. If you don’t have an all-orange outfit on hand, print out this picture of a peach emoji that served as their logo, and you’re done.

Peach.jpg

Source: The Next Web

18) Barb from Stranger Things

Here’s another Netflix costume idea. Barb from Netflix’s hit new series Stranger Things is universally beloved, and it’s a bonus that her signature look is a comfortable and easy-to-assemble costume. Rock your best Barb with your finest plaid tucked into high-waisted jeans, glasses, pinned-up hair, and a notebook.

barb.jpg

Source: Bustle 

Group Office Costumes

19) Google Algorithm Update

Find a couple of office buddies for this one — one panda, one penguin, and one pigeon. You might be thinking, “what the heck is the pigeon algorithm update?” 1) It’s a thing, and 2) we checked Amazon for hummingbird costumes and there aren’t any cheap ones available. 

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Source: Opportunity Max

20) Black and White Hat SEO (aka Westworld‘s Man in Black and William)

This is another SEO-related costume, and I think you can figure this one out on your own. I recommend an all black outfit for one, and all white for the other — but the hat’s the most important part.

If you’re a TV nerd like me and want to make this costume work on two levels, make sure your black and white hats are western hats to pay tribute to two big characters on HBO’s popular new sci-fi show, Westworld.

21) Dancing Girls Emoji

If you’re the owner of one of the nearly 600 million Apple iPhones sold worldwide, you’re probably familiar with the girls emoji:

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Source: Brit + Co

The easiest version of this costume is to find a buddy and dress all in black together. If you’re committed to emoji authenticity, buy black bunny ears to complete the look.

22) Series A Round of Funding

Get a bunch of people together, write the letter “A” on your shirt, and line up. (You could do subsequent funding rounds using the same principle, too.) 

23) Snapchat Filters

Here’s another group costume idea that pays tribute to Snapchat’s filters feature. 

There are numerous options that you and your team can choose from to embody this costume. You could dress up as vomiting rainbows, cat and dog ears, a flower crown, or a face swap, and this could be as DIY or store-bought as you’re interested in pursuing. For example, here’s some inspiration for a couple of the dog filters:

snapchatfilter.jpg
Source: PopSugar

24) BuzzFeed Reactions

Here’s an easy group costume for a big crew. Everyone dresses in yellow and writes one of the following in big black letters on their shirt. 

Just be sure to sign up for a reaction fast, or you’ll be dressing up as “fail” this year.

BuzzFeed Reactions.png

25) Snapchat Ghosts

Snapchat has exploded in popularity this year, so put a marketing spin on a classic Halloween costume by arriving as a Snapchat ghost. You’ll all need a white sheet and to pick which ghost you like the most. 

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Source: YouTube

26) Instagram Filters

For this group costume, you’ll need white t-shirts and fabric markers. Draw an Instagram photo frame on the front of your shirts, and each teach member can write a different Instagram filter‘s name inside the photo frame. Or, create frame props with different filters on them like the group did below:

M-nahalloween-1.jpg

Source: Nails Magazine

Is your office dressing up this year? What costume will you be sporting? Share with us in the comments section below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.

get free halloween stock photos

  Download free Halloween-themed stock photos here to dress up your content.


HubSpot Marketing Blog

15 Easy Ways to Make Your Commute More Productive

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It’s easy to think of commuting as a total waste of time. When you’re standing on the train platform or waiting at a traffic light, every minute that ticks by can seem like a minute lost from an already jam-packed day at work. But there’s good news for those of you who wish you could spend that time more productively.

There are a lot of fun, creative apps out there that help you make use of that time — whether it’s a 10-minute walk or a 60-minute bus ride. (Drivers: We don’t advocate the use of any of the apps on this list that involve reading or typing.) Download our complete guide here for more tips on improving your productivity.

Check out this roundup of 15 easy ways to make your commute more productive, and the apps that will help you make it happen. Try them out, and hey — you might even start looking forward to your trips to and from the office.

15 Ideas for Increasing Productivity on Your Commute

1) Create your to-do list for the day.

Apps: Wunderlist, Evernote, Dragon Dictation

If you’re the kind of person who likes to get organized first thing in the morning, spend some time listing the things you need to accomplish that day. Taking that extra time to think about each task can help you prioritize and set realistic expectations.

There are a number of to-do list apps out there, but Wunderlist and Evernote are among the best. They sync between your mobile devices and your personal computers and allow you to drag and drop tasks between days and categories, as well as set alerts and due dates. You can even share lists and notes with others. Here’s a look at the Wunderlist app:

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For you drivers out there, you can use the free app Dragon Dictation to get your to-do list (and any other thoughts) down on your phone. Simply speak while the app is recording, and your text content will appear. If you’re an avid Evernote user, note that Evernote also has a voice recording function, too.

dragon-dictation-screenshot

Source: OT’s with Apps & Technology

2) Clear your inbox.

Apps: Gmail, ASAM

There’s something so satisfying about arriving at the office with a clean inbox. That’s why I like to go through emails and delete anything extraneous before I even get in to work. It saves me at least a half hour and a loss of momentum during my most productive time of day.

If you’re driving, you can use ASAM — a free app from AgileSpeech — to “read” your emails. The app will read your emails out loud and word-for-word. (And when I say word-for-word, I mean it reads everything — disclaimers, signatures, and other information you might’ve skipped otherwise.) When the message is finished, the app will “ding” and you have the option to dictate a reply.

ASAM screenshot

Source: Google Play

3) Set and check in on your goals.

App: Coach.me

Believe it or not, there’s a new year right around the corner. And if you’re into resolutions, checking your progress regularly and finding ways to stay motivated is key to maintaining them. The free version of the Coach.me app lets you set personal and professional targets, get reminders, and choose whether to make your achievements visible to a community of active users so you can give and receive support. And starting at $ 15 per week, you can hire a coach to actually help you achieve them.

coach-me-appcoach-me-app

Source: iTunes

4) Learn a language.

App: Duolingo

Once upon a time, maybe after college, you were almost fluent in Spanish. Or French. Or something else you learned in school. But then, you stopped practicing.

Want to get your language skills back on track? Duolingo is a fantastic (and free) app that makes (re)learning languages fun. Each lesson is short, painless, and super visual. Slate called it “the most productive means of procrastination I’ve ever discovered.” Be warned, though — it can get addictive.

duolingo-screenshotduolingo-screenshot

Source: iTunes

5) Listen to a podcast or audiobook.

Apps: Stitcher, Podcasts, This American Life, Audible

If you’d rather not spend any more time staring at a screen during your commute, then listening to a podcast or audiobook can be a really pleasant way to spend any length of time. Plus, you’ll learn a lot of really cool information you can impress your friends with later.

The free app Stitcher lets you make playlists of all your favorite podcasts.

Stitcher-1.png

As for which podcasts to listen to, our favorites include:

Looking for something else? Take a look at Stitcher’s list of Top 100 Podcasts.

6) Read an actual book.

Apps: iBooks, Kindle, Zinio, Apple News

I don’t know about you, but I constantly lament how little time I spend reading. You know, actual books, newspapers, or print magazines. And while I also enjoy turning a physical page, I always forget to pack my print materials before I leave for work.

Luckily, there are numerous apps that address that issue, and let you read any book, newspaper, or magazine you choose from a mobile device.

For news and magazines, we like Apple’s News app, which lets you choose from a vast catalogue of publications that you can read right from your phone. You can store your favorites and choose from them with a simple tap.

Apple News.png

But for actual books, there are the Kindle and iBooks apps, which let you download full reading materials and enjoy them from your phone or tablet. Kindle transfers any ebook purchases you’ve made on Amazon right to your device, so you can take in whatever great literature you please, right from the bus or subway.

Kindle1 Kindle2.png

7) Read the articles you’ve bookmarked.

App: Pocket

Using the Pocket app, you can save articles (and videos, and pretty much any type of content) in one place for easy reading on your commute. You can save content directly from your browser, emails, or from over 500 apps like Twitter, Flipboard, Pulse, and Zite. So while Evernote is a great app for long-term content storage, Pocket is perfect for bookmarking stuff to read later.

Pocket app.jpegpocket-app-screenshot

Source: iTunes // Just the Best Apps

8) Read the newest posts from your favorite online sources.

Apps: Feedly

We’ve covered how to catch up on the latest content from your favorite publications. But what about your favorite blogs or other online news sources? Feedly is an RSS reader that lets you subscribe to the publishers whose posts you never want to miss. You can separate them into different lists, mark articles as “read,” share your favorite pieces, and even browse for new content.

Feedly1Feedly2

Source: Google Play

9) Get your social media fix out of the way.

Apps: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and more …

Not all of us are lucky enough to include browsing and posting on personal social media accounts in our job descriptions. Help resist the urge to check your news feeds and notifications at work by doing it to your heart’s content during your commute.

Instagram fix

10) Brush up on your marketing & sales progress.

App: HubSpot Mobile

Remember those days when you absolutely had to be at your desk to get your work done? Those days are close to being gone, thanks in part to the new HubSpot Mobile app. 

With this app, you can take advantage of your HubSpot software, even if you’re on the go. It starts with a customizable dashboard that gives you an at-a-glance breakdown of the most important metrics to you — landing page, blog, and email performance, as well as deals and sales tasks.

You can also easily access your contacts database, marketing insights (like email analytics) and your sales pipeline. For that last part, you can use the app to add notes, activities, or tasks, and keep track of deal stages.

HubSpot Mobile contacts  HubSpot Mobile Email

11) Clean your house.

App: iRobot HOME

Weekends: The perfect time to catch up with friends, family, the TV you missed last week and house-cleaning. Okay, how many of us really get around to that last one? (Hint: I don’t.)

But my colleague, Eric Peters, let me in on a little secret about the internet of things. Thanks to its HOME app, if you own a iRobot device like Roomba, you can remotely clean your house from your mobile device.

“My new favorite productivity app is from iRobot,” he told me. “I can turn on my Roomba and clean my floor, and not have to vacuum later.”

What’s more? You can even set a cleaning schedule for the week, in case you forget to spontaneously turn on your devices.

iRobot2 iRobot1 iRobot3

Source: iTunes

12) Clean up your Twitter feed.

App: Twindr

Ever scrolled through your Twitter feed and realized you’ve been just a bit too generous in how many people you follow? Twindr is a free app that works kind of like Tinder, but for unfollowing people on Twitter. All it takes is a few quick swipes to clean up your follower count.

twindr-screenshot

Source: Gizmodo

13) Get zen.

Apps: Insight Timer, Personal Zen, Headspace

Mondays, amirite? Suddenly, in the midst of pre-workday standing nap among the subway masses, you find your mind flooding with a mental to-do list of all the stuff you didn’t get done when you left the office early last Friday.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you’ve got to breathe — which can be tough to do on a Monday morning. But there are apps out there that can help you get zen during your commute, no matter how long it is.

We especially like Insight Timer, since — as its name suggests — you can actually set a timer for the window you have to meditate and select a combination of ambient sounds to use in the background. Or, you can select from any number of the app’s guided meditations. Om…

Insight Timer Custom Insight Timer Guided

14) Set a step goal for the day.

Apps: Fitbit, Withings, Jawbone UP, Apple Health

A great way to get more exercise and burn more calories throughout the day is by building incremental physical activities into your daily routine. If that sounds like your style, use an app like Fitbit or Withings to set step goal for each of your commutes. (While these companies sell expensive devices that sync with their apps, they have the ability to measure your steps for free.) And if you have an iPhone, the Health app will track any steps you take when you have your device with you.

Each morning and afternoon, try to hit your goal. If you drive, park your car some distance away from the office and walk the rest of the way. If you take the train or a bus, get off a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way. If your mode of transportation gets delayed, get your steps in by walking back and forth on the platform.

UP24goals.png

Source: Jawbone

15) Plan your meals.

Apps: Eat This Much, Pepperplate, BigOven

You work hard. Your days are long. That’s why it’s so easy to resort to something that’s quick and already prepared for dinner. But you don’t have to fall victim to the easy way out — if you plan ahead. There are apps out there that can help you do that, by making it simple to plan your meals for the week in advance.

We get especially geeked-out over the Eat This Much app, in part because it’s linked to grocery-delivery apps, if they’re available in your area. Plus, it lets you set nutrition goals and set parameters for any dietary restrictions you might have, like vegan, gluten-free, or specific food allergies.

EatThisMuch2 EatThisMuch1

Source: iTunes

Get Appy

See? Your commute doesn’t have to be so bad, after all. 

And even if you’re lucky enough to love your work, it never hurts to have that time to yourself to take care of the things that these apps are made to do. So get happy, get healthy and get “appy” — it’s one of the best ways to make the most of your precious time.

What do you do to make your commute more productive? Share with us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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