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Tips on Taking the Best Photos at Demonstrations and Protests

Tips on Taking the Best Photos at Demonstrations and Protests

It’s crucial that you take high-quality photos during a demonstration. They can make the difference between having 20 people see your message and reaching 20,000. Captivating photos and video footage can help a local event garner attention all over the country. The best images tell a clear story, capture the essence of the event, and make viewers feel like they are part of the action.

Working with a PETA outreach coordinator, you can take your activism for animals to the next level. Check out the tips below to help you get some great images from your demo and learn how to send them to PETA. We may be able to promote your event to our millions of social media followers and website readers.

When taking photos, be sure that they will answer these questions:

What’s the issue?

Whether you’re protesting against a circus that abuses animals or a restaurant that serves foie gras, anyone who sees your photos should immediately grasp what the issue is and how it causes animals to suffer. Treat this as an opportunity to educate people who are unfamiliar with the type of cruelty that your demo aims to expose.

What’s the tone?

Whether the demo is silly and lighthearted, dramatic and serious, or downright sexy, your photos should elicit a clear emotion in viewers. If, for example, your event is meant to be shocking, then photos of smiling people probably aren’t your best bet.

What makes this event special?

Your photos should make viewers stop to take a closer look. People consume media very quickly these days, so give them a reason to pause as they scroll through their Facebook news feeds. Anyone can stand at the side of a road holding a sign, so try to focus on the more eye-catching elements of the demo. If a mascot is at your event, be sure to get some shots of that. Images of children, workers in uniform, and any animal companions who have come with their guardians also tend to stand out.

These are the shots that you should always get:

The Signage

Your message is, after all, what you are trying to convey through your pictures. The signs that you photograph shouldn’t feature too many words. Pick ones with succinct, straight-to-the-point, punchy messages. Make sure that your shots of them are clear and the words are legible.

The Peak of the Action

Have your camera ready both at the beginning of the event and at points when people are most active. Demos taking place in a busy area inevitably attract more attention, so be ready for the public to get involved in one way or another. Get some shots at times when the most activists are present so that people will know that your event was a big deal.

Demo at opening of Canada Goose flagship store

The Whole Scene

Photograph the “big picture” surrounding the demo. Are you protesting outside a storefront or corporate headquarters? If so, make sure that the logo of the targeted company is visible, perhaps on a window or awning above where the activists are standing—or maybe even on the side of a building. If you’re outside an animal-unfriendly event, try to get some photos in front of the entrance or near any promotional banners that the organizers have hung. People need to know where the protest is taking place, as that will help them understand why it’s happening.

Crowd Reactions

If you’re handing out food, show people eating it. If you’re playing a sad video, capture people crying. If you have head-turning visuals, photograph the surprise on the faces of passersby. When people see others reacting, it can help shape how they react.

Some Impactful, Close-Up Shots

Ask one person with a sign to take a few steps out from the bulk of the action. Individual stories sometimes have a greater impact than the “big picture.” The full scope of animal abuse can be hard for people to take in, so showing a close-up of one person in front of the crowd helps viewers place themselves in the shoes of that activist.

Here are some final tips:

Come prepared. If you know in advance where the demo will take place, you can scope out the location beforehand. Take some test shots the day before. Note where the sun falls. See how much foot traffic the area typically experiences. That way, you won’t have to figure out all the details on the fly.

If you know there will be children present, be sure to bring something (a pen and paper or your cell phone) with which to record the contact information of their parents or legal guardians. If you provide PETA with their e-mail addresses, we can follow up by sending forms to request consent for using photos of their children.

If professional photographers show up, pay attention to what they do. You might not be a pro, but that doesn’t mean your shots can’t be just as powerful as those taken by someone working for a news wire or local TV station. If you’re unsure where to start, take inspiration from what the experts photograph. Just be sure to remain respectful. Remember: They’re there to get more eyes on the demo, too.

Then, send your photos to us.

If you’re already working on your demo with a PETA outreach coordinator, just e-mail your photos to your contact with a clear subject line and a one- or two-sentence explanation of the event for reference.

If you’re unsure which coordinator to contact, you can consult our handy map.

Never stop fighting for animals. There are plenty of other ways you can help animals through activism. Learn more now:

The post Tips on Taking the Best Photos at Demonstrations and Protests appeared first on PETA.

Action – PETA

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.

Efficient Education Marketing Machine - Free Ebook


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

Thanksgiving Wishbone Competitiveness & Content Marketing Tips – Who Knew?

For many people who have grown up celebrating Thanksgiving, the holiday for giving thanks has a underlying theme: Winning the wishbone. Besides the mounds of wonderful food and extended family gathered at many US households, there might be plenty of turkey to go around, but there is only one wishbone.

Believe it or not, competitive pursuit after a Thanksgiving turkey’s wishbone is a perfect metaphor for understanding better customer centric content marketing.  Prepare yourself for a Thanksgiving themed post without the tryptophan side effects.

5 Steps of A Wishbone Strategy Applied to Content Marketing
Here’s how the wishbone strategy works and how you can apply it to your content marketing strategy.

Thanksgiving-Turkey

Step 1: Lobby Mom to ensure turkey is on the Thanksgiving menu. Every year, there are Moms across the country who set their sights on trying some new tradition without any input from the people who will be eating the meal. To avoid a holiday dining catastrophe, kids start begging said Moms to get a Thanksgiving turkey as soon as Halloween is over. Content marketers need to listen to and understand prospect and customer interests to ensure they provide the information that matters most. To this end, consider the content your target audience needs at every point in the purchase cycle from awareness through post purchase support.

Depending on your product or services, this can translate to a variety of different types of content. Here’s an extensive list to choose from, and don’t forget to serve seasonally appropriate content which resonates with your audience. To carry on with our Thanksgiving theme, an example could be links to cool Turkey carving apps, Thanksgiving recipes or instructions for how to make paper decorations look like turkeys.

dad-carve-turkey

Photo Credit: carbonated via Flickr

Step 2: Beg Dad to carve the turkey. While this seems like pandering, in our house, Dad was a surgeon when it came to carving the bird and, unlike Mom, he carefully preserved the wishbone for a fair battle. As a marketer, it’s important to go beyond just defining your target audience to understanding what various segments want and need to attract and maintain their attention. Just as many of us play up to Dad’s carving skills, our content must also tightly synch with the needs of prospective readers.

wishbone-contender

Photo Credit: lapstrake via Flickr

Step 3: Be chosen a wishbone contender. Again, this requires advance planning. It helps to go that extra step with regard to chores and homework as well as positioning yourself nearest to the turkey when it appears fresh from the kitchen. Depending on your family, getting the wishbone can be a situation where, if you snooze, you loose. Similarly, content marketing must be available where prospects are searching for it. We all know there is a dizzying array of apps, ads, channels, widgets (and so on…) vying for our prospects’ attention.

Think strategically in terms of your communication channels such as campaign-oriented website landing pages and emails, seasonally appropriate blog posts from your CEO and instructional videos from product development. Of course don’t just duplicate, rather integrate the appropriate versions of your content on social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Depending on your audience, consider third party media placement such as providing articles for other media or sponsored content. Make it easy and compelling for your prospects to choose you through relevant content.

wishbone-stance

Photo Credit: Roger Smith via Flickr

Step 4: Assess your wishbone stance. When you’re ready to wrestle for wishbone bragging rights, it’s essential to realize that an effective strategy is all about positioning. You must get your thumb as close as possible to the tip of the wishbone. Further, it helps to let your competitor take a first try since this weakens the bone on his side. In terms of content marketing, asses your messaging stance and ensure your tailored content is integrated with the rest of your marketing. This includes linking to the appropriate products in your blog posts, providing commerce on channels like Facebook where your prospects are engaging with you, or sending a post-purchase emails with helpful product usage tips. To help inspire you, check out this Clutter Control Freak post that links to the specific product, a holiday card keeper.

make-a-wish

Step 5: Make a good wish. Of course, all of this work is for naught if you don’t have a really good wish. In marketing terms, (I know this is a reach, but bear with me) this means having a contextually relevant call-to-action for your prospect to take the next step in the purchase process. A problem for many marketers is that once you’ve primed your prospect and they leave without buying, they still have an unmet need. Therefore they’ll probably purchase from another firm and, as long as they’re somewhat satisfied, they may not return to your firm – ever.

The one content marketing element missing from this wishbone list is ensuring you’ve got great information that, like the smell of your mother’s fresh cooked turkey, will lure people in. Without quality content, it’s difficult to get your prospects, customers and the public to return for seconds and thirds. You may get them once, but after that you’ll find yourself searching for new customers. Therefore, pack your content with real protein and nutrition to engage your readers over and over again.

What else would you add to this wishbone strategy? How are you ensuring your content marketing remains focused on your target audience’s needs while working to get them to close the deal?


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2011. | Thanksgiving Wishbone Competitiveness & Content Marketing Tips – Who Knew? | http://www.toprankblog.com

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5 Email Marketing Tips for Increased Open Rates

email marketing tips

Is your message blending in or standing out in an inbox filled with emails?

Email marketing has become an essential part of engaging and targeting prospects and clients online. In fact, eMarketer reports that 97% of small businesses use email marketing to connect with customers.   There are many aspects that make up an effective email marketing program, but today I’ll focus on how marketers can increase their campaign open rates.

Email content is essential, but getting people to actually open your email is a hurdle many marketers find hard to overcome.  A deep understanding of your customer base as well as their needs and habits for proper segmentation can be key in creating an effective email marketing strategy that produces high open rates.

As marketers we must ask ourselves: If I received this email from another company, would I open it?

#1 – Make a Good First Impression

What are the two things that email recipients see before actually opening an email?  Who the email is from, and what the subject line is.  These two items are your prime real estate for enticing your audience to view your email as opposed to simply trashing it and moving on.

The Sender: Recent studies have shown that adding a personalized feel to the email can be key in increasing open rates.  Instead of sending the email from [email protected] instead utilize the first and last name of a company employee.  Setting up an email to send out messages on behalf of a company CEO or President can have a large impact on open rates.  I would also like to note that many spammers are sending out emails with female first names (without a last name) so be aware of this spamming trend and try to avoid it.

The Subject Line:  If ever there were an opportunity to convince your audience to read this is it.  Email marketing service MailChip has provided some best practice approaches to creating subject lines which include:

  • 4 Words or Phrases to Avoid: free, help, percent off, reminder
  • Localization Helps: providing a city name can increase open rates
  • Newsletter Half Life: using the exact same subject line for each newsletter can decrease open rates
  • Subject Line Strength: keep your subject to 50 characters or less with the exception of highly targeted audiences

To see some additional tips as well as some subject line examples that have been tested as well as the open rate see the study here.

#2 – Timing Isn’t Everything, But It is Important

This is a tactic that requires some common sense as well as some experimentation.  If your emails are sent too early in the morning they can get lost in the shuffle of other emails either sent late at night or early in the morning.  If your emails are sent too late in the afternoon your customer may see it as one more thing to review before quitting time and put off reading it until the morning (which will pile it under even more emails).  It is also important to keep in mind your audience.

If you are running a B2C campaign your audience may have time to check their emails either during lunch or after work.  Try experimenting with time frames that match up with that notion.  If your campaign has a B2B focus I would recommend sending emails in the afternoon or around 7 or 8 in the morning when you know they’ll be reading.  If your email marketing system allows you can always try doing some A and B testing utilizing different time frames to test open rates.

#3 – Avoid Spam Filter Traps

Spam filters analyze a large list of criteria when determining an email’s “spam score”.  If your email campaigns total spam score is over a certain threshold then it is sent to the dreaded Spam inbox.  There are some common mistakes that are easily avoidable if you know what to look for.

  • Spammy phrases such as “Once in a lifetime opportunity!”
  • Too many !!!!!!!!!
  • ALL CAPITAL LETTERS
  • Sloppy HTML

For additional tips to avoid being sent to the spam filter be sure to visit SpamAssassin.

#4 – Get Rid of Dead Weight

Depending on which email service you use there should be a report that allows you to determine which emails are either bouncing or which subscribers are not opening your emails on a consistent basis.  Your open rate can be dramatically increased by pulling people from your list who never open your emails.  I wouldn’t recommend deleting their emails completely.  Instead, do some digging to find where the email subscriber originally came from so that you can create a more targeted campaign to get them re-engaged.

#5 – Refine the Sign Up Process & Email Targeting

Make it easy for people to sign up to receive email correspondence from your company.  Having potential customers jump through hoops to receive your marketed material is a poor strategy.  In order to make this process effective and engaging perhaps you could provide a fulfillment piece or whitepaper during the initial sign up as a take away and then continue to market based upon their needs.

The more refined your targets within your campaigns are the more likely you are to achieve success with your email marketing campaign.  Creating separate nurture campaigns for prospects and influencers within different industries and job roles is a great way to begin tracking and improving success rates.

What is a Good Open Rate?

Now that we’ve covered 5 important tips for improving the open rate of your email marketing campaigns, I thought that providing some sort of standardization for open rates by industry might also be useful. Open rate is one of the most commonly ased questions with email marketing clients. While you make the decision to implement each of the tips above, it’s important to understand that the open rate of your email marketing campaigns can differ based upon your industry and target market.

Image Credit: Constant Contact

What are some of the tips you’ve followed to increase your email marketing open rates? What are some of the top resources you rely on for email marketing advice?


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Email Marketing – Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®

5 Marketing Tips for Improving Customer Relationships & ROI With Better Communications

If you keep customers happy they will continue to buy

Improved communication turns one time buyers into lifelong customers.

As marketers and sales professionals there is no doubt that we are focused on obtaining new customers and increasing awareness within targeted market segments.  However, we must also consider the lifetime value of our existing customers and how marketing communications can contribute to that relationship.  Taking the time to examine what kind of communications can keep your brand top of mind with customers and inspire continued awareness for repeat sales and referrals is of enormous value.

Do you know how much your current customers are worth to your company?  In recent years research has found that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25% to 95%.  Armed with the knowledge that satisfied customers has a direct impact on your bottom line, there is no time like the present to begin targeting your current customers.  Here are 5 tips on better customer communications you can start using right now:

Tip #1 – Personalized Email Communication

96% of organizations believe that email personalization can improve email marketing performance

 

96% of organizations believe that email personalization can improve email marketing performance.


Creating a steady flow of email communication for customers is not a new concept.  However, how many email campaigns do you send out that are segmented based on purchasing habits or preferences?  Say that you have studied the data relating to your current customers and have identified approximately 5 profiles or personas.  Based on customer information find the persona that best fits each customer.  Then create an email drip campaign for each customer segment with different content based on need.  Keep in mind that the subject line, internal content, and calls to action within the email should be personalized based on customer segment.

Tip #2 – Create A Stellar FAQ Page

53% of customers who shop online more than once a month find customer service extremely or very important

 

53% of customers who shop online more than once a month find customer service extremely or very important.

 

Creating readily available and easy to find information is Customer Service 101.  It does not matter if you are B2B, B2C, technology, retail, or any other type of company; your customers will have questions.  A Frequently Asked Questions page on your website, social profiles, or other web destinations should be updated on a regular basis to include new questions or comments.  FAQ’s are also an additional opportunity to optimize content for improved visibility online.  It is important to remain consistent with your answers, provide a clean and easy to read page, and update or remove items that may no longer apply.  If you sell multiple products you may want to consider creating additional pages for each product.  Also, if you sell a product or service that requires assembly or setup you may want to provide instructional videos for your customers.

Tip #3 – Social Networking Channels = Customer Service Opportunity

40% of corporate Twitter accounts engage stakeholders on customer service issues

 

40% of corporate Twitter accounts engage stakeholders on customer service issues.

 

Last week we shared the example of JetBlue’s customer focused approach on Twitter.  While Twitter may not be a customer solution for all marketers there is an opportunity to utilize your existing social media channels as a way of providing additional customer service for your customers.  Customer service does not only include answering questions or dealing with problems it could also include: sharing useful articles or information, notifying customers of upcoming promotions, or reaching out to customers that are inactive.  Consideration must also be paid to the time of day that your customers are most likely to spend their time online.  There are tools available like Timely, Buffer or Hootsuite which enable you to schedule your Twitter communications during a particular time of day for the highest impact.

Tip #4 – Create Content Based on Customer Need

36% of B2B marketers listed producing engaging content as their biggest content marketing challenge.

 

36% of B2B marketers listed producing engaging content as their biggest content marketing challenge.

 

If planned for and organized appropriately, content creation can be executed efficiently and successfully.  A successful content strategy will focus on the needs, pain points, and triggers of your customers.  There are many ways to identify what those needs are including: customer surveys, research, and creation of customer personas based on buying habits.  Implementing a well thought out and concise customer survey can give you additional insight into what makes your customers tick.  A survey is also a great opportunity to crowdsource content from your customers for your customers.  Who better qualified to tell you what they want to read about than those who are purchasing your products or services?

Tip #5 – Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates

500 billion peer impressions are made per year

 


500 billion peer impressions are created each year.

 

It is extremely important that you tap into your existing customer base to find individuals or organizations who are willing to advocate on your behalf.  You could ask customers for: written or video testimonials, permission to use them as references, or employ them as a brand advocate to share information with their networks.  As user generated content becomes increasingly popular and credible, keeping your customers happy will continue to become even more essential.

Action Items:

Committing to providing customer support online is something that I recommend every company do no matter what industry you work in.  If you don’t keep your customers happy, someone else will.  I would like to leave you with the following questions that I hope will help you determine what tactics your company should implement to improve your customer service and communication online.

  • How would you rate your current level of online customer service?
  • Do you currently have a plan in place to improve your communication?
  • What tactics have you implemented that have worked?
  • What companies do you personally buy from that provide excellent online communication?
  • What impact has that communication had on your purchasing decisions?

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Pro Tips: The Quick Guide to Being an Effective Activist

Pro Tips: The Quick Guide to Being an Effective Activist

If you’re reading this guide, congratulations on being a compassionate person and wanting to help animals! These tips will help you be the most effective activist that you possibly can be. For a more in-depth guide, check out our full-length pdf: The Guide to Effective Advocacy.

1. Be prepared.

2. Be positive.

  • Take an amiable approach. Instead of ranting at the people you’re attempting to engage, start a friendly conversation with them. Most people simply haven’t spent much time thinking about the issues and are open to new ideas.
  • During your conversation, ask your audience interactive and thought-provoking questions about the issues you’re working on, such as, “Have you heard about this issue?” and “Do you know why this is an issue?” and so on.

3. Be pragmatic.

  • Remember that a vegan lifestyle isn’t difficult or a dogma. It’s about doing what you can to reduce animal suffering.
  • When you talk to people about animal rights issues, walk a fine line between not excusing animal abuse and not shutting others out from the animal rights community by being overzealous or unwilling to listen to their concerns, questions, and opinions.

4. Learn from common mistakes.

Cleaning Up Leaflets

  • Stay focused on the issue you’re working on. Avoid getting caught up in arguments, especially ones that distract you from the main issue.
  • Little things can make a big difference. Doing something as simple as wearing a pro–animal rights T-shirt or having an animal rights bumper sticker on your car can inspire conversations and help animals.

5. Use our three favorite points.

Holly the Rescued Calf Gives Kisses

  • Tell people whom you’re fighting for! Explain to them that the animals you’re campaigning for are living, feeling, smart, interesting, and unique beings.
  • Tell others that they shouldn’t pay anyone to harm animals if they wouldn’t do it themselves. Raising this issue with people in a conversational way can help them see why eating meat and other animal-derived foods is wrong.
  • Remind your audience that going vegan is not only one of the simplest actions that they can take to promote animal welfare but also an effective way to help the environment and improve their health.

6. Practice answering tough questions.

America, a black cat available for adoption

You’ll encounter a wide variety of questions during advocacy. Check out our FAQ pages for answers to some of the most common questions that advocates get.

7. Stay positive.

Three cows© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

  • Everything that you do matters. Every victory that you achieve—whether it’s collecting signatures for a petition to get more vegan options at a restaurant or participating in an animal rescue—is important.

We truly are winning, so you can be optimistic about the future. We’re winning at a rate that is lightning-fast compared to the progress of previous social-justice movements. Check out our PETA victories page for a few morale boosters.

The post Pro Tips: The Quick Guide to Being an Effective Activist appeared first on PETA.

Action – PETA

Convert More Customers: Tips & Tricks For Running A/B Tests On Your Email Campaigns

Email continues to be one of the most effective online marketing tactics but many companies struggle to establish benchmarks or successfully improve performance. How many people are receiving, reading and acting on email messages? Those are all key questions to improve email marketing performance.

Email open rates can vary depending on the target industry and even the job function of the prospects.  Testing to improve email marketing performance is essential, but determining which variables have the largest impact on the overall effectiveness of an email campaign can seem overwhelming.

However, a process driven approach to identifying success factors that lead to increased conversions will set your company up for success both short term, and long term.

One way of improving your email marketing process involves testing: A/B or multivariate testing, to assess which tactics lead to the desired outcomes such as click throughs and conversions.

What is A/B & Multivariate Testing?

Put simply, A/B testing involves sending out different versions of any email campaign to segments of your existing customer or subscriber list.  Typically A/B testing includes changing only one element at a time, whereas multivariate testing includes multiple elements.  There are many variables to consider when running an email test so it is best to pick a maximum 3-4 items to test for each campaign.  If you are unsure about which variables to test please reference the list below for guidance.

What Can Be Tested?

As mentioned you don’t want to get carried away with testing too many variables at once.  Below I have included some of the tactics that your team may want to consider when running a A/B or multivarite email test.

  • Time of Day
  • Day of Week
  • Subject Lines
  • Body Copy
  • Layout
  • Calls to Action
  • Design (including images)
  • Personalization
  • Offer

Sample Email Test

Who Should A/B Email Test Be Sent To?

If you search online or talk to marketing experts you may receive a variety of answers.  Depending on your list size you will want to send out A/B tests to a large enough segment to collect enough data to make an informed decision.  I would recommend splitting your list into three parts:

  • Recipients of test A – ¼ of your list
  • Recipients of test B- ¼ of your list
  • Recipients of the “winning” email – ½ of your list

What Should Be Tracked?

  • Open Rate
  • Click Through Rate
  • UnSubscribe Rate

A Best Practice Approach For Running A/B & Multivariate Tests for Email Marketing

Data Doesn’t Lie: Base  your course of action on proven numbers, not which email you BELIEVE will perform better.

Use Tools: Services such as MailChimp provide a tool for running A/B tests.

Test Often: The way that your audience reacts to information will evolve, make sure that your process evolves as well.

While we talk a lot about search optimization, social media and content marketing here at Online Marketing Blog, make no mistake: Email Marketing is a powerful communication and conversion tool. It integrates well with other online marketing efforts to both attract and retain customers. Remember ABO: Always Be Optimizing. It applies to email marketing performance just as much as pay per click or SEO.

I’m curious to know what tests your company may have run in the past.  What were your results?  How did these results shape your process going forward?


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B2C Mobile Marketing Tips to Strike Marketing Gold

b2c email marketing

Confession: I am an email junkie. Ok, more accurately, I have is a strong appreciation for a well-crafted email campaign. My favorite types of emails to receive are on the topics of digital marketing, apparel and food.

I’m Not the Only One
Sorry marketers, the statistics don’t lie. Here’s a couple to whet your appetite:

  • 74% of smartphone owners use their devices to check email (Gartner)
  • 51% of email opens are on mobile devices (Litmus)
  • 68% of Gmail and Yahoo opens are coming from mobile devices (Litmus)

Unfortunately, other email marketers are not the only sources vying for the attention of your consumers. Mobile users have access to a seemingly limitless list of apps, content and sources for information.

As a busy consumer and marketer (which is exemplified by the number of unread emails in my personal inbox), I am quick to signup to receive email communications, but selective in which ones I actually read and act upon. Let’s dive a little bit deeper in the head-turning elements that make for a successful B2C email marketing campaign.

Who is the Email From?
Unless there is an individual or “brandividual” that is associated with the brand, send the email from the name of your company. When mobile users are scanning their email inbox, they’ll be looking for updates or offers from the names of brands that they’ve subscribed to.

email marketing from

Keep Headlines Succinct & Meaningful
Depending on the device that consumers are using, the number of characters that they will see in their email client will differ. First consider how many characters would be visible in their email snippet that is seen prior to actually opening the email. Believe it or not, that number can be as low as 15 characters. Next, you’ll need to inspect the length of the full subject line based on popular devices. Subject line displays also vary significantly by device.

Personally, I’m a sucker for a well-written headline that helps solve a problem, is aligned with my lifestyle or I can create a personal connection with. For example, Express, Chipotle and Content Marketing Institute have all sent me emails within the last week that fall under one of the categories above.

email marketing headlines

Use Eye-Catching Visuals
One of the key components of most B2C email marketing campaigns is the visuals. Once you’ve persuaded a consumer to open the email, it is essential that they stay engaged.

The visuals contained within the email should match the promise or message that was delivered in the email headline.

email marketing visuals

Email marketers also need to ensure that the visuals (and content) are optimized for different screen sizes. The Ultimate Guide to iPhone Resolutions provides a helpful overview of optimizing images for iPhones.

Be prepared for image blocking. Some devices and email clients will automatically (or based on user settings) block images from appearing in email campaigns. One option for overcoming this hurdle is making sure that the ALT Text used to label images aligns with the content of your email.

Season Content With Simplicity & Flair
Email content should be effortless for consumers to scan on-the-go. Use a combination of hard-hitting bullet points and bold statements to inspire action.

Be mindful of the size of the headline and body text. You may want to consider making this text substantially larger than normal, so that it is easy to see on a mobile device.

Above All, Make CTAs Stand Out
Undoubtedly, the Call to Action (CTA) is the most important part of an email. The entire reason you went to all the trouble of making an email campaign is to persuade consumers to act upon the message.

CTAs should be pronounced, spaced significantly and easy to read. When you’re including multiple CTAs in one email, the copy and visuals must be orchestrated in a way that clearly separates which CTA belongs to a specific offer or message.

email marketing cta

Give the People What They Want!
Ultimately, email marketing data is going to tell you when you’ve hit gold or felt flat. As is a best practice with any email campaign, begin running A/B tests for mobile to see what garners the best results.

What email marketing campaigns (good or bad) have resonated with you as a consumer? What have you found has worked best in your mobile email marketing efforts?

Top Image: Shutterstock


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How to Deliver the Perfect Business Pitch: 8 Tips Inspired by ‘Shark Tank’

elevator-pitch.jpeg

A great business pitch is among the first of many hurdles an entrepreneur must jump to get their company off the ground.

While it’s not necessarily an indicator of future success, it’s a critical moment for any business. A great pitch can bring valuable partnerships to the table — partnerships that come with even more valuable financial incentives.

Business pitches take place in a wide variety of settings, from elevators, to offices, to cocktail parties. Some lucky entrepreneurs get the chance to pitch their businesses on ABC’s hit TV series Shark Tank, where promising entrepreneurs pitch to a panel of five “Sharks” — self-made multimillionaire and billionaire investors who’ve achieved enormous success in their respective industries.

These entrepreneurs have a short amount of time to tell their stories, sell their products, answer questions, and overall make an impact that they hope will lead to a major money-making opportunity.

There’s a lot about delivering great product pitches that we can learn from the show. Read on to learn about tips from successful Shark Tank product pitches.

(Do you have a startup you want to pitch? Enter HubSpot’s pitch-off competition for a chance to pitch your business on-stage at #INBOUND16 in front of thousands of marketing and sales professionals, early-adopters, techies, and our panel of all-star judges. Click here to learn more about how to enter the pitch-off.)

8 Tips From Successful Shark Tank Product Pitches

1) Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Selling your idea is as much how well you present it as it is the idea itself. Back in 2012, Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran told Business Insider that the best pitch she’s every seen on the show was from Sabin Lomac and Jim Teslikis, co-founders of a seafood truck company called Cousins Maine Lobsters.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘My God, these guys are amazing!'” said Corcoran. “They were clear, they were good-looking (you couldn’t take your eyes off them), they were high energy, and they answered every question and objection like geniuses. Genuine, rock solid, and perfect answers.”

cousins-maine-lobster-shark-tank.jpg

Image Credit: Business Insider

Once she started working with them, Corcoran understood the secret to their polished appearance on the show: preparation. The two co-founders had spent a tremendous amount of time and energy preparing for their appearance on the show. For instance, they watched all four existing seasons of Shark Tank and wrote down every objection any shark had ever asked an entrepreneur. Then, they prepared and practiced their answers and quizzed each other to make sure they had it all down before appearing in front of the Sharks.

“I haven’t seen it before, and I haven’t seen it since,” Corcoran said of their avid preparation.

The Takeaway

Before you make your pitch, you’d better do your homework. Study the bios, social media accounts, and investment backgrounds of every single investor who will be in the room. Make sure you understand what drives each of them so that you can adapt your pitch accordingly. Remember: Your presentation shouldn’t be the same if you’re pitching to a potential partner versus a potential engineer hire, for instance.

Know the key points of your presentation cold and nail at least the first few minutes of your presentation where it’s just you doing the talking. It’s harder to straighten out a bad pitch than it is to keep the momentum of a good one going.

As Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban says, “Do the work. Out-work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts.”

2) Practice your pitch in front of real people first.

We’re all heard the mantra “practice makes perfect” time and time again, but I want to really hammer home that how well and often you practice your business pitch can make a potentially life-changing impact on you and your business.

Let’s take the case of Aaron Krause, the man who created the product Scrub Daddy, a smiley-faced cleaning utensil that received a bid from Shark Tank investor Lori Greiner — and has been called the most successful product in Shark Tank history.

In addition to having a phenomenal product, Krause’s differentiator was practicing his pitch in front of other people before going on the show. According to Krause, he practiced for months in local grocery stores where he was selling his product. In the process, he refined his pitch so well over a period of months that, when he finally appeared on the show, his delivery and demonstration was flawless. Shark Tank investor John Daymond said it was “like watching a live infomercial.”

Later, Daymond would say it was his favorite pitch of the first six seasons of the show. Daymond was beat out by Greiner, who invested $ 200,000 in exchange for 20% equity in Scrub Daddy.

The Takeaway

The more familiar and comfortable you are with your pitch, the more effective your presentation will be. Like Cuban said, there are no shortcuts here: You have to practice (a lot) to reach the level of familiarity and comfort that’ll result in a flawless presentation. And that flawless presentation could make you a lot of money.

At the end of every practice pitch, ask yourself what you would change about it. In fact, in certain settings, you might ask the people you pitched to what they would change about it. Use it as a learning exercise by reflecting on what went well and what you can do differently next time.

Pro Tip: Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki suggests that you throw away your pitch and start with a clean slate every five pitches or so. “Let this ‘version 2.0’ reflect the gestalt of what you’ve learned instead of being a patchwork quilt,” he wrote.

3) Tell a great story, and make an emotional connection.

While some presentations are more formal and have rigid structures, pitches tend to have more flexibility — and presenting your pitch as a story can be much more compelling than a list of facts.

One of the best showcases of how a compelling story can win over investors (and can even, in some cases, make up for lack of business acumen) comes from Tree T-PEE founder Johnny Georges. That pitch was the most emotional moment ever on the show, said Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary. “It actually is the reason the show won an Emmy,” he said. Shark Tank had won an Emmy for Outstanding Structured Reality Program in 2014.

Georges’ pitch began with the story of how he developed a business from his late father’s invention, a device farmers can use to reduce the amount of water wasted by irrigating orange groves.

tree-t-pee-shark-tank.jpg

Image Credit: Business Insider

The investors liked the technology and the patient, but they told Georges they were disappointed by his lack of drive to make these devices more profitable.

Georges’ response? He launched into a powerful story of why he believes so strongly in helping his fellow farmers and carrying on his father’s legacy. “It was a particularly powerful moment in Shark Tank,” said O’Leary, “and no one’s going to forget it. Every Shark had a tear in their eye, including me. He is a great soul, that man.”

A guest investor on the show that day, Paul DeJoria, ended up investing $ 150,000 for 20% equity.

The Takeaway

This story isn’t about how to make up for not being business-savvy. But it is a powerful example of how making an emotional connection with the investors and connecting with them on a human level can make a big difference in the outcome of your pitch.

Remember: People tend to react emotionally first, and then rationalize logically. Research shows that even decisions we believe are logical ones are arguably always based on emotion.

“People cannot run emotion and logic at the same time,” wrote Martin Soorjoo, author of Here’s the Pitch: How to Pitch Your Business to Anyone, Get Funded and Win New Clients. “This means that when you construct and deliver your pitch, focus on ensuring you achieve favorable power dynamics and inspire and engage your audience so that you keep them in the emotion zone.”

4) Promote yourself as a savvy business person.

The entrepreneurs on Shark Tank who’ve given the best pitches not only tell a compelling story, but also promote themselves as smart, savvy businesspeople. After all, an investment results in a business partnership — and investors want to work with smart people who know what they’re doing and can make them money.

Brian Lim is one such entrepreneur. In 2015, he pitched his product EmazingLights, which are gloves with LED lights in the fingertips that have become popular at raves and music festivals.

At the same time he pitched his product, he also pitched both the product and his own work ethic and business acumen. He credited the $ 7 million in annual revenue he’d earned through EmazingLights to his focus, passion, and long-term vision to beat out his competitors in the emerging rave apparel space.

“We own 80% of the global gloving market,” said Lim in his pitch. “The rest of the market is made up of four or five of our competitors, and I guarantee they do not operate at the same level.”

He used data to back up strong statements like these. For example, he started the company with $ 100 and has grossed over $ 13 million in four years while starting another supporting company for the rave community called iHeartRaves.

“In my view, the transient nature of it has me a little nervous, but I can see someone here who’s working his tail off, which is interesting,” said O’Leary before making the first offer.

The biggest compliment Lim received came from Shark Tank investor Robert Herjavec during negotiations on the episode: “You’re the real deal, man,” he said. “You are probably one of the, if not the best entrepreneur we’ve had here.”

Lim would end up making a deal with Cuban and Daymond, with Cuban giving $ 650,000 for 5% and John taking licensing rights and a 20% commission.

The Takeaway

Lim had a great business plan and the numbers and sales history to back it up — but where he really stood out was in selling himself as a phenomenal entrepreneur and potential business partner.

Investors know that the better their business partners, the less work they’ll ultimately have to do. Use stories about your work ethic and dedication to convince investors that you have what it takes to come up with new ideas and take on business initiatives intelligently, all by yourself.

(If you want to develop your own entrepreneurial skills, here’s a list of resources that’ll help you become more business-savvy.)

5) Make your presentation visual and interactive.

If giving a business pitch makes you think of PowerPoint slides and bullet points, then you’re doing it wrong. On Shark Tank, a common thread for successful business pitches are that these entrepreneurs make their presentations heavily visual and even interactive. In many cases, they bring products or parts of the product that the Sharks can actually touch, hold in their hands, and experience for themselves.

For example, Lani Lazarri, who was 18 years old at the time, gave a thorough demonstration of her line of skincare products called Simple Sugars. Early on in the presentation, she asks one of the investors Laurie Geiner to come up to her table and try the product for herself.

Lani gave Laurie a choice of which flavor to try, and instructed her to add a little bit of water and scrub until she felt the sugars start to melt. She asked Laurie how it felt, to which Laurie responded, “It feels very, very soft.”

“That’s the oils in it,” Lani responded. “The sugar removes the barrier of dead skin cells that naturally sits on top of your skills, which allows the oils to penetrate your skin and provide that moisture.” The visual language helped the other investors in the room feel what was happening without actually trying it for themselves.

In general, you’ll notice that the vast majority (if not all) of Shark Tank‘s best pitches are highly visual and involve interactive elements like Lani’s. The only time you’ll see entrepreneurs use a slide deck is to present the name of the product, and sometimes to show different elements of it that can’t be seen in person.

The Takeaway

Visual presentations and physical interaction have positive psychological impacts on an audience. Research shows the longer we touch or hold something, the more we feel ownership over it — and the more we want it. And the more we feel we already own something, the higher value we place on it.

You can still use PowerPoint slides, but if you do, be sure to offer interesting visual and dramatic slide presentations. (And read this blog post for 14 PowerPoint presentation tips to make your designs more effective, along with free templates.)

Pro tip: Prepare a second version of your slide deck to send out later as a leave-behind that you can include in your follow-up to investors. Your two presentations should match in general flow and content, but the one shown in your live presentation should be highly visual, and the one to send later should have more words and explanations so it can act as a standalone presentation.

6) Highlight product validation by talking about early sales.

Some of the most common questions Sharks ask of entrepreneurs on the show are about sales:

  • What are your sales year-to-date?
  • What do you think you’ll do this calendar year?
  • What do you think you’ll make on it?

For investors, early sales success is one of the most promising signs of the product’s validation. It shows that consumers are already valuing the product and are willing to spend money on it.

One entrepreneur named Max Gunawan pitched his foldable lamp company, Lumio, to the investors on Shark Tank in 2015. In his pitch, he clearly illustrated how an investor could make money off his quickly growing company by explaining that he grew the business to $ 1 million in annual sales within two years.

All five Shark Tank investors offered him deals, and he ended up partnering with Herjavec for $ 350,000 in exchange for 10% equity.

Rebecca Rescate, who founded a toilet training kit for cats called CitiKitty, also used her sales numbers and projections to prove the value of her concept.

After fielding some jokes from the investors initially, she pushed through to explain how she’d made $ 225,000 in sales the previous year all by herself — and earned coverage in major media outlets like The Wall Street Journal to help create a demand. She ended up making a deal with Kevin Harrington for $ 100,000 for 20% equity.

The Takeaway

Along with a compelling story and presentation, talking comfortably about your sales numbers and projections is a very important part of your pitch. Without numbers to back them up, whether a person likes a product concept or not is fairly anecdotal. Investors like to see ideas that are backed by real dollar figures.

If you haven’t put your product on the market yet, you can get an idea of demand and promises to buy from your Kickstarter marketing. If nothing else, Angel Investor Tim Berry suggests bringing signed letters from future customers or from sales channels. “Distributors or retail chains are very helpful,” he wrote in an article for Entrepreneur. “And when possible, don’t just talk about documents. Take a picture and post it on a slide in the deck.”

Remember to be realistic with your sales predictions. If they’re not believable, then you won’t be, either. (Read this blog post to learn more about how to accurately predict your future sales.)

7) Come in with a negotiation strategy.

The negotiation is arguably the hardest — not to mention the scariest — part of a business pitch. One of the most common reasons why entrepreneurs fail to land a deal on Shark Tank is because they don’t negotiate well. Either they haven’t done their homework on the numbers, or they become indecisive or anxious, or both.

Brad Schultz, Aimy Steadman, and Justin Fenchel made up the three-person team behind boxed wine cocktail company Beatbox Beverages.

beatbox-shark-tank.jpg

Image Credit: Heavy

Let me outline how the negotiation went for you …

When the BeatBox team first entered the meeting room, they asked for $ 250,000 for 10% equity. During their pitch, they talked about how they initially invested $ 55,000 in the company themselves, along with an additional $ 100,000 borrowed from friends and family — which resulted in $ 235,000 in sales in their first 14 months.

“Tell me how you’re going to take it from $ 235,000 to $ 5 million,” Herjavec responded. Fenchel said that the money would be used mostly to hire brand ambassadors to set up tastings at liquor stores.

Another investor at the table, Mark Cuban, didn’t like it. “Your leverage points for any one store aren’t great,” he came back. What Cuban meant here was that getting products in even the largest private store doesn’t offer potential for massive growth, according to Business Insider‘s coverage of the episode. A better strategy, Cuban said, would be to bring their products to big events with thousands of people.

After some back-and-forth about promotion and distribution strategies, Fenchel and his team received a number of different deals from the investors that they’d need to consider against their initial request for $ 250,000 for 10% equity ($ 2.5 million valuation):

  • $ 400,000 for 20% equity from Barbara Corcoran ($ 2 million valuation)
  • $ 200,000 for 20% from Kevin O’Leary ($ 1 million valuation)
  • $ 600,000 for 33.3% equity from Mark Cuban ($ 1.8 million valuation)

Along with the offer, Cuban argued that the entrepreneurs should pick him because he thinks BeatBox has a shot at going viral in the same way that Skinnygirl did. He pressured Fenchel and his team to make a decision — and they were quick to respond. This is even more impressive since they were a team of three, but ultimately, they’d agreed to give Fenchel the final say without objecting.

Fenchel was immediately prepared with a counter-offer. “Would you do $ 1 million for a third?” he asked. Cuban said yes.

That was a successful negotiation. Here’s what a failed negotiation looks like on Shark Tank, where even promising entrepreneurs have missed out on deals because they were indecisive.

In this case, Lei Yu and Tyler Freeman, the co-founders of the wearable technology company DrumPants, are a prime example of this. They walked onto the show asking for $ 150,000 in exchange for 5% equity. From there, they received two offers: $ 150,000 for 20% equity from Herjavec, and $ 250,000 for 20% from Daymond. Yu and Freeman then ask if they can step into the hallway to discuss.

Back in the tank, O’Leary says, “You know what happens in Shark Tank when you leave the tank? Nasty, nasty things. What is wrong? You’ve got two offers. You’ve got to make a decision.”

When they came back in, Freeman asked Herjavec if he’d drop his stake from 20% to 15% for the same $ 150,000, to which Herjavec doesn’t respond. Finally, Herjavec — and eventually Daymond — withdraw their offers because the two co-founders were so indecisive.

“I think what your challenge is, and you’ve probably been hearing it your entire lives, is that you’re both very deliberate,” Cuban tells them before they leave the stage. “But that’s part of the problem, right? Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good. Right? Paralysis via analysis.”

The Takeaway

Before you confront your investors, you need to come up with a plan for negotiating. This is the part of your pitch where the stakes are very, very high. You’ll need to do a lot of preparation ahead of time. Make sure you’re totally familiar with your product or service, the industry, and the competition — including details like numbers.

You’ll also want to research how each of the investors you’re meeting with have negotiated in the past. If you know anyone who’s dealt with them before personally, get in touch with them. “Many negotiators develop patterns and certain styles that you may be able to use to your advantage,” writes Michael Sanibel for Entrepreneur.

Sanibel also recommends having the endgame in mind as you come up with your negotiation strategy. And during the negotiation, you’ll need to be prepared to go after a win-win situation, which could mean splitting the difference between your ask and an investor’s offer.

8) Keep your cool.

Giving any sort of presentation is nerve-wracking enough. But when you’re pitching your passion to people who are primed to be both skeptical and critical, it can really feel like you’re stepping into the hot seat and putting yourself out there. And when the questions start pouring it, it can sometimes feel like you’re getting “attacked.”

But keeping your cool can pay off big time. One of the biggest Shark Tank deals in the history of the show was won because the person pitching kept a cool head during a barrage of questions and expressions of doubt.

The deal was won by Andrew McMurray, the chief consultant of single-serving wine company Zipz Wine, who negotiated a whopping $ 2.5 million investment in exchange for 10% equity from Kevin O’Leary in 2014.

The Shark Tank investors had a lot of questions and concerns about McMurray’s business. Most notably, O’Leary argued that the founder of a very similar-looking company called Copa Di Vino had come onto the show twice and left with nothing. The investors berated McMurray with questions about his licensing deal, his branding, his pricing, and more.

Many people would have broken down under the pressure, but check out how calmly McMurray handled the negotiation.

When it came time to make a decision, McMurray made a quick phone call to check with his partners, but ultimately took the deal. He wouldn’t have been able to do it without his ability to keep cool and stay reasonable throughout the negotiation.

The Takeaway

While you may feel nervous, it’s important to keep a cool head during your pitch. If you’re visibly uncomfortable, you’re only going to make the investors uncomfortable — and they might see that as a lack of confidence.

The more you know your product and the industry, and the more prepared you were for the Q&A, the more likely you’ll be able to draw on what you know to offer answers to questions you expected and those you didn’t expect.

“Staying positive and not getting on the defensively will always lead to a more natural and approachable cadence to your pitch,” writes Ben Schippers for TechCrunch. If you get a question you aren’t comfortable answering or don’t know how to answer, don’t make something up or skirt around the issue. Schippers suggests responses like these:

  • “That’s a great question, give me a day or so to do some research and I’ll report back.”
  • “I haven’t approached my research from that perspective, I’ll be sure to it — great suggestion.”

If an investor points out a deficiency in your business plan, you might talk about how the investor’s guidance and capital can help turn those weaknesses around.

And hey, if things go poorly, don’t dwell on it. Learn from the experience, make identifying what you’ll do differently next time into an exercise, and then cut yourself some slack and move on.

What other tips for delivering the perfect pitch can you add to this list? Share with us in the comments.

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