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- Kimberly Mehrtens
20 Google Ads Callout Extensions Examples (B2B and B2C) [Infographic]
When writing ad copy, you’re working with a limited character count to get your message across — but there’s a solution and it’s called Google Ads Callout Extensions. Not only […]
- Alex Cox
7 Types of Graphics for Communicating With Your Audience (Infographic)
Popular types of graphics in content marketing include illustrations, infographics, motion graphics and print-ready materials, all of which help reinforce brand identity and visually communicate with audiences.
- Chad Hetherington
Building a Winning Customer Referral Program
Word of mouth is still one of the best kinds of marketing you can have. Find out how a great customer referral program can benefit your business.
- Dominic Tortorice
5 Google Display Network Best Practices Driving Campaign ROI
Deciding how to target audiences with your display ad campaign? Read about these five best practices for getting the most ROI on the Google Display Network.
- Ashlee Sierra
Why an SEO Content Brief is the Marketer’s Rulebook
What is an SEO content brief? Why is it important? Would Nicholas Cage steal one alongside the U.S. Declaration of Independence? Let’s find out!
- Stevie Snow
12 Video Ideas for Any B2B Business (With Examples) [Infographic]
Learn why video is such an important component of marketing strategies - and watch the examples that prove why B2B brands can’t afford to be camera shy.
- Michael O'Neill
How To Get Your Blog Noticed: 11 Clever Ways To Promote Your Blog
Wondering how to get your blog noticed? Rev up your search, social, email and link building campaigns to increase blog traffic.
- Christopher Powell
Your Content Purpose: A Guide
Knowing why you’re writing stellar content guides every aim at your business goals. Here, we read between the lines for five kinds of marketing content.
- Isaac Norris
Hashtag Social Media — Musings From Brafton’s Social Team — The Turkey, Twitter & TikTok Edition
Hello (Goodbye?), November! It’s been a big month for social media as an industry, with everything happening at Twitter and layoffs not only just in social media, but within tech overall
- Ashlee Sierra
Creating a Comprehensive Marketing Brief: 9 Must-Have Elements
A marketing brief is your roadmap from no content strategy to hitting every one of your KPIs.
- Grace Clunie
360i is Now DENTSU CREATIVE

Dentsu International’s Global CEO, Wendy Clark, and Global CCO Fred Levron announced the launch of DENTSU CREATIVE, dentsu’s global creative network, at Cannes Lions. Designed to unify and accelerate creativity across the business, DENTSU CREATIVE will serve as the sole creative network for Dentsu International working with clients around the globe.  In a bold move, Dentsu International has created an entirely new global creative network, uniting its creative agencies, including 360i, dentsuMB and Isobar, and expanding its Entertainment, Earned Attention and Experience capabilities. The launch is part of a broader strategy aimed at simplifying client engagement and injecting creativity in everything Dentsu International does, all backed by a depth and breadth of creative capabilities that are unparalleled in the market.  DENTSU CREATIVE is poised to transform brands and businesses through the lens of Modern Creativity, which looks to deliver ideas that Create Culture, Change Society and Invent the Future.  Led by Fred Levron, who joined Dentsu International as Chief Creative Officer in November 2021 and has demonstrated the transformative power of creativity throughout his acclaimed career; DENTSU CREATIVE will be comprised of 9,000 creative experts in 46 markets connected to 37,000 media and CXM experts across Dentsu International, and collaborate closely with Dentsu’s creative team in Japan.  DENTSU CREATIVE blends dentsu’s unique DNA of 120-year-old Japanese heritage and craft with its rich experience of building brands in the modern media landscape. Using customer intelligence to deliver ideas that are big enough to live anywhere, bold enough to chart new executional territory and rich enough to connect personally with millions.  

Read more about the launch of DENTSU CREATIVE in Adweek.  

The post 360i is Now DENTSU CREATIVE appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i
Adweek’s Social Confidential: How Sour Patch Kids’ ‘No-Rules’ Approach Hypnotizes and Delights Fans

Sour Patch Kids, everyone’s favorite sweet-sour candy, has taken social by storm. Soon after making Gen Z dreams come true with an Olivia Rodrigo collab that all began with a Tweet, the brand blew past one million followers to become the most popular snack brand on TikTok. How did they do it? 

Adweek recently caught up with 360i Social Strategist Shelby Jacobs to find out, as part of the Social Confidential video series that looks behind the logo to find out who is tweeting and sharing for major brands. Shelby dished on SPK’s most popular TikTok, the sweetest part of her job, her advice for fellow brand managers on social, and more. 

Head to Adweek to hear more about the strategy that launched SPK to 1.4 million followers.  

The post Adweek’s Social Confidential: How Sour Patch Kids’ ‘No-Rules’ Approach Hypnotizes and Delights Fans appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

360i was selected as one of 15 agencies to watch by Adweek’s Agencies and Creativity editorial team. The brand was selected for its mastery of TikTok, work for OREO, a track record of new business and extensive plans to make Preparation H a digital super star. 

See why 360i was celebrated for its ability to effectively tap into culture and connect brands with consumers in Adweek

The post Adweek Names 360i as a Creative-First Agency to Watch in 2022 appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

We’re taking a quick break from launching killer work for OREO7-Eleven and Burger King to welcome some new senior leaders to the team here at 360i and across dentsu’s creative offering, which also includes our sister agencies dentsuMB and Isobar. After a strong year of new business wins and organic growth, we’ve added some new roles and new leaders who are courageous, curious, and bring a can-do spirit to the work we do each day.   

Brian Eden joins 360i as Executive Creative Director after nearly three years at agency FIG. Prior to FIG, he spent more than five years at Droga5, and over the course of his career has worked with a range of clients including The New York Times, Hyundai, Ancestry, Hennessy, and more. In addition to picking up a Titanium Lion at Cannes for Prudential’s “Challenge Lab” and Best in Show at AICP Post for Zillow’s “The Journey”, his work has been recognized at every major industry awards show, including D&AD, One Show, and the Effies. Brian will be leading creative for clients including OREO, Kroger, and Pirate’s Booty.  

We’ve also brought on Bridget Jewell as Group Director, Social Creative. Bridget spent the previous eight years at Periscope, where she rose from her role as a community engagement strategist to become a Creative Director overseeing work for clients like Target, Ferrera Candy Company, and Hefty. Her work has picked up awards at D&AD, One Show, Effies and more. At 360i, Bridget will lead a creative team of 25+ and growing, tasked with creating culturally relevant and breakthrough content across social and digital channels for brands like Burger King, 7-Eleven and Kroger.  

Vasili Gavre has been tapped as Executive Creative Director for dentsu Creative, after working with brands such as Apple, Budweiser, Airbnb, Facebook, Nike, Unilever, and Vice Media. Vasili’s work has earned accolades from Cannes, Effies, D&AD, and One Show, to name just a few. As an artist, Gavre brings strong conceptual thinking with executional knowledge, innovative approaches and diverse perspectives. Working across the integrated agency network, Gavre will support 360i and Isobar – recently named one of Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators.  

And Jason Oke joins dentsu Creative as EVP, Business Leadership, leading a portfolio of integrated clients across industries like retail, food, travel, and finance, and helping build out the network’s integrated client leadership capabilities. Most recently, Jason was at WPP for ten years, in several global agency and client leadership roles including Global Client Leader for Walgreens Boots Alliance, Regional Managing Director for WPP’s Team Colgate-Palmolive in both EMEA and APAC, Managing Director of Y&R Hong Kong, and being one of the founders of Red Fuse Communications, Colgate-Palmolive’s dedicated, integrated global communications agency. Over his 25-year career, Jason has worked globally with many Fortune 100 companies, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, Nintendo, Starbucks and more. 

“From creating brand-building platforms at dentsuMB, to culture-rich campaigns from 360i, to experience-driven innovation at Isobar, dentsu Creative is fostering an environment in which talent with a wide range of expertise can do the best work of their careers,” said dentsu Creative CEO, Americas, Jon Dupuis. “The addition of proven leaders like Brian, Bridget, Vasili and Jason adds even more fuel to a year of strong momentum, as we build an unparalleled creative community where talent can unleash creativity for growth and for good. We’re thrilled to have them onboard, working closely with our CCO Menno Kluin, to guide our clients’ business success and our talent’s careers.” 

These new appointments follow a number of exciting developments at 360i and across the dentsu organization in 2021. In addition to landing creative and digital for a portfolio of GSK consumer healthcare brands earlier in the year, we were named Social AOR for Burger King in October. And our work is delivering. We launched the OREO x Pokemon collab, which has become OREO’s best-selling limited edition cookie to date; helped fuel 7-Eleven’s growth with their first brand campaign in years directed by the legendary Harmony Korine, and kicked off a spontaneous collab for Sour Patch Kids with Gen Z icon Olivia Rodrigo that had fans in a frenzy. More to come in 2022!  

The post 360i and dentsu Creative Bolster Leadership Team appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

Burger King has hired 360i to oversee its US social media account, a move the brand says is needed to bring a fresh perspective to its strategy.  

Ad Age covered the significant win as part of their weekly agency brief. The international chain acknowledged a proven track record since 360i already handles social for 7-Eleven and several other Mondelez brands including OREO and Sour Patch kids.  

See this lead story in Ad Age’s Agency News email newsletter

The post Burger King Taps 360i to Ignite the Brand’s Social Strategy with Fresh Perspective appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i
360i’s Ashley Evangelista Recognized on Business Insider’s Rising Stars of Madison Avenue

We are pleased to share that our own Ashley Evangelista was named on Business Insider’s 2021 Rising Stars of Madison Avenue. This list recognizes individuals that develop standout creative campaigns, use data in new ways, change business practices, and challenge the traditional agency model. Ashley does all of these things and more with her team at 360i. 

Ashley is a key strategic leader on several large accounts at 360i and most recently led the strategy for 7-Eleven’s first major brand campaign in nearly a decade. Check out “Take it to Eleven” here. Ashley’s achievements go beyond creatively solving our clients’ business challenges. She helped to grow 360i’s roster by bringing in consumer healthcare brands TUMS and Emergen-C. 

Congratulations Ashley!  

Read the full article on Business Insider

The post 360i’s Ashley Evangelista Recognized on Business Insider’s Rising Stars of Madison Avenue appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

This week, 360i launched OREO x Pokemon, which features a beautiful OREO cookie animation and OOH art display which is currently installed in Los Angeles. 

This work is an example of authentic brand alignment with the animation perfectly showcasing the artistry of Pokemon while still spotlighting the iconic OREO cookie. The collab is being celebrated in advertising trades and mainstream press.   

Witness how the hunt begins with coverage in Adweek

The post Catch ‘em. Then Eat ‘em. 360i Spearheads a New OREO x Pokemon Collab appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i
Ed Zazzera Joins dentsu as Head of Production for Network’s Creative Offering

We are excited to welcome Ed Zazzera as the Head of Production for dentsu’s creative offering. Ed will streamline, optimize, and continually elevate the creative output for dentsu’s creative companies, which includes 360i. He’ll partner with former DDB colleague and current US Chief Creative Officer Menno Kluin to build an integrated production process that ensures all parts of the creative machine operate in concert. Together, the duo will fortify craft and execution to produce bold, impactful creative ideas.

The former production lead for BBH and DDB joins dentsu Creative from McCann Health. Ed brings decades of dedication to executional excellence and numerous awards, including honors at Cannes Lions, D&AD, One Show, Clio, AICP, AICP Next, and the Webby’s, amongst others.  

Kluin stated, “This was a long sought-after role that required someone who can adapt to dentsu Creative’s unique integrated model. We’re a craft-first, outcome-obsessed network of creative companies that deliver everything – from big TV spots at dentsuMB and culture-rich campaigns at 360i, to experience-driven innovation at Isobar. Ed’s deep experience across industries, verticals, and disciplines will streamline these outputs and help deliver creative consistency across the network.” 

Most recently, Ed led integrated production on the highly awarded, The Unfinished Votes, campaign for Change the Ref, which utilized deepfake technology to bring a victim of gun violence to life to deliver a powerful message around voting and firearm legislation. 

Read more about Ed and his experience in Shots.

The post Ed Zazzera Joins dentsu as Head of Production for Network’s Creative Offering appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- 360i

360i Executive Creative Director Devon Hong shared his creative inspirations and what has shaped his personal life and career in The Muse by Clio. He has a lot of experience to tap into, including recent work on 7-Eleven’s “Take it to Eleven” brand refresh and various projects for Mondelez International. 

Check out his storied career from Spotify to Smirnoff here

The post 360i’s Devon Hong Shares His Creative Distinctiveness in an Interview with The Muse by Clio appeared first on 360i Digital Agency Blog.

- Mekenna Epperson

Research estimates that 80% of new leads will never result in sales, and companies that excel at lead nurturing will generate 50% more revenue with 33% less cost. How well are you nurturing your leads? 

When we think about lead nurturing, the first things that come to mind are to be friendly to your leads and answer their questions. However, implementing a campaign that makes people want to convert takes much more thought and creativity. How can you connect and engage with consumers and convince them you’re the solution to their problems? That’s where the marketing funnel can help.

What Is the Marketing Funnel?

The marketing funnel is a model that shows you how to appeal to consumers as they travel through the customer journey. It includes several stages designed to build brand awareness, engage with audiences, and ultimately lead to customer conversions. As consumers enter each step of the marketing funnel, marketers try to capture as many leads as possible to create a loyal customer base.

Marketing Funnel Stages

Successful marketing strategies cater to all funnel stages to reach users. Understanding each stage of the funnel helps you create individual touchpoints and appropriately interact with your audience wherever they are in the customer journey. Below are the marketing funnel stages and each stage’s goals.

Awareness

Awareness is the first and most crucial stage of the marketing funnel since it’s where customers first get to know your brand. The awareness stage encourages interaction and engagement. In this stage, leads are drawn in for further nurturing in the rest of the funnel. 

The critical question during this stage is how will you attract your audience? How do you get your content out to them? You can build brand awareness through content like blog posts, social media posts, and infographics. Webinars, special events, and advertising can also attract the right audience. 

The main goals of the awareness stage include

Finding your target audienceLearning more about their goalsDiscovering their pain pointsGetting your brand in front of them Interest and Research

After becoming aware of your brand, people move on to the interest and research stage. In this stage, they spend time researching and learning more about the company, its products or services, and any other helpful information the company shares. Companies now have the opportunity to develop a relationship with their new audience through classes, emails, and newsletters. 

People want to learn more about your brand during the interest stage. They want to know how your products or services can benefit them. The interest stage should focus on building trust with your leads. 

The main goals of the interest and research stage include

Interacting with your target audienceOffering solutions to their pain pointsGaining their trust Consideration

During the consideration stage, leads are now seen as potential customers. Leads that reach this stage are interested in your brand and ready to choose you over competitors. At this stage, keeping the relationship going and guiding them to make a purchase is essential. Producing targeted content and having meaningful interactions can help you nurture the relationship. This is also an excellent time to offer free trials and case studies.

As part of this stage, it’s crucial to clearly demonstrate the differences between your brand and competing brands. What makes you stand out from the competition? How can your offerings better suit the needs of your potential customers? Automated emails offering more information about products and offers can encourage potential customers to purchase from your company. 

The main goals of the consideration stage include

Continuing to build trustProving your brand’s valueConvincing your potential customers to make a purchase Purchase 

The purchase stage is where prospects make their buying decision and become customers. During this stage, the most crucial goal is positioning your brand at the top of prospects’ minds. Demonstrate how you can solve prospects’ needs and how to choose the right products or services to meet those needs. 

By this point, prospects have learned a great deal about your brand and feel confident in making a purchase. Make the purchase process as straightforward as possible. Ensure they know how to complete a purchase on your website or who to contact about a consultation. Include clear calls to action to direct people where they need to go to complete their purchase. 

The main goals of the purchase stage include

Simplifying the purchase processMaking customers feel confident in their purchaseOffering product or service support Benefits of the Marketing Funnel

Companies that spend time nurturing their lead relationships have a better chance of converting those leads into actual customers. The marketing funnel helps companies shift their strategies throughout the customer journey to target the right audiences and appropriately nurture their leads. Other benefits of the funnel include

Focus on the buyer persona. The marketing funnel helps you stay focused on the needs of your prospects and how your products, services, and content can relate to them. Simplify the customer journey. The marketing funnel helps you quickly see the entire customer journey to find the right tools and techniques for every stage.Better planning. By mapping out the whole customer journey, you can find any gaps in the system and fix them before they become a problem. Easier tracking. The marketing funnel helps you measure where you’re losing customers to help you adjust your strategy.  The Customer Experience Funnel

It’s common for brands to flip the funnel after a purchase is made. This flip, commonly known as the customer experience funnel, defines the process for turning customers into brand advocates. Creating brand advocates can refuel the marketing funnel through awareness and referral. The stages of the customer experience funnel are outlined below. 

Repeat Purchase

Once a customer has made a purchase, the next step is to convince them to return. Continue to nurture customer relationships through interactions and follow-ups after the purchase to prove to them why it’s worth returning.

Customer Loyalty

Customers develop a preference for a company during the customer loyalty stage and begin to identify with the brand. Building a personal connection is essential during this stage. The best way to build this connection is to develop a brand community, regularly engage with customers, and provide any needed support. 

Referral

Customers loyal to a brand are more likely to refer them to others. They may suggest your brand or products when asked for recommendations or share the word of your business with friends and family. 

Promoting

Loyal customers have the potential to become brand advocates. They may write positive reviews about your brand or products or share your products on social media, which can generate more leads. 

A recommendation from an outside source unaffiliated with the brand can influence prospects. To better support advocates, companies can build their communities, ask advocates to take part in case studies, and engage with them on social media.

The main goals of the customer experience funnel are to increase the number of purchases and encourage more awareness and referrals to fuel a new marketing funnel. 

Conclusion

When people are ready to make a purchase, they’re more likely to choose a company they’re more familiar with. The more people know about your brand, the more likely they will convert into customers. Therefore, understanding your brand and how it fits into a marketing funnel is essential for success. 

If you’re struggling to determine how to cater to consumers throughout the marketing funnel, Avalaunch Media® can help. We launch brands to their highest potential by walking them through specific marketing strategies and creating content that appeals to their audience. Visit our website to learn more about how we can help you navigate through every marketing funnel stage. 

- Mekenna Epperson

Landing pages are web pages that visitors “land” on when clicking on an email link or ads on Google or social media. While it’s true that visitors can land on your homepage, it doesn’t qualify as a landing page because they are designed for different purposes.

Understanding the differences between landing pages vs. homepages is crucial for implementing the right marketing strategies. The most significant difference between the two is intention. A landing page is a separate page created to promote a single campaign. It should have a solid call to action (CTA) and be free from distractions. A homepage is part of a larger website. It includes a lot of information about your brand and is designed to help visitors explore your company. 

The Difference Between a Landing Page and a Website Homepage 

Landing pages and website homepages may look similar, but they offer distinct purposes in marketing. Here are those differences and what makes them an essential part of your marketing strategy. 

Target Audience

A landing page is a page someone lands on after clicking on your ad. Paid ads let you target demographics to appeal to those most likely to convert. When you pay for a Google ad, you know what keywords people are searching for and what kind of people are looking for your services or products. This information helps you reach the audience who are more likely to make a purchase. 

People who click your paid ads during a Google search are more likely than organic traffic to be interested in your products or services and less likely to be interested in exploring your website. Because of this, your landing page should only provide the content and information they need to convert.

Most advertising traffic should be directed to a single goal-oriented landing page to maximize ROAS (return on ad spend). Homepage traffic should rarely come from paid ads. There are unpaid sources your homepage traffic can come from, such as social media and organic web searches. 

Homepages are meant to appeal to audiences who want to explore your brand. The information on your homepage should help this audience understand who you are as a company to build brand awareness. 

Page Goal

Landing pages and homepages should have different goals. The main objectives of a homepage should be to introduce and explain the brand and encourage engagement. Landing pages, however, should have one specific purpose. A landing page promotes a particular offer, product, or service rather than the brand as a whole. Landing pages focusing on a single goal result in higher conversion rates and, consequently, a higher return on investment.

The purpose of a landing page is to convert traffic. Homepages, however, have other uses. A homepage often has a navigation bar near the top of the page and can link to several other site pages or your social media or blog. The links on your homepage are essential for helping visitors navigate or interact with your website.

Landing pages shouldn’t have any other links. The goal is to keep your viewers on your landing page until they convert, which means avoiding links that could cause a distraction. Try to give visitors all the information they need without visiting another page. 

Page Content

Some info on your homepage can be included on your landing page, but the landing page should only contain content related to the offer or offerings you’re trying to sell. 

Because you know what search terms and ads brought visitors to your landing page, it should contain content specifically related to those ads or terms. Don’t distract visitors with irrelevant content. It’s best to design your landing pages to help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for when they click your ad. 

Instead of including content to convince a visitor to take immediate action, a homepage should contain all of the information a visitor needs to learn about your brand as a whole. It should include links to other pages for visitors who are interested in exploring your brand and all you have to offer. 

Call to Action

Landing pages are action-oriented and should have some kind of CTA to encourage your audience to convert. Examples of CTAs include filling out a form, calling, or making a purchase. No matter what CTA you use, it should be straightforward, such as “Shop Now” or “Call Us Today.” 

On the other hand, homepages are meant to be a resource for visitors. While you can use specific CTAs on your homepage, they are not as crucial as on a landing page. 

When to Use a Landing Page vs. Homepage

Landing pages are more likely to convert than homepages, so you might wonder why a homepage is necessary. Your homepage is an essential resource, as it lets your audience explore your brand in a way that landing pages don’t. People can get to know your brand through your homepage. It can navigate visitors to visit your blog or “About” page, learn more about products and services, etc. 

Every website should have a homepage as a storefront for your brand. A landing page should be used to accomplish a specific goal, especially when running ads. 

Features of a Good Homepage

How you design your homepage will play a significant role in the engagement it receives. Here are some features to include on your homepage to make it more appealing to your audience.

Specific Business Overview

Your homepage should clarify your business and what it does. It should answer the essential questions such as who you are, what you do, and how you can help potential customers. Visitors should understand your brand from your homepage and feel encouraged to visit your website further to learn more about your offerings.

Design

We’ve all been taught the importance of a good first impression, which remains true for your homepage. Your homepage is an introduction to your brand and is often the first page people will see when they want to learn more about you. People aren’t likely to stick around if your homepage isn’t clean and easy to read. 

Spend some extra time on your homepage. Design it so people will feel like it’s worth their time visiting. People won’t take your brand seriously if your homepage gives the impression that your company is underdeveloped.

Navigation

A well-designed homepage will make it quick and easy for users to navigate your entire website. Visitors who land on your homepage should be able to access all essential pages, such as your blog, content page, and product pages. Providing easy navigation tools encourages quick and efficient engagement.

Homepages don’t need a specific call to action, but they should allow some kind of action. For example, you can include a contact form at the bottom of the page or provide links to contact pages. You don’t need to convince visitors to do something, but you should make it easy for them to know how to take action if they want to.

Features of a Good Landing Page

Because landing pages are meant to drive conversions, they need specific features to help customers complete the conversion process. Here are some factors to consider when designing your landing page. 

Focus

Landing pages need a single focus without navigation options or links to other pages. Before creating your landing page, determine the singular goal and how to achieve it. What kind of CTA do you need to add? What information is essential for customers to convert? Keeping landing pages simple is important; anything over and beyond a single subject detracts from the main objective. 

Interesting Copy

Sales copy is the most critical part of a good landing page. Design is essential, too, but words sell. Your landing page’s goal will help you determine what type of sales copy you should use. Are you trying to sell a specific product? Grow your email list? Bring in more calls? Knowing your goal helps write clean copy and encourages people to complete an action. 

Enticing CTA

Ensure your CTAs are accessible for visitors to spot on the page. CTAs that stand out on landing pages are more likely to drive conversions than more subtle CTAs. When there’s not enough contrast between text and CTAs, they can be easy to miss, and lost CTAs lead to fewer conversions. 

Conclusion

Landing pages and homepages are both valuable tools. Landing pages drive conversions, while homepages are a resource for visitors to get to know your brand. If you’re struggling to determine what to do with your homepage or how to design a landing page, we can help. 

At Avalaunch Media®, we strive to help brands achieve their goals. Our talented team of marketing experts can help you design your homepage and a landing page that will help you reach audiences for greater conversions. Visit our website to learn more about how we can help you bring in the right leads.

- Mekenna Epperson

Time management is a skill that can make or break your career. However, people aren’t born productive. If you don’t feel like you’re skilled in this area, the good news is that time management isn’t a talent — it’s a skill you can develop. We have some tips to help you learn about it and start utilizing it moving forward.

Benefits of Time Management

Learning to be good at time management can make your life easier in the long run in so many ways. Effective time management can reduce stress, give you more opportunities at work, and enhance your ability to achieve goals. Once you experience the benefits of this skill, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to learn it!

You need to manage your time effectively in every aspect of life to reach your full potential. Although your work-life balance makes it seem like your job and the rest of your life should be separate, one always affects the other. Both are elevated when you learn to manage your time effectively.

Stress Relief

No matter your job or how much you work, you’re bound to experience stress. At least a portion of that stress is probably due to a lack of scheduling and managing your time. When you learn to set goals and prioritize tasks, you are more likely to reduce stress and enjoy work more. 

Seeing your to-do list in real-time and blocking time to finish tasks can help you breathe a little easier and use your time more effectively. Be in charge of your schedule instead of letting your schedule be in charge of you. More than almost anything else, this will help relieve stress at work.

More Time

Creating a list of everything you need to do and scheduling time to do those things may help you realize that you have more time to accomplish your goals than you thought. It helps to write out your entire day and what you need to do at any given time.

The act of time blocking can help focus more deeply and finish your tasks faster — and with greater success. You can block out distractions because you know exactly what you should be doing at specific times. 

More Opportunities 

When you have more time, you may find yourself with more opportunities. These opportunities could be at work, in your personal life, or even both. You can grow and excel in your career when you know how to manage your time well. 

Your supervisors will start to notice that you are managing your time effectively, and they might start offering you more opportunities and chances to further your career and your goals. Being able to meet deadlines with aplomb once you know how to manage your time will show others that you are capable and responsible enough to take on other responsibilities and projects. 

Ability to Achieve Goals

Whatever goals you want to achieve in your life, effective time management can help you get there. You won’t be scrambling to find time to work on your own projects because you’re overwhelmed by deadlines and work projects. After learning how to manage your time with schedules, to-do lists, time blocking, etc., you’ll be able to start adding your own goals, both short- and long-term, into your life and shooting for the stars. 

Time management skills take little to no innate talent to develop, so don’t give up if it takes some time to get the hang of it. Keep working at it and see the difference it can make in your life.

Tips for Effective Time Management

Now it’s time to dive into our tips for effective time management. Implementing these strategies into your work and personal life can make all the difference for you. You might find yourself with more time to do the things you want to do, and you can finish work tasks faster and with more skill without feeling overwhelmed or rushed through tasks to meet deadlines.

People in your life might notice that you excel at time management, and they’ll want to know your secrets. It’s no big secret, though. Just learn some skills and integrate them into your life to create new habits.

Set Goals Correctly

While any sort of goal is a move in the right direction, it’s essential to set goals correctly. Your goals need to be achievable and realistic. You should set daily, weekly, monthly, and long-term goals. All of your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. You can then put your plans into to-do lists.

When your goals are too nebulous, they’re pretty tricky to accomplish. Solidify your plans and know what you want from your career and personal life. And remember, a goal that isn’t written down is just a wish. Write down your goals and focus on what you want to accomplish.

Prioritize Well

Once you have your goals, you must prioritize them. It can help to divide your goals into the 4 Ds of time management: Do, Defer, Delegate, and Delete. Do the most important tasks. Defer the tasks that are important but not urgent. Delegate tasks that are urgent but not necessarily important. Delete tasks that are unimportant and not urgent. 

After figuring out your tasks’ priority order, make a to-do list. Seeing your tasks physically written down keeps them at the forefront of your mind. Then you can cross them off as you accomplish them, which is good for your mental health. Just be sure to keep your list simple. If there’s too much, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged by a half-finished task list.

Set a Time Limit

Setting a time limit means you have to define your tasks well to get them done within the time limit. Setting time limits helps improve your focus and encourages you to work more efficiently. If you don’t control and define your tasks, they can get on top of you and take longer than they should.

Take Breaks

This might feel counterintuitive, but taking breaks is necessary for productivity. After each task you complete, take a break and let your brain reset. If you continually move from one task to the next, you are more likely to burn out quickly. It’s better to give yourself a rest.

Your brain cycles through rest and activity cycles. Every 90 minutes, your brain goes from higher to lower alertness levels. You’re likely using energy reserves when you keep working past 90 minutes. Even if you don’t finish your task in 90 minutes, you should at least be taking breaks that often. Let your brain rest and come back later, refreshed and ready to work hard.

Organize Yourself

Organization will look different for everyone. Find what works for you and stick with it. You can plan your week on Sunday and break down your weekly goals into smaller, daily tasks. Making your to-do list for the week will help you get your brain into ‘work mode’ and prepare for the week ahead. 

It can also be helpful to automate your emails. Most email servers allow you to assign labels and filters to send incoming emails to specific folders automatically. You can also create email templates to make repetitive emails easier to send. 

Get Rid of Non-essentials

Non-essentials is another way to say distractions. In either case, these are things that keep you from being productive. Checking your email every single time there’s a notification, getting sucked into conversations with coworkers, and getting hung up on small details in an attempt to achieve perfection are all examples of non-essentials. Each of these lowers your productivity and disrupts your flow.

Batch your emails and schedule specific times to answer a couple of times a day. Most emails don’t need to be answered immediately and can wait until your designated time for emails. If you know you’re prone to get sucked into conversations, try noise-blocking headphones or work elsewhere. In theory, striving for perfection is nice, but in reality, it can destroy your productivity. Strive for done, not perfect. Perfect is the enemy of good. 

Plan Ahead

This goes back to making goals and lists. Ideally, you should plan out lists at least a day ahead, but it’s even better if you can do it at the beginning of the week and the beginning of the month. The more you’re able to plan ahead, the more likely you are to finish your tasks and achieve your goals. Use your calendar to time block your work and keep track of deadlines that you need to meet.

Visualize how your day or week will go. Take a moment to close your eyes and see your day or week playing out exactly right. When you have that vision in your mind, you’ll have a greater drive to manage your time efficiently. While you’re making your plans, try to allow for buffers. Schedule to be finished with a task at least a day early, if possible. Then, you don’t have to scramble to meet deadlines if something comes up.

Poor Time Management

Poor time management can lead to some of your biggest problems at work. Successful time management can solve a lot of problems. If you struggle with it, you can experience poor workflow, wasted time, and loss of productivity and control over your day. All of these lead to lower job performance and satisfaction.

Beyond the lower job satisfaction, poor time management can also lead to decreased happiness in your life outside of work. When you’re missing deadlines at work, you might have to do more work on your own time and have less time to pursue your personal interests and goals. 

Poor Workflow

Your workflow suffers when you don’t use your time efficiently. When this happens, you’re more likely to be overwhelmed by your workload and miss deadlines. If you’re always frantically looking for the time you need to finish tasks, you add a lot of unnecessary stress to your job and your life. 

Workflow is one of the most significant indicators of your productivity in the workplace. If your workflow doesn’t look good, you don’t look good as a professional. Poor workflow can also make you appear unprofessional and unproductive to your supervisors. They might start trusting you less or overlook you for possible promotions.

Wasted Time

Time is a perishable and nonrenewable resource, and when you waste it, you can never get it back. You must respect time and implement good time management habits to make the most of such a crucial aspect of life. When you don’t know how to manage your time well, you’re likely to just waste a lot of time instead of using it wisely to achieve your goals.

When you get everything done at work in a reasonable amount of time, you have the freedom to use what’s left for your personal goals. Otherwise, you’ll be left to wonder where the time went and why you don’t have enough bandwidth to do the things you need and want to do. It can also lead to misery and dissatisfaction in your life.

Loss of Control

Eventually, a lack of effective time management can launch you into a state of panic and pandemonium. You can experience burnout and work imbalance. This loss of control can take a toll on your mental and sometimes physical health. You want to be conscious of where your time is going and how to use that time to best benefit you.

If you’re not in control of your own schedule, who is? Do you really want someone else to be in control of your time? Your answer is probably a resounding no. In that case, it’s probably time to implement some of the time management tips discussed above.

Conclusion

Time management allows people to do more work well in less time. While it’s true that everyone has 24 hours in the day, people who know and practice the techniques for managing those hours optimally can accomplish more than people who don’t. Time is too precious a resource to waste, so don’t spend it doing something that doesn’t add value to your life.

Did any of these tips resonate with you? What strategies do you use to manage your time correctly? Find the habits that work best for you, and run with them. You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish when managing your time effectively.

- Mekenna Epperson

Social media has taken the world by storm, providing many new marketing opportunities. As with all things, social media offers both advantages and disadvantages to businesses looking to market on social media platforms. Understanding them can help determine if a social media marketing strategy is suitable for your business.

What Is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing aims to generate leads and sales by creating content for social media platforms. Social media strategies can help you engage with your audience, improve brand loyalty, and ultimately lead to conversions. Your marketing strategy can be short-term or long-term, depending on your needs.

Advantages of Social Media

Many consumers spend several hours daily on social media, making it a great place to grab their attention and grow your business. Below are a few of the benefits of social media marketing. 

Free to Join

Social media platforms are entirely free to join. There are no signup fees — time is your initial investment. Some platforms offer premium or paid strategy options, but you can start small and gradually increase your spending. Generally, social media helps boost conversion rates and achieve higher returns on investment than print or search advertising.

Reach Large Audiences

Millions of people are on at least one social media platform, so it’s an excellent opportunity to reach many people interested in your offerings. Joining multiple social media platforms helps you expand your reach even further with more diverse opportunities to find and interact with leads. 

Not only can you target large audiences, but you can narrow your efforts to those specific people who are actively interested in your products or services. Many print ads are designed to reach as many people as possible, regardless of their interests. Social media helps you save your marketing budget by allowing you to target only those who want your offerings and bring in the more qualified leads with better chances of conversion. 

You can also use social media to target specific parameters unique to an audience, such as their location. For example, if you’re a small coffee shop looking to attract locals to your business, you can use certain hashtags and location services that social platforms provide. 

Awareness

Social media can increase brand awareness. It amplifies your brand visibility by grabbing the attention of consumers who haven’t heard of your business yet. The more engaging content you create and post, the more awareness you can establish for yourself.  

Connect With Your Audience

One of the most significant advantages of social media is connection. People all over the world connect through social media. It allows information to be shared worldwide and provides people with a sense of closeness. 

Unlike most other marketing strategies, a social media campaign can provide a direct line of communication between you and your audience. Through customer interaction, you’re able to gain a better understanding of what your audience is seeking from your business. There are several ways social media helps you connect with your audience.

Understand Your Audience 

Understanding your target customers allows you to provide them with more valuable content. It lets you tailor your content to their interests, which increases engagement on your business page. You can see who’s interacting with your posts and whether it’s positive or negative engagement. You can then adapt your marketing strategy to provide a better experience for your audience.

See Your Business From the Customer’s Perspective 

Interacting with your customers on social media can give you feedback on how they perceive your brand. Knowing how customers view your brand can help you make better marketing decisions. You can use this information to profit from the features people like and correct the ones they don’t.

Improve Customer Service

Direct contact with your audience makes it easier to resolve issues. You can speak to them directly and work with them individually to solve their problems. Customers are more likely to trust a brand when their customer service needs are handled in a prompt and personal manner. 

Direct Website Traffic

Social media is excellent for driving traffic to your website, as social platforms often let you post content with a website link. Creating captivating content may persuade people to click your link. Once on your website, they can learn more about and gain familiarity with your brand. Social media traffic can then bolster your other marketing strategies by creating relevant traction on your page. 

Create Organic Content

Social media allows companies to publish organic content for free, opening many opportunities to find low-cost leads. You can also publish content whenever and however often as you want. You can create videos, text, or photos depending on the platform. It’s a great way to introduce people to your brand and help them become more familiar with it. 

Stay Up to Date on Relevant Topics

Social media contains valuable data, including important information about your customers. Tools like social listening can help you discover what people are saying about your brand and competitors. Discover what people like about your business or what improvements you can make to better meet their needs. 

Through social media, you can also keep up with current industry trends. You can see what your competitors are doing and how you can improve your offerings to attract more customers.

Easy Access to Paid Advertising

If you’re looking to create something beyond organic content, social media platforms provide options for paid advertising. Social media capabilities vary from platform to platform because each one offers different paid advertising options. Paid ads get your brand in front of interested leads who haven’t heard of you yet, and these ads can be customized to appear in the feeds of people searching for products and services like yours. 

Disadvantages of Social Media

Like every other marketing strategy, social media campaigns have disadvantages. Disadvantages don’t mean your campaign won’t succeed, but they present potential obstacles you may run into. Here are some disadvantages to be aware of. 

Negative Feedback

People use social media to share their experiences, both good and bad. If customers have had a negative experience with your company, they may turn to social media to share this experience with others. 

Negative feedback can come in different forms depending on the social media platform. Facebook lets customers leave negative reviews on your business page. People who look up your company on Facebook can then access these reviews. 

On platforms like Twitter or Instagram, people can tag companies in their posts with negative feedback. Multiple people can then share these posts and spread the negative word. It’s especially problematic if influencers post negative feedback about your brand. Their followers, some of whom may be your customers, may stop buying your goods. It may also prevent new leads from shopping with you. 

Complaints and negative feedback are common on social media platforms. When people have a negative experience with a company, they may feel obligated to share to prevent others from having the same bad experience. 

Misinformation

Social media platforms are often filled with misleading information. People create posts with inaccuracies that others share without verifying their legitimacy. Someone can make up false rumors about your company which can quickly spread over social media. This can cause customers to cease business with your company or prevent future leads. 

Time-Consuming Campaigns

Social media marketing campaigns require a lot of time and attention. A successful campaign involves creating and posting daily content. It requires consistent monitoring and frequent interaction with your audience. All of this can be challenging without the right resources. Small businesses or companies with small marketing teams may find social media marketing to be challenging. 

If you want to run a social media campaign but don’t have the time or resources, consider working with a marketing agency. They can do all of the posting and monitoring for you, so you have time to focus on other business matters. 

Lack of Immediate Results

Companies expect to see immediate results when they invest in a marketing strategy. However, social media marketing doesn’t often produce quick results. Your campaign’s success cannot be determined by posting one piece of content; you need to post multiple pieces of content over time. 

Constant Need for New Content

As content consumption on social networks grows, users become tired and bored quickly and are always looking for new content. Many companies see a drop in social media followers after just a couple of weeks of not posting. People expect new content from the businesses they follow. You’ll need to post content daily to keep your current users engaged and attract new followers.

Vulnerability to Competition

It’s hard to hide your marketing strategies on social media. Your competitors are likely watching you and can efficiently study your strategy for their gain. They may copy them for their benefit and take you out of the market. Despite your creative campaign, you risk others using your ideas to benefit their business.

Bottom Line

Whether or not you implement a marketing strategy should depend on your specific business goals and resources. Every marketing strategy will have disadvantages, so don’t let them be the only determining factor when choosing a marketing strategy. Consider them obstacles and determine if you have the resources to overcome them. If you’re interested in diving into social media marketing and are unsure where to start, Avalaunch Media® is here for you! We can help you determine which platforms are best for your company and create ads that will entice your audience. Learn more about how we can launch your brand on social media!

- Mekenna Epperson

Your marketing says a lot about your company, so it’s essential to execute your marketing plans in a strategic way. When developing these strategies, your company will have to decide whether to use an in-house marketing team or outsource to a marketing agency. 

There are pros and cons to both marketing options; in-house marketing allows for better control over your marketing strategy, but a marketing agency will give you access to a broader range of marketing talents. To help you make the best decisions for your company, we’ve compiled a list of pros and cons for both in-house marketing and marketing agencies. Using this information, you can make an informed decision and choose how to move forward with your marketing strategy.

What Is In-House Marketing?

In-house marketing is when you utilize the people within your company or hire new in-house employees for the specific purpose of running your marketing. It involves building an internal team to create, manage, and maintain your marketing strategy — and very little, if anything, is outsourced to another company. 

With in-house marketing, you can have more control over things like content creation, task management, payroll, etc. An in-house marketing team only markets its own brand and therefore has specialized knowledge, but talents in an internal marketing department aren’t quite as diverse. When your entire marketing team is within your company, it’s easy to control projects from start to finish. It’s also easier to maintain the quality of your marketing implementation, as well as rearrange priorities and take on tasks that need a quick turnaround time. 

What Is Agency Marketing?

Agency marketing involves outsourcing your marketing needs. A marketing agency takes on clients and can handle every aspect of their campaigns, including email automation, social media, blog posts, website content, etc. In this case, your own employees do very little by way of marketing. This way, you don’t have to worry about hiring employees to fill marketing roles and can instead have an external group handle all of it. 

With agency marketing, you get access to expertise you might not have otherwise. Agencies hire employees that are experts in their respective fields. While choosing to go with an agency for your marketing means that you might have to wait for the work to be done, you can rest assured they know what they’re doing — and you won’t need to find employees to cover your advertising.

What’s more, the diversity you’ll be able to find in the talent pool of a marketing agency is unparalleled. You will also get to access software and technology that is relevant to your needs but could be expensive for your company to acquire. This helps your marketing campaign get in front of your target audience more quickly and efficiently.

Pros and Cons of In-House Marketing

Choosing to do all your marketing in-house has pros and cons. It’s easier to keep everything organized and together when all of your marketing needs are kept in one place and within your company. But marketing requires full-time attention, which can be a big lift for your employees. It can sometimes be too much if you don’t have a large in-house team or if your team doesn’t have the expertise needed to succeed. 

Pro: Workflow Speed

In-house marketing means every team member is focused on your business and only your business. If your in-house team is on top of things, they can quickly get projects done. Since agencies take on multiple clients at once, the workflow speed can be affected.

Pro: Communication and Collaboration

Communication is vital to successful project management, and collaboration is crucial for teamwork. When everyone is a part of the same company, already uses the same tools, and has the same company knowledge, it can make for simpler marketing management. The team can work on project goals and expectations together with fewer bottlenecks.  

Pro: Data Security

Data security is easier to achieve when you don’t have to share it with a third party. With an in-house marketing team, you can limit the accessibility of your data to those who need it while making it easier for the appropriate individuals to access it when necessary.

Pro: Brand Ownership and Knowledge

Since an agency usually has multiple clients, they have to learn to brand in several different voices, and there may be a number of people working on your messaging at once. This can sometimes affect the cohesiveness of your voice. Having an in-house marketing team means you have complete control over the tone of your marketing assets and the way your brand is presented. In-house marketers will also have a more sound knowledge of your industry, products, and services while an agency will require time to learn about them.

Con: Limited Resources

On the other hand, keeping your marketing in-house limits your resources. If your company is smaller, you’ll only have a small marketing team, which means you have limited skill sets available to you. Big companies can have larger marketing teams, which can require breaking the team into smaller groups for easier management, slowing down communication. Hiring a marketing agency can prevent this issue and often cut costs as well.

Con: Limited Suggestions

When your entire marketing team is internal and plans are only circulated through the company, it can sometimes be challenging to see the forest for the trees. Your ideas and strategies are created in an echo chamber, and suggestions can be limited. An outside perspective can help with this issue. A marketing agency will share suggestions and raise reservations about your plans, which can make your projects more successful.

Con: Lack of External Support

A marketing agency can bring in years of experience while an in-house team has only as much expertise as your employees have. Having an agency on your side brings in more expertise and unique contributions that can optimize your marketing efforts.

Pros and Cons of Agency Marketing

There are plenty of perks to outsourcing your marketing efforts to an agency. Doing so frees up your employees to work on other tasks and projects and gives you access to industry professionals and specialists you wouldn’t have otherwise. You can use their expertise to further your company’s marketing goals. In this age of technology, you can outsource your marketing needs to the best in the business, no matter where they are.

Pro: Fresh Ideas

When your marketing plans have only been reviewed by your in-house team, it’s easy to miss gaps in your strategy. Ideas can get stale when they’ve been suggested and reviewed repeatedly. Hiring a marketing agency allows you to collaborate with marketing experts who know your industry inside and out and can bring in new ideas and fresh eyes.

Pro: Deep Industry Knowledge

Marketing agencies hire people who are experts in their fields, and that expertise can be hard to match with an internal marketing team. Your company benefits from this deep industry knowledge when you hire agencies with successful track records. An agency also has a broader range of skill sets because they hire people specifically for SEO, social media management, content writing, paid advertising, and more.

Pro: Flexibility

A marketing agency can provide you with knowledge and support in specialized topics, meaning your team doesn’t have to scramble to learn niche information that an agency already knows. In turn, your team can concentrate on the tasks that fall within their area of expertise. This means your own team doesn’t need to worry about it and can focus more on productive tasks and provide greater flexibility. 

Pro: Creativity

Agencies have also cultivated and carefully curated creative tools over years of experience. Whatever task you throw at them, they have someone suited to take it on. The way an agency is set up makes it easier for employees to be creative and explore different options to best succeed at a task.

Con: Slower Communication

As we’ve mentioned, marketing agencies often serve several clients at once, and they have to prioritize their work to keep on top of everything. Because of this, communication can sometimes be slow. Prompt communication is more accessible when your team is in-house, mainly because many agencies use phone or email to communicate with their clients. Phone calls can be inconvenient when they happen regularly, and email can be a slower form of communication.

Collaboration can also be slower with a marketing agency if no processes exist. The back-and-forth communication can slow the process down, affecting your bottom line if you’re not careful.

Con: More Details

For an agency to provide you with the content you want, they need you to clearly communicate your goals. This often means getting a detailed brief to them for each task you need them to do. Creating a brief can be time-consuming and tedious without a system in place. An in-house marketing team would probably need fewer details because they already know the company’s necessary goals and tasks.

Con: Less Data-Driven

Because you want to keep your data safe, the data access you can give an agency is sometimes limited, meaning an agency may have to make decisions with limited information. Making a blind decision can affect your marketing efficiency and lower conversion rates.

What Is Hybrid Marketing?

If your company has a reasonable marketing budget but only has limited resources for an internal marketing team, then a hybrid marketing model might be a good option for you. This model uses a combination of in-house and agency marketing to reach your goals. If you do it correctly, hybrid marketing can be as effective as the exclusive use of in-house or agency marketing. 

Pros and Cons of Hybrid Marketing

With a hybrid marketing model, you have an in-house marketing team to handle the tasks that need to be done quickly and an agency to provide their expertise and experience in long-term goals. For a hybrid model to work best, you must ensure clear roles and expectations for your in-house team and the agency. Both sides of the coin complement each other to create an effective marketing strategy. 

Pro: Safer Data

If you choose to use a hybrid marketing strategy, you can make data-driven decisions without giving private information to a third party. This means that your data is safer and can still be used to make decisions that will benefit your business and clients.

Pro: Expertise Without Hiring

You’ll also have access to available experts through an agency, but you don’t have to convince them to join your own company to get their expertise. When internal and external perspectives are taken into account, you will be able to get more points of view and brainstorm more effectively.

Pro: Software Access

Many agencies have effective but expensive software. Hybrid marketing allows you to utilize this software without finding it or paying for it yourself. The agency side of your marketing team can use that software to find out how to elevate your business, and the in-house side can put those ideas into effect.

Con: Crossover

As with any business choice, you must set clear expectations with your in-house team and the agency. If you don’t have specific jobs for everyone involved, you might find that more than one person is doing the same job. In that case, you’ll be paying for the same work multiple times. 

Con: Expenses

Hybrid marketing tends to cost more. You have to pay both your in-house marketing team and the agency you’re using. Your in-house team could work on client-facing tasks while the agency works on your online presence. Before you choose hybrid marketing, you need to be sure that you have the budget for it. 

Developing a Marketing Model

Regardless of the marketing model you decide to implement, some factors are necessary for all of them. You need to have clear processes in place, increase transparency, and enforce clear communication. To develop an effective marketing model, you also must establish good contact, ask for regular feedback, use the right tools, and implement effective collaboration techniques.

Set Up Processes

Having transparent processes in place ensures everyone involved is on the same page. Set up a workflow structure that outlines how tasks are assigned, finished, delivered, reviewed, edited, and approved. Consider the timeframe to complete projects and who should assign tasks and check them when they’re finished. 

Transparency

Your employees are likely to be more productive when transparency is high. Transparency increases trust and improves relationships within your organization and between employees. Keep relevant information in an easily accessible place where all collaborators can find it and track how tasks are being completed. It would also serve you well to have regular meetings and even group activities to help your teams connect on a personal level.

Communication and Contact

Standard communication isn’t enough with projects like this — you need to encourage direct and effective correspondence. It can be helpful to set up a communication plan to make it easier for your team to converse with each other. Direct contact provides guidance, corrections, and other communications that should be private. Effective communication with clients is also essential, as it sets everyone up for success.

Be consistent and transparent in conversations with your contacts. This goes along with the communication mentioned earlier. Whether you’re working in-house or with an agency, the better your contact, the better you can build a strong relationship. You don’t want any gaps in communication because important tasks can start to slip through those gaps.

Regular Feedback

Regular feedback is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your marketing model. You should be asking for input from both your internal and external marketing experts. Everyone wants to feel like their opinions are appreciated, so be sure to consider all the feedback you receive.

The Right Tools

Integrate effective communication software tools to keep in touch with everyone involved in your marketing strategy. Many options are available that allow for intercommunication while also storing pertinent files. Using the valuable features of the right tools helps your team converse in real-time. 

Many teams find that communication software such as Slack, Google Chats, Discord, and the like are helpful tools. Emails allow for a lot of information to be shared, but it’s not always as immediate as the aforementioned options. Google Drive also provides a space for everyone on your team to share and access information and pertinent files.

Collaboration Techniques

You should also encourage creativity and innovation when you’re looking for solid collaboration between team members. Employees shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time finding pertinent information and tracking down task details. Open communication, clear expectations, and specific goals set your team up for success.

What Avalaunch Media® Can Do For You

Avalaunch Media® is a leader in the digital marketing industry. We work with a wide variety of client types and help them succeed in their marketing strategies. Our company has been around for over a decade, and we have the knowledge and talent to help your brand grow. Our proven strategies can help you grow your business in today’s digital marketing space. 

The Avalaunch team will walk you through every step of taking your company to the next level. We learn your business’s needs and desired outcomes inside and out and develop a framework that will take your business from start to finish. Collectively, we are passionate about marketing and providing tangible results for all of our clients, and we focus on sustainable and long-term success in marketing. 

When your company decides to use a marketing agency for your marketing needs, get the best of the best with Avalaunch Media®. Check out our website to learn more and see how we can launch your company! If you have any questions about our services, feel free to reach out. 

- Mekenna Epperson
Email Marketing and Marketing Automation

Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” — Bill Gates, 1996

Even though Bill Gates said this back in 1996, it’s still just as accurate today — marketing automation makes it easier to run a business and reach clients. In order for marketing automation to be successful, though, you need to have an efficient system in place. Once effective strategies are implemented, automation will help that system run smoothly. 

Marketing Automation Terms

There are a few terms in marketing automation that are often confused — email campaigns, email series, and automated email flows. They sound the same, but they are all very different parts of marketing automation. Let’s take a look at the differences between each of these terms.

Email Campaign

An email campaign is a one-off email sent to the general list of people. When you hear the phrase “email marketing,” it’s usually referencing this type of marketing. Email campaigns can be batched and blasted in terms of email sending.

Ex:

Sneaker email Email Series

An email series refers to one or multiple emails sent to a segmented list of a client’s audience. This list is based on the activity or opt-in of the contact. If customers are on this list, their needs or desires lead to a common goal. An email series can be scheduled but can’t be fully automated.

Ex:

Mother's Day blender promotion email Mother's Day blender promotion email Mother's Day blender promotion email Automated Email Flow

An automated email flow is an automatic process in which data initiates an email delivery to specific recipients in a timely manner without supervision. Data integration must exist to create a trigger that starts the workflow. 

Ex: 

Meal delivery email Meal delivery email Meal delivery email Projects to Avoid

Some projects included under marketing automation might come up, but they are not the same thing. A couple of examples are cold outreach emails and CRM management. While both have their place, they don’t belong in the same category as marketing automation.

Cold Outreach Email

Cold outreach emails are not the same as marketing automation emails. Cold email outreach is when emails are sent to people who don’t know the company yet. Marketing emails go to specific audiences who have already opted in to receive emails from the company. A cold email outreach message is for brand-new prospects.

CRM Management

Marketing automation is not the same as CRM, either. CRM setup, sales process/lead assignment, and attribution setup are not in the same wheelhouse as marketing automation. Many programs have capabilities for both, but Avalaunch Media® handles the implementation of marketing techniques rather than CRM management.

The Flywheel Model

The Flywheel model encourages a business’s organic and lasting growth. It has a holistic view of marketing efforts. Using it allows for more proactive, strategic thinking rather than reactive, under-the-gun projects. 

flywheel model

In Stage 1, you should include the following emails:

Browsed Abandon Flow (2-3 emails)Subscriber/Follower Flow (2-4 emails)First Purchase Offer Flow (2-4 emails)Giveaway Registrants Flow (3-4 emails)

Stage 2 should include:

Downloaded or Viewed Content Flow (2-3 emails)Connect on Social Media Flow (1-3 emails)Welcome/Re-introduction Flows (2-3 emails)Abandoned Cart Flows (3-5 emails)Incoming Lead Nurture Flow (2-4 emails)

Your Stage 3 should have these emails:

Event Attendance Flow, i.e., Webinar (2-3 emails)Post-Purchase Follow-Up (4-5 emails)Replenishment Flow (2-3 emails)

Stage 4 involves:

Upsell/Cross-Sell Flow (3-4 emails)Refer a Friend (2-3 emails)Monthly Promotions

In Stage 5, include:

Win Back Flow (1-2 emails)Sunset Unengaged (remove unengaged contacts)Subscriber Flow (4-5 emails)Cancel Subscription Win Back Conclusion

Marketing automation can be a good move if you already have an efficient system in place. It can make running a business more manageable because it will reach your customers without much work from you. Just make sure you’re clear on the different marketing automation terms and what doesn’t fall in that category. 

If you have questions about how Avalaunch Media® can help you launch your marketing automation, check out our website and contact us today!

- Mekenna Epperson

The year 2022 holds many new possibilities for search engine optimization (SEO). Every day, the practice of SEO continues to evolve as it becomes more complex and precise. For something that has only been around for a little over 20 years, this analytical tool has made itself invaluable to the online community. 

If you’re new to SEO, this article can serve as your guide to the latest SEO news of 2022. But before we go over that, let’s take a look at how far SEO has come. From there, we can move on to the future and possibilities of SEO. Keep reading to learn about SEO in 2022 and to see what the future of SEO holds.

SEO Getting Its Start

To understand the latest SEO trends, you first need to understand SEO in general. SEO entered the general lexicon in 1997. At that time, Google didn’t even exist. There were other search engines, but they didn’t have the complexity or power they do today. They acted more like directories. Because no algorithms were in place, there weren’t really rules for displaying results. As companies noticed their URLs weren’t as prominent as they would have liked them to be, the idea of SEO was born.

With SEO, companies were able to vie for that top position on the search engine results page (SERP). A new method of digital marketing was born as companies sought to outrank each other online. And while SEO might not have been one of the top marketing strategies in the late 90s, it’s definitely made itself a priority since then. By implementing SEO best practices, you can attract more attention to your business, generate more traffic, and benefit from increased recognition and sales.

SEO Hitting Its Stride

SEO is no longer a simple directory of available services and products. Today, SEO strategies can make or break businesses looking to make their mark in their chosen industry. Whether you’ve been using SEO and are interested in learning what’s new with SEO in 2022 or you’re brand new to this marketing strategy, here’s what you need to know about Google’s algorithm updates for 2022.

Accuracy

As Google updates its technology, SEO gets more precise — and with each update, quality content across your blog, website, and SERP meta descriptions becomes increasingly important. It’s essential to make sure your keywords, H1s, and content are all correlated so customers understand what services you offer. When people find content about the topic they’ve searched for, it keeps them engaged and active on your website.

Google also updates its analytic software — for example, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) — so you can take advantage of even more data. This data can be personalized to provide accurate results relating to your organization’s goals and metrics. By analyzing these accurate assessments, you can take stock of how well your website is performing and make necessary tweaks to increase your website’s performance.

Optimization

Just because you can find a way to repetitively use keywords to keyword stuff your page doesn’t mean you should; this antiquated practice is no longer beneficial and may even incur a penalty, as it violates the SERP rules. With more precise algorithm updates comes the need for better website optimization. Optimizing your website means ensuring each page is well-written, informative, free of duplicate content and repetition, and spurs the reader to action. Be sure to include all the critical points for top SEO performance — keywords, link building, original content, and working pages in moderation. Google will recognize your website as being well-optimized and reward you with higher SERP rankings.

Relevance 

As Google updates its algorithms and new SEO trends debut, they all have something in common — relevance. Google now works overtime to improve your search engine experience. This means matching information based on previous searches, page visits, and more. Suggesting pages and results combined with relevant search terms provides web readers, consumers, and customers with a more relevant and rewarding search experience. Consumers get more personalized search results, and corporations can get more relevant information.

Trending Features

While accuracy, optimization, and relevance are the SEO trifecta, many additional features contribute to an improved SEO experience. Here are some of the current SEO trends for 2022 that we expect to be around for a while:

Rich snippetsLong-form content“People also searched for” featureTraditional SEOCore web vitals

To capitalize on these trends, write quality long-form content that answers questions, utilizes keywords, and offers a great website page experience. Google continually updates its ranking factors, so stay on top of current features and always watch for new ones.

SEO Is Heading Places

With Google’s algorithm update earlier in 2022, things are getting more precise and fine-tuned. We can expect more accuracy, data, and top-ranking results.

Is your business getting the type of online traffic you’re expecting? Do you want to see better SERP rankings?  Are you looking to captivate more web readers and turn them into customers? All of this is possible with the help of Avalaunch Media®. We are a full-service performance marketing agency specializing in SEO. Our goal is to launch people and businesses through exceptional work quality and skilled implementation strategies. Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help your business excel online. We’ll walk you through current SEO trends, help you learn SEO 2022 tips and tricks, and stick with you through any changes expected in the future of SEO.

- Mekenna Epperson

Customer lifecycle marketing recognizes that different marketing strategies are necessary at every stage of a customer’s brand journey. Lifecycle marketing differs from the buyer experience; turning consumers into loyal, active customers takes time and trust. It can be challenging to win people over immediately, but you can employ lifecycle marketing strategies to attract and retain buyers after their initial purchase.

What Is Customer Lifecycle Marketing?

Lifecycle marketing is the combination of strategies companies use to positively influence customer behavior as they progress through every stage of the marketing cycle. Lifecycles can be long or short, but no matter the cycle length, several stages make up a lifecycle marketing plan. Understanding these stages allows you to target each audience’s specific needs at each stage, regardless of whether your prospects are new leads, first-time buyers, or repeat customers.

Lifecycle Marketing Stages

Marketers have created many methods for increasing profits and have used numerous tools to reach customers. In lifecycle marketing, stages play a unique role, and marketing is viewed as a journey. Each stage of the lifecycle is unique and requires a different approach. These stages include:

Brand awarenessCustomer engagementEvaluation PurchaseCustomer retentionBrand loyalty  Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is the first stage of the customer lifecycle and is where your relationship with the customer begins. Awareness is the stage at which customers start learning about your brand. The most challenging part of this stage is making your brand stand out from the competition, as potential customers receive hundreds of marketing messages daily. 

Customer Engagement

During the engagement stage, people will begin interacting with your brand. The customer is interested in your offerings and wants to find out more by following you on social media, signing up for your email newsletter, or looking at your website. People will also often start paying closer attention to what others say about your brand and how you respond to customer complaints or requests. 

Evaluation

The evaluation stage is where customers decide whether to purchase from your brand. They may look at company reviews, research, or check their gut before making final purchase decisions. Providing digital self-services, such as FAQs or review sections, can help customers trying to find answers themselves. Ensure easy access to information that will help prospects compare features and prices.

Purchase

The purchase stage is where people make their final buying decision. People who make it through this stage are now your customers. You don’t need to promote your brand during this stage, but you should strive to make the purchase process as painless and straightforward as possible. 

Customer Retention

The most important thing you can do to retain customers is meet their needs post-purchase. Many people won’t return after their first purchase if they don’t feel like they have access to needed support. It’s essential to follow up and provide support where necessary to ensure their satisfaction. Following up is an easy way to prove to your customers that you value them. 

Brand Loyalty

Customers reach this stage when they are so happy with your brand that they spread the word. Continuing to provide quality service and support and nurturing a connection with customers can create an emotional bond that will keep them coming back. Don’t forget about customers once they’ve made purchases. Strengthening relationships with current customers not only encourages people to continue shopping with your company but may also convince them to bring in new prospects.

Customer Lifecycle Marketing Strategy 

Strategy drives successful lifecycle marketing campaigns. A good strategic plan helps you build your customer base, convert one-time purchasers into repeat customers, and improve your customer lifetime value. You’ll have difficulty bringing in the right leads and may waste a lot of your budget without proper strategies.

The best marketing strategies plan for customer interactions at every stage of the lifecycle. Here’s how you can apply proper strategy through every stage. 

Brand Awareness Strategy 

Creating visual, shareable content helps you attract more people from your target audience. Some brand awareness strategies include:

Creating buyer personas to understand your target audience better.Launching social media ads that will stand out to customers.Researching and incorporating keywords in your content that relate to your audience.Working with influencers to promote your products to your audience. Creating blog posts that address the common problems your prospects may have.

Although acquiring new customers is crucial, many companies spend too much time and effort on this stage. Don’t exhaust all your resources acquiring new customers; ensure you have enough time and effort for future stages. 

Customer Engagement Strategy

As part of your customer engagement strategies, you should direct visitors to your website or social media pages and provide details about your products or services that will convince them to choose your brand over your competitors.

Prospects often have a lot of questions during this stage. Provide content that’s easy to understand and gives precise answers to their questions. The following are some examples of engagement strategies:

Promote your product’s features through video demonstrations.Write guides or blog posts to provide answers to common questions.Provide long-form content that covers industry research or trends.Include testimonials and case studies that emphasize the benefits of doing business with you.Create landing pages that encourage engagement. Purchase

After impressing potential customers, the next step is to convince them to make a purchase. The best way to do this is to make the purchase process as easy as possible. Compare your brand to your competitors to determine what prospects need to see or know to make a purchase. Some strategies include:

Presenting product features and up-front pricing on your website so customers can compare your products with others.Including customer reviews to provide customers with confidence in their purchases.Ensuring you can deliver a good customer service experience and addressing any post-purchase issues.Providing free trials to offer peace of mind with full investment. 

As with the customer engagement stage, personalization is the key to converting potential buyers into customers. Try to make prospects feel unique instead of just being another revenue-generating number. 

Customer Retention

Retaining customers costs companies less money than acquiring new ones, yet many companies aren’t spending enough time on retention. Most customers will make additional purchases with a company that offers exceptional customer service. When you provide top-notch service after a sale, you can keep customers, improve the customer experience, and ultimately increase revenue. The following are some customer retention strategies:

Provide discount codes or offers that can be applied to future purchases.Create targeted ads featuring complementary products and services to accompany first purchases. Give existing customers exclusive access to new products or services.Ensure easy access to support through tools like live chat, messaging, and FAQs.Create self-service options for simple service problems. Brand Loyalty

Many satisfied customers become brand advocates and tell everyone they know about your brand. These customers choose your brand over others and can drive sales as repeat buyers. Showing people you value their feedback is key to building customer loyalty, as customers are more likely to stay with a brand they trust. Here are some brand loyalty strategies:

Offer free products or discount codes as incentives for sharing reviews.Provide exclusive features for returning customers or create a loyalty program.Offer rewards to people who bring in new customers. Create reactivation campaigns for customers who haven’t shopped with you in a while.  Customer Lifecycle Marketing Campaigns

Customer needs evolve through each stage of the lifecycle, and implementing a customer lifecycle marketing campaign is the most efficient way to address these needs. Segmenting your audience based on their place in the customer journey allows you to build a proper relationship based on their individual needs. 

Providing consistent value across all lifecycle channels can help you attract new customers and establish repeat buyers. Creating a captivating campaign while targeting the proper lifecycle stage can be challenging but worth it, as you’re likely to boost customer loyalty and referrals and reach revenue goals. 

Here are some examples of campaigns for every lifecycle stage.

Brand Awareness Campaign

Creating blogs that rank high in SERPs provides customers with the information they may be looking for. When they read your blog, they are introduced to your website and get a feel for your brand. It may also be beneficial to include easy links to let people learn more about your product or make a purchase.

Customer Engagement Campaign

Provide a pop-up for people to enter their information while reading blogs on your website, such as their email addresses. Encourage them to fill out the form to receive more information on what they’re reading and how your offerings can meet their needs. 

Purchase Campaign

Make the purchase process as easy as possible. You can simplify the checkout process by having shipping and billing information pre-saved for returning customers, so it only takes seconds to submit their order. 

Include customer reviews for your products or services so people can feel confident in their purchases. Provide links to related products on a page so people can easily find products that may complement the products they’re interested in.

Customer Retention Campaign

Provide an email confirmation that summarizes the order and includes the return policy and any additional information the customer may need. You can also send an email a few days later introducing a limited quantity of exclusive products that may tempt them to make another purchase.

Customer Loyalty Campaign

Create loyalty programs that encourage customers to continue doing business with you. A loyalty program example includes a point system that adds points based on the amount of money customers spend. These points can then be used as a discount on future purchases. 

Informing customers of how you give back regarding charity work or other social means may also build an emotional connection with them. Emotionally connected customers spend much more per year with a company than other customers. 

How to Boost a Lifecycle Marketing Campaign

Here’s a quick list of ideas for bettering your lifecycle marketing campaigns.

Track the percentage of clients who return to your site to make additional purchases to measure customer loyalty. Compare the number of new and returning customers to determine the share of repeat buyers.Try to collect contact information from people who visit your site, such as options for subscribing to your email list. This can help you grow your brand awareness and engagement and encourage customers to purchase from your website. Track how much money returning customers are spending on repeat purchases. Experiment with loyalty offers that can increase purchases.Send newsletters to customers even after they’ve made a purchase, as this will keep your brand in mind for future purchases.Provide exclusive offers and loyalty programs to make every customer feel valued. Customers who feel important to a company are more likely to make additional purchases. Lifecycle Email Marketing

Emails play a considerable role in marketing and can benefit from the customer lifecycle. Knowing where your customers are in the lifecycle can guide the type of emails you send. You can send several kinds of emails, such as welcome emails, promotional content, newsletters, and surveys. Sending emails at the right time is crucial so they don’t get buried in peoples’ inboxes. They should also be interesting enough to make people want to open them. 

Welcome Emails

Your welcome email is the first email you send to new subscribers and is the beginning of your relationship with them. This email should be a major area of focus. The way you encourage future engagement is an essential factor in winning them over as a client. Are there any coupons you can provide for a discount on their first purchase? Is there any news you need to share? Is there a deal on a specific product they won’t want to miss?

Promotional Emails

Promotional emails build customer retention by incentivizing customers to continue purchasing from your brand instead of the competition. Promotional emails often include a discount code to encourage current customers to make additional purchases. They can also be used to announce an exclusive product or offer only available to existing customers.

Newsletters

Companies use newsletters to discuss information with customers. This information can be about significant company changes, announcing new blog posts, or discussing industry topics. Newsletters are often longer than other emails and should contain engaging content and calls to action to learn more. 

Re-Engagement Emails

Sending an email to customers who haven’t visited the website in a while may convince them to return. People are often busy in their day-to-day lives and sometimes need a quick reminder that you still value them as customers. 

How to Improve Your Email Campaign

Don’t get discouraged if your email rates are low. There are a few ways to improve your email campaigns and make enticing email content people want to open. Here are some options to try:

Make sure your subject lines have a good length, message, and sufficient context.Ensure the preheader text is as eye-catching as possible.Add attention-grabbing designs, including videos and graphics. Personalize the emails with the customer’s name.Provide a clear CTA.Test and compare new send-out times, such as Saturday morning vs. Friday night, to see when you get a higher open rate. Why Is Lifecycle Marketing Important?

Understanding the customer lifecycle is essential for properly reaching out to customers. During some stages of the lifecycle, prospects may be interested but questioning your brand, while in other stages, customers may have made a purchase and need an incentive to return. 

If someone just discovered your brand, you’re better off telling them about the benefits of your product instead of trying to convince them to make a purchase immediately. However, repeat customers don’t need to be reminded of product benefits continually. It’s better to provide exclusive deals and loyalty program offers to existing customers.

Because of all this, each stage requires its own marketing strategy. Using the correct type of content at the right time can enhance the customer experience, as it proves to customers that you are more concerned with meeting their needs and answering their questions than using them to make a profit.

Implement Lifecycle Marketing Strategies In Your Marketing Campaigns

Now that you know all of the benefits and stages of lifecycle marketing, the next step is implementing it in your company’s marketing campaigns. Begin mapping out the customer lifecycle and determining how to use these stages and strategies to better your marketing efforts. 

Investing in a marketing agency can help you correctly target customers throughout the customer lifecycle. Avalaunch Media is a full-service marketing agency ready to help you reach your audience at every stage of the customer lifecycle. We are passionate about the marketing industry and are committed to maximizing results for our clients. We develop and execute marketing strategies to win our clients’ trust. Contact Avalaunch Media today and let us help you launch your brand.

- Mekenna Epperson

Your branding is what distinguishes your business from competitors and helps people recognize you in the marketplace — and it’s essential for your success. In order for your branding to be effective, you need to be familiar with the components of bad branding. Whether branding a new company or rebranding an existing company, learning from others’ mistakes yields valuable lessons. Keep reading for examples of branding gone wrong, how to avoid rebranding fails, and what to do instead to create successful branding. 

What Constitutes Bad Branding?

Lousy branding is any branding that attracts the wrong kind of attention. This could look take the form of carelessly designed logos, unintentionally hidden meanings in an advertisement, or any other oversight that is obvious after the fact.

In many cases, bad branding can be worse than no branding. Without it, customers may never become aware of your brand. With bad branding, you could be sending the wrong messages and inadvertently turning potential customers in your competitors’ direction.

The Consequences of a Poorly Maintained Brand

A poorly maintained brand has consequences. Perhaps the worst is the possibility of losing your core customer base. If your brand upkeep efforts are lazy or careless, you’ll likely lose touch with customers and see a downtick in sales, clients, and enthusiasm for new products and services. After that, if you can’t pull it back up, you could lose your entire company. Fortunately, it’s not too late to salvage a poorly maintained if you’ve been slacking as a company. We’ve listed some mistakes you can avoid and ideas you can follow through with below to successfully brand your company.

Common Branding Mistakes

With access to the internet and information about branding gone wrong, it’s never been easier to learn about common branding mistakes and how to avoid them. We’ve identified some of the most common mistakes and why these moves could hurt your business.

Cold Email Campaigns

Cold email campaigns are ones that target people who aren’t familiar with your brand. While these campaigns can be beneficial for exposing your brand to a new customer base, don’t make the mistake of trying to sell to them before you have established a relationship. If you do, you could be wasting your email marketing budget and end up in a spam folder.

Ignoring SEO

For many consumers, Google is the end-all-be-all. You need to know how to play the Google game to stay relevant — and to do that, you need to take advantage of SEO. Research relevant keywords and the way your customer base is searching for them so that you can develop a strategy that will capitalize on these terms.

Poor Web Design

Your digital presence needs to be strong. Web design can help you reach further than you probably could otherwise; developing an impactful logo, a memorable color scheme, and an easily navigable website can help you stand out in customers’ minds and increase your chances of conversion. However, poor design choices can have the opposite effect and reflect poorly on your brand. If a customer has a negative experience on your website, they’re unlikely to try again, so you’ll lose customers.

Inconsistency

Inconsistent branding is a quick way to kill your brand recognition. It not only makes it difficult for people to identify your business from platform to platform, but it also makes your audience think you don’t know what you’re doing or who you are. This may stir up distrust in your customers and give your company a bad reputation. You need to have a strong brand style guide and know what your company stands for so your marketing can be consistent wherever your brand appears. 

Audience Disconnect

If you don’t research the target audience you’re trying to reach, you won’t know how to connect with them. Being inclusive and accessible in your designs makes it easier to form connections and win over a wide range of people.

Insincerity

Your customers can spot inauthenticity from a mile away. Even if you get away with ‘faking it’ for a while, there’s always a chance that your audience will find you out, and then you risk losing them. Be true to your brand and trust that your ideal customers will find you. 

Being Generic

It’s really easy to produce generic content — anyone can do that. Your audience wants to see what your brand is all about. Check your logo, images, brand name, and marketing materials for anything that isn’t representative of your business or unique to your company. Your customers are less likely to care about or even remember a generic brand that makes no effort to be different from everyone else.

Bad Branding Examples

There are plenty of companies and products out there that need rebranding. While the brands below might not be the worst examples, they could definitely benefit from some professional help. Whether it’s a company that hasn’t changed with the times or a brand that has made oversights or rebranding mistakes, their brands have a lesson to offer. Read about these companies below that could benefit from a rebrand or that have failed in their rebranding to learn what to avoid in your efforts. 

Avon

Avon used to be the epitome of convenience with their door-to-door cosmetics that gave homemakers a chance to earn extra money. But now we have online shopping, which has become more convenient than door-to-door sales. In 2014, Avon had a series of bribery suits that caused its wholesome facade to fade. This former trendsetter could probably benefit from a rebrand. 

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson has had a scandal problem in the last few years. They had to recall thousands of bottles of baby powder because of traces of asbestos. Beyond that, the company has known about the asbestos problem for at least 50 years. Their family company image was hit hard, and a rebrand could help them get ahead of the scandal once the suits have been settled. 

Pepsi

Pepsi hasn’t positively changed its image in years. Their logo isn’t relevant to their product, and customers are noticing. They tried to rebrand in 2014 with a new logo, but it was considered a failure after the negative criticism they received. This attempt exemplifies how essential it is to get feedback from long-time customers when you decide to rebrand.

Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers is a company known for wellness around the world. When the company changed its name after 55 years, its customer base was confused. Changing the name to WW left people unsure about what they were advertising. The name change is considered a rebrand misstep, even though the company decided to keep the new name.

Yahoo!

In 2013, Yahoo! developed a marketing campaign around rebranding its logo. It spend a month building up to its new logo, but in the end, it didn’t up being much different from the original one. This left the customer base pretty disappointed. When rebranding, try not to hype up your audience if your changes will be indistinguishable from your original branding. If there’s going to be a significant buildup, your audience will expect a reveal to match the publicity. 

Why Rebrand?

Before you jump into a rebranding project, it’s important to figure out a timeline first. There’s a right and a wrong time for a rebrand, and taking that leap is a move that should be well researched and understood in advance.

Your “why” is the most critical part of a rebrand; if you haven’t yet developed an answer that justifies the time and expense of such an undertaking, take a little time to think it out. We have some suggestions on why you might want to reposition your business and rebrand. 

Your Mission Has Changed

When you change the way you do business, it changes your brand. If your brand and mission are misaligned, that’s a great reason to reposition yourself accordingly. A well-strategized rebrand will bring your business back in line with your mission. 

You Have a New Product

Introducing a new product or service may present a good opportunity for a rebrand. Adding a new product line or service could justify a rebrand to introduce the new offering and show how it relates to your existing brand.

Bad Reputation

If your brand has recently earned a negative reputation, a rebrand can help eliminate the bad associations and give you a fresh start if you give it time and thought. Whether you’ve experienced a scandal or been called out for your business practices, you can come back from it — as long as you do it properly.

Your Industry or Customer Base Has Changed

Most industries are continuously evolving in this technological age. If you notice that the new generation of consumers isn’t drawn to your brand, a rebrand could be just the ticket to getting new business and putting your company in front of fresh eyes. 

You’re Getting Outperformed

Sometimes, a rebrand may be needed simply because you’re not competitive in your industry, and your rivals are getting the better of you. That can happen even to the largest and best companies, but you can fix it. A rebrand will help your company to stand out from the crowd.

How to Avoid Rebranding Failures

Even worse than not rebranding when necessary is suffering from rebranding failures. Here are some suggestions for avoiding the common pitfalls and mistakes that are commonly encountered when creating or rebranding a company.

The Right Designer

You need a talented designer to make your rebrand come to life. They can use their expertise to make your brand exceptionally appealing, and they’ll be able to help you avoid design problems. It will serve you both better if you give them background information and broad ideas instead of specifics that will pin them down creatively.

Get Your Whole Staff Involved

You’re missing out on critical opportunities if you only involve creative teams in your rebrand. People from other departments offer insights from a different perspective and might help you catch mistakes or provide meaningful feedback.

Consider Your Customer

When it comes to rebranding, it’s vital to consider your customers’ perspectives. It’s easy to find out what they want by sending out a survey to your customer base; most people will jump at the opportunity to influence their favorite brands. Try to be as inclusive as possible when getting feedback, or you’ll lose out on opportunities to hear from broader audiences.

Think Big

Rebranding your company is an investment. You want to ensure that it can withstand the test of time in your industry. Use abstract imagery and a broad purpose statement rather than committing to a design that will date your company in a year or two. It’s also important to do your research so that you can expand globally in the future if that’s your hope.

Look at Your History

It can be helpful to look at your history so you can plan your future. Knowing the history of your company will help you avoid discarded branding and keep you from repeating rebranding failures. Instead, you’ll be able to concentrate your efforts on new, quality work instead of ideas that have already been rejected.

Consider the Competition

One of the most important things to consider when rebranding is your competition. You don’t want your rebranded company to look too much like a competitor’s brand. This can make your marketing assets look generic, which you don’t want, or it can lead to trademark violations and other legal issues. Your company should stand out from the competition and draw in customers with its own flair.

Think About Context

Think about your brand in every context; make sure that any acronyms don’t spell out something inappropriate and that there aren’t any unfortunate rhymes or unintentional messages. Your logo should avoid unwanted images in the positive and negative space and from any direction you look at it. Look up words related to your brand in different languages and ensure there aren’t any issues.

You also need to ensure your brand doesn’t touch on social or historical issues. To prevent that, show your brand to people from different generations and cultures. Do your research before you release your new brand.

How Avalaunch Can Help With a Successful Rebrand

If you’re looking to rebrand but are unsure where to start, our expert marketers can help. Avalaunch Media has over a decade of experience assisting companies with their brands and successfully helping them rebrand when they need to. We’ll help you handle everything from brand messaging and content to PR and web development. 

Check out our website to learn about our services and how we can help you elevate your business. If you’re ready to launch, contact us and let us do what we do best. 

- Mekenna Epperson

We’re halfway through the year, and many companies are paying close attention to their sales goals for 2022. Are you currently behind on your sales goals and looking for ways to catch up? You’re in the right place. 

Read on to learn strategies and solutions that will help you realign with your 2022 sales goals and keep you moving forward toward meeting your sales targets this year. 

Evaluate Current Progress 

One of the common mistakes businesses make with their goals is focusing on how far they have to go instead of celebrating how far they’ve come. The same happens with sales goals when businesses fixate on the end goal and nothing else. 

If you find that you’re not as close to your year-end sales goal as you’d like, take time to evaluate your current process to see the wins you and your team have had. This evaluation helps you appreciate what you’ve done and accomplished so far and can help you determine your real progress toward your sales goals. 

Do You Have Realistic and Specific Sales Goals?

As you evaluate your progress, take a good look at your existing goals. Are they realistic and specific so that your team can actually achieve them? Goals that are too outlandish or vague are challenging to achieve and hinder progress toward your desired sales numbers. Here are a few things to consider when determining if you have realistic sales goals. 

Business status — Are your sales goals aligned with your current business situation? If you’re a seasonal business, relying on off-season revenue aren’t realistic. Do you work based on contracts? Do you have high margins? These factors can affect your overall revenue and should be considered when determining your sales goals for the year.  Economic influence —  Has your industry been significantly impacted in some way? COVID-related shipping delays have disrupted supply and prevented businesses of all sizes from being able to fulfill orders. If you are dealing with an economic issue like this or operate in a highly competitive market, you may need to revise your sales goals to lower, more realistic levels.  Employee feedback — Your sales employees are vital resources when it comes to deciding on sales goals for the year. They often have valuable insight into which sales approaches aren’t working, which marketing campaigns are least effective, and which regions are the least profitable or successful. Enlist their feedback when you make your yearly sales goals, as they’ll have a better idea of whether or not those goals are feasible. 

Don’t be afraid to rework or redefine your current goals to make them more realistic for your company goals and needs. 

Are You Targeting the Right Audience?

Sometimes a marketing campaign has all the right pieces but still misses the intended audience. If you aren’t generating leads from the customers you are trying to target, it can affect your yearly sales goals and your bottom line. Your marketing efforts should focus on the right audience, so if that isn’t currently happening, switch up your strategy to reach the right people. 

Find Out What’s Going Right 

While you may be behind on your sales goals for this year, you’ve still made progress up to this point. Some of your strategies are moving you in the right direction toward meeting sales targets. Find the campaigns, sales tactics, reporting systems, and lead generators that are working and find a way to improve or enhance them going forward. 

Set New Goals 

In evaluating your current goals, you may find that they no longer align with your sales targets for the year. In this case, don’t be afraid to set some new goals. You could try a few different goal-formulating tactics, including: 

Readjusting your target revenue.Decreasing the time it takes to close a sale. Determining a close sales rate. 

You may also want to set short-term goals that play into your year-end sales goals to keep your business on the right trajectory. New goals could reinvigorate your team and inspire them to reach your new sales targets. 

Search for Expanded Marketing Opportunities 

If your sales goals feel wildly out of reach right now, you should look at high-impact marketing strategies that help you reach a larger audience. 

Here are some examples of high-impact marketing strategies your company could try. 

Be a guest on an industry podcast, or push an ad on said podcast.Partner with social media influencers to create sponsored content or product campaigns. Write guest posts or place sponsored ads on high-authority websites. Produce quality YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok content that appeals to current customers and reaches a new audience.Develop a PR campaign that boosts brand awareness and creates positive company perception. 

Remember that not every marketing opportunity has to cost a lot to produce a positive ROI. You could spend a little bit on a new Facebook ad and see double the interest in return. The goal is to find and utilize options that greatly impact your audience and sales goals. 

Utilize Your Network 

You don’t have to tackle your goal delay alone. You can use the network you have to reach new audiences, entice return customers, and boost your overall sales. Consider leaning on your network in the following ways: 

Brand partnerships with similar companies. An affiliate program with influencers, celebrities, or social media stars to promote your brand or specific products. A referral program that rewards your existing customers and encourages them to share your company with potential customers in exchange for free gifts, product discounts, or money off a sale. 

You could also partner with an agency like Avalaunch to help you take on all these options and discover creative ways to meet your sales goals. 

Look for Scalability 

There are likely aspects of your marketing or PPC strategies that aren’t generating enough interest or leads. When this happens, pull your resources from those strategies and put them toward ones that work well. While you can’t scale up every successful campaign, there are a few strategies you can employ to boost your most profitable ones. 

Focus on the campaigns that bring in the most qualified leads or the ones with the highest conversion rates. Increase ad spend. Create new offers. Target new audiences.

Scaling up your most successful campaigns can help you attract more leads, gain more customers, increase revenue, and achieve your sales targets — all things that help you get closer to completing your sales goals. 

Prepare Your Team

Did you know that 44% of sales reps stop contact after one follow-up? This lack of follow-up is typically due to inadequate internal systems that help sales reps succeed. 

You may have excellent sales goals and many new leads and customers coming in. However, if your team isn’t ready to accommodate these leads, you won’t be able to convert them to customers. When your team is adequately equipped to nurture these leads, it can help you gain new customers and meet sales goals. 

There are a few ways you can prepare your team to manage leads effectively. 

Streamline the Marketing-to-Sales Pipeline

The marketing team should be documenting detailed information when they get new leads. This information should include which asset the lead responded to, which product or service they are interested in, and all contact information provided. 

Marketers then send these details to the sales team to help them create more effective contact with the lead. Studies show that when sales and marketing are aligned and working together, they experience 38% higher sales and 36% higher customer retention. Those wins will definitely help you get back on track and closer to your sales goals. 

Classify or Rank Your Leads

Ranking your leads helps your sales team know which ones to prioritize and which will most likely convert. You can group leads by category, like what information they are looking for, which service they are looking at, or how they contacted you (website, email, ads, etc.). 

You could consider using a lead-ranking software that scores leads to help you identify the most important ones. Some of these software options include: 

Freshsales Salesforce Essentials HubSpot Marketing HubActiveCampaignZoho CRM

These software options can help you make the most of your leads and streamline the process of finding the most lucrative ones. 

Let Avalaunch Media Help 

If you feel frustrated about the lack of progress with your 2022 sales goals, Avalaunch Media is here to help. We’ll work with you to create exciting, innovative marketing campaigns that increase brand awareness, reach new audiences, boost website traffic, expand social media engagement, and more to get you back on track to meet your sales goals. 

Don’t like your goals and don’t know how to proceed? We can handle that, too. We help you make clear, realistic, actionable, and measurable goals that can get your business closer to your yearly sales targets. 

Contact our team today and let us help you launch toward your sales goals and beyond.

- David Cohen
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- Brandy Shaul
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Spotlighting Culture in Thailand From a Buffer Teammate
🖊️Learning about experiences and perspectives that are different from our own supports our journey of inclusion by reducing bias, building respect and increasing empathy, while providing an opportunity to celebrate our differences and similarities.At Buffer, we regularly share cultural spotlights from colleagues to connect our global team, and help us understand one another at a deeper level.– Katie, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Manager @ BufferSpotlighting Culture in Thailand From a Buffer Teammate

Here’s a slightly edited version of a cultural spotlight we recently highlighted from Ben, a Customer Advocate at Buffer.

I was born in Phuket, a small island in southern Thailand. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, is the second smallest province in the country, and has a population of 443,000. The island is a popular tourist destination well known for its beaches.

Spotlighting Culture in Thailand From a Buffer Teammate

Although I was born in Thailand, I didn’t actually grow up here. My step dad worked for an oil company and because of his job, we had the opportunity to travel and live in several countries. We left Thailand when I was four years old and moved back when I was 18. We lived in:

Shekou, China (for two years)Lagos, Nigeria (for nine years)Leysin, Switzerland (for one year)Cape Town, South Africa (for one  year)Education and work

I studied hospitality and tourism management at university in Bangkok but only managed to complete one year before having to put my studies on hold. I did have an opportunity a few years later to continue my studies but, at that point, I already had several years of work experience and I decided I wanted to continue on my career path in hospitality.

I worked in hospitality for around 10 years before transitioning to remote work for SaaS platforms (best decision ever).

Family life

Growing up, my family consisted of me, my mother, my stepdad and my two younger half-siblings (a sister and a brother). My stepdad passed away while we were living in Nigeria. My mother and brother live in Phuket and my sister lives in Winnipeg, Canada.

Today, my family is made up of me and my partner and our three dogs. We live in Nakhon Ratchasima which is in northeastern Thailand (about four hours away from Bangkok).

Spotlighting Culture in Thailand From a Buffer TeammateSpotlighting Culture in Thailand From a Buffer TeammateBen, his partner, and two of his dogs!Thailand’s history

In 1939, after several years of civil unrest, the government abolished the absolute monarchy system and we adopted a new constitutional monarchy. With this new change, the country changed its name from Siam to Thailand. Thailand means land of the free (Tai or ไทย, is the Thai word for free). Thai people are very proud of their history and the fact that we are one of the few countries in the region that wasn’t subjected to colonization (European rule).

Today, Thailand is made of 77 provinces and has a population of 69.95 million. Around 95% of the population are Theravada Buddhists and the remaining 5% are Muslim, Christians, Confucians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Taoists. It’s very common to find Buddhist temples, mosques, churches, and Sikh temples built next to each other (and there usually isn’t any conflict from this).

The official language of Thailand is Thai. There are four dialects of Thai (Central, Northern, Southern, and Northeastern or Isan). Each dialect sounds very different and because each is difficult to understand, most Thai people will speak the central dialect (the most common dialect) just to make things easier. Thai people love it when foreigners try to learn our language and are happy to take some time to teach you a few words. English is not an official language, but most people you come across will be able to speak some English.

The Thai alphabet evolved from the Khmer (Cambodian) alphabet and has 72 characters (this includes 44 consonants and 28 vowels). I had moved overseas when I was very young so I didn’t get a chance to learn how to read and write Thai while growing up. I started learning how to read and write when I was 18 and it took nearly two years for me to learn it. I think I only committed to learning it because I didn’t want to have to bring my mom with me everywhere to translate stuff.

Thailand’s youth literacy rate is around 98 percent. In recent years, the government has worked hard to ensure that all children in all parts of the country are able to go to school (or that there is a school near them). Education is compulsory up to the age of 14 and the government provides free education (in public schools) through grade 12. Although the public school system provides quality education, most parents will work very hard to get their children into private schools and universities.

Holidays, Festivals, and Events

An average Thai person works six  days a week for nine  hours a day (that’s a 54 hour work week). A person who has been in their job for three  years or less would have between six to eight  days of paid vacation time. The government has tried to balance this out by giving people more public holidays. In recent years, we’ve had 17 to 22 public holidays per year but employers are only legally required to provide their employees with 15 public holidays per year.

Most of our holidays are related to Buddhist holidays/celebrations or are important days related to the monarchy. A very popular holiday (for Thai people and tourists) is our Songkran Water Festival. Traditionally, we would sprinkle water on Buddhist statues and pour water over our parents' hands, But this has evolved into a full-blown water fight in the streets. We’d normally celebrate Songkran for three to five days, but some places in Thailand celebrate for a whole month (pre-covid).

Spotlighting Culture in Thailand From a Buffer Teammate

Another popular festival is Loy Krathong (it means floating basket in Thai). We celebrate Loy Krathong on the night of the full moon in November. We pay our respects to the water goddess by floating lotus-shaped baskets and releasing them into lakes, rivers, and the ocean. The baskets are made from banana tree trunks and banana leaves and are filled with flowers, incense, candles, coins, a bit of your hair, and your hopes and dreams for the future.

Spotlighting Culture in Thailand From a Buffer TeammateBen and his partner celebrateing Loy Krathong

People have been encouraged to buy eco-friendly baskets made from bread. And for anyone wondering, the baskets are usually collected at the end of the night by children in the community. They help get rid of the waste and get to keep the coins from the baskets.

When you’re invited to a wedding, funeral, or ordination ceremony in Thailand, you’d normally show up at the event with an envelope of money for the host. This confused me at first (when I went to my first wedding) but then I realized that this was our way of helping each other out with costs and expenses for the event. If you showed up to support someone, you can be sure that they’ll show up to your event to support you.

Food

Thai food is very flavorful and is usually made with many different spices and herbs. Our food is usually cooked in a pan, or a wok on high heat, and most of our dishes can be made very quickly (within 20-30 minutes or less). The amount of time it takes to cook something like a turkey would surprise us.

Rice is a staple food and is normally present at every meal. A typical meal would include 2-3 main dishes shared family style and eaten with rice. We like to say that you won’t really be full unless you eat your food with rice.

Spotlighting Culture in Thailand From a Buffer Teammate

Some popular dishes include:

Pad thai - a stir fried noodle dish with tamarind sauce, bean sprouts, tofu, egg, peanuts, and shrimps.Green chicken curry - a coconut curry made with green chilies, galangal, lemon grass, kafir lime leaves, and coriander.Tom yum goong - a hot and sour shrimp soup made with chilies, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass.Som tum - spicy green papaya salad.Mango with sticky rice - ripe mangoes over sticky rice covered with coconut milk.Cost of Living

The minimum wage in Thailand is 353 Baht per day or 10,590 Baht per month (around $9.30 per day or $278.94 per month). An average person in Bangkok working an entry-level position will make around 25,000 Baht per month (around $658). If you’re a Thai person earning this amount, this is barely enough. Over 85% of people in Thailand have less than 50,000 Baht (around $1,300) in their bank accounts and most people are struggling to make ends meet.

A lot of Thai people will end up taking out illegal or sketchy loans with exorbitant interest rates. The interest rates for these loans can range from 30-50 percent  per day. This means that if you borrow $1,000, you’re forced to pay $300-$500 per day as interest (until the principal amount is paid off). The debt is crippling and it’s very hard to get out from under it. Thailand is a very affordable country and the cost of living is not high - if you’re earning a high salary or are visiting from another country. But for most people here, if they want to have a good quality of life, the cost of living can be very high.

Culture

People in Thailand are warm and welcoming and like to resolve conflicts without confrontation. This can lead to many interesting conversations - imagine two people trying to resolve an issue without directly addressing the issue and continuously skirting around the root cause.

The most important values that Thai people hold are respect, self-control, and a non-confrontational attitude. Losing face by showing anger or by telling a lie is a source of great shame for Thai people. Social interactions are also less formal and Thai people like to approach everything with a “sabai sabai” mentality.

Sabai sabai is a way of thinking that generally means everything happens for a reason and that everything will work out in the end. It’s also like a reminder to not worry or stress too much and to let go of things we have no control over. It can be difficult for us to communicate how we really feel about something, and I believe this comes from our desire to ensure that everyone saves face and that no one is offended. We’re also a very open and accepting culture and we celebrate being different.

Fun Facts

The Thai Calendar is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar. It's the year 2565 here in Thailand.

We celebrate New Year's in April (during Songkran).

The sale of alcohol is prohibited on public holidays (which makes some people wonder why we even bother to call it a holiday).

Bangkok's real name is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit (pretty sure we hold the world record for longest name of a place).

Stepping on money and driving without a shirt is illegal. But, driving without pants is legal.

Thank you for reading! I hope this gives you an idea of what Thailand and Thai people are like.

- Umber Bhatti
How This Peruvian Small Business Creates Ethical Dog Apparel
How This Peruvian Small Business Creates Ethical Dog Apparel

Seventeen years ago, Patricia Queirolo was driving through the Andes with her family on their way to the Colca Canyon. A college student at the time, she was trying to come up with a business idea for her thesis project. Peering through her window at the beautiful Peruvian landscapes and the various animals grazing, including alpacas and llamas, it hit her: A dog apparel brand.

At the time, Patricia had two Westies and was struggling to find good-quality dog sweaters for them. She eventually turned her class project into a reality and opened up Alqo Wasi, or “dog home,” in Quechua, in 2005. Her small business's purpose would be so much more than just creating chic dog wear, it was also a way for the entrepreneur to spotlight both the Peruvian culture and its people.

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A post shared by Alqo Wasi Dogwear (@alqo_wasi)

Sweaters made with the Peruvian culture in mind

When it came down to actually creating their products, Patricia knew that she wanted to use quality materials that represented Peruvian culture. The Alqo Wasi team ran through a ton of fabric options until they finally reached a consensus to use alpaca fibers for their dog sweaters and organic Pima cotton for their tees.

For Patricia, the alpaca fiber fulfilled two main purposes. For one, it's comfortable for dogs to wear, but can also be easily laundered. But, more importantly, the alpaca is emblematic of Peru’s history, culture, and traditions, something that was important to the entrepreneur.

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A post shared by Alqo Wasi Dogwear (@alqo_wasi)

“My first initiative was to find a connection between my Peruvian culture with a good product that could be offered at a wholesale available price … with the best blend of materials,” she said.

Alpacas have been very useful to the Peruvian people throughout generations as they’ve relied on them as both transportation and food historically. The animal’s fur, however, has always been regarded for its high quality.

“[Alpaca] fiber has been used since the Incas, our ancient culture and our ancestors,” Patricia said. “The highest nobility would use clothes knitted from alpaca.”

Initially, all of the designs and styles of the dog sweaters were very much Peruvian, as Patricia wanted her products to represent her heritage. But as the business expanded, they realized that they needed to also expand their style range to cater to a more global audience. Even then, Patricia made sure to instill the Peruvian culture in every product they made.

“So we decided to change the designs and try to have a more global taste, but at the same time, accent some of the things that we have here [in Peru]: the manufacturer, the people here that do different roles like dying [the fabric], or knitting the looms,” she said.

That’s why Alqo Wasi labels their designs as “glocal” – as their dog sweaters are characterized by both local and global qualities, something that makes their signature product so special.

Creating close ties with local artisans

Each and every sweater produced by the small business is handmade by Peruvian artisans who dye and knit the fabric themselves. Patricia quickly realized that a major priority of hers was creating new job opportunities for her community.

“The purpose [of the business] kind of changed from just making a good product to committing to working with [Peruvian] people and trying to make their future better,” she said.

By employing artisans in nearby regions, including Lima, Ayacucho, Puno, and Huancavelica, Patricia can give them stable employment while also ensuring every sweater is made authentically. Over the years, Patricia has become closely involved with these individuals. She’s even been able to support multiple generations of families.

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A post shared by Alqo Wasi Dogwear (@alqo_wasi)

“Right now, I'm working with one family,” Patricia said. “And we work with the grandmother, father, mother, their two sons, their cousin, and mother-in-law.”

While the artisans' main job is to weave, knit, and dye the fabrics, Patricia makes sure to bring them in on all design decisions as she’s cultivated a very collaborative environment at Alqo Wasi. While Patricia usually comes up with the initial styles, everyone – including team members in marketing and accounting – has a say as the group works through swatches.

Patricia greatly values the artisans' input here, especially since they’re the ones who ultimately create the sweaters. She sees their relationship as more than just transactional, but like each artisan is a part of her family.

“As the owner of the company, I have a lot of pressure — but good pressure. The sense that [my employees] are relying on the sales that our company gives them or the work that we give them. So I think there's a lot of respect between us, and friendship, and a lot of responsibility that comes with time.”

Keeping Alqo Wasi small, ethical, and local

While becoming certified as a fair trade apparel company is difficult in Peru, Patricia operates Alqo Wasi as such and considers her business, “slow fashion.” Which is why she’s deliberate behind every decision she makes for the brand.

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A post shared by Alqo Wasi Dogwear (@alqo_wasi)

For example, not only is their sweater blend representative of Peru, but it’s good for the planet, too. Organic Pima cotton is made without any GMOs in Peru and is harvested on land free of chemical fertilizers. Similarly, the alpacas in the Andes are typically never raised or harmed for their fur. The animals get sheared once a year for health reasons, where the fiber is collected. Their fur causes less pollution to the environment compared to other materials, and Alpacas themselves have a light carbon footprint.

“The alpaca is a very kind animal for the planet,” Patricia said. “They say [their fiber] is more sustainable than cashmere.”

Patricia is also not interested in expanding the business if it means harming the quality of the product, or her employees. While Alqo Wasi has been offered to create white-label clothing for other brands, they’ve ultimately realized that kind of work doesn’t connect back to their mission.

“I think we always consider [white label work] and think, ‘oh, maybe we need this.’ You know, to sell more [products]. But in the end, I came to the conclusion that I prefer to grow slowly… I just don't want to put more pressure on me and my employees and I don't want to give them more work than what they can do.”

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A post shared by Alqo Wasi Dogwear (@alqo_wasi)

Rather than growing the business exponentially, Patricia is happy with where Alqo Wasi is now and believes there is immeasurable value to keeping things as they are. It’s not that she doesn’t want her business to grow, but that she prefers a slower, more steady growth. She sees that each year the brand is gaining more and more recognition, while still maintaining the quality of the product and the happiness of their employees.

🖊️Patricia’s mentality surrounding small businesses is shared by other entrepreneurs, as well. Check out our Small Business, Big Lessons podcast episode on why some businesses intentionally choose to stay small.

“We're a small business, and we've been a small business from the day we started,” Patricia said. “We want to keep it small.”

By limiting the size of the business, Patricia can ensure that she's never compromising Alqo Wasi’s core goal –  to uplift the Peruvian people, while also creating products that illustrate the country’s culture and traditions. In this way, Patricia ensures that she has the best interest of her employees and hometown at heart.

Interested in how other entrepreneurs run their businesses on their own terms? Check out our podcast Small Business, Big Lessons where we highlight successful small businesses that carved their unique path.

- Tamilore Oladipo
Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons
Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Today marks Buffer’s 12th anniversary. For the occasion, I thought it would be fun to ask my teammates about their favorite memories, stories, and lessons from working at Buffer over the last twelve years. I had them share one favorite story or memory and answer one question about Buffer's impact on their lives and how they work.

Here’s what they had to say.

Joel started Buffer in October 2010Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Joel Gascoigne

Role: CEO, Founder

Bufferversary: October 2010

Joel’s favorite memories

It’s been a long journey, so there are far too many favorite moments. Here are three:

The moment I first got a payment from someone I did not already know. This happened a few days after I launched in November 2010. It was the first time I had been paid for a product I created rather than for my time as a contractor. It was such a different feeling, I remember jumping around the room with joy. This was the moment I knew that Buffer could become something really significant.Turning down a significant acquisition offer in 2014. This is a favorite moment due to the reasons we turned it down. Not only did we know Buffer could be much bigger than it was at the time, we felt a deep connection and commitment to our values and the movements we had become part of (remote work and increased transparency). We knew our efforts and progress here would end if we sold, as no acquirer at the time was operating or interested in remote, and no acquirer would continue to operate with the level of transparency we had. It felt powerful and special to make a clear choice to continue on our path due to the impact we were having.The first time we did profit sharing as a company. This isn’t something we’ll always have, as we have natural ups and downs as a company where we may not be profitable. However, in 2017 we did our first profit share bonus, distributing $300k (12% of profit) across the 68-person team. The gratitude from the team for Buffer was incredible to see, as was the level of transparent sharing around uses of the bonus, some of which were incredibly heartwarming. This was also the moment I felt clearly that I wanted the success of this company to be of benefit to everyone involved, not just myself as the founder and key shareholders.

What's something that surprised you when you started Buffer?

Something that surprised me as we grew in the early months was how often scaling challenges and downtime could paradoxically be a good thing for us, so long as we reacted to the situation in the right way.

During periods of downtime, we would actually gain many loyal Buffer supporters. What happened was, as soon as we ran into issues, we’d divide up as a small team and have half of us focused on resolving the issue as rapidly as possible, and the other half focused entirely on being very responsive and transparent with customers. These became moments of clear community building, where we gained lifelong advocates.

The lesson for me in this was, ship earlier and more often, be ready to switch gears to crisis mode and do the best possible job of that too.

What have you learned from the way Buffer approaches work?

I’ve learned the power and effectiveness of genuinely trusting a team. When you create a strong culture that attracts people to it and you have a worthwhile mission that people feel motivated by, it’s wise to give the team freedom and trust.

We’ve made a number of choices that have been focused on trust and freedom for team members. The top example of this is choosing to be a distributed team in 2012. As a remote team, we do not track hours or even where someone is working from. We simply have a clear mission and goals we all align around as a team, and we get to work. The other more recent example is adjusting to a 4-day workweek in 2020. We believe that we can all achieve more in less time, with increased focus. In this way, through trust and freedom, we all get more time back for ourselves and our loved ones.

Adam joined Buffer in November 2013Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Adam Farmer

Role: Senior Escalations Manager

Team: Customer Advocacy

Adam’s favorite memory

One [memory] that sticks out to me at this moment is when I first met the entire team (at the time) in South Africa. There was such a flood of different emotions. I was struck by the fact that, yes, Buffer was a real company (I think everyone struggles with that a bit until they meet someone from the team in person). I was also struck by how kind and genuine the team was and how connected to them I felt even though I had only ever interacted with them online. In all honesty, it is pretty difficult to put into words - which probably makes this a pretty terrible memory to share - but that trip, those people, and so many memories of that time are special.

What have you learned from the way Buffer approaches work?

That it is okay to rethink and approach work differently. There are things that we've come to accept as being the "norm" when it comes to work. These things may have held value in the past, they may be the way that "everyone does it," and they may even be viewed as required to find success - but that doesn't mean they are good or even the way we should approach work now. There is room to reflect on these and curiously challenge the status quo.

Dave joined Buffer in March 2014Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Dave Chapman

Role: Senior Customer Advocate

Team: Customer Advocacy

Dave’s favorite memory

I'll never forget my first retreat and meeting everyone for the first time in New York.

What have you learned from Buffer’s values?I think the thing that I’ve learned is that it’s important that you allow culture and values to evolve over time. Through my time at Buffer (nearly nine years!), we’ve shifted how we think about our value of positivity, which has been key to overcoming some challenges we’ve faced. It’s important to be positive in how you approach things, optimistic, and so on, and aware of the energy you put out. But not everything is fun and exciting, and it’s unrealistic to feel great all the time. In fact, it’s not healthy or helpful to create an environment where people can’t express themselves honestly. Sometimes things aren’t ok, and addressing these things is what leads to improvements!

Danny joined Buffer in May 2015Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Danny Mulcahy

Role: Technical Advocate

Team: Customer Advocacy

Danny’s favorite memory

My absolute all-time favorite Buffer memory came from the 2017 retreat to Madrid. We'd had the team meal the night before, which is always epic, and the next day we all had a day off and got to choose which group activity we wanted to do.

Several of us chose to visit a sports pitch for a bubble football experience, and it was the funniest day I've had with Buffer. I don't think I've ever laughed so much as that day; it was an all-time classic and such a wonderful team-bonding experience.

Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons2017 Madrid meetup – Advocacy team

The team retreats and meet-ups that we go on are always special, but this particular memory stands out as one we often reminisce fondly upon.

What have you learned from the way Buffer approaches work?

After being at Buffer for over seven years, it's really been a rollercoaster journey through that time.

The thing that has stuck out to me has always been the fact that we stayed true to our values, even when our chips were down, and it's bad news.

In 2016, we went through the painful experience of having to lay off 10% of our workforce, which was a scary and tricky time, but even then, we stuck to our transparency value and shared this news more widely to our community about why it happened and how we got in that position. In doing that, we showed a lot of vulnerability and courage so that other start-ups could learn from our mistakes.

Later on, in 2020, I think we perfectly practiced our value of "Act Beyond Yourself. When the world was amid the global pandemic, we wanted to put others first, and we quickly worked together to develop a COVID-19 initiative. This allowed customers who were hit by COVID closures to continue using their Buffer accounts without paying for three months. This was something that was a benefit to our customers but clearly came at a cost to us, yet we wanted to do the right thing and go through with it.

That was something I was so proud to be a part of; we were helping others when they truly needed it. This proves that you can run a business on a different journey, and by following your beliefs, you can still do the right thing to help others, too.

Hailley joined Buffer in February 2016Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Hailley Griffis

Role: Head of Communications & Content

Team: Marketing

Hailley’s favorite memory

Once on April Fool's day, two of us from the Marketing team sent out a team-wide note that Marketing was now operating by lunar cycles, complete with instructions on how to add the phases of the moon to your Google Calendar. My favorite quote was, "We will be kicking off all of our new projects under the New Moon. During the New Moon stage, which is a time of recharging, all Marketing teammates will be asked to spend some time in the woods. We’ll be reimbursing all transportation and tent rentals for this stage." I still laugh when re-reading that thread!

We sent out a thread stating that we “really wanted to get more in touch with the moon” pic.twitter.com/ViRBgSYR6N

— Hailley Griffis (@hailleymari) April 1, 2020

What have you learned from the way Buffer approaches work?

I've learned a lot about staying true to your values from Buffer. It's easy to say that you are transparent, and a lot more difficult to hold yourself to that transparency when times are difficult. I've been with Buffer through several difficult seasons where we have still defaulted to transparency, and I'm proud to see us stay true to our values. One example is when Buffer was going through a cash flow crisis. Many non-public companies would keep that quiet and never share details, but we leaned into transparency and shared the whole story on our blog, and we had the most supportive response from our community and customers.

Dianne joined Buffer in May 2019Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Dianne McEwan

Role: Director of Engineering

Team: Engineering

What was something that surprised you when you first joined Buffer?How Buffer's culture and values are truly ingrained in how the team works day to day. Culture in a company is intentional, and to build the culture you desire, every decision or interaction needs to lean into these values. Our values are what make Buffer who we are today.

What have you learned from the way Buffer approaches work?Remote work is intentional, and intention is what makes remote work. In a remote working environment, you need to be more intentional with the culture you would like to build and how you want your team to work and interact.

Amanda joined Buffer in February 2020Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Amanda Marochko

Role: Senior Product Manager

Team: Product

Amanda’s favorite story

I was originally hired at Buffer to manage our relationships with our channel partners and third-party integrations. My role was embedded within the product team, so I used this as an opportunity to learn directly from the product managers at Buffer. Eventually, I was able to advocate for myself to transition into a full-time product manager, and I owe a lot of gratitude to the many folks at Buffer who mentored and supported me throughout my journey. I've never been happier in my career, and I am incredibly fortunate that Buffer gave me the space to grow in my career and take on new challenges. I reflect on this a lot, and although it's not one specific story or lesson, my favorite memory was the moment I was told that I would become a full-time product manager. It's changed the course of my career, and I've loved being able to work more closely with our engineers, designers, marketing folks, and product managers to build valuable features for our customers.

What was something that surprised you when you first joined Buffer?

Is it cliché to say how nice and supportive everyone on the team has been? I truly feel like everyone wants each other to succeed, and even though many of us haven't met in person, we have a level of trust and respect for one another. We show gratitude for one another daily, and it's deeply embedded in our culture - I haven't experienced anything like it, but it's certainly one of the things that make me value working at Buffer.

Arek joined Buffer in June 2021Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Arek Panek

Role: Senior Engineer

Team: Engineering

Arek’s favorite story

I'm a digital nomad, and my favorite part of working at Buffer is meeting other Bufferoos all over the world - it's amazing that wherever in the world you go, there's a high chance some Bufferoo will be nearby. And if not, someone was probably there and can share lots of recommendations!

One thing I learned here is it is guaranteed that people working at Buffer are genuinely lovely, interesting, and just great people in general. Everyone is usually surprised I'm pretty tall, and there were some good jokes about it - you can't really tell a lot about your coworkers' height if you work remotely 🙂

What have you learned from Buffer’s values?

I learned how to be a better person, literally! I noticed how my personal life changed as time passed when I started living Buffer values. I'm more transparent with everything I do and don't have any problems sharing that, I'm much better at showing gratitude - it feels so nice to be grateful for what other people do and share it with them! Since joining Buffer, I've also started reflecting on my work, career, and life a lot more. If you live these values, you are guaranteed to be a better person, and I love that.

Jacob joined Buffer in June 2022Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Jacob Chadwell

Role: Software Engineer

Team: Engineering

Jacob’s favorite memory

Getting to meet my team in Banff, Canada!

What have you learned about the way Buffer approaches work?

There’s a big difference between “working from home” and flexible remote work. Buffer approaches remote work in such a thoughtful way. Instead of trying to replicate an in-office experience as many companies have done post-pandemic, we embrace both the challenges and benefits of being a fully distributed, global team.

We strike a great balance of synchronous and asynchronous work and ensure everything we’re working on is transparent so that our teams never lack context. I feel like, for the first time, I don’t feel guilty when I want to go on a long walk with my dog or take a workout class in the middle of the day. We get to structure our day and work environment around what’s best for us, and that is priceless - something you really don’t find at other companies. The flexibility we have is worth every bit of flexibility we give up when we may have an early morning meeting for time zones or need to work a bit more for a week or two.

Tamilore joined Buffer in February 2022Buffer turned 12 today! Here are some of our favorite stories, memories, and lessons

Name: Tamilore Oladipo

Role: Content Writer

Team: Marketing

Tami’s favorite memory

Surprise, it’s me! This is super meta, but I wanted to jump in here and add my perspective at the risk of coming off like a self-insert fanfiction writer. My favorite memory that’s tied to Buffer is very recent and has a ton of backstory that I won’t get into. Short version: I couldn’t make the Marketing team meetup in Vancouver, and while the team did their best to make me feel included, I was bummed I didn’t get to really meet and connect with anyone.

But two weeks after the meetup, I received a package containing Canadian snacks, a cute t-shirt, and even the gratitude pen we passed around at the end, among other items. That act of inclusion was the kindest thing any team I’ve ever worked with has done for me.

What have you learned about the way Buffer approaches work?

That people are the backbone of every business. Without our customers, readers, and followers, Buffer wouldn’t be where it is. And the company’s approach to ensuring that people are at the forefront of every decision shines through in what we prioritize, our values, and how we treat each other.

Celebrate Buffer’s birthday with us

In addition to all the great reminiscing we’ve done about the past, join us on Twitter for the first Bufferchat in a long while (OGs know) to discuss where we are now and our future!

- Phill Agnew
Introducing Ideas: Creating Content Just Got 84 Hours Faster
Introducing Ideas: Creating Content Just Got 84 Hours Faster

Here’s one thing most of us agree on ... creating content is time-consuming.

Last month, I spoke to a bunch of Buffer fans and found that 71 percent wanted a faster way to create and publish content.

After hearing this, I decided to crunch the numbers behind content creation.

The average Buffer user publishes nine posts a day.

Usually, this involves loading up a separate platform where the content is saved. That might be a Trello board, a Notion doc, or a Google Sheet. It takes at least 90 seconds, to load up the content, copy it over to Buffer, check its formatted correctly, and to schedule it.

90 seconds per post might sound fast, but it adds up. Combined it’s:

An hour and a half each week.Seven hours a month.Or, 84 hours a year.

In other words, each year the average Buffer user will spend two-working weeks (84 hours), just copy and pasting content from one platform into Buffer.

I’d rather you save that time and take a holiday some place hot.

So, I’m delighted to introduce Ideas, the latest feature from Buffer.

The idea behind Ideas

With Ideas you can store all your great ideas, tweak them until they’re ready, and drop them straight into your Buffer queue.

That will save you two-weeks a year. No more copy-and-pasting from one platform to another, with all your ideas in one place, you can work faster and smarter.

With Ideas, you can capture and store your great ideas whenever they come to you.

Whether that’s on the go with our mobile app, around the web via our browser extension, or in the moment on the Buffer desktop app.

Introducing Ideas: Creating Content Just Got 84 Hours Faster

Plus, Ideas is designed to be simple and intuitive to use, yet powerful enough to store all types of ideas. You can add photos, gifs, videos, links and more to your ideas.

By saving all your best ideas in one place, you’ll have a gallery of curated content that will hopefully inspire you to create even more.

Introducing Ideas: Creating Content Just Got 84 Hours FasterStart saving Ideas today →8 ideas to get you started

Saving Ideas to Buffer is simple and initiative. With the Buffer browser extension, you can highlight any text, right-click, and save to Ideas.

Why don’t you try it out?

Here are eight Ideas you can save to get started 👇

Create a how-to-video that documents how your service/product works 📹Partner with another brand for a piece of content 👫Do a social swap: have a team member take over social for a day 🔄Distill a blog post into a quick 30 second TikTok 📽Pull a quote from your blog post and share to Pinterest📍Poll your audience on Twitter or LinkedIn 🗳Ask one of your teammates to do an AMA about their job 🙋‍♀️Walk through a list-based blog post on Twitter Threads or an Instagram Carousel 🧵

Why not save these suggestions to Buffer as Ideas and turn them into content for your own social channels.

Start saving Ideas today →

⚠️ One point to be aware of, some Buffer users who signed up over a year ago and haven’t migrated on to the New Buffer platform won’t be able to access Ideas just yet. So, if you can’t see Ideas in your Buffer dashboard that will be why. However, don’t worry, shortly we’ll offer a way for you to transfer onto the New Buffer platform to access Ideas, plus a host of other new Buffer features.

What’s next for Ideas

We’re just getting started with Ideas. It’s been wonderful to hear several businesses and individuals share how much they love the feature, and we can’t wait to keep evolving the feature. Next up, we plan to build out the mobile app functionality, promote suggested Ideas, and provide tags and categories.

We’d love to hear from you! If you’ve given Ideas a try, how’s it going? What would you like to see us add to it? Get in touch with us on Twitter to share your thoughts and feedback.

Get started with Ideas here →

- Phill Agnew
26 Great Ideas For Social Media Posts That You Can Steal
26 Great Ideas For Social Media Posts That You Can Steal

Earlier today we launched Ideas.

With Ideas you can store all your great ideas, tweak them until they’re ready, and drop them straight into your Buffer queue.

Already hundreds of you have started saving dozens Ideas! But, there’s been one resounding bit of feedback we’ve had…

Can you help me come up with ideas?

Yes, we can. So, here are 26 ideas you can steal to grow your following 👇

Save all of these ideas for free →Ask one of your teammates to do an AMA about their job 🙋‍♀️

Social media managers - tomorrow we will be hosting an AMA with our social media manager @mitra_mehvar! Be sure to join us and ask whatever questions you may have for her about social media or what it’s like working at Buffer. ✨

— Buffer (@buffer) August 10, 2022

2. Run a giveaway or competition for your social media audience 🏆

26 Great Ideas For Social Media Posts That You Can Steal

3. Attach a GIF to your posts 💃

Happy weekend to all of our fellow four-day workweekers! pic.twitter.com/yoSakUYCsA

— Buffer (@buffer) October 7, 2022

4. Re-share your teammate’s content ♻️

I had a lot of fun writing this one. Kudos to the @buffer team for this amazing initiative🤩 https://t.co/FIOwA7YpqA

— Ismail (@smailelazizi) October 6, 2022

5. Interview influencers in your industry who have a big following 👀

Today we are sharing the sixth and final (for now) installment of Social Proof with @KateBour, also known as ‘Customer Whisperer’. ✨Katelyn is an entrepreneur and creator who’s built several companies and agencies and even sold one successfully.

— Buffer (@buffer) October 6, 2022

6. Transform a blog post into a video optimized for social 🎥

4 reasons why engagement (not sales) is the future of social media and how we can adapt 🚀 👉 https://t.co/kx20N2SiYS pic.twitter.com/2e8IXxgzNG

— Buffer (@buffer) August 11, 2017

7. Share a TikTok showing a day in the life of one of your employees 📆

@bufferapp

#socialmediamanager #socialmediamarketing #smm #dayinthelife #socialmediamanagerlifestyle #dayinthelifevlog #techjob #buffer #wfh #wfhlife #remotework #adayinthelife #remotejob

♬ Chopin Nocturne No. 2 Piano Mono - moshimo sound design

8. Partner with another brand on a piece of content 👫

Not only has this business strengthened their bonds as sisters, but it’s their hope that their artwork can help their customers connect with one another and also to the nature around them. Learn more about the business in our latest blog post ⬇️https://t.co/7n1F61ZGas

— Buffer (@buffer) September 29, 2022

9. Share a quote from your latest blog post in an Instagram Reel 🎥

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Buffer (@buffer)

10. Poll your audience on LinkedIn 🗳

26 Great Ideas For Social Media Posts That You Can Steal

11. Walk through a list-based blog post in an Instagram Carousel 🎠

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Buffer (@buffer)

12. Pull a quote from your blog post and share to Pinterest 📍

26 Great Ideas For Social Media Posts That You Can Steal

13. Do a social swap and have an influencer take over your social account for a day 🔄

Instagram Stories Takeover alert. ✨ Tune in to our Instagram Stories right now to hear @bbooks3, owner of @homemadesocial, share her top tips for avoiding burnout as a social media marketer. Tune in here: https://t.co/Si7UHhgN0d pic.twitter.com/x26DKAE6D2

— Buffer (@buffer) March 3, 2022

14. Ask a question to your audience ❓

Remote workers: What would it take to get you back in the office (if there is anything)?

— Buffer (@buffer) October 9, 2022

15. Pull some interesting stats from your latest blog post 📊

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Buffer (@buffer)

16. Share your tool stack 🛠

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Buffer (@buffer)

17. Show behind-the-scenes at your company 🎬

26 Great Ideas For Social Media Posts That You Can Steal

18. Re-share popular posts from one channel to another ♻️

26 Great Ideas For Social Media Posts That You Can Steal

19. Add emojis or symbols to catch the eye 👀

(•_•)<) )╯Always / \\(•_•) ( (> Be / \ (•_•)<) )> Testing / \30 Social Media Experiments http://t.co/eZpCoDPkoF

— Buffer (@buffer) October 5, 2015

20. Run a weekly series (perhaps on the best tips for your product) 💡

Your Buffer tip of the week 😃:Try ✨ content batching ✨It helps you:❇️ Save time and energy❇️ Take time off whenever you need to because you always have content ready to go❇️ Create a cohesive structure for content publishing❇️ Boost productivity and consistency

— Buffer (@buffer) September 27, 2022

21. Re-share user generated content 🔗

We love to see how much remote work has evolved. You can work from almost anywhere these days! https://t.co/L4wMVzgMu1

— Buffer (@buffer) September 21, 2022

22. Record a tutorial—do a step-by-step video or stop motion video showing how to use your product or learn something new 🍿

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Buffer (@buffer)

23. Spotlight a community member by introducing them to your audience through a mini interview 🔦

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Buffer (@buffer)

24. Answer common FAQs through an AMA 🗣

Got any questions for a Product Marketing Manager? Our very own Product Marketing Manager @p_agnew will be answering your questions here on Twitter! 🎉Reply to this tweet with your questions and Phill will be answering them next Monday.

— Buffer (@buffer) September 26, 2022

25. Share a trending industry-related tip 💡

26 Great Ideas For Social Media Posts That You Can Steal

26. And if all else fails, share a video of your dog 🐶

@bufferapp

Jozy has the right idea when it comes to his #wfh schedule 🐶 #remotework #buffer

♬ FEEL THE GROOVE - Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

What did we miss?

Hopefully these ideas help you fill your content calendar with new posts, and perhaps they’ve sparked completely new ideas.

But we know we haven’t covered everything. So, apart from these ideas, how else do you share your content on social media?

Reach out to us on Twitter to let us know.

Want to save these ideas in Buffer for free? Head here →

- Emily Grey
I Couldn’t Afford My First Employee, But Hiring Her Helped Me Grow a Million-Dollar Business
I Couldn’t Afford My First Employee, But Hiring Her Helped Me Grow a Million-Dollar Business

Like many small business owners, I launched my boutique as a one-woman show. The Flourish Market was just a fashion truck at the time, so it was manageable for me—and eventually some hourly staff—to take it to events, ship online orders, and market the burgeoning business.

When we opened our first brick-and-mortar store 13 months later, everything changed. Suddenly, someone needed to be present at the storefront six days a week, on top of keeping things running behind the scenes. I was being pulled in a thousand directions and barely had time to do the basic tasks that would keep my business running, let alone the strategic work to help it grow. I had reached a sticking point where the only two ways to move my business forward would be to hire someone to free up my time, or to magically add more hours to my day.

Since I am not a wizard, it would have to be hiring. And I didn’t want to just keep relying on hourly staff, either—I wanted an experienced store manager who could take the mental burden of day-to-day operations off my plate.

When I looked at our revenue at the time (just over $300,000), I could only afford about three months of payroll for a full-time store manager given other costs—but I decided to take the leap and hire a salaried employee anyway. Let me tell you, it was terrifying. I was paying her more than I was even paying myself. I was worried we would run out of money before I knew it, and that I would end up a failed business owner.

Instead, we more than tripled our revenue within that year—more than enough to pay her salary, to grow mine to where it really needed to be, and to put away some savings for the business. Since then, I’ve found the biggest gains in my business happen when I invest in bringing on help, even when it feels like a bit of a stretch.

Here’s why that hire paid off so much, how I ensured I was making the most of my newfound time, and how I now recommend other business owners think about growing their teams.

It Was an Investment in the Future of My Business

I find that the majority of business owners pick option number two when they’re feeling stretched too thin—they try to magically add more hours to their day. That’s usually what’s talked about in entrepreneurship: Are you willing to put in the work? Are you willing to hustle hard enough?

The question I like to ask at that point is: At what expense? Beyond the mental health implications of working yourself into the ground (more on that in a minute), I don’t think this approach will ever lead to true scalability because there’s only so much you can do on your own.

The mental shift that really helped me was this: Instead of thinking about my new employee as a cost, I started thinking about her as an investment. I always tell my coaching clients now that, if you’re hiring the right person, they should make you money, not cost you money.

I learned this from experience when hiring my first salaried employee. For starters, she quickly made up for her salary (and then some) by bringing in retail expertise that helped the store run more efficiently and increase our sales. On top of that, she opened up my time to spend on strategic tasks that would grow the business’ bottom line and impact.

Now, anytime I’m hiring someone new, I ask myself what value they can add instead of what cost.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Emily Grey (@emilygreyunderway)

It Motivated Me to Spend Time on Higher-Value Work

Taking the risk of bringing on a salaried employee before I felt ready really lit a fire under my butt to work on my business instead of in my business—to do the work that wouldn’t just sustain the business but that would grow it to the next level.

I had put a lot of these tasks on the backburner, partially for lack of time and partially out of fear that they wouldn't work out. But I told myself that, if I hired this person, I had to start investing my time more wisely. I started to think about every task I was doing in terms of the value it was bringing back into the business. There was the $10 per hour work (shipping orders, working the register, administrative tasks) that should be done by hourly staff (who, by the way, we pay more than $10 per hour—that’s just a useful number for this mental exercise). There was the $100 per hour work (styling customers, merchandising the store, tracking best selling items through inventory reports) that should be on my new employee’s plate.

Where I needed to be investing the bulk of my time was in the $1,000 and $10,000 per hour work. This is the stuff that isn’t just focusing on bringing in one transaction but is paving the way for many transactions: Pitching press to get our name out there, improving our marketing strategy, making strategic connections in my city, spinning up new revenue streams (like the coworking space we launched to make use of extra space in our store).

I still wanted to stay connected to my customers, so I committed to spending 10 hours a week working in the store. But, I challenged myself to spend the remaining 30 hours only on those high-value tasks. This approach was game-changing for taking my business to the next level: Less than a year later, we had hit the $1 million revenue mark.

Thinking of how I spend my time in terms of value is now a cornerstone of how I run my business. Each quarter, I do a time audit by tracking every hour of my time for a two week period, and I work to offload any low-value tasks I’m holding onto. I now have my team do the same, which helps us build the job description of who we need to hire next to open up everyone’s time to have more impact on the business.

It Was Necessary for My Mental Health

As business owners, we carry so much. There’s obviously the never-ending list of what needs to get done (which, as I mentioned above, is important to get support on so we have time for loved ones and fun and other things that contribute to our wellbeing). But there’s also the heaviness of wondering: Will my business succeed? Will I be able to take care of my employees and my contractors? Will I end up in a puddle of shame because my business fails?

Before I hired my full-time employee, I felt like I was running on a hamster wheel trying to keep up, and the weight of worrying about my success was making it harder and harder. I’ve always found that the best way to fight overwhelm and fear is by taking action, and by offloading the day-to-day tasks to someone and putting myself in motion on strategic tasks, I felt more empowered to create the success I envisioned.

Bringing on team members is ultimately about investing in spaciousness. The space to take care of yourself so you can show up fully in your work, the space to dream up new ideas, and the space to actually implement them: That’s what unlocks the next level of growth.

We just celebrated seven years in business, and I’m now surrounded by a team of 22, including five salaried employees. Taking the scary leap to invest in someone new never gets easier, but it’s been worth it every time. Not only has it consistently helped me take my business to new heights, but I get the joy and fulfillment of doing it alongside others.

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A post shared by The Flourish Market (@theflourishmarket)

- Tamilore Oladipo
An Introduction to Tumblr
An Introduction to Tumblr

In the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, Tumblr is one of the more familiar alternatives people are exploring. Already, public figures are testing the waters — actor Ryan Reynolds made a move – probably for publicity purposes. But as a power user who joined in 2014 and never left, I can see the signs of the app’s resurgence.

Even though it’s been around for quite some time – since 2007 – and has its place in the social media space already, we want to take the time to walk through what Tumblr is for anyone who may be unfamiliar with or hasn’t used it in a long time. We’ll go through what it is, how it works and how you can get started using it today.

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr was launched in 2007 by David Karp and is currently owned by Automattic, owners of WordPress.com and WooCommerce. It’s a microblogging social platform that allows its users to post various types of content, from text and photos to music and videos. Here are some facts to consider as you explore Tumblr as a content channel:

There are currently 561.3 million blogs – keep in mind that one user can create multiple blogsThe platform currently has 135 million monthly active users and 11.1 million posts daily69% of users access Tumblr via mobile apps and 31% via webGen Z makes up 48% of Tumblr’s active users

Creating a Tumblr is very easy, and the website offers lots of options for customization, a departure from any other social media platform. Users can easily personalize everything, from their blog’s colors to its HTML. You can also set a unique URL for your blog and add a theme song. And to engage with content, you either reblog or like a post.

There are two main types of creators on Tumblr: those who create original content and those who curate (or re-blog) posts. In addition to functioning in the traditional blog format, Tumblr also displays content as a stream, much like the news feeds of popular social networks.

However, unless you’re actively looking for current events, the platform doesn’t prioritize the latest news in its recommendations. You can keep up with the most popular tags in the Search tab, but that doesn’t always extend to recent events like Twitter’s top Trends.

As a power user of the app, I will say that Tumblr’s most similar feature to Twitter is its users’ love of short text posts, but in other aspects, it’s quite different. You can edit posts, customize your page, or wake up to a made-up Martin Scorsese movie taking off as if it actually exists – with art, theme music, and storylines to boot.

An Introduction to TumblrSource

If you’re interested in exploring the platform, it’s quite easy to get started. But be warned – it’s not much like Twitter.

How to get started with Tumblr

If Tumblr’s capabilities and audience seem like the right fit for you, here’s how to explore the platform.

Step 1: Sign up by adding your email, preferred username, and password. You can also use sign up directly through Google or Apple. An Introduction to TumblrStep 2: Select which tags and accounts you’re interested in following. Tagging is a great way to get more out of Tumblr because it helps you discover content and your content be discovered.An Introduction to TumblrStep 3: Create your first post. There are many options for content creation available on Tumblr – text, images, GIFs, audio, video, quotes, and a fun chat option for re-enacting or making up conversations.An Introduction to TumblrStep 4: Customize your blog with one of the available themes. You have the option to keep your account simple, but if you want to reflect your personality, you can customize your blog and choose a unique “.tumblr.com” URL (mine is tamioladipo.tumblr.com). To customize your blog, click on the 👤 icon and navigate to 'Settings'. Then select 'Enable custom theme' and 'Edit theme'. Here, you can browse different themes to make your website look more unique – I use one called Iconic. You can also edit the HTML to your heart's content.An Introduction to TumblrAn Introduction to TumblrStep 5: Participate! Follow relevant search terms, find accounts you want to follow, and engage with content on the platform. Also, play around with the features and look at other accounts. Because it’s so simple to get started, you can invite your existing audience to follow and engage with you on Tumblr.🖊️Check out the Tumblr glossary to get up to speed with common terms used on the platform.4 interesting Tumblr accounts to follow

Once you’ve gotten started and messed around a bit, it gets easier to understand what to post and how to post it. If you’re still looking for inspiration, however, here are some interesting accounts on Tumblr to check out:

Buzzfeed Unsolvable: The popular true crime show on YouTube also has an equally popular Tumblr account and fanbase. The account shares memes and inside jokes, and fans can communicate with the people behind the project.Zillow Gone Wild: This account is famous for posting outrageous Zillow listings on Twitter and has now created a Tumblr account. The nature of their posts means they don’t have to change much about their content but still reach existing and new audiences.An Introduction to TumblrSourceNetflix: Media companies like Netflix thrive on the conversation that their content generates on Tumblr. Netflix still updates its account regularly, which will be a great way to understand how a brand can use the platform.DuckDuckGo: The browser company uses all of Tumblr’s features, from text to gorgeous images and animation on its profile. It also uses Tumblr as an extension of its blog, posting content and directing to its main website or just sharing the whole article at once.🖊️Check out the Tumblr brand directory for more inspiration from other businesses. A quick note that a lot of brands abandoned their blogs and usernames, so content may be outdated or even gone.6 tips for using Tumblr

Tumblr’s been around for a while and has an established mode of operation. You’ll likely have to go in and fit in, not go against the grain. Here are some tips to get the most out of Tumblr

Plan ahead and create an editorial calendar with Tumblr’s built-in scheduling and queuing functionality.Reblogs are far more important than likes. Liking something is essentially bookmarking, which is great but not valuable to creators, while reblogging counts more clearly toward statistics.An Introduction to TumblrSourceThe tone and primary audience of the platform is irreverent — formal language is far from the norm.Tags work similarly to hashtags and increase the visibility of your content. Proper tagging is expected and respectful.Remember that people who view your Tumblr on desktops will see a website-like format — it’s very different from Twitter in this way. Take advantage of Tumblr’s customization capabilities to create a site that matches your existing brand.Evergreen content does well on Tumblr. This is because Tumblr isn’t news-driven, and stories that receive attention today could still be popular, even a few years down the road.Explore Tumblr as a new way to connect with your audience

While Tumblr is gaining popularity at lightning speed because of its longevity and existing audience, it’s not a replacement for Twitter and shouldn’t be treated as one. The truth is, it’s harder for brands to find a foothold on Tumblr because branded content doesn’t always connect with the existing audience. So we don’t think Twitter’s going anywhere just yet, and most social media professionals agree.

However, it’s worth setting up a Tumblr account and engaging with the platform and it’s audience as part of your brand strategy. Some of your audience might already be there because it’s been around for a while, so it won’t be too hard to get them to find you there. While we don’t currently have scheduling for Tumblr within Buffer, you can use the platform’s great native scheduler.

Stay updated with our upcoming features through our product roadmap or join our community for updates.

🖊️For more alternatives, check out our article about getting started with Mastodon.
- Tamilore Oladipo
Social Proof: The Golden Rules of Personal Branding (According to Experts)
Social Proof: The Golden Rules of Personal Branding (According to Experts)

We’re super into helping people grow on social media, including individuals who want to boost their online presence. So we’ve created Social Proof, our series on personal branding. The series chronicles how amazing individuals with different goals grew on social media to further their career and business prospects.

Each interviewee so far has shared amazing insights into their process and mindset around personal branding, so you should definitely check out the full interviews. However, in this article, we highlight the Golden Rules of personal branding – the main thing each interviewee suggested that you should be doing on social media to grow your online presence.

Katelyn: Dive deep into one channel before exploring multiple

In the early days of building your personal brand, you may want to start sharing across multiple platforms – but this can be more harmful than not. While convention dictates that you be discoverable through different channels, you may not be able to keep up with the demands and specific culture of each one.

That’s why Katelyn Bourgoin, CEO and Lead Trainer of Customer Camp says, “I think you should go really deep into one channel and build an audience there, get good at creating content for that platform, and understand what works with your audience on that platform.”

Start small and build up momentum as you grow your personal brand.

The real struggle with spreading yourself too thin is that you’re just one person. And if you’re not a professional at creating content calendars and keeping up with publishing frequently, then you may not be able to keep up with the cycle. You also won’t be able to build deep relationships with people on any platform as you hop from comment to message.

Start small and build up momentum as you go along. As Katelyn suggests, “Once you have an audience – and it doesn't need to be a big audience – it might be time to get started getting people to sign up for a newsletter. Focus on publishing that newsletter every two weeks and getting your Twitter following to allow you in their inbox.”

Fadeke: Have a distinct online presence outside your employer

In our interview, Fadeke Adegbuyi, Lead Writer at Shopify, shared, “I think it is important to have an online presence and have a brand distinct from your employer. That's something that's always been important to me – having a presence online where I can share what I'm working on and what I'm interested in and, in turn, connect with people who are interested in the same things. And it also helps me have an inflow of hiring and collaboration opportunities.”

Take stock of what and how you communicate online, and make sure it’s true to you and not your employer.

The main part of a personal brand is the “person.” If all your content is primarily subject to the place(s) you work, it only furthers your employer’s interests. But what happens if you leave that organization? Will you have to change your personal brand to fit a whole new tone and voice?

If your personal brand only highlights someone else’s brand or company or work but doesn’t show who you are, that won’t help people know why they should be interested in what you have to say. Take stock of what and how you communicate online, and make sure it’s true to you and not your employer.

Steph: Treat every project you undertake as a vehicle for your personal brand

Steph Smith, Podcast Host at a16z, said something that resonated with me, “Everything I do, whether I like it or not, relates to my personal brand and is a vehicle for it. But ultimately, what drives that vehicle, good or bad, is how I perform in every one of those circumstances.”

You won’t always find yourself doing work that aligns with your passions and dreams. But if you’re going to do something, you might as well do your best at it.

“Everything I do, whether I like it or not, relates to my personal brand and is a vehicle for it. But ultimately, what drives that vehicle, good or bad, is how I perform in every one of those circumstances.”

Also, in the same vein, you might put your all into a project, but you can’t control the outcome and reception. But the one thing that will always stand out is the effort and eventual quality. “If the quality of your work doesn’t match your audience’s expectations and seems like a money grab, you’ve harmed your personal brand and that trust is hard to win back,” says Steph.

Shaan: Outline your future self and then work towards being that person

Shaan Puri, entrepreneur, investor, and creator, shared a great framework for outlining what you want to reflect to others through the Pillar Branding Exercise. The idea is that you draw out three or four pillars and put at the top the words that represent your personality the best. Then, you outline which stories from your life and career uphold these pillars. If you don’t have any stories to share, you’ve identified what to work towards. So if you say “creative” but can’t share the evidence of creativity, you want to take more action towards making that evidence.

Social Proof: The Golden Rules of Personal Branding (According to Experts)Shaan's pillar branding exercise

As Shaan said, “...for some of the pillars, I had more stories than others, which helped me realize that even though I wanted to be perceived a certain way, I hadn’t taken enough action in that direction. So this exercise was also a note to try more things I wanted to be part of my brand. It became more than just a branding exercise – more of a roadmap for how I wanted to approach life.”

Jack: Love what you do or risk failure

It’s hard to keep at something you’re not passionate about – Jack’s advice echoes this sentiment. In our interview, Jack Appleby, Creator at Morning Brew, shared, “A big part of personal branding: if you don't love what you’re building your brand around, it will fail. I’ve found great career success in building a personal brand around social media strategy because I love it! I’m genuinely curious about social media and communities, so it doesn’t feel like work to me.”

...if you don't love what you’re building your brand around, it will fail.

What are the topics that interest you the most? What could you talk about for hours on end? Find the intersection between what you know best and what you’re passionate about, and use that to kick off the content you share.

Tori: Remember that it takes time and patience to be successful

Success doesn’t happen overnight, and no one understands that more than Tori Dunlap, founder of HerFirst100k. Tori didn’t become the owner of a multi-million dollar business in one sitting – it was compounded effort that helped her build her business and community.

“Even if you know you're capable of something, it won’t work out as you expect if it's not the right time. You have to make all the mistakes and learn all the ropes to reach the same level of success [as the people that inspire you],” she shared in our interview.

You can build what you want through time and patience, but if you’re trying to be at the same level as people who have been working at something for five months before you, it likely won’t work out as you expect.

“You have to patiently build that over time till you get to the point where you can build the business that you want. It has to come through time and patience, and dedication,” says Tori.

Take what resonates with you

The final golden rule, coming from me, is to take what works for you. Not everyone will struggle to write a newsletter and be present on Twitter and TikTok. And not every topic you cover will be something you’re absolutely passionate about. What matters is understanding how you work and what it will take to keep you consistent enough that you can build a lasting personal brand.

And whenever you get around to creating your personal brand, save time and maximize your resources by using Buffer to track your ideas, schedule your content, create a simple microsite and engage with your new audience. Get started today!

- Umber Bhatti
How These Small Business Owners Set Boundaries During The Holidays
How These Small Business Owners Set Boundaries During The Holidays

For the majority of folks, the holidays are for rest and relaxation as it’s the one time of year most people get a break from school and work. Yet, for small business owners, that’s not quite the case. In fact, November through December is often the busiest season for these entrepreneurs. Many depend on sales made during these months, leading them to work long hours during the holidays. But this can lead to serious health consequences. One study found that individuals who work over 61 hours a week have an increased risk of developing high systolic blood pressure.

By establishing some boundaries however, it is possible to create a good work-life balance during the most festive time of the year. Here's how three small business owners tackle their busy schedules during the holidays so they can enjoy the season with their loved ones.

Why setting boundaries is so important

There are a ton of advantages to being your own boss, but the one downside is that your workload can oftentimes feel like it’s never ending. Whether it’s responding to emails, posting seasonal deals to your social media channels, or shipping out products, work can pile up – especially during busy seasons.

By setting boundaries during the holidays, you’re not only developing a healthier relationship to work, but are also giving yourself some necessary downtime. Simply put, individuals who work 24/7 have a much higher risk of developing burnout. This can result in several consequences, including no longer feeling fulfilled by your job, which leads to poor performance and impacts the quality of your work. Other symptoms include fatigue, stress, insomnia, and in severe cases, some people even develop anxiety and depression.

This can be a tricky subject as most business owners feel a strong obligation to work around the clock and ensure that their customers and employees are taken care of. But once you take a step back, you’ll often find that you’re more productive and happier.

At least that’s what happened when freelance writer Kat Boogard switched from working four days a week to three in order to spend more time with her kids. While the transition did require boundaries, Kat says it’s been more of a mental shift than anything else.

“Somebody asked me if my three-day workweek was more of a mindset shift than a system-building exercise, and I think that’s a great way to describe it,” she said in her newsletter.

While cutting back on work means that she can no longer do all of the things she used to, the writer believes it’s been a fair trade off. Not only has she been able to be more selective and strategic about the projects she now takes on, but she’s no longer putting pressure on herself to constantly be on the go. Most importantly, this switch has allowed her to have more family time.

“My kids and I potted some flowers and are caring for them. We take weekly trips to the library or playground … Will I earn as much as I did last year? Nope. Probably not even close,” Kat said. “But at the end of the day, it’s all the other stuff that feels way more like “success”—even if the number on my profit and loss statement is smaller.”

Even if you’re not looking to have a three day work week like Kat, her mindframe on scaling back with work can be useful for any entrepreneurs wanting to dedicate more time to themselves and their families, especially during the holiday season.

How these small business owners approach work during the holidays

These three entrepreneurs tackle work during the holidays differently, but they’ve each implemented some kind of boundary into their schedules to ensure that they don’t overload themselves.

Implementing a strict schedule

A single mom and a team of one, Assie Khoussa is used to working 24/7 on her small business Eizzy Baby. When it’s the holidays, however, she establishes clear boundaries with work so she can ensure her son doesn’t miss out on any of the festivities.

“The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for me. Not only are there several sales, promotions, and new product launches happening within my business, my schedule is just as busy,” Assie said.

“As a single mom, It is important that my son does not miss a single holiday experience from thanksgiving dinner to wrapping and opening gifts. To make sure I am as productive as possible, I make sure that I am fully scheduling my days,” she said. “From 9 am - 4 pm, I focus on my business and work. Once I pick up my son from school at 5 pm, my attention shifts to family time, we laugh, play, eat and work on the things he needs.”

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A post shared by Eizzy Baby | Baby Products ™️ (@eizzybaby)

The entrepreneur has found that without this structure, she tends to gravitate towards working more.

“I try to be very strict with this schedule because it allows me to prioritize and focus on what is important. Once [my son] is in bed, then I have the flexibility to work on whatever I need, whether it is self-care or opening up my laptop to edit content. I am the queen of going with the flow, but I've noticed that when things are not scheduled or prioritized, That's when I drop the ball the most.”

Assie acknowledges that creating boundaries as an entrepreneur is hard, but she credits her discipline, especially when it comes to her son.

“The strict boundaries really come from having the discipline to shut your computer or phone off,” she said. “For me, dropping the ball when it comes to my son sucks and because of that, I use the time allotted to really focus on him. My advice would be to build discipline and realize what's important during [the holidays].”

Being selective with work events

Sisters Kelly and Anna opened up their small business Arctic Haven Studio in 2021, and sell hand-crafted paper art inspired by the Alaskan wilderness. Still early in their journey, the duo work during the holidays to grow their customer base.

“As a small business still trying to gain a foothold in the industry, we take advantage of every viable opportunity we have. During the holidays, we participate in several local holiday markets to reach customers individually and concentrate sales. The holiday markets themselves require a lot of hands-on work from ourselves and our family members who help us create, set up, and maintain the booth space, all for a two-day show, at most,” they said.

Fortunately, these events are closely tied to the holiday season and are a great way for the entrepreneurs to meet their customers in person, making it feel less like work and more like community building.

How These Small Business Owners Set Boundaries During The HolidaysHow These Small Business Owners Set Boundaries During The HolidaysKelly tabling at an in person community event

“These events require energy and preparation, but they are festive and a great way to interact with potential customers. We listened to customer feedback we received last year and created a holiday card since notecards are our primary product line, and they have been well received this season.”

Still, Anna and Kelly don’t say yes to every opportunity during the holidays, and instead are selective about which events they choose to attend so they don’t overwork themselves.

“While we do not take time off from the business during the holidays, we are able to regulate our workload by choosing the holiday events we participate in and how much marketing we want to send out prior to the season. Each season we learn new ways to fulfill customer interests and ways to prep better for the upcoming year.”

Closing up the business for the holidays

As a content creator who operates her tarot reading business through her Twitter account, Ashani has more flexible hours than the typical entrepreneur. But that doesn’t mean the creator hasn’t had issues with burnout. In the past, she’s worked through the holidays and didn’t have clear boundaries with her followers.

“I remember, back in the day when I would not carve out [vacation time], I’d be like, “oh, my goodness. Why are people hitting me up on Christmas?’ But now, it's as simple as just closing my readings to be quite honest … I'm blessed to have that function and work for myself. I don't have to go ask anyone if I can put in PTO or anything like that. I get to create my own schedule.”

But Ashani only implemented these boundaries after learning from her first couple years running her business.

Learning to take real days off and they’ve been so healing.Today I went hiking in the rain with one of my oldest friends 🥰We’ve known each other since 1st grade!! 🥹❤️ pic.twitter.com/tAJgCaSFpW

— ashani the alchemist ☿ (@ashanism) November 10, 2022

“A lot of people have their own business because they want more flexibility. But I remember thinking like, ‘this is not more flexible. I'm overwhelmed with having to do the [reading] services, and run the business, and also schedule myself in.’ But, it’s gotten so much easier [to take time off] over the years.”

She sometimes still deals with the struggle of feeling like she’s not working enough, and empathizes with other business owners who have a hard time taking time off.

“Sometimes [closing my readings] creates additional pressure. Because, of course, the holidays are the time where people are wanting to spend money and buy gifts. And so, you want to be making more money. And I've definitely had to work up to the point. Years ago, it was much more of a struggle, knowing when I should be working more, or working less,” she said.

Rather than focusing on holiday sales, Ashani now prioritizes a good work-life balance.

“A lot of things are in demand during the holidays, and people are super busy. But I try to take this time to relax and spend it with family and friends, and just do little things for myself,” she said. “So vacation time isn't as much of a priority for me as just simply maintaining that balance between work and play. And seeing the people that I love, of course.”

At Buffer, we also close down the company for an entire week at the end of the year to ensure everyone on our team has the opportunity for some self-care time.

We hope these examples from other small business owners have inspired you to carve out time for yourself this holiday season. Remember, giving yourself a break is healthy and the end of the year is the perfect time to recharge and reflect.

If you’re interested in creating more boundaries with work right now, there are a ton of productivity habits you can incorporate into your schedule to free up some time. We recommend creating a content and social media calendar to have an organized view of all of your work. Batch-creating content is also an efficient way to get more use out of your time.

One of the best ways to ensure you’re present during the holidays is to schedule your social media posts ahead of time — and we can help with that! Get started with Buffer for free today to schedule your content, analyze the performance of your posts, and engage with your followers!

- Emily Grey
I’ve Never Offered a Black Friday Sale — Here’s What My Boutique Does Instead to Have a Six-Figure Weekend
I’ve Never Offered a Black Friday Sale — Here’s What My Boutique Does Instead to Have a Six-Figure Weekend

From the moment I launched The Flourish Market—a boutique that specializes in selling clothing, accessories, and gifts that have a bigger purpose—I knew that we would need to think about our holiday promotions differently.

Given that most of the 200+ brands we partner with are B-corps or fair trade companies, our margins are already tighter than the average store. I felt the biggest discount we could afford to offer holiday shoppers would be 20 percent—which isn’t very exciting when the big box stores and even smaller boutiques would be offering 40-60 percent (or more) off.

I’ve always been a big believer that when you can’t compete, you get creative. So I thought about what we had to offer. I thought about what aligned with our company mission. I thought about what would be exciting to our customers. And I came up with the idea for Grey Friday.

The gist of Grey Friday is this: The week before Black Friday, we have our big promotion weekend when, instead of offering discounts, we offer 40-60 percent of the customer’s purchase back in free gifts. At different tiers of spending—$40, $75, $150, $250, and $500—customers get a different gift, plus all the gifts from the lower price tiers.

I had this idea mere months before my first holiday season as a shop owner, and I decided to launch it on a whim. It was a resounding success, and we’ve done it every year since then—and every year, even during COVID, we’ve grown our total revenue that weekend by 40-50 percent.

I love inspiring business owners to zig when other people are zagging. While I’m not saying you have to do this exact promotion, I want to share why it works for us and our customers in hopes of encouraging others to think differently about holiday deals this year, or for years to come.

We figured out how to create more value with less

Something that often surprises people about Grey Friday is that it costs us the same from a business perspective as offering a 20 percent discount—but creates much more value for the customer.

Let’s say a customer is spending $150 that weekend. If we did a 20 percent discount, we’d lose $30 as a business, and the customer probably wouldn’t feel like they got an especially great deal. But, if I take that same $30 and think of it as my budget for free gifts, it can go shockingly far. For instance, last year customers spending $150 got a free bracelet, a pair of artisan earrings, and a cozy winter shawl. Because we’re buying these gifts in bulk from our artisan partners and our purchasing timing often aligns with promotions they’re doing, we’re able to get a great price, which allows us to offer so much.

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A post shared by The Flourish Market (@theflourishmarket)

The actual value of these products is higher than the $30 a customer might save with a 20 percent discount—if customers were buying these products off our shelves, they’d cost $80 or more. But, perhaps more importantly, the perceived value is higher. Our customers get so excited by the fact that, while they’re doing their holiday shopping, they get additional gifts for people on their list or to keep for themselves as a treat.

We get customers before they’ve blown their holiday budget

Another key factor in Grey Friday’s success is that we hold it the Friday before the major holiday shopping weekend.

I always thought it was weird that Small Business Saturday is the day after Black Friday. My thinking is that, if you really want people to support small businesses, you need to get in front of them before they spend all their money at the major retailers. In fact, numerous customers thank me every year for running such a great promotion early, before they’re tempted to use their purchasing power on less meaningful gifts from larger businesses.  

This has the side benefit of making the holiday season much more pleasant for my team. We’re still open on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday but, because we’ve already finished our major weekend, we don’t open early, and I don’t need all hands on deck. We split up work Thanksgiving week so that all of my employees get some meaningful time with their families.

Of course we get people who come into the store Black Friday weekend and are confused by the fact that we aren’t offering a special. We never apologize, and instead use this as a moment to share what we stand for, explaining that we can’t compete with the big box stores and that we hope they look around at our artisan products and find gifts for the people on their list anyway. Plus, we can always encourage them to sign up for our email list so they’re notified about Grey Friday next year.

We build a lot of excitement around it, and always deliver

So how do we promote Grey Friday to grow our sales each year? Of course we do all the classic marketing tactics. We tease that our big promotion is coming up on social media and do a big reveal of the free gifts. We email our list first thing that Friday to let them know the doors are open, and send them a last call email on Sunday (something I missed in the early years and now drives about 20 percent of our sales for the weekend). And we build a lot of excitement in the store to draw in downtown foot traffic, playing holiday music and offering free drinks for shoppers.

But the biggest reason our numbers grow so much year after year is that we really deliver on the customer experience. I’ve noticed two big drivers for our sales growth. The first is that existing customers spend more. If a new customer has never experienced Grey Friday, they typically spend around $75 because they almost can’t believe it’s true. Once they realize that we really aren’t messing around with the free gifts, they plan their holiday shopping around it the next year, and spend triple or quadruple what they did before. The second growth driver is new customer acquisition through word of mouth. Grey Friday is almost like the best kept shopping secret that people love sharing with their friends and relatives.

We try to keep this customer excitement going by making our gifts even better year after year. For instance, last year we created a custom product with one of our partners so that one of the gifts was something you literally couldn’t get anywhere else.

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A post shared by The Flourish Market (@theflourishmarket)

We tied our promotion to our purpose

Ultimately, like so many things in our business, this holiday promotion was never just about growing the bottom line. Our heart behind Grey Friday is to be able to deliver a thrilling experience to our customers while sending our artisan partners a heck of a lot of work.

Instead of just offering a discount and taking a financial loss as a business, we’re able to pass that money along to help other businesses succeed. Being able to place orders for hundreds or thousands of units is life-changing for many of our partners. And we always make sure to share that impact with our customers—along with the impact on our own small business—so that they can feel even more excited about the purchases they made.

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A post shared by The Flourish Market (@theflourishmarket)

After sharing all these details on Grey Friday, my advice to other business owners may sound odd: When it comes to creating your best holiday promotion, don’t look around at what others are doing. Instead, think about what would be exciting to your specific customers and what you have the power to deliver this holiday season, then find the overlap.  

The truth is, you will get some sales if you do a standard discount for Black Friday or Small Business Saturday. However, you could be doing triple or quadruple that amount if you get creative in delivering something that creates even more value for your customers.

- Tamilore Oladipo
A Beginner’s Guide to Mastodon
A Beginner’s Guide to Mastodon

Post-Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, interest in other social networking sites has spiked significantly. Some names may be familiar to you while others are completely new, but a quick search on Google Trends reveals that old or new, people are looking for the next, best microblogging platform.

A Beginner’s Guide to MastodonSource

Tumblr’s one of those familiar names and a popular choice — actor Ryan Reynolds made a public move to Tumblr. But that’s not what we’re here for today. Instead, we’re introducing you to Mastodon, which many may not yet be familiar with, but is quickly rising in popularity.

A Beginner’s Guide to MastodonSource

Mastodon, founded in 2016 by Eugen Rochko, is a microblogging platform that looks similar to Twitter on the surface but is more complex under the hood. In this article, we’ll walk you through what you need to know about Mastodon and how to set up an account.

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon is part of a collection of free, decentralized, and loosely organized group of servers referred to as the “Fediverse,” short for “federated universe.” As Mastodon user DJM kindly pointed out, "it's called the Fediverse because there's a universe of federated protocols, apps, instances, and tools that talk to each other."

🖊️For a better explanation of the technicalities of Mastodon and the larger Fediverse, check out this great article.

Mastodon is an open-source platform, meaning anyone can set up a server and run a community if they wish to, similar to a forum or discussion board. The platform is self-described as a “federated network which operates in a similar way to email.”

Similar to Twitter, it offers microblogging capabilities, but while you can easily pinpoint some similarities to Twitter’s web and mobile applications, they’re not quite the same. A better (but still incomplete) analogy is Mastodon is what you get if you were to combine Twitter and Tumblr.

Instead of tweeting, you post, and if you share someone else's post, you've reblogged or boosted it. There are hashtags and lists, and you have up to 5,000 words to express yourself – as well as the ability to add GIFs, videos, and images.

A Beginner’s Guide to MastodonExample of a post on Mastodon

Your Mastodon handle includes your full identity, plus the server name. If you sign up for Mastodon via the most popular server – Mastodon.social – your address will be @[your username]@mastodon.social. But no matter which server you sign up with, you can communicate with users from any other server, just like how Gmail users email Hotmail users and vice versa.

If you want a checkmark alongside your name to prove that you are who you say you are, you don't have to pay anyone; instead, you add a link to a website that's under your control and that serves as verification. On Mastodon, you can also edit your posts (a much-requested Twitter feature) whenever you’d like and at no cost. And to tackle misinformation concerns, you will get a notification when a post you boosted/reblogged has been edited.

The biggest benefit of Mastodon is probably its extensive content moderation. Each server can decide its moderation policy and which servers it will communicate with.

"Mastodon" cannot suspend anyone. You were likely removed from a certain server by its owner or moderation team. Mastodon servers are run by users, not by a corporation like twitter is.Each host can set their own rules. You should familiarize yourself with them before joining.

— Mastodon (@joinmastodon) November 10, 2022 📼Check out this helpful, short video for added clarity on how Mastodon works.How to set up a Mastodon account

While Mastodon is quite similar to email, it’s not as simple to set up. you have to find a server on your own (I’m on the C.IM server) to set up an account. Here’s a simple breakdown of how to get started with an account on Mastodon (from experience as a non-technical person).

Step 1: Join a server

You need to find the address of a server running the Mastodon software (called an Instance) that is accepting new sign-ups to join.

Check out https://instances.social for potential servers to join or where your current Twitter followers are hanging out on Mastodon with Debirdify (for security reasons, remember to revoke permissions when you’re done).

Users who can be discovered have usually added their Mastodon handle to their bio or profile on Twitter — you can also do this once your account has been set up.

A Beginner’s Guide to MastodonMy Twitter community that also has a Mastodon account

You can also use Fedifinder, which extracts the Mastodon handles of Twitter accounts you follow as well as those you've added to a list; you can import that list on Mastodon to follow all those accounts at once.

Alternatively, try going to the Mastodon activity page and looking at the list under the Instances heading. The entries at the top of the list are the most popular but may also take the most time to join.

If you’re worried about whether or not you’ll like a server, you can always move your account to a different server later.

Step 2: Sign up to your chosen Mastodon server

Once you identify an instance you would like to join that’s also accepting new members, fill in the form. You can reuse your Twitter ID or any ID you choose. I picked my name because I didn’t catch the Twitter train in time the first go-round. Here’s the sign up page for the C.IM instance on the web.

A Beginner’s Guide to MastodonServer sign-up page for C.IM server

Click Sign Up and wait for the confirmation email. That could take anywhere from a few minutes (like mine) or several hours. With the surge in sign-ups, some people report never receiving the email to activate their accounts.

Once you have access, remember which instance you used. You'll need to enter that server's address when you sign in using a different browser or another mobile app. You can't use those credentials to sign in on a different instance.

You can create different profiles on different servers or choose to transfer your data from one server to another.

Step 3: Set up your profile

Make it easy for people to find you by filling out all available details. Once you've confirmed your account, use the Edit Profile button to add some details about who you are.

A Beginner’s Guide to MastodonMy profile

Fill in your bio and add a picture (or an “avatar” as it’s called in Mastodon) so that people will be able to identify you.

Finally, add your Mastodon handle to your Twitter bio. That will make it easier for people who know you from Twitter to find you in the new place.

Step 4: Start following people and engaging with the community

Start following people and engaging with the community. If you have Mastodon IDs for people you know are active, type that name in the search box to find their account and follow them.

🖊️You might need the full ID with username and server, like @tamilore@c.im to find someone.Step 5: Introduce yourself.

Mastodon has very “first day of school” energy as everyone learns their way around the platform.

Give some background about who you are and your interests, then pin the post to the top of your profile. This helps people who find you online figure out if you're an appropriate follow for them.

Step 6: Find your friends.

You can use tools like Debirdify and Fedifinder to look for people who have shared their Mastodon handle on Twitter.

You can also check the hashtag #TwitterMigration and filter using “People you Follow” or look for lists made by people migrating to Mastodon.

What to consider before ditching Twitter entirely

It might be tempting to migrate to Mastodon and cut ties completely with Twitter, but you need to consider several factors – here are some of them.

Mastodon hasn’t yet cracked the smooth sign-up flow of platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Adjusting to the technicality, user interface, lingo, and rules takes a while – not all your Twitter followers may want to jump on the bandwagon.Content moderation is taken very seriously in Mastodon servers — some even require content warnings for political content.

Mastodon may not replace Twitter, but at least it has better leadership.Meet Eugen, CEO of Mastodon Social: pic.twitter.com/jerOT0asPg

— Alex Vranas (@breakdecks) November 5, 2022 Mastodon is still growing: The platform is still hiring, and some users report long wait times before they receive confirmation emails and can set up their accounts. This means that even if your audience is willing to jump through the hurdles it takes to set up an account, they may not have access for a while.

Over 1 million people have joined Mastodon since October 27. Between that and those who returned to their old accounts, the number of active users has risen to over 1.6 million today, which, for context, is over 3 times what it was just about two weeks ago!

— Mastodon (@joinmastodon) November 12, 2022 Messages aren’t encrypted, and server admins can see them, so it's best not to use them for any important or sensitive business. You also need to be careful about sharing private vs. public messages, as it's easy to get the two mixed up on Mastodon.

Before you make the jump, take the time to consider your audience, your content and whether you want to weather the Twitter storm or bow out while you’re ahead.

Think of Mastodon as an interesting new channel to explore

While Mastodon is gaining popularity at lightning speed (it’s almost always the first option on any list of “twitter alternatives”), we don’t think Twitter’s going anywhere just yet, and most social media professionals agree.

However, it’s worth getting to know how Mastodon works as an app separate from Twitter. Don’t treat it like Twitter, but as its own new, exciting space. While we don’t currently have scheduling for Mastodon within Buffer, you can use the platform’s native scheduler.

And if you’re wondering if/when we’ll add Mastodon to our current roster of features, keep an eye on our product roadmap and join our community for updates.

- Umber Bhatti
How These Small Business Owners Learned To Let Go
🖊️Small Business, Big Lessons is a podcast from Buffer that goes behind the scenes with inspirational small businesses to explore how they are questioning the best ways to build a business and uncover the big lessons we can learn from their journeys (so far). Check out episode eight here.How These Small Business Owners Learned To Let Go

Running a small business requires grit and perseverance, but these entrepreneurs found in order to really succeed they needed to relinquish certain beliefs that they once held close. In our final episode of season 2 of our podcast Small Business, Big Lessons, we spoke to several entrepreneurs about former thought processes they had to leave behind in order to grow their small business and why that was the right decision for them.

Why letting go is important for these longtime entrepreneurs

Letting go of previous viewpoints is never easy, especially when it comes to beliefs or ideas we’ve held for a long time, but according to business consultant Holly Howard sometimes entrepreneurs can get too attached to certain beliefs and need that push to let go. She finds author Katie Byron’s concept of asking oneself “Is it true?” is a great way to think about whether some of our ideologies are still relevant today.

Holly shared, “’Is it true,’ is a helpful way to sort of play with this idea of letting go with entrenched beliefs. Because sometimes, when we are challenged around our beliefs, we can get really triggered, right? And we can double down and we can hold tight to things, because those beliefs have been our safety.”

Checking in with yourself and evaluating whether your beliefs are relevant and whether they still resonate can help from becoming stuck in a certain mindset. Seasoned entrepreneurs Rand Fishkin and Ari Weinzweig have learned the power of letting go early on in their careers and say it’s helped them immensely in all aspects of their lives.

How one entrepreneur practices detachment

Rand Fishkin, co-founder of audience research tool SparkToro, finds letting go a bit easier than most people do. The entrepreneur says he’s developed an unusual detachment from previously held beliefs and prior ideas, and even has learned to not get too attached to the sentimental things in his life. He credits this to his maturity and that fact that he’s able to rationally reason about things – even when emotions are involved.

When it comes to his past experiences as a small business owner, Rand does have some regrets. Specifically from his time as CEO of his first business Moz, a SEO software company. Looking back now, Rand believes he valued the wrong things when running Moz, like having a big staff, a huge IPO, and raising lots of money. Now, he thinks the opposite is true, and is running SparkToro with different values, including smaller team sizes.

“I have so many things I regret from my time at Moz. And also, I'm deeply grateful for the experience. And I think those two things can be tough to reconcile, but they can simultaneously exist and you can still be at peace,” he said.

While it’s not always easy for Rand to reflect on his former business, he has chosen to forgive himself from his past mistakes and has let go of any deep feelings he has about the time. This has allowed him to start anew with SparkToro.

Still, he understands that forgiving oneself and detaching from past experiences isn’t always an easy journey. But he believes that, eventually, anyone can get there.

“I think people who have gotten to that place [of letting go], have gotten there through active work on it,” he said. “Through emotional processing, and the ability to reflect on their actions and reflect on the life they want to lead. How they want to be in the world and the impact they want to have on people around them.”

Viewing letting go is an essential part of life and business

Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman’s community of businesses, believes that once we become conscious of our beliefs, we are free to unlearn them or choose beliefs that are more compatible with our lives. This philosophy around letting go has allowed him to succeed as an entrepreneur but in his personal life, too.

Thinking back to his childhood, he can pinpoint certain beliefs that have benefited his life and others that he’s had to confront.

“I love to read. So this is something I grew up with. And that belief that I got when I was two has served me really well,” Ari said. “Other beliefs, like that asking for help was weak, were very unhelpful. And so I've needed to relearn how to do that.”

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A post shared by Zingerman's Community (@zingermanscommunity)

Similar to Rand, Ari also learned to detach himself from Zingerman’s. He tries not to let past failures with the business define him. He takes insights from author Carol Dweck’s book, "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success," and believes that everyone is a good person who is trying their best. By operating with that mindset, Ari views failure as a necessary component of life.

“When we embrace imperfection, then of course, I make mistakes. Of course, not everything's going to work out. And then I need processes, techniques to help myself reground because there's failure happening constantly in the ecosystem,” Ari said.

How these entrepreneurs had to let go in order to start their small businesses

Here's what these entrepreneurs had to let go of in order to go all in with their small businesses.

Leaving full time jobs to pursue a passion

When Becky and Huw founded Paynter Jacket, an ethical clothing store that drops four jacket releases a year, they were both still working full time jobs while running their small business on the side.

They did this to be cautious and not put all of their eggs in one basket, but eventually, as they started gaining social media followers and released their first batch, Becky decided to quit her job. She left on her birthday as a gift to herself. Letting go of the stability that a job provides was nerve-wracking, though she was also excited for the future of Paynter.

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A post shared by Paynter (@paynterjacket)

“I think it was lucky that I waited until after batch number one [to quit my job], because we had customers and we really did have a lot to do. It was everything I'd wanted,” Becky said. “And it was also really intimidating at the same time because you don't have a boss or a mentor that you have in a bigger company that you can say I'm struggling with this, or can I just check this with you?”

Soon after, Huw took the plunge and quit his job, but letting go was a bit more difficult for him, especially because he really appreciated his work environment and colleagues.

“It was actually really hard for me to leave my job because I was in a company that I absolutely loved,” he said. “I loved the people there. I loved the purpose of the business. I loved doing my job every day,” Huw said. “It was hard to even think about leaving because like, this whole team around me, I absolutely loved them.”

It was Huw’s boss and mentor who finally gave him the push he needed. He sat Hu down and told him he believed in Paynter’s success. And also reminded Huw that he was at the perfect stage in his life where he could take the risk and go out on a limb.

While letting go of jobs that provided stability and comfort weren’t easy for Becky and Huw, doing so was the only way they were able to put their all into Paynter Jacket.

An evolution of a career path

Before Kelly Phillips founded Destination Unknown Restaurants, she was working full time as a journalist and food writer. It was through her day job at the Philadelphia City Paper where she was able to learn the ins and outs of the restaurant industry that made her interested in opening up one herself. While switching careers to owning restaurants instead of simply writing about them may seem like a big jump, Kelly sees it as a natural evolution of her career path.

“I think this is my story. I think I was meant to open restaurants and I was meant to be this person, I still get to tell a story in a different way.”

This career change has helped Kelly let go of limiting beliefs she once had about herself. As a writer, she never felt confident about her public speaking abilities, and felt more comfortable putting pen to paper. But after founding Destination Unknown Restaurants, she’s been invited on podcasts and has participated in multiple speaking engagements.

“Writing brought me a lot of happiness, seeing an article published in the newspaper, I would be really proud of that. But I think what I'm doing now is more of a challenge for me, it's harder for me and it's less comfortable for me. And because of that I've grown and become a better person,” Kelly said.

Letting go of comparisons

Founding a start-up is never easy, especially when you’re living in Silicon Valley and are surrounded by hundreds of other start-ups. Andrea, co-founder of Harlow, a small business with the mission to help freelancers get organized, has learned to not hold herself to the standards of what everyone else is doing in the industry.

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A post shared by Harlow (@meetharlow)

“I live in San Francisco, I'm in the heart of startup tech culture here. And a lot of times success is measured by funding by how much money you've raised, by how many employees you have. And it's definitely a work in progress to remind myself that that's not our measure of success and come back to our core beliefs and our values and that we're building something different than a lot of people in Silicon Valley. And that's okay.”

By choosing to not compare their business to other tech companies, Andrea is letting go of traditional startup values and instead embracing what makes Harlow unique. This has allowed her to dive into her small business and run it without being constricted by other people’s input and ideas.

How letting go has allowed these small businesses to reach their highest potential

For many entrepreneurs, letting go of certain mindsets was an essential part of starting their brands. But, the learning never stops. Throughout the course of their small business journeys, these leaders have had to let go of old habits and ways in order to successfully grow their companies.

Realizing the power of teamwork

When Joel first founded Buffer, he held the belief that, as a founder and CEO, he alone would have the answers to all of Buffer’s problems. But eventually, as the company grew (we now have over 80 team members), Joel realized that he needed to let go of this notion that he himself could do it all on his own.

“I think I've had moments where I might dip back into that and be like, ‘okay, this isn't working. I'm gonna dig in and solve this,’” he said. “I think I've had to let go of that being the way to solve things and lean much more into communication and getting everyone aligned and onboard and understanding the vision.”

As an introspective person, Joel still often takes time to reflect on situations by himself, but has learned to share his thoughts and reflections with the rest of the team. This creates an environment at Buffer where everyone is on the same page and has a chance to speak up on key issues.

Letting go of the need for praise and accolades

Initially, Kelly was focused on the reviews, accolades and stars she could receive for her food when she first opened her restaurants. But once she took a step back and focused inwards, she noticed that her business was improving internally.

“And I think when I let go of that, when I stopped putting that pressure on myself, and I focused on just being a great restaurant in our community, and a great place to work for our team, I think that's when the restaurant actually clicked. That's when things started to work,” she said.

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A post shared by Destination Unknown Restaurants (@destinationunknownrestaurants)

Instead of thinking about the press and other external factors, Kelly honed in on the important things: that the business was profitable, her employees were happy, the food was good, and customers were having a great time. Looking at things from this perspective ultimately allowed her restaurants to succeed.

Being flexible and open to shifting one’s perspective

Samantha and Andrea had a specific vision of their community’s needs when they first opened up Harlow. But once they started getting more and more clients, they realized they’d have to let go of the idea that they understood all of the obstacles their users faced.

“One of the most humbling things about building Harlow is recognizing that Andrea and I's pain points as freelancers are not the same pain points that all freelancers are experiencing,” Samantha said.  “So just recognizing that this audience is very diverse, and they have a lot of needs, and that there are a lot of different ways that they do things.”

If the duo were set in their beliefs and unable to pivot in their thinking, they wouldn’t be able to support the various freelancers who use Harlow today.

Ultimately, letting go of certain beliefs can allow for a healthier and more sustainable business. While some beliefs may stand the test of time, more often than not, entrepreneurs have to be flexible and open to switching things up in order to grow their business to its highest potential.

Want more on letting go? Check out the full episode

The businesses we interviewed in this episode have further insights to share about taking a stand and its value for brands. Listen to the full episode here.

- Kareem Queeman
How I Learned to Show Up Authentically as a Black, Queer Business Owner (and Why It Matters)
How I Learned to Show Up Authentically as a Black, Queer Business Owner (and Why It Matters)

I spent a lot of years not showing up authentically in my career and business.

As a Black, queer man who had dreams of being a professional baker, I was afraid my identity would hold me back. I didn’t see people who looked like me in the food industry. When I entered professional kitchens, I just wanted to be seen as someone dedicated to learning and advancing, without being “othered” because of my sexuality or burdened by the negative stereotypes that are often put on Black people.

So I did a lot of code-switching, stifling my true self and presenting what felt like a more buttoned-up version. I would never disclose my sexuality, and I would never get too close to any of my colleagues for fear of them discovering more about my personal life. I was trying to come off as a masculine man who had it all together, and I ended up feeling small. Plus, keeping up the act was exhausting.

Everything changed when I realized that masking my identity was not only harmful for my mental health, but it was also potentially holding back other people in my community. This was right after I had my first major TV appearance competing on Bake It Like Buddy with the Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro. I had so much fun doing it, but I held back showing off my full personality. It struck me that there was nobody who represented my intersection in food media—someone who was Black and queer and loud and proud about both. I thought about how much having a role model like that could help younger people like me see a place for themselves in this industry. I grew up watching Emeril Lagasse and thinking how I wanted to be like him: What if a young Black or queer kid could watch TV and say, “I want to be like Kareem?”

Suddenly, it felt like my duty to show up fully as myself. I’ve spent the past six years doing the work to be okay with the man that I saw in the mirror so that I could fully share that person with others. Now, when I walk into a room to represent my business, the energy is entirely different. I walk in smiling, I take up space, I feel strong and full of life, and it shows.

Instead of trying to hide my identity, I intentionally look for ways to show it off, whether it’s a little feminine movement or using phrases from the Black vernacular. I look for opportunities to bring representation into my work, such as by insisting I make a Mr. and Mr. Claus cake for a holiday special I participated in. And now, all the energy I used to put into hiding myself, I get to put into supporting others, such as through my work with C-CAP (a nonprofit that provides underserved teens a pathway to success in the culinary world) and The Queer Food Foundation. It’s important to me to be part of changing the face of my industry.

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Other business owners of underrepresented identities may hear my story and wonder how I do it: How do I feel confident bringing my whole self to the table? How do I have enough energy to also support others? And how do I do all of this while dealing with the daily needs of running a company and supporting my own boundaries and mental health?

Here are some of the steps that have helped me take care of myself so I can take care of others while taking care of business.

I Found a Network of Support

The single biggest thing that has helped me on this journey is therapy. That may not sound that groundbreaking given how much more normalized going to therapy has become in recent years, but I think it’s especially important to call out given how much of my Black community still shuns it. Therapy was so valuable in carving out dedicated time to understand myself better, giving me a sounding board to process things, and helping me realize the tools I already had for taking care of myself (along with teaching me some new ones).

While I always advocate for seeing a professional if possible, there are other ways to find support systems. For me, it was the teachers, family, neighbors, classmates, and friends who supported my identity and were happy to help me build my dream in any way they could. Not everyone was so accepting of me, but the love I did receive helped me ignore the haters.

Finally, in being more open about my identity, I’ve been able to connect with communities of people like me, which has been invaluable. I always tell people that supporting my Black and queer communities doesn’t feel like work to me, and part of that is because our time together builds me up as well. By hosting or participating in events that center Black or queer business, for example, I not only get to uplift their voices, but I also leave with some new advice to bring into my own work or meet new people who I know will have my back.  

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A post shared by Mr. Bake (@mrbakesweets)

I Choose Carefully Where to Invest My Energy

As I started giving more of myself to others, I had to work hard to create the boundaries that would make this sustainable for myself. A big lesson was learning not to pour outward into vessels that have holes in them.

What do I mean by that? It meant avoiding spaces and relationships where I didn’t feel accepted, and instead finding opportunities where I love the people and the energy. Even better is if I can surround myself with what I call “rocket booster friends”—people who actually fill me back up when I invest time and energy in them.

It also meant being mindful about who within my own community I was choosing to support. I used to try to pressure people to grow, to show up for them even if they didn’t want it or weren’t ready for it. Now, I make sure they want my help before giving it.

For instance, I recently opened my first brick and mortar kitchen as part of Le Fantome food hall in Riverdale, MD, and I was able to hire three queer employees as part of the expansion. My goal as a manager is to not just help them succeed as employees, but to help them grow as people. But I have to make sure that’s what they want, too, before investing in doing that work together. Otherwise, I’m just wasting energy on someone who doesn’t want to take it.

I Carve Out Time to Just Be

Between running my business and supporting others, I reached a point where I felt like I was constantly running on empty. I was a champion for everybody but not really for myself. That’s when it struck me that if I wanted to be a vessel that is pouring out love, I had to pour back into myself.

Now, the first two hours of the day and the last two hours of my day are always dedicated to me. I try to spend that time doing things that fill my cup and help me learn more about myself: meditating, listening to a motivational speaker, reading a good book, speaking to my ancestors, and strengthening my body, which I believe also strengthens the mind. I also sometimes try to just let myself be during that time—to sit in my backyard without an agenda. As high-achieving business owners it can be so tempting to attach a goal even to our relaxation, but I’ve found it so beneficial to my mental health to create time to let my thoughts be free.

I’m not saying that every BIPOC or LGBTQIA business owner has to bring their identity in their work. But, if you dream of being able to show up authentically in your business or hope to help improve representation in your industry, here’s my advice: It’s gonna take a while to get to where I am, to have the confidence to walk into every room proudly and fully yourself. It's going to be a lot of work, and it’s going to be scary sometimes.

But do the work scared, because I promise that what’s on the other side—this freedom, this comfort with who I am, and this sense of wellbeing—is so much greater than living in fear.

- Kinsey Wolf
Saying “No” Instead of “Yes” Helped Me Build a Six-Figure Business
Saying “No” Instead of “Yes” Helped Me Build a Six-Figure Business

You’ve heard the adage that the best leaders frequently say, “no.” But it’s one thing to hear the advice and another to experience it. I didn’t believe in the power of that phrase until I actually started saying “no” with intention. As a result, I watched my revenue grow threefold while clocking half the hours and enjoying my work far more than before.

I also think that advice needs a caveat: Saying “yes” to every opportunity that comes your way isn’t always a bad approach. Especially when I was transitioning from working in-house to starting my own marketing consultancy, The Lane Collective, saying “yes” to new projects and people was a learning opportunity, helping me suss out the work I really wanted to do. Plus, it was a confidence boost to prove to myself that I could get a full roster of clients.

But about nine months in, I realized that defaulting to “yes” was no longer serving me. I was constantly task-switching and bandwidth constrained. It seemed like no matter how much I hustled, my revenue seemed to stay the same. My work was suffering—and so was my personal life. I was so burnt out that I was considering quitting this independent career altogether, even though I loved the work.

After deep reflection, I realized that it was time to reorient myself in relation to my work. Naturally, my goal was a thriving marketing business—but “thriving” began to take on a more well-rounded meaning. I wanted my work to enable a more full life, one with more room for hobbies, and more mental and emotional space for loved ones. After all, I believe that my work’s purpose should enhance my broader purpose, not become it. I decided that if I was going to do the work, it had to work for me, too.

That meant things needed to change

A wise independent consultant once told me, “the things that get you to your first $100,000 are the same things that will hold you back from your next.” If saying “yes” is what allowed me to get my business going, saying “no” is what helped me grow to new heights. Here are some things I started saying “no” to and the measurable effect this shift had on my business success and my personal wellbeing.

I Said “No” to Certain Types of Clients

Something had to give, and I realized I needed more room to focus on specific, aligned engagements. That meant letting go of some amazing clients who just weren’t going to be a fit for the future of my business. I started culling my client roster, and I mean seriously culling: I let go of 70-80 percent of the clients I was working with at that time.

I wanted to focus on tech-enabled startups at the earliest stages who were ready to grow. I had about 10-15 clients at the time, and less than a third matched that profile. So, I did the scary thing and let go of all the rest. That meant parting ways with clients I really liked. It also, of course, meant turning away a lot of revenue.

They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but that was simply not the case for me. Working with wonderful yet unaligned clients meant that I couldn’t attract those who were a better fit. Letting them go opened up that space, and, amazingly, the “right fit” clients found me pretty quickly afterward.

Reducing my client load also opened up time to strategically think about the kind of business I wanted instead of getting buried in the day-to-day tasks. I built an inbound process so I could better judge whether new potential clients would be the right fit, and I still turn down about 90 percent of inquiries to this day.

But the clients I have are those I feel lucky to work with every single day, which has made a phenomenal increase in the amount of mental space and enthusiasm I have for the work.

Being a #startup #founder is incredibly difficult, partly because when you’re building one company, you’re actually building two: the one you have, and the one you want 💥

— kinsey wolf (@kinsey_wolf) May 27, 2022 I Said “No” to Tasks Outside of My “Zone of Genius”

I also began saying “no” to certain types of tasks within my client contracts.

As is common for many marketing consultants, especially early-on, I was doing a little bit of everything: social media strategy, content strategy, content writing, and even helping out with paid media when a client was in a pinch.

And while I could do all of these things, it wasn’t the most efficient use of my time, or how I could provide the maximum value for my clients. Plus, it often wasn’t the most energizing work for me to do.

My superpower is translating an idea into action, so I decided to focus on fractional CMO work. I shifted from being a one-woman show to the “collective” model I have today. Now, when a client needs full-stack marketing support, I have a network of marketing experts I can introduce them to.

Strategists tend to be expensive executors. It’s far more valuable to my clients to work with expert partners when necessary, and more junior people for execution as applicable. Plus, focusing my services has allowed me to continue to build my expertise in that area, so that I can provide more value to clients and raise my rates.

Perhaps most importantly, spending more time on the tasks I love most has dramatically improved my energy and enthusiasm—I can’t remember the last time I dreaded my work.

Great advice I got early on in starting my business: you don't need to worry about making money. That will come. Focus on being ruthless about where you spend your time and energy.

— kinsey wolf (@kinsey_wolf) March 29, 2022 I Said “No” to Charging By the Hour

Around this time, I began researching different pricing models for independent contractors or freelancers. One idea really stood out: value-based pricing. The idea, in a nutshell, is that you price your services based on the value you’re creating for your clients. Like most consultants, my value is my expertise, not my time.  

Moving away from hourly contracts was the most difficult, but also one of the best changes I made. I was terrified. Charging by the hour felt safe. But like so many things that feel safe, it was also limiting.

I shifted my contracts to a project-based approach, focused on deliverables and results instead of hours worked. I was able to grow my income by focusing on high-value deliverables; these are the ones that are the most aligned with my zone of genius, and most critical to my clients. I found that my clients grew to prefer this approach, too. It’s measurable, predictable, and quality-driven in a way that hourly contracts simply can’t be. Win-win!

I’ve found that not only do clients like the ease of project-based agreements, they also like the value-add. I’m on their team in a way that an hourly contractor can’t be, because I’m motivated by results just like they are. Almost every client has asked to grow the contract, even without my needing to pitch anything.

I Said “No” to Burning Myself Out

Due to the state of my wellbeing when I started this process, I had the intention of working half the time and making double the money, which frankly felt impossible. But I was burned out, working 60+ hours a week, and giving too much of myself to too many clients in a way that was draining my love for the work.

Miraculously, saying “no” more helped me achieve that goal, and then some. I now work about 25-30 hours a week and am making close to three times the revenue. I have four or five anchor clients at a time, plus capacity for one or two strategic sprints per month with new clients. Sometimes I fill those slots, and sometimes I don’t so I have more time to, say, go on vacation and actually unplug (another goal that once felt impossible).

Giving time back to myself has ultimately helped my business grow, too. I have a friend who always says, “When you work for yourself, you are your own business.” That means taking care of your own needs isn’t just “self care,” it’s what allows you to show up as your best self in your work.

When you say “no” to one thing, you’re saying “yes” to something else. For me, saying “yes” to a more fulfilled life and career required saying some difficult “nos” along the way. Was it worth it? Absolutely. In the end, saying “no” was freeing for me, allowing me to commit my energy to things that have the greatest impact in and out of work.

- Umber Bhatti
How These Small Businesses Stand Up For What They Believe In
🖊️Small Business, Big Lessons is a podcast from Buffer that goes behind the scenes with inspirational small businesses to explore how they are questioning the best ways to build a business and uncover the big lessons we can learn from their journeys (so far). Check out episode seven here.How These Small Businesses Stand Up For What They Believe In

Today, businesses are not just known for the products and services they offer, but consumers also take into account a company’s values and morals. According to a recent study done by Ipsos, people believe brands have a responsibility to address social and political concerns. And now is an especially opportune time for these entities to speak up, says business consultant Holly Howard. She credits social media for both normalizing discourse around current events and making it easier for company's to vocalize their thoughts on these topics.

“20 years ago, you could take a stand as a business, but it wasn't going to spread as much as it can when a business is online … I think a lot of things contributed to the fact that people feel more comfortable [speaking up] nowadays … Using those times as a source of inspiration and motivation to create something new in the world is really important.”

In season 2 episode 7 of our podcast Small Business, Big Lessons, we spoke to several entrepreneurs and learned why, for them, taking a stand is embedded within their business’s overall purpose.

A small business galvanized by social justice

In the spring of 2020, Azikiwee Anderson, or Z, was dealing with the pandemic like most Americans were. At the time, Covid-19 had not yet become a household name, and there was a ton of uncertainty in the air. But then, in May of that year, something else occurred that disrupted Z’s world: George Floyd was murdered in police custody. Floyd’s death caused an uproar and pushed the issue of racial discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront of American society.

A Black man himself, Z was profoundly impacted by this incident and it led the private chef to reevaluate his life, purpose, and the way he is perceived by society.

“During the pandemic, I went down a rabbit hole. I tell people, it kind of broke my brain,” Z said. “The whole murder of George Floyd, what it meant to the world, what it meant to me. What it meant because he looked and was seen like me in the world…,” Z said. “How the world sees people like me. Like the person I am … can I be my own authentic self?”

Angry, frustrated, and confused, Z felt like he had no place to just be. It was a time of immense reflection and contemplation and when he finally was able to pull himself out of this rut, it was thanks to an unlikely source – sourdough.

At the time, baking sourdough had been a popular pandemic activity, something that helped people keep busy during lockdown and also provided comfort during an unprecedented time. But for Z, the hobby would become so much more than a relaxing pastime.

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A post shared by Rize Up Bakery (@rizeupbakery)

“Baking helped me back from that edge,” he said. “The actual act – the zen of getting lost and working with my hands and being really present and enjoying that action – healed a lot of cracks in my heart.”

Z ended up sharing his baking adventures with his followers on his personal Instagram page when dozens of individuals inquired about purchasing loaves from the private chef. And just like that, Rize Up Bakery was born. What first began in Z’s kitchen, has now expanded to a thriving small business in San Francisco.

The entrepreneur makes clear that social justice is baked into Rize Up’s overall purpose. Not only is it how the business got its start, but Z’s mission is to show others, especially Black youth, the power of baking. Z hopes this can help kids see that there are other life paths they can take to be successful.

“If you only think you can be a basketball player, or a rapper or drug dealer, or like some dude who's flossing, if that's the only reality that your force fed every single day, it's no wonder that people have an identity crisis,” Z said.

For Z, Rize Up Bakery has multiple goals: spreading his love for baking to others, brightening up customers’ days, and providing nourishing food to his community. But as he continues to lay down the roots for his small business, he’s adamant about incorporating a greater social justice angle to his work, especially when it comes to working with the younger generation.

“I don't think the world, especially kids, are taught to be great,” Z said. “They're taught not to make mistakes, they're taught to get along, they're taught to not stand up for themselves or not stand up for someone else …They're taught all these things, but they're not really taught like, ‘hey, you know what, you can be great.’”

How these entrepreneurs take a stand through their work

Z isn't the only entrepreneur who’s passionate about making a difference through his work. The below small business owners are dedicated to pushing back against what they feel are societal wrongs – including wasteful consumption, tech monopolies, and misinformation – by implementing policies and initiatives within their companies that address these issues.

Paynter Jacket is an alternative to the fast fashion industry

Co-founders Becky and Huw created their small business Paynter Jacket with one mission in mind: do things differently and more ethically than most clothing companies. They only sell four limited edition jackets a year and have a made-to-order business model, meaning they order the only what they need – down to the exact meters of fabric and the precise number of buttons – so they don’t produce any waste.

Becky knows that their clothing company may not be able to fix the fast fashion industry on its own, but she hopes Paynter Jacket’s philosophy around ethical production can help remind customers that they don’t need to be constantly buying new clothes, but should buy fewer, higher quality staples. The entrepreneur finds herself nostalgic for the days clothing was actually valued.

“I remember some of the most exciting days actually, as a child growing up, when my cousins would come over, and they'd bring their bags of hand-me-down clothes and we'd rifle through them and decide what we're going to keep,ultimately giving those garments a longer life. I don't think that really happens anymore.”

Despite the fact that Paynter Jacket has grown in popularity and could very well expand their operations, they still choose to produce a limited number of jackets each year – staying true to their roots.

SparkToro speaks up against large tech monopolies

Rand Fishkin has co-founded two tech companies – SEO software Moz and his latest company, SparkToro, an audience research tool. As someone with a ton of experience in the tech industry, the entrepreneur has been very vocal about the lack of antitrust enforcement in the U.S as he believes its harmed economic opportunity in the U.S. and allowed for more inequality.

“You have just a few companies that kind of control the gateways to the Internet, control internet commerce, control internet advertising, and that lack of enforcement is also illegal, it is breaking the rule of law in the United States.” In fact, Rand built SparkToro with principles to ensure that it would run differently than most tech companies, as one of their values is egalitarianism – they want to help small businesses catch up to the big tech giants with audience research.

NEW blog post.If you're not familiar with the Big Tech Monopoly bill being considered this summer by the US Congress... get ready. It could have a massive effect on entrepreneurship, marketing, Google's results, SEO, PPC, and more.https://t.co/FaE8OOFusu

— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) June 14, 2022

But Rand has also published research on how big companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google are stifling innovation and fair competition. This very research has been cited by the U.S. Congress and even featured on Last Week tonight with John Oliver. Rand is also open on his social media accounts and blog about this issue, and hopes his words and research can have some kind of impact.

“My hope is, if there's just a few more people contributing in small ways, maybe together, we can make a difference.” In his opinion,“I think that everyone has an obligation to help.”

Buffer combats online misinformation

In recent years, there has been a trend of blatantly false information spreading – including misinformation about elections and vaccines – on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and unfortunately, we’ve noticed our products and tools at Buffer sometimes being used to publish these false messages.

This misinformation can potentially lead to real life consequences and it was important for our entire team at Buffer, including our CEO Joel Gascoigne too. That’s why we’ve adjusted our terms of services and terms of use of our products to more clearly define what is and isn’t allowed. We’ve been cracking down on accounts that don’t follow the rules.  

“Since we're a small company, we can do that. And we can move pretty fast with those things. And so that's the direction we've been going more recently and it's feeling like the right thing for us for the stage where the culture, the DNA, the type of company we are.”

As our core values revolve around transparency, authenticity, and helping our customers thrive, we plan to continue to stand up against all kinds of misinformation.

Taking a stand by nurturing community relationships

Sometimes as a business owner, you may want to take a stance in multiple ways, for multiple events, but Holly advises her clients to pick one or two causes they really resonate with, rather than try to do it all.

“I tell people to really take a step back and ask yourself why you're aligning with certain causes, not from a political perspective, But I just mean from an internal culture perspective,” Holly said.

Another way these small business owners have taken a stand is by reaching out and partnering with other organizations and causes they feel connected back to their greater mission.

Made with Local addresses food insecurity

Made with Local – a B corporation that produces a variety of granola products – has always actively worked with their local community to address social inequities. One of the causes founder Sheena Russel is passionate about is providing food for those in need in their community in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

“We work closely with organizations that are helping to address food insecurity, which has much deeper roots than just not having enough food in your pantry. These are systemic issues that are a significant issue in where we live in the world,” Sheena said.

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A post shared by Made with Local (@madewithlocal)

They’ve partnered with North Grove, a community food center in Nova Scotia that advocates for and provides a healthy and fair food system for its community. Along with that, the small business also helped found the Dartmouth community fridge project, another organization with the goal of feeding the community.

By supporting local community partners, Made with Local is actively advocating for all community members to have access to fresh and nutritious foods.

​​Rize Up partners with a variety of San Francisco orgs

As a child, Z and his family experienced homelessness for some time, and the experience has shaped the way he thinks about giving back to others. The baker is big on donating a portion of the bakery’s sourdough loaves to multiple organizations within San Francisco.

Rize Up partners with Glide – a SF social justice center that works to combat poverty, housing, and homelessness within the city, and One Richmond, a community center that aims to strengthen the bonds between residents. Z has also donated loaves to battered women shelters throughout SF, as well.

This small act of charity is one small way Z feels like he can help his fellow neighbors.

“I might not be able to fix everything on the planet. I might not be able to buy somebody a place to live in. But what I can do is use my hands and use my skills to make beautiful food,” Z said. “Because some days, you just need enough food to get through the day, so you can live another day. And for me, that really matters.”

Buffer’s annual charitable contribution

We’re big on giving back at Buffer, and something we’re proud of is our annual charitable contribution. At the end of every profitable year we have, we take about 20 percent of our profit share and match that and donate to a deserving cause that the entire team gets to vote on.

In recent years, we’ve incorporated more flexibility in how we donate, for example, in 2020 we donated to various organizations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, in addition to matching team donations and continuing to invest in anti-racism education for our team. We also make room to donate to new causes whenever the need arises. That’s why in 2022 we showed our support to Ukraine and donated to Global Giving’s Ukraine crisis relief fund.  +

It was important for Joel that the causes we chose to support aligned with our overall mission at Buffer.

“We've started to shift thinking about it, not just as, ‘okay, we're donating money.’ But can we do something that's really intertwined with our own mission…,”Joel said. “We started thinking more about underrepresented groups and causes focused on them that are also focused on small businesses in some way.”

Paynter Jacket raises money for Ukraine

When the crisis in Ukraine was first unfolding, Becky and Huw immediately knew they wanted to help in whatever way they could. While they didn’t have a ton of resources as a small business, what they did have was some leftover samples from their previous batches. They decided to put these prints and samples to good use with an online fundraiser. Thanks to user donations, plus a very generous anonymous contribution that matched, Paynter Jacket raised 23,000 pounds and donated that money to the Red Cross's humanitarian work in Ukraine.

“We felt it was really important to help people in Ukraine, because, how totally and utterly frightening, and we felt like we couldn't do anything from so far away. So the best thing that we can do is show solidarity by raising money,” Becky said.

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A post shared by Paynter (@paynterjacket)

While taking a stand is absolutely something you should do as a small business owner, sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and reflect before speaking up about an issue. Holly takes inspiration from activist Loretta Ross and her thoughts on being an ally.

“[Ross’s] whole posture is about approaching activism from this space of first taking a moment to really think about why it is that we're doing what we're doing,” Holly said. “And to not approach it from a space of, ‘we have to get out there immediately and do this thing.’  And I think that moment of pause is really important,” Holly said.

It’s crucial to not come off as being performative in your activism, something that customers and followers can usually notice. You want to make sure you truly understand the cause, and back up your words with actions, too.

Once you do find a deserving cause that feels aligned with your brand’s mission, however, take a cue from these entrepreneurs and be vocal in your advocacy and support.

Want more on Taking a Stand? Check out the full episode

The businesses we interviewed in this episode have further insights to share about taking a stand and its value for brands. Check out the full episode here.

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Get Holiday Ready: Email Sending Best Practices
Q&A with Deliverability Manager John Peters

Q&A with Deliverability Manager John Peters

With the holiday season just around the corner, and the prospect of sending more emails to your subscribers than usual, not to mention the influx they’ll no doubt receive from other brands, we want to make sure you feel prepared and holiday ready.

We sat down with John Peters, Campaign Monitor’s Deliverability Manager and advocate of email sending best practices, to ask him how you should prepare for the influx of emails this holiday season, and how you can maximize inbox placement and engagement at this busy time.

Read on to see how you can make an impact with your email program this holiday season, for all the right reasons.

 

Q: For those that might not be familiar with deliverability, can you give us a crash course on what it is.

Sure! Email deliverability can be complicated and may, at times, seem part science and part magic.

To demystify deliverability, let’s look at the journey of an email from when someone clicks “send” to the email arriving in the individual recipient’s inbox. We can break this journey down into two main stages.

Stage one is where our system compiles the email and sends it to the mailbox provider like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or business domains. The mailbox provider will either accept the email, or reject it and if the email is accepted we call this successful email delivery.

Stage two is what happens after the email is accepted. There are more automated checks carried out by the mailbox provider’s system, and these checks determine where the email ends up. If the customer has a good sender reputation their email will land in the inbox. Otherwise it will get blocked or filtered to the spam folder. And this is email deliverability.

Q: What can our customers do to influence good deliverability and avoid the spam folder?

I think it’s important to acknowledge that a marketer has direct control over the majority of factors that impact deliverability. For the most part deliverability is about sender reputation and subscriber engagement, that is to say whether a person reacts positively or negatively to their emails.

As such, a marketer can make sure they follow these 5 steps:

they have explicit permission and voluntary opt-in to send emails their email content is both expected and wanted by their audience they focus on increasing recipient engagement and reducing the risk of high spam complaints they regularly refresh their lists by re-engaging inactive subscribers and removing dormant ones with no activity over 12 months they authenticate their sending domains and at the very least set up DKIM for the domain they use to send emails

Campaign Monitor - Deliverability is important all year round

Q: Deliverability is important all year round, but why is it particularly important during the holiday season?

It is normal during the holiday season for global email traffic to increase and peak over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. During this time, marketers send more emails and with greater urgency and mailbox providers are strained to manage the surge in email volume.

In such a peak time, mailbox providers must strike a balance between over-filtering incoming email and placing legitimate emails in the spam folder. Or the mailbox provider may not filter enough emails and let spam through to a person’s inbox.

Marketers want to reach their subscribers’ crowded inboxes (especially at this time of the year), and to do so successfully they need to know the constraints and affecting environment of the email ecosystem. Otherwise they may find that their well crafted and curated content is being filtered and not reaching their subscribers’ inbox.

Q: Is it too late for customers to prepare for the 2022 holiday season?

No, this is the perfect time to prepare for the coming holiday season. Even if your holiday programs have already begun, it’s not too late to follow these deliverability best practices. The savvy marketer knows now is the time to audit their database and review their campaign and mailing reports.

Focus on list hygiene. Permission to send emails isn’t evergreen, and monitoring list hygiene is an ongoing process. If a subset of a list has poor engagement metrics, consider trying to re-engage that particular group.

Sending a “check-in” email to those less engaged subscribers is a great way to see if they wish to remain on your list or if they do not then perhaps it is time to bid them goodbye and remove them from your list rather than damage your sender reputation.

Get Holiday Ready: Email Sending Best Practices

Q: That’s great to hear! What top tips do you have for customers to maintain, and even improve, their deliverability?

Don’t make sudden and unexpected changes to how you send emails, such as changing the “From” email address you use to send emails or changing your branding. These are your calling card which helps people remember who you are and why they are receiving your emails and it helps your email stand out in their crowded inbox.

If you anticipate a dramatic increase in your email volume or sending frequency make sure you have a ramp up plan to accommodate the change in cadence. Mailbox providers treat sudden changes in email volume from a sender as suspicious and may filter your emails to the spam folder or block them.

Make sure you have DKIM set up for your sending domain. Campaign Monitor now has a virtual Assistant that helps customers know if they haven’t authenticated their sending domain.

Included in your Campaign Monitor account is our Insights reporting. In this reporting you can immediately see overall statistics for your campaigns. You can review your results over a period of time, which you are able to define using the date selection tool. This will help you look for trends in your performance over a period of time.

Marketers should closely monitor their email results for any signs of subscriber email fatigue. A drop in engagement will impact your sender reputation, and a fatigued subscriber is more likely to mark an email as spam.

Q: Any other final tips for Campaign Monitor customers?

Landing in the inbox is a privilege rather than a right. If we want to be invited in as a welcome guest, we need to make sure we present ourselves as trustworthy and respectful senders who are mindful of our sending practices and the expectation of our subscribers.

While it’s tempting to maximize sales by sending in higher cadence even to unresponsive subscribers, any small increase in ROI is not worth the longer lasting negative impact to future inbox placement, especially leading up to the post Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday season.

By following the above practices marketers can increase the quality of their email list, better manage their database and increase the overall effectiveness of their email programs and inbox placement.

 

The post Get Holiday Ready: Email Sending Best Practices appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
5 SMS Marketing Examples Your Audience Actually Wants to Receive

SMS is an essential marketing channel for all kinds of businesses. But, it can be tricky to nail down what kind of message is appropriate for SMS, and what kind will annoy and drive away your customers. Read this post for five incredible SMS marketing examples of messages your audience actually wants to read.

Everyone likes getting gifts. But everyone also has that one weird family member. You know, the one who makes you ugly crocheted “fashion statements” for Christmas and gets you underwear for your birthday.

Usually, they have good intentions, but they’re probably unaware and out of touch with what people actually want. In short message service (SMS) marketing, many brands, unfortunately, become just like your Great Aunt Margaret. Someone told them that “Those hip young people like text messages,” and they started sending SMS marketing messages that are the equivalent of a crocheted necktie and tighty-whities.

According to Zendesk, the popularity of using SMS messaging to contact businesses grew by 75% in 2020. However, just like gift-giving, it’s key that you actually give people what they want when they start a text conversation with your brand.

For example, according to SimpleTexting, only 9% of consumers want to hear about your customer satisfaction survey via text. (Which, let’s be real, makes up like 99% of text messages people receive from businesses. Annoying much?) On the other hand, according to the same survey, 35% of consumers would love to get special offers or promotions via text.

Text message marketing can feel invasive and unwelcome if it’s not personalized and valuable to your audience. If you’re still not sure what consumers want to receive, you’re in luck. This guide covers five SMS marketing examples your audience actually wants to receive so you don’t become the marketing equivalent of Great Aunt Margaret. You’ll increase your conversions and your bottom line.

1. Event updates

It’s hard to beat text message marketing campaigns for timely updates you know your audience will see. Americans are constantly checking their phones — about 344 times a day, according to Reviews.org. And McKinsey reports SMS messages have the highest read rates out of any commercial messaging channel, with an open rate of 42%. This combination makes SMS text messages the ideal channel for time-sensitive event communication.

You can use SMS messages to hype event lineups, send ticket QR codes, provide attendees with session time updates, or even provide interactive content during the event.

For example, event attendees may opt in to receive messages, so they can be the first to hear who the headlining speaker is or receive a mobile ticket. And then, once they have opted in, you can notify them of important information via SMS throughout the conference, such as which conference space their sessions are in.

Example of an SMS message promoting an event.

Source

2. Special offers

According to SimpleTexting, 50% of consumers said they would be more likely to opt in to SMS messages from a business if they knew they would receive time-sensitive promotions. Through audience segmentation and marketing automation, marketing teams can personalize the promotions to each consumer, increasing the value and connection to the brand.

SMS marketing for special offers could be as simple as promoting flash sales or as specific as sending a discount code to a customer on their birthday. The key to maintaining the value for the consumer is to use it only for timely or personalized offers, rather than constantly bombarding them with texts.

Example of an SMS message promoting a special offer.

Source

 

3. Product launches

Consumers have the world at their fingertips with the internet. If you want your product to stand out from the beginning, you need a unique promotional mechanism. According to a survey by Harris Interactive, 77% of consumers view companies that offer texting more positively (not to mention those impressive read rates we mentioned previously). So, if you want all eyes eagerly on that new product launch, SMS is where you should start.

The timeliness of SMS provides brands with a chance to roll out their products in stages to increase the hype. For example, you should start a launch with a VIP and influencer early-access message before opening sales up to all customers.

Besides the timeliness of SMS, it also has the advantage of having very measurable outcomes. Campaign Monitor’s SMS reporting dashboard shows a comprehensive view of your launch campaigns, including audience responses to both email and SMS. Instead of guessing at interest levels in your new product or the success of your campaign, you can easily assess them at a glance.

Example of an SMS message announcing a new product

Source

 

4. Community building

SMS messages provide a unique opportunity to build brand affinity by personally connecting with your audience and creating a community around your brand. In this way, you can promote your brand without promoting your brand.

For example, you could send daily health tips or mindfulness prompts if you’re a wellness brand, or links to interactive brand content such as how-to videos and online communities. All of these things promote user-generated content, which 79% of users say highly impacts their purchase decisions, according to Stackla.

Example of an SMS message that builds community.

Source

 

5. Donation drives

People get bombarded with organizations asking them for donations. If it’s not the Boy Scout down the street, it’s the fundraiser in the mail or the grocery store clerk asking them to “round up for the cause.” So how do you break through the noise? SMS.

The key to using SMS for donation drives and fundraising is to craft a message that won’t be just banging cymbals in the cacophony of fundraising campaigns. Gone are the days of cold-calling telethons. Today, consumers expect personalized and timely communications. And that is where SMS shines.

For example, you can tailor each message to the individual donor with Campaign Monitor’s subscriber list upload feature and customizable fields. Segment your list by region, income range, age, or any other custom qualifier you choose. Personalize every message with the subscriber’s name for an added personal touch.

With SMS, you can respond within minutes to any community or worldwide crisis, giving people the opportunity to act as soon as the news breaks. You no longer have to wait for the mailer to reach their house weeks later or cross your fingers your social posts reach them. Hit your donor base when it’s still fresh and before they are bombarded with other organizations asking for donations.

Example of an SMS message asking for donations.

Source

 

Once you have your audience’s attention, it’s important that you give them an easily accessible and immediate way to give. Relying on dated payment options isn’t going to cut it anymore. When was the last time you wrote a check for anything? It’s probably been a while. According to the Federal Reserve, the use of checks and cash is decreasing dramatically YOY, and mobile payments are taking the place of most payments previously made via check or cash. In short, if you want people to donate to your campaign, you need to offer mobile payment options.

Graph showing how individuals make payments.

Source

Combining SMS and email marketing strategies

There’s no arguing the benefits of SMS marketing, but it has an even greater impact when used in combination with an email marketing strategy. Each serves your customers in a unique way and enhances the impact of the other. What they share in common is the ability to grow your customer base and your bottom line. If you want to learn more about how to use SMS marketing strategies in combination with email marketing, check out our guide.

The post 5 SMS Marketing Examples Your Audience Actually Wants to Receive appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
What Makes NYT’s “The Morning” Newsletter One of the Most Popular in the World

Let’s break down the secrets to success behind The New York Times’ The Morning, and what you can learn from it for your own newsletter.

Some people say newspapers are dead, but The New York Times (NYT) isn’t taking that lying down. It has maintained its classic brand and award-winning content while evolving its product to serve a digital audience. Besides its website that serves as a digital news source for its readers, it has curated one of the most popular daily email newsletters in the world. The newsletter, called The Morning, has garnered over 17 million subscribers.

So, how has The New York Times built a newsletter subscriber list over twice the population of New York City? It took the strengths of its centurial newspaper and adapted them to a new platform. It translated attention-grabbing headlines into subject lines. It adapted award-winning photojournalism into newsletter illustrations. And it turned renowned news stories into a newsletter its subscribers eagerly wait for each morning.

While your organization may not be an iconic newspaper, you can apply many of the same principles The New York Times has used to build your own successful newsletter. That is, a newsletter that is engaging and informative, keeps your readers coming back, and ultimately promotes your brand to a captivated audience.

1. Short, intriguing subject lines

Eye-catching newspaper headlines have been a long-standing tradition in the world of journalism, a skill The New York Times has leveraged in its email newsletter subject lines. The Morning features succinct subject lines with compelling descriptions you can’t help but want to open.

The Morning email subject lines are typically no more than four words following the title of the newsletter. They offer enough for the reader to know what the featured story is about but hold back the details, so the reader has to click to find the resolution.

Don’t worry — even if you don’t have harrowing war stories or political unrest to share in your newsletter, you can still curate eye-catching headlines. Start with determining a distinct perspective or value to share with your readers. From there, isolate the most essential concepts or words and think about the goals of your customer.

For example, if your value proposition is a 50% off sale on summer clothing, don’t just share a deadpan subject line that says, “we have a sale.” Instead, offer your customer the tangible and aspirational value of the sale in your subject line. For example, your subject line could be “50% Off Summer Fashion Statements!” This highlights the savings value as well as the goal they can attain by participating (making a fashion statement).

The New York Times uses short, impactful subject lines to get their message across.

Source. In this issue of The Morning, the subject line only uses two words (and an abbreviation) following the title of the newsletter. And yet, just those couple of words create a striking image in the mind of the reader.

 

2. Vivid imagery

The first thing you see when you open The Morning is an in-your-face graphic or image. Let’s just say The New York Times definitely takes advantage of its award-winning photojournalists and designers when it comes to producing its newsletter. The image immediately conjures an emotion, making the reader invested right from the start.

The opening graphic in your email newsletter is like the welcome mat to the narrative you create within. Make sure it invites your readers in and tells them what they can expect. Maybe it says, “groundbreaking news” or “innovative ideas.” Or maybe it says, “If you’re pizza, Amazon, or Ryan Gosling, I’m home” (our favorite).

The NYT uses vivid imagery to conjure emotion in their emails.

Source. The striking image of grieving loved ones puts a face to the opioid crisis, driving home the individual impact of the headline.

 

3. Clear sections and clean design

The Morning makes it clear what its readers can expect in each section with descriptive section headers and clear dividing lines. The simple black and white print is not only reminiscent of its newspaper roots but also makes its content easily legible.

So maybe a straightforward black-and-white design doesn’t fit your brand or audience but maintaining legibility is still key. This includes taking into account the 49% of users reading email on a mobile device. Are your emails optimized for mobile? Is your content skimmable? Is the contrast between the font and background stark enough that it’s easy to read?

The NYT uses clear sections so readers know what to expect morning by morning.

Source. Each The Morning newsletter opens with a header, the author’s name, and then the lead story, separated by a thick dividing line. Similarly, the rest of the newsletter is broken into sections by a thick black line and section title. The sections are divided by news, opinion pieces, books, Times Magazine content, and games, so the reader can easily skip to the sections that interest them the most.

 

4. Timely and comprehensive content

The Morning gives readers everything they need to carry on conversations about culture and world events. It features events that are happening currently but also provides resources to understand upcoming news-worthy topics. The newsletter also explores cultural moments in time such as food, literature, art, and entertainment.

Even if your business is not reporting the news, it’s worth taking a note from The New York Times when it comes to timeliness cultural relevance in your content. This might look like making sure your promotions are in line with current holidays, your event reminders give your audience enough notice to act, and your voice and tone are in line with cultural trends.

Readers rely on The Morning to get news that's relevant and comprehensive.

Source. The Morning features a headlining story each day that highlights a major current event before moving into the culture and entertainment sections. No need to wonder what everyone is talking about around the water cooler when you get The Morning every … well, morning.

 

5. Authoritative voice and tone

Even the most renowned newspapers in the world have to maintain authority and trust with their readership. Most major news organizations try to distance their journalists from their work to promote the idea of unbiased news. However, The New York Times takes a unique stance in its newsletter by having each one “hosted” by one of its renowned journalists. This builds a personal connection with the reader and establishes trust and credibility by having a respected name on the byline.

In addition to naming the writer, the content is written in a strong authoritative voice and tone. There are no qualifying statements or punches pulled; the writers take a clear stance in every issue.

You may not be a leader in political or cultural opinion, but you do have the opportunity to be an authoritative voice in your industry niche. Own your space, take a stance on industry practices or trends, and challenge the status quo. Make a statement your readers will not only remember you for but come back for.

The NYT writes in a way that demonstrates their knowledge and authority on a given topic.

Source. The New York Times is not above questioning even commonly held beliefs about “science.” No topic or entity is too big for it to address; journalists write with the authority of an organization that leads public opinion.

 

Create your iconic newsletter

You may not be The New York Times, but you can still create unforgettable newsletters that subscribers will come back for and share. Good newsletters can promote their email enough to build a list, but great newsletters will grow themselves. Get started creating yours today with our easy drag-and-drop templates that will make your newsletter stand out in the crowd.

The post What Makes NYT’s “The Morning” Newsletter One of the Most Popular in the World appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
How to Find the Best Time to Send an Email Newsletter to Your Audience

It’s the age-old debate of every email marketing conversation: “when is the best time to send an email newsletter?” The answer is — there isn’t one best time. Yes, you read that right. If you want to increase email engagement rates, it’s not as simple as picking a certain day or time.

Similar to Farmers Insurance, “we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two” when it comes to email marketing. Every year, we study over 100 billion emails to curate an annual report about email marketing trends and engagement. And do you know what we’ve found? The best time to send an email newsletter varies by industry, audience, and engagement goals. There is no one-size-fits-all time to send an email newsletter.

The core of email marketing engagement is a newsletter tailored to your product, brand, and target audience. To accomplish this, it’s essential to continually test, analyze, and optimize your email campaigns. What does this look like in real-time? Let’s dig in.

Test your emails

The foundation to perfecting email engagement is testing what works and doesn’t work for your audience in every aspect. This includes testing the time of day you send, subject lines, copy, graphics, and other key elements of the email.

Note that this may be different for each audience segment, product, and type of email (i.e., feature announcement vs. welcome email) you send. It may sound overwhelming to test so many things with multiple segments, but thankfully there’s a systematic way to approach email tests that will simplify uncovering trends: A/B testing.

1. Segment your email subscriber list

To segment your subscriber list, divide your email list into smaller lists according to key characteristics, such as demographic, business type, purchase behavior, or location. Segments will allow you to see what has the most impact on each brand audience as well as provide more targeted email marketing in the future.

Ideally, your email marketing platform should have a segmentation tool that will make it easy to do. Here’s how it works on Campaign Monitor’s platform.

2. Form a hypothesis

Once you have segmented lists, it’s time to form a hypothesis, or “educated guess,” just like you would in a scientific test. To develop your hypothesis, first pick a segment of your list to focus on, then pick a single element to test that’s key for that group.

For example, you may make an educated guess about what the outcome would be of changing the time you send welcome emails. Similar to setting a goal, your hypothesis should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound). In this case, your hypothesis could be “sending welcome emails within 10 minutes of a user joining will increase email open rates by 6% over the next three months with the new user segment.”

3. Split each segment into an “A” and “B” test group

Now that you’ve formed your hypothesis, split the subscriber segment in two: an “A” group for your control group and a “B” group for your test group.

Split the segment equally at random to ensure the results aren’t skewed one way or the other. The easiest way to achieve random group selection is to use an email service provider (ESP) that has built-in A/B testing.

Assess if each group is large enough to provide statistically significant results to ensure the most accurate data. If the groups are too small or not varied enough, the test will be prone to just reflect the results of randomness. Whereas a larger group will increase the accuracy of results by reducing the probability of randomness.

A statistically significant group is determined by a few factors and a lot of math. If you’re not a statistician or just don’t like doing math (because who does?), you can easily find the right size by using an A/B test calculator. A good starting size is usually at least 1,000 subscribers, but again, that can be lower or higher depending on the test and the subscriber list.

4. Create “A” and “B” test assets

To test a specific aspect of your email, create two variations of the same email with just that single element changed to reflect your hypothesis.

For example, create two identical welcome emails, but send one at the time you typically send your welcome emails and one at the time reflected in your hypothesis. Following the hypothesis example above: if you typically send your welcome emails two days after the user joins, send your control email at this time. Your test group email could be sent 10 minutes after the new user joins to test the effectiveness against your baseline results from your control group.

The only thing different between the two emails should be the time you sent them. If you were to test more than one element, it is called multivariate testing. For example, a multivariate test would be if you were testing both the time the email is sent and different subject line. You should only use multivariate testing when you are testing combinations of different elements. And it’s best to implement multivariate testing only after testing each individual element.

For example, after you test and find the most effective time to send your email, you can then combine it with winning subject lines to measure the combined impact. If you attempt to test all aspects of an email at the same time, it can be difficult to determine which is contributing positively or negatively to the overall outcome.

5. Run your test on a platform that can measure results

Now it’s finally time to hit play on your test. Make sure you send your email from an ESP that has a strong analytics dashboard so you can easily measure and assess the results. Remember to isolate all variables except the one you’re testing. So if you’re testing send times, don’t write different subject lines and send on different days of the week or different times of day. Include the same subject lines in both emails, and just change the time sent.

Analyze the data

Once you’ve run your test, it’s time to assess the outcomes and determine if your hypothesis was correct or not. When testing the hypothesis above, for example, look at open rates for each email segment to measure the impact of send time. Whichever group had the highest open rate would be the “winner.”

If you’re using an ESP that has built-in A/B testing, the platform should do most of the hard work for you. For example, in Campaign Monitor’s A/B test analytics dashboard, you can view graphs of your results and conversion values all at the same time. image.png

In addition to analyzing the results as they pertain to the individual test, assess the results in light of your overall email newsletter performance. This will allow you to gain further insights into the potential impact it could have on other email segments. For example, if a personalized subject line increased open rates with new customers, consider running the same test with other list segments.

Optimize based on the results

The data you gather and analyze will only go as far as you implement it. The key to long-term vitality is to implement the changes indicated by the test results as well as continuously iterate on them. Your audience’s needs change, your brand will likely evolve, and, as such, your email marketing campaigns need to adapt. To effectively adapt, A/B testing should be an ongoing practice.

Note that how you choose to optimize your email will have varying impacts. Therefore, it’s essential to set a clear primary goal before making changes to your email marketing. Our research has found that the best day and the perfect time to send an email is not only subjective to your industry but also to your goals.

For example, Mondays, on average, have the highest open rates, but Tuesdays have the highest click-through rate (CTR). So, if your goal is higher open rates, Monday may be a better day. But if a higher CTR is your goal, then a better bet would be Tuesday. All of this is subjective to your industry and audience, so it’s important to test this with your specific email list. image.png

It’s also important to tailor your changes to each audience segment because, again, email optimization is largely dependent on the audience. Sweeping, universal changes to your email marketing are typically less effective. They must be personalized and tailored to each audience segment’s needs to drive the greatest impact. In fact, according to research by Accenture, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with a brand that offers a personalized experience.

Uncover the data that will tell you the right time to send an email newsletter for your audience

Campaign Monitor is the email marketing platform built for real marketing professionals. Our email marketing analytics uncover the trends that a winning email marketing strategy is built on.

Discover the trends specific to your audience in your own Campaign Monitor dashboard. You won’t see any gimmicky email functions, cutesy monkeys, or best guesses here. Instead, you’ll get real-time data that gives you a clear direction on what your customers want and need. You won’t just find the best time to send them emails; you’ll discover what makes your audience convert.

The post How to Find the Best Time to Send an Email Newsletter to Your Audience appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor

Email newsletters often don’t bring immediate conversions or sales. They take significant time and resources to create. Is it even worth it to launch one?

Those in the know think so. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2021 B2C content marketing report found nearly 3 in 4 marketers use email newsletters. Among those who run at least two types of content marketing campaigns, 26% say newsletters are the most effective.

Email newsletters are an essential marketing tool for sharing information that goes beyond your products and services. People trust brands that fulfill the trifecta of strong products, a good customer experience, and support of social issues that align with their own. This trust leads to increased sales and loyalty, which is why newsletters are worth the investment.

The question isn’t whether it’s worth it to launch a newsletter; it’s whether you can afford to not have one. However, building a newsletter from scratch is no easy task. This post outlines everything you need to know about how to make an effective newsletter. It’s not just about writing, either — these tips cover everything you’ll need to go from initial idea to successful launch.

Phase 1: Set the groundwork before you start writing

Content creation and distribution are two separate operations, but you have to consider both at the same time. Set up everything you need to send your email beforehand to make a process you can easily replicate in the future.

Choose an email newsletter service

First things first: Don’t try to send your newsletter manually using Gmail, Outlook, or any other standard email service provider. Google Workspace limits senders to 500 external recipients (people outside your company) per message and 3,000 per day. It’s not a scalable solution, nor does it have important tools like email templates, segmentation capabilities, or analytics. You’ll run into similar restraints with any app that’s not dedicated to email campaigns.

Your email newsletter service should have an easy drag-and-drop editor, come with sign-up forms, and be built for collaboration so even a well-meaning blunderer like Michael Scott could get great results. Campaign Monitor offers all these features, plus automation, real-time analytics, and more, for a competitive price.

Make a strategy and set a schedule

The first step in planning an email newsletter is choosing a subject matter that’s both interesting to your audience and relevant to your company. You also need to decide when to send your newsletter. You don’t want to send too often (and annoy your subscribers) or too infrequently (and have them forget why they’re on your list). Just make sure your installments go out on a set schedule.

When it comes to timing your send, no one rule works for everyone. Campaign Monitor comes with testing capabilities and analytics that help you determine the best time to send to your customers. You can build off your existing email marketing strategy, and use practices you already know are successful.

Start building your subscriber list

A newsletter can only help your marketing efforts if people read it, which means you need subscribers before you start sending. You may already have customer emails from previous list-building campaigns. If you don’t, use these effective tactics to bring in new subscribers:

Incentivize sign-ups Run contests or sweepstakes Set up data capture forms and pop-ups on your site and landing pages Use social media (or other digital marketing techniques)

The easier you make it for people to subscribe to your newsletter, the more success you’ll have.

Don’t ever buy an email list to get more readers. Purchased subscribers are much more likely to flag your newsletter as spam and tank your deliverability.

Make sure you understand the laws

From CAN-SPAM to the GDPR and beyond, email marketing is regulated by multiple laws worldwide. Make sure you understand email legislation and follow it to the letter to avoid fines.

Some legal requirements, like getting consent from people before emailing them and including an unsubscribe link in every message, are common sense. Others require more technical knowledge. Campaign Monitor has tools to help you comply with major legislation like the GDPR.

Phase 2: Focus on strong content and design

The copy and design of your newsletter should work together to support its theme and reflect your brand identity. Your first newsletter needs to set the tone, as it will be a template for all future installments. Take the time upfront to make a process you can easily repeat.

There are a lot of decisions to make at this stage. You don’t have to make them all alone. Rely on the advice of experts who have been where you are.

Choose and customize an email newsletter template

Save time on your email design by using a free email template for newsletters. Choose one that works for the type of content you want to share and then customize it. Our email newsletter design tips can help anyone make a newsletter template look like their own.

If you get stuck during the newsletter process, try looking at our favorite resources for inspiration:

The Campaign Monitor email gallery Really Good Emails Milled Email Newsletter Examples Dribbble

Still having trouble? Try to find a different template that better fits your needs. This is frustrating, but it’s better to take time to find the right template than to struggle with design and layout every month.

Keep your content interesting and relatable

The only reason subscribers will engage with your newsletter is if its content is valuable to them. When looking for topics for your next newsletter, consider ideas that are:

Useful Timely Newsworthy Personalized

Depending on the size of your email list and the depth of your resources, you might want to create different newsletters for different segments. Most beginners — and those working in smaller departments — won’t have time to create content that’s personalized with that much depth. However, you should still use basic personalization, like customers’ names, to connect with readers.

Creating content regularly often leads to writer’s block. Don’t worry if you’re struggling — just refer to our list of 50 engaging newsletter ideas, which range from new product announcements to case studies to user-generated content. Or, you can check out some fabulous examples and get a breakdown of why they work from our list of 15 of the best email newsletter examples we’ve seen.

Make sure your newsletter has all the necessary elements

Email newsletters aren’t just about the body content. Don’t forget the other parts of your message. While they may take up less space, they’re just as essential to your newsletter’s success:

A subject line that follows best practices to boost your open rate A preheader that complements your subject line and offers another hook A CTA, whether you want readers to click through to your blog, send feedback, or engage in some other way An email footer that helps you follow legal requirements and meet reader expectations

These elements are the ones readers use to judge whether they should engage further with what you’ve sent. Take time to execute them well if you want your newsletter to succeed.

Phase 3: Test and optimize on an ongoing basis

Verifying everything in your email works before you send matters just as much as A/B testing and looking back at analytics afterward. Each installment you send is an opportunity to improve on your process and your results.

Pre-send tests should include email list maintenance, content optimization, and email previews. These 17 low-budget email testing tools can help you cover all the major bases. Set up a good workflow to automate as much of the testing as possible.

After you’ve sent, the only thing to do is wait for the results to come in. Your KPIs should match the goal of your newsletter; whatever your chosen metrics are, make sure you faithfully track them. Our 2022 email marketing benchmarks can help you compare your open rates, click-through rates, click-to-open rates, and unsubscribe rates to senders across 18 industries.

Be ready to keep learning

You don’t have to stick to the rules you set for yourself in the beginning if they don’t perform as expected. Don’t be afraid to experiment by adding new content or retiring sections that aren’t resonating with your readers. It’s hard to send a quality newsletter, and sometimes it takes time for new attempts to really find their groove.

The most important thing you can do is listen to your readers to learn how you can better serve them.

The post The Ultimate Guide to Writing Your First Email Newsletter appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
What to Put in Your Email Footer (+5 Examples We Love)

When it comes to email marketing, you probably spend most of your time thinking about the message you want to get across. You’re likely to focus your energy on crafting the perfect copy, as well as including compelling images.

Don’t let your attention to the body of the email come at the expense of important structural elements, like footers, though. Email footers may not be the first thing you think of when creating emails to send to your subscribers, but they’re an essential piece of the puzzle.

The footer won’t get the attention of your readers before they open the email, but it may be their last impression—especially if your readers are considering unsubscribing. A good email footer should include legal elements, tell your readers how to get in touch, and double down on your branding. A great one can unexpectedly delight your audience and invite more interaction.

Read on for instructions and examples to help you design an email footer that will strengthen your brand and improve your customers’ experience.

What is an email footer?

The footer of your email is located at the very end of your email. It comes after all the body content, including your email signature. It may be as basic as your company’s address and an unsubscribe link, or it might have useful details like contact information, social links, or legal disclaimers.

A two-line email footer. The top line has three links: "Unsubscribe From This Email - Manage All Notifications - Help". The second line reads "Skillshare, 407 Broome Street, New York NY 10013".

Source

 

If you haven’t planned and standardized your email footer, it’s past time to do so. You’ll save valuable time when you no longer have to think about where and how to include basic details with each new email message. Plus, customers expect robust email footers, and making one that hits the mark will prevent frustration with your brand.

What should I put in my email footer?

Email footers are a great place for including information required by spam and privacy laws. They’re also a good place to connect with your readers. Here are the elements you should consider including.

Legally required footer elements

Your business must include certain information in your footer to stay on the right side of the CAN-SPAM Act, the GDPR, and other laws that protect consumer rights. No matter what, make sure you always include:

Your company’s physical address (or another mailing address you can be reached at) An unsubscribe (or email preferences) link A link to your privacy policy

If industry regulations require you to include legal disclaimers, your footer is a great place to put them. You may also want to include a copyright notice, though you don’t have to do so for your email to have copyright protection.

Optional (but useful) footer elements

Along with the legalities, you can use your footer as a hub for reader interactions. Footers are the best place to put utility items like:

Social media buttons and a website link: In case your readers need help or just want to learn more, give them a place to go that isn’t email. A subscription reminder: Tell consumers when and how they signed up for your list to preempt untrue accusations of spam. CTAs: Build your list and audience by including a referral link or a suggestion to forward the email to someone who might like it. A view-in-browser link: If your message isn’t displaying well in someone’s email client, they can follow this link to view it as an HTML web page. A safelist request: Ask readers to add you to their address book to stay out of spam folders and improve your overall deliverability. Company branding: Your company name, logo or wordmark, tagline, and other brand assets can make the footer recognizably yours. Examples of custom email footers and what we love about them

Email footers may be a standardized medium, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for being like everyone else. Personalize whatever elements you choose to include in a way that’s true to your brand. Here are five great customized email footers to inspire you.

1. Highlight your company values like United by Blue.

Lifestyle company United by Blue does a great job of communicating what they stand for. The company sells outdoor gear that’s durable and reliable, which they state in their footer. They also appeal to their audience of nature lovers by sharing how they’re involved in taking care of the planet.

Customers know where to go for help, thanks to the prominence of United by Blue’s phone number and hours of business. Everything is organized and easy to find, and they have their hashtag, so you can find the company on social media.

United by Blue sells outdoor gear that’s reliable and durable. In their email footer, the business includes the motto they live by, staying on brand. They also make it easy for their customers to get help by including their phone number and hours of business. Everything is organized, easy to find, and they have their hashtag to find them on social media.

Source

 

Takeaway: Include relevant information for customers, such as valuable contact information and brand positioning that reminds them why they’re a fan.

2. Share your business personality like Moosejaw.

Moosejaw keeps their disclaimers lively by including subheads that let their company’s fun (and sarcastic/irreverent) voice shine. They even thank subscribers afterward for making it that far down in the email.

Their footer includes a link to their privacy policies, a link to an email preference center, and an easy-to-find unsubscribe link. Plus, the link to a picture of a giraffe does, in fact, go to a picture of a giraffe.

They also have a link to their privacy policies, a link to an email preference center, and an easy-to-find unsubscribe link. Plus, the link to a picture of a giraffe does, in fact, go to a picture of a giraffe.

Source

 

Takeaway: Comply with the law, but don’t be afraid to make disclaimers your own.

3. Add brand imagery like Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines makes their email footers stand out by sticking to their branding. They don’t include their wordmark, but anyone who’s flown with them will recognize the image that features on their aircraft’s tails. They also have a fun way of asking their subscribers to follow them on social media.

Alaska Airlines – Email Marketing – Footer with Image

Source

 

Takeaway: Using your brand assets and voice is a great way to make your email footer feel unique.

4. Include an email preference link like Patagonia.

Patagonia shows they respect their subscribers by linking to their email preferences center with a promise that their emails will be more relevant for those who share their information. They also remind readers what’s so great about Patagonia by including links to a few of their community-oriented programs.

Patagonia – Email Preference Link Footer

Source

 

Takeaway: Having a link to your email preference center in your footer is a great way to give your readers control over how you communicate with them.

5. Share your company mission like MiiR.

MiiR makes their company’s mission a big part of their footer to remind subscribers who they are and what they stand for. They also have all the required information, but they’ve made their unsubscribe message friendly and nice.

Miir – Email Footer – Company Values Footer

Source

 

Takeaway: Strengthen your brand by making your company’s objective clear in your email footer.

Email footers are just one part of a great message

These email footer examples and tips can help you get started with crafting a high-performing email. Take that knowledge further with our advice on creating compelling copy and optimized headers, footers, and CTAs for email campaigns that are sure to perform.

Try out Campaign Monitor today to play with our range of flexible options for editing your footers – you can choose a layout; customize text color, font, and size; add a logo; add hyperlinks; customize the background color, and more.

The post What to Put in Your Email Footer (+5 Examples We Love) appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
How Amanda Natividad Got Her First 1,000 Newsletter Subscribers

When Amanda Natividad started her newsletter, the VP of marketing at SparkToro and classically trained chef focused mostly on the craft of creating a strong newsletter. Six months in, she had a repeatable format she was comfortable with, a steady cadence…and only 400 followers.

All her hard work deserved a bigger audience. Amanda turned to her considerable marketing experience and created a newsletter growth plan. She reached 1,000 subscribers a month and a half later.

Today, she has 2,600 readers and gains around 500 more each month. Here’s the method that helped Amanda gain 600 new subscribers in six weeks — and can help you, too.

Plan a sustainable format

Consistency is essential to building a successful newsletter. Before you write your first email, decide what you want to send and how often. The most important thing is finding a schedule you can stick to.

It might take some time to figure out what works. If the format you chose is causing you stress, keep iterating until you find one you can stick to. Swap out a section you never have enough content for in favor of something more flexible or send less often than you initially intended.

[I]f you aren’t sure whether you’ve found your groove, keep testing new things.

“And if you aren’t sure whether you’ve found your groove, keep testing new things,” Amanda advises. “Not just new ideas, but test your schedule, writing cadence, try seeing if publishing ahead of time begets new ideas for a newsletter.”

Amanda’s newsletter has been through multiple changes since it launched. “I knew from the very beginning I wanted to have some curation element,” she said. But it took her a while to land on the name Petits Fours and the four-link format. At one point, she included screenshot interviews in each issue but dropped them because they took too much time. She can try new things without losing followers because she’s consistent in delivering high-quality, topical information.

Get an initial audience through existing networks

Your network can help you get your email list started, but you’ll need access to a bigger audience to continue growing. Even with word-of-mouth support from her initial subscribers, Amanda was limited in how many people she could reach. Her subscriber count started rising again when she looked to built-in social media audiences.

A screenshot of Amanda promoting her newsletter on her Twitter profile.

Amanda promoting her newsletter on Twitter.

 

She used her social media presence — largely on Twitter — to drum up interest for her newsletter. If you don’t have a lot of followers, reply to big accounts with fresh insights or funny observations. Follow up every attention-getting post with a plug for your newsletter. Twitter hashtag discussions can help you get traffic and earn new followers. Amanda also joined writing communities on and off Twitter to find support and subscribers.

Use early subscribers as beta testers

Your relationship with your audience shouldn’t be one-sided. Amanda A/B tested headlines and tracked link clicks to refine her content. The main metric she focused on was the open rate, which she got up to 60%. For reference, our latest benchmarking report found the average email open rate is 21.5%.

Amanda also solicited feedback by asking her subscribers questions. In fact, she still does “when it feels organic.” Only a small percentage of subscribers reply, but their comments can be invaluable. Sometimes, readers will respond without prompting if they have strong feelings about something: “One time, I skipped the recipe and instead offered a food tip, and 2 people replied to say they were bummed I didn’t send a recipe,” Amanda says. She’s doubled down on including recipes since then.

More people are rooting for you than you think.

The one thing Amanda wishes she’d tested was sending a shorter newsletter. “Sometimes I wonder if my newsletter is too long, but it might be strange to renege on length now that I have a few thousand subscribers,” she told us. However, her top takeaway had nothing to do with her content, scheduling, or newsletter logistics. “[The] biggest thing I learned is, truly, the importance of creating a safe space for yourself to test ideas,” Amanda said. “More people are rooting for you than you think.”

Incentivize signups (and make them easy)

Even engaged followers are unlikely to take your word that they should sign up for your newsletter. Amanda offered value with signup magnets. She didn’t go the traditional route of giving a downloadable resource to anyone who shared their email. She told her Twitter followers they’d get her recipe for Bulgogi Shepherd’s Pie if they signed up before she sent her next email. Seventy of them joined that day. It wasn’t an offer she could use more than once, but it did provide a sense of urgency.

For subscribers who don’t see the incentives she tweets, Amanda shows exactly what her newsletter provides. Her website, amandanat.com, has copies of every newsletter she’s sent. Offer free previews, so readers can see what they’re signing up for before committing.

The easier your signup form is to complete, the more subscribers you’ll get. Amanda sends emails through Revue, which is owned by Twitter. As a Twitter user, she loves how anyone who finds her on Twitter can sign up for her newsletter with one click.

Elements of a good newsletter signup page

How can your signup page reduce risk and make it easy for new readers to subscribe? Here’s what Amanda Natividad recommends:

Set expectations: Tell a reader exactly what they’ll get when they share their email and offer sample content for them to view before signing up. Prove credibility: Amanda mentions her culinary school training and tech/marketing work to show she knows what she’s talking about. Provide social proof: Share the size of your email list or reviews to prove your subscribers are benefitting from your newsletter. Create opportunities to promote yourself

Reach beyond your audience by appearing on podcasts, writing guest posts, or contributing to other credible media within your niche. Choose promotional efforts that benefit you and another creator in your niche for the biggest effects.

Every external marketing opportunity needs to have a double purpose or else I can’t commit.

The size of your audience and the amount of time you have to spend on promoting yourself will shape the types of opportunities you should look for. Here are Amanda’s recommended methods:

Co-marketing: Use your newsletter to recommend and link to other newsletters in the same subject area. You’ll likely get a shoutout in return, especially if you know the writer. Podcast appearances: Reach out to podcasters to see if they’re looking for guests and tell them you’ll cross-promote your episode to your email list. Then mention your newsletter during recording. Guest posts: Reach out to bloggers or newsletter writers and offer to contribute a guest post. Make sure your name is prominently attached, and add a link to your newsletter. Webinars: Partner with a friend to host a webinar. After you’ve won over attendees with your expertise, mention your newsletter and invite them to subscribe.

Cross-promotional opportunities can also help you come up with ideas for your own newsletter. Write an entire issue about something you discussed on a podcast, or add an excerpt from your guest post to your next newsletter.

Amanda now considers how opportunities can boost her personal brand or that of SparkToro, where she currently works. “Every external marketing opportunity (like a podcast or webinar) needs to have a double purpose (say, to promote SparkToro AND serve as inspiration for a Twitter thread for my personal account) or else I can’t commit,” she says.

Be careful not to stretch yourself too thin. Amanda learned the hard way that taking every opportunity means losing time she’d like to spend on other pursuits. She advises writers to “block times on your calendar for serendipitous opportunities (like potential podcast appearances), and STICK TO IT.” While too many opportunities may sound like a good problem to have, you don’t want your newsletter (or other commitments) to suffer because you’re too busy.

Anyone can start a successful newsletter

Everything Amanda did is replicable if you’re willing to put in the work. You will see a return on investment for the effort you expend to promote yourself and your newsletter.

The most valuable thing you can give your newsletter is time. “I spend maybe 2 hours on each newsletter edition, the day of the send. The fastest I’ve been able to do this is just over 1 hour,” Amanda shared.

She’s also constantly thinking about how to improve her emails. “Now that you ask me, I might always be testing a new section. You might see me experimenting with new ways to promote my YouTube show in the near future,” she told us.

You can see her new efforts for yourself by subscribing to The Menu or following her on Twitter at @amandanat.

 

The post How Amanda Natividad Got Her First 1,000 Newsletter Subscribers appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Lily Tansey
Introducing Campaign Monitor SMS: a New Way to Connect and Convert

Today, audiences expect a lot from the brands they interact with. They want personalized, relevant communications delivered in a format that’s convenient, at a time that suits them.

Email has been an essential medium for this kind of communication for a long time, and at Campaign Monitor, we’ve helped thousands of brands across the world use email to deliver personal, impactful messages to their customers.

And today, we’re excited to add a new medium to the mix as we introduce Campaign Monitor SMS.

A New Way to Connect and Convert

SMS is a powerful, yet simple marketing tool that helps you drive stronger connections with your audience and drive higher conversions for your business. It’s the perfect addition to email – increase the speed of return on your marketing investment by encouraging immediate action from your subscribers. 

Whether you want to boost sales through limited-time offers, maximize contributions to a donation drive, or level up your customer service through satisfaction surveys, combining SMS with email creates additional touchpoints with your audience, drives urgency, and gives you the best chance of increasing engagement and conversion. 

Campaign Monitor SMS is built for busy marketers. Using the same intuitive campaign creation interface as email, you’ll find it easy to get your SMS campaigns up and running fast.

A look at the UI for Campaign Monitor SMS.

 

Be on the lookout for helpful resources from our team as well. Whether you’re wondering how to capture SMS permission and grow your list, write effective SMS copy, or follow SMS best practices, our team is here to help you along the way.

Get Started With Campaign Monitor SMS

Ready to get started with SMS? Talk to our sales team to get a tour of how SMS works at Campaign Monitor, and learn how you can get started. Oh, and don’t forget to save your seat for our SMS launch event, where we’ll walk through how the feature works, and best practices for getting your SMS campaigns up and running.

 

The post Introducing Campaign Monitor SMS: a New Way to Connect and Convert appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor
7 SMS Marketing Best Practices to Know Before You Hit “Send”

SMS marketing has quickly become an essential channel for businesses. Here are seven best practices to help you make the most of it.

Did you know the average consumer spends around 36 minutes using their smartphone to text or call people every day? Most of these communications are done without a thought. However, the rapid-fire texting you do with your friends isn’t appropriate for marketing communications.

SMS marketing is one of the more interruptive ways of communicating with consumers because people feel compelled to read text messages. The 2020 Mobile Consumer Engagement report by Sinch found that 2 in 5 consumers have more than 50 unread emails in their inbox, but only around 2 in 50 have more than 50 unread texts. Many bulk SMS providers emphasize high open rates as one of the best features of text message marketing. We see it as a sign of higher stakes.

1. Comply with industry guidelines

Industry guidelines may vary depending on what country (or state) that you’re sending to. However, there are some principles that we recommend following, regardless of where your audience is.

Set yourself up for success by:

Explicitly asking for permission before sending any text messages to your audience – we recommend doing this via sign-up or subscription form. You should preserve evidence that your customers have opted in to receive SMS marketing Making your sign-up CTAs clear so consumers know what you’ll text them and how many messages they can expect each month Including your company name in every message you send to identify it as a marketing communication Sending your texts during business hours — typically between 8 AM and 9 PM local time, although you’re likely to receive the best response between mid-morning and mid-afternoon Including information about how to opt-out in every SMS message (Reply STOP or include a link to unsubscribe)

Always make sure to refer to the relevant legislation in the country you’re sending to:

Sending to the US  Sending to Canada Sending to Australia Sending to the UK 2. Use SMS for important and immediate messages

The best SMS marketing campaigns offer consistent value to everyone on your contact list. Send time-sensitive info (like a flash sale announcement) or critical updates via text to improve consumers’ relationships with your brand.

A text from Dressbarn that reads, “Dressbarn: BIG CLEARANCE SALE! Shop in the next 11 hours & get up to 80% OFF sales items with code CLR280! [link]”

Source

We also recommend adding an element of exclusivity by rewarding subscribers with special offers. SMS-only coupons and free shipping are great perks to entice sign-ups and keep consumers on your list. Show readers the benefits of being on your list by including a clear CTA in each message.

3. Watch your send frequency

The optimal frequency for most text campaigns is one message a week. Start there — and then try varying your message cadence once you have a big enough contact list to gather meaningful data. If you know your target audience well, you might risk starting with a higher send frequency. Just don’t get too spammy. Upland data shows there’s a significant increase in unsubscribe rates once a brand reaches the threshold of 10-15 messages a month.

The reason message cadence is so important goes back to what we mentioned earlier about text messages interrupting your customers. Everything you send must be worth an immediate read. If it’s not, you’re betraying the trust your consumers put in you when they shared their phone numbers.

Don’t forget to consider the best times to send a campaign, either. Generally, 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM local time is a good guideline — with audiences being most likely to engage between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Sundays typically have the lowest amount of engagement, so unless you have a particularly good, timely reason to send on a Sunday, it’s likely best to wait.

4. Be concise without sacrificing clarity

Do U want 2 rcv a msg that 👀 lyk dis from ur fave brand? Neither do we. Sure, there are only 160 characters to use and you want to make the most of them, but text speak is annoying and unprofessional. Avoid abbreviations where possible because they make texts harder to read. Stick to common ones if you must use them.

Take this example from Ulta: Instead of writing out “24-piece,” the company wrote “24 PC.” Most people can figure out what the message means, but it takes time to translate. The capitalization doesn’t help — a PC is, to most, a computer.

A text from Ulta Beauty that reads, “Get a FREE 24 PC Beauty Bag w/ any $70 online purchase. 👛 Choose from 2! 🧡Ulta Beauty [link]”

Source

 

Make the best of your limited space by starting with something exciting. Flag a sale as “4 hours only!” or let SMS subscribers know when a deal is on its way out by telling them it’s their “LAST CALL” to shop. You can also just start with the goods. “BOGO” and “50% off” are things customers love to hear. Crafting the perfect SMS marketing message takes more time than you have characters, but doing it right pays off.

5. Lean into the conversational tone

Your text message marketing efforts should respect the medium’s primary purpose: conversation. Readers should feel like you’re talking to them, not at them. SMS is a great place to bring your brand’s voice to life in a more personal way.

Start by using personalization and segmentation to send messages that reflect consumers’ interests and past behaviors. Then, write a text message, not a subject line. Messages should sound like they’re for one person rather than your entire marketing list.

The following efforts from bebe and Sally Beauty show why these details matter. One reads naturally and creates a connection with the customer. The other is a pain to scan and looks like a mass text sent by a computer.

A text message from bebe that reads, “bebe: Happy NYE, gorge! Use code: TAKE50 to save even more on sale styles you love. Exclusions apply. Shop Now > link”

Source

A text message from Sally Beauty that reads: “SallyBeauty: We’re Leaving These Deals Behind & Saying Hello to 2022. Stock Up On End Of Year Deals To Jump Start The New Year & New You! [link]”

Source

6. Use SMS as part of an omnichannel strategy

Your SMS marketing strategy can benefit from integration with other marketing efforts. If you have a CX or CRM system, connect it to your SMS marketing software to take advantage of existing data and add new insights. The lessons you learn from other customer interactions can guide your text message marketing efforts. Likewise, SMS campaigns may surface interesting data points that point to new opportunities elsewhere.

Successful omnichannel marketing means sending the right message via the right medium. Not everyone will sign up for SMS, which means you can’t rely on it as a primary mode of reaching people. Given the other constraints we’ve discussed — namely message length and frequency limits — SMS works best when integrated with email, social media, and other marketing tools.

A table showing which situations you should use SMS, email, or both.

Email and SMS work best when they’re used strategically — picking the right medium for the right situation. This table shows some common use cases where you might opt for email, SMS, or both.

 

7. Test, test, test!

As is the case with any marketing channel, testing will be key to your success in SMS. As much as we as marketers like to think we know what will perform best, we’re all just guessing. The only way to learn about our audience and what they respond to is by testing.

This means trying out different types of offers, different text lengths, different send times — pretty much any variable you can think of — and seeing how your audience responds.

Amplify your marketing with Campaign Monitor SMS

Ready to create stronger connections and grow your business? Then Campaign Monitor SMS is for you.

See how you can add SMS to your marketing mix – talk to us today.

The post 7 SMS Marketing Best Practices to Know Before You Hit “Send” appeared first on Campaign Monitor.

- Campaign Monitor

Testing is critical to email marketing success. Here are some of our favorite email testing tools to help you get started.

The goal of any marketer is to get the right message to the right person at the right time — but to do that, you first have to consider what might go wrong. Some of the biggest issues that affect open and click-through rates can be tested before you hit “send.” Declining to optimize these aspects of your message hurts the chances of your email even making it to your customers.

Consistent testing is crucial for retaining subscribers and increasing engagement. The good news is, with the right email testing tools, you can automate almost everything you need to know. These tools provide comprehensive testing capabilities for marketing teams of any size with any budget. Make them a part of your workflow to improve your email marketing results.

Domain reputation and security tools

Deliverability measures how likely your messages are to make it to customers in the first place. It’s the first thing you should check because none of the other tests matter if people don’t see your emails. A low inbox placement percentage isn’t the end of the world, but it means you have some configurations to check and practices to update.

Your messages may be marked as spam based on their content or due to the reputation of your domain and mail server’s IP address. Your Sender Score, which tells you how likely your emails are to be sent to a spam folder, decreases if spam or phishing messages come from one of your domains. Securing your system and then testing your content against spam filters can decrease the likelihood of deliverability issues.

Our favorite email security and spam score tools are:

Sender Score from Validity is a free tool that shares the numeric score associated with your IP address. The site also offers a baseline to help you understand the results. A Sender Score above 80 is fantastic; below 70, you’ll want to take steps to repair your reputation. dmarcian’s DMARC Record Checker, free, allows you to view and validate your Domain-based Message, Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) record. This protocol prevents spammers from spoofing emails from your domain. While you’re at it, run a free check on your SPF and DKIM records, which are also used by email providers to verify your identity. GlockApps DMARC Analytics, from $15/month, provides ongoing DMARC, SPF, and DKIM monitoring. This tool alerts you to suspicious activity, so you can shut it down before any damage is done. dmarcian, from $19.99/month, also monitors your DMARC, SPF, and DKIM records continuously and prevents spammers from using your domain. The platform also visualizes data rather than sending you raw XML logs. mail-tester newsletter spam test, a free service, generates an email address for you to send your message to. Then it analyzes your content and checks your back-end setup for configuration errors. SendForensics Email Deliverability Test, which has a freemium model, analyzes your emails and shares deliverability metrics and benchmarks for your target industry. Postmark spam test is a free, browser-based tool. All you do is paste your email into the text box for a free spam score from SpamAssassin. Postmark also offers a JSON API if you want an easy-to-use SpamAssassin setup that can be integrated into your existing tech stack. Email list verification tools

Verifying your email lists is a must to keep your emails out of spam folders and your email address off blacklists. High bounce rates and low open rates can both tank your sender reputation. Email list decay happens naturally, so email verification and list maintenance is a continual process.

Multiple tools offer this service. Though none are free, they charge one credit to check one address, so the cost is proportional to the size of your email list. We checked the price of 5,000 credits across multiple services to find the best budget-friendly email validation options:

Pabbly ($15) Emailable ($30) Clearout ($35) BriteVerify* ($40)

* offers Campaign Monitor integration

Content optimization tools

Your subject line is your first impression, and it may be your only one if it’s not interesting enough to prompt your reader to open the email. Give yourself the best chance of winning a customer over by using subject line testing tools to find the optimal word choice and length.

Likewise, the body content of your email has to be engaging, readable, and accessible if you want to convert customers. While you can use OS-level tools like Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader to check how assistive devices interact with your message, it’s much easier to use the following tools for a comprehensive check (and advice on how to fix any errors):

Grammarly, free, checks your grammar, spelling, and clarity beyond what Microsoft Word has to offer. Hemingway Editor, free, helps you improve readability by marking long or complex sentences, passive voice, and adverbs, among other content writing faux pas. Headline Analyzer, a free tool by CoSchedule, scores your subject line based on factors such as word balance, sentiment, and clarity. Send Check It Email Subject Line Tester, a free tool, offers a real-time evaluation that looks at aspects such as scannability and grade level. Even more valuable are its previewer, which mocks up your subject line in desktop and mobile views, and language checker, which looks for scammy or otherwise off-putting words. Accessible-email.org, free, opens your HTML email in a code editor and points to issues that may decrease accessibility. You can also link the online version of any past email campaign for a full report. Email preview and functionality testing tools

Optimizing an email for every screen size and client may be the most important thing you do in any email marketing campaign. More than 70% of people delete an email in under three seconds if it doesn’t look right on their device, and 15% go the nuclear route and unsubscribe entirely.

Your campaigns need to work across all operating systems, mobile apps, and desktop browsers. Apple’s iPhone mail app and Gmail currently have the majority of the market share, but you’ll miss a lot of customers if you only optimize your email design for these services. Complete uniformity is impossible when designing for multiple email clients and devices. Focus on usability and consistency instead. If everything looks professional, links are clickable, and the spacing is good, all your customers will have a good email experience.

You can test how emails render by sending to team members who use different devices or email clients, but inbox preview and validation tools offer a more thorough (and efficient) view. Some email services (including Campaign Monitor) have this capability built in. Unfortunately, most standalone services (like Litmus PutsMail and Email on Acid) are pricey. There’s one email testing tool that’s both affordable and has great functionality:

Testi@, which starts at $20/month, provides everything from email screenshots and HTML validation to a browser add-on. It’s also a pay-as-you-go service, so you can try it out without making a huge commitment. A roundup of the best email testing tools

In case you missed one, here’s a list of the tools we recommend for email testing and optimization: Domain reputation and security tools

Sender Score from Validity DMARC Record Checker dmarcian Glock Apps DMARC Analytics mail-tester newsletter spam test SendForensics Email Deliverability Test Postmark spam test

Email list verification tools

Pabbly Emailable Clearout BriteVerify

Content optimization tools

Grammarly Hemingway Editor Headline Analyzer Send Check It Email Subject Line Tester Accessible-email.org

Email preview and functionality testing tools

Testi@ Get to the top of your email marketing game

Once you’ve improved your email deliverability and open rates by running the pre-send tests listed above, it’s time for the next round of assessments. You can (and should) use A/B testing to determine which email content and presentation gets the best response from your audience.

The challenge — and the beauty — of email marketing is that you’re never done finding better ways to communicate with your audience. Skipped tests are lost opportunities to improve your engagement and conversion numbers. Don’t bypass the chance to make your next email marketing campaign the best yet. Take a few minutes today to set yourself up with the tools in this post, and you’ll reap the benefits again and again in the future.

The post The 17 Best Low-Budget and Free Email Testing Tools for 2022 appeared first on Campaign Monitor.