Why You Might Already Be in Ecommerce

how to sell anything from the hubspot COS

Most companies don't think of themselves as ecommerce, but if you're using your website to sell a product, you are in ecommerce! Adding the high-volume and fast sales cycle ecommerce business to any existing website can allow you to learn more about your customers, learn it faster, and make money as you do. Here's a quick crash course in how to make the most of your ecommerce capabilities -- from what you can sell to how to start selling, and how to set yourself up for ecommerce success. 

What Type of Products Can You Sell?

Even if it's just a tshirt or a book, it's ecommerce. For example, you can sell: 

  • Simple products: this could be a book, a digital product, a tshirt -- anything that customers or advocates could buy.
  • Bundles: you can put multiple products together to raise the average sale price and add more value to every transaction.
  • Donations: for some nonprofits, the only ecommerce aspect they need is to be able to accept credit card payments for donations.
  • Subscriptions: a monthly recurring subscription, much like a software as a service business, is a profitable great business model.

4 Ways You Might Already Be Set Up For Ecommerce Success:

1) Responsive Design

As more traffic goes mobile, it's vital that the product presentation is easily viewed on any device. Expecting someone to pinch and squint then input their credit card is unrealistic today. There are still ecommerce sites running antiquated non-responsive designs. Some shopping carts even charge extra for to be responsive, which is part of all HubSpot subscriptions. And with the new Google algorithm changes, it's going to be more and more critical for your ecommerce site to be responsive -- and your products to look great on any devices. 

2) Fast

As you add more data (and more products) to your ecommerce sites, the load time is vital. Load time can make the difference in a visitor adding a product to their cart or just leaving. The HubSpot servers load the images, videos and content faster than most self-hosted ecommerce solutions.

3) Personalization

The biggest sin of ecommerce is that we count unique visitors and then treat them all the same. For any content to convert it must have context. Personalization allows ecommerce merchants to welcome return visitors by name, show special pricing, and even show country-specific content on the first visit.

4) Lifetime Value

Most ecommerce is focused on a quick, efficient transaction. Today that is a given to get the first order. The smartest marketers and brands are focusing on the lifetime value of customers. Inbound marketing goes beyond the transaction to build a relationship with post-transactional nurturing and segmentation, to help continually add value.

3 Ways You Can Start Selling:

There are three major ways you can start selling and taking payments through HubSpot. 

1) Integrate a standalone full shopping cart.

When most people think ecommerce, they think of a large stand-alone shopping cart. Some of the biggest, like Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce have integrations with HubSpot. These sites typically have a separate subdomain and hosting. While there are additional monthly costs for the hosting and integration, this solution may be best for those that need to use third party logistics (3PL), sell through multiple channels (brick and mortar, eBay, Amazon, etc.), or have inventory allocation needs.

2) Add PayPal buttons.

This an easy way to accept payments right from your HubSpot website. You simply need to make a button in your PayPal account. Then cut and paste the HTML code to your page. In under 10 minutes, you can start taking payments. Integrating PayPal with HubSpot so you can automatically capture the customer information can be done using Zapier. 

3) Use FoxyCart.

FoxyCart is a solution typically used by large enterprise sized companies that want to add ecommerce to an existing content management system (CMS).  It was made by developers for developers, so they could accept payments in whatever architecture they were building. FoxyCart is a standalone shopping cart that just does the credit card transactions. After adding the code to the header of your portal, you then add code to all of your "Add to Cart" buttons. From the customer experience, it appears that they remain on your site. The customer gets post-nurturing transactions on both the order and the credit card processing. FoxyCart naturally fits into the look of your pages.

Did You Know HubSpot Does Ecommerce, Too?

Check out HubShop where advocates can easily buy products to be walking billboards for a brand they love.

The higher volume, faster sale cycle, and ease of automation makes ecommerce ideal for HubSpot. Sellers can learn and implement quickly. For those companies not primarily focused on ecommerce, adding this functionality to their current HubSpot site can allow them to learn faster and delight their customer. With little additional expense in some cases, it can also be a way to get even better return on investment (ROI).

How to Build a Profitable Ecommerce Business

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#AWeberLife: Blogging Tips from a Dadsigner

Designer by day, dad by night. That’s the concept that helped Michael Smith launch his blog, Dadsigner. As visual design lead for AWeber, he hones his expertise to bring visual consistency to the brand. And he knows that the smallest of details can make a big difference.

Enter Dadsigner. After becoming a first-time parent 10 months ago, he found that many of the products aimed for infants were poorly designed and unattractive. His blog has become a resource for parents who seek out quality products, as well as photography and design tips, DIYs and personal anecdotes.

We talked to Michael about the inspiration behind his blog, how he grows his fanbase and tips for aspiring bloggers:

How did you come up with the name “Dadsigner?”

I wish I could claim the name as my own brainchild. I happened to see it mentioned on Twitter and thought it was brilliant. As I do with many ideas, I checked to see if the URL was available. I bought it immediately. I think I’ve owned it for much longer than I ever had a plan for.

Can you give a bit more backstory into the concept of your blog?

I knew there was a void in the “dad blogger” space. People were talking more so about parenting, rather than the best-of-the-best products for kids. Instead of having a playroom stocked full of shiny plastic toys (very overwhelming), what if we all bought fewer toys that are higher quality?

That’s the main premise for the blog, but I also had to throw in some fun with my satirical children’s book reviews that focus on art, construction and, most importantly, how many different voices you need to read the book well.

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What methods are you using to grow your audience?

My blog is still in the early stages, so growth is slow, but steady. I’m using email to grow a list of avid fans, as well as running ad swaps with like-minded bloggers.

Are you using social media to connect with your audience?

Yes! I tweet @dadsigner and, per Chris Ducker’s advice, have a Facebook fan page.

How do you make time for blogging?

Being a new dad has definitely made it challenging. I created a backlog of topics to cover, and when I get free time, I make rough outlines for as many of these as possible. That way, when I sit down to write, I’m filling in the specifics and not figuring it all out at once.

What tips would you give to those who want to start their own blog?

  • Buy a custom theme – Looks are important to me (I am a designer, after all).
  • Plan ahead – Having a decent backlog of articles ready-to-go helps make the transition to consistent blogging easier.
  • Be willing to commit – Finding your posting cadence is crucial. I’m committed to posting once a week, for now. As my blog grows, I plan on posting more frequently in the future.

This post is part of our monthly #AWeberLife Series, in which we showcase our company culture and Core Values. Want to join in on the fun? Visit AWeber.jobs to see all open positions and to apply.

The Science of a Great TED Talk: What Makes a Speech Go Viral

public-speaking

Getting chosen to speak at a TED conference is no easy feat.

Attending a TED conference -- as in, sitting in the audience -- is a little like applying for college, with a short essay-style application including questions like "What are you passionate about?" But to speak at a conference is even harder. TED's content director Kelly Stoetzel and her team review thousands of candidates and whittle them down to 60-70 speakers for the twice-a-year, week-long conferences.

Who gets chosen to speak? To uphold their famous tagline "ideas worth spreading," TED organizers aren't looking for motivational speakers or self-promoters. Instead, ideal candidates are "inventors, teachers, artists, scientists, change agents, storytellers, big-picture thinkers, prodigies, performers, makers, technologists ... you name it," according to 2014's call-to-action for TED speakers.

In other words, emphasis is placed on a speaker's ideas, not their public speaking skills. The TED talks are good because the content is good.

But when it comes to view count on those TED talk's online videos, you might notice that some perform way, way better than others -- even when the topics are similar. The question is, why? What makes one TED talk more popular than the next?

Lessons From a TED Talk Study

To uncover why certain TED talks are more popular than others, the folks at Science of People, a human behavior research lab, recently conducted an intensive experiment on nonverbal communication. For the experiment, they had 760 volunteers watch hundreds of hours of TED talks and answer questions about charisma, intelligence, credibility, and more. With this data, Lead Investigator Vanessa Van Edwards and her team were able to find patterns among the most popular videos and the less popular ones.

To help control for accuracy, the study stuck to only videos posted on TED.com in 2010 that were between 15-20 minutes long. This way, they all had similar exposure, had about the same amount of time to rack up views, and were moderate in length so as not to skew volunteers' ratings. Each of the 760 volunteers was given only 10 TED talk videos to watch so as not to experience fatigue (which could affect their ratings).

They found that five specific, nonverbal patterns differentiate the most popular TED talks from the least popular ones. And they believe these five patterns show us how to be influential and charismatic.

Let's dig in to their results, as well as the helpful public speaking tips Van Edwards and her team derived from these results.

1) Nonverbal communication matters. A lot.

Think about how you'd normally prepare to deliver a talk. You probably spend the majority of that time preparing what you're going to say, right? I certainly do. But in the future, we might consider spending more time preparing how we're going to deliver our content rather than what we're going to say.

Why? In the Science of People's study, half the participants watched all their videos with sound, and half of them watched the videos on mute. Then, participants were asked to rate each TED speaker on their charisma, intelligence, and credibility. Ratings were exactly the same whether they'd watched the video with sound or without sound.

"In other words, people decide whether they like a TED talk based on the speaker's body language more than their actual words," said Van Edwards.

So the next time you deliver a speech in front of an audience, practice standing up straight, purposefully using the space on the stage to move around, and using natural and appropriate hand gestures to improve your delivery.

Speaking of hand gestures ...

2) The more hand gestures, the better.

Van Edwards and her team found a correlation between the number of views on a TED talk and the number of hand gestures. The most popular TED talks had an average of 7,360,000 views and speakers used an average of 465 hand gestures. The least popular TED talks had an average of 124,000 views and speakers used an average of 272 hand gestures.

The more hand gestures, the higher the speaker's charisma rating as well. In general, TED speakers who used fewer than 240 hand gestures scored lower on charisma.

Their suggestion? Use your hands to help illustrate and reinforce your ideas. When you do, you will seem more relaxed, confident, and authoritative.

3) Scripted speeches "kill charisma."

Van Edwards and her team found a correlation between the number of views a TED talk had and the speaker's vocal variety. Participants were asked to rate speakers on the amount of fluctuation in their voice tone, volume, and pitch. The results? The more vocal variety a speaker had, the more views they got. More vocal variety also correlated with higher charisma and credibility ratings.

Vocal variety also correlated with high view count: TED speakers delivering the most popular talks had 30.5% higher vocal variety.

"Speakers who told stories, ad-libbed, and even yelled at the audience (like Jamie Oliver [did] in his TED talk) captivated the audience's imagination and attention," wrote Van Edwards.

It makes sense that a speech with little vocal variety will turn listeners off. Monotone = boring. When you speak in an expressive, energized way, your audience is much more likely to maintain interest -- which probably means they'll like you more, too. So the next time you practice your speech, practice switching up your pace and pitch, and pausing to allow your message to sink in.

More importantly, don't memorize a script. Memorized speeches sound like memorized speeches. Most of the time, memorized speeches don't sound natural -- and, in Van Edwards' words, they actually "kill charisma." Instead of memorizing your whole speech, memorize the key elements you want to cover and allow the rest of it to be flexible and natural.

4) Smiling makes you look smarter.

Van Edwards and her team found that the more time a TED speaker smiled while delivering his or her speech, the higher their perceived intelligence ratings were. Speakers who were rated high in intelligence typically smiled for more than 14 seconds of their entire talk, while speakers rated lower in intelligence typically smiled for 14 seconds or less.

This may be counterintuitive to some of you -- and Van Edwards and her team cite this in their research. "Studies on smiling have found that leaders typically smile less," she wrote. "Nonverbal scientists believe that smiling is actually a low power behavior."

Here, she's referring to research from body language scientists like Carol Kinsey Goman, who wrote the book The Silent Language of Leaders. You might recall more recent research from Munich's Technische Universitaet that tested how leaders in business and academia are assessed and chosen. The researchers found that male and female managers behaving in exactly the same way were assessed differently -- and they concluded that women should appear less cheerful and more proud to be seen as affective leaders.

But the Science of People's research found that even when TED speakers were talking about a serious topic -- like Sheryl Sandberg's talk on why we have too few women leaders -- the amount of time smiling still correlated with intelligence ratings.

Their suggestion? "No matter how serious your topic, find something to smile about."

5) You have seven seconds to make an impression.

First impressions are powerful -- even in a 20-minute TED talk. Van Edwards and her team found that participants watching TED talks had already made decisions about how smart, charismatic, and credible the speaker was within seven seconds of watching the video.

Tufts psychologist Nalini Ambady calls this "thin-slicing." In her research, she found that students are very good at predicting a teacher's effectiveness based on first impressions. Ambady took video recordings of 13 graduate teaching fellows as they taught their classes, and then showed silent 10-second clips, called "thin slices," to students who didn't know the teachers. The students were asked to rate the teachers on variables like "competent" and "confident," and these ratings were combined into individual scores for each teacher. She then compared that rating to the teachers' end-of-semester evaluations from actual students and found that the initial ratings correlated highly with the teachers' end-of-semester evaluations. Her findings were the same each time she recreated the study.

The folks at the Science of People were able to replicate Ambady's finding with TED talk videos. To do this, they had one group of participants watch a clip of only the first seven seconds of a TED talk, and then asked them to rate the speaker on charisma, intelligence, and credibility. They had another group of participants watch the entire TED talk and then rate the speaker on the same variables. The ratings for both groups matched.

The takeaway here? Think about how you present yourself, how you walk onto the stage, and how you address your audience. Be sure to deliver an intriguing opening line -- perhaps with a thought-provoking question, a short story, or a joke.

There's no denying what you're wearing makes an impression on your audience as well. In another analysis of 50 TED talks, Van Edwards and her team found that speakers wearing clothing marked as "casual" typically had lower popularity ratings than people wearing clothing that was "business" or "business casual." Interestingly, speakers wearing darker colors got higher ratings than those in lighter colors. So you may want to think twice before donning that bright green sweater.

The next time you prepare to speak in front of an audience, think about the findings in this study and how you can adapt your stage presence and demeanor to make a better, more memorable impression on your audience.

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Want to Teach Yourself Design? 8 Tips & Tricks for Beginners

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When I was in high school, I was always doodling in my notebooks. Hand-drawn letters and little pictograms covered my homework, tests, and papers. I would get lost in creating new ways to write out my name or drawing cartoon representations of my friends. Teachers were constantly telling me to to "knock it off" and focus on my studies.

Eventually, I did knock it off -- mostly because I realized I wasn't that good at drawing on paper. What I didn't know at the time was that paper wasn't the only way to "draw" my ideas; I could use a computer to help me bring them to life. During college, I learned that I could actually make a career out of lettering and creating graphic on a computer by becoming a graphic designer. It was too late to change my major at that point, so I set out on my journey to learn design as a true DIY'er.

At the beginning of my journey, I sought advice from graphic designer friends. They were telling me the same thing over and over: "Learn Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign;" "Read a book about basic design principles." As much as these tips helped, there were still holes in my knowledge that couldn't be filled by software lessons or books. Anyone who's tried to teach themselves creative concepts understands the pain points associated with trying to balance learning fundamentals, navigating new tools, and developing a personal style.

The following tips are pieces of advice I wish I had been given at the onset of my DIY graphic design journey. I hope they help you smooth some bumps in the road. (And for more great tips, resources, and inspiratoin, be sure to subscribe to HubSpot's Design Blog.)

8 Design Tips For Beginners

1) Keep one ear to the ground.

As marketers, we already know how much there is to learn from influencers within an industry. Influencers have paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps, and they're often willing to share the secrets to their success. By making a point to listen to these influencers, you'll expose yourself to more of the design world. This exposure will help you to pick up tips, become comfortable with industry terminology, and stay on top of current design trends

Feeling bold? Turn to Twitter to have conversations with these influencers. You never know who will respond to your questions -- and any positive connection you make can only help you. Following along and getting involved conversations will naturally lead to becoming a part of a community of designers who can support you as you continue your journey.

Try It Yourself

I recommend creating a targeted list of influential designers on Twitter so you can follow their daily insights without having to pick out their tweets from a sea of friends, coworkers, and news sources. (HubSpot users can add influencers' Twitter handles to a Twitter stream in the social monitoring tool. If you don't have HubSpot, you can create a List on Twitter.com by logging in to Twitter and clicking your profile picture on the upper right-hand side of your screen. Choose "Lists" from the dropdown menu, and then click "Create New List.")

I recommend adding a variety of influencers to this list: those who are well-known and revered among most designers, those that personally inspire you, and also those whose work you do not enjoy. Yes, that last point may seem counterintuitive -- and yet, seeing their work will help you understand what exactly you don't like it about their work, which is a key part of understanding design.

Where can you find designers to follow? I like the website 365 Awesome Designers, which features the work of one designer per day. As a starting point, feel free to check out the Twitter List I built for myself.

2) Collect inspirational work.

I can't stress this point enough. Once you make the decision that you'd like to be a DIY designer, you should start building a catalog of work you think is successful. This can be as simple as bookmarking images in your web browser, making a Pinterest board, or saving items to a folder on your computer. Like following influencers, a catalog of inspiring work will help you to distinguish current trends in design as you begin to recognize patterns in others' design. You can also begin to understand your own personal style preferences. If you find yourself continually saving infographics, for example, then you may want to think about learning how to create those.

Your catalog will also serve to inspire designs you create in the future. This is underscored by the idea that "all creative work builds on what came before" -- a line from Austin Kleon's TEDx talk. If you can reference items in your catalog quickly, you'll be better equipped to begin your own projects.

Try It Yourself

Get acquainted with leading designer portfolio sites like Dribbble and Behance. These platforms showcase an abundance of high quality work from leading designers across the spectrum -- everyone from web and UX designers to graphic designers and typographers. Quite often, the designers on these sites provide insight into their design process, which will be key as you look to start on your own creations.

Setting aside time in your day to do this may be hard on top of your workload. One way to naturally work it into your day that I like is to use the web application Panda, which replaces your "New Tab" in Chrome with an aggregated a stream of content from various sources, including Dribbble. Each time you open a new tab, you can discover and save something that catches your eye. Fair warning, though: An application like this might be distracting to some.

3) Dissect the process.

One of the most pivotal moments in my design journey thurs far was when I recognized that every single illustration, infographic, and icon I had ever ogled over was just the product of someone mastering how to combine shapes and lines. That's not to say that other factors don't play a role (just wait until you try and learn meshes in Illustrator), but fundamentally, these designs were built up from simple shapes. Mind. Blown.

Analyzing the process behind a design will allow you to understand the steps required to produce a piece of work. Depending on your current skill level, you may have a leg up in knowing which tools were used or which aspect was created first. But don't let your skill level stop you -- examining the construction of a design will let flex your creative muscle. Your educated guesses will do far more to teach you than not doing it at all. You'll likely find that:

  1. You know more than you think you do.
  2. When you identify holes in that knowledge, you'll know what techniques or concepts you need to explore to narrow the gap.
  3. There's more than one way to achieve a desired result.

Try It Yourself

A quick way to advance down the learning curve when dissecting a design is by downloading a free vector or PSD design resource and digging through the layers to see how the designer constructed the object.

Try downloading this free PSD of device icons by Dribbble user Corey Michaud and opening it up in Photoshop. It'll look like this:

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Image credit: Corey Michaud

In Photoshop, open the Layers Panel (which you can learn to use here) and un-collapse the "iPad" and "iPad Mini White" folders so that you can see the layers contained within them. By simply changing the visibility of the layers, you can begin to see the designer used each shape to build upon one another. In particular, notice that the "reflection" on the device's screens were made by creating a triangle on the rectangle that represents the screen, filling it with a color, and then reducing the fill in the Layers Panel.

You can also begin to understand how to use Effects like drop shadows and strokes. If you're up for even more of a challenge, check out the "Thunderbolt" folder inside that Photoshop file to see how the designer paired multiple Effects to create the base of the display.

4) Get specific with your online search queries.

As you begin creating your own designs, you'll likely hit an obstacle where you think to yourself, Hmmm. How the heck do I do that?" Chances are, others have wondered the same thing. Like many self-taught disciplines these days, the majority of my own technical design knowledge was gained by watching a YouTube tutorial while actively following along.

The key is to be really specific with your searches so you can find a really relevant tutorial. Searching for "how to create an icon" is going to deliver really broad search results. Instead, type in exactly what you want to learn, like: "how to create a flat icon with a long shadow." Boom.

diy-design-google

Try It Yourself

Browse a design terminology glossary to find the specific terms for the techniques you're trying to learn. This'll help you find what you're looking for online much more easily, in addition to helping you familiarize yourself with the language. (Click here for more great Google search tips.)

5) Reproduce your favorite work.

Let me be clear: Under no circumstances should you infringe on anyone's copyrighted work. Never reproducing someone else's work and try to pass it off as your own. That being said, an exercise in recreating a design you like will help you gain a deeper understanding of design technique. As with dissecting a design, it'll help you learn new technical skills that'll come in handy when you're creating your own designs.

You'll have to get creative with the method you choose to recreate the design, so this is a great left brain/right brain design exercise. Don't get frustrated if you can't duplicate a design to a tee -- remember, the process is more important than the result.

Try It Yourself

Find a design piece you think is successful -- which should be easy if you've created an inspiration catalog! -- and use your preferred piece of software to recreate it, whether that's Photoshop or Illustrator or another software. It's really up to you on how you choose to go about actually creating it. Use specific search queries and tap into your design community relationships as resources.

6) Embrace negative space.

The proper use of negative space is often overlooked by beginner and advanced designers alike. What is negative space (or "white space")? It's the space in your design that's not occupied by any visual or written element. A design piece that doesn't incorporate enough negative space is like a sentence with no spaces - itisdifficulttocomprehend.

Jan Tischold, one the most influential typographers in history, stresses this importance: “White space is to be regarded as an active element, not a passive background.” The effective use of negative space is just as crucial as the design itself. Don't believe me? It's scientifically proven that white space improves legibility and comprehension. Consider white space at every stage of your design.

Try It Yourself

Learning to effectively use white space won't happen overnight. You'll have to try out many different options to find what works for each design. First, I'd recommend reading some of the articles on this reading list, compiled by David Kadavy of Design For Hackers. Then, try and put some of these theories into action.

Remember, there's no hard-and-fast rule to using white space. It takes practice. Eventually, you'll find that exercises in resizing elements in your composition and changing the layout will lead to a natural understanding of the amount of breathing room required.

7) Don't be afraid to get feedback.

On some level, everyone is afraid of criticism. We're afraid our ideas will get shot down and we'll be sent back to square one. Learning to accept constructive criticism is no easy task, but it's key to becoming a better designer. Paul Arden, who was the creative force behind Saatchi and Saatchi at the pinnacle of their success, wrote this in his best-selling book, It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be:

If, instead of seeking approval, you ask, ‘What’s wrong with it? How can I make it better?’, you are more likely to get a truthful, critical answer.
You may even get an improvement on your idea.
And you are still in a position to reject the criticism if you think it is wrong.
Can you find fault with this?

The takeaway here is this: Design crities allow us to incorporate other's viewpoints into our work and improve upon our ideas. Remember: You always have the option to reject the feedback -- but it's considering it in the first place that's important. Design is subjective in nature, and just because someone else has a different opinion doesn't mean you're wrong. In fact, trusting your intuition is equally as important. Just make sure you have the means to back up your design decisions.

Try It Yourself

The best way to get feedback is to have a one-on-one conversation with an experienced designer. If you don't know anyone in the design world, this can be difficult. Fortunately, the internet is filled with communities of designers eager to give feedback. If you haven't already taken the initiative to become a part of a community, now's the time to step outside of your comfort zone and take action. Inbound.org offers an awesome feedback tool where viewers can comment directly on your design. Other great forums include The Crit Prit on Graphic Design Forums, Design Critiques on Reddit, and Estetica Design Forum.

8) Pick a passion project.

If you only listen to one piece of advice from this post, let it be this one. We all know how hard it is to work on something you don't want to. It just plain sucks. Picking a project that you aren't passionate about will likely lead frustration, as you'll likely feel reluctant to devote the time and effort necessary to complete the project. It would be remiss to ignore that fact that at some point in your career, you'll have to design something you may feel less than thrilled about. But this will likely not occur until you've learned a thing or two and have advanced your design skills. In the beginning, it's OK to focus on passion projects.

When you're taking the time to teach yourself graphic design and there's no consequence (like money lost on a wasted design class), passion is a major motivator. When you pick something you care about, you'll compel yourself to work through the frustration that comes with the sometimes tedious nature of design.

It'll also provide direction. Time and time again, the hardest part of learning design is not knowing what to design. Be decisive and choose something you can work on for a length of time.

Try It Yourself

Align your interests or current situation with your projects. If you're a blogger, try creating the header image for your next post. Offer to work on an offer with your content team. Looking for a job? Redesign your resume and try to further your personal brand by creating a logo. There are any number of ways to work design into your day, but it's up to you to pick something that matters to you. Don't design something simply because you think you should; design something because you actually want to. 

Above all, it's important just to get started. It's easy to be intimated by the sheer amount of learning associated with graphic design, but remind yourself that even the most talented designers were newbies like you at one point. What makes the creative field so special is that everyone's journey is unique; there's no one way to approach DIY design. You'll find your own means to discern what you want and need to learn.

Design is an iterative process, so keep reworking your ideas and projects. As you progress, you'll develop your own workflow and one day that design that took you all day will only take you an hour. Trust me, I'm living proof.

What other tips do you have for self-taught designers? Share with us in the comments below.

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Uber snatches its first chief security officer away from Facebook

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Uber on Thursday announced that it had hired Joe Sullivan as its first chief security officer.

Sullivan joins Uber from Facebook, where he worked at the social network's Chief Security Officer for more than five years. On a blog post announcing the new hire, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said Sullivan will join the transportation startup toward the end of April.

Before Facebook, Sullivan spent almost seven years at PayPal and eBay. He also worked for the Department of Justice for eight years prosecuting cybercrime.

In his own statement, Sullivan wrote that he firmly believes that "building world-class safety and security are critical" to furthering Uber's mission of "revolutionizing transportation." Read more...

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13 Types of Blog Headlines That Will Get You More Traffic

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Fewer people read your blog posts than you think. More people read your headline than you think, too.

On average, only 20% of those who read your headline will click through to read your article. That means good headlines lose 80% of your audience. Great headlines, though, can make a dramatic impact in the opposite direction. You can increase the traffic to your articles by as much as 500%, based solely on the headline.

Examples of Crafting the Perfect Headline

Not only does the headline affect click-through rates, but it sets the tone and establishes the key subject of the article. points out , a title can have a huge impact on what the audience takes away from an article. 

Discussing her article, "A Gene That Makes You Need Less Sleep," Konnikova said, "If I had instead called it “Why We Need Eight Hours of Sleep,” people would remember it differently."

So what does make a great headline? 

That depends on who you're writing to, and where they're reading it.

As a marketing consultant, my job is to help companies grow. The content I help them create must accomplish two things:

  • They must appeal to their target personas.
  • They must promise to provide value to their target personas.

When I talk about the greatest headlines of all time, it gives a connotation of the most creative titles. If I was writing about creative titles, I would go with something like, "Why My Cat Has a Savings Account ," or "In Defense of the Figurative Use of Literally." These are both intriguing and creative titles. 

But these kinds of titles don't appeal to SEO, and they don't address the problems my clients are facing. Too many marketers make their titles too cute to be effective.

The best headlines are the ones that capture the pain points of your target personas and introduces a topic that will make their lives better. And it must be compelling.

If your headline is not compelling, you'll lose up to 80% of your audience.

Examples of 13 Kinds of Headlines to Increase Your Blog Traffic

1) The 'Best' Headlines

These headlines are powerful for SEO. These types of headlines speak right to the common web searches of your customers. Consider this, if you're searching for ways to save money, wouldn't you be intrigued by the best way? Or would you be satisfied with any old way?

These headlines are typically exact-match searches; starting off with the words, "the best way to..."

Examples:

2) The 'Make My Life Easier' Headlines

This is the little sister to the 'Best' headlines. If your customers are facing problems, they don't always want to know the best way to do something. Sometimes, they want to know the easiest way. 

Personal Story

At one point, I worked as the internet sales manager at a car dealership. I found a lot of our customers weren't interested in the best way to buy a car, which is save money and pay cash.

They were very interested, however, in the easiest way. Our most successful content was helping our customers do things easier.

Examples:

3) The 'It's a Race' Headlines

Sometimes people don't want the best, and they don't want easy - they want fast. In some industries, you see personas that are always in panic mode, needing something done yesterday.

The plus side of "fast" content is, it means they will jump through the buyers' journey much faster if you can prove the value of your product or service.

Examples:

4) The 'If I Were You' Headlines

Most of us share a desire to improve. We want to be more productive and more successful. We all would love to accomplish more in less time. And, we all want to be good at what we do. It's those desires that make the, "If I were you..." headlines so powerful.

When someone tells us how we should do something, we balk. When someone offers to show us why we should do something, it appeals to us. It speaks to the reasons and motivations we should adopt a new idea, or change our current ones.

Examples:

This title, in particular, was especially powerful to me for two reasons. The first, was the context of the article; it appeared on LinkedIn from a very popular marketer.

The second reason was because it caused cognitive dissonance - Facebook is one of the largest platforms available to marketers, yet this title says I should walk away and forget it. And it worked. This post was viewed around 300,000 times.

5) The 'What We Do When...' Headlines

Transparency is a new paradigm in marketing. For years, companies have done all they could to keep their "secret sauce" hidden from the public. What companies have started to realize is, the real secret sauce is trust. And every company has access to it if they want it.

Transparency is one amazing way to build that trust. Buffer, for instance, has championed transparency. As a result, they have built an amazing company culture, as well as a rabid fan base of customers.

Buffer reveals things most CEOs would laugh you out of the room for sharing. They share everything from their revenue earnings to how much they pay their employees. 

And it works.

Examples:

6) The 'Backed By Science' Headlines

Humans have a thing called a learning bias. No matter how wise a saying is, we are much more apt to accept it as true if we trust the source. Not only that, but we're fascinated by ultimate truths that spur us into action.

For example, if you can prove through research that waking up to Mozart translates to more energy in the morning, iTunes will light up with Mozart-seekers.

Why not do the same with your product or service? How is it going to make someone's life better? Share that, but base it on research.

Examples:

7) The 'Why X People Do X' Headlines

This title appeals to our desire to be the best. As Brian Tracy in his book, Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, says, "The people you most admire and look up to have an inordinate amount of influence on how you think and feed about yourself, and the kind of decisions you make."

If your title can appeal to the kind of people your audience look up to, it can be a powerful incentive to read more.

Examples:

8) The 'Experience Has Taught Well' Headlines

Experience is the best teacher. But sometimes, the tuition is just too high. Smart people learn from other's mistakes. They also learn from other's success.

These titles speak to the problems your target personas are facing and promise to deliver insight on how to deal with these problems.

Examples:

9) The 'Let Me List Them Out For You' Headlines

For some reason, we like list posts. They appeal to a wide audience and inspire a lot of clicks compared to other types of articles. Which is why blogs like buzzfeed constantly use them. 

Examples:

10) The 'Don't Be Stupid' Headlines

The most compelling headlines are those that appeal to our desire to be accepted. We don't want to look like fools. Headlines that connect to that desire are extremely compelling. When you mention mistakes, we all want to ensure we're not making them, especially if they are well-known.

Examples:

11) The 'Don't Be Ignorant' Headlines

We don't want to be the last to know. We don't want to be left in the dark, especially if our colleagues know something, we want to be in the loop. So do our customers.

If there is something they should know, we should be writing about it.

Examples:

12) The 'Everyone Loves Competition' Headlines

This is a powerful title option. It allows you to replace third-party, uncontrollable reviews of your product or service with reviews you can control. Not only that, but it can steal traffic from your competitors as well. In very competitive spaces, these types of headlines perform very well.

Marcus Sheridan, of The Sales Lion loves these types of articles. Don't get him started on talking about Yelp. Instead, write some comparative articles and use these headlines to drive organic traffic from your competitors' websites.

Examples:

13) The 'Click Bait' Headlines

Deep down inside, humans are just as curious as cats. Headlines that appeal to our inner feline are super powerful. 

Some people, such as Upworthy, have mastered the art of sparking our interest. They create titles that dangle a carrot in front of us, forcing us to click through to get it.

If you're going to use this tactic, you better deliver content that excites as much as the title. If not, you'll just annoy your audience. I've started to loath these headlines, because more and more people are using them and not delivering on the anticipation. 

It's annoying. 

So why do people do it? It brings clicks. 

These types of headlines work. Period.

Examples:

How To Craft the Perfect Headline

Which version of these headlines work the best? That depends on what the writer is trying to accomplish. Some are better for SEO while others are better for attracting people's attention from social shares. 

Here's how to choose which type of headline to use:

  • Ask, "what is the single, most important point I want my readers to take away from this article?" 
  • Decide the best way to communicate that single takeaway.
  • Write 25 headlines for each piece of content, then choose the best.
  • Ask others. Give them your ideas, and see which one they like best. Always ask why.
  • Keep a log of which types of headlines work best for your target personas. Use them shamelessly.

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Making Cents of Inbound Marketing: An Interview With HubSpot’s CFO

chief-financial-officer

One of the toughest challenges CMOs face is getting buy-in on new programs and initiatives from the rest of the executive team -- especially from the CFO. A lot of CMOs feel like they’re begging for money each month. And if the money ends up going to something that doesn’t quite pan out, their budget is on the chopping block.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many ways CMOs can improve their relationship with their CFOs, and the best way to get started is to figure out how your CFO thinks. What do they really think about marketing? What’s the best way to get buy-in on a new marketing program? How do they decide how much budget marketing gets?

Over the past few months, I've been working on a kit on how to prove the value of inbound to your executive team. In this kit, I've placed special emphasis on the CMO-CFO relationship -- which means, of course, that I've spent some quality time hashing it out with my own CFO at HubSpot, John Kinzer.

If you've ever wanted to get inside the head of a CFO, now's your chance. I sat down with John to talk about the CFO perspective on marketing -- from the approval process for an inbound marketing program to how the marketing budget is decided. Below are some excerpts from our conversation, which you can use as guidance for building a better working relationship with your own CFO.

An Interview with HubSpot CFO John Kinzer

Q: How effective do you think inbound marketing is, from your own experience?

From my own experience, I do think it's effective. I've seen it's success firsthand. For one, I personally don’t respond to cold calls or anything like that. And I always try to research things before I buy anything.

Here’s a great example. Last year, I bought a zipline for my three daughters. Literally, I searched the internet for "zipline" and I found this company called Zipline Gear. They had a great blog and YouTube videos that I learned a lot from. I’m not sure they were the least expensive, but they sounded like they knew what they were doing -- so I ended up buying a zipline from them. That's just a small example of how inbound marketing has worked on me. 

Q: Do you think most CFOs think that marketing drives value?

To some extent, I’m sure we all do -- but we also tend to view marketing as a black hole of expenses. We’re more apt to quote the classic line, “50% of my marketing is working, I just don’t know which 50%.” As a CFO, you’re always trying to get better metrics around marketing.

Fortunately, inbound marketing can give us those metrics. When I came to HubSpot, I saw that the marketing team does an amazing job of tracking what works. They track MQLs, SQLs, and marketing CAC across all markets. Knowing these metrics makes investing in marketing far more palatable for a CFO. I can see how marketing drives leads and produces customers. I can connect the dots and see that the marketing team really is driving value. So from that standpoint, marketing doesn’t seem like a black hole.

Q: CMOs often say their CFOs love PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising because it's predictable and measurable. But they also say it's hard to get their CFO's buy-in to reallocate dollars from PPC to inbound marketing. What are your thoughts on PPC?

At previous companies, we didn’t use PPC that much because we had a clearly defined market. And, personally, I've never really clicked on PPC ads.

The way I think of PPC (and hope other CFOs would as well) is that PPC is like renting space on somebody else’s site. Blogs and other content you create, on the other hand, are assets you own that have a long shelf life. I know because at HubSpot, we get leads from blog posts written four to five years ago!

I think that the concept of renting versus owning really resonates with CFOs. If you’re doing inbound and building assets your company owns, you know that if you stopped doing any more blog posts, you’d still be generating leads for the foreseeable future. Whereas, once you stop funding PPC advertising, leads stop. Inbound marketing is also sort of like creating an annuity. It returns interest or leads ongoing without putting in more investment.

Q: Is it fair to say that inbound marketing has a compound interest effect?

Yes, especially because it brings in other people from social media. When that happens, new leads and markets can be discovered that we would never have encountered otherwise. A blog can be spread out all across the web and bring in referral links from all kinds of blogs, publications, and social media sites. That’s an amazing potential impact and a cost-effective way to attract qualified leads.

Q: In what ways do CFOs participate in marketing planning?

From a planning process, we do both bottom-up and top-down analysis. From the top-down perspective, we look at what comparable companies are spending on sales and marketing.

From a bottom-up perspective, we look at metrics such as CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost), which we separate between sales and marketing. We then compare that to the LTV (Lifetime Value of a customer). The higher the LTV to CAC ratio, the better return we’re getting on our investment.

When we start planning, as long as we can keep marketing CAC in a range that leads to these returns, then we’re comfortable. We’re especially lucky to have a financially savvy CMO like you, who’s very bottom-line driven. So, as long as you stay in that range, we know you're making good one-off decisions and we don’t need to micromanage how you're spending that money.

We also look at MQLs and SQLs. As long as our Senior VP of Global Sales, Hunter Madeley, is getting enough leads for his team to hit their sales targets, we know the process is working and the company is doing well. In summary, I look at high-level metrics and then let you (the CMO) manage how you spend the budget.

Q: How do you decide what budget to approve for marketing?

First of all, we come up with sales goals and customers necessary to hit our growth goals. We then back into the marketing budget necessary to drive those customers using the historical CAC. It's then up to you as the CMO to put together a budget that fits into that framework and we iterate from there.

Q: If you were at another company and the CMO came to you wanting to invest in a new program focused on inbound, how would you go about approving that?

I’d say, “You have a budget you need to stay within and you know what leads you need to generate, so if you can fit it within your marketing budget, I trust you will make the right decision. If you can’t, and you’re asking for more money, then we have to look at all the new things we want to fund. We’ll have to analyze what will produce the highest ROI for monies spent. If you can make a good business case, and we can afford, you’ll get it.”

The good news is at HubSpot, we know from the MIT Sloan MBA Study that after a year, customers see on average over 3x more visitors and 4.77x more leads. And 72% of customers see an increase in revenue within one year.

Q: Are other CFOs starting to pay more attention to marketing ROI?

Yes, more so every day. The problem is that in the past you couldn’t do it with marketing in a non-digital world. The digital world makes it much easier to measure and CFOs are becoming more attuned to it.

free kit to convince your cfo to adopt inbound

An Ex-Googler Launches An In-Home Care Startup Called Honor And Raises $20 Million

Seth Sternberg, who sold a messaging service to Google for around $100 million, is launching a new startup centered around in-home care — and has raised a ton of money to build it. Honor, a combination of an online service that connects in-home caregivers, seniors and their families, has raised $20 million from what reads like an A-list of Silicon Valley. The company raised $15… Read More

How to Create an Infographic in Under an Hour [10 Free Infographic Templates]

infographic-templates-1

Wouldn't it be great if creating infographics was just as simple as writing regular ole text-based blog posts? Unfortunately, the reality is that making visual content like this usually takes a lot more time, effort, and let's face it -- skill -- than the written word. Usually.

But considering the popularity and effectiveness of visual content in marketing today, you can't just afford to throw in the towel. That's why we decided to take all the pain and suffering out of infographic creation. Seriously -- don't throw in the towel just yet. You, too, can create professional-looking, high-quality infographics ... quickly! And I'm going to prove it. First things first ...

Download our 10 free infographic templates -- all easily customizable in PowerPoint -- right here.

Then all you have to do is provide the content to use inside them. Easy as that! In fact, I'm going to show you just how easy it is by taking one of our 10 infographic templates in PowerPoint (pictured above) and creating my own customized infographic with it. Then I'll explain exactly what I did so you get a sense of how easy it really is. Let's begin!

How to Make an Infographic in PowerPoint in Under an Hour

Step 1: Collect Your Data/Content, and Choose Your Desired Template

Your first step is to collect the data/content you'll be using to populate your infographic, and choose an infographic template appropriate for representing that data. The important thing is to choose a template that specifically works for the type of data set/content you want to present. As you saw pictured above, we have 10 infographic templates in PowerPoint to choose from. Some of your template options here include a timeline, flowchart, comparison, how-to, data-heavy, and image-heavy infographic. 

You can either collect third-party data, or use your own original data. If you use third-party data, just be sure you properly cite your sources -- just like in any other good piece of content.

To keep your infographic uncluttered by a ton of different source URLs, a great way to cite your sources is to include a simple URL at the bottom of your infographic that links to a page on your site listing the individual stats used in your infographic, and their sources -- such as the blog post you're using to publish your infographic. This way, your infographic looks clean and professional, yet people will still be able to access the sources no matter where the infographic gets shared or embedded. It may also even drive visitors back to your site!

For the sake of time (remember, our mission is to create an infographic in under an hour), for my infographic, I'm going to choose a compilation of social media stats, charts, and graphs we've already collected from our 2015 Social Media Benchmarks Report, and I'm going to pick The Data Geek infographic from our collection of infographic templates, which is appropriate for my data set since it conveys statistics using charts and graphs. This template is pictured below:

Infographic Template - The Data Geek

Step 2: Customize Your Infographic

Obviously, this is the most time-consuming part -- but it's also the most fun! Simply come up with a catchy title, plug in your data/content, and adjust your font sizes and formatting. Feel free to switch up the graphics, too, so they're relevant to the data you're citing. You can use the simple graphs and charts provided by PowerPoint to create things like the bar graph or the pie chart. (Note: Our free infographic templates download also provides a cheat sheet for using PowerPoint's various features and tools in case you need to brush up on your PowerPoint tips.)

To customize the look of the infographic even more, I also added a variety of colors to the mix including one main color -- orange -- to give the infographic more of a HubSpotty, branded feel. I also changed up the font style to match the rest of HubSpot's content.

Finally, I included a link to my source, which can be found here, as well as the HubSpot logo so people know who created the infographic if it gets shared in social media or embedded on other websites -- which is definitely something you want since one of the main benefits of infographics is their shareability.

That's it! This whole thing took me under an hour to put together -- much shorter than it would've taken me if I'd started from scratch (not to mention more professional looking ... and cheaper than hiring a designer). Here it is! 

2015 Social Media Benchmarks Infographic

Share This Image on Your Site

<p><strong>Please include attribution to http://blog.hubspot.com with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href='http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/free-ppt-infographic-templates-designs-ht'><img src='http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/53/Slide1-25.jpg' alt='2015 Social Media Engagement Benchmarks [INFOGRAPHIC]' width='600PX' border='0' /></a></p>

Step 3: Add an Embed Code and 'Pin It' Button, and Publish It! 

The only thing left to do is to publish and promote your awesome new infographic. As I mentioned earlier, we recommend using your blog to publish it (including your list of sources), including a 'Pin It' button for visitors to easily share your infographic on Pinterest, and adding an embed code for visitors to share it on their own websites and blogs, as we did above. Check out this blog post to learn how to easily create an infographic embed code.

Ready to start creating your own infographics like a professional? Download our 10 free infographic templates here, and start customizing!

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

10 free infographic templates in powerpoint

                                     

3 Steps to Winning Customers from Big Box Retailers With Long-Tail Keyword Phrases

long-tail keywords phrases ecommerce seo 

SEO can be tough. It is no miracle worker –– at least not overnight. Focusing hours of hard work on keywords and metadata likely isn’t any small business owner’s idea of money or time well-spent. Yet, the ROI from doing so has a long tail that seriously impacts your bottom line.

In fact, not spending time on SEO can mean failure for your ecommerce business. After all, if no one can find you, you don’t exist! And on the internet, that means if Google isn’t ranking you well, you might as well not even be selling online.

The only problem with SEO, then, is that its benefits take time.

“A typical client wants results as soon as SEO tactics are implemented,” says Katey Ferenzi, a client education manager at Bigcommerce. “As we all know, though, SEO takes time and constant tinkering and updating.”

This constant tinkering and updating is akin to how you view your homepage. You A/B test what converts and produces the most clicks, and then you use those metrics to make data-driven decisions that garner increased sales and overall revenue. SEO works the same way, especially when it comes to your product pages.

To compete with the big box brands, smaller stores must be experts at product page SEO. After all, customers favor convenience, and the search results that appear higher on Google are likely to earn their purchasing power. Below, the top three things you need to be implementing when it comes to your product pages in order to out-SEO your competition.

Long-Tail Keyword Phrases

Unlike blog posts for which you can search top keywords for a topic and sprinkle them throughout an article, product page keywords must be specific to the product being offered. In other words, there’s no need to do a large amount of keyword research for product pages. Instead, be specific and descriptive about the item offered –– and use long-tail keywords.

For instance, “landscape watercolor painting” works better than “watercolor painting” or “landscape painting.”

Again, get specific and descriptive for your product pages, but exclude options (colors, sizes, etc) from your keyword phrase. Optimize for individual products, not for the options of those products.

The Long-Tail Theory

Why use a long-tail keyword phrase instead of something shorter? Because the big box retailers of the world have already optimized for short-tail keywords, and your small business won’t be able to compete.

And that’s totally fine.

Long-tail keyword phrases catch the customer in a later point within the purchasing funnel. They know exactly what they are looking for, down to the details (options excluded!). They don’t want just any watercolor painting, they want a watercolor painting of a landscape. Sure, they don’t know which one just yet, but with a long-tail keyword phrase, you’re presenting them their filtered options.

Larger brands focus most often on short-tail keyword phrases that pull in high traffic volume to their site. Because of their recognizable brand name and sizable online presence, Google rewards their short-tail efforts by placing them higher in search results. A smaller ecommerce company won’t receive such a luxury. Instead, compete with the bigger brands by taking away their potential customers. People typing in a long-tail keyword phrase into Google have already browsed a couple options, and likely have already found a few things they like. Now, they are just comparing what they know exists to what else may be out there. For smaller brands, this is your time to shine –– and convert.

Sprinkle That Keyword Phrase Throughout

The goal here is to put your keyword phrase in as many places as possible, without over-optimizing for it. Google will penalize you for using a keyword phrase so often it becomes obvious you are writing for the bots, not for people.

You want to make sure that your keyword phrase appears in all of the following places for your product page:

  • the product name
  • product description
  • page title
  • meta description
  • alt text (the picture description text)
  • the picture file name
  • and the URL itself

Write Compelling Product Descriptions

Use the product description to voice your brand personality, while also dropping in (only once!) your long-tail keyword. The unique description along with the presence of the long-tail keyword will increase your page rankings. Better yet, customers don’t just buy based on price, they do so based on emotion as well. Get a customer to relate to your description, or at least read it in their own voice, and you’ve likely found yourself a customer with some serious lifetime value.

In all, if you want to succeed with product page SEO, you must make sure that each of your long-tail keyword phrases are unique, descriptive and specific. In addition, be sure that you aren’t just using that keyword phrase once. Use it in all the spots where bots-only can read them (i.e. the metadata and alt text). When it comes to what your actual customers are reading, be sure you use the keyword phrase, but not in a way that alienates them (i.e. only once!).

Also, keep in mind that good SEO pulls in traffic overtime. Be sure to use SEO best practices on all product pages, and watch your site begin to make it to the top of Google search queries for long-tail keywords.

How to Build a Profitable Ecommerce Business

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