6 Business Challenges Every Small Business Struggles With (And How to Fix Them)

small-business-challenges-1.jpg

In the first few years of business, small companies come up against a lot of different challenges. Some are harder than others to overcome — and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail by the end of their first year. By the end of their fifth year, 50% go under; and by the tenth year, that number rises to 80%.

With survival rates like that, it’s easy to understand why folks face the first few years of business with trepidation. But in fact, many common business problems and challenges are actually fixable, from difficulty finding customers, generating leads, and building an email list, all the way to hiring the right people and balancing quality and growth. Many times, you’ll find you need to take a step back, take the time to understand the pain points you’re feeling, and re-think your strategy.

Here are six challenges every small business faces, along with some tactical advice about how to fix them. (And if one of the challenges you’re facing is growing your email lists and generating leads, then be sure to save your seat for our live workshop that’s taking place on Thursday, April 27 at 1:00 P.M. EST.)

6 Small Business Problems & How to Fix Them

1) Finding Customers

This first one isn’t just a small business problem. The marketers at well-known companies like Apple and Toyota and McDonald’s don’t just sit around waiting for the leads to come in: Even the biggest, most successful companies have people working hard every single day to find new customers.

But for small businesses that aren’t a household name, finding customers can be particularly difficult. For example, there seem to be so many channels you can choose to focus on … how do you know what to prioritize and where to allocate resources?

How to Fix It:

Finding customers starts with figuring how who your ideal customer actually is. Spraying and praying doesn’t work for anybody — you need to make sure you’re spreading the word to the right people.

Craft an idea of what your target customers look like, what they do, where they spend time online by building your buyer personas. (Here are some free buyer persona templates to get you started.) Creating very specific ones can dramatically improve your business results. Once you’ve built your buyer personas, you can start creating content and getting in front of your target customers in the places they spend time online and with the messages that they care about.

2) Hiring Talented People

Hiring is often one of the biggest challenges for small businesses, especially since small business executives tend to feel under-resourced to begin with. Hiring new employees is a big deal and a complex process, and the cost of onboarding is an average of over $4,000 per new employee for most companies. And if you don’t hire well, employee turnover can be very, very expensive.

But, as CEO of 2020 On-site Optometry Howard Bernstein said in our panel on how to start a business, it’s impossible to know everything yourself. That’s why finding and hiring the right people — and the people who are really excited about what you’re doing — matters.

How to Fix It:

It’s easy to hire with a short-term mindset: send out a job description, screen applicants, and make a decision. But because of the high costs of hiring right, it’s important to invest a significant amount of time in the hiring process. Don’t settle for good employees when you can find great ones, even if it takes longer. It’s the great employees that will help your company get to the next level.

Just like you create buyer personas for your customers, create candidate personas for your job candidates. Your personas should be different for each new role that you’re hiring for, but will share some underlying traits around company culture.

Next, take ownership of attracting candidates to your company’s brand and make them interested in learning more. This will help you build a recruiting pipeline that will give hiring the same predictability as sales. Then, turn those leads into applicants.

3) Spreading Brand Awareness

It can sometimes seem like today’s biggest brands seemed to have popped up out of nowhere. How did they become a household name? How did they grow that quickly? Can your business grow like that, too?

Of course, most of these companies’ hard work, failures, and rejections happened behind the scenes. But there are strategies for spreading the word about your brand and building a great reputation that you can start right away.

How to Fix It:

There are many ways to spread brand awareness, but the three I’ll touch on here are PR, co-marketing, and blogging.

  • PR: Public relations is less about paying for a spot in a news blog, and more about focusing your voice and finding your place in the market. I recommend reading this great post from FirstRound Capital on what startups and small businesses often get wrong about PR, which also includes some great, tactical tips on how to figure out who’s covering your industry, building relationships, and working with reporters. You can also download our free public relations kit to learn how to maximize your public relations efforts with inbound marketing and social media.
  • Co-marketing: Partnering with another brand will help you inherit some of their image and reputation and create brand evangelists outside your circle. It’s a fantastic way to gain a large volume of new contacts alongside your organic marketing efforts. You can read our ebook on how to get started with co-marketing for more helpful information.
  • Blogging: Running a consistently high-quality blog will also help you build brand awareness. Not only does a blog help drive traffic to your website and convert that traffic into leads, but it also helps you establish authority in your industry and trust among your prospects. Many people find out about HubSpot because of our blog posts. It’ll also help you build an email list, which brings us to our next point …

4) Building an Email List

As if it isn’t hard enough to build an email list, did you know your email marketing database degrades by about 22.5% every year? That means you have to increase your email list by almost a quarter to just maintain it, never mind grow it. It’s the marketing team’s job to find ways to constantly add fresh, new email contacts to your lists.

But what many people call “building an email list” is actually buying an email list — and buying an email list is never a good idea. I repeat: Never a good idea. Not only will your email deliverability and IP reputation be harmed, but it’s also a waste of money. If your current strategy is to buy or rent email lists, then it’s time to regroup and find better places to put those resources.

How to Fix It:

Instead of buying or renting lists, build opt-in email lists. An opt-in email list is made up of subscribers who voluntarily give you their email address so you can send them emails. One great way to build an opt-in list is by creating great blog content and making it easy for people to subscribe — which, at the same time, will help you increase your online presence, build up search authority, and create evangelists from your content.

blog-subscription-CTA.png

[Example of a subscribe CTA on Help Scout’s blog.]

You can also revive older lists that you think are mostly decayed by creating an engaging opt-in message and sending it to your old list encouraging contacts who wish to re-opt-in and promising to remove all contacts who don’t respond.

To learn more strategies and tips, register here for our live workshop on growing your email subscribers.

5) Lead Generation

Another problem most small businesses share is lead generation — specifically, generating enough leads to keep the sales team happy. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone: Only 1 in 10 marketers feel their lead generation campaigns are effective.

But generating leads that are both high quantity and high quality is a marketing team’s most important objective. A successful lead generation engine is what turns website visitors into prospective customers and keeps the funnel full of sales prospects while you sleep.

convert-inbound-methodology.png

[Lead generation is part of the “convert” stage of the inbound methodology.]

How to Fix It:

To make the lead generation process work for your business, you need to first optimize your existing website for leads. Your website is the most important tool you have for turning prospects into customers. Look through your website and ask yourself:

  • Do each of your webpages clearly guide visitors to take action, or do they leave them wondering what to do next?
  • Do you use a tool that automatically pulls the submissions from your forms and puts them into your contact database, like HubSpot’s free lead generation tool?
  • Are you creating custom landing pages for every single campaign that you run?
  • Do you have lead generation CTAs on each of your blog posts? (Do you have a blog at all?)

Prioritize the most popular pages on your website first. Most businesses have a few, specific pages that bring in the majority of their traffic — often the homepage, “About” page, “Contact Us” page, and maybe one or two of your most popular blog posts. Read this blog post to learn how to figure out which pages to prioritize, and how to optimize them.

Finally, be sure to take advantage of free lead management software. Affording marketing in general is a big challenge in and of itself, so finding and implementing the most robust free marketing tools can be a game changer. HubSpot Marketing Free, for example, has features like a form-scraping tool that scrapes any pre-existing forms you have on your website and adds those contacts to your existing contact database. It also lets you new pop-ups, hello bars, or slide-ins — called “lead flows” — that’ll help you turn website visitors into leads immediately.

6) Balancing Quality and Growth

“There’s this mix of building scalability early, versus doing what you have to do to get it all done,” Nick Rellas, co-founder and CEO of Drizly, told our panel of startup executives about starting his own business.

This is a tricky one, especially since every situation is different. You’ll see this problem arise in all areas of business: in product development, in marketing and content creation, in hiring, and so on. For example, many business executives will push growth at all costs. But if you grow your company too quickly, you’ll find yourself having to hire quickly. This can overwhelm your experienced team members because it takes a while to train people. And if you don’t train people well, it can end up backfiring.

How to Fix It:

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer here. “Depending where you are in your business’ lifecycle,” says Rellas, “the scale will tip one way or the other, but I do think you need both at different times.”

What it comes down to is not obsessing over every detail, but obsessing over the right details. Obsessing over product perfection, for example, might not be as important as obsessing over customer service. It’s better to put your fears aside and launch a product that isn’t perfect because you can always update and improve it. After all, once your products are in the hands of your customers, you can learn much more quickly what’s working and what isn’t.

Obsessing over customer service, however, is worth the extra effort. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos puts it well in his 2016 letter to shareholders: “There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.” (“Day 1” is what he refers to as a period of growth and innovation, whereas “Day 2” is stasis, irrelevance, and slow demise.)

While these are just a few of the many business challenges facing small businesses every day, there are many others out there. Are there other challenges your small business is facing that you want to bring up? Share with us in the comments below — and don’t forget to share your ideas for solutions, too!

email-subscriber-live-workshop

Type A vs. Type B: Does Personality Type Matter at Work?

typeAtypeBatwork-compressor.jpg

We begin with a cast of two characters. One is organized, ambitious, competitive, and sometimes a little impatient. The other is laid-back, collaborative, creative and, sometimes, a little messy.

Do you identify with one more than the other?

Many of us already identify as either a “Type A” or “Type B” personality. Or, maybe you see yourself as a hybrid of both — like those of us who schedule our time and manage to-do lists like maniacs, but can’t recall the last time we made our beds. Download our free planning template to establish concrete and achievable marketing goals.

Here’s how the two types tend to break down, according to the American Psychological Association:

  • Type A: “A complex pattern of behaviors and emotions that includes excessive emphasis on competition, aggression, impatience, and hostility.”
  • Type B: “As compared to Type A behavior pattern, a less competitive, less aggressive, less hostile pattern of behavior and emotion.”

But if you’re anything like me, you might be thinking, “Well, that seems a bit restrictive.” That’s why we’re going to dive a bit deeper into each one. But first — let’s have a little fun.

Type A vs. Type B Personalities

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of these personality types, check out this infographic to see if there’s one with which you identify more than the other:

A-B-Personality-Infographic.png

While the options above might be generally easy to associate with either Type A vs. Type B workplace personalities, you may have found yourself identifying with a little bit of both. And that’s normal — it’s hard to check off all the boxes for one category.

It’s a visual, very informal representation of the A/B personality test — take it with a grain of salt, since it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the original version of this assessment. That began in the 1960s, when researchers David C. Jenkins, Stephen Zyzanski, and Ray Rosenmen sought a way to measure the correlation between certain behaviors and coronary heart disease.

That study lead to the development of the Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS): a multiple-choice questionnaire that was distributed for use among psychology professionals in 1979. Today, many A/B personality tests are adaptations of the JAS, like this one — designed primarily for university students — available through UNC Charlotte’s Department of Psychology.

Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 11.18.51 AM.png

Source: UNC Department of Psychology

Today, it’s hardly the only personality inventory of its kind, and almost seems a bit antiquated. In the last few decades, we’ve seen more complex assessments emerge, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®), DiSC, and Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI®). Sure, we might still make general references to it — for example, I’ve lost count of the number of times each day I declare how Type A I am — it seems like the classic A/B dichotomy isn’t sufficient enough to comprehensively measure someone’s personality anymore.

It poses the question: Is there still room for the old fashioned Type A vs. Type B labels in the workplace? Or are they, as a reliable measure of personality, defunct? And in the end, do all of these elaborate assessments and profiles really just lead to Types A and B?

Does the A/B Personality Construct Have a Place in the Office?

The fact that many people identify with characteristics ascribed to both Type A and Type B — depending on the context — is why these more elaborate personality inventories were created. For example, DiSC is a test that assesses someone’s personality based on four behavioral drivers:

  1. Dominance
  2. Influence
  3. Conscientiousness
  4. Steadiness

Someone who scores high in steadiness, for example, tends to be friendly, empathetic, and places a lot of importance on being well liked and avoiding risk. That might sound a bit like Type B, right?

Someone who scores high in influence, on the other hand, tends to be outgoing, spontaneous, enthusiastic, unfocused, and optimistic. But wait — those also sounds like Type B traits.

But despite both steadiness and influence erring more toward the Type B side, each sounds like it has a pretty distinct character, working style, and approach to collaboration. See? As we said — that’s why these more detailed personality profiles exist.

Now, let’s take a look at someone who scores high in conscientiousness. This person tends to:

  • Be a data-driven problem solver.
  • Work deliberately and at a conservative pace.
  • Want to be correct and accurate.
  • Communicate in a more non-verbal manner.

So which bucket does this person fall into: Type A, or Type B?

The value that this person places on accuracy might scream, “Type A!” But the conservative pace might lean a bit more toward Type B. It’s more difficult to place this one into a single category — again, that’s where a more detailed personality inventory becomes particularly useful.

How Much Does “A” or “B” Really Matter?

When we’re able to categorize things, it gives us the impression that we can better understand our surroundings. It’s human nature — the A/B personality constructs, like many other identifying “buckets,” likely exist because of our instinctive compulsion and desire to identify the unknown.

But much of the time, these categories leave out important details. After all, if you don’t fit neatly into one bucket, what are you supposed to do?

Good news — that doesn’t really matter.

What does matter, however, is how you operate in and respond to day-to-day workplace scenarios. Which systems help you stay organized? How many unread emails do you feel comfortable having in your inbox? How far in advance do you care to plan out your lunch?

Answering those questions can help you identify and align your priorities, and ultimately determine which factors are going to help you be most successful and productive at work.

So While There’s No Need to Be “A” Or “B” …

… it might be helpful to look into some of the newer, more detailed personality inventories. Many of them, like the DiSC, are designed to help you gain more honest insight into the questions above — the ones that help you shed light on how you approach deadlines and collaborate, for example. Having that information can help you better prepare for team projects and high-pressure scenarios, and self-identity detrimental behaviors of which you might not have been previously aware.

So, while there’s no need to pressure yourself to uphold one personality type or the other — whether it’s Type A or Type B, introvert or extrovert, ENTJ or ENJF — it’s important to know what’s going to help you do your best work.

Do you think understanding formal personality types are important at work? Let us know in the comments.

This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

get a free inbound marketing assessment

Brain Typing & Skin Hearing: Everything You Need to Know About Facebook’s 2017 F8 Conference

F8_keynote-newsjack.jpg

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has been the leader of social media innovation and change. We’ve seen Facebook change the way we talk, text, share, and connect around the world.

Today, Facebook is no longer an option for marketers. Globally, almost 2 billion people use Facebook, and more than 1 billion people use Messenger. What’s more, over 1 billion users log onto Facebook every day. People go to Facebook for news and content consumption more than ever, and they use Facebook to connect with brands and publishers, as well as their friends and family.

Simply put, if you’re not using Facebook for advertising, video marketing, and content sharing, you’re behind the curve.

Each year since 2007, Facebook has hosted Facebook F8, its annual Developers Conference. This event is when Facebook typically announces new products and innovations marketers and developers can use to connect in different ways. In this post, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest announcements from F8 2017 and major themes marketers should pay attention to as Facebook continues to evolve.

What is F8?

F8 is the Facebook Developers Conference. F8 2017 was held on Tuesday, April 18th and Wednesday, April 19th, and it included numerous announcements about new products, new features, and future initiatives Facebook would be working on. Although it’s titled for developers, previous F8’s have included product announcements and demos that are meaningful for social media marketers, too. Facebook also announces changes to other platforms and products it owns during F8, most notably on Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

In previous years, Facebook used F8 to announce products and features as ubiquitous as the launch of Facebook Live, Messenger bots, Instant Articles, and the mobile Like button, among others. It’s hard to imagine Facebook without these things now, right?

Where is Facebook now?

For the purposes of this blog post, it’s valuable to quickly recap some of the major changes that have taken place since F8 2016 — because a lot has changed. If you’re caught up to speed, skip ahead to the latest announcements from F8 2017.

Facebook Journalism Project

In January 2017, Facebook launched the Facebook Journalism Project to identify and prevent the proliferation of fraudulent content (“fake news”) on the platform. Additionally, the Facebook Journalism Project entails Facebook creating more tools for media publishers to analyze content performance and continuing to improve Instant Articles.

News Feed

In June 2016, Facebook adjusted its algorithm to display content from users’ family and friends first in the News Feed — ahead of content from publishers and Pages. Publishers now have to think more creatively about how to generate engagement and reach on the platform.

Live Video

Facebook Live was announced at F8 2016, and since then, it’s exploded in popularity. In fact, Facebook learned that users were spending 3X more time watching Facebook Live videos than traditional videos, so it adjusted the News Feed algorithm again to give Facebook Live videos more News Feed real estate. Additionally, Facebook Pages can now broadcast live from desktop computers in addition to mobile devices.

Facebook also launched Instagram Live in November 2016. It’s different from Facebook Live in that live Instagram videos disappear once the broadcast ends. But like Facebook Live, Instagram pages that are broadcasting live get first priority at the top of the Instagram feed.

Ephemeral Messaging

Facebook has borrowed a significant amount of “inspiration” from Snapchat since F8 2016. Facebook has replicated Snapchat’s key feature — ephemeral, or disappearing, photos and videos — on Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and on Facebook itself. At the time of F8 2017, more people are using Instagram Stories than the entire Snapchat app, so it will be interesting to see the moves Facebook and Snapchat make to keep competing next.

Now that we’re all caught up to speed, let’s dive into some of the biggest announcements from F8 2017.

The Biggest Announcements from F8 2017

At the start of his keynote address, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared that the 10-year plan for Facebook was made up of three endeavors: augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and connectivity. Let’s dive into product announcements and future projections from F8 2017.

Augmented & Virtual Reality

One of Facebook’s biggest pushes at F8 was improvement upon reality with the help of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

For those of you who might be confused on the difference (don’t worry, so were we):

Augmented reality is a real-world view superimposed with technologically-generated images, sounds, and other effects. Recent examples of augmented reality include Pokémon GO and Snapchat’s world lenses:

Virtual reality consists of digitally-simulated three-dimensional images that people can interact with by means of headsets and wearable sensors. Recent VR use cases include video gaming and experiential marketing.

Here’s how Facebook plans to invest in AR and VR in the coming year:

1) Camera Effects Platform

Facebook is taking its camera to the next level and creating the “first augmented reality platform.” Within the camera on Facebook and Messenger, users can already add filters, frames, drawings, and emojis, but Facebook wants to take it even further.

Frames Studio

The Facebook Frames Studio lets anyone design custom frames to surround their profile pictures or other pictures taken with the Facebook camera. You can create custom frames for events and communities or make public frames for anyone on Facebook to use. Here’s a draft of a frame I made featuring the HubSpot sprocket. It’s very basic (I’m a writer, not an artist), but you get the idea — you can add any art or effects to a frame that you’d like.

hubspot frame.png

AR Studio

The Facebook AR Studio helps create augmented reality elements Facebook users can incorporate into their photos and videos. Think 3-D images and responsive masks — Zuckerberg’s example was filling an office with 3-D Skittles. Developers can create different camera effects that respond to movement, geography, and surrounding objects. This feature is currently in beta, but developers can apply to start experimenting and creating now.

Check out a few examples:

facebook-ar-studio.png

Source: Facebook AR Studio

2) Facebook Spaces

On the VR side of things, Facebook Spaces is a new virtual reality app where users can hang out with their friends — in full VR — with the help of the Oculus Rift VR headset. For now, it’s only launching in beta, but the idea is that users can interact with their friends in Facebook Spaces the same way they would in person. It goes to show you how heavily Facebook is investing in VR.

Discover how detailed and advanced some of the movements are in its explainer video here:

3) AR Glasses

They haven’t arrived yet, but during the second day of F8 2017, Facebook’s Chief Scientist of Oculus Research Michael Abrash said fully AR glasses were on the Facebook horizon. He envisioned glasses that improve vision and hearing, bolster intelligence, and are socially acceptable enough to become ubiquitous. So far, Google and Snap Inc. have created wearable glasses cameras — with varying degrees of success — so we’ll keep you posted on any Facebook glasses developments.

4) 360-Degree Camera

Facebook announced new Surround 360 technology that will allow users to film highly immersive 360-degree videos with “six degrees of freedom.” The circular camera allows videographers to rotate the camera viewfinder like a person’s head would to film in full 360-degree capabilities. Here’s what the two cameras look like:

x24_x6_009_b.png

Source: Facebook

Below is our video recap from the first day at F8, featuring most of these AR and VR announcements:

Connectivity

In his opening keynote, Zuckerberg also prioritized Facebook’s commitment to helping the world connect online — by means of Facebook, of course. Facebook plans to do this with Terragraph technology; here’s the scoop.

6) Terragraph

Facebook is testing its Terragraph technology to increase data accessibility and transfer speeds around the world. It’s set new records in data transfer speeds and is testing a citywide mesh millimeter-wave data transfer system in San Jose, California. Technology like Terragraph helps more people get online with the help of their smartphones, so while there isn’t a direct takeaway for digital marketers here, it’s neat to see Facebook helping get more people online.

Artificial Intelligence

Facebook’s camera platform — for Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram — is now “AI-infused.” This means it can understand facial expressions, surroundings, and movement, as well as understand and annotate videos.

Facebook’s new Camera Effects Platform gives developers the tools to use AI for more creative photography and video recording. It’s also partnering with companies like Amazon and Microsoft to run AI algorithms on mobile phones.

Building 8

Building 8, Facebook’s research team dedicated to creating social-first consumer products, is working on silent speech communications projects that will let users type 100 words per minute — with their brains. (That’s 5X faster than the average smartphone user can type.) Building 8 is also creating hardware and software so users can hear information — with their skin.

These projects are still works in progress, but the announcements remind all of us that AI isn’t right around the corner — it’s now. Read more about how AI could change your job in a recent HubSpot Research report.

Messenger

Over 1.2 billion people use Facebook Messenger, but the platform isn’t just for humans. There are over 100,000 monthly active Messenger bots, and they’re changing the way businesses communicate with prospects and customers. Facebook reported at F8 that 2 billion messages are sent between people and businesses each month. To that end, it’s created new tools and features to make it easier for Messenger users and businesses to get in touch on the platform.

7) New Facebook Messenger Features

Below are some of the biggest Messenger announcements marketers should take note of. You’ll notice that most of these changes are designed around getting users to spend more time in Messenger:

  • A Discover tab on the Messenger home screen so users can easily search for bots that will point them in the right direction
  • Messenger Codes, which users can scan with the Messenger Camera to easily connect with businesses
  • Messenger’s AI assistant, M, can suggest ordering food from delivery.com when users are talking to friends and bring up getting dinner, for example. (Creepy, or delicious? Both?)
  • More bots for playing games
  • Smart Replies, which allow businesses to let bots automatically respond to frequently asked questions submitted via Messenger

Below is our video recap of the second day at F8, which centered heavily on these big announcements from Building 8:

Key Takeaways from F8 2017

Facebook vs. Snap Inc.

Facebook has been copying Snapchat features, and now it wants to take those features and do them bigger — and better — than its competitor. Coincidentally (or maybe not), Snapchat announced AR world lenses on the first day of F8. To me, the two cameras appear to be neck-in-neck in terms of capabilities. Facebook and its respective platforms claim significantly more users than Snapchat, so keep your eyes peeled for a race to innovate between these two social media titans.

All About AR, VR & AI

If you’re daunted by the idea of buying more equipment, taking more photos, and making even more videos, don’t rush to experiment with a bunch of new tools and technologies all at once. Start small — maybe by creating a custom frame in the Frames Studio — and add AR elements to photos you share on Facebook to see if your audience responds positively. If you can’t determine good use cases for experimenting with AR or VR, don’t waste your time and resources, but keep an eye out for events or settings in which these new technologies could be a good fit for your audience on Facebook.

No News for Publishers

Most conspicuous to me was the lack of mention of publishers on Facebook. It doesn’t appear that much is changing when it comes to the News Feed algorithm or Facebook Instant Articles anytime soon, which could be meaningful for marketers. It could be that Facebook will start prioritizing AR and VR visual content in the News Feed over links and status updates — much like how Facebook Live videos are now prioritized. As always, we’ll keep you posted on any algorithmic changes that could impact your organic Facebook performance.

Until next year …

We know this is a lot of information, and it isn’t immediately clear how, if at all, these innovations will change the way marketers use Facebook. When it comes to new technology and social media innovation, our advice is usually this: Experiment with any and all new technology. If your audience engages with it, keep going. If they ignore it, don’t try to force it.

In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted on more news from Facebook and our suggestions for how to keep tailoring your approach to Facebook marketing. And since F8 didn’t make much mention of Instagram, we wanted to launch a product of our own: We partnered with Shakr to create StoriesAds.com, where marketers can automatically create vertical videos tailored for the Instagram Stories platform. Try creating an engaging Instagram video — in under two minutes — today. No video skills required.

What were your impressions of F8 2017? Share with us in the comments below.

free facebook marketing assessment

Where We Are: The 2017 State of Content Marketing [Infographic]

2017StateofContentMarketing-compressor-1.jpg

“Less than 10% of those surveyed were definitely sure how to implement content marketing.”

Sound familiar?

If it does, you’re clearly not alone. Content marketing — and keeping up with it — can be confusing, even to those who understand its importance. Many of us have heard the phrase “content is king.” But what, exactly, does that look like here and now, in such a rapidly changing landscape? New Call-to-action

We grabbed that opening statistic from the helpful, intriguing infographic below, compiled by Zazzle, based on the results of its 2017 State of Content Marketing Survey of marketers in the UK. But instead of simply looking at the latest trends, it sought to examine the pain points and decision-making process of today’s content marketer. And if you’re in the business of making life easier for that audience — well, we suggest having a look.

Do you think the same trends hold true in your neck of the woods? Read on, and see where your current strategy and priorities align with the data illustrated here.

HUBSPOT-IG-STATE_OF_CONTENT_MARKETING_SURVEY.png

Learn More about HubSpot Classroom Training

Is Technology Actually Making Us Less Productive? [New Research]

productivity_tools_compressed.jpg

After working in my role here at HubSpot for almost eight months now, I’ve started to go into autopilot when I turn on my computer every morning.

I open up my email app, my calendar app, my organization and productivity app, my grammar-checking app, my note-taking app, my analytics tool, and my blogging tool.

And that’s only when I first get into the office.

By the end of most days, my browser is full of different tabs, and so many apps and tools are running that they eventually start shutting down of their own accord. When all of these sites, apps, and tools are working, I spend a significant portion of my day using them: to write, to proofread, to extrapolate data, to keep track of what I’m working on, to update notes — all in the name of efficiency.

But as it turns out, the tools and apps that we marketers use every day could actually be making us less efficient. If you feel the pain of switching between 1,000 apps per day like I do, read on for new data from HubSpot Research.

The Trouble With Tools

We surveyed more than 2,000 business owners, salespeople, and marketers in the U.S. and U.K. The biggest finding from our research? Marketers and salespeople are using too many productivity tools and apps, and it’s actually making us less efficient.

Marketers are using a ton of tools.

You probably knew this one already from your own day-to-day experience, but it bears repeating: There are an enormous number of marketing tools out there, and marketers are using a lot of them to get their jobs done every day.

HubSpot Research analyzed our customer base of over 20,000 websites, and we found that each website has an average of 13 tool integrations — one website even had 88 tools and apps. The marketing app and tool landscape is incredibly crowded and constantly evolving, a phenomenon Chiefmartec.com chronicled in this extremely busy graphic:

marketing_technology_landscape_2016_3000px-1.jpg

Source: Chiefmartec

Now, before you keep reading, think about how many tools you use every day to do your job. Keep that number in mind as you keep reading the results of our survey.

Marketers underestimate how many tools they’re using.

When I counted up the number of tools I use every day, my initial count landed at seven tools and apps. But then, when I started digging into my internet history, I realized the number was actually higher. HubSpot’s internal communications platform is a tool I didn’t consider. The same goes for our file-sharing service, my social media scheduling tool, and an analytics bookmark.

By the time I fully audited every single tool and app I use in a given day to do my job, the number was in the double-digits. And as it turns out, I’m not alone.

When we asked our survey respondents how many technologies they used in their day jobs, their answers were surprising — and perhaps too low.

Tools-report-graphics3-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

The majority of survey respondents said they only use between one and five tools to do their jobs every day, and we think these numbers err on the conservative side for the same reason my initial number was so low. When technology becomes a part of your day-to-day routine, it’s easy to forget you’re using it — and to notice that it could make your day less efficient.

When apps and tools are built into your workday as browser extensions, bookmarks, homepages, and push notifications, for example, it can be easy not to count them. But as it turns out, using them is taking up valuable time.

Too Much Tech = Too Little Efficiency

In an ironic twist, tools designed in the name of productivity and efficiency could be impeding those results.

Marketers are wasting time.

We asked marketers to estimate how much time they spend each day logging into, using, and jumping between the different tools and technologies they use. The results were surprising: Marketers are losing up to five hours per week managing and operating apps to get their jobs done.

Tools-report-graphics6-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

Marketers are getting frustrated.

The two biggest pain points for survey respondents were how much time it takes to work in and operate the myriad of different marketing tools out there, and how much time it takes to switch between tools using different logins and passwords.

Tools-report-graphics1-3.png

Source: HubSpot Research

That hour lost to managing different tools and technologies each day is all the more aggravating if the tools share functional capabilities, and a majority of the marketers we surveyed think up to five tools they use could be redundant.

Tools-report-graphics10-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

I don’t know about you, but there are definitely redundancies between some of the tools I use. Heck, I use two to-do list apps and still write my list down with a pen and paper every day. How many tools do you use that work to do different versions of the same functions?

Marketers could be using that time to do other cool things.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the inefficiency of tools is that time spent managing tools takes away from time that could be spent tackling big-picture challenges, creating content, or closing prospects. Here’s what the marketers and salespeople we surveyed said they wished they could be doing with that time:

Tools-report-graphics5-1.png

Source: HubSpot Research

The three things marketers would prefer to focus on — growing web traffic, creating content, and converting new leads — might look familiar. They’re critical pieces of the inbound and content marketing funnel, and without ample time to dedicate to these tasks, marketers might not be able to generate as many leads as needed for their sales teams’ success.

What’s the Solution?

So, let’s recap.

The results of this survey aren’t great. Marketers and salespeople are having trouble being as efficient and productive as possible because they have to manage so many different tools. They’re sacrificing time to work on projects of greater impact and magnitude to log into tools and extrapolate data.

But not to worry — we suggest two steps to maximize efficiency and stay productive in the face of hundreds of productivity tools to choose from.

1) Do an audit.

If you didn’t do it earlier while reading, sit down and write down (or type) a list of all of the websites, tools, apps, extensions, and bots you use every day to get your work done. From your sticky notes app on your computer to your pen and paper to-do list, make an exhaustive list of everything you use to get everything done.

2) Consolidate and integrate.

Then, try to categorize your tools and apps into different functionalities to identify any redundancies in your productivity system. If you’re using three different types of to-do lists, as I do, can you cut two and just use one? If you’re spending time reporting data from three different analytics programs, sit down with your team to determine if there’s a more efficient way you could be reporting, or if your KPIs are up-to-date with your team’s needs.

The ultimate goal should be to create a system of tools that are easy to use and make marketers’ jobs as productive as possible. To learn more about how we’ve done that here at HubSpot, read about our completely integrated Growth Stack here.

How much time do you think you lose each day to redundant tools and apps? Share with us in the comments below.

subscribe to get free marketing data

Easter Eggs: 10 of the Internet’s Best Hidden Gems

Internet-Easter-Eggs-compressor.jpg

Sometimes, it seems like the internet is full of tedium — waiting for a page to load, juggling different passwords, and trying to find the perfect GIF image to describe your mood. But luckily, it’s also full of really cool nuggets, thanks to the clever developers who make it their mission to put the curiosity and fun back into our daily routines. What’s another name for those? Easter eggs.

Easter eggs are hidden gems, features, or moments of surprise buried within software and throughout the internet. They’re designed to catch you off guard and make you smile — if you can find them.

But why would you hide these fun, delightful gems? And since Easter eggs typically don’t add much functionally to the software or site, why bother taking the time to code them in? A few years ago, HubSpot’s VP of Marketing, Meghan Anderson, asked a few of our colleagues for their opinions on the matter. And while she found that you’ll get a different answer from every person you ask, most answers boil down to the same motive: “for the fun of it.”

Mike Champion, Tech Lead at HubSpot

AjhWxSlN_400x400.jpeg“Adding an Easter egg can be a fun diversion when writing challenging code … and it’ll hopefully amuse some people, too.”

 

Eric Peters, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at HubSpot Academy

OuQkiyWe.jpg“Easter eggs are fun to build and fun to find, because they reward users that care enough to find and get excited about them. They create this feeling of being an insider with the application or company, which can be incredibly valuable in terms of brand loyalty and engagement.”

Laura Fitton, Inbound Marketing Evangelist at HubSpot

PistachioHS.jpg“I feel like Easter eggs are part of the ‘developer’ personality. These are very smart people who love solving puzzles, and the intricacies of their work isn’t ever fully appreciated by most of the customers using their product. So by hiding an Easter egg, they can reward the customers who do take that extra initiative to really dig in and appreciate the software — and what goes into making it.”

Go No Further if You Like Surprises

Sharing these gems feels a bit like revealing the secret to a magic trick. After all, half the fun surrounding Easter eggs comes from the hunt for them. So, if you like to be caught off guard, it’s completely okay to stop reading now. Instead, you might want to watch this video of three dogs playing. After all, we don’t want to leave you empty-handed.

10 of the Internet’s Best Easter Eggs

Easter egg hunting is a little easier if you’ve got a map. With some help from co-workers, Reddit, Little Big Details, Quora, and other sites, I’ve compiled a starter map for you, complete with some of the best hidden features out there.

1) BuzzFeed

Truth be told, I actually enjoy the occasional quiz that determines, say, which generation I belong to based on my favorite pizza toppings. It’s the type of content for which BuzzFeed has earned a reputation, though it does also feature some legitimate news items and narrative journalism.

But scrolling through BuzzFeed’s home page sometimes feels like falling through a bottomless well — except, there is an end. And if you make it there, you’re in for a little treat:

It’s the music video for the 1991 hit single “End of the Road,” by Boyz II Men. It’s linguistically fitting — after all, you have reached the end of the proverbial BuzzFeed road by making it all the way to the bottom of the homepage. Plus, it’s a particularly fun surprise for those of us with an affinity for 90s music.

2) Google

It’s been a long time since Google was “just” a search engine. But for those who want to have a bit of fun with its search feature, you’re in luck — Google’s developers have a sense of humor.

To start, look at what happens when you enter the query, “”:

The word “blink” actually blinks in all of the search results. It’s a sneaky, cheap thrill for those of us who are easily amused.

3) Google Maps

Google’s antics hardly end there. And while it didn’t take long for this easter egg to become discovered (and widely talked about), it’s still a pretty cool online treat. For April Fool’s Day 2017, Google Maps allowed users to turn its maps platform into a game of Ms. PAC-MAN:

While the feature may have been intended as an April Fool’s joke, as of the following Monday, it was still present on Google Maps — and the top search results for “Google Maps Ms. PAC-MAN” mostly covered ways to remove it. Full disclosure: This marketer, personally, quite loves the feature, and plans to waste plenty of her free time on it.

4) Google Chrome

Does this dinosaur look familiar?

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 9.22.38 AM.png

Chrome browser users might recognize him from a lack of internet connection. But now, there’s actually reason to rejoice when Chrome can’t connect. Even if you’re offline, when you land on that screen, watch what happens when you press the spacebar:

Well, I know what I’m doing next time the in-flight Wi-Fi isn’t working. And, good news for those who need more reason to procrastinate: Someone took the liberty to create the T-Rex Runner game page, so you can play any time. Plus, Android users can download the game here.

5) Spotify

There are some pieces of pop culture that, it seems, will never fade away. Many of them fall into the realm of science fiction films, like the Star Wars franchise. These days, whenever a new film in the series is released, it seems like everyone wants to be a part of it.

That includes the music streaming app Spotify. Watch what happens to the play bar at the bottom when The Force Awakens soundtrack begins playing:

It turns into a famed lightsaber — the laser sword used by many Star Wars characters. May the force be with you, indeed.

6) Facebook

Here’s a good one for those of us who are nostalgic for the earliest days of internet chat. In your Facebook language settings, there’s a bevy of options — everything from English to Svenska. And at first glance, it looks like Facebook seems to have done away with such non-sequiturs as “upside-down” and “pirate.” But those options are actually just masked as alternative “English” variations. Have a look:

And what’s not shown here is the search bar, which when set to “pirate” displays the text, “Scour fer scallywags ports ‘n’ various sundries.”

Also mixed into the global options is Leet, which is defined by Google as “an informal language or code used on the Internet, in which standard letters are often replaced by numerals or special characters.” 4w350m3 — that’s Leet for, “Awesome.”

7) Google (Again)

If you’re familiar with the Muppets, chances are you’ve at least heard of the Swedish Chef character, who’s known to end his intro song with the words, “Bork, bork, bork!” Google has taken that phenomenon and incorporated it into its own language settings. Yes — “Bork, bork, bork!” is a language option. Here’s what Google’s homepage looks like after selecting that as your preferred language:

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 10.50.36 AM.png

Feloong loocky? Excellent. Try your hand at Google’s other language options, which — like Facebook — include Pirate and Klingon.

8) Black Acre Brewing

Are you the type of person who loves the randomness of the internet more than anything else? If that’s the case, visit Black Acre Brewing’s website, and click “I am under 21.”

Um. Okay. If you’re not old enough to drink, you are old enough to watch He-Man sing the 1992 4 Non Blondes hit single “What’s Up?”

9) HEMA

To some of us, there are fewer things more fun than online shopping. The only thing that might make it more entertaining might be watching the catalogue items come to life and interact with each other. In fact, the folks behind Dutch retail site HEMA had the same thought, and created a trick product page for that very purpose. Bump the mug, and watch the catastrophe that ensues:

Oops.

10) Google (Last Time, We Promise)

I’ll admit it — I’ve never quite bothered with Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button below the search bar because, well, I always seem to forget that it’s there. But it seems that I’ve been missing out on a little trick. If you hover your mouse over the button — without typing anything into the search box first — the text will spin like a slot machine into other options, like “I’m Feeling Hungry,” or “I’m Feeling Stellar.” Clicking on one will bring you to a topic-specific page:

Happy Hunting

For the sake of my productivity — and your own — I’ll stop there. But that’s hardly a comprehensive list of the internet’s Easter eggs. There are countless more out there to find, so we’ll leave the rest of the hunt up to you. Let the search begin.

What are some of the best internet Easter eggs you’ve found? Let us know in the comments.

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

New Call-to-action

What Is Bounce Rate? (And How Can I Fix Mine?)

BounceRate_Jacks-compressor.jpg

Outside of the marketing context, the word “bounce” is actually kind of fun. It reminds us of childhood hours passed in an inflated bounce house, of a basketball game, or maybe even a game of jacks.

But when it comes to your website’s analytics, it’s part of a metric that can be really confusing when you first stumble upon it: The bounce rate.

A lot of questions pop into your head. Is a bounce rate close to 100% good, or bad? Is it at all like a bounced email? Is it a fluffy metric that I should ignore? And if I want to fix it, what should I do? New Call-to-action

Luckily, you’re not alone. Many marketers have asked those questions and might not have found a solid answer yet. We’re here to shed some light on the elusive bounce rate. We’ve put together a quick overview of what constitutes a bounce rate — and what doesn’t — and help you find some ways to fix it.

What Is Bounce Rate?

To answer what is perhaps the most important of these questions: No, your website bounce rate is not the same as your email bounce rate. Your website’s bounce rate is the percentage of people who land on a page on your website, then leave. They don’t click on anything else. They just get to one of your pages, hang out for a bit, then leave.

Keep in mind that bounce rate is different than an exit rate. Bounce rates only measure “one-and-done” visits — the ones in which people arrive and leave your website without navigating away from a single page. Here’s what they look like in your HubSpot Web Analytics Dashboard, for example:

BounceRateHubSpotWebAnalytics.jpg

Exit rates, on the other hand, are a little more complicated. They include the percentage of people who leave your website from a certain page — but, that’s not necessarily the only page they’ve visited on your website. The page from which they exited could be the last in a long sequence of page visits. That’s why the exit rate isn’t always as troubling as bounce rates.

Comparing Bounce Rates and Exit Rates

Let’s say you were comparing bounce rates and exit rates for a thank-you page. A high bounce rate on that page would be kind of alarming, because that means people are only viewing that page alone, then clicking away. Even worse, they didn’t fill out a form to get to it, which means you’re losing out on conversions.

But a high exit rate, on the other hand, wouldn’t be cause for concern. It would mean that this page was the last in a chain of visits — people exiting from that page probably arrived from its preceding landing page, downloaded the offer on the thank-you page, and left to go make use of the content they just downloaded.

Keep in mind that this scenario is hypothetical, and these takeaways can differ based on other page metrics — but it serves as a simple illustration of the difference between bounce and exit rates.

How to Reduce High Bounce Rates

Now you know what a bounce rate is. But what can you actually do about it?

In general, high bounce rates might indicate that the page is irrelevant or confusing to site visitors. But don’t jump into drastic actions like deleting a page or undertaking a redesign right away. There are some important steps you need to take before you figure out which action to take.

Remember: Bounce rates really only tell you that someone landed on a web page and left it without visiting any other page on your website. It doesn’t tell you how someone interacted with your page. That’s why it’s important, says HubSpot’s Principal Product Marketing Manager Jeffrey Vocell, to take “practical steps” to examine other metrics and pieces of your web presence to see what might be behind the bounce rates. We’ve outlined these steps below.

1) Ensure your website is mobile-friendly.

There are now more searches and traffic coming from mobile devices than desktops. That makes it crucial, says Vocell, “to not only provide a mobile-ready experience,” but to make sure that experience is engaging. How annoying is it when you arrive at a mobile site, only to have to zoom-in to read its content? Having a responsive site is no longer enough — engagement with the mobile version has to be user-friendly and interactive.

Video is one particularly engaging type of content. It can often explain complex topics more concisely than text, which might be why 4X as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. But when it comes to mobile usage, long videos require a significant amount of data and might therefore slow the user experience — causing the visitor to bounce. For that reason, Vocell suggests eliminating these longer videos from your mobile site, or creating more concise versions that still address the most important points.

This kind of improvement, however, isn’t limited to video. Take a holistic approach to evaluating your mobile experience, and consider how you’ll address contingencies like these.

2) Look at your bounce rate based on different sources.

Sometimes, the sources directing traffic to a given page might have something to do with its bounce rate. That’s why the HubSpot Web Analytics Dashboard allows you to break down the bounce rate according to source:

Bounceratebyselectedsource

Let’s say your bounce rate is particularly high for visitors coming from social media — take a close look at the message you’re using to accompany the content you’re distributing.

“Does it truly match what the content is about?” Vocell challenges marketers to ask. “Would a visitor clicking on that link in Twitter, or Facebook expect to see the headline, and initial image?” If the answer to either of those questions is “no,” your promotion strategy might need some work.

When you’re distributing your website’s content, make sure the messaging actually matches the page to which you’re directing visitors. You have to clearly meet the expectations of the visitor — regardless of source.

3) Avoid other disruptions that might hurt the user experience.

We’ve already discussed the importance of a good mobile user experience — but that actually goes for all platforms. Things like full-screen pop-ups, for example, are not only annoying, but given Google’s recent algorithm update, they can also result in search penalties.

But the key thing to consider is the user. “You want visitors to be drawn into your page and stay for as long as needed to convert,” says Vocell, and while “some pop-ups are good,” — like well-crafted inbound messages that add context to a site — avoid any that significantly disrupt the user experience in a way that might cause visitors to leave.

4) Determine which keywords this page ranks for — and if your content sufficiently covers those topics.

Remember how we cautioned against misleading visitors about your site’s content in social distribution? The same goes for keyword rankings. “Matching keyword intent to your content is important to ensure organic visitors get the content they expect,” explains Vocell.

Let’s say someone is searching for “marketing automation software solutions” — it’s likely that this person is looking for software to help nurture leads into customers. But if someone is using the query, “What is marketing automation?”, she’s probably not at a stage where she’s looking to buy a product. Rather, this person is looking for content that’s more informative than anything else.

So when you evaluate the keywords for which you’re page is ranking, make sure they’re aligned with the actual content. Once you’ve done that, try looking at a topic-cluster framework — the kind that groups your site’s pages into clusters according to subject — to help attract organic traffic to the right pages.

Let’s Bounce

When you’re investigating bounce rates, make sure you’re looking at the full picture. Take a look at the time people spend on your site, where they’re coming from, and what device they’re using — and if your content and experience are aligned with all of those factors. You might uncover patterns that show how you can fix the bounce rate problem.

Think of bounce rates like your car’s “check engine” light. When it goes on, you know there might be a problem — but you need to check all of the car’s systems to accurately diagnose the issue. There’s no one-size-fits-all fix for bounce rates, but knowing what they are and how they can inform your marketing strategy can help ensure your website’s success.

What have you done to address your bounce rates? Let us know in the comments.

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

HubSpot's New Web Analytics Dashboard