Digital transformation for companies: looking beyond the essentials

Digital transformation for companies: looking beyond the essentials

Digital transformation has graduated from being a best practice to become a price of entry, and it is imperative for companies to respond to challenges keeping this in mind.

According to Highlights of the 2017 CEO Survey by Gartner.

The vision of digital business and the disruption it will bring is well recognised. Forty-two percent of CEOs say, "digital first' or 'digital to the core' is now their company's digital business posture."

There is no doubt that the rate of digital transformation will increase exponentially, and that enterprises can't implement across the enterprise fast enough. But, despite the 42 percent of CEOs who say that it is their priority, over 60 percent believe they are already behind. This means that they are not currently meeting the essentials of today's digital marketplace – they are not equipped to address rapidly changing customer demand, deliver personalised customer experience at scale, or keep pace with a continually evolving digital landscape.

digitalDigital transformation for companies

Expectations are that reticent executives will realise that the price of entry is to embrace the digital tsunami that is unleashing a sea of transformation. The consequence of modernisation of back-office systems is inevitably driving closer, with more accelerated cooperation between departmental and service silos and with more seamless customer journey experiences. While Gartner rightly points out that the focus should be on aligning digital projects to business value (Make Digital Business Transformation a Practical Reality: A Gartner Trend Insight Report), many companies are still stuck playing catch-up.

The essentials of digital transformation continue to be championed by digital leaders: renewing legacy systems, embracing platform thinking to drive value through crowd collaboration between producers and consumers, shifting from systems of record (build, run, maintain) to new systems of engagement that drive enhanced customer experience and more.

But while lagging companies struggle to meet these essentials, new challenges and opportunities are emerging that will prove more difficult to address while playing catch-up.

The widening global talent gap needs to be addressed by serious investment

At the end of the day, digital transformation requires talent to create new and innovative ways to efficiently respond to the increasingly complex nature of a company's internal and external business climates. Steps need to be taken to address the dilemma of assembling and developing an adequately prepared workforce.

The pace of change in our physical, digital and technological world is challenging our ability to achieve this given significant disruption to business, work and people.

Until companies begin to take this seriously, they will continue to face an ever-widening shortage of specialised roles such as data scientists, cybersecurity specialists, software developers and experience designers that are critical to customer experience and digital transformation. Institutions, businesses and governments will start to realise that they need to seriously invest in new ways to collaboratively equip its people with skills to respond to global opportunities and challenges of an interconnected future.

Companies will need to open organisational apertures to address the challenges of an increasingly complex, digital world.

Global enterprises naturally develop multi-layered structures composed of different departments, entities, and stakeholders whose perspectives are limited by the context in which they operate by addressing familiar, comfortable frames of reference. The limited perspective, coupled with the complexity and increasing flexibility of organisational models, has led to myopic, compartmentalised, and decentralised strategies and operational divisions, which result in disconnected silos and capabilities with narrow apertures into systems-level external and internal pressures and challenges.

As anyone familiar with the pitfalls of organisational silos knows, big problems or opportunities seen through small apertures, can have devastating consequences. Case in point: Kodak's missed opportunity to own digital cameras or Blockbuster ignoring the impact of Netflix. As a result, organisations will increasingly search for ways to open their own apertures to define opportunities, risks and challenges more holistically so that complexity can be navigated and organisational problems can be reframed to create more durable, impactful solutions for an increasingly uncertain, asymmetric and complex digital world.

Privacy needs to become the first order of business

Yahoo. Equifax. Uber. When it comes to data breaches, identity theft, elections and even "fake news", it's not a matter of 'if' anymore; It's a matter of 'when'. That's why more and more companies will shift their focus from prevention to detection and response. The cybersecurity industry is expected to triple in the next five years with a third of US technology jobs focused squarely on the industry.  As a result, we will see far more demand from enterprise to renew legacy systems to increase consumer confidence in their ability to protect their personal information and respond in real-time response to threats.

The cybersecurity industry is expected to triple in the next five years with a third of US technology jobs focused squarely on the industry.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has even redefined the importance of privacy as a "fundamental human right," thus raising the bar even higher and opening the door to new conversations about how best to balance customer privacy, transparency, and national security.

Given the acceleration towards a digitally connected IoT ecosystem, (interconnected autonomous vehicles, connected home, AI etc.), the risks of hacks proportionally increase with the opportunities and conveniences, creating an increased urgency for cybersecurity to keep up with technology advances.

In conclusion, I would like to say that these are just a few imperatives that are accelerating in importance in the evolving digital landscape. While digital transformation may have been considered a 'best practice' in the past, it has now become a 'price of entry' for companies that want to be around in the next five to 10 years. With the advent of new challenges and opportunities, it's clear that the companies that will win are those that have moved beyond the 'catch-up' stage of digital transformation into the preference stage of addressing such challenges and opportunities in near real-time while elevating customer experience to an art form.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


Rule Breaker's Guide to Cryptocurrencies, Part 2: What Is the Best Blockchain?

Rule Breaker's Guide to Cryptocurrencies, Part 2: What Is the Best Blockchain?

In this Rule Breakers podcast, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner recruited Fool analyst Aaron Bush to help him with Cryptocurrencies 101. Turns out that a fair number of his listeners wanted more. So this week -- with bitcoin trading at more than twice the level it was for the previous episode -- he brought Aaron back for a more advanced encore.

In this segment, they respond to a listener who wonders if bitcoin has the best blockchain. But a better question is, "Which cryptocurrencies have blockchains that are best suited to their use cases?" They also dig into the connection between the foundations of cryptocurrencies and open-source projects like Wikipedia and Linux.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Dec. 6, 2017.

David Gardner: Evan also wrote, "Is bitcoin's blockchain the best blockchain out there? It was the first, but first doesn't necessarily mean most efficient. Could it be usurped by a crypto that can better fill the role as an alternative to cash?" He closed out by saying, "Now I understand what blockchain technology is, but what are the variations of it that might make one blockchain better than another?"

Aaron Bush: Right. So I think, maybe to slightly tweak the question, I think maybe a slightly better question would be, "Is bitcoin's blockchain the best blockchain out there for its specific use case?" I think we have to recognize that blockchain is a technology. Really, it's just like an upgraded database. And so comparing something like bitcoin to the company Broadridge Financial's proxy-voting blockchain, those are going to be two completely different things, and you can't really say this one is better than this one, because they're just doing different functions.

Gardner: In fact, when you and I talked on Oct. 18, I was trying to liken Ethereum, which is another cryptocurrency many will know. In fact, at least one of my family members has since bought Ethereum and is pretty happy about that. I was trying to liken it as Pepsi to bitcoin's Coke, and you were saying, "Not really."

Bush: Because many of these different assets have completely different use cases. Taking this one step further, with bitcoin, specifically, there are variations, and right now in the ecosystem we see there's bitcoin. And now there's bitcoin cash, and bitcoin gold. The reason why these forks have happened, which is really just split code, is because there's a big debate over scalability and what is the best way to grow transaction volume in a scalable way across the network. We're seeing how different blockchains going after the same function can be different.

With bitcoin and bitcoin cash, for example -- I won't dwell on this too long -- bitcoin implemented what's known as SegWit, which is short for "segregated witness," and that limits the per-transaction data that is stored on each block. Bitcoin cash, on the other hand, instead of going that path, just increased the size of the block. The same transaction data is there, but now more transactions can fit on the block. They're both approaching the scalability issue from different ways but are doing it differently.

Gardner: That could also "fork" our conversation, but I'm not going to let it. We're going to keep moving, maybe a little bit higher level. But bitcoin -- for what bitcoin is trying to do -- remains close to the best technology that you could want. The best blockchain for what it's trying to do. But even then, there are further refinements in store and in place that people are thinking about.

Bush: That's right, and I think it's important to understand that each of these crypto assets isn't stuck in time. Each of these are also evolving over time. If you think it's the best blockchain, actually maybe bitcoin 2..0, whatever that is, it's going to be an upgraded version of what exists today. So things definitely will improve from here.

Gardner: Evan asked one more interesting question, which we're going to get to in a sec, but I was thinking some more about blockchain, Aaron, and as you defined it on Oct. 18. It's just a database, and a database where every new action or transaction is captured and held and always available. And it's a database that's distributed, so there are infinite copies of it so everyone can see what's happened, even if you and I don't know who exactly was behind that transaction.

And I was thinking in some ways, "Isn't Wikipedia kind of like a cryptocurrency, in the sense that somebody comes along and starts a page on New York City?" I haven't been back to the New York City page on Wikipedia recently, but back in the day it started with a single bit of data. Somebody said, "The city is in the state of New York," let's say. And then somebody else came along and mined it. Added a little value to it. And these days, again not having been to the Wikipedia page for New York City, I'm pretty sure it's both much richer and deeper. Probably more trustworthy. Let's hope so. And you or I could go back in and see every single change that was made to that Wikipedia page to any wiki anywhere. I'm not trying to say that a wiki is like a cryptocurrency, but for those of us who are still trying to get our minds wrapped around this as we think about blockchain, is that an analogy that has some usefulness?

Bush: I think it does. Wikipedia, and you could say something like Linux, even. Those are both great examples of open-source projects that in the old world didn't fully capture the value that they were creating, but maybe in today's world in which there are cryptocurrencies, there's tokenization backed up by blockchains.

If a new version of Wikipedia were to be created today, it probably could reward the early adopters and the people helping to build it up at the very beginning. I do think that is a pretty good analogy, and we will be seeing something, not necessarily like Wikipedia, but open-source projects in a similar vein be created in maybe an upgraded way.

Gardner: Where people, through tokenization and just the growth of that new blockchain value, can be paid better than, let's say, the volunteers who have largely helped build Wikipedia. Just an interesting comparison.

Bush: I liken it to these projects that might not have business models, but they'll have incentive models. That is really a breakthrough that we're starting to see compound.


10 Tips to Deal with Negative Comments on Social Media

10 Tips to Deal with Negative Comments on Social Media

When you encounter negative comments/feedbacks to your brand or to your influencers on social media, what do you do? 

Here are 10 tips to help you deal with negative comments or feedbacks from your audience on social media. One important thing to remember throughout this blog is that whatever you do on social media will reflect to your brand in either positive or negative way.

1. Don't panic

People might be complaining about your brand in their everyday conversations, or even worse, they might share their dissatisfaction with hundreds of people just by clicking the "post" button on any social media platform. You will realize the power of "share" or "retweet" when your audience vigorously reacts to these complaints. Before you know it, it goes viral and a crisis explodes.

What should you do then? Even if you are a seasoned marketing professional, you might still be overwhelmed when confronted by a giant wave of negative feedback towards you on social media. No matter how meticulously you have planned to deal with them, you must always remember to stay calm. Don't act emotionally, which may lead you to make regretful decisions. Sit down, take a deep breath, and start digging up the root of the problem.

2. Have social media analytics service in place

Do you know why people are complaining about your brand? Is it because of your disappointing customer service, bad product quality, or inappropriate (e.g. racist, sexist) marketing content and message? These complaints might be floating somewhere out there without you ever knowing about it, if you just focus on your posts and its engagement rate on social media. Pre-emptive actions is always more cost effective than cleaning up the mess of a crisis after it has happened.

Having a high-quality social media analytics service in place helps you not only to measure the typical KPIs of social media activities (engagement rate, potential views, etc) but also to analyze the sentiment of your audience's conversations. Each negative feedback can be tracked and followed-up with, before they go viral.

It is also important to measure the gradual sentiment change of your audience over time. If the result shows no signs of upward change towards positiveness, you must adjust your strategy.

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3. Face up with negative feedback

How do you react to someone complaining about your brand? There are two options: Ignore it/delete it (if it is written on a social platform which you can control) or respond to it somehow.

Why do people write their opinions in public forums in the first place? First, they want to be heard, whether by the brand of the product/service in question, or by peers who might have experienced similar issues. Second, they want the product/service they are complaining about to be improved. If you reply to your audience's feedbacks on social media, you will give an impression that you respect what they feel and say. When they see that you have heard their opinion and that you will try to tackle the issues mentioned in their negative comments, they will feel better, improving the chance for them to purchase the product again and to become loyal to your brand no matter what the issue might have been.

Added bonus of listening to customer's negative feedback is that you might be able to find insights and ideas how to improve your product and services in the long run..

4. Be quick

Negative feedbacks on social media must be reacted to as quickly as humanly possible.. The ideal time is within an hour from the time of the post. The sooner you respond to dissatisfied customers, the more likely they will forgive and cooperate with you to tackle the issue.

High-quality analytics service can help you react  immediately to negative posts related to your brand. Of course, you can manually follow and read every single comment on social media, but that is really time-consuming and waste of your valuable resources and skills. You might also not be able to react to negative feedback quick enough if you take the manual road.

5. Be polite

Quickly responding to negative comments/posts is not enough. What's even more important is the tone of your reaction. You might be annoyed at some of the comments you read but don't react emotionally with regretful attitude, stubbornness or swear words. Remember the first point; don't panic and act on emotions. Choose proper and polite words carefully with a smiley icon at the end of your reply, letting them know that you are on top of their issues.

If you have a team managing your company's social media accounts, you should train them how to be polite on social media. This helps in building a consistent image for your brand.

In addition to responding in public, you can also send private message to the customer experiencing issues, and if deemed appropriate, offer a gift or a coupon as a compensation to show your gratefulness toward his/her contribution to the improvement of your brand.

6. Don't try to win the argument

What if someone is complaining about the quality of your product or bad experience on social media, but it turns out that the customer has done something against your instructions on how to use the product/service? Will you try to tell them that they are wrong and you are right? If you do that, even if the customer was actually at fault, you will lose him/her as a customer. So it's just not worth it to try to win the argument while communicating with these customers.

You can express your empathy to the mishap the customer has been going through, like "We are so sorry to hear that." or "We are sorry for the inconvenience.". Even though the customer caused the issue himself/ herself while using your product, he/she would appreciate if if you suggest some solutions rather than focus on pointing out that he/she has done something wrong.

The worst situation here is if you try to prove that you are right publicly on social media. Not only the customer in question but also the audience following your conversation might voluntarily leave you because of your aggressiveness and rudeness. And of course, you don't want "aggressive" tagged to your brand name, do you?

7. Hire a communication specialist

As I mentioned in point 4, you need to be quick at reacting to your customers on social media. If you are a marketing professional tasked to do millions of other projects, reacting to comments on social media might slip off your radar and it might be too late by the time you have time to react to them. So you should hire someone to take care of social media, who is highly skilled in communication.

As your company grows in scale and your brand becomes more popular, it will become harder for you to listen to all of your audience's comments and solve their issues. Even a dedicated team will not be able to handle the mountain of data. Like I mentioned in point 2, it will help you greatly if you have a high-quality analytics service to process large amount of data and support your social media team to be more efficient with accurate and relevant data.  

8. Get rid of internet trolls

Have you ever heard of internet trolls? Unlike bots, internet trolls are real people commenting something related to your brand. They like provoking others to get their negative responses or just posting irrelevant content under your posts to get benefits.

Internet trolls are quite toxic because if you respond to them, you might fall into the trap of an endless argument. When trying to quarrel or to shoo them away, it would consume too much time and damage your brand image. Also, arguing with them is pointless since internet trolls pop up endlessly; you will get exhausted soon.

A typical internet troll usually attacks your brand post by using these following things:

* Insulting arguments, ad hominem criticisms
* Invalid facts
* Unnecessary grammar/ spell correction
* Rude jokes
* Swear words
* Off-topic arguments
* Links to ads, irrelevant websites, coupons or free gifts

Carefully assess whether internet trolls are lurking around you, and delete those comments asap and stay away from them..

9. Learn from the others

If you listen to what people are discussing about on social media on a constant basis, you will find that many other brands are also struggling to deal with different kinds of crisis and complaints. By using a high-quality social media analytics service, you can do in-depth and customized competitor analysis. This type of analysis will help you gain detailed insights on how your competitors take care of their social media audience and react to negative feedbacks or communication crisis stemming from them.

10. Never go back on your promise

In order to deal with your unhappy audience, you might respond quickly with a promise for improvement and the compensation for their dissatisfaction. You know that you ought to do it, and you uttered these promises on social media either via private message or public comments. But it will become a disaster if you don't take actual actions according to what you have said. Your audience will condemn you as a liar and never come back to you.

Customers will not accept any excuses. Make sure that you won't skip any of your promises accidentally just because of lack of time. Keeping your promise is also a way to build the trust for your brand.

What should you do when your social influencers get negative feedbacks on social media, especially related to your brand? Help them. These ten tips apply to influencers also. By knowing how to deal with complaints, you will be able to act as a consultant to help your influencers overcome their difficult times.

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An Interesting Look At WHY People Use Social Media

An Interesting Look At WHY People Use Social Media

A moment that sticks out in my history is from the early part of 2005.

I was living in the dorms at college and a buddy came walking into my room asking if I had heard the news.

What news?

Our university was getting access to Facebook.

What's Facebook?

We we're the first university to have Facebook. Things had already started to snowball for the social network. And soon after that it was opened up to everybody and now it seems like most of the world has a Facebook account.

What was always interesting about Facebook was why people were so drawn to using the social network. What was the big pull?

Let's examine why people use social media.

The more we understand the why the better, I think, we can understand how to use social media for business purposes.

The Need To Belong

There has been some interesting work about how The Need To Belong is a basic human need.

Here is a snippet from an article on Psychology Today:

Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary (1995) argue that the need to belong is a fundamental human need to form and maintain at least a minimum amount of lasting, positive, and significant interpersonal relationships. Satisfying this need requires (a) frequent, positive interactions with the same individuals.

What does that sound like?

The emphasis on that last part was mine.

So it seems that Facebook could have tapped into the basic human need to maintain relationships with frequent interactions. I don't know if Facebook intentionally tried to tap into that, but either way it seems like they've created a tool that allows people to fulfill this basic human need like never before.

Control, Trust, Enjoyment

Harvard Business Review adds some more to the conversation in this article.

The point of this article is why personal social networks like Facebook have succeeded while other collaboration software has failed. A key element is control and force.

People don't like to be told what to do. They don't like to feel like they don't have control.

Social networks like Facebook offer great control. There is a trust in knowing who you're interacting with and there is no external force telling you that you need to use the network.

Social networks also provide the type of information people crave, which we can get into in the next step.

I Can't Miss Out!

People have that sense to belong that we already saw. With social networking, we're able to get quite a bit of information that makes us feel like we're not missing out.

Back in college the cool thing was to see yourself in photos from a recent party. You can see yourself in that photo and feel like you belonged. There was proof that you were there and enjoying yourself with all your friends. Everybody could see the proof!

Facebook has kind of morphed into being a way for people to not miss out on anything in anyone's life.

Grandma now uses Facebook to see regular photos of her grandkids. Friends can stay up-to-date even if times of changed and people have moved or taken a new job or whatever.

The reason people go back to Facebook and other social media all the time (13+ times per day) is so they don't miss out. There seems to be an addictive aspect to not missing out.

The Fear Of Missing Out is a real psychological issue based on human need.

Knowing About Others

But the Fear Of Missing Out is not all bad.

We can develop strong relationships when we are more aware of what people are experiencing. Studies have found that people are definitely more aware of what others are going through when using social media.

On Facebook, for example, females that use Facebook regularly noticed an average of 5.7 stressful events that occurred to people close to them. That compares to 3.7 events that light Facebook users knew about.

It's possible to see the positive in this. The more we know about each other the better the relationship would seem to be.

Social Media Is Easier Than Face-To-Face

Now things are getting interesting.

If the need to connect with others is so great then why don't we just skip social media and spend more time with people?

Obviously social media can bridge the location gap. You can connect with someone anywhere in the world on social media. Face-to-face connection is a challenge when you don't live near each other.

Studies show that face-to-face interactions require emotions.

Interactions with computers don't require emotion.

Here is a key snippet:

Compared to interactions with computers, interactions with human counterparts require more emotional involvement, cognitive effort and brain activation. When we are not in the mood to exercise these resources, we too often choose the easier, virtual option.

Humans often take the path of least resistance. With interaction, the path of least resistance is online. It's easy and it also hides emotion.

Not only do you not need to use your emotional intelligence to determine how the other person is feeling, but you can project whatever image you want on social media. There is usually little nonverbal communication, which is a key component of face-to-face interaction.

Follow The Crowd, Get Rewards

Let's start getting into some takeaways from a business perspective.

There was an interesting study about how likes on social media affect people.

The first takeaway is that the more likes something has the more likely it is that someone will like it. People don't necessarily want to be the first person to like something, but if something already has a bunch of likes the more people are likely to jump in.

The second takeaway is that when someone posts something and others like it the same reward centers in the brain that trigger for things like chocolate and winning money are activated.

When you eat something you like you generally want more.

When you receive a like on Facebook you generally want more.

Alright, let's get into the takeaways and action points from a business perspective…

Takeaways

I think the strategies you can takeaway from this information when it comes to social media marketing include:

  • Post More Often
  • Foster More Rewards (Ask For Input, Engage)
  • Create A Cult
  • Don't Force or Control
  • Embrace The Biggest Fans

The more you post the more you create a sense of "missing out". We know that people use social media because they don't want to miss out. If you post once in awhile that's fine, but the more you post the more people will need to pay attention. They don't want someone to ask them, "Did you see that update…"

People like rewards on social media as we've seen. You can foster this feeling with your followers by helping them get attention on social media. People love to be retweeted, liked, etc. Promote your followers when they say something funny. Ask for their input and help other followers engage with them.

Cult is pretty much a negative word. But if you look at the really popular accounts on social media they are very cult-like. Obviously they're not all drinking Kool Aid. Instead, they're creating a culture of having something in common. The love for a sport. The love of sarcasm. Whatever it is, a cult makes people feel like they are part of something because they share something.

People are turned off by control. Obviously a few rules are probably okay, but the more you pile on the more you'll turn people away.

Finally, embrace your biggest fans. Engage with them. They will be the ones asking others to join and follow. They'll be the ones fostering the most engagement.


5 Traits of Companies That Win with In-House Direct Mail

5 Traits of Companies That Win with In-House Direct Mail

5 Signs It's Time to Take Your Direct Mail Advertising Program In House

When you smile at a clever direct mail advertisement, who deserves the credit?

Often it's an agency. Which makes sense for a lot of smaller businesses: when you only have a few hours a week to spend on your marketing, why not farm the job out to people who live and breathe direct mail?

However, in the past couple of years, that calculation has started to shift. Now, if you wanted to send that clever direct mail designer a compliment, you might well be able to find them working in house at the company being advertised.

So how do companies with thriving in-house direct mail advertising programs do it? What sets them apart?

And—most importantly—is your company the kind that could score big wins by taking a DIY approach to direct mail?

At Inkit, we've seen hundreds of companies do just that. Here are five signs that suggest it's worth piloting your own direct mail program—no matter how big your team is or whether you've done direct mail campaigns before.

1. Your ideal customer base is easy to find.

Subscription businesses. Meal delivery services. E-commerce companies. If your business has an obvious need to know where its customers live, it's an excellent fit for DIY direct mail: the list is already in your hands.

Ever collect billing addresses? Ask for an address on opt-in forms? You might have a larger built-in mailing list than you think.

But say your business is brand new—you don't even have customers yet.

DIY direct mail can still be a good approach if you know where to find your best prospects.

If you run a local brick-and-mortar or service-based business, direct mail software features like Inkit's Area Mail option let you blanket specific zip codes with your offers. Or, if your target demographic is well defined, it might even make sense to work with a mailing list broker to rent a list of prospects (which you can easily upload to Inkit to target your campaigns).

2. You have access to design and copywriting resources.

Your direct mail pieces will need compelling words and images. But you don't need a highly specialized team to create them. If you have a designer and a copywriter on staff (or among your trusted contractors), you probably already have the creative talent you need.

That can be true even if your in-house creatives are used to a digital-first mindset. Check out these four rules for translating your team's existing skills into direct mail.

3. You use marketing automation with confidence.

When most of your marketing is automated, why should sending direct mail be a labor-intensive hands-on process?

Bringing your direct mail program in house is an especially smart move if you can do it with the help of marketing automation, syncing your direct mail with your existing digital campaigns. Platforms like Inkit let you trigger mail pieces using the same automation rules and workflows you use to send your emails and segment your contacts.

So far, Inkit integrates with HubSpot and Drip, with more marketing automation integrations planned for 2018. Follow us on Facebook to see what we roll out next..

A simple example of a direct mail automation workflow using Inkit and Drip

4. You know that marketing doesn't end at the first sale.

Lots of companies reach for direct mail as an acquisition tactic. But the sharpest teams we've worked with know that it's at least as powerful for retention.

And it's not an either/or proposition. When you bring direct mail capabilities in house, you're often giving multiple departments a versatile new tool.

Say your team adds a tool like Inkit to its martech stack. Marketing can use it to reinforce its multi-channel campaigns, of course.

But the sales team can also use it to nurture leads and follow up with important prospects. And the customer happiness department can use it to improve the customer experience and slash churn rates.

In other words, when direct mail doesn't just "belong to" an outside agency, it becomes far easier to develop the kind of unified direct-mail strategy everyone will want to get in on. (But you can still take the credit.)

5. You need to be able to move quickly (and change course just as fast).

From the whiteboard to the mailbox can be a months-long journey for a traditional, agency-run direct mail campaign.

That just isn't going to cut it for many fast-moving teams. And so they ignore the vast potential of direct mail.

They shouldn't. Because if your team has access to direct mail software like Inkit, your first direct mail campaign could be in your customers' hands within one week.

Okay, you might want a little more time to plan, design, and review. But you can press the Send button on your campaign whenever you want.

And when you add direct mail automation into the mix, you don't even need to be the one pressing that button—though you can still add and delete mailings from your automation sequences at a moment's notice.

One-off postcards? Super time-sensitive campaigns? When you're in control of your direct mail, it's no problem.

(Heck, you can even pay for your direct mail one piece at a time if you like. Sign up with Inkit's Basic plan to try it out.)

Do you recognize your business in these five signs? Then it's safe to say that building your own direct mail advertising program could give your company a pretty remarkable superpower.

And who doesn't want to be a superhero?


How to Do a Successful Product Hunt Launch? (Case Study)

How to Do a Successful Product Hunt Launch? (Case Study)

This is a guest post from Gabor Papp, the Growth Marketer of Shapr3D an awesome CAD tool designed for iPad pro. This article originally appeared on Gabor's blog in Hungarian and I (Roland, Chief Chamaileon) asked him to come up with an English version and guest post it on our site.

I'm a big fan of Gabor for his very detailed strategic approach to SEO, online marketing, or anything else he's involved in.

I hope this article will be useful for many of you who are before launching your product or service!

Let me give the word to Gabor from now on.

Shapr3D came out with it's 2.0 version last December, and part of the roll out strategy was submitting the Product on Product Hunt.

This article will show you how to launch your product on Product Hunt and how to make it a successful launch.

Shapr3D - 3D CAD

Product Hunt: the new way to find early adopters

Product Hunt is a daily, voting based popularity contest for startups. The "winners" of the contest get the chance to appear on multiple channels of Product Hunt (Twitter, newsletters).

Ever since it's inception in 2013 Product Hunt became an essential part of every Silicon Valley product launch. Simply this is the easiest way to appear in front of various journalists, tech people and fellow founders and basically anyone who is involved in the tech business.

Every product has a Product Page, where users can comment, upvote and reach the website or app page. The products are grouped across various topics (Tech, Games, Books,…). The most successful ones appear on the Homepage, which refreshes daily, and shows a ranking of the launched products each day. The products are submitted by the Hunters, and is credited to the Makers (Hunters either name the Makers or you have to apply for the Maker title from Product Hunt itself).

After submission, the product will participate in the daily race. The race starts PST 00:00 and finishes PST 23:59. You have to get as many upvotes as you can by the end of the day. Use Product Hunt for getting early testers, and honest feedback from relevant people.

The hierarchy of Users

There are 3 level of users in the PH ecosystem. There are ones who

  • can only upvote
  • those who can comment and upvote and
  • the top of the food-chain are the hunters.

In order to step up, you have to convince someone to invite you to their level. Next to this all these people are given a ranking, which decides the weight of their upvote, interaction with your product.

How does the algorithm work?

The algorithm is not public, but we can narrow it down to a simple rule book based on its behavior. There are things it likes and there are things it doesn't.

What it likes

  • upvote and hunt of top Hunters
  • organic discovery
  • the help of Product Hunt staff which will elevate your story to the featured page
  • lots of comments, and a growing discussion
  • upvotes right after the hunt, submission

What it doesn't like

  • aggressive upvote generation through multiple platforms
  • upvote, without going to the website
  • vote of new user
  • upvoting coming from a direct link

When to post on Product Hunt?

Data suggests that there are best times for your launch, submission. In terms of days the 2014 data suggests there are more upvotes per day in the middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesdays, Thursday). In terms of hours you should launch as soon as you can, ideally 00:00 PST, as every hour you start earlier will raise your total upvotes by 8,7%.

When to post on Product Hunt?

Things you can calculate with

Things you can't calculate with

  • Launch of an app by a big company, that easily attracts visitors from your page. E.g.: Amazon Go, Netflix Offline.

How to launch our product? - short version

  1. Get Hunter
  2. Make preparations
  3. Submit the product
  4. Welcome Product Hunters with a comment
  5. Stick to the game-plan
  6. Be responsive to comments, inquiries
  7. Wait for the results

Shapr3D's Product Hunt story

The preparation phase

This is the most time-consuming part of the whole launch process. The goal is to have everything by your hand on the day of the launch. It is gruesome, but a necessary step. The tasks can be divided into 3 big groups.

  1. Hunter's Kit
  2. Contact lists
  3. Creating the copy

1. Hunter's Kit

Before the launch you should search for someone, who has a lot of followers on Product Hunt and Twitter, so when (s)he posts something on the site the followers on both platforms will be notified. This latter characteristic can give you a lot of early, and strong upvotes.

The Hunters Kit has all the necessary copies, settings and visuals, which your hunter needs for a submit. The team at Shapr3D sent this Kit to Patrick Vlaskovits (@pv, little later about him), so he could hunt us. All the instructions were inside. It took him 2 minutes to submit the product. Take a look at the Kit.

product hunt master plan

After this we looked for an insider from Product Hunt, who helped put Shapr3d on the featured page, which would've been a hassle if we had to solve it ourselves (more time to get there, and not that many early votes).

You need to find the proper people as the ranking depends on the quality of your upvote. Finding the right people takes time. The team compiled the following lists, keeping in mind that you need people, who have a Product Hunt account, and ideally some previous activity:

  • Startup and Marketing Facebook groups
  • Coworking spaces
  • Hungarian Product Pages on product hunt and their founders
  • Twitter of upvoters of Shapr3d 1.0
  • Users who upvoted Shapr3D competitors or companies connected to CAD industry on Product Hunt
  • Twitter Mentions and connected Twitter accounts
  • People who have Twitter account from our email list
  • Hungarian Product Hunters
  • Top Hunters (constantly refreshing list here: http://500hunters.com)
  • Team + Investors + Advisors

When you do an automated cold outreach via email don't mess too much with the design of your message. Make it super simple, since basic email template can help you to get your emails delivered to the primary tab in Gmail.

3. Creating content

On the day of the launch you have to publish your PH specific content to multiple platforms. Create the content ahead of the launch, so when the day comes you only have to push the button and start posting the content.

  • Tweet and Facebook Post
  • GIF, video, picture
  • easily shareable content (create a viral loop if you can)
  • Product Hunt Twitter and Facebook temporary description change
  • Welcome comment in the name of the CEO
  • Write and organize the first few comments
  • Newsletter: about the 2.0 and the Product Hunt feature
  • Facebook Group + Co-working space posts (Since Hungary is a relatively small market, we have offered to write this blog post in exchange for their vote)

+1: Product Hunt exclusive launch

Product Hunt appreciates if you exclusively build your launch on them and/or each discovery comes with a discount. With a simple overlay or bonus code you can solve this, and the "?ref=Product Hunt" tag makes the Product Hunt crowd easily distinguishable. Register here for the exclusive launch: https://rrhoover.typeform.com/to/ysDOD2

The preparation (research, building lists, creating content) took 4 days in total for a team of 2.

Things to do on the day of the launch

Follow your game plan. Prepare yourself for an early morning/late night as the comments, inquiries will be coming in throughout the day, and it is better if you handle them instantly, as the Product Hunt fever only lasts a few days.

Our experience with launching Shapr3D 2.0

We could have done definitely better, but knowing that the product is not ideal for Product Hunt - since there's a quite high barrier to entry, namely an iPad Pro - we did well and learned a lot that we could improve on next time, if we launch a new version.

The upvotes and the effect

After the submit we waited for the upvotes to roll in. This is how it looked (Central European Timezone; from 4 pm to 9 am). Other than a few upticks, our upvote count increased quite steadily, but only linearly.

product hunt upvotes

At the moment we have 281 upvotes, because we managed to get 100+ votes after our launch date. The growth can be tracked back to the Product Hunt GIF Twitter account, which posted a GIF of the product (so make sure to create sharable images and videos for your submit). This resulted in us being in the all-time top products of our chosen categories.

Website Traffic: we had 600+ visitors from Product Hunt, which is okay, though this was nothing but an uptick, and we wouldn't have put any effort in it, if we measured our success only based on this metric.

Product Hunt is a Twitter based race, so we also looked at the Twitter traffic since the launch, and we had a 125% growth in the Profile views in December, and had grown our follower base with 10%. The campaign also helped us pick up a few backlinks from websites covering the story, which in general can help with better ranking with Google.

Learnings

1. The quality of the upvote really counts

The outreach was too wide, and it included people, whose first PH activity was our upvote. These votes, though look like a positive thing (+1 upvote), the algorithm punishes you for them. You need around 5 followers in PH if you want your vote to be positive (not confirmed by PH, just urban legend). On the picture below you will see that Projects by Code School had fewer votes, but still ranked higher.

Product hunt - the quality of the upvote counts

2. Starting early is really worth it

We should've started earlier. With the early morning start (PST), we lost a lot of upvotes. When we entered the race we were already few hundreds vote behind others.

3. You need friends

You have to know people in order to succeed. A good Hunter and a connection at PH can really help you boost your launch.

4. There are typical PH products, we aren't one of them

Shapr3D is not a classical PH product like Slack, Wix, or Unsplash.. 3D modeling is a niche and our users are not on Product Hunt. The silver lining comes when you compare Shapr3D to products with either the iPad or 3DPrinting topic. We are ranked 19th all-time among all iPad tags, and 2nd if you look at iPad-only apps. We also lead the 3D printing category. These rankings can be beneficial in the long run.

5. If you build your product on an existing product you will have more exposure.

A Slack or Google integration has a big viewership by default, as nearly everyone uses these tools. If you have an extension or an integration, PH is definitely the place to go.

6. People have to be able to try your product

Mobile apps can be downloaded, and web apps can be viewed instantly. These type of products will have bigger upvote totals, as compared to e.g. Shapr3D, which runs only an iPad Pro, and only with an Apple Pencil

Why should you try a "Product Hunt"

We asked ourselves two questions at the end of our launch day

  • was it worth for us?
  • who should give it a try?

Was it worth for us?

So-so, yes and no. If terms of traffic generated, no. We did gain a big amount of experience and we can say we are category leaders in a Product Hunt topic. In that sense, yes.

Who should give it a try?

Someone, who

  • has a Product Hunt compatible product
  • has its target market on PH
  • has time to prepare
  • has a Plan B

If you fit this profile, you still have a long way down the road. Put effort into it, and do the preparation phase as diligently as you can.

To help you with the preparation we put together the resources we worked from http://www.scoop.it/t/product-hunt-1

If you liked this blog post, and want to receive email notifications when we release a next startup growth or email marketing related article, just subscribe below.

Bonus

In this game, you can the guess which Product Hunt product got the more votes.

Product hunt bonus

If you use it enough, you will come across Shapr3D as well: http://www.highervslower.com/game/producthunt_votes

Have you had a successful launch on Product Hunt? Please add your learnings in a comment! We would love to learn from your takeaways too.


Content Planning: Lessons From B2B Marketing Leaders | Marketing Insider Group

Content Planning: Lessons From B2B Marketing Leaders | Marketing Insider Group

What do the leading content marketing experts in financial, professional services and technology firms do differently when it comes to content planning?

Last year we published the Value of B2B Thought Leadership Survey, which unearthed some real surprises in how C-suite executives view and use thought leadership content. This year's survey 'Best practice content marketing: Lessons from the leaders' examines whether those messages are getting through to the firms trying to engage with them.

The answer is 'Yes' – but only for some.

From the 150 financial, professional services and technology firms we spoke to, the leaders clearly stood out in terms of effectiveness – and this is the first blog in a series looking at what the content marketing leaders do differently – across planning, creation, distribution and measurement.

Best practice content planning

The best content marketing is a mix of art and science: the art of creating compelling content must sit alongside the science of rigorous planning. So what truly sets the leaders apart when it comes to content planning?

1. They document their strategy

We've been banging the drum for documentation for years, so it was no surprise to find in our most recent research that 85% of leaders have a documented strategy for content marketing, compared to only 50% of others. Leading industry body, the Content Marketing Institute, agrees has consistently found those who document their content strategy:

● Are far more likely to consider themselves effective

● Feel significantly less challenged with every aspect of content marketing

● Believe themselves more effective in using all content marketing tactics and social media channels

● Can justify spending more of their marketing budget on content marketing

Your content marketing strategy should hold your 'why' at its core – articulating business goals, audience needs, content, channels and measurement – documenting your strategy doesn't have to be onerous.

You could create the perfect, multi-page tome, detailing business and channel plans, audience personas and content maps, your brand story and everything in between – or you could get a key points down on a one-pager to help guide you as you develop. Consider the 'who, what, why, when, where and how' of your content, and make sure you include testing and learning, too.

2. They use content for a variety of means

Leaders use the content they create more extensively than others, averaging 5.5 uses as opposed to 4.2. Most marketers will include objectives in their content strategies, but leaders better understand that they need to create content with a specific purpose in mind.

Leaders are almost twice as likely (92% vs 55%) as others to rely on content to reinforce that clients have made the right decision to use their services, for instance. They know that developing content to help facilitate relationships equals informed and engaged customers and prospects.

Content is firmly embedded across leaders' business development cycles; it's part of building brand awareness, helping clients to discover solutions and communicating competitive differences. Their content marketing strategies extend beyond single-use pieces to consider the full customer journey.

3. They understand their audience

Clients want partners that help them make better decisions. Leaders get that and are more likely to use content to keep clients informed of emerging trends and give them an edge over their competitors. Others, though, are more likely to believe clients want to use branded content to just compare providers.

This sales-minded and transactional view of content reinforces a previous Grist survey of professional services firms where we found over one-third (36%) of marketers either 'tend to write what the practice wants to write about' or just 'don't know' if they are creating content their clients would want to engage with.

A deep understanding of your audience should form part of your content marketing strategy. Developing personas to provide a clear idea of who you are creating the content for will enable robust decisions to be made, with a more successful outcome.

4. They involve stakeholders early

It's easy to produce content in silos, assuming you know what's best for your target audience, but leaders know that getting more stakeholder groups involved can help the content planning process.

Consider bringing in your internal PR and comms teams, research teams, and sector or department heads to align content with overall company direction. Get sales, SEO and social teams involved in topic generation – after all, they are the ones who know what clients are looking for.

This will also alleviate another issue uncovered by the survey: 13% of people in the 'others' category don't know how they're supposed to use the content being created, and that's not a good thing.

5. They work with external partners

Leaders also know that silos can extend beyond company walls and are more likely to enlist external help, such as industry experts.

More of them also use content marketing specialist agencies to help drive strategy, planning and creation; leaders have a more developed relationship here than others, with 85% using an agency and believing the partnership to be successful. Finding the right partner is crucial.

Content marketing agencies can, in fact, help alleviate many of the challenges highlighted in the survey: they can bring expertise in both topic generation and content creation that you may not otherwise have access to, and they can help to supplement your own resource, helping you to scale up your content efforts, test success, and make your content marketing strategy an organic document, always pushing forward.

What else can you learn from content marketing leaders? Download the report here.