Monthly Archives: June 2017

Inspiring Collaboration in the Modern Workplace

By Michael Brenner on June 30, 2017

Where does collaboration come from? It comes from communication, from drive, and from a shared passion to achieve great things as an organization. Microsoft Office 365 has produced this helpful webcast to help you understand how you can foster a culture of collaboration in your workplace.

You can put all the physical and digital strategies you like in place but without an underlying ethos of collaboration, the effect on your workplace will be minimal.

Instead, the right environment must be fostered in order to incubate collaboration in your office and beyond, encompassing your whole organization.

Of course, building collaboratively-focused office spaces and having the tools in place to work together on remote projects is important. But this only provides one-half of the solution. What you are aiming to achieve is a cultural shift; a change in the very fabric of what makes your office tick.

If you want collaboration and the advantages it brings, you need to inspire it. Here’s how…

Make the Advantages Known

The carrot and stick management analogy has long been put to bed and dismissed as overly simplistic. Instead, a more sophisticated – and, yet, blindingly obvious – approach is required, which is simply to outline the advantages of high-quality collaborative work.

The motivations of your team members are too wide-ranging and diverse for a catch-all rewards scheme. For example, individual staff members may have a complex set of driving factors in their heads when they approach work.

This means, what may motivate some of your team may be meaningless to others. Instead, we need to demonstrate how collaboration can be done properly and how we can achieve a serious benefit by adopting this approach at work.

Discuss best practices, examine case studies, open up a dialogue across the whole team, and build the foundations of a collaborative environment.

The Power of Narrative

Stories, by their very nature, are inspiring. Stories are also inclusive and collaborative. While, nowadays, we have the idea of a person reading a book alone, probably a book authored by a single person, this is not where stories came from.

Stories began with the oral tradition; ballads and sagas developed collaboratively over time and delivered to an audience en masse. Tap into this idea when it comes to inspiring your team to work collaboratively.

Share stories and experiences. Provide an open forum for others to share their own. By working in this way, you are helping to create an atmosphere of action and sharing, rather than passivity and reservation.

When outlining the benefits of collaborative work in terms of both personal and organizational development, build and illustrate a strong narrative.

Lead From the Front

It goes without saying that inspiring a change in the workplace involves taking the lead and showing how it can be done. Of course, the same is true for building a collaboration culture. However, you may be surprised by how many leaders ‘talk the talk’ but fail to ‘walk the walk’ in this regard.

Simply telling your team what they need to do is not going to cut it. They already understand what collaboration is and what teamwork looks like. It is up to you to show them its specific applications within your organization.

Examine past initiatives and understand how they could be handled better in the future. Consider how teams can be built so they are made up of individuals who complement the skill sets of one another. Place yourself on the front line as an example. This is a significant step towards creating a collaborative atmosphere with a long legacy.

Focus on Mobility

Setting the ball rolling on collaboration at work does take a degree of effort. This, however, is not the most difficult part of fostering the right atmosphere.

Getting team members accustomed to discussing issues and working together on different projects is straightforward, provided this movement is lateral, taking place on the same rung of the proverbial ladder.

It gets a little more difficult when vertically integrated collaboration is required; when mobility between different levels is expected.

This is wholly dependent on the culture discussed above. The modern workplace needs to be the breeding ground for a culture of mutual respect, openness, and a willingness to share ideas.

All team members, at all levels, need to feel comfortable and confident that they will be treated with respect at work and that their ideas will be listened to. The flipside of this is that all ideas – no matter which echelon of the organization the idea comes from – are open to debate and reasoned disagreement.

By creating this sort of open and mobile atmosphere, you are clearing the way for innovation. The most ingenious ideas do not necessarily originate at the top but are developed collaboratively.

Build Your Toolkit, and Your Environment

Developing a positive atmosphere of collaboration is one thing but this needs to be supported by the environment. Your team needs to have a workspace in which their collaborative efforts are complimented and enhanced, for example, through the provision of in-house conference areas and rooms, or via hardware pieces designed to enable remote communication.

Your team also needs a range of digital tools, applications and platforms to help them achieve the objectives they set for themselves.

These include scheduling tools to brings tasks together and to ensure progress towards set goals, collaborative work platforms to unify efforts and ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction, and automated systems which can take care of some of the heavy lifting associated with collaborative working, leaving teams free to focus on their strong points.

Inspiring smart collaboration is about laying the groundwork and making sure that all elements – whether they are physical, digital, or conceptual – are in place. From here, high-quality collaboration can be easily achieved.

Microsoft Office 365 has even produced this helpful webcast to help you understand how you can foster a culture of collaboration in your workplace.

Click here to view the webcast from Microsoft Office 365.

Image via Pixabay

Last week, we defined intuition once and for all. This week, we wonder: Why don’t we routinely TRUST our intuition? We came up with a practical definition, but why can’t we seem to make it practical in our daily lives? Why does it so often feel like a leap?

To help make sense of this, we revisit the story of Neil Pasricha, a bestselling author, TED speaker, and the creator of the blog 1000 Awesome Things.

Listen Now:

Channel Links: iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Google Play

SUBSCRIBE TO MONDAY’S EMAIL: unthinkable.fm

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Follow Neil Pasricha on Twitter and buy his new bestseller, The Happiness Equation

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The post The Leap: Why Trusting Your Intuition Feels Risky appeared first on Unthinkable.

Here’s an important question most business leaders have probably never asked – but it could be the key to future growth and organizational prosperity. How free do your employees feel in the workplace?

Without an environment of authentic autonomy, your workforce is limited by both overt and subtle controls and influences. While workplace rules, policies, and expectations are absolutely necessary for a functional business environment. This is true from six-person start-ups to enterprise level corporations.

It is this same guiding framework that can suffocate the life and creativity out of a collaborative team if left unchecked. The structure designed to facilitate and leverage your employees could be what is extinguishing their ability to thrive, expand, and grow.

This e-book called “The Psychology of Collaboration” from Microsoft talks about the importance of collaboration in 2017. Because it is often it is the unspoken rules that limit us more than the spoken ones.

For example, managers may claim their employees are empowered and free to come up with ideas, think outside of the box, or veer away from the standard way of doing things.

But in practice taking such creative license must be done at one’s own peril. You can put a team of the best minds together but if they don’t feel free to express their ideas and push each other in a safe environment, they’re not going to.

Teresa Amabile, who has studied workplace creativity and productivity for decades and is the author of numerous books on the subject, including The Progress Principle, says that often managers only grant autonomy in name. The reality is that employees are forced to diverge at their own risk and so often don’t.

The Cost of Disempowerment

When asked about what is important to achieving organizational success, 71 percent of executives surveyed for a Harvard Business Review report cited employee engagement. We’ve known for some time that engagement is an essential component of business growth. Highly engaged organizations are known to have double to rate of success, dramatically reduced levels of turnover and absenteeism and 22 percent higher productivity.

Still, for many companies, engagement isn’t happening. As few as 13 percent of employees feel highly engaged. Only a third of workers in the US feel engaged at all, and the majority are simply not that committed to the companies they work for. The cost of this apathy is estimated to be between $450 and $550 billion in lost productivity every year.

While employee well-being initiatives, team building exercises, and even casual Fridays and modern collaborative environments can do a lot for motivating and engaging a team of individuals, all of these strategies are overlooking a key factor to facilitating engagement.

In order for people to feel vested in what they do, they have to be in control. A study published in Psychological Science found that employees were 26 percent more satisfied with their work when they held a position of power.

How Can Business Leaders Better Empower Their Teams?

This doesn’t mean it is necessary to create a scenario in which everyone is the boss. We all know what happens when there are too many cooks in the kitchen.

What it does imply, however, is that all individuals should be granted some degree of autonomy over how they work. As Amabile explains, “Creativity thrives when managers let people decide how to climb a mountain; they needn’t, however, let employees choose which one.”

For example, having the freedom to determine their own process and within which environment they can complete different tasks can completely revolutionize the workday for many people.

Psychologist Herman Miller explains that something as simple as recognizing and allowing space for the needs of introverts and extroverts, permitting each to choose what works for them, can facilitate greater comfort, less stress, and an exponential increase in productivity.

Nuances like room color, noise level, aesthetics, and having a private or open environment can have a huge impact on an individual’s ability to get work done and more importantly, to be creative.

Giving introverted employees the autonomy to collaborate virtually from home and extroverted workers the opportunity to engage with co-workers in a stimulating atmosphere such as a coffee shop down the street or an employee lounge area, can bring out the best in both personality types.

Another powerful way to give employees more autonomy is to delegate more decision making tasks. A great leader knows what each team member’s strengths are, and uses them. If someone is highly creative, involve them in the next product development meeting. An individual who has experience in a particular area may be able to take on more responsibility for a project related to their area of expertise.

Consider which individuals may be useful at strategic planning meetings, no matter where they are in the organizational hierarchy. It is this type of non-linear workplace thinking that will allow people to shine based on who they are as a unique individual, not necessarily as a particular role or job title. It also lets your team know that they work in an environment where opportunities are open to them so they can learn and grow professionally.

Leaders can also empower their employees with frequent feedback. The idea of having an annual performance review is outdated and unpalatable to both employees and managers. Research shows that 77 percent of HR executives believe performance reviews are not accurate reflections of what an employee contributes.

Creating the opportunity to provide ongoing, constructive feedback, on the other hand, can allow for a positive feedback loop between management and employees. This can help to build trust, strengthen workplace relationships and can even foster greater equity.

Open communication channels can also be used to identify errors or deal with any areas of confusion before problems occur in the first place.

Today’s technology makes it easy to open up multiple communication channels. With instant messaging apps, video conferencing, and collaborative workplace apps, there’s no reason why managers and employees can’t leverage the potential of fluid workplace communication.

Automation Is for Machines, Autonomy Is for Humans

As we move deeper into the digital era and as our technology continues to evolve, business leaders need to understand the opportunity that is emerging today. Automation is freeing up every business’s most valuable asset – the human mind. We need to take advantage of this shift.

It is the responsibility of those in leadership roles to unlock the great untapped potential that lies within each individual. This does imply the role of manager has to evolve from taskmaster to guide.

However, by making a conscious effort to move in this direction and allowing your employees more control and empowering their actions and decisions, you’re allowing them to be more human. And that’s what will drive engagement, foster growth, and reveal the limitless potential of a business staffed by a team of committed, motivated, inspired individuals.

image source

You have this Content Marketing thing down, right? Or, at the least, you have a plan. You have that strategy and have an idea of where you are going with that content marketing plan.

BTW – if you need some help, here are a couple of articles that can get you going:

There are several reasons why you want to incorporate video into your content marketing plan. One important reason to consider is the enhancement of your personal or corporate brand through video marketing. Video is a powerful story telling medium; videos are sharable content assets that can be marketed across multiple platforms.

That said, we all know that video content marketing and video production do not just happen overnight.  They also do not happen without any effort.

What Comes to Mind When Considering the Video Content Marketing

Some of the obvious things coming to mind are video production or video acquisition.

For those of you who are already video producers, think you are video producers, or are the fearless types, this step probably doesn’t hang you up that much.

However, there is another group of people who may wonder how you are going to come by the video in the first place. I am not suggesting that you worry about it, but rather, evaluate your options.

Here are three ideas right from the starting gate:

  • Produce the video yourself.
  • Purchase the video.
  • Hire someone to make the video for you.

The Cost of Doing Business

More than likely, the cost of acquiring your video is going to be in the order that they appear in the above list.  So, producing the video yourself is likely to be the least expensive (but not necessarily inexpensive).  Purchasing the video is the next one up the cost ladder.  Hiring a professional is likely to be the most expensive.

Let’s talk about the different options that you have for each of those, so you can see that it is not just one path, but a variety of options within each method.

Method 1: The Do-It-Yourself Video

If you already have the experience and the video software, then the expense is a different focus.  It is more about video production and the time involved in getting it done.  If you do not yet have the software, there is going to be the cost of the software. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a ton of money.

On the low end of the spectrum, there are some video software packages that may cross your email that range around $30 or so. Granted, they may not be top of the line, but it gets the job done, and that is the goal here.

Moving up that ladder are software packages like Techsmith’s Camtasia, available for Mac or Windows (at very different costs and capabilities). This is a really good option for the midlevel. You can create some really professional results with this software without having to take a second mortgage on the house. Granted, it will likely require some focused time to learn how to use the software.

If you are a little lower on funds and time, another option for the do-it-yourselfer is to create a live video. Fortunately, with the option of the Google Hangout and the Facebook Live, there is the opportunity to create a video of you chatting with your audience or another individual or team.

While it is great to add that polish to the live video, there is a bit of forgiveness for the raw element of the live video. This creates a focus on the content and less about the production skill set. This allows for less time (in production) and less money (not requiring the professional software).

Method 2: Purchase the Video

Another option for obtaining/acquiring that video is to purchase it.

This can be done at sites like Big Stock Photo, where the price of the videos, considering the high quality, is pretty reasonable, or many other similar stock image/video sites.

Technically, you could use the video “as is” after purchasing it on a stock site.  However, more than likely you will want to combine this method with Method #1, the do-it-yourself. You will likely want to combine the video with a bit of production process, adding some text and animation, etc.  Fortunately, Camtasia allows the adding of text/animation.  There are also lower dollar applications that do it, too.

There are online options that provide how-to mechanisms and functionality. Those would include Sparkol (VideoScribe) for whiteboard/explainer videos and PowToon for animations.

One other area of purchase is PLR, which stands for “Private Label Rights.” In some cases, people will create videos and sell them to others. The buyers use the videos in membership sites, articles, or other video marketing endeavors. The best PLR to consider is sold as a limited edition product. That means that there are fewer people out there who are using the same video or set of videos. However, the advantage of PLR is that the price reflects the bulk access of the videos. Because of that, you could acquire videos in a cost saving transaction.

Method 3: Hire a Professional

Finally, there is the option of hiring a professional videographer and/or a professional video marketer to produce and market your video for you.

When hiring quality service, this can be very expensive, and it is not surprising that it can reach the five digits in pricing. Quality service costs money, considering the cost of production, the electricity, the skill, etc.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who will advertise professional video services for $5. Yes, you got it, at places like Fiverr. Two of the categories that come to mind are Whiteboard/Explainer Videos and a search that involves a service, like “do a whiteboard video.”

The key thing to keep in mind, when hiring a professional is that you do get what you are paying for in the service. So, while the person charging $5 may be very talented, you are not likely to get the $5,000 service for $5.

As long as you can manage your expectations, this may be a viable option for you, realizing that low dollar may mean a bit lower quality.

Video Marketing

If it were all about the making of the videos and that is it, we could all retire to our easy chair. However, there is that piece, regardless of the video making method, which requires marketing.

Whether it is the video that is motivating the marketing or we are marketing the video, the same steps are taken. The following articles will help you on your way in that direction:

Video Marketing

Conclusion

When it comes to video content marketing, there is an easy way to describe your action step.  That is, get in there and get it going.

There are two parts of any video content marketing strategy (and actually more than two). The one part is the production (or acquisition) of the video, and the other is the distribution or marketing aspect.

It also depends on what the purpose is. Is the video the primary content? Or, is the video the method of marketing something else like a product or service? Either way, you have some action steps that you can even do today.  Hey, that could even be a case of using your Microsoft PowerPoint application to export a video… Then, post it on YouTube. 🙂

The pace of technological innovation today isn’t just fast. Technology is evolving at an exponential rate. While in many ways, businesses have reaped the benefits of such progress, without a similar transformation of company culture, how can organizations truly harness what’s available?

Resources, even the remarkable innovations of today, are worthless if the human ingenuity is not there to leverage their potential.

How can leadership motivate their creative teams to visualize and formulate the platforms that will be able to sustain tomorrow’s expectations?

What can business leaders do to foster a healthy culture of transformation? One that is better able to work with the extremely evolved technology that we have available now, let alone what will be in existence three months, and three years from now.

As Aaron Dignan, Founder of The Ready explains in Microsoft Office’s Modern Workplace, the power of information technology and the fluidity of access to computing power has sped up the cycle of change.

We’ve gone from the advent of the Internet, which connected businesses and individuals on a global scale for the first time in human history, to the Internet of Things, (IoT), which has injected this infinite new world into the experience of everyday living.

From industrial machinery to the kitchen toaster, every device can communicate with the endless information on the web, increasing the amount of data available and fueling change even further.

It’s not that we are changing more than we were ten or twenty years ago. It is that the exponential rate of change has caught up with us to create the extremely fast-paced reality we are in now.

From Digital Transformation to Digital Transcendence

We are now experiencing the digital abundance we’ve been discussing for decades. We’re seeing the results of Moore’s Law, which predicted the number of components per integrated circuit would double every one or two years.

And Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, which pointed out that beyond the early stages of exponential growth, the results become extraordinary. They end up transcending our existing models and processes, and for many of us, our imaginations.

Artificial intelligence is the Law of Accelerating Returns in action. AI transcends the primary facets of digital transformation – products, employee engagement, customer relationships, and optimizing operations.

It has stretched our disruptive thinking into a new dimension, disrupting the disruption. And, it has done this before most organizations have even had a chance to undergo a successful three-dimensional digital upgrade.

The innovative companies who have applied AI to their digital transformation are light years ahead of those who are still testing the waters of automation and cloud-based technologies.

Instead of just transforming your products, with AI, there can be a fundamental shift in products and services.

Take, for example, Rolls Royce’s recent transformation of the aerospace industry with their TotalCare® services, which use advanced analytics along with the IoT to uncover data insights and improve flight efficiency in ways that were unheard of before.

AI can be employed in numerous ways in-house, such as using analytics to filter your employees’ inbox or the use of chatbots to improve the employee experience.  AI and Machine Learning are also being used by numerous companies to streamline customer service, better connect with customers, and automate orders.

AI has permeated the office, the factory, the lab in countless ways, transforming the way businesses operate.

We now have data that completely streamlines the process of preventative maintenance of industrial equipment and the AI to drive our production lines. It has automated much of our marketing processes, allowing us to spend more time actually interacting with the consumer.

Artificial intelligence can predict market movements and offer better financial advice than its human counterparts. It has revolutionized medicine – we’ve been using machine learning to help discover new drugs and to construct models for testing and experimentation for years.

This shift towards ever evolving technological potential already has the momentum it needs to continue ad infinitum. Investment in AI increased by 746 percent from 2011 to 2015 – and topped $1.5 billion in 2016.


image source

How Can Culture Play Catch Up?

Almost every industry is going to see the sweeping changes that result from the application of artificial intelligence. Even CPAs can be made semi-redundant with the creative use of machine learning, as is the case with the Vancouver-based firm, Bench Accounting.

This company has reinvented how an accounting firm works from the ground-up, using machine intelligence to reduce error, boost productivity, and reduce the cost of accounting services dramatically.

What can leadership do to facilitate a culture that can make room for this type of positive transformation? How do we not just transform, but transcend?

Depending on where your business is now, making room for a new organizational culture to emerge can feel like a behemoth task.

But, you only have to take the first step right now. As businesses move ahead, towards a more open, inspiring, and creative organizational culture, it will be possible to envision the next step, and then the next.

Start by making the space for change and clearly visualizing what you want out of your culture in the future. Then you can design your roadmap.

Once you start taking this journey, just as has been done with technological innovation, you’ll start to see the other paths and possibilities, illuminating your two-dimensional roadmap for change to reveal a whole new three-dimensional world of potential.

  • What incentives can be used to inspire your team to push boundaries and think outside of the box?
  • Do you need to bring in individuals who have a fresh perspective, new skills, or more varied experiences to inject some energy into your workforce?
  • How can your workplace processes transform? Instead of looking at ways to alter what is, consider starting from scratch and taking an honest look at what methods and strategies would be the most effective for accomplishing your organization’s goals that exist today.
  • Change, especially behavioral change, needs to start from the top. Moving towards greater equity, open channels of communication, and an environment that encourages the growth of every individual are all steps towards a culture that will be better equipped to keep up with innovation.

According to Nancy Duarte, Principal of Duarte, Inc., the key to managing a team of creative people is to take a step back to get that all important perspective – at what stage is your team at within the greater process?

When you do this it is possible to see more clearly why some people are resisting and why others aren’t. She says, “There’s power in understanding who you are talking to and where they are in the grander journey.”

Disruption Is in the Eye of the Beholder

The disruptors, the great minds that are lighting the way for all of us, they aren’t discovering ways to become more efficient, to boost productivity, to form better customer relationships – they are creating new ecosystems to achieve these goals.

They are doing this with a mindset that is capable of both accepting innovation and finding a way to use it, to bend it at will to create solutions for their particular industry.

If organizational culture had committed to transforming along with technology decades ago, we wouldn’t even be using the word disruption.

Disruptive innovation is only disruptive to a culture that is not yet ready to evolve.

To learn more visit Microsoft Office’s Modern Workplace

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Marketing has been around for a very long time. Think about it. Since people first started engaging in commercial trade, they’ve learned how to develop unique selling propositions and sales strategies to maximize the perceived value of their offerings.

When we look at marketing technology, we can see that it’s enabled various channels such as print media, radio, and television for marketers to reach their audiences. Back in the day, these technologies were highly innovative and provided huge opportunities for brands to communicate. Fast forward to now, these channels have become common contributors to many, many marketing strategies.

The new technological age has also brought about the inception of the internet. Since the early 90’s the internet has evolved into the most flexible marketing channel we’ve ever seen. As a customer, you’ve seen online ads, search engine rankings, social media, and hundreds of different content marketing formats.

The dynamic nature of the internet has caused a massive shift in media consumption habits. The traditional channels of television, radio, and print media have seen a decline in usage as more users start looking at online platforms as their primary sources of media. This is great for marketers because online channels allow for better targeting, tracking, and analytics. It facilitates the increased adoption of various marketing automation software, allowing brands to grow more cost-effectively.

The birth of marketing technology happened sometime in the 80’s, when computers became powerful enough to store large volumes of customer information. In 1986, ACT!, a customer management company, developed the first ever database marketing software, basically a primitive CRM platform. Since then, a multitude of more sophisticated marketing automation platforms have emerged with better UIs and more useful features.

As a matter of fact, if you’re not making use of a modern marketing automation tool, you’re probably missing out on a huge opportunity to make your internal processes quicker and more efficient.

Below are the different types of marketing automation your brand needs to consider:

  1. Customer Relationship Management Software

It’s always good news when you have a lot of customers, but it can get tiresome to manage them when you don’t have an effective system for collecting, storing, and retrieving customer data. Timely customer service is good customer service, which is why businesses are increasingly looking to CRM software to help provide a better customer experience.

This software stores personal information such as names, job titles, company names, and email address. More importantly, information like purchase history and details of interactions between the customer and the business can be collected by a CRM software. This allows the business to personalize the interaction each customer interaction.

More popular CRM software includes Salesforce and Zoho, but the size and nature of your business requirements will determine what type of CRM tool will best fit your needs.

  1. Email Marketing Software

Despite being one of the oldest forms of digital marketing, email marketing still provides the best ROI in the business. So it should be no surprise to learn that it’s also the most widely used digital marketing channel. However, one of the main issues with email marketing is scalability, which is where email marketing software comes in.

Email marketing tools allow you to automate the messages you send to your contacts. Whether it’s trigger-based (initiated by the email receiver) or an email blast (triggered by the email sender), these automation tools facilitate the large-scale distribution of personalized messages along with performance measurement dashboards.

But just because it’s automated, that doesn’t mean that you should let the quality of your emails drop. Most email tools allow for the personalization of subject lines, body text, and appropriate calls-to-action. You should always make the user feel like they’re the sole recipient of your email.

Many marketing automation tools have email marketing platforms built in, but if you’re looking for a standalone email marketing tool, Litmus and MailChimp are very popular choices.

  1. Marketing Automation Software

From managing your day-to-day content to creating landing pages for your website, marketing automation platforms are your all-in-one tool. If you want to drive traffic to your website, set up marketing campaigns, or inbound marketing strategies these kinds of software have the function for you.

For example, HubSpot can set up workflows for you to map out the customer journey. Meanwhile, Marketo promotes the ability of their software to predict ROI and achieve it. And Eloqua capitalizes on their unified system where data across all channels such as paid and SEO can be tracked and analyzed.

Keep in mind that all-in-one marketing automation software can be expensive, so make sure you’ve determined the need for one before going out and making a purchase decision.

  1. Social Media Marketing Software

Social media is one of the best channels for businesses so reach and engage with their audiences. Social media is mostly used to give quick updates about the business, blog, and sometimes, product and services. But lately, businesses have been seeing more success when keeping promotional messaging to a minimum and just using social media as a channel to promote engagement and display brand personality.

This “non-promotional” social media strategy makes it difficult to automate because the nature of being personable means not sounding like a robot, which is what automation can result in. But social media marketing tools can still be used to help with scheduling, network management, and measuring the performance of your social media efforts.

Some of the most popular tools out there right now are Buffer, Clout, and Crowdfire. All of which offer a horde of different features that you can use to optimize your social marketing efforts.

  1. Marketing Analytics Software

Measuring the performance of marketing strategies is usually the step that marketers tend to neglect, which should be a big no-no. You should always look back at your efforts to figure out what worked and what didn’t so you can focus on the best strategies and maximize ROI.

Marketing Analytics software allows you to get usable data such as visitor behavior and activity. Further, it can combine data from different channels for easier comparison of effective channels.

Google Analytics is probably the most used analytics tool. Other popular tools being utilized in the industry now are Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Buzzsumo.

Conclusion

These types of marketing automation software are the answers to your marketing efficiency and scalability dilemmas. They’re here to assist you in efficiently launching your marketing strategies.

Don’t forget that not every tool works for all types of business. You should study each tool and identify the strengths that would best align with your marketing goals.

Once you’ve set up your marketing automation, you’re going to want to know how to create a lead generation machine. Download our free Checklist for Crafting the Perfect Landing Page to Generate B2B Leads today!

The post 5 Types of Marketing Automation for Businesses to Consider appeared first on PureB2B.

5 things to keep in mind while building backlinks

By Guest Author on June 26, 2017

Some people think that blogging is not a big deal. Surfing the web and writing all day for money – sounds perfect. But they would be impressed by the number of things every blogger has to keep in mind.

One of such a thing – building backlinks. This process has so many steps and sides, so it’s quite easy to mess things up.

In this article, I’ll share some common backlink mistakes so you can fix them on your blog or be cheerful if you don’t have them.

The obvious ones

I think it’s no use in describing the obvious mistakes. I’ll list some of them just in case:

  • backlinks from the sites with the bad reputation or even banned sites;

 

  • backlinks from sites with irrelevant niche;

 

  • backlinks from sites with tons of links.

Of course, such links won’t bring you any profit, it probably will cause a lot of damage instead. But I think it’s not that tough to keep in mind that you shouldn’t connect with banned domains or promote cocktail dresses on the blog about fishing.

I want to point out unobvious mistakes, many bloggers aren’t thinking of.

High-quality link with wrong anchor text

By saying “wrong”, I mean:

  • “junk” anchor text like “here”, “there”, “read more”, “visit” “go to”, “click here” “check this” and so on. A lot of experts say that they’re not useful at all, some of them tend to the opposite thoughts. The truth is that you just can’t completely avoid such anchors. They look natural, can increase conversion rates and mix up your commercial anchors. So, you can use them sometimes, but if you’ve found a really high-quality donor, it’s better to use keyword or name of the brand as an anchor text.

 

  • anchor spam – using the same anchor text too often. Sometimes it causes the ranking drop or even backlinking penalties. And again, just try to mix it with related keywords.

You can use some SEO tools like Serpstat to find out how your link profile looks like and see your most common anchors

Enter your domain into the Serpstat search line, go to the “Backlink analysis” module and then to “Anchors” to see such a cloud:

 

Anchor cloud

 

Using only dofollow or only nofollow links

Dofollow link will pass the SEO strength to the site that it links to. A nofollow link won’t do this. In other words, only person can use nofollow link, search robots ignore them and don’t count them as a backlink for a page ranking. So, in fact, nofollow links don’t meet our purpose.

But it doesn’t mean we don’t need them at all. A lot of dofollow links looks unnatural for the search engine. Google might consider it as a manipulation with backlinks, and you probably can guess the consequences.

So, my advice is the same: keep the balance.

Stealing competitors’ mistakes

One of the most common ways to find links is to take a peek at competitors.

Spying on their backlinks, you can find out what domains are linking to their posts, and thus you can target some of these sources too.

You can check your competitor’s backlinks here:

Referring Domains

 

But you always should keep in mind that even the reputable blogs can be wrong sometimes. Taking links from competitors the sequencing should look like this: Seprstat > Ahrefs (or any SEO tool you like) > Exel > brain.

Export your the most reputable competitor’s backlinks to Exel and then sort it out.

As a reminder, here are some parameters of site quality:

  • Serpstat Trust Rank – the domain/URL trust based on how trustworthy domains/URLs are linking to the domain/URL in question.
  • Serpstat Page Rank –  how influential a URL/domain might be based on how many sites link to it.
  • Attendance
  • Inbound / outbound ratio
  • Indexing percentage
  • Age of site
  • Appropriate themes
  • Appropriate geo (especially for commercial queries)

Too steep growth

Now, if you’ve found a lot of high-quality backlink sources, don’t use them all right away.  Google won’t praise you for the sharp increase. It’s one of the easiest ways to get penalized by Google. 

The normal graph of referring pages growth should look like this:

Referring pages

Links only to the home page

Our main purpose is to make the backlinks profile look as natural as possible. Thus, when you exert every effort to get lots of backlinks to the home page and, at the same time, you don’t have any references to other pages, it looks a bit suspicious.

Moreover, it is better to send people to the page they need, rather than force them to search it by themselves inserting a link to the main page.

Try not to focus on the one page, spread the links on all important ones.

Final thoughts

This topic is quite conventional: there are a lot of opposing opinions on how to do backlinks. Most of them are going from one extreme to another: “never use junk anchors”, “avoid nofollow links” etc.

So, as you see, my thought is about the balance. Ask yourself if your backlinks look natural, spend more time choosing the sources, always use your brain and you’ll get all the profit from the process.

The word ‘efficiency’ gets thrown around quite a lot. When asked to name what we want to see more of in the workplace, many of us will say efficiency. Similarly, when asked to describe our best attributes, don’t be surprised when efficiency pops up again.

Maybe it is a cliché. However, clichés become that way for a reason; because they are true and valid. Imagine a wholly inefficient team in your workplace. What does it look like? Chances are, it looks like your worst nightmare, like a colossal waste of money, and a disaster for your business.

Don’t fall prey to inefficiency. Try out these six tricks for ensuring your team runs in a finely-honed, highly-effective manner, then to learn more, watch the Migrating to Office 365 from Google webcast from Microsoft Office.

Enjoy More Effective Communication

We tend to have a bit of a ‘quantity over quality’ attitude to communication. We listen to the loudest voice. We praise the individuals who have the most to say and we get upset at those who remain silent. While communication is undoubtedly invaluable in business, perhaps this approach is the wrong one. It leads to inefficiency at best and confusion at worst.

Instead, focus on effective communication. Pencil in two blocks of time each day that your team can spend checking emails and tell them to avoid email at all other times. Hold meetings only when positive outcomes are within reach in order to encourage efficient and meaningful debate. This will give your team more time to focus on achieving their goals.

Construct Digital Channels Which Pull Their Weight

The digital element of business has become vital. All businesses need to operate in digital channels. They need their own personally branded web presence and they need to be active on a variety of social media platforms. Unfortunately, too many organizations simply pay lip service to these channels, not using them effectively. Inefficiency is the result.

Let’s consider your marketing efforts. If you have a wealth of online content which encourages inbound impressions and clicks from users, this takes a significant amount of pressure off your outbound marketing team. For customer service, deploying an effective and well-publicized service channel on social media will make your human customer service teams more effective. Getting your digital strategy right leads to boosted efficiency across the board.

Build Your Efficiency Toolkit

But an effective digital strategy is not limited to your online presence. There are a wide range of applications and platforms which you can deploy to help you iron out any problems or issues within your team and to secure high levels of efficiency.

If you have a large team, which includes remote workers or staff members who have to operate in different working environments, there are applications that can help you to bring these disparate elements together into a harmonious whole.

Others enable companies to make accurate estimates of time and cost for projects, which can then be fed back to clients.

You should look for a suite of tools and applications designed to give you and your business the efficiency it needs.

Know Your Team, Assign Them Correctly

Your human team is your business’s most valuable resource. When you hired staff for your organization, you did so because these staff members had skills, experience, knowledge and ability, which could be applied directly to your business. You can look at building a business in the same way as building a house. If you hire a plumber, don’t put her to work on interior decorating. Or, if you hire an interior designer, don’t ask him to handle the wiring.

So, get to know your team. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Once this is understood, ensure that each and every task which is associated with your business is being taken care of by your best man or woman. Don’t leave anything to chance; put your team to good use and incredible efficiency will be your reward.

Foster Positivity at All Levels

Fundamentally, an efficient working environment must be a positive one. This means fostering a positive attitude from all team members at every level of the organization and building an atmosphere in which problems can be solved effectively and efficiently.

This is about far more than simply putting a brave face and a united front towards a potential issue. It is about creating positive frameworks in which those issues can be dealt with without damaging efficiency. Pro-active problem solving ahead of time, insight and understanding into improvements that must be made, and an organizational structure which everyone can be proud of; these are the results of comprehensive positivity.

The most enticing thing about efficiency is that you don’t need to put it off. There is no need to delay or stall in your quest for a slick and well-oiled workplace. All the tools you need to achieve this are right in front of you. It’s time to put these into action.

To learn more, watch the Migrating to Office 365 from Google webcast from Microsoft Office.

Image via Pixabay

Why HR Is The New Marketing

By Michael Brenner on

In a world of infinite media choices, the best way to reach new buyers and new talent might be right under your nose. Your own employees represent the greatest opportunity to create meaningful marketing and to develop Human Resources programs that increase sales, while also finding and retaining top talent. Is HR the new Marketing?

In the battle for new talent, HR departments have been forced to expand their role from hiring and firing, overseeing personnel systems and processes, and handling benefit management to include leadership development and training, employer branding, and diversity initiatives.

HR has been forced to adopt strategies that look, well, very much like marketing. These days, HR develops campaigns to grow employer awareness, to build the employer brand as a “great place to work,” and to retain top talent. All traditional marketing objectives.

While many in HR have embraced these traditional marketing skills, the most effective companies are moving beyond HR simply applying marketing techniques to a whole new opportunity. These effective companies are actually activating employees as a new marketing channel to achieve both HR and marketing objectives.

Proceed With Caution

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving the potential of employees as a new marketing channel is the perception of marketing as advertising.

Asking (or forcing) your employees to share product content on their social media channels is just as dangerous as asking them to share (or guilting them into sharing) what a great place your company is to work.

Consumers are increasingly ignoring and blocking advertising messages, with some research even suggesting that promotional messages from brands can have the opposite of their intended effect. These misguided efforts can actually cause sales to decline!

While some employees may authentically share their excitement and passion for the products they work on, the projects they are engaged in, and the company they work for, (and we should celebrate that,) this is not a sustainable strategy for getting new customer or talent.

Content Marketing and HR

Content marketing has emerged as one of the hottest trends in marketing. Marketers are learning to think and act like publishers to create entertaining, interesting, or helpful content that consumers actually want to read and share (vs. promotional ads). And this approach allows a brand to reach, engage, convert and retain new customers.

The opportunity to activate employees to achieve marketing and HR objectives starts by creating content they naturally want to share.

As the first VP of Content Marketing at SAP, I learned to tap into the power of my fellow employees to create a marketing program that delivered massive ROI. The biggest lesson I learned: HR is the new Marketing!

With a limited budget for content, I asked our internal experts to write articles on whatever they wanted. We had one editorial rule: no product promotion. Our internal experts could explore their professional or personal passions and interests, even if it meant writing about cat videos. Because somewhere out in the world, I believed there was a potential customer, employee, partner or investor who might also loved cat videos. (No one ever wrote about cat videos. Bummer!)

I even created a slideshare deck to explain the value for these employees/budding content marketers:

  • Grow your personal brand
  • Increase or establish your authority on the topics you are interested in
  • Gain new social media followers
  • Maybe even find that new job or get promoted

We also encouraged this behavior by publicly recognizing our top articles and authors each week in a round-up post. We made rock stars of the best performers as their social connections and influence increased. And this drove more employees to sign up.

Today, that site has hundreds of employee contributors. All are growing their personal brand, while expressing their passions and expertise to the world. And many of the employees who don’t write articles voluntarily share the content with their social connections.

As LinkedIn’s own Jason Miller mentioned in his article, the trick is to define what’s in it for them.

Why does this work?

Because you can create massive momentum when we combine the needs of our customers, our employees, and our company based on THEIR own distinct interests:

  • Companies want more loyal customers and talented employees.
  • Employees want purpose and meaningful work that has real impact on their career and the world.
  • Customers want to form relationships with brands on their terms and based on their self-interest

What you can do activate HR as the new Marketing:

1. Create a Customer-Centric Vision

Look around your organization, and you will see people above you, below you and beside you. The traditional org chart still exists to focus on your position in the hierarchy. But where’s the customer? Where is the customer in your org chart? 

Even if your company mission isn’t customer-centric (“we are the leading provider of widgets”), your marketing vision must be. And there is one simple formula to get there:

Become a sought-after destination for which topic,

In order to deliver what customer value or impact.

2. Create Content Employees Want To Share

According to LinkedIn, the combined connections of employees on the LinkedIn platform is 10X larger than any company’s followers. And just 3 percent of company employees sharing branded content generate 30 percent of the views and clicks on that content.

Platforms such as LinkedIn Elevate, social selling programs, and other tools can dramatically increase the reach of your content, grow your company’s social presence, and improve the effectiveness of marketing programs — without spending a single dollar on paid media.

But you have to create content your employees want to share. You might even ask them to help you. The trick is to explain what’s in it for them: creating or sharing content can help them build more connections, establish relationships with other leaders in your industry and grow their personal brand so they can achieve happiness in their careers.

3. Measure The Results

Measure the impact of your employee content sharing for your company. Demonstrate how it has benefited the employees (increased connections, awards and recognition). Discuss ways to profile your best customers as well.

And partner with your colleagues across HR, marketing, and sales to determine the best ways to continuously optimize what is working for everyone.

If you’re in marketing, it’s time to start thinking about your colleagues in HR as your new best friend. And if you’re in HR, it’s time to think about how marketing can help you acquire and retain the best talent — while making the leadership team happy as well.

This article originally appeared on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog.