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The Evolution of Content Marketing: How It’s Changed and Where It’s Going in the Next Decade

A sound content marketing strategy is one of the better ways a business can help shape its brand identity, garner interest from prospects, and retain an engaged audience. It lets you establish authority in your space, project legitimacy, and build trust between you and who you’re trying to reach.

As you can assume, it’s well worth understanding. But that’s easier said than done. Content marketing isn’t static. The landscape of the practice is constantly changing. It doesn’t look the same now as it did ten years ago, and in ten years it won’t look the same as it does now.

It’s a difficult topic to pin down — one with a fascinating past and an exciting future. Out of both genuine interest and forward-thinking practicality, it’s important to understand both where it’s been and where it’s going.

Here, we’ll get some perspective on both. We’re going to take a look at how content marketing has evolved in the past decade, and how it’s going to evolve in the next one according to expert predictions.

How Content Marketing Evolved in the Past Decade

Google changed the game.

In 2011, Google conducted its landmark Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) study. It found that 88% of shoppers use what’s known as a Zero Moment of Truth — a discovery and awareness stage in a buying cycle where a consumer researches a product before buying it. Google’s research also indicated that word of mouth was a definitive factor in swaying that moment.

The study provides a unique point of reference in the context of content marketing’s evolution. It captures the essence of how and why businesses needed to focus on content marketing at the beginning of the 2010s.

It was tacit evidence that companies’ stories were being told online — well beyond the control of their marketing departments — and it was in their best interest to help shape those conversations.

The ZMOT study highlighted the need for sound Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Ranking for relevant keywords on search engines became all but essential to bolstering a company’s online presence and holding up during consumers’ Zero Moments of Truth.

But that study wasn’t the only bombshell Google dropped in the early 2010s. Around the time the study came out, Google’s search ranking algorithm changed to discourage “keyword stuffing” — the practice of repetitively loading a webpage with specific keywords to try to sway search engine rankings.

The change represented what is still a continuous effort by Google to provide users with positive, helpful online experiences. And it did just that. The shift that set the stage for businesses to focus on producing more high-quality, meaningful content.

Social media rose.

But content marketing’s evolution wasn’t exclusively linked to search engines. Social media’s meteoric rise to prominence — one of the most disruptive trends in human history — also had a profound impact on the practice. As these platforms developed into mainstays of everyday life, they presented new challenges for content marketers.

As social media evolved, it popularized a different kind of content consumption than search engines. The difference boiled down to a matter of “pointed versus passive.”

Consumers use search engines to find content more pointedly. Generally speaking, when you use a search engine, you’re looking for a specific answer or a specific subject. Social media allowed users to consume content more passively on their preferred platforms. The content you see on your Facebook feed is finding its way to you — not the other way around.

That trend incentivized the creation of more shareable, attention-grabbing content that could easily be spread across social media channels.

In fact, as of 2021, social media is now the primary channel used by marketers, with over 80% of marketers using social media — by comparison, only roughly 40% use content marketing and SEO. 

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Video made a push.

Video also emerged as one of the prevailing content marketing mediums as the decade progressed, particularly among younger consumers.

As of 2021, roughly 70% of marketers say video is now their primary form of media used in their content strategies. 

Additionally, nearly nine out of ten people report wanting to see more videos from brands. 

Video is inherently engaging. Generally speaking, it’s easier to follow than blog posts, email newsletters, or ebooks. Gradually, audiences took to it more and more as the decade progressed. By the end of the 2010s, platforms like YouTube were central to the landscape of content marketing.

Obviously, content marketing underwent several shifts in the 2010s, but as I said at the beginning of this article, the practice isn’t — and will never be — static. There are still plenty of changes to come.

How Content Marketing Will Evolve in the Next Decade

Video content will continue to rule.

As I just mentioned, video was emerging as one of the most — if not the most — important mediums for content marketing at the end of this past decade. There’s no indication that that trend is stopping anytime soon.

In 2020, media uploads increased 80% year-over-year, demonstrating how the pandemic accelerated the popularity of video creation and consumption. 

And, as Canva’s B2B Head of Content Rachael Perry points out,
“Video content is positioned for massive growth now, especially as video-first social platforms like TikTok continue to rule.”

Perry says, “Almost everyone creates and absorbs visual content in today’s world, and video is a great way to bring your brand to life and build more personal connections with your audience.”

Perry adds, “Until now, video creation has been complex, but there are new tools making it easier. If you can understand what your audience truly needs, video can help you provide that value in a memorable way.”

All told, it looks like the exploration and expansion of video as the preeminent medium for content marketing is going to continue. The priority for marketers is going to be a matter of standing out.

That could mean emphasizing the quality of the content you produce — ensuring it’s enriching, well-crafted, and relevant to viewers. You could also try looking to emerging platforms like TikTok.

CEO & Co-Founder of Slidebean, Jose (Caya) Cayasso, told me he encourages brands to step outside the more traditional avenues of content marketing — blogging, email marketing, and SEO — to create “wider moats” around their content efforts. 

He says, “[At Slidebean] we decided to bet on YouTube, and it’s become our most significant source of revenue and brand awareness. Alternatively, companies like Morning Brew and Duolingo are killing it on TikTok — but requires us to reinvent ourselves constantly, and to break the status quo of typical corporate content.”

Cayasso adds, “You have to be incredibly clever and adaptable to succeed in video content — even more so if you’re a brand, versus an individual.”

No matter how individual producers and companies manage to innovate when it comes to video marketing, the medium is going to be a mainstay in the evolution of content marketing going forward.

Adjusting for mobile will be essential and present new opportunities.

According to Statista, global mobile data traffic in 2022 will be seven times larger than it was in 2017. Mobile device usage is increasing astronomically, and it’s in every content marketer’s best interest to keep pace with that trend.

In 2021, 61% of Google searches took place on a mobile device, and that trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Having a website optimized for mobile devices will be central to successful SEO efforts. And a lot of the content you create will need to fit that bill as well.

Blogs should be easily navigable on smartphones. Readily accessible video content that your audience can watch on mobile devices will be a big help as well. Prospects and customers will need to be able to get as much out of your mobile resources as your desktop ones.

This shift towards mobile will also present new opportunities through emerging kinds of media. More novel mobile technology — like virtual and augmented reality — will have a very real place in the future of content marketing.

As people continue to rely more on their mobile devices, content marketers will have to as well.

Successful content will be more empathetic, purposeful, and customer-first.

Google’s ranking algorithm aims to prioritize the content that will mean the most to searchers. Ideally, by Google’s standards, the first ranking search result for any keyword is the one that best addresses whatever users are searching for. And in all likelihood, they’ll keep tinkering with their process in pursuit of that interest.

While there’s no telling exactly how the algorithm might change going forward, one fact remains — marketers need to focus on high-quality content that will register with consumers. That means understanding your audience and putting considerable effort into how to reach them best.

As HubSpot Senior Content Strategist Amanda Zantal-Wiener puts it, “Where I’m starting to see content turning a corner is in the area of empathy. In the years to come, marketers are going to start creating more content that’s truly created in the mindset of putting themselves in the shoes of others — be it their customers, prospects, partners, or someone else within their audiences.”

She adds, “They’ll ask questions like, ‘What does my audience need from me right now? What can I create that’s truly going to help them?’ That’s going to become a requirement for marketers when they begin brainstorming content.”

Content marketing is trending towards audience enrichment as opposed to product promotion. If this shifting tide holds true, content marketing will continue to become more targeted, purposeful, and customer-centric as the practice evolves.

As Katelyn Seese, Content Strategist at Blue Frog, puts it, “Content marketing has the power to make real connections with your audience and educate them of the value of your brand beyond your services, products, or offerings. Consumers care much more today about the who and why of your brand rather than just what you do. Understanding who your audience is and why they need your brand is the key to creating meaningful content that truly resonates with your audience.”

Of course, content creation isn’t easy. Fortunately, Kim Giroux, Director of Marketing at Beautiful.ai, believes the future includes an increase in tools that should help your writers with content creation and design. 

Giroux told me, “Over the next decade, content creation will be automated with tools backed by artificial intelligence and natural language processing. Widespread adoption of such tools will give marketers the ability to create quality content in a fraction of the time. At the same time, integrations will simplify tech stacks and end-user experiences. Professionals will no longer need to understand complex tools, while workflows and team collaboration will be seamless.”

She adds, “With automation in content creation tools as the norm, designing or branding content such as presentations, infographics, blog posts and white-papers will be effortless.”

“The days of spending hours formatting and incorporating brand elements and design principles into every piece of content will be long gone. Smart technology will instantly create branded, visually appealing collateral, freeing up marketers’ brainpower to focus solely on the messaging and strategy behind a brand.”

Historical optimization will become increasingly important.

Basha Coleman, a Historical Optimization Marketing Manager at HubSpot, believes the future of content marketing will include an increased awareness and dedication to historical optimization.

She says, “As we enter an era where competitive content is appearing each minute, content teams will find it worthwhile to extract more value out of every minute spent on content development.”

Coleman adds, “That means existing material that is updated with new data and trends can compete with brand new content on the same topic, while spending less time and resources to produce it.”

If you don’t already, consider investing in a strong optimization strategy for 2022 and beyond. This will help you create consistently relevant and high-ranking content without constantly starting from scratch, and is a critical SEO tactic for maintaining authority in the SERPs. 

Marketers will use more interactive content on their websites.

Nowadays, consumers are interested in easily-digestible, interactive content. In fact, 45% of B2B buyers say interactive content is one of their top three preferred content types, and interactive content gets 2X more engagement than static content.

To serve your audience’s needs, consider how you might implement more interactive content, which breaks up long paragraphs of text and provides the viewer with an alternative method for consuming content. 

As VP of Marketing at Trusted Health Jill Callan puts it, “With average attention spans dwindling down to less than that of a goldfish, brands can no longer afford to have one-way conversations with their audience.”

Callan says, “Interactive content on your website or blog can help engage visitors and make complex information easy to digest.”

Callan adds, “At my company, Trusted Health, we’ve used this approach to engage our nursing audience with things like our Salary Calculator, which helps nurses get detailed salary and cost of living information for every state. The best part? Creating contextual user experiences needn’t suck up precious product or engineering resources.”

If you aren’t sure how to begin, you’re in luck. Callan shared with me three tips to kick-start your interactive content journey:

Embed an ROI calculator on your website to show potential customers how you will save them money. An interactive tool immediately shows your product’s value versus relying on text-heavy copy to explain it.
Crowd-source product innovation. Tap into your brand advocates and loyal customers to learn more about their pain points and product wishlist. Use those insights to inform a product roadmap.
Create a quiz. Not only are quizzes a great way to engage visitors, they also give you a better understanding of your audience so you can create more targeted campaigns in the future.

Zero-party data will become the preferred option for collecting prospect and customer data.

The way we use cookies and other ad-tracking tools in the next decade will change dramatically. 

Marketers will need to continue prioritizing the security of their prospects and customers’ data, or risk losing their consumers’ trust. 

To do this, many marketers will switch from using first, second, or third-party data to using zero-party data, which is data collected voluntarily from customers in exchange for value. Zero-party data goes beyond email address or phone number, and instead can include personal context, interests, and preferences — in return, prospects and customers can expect a more personalized consumer experience. 

As Senior Director of Marketing at Microsoft Advertising John Cosley told me, “Zero-party data is the foundation for a relationship built on trust and a value exchange. For consumers, it holds the promise of a personalized and more relevant experience with brands. In return, brands and businesses receive better insight and a longer-term relationship.”

Using zero-party data enables you to create trust between your brand and its consumers, while also ensuring you’re delivering the most personalized content possible for your customers. As other types of data collection are phased out — including third-party cookies — you’ll see marketers shift to zero-party data in the next decade.

If there’s anything to take away from understanding the previous and upcoming evolutions of content marketing it’s this — don’t get too comfortable. New trends and challenges are always emerging, and it will always be in your best interest to stay abreast of them.

And above all else, focus on consistently creating high-quality content that your audience will always be able to get something out of.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to Use Facebook Live: The Ultimate Guide

Since its debut in 2016, live streaming video has exploded in popularity. In fact, 82% of people would prefer a live video over reading a social post. It offers the opportunity to forge a more authentic and valuable connection with audiences.

It’s no secret that livestreaming has taken off in a major way. In fact, the total number of hours watched on major streaming platforms grew 99% from 2019 to 2020. Facebook users have eagerly been taking advantage of the popularity of live streaming. Now, one in every five videos on Facebook is live.

In this post, we’ll walk through:

How to broadcast on Facebook Live via your mobile device
How to go live on Facebook from a desktop
How to analyze your live video’s performance
Tips and tricks for getting the most out of the platform

Facebook Live is a feature of Facebook that lets users livestream directly to the social network platform. Viewers can react, share, and comment during the stream. A recording of the video is also published to the page or profile so it can be watched again later.

Why are marketers getting so excited about Facebook Live? Because it’s a fun and fairly simple way for them to use the power of video to communicate their brand stories and build authentic relationships with fans and followers — in real-time.

However, for such a simple concept, Facebook Live has a lot of little nuances that marketers will need to learn if they want to get the most out of the platform. This guide will help you learn the best tricks that can make a big difference in how many people see your live broadcast, how they engage with it, and how it performs.

Facebook Live started as a mobile-only broadcasting feature, but now, Facebook Pages can broadcast from either mobile devices or desktop computers. We’ll go over how to broadcast from mobile and desktop devices in the sections below.

How to Use Facebook Live

Facebook Live videos are public, so viewers can watch on any device where they have access to Facebook but don’t need an account. Users can go live on Facebook from a profile, a Page, a group, or an event. Starting a livestream from the app versus a web browser will be a little different, check out the instructions for each below.

How to Go Live on Facebook From the Facebook App

Step 1: Go to the profile, Page, group, or event where you want to go live.

Step 2: Click What’s on your mind? if you’re on a profile and Create a post if you’re on a page. This should open the post options.

Step 3: Click Live video in the post options.

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Step 4: Tap where it says Tap to add a description to add information about the video.

Step 5: Use the buttons on the bottom to configure the settings and any features or tools you want to use during the stream.

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Step 6: Tap Start Live Video when you are ready.

How to Go Live on Facebook From a Web Browser

Step 1: On your Facebook homepage, you should see a Live or Live Video option. If you are on a profile, it will be under What’s on your mind? If you are on anything else, it will be under Create Post. The icon will look like one of these below.

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Step 2: Choose to simply Go live or to Create live video event.

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Step 3: Then, choose details for your video. These include a start time, a title and description, who to invite as a co-host, and various audio and video controls.

Step 4: Click Go Live in the bottom left corner when you are ready.

Facebook Live Tools

Facebook offers a lot of features for you to further connect with your audience during your broadcast. Utilizing these tools will help boost engagement and create the best possible experience for your viewers. You can mix and match them to serve your stream in the best way for your business.

Live Polls: You can create a live poll beforehand to share when you go live. Then, you can see your audience’s responses in real-time during the stream.
Featured Links: Adding one or multiple featured links to the stream to promote your website or other sources.
Live in Stories: These allow you to share your streams directly to Facebook Stories to reach more of your audience.
Live Comment Moderation: Manage the conversation that happens in the comments of your livestream. You can limit who is allowed to comment and how frequently with this feature. And, you can even choose a specific viewer to also moderate comments on your behalf.
Front Row: This feature allows you to highlight your top fans in a special section of your stream. You can give them a special shoutout to show appreciation for them while you’re live.
Badges: These are a measure of how much your fans are engaging with your content. Fans can earn badges by interacting with your content, whether it’s sending “Stars” or tuning in to your Facebook Live videos.
Donations: Qualified pages in certain locations can add a “Donate” button to their live video. Nonprofits using Facebook’s payment platform don’t have to pay a fee, so they get 100% of the donations.
Live With: This is a co-broadcasting feature that allows you to host your Facebook Live video with multiple guests.
Live Shopping: If you have products for sale on Facebook, this feature allows you to add product listings to feature during your livestream.

For more help with going live on Facebook, check out this video! And don’t forget that a recording of the livestream is also published to the platform where you went live. Having that content is great because you can download and repurpose it for further use.

How to Analyze Your Live Video’s Performance

How to Access Video Analytics on a Facebook Business Page

Step 1: To get started analyzing your Facebook Live broadcasts, head to the Insights tab in the left-hand column of your brand’s Facebook page:

Step 2: Select the Videos section of your analytics.

Step 3: From there, scroll down to the Top Videos section and choose a video from that menu to look into. (Note: We didn’t have any videos posted to the page we used in this example. If you do have videos, you’ll see them appear here.)

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty.

The performance analytics available for Facebook Live videos are similar to those of normal videos on Facebook, with some neat additions.

For Pre-recorded videos: Facebook lets you analyze minutes viewed, unique viewers, video views, 10-second views, average % completion, and a breakdown of reactions, comments, and shares.
For Facebook Live videos: Facebook lets you analyze all the metrics listed above, plus peak live viewers, total views, average watch time, people reached, and the demographics of who watched your video.

In addition to all of these static numbers, you can click into each metric to see how it changed over time when the video was live. For example, if we click into Peak Live Viewers, we’ll see this interactive graph of video viewers over time:

You can even see who your typical viewer was during your broadcast, based on their Facebook profile information:

Now that you’ve got the steps down, let’s get into some tips and tricks.

The last thing you’d want is to start a live video and then be lost. It’s live, so there are no do-overs or chances to start over. So, prepare yourself or your host as much as possible. Outline what the video will entail and follow the rest of the tips below. Also, check out these great examples of Facebook Live videos from various companies.

There are a lot of little things you can do to squeeze the most out of your Facebook Live videos.

1. Brush up on Facebook Live best practices.

Marketers have so much opportunity to reach a wider audience on Facebook Live, so it’s worth committing to learning how to run a Live effectively.

In our detailed Marketer’s Guide to Facebook Live, we cover essential best practices on how to plan, run, and analyze the results of a business-run Facebook Live. Download the ebook to brush up on these best practices.

2. Test out live video using the “Only me” privacy setting.

If you want to play around with live broadcasting without actually sharing it with anyone else, you can change the privacy setting so you’re the only one who can see it — just like with any other Facebook post.

To switch to Only me, look for the privacy settings. Then, you should see the options and be able to select Only me from this list below.

3. Space out live videos with other Facebook posts.

The art of the organic reach on Facebook has changed over time, but you can still take advantage of it. A big way to accomplish this is to maintain a mixture of regular Facebook posts and Facebook Live videos. The live videos are the major pull, as they tend to garner more engagement. So, spacing them out will maximize the organic reach of all of your posts.

4. Keep reintroducing yourself.

When you first start the video, take a minute to introduce yourself and what the video’s about. But keep in mind that when you first start live streaming, you may have zero people watching. Even a few seconds in, you could only have a handful of viewers. As people find your video on their News Feeds, they’ll join in — but that means you’ll want to reintroduce yourself a second, third, and even a fourth time to catch people up.

5. Make the video visually engaging.

You have to be visually engaging — not just at the very beginning of your broadcast (although that’ll be important for when folks view the video later), but throughout the video as more and more people join in.

The more visually engaging you can be, the more you can entice people to stick around. That means keeping the camera moving and not just sitting in one place.

Not only will you get more viewers this way, but you’ll also get your broadcast ranked higher in other people’s News Feeds. Facebook started monitoring signals of video engagement — like turning on the audio, switching to full-screen mode, or enabling high definition — interpreting that as users enjoying the video. As a result, they’ve tweaked the algorithm so videos that people engage with in these ways will appear higher up on the feed.

6. Make it spontaneous.

What makes a live video special? The spontaneous, interactive nature of it. People love the ability to interact, and they love the novelty of viewing someone in a live moment when anything could happen. In many ways, it’s the new reality TV.

These moments are what make live video special, and they’re exactly what differentiates it from scripted, edited, or otherwise pre-recorded videos. Embrace the platform. Banter is always, always good.

7. Don’t worry about mistakes or stutters.

Spontaneity works — even if your Facebook Live doesn’t go according to plan.

Let’s face it, we’re all human. And when humans and technology mix, there can sometimes be technical difficulties.

If you’re recording a live video, things might go wrong — your equipment could malfunction, you could lose your train of thought, or you could get photobombed by a random passerby. You can’t call “cut” if things happen — you have to roll with them and keep filming and talking.

The good news? These things help keep your broadcast human and real. If you wobble your phone while filming, laugh and call it out. If you forget what you were saying, make a joke. The key is to keep the broadcast like a fun conversation, so if mistakes happen, keep it light and keep the lines of communication open with your viewers.

For example, if you make a mistake during your Facebook Live, ask viewers to write in the comments if they’ve made the same mistake, too.

8. Encourage viewers to Like and share the video.

One of the primary ways Facebook’s algorithm ranks a post is by how many people Like and share it. The more people who Like and share your live broadcast, the more it’ll show up in people’s News Feeds.

But when people are watching a video, they may be more distracted from Liking and sharing it than they would a text or photo post. (That’s something the folks at Facebook noticed about video content early on, which is why they began monitoring other video engagement signals as well, like turning on the volume.)

9. Engage with commenters, and mention them by name.

The number of comments on your broadcast is another way to get Facebook to give it a higher relevancy score, making it more likely to show up on people’s News Feeds. So encourage your viewers to comment, and engage with people who are commenting by answering their questions and calling them out by name. Not only will it get more people to comment, but it’s also a fun way to include your viewers in the live experience, which could make them stick around longer.

Plus, your audience will be thrilled to hear you mention their name and answer their questions when you are live.

10. Have someone else watching and responding to comments from a desktop computer.

When you’re the one holding the camera for a Facebook Live video, it’s really hard to see the comments popping up on the mobile screen. If the comments are coming in fast, it’s especially easy to lose sight of them as they disappear below the fold. Plus, you’re probably occupied by recording and entertaining viewers.

Because of this, it’s always a good idea to have an additional person logged into the primary account to monitor the comments on a desktop computer. That way, they can take care of responding so the person recording the video can concentrate on creating a great experience.

11. Subtitle your broadcast in the comments section.

Your viewers may be tuning in and out to watch your video during the work day, or they might simply be watching your video without sound. Either way, periodically subtitling the video in the comments section is a great way to keep people engaged. This also allows people who are tuning in late to catch up on what’s going on.

12. Ask viewers to subscribe to Facebook Live notifications.

In addition to asking for Likes, shares, and comments, ask viewers to subscribe to live notifications. To do that, all viewers have to do is click the small, downward-facing arrow in the top right-hand corner of the live video post, and choose “Turn On Notifications.”

You can also ask them to Like your brand on Facebook, which will make it more likely that they’ll be notified of your next live broadcast.

13. Broadcast for at least 10 minutes.

As soon as you begin recording your live video, you’ll start slowly but surely showing up in people’s News Feeds. The longer you broadcast — especially as Likes, comments, and shares start coming in — the more likely people are to discover your video and share it with their friends.

Because timing is such an important factor for engagement in these live videos, we recommend that you go live for at least 10 minutes, although you can stay live for up to 90 minutes for a given video.

14. Say goodbye before ending your video.

Before you end your live broadcast, be sure to finish with a closing line, like “Thanks for watching” or “I’ll be going live again soon.”

15. Add a link to the description later.

Once you’ve finished the live broadcast, you can always go back and edit the description, change the privacy settings, or delete the video, just like you would any other post.

You can add a trackable link to the description in the post, which can direct future viewers to your live video series page, the site of whatever campaign you’re using the video to promote, or somewhere else.

We hope this has been a helpful guide. We’ll keep you posted with any new developments and tips for connecting with your audience in more cool ways.

Use Facebook Live to Its Full Potential

Social media may have been invented for fun, but it’s grown into an essential business tool. Facebook as a social network is especially valuable for the ways it lets you connect to an audience, and Facebook Live is a great extension of that. Use it to the benefit of your business as a way to promote your product, build brand awareness, or grow your audience.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Fixed Cost: What It Is & How to Calculate It

“Business is personal — it’s the most personal thing in the world.”

These are famous words by Michael Scott from the TV show, The Office. And although this quote conflicts with the universal belief that business isn’t personal, Michael’s point of view is perfect when learning about a business’s fixed costs — or those costs that don’t change as a company grows or shrinks.

To identify and calculate your business’s fixed costs, let’s start by looking at the ones you’re already paying in your personal life. Then, we’ll explain how a business manages its own fixed costs and review some common fixed cost examples.

Fixed costs are distinguished from variable costs, which do change as the company sells more or less of its product.

To better understand how fixed and variable costs differ, let’s use personal finances as an example. As a single adult, your expenses would normally include a monthly rent or mortgage, utility bill, car payment, healthcare, commuting costs, and groceries. If you have children, this can increase variable costs like groceries, gas expenses, and healthcare.

While your variable costs increase after starting a family, your mortgage payment, utility bill, commuting costs, and car payment don’t change for as long as you’re in the same home and car. These expenses are your fixed costs because you pay the same amount no matter what changes you make to your personal routine.

In keeping with this concept, let’s say a startup ecommerce business pays for warehouse space to manage its inventory, and 10 customer service employees to manage order inquiries. It suddenly signs a customer for a recurring order that requires another five paid customer service reps. While the startup’s payroll expenses go up, the fixed cost of a warehouse stays the same.

To get the full picture of what costs are associated with running your business, it’s important to understand the total fixed cost and average fixed cost.

Total Fixed Cost

The total fixed cost is the sum of all fixed costs that are necessary for running your business during a given period of time (such as monthly or annually).

Average Fixed Cost

Keep in mind you have to keep track of your business’s fixed costs differently than you would your own. This is where the average fixed cost comes into play.

Average fixed costs are the total fixed costs paid by a company, divided by the number of units of product the company is currently making. This tells you your fixed cost per unit, giving you a sense of how much the business is guaranteed to pay each time it produces a unit of your product — before factoring in the variable costs to actually produce it.

Let’s revisit the ecommerce startup example from earlier. Assume this business pays $5,000 per month for the warehouse space needed to manage its inventory and leases two forklifts for $800 a month each. And last month, they developed 50 units of product.

The warehouse and forklift costs remain unchanged regardless of how many products they sell, giving them a total fixed cost (TFC) of $5,000 + ($800 x 2), or $6,600. By dividing its TFC by 50 — the number of units the business produced last month — the company can see its average fixed cost per unit of product. This would be $6,600 ÷ 50, or $132 per unit.

How to Calculate Fixed Cost

To calculate fixed cost, follow these steps:

Identify your building rent, website cost, and similar monthly bills.
Consider future repeat expenses you’ll incur from equipment depreciation.
Isolate all of these fixed costs to the business.
Add up each of these costs for a total fixed cost (TFC).
Identify the number of product units created in one month.
Divide your TFC by the number of units created per month for an average fixed cost (AFC).

Fixed Cost Examples

So far, we’ve identified a handful of fixed cost examples since considering the costs we already pay as individuals. A home mortgage is to a lease on warehouse space, as a car payment is to a lease on a forklift.

But there are a number of fixed costs your business might incur that you rarely pay in your personal life. In fact, some variable costs to individuals are fixed costs to businesses. Here’s a master list of fixed costs for any developing company to keep in mind:

Lease on office space: If you rent office space to serve as headquarters or employee workspace, these costs tend to be relatively stable.
Utility bills: The cost of utility bills in company offices may fluctuate as seasons change, but it is generally not affected by business operations.
Website hosting costs: When you register your website domain, you pay a small monthly cost that remains static despite the business you perform on that website.
Ecommerce hosting platforms: Ecommerce platforms integrate with your website so you can conduct transactions with customers. They typically charge a low fixed cost per month.
Lease on warehouse space: Warehouses are paid for the same way you’d pay rent on your office space. The cost is relatively stable but you may run into storage and capacity limits that can impact cost.
Manufacturing equipment: The equipment you need to produce your product is yours once you buy it, but it will depreciate over its useful lifetime. Depreciation can become a fixed cost if you know when you’ll have to replace your equipment each year.
Lease on trucks for shipment: If your company sells physical products, transportation may be a regular cost. Truck leases work the same way as a car payment, and will not charge differently depending on how many shipments you make.
Small business loans: If you’re financing a new business with a bank loan, your loan payments won’t change with your business’s performance. They are fixed for as long as you have a balance to pay on that loan.
Property tax: Your office space’s building manager might charge you property tax, a fixed cost for as long as your business is on the property.
Health insurance: Health insurance costs might be a variable cost to an individual if they add or remove dependents from their policy, but to a business, the recurring costs to an insurer are fixed.

Calculating your fixed costs isn’t always the most fun part of growing your business. But knowing what they are, and when you’ll pay each one, gives you the peace of mind you need to serve and delight your customers.

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Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): 8 Ways To Get Started

Today, most marketing teams are focused on driving traffic toward websites in hopes that this traffic then converts into qualified leads for sales reps to close. But that’s only half the battle.

Getting more out of existing traffic and leads (versus entirely new traffic) can propel companies toward long-term, sustainable growth. That’s where conversion rate optimization (CRO) comes in. In this guide, you’ll learn about the power of CRO, why your business should focus on improving your conversion rate, and how to get started.

What is a conversion rate?

A conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who complete a desired action, like completing a web form, signing up for a service, or purchasing a product.

A high conversion rate means your website is well-designed, formatted effectively, and appealing to your target audience. A low conversion rate could be the result of a variety of factors related to either website performance or design. Slow load times, a broken form, or copy that doesn’t convey the value of the offer are common reasons for a poor conversion rate.

What is a good conversion rate?

A “good” conversion rate depends on your industry, niche, goals, traffic channel, and audience demographics, among other factors. For example, the average conversion rate of ecommerce sites globally was 2.17% in the third quarter of 2020, which was down from 2.37% the previous year. The ecommerce conversion rate in the US was higher, however, at 2.57%.

The average not only differs by year and by country — it also differs by niche. For example, the average conversion rate of ecommerce sites in the food and beverage sector is 5.5% whereas the average in the hair care sector is 3.5%.

If your conversion rate is lower than you’d like — maybe it’s below average in your industry, or lower than your top competitors, or simply underperforming against your own goals — then it’s time to optimize.

Conversions can happen all over your website: on your homepage, pricing page, blog, landing pages, and more. To maximize the potential of converting website visitors into paying customers, you should optimize each location.

Before we take a look at the benefits of CRO, let’s walk through how to calculate your site’s conversion rate. That way, you’ll have a better understanding of how much time and resources to invest in a CRO strategy.

How to Calculate Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the number of visitors and multiplying that number by 100 to get a percentage.

As long as you know how you’re defining a conversion, then calculating your conversion rate is easy. You just plug in two values and multiply by 100.

Let’s say you’re defining a conversion as a newsletter opt-in, and you have an opt-in form on every single page of your website. In that case, you’d divide the total number of newsletter form submissions by the total number of website visitors and multiply it by 100. So if you had 500 submissions and 20,000 visitors last quarter, then your conversion rate would be 2.5%.

You can repeat this process for every conversion opportunity on your site. Just make sure to only count the number of visitors on the webpages where the offer is listed. For example, if you want to calculate the conversion rate of your ebook offer, then you’d divide the total number of downloads by the number of people who visited webpages where the ebook offer is listed.

Alternatively, you can calculate your website’s overall conversion rate by dividing the total number of conversions for every conversion opportunity on your site by the total number of visitors on your site.

Where to Implement a CRO Strategy

Here are four areas of your website that have the potential to largely benefit from conversion rate optimization.

1. Homepage

Homepages are prime candidates for CRO. In addition to making a first impression on visitors, the homepage is also an opportunity to retain those visitors and guide them further into your website.

You can do this by emphasizing links to product information, offering a free signup button, or even incorporating a chatbot that solicits questions from visitors at any point during their browsing experience.

2. Pricing Page

A website’s pricing page can be the make-or-break point for many website visitors. CRO can help a pricing page convert visitors into customers by modifying the pricing intervals (e.g. price-per-year vs. price-per-month), describing the product features associated with each price, including a phone number for visitors to call for a price quote, or adding a simple pop-up form.

Hotjar, for example, added a simple email opt-in popup form on its pricing page and got over 400 new leads in just three weeks.

3. Blog

A blog is a massive conversion opportunity for a website. In addition to publishing thoughtful and helpful content about your industry, a blog can use CRO to convert readers into leads.

This process often includes adding calls-to-action (CTA) throughout an article or inviting readers to learn more about a topic by submitting their email address in exchange for an ebook or industry report.

4. Landing Pages

Since landing pages are inherently designed for people to take an action, it makes sense that they have the highest average conversion rate of all signup forms at 24%. An event landing page, for example, can be optimized with a video of last year’s event to encourage visitors to register this year. A landing page that’s offering a free resource can be optimized with preview content from that resource to encourage visitors to download it.

Now that you know where you can optimize for conversions, you may be wondering how you know when your business is ready to start the process.

CRO Formulas

The short answer: CRO is important for any business online. That’s because, no matter how established or large your company is, you want to convert your website visitors into qualified leads, customers, and brand advocates — and you want to do so in the most effective, impactful, and reliable way.

With conversion rate optimization, you’ll get more out of your existing website traffic while ensuring you’re targeting qualified leads.

Although this is a straightforward concept, setting a conversion goal isn’t as easy as saying, “This page converted 50 people this month, so we want to convert 100 people next month.”

Featured resource: 8-Week Conversion Rate Optimization Planner

Download this planner

You don’t just want 50 more conversions from a webpage. Instead, you want 50 more conversions for every X amount of people who visit it. (This is your conversion rate — the percentage of people who convert on your website based on how many people have touched it).

To provide a better understanding of where you stand at any point in time in regards to conversion rate, here are three commonly-used formulas your business can use to understand, analyze, and improve.

CRO Calculation 1: Conversion Rate

As we mentioned earlier, to calculate conversion rate, you must divide your number of conversions (or leads generated) by your number of visitors (or web traffic), and then multiply that number by 100 to get the percentage.

Leads Generated ÷ Website Traffic x 100 = Conversion Rate %

CRO Calculation 2: Number of Net New Customers

To calculate your number of net new customers, you’ll want to divide your net revenue goal by your average sales price.

New Revenue Goal ÷ Average Sales Price = Number of New Customers

CRO Calculation 3: Lead Goal

And lastly, to calculate your lead goal, take your number of new customers and divide it by your lead-to-customer close rate (which is your total number of leads divided by total number of customers) percentage.

Number of New Customers ÷ Lead-to-Customer Close Rate % = Lead Goal

Here’s an example of these formulas in action:

If your website has 10,000 visitors per month that generate 100 leads — and subsequently, 10 customers each month — the website visitor-to-lead conversion rate would be 1%.

What if you wanted to generate 20 customers each month?

You could try to get 20,000 visitors to your website and hope that the quality of your traffic doesn’t decrease — although, that’s a risk you’ll likely want to avoid. Rather, you could obtain more leads from your existing traffic by optimizing your conversion rate. This is less risky and is more likely to produce better results for your bottom line.

For instance, if you increase your conversion rate from 1% to 2%, you’d double your leads and your customers. The following table is proof of this — you can see the positive impact that results from increasing your website’s conversion rate:

COMPANY

A

B

C

Monthly Site Traffic

10,000

10,000

10,000

Conversion Rate

1%

2%

3%

Leads Generated

100

200

300

New Customers

10

20

30

Notice the drastic increases in the number of leads generated and net new customers when you boost your conversion rate.

Not only that, but it’s clear that generating more website traffic isn’t necessarily the right approach when trying to improve your conversion rate — in fact, this chart shows you that you can grow your business substantially without increasing traffic at all.

Hard to believe? Think about this way: Pretend you were trying to fill up a leaky bucket. If you pour more water into the bucket, you won’t fix the root cause of the issue — instead, you’ll end up with a lot of water that’s wasted (not to mention, a bucket that will never fill up all the way).

Are you ready to take the first steps toward CRO at your company? Review the strategies below and start experimenting.

Conversion Rate Optimization Strategies

Here are some applicable conversion rate optimization marketing strategies to test and implement at your company.

1. Create text-based CTAs within blog posts.

While it’s considered a best practice to include CTAs in a blog post, they sometimes fail to entice visitors to take your desired course of action. Why?

Banner blindness is a real phenomenon related to people becoming accustomed to ignoring banner-like information on websites. This lack of attention coupled with the fact site visitors don’t always read all the way to the bottom of a blog post (rather, they “snack” on content), means a different approach is required.

That’s where the text-based CTA comes in handy. Here at HubSpot, we ran a test with text-based CTAs — a standalone line of text linked to a landing page and styled as an H3 or an H4 — to see if they would convert more traffic into leads than regular CTAs located at the bottom of a web page.

In HubSpot’s limited test of 10 blog posts, regular end-of-post banner CTAs contributed an average of just 6% of leads that the blog posts generated, whereas up to 93% of a post’s leads came from the anchor-text CTA alone.

2. Add lead flows on your blog.

A lead flow is another conversion rate optimization element you can include on your site. Lead flows are high-converting pop-ups designed to attract attention and offer value.

You can select from a slide-in box, drop-down banner, or pop-up box, depending on your offer. We experimented with the slide-in box on the HubSpot Blog back in 2016 and it achieved a 192% higher clickthrough rate and 27% more submissions than a regular CTA at the bottom of a blog post.

3. Run tests on your landing pages.

Landing pages are an important part of the modern marketer’s toolkit and, as mentioned earlier, integral to conversion rate optimization.

That’s because a landing page is where a website visitor becomes a lead or an existing lead engages more deeply with your brand. To optimize a landing page, run A/B tests to identify your best design and content features for audience members.

For instance, with A/B testing you can quickly and easily test different versions of your website copy, content offers, images, form questions, and web pages to determine what your target audience and leads respond to best.

Thanks to A/B testing, China Expat Health was able to increase their lead conversion rate by 79%. One of the most impactful changes was swapping out the headline “Health Insurance in China” for “Save Up to 32% on Your Health Insurance in China,” which immediately conveyed a value proposition to visitors. This proposition was then supported by customer testimonials.

Get everything you need to start effectively A/B Testing your website today.

4. Help leads to immediately become a marketing-qualified lead.

Sometimes visitors want to get right down to business, skip parts of the typical buyer’s journey, and immediately speak with a sales rep (rather than be nurtured).

There are specific actions you should encourage these high-intent visitors to complete so they can easily become marketing qualified leads (MQLs) — and they can take action through a combination of thoughtfully designed web pages, compelling and clear copy, and smart CTAs.

For instance, at HubSpot, we discovered that visitors who sign up for product demos convert at higher rates than visitors who sign up for free product trials. So, we optimized our website and conversion paths for people booking demos or meetings with a sales rep.

Admittedly, this depends on your product and sales process, but our best advice is to run a series of tests to find out what generates the most customers. Then, optimize for that process. The key here is to look for ways to remove friction from your sales process.

5. Build workflows to enable your team.

There are a number of automated workflows you can create to enable your team with the help of marketing automation software.

For example, with marketing automation, it’s possible to send automatic emails with workflows. Then, leads can book meetings with reps in one click. Meanwhile, reps receive notifications when leads take high-intent actions such as view the pricing page on your website.

Or, if you work in ecommerce, you can send an email to people who abandon their shopping cart as a reminder. According to research from Moosend, abandoned cart emails can be very effective. They have a high open rate of 45%. Of the emails that are opened, 21% are clicked. Half of the people who clicked make a purchase.

Here’s an example of an abandoned cart email by the Dollar Shave Club.

Image Source

6. Add messages to high-converting web pages.

Use live chat software to chat with your website visitors in real-time and offer support and guidance as needed. To increase conversions, add these messaging features to your high-performing web pages — such as your pricing and product pages — so leads get the information they want in real-time.

You can also make your messaging and chat bots action-based. For example, if someone has spent more than a minute on the page, you may want to automatically offer to help and answer any questions they may have (again, a live chat tool, like HubSpot, makes this easy).

7. Optimize high-performing blog posts.

Again, publishing blog articles opens the door to a big opportunity for conversions. Even more so if you already have existing blog content on your site — in fact, at HubSpot, the majority of our monthly blog views and leads come from posts published over a month ago.

To get started optimizing your blog content, identify your posts with the highest levels of web traffic but low conversion rates. (Possible causes of this issue may be related to SEO, the content offer you are promoting, or your CTA.)

In one instance, we at HubSpot added an inbound press release template offer to a blog post about press releases — as a result, we saw conversions for that post increase by 240%.

Additionally, look at your blog posts with high conversion rates. You want to drive more qualified website traffic to those posts and you can do so by optimizing the content for the search engine results page (SERP) or updating it as needed to ensure it’s fresh and relevant.

8. Leverage retargeting to re-engage website visitors.

It doesn’t matter what your key conversion metric is: The cold, hard truth is that most people on your website don’t take the action you want them to. By leveraging retargeting on Facebook and other platforms, you can re-engage people who left your website.

Retargeting works by tracking visitors to your website and serving them online ads as they visit other sites around the web. This is particularly impactful when you retarget people who visited your highest-converting web pages.

The normal inbound rules still apply here — you need well-crafted copy, engaging visuals, and a compelling offer for retargeting to work.

Take United’s retargeting campaign for example. Using insights from previous ad campaigns, United focused on reaching people who had viewed their ads and were already considering booking a vacation. To this select audience, they promoted a 15-second video ending in a call-to-action.

If viewers felt inspired enough to book their vacation, all they had to do was click on the CTA to be taken straight to the United website. This proved to be a huge success. In just one month, 52% of conversions attributed to YouTube were click-through conversions directly from the ad.

(If you’re a HubSpot customer, take a look at how the AdRoll integration can improve your conversion efforts.)

Now, let’s talk about how you can get started with CRO at your company.

How to Get Started with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Maybe you’re wondering, “Where do I start with CRO?”

Enter: PIE framework. Before starting a CRO project, prioritize your efforts by ranking each element on Potential, Importance, and Ease.

Use the PIE framework to answer the following questions for every strategy outlined in the previous section. Then, assign a score between one and 10 (one being the lowest and 10 being the highest) to each strategy.

How much total improvement can this project offer?
How valuable will this improvement be?
How complicated or difficult will it be to implement this improvement?

Once you’ve assigned a score for each strategy, add up the numbers and divide the total by three — this gives a score that shows what project will have the greatest impact. Then, work on the projects with the highest scores first.

The PIE framework isn’t perfect, but it’s easy to understand, systematic, and offers a starting point for CRO collaboration and communication among colleagues.

We’ve covered a lot about conversion rate optimization, but not everything. If you still have questions, then check out the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions below.

What is the purpose of a conversion rate optimization?

The purpose of conversion rate optimization (CRO) is to improve the likelihood of visitors taking a desired action on a webpage.

What is a CRO strategy?

A CRO strategy is designed to convert more of your visitors into paying customers. While each CRO strategy will vary company by company, the general steps will not. You have to identify key metrics and your target audience. Then you have to collect user feedback and other data to decide what you’re going to test. Finally, you’ll run A/B tests to improve different pages and parts of your site for conversion.

What are CRO tools?

CRO tools are designed to simplify or automate the process of optimizing your conversion rate. They might help with lead capture, research, analytics, mouse tracking and heat maps, feedback, or running experiments.

What is a CRO test?

A CRO test involves adding, re-arranging, and redesigning elements on your website in order to maximize your conversions. Different CRO tests might focus on optimizing the copy, design, or placement of your CTAs, or the length of your headlines, among other elements.

Begin Using CRO

There are many best practices out there when it comes to CRO but, ultimately, you need to find out what your customers respond to, and what drives results for your business.

Keep these three follow-up actions in mind when getting started with CRO today:

Use the three formulas to start the CRO conversation.
Experiment with CRO strategies to discover what works for your business.
Leverage the PIE framework to help prioritize your strategy.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to Post on Instagram: A Step-by-Step Guide

With over 1 billion active users, Instagram is one of the best social media networks to advertise your business, reach new audiences, and grow brand awareness. So even if you aren’t active on the website yet, it’s never too late to adopt an Instagram strategy in your marketing plan.

If you’re ready to start sharing content through this channel, we’ve got you covered. Here, we’ve cultivated a quick-and-easy guide to posting on Instagram, to ensure you can begin attracting the attention of your audience with Instagram marketing.

Posting to Instagram consistently can help businesses find resonance with their audience and grow better, but doing it right is just as important. Here’s how to post to your Instagram account step-by-step.

Step 1. Tap the + icon at the top of your screen.

See that plus sign [+] in the image above? That’s your starting point. See that post from our culture account? That’s your endpoint. Click that plus sign and you’ll be ready for the next step, below.

Step 2. Choose a photo or video from your library or shoot one in the app.

Instagram will show you the photos already saved to your phone. Choose one of those to post. Alternatively, you can click on the camera icon to take a photo or video within the Instagram app itself, if you don’t already have an image you want to use.

Once you select and crop an image (or carousel of multiple images), click the arrow button in the top right corner of the app.

Step 3. Post multiple images on Instagram.

Do you have multiple photos and want to highlight them all? Instagram allows you to do this with its carousel feature.

As you go to tap a photo or video, first tap the icon just above your photos to the right that looks like stacked squares. Once you tap this, you’ll see a number on the corner of every image or video you tap. This number notes where the content will show up in the carousel.

Step 4. Crop the image.

You aren’t limited to just a square image on Instagram. You can actually share horizontal or vertical images as well. To get more of your image seen, pinch the screen of the photo you’ve selected on the Library screen.

However, while Instagram does allow vertical and horizontal options, the images still need to fit into some specific dimensions. So, you might still need to crop a tiny bit of your photo to get it to fit.

Step 5. Pick a filter.

Instagram offers 24 filters — scroll to the right to peruse your options, and click on one to preview how it will look on your photo.

By default, the filter will be applied by full strength. However, if you want to scale back the intensity of the filter, double click the filter tile once it’s been applied, and a scale selector will appear, allowing you to downplay the effect.

You can also tap the magic wand at the top of the screen to adjust the photo further.

(Take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Instagram Filters to learn more).

Step 6. Edit your photo.

You can also click “Edit” at the bottom right to adjust the image to your specifications.

Here are the editing options that come built into Instagram for you:

Adjust – This helps subtly rotate the image along the center plane, giving it a tilt either to the left or right according to the linear scale at the bottom of the screen.
Brightness – This helps lighten or darken the image. All you have to do is pull the selector to the left to darken or to the right to lighten.
Contrast – This helps to increase or decrease the intensity of the image’s colors. Pull the selector to the left for less contrast (a dulling effect) or to the right for more contrast (a higher intensity effect).
Structure – This helps to add an HD-like effect to the image, bringing out specific details in your photo. Drag the selector to the right to help the image “pop.”
Warmth – This helps you adjust the temperature of the photo. Drag the selector to the left to increase cool tones in the image, or drag the selector to the right to increase the warm tones in the image.
Saturation – This helps you adjust the saturation of the colors in your image. Drag the selector to the left to desaturate the image (all the way to the left if you want a monochrome look), or drag the selector to the right for extremely saturated colors.
Color – This gives you a number of color options to overlay over your image for interesting color effects. Simply select your color choice and see how it changes the image in the preview box.
Fade – This softens the intensity of the blacks in your image to create an “aged” photo effect. Simply drag the selector to the right for a higher degree of fade.
Highlights – This helps you control the intensity of the highlights in your image. Dragging the selector to the left will darken the highlights in your image while dragging the selector to the right will lighten the highlights in your image.
Shadows – This helps you control the intensity of the shadows in your image. Dragging the selector to the left will darken the shadows in your image while dragging the selector to the right will lighten the shadows in your image.
Vignette – This darkens the corners of the image, leaving a circle shape in the center. Drag the selector all the way to the right for the most dramatic vignette.
Tilt Shift – This helps blur the edges of the image in a radial or linear way, drawing focus to the details in the center of the image.
Sharpen – This helps sharpen certain details of the image, bringing a more dramatic look to subtler elements in the photo.

Step 7. Type your caption.

Get creative and write a nice, interesting caption to go with your photo. Since text can help optimize your post in Instagram’s search, writing something can only benefit you.

Step 8. Use hashtags for post optimization.

With Instagram’s search feature, users can search by hashtags. So, you should make sure to write relevant hashtags in your caption. If someone does a search of a hashtag you placed in your caption, they might find your post as well as others that included the same one.

Step 9. Tag friends.

Want your friend or their followers to see a photo that you posted of the two of you? Tag them!

On the new post page, you can click “Tag People” to tag other Instagram accounts in your post. Alternatively, you can include their handle (or their username beginning with an @ symbol) in your caption.

Step 10. Add your location.

If you’re on a fun vacation or at a neat event and you don’t feel like including that information in your caption, you can mark where you are in another way. On the new post page, tap “Add Location” to put a location on your image (which makes it easier for people to find your post).

When you post an image or video with a location, it will show up between your name and the block of content on the feed.

Step 11. Play with emojis.

Emojis are fun and can make your caption more eye-catching. If you know of a few relevant emojis that could fit with your post, stick them in the caption area. For example, if you’re posting a vacation photo, you could include a palm tree 🌴 or a plane ✈️ to show you flew somewhere.

Here are the top Instagram emojis you can use:

❤️
😍
😘
😂
😊
😎
💕
😉
💋
👍

However, keep in mind that there’s a multitude of choices to add flair to your posts, from keeping it real 💯 to the cringe face 😬.

Be sure not to go overboard and post emojis just for the sake of posting them. If you post a bowling emoji along with a photo of a beach, that obviously won’t make sense to people. Similarly, if you post 20 emojis that loosely relate to a post, you might just annoy your followers or come off as desperate.

Step 12. Share the post on other social media platforms.

Finally, if you want to share your content on your other, connected social media sites (like Facebook or Twitter), simply slide the bar from the left to the right.

When you’re ready to post, click “Share” in the top right.

Instagram Saved Drafts

If you’re not ready to post right away, you can also save it to your Instagram Saved Drafts. Simply go back to the filtering and editing step, tap the back arrow in the top left, and select “Save Draft.”

Step 13. Edit the post.

Typos happen to everyone! If you just posted something and notice a glaring spelling error, don’t panic. Simply tap the three dots that appear on the right across from your name, then tap “Edit.”

Make the adjustments you see fit and save them so it reflects on your Instagram. Otherwise, your post is complete and live for everyone to see.

Grow Your Audience on Instagram Today

Now that you know how to post to Instagram, you can begin creating content for the platform and connecting with your audience. If you’re a business or brand, you’ll want a solid strategy for earning engagement and awareness.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to Create a Pivot Table in Excel: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

The pivot table is one of Microsoft Excel’s most powerful — and intimidating — functions. Powerful because it can help you summarize and make sense of large data sets. Intimidating because you’re not exactly an Excel expert, and pivot tables have always had a reputation for being complicated.

The good news: Learning how to create a pivot table in Excel is much easier than you might’ve been led to believe.

But before we walk you through the process of creating one, let’s take a step back and make sure you understand exactly what a pivot table is, and why you might need to use one.

In other words, pivot tables extract meaning from that seemingly endless jumble of numbers on your screen. And more specifically, it lets you group your data in different ways so you can draw helpful conclusions more easily.

The “pivot” part of a pivot table stems from the fact that you can rotate (or pivot) the data in the table to view it from a different perspective. To be clear, you’re not adding to, subtracting from, or otherwise changing your data when you make a pivot. Instead, you’re simply reorganizing the data so you can reveal useful information from it.

What are pivot tables used for?

If you’re still feeling a bit confused about what pivot tables actually do, don’t worry. This is one of those technologies that are much easier to understand once you’ve seen it in action.

The purpose of pivot tables is to offer user-friendly ways to quickly summarize large amounts of data. They can be used to better understand, display, and analyze numerical data in detail — and can help identify and answer unanticipated questions surrounding it.

Here are seven hypothetical scenarios where a pivot table could be a solution:

1. Comparing sales totals of different products.

Say you have a worksheet that contains monthly sales data for three different products — product 1, product 2, and product 3 — and you want to figure out which of the three has been bringing in the most bucks. You could, of course, look through the worksheet and manually add the corresponding sales figure to a running total every time product 1 appears. You could then do the same for product 2, and product 3 until you have totals for all of them. Piece of cake, right?

Now, imagine your monthly sales worksheet has thousands and thousands of rows. Manually sorting through them all could take a lifetime. Using a pivot table, you can automatically aggregate all of the sales figures for product 1, product 2, and product 3 — and calculate their respective sums — in less than a minute.

2. Showing product sales as percentages of total sales.

Pivot tables naturally show the totals of each row or column when you create them. But that’s not the only figure you can automatically produce.

Let’s say you entered quarterly sales numbers for three separate products into an Excel sheet and turned this data into a pivot table. The table would automatically give you three totals at the bottom of each column — having added up each product’s quarterly sales. But what if you wanted to find the percentage these product sales contributed to all company sales, rather than just those products’ sales totals?

With a pivot table, you can configure each column to give you the column’s percentage of all three column totals, instead of just the column total. If three product sales totaled $200,000 in sales, for example, and the first product made $45,000, you can edit a pivot table to instead say this product contributed 22.5% of all company sales.

To show product sales as percentages of total sales in a pivot table, simply right-click the cell carrying a sales total and select Show Values As > % of Grand Total.

3. Combining duplicate data.

In this scenario, you’ve just completed a blog redesign and had to update a bunch of URLs. Unfortunately, your blog reporting software didn’t handle it very well and ended up splitting the “view” metrics for single posts between two different URLs. So in your spreadsheet, you have two separate instances of each individual blog post. To get accurate data, you need to combine the view totals for each of these duplicates.

That’s where the pivot table comes into play. Instead of having to manually search for and combine all the metrics from the duplicates, you can summarize your data (via pivot table) by blog post title, and voilà: the view metrics from those duplicate posts will be aggregated automatically.

4. Getting an employee headcount for separate departments.

Pivot tables are helpful for automatically calculating things that you can’t easily find in a basic Excel table. One of those things is counting rows that all have something in common.

If you have a list of employees in an Excel sheet, for instance, and next to the employees’ names are the respective departments they belong to, you can create a pivot table from this data that shows you each department name and the number of employees that belong to those departments. The pivot table effectively eliminates your task of sorting the Excel sheet by department name and counting each row manually.

5. Adding default values to empty cells.

Not every dataset you enter into Excel will populate every cell. If you’re waiting for new data to come in before entering it into Excel, you might have lots of empty cells that look confusing or need further explanation when showing this data to your manager. That’s where pivot tables come in.

You can easily customize a pivot table to fill empty cells with a default value, such as $0, or TBD (for “to be determined”). For large tables of data, being able to tag these cells quickly is a useful feature when many people are reviewing the same sheet.

To automatically format the empty cells of your pivot table, right-click your table and click PivotTable Options. In the window that appears, check the box labeled Empty Cells As and enter what you’d like displayed when a cell has no other value.

How to Create a Pivot Table

Enter your data into a range of rows and columns.
Sort your data by a specific attribute.
Highlight your cells to create your pivot table.
Drag and drop a field into the “Row Labels” area.
Drag and drop a field into the “Values” area.
Fine-tune your calculations.

Now that you have a better sense of what pivot tables can be used for, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to actually create one.

Step 1. Enter your data into a range of rows and columns.

Every pivot table in Excel starts with a basic Excel table, where all your data is housed. To create this table, simply enter your values into a specific set of rows and columns. Use the topmost row or the topmost column to categorize your values by what they represent.

For example, to create an Excel table of blog post performance data, you might have a column listing each “Top Pages,” a column listing each URL’s “Clicks,” a column listing each post’s “Impressions,” and so on. (We’ll be using that example in the steps that follow.)

Step 2. Sort your data by a specific attribute.

When you have all the data you want entered into your Excel sheet, you’ll want to sort this data in some way so it’s easier to manage once you turn it into a pivot table.

To sort your data, click the Data tab in the top navigation bar and select the Sort icon underneath it. In the window that appears, you can opt to sort your data by any column you want and in any order.

For example, to sort your Excel sheet by “Views to Date,” select this column title under Column and then select whether you want to order your posts from smallest to largest, or from largest to smallest.

Select OK on the bottom-right of the Sort window, and you’ll successfully reorder each row of your Excel sheet by the number of views each blog post has received.

Step 3. Highlight your cells to create your pivot table.

Once you’ve entered data into your Excel worksheet, and sorted it to your liking, highlight the cells you’d like to summarize in a pivot table. Click Insert along the top navigation, and select the PivotTable icon. You can also click anywhere in your worksheet, select “PivotTable,” and manually enter the range of cells you’d like included in the PivotTable.

This will open an option box where, in addition to setting your cell range, you can select whether or not to launch this pivot table in a new worksheet or keep it in the existing worksheet. If you open a new sheet, you can navigate to and away from it at the bottom of your Excel workbook. Once you’ve chosen, click OK.

Alternatively, you can highlight your cells, select Recommended PivotTables to the right of the PivotTable icon, and open a pivot table with pre-set suggestions for how to organize each row and column.

Note: If you’re using an earlier version of Excel, “PivotTables” may be under Tables or Data along the top navigation, rather than “Insert.” In Google Sheets, you can create pivot tables from the Data dropdown along the top navigation.

Step 4. Drag and drop a field into the “Row Labels” area.

After you’ve completed Step 3, Excel will create a blank pivot table for you. Your next step is to drag and drop a field — labeled according to the names of the columns in your spreadsheet — into the Row Labels area. This will determine what unique identifier — blog post title, product name, and so on — the pivot table will organize your data by.

For example, let’s say you want to organize a bunch of blogging data by post title. To do that, you’d simply click and drag the “Top pages” field to the “Row Labels” area.

Note: Your pivot table may look different depending on which version of Excel you’re working with. However, the general principles remain the same.

Step 5. Drag and drop a field into the “Values” area.

Once you’ve established what you’re going to organize your data by, your next step is to add in some values by dragging a field into the Values area.

Sticking with the blogging data example, let’s say you want to summarize blog post views by title. To do this, you’d simply drag the “Views” field into the Values area.

Step 6. Fine-tune your calculations.

The sum of a particular value will be calculated by default, but you can easily change this to something like average, maximum, or minimum depending on what you want to calculate.

On a Mac, you can do this by clicking on the small i next to a value in the “Values” area, selecting the option you want, and clicking “OK.” Once you’ve made your selection, your pivot table will be updated accordingly.

If you’re using a PC, you’ll need to click on the small upside-down triangle next to your value and select Value Field Settings to access the menu.

When you’ve categorized your data to your liking, save your work and use it as you please.

Digging Deeper With Pivot Tables

You’ve now learned the basics of pivot table creation in Excel. With this understanding, you can figure out what you need from your pivot table and find the solutions you’re looking for.

For example, you may notice that the data in your pivot table isn’t sorted the way you’d like. If this is the case, Excel’s Sort function can help you out. Alternatively, you may need to incorporate data from another source into your reporting, in which case the VLOOKUP function could come in handy.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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What Marketing Leaders Are Investing in This Year

In an ideal world, marketers would have limitless budgets to invest in experimental initiatives and new programs. After all, the customer acquisition and retention landscape are evolving faster than ever. The challenge, however, is that marketing budgets are often limited around what’s proven to work — which tends to look different from company to company.

That’s why it’s so important to have access to industry data. By knowing where we stand against our peers and competitors, we’re better positioned to uncover areas of opportunity. This is especially important considering that 48% of marketers expect their marketing budget to increase in 2022.

In this post, we’ll discuss data-backed areas that marketers are focusing their investments in 2022.

What Marketing Leaders Are Investing in This Year

Protecting consumer privacy.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about their digital privacy and protecting their information. Given this, Think With Google says that marketers will need to increase their investments in privacy solutions and respecting peoples data choices in 2022.

This means that consumers want to know how you’re using their data for marketing purposes, and they want to be able to review and manage the way their data is used and opt-out if they want to.

When you collect information from consumers for different marketing activities, they also want to know you’re collecting it. Recent data from Google found that consumers are happy to provide their data to companies they trust, so long as they know how you will use it.

Podcasts and other audio opportunities. 

As of April 2021, there are over  2,000,000 podcast shows and over 48 million episodes. 

The demand for audio content has exploded, and Brands recognize this opportunity. In 2022, roughly43% of B2C marketers plan to increase their investment in podcasts in 2022, and the data is virtually the same for B2B marketers. 

Marketers are also leveraging other opportunities that have risen brands to leverage, likeClubhouse and Twitter Spaces, which offer audio-only opportunities where users can participate in voice conversations with others. 

Other platforms are looking into and testing creating similar options within their apps, like Instagram Live Rooms (also incorporates video). TechCrunch reported that LinkedIn is testing a similar feature as well. 

Social Responsibility and Diversity Marketing 

Early 2020 brought businesses to a reckoning, as increased attention to social justice issues was at the forefront of conversations during the first few months of the year. In addition, COVID-19 highlighted employees’ struggles in the workplace, and consumers care about how brands they buy from treat their employees. 

Almost two years later, these issues have remained extreme topics of interest for consumers worldwide, and they care more than ever about the stances businesses take on public issues, demanding change and awareness from brands on diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of the ways they want to see this represented in business is diversity marketing and commitment to social responsibility. 

Given this, 82% of marketers reported that they planned to continue investing the same amount or increasing their investments in social responsibility for 2022. 

It’s an effective practice for marketers to commit to, especially considering that people are more likely to consider a product after seeing an ad they think is diverse or inclusive, and 64% take action after seeing an ad they believe to be diverse and inclusive.

However, in the same vein, it’s even more critical that businesses are genuine about the diversity measures they take. Consumers can see through the fluff, and Edelman found that59% of consumers think that companies need to follow up on their statements on diversity with concrete action, or they risk being seen as exploitative and opportunist. Read this post to see examples of businesses that have exemplified the practice of inclusive marketing.

Permanent Social Media Content

You’re likely familiar withInstagram Stories, which are pieces of content on the platform that disappear after 24 hours unless saved as a highlight. 

While this type of content is valuable, marketers in 2022 will also be leaning into permanent social media content —HubSpot Blog data showed that 85% of marketers plan on increasing their investments or investing the same amount. 

Permanent social media content remains on your different profiles for users to return to over and over again or to discover for the first time when they follow you. This can be in-feed posts, videos, or anything that remains and can be viewed days later after being published. 

Influencer Marketing 

Influencer marketing used to be a trend, but as 86% of marketers plan to continue investing the same amount or increasing their investments, it’s now a commonplace marketing tactic. Its popularity is due to the fact that partnering with influencers is a worthwhile investment — the ROI for influencer marketing is $5.78.

In addition, many influencers are experts of the ins and outs of how their platforms work and the industries they operate in, so they know what performs best on their preferred platforms and how to best interact with their audiences.

When collaborating with influencers, marketers also benefit from exposure to their audiences, helping generate brand awareness with followers and generate social proof.

Short-form Videos

HubSpot Blog survey data shows that 89% of marketers plan to continue investing the same amount or increasing their short-form video content investments. 

As a refresher, short-form video is considered to be any video that is up to 2 minutes and 30 seconds in length. Marketers are likely increasing their investment because of trend culture, where it’s easy for a video to go viral and get shared among audiences over and over again. 

For example, TikTok only houses short-form videos up to three minutes in length. Many businesses that use the platform leverage it to inform audiences about their products quickly so that users can get started right away. 

Investing in Marketing Technology

60% of marketers reported that, in 2020, they were set to increase their marketing technology spend. A2021 HubSpot Blog poll of over 1,000 global marketers found that 70% of marketers already use marketing technology in their roles, and 33% plan to start in 2022. 

Marketing technology, often referred to as martech, is a term used to describe the software and technology used to attract and retain customers. Many martech tools help marketersautomate repetitive marketing tasks to save time, like sending an email or scheduling social media posts. As of 2021, there are more than 8000+ martech solutions for marketers to choose from to meet their automation needs.

Join other market leaders in leveraging these trends.

Although not an exhaustive list, marketers are focusing on and investing in the trends mentioned above for 2022. Understand how each one will affect your business, and join other marketers in these investments.

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12 Unique Ways to Generate Leads With QR Codes

If you’re like a lot of people, you may be wondering how to use mobile marketing to generate leads for your business. For HubSpot users, the good news is that you have a head start — the HubSpot platform automatically creates a mobile version of your site for you.

But what should you do next? After you’ve got a mobile website, what mobile tools should you use to attract new customers to your business? QR codes are one of the easiest tools to get started with. You’re probably already familiar with QR codes, but if not, they’re the square barcodes like the one on this post that are being used by companies to drive prospects to their websites.

In doing research for our new book Go Mobile, Jeanne Hopkins and I took a deep dive into the most important mobile tools for small- to mid-sized businesses. There are plenty to choose from, but we’re going to focus on the most effective QR code uses to grow your business.

Who uses QR codes?

The short answer is anyone with a mobile phone. In addition to our keys and wallet, our phone is one of the few things we can’t leave the house without. Businesses have picked up on this and are constantly finding new ways to use QR codes to get us to engage with them, or make their processes smoother.

Uses of QR Codes in Everyday Life

While the concept of when to implement QR codes may be new, you’ve probably already gotten familiar with their use in local businesses you’ve visited. Here’s some instances where you’ve most likely encountered them:

Public wifi network access
Restaurant menus
Instruction manuals
Cashless payments
Web promotions during live events
Contact information and Linktrees

Later in this article, we’ll discuss the many other ways to use QR codes.But first, we’ll dig into how you can create your own QR codes.

How to Create Your Own QR Code Promotion

On the Go Mobile website, we used QR codes to provide clues for a nationwide scavenger hunt for four iPads hidden across the country. Visitors to the site could scan the QR codes to download the clues. To ensure that we captured leads from the promotion, we also provided the clues via email for anyone who filled out the form on the site. That way, we capture the lead information so we can re-market to that audience in the future.

Creating a QR code promotion is actually pretty simple. Here are the steps we followed when we created the promotion for our iPad nationwide scavenger hunt.

1. Create a Landing Page

First and foremost, you’ll need to create a mobile-optimized landing page. That means a landing page that is designed to be viewed on a smartphone screen. Keep things simple – for example, on a mobile landing page, forms should be kept to a few fields only. Most people don’t have the patience to fill out lengthy forms from a smartphone.

2. Create Your QR Code

Once you’ve created your landing page, copy the URL into a QR code generator. There are
plenty of QR code generators on the web, so just do a search for one. Paste your landing page URL into the QR code generator and, like magic, your QR code will be generated on the spot. This QR code is unique to you, so nobody in the world has another one just like it.

3. Add Your QR Code to Your Promotional Materials

Grab your QR code from the generator. On a PC, that means right-clicking it and saving it to your computer. (On a Mac, you can drag and drop.) Now that you have the QR code handy, add it to your promotional materials. That includes any printed materials or websites that are going to be part of the promotion.

4. Get the Word Out

There’s no point in launching a QR Code promotion if you’re not going to let the world know about it. So broadcast your message using your blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or any of the other social media tools at your disposal. The key part at this stage of the game is to let as many people know about the promotion as possible.

5. Stretch Out the Promotion

For our iPad Scavenger Hunt, we wanted as many people as possible to participate, so we’d upload a new QR code each day for several weeks. That way, our audience builds, and we’re able to create as much buzz around the promotion as possible.

How to Put QR Codes to Work for Your Business

There are a variety of ways you can use QR codes for your business, and new ones are cropping up every day. Here are some great ideas you can use below.

Common Uses of QR Codes

Websites: Add a QR code to the ‘Contact Us’ page on your website so visitors can download your contact information to their smartphones.
Business Cards: Add a QR code to the front or back of your business card so people can instantly download your contact information.
Webinars: Ready to make your webinars more engaging and fun? Then simply include a QR code as part of your presentation. It’s a terrific way to keep the audience engaged and involved.
LinkedIn and Facebook Pages: Want another way to stand out from everyone else? Add a QR code to your LinkedIn and Facebook pages to pull people into your website. It’s one of the best ways you can position yourself as a forward, innovative thinker.
In-Store Posters With Coupons: Want to provide instant coupons to people while they’re shopping? Then add a QR code that drives them through to a special discount that can be scanned at the register.
Dial a Phone Number: Want to encourage people to dial your number so they can order your product? Then give them a QR code to scan. If it’s set up properly, it will instantly dial your number on their phone and connect them with your sales center.

Creative Uses for QR Codes

Clothing and Merchandise: Ready to promote your product or service in an innovative way? Then add a QR code to a T-shirt that you give away to customers and prospects. Hija De Tu Madre (pictured above), a Latina fashion and accessories brand, cleverly placed a QR code on one of their shirt designs. It encourages viewers to “Scan for community y cultura,” enabling people to learn more about the brand and eventually convert them into new customers.
“Hello, My Name Is” Tags: You know those big red and white tags people wear at events with their names on them? If you put a QR code in place of your name, you’ll engage people and easily be able to strike up conversations.
Event Posters: Advertising an event? Upgrade your posters and fliers with a QR code passersby can easily scan. Have the code take them to your event page where they can view all pertinent details and buy tickets.

Outdoor Billboards:Be one of the first businesses in your market to run a giant QR code on a billboard for your business. In the example above, Cygames enlisted the help of 1,500 drones to form a giant QR code in the sky to celebrate the anniversary of one of their games.
Galleries and Museums: Make it easy for viewers to find out more about your work and upcoming projects. Putting a QR code next to artwork in place of text is a wonderful alternative to the standard description. Guests won’t have to crowd each other to read it, and they can take the information with them. If you’re selling at a gallery, it may also be worth it to enable payment through the QR code as well.
Product Packaging: If you sell a physical product, adding a QR code that tells the buyer more about your brand or the product itself can build connections and trust. If you sell food, consider using a QR code for the ingredient list, or maybe easy recipes to use the item in. For cosmetics, have QR codes that give more information on how the products were made, tested, and where ingredients were sourced.

Using QR Codes to Grow Your Business

There’s no real mystery to using QR codes to grow your business. All you have to do is generate the code, and drop it into your promotion. Be sure you test the campaign before you go public with it – people who scan your code expect things to work relatively smoothly the first time out of the gate. But other than that, running a QR code promotion is a snap.

A key point to remember about QR codes is that they’re simply a mechanism to engage prospects and customers. In other words, they’re not the end-game, so it’s up to you to figure out how to use them to capture the visitors you drive to your website as leads using landing pages.

Once your strategy is in place, using QR codes to grow your business is relatively simple. All you have to do is generate the code, and drop it into your promotion. Be sure you test the campaign before you go public with it — people who scan your code expect things to work relatively smoothly the first time out of the gate. Give them an experience that delights them and keeps them coming back for more.

This is a guest blog post written by Jamie Turner, founder and chief content officer of the 60 Second Marketer. In addition, Jamie is the co-author of the book Go Mobile, written with Jeanne Hopkins, VP of marketing @HubSpot. He is a regular guest on CNN and HLN on the topic of digital marketing and is a popular mobile marketing speaker at events and corporations around the globe.

This article was originally published in January 2012 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to Design a Character for Your Brand

Have you ever searched stock image websites and thought, None of these truly represent my brand?

It can be difficult to stand out using the same cheesy images as everyone else, but creating a unique brand character can help distance you from the pack.

A brand character, or mascot, is the visual representation and ambassador of your brand. They can be an illustration, inanimate object, a person, animal or any other character of your choosing.

This is different from brand personality, which refers to the emotional and behavior characteristics attributed to your brand that help you resonate with customers.

Below we’ll explore the benefits of using a brand character and how to create your own.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Brand Character

Brand characters can fulfill a variety of uses for your company. Here are some advantages of using them:

Improve communication: Images can often convey feelings and communicate messages to your audience more quickly and efficiently than words. Some even aim to build an emotional connection with the viewer. It’s a popular strategy for marketing products to children like cereals and toys.
Brand Recognition: Some characters are so ingrained in popular culture that they become inseparable from the brand, like Ronald McDonald or the M&M Spokescandies. Customers will be able to identify your product or service without the brand ever being mentioned.
Viral marketing potential: If your brand character is catchy and compelling, there’s a chance it could take off on social media. Take Kroger’s Krojis characters, which spawned several memes and parody videos shortly after their launch.

The original commercial (pictured above) used Flo Rida’s song “Low” to advertise their “Lower Than Low” campaign. Soon people were making their own versions, like this one.

However, using a brand character may not be the best choice for every business. Here are some disadvantages:

May not be a good fit for your business model: For some products like fitness equipment, makeup, or any product that is aimed at altering the customer’s physical appearance, using a brand character is less effective. Customers will want to see a real person in advertising materials as proof that it works.
Brand disconnect: While good brand characters can help customers recognize your brand, a bad one can have the opposite effect. The character may be recognizable, but customers have no idea what your company does. In the worst case scenario, the character could be inflammatory, or not age well like the recent rebranding of Aunt Jemima pancake products.
Could be expensive: If you’re not creating the brand logo in-house, hiring an outside designer or agency can be cost prohibitive, especially if your business is just starting out.

Once you’ve decided having a brand character will be beneficial, you can get started on the fun part — creating your own.

Creating a Brand Character of Your Own

Henneke Duistermaat, writer and creator of Enchanting Marketing, found it easiest to reflect her true brand image, connect with her audience, and make her business memorable by hand-drawing her brand character, Henrietta. Henrietta is a cartoon character who embodies Enchanting Marketing better than any stock photo could.

Take a look at the infographic below, featuring Henneke’s “alter ego” Henrietta, to find inspiration to create drawings for your business that will captivate and engage your audience.

While you may not opt to draw your own character like Henneke, you can adopt some of her thought process when creating your own. Think about:

What problem are you trying to solve?
How does that problem make your customers feel?
What solution do you offer?
What attributes do you want the character to convey?
Where will you use this character? On the physical product, website design, or customer service chat box?

Brand Character Examples

Brand characters are not a one-size-fits-all marketing tool. You can choose cartoon characters like Henneke, anthropomorphized animals or objects, or even fictional people. If you’re stumped on where to start, we’ve pulled a variety of brand characters to get your creativity flowing.

1. Flo from Progressive

Flo is a great example of how effective a fictional person can be as a brand character. She’s highly recognizable and always communicates the perks of using Progressive over other insurance companies. Flo has more than 68,000 followers on Twitter, demonstrating the character’s reach beyond traditional commercials.

2. GEICO’s Gecko

Not to be left out, fellow insurance company GEICO’s quirky gecko character also has a following of their own. Is he Australian or British? No one knows for sure, but we do know we can save on car insurance by switching to GEICO because this gecko brand character is incredibly good at what he does. To play up the character’s popularity, GEICO even facilitates Q&As with him via social media, getting the public to engage with the brand in a fun way.

3. Reddit’s Snoo

Reddit’s Snoo alien character can be found throughout its website and even has its own thread. The genderless and colorless alien has come to not only represent the company, but also its target audience: everyone. Reddit appeals to everyone and serves as a forum where users from any background can share news, their hobbies, other types of content, and host discussions on just about any topic. It’s the internet’s hub for “everyday people” (plus aliens of course), and Snoo reflects that.

4. Twitter’s Larry the Bird

 

 

It seems fitting that a site named Twitter would choose a bird for its brand character. Larry the Bird was named after basketball great Larry Bird, as co-founder Biz Stone is a Celtics fan. While small, this little blue bird is synonymous with Twitter without having to see the brand name spelled out.

It’s versatile and used on not only website branding, but seamlessly tucked into the corner of every individual’s tweet. It’s ubiquitous but not obtrusive.

Including a Brand Character in Your Marketing Plan

Including a brand character into your marketing materials should be based on both market research and your target audience’s needs. They are meant to enhance the user experience and simplify communication between the brand and its customers.

This article was originally published August 17, 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Developing Leadership Skills: How to Become an Effective Leader [+ Expert Tips]

It’s very easy to spot good leadership when it happens.

Take, for instance, how an old manager of mine used to ask my advice on business strategy in our weekly 1:1s — and then provide constructive feedback on it.

While I might not have recognized it at the time, I now see he was teaching me to think about how my role fit into the company’s bigger mission.

Or, consider how my current manager seeks out learning and development opportunities for each of her direct reports. Whenever she finds a workshop or online class that could help me grow, she passes along the information.

All of which is to say: Good leadership doesn’t look, sound, or act just one way. There are a myriad of ways for a good leader to educate and inspire others.

Which means leadership is a harder skill to master than others. It isn’t like mastering Excel, which requires knowledge of specific, fixed formulas. Instead, good leadership is more ambiguous, and mastering it is less of a linear path. There will be setbacks, and moments where you feel you didn’t act as a good leader should. But there will also be incremental moments of true growth.

Whether you’re an individual contributor or already a team lead, there’s always room for improvement. Here, we’ll cover leadership development on various levels — from individual contributor to senior management and above. Plus, hear leadership tips from Google, LinkedIn, Monday.com, and HubSpot.

We’ll also explore how to achieve your career goals through actionable steps you can take to level-up and become a stronger, more effective leader.

Let’s begin.

What is a leader?

Before we dive into how to become a leader, it’s important we cover what a leader is.

At its most basic definition, a leader is someone who leads a group of people towards a common goal through inspiration, motivation, and strong vision setting.

For instance, a teacher leads her students towards the goal of learning and uses motivation and inspiration to help them reach that goal.

The motivation and inspiration aspects are key. A leader isn’t just someone who barks orders and hopes people obey. Instead, an effective leader is highly emotionally intelligent and connects with his or her direct reports to create stronger relationships before driving the group towards change.

Additionally, a good leader is someone who is effective at big-picture strategizing, and equally adept at communicating that vision to the rest of the team.

If you’re still unsure what a leader is, here are a few quotes from leaders who’ve defined the term for themselves:

“As a business leader, I think of myself as a coach. It’s my responsibility to build a strong team, design a winning strategy and execute the strategy with excellence to bring the team to victory.” — Thasunda Duckett, President and CEO of TIAA
“Ensuring that people have everything they need to achieve the missions of an organization. That’s it, all else is footnotes.” — Hans Vestburg, CEO, Verizon Communications
“Leadership is helping believe in a better tomorrow or a better outcome than you have today.”  — Marissa Mayer, Former CEO, Yahoo!
“Leadership is helping people succeed, inspiring and uniting people behind a common purpose and then being accountable.” — Paul Polman, Former CEO, Unilever
“A leader is someone who can think strategically, simplify the strategy so everyone in the organization can understand it and communicate that strategy simply, enthusiastically, and in a caring way.” — Ajay Banga, CEO, MasterCard

Now that we’ve covered a more broad, basic definition, let’s explore some skills, traits, and qualities of good leadership to understand the definition on a more actionable level.

The Skills, Traits, & Qualities of Good Leadership

Good leadership looks different for every leader. Some leaders are quiet and calm; others are rambunctious and extroverted. There isn’t a specific personality that lends itself best to effective leadership. And that’s a good thing — at its core, leadership is about leading people, and people are diverse, so you want your leadership teams to reflect that diversity.

However, there are a few specific skills, traits, and qualities that have been identified as strong indicators of good leadership.

A few high-level leadership skills include:

High emotional intelligence
A growth mindset
Strong communication skills
Reliability
Ability to give and receive feedback
Decisiveness

To learn more about leadership skills (and how to improve them), take a look at What Are Leadership Skills? [+ How To Get Them].

For now, let’s explore which skills are most relevant for various leadership roles.

Leadership as an Individual Contributor

You don’t have to manage a team to be a leader. Instead, many individual contributors are strong leaders who need to develop leadership skills to manage projects or outcomes.

As an individual contributor, it is oftentimes your responsibility to have influence across the organization to drive projects across the finish line. This includes having the confidence to convince stakeholders that what you’re doing matters to the organization, and that you’re the best leader for the job.

Some of the most critical skills of an individual contributor include strong communication skills, time management skills, ability to work autonomously, and ability to collaborate effectively.

Here are a few specific examples of how individual contributors might need to demonstrate leadership skills:

A social media marketer spearheading a new campaign across channels.
A website designer who is in charge of re-designing the new company homepage.
A blogger who notices a gap in an existing editorial strategy and wants to pitch a new topic cluster to leadership.
A product marketer who needs to work with various teams to drive traffic and leads to a new product launch.

All of these employees need strong leadership skills — including the ability to empathize, remain flexible, listen actively to other team’s agendas, and communicate their own vision effectively — and yet, none of them lead a team in a traditional sense.

To develop leadership skills as an individual contributor:

Learn to seek out feedback from the employees with which you work. Once one project is complete, ask them to complete a survey that requests information related to your time management skills, communication skills, or collaboration skills.

Leadership as a Manager

Once you’re a manager, developing leadership skills becomes more a practice of trial-and-error.

To develop or strengthen key leadership skills, you’ll want to request regular feedback from each of your direct reports, as well as your manager, to determine areas for improvement. Ask clear, actionable questions such as, ‘What is one thing you’d like me to start doing? (Specific examples are helpful)’ and ‘What is one thing you’d like me to stop doing? (Specific examples are helpful)’.

Additionally, take the time to reflect on situations to determine how you might shift your behavior moving forward. Good leaders are the first to admit their mistakes.

For instance, if you’re managing an entry-level employee and recognize you didn’t give her enough context or support before suggesting she meet with her first client, you’ll want to reflect and decide how you’ll change moving forward.

Then, in your 1:1, you can tell her: “I apologize for pushing you into a client situation without ensuring you had all the context and information you needed to succeed. Moving forward, I’ve altered our team training schedule to ensure employees have more time to find their footing before meeting with a client.”

Finally, as you move into a manager role, take the time to identify your management style. Understanding your management style can help you uncover inherent strengths (and weaknesses), and expand upon those.

To develop leadership skills as a manager:

Ask your direct reports for candid, honest feedback. Reflect on situations and iterate on your behaviors over time. Finally, identify your management style and be self-aware about your areas for improvement.

Leadership as a Senior Manager and Above

When you become a senior manager, your job shifts significantly — because you’re now leading a team of managers.  

To be effective as a senior manager, you’ll want to ensure you know how to ask the right questions. In skip level meetings, for instance, you might be speaking with employees who feel intimidated and hesitant to point out issues they’re seeing on the ground-level — but their perspective is invaluable for spotting weaknesses within the organization.

Skip level meetings can also help you determine which areas your direct reports might need coaching, as well as patterns of challenges and inefficiencies across the team.

As a senior manager, it’s also your responsibility to identify and nurture future leaders. Seek out opportunities to coach and mentor lower level leaders to ensure your organization is prepped with leaders who can drive positive change.

Finally, a senior leader is someone who motivates and inspires the department at-large with visions of the future of the company — two, five, and even ten years out. She is someone who is able to clearly articulate where she sees the business, and industry, headed, to create a sense of purpose among employees.

To foster this skill as a senior manager, you’ll want to be intentional about staying up-to-date with the competitive landscape and consistently making note of existing customer pain points and how your company might reduce friction and stay relevant in the years to come.

To learn more about this, take a look at How to Set & Achieve Marketing Objectives in 2021.

To develop leadership skills as a senior manager or above:

Practice the art of active listening and asking the right questions to discover weaknesses and gaps in your organization. Keep up-to-date with the competitive landscape. Find mentors or senior manager peers who will provide you with leadership feedback, and attend conferences or seminars to network with other industry leaders.

How to Achieve Your Leadership Career Goals

1. Identify your leadership style, and know your strengths and weaknesses.

Leadership isn’t one-size, fits-all. So when you first decide you want to become a leader, it’s vital you take the time to determine what type of leader you want to be.

If you’ve never been in a leadership position before, you can start by taking a leadership style assessment to determine your style.

Alternatively, if you have been a leader in a previous position (even informally), take a look at The 8 Most Common Leadership Styles & How to Find Your Own [Quiz] to see which style you feel you fit most accurately.

For instance, let’s say you’ve determined you fit a ‘Coach-Style Leadership’ style. Coach-Style leaders are focused on identifying and nurturing individual strengths of each team member.

Since Coach-Style leaders focus on growth and success of individual employees, it’s vital you’re efficient at communication and relationship-building.

Alternatively, if you felt better suited for a ‘Strategic Leadership’ style, you’d want to hone skills related to strategic, big-picture thinking.

Once you’ve figured out your leadership style, it becomes easier to identify areas for improvement and areas of potential weakness.

To create a more comprehensive list, take the time to make a list of your strengths and weaknesses (and collect external feedback as well) — this can help you determine, with your manager, which areas of growth will be most necessary before you can earn a leadership position.

2. Seek out opportunities to become a role model or mentor.

To become a leader, you’ll need to vocalize to your manager that you want to become one. Then, he or she can help you identify opportunities to begin practicing leadership informally.

Alternatively, try seeking out those opportunities for yourself. There are a myriad of ways to test out your leadership skills. Perhaps you sign up to become a mentor to a new employee, or grab coffee once a week with a new team member to provide guidance and support.

Outside of work, you can look for areas in your community to become a leader. For instance, you could volunteer as a mentor for a local high school.

3. Develop your communication skills.

A core tenant of strong leadership is good communication skills.

Leadership requires you to communicate constantly with various stakeholders, effectively sell them on your goals or vision, and create rapport to build trust among your team.

In a given day, a leader might go from a meeting with executives in which she needs to communicate the resourcing needs of her team, to a meeting with individual contributors where she needs to build trust, inspire, and motivate.

 All of which is to say: Good leadership and strong communication skills go hand-in-hand.

To develop stronger communication skills, you’ll want to start by practicing your active listening skills, learning how to assert your opinion in a helpful way, and asking for feedback from others on your existing communication skills. You might also seek out public speaking opportunities to strengthen your public speaking skills.

Empathy and emotional intelligence are equally critical to communicating effectively, and can help you build stronger relationships with colleagues.

For instance, let’s say a colleague comes to you with a problem. She expresses that she’s been overwhelmed and, as a result, won’t be able to meet the deadline you’d initially agreed upon for a project.

While you might be frustrated or even angry initially, empathy can enable you to put yourself in her shoes, and understand that missing deadlines can happen to all of us. Additionally, emotional intelligence can help you monitor your own emotions and react appropriately.

As a result of having empathy and high emotional intelligence, you might respond like this: “Thanks for letting me know, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve been feeling overwhelmed. We’ve all been there. Give me some time to think over how we can come up with a solution to ensure we don’t get behind on the project as a whole.”

Rather than reacting purely based on personal feelings, emotional intelligence ensures you have the skills to keep your emotions in-check and respond to situations in positive, effective ways.

4. Ask big picture questions and learn to think about strategy.

When asked, “What skills are vital to being a good leader?”, over ⅓ of HubSpot survey respondents reported ‘ability to think strategically and to think about the big picture’. That skill alone won out over communication skills, decision-making skills, and interpersonal skills.

Thinking strategically doesn’t happen overnight. When you’re in a role that requires you to be focused on ground level details, it can be difficult to suddenly pull back and analyze bigger trends, challenges, and solutions — but it’s vital for any leader to be able to do so.

Here are a few ways you can begin exercising that ‘strategic thinking’ muscle:

Ask more big picture questions in meetings, even if it’s not directly tied to your role. For instance, if you’re a social media marketer and you’re required to post Instagram stories for an upcoming product launch, you might explore questions such as, ‘Why did our executive team choose to focus on investing in development for this product in particular?’ ‘How will this product expand our value proposition?’ and ‘What narrative are we telling around this product and how it fits into our existing product stack?’
Expand your network outside of your immediate team. Grab lunches with members of the sales or services organization, and take the time to speak with those outside of your team. This will help you begin to understand what’s happening in other areas of the organization, what other teams are working on, and challenges other teams are facing.
Get organized with how you spend your time. While your day-to-day tasks are important, it’s equally vital you carve out intentional time to focus on bigger projects or professional development opportunities. To do this, you might block off one hour every other week to focus on personal brainstorming — during this time, you might write down a list of higher-visibility projects you’ve been wanting to test out, or seek out workshops and courses in your area that will help you develop skills that your team currently lacks.
Be willing to speak up. Beyond asking question in meetings, practice feeling comfortable sharing your own perspective or opinion. Show your colleagues you’re willing to communicate new ideas or get creative when it comes to existing strategies.

Research Credit: Lucid

5. Take on more responsibility.

To begin levelling up in your career, you’ll need to seek out additional opportunities to expand your skillset and demonstrate your willingness to grow professionally.

The easiest way to do this is to have an honest conversation with your manager in which you ask where the team’s needs are, and how you can help your team meet those needs. Alternatively, perhaps you’ve observed a weak spot on your team and you feel confident you know how to fix it — in that case, you might bring your proposal to your manager.

It’s vital you have buy-in from your manager since taking on more responsibility outside of your existing role could look unprofessional if your manager doesn’t know why you’re adding tasks to your plate.

If you’re interested in becoming a team manager, for instance, you might tell your manager: “I noticed we’re hiring a summer intern. If we don’t already have a plan in-place, I’m wondering if I could become the intern’s mentor or manager for the summer to strengthen some of my leadership skills?”

6. Go where the needs are.

I received this advice early in my career after I’d pitched a lengthy project to my manager. The pitch was strong — except my solution didn’t solve a big problem, it solved a small one.

My manager said, “It looks like you created this pitch with your own personal interests top-of-mind. While it’s always great if your passions can match business need, first and foremost, you need to work from the perspective of, ‘What will help our business the most?‘”

She had a point. After some reflection, I realized our team didn’t need infographics designed for blog posts as much as the team needed more SEO knowledge and input. Rather than looking for design courses, I pivoted and signed up for a workshop on SEO. It was less interesting (personally), but it impacted our business on a broader scale.

Effective leaders don’t just suggest random ideas when it suits them. Instead, they start by asking the right questions and analyzing existing weak spots. Then, they work to fill in those gaps and create real change for their organizations.

7. Practice self-awareness.

Self-awareness is an incredibly vital skill for any leader.

For instance, leaders who can see how their employees view them are usually more effective, and have stronger relationships with their employees. Additionally, self-awareness can help you correctly identify what you do well, and which areas you can potentially improve.

But if you think you’re already a master in self-awareness, think again. One study estimates only 10-15% of people are truly self-aware. And, even if you are self-aware, there is always opportunities to strengthen the skill.

In this context of developing leadership skills, self-awareness can help you:

Assess your current relationships with your colleagues, and how you might improve it. (Example: You recognize you were dismissive of another colleague’s ideas in a recent meeting, and she’s been avoiding you since. With that self-awareness, you can apologize for your behavior and practice more open-mindedness moving forward.)
Analyze your own internal thought patterns, and recognize which ones aren’t serving you, to build confidence. (Example: You feel imposter syndrome every time you present to your team, and you’re self-aware enough to know it’s because you’re constantly thinking, ‘I don’t deserve to be here’. As a result, you work on self-affirmation, and create a folder on your desktop of positive reinforcements from colleagues.)
Figure out which skills you lack that you’ll need to develop before moving into a leadership role. (Example: After some reflection, you realize you aren’t often honest about your mistakes, which can make you seem untrustworthy. As a result, you put effort into admitting when you’ve failed to your manager or team.)

8. Take the time for quiet reflection.

Becoming an effective leader doesn’t happen overnight. And, unfortunately, there’s no ‘end’ to becoming a good leader. For your entire leadership journey, you’ll continuously iterate and grow.

When setbacks and failure happens, it’s important you become adept at reflection. As you put these leadership tips into practice, take the time to regularly assess how you’re doing. Leadership is trial-and-error, and as you practice new behaviors to grow your leadership skills, you’ll want to determine which feel most authentic to you.

Ultimately, good leadership doesn’t mean mirroring what others have done. It means figuring out what works for your personality and style, and expanding on those innate qualities. Since authentic leadership is the single strongest predictor of an employee’s job satisfaction, it’s imperative you take the time to grow into a leader in the way that’s right for you.

Why Goal Setting Is a Critical Component of Good Leadership

As you move into a leadership role, you might feel pulled in many different directions by stakeholders with different goals.

This is why setting goals is vital for leading a team successfully: It keeps you focused on what matters for your team.

When you create goals for your team, you’re effectively prioritizing what you will say yes (and no) to over a given period. Additionally, you’re ensuring your team clearly knows where they’re headed and how to get there — an essential component of good leadership.

Here are a few other reasons goal setting is a critical component of good leadership:

Goal setting helps you enable your employees to work more autonomously. If they know what results you’re expecting from them, it doesn’t necessarily matter when, where, or how they reach those.
Goal setting helps you stay focused on what matters most for your business. It ensures you don’t get distracted with quick wins, and instead remain fixated on long-term success.
Goal setting can spark more engagement from employees. If your employees understand the purpose and long-term vision behind their daily tasks, they’ll likely feel more motivated.
Goal setting increases a team’s creativity and collaboration. Once you’ve decided where your team is headed, you don’t necessarily need to dictate how to get there. Instead, empower your employees to brainstorm and test out interesting strategies to drive the team forward towards that goal. It’s more interesting — and likely more effective — to gather unique perspectives when driving towards a common goal.
It helps you know when to say no. When your employees come to you with interesting projects or experiments, it can be tempting to say yes. By setting clear team goals, you’re ensuring each team member uses their time intentionally in pursuit of that goal alone.

When setting goals, consider using a SMART framework to ensure your goals are clear, actionable, and specific.

The Eisenhower Matrix can also help you figure out which tasks are highest priority once you’ve determined your team’s short and long-term goals. The Eisenhower Matrix enables you to categorize your tasks in order of urgency and importance.

Now that we’ve covered goal setting as a vital component of leadership, let’s explore a few other critical factors according to Google, LinkedIn, Monday.com, and HubSpot.

What Makes an Effective Leader? Tips from Google, LinkedIn, Monday.com, and HubSpot

1. Effective leadership is humbling. 

Anders Mortensen, Google’s Managing Director of Channel Partners, says effective leadership is humbling. 

He told me, “In my early years of leadership, I was focused on the what — the results — while my team was focused on the how. It took me six years to realize that you don’t define your leadership success, it’s defined by others, and the how matters more than the what.”

Mortensen adds that he believes your definition of team will either limit leaders, or elevate them.

“To become an effective leader,” Mortensen says, “you have to make people around you better. Success is collaborative and your definition of ‘team’ will either limit you, or elevate you.”

“The broader you define ‘team’, the more holistically you’ll lead, and you’ll become the bridge-builder that solves for the entire company, versus optimizing for just your own.”

Ultimately, being a good leader means more than delivering exceptional results. It also means consistently motivating and supporting your team — through the highs, but also through the lows. 

2. Effective leaders show compassion and encourage authenticity.

Alyssa Merwin, Vice President of LinkedIn Sales Solutions, told me compassion is a key characteristic of effective leaders.

As Merwin puts it, “For many reasons, employees may struggle to show up as their full selves at work, creating barriers for them to be successful in certain parts of their roles. Whether because of caregiving responsibilities, mental health concerns, being part of an underrepresented group, or any other number of factors that make them feel different from the broader group, employees may experience increased stress of showing up to their desks — or Zoom, these days — on top of the pressure to perform in their roles.”

Employees desire the opportunity to show up as their authentic selves at work, which is a critical factor for long-term employee satisfaction and engagement. 

Merwin says, “To truly support their teams, it’s imperative that leaders not only recognize that these challenges may exist for some team members, but that they also commit to integrating diversity, inclusion, and belonging into their day-to-day operations.”

“Creating and enabling great cultures and welcoming environments is just the starting point,” Merwin adds.

“Effective leaders focus on how each individual team member is feeling and showing up to work, and they facilitate safe spaces for open discussion about how team members can better support one another.”

3. An effective leader is someone who walks side-by-side with their team. 

Effective leaders are able to provide strong, actionable support and guidance for their team. 

As Hila Levy-Loya, VP of Customer Success at monday.com, told me, “Being an effective leader is about choosing to walk side-by-side with your team — not forging ahead and looking back to check where they are.”

Being able to walk side-by-side, Levy-Loya adds, requires you to take the time to have deeper conversations with your team and understand their daily activities. “The first step in achieving this is to take the time to understand the details of your team’s work and what keeps them up at night. Get to know their day-to-day responsibilities and stresses, and in turn you will become trusted to lead an informed discussion with your team.”

Along with discussing your team’s responsibilities, you’ll want to remain transparent about the bigger picture — including your long-term vision and goals. 

Levy-Loya says, “The second step is granting your team access into your motivations so they can understand your ‘zoomed out’ view just as you do. Sharing the good, the bad, and the unknown creates an environment of trust and transparency that is crucial to achieving incredible results. With that ability to tap into each others perspectives, you and your team are able to pave the way together.”

4. An effective leader always assumes good intent.

Lisa Toner, HubSpot’s Director of Content Network, told me effective leaders always assume good intent, even when a team member makes a mistake. 

As she puts it, “No one sets out to make a bad decision or mistake. When it happens, they’re likely going to be more upset about it than you are, so no matter how frustrated you are, approach the issue with empathy, and calmly and supportively lead your team member towards a better outcome.”

“Always assume good intent,” Toner adds. “Reacting negatively will only knock their confidence in themselves — and you — in the long run.”

Ultimately, good leadership doesn’t happen overnight. To become an effective leader, you’ll want to consistently request honest, candid feedback from your direct reports, and practice self-awareness to recognize — and improve — your leadership weaknesses. 

Fortunately, your direct reports don’t expect you to be perfect; they expect you to be human. Be humble, admit when you don’t know, and collaborate with your team to leverage each person’s expertise — all of which will bring you that much closer to truly leading effectively.