The Ultimate Guide to Telecommuting

Remote laborers. Mobile professionals. Digital nomads. Road warriors. Call them what you will, but telecommuters are driving the future of work.

Telecommuting was once shrugged off as another veer for choosy millennials. Now, it’s an accepted approaching to how “were working”( and live) and chances for hiring management to assigned a global web. The World Economic Forum calls it “one of the most difficult operators of alteration” in the workforce.

But some supervisors still aren’t sure whether the government has take the plunge, worried that allowing employees to work from home means they’ll never wreak. As it happens, the opposite is true.

If you’re strange about why so many people are exiting virtual or how it could benefit your business, this is the guidebook for you. Let’s explore how countries around the world of remote piece projects and what you’ll need to get started.

Telecommuting Stats for 2018

According to Global Workplace Analytics, telecommuting has grown by 115% since 2005. That’s nearly 10 terms faster than the rest of the workforce. GWA’s research likewise shows 😛 TAGEND

80% to 90% of people say they’d is ready to telework at least the members of the week.

36% would choose telework over a fee cause, and 37% would take a wage trimmed.

For 95% of companies, telework increases hire retention.

6 in ten employers enjoy significant cost savings.

And that’s exclusively the beginning. A study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Hope noted 74% of employers now furnish the option to telecommute. Gallup learnt that employees feel most participated at work when off-site three or four epoches a few weeks. And participants of a UK-based survey consider traditional commuting is likely to be unheard of by 2036.

Wondering why you haven’t caught on hitherto? Don’t worry. Before you make stakeholders with the numbers, be decided whether telecommuting really is the best move.

What Types of Companies Offer Telecommuting?

Impressive though it resounds, telecommuting isn’t a catch-all answer. Undertakings that require face-to-face contact, equipment touch, or some sort of physical presence don’t give themselves well to remote environments.

As a rule of thumb, remote-friendly wreak falls into two categories: It’s online, and/ or it’s independent. Telecommuting designs particularly well for business in the following industries 😛 TAGEND

Marketings and market

Customer work

Healthcare

Computer and new technologies

Education and training

Administration

Telecommuting companies of all sizes report multimillion-dollar cost savings from rug telework planneds. Of track, some personas translate to virtual contexts better than others. Most firms evaluate qualification on a case-by-case basis, according to the candidate’s chore requirements, past conduct, and time in the role.

What about hiring remote craftsmen? You have a few alternatives. Remote-specific undertaking boards like FlexJobs, Remote.co, We Work Remotely, Remote OK, and Jobspresso target( but can’t pledge) people with remote know-how. You could also post the number of jobs on LinkedIn, Certainly, or your job search engine of alternative, performing it clear that remote is an option.

The Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

Telecommuting advantages both employers and employees, but it isn’t without its detriments. Let’s compare both sides.

For Your Business

The better telecommuters are rare humen. Not everyone can self-regulate and communicate effectively from anywhere.

On the plus surface, you’re saving position opening, which intends there’s no need to worry about your company’s potential growth. And here’s the interesting part: Office space for the average proletarian expenses about $11,000 per year. Restriction manpower abbreviates major overhead while doing the environment a solid. Even better, you increase work happiness and retention, which leads us to the pros and cons.

For Employees

Developing the self-motivation and self-restraint are essential to work from dwelling is arguably more challenging than learning it. Some remote proletarians also report feeling lonely or directionless.

But if done right, telecommuting derives large-hearted wages. While saving epoch, coin, and countries around the world, most telecommuters find that working from residence( or coffee shop, or room in the lumbers) composes a work-life offset, a distraction- and stress-free environment, and a larger feel of limitation over their work.

Together, these benefits make for joyful works. And joyful employees are usually immense employees. An huge 91% of remote craftsmen feel more productive working at home. So, the most remote craftsmen, the bigger the dent in the trillions of dollars U.S. corporations lose to productivity matters each year and the greater your workforce retention. It’s a no-brainer, right?

For Both Employer and Employee

Well , not quite. It’s important that your candidate’s priorities align with your own.

For example, is in-person collaboration more important to your firm than forming room for future proliferation? Perhaps it’s not the right time for your employees to telecommute more. Nonetheless, you might be willing to invest in tech that utters remote team-building much smoother( more on that afterward ).

Consider what you’re willing to trade off. Then, find a compromise.

With that footing place, you’re ready to set formal boundaries.

Telecommuting Plan: Why Your Business Needs One

In any area of your business, meter or resource constraints can give policymaking on the back burner. The same is true-blue with telecommuting, especially on a informal or temporary basis. Though virtually two-thirds of business earmark telecommuting, fewer than half have formalized a policy.

So are they necessary? The short answer: Yes.

In a remote workforce, there’s greater potential for equivocal hopes. Miscommunication can quickly intensify without a policy in place. With one, you give clear purposes from the start.

How to Appoint a Telecommuting Policy

You won’t find a perfect give of constants for every business. Feel free to adjust according to legal requirements in your manufacture, and consult legal counsel. For “the worlds largest” segment, though, your telecommuting plan should cover the following 😛 TAGEND

Eligibility and acceptance

Flexibility

Equipment and cybersecurity

Workspace and locating

Communication

Dependent charge

For each rider, ask yourself a few important questions 😛 TAGEND Eligibility and Approval

Do you need a formal process for vetting and approving remote works? Are you looking for specific stances or employ morals in your applicants( like strong communication or responsiveness )? Should they go through directors or higher up the chain of command?

Flexibility

How numerous days per week can employees telecommute, if not full duration? Does it depend on seniority or other factors? Should your employees be reachable during core business hours? Or do they have the freedom to choose as they get the job done?

Rig and Cybersecurity

Will you stipulate your remote laborers with any paraphernalium( such as computers, phones, desks, or office supplies )? Who owns and maintains it? Are passwords enough to protect your corporate data, or do you need encryption and GPS tracking? Should hires shun unsecured coffee-shop wifi?

Workspace and Location

Should your employee work in a dedicated bureau gap? Should that be assured, too? Is it safe? Check with your legal team, but you may be liable for harms within work hours. As for spot, should telecommuters stay within one particular radius or are you restricted by country or district?

Communication

What are the best ways for employees to contact you? Will you designate regular check-in asks? Perhaps less-frequent( monthly or quarterly) on-site requirements? How are you able impel yourself and your remote worker’s squad as affable as possible?

Dependent Care

Whether it concerns the kids or the dog, telecommuting is not a substitute for dependent caution. You can and should make exceptions for sick family members, but employees need to designing the following schedule for dedicated work.

Expect campaigners to make a example for their individual needs, but try stick to the same rules for everyone. Consistency trumps the favoritism card.

That said, you may need to update your programme as you learn what’s operate and what’s not.

Best Practices for Remote Team Management

Now that we’ve encompassed the pros, cons, policies, and what other telecommuting companies are doing, we’ll wrap up with four best rehearsals for managing the remote team of dreams.

1. Use a communication platform.

Virtual communication doesn’t have to be a roadblock. Often better proposed, phone- and web-based conventions cut through water-cooler clatter and impromptu fulfills to get circumstances done.

Try a video and audio conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype for Business, or Slack. And not just to participate. Get artistic with ways to build trust and ties-in in your squad, like sharing nonsensical position photos or setting up dedicated “fun” chats.

2. Head to the gloom.

It’s easy to lose track of projects within a dispersed squad. Make advantage of cloud-based file hosting providers like Dropbox and Google Drive to sync and collect work online. Trello, Basecamp, or one of these project management tools are also welcome to stop everyone organized and trail productivity.

3. Don’t be a stranger.

You don’t want to micromanage works, but you do want to be available and caring, track advancement, and keep them in the loop. How about regular coaching? A weekly one-to-one should do it. A quarterly meet-up or yearly off-site vanishes the additional mile in building remote laborers feel part of the team.

4. Celebrate success.

Technically, feedback is part of coaching. But it’s more important and easier to forget when working remotely, it is therefore deserves its own recognise here.

To create a great feedback culture 😛 TAGEND

Involve the part unit.

Get face hour when probable to deliver productive assessment the direction it’s proposed.

When your employee does a good job, make them know!

It may sound self-evident, but some overseers don’t recognise they’ve left remote employees hanging — or the negative effects. Positive( and detailed) feedback improves amazing team spirit.

Best Practices for Remote Team Management

Now that we’ve encompassed the pros, cons, programmes, and what other telecommuting corporations are doing, we’ll wrap up with four best rehearsals for managing the remote crew of dreams.

1. Use a communication platform.

Virtual communication doesn’t have to be a roadblock. Often better projected, phone- and web-based consultations cut through water-cooler tattle and impromptu joins to get events done.

Try a video and audio conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype for Business, or Slack. And not only to collaborate. Get inventive with ways to build confidence and ties-in in your unit, like sharing wacky part photos or setting up dedicated “fun” chats.

2. Head to the cloud.

It’s easy to lose track of projects within a dispersed team. Take advantage of cloud-based datum hosting providers like Dropbox and Google Drive to sync and place work online. Trello, Basecamp, or one of these project management tools are also welcome to save everyone organised and trail productivity.

3. Don’t be a stranger.

You don’t want to micromanage employees, but you do want to be available and supportive, track progression, and keep them in the loop. How about regular coaching? A weekly one-to-one should do it. A quarterly meet-up or yearly off-site leads the extra mile in attaining remote proletarians feel part of the team.

4. Celebrate success.

Technically, feedback is part of coaching. But it’s more important and easier to forget when working remotely, so it deserves its own recognize here.

To create a great feedback culture 😛 TAGEND

Involve the part crew.

Get face era when possible to extradite productive assessment the mode it’s aimed.

When your employee does a great job, cause them know!

It know it sounds self-evident, but some boss don’t recognize they’ve left remote proletarians hanging — or the negative effects. Positive( and detailed) feedback constructs amazing team spirit. Conclusion

Not fully on board hitherto? Here’s your biggest takeaway: Measure and tweak as you learn what works for you and your workforce. Start small with a handful of works, criterion productivity and roll out a greater telecommuting formation if all goes well.

But if you’re sold, go for it! Considering the positive impact on the business and its people, telework is worth considering before your adversaries do.

Read more about this at: blog.hubspot.com

27 Fun Corporate Team-Building Activities & Outing Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

Starting to see some droopy shoulders around the department? Reverberates like it’s time to proposal a crew outing.

Team outings are a great acces to facilitate ligament with your unit representatives, reduce hire stress, and give them the chance to get to know one another outside of the office.

And, you know, they’re really fun.

But how do you find doctrines for a great unit outing? Perhaps you start with a Google search for “team outing ideas” and stumble upon an commodity that shows “field trips” and “professional development activities.” Sounds like a starting point, but where’s the real pleasure? Click here to unlock a free guide and template designed to help you create a  company culture code. 

Next day “youre planning to” an outing for your unit, chipped the rely fails and get one of these themes on the calendar instead.

Team Building Activities

Scavenger Hunt

What’s My Name?

Cook-Off

Sneak a Peek

Board Game Tournament

Office Trivia

Improv Workshop

Two Truths and a Lie

Karaoke Night

The “Suddenly” Story

Go-Kart Racing

Concentration( Marketing Edition)

Professional Development Workshop

Jigsaw Puzzle Race

Room Escape Games

The Egg Drop Challenge

Laser Tag

Catch Phrase

Volunteer

Mystery Dinner

Kayaking/ Canoeing

Trampoline Park

Something Touristy

Painting Class

Cooking Class

Explore a New Place

Sports Game

Large Group Games 1. Scavenger Hunt

Find a beautiful period, transgress everyone out into radicals, and have a scavenger hunting around the city. You can coordinate one yourself, or use an app like Stray Boots. Your team will feel delightful and revitalized after some fresh air and enjoyable provokes. Be sure to make abundance of goofy pictures — you can even have a slideshow when everyone regroups at the end.

Four people on a scavenger hunt, a team building activity for large groups

2. What’s My Name?

You might have seen this sport toy before. It goes by different identifies, and the more people who frolic, the very best it is.

What’s My Name is an activity where each player is assigned the call of person or persons — dead or alive — and displays that figure on their back, ability, or part of their body such that simply the other participates can predict the epithet. You can write these figures on index placards or Post-it observes. Once we all have been assigned a word, the players mingle with each other, treating their coworkers the space they’d discus the person listed on that coworker’s placard. They can also ask about their own hidden name until they correctly suspect who they are.

What’s My Name has no further involved conventions or possibilities for competitiveness. It’s simply an empathy-builder — a crucial part of good company culture — granting employees to find out what it would be like to be treated the mode someone very different from them might be treated every day.

3. Cook-Off

Here’s a culinary team-building act who are able to intention in dessert or calamity — in a entertaining room. Making new bowls together necessitates invention and will require everybody is leant their squad and lead abilities into action. Part your unit into smaller teams, pick a menu list, and challenge each team to whip up something luscious. The category could be anything from ice cream, to salsa, to pizza.

One fun twist you could contribute? Pick a single ingredient that all teams must use, like maple syrup or Oreos. Or, have each team get imaginative with the shape of its menu — you are able to utter pizzas into almost any shape.

Group of female coworkers in an ice cream cook-off

Source: Teambonding.com

4. Sneak a Peek

What do you get when you supplement a test of remembering to a game of pictionary? Sneak a Peek. In this competition, people break off into groups of at least four and take turns recreating objectives from memory.

Using LEGOs, clay, building block, or a similar adjust of construction items, one competition ruler will craft an objective or organization for every group to recreate. A member of each group then has 10 seconds to “sneak a peek” at such structures( which is now being masked from position ), return to their radicals, and describe what they attended to their radical representatives so they can recreate it.

Each group has their own LEGOs, clay, or building block. If after a instant of recreating such structures, it isn’t ended, another member of each group sneaks a 10 -second peek at video games leader’s objective and comes back to further inform different groups. This pirouette continues until working group is confident the government had recreated its consideration of this agenda item. The object of the game? Be the first group to recreate it.

Not only does this recreation help employees rehearse project management, but it shows you how to accomplish tasks using input from a variety of sources. It’s likewise only a amusing nature to see how good your coworkers are at retaining information.

5. Board Game Tournament

Here’s one way to precipitate your squad members’ competitive surfaces without having to leave the department. Plan a team-wide board game tournament. Extremely if your crew is pretty big, it might be easiest to pick a single recreation, then have people sign up for specific time slots when they’re free to leave their desks and waste some time dallying the game.

Some enormous activities with tolerable play-act experiences include Boggle, Jenga, or even games working good ol’ dallying posters. Don’t forgotten to incentivize with honours for first, second, and third place.

Three male coworkers playing in a board game tournament

Source: Glassdoor

6. Office Trivia

Who says trivia night simply makes targets at the bar? Office trivia is the perfect practice to generate a large group of colleagues together and objection the ability in the regions don’t certainly apply to their daily errands. Break the company into units of four or more and give small rewards for the teams who tally the most points.

Want to write your own trivia questions? For invoke, trivia questions are generally grouped into categories — four or five trivia questions per category — with optional bonus questions at the end of video games. While you can give each question a moment quality, you can also assign each team one particular extent of degrees per list that they can bet, instead. Each crew is available to speculation as numerous or as few qualities as they want per question until they’ve exploited all their spots for that category.

Not prepared to create your own trivia questions? Hire a trivia organization to host a trivia light at its term of office. There are tons of national trivia fellowships who’d be happy to host an event right on site — District Trivia, The Trivia Factory, and the Big Quiz Thing are just a few of them.

Small Group Activities 7. Improv Workshop

Comedy and improv occurrences are amusing, interactive know-hows that’ll have your employees hooting with laugh while teaching them beneficial communication and soft talents, like focus and trust. Depending on national budgets, you are able do anything from simply playing improv recreations with your employees to bringing in professionals to race competitive, fast-paced activities.

Improv workshop with a small group of coworkers

Source: Al-Jazeera

8. Two Truths and a Lie

This is a classic house party game, but it’s too an excellent icebreaker when integrating coworkers who don’t hitherto know one another.

Two Truths and a Lie is simple-minded: Start by organizing the group into a curve and utter all the persons the storey to introduce themselves. In addition to committing their epithet, nonetheless, each employee also says three situations about themselves — only two of which are true. It’s up to everybody else in the halo to approximate which explanation is the lie.

9. Karaoke Night

What better highway to get your employees to break out of their eggshells than to have them get up and sing some karaoke? You can even have a game for better group karaoke action. Bonus places if there are feather boas and cowboy hats involved. This works best for a more extroverted radical, so if your crew isn’t into strutting their material on stage, consider an idea on such lists that caters more toward those personalities.

Head of a microphone used for karaoke night, a team building activity for companies

Source: derekgavey

10. The “Suddenly” Story

If you’ve ever told fibs around a campfire, you might have told a variation of The “Suddenly” Story. This activity is the choose-your-own-adventure record of crew build activities. You’re not just telling a tale — you’re piecing a narrative together exercising the( often hilarious) imaginations of your coworkers.

To tell The “Suddenly” Story, gather your unit in a clique, and give the opening three decisions to a narration about anything. At the conclusion of its three decisions, say “Suddenly … ” and extend the story onto the person next to you. It’s their racket to take your three convicts and build on the floor with another three decisions, must be accompanied by “Suddenly … ” Each mention of “Suddenly” allows the narrative to take a turn. What that turn looks like is up to the next person in the circle.

The “Suddenly” Story helps people find ways of be built upon material that came before them, while also being innovative when all ears are on them. Try it the next time you want to get your department together for a end, and you’re sure to get everyone laughing.

11. Go-Kart Racing

Nothing like a bit competition to attachment a group together. An adrenaline-pumping event like kart hastening is a great way to get employees to interact with each other in a totally new and fun highway. Just make sure everyone give attention during the safety lecture.

Small group of coworkers going go-kart racing in red uniforms

12. Concentration( Marketing Edition)

Here’s a professional spin on the 1960 s game show. The original game show, announced Concentration, set 30 numbered tiles up on members of the board, each tile with an identical tile somewhere else on the board. What determined them identical? They had joining honours on the back. Over epoch, as contenders opened up more tiles, they had job opportunities select tiles they knew would match up and win the loot written on the back.

Businesses — peculiarly selling departments — can have a field day putting motto, slogans, and companionship names on the back of their own tiles and having actors match up every patch of the brand. As your business changes, you can even placed the names of your own makes, hires, and enterprise names on the backs of your tiles to see how well your coworkers know the company they work for.

Teamwork Games 13. Professional Development Workshop

Want to encourage your employees to bond while providing them with an opportunity to learn and significantly their job? Offer a shared learning experience either at your office, or at an off-site shop or seminar. The work could be specifically related to your employees’ positions, or it could be something broader, like trade negotiations or leader skills workshop.

Coworkers sitting around a lecturer hosting a professional development workshop

14. Jigsaw Puzzle Race

Jigsaw puzzles can be a laborious happen to put together alone. Maybe you have one set up at home and make progress on it for a couple of hours every weekend. Keep your countless brilliant peers on the action, however, and a jigsaw question becomes a enjoyable problem-solving defy. Break the company into squads for a multi-puzzle hasten, and suddenly you have a test of teamwork that electrifies the entire office.

Grab various copies of the same jigsaw riddle and turn your weekend activity into a race to look which unit can accomplish the puzzle firstly. Give pillages just like you would in video games of office trivia. Just is ensured each unit has the same number of people and elect your problem length wisely. A 1000 -piece puzzle, for example, might be a bit time-consuming for a team of only five or six people.

15. Room Escape Games

Here’s a great bonding act that requires lead knowledge, teamwork, reasoning, and persistence. Room escape sports — Escape the Room, Puzzle Break, AdventureRooms, etc. — have become a wildly popular team-building practice for radicals around the globe.

Here’s how it use: A group of beings goes “locked” in a office for one hour. During that one hour, they have to find hidden objectives, solve questions, and figure out clues to locate the key that are able to given them free. And it’s not easy: Only 20% of musicians actually make it out before the hour is up.

Escape the Room

Source: Escape the Room St. Louis

16. The Egg Drop Challenge

Chances are, you played this in academy or summer camp. The Egg Drop Challenge is a beloved tradition that challenges units of kids to create big formations around an uncooked egg in order to protect the egg from a high fall onto hard field. Each team is given specific items they can use to build the structure that protects the egg, but nothing more. So, why not furnish the same challenge to your coworkers?

Straws, newspaper, tape, and cardboard are only some common items provided during the Egg Drop Challenge — as you can see in the sample egg fortress below. For your coworkers, nonetheless, consider making it even more challenging and allow them to use simply anything available in the office.

The height of the fall is up to you, very, but be sure to set an altitude that’s compatible with information materials each crew has to work with.

Egg taped to four toilet paper rolls and a sponge for an egg drop challenge

Source: Buggy and Buddy

17. Laser Tag

Another enormous method to get your adrenaline shooting? A good age-old recreation of laser label. Not exclusively is it huge entertaining, it’s likewise an opportunity for employees to rehearsal their policy and logic knowledge, as well as teamwork skills. Bonus: Determine units ahead of time and have people dress up.

Group of coworkers playing laser tag as a teamwork game

18. Catch Phrase

In this classic party game, players team up and take turns describing words and mottoes to their teammates without saying the word or phrase itself. Phrases can include notorieties, expressions, or just simple thoughts acquired around the house. If my quotation is “needle in a haystack, ” for example, a clue I might give to my teammates could be “a pointy object buried inside raise equipment.”

Catch Phrase is the excellent lane to get your employees together and learn them how to communicate with each other.( Don’t annoy, everyone will be having so much fun, they won’t realize that’s what you’re doing .)

This game is often played with a basket of words on slip-ups of newspaper, but it became so popular, Hasbro made an electronic account.

Outings and Events 19. Volunteer

Giving time to support a good cause isn’t just good for the person; it’s too a great room for your unit members to bail. Place-based volunteering ideas include events like volunteering at a regional soup kitchen, helping build a Habitat for Humanity live, or extraditing endowments to children’s infirmaries during the holidays. Skill-based volunteering is a cool route to unfold your employees’ knowledge: It’s when your crew volunteers its time and uses its professional skills — anything from selling to app change to writing — to cure a nonprofit.

Try VolunteerMatch.org for either type of volunteering possibilities, and Catchafire.org for skill-based volunteering opportunities.

People standing outside with shovels and wood chips while volunteering, one of many team building activities for companies and corporations

Source: VolunteerSpot

20. Mystery Dinner

Mystery dinners are one of the most beloved habits here at HubSpot. On a single darknes, you send a group of tribes from various squads within your busines to dinner somewhere in your metropolitan( or at someone’s home ). The dinner is hosted by one of your company’s chairwomen and paid for by the company. These dinners allow random an organization of beings from the same corporation to waste an night chock full of good menu and conversation together.

What shapes them a whodunit dinner? The only happen players should know about the dinner ahead of time is the year and epoch. Then, on the afternoon the dinner is supposed to come about, communicate each group an email with the name of the restaurant they’re going to and who they’ll be going with, so they are in a position agree transportation together.

Optional: Return every dinner host the name of a diner or bar to invite everyone to congregate at once the dinners are over.

Mystery Dinner

21. Kayaking/ Canoeing

Nothing says “let’s work together” quite like trying not to end up in the spray. Want to take advantage of the outdoors? Grab a paddle and foreman down to the closest river for a great spring or time outing.

Many public creeks and ponds have boat residences where it is possible payment kayaks and canoes — and you can urge folks to hire multi-person ones and pair up with beings they don’t often work with.

Five coworkers kayaking on a company outing

22. Trampoline Park

Hey, who says trampolines are just for adolescents? Make your team to a trampoline park for some startle fun and a chance to work off the day’s stress. Numerous municipals have neighbourhood arranges with trampoline activities — if you’re in the Boston area, check out Skyzone for trampoline dodgeball and basketball games.

Team Outing Ideas: Trampoline Jumping

Source: Mustbeart

23. Something Touristy

Embrace your metropolitan! Pick a hot tourist end and go as a unit. You can even do a Segway tour.( Fanny carries: optional .) It’ll be fun to laugh at how goofy it feels to be a sightseer in your own city, and you might even learn something new.

Yellow Duck Tour boat on the water

Source: Wikimedia

24. Painting Class

If you’re looking for a slightly more loosen work, take a group depicting class. Paint Nite hosts painting first-class by neighbourhood creators at various forbids throughout major municipals for depicting on canvases, wine-colored glass( like in the picture below ), and so on. It’s a great style to let your squad representatives undo, catch up over some potions, and express their creativity.

paint-nite.jpg

25. Cooking Class

In the attitude for something a little more … culinary? Change up the usual outing to a bar or your local eatery, and try a cooking class. Through a service such as Kitchensurfing, you are able to hire a professional cook to come cook a fancy banquet for you in your residence or office kitchen. Between the multiple trends cooked before your eyes, your unit will have plenty of time to strike up a discussion and experience the delicious aromas.

HubSpot employees taking a cooking class

26. Explore a New Place

Few happens more amusing than get out of the town and exploring for a era. So, why not do it with your crew?

For large happenings — maybe on a quarterly basis, when you have more budget to use for jaunts — charter a bus and take your team to a brand-new residence. You can all take a historical tour of the new place, grasp lunch at a restaurant serving the town’s finest, or take in a local attraction together.

ptown-outing.jpg

27. Sports Game

Round up the team and head out to a plays competition. What a fantastic path to rev up team spirit while combining both rivalry and camaraderie.

team_outings_baseball_game

Source: Wikimedia

Now you’re ready to show your squad a great time while increasing their delight and creating a great corporation culture. And hey, you might just be the “cool boss” now. How cool would that be?

Want more? Read The Power of Teamwork: 31 Repeats That Celebrate Collaboration.

download free guide to company culture

how to create a company culture code

Read more about this at: blog.hubspot.com

7 Free Project Management Software Options to Keep Your Team On-Track

59% of U.S. workers say communication is their team’s biggest obstacle to success, followed by accountability.

Managing multiple projects at once, delegating tasks, and collaborating across teams is difficult on a good day — but can become downright impossible when unforeseen obstacles get in the way.

Miscommunication and inefficiencies in your project management process can lead to confusing and stressful experiences for your employees, and hinder your company’s ability to satisfy your clients’ needs or hit end-of-year goals. This can lead to major losses over time.

Fortunately, there are plenty of free project management software options to keep your team on-track without breaking the bank. To streamline your process and ensure everyone on your team is on the same page, take a look at these seven exceptional free project management tools.

1. Teamweek

Teamweek is an effective project management tool to automate your task delegation process, and visualize which project tasks have been completed and which haven’t. If your team often collaborates with other departments on projects, this could be a useful tool for you.

Features include:

Gantt-chart visualization to track important deadlines and projects
Integrations with Slack, Github, Evernote, and others
Team collaboration option through shared calendars and task notes

Cost: Free for an unlimited number of projects for up to five team members

2. Zoho Reports

Zoho Reports is easy to use and lets you create comprehensive dashboards and data visualizations to ensure your projects are on-track. You can import data from outside files, cloud drives, applications, and in-house apps, enabling you to create more accurate cross functional reports. (Zoho Reports is a HubSpot integration partner).

Features include:

Easy drag-and-drop interface with BI visualization tools
Ability to share and collaborate on reports and dashboards with colleagues privately.
Cloud BI reporting tool embedded within your own website or product
Integrations with Slack, Google Apps, and Dropbox, as well as mobile apps, making team collaboration easier.

Cost: Free for one project with multiple users, storage up to 10 GB

3. Asana

Asana, one of the most popular project management solutions used by millions of people across 192 countries, has a clean and user-friendly interface. The all-in-one tool lets you create boards to visualize which stage your project is in, and use reporting to keep track of finished tasks and tasks that need your attention.

Features include:

The ability to create templates to automate mundane tasks
The ability to collaborate and share information across the team, privately and securely
The option to set security controls and designate admins
Over 100 integrations for a more efficient start-to-finish process
Custom project fields, share documents, and filter tasks

Cost: Free for unlimited projects for teams up to 15 people.

4. Teamwork

Teamwork, a project management tool that specializes in bringing together remote workers, allows you to create team member status updates so your remote and flexible teams know their coworkers’ schedules. It also provides customer service functions, including the option to assign tickets or view customer emails in one place. (Teamwork is a HubSpot integration partner).

Features include:

Customizable navigation to prioritize your team’s needs
Gantt chart for visualizing due dates and project timelines
Private messaging, and option to make project details private
Team member status updates for remote or flexible team members

Cost: Free for two to five users

5. Wrike

Wrike stands out as an exceptional project management tool for teams who want the option to customize workflows and edit and revise projects from within the platform itself. The tool offers the ability to color code and layer calendars, and its mobile form allows colleagues to update project information on-the-go. You can add comments to sections, videos, or documents, and create custom fields to export data most relevant to your company.

Features include:

Security measures to ensure only authorized personnel can access information
Activity Stream to allow project managers to micromanage small tasks, see activities in chronological order, and tag team members
The option to unfollow activities to declutter your own personal Stream
Email and calendar synchronization
Built-in editing and approval features

Cost: Free for five team members

6. Paymo

Paymo’s free version only allows access for one user, but if you’ve got a small team or you’re a freelancer, this could be an efficient option for tracking billable hours and invoicing clients. Along with tracking finances, Paymo also allows you to organize project timelines, create to-do lists, and stay on top of your budgets for multiple projects at once.

Features include:

Kanban Boards
Time Tracking
File Sharing and Adobe CC Extension
Reporting
Three Invoices

Cost: Free for one user, one GB storage

7. ClickUp

ClickUp provides a few impressive features to customize the all-in-one project management tool to suit your team members, including the option for each user to choose one of three different ways to view their projects and tasks depending on individual preference. If your marketing team overlaps with sales, design, or development, this is an effective solution, as it provides features for all of those four teams.

Features include:

The ability to organize your projects based on priority, and assign tasks to groups
The option to set goals to remind teams what they’re aiming to accomplish
Google Calendar two-way sync
An easy way to filter, search, sorting, and customize options for managing specific tasks
Activity stream with mentions capability
Image mockups
57 integrated apps

Cost: Free forever, with unlimited users and unlimited projects, and 100 MB of storage

Read more about this at: blog.hubspot.com

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Working with a Virtual Assistant

a woman on phone, holding a stack of papers

Virtual assistants (VA) are remote office assistants. They provide administrative, clerical, and support services that can range from scheduling conference calls and sending invoices to more complex tasks regarding PR, marketing, and project management. Here are seven common mistakes to avoid when working with VAs.

1. Hiring for tasks instead of filling roles

Outsource a task and you may save yourself an hour. Outsource a role and you save yourself a job. Until the real AI revolution sweeps the world, the best VAs are people who can think for themselves. When you hire people to perform tasks you’re not taking advantage of this phenomenal human trait. When outsourcing tasks, once each is complete you must then spend time to delegate a new one. When you hire someone to fill a role, he or she can be trained to perform all the tasks associated with that role, keeping management time to a minimum.

2. Micromanaging a VA

We all know we shouldn’t be doing it, but if you’re a perfectionist it can be difficult to let someone else handle the reins of a business operation or task. Yet micromanagement is one of the most damaging habits an executive can have. When you micromanage, you become an operational bottleneck within your organization. It’s not that the buck shouldn’t stop with the boss, but when the buck’s been chopped up into too many indistinguishable pieces, teams can’t possibly predict your expectations and make independent decisions. VAs are supposed to free up your time, but if you micromanage you’ll end up spending more time delegating specific tasks than you gain from their help. Which brings us to our next mistake…

3. NOT USING A SYSTEM

Ever wonder if there was a way to have your cake and eat it too? In the context of virtual assistants, it may be possible to retain your perfectionism without succumbing to the pitfalls of micromanagement. By creating clear step-by-step procedures for how certain tasks should be performed, you can remove the guesswork and confusion that usually prevent teams working under micromanagers from being proactive and productive.

4. Neglecting to define a clear role or scope

When you’re working with a VA, or any other remote freelancer for that matter, it’s important to clearly define the role and the project scope. You can accomplish this by writing a clear project description for hiring a VA. Make a list of the specific tasks—social media posts, booking travel arrangements, scheduling meetings, etc.—of the role you’d like to outsource. Create a picture of the responsibilities, skills, and experience required of that role. Clarify whether this is a long-term hire or a one-time gig. Transparency will save you headaches and unmet expectations in the future.

5. Thinking you can 100% set it and forget it

Just because you don’t want to micromanage doesn’t mean you want to be an absentee manager either. You’ll still want to check in periodically on the projects and tasks you’ve assigned to your VA and provide feedback on his or her performance. How else is your VA supposed to learn how to better meet your business needs? Fortunately, plenty of project management tools are out there to help you better manage your VA and other members of the team. There are even freelancer management systems especially geared toward helping you work with VAs and other remote freelancers.

6. Failing to build trust

Virtual assistants can wear many hats. They can relieve you of all the repetitive, administrative, and clerical tasks associated with marketing, accounting, IT, sales, and so much more. But to take full advantage of a VA’s skills, you’ll need to be able to trust him or her. Trust has to be built; it’s a two-way street. You have to first ascertain whether you’re actually ready to delegate responsibilities to a VA. Then you have to be able to screen your short list and judge intangibles such as personality fit and attitude. Consider using test projects in your hiring process to help you select the right VA for your team.

7. NOT REALIZING VAs ARE MORE THAN COSTS ON A SPREADSHEET

Yes, it’s important to factor in the cost of hiring a VA; budgets must be balanced. However, it’s even more important to remember that when you hire a VA you’re really investing in a person, a new member of the team who can help take your business to new heights. Congratulate your VA on his or her successes. Keep your criticisms constructive. The VA you bring onto the team today could grow into a full-fledged project manager tomorrow. Nurture your investments and they’ll pay dividends in the future.

Read more about this at: feedproxy.google.com

Collaborative design fuels shared understanding—the fundamental currency of Lean UX

Lean UX begins with the idea that user experience design should be a collaborative process.

As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.

—Amy Poehler

What is a “user experience”? It’s the sum total of all of the interactions a user has with your product and service. It’s created by all of the decisions that you and your team make about your product or service: the way you price it, the way you package and sell it, the way you onboard users, the way you support it and maintain it and upgrade it, and so on and so on. In other words, it’s created by a team, not an individual user interface designer. For this reason, Lean UX begins with the idea that user experience design should be a collaborative process.


Figure 1-1. The Lean UX cycle

Lean UX brings designers and nondesigners together in co-creation. It yields ideas that are bigger and better than their individual contributors. But it’s not design-by-committee. It’s a process that is orchestrated and facilitated by designers, but one that’s executed by specialists working in their individual discipline who work from a common playbook you create together. Lean UX increases your team’s ownership over the work by providing an opportunity for individual points of view to be shared much earlier in the process.

In this chapter we’ll explore the many benefits that come from this close, cross-functional collaboration. Specifically, we’ll look at the following:

Why everybody gets to design

How low-fidelity artifacts increase collaboration

Building a shared understanding across your team

We’ll also look at a set of techniques that enable this more productive way of working:

Design Studio—a collaborative sketching exercise for the entire team

Design systems and style guides—living repositories of all the customer-facing elements of your product

Collaboration techniques for geographically distributed teams

Let’s dig in…

Collaborative Design

In not available, you learned about hypotheses. To test your hypotheses, you sometimes simply conduct research. But other times, you need to design and build something that will help you to test these hypotheses. For example, if you’re in the early stage of a project, you might test demand by creating a landing page that will measure how many customers sign up for your service. Or if you’re later in the product lifecycle, you might be working at the feature level—adding some new functionality that will make users more productive, for example. Navigating the many possible design options for these features can be difficult for teams. How often have you experienced team conflict over design choices?

The most effective way we’ve found to rally a team around a design direction is through collaboration. Over the long haul, collaboration yields better results than hero-based design (the practice of calling in a designer or design team to drop in, come up with something beautiful, and take off to rescue the next project). Teams rarely learn or get better from working with heroes. Instead, in the same way that creating hypotheses together increases the Product IQ of the team, designing together increases the Design IQ of the team. It allows all of the members of the team to articulate their ideas. It gives designers a much broader set of ideas to draw upon as they refine the design. This, in turn, increases the entire team’s feelings of ownership in the work. Finally, collaborative design builds team-wide shared understanding. It is this shared understanding that is the currency of Lean UX. The more the team collectively understands, the less it has to document in order to move forward.

Collaborative design is an approach that allows a team to design together. It helps teams build a shared understanding of both the design problem and the solution. It provides the means for them to work together to decide which functionality and interface elements best implement the feature they want to create.

Collaborative design is still a designer-led activity. It’s the designer’s responsibility to not only call collaborative design meetings but to facilitate them, as well. Sometimes, you’ll have informal chats and sketching sessions. Sometimes, more structured one-on-one sessions with a developer at a whiteboard. Other times, you will gather the entire team for a Design Studio exercise. The key is to collaborate with a diverse group of team members.

In a typical collaborative design session, teams sketch together, critique the work as it emerges, and ultimately converge on a solution they feel has the greatest chance of success. The designer, while still producing designs, takes on the additional role of facilitator to lead the team through a series of exercises.

The output of these sessions typically consists of low-fidelity sketches and wireframes. This level of fidelity is important. First, it makes it possible for everyone to contribute, even team members with less sophisticated drawing skills. Second, it’s critical to maintaining the malleability of the work. This gives the team the ability to pivot quickly if their tests reveal that the approach isn’t working. It’s much easier to pivot from a failed approach if you haven’t spent too much time laboriously drawing, documenting, and detailing that approach.

Collaborative Design: The Informal Approach

A few years ago, Jeff was designing a dashboard for a web app targeted at TheLadders’ recruiter and employer audience. There was a lot of information to fit on one screen and he was struggling to make it all work. Instead of burning too much time at his desk pushing pixels, he grabbed a whiteboard and asked Greg, the lead developer, to join him. Jeff sketched his original idea about how to lay out all of the content and functionality for this dashboard (see Figure 1-2). The two of them then discussed the idea, and eventually Jeff handed Greg the marker. He sketched his ideas on the same whiteboard. They went back and forth, ultimately converging on a layout and flow that they felt was both usable and feasible, given that they needed to deliver a solution within the current two-week sprint. At the end of that two-hour session, they returned to their desks and began working. Jeff refined the sketch into a more formal wireframe and workflow while Greg began to write the infrastructure code necessary to get the data they needed to the presentation layer.


Figure 1-2. Examples of whiteboard sketches

They had built a shared understanding through their collaborative design session. They both knew what they were going to build and what the feature needed to do. They didn’t need to wait to document it. This allowed them to get the first version of this idea built within a two-week time frame.

Conversation: Your Most Powerful Tool

Lean UX promotes conversation as the primary means of communication among team members. In this way, it is very much in line with the Agile Manifesto that promotes “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” Conversation unites a team around a shared vision. It also brings insights from different disciplines to the project much earlier than a traditional design cycle would allow. As new ideas are formed or changes are made to the design, a team member’s insight can quickly challenge those changes in a way the designer alone wouldn’t have recognized.

By having these conversations early and often, the team is aware of everyone’s ideas and can get started on their own work earlier. If they know that the proposed solution requires a certain backend infrastructure, for example, the team’s engineers can get started on that work while the design is refined and finalized. Parallel paths for software development and design are the fastest route to reach an actual experience.

These conversations might seem awkward at first; after all, you’re breaking down time-tested walls between disciplines. As the conversation evolves, however, designers provide developers with input on the implementation of certain features, ensuring the proper evolution of their vision. These conversations promote transparency of process and progress. This transparency builds a common language and deeper bonds between team members. Teammates who trust one another are more motivated to work together to produce higher-quality work.

Find ways to have more conversations with your teammates, both work-related and not. Time spent cultivating social ties with your team—eating meals together, for example—can make work-related conversations easier, more honest, and more productive.

Collaborative Design: A More Structured Approach

When your team is comfortable collaborating, informal sessions like the one we’ve just described take place all the time. But sometimes, you are going to need to gather everyone for a formal working session. Design Studio is a popular way to do this.1

This method, born in the architecture world where it was called Design Charrette, is a way to bring a cross-functional team together to visualize potential solutions to a design problem. It breaks down organizational silos and creates a forum for your fellow teammates’ points of view. By putting designers, developers, subject matter experts, product managers, business analysts, and other competencies together in the same space focused on the same challenge, you create an outcome far greater than working in silos allows. It has another benefit. It begins to build the trust your team will need to move from these formal sessions to more frequent and informal collaborations.

Running a Design Studio

The technique described in the sections that follow is very specific; however, you should feel comfortable to run less or more formal Design Studios as your situation and timing warrants. The specifics of the ritual are not the point as much as the activity of solving problems with your colleagues and clients.

Setting

To run a Design Studio session, you’ll want to find a dedicated block of time within which you can bring the team together. You should plan on at least a three-hour block. You’ll want a room with tables that folks can gather around. The room should have good wall space, so you can post the work in progress to the walls as you go.

The team

The process works best for a team of five to eight people. If you have more people, you can just create more teams and have the teams compare output at the end of the process. (Larger groups take a long time to get through the critique and feedback steps, so it’s important to split groups larger than about eight people into smaller teams who can each go through the following process in parallel, converging at the end.)

Process

Design Studio works within the following flow:

Problem definition and constraints

Individual idea generation (diverge)

Presentation and critique

Iterate and refine in pairs (emerge)

Team idea generation (converge)

Supplies

Here’s what you’ll need:

Pencils

Pens

Felt-tip markers or similar (multiple colors/thickness)

Highlighters (multiple colors)

Sketching templates (you can use preprinted one-up and six-up templates or you can use blank sheets of 11″ x 17″ [A3] paper divided into 6 boxes)

25″ x 30.5″ (A1) self-stick easel pads

Drafting dots (or any kind of small stickers)

Problem definition and constraints (15–45 minutes)

The first step in Design Studio is to ensure that everyone is aware of the problem you are trying to solve, the assumptions you’ve declared, the users you are serving, the hypotheses you’ve generated, and the constraints within which you are working. This can be a formal presentation with slides or it can be a group discussion.

Individual idea generation (10 minutes)

You’ll be working individually in this step. Give each member of the team a six-up template, which is a sheet of paper with six empty boxes on it, as depicted in Figure 1-3. You can make one by folding a blank sheet of 11″ x 17″ paper or make a preprinted template to hand to participants. (Some teams like to hand out small individual whiteboards to each participant. These are great because they’re easy to erase and tend to make people feel relaxed.)


Figure 1-3. A blank “six-up” template

Sometimes, people find they have hard time facing a blank page. If that’s the case, try this optional step. Ask everyone to label each box on their sheets with one of your personas and the specific pain point or problem they will be addressing for that persona. Write the persona’s name and pain point at the top of each of the six boxes. You can write the same persona/pain point pair as many times as you have solutions for that problem or you can write a different persona/pain point combination for each box. Any combination works. Spend five minutes doing this.

Next, with your six-up sheets in front of you, give everyone five minutes to generate six, low-fidelity sketches of solutions (see Figure 1-4 and Figure 1-7) for each persona/problem pair on their six-up sheet. These should be visual articulations (UI sketches, workflows, diagrams, etc.) and not written words. Encourage your team by revealing the dirty secret of interaction design to level the playing field: If you can draw a circle, square, and a triangle, you can draw every interface. We’re confident everyone on your team can draw those shapes.


Figure 1-4. A wall full of completed six-up drawings

Presentation and critique (3 minutes per person)

When time is up, share and critique what you’ve done so far. Going around the table, give the participants three minutes to hold up their sketches and present them to the team (Figure 1-5). Presenters should explicitly state who they were solving a problem for (in other words, what persona) and which pain point they were addressing, and then explain the sketch. Each member of the team should provide critique and feedback to the presenter. Team members should focus their feedback on clarifying the presenter’s intentions.

Giving good feedback is an art: In general, it’s better to ask questions than to share opinions. Questions help the team talk about what they’re doing, and help individuals think through their work. Opinions, on the other hand, can stop the conversation, inhibit collaboration, and put people on the defensive. So, when you’re providing critique, try to use questions like, “How does this feature address the persona’s specific problem?” Or, “I don’t understand that part of the drawing. Can you elaborate?” Questions like these are very helpful. Comments such as, “I don’t like that concept,” provide little value and don’t give the presenter concrete ideas to use for iterating.


Figure 1-5. A team presenting and critiquing drawings during a Design Studio

Make sure that every team member presents and receives critique.

Pair up to iterate and refine (10 minutes)

Now ask everyone to pair up for the next round. (If two people at the table had similar ideas, it’s a good idea to ask them to work together.) Each pair will be working to revise their design ideas (Figure 1-6). The goal here is to pick the ideas that have the most merit and develop a more evolved, more integrated version of those ideas. Each pair will have to make some decisions about what to keep, what to change, and what to throw away. Resist the temptation here to create quick agreement by getting more general or abstract. In this step, you need to make some decisions and get more specific. Have each pair produce a single drawing on an 11″ x 17″ (A3) six-up sheet. Give each team 10 minutes for this step.

When the time is up, ask the team to go through the present-and-critique process again.


Figure 1-6. A team working together in a Design Studio exercise

Team idea generation (45 minutes)

Now that all team members have feedback on their individual ideas and people have paired up to develop ideas further, the team must converge on one idea. In this step, the team is trying to select the ideas they feel have the best chance for success. This set of ideas will serve as the basis for the next step in the Lean UX process: creating an MVP and running experiments (both covered in the next chapter).

Ask the team to use a large sheet of self-stick easel pad paper or a whiteboard to sketch the components and workflow for their idea. There will be a lot of compromise and wrangling at this stage, and to get to consensus, the team will need to prioritize and pare back features. Encourage the team to create a “parking lot” for good ideas that don’t make the cut. This will make it easier to let go of ideas. Again, it’s important to make decisions here: resist the temptation to get consensus by generalizing or deferring decisions.

(If you have split a large group into multiple teams in the Design Studio, ask each team to present their final idea to the room when they are finished for one final round of critique and feedback, and if desired, convergence.)

Using the output

Before you break, decide on next steps. You can use the designs you’ve created in this process as the basis for building MVPs, for running experiments, for production design and development—the process is very versatile. Just ensure that, having asked people to spend a lot of time contributing to the final design, you treat their contribution with respect. Decide together on next steps and then stay on top of the progress so that people keep their commitments and follow through.

To keep the output visible, post it on a design wall or another prominent place so that the team can refer back to it. Decide on what (if any) intermediate drawings people want to keep and display these alongside the final drawing, again so that team members can refer back to the ideas. Regardless of what you keep posted on the wall, it’s generally a good idea to photograph everything and keep it in an archive folder of some sort. You never know when you’ll want to go back to find something. It’s also a good idea to put a single person in charge of creating this archive. Creating some accountability will tend to ensure that the team keeps good records.


Figure 1-7. Output of a Design Studio session

Design Systems

So far in this chapter, we’ve focused on the ways that teams can design together. In practice, this usually means that teams are sketching together, either on paper or at a whiteboard. It almost never means that teams are sitting together at a workstation moving pixels around. In fact, this kind of group hovering at the pixel level is what most designers would consider their worst nightmare. (To be clear: don’t do this.)

And yet, design isn’t done when the sketch is done. It’s not completed at the whiteboard. Instead, it’s usually just getting started. So how do we get design to the pixel level? How do we get to finished visual design?

Increasingly, we’re seeing teams turn to design systems. Design systems are like style guides on steroids. They were an emerging species when we completed the first edition of this book but have now become an accepted best practice for digital product teams. Large organizations like Westpac (see Figure 1-8) and GE use them. Technology-native companies like MailChimp and Medium and Salesforce and countless others use them, too. Even the US Federal Government has released a design system. There are even entire two-day conferences dedicated to them. But, before we get into why design systems are having their moment, let’s talk about what they are.


Figure 1-8. The GEL design system website from Westpac

Design Systems: What’s in a Name?

Style guides. Pattern libraries. Brand guidelines. Asset libraries. There’s not a lot of common language in this part of the design world, so let’s take a moment to clarify our terms.

For years, large organizations created brand guidelines—comprehensive documents of brand design and usage rules for those companies. In predigital days, these guidelines were documents, sometimes a few pages, but frequently large, comprehensive bound volumes. As the world moved online, these books sometimes moved onto the Web as PDF documents, web pages, or even wikis.

At the same time, publishers and publications often maintained style guides that covered rules of writing and content presentation. College students in the United States are familiar with the comforting strictness of The Chicago Manual of Style, The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, and others.

The computing world’s version of a style guide is exemplified by Apple’s famous Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). The HIG is a comprehensive document that explains every component in Apple’s operating system, provides rules for using the components, and contains examples that demonstrate proper use of the components.

Finally, developers are familiar with asset libraries. These collections of reusable code elements are intended to make the developer’s job easier by providing tested, reusable code that’s easy to download from an always-current code repository.

As with many ideas in the digital world, digital design systems (which we’ll call design systems for the sake of brevity) are a kind of mash up of all of these ideas. A good design system contains comprehensive documentation of the elements of a design, rules and examples that govern the use of these elements, and crucially, contains the code and other assets that actually implement the design.

In practice, a design system functions as a single source of truth for the presentation layer of a product. Teams can sketch at the whiteboard and then quickly use the elements found in the design system to assemble a prototype or production-ready frontend.

The Value of Design Systems

Design systems are a powerful enabler of Lean UX. They allow the visual and microinteraction details of a design to be developed and maintained in parallel with the other decisions a team makes. So decisions like screen structure, process flow, information hierarchy—things that can be worked out at the whiteboard—can be handled by the right group of teammates, whereas things like color, type, and spacing can be handled by another (very likely overlapping) group of folks.

This has a couple of big benefits for teams:

It allows the team to design faster, because they’re not reinventing the wheel every time they design a screen.

It allows the team to prototype faster, because frontend developers are working from a kit of parts—they don’t need to recreate the elements of a solution each time, they can just go get the appropriate pieces out of the design system.

It also has some big benefits for organizations:

Increased consistency
A good design system is easy for developers to use. So they are more likely to use parts that they find in the design system, and less likely to “roll their own.” This means a greater likelihood that their work will adhere to brand standards.
Increased quality
By centralizing the design and creation of user-facing elements, you can take advantage of the work of a few highly trained and highly specialized designers and UI developers. Their high-quality work can be implemented by other less-specialized developers in the organization to produce top-notch results.
Lower costs
A good design system is not free. It requires investment to build it and staff to maintain it. But over time, it pays for itself by providing tools and frameworks that make the users of the system—the other developers in the organization—more efficient and more productive. It allows new designers to come up to speed more quickly, for example, because it documents all of the frontend conventions used in an app. Similarly, it allows new developers to come up to speed more quickly, because the basic building blocks of their work are available in an easy-to-use framework.

Case Study: GE Design System

In 2012, GE opened GE Software in San Ramon, California. This new “Center of Excellence” (CoE) was designed to help GE improve its software game. A few years earlier, a strategic review helped the company to see just how central software had become to their business—measured in lines of code, GE was something like the 17th largest software company in the world. And yet they felt they were not treating software development with the focus it deserved.

San Ramon included a new team at GE: the GE Software User Experience Team. This small team at the heart of a giant company created their first design system in 2013 in order to scale the impact they could have. Indeed, with fewer than 50 designers to collaborate with more than 14,000 developers (inside an organization of more than 300,000 people), there was no way that this startup design team could grow quickly enough to have a meaningful effect at GE.

The team’s first design system, called IIDS, for the Industrial Internet Design System, was designed by a group of internal designers with the help of a small team from Frog Design, one of the leading design firms in the world. The team built the system on top of Bootstrap, the HTML/CSS framework created by Twitter. It proved incredibly successful. Within a few years it had been downloaded by internal developers more than 11,000 times and had been used to create hundreds of applications. It helped software teams across the company produce better looking, more consistent applications. And, perhaps just as important, it created a huge amount of visibility for the software team and the UX team at San Ramon.

With that success came some problems. To be sure, simply having a good UI kit doesn’t mean that a team can produce a well-designed product. Design systems don’t solve every design problem. And Bootstrap was showing its limits as a platform choice. It had helped the team achieve their first objectives: get something out quickly, provide broad coverage of UI elements, and create wide adoption by being easier to use than “roll-your-own” solutions. But Bootstrap was hard to maintain and update and was just too big for most needs.

In 2015, GE Software, having had great success as an internal service bureau, morphed into GE Digital, a revenue-generating business in its own right. Their first product was called Predix (Figure 1-9), a platform on top of which developers inside and outside of GE can build software for industrial applications. And with this change of strategy, the team realized they needed to rethink their design system. Whereas earlier the goal had been to provide broad coverage and broad adoption, the new design system would be driven by new needs: it needed to enable great Predix applications, which was a more focused problem than before. It needed to limit the number of UI choices rather than supporting every possible UI widget. It still needed to be easy to adopt and use—it was now intended for use by GE customers—but now it was imperative that it be easy to maintain, as well.

The design system team had by this time grown to about 15 people and included design technologists (frontend developers who are passionate about both design and code), interaction designers, graphic designers, a technical writer, and a product owner.


Figure 1-9. The GE Predix Design System

The team chose to move the design system to a new technology platform. No longer based on Bootstrap, the system has instead been created with Polymer, a JavaScript framework that allows the team to implement Web Components. Web Components has emerged in the last few years as a way to enable more mature frontend development practices.

To create the new design system, the team spent nearly six months prototyping. Significantly, the team did not work in isolation. Instead, they paired with one of the application teams, and thus were designing components to meet the needs of their users—in this case the designers and developers working on the application teams. This point is really important. Collaborative design takes many forms. Sometimes it means designing with your cross-functional team. Sometimes it means designing with your end users. In this instance, it was a hybrid: designing with a cross-functional team of designers and developers who actually are your users.


Figure 1-10. The GE Predix Design System on GitHub

Creating a Design System

As the GE story illustrates, there’s more than one way to create a design system, and the choices you and your team make should be driven by the goals you have for the work and capabilities at your disposal. GE is a company with a large enough budget to hire excellent consultants to get the effort started, and the resources to create and dedicate a team to the effort. Is that realistic for your organization? And what goals must your design system support? Is widespread adoption important? Do you need broad coverage from day one or can you build the system over time? All of these questions will drive the approach you take. With that in mind though, here are some common themes to consider as you create your own design system.

Characteristics of successful design systems and style guides

Whether you are creating a full-blown design system or a more limited style guide, consider these important characteristics:

It takes into account audience needs
Remember that the audience for your style guide is the entire product team. Designers, developers, QA people, will all rely on the design system for their work. Include them on the team that creates the system and make sure the contents of the system reflect their needs.
Continual improvement
Design systems must be considered living documents. They must be a single source of truth for your organization. As your product evolves, so too must your design system. The design system should be malleable enough to add updates easily, and you must have a clear process for making these updates.
There is clear ownership
Assign an owner to the design system. This could be a dedicated team with a product owner, an editor, or curator who works with content creators, or simply a single responsible person, but it needs to be clear who is responsible for keeping the design system up-to-date. If this becomes a burdensome responsibility, consider rotating this role on a regular basis every three months.
The system is actionable
Your design system is not just a library or museum for user interface elements. It should be a “widget factory” that can produce any interface element on demand. As each new element is added to the system, make it available for download in whatever formats your team will need. Ensure that not only the code is available but the graphical and wireframe assets, as well. This allows every designer to have a full palette of interface elements with which to create prototypes at any given time.
The system is accessible
Accessibility means that the design system is available to everyone in your organization. Accessible design systems are:

Easily found
Use a memorable URL and ensure that everyone is aware of it.
Easily distributed
Ensure that your teams can access it at their convenience (in the office, out of the office, on mobile devices, etc.).
Easy to search
A comprehensive and accurate search of the design system greatly increases its usage.
Easy to use
Treat this as you would any other design project. If it’s not usable, it will go unused very quickly.

What goes into a design system?

If it’s made of pixels, it goes into the design system. All interaction design elements should be defined and added to the design system. Use design patterns that work well in your existing product as the baseline of your design system. Form fields, labels, drop-down menus, radio button placement and behavior, Ajax and jQuery events, buttons—all of these should be included in the design system, as is illustrated in Figure 1-11, which shows the system for Salesforce.


Figure 1-11. If it’s made of pixels, it goes into the design system

Provide three data points for each interaction design element (see Figure 1-12):

What does the element look like?
Include detail about the minimum and maximum sizes of the element, vertical and horizontal constraints, and any styling demands on the element.
Where it’s usually placed on the screen
Make it clear if an element should be consistently placed in certain areas of the screen as well as any exceptions that might negate this design pattern.
When it should be used
It’s imperative that your team knows when to use a drop-down menu over a radio button and other factors that would determine the selection of one UI element in place of another.


Figure 1-12. A detail from the Westpac GEL design system

Next, include all visual design elements. Begin with the general color palette of your product. Ensure that each primary color is available with hex values along with complementary and secondary color choices. If certain elements, like buttons, for example, have different colors based on state, include this information in the description. Other elements to include here are logos, headers, footers, grid structures, and typographical choices (i.e., which fonts to use where and at what size/weight). The same attributes of what, where, and when provided for interaction design elements should also be provided here.

Finally, you need to codify copywriting styles, as well. Capture the tone of your brand, specific words you will and won’t use, grammatical choices, tolerated (and not) colloquialisms, along with button language (“OK,” “Yes,” “Go,” etc.) and other navigation language (previous/next, more/less, and so on).

Alternatives: The Wiki-Based Style Guide

Of course, not every team will have the wherewithal to create a design system. For teams that can’t justify the effort, you can still get a lot of value out of a wiki-based style guide. Here’s why:

Wikis are familiar places for developers. This means that getting your teammates in engineering to participate in this tool will not involve forcing them to learn a new tool or one that was purpose-built only for designers.

Wikis keep revision histories (good ones do anyway). This is crucial because there will be times when you might want to roll back updates to the UI. Revision histories keep you from having to recreate previous states of the style guide.

Wikis keep track of who changed what and provide commenting functionality. This is ideal for keeping a trail of what decisions were made, who made them, and what the rationale and even the discussion were for making that change. As you onboard new team members, this type of historical capture can bring them up to speed much faster, as well. In other words, wikis are your documentation.

Collaborating with Geographically Distributed Teams

Physical distance is one of the biggest challenges to strong collaboration. Some of the methods we’ve discussed in this chapter—especially Design Studio—become more difficult when a team isn’t all in the same location. But you still find ways to collaborate. Tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and Slack can provide teams with the means to collaborate in real time. Google Docs (including Google Draw) and purpose-built services like Mural.com allow teammates to collaborate on a document at the same time. Trello and wikis make it possible for teams to track information together. And a phone with a camera can make it easy to quickly share photos in an ad hoc way. All these tools can make cross-time-zone collaboration more effective and can help teams to feel virtually connected for long periods of time during the day.

Collaborative Design Sessions with Distributed Teams

Working on a geographically distributed team can make collaborative design more difficult. The benefits of collaboration are worth making the extra effort it takes to overcome the challenge of distance. Let’s take a look at how one team we worked with overcame a continent-wide separation and designed solutions together.

This team was spread into two groups in two cities: the product and user experience team was in New York and the development team was in Vancouver. Our goal was to run a Design Studio and affinity mapping session with the entire team.

Set up

We asked the two groups to gather in their individual conference rooms with their own laptops. Each conference room had a Mac in it with a location-specific Skype account (that is, it wasn’t a specific individual’s account—it was an “office” account). The two offices connected to each other via their office Skype accounts so that we could see each other as a group. This visual element was critical because it was the closest we could get to physically being in the same room.

We prepared a very brief (roughly 10 slides) setup presentation that explained the problem statement we were tackling. It included customer testimonials and data, and a very brief recap of our customers’ needs. The presentation also included the constraints of the solution space.

Priming the pump with affinity mapping

We kicked things off with an affinity mapping exercise. Typically, these are done by using sticky notes and a whiteboard. In this case, we used a shared Google Doc spreadsheet to conduct the exercise, as shown in Figure 1-13. We asked everyone in both offices to sign in to the shared spreadsheet. The spreadsheet itself had a column labeled for each person. Google Docs allows multiple editors to work in the same document. For this meeting, we had eight team members in the document at the same time!

We asked the team to come up with as many ideas as they could think of to solve the problem we presented. Each team member wrote one idea per cell in the column marked with that individual’s name. We gave the team five minutes to generate as many ideas as they could.

Next, to make sure everyone in each location was aware of all of the proposals, we asked the team members to read their ideas to the distributed team. Some ideas went by quickly, whereas others generated more discussion.


Figure 1-13. Using Google Sheets for an affinity mapping session with a distributed team

To simulate affinity grouping in the shared spreadsheet, one member of the team, serving as a facilitator, began a second sheet in the document using a personal laptop. The facilitator created some initial column headers in the second sheet that reflected recurring themes that emerged from discussion.

Then, we asked the team to group the ideas under the themes. Everyone moved their own ideas into the theme sheet, and people were free to add new themes if they felt their ideas didn’t fit into any of the existing themes. At the end of this process, we had created a spreadsheet filled with ideas that were sorted into themes. Some themes had just a pair of ideas; others had as many as eight.

Design Studio with remote teams

To set up for the next step, a Design Studio session, we tried to mimic a colocated version of the activity as much as possible. We provided paper and pens at each location. We created a dual-monitor setup in each conference room so that each room would be able to see the sketches on one monitor while still being able to see their teammates via Skype on the second monitor, as shown in Figure 1-14. We asked each team to use a phone to photograph their sketches and email them to everyone else. This helped connect the dialog and the artifact to the conversation.


Figure 1-14. Dual monitor setup during remote Design Studio

After that initial setup, we were able to proceed with the Design Studio process as normal. Team members were able to present their ideas to both rooms and to receive trans-continental critique. The two teams were able to refine their ideas together and were eventually able to converge on one idea to take forward.

Making Collaboration Work

Not every team will find that collaboration comes easily. Most of us begin our careers by developing our individual technical skills as designers, developers, and so on. And in many organizations, collaboration across disciplines is rare. So it’s no wonder that it can feel challenging.

One of the most powerful tools for improving collaboration is the Agile technique of the retrospective and the related practice of creating Team Working Agreements. Retrospectives are regularly scheduled meetings, usually held at the end of every sprint, in which the team takes an honest look back at the past sprint. They examine what went well, what went poorly, and what the team wants to improve. Usually, the team will select a few things to work on for the next sprint. We can think of no more powerful tool for improving collaboration than the regular practice of effective retrospectives.

A Team Working Agreement is a document that serves as a partner to the retrospective. It keeps track of how the team has chosen to work together. It’s a self-created, continuously updated rule book that the team agrees to follow. At each retrospective, the team should check in with their Working Agreement to see if they’re still following it and if they need to update it to include new agreements or remove old ones that no longer make sense.

Here’s an outline for what you should consider covering in your Team Working Agreements (we’ve made a copy of our favorite template available online at http://leanuxbook.com/links):

Process overview
What kind of process are we using? Agile? If so, what flavor? How long are our iterations?
Ceremonies
What rituals will the team observe? For example, when is stand-up each day? When do we hold planning meetings and demos?
Communication/Tools
What systems will we use to communicate and document our work? What is our project management tool? Where do we keep our assets?
Working hours
Who works where? When are folks in the office? If we’re in different locations, what accommodations will we make for time-zone differences?
Requirements and design
How do we handle requirements definition, story writing, and prioritization? When is a story ready for design? When is a design ready to be broken into stories?
Development
What practices have we settled on? Do we use pair programming? What testing style will we use? What methods will we use for source control?
Work-in-progress limits
What is our backlog and icebox size? What WIP limits exist in various stages of our process?
Deployment
What is our release cadence? How do we do story acceptance?

And, any additional agreements.

Wrapping Up

Collaborative design (Figure 1-15) is an evolution of the UX design process. In this chapter, we discussed how opening up the design process brings the entire team deeper into the project. We talked about how the low-fidelity drawings created in Design Studio sessions can help teams generate many ideas and then converge on a set that the entire team can get behind. We showed you practical techniques you can use to create shared understanding—the fundamental currency of Lean UX. Using tools like design systems, style guides, collaborative design sessions, Design Studio, and simple conversation, your team can build a shared understanding that allows them to move forward at a much faster pace than in traditional environments.


Figure 1-15. A team using collaborative design techniques

Now that we have all of our assumptions declared and our design hypotheses created, we can begin the learning process. In the next chapter, we cover the Minimum Viable Product and how to use it to plan experiments. We use those experiments to test the validity of our assumptions and decide how to move forward with our project.

1In the years since we published the first edition of this book, the Design Studio method has become increasingly popular. There are now two comprehensive guides to the method. If you want to go deeper than our coverage, see Design Sprint by Banfield, Lombardo, and Wax and Sprint by Knapp, Zeratsky, and Kowitz.

Continue reading Collaborative design fuels shared understanding—the fundamental currency of Lean UX.

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4 Easy Ways to Improve your Content Marketing Strategy

If your business is online, you need a content marketing strategy.

Why? As well as being useful for SEO, content marketing helps you to make that all-important connection with your customers, building trust and loyalty.

However, without a strategy, your efforts are in vain. Here are 4 super easy ways to improve your content marketing strategy.

1: Launch a Podcast

A podcast might not be the first thing you think of when you think of content marketing, but they’re growing in popularity.

Picture it: It’s 8 am, your customer is heading out on the morning commute, and they need something to pass the time. Might as well do some learning, right? Podcasts offer insightful information to the consumer, and they engage and entertain.

Ken Greene of Engineer of Finance wasn’t sure that he should launch a podcast, but it has enabled him to grow his business substantially. With prospective clients reaching out to him from across the country, he says that it “might be one of the best things I’ve done marketing-wise.”

Here are some things to think about when launching your podcast:

Pick the right topic that’s suitable for your audience
Pick a relevant name
Decide on a length. A podcast episode doesn’t need to be too long. Neil Patel’s Marketing School lasts just 5 minutes each time.
Decide on a style. Will your podcasts be centered around interviews? Will you have a co-host?

2: Launch an Email Marketing Campaign

There are a wrong way and a right way to do email marketing. But firstly, why even bother with it?

Email should be essential to your content marketing efforts because it’s still one of the best – if not the best – ways of keeping in touch with your customers. When you gather your customers together in one place, you don’t need to keep spending your valuable resources on finding new ones. They’re right there.

All you’ve got to do is keep them happy with a robust email marketing campaign.

Here are some email campaign launch tips:

Offer plenty of value; this means that you can’t continually sell to readers in every email. Sell some of the time, but make sure that the bulk of your emails are focused on building a genuine relationship with your subscribers. Educate, inform and entertain them.
Don’t email your customers every day. The trick is emailing your customers often enough to make sure that you stay at the front of their minds, but not so often that you annoy them — once a week or twice a month should do it.
Nail the subject line. An email marketing campaign will be ineffective if your open rate is low. To get that open rate up, you need a solid subject line all the time. Check this article for some cool email headline tips.

3: Create Stronger Content

It might sound obvious, but it’s worth pointing out that content creation is key to the success of your content marketing strategy – and it’s also something that causes many of us to struggle.

To create better content that your audience responds positively to, you first of all need to understand who they are and what their persona is. To help you get to know your audience better, use Google Analytics.

Secondly, once you know who your audience is you then need some fresh topic ideas; this part might cause some internal grappling. If you’re in a genuine creative slump, I recommend the B.U.I.L.D model – it could help perk you up.

Other than that, Answer the Public is a fantastic free tool that helps you come up with new content ideas. Alternatively, you could ask your followers on social media what problems they’ve been facing lately and build content around their answers.

4: Go Live With Video

Going live with video can be pretty scary if you’ve never done it before. But Facebook Live has revolutionized content marketing, and it should play a key role in your strategy from now on.

Video marketing is a big deal, but live video is even more significant. By 2018, almost 2 billion people had watched Facebook Live broadcasts, and the amount of live videos we consume each month is growing all the time.

What’s the appeal of live videos? A live video gives you a chance to catch your audience in real time, and you can use them to field questions and demonstrate your expertise in your niche.

Facebook Live also lets you show your audience that you’re a genuine brand, and it establishes a sort of realness between you and your audience.

That said, it’s important to take note that more and more of us expect a certain level of video quality from live streams in 2018. To make sure your video looks good and doesn’t turn people off because it’s grainy, use speedtest.net to check your upload speed.

Conclusion

These are four easy ways to improve your content marketing strategy. Podcasts are a great way to grab the attention of people who are too busy to read your blogs but do not discount the likes of email marketing. Meanwhile, make sure to go live – don’t worry, it’s not that scary.

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The Ultimate Dictionary of Marketing Terms You Should Know

Here on the HubSpot blog, we’ve written glossary-themed posts that cover some of the core components of inbound marketing. We’ve covered social media terms, content marketing termssmarketing termsemail marketing terms, website optimization terms … heck, even marketing acronyms.

Discover a framework for running more impactful, measurable marketing  campaigns.

Well, we thought it was time to create a blog post that could serve as a holistic marketing glossary — one that not only defines each term, but also offers some helpful resources in case you want to learn about them in more depth. We hope you can bookmark this post and come back to it whenever you need to.

Now, I’m no math whiz, but when you try to make a glossary based on a topic with sub-categories that could be their own glossaries, well — that’s a lot of gloss. So instead of throwing hundreds of terms at you from all those other glossaries, I narrowed this one down to the top 99 terms that are imperative to anyone learning about marketing. 

Marketing Terms to Know

A/B Testing
Analytics
Application Programming Interface (API)
B2B (Business-to-Business)
B2C (Business-to-Consumer)
Blogging
Business Blogging

A
1. A/B Testing

This is the process of comparing two variations of a single variable to determine which performs best in order to help improve marketing efforts. This is often done in email marketing (with variations in the subject line or copy), calls-to-action (variations in colors or verbiage), and landing pages (variations in content). Outside of marketing, you can use it to determine what tastes better on a peanut butter sandwich: jelly or fluff. (Learn how to run A/B tests here.)

2. Analytics

What I sometimes refer to as the “eyes” of inbound marketing, analytics is essentially the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. When referred to in the context of marketing, it’s looking at the data of one’s initiatives (website visitor reports, social, PPC, etc.), analyzing the trends, and developing actionable insights to make better informed marketing decisions. (Want to learn marketing analytics? Here a list of nine great sources to get you started.)

3. Application Programming Interface (API)

APIs are a series of rules in computer programming, which allow an application to extract information from a service and use that information either in their own application or in data analyses. It’s kind of like a phone for applications to have conversations — an API literally “calls” one application and gets information to bring to you to use in your software. APIs facilitate the data needed to provide solutions to customer problems.

HubSpot has APIs that developers use to get information from our software into theirs. It’s important for marketers to understand what APIs can do to factor them in to their marketing strategies. Learn more about how marketers can use APIs here.

B
4. B2B (Business-to-Business)

An adjective used to describe companies that sell to other businesses. For example, Google and Oracle are primarily B2B companies.

5. B2C (Business-to-Consumer)

An adjective used to describe companies that sell directly to consumers. For example, Amazon, Apple, and Nike are primarily B2C companies.

6. Blogging

This is short for web log or weblog. An individual or group of people usually maintains a blog. A personal blog or business blog will traditionally include regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material, such as photos and video.

Blogging is a core component of inbound marketing, as it can accomplish several initiatives simultaneously — like website traffic growth, thought leadership, and lead generation. It does not, however, do your taxes.

7. Business Blogging

Business blogging retains all the attributes of “regular” blogging, but adds a tasty layer of marketing strategy on top. It helps marketers drive traffic to their website, convert that traffic into leads, establish authority on certain topics, and drive long-term results. (Learn about these benefits in more detail here.)

When blogging for a business, marketers should create posts that are optimized with keywords that their target audience is searching for and provide helpful, educational material to these readers. Typically, these blog posts should be actionable (by providing an opt-in, downloadable offer), as to provide a metric for the effectiveness of the business blogging.

8. Bottom of the Funnel

Since we’re going alphabetically, the last part of the funnel process is first! So, “bottoms up,” I suppose. The bottom of the funnel refers to a stage of the buying process leads reach when they’re just about to close as new customers. They’ve identified a problem, have shopped around for possible solutions, and are very close to buying.

Typically, next steps for leads at this stage are a call from a sales rep, a demo, or a free consultation — depending on what type of business is attempting to close the lead.

9. Bounce Rate

Website bounce rate: The percentage of people who land on a page on your website and then leave without clicking on anything else or navigating to any other pages on your site. A high bounce rate generally leads to poor conversion rates because no one is staying on your site long enough to read your content or convert on a landing page (or for any other conversion event).

Email bounce rate: The rate at which an email was unable to be delivered to a recipient’s inbox. A high bounce rate generally means your lists are out-of-date or purchased, or they include many invalid email addresses. In email, not all bounces are bad, so it’s important to distinguish between hard and soft bounces before taking an email address off your list. (Learn about hard and soft bounces here.)

10. Buyer Persona

A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. While it helps marketers like you define their target audience, it can also help sales reps qualify leads. (Learn more about developing buyer personas here.)

C
11. Call-to-Action

A call-to-action is a text link, button, image, or some type of web link that encourages a website visitor to visit a landing page and become of lead. Some examples of CTAs are “Subscribe Now” or “Download the Whitepaper Today.” These are important for marketers because they’re the “bait” that entices a website visitor to eventually become a lead. So, you can imagine that it’s important to convey a very enticing, valuable offer on a call-to-action to better foster visitor-to-lead conversion. (Download our free, introductory guide to effective calls-to-action here. Hey, that was a CTA!)

12. CAN-SPAM

CAN-SPAM stands for “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing.” It’s a U.S. law passed in 2003 that establishes the rules for commercial email and commercial messages, it gives recipients the right to have a business stop emailing them, and outlines the penalties incurred for those who violate the law. For example, CAN-SPAM is the reason businesses are required to have an “unsubscribe” option at the bottom of every email. (Learn more of the details here.)

13. CASL

CASL stands for “Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation.” It’s a Canadian law passed in 2013 that covers the sending of “commercial electronic messages” that may be accessed by a computer in Canada. CASL covers email, texts, instant messages, and automated cell phone messages sent to computers and phones in Canada. (Learn more of the details here.)

14. Churn Rate

A metric that measures how many customers you retain and at what value. To calculate churn rate, take the number of customers you lost during a certain time frame, and divide that by the total number of customers you had at the very beginning of that time frame. (Don’t include any new sales from that time frame.)

For example, if a company had 500 customers at the beginning of October and only 450 customers at the end of October (discounting any customers that were closed in October), their customer churn rate would be: (500-450)/500 = 50/500 = 10%.

Churn rate is a significant metric primarily for recurring revenue companies. Regardless of your monthly revenue, if your average customer does not stick around long enough for you to at least break even on your customer acquisition costs, you’re in trouble.

15. Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

The percentage of your audience that advances (or clicks through) from one part of your website to the next step of your marketing campaign. As a mathematic equation, it’s the total number of clicks that your page or CTA receives divided by the number of opportunities that people had to click (ex: number of pageviews, emails sent, and so on).

16. Closed-Loop Marketing

The practice of closed-loop marketing is being able to execute, track and show how marketing efforts have impacted bottom-line business growth. An example would be tracking a website visitor as they become a lead to the very last touch point when they close as a customer.

When done correctly, you’d be able to see just how much of your marketing investment yielded new business growth. One of the biggest business benefits of implementing an inbound marketing strategy and utilizing inbound marketing software is the ability to execute closed-loop marketing.

17. Conversion Path

A conversion path is a series of website-based events that facilitate lead capture. In its most basic form, a conversion path will consist of a call-to-action (typically a button that describes an offer) that leads to a landing page with a lead capture form, which redirects to a thank you page where a content offer resides. In exchange for his or her contact information, a website visitor obtains a content offer to better help them through the buying process. If you’re still having difficulty grasping the topic based on this description, feel free to absorb it as a rabbit hunting analogy in comic form.

18. Content

In relation to inbound marketing, content is a piece of information that exists for the purpose of being digested (not literally), engaged with, and shared. Content typically comes in the form of a blog, video, social media post, photo, slideshow, or podcast, although there are plenty of over types out there. From website traffic to lead conversion to customer marketing, content plays an indispensable role in a successful inbound marketing strategy.

19. Content Management System (CMS)

A web application designed to make it easy for non-technical users to create, edit, and manage a website. Helps users with content editing and more “behind-the-scenes” work like making content searchable and indexable, automatically generating navigation elements, keeping track of users and permissions, and more.

(At HubSpot, we think COS is better than CMS. Find out why.)

20. Content Optimization System (COS)

A COS is basically a CMS (Content Management System), but optimized to deliver customers the most personalized web experience possible. (Learn more about HubSpot’s COS here.)

21. Context

If content is king, then context is queen. Serving up valuable content is important, but ensuring that it’s customized for the right audience is equally (if not more) important. As buyers become more in control of what information they digest (again, not literally), it’s important to deliver content that’s contextually relevant. If you own a restaurant, you wouldn’t want to send a coupon for a steak dinner to a vegetarian, right? Unless you’re anti-herbivore, of course …

22. Conversion Rate

The percentage of people who completed a desired action on a single web page, such as filling out a form. Pages with high conversion rates are performing well, while pages with low conversion rates are performing poorly.

23. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

The process of improving your site conversion using design techniques, key optimization principles, and testing. It involves creating an experience for your website visitors that will convert them into customers. CRO is most often applied to web page or landing page optimization, but it can also be applied to social media, CTAs, and other parts of your marketing. (Learn more here.)

24. Cost-per-Lead (CPL)

The amount it costs your marketing organization to acquire a lead. This factors heavily into CAC (customer acquisition cost), and is a metric marketers should keep a keen eye on.

25. Crowdsourced Content

Creating your own content can take more time than you have to lend to it — which is where crowdsourcing comes into play. Allowing subject matter experts, customers, or freelancers to create your content for you is a prime way to get more quality content published in less time. Compile the content you get back into a really awesome offer and give credit to all the contributors — a win-win for everyone involved. (Learn how to crowdsource a blog post using Google Docs here.)

26. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Your total Sales and Marketing cost. To calculate CAC, follow these steps for a given time period (month, quarter, or year):

Add up program or advertising spend + salaries + commissions + bonuses + overhead.
Divide by the number of new customers in that time period.

For example, if you spend $500,000 on Sales and Marketing in a given month and added 50 customers that same month, then your CAC was $10,000 that month. (Learn more here.)

27. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A set of software programs that let companies keep track of everything they do with their existing and potential customers.

At the simplest level, CRM software lets you keep track of all the contact information for these customers. But CRM systems can do lots of other things, too, like tracking email, phone calls, faxes, and deals; sending personalized emails; scheduling appointments; and logging every instance of customer service and support. Some systems also incorporate feeds from social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. (Learn more here.)

28. CSS

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and it’s what gives your entire website its style, like colors, fonts, and background images. It affects the mood and tone of a web page, making it an incredibly powerful tool. It’s also what allows websites to adapt to different screen sizes and device types. (Learn more about CSS, HTML, and JavaScript here.)

D
29. Dynamic Content

A way to display different messaging on your website based on the information you already know about the visitor. For example, you could use Smart CTAs so that first-time visitors will see a personalized CTA (perhaps with a top-of-the-funnel offer) and those already in your database see a different CTA (maybe for content that offers a little more information about your product or service). You can read this post to learn more about dynamic content.

E
30. Ebook

Ebooks are a common type of content that many marketers use, often to help generate leads. They are generally a more long-form content type than, say, blog posts, and go into in-depth detail on a subject. Here’s an awesome ebook on how to write an ebook (so meta).

31. Editorial Calendar

It’s like a road map for content creation, showing you what kind of content to create, what topics to cover, which personas to target, and how often to publish to best support your strategy. Maintaining an editorial calendar will keep you more organized and show you any gaps you may have in your content library. It also helps ensure you’re doing the right things for your personas and not going way off-track with the topics you’re covering. (Don’t have a proper calendar of your own yet? Check out this free, pre-designed editorial calendar template.)

32. Email

In its most basic sense, email stands for “Electronic Mail.” It’s a core component of marketing because it’s a direct connection to a contact’s inbox. However, with great power comes great responsibility, meaning it’s important for marketers to not abuse the email relationship with a contact. It’s far too easy for a contact to click “unsubscribe” after gaining their hard earned trust in your communication. Don’t blow it.

33. Engagement Rate

A popular social media metric used to describe the amount of interaction — Likes, shares, comments — a piece of content receives. Interactions like these tell you that your messages are resonating with your fans and followers. (Click here for engagement rate benchmarks for a range of different industries.)

34. Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that continues to provide value to readers no matter when they stumble upon it. In other words, it can be referenced long after it was originally published, and even then, it’s still valuable to the reader. This post on how to write blog posts serves as a prime example.

Typically, a piece of evergreen content is timeless, valuable, high quality, and canonical or definitive. These posts are typically a content marketer’s best friend because of the tremendous SEO value they provide. (Learn more about evergreen content and why it’s important here.)

F
35. Facebook

Facebook is a social network you’re likely quite familiar with already — but it has become so much more than just a platform to publish content and gain followers. You can now utilize the awesome targeting options available through Facebook advertising to find and attract brand new contacts to your website and get them to convert on your landing pages … but remember, you still need awesome content to do it.

While it’s a core component of any marketing strategy, it shouldn’t be the only component. Focusing entirely on Facebook (or any other large social channel, for that matter) will only give you a small piece of the inbound marketing pie. And it’s still piping hot, so be careful. (Download our free guide to using Facebook for business here.)

36. Form

The place your page visitors will supply information in exchange for your offer. It’s also how those visitors can convert into precious sales leads. As a best practice, only ask for information you need from your leads in order to effectively follow up with and/or qualify them. (Read this post to learn what you should and shouldn’t ask on your landing page forms.)

37. Friction

Any element of your website that is confusing, distracting, or causes stress for visitors, causing them to leave your page. Examples of friction-causing elements include dissonant colors, too much text, distracting website navigation menus, or landing page forms with too many fields. (Learn more about identifying and fixing friction here.)

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38. Google+

Google+ (referred to as “Google Plus”) is a social network that allows you to join and create circles in which you can mix and match family members, friends, colleagues, and fellow industry members. While you can use it much like other social networks — to publish and share content, and generate new leads — it also provides content marketers with tremendous SEO value due to the rising importance of social sharing in search engine algorithms. (It is owned by Google, after all.)

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39. Hashtag

Hashtags are a way for you and your readers to interact with each other on social media and have conversations about a particular piece of content. They tie public conversations on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram together into a single stream, which users can find by searching for a hashtag, clicking on one, or using a third-party monitoring tool like HubSpot’s Social Inbox.

The hashtags themselves are simply a keyword phrase, spelled out without spaces, with a pound sign (#) in front of it — like #InboundChat and #ChocolateLovers. You can put these hashtags anywhere in your social media posts. (Learn more about how to use hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram here.)

40. HTML

This is short for HyperText Markup Language, a language used to write web pages. It’s at the core of every web page, regardless the complexity of a site or number of technologies involved, and provides the basic structure of the site — which is then enhanced and modified by other technologies like CSS and JavaScript. (Download our free guide to HTML here to learn some simple and useful HTML coding hacks.)

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41. Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that draw visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects’ attention. It’s all about earning the attention of customers, making the company easy to find online, and drawing customers to the website by producing interesting, helpful content. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time. (Learn more about inbound marketing here.)

42. Inbound Link

An inbound link is a link coming from another site to your own website. “Inbound” is generally used by the person receiving the link. For example, here’s an inbound link to our co-founder Dharmesh’s blog. Dharmesh could say, “I received an inbound link from HubSpot.”

Websites that receive many inbound links can be more likely to rank higher in search engines. They also help folks receive referral traffic from other websites. (Learn more about inbound links here.)

43. Infographic

A highly visual piece of content that is very popular among digital marketers as a way of relaying complex concepts in a simple and visual way. (Learn more about how to create a knockout infographic here.)

44. Instagram

Though initially a haven only for younger generations who wanted to post, edit, and share unique-looking photos, Instagram has grown into a premier social network that’s a viable opportunity for content marketers. Many businesses are taking advantage of the site by posting industry related photos that their followers and customers would enjoy seeing. (Download our free guide on using Instagram for business here, or read this blog post for our favorite Instagram tips and tricks.)

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45. JavaScript

Mix ¾ oz coffee liqueur with one shot espresso … nah, just kidding. JavaScript is a programming language that lets web developers design interactive sites. Most of the dynamic behavior you’ll see on a web page is thanks to JavaScript, which augments a browser’s default controls and behaviors.

Uses for JavaScript include pop-ups, slide-in calls-to-action, security password creation, check forms, interactive games, and special effects. It’s also used to build mobile apps and create server-based applications. (Learn more about JavaScript, HTML, and CSS here.)

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46. Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

A type of performance measurement companies use to evaluate an employee’s or an activity’s success. Marketers look at KPIs to track progress toward marketing goals, and successful marketers constantly evaluate their performance against industry standard metrics. Examples of KPIs include CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost), blog traffic sources, and homepage views. Choose KPIs that represent how your marketing and business are performing. (Here are some tips for choosing the right KPIs for your business.)

47. Keyword

Sometimes referred to as “keyword phrases,” keywords are the topics that webpages get indexed for in search results by engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Picking keywords that you’ll optimize a webpage for is a two-part effort. First, you’ll want to ensure the keyword has significant search volume and is not too difficult to rank for. Then, you’ll want to ensure it aligns with your target audience

After deciding the appropriate keywords you want to rank for, you’ll then need to optimize the appropriate pages on your website using both on-page and off-page tactics. What are those, you ask? Skip to “O” to find out — but don’t tell “L”, “M”, or “N”! (Learn how to do keyword research for SEO here.)

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48. Landing Page

A landing page is a website page containing a form that is used for lead generation. This page revolves around a marketing offer, such as an ebook or a webinar, and serves to capture visitor information in exchange for the valuable offer. Landing pages are the gatekeepers of the conversion path and are what separates a website visitor from becoming a lead.

A smart inbound marketer will create landing pages that appeal to different personae (plural for persona) at various stages of the buying process. A hefty endeavor no doubt, but one that pays off in spades. (Download this ebook to learn more about landing pages and how to optimize them.)

49. Lead

A person or company who’s shown interest in a product or service in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps they filled out a form, subscribed to a blog, or shared their contact information in exchange for a coupon. 

Generating leads is a critical part of a prospect’s journey to becoming a customer, and it falls in between the second and third stages of the larger inbound marketing methodology, which you can see below.

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Landing pages, forms, offers, and calls-to-action are just a few tools to help companies generate leads. (Learn more about lead generation here.)

50. Lead Nurturing

Sometimes referred to as “drip marketing,” lead nurturing is the practice of developing a series of communications (emails, social media messages, etc.) that seek to qualify a lead, keep it engaged, and gradually push it down the sales funnel. Inbound marketing is all about delivering valuable content to the right audience — and lead nurturing helps foster this by providing contextually relevant information to a lead during different stages of the buying lifecycle.

51. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site. Launched in May 2003, it is mainly used for professional networking. Nowadays, with more than 414 million registered members, LinkedIn is the most popular social network for professionals and one of the top social networks overall. Getting on the platform, developing a completed profile, and networking has helped many a jobseeker find work. (Click here to learn about using LinkedIn for professional networking, business, and marketing.)

52. Lifecycle Stages

These divisions serve as a way to describe the relationship you have with your audience, and can generally be broken down into three stages: awareness, evaluation, and purchase.

What’s important to understand about each of these stages is that not every piece of content you create is appropriate, depending on what stage your audience might fall in at that moment. That’s why dynamic content is so great — you can serve up content that’s appropriate for whatever stage that particular visitor is in. (Learn more about how to map content to lifecycle stages here.)

53. Lifetime Value (LTV)

A prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer. To calculate LTV, follow these steps for a given time period:

Take the revenue the customer paid you in that time period.
Subtract from that number the gross margin.
Divide by the estimated churn rate (aka cancellation rate) for that customer.

For example, if a customer pays you $100,000 per year where your gross margin on the revenue is 70%, and that customer type is predicted to cancel at 16% per year, then the customer’s LTV is $437,500. (Learn more here.)

54. Long-Tail Keyword

A long-tail keyword is a very targeted search phrase that contains three or more words. It often contains a head term, which is a more generic search term, plus one or two additional words that refine the search term. For example:

Head term: unicorn
Long-tail keywords: unicorn games online, unicorn costumes for kids, unicorn videos on YouTube

Long-tail keywords are more specific, which means visitors that land on your website from a long-tail search term are more qualified, and consequently, more likely to convert.

55. LTV:CAC

The ratio of lifetime value (LTV) to customer acquisition cost (CAC). Once you have the LTV and the CAC, compute the ratio of the two. If it costs you $100,000 to acquire a customer with an LTV of $437,500, then your LTV:CAC is 4.4 to 1. 

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56. Marketing Automation

While there’s some overlap with the term “lead nurturing,” marketing automation is a bit different. Think of marketing automation as the platform with associated tools and analytics to develop a lead nurturing strategy. If you’ll let me run with an “art” analogy, marketing automation is the paintbrush, watercolors, and blank canvas. Lead nurturing is the artist that makes it all come together. Like Bob Ross! You can’t paint a happy little nurturing campaign without both.

Bonus: Want to get super-savvy with your marketing automation terminology? Take it to the next level with behavior-based marketing automation. Behavior-based marketing automation refers to a system that triggers emails and other communication based on user activity on and off your site. It enables marketers to nurture leads and send them information only when it is most relevant to their stage in the buying cycle.

57. Microsite

A cross between a landing page and a “regular” website. ElfYourself.com is a great example. Microsites are used when marketers want to create a different online experience for their audience separate from their main website. These sites often have their own domain names and distinct visual branding. (Here’s a list of 11 of the best microsite examples out there.)

58. Middle of the Funnel

This refers to the stage that a lead enters after identifying a problem. Now they’re looking to conduct further research to find a solution to the problem. Typical middle of the funnel offers include case studies or product brochures — essentially anything that brings your business into the equation as a solution to the problem the lead is looking to solve. Also, if you want to be cool, you can refer to this stage as “MOFU” for short.

59. Mobile Marketing

With mobile search queries officially surpassing desktop queries, now is probably the time to explore mobile marketing. What is it? Well, mobile marketing refers to the practice of optimizing marketing for mobile devices to provide visitors with time- and location- sensitive, personalized information for promoting goods, services, and ideas.

60. Mobile Optimization

Mobile optimization means designing and formatting your website so that it’s easy to read and navigate from a mobile device. This can be done by either creating a separate mobile website or incorporating responsive design in initial site layout. Google’s algorithm now rewards mobile-friendly websites, so if your site isn’t fully optimized for mobile devices, you will likely see a hit to your ranking on mobile searches. (Learn how to make your website mobile-friendly here.)

61. Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)

The amount of revenue a subscription-based business receives per month. Includes MRR gained by new accounts (net new), MRR gained from upsells (net positive), MRR lost from downsells (net negative), and MRR lost from cancellations (net loss).

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62. Native Advertising

A type of online advertising that takes on the form and function of the platform it appears on. Its purpose is to make ads feel less like ads, and more like part of the conversation. That means it’s usually a piece of sponsored content that’s relative to the consumer experience, isn’t interruptive, and looks and feels similar to its editorial environment.

Native advertising can come in many forms, whether it’s radio announcers talking favorably about a product sponsoring the show, or an article about a product or company showing up in your news source. Here are examples of some of the best native advertising out there.

63. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

A customer satisfaction metric that measures, on a scale of 0-10, the degree to which people would recommend your company to others. The NPS is derived from a simple survey designed to help you determine how loyal your customers are to your business.

To calculate NPS, subtract the percentage of customers who would not recommend you (detractors, or 0-6) from the percent of customers who would (promoters, or 9-10).

Regularly determining your company’s NPS allows you to identify ways to improve your products and services so you can increase the loyalty of your customers. Learn more about how to use NPS surveys for marketing here.

64. News Feed

A news feed is an online feed full of news sources. On Facebook, the News Feed is the homepage of users’ accounts where they can see all the latest updates from their friends. (Learn all about Facebook’s News Feed here.) The news feed on Twitter is called Timeline.

65. No-Follow Link

A no-follow link is used when a website does not want to pass search engine authority to another webpage. It tells search engine crawlers not to follow or pass credit to linked websites as a way to avoid association with spammy content or inadvertently violating webmaster guidelines. To varying degrees, the no-follow attribute is recognized by all major search engines, like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Not all links (and linking domains) are created equal, and a no-follow attribute helps avoid any foul play.

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66. Offer

Offers are content assets that live behind a form on a landing page. Their primary purpose is to help marketers generate leads for your business. There are many different types of offers you could create, including ebooks, checklists, cheat sheets, webinars, demos, templates, and tools. (If you need help putting together some high-quality offers your buyer personas will love, take some time to read over this post.)

67. On-Page Optimization

This type of SEO is based solely on a webpage and the various elements within the HTML (see “H” if you skipped here directly). Ensuring that key pieces of the specific page (content, title tag, URL, and image tags) include the desired keyword will help a page rank for that particular phrase.

68. Off-Page Optimization

This is the free-spirited cousin of on-page optimization. Off-page SEO refers to incoming links and other outside factors that impact how a webpage is indexed in search results. Factors like linking domains and even social media play a role in off-page optimization. The good news is that it’s powerful; the not so good news is that it’s mostly out of an inbound marketer’s control. The solution? Create useful, remarkable content and chances are people will share and link to it.

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69. Page View

A request to load a single web page on the internet. Marketers use them to analyze their website and to see if any change on the webpage results in more or fewer page views. 

70. Pay-per-Click (PPC)

The amount of money spent to get a digital advertisement clicked. Also an internet advertising model where advertisers pay a publisher (usually a search engine, social media site, or website owner) a certain amount of money every time their ad is clicked. For search engines, PPC ads display an advertisement when someone searches for a keyword that matches the advertiser’s keyword list, which they submit to the search engine ahead of time. 

PPC ads are used to direct traffic to the advertiser’s website, and PPC is used to assess the cost effectiveness and profitability of your paid advertising campaigns.

There are two ways to pay for PPC ads:

Flat rate: where the advertiser and publisher agree on a fixed amount that will be paid for each click. Typically this happens when publishers have a fixed rate for PPC in different areas on their website.
Bid-based: where the advertiser competes against other advertisers in an advertising network. In this case, each advertiser sets a maximum spend to pay for a given ad spot, so the ad will stop appearing on a given website once that amount of money is spent. It also means that the more people that click on your ad, the lower PPC you’ll pay and vice versa.

(Learn more about getting started with PPC here.)

71. Pinterest

Pinterest is a visual social network typically used by ecommerce marketers, but not without its fair share of top-notch B2B and B2C content marketers. Businesses and consumers alike use the website to post images and photos they like so fellow users can repin (share) that content.

Not every company has taken advantage of this site yet. If you’re one of them, we advise you check out this free guide to Pinterest for business.)

72. PPC

PPC, (or Pay-Per-Click) is an advertising technique in which an advertiser puts an ad in an advertising venue (like Google AdWords or Facebook), and pays that venue each time a visitor clicks on the ad. I couldn’t think of anything witty to place at the end of this definition, so let’s move on to “Q.”

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73. Qualified Lead

A contact that opted in to receive communication from your company, became educated about your product or service, and is interested in learning more. Marketing and Sales often have two different versions of qualified leads (MQLs for Marketing, and SQLs for Sales), so be sure to have conversations with your sales team to set expectations for the types of leads you plan to hand over.

74. QR Code

A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that is readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera telephones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded may be text, URL, or other data. It also starts with “Q,” which is a rarity with marketing-related terms. (Learn how to create a QR Code here.)

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75. Responsive Design

This is the practice of developing a website that adapts accordingly to how someone is viewing it. Instead of building a separate, distinct website for each specific device it could be viewed on, the site recognizes the device that your visitor is using and automatically generates a page that is responsive to the device the content is being viewed on — making websites always appear optimized for screens of any dimension. (Learn how responsive design works here.)

76. Return on Investment (ROI)

A performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency and profitability of an investment, or to compare the efficiency and profitability of multiple investments. The formula for ROI is: (Gain from Investment minus Cost of Investment), all divided by (Cost of Investment). The result is expressed as a percentage or ratio. If ROI is negative, then that initiative is losing the company money. The calculation can vary depending on what you input for gains and costs.

Today, marketers want to measure the ROI on every tactic and channel they use. Many facets of marketing have pretty straightforward ROI calculations (like PPC), but others are more difficult (like content marketing).

77. Retweet

A re-posting of a tweet posted by another user on Twitter. Retweets look like normal tweets except for the retweet icon. They can be done in three ways:

1) You can retweet an entire tweet by clicking the retweet button, indicated below.

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2) You can post a new tweet that includes your own commentary. In a new tweet, which also features the original tweet. It means you’ve pressed the rotating arrow icon to retweet a post, and then added a comment in the text box provided. We prefer this method of retweeting because it allows you to add your own thoughts. (Note: The retweet takes up 24 characters, leaving you with 116 characters for the comment.)

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3) You can post a new tweet that includes your own commentary in addition to the information you’re retweeting. The formula is this: Your own commentary + RT + the original tweeter’s Twitter handle + colon + the exact text from their original tweet. This method of retweeting allows you to add your own thoughts, but with a very limited character count.

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When you see “Please RT” in someone’s tweet, it means they are requesting that their followers retweet that tweet to spread awareness. (Learn more about retweets here.)

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78. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The practice of enhancing where a webpage appears in search results. By adjusting a webpage’s on-page SEO elements and influencing off-page SEO factors, an inbound marketer can improve where a webpage appears in search engine results.

There are a ton of components to improving the SEO of your site pages. Search engines look for elements including title tags, keywords, image tags, internal link structure, and inbound links — and that’s just to name a few. Search engines also look at site structure and design, visitor behavior, and other external, off-site factors to determine how highly ranked your site should be in the search engine results pages. (Learn more about SEO here.)

79. Sender Score

An email marketing term that refers to a reputation rating from 0-100 for every outgoing mail server IP address. Mail servers will check your Sender Score before deciding what to do with your emails. A score of over 90 is good. (Learn more about sender score and email deliverability here.)

80. Service Level Agreement (SLA)

For marketers, an SLA is an agreement between a company’s sales and marketing teams that defines the expectations Sales has for Marketing and vice versa. The Marketing SLA defines expectations Sales has for Marketing with regards to lead quantity and lead quality, while the Sales SLA defines the expectations Marketing has for Sales on how deeply and frequently Sales will pursue each qualified lead.

SLAs exist to align sales and marketing. If the two departments are managed as separate silos, the system fails. For companies to achieve growth and become leaders in their industries, it is critical that these two groups be properly integrated. Learn how to create an SLA here.

81. Small-to-Medium Business (SMB)

Usually defined as companies that have between 10 and 500 employees.

82. Smarketing

A fun phrase used to refer to the practice of aligning Sales and Marketing efforts. In a perfect world, marketing would pass off tons of fully qualified leads to the sales team, who would then subsequently work every one of those leads enough times to close them 100% of the time. But since this isn’t always how the cookie crumbles, it’s important for Marketing and Sales to align efforts to impact the bottom line the best they can through coordinated communication. (Download our free guide to unifying your sales and marketing efforts here.)

83. Snapchat

A social app that allows users to send and receive time-sensitive photos and videos known as “snaps,” which are hidden from the recipients once the time limit expires. (Note: Images and videos still remain on the Snapchat server). Users can add text and drawings to their snaps and control the list of recipients in which they send them to.

A Snapchat story is a string of Snapchats that lasts for 24 hours. Users can create stories to be shared with all Snapchatters or just a customized group of recipients. (Learn more about how businesses are using Snapchat here.)

84. Social Media

Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+ are examples of social media networks that one can join for personal or business use. Social Media is a core component of Inbound, as it provides marketers with additional channels to spread reach, increase growth, and reach business goals.

85. Social Proof

Social proof refers to a psychological phenomenon in which people seek direction from those around them to determine how they are supposed to act or think in a given situation. It’s like when you see a really long line outside a nightclub and assume that club is really good because it’s in such high demand. In social media, social proof can be identified by the number of interactions a piece of content receives or the number of followers you have. The idea is that if others are sharing something or following someone, it must be good. (Learn some tips for adding social proof to your landing pages here.)

86. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Any software that is hosted by another company, which stores your information in the cloud. Examples: HubSpot, Salesforce, IM clients, and project management applications. (Here are some examples of SaaS companies with exceptional marketing.)

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87. Top of the Funnel

Sometimes called “TOFU”, top of the funnel refers to the very first stage of the buying process. Leads at this stage are just identifying a problem that they have and are looking for more information. As such, an inbound marketer will want to create helpful content that aids leads in identifying this problem and providing next steps toward a solution. TOFU is also very tasty in certain Thai dishes.

88. Twitter

For the sake of creativity, I’ll define Twitter in 140 characters or less: “Twitter is a platform that allows users to share 140-character long messages publicly. User can follow one another and be followed back.” There you have it — a tweetable definition of Twitter.

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89. Unique Visitor

A person who visits a website more than once within a period of time. Marketers use this term in contrast with overall site visits to track the amount of traffic on their website. If only one person visits a webpage 30 times, then that web page has one UV and 30 total site visits.

90. URL

This is short for Uniform Resource Locator. I honestly didn’t know that before writing this definition. Basically, this is the address of a piece of information that can be found on the web such as a page, image, or document (ex. http://www.huspot.com). URLs are important for on-page SEO, as search engines scour the included text when mining for keywords. If a keyword you’re looking to get indexed for is in the URL, you’ll get brownie points from search engines (but no real brownies, unfortunately).

91. User Experience (UX)

The overall experience a customer has with a particular business, from their discovery and awareness of the brand all the way through their interaction, purchase, use, and even advocacy of that brand. To deliver an excellent customer experience, you have to think like a customer, or better, think about being the customer. Learn more here.

92. User Interface (UI)

A type of interface that allows users to control a software application or hardware device. A good user interface provides a user-friendly experience by allowing the user to interact with the software or hardware in an intuitive way. It includes a menu bar, toolbar, windows, buttons, and so on. Learn how to create a user-friendly website registration process here.

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93. Viral Content

This term is used to describe a piece of content that has become wildly popular across the web through sharing. Oftentimes, folks don’t know a piece they’re creating will be viral until it actually does, which is usually unfortunate if it’s particularly embarrassing.

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94. Website

A website is a set of interconnected webpages, usually including a homepage, generally located on the same server, and prepared and maintained as a collection of information by a person, group, or organization. An inbound marketer should structure a website like a dynamic, multi-dimensional entity that can be used to attract relevant website visitors, convert those visitors into leads, and close those leads into customers. Otherwise, it’s just a brochure — and let’s be honest — could you really use another brochure?

95. Word-of-Mouth (WOM)

The passing of information from person to person. Technically, the term refers to oral communication, but today it refers to online communication, as well. WOM marketing is inexpensive, but it takes work and involves leveraging many components of inbound marketing like product marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing. (Learn more about creating a powerful WOM marketing strategy here.)

96. Workflow

A workflow is another way to describe a lead nurturing campaign. It’s a set of triggers and events that move a lead through the nurturing process. A workflow can also serve other purposes, such as adjust contact properties on a lead record based on certain conditions, or adding a contact record to a certain list. Regardless of how you use it, workflows can be a very powerful asset in an inbound marketing strategy.

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97. XML Sitemap

We couldn’t leave “X” out of the party! An XML sitemap is a file of code that lives on your web server and lists all of the relevant URLs that are in the structure of your website. It’s kind of like a “floor plan” for the site, which especially comes in handy whenever the site gets changed. It also helps search engine web crawlers determine the structure of the site so they can crawl it more intelligently.

Sitemaps don’t guarantee all links will be crawled, and being crawled does not guarantee indexing. However, a sitemap is still the best insurance for getting a search engine to learn about your entire site. It’s sort of like saying “Hey, Google — check out this fine website.” (Learn more about XML sitemaps and how to create one here.)

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98. YouTube

YouTube is a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share, and view videos. Three former PayPal employees created YouTube in February 2005. In November 2006, YouTube, LLC was bought by Google Inc. for $1.65 billion, and is now operated as a subsidiary of Google. YouTube is the largest video-sharing site in the world and you’re probably on it now instead of finishing up this post.

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99. Zilch

We couldn’t think of anything for “Z.” So I ask you dear readers: What inbound marketing related topic should we define that begins with the letter “Z”?

How to Run an Inbound Marketing Campaign

 
How to Run an Inbound Marketing Campaign

Read more about this at: blog.hubspot.com

What 5 of the Most Popular Products on ProductHunt Can Teach Entrepreneurs About Meeting Customer Needs

ProductHunt is one of those websites that can turn into a rabbit hole. There are so many great ideas floating around there that without even realizing it you’ve let an hour of your time slip away. Besides how fun it can be to look around and discover exciting new products — many of them in their infancy — it’s also a great learning resource.

It’s a proving ground at scale, with the most-upvoted ideas going on to sometimes become fully fledged businesses. On a whim I decided to check out five popular ideas on ProductHunt and see what they were doing right.

Is there a magic formula to delivering a successful product? It turns out there kind of is. Your product needs to fill a high-demand niche. It needs to be simple and easy to adopt — the more intuitive the better. And lastly, because ProductHunt is such a shark tank, the sort of ideas that get upvoted to immortality are usually presented with slick demos or high production-value videos that get the user excited. Whether you pitch an idea here or sell it on Amazon, so much can be learned from ProductHunt success stories. Let’s dive in!

Station

Station was the first item I perused on ProductHunt. With over 300 reviews, this workflow app is much-loved by its loyal community of users — it was voted product of the month back in October 2017.

One thing I noticed right off the bat was the high-quality intro video embedded on Station’s product page. It uses that catchy, upbeat popular pop/electronic music in the background to create a cheerful vibe. Most importantly, the video comes with an actua demo that … wait for it, demonstrates what it does.

After looking through the demo and reading the reviews for Station, it’s clear that its sleek, universal design successfully aggregates your haphazard web apps into one neat app that’s much easier to use. It prevents death by open tab and makes people more productive — like a CRM for your browser. With a target audience that huge, it’s no wonder that Station found lots of desperate and grateful users who needed better project management tools to make browsing at work easier.

Temperature-Controlled Ceramic Mug by Ember

For the hot beverage connoisseur, this smart mug must be a godsend. It solves a common headache: you pour yourself a cup of coffee, but it’s too hot to drink. So you set your mug down and get some work done. One ProdutHunt search later and all of a sudden thirty minutes have passed and your java is tepid and sad, and so are you.

This mug prevents you from having to microwave your forgotten coffee by delivering you Goldilocks-right coffee or tea at your preferred temperature. Like Station, the target user pool is humongous. Plus the solution here comes in a beautiful, sleek design that is a joy to look at and use.

Something that I’ve noticed again is the aesthetic of content. The product placement photos are especially good here. Observe the woman in a nice big sweater holding the cup and how warm and cozy that looks. Another photos utilizes low lighting and steam wafting enticingly from the mug

Arrive

Like Station and the smart mug, Arrive solves a problem that most of us can instantly relate to. It was product of the day on December 1, 2017. This app saves users time by synthesizing their orders into one easy-to-access app. It kills the headache of searching for order tracking information in your email, in your Amazon or eBay or Walmart account — a major customer experience hurdle for many online sellers.

From watching the demo and reading reviews, it seems like Arrive is super easy to use and insanely helpful. You can’t ask for anything more from an app like this — it’s there to alleviate the sometimes frustrating experience of order fulfillment.

It certainly helps that Arrive has a thoughtful and creative promotional video. Not only does it walk you through a demo of the product, it also delivers an engaging and genuinely funny fake narrative of a baby-faced geek trying to buy beard oil as an example of how Arrive can make life easier for package tracking. Solve a common problem? Check. Educate potential users with a clear and fun video? Checkmate.

NomadList

Product of the month in December 2017, NomadList is doing its best to be a meta source of information for travelers who work — better known as digital nomads. At this point, the digital nomad lifestyle has made it into the mainstream. What used to be a counter-cultural niche has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.

And all those remote copywriters, software developers, and graphic designers are itching for a one-stop resource on where to crash next. Bali or Belgrade? Surfing or Skiing? $1,500 a month budget or $5,000? This website puts all the answers into one gigantic filtering tool for digital nomads to plot out their next stop. The interface itself is intuitive and super fun to play around with. It’s free to use, but there is a paid community of 10,000+ members for those who are serious about networking with fellow nomads. By directly appealing to a major need for remote freelancers — the founder of NomadList is of course one himself — this product is a real winner.

Duolingo

Chances are, you’ve heard of this awesome language-learning app. Unlike Rosetta Stone or other language courses which cost into the hundreds of dollars, Duolingo is built on a freemium platform, so there’s no barrier to entry (at least at first). This app took off not long after it won Product of the Week back in December 2013; by 2014, there were 10 million registered users.

Besides the cost factor, what makes DuoLingo so successful is how fun it is to use. It relies heavily on gamification to incentivize the user to keep learning new words, parts of speech, and other linguistic rules. Plus the fun, tongue-in-cheek push notifications keep users from slacking if they haven’t logged in to the app after a certain amount of time. It’s a language coach for people who don’t feel like learning by downloading a bulky program onto their desktop PC. Before DuoLingo, there was no gamified language learning tool for mobile — and at the end of the day, maybe this simple fact made all the difference.

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Top 6 Wireframe Tools You Need to Know in 2018

woman looking at wireframe software on computer

Whether you’re building a PWA (Progressive Web App), an SPA (Single Page Application), or a native mobile app, wireframing plays a pivotal role in software design. The humble wireframe serves as the perfect communication tool through which designers, developers, project managers, and marketing professionals are able to kick-start the ideation process.

Here’s a quick look at the top six wireframe tools you need to know in 2018.

Balsamiq

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Balsamiq bills itself as a rapid wireframing tool that captures the magic of brainstorming ideas on a whiteboard and brings it to the computer. The platform’s sketch-style aesthetics ensure everyone stays focused on content and interaction, removing distractions such as color, details, and other minutiae that can be tackled at a later date.

Sketch

For those who prefer the flexibility and power of a full-featured vector graphics editor, Sketch is perfect for whipping up responsive wireframes. Wireframing with an image editor is the digital analogue of working with pencil and paper. For the uninitiated, vector-based design tools give you the image editing capability of a powerful tool such as Photoshop but without the hassle of having to worry about screen densities and resolutions. Sketch is easily one of the most popular drawing tools out there among designers who work with Macs.

Lucidchart

Lucidchart is a popular general-purpose diagramming software that lets you build flowcharts, mind maps, wireframes, and other organizational charts with a simple drag-and-drop UI. The platform also doubles as a collaboration tool, supporting commenting, in-editor chat, and video chat.

UXPin

UXPin is a comprehensive UX design platform and collaboration tool that helps designers work alongside project managers and developers through every step of the product design process. UXPin makes the flow from low-fidelity wireframes to high-fidelity mockups to developer handoff as seamless as possible. Integrations with project management tools such as Slack and Jira, as well as with other design tools such as Photoshop and Sketch, make it easy to incorporate UXPin into your product design team’s workflow.

Visio

[Image via.]

Microsoft Visio pioneered the world of drag-and-drop diagramming tools. From flowcharts to floor plans to wireframes, Visio boasts an impressive library of premade shapes, connectors, and symbols. The platform also supports real-time collaboration, commenting, and the ability to view drawings on the web. As part of the Office 365 suite, Visio’s a natural fit for any teams working with a Microsoft-heavy technology stack in their workflow.

 

Gliffy

Gliffy is a cloud-based HTML5 app that sports all the bells and whistles one expects from a professional diagramming/collaboration tool. What sets Gliffy apart from the competition is its close history with Atlassian, starting out as a standalone app in 2005 and adding a Confluence plugin in 2006 and a Jira plugin in 2009. Today it integrates seamlessly with the Atlassian and Google product lines.

Choose the right wireframing tool for your needs

This list barely scratched the surface of wireframing tools out there. Noteworthy absentees include Proto.io, InVision, Marvel, and Framer. For this list, I wanted to give a good spread of the different types of tools that can be used to create wireframes. Check out our Hiring Headquarters for more tools and tips that can improve your product design workflow.

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How to Set Up a Marketing Calendar That Actually Works

Setting up a marketing calendar for your business can not only help you get organized and plan ahead – it can also be one of the most effective ways to set up your brand for marketing success.

Think of this as a professional sports team. If you’re in the NFL, chances are you’re a great athlete, but you need a coach, team, playbook and practice to win the game. The same is true for marketing: You can have a great marketing tactic, but it isn’t until it is practiced, tested and unified under a larger marketing strategy that it will really shine.  

A marketing calendar is a great guidebook for the year ahead. To help set your team up for success when developing a marketing calendar, we’re going to look at three main segments: goals, plan and execution.

Goals

How will your marketing help you reach your business goals? What specific goals do you have for marketing? These are two key indicators that will guide your marketing calendar. Every business will have different goals, most likely tied to sales, and marketing ladders into those goals.

Before you develop a calendar, make sure you are crystal clear on what business objectives your marketing will help you achieve. Then, begin to plan a marketing calendar with the tactics that will best help you reach those goals.

 

Editor’s note: Looking for project management software? Complete the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone connect you with vendors that can help.

 

 

Plan

When you are planning your calendar, it is more than mapping out social media posts against a monthly calendar. You should plan every marketing tactic with the intent to further your goals.

Begin to lay out your calendar against your customer buyer cycles, working backward from the end dates of any campaigns. For instance, if you want to run a back-to-school campaign, the time to start is not when kids are back in school but when parents are planning for the back-to-school season.

Your plan will include a calendar of key moments, campaigns or dates. Armed with this understanding, you can then layer in different elements of marketing to align with these moments.

Pro tip: Be sure to allow yourself enough time for revisions, hiccups or any obstacles that could stop your marketing in its tracks. Add a buffer, if for nothing more than peace of mind.

Execution

Now it’s time to execute. How you set up your marketing calendar should depend on your business. Some marketing teams map out a large annual calendar and then allow each team member to manage their piece. Other marketing teams have one large calendar that everyone updates and works against. In either case, find a marketing calendar tool to help you with project management, communication and workflow, setting your team up for success.

As you build out the channels and tactics of your plan, prioritize those that will help you reach your goals based on buyer intent. Map your content out against deadlines (keeping in mind that changes and roadblocks happen), and make sure all the key players of your team know which elements they will manage.

Marketing calendars are more than just schedules of social media or blog posts. They can also include email newsletters, public relations outreach, promotions, in-person events, community relations, digital and traditional paid advertising, and so much more. Calendars will help you stay organized as you coordinate all of these moving pieces. With one succinct plan in place, your team will be ready, accountable and excited to charge forward with marketing execution – working all the while toward a cohesive goal.

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