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How To Stay Organized In A Busy Environment

How To Stay Organized In A Busy Environment

Posted on Aug 03, 2017 by Emily Ballard

Let’s be honest, life is hectic. Between work, home, kids (if you have them) and trying to have a social life, everything can blend together and it can become hard to stay organized. While work-life balance is important, work is a large contributor to our attitude, happiness and overall outlook on life. If you are one that wears many hats at work, here are five ways to relieve the stress of having what seems like one million things to do. Disclaimer: random tedious and sometimes unpleasant things are inevitably going to pop up, but turning these tips into habits will make it more bearable.

Have a to-do list

To-do lists seem like something you don’t really need, but once you make one it’s like night and day. Being able to see what you have to do for the day and check things off as you go helps dramatically with time management and decreases stress levels. Prioritizing tasks is an extremely important aspect of time management, and to-do lists help with visualizing what is most important and which task will take the longest to complete.

Block off time for each task

Personally, planners have always been my go-to. Paper planners with time slots such as Passion Planner, Plum Paper, and The Bullet Journal help with time management, are great for keeping track of meetings on-the-go and enable you to visualize where you will have time for random things that pop up throughout the day. If checking emails is a daunting task, block off three time slots in your day dedicated to sending and responding to emails.

Don’t procrastinate

Psychologists at Thrive Global have studied procrastination and the impact it has on our mental state. Procrastination increases stress levels which often lead to other issues such as lack of sleep, disengagement at work and at home and lack of appetite—and that’s only the beginning of the spiral effect. Using your to-do list to stay on top of daily tasks will increase productivity and ultimately lead to an abundance of benefits such as increased focus, deeper level of learning, more control over emotions, and increase overall happiness and well-being.

Organize your desk

Having a messy desk can cause unnecessary stress and make you feel like you aren’t being as productive as you should be, which can again have a spiral effect. Decluttering your desk will allow you to clear your mind and devote your full attention to the task at hand. A messy desk is another major contributor to stress, feeling exhausted and feeling like you’ve been unproductive. Paper-holders and small filing cabinets can be lifesavers.

Schedule one 10-minute, technology-free break during the day to regroup (and don’t let it stress you out)

Look, I totally understand being incredibly busy and feeling unproductive the second I put my phone down or stop typing, but this is sort of like meditation. Just turn your chair around, focus on your breathing, sip your coffee/tea/water, look out the window and allow yourself to regroup about halfway through the day. This will allow you to mentally catch up and you’ll probably end up giving yourself time to remember what it was you meant to put on your to-do list. 

The main message here is to declutter your mind and allow yourself to focus and increase productivity. We all need a reminder every now and then to take a step back, clear our thoughts and recharge. The positive effects of giving yourself just 10 minutes to regroup and get organized are endless. So, get ready for next week by getting organized this weekend and TGIT, my friends!

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Basics of Inbound Marketing

Basics of Inbound Marketing

Posted on Jul 25, 2017 by Emily Ballard

Optimizing your website’s keywords, call-to-actions, and landing pages are fundamental in search engine optimization and getting started with inbound marketing. It takes time to rank higher through organic SEO methods, but inbound marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways of capturing the attention of high-quality prospects. The second most important contributor to organic search engine optimization is producing blog content that is knowledgeable on topics within your industry and valuable to your ideal customer. Optimizing your website for conversion and creating content that that resonates with your readers will set you up for continuously bringing in high-quality leads.

Attract

Creating in-depth buyer personas is the first step in understanding your ideal customer, their wants, their needs and their problems. Offering useful information on your website and in blog posts that is tailored to your ideal prospect creates trust and credibility, and ultimately resonates with readers. Developing content that appeals to different, specific target audiences demonstrates knowledge across your industry and can continue bringing readers back for more information in the long run. Publishing valuable content on a blog, along with utilizing keywords and optimizing landing pages, is the most fruitful way to rank organically in Google search results. Once you’ve optimized your website and content management system, pushing content out on social media platforms will drive high-quality visitors to your landing pages and ultimately increase conversion rates. As you outline your buyer persona, keep in mind which social media channels your ideal prospects hang out on, as this should be your primary focus on where to push out blog posts.

Convert

In order to ensure you’re attracting high-quality visitors that will convert to paying customers, you need some sort of information on who is reading your content—this is where optimizing your landing pages becomes crucial. Your landing page needs to consist of a form where readers have to enter information such as their name, email address, and job title to access your content. Construct messages specific to your ideal prospect and A/B test call-to-actions so that you know what is most effective in leading people to enter more information. Landing pages need to be tailored to assure the reader they will be receiving beneficial information, and optimized with keywords and high-quality information in order to increase conversions. Give them an incentive to fill out a landing page such as receiving a free downloadable like an eBook, webinar, how-to guide, or percentage off of their first order. As you embed keywords throughout the content on your website it will increase search engine ranking, thus driving more traffic to your website.

Nurture

Once you’ve attracted the right prospects and converted prospects into leads, it’s important to convert leads to customers at the right time. Keep track of the information you’ve obtained on each lead through a customer relationship management system. This allows you to better engage with each lead, and offer more tailored information specific to their needs until they are ready to convert to a paying customer. If a prospect reads your blog, clicks on your call-to-action, fills out a landing page, downloads your ebook and still isn’t ready to become a customer, have a series of emails on deck to nurture them and offer them additional valuable information for free. This additional information should be tailored to their needs and their previous actions, which will tell you what you need to offer them.

Inbound marketing takes time but is more beneficial for your business in the long run rather than pay per click advertising methods. Offering valuable information for free builds trust, brings customers back for more information, and creates loyal customers that will stand by your brand in the long run. Do you need help with your inbound marketing efforts? Contact us here!

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Is SEO Still Relevant in Marketing?

Is SEO Still Relevant in Marketing?

Posted on Jul 13, 2017 by Alyssa Zucker

The general concept is that higher value content achieves a higher ranking in search results, which ultimately increases visibility and drives website traffic. Search engine optimization (SEO) gives your site a fighting chance, by aligning its structure and content to the complex algorithms used by search engines. However, these algorithms and strategies are constantly changing, and have thus made it a struggle to keep up. In a quality-focused world of consumer choice, the question arises: is SEO is still relevant?

SEO

Search engine optimization is a strategy used by over 50 percent of B2B marketers for lead generation. Though the rules may drastically change, like when Google cut the keyword stuffing and backlinking methods, each change opens the door for new tactics to catapult search engine rankings.

Previously focused on desktop search, SEO is currently navigating the trend toward a more mobile-dominated market. This growing need for more engaging experiences on mobile is where responsive web design comes into play (if you haven’t heard of this, it’s time for an update), and new SEO algorithms are adapting to this. Another advancement in the realm of SEO is Google’s introduction of the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project (AMP). AMP allows for pages to load more quickly and easily, giving them more opportunity to be seen. AMP also introduces the possibility for publishers and advertisers to retain creative freedom for how their content appears.

Keywords

It is less likely, when searching, that a consumer will enter an exact website URL, opposed to a set of keywords. Keywords allow users to generally or specifically describe their search criteria, in a way that feels more natural than a longer URL. The right mix of keywords can also greatly benefit your search rankings, if users see your site as relevant, based on your keywords.

The outdated method of keyword stuffing is no longer relevant due to the trend toward a more narrow focus of traffic. While this update may seem counterintuitive, the new algorithm seeks to strengthen the quality of keywords to refine search-generated traffic into a more potent mix of relevant consumers. These changes ultimately reduce levels of extraneous consumers who really have no interest in your product or service. The remaining traffic is therefore made up of tangible, potential consumers—what the business folk call leads.

To answer our previous question: Yes, SEO is still relevant and vital to your marketing strategy. However, what works in January may change in March, so the ability to adapt is crucial as well. Various components, such as AMP or an up-to-date keyword strategy, work well to complement your overarching SEO efforts. However, one component on its own is no substitute for a solid strategy of thoughtfully implemented tools and resources. What do you think is the most important feature of SEO? Let us know in the comments!

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Five Tips for Branding on Social Media

Five Tips for Branding on Social Media

Posted on Jun 13, 2017 by Emily Ballard

Brand strategy as a concept can often be bit murky or esoteric. Whether you’re an established business or an individual searching for a more prominent way to self-brand, it can be difficult to identify a starting point and select a course of action. Social media offers endless opportunity for engagement, so maintaining a cohesive presence across platforms can be daunting. It’s important to remember that your strategy is your anchor, and keeps your team in sync with how your brand interacts with the world.

There are also many tutorials out there, but the truth is that it just takes practice. Proficiency with social media is one of those things that comes through experience. To help get you started, here are some widely accepted components for a basic, well-rounded strategy:

Finding Your Voice

Establishing values early on is essential for staying true to your brand’s roots. Consistency and authenticity (ie: with dialect and tone) also help to foster trust that you are who you claim to be. With that, you develop a personality on social media that makes it easier for consumers to relate and entices them to engage more. People want to feel like the content they are consuming is genuine, and will likely form a positive association with your brand when that is the case. Again, finding your voice on social media takes time, but as long as it’s natural it will soon become second nature.

Tell Your Story

Here at HMG we’re currently in the process of a complete rebrand. When I joined the team in February, one of my initial goals was to increase engagement on social media. The first thing that came to mind was to tell our literal story by sharing what’s happening around the office. However, we also like to see what’s going on throughout the community, which helps to tell a different, more casual side of our story. Once some time has passed, share a few throwbacks to apply a very personal tone to your progress. People love to see others succeed—it’s both motivational and rewarding.

Engage With Your Audience

As you find your tone and start to post more frequently, you’ll see more engagement (trust me). Sparking conversations with your followers makes them feel valued and acknowledged, which creates a sense of community. Keeping up with platform updates will also help you to find new ways to interact with your followers. People tend to notice when a specific brand interacts with them and may become more likely to consider or recommend your brand as a result.

Post Regularly

Staying relevant is every brand’s top priority. Consistency plays a direct role in staying in the consumer’s top-of-mind—even if you only post twice a week. Although the more you post, the more engagement you will likely see. Scheduling specific days for certain content also makes producing content easier and less stressful. For example, I post every Monday. There’s usually a lot going on around here, but if it’s a quiet day in the office I’ll post a little motivation Monday (since we could all use that from time to time). That takes the pressure off if it’s one of those rare, still days in the office. Posting regularly also gives your followers something to look forward to. So if you’ve just hit a milestone with a cool project, share the progress!

Stand Out

Adding value to your content is the number one thing you can do that will make you stand out. This is another one of those easier-said-than-done things. Maintaining your personality throughout your content, while continuously sharing valuable information for your readers to digest will result in reciprocated engagement as well. Share insight, ask questions, ask others for their opinions and post visuals such as photos and videos. It’s always a great feeling when you know that you’ve delivered awesome content. On the other hand, sharing another’s authoritative content says a great deal about what you appreciate and support from your peers.

Social media opportunities are wide open for reaching new consumers. As simple as this all may sound, there are many things that even big brands forget to take in consideration. While it remains a relatively new tool for branding, it has also become essential for adapting to the latest trends, technologies and markets. Let us know how your brand strategy leverages social media in the comments below!

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Understanding the Basics of Google Analytics

Understanding the Basics of Google Analytics

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Emily Ballard

Google Analytics is a potent tool for leveraging data to gain insight into your current audience, as well as develop a deeper understanding of how to reach your target audience. Top marketing professionals analyze data obtained through Google Analytics to identify how, and from where, website visitors are arriving (we’ll dig into this in a little bit). If you aren’t already utilizing this incredibly powerful service, here’s an overview on how you can make smarter, data-driven decisions that better your chances for more conversions and higher return on investment (ROI). Oh, and it’s free.

Audience

So the first thing you need to do is look at who has already been visiting your website. Google Analytics tells you almost everything about each visitor including their demographics, interests, location, behavior on the site, and what device they used to visit your site. From this, it generates relevant comparisons, using the copious amounts of data collected on each user. With access to such an extensive amount of data, Google Analytics allows you to get a clear picture of who is viewing your site and whether you should alter marketing initiatives in order to cater to your target audience.

Acquisition

Now that you’ve determined the makeup of your audience, the next step is discovering how users got to your site. The overview section (under acquisition) breaks down incoming site traffic into general sources: social media, email, direct visitors, organic searches, referrals from other websites, paid search and other. The information is then further digested into graphs to illustrate the percentage of users from each category, their session time, bounce rate and conversion rate. If the right people are already visiting your website, this feature of Google Analytics can help identify where and how to reach others like them.

Behavior

The “Behavior Flow” chart that Google Analytics creates according to time period is the easiest tool, in my opinion, to analyze each user journey. This chart offers the ability to walk through the steps of each user journey, and possibly determine what drove them to each page. This feature provides in-depth data on the most and least visited pages of your website. Such specific data is beneficial to improving the less-viewed portions of your site, and maintaining those more frequently viewed. Considering this data within Google Analytics helps to identify the popular sections of your site, and thus point you in the right direction for which aspects need extra attention.

Conversions

Now for the good stuff. Once you’ve identified your target audience, optimized your marketing initiatives and increased traffic to your website—you can sit back and watch the conversions roll in. Conversions tie in directly with your goals. For example, if your goal is for people to fill out a “Let’s Talk” form, Google Analytics can track how many visitors were served the form, and compare that to the number that completed it. Ecommerce businesses can track key performance indicators (KPI) like product performance, sales performance, transactions and time to purchase.

Knowing and understanding how each element of Google Analytics functions helps the tool to behave as a messenger, that keeps you informed about which areas of your website are successful and which are under-performing. What do you think is the most important aspect of Google Analytics? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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Knock Your Block Off

Knock Your Block Off

Posted on Apr 27, 2017 by Ian Wilson

Few things are more frightening to a creative than the blank page used to begin every project. It can be unnerving, and you may lock up. Then after jotting down a handful of ideas, you face a new challenge. This time your subconscious is trying to break your stride by sowing the seeds of fear, self-doubt, and temptation.

As I’ve long maintained: Creativity is kinetic. In other words, keep your pencil moving or you’ll end up stuck in the mud. If you do (and you will) find yourself at a standstill, being able to recognize what’s happening can help you to break yourself out of that unproductive mindset, which is the first step to getting back on track. For this reason, I’ve compiled a short list of a few common obstacles you’ll likely face.

  • Stop waiting for the winners

Think of your mind as a jar full of jelly beans, where the blue beans are the brilliant ideas you’re after. If you’re only allowing the blue beans to leave the jar, then your overall yield will suffer. A better plan would be to first pour everything out, then follow that up by sorting the great from mediocre. Getting the subpar ideas out of your head also has its benefits, because it frees up mental resources, clearing the way for fresh ideas to move in.

  • Don’t puppy-love your ideas

We get it, you’re clever. However, your role at this point is to catch as many of the ideas spilling out of you as you can. Just because you think you’ve hit pay dirt is no reason to jump the gun and begin refining. If you feel this way about a recent idea, chances are that you’re harboring a bias toward an idea that it is probably too cute or grandiose to make the final cut anyway. It may be that it only sparkles in contrast to the string of lackluster ideas that led up to it. Plus, creativity usually happens in bursts, so it would be a titanic mistake to stop upon reaching the tip of the iceberg.

  • Stick to the plan

Strategy is the anchor for your campaign. It’s purpose is to ensure that your work aligns with all other work in order to maintain a cohesive and uniform message. The further you try to stretch the leash that tethers you to your strategy, the more work your audience will have to do to make sense of what you are trying to get across. If you make them do too much work, they’ll likely give up and move on.

  • Safety third

Creativity occupies the shared space on the venn diagram between a problem’s solution and novelty. Just as you stick to the strategy, you must also find new ways to approach it. This is the time to take some risks and see what happens. Think of it as shoplifting from the candy store in your mind. When your ideas begin to feel robotic and manufactured, try pushing them to a frightening extreme. Then walk them back to find the breaking point.

  • Physical needs take mental energy

Whether you’re hungry, restless, tired or just plain hungover, your body is trying to get your attention. Working through these distractions can be tough, and your work will likely suffer due to divided focus. Conversely, the endorphin boost from taking a walk, or getting up every so often to stretch, can be great for productivity. Physical activity also doesn’t need to be exercise, it can be as simple as arranging your lunch in an eye-appealing way or giving yourself time to get enough sleep. Find out what works for you, and incorporate it into your process.

Ultimately the solution to getting stuck is always to get back to work. You could wax intellectual about process, or stall for time setting up your environment, but it’s never going to give you the same satisfaction as real progress. Instead, do what the pros do—roll up your sleeves and do the work. Taking a page from one of the United Kingdom’s most renowned prime ministers:

“When you’re going through hell, keep going.”—Winston Churchill

Now, don’t you have some work to do?