How we Rebranded our Company in 3 Months

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rebranded psd

This post was written by Benjamin Brandall and originally appeared on the Process Street blog and is the story of how Cameron and I rebranded our startup Process Street.

In the lifecycle of every startup, there comes a tipping point.

For companies focused on aesthetics and creating something beautiful, there’s a time where the founders need to shift towards their product — look inward and think deeply about the problems it solves, who’s it for and how to refine user experience.

For product-focused startups like Process Street, a necessary early shift is towards design.

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Meeting Strangers: How to Prepare for an Effective Cold Meeting

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Meeting Strangers

Ever been nervous meeting a stranger? Nerve no more!

Impressing a stranger on first encounter can literally change your life. Interviews are a good example. Others include sales pitches, freelance consultations, partnerships, supplier agreements and even dates.

They’re a necessity in life. So why not get good?

Here are some tips to get you started.

Research:

If you know who you’re meeting, take 10-20 min to Google, Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter them. Ideally you’re looking for information related to the topic of your meeting. But you’re also looking for personal information such as achievements and common interests.

Look for media interviews & charity support. Do you both rock climb?  Have they recently been promoted? Have they achieved one of your goals?

Also do company searches on the web, Google News, Twitter and in your CRM if you have one.

Agenda

To Agenda or not to agenda?

An agenda is contextual. You wouldn’t do it in an interview, but you’ll never have a consultant from McKinsey or KPMG book a meeting without sending you one. My general method is for every meeting ask these questions:

  • If I set an agenda, what would be in it?
  • Will I remember to do all of the above without writing it down?
  • Will it benefit my prospect if I send them a copy? – If it will, send one. Consider adding a photo so they know who you are.

Basically the agenda should add value to your stranger. Usually, more complex meetings have agendas. This gives your stranger time to prepare.

On Arrival

Once you arrive at the meeting location – 10 minutes early – wait around the corner for 5 min then head to reception or the cafe to be seated. Arriving more than 5 minutes early can look disrespectful as opposed to eager.

But most importantly DON’T BE LATE! If you think there is a 50%+ chance you’ll be late by even a few minutes, call and notify someone. It looks way better to call and say you may be 5 min late, and arrive on time, then if you arrive 5 min late without calling.

The Lobby

After reception calls my stranger, I will stay standing until they arrive. Warning – if you take this road, be prepared for some long stands. But I feel it looks better than kicking your feet up on lobby couches.

Sweaty palms? I hold my folder with my left hand and keep my right hand in my pocket –dodges the slimy handshake. Remember eye contact and a smile on greeting. Stand tall, chest out, firm handshake.

If you’re in a busy lobby and you don’t know your strangers face, finding them can be awkward at times. Try and make the first approach, (it may take you a couple of times to get it right). Your stranger will be thankful for the awkwardness removal. Look for people looking for people.

Exchange some short pleasantries then ask where they would like to go (unless there is already a plan).

The walk

During the walk from the point of meeting to room or cafe, aim to walk side by side, and ask a few standard open ended questions like:

“Thanks for taking the time to see me. How has your day been?”

Don’t worry what they say – you’re just trying to keep them engaged until you arrive at the sitting location.

Try to find an anecdote (maybe something that happened on the way in or earlier that day) or common topic (the offices, building, location, current event or last resort – the weather) to keep them chatting until the sitting location.

Just try and avoid a long walk of silence.

Also, avoid discussing any important topics during the walk, interruptions are common and will kill your flow.

Personal Note: I like to treat all my strangers like a first date. I open doors, hold elevators and offer them the first seat. Don’t take this to the extreme but if the opportunity is there, unleash the chivalry (that goes for you too ladies!). This shows you’re attentive and will put in the extra effort if they partner with you.

Sitting Down

Once you arrive at the meeting table, wait for the person you’re meeting to sit down first (unless they offer you a seat – then just take it). If you’re already in a cafe waiting for them, stand and shake their hand when they arrive. Again, watch the sweaty palms, smile, eye contact etc. I usually like to sit at a 90 degree angle avoiding the formal face to face arrangement. This is not always possible but it makes it easier to look over documents together or to describe while writing on paper or using your laptop.

Once seated, give a business card to each person so they know who you are, how to spell your name (useful if you have a weird name like mine) and how to contact you after.

Then you’re off.

Do you do things differently?

How the snooze button can make you more productive

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task snoozing

Making decisions is one of the most important traits of any leader and is something I have to deal with on a day to day basis as CEO of Process Street.

The science behind why decisions are important is explained in Science says you should do your most important work first thing in the morning by Drake Baer. While we don’t always realize it, as we breeze (or slog) through our working days, we make countless decisions.

Which email should I reply to first?

Should I take care of this now or after lunch?

The reason that we get tired at around 3pm isn’t just because our body is diverting energy from the brain to the stomach as it tries to digest your lunch, but also because we have decision fatigue.

We take the path of least resistance. Things we would usually have given thought to, we dismiss. Judges are well documented when it comes to decision fatigue, and since our decisions might not be as impactful or obvious as a choice to send someone to prison for life, it’s still a real problem.

The solution to overcoming decision fatigue comes in a strange form. A form that you might normally associate with laziness or days off work…

The snooze button.

Recently I was reading a post by Tomasz Tungz on how he discovered email snoozing boosts his productivity.

This was interesting to me as I have recently adopted a couple of products that use the “snooze” function for managing tasks and emails.

In the post, Tomasz mentions tools for snoozing emails including Dropbox’s Mailbox, Google Inbox and Boomerang. I personally use Boxer which also has the snooze feature, but this is not how I primarily use snooze.

How I use snooze to manage tasks and emails

I use snooze on two different apps and actually use it for BOTH task and email management, not just email.

The first is Any.do

Any.do is a task management app that I use to track my daily to-dos. This is my task dumping ground, I just have one main list and everything goes into it. The only separate list I keep is a shopping list that I share with my roommate and girlfriend. Besides that it’s kind of like an ‘everything’ list that I just dump stuff into.

I love this approach of managing tasks because when I have something I need to do I can just throw it into the main list, this removes a decision I need to make as I dont need to choose a specific list everytime I add a task. I use Evernote in a similar way for dumping notes, screenshots, receipts and business cards. I still have spreadsheets on wishlist.

Any.do then has a focus mode called “Any.do Moments” that lets me me go through all my tasks one by one. Any task that is past due or that has no date attached will pop up, and it will ask me to action the item either by completing it or snoozing it for a future date. This is a highly effective way of managing tasks as I can easily push back things that I think are lower priority.

This way of managing tasks via “Snooze” is the most effective way of managing tasks I have found and is the sole reason I use Any.Do over other todo apps (that and they are an AngelPad company).

The second is Close.io

Close is the CRM I use for managing my business relationships and for Process Street. Here is where I track emails, calls and notes specifically about other people. This includes customers, investors, partners, suppliers and other bloggers that we do cross promotions with.

close io inbox

The Close inbox and snoozing features are actually brand new as of the writing of this post (Aug 2015) they have only been out for a couple of months but this re-enforces the direction of apps moving towards task snoozing.

Close beautifully combines both tasks and emails into a single view allowing you to power through all your emails and tasks in one go. This is incredibly helpful for me as a CEO but I imagine it’s even more powerful for full time sales guys.

close io snoozing
Snoozing has been the most effective way I have found to manage both tasks and emails. It helps me action things faster and reduces the overall number of decisions I need to make each day.

If you haven’t already, try adding a snooze button to your Workflow and see if it improves your productivity.

The Checklist Manifesto Summary

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Checklist Manifesto Summary Header

Checklists are for everyone

What do Johns Hopkins surgeons, anonymous big-time investors and World War II pilots have in common? This isn’t the set up for a terrible joke but a demonstration of how widespread an often-overlooked tool is – they all use checklists to avoid disaster.

For surgeons, disaster is a lethal infection caused by straying from proper precaution. For pilots, it’s crashing a plane that was deemed far too complicated to fly – the Boeing B-17. For investors, checklists avoid what is sometimes known as ‘cocaine brain’; the drive to make snap decisions on high-risk investments that often result in huge losses.

For more information on a similar process, see Warren Buffet’s Investment Checklist. It details the steps taken by the man known as the world’s greatest investor prior to parting with massive sums of money.

The Checklist Manifesto, written by writer/surgeon Atul Gawande, is proof that checklists really work (whether anyone wants to admit that or not). Check out the the Checklist Manifesto Review I wrote for more details.

In his words, if another solution that could be even a fraction as effective would be a new drug or piece of technology it would be backed by billions of dollars, sponsored by the state and be the only thing the worldwide medical journals talk about. A case he cites is the development of robots to perform tricky laparoscopic surgery. It was widely backed and implemented in many hospitals around the US to the great excitement of the medical community.

Positive results? Next to none.

Robotic Surgery

Checklists, however, are deceptively simple. The Checklist Manifesto is the tale of how Gawande took an idea first popularized by pilots into the operating theater and then out into the hospitals of the world, with the help of the World Health Organization. Not only does the book document his own research, but implementations of similar strategies, from hugely complex construction projects to Walmart’s innovative yet highly organized approach when dealing with Hurricane Katrina.

Providing a solution to human error

One of the main problems with checklists is that some feel they are above them, unable to make silly mistakes in routine procedures and not subject to human error. Gawande references a 1970s essay by Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre that boils down all situations to find the only two reasons for human dilemma:

“The first is ignorance – we may err because science has given us only a partial understanding of the world and how it works. There are skyscrapers we do not yet know how to build, snowstorms we cannot predict, heart attacks we still haven’t learned how to stop. The second type of failure the philosophers call ineptitude – because in these instances the knowledge exists, yet we fail to apply it correctly. This is the skyscraper that is built wrong and collapses, the snowstorm whose signs the meteorologist just plain missed, the stab wound from a weapon the doctors forgot to ask about.”

In practical terms, ignorance can be corrected by answering the question “what do I do?” and ineptitude with “how do I do it?”. Checklists can solve both of these issues. They are great teaching tools that can be used to convey information simply, such as our Podcast Publishing Checklist, as well as highly practical, no-frills documents such as the B-17 checklist, one of the most famous of all time.

B17 Pilot's Checklist

An example that’s likely more useful to our world comes from one of the stand-out passages in the book where Gawande meets with three high-powered directors who meet to make venture capital investments in companies that have a slim chance to make a huge breakthrough. Since these investments are usually nothing short of gambling against terrible odds, this exclusive group of investors  implement one very simple tool – a checklist.

For them, this checklist is worth millions. That’s how much it has probably saved them by helping to avoid bad investments. This quote explains how Mohnish Pabrai, managing partner in Pabrai Investment Funds in Irvine, California, has taken the idea from medicine and aviation to use checklists in his work.

“Pabrai made a list of mistakes he’d seen—ones [Warren] Buffett and other investors had made as well as his own. It soon contained dozens of different mistakes, he said. Then, to help him guard against them, he devised a matching list of checks—about seventy in all.

One, for example, came from a Berkshire Hathaway mistake he’d studied involving the company’s purchase in early 2000 of Cort Furniture, a Virginia-based rental furniture business. Over the previous ten years, Cort’s business and profits had climbed impressively. Charles Munger, Buffett’s longtime investment partner, believed Cort was riding a fundamental shift in the American economy.

The business environment had become more and more volatile and companies therefore needed to grow and shrink more rapidly than ever before. As a result, they were increasingly apt to lease office space rather than buy it—and, Munger noticed, to lease the furniture, too. Cort was in a perfect position to benefit.

Everything else about the company was measuring up—it had solid financials, great management, and so on. So Munger bought. But buying was an error. He had missed the fact that the three previous years of earnings had been driven entirely by the dot-com boom of the late nineties. Cort was leasing furniture to hundreds of start-up companies that suddenly stopped paying their bills and evaporated when the boom collapsed.”

Are checklists for egomaniacs?

This cautionary tale shows what happens when a formal procedure isn’t in place when it really should be. The fact that the human brain is not so great can be proven by the amount of productivity tools, to-do lists, products like this, this and – when was the last time you forgot your baby in the car? – this.

These are tools for the simplest things! Brain surgery, alongside rocket science, has the anecdotal title as being among the most complex and difficult tasks in the history of the world.

What makes people think they don’t need tools for remembering the proper procedure? The thing is, people in these professions likely have genius-level IQs. This can result in what is known as intellectual arrogance, the features of which are:

  • They have a “my way or the highway” attitude since only their views are supposedly the right way to think.
  • They regard themselves as experts in a particular field or subject.
  • They refuse to see the big picture or another viewpoint, especially of those they consider “ignorant”.
  • They like explaining, theorizing and dictating; basically they like hearing the sound of their own voice.
  • Their mood can become very nasty if their ideas and views are contradicted.
  • They regard any question as an insult or a doubt on their intelligence.
  • They are not above creating proof and arguments to defend their theories vehemently.
  • They are very confident in their own knowledge and do not want to learn anything new.
  • Sometimes they can come across as very wannabe and attention-seeking.
  • They can get very smug and snobby, especially if they are actually right about something.
  • They pretend to be very broad-minded but actually are very narrow-minded as they feel they know everything and in the right way.

(Source)

Friedrich Nietzsche

A man who fits the above description nicely.

 

Does this sound like the sort of person who would be open to the idea of being told what to do by a checklist?

That was the main problem Gawande ran into with the first large-scale implementation of checklists into hospitals worldwide. He notes how that the egotistical nature of surgeons plus the fact that checklists had to be read out by a subordinate created a large amount of friction among colleagues. He intended the checklists to promote teamwork in the same way we created our app to promote and streamline collaboration.

One of the first stages of the process was a friendly introduction to help everyone get on and work as efficiently as possible, knowing each others names and duties; you’d be surprised at the amount of surgeries performed by teams who have never met prior to the operation and leave the theater none the wiser as to each other’s names or positions. It was basically through the process of long trials and repeated exposure that Gawande managed to create success for his checklists.

After a while, people started to see results that were undeniable – checklists worked!

“More than 250 staff members—surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and others—filled out an anonymous survey after three months of using the checklist. In the beginning, most had been skeptical. But by the end, 80 percent reported that the checklist was easy to use, did not take a long time to complete, and had improved the safety of care. And 78 percent actually observed the checklist to have prevented an error in the operating room. Nonetheless, some skepticism persisted.

After all, 20 percent did not find it easy to use, thought it took too long, and felt it had not improved the safety of care.Then we asked the staff one more question. “If you were having an operation,” we asked, “would you want the checklist to be used?”A full 93 percent said yes.”

The Checklist ‘Eureka!’ Moment

The penultimate chapter of the book ends on a powerful note, summing up the unlikely turn of events that led to widespread checklist usage in the aviation industry. Nothing sums up the point of the book more effectively:

“We are all plagued by failures—by missed subtleties, overlooked knowledge, and outright errors. For the most part, we have imagined that little can be done beyond working harder and harder to catch the problems and clean up after them. We are not in the habit of thinking the way the army pilots did as they looked upon their shiny new Model 299 bomber—a machine so complex no one was sure human beings could fly it.

They too could have decided just to “try harder” or to dismiss a crash as the failings of a “weak” pilot. Instead they chose to accept their fallibilities. They recognized the simplicity and power of using a checklist.”

If you enjoyed reading the Checklist Manifesto, take a look at our checklist software built on the book’s great ideas. If you haven’t read it yet, you can buy the book on Amazon here. If you have, let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your opinion!

Vitoto Officially Shutting Down

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startup failure

Vitoto was a failure.vitoto-launcher-icon-512x512

It feels good to say that. There has been an air of uncertainty around the state of the company for the last few weeks, its nice to make a decision.

Firstly, I am proud of myself for taking the shot.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
— Wayne Gretzky

I am also proud to have acquired my first startup failure. People in Silicon Valley respect failure, its almost like a badge of honor.

Don’t get me wrong, I would have much preferred a success, and I am really disappointed I was not able to generate a return for my investors, but I definitely left this experience with more than I started with so I’m not complaining.

If you don’t know, Vitoto was a startup I founded in July, 2012 that set out to create a collaborative video app for the iPhone.

 

 

I came up with the idea while I was in Las Terrenes, Dominican Republic – I had been perpetually travelling for the previous 2.5 years while running my internet marketing company.

I quickly raised some seed capital ($50k) and partnered with a Sydney team – Moroku – to build the MVP. After about 4 months of design and development (during which I traveled through the DR, USA, Thailand and Australia) we launched on the Apple App Store and I moved to San Francisco to start the funding gauntlet.

3 months, a plethora of emails, calls, meetups, pitches and half a startup accelerator later we are shutting down the doors.

I want to keep this post as short as possible while both covering off why we are shutting the company down, and some of the key mistakes I believe we (I) made in this process.

Why Vitoto is Shutting Down

The short answer is: No money.

Another short answer might be: Good idea, bad business.

Below is the long:

0. The Problem

One of the key lessons I learned is that great startups have a blindingly obvious, ideally really large and painful problem that the company is trying to solve. Solving this problem should drive almost every decision in the startup.

Vitoto did not have this. I mused on this in an earlier post.

I tried to spin up problems that I could use in pitches and conversations like “its difficult for people to create collaborative videos” but I couldn’t even convince myself, let alone anyone else. The problem just wasn’t real enough.

Next time:

Next time I need a blindingly obvious, clear, defined, large, real problem that is being solved. No exceptions.

I have been working on a new startup applying the lessons I learned from Vitoto. Check it out here: Process Street

 

1. The Team

I have seen two types of successful startup teams here in Silicon Valley.

1. Young teams who can survive on very minimal cash. These are teams of 2-5 people who have a blend of skills (technical, design, business) and can execute an entire startup between their core team. They are able to stretch $30k to 9 months as they all live in one house, work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week and survive on ramen noodles.

2. Experienced, well funded teams. These are teams that are generally spear headed by an entrepreneur who has had a successful exit in the past. The entrepreneur goes around and recruits a bunch of his or her friends from their 6 figure jobs and convinces them to help create their next vision. Due to their strong track record and the experienced team formed, they are able to raise money before a single line of code is written. The money raised can be anywhere from $250k to $40 million.

Both team styles have pros and cons, however, these two team structures seem to be the most successful.

The Vitoto team fell somewhere in the middle. We had a great team, don’t get me wrong, but there were some key elements in the structure that lead to the inevitable demise of Vitoto.

The two key factors were:

1. We had a team that was too experienced for the budget.

2. We had no invested User Experience/Design specialist.

Our team ran out of runway and could not develop new features into the product. The product was not getting the traction needed nor could we get the viral loop to work, this made the product unappealing to investors. We did not have enough money to support the team in executing the required UX tweaks and experiments, thus were unable to further develop the product to a point where it could get enough traction to attract investors.

One key element here is that the Australian team was not able to deliver any code without money coming in. They have huge overheads and were unable to contribute time for pure equity.

Next time:

Next time I make sure I start or am part of a founding team that falls into one of the 2 above success categories.

2. Lack of UX focus, planning and execution.

The lack of UX focus was another key factor in the  (lack of) success of Vitoto.

The first element to this was that we had no dedicated UX specialist on the team. We did bring in outside expertise for the graphics design, and while the quality delivered was high, this put further constrain on the budget.

The second element was that the team never properly sat down and brainstormed the UX. Quick decisions were made to get the MVP out the door and these had serious impacts on how the product was received by customers.

Next time:

Next time I will make sure that there is extensive planning, brainstorming, and user testing done on the UX of the product before any time or money is invested in actual coding. And I will make sure there is an invested UX specialist on the founding team.

3. Resource Allocation

When I budgeted my initial capital for the business, I budgeted to get an MVP out the door.

While I understood there would need to be a marketing effort for the product, I didn’t take into account the extent of tweaking that would need to be done to the product after the MVP to get it to a point of consistent user uptake. The UX is the most important marketing tool for an early stage startup.  If people are not using your product, it doesn’t matter how well you market it.

I consistently had user feedback to add, remove or enhance features or experience. But continually found myself saying “it’s on the road map but we don’t have enough money to build it”. A position I should have never been in.

Next time:

Next time I will make sure my initial funding can carry me to TRACTION not just the MVP. Traction (unless you’re super lucky) is going to be a solid 6-12 months AFTER the MVP is released. So I will make sure I have enough to last that long before I dive in.

4. Monetization strategy was loose.

This is important, but not as important for consumer focused products. If you are building a consumer app without a clear monetization strategy, just make sure you have the runway as mentioned in point 3. You will either gain traction or you won’t. If you gain traction you can figure out monetization, if you don’t, well, you’re dead in the water anyway.

Next time:

Next time I am not building a consumer product. B2B with a clear cut monetization strategy and a focus to start monetizing as early as possible.

5. Product outside area of specialization

Nobody in the team had built a successful consumer product before. We all had experience in the enterprise space, selling to businesses. We had no experience in consumer of video. We were not playing to our strengths.

Next time:

Next time I will play in a space I have lived in before.

What’s next?

As I said at the beginning, this experience has definitely been a positive one. I can’t even begin to describe how much I have learned. It felt like an accelerated university degree. I have gained a TONN of real world experience in the startup world, built a strong network in San Francisco and Silicon Valley and even have my next startup idea locked down.

But for now, my visa to the US runs out in about a month so I will be leaving.

My marketing company is still running strong and the focus is going to be on scaling that over the next 12 months.

I am going to do a few stops in the US over the next few weeks, San Diego, Tempe, Pittsburg then I am going to head to Hong Kong to handle some banking and I want to visit my parents and little brother who are currently in Ningbo (a city in China near Shanghai). After that I am planning to move to Jaco in Costa Rica for at least 6 months.

The words for the year are “Scale and Systems”. Beyond building my business, I also want to focus on getting stronger in the gym, learning to surf properly and learning Spanish.

I am also brewing the idea of doing another sneaky startup, working on team for this one so well see how that goes.

What would you have done different?

I have been working on a new startup applying the lessons I learned from Vitoto. Check it out here: Process Street

Ultimate Youtube Video Ranking Guide

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How to Rank YouTube Videos

I’ve been using videos to market our startup Process Street for the last few months and have been getting some great results with video bringing in a steady flow of views, leads and customers.

Now, you might already be aware that video is an important marketing tool in today’s online world — that’s why products like PowToon exist — but the way I use video might be a little different. See, I’m not using video in a traditional sense of putting it on my website and using it to convert customers or explain ideas (although I do that too), I’m using these videos as pieces of content to rank in Google to bring in organic search traffic.

Why Video is Awesome

Creating videos in this way is similar to creating blog posts or landing pages for SEO, but with some important benefits.

Firstly, YouTube videos rank well in Google. Like really well. Since YouTube is owned by Google, and is already an extremely high authority site, chances are that a piece of content you put on YouTube will rank higher than your own site, especially if your site is new and doesn’t have much authority.

Posting content on YouTube also lets your content be discovered when people search YouTube, which is the second biggest search engine in the world, bigger than both Bing and Yahoo. Moreover, optimizing your videos to rank in Google automatically optimizes them to rank in YouTube too, bringing an additional traffic stream you otherwise wouldn’t’ve had.

But what is really great about ranking in Google search is that it’s search traffic, the best kind of traffic for a product like mine, which is solving a very specific pain point for businesses. This kind of traffic brings us customers from huge enterprises which I otherwise would have had a hard time identifying and marketing to.

How I Rank YouTube Videos

In this post I will explain the process I use to optimize and rank my videos in Google. Here are a few examples of terms my videos are ranking for in Google:

Standard Operating Procedure Software (Google Search|Video Link)
sop software

Business Systemization (Google Search|Video Link)
business systemization

Sharepoint DMS alternative (Google Search|Video Link)
sharepoint alternative

The amazing thing about ranking videos for these kinds of keywords is that, even though they might not have a ton of traffic, they are VERY targeted visitors, people searching for that exact kind of product.

I am not going to talk about how to make a video in this post. If you want to learn more about creating videos, I recently wrote a post on how to create a startup explainer video plus PowToon has a number of great tutorials on their blog.

In this post I will show you how to optimize your videos and get them ranking for your target keywords.

On Page Optimization

YouTube Onpage Optimization

The first thing you should do before uploading your video is prepare you keywords, title and description.

Keyword Research

When ranking YouTube videos it’s good practice to target multiple long tail keywords in the video. This will bring in more traffic as you rank for multiple terms with just one video.

For example, this video I did on checklist software is ranking for Checklist Software, Checklist Software Tool and Checklist Template Software.

checklist software

You should find a keyword to target based on the content of your video. This is pretty easy: type a few variations into the AdWords Keyword Planner tool and find the one that ranks the highest. There are a few tricks you can do to find keywords that have low competition, but for the sake of this guide I am going to a assume you already know what keyword you want to rank for before you created the video.

For our example, lets use “Tree Removal Miami”

Tree Removal Miami

Once you have your primary keyword, it’s time to get to work building a list of secondary keywords and constructing a title and description for your video.

Below is a video I made for a friend teaching him the process of keyword research and constructing the title and description. In the video I walk through two example keywords “Tree Removal Miami” and “Electrician Miami”. The video is an over the shoulder of me doing it, and runs about 30 minutes if you need a detailed explanation.

(Spreadsheet from Video)

Build Keyword List

Take your primary keyword and put it into the AdWords tool, then pick 3-6 other keywords that have the highest search traffic and are related to your product. You can also use Uber Suggest to find the most common searched for terms after your keyword.

This is the keyword list I came up with for Tree Removal Miami

tree removal miami
tree removal cost miami
tree removal service miami
tree stump removal miami
palm tree removal miami
tree removal services miami
emergency tree removal miami
tree removal company miami
tree removal miami FL
tree removal cost miami FL
tree removal service miami FL
tree stump removal miami FL
palm tree removal miami FL
tree removal services miami FL
emergency tree removal miami FL
tree removal company miami FL

Video Title

Use the keyword list to construct the title. Weave in as many of the keywords as you can with the title still making sense and not looking like spam.

Tree Removal Service Miami FL | 555-555-5555 | Low Cost Emergency Tree Stump Removal Company

Video Description

The description should include ALL your keywords, woven into legible paragraphs that again don’t look like spam.

Tree Removal Service Miami FL | 555-555-5555

Low Cost Emergency Tree Stump Removal Company in Miami FL. Get lowest cost services on your emergency tree removal.

We guarantee the lowest tree removal cost in all of florida for tree stump removal. Contact us today for a free quote from the most reliable tree removal company in Miami FL.

Video Tags

For the video tags, just copy and paste in your keyword list. Easy.

Advanced Optimization

There are also a couple of advanced optimization techniques that I hear good things about. They are:

  • Transcript (adding a written transcript to your video can help the search engines crawl the video and give you higher rankings)
  • Annotations (again adding more text to the video helps with search)

I haven’t tested these myself yet but so far I have been able to get to the first page of Google for a number of terms just using the methods above of optimizing the Title, Description and Tags then doing the off page optimization steps outlined below.

Off Page Optimization – Backlinks

youtube backlinking mindmap

Now your video is uploaded and optimized, it’s time to start ranking it. Ranking a YouTube video is pretty similar to ranking any website where the main ranking determinant is the number of backlinks you have pointing towards that video. YouTube has another factor however and that is the number of websites that have actually embedded the video, making it slightly different to creating backlinks for traditional websites.

Here is a list of YouTube ranking factors in order of importance:

  1. Embeds
  2. Links with Anchor Text
  3. Links without Anchor Text
  4. Social Signals

Below are the strategies I use to rank my videos on YouTube. Keep in mind that these are not all the strategies that exist, and that there are many ways to get backlinks and embeds.

Submit to Social Media Properties

  • Share on personal Google+ and company
  • Share on company Facebook page, like it, share it
  • Share it on twitter company account
  • Retweet on your own account

Submit to Onlywire

Onlywire is a service that lets you manage over 30 web 2.0 properties from one control panel. It’s awesome to get a quick backlink shot of 20-30 links to any post or video you publish. Submitting your video to Onlywire won’t move the needle much but it takes just a second to do and the more links the better. I use Onlywire quite a bit as I use it to build links to every Web 2.0 post, guest post, video, forum post, profile, etc. that I create. This is a really easy way to get a quick link boost.

Plus you can pay someone on Fiverr to set it all up for just $5, an effective, cheap and automated way to do social bookmarking submissions.

I talk about submitting to Onlywire a lot in the rest of this post. This is not a necessity though, merely a shortcut. There are other social tools to help you manage various social networks, or you can simply submit to them manually for free. However, Onlywire is the easiest tool I have found, and it’s what I use in my business.

Post on Site

Create a blog post or landing page on your website. A general rule for a landing page is that it should have 300-500 words of unique content. The keyword should be included in the title and the body. The keyword should be linked to the YouTube video, the video should be embedded onto the page and you should also link out to an authority site. To beef up the page further, add the keyword into an h1 tag and as the alt text of an image.

This formula should be followed when posting anywhere, including your site, other blogs you own, or Web 2.0 sites.

Here is a quick checklist:

  • 300-500 words unique content
  • Keyword in title
  • Keyword in body
  • Keyword anchor text linked to video
  • Embed video
  • Authority link
  • H1 tag with keyword
  • Image with keyword in alt text

Once you have published your post to your site, don’t forget to promote it. Submit it to social bookmarking sites, Onlywire and across the web. If you are looking for more places to promote your content, try this checklist.

Post on Blog Network

Create a blog post on a personal blog or other site you own. If you don’t own any other web properties, now might be a good time to create a blog. Having a second web property such as a blog is a great way to get additional exposure and backlinks for your videos.

I have a few older blogs that are still around and have some decent authority so I use them to write posts and embed my videos in, like this one I did on standard operating procedure software.

Once you have published your post to your blog using the same format as above, submit it to Onlywire.

Submit to Profiles

Company profiles and business directories are another great way to get embeds for your video. Depending on your niche you can embed your video onto your LinkedIn page, Angel List profile, or Yelp listing.

These are great quick ways to not only get backlinks to your videos but also to generally increase your branding as a company.

Remember to submit your profile pages to Onlywire to get some secondary link juice.

Guest Post

Write related guest posts for other sites and find meaningful ways to link or embed your videos into the guest post. This is one of the most powerful ways to get links to your videos. In fact, I am doing it right now with this post. Another example of a guest post where I embed and link to a number of my videos is this post I did for the Startup Chile blog.

Remember to promote your guest posts too! Submit them to social bookmarking sites and Onlywire.

If you want to learn more about guest posting, try these guides:
Advanced Guest Posting
10 Resources to Make You The Best Guest Blogger Ever

Create a Post on Your Web 2.0 Properties

Another great way to get embeds, links and views for your videos is to publish them on your Web 2.0 sites like the ones listed below. Use the same format as when submitting to your blog or website.

There are a lot of different Web 2.0 sites available, and it can take a bunch of time and resources to post on all of them, so I have broken them down into Tier 1 and Tier 2 sites. Start with the Tier 1 and, if you have the time, keep posting onto the Tier 2 sites.

Tier 1

WordPress.com
Blogger.com
Tumblr.com
Medium.com

Tier 2

LiveJournal.com
Soup.io
Webs.com
Doomby.com
Hpage.com
Sosblogs.com
Blog.com
SnapPages.com
Jigsy.com
Beep.com
Tripod.lycos.com
Ucoz.com
Jimdo.com
Bravesites.com
Newsvine.com
Storify.com
Over-blog.com

Whether you are posting on Tier 1 or Tier 2, every time you create a new post, make sure to submit it to Onlywire.

Keep on Linking

As you continue to write content, do presentations, post on forums, etc., remember to keep linking back to your videos when you can. The more links you can get back to your videos the better they will rank over time, so keep on plugging them wherever you can.

If you do the linking optimization tips above and actively work on generating links and embeds to your YouTube videos, they will rank in Google and bring in a targeted, free flow of traffic.

Tell us about your YouTube ranking experiences in the comments below!

How to Make a Video for your Website on a Budget

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How to Startup Explainer Video

If you’re building a startup of any kind, chances are you’ll need an explainer video.

Explainer videos are short 1-3 minute videos that help spread your message and teach people what your product and company is all about. A startup video can help explain difficult to understand concepts and, if you’re lucky, can go viral and give you a bunch of traction — as was the case with Dropbox.

 

In this post, I will break down how I created our explainer video (above) for less than $300, and how you can make your own for even cheaper.

There is a huge benefit to being in control of your own explainer video. The first and obvious benefit is cost. Doing it yourself is much cheaper than hiring a professional firm like Revolution Productions which can charge between $500-$20,000 for a video. Not that these companies don’t have their place — a great explainer video can significantly boost your conversions and sales. But be careful investing that kind of money into your video before you have product market fit and some traction.

Another reason is, as a new startup, the chances that your company, product or idea will be exactly the same in 6 or 12 months are pretty small. If you’re doing product demos in your explainer video, it is likely you will have updated the look and feel of your product. For example, maybe you’ve added extra features you want to show off, or you’ve discovered a new lucrative market to go after. Whatever the case, startups iterate quickly and pivot often. Paying $5,000 every time you launch a new feature or target a different market can get expensive quickly. But, if you control the video yourself, you can easily swap out new screen captures or slot in new features, allowing your videos to grow with your startup.

Ninja Tip: Upload your explainer videos to YouTube and title them with keywords you are targeting for your business. Don’t call the video “Product Name Explainer Video”. Here you can see the first explainer video I made (which I actually did at the same time as my Startup Chile video), is ranking on the first page in Google for its term “business systemization”. Since your explainer video will get lots of views from the homepage of your website and will be embedded around the web (in your Angel List profile, for example) it should rank relatively high in Google and YouTube search results and will continue to bring in leads even after you stop using that version of the video on your homepage.

Double Ninja Tip: Add an annotation to your video telling people they are looking at an “old version of the product” and linking to your homepage. This will significantly increase click throughs to your site and will give you some grace if your early videos are lower quality.

With that being said, let me get into the details of how I made our explainer video.

1. Script

The script of your explainer video is easily the most important part. Even if you’re paying an experienced company to make your video, you will still want to write the script, or at least be heavily involved in its design, since nobody knows your product and market better than you.

The two most common types of scripts in the startup world are “the user story” script and the “problem and solution” script.

The user, or “Meet Bob”, story takes a viewer through the journey of a user like this video from Med Climate:

A “problem, solution” video is similar to the one I did for Process Street. State the problem your customers are facing then show how your product can solve that problem.

Here is another problem-solution video by Zen Cash.

 

In both cases, you’re first stating the problem, then the solution derived by your product. The rest of the script will depend on your product, but focusing on the benefits and uses of your product rather than the features is a good rule of thumb.

If you’re really creative and super pro, you can do something new and exciting like the Dollar Shave Club video below, but careful with these: if executed poorly they can look amateur. If you’re not a video pro, it’s best to keep it simple.

 

Neil Patel at Quicksprout wrote a great article on how to write a script for your explainer video, check it out here. If you want some inspiration, check out Startup Videos, they have 100+ pages of videos you can browse through.

2. Audio

Audio is the second most important element after the script. A great video can be ruined by poor audio. For the Process Street video, I recorded the audio myself. I mostly did this because I had recently purchased a new microphone to make various videos and was itching to use it. If you’re interested, the microphone I bought was the Yeti Blu — I got it from Techworld in Santiago for about $180 USD but they go for about $100 on Amazon.

If you don’t want to spend that kind of money on a microphone just to do one 2 minute video, you can easily pay someone on Elance to record it for you. The quality will be better and it will be MUCH cheaper. For $20-50 you can get a 2 minute video recorded. Just post a job looking for voice talent and you will get a bunch of applications from real professionals who have done commercials for Fortune 500 brands. They will submit their ‘demo reels’ from which you can decide on the type of voice you want.

For most people, paying a specialist is the way to go. I think the audio quality on my video is the major weak point. While it’s still pretty good (I’d give it an 8 out of 10) it’s not AS good as professional voice over done in a studio. One benefit of doing it myself is that it is easier to make changes when needed so it really depends on your situation and what you want.

3. Video Storyboard

The storyboard is a series of images that make up the scenes in your video. Here is where you’ll decide what visuals you want to match with the audio track you produced in the above step. This will differ depending on how you decide to create your video: animations, real humans, slides and screencasts are the most common elements in an explainer video.

Check out the below video to see how Pixar storyboards entire animated movies:
http://www.youtube.com/embed/7LKPVAIcDXYwidth=”550″ height=”420″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=”allowfullscreen”>
 

For the Process Street video, I broke it down into two elements, animations and screencasts. I then decided which screencasts I wanted for which parts of the script. For inspiration on animations, I turned to VideoMakerFX. I basically browsed through their templates looking at kinetic words and clips that I thought would fit into my script.

4. Animations

Animations in startup explainer videos are very popular these days. For the Process Street video I used VideoMakerFX, a great tool that makes it simple to create cool-looking animations. It has hundreds of pre-designed animations targeted at explainer videos that you can easily customize the look of, changing the text, colors, backgrounds and animations.

VideoMakerFX costs $97 which is relatively cheap compared to paying for a professional video. It lets you create as many videos as you want, and you can even use it for other videos, like this one I did on how to create a blog.

There are a number of other tools that do animations as well. The powerhouse is Adobe After Effects, an expensive, complex tool targeted at professionals.  You can make the process less painful by using pre-made templates, but there is still a decent learning curve. Other tools to check out include PowToonGoAnimate and Wideo.

If you really want to go ghetto you can use Powerpoint and record your screen (see screencasts below) as you go through the slides, or better yet, use SlideBean (also a Startup Chile company) to add a bit of animation to the slides.

5. Screencasts

A screencast video is basically a video recording of your computer screen. Screencasts a great way to show off your product, they speak a thousand words when trying to convey features in the short time-frame of your explainer video. I make a lot of screencast videos, they are great for demo and marketing videos.

I use Camtasia to record my screen generally on a PC, but TechsSmith also offers a free product called Jing which lets you record up to 5 minutes of video. This is more than enough for a 2 min explainer video. A quick search and you will find a bunch of other free tools for screen recording on both Windows and Mac.

For your screencasts, record the actions you want based on how you designed your script. Typically showing off various features of your product as the audio track explains it. You can speed up the video and add effects such as tilts and zooms pretty easily in most editing software. I recommend doing this, as a little bit of movement makes things look professional and hold the viewers interest.

6. Music Track

To polish off your video you will want to pick a music track to play in the background. A background music track will keep people entertained and give your video a consistent, less choppy feel.

Pick something with a tempo and theme that matches your video and product. Don’t pick some overly fast happy music if you are selling a serious B2B product, and don’t pick a dull slow track if you have a cool, fun consumer product.

There are plenty of options when choosing a music track, if you want to go the free route, take a look at some of these: FreeSound, Audio Archive, iBeat, Artist Server and more than 30 others.

If you want something more specific, the guys over at Envato have you covered again with their premium audio library Audio Jungle that has a ton of cool tracks you can buy for around $10 each. VideoMakerFX also includes a small library of audio tracks you can use for free once you own the product. That’s actually where I found the track for our video.

7. Putting it all together

To edit everything I used Adobe Premiere, part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. I already pay for Adobe so this was the obvious choice. I have also edited videos in the past using Camtaisa — it’s quicker for screencasts and the interface is easy to use.

Otherwise, Windows Movie Maker and iMovie will both get the job done. All you need is basic scene arrangement, clip speed control and transitions. There are probably a bunch of apps on the iPad that can do this too, but I haven’t tested any of them.

Don’t get scared by the editing part. Some of these programs can seem confusing, but really it’s quite simple.

First, record your audio and import it into your editing tool. Next, add your screencast segments in the correct positions making sure to match up audio to the time of the clip (you will probably need to speed up your screencast clips to do this effectively). Then, fill in the gaps with animations or slides until you fill out the whole audio script.

Once the animations match up to the audio you’ll want to do a few quality control runs before you continue further (with transitions, music, etc).

Watch the video 2-3 times and look for things like thin lines around the edge, image quality and brightness consistency. If you are using different audio tracks (like a video intro for example) make sure your audio volume is level across the whole video.

If you get stuck on any of these parts, there are plenty of YouTube tutorials teaching you the different controls in most video editing programs.

Call to Action

Next, you should add a call to action to the end of your video. This should be fairly long, somewhere between 15-45 seconds. If you watch through my explainer video above until the end, you’ll see that I prompt the viewer to enter their email. This is important for two reasons. First, it tells the viewer what to do next, increasing conversions. Second, it stops the YouTube suggested videos from popping up and distracting your viewer with what is probably one of your competitors videos. Actually lots of people don’t use YouTube to host their explainer videos for this reason and instead opt for a service like Wistia or Vimeo. Personally, I like to host my video on YouTube until it is ranking for my target keyword, then either release a new video or switch it to Wistia.

Once you’re happy with the core structure of the video, add your final zooms, tilts and transitions.

Finish up by adding in your audio track, reducing the volume and fading in and out at the beginning and the end.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it, a completed explainer video! If you calculate all the expenses above you might come to something like this:

Total: $627

But since I already own Camtasia and Adobe Creative suite, my cost was $279. And remember, I can use the microphone and software to create other videos so really the cost is even lower over time.

You can do this cheaper however, by using a combination like:

Total: $143.99

I hope this post was helpful.

If you use any of the above to create an explainer video for your startup I would love to see it. You can leave a comment or reach me on Twitter or Google+. If you want to see more posts like this, subscribe to the Process Street Blog.

This post originally appeared as a guest post on the Startup Chile blog.

21 Things I LOVE About Travel

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love travel

I travel a lot.

I’ve basically been a digital nomad for over 5 years, earning a living running (and failing at) start ups and various internet companies.

I have visited hundreds of cities and met a lot of crazy people. Thus I know a thing or two about sleep hacks and travel gear.

But even after all this time, I still love travelling.

Travel is awesome. Here’s why:

  1. I don’t have to shave
  2. Every day is an adventure
  3. I have more time to read
  4. I get to try new beer
  5. I’m a friendlier person
  6. I’m less fashion conscious (usually)
  7. I’m forced into awkward situations outside my comfort zone
  8. There’s no TV
  9. I meet someone new everyday
  10. Every day is the weekend
  11. I have more time to write
  12. I’m getting used to funky smells
  13. I learn all day every day – kinda like school, only fun
  14. I judge less
  15. I no longer let ‘what I do for a job’ define me
  16. I’ve become more comfortable on my own
  17. Food! So much new food
  18. I sleep less… It’s ok, I can sleep when I’m dead
  19. I’m more relaxed
  20. I have few material possessions to worry about
  21. I smile more

What do you love about travel?

Abstract Job Hunting – Using Google Adwords to land your Dream Job

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thinkoutsidethebox

As an ex recruiter I know a thing or two about how to get a job. I’ve seen a whole bunch of crazy techniques people have used to land themselves their dream job. Some pretty cool, like creative web-pages, some completly idiotic like calling everyday saying “I have job”. I came across this video the other day of a SUPER-EPICLY-AWESOME way to get your next job.

The guy was looking to get senior  job at one of 4 or 5 firms, working for one of the executives. What he did was create a Google Adwords campaign, with the keywords targeted to the names of the Executives he wanted to work for.

If you dont already know, Google Adwords are the sponsored advertisments you see on the top and side of a Google search result. Its basically how they make all their cash. Take a look at the example below:

Google Adwords

The areas in the red are the areas you can “rent” from Google for a price per click. Usually in the 10c – $2 range. Oh and sorry about the funky language, I’m in Budapest at the moment and Google tracks your location to display advertisments close to you.

This guy bought the space for the executives names, so when they Google themself, his advertisment popped up on the top of the search and took them into his website of some sort, which I am guessing was a sales page / resume of him asking for a job.

Check the video he made of the experiement: (click here if you cant see the video)

For all his efforts (probably 1 days work) and money invested ($6) he ended up with two job offers! Genius!

Think of all the cool stuff you could use this for. Tim Ferriss used it for choosing the title of his book. Next time your struggelling to get past that gatekeeper consider the option of putting up a Google ad and see what happens. Now thats abstract living!

Mexican Story – Four Hour Work Week

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Girl-on-Beach-Hammock

This story kicks ass. Its from the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.

I don’t think the lifestyle is for me I’d probably get bored, but the story has stuck with me.

The perspective is the complete opposite to my capitalist mindset so I like to think it brings me closer to the middle somewhere.

Enjoy!

American consultant was at a pier in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow-fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied only a little while.

The consultant then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked the Mexican how he spent the rest of his time.

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American consultant scoffed, “I am business consultant and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and, with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.

“You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American consultant replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, senor?” asked the fisherman.

The consultant laughed, and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public. You’ll become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions, senor?” replied the Mexican. “Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

5 Ways to Improve Your Next Sales Outreach Campaign

improve sales outreach

One of the best ways to improve your craft is to check out what your competition is doing. If you get to know what’s working for everyone else (or at least the success stories), you can avoid many pitfalls when it comes to your own company.

So, when I set out to find out how we could improve our sales and marketing cadences around 6 months ago, I knew that I’d have to gather data. A lot of data.

By the time I was finished, I’d signed up to 281 SaaS companies (including the Montclare SaaS 250 and some of the top startups in AngelList) using the details of a fake Vodafone employee and analyzed the 1,000+ emails and voicemails I received in return.

While I won’t go over everything I learned right now (we’d be here for days) I will highlight five of the core takeaways I gathered to help you convert more of the leads you generate.

If you want the rest of the data (including a Slideshare summary and copies of every email and voicemail I received), check out Inside SaaS Sales – a site we set up specifically to house this data. Otherwise, read on!

#1. Send an email every day

First up, you need to keep in regular contact with any potential lead who signs up. This both reminds them that you’re there and builds the connection they have with you.

Although tactics obviously differed based on the company, the majority of companies (41%) sent us one email per day until they stopped contacting us.

Other companies averaged out to sending one email per day, but instead took a staggered approach. A great example of this is Salesforce.

Their team sent us two emails per day for the first two days, then one email for the following four days, and then one five days after that as one of their final touch points.

This is a great way to strike while the iron’s hot (aka, when the lead first signs up), but to avoid drowning them in sales and marketing emails if they aren’t interested.

#2. Don’t send the same kind of email two days in a row

Although most companies sent us one email for every day of their sales cycle, it’s important to make the distinction between marketing and sales emails.

Too many marketing emails and the lead’s attention could be split between offers or they may not have the drive to take action on your product (depending on your copy).

However, too many sales emails and most people will also be put off. Doing this makes your sales efforts very impersonal, and they will feel like they’re not being valued as a potential customer.

That’s why sales teams on average only sent one email every two days – the rest were marketing emails.

#3. Leave a voicemail (if it’s worth it)

Assess whether the lead’s value is enough to warrant the time and effort to reach out and call them. If so, it’s also worth your time to leave a voicemail if they’re unavailable or don’t answer.

I’ll say straight-up that not every lead is worth following up on in this manner (the resource investment can be massive depending on the number of leads and size of your team). A massive 74% of companies analyzed didn’t leave voicemails, which gives a clear picture of the kind of investment we’re talking about.

If you’re not sure whether voicemails are for you or not, compare the resources you have to the potential gain from the lead.

Does your sales team have time for another call? How much would a call effectively cost in terms of time spent and the sales rep’s wages? What would such a call prevent them doing, and how valuable is that action?

Also, don’t forget to look at how successful voicemails have been for you in the past to get an idea of how likely the gamble is to pay off.

#4. Stick with leads you voicemail for longer

If you have a lead that’s worth voicemailing, it’s also worth sticking with that lead for longer. This was shown by the sales cycle of companies who left voicemails being 160% longer than those who didn’t.

In other words, if these companies left a voicemail, they kept trying to convert us for 1.6x as long.

Now, I know that this data could be due to a number of reasons. It could just be that the companies who had the resources to leave voicemails just had a longer sales cycle. Maybe a few took special exception to us since we were a high-value lead.

Either way, if you think that a lead is worth the investment to leave a voicemail after failing to call them, then chances are you have the resources to stick with that lead for longer. You’ve put the work in, so don’t throw it away at the slightest resistance!

#5. Use (or at least consider) marketing automation

Marketing automation is a fantastic way to save time and money – it lets you queue up your emails long before they ever go out and is an absolute must-have for any team looking to scale.

Any kind of business process automation is vital for those looking to grow quickly without running a major risk of imploding.

However, to back up the point, a massive 67% of companies used marketing automation to send their emails. An even more shocking 39% only used automation – there were no salespeople involved.

In short, if you’re not using some kind of automation to take the strain off your team, you’re missing one of the biggest shared tricks in SaaS sales cycles.

Don’t make the same mistakes as everyone else

While all of these points are useful, if you only take one thing away from this post today, take away this.

Don’t make mistakes that someone else has before you.

It might sound simple, but this simple principle will take you a long way in almost anything you do.

Whether you’re looking for a way to improve your sales cycle or you’re trying to build a blog, do your research beforehand and search for what others have to say on the subject. Someone out there will have published their own experience on the topic, and learning that takes you one step closer to success.

How Top SaaS Companies Use Email Marketing

email-marketing-1024x432

Effectively using email to connect with your customers is an important part of being a SaaS company.

When someone signs up, you want to reach out to show off what your product can do, or tempt someone into upgrading to your premium service.

We know this all too well, and we know how difficult it can be.

With low open rates and even lower click through rates, email can sometimes seem like a daunting area to focus on.

This is why we conducted a study of how top SaaS companies approach their email marketing and sales.

In partnership with PersistIQ, we looked at the sales cycles and drip marketing techniques of 281 top SaaS companies, analyzing 1183 emails in the process.

We compiled all the emails into a searchable database at first but decided to make it a bit more user friendly for people to browse by turning it into the microsite Inside SaaS Sales.

You can hop on there to search by company and view their emails; analyzing their approach.

Our tip is to find a few companies like yours – i.e. with similar business objectives – and work out why they’ve created and structured their emails in the way they did.

But there’s only so much we can learn from one email at a time. What trends can we find in the data? What sales cycle takeaways do we have?

The key findings from analyzing 281 companies’ emails

Companies follow up for 9 days before stopping contact

Companies tend to be persistent. While avoiding sending emails on weekends, the average period of a sales cadence is 9 days – just short of two working weeks.

Some companies tended to stray quite a distance from this average. Salesforce, for example, took 1 month before giving up with their outreach. While a company like Slack, where each customer tends to be of less value to the business, hit the 9 day mark square on the head.

Companies send one email per day until the end of the cycle

In that opening flurry of emails, the SaaS company doesn’t want to overdo it and scare you the customer away, but they don’t want you to move on either.

Looking at the two previous examples, Slack send the first 4 emails over the first 5 days with the final email coming on the 9th day. That pattern of sustained outreach initially followed by quiet rare reminders is mirrored by Salesforce’s approach, even if their cadence is longer.

Salesforce send two emails a day for the first two days and one email a day for the following four days. The last email in their cadence comes over a fortnight after the penultimate.

This pattern can be seen across the data set and suggests that a sprint start is preferable to a balanced campaign.

65% of companies hand you over to an automated marketing campaign

Automation is huge at the moment, and not just in marketing.

We’re slowly walking into a world where computers are performing an increasing number of our tasks. In the report Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation from McKinsey, they predict that 18% of a marketing executive’s working time could already be automated by existing commercially available technologies.

And that report is about 18 months old. Zapier have integrated with an extra 500 companies since then!

In our data, it is clear that though lots of companies use automated elements, many of them combine automated with manual. Both Slack and Salesforce send automated marketing email, but Salesforce have a person on hand to reach out to you too; using the double tap method to follow up on previous outreach as a warmer mechanism

Consider automation! All I’m saying…

Most SaaS companies have two sales contacts per lead

Typically a company will have two contacts and at least one of them will have a title which is geared toward bringing in new customers: Sales (35%), Business Development (18%), or Marketing (18%).

It’s not unusual, however, for a company to reach out from a different member of staff – something which puts a friendly face on the company. Like the CEO or Founders themselves (7%) or a Customer Success (6%) person.

This kind of internal branding could add a little more positive to the mix, maybe?

74% of companies don’t leave voicemails

If a company leaves voicemails, the sales cycle length is usually 160% longer.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise because voicemails are indicative of a high touch sales approach. This involves a lot more effort and a lot more commitment from your sales team.

Generally, a company like Slack has no interest in sending you voicemails. Yet, a company like Epicor – who provide serious industrial services in a high value specialized niche – knows that their market is smaller and each lead is super valuable.

It’s in their favor to leave voicemails where possible! (All voicemails we received are transcribed with the rest of the email data on the microsite)

MailChimp is the most common email marketing software

Used by 49% of the sample, Mailchimp is the faraway winner of the email marketing software battle.

Up in second place is Marketo at 21% with HubSpot biting at their heels on 19%.

The rest come in a little further behind with “other” coming before (in order) Eloqua, Tout, Sidekick, Pardot, Marketing Cloud, Sable, and Sendgrid.

Mailchimp is very easy to use and they’ve offered useful automation elements for a while now. It’s surprising to see how far ahead they were in terms of usage amongst industry leaders, but it’s a compelling sign for anyone searching for an email marketing tool.

Learn your techniques from the best

It’s very easy to write an article online about how you should approach your email marketing.

You’ve probably read loads of these articles. I know I have.

But often these articles are written without the expertise for your particular needs. The expertise you need to listen to and learn from lies within the businesses with whom you share business objectives and demographics.

Hopefully, we can help you cut the bull and check out what the real big players do, so you can learn from them.

Let me know how your company approaches its email marketing in the comments below!

6 Marketing Tasks You Can (and Should) Automate

The following is a guest post from Ben Mulholland, content creator at Process Street.

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Everybody — and I mean everybody — has tasks they could automate.

From basic tasks like saving email attachments to centralizing customer data, the possibilities for saving time are practically endless. Plus, as we all know, time is money.

Getting started with business process automation can be a daunting task, so I’m here to show off six tasks our marketing team automates (mostly using automation platform Zapier).

Use these to get started automating your efforts and giving yourself time to focus on the tasks that actually need your attention, like attracting clients and growing your list.

Organizing post ideas

Inspiration can strike at any time and from anything. You could be sat at your computer actively trying to think of blog post ideas, or one could take you by surprise as you browse a local shop. When that time comes you’d better be prepared to record and organize your idea properly, or risk losing it forever.

Our marketing team does this by creating a note in Evernote (which can be installed on any device) to hold the idea and then assigning a particular tag to it. However, rather than having to open up Evernote later and manually process these ideas, we use Zapier to automatically push notes into Trello and format them into actionable project cards.

In other words, when inspiration strikes we note it down in Evernote and that will automatically get pushed into Trello and organized appropriately.

Creating documents

While it may sound lazy or unnecessary, automatically creating a new document for the posts you write saves a huge amount of effort over time.

Rather than having to open up a writing app, create a new document, organize it, and post a link back to it in Trello, me and my team can just move the corresponding card into our “WIP” column. Zapier picks up on this, creates a document in Quip, sorts it into the correct file (according to who the Trello card is assigned to), and posts a link back into the card.

Again, it may not seem like much, but every little helps when you’re running a tight ship in a field where flow and minimum distraction levels rule supreme.

Triggering checklists

Whether it’s keyword research or guest posting, we have a documented process for everything we do more than once. That way we aren’t ever left wondering what to do next – we can look straight at our checklist, follow the next step, mark it as complete to track out progress, and then continue.

Unfortunately (much like creating documents), creating checklists manually adds up to a hefty chunk of time over any extended period. So, instead, we automatically trigger them with Zapier.

For example, blog pre-publish checklists can be triggered by moving a Trello card, and meeting checklists can be triggered at a set time (even without using Zapier). In fact, speaking of meeting checklists

Centralizing meeting notes

We’re a little mad on centralizing information – the idea that everyone should be able to access everything they might need to. Hence why we post notes takes from our meetings into our shared Slack channel.

Usually this would need manually pasting in, but instead we have Zapier detect when our meeting checklist is complete, then automatically ship the notes into Slack for us.

While it’s true that we technically have an accessible version of the notes with the checklist, having that second copy in a much more freely available space is a godsend. That way we can check exactly what we’ve each pledged to work on, what we need from each other, and our CEO doesn’t have to go digging around for the checklist to be able to see our progress at a glance.

In short, everyone wins.

Tracking activity

I’ve already mentioned how we use Trello to manage our marketing team, but it actually goes further than that. Each of our team members has their own personal Trello board, while we share boards for thing like “Blog articles” and “Knowledge Base Content”. That way we can manage our personal tasks separately from, say, blog articles and ideas we need to easily separate and track.

Now, the main problem with Trello is that is can be extremely difficult (and awkward) to get a concise summary of a person’s activity, or that of activity on a board in general. This can be easily solved, however, by once again using Zapier.

We’ve linked our Trello boards to various team members’ Slack channels, meaning that any activity in those boards is posted as part of a conversation in our messaging app.

So, rather than even having to open Trello, I can see everything that’s happened in the Blog board by just checking a Slack channel. Similarly, my boss can see all of the activity I’ve taken (along with a timestamp) on my personal board by checking a different channel.

This makes it incredibly easy to get an immediate summary of how our team has spent their day, thus increasing accountability and making everyone more aware of the need to report any work that they’ve done. It may sounds a little extreme, but it’s one of the best ways to keep on top of a remote team such as ours (especially if some members are new to remote work).

Creating invoices

The final basic task you should be automating to save time and money is that of creating invoices. Everyone likes getting paid, after all, so why not make the moment even sweeter by taking the boring work out of the equation?

The exact method for this will vary depending on what you use to create your invoices (eg, an accounting app or something simple such as Google Docs) and how you wish to record your information, but we decided to keep things simple.

By filling in an invoice checklist in Process Street we can quickly note down all of the important information the invoice needs, such as the date, payment amount, personal and client details, etc. Once complete, ticking off the final task will (using Zapier) automatically push that information into an invoice template and email the final product to both ourselves and the client.

These are just a few of the tasks you could be automating to make time for the work which actually requires your attention – to make the most of automation you need to get creative and test the limits of what you can do. After all, wouldn’t you rather automate as much shovel work as possible?

What tasks do you automate? Have you got any automation tips of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

How to Build Connections with Influencers to Get Links, Shares, and Exposure

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Making connections with influencers isn’t just for fashion blogs and trendy Instagram accounts.

You’ll need a ‘way in’ no matter who you are or where you’re going.

Whether you’re looking to write for big publications, get a boost to your social shares, improve your SEO, or just get on the radar of a blogger with a big following, you’re going to need to start somewhere.

In this post, I’m going to go through the process I used to write for TechCrunch, get guest blogging slots, and build relationships with social media personalities. It all boils down to a repeatable process with just a few points, and takes very little time or effort.

Let’s get into it…

A few steps before you get started

We’re all blinded by what we already know,

An easy way to find influencers is to use Buzzsumo’s Twitter influencer search. By typing in a keyword relevant to your niche, you can find editors, bloggers, and broadcasters that you can leverage to get more exposure. Alternatively, you can find publications in your niche and then find who’s responsible for content submissions and editing there.

Since this is a social-focused technique, the next step is to follow the influencer on Twitter and add them to a Twitter list.

Now, add their RSS feed to your feed reader so you can keep up to date with what they’re writing:

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Now you’re set to get on with the rest of the process.

Retweet two of the influencer’s articles

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The first part of the interactions after getting started is to retweet two articles. This should be done over time, either with Buffer to Buffer the retweet, or manually by checking back.

To stand out, you can even add a comment inside the retweet, like above. The more you say to start a conversation, the better the outcome will eventually be, and the faster you’ll get to a comfortable stage where you can reach out personally and offer help / make an ask.

Leave two comments on their blog posts

The comments section is an excellent place to interact with bloggers. It’s their home turf, and every blogger loves getting comments and responding to them because it means their work is being read and they’re not just writing into the void. Even if they get a lot of comments already, more can’t ever hurt. Especially if you say something more worthwhile than other people.

Make sure you:

  • Add value to the post (explain how you’ve tried similar methods, or share some of your own experience)
  • Encourage a response (by asking a follow-up question)
  • Say thanks!
  • Sound like a real person

Here’s an example of a great blog comment made for relationship building:

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Overall, a thoughtful, conversation-starting response is the most important thing.

Since you’re subscribed via RSS, you can easily keep to date with what’s being posted and just take a little time in the mornings to read it on your phone and comment.

Share two of their articles on different platforms

I don’t often get my work shared on LinkedIn, but when I do it’s usually by someone who’s got an active following there and I remember the occasion because my Twitter feed is flooded, but my LinkedIn notifications update only rarely.

The people who interact with me on LinkedIn stand out, and that’s a tactic you can try too.

Like before I mentioned how you can Buffer retweets so they don’t go out all at once, you can do the same thing with social shares across multiple platforms. Buffer connects to Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

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The influencer could be grateful you’re sharing their content on a platform where they don’t have as much presence.

Send a personal email with an offer and a request

Do you know the most important factor that goes into an influencer deciding whether or not they’ll open your emails?

The name of the sender is the most important factor to 64% of respondents, so if they recognize your name as ‘the person who I had a great conversation on Twitter with’, they’re way more likely to feel obliged to open and respond to your email.

When Alex from Groove tried to build an ‘inner circle’ of influencers to help promote his content, he found that a good way to get shares and exposure was to ask for the influencers’ opinion on the draft of a blog post in an email like this one:

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Alternatively, if you’re reaching out to a journalist, you might want to try an email like this one:

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Dmitry from JustReachOut.io has compiled a list of 26 cold email templates, which he says he’s used each one of to take his career to the next level at some point, and for requesting an interview with an influencer, he suggests using this one:

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Your next steps…

To make it simple, I’ve compiled an SOP you can run to do influencer outreach here. Make sure you’ve compiled a list of 10-15 influencers, and that you run one checklist for each influencer and work through the list.

Using that method, you’ll find you get more followers on social media, more shares, better placement for guest posts, and more backlinks.

And it all starts with a little work on social media, so I’d say the reward is fair for the work put in!

Have you tried any similar methods or checklists? Let me know in the comments.

7 Marketing Tasks You Should Really Outsource to a VA

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It’s no secret that time is money in any business. No matter whether you’re selling the hottest real estate around or making toothpicks for a living, you don’t have time to do everything yourself if you want to scale (or even run) your business effectively. You need to outsource some of your workload, but what should you offload?

Whilst the answer is really “anything which you personally do not have to do”, as long as your time could be better spent on something else, we have the top 7 tasks to outsource to a VA right here. These are the most common, time / resource consuming tasks which (frankly) we could happily see the end of.

If you want more time to focus on the things that matter for your marketing efforts, go ahead and outsource these tasks before anything else!

Gathering Emails

Nobody likes the arduous task of trawling through hundreds of contacts, manually adding their email address to each one. Equally, the task of finding new contacts and their email address can happily chew up hours upon hours of your work day; hours which could be much better spent personally building a connection to those new contacts, rather than just finding them.

Hence, whenever you have a task which requires the collection of email addresses, you should be outsourcing it to a VA. This is a prime example of everything an outsourced task should be; it’s time consuming, monotonous and doesn’t require any of your personal input or expertise to carry out.

Finding Contact Handles

This task has many parallels to gathering emails; finding other contact information such as Twitter handles or LinkedIn profiles can be just as time-consuming as gathering their email. Time which, once again, could be much better spent creating content to market, improving your website or, as with the emails, building a personal connection to said potential contacts. Essentially, instead of building the framework, you’re shaping your network.

Curating Social Media Content

If this is not already handled by your business process automation system, social media is something which you (by and large) don’t want to be dealing with. You want to have your social media accounts topped up with content that isn’t just an endless stream of self-promotion, but where exactly do you get content that resonates with your audience.

Depending on your tastes, you might try social bookmarking sites like reddit, Inbound.org, GrowthHackers, or putting together a small list on Twitter of accounts that tend to share top notch content. Making a marketing process for this should be easy if you know the kind of content you’d like to curate.

Visual Content

Whether you’re designing the cover for your brand new ebook or just need to get some header images to pair with your Twitter and Facebook posts, you could spend the time to do them yourself. After all, if you just have to do one or two images you might as well take the 5 minutes it takes to whip up a good image.

However, when you get to the stage where you need professional-looking infographics, 20 social media images a week and a new ebook every couple of months, it only makes sense to outsource the task to someone more qualified. Hey, just because the task is going to a VA doesn’t mean that it’s going to be worse quality! All you need to do is make some inquiries to learn who has experience with creating visual content, and then boom; you’re away.

Blog Commenting

Other than being a fantastic way to get your name and brand out there and seen on more popular sources, blog commenting is another monotonous task which can take up hours upon hours without ever being complete (as long as there are more blogs and new posts, blog comments can be made). So, rather than tackle it yourself, you can quite happily hand the task off to a VA without too much trouble.

The only problem which can be posed by outsourcing this task is that the comments should have some sort of review process. This could either be yourself (even if you review each comment, you’ll still save the time taken to write them) or a permanent member of your marketing team, but there should be at least a little quality assurance before a VA is allowed to say anything under your name.

Transcriptions

Although this mainly applies to those of you who produce a podcast or video content, transcriptions are easy to do and provide you with extra content with relatively little effort. If you outsource the task you’re not even wasting any time on it – you’re essentially getting several mediums of content for the effort put into just the one.

Content Creation (Be Careful Though)

This may be a bit of a controversial one, but content creation doesn’t always have to be handled by an internal member of your team. You can outsource your content creation to a VA with little problem and, although you’d better have a thorough employee onboarding process to help them along, it should take little time for them to produce similar quality content to yours in the same (or even a shorter) time period.

As with the blog commenting, this should always be monitored and go through at least one of your team members before being pushed live; although many VAs are very talented and can most certainly deliver on what they promise, there’s always a chance that an error has snuck by them or that they haven’t got your tone right.

And there you have it! With a little caution and training, VAs can be a massive boon to your marketing efforts if you let them take these time-consuming tasks off your hands. However, why not take it one step further? Get creative with analyzing your day-to-day tasks and you may find that you can outsource more than you thought to great effect!