Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Forms Aren't Dead: The State of Email Lead Capture in 2019

Email lead capture is the process marketers use to collect information from their website visitors. Typically, this is done through a traditional web form, although you can also capture leads through popups, chatbots, live chat, quizzes, surveys, and more.

Despite the process being fairly straightforward, our strategies often fluctuate in how we accomplish lead capture. Similarly, the results we achieve can vary quite a bit, too.

Unfortunately, the diversity of lead capture strategies, tools, and results can make it difficult to know precisely which process you should follow with your own marketing team -- which is why we decided to conduct a survey.

We wanted to see, in 2019, what tools marketers are using for lead capture, what strategies they are using to optimize their efforts, and what kind of results and conversion rates people are seeing.

To ensure you're able to optimize your lead capture strategy in 2019, keep reading.

Click here to learn how to write effective email subject line with the help of 100 examples from real brands and businesses.

Survey Methodology and Respondent Data

Any survey you conduct is limited by the sample you can reach. In our case, we received 173 valid survey responses. We filtered for marketers working full-time on lead capture and lead generation. Here are some quick statistics about our sample.

A large percentage of our respondents work at small businesses, with roughly 33% reporting less than 50 employees, although the distribution evens out among the other responses:

Additionally, a good chunk of our respondents (24%) work in advertising and marketing, but the rest is fairly diverse and split evenly between other industries.

Everyone in our sample works full-time and said they were “very” or at least “somewhat” involved in lead generation and lead capture efforts at their companies.

As with any research you conduct, there are some limitations with our dataset, as well. We'll cover sample limitation and quirks later in this article.

Key Lead Capture Statistics and Findings

Here’s a quick overview of the most interesting statistics we learned about lead capture in 2019:

  • Forms aren’t dead. 74% of marketers are using web forms for lead generation, and 49.7% of marketers say that web forms are their highest converting lead generation tool.
  • Chatbots still have low adoption, but still, 17% of marketers are using chatbots today. However, only 6.5% say its their highest converting lead capture tool.
  • The average length of a web form in 2019 is about 5 form fields. Because contexts vary so wildly, this is neither good nor bad, though we have seen in consistent studies that fewer form fields usually result in higher conversion rates.
  • Conversion rates are highly variable and contextual. Reported conversion rates varied consistently across reported categories, but the mean conversion rate from our study is 21.5% (*read more below about the limitations with our reported conversion rates).
  • Data-driven marketers are outpacing everyone. Running A/B tests, using form analytics, and running user tests are all correlated with higher form conversion rates and satisfaction with lead generation efforts.
  • Multi-step forms convert 86% higher. Only 40% of marketers use them, but those that do report 17% higher satisfaction rates with their lead generation efforts, and their self reported conversion rates are 86% higher.
  • Only half of marketers use “lead magnets” to capture email addresses. Marketers who use lead magnets, or downloadable resources after a website visitor shares their email address, report marginally higher satisfaction rates and conversion rates than those who do not use lead magnets.
  • Ebooks are the most popular lead magnet, with 27.7% of marketers using them. However, 24.9% are using webinars and almost as many (21.3%) are using free tools to get email addresses.
  • The average Ebook length is between 5k and 10k words. Barely anyone writes an Ebook that is larger than 10,000 words, and the most common length is between 5,000 and 10,000 words.
  • Marketers overemphasize on total lead volume and not enough on lead quality. It's reported that only 56.4% of marketers have a lead qualification strategy, and only 39.5% are using any sort of predictive lead scoring. It appears we overemphasize on volume on leads without considering the quality of each lead.

Now that we've covered that, let's explore a few of these statistics more in-depth.

Takeaway #1: Forms aren’t dead.

Online forms are the most commonly used type of lead capture tool, with 74% of respondents reporting they use them.

Screen Shot 2019-01-14 at 3.42.49 PM

Half of our respondents reported forms gave them the highest conversion rates, making online forms the highest-converting lead capture tool for marketers.

Takeaway #2: Chatbots still have comparatively low adoption.

Many marketers report using more than one type of lead capture tool, but roughly 40% report only using one tool. And, while 37% of respondents use live chat, only 17% use a chatbot.

Additionally, only 7% of respondents said chatbots were their highest converting tool. By comparison, around 13% reported live chat or quizzes/surveys being the most effective tool.

It would appear from this data that, despite hype and trends, the old school web form is still alive and well for marketers.

Takeaway #3: The average length of a web form in 2019 is about 5 form fields.

Forms are popular and pretty well loved in 2019, but what does the average form look like?

For starters, we found that marketers use, on average, 4.92 form fields on their forms (with five being the most popular answer). The number of form fields mostly resembles a normal distribution that centers around five, although there is a small spike of marketers who use more than 10 form fields.

Takeaway #4: Conversion rates are highly variable and contextual.

Average conversion rates are pretty varied, with a pretty stable distribution of reported conversion rates. Very few people report conversion rates in the 51-100% bucket.

This is one piece of data we need to take with a grain of salt, as with any self-reported KPI or metric. We don’t know exactly how our respondents define a conversion, how they measure conversion rates, or what their offers are, so we lack a lot of context.

Still, when we couple our conversion rate data with our data on self-reported satisfaction rates, we start to see interesting patterns.

First, take a look at our aggregated satisfaction rates:

Screen Shot 2019-01-14 at 3.46.47 PM

Very few people (8%) are dissatisfied with their lead generation efforts, but only 12% report being very satisfied.

It also gets interesting when you examine these answers in conjunction with others. For instance, we found that those who are most satisfied with their lead generation efforts are those who use chatbots and report chatbots as their top converting lead capture tool.

Takeaway #5: Data-driven marketers are outpacing everyone.

Generally speaking, marketers who use methods to improve the customer experience, and specifically those who are using data to drive experiences, are outperforming those who don’t.

For instance, marketers who run A/B tests on their forms tend to be more satisfied than those who don’t, and they also report roughly 10% higher conversion rates than those who don’t run A/B tests.

Following the trend, those who use form analytics report 15% higher satisfaction with their lead generation efforts and 19% higher conversion rates.

But what about user testing? A user test is a type of usability test in which you have users run through your website and attempt a task, and analyze their ability to do so.

Most people are running between one and five per year, but a full 36% never run user tests on their forms.

Again, we found that people who run user tests are more satisfied with their lead generation programs than those who don’t, and that the satisfaction rating increases as the number of user tests rises.

This is a big area of opportunity. Combined with a form analytics tool like Formisimo, you can learn a lot about user behavior from occasionally running user tests. To learn more about form optimization in general, check out this CXL Institute course.

Takeaway #6: Multi-step forms convert 86% higher.

Only 39% of marketers report using multi-step forms. Those who do, however, report 17% higher satisfaction rates with their lead generation efforts, and their self reported conversion rates are 86% higher (16.05% for those who don’t use multi-step, and 29.76% for those who do).

A small majority of marketers report using lead magnets in their campaigns, but 40% report not using them at all.

Takeaway #7: Only half of marketers use “lead magnets” to capture email addresses.

A lead magnet is simply something of value you give in exchange for a visitor’s contact information.

We found that a small majority of marketers use lead magnets to capture emails, but a full 40% don't use them (and roughly 10% don’t know if they are or aren’t).

Creating a relevant and valuable lead magnet is one of the most effective ways to increase conversion rates on lead capture forms. If you’re not doing this, it might be time to consider trying it out.

Takeaway #8: Ebooks are the most popular lead magnet.

If you're wondering what type of lead magnets people generally use, Ebooks lead the way -- but webinars, checklists, and free tools are close behind.

Other answers included “Qualifying email lists", “Rewards”, “Customized vehicle brochure", and “Property information", meaning it’s largely made up of industry-specific offers that are related to the product or service in question.

Takeaway #9: The average Ebook length is between 5k and 10k words.

Very few marketers create Ebooks with greater than 10,000 words, and most fall within the area of 5,000-10,000 words long.

Takeaway #10: Marketers overemphasize on total lead volume and not enough on lead quality.

Collecting a lead is a small part of the overall process. It's important, of course, but you also need to worry about where you're storing the data, and how you're qualifying and nurturing leads.

Most marketers use more than one tool to store their leads -- something that definitely jives with my personal experience.

Because we’re often using a myriad of tools for our marketing efforts, we need to store leads in many places and integrate many systems together to build a coherent system.

Specifically, we found that the most common tool for lead storage is a CRM, with 57% of marketers reporting using one. 48.8% report using an email marketing tool for storage, and 43.6% report using spreadsheets.

Of course, capturing leads is just one step of the process. What we do with them matters as well, as the end goal isn’t just to store them in a CRM or an email tool, but to turn them into customers. Part of this approach is qualifying leads and reacting appropriately based on their quality.

Do marketers normally have a strategy for lead qualification? It appears that, yes, this is the norm, with 56.4% of marketers saying they do have a documented lead qualification process. However, that leaves 34.9% with no documented process.

This is important because, as you would logically suppose, those who have a documented lead qualification process report 21.4% higher satisfaction ratings with their lead generation efforts.

While 39.5% of marketers are using predictive lead scoring in their marketing strategy, roughly half of marketers (48.8%) are not (and 11.6% don’t know if they are or not).

Limitations and Quirks With Our Data

As with any collection of data, you need to question its quality thoroughly. Especially with surveys and self-reported data, the nature of the questions can affect the output of answers. In our case, we can draw a lot of valid insights about lead generation and marketing in 2019, but we need to be careful about generalizing some of it.

The big question we need to consider is the “average conversion rate” of lead capture forms.

Naturally, this depends on how you calculate conversion rates, where your web form is, what your offer is, etc. For instance, the conversion rate of an offer for a free tool that is only seen by targeted paid traffic and only has an email address field is entirely different than a pop-up form that everyone on an ecommerce site sees.

Ultimately, conversion rates are wildly contextual.

How people calculate conversion rates is also different. Do you calculate by those who see your form, those who count as a page view (despite not scrolling to the form), or those who start filling out the form but never finish?

None of this is straightforward, so it can be tough to generalize findings about this metric.

As evidence for this quirkiness, look at this chart:

Our respondents seem to get better and better conversion rates the more form fields they use. While this is possible, it's incredibly unlikely, at least when all other variables are controlled for. Almost all historical research has shown that increasing the number of form fields has an inverse effect on conversion rates (although not all studies have shown that).

That’s not to say the data is inherently untrustworthy. Just take any “average conversion rate” data with a grain of salt!

Additionally, we believe our sample is quite representative, as it had been filtered to include only those who work full-time on lead generation and lead capture efforts. But a greater sample would have been desirable. There is a lot of nuance -- in industries, company size, etc. -- that we couldn’t dive into because our sample size was only 173.

Looking to the Future

The process of capturing email leads is a huge part of inbound marketing. Parts of it change over time, such as the lead capture tools we use and the specific tactics around lead magnets, form optimization, and lead scoring and storage.

However, much remains the same, such as the core ideas of crafting relevant offers and building a lead capture tool with as little friction as possible.

It appears from this survey that less has changed than one would expect. Despite new “conversational” tools like live chat and chatbots, most people still use forms, and most people still entice visitors with Ebooks and webinars.

To no one’s surprise, those who run A/B tests, conduct user tests, and use form analytics, are more successful than those who don’t.

It will be interesting to see how things change in the next few years, as inbound marketing channels become more crowded and lead capture tools get “smarter” and more interactive.

Will we still be writing 7,500 word Ebooks in exchange for five form fields' worth of information?

That’s where we stand today. Where will we be next year?

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18 Core Company Values That Will Shape Your Culture & Inspire Your Employees

Consider one of American Express's company values -- "Customer Commitment". Ideally, if you've had a positive experience with one of American Express's customer service reps, you've seen this value displayed first-hand.

Alternatively, take a look at one of Google's values -- "Focus on the user and all else will follow."

Any Google search will show you they stand by their purpose to serve the user. Undoubtedly, you find most answers to your common questions on page one of Google, and more recently, it's likely separated in its own featured snippet, as well.

Click here to unlock a free guide and template designed to help you create a company culture code. 

Having core company values can help you ensure each of your employees, from top leadership to entry-level, are working towards the same common goal, and share a bigger purpose.

Purpose is undeniably critical for employee satisfaction. In fact, an Imperative survey of LinkedIn members found 73% of purpose-oriented members are satisfied in their jobs, compared to 64% who are not purpose-oriented.

Plus, purpose doesn't just improve employee satisfaction -- it also increases your bottom line. The same Imperative survey found 58% of companies with a clearly articulated and understood purpose experienced growth of +10%, compared to just 42% of companies that don't prioritize purpose.

Ultimately, core values are critical if you want to create a long-lasting, successful, and motivating place to work.

Whether you work for a new company in need of core-value inspiration, or an older company in need of a value revamp, you're in luck -- here, we've cultivated a list of some of the best company values. Additionally, we'll examine how some companies truly honor their values.

Examples of Companies with Inspiring Core Values

1. American Express

  • Customer Commitment: We develop relationships that make a positive difference in our customers' lives.
  • Quality: We provide outstanding products and unsurpassed service that, together, deliver premium value to our customers.
  • Integrity: We uphold the highest standards of integrity in all of our actions.
  • Teamwork: We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our customers and to help our Company win.
  • Respect for People: We value our people, encourage their development and reward their performance.
  • Good Citizenship: We are good citizens in the communities in which we live and work.
  • A Will to Win: We exhibit a strong will to win in the marketplace and in every aspect of our business.
  • Personal Accountability: We are personally accountable for delivering on our commitments.

American Express doesn't just hit the bare minimum when it comes to polite, helpful customer service -- they go above-and-beyond to solve for their customers, even when there's no protocol in place.

For instance, Raymond Joabar, the Executive Vice President at American Express, recently told this story in a Forbes interview: "One time, a hotel café manager [an Amex merchant] alerted my team that he had accidentally sold a display cake with harmful chemicals and needed to find the customers before they ate it. Obviously, there’s no procedure for that, but our team took ownership of the problem. They gathered all the information they could from the record of charge, identified 21 Card Members who used their cards at the café during that time frame, reviewed the accounts to find the right match, and then called the Card Member in time before they served the cake at an anniversary party."

"The important point here," Joabar noted, "other than that everybody ended up safe and sound -- is that there isn’t a script for every situation, so we empower our care professionals to do what’s right for the customer. And we recognize what they do with this empowerment as well. We give awards to employees who go above and beyond to help customers and we share their stories across the company."

This anecdote exemplifies American Express employees' commitment to their customers even when it's not easy, and demonstrates the company's dedication to living by its values.

2. Google

  • Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  • It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
  • Fast is better than slow.
  • Democracy on the web works.
  • You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
  • You can make money without doing evil.
  • There’s always more information out there.
  • The need for information crosses all borders.
  • You can be serious without a suit.
  • Great just isn’t good enough.

On Google's philosophy page, they don't just list their core values -- they also provide examples.

For instance, consider their value, "You can make money without doing evil." While many companies likely tout the benefits of integrity, Google references strategic efforts its made to avoid "evil" business, including -- "We don’t allow ads to be displayed on our results pages unless they are relevant where they are shown … We don’t accept pop–up advertising, which interferes with your ability to see the content you’ve requested ... [and] Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a 'Sponsored Link,' so it does not compromise the integrity of our search results."

Ultimately, a core value doesn't have much power if your company can't list intentional, calculated decisions it's made to put values ahead of profit.

3. Coca Cola

  • Leadership: The courage to shape a better future.
  • Collaboration: Leverage collective genius.
  • Integrity: Be real.
  • Accountability: If it is to be, it's up to me.
  • Passion: Committed in heart and mind.
  • Diversity: As inclusive as our brands.
  • Quality: What we do, we do well.

Coca Cola demonstrates its diversity core value with its public Global Diversity Missionpage, which lists the company's diversity-related efforts, such as, "[collecting employee] feedback through formal surveys and informally through their participation in our business resource groups, various diversity education programs and our Resolution Resources Program, where associates can work to resolve issues they face in our Company."

Additionally, Coca Cola's Global Diversity Mission page exemplifies their commitment to accountability, as well -- they've publicly included pie charts with statistics regarding their global employee gender and race ratios. By acknowledging both their efforts and their shortcomings, Coca Cola is able to show their desire to live up to their values, while taking responsibility for any mis-match between their ideals and reality.

4.Whole Foods

  • We Satisfy And Delight Our Customers -- Our customers are the lifeblood of our business and our most important stakeholder. We strive to meet or exceed their expectations on every shopping experience.
  • We Promote Team Member Growth And Happiness -- Our success is dependent upon the collective energy, intelligence, and contributions of all of our Team Members.
  • We Care About Our Communities And The Environment -- We serve and support a local experience. The unique character of each store is a direct reflection of a community’s people, culture, and cuisine.
  • We Practice Win-Win Partnerships With Our Suppliers -- We view our trade partners as allies in serving our stakeholders. We treat them with respect, fairness and integrity – expecting the same in return.

Underneath each of its values on its core value page, Whole Foods provides a link, such as, "Learn more about how we care about our communities and the environment."

Ultimately, their page demonstrates their ability to walk the walk. For instance, to exemplify their commitment to local communities, Whole Foods created a Local Producer Loan Program, in which they provide up to $25 million in low-interest loans to independent local farmers and food artisans.

Additionally, Whole Foods provides a list of environmentally-friendly efforts they've practiced since 1980, including "Printing and packaging using recycled paper and water- or vegetable-based, composting to decrease landfill waste, and no single-use plastic bags at checkout since 2008".

If you've ever been to a Whole Foods, you know they're serious about their efforts to reduce waste and help the local community. In fact, its part of the reason so many customers are brand loyalists -- because they support those efforts, too.

Ultimately, good core values can help an audience identify with, and stay loyal to, your brand, rather than flipping between you and competitors. To ensure long-term success andlong-term employee retention, it's critical you create -- and live by -- certain non-negotiable company values.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

4 Social Media Calendar Tools to Plan All of Your Content [Template]

What do cross-country road trips, wedding speeches, and social media marketing have in common?

You could improvise all three, but it's better to have a plan for what direction you're heading -- especially when developing your social media content strategy.

By now, most marketers recognize that social media plays an integral role in an effective inbound marketing strategy. And with so many social networks to manage and publish on, it's important to stay organized and have a plan for when and what you're going to share on these platforms.Manage and plan your social media posts with the help of this free calendar template.

In this post, we've rounded up some of the most helpful tools and templates for building out an effective social media content plan. Check them out below.

The Benefits of Using a Social Media Content Calendar

We're all busy. And when we're busy without a plan in place for the tasks we have to get done, things inevitably slip through the cracks. Social media content is no exception.

Just like with blogging, a successful social media strategy requires regular publishing and engaging with followers to see positive results -- whether that be in terms of SEO, brand recognition, lead generation, or all three.

So, if you're not already using a social media content calendar, hear me out:

  1. Calendars help you get organized to avoid the dreaded scramble when things come up. With a social media calendar, marketers can plan out posts for entire weeks or months in advance, which frees up working hours to strategize for the future -- and to dash off any posts about breaking news in your industry. Otherwise, you'll spend valuable time each day searching the internet for that day's content to share, which is a known productivity killer.
  2. A calendar helps you plan for each social network to customize posts instead of spamming all platforms with the same message. Social media marketers should take the time to craft custom messages for each network, and doing this in advance will save time throughout the week and ensure you're being thoughtful and intentional when you do post.
  3. Calendars can help you track performance and plan for future posts. Without a calendar, social media marketers are publishing content into the void and are unable to track big-picture and past performance. With a calendar, marketers can look back and analyze which content performed best so they can adjust their strategy accordingly.
  4. With the help of a calendar, marketers can plan for holidays and observance days, such as National Cat Day, when they can tailor their content and engage with a wider audience.
  5. Social media calendars improve efficiency. According to Content Marketing Institute, 72% of B2B marketers attribute the success (which has increased annually) of their content to the development of a formal content strategy.

Now that you understand the merits of having a social media content calendar in place, check out our list of top tools to stay organized and on top of your game.

4 Social Media Content Calendar Tools to Plan Your Messaging

1. Trello

Trello is another organizational tool that's highly effective for team collaboration. More specifically, social media managers can use Trello's flexible assignment “cards” and customizable “boards” and “lists” to map out to-do lists, manage a content calendar, plan a campaign, and house ideas from a brainstorm.

Here's an example of a Trello board a social media marketing team might use to plan posts for the upcoming week:

Social media calendar created on Trello

But you're not limited to just one structure: Users can customize boards according to their needs. For example, a team could create a board to organize social media posts for a given week, on a specific platform, or post ideas around a topic, such as a campaign or awareness day.

Trello cards allow for a ton of customization as well. Here's a fictitious social media editorial calendar card with Twitter copy options around a piece of blog content. Note that you can track progress toward completing a checklist, which could be useful for social media marketers looking to track campaign progress.


Additionally, Trello cards can be assigned to different team members, marked with due dates, and commented on. Users can even customize the labels (as in the image below) with different publication statuses so the entire team can see the progress of their social media posts and when they're due on the calendar. The labels could also indicate different social networks that content is being published on.


Source: BlueGlass

Trello also offers a full calendar view (shown below) which makes it easy to visualize what content is going out, and when.

Social media calendar ideas organized on a Trello calendar

Source: BlueGlass

2. Microsoft Excel

Marketers might already use Excel for different types of reports and data analysis in their roles, but it's a highly useful tool for social media content calendar organization, too. Excel can be customized according to whatever priorities or metrics a team is focused on, so it's a great tool for planning ahead.

The good news? We've already done the heavy lifting for you by creating a free, downloadable social media content calendar template using Microsoft Excel. Marketers can use this template to easily plan out individual social media posts -- monthly or annually -- while keeping an eye on bigger picture events, holidays, publications, and partnerships.

For more on how to use the templates, check out this in-depth guide from my colleague Lindsay Kolowich.

Social media calendar ideas organized on an Excel spreadsheet

Use the Monthly Planning Calendar Tab above to get a bird's-eye view of what's coming down their content pipeline in a given month.


In the Content Repository tab, users can record the content they're publishing on this tab to keep track of which pieces have been promoted and to easily recall older content that can be re-promoted on social media.


On the Social Network Update tabs, users can draft and plan out social media posts in advance. These tabs are for organizational purposes, and the content of the posts themselves must be uploaded into a social media publisher.

This free resource can be used to draft social media posts, or it can be bulk-uploaded into a publishing app to maximize efficiency. (HubSpot customers: You can use this spreadsheet to organize content and upload it directly into Social Inbox. For instructions on how to do so, check out the template's cover sheet here.)

3. Evernote

Evernote is a note-taking app that marketers can use to keep track of all the moving parts that comprise a social media campaign.

The tool also features yearly, monthly, weekly, and hourly logs, which make it easy to keep track of when you're publishing content on social media, when you're producing blog content, and other team-wide priorities. (Evernote offers customizable templates for each of these that can be downloaded into the app.)

Social media content calendar on Evernote

Another useful feature? Evernote's Web Clipper extension for Chrome. Marketers can use this tool to easily save links to their Evernote Notebook for sharing later on.


The Evernote mobile app also boasts some interesting features to help marketers keep their social content ideas straight. For example, you can easily snap a photo and save it to your Evernote files for review later.


Source: Evernote

This feature is of particular valuable for social content creators looking to maintain a backlog of photos to publish on Instagram.

4. Google Drive

Google Drive has several helpful features that make it easy for social media marketers to build out an effective content calendar.

Here's an example of how a team might use Google Calendar to track both their editorial and social media calendars to make sure they're aligning posts with new blog content. These calendars can be easily shared with multiple teams to avoid scheduling conflicts and ensure that campaigns are aligned.

Social media calendar organized on Google Calendar

Marketers can also use shared Google Sheets to schedule posts on social media, track the status of different pieces of content, and assign tasks to team members -- all on the same platform as their calendar.

Social media calendar ideas listed on Google Sheets

With the help of Google Docs, users can keep comments all in one place and can collaborate on different projects without emailing back-and-forth or having to schedule a meeting. This is a particularly useful feature when editing content for social media, which may need to be drafted and approved quickly.


(HubSpot customers: You can link your Google Drive account to your HubSpot portal to easily upload files from Drive into your HubSpot software.)

Now that we've reviewed a few helpful tools to kick your social media strategy into high gear, experiment with them. Every social media team is different, and it could be a combination of these tools that helps you execute your strategy efficiently to drive ROI. For getting all of your ideas down and developing a big-picture plan for your social assets, we recommend starting with our template and going from there.

What tools do you use to build your social media content calendar? Share with us in the comments below.

Free Template Social Media Content Calendar

Free Template Social Media Calendar

The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Amazon in 2019

You might think most consumers start their online shopping sessions with a visit to Google, but according to a poll conducted by NPR and Marist, Amazon is actually the most common starting point for online shoppers.

With 44% of shoppers starting on Amazon (which is 11% more than Google) and 40% of Americans buying products on the website at least once every month, Amazon has become the central hub for online shopping.

If you’re in the eCommerce industry, selling on Amazon is your best bet for maximizing your reach and, ultimately, your revenue. To help you set up shop on Amazon, we’ve created this ultimate guide that'll teach you how to list your products, set up your shipping options, promote your products, manage your reviews, and analyze your performance. Read on to learn how to sell on the eCommerce platform in 2019.

The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Amazon in 2019

1. Figure out if the product you want to sell needs approval from Amazon.

On Amazon, there are 20 categories open to all sellers, so if you want to sell products under any of these categories, you don’t need approval from Amazon. However, there are 15 categories that do require approval from Amazon, so if you want to sell products under any of these categories, you need to apply for a Professional Selling Plan subscription.

Amazon limits the number of sellers in each of these categories because they want to maintain the quality of their products. So if you believe your products are up to par and want to sell them under these categories, you need to request approval from Amazon by filling out their application. Amazon will let you know if they’ve approved you or if they need additional information from you in up to three business days.

Here are two lists of Amazon’s product categories that are open to all sellers or require approval.

Product Categories Open to All Sellers

1. Amazon Device Accessories

2. Amazon Kindle

3. Baby Products

4. Beauty

5. Books

6. Camera & Photo

7. Cell Phones

8. Clothing & Accessories

9. Electronics

10. Handmade

11. Health & Personal Care

12. Home & Garden

13. Musical Instruments

14. Office Products

15. Outdoors

16. Software & Computer Games

17. Sports

18. Tools & Home Improvement

19. Toys & Games

20. Video Games & Video Game Consoles

Product Categories That Require Approval From Amazon

1. Automotive & Powersports

2. B2B Business Products

3. Collectible Coins

4. Fashion Jewelry

5. Fine Jewelry

6. Fine Art

7. Grocery & Gourmet Food

8. Industrial & Scientific

9. Luggage & Travel Accessories

10. Personal Computers

11. Professional Services

12. Shoes, Handbags, & Sunglasses

13. Sports Collectibles

14. Video, DVD, & Blu-Ray

15. Watches

2. Pick a selling plan that suits your business model.

Amazon offers two selling plans: the Individual Plan and Professional Plan.

If you choose the Individual Plan, you’ll pay Amazon $0.99 for every item you sell plus referral and variable closing fees. According to Amazon, the Individual Plan is best for sellers who sell less than 40 items per month.

If you choose the Professional Plan, you can sell an unlimited number of products while only paying Amazon a subscription fee of $39.99 plus referral and variable closing fees. According to Amazon, the Professional Plan is best for sellers who sell more than 40 items per month.

3. Register for a seller account and list your products.

To register for a seller account on Amazon, visit Amazon Seller Central and click the “Start selling” button. Amazon Seller Central is also where you’ll manage your selling account.

After you’ve created your account, you can start listing your products on Amazon. If you have the Individual Plan, you can add one product to the Amazon Marketplace catalog at a time. If you have the Professional Plan, you can add batches of products to the catalog.

Additionally, if you’re selling products that are already listed on Amazon, all you have to do is tell them the amount of product you plan to sell, the condition of your product, and its shipping options.

If you’re selling products that aren’t listed on Amazon yet, the process is a little more complicated. You have to tell them what each of your product’s universal product code (UPC) and stock keeping unit (SKU) is and then list each product’s features on Amazon, like its title, description, and price.

If you don’t know what a UPC is, it consists of a 12-digit numeric code and a barcode. The American branch of GS1, an organization that develops and maintains global business communication standards, assigns a permanent UPC to a product for its entire shelf life. So even if multiple retailers sell the product, it’ll still have the same UPC at each store. For example, every box of a certain brand’s blackberries will have the same UPC at every store they’re sold at.

A SKU is similar to a UPC, but it differs from it by being a distinct string of letters and numbers that helps retailers identify every product in their inventory and each product’s specific traits, like its manufacturer, brand, price, style, color, and size. Retailers create their own internal SKU codes to quickly and accurately pinpoint and track every single piece of inventory in their retail stores, e-commerce stores, catalogs, warehouses, and product fulfillment centers.

Image Credit: FitSmallBusiness

4. Set up your shipping options.

Even if you sell on Amazon, you’ll always have the option to ship products on your own. But Amazon offers a truly unique and advantageous shipping service for all their sellers that’s incredibly hard to pass up -- Fulfillment by Amazon. With Fulfillment by Amazon, all you have to do is send your inventory to an Amazon fulfillment center and they’ll store your products, package them, and ship them to your customers.

Signing up for Fulfillment by Amazon also makes your products eligible for Amazon Prime free two-day shipping, free shipping, and customer service and returns. Shipping costs are already included in your seller plan, so all you have to pay for is storage space and and a fee for each order Amazon fulfills.

5. Sell and promote your products.

After you’ve set up your shipping options, you’re ready to start selling on Amazon. To attract as many potential customers as possible, make sure to craft compelling product listings that have clear and concise titles, benefits-rich descriptions, and vivid pictures.

If you want to increase your products' visibility on Amazon, consider running sponsored product ads directly on the platform. These ads are pay per click and will be placed alongside people’s search results. Amazon also offers an automatic ad targeting tool, which leverages their search algorithm to suggest a list of potentially lucrative keywords that you can bid on and promote your products through.

Image Credit: Shopify

Once people buy your products on Amazon, they’ll deposit payments into your bank account on a regular basis and send you a notification when they pay you.

6. Encourage reviews.

Reviews are crucial for driving sales on Amazon. The more reviews you have, the more credible and trustworthy customers will perceive your products to be. Fortunately, Amazon lets sellers send follow up emails to customers after they order one of their products and ask for product reviews. They even let you automate the process, but Amazon also requires you to follow a strict set of guidelines, which don’t allow you to include marketing messages, link to other websites, or ask for, demand, or incentivize positive reviews in these emails.

In 2016, Amazon banned incentivized reviews -- which were customer reviews given to brands in exchange for a free or discounted product as long as the reviewers revealed they received an incentive for their feedback. These incentives were artificially inflating brands’ average ratings, so Amazon decided they needed to level the playing field. With this in mind, don’t even think about trying to incentivize a positive review. Just send your customers emails that politely ask for a candid product review.

7. Analyze your performance.

On your Amazon Seller Central account, you’ll have access to a sales dashboard, which displays a snapshot of your orders for the day, quantity of units sold, the amount of sales you’ve generated for the day, and other metrics.

Image Credit: Salesbacker

You’ll also have access to business reports that display metrics like sales by item, sales and orders by month, page views, brand performance, inventory in stock, and more.

Image Credit: Salesbacker

Additionally, you’ll have access to a “Compare Sales” graph that can compare any day’s sales to each other, which helps you discover seasonal trends and patterns.

Image Credit: Salesbacker

Finally, you’ll have access to a sales reporting tool that can pull any of your account’s metrics to produce a graphical representations of your sales data. This’ll help you truly grasp how your Amazon account is performing.

Image Credit: Salesbacker

Give Your Marketing Videos Maximum Reach With This Distribution Checklist

So you made an incredible video, sent it out to your internal teams, encouraged sharing, uploaded it to YouTube and waited for the marketing fame to roll in.

Unfortunately, each time you obsessively checked throughout the day, your view count wasn't as impressive as you'd hoped.

First off – don't stress, we've all done it. But after you've spent time, energy, and money to make really amazing video marketing, it's all about actively making sure your videos get in front of your target audience (not just your mom).

Get Your Video The Attention It Deserves

Once you've optimized your content with an engaging splash screen, an email gate (where appropriate for late funnel content), and a compelling call to action, it's time to make sure everyone sees your masterpiece.

Here's a checklist of key places to share your video marketing content every time you have something new.

Video Distribution Checklist


One of the first spots you'll want to upload to is YouTube. As the second largest search engine, it's imperative for your brand to use YouTube strategically to showcase your videos far and wide.

Because YouTube alone isn't a video strategy, your goal should be to use the channel to gain a lot of attention and drive viewers back to your website where they can consume more content free from distraction. As a bonus, once they're back on your website you'll also be able to track their behaviour with video engagement data.

When uploading videos to YouTube, however, watch out for cannibalizing your own SEO efforts between YouTube and your website. Instead, change your descriptive title just slightly from the title you use when you embed your video on your own website with metadata. More details on the multi-platform promotion can be found here.

Your Website or Campaign Landing Pages

Because buyers now go through nearly 70% of the buying process independently before ever talking to sales, it's important to include videos in a guided product tour on your website so that you can be as persuasive as possible and make a more human connection.

Videos embedded on your site can help increase conversion by 80%, and Google recognizes pages where a click leads to longer time spent on a page. This ultimately means that if your viewer's click and watch a two-minute video, those two minutes will end up making your site content more sticky, and thereby more likely to appear in Google search results because you can hold the attention of interested viewers.

Email Campaigns

In a GetResponse study of nearly a billion emails, those containing video had a 96% higher click-through rate when compared to non-video emails. This staggering increase in engagement with the inclusion of video makes adding an embed link here a no-brainer.

For some best practices for video in email, and some cool examples, check out this post on why video and email is the perfect marketing combo.

Email Signatures

Beyond email campaigns, you send out to promote your video, have your team members change their email signature to include a catchy line with a hyperlink to your video embedded on your site. Our Corporate Communications Manager Sandy does this with her signature and you can switch up your signature every time you release a new video:

Social Networks

When distributing your videos, social channels are your best friend. You'll want to post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and G+ but you'll also want to consider a clever use of Instagram and Pinterest.

When you have a piece of long-form video content, you can use Instagram video to create a teaser trailer directing everyone to your longer-form content. Just take a look at how Mercedes used this method to promote a full-length video about their F-Cell car:

Other Places to Share

To top off the list, you'll want to distribute your videos in these locations too:

  • Sales assets: Re-use relevant content wherever appropriate
  • On your blog: Where you'll want to use the surrounding text to transcribe your video's key phrases in order to have the content indexed by search engines
  • Press releases
  • Partner blogs: Contact your industry partners and ask if they'll feature your video content on their blog.

So next time you release a video asset, don't miss out on any opportunities to share it. A great distribution strategy will ensure you see maximum ROI from your video content. Bookmark this blog and use it as a handy checklist to make your content go as far as possible.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

How to Manage Your Entire Marketing Budget [Free Budget Planner Templates]

Let's say your company decided to invest in a website redesign so you can improve lead generation, and you're responsible for managing the project. Naturally, one of the first questions you have is, "How much is this website redesign going to cost?"

The answer, of course, is "it depends." Are you simply switching to a new template and adding some new CTAs, or are you migrating your entire website to a new platform?

If only there were a way to organize your answers to all of these questions -- a place where you could enter in estimated costs for all of your line items, and then compare your projected marketing budget to what you actually end up spending.Click here to download your 8 free marketing budget templates.Good news: Our free marketing budget templates have got you covered. Included in our eight budget templates bundle is a template to manage your website redesign ... as well as templates for both Excel and Google Sheets to help you track your content budget, paid advertising budget, event budget, and more.

In this blog post, you'll find the following content (click a link below to jump to that section):

Marketing budgets can be difficult to establish for both small and large businesses. If you're a small business, you might wonder which marketing expenses you should start with. If you're a large business, having multiple marketing teams or operations in play can make it harder to ensure everyone across the department gets what they need.

So, what should you spend your marketing cash on? First, let's identify a focal point: According to investment agency, Magna, money spent on digital media will increase by 11.8% in 2019, up from $106.6 million in the U.S. alone in 2018. This includes initiatives that cater to audiences on desktop computers, search engines, video streaming platforms, social media, and mobile devices.

Digital media makes up more than half of the country's total advertising spend. Given the success marketers have seen in it, you might consider spending at least half of your marketing budget on some of the digital channels mentioned above.

How to Create a Marketing Budget

Spreadsheet knowledge, alone, won't help you understand how you'll spend your marketing money this year. Creating a sound marketing budget starts with knowing what purpose this budget will serve and which marketing teams it will represent.

1. Align your budget with your marketing goals.

What you spend and where you spend it will depend on what you're trying to accomplish. So, when starting to create your marketing budget, make sure you're only spending money on the things required by your current marketing goals. This can include:

  • Display ads to promote a new product you're launching this year.
  • Sponsored social media posts to generate followers of your new Facebook page.
  • Paid search engine ads to drive traffic (and purchases) to a specific product page.
  • Contract bloggers to get more organic search traffic to your company's website.

HubSpot's former Demand Generation Marketer and Trello's current Growth Marketing Lead, Jessica Webb, says this about how your costs can change when focusing on lead generation vs. lead conversion: "The majority of the money you spend on paid efforts is usually calculated based on volume of clicks or impressions. Because of this, you'll often want to put more budget toward campaigns with higher-volume offers and audiences."

"For example, a tweet or Facebook ad promoting a lead generation offer that leans more top of the funnel will likely receive more clicks than something that falls more toward the middle or bottom of the funnel," she explains.

Your paid advertising costs will also change depending on how wide of an audience you are attempting to reach. "You can look at Twitter advertising as an example," Webb explains. "You have to option to target your campaigns based on users' interests or keywords searched for. Interests are a much broader category, whereas smaller pockets of users are searching for any given keyword, therefore your interests-based audience is going to be much larger and require a larger budget."

To keep better track of your paid advertising efforts, download the Paid Advertising Budget Template (included in the8 Budget Templates to Manage Your Marketing Spend).

2. Beware of hidden costs.

One of the great advantages to having and maintaining a budget spreadsheet is that it helps you avoid those end-of-the-quarter or end-of-the-year freak outs when you realize, "Whoa … what did I spend all that money on?"

In many cases, unanticipated costs can force marketers to fork over cash that they didn't plan on spending. Product marketing offers a perfect example. According HubSpot's VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson, it's easy to forget that successfully marketing your products and services requires more than just promotion.

"When people allocate budget for product marketing, they tend to think in terms of product launches and promotional activities," Anderson explains. "That's certainly an important part of it, but another area of focus to remember is setting aside resources to conduct research and message testing long before the product ever goes to market. Having conversations with customers about the pain points your product will ultimately address is critical to shaping the messaging and having a successful launch."

To better manage your product marketing efforts, download the Product Marketing Budget Template (included in the 8 Budget Templates to Manage Your Marketing Spend).

3. Remember where your priorities lie.

Marketing is overflowing with add-ons and extras, upsells, and "premium" versions. One of the best ways to assess what's nice to have versus what's absolutely necessary is to (you guessed it) organize all of your expenses. By keeping tabs on where your budget is being allocated, and cross-checking that spending with the results you're getting, it will be much easier to figure out what should keep getting budget and what should get kicked to the curb.

For example, let's look to the world of public relations. In PR, there are countless tools to which you can allocate budget, which could leave you overspending where it doesn't matter -- and underspending where it does.

"Tools abound to help PR practitioners not only create and distribute great content and find and target key stakeholders, but to ultimately measure reach and effectiveness," says Nathaniel Eberle, HubSpot's former Director of PR & Brand and LogMeIn's current Director of Global Brand Management. "The key is making sure you're laser-focused on who you're setting out to reach and influence, then ensuring that your budget supports how they'll most likely want to receive (and share) your key messages.

"As the media and digital landscape evolves at breakneck speed, continually reassessing the tools, services, and programs you're employing is a great way to determine real-time ROI of your overall spend. Today's measurement tool may be worthless to you tomorrow."

To get better at prioritizing your PR line items, download the PR Budget Template (included in the 8 Budget Templates to Manage Your Marketing Spend).

4. It's not all about the Benjamins.

When you open up these budget templates and check out all the various expenses detailed in them, don't fret if you can't tick every box. I'm not advocating for an "always spend more" approach to marketing. I'm advocating for an "always spend smart" approach. The expenses listed out aren't mandatory -- they're just meant to guide your thinking and to help ensure that you haven't overlooked any hidden costs.

With that in mind, here's the full list of budget templates included in the bundle.

8 Marketing Budget Templates You Need to Manage Your Marketing Spend

With the 8 Free Budget Planner Templates to Manage Your Marketing Spend, you'll be able to manage all of the moving pieces of your budget at a monthly and quarterly level. Use the Excel version of the templates to keep all of your budgets in one place. When you download the zip file, you'll find a separate file for each marketing team, as well as a Master Budget Template to maintain a high-level view of your overall expenses.

Interested in sharing your marketing budget across a larger team? Try the Google Sheets version of the same eight templates to share access with other Gmail users. For the Google Sheets templates, each team budget is found in a separate tab of the same Google Sheet. No matter which version you choose, each budget is optimized with the same line items, tips, and graphs. Read on to learn how to use each budget template.

1. Master Marketing Budget Template

Download the Master Marketing Budget Template here.

While it's helpful to have individual budget templates for specific marketing departments and activities, it's also nice to be able to take a step back and see the bigger picture. The Master Marketing Budget Template lets you do just that: It's the place where you can collect the totals from the other seven templates in the bundle and see all of your expenses in one place.

master marketing budget template in excel

2. Product Marketing Budget Template

Download the Product Marketing Budget Template here.

This template will guide you step-by-step through the process of budgeting for a product launch. From determining product/market fit, to running user testing sessions, to promoting your finished product, our Product Marketing Budget Template will help ensure you don't overlook any important expenses.

excel budget template for product marketing

3. Content Budget Template

Download the Content Budget Template here.

The budget required for creating and promoting content can vary greatly from organization to organization. For example, while some organizations keep most of their content operations in-house, others rely more heavily on freelancers and contractors. And while some use many different software products, publishing tools, and services, others take a much simpler approach.

Our Content Budget Template is designed to cover as many content-related bases as possible. So, if you see any expenses listed that don't apply to your organization, go ahead and delete them. (That's the beauty of Excel spreadsheets: You can customize them to your specific needs.)

excel budget template for content marketing

4. Paid Advertising Budget Template

Download the Paid Advertising Budget Template here.

Paid advertising: Does it really qualify as an inbound marketing tactic/channel? That is a loaded question, my friends, and one that I don't have room to answer in-depth in this post. What I can tell you for sure is that you can do paid advertising in an "inboundy" way -- i.e. by targeting specific buyer personas and using paid advertising as a supplement to your organic efforts to help drive awareness and conversion opportunities.

Measuring the effectiveness of your paid advertising campaigns is also paramount to doing things the inbound way. Using our Paid Advertising Budget Template, you can keep tabs on your monthly (and quarterly) ad spending, and then cross-reference the amounts with your lead-generation metrics to determine your cost-per-lead.

excel budget template for paid advertising

5. Public Relations Budget Template

Download the Public Relations Budget Template here.

Public relations expenses amount to more than just paying for press releases. From reputation monitoring software, to traveling (e.g., to events and tradeshows), to applying for awards, there are many PR costs that can be all too easy to overlook.

To ensure you're accounting for all of your organization's PR-related expenses, check out our Public Relations Budget Template.

excel budget template for public relations

6. Branding & Creative Budget Template

Download the Creative Budget Template here.

In order to produce high-quality, innovative graphics, videos, and other content, the branding and creative teams of today need more than just Photoshop ... a lot more. One of the largest -- and often most overlooked -- expenses is storage.

If your organization is producing a lot of video, storage is especially important. Because as it turns out, when budgeting for video storage, you shouldn't be thinking on a megabyte (MB) or even a gigabyte (GB) scale, but on a terabyte (TB) scale. FYI: 1 terabyte = 1 trillion bytes. You can keep track of all your storage costs (and other branding and creative costs) using our free template.

excel budget template for branding and creative

7. Website Redesign Budget Template

Download the Website Redesign Budget Template here.

Budgeting for a website redesign can be seriously tricky. With so many moving pieces to consider, there is a lot of room for underestimating or miscalculating costs. We created our Website Redesign Budget Template so you can keep all of your redesign-related expenses in one convenient location.

Unsure if your current website is right for a redesign? Check out this HubSpot research report: Does Your Website Make the Grade? Chances Are, It's Barely Passing.

excel budget template for website redesign

8. Event Budget Template

Download the Event Budget Template here.

When planning an event, the associated costs can seem obvious at first. There's the venue to consider, of course. And the P.A. system and microphones. And then the costs associated with booking and bringing in presenters/performers. That's pretty much it, right?


For example, does the venue come with tables/chairs, or will you have to rent those separately? Do you want your attendees to wear name tags, and if so, will you be printing out the name tags ahead of time or will attendees be writing their own names on blank tags? If the latter, have you factored in the pens or markers you'll need to accommodate that? As you can see, planning for an event can lead you down many rabbit holes.

Use our Event Budget Template to stay organized.


Sample Marketing Budget

With your chosen template downloaded, it's time to consider which digital channels to allot a budget for. Hint: There's no right answer -- it'll depend the market research you do to figure out where your specific audience spends most of its time. If you find your buyer prefers learning and consuming content in the form of video, for example, you might invest more of your money in YouTube advertising.

Alright, enough explanation. Here's a small, sample budget for a quarter's worth of expenses by a hypothetical company that has decided to invest heavily in video marketing. This template was created using the Master Budget Template, the first template listed in the section above.

Sample marketing budget showing a video advertising investment that exceeds budget by $2,420.

Based on the figures above, video advertising's total expenses for the quarter exceeded budget by $20, while full-time recruitment's total expenses exceeded budget by $2,400. This means the company is trending over budget for the first three months of the year. Why might this happen? Perhaps a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign on YouTube received more clicks by viewers than expected, and a sharp video-savvy job candidate negotiated a higher salary.

Based on the difference between this company's planned spend and actual spend, their budget template produced the following graph:

Go now, and plan wisely -- your marketing staff is counting on you.

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