Author: Anna

Grow Your Business on Instagram

Used correctly, Instagram can be a highly-targeted, visual advertising channel for your brand. In fact, in a recent study it was discovered that Instagram provides brands with 25% more engagement over other social platforms. This mean that Instagram is a prime channel to build your brand for your ecommerce business.

Like any social network out there, there are right ways to use it, wrong ways to use it, and clever ways to use it.

Use The Right Hashtags

Your goal on Instagram is to engage your current audience while also growing your following. Posting new, interesting and engaging photos will satisfy the first requirement but to begin growing you’ll find hashtagging your photos to be extremely important. Hashtagging your photos makes it easy for people to find your photos that are searching for those specific terms. If you want to tag your photos properly, you’ll need to find and use the most relevant hashtags. This means doing the appropriate keyword research to make sure you’re using the most relevant hashtags that not only describes your brand, but is also being searched for on Instagram.

Use The Right Filters

Keyword hashtags aren’t the only thing you should pay attention to. The Instagram community respond to certain photo filters more favorably than others. Using these preferred filters can have an impact on your engagement.

Here are the 10 current most popular filters on Instagram according to Populagram:

Normal (No Filter)
X-Pro II

Post On The Right Days And Time

Beyond adding the appropriate hashtags and using the best filters, you should also be considering the timing of your posts. A targeted approach is to analyze what has and has not worked for you in the past.You may want to consider using a scheduling program to schedule your post. For that, you can use a program like ScheduGram.

Steal Your Competitors Followers

One of the best ways to find and attract new following is by seeking out your closest competitors’ Instagram accounts and engaging with their audience. These people have already shown some level of interest in the products you carry simply by following your competitors’ account.

So how do you effectively steal your competitors’ followers?

You can steal your closest competitors’ followers by engaging with them. There are several ways to engage with Instagram users, and predictably, the more work you put in, the more followers and return engagement you’ll get out of it.

The three types of engagement on Instagram are:

Follow a user
Like a photo
Comment on a photo

Sponsored Posts And Product Reviews

All this optimized posting to your account is great but if you really want to make an impact, you need to post to other, larger accounts in your niche, exposing your brand to a wider audience.

So how do you do that?

First, unlike the tactics above to grow your account this one isn’t free. However, if done correctly, it’s good value. To get started, you’ll need to make a list of large accounts in your niche. For example, if you sell beauty products, you’ll want to find large accounts from beauty bloggers.

You may already be following these accounts, if not you’ll need to find them. When you do a search for your keywords, not only will it show you the related keywords, but it also shows you the top Instagram accounts that feature those keywords.

If used correctly, Instagram can be a highly-targeted, visual advertising channel for your products and brand that can lead to a healthy stream of revenue for your ecommerce business.

How To Increase Referral Traffic

One often overlooked tactic that can potentially have the greatest impact is referral traffic. So, what is referral traffic and how can you use it to generate more leads?

Referral traffic is important to inbound marketers because it sends potentially qualified visitors to your website from trusted websites. This in turn gets your content in front of new people, giving your website the opportunity to convert that visitor into a lead and your sales team the opportunity to convert that lead into a new customer.

7 Steps To Generate More Referral Traffic

1) Publish Your Website To Online Directories

Submitting your website to online directories is one of the easiest ways to get referral traffic but you don’t want to publish your website to every directory out there. Instead, focus on the ones that are most relevant to your industry or generate the most traffic. Whether you’re a veterinarian in St. Louis or an assisted living facility in Daytona Beach, Moz has you covered. They offer a free resource for finding the top directories by category and city.

Once you’ve submitted your website to the top directories for your city and industry, I’d focus on finding directories that can generate some serious traffic. How do you know which directories will accomplish this? It’s as simple as performing a Google search. The directories that appear at the top of the search results should, in theory, generate the most traffic. For example, if you do a search for “personal trainer in los angeles” there are 4 directories that show up on the first page of the search results: Yelp, YourTrainer, IdeaFit & Thumbtack.

2) Get Published On Review Websites

Review websites are a great source for getting more referral traffic. These visitors have already gone through the awareness and consideration stages of the buyer’s journey. They’ve now reached the decision stage and are comparing vendors or products. What better time to get your product or service in front of them for consideration?

Getting listed on a review website can vary depending on whether you are a B2B or B2C company. If you perform a search for “st louis roofing company reviews” there are 3 websites that you would want to be listed on if you were a roofer: HomeAdvisor, BBB & AngiesList.

B2B businesses will find that it is more difficult to get featured on review websites. A lot of times you have to “pay to play,” meaning you will basically have to pay to be featured towards the top of the review listings. For example, if you do a Google search for “top mobile app developers” the first search result is They showcase a list of mobile app development firms with reviews but if you look closely you’ll notice that they are “sorted by sponsor.” Essentially these companies are paying to have their website and reviews featured first. It’s a slick way for Clutch to make money but also maintain it’s reputation as a respectable source for reviews.

3) Publish Guest Blog Posts

Guess what? You’re currently looking at step 3 of the 7 steps for getting more referral traffic to your website. That’s right. You’re reading a guest blog post by Leap Clixx, a HubSpot Partner Agency. Guest blog posts create numerous opportunities to get referral traffic to your website. External links (like the two in this paragraph), author bios, and call-to-actions (like the one at the bottom of this post) are typically present on most blogs. If you can get a post featured on a well-know industry website you’ll benefit from the referral traffic and links coming to your site. It’s best to focus your efforts on websites that are considered thought leaders in your industry. Since we’re an Inbound Marketing Agency, HubSpot is the perfect place for us to post a guest blog post. Can you think of a more respected website when it comes to the topic of inbound marketing? I mean, HubSpot literally coined the term inbound marketing.

4) Leverage Social Media

According to Social Media Examiner, a whopping 89% of marketers indicated that social media generated more exposure for their business. Additionally, 75% found their website traffic increased as a result of their social media efforts. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest were the top 7 social media platforms used by marketers. Being active on social media isn’t just trendy anymore; it’s a tactic most marketers are using to get more traffic, leads, and sales.

Everytime you tweet, share, like, or pin a piece of content you are creating an opportunity to drive referral traffic to your website. Plus, you’re increasing the likelihood of your content showing up at the top of Google. 58% of marketers using social media reported improved search rankings. Like I said before, referral traffic not only brings more potential customers to your website, it also helps with SEO.

5) Comment On Blogs

A question that comes up a lot is “Does blog commenting help SEO?” It not only can help with SEO but it can also generate more referral traffic for your website. According to Neil Patel, his 240+ comments on blogs have generated close to 4,000 visitors to his website. Commenting on blogs will definitely increase your referral traffic; just make sure you’re not filling the interwebs with more spam. Here are a couple tips for the newbie blog commenters out there:

Make sure your comments are valuable – No one likes a complainer or bragger. If your comments are negative or promotional in nature just keep them to yourself.
Focus on blogs that allow links in the comments – Remember, you’re trying to get more traffic. In order to do that you need to add a link to your website
If you aren’t first, you’re last. – Just like search engines, if your link is at the top of the comments list you’re more likely to generate more clicks and traffic.

6) Be Active On Industry Forums

Online forums are a great source of potential leads and customers but are often overlooked as a marketing tactic for generating traffic. Similar to blog comments, you should focus your efforts on forums in your niche and always be trying to add value without sounding too promotional. I’ve outlined a couple steps and tips below for getting the most out of forum marketing:

Make sure the forum is active – Don’t waste your time on a forum that hasn’t had a new post for a month.
Register using your brand name – You want to make sure people associate your comments with a memorable brand name.
Create a signature with a call-to-action link – This is how you’re going to drive traffic to your website.
It’s time to participate – You’ll want to participate in the areas of the forum where you have the most expertise.
Use real life examples – Don’t just offer your advice. No one likes a know-it-all. Try to provide value using your personal experiences.
Share your resources – Start a new thread with a link to resource you think could benefit the group. If you’re proud of a particular piece of content it’s likely others will enjoy it too.

7) Publish Infographics

When asked to select the single most important form of content for their business, 37% of marketers picked visuals. The reason is pretty simple. Humans have attention spans shorter than goldfish and it’s easier for the brain to consume an image than a bunch of text. Plus you’ve probably noticed that an image of a cute puppy gets liked and shared more than a 100+ page industry report.

The great thing about infographics is they can help people understand complex data with simple visuals. The goal is to get your infographic shared, liked, and pinned on social networks and have others embed it in their articles (like I’ve done above), thus creating links to your website.

In addition to your own website, there are several websites where you can post an infographic. One of my favorites is Pinterest. After all, Pinterest is responsible for around 5% of all referral traffic to websites, second only to Facebook. Pinterest gives you the option to link your infographic to your website and makes it easy for it be shared on other’s boards.

Why PPC is important for Your Business

Many business owners underestimate the benefits of ppc and as a result they are missing out on a big opportunity to grow their online businesses fast in a controlled and profitable manner. Pay per click advertising, whether this is through Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook Ads or even Twitter promoted tweets, is a great way to reach your potential customers fast and promote your products or services.

What is Pay Per Click advertising?

PPC or otherwise known as Paid Search Advertising (PSA) is part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Together with SEO they are the main ways to target people using search engines (mainly Google and Bing) to find answers to their questions, general information or products to buy.

The general idea about PPC is that it allows you to reach targeted audience fast by specifying who will see your ads (either by entering specific keywords or demographic characteristics) and you only pay when someone performs an action on your ad.

#1 – It is cost effective.

One of the misconceptions around PPC campaigns has to do with cost. Many people believe that PPC is a waste of money and that keeps them away from using it.It is true that if you are not careful on how you spend your money, you will end up draining your budget on buying hope and not real results. But, If you follow these simple rules, you increase your chances of making your campaigns profitable:

Start slow, measure and grow big – When you start with PPC don’t throw all your money on your first campaign but start with a small campaign and then depending on the results you can spend more money. Everything is measurable from the impressions your ads will receive, clicks you will get, visits to your website and conversions so make sure that you study these numbers well before spending more.

#2 – It’s the fastest method to get targeted visitors.

When you manage an online business you need traffic, not any type of traffic but targeted traffic that can potentially lead to more sales and business. With Google adwords you can choose for which keywords to show your ads and these will appear on the top of Google search results (or in the right sidebar on desktop). With Facebook Ads, you can define your target audience based on the many demographic characteristics facebook has for all of us.

#3 – It works well with other digital marketing channels.

PPC advertising is an important component of your digital marketing strategy and works well with all other marketing channels. You can use dynamic search ad campaigns and let PPC tell you which keywords are a good match for your website. You can use PPC to test the effectiveness of different keywords so that you know which keywords to target with long term SEO. It’s great for local SEO optimization – You can use PPC to drive customers to your shop door or get direct calls from customers looking for products and services in your area.

Social Media Facts You Should Know

1. Over 75% of all Internet users use social media. Social media sites used to be an auxiliary territory in Internetland, but it’s become clear that these kinds of sites are now the bread and butter of modern Web activity. They make up a sizable portion of all Web traffic.

2. For younger users, Instagram is more important than Facebook and Twitter. While Facebook and Twitter are still the reigning leaders, their mainstream status means that the younger generation considers them “old school”. Indeed, Instagram is one the fastest growing social networks of 2015. According to eMarketer, there are over 77 million Instagram users in the U.S. alone and that figure is estimated to break 100 million by 2018, which means that 1 out of every 3 people in the U.S. would be using Instagram by that point.

3. LinkedIn is the most important social network for professionals. The value of LinkedIn is proportional to where you are in your career path. It’s where you need to be if you want to build new business connections and relationships, and it’s been that way since 2002. Not only that, but consider the fact that millionaires prefer LinkedIn over all social networks except Facebook. In a poll of 1,300 millionaires, at least 41% of them used LinkedIn regularly. Imagine what could happen if you struck up a connection with one of those millionaires.

4. Most social networks are evenly split between males and females… except Pinterest, which is used by 42% of females but only 13% of males. In comparison, Facebook is used by 77% vs. 66%, Instagram is used by 29% vs. 22%, Twitter is used by 21% vs. 24%, and LinkedIn is used by 27% vs. 28%.

5. For the 18-49 age group, YouTube has greater reach than any cable network. This statistic actually first came to light back in 2013, but the truth is that YouTube’s popularity and reach has grown even more since then.

6. YouTube is massive, but Facebook is still bigger. Everyone knows that Google is the most-visited website in the world, but no one would blame you if you thought YouTube came in second. As popular as it is, it’s still outranked by Facebook.

The above-linked poll of Web users found that 77% use Facebook, 63% use YouTube, 25% use LinkedIn, 24% use Google Plus, and 21% use Twitter. In hard numbers, YouTube has a little over 1 billion monthly users while Facebook has over 1.5 billion monthly users. The difference is significant.

7. Reddit is the best social network for large-scale communities. On its 10th anniversary, Reddit had just over 36 million user accounts spread across 850,000+ subreddits (i.e., individual communities) and approximately 10,000 of those subreddits had some activity yesterday.

Why We Focus Too Much on Our Website (And You Should, Too)

As you plan a new website – or updates to an existing one – you may wish the sky was the limit. Unfortunately, we are all faced with the same monetary Catch-22. There is a limit to what can be spent, even if there is no limit on what can be done.

As you contemplate the development of your website, you’ll have to ask the familiar question, “How much should we spend?”
The answer to that timeless question is never easy. There are always trade-offs, as we discovered at my firm, Hinge, when redesigning our website not too long ago.

We could have gone with an off-the-shelf system, but we knew that every change down the road would require more assistance from a developer. So we made the very deliberate decision to invest in optimizing our site from the start. We developed a modular system of templates that allow significant flexibility without the need for constant help from our web developers. We also took advantage of filtering and content categorization tools to dynamically link different data sets (lists of authors, topics, etc.) in a variety of places on the site.

But perhaps the most important investment was integrating our website with our customer relationship management (CRM) platform — as well as a host of other online platforms. This integration ensures we get the most out of every online interaction and allows us to maximize the relationship with prospects and qualified leads.

Some may think we overspent, but when you look at the rationale and return, it makes perfect business sense.

The Reason for a Redesign

There are many reasons to redesign a website. The aesthetics may be dated. It may not have the most recent mobile-friendly, responsive design features. It may lack a few must-have features, like a blog, landing pages with lead generation offers, or integration with your CRM or marketing automation software. And your content may no longer reflect changes in your services.

Newer technology may also make it much easier to maintain your site and keep the design looking fresh. Most importantly, there are always opportunities to improve your site’s user experience.

But the real reason for a redesign is ROI.

A company website – even in the professional services – can attract a significant amount of new business. In our case, more than 80% of our new business comes through our website.

If you consider your website investment in this light, it is easy to see the fault in our earlier question, “How much should we spend?” The question you really should be asking is, “How much can we productively spend?”

What do we mean by “productively”? Well, if you earn $10 for every $1 you invest, you will want to invest as much as you possibly can. What you need to know is when does the incremental investment no longer generate a positive return. Be bold, but plan carefully.

Making a Poor Impression

It takes courage to invest heavily in your website. So it is not surprising that most B2B companies are drawn to a seemingly more conservative approach: Reduce the risk by spending less.

Great, you saved a few thousand dollars. But what have you lost? According to Hinge’s recent Referral Marketing Study, more than 50% of people who are referred to a B2B services firm will rule out that provider because their website reflected poorly on them. Cheap websites almost always make poor impressions.

How many new clients do you need to lose before the savings start to feel like a liability?

Planning Your Budget

Most firms have only a vague notion of what a new website should cost. They tend to think only about the direct expenses. They overlook the value of research and message development, for example. How can you find the right balance?

The best place to start is to calculate your minimal low-cost scenario. In other words, what is the least you could spend and “get by.” You can easily spend 3-5 times that amount before you run any danger of over-investing. In our own case, we spent 10 times that minimum and in retrospect, not a penny was wasted.

As with any professional service, you’ll get better results when you work with a firm that knows what it is doing. That means reaching out to a firm that has the web design, user experience, project management, online strategy, SEO, social media, and lead nurturing chops to turn your investment into high quality leads and new revenues. This kind of expertise may cost a bit more up front, but you’ll see the investment in a sophisticated new website can make real dollars and sense.

Smaller Budgets Don’t Minimize Risk

Many firms believe that minimizing the budget reduces risk. It’s understandable to want to minimize cost — but it’s a trap. You are favoring short-term spending over long-term returns. And that’s rarely a good strategy.

If you stop to consider what a competent marketing website should be able to deliver over the long term — a steady flow of high-quality leads — you’ll understand that it doesn’t take many new clients to pay for your entire investment.

How to Be Creative When You’re Not Naturally Creative

We’ve all had those frustrating moments — when when we’re expected to come up with a brilliant new idea, but no matter how much we squint at our computer screens, we just can’t seem to think of anything good.
That’s when we look over at our peers who are “creative types” and wonder why we didn’t inherit any of those creative genes ourselves.

But it may be that we’re looking at it wrong. In fact, many psychologists argue that creativity isn’t something people are born with; it’s actually a skill that can be learned. And, as with any other skill, you can only get better at it with practice. The brain is like muscle that needs to be developed — in this case, using cognitive exercises.

So: What can we do to exercise that creative muscle when we’re struggling to come up with new ideas? Everyone has their own ways they like to “get in shape.” To help you get started, here are 11 different ways to jog your creative thinking.


1) Start with a morning freewrite.

We all have days when walk in to the office in the morning and all we can think about is our jam-packed to-do list. But focusing solely on how much we have to get done can stress us out, and it can even cause us to lose perspective on our own thinking.

On days like this, one way to refocus is by doing a morning freewrite. According to a study from Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile, regular workplace journaling allows you to rediscover your perspective and become more productive.

So instead of jumping right into your projects when you get into the office, block off ten minutes for a digital detox and grab a notebook and paper to just write. Unlike a blog or some other public-facing piece of content, a physical journal is your own personal compilation of thoughts that don’t need to make sense to anyone but you. Writing in a more free-form style will allow your creative juices to flow, while also forcing you to put your thoughts into written words.

Don’t know where to start with freewriting? Check out Twords’ prompt library, or subscribe to Daily Page to get a writing prompt emailed to you every morning. Here are some more prompt ideas from my colleague Megan Conley:

Recently, I’m struggling with …
If I had more time in the day, I’d use it to …
Today, I’ll relieve stress by …
I feel out of my comfort zone when …
My work is motivated by …
This week, I’m thankful for …
Today, I should avoid …
I feel fulfilled at work when …
From my team, I’m proud of …
I work best when …

2) Take a creative course.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers guided instruction, taking a creative course could be the right way to direct your creativity.

Creative courses could be anything from creative writing to photo and video to music, art, and design. Regardless which course you take, you’ll be exposed to different ways of thinking and approaches to working that you can apply to your own work. Plus, it may help you uncover some of your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

It’ll also surround you with other people who share the goal of developing their creative skills. You can learn from your peers and review each other’s work to get a fresh perspective on your own ideas. And if you’re someone who is too nervous to ask for help in the office, a classroom setting could give you the opportunity to open up to others by way of workshop-style critiques. By sharing your ideas with others, you’ll be forced to find ways to formulate your thoughts into words and visuals, while learning to handle critique from others.

A few free online courses to start with include Creative Live, MIT OpenCourseWare, Creative Writing Now, and Stanford OpenEdEx.

Now, courses may not be for everyone — especially if you feel like structure is a hinder to your creative flow. But if you feel like you’re lacking direction in your thinking, it may be worth a try.

3) Brainstorm while you exercise.

If you feel like you’re working your brain hard and still coming out empty-handed, try pushing yourself physically for thirty minutes or so. Research shows that exercise can be linked to more creative thinking. One study that focused on how moderate exercise influences participants’ performance on different thinking tasks found that exercising regularly may train your cognitive thinking and creativity in a healthy way.

“Much more of the brain is devoted to movement than to language. Language is only a little thing sitting on top of this huge ocean of movement,” says Neurologist Oliver Sacks.

Take 30 minutes out of your day to go for a run, do an energizing yoga flow, or practice some deskercises. It’ll benefit both your body and mind.

4) Travel to other places.

Since your creativity is related to how your brain is wired, it’s important to keep your mind stimulated by new sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and experiences. Expose yourself to an entirely different point of view through a new cultural experience. Keeping your sense sharp allows the synapses in your brain to think in new ways.

“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, whose research focuses on the cognitive connection between international travel and creativity.

He emphasizes the importance of not just going to different places, but also immersing yourself into their culture. By engaging with the local art, cuisine, and people, you allow yourself to really learn new ways of thinking that you can later apply to your own ideas.

5) Channel your inner child.

Children are considered “naturally creative” — only because they know no limits to their creativity. Since children are willing to go in any direction with their creativity, they don’t hold back. Channel this mentality, especially when it comes to taking a completely different direction with your work. Instead of being concerned or self-conscious that your work isn’t good enough, be willing to take risks to push your creative limits.

Most importantly, have fun with your work. A child sees everything as an adventure and makes the most of every moment. Instead of being concern about all your responsibilities at once, focus all your energy into one project at a time so you can put your best foot forward.

6) Join a coworking space.

A study at University of Michigan found two key ways coworking spaces create unique opportunities for creativity: flexibility and autonomy. A lot of it has to do with the physical setup of the space. The flexibility to control your space to suit your personal preference encourages creativity. Some studies have shown that have the ability to customize your workspace leads to higher levels of productivity. Your creative funk may be caused by working in an environment that is simply not conducive to your personal style of work.

Plus, the proximity to others means ample opportunity for collaboration. Collaboration can be a catalyst for innovation, and coworking spaces are great ways to throw yourself into a new environment with like-minded, innovative people.

Not sure where to find coworking space near you? Start by entering your city into to do a local search.

7) Incorporate breaks into every work day.

Ever noticed that some of your best ideas come to you at the most random times, like the car or the shower? There’s a reason for that: These breaks allow your mind to continue to work on these ideas without getting stuck in a funk where you can’t organize your thoughts.

As Adrian Furnman, Ph.D describes in a Psychology Today article, it’s important to give your thinking “incubation time” once you’ve been actively working on an idea for some time.

Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s own CEO and co-founder, is a big advocate for naps at the workplace. He actually finds his best ideas come to him when he just falling asleep or just waking up. In an interview with the New York Times, he said he pushes to make the office into an environment where employees can “work less and think more” by providing nap rooms to encourage folks to take a break. This, he says, will help spark creativity.

Make sure to allow yourself to block off designated break sessions in your calendar so you don’t lose that time after being scheduled for endless, back-to-back meetings.

8) Connect with creative people.

When you’ve hit a wall with your own ideas, it may be time to tap into the creativity of others. Surrounding yourself with people with whom you can share and get feedback on your ideas and opinions is not only good for your creativity, it’s good for your career. These different points of view can act as fresh perspective on a project you’ve been staring at for too long.

Not only can creative people give you feedback on your projects, their own drive will keep you motivated to do your best work. A healthy dose of competition could be just what the doctor ordered when you need to force yourself to really channel your inner creative spirit.

This rings especially true when these connection challenge your way of thinking. If you surround yourself with like-minded people, you could fall into the trap of confirmation bias where you never see the faults in your own work because everyone already agrees with you. Although it could be hard to take this critique, it’ll force you to think in ways you never thought of before.

To start networking with other creative minds, you can explore people’s work in platforms like Behance or Instagram. If you’re looking to connect with people in person, attend conferences and networking events related to both your industry and your interests.

9) Listen to music while you work.

Need a way to hone in on your work without zoning out? Although there’s been a lot of debate over whether listening to music will actually increase your intelligence over time (a theory often called the Mozart Effect), there are still productivity benefits to tuning in. Listening to music can help you focus on whatever task you’re currently doing. It can also put you in a better mood, and even calm your nerves if you’re feeling anxious.

Certain forms of music can help channel your creativity better than others and tune out the noises of the office. While music with extreme changes of pace or lyrics can be distracting, ambient music can help increase processing levels and and promote creative thinking.

Everyone has their own taste in music, but some of the most work conducive genres include classical, electronic, and even video game soundtracks. Be sure to check out HubSpot’s own list list of recommended productive playlists.

One new practice can work for you differently over time if you start to get bored of it. If you ever start to feel a practice has become too routine for you, revisit this post to try out another idea.

Survival Rules for First-Time Managers

Taking on a new position of power can be a massive adrenaline rush, but the excitement can sometimes get overshadowed by feelings of inadequacy and panic. Did the agency make a hiring mistake? Can you actually handle this new responsibility?

Just know that you’re far from alone.

Being exposed as incompetent is actually the number one fear of executives worldwide.

Especially in the early stages of your new position, it can seem like an endless battle to push through those uncomfortable feelings. These seven survival tips can help you build your confidence and succeed early as a new leader.

1) Don’t get hung up on your own perceptions of how you’re doing.

This is not to say that you should be recklessly unconcerned with your own performance, but you shouldn’t be obsessed with it. In fact, falling too hard into what psychologists call a performance mindset often means getting stuck in a cycle of feeling inadequate and limited by your own failures.

When you magnify your shortcomings and allow them to cripple your confidence, you forget that you’re capable of improvement. And when that happens, you actually stop trying to get better.

Instead of letting your own performance dominate your thoughts and drive you completely crazy, why not put your energy into actually learning the ropes of your new gig? What you see as shortcomings and fixed flaws are actually just opportunities to get better, as cheesy as that might sound at first.

This all just requires a simple mindset change: View each challenging task as a chance to improve on a skill, rather than something that might set you up to fail.

2) Check your ego at the door.

When a promotion suddenly places you above colleagues who were your peers, things can understandably get a little awkward. You want to prove that you deserve your newfound position of influence, but it’s important to remember that your new title doesn’t automatically come with instant leadership qualities and respect.

The best thing you can do is approach your new role with a humble attitude, a learning mindset, and an open mind. You were promoted because your company’s higher-ups saw potential in you, but that doesn’t mean you know everything or that everyone below you somehow knows less. In fact, the best leaders understand that they aren’t always the smartest person in the room.

Keeping your ego under control will help people respect you more, and it will take off some of the pressure you put on yourself to always perform optimally. It’s not your job to always have the correct answer or the perfect foolproof plan; it’s your job to bring out the best in those around you.

3) Give yourself a frank self-evaluation.

Before you can begin to truly thrive in your new role, you need to take stock of where your leadership skills currently stand. Most people think they have a better understanding of their own abilities than they actually do, and this can be a big problem for new leaders. In self-evaluations, people tend to “overestimate what they can accomplish and overvalue what they’ve already accomplished.”

So how can you overcome this unconscious bias and take a good hard look at your skill level? Start by asking yourself what aspects of your new role seem the most unnatural to you. Avoid passing judgement on yourself. Identifying where you feel insecure or less confident is an effective way to get a better understanding of the boundaries of your comfort zone and where you need to improve.

4) Approach everything like a beginner.

Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki famously wrote, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

If you approach your new role with the assumption that you’re already an expert, you unconsciously close yourself off to new learning opportunities. You’re letting your established beliefs derail any chance to absorb new information that could make you much better at your job, just because you feel threatened.

Having the mindset of a beginner in a new leadership position is especially important as it allows you to remain eager, open, and receptive to new information. Being a successful leader hinges on being able to put your preconceived notions aside in the face of facts or people who challenge assumed information.

5) Figure out what type of leader you want to be.

As a new leader, you might feel like you suffer from a lack of clear direction. You have a list of responsibilities that need to be fulfilled, but no one is standing over your shoulder telling you exactly how you’re supposed to do it. This can be a scary realization, but it’s useful to keep in mind that you’re not the first person to go through this, and you can leverage the experiences of others who came before you.

Identify a leader at your agency whom you admire, and ask yourself what qualities make them such an enviable leader. Consider asking them to coffee or lunch to pick their brain and discuss the challenges they overcame early on in their tenure.

Having a mentor can be a valuable asset as you begin to navigate your new role. Their experience can help quell your early jitters and remind you that you aren’t alone in the obstacles you face.

Just remember that at the end of the day, a mentor is a general role model, not an exact version of who you need to become to be successful. Use their advice to develop your own leadership style as you progress and learn what works and what doesn’t.

6) Understand that the big picture isn’t just about you — it’s about your team.

It’s easy to forget in the midst of your own transition that your new team is undergoing a transition as well: They’re getting used to a new leader who they may not be very familiar with.

Don’t try to force your authority. Give your new team the opportunity to get to know you and adapt without pressure. If possible, set up one-on-one meetings with your team members as soon as possible to learn more about their individual responsibilities, their concerns for the future, and what they need from you to be successful.

Plan a group lunch or outing to get to know the team as a whole, and take the time to formally introduce yourself. Share the typical information about your background and experience, but avoid reading off a laundry list of accomplishments. This can make you seem inaccessible.

Instead, show some vulnerability: Discuss the areas where you think you can learn more from your new team. They’ll see you as someone who is willing to take feedback and learn for the benefit of the company.

7) Lean into the discomfort.

Maybe leadership job descriptions should all tack on this bullet point: “Must be comfortable being uncomfortable.” By the very nature of their position, leaders are dropped into uncomfortable situations on a daily basis. Whether it’s giving tough feedback, making cutbacks, or standing by unpopular decisions, get used to it — it’s now part of your profession.

But being uncomfortable is, well … really uncomfortable. We’re wired to shy away from situations that make us feel overwhelmingly awkward or disliked. Part of growing into a leadership role is learning to manage discomfort and do what’s needed for the agency — even when you’d rather hide under your desk.

To strengthen your tolerance for discomfort, try rehearsing or writing down conversations you know have the potential to get awkward. And remember that having uncomfortable conversations is a lot like jumping into a pool of freezing water: If you keep standing on the edge, you’ll build up the jump in your head and only psych yourself out. Sometimes, you just need to take the plunge.

Ten ways to build a brand for your small business

Branding is just as important for small businesses as it is for big names. Indeed, many corporate brands try to look more like small firms in order to appeal to consumers that prefer to support independent brands.

Branding is a way of defining your business to yourself, your team and your external audiences. It could be called the business’ “identity”, but only on the understanding that it embodies the core of what the business is and its values, not just what it looks and sounds like. Customers of all sorts of businesses are so savvy today that they can see through most attempts by companies to gloss, spin or charm their way to sales.

1. Start by defining your brand.
Review the product or service your business offers, pinpoint the space in the market it occupies and research the emotive and rational needs and concerns of your customers. Your brand character should promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you in the market.

2. When building your brand, think of it as a person.
Every one of us is an individual whose character is made up of beliefs, values and purposes that define who we are and who we connect with. Our personality determines how we behave in different situations, how we dress and what we say. Of course for people it’s intuitive and it’s rare that you even consider what your own character is, but when you’re building a brand it’s vital to have that understanding.

3. Consider what is driving your business.
What does it believe in, what is its purpose and who are its brand heroes. These things can help establish your emotive brand positioning and inform the identity and character for brand communications.

4. Aim to build long-term relationships with your customers.
Don’t dress up your offering and raise expectations that result in broken promises, create trust with honest branding — be clear who your company is and be true to the values that drive it every day.

5. Speak to your customers with a consistent tone of voice.
It will help reinforce the business’ character and clarify its offering so customers are aware exactly what to expect from the product or service.

6. Don’t repeat the same message in the same way over and over again.
Alternatively, aim to make your key messages work together to build a coherent identity.

7. Don’t try to mimic the look of chains or big brands.
Try and carve out your own distinctive identity. There is a big consumer trend towards independent establishments, and several chains are in fact trying to mimic an independent feel to capture some of that market. Truly independent operators can leverage their status to attract customers who are looking for something more original and authentic, that aligns with how feel about themselves.

8. Be innovative, bold and daring – stand for something you believe in.
Big brands are encumbered by large layers of bureaucracy, preventing them from being flexible and reacting to the ever-changing needs of their customers. Those layers of decision-makers can make it hard for them to be daring with their branding.

9. Always consider your branding when communicating with customers.
Don’t lose your pride or dilute your brand positioning with indiscriminate discounting. Try offering more, rather than slashing prices. Promotions are an opportunity to reinforce your brand mission.

10. The old way of stamping your logo on everything won’t cut it.
The future of branding is fluid and engaging — respect your customers’ intelligence by not giving everything away up front. Generate some intrigue and allow them to unearth more about your brand for themselves. This is the way to foster ambassadors who revel in telling other people what they have discovered.

Written by Dan Einzig of Mystery

Tips to Grow Your Business Using Social Media

In today’s market, harnessing the power of social media is a must if you want to grow your business and grow your brand.

1. Be consistent.
When it comes to your posts, your message and how frequently you use social media, keep consistency in mind. It is truly the key to success with any social media campaign. Make a plan for what you’re going to post and how often you’re going to post, and stick with it. This should ideally be a few times a day or a week, depending on your goals and your following. You can’t go from posting once a month to five times a day and then back and expect to have an engaged following.

2. Use all social networks.
You may have a social network that you prefer over others, but it doesn’t mean that all of your followers feel that way. If you want to be successful with social media, then you need to post across all networks. This means having and maintaining an account with all of the big social media sites, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

3. Format content to optimize for each platform.
Maintaining accounts across all of the major social media platforms doesn’t mean posting the same thing on four different sites every day. It means formatting content specifically meant for each platform. You need photos for Instagram, long posts for LinkedIn, videos and memes for Facebook and short and snappy announcements for Twitter. All of your posts should be different, even if they are delivering the same message.

4. Push on those networks that really work well.
There are some networks that are going to work better for you than others. When you find that network that really works for your specific type of business and your specific type of customer, then you need to really push on that network and take advantage of the opportunity.

5. Make sure that your content aligns with your message.
When it comes to building a strong social media presence, getting likes and follows is great. However, it’s about more than just the number of responses each of your posts get. You may be tempted to deliver a post that simply gets a lot of attention, but that will do nothing for your brand if you don’t make sure that the content aligns with your message. Everything needs to fit within your brand identity and promote what it is that you’re trying to say to the world.

6. Some important content won’t be popular, but you still need to post it.
There are a few types of content that typically don’t get a lot of likes and shares, including testimonials, charity posts, press features and important blog posts. These are really important pieces of content when it comes to establishing your validity in the market, yet they aren’t the type of posts that typically get a lot of attention. Just because this type of content isn’t getting likes or shares doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be posting it. It may not be popular, but it helps build a foundation for your company.

7. Find a balance between popularity and business.
Your professional social media site is supposed to be about your business, though you still want to make sure that it’s getting the attention you want it to get. Simply put, you want to be popular on social media. However, you need to find that balance between popularity and business. You need to have a little bit of both and mix the more fun side that wants popularity with the serious and informative side that boosts the reputation of your business.

8. Use social media to amplify all of your business and marketing efforts.
You’re going to have business and marketing plans outside of your social media campaign. After all, a successful marketing plan is varied and robust. A solid social media plan only adds to your efforts and makes them more successful. It’s an affordable, yet greatly under-utilized platform that can help with virtually every aspect of your marketing plan — and something that you need to start using now.

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