Category Archives: business

Here Are the Top Marketing Design Trends for 2018 [Infographic]

Shutterstock — a familiar name to many creative professionals — released its 2018 Creative Trends Report today, shedding light on the design trends marketers need to know about this year.

The report is the result of synthesizing and analyzing the billions of searches for visual content on Shutterstock’s collection — which boasts over 170 million images. Based on those searches, Shutterstock determined which design concepts are most likely to influence creative marketing and design this year, from pop culture to emerging trends.

This is the seventh year Shutterstock has released a Creative Trends Report, and this year, there’s a common, underlying science-fiction-esque theme — at least when it comes to the top three trends, named to be “fantasy,” “new minimalism,” and “space.”New Call-to-action

Intrigued? Check out the full report, which — how fitting — has been visually represented by the infographic below.


1. Fantasy

Unicorns — the mythical creatures, not the high-valued startups — are cool again. Along with its friends like mermaids and centaurs, fantasy-themed images are predicted to see a rise in popularity. 

2. New Minimalism

It’s not just any minimalism — it’s the clean, circu-linear kind that uses white space to draw greater attention to an image’s boldest features.

3. Space

Elon Musk, is that you? We’re not sure if SpaceX is behind it, but images pertaining to the solar system and beyond are expected to be a major trend this year.

4. Natural Luxury

Less screen, more green. Images with natural elements are on the rise — with a touch of “geological”-themed luxury, like marble.

5. Punchy Pastels

Spring has arrived early, with pastel hues and shades dominating 2018 design trends.

6. A Global March

The legacy of last January’s Women’s March lives on — searches for terms like “activism” and key occasions like “International Women’s Day” are on the rise.

7. Cactus

Honestly, your guess is as good as ours on this one. As Shutterstock describes it, this trend reflects “nature’s ultimate survivor” with “beauty and danger.”

8. Digital Crafts

It’s the latest generation of origami. Is a robot capable of crafting? Inquiring, visual minds want to know.

9. Ancient Geometrics

You might be familiar with the Mandala, which is an ancient, geometric symbol frequently associated with Hinduism and Buddhism. There’s been an uptick in searches for that type of image — a trend we expect to continue as many seek these zen-like images.

10. Cryptocurrency

We’re not at all surprised to see this one on the list. Cryptocurrency has been a major point for those in both tech and finance in recent months, with such headlines as bitcoin debuting on Wall Street and Kodak unveiling its very own cryptocurrency (which resulted in its stock price skyrocketing in an impressively short period of time).

11. Holographic Foil

Tech has been gradually permeating the mainstream and pop-cultural conversation, and that’s arguably never been truer than it has been in 2018. Holographics have long served as thematic, visual representation of tech — which is what we predict helped it earn a place on the list.

 
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How to Write Copy People Notice, Read, and Trust: Lessons from "The World’s Best Copywriter"

The phone rang a couple times before he picked up.

“Hello?”

“Hi,” I said. “Is this Pat Corpora?”

“Yes, it is.”

“It’s Eddie Shleyner,” I said. Silence. “I sent you a message on LinkedIn … about the Sampler. You replied with your number … told me to call.”

In 1995, Pat published The Doctor’s Vest-Pocket Sampler of Natural Remedies, a piece of direct response mail designed to sell a bigger, more complete book called New Choices in Natural Healing.

In other words, the free “sampler” book was designed to garner the attention, engagement, and trust necessary to sell prospect’s on the real product, the money-maker.Download our free guide here for tips to become a better writer. 

“Oh!” he said. “Hi, Eddie.” He sounded enthused. I could tell he was a nice guy. “How can I help?”

“Well,” I said. “I’m sure you know, the Sampler is famous.”

Pat smirked. “Okay.”

“At least it is among copywriters,” I said. “That’s why I’m calling: I’m writing an article about the Sampler — because it’s a master class in written persuasion — and I want to make sure I get the facts right.”

“Sure.”

“Well, first of all,” I said, “how many did you send out?”

“Oh, I’m sure we mailed 50 million copies,” said Pat. He paused. “Yeah, about that many.” He paused again. “It was a huge number.”

“And how many books did that sell?”

“Oh, millions.”

“Millions?” I said.

Millions. It was our most successful mailer ever.”

How did Pat sell all those books?

He hired Gary Bencivenga to write the copy.

Bencivenga is a Hall of Fame copywriter. He’s on par with John Caples and Eugene Schwartz, David Ogilvy and Joe Sugarman. He knew what he was doing. That is, he knew how to write copy that captured attention, garnered engagement, and drove readers to take action.

Like any effective copywriter, Bencivenga was part writer, part psychologist. As a writer, he was able to produce clear, concise sentences. As a psychologist, he excelled at thinking like his prospect. He understood her, empathized with her. And that’s what this article is about.

It’s about the big-picture concepts you can learn by studying one of Bencivenga’s most successful controls. In other words, this article won’t teach you how to write like a copywriter as much as it’ll teach you how to think like one.

You’ll learn the rules of the trade, the fundamentals of crafting ad copy people notice, read, and trust.

How to write copy people notice, read, and trust.

If you don’t already own The Doctor’s Vest-Pocket Sampler of Natural Remedies, you can buy one on Amazon for a buck or two plus shipping. If you’re a serious student of copywriting, I recommend ordering your copy as soon as possible, reading it daily, and transcribing it often.

When you receive it, smile. You’re holding one of the finest direct marketing assets ever created.

What makes it great? It follows three important principles:

1. It hones in on a single, primary desire.

That’s why people notice it in the first place.

People buy things to achieve their desires. Period.

“Every product appeals to two, or three or four of these mass desires,” writes Eugene Schwartz in his classic book, Breakthrough Advertising. “But only one can predominate.”

The Sampler’s target audience was older, likely suffering from an ailment, likely fatigued from the side-effects of conventional medicine, and likely eager for alternatives. Natural alternatives. Bencivenga honed in on this.

How to Hone In

Once you know, with absolute certainty, what it is your prospect desires:

a) Make the desire plainly visible and unmistakably clear.

This will ensure that the prospect sees it.

The Sampler displays the words “NATURAL REMEDIES” in big, bold, capital letters on its cover. In fact, those words appear twice, which brings us to my next point …

b) Repeat the desire over and over, using synonymous terms.

This will keep the prospect engaged without wearing her out on the same verbiage.

The Sampler alludes to the concept of “natural remedies” using many different terms, including “self-help remedies” and “non-surgical remedies” and a half-dozen others. Each is a new and engaging way to remind the prospect about the same thing. Each variation whispers, “This is what you want, Dear Reader. Remember? This is what you need!”

c) Sound realistic.

This will allow the prospect to take your copy seriously.

The Sampler doesn’t over-step its product’s promise. For instance, the word “antidotes” sounds more compelling than “remedies” but it’s also less plausible, which is why Bencivenga never uses it. After all, he’s selling a book with thousands of medical suggestions. They’re not all winners. Reasonable people know this.

If you say something that plants doubt in your prospect’s mind, even once, you might lose her. Fantastic claims are risky because they’re hard to believe. Temper your promise to give the message a chance.

2. It doesn’t look like an ad.

That’s why people read it.

The Doctor’s Vest-Pocket Sampler of Natural Remedies doesn’t look like a mailer. It looks like a book:

The cover is card stock and paper inside is thick, too. The back is blank, clean, except for the publisher’s mission statement: “We publish books that empower people’s lives.”

The Sampler is also 50 pages long, neatly organized into four enticing chapters:

Chapter 1: Natural Remedies for Whatever Ails You …

Chapter 2: Secret Healing Triggers …

Chapter 3: How to Instantly Get a Second Opinion, or a Third, Fourth, or Tenth!

Chapter 4: For a Lifetime of Greater Health, Try This …

Each chapter is well-formatted and written in plain English that’s scannable and digestible, peppered with bolding and italics that highlight value. Bencivenga gave the Sampler all the characteristics of a real book, which is why Debra-from-Nebraska pulled it from her mailbox, then sat down, put on her glasses, and actually took the time to read it.

“Allow the reader to enter into your ad with the least possible mental shifting of gears from ‘editorial’ to ‘advertisement’,” writes Schwartz. “A single change in format can add 50% to your readership, and your results.” Schwartz calls this concept Copy Camouflage. It refers to taking elements from trusted mediums and using them to lend clout to your ad. This is also known as “borrowed believability.”

Online advertorial articles, or “sponsored” posts, are a good example of this: they look and read like typical articles but have a hidden sales agenda. Bencivenga uses the same tactic, except he camouflaged the Sampler to look and read like a book.

How to Camouflage

Once you know the medium your prospect recognizes, likes, and believes:

a) Borrow the format.

This will help your promotion look familiar to the prospect.

The Sampler looks like a book because it was published before the internet took root (circ. 1995), when physical mediums (e.g., books and newspapers) were among the only recognized, credible sources of written information.

b) Borrow the words and tone.

This will help your copy sound familiar to the prospect.

The Sampler sounds comprehensible, colloquial. It uses simple words — not medical speak — to convey clear, concise advice that makes sense to people. And that brings us to the final principle …

3. It’s valuable.

That’s why people trust it.

Bencivenga packed the Sampler with advice that can help people live more comfortable lives:

  • On page 14, he shares a juice recipe that treats asthma.
  • On page 15, he shares a tonic recipe that quells cigarette cravings.
  • On page 16, he shares a cocktail recipe that relieves leg cramps.

In fact, almost every page lends a valuable suggestion, something that makes the reader feel excited about the future, hopeful. Something that makes her say, “Wow, I had no idea …” Over time, these feelings compound and intensify in the reader, engendering trust.

“Couldn’t it be that if someone took care of you, very good care of you; if this person would do anything for you; if your well-being was his only thought: is it impossible that you might begin to feel something for him?”Bob Benson, Mad Men

How to Deliver Value

Once you know what your prospect values:

a) Highlight it.

This, again, will ensure that the prospect sees it.

The Sampler is full of bolded, italicized, and underlined words and phrases. It’s full of headlines and subheads, sidebars and images. Remember, people can’t begin to draw value from information if they never even see it.

b) Make it clear and concise.

This will fill the prospect with hope and excitement over her newfound knowledge.

The Sampler uses clear language and short, crisp sentences. Even though it’s a medical book, a native English speaker will comprehend every word. Remember, people will only get value from information they understand.

c) Make it actionable.

This will satisfy the prospect, making her happy.

The Sampler tells readers what to do but also explains how to do it. For example, want to treat asthma? “Blend two ounces of onion juice with two ounces of carrot juice and two ounces of parsley juice, then drink this blend twice each day,” writes Bencivenga. “Of course, use this remedy in conjunction with proper medical treatment.”

Remember, people will get the most value from information they can put to use.

“So, what did working with Gary teach you?” I asked.

“Well,” said Pat, “like many other tests I was involved in, it proved the power and importance of copy.”

I nodded, silently, on the other end.

“When we launched new titles, we always tested two or three different copywriters, “ said Pat. “Sometimes the different approaches were close, within 10 percent. But sometimes, it was a 100 percent difference in response rate. That’s what it was with the Vest-Pocket Sampler. That’s the power of great copy.”

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15 Web Design Trends to Watch in 2018

The landscape of web design is constantly evolving.

Something that looked modern and fresh yesterday can appear dated seemingly overnight, and trends once dismissed as irrevocably passé can unexpectedly cycle back in vogue.

To help you prepare for wherever the web design tide takes us in 2018, we’ve put together a list of 15 trends to keep a close eye on. Check them out below, and get inspired to tackle your web design projects this year with style.Download our full collection of website homepage examples here to inspire your  own homepage design. 

15 Web Design Trends to Watch in 2018

1. Bold Typography

More and more companies are turning to big, bold typography to anchor their homepages. This style works best when the rest of the page is kept minimal and clean, like this example from Brooklyn-based agency Huge

huge-hello.png

2. Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs — high-quality videos or GIFs that run on a smooth, continuous loop — have become a popular way to add movement and visual interest to otherwise static pages. Full-screen loops, like this example from Danish agency CP+B Copenhagen, create immediate interest on an otherwise simple page. 

3. Brutalism

To stand out in a sea of tidy, organized websites, some designers are opting for more eclectic, convention-defying structures. While it can seem jarring at first, many popular brands are now incorporating these aggressively alternative design elements into their sites, such as Bloomberg

Brutalism emerged as a reaction to the increasing standardization of web design, and is often characterized by stark, asymmetrical, nonconformist visuals, and a distinct lack of hierarchy and order. In other words, it’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it — like the below example from apparel designer Biannual.

brutalism.png

4. Saturated Gradients

Kaleidoscopic gradients were everywhere in 2017, and they aren’t going anywhere in 2018. Zurich-based agency Y7K illustrates a perfect example of how to make this two-tone effect look fresh and modern, with their full-screen, gradient-washed homepage.

5. Vivid Layers of Color

Staggered, stacked layers of color add depth and texture to a simple site layout, as seen in this stylish example from the São Paulo-based team behind Melissa Meio-Fio.

6. Text-Only

Some websites are cutting out images and prominent navigation sections altogether, relying on a few choice lines of straightforward text to inform visitors about their company.

Danish agency B14 uses their homepage real estate to simply describe their mission statement and provide links to samples of their work. It’s a modern, uncluttered approach to presenting information.

7. Illustration

More companies are turning to illustrators and graphic artists to create bespoke illustrations for their websites. After years dominated by flat design and straightforward minimalism, adding illustrated touches to your site is a great way to inject a little personality, as seen in this charming example from NewActon (designed by Australian digital agency ED).

8. Ultra-minimalism

Taking classic minimalism to the extreme, some designers are defying conventions of what a website needs to look like, displaying just the absolute bare necessities. The site from designer Mathieu Boulet is centered around a few choice links to his social profiles and information.

9. Duotone

These parred-down, two-tone color schemes look cool and contemporary, like this example from Australian Design Radio.

10. Mixing Horizontal and Vertical Text

Freeing text from its usual horizontal alignment and placing it vertically on a page adds some refreshing dimension. Take this example from director Matt Porterfield, which mixes horizontal and vertical text alignments on an otherwise very simple page.

11. Geometric Shapes and Patterns

Whimsical patterns and shapes are popping up more frequently on websites, adding some flair in a landscape otherwise ruled by flat and material design. Canadian design studio MSDS uses daring, patterned letters on their homepage.

12. Serif Fonts

Due to screen resolution limitations and an overall lack of online font support, designers avoided serif fonts for years to keep websites legible and clean. With recent improvements, serif fonts are having a big moment in 2018 — and they’ve never looked more modern. As seen on The Sill, a serif headline adds a dose of sophistication and style. 

serif-font-design-1.png

13. Overlapping Text and Images

Text that slightly overlaps accompanying images has become a popular effect for blogs and portfolios. Freelance art director and front-end developer Thibault Pailloux makes his overlapping text stand out with a colorful underline beneath each title.

14. Organic Shapes

Gone are the days of strict grid layouts and sharp edges — 2018 will be all about curved lines and soft, organic shapes. In the example below from Neobi, the borderline-cartoonish background adds a generous hit of personality and vivid color to the uncomplicated design. 

organic-shapes-1.png

15. Hand-Drawn Fonts

Custom, hand-drawn fonts have started cropping up more and more in recent months — and for good reason. These unique typefaces add character and charm, and help designers create a distinct look and feel without a complete overhaul. On KIKK Festival’s website, a hand-drawn font provides a whimsical anchor for the homepage. 

hand-drawn-font-1.png

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Facebook's News Feed Will Once Again Focus on Friends and Family

Facebook announced yesterday that it will be overhauling its News Feed that will once again shift the type of content users see first, and most often.

According to the official statement, Facebook will “be making updates to [its News Feed] ranking so people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about” — as in, their friends and family, instead of Pages.

The news first broke by way of a post from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

What Facebook’s News Feed Changes Mean for Marketers

Brands Can Expect to See Less Engagement

Facebook has been quite transparent about the fact that marketers and brands will be impacted by this change — and not for the better.

“Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease,” the official statement reads, which is especially true for Pages with posts that don’t see a ton of engagement — by way of shares, or discussion on the post itself, including when users share them with their networks. 

That means posts sparking the greatest amount of discussion among users — especially when shared — will likely rank better. But marketers should proceed with caution: Creating content for engagement for shareability and conversation does not translate to including such language as, “Tag a friend!” in posts. Facebook calls and interprets that type of content as “engagement bait,” and actually penalizes the Pages that use it in their News Feed rankings.

Facebook has made several modifications to its News Feed algorithm over the years, some of which have carried more permenance than others. Marketers might recall, for example, that last October, Facebook introduced its “Explore Feed,” which was meant to serve as a new, entirely separate feed where nearly all Page content would live.

This latest shift is different, however. As Facebook put it, “Page posts will still appear in News Feed, though there may be fewer of them.”

And if Facebook does actually stick with this change — which, given its history, could be debatable — it will most certainly present a new challenge for marketers. Content will have to be even more shareable, in a way that doesn’t classify it as “engagement bait,” and also organically promotes conversation among users.

Why Facebook Is Doing This

For a while now, Facebook has been making extensive efforts to communicate an ethos that it is “not a media company.” That was likely the result of the scrutiny it’s received since it was discovered that the network was weaponized to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

“Facebook has clearly put a stake in the ground that user experience is more important that the brands that pay them,” says Marcus Andrews, HubSpot’s senior product marketing manager. “By making this shift they clearly prioritized one over the other, and are potentially a bit nervous about the current (really negative) narrative about the negative impact of social media on society.” 

That helps to explain this move to shift the focus from branded content to the kind that is more personal, and closer in terms of each user’s own network. More content from friends and family, versus news from official or branded outlets = “not a media company.”

“Organic reach for business pages on Facebook has been under assault for a long time now,” Andrews says. “This is not new.”

What Marketers Should Do Now

With all of that said, not all is lost for social media marketers. There are certain types of Page content that are said to promote more shares and organic conversation — like live videos, which Facebook says get 6X the engagement as non-live ones.

“What Facebook seems to tell us is that content with a lot of engagement and conversation will be prioritized. This means comments and replies,” Andrews explains — and live video is one type of content that tends to receive a higher amount of that type of engagement.

But with so many rules around what the News Feed seems to prefer — authentic content that isn’t misleading or baiting engagement and clicks — it’s easy for marketers to become confused about what, exactly, they can do to please its algorithm.

“While it’s easy to see brands as the losers here, what we’re really seeing is an opportunity for brands to pivot their content towards driving a meaningful conversation,” says Henry Franco, HubSpot’s social and campaign strategy marketing associate. “Facebook’s new algorithm will prioritize posts that drive authentic engagement in the comments, rather than passive likes or shares.”

Which brings us back to a marketing principle that we’ve certainly touched on before: listening to users.

“Brands should take this opportunity to listen to their audiences,” says Franco, “and create content that’s catered to their interests and that will drive meaningful interaction.“

One additional, important thing to note is that users will have the option to modify settings to see content from certain Pages in their News Feeds (the aptly-named “See First in News Feed Preferences” feature).

Many users, however, might not know about this feature. That presents an opportunity for marketers to create engaging ways to let their audiences know about it, by way of sharing something like sales, one-time promotions, and the like with such language as, “Want to be the first to know about our sales? Make sure you see us first in your News Feed.” (Try using something like the image above to help explain how this works.)

Be careful, however, not to overload or patronize audiences with this type of information — and maintain your focus on creating the quality, applicable, and personalized content that Franco speaks to. The user has to benefit somehow from it, and feel motivated to share it in a way that remedies the negative impressions of social media that Andrews points out.

What’s your take on things? Feel free to reach out with your thoughts and questions on Twitter.

Featured image credit: Facebook

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Here's What It's Really Like to Ride in a Self-Driving Car

Remember that exciting self-driving car news we broke yesterday?

AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah — largely known for its roadside assistance services — has partnered with Torc Robotics to develop safety criteria for self-driving cars.

It all started when AAA launched its autonomous vehicle shuttle in Las Vegas back in November — which reportedly got into an accident on its first day of operation.

So when I had the opportunity to go for a spin in one at CES, did I accept it anyway?

Absolutely.

And I didn’t stop there. As long as I was in the area, I decided to hop on for a ride in a self-driving Navya taxi, too.

Here’s what it was like — and what I learned.

Here’s What It’s Really Like to Ride in a Self-Driving Car

These Vehicles Aren’t Really Driverless

When I told my friends and colleagues that I would be taking AAA’s driverless shuttle for a spin, it was met with mixed reaction. “I’ll pray for you,” “be safe,” and “that’s exciting” were among the responses.

Regardless, I was excited. Here’s how things started out:

The first thing I discovered was that most of these autonomous vehicles, at this point, are not entirely driverless. On the shuttle, for instance, riders are joined by a human operator who’s required to have a special class of driver’s license for autonomous vehicles.

So why, then, are these vehicles labeled as “self-driving”? Well, they are. The shuttle moves, brakes, and regulates its speed independently.

But the technology is still new enough that, for safety reasons, it helps to have a human present who can override the system in certain cases. That became necessary, for example, when we made a stop a donut shop and the doors closed before I could capture a photo — and the human operator was able to manually open them for me.

But these human operators are really present for safety reasons more than they are for photo ops. While I didn’t feel unsafe during the ride — we stopped for humans, traffic lights, and even birds — the Navya taxi, for its part, had trouble moving forward, even once the pigeon that had been in its path flew away. Our human operator was able to override the system to get us going again, and also had the ability to stop the vehicle in the case of an emergency.

The Biggest Selling Point: What You Can Do in the Car

One thing that continually comes up in the conversations at CES about driverless cars is how much time they give back to commuters. Instead of idly sitting in traffic, for example, riders can spend that time on the road doing something else, like catching up on work.

But when I first wrote about the AAA shuttle yesterday, you might recall that I identified autonomous vehicles as a potential new content distribution channel — an area of opportunity that Navya has seized for its fleet of self-driving taxis.

The service works much like most ride-sharing programs like Lyft and Uber do now: You hail a car from your phone, which you also must use to open the vehicle’s door (this is most likely a security play, since there won’t be a human driver to ask riders to identify themselves).

Once you’re in the car, you can play the music of your choice, and use the many screens built into the vehicle to check on your flight status, buy movie tickets, and more.

But if this technology sounds redundant to you — you’re not alone.

For example, many of us (yours truly included) already do these things during rides on our phones. As someone who doesn’t own a car, for example, I already use the time during rides to the airport, for example, to check my flight status, make restaurant reservations, and — well, many of the other things that are built into the Navya taxi’s capabilities.

However, it is a fairly novel concept to those who are often the ones behind the wheel, and lose that time to watching the road instead of executing tasks on their phones. And to me, that’s one of the biggest upsides to self-driving technology on a macro level: the reduction of car ownership, and the added transportation accessibility it provides for aging populations and persons with disabilities.

It All Feels Remarkably Familiar — and That’s a Good Thing

But for all of this innovation, there’s a problem: Only 38% of Americans are enthusiastic about the idea of riding in self-driving vehicles.

Allow me to put those fears to rest. My broad takeaway from my driverless shuttle and taxi ride is that if you’re used to riding on buses and subways — this is anticlimactic.

Maybe riding in a standard, four-person sedan with no driver would feel a bit weirder — an opportunity that Lyft was providing to a lucky few at CES who weren’t met with this message:

But as far as my experience goes, riding in these autonomous vehicles feels like riding on public transportation. And ultimately, I believe that’s a good thing — the sense of familiarity means less of a “learning curve” for passengers, especially in the urban settings where many of these programs are being piloted. It won’t seem as scary or extremely new.

Instead, I anticipate that most riders will have more of a reaction of, “Well, that’s cool,” and then return to their standard public transportation activities of choice, like listening to music or reading a book. For my part, if I had my earbuds on and was simply staring out the window, I’ll be honest: This wouldn’t have felt like a particularly groundbreaking experience.

Looking Ahead

The human operator element plays a part here, too. Earlier this week, during the LG CES press event, a new feature was announced in which home appliances are able — by way of machine learning, I suspect — to proactively detect and remotely repair mechanical issues, often before the user even knows that there’s a problem.

Self-driving cars, I anticipate, are learning how to do the same thing. But the stakes are much higher for a vehicle than, say, a washing machine — and that’s why, while the machines collect data and learn how to fix themselves, the human presence is both crucial and reassuring.

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, we’re just getting started. The topic dominated much of the dialogue at CES, with several brands announcing their latest innovations and progress within the realm.

And while public fears are not entirely unfounded — no technology is perfect, I would agree — I believe that market permeation of self-driving cars on a large scale will ultimately carry more environmental, social, and accessibility benefits than not.

As always, I’m open to your take on things. Feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions on Twitter — and to see more insights and announcements from CES 2018.

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The Introvert's Guide to Nailing a Job Interview [Infographic]

When people see the word “introvert,” they often think of qualities that don’t actually describe introverted people at all.

“Shy.” “Quiet.” Even “antisocial.”

But how we have grown to think of introverts has strayed far from realities. In fact, according to Dictionary.com, is “a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings.”

That’s doesn’t mean that introverts are shy or antisocial — it means they’re introspective individuals who can still be outgoing. They just don’t crave being around other people, speaking and presenting, all the time.Use these marketing resume templates to create a killer resume. 

But the former impression might make one think that something like a job interview, for example, is particularly tricky for an introvert. That isn’t necessarily the case, however. Sure, it might require more energy — but there are certain qualities of introversion that might actually help them excel at job interviews.

CashNetUSA has outlined these ideas in the infographic below, which provides a job interview toolkit for those who, well, don’t exactly look forward to a day of answering and asking questions of potential new employers. Have a look, and discover what all of us can learn from an introvert’s guide and approach to job interviews.


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Data Is Cooler Than You Think. Here's What Marketers Need to Know About It Today.

It’s my third day here at CES, and today marks the opening of the 2018 event to the public. Last night marked the end of the event’s two major media days, which concluded with a keynote from Intel.

To say the least, it was … interesting.

The keynote was titled “How Data Is Shaping Innovation of the Future,” and advertised as a deep dive into how data is necessary — and profoundly powerful — to continue the growth and innovation of AI.

But it took a while to actually get to the meat of the event. Things kicked off with a performance from what was labeled a “data-only band” called the Algorithm & Blues, which I can only describe as a very bizarre, well-funded production of air-guitar and drumming. And apparently, I wasn’t alone in that impression.

But after roughly 20 minutes of this bizarre performance, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich took the stage and wasted no time addressing Meltdown and Spectre — a 20-year-old security flaw discovered last week in Intel chips — noting that 90% of the updates needed to resolve the issue have already been shipped, and that the rest will be ready by the end of the month.

And that was it.

Trying to tie together the concepts of data and AI and bring them full-circle is a tall order, and Intel may not have been up to the challenge. Dieter Bohn of The Verge may have put it best: 

” … that story about translating space into data into experiences got a little lost. It’s a difficult, cerebral thing to try to convey, and Intel didn’t quite pull it off.”

But there were dots to be connected — especially when it comes to the fundamental takeaways for marketers that I was able to derive from last night’s event.

Here are some of the key conclusions I came away with.

1. Data is what powers AI.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is, in my humble opinion, one of the most important and rapidly-growing frontiers in technology. Take machine learning, for example. It’s what allows us, including marketers, to observe, learn, and make conclusions on audience behaviors and preferences … thanks to the ability of a machine to process the data related to these items much more efficiently than humans can do alone.

Source: Intel

And, there’s a good chance that you might be working with a massive amount of data in this type of situation. As AI-enabled technology allows us to both capture and synthesize it in an increasingly seamless way, we’re able to make more advances in a shorter amount of time.

For the marketer, those advances often come in the form of creating a remarkable and unique user experience.

2. In order to create a truly immersive user experience, we need data.

When it comes to the AI-analyzed data that can be leveraged to create an immersive user experience, I like to shift to the realm of virtual reality. That’s where Intel demonstrated the greatest use cases during its keynote, and it’s another emerging — but incredibly important and valuable — area of technology.

While there was a heavy emphasis on sports- and athletic-event-related experiences last night, the takeaways and technologies shown are more widely applicable than that. Take, for example, Intel’s multi-camera (each of which is equipped with multiple lenses) system that captures so many different perspectives of an event that it allows the user, as Krzanich put it, to “select the best seat in the house, every time.”

It’s a theme that echoed throughout the CES media days, and reminded me of remarks made by NVIDIA’s Jensen Huang at a press conference less than 24 hours earlier:

What’s an alternative name, though, for those perspectives that are being captured to create such an immersive experience? You guessed it: data.

To get a bit more technical about it, that type of data capture is powered in part by something called voxels: pixels that are placed into a three-dimensional space, adding depth to whatever is being recorded. And when you use that type of technology to build upon a multi-camera and multi-lens system, said Krzanich, “you’re recording everything.”

To put that massive amount of information in context, this type of capture often requires data creation at a rate of 3TB/minute. That’s the equivalent, Krzanich claimed, of producing all of the content of the Library of Congress in the first quarter of a football game.

3. Data-powered experiences allow marketers to show (instead of tell).

When I was live-tweeting this keynote last night, I made fun of myself for “ranting” a bit about the above. But there’s a point — and we’ve finally arrived at it.

Marketers are often challenged with communicating a product or service in a captivating way that reaches precisely the right audience. And sometimes, those products or services are profoundly difficult to describe, or — on the surface at least — kind of boring.

That’s where this immersive data and perspective capture becomes so valuable. Marketers are frequently tasked with proactively answering questions. How does your stuff work? How does it fix things? Why do — and should — your customers come to you?

With a difficult-to-describe product or service, answering those questions with words alone is, simply put, really hard. But now, the data-powered VR technology covered at this keynote can be used to show people the answer, rather than just telling them. 

Source: Intel

Now, you can show people how your stuff works. You can insert them into a virtual experience that immersively demonstrates how you solve problems. As Krzanich put it — marketers are now empowered to create “a perspective that nobody else can provide.”

Cool, huh?

As always, I’m open to your take on these insights. Feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions on Twitter, or follow along for my latest coverage of CES 2018.

Featured image source: Intel

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At #CES2018, Lessons Emerge on Brand Loyalty and a Connected Ecosystem

Today marks the second Media Day of CES 2018, and to kick things off, LG debuted a number of new technologies at this morning’s press conference.

As one might expect, the announcements leaned quite heavily toward Smart Home, with LG’s ecosystem boasting a suite of abilities — many of them AI-powered. There’s the “Smart Service” feature, for instance: the technology that detects potential problems with appliances (like your washer or dryer) and proactively notifies the service center, often fixing the issue before the user even knows there is one.

It was reminiscent, for me, of many of the announcements made in October at the Samsung Developer Conference — the idea of a unified ecosystem (LG’s is called ThinQ) that’s powered by machine learning solutions, all on an open platform. One of the differentiating factors announced today, for example, is LG’s connectivity among home, car, and office: the type of technology that allows, for example, your refrigerator to send a message to your car notifying you if you need to go to the grocery store.

But as I was busy live-tweeting and day-dreaming about filling my home with these oh-so-smart devices, I noticed this:

The flaw, Fowler points out, is the thinking that most consumers exclusively equip their homes with appliances from a single brand. It proposes a world, for example, where you don’t have GE appliances in your kitchen and a Samsung TV (such as yours truly) — you have one, single brand filling your home with everything.

LG did note that users will be able to control IoT devices manufactured by other brands from your refrigerator panel. But there enters the concept of practicality — how often are you in standing directly in front of your fridge when you need to, for example, remotely control any other given device in your home?

Which leads me to another question: Just how far will consumers go when it comes to brand loyalty?

When it comes to the marketer’s job, there are two key takeaways here. The first is to determine how — and to begin, if — your brand is equipped to build such an ecosystem, regardless of your industry. Are your products and services connected to complement each other and work in synergy to enhance the customer or user experience? 

But building a branded ecosystem with the customer in mind is a double-edged sword. Is built in a way, for example, that if the products and services are fragmented — for example, the customer has bought into one piece of the ecosystem, but not the whole thing — the user experience is somehow diminished?

As marketers begin to build upon and work to stay ahead of these emerging trends and technologies — the Internet of Things, voice search, and growing AI-powered capabilities — these are crucial questions to ask until they are answered in a way that, without a doubt, only enhances the user experience, even if they don’t or can’t buy into an entire ecosystem.

That’s not to say I discourage this type of connected thinking — in fact, I still recommend at least thinking about the ways brands and marketers can build a suite of products and services with complementary connectivity at this sort. But as I often emphasize: Do so with the user in mind.

As always, I’m open to your take. Feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions on Twitter — and to see more insights and announcements from CES 2018.

Featured image credit: LG

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Here Are the 7 Top Tech Trends to Watch in 2018, According to CES

The first Media Day of CES 2018 kicked off in Las Vegas today, rich with presentations from exhibitors on what’s to come in tech in the foreseeable — and at times, somewhat distant — future.

But on a higher level, core industry trends and patterns were presented today at the 2018 Tech Trends to Watch session, given by the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) senior manager of market research Lesley Rohrbaugh, as well as senior director of market research Steve Koenig.

I’ll be here all week to bring you the latest announcements from this year’s sessions and events. For now, here’s a look at the trends I anticipate hearing — and learning — all about.

1. 5G

5G is a type of wireless technology that you may have heard about in recent headlines — such as Verizon selecting Samsung as the provider for its 5G commercial launch.

One reason why it’s such a big deal is that it will result in higher wireless speeds, capacities, and lower latency — which generally means that there will be far fewer delays or “technical hesitancies” in some of the things it powers, like wireless VR or autonomous vehicles.

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That benefit is two-fold. Not only does it enrich a user experience when it comes to something like AR or VR by providing higher data rates, but it’s also practical for safety — which is where the latency piece comes in.

As Koenig explains, one of the key pieces of autonomous driving technology safety is the ability for it to independently make operational decisions — quickly, and perhaps more seamlessly than a human driver could.

But just how fast is 5G? During the presentation, the example of a two-hour movie download was used. On a 3G network, for example, that would take 26 hours. On 4G, it would be lowered to six minutes. But on 5G, it’s lowered to 3.6 seconds.

2. Artificial Intelligence

We’ve talked a lot about this one, and it came up in some of the major press events of 2017.

A considerable amount of attention will be paid to the role of AI in digital personal assistants, which plays into the smart home sector. There, AI technology like machine learning lends itself to the ability to recognize user preferences and behavioral patterns.

Smart speakers, for example, were named as some of the heaviest hitters in the CTA’s Consumer Tech Industry Forecast, with a predicted revenue of $3.8 billion (an increase of 93%), and 43.6 million units sold (+60%).

Within this realm, AI also plays a major part in autonomous driving capabilities — especially when it comes to sensory perception (like objects in the vehicle’s path), data processing, and action. That, too, was a key piece in the industry forecast, with $15.9 billion revenue predicted, or 6% growth.

What’s next? Two key things to come were identified, the first being conversations with context — like machines carrying on conversations with humans with better natural language processing, to make it more like the way we speak to each other.

The second is the ability of AI to build trust and reduce bias with users — which, when executed successfully, can help AI systems do things like explain why it makes certain recommendations of actions or content.

3. Robotics

Robotics, in this context, seemed to play the biggest role in consumer electronics — which seems fitting, seeing as CES is largely about the newest technology in that sector.

The speakers seemed to take a particular interest in Kuri, a robot that was described as a “family friend” that can “capture life’s moments automatically using face recognition.” It’s a bit nostalgic of the Google Clips photo technology announced last fall, which boasts allowing users to spend more time in the moment, rather than taking the perfect picture, with similar recognition technology.

The event also shed light on Honda’s robots, which are engineered around what it calls its “3E Philosophy,” built on the pillars of empowerment, experience, and empathy. It reflected a pattern of working to incorporate more empathy into robotics — like Kuri, these would be moving, speaking computers with feelings.

4. Voice: The Fourth Sales Channel

The CTA’s research has shown that one in four shoppers used voice assistants in their holiday shopping during the 2017 season.

Here’s an area where marketers can use the rise in smart speaker sales (and its anticipated continued growth) to their advantage. Voice assistance and technology are becoming larger parts of a brand’s identity — an area of opportunity for those who have not yet begun to leverage it as such.

So, how can marketers do that? I recommend looking into ways to merge your brand with voice assistants and see how you can create content exclusively for that medium — for example, something like building a custom, branded skill for Amazon Echo.

5. Facal Recognition on the Go

From the iPhone X Face ID technology to your car being able to recognize your eyes and nose, our faces are playing a greater role in helping our devices recognize us and capture our preferences — anytime, anywhere. And, it seems, we’re becoming more comfortable with it.

According to the CTA’s research, users have a growing amount of trust in this technology being used for such personal data as medical information. But it’s also often a matter of convenience — as a video shown later in the day by NVIDIA indicated, face recogniton can be used by smart vehicles to recognize its owners for unlocking doors, opening trunks, and more.

All of these patterns are reflected in the anticipated uptick for in-vehicle technology — revenues this year are predicted to reach $15.9 billion, which is a 6% increase.

Source: CTA

6. Virtual Reality

VR isn’t exactly a new trend, but what I’ll be keeping our eyes on is the newest use cases for it.

Content, it’s predicted, is where the most noticeable change and evolution will take place, especially when it comes to creating immersive experiences for brand awareness.

Where once this technology was almost exclusively used to tell a story for the purpose of entertainment, businesses and organizations are now presented with an opportunity to leverage VR for commercial purposes — like shopping, for example, or a deeper look inside what helps a business run and create its products or services.

Augmented Reality (AR) is further working its way into the B2C space, as we enter the era of what was called “AR for all.” There have been several consumer-oriented use cases from brands like Ikea and Wayfair — using the technology for things like home decor — as well as demonstrations on how it enhances a gaming experience from both Apple and Google.

But AR first made a name for itself in the B2B sector — largely for purposes related to trade shows and enhancing information delivery to analysts. And as it continues to grow its presence within the consumer sector, I don’t anticipate it leaving B2B behind. As the technology improves, many of the purposes it was originally used for will also continue to evolve, presenting an opportunity for business-facing marketers.

7. Smart Cities

From self-driving pizza delivery vehicles (seriously — this is a thing) to environment and energy usage, smart cities are where society and technology intersect.

While Smart Cities fill a new enough category that their roles in marketing remain fairly open-ended, they do present an opportunity for brands looking to increase their roles in the community — especially where technology is concerned.

One of the best cases for the growth of Smart Cities, for example, is how they will work to bolster public safety and services — something that cannot happen without the cooperation of the market, organizations, and regional leadership.

By exploring where their own organizations fit into the ecosystem of a Smart Cities, marketers can work ahead of the curve by looking for ways their brands can actively support and contribute to a Smart City, thus playing a larger role in what remains, for now, an emerging trend.

As always, I’m open to your take on these trends. Feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions on Twitter.

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How HubSpot's Pricing Page Redesign Increased MQL Conversions by 165% & Free Sign-Ups by 89%

A few months ago during INBOUND 2017, we launched a complete redesign of HubSpot’s website pricing page. Not because it hadn’t been redesigned in a few years (it hadn’t), but because we saw a big conversion opportunity from a page that had a lot of untapped potential.

And boy, did it pay off. Not only did we increase the number of MQLs the page generated by 165%, but we also increased sign-ups for our free products by 89%.

It’s no small feat to increase free product sign-ups while also increasing the number of people who raise their hand and say they want to talk to our sales team about our premium products. But I’m not really here to brag about numbers (though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t even a little bit proud). I’m here to talk about process.Click here to learn best practices for optimizing landing pages and generating  more leads.

A redesign of a website’s pricing page is typically a huge undertaking that involves a lot of company stakeholders. For us, those stakeholders were web strategy (my team), product marketing, sales operations, legal, pricing and packaging, and localization. And when you have that many opinions involved, it’s easy to cave in and make compromises that A) dilute the overall quality of the work you’re doing, and B) detract from the original goals of your redesign.

So keep reading if you want to learn more about our research behind the redesign, our goals, how we made sure we stuck to those goals during a months-long redesign process with multiple stakeholders, and why we changed what we did. 

Before and After 

You can check out how the old page looked via the Wayback Machine here, and you can find the new page here. Or just take a look at the quick snapshot below … 

Before

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After

hubspot-pricing-page-1.png

The Goals of the Redesign

The pricing page has always stood out to my team as being rife with opportunity. Up until this redesign, it had been built primarily as a sales enablement tool. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s also important to note that the pricing page is the second most visited page on our website — second only to our homepage. As a result, the pricing page generates a lot of really broad traffic from visitors who, compared to the sales reps the page was originally optimized for, have much less knowledge of our products.

This meant we had been neglecting to optimize the page for its primary user: the website visitor. As a result, the pricing page was converting visitors at a poor rate, and given the hefty amount of traffic it generates every month, we hypothesized that we were leaving a whole lot of conversations on the table. So our goals were twofold.

  1. Optimize for conversions. Our pricing page should either drive visitors to sign up for a free product or contact our sales team.
  2. Create a positive user experience. Pricing should be presented in a way that is both transparent and easy for users to understand.

The Research Behind the Design

The new pricing page was launched near the end of September, but we started conducting research to lay the groundwork for the redesign way back in May, and let me tell you: It was extensive. In fact, pretty much every decision we made about every aspect of the redesign — the copy, the layout, the user experience, the design, the conversion events — all of it had roots in some aspect of our research.

Defining Guardrails and Omissions

We compiled our goals and the findings of our research into a slide deck that defined specific guardrails and omissions for the redesign based on the insights we uncovered through our research and discovery phase.

We shared this deck with all the page’s key stakeholders and asked them to sign off on the plan before we got started. This gave us a document to refer back to throughout the redesign process to ensure we were staying true to our goals and sticking to our guardrails.

Here’s a look at the different types of research we conducted and how its insights led to specific changes on the pricing page. 

1. Qualitative Data

First, we analyzed the performance of the existing pricing page from a traffic and conversion perspective.

From this, we learned that people on the pricing page preferred to pick up the phone and give us a call, which led to our decision to feature the sales phone number more prominently in the new design.

We also learned that pricing page users were actively clicking between the pricing for our different products (the Marketing Hub, the Sales Hub, and HubSpot CRM), so we made the navigation between products even more prominent so users could move freely from one product’s pricing to another’s.

quantitative-data.png

 

2. Pre-Testing of Calls-to-Action (CTAs)

In the months leading up to the redesign, we also did some A/B testing to inform our pricing page’s conversion strategy. Historically, the CTAs for the paid products on our pricing page had always linked to our contact sales landing page. But those CTAs had a really poor conversion rate, so we tested them against a demo CTA that led to our demo landing page instead.

While the demo CTAs generated a higher volume of conversions, the data showed that the contact sales CTAs would ultimately result in more customers (due to the higher close rate of contact sales conversions). This informed our decision to keep that contact sales conversion on the new page.

To inform our CTA copy decisions, we ran an additional CTA copy test (“Contact Sales” vs. “Talk to Sales”) and saw a 46% increase in clickthrough rate with the use of the “Talk to Sales” copy, which we therefore implemented in the redesign.

talk-to-sales-1.png

 

3. Chat Transcripts

We also reviewed transcripts of the chat conversations that were happening on the pricing page to determine the common questions users were asking while they were on the page.

From this, we learned that people were often skeptical that the CRM was truly free, which led to our decision to incorporate copy on the CRM pricing page to directly address that concern.

We also learned that people were confused by the contact tier pricing for the Marketing Hub, so we incorporated a slider that shows users how purchasing additional contacts directly impacts their pricing, and also added a tooltip to explain to users what “contacts” are.

Lastly, we learned that because we had only been displaying pricing for our Marketing Basic, Professional, and Enterprise plans on our main pricing page (with pricing for our free and Starter plans living on an entirely separate, fairly hidden page), the $200 Marketing Basic price tag gave a lot of visitors sticker shock. This supported our decision to incorporate pricing for our free and Starter plans (and sign-up CTAs for our free marketing tools) into the core pricing page to prevent users from disqualifying themselves based on cost alone, and from getting scared away before getting started with our software.

chat-transcript-changes.png

 

4. Interviews With HubSpot Sales Managers & Reps

Knowing that the pricing page is still an important tool for our sales team, we interviewed sales managers and reps alike to gather their feedback on the old pricing page — what they liked and didn’t like, what was working for and against them, and what other opportunities they saw for the upcoming redesign.

From this, we learned that we weren’t putting enough emphasis on the customer support we have — and that customers see it as just as valuable as any other software feature. This led to our decision to include customer support in the page’s feature grid, and to dedicate an entire section of the page to highlighting our various customer support options for paying customers.

We also learned that pricing page users need help determining which particular plan is right for them, and that we should make pricing transparent enough for users to understand what they get with each plan, but also intricate enough that users need diagnostic and prescriptive help from a sales rep. So we updated the copy for the descriptions that go along with each plan to help users more easily self-identify which one is right for them. We also used the copy positioned next to the the sales phone number to communicate to users that the best way to determine the right plan is to talk to a salesperson directly.

sales-feedback.png

 

5. Qualitative User Testing

Furthermore, we conducted user testing on the old pricing page to understand what was already working, and where it fell short.

In addition to further validating insights from some of our other forms of research (e.g. the sticker shock of the Marketing Hub, the confusing contact tier pricing, the oversight of not featuring our customer support services more prominently, users’ difficulty in determining which plan is right for them, and the need for the easy navigation between pricing for different products), we also learned about the elements of the old pricing page that were particularly important to users: transparent pricing, a pricing calculator component, and the ability to easily compare plans.

In addition, we learned that users were having a difficult time comparing the value between different plans, and we discovered that the page’s cognitive load was high. In other words, there was too much information on the page for users to process at once, and they were suffering from information overload.

This led to our decisions to use expandable modules on certain parts of the page to reduce cognitive load, and to redesign the feature comparison table into something that A) was simplified and more easily digestible, and B) made it easier for users to compare the value between plans — the feature grid we have today.

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6. Competitive Analysis

Pulling primarily from the Montclare SAAS 250 list of the most successful SAAS companies, we also spent time gathering examples of other companies’ pricing pages, analyzed the pros and cons of each approach, and drew inspiration from the pieces we liked.

This helped us validate that the new SKU/plan navigation we were planning to implement (to enable users to easily toggle between pricing plans and compare the available features) was a smart direction.

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7. Building for a Scalable Future

My team keeps testing road maps for many of the core, heavy-hitting pages on our website. Here, we document all the tests we’d like to run and the insights from research we’ve done to come up with those testing ideas — all organized into a timeline of what we should test first.

So as part of the redesign, we sat down with HubSpot Chief Strategy Officer Brad Coffey so we could design a pricing page that would easily scale with, adapt to, and align with our potential business strategy.

Evaluating the Results of the Redesign

After the redesigned page went live, we repeated a lot of the research above to check in on how the new page was performing.

We’ve already mentioned that the redesign led to 165% more hand-raisers and 89% more free users in the month after the redesign (9/27/17 – 10/24/17) compared to the month prior (8/29/17 – 9/25/17), but we also conducted user testing and solicited feedback from our sales team on the new design. Here’s a summary of the feedback we gathered and the ways we’re acting on it.

Feedback From User Testing

From user testing, we learned that the new pricing page design is strong — users intuitively use much of the design, and it’s easy for them to understand what they’d be getting from each pricing plan.

Users also commented that the conversion events on the page seemed well-balanced and not intrusive. They said the CTAs throughout the page to talk to Sales, call us, and chat with us weren’t overly aggressive; they were actually helpful!

We also identified some room for improvement, and learned that there were some small design and copy tweaks we could implement to improve the user experience even further still, which we’ve been following up on.

Feedback From the Sales Team

In addition to users, we also solicited feedback from our sales team, who identified a few updates we could make to the design to make our pricing even more transparent and user-friendly to prospects.

As a result, for example, we made the pricing page URL dynamic so it  changes based on a user’s selections in the pricing calculator. This made it much easier for sales reps to share specific pricing configurations with prospects, who could in turn share those configurations with other decision-makers in their company.

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Design Based on Insights

Our redesign wasn’t successful by chance, and none of the changes we made were made on a whim. All of the decisions we made (the copy, the layout, the user experience, the design, the conversion events) were strategic and deliberate, rooted in insights we learned from some aspect of our research. 

The lesson is this: When you test and design based on insights you’ve learned from real research, that’s how you generate real results.

So if you’re considering a redesign, make sure there is a real, data-backed reason for doing it, and do your due diligence to identify which parts of your design are failing (and why) so you know exactly what to fix and how to fix it. Redesigns are a time-consuming, and often expensive, undertaking, so you’ll want to do your best to make sure the results were worth the effort. 

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