5 Marketing Plan Examples to Help You Write Your Own

You did it.

You’ve been spearheading your organization’s content marketing efforts for a while now, and your team’s performance has convinced your boss to fully adopt content marketing.

There’s one small problem, though: your boss wants you to write and present a content marketing plan to her, but you’ve never done something like that before. You don’t even know where to start.

Fortunately, we’ve curated the best content marketing plans to help you write a concrete marketing plan that’s rooted in data and produces real results.

Read on to get inspired by some of marketing’s top content strategies.

5 Marketing Plan Examples to Help You Write Your Own 1. Shane Snow’s Marketing Plan for His Book Dream Team

A successful book launch is a prime example of data-driven content marketing. Using data to optimize your content strategy spreads more awareness for your book, gets more people to subscribe to your content, converts more subscribers into buyers, and encourages more buyers to recommend your book to their friends.

When Shane Snow started promoting his new book Dream Team, he knew he had to leverage a data-driven content strategy framework. So he chose his favorite one: the content strategy waterfall, which is defined by Economic Times as a model used to create a system with a linear and sequential approach. To get a better idea of what this means, take a look at the diagram below:

Snow wrote a blog post about how the content strategy waterfall helped him successfully launch his new book. After reading it, you can use his tactics to inform your own marketing plan. More specifically, you’ll learn how he:

Applied his business objectives to decide which marketing metrics to track. Used his ultimate business goal of earning $200,000 of sales or 10,000 purchases to estimate the conversion rate of each stage of his funnel. Created buyer personas to determine which channels his audience would prefer to consume his content on. Used his average post view on each of his marketing channels to estimate how much content he had to create and how often he had to post on social media. Calculated how much earned and paid media could cut down the amount of content he had to create and post. Designed his process and workflow, built his team, and assigned members to tasks. Analyzed content performance metrics to refine his overall content strategy.

You can use Snow’s marketing plan to cultivate a better content strategy plan, know your audience better, and think outside the box when it comes to content promotion and distribution.

2. Buffer’s Content Marketing Strategy Template

Writing a content plan is challenging, especially if you’ve never written one before. Since only 55% of marketing teams have a documented content strategy, Buffer decided to help out the content marketing community.

By sifting through countless content marketing strategy templates and testing the best, they crafted a content marketing plan template with instructions and examples for marketers who’ve never documented their content strategy.

After reading Buffer’s marketing plan template, you’ll learn how to:

Answer four basic questions that’ll help you form a clear executive summary. Set SMART content marketing goals. Create highly accurate audience personas by interviewing real content strategists. Solve your audience’s problems with your content. Do competitive research by analyzing your competitors’ and industry thought leaders’ content. Evaluate your existing content strategy by examining the topics and themes of your highest and lowest performing pieces. Determine which types of new content to craft, based on your team’s ability and bandwidth. Establish an editorial calendar. Develop a promotional workflow.

Buffer’s template is an incredibly thorough step-by-step guide, with examples for each section. The audience persona section, for example, has case studies of real potential audience personas like “Blogger Brian”. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process of creating a marketing guide, this can help ease you into it. 

3. Contently’s Content Plan

Contently’s content methodology works like a flywheel. Instead of applying an entirely new strategy to each new marketing campaign, they leverage the strategy of their previous marketing campaign to drive the next one. Similar to a flywheel, their content methodology needs an initial push of energy to get the gears in motion.

What supplies this energy? Their content plan.

Contently fleshed out their entire content plan in a blog post to help marketers develop a self-sustaining marketing process. After reading it, you’ll learn how to:

Align your content objectives and KPIs with your business goals. Create highly detailed buyer personas using psychographics instead of traditional demographics. Craft content for each stage of your marketing funnel, based off your prospects’ pain and passion points. Identify your most effective marketing channels. Discover the content topics your audience actually craves. Assess your organization’s need for resources.

By applying a flywheel-like strategy to your own marketing efforts, you essentially take away the burden of applying new strategies to each individual marketing campaign. Instead, your prior efforts gain momentum over time, and dispel continual energy into whatever you publish next.

4. Forbes’ Marketing Plan Template

An oldie, but a goodie — Forbes published a marketing plan template that has amassed almost four million views since late 2013. To help you sculpt a marketing roadmap with true vision, their template teaches you how to fill out the 15 key sections of a marketing plan, which are:

Executive Summary Target Customers Unique Selling Proposition Pricing & Positioning Strategy Distribution Plan Your Offers Marketing Materials Promotions Strategy Online Marketing Strategy Conversion Strategy Joint Ventures & Partnerships Referral Strategy Strategy for Increasing Transaction Prices Retention Strategy Financial Projections

If you’re truly lost on where to start with a marketing plan, this guide can help you define your target audience, figure out how to reach them, and ensure that audience becomes loyal customers.

5. HubSpot’s Comprehensive Guide for Content Marketing Strategy

At HubSpot, we’ve built our marketing team from two business school graduates working from a coffee table to a powerhouse of over 200 employees. Along the way, we’ve learned countless lessons that’ve shaped our current content marketing strategy, so we decided to illustrate our insights in a blog post to teach marketers how to develop a successful content marketing strategy, regardless of their team’s size.

In this comprehensive guide for modern marketers, you’ll learn:

What exactly content marketing is. Why your business needs a content marketing strategy. Who should lead your content marketing efforts. How to structure your content marketing team, based on your company’s size. How to hire the right people for each role on your team. What marketing tools and technology you’ll need to succeed. What type of content your team should create, and which employees should be responsible for creating them. The importance of distributing your content through search engines, social media, email, and paid ads. And finally, the recommended metrics each of your teams should measure and report to optimize your content marketing program.

These marketing plans serve as initial resources to get your content marketing plan started — but to truly deliver what your audience wants and needs, you’ll likely need to test some different ideas out, measure their success, and then refine your goals as you go.

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Here's How AI Will Pull Content Marketing Back From the Brink of Destruction

Hemingway tried to warn us.

“All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

And bleed we shall.

Because we’ve created a monster that’s bent on ruining the content marketing that was once the saving grace in our long journey toward self-destruction.

“There is a content monster, and it’s tearing apart content marketing. Monsters are creatures that are out of control, that don’t respond to reason or logic, that just are; with no purpose.”

You know what’s even scarier?

Almost everyone is doing content marketing. Yet, less than half of B2B marketers feel their efforts are performing better than “meh.”

Source

We’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn things around.

If what Seth Godin said about content marketing being the only marketing we have left is true, we’d better grab it.

Artificial intelligence is here, and it might pull content marketing back from the brink of destruction — if we’ll just let it.

When I say AI will save content marketing, you might jump at the thought of getting some of your most time-consuming tasks — like that whole writing thing — off your plate.

Not so fast.

Quality content isn’t something that can be completely automated just yet. But it can be augmented.

Some chatbots are already smart enough to put tons of relevant data at our fingertips as quickly as we’re able to make a query.

Take GrowthBot that is used by over +12K marketers today. It talks to over a dozen systems and APIs to bring some of these cool, useful features:

And yes, it is true that AI can write entire blogs. In fact, it already has. You might have read one without even knowing it.

Associated Press already uses AI to create stat-heavy sport and finance write-ups.

Engadget mixed a million words and a few rules to create a “Blogbot” that spit out a complete, though drab, tech announcement.

The rear-facing camera is a 12-megapixel unit, which is lower resolution than most sensors in this price range, but Samsung claims it takes great pictures anyway thanks to its larger pixels and fast autofocus.

Can you believe a robot wrote that? Probably.

As far as coherence and creativity, this is the outer limit for AI.

These current limitations might actually be a good thing, considering that a deluge of content isn’t exactly working.

What is working is quality. Quality content gives the reader a unique experience. Quality content meets both your objectives and theirs.

Quality content is epic.

“Content volume is important. Enterprise organizations need lots of content in many different forms and multiple channels. But quality cannot be sacrificed. To break through the clutter, content must be epic.”

— Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute

Can AI create epic content? Not yet.

But it can go a long way in helping you research, edit, and maintain extremely valuable content marketing.

Source

Remember Clippy, the paper clip the world loved to hate?

It might not have been self-aware, or all that helpful, but it heralded a future for content marketing that Vedant Misra, founder of machine-learning company Kemvi, dreams of:

“Machines will help us produce content. Machines will suggest assets to include in the content you’re making, or subsets of content to include. Executive control will remain with creators, but the ideation and production process will become increasingly automated. Think Clippy the Microsoft Office Assistant, but with a much bigger brain.”

While that dream isn’t yet fully realized, a shape is starting to form that looks a lot like a life raft rescuing us from drowning in content.

AI-enabled tools can examine trends to tell you what content each and every one of your readers wants to read. And they can tell them what to read based on their behavior and tons of other data.

But can they help develop that epic reading material from scratch?

Actually, yeah.

Take for example Atomic AI.

Once given enough data about the target audience for your story (or email, or whatever), the smart program will calculate readability to give you customized, predictive recommendations in real time.

Source

That, of course, is only the first step.

If there’s one thing AI excels in over humankind, it’s making sense of data.

AI-enabled platforms deduce behavioral patterns from a number of inputs that would take us years to organize, much less understand.

Better yet, they can tell you how to act on this knowledge.

“By analyzing hundreds of data points about a single user (including location, demographics, device, interaction with the website, etc.), AI can display the best-fitting offers and content.”
Content Marketing Institute

Once you have the perfectly-personalized content in hand; an intelligent system can tell you when, where, and how often you should be publishing and sharing it for maximum impact.

Then the whole cycle starts over again with smart recommendations on which topics your audience is interested in based on how they’ve interacted with your content.

Source

The implications go well beyond simply crafting epic blog posts.

Evergage and Researchscape International found that 70 percent of organizations surveyed said email was the most important marketing channel to personalize.

Luckily for those respondents, AI makes it easier than ever to actually personalize email content based on the stuff subscribers care about.

No more yelling into the void.

Source

User experience and conversion rate optimization can also benefit from intelligent personalization.

An AI-enabled platform allows you to serve the perfect content and products throughout a user’s experience, increasing the likelihood of a conversion while keeping the churn rate low.

AI will deliver us from crappy copy by making it obsolete.
I like to think we haven’t done things completely wrong as content marketers. Maybe we’ve done too good of a job.

Too much content with too little intelligence is crushing us under its weight.
Consumers have shown us they want extreme value. They want relevance. They expect the perfect solution at the perfect time.

They want epic content marketing.

We need a little help cutting through the chatter. The most powerful tool we have to reach epic status is AI that augments our natural skills.

Artificial intelligence isn’t replacing content marketers, it’s working alongside us.

Afterall, Hemingway told us “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Let’s see a machine do that.

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How to Design a Logo [Step-by-Step Guide]

I think most of us can agree there are generic logos in the world that we easily forget, and then there are great logos that we’ll always be able to recognize (even without the brand’s name attached).

But what is it about a logo that makes you recognize it? What is it about the design that can elicit a memory or even a specific emotion?

If you’re in the process of creating a logo for your company, you’re in a unique position to make a powerful impact on how consumers perceive your brand.

Everything you do, say, and, display as part of your new business will tell your prospects more about your company’s identity. It’s vital to ensure from the beginning that you present a cohesive and clear statement regarding your company’s message.

And while a logo may seem quite simple to create, designing a great one isn’t always easy. It involves a lot of market research, a deep knowledge of your buyer personas, and thoughtful consideration of the principles of logo design. Often, designers find themselves creating many iterations of a single logo before getting it “just right.”

So, where do you even begin to design a logo? Right here. We’ve broken down the nine key steps (with a few tips thrown in) you’ll need to take to create a logo that not only you love, but your prospects will too.

How to Design a Logo for Free Start With Your Story Brainstorm Words That Describe Your Brand Sketch Ideas Based on These Words Test Your Top Sketches With Your Buyer Persona Refine Your Chosen Sketch Develop Your Logo’s Layout on a Free Design Platform Pick Versatile Color Options Choose a Font Ensure Scalability How to Design a Business, Company, or Personal Logo 1. Start With Your Story

Companies are created to make money — it’s not the most poetic statement, but it’s the one you need to start with. And in order to make a profitable business, you need to be able to sell yourself just as well as your product. Marketers today tend to agree that buyers connect much more strongly to stories than they do to the basic facts of your product. What does this mean to you? There needs to be some story in your logo.

Before you even think about what this logo will look like, take some time asking yourself what the story behind your company is. When we look at Coca-Cola, we don’t see a brown, carbonated beverage — we see polar bears and thick, white script letters.

Image via Coca-Cola

Step outside of what your company does and convey why you do it. That “why” is the root of your story, and it should come through in the color, shape, and typeface of your logo. If your logo were the title of a movie, what would it look like?

2. Brainstorm Words That Describe Your Brand

Now that you have your story, it’s time to take your logo draft from story to setting. Open Thesaurus.com and enter a term that best describes your product into the search bar.

For example, if you’re in the clothing industry, you might simply type in “clothing.” You’d be surprised by how descriptive the synonyms are that appear. You can even click these results to start new searches and dig deeper as you zero in on the words that best capture your brand.

Image via Thesaurus.com

Find five to 10 words that describe not only what you do, but the why from the previous step. Each of these words can fit like pieces in a puzzle and help guide you to refining a concept.

3. Sketch Ideas Based on These Words

Armed with your why and a few keywords for direction, grab a pencil and paper and start sketching every idea that comes into your head. Allow each new concept to evolve on its own. Don’t get frustrated if the first few aren’t right — keep refining, using previous sketches to influence the outcome of new ones. You might focus these sketches on a shape, the name of your brand, or both.

As you’re sketching the concepts for your logo, keep these tips in mind:

Keep the shape simple. If you can sketch the most symbolic components in seven seconds or less, you’re in good shape. You should absolutely avoid any popular clip-art artwork or generic symbols like a globe, star, or similar icons that people too easily identify from other places. These are easily forgotten at first glance. The more creative you are at this stage, the better your final logo. Your logo is what your consumers will remember the most. Be honest in this artwork. Colors can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. You need to include color with your logo, but be selective on which colors you use. Be mindful of current color trends already being used today and in your target market. As a general rule, don’t choose more than three colors. Choose a color or group of colors that will make you stand out from your competition. But please, for the love of marketing, don’t use the whole rainbow! 4. Test Your Top Sketches With Your Buyer Persona

Once you’ve got a handful of different sketches on paper, take a step back and pick the top three concepts. Don’t think too hard about this — consider the designs your eyes keep going back to, and select them to show to others.

Share these drafts with your friends, family members, and a colleague you trust. If possible, bring these sketches to someone who best fits your buyer persona — or your ideal customer profile. This gives you the most productive opinion on your artwork because it can indicate how customers will receive your brand — not just the people close to you.

Be prepared for honest feedback and don’t take any negative comments personally. These criticisms will only make your final logo better. Use their feedback to select one final concept to develop into a design.

5. Refine Your Chosen Sketch

Congratulations, you’re well on your way to having an awesome logo! Once you’ve identified a sketch to run with, it’s time to refine it and perfect the story you started with in Step 1.

To begin refining your logo, look back at the terms you identified when you first used Thesaurus.com in Step 2. Now look at your chosen sketch and ask yourself: Which terms does this sketch not yet capture? Use them to develop your sketch further, and add back the traits you liked best about the designs you didn’t end up choosing for refinement.

6. Develop Your Logo’s Layout on a Free Design Platform

Now, it’s time to get technical and turn your paper drawing into a usable digital format. To bring this design to life, you have many free design platforms available to recreate your sketch in digital format. Here are a few free solutions:

The platforms above can help you put your sketched logo in digital format, but bringing your concept to life for a business audience requires a bit of technical direction. One of the most important things to get right is the layout. Make sure all of your text and shapes are perfectly spaced and the logo itself is aligned with its surroundings. 

Your logo doesn’t have to be symmetrical, but it should be aligned in different contexts. Chances are, you will encounter situations when your logo sits against different vertical and horizontal borders, and it should appear even with these surroundings no matter how you might repurpose your logo and where you might publish it.

7. Pick Versatile Color Options

Your logo’s color scheme might look great against the color of the canvas on which you designed it, but eventually, your logo will be placed on backgrounds whose colors you didn’t start with.

Let’s revisit our Coca-Cola example from Step 1. As you can see below, the company’s logo can work across any colored can it sells.

Image by Jay Moye

Always be sure to have logo color variations for both dark and light backgrounds. That might mean only having to change the color of your font. Or, in some cases, you might have to change the color of your entire logo.

Create one of each option to make sure you’re prepared when ordering promotional products that will display your logo. T-shirts, stickers, notepads, and coffee mugs are just a few of the many items for which you’ll have different color variations of your logo.

8. Choose a Font

This is the time to combine text with imagery. If you’re chosen sketch is primarily a shape or symbol, rather than text, begin to factor in the written name of your company. Consider the typeface this text will carry if your company name ever stands on its own without the symbol.

Believe it or not, your font choice can say a lot about your business. You can choose

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This Strategy Helped the HubSpot Blog Break a Year-Long Traffic Plateau

Presiding over a 10+ year old blog has a lot of unique challenges. There are some days when it seems like we’ve covered all there is to cover, and others when it doesn’t seem like we can possibly keep up with changing trends and technologies fast enough.

From where you sit, it might seem like we’ve figured it all out — we’re one of the largest and most visited B2B blogs on the internet, we have a team of extremely talented and motivated staff writers, and we still manage to find new stories you want to read on a daily basis.

But growth doesn’t just happen — you have to work at it, and then keep working at it.

There isn’t one magical strategy that will keep your blog growing forever. Your approach needs to constantly evolve to fit your changing needs as a property.

When I joined the HubSpot Blog team in 2016, our editorial strategy looked drastically different than it does now.

About once a month, our entire team would gather in a conference room for a brainstorm session. Armed with coffee and spreadsheets full of topic pitches, we’d spend a few hours going around the room, discussing what we wanted to cover for the month. At the end of the meeting, we’d leave with a solid list of articles to get started on.

For a long time, this process served our interests well. Our team developed a keen sense of what our audience wanted to read, and an extensive knowledge of what we’d already covered. But as our property grew and our audience expanded, it became clear that something was missing.

We could no longer manage our archives and identify topic gaps (areas we haven’t yet covered on the blog) by gut feeling alone. Although we had some processes in place to pinpoint gaps and select pieces for historical optimization on an article-by-article basis, none of these methods were scalable or precise enough to keep up with what our readers were searching for — and those issues starting catching up with us.

Rediscovering our momentum meant completely changing the way we plan, write, and optimize content. In March 2018, we started to see the impact of these changes: a new all-time traffic record across our three blogs — Marketing, Sales, and Service — and a renewed sense of purpose for the future. After months of traffic plateaus and uncertainty, we know where we’re headed now — and we’re ready to share our new strategy with you.

The Blog Traffic Plateau of 2017

I won’t sugarcoat it: 2017 was a tough year to be a blogger. Between 2014 and 2016, we’d become accustomed to seeing month-over-month traffic growth without regularly switching up our strategy. When 2017 hit, that line started to flatten out, and then — even more alarming — decline. And it wasn’t just us — Unbounce, Wordstream, and WordPress all saw some form of traffic decrease in 2017.

Traffic to the HubSpot Blog 2014 – 2017

To say we were confused would be an understatement. Up to this point, we thought we’d perfected the formula for sustainable traffic growth: Traffic from existing posts in organic search + new traffic from new posts = steadily increasing traffic, forever … right?

It turns out it wasn’t nearly that simple. Our usual protocol for fixing a slump — changing publishing volume, leaning into more clickable topics, historically optimizing a handful of our heavy-hitting posts — wasn’t having a significant impact. This downward trend wasn’t just a temporary dip in our numbers — it was starting to look like the new normal.

So we did what any good content marketing team would do, and cracked open our reporting dashboards to take a deeper look. Unfortunately, what we discovered after many hours of analysis and many coffees consumed wasn’t comforting. Much like the factors behind the mysterious decline of the bee population, there seemed to be multiple culprits converging to create a disaster.

We’d gone looking for a single root cause, and found several macro trends instead:

1. Social algorithms (and users) love native content.

Social media has long been a (relatively) dependable distribution channel for digital publishers, but recent algorithm changes across multiple social networks increasingly favor native content over links that take users off site. The shift makes perfect sense from the social networks’ perspectives — they want users to spend as much time as possible on their network — but it hurts publishers who depend on social traffic.

2. Conversational search is constantly improving.

Google has gotten a lot better at understanding the intent behind a specific query, and as a result, they’re able to serve up extremely relevant pieces of content to meet your exact query. This is great news if you regularly use a home assistant device, but bad news if you’re a publisher looking to capture organic traffic from multiple long-tail keywords with a single, comprehensive piece of content.

Back in 2012, a post on “The Best Interview Questions” might have appeared as a top result in searches for “great interview questions,” “interview questions to ask an interviewer,” and “what questions to ask during an interview.” But in 2018, those long-tail search queries are more likely to result in entirely different SERPs with entirely different top results. This means many of our “ultimate guides” started ranking for fewer long-tail keywords, resulting in organic traffic losses on some of our most highly-trafficked pieces.

3. Featured snippets and other on-page search features are taking a toll on CTR from SERPs.

You’re probably familiar with Google’s featured snippets: those short lists or paragraphs that appear at the top of a SERP and (usually) directly address your query. In addition to featured snippets, there are also a number of other on-page search features that push a piece of content ranking number one even further down your screen.

While these quick answers have certainly made the search experience faster for users, they’re eating our organic traffic — even on SERPs where we hold the number one organic result. People don’t have any reason to click through to a blog post (even if it’s ranking number one) if the answer they’re seeking is already on the top of the SERP. As a result, fewer users are clicking on the number one organic result. Ahrefs found that on SERPs without a featured snippet, the top result received 26% of clicks. When a featured snippet appeared on the SERP, the top result received only 19.6% of clicks.

None of these were things we could fix with a band-aid solution. These shifts called for a massive overhaul of our editorial strategy, and a completely new way of approaching blogging in general.

Our New Editorial Strategy

While these trends were scary for the future of our blog, they weren’t entirely surprising. We’d been aware for a while that future-proofing for Google algorithm changes meant restructuring our site architecture. Back in late 2016, Leslie Ye had begun the tedious and challenging work of transitioning the blog’s internal linking system into a pillar-cluster model. This move was intended to give us an organized way to understand our content gaps, and a cleaner architecture to help posts rank faster and bring in more organic traffic.

Thanks to a blog redesign project (headed up by Carly Stec) that automated this pillar-clustering process across the entire blog, our 10,000+ posts were neatly sorted into the pillar-cluster model by mid-2017. But our process for planning and writing new content hadn’t fully adjusted to work optimally within this new system. We had a much better understanding of where our content gaps were, but we weren’t filling these gaps systematically — we were still largely guessing when it came to the topics we should be writing about on a monthly basis.

We were also suffering from a lack of foresight: we weren’t planning for the search terms that would be popular a few years or even a few months into the future. This left room for other blogs and publications to capture organic green space that would be essential to our sustained growth down the line.

With this in mind, we made the decision to focus all our efforts behind stabilizing and growing our organic traffic. If our existing content was slowly but surely losing clicks to featured snippets in search, and our new content wasn’t consistently earning as much traffic from promotional channels like social, we needed to offset those losses. And that meant zeroing in on organic green space in a big way.

This led us to create three guidelines we now use to determine what net new content we create:

Does this topic have search volume, or will have search volume in the future? Does it fit into our pillar-cluster model? Is it duplicative (is there a piece of content on this topic that already exists)?

If no one is searching for a topic, and we don’t anticipate the search demand to grow in the foreseeable

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7 Expert Cover Letter Tips to Get the Job

Here’s a hard truth: your cover letter might have almost no impact on whether or not you get hired. A hiring manager might gloss over it, or not bother reading it at all.

But under certain circumstances when a recruiter is unsure if she wants to move forward with you, it counts big-time.

Cover letters are important regardless of the size of the company, but can be used differently depending on the company’s recruitment goals.

Madeline Mann, Director of People Operations at Gem HQ, says cover letters are crucial if you’re applying for a position at a small-to-medium company: “For us little guys — the companies who hire dozens instead of hundreds; the start-ups looking to change the world with team members who are equal parts talented and passionate; the tribes where each new person immediately sends ripples through the culture — we read every cover letter, and make our interview decisions based on them.”

Even if you’re applying for a position at a larger corporation, writing a cover letter is still important. Our recruiters at HubSpot have said they often use cover letters when they’re on the fence about a candidate. They use the cover letter to decide if they’ll move forward.

Claire McCarthy, a recruiter at HubSpot, says a cover letter is, “your opportunity to showcase your business acumen and written communication skills. Cover letters can just as much disqualify you as a candidate as they can sway me to move you forward.”

At the very least, as Jodi Glickman, a communications expert and author of Great on the Job, points out: “Not sending a cover letter is a sign of laziness. It’s akin to making spelling and grammar mistakes in your resume. You just don’t do it.”

Ultimately, a cover letter differentiates you from other candidates beyond the content of your resume. It can prove your enthusiasm for a company, showcase how well you’ll fit into the culture, or explain gaps in your resume.

But that’s only if you write a good cover letter. Otherwise, the cover letter wastes your time, and the hiring manager’s time. To ensure your cover letter demonstrates exactly why you’re an exceptional fit, we’ve compiled powerful tips from experts in the recruiting and career development field.

1. Address the hiring manager personally.

Claire McCarthy, a recruiter at HubSpot, says, “Specificity is key. I can spot a generic ‘fill in the blank with company name’ cover letter from a mile away.” That specificity should start early, with an appropriately addressed letter, which says, “To [Hiring Manager’s Name].”

Here are a few ways to find out who is hiring for a certain position:

Reach out to any contacts you have at the company and see if they can tell you. Email or call the company, and ask who is hiring for position X. Do some sleuthing on LinkedIn or Google. Type in [hiring manager + company X] and see what you find.

At the very least, you’ll want to address “The Hiring Team” instead of “To whom it may concern.”

These little touches go a long way towards proving you’ve put genuine effort into this cover letter, and aren’t simply sending out generic ones to every company you find online.

2. Stand out from the start, and don’t fall back on a generic introduction.

John Lees, a UK-based career strategist and author of Knockout CV, told Harvard Business Review: “People typically write themselves into the letter with ‘I’m applying for X job that I saw in Y place.’ That’s a waste of text.”

Your cover letter introduction is your one shot to capture the hiring manager’s attention and ensure they don’t throw it away. No pressure, right?

Claire McCarthy seconds Lees’ point, explaining that as a recruiter, she already knows you want the job — it’s why you applied, isn’t it? She urges candidates to instead use the introduction as space to explain why you’re qualified.

Start off by saying something direct, dynamic, and persuasive. Lees suggests saying something like this: “Before you read any further, let me draw your attention to two reasons why you might want to hire me …” See? This sentence sets you up to share critical information the recruiter needs to read early on.

The exact contents of your introduction will vary depending on what you know of the company culture: a tech start-up, for instance, could invite a more candid or creative introduction, whereas a financial position probably deserves more stiff professionalism. You’ll need to do your research to ensure your tone fits their brand.

3. Address gaps in your resume — or risk seeming suspicious.

No one has a completely linear career path. Most employers won’t fault you for having career setbacks or gaps, but it’ll look suspicious if you’ve got a full six-months unemployment on your resume and can’t explain it.

Bart Turczynski, a career expert and editor for Uptowork.com, suggests using your cover letter as a chance to fill in those gaps in your resume that could otherwise raise an eyebrow.

Turczynski says, “use the cover letter to share what you did during that gap time. Think of any courses, [or] workshops you might have attended in that period.”

It’s likely if you don’t address it, a recruiter is going to be skeptical of your work ethic. It’s important you explain what you learned or how you pursued professional growth during an unemployment period. If you took off time to travel after college, you don’t have to hide it — own up to your own life story and explain how the opportunity to travel positioned you to be more successful, long-term.

4. Answer the three critical questions a hiring manager might ask herself.

Jenny Foss, Founder and CEO of JobJenny.com, writes three questions hiring managers will be looking to answer when they read cover letters:

Can he or she do this job? Do we like him or her? Do we think he or she is going to fit around here?

Your resume partially answers the first question, but it doesn’t answer the second or third. When you’re up against plenty of people with similar skill sets, your cover letter needs to convince the hiring manager you’ll be the better fit than the rest of the pile.

First, do extensive research on the company’s culture. In your cover letter, you want to try to match their tone — do they come across as goofy, relaxed, fast-paced, or conservative?

For instance, if the company seems incredibly results-driven from their About Us page, you might adjust your tone to reflect how focused and disciplined you are, with points like, “Over the past year as digital marketing manager at Company A, I’ve generated $30k+ in revenue, increased organic traffic to our blog by 14% …”

However, if the company seems more playful and relaxed, you might use a tone that sounds similarly fun-loving (check out 8 Impressive Ways to Start a Cover Letter, with Examples for some ideas).

Answering Foss’s question two — whether you’re likeable — is harder to address. It’s often difficult to come across as likeable through digital correspondence, but you want to be authentic and use friendly and respectful phrases.

For instance, you could convey a general good-naturedness via email correspondence, with phrases such as, “At your earliest convenience,” “Have a great weekend” and, “I look forward to hearing from you,” etc. Stay clear of sounding pushy or frustrated, and remain humble by focusing on past achievements (“I’m a fast learner … I got two promotions in seven months”), rather than sounding boisterous (“I’ve always been smart.”).

5. Don’t waste time repeating the contents of your resume.

Wasting a recruiter’s time by repeating information already on your resume is an easy way to lose their interest — plus, it’s depleting space you could be using to convince them you’re the most qualified candidate.

Vicki Salemi, a Monster career expert, says, “Recruiters are looking for a cover letter that highlights your professional achievements, like the fact that you got promoted two times in three years, you earned a coveted award within your industry and/or you possess a unique skill set. Think of it as a ‘best-of’ roundup of your career so far.”

Notice Salemi mentioned professional achievements such as promotions or awards: while those achievements might be listed on your resume, they aren’t explained or highlighted. Use your cover letter as a chance to explain more in-depth.

For instance, your resume might say “Event planner, Two years”. But your cover letter could take it a step further: “I dealt with the nuts and bolts of the event planning process, and I have increased my leadership skills and my teamwork skills exponentially. I increased event retention and was recognized as the ‘event planner of the year’ at my company.”

See? Your cover letter lets you provide critical background details about your experiences, showcasing how you’ve learned and grown from past roles.

6. Prove your values and passions align with the company’s.

Passion is a major indicator

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How to Make a Meme That Will Make People Cry (With Laughter)

Success Kid. Old Spice Man. Rage Comics. These days, memes are spreading like wildfire all over the internet, and clever marketers are jumping on the opportunity to use these viral pieces of content to their advantage.

And honestly, who doesn’t love a good meme? They’re funny, clever, and great for social sharing. As a marketer, “memejacking” — or hijacking popular memes to describe a certain situation — can be a great way to create fun, engaging marketing content that shows off your brand’s personality and likability.

And we could always use some more content. In fact, the image we used above is a memejacking just for marketers. Keep reading for more meme examples, as well as tips for how to memejack your own.

What Is a Meme?

Let’s take a step back for a second for all you marketers we lost at the mention of the word “meme.” First of all, just to keep you from sounding ignorant at your next marketing meeting or cocktail party, meme is pronounced “meem,” rather than “meemee” or “mem-ay,” as one anonymous HubSpotter here has been known to mispronounce it.

A meme is quite simply a concept, behavior, or idea that spreads, usually via the internet. Memes most commonly manifest themselves in a visual such as a picture or a video, but it can also take the form of a link, hashtag, a simple word or phrase (e.g. an intentional misspelling), or even an entire website.

Why Memejacking Is Awesome for Marketing

Memejacking for marketing is helpful for so many reasons. We’ve touched on a few of these already, but let’s elaborate.

They’re Already Viral

A concept doesn’t exactly get classified as a meme if it’s not fun, engaging, and wildly popular. That’s why memes are so great for marketing. Rather than creating something from scratch and crossing your fingers that it “goes viral,” you’re leveraging an idea that is already successful.

They Make Great Social Media Fodder

You’re aware of all the fuss about visual content lately, right? Visual content is practically made for social media sharing, and because memes are usually visually oriented, they make great fodder for your social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

They Attract Traffic, Likes, and Links

Because memes are so share-worthy, they’re fantastic for generating traffic and visibility to your social media accounts. Memes attract likes, repins, comments, and shares like crazy — making it more likely that your social content will gain traction in social media and spread.

And when memes are used on your own website/blog, you’ll reap the benefits of traffic and inbound links, too.

They’re Quick and Easy to Create

For inbound marketers, content creation is a daily task. Because so much of your marketing campaigns depend on content (and fresh content, at that), having some easy-to-create types of content at your disposal is a marketer’s dream come true. Memes offer just that. They’re easy and usually take little time to create.

8 Meme Examples and How to Successfully Jack a Meme

In addition to the few examples we shared in the introduction to this post, check out some of themost popular memes of the past decade to get a sense of what memes can be about. We included some captions just for marketers on the memes below …

1. Kermit: But That’s None of My Business

At just the right moment, Kermit the Frog becomes a hilarious template for passive aggression. The caption below the picture of Kermit always stays the same; it’s the subtle gripe above Kermit that makes this meme yours. The meme might help you express your audience’s typical challenges — but that’s none of my business. 

2. Futurama Fry: Not Sure If

You don’t need to be a fan of the TV show, Futurama, to appreciate the look of suspicion on the face of Fry, shown above. This meme is known by its opening phrase, “Not sure if …” It allows any user to memejack the rest with a caption that describes a funny, perhaps exaggerated uncertainty among their audience. 

3. Be Like Bill

Simplicity is the source of the funny in this meme. Meet Bill, an adorable stick-figure model for the behavior you know your audience would endorse. All you have to do is describe him in three lines, all leading up to “Be Like Bill,” the last caption on every iteration of this popular meme. 

4. What People Think I Do

Some memes are designed to identify with the reputation struggles of your audience. The one above speaks for itself.

When HubSpot memejacked the “What People Think I Do/What I Really Do” meme for our Facebook page, our sales-themed meme generated an impressive 453 likes, 57 comments, and 256 shares, while our marketer version accumulated a whopping 460 likes, 53 comments, and 337 shares.

5. Success Kid

Success Kid is a meme that has stood the test of time. There’s no requires text on this one — it’s a template for any extreme stroke of luck you know your audience would resonate with. The caption above doubles as a true story: the smallest changes to your call to action (CTA) copy can change its appeal tremendously.

6. Buzz Lightyear: Everywhere

The characters above need no introduction, but this meme might. With his arm around Woody, Buzz Lightyear offers a gesture of optimism (or sarcasm, depending on how you play this one) for your audience. For marketers, the right lead magnets can generate more leads than you ever thought possible … Buzz’s words, not mine.

7. Boromir: One Does Not Simply 

You might recognize this handsome soldier from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But Boromir, son of Denethor, is much more than a warrior of Gondor. In the scene above from the Fellowship of the Ring, Boromir explains how “one does not simply” walk into Mordor, an evil region of Middle Earth where few have survived.

Everyone has their own version of Boromir’s grave warning. In marketing circles, Google might as well be Mordor for search engine optimization (SEO) specialists.

8. Puss in Boots: Old Spice Man

While most memes are very easy to hijack, some can be a bit more complicated if elements like video are involved. For example, DreamWorks featured its Shrek-based character, Puss in Boots playing the Old Spice Man in the above trailer to promote the 2011 movie spinoff, Puss in Boots.

However, even memes that have originated as videos have been successfully adapted into images, as evident by the Old Spice Man meme, which originated as a series of videos. But hey, if you have a talent for video and feel you can hijack that popular new video meme, go for it!

How to Make a Meme: Best Practices for Memejacking

Because memes are often very simple (like the one I created by hijacking the ‘Y U NO’ Guy meme), they’re usually simple creations. Some basic knowledge of a photo editing tool like Photoshop (or hey … even Microsoft Paint can sometimes do the trick) can come in handy when hijacking brand new memes. But you’ll find there tons of meme templates out there, like Meme Generatorquickmeme, and Make a Meme — all of which make it extremely simple to hijack popular memes.

For example, to create my meme for this post, I conducted a Google search for “Y U No Guy Meme Generator,” and came across MemeGenerator.net’s tool, enabling me to create the meme pictured at the top of this post.

Once you pick a tool you like, you can either select from the blank memes in the tool’s gallery, or upload your own. Then, you’ll have the option to customize the text on the top and bottom of the image you’ve selected.

Then, download your newly branded meme and post it on the channel of your choosing. Just be sure to add additional context if the meme is being shared alongside a larger story or campaign.

Ready to do some memejacking of your own? Here are our top memejacking tips.

Try to Jump on it Quickly

The most successful instances of memejacking for marketing occur when a meme is at its tipping point — it’s started to spread wildly, yet few have hijacked it. This is your memejacking sweet spot, since memes can start to feel old after everyone and their mother has hijacked it.

To stay ahead of the curve and stay on top of trending memes as they start cropping up, browse social bookmarking sites like Reddit or StumbleUpon, which are known to surface up-and-coming memes before more mainstream social networks like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, just staying well connected online and abreast of the latest news can keep you on top of the latest breaking memes.

Understand the Meme

Before you memejack, make sure you’re well educated about what the meme means and implies. The last thing you want to do is offend your audience or memejack something you wouldn’t have if

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The Top 7 Free Alternatives to Adobe Illustrator of 2018

Adobe Illustrator is a hugely popular tool for designing vector graphics, logos, icons, and more.

But when you’re a web or graphic designer with a small budget, you probably can’t afford Adobe Illustrator’s steep $239.88 pricing.

Luckily, there are plenty of top-notch free alternatives on the market, some of which even offer features unparalleled by Illustrator.

How to download Adobe Illustrator for free

If you’re interested in using Adobe Illustrator but hesitant to purchase the full version, you can try a free seven-day trial of the product first. To do this, simply go to the Adobe Illustrator product page and click “Start your free trial”.

If you’re shopping for a program that offers features comparable in quality to Adobe’s product, check out our list of the top free alternatives to Illustrator.

1. Inkscape

One of the most comparable substitutes to Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape has plenty of similar sketching, illustrating, and editing tools, including keys to move and rotate by screen pixels, bitmap tracing, color painting over objects, and edit gradients with handles. Inkscape is a quality product for pro- or semi-pro web designers working within SVG file format. It also offers an open source vector graphics package, so if you have the technical skills, you can incorporate Inkscape into your other software programs.

Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

2. GIMP

GIMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, has limited vector functions but has similar tools to Photoshop, making it an impressive image editor with powerful image manipulation options. Better still, GIMP provides options for customization and third party plug-ins, so if your image editing needs are somewhat unique, you might want to check this tool out.

Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux

Image courtesy of GIMP. 3. BoxySVG

BoxySVG runs as an extension in Google Chrome, so it’s easy to store vector graphics including icons, charts, and illustrations on the web. It provides options for Google Fonts integration and has an Open Clip Art Library, as well as illustrator tools including pens, bezier curves, groups, shapes, text, and more. Ultimately, BoxySVG is simpler than Illustrator, and while this means less advanced tools, it also means a quicker and easier process for creating vector graphic files.

Platform: Mac app, Windows app, Chrome app, Web app

4. Pixlr

Pixlr offers plenty of useful features for editing, creating, and sharing creative images — while it’s less advanced in function than Illustrator, it’s cloud-based and supported on mobile, desktop, or the web. If your position requires you to work from different devices to create images, give Pixlr a try.

Platform: Windows, Mac, Web, Mobile

Image courtesy of Google Chrome.

5. Gravit

You’ll find plenty of your basic vector-editing tools in Gravit, including pen, line, knife, slice, bezigon, gradient editor. It also has more advanced features, such as boolean operations, symbols, international text support, and more. Plus, it’s designed in a user-friendly interface and offers video tutorials. Gravit works from right within any browser, which means you can edit and export your files anywhere with wifi. It also supports cmyk rendering, so you can print quality images without downloading anything. You can also import and export files in a variety of formats including pdf, png, jpg, svg, and sketch — which makes this option more flexible than Illustrator.

Platform: Mac, Linux, Windows, Chrome, Any Browser

6. Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer is allegedly “built from the ground up over a five-year period … with the needs of creative professionals at its core.” With rasterizing controls, infinite zooming, a precision-engineered pen tool, automatic snapping points, colors that pop, and an extensive array of vector editing tools, this system truly compares in design and function to Illustrator. The full version is $49.99, but the trial version is free and offers plenty of the full version tools.

Image courtesy of Affinity Designer.

Platform: Mac

7. OpenOffice Draw

While not the most aesthetically pleasing platform in the bunch, OpenOffice Draw still has plenty of high-quality tools for creating posters, charts, diagrams, or graphics, including a manipulate objects tool and 3D controller tool. The system also lets you create flash versions of your design. You can use OpenOffice Draw’s clipart gallery, or create images and add it to the gallery yourself for easy future access.

Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac

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The Value of Owning Your Own Platform

As a business owner, you recognize the value of owning your own platform. You’re jazzed about the ability to set your own structure and rules, while not being limited by someone else’s platform, to connect with your community. This power creates a strong sense of...

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