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5 Artificial Intelligence Companies to Watch in 2018

Artificial intelligence hit some key milestones in 2017. At Facebook, chat bots were able to negotiate as well as their human counterparts. A poker-playing system designed by Carnegie Mellon professors mopped the floor with live opponents. There were even some potentially life-saving breakthroughs, like the machine vision system that can determine whether a mole is cancerous with more than 90 percent accuracy--beating out a group of dermatologists.

From agriculture to medicine and beyond, plenty of startups are using A.I. in innovative ways. Here are five companies you should expect big things from in 2018.

1. SoundHound 

SoundHound has been around for 13 years, and has spent that time trying to build the most powerful voice assistant ever. The startup began by creating a Shazam-like song recognition app called Midomi; now, the newly released Hound app is capable of answering complex voice prompts like, "Show me all below-average-priced restaurants within a 5-mile radius that are open past 10 p.m. but don't include Chinese or pizza places" or "What's the weather like in the capital of the biggest state in the U.S.?"

Instead of converting language into text like most virtual assistants do, the app's A.I. combines voice recognition and language understanding into one step, which helps speed up the results and cut down on errors. Investors are excited: After raising $40 million over its first decade-plus, the company closed a $75 million round in 2017 that included Samsung and Kleiner Perkins. Still, SoundHound faces stiff competition from A.I. behemoths like Google Assistant and Microsoft's Cortana.   

2. Freenome

Liquid biopsies have been all the rage in the medical world, with a growing number of well-funded startups working on finding a way to detect cancer using blood samples. Freenome is one such company--and its goals are even loftier than most. While other companies focus on detecting the existence of cancer, Freenome claims its A.I. can use blood to identify where the bad tissue is--or is likely to be--located, as well as whether it's malignant or benign. It studies DNA in the blood, detecting mutations that signal cancer and then making predictions about where it is and what kind of treatments would work best. 

The company has performed thousands of trials and says its platform has been effective at detecting prostate, breast, colon, and lung cancers. Thanks to machine learning, its software becomes better at screening over time. Before it can do much else, Freenome must complete the clinical trials necessary to secure regulatory approval and roll out to the public. The startup closed a $65 million Series A round last year to accomplish those goals.

3. Bowery Farming  

Agriculture might look a lot different in the future--just ask Bowery Farming, a vertical farming startup that grows its crops indoors. Sensors at each facility collect data points regarding factors like humidity, temperature, and light. Cameras observe minor changes as the plants grow, and thanks to machine vision, the company's A.I. can quickly determine and adjust to the ideal conditions for a particular batch--thus optimizing for yield as well as taste, texture, and color. By output, the company claims that a Bowery farm is more than 100 times more efficient per square foot than a traditional farm. The startup is entering a space currently occupied by companies like AeroFarms, which takes less of an A.I.-focused approach but already has several large vertical farms throughout the northeastern United States. Bowery emerged from stealth and announced a $20 million funding round in 2017. Its products, which don't require any pesticides or chemicals, are already in stores like Whole Foods--with more likely to follow.   

4. Arterys

Examining MRI scans is tedious work--and prone to human error. Arterys is leading the charge on handing that task over to artificial intelligence. Thanks to this startup's tech, diagnoses that usually take humans 45 minutes can now be performed in 15 seconds. Its system uses deep learning to compare new MRI scans with all those it's already examined. All the information is stored in a central cloud, which gives the system an ever-growing data set and allows it to deliver more accurate readings over time. In 2017, Arterys's cardiac MRI technology, which examines the heart and blood flow through its ventricles, became the first cloud-based A.I. platform to be FDA-approved for use in clinical settings. The company, which also closed a $30 million Series B last year, is currently working on getting clearance for similar technology that focuses on the lungs and liver. 

5. Spoke

This startup's A.I. aims to know more about your company than you do. Not sure what HR's policy is when it comes to sick day rollovers? Ask its chat bot. There's a light out in the conference room? Let it know, and it will direct a request to the right person. Spoke can answer employee inquiries via an app, in Slack, or by way of email or text, with the idea being that it will save your employees the time they'd normally spend asking questions or fielding them and keep your office running smoothly. The system's machine learning component allows it to process and learn information as it converses with people, storing away new answers for the future.

Founded in 2016 by three ex-Googlers, the startup closed a $20 million round in November. It's begun collecting clients, and its product is set to launch in early 2018, potentially making the average workday that much smoother for businesses everywhere. It will be up against other workplace productivity tools, including Slack itself, which is building its own fleet of inquiry-answering chatbots. 

Email Marketing via Inc.com https://www.inc.com/ January 24, 2018 at 06:41AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']

How to Prove the Value of Content Marketing to Your CMO in 3 Easy Steps

“ROI” can be a blurry idea in the world of content marketing. With often hard-to-measure costs and returns, content marketing ROI or value isn’t always crystal clear. Dealing in metrics like pageviews, time-on-page, organic impressions, and others aren’t always directly translatable into business revenue, which — let’s face it — is what your bosses really care about.

Even though only 8% of content marketers consider themselves successful in tracking content marketing ROI, we all know that content marketing is incredibly valuable. As our CEO Lee Odden has said for a long time:

“Content is the reason search engines exist and it’s the cornerstone of what people share on the social web. A quantity of quality content that answers readers’ questions in a useful and entertaining way serves everything from demand generation to lead generation.”

But how can you prove it with evidence that your chief marketing officer (CMO) or content director actually cares about?

Content is the foundation of everything we do here at TopRank Marketing. And our clients deserve and expect us to be able to connect our content marketing services to tangible business benefits. In just three easy steps, we can help you make that same connection and prove the value of your content marketing up the ladder.

Step 1: Identify Your Content Marketing Goals

As a marketer, you’re no doubt aware that you need to set a measurable goal before launching campaigns, but just because you know you should, doesn’t mean it always happens. Without setting a measurable goal, one could argue that your content marketing didn’t accomplish anything of real business value.

To set your goals, take a look at the current state of things to understand opportunities and what’s working well. Is there a dip in organic traffic that you hope to recover? Do you aim to increase conversions and marketing qualified leads (MQLs)? If you’re not sure where to start, review your current website performance in Google Analytics or in Google Search Console to identify potential KPIs.

As an example, if you notice in Google Search Console that your top performing organic search pages have a low click through rate (CTR), your goal may be to increase your CTR by 1% in 30 days. Keep in mind that when looking at goals and KPIs, it’s important not to lock yourself into just one metric. As our own digital marketing analyst, Allysia Kveberg, points out that:

“Sometimes marketing campaigns work a little differently than you expect, and that isn’t necessarily a negative thing.”

So, even if you’re driving results that aren’t directly tied to your goals, there might be a different marketing success lying in a related KPI that can help you sell value up the food chain.

Once you have your goals and KPIs locked down, you can now measure your content’s performance against them in real-time.


Without setting a measurable goal, one could argue that your #contentmarketing didn’t accomplish anything of real business value.Click To Tweet

Step 2: Measure Content Performance More Effectively

You know you need to measure content performance so you can see how you’re progressing towards your objectives. But how can you do it more effectively and efficiently? Depending on your goals, there are usually three areas of focus you’ll want to measure: awareness, engagement, and conversions. Or in other words, the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.

Brand Awareness

For measuring your brand awareness, you’ll need to track social shares, impressions, mentions, and overall website traffic from first-time visitors. For our own campaigns, we like using tools like BuzzSumo to see the traction our content is getting on social media.

Another component to awareness, is search visibility. To see if you’re gaining more organic impressions, rankings, or clicks, log into Google Search Console. It’ll take some digging to see the new keywords you may be ranking for and to identify new positions, but it’s worth the extra work to see how your content is impacting your organic traffic.

Audience Engagement

If you’re looking to develop your connection with your audience, improve trust and retention, or promote your thought leadership, you’ll want to track your audience’s engagement with your content. Engagement metrics to measure are time on page, blog pageviews, bounce rates, pages visited per session, or number of return visitors.

Often referred to as “vanity metrics,” this data can still provide you with valuable insight when looking at the numbers in the context of content. For example, an average session duration of 10 minutes overall is nice to have, but it doesn’t tell you anything about why people stayed so long. By looking at the average session duration for individual webpages, however, you can start to identify common characteristics that people stick around for.

You can drill down on these metrics for each webpage in your Google Analytics account in the “Site Content” section of the “Behavior” menu, as pictured below.

Conversions

Conversions are all about content marketing results that have the power to drive revenue. This means form fills, conversions, MQLs, or a growing subscription base. To track most of these items, you’ll want to have your website set up with conversion or event tracking. We like using Google Tag Manager to identify and track these events as they happen. Then, to really see how our content impacts conversions, we’ll also see how many form fills or conversions happened after interacting with a piece of content.

After you’ve identified your metrics and how to track them, take a look at the data as is to set your benchmarks for each metric. Going forward on a monthly basis, make sure to document or export the data you’re seeing to see if you’re meeting or exceeding the benchmarks you’ve set. This makes it easier to see trends and wins now and later when you’re putting together your report.

When tracking these items, you’ll also want to record which pieces of content are your high performers at each stage of the funnel or customer journey. This will give you the information you need to determine the types of content that move people from top to bottom.

Step 3: Educate Your CMO

Your CMO is probably more concerned about things of business value like sales, savings, or retention over blog sessions or time on page. As Joe Pulizzi, CEO of Content Marketing Institute, shared with us:

“Skip analytics reports for your CMO.”

But to translate your performance into real business value, takes some work.

Perhaps the best place to start is in conversions. How many MQLs and form fills has your content marketing generated? Are you filling the sales pipeline with qualified prospects? Once you have that number, you can use your sales team’s closure rate and average deal size to determine the potential revenue for each lead you generated. This gives your bosses a dollar amount they can easily understand and appreciate.

The value of brand awareness and audience engagement is a little harder to determine as they don’t “directly” influence purchasing decisions. But if you have been tracking your customer journey and marketing funnel, you can show your CMO how that funnel is filling up and how content helps attract and move people from stage to stage.

Below is an illustration of some of the metrics that you should consider highlighting at each stage and in the most business-tangible way possible.

In addition, you can compare your social shares, likes, and mentions to that of your competitors. If you come out on top, this proves that your content marketing gives you greater visibility over your competition.

Bullet-Proof Evidence

To present your CMO with hard evidence that speaks for itself, you need to:

  • Set relevant, measurable goals and KPIs
  • Track your progress throughout the funnel
  • Translate your findings into the results your CMO cares about
If you follow the steps above, you’ll have no problem proving that content marketing is a valuable, revenue-driving tactic. For more ways to impress your CMO with real business results, use these content marketing measurement and ROI tips from brand marketing experts at Kraft and 3M.


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The post How to Prove the Value of Content Marketing to Your CMO in 3 Easy Steps appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

Email Marketing via Online Marketing Blog – TopRank® http://ift.tt/faSbAI January 24, 2018 at 06:31AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']

McDonald’s New McVegan Burger Will Completely Change the Future of Fast Food

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit upfront that I am a semi-vegan, that is, I'm fully vegan (eating plant-based food solely) during the week, then on weekends I go off the wagon -- adding seafood, eggs, and dairy to the mix. Fortunately for this writer, coffee is vegan, because I drink a lot of that all week long.

According to recent studies, 6 percent of Americans now identify themselves as vegan -- an increase of 600 percent from 2014. According to a report on food trends published by research firm Global Data, "Rising veganism and awareness of the impact of meat consumption are driving demand for meat-free substitutes."

It's no surprise then that vegans are now on the radar of America's largest food companies, and that includes McDonald's, which sells more than 1 billion pounds of beef each year in the U.S. alone.

Which brings us back to McDonald's stunning announcement of its new McVegan burger. After testing in Sweden during fall 2017, the McVegan burger -- featuring a soy-based patty was created by McDonald's with Swedish vegan food company Anamma -- the item was permanently added to the menu of McDonald's restaurants in Finland and Sweden in December 2017. If sales are good, then expectations are the McVegan burger will spread throughout Europe, and eventually to the United States and the rest of the world.

McDonald's is not alone in providing its customers with vegan alternatives, and more companies are jumping on board the bandwagon. Ben & Jerry's has created an entire line of non-dairy, vegan "ice cream" (including such classic flavors as Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia), Domino's Australia launched vegan pizzas in its 600 Australian restaurants this month to "overwhelming demand," and startup vegan-centric fast-food restaurants such as Plant Power, Amy's Drive-Thru, Freshii, and others are popping up across the country.

Clearly, as demonstrated by its recent announcement that by 2025, 100 percent of the company's guest packaging will come from renewable, recycled, or certified sources, McDonald's is trying to have a positive impact on the world, while keeping up with the fast-changing buying preferences of its customers.

While I suspect that McDonald's will never stop selling beef or other meat products, the introduction of a vegan burger option is a big step for the company, and one that its competitors will surely rush to emulate.

And, who knows -- perhaps McDonald's will someday put clean meat (grown in a lab, and not requiring the death of animals) on its menu.

Email Marketing via Inc.com https://www.inc.com/ January 24, 2018 at 06:30AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']

How Bladder Control Issues Helped This African American Woman Founder Grow Her Startup by 400% in 10 Months

Crystal Etienne never expected to be grateful for having issues with bladder control. But three years into her blossoming business focused on helping people with incontinence, PantyProp, she's exactly that. These days the New York-based founder may also be grateful that her biggest competition recently saw its reputation tarnished. 

That company, Thinx, which was founded in 2014 and bills itself as the "period proof" panty maker, recently parted ways with its star founder and former CEO, Miki Agrawal, after she was accused of sexual harassment and fostering a toxic work environment in 2017. While the company is reportedly now on sounder footing, as the new CEO this week told Racked, the PR crisis that ensued has no doubt given founders like Etienne room to stretch within the increasingly crowded absorbent underwear market. 

"We have more options [than Thinx,]" says Etienne, describing how PantyProp sets itself apart from the competition with its lines of swimsuits, panties and sleep pants. Plus, she notes that as the CEO, she takes a different type of approach: "There are no gimmicks in our marketing. We just tell you what our product is, what it will help you with it, and we're straight to the point." 

Worry-Free Undies

Of course, Etienne didn't wait for Agrawal's fall before dreaming up her business idea. Just weeks after giving birth to her first child, the entrepreneur became a statistic: Etienne is one of the roughly 200 million people globally who experiences urinary incontinence, but like many of them, she was too mortified to seek help.

"I would laugh or sneeze, and realize I had no control," Etienne says. "But who in their 20s wants to wear an adult diaper?"

It wasn't until more than a decade later, when her daughter felt ashamed of her own period--fearing that others would notice her blood-soaked swimsuit and laugh--that Etienne took matters into her own hands. In 2015, she launched the New York-based e-commerce seller of liquid-absorbent swimwear, activewear, shorts and undergarments. Unlike traditional sanitary pads, which are often infused with polyethylene and polypropylene, Etienne says her patent-pending linings are completely chemical-free. "Right now, there are a lot of people shifting away from sanitary pads," she tells Inc. "We are a health leisure brand that you can just wear, and not have to worry about."

CREDIT: Courtesy PantyProp

Customers seem to agree. Last year, the company more than doubled its revenue, notching $1 million in sales, up from just $300,000 in 2016. Heading into 2018, PantyProp is preparing to launch a wholesale arm, and it recently scored distribution at select Macy's locations. What's more, Etienne insists that PantyProp--which to this point has been entirely bootstrapped--is profitable.

Despite the competitive landscape for period-proof undies, Etienne insists that hers is a different type of company: Whereas Thinx is uncompromisingly feminist in tone--and launched as a menstrual underwear brand, specifically--PantyProp targets both men and women, feminine care and incontinence alike. She notes that men currently account for roughly 5 percent of the customer base. PantyProp also offers a wider array of products including leggings, swimsuits, pajama pants and more.

Unique challenges

The competition aside, there are other challenges that Etienne sees as unique to her company, and particularly as an African American founder. When pitching venture capitalists she says she experienced outright discrimination. "Investors [said] they loved me, they loved the company and the solution, but they couldn't give me a straight answer about why they wouldn't invest," she explains. "It goes back to, they're not comfortable with an African American woman running the show on [her] own." Ultimately, Etienne has needed to keep to a shoestring budget, and to that end has spent nothing on marketing to date: "We only spent exactly where it was needed," she adds, referring to manufacturing in particular. 

Of course, it's still early days for PantyProp. Etienne may need to raise capital eventually, especially as she continues to ink partnerships with big box retailers. Her projections, which include lassoing $25 million in sales over the next two years, should help. And though Etienne continues to distance her company from the competition, she remains self-assured. "I've always believed women can do anything," she adds.

Email Marketing via Inc.com https://www.inc.com/ January 24, 2018 at 06:30AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']

This Baby Hippo Media Sensation Will Melt Your Heart (and Open Your Wallet)

Her name is Fiona and January 24, 2018 marks her 1st birthday.

The most star-studded inhabitant in the history of the Cincinnati Zoo is the world's first premature hippo to survive in captivity and is a roly-poly reminder of our love of the underdog. Er, underhippo.

Fiona was born 6 weeks early and weighed only 29 pounds, less than half the average hippo birth weight of 55-100 pounds and two dozen pounds lighter than the lowest ever recorded birth weight of her species. She required around the clock medical attention for months in her battle to survive.

But survive she did and to say that she has captured the hearts of the world is an understatement.

The chubby-charmer took the internet by storm, closing out 2017 by being named as one of Entertainment Weekly's top social media sensations of the year. She had her own facebook series called The Fiona Show, and has two books out (My Best Friend Fiona and Fiona's Feelings) with a third on the way. She even became a rallying cry for women's body positivity. When the zoo posted images of Fiona's increasing neck rolls on twitter, fans praised the zoo for the rare act of celebrating women's weight gain. 

 A video of her tooting underwater garnered 40,000 Instagram views within days of being posted. The "gastronomical" event also garnered an article with my favorite title of the year: Watch Fiona the Hippo Fart Because She Is the Only Good Thing left In This World.

Lucy May, author of My Best Friend Fiona put it to me this way:

"In a year that was so divided, politically and in so many other ways, Fiona was the hard-luck hippo that everyone could love no matter how much they disagreed on everything else. That has been pretty powerful."

I can attest to the phenomenon first hand. I live in Cincinnati and ventured out to wait (for quite a while, in the rain) for a chance to see Fiona frolicking in her waterworld. And what I witnessed was truly something.

People...were...losing...their...frickin'...minds.

Honestly, based on the reaction you would have thought it was Beyonce handing out one-hundred dollar bills. 

And yes, Fiona really does break the cute-o-meter. Check out this video of her in a key recovery phase and if your heart doesn't moisten around its eyes just a little I'll eat my Cincinnati Reds hat. 

Two amazing things still to come to this story though.

First, it's not Fiona, it's Fiona Inc. (not to be confused with who I write this column for). This girl is a biz-ness. Full stop. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the hungry, hungry diva has generated almost $500,000 in sales revenue for the zoo through sales of Fiona emblazoned clothes (via a dozen local merchandising deals), a local "#TeamFiona" beer, decks of cards, drinking cups, leggings, holiday ornaments, various trinkets, cookies that local Busken Bakery couldn't keep in stock and my favorite, local ice-cream god Graeter's specialty flavor "Chunky, Chunky Hippo" (a flavor, like all their others, that isn't just to die for, it's to murder for).

One Cincinnati apparel company indicated they've sold 45,000 Fiona branded items.  About one-third of all of the revenue goes straight to pay for the intensive care administered by "Team Fiona", so maybe there is justice in this world after all. 

But still there's more, and something more important.

As I was watching all the people mob Fiona's water tank, and it was a mob, I couldn't help but notice that the diverse group of groupees were all united, even if only for a few stargazing moments. Differences were set aside, the troubled world forgotten, all of us focused on something greater than ourselves (and not just greater in weight).

Hope. Perseverance. Unbridled joy.

In truth, Fiona isn't the only good thing in the world right now. But what she stands for--that's something we all undeniably need more of.

Email Marketing via Inc.com https://www.inc.com/ January 24, 2018 at 06:19AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']

Want to Tap the “Hidden” Job Market? This 1 Networking Technique Will Help You

I recently attended a networking event and watched a young man commit a huge networking sin. It was like witnessing a car wreck in slow motion = painful. Yet, I couldn't look away. His networking technique was terrible and he looked miserable. Most people hate networking. Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of the key activities to finding a new job.

But, what if you could use networking to make jobs come to you?

There's a technique you can use to tap into what's know as the "hidden" job market. That's all those open jobs out there that aren't posted online. How do you learn about them? Via referral. Someone you know, knows someone, who knows about a job inside a company you want to work for. The hiring manager is looking for the perfect candidate, but doesn't want to post the job publicly because they A) don't want to get inundated with applications from people who aren't a fit, or B) they are trying to fill the job secretly and don't want a lot of people knowing about it. Either way, you'll never hear about those jobs unless someone tells you about them. The following technique can help make that happen.

When it comes to networking, the mantra today is, "Your network is your net worth. So, invest wisely."

The more you serve and help your network the stronger it will be. The more you give, the more you get. The mistake made by the poor young man I witnessed was his blatant attempt to get something from the people without first gaining credibility and trust. To do that, he should have focused on having meaningful conversations with the people he met. When we exchange thoughtful dialog with fellow professionals, we build a connection from which a relationship can blossom. And, that's when the hidden job market can reveal itself to you. When you make yourself memorable via interesting dialog, people remember you when they hear about potential job openings.

It works like this:

You meet Fred at an event and have a deep conversation about new digital marketing strategies. A couple of weeks later, he's in a meeting and a manager announces the need to find a new digital marketing person who understands changes in the technology. Your networking buddy remembers the conversation you had and says, "I met someone recently that might be able to help here." Next thing you know, you're getting an email from Fred asking if it's okay if he introduces you to the hiring manager. The rest is history.

So, the question becomes, "How do I start a meaningful conversation?" 

The answer is simple, focus on asking open-ended questions. The kind that require more than a one-word answer. You might ask:

  • Why did you decide to come to this event?
  • How did you get into your career?
  • What do you like most about working for ___?
Any kind of question that gets the other person talking and lets you sit back and listen is a good one. When people feel listened to, they like you more. This is how you build trust and respect when networking. You'll learn a lot about the person and that will make it easier to stay and touch and keep the conversation going too. Think of how natural it will be to follow up and ask connect on LinkedIn. Or, send an email sharing an article or video you think they would find useful. These actions will lead to the person getting to know the kind of professional you are, making it possible for them to want to recommend you for a job in the future.

Email Marketing via Inc.com https://www.inc.com/ January 24, 2018 at 06:07AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']

Your 2018 Strategy For Sales Emails Needs These 6 Elements

Since my company, SalesFolk, is in the business of sales emails, we spend a lot of time sharing tips for writing the best possible messages. 

Those tips, of course, pile up over the course of a year, and while they’re all valid, it’s useful to sometimes pause for a moment and return to the basics. By that I mean the elements anyone can use to write the kind of message potential customers will appreciate and respond to. That means letting a recipient know they're valuable, learning how to make your messages action-oriented, and, of course, good copywriting skills.

With that in mind, I put together this sales email primer with some of my favorite sales email tips from last year. I hope they help you in the coming 12 months, and if you have any of your own, I'd love to read about them in the comments below.

1. Make every follow-up email unique.

You’ve heard it said that salespeople have to be relentless in their follow-ups, especially when it comes to sales emails. But sending the same message seven or eight times isn’t going to entice a prospective customer any more than the original message did. A follow-up email is not an add-on step; each message must be unique, thoughtful, and packed with details the other person will relate to on an individual level.

2. Know the difference between sales and marketing.

Sales emails are not marketing emails. Cold sales emails are sent without any prior connection or context with the recipient, in the hopes of starting a conversation. Marketing emails, on the other hand, are meant to build awareness and educate a much wider audience about a topic, product, or service. If you want your sales emails to have even the slightest chance of working, you need to understand the difference between sales and marketing messages and apply that knowledge to all sales communications. 

3. Take a cue from WWII. 

Vague or self-centered copy are two of the fastest ways to ruin a sales email. Messages you send to potential customers have to be as specific as possible from start to finish, and those specifics need to be about the recipient, not you. Think of the old WWII-era posters with brightly colored slogans like, “I want YOU for the US Army!” Go for a similar feel in your sales emails-;quick, lively, and clearly showing the other person they’re valuable.

4. Forget what you learned in business school.

Business school might have taught you to use a formal writing voice in everything you produce: “I would be delighted to discuss this opportunity further.” But that's not not how we speak in everyday life, which means it's not the kind of language that entices a potential customer. If the goal of a sales email is to engage people and convince them a human is on the other side of the correspondence, writing the way Niles Crane from Frasier talks works against you every time. Instead, rely on some simple copywriting tips to keep your emails active, conversational, and simple.

5. Get rid of lackluster subject lines.

If the subject line of your sales email is lame, no one’s going to bother with the rest of the email. Want to avoid that and stand out from every other salesperson in the process? Just learn some of the most common mistakes people make with subject lines and commit to avoiding them in the future. Whether they’re super long, robotic in tone, or flat-out deceptive, get rid of these types of poor subject lines. Then, study up on how to write convincing ones in the future.

6. Get rid of politeness.

You wouldn’t walk up to someone at a conference and say, “I hope this conference finds you well.” And since your sales emails are supposed to mimic real-life conversations, you wouldn’t open a message with “I hope this message finds you well.” Being overly polite in a sales email signals to the recipient that you’re trying to sell something. What’s more, empty lines of pleasantry take up valuable real estate. You only get a few lines of text to make an impression on your potential customers. Make sure the words you choose actually add value to the other person’s day.  

Email Marketing via Inc.com https://www.inc.com/ January 24, 2018 at 06:07AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']

In 1 Sentence, Elon Musk Explains His Stunning CEO Pay Package (It’s a Lesson in Accountability)

Elon Musk is at it again, making bold announcements that can't help but draw attention.  This time around, it has to do with his tenure as Tesla's CEO and the unveiling of his astonishing CEO pay package.  

The New York Times reported that Musk ended speculation he might soon hand over the reins as CEO. In fact, Musk announced he's signed up for ten more years. Big enough announcement, but it pales in comparison to what comes next.

Musk also revealed that he will only be paid if he hits a series of "jaw-dropping milestones based on the company's market value and operations". 

Otherwise, he gets nada. 

Hit 80 percent of the goal? Zero. 90 percent? Zip. It's an all or nothing proposition and a corporate pay package the Times called "the boldest in corporate history".

Tesla has set a dozen goals for valuation, revenue, and profit over time--with valuation goals in $50 billion dollar increments. This pace would take the company from its current $59 billion dollar valuation to $650 billion over the next ten years. (Actually, Musk believes the company can hit a trillion dollars in the next decade)

Cosmically (or comically?) bold for a company still losing money.

If Musk delivers on each milestone he can reap a stock award as high as $55 billion dollars.

Oh, or he could get nothing. You pick.

The point is not to get you to worry for him. Musk has other income streams that will keep him from borrowing lunch money anytime soon.

The bigger point is the testament to accountability. I deliver in full, or I get nothing. Musk summed up his drive to put such accountability in place in one sentence (after first stating that it's not the possibility of a gargantuan payout that drives him): "The reason that it's important to me personally is that there are some pretty big things that I want to do."

Big goals put into Tesla over-drive by big consequences. Accountability.

Yes, I get that you can argue Musk isn't exactly the poster child of accountability with a history of big promises and big delays to boot (Tesla 3 anyone?).

And whether or not he needs the $55 billion payout or even a fraction of it given the wealth he already has is not the point. Musk chose to use a public pulpit to role model accountability. Yes, he uses public pulpits all the time for public relations, but this time, it was personal.

It got me thinking, while none of us may ever have all-or-nothing stakes in front of us quite like this, what can we do to encourage more accountability in ourselves (and others)?  Here are five things we can--and should--all do:

1. Insist on crystal clear roles and responsibilities.

Employees can knowingly or subconsciously hide behind murky role definitions to shift blame and accountability. When everyone knows exactly what's expected of themselves (and others), they're more likely to feel accountable.

I ran one team where feelings of accountability dramatically increased when we simply spelled out role descriptions (on paper) and shared each description with the team.

2. Embrace feedback.

It's critical that employees get really practiced at giving and receiving quality feedback (and yes, even get good at giving feedback to the boss). You can often short-circuit the need for anyone to feel a lack of accountability by keeping an employee on track to deliver the expected results in the first place. 

And feedback can include pushback--especially on new work requests or distractions that are preventing an employee from delivering on a commitment they're accountable for.

3. Keep commitments front and center.

Nothing reminds us to be accountable quite like reminders of what we're accountable for. One especially effective leader I worked for would kick off each leadership team meeting with a review of commitments we made at the last meeting, who had the responsibility to deliver it, and by when.

4. Understand that accountability is about improvement, not inspection.

Accountability isn't a bludgeon. It's not just about tracking results. It's also about ensuring each employee gets help to improve results and learns from shortfalls. I've seen many a leader struggle when they hold others accountable to deliver but don't hold themselves accountable to deliver enabling help.

5. Start with goals everyone can buy into.

If you start with meaningless, mandated goals, you'll barely get compliance let alone commitment. Be intentional to set goals that employees will care about and will want to be held accountable for. The most powerful goals I set connected with employees personally and emotionally; they weren't just big, hairy, numerical goals.

While most of us don't have to lay it on the line quite like the founder of the beloved Tesla car has, we all could likely do with an accountability tune-up.

Email Marketing via Inc.com https://www.inc.com/ January 24, 2018 at 06:07AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']

Leaders Everywhere Are Being Fired for Ethical Misconduct. Here’s How to Make Sure You’re Not One of Them

In December of last year, internal emails from employees of the Miss America Pageant surfaced. In the emails, which dated back as far as August 2014, CEO Sam Haskell told the lead writer of the telecast, Lewis Friedman, "I have decided that when referring to a woman who was once Miss America, we are no longer going to call them Forever Miss Americas....please change all script copy to reflect that they are Former Miss Americas!"

In response, Friedman said: "I'd already changed 'Forevers' to 'Cunts.' Does that work for you?"

Instead of reprimanding his employee for the disrespectful language, Haskell simply sent a reply that said, "Perfect...bahahaha."

Understandably, many former Miss America winners have since called for Haskell's resignation. While that has not happened, he is currently suspended from his role with the organization.

As shocking as this story is, it is not uncommon. More and more, leaders are being ousted from their positions because they've crossed an ethical line. According to PwC's 2016 Strategy& study, between 2012 and 2016, there was a 36 percent increase in the number of forced CEO turnovers due to ethical lapses. Some argue that this is because leaders are becoming less ethical. But it's also a sign of the times.

Now there is more transparency in the workplace. There are also countless online news outlets looking for stories. Employees can share on social media anything they see in the office. If a leader makes a bad decision, it will get out.

This is why it's important for companies to have internal check systems, like ethics officers. These employees are experts in the law and compliance. Leaders can turn to them for help when they find themselves in a compromising situation. The ethics officer can then advise the leader about what to do, helping the company to avoid a scandal.

But since this is a newer problem for leaders, an ethics officer is also a newer position. This makes it hard to know how to go about hiring one. Here's how you approach finding the right ethics officer for your company:

1. Set expectations.

Whenever you create a new role in your organization, there needs to be agreed upon expectations. Senior managers have to be on the same page with regard to what the ethics officer will do and what type of authority they'll have.

Nick Bednorz is the CEO of Comensure, a regulatory compliance platform. He recommends that leaders sit down and define the objectives, purpose, responsibilities, and outcomes for an ethic manager.

Also, take into consideration what types of communication skills leaders prefer. Whoever is hired as the ethics officer, they need to be someone whom the leader feel comfortable coming to in a difficult situation.

For some leaders, this means having a relationship with clear boundaries. They would feel uncomfortable going to anyone they felt was a friend more than a co-worker. Ask senior management to be open about what type of situation would work best for them.

2. Identify company needs.

Every company is different. So are the types of problems it is vulnerable to and what skills it takes to objectively avoid them.

For example, if your company has international locations, or does business with a lot of international clients, you need an ethics officer who is familiar with different geographies and cultures. They need to be able to advise leaders about different perceptions about what constitutes appropriate behavior.

Also, take an honest look at the company's culture. Where are there weaknesses? If there is distrust between employees and leaders, an ethics officer needs to be prepared to deal with that. If there's a history of sexual harassment complaints, they need to be able to clearly communicate where the line is so employees at all levels don't cross it.

If you're not sure what problems exist in the company, conduct an employee feedback survey. This will give you the basic information you need to know so you can see where there might be problems later on.

3. Focus on communication.

There is no point in an ethics officer if the right communication channels aren't in place. And given the sensitive information these employees have to deal with, any candidate has to be able to communicate with all types of people.

When people find themselves in a gray area, they're confused. They need someone who can clearly and effectively explain the issues and choices they are facing.

To get an idea about each candidate's communication skills, have them role-play different scenarios. Explain to them a dilemma a leader has faced in the past. Then, give them a brief description of what that leader was like. How they choose to respond will show you if they have the communication skills necessary to fill the position.

Email Marketing via Inc.com https://www.inc.com/ January 24, 2018 at 06:07AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']

3 Simple Techniques for Turning Constraints into Opportunities

Constraints are opportunities. Don't believe me? Consider the words of iconic American designer Charles Eames:

"Here is one of the few effective keys to the design problem -- the ability of the designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possible -- his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints. Constraints of price, of size, of strength, of balance, of surface, of time and so forth."

We all have constraints. What can set you apart from others is this willingness and enthusiasm described by Eames. If you can have the  optimism to see constraints as opportunities, you will create new value. This is  creativity.

CREDIT: Credit: Ayse Birsel

Get into the habit of shifting a constraint into an opportunity. 

The more you practice this with everyday limitations, the better you will be at seeing things from multiple directions. 

That small apartment you've been complaining about is easy to clean. Your long commute is precious alone time to read, to listen to music or to play games. Your travels which take you away from family is also your opportunity to meet new people, to try new food, and to sleep without your children waking you up. 

Think like Pollyanna, the children's book character who sees difficulties in life cheerfully, to hone your skill in flipping constraints to opportunities.

Use existing constraints as the building block for your next solution.

Francis Mallmann, three-star Argentinian chef, is famous for cooking in the Patagonian wilderness. His constraint? No kitchen. His opportunity? To invent new cooking and barbecuing techniques. His experiment is well-documented in the Netflix series, Chef's Table.

Charles and Ray Eames, used the limits of plywood to invent new furniture. Their constraint was single shell plywood chairs, where the back and seat were made of one continuous piece, cracked. Their solution, through trial and error, was to design plywood chairs made of two pieces, a separate back and seat. They joined the two pieces with an additional plywood spine or, on another design, with a metal frame.  Eames' lounge chair, recliner, etc., are all variations on this theme.

Julia Child pretty much invented Mastering the Art of French Cooking in response to constraints. Her constraints were Americans didn't have French ingredients and they valued practicality and speed over taste. Child rewrote French recipes with American ingredients and modernized them to be simple and accessible to Americans. Another constraint she had was that the French learned how to cook from their parents. She became the surrogate mother and taught the process on TV.

Elon Musk didn't have the money other established car companies had when he started his company Tesla. That was his constraint. He turned it into an opportunity by creating a pre-order system where he painted a picture of the future for his buyers and convinced them to pay for their cars in advance. The preorders funded and continue to fund an important part of Tesla's development costs.

Work with your constraints, not against them.

Make someone else's constraint your opportunity.

The constraint of the traditional taxi service model was that the customer had to go to the service, rain or shine, rush hour or not. Uber took that constraint, which everyone knew existed but didn't solve, and created a model where the service goes to the customer, when they need it, where they need it. Uber's willingness to tackle a constraint that others took for granted is what made that business unique.

Is there a glaring constraint that none of your competitors are willing to solve? That is your opportunity.

Make constraints your ally. The trick is seeing negative issues as positive opportunities.

Email Marketing via Inc.com https://www.inc.com/ January 24, 2018 at 06:07AM [amazon_link asins='0990530019,B015TI3NJM,1941142990,1545286981,B01I8OHYW6,1537486039,0470947675' template='ProductCarousel' store='0-0x03-20' marketplace='US' link_id='1772ba2e-fc74-11e7-963b-abc7e94b6c37']