We’ve all heard of VAST ad and VPAID, and how important adopting these standards are.

What is a VAST ad or VAST tag? What is the difference between VAST and VPAID? And how it affects your ad operations?

If you want to run video ads, it is important for you to understand the basics.

It is palpable that video is an effective advertising medium. For the past few years, video consumption is ascending quickly. Also, many advertisers and marketers have joined the bandwagon, with more expecting to adopt video marketing soon.

And on top of normal video ads, it’s reported that interactive video ads drive more brand awareness & engagement.

Briefly, interactive video ads compared to non-interactive video ads:

  • Have 4 times higher interaction rate compared to non-interactive video ads
  • 4% higher brand awareness
  • 5% lift in users purchase intent
  • 2% more message association

If you want to optimize your video ads reach and view engagement, standard-based advertising should be part of your ad planning.

So what exactly are these VAST & VPAID and how does it work for interactive video advertising?

What is VAST ad, VPAID and How it Works

The world of digital advertising is an alphabet soup of ad tech jargon.

Thanks to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), there is clear guidelines and framework you can get your rich media vendor to follow through.

Let’s get down to basics.

VAST or “Video Ad Serving Template”

  • A specification developed by the IAB for serving video ads.
  • Provides a generic framework for embedding in-stream video ads.
  • Designed to facilitate and standardize the communication between video players and video ad server

Video Players

  • Players that are embedded on publisher’s website or in mobile apps, and used to display ads and videos.

VAST / Video Ad Server

  • Advertising server that is used by advertisers to host and serve their video ads, and count their impressions.
  • Based on ad requests coming from VAST tag, the video ad server will return the creatives criteria like what to serve, how the video is to be played, and what metrics to be tracked.

Read: How does video ad serving work

VAST Ad Tag

  • A set of standardized code (based on VAST guidelines) that is placed on publisher’s site or in-app that communicates with the ad server.
  • It tells the server what type of ad to be displayed based on targeting criteria.
  • Each ad space will need a new ad tag.

Here’s a diagram to further illustrate the above.

VAST Ads

Think of IAB VAST as scripts that give consistent instructions to the viewers’ video players on how to handle an ad. It tells the player

  • which ad to play,
  • how the ad should show up,
  • how long it should last, and
  • whether the viewers can skip it
  • where to find the ad (the ad server)
  • what the click-through URL should be
  • and more

VAST tag comes in many versions. Despite the release of VAST 3.0, while VAST 4.0 is under drafting and yet to be officially released by IAB, most publishers are still on VAST 2.0.  However, VAST tag is backward compatible, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues.

VAST 3.0 introduces advanced specifications for both ad serving and video playback in a video player. It considers relevant cross-platform scenarios like mobile, connected TVs, and HTML5 environments. The definition takes a closer look at media file attributes and the containers required for media playback, introduce skippable ads, and improve HTML5 support.

One critical update on VAST 4.0 is that it addresses viewable impressions, where it standardizes the viewability tracking.

Why is VAST ad important? It’s important because it enables video players and ad servers to speak the same language.

With regulation, advertisers don’t have to worry about their video ads not able to run on many players. And publishers don’t have to worry about limited inventories.

In other words, it means more volume for publishers to sell and more ad serving impressions for advertisers, which brings in more revenue. Standards lead to scale, which benefits both publishers and advertisers.

So, as an advertiser, you should go for standard-based video ads for better campaign results.

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VPAID or “Video Player-Ad Interface Definition”

  • Developed by IAB for interactions between ad units and video player focused on enabling rich interactive in-stream ad experience.
  • Enables interactivity and measuring of how well your video ad does through engagement tracking.
  • Codes that runs within video players and spruce up your ad with interactive features like overlays for views to click and read more, and many others.
  • Advertisers love ads that trigger response from the target audience and you can measure the video ads you put out there.
  • It enables you to know if your video ad is performing.

Here’s an illustration of video ad flows with VPAID.

VPAID ad tag

Why is it important for advertisers?
VPAID is important because it means you can see how individual ads are performing and devise improved ways of engaging your audiences and increasing the level of interaction with your ad.

An example of a VPAID enabled interaction would be that a user could click on an ad to view more detailed content such as a longer version of a pre-roll.

You can choose to set what time and where the ad appears within the content, with the basic functions of play, pause, close or hide, and more. Whatever action the user takes will be recorded and reported back to the advertiser.

How to optimize for maximum results? Today, most digital video placements are loaded and managed using VPAID. But, this makes it difficult to support server-side ad insertion.

Instead of VAST ad tag, many agencies merely insist on VPAID as it enables viewability, verification, and interactivity. Many agencies and advertisers also merely focused on interactivity and highly engaging ads by incorporating VPAID and MRAID for video mobile advertising.

You should also know that VPAID ads that are delivered via VAST tags are regularly referred to as VPAID tags.

So as an agency or advertiser, why should you care about this?

To get optimum results from your video ad: On top of the ad unit’s performance, you need to ensure ad serving is optimized for maximum results too. Hence, VPAID should be sent to the video player in a VAST ad response, to take care of maximizing potential video ad insertion on publishers’ side.

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Why VPAID/VAST Ad is Big

The goal of these standards is to allow complete interoperability between all advanced video ads, ad networks and serving technology and players. This is to ensure that any VPAID/VAST compliant ad could be delivered through any VPAID/VAST compliant ad network/server to any VPAID/VAST compatible video player.

Two things have to be standardized to enable smooth interoperability of advanced video ads across different players environment.

  • The ad server response should be understood by compliant players—this is covered by the VAST standard
  • The advanced ad requires a standard player run-time expressed as a standard API—covered by VPAID

Here’s a diagram to show the relationships between the standards in a typical ad serving process.

VAST VPAID Ad Serving

In other words, with most video players adopting IAB VAST “language”, operations can quickly drop the ad into the ad server. And any video players will be able to read and display the ad correctly because they understand the “VAST language”.

As long as the video player knows how to read VAST it will be able to show the ad. It doesn’t matter where your video ads are being served.

Moreover, you can run any third party video player ads with VAST tag because the video player will be able to understand and display it.

How it Benefits Ad Ops

  • You will be able to plug this ad into your ad server and it will just work (as long as you and your rich media vendor follow the baseline VAST format)
  • You save time in the scheduling of your video ads into non-conforming video player
  • You don’t have to spend time and resources on training, developing, and managing custom video ads for ad networks/servers/third-party
  • Streamline your operations through simplification of your ad delivery
  • Allow you to serve ads from other providers without overhauling your video player
  • Video player developers will not waste time on customize development of the player for each and every new ad network or third-party

Video Ad Server – What To Look Out For?

There are 3 major things to look for when choosing a video ad server.

First, consider the loading speed of the ad server. Video ads are heavy and will require more bandwidth to load quickly. To combat this, good video ad servers usually have adaptive video streaming function that automatically delivers the video ad to the user in the most usable quality, depending on their internet connection quality.

Second, see if the video ad server offers detailed tracking. As you run video ad campaigns, there are numerous tracking metrics that you need to track and understand in order to make meaningful ad optimization. Some of these tracking metrics include video play rate, video percentile play, drop-off rate, ad viewability and dwell rate.

Lastly, look for a video a server that is simple to understand and has a support team that is able to help you when else fails. Ad servers, in general, are built to take away the complexity of ad servers, so you the advertiser can focus on managing and optimizing your ads.

Summary

Video advertising is a diverse and expanding area for online marketing. In order to be able to make valid and useful suggestions for your client, you need to know both the capabilities and the limitations of video advertising.

By being familiar with VPAID and VAST, you will know what the ads can do and where they can be placed so that they are as interactive as possible and able to be quickly distributed around the Internet.

Few things you need to know. You need to know that there are many types of video ads available. You need to know what they can and cannot do for the most part and how these video ad formats interact with the video content and the video player.

For an ad to be completely VPAID/VAST compliant it needs to interface with everything as outlined in the standard-setting document.

If you are going to start creating video ads that are non-linear or interactive, you should take a quick read through the IAB standard document.

[All diagrams in this post are courtesy of IAB.]

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As more brands continue to invest in their online persona and digital marketing initiatives, it’s becoming increasingly important for marketing service providers (MSPs) to verifiably demonstrate the value of their work. The most successful and recommendable MSPs push to measure the impact their work has beyond a simple transactional level; by mapping and tracking multiple touch points throughout the customer lifecycle.

Know Your Client Inside and Out

When it comes to choosing appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs), it’s crucial to go beyond the surface level of sales. Every client has a different set of core business objectives, so the web analytics strategy that you implement should align with those objectives and be catered to your customer’s overall vision of success. The first step in defining the key performance indicators for a given campaign is to get to know the needs of your client and their business.

“Meet with your client. Call them on the phone. Shoot them an email. However you prefer to communicate, just get it done! Learn the history of your client. Meet or talk to the people that work there. Find out a bit about their local area. Get to know their business’s previous and current struggles. Discover the ways in which their business has had success in the past.”*

Once you have a deep understanding of your client and their business, you can more effectively map out the touch points that you’ll track and the metrics you’ll use to measure success. There are three key areas that you’ll want to focus on when it comes to mapping KPIs at different phases of the customer journey:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Behavior
  3. Conversion

Allow the Customer Journey to Determine Your KPIs

Keep in mind: these are only a few of the most common KPIs that marketing service providers track. The possibilities are endless!

Acquisition

Websites without a steady stream of traffic are dead in the water. Regardless of the amount of time you’ve spent designing your site and crafting the perfect copy, there won’t be any action further down the funnel until you start to attract new visitors. Luckily, there’s no shortage of opportunities to demonstrate the effect you’ve had on generating new traffic!

1. Traffic by Channel

Google Analytics captures and records the performance of each of your marketing channels so you can clearly attribute traffic to individual campaigns; how granular you’d like to get in your reporting is up to you.

Each channel will increase depending on the number and type of marketing campaigns you put in place. Strong search engine optimization will lead to an increase in organic search traffic; great PR work and reputation management may lead to increases in direct and referral traffic. It’s up to you to determine which channels you’ll focus on in order to tell the most compelling narrative of success to your client.

2. Users/New Users

In the screenshot above, you may notice that there are multiple data points in the columns labeled Acquisitions. Google Analytics provides more than one metric in each category so that you have more flexibility in determining what constitutes success for each campaign. A client looking to increase their brand visibility may be more interested in the number of new users to their site, whereas a client looking to increase user retention or new user sign-ups may be more concerned with the total user number.

3. Sessions

Depending on your client’s goals, it may be more beneficial to focus on sessions versus users. For example, a client hoping to increase the engagement rate of their current customer base may hope to increase the number of monthly sessions that their site receives.

Behavior

Once a user has landed on a site, understanding how they interact with and flow through the various subpages is essential. Under the Behavior area in Google Analytics, you’ll find a number of reports that include metrics like page views, average time on page, bounce rate, and more. These metrics will allow you to map the ways in which your work on the website have directly affected customer behavior.

1. Page Views

Describing the total amount of traffic you’ve generated is important when discussing the acquisition phase, but when focusing on user behavior and the next step of the customer journey, it’s necessary to get more granular. We all know website design projects and digital marketing campaigns involve new pages, new menus, and new forms. Being able to track which areas of the site are most engaging and effective is crucial. In Google Analytics, the Site Content section will provide numerous views to allow you to analyze the performance of individual pages on a site.

2. Average Time on Page

Being able to show a client that a page you created is garnering a significant amount of new page views is great, but not if those users are dissatisfied. A simple way to understand the effectiveness of a page is to analyze the average time that a user is spending on the page. Depending on the purpose of a page, it may be more beneficial to have a longer average time on page. For example, a lengthy and informative pillar page should keep visitors reading; alternatively, sites with video may have longer average time on page, since users will be watching a clip and remaining on the page. In contrast, an FAQ page or a contact page should have a comparatively lower average time on page since you expect users to find information quickly.

3. Bounce Rate

To take an analysis of page interactions one step further, you may want to look at the bounce rate of individual pages on a site. In Google Analytics, the bounce rate metric shows the percentage of sessions that include only a single page visit and zero interactions. In other words, if a user visits your site and leaves without interacting at all, that session will be considered a “bounce.” A high bounce rate isn’t always a negative! As in the example above, depending on the objective of a page a high bounce rate may actually indicate success. For example, an FAQ page that seeks to provide users with quick and simple answers to everyday questions might have a bounce rate that verges on 90% or higher; this could indicate that users were able to quickly find the info they needed and then left. Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine how to interpret the data.

Conversion

What exactly constitutes a conversion will differ from client to client based on their overall business objectives. E-commerce clients may want to increase website sales or newsletter sign-ups; service-based clients may want to increase the number of calls they receive or the actual number of bookings the site generates. Regardless of what type of conversion is chosen, this should be clearly defined at the start of a campaign so all parties are on the same page since conversions come in many forms.

Note: tracking conversions requires the additional setup of goals in Google Analytics.

1. Number of Conversions

Once you set up a goal in your account, Google Analytics will begin to track the number of conversions that take place connected to this goal. Number of Conversions on its own is a powerful metric; however, it is best used in conjunction with fiscal data from your client to calculate the ROI of your campaigns. Be sure to ask your client the average value of a conversion for their business. Remember that this will differ depending on the conversion type you choose: a phone call and a closed sale may both be conversions, but they aren’t valued the same. Once you understand the value of each conversion type for your client, you’re able to multiply the total number of conversions by that number to provide a monetary value for ROI.

2. Conversion Rate

When comparing the effectiveness of two pages side by side, it’s often easier to compare their respective conversion rates over a defined time period rather than the total number of conversions. Conversion rate is the total number of conversions divided by the total number of visitors a page received during a given time period, giving you a better idea of a site’s top performing pages. A page that receives 100 visits and converts 50 of them is much more powerful than a page that receives 5 visits and converts all 5.

Use Multiple Metrics to Demonstrate Success

The most important lesson to be learned when it comes to web analytics is that one metric is never enough. Numbers don’t lie, but interpretations do. Before presenting a particular narrative to your client, be sure that you have the necessary data to support it. Following the suggestions outlined above will help you track and analyze the effect of your work for your clients in a compelling and data-backed way.

 


Customer Success Manager
at

Jordan J Stella is a digital marketing professional whose passion is to help brands find their voice, tell their story, and connect with real people. As Customer Success Manager for UpCity, Jordan helps clients integrate our Agency Growth Engine into their existing workflows and processes.





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In the marketing world, color is integral to what we do.

Countless hours are spent deliberating color palettes and design layouts because choosing the wrongs ones can have detrimental effects on how consumers interact with your product and/or brand.

The colors used in packaging can draw consumers in to purchase a product off the shelf just as the colors on a website can guide users to explore the website deeper.

Continue Reading…


In the past, digital ads were bought and sold in a manual manner by real people; publishers and ad buyers. This method of buying digital ads was not only expensive and unreliable, but in some cases, advertisers were not able to buy enough ad inventories for specific ad campaigns.

DSPs were made to make the buying and selling of ads inventories cheaper and more reliable, by programmatic bidding.

What is A Demand-Side Platform (DSP)?

A demand-side platform (DSP) is a system for advertisers to purchase and manage ad inventories from multiple ad sources through a single interface. This is normally done using intelligent software which bids on the inventories using an auction process. This makes the buying and selling of ads cheaper and more reliable.

This whole setup is termed as “programmatic advertising” and the bidding process by which ad placements are auctioned within micro-seconds is called “real-time bidding (RTB).

Today, the term ‘buying’ has now been replaced by the term ‘demand.’ On the other hand, publishers and media owners are now considered as a ‘supply-side.’

Thus, we have the DSP (Demand-side platform), which are used by advertisers to buy ad inventories and the SSP (Supply-side platform), used by publishers and media owners to sell their available ad inventories.

how does a DSP works

How a Demand-Side Platform works

How Does a DSP Work?

The way a DSP works is highly technical, however in simple words, a DSP connects to ad inventory supply sources, where tons of publishers have made their supplies available. This allows advertisers to buy ad inventory placements across a multitude of publisher’s websites and mobile apps based on impressions.

The new generation DSPs these days do not only connect to ad exchanges and ad networks as in the case of the old, but they offer cross-channel media buying too too. Some of the new platforms that can be bought into using a DSP are:

  • OTT/CTV
  • direct publishers (web and in-app)
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Google keyword search
  • ad inventories from China (Baidu, Wechat, Alibaba, etc)

Using these new gen demand-side platforms, media buyers are able to run end-to-end ad campaigns from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel. This includes targeting audiences from the awareness, to interest, then to consideration and right down to the conversion phase of the funnel.

For example, a media buyer can identify someone doing a Google search for, “cheap hotels in New York”, then when she fires up Facebook, will be shown New York hotel ads on her FB timeline. Taking the campaign further, the person will also see similar ads whenever she consumes content on a website or even playing a game on an app.

Previously, media buyers had to manage multiple ad campaigns from various sources like Google, social media such as Facebook, Twitter and control them in different dashboards. However, now things are different.

New-gen DSPs are able to consolidate campaigns from different channels into a single user interface. Media buyers can now set-up, optimize, analyze and get insights of campaigns from different channels, in a single DSP platform.

Costs and Pricing

Ads in DSPs are sold on a few ways, depending on which DSP you work with. Generally, if the DSP is specifically built for performance campaigns such as app-installs, then the fee is based on CPI (Cost per Install). Most performance-based platforms use these:

  • CPI (Cost Per Install)
  • CPC (Cost Per Click) ~ mostly for driving traffic to landing pages
  • CPA/CPL (Cost Per Action / Cost Per Lead)  ~ This is mostly for lead generation campaigns
  • CPV (Cost per View) ~ This is mostly for video advertising campaigns

However, the majority of programmatic ads are sold using the CPM (Cost Per Mille or Cost Per 1,000 Views). The CPM model is good for awareness ad campaigns.

Some performance marketers will arbitrage CPM rates by buying in CPM-based DSPs and earning their fees in CPA or CPL payouts. For example, a performance marketer earning $5 per install marketing for an app publisher may pay only $2 for 1,000 impressions($2 per CPM). However, the 1,000 impressions that he pays $2 for can convert into 1 app install that has a payout of $5/install. This will nett him $3 for every $2 he spends on media buying. Obviously he can scale up his ad budget to earn even more money from the campaign.

Prices of ad impressions in DSPs are determined by a real-time bidding (RTB) process, that takes place within milliseconds, as a user loads a web page or interacts with an app.

Different from the traditional ways of buying media, with a DSP, there is no longer a need for a human to negotiate prices with the publishers, as all of this is done automatically or “programmatically”. The ad impressions will simply be won by the highest bidder.

 

What’s the Difference Between Ad Networks & DSPs?

Ad networks allow advertisers to buy ad inventory in bulk rather than one impression at a time. Put simply, ad networks gather ad inventories from various publishers, grouping them up and then selling them as slices to advertisers. However, not all ad networks support Real-Time Bidding (RTB).

DSPs are unique as they offer the same capabilities as what ad networks used to provide, with an addition to a suite of audience targeting options. The advantage of DSPs over ad networks is that they provide advertisers with the ability to do real-time bidding on ads, serve ads to a multitude of platforms, track and optimize – all under a single interface.

Some targeting options offered by a DSP include:

  • Geo-targeting
  • Demographic targeting
  • Keyword targeting
  • Contextual targeting
  • Device targeting
  • Re-targeting
  • and more.

DSPs are also used for retargeting campaigns. This is possible because they are able to manage large volumes of ad inventories and recognize ad requests with an ideal target audience, targeted by the advertiser.

Self-Serve VS Full-Serviced DSPs

There are two types of DSPs that you need to be aware of. Some DSPs offer a self-serve platform, which is an excellent way to manage your ad campaigns. Then there are managed or full-serviced DSPs, which can be a costly option.

The advantage to using a self-serve DSP is its lower cost entry. You don’t have to commit a large upfront advertising budget to get started. That said, you have to be responsible for the targeting, bidding, budgeting and optimizing of your ad campaign. Some advertisers prefer using a self-serve DSP because they prefer to manage their campaign in their own way.

Full-serviced DSPs on the other hand provides you with account managers that will dedicate their time to manage your campaign. With a full-serviced DSP, you will rely on the account manager towards the success of your campaign, from planning, budget distribution and choosing targeting options.

A full-serve DSP is usually more expensive as you’ll have to commit towards a minimum ad budget per campaign. Choosing to go for a full-serviced DSP means you lose some control of your campaigns. However, there are also advertisers who prefer this option because they do not want to dwell in any technical work.

What Is A DMP?

A data management platform (DMP) is a platform that stores audience data, usually coming from multiple sources. It allows advertisers to create target audiences for their campaign based on 1st party and 3rd party audience data.

A DMP acts as a single platform that consolidates online and offline data from various advertisers, creating demographics, behavioral and affinity segments which are then used as targeting options in digital advertising. Performance data from live campaigns are then fed back into the DMP, improving the accuracy of the data.

Most DSPs usually integrate with a DMP to provide advertisers with super sharp audience targeting options. You’ll find the options to use a DMP within a self-serve DSP interface.

DMPs are becoming increasingly important for advertisers, as it allows advertisers to reach their specific target markets while reducing wastage in advertising.

More on Data Management Platforms (DMP)

List of Demand Side Platforms (DSP)

Every DSP have different features and capabilities. For example, different targeting options and inventories for different traffic like desktop and mobile. Most DSPs work with dynamic bids based on maximum CPM, set by the advertiser.

Some major DSPs we work with are:

Did we miss anything in this post? For any questions, just reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help.

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Additional Resources:
Ad Server for Advertisers: Why Should You Use It
What is a Mobile Ad Server & Why Would You Need It
How to Create HTML5 Ads

 



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New year, new marketing trends. And the buzz in 2019 is all about using technology to deliver more personalized and powerful marketing.

2019 is continuing to see the trend of marketing and technology becoming intertwined. Marketing automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to be used by businesses of all sizes to deliver more personalized messaging.

The Marriage of Marketing and Technology

2018, marketing and technology experts witnessed the ubiquity of AI, chatbots, and Augmented Reality (AR) technology. AR apps such as “Zombies Go” allowed you to enter a zombie nation where you fight against the zombie apocalypse, all while still seeing personalized advertisements.

Chatbots exploded, providing marketing and customer service across websites and Facebook pages.

At Google I/O, the multibillion-dollar company’s annual developer conference, Google Duplex stole the show. The new AI assistant booked a hair appointment in front of millions of viewers all the while mimicking the idiosyncrasies of human speech.

Gone are the days when traditional marketing tools such as ad copy were enough to reach the global market. Today, global marketing strategies and technology marry to form a union that is not expected to end anytime soon.

Here are the top 6 marketing trends you should consider implementing in 2019.

1. AI and Chatbots to Generate Revenue

While 2018 saw good adoption of chatbots, 2019 will see the usage explode beyond just Facebook messages or Twitter responses.

In fact, Oracle reports that 80% of businesses want chatbots by 2020.

While customer service has been the primary domain of chatbots in years past, 2019 will see a rise in the application of chatbots for sales and marketing. Companies like Hubspot are leveraging Facebook Messanger chatbot platforms like ManyChat for lead generation through Facebook advertising.

This is a highly effective strategy where brands can run Facebook ads to their targeted audiences, but instead of the click-through fall-off that occurs between webpage transition, ManyChat Messenger Bot engages with the user natively in Facebook to sign them up for a webinar. This seamless experience dramatically increases conversions and decreases CPA.

Here are a couple more ways you can implement chatbots to increase sales for your business:

  • Upselling: Right after a customer buys, they are 33% more likely to make a purchase again. This is a prime time to have a chatbot engage with the customer. Shopify and Facebook Messenger have an existing integration that allows store owners to provide anything from order confirmation messages to products related to what the customer just purchased.

  • Cart Abandonment: Your potential customers will abandon shopping carts 69.98% of the time. While an optimized card abandonment email sequence can win back 10%-15% of those customers, Messenger chatbots have been shown to generate 619% more engagement than email.

2. Personalization and Automation

The rise of technology has provided extreme personalization in everything from the ads you are shown to the stories you see in your news feed. Marketers must leverage technology to personalize their communications with prospective clients.

But personalization doesn’t have to mean tons of one-off work. Automation can help personalize your marketing at scale. For example, email automation tools like Mixmax can help automate emails based on prospective customer’s needs. By hooking up to a CRM like Salesforce, and then building email templates specific to a group of customers, you can build email rules that will send personalized emails to any contact in your CRM in a specific industry.

Using these personalized emails, you can create content that speaks to their industry and uses specific examples that make sense for them. Automating this process will have big gains to sales while reducing the time it takes to reach out to each individual prospect or customer.

3. Voice Searches

It’s no surprise that alongside AI technology, voice searches are important marketing trends to take note of this year.

‘Smart speaker’ devices such as Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s HomePod will be on the rise and find their way into your marketing strategy. These devices are expected to play a major role in customer service inquiries as industry experts are tweaking them to tackle longer, more complex questions.

For digital marketers in 2019, providing the answer to your customers’ questions has never been so important. Position zero, or the Google featured snippet, is where voice assistants look to provide answers to your questions. The majority of the time reading these snippets as the answer.

Marketers need to start thinking about how they create content that answers questions in a conversational tone rather than creating content based on a keyword. It’s the difference between “dehumidifier uses” versus “Should I have a Dehumidifier in my house?”

Considering that mobile searches which include “do I need” have grown by over 65% in the past two years, the time is now to jump in head first.

4. Content with a Cause

All this technology is great at delivering your message in a new and innovative way, but content is still king. The content that you present your customers is still the lifeblood of any marketing strategy. According to the 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by the Social Media Examiner, over 81% of marketers aim to increase their content output.

With information in abundance at just the click of the “Search” button, Generation Z consumers want to be informed about products and services before, during, and after purchase. They also want to feel good about the work each business is doing. This makes conveying social responsibility more important than ever before.

Many of the most popular direct to consumer brands like Harry’s, Toms Shoes, and Warby Parker create content not only around their business, but around the social benefits of doing good.

These brands share how many shoes they donate, non-profits they support or free eye-exams they provide with a highly engaged audience. This socially responsible business model conveyed through amazing content is how these brands have seen exponential growth in a short amount of time.

For example, footwear brand Toms runs a social media campaign where they ask their digital community to post pictures of their bare feed with the hashtag #WithoutShoes. For every post, they will donate a pair of shoes. They amplify this message by sponsoring an independent festival in London and using original content to share via social media.

The campaign engages more than 3.5 million people on social media channels and results in almost 30,000 shoes donates.

While 2019 will continue to see high-quality content being produced by brands of all sizes, businesses need to use that content to engage their audiences in unique ways. Communicate you and your employees’ work in the community with your customer base to create stronger loyalty.

5. Marketing and PR Will Overlap

It used to be that marketing efforts, and PR efforts were two different beasts. Today, those two efforts overlap and the lines continue to get blurry.

As content marketing has continued to grow, many marketers and PR teams are now one. PR, which was once an effort to get high-quality placements, is now focused on providing content.

Why is that?

It used to be that it was the job of PR to shout the loudest in order to be recognized and trusted by the consumer. Now consumers have all the information at their fingertips making them more informed than ever. Simply being the loudest brand on the block isn’t enough. You need to connect with your audience and provide value.

Personalized content delivered where the consumer naturally consumes it is now the holy grail of both PR and marketing.

6. Find Shared Interests with Influencers

Influencers have contributed to the growth phase of countless businesses in the past few years. 2019 will be no different although the space is maturing.

Up to this point, influencer marketing has been very transactional. Most larger brands connect with influencers via an influencer platform like GrapeVine and TapInfluence. These engagements are per campaign where brands provide influencers with instructions of what to share and when. This is simply a traffic arbitrage model where creative is passed through the influencer in order to reach the audience.

At its core, this is always the end goal, but it’s not leveraging the influencer’s creativity that made them an influencer in the first place. Brands are starting to recognize this, leading to more partnerships.

As Steve Ellis, CEO of WhoSay.com, explains, “you really need to look at it as a creative extension to match up with your ideas as an advertiser.” Ellis continued, “look at it as a creative execution, leveraging the talents and their creative skills to match with your idea or your message as an advertiser.”

Marketing is Still About People

Even with the fascinating technology that marries well with traditional marketing, at its core, the latest marketing trends show that marketing is still about people. There truly is no reason to be sending generic messages out to the masses, rather, customers expect brands to leverage technology to personalize their marketing and products no matter the medium.

Whether you’re touching the hearts of people with a compelling story, or solving their most intimate problems, marketing is about showing people how they can improve their daily experience and their life.


About the Author

Matt Shealy is the President of ChamberofCommerce.com. Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between businesses and more than 7,000 local Chambers of Commerce worldwide.



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You’ve got a loyal following of delighted customers. Now it’s time to grow. But to do that, you need leads.

The question is, how do you go about getting them? What techniques and approaches will help you generate a consistent stream of leads this year and beyond?

In this blog, I’ll share five simple lead generation methods and the techniques that will help you generate new customers over time. From content creation to face-to-face events, you’ll learn the most effective and affordable ways to expand your audience and generate qualified customers for your small business.

1. Start Using Video

Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world? With over 1.9 billion users and one billion hours watched daily, it’s almost certain that your customers are active there. Video marketing has other benefits beyond distribution and traffic generation. By telling stories, sharing value, and getting in front of the camera, you’re creating a personal one-to-one connection with your customers.

So, how should you use video in your marketing?

There are several frameworks you can use, including:

  • Show what you do: Create detailed videos about your products or services. How do the features help customers overcome their challenges? What desires are you helping them to fulfill with what you offer?
  • Introduce yourself: You can also use video to introduce your brand. These sit well on your home page and can help people build a more personal connection with who you are and what you believe in.
  • Education: Are you an expert or thought leader in your field? Use video to educate your audience on key and trending topics. Show them how to execute as well as actionable steps
  • Celebrate your customers: Video testimonials can be huge social proof points. But you can also go one step further and make your customers the star of your video marketing. Use video to tell their story. 
  • Share your culture: Is your company a great place to work? Does what you believe attract similar customers? Share what happens behind-the-scenes to attract talented new hires and customers who share your vision.

Let’s look at some examples of these principles in action, starting with Dollar Shave Club:

With over 25 million views to date, these guys did something right. How? Simple: they put their founder in the spotlight and let their humorous side come out. It was an introduction to their brand and story, sure. But it was also a highly entertaining piece of content that took the internet by storm. Everyone was talking about it because it was raw, honest and genuinely funny.

This entertaining form of video content works gangbusters. But video can also be useful and educational. Take Seattle Coffee Gear, for example:

Here, they don’t talk about their products. Instead, they show their audience the easiest way to make a delicious mocha.

What challenges are your audience trying to overcome? What are their goals? Help them alleviate pains and achieve those goals with value-driven video content. You might be thinking “this sounds expensive.” But it doesn’t have to be, especially in the beginning. You can shoot simple videos for social media platforms right from your smartphone. Even higher quality productions need not be expensive. You can find talented and affordable freelance filmmakers, editors, and animators on websites like Upwork that sit within your budget.

Ultimately, it’s not about the equipment you use, but the story you share.

2. Create a Content Marketing Funnel

Many small businesses rely on paid media to attract new customers. Social media and Google Ads make this easier than ever, with business owners and marketers alike looking to make a positive ROI from their digital advertising. But you don’t need to rely purely on outbound methods. Using inbound marketing principles, you can attract a wider audience and nurture them into new customers over time. It all starts with creating good content.

For example, pet insurance company Petplan use their blog as a hub to provide practical advice for pet owners. They rank for various pet-related keywords, such as “lionhead rabbit” and “why do cats have 9 lives?” that generate between 600 and 20,000 searches a month.

Petplan Blog Example

People searching for these keywords may not be looking to buy from them right away. But they can capture their attention, deliver continuous value and drive them down the sales funnel. When they are ready to invest in pet insurance, it’s likely they’ll consider Petplan.

Here’s a simple content marketing process for you to follow when you’re just getting started:

  1. Uncover customer challenges: Send out email surveys asking your customers about why they buy from you and what their pet-related challenges and needs are. Look for product-related and non-product related topics. Speaking to customers face-to-face allows you to dig deeper into their motivations.
  2. Select your topics: Find topics for content that resonate with your brand. For example, Petplan writes about rare dog breeds, information on specific animals and provide pet care tips. These are the topics that interest their existing customers, which is why it attracts new ones too.
  3. Create a lead magnet: Once people read your content, you’ll need to capture their details to nurture them into customers. You can do this with discounts, prize draws, ebooks, and webinars. Anything that delivers something of value up front.
  4. Nurture with email: Now you have their details, it’s time to build the relationship. Use email marketing principles to “drip” more content and add more value over time. Do this with the content they care about most.
  5. Convert leads into customers: Once in a while, it’s okay to send an offer to convert these leads into customers. For example, an ecommerce brand may hold a limited sale or entice first-time customers with discounts. Figure out the offer and call-to-action that works best with your brand.

3. Don’t Neglect Traditional Media

Yes, digital marketing must be a part of every small business’s growth plan. But traditional media still works wonders, especially “local businesses.” However, these mediums only work if your customers are consuming them. Yes, it’s great investing in an ad for a local magazine, but only if your customers are reading it. Earlier, I mentioned that email surveys are a great way of uncovering the right topics for your content efforts. They’re also effective for discovering where your customers hang out online and what publications they read. Use these surveys to see if they consume traditional media.

Print ads can be incredibly creative and inspiring. For example, this ad from Kentucky for Kentucky that was printed in Oxford American magazine used a creative way to get readers’ attention: with a great big typo in the headline:

Kentucky for Kentucky Ad Example

Luckily, the editors of the magazine found it funny, as did their readers.

Here’s what Kentucky for Kentucky did well here:

  1. They targeted a magazine who had a reader base which included their ideal customer
  2. They used humor to get their attention, not just another boring print ad

Direct mail is another medium that still works wonders (as long as you consider your local and state laws). Take this example from Neville Medhora, where he dissects a direct mail piece from a real estate agent:

Real Estate Agent Direct Mail Lead Management Example

In his guide, he shows exactly why this works so well as this ad:

  • Includes a list of events in the area, providing practical utility for the recipient
  • Provides all contact info the recipient needs to get in touch
  • Asks a relevant, persona-driven question
  • Showcases some example properties, along with their prices

If you’re targeting specific geographic regions, then consider testing direct mail. Make sure you include one offer, make it super clear on what action they should take and provide some kind of value. This should be the philosophy you use in all of your traditional media.

4. Create In-Person Events

Event marketing is another initiative that can seem expensive. But it doesn’t have to be! Indeed, if you select the right format and execute properly, it can be an affordable way of getting in front of your customers face-to-face. Take pop-ups for example. By setting up a pop-up in the street (or within another businesses’ physical location), you can affordably get in front of your customers without having to pay expensive venue costs.

For example, BarkBox took to the streets for a week with their pop-up shop “Barkshop Live.” Here, they fitted visitor’s dogs with an RFID chipped vest and let them play with their dog toys. The vest then displayed to owners which toys their dogs played with most. They could then buy these toys on the spot if they wanted to.

As well as the real-life exposure and press attention, they repurposed content for the event into a video (as seen above). Not only that, but I would hazard a guess that they used the data collected from the RFID chips to inform their product strategy. The lesson here? Squeeze as much value from every event as possible. Then there are networking evenings. Again, instead of hiring out pricey venues, simply get together with other organizations in your market/region and put on a networking event together. Hold speaker sessions, workshops, or panels that allow each business to put their expertise forward. This way, everyone brings their audiences into one place, working together to expand their audience.

For example, Lean Startup Circles bring startup founders together to discuss existing challenges, share ideas, and network with their peers:

Lean Startup Circle NYC Example

Can you bring your industry together to share challenges and new ideas? Use networking events to facilitate new partnerships and business opportunities.

5. Build Your Personal Brand

Often overlooked by small business owners, there’s much power in a strong personal brand. Take the likes of Richard Branson and Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. They’re constantly in the limelight, which in turn brings a huge amount of attention to their companies. Not to mention extending the longevity of their careers, bringing new opportunities outside of their businesses.

Here’s a quick four-step framework to building and maintaining your own personal brand:

  1. Build your platform: Create a website to act as the “hub” for your content. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk uses his website to blog about relevant content he believes in, lists the events he’s attending, and direct visitors to his social accounts:Gary Vaynerchuk Website Example
  2. Define yourself: How do you want to be perceived? Are there any topics you want to be known for by your audience? Define the goals for your personal brand, as well as your values and the “role” you want to be known for.
  3. Create content: Ultimately, your content should share your story and focus on the topics that matter most to you. Seth Godin is an excellent example of creating value-driven content:Seth Godin Blog Example Don’t forget about social media content. Focus on where your audience is and create content that works on those platforms (e.g., short-form video and photos on Instagram, long-form video on YouTube).
  4. Schedule: Your personal brand isn’t something you can show up to when you feel like it. Just like a business, you need to consistently show up and create great content. Will you create content once a week or daily? Pick a cadence that works for you.

How are you currently growing your small business? Have you found any surprising results from your marketing activities? Join the conversation in the comments below.



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The finest means to guarantee that you do not obtain a larger costs than needed come earnings tax obligation time is to increase check you are getting every deduction possible. There are several small company tax obligation reductions offered to sole-proprietorships and also various other small company companies, such as LLCs.

Different Tax Deductions You Can Apply to Your Business

Keep in mind that while the listed here includes some usual reductions that might relate to your service, there might be some on this listing that do not benefit your certain conditions. Constantly get in touch with your accounting professional prior to declaring a reduction on your tax obligations.

1. Office

This is among one of the most usual reductions that small company proprietors have the ability to utilize. In order for you to get approved for the office reduction, your room requires to pass the required needs. You need to utilize the location solely for your service. Functioning from your bed will not obtain you the reduction. You ought to additionally frequently perform the majority of your service from this place.

Beginning in 2013, the IRS presented a streamlined choice for you to declare your office reduction. This permits you to declare approximately 300 square feet at a price of $5 per square foot. This really did not alter that can declare the reduction. Yet, it simply made it simpler to declare the reductions. You are additionally able to declare your reduction making use of the criterion approach. Nonetheless, this does have a couple of distinctions:

It permits you to declare a percent of the house made use of rather than making use of a 300- square foot cap.
Depreciation reduction for a section of the house made use of is enabled in addition to regain of devaluation upon the sale of the house.
Actual costs are made use of to figure out reduction rather than the basic $5/square foot.
Which choice you pick when declaring will certainly rely on your whole tax obligation scenario in its entirety. Invest a long time discussing your tax obligation scenario in its totality to find out just what will function much better for you.

2. Automobile Business Use

Just like your office, utilizing your automobile for service functions might enable you to obtain a good reduction on your tax obligations. This reduction is a little bit harder to monitor if you utilize your car for both individual and also service usage.

If you are buying an automobile that will certainly be made use of a minimum of 50% of the moment for service throughout the year, you have the ability to subtract this from your tax obligations. SUVs can produce a reduction of approximately $25,000 Smaller sized guest lorries can obtain you a reduction of approximately $11,060

If you intend on deducting your business mileage, bear in mind that you require to have appropriate and also detailed paperwork of specifically just how your gas mileage connects to your service. You additionally require to maintain this paperwork accessible for approximately 7 years after you take the reduction. You have the ability to subtract either the real expense of the gas mileage or take the basic reduction.

Legally, you have the ability to take the basic reduction also if the real expense of your gas mileage is much less. Nonetheless, if you do take the basic reduction, you will certainly not have the ability to subtract the operating expense of the car. These prices consist of gas, upkeep, or insurance policy.

Advertising can be among the most significant, however additionally one of the most needed, cost a small company proprietor can sustain. Every one of your marketing and also advertising products can be subtracted at 100%. For that reason, this cost can additionally swiftly become your most significant reduction also.

These reductions consist of not just your paid online and also offline marketing, such as signboards or Google advertisements. It additionally consists of calling card and also handouts you give out at networking occasions. If you spent for SEO solutions or pay a month-to-month cost for e-mail advertising and marketing software program, you have the ability to subtract those costs also.

One marketing cost that is a little bit challenging to subtract is car marketing. It’s really usual for regional small company proprietors to have their car embellished with their firm name, logo design, and also call details. The real expense of including the advertising products to your car is insurance deductible. Nonetheless, the expense of driving about so individuals can see your car is not insurance deductible.

There are additionally marketing versus marketing prices that require to be born in mind. If the single function of your service web site is marketing, after that the month-to-month upkeep prices and also charges are insurance deductible. Nonetheless, if you additionally take settlements on your web site and also offer your items there, this is taken into consideration a marketing cost and also no more insurance deductible under marketing functions. This additionally relates to signs. If you upload a short-lived indicator to obtain interest for your service, you can subtract it. Irreversible indications, such as those lasting a year or even more, are not insurance deductible.

4. Kid and also Dependent Care

If you have any person that depends on you for treatment, such as your kids or a spouse/family participant unable of self-care, you can subtract the costs you sustain while spending for take care of them throughout your functioning hrs.

If you have your service and also have staff members, using to spend for your staff members’ child care costs can additionally offer you with a rather rewarding reduction on your tax obligations. This can amount to $150,000 a year by declaring 10-25% of this cost.

5. Education And Learning

It’s constantly a great suggestion to advance your expertise and also abilities in your picked location of know-how. By participating in workshops, taking courses, and also buying publications that are straight linked to enhancing the abilities you require to effectively run your service, you can build up fairly a reduction.

The IRS will absolutely have a look at these costs and also figure out if they get approved for the reduction. Yet, every education-related cost that you sustain while enhancing your education and learning will certainly be subtracted at 100%. Any type of education-related costs not straight pertaining to your service or that will certainly not assist with a brand-new profession will certainly not certify.

6. Retired Life Contributions

While you might enjoy what you do, at some point, you will certainly wish to retire. Adding to your retired life fund will certainly offer you an excellent savings for the future. It will certainly additionally offer you an excellent reduction on your earnings currently. You will certainly require to function carefully with your tax obligation consultant or accounting professional to see to it that you established a certified strategy. Just particular strategies certify, and also each strategy certifies just approximately a particular quantity.

7. Traveling

Much like your car costs, taking a trip for the single function of job is additionally insurance deductible. If you are mosting likely to be far from your house for longer than one service day, you have the ability to subtract all costs accumulated throughout that time as long as you completely record that you are fulfilling, the function of traveling, and also days of return/departure. A few of the consisted of insurance deductible costs are:

  • Travel costs, such as aircraft or train tickets
  • Meals, consisting of any type of ideas for solution
  • Lodging
  • Shipping of any type of luggage and also products needed for business journey
  • Like car costs, maintain really comprehensive documents of your service traveling to send with your tax obligations. Hang on to those documents for a couple of years after.

8. Lawful and also Professional Fees

Deductions additionally consist of spending for any type of kind of specialist to collaborate with you. These specialists consist of accounting professionals, service experts, and also lawyers.

Every entrepreneur requires to pay a lawyer also if it is simply to aid obtain every one of their service documents in order or formulate collaboration documents. These business-related charges insurance deductible. You can additionally subtract charges for lawful issues like developing your will certainly as long as you just subtract the part that connects to your service within the will.

An accounting professional or an additional tax obligation specialist is critical to any type of small company proprietor. Doing your tax obligations inaccurately can not just cost you some hard-earned reductions currently, however it can additionally cost you thousands in audit costs later on by not submitting every little thing effectively.

Keep in mind that if you pay any one of these specialists greater than $600 throughout the year for their charges, you might require to submit a1099-MISC This will absolutely be something you require to seek advice from an expert due to the fact that it can be really complex identifying that requires to submit the 1099- MISC and also of what costs.

Don’t Pay More Than You Need To

While having your service can be among one of the most gratifying experiences you can have, it can additionally be fairly expensive, particularly when it involves earnings tax obligation time. Recognizing what you can– and also can not– subtract from your tax obligations guarantees you do not pay greater than you definitely require.

Turn your interest job right into a permanent service. Discover just how Weebly can aid you take the next step in your business trip.

This write-up was created by Peter Daisyme from Business2Community and also was legitimately accredited via the NewsCred author network. Please route all licensing concerns to legal@newscred.com.





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Considering 57% of U.S. travelers really feel that brand names ought to customize their details based upon individual choices as well as previous habits, as well as 80% of travelers make use of a mobile phone application to research study a journey, it adheres to that mobile application advertising and marketing ought to be a key emphasis for traveling firms.

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Computers permeate nearly every aspect of our existence. According to the 2018 National Urban League Equality Index ™, a computer is in 93.6% of white homes and 89.3% of Black homes in the United States. The prevalence of digital experiences has also created a significant increase in tech industry jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics collectively defines the tech industry as any industry in which at least 14.5% of jobs are in STEM occupations. STEM workers include engineers, IT, scientists, and the managers of those employees. In the 2015-2016 academic calendar year, only 8.2% of all degrees conferred to Blacks in STEM fields compared to 12.8% of degrees and certificates conferred to whites. Not surprisingly, just 5.7% of total Black employment was in the STEM field compared to 8.5% of white workers.

The tech industry has a diversity problem.

Black Impact on Technology

During Black History Month, we want to bring the technologists who helped shape MarTech as we know it today to the forefront. Despite significant roadblocks and oppression at every turn, Black Americans have had an incredible impact.

Here are 8 notable Black Americans that have made a difference in the tech industry:

John Henry Thompson

If you’ve ever watched an animated video, played a video game, or visited a website, you have John Henry Thompson to thank. Known as the “Father of Lingo programming,” Thompson created a scripting language to render visuals in computer programs. Flash and shockwave programs found in animation, video games, and website design are all thanks to this object-oriented programming language known as Lingo.

James Edward West

Carrying over 200 foreign and 47 United States patents, James Edward West is responsible for creating a more compact and cost-effective version of the microphone. By placing polymer electret film on one side, he was able to convert sound into high fidelity electrical signals. His invention is still used in most phones and tape recorders today. At age 88, he is still an active inventor.

Janet Emerson Bashen

The first Black woman to receive a patent for a web-based software invention was Janet Emerson Bashen for LinkLine. The web-based Equal Employment Opportunity case management and tracking software was invented by Bashen and she obtained a patent in December 2007. Since 2007, she’s earned many more patents and continues to innovate in software today.

Mark Dean

One of technology’s top innovators, Dr. Mark Dean is a computer engineer who helped design the IBM personal computer. Dr. Dean led multiple teams throughout his time at IBM, creating the first color computer monitor, the world’s first gigahertz chip, and the Industry Standard Architecture systems bus, a component that allows multiple devices such as modems, keyboards, and printers to be plugged into a computer. Today, Dr. Dean still holds three of IBMs original patents, and over 20 patents overall.

Valerie Thomas

In 1970, Valerie Thomas worked on the image processing systems for the first ever images of space to be sent to earth via satellite. By 1980, Valerie Thomas invented the illusion transmitter. The device creates optical illusion images that appear to be real and in front of the two concave mirrors used to create them. As one of only two women to major in physics at Morgan State University, Thomas’ work with NASA contributed to research on the ozone layer, satellite technology, and Halley’s Comet. She retired in 1995 with numerous NASA awards under her belt.

Marian R. Croak

With over 200 patents under her belt, Dr. Marian R. Croak is a leading expert in voice over internet protocol (VoIP). Dr. Croak also pioneered the way that people donate to charity via text-based donation. In 2005, she filed the patent for text-based donations to charity, revolutionizing charity donations forever. In 2013, she was inducted to the Women in Technology hall of fame and in 2014, she became the VP of Engineering at Google. At Google, she led the team for Project Loon which used balloons to extend network coverage and led the deployment of wifi across India’s railway system.

Lisa Gelobter

You can thank Lisa Gelobter for the above gif as she was integral in the creation of Shockwave Flash, the technology that blazed a trail for web animation. Later, she was a member of the senior management team for the launch of Hulu, playing a major role in the emergence of online video. During Barack Obama’s presidency, she served as Chief Digital Service Officer.

Kimberly Bryant

Kimberly Bryant launched Black Girls Code in 2011 as an organization devoted to teaching young women of color computer coding and programming languages. The six-week program focuses on giving an underrepresented population the chance to learn about a wide range of technology concepts including robotics. Bryant is an advocate as well, stating to Fast Company, “[our organization is] unapologetically black. My goal is to make sure the girls understand there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. This is about taking pride in our culture and advancing our culture.”

The Future of MarTech

As the importance of a diverse workforce comes in to focus, it is vital for companies to stand up and recognize the contributions of marginalized communities and to create new opportunities for these voices to be heard. With amazing contributions like the ones outlined above, MarTech—and the world—depends on the innovation and contribution of Black Americans.

Who would you add to this list and why? I’d love to hear about change-makers and innovators in the comments below.



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Facebook is seeking to money program pitches from material developers in an initiative to drive involvement for its on-demand video clip system, Facebook Watch.

The social media sites titan is presently seeking material manufacturers, authors, as well as social media sites influencers to supply concepts for programs that will certainly show up on the system.

Facebook wishes to money as lots of as 6-8 programs per manufacturing companion, as well as Digiday reports that Facebook wants to pay around $200,000 for an authorized eight-episode collection.

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