Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Use Images to Sell Your content, but Be Smart About Visual Choices

Is a picture really worth 1,000 words? That’s debatable, but there’s no doubt that adding visuals to your blog posts, newsletters, case studies, research reports--and even your tweets--will substantially improve engagement. If you can include images of people, that will push the engagement needle even further than simply images of things and places. So forget about writing and just publish photos and video content right?

Not so fast.

Since 2010, we’ve been co-publishing a newsletter, website, magazine and annual research report for trade association execs with our client, Naylor, LLC. It’s all under the Association Adviser brand. Last month, in the Association Adviser eNewsletter, we decided to see for ourselves if images really made a different. As Naylor’s Brianna Lawson explained in The Power of Visual Content in Association Communications, we published two versions of the monthly newsletter--each version had identical content, but one version included images and the other did not. We ran an A/B test in which each email was first sent to a small number of subscribers. Then, our mailing system measured which version earned more engagement in terms of opens and clicks.
The result? The email with images garnered 33 percent more clicks to articles on our website.

The newsletter with images was also more likely to be forwarded and more likely to be shared via social media. Naylor repeated the exercise with some of its own clients and found similar results.

According to HubSpot, twice as many people prefer emails with images than prefer text only emails (65% vs. 35%). Tweets with images receive 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites, and 150 percent more retweets than text-only tweets. And according to Social Bakers, which looks at the top 10 percent of posts made by more than 30,000 brand pages. Facebook posts with photos saw the most engagement – accounting for 87 percent of total interactions.


People like to look at people and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, according to Market Domination Media. But don’t go overboard. As we’ll discuss in next week’s post, new research from Carnegie Mellon University, the brain makes mistakes because it applies incorrect inner beliefs, or internal models, about how the world works. So, take the time to find the right images to complement all the hard work you put into your writing and presentations. Just as a stunning photo, can keep people interested in a poorly written article or post, a dull or poor choice of images will kill potential interest in a brilliantly crafted post.

Have a happy Holiday and think before you post.

Best, HB

Our blog has more as well as the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: adding images to email, Hubspot, Carnegie Mellon University, Social Bakers, Market Domination Media


Monday, December 14, 2015

Can’t Focus These Days? Put Your Device Down and Go Read a Book

Since our last post Start Your New Year’s Resolutions Right Now! generated a fair amount of feedback, we thought we’d follow up with more about the benefits of getting an early start on your New Year’s resolutions. If you accomplish nothing else in 2016, try taking a break from your mobile devices from time to time and test-drive your planned resolutions for a few weeks, before fully committing to them.

If you suspect that you might be having more trouble than ever pulling yourself away from your pocket-sized digital alter ego, you’re not alone.
“The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” according to Nicholas Carr author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” According to Carr, “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.” What’s more, a recent  Adobe survey, found the average white-collar worker spends about six hours a day (30+ hours a week) on email. In fact, more than half of millennials check email from the bathroom!

In our tireless efforts to stay up to speed with all of the digital communities to which we belong, we’re actually doing nothing really well. About two weeks ago, Tony Schwartz had a great piece in the New York Times
Addicted to Distraction and we suggest you give it a skim. According to Schwartz, our endless access to new information also easily overloads our working memory. “When we reach cognitive overload, our ability to transfer learning to long-term memory significantly deteriorates. It’s as if our brain has become a full cup of water and anything more poured into it starts to spill out.”

C’mon. You don’t think that’s a problem!

Borrow a page from Carr and take on more fully absorbing activities as part of your day. You could even read a book. Carr said he not only reads books because he loves them, but they’re also a “continuing attention-building practice.”

Since he started his digital fasting, he’s retained his longtime ritual of deciding the night before on the most important thing he can accomplish the next morning--that’s his first work activity most days, for 60 to 90 minutes without interruption. Afterward, he takes a 10- to 15-minute break to quiet his mind and renew his energy.
If he has other work during the day that requires sustained focus, he goes completely offline for designated periods, repeating his morning ritual. In the evening, when he goes up to his bedroom, he nearly always leaves the digital devices downstairs.


New Year’s resolutions and other forms of behavior modification are not easy to stick to, but testing them out before you commit is a great way to set reasonable, attainable goals for yourself and your team. Have fun and enjoy the Holidays this year, but don’t wait until after January 1st to hit the ground running.

Our blog has more as well as the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: Tony Schwartz, Nicholas Carr, The Internet Is Destroying Our Brains, Lack of Focus

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Start Your New Year’s Resolutions Right Now!

Use this month to work out the bugs in your big audacious goals for 2016—it’s not just about willpower, it’s about the stamina needed to stick with it throughout the year and beyond.

It’s getting colder and darker in many parts of the country. Your inbox is constantly bombarded with last minute Holiday offers. The parties are starting. The late-season football games are on almost every night—and inevitably they’re going into overtime and keeping you up past your bedtime. Fruitcakes, cookies and chocolates are piling up in the office kitchen faster than the incomplete budget forecasts and year-end statements on your desk. Your nieces, nephews and grandchildren are texting you constant revisions to their Holiday gift lists.

And then those annoyingly happy family Holiday cards start rolling in. Perfect lighting. Perfect smiles. Perfect teeth. Now you’re spouse wants to book last-minute flights to New Zealand just so you can re-take your own “perfect family” photo at a deserted white sand beach at sunset. Can’t let anyone “out-cute” and out-smile your kids.

Ah, the Holidays! Just get me through the next month, you say to yourself, and you’ll start hitting the gym again, lose 10 pounds, get your desk and hard-drive cleaned up and back on track for 2016.


You have to start NOW on those New Year’s resolutions—Yes, during the very first days of December--and find a way to stick to them. Not only that, WRITE THEM DOWN and display them publicly….at least in your home, if not your place of work….to ensure extra accountability.

Not to be a Debbie Downer in December, but now’s the best time to test out your resolutions and work the bugs out so you can hit the ground running in January. You need to be brutally honest with yourself about your willpower, your stamina and how reasonable your goals are. The key is to own your resolutions; don’t let them own you.

Realistic goals

If you’re a couch potato, which resolution are you more likely to stick to—running a marathon in six months or walking/jogging for 20 minutes three times per week? If your goal is to be a published author in 2016, which plan are you more likely to stick to—having the first 6 chapters of your new book done by July 4, or starting a weekly blog that goes out each and every Thursday, even when you’re traveling? If can’t put off building a social media presence any longer, which resolution are you more likely to stick to—gaining 10,000 new followers in 2016, or making 1-2 really meaningful new contacts each and every month?

Trust us, the phased-in, consistent approach to behavior modification (aka personal resolutions) works. You’ll feel better about yourself and probably look better, too the next time we see you. And there’s nothing worse than seeing a new company blog with four to six posts in January, two in February, one in March and then not another one until June. Oops!

Why resolutions don’t stick

Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy told Huffington Post that resolutions don’t stick because we’re setting ourselves up for failure. “We tend to set unreasonable aims for ourselves and then experience negative emotions and a lack of motivation when we don’t reach them,” she observed. “Failing to meet the unreasonable goals we set for ourselves can in turn take a negative toll on our self-worth.” 

We also have way too many options for what Ken Tencer, CEO of Spyder Works, Inc. calls self-innovation. “I don’t know many people who are completely content with themselves,” said Tencer. “Most of us have one or two things we’d like to improve, enlarge, reduce or re-invent. Either directly or through online course providers, we can now take thousands of university courses from esteemed institutions. Or we can find websites that teach us how to change the oil in our car, enhance our yoga skills or learn a new language. Being innovative with our own lives is an excellent complement to being innovative in our businesses.

Sound familiar?

According to researcher Richard Wiseman, half of all Americans set themselves a New Year’s resolution, but most who do (88%) fail. He agrees with Cuddy that we set goals that are too high or too audacious and that we also tend to be impatient, sprinting out of the gate in search of immediate “returns” rather than taking “baby steps” that will take some time before they move the needle.

Beating the odds

Trying to get your clients to modify their financial behavior in the new year can be quite challenging, too. But it can be highly rewarding if true changes result, said Dr. Glenn Freed of Los Angeles based Vericimetry Advisors LLC, who we’ve been working with for several years. “And you’ll further cement your status as a client’s most trusted advisor,” said Freed.
“Framing a legal, charitable or financial planning discussion around New Year’s resolutions can be quite effective for communicating with clients,” added Freed. “You can have discussions in person or through a client newsletter. The key is to use these resolutions as a way to check in with clients throughout the year.


Advisors help their clients follow up on resolutions not only in December, but throughout the year. Framing the financial planning discussion in this way at the start of the year and then following up consistently can be an effective way to help clients stay on the path to financial resolution success. Make 2016 a great year no matter what the markets, the economy and geopolitical factors throw at us.

But you’ve got to start NOW—not after the Holidays.

Our blog has more as well as the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: New Year’s Resolutions early, Dr. Glenn Freed, Vericimetry Advisors LLC, financial planning resolutions, Amy Cuddy, Richard Wiseman, Ken Tencer

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Does Technology Make Us Happier, Smarter, More Productive?

Most of us can’t seem to go a day without our precious digital devices by our side. But is modern technology really making us happier and more efficient? Results of a recent Harris Poll, suggest that many adults are divided on the pros and cons of modern technology. Try raising this question over Thanksgiving dinner with your relatives and you’ll see what we mean.

On the plus side, seven out of ten adults (71%) believe technology has improved the overall quality of their lives and more than two-thirds (68%) say it encourages people to be more creative. On the flip side, nearly three fourths of respondents (73%) believe technology is creating a lazy society, while almost that many (69%) say it’s too distracting. What’s more, nearly three in five respondents (59%) say technology is having a negative impact on literacy. How do these results stack up to your straw poll of family members?

Sure, two-thirds of Americans (63%) told pollsters that technology helps them learn new skills, but the majority of respondents said technology has a negative effect on:

  • Their relationships with friends (54%)
  • Their ability to live life the way they want (55%)
  • Their happiness (57%)
  • Their social life (58%)

Think about those stats before you bend over backwards trying to look cool and master every shiny new tech toy that comes down the pike.

Generational differences

As expected, Millennials are more likely than older generations to say technology has had a positive effect on key areas of their lives and researchers found that men of all ages are somewhat more likely than women to be technology zealots. So if your clients are primarily young adult males (i.e. tech entrepreneurs) then definitely hit the social, mobile, IoT pedal hard. But one size won’t fit all when it comes to your thought leadership marketing and client engagement. You’ll need to customize for each cohort.

Generational Effects of Technology
Gen Xers
Baby Boomers
Ability to learn new skills
Relationships with friends
Ability to live life the way they want
Social life
Relationships with family
Source: Harris Poll report, November 2015

As the chart above shows, we were especially struck by the generational differences about technology’s perceived impact on relationships with friends, social life and family. Why do you care? Well where do you think most of your “word of mouth” referrals come from?

While Millennials may be the most likely group to say technology positively affects their relationships, and the ones most likely to say it enhances their social life, their family and friends feel differently. Also, Millennials are more likely than any other generation to say their friends/family think they use technology too much.

Gender differences regarding technology

Men and women of all ages tend to differ when it comes to technology’s effect on their lives:

  • Women are more likely than men to say technology has become too distracting (76% vs. 70% of men) and that it gets upgraded/updated too quickly (67% vs. 57%).
  • They’re also more likely to believe it has a negative effect on their productivity at home (30% vs. 17%) and safety and security (18% vs. 13%).
  • That said, women are more likely than men to say technology can be used as an escape from their busy lives (50% vs. 43%).
A majority of men are more likely than women to believe technology has a positive impact on several functional aspects of their lives:
  • This includes their ability to learn new skills (67% vs. 60% of women)
  • To live life the way they want (50% vs. 40%)
  • Their work productivity (43% vs. 29%)
If you don’t think gender differences matter, then consider how you approach couples who come in to see you during discovery meetings and regular client updates. Are you really connecting with both spouses? But regardless of gender, technological devices have surpassed even TV as staples of daily life they CANNOT live without:
  • Without Internet access (67%)
  • A computer/laptop (60%)
  • Mobile phone (59%)
  • Television (55%)

That’s right. American can now go longer without television than they can go without their mobile phones, computers and Internet access. So when you sit down with friends and family this Thanksgiving, put down your devices, have a real-life conversation or two with the important people in your lives and give thanks for all of our modern conveniences. You don’t need to use them 24/7 in order to appreciate them.

Our blog has more about this and related topics.


Technology distraction, addicted to tech, Thanksgiving

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Power of Negative Thinking

If Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris were not enough, stock market gyrations, looming interest rate hikes and economic slowdowns in the U.S., China and Japan could give even the most optimistic among us reason to worry. As many of you will agree, the only thing worse than bad news is waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop.” We all have our own ways of coping with anxiety, and if you or a close friend or co-worker strikes you as a glass-half-empty person, that’s not necessarily bad.

A growing body of research, such as this new
study in the journal Emotion, shows that people who manage stress by thinking the worst can be a validation of sorts for those who embrace their anxiety.
Kate Sweeny, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and her researchers surveyed 230 law school graduates frequently during the four months after the California bar exam in July 2013. What they found was that waiting for uncertain news is often distressing, at times even more distressing than facing bad news. Researchers proposed two definitions of waiting well.

1. First, people can wait in such a way as to ease their distress during the waiting period.

2. Second, people could wait in such a way as to ease the pain of bad news or enhance the thrill of good news.

First, participants who suffered through a waiting period marked by anxiety, rumination, and pessimism responded more productively to bad news and more joyfully to good news, compared to participants who suffered little during the wait. These findings substantiate the difficulty of enduring a stressful waiting period, and suggest that this difficulty may pay off once the news arrives.
“One definition of waiting well is not having negative emotions. But not going through that thinking process leaves you less prepared to receive the news. That’s the paradox, the counterintuitive part of the findings,” according to Julie K. Norem, the author of “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking,” and a professor of psychology at Wellesley. Norem was not involved in the study, but commented about it recently in the NY Times, Good News About Worrying.

Coping strategies are generally separated into three directions, said Sweeny.

1.       Some people sought to suppress fears. “But the more you try not to pay attention,” Dr. Sweeny said, “the more aware you become.”

2.       Others sought silver linings. “They tried to anticipate something good in a bad outcome,” Dr. Sweeny said. “‘I will grow as a person if I fail the bar exam.’ But, she contended: “That’s defensive posturing. Why would they take the bar exam if they believed that silver lining?”
3.       Others aimed for a time-tested approach: hoping for the best, bracing for the worst. These people worried constructively, doing what researchers call “defensive pessimism,” or “proactive coping.” They dive into the worry maelstrom, surfacing with contingency plans.
“Set your expectations low and think through the negative possibilities,” Dr. Norem said. “It drives optimists crazy. But it shifts your attention away from feelings of anxiety to what you can do to address the disaster that might happen.”

I once coached a very successful teen soccer team that reeled off 28 wins in a row. My assistant coach, a defensive genius, must have said “Uh Oh, that’s trouble!” every time the opposing team pushed the ball within 30 yards of our goal. That was his way of coping and making the right adjustments as we conceded less than a dozen goals per season during our run. Right now I’m an assistant coach for a youth baseball team that went 25-4 and won the state championship last summer. Every time we get into a close game and the opposing team puts runners on base against our pitcher, our head coach starts shaking his head, muttering, “Damn, we blew it again. When are they going to learn!” But when the kids come back to the dugout between innings, he quietly pulls them aside one by one, helps them understand what needs to be improved, and more often than not, it gets done.


Whether you’re working with youth baseball players, mid-career professionals, or aging retirees, facing your fears and working through them can take you a long way. Although anxiety is perceived as a negative emotion, researchers say it doesn’t make you a bad (or unsuccessful) person to feel it. Most of you have clients who not only invest in the markets, but manage businesses or practices they someday hope to sell and who set plenty of other BHAGS in life (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). You just can’t sail through life in these high achieving spheres without some prolonged anxiety and worry.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and set realistic expecations. We’ll get through the latest round of all-consuming agita just like we did in 2008, 9/11 and World War II.


Power of negative thinking, constructive pessimism, Paris attacks, Julie Norem, Kate Sweeny

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Your First Draft Sucks—So What?

Eighteenth century French philosopher Voltaire famously said “perfection is the enemy of good.” I bring this up because many of you are starting to set your BHAGs for 2016 (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and have asked about writing a book, white paper, regular blog or newsletter column.

Take the writing process seriously, but don’t be intimidated. If you can tell a great story and/or have great expertise to share with your centers of influence, then the words will eventually flow.

According to Marketing Profs copywriting guru, Daphne Gray-Grant, “A crappy first draft will not only help you write faster, but it'll also give you time to improve the quality of your writing.” Why? Because the best writing always comes from editing, “and the sooner you write your first draft, the sooner you'll be able to edit it,” added Grant.

We’ll let you in on a little secret: It doesn’t matter if you’re a do-it-yourself author or if you have hired a coach or ghost writer to help you. You need to revise, revise and revise. There is no secret formula to great writing. There are no shortcuts. It’s just a lot of trial and error and grinding it out until you start stringing together thoughts and phrases that seem to flow and make sense. You’ll recognize it when you see it, but there is no road map for getting there. By the way, you’ll never have a truly perfect FINAL draft---just progressively better versions of what you started with.

That’s why a first draft is so often called a “rough” draft—it’s directionally on the mark, but nowhere near ready for publication. But, the sooner you get your rough draft started the sooner you will feel better about yourself. You will start to feel the momentum building even if you were a perennial C student in English.

If nothing else, you should never be ashamed of a lousy first draft as it’s the first step toward solidifying your ideas and helping you write faster, more fluently and more confidently.

Blogger Bryan Hutchinson noted in a recent post (Why Your First Draft Isn’t Crap) that every book, every article and every blog post starts off with a first draft. “A first draft is special. It’s when you first pen an idea in some coherent form, it’s when you've assembled ideas from notes collected on napkins and scraps of paper or from your voice recorder,” observed Hutchinson. And it’s probably the most important step to completing your project. “The first draft is the one that matters most. No one's ever gotten to the last [draft] without the first,” added Hutchinson.


So, have the courage to commit your ideas to written form. Put them in some kind of an outline. Come up with a big, bold headline to announce the codification of your ideas. Then take that final important step……by { fill in your real name}. That’s right. Placing your byline on a published body of work—no matter how long or how short—puts you in select company in today’s increasingly anonymous online culture. You’re a thought influencer who’s not afraid to come out from behind the safety of an on-screen account and stand behind an original idea no matter how well (or not) the prose actually flows.

Again, don’t let pursuit of perfection be the enemy of progress. Even Voltaire didn’t come up with that pearl of wisdom on his first try. Go for it!

Our blog has more about this and related topics.


Voltaire, writing process is difficult, first draft sucks, Bryan Hutchinson, Daphne Gray-Grant

Monday, October 19, 2015

11 Tips for Shooting Professional Video on a Budget

No matter how much you read and how well you write, you can’t deny that we live in a screen-dominated age. So many screens are vying for our attention--and your clients’ attention—that you need to start sharing your expertise visually. Many of you get it and have asked about shooting your own videos since you don’t have the budget to hire professional video crews. At the same time, you don’t want to embarrass yourself. So how do you get a good result?

It reminds me of that poster hanging in the back of my lawn mower repair shop: “We do three types of jobs here: Good, Fast and Cheap, you can choose any two.” In other words…

   If it’s Good and Cheap--it won’t be Fast

   If it’s Good and Fast--it won’t be Cheap

   If it’s Fast and Cheap—it won’t be Good

Until recently, that summed up your thought leadership video options, but now we’d like to add a fourth option:

   If you’re Smart and Well Organized, you can get a solid result that won’t break the bank.

To that end, the folks from Marketing Profs recently published a post chock-full of tips to help professionals like you create high quality videos. The tips are pretty basic, but our colleague Brooke Sessions, a New York-based network TV director who helps us out on special projects added a few of her own.

1. Shoot during the day,
especially if you don’t have a professional lighting set up. According to Marketing Profs, natural lighting will complement your skin and won't typically make you look washed out or grainy.
2. Don't shoot backlit or with a window behind you. People want to see your face and a backlit light source will leave your face dark.

3. Be wary of background noise, especially when shooing outside. All too often a plane, train, car alarm, or annoying pedestrians having a conversation will come out of nowhere to disrupt your shoot. “If you do have to shoot outside, try to pick a quiet spot,” recommends Sessions.

4. Don't shoot in a car—even if you're busy.
According to Marketing Profs, shooting in a moving vehicle adds a new layer of sounds to deal with. No road is perfectly smooth and your video will be bouncy

5. Acknowledge you have shaky hands. “
ALWAYS use a tripod,” recommended Sessions. You don’t have to break the bank to find a good stable tripod that will save you countless hours (and dollars) of editing time.

6. Silence your devices while shooting. Even if your phone is on vibrate mode, that sound can get picked up by the microphone.

7. Be aware of where the camera lens is. According to Marketing Profs, if you're looking at your face on the screen, you're not looking at the camera—and not looking at your audience. It just feels awkward to watch a video in which someone looks like he or she is peering behind you. When we shoot with Sessions, we don’t use teleprompters, but we have summary bullet points taped right beneath the camera lens. That helps us keep our focus on the lens.

8. Always review and edit your video before posting. Watch for any weird lighting changes, advises Marketing Profs, as your phone tried to decide on a light source. Listen to the video with headphones on—did you capture a lot of background noise, such as people talking or phones buzzing? You may have to re-shoot.

9. If you are using a Smartphone or iPad, “hold it horizontally, NOT vertically. “No one wants to look at vertical video,” lamented Sessions.
10. Use a microphone. “The audio quality will be far superior,” recommended Sessions. Mary Shaw, of Shaw Media Group agrees. “I think audio is THE most important production element, even though it’s video. You’ll have a much better chance to attracting and holding a viewer’s attention when the visual content can be heard clearly by using a high-quality microphone.”

11. Watch your framing. “Is there too much headroom (i.e. the space between the top of your head and the top of the screen)? Is it centered? These are concepts from still photography that must be considered when shooting video,” said Sessions.


Keep these 11 tips in mind and experiment with video before you go live. At first you may be surprised by how you look and sound on camera, but learn to embrace your new onscreen persona, even if you don’t think it looks and sounds exactly like you. It’s a whole new way of communicating with clients and prospects, but it’s what many are expecting, especially the next generation.

Our blog has more about this and related topics.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

App Overload Got You Down?

Are your app-infested mobile devices starting to look as cluttered as the outside of a Nascar stock car or the back of 5K fun run t-shirt? If so you’re not alone.

According to a comprehensive study by the folks at Kaizen Research in the U.K., more than 1,000 new apps hit the market every day and more often not they start to gather digital dust after the initial wow factor wears off. Here are some highlights of the study:  

  • The average, overall app retention rate, is highest in the first month of installing an app at 36 percent. Only 1 in 10 people keep an app for 12 months.
  • Over half of the 4,000 respondents surveyed (50.6%) of said the primary reason they uninstall an app is because it takes up too much storage.
  • More than two in five (40.6%) blamed intrusive advertising.
  • One in three (33.8%) cited the fact that the app kept freezing up.

As Kaizen’s clever infographic shows, when it comes to uninstalling business apps, the top three reasons are :
1.      Users found a better quality app that does the same thing (28.4%)

2.      Poor user experience (27.0%)

3.      You have to pay extra for the features you need (24.6%)


When we’re talking about work-related apps, only use the ones that truly save you time, make you more productive, or better informed. Junk the rest. Keep that in mind if you’re thinking about developing apps for your clients or customers. The cool factor only takes you so far. Keep the design and registration process simple. Don’t hog the user’s bandwidth and respect their privacy. As with any other product or service, sooner or later the user gets frustrated or bored unless you’re delivering true and long-lasting value. And above all else, make your app interesting and engaging and don’t try to charge users for features that come standard with your competitor’s offering.

Our blog has more about this and related topics.