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A winding path to marketing and analytics

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Tom Snyder is an agency content marketing manager at Hot Dog Marketing in Austin, Texas. His creative roots in copywriting and his passion for analytics are good examples of the kind of all-around game marketers need to bring to the evolving digital playing field. It also brings needed perspective to a question everybody with a tight budget is asking: How do you know when you have enough data? Is it the right kind of data? We caught up with Tom to hear what he had to say.

What led you to marketing?

Like most, I would say I have a pretty winding career path. After I graduated college, I was a high school math teacher for a couple of years and then I owned my own small business for a few years. I bought a failing coffee shop and to turn it into a success I had to learn how to market, connect with an audience and build a brand. So that’s really where I got my first taste of what marketing is. And then I sold the coffee shop since I got a little tired of running it. It’s exhausting. I got a job as a copywriter at a small digital marketing agency near Austin to get my foot in the door. 

I’ve been working there for the past few years and was promoted to content marketing manager. I lead all the brand messaging projects, strategy marketing, strategy projects, and manage the content team.

What do you enjoy most about marketing?

So what I like and actually what I really like is presenting to clients and doing discovery meetings and some of those strategic pieces and communication pieces. But I also really enjoy the analytical side of it, like data analysis. I have some chops in data analytics and I like finding and pulling insights from those sorts of things.


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When it comes to analytics, do you feel like you have too much information or not the right information or what?

Not enough information or not the right information. Typically the really valuable information is the stuff that just costs a lot of money. And so I don’t have the resources to tap into that information. It’s not just publicly available.

One of the issues that I’ve felt is that as many excellent insights as I could gain from buying a data set, like I just can’t ever get approval on the purchase. You know what I mean? So, that’s tough. And if I’m not going to purchase the data set, then starting a proprietary data set is one of the things that I really want to move more into. I’ve done a little bit, but that’s also been just a hard sell to convince clients to do that. But there’s so much value in it, I think it’s incredibly useful. I can even prove the value. But it’s a tough sell because it’s expensive. It takes a long time to show results.

Is there a particular piece of jargon or buzzword that bothers you?

Machine learning is one that I find is misused. Most people don’t need machine learning at all. They just need data analysis. They don’t actually need modeling, it would be overkill. Like trying to cut a birthday cake with a chainsaw.

Read next: Customer education is a vital part of the customer experience


About The Author

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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How to create a user flow map for your website & app

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How to create a user flow map for your website & app



In the highly competitive world of rock climbing, some athletes perform an extreme version of ascent: a climber performs a flash climb when they complete a route on their first attempt. Climbers value world record flash climbs because each climber only gets one attempt to set a record.

As difficult as flash climbs are, they aren’t extreme enough for some climbers. In a flash ascent, climbers can study the route, receive advice, and formulate plans. For climbers not satisfied with that level of challenge, onsight climbs are performed by climbers who not only have never completed the ascent before but haven’t even seen the route.

Extreme athletes seek out unique challenges, taking pride in accomplishing things that most people cannot. While the risk of failure adds unique value to sports, it adds unnecessary difficulty to business processes. In the business world, you don’t define success by creating unique challenges but by creating unique solutions to minimize challenges. One of those solutions is a user flow map—a method of diagramming the pathways users take through your interface.

A good user flow map helps businesses understand their users’ journeys, identify pain points, and plan for contingencies. This guide explains user flows, how to create user flow maps, and some best practices for designing your diagrams.

Key takeaways:

  • User journey describes the user’s entire experience with your company, while user flow describes the steps they follow using your interface.
  • Some common shapes like ovals, rectangles, diamonds, and parallelograms have commonly understood uses in flow charts.
  • Follow best practices and use the experts at Optimizely to level up your digital experience.

 

User flow vs. user journey

While user flow and user journey have similar names and overlap in significant ways, you should be aware of important differences between these concepts.

The user journey encompasses every aspect of the user’s experience with your company. The user journey begins when a user first becomes aware of your business (or becomes aware of a need you can solve) and ends with their last interaction with your company. That means that while you can’t know exactly when a user journey begins or ends, you can use customer relationship management software to identify where a user is on their journey and how to move them to the next step.

The user flow overlaps with the user journey, but it specifically describes the pathway users follow on your website or application. For example, a user flow may begin when a user visits your website for the first time and end with a purchase. Those activities are a part of the larger user journey, but the user flow is more interested in the experience users have with your website or app.

The user journey is interested in the user’s emotions, tangible and intangible interactions, ongoing communication, relationship building, etc.—the “people” side of the process; while the user flow is interested in the “technology” side of the process—the user’s clicks, page visits and subscriptions. The user flow and user journey describe different elements of the same relationship between your business and your users.

image source

 

User flow diagraming

Your users won’t ever see your user flow map, but you and your team will refer to it throughout the life of your website or app, so while it doesn’t have to be the prettiest document, it should still be clear and user-friendly.

While the rules of user flow diagraming aren’t set in stone, you should know some best practices and generally understand flowchart creation syntax.

  • Ovals represent the start and end point of your flow chart. Depending on your process, your user flow might have more than one start point and more than one endpoint.
  • Squares or rectangles represent individual pages or steps. In general, flow charts, squares and rectangles can be any step of a process, but in web and app design, squares and rectangles represent individual pages in the user interface.
  • Diamonds represent decisions that users must make. For example, when a user first attempts to log in to your platform, your website may prompt them to connect a Google or Facebook account, or they may log in with an email or continue as a guest. Depending on their choice, their journey through your website or app may diverge as you deliver a different experience based on their choices.
  • Parallelograms represent input required by the user. For example, you may require them to input a serial number to activate their product or provide a shipping address to receive a service.
  • Arrows indicate the direction of the flow. Your flow may include loops, crossroads, and diverging and converging pathways, so indicating the sequence of elements is essential for your user flow map to be readable. 

Generally, those four shapes, along with arrows, are the foundational building blocks of your user flow map, but you can always use additional shapes, colors or other design elements to communicate any information you believe is relevant. Remember that the purpose of a user flow map isn’t just to follow the rules or check a box but to communicate information about the user flow. The example below shows additional shapes that other companies have used when creating flow charts.

image source

 

User flow design principles

As with any form of communication, user flow maps lose some value when they omit relevant information and include too much irrelevant information. Designing a successful user flow map includes balancing several considerations to maximize the usefulness of your diagram.

1. Establish a level of detail

If your user flow maps are too detailed, they become convoluted and difficult to read. If they aren’t detailed enough, they aren’t useful. Establishing the correct level of granularity is an important first step in designing a user flow map.

When it comes to designing diagrams, the golden principle is to consider the needs of your users. What kind of questions will they be trying to answer with your chart? What level of experience will they have? What will they be using this chart to do? Answering those questions will help you define the right level of detail for your user flow map.

2. Consider alternatives

One of the reasons user flow maps are useful is because they allow designers to visually parse the journey users go on as they traverse your website or app. Do your best to consider every alternative when designing your user flow map.

For example, what will you do if users add items to their cart but leave without checking out? What will you do if a user provides a billing address but not a shipping address? What if a user requests a free trial but then buys the full version? Your user flow map will help you identify these crossroads and plan for contingencies.

3. Use the right digital experience platform

Your users’ digital experience matters. Optimizely is a powerful digital experience platform with expert tools to help with automation, A/B testing, content management, and much more.

A user flow map only describes your customers’ journey as they interact with your digital interface. While a user map can help identify pain points and visually inspire solutions, the key to improving your customer’s experience is to improve the content of your website or app.

 

If you’re ready to take your digital experiences to the next level, get started today to set up a meeting with an Optimizely representative today.


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What It Is And How It Works

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What It Is And How It Works

Is a dedicated development team model the right option? Despite seeing several statistics showing how outsourcing helps minimize development costs, you are still determining if it’s the right choice for you.

Well, when it comes to choosing a suitable outsourcing model, one of the essential things is knowing what your requirements are and which model will benefit your business. Choosing the best of the three outsourcing models is a difficult task.

Don’t worry. We are here for you.

This guide will help you decide which model is best for your business. Specifically, we will focus on a “dedicated development team model.” You will know what makes the dedicated team model better than other models. Let’s dig right in!

What is the dedicated development  team model?

Dedicated development team model is a type of business model that outsources software development . Usually, the client and the service provider sign an agreement that provides long-term software specialists. This is one of the most prevalent partnership models with fixed prices.

In the dedicated development team model, the team works on a specific project full-time, reporting directly to the client. The outsourcing company assists clients in recruiting, administrative support, and maintenance. This model works best for long-term projects.

There are many benefits to the dedicated team model, but to make an informed decision, we must also consider the alternatives.

Dedicated development team model vs. Time and Material Model

Another format that is usually compared with a dedicated development model is the time and materials model. In the time and material model, clients pay for the time and effort. This model gives scope for in-depth research, but it doesn’t guarantee the client will work with the same team throughout the project.

The time & frame of this model suits short-term projects and software that doesn’t require regular updates. Both models have their perks.

To conclude, time & frame models are best for short term projects, while the dedicated team model is best for long-term and vague requirements.

When to choose a dedicated team model?

A dedicated development team model can be beneficial for certain types of businesses. Your focus should be to determine if this suits your business type. Here’s, a quick checklist that will reduce your brainstorming :

  • When your business is in the early stages, i.e., a startup,
  • When the scope of work is vague,
  • When working on a complex and long-term project.

This model is perfect if you are one of the businesses that may need to extend the contract further.Lately, we have discussed vague requirements and the liberty to extend the scope. Yes, that’s the most significant advantage of the dedicated team model, but the real question is how this works. To begin with, we will have to know how the dedicated development team model works.

How does the DT management model work?

Dedicated team management is divided into four steps. Read below :

Discovery Phase :

The first and foremost step is to find out the client’s needs. During this discovery phase, the company and client sit down together to discuss requirements, budget, and how to manage the team.

In short, the following things are discussed in the discovery phase:

  • What are the project scopes?
  • What is the required number of team members?
  • Figure out the skills and expertise required in the team.
  • Negotiate the development costs.

Team Set Up

Following that, the company selects team members based on requirements. The number of developers, designers, project managers, and quality assistants depends on the requirements of the client. Companies begin to hire developers based on their requirements and demands. The core member of the team consists of :

The dedicated team’s structure consists of the following members

UX/UI designers

UX/UI designers work to ensure that users have an easy and enjoyable experience while using the software.

Quality assurance specialists

These members monitor, inspect, and propose a measure to improve the software according to the client’s needs.

Projects managers

Managers are responsible for teams productivity and ensure client demands are being fulfilled

DevOps engineers

DevOps engineers are specialists who have a wide range of knowledge of development and operations. This includes coding, infrastructure management, and all necessary methodologies.

Front-end & Backend Developers

Front-end developers design the visual aspect of the website to make it easy to navigate and useful, while back-end developers refer to the structure that helps the website function properly.

Development Phase

The development phase is when the team starts to work on the project. The dedicated development team model is managed by the client’s team, therefore, the client assigns work to team members. The next big task is to establish a communication bridge for regular meetings, reports, and progress.

Besides these developments, they also facilitate the following tasks :

  • Assign tasks and monitor them regularly.
  • Manage costs and taxes.
  • Establish a proper work environment.

In this phase, roles and responsibilities are outlined, and a development plan is created, in house team. Along with that, the team starts to keep track of progress and milestones (e.g., daily calls, reviews of issues and progress, etc.).

Once the team is set up , the main task is to keep up with the progress and manage the process well. After completion of  software, it is  released to the client’s end-users for testing, deployment, etc.

Well , the role of outsourcing companies doesn’t end here.

In the dedicated development team model, work continues; clients still need to update and improve in design, structure, and features. The client and the outsourcing company sign contracts that let them extend work boundaries.

Besides this, the client also gets access to all the insidious work. Such as  clients can monitor teams and management and all the other management systems.

Conclusion

To sum up , Dedicated development team model can be beneficial for businesses looking to build apps or software at a reasonable cost with minimal effort required on their part, especially if you have a small budget for your project.

Besides, you must explore your requirements and needs and then decide which model is suitable for you.

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Looking for a Content Marketing Job? Follow This Advice To Get Noticed

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Looking for a Content Marketing Job? Follow This Advice To Get Noticed

Does anyone enjoy job hunting regardless of the circumstances?

But if you’ve recently lost your content marketing job or fear the ax might fall soon, you feel pressure to do it – and like you have no time to waste.

The good news is that excellent content marketing jobs are available for the taking (or the making if you’re entrepreneurially minded.)

To rise in the challenge you didn’t want, you must condense years of knowledge, skills, and experience into compelling materials to attract a new employer. Then you must get your carefully crafted profiles in front of recruiters. The key to success for both steps involves standing out from all the other candidates competing for the role you want.

In a recent Ask the #CMWorld Community livestream, Work It Daily’s J.T. O’Donnell and TogetHER Digital’s Amy Vaughan shared what today’s recruiters want and the disruptive ways to get on their radar.

Take a disruptive approach to find your next #ContentMarketing job, says @JTODonnell and @CafeScribbler via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

You can watch the conversation or scroll down to read the highlights of their productive chat.

Take time to grieve, but don’t wallow

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale puts job loss among the top 10 stressful life events. When headlines fill the news about massive tech and media company layoffs, corporate hiring freezes, AI replacing creators’ jobs, and a slowing economy, a job loss can feel downright paralyzing.

Ignoring those feelings won’t make them go away and might make it more challenging to focus on finding your next job.

That’s why J.T. recommends taking some time to grieve before you begin a job search. “It’s an unexpected loss. You need to feel it and go through the emotions,” she says.

But don’t get so lost in your misery that you miss a new role that might pop up. “In my experience, people often end up in a new position and say, ‘This turned out better than I expected. I would’ve never come across this opportunity if this change wasn’t forced upon me,’” J.T. says. “Know that a lot of other people have ended up on the better side of it and get ready to move forward.”

Update your job search tools – and how you use them

First, revisit your resume and LinkedIn profiles. You need to ensure they’re updated, consistent, and precisely targeted to the roles you’re considering.

If it’s been a while since you last looked for work, you may need to relearn the rules of a productive job search.

For example, while application tracking systems (ATS) have been around since the 1990s, their time-saving features have made recruiters more reliant on digital tools in recent years. In fact, a 2018 study found nearly 99% of Fortune 500 companies use them. Advanced functionality has improved the software’s ability to create more accurate candidate profiles and match them to applicants’ work history details.

Optimizing your resume with keywords in the job description is essential to getting your resume discovered by potential employers.

Optimize your resume with keywords in the job description to get your resume discovered through digital application systems (and employers), says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

You also need to know formatting and information trends to make it past the digital gatekeepers. Your resume should be easily skimmable, results-focused, and tailored to the role in the application.

In a related discussion on CMI’s Slack channel, Headstart Copywriting’s Susan Varty shared a resume template that follows modern digital processes and trends.

The template structure, as shown in the image below, separates information into clear sections. She also details what to write in each section:

  • About: Here, you’ll introduce yourself, mention the role you’re interested in, and describe your qualifications in a relevant way.
  • Career highlights: These should be active statements that summarize the accomplishments you’re most proud of, so recruiters can skim the copy and understand who you are and what you can offer.
  • Work experience: Rather than list the roles you’ve played, use this section to describe how your work has helped previous employers achieve their business goals.

Click to download

J.T. also recommends updating your LinkedIn profile to ensure it aligns with what appears on your resume. “Recruiters pay attention to the resume and LinkedIn work history section. The information that appears there should be identical. Otherwise, they may be confused about which version is accurate,” she explains.

The information that appears on your resume should be identical to your work history section on @LinkedIn, says @JTODonnell via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Stand out with a disruptive job search approach

Amy says recruiters will read resumes – and cover letters – that make it to their desks, but they spend only a few seconds on each.

You can’t expect to compete based on skills alone. But demonstrating your personal motivation to do the job for that employer can give you an advantage, J.T. says.

Finding the best opportunities where you can convey that motivation requires a disruptive job search. The technique helps you discover a relevant connection between your passions and career intentions and communicate it to employers who stand to benefit.

The more intentional and storified approach should work well for content marketers because you’re well-equipped to follow it. It also circumvents the gatekeeping systems by giving you a more relatable connection to prospective employers.

Take a more intentional and storified approach in your #ContentMarketing job search, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

J.T. summarizes the disruptive job search process:

  • Pinpoint the work you’re most passionate about: Think carefully about the kinds of work you want to do, not just where you might want to do it. What lights you up? What do people come to you specifically for? This will be the centering principle for your candidate story.
  • Create a bucket list of company targets: Don’t just apply for any and every role that matches your skills and interests. Research companies to find 10 to 20 that would genuinely benefit from your unique perspectives and specialized focus.
  • Get clear on why you want to work for each company: Hearing that they’re a great place to work and offer great benefits isn’t enough to prove you understand the business and its goals. What is it about them that you’ve come to learn is different and special?
  • Make a personal connection: Think about what you can bring to the role at the company. Be specific about your knowledge of what they do, who their customers are, and how you can contribute to the business outcomes you know they want to achieve.
  • Craft the details into a cover letter: Once you’ve outlined your relevant connection points, you can put those details into a cover letter that speaks to your unique understanding of the business and the distinct value you can contribute. “When you can get that story into someone’s hands at an organization, you’ll be amazed at what can happen,” J.T. says.

(Net)work your story into a job

“People need to meet you and see continuity in what you say and do. That can’t always happen unless they get that chance to meet you in person,” Amy says.

Networking can feel one-sided and awkward when you’re under pressure to find a new role. But you can make it more productive with these tips from J.T. and Amy:

1. Turn on LinkedIn creator mode

J.T. points out that LinkedIn has pivoted itself into a creator tool. Use it to prove the points you would discuss in a cover letter and attract the right attention.

Activating creator mode on your profile tells LinkedIn’s algorithm to note (and share with others) the content you share. It also gives access to additional tools that can extend your reach.

Here’s how to turn creator mode on:

  • Click the Me icon in the nav bar at the top of your LinkedIn homepage.
  • Click View Profile.
  • Scroll down to the Resources section of your profile. If it shows “Creator mode: Off,” switch it to on.

Click Next on the Creator mode preview pop-up window.

  • Add up to 5 topics (hashtags) to indicate what you post about the most.
  • Click Done.

2. Create and share relevant content on your feed

Think about your specialization areas and speak about them regularly in your LinkedIn feed. Creating new content (or reposting your content on other platforms) on those subjects helps prove your expertise.

You can also curate and add commentary to third-party news, articles, videos, and other relevant stories. It shows you’re in touch with what’s happening in that space and have something of value to add to the conversation.

Be sure to post consistently – J.T. recommends at least once a day – to build an audience of followers.

3. Use hashtags responsibly

Using the right hashtags on your LinkedIn content can introduce your content to people who aren’t in your network. But, Amy points out, it can also help you tap into a hidden job market – roles that don’t get posted but have recruiters looking to fill them.

She explains recruiters may take this approach when they have a great opportunity that would attract a lot of candidate interest and don’t want to get bombarded with applicants.

4. Incorporate personal passions into your work persona

Attracting an audience with your thought leadership content can help you rank higher on LinkedIn searches and gain the attention of more recruiters. But since just about any job applicant can position themselves as an expert, Amy suggests taking an extra step to stand out from the pack: Cultivate a personality brand.

If you’re a regular CMI reader, you’re probably familiar with the reasons to build a personal brand (and if not, I’d highly recommend reading Ann Gynn’s definitive post on the topic). But, Amy says, a personality brand is a bit different.

As she explains, job searchers often struggle to associate their passions outside of work with the work they want to be known for. But creating stories that tie together those interests can make a person more memorable to recruiters and others who can help advance the job search.

Amy explains what this might look like: “[In my content], I talk a lot about groundedness, nature, and empathetic leadership. To me, those things are all tied together because I like to be very grounded in how I lead and very calm in how I approach difficult work situations. Or maybe you are an endurance athlete, and you can build a connection on how your love of endurance sports goes hand in hand with your strong work ethic.”

The content related to your personality brand can make your networking feel more organic. “If you’re reaching out to people in your network just to get a job, they’re going to sniff that out,” Amy says. But if they know you because you’ve shared a relatable story or something of value, they may be more willing to connect with you and help with your search.

Use your content marketing strengths to prove your value to employers

Losing a job never feels good. But with a more precise job search approach, stories that demonstrate your unique expertise, and ways to create a personal connection, your unemployment status won’t last long.

Want more help with your job search journey? Register to attend TogetHER Digital’s free virtual career fair for women in digital on Feb. 23, 2023. And for more-detailed job search help (including action plans, templates, and examples), J.T. O’Donnell is offering our readers an exclusive $20 discount on Work It Daily’s job search packages. Use code CM20 when you sign up.
Need more guidance to hone your content marketing skills? Enroll in CMI University and get 12-month on-demand access to an extensive curriculum designed to help you do your job more effectively.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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