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How to Improve Your Communication Skills in 5 Simple Steps

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How to Improve Your Communication Skills in 5 Simple Steps

In the workplace, each employee may have their own tasks and targets, but together, you are all working toward the same end goal.

But with so many different people coming together, there’s bound to be some friction on how to implement ideas and strategies best. The key to helping your team succeed is communication.

Communication is a collaborative effort, and everyone can stand to work on their communication skills. While some workers may feel shy and won’t share their brilliant ideas, other team members may struggle to see or understand different points of view.

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No matter where you are with your communication skills, you can improve them with five simple steps, leading to a more collaborative and productive team.

How to Improve Communication Skills in the Workplace

5 simple ways to improve communication skillsImproving communication skills in the workplace can involve many different elements. Whether you want to be a better listener or check in with each employee, there are several ways to help your team communicate more effectively with each other. Here are five easy ways to start bettering your communication skills.

1. Be an active listener.

Are you truly listening to your team members? If you’re doodling away in a meeting, writing emails during a Zoom call, or interrupting with your own ideas or solutions, you’re not actively listening. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to improve your listening skills to ensure your co-workers feel heard.

  • Make eye contact when others are speaking.
  • Put away distractions. You can take notes, but don’t doodle, send emails, or type out texts when someone is trying to speak with you.
  • Pay attention to the other person’s tone and body language.
  • Hold your thoughts until the person is completely done speaking. When it is your turn, respond appropriately and reflect back the information just shared with you to show your attentiveness.
  • Nod and smile as appropriate while the other person is talking. If possible, try to avoid tugging at your hair, fingers, or other nearby objects.
  • Don’t plan out what to say next in your head. You can quickly become consumed by these thoughts and miss what the other person is saying.
  • Hold judgments and opinions to yourself. Avoid jumping to conclusions, and instead, let the person share everything they have to say.
  • Once the person has finished speaking, ask questions to clarify any points you are unsure about.

2. Hold effective meetings.

If you just start adding meetings to the calendar every other day, you’re probably going to have a lot of groaning and grumbling employees. Improving communication doesn’t mean hosting more meetings. The trick is to host efficient and meaningful meetings instead.

  • First thing’s first. Determine what meetings are necessary, and which ones would be better off as emails. Wasting time in unproductive meetings leaves employees with less time and energy to get their essential tasks completed.
  • Create outlines for each meeting. This helps keep everyone on topic, and you can divert back to the outline any time the conversation starts to stray.
  • Invite only the people who truly need to attend the meeting. While communication company-wide is important, it’s counterproductive to invite people to a meeting who have no need to be there. If there are a few points that pertain to someone, but they don’t need to be there for the whole meeting, invite them to attend and start with those points. Better yet, send it in an email.
  • Leave the meeting with defined action items. This helps make the meeting worthwhile.
  • Follow up with the team after the meeting. Send notes on what the meeting covered, and end with the action items expected of the team.

3. Explain the why.

When you ask an employee to start doing research for a new project or download reports, try explaining why you’re asking them to do the task. You may ask an employee to download reports for something they worked on last month.

With no explanation, they may worry that their performance was poor and they are in trouble when really you just want to apply the numbers to a new company initiative you’re working toward. 

Regardless of the task and reason, share why you are asking for certain things. This can also help avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications among the team.

4. Check-in with employees.

Even if you have an open-door policy that invites employees to speak their minds to you at any time, not everyone will take advantage of this open communication line. Some employees may feel nervous to share their thoughts or prefer to keep to themselves.

Host one-on-one meetings periodically, perhaps once a month or per quarter, to check in with each team member. Ask them about the progress on their tasks, check if they are feeling overwhelmed, and invite them to share their ideas and goals.

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5. Ask for feedback.

Communication is a two-way street. In addition to leading productive meetings and checking in with employees on their tasks and project progress, you should also welcome feedback on your own performance and the company as a whole.

This can happen during one-on-one meetings, or offer regular surveys for employees to fill out. Offer an option to submit feedback anonymously as well, which can help some employees feel more comfortable speaking up.

When you receive feedback, don’t just push it to the side and forget about it. Make an action plan to work on improving your own weaknesses. If you receive feedback that applies to the company, make sure to share that information with your management as well.

Additional Options for Better Communication Skills

While these five steps are a great place to start, there are other ways to boost communication skills in the workplace. Utilize technology, such as Google Chat or Slack, to create communication channels.

If you do use an app or other communication tools, consider applying limits to when those lines are open. Constant 3 a.m. messages about a work project can lead many employees to feel burnt out if they can never switch off from work mode.

Ask your co-workers about their communication preferences, too. Surely there will be times where you have to have a meeting for everyone, but keep communication preferences in mind when you need to reach out to just one or two people. Some people retain information best when they can read it in an email, while others prefer to talk out ideas in person.

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When you’re establishing effective communication among your team, make sure you include everyone. Of course, you only want to loop people into an email when it is relevant to them, but as a whole, include everyone — even if they aren’t in your section of the office or even in the same city — in your communication policies.

Finally, consider establishing an open-door policy to let employees stop by your office to discuss concerns or thoughts at any time.

Benefits of Strong Communication Skills

The benefits of improving your communication skills are seemingly endless. When everyone feels heard, there are fewer chances of tense confrontations. Plus, your team will spend less time fixing misunderstandings that happened because one person wasn’t actively listening or someone else was interrupting a meeting. That means boosted productivity and more time spent on meaningful tasks.

When your team communicates effectively across the board, you’re likely to improve the customer experience, too. Employees can meet client needs more efficiently when they can work through challenges together, and they can make sure there are minimal miscommunications that leave tasks falling through the cracks.

Better communication skills mean that every employee feels heard and more comfortable sharing their ideas. That means your team can bring more ideas to the table, which will help your company set and achieve new goals.

Communication Is Key In the Workplace

Your team is only as strong as their communication skills are. Taking time to utilize communication tools, review feedback, set meeting agendas, and conduct one-on-one sessions with employees will result in more employee engagement and productivity across the board.

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Communication works both ways, so be sure to work on your own communication skills and help your team improve their communication. In the end, your company will be all the better for it.

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Here’s Optimizely’s Automatic Sample Ratio Mismatch Detection

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Here's Optimizely’s Automatic Sample Ratio Mismatch Detection

Optimizely Experiment’s automatic sample ratio mismatch (SRM) detection delivers peace of mind to experimenters. It reduces a user’s exposure time to bad experiences by rapidly detecting any experiment deterioration.

This deterioration is caused by unexpected imbalances of visitors to a variation in an experiment. Most importantly, this auto SRM detection empowers product managers, marketers, engineers, and experimentation teams to confidently launch more experiments. 

How Optimizely Experiment’s stats engine and automatic sample rate mismatch detection work together

The sample ratio mismatch actslike the bouncer at the door who has a mechanical counter, checking guests’ tickets (users) and telling them which room they get to party in.

Stats engine is like the party host who is always checking the vibes (behavior) of the guests as people come into the room.

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If SRM does its job right, then stats engine can confidently tell which party room is better and direct more traffic to the winning variation (the better party) sooner.

Why would I want Optimizely Experiment’s SRM detection?

It’s equally important to ensure Optimizely Experiment users know their experiment results are trustworthy and have the tools to understand what an imbalance can mean for their results and how to prevent it.

Uniquely, Optimizely Experiment goes further by combining the power of automatic visitor imbalance detection with an insightful experiment health indicator. This experiment health indicator plays double duty by letting our customers know when all is well and there is no imbalance present.

Then, when just-in-time insight is needed to protect your business decisions, Optimizely also delivers just-in-time alerts that help our customers recognize the severity of, diagnose, and recover from errors.

Why should I care about sample ratio mismatch (SRM)?

Just like a fever is a symptom of many illnesses, a SRM is a symptom of a variety of data quality issues. Ignoring a SRM without knowing the root cause may result in a bad feature appearing to be good and being shipped out to users, or vice versa. Finding an experiment with an unknown source of traffic imbalance lets you turn it off quickly and reduce the blast radius.

Then what is the connection between a “mismatch” and “sample ratio”?

When we get ready to launch an experiment, we assign a traffic split of users for Optimizely Experiment to distribute to each variation. We expect the assigned traffic split to reasonably match up with the actual traffic split in a live experiment. An experiment is exposed to an SRM imbalance when there is a statistically significant difference between the expected and the actual assigned traffic splits of visitors to an experiment’s variations.

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1. A mismatch doesn’t mean an imperfect match

Remember: A bonified imbalance requires a statistically significant result of the difference in visitors. Don’t expect a picture-perfect, identical, exact match of the launch-day traffic split to your in-production traffic split. There will always be some ever-so-slight deviation.

Not every traffic disparity automatically signifies that an experiment is useless. Because Optimizely deeply values our customers’ time and energy, we developed a new statistical test that continuously monitors experiment results and detects harmful SRMs as early as possible. All while still controlling for crying wolf over false positives (AKA when we conclude there is a surprising difference between a test variation and the baseline when there is no real difference). 

2. Going under the hood of Optimizely Experiment’s SRM detection algorithm

Optimizely Experiment’s automatic SRM detection feature employs a sequential Bayesian multinomial test (say that 5 times fast!), named sequential sample ratio mismatch. Optimizely statisticians Michael Lindon and Alen Malek pioneered this method, and it is a new contribution to the field of Sequential Statistics. Optimizely Experiment’s sample ratio mismatch detection harmonizes sequential and Bayesian methodologies by continuously checking traffic counts and testing for any significant imbalance in a variation’s visitor counts. The algorithm’s construction is Bayesian inspired to account for an experiment’s optional stopping and continuation while delivering sequential guarantees of Type-I error probabilities.

3. Beware of chi-eap alternatives!

The most popular freely available SRM calculators employ the chi-square test. We highly recommend a careful review of the mechanics of chi-square testing. The main issue with the chi-squared method is that problems are discovered only after collecting all the data. This is arguably far too late and goes against why most clients want SRM detention in the first place. In our blog post “A better way to test for sample ratio mismatches (or why I don’t use a chi-squared test)”, we go deeper into chi-square mechanics and how what we built accounts for the gaps left behind by the alternatives.

Common causes of an SRM  

1. Redirects & Delays

A SRM usually results from some visitors closing out and leaving the page before the redirect finishes executing. Because we only send the decision events once they arrive on the page and Optimizely Experiment loads, we can’t count these visitors in our results page unless they return at some point and send an event to Optimizely Experiment.

A SRM can emerge in the case of anything that would cause Optimizely Experiment’s event calls to delay or not fire, such as variation code changes. It also occurs when redirect experiments shuttle visitors to a different domain. This occurrence is exacerbated by slow connection times.

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2. Force-bucketing

If a user first gets bucketed in the experiment and then that decision is used to force-bucket them in a subsequent experiment, then the results of that subsequent experiment will become imbalanced.

Here’s an example:

Variation A provides a wildly different user experience than Variation B.

Visitors bucketed into Variation A have a great experience, and many of them continue to log in and land into the subsequent experiment where they’re force-bucketed into Variation A.

But, visitors who were bucketed into Variation B aren’t having a good experience. Only a few users log in and land into a subsequent experiment where they will be force-bucketed into Variation B.

Well, now you have many more visitors in Variation A than in Variation B.

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3. Site has its own redirects

Some sites have their own redirects (for example, 301s) that, combined with our redirects, can result in a visitor landing on a page without the snippet. This causes pending decision events to get locked in localStorage and Optimizely Experiment never receives or counts them.

4. Hold/send events API calls are housed outside of the snippet

Some users include hold/send events in project JS. However, others include it in other scripts on the page, such as in vendor bundles or analytics tracking scripts. This represents another script that must be properly loaded for the decisions to fire appropriately. Implementation or loading rates may differ across variations, particularly in the case of redirects.

Interested?  

If you’re already an Optimizely Experiment customer and you’d like to learn more about how automatic SRM detection benefits your A/B tests, check out our knowledge base documentation:

For further details you can always reach out to your customer success manager but do take a moment to review our documentation first!

If you’re not a customer, get started with us here! 

And if you’d like to dig deeper into the engine that powers Optimizely experimentation, you can check out our page faster decisions you can trust for digital experimentation. 

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How to Use Email Marketing Automation to Encourage SaaS Adoption

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How to Use Email Marketing Automation to Encourage SaaS Adoption

SaaS adoption refers to the process that earns your product a permanent place in your user’s workflow. This happens when you empower your audience to extract useful value from your solutions.

Email, a tried and tested communication tool, plays an essential role in helping brands relay their product’s value to their customers and educate them on how to make the most of it.

However, smaller teams might find themselves at a crossroads, balancing the need for personalized communication with the scale of their user base

Email marketing automation offers a practical solution by ensuring that each message is tailored and timely, yet sent out with minimal manual effort.

In this article, let’s look at five tips that will help you build robust email marketing automation that will motivate your audience to adopt your tool and make it a part of their daily lives.

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1. Segment your audience

Audience segmentation is crucial for personalizing your emails, which in turn, can significantly boost SaaS product adoption. Remember, a message that resonates with one segment might not strike a chord with another.

The key to effective segmentation is understanding where each customer is in their journey. Are they new subscribers, active users, or perhaps at the brink of churning?

Here are some actionable steps to segment your audience effectively:

  1.  Analyze User Behavior: Look at how different users interact with your SaaS product. Are they frequent users, or do they log in sporadically? This insight can help you create segments like ‘active users’, ‘occasional users’, and ‘at-risk users’.
  2.  Utilize Sign-up Data: Leverage the information gathered during the sign-up process. This can include job roles, company size, or industry, which are excellent parameters for segmentation.
  3.  Monitor Engagement Levels: Keep an eye on how different segments interact with your emails. Are they opening, clicking, or ignoring your messages? This feedback will help you refine your segments and tailor your approach. Plus, consider setting up small business phone systems to enhance communication with your audience.

2. Create campaigns based on behavior

Sending behavior-based campaigns is pivotal in effective email marketing. By focusing on performance metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and engagement times, you can gauge the effectiveness of your emails and adjust your strategy accordingly.

You can also use digital signage to entertain or make customers aware of something new – product or service, through a digital sign.

Different types of email campaigns serve various purposes:

  1. Educational Campaigns: These are designed to inform and enlighten your audience about their problem. They can include tips, best practices, and how-to guides. The goal here is to provide value and establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry.
  2. Interactive Campaigns: These campaigns encourage user engagement through surveys, quizzes, microblogging platforms, or feedback forms. They not only provide valuable insights into user preferences but also make the recipients feel heard and valued.
  3. Onboarding Campaigns: Targeted toward new users, these messages help them get the value they seek from your product as soon as possible. They can include step-by-step tutorials, video guides, or links to helpful resources.

4.Re-engagement Campaigns: Aimed at inactive users, these emails strive to reignite their interest in your SaaS product. They might include product updates, special offers, or reminders of the benefits they’re missing out on.

3. A/B test before deployment

Rather than pushing a new campaign to your entire audience as soon as you draft the emails, A/B testing helps you know whether your messages are any good.

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Here are some best practices for A/B testing in email automation:

  1. Test One Variable at a Time: Whether it’s the subject line, email content, or call-to-action, change just one (or a couple) element per test. This clarity helps in pinpointing exactly what works and what doesn’t.
  2. Choose a Representative Sample: Ensure that the test group is a good mix of your target audience as a whole. This way, the results are more likely to reflect how your entire audience would react.
  3. Measure the Right Metrics: Depending on what you’re testing, focus on relevant metrics like open rates, click-through rates, or conversion rates. This will give you a clear picture of the impact of your changes. Along with these steps, it’s important to use an SPF checker to ensure your emails aren’t marked as spam and increase the deliverability rate.
  4. Use the Results to Inform Your Strategy: Once you have the results, don’t just stop at implementing the winning version. Analyze why it performed better and use these insights to inform your future campaigns.
  5. Don’t Rush the Process: Give your test enough time to gather significant data. Adopt comprehensive marketing reporting solutions that give you a clear picture of your campaigns’ efficacy.

4. Leverage email templates

When managing multiple email automation campaigns, each with potentially dozens of emails, the task of creating each one from scratch can be daunting. Not to mention, if you have multiple writers on board, there’s a risk of inconsistency in tone, style, and branding.

Email templates are your secret weapon for maintaining consistency and saving time. They provide a standardized framework that can be easily customized for different campaigns and purposes.

They are also a great way to communicate with your customers. Another way to communicate efficiently with your customer is through best small business phone systems, which is especially efficient when conveying information about your product or service.

Here’s a rundown of various types of templates you should consider having:

  1. Welcome: For greeting new subscribers or users. It should be warm, inviting, and informative, setting the tone for future communications.
  2. Educational Content: Used for sharing tips, guides, and resources. If you are making this template to introduce online GCSE physics tutor services that you provide, you should be clear, concise, and focused on delivering value in your template.
  3. Promotional: For announcing new features, offers, or services. It should be eye-catching and persuasive without being overly salesy.
  4. Feedback Request: Designed to solicit user feedback. This template should be engaging and make it easy for recipients to respond.
  5. Re-engagement: Aimed at rekindling interest among inactive users. It should be attention-grabbing and remind them of what they’re missing.
  6. Event Invitation: For webinars, workshops, or other events. This should be exciting and informative, providing all the necessary details.

5. Use a tool that works for you

Email is more than just a marketing platform; it’s a multifaceted tool that can drive customer engagement, support, and retention. Given its versatility, it’s crucial to choose the right email automation tool that aligns with your specific needs.

When selecting an email automation tool, consider these key features:

  1. Intuitive Interface: Even your non-technical team members should find it easy to use.
  2. Robust Segmentation Capabilities: The tool must offer advanced segmentation options to target your emails accurately.
  3. A/B Testing Functionality: Essential for optimizing your email campaigns.
  4. Integration with Other Tools: Look for a tool that integrates seamlessly with your CRM, analytics, and other marketing platforms. Additionally, integrating a multilingual translation support can further enhance the tool’s versatility, allowing you to reach a diverse audience with tailored content in their preferred languages.

Popular tools like Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign offer free trials which are great for brands to take these for a spin before making a choice.

Wrapping up

Leveraging email automation makes it easier for SaaS brands to market their solutions to their audience and ultimately increase adoption rates.

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Segmenting audiences, creating messages based on their behavior, testing emails before setting campaigns live, utilizing templates for speed and consistency, and adopting a tool that you are comfortable working with are essential email marketing automation tips to help you get started on the right foot.

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

How long has it been since your marketing team got restructured? 

Wearing our magic mind-reading hat, we’d guess it was within the last two years. 

Impressed by the guess? Don’t be.  

Research from Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds that almost half of marketing teams restructured in the last 12 months. (And the other half probably did it the previous year.) 

Why do marketing teams restructure so often? Is this a new thing? Is it just something that comes with marketing? What does it all mean for now and the future? 

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CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose offers his take in this video and the summary below. 

Marketing means frequent change 

Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds 46.5% of marketing teams restructured in the last year — a 5-percentage point increase over 2023 when 41.4% of teams changed their structure. 

But that’s markedly less than the 56.5% of marketing teams that restructured in 2022, which most likely reflected the impact of remote work, the fallout of the pandemic, and other digital marketing trends. 

Maybe the real story isn’t, “Holy smokes, 46% of businesses restructured their marketing last year.” The real story may be, “Holy smokes, only 46% of businesses restructured their marketing.” 

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Put simply, marketing teams are now in the business of changing frequently. 

It raises two questions.  

First, why does marketing experience this change? You don’t see this happening in other parts of the business. Accounting teams rarely get restructured (usually only if something dramatic happens in the organization). The same goes for legal or operations. Does marketing change too frequently? Or do other functions in business not change enough? 

Second, you may ask, “Wait a minute, we haven’t reorganized our marketing teams in some time. Are we behind? Are we missing out? What are they organizing into? Or you may fall at the other end of the spectrum and ask, “Are we changing too fast? Do companies that don’t change so often do better? 

OK, that’s more than one question, but the second question boils down to this: Should you restructure your marketing organization? 

Reorganizing marketing 

Centralization emerged as the theme coming out of the pandemic. Gartner reports (registration required) a distinct move to a fully centralized model for marketing over the last few years: “(R)esponsibilities across the marketing organization have shifted. Marketing’s sole responsibilities for marketing operations, marketing strategy, and marketing-led innovation have increased.”  

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According to a Gartner study, marketing assuming sole responsibility for marketing operations, marketing innovation, brand management, and digital rose by double-digit percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.  

What does all that mean for today in plainer language? 

Because teams are siloed, it’s increasingly tougher to create a collaborative environment. And marketing and content creation processes are complex (there are lots of people doing more small parts to creative, content, channel management, and measurement). So it’s a lot harder these days to get stuff done if you’re not working as one big, joined-up team. 

Honestly, it comes down to this question: How do you better communicate and coordinate your content? That’s innovation in modern marketing — an idea and content factory operating in a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative way. 

Let me give you an example. All 25 companies we worked with last year experienced restructuring fatigue. They were not eager creative, operations, analytics, media, and digital tech teams champing at the bit for more new roles, responsibilities, and operational changes. They were still trying to settle into the last restructuring.  

What worked was fine-tuning a mostly centralized model into a fully centralized operational model. It wasn’t a full restructuring, just a nudge to keep going. 

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In most of those situations, the Gartner data rang true. Marketing has shifted to get a tighter and closer set of disparate teams working together to collaborate, produce, and measure more efficiently and effectively.  

As Gartner said in true Gartner-speak fashion: “Marginal losses of sole responsibility (in favor of shared and collaborative) were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce, and CX.” 

Companies gave up the idea of marketing owning one part of the customer experience, content type, or channel. Instead, they moved into more collaborative sharing of the customer experience, content type, or channel.  

Rethinking the marketing reorg 

This evolution can be productive. 

Almost 10 years ago, Carla Johnson and I wrote about this in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We talked about the idea of building to change: 

“Tomorrow’s marketing and communications teams succeed by learning to adapt — and by deploying systems of engagement that facilitate adaptation. By constantly building to change, the marketing department builds to succeed.” 

We surmised the marketing team of the future wouldn’t be asking what it was changing into but why it was changing. Marketing today is at the tipping point of that. 

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The fact that half of all marketing teams restructure and change every two years might not be a reaction to shifting markets. It may just be how you should think of marketingas something fluid that you build and change into whatever it needs to be tomorrow, not something you must tear down and restructure every few years.  

The strength in that view comes not in knowing you need to change or what you will change into. The strength comes from the ability and capacity to do whatever marketing should. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:  

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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