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How to Plan Your Instagram Posts [+22 Free Instagram Planning Templates]

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When you’re not following a plan on social media, it’s easy to forget to post regularly.

Additionally, creating image and video-based content meant to drive revenue for your business can seem far from your bottom line.

However, 90% of people on Instagram follow at least one business nowadays. To compete with other companies in your industry, you must have a solid Instagram strategy, especially if your intended audience uses the app.

Fortunately, once you have an ideal plan for your Instagram content, you can create content more intentionally and ultimately drive more results for your team and organization.

In this post, we’ll cover everything from determining what kind of content you want to post to picking a content theme. Then, we’ll get into the details of planning individual posts.

HubSpot, AdobeSpark, and Iconosquare teamed up to create a 30-day planning guide for business Instagram planning.

We’ve also thrown in 30 templates to help you get started. Click here to get the planning guide.

Your Instagram’s Visual Theme

Once you’ve decided on the type of content you want to post, you’ll want to select a visual theme for your posts.

Aesthetic consistency will help you in several ways:

  • When an Instagram user finds your business’ account, the images will appear coordinated and well-thought-out.
  • Your followers will begin to sense patterns in your content and pause when they see your post as they scroll because they recognize that pattern.
  • When you’ve pre-selected a go-to font and color scheme, it takes away some of the pressure of planning because there are fewer decisions to make for each new post.

If you use Adobe Spark, you can download our free Adobe Spark Instagram templates to create a new post with a template rather than starting from scratch. You’ll also get access to the previously-mentioned calendar of content ideas.

To establish visual consistency across your posts, pay attention to the colors in your photos, the filters you use, the fonts you use in your images, and, if you’d like, the pattern of content types you’re posting.

  • Colors – Keep your brand colors top of mind when creating Instagram posts. Pick a few colors that complement your primary brand color and ensure that the most prominent color appears in your posts.
  • Filters – When using filters, do so lightly, as over-editing can dilute the quality of your photos. If you decide to use filters, use the same one or two across all posts.
  • Fonts – Select one font to use whenever you want to overlay text on photos or videos and use one of your brand colors for the font. Since Instagram is a friendly platform, aim to use an easy-to-read, sans-serif font and keep it the same across all posts.
  • Content Pattern – To create a visual pattern for your overall feed, ensure that every third post has a specific background color. Since Instagram has three columns in the grid view, you’ll end up with a column that shows you thoughtfully planned your posts. You might consider using a white background with the same font style and color to share an industry tip for every third post.

Once you’ve decided on the content type and visual theme you’ll use on your brand’s Instagram account, it’s time to start planning posts.

Create a spreadsheet with the following columns (or download our free, pre-made spreadsheet along with planning templates for all of your other social media channels, too):

  • Date of publication
  • Time of publication
  • Image caption
  • Image file name or a link (if it has been uploaded to the web)
  • The link that you’ll add to your bio when the post goes live (or add to a Linktree-type multiple links tool)
  • Campaign/Goal: What is the goal for this post? Are you trying to amass more followers? Drive sign-ups for your product, a free trial, a consultation, or another next step toward becoming a customer? A well-articulated goal will help you ensure that each post exists for a purpose. You won’t be creating a dead-end for your followers but rather an opportunity for continued engagement with your account, brand, or product.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Social media spreadsheet example

Download This Template

Pro Tip: Duplicate the spreadsheet tab for Instagram Stories, as well, to leverage Instagram’s other avenue for engaging with your followers. Stories are best used for interactive content like polls and quizzes, sharing photos or videos from live events, and more casual, friendly updates.

Once you have your spreadsheet ready to go, decide on your frequency. We recommend ramping up to posting around three times per week.

1. Define Your Content Posting Schedule

Post at least once a week to establish a reliable posting pattern for your followers. You’ll risk losing followers if people feel that they’re not consistently seeing interesting or helpful content from your account.

To establish that consistent pattern, set dates and times for posting first. For example, if you decide to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, fill in the date and time column with the next month’s Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Then, add a recurring event to your calendar for post planning for the following two to four weeks. Set a recurring 10-minute calendar invitation at your selected posting times to reference your spreadsheet and quickly post what you’ve planned if you’re not using an automated scheduling tool. With the planning sheet handy, you’ll be able to copy and paste captions and links and locate the images for your posts easily.

When slotting specific posts into your spreadsheet, begin in whichever column you’d like. For example, you could start by evenly splitting the rows into separate campaigns and filling in the caption or image link for each post later.

2. Add Visuals

If you already have a repository of photos that you can post, you might start pasting the links into the Image File Name/Link column and fill in the other columns afterward.

You’ll also want to start creating more visual content for future posts. For example, consider repurposing event images that your company has taken, soliciting photos of your employees or customers using your product, or simply creating visually-appealing text graphics like this one on a tool like Canva or Photoshop.

Upload each photo to a centralized folder and use a standardized naming convention so that it’s easy to find the file you’re looking for. If you’re not using a post-scheduling tool, you’ll likely have to post directly from your phone.

To easily access photos with their file names from your phone, you can upload photos to a Google Photos album on your computer and then use the Google Photos app to download the content before posting directly.

3. Write Engaging Captions

Finally, decide on your caption for each post. The ideal caption style depends on your audience and the type of content you’re sharing. For example, aesthetics-focused content may perform best with a quirky, short, and clever caption. In contrast, education-focused content may be most likely shared and liked if the caption includes a couple of concise, straightforward tips.

How to Plan Instagram Posts: Write Engaging Captions, example of a two toned orange on Instagram

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4. Choose Hashtags

Make sure to include three to five thoughtfully planned hashtags in your caption or in a comment on your post to ensure it gets in front of new audiences. You’ll want to include a mix of branded hashtags (e.g., #HubSpotAcademy or #OnlineLearning) and trending hashtags so that more people see your post.

You can research the hashtags you might want to use by typing them into Instagram (head to the ‘Search’ tab and then tap ‘Tags’) to see how much volume they get. Prioritize the higher-volume ones.

Types of Content to Post on Instagram

Regardless of which kind of content you decide to post, it should always be content that attracts your ideal audience. Think beyond your product, service, or office. What does your ideal customer actually care about, and what motivates them to follow a business account on Instagram?

Bite-Sized Education Instagram Content

If you know your audience is interested in consuming bite-sized education on social media, you might use Instagram to share industry tips and tricks.

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: Bite Sized Educational content

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Videos or well-organized captions can be useful vehicles for providing your audience with well-researched information for their benefit rather than the benefit of your business.

Showcasing Products Instagram Content

If your product or service lends itself to being photographed, consider sharing photos or videos of real customers using it. You can lighten your content creation load by relying on user-generated content. Have your customers send in photos of your product in action.

Here’s an example of how Beats by Dre uses Instagram to showcase customers using their products:

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: Beats by Dre portable pill speaker

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Still, there’s no need to make these product or service posts promotional. Instead, the value for your Instagram following would come from drawing personal connections with real stories about how others have successfully used your product.

Inspiring Imagery Instagram Content

However, if your audience isn’t consuming education on Instagram and your product or service isn’t easily photographed, you can take a more aesthetically-focused route, posting images and videos that people would simply love to consume. These may not drive a significant number of conversions, but a visual-first Instagram can amass a large number of followers.

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: Designboom shows a home on the outskirts of Vienna that was completed in 1971

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The key to the aesthetically-pleasing route is to check in frequently to ensure your posts are driving actual value (perhaps in the form of brand awareness or community among your followers) for your business.

Experiment With Content

If you’re unsure of the type of content you want to post or the kind that will succeed for your brand, pick the one you believe your audience will be most interested in seeing. That can include product-agnostic education, product-centric content, usage-focused content, or aesthetically pleasing content. Try it consistently for a month.

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: Casetify Instagram page

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Then, try another type for the following month and compare engagement rates. How many people are liking and commenting on your content? How many followers did you gain each month? What other business outcomes, if any, were impacted by your Instagram posts?

In addition to deciding the general topics you’ll post on Instagram, you’ll want to experiment and determine which content formats you’ll post. For example, if you take an educational approach, experiment with videos versus text-focused images and various lengths of captions.

Alternatively, if your educational content lives on your blog, knowledge base, or in another library, consider using Instagram posts to point people to those resources rather than squeezing too much information into one Instagram.

For example, HubSpot Academy’s Instagram often promotes in-depth courses that HubSpot Academy produces rather than trying to dive into the details in the caption, image, or video itself. The account keeps followers interested by sharing short clips and tips from the courses, too:

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: HubSpot Instagram post

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Additionally, we’ve put together this downloadable calendar of creative content ideas if you’re not sure what type of content to try first.

Instagram Planning Apps

Who has time to come up with every post at a moment’s notice? It takes time to create compelling content, and that timing won’t always line up with your content calendar. Using planning apps to schedule Instagram content in advance makes the most efficient use of time and sparks creativity. It can also allow you and your marketing team to become more informed marketers.

1. Preview

Instagram planning App: Preview app

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Preview allows users to design, edit, and analyze their Instagram business page. With Preview, you can create a calendar to schedule photos, videos, albums, and stories for your business’ Instagram page. Preview lets you plan reels and IGTVs and access a suite of editing and analytical tools, including hashtag testing, engagement rates, and interactive charts. Preview also allows your entire social media team to plan your Instagram page together without sharing your Instagram password.

Pricing: Free Plan, free for 1 user; Pro Plan, $6.67/month for 1 user; Premium Plan, $12.50/month for an unlimited number of users.

2. Later

Instagram planning App: Later Instagram scheduler.

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Later’s Instagram scheduler can be used on your desktop or mobile devices. The scheduling tool offers a calendar with drag-and-drop functionality, hashtag tools, personalized scheduling insights, analytics, a stock photo library, and many more features to help you make the most of your business’ Instagram presence.

Pricing: Starter Plan, $15/month for 1 user; Growth Plan, $40/month for 3 users with an additional $5/month for each additional user; Advanced Plan, $80/month for 6 users with an additional $5/month for each additional user. Later offers a 14-day free trial of all of its plans.

3. Sked Social

Instagram planning App: Sked Social

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Sked Social makes it easy to edit your photos, queue posts, create a linked landing page for your business’ bio, and quickly add hashtags and mentions to your posts using templates. Sked Social also features a robust content calendar pre-filled with holidays from around the world, so you can plan content that celebrates and commemorates the special days that matter to your audience.

With Sked Social’s Essentials and Professional plans, you can collaborate with your team to manage your business’ Instagram marketing, no matter how many team members you have.

Pricing: Fundamentals Plan, $25/month for 1 user; Essentials Plan, $75/month for an unlimited number of users; Advanced Plan, $135/month for an unlimited number of users. Sked Social offers a 7-day free trial of all of its plans.

4. Planoly

Instagram planning App: Planoly Instagram scheduler.

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Planoly’s Instagram post planner and Reels planner allow users to plan, design, and schedule their business’ Instagram posts and Reels.

Planoly lets users analyze post metrics and add to their content with stock photos and photos from Canva. Users can also create a linked landing page and respond to Instagram comments from within Planoly.

Planoly’s scheduling tools include a content calendar that sends users reminder emails and push notifications when it is time to post content.

Pricing: Starter Plan, $11.25/month for 1 user; Growth Plan, $19.50/month for 3 users; Professional Plan, $36.50/month for 6 users. Planoly offers a 7-day free trial of all of its plans.

The right kinds of content planners ensure that your business’ Instagram posts are well thought out and draw consumers to your product or services. The following tools provide visual support as well as ideas that can transform content from dull to engaging:

1. HopperHQ

Instagram Content Planner: HopperHQ

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HopperHQ claims to be the number one Instagram tool. It goes beyond crafting posts, giving users the ability to access analytics that help determine the best time to post.

HopperHQ’s Instagram planning tools include a drag-and-drop content calendar, automated posting features, an Instagram grid planner, and a team manager that allows you to collaborate with your business’ social media team and customize each member’s posting permissions.

Pricing: $19/month. HopperHQ offers a 14-day free trial.

2. Brandwatch

Instagram Content Planner: brandwatch

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Brandwatch is a platform devoted to creating strategies to help you plan your next Instagram campaign with progressive insights. Brandwatch helps you monitor your business’ brand and benchmark it against your competitors.

With Brandwatch, you can monitor social media trends, convert your Instagram posts to ads, and create workflows that repurpose assets to help your business save time and money.

Pricing: Brandwatch offers a $108/month plan for small businesses of 1 – 2 users. Larger teams can access Brandwatch’s full suite of products by booking a demo.

3. Content Scheduler in Adobe Express

Instagram Content Planner: Content Scheduler in Adobe Express

Adobe Express’ Content Scheduler, previously known as ContentCal, allows Instagram users to plan and schedule content. With features such as snippets, pinboards, and a web clipper, Adobe Express’ Content Scheduler makes planning for Instagram campaigns more organized.

Adobe Express’ Content Scheduler offers free downloadable tools and templates, including content calendars, an engagement rate calculator, and a marketing plan template that help you plan and execute your business’ Instagram strategy.

Pricing: Free plan with limited features; Premium Plan, $9.99/month with a 30-day free trial.

Tools for Making the Most of Your Instagram

To stay organized, we recommend using two types of tools — a post-scheduling tool and a tool that allows you to link to several different places from your Instagram bio.

By using a post-scheduling tool, you’ll be able to plan out as far in advance as you’d like, ensuring you have a steady stream of content ready to be posted even when other projects pop up in your day-to-day work. Posting consistently is important for follower retention and will give you more opportunities to experiment and figure out which posts get the most engagement.

Scheduling your posts allows you to visualize which types of posts you have coming out and swap posts if needed. You can see the weeks you’ve planned enough content and those during which there are still empty slots.

You can also use a spreadsheet like this one (download for free here):

Instagram post-scheduling calendar from Hubspot

Download the Calendar

Examples of post-scheduling tools include HubSpot Social Tools, Later, Buffer, and Hopper.

Expanding Bio

An Instagram bio can either entice a potential customer, make them laugh, or make them keep scrolling past a page. Unfortunately, writing an eye-catching bio with an enticing call-to-action that tells visitors everything they need to know about your business can be tough because of Instagram’s limiting structure for bios.

Since Instagram only allows you to place one hyperlink in your bio at the top of your profile, we recommend investing a few dollars per month in a tool that creates one landing page that links out to several other pages.

Then, in individual posts, you can reference clickable links available at the link in your bio, which provides a much more user-friendly experience than having your followers copy a URL manually into their browser, toggling between apps. MilkShake is a tool that allows you to create a mini-website with links and videos that users can access through a link in your business’ Instagram bio.

HubSpot Academy coursesImage Source

Examples of post-scheduling tools include Linktree, Lnk.Bio, and Link In Profile.

Enhance Your Instagram Experience

By taking a thoughtful approach to planning your Instagram content, you can ensure that your posts deliver value to your followers, convert those followers into leads or product users, and expand the reach of your brand’s messaging to new audiences.

Using tools such as schedulers and links to help carry out your Instagram journey can improve your business’ social media presence and extend its reach. It takes time to determine what resonates with your audience, so be patient as you experiment and evaluate your strategy.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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How to Buy Ads on Netflix: Specs & Tactics for Marketers

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How to Buy Ads on Netflix: Specs & Tactics for Marketers

Streaming


By Emily Sullivan

Netflix, the streaming giant known for binge-watching and award-winning originals, sent shockwaves through the industry in 2022 by announcing an ad-supported tier. This move was likely fueled by a desire to reach new audiences, combat rising subscription costs, and potentially even fend off competition from other OTT platforms. These ads could lead to strong growth potential with advertisers eager to tap into Netflix’s massive user base. 

If you’re unfamiliar with how Netflix works, it’s important to know that Netflix is an OTT (Over-the-Top) platform, meaning it delivers streaming content directly over the internet, bypassing traditional cable or satellite providers. It’s one of the most popular OTT platforms globally, but in the ad supported video on demand (AVOD) space, Netflix is a relative newcomer. Understanding this new facet of Netflix is crucial for marketers looking to capitalize on this advertising opportunity.

Interested in learning more about Netflix and its advertising offerings? You came to the right place. In this post, we’ll cover the foundational elements of Netflix ads including ad types, specs, advertising best practices, and more. 

Why Did Netflix Start Offering Ads?

In November 2022, Netflix introduced an ad-supported tier. This move marked a significant shift, as Netflix was previously known for its commitment to an ad-free experience. The decision likely stemmed from a desire to tap into new revenue streams. With consumers increasingly cost-conscious, an ad-supported tier provided a way to attract budget-minded viewers while still offering a premium ad-free option, similar to established AVOD providers like Hulu and Peacock.

Initially, the launch was off to a slower start, with few people signing up for the ad supported tier and Netflix failing to meet guarantees, but things are quickly turning around and savvy advertisers are taking notice. Netflix boasts a massive user base, with roughly 270 million paid subscribers – a household name with immense reach. In fact, 40% of new Netflix sign-ups are choosing the ad-supported tier, translating to a total of 40 million users. Netflix’s ad platform presents a unique opportunity for marketers looking to reach a large and engaged audience.

“Our goal isn’t just to offer the same products and tools the industry has come to expect — although we’ve made a lot of progress on that front over the last year. It’s to build something bigger and better than what exists today. We want to shape the future of advertising on Netflix and help marketers tap into the amazing fandom generated by our must-watch shows and movies.”

Amy ReinhardPresident, Advertising at Netflix

How to Start Advertising on Netflix

So, you’re interested in capitalizing on Netflix’s massive audience? Here’s a breakdown of the three main ways to buy ads on their platform:

1. Netflix Ads Manager

This platform, powered by Microsoft, allows you to directly purchase ad space on Netflix. However, be prepared to meet their minimum spending requirements, which can be substantial and offer little room for negotiation.

2. Partnering with an Agency

While the minimum spend might be high for direct buys, streaming agencies like Tinuiti can be a valuable asset. They can not only help you navigate the intricacies of Netflix advertising, but also:

  • Consolidate Streaming Data: The streaming landscape is fragmented, with viewers spread across multiple platforms. Agencies can collect data from these various platforms and turn it into a unified, actionable strategy for your advertising campaign.
  • Expertise and Negotiation: Agencies bring a wealth of experience to the table. They can leverage their knowledge of the advertising landscape and potentially negotiate more favorable terms on your behalf.

3. Ad Tech Partners

Companies like Microsoft offer ad tech solutions that provide technical capabilities to streamline your advertising efforts. These partners typically take a more hands-off approach compared to agencies, focusing on the technical aspects of ad delivery and optimization.

The best option depends on your budget, experience level, and campaign goals. If you’re a large brand with a significant budget and an in-house marketing team, going directly through Netflix Ads Manager might be a good fit. However, for most businesses, partnering with an agency or ad tech provider can offer valuable support and expertise.

Ad Types & Specs for Netflix Ads

Now that you understand the different avenues for buying ads on Netflix, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of ad formats and specifications:

Netflix Ad Types

Example of a Netflix Ad Featuring Smartfood and Love is Blind

Currently, Netflix offers two main ad types, pre-roll ads and mid-roll ads. Netflix notes that users can expect to see a few short ads per hour and that they aim to place ads during natural plot breaks for a more seamless experience.   

Let’s take a look at each option… 

  • Pre-roll Ads: These commercials play before a program or movie begins, similar to traditional linear TV advertising.
  • Mid-roll Ads: These ads appear in the middle of a program, typically inserted during natural breaks in the content.

During paused playback, ad breaks are displayed on the progress bar. As an ad break begins, the upper-right corner reveals the number of ads included in that break.

While Netflix advertising is fairly new, the platform has made a few important announcements to look out for in 2024. Netflix plans to introduce a new binge ad format for global advertisers, offering viewers an ad-free fourth episode after watching three consecutive episodes. Additionally, QR code integration in U.S. advertising will launch early in the year. Sponsorship opportunities, including Title, Moment, and Live Sponsorships, are also now available in the U.S. and will expand globally in 2024.

Netflix also offers live opportunities including WWE Raw (launching January 2025), which will air live on Netflix 52 weeks of the year, and the NFL Christmas games which Netflix just secured the rights to. These live events provide advertisers the opportunity to reach ad and ad-free members of Netflix in a live environment with traditional ad formats.

Last but not least, Netflix recently announced they are adding Pause Ads to their suite of custom ad units. This is currently in beta and is expected to be rolled out to the general marketplace in H2 2024.

Netflix Ad Specs

When it comes to advertising specs, it’s important to follow Netflix’s guidelines which include the following… 

  • Supported Lengths: Netflix accepts ads in 10, 15, 20, 30, and 60-second durations.
  • File Format: Ads must be submitted in MP4 or MOV format.
  • Aspect Ratio & Resolution: Maintain a 16:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of either 1920×1080 HD or 1280×720 HD.
  • QR Codes on the Horizon: Netflix is preparing to support QR code integration within commercials, allowing viewers to seamlessly access additional information or promotions.

Hot Tip: Stay tuned for updates, as Netflix is constantly evolving its ad platform.

Why Advertise on Netflix?

Advertising on Netflix offers several unique advantages for advertisers including… 

  • Massive Reach – Netflix boasts a massive subscriber base worldwide (globally, there were around 270 million Netflix subscribers in Q1 2024), providing advertisers with access to a vast and diverse audience. These viewers are often highly engaged, spending significant time on the platform consuming content. In fact, Over 70% of Netflix’s ad-supported members watch for more than 10 hours a month – which is 15 percentage points higher than the nearest competitor according to Nielsen.
  • Targeting – Netflix collects extensive data on user preferences and behavior, enabling precise targeting of advertisements based on demographics, interests, viewing history, and more. This targeted approach increases the relevance and effectiveness of ads, maximizing ROI for advertisers (more on this below).
  • Global Reach and Localization – With a presence in numerous countries around the world, Netflix offers advertisers the opportunity to reach audiences on a global scale. Additionally, the platform’s localization capabilities enable tailored advertising campaigns to resonate with specific regional or cultural audiences.
  • Unskippable Ads – Unlike some streaming advertising platforms, Netflix ads are unskippable, guaranteeing your message reaches viewers.
  • Positive User Experience – Netflix prioritizes a positive user experience, so it’s unlikely viewers will see the same ad twice in a single episode. However, there’s a chance you might encounter the same ad later during your viewing session. It’s also important to note that children’s profiles maintain their ad-free experience.
  • Ad Delivery & Blocking – Since ads are delivered server-side, ad blockers are ineffective on Netflix. Additionally, playback automatically pauses if you minimize the window while an ad is playing, ensuring your message is seen.

Best Practices When Advertising on Netflix

When advertising on Netflix, it’s essential to understand the platform’s unique capabilities and audience targeting options to maximize the effectiveness of your campaigns. Check out a few best practices you need to consider… 

Explore Audience Targeting Capabilities

Netflix offers several audience targeting capabilities for advertisers on their ad-supported tier. These capabilities focus on three main areas: demographics, viewing habits, and content context. Here’s a breakdown:

Demographics:

  • Age: Advertisers can target users by age groups, like 18-34, 35+, etc.
  • Gender: Ads can be shown to specific genders (male or female).
  • Location: Targeting can be set by country or even state (in the U.S.).

Viewing Habits:

  • Genre: This lets advertisers target users based on the genres they watch, like comedy, drama, action, etc.

Content Context:

  • Top 10: Ads can be placed before or after shows and movies on Netflix’s daily Top 10 list, ensuring high visibility.

Advertisers also have the option to choose where they don’t want their ads to appear. For example, they can avoid showing ads on programs with mature themes or content that may not align with their brand values.

By using a combination of these targeting options, advertisers can reach a more precise audience interested in their product or service. This increases the ad’s relevance to viewers and potentially improves the ad campaign’s effectiveness.

It’s also important to note that Netflix now has the ability to target advertiser first party data. The platform currently has two approved DMPs: Liveramp or Adobe. Advertisers who work with either of these DMPs can upload first party data for targeting or suppression.

It’s important to note that Netflix’s ad targeting is still evolving. While it doesn’t offer some of the more advanced options found on other platforms, they are working on expanding their capabilities.

Test Your Ad Creative

Just like any other marketing campaign, testing your ad creative on Netflix is vital for optimizing performance. Here are some key reasons to test your ads:

  • Discover What Works: Testing allows you to compare different ad variations and identify which elements resonate most with your target audience. This could involve testing variations in messaging, visuals, calls to action, or even ad length.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Testing provides valuable data and insights. You can track metrics like click-through rates, completion rates, and brand recall to see which ad versions generate the best results. Don’t rely on guesswork. Testing helps you move beyond assumptions and identify what truly connects with viewers.
  • Meet Audience Expectations: Netflix viewers anticipate premium content, including ads. Testing ad creative ensures that your commercials meet these expectations by delivering high-quality, engaging content that resonates with the audience.
  • Optimize Performance: Testing allows you to refine your ad creative to achieve optimal performance. By experimenting with different elements such as messaging, visuals, and calls to action, you can identify the most effective combinations that drive engagement and conversion.
  • Enhance Relevance: Testing helps ensure that your ad creative remains relevant to your target audience. By continuously testing and refining your approach, you can adapt to changing consumer preferences and market trends, ensuring that your ads stay impactful and resonant.
  • Maximize ROI: Effective testing enables you to make data-driven decisions that maximize ROI. By identifying and scaling the best-performing ad creative, you can allocate your advertising budget more efficiently and achieve greater results.

Measure and Analyze Your Results

Netflix doesn’t offer 1:1 conversion measurement for ad buyers (yet) – but they do have brand awareness and lift studies they offer advertisers so keep this in mind when measuring and analyzing your results. 

The platform did recently announce that this summer, Netflix will expand its buying capabilities to include The Trade Desk, Google’s Display & Video 360, and Magnite who will join Microsoft as the main programmatic partners for advertisers.

Starting in the second half of 2024, Netflix just announced that the following third party measurement partners (partnering to measure and verify the impact of advertiser campaigns) will also be added: Affinity Solutions, iSpotTV, NCSolutions, Videoamp, DCM and TVision.

They also announced Netflix will launch an in-house advertising technology platform, by the end of 2025. This will give advertisers new ways to buy, new insights to leverage, and new ways to measure impact. 

Is Netflix Advertising Right For Your Brand?

Overall, Netflix advertising offers the unparalleled reach of a massive, highly-engaged audience. This can be a strategic choice for brands seeking broad awareness and brand association with premium content.

If you’re interested in exploring advertising opportunities on Netflix for your brand, consider reaching out to the Tinuiti team. Our expertise can provide guidance and assistance in navigating the complexities of advertising on the platform, maximizing your campaign’s effectiveness and ROI. 

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to showcase your brand on one of the world’s largest streaming platforms—connect with Tinuiti today to get started.

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Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector

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Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector

The bar has been set by the industry leaders in UX and Merchandising, and our customers have stated their claim clearly – “to grow our market share, we must have an enterprise search experience that drives conversions.

Optimizely offers baseline search experiences within our commerce platform, which are designed to help companies get started with organizing and delivering SKUs to customers. These experiences utilize out-of-the-box algorithms and methods for sorting, categorizing, and customizing.

While Optimizely provides a foundation for search experiences, we knew there were users ready to take their search capabilities to the next level. This is where the Xngage and HawkSearch partnership promises to redefine how you approach search-driven experiences within Optimizely Configured Commerce. Our highly experienced partner Xngage has developed a seamless integration connector, a best-in-class accelerator for harnessing the power of HawkSearch.

The powerful partner in search

HawkSearch is known for its expertise in search-driven engagement, AI-powered product discovery, and no-code customizations. With a strong history of serving B2B customers with enterprise-level search solutions, it was a perfect choice to make HawkSearch directly available within Optimizely’s platform.

The expertise of Xngage made this connector a reality enabling Optimizely’s Configured Commerce customers to:

  • Easily plug directly into the HawkSearch service to share your products and their relevant data.
  • Utilize powerful unit of measure conversions, ensuring your customers can find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Customize sorting and facets to deliver highly relevant results to customers.
  • Craft a personalized user experience with features like auto-complete and the new ‘instant engage’.

Customers can further explore HawkSearch’s capabilities in this on demand webinar and recap, which highlights the benefits and use cases of the Xngage connector for HawkSearch.

A powerful partner in digital growth

Xngage complements Optimizely perfectly, as they deliver robust solutions in the realm of digital content and commerce experiences. The development of the Xngage connector to HawkSearch is a part of their broader mission to empower manufacturers and distributors to serve their customers digitally. This alignment seamlessly fits with Optimizely, making our partnership with Xngage an ideal choice. 

Furthering their goal of digital growth, Xngage offers a range of holistic and complementary professional services, including:

  • User research & user experience design (UX)
  • Enterprise architecture & ERP integration
  • Product information management (PIM)
  • Ecommerce Implementations, and digital growth services.

To learn more about this highly experienced digital commerce partner visit Xngage.com.

The future of the partnership

This partnership is just the beginning. Xngage and HawkSearch are committed to working hand in hand to empower you with the tools and insights you need to elevate your ecommerce site. Stay tuned for future blogs, webinars, and resources that will help you make the most of this transformative alliance.

The future of ecommerce search has never looked more promising, and we’re excited to have you on this journey with us.

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