UVM summit focuses on health, agriculture and rural economic development in Vermont

first_imgVermont Business Magazine Accessing health care and health insurance are significant challenges for farmers in Vermont and nationwide, creating obstacles for farm viability, health and well-being, job creation, business expansion and the ability to farm full-time. A day-long summit at the University of Vermont on Thursday brought together key stakeholders in Vermont’s health, agriculture, tax, government, and Extension sectors to share perspectives and discuss opportunities for collaboration and integration of the spheres of health and agriculture to better serve Vermont’s farmers.The intended outcome is to develop a statewide coordinated approach to addressing health and health insurance in the Vermont farm sector. This event is part of the ongoing USDA Health Insurance, Rural Economic Development and Agriculture research project (HIREDnAg(link is external)).In opening remarks, lead author University of Vermont Professor Shoshanah Inwood said Vermont farmers face a magnified version of the same issues and obstacles as small business owners everywhere face in regards to health insurance, the Affordable Care Act, cost of health care, time it takes to understand and deal with health insurance, and child care.“Agriculture is the least likely industry to offer health insurance,” Inwood told summit attendees.University of Vermont Professor Shoshanah Inwood. VBM photo.For labor-intensive Vermont dairy farms, which represents 77 percent of all agricultural sales in the state, there is little time to wrestle with forms or negotiate the Vermont Health Connect Website.Cash flow for health insurance also creates a barrier, Inwood said. Farmers will typically have unsteady income streams from month to month and year to year.Farmers also worry most about catastrophic injury. While catastrophic-only health insurance plans have low premiums, they have high deductibles. They also frequently lack dental and optometric coverage.Given that, the Platinum health insurance plans might present the best option, but the staggering monthly premiums bump into the cash flow problem. The 2017 monthly premium for a Platinum plan (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont) is $686.76/month for an individual or triple that for a family plan.An Health Savings Account allows for pre-tax savings to pay for out-of-pocket expenses like dental and deductibles, but HSAs also have higher deductibles that would be quickly eaten away by a hospital stay, and still have a significant premium.Those who attended the summit included UVM researchers, research partners from University of Maryland, nonprofit service providers, health insurance providers, technical assistance providers, Extension employees, VT State Agency employees from Dept of Labor, Agency of Agriculture, Dept of Health, Dept of Taxes, and Vermont Health Connect, as well as representatives from the office of Senators Leahy and Sanders and the USDA.Study Background and Purpose The project “Health Insurance Economic Development and Agriculture” (HIREDnAg) is a project lead by researchers at The University of Vermont and the Walsh Center for Rural Health Policy, NORC at the University of Chicago. The goal of this national study is to understand how health insurance influences farm family decision making, quality of life, and economic development.Farming ranks among the most dangerous occupations in the US (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2013). Health and safety risks inherent in agricultural work include sun and heat exposure, heavy lifting and bending that lead to chronic back and joint pain, operating farm machinery, exhaustion, exposure to disease from farm animals, handling chemicals and dangerous materials. Mental health issues can be exacerbated by economic hardships, chronic pain, stress, long hours, and solitude.Health insurance is one way to access and pay for needed health care. Having health insurance increases the likelihood of accessing preventive care and treatment in a timely manner, improving health outcomes, and reducing medical debt (Dorn, 2008). Farming families who are uninsured or underinsured can accrue crushing medical debt which can increase financial risk, lead to farm foreclosure, and reduce overall quality of life. While most farmers had health insurance from off-farm jobs, 20% had outstanding debt from medical bills with 25% reporting health care expenses contributed to their financial problems (Lottero, Pryor, Rukavina, Prottas, & Knudson, 2009).In addition to the occupational farmer health and safety concerns, studies have consistently found that longtime farmers, beginning farmers, and hired workers identify the high cost of health insurance as a major barrier to job creation and the ability to farm full-time (Inwood, 2015; Mishra, El‐Osta, & Ahearn, 2012; Ohio Rural Development Partnership, 2006;Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, 2011; Young Farmers Coalition, 2011).Farmers and ranchers make health insurance decisions from two perspectives:1) “Farmer and Family” health insurance decisions are made for themselves and their families, and;2) “Farmers as employers” producers decide if and how to offer health insurance to employees.The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has introduced federal and state health care policy changes and has implications for how farmers and ranchers source health insurance, need for off-farm jobs, and requirements for employee-mandated health insurance (Ahearn, Williamson, & Black, 2014). Differences in how ACA markets are being implemented across states may lead to variation in adoption by agricultural enterprises, with implications for farm family and farmworker health. Little is known how ACA reforms will influence the way farm and ranch families’ structure and grow their enterprises, manage risk, and balance labor resources.Utilizing interviews and surveys in ten study states, the core objectives of the HIREDnAg Project are to:Understand how health insurance influences he way operators’ structure their enterprise; manage family and business resources; impact farm labor supply, and; operator and farm worker health, vitality, and quality of life.Conduct a needs assessment of farm and ranch technical assistance providers (farm viability and business planning professionals and tax accountants). Develop outreach and educational tools that can assist farmers and ranchers understand health insurance options.Communicate the results of the study to national and state policy makers to inform them about how health insurance impacts the vitality of the farm sector and the overall rural American economy.The ten case study states were selected based on several criteria:Active agricultural base, regional, and production variation;Medicaid expansion policy;State receptivity to participating in the studyIn this HIREDnAg case study profile series, we examine the health insurance and agriculture sector in each of the ten case study states. The health insurance policy landscape shifts rapidly; these reports are based on data accurate as of July 2016. Additionally, all agricultural data reported in this series are from the 2012 Census of Agriculture (United States Department of Agriculture, 2012).VermontVermont is the second least populated state in the U.S. with a population of 620,453 residents in 2014 (United States Census Bureau, 2014). Vermont expanded Medicaid and is operating a State-Based Marketplace with two participating insurers. (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2016; The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2016). Between 2009 and 2014 the rate of uninsured residents dropped by 42.3% from 53,192 to 30,716. In 2014, 5.0% of the population remained uninsured , the lowest rate of uninsured beyond Massachusetts (Redmond, 2015). Overall, 45.5% of the population has health insurance through employment alone, while 19.0% reported health insurance coverage through Medicaid or other means-tested programs alone (United States Census Bureau, 2009, 2014). Vermont is one of the states with the highest number of Medicaid recipients per capita (O’Gorman, 2015) with a Medicaid enrollment increase of 38.0% between 2006 and 2016 (Redmond, 2015).Farm Size and Type The majority of agricultural sales in Vermont are from dairy product and livestock. Out of $776.1 million in sales, over $598 million (or 77.19%) were related to livestock including $504 million in milk. Maple syrup and hay represented the largest sales in crops with over $88 million (11.4%) in sales.Between 2007 and 2012, the number of farms increased by 5.1% (from 6,984 farms to 7,338 farms) while farm sales increased by 15.2% (from $673 million to $776 million). Of the 7,338 farms, the majority (84.9%) are considered hobby or small farms with sales under $1,000 and $100,000 respectively, 6.6% are considered medium with sales between $100,000 and $250,000 and 8.5% are considered large with sales over $250,000. However, the majority of the sales come from the large farms (66.6% of the sales) (Figure 3). In Vermont, 7.5% of farms are certified organic.Marketing Orientation Twenty eight percent of the Vermont farms reported direct sales to consumers, 13.8% engaged in value adding activities while 4.5% of farms reported selling through a CSA (Figure 4). A very small minority of farms 2.1% reported any tourism activity.Farmer Population There are 12,257 farm operators in Vermont including 7,338 principal operators. The average age of the principal operator in Vermont is 57.3 years old, 54.9% of the principal operators were 65 years and older while 11.1% of the principal operators where under the age of 35. Farming was the primary occupation for 51.5% of the principal operators while 69.5% of households reported that farming accounts for less than 25% of their total household income. Women farm operators (including first, second, and third) account for 38.4% of operators compared to the national average (30.5%). Minorities account for 4.7% of the general population in Vermont, but only 1.7% of farm operators (Figure 5) (United States Census Bureau, 2014). Minorities counted in this figure include Hispanic, Black, Native American and Asian farmers. Beginning farmers in this area represent 22.3% of the principal operators compared to 18.1% at the national level.Health Insurance Information and Programs for the Agricultural Sector Nationally, USDA refers farmers and ranchers to the national website healthcare.gov. Given state health insurance policy variations we examined if states have specific health insurance programs or outreach efforts directed towards farmers by consulting the websites of the state agencies of agriculture, state extension services, and state exchange (when applicable). The Vermont Agency of Agriculture and University of Vermont do not currently provide health insurance information for the agricultural sector. Vermont Health Connect, the State-Based Marketplace, provides resources for small business owners through the SHOP Employer Guide, as well as a fact sheet to help legal migrant farm workers obtain health insurance.About the Authors Florence Becot is a research specialist at the University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies and a PhD student in the University of Vermont Food Systems Program.Shoshanah Inwood is an assistant professor in the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics at the University of Vermont.Lucy McDermott is a community manager at the Collaborative Health Network in Maine. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelors’ degree in economics and minors in community development and political science in 2016.Source: UVM. 11.3.2016. 1 The rate of uninsured residents does not include the institutionalized population. The U.S. Census Bureau defines the institutionalized population as “people who are primarily ineligible, unable, or unlikely to participate in the labor force while residents of institutional group quarters” (https://ask.census.gov/f(link is external) faq.php?id=5000&faqId=6669).last_img read more

Europe is Neville’s last chance to save a dismal season at Valencia

first_imgThe only hope now is to look to Europe, something that is of huge importance to Valencia. Their previous success in international competitions is an immense source of pride, with part of the Mestalla’s decoration dedicated to highlighting their UEFA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup wins, and the club museum giving pride of place to those trophies as well as other European honours. Losing out on playing in the Champions or Europa League next season will hurt supporters immensely therefore, and reflect pretty badly upon their coach.Yet Neville also has an opportunity to use Europe to his advantage. Incredibly, despite their largely abysmal performances, Valencia still have a trophy left to play for this season, their Europa League last 16 tie against Athletic Club hanging by a slender one goal margin in the Basques’ favour. Turn it around and eliminate a fellow La Liga team to reach the quarter-finals, and the English coach could start to win back his team’s supporters, a famously vocal bunch who can either make or break a manager. When Valencia unveiled Gary Neville as their next head coach in the autumn of last year many observers feared for the worst, scepticism over how useful someone with no experience of management would be at an incredibly demanding club in a difficult moment. Unfortunately for Neville, it looks like the sceptics were right. The Englishman has lost almost half of his league games in charge of Los Che, and increasingly looks to be captaining a sinking ship.A string of three wins between February 13th and March 2nd suggested there may be some home for a domestic turnaround, but it was a false dawn. Valencia went on to lose twice in a row, and while being outclassed by Atletico Madrid was no surprise, the subsequent loss was much more damning. On March 13th, Levante won the Valencia derby 1-0, and more embarrassingly still, the team at the bottom of the La Liga table outclassed their city rivals. Thirteen points beneath the nearest European spot, the best Neville can now do in La Liga is to try and provide the lesser of various disappointments. The Bury native has a huge chance to change his situation, and in truth, it is probably a much bigger chance than he or his players deserve. Valencia were clearly bettered by Athletic in the first leg of their European tie, the difference in coaching ability between the two hopefuls particularly clear. At the San Mames, the visitors failed to get to grips with a difficult surface, barely stringing two or three passes together in succession and spending most of the game on the back foot as a result. Ernesto Valverde’s men, by contrast, were clearly instructed to keep the ball off the ground as much as they could, maximising the use of aerial outlets Raul Garcia and Aritz Aduriz. When that wasn’t possible, they took short touches to minimise the chances of being caught out by the unpredictable movement of the ball on the muddy field, all signs of detailed and well planned coaching. Los Leones dominated the game, bulldozing their tactically inferior opponents.Thankfully for Neville, mother nature intervened and saved his skin. Athletic were looking more and more likely to score a second goal when the heavens opened, the infamous Bilbao rain obliterating what remained of the San Mames grass and reducing the match to kick and rush.With the local climate not known for its kindness, Athletic are used to unfavourable conditions, but even they couldn’t cope with this kind of downpour, and what had at one stage looked destined to become a route eventually ended in a 1-0 win.Fortune dealt Valencia a favourable hand, the kind of gift their coach can’t afford to waste. Athletic are a quality side — certainly the better of the two — but the beauty of knockout football is that a 1-0 lead in a two-legged tie never provides certainty. Valverde’s team could have an off night on Thursday. Whether they do or not, Neville needs his team to have a good night, more than ever.It seems an age ago now, but it is perhaps worth remembering that Valencia took a 2-2 draw from Real Madrid at the Mestalla last January. They are capable of taking a win from Athletic, therefore.Sealing progression to the quarter-final of the Europa League through whatever means necessary and Neville would achieve the biggest result of his tenure. It could even be the start of saving his tenure.last_img read more


first_imgSheriff Chip Hall offers some safety tips for those youngsters who will be attending school this year.“Parents can teach their children the following safety tips which will inform the youngsters of the danger signs to watch for and avoid in going back and forth to school,” Sheriff Hall said.“Drivers should be cautious of children traveling back and forth to school,” added the Sheriff.  “We can all learn from the safety tips below and abide by them to make Jackson County safer for all.”Ø  While walking or waiting for the school bus, remember to always travel with a friend.  Two heads are better than one, especially if there’s an emergency.Ø  A stranger is anyone you or your parents don’t know well.Ø  You or your friend must never take candy, money, medicine, or anything else from a stranger.Ø  If a stranger in a car asks you questions, don’t get close to the car (you could get pulled in) – and never get in the car.Ø  Strangers can be very tricky – they can ask you to walk with them to “show” them something; they can offer to pay for your video game, or ask you to help them find a lost dog or cat.  Don’t be fooled!Ø  Don’t tell a stranger your name or address when you’re walking and don’t think that because someone knows your name that they know you – they may just be looking at your name printed on your lunch box, school bag, or T-shirt.Ø  If you think you’re in any danger, yell, and run to the nearest store or “safe house” or back to school.Ø  Always tell your parents or teacher if a stranger has approached you.“By taking the time to carefully prepare your child on how to handle these situations, you can insure your child’s safety whether they are walking to or from school, waiting at a bus stop, playing in a playground, or riding their bikes,” Sheriff Hall concludes.last_img read more

Internet of Things (IoT): Billions of Things, Trillions of Dollars

first_imgBy 2020 expect there to be a lot of devices connected to the internet — with the emphasis here on ‘a lot’.  Analysts and businesses can’t quite decide, but the number will be very big.Last year, Gartner predicted by 2020 there will be 26 billion devices connected to the internet, and they revised their estimate recently to 25 billion.  But IDC thinks that it’s closer to 30 billion devices.  Cisco expects that the number will actually be closer to 50 billion devices.  And Morgan Stanley says it will be even bigger, closer to 75 billion devices.  Do I hear 100 billion — anyone?Cisco’s John Chambers thinks the IoT will generate $14 trillion in sales over the next ten years.  IDC estimates that the IoT market in 2020 will be about $3 trillion.It’s no wonder that  IDC named their report on IoT futures “Billions of Things, Trillions of Dollars.”Peter Middleton, research director at Gartner, said that “by 2020, component costs will have come down to the point that connectivity will become a standard feature, even for processors costing less than $1. This opens up the possibility of connecting just about anything, from the very simple to the very complex, to offer remote control, monitoring and sensing.  The fact is, that today, many categories of connected things in 2020 don’t yet exist. As product designers dream up ways to exploit the inherent connectivity that will be offered in intelligent products, we expect the variety of devices offered to explode.”Gregg Berkeley, Intel Corp’s global IoT business-development sales director, said that “everything can be IoT. For example, HVAC [heating, ventilating and air-conditioning], lighting, lifts, digital signage and parking. Currently, IoT is in the early stage globally. In my opinion, IoT will be in the mature stage within the next couple of year.”Jim Tully, analyst at Gartner, said that “The digital shift instigated by… cloud, mobile, social and information – and boosted by IoT – threatens many existing businesses.  They have no choice but to pursue IoT, like they’ve done with the consumerization of IT.”last_img read more

More Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 specifications leaked

first_imgA fresh set of leaks has given out some rare specifications of Xiaomi’s Redmi Note successor. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 20, which has been nicknamed Hermes, was first spotted a month ago.Regular leakster, @upleaks is the source of the new set of leaks. According to this, the smartphone will sport a full-HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display, although the screen size has not been divulged yet. It is also likely to be powered by a 64-bit MediaTek MT6795, octa-core processor. Some other features include 2 or 3GB RAM, and 16GB internal memory.The device is expected to run on Android 5.0 Lollipop based MIUI 6. Other leaks reveal a 13MP rear camera, and a 5MP front camera.Any details regarding the availability and pricing of the smartphone are yet to be known. Notably, the launches of four new smartphones by Xiaomi were also leaked when its product roadmap for the year was revealed earlier in the month.last_img read more

Blog Action Day – Viral Marketing and The Environment

first_imgWe all know that the Internet is transforming business, but the Internet is also transforming our social and political lives as well in similar ways.A group of bloggers got together and came up with an idea – Blog Action Day.  The idea is to have a huge number of bloggers all write about one issue – the environment – on the same day to call attention to the issue.  They have also asked bloggers who make money from ads on their blog, to donate their ad revenue from that day to an environmental charity.  That’s it.  Pretty simple idea.  In today’s world, this makes sense, sounds reasonable and not too difficult to pull off.But let’s rewind to about 15 years ago.  Before normal humans used the Internet.  Back to the old rules of marketing.  Doing something like this would have meant coordinating huge media conglomerates that publish most of the content people consumed daily – the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, ABC, etc.  A monumental task, perhaps impossible.But in the modern world where we are all now playing by the new rules of marketing, something like this is not that hard.  In fact, just working on a volunteer basis, these few bloggers have enlisted some of the top blogs in the world, including many I read, like GigaOM, SEOmoz, and Copyblogger.  They have had over 15,000 blogs sign up.  This means that their reach is over 12 million readers.  Plus the event itself is garnering media attention, increasing the reach and impact by a huge amount – of course some of the coverage is negative.How does all of this affect your business?  Think about the personas you serve.  Are there any issues that they care about?  What does your market care about (besides your product)?  HubSpot is targeting marketing professionals and small business owners – do you think this post about the environment and marketing below is interesting to them? Originally published Oct 15, 2007 9:31:00 AM, updated October 18 2015 Topics: Viral Campaigns Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

Pets.com Sock Puppet Shows the Perils of Outbound Marketing

first_img1999/2000 was the absolute peak of the outbound marketing era because small startups raised hundreds of millions of dollars and then spent that money on outbound advertising (TV, print, billboards) thinking that the more you spent on outbound marketing, the faster you would grow.  This proved to be a completely false assumption, and the era of outbound marketing ended, including a gigantic crash of the stock market (only surpassed by the most recent financial crisis) and the loss of many jobs in the startup and Internet industries.For those of you who do not know the Pets.com Sock Puppet, it was the mascot of a startup Pets.com that was trying to sell pet supplies online.  Not a bad business (in fact, people are making money in that business today), but their strategy was based on how you built a brand in 1950, not 2000.  The Sock Puppet starred in numerous TV ads, including a Superbowl ad, and became quite famous… So famous that the company started selling toys based on the sock puppet.  But none of that helped Pets.com build a profitable business.  In fact, in their first year of operations, they spent $11 million on advertising to gain $600,000 in revenue.Big brands used to be built on outbound marketing.  But then inventions like the remote control, cable TV, and the DVR made it more possible for people to control what they view, and ignore advertisements.  The Internet and other new technologies take this to the extreme.  Today, the outbound marketing model is broken, as Pets.com proved.  The next 50 years are the age of inbound marketing.  If Pets.com had built their brand differently, the Sock Puppet might not be collecting unemployment today.How are you building your brand?  What do you think marketers can learn from the Pets.com example? Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Topics: Originally published May 26, 2009 10:44:00 AM, updated July 03 2013 Inbound Marketinglast_img read more

How Social Media Capitalism Will Affect Your Future Marketing Strategy

first_img Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Originally published Feb 15, 2012 4:30:00 PM, updated February 01 2017 Topics: Marketing Strategy We are all living the marketing high life. Today, great inbound marketers can transform their business thanks to “free” traffic and leads from social media and search engines. Sure, this traffic isn’t exactly free — marketers have to invest in time and tools to take advantage of these inbound channels. But inbound leads are still 61 percent less expensive than outbound leads. Can This Last Forever? This week, interesting monetization news broke about Pinterest , the hot new social network focused on images. Pinterest is using a service called Skimlinks for its monetization. Skimlinks takes the URLs that people pin on Pinterest and attaches affiliate marketing referral codes to them, which allows Pinterest to get paid when a person discovers a product on the service and then visits a website to purchase that product. (Note: Understand that only ecommerce websites that have an affiliate marketing program pay Pinterest for conversions. If you don’t have an affiliate marketing program, then traffic from Pinterest to your site is free.)However, if you do have an affiliate marketing program, then you have to invest the time in building a community and sharing content on Pinterest, and still pay your affiliate marketing commission. But if you have a well optimized affiliate marketing campaign and you understand your target cost-per-conversion, then this can be a sustainable model for selling products. While potentially a good model, it is also extremely disruptive to the idea that social media traffic is free. Social Media Capitalism Social media is still very much in its infancy. In the early days of Facebook and Twitter, there were no monetization methods in place. Pinterest marks a shift in the social media industry, not for its innovative platform, but instead for its ability to monetize the service from the very beginning, rather than waiting years to figure out how to actually make money from it. We’ve seen LinkedIn succeed in monetizing by disrupting the recruiting market. Now, Facebook and Twitter both have strong and growing advertising platforms. However, what Pinterest is doing isn’t advertising. Instead, Pinterest is making money off organic interactions on its site, and some marketers can only opt out of paying for it if they cancel their entire affiliate marketing program.As Facebook prepares for its initial public offering and LinkedIn continues to battle the pressure of Wall Street, the only real certainty is that social media capitalism is here to stay. It’s all about leverage. The handful of successful social platforms that attract a critical mass of users that business want to reach have the leverage to make more aggressive monetization changes. The fact is, with the higher costs involved with offline marketing, social networks can make significant changes without pushing businesses away from the platform. Only the Platforms You Own Will Always Be Free So social media is starting to get more expensive. Yes, it is still far less expensive than many other forms of marketing, but what is a marketer to do? Take control. The only online platforms that you can ensure will remain free in your marketing mix are the ones you own and control yourself. Facebook could decide tomorrow that it wants you to pay a monthly fee to have a business page. While unlikely, it is completely possible.As marketer, you own your website and your blog. Failing to invest in both of these key inbound marketing assets could have a negative impact on your future cost-per-lead. This means that those Inc. 500 companies that indicated they were blogging less in a recent survey are heading in the wrong direction.You dictate all the terms of your blog and website — not only the content but also the design and call-to-action placement. Your website and blog are also the only inbound marketing tools through which you have complete control over accessing valuable marketing analytics information. Think about the limited insight you have now into the analytics of your social media channels. When it comes to third-party channels, you have no control over the data that you have access to. It’s all up to those third-party channels to decide what to give you. Making Money Costs Money Yes, marketing has defined cost structures in every tactic, both outbound and inbound. But great marketers understand that it’s important to invest in marketing to drive revenue growth. The important aspect of social media and marketing costs to understand is that social media costs are volatile. Social media moves quickly, and companies are forced to innovate rapidly. With this innovation comes new opportunities for monetization, which directly impacts marketers. Owning and leveraging your website and blog as the central hub of your inbound marketing activities will help to minimize volatility and manage your inbound marketing costs. Three Key Marketing Actions to Reduce Marketing Costs 1. Optimize Website Calls-to-Action for Your Entire Buying Cycle – Marketers underuse calls-to-action. The web is crowded, and visitors to your website or blog need clear direction for what you want them to do. But just having calls-to-action on your website isn’t enough. Instead, your calls-to-actions must map through your entire buying cycle. For example, if your blog generates a lot of traffic from first-time visitors, then asking them to join you for a product demo probably isn’t the best pick-up line. That type middle-of-the-funnel call-to-action would likely work much better on your product pages, where more qualified site traffic is likely to hang out. Conduct an audit of your calls-to-action to determine how to better map them to your sales cycle. 2. Create Blog Content Prospects Love – Stop talking about your products. No one cares about your products … yet. Instead, you need to create blog content that solves key problems your prospects and leads face . Once this content brings them into your blog via social media and search, you then have the opportunity to begin to share more product-focused information. Think like a trade publication, and create articles that you or a member of your company would proudly read and share with others. 3. Make Analytics Actionable – Looking at visits isn’t enough. You need to work on making your analytics actionable. This means you need to look at key inbound marketing metrics like conversion rates by traffic source as well as compare these rates to benchmarks for your industry. This benchmark data will allow you to decide which channels or types of content to invest more in to improve lead and customer yields for your business. If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can use HubSpot’s marketing analytics tools to analyze which channels are driving traffic, leads, and customers, and compare metrics with competitors in your industry. How do you feel about the growing impact of social media capitalism? Image Credit: Images_of_Money last_img read more

How Long Should Your Landing Page Forms Be?

first_img Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Originally published Mar 27, 2012 5:00:00 PM, updated February 28 2018 Topics: Forms Aaah, the elusive lead-capture form . Such a seemingly simple element of inbound marketing, yet also the subject of frequent debate, particularly when it comes to deciding just how many fields to include on that bad boy. How many is too many? How many just isn’t enough?As marketers everywhere struggle to strike the right balance between requiring too much and too little information, many are left thinking, what’s the magical form field sweet spot?Most experts will tell you to ask only for the information you need to effectively contact and qualify a lead, but surely it’s not that simple.Easily build and embed forms on your site. Try HubSpot Forms for free.Let’s dive into how you should make the decision about what is the right form length for your business. Form Length Isn’t the Only Factor First things first. While form length is definitely a factor, marketers must realize that a person’s willingness to complete a form isn’t only dependent on the length of the form. There are a number of factors contributing to your landing page’s conversion rate, and form length is only one of them. It’s important to recognize this, because you shouldn’t just assume that adjusting the length of your form will always have a major influence on your page’s conversion rate or the types of leads it generates. Note some of these other major factors that contribute to whether a landing page visitor will complete the form: The value of the offer to be redeemed. (Is it valuable enough to the visitor to be worth the form completion?) The types of information requested on the form. (Does the form ask for too-sensitive information that dissuades visitors from completing the form?) Website credibility and visitors’ perceived sense of privacy/security. (Does the visitor trust the website enough to feel secure in providing their personal information?)Marketers must understand that all of the factors above — not just form length — can contribute to landing page friction and, thus, impact conversion. Now that we’ve gotten that understanding out of the way, let’s hone in on form length and how to decide what length is best for you. Do You Need More New Leads, or More High Quality Leads? This is the single most important question you need to ask yourself when deciding on form length. In a nutshell, the length of your form inevitably leads to a tradeoff between the quantity and quality of the leads you generate. A shorter form usually means more people will be willing to fill it out, so you’ll generate more leads . But the quality of the leads will be higher when visitors are willing to complete more forms fields and provide you with more information about themselves and what they’re looking for.Therefore, shorter forms usually result in more overall leads, while longer forms will result in fewer, but higher quality leads . So when deciding on the length of your forms, make sure to involve your sales team in the discussion. Your decision on form length should hinge on whether you need more leads, or whether you need better leads, and input from your sales organization should be critical to that decision-making process. Let’s examine each scenario in more detail. Scenario 1: You Need More Leads If your sales team is suffering from an overall deficiency in leads and could benefit from more leads to work in general, this is an indication that your forms should be short and simple to eliminate as much friction as possible. The key here is to ask for enough information that allows you to contact your leads (i.e. name, email address, phone number), but to limit unnecessary form fields that only help to qualify leads and, thus, increase the likelihood potential leads will abandon your landing page without converting.You may want to ask for more than just your leads’ contact information to give your sales team more background on leads upfront, but remember, you can always ask for more information later in the sales process. Too often, companies request all kinds of contact information, neglecting to realize that their 15-field forms are significantly lowering conversion rates. Scenario 2: You Need Higher Quality Leads If raw, overall number of net new leads isn’t a problem for your sales team, but rather they’re wasting time trying to sift through lots of leads to separate the bad ones from the quality ones, this means you’d probably benefit from using your forms to better qualify your leads and help you separate the wheat from the chaff.To help achieve this, longer forms will do the trick . They’ll deter people who aren’t legitimately interested in your business from completing multiple fields, but they’ll capture people who are interested enough to complete the longer form. Additionally, longer forms will collect more information that helps sales people learn more about and further qualify leads before deciding whether to pursue them. Longer forms will save salespeople the trouble of contacting leads who they know aren’t typically a good fit for the products/services your business offers.So if lead quality, not quantity, is a bigger issue for your business, what types of form fields should you be adding to your forms? In short, any field that would collect information to allow you to determine whether a lead is high quality or not. Obviously, this will vary from business to business, and it will greatly depend on the buyer personas you’ve identified as your ideal target customers. If you have a clear understanding of the details that make up your buyer personas, you can start to understand which types of information you should ask for on your form to decide whether or not your new leads fit those personas and how strong those leads are — in other words, how likely they are to become a customer. The questions on your form could reveal background information such as demographics, location, industry, company name/website, role, etc. For example, if you’re a local plumber serving only home or building owners in a specific geographic location, you might ask prospective leads to include their location. Doing so would allow you to weed out any bad leads who are outside of the locations you service.You might also want to add in a question or two that would allow you to gauge their need for your product, their likelihood to purchase your service, or their fit with your company. For example, HubSpot sells marketing software , and all of the forms on our landing pages include an optional field that asks the visitor to describe their biggest marketing challenge. We use this information to learn more about and qualify our leads before putting them into our sales funnel.Information gathered in these fields could also serve as helpful data for more advanced lead scoring and lead management processes if that’s something your business would benefit from. Test to Determine Your Form Field Sweet Spot Once you’ve fit yourself into one of the two scenarios above — or if you think you might fall somewhere in the middle — the best thing to do to determine your ideal form length is to do some A/B testing. If you’re a HubSpot customer using HubSpot Enterprise, our Advanced Landing Pages tool makes it very easy to A/B test your landing pages, and you could specifically use it to test form lengths to determine your form field sweet spot. Here’s how to test for each scenario discussed above: Scenario A (You Need More Leads): Test a landing page using a longer form against the same landing page using a shorter form (or test multiple form length variations). When analyzing your A/B test, you should be looking to see how the various forms affect conversion rates. The hypothesis is that you will be able to gather more leads from your shorter forms, but if not, another landing page factor may having a bigger impact on your landing page’s conversion rate (remember — form length isn’t the only factor). If this is the case, spend some time optimizing other elements of your landing page such as copy, layout, and offer, and see if those changes positively impact your page’s conversion rate. Scenario B (You Need Higher Quality Leads): Run an A/B test on a landing page that tests longer forms but puts more of a focus on the different types of fields you include. When analyzing your A/B test, you should be looking for indicators of lead quality . The hypothesis is that your conversion rate will likely go down, but that you’ll notice leads that are higher in quality and easier to qualify right off the bat. You’ll likely need to consult with your sales team about their perception of the quality of the leads you produced from specific landing page variations to help you settle on the right number — and types — of form fields.For more detailed information about A/B testing, download our free Introduction to Using A/B Testing for Marketing Optimization ebook . How many form fields do you include on your lead-capture forms? Have you conducted A/B testing to determine your form field sweet spot? Image Credit: Victor1558last_img read more