Series Posts: Beyond

Burns: From Beginner to Blogging Beast

Burns: From Beginner to Blogging Beast

Beyond • June 19, 2015

Blogging. Just the word alone induces fear. I have been advised that writing blog posts comes with a learning curve, along with everything else in life right: riding a bike, learning to drive, and your first year of college. Having just finished my first year at San Diego State University, I have been through one of the more difficult learning experiences and realizations: that nothing worth having in life comes easy. The same can be said about blogging. Great topics and ideas don’t just magically flow from your mind. You must experience success and failure to share your knowledge. Trying to write something that readers see as valuable is not easy. With that said I am going to provide you with a fly on the wall perspective of the beginning my blogging career. A proper introduction should be in order. My name is Nicholas Burns. I am 18 years old and am the summer intern here at Benchmark Email. As I mentioned, I attend San Diego State University and will be a sophomore in the fall. I have been fortunate enough to grow up in beautiful Southern California, where summer is more of a year round lifestyle than a three month season. I am your typical “SoCal Teen,” I surf, skateboard and love to be outdoors and at the beach with my friends. In the 21st Century, we know exactly where to go when we don’t know how to do something: Google. Naturally that’s where I went: “How to Write Your First Blog.” The information has provided me with the fundamental skills to blog. The one universal theme is to leave your fear behind and let your knowledge do the talking. Blogging is not about jargon and technical terms, it is about providing something a reader can relate to and use. One suggestion that I found to be useful across all the research I have done is to not worry how your audience will react to what you write. If your content is valuable and relatable, your readers will get the message. A valuable lesson from Neil Patel’s article titled, “11 Things I Wish I knew Before I Started My First Blog,” is that what goes on the Internet stays there. If you are lazy regarding the content of your blog, the consistency of traffic and how your readers view your blog, business, service, etc. will be sub-par. Like my parents have always told me, “Don’t post anything on the internet that you wouldn’t read in front of the whole school.” This advice can fit into deciding the content of a blog. Don’t write about it unless you would get up on a stage in front of hundreds of people and explain/argue your point. When writing blogs many readers do not know you personally and will potentially never meet you face-to-face, depending on the blog. As a result they could form opinions about you based on your writing and subject matter so make them worth reading. This is just the beginning of my blogging career. Throughout this series I hope to provide blogging advice and give you guys a front row seat to my transformation from a beginner to a blogging beast.


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Adobe’s 2014 Digital Marketing Survey Reveals Keys To Success

Adobe’s 2014 Digital Marketing Survey Reveals Keys To Success

Beyond • June 18, 2015

Adobe’s yearly Digital Marketing Optimization Survey is as anxiously anticipated by many online marketers as Christmas morning is by children with visions of sugarplums (and iPads) in their eyes. In the years that Adobe has been publishing this authoritative resource, it has provided countless critical insights into the state of online marketing, and this year is certainly no exception with a wealth of key statistics which can help guide your campaign to ever higher engagement and metrics. Statistics of significant interest to all online marketers The 2014 version of the Adobe Digital Marketing Optimization Survey polled more than 1,000 brand executives from across North America, Europe, Africa, The Middle East, and Asia in a broad swath of organizations and industry sectors. The statistics which were generated by this comprehensive and up to the minute report are of significant interest to any online marketer anywhere. These findings include: The average conversion rate is 2.6% but 20% of top brands obtain rates higher than 4.5%. Automation increases brands’ average conversion rate from 2.6% to 3.6%. Involving multiple departments in the optimization process boosts the average conversion rate from 2.6% to 4.3%. Companies with a culture of optimization are able to double their conversion rate. The companies which receive the highest conversion rates spend more than 5% of their total online marketing budgets on optimization. The top converting companies are 43% more likely to use a broad range of targeting techniques. 75% of respondents claim that personalization is critical to their brands’ long term goals. 89% of all companies acknowledge that the use of customer behavior data for targeting purposes is increasing. Companies which are quantifying the improvement in the context of online sales or key website performance metrics via the personalization of their online experiences gain 19% more sales. 70% of all brands which have adopted testing are in the top 20%, while the bottom 80% includes the 54% which do not test. 91% of all brands who consider that focusing on mobile is critical to their cross-channel efforts are in the top 20%, while the bottom 80% includes the 33% who don’t consider mobile to be important. Mobile customers spend 400% longer in a tablet app and 250% longer in a smartphone app than on a website on the identical device. Global app downloads are on track to hit 300 billion (about 50 apps for every man, woman, and child on Earth) by 2016. These figures are well worth studying and analyzing in depth, as although cumulative results are not ever precisely linear, you can make a case that if you involve multiple departments and automate extensively, your average conversion rate could actually be boosted from 2.6% to 5.3%! The top 15 techniques utilized by top performing brands Top performing brands agree on the importance of various customer experience measurement and optimization tactics, stating that the top 15 techniques they rely on include: Website analytics – 89% Social media analytics – 53% Social sharing (icons on pages) – 47% Email optimization – 43% Customer reviews – 42% Mobile analytics – 40% A/B testing – 39% Onsite search – 33% Profile targeting – 31% Retargeting or remarketing – 29% Audience segmentation – 26% Onsite survey – 20% Multivariate testing – 17% Attribution modeling – 15% Automated recommendations – 13% Key takeaways on boosting your online marketing campaign results Some of the key conclusions that can be derived from these statistics for online marketers include: Determine your Key Performance Indicators quickly and rely upon them Let your clean and consistent data dictate your brand’s marketing priorities To benefit in the relationship-driven era of online marketing create unique, organic, and fully content-driven experiences Automate your efforts to ensure the greatest real time efficiencies Invest more in order to generate greater conversion rates Enhance your mobile e-commerce with geolocation data to serve up relevant location-based offerings You can never test, optimize and personalize too much! The extent and type of data which is included in Adobe’s 2014 Survey is meticulously collected and unwaveringly applied to logically and verifiably support these stated conclusions. The study is a treasure trove for all online marketers.


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The Evolution of Email: How Email Marketing Has Changed Over the Years

The Evolution of Email: How Email Marketing Has Changed Over the Years

Beyond • June 18, 2015

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin The first email was sent over 44 years ago. The first commercial email for marketing purposes was sent in 1978 by a Gary Thuerk, Marketing Manager at Digital Equipment Corp. Becoming the very first email marketing campaign, his idea was to promote his company’s machines to 400 users via Arpanet. It was a breakthrough event that won Digital Equipment Corp. $13 million in sales. In 1991, the internet become widely available to the public and new systems of communication were born, including “Hotmail.” A free service, it gave every single person with a computer access to a new untapped marketing territory. Email adoption and use was still a novelty though. Over the next decade, marketing was still done face to face, through the phone, printed materials and through the postal system. Email communication was still in its infancy. Most people communicated via phone or in person. A few relics of the 80’s might still send the occasional letter. That started changing a little toward the latter part of the decade. By the late 1990’s businesses more heavily relied on email communication as a supplement to other forms of traditional communication. Marketers, however, where catching on. Inboxes inundated with clutter and junk emails resulted in the introduction of the Data Protection Act in 1998, which required all email marketers to include an opt-out option. 2003 saw another round of email user protection laws and Europe started passing its own version of protective laws for email users. Who doesn’t remember the sound of AOL connecting with a dial-up? By 1998, just about everyone was on AOL – businesses, families, students. AOL helped bridge email to households making it a part of everyday life for just about everyone with network connection. But AOL did something else. In 2004, they started handing back user information to the email service providers. Hotmail and Yahoo quickly followed suit. It was the start of data gathering. The technology shift in the 2000s with the advent of social platforms in the mid 2000’s and smart phones in the late 2000’s meant that how people were exchanging communication shifted. While email marketing was still top contender, it was still struggling to vie for attention amidst a host of new social platforms. Social and email were two different worlds. The evolutionary leap in email marketing really arrived in the last five years. Email had to adapt in four key ways in order to mirror and compliment the creative and social shift that was happening digitally. Email now needed to be well designed; it needed to be social-savvy, integrating social strategies with email strategies; it needed responsive marketing intelligence with proximity marketing, A/B testing, and segmentation; and it needed be comprehensive, a fluid extension that adapts to how people are engaging. It’s done all those things and more. In fact, email has out-performed social in terms of use and conversion. It has taken on the face of social through social enterprise solutions that are an extension of email in social form. And finally, email marketing is now adaptable to all forms of multi-media marketing. You can’t say that about any other marketing platform.


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Social Media Scientist Dan Zarrella’s 30 Best Tips

Social Media Scientist Dan Zarrella’s 30 Best Tips

Beyond • June 17, 2015

I have made no secret of my absolute idol worshipping of one Dan Zarrella, who is known as the Social Media Scientist. In a field which is remarkably short of hard-nosed serious researchers cranking out reliable and verifiable scientific results, Zarrella has effectively adopted the mantle of the Einstein of online marketing. His superlative work in the arena of social media is that of legend, and it is always couched in layman’s language so you will never be confronted by a \"Chi Squared Test Of Homogeneity” “Pearson’s Product Moment Correlation Coefficient”, “Box & Whisker Plot” or “Kolmogorov-Smirnov Test” (is that for vodka?). Through years at the feet of the undisputed master of Social Media Science, I have been grateful for his bestowal of many precious pearls of statistical wisdom, and have collected what I consider Dan Zarrella’s top 30 tips to mastering and dominating every major social network (All times Eastern zone.) Tweets which total between 100 and 115 characters are 34% more likely to be retweeted. Asking “Please ReTweet” is 12% more effective than “Please RT.” Tweets with exclamation points get fewer clicks per follower but more retweets per follower. If you identify yourself in your Twitter bio as an Official, you’ll have over 200 followers more than the average. Twitterers with a picture set have 850% more followers than the ones which do not feature any images. Tweets which contain one or more hashtags are 55% more likely to be retweeted. Some of the best terms to use to boost your click through rate on Twitter are: via, please, check, rt, and @. Articles that mention Twitter obtain 230% more retweets than ones which mention Facebook. Using the word video will gain 28% more shares on Facebook, but 32% fewer retweets. Facebook posts with a high number of self-referential terms (me, I) get more likes. Posts which are either extremely short or long get more likes. Longer Facebook posts obtain more shares. Very negative posts get more comments than positive posts. The most shareable Facebook posts deal with sex. Now, is that really a surprise? The most shareable term on Facebook is: Facebook! Another non-surprise. The least shareable term on Facebook is: vs. Facebookers don’t like comparisons, apparently. Use a lot of verbs if you want more Facebook shares but avoid adverbs as they can cut your sharing rate by over 5%. Facebook posts which are written at a second grade elementary school reading level are shared more than 50% more than those written at sophomore university reading level. Likes peak around 8 pm and shares around 6 pm. Facebook posts on weekends receive more likes than those posted on weekdays. If you use digits in your article title you’re more likely to gain Facebook shares for it. The more you post negatively the fewer the number of your followers. The most effective posting frequency is every other day. If you post more than twice a day you’re chopping your page likes by 22%. The most connected terms on LinkedIn are: recruiters, networker, LION, monetization, connector, and salespeople. The least connected words on LinkedIn are: Jesus, pastor, makeup, technician, surgeon, and psychotherapy. Pinterest descriptions of approximately 200 characters receive more repins. The most pinned words on Pinterest are love, home, and things, but the most repinnable words are recipe, chicken, and minutes. Taller images are the most repinned ones. The best time to blog is 7 am, the best time to receive blog comments is 8 am, and the most views occur at 10 am. It pays to place an attractive photo as your primary image (Dan proves it with the one on his blog where he looks like a nerdy Chris Pine). If you are one of the very few social media marketers who is not a regular reader of Dan Zarrella’s work, now is the best time to jump on the bandwagon. You can bet that your competitors are absorbing each and every word!


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Benchmark – Zendesk Integration: Show You Care

Benchmark – Zendesk Integration: Show You Care

Beyond • June 17, 2015

You think it’s bad when a disgruntled customer is yelling at you through the phone, complaining about this and that, and all you are thinking in your head is: “wow, this guy is wasting his and my time ... why can’t he just leave me alone?!” Well yes, that is bad. When you put yourself in the customer’s shoes, it is just as bad, if not worse. After all, they were the ones that bought your product with certain expectations that were advertised, but they were not delivered. As the support team for your company, it is your job to make sure every customer is satisfied and happy. Yes, you are responsible for your customers’ happiness whether you like it or not…at least when it comes to being on the support team. One wrong move, or an outburst of emotional frustration can ruin the relationship and will lose you a customer forever. Super Office blog has gather some of the most outlandish customer service stories that from readers that will make you want to go down your entire customer contact list and give them each a hug A customer who purchased a printer was having trouble connecting the printer with her Mac, even though the company promised that connecting it to a Mac would not be a problem. After calling through to customer service and being put on hold for hours, the customer service rep responded with “Yeah, really not my problem lady”. The customer went to the nearest Apple store and connected the printer within minutes. A customer was on the lookout for a children’s book for her grandchild. She approached the customer service desk and asked where she could find the book. The clerk pointed in the direction of the children’s book section and responded with “It’s over there”, and then as the customer walked away, the clerk turned to her co-worker, in an aggravated tone “She didn’t even TRY to find it on her own”. The customer left the store and purchased the book at another bookshop. A customer went into a computer repair store and mid-way through being assisted, the clerk received a phone call, which he answered. Being polite and waiting, but with no sign of the call coming to an end the customer asked the clerk why she had to wait when she was there in person. The clerk’s response was that customers who call in get priority of over customers in store. The customer then went home and called the store from her cellphone. Each of these scenarios had a sad ending –the customers leave and go somewhere else. Do you really want that to happen to your business? So even if each and every one of your reps was polite as can be, they also need to be quick and always on their toes. A question that is answered in speedy time will always make the situation more pleasant. So even if your customers like to bombard you with questions from email, Facebook, Twitter, (insert social media name here), you can still efficiently answer each one thanks to Zendesk, an online software that pulls support questions from each source and into one window so that you can easily call or chat to assist them, without having to have a million tabs opened. Another way to show them you care is by sending them emails made just for them; welcome emails for newbies, a thank you and special discount for long time customers, etc. Use the Zendesk-Benchmark plugin to engage with your contacts and send them emails reassuring them that you are always here to help!


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Patriotic Marketing Tips For Your Enterprise From Tipsy Elves

Patriotic Marketing Tips For Your Enterprise From Tipsy Elves

Beyond • June 15, 2015

If you’re as big a fan of the show Shark Tank as we all are here at Benchmark HQ, you probably recall the guys from Tipsy Elves. $1.35 million in sales got the Sharks attention and they left with a deal from Robert Herjavec. Since the show has aired, they’ve boasted $8 million in sales on a Shark Tank update. No, we didn’t decide to interview Tipsy Elves for a Christmas in July piece. We’d melt wearing an ugly Christmas sweater here in sunny Southern California in July. They also have an awesome patriotic clothing line that’s perfect for the 4th of July. With that in mind, we knew they’d be the perfect company to offer some 4th of July marketing tips from one enterprise level company to yours. We’ll get to that. First, I had to fanboy a bit and got some other great tidbits out of Evan Mendelsohn one of the founders of Tipsy Elves. On how their marketing has changed since Shark Tank: “We focus more on capitalizing on PR opportunities. Pre Shark Tank, SEO was one of our largest drivers to the site. If you Google “ugly Christmas sweater” we ranked in the top two position. Now it’s more about maximizing the benefit we get from any sort of PR, press opportunity, TV appearance and that sort of thing.” On the best advice they’ve received from their Shark: “Robert always has the mentality that you have to be all in on your business. The difference between being all in and being half in will make all the difference in how quickly you can grow your company and ultimately how successful you will be.” On why 4th of July is a prime opportunity to sales and promotions: “There seems to be a huge surge of patriotism. People have always been proud to be an American, but it seems more so now than ever. Speaking to people during the key American holidays with unique and fun products has been a big success for us. People always want to wear something fun and stand out during the holidays.” Without further adieu, here’s the four patriotic marketing tips from our friends at Tipsy Elves: Remember what Independence Day is all about We often find our e-commerce counterparts forget about the meaning behind various holidays in lieu of whatever special they are promoting. Independence Day or “Fourth of July” celebrates our independence from Great Britain and marks the nationhood or “birth” of our country. Knowing this can lead to some fun email subject lines that will resonate better to the recipient. Rather than a boring subject line that reads “Independence Day Sale,” try “Celebrate Our Country’s Birthday With Our Biggest Sale Yet.” Something more fun will likely lead to higher click through rates and better conversions. Know your customer and speak to him/her You can’t be everything to everyone. A key to our success at Tipsy Elves has been to know our customer and speak to them, and continue to make new and unique products that speak to them. We’ve of course been tempted to expand our product lines in a thousand different directions, but our best product lines and strategies have been the ones that speak to our core demographic. Dig into analytics, attend tradeshows, and really understand your customer so that you can adopt a voice and product or sales strategy that speaks to these customers. You don’t know what you don’t know While this philosophy applies to many things in life, we’ve found it especially true with marketing channels. There are so many marketing channels out there and new ways to bring customers to your website. Try them all. We didn’t even have an email list last year and now email marketing is one of our key channels. Some will fail, and some will succeed. But you have to try them all to know which are best for your business. Sometimes it’s when you aren’t trying to sell, that you sell. Keep it fun. Sometimes the harder you try to sell, the worse you sell. And the opposite holds true. Some of our best emails from a conversion standpoint have been the ones that tell a story or keep things fun and lightweight. Rather than list product links in your email, tell a fun story about your products. This is especially helpful during a fun holiday like the 4th of July. People want to be entertained more than they want to shop. If you can be both their source of entertainment and shopping, you’ve got a good thing going on.


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The Next Evolutionary Leap for Email Marketing

The Next Evolutionary Leap for Email Marketing

Beyond • June 15, 2015

An evolutionary look at email marketing would tell us that email hasn’t changed its form or function, but rather its face. It’s had to adapt in how it engages users due to an evolutionary shift in how we interact, communicate and use technology. And the next evolutionary leap for email marketing is already here with four rapidly adopted practices. Creating Magazine-Inspired Layouts for Stunning Email Campaigns You may have noticed that email newsletters are embracing a new sleek creative design that resembles an editorial layout in The Atlantic. The idea isn’t to as much about creative avant-garde design as much as it is to have email newsletter designs be more responsive to the various ways readers engage them. A sleek design means that whether you’re on a desktop, tablet, or mobile phone, you’ve got a clear undisrupted view of the email campaign. The avant-garde editorial-inspired design has a second function: it’s beautiful. It gets looked at, looked forward to, shared and acted on. Take a look at Need Supply Co’s newsletter campaign that features clothing for men. Repurposing Pop-Up Boxes for Email Subscriptions Pop-up boxes triggered when someone comes to your website have been wildly popular. It’s an instant way to get in front of your visitor and make it easy for them to subscribe. Psychology tells us that people will often also just do as they’re asked. Asking the average person to sign up for your newsletter directly, and giving them an easy no-fuss way to do it, means that the average person will sign up for your newsletter. Those rogue few hurrying through your site or who opted out the first time around, are now met with a second or even a third attempt. In addition to asking users to sign up at the front end, you can ask them as they exit the site. You can also customize what they’re signing up for. For example, someone may not want your newsletter but they’re going to want 10% off a sale price. They’ll sign up for that. And now you’ve captured one more subscriber whom you know is interested in purchasing from you. Segmenting Subscriber Lists Based on Location In order words: proximity marketing. This is another layered approach to segmenting customer lists, but it’s also based on Google’s own growing accommodation of location marketing. Targeting users in select areas allows for email marketing campaigns to be personal and unique to a user’s experience based on their region. Featuring Videos to Encourage Engagement and Conversion Unfortunately most companies still see video as that mutated gene; they’re not really sure why it’s there or what they’re suppose to do with it. But really, most of that hesitation comes from an unfamiliarity in just being yourself. Video doesn’t have to be a Hollywood production. It’s just a way to be yourself and share your brand as if you were there with your readers in-person, especially if you want them to buy any of your products. Inserting a video clip into your email is pretty simple too.


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Marketing Mania: Taylor Swift’s

Marketing Mania: Taylor Swift’s

Beyond • June 11, 2015

There is no other woman in Hollywood who is more famous right now than country-sweetheart turned pop-phenomenon, Taylor Swift. She is a major musical force to be reckoned with; the released of her fifth studio album, 1989, sold over 1 million copies its first week and became the best selling album of the year, she landed the cover of both Rolling Stone and Time magazine, and most recently, won a staggering eight Billboard Awards, including best album and top artist. The biggest Swift surprise was the build-up to her highly-anticipated music video for her fourth single, “Bad Blood.” The song had been heavily disputed by critics and fans about who the subject of the song is. A female friend turned enemy … a frenemy? Many speculated the song was about pop singer Katy Perry after Swift gave a subtly hinted interview, where she claimed that a fellow singer tried to sabotage her entire arena tour by hire a bunch of people from under her. Who knows whom the real identity of the singer is, but all we do know is the Swift got her revenge with the explosive success of the music video. Using the power of social media, Swift started the marketing plan ten days before its release by uploading a photo each day onto Instagram. The first photo were a Sin-City inspired movie poster that showed her as a protagonist Catastrophe. Each day brought on a new surprise celebrity guests as film characters…Selena Gomez as Arsyn, Kendrick Lamar as Welvin da Great, Jessica Alba as Domino, and Ellie Goulding as Destructa X. It doesn’t end there, but the rest of the star-studded lists also include Hailee Steinfield, Zendaya, Karlie Kloss, Hayley Williams, Lily Aldridge, Gigi Hadid, Lena Dunham, Serayah, Cara Delevingne, Martha Hunt, Ellen Pompeo, Mariska Hargitay, and Cindy Crawford … whew!! Don’t think that this is an actual full-length action film. It’s still only a music video! For a whole week straight, fans following Swift’s Instagram waited with bated breath to see whom the next celebrity will be. With a huge video like this, it would only deserve a grand premiere: the Billboard Music Awards on May 17th. Shortly after the premiere, the video was uploaded on Youtube, and broke the 24 hour Vevo record by garnering over 20 million views. Pity the next pop star that will try to beat this, but Taylor Swift won the marketing trophy for this one. Strategies with using a social media platform where she has over 31 million followers, daily sneak peeks, an award show premiere, and of course, a having a multitude of celebrity friends doesn’t hurt either!


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The Golden Rule of Giving Professional Feedback

The Golden Rule of Giving Professional Feedback

Beyond • June 10, 2015

We used to applaud people for their candid commentary. However, in the business world, harsh words alienate your colleagues and risk damaging your reputation. When it comes to giving feedback, there’s a right way and a wrong way to offer critique. The wrong way is to be direct, to have a “sharp tongue,” and to lay your thoughts out there unfiltered. While this is often seen as “telling it like it is,” it also reflects an alarmingly high level of obtuse disregard for your colleagues. The correct way is to start with identifying what has been done correctly. Starting with recognition primes the recipient and shows that you recognize their value. Then you can move on to your carefully worded criticism or “feedback.” After the critique is delivered, go back and offer another kind word or too. This is called the sandwiching method, where you ‘sandwich’ feedback with words of affirmation. The Sandwich Method of Giving Professional Feedback For example, a sandwich method of critique could look like: Hi John, I really appreciate the amount effort you put into the report for today’s meeting. Next time, could you offer Google analytics annotations in your presentation next time? This will allow us to see exactly why we’ve had peaks in traffic. I also wanted to thank you for all your hard work. I know these reports are really data driven and there’s a lot of information to juggle. Thanks! Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to have a chat about it too. Here, you’ve coated John’s ego by prefacing a criticism with a compliment (the effort) and ending it with sympathetic understanding (we know there’s a lot to do). The criticism itself is that John lacks attention to detail in his reports. Perhaps you’ve had the same conversation with him before. Perhaps this is your third time asking for the same thing, which brings us to another point: getting it said in writing. Written Feedback Gets Looked At Twice Verbal feedback gets heard once, while a written feedback gets looked at twice. Getting something said in writing offers the opportunity to really craft our message, but it also has a higher impact on the recipient. Being offered verbal feedback versus being offered feedback in an email are two different things entirely. The former has to rely on one’s attention at the moment and their memory in order for it to be fully grasped, while the latter is documented and retrievable. The recipient is also more likely to focus on words in an email than what can be otherwise perceived as a request or passing comment with little weight. Feedback Through Example In other cases, it doesn’t really matter what you say or how you say it. What could matter more – or at least be more effective – is offering feedback through example. This is particularly helpful with people who don’t take kindly to being told what to do, even with the thickest of sandwiches. It also works remarkably well for people who are visual communicators. Showing someone how you might prefer something to be done also gives you the advantage of communicating in pictures without really having to consider message delivery.


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