Electronic Signature Apps for Small Business


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Electronic signature apps like HelloSign are becoming an important part of modern document management for small businesses. Digital signatures cut down on costs. Signing documents on the go reduces processing time. What’s more, clients are willing to provide signatures and send documents digitally. Consider a report saying that mobile ecommerce sales are expected to account for 54% of ecommerce sales this year. All good reasons to search for an excellent document management tool. The best electronic signature apps are listed here too.



Choosing the Right e Signature App

You need to choose the right electronic signature app for important documents. Here are some of the best. Remember to look for the products with mobile app capabilities. Like HelloSign.

1. DocuSign

DocuSign is the e signature product that allows you to sign documents using any device. Security features are one of the other advantages with DocuSign. Any of the documents that you send are encrypted. What’s more, complete audit data is kept. This is the platform used in 180 different countries. You can use 44 different languages to sign documents and send agreements. There’s a PCI data security standard. That’s important for small businesses handling payment data.

Best of all, the DocuSign mobile app uses the same admin/password as the desktop. This is a great feature for sales teams or for you when you need to sign documents on the go. DocuSign also offers a free trial.

2. HelloSign

HelloSign is a Dropbox company with a variety of tools for managing documents including an esignature solution. There are built-in reminders and different signing options available here to improve your ROI. You can customize signature requests with your company logo and/or tagline. Manage document permissions from a central dashboard.

HelloSign offers other important features like solid API documentation.

Business plans start at $40 a month. There’s a 30 day free trial with HelloSign. This product also allows you to store signed sales contracts and pdf documents digitally. Hellosign allows you to do the same with an NDA.

3. Adobe Sign

This product gets credibility for the Adobe name.

Another of the advantages of Adobe Sign is the fact it is easy to use. Get an electronic signature by adding in customer email addresses. There are no downloads or account sign-ups needed with this software. Adobe Sign is an industry leading electronic signature app. Just upload the document, type in the recipient’s email, and hit send.

With Adobe Sign, you can manage all of the documents and track each. There are some excellent integrations for this e signature software including Microsoft 365 and Dropbox. You can also create a PDF document solution for export to Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

This solution starts at $16.99 a month for SMB teams.

4. YouSign

YouSign is another e-signature software that has a free trial. This esignature solution is scalable and there is no commitment. You can monitor the requests for results in real time. Other features include being able to keep track of docs and files that are timestamped. This is another of the apps that provides legally valid results.

This ranks as one of the best electronic e signature products for its flexibility. You can get a subscription for your office, leave and come back when you need to. You can also automate any of the e-signature solution reminders you send. And personalize the user experience to your prospects.

5. SignNow

This is another electronic signature app that is easy to use. It works well on any mobile device. You can get an electronic signature from multiple customers at once. SignNow is cloud based and can be used around the globe.

This software can also embed the signatures into your website or app. It’s a great tool if you’re looking for a quick way to complete contracts. A user can collect signatures from customers through online templates you build.

Get started with the free startup trial or the business plan that starts at $8 per user monthly

6. DocSketch

DocSketch is an electronic signature app that has a free version allowing you several documents per month. This software also allows you to know when all of your items get viewed. Along with being able to send documents for signature, there are sales documents features.

This app has more than just digital signatures to offer. Walk customers through bids and proposals that have been approved. They have clients like Cornell University. There are several products to choose from. Along with the free version, there’s a personal plan with an unlimited number of documents. If you want to get started with that, it’s $8 a month.

The business plan costs $24 per month. You get in person signing and custom branding with this version.

7. Signable

Any good electronic signature app needs to be easy to use. That’s why we’ve included this software on our list. With Signable, you can upload your PDF documents from the United States or in other locations around the world. You can even convert a PDF to a form that can be filled out. The software includes a PDF converter online that makes this product easy to use. As a result, this document signing product makes it easy for you to upload a PDF and sign it online

Signable is one of the products that works especially well with important documents and mobile devices. There is a signature wizard that provides you with different ways to sign your documents. They include drawing on a mark with your finger.

8. RightSignature

RightSignature is the esignature software that’s designed specifically for business. You can send files that you already have or get forms filled out when you need more information to go with an electronic signature. It’s an easy to use esignature app. You can set up a documents for signatures with just one click. Another legally binding feature is the ability to get handwritten signatures.

If you are a freelancer or start up, the standard signature plan starts at $12 a month. As far as business plans go, the advanced version costs $60 a month for three team members. You can try this electronic signature app for free before you decide on a plan.

They suggest the security features work best if all your employees sign up as a separate user. Business needs to put security first. RightSignature covers that angle with 256-bit EV SSL encryption. Electronic signatures are also backed up in Amazon data centers.

9. Panda Doc

This is the signature software that comes with a 14 day free trial to help you get started. The PandaDoc,

API is specifically designed to integrate with a businesses applications and websites. It’s a great way to speed along personal signing without needing to switch applications. It makes a client’s signing experience easier. Contact them to learn about pricing on a business plan or other options they sell to sign documents.

10. Get Accept

There’s a free trial with this e signature platform. GetAccept is designed to help sales reps out. This electronic signature software provides custom workflows. This is the legally binding electronic signature software solution that works in a number of countries. The legally binding documents include an email address as part of the audit checks and balances. The user interface provides a transaction history as another feature.

There are several options this esignature product provides. Small businesses can get an account that starts at $25 per month per user. A good feature that is offered with this tool is chat. The most popular electronic signatures business plan starts at $40 per month. Another excellent feature included is data analytics.

Finally, the enterprise account option includes contract management. This software also has an api for developers.

11. SecuredSigning

SecuredSigning is an e signature product that boasts many different software technologies. It works by allowing a user and viewer to see the document before signing.

The personalized security features include X509 PKI digital technology. This makes document signing customizable and safer. The legally binding features include video signing and remote witness signing.

One of the big bonuses is that user documents are backed up with video recordings when signed. This product can be used in the United States or anywhere around the world. You can also perform remote online notarizations with the signature software.

12. ContractBook

ContractBook is the e signature solution that rivals HelloSign for working with contracts. This software and signature app allows businesses to share templates. These templates are specifically designed to provide electronic signatures that reduce any risk since they are legally binding.

The platform offers tools for both lawyers and small businesses. Resources include free contract templates and a help center where you can learn more about some of the platform’s features.

13. Lightico

This is the e-signature app for businesses with customers who need to sign on mobile eForms. As far as mobile apps with esignature capabilities go, this tool is good for small business.

With Lightico, you can get electronic signatures through your CRM. This makes signing for any user easier. And providing a good user experience for personal signing improves productivity. This also changes PDF format documents into smart e-forms. Replacing paper and these PDFs for the person signing shortens the sales cycle.

The company reports that this signature product can boost completion rates up to 96%. That means you can use the electronic signatures you get to bump your bottom line up. Get started with their product demo. This esignature solution is used in many different industries including auto finance and banking.

14. Eversign

Here is another electronic signature app that provides legally binding signatures. Data is encrypted with this app using 256-bit SSL. Eversign also allows your customers to sign documents by integrating with your existing applications. Get a document back after connecting to apps like Dropbox, Salesforce and Google Docs.

You can even schedule documents to auto expire with this product. Or, you can transfer documents to other locations. Eversign digital signature also allows you to import documents you or your customers will need to sign from Adobe and the cloud.

There is a free e signature trial version. After that, you can sign up for a basic plan that includes three templates and unlimited documents. The professional plan allows for signing for 5 team members and unlimited documents too.

Another good feature included with the user interface is the ability to manage documents in the cloud. The features here are similar to industry-leading products like HelloSign.

15. SnapSign

SnapSign is the e-signature app that stresses a user-friendly interface. There are a variety of templates for nondisclosure agreements, sales contracts and others. The workflow process for any document can be configured. There’s a history that shows all of your documents. Document signing is possible from anywhere with the global support for applications.

Pricing starts at $9.99 per user per month. There are unlimited documents. The business plan for a brick-and-mortar or digital office costs $19.99 per user per month. Documents are unlimited for up to 5 users.

The enterprise package has a 30 day free option like the others. It offers third-party integrations for the document platform you use. Call the company for more information on this document signing plan.

16. FormstackSign

This is an interesting product if you have a mobile office. Formstack can provide an electronic signature on a mobile phone, tablet or computer. Customers who need to sign documents are alerted via text message.

This esignature product saves time since you can create templates for the document types you frequently use. There’s an auto reminder feature so employees don’t need to remind customers to sign.

People in small businesses in healthcare take note. This app can provide a HIPAA compliant esignature. FDA compliant workflows are also available. The secure data storage and password protection are other bonuses for any document. Take the time to review the hundred plus integrations this app includes.

There is a free trial that lasts 14 days and a silver account for individuals that costs $50 a month. The more popular esignature account is the gold platform. It costs $83 per month with advanced features.

17. SignRequest

This is the e signature platform with over 300,000 users. SignRequest stresses simplicity. For every signature license they sell, they plant a tree. They are also an ISO 27001 certified company. Any document that gets signed is stored in one place for quick retrieval.

There are several signature plans for you to choose from. The first one is free and you get 10 documents per month. The professional and business versions offer a free option and unlimited documents.

You can implement any document you get signed with popular tools like Google Drive and Salesforce. It’s great for sales people who are mobile.

18. SignEasy

SignEasy doesn’t require a credit card to sign up. Self signing is easy with this product. You can use your mouse or download a picture of your signature. The application competes with HelloSign for integrations as well as security and document management.

Here’s another useful option this product offers. There is a document status tracking feature so you can keep on top of your business flow.

The platform offers an essential plan for individuals at $8 a month. It comes with an unlimited document option. The pro plan is $15 a month for a single user. The business plan starts with three users who can get clients to sign digitally. Finally, there’s an enterprise esignature solution.

What are electronic signatures anyway?

An e signature is basically all about getting legally binding consent on forms — without the ability to secure a physical signature on a document. So esignatures replace a handwritten signature. They are used for various things like NDAs and onboarding agreements. Companies like HelloSign also have options for W9 forms. Other companies like Onespan Sign offer compliance options.

How legally binding is an Electronic Signature?

Having a document signed is an important function for small businesses. When customers sign a contract or invoice with digital signature technology, it can be legally binding. It’s been this way in Europe since 1999 and the United States since 2000. There are some factors that make a document signed digitally legal. These include expressed or implied intent.

Attribution is another important factor. To make such signatures legal, there must be an audit trail including things like an email address and time stamp.

An esignature is also legal when a copy is sent to the client. People need to have an opt out clause they can read before they sign. When choosing an esignature tool, look for instructions on how the product works with pdf files and others.

Industry-leading products like HelloSign also assign a queue for signing documents And companies like OneSpan Sign offer additional compliance options.

What is the best electronic signature app?

Small businesses will want to know what the best electronic signature apps are. Here’s a list that includes industry leaders like HelloSign.

This product is an industry leader for several reasons. Reasons to choose HelloSign include the fact that it can produce a document which complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPPA) Act. It also allows you to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). HelloSign can also be used with Google Docs and Salesforce too.

PandaDoc also makes the list. The platform offers an audit trail as well as customizable templates and document analytics.

Onespan Sign offers enhanced compliance which is important for small businesses.

SignNow also offers analytics for the document that gets created. Step 1 for the deployment of the solution are customizable templates. These are good for people and sales teams on the go.

How do you use a mobile app to sign a document on your phone?

Today’s businesses need to be sure they can get an esignature on a smart phone. That’s why going paperless means having the right mobile app like the one that comes with the HelloSign product. In most circumstances, you need to tap on an attached email to sign. When you do, you’ll see some simple instructions for adding your signature and text. Usually, you can tap right inside the document to place any text and on a pen icon if you need to sign your name.

That’s the process for a variety of file types like PDF and others. One of the other advantages to using a mobile app like HelloSign is the ability to auto fill in information. Another advantage to these mobile e-signature solutions is validation. Once again, HelloSign, leads the way with a data validation. This alerts the signer if incorrect information is being added.

Image: Depositphotos


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How to produce tasty meat without killing animals | Michael Fox | Unstoppable #112


How to produce tasty meat without killing animals

Can you imagine eating tacos, curry or even a cheeseburger without meat? If you said “absolutely not”, think again, because you’re about to hear how it is possible to enjoy everything that is delicious about eating meat, all without animal products.

In this episode of Unstoppable, I speak to Michael Fox, CEO of Fable Food Co, a company that provides meat alternatives that taste exactly like meat, but without harming animals.

He became vegetarian in 2015 for environmental, health and ethical reasons but didn’t want to give up on the “Steak of Glory”. For this reason, with the help of two mushroom geeks, each on their own journey to make meat-like products for plant lovers, they created food using ingredients that are as minimally processed as possible. These products are based on shitake mushrooms which make up 2/3 of the ingredients used on the list. On top of that, Fable also provides maximum nutritional value, with minimal environmental impact.

Michael is one of three business partners and their company have high certifications in the sciences behind mushroom, permaculture, biodynamics and regenerative farming systems, and biomimicry of fungi. Nowadays, you can find Fable products in popular convenience stores across Australia.

This episode definitely will trigger your curiosity and will make you think about the food choices we make. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you can’t miss this one!

In this episode, you will learn:
    • 00:00 – Where did all begin for Michael Fox?
    • 09:44 – His experience working for Google
    • 13:21 – Starting his entrepreneur journey with Shoes of prey
    • 22:12 – Taking the decision of closing his business and the biggest lesson learned with this
    • 29:58 – Starting his life as a vegetarian and his business with FABLE
    • 38:23 – How to make a vegetable to taste like meat? And the FABLE distribution model
    • 45:37 – How to know when your business is successful?
    • 47:59 – Being a Dad while being an entrepreneur
    • 51:36 – The best piece of advice for entrepreneurs
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Kerwin Rae is a business strategist, high-performance specialist, and international speaker. He has studied and observed the psychology of performance for well over a decade now and how it translates to leadership, sales, relationships, mindset, and personal transformation.
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Head Mounted Sci-Tech Oscars


Last weekend The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards honored those whose discoveries and innovations have contributed in significant and lasting ways to filmmaking. This year’s ceremony recognized 55 individuals and two companies for their contributions to a wide range of fields and disciplines. Each year there are types of scientific innovations that are acknowledged and this year facial MoCap was rewarded. In particular, two teams and their companies were honored: Technoprops and Standard Deviation and Weta Digital.

Alejandro Arango, Gary Martinez, Robert Derry and Glenn Derry for the system design, ergonomics, engineering and workflow integration of the widely adopted Technoprops head-mounted camera system. The Technoprops head-mounted camera system, with its modular and production-proven construction, supports consistent face alignment with improved actor comfort, while at the same time permitting quick reconfiguration and minimizing downtime. This system enables repeatable, accurate and unobstructed capture of an actor’s facial movements.

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Babak Beheshti and Scott Robitille were also recognized for the development of the compact, stand-alone, phase-accurate genlock synchronization and recording module, and to Ian Kelly and Dejan Momcilovic for the technical direction and workflow integration, of the Standard Deviation head-mounted camera system. The Standard Deviation head-mounted camera system provides a robust method of accurate camera synchronization to the house clock. Combined with practical innovations for usability, it enables multiple head-mounted camera systems to be used in large capture volumes, resulting in adoption by numerous motion picture productions.

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In their acceptance speech, the Standard Deviation team singled out Joe Letteri and Weta Digital for their ceaseless support, as both teams have had a long association with the senior visual effects supervisor and some of the team still work at Weta Digital.  Both teams were connected to the early work in the field, especially around Avatar and Director James Cameron was on hand for the event, (filmed remotely).

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Zoë Saldaña with the newest Stereo Avatar rigs

James Cameron is currently making the next set of Avatar sequels in New Zealand with Weta Digital.  These films are again deploying head-mounted facial camera MoCap rigs. Cameron is currently directing pick up shots of the Na’vi using the newest cutting-edge technology and the newest versions of the original head cam rigs.  In November 2018, Cameron announced online that filming on Avatar 2 and 3 with the principal performance capture cast had been completed.


Technoprops.

Fxguide covered extensively the broader history of Technoprops in this article, which was published around the time the company become part of Fox Studios.  Under the terms of that acquisition, Technoprops operated as The Fox VFX Lab and the division opened a virtual production facility in downtown Los Angeles, at which Derry’s team was headquartered. This was pre-Disney Fox merger and today Technoprops continues inside Disney but no longer running the LA stage. Glenn Derry is working apart from the company as a senior virtual production consultant, but still very close friends with his former teammates. Derry himself is in very strong demand as virtual production has taken off and companies around the world look to the ground-breaking work both Technoprops and Fox VFX Lab pioneered. We spoke to Glenn about the history of the head-mounted facial Mocap rigs from his office in LA.

As we reported in 2017, apart from controlling ‘Teddy’ in Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, virtual production supervising Avatar, simulcam developing and supervising on Disney’s The Jungle Book, and facial capture supervising at ILM on films like Warcraft, – Glenn Derry is also rumored to have once personally installed Tom Cruise’s advanced TV and taught him how to use the remote!

Technoprops is known for more than its high-quality facial capture systems. The company has been a leader in all forms of virtual production pipeline creation and on-set supervision.  They are known for their bespoke virtual camera hardware and software as well as augmented reality cinematography systems and on-set operation – aka SIMULCAMDIT, video assist, and dailies pipelines. The team has developed motion base operations and integrated them with CG pipelines. Today the team are leading experts in building and integrating high-end capture LED capture volumes. In the process, they have helped creative teams use technology to make scripts a reality.

Technoprops movie and games credits include Avatar, Warcraft, Avengers – Age of Ultron, Disney’s The Jungle Book, and many more. This year’s award focuses on their pioneering work with facial MoCap head rigs.

Pre-MoCap

Before there was facial MoCap there had been the limited use of cameras aimed at heads for films such as Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

Avatar

The AI work was done in 2001, but it was in 2005 that the modern capture helmet first appeared, in the early tests for Avatar. In the image below the first test shots of Robbie and Glenn Derry can be seen with a variety of cameras.

The first prototype rig was based on a Soccer Helmet and had a custom boom arm design, but it was too unsteady, and it covered too much of the face. These early tests also involved Standard Deviation, which provided the first camera control units.

2005: The first head-mounted facial capture technology used on a major motion picture on a major scale was Avatar, and it involved several companies.

  • STAN WINSTON STUDIOS provided custom fiberglass helmets and vacuform masks using traditional “Lifecast” methods.
  • STANDARD DEVIATION (Babak Beheshti) provided the OEM Cameras & Camera Control Unit (CCU) LTC Sync and Burn-In
  • PLAYBACK TECHNOLOGIES provided the Raptor 25 OEM Recorders, which were then modified by Technoprops to accept CF Card Media and a Remote REC triggering.
  • TECHNOPROPS, who provided the overall mechanical design Integration of the various 3rd-Party equipment and also the camera boom design and cabling. Technoprops were also in charge of the head rigs on-set operations.

Those early rigs were Fibreglass helmets made by Stan Winston, with a lightweight Aluminum Tubing Boom holding a mini standard definition camera and integrated white LED lights. As the rigs went into production for Avatar the design evolved to have ‘break away’ arms. In case the actor or stunt performer hit or hooked the boom on something, the boom arm would break away. This functionality saved both the equipment and the performer on countless occasions.

Stunt performer, Reuben Langdon (pictured above) broke 17 cameras in one day during a stick fight scene which was eventually cut from the film

Along with Glenn Derry, for Avatar, Robbie Derry was the mechanical designer who designed all of the original skullcaps. Gary Martinez was also a mechanical designer and he designed the enclosures and the camera arms that made the camera adjustable and Alejandro Arango was the electronics engineer. The team worked closely on all of the issues and finding ways to make the system workable for James Cameron. The Avatar rig was built based on testing done by the team in early pre-production. This initial test was actually not with Weta Digital. “We did the first test with ILM, and I believe we used some Image Metrics hardware,” commented Glenn Derry.  “But it was not super robust at the time. It was just kind of stuff that you would use as an artist at your workstation. We were just trying to hardwire some cameras and so this was just literally lipstick cameras hardwired to recording decks.”

The original “Template shoot” as it was codenamed was supervised by senior VFX supervisors Rob Legato. The test consisted of six shots where Zoë Saldaña as Neytiri is taking to Sam Worthington as Jake Sully at a branch in the forest of Pandora. ILM took the test footage and finished them through their new character pipeline to final shots, to test the virtual cinematography with the facial capture. Derry recalls Cameron’s reaction to the test was “that’s the idea, now go make something that we can actually use day in, day out,” he laughingly recalls.

Glenn Derry with James Cameron on the set of Avatar (note, Glenn is using the traditional Pan/tilt wheels modified for controlling a virtual camera)

“Glenn (Derry) built the Avatar head-mounted camera rig that became the reference for future facial camera workflows. Glenn’s gear was the first to deliver the wireless video signal for our FACETS facial tracking system,” commented four-time Academy award winner Joe Letteri, co-founder of Weta Digital in Wellington. The FACETS system at Weta captures nuanced details of an actor’s facial performance and figures out how the muscles in the face would have moved. It then maps them onto virtual characters, even if the character has very non-human proportions. It was developed to capture more than a dozen actors in a scene and to allow for body capture to happen at the same time. This meant that directors are able to direct the action in much the same way as they would in a live production. FACETS system has been used on major facial capture projects at Weta Digital including Avatar, The Adventures of Tintin, The Hobbit trilogy, and the Planet of the Apes trilogy.

Standard Deviation helped the Technopros team to turn the original helmet test rigs into working production models. Standard Deviation was also instrumental in building Weta’s face pipeline and continues to this day to be a highly valued technical partner at Weta Digital. While Standard Deviation is only four engineers, the company was been successfully solving MoCap engineering problems for nearly thirty years.

Standard Deviation

The Schirm IR HMC rig (cira 1995)

Standard Deviation grew out of Chris Walker’s company Modern Cartoons, which pioneered facial animation with individual performer cameras. The team was inspired by the original innovations of Olaf Schirm, a German inventor, and artist. Schirm’s tiny infrared camera head-mounted camera (HMC) rig digitized and mimicked Schirm’s facial expression in a system called the X-IST tracker. This was tested by Sony Pictures and ZDF TV in German and used by Manhattan Transfer in the USA to develop the PBS TV shot Backyard Safari in 1995. Schirm was acknowledged for his ground-breaking work by Standard Deviation co-founder Babak Beheshti in his acceptance speech. It was Schirm’s work that led to the first use of what we think of as a head-camera capture system at Modern Cartoons in LA. When that company closed in 2001, Beheshti and fellow co-founder Scott Robitille established Standard Deviation.

Modern Cartoons early CG face driven cartoon work
Modern Cartoons Circa 2000

It was Joe Letteri himself who found the small team in Santa Monica and got them involved with Weta’s pitch tests for Avatar. Thus Standard Deviation helped both teams pitch technical solutions to Cameron.

Glenn Derry(L), Babak Beheshti and Dejan Momcilovic (R) setting up on the empty Avatar stage in 2006

Avatar & TinTin

While the film TinTIn came out in 2011, two years after Avatar, the testing for that film was happening before the principal photography on Avatar. Beheshti worked closely with Dejan Momcilovic on a critical pitch in the USA with Weta that presented their solution to Steven Speilberg, James Cameron, and Peter Jackson, simultaneously. This historic presentation involved demonstrating with Avatar actress Zoe Saldana. Momcilovic recalls proudly fitting the headgear to the actress and thinking she was happy and comfortable, only to walk on stage and have Cameron ask her immediately what it was like, and have the actress casually comment that it was ‘unbearable’. “I was really careful with Zoey, … and I was standing right there beside her, and Cameron turned to me and said – ‘what the hell guys?’ That led to much better designs and all sorts of improvements,” Momcilovic laughingly recalls.  Naturally, the fit and performance of the rigs were improved and Weta was the lead VFX house on the film. Those improvements continue to this day, and Momcilovic and Beheshti remain close collaborators and friends.

Dejan Momcilovic (r) and Babak Beheshti on the set of Planet of the Apes

Dejan Momcilovic is current a motion capture supervisor at Weta Digital. He joined Weta Digital in 2005 as Motion Capture Supervisor for King Kong, he has managed the Motion Capture teams across 15 films. He has also provided a guiding hand in the R&D for the underlying hardware and software technology – managing Weta’s own in-house work as well as the collaboration with its’ outside partners. Momcilovic was instrumental in developing Weta’s FACETS system which itself was honored with a Sci-Tech in 2017. FACETS was developed primarily to serve the needs of Avatar, and it represented a major rewrite to the approach used for the previous film at Weta, King Kong.  The FACETS system is very much aimed at just facial performance not generalized motion capture. Avatar was the first time Weta used a head-mounted camera rig for facial motion capture. Previously for Weta’s facial work on King Kong, actor Andy Serkis had been filmed with a camera not attached to his body.  Furthermore, Serkis was not acting in the scene (in part due to the scale issues), so his performance was captured “more on par with an ADR process”, commented Weta’s Luca Fascione in our 2017 fxguide story on FACETS.

Avatar went through effectively two rounds of helmet development. “By the time we were at actual shooting, we had added things like the ability to adjust the parameters on the cameras remotely using software and things like that,” recalls Derry. The production shot in New Zealand and then returned to the USA and continued shooting in Playa Vista, California at the Hughes Center, which now houses Google’s YouTube.

As Avatar was at a time before widespread 3D printing, the team experimented with doing traditional alginate face cast of the whole cast and then making fiberglass helmets from that which were personalized to each actor.

The alginate process vs bespoke head scanning

In the early days of the helmets, two versions were made for each actor, one with a right arm and one with a left. This was to allow the main camera to film a clean unobstructed view of the actor, whichever way they faced. ” Whatever side of the line the camera was going to be on, we would put the actors in the right helmets that corresponded to our ability to get clean reference camera footage – from the correct angle,” commented Derry. “That’s a very Jim (Cameron) thing, by the way. That’s such a Jim-ism .. and now we were going to have two rigs for everyone.”

Note on Avatar each actor had a rig with the arm on the left and another with it on the right.

Since Avatar, various versions of the head-mounted camera have been used on a wide variety of productions.  The first 3D-printed helmets were used on The Adventures of TinTin in 2011.

TinTin marks somewhat of a divergence between the two teams, but only in terms of projects and propriety solutions. The core of the Technoprops team would, via the various mergers and acquisitions, end up at ILM inside Disney and Standard Deviation has continued to innovate with Weta Digital. Not only do they make specialist head-mounted camera gear but two of the largest capture volumes/sound stages for Avatar 2 & 3 use Standard Deviation’s bespoke motion capture cameras, as do many games companies around the world.

Dejan Momcilovic fitting a Standard Deviation HMC in 2006

The Sci-tech award for Standard Deviation singles out their ‘robust method of accurate camera synchronization to the house clock’. This refers to the ongoing contribution that Standard Deviation has made to allowing actors to be captured precisely. It was key in the early days to sync the cameras such that they all were in tight sync. This then needed to be done remotely. While some companies solve this with a wifi signal, Standard Deviation built a system that locks to house sync and then just remains rock steady, drifting less than 300 macroseconds over a 24 hour period, “less than 1% of one frame per day”, explained Beheshti. So impressive was this sync lock that Weta relied on it for the external volume capture sync when doing exterior motion capture for the first Planet of the Apes and re-incorporated it into the portable facial capture for The Hobbit. For example, the accuracy of the electronics allows the head-mounted cameras to shoot a frame with a shutter speed that is one 10 thousandths of a second, (to eliminate motion blur) and synchronized to fire a fraction of a second before the camera tracking system pulses.

The other recipient of the award was Ian Kelly. He was part of the production team and on set for Avatar. Ian Kelly also worked with Standard Deviation on Alice in Wonderland some years later. Kelly is credited with informing much of the team’s approach to what was needed. “He was a part of the Avatar production team and he was the one who taught us the importance of good time code and sync hygiene,” comments Beheshti fondly.

TinTin was finished in 2011 but overlapped with the filming of Avatar
Andy Serkis on the set of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Serkis is perhaps the world’s most respected capture actors.

Research into face pipelines was not just driven by feature film work. At Weta Digital, Dejan Momcilovic points out that in 2007 the computer game Heavenly Sword, was key in the research done by his team. For King Kong, Mark Sagar had introduced a FACS pipeline to Weta, but right after that project, Andy Serkis brought in the video game project Heavenly Sword, which needed 10 to 15 characters facially solved. To cope with this increased volume, Momcilovic had to find new ways to reliably solve large volumes of facial data. This is how Momcilovic met Luca Fascione, who would go on to be the senior Head of Technology & Research at Weta Digital, where he oversees Weta’s core R&D efforts including Simulation and Rendering Research, Software Engineering and Production Engineering.

Around the world

There have been multiple versions and design iterations of the Helmets using 3D printing and other modern manufacturing techniques, these have addressed both the fit and weight of modern head-mounted camera rigs. The camera systems also moved from standard-def video to HD, and now 2K. All using much more elaborate software to interpret the data. The industry also moved to use a pair of stereo cameras to better judge the jaw movement in three dimensions. The first such rigs were side-by-side camera rigs on films such as John Carter of Mars. More recently they have been positioned vertically in a tight stereo pair.

On the John Carter stage

ILM has done extensive work in refining their pipeline with films such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Warcraft, and Avengers Age of Ultron. And the dual camera allowed Guy Henry to become Tarkin in Rogue One and Josh Brolin to become Thanos and Mark Ruffalo to be Hulk in Avengers Endgame, all wearing Techoprop rigs.

From Technoprops: the use of single and dual cameras.

Today

Standard Deviation’s newest rigs have a large area of the headspace free to feel the actor from overheating, especially when they are likely to already be in a capture suit. It is also very lightweight, one of the lightest HMCs available.

Weta’s Dejan Momcilovic still works closely with Standard Deviation at Weta Digital, which is hard at work not only with Avatar 2 & 3 but also the planned Avatar 4 & 5.

Technoprops continues to service the Lucasfilm technical community, both with HMC MoCap units and as part of the StageCraft virtual production community. And with the advent of things such as the Epic Games’ MetaHuman, there appears to even more focus on digital humans and high-fidelity capture.

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How VR is Changing Workforce Collaboration for Enterprise and SMB


COVID-19 forced businesses to learn to collaborate remotely – and quickly. Essentially overnight, offices were shuttered, travel halted, and teams were working from home – in some cases, for the first time. And while many enterprises were more adept, having already adopted tools for remote collaboration, many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) had to scramble.

One tool that enterprises across a variety of industries have been already leveraging for workforce training and education as well as product design, is virtual reality (VR). Industries including construction and real estate, medical, automotive and aviation, and first and emergency responders have all been incorporating virtual reality into their work. Over the last several years, hotels, office buildings and cars have been designed faster and more cost effectively in VR, workplace and emergency trainings have been administered more efficiently in VR, and medical professionals have been able to sit in, and even participate, in remote surgeries in VR.

When I joined HTC VIVE in 2019, many enterprises were already adopting VR, while SMBs were just starting to look into it, though it wasn’t quite a priority. Conversations were being had, and RFPs were being formulated, but similar to how smaller companies were preparing for other emerging technology, like 5G, they weren’t ready to pull the trigger. The pandemic changed this.

In the last year, we’ve seen SMB embrace and adopt VR at a rapid pace, because in reality, the same business challenges that impact large enterprises are also impacting SMBs. These small companies are competing with enterprise, and need to stay on par with, or ahead of, innovation of larger companies – in training, in design, in overall workforce efficiency. The advantage to SMBs for a tool like VR, unlike enterprises, is that they can move quickly from RFP to investment, and roll out in record time. Adaptability, removing layers of approvals and implementation, is the SMB advantage.

In 2020, SMBs have adopted VR across a variety of interesting verticals:

  • In education, universities, districts and individual schools are adopting VR to create more immersive and engaging learning experiences – imagine swimming with sharks or exploring the moon firsthand to learn.
  • Museums are integrating VR to enhance their exhibits’ storytelling, offering virtual experiences outside of the museum to extend their message and reach an even broader global audience. The Illinois Holocaust Memorial Museum is using VR to give visitors a firsthand view of what camps looked like to envelop the emotional experience that comes with personally visiting a camp.
  • Many companies are turning to VR for workforce training in soft skills – how to handle specific workplace scenarios, how to more effectively sell, preparing for public speaking – you name it.
  • Emergency services companies, including police forces, are leveraging VR for non-lethal training and de-escalation techniques.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that business is adaptable – and the new way of working will be here to stay along with the business, and even life, efficiencies that remote work and collaboration has brought. A recent study from Flexjobs shows that more than half of people feel more productive from home, and 6 in 10 see remote work as more positive. Add in the business efficiencies and cost savings that remote work brings, and the future will likely look much different than the past.  Fast Company reported on a Global Workplace Analytics study that calculated if the estimated 48 million employees who have a remote-work-compatible job were to work remotely at least weekly, U.S. employers could save more than $500 billion per year.

As we continue to adjust business to this new normal, and with 5G becoming a reality, we can expect to see technologies such as VR taking a much larger role in training, learning and design – across almost every industry you can think of. Has your business invested in it yet?

By Amir Khorram, VP, HTC VIVE

Image: HTC


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New Channels, Better Targeting: How B2B Tech Marketing Is Changing


Most B2B tech and telco marketers say their firm plans to increase the number of marketing channels in its media mix in 2021 and to focus on driving efficiencies in targeting, according to recent research from WARC and Spotify.

The report was based on data from a survey of 330 B2B technology and telecom marketers in 10 countries.

Some 54% of respondents say increasing the number of channels in their firm’s media mix is part of their current strategy, and 41% they are considering increases as part of their future strategy.

Half of respondents say they are experimenting with new channels, and 45% say they plan to experiment with new channels in the future.


Just over half (51%) of B2B tech and telco marketers say they are looking to find new ways to tell their brand story.

As part of their current channel planning, 54% of B2B tech and telco marketers say they are looking to drive efficiencies in targeting, and half are looking to create more personalized experiences.

b2b targeting, first-party data, and personalization, warc & spotify survey 2021

Some 85% of B2B tech and telco marketers agree with this statement: “The pandemic has driven our company to explore new routes for lead generation.”

b2b lead generation during pandemic, warc & spotify survey2021

Nearly three in four B2B tech and telco marketers (73%) expect their company’s investment in online video and display advertising to increase in 2021, and 66% expect their company’s investment in digital audio advertising to increase.

b2b channel investment, warc & spotfy survey 2021

About the research: The report was based on data from a survey of 330 B2B technology and telecom marketers in 10 countries.

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City of Sydney announces $2M in small business grants for SMBs affected by COVID-19


If you’re a small business owner, chances are you’ve been hit pretty hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ve probably been forced to think and work outside the box to adapt to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, or shut your doors as a result of the strict self-isolation measures that have been put in place.

There’s no denying that these are challenging and uncertain times. However, there’s some incredibly welcome news: The City of Sydney has launched an extra $2 million in special funding to keep small businesses afloat during and after the pandemic. This small business grant provides much-needed funds to help with online activities and ecommerce, adapt operating models, or provide training and development to the team.

So what exactly does the grant cover, and is your business eligible? We break it down below.

Note: Applications close on Monday 27 April at 5pm sharp. It’s important to act fast and start preparing your application ASAP to get in before the deadline.

What does the small business grant include?

The City of Sydney’s small business grants provide eligible SMBs with up to $10,000 in funding to cover the costs associated with adapting to the pandemic. These can cover things like the cost to switch up or diversify your operating model, fees for training and upskilling your team, or costs associated with purchasing and installing equipment or making alterations.

For many of you reading this, the pandemic has also meant that you’ve had to adapt your business to sell online. There’s some great news on that front: the grant also covers costs associated with online and eCommerce development.

This can cover things like:

  • Building an online store to sell or receive payments
  • Developing digital content such as videos, web pages and mobile apps
  • Digital marketing and promotion for your business, such as with paid search or display advertising

If you’re not sure how best to adapt your online presence for COVID-19, remember that the entire AdVisible team is here to support you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us — we can guide you through the next steps, and work to support you in preparing your application for the grant.

Am I eligible for the small business grant?

The grant is open to SMBs located within the City of Sydney local government area. To be eligible, you need to be a for-profit organisation, employ between 1 and 19 full-time staff, and have an annual turnover of less than $10 million.

What do businesses need to demonstrate?

On top of meeting the eligibility criteria listed above, there are a few things you need to be able to demonstrate as part of your application.

Firstly, you need to be able to show the impact COVID-19 has had on your business. Your application also needs to outline the key details of your project, show how the grant will help support your business in adapting to COVID-19, and outline the skills and capacity that you need to get the job done. The application will also ask you about how your project benefits the local community.

For a full breakdown of the details of the grant, and to apply, visit the City of Sydney small business grants page.

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fxpodcast #327: The Mill


Josh Mandel

The Mill recently appointed a new Global CEO, Josh Mandel. The appointment supports a wider strategic step for The Mill. The company has been working for some time to evolve from a post-production facility to a full-service creative studio. Fxguide’s Mike Seymour speaks to Josh Mandel about how The Mill is now ideating, producing and executing work directly for brands (in addition to their agency and production company clients). Mandel will be spearheading the business’ repositioning as the company focuses not just on finishing the work of others, but ideating concepts for their brand partners.

The Mill’s March Free Conference:

Click for The Mill’s Future of creative technology, a free virtual event open to everyone

The appointment of Josh Mandel comes as The Mill’s business continues to expand its capabilities into the creative marketing, production, experiential and visual effects space. Mandel’s appointment ushers in a new approach for the 31-year-old business that has adapted to the ever-changing industry and evolved from a post-production facility to a full-service creative studio. But The Mill has not walked away from high-profile TVC work, as seen by their multiple spots aired in this year’s Super Bowl.

Some of The Mill’s recent work:

Super Bowl

  • Super Bowl | Tide ‘Jason Alexander’
[embedded content]

Super Bowl | Doritos ‘Flat Matthew’

Experiential Real-Time Projects

  • Experiential Work (real-time) | Lovecraft Country Sanctum – Social VR Experience

  • Experiential Work (real-time) | Apex Legends Live at the Game Awards

  • Experiential Work (real-time) | Balenciaga’s Paris Fashion Show Runway

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20 Email Marketing Services and Tools


For a small business, choosing the right email marketing services and tools can help you reach and connect with your target audience in a personalized way and increase sales at an affordable cost. Often overlooked, email marketing does have a significant impact on the bottom line of your business. Email continues to be the best-performing marketing channel. In fact, email marketing delivers an average Return on Investment (ROI) of 4400% or a $44.25 return for every single $1 spent.

By 2023 the number of daily global email users will jump to 3.473 billion and there will be 4.371 billion email users. Current trends suggest email accounts will grow faster than the number of worldwide email users, underscoring why your business should focus on email marketing campaigns. And the right email marketing services are essential to ensure the success of your business in this area.



Why is choosing the right email marketing software so important?

Email marketing isn’t just about sending promo emails and feelers to people with the hope that you can make conversions. It is also about communicating with customers and using targeted content to deliver your message across different targeted segments.

The benefits of email marketing for small businesses are numerous. Email marketing services can be used to promote businesses and grow revenue. Unlike some other marketing channels, email marketing allows you to frequently keep in touch with your customers. In addition to having the ability to send bulk emails, you can also customize them for different audiences so your emails are always engaging.

With email marketing, you can boost your conversions and build your brand without breaking your budget. No matter your level of experience, you can create professional email marketing campaigns quickly. But in order for your email marketing efforts to succeed, you need to use the right email marketing software. Updating lists and sending emails manually is time consuming. So you will need to choose an email marketing platform that integrates seamlessly with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. You will be able to manage content and customer data, as well as getting an overview of key analytics that include open rates, click-through rates and overall engagement trends to see which campaigns are performing the best.

What should you look for in a great email marketing software?

In a nutshell, the best email marketing services should deliver the following:

Customizable Templates

Your service should include personalized email marketing. Most providers offer a library of templates for users to choose from, customize, and fill with information about their businesses. You can select one template to use every time, or pick a different one whenever you write a new email if you like to keep things fresh. It is also important for your marketing services provider to allow you to create highly engaging email newsletters with an easy user interface, preferably a drag and drop editor.

List Segmentation

Your email service should provide the ability to segment your subscribers based on your marketing strategy. The email marketing service should give you the ability to segment your list based on the different stages of their buying cycle. Successful marketing is all about connecting customers with the right service and product. You will need to break up your subscriber list into common groupings and suggest products and services that suit their particular needs.

Personalization is key here by crafting the perfect subject lines, copy, and images that resonate with your customer so you can deliver effective personal feeling messages. This will also help lower the chances of your emails violating email SPAM laws.

Customer Service and Support

Should issues arise, a good email service provider should help you implement your marketing strategy at all times. Your email service provider must offer round the clock support whenever glitches take place.

Automation

With email automation, you get the opportunity to respond rapidly to your customers for inquiries, purchases, or even canceling purchases. Autoresponders can help you stay in touch with your customers using automatically generated emails based on key milestones, welcome emails for new subscribers, or thank you emails for recent purchases.

If your customers are making a purchase, they are prime candidates for additional sales. You want to send follow up messages that could include thank you emails with messages such as ‘Customers like you also found these similar items very interesting’. They could also be valuable sources of information to gauge the reasons for abandoned carts and determine why your customers have opted out of a purchase.

Analytics

Analytics are important for any marketing effort. A good email marketing service provider should be able to provide you with analytics to help improve your campaigns. These include measuring open rates, click rates, bounce rates, unsubscribe rates, and spam complaints. All these data points will help you track engagements and see how your campaigns are preforming.

Top Email Marketing Services

So here are some of the most popular email marketing tools on the market. We’ve also included descriptions and some of the main features that set each email marketing service apart.

1. Hubspot

HubSpot is considered among the best email marketing services on the market. It offers end-to-end marketing technology solutions combining marketing automation with email marketing, sales, and CRM under one umbrella. With this email marketing service, you can quickly and easily create, personalize, and optimize your emails without the need for designers or tech support.

HubSpot’s easy-to-use email marketing tool gives you the option of a standalone or a combination of other offerings such as Marketing Hub and its Customer Relations Management (CRM) platform. Also on offer are features like pre-made email templates along with calls-to-action and images, and the ability to modify content in line with your brand using its drag-and-drop editor. Your email campaigns also come with A/B tests and robust analytics. HubSpot offers its email tool free for up to 2,000 email sends per month, with upgrade solutions starting at $45 per month. The robust all-in-one marketing package comes in at $800 per month.

2. Zoho Campaigns

Zoho Campaigns offers email marketing services to help users create responsive designs, customize messages, deliver emails to inboxes, trigger automated workflows, and connect with new customers. The toolkit has all the bells and whistles you need to meet your email marketing tasks.

With Zoho Campaigns you can create responsive emails by using the tool’s drag-and-drop functionality for marketing designs and dynamics fields. The revamped user interface offers a large selection of email templates, including 274 pre-designed templates, and a host of new autoresponders. A seamless integration with the Zoho suite allows for 360 degree email marketing services for small businesses.

Zoho Campaigns comes with dynamic content, email polls, and automated list segmentation to help you send personalized messages to your audiences. With A/B testing campaigns, you can test which design or subject line resonates well with your audience while the list management keeps your list clean and spam-free.

The most popular subscription is $5 per month for up to 500 subscribers. It includes unlimited emails, autoresponders, workflows, dynamic content, batch sending, email polls and more.

3. Mailchimp

Mailchimp is a popular email marketing service that brings all your audience data, marketing channels, and insights together so you can reach your marketing strategy goals faster — all from a single platform.

This easy?to?use email builder provides individual profiles on each subscriber, which shows their activity on your website. Using its pre?designed templates and drag?and?drop builder, you can easily create engaging emails. Real-time analytics helps you keep tabs on your campaigns to quickly identify what’s working and to make smart decisions moving forward.

Mailchimp touts its inbox acceptance rates are 96-99% – well above the industry standard. Mailchimp’s subscription starts at $9.99 per month though a free plan is also available that comes with a marketing CRM, a creative assistant, website builder, forms and landing pages, and up to 2,000 contacts.

4. Constant Contact

With Constant Contact email marketing software, you get tools to build a professional brand online, attract customers, and sell more products. The platform helps you create professional emails, find new customers, and drive sales for your business. The easy to use email automation is a key benefit of Constant Contact as you are able to trigger welcome messages for new subscribers and set up drip campaigns based on their actions.

The website builder gives you a custom-designed website in just minutes along with a free logo maker with hundreds of customizable options in seconds. Constant Contact also offers social media campaign integration that lets you add contacts into a form using various formats (CSV, TXT, XLS, or XLSX), import from Gmail, or pull from Microsoft Outlook and other Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools.

For your campaigns, you can use a template to get started using the drag-and-drop feature and choosing from a variety of layout options. The editing tool lets you tweak text with access to Google fonts as well as images and colors. With Constant Contact, you can also add a blog post teaser and import PDFs which transform into interactive emails.

Constant Contact offers two kinds of plans according to the size of the customer’s email list. Pricing starts at $20 per month where you get unlimited email sends, customizable templates, branded templates, tracking and reporting, automated email resend to non-openers, subject line A/B testing and more. Like most email marketing platforms, subscription rates will be based on the number of subscribers on your list.

5. SendinBlue

SendinBlue offers both SMS and email marketing solutions for businesses. The intuitive platform gives users the tools to create beautiful and highly engaging marketing emails through its drag and drop email editor making it easy for beginners with no experience in email marketing. The platform helps to boost your marketing efforts by providing an all-in-one solution with marketing automation features, email marketing, SMS marketing, live chat, Facebook Ads, CRM, and transactional messages via email and SMS.

SendinBlue includes beginner-friendly marketing automation tools that allow you to send transactional emails, create workflows for automatic follow-up emails, and segment users. It can also select the best time to send bulk emails using its AI algorithms to ensure the best email deliverability.

It offers a free email marketing plan that lets you send up to 300 emails a day, but all your emails will have SendinBlue’s branding. Meanwhile, paid plans start from $25 per month.

6. Campaign Monitor

Campaign Monitor offers an email marketing solution that enables businesses to send personalized emails, creating a reliable channel to grow engagement with subscribers and promote loyal readership and conversions. It comes with customizable templates which can be tweaked using its drag-and-drop builder. When it comes to your mailing lists, Campaign Monitor seamlessly integrates with Salesforce or WordPress for better impact.

Campaign Monitor includes features like email marketing, automation, and reporting features starting at $9 per month. This includes the ability to send up to 2,500 emails a month, comprehensive email marketing features, an insights analytics suite and more.

7. GetResponse

GetResponse offers businesses email marketing, landing pages, e-commerce, sales funnels and webinars all under one roof. This email marketing platform helps you create mailing lists, send emails, automate emails and view and analyze statistics related to your email campaigns including open rate, click through, forwards, and others.

When it comes to creating emails, the drag-and-drop email creator lets you design and send pixel-perfect emails in a few clicks. The layouts and sections help you build your message, and also preview designs on desktops and mobile devices.

GetResponse’s email marketing software plans start at $15 per month. Since the pricing model is based on the subscriber count, you can send out an unlimited number of emails to your list. This email marketing software also offers unlimited landing pages, unlimited automation templates, one sales funnels, Facebook and Google ads and more.

8. Omnisend

Omnisend’s email marketing platform is tailored for ecommerce sites. It offers small businesses with features such as automated email and SMS messaging in order to convert leads into customers. To dive up sales, it offers pre-built automation for cart abandonment, a welcome series and transactional emails.

With this platform, you can provide your recipients with an omnichannel customer experience combining text messages, web browser push notifications, email marketing, Google Customer Match, Facebook ads, and more. You also have the capability to allow for segmented campaigns to target the right customer for your products or services. The free plan comes with the option for omnisend-branded email campaigns of up to 15,000 emails a month, signup forms, boxes, pop ups and reports.

The starter package begins at $16 per month which offers SMS campaigns and automation, email automation, audience segmentation, reports, and more.

9. MailerLite

MailerLite can help you create newsletters using its customizable templates through its drag and drop tool within minutes. This email marketing service offers tools for automation, landing pages, pop-ups, and surveys. With it, you can also segment your subscribers to enhance personalization, and optimize your campaigns with features like A/B testing.

The free plan comes with a drag and drop feature, rich text editor, built-in photo editing, file manager, mobile-friendly email newsletters, video tutorials, and A/B Testing. However, the free plan limits you to only 1,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. The paid tier starts at $10 per month with unlimited emails and can accommodate up to 1,000 subscribers along with reports and analytics.

10. Sender

Sender is an email marketing tool that lets users create newsletters without any HTML knowledge. By simply choosing from its template library, users can customize their newsletters with elements like images, videos and text within minutes. By connecting Sender with your website, web shop or any other system, all subscriber data will be synchronized automatically. In terms of analytics, it offers reports on open and click tracking, date and time analysis, click map, subscriber profiles, Google Analytics integration and more. In addition, it offers desktop push notifications, transactional and automated email sequences, API integrations, and an easy to use drag and drop subscription form builder.

Sender’s pricing starts at $11.00 per month. The free forever offering allows you to accommodate up to 2,500 subscribers, send up to 15,000 emails per month and access all features, including automation.

11. Campaigner

Campaigner is an email marketing automation platform that comes with an intuitive interface to create emails, tweak email campaigns, view feedback from contacts, and perform across the board email marketing tasks. It also provides users with the ability to integrate their email marketing campaign with social media accounts that include Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The platform generates real-time reports of your email marketing activities, thus allowing you to improve upon every email campaign you carry out. For customization of emails, you have the option to choose from over 900 templates.

Campaigner offers three plans: Starter, Essential and Advanced. The first tier which is the Starter plan starts at $49.95 per month and includes full code editor, geolocation, A/B testing, analytics, landing pages, suppression lists, segmentation, recurring campaigns and conversion tracking.

12. SendPulse

SendPulse offers a multi-channel marketing platform including email marketing, SMS, Web Push Notification, and Viber and Facebook Chatbot messenger through a single platform email marketing solution. The suite of marketing tools helps you collect customers’ contact information, create responsive templates, and set up automated flows.

In terms of trigger emails with automation 360, you can set up trigger flows using emails, web push notifications, and SMS and send messages based on your customers’ behavior. You also have the option to remind customers about their abandoned cart, invite them to upcoming webinars, or ask them about their experience with your product or service.

The drag and drop editor helps users create responsive emails without any HTML knowledge. You also have more than 130 free templates to customize your emails for any event or promotion. Additional features offered by this email marketing solution provider include segmentation, A/B testing, analytics, SPAM checker and more.

SendPulse pricing starts at $6.40 per month and comes with the option to accommodate up to 500 subscribers, send unlimited emails and take advantage of other professional features. There is also a free plan available.

13. AWeber 

AWeber offers a simple and easy to use email marketing service with a robust set of email marketing features. This includes a landing page builder, newsletters, emails to RSS, and, autoresponders to help grow your number of subscribers.  With AWeber, you get all of the basic features that you expect with an email marketing service that includes over 700 pre-built templates, drag-and-drop email builder, email analytics, A/B testing, sign up forms, automation, third-party integrations and subscriber segmentation.

AWeber also offers phone, email and live chat support and comes with a monthly subscription plan of $16.15 billed annually. With this email marketing tool, you get an unlimited number of subscribers, behavioral automation, cart abandonment and purchase tagging, click-tracking links, unlimited landing pages, AWeber e-commerce services, audience analytics, custom domains and more. You also have the option to try the free version which allows you to engage with 500 subscribers with limited capabilities. AWeber’s email marketing services come with 24/7 support via phone, email and live chat.

14. ConvertKit

ConvertKit is an email marketing service provider and landing page builder that lets you create easy forms and drip campaigns to automatically send mails to new subscribers.

With its email designer, you can easily create many branded email templates. You can also add buttons, images or videos to your email with a simplified interface for a great writing experience. ConvertKit boasts a high delivery rate of 98% and a 30% average open rate. In addition, you get unlimited landing pages and forms, A/B testing, analytics, automated funnels and sequences, and more.

The ConvertKit plan starts from $29 per month to $79 per month for 1,000 subscribers to 5,000 subscribers respectively.

16. ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is an email marketing software that offers reporting and automation tools to help you achieve your email marketing goals. This solution not only allows autoresponders based on numerous conditions, but it also allows automation of your contacts and email list management, as well as automation within its CRM system. It also has features that enable you to text message your subscribers. 

Furthermore, with the conversations feature you can send targeted messages straight to your website visitors, therefore optimizing the overall customer experience. When it comes to offering lead/contact scoring, you can set it up using rules or automation, and it also allows you to assign scores to contacts based on their demographic, or actions they take. This covers page views, open emails, email clicks and more.

ActiveCampaign subscription starts at $9 per month and includes marketing automation, unlimited email sending, subscription forms, segmentation, site and event tracking, 500+ automation recipes and more.

17. Drip

Drip’s email marketing software offers a broader CRM platform that is built with eCommerce in mind. You also get insights into customer’s browsing history, social media interactions, cart abandonment and purchases, and email engagement. You can add your contacts in three standard ways: individually, importing emails in bulk from a file, and copy and pasting.

The visual email editor affords you a generous amount of freedom in template options and design, and it’s easy to add or remove segments, buttons, and images where you want them. Drip’s platform integrates with WordPress, WooCommerce, Facebook Ads, and other tools to help you boost your e-commerce sales. This includes additional tools you’re using to sell online, analyze, collect data, and personalize marketing for customers.

Drip’s paid plans start at $19 per month and offer behavior and event tracking, segmentation, revenue attribution, multichannel automation, detailed email analytics, customizable forms, and more. A 14-day trial is also available which allows you to add 500 people to your account and get access to all of Drip’s core features including sending unlimited emails after the trial period.

18. Mailjet

Mailjet’s email marketing solution allows users to create, send, and track their marketing and transactional emails. Mailjet’s intuitive user interface is available in 5 languages (English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian) and enables marketing teams to create, test, and send compelling emails. Through its drag and drop email builder, you can easily create responsive emails and thanks to its intuitive user interface, you have the option of the five languages.

In terms of ease of use, Mailjet provides a full setup and use guide in one place. This starts with creating a test email campaign and moves on to importing your contacts, designing an email template, managing your contacts, and using more advanced features such as A/B testing and segmentation.

Mailjet also helps you optimize transactional emails including delivery notifications and change in payment details by providing real-time notifications if there are problems with email delivery. Its collaborative email editor gives you the ability for multiple users to make changes in real-time thus making collaboration easy.

Mailjet pricing starts at $9.65 per month. There is a free plan with limited capabilities that includes an email editor, email templates, unlimited contacts, and integration.

19. iContact

iContact offers an email marketing platform that helps small businesses achieve their email marketing goals.

This email marketing platform can help save considerable time as it is easy to use, offers customizable templates, and enables anyone to send out email messages — which is great for first-time email marketers. Users are not required to have any HTML knowledge while automated email campaigns can deploy once a subscriber interacts with a landing page, makes a purchase, clicks a link, or meets any specific criteria that you have established.

The platform offers the full gamut of email marketing services that include drag and drop editing, email list management, autoresponders, SPAMCHECK, reports, social amplify email campaigns, scheduled messages on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and more. iContact’s paid plans start at $15 per month for 1,500 subscribers. A free trial is also available.

20.Emma

Emma’s email marketing service offers automation features to help you send campaigns and connect with your subscribers for maximum impact. This platform makes it easy to manage your email marketing service across multiple departments or locations, share templates and creative assets, and quickly approve every email before it goes out. It also offers templates that are mobile-responsive, integrate with social networks and connect to Google Analytics to see stats.

Through its list segmentation tool, you can target subscribers bases on zip code, birthday, purchased items, and even if they have opened your last email. Segmented groups are easily searchable, and you have the ability to create an unlimited number of segments when it comes time to send targeted campaigns which comes in handy when you want to test your markets and fine-tune your results.

Emma’s branching logic can help you deliver the most relevant message based on whether or not someone opens a specific email or makes a certain click. The next email in your drip sequence can be matched to the activity of your audience. When integrated with your site, Emma can track recent purchases and send an automated email that ensures your customer gets a timely touchpoint to support the purchase, encourage an upgrade, or schedule a follow-up.

The service starts at $89 per month for up to 10,000 contacts and includes drag and drop email editor, an email template gallery, real-time reporting and analytics, guestbook app, list importing, segmentation tools, lightbox signup forms, A/B content testing and built-in integrations.

What is the best email marketing service?

When trying to determine the best email marketing service around, Hubspot quickly jumps to the top of the list. Here’s why.

Hubspot offers a wide variety of tools giving you great flexibility when creating your email marketing campaign. Hubspot also offers lead management and SEO features as well as tools to boost your email marketing campaigns and community support that extends even to its free services. See details below.

Q: What tools are available with Hubspot email marketing services?

  • Email·
  • Websites
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Marketing automation
  • Landing pages
  • Analytics
  • Social media
  • Blogging

Q: What can you do with Hubspot’s Email Marketing Solution?

  • Create new emails
  • Edit columns to show metrics like bounce rate, delivery rate, and other important metrics
  • Export your email information
  • Filter by email type or campaign
  • Navigate through sent, scheduled, drafted, or archived messages
  • Search for specific emails
  • View most recently edited, created, and sent emails with a performance summary
  • Create your own HTML emails, or choose from Hubspot’s templates
  • Schedule emails up to one year in advance
  • Create emails that are automatically mobile friendly
  • Take advantage of an unsubscribe feature mandated by CAN-SPAM laws
  • Benefit from a feature allowing those who unsubscribe to be given the option to opt-out of certain email topics or take a temporary break as opposed to a permanent unsubscribe
  • Personalize emails to improve your open rates.

Q: Does it help in lead management and SEO?

Hubspot helps you to access each contact’s information and see every interaction you’ve had with them. The data gleaned from subscribers will be used to create targeted campaigns that close more deals. In regards to SEO, you can plan a content strategy around topics that will elevate your authority in search engines, get as-you-type optimization advice as you’re creating content, and measure real SEO ROI with integrated analytics.

Q: What tools does HubSpot offer to boost my email marketing services?

With HubSpot you get free CRM, marketing, sales, and customer service tools. You get free marketing tools that help you achieve a myriad of objectives. These include: tools to convert website visitors into leads for free, contact management, integration with Facebook, Instagram, Google, and LinkedIn ads, live chat, traffic and conversion analytics.

HubSpot’s free CRM gives you everything you need to organize, track, and nurture your relationships with leads and customers. You can connect HubSpot’s free CRM tools to Gmail, G Suite, and many versions of Outlook. While HubSpot’s free Sales Hub provides your business with time saving tools that help you get deeper insights into your prospects, automate the tasks you hate and close more deals faster.

And what’s more, HubSpot allows you to invite your entire team to collaborate in one place. You can also store as many as one million contacts and companies.

Q: Can I get support from HubSpot for its free services?

HubSpot’s free users have access to the HubSpot Community at community.hubspot.com for support. According to HubSpot, the mission of this inbound community is to provide users with a vibrant channel to ask questions, find answers, and engage with professionals from around the world about HubSpot software best practices.

What are the best free email marketing tools?

Here are some of the best email marketing software tools that come with free plans.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp receives good ratings for its reliability, scalability and secure delivery service for transactional emails from websites and applications. And for those who use WordPress to power their business website, MailChimp is one of the best available. Particularly for a cost conscious small business, since it’s free.

MailChimp provides a wide range of professional quality email templates with customizable fields and features, so you can create campaigns that match your company’s branding. There are easy sharing tools for social channels, and the platform integrates seamlessly with WordPress, as well as other popular services. In addition, MailChimp offers full-featured tracking and analytics for smart campaign management making it a solid email marketing service provider.

AWeber

AWeber has gained popularity among users because it focuses on auto response emails. The platform makes it easy to create forms prospects can fill out. The service then auto responds with whatever message you set up. It offers a robust set of tools including email service, newsletters, emails to RSS, and, of course, autoresponders.

SendinBlue

Sendinblue is another WordPress compatible email marketing platform ideal for small businesses that run both email and mobile campaigns. This all-in-one email marketing service helps you manage email marketing, transactional emails, text messaging and more. It includes detailed, real-time analytics and tools for campaign creation, contact management, and trigger marketing. Integrating SendinBlue with WordPress is as simple as installing the WordPress plugin.

Constant Contact

With Constant Contact, automated triggers come easy. Inside its interface, users can easily trigger a single email or an entire series of messages based on user actions. The platform also has a strong toolbox of email marketing tools from HTML newsletter templates to personal coaching on how to get your email campaigns done right. Event management has also been added so you can handle online registration and online survey tools to gather info from customers and prospects.

ManyContacts

Simple, unique and free to use, ManyContacts is a free drop down email collection bar that runs across the top of your website. The drop down animation grabs attention, and the bar can be fully customized by color, form field and text, giving you the ability to add subscribe offers.

ManyContacts also includes enriched data collection that can be accessed through a Contacts Manager dashboard, showing your subscribers’ location, IP, social profiles and more

Sender

Sender offers free email marketing tools with features to ensure deliverability. It lets you create stunning newsletters without any HTML knowledge. Just choose from a template and customize it with elements like images, videos and text. You can even personalize your newsletters for each recipient to create an even bigger impact.

Emma

Emma is a Web-based service that combines do-it-yourself with free personal assistance when you need it. Custom email design comes at an additional charge. Emma has strong tracking and analytics components that allow you to learn what works — or doesn’t — with your audience.

Image: Depositphotos


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When Should You Shelve Those Marketing Ideas? Use These Five Prioritization Tactics to Find the Answer


COVID-19 has forced many businesses to forego long-term planning for more of a “here and now” mentality. We still need to consider long-term business initiatives, of course, but we can’t do that at the expense of remaining profitable and relevant.

Thriving in an ever-evolving climate requires a laser focus. Unfortunately, that sometimes means shelving exciting possibilities that aren’t immediately relevant or applicable.

There’s a case for ‘not right now’

Setting aside an awesome concept can be difficult. To assertively and confidently say, “We’ll have to revisit this,” takes strength and foresight—during a pandemic or otherwise.

Many companies’ revenue is creeping downward, necessitating budget cuts and sometimes downsizing. With fewer resources available, managers face a choice: They must delay innovative brainstorms, or they must retire existing programs to make space for those new initiatives.


Moreover, although it’s easy to take risks in a healthy economy, there is far more pressure and accountability when times are tough: You are expected to do more with less, yet you also need to protect your team from burnout.

Maintaining such balance is a challenge, but streamlining and prioritizing new marketing ideas with ongoing projects can result in big payoffs.


Deferring experimental initiatives in favor of spending time on projects with proven ROI narrows your focus and commits you to pursuing only measurable goals.

At the same time, exploring new ways of promoting your business when you are understaffed can empower your team members to develop untapped skills as they take on different responsibilities and uncover previously hidden passions, expertise, and talents. What worked a few months ago may no longer drive the same results. When that happens, you need the confidence to shutter dated campaigns in favor of a new approach.

If you’re not sure how to stop treating every idea as equally important, lean on these techniques to identify what needs to happen immediately vs. what can wait.

1. Define your priorities explicitly

Marketers are notorious for loving new concepts. However, only 17% of marketers can easily prioritize what they are working on, an Upland Kapost study found.

When a team member comes up with a new idea, begin asking tough questions. Are the resources the project requires available to us? How will we measure success? When will we know that the initiative has run its course?

If you have trouble agreeing on answers or even finding them, set the idea aside for another day.

2. Monitor your swimlanes

Imagine you’re already overrun with “keeping the lights on” projects, and someone suddenly brings a game-changing idea to your attention. No matter how much you love it, you have to first make sure that you have the capacity to handle it.

Check out your flowchart, project management plans, and Kanban-related swimlanes for potential sources of friction. A department or person with blocked lanes should not attempt to add anything to the mix.

You’ll need to make some tough calls. The status quo does not fuel innovation. Check in with your team members to see whether you can automate, delegate, or deprioritize any of the regular work they’ve grown accustomed to doing. Depending on the potential ROI of the new project, you could move resources or responsibilities around; but, in some cases, that’s not the best solution. If you are in a situation where resources are being reduced, “keeping the lights on” may be all your team is capable of.

Sometimes, the workload is just too great to embrace every exciting idea that comes your way.

3. Evaluate your stakeholder buy-in

Every idea needs stakeholder buy-in to get off the ground—and stay in flight. If you’ve floated a concept that’s struggling to gain momentum, the stakeholders likely don’t see it as a priority—and if that’s the case, neither should you.

When others don’t see value in an effort, it needs to be revamped, placed aside, or scrapped altogether. That doesn’t mean the idea was intrinsically bad; it could just be a matter of poor timing. For that reason, you should speak with stakeholders before making any final decisions to OK a concept. Having honest conversations from the start will save money and prevent long-term frustration.

4. Practice interdepartmental collaboration

At Pantheon, we regularly invite coworkers from various functions to join our planning and analytics review sessions. Why? Because we want to make sure that whatever we do has overlap across our workforce, which helps our efforts go farther.

While you’re weighing placing an idea on the front burner, check whether it overlaps with other departments, such as Sales, IT, Product, or Customer Service. The most successful companies align their priorities so they can scale them across the business and maximize resources.

5. Cap your priorities

Project-creep happens quietly and swiftly. Suddenly, instead of two or three priorities, you have 15. Don’t let that happen. Monitor every major initiative and stack rank them so each team member can see which tasks are most significant and which can stay in the background.

At your daily or weekly meetings, take time to review each high-priority item. The process should not exceed three items, else the value of prioritization is diluted. By continually focusing on the highest-value work, your team will be more invested in the success of that work.

Plus, when everyone agrees what work is most important, your job is easier. Even if you get a bit of pushback, you can support your position by pointing back to what everyone agreed would have the greatest impact on the business.

* * *

Awesome marketing ideas are worth investigating and writing down. Nevertheless, they’re not always ready to roll when they first emerge. Part of your job is knowing whether to pursue them immediately or allow them to mature. Be prudent, and you’ll get better output in the long run.

More Resources on Marketing Ideas

Seven Easy Tactics for Generating Content Marketing Ideas

How to Establish Thought Leadership on Emerging Social Platforms

Creativity in the Time of COVID: Author and Innovation Thinker Dave Birss on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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What Next? How To Prepare Your Post-COVID-19 Digital Marketing Strategy


It literally feels like a lifetime ago that COVID-19 hit our shores and we traded coffee catch-ups for Zoom conference calls. If you’re anything like us, chances are you feel a bit like Tom Hanks in Castaway right now:

In reality, it’s been two months. 

A lot has happened in the past eight weeks. Aussies have slowly adjusted to the ‘new normal’ of social distancing and working from home. Companies have been left reeling by closures, and received government relief packages to help weather the storm. And finally, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as restrictions lift and businesses start to reopen.

At AdVisible, we’ve been working closely with our clients to pivot their digital marketing strategy for COVID-19. Now, we’re helping them build their post-pandemic recovery plan for the short, mid- and long-term. In this post, we distil some of our key insights and considerations for the future, to help you bounce back stronger than before.

Digital Marketing During COVID-19: What’s Worked So Far?

Last month, we earned a feature on SourceBottles experts panel about brand behaviours due to COVID-19. We also shed some light on five critical things businesses should do to adapt their marketing during COVID-19. 

In the early stages of the pandemic, it was all about survival. Businesses had to adapt to remote working, overhaul business plans, and get creative to keep the revenue flowing in. However, while physical stores closed, many industries were booming online as people spent more time on screens.

We worked with our clients to adapt their digital marketing campaigns during this time, and stay top-of-mind where people were spending the most time: online. As restrictions gradually ease across different industries, we’re seeing this investment pay off with higher impressions, more clicks, better clickthrough rates, and greater conversions.

One example is a dental client who we’ve been helping with Google Ads management. Throughout the pandemic, we maintained the same ad spend and saw occasional conversions over the past month. However, once the government lifted the ban on elective surgeries, we saw a massive 3-5x increase in Google Ads conversions:

We’re seeing similar results with clients in different industries, from Dentists to Waste Management. On top of this, retail and eCommerce have seen steady growth since the pandemic started — showing that people are still out there and willing to spend for the right product.

Consumer spending hasn’t stopped, even during COVID-19. And when we look at countries like China, who are coming out the other side, we can see that once restrictions ease, sales come back…and they come back BOOMING.

The takeaway? As measures start to lift, it’s time to hit the drawing board, and start thinking about your digital marketing plan for the future.

5 Tips To Nail Your Post-COVID-19 Digital Marketing Strategy

Unfortunately, we’re not out of the woods yet. There’s still a while to go before we start seeing life return to some semblance of norma — but when it does, recovery won’t be by accident. The brands that will come out on top are the ones that start planning, investing, and building now.

In other words…

Dust off the plans and start thinking for the short, mid, and long term. In the coming weeks, here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re prepared and ready to bounce back stronger than ever.

🔍 1. Continue (or Restart) Investment in Search
If you’ve been consistently investing in search and display ads over COVID-19, keep going. Over the coming weeks, you should start to see the numbers increase I

f your business paused or reduced ad spend during COVID-19, start gradually ramping up your campaigns again. Rather than go in guns blazing, work with a digital marketing agency on targeted campaigns. This way, you can be strategic about your ad spend and get the most bang for your buck.

⌨️ 2) Work on Your SEO NOW

Search engine optimisation is a marathon, and you need to put in the hard work over time to see the results. It usually takes around one to three months to see the true results of SEO, so if you want to rank on Google for high-converting search terms once restrictions are lifted, you need to start today.

Make sure your website design is optimised for search, and work to build out content on your target keywords. In particular, try to focus on the low hanging fruit: target keywords where you’re ranking on page 2, or on the bottom half of the first page.

❤️ 3) Reconnect With Your Followers on Social Media
Slowly but surely, it’s time to re-engage with your audience on social media. If you’ve been a bit quiet following the slowdown in business activity, get ready to get active and put your brand out there again. 

At the same time, if you’re running digital marketing campaigns, make sure to include social media remarketing. This provides you with additional touchpoints to connect with customers, and stay top-of-mind even after visitors leave your site.

📧 4) Build Your Email Database With a Lead Generation Campaign

Even if your visitors aren’t quite ready to convert, it’s important to add them into your database so you can market to them consistently over the coming months. Your email list will be your evergreen source of revenue for years to come, so it’s worth putting in the effort to grow this. 

Create an eBook and offer it to customers in exchange for their email, or incentivise newsletter signups with an exclusive deal. Once you’ve integrated them into your database, keep the lines of communication open with ongoing content, offers, and updated business information.

🖥️ 5) Don’t Ditch Digital Marketing

If you’ve shifted your business online to survive during the pandemic, don’t throw your work out the window. Even as physical stores open up, digital won’t take the back seat. The pandemic has made us more comfortable with communicating online, browsing online, and shopping online. These new consumer behaviours will be here to stay, and your digital strategy should be too.

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