Shared posts

06 Aug 15:34

How to Drive an Agile Mindset Across Your Marketing Team

by Bob Van Rossum

The agile methodology is widely used in project management and software development but is now quickly making its way to other areas of the enterprise, including marketing.

How does the agile framework impact marketing in today’s digital age? The ability to innovate and improve the customer experience relies on marketing teams who are able to move fast enough to keep up with the evolving demands of consumers. In a world where consumers have no desire to wait, organizations with slow marketing delivery run the risk of becoming irrelevant and outdated.

Related Video: Demystifying Agile Marketing

Source: McKinsey on Marketing & Sales

Digital Marketing Recruiters: Is Agile the Future of Digital Marketing?

Modern technology allows marketers to reach and engage with customers in ways that weren’t possible just a few years ago. In order for marketing departments to keep up with the brisk pace of technological change and push forward new ideas, products, services or campaigns, they must be innovative, break down silos and gets things done quickly.

Agile marketing aims to improve transparency, speed and the adaptability of the rapid marketing environment; using analytics and data to prove the validity of potential solutions through small experiments and quick campaigns.

As digital marketing recruiters, we see many organizations that are risk-averse fail to move quickly and adopt new ways of marketing. Becoming fully agile isn’t simple but there are many effective agile practices that can be integrated into your marketing team and organization to bring your marketing ahead and squeeze the most ROI out of your campaigns.

Success Today Isn’t Promised Tomorrow

Marketing programs that experience steady growth and meet business goals and metrics are less likely to try something new and may become stagnant. This complacency causes them to miss out on something that could possibly transform their marketing.

What have you tried out in the past 30, 60 or 90 days that you’ve never done before? If you haven’t tested any new marketing strategies out, why not? If you’re in a good place with your campaigns and seeing successful results, that’s great! However, nothing’s ever promised in the fast-paced world of marketing.

While you should continue to invest in and nurture marketing tactics and strategies that work and drive results, don’t disregard innovative ways to keep your brand above the noise. Your marketing should constantly be testing, learning, and evolving. If you’re in a good place with your campaigns, leverage the ability to dedicate some resources to new initiatives.

Playing it safe, moving at a slow pace, and avoiding new tactics will get you mediocre results, setting you behind the competition. The iterative approach in agile marketing allows you to push out different ideas, test them, and evaluate what worked and what didn’t in real-time. If an idea fails, you can move on and try something else much faster.

Related: speed of your executive search post

Build a Fully Capable Team

digital marketing recruiters the future of digital marketing

Agile marketing isn’t possible without the proper leadership in place, and simply won’t work if it doesn’t have the right buy-in with management. Digital leaders must understand and accept agile to properly guide their marketing department in doing so as well. An adjustment in the culture is necessary, where leaders must accept the risk of moving faster.

Do you have the right marketing org chart in place? One of the biggest factors that lead to successful agile marketing is a team of talented marketers who can work up to speed. Before you start to assemble your agile team, you must ensure you have the right roles and talent onboard. You must allow your marketers to have the freedom and support to think of innovative ideas. Millennials, in particular, are incredibly digitally-inclined and have many cutting-edge ideas. Without top marketers in place, how do you expect to build assemble a team that’s expected to bring brilliant ideas forward?

The exact structure of your agile team will depend on your organization and the goals you’re trying to meet, but they should generally be small so responsibilities and tasks are managed easily, and everyone is held accountable. The team that is charged with implementing, testing, and measuring different ideas should work closely together in an “agile war room.”

These teams will have daily meetings where each member will report on what he or she accomplished the day before, and what their goals are for the day. The iterative process and continuous collaboration agile teams work under allow marketing to deliver quick solutions and rapid feedback. Leaders of the agile team should create a list of things to try out, and go through them in quick cycles.

Intelligent marketers who are given the support and bandwidth to build great marketing campaigns will get the job done. Once your agile team starts to build credibility and drive results, your organization can progressively add more teams that take control of different functions.

The marketing department’s head leaders will need to overlook the activities of the war room team and check up on their efforts every so often. While your war-room team certainly must be agile, encouraging a nimble mindset throughout your entire marketing department is equally important.

Reap the Benefits of Agile Marketing

By avoiding time spent on meetings, approvals, and feedback, the iterative and adaptive process of agile marketing enables teams to get more things done, quickly. It significantly boosts productivity, performance, and internal communication through close cross-functional collaboration and a break down in silos.

Agile teams run small tests, making it easier to measure results and gauge what truly works and doesn’t. Through well-established agile tactics and quicker response to changes, rapid iterations of different marketing ideas pave the way to incredibly innovative ideas and rewarding campaigns.

More importantly, the consumer is always at the center of every strategy and tactic, enhancing the customer experience.

Conclusion

By encouraging and pushing agile marketing, you can transform your efforts and drive growth faster than ever before. The success of an agile marketing strategy depends on the talent and leadership your marketing organization has at hand. With all of these working pieces put into place, your marketing will be able to deploy tests quickly, evaluate the results and improve your efforts at a pace that’s aligned with the rapid speed of marketing.

06 Aug 15:33

How to Succeed at Channel Selling

by Sandler Training

Sandler trainers and new authors, Marcus Cauchi and David Davies, join us to talk about selling through retails, distributors, reps, and other third parties. Whether you are currently using other channels to sell your products or services or you are exploring new channels, you should listen to these two experts and read their new Sandler book.

06 Aug 15:21

Of Course It Matters Whether You Won or Lost…

by Bob Apollo

Greek Vase Run Right

You’ve probably heard some variation of the saying “it matters not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game”. The modern use of the phrase (in a slightly different form) is attributed to the American sports commentator Grantland Rice, but the principles have their roots in the spirit with which the original Olympic Games were conducted over 2,500 years ago.

For anyone in sales repeatedly playing and losing – no matter how well-intentioned – is hardly likely to form the foundation of a successful career. We want to win, but we want (or should want) to win in an ethical, principled manner that sees our customer as a partner and not a combatant.

Systematically learning what works and what doesn’t – and progressively doing more of the former and less of the latter – ought to be the critical foundation of any successful sales organisation. And yet the essential raw materials – in the form of effective win-loss analysis – are all-too-often missing or flawed…

It’s been my experience that the most effective sales people tend to be particularly adept at learning and applying the lessons of both success and failure. In fact, I believe that these top performer’s capacity to learn and adapt is probably one of their most consistent characteristics.

But all too often, this invaluable learning is neither understood nor applied across the rest of the sales organisation. And even when organisations implement win-loss reports, the underlying analysis and the resulting conclusions (assuming there are any) are often incomplete, flawed, biased and of little practical value.

Self-assessment doesn’t work

This is particularly true when our less-effective sales people are asked to self-analyse their reasons why an opportunity was won or lost. I have never seen (nor do I ever expect to) the reason for loss to be self-assessed as sales incompetence, nor the reason for success to be identified as brilliant marketing.

If they are to be in any way effective, win-loss analyses cannot be “tick the box” exercises. They require thought, reflection and the involvement of an unbiased third party. And they cannot be complete without input from the most important contributor – the prospect or customer.

I’ve conducted independent win-loss analyses on behalf of a number of clients over the years, and these exercises have inevitably yielded invaluable insights into how the prospective customer approached the buying process and how and why they came to their ultimate decision to either buy or stick with the status quo.

Internal, self-conducted win-loss analyses – in addition to being generally incomplete, flawed or biased – also tend to concentrate largely or exclusively on the latter half of the sales cycle and on the sales person’s success or failure in “closing” the opportunity.

Start at the beginning

But it turns out that the most important insights are typically upstream of that point. In fact, many of the most strategically important lessons are to do with what caused the prospective customer to become concerned about the status quo in the first place and how they went about researching and identifying their options at the start of their buying decision journey.

Well-constructed win-loss analyses help us to better understand these all-important early stages of the buying decision process, such as:

  • The trends that most concern senior executives in the organisation
  • The issues, threats and opportunities that are most likely to cause them to start researching their options
  • The common demographic, structural and behavioural characteristics of our most valuable customers
  • The roles that are most likely to become successful change agents within the organisation
  • The specific catalysts or trigger events that are most likely to put the issue on their radar in the first place

These early-buying-stage insights allow us to target the right messages at the right people in the right organisations at the right time.

Understand their journey

And by asking the right questions about their buying decision journey, such as:

  • How and where they started to research their options
  • How they determined which solutions to look at in more detail
  • What key stages they went through in their buying decision process
  • Who else was involved in their internal process, and what roles they played
  • Which solution options they considered and rejected, and why
  • If they decided to buy, how they decided what to buy
  • If they decided not to buy, why they decided to stick with the status quo

We can build up a much clearer picture of what we need to look for, what we need to know, what we need to do, what we need to avoid, and how we ought to qualify potential sales opportunities.

There’s another unexpected benefit from conducting an intelligent win-loss analysis process: we’ll often be in a better position to judge how much future potential this particular customer or former prospect might represent.

Is the effort worth it?

Is this harder to do than adding a few fields to a CRM screen? Yes.

Does disseminating the lessons learned require conscious effort? Undoubtedly, Yes!

Is the effort worthwhile? The last time Gartner looked at the issue, they concluded that the minority of organisations that were doing a half-way decent job of win-loss analysis saw an up to 50% increase in sales win rates compared to their less committed peers.

06 Aug 15:21

The best SEO book in the world? A surprising discovery.

by Mark Schaefer

By Mark Schaefer

I have written about my loathing for arbitrary rankings and especially these “influencer lists.” But every once in while I see a list that captures my attention … and last week provided an extraordinary surprise.

Book Authority just named my work, The Content Code, as the best book on SEO in the world (out of 58 books on the subject).

The thing that is remarkable about the award is that I never thought of my book as an SEO book — it’s not even listed in that category on Amazon.

But it does make sense. And the success of the book goes back to a controversial decision I made about SEO for my business and my blogging career 10 years ago. I’d like to discuss that decision today and why it might be relevant for you, too.

Why SEO sucked

Before I dissect this lesson, let me thank BookAuthority for this honor. The site uses a proprietary, independent methodology  to identify and rate the best nonfiction books in an objective and data-based manner. They are not associated with any publisher or commercial venture. So … good job with that, and thank you.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

In 2008, social media and content was just coming into the mainstream as marketing ideas. Google was dominating the search space and everybody was trying to figure out how to win those coveted first spaces on the organic results … including me.

I’ll never forget attending an early SEO conference and learning about all the dirty “black-hat” tricks that were going on back then. One guy stood up and talked about how he was hiring shut-ins to pose as other people posting content to try to get links back to customer sites.

I asked him, “Isn’t this patently unethical?”

He responded: “Yes. But big companies are willing to pay me millions of dollars to this and if I don’t do it, they’ll find somebody else who will.”

And he wasn’t kidding. His client list included some Fortune 500 companies.

As I learned about the SEO business, even the “white hat” shops seemed to be dabbling in some gray areas when it came to ethics, links, and content. I made a decision that I would never, ever fall into that trap. I did not want to be associated with anything this slimy. I was either going to make it or fail, but I wasn’t going to play these gray-area SEO games and tricks.

Google truth

best seo bookMy decision was not just based on ethics. It was also based on logic.

I thought, “There is NO WAY Google can let these guys win. If they are going to survive as a company, they can’t let the bad guys rule the organic results. Google has to reward the best, purest, most helpful content in the long-run.”

And so, I engaged in none of the weird SEO strategies of the day. This might sound like a rational and enlightened plan today, but believe me, it was unnerving going down a path by yourself. Literally, I watched the whole industry going a different direction, so my plan was radical at the time and there was no certain success.

But, I was right.

Month by month and year by year, Google changed their algorithm to beat back the link merchants. Every change they made moved the industry closer to what I had been practicing all along, and something I wrote about in my very first blog posts 10 years ago. The key to winning in the digital world is:

  • Creating meaningful content
  • Engaging with a relevant audience
  • Being authentically helpful

To me, this wasn’t SEO, it was common sense. But today — finally! — SEO is starting to look more like common sense than a secretive black market for links.

In this era, SEO is content marketing, more or less. There is still some horse-trading for links going on but eventually Google will find a way to punish those people too.

The next step in SEO

Today, my SEO strategy is essentially the same as it was 10 years ago: focus on content that is extremely useful and interesting to my audience.  I use the Yoast WordPress plug-in to try to make my posts more discoverable. My website also gets a little TLC from my friend Douglas Karr, who I have hired to fix the things that break. Let’s be honest. Websites are mysteries.

If I could go back in time, I would have added a fourth bullet point to my original list of three rules of success, and it would be this: Ignite your content.

Ten years ago when I wrote that original advice, any sort of content on the web was a novelty. It didn’t take much to build an audience for a blog, podcast, or video channel. Today, it is insanely hard to accomplish that. There’s just too much stuff.

The economic value of content that is not seen and shared is zero. How do we get our content to IGNITE throughout our audience, and beyond?

A few years ago, I tackled that issue in The Content Code. The book is not just the evolution of content marketing, it truly is the evolution of SEO, too.

So yeah. maybe it is the best SEO book … and it all started with an unconventional approach to blogging 10 years ago. It was an unnerving risk at the time, but it has been the best path for me and my customers and I hope you’ll also discover this truth in The Content Code.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Unsplash.com

 

The post The best SEO book in the world? A surprising discovery. appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

06 Aug 15:11

Why You Should Never Start a Follow-Up Email With "I Haven't Heard From You"

by pcaputa@hubspot.com (Pete Caputa)

If you're like me, you probably receive countless unsolicited sales emails and voicemails every month -- and most of them are really bad.

To give you a taste, here are the opening lines of follow-up emails I received in the past few weeks. Notice anything?

  • "I just left you a voicemail as a follow up to my message yesterday."
  • "I have been trying to reach you."
  • "I just wanted to make sure you got this email (copied below) from earlier and didn't miss out."
  • "Hope you got my second voicemail."
  • "It’s been challenging to reach you."
  • "I'm sure you have lots going on. I have not heard back from you ... "

Each of these salespeople attempted to guilt me into responding.

I followed up with some of these reps to determine if this approach gets responses. A few said it works fairly well -- they get single digit response rates when opening follow-up emails with this line.

One salesperson -- the top-performing rep on his team -- even sent me his five-email sequence where four out of five messages start with laying down a thick coat of guilt.

Jeff Swank, a high-performing salesperson at HubSpot, brings an old email to the top of a buyer’s inbox by using the subject line "email buried?" and writing one short sentence in the body -- "Just want to follow up in case this email got buried."

He's not the only one on the HubSpot sales team who sends these kinds of emails. For several years, we actively taught our salespeople to reference previous connection attempts when reaching out to inbound leads that one final time before taking them out of the pipeline. And it worked … for a while.

But now I’m wondering -- has it gone too far? Has guilt become the prospector’s go-to emotion? Are salespeople using it too soon and too often in their emails and voicemails? And are there some subjects you just shouldn't discuss over email?

I think the answer is yes -- using guilt in prospecting emails is a huge mistake.

Does Guilt Work in Sales?

Less than 1% of sales phone calls are returned and less than 24% of sales prospecting emails are opened. This to me shows that buyers do not feel guilty about ignoring prospecting attempts from salespeople. 

Mark Suster, successful entrepreneur and busy guy, sums up why decision makers ignore emails like so: "I’ve learned that some people just can’t process 100% of email. The more senior people are, the more demands they have on their time. The older they are, the more out-of-work responsibilities they have."

Does provoking feelings of guilt make some buyers feel bad? Probably -- but bad feelings don’t move the needle for salespeople. What does is responses.

And do guilty feelings make buyers more likely to get back to you? Not usually. Instead of rushing to answer your email, what’s more likely is their guilt will snowball into sadness, frustration, or annoyance -- not exactly the feelings salespeople hope to provoke.

"Guilt is not a very good motivator,” Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, notes. “In the overall scheme of emotions, guilt is … one of the 'sad' emotions, which also include agony, grief, and loneliness."

Yikes.

Personally, I'd love to get back to everyone if I had time, but I don’t. And I certainly don't have time to oblige every "15 minute request” for a call that usually comes right after the guilt trip, like in the example email below. (Names are changed to protect the guilty, or in this case, the guilt-inducing.)

 

Hi Peter,

Hope you got my second voicemail. Between you and me, never been an answering machine person.

Would you have 15 minutes to connect? Apologies for the bombardment. I just see HubSpot as a great potential fit to partner with X company.

What is a good time for you for a 15-minute call either today or tomorrow?

Looking forward to speaking with you!

Thank you,

Mary

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

Do I feel bad for not getting back to “Mary”? Somewhat. But realizing that my time is best spent doing the things I decide to do (and based on the sheer volume of email I receive), I have no choice but to stop worrying about getting back to everyone who messages me -- even the people I know and especially the people who I don't know and who don't know me.

Which brings me to my next point …

You Can't Guilt Someone That Has No Obligation to You

Now, I'm not going to say that you should try to avoid making someone feel guilty at all costs. But you should recognize and internalize this critical point: Guilt won’t sway people who feel no obligation to you. And with that in mind, I think the only appropriate time to provoke guilt is when someone already committed to doing something and didn't follow through.

Janine Popick, founder of email marketing firm VerticalResponse, recently shared a story where guilt provoked her to respond. Here's the note she received from a potential partner she had agreed to work with in a previous communication.

 

Just wanting to be practical here. Since I haven't seen or heard back from my many messages to you, I have to assume it will be impossible to bring your offerings to our audience.

I hope I may be mistaken, but the long silence prompts me to think I should just take you off this list. While I would love to see the great solutions you create as part of our world, I have to accept that silence likely means no.

If I'm mistaken, do feel free to let me know, but if I don't hear from you, I'll be clear with our team that working with [Company] isn't of interest to VerticalResponse here.

Wishing you all the best (and hoping to be very wrong).

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

"Whoa! I felt like crap!” Janine wrote of her reaction to the note. “I instantly emailed her back, apologized, and told her why we've been a bit quiet."

While this guilt-tripping email elicited a response from Janine, the approach should be used sparingly and caringly, like in this example.

In addition to being sent only after Janine failed to follow through with a commitment she expressly made, the sender unleashed the guilt only after several previous follow-up attempts, and gave Janine a clear and easy out.

Another way to soften the blow of an email like this is to excuse the lack of response, by writing something along the lines of, "I understand you are busy. Please don't feel guilty for not responding," and then providing the prospect an out.

According to Mark Suster, an apology works too: “I know how busy you are. I hope you don’t mind I'm putting this at the top of your inbox.”

When to Use 'Haven't Heard from You' 

As we've outlined above, using "Haven't heard from you" in email or voicemail communications is usually rude, attempts to guilt your recipient, and just plain doesn't work. 

When you'd like to provide a polite and gentle nudge to your prospect, first consider waiting five to ten business days before contacting them again.

This acknowledges they're busy and gives them time to respond to you on their own (which is always preferable to a nudge email). It also prevents you from looking desperate -- which is never a good way to begin a business relationship.

But, when you've waiting the appropriate length of time and you're ready to reach out again, test these alternatives, instead of "I haven't heard from you":

'Haven't Heard from You' Alternatives

  1. "Wanted to resurface this email ..."
  2. "Following up to make sure this email didn't get buried."
  3. "I know your inbox is a busy place. I wanted to reach out in case my original message got lost."
  4. "Bumping this up in your inbox ..."
  5. "I know how busy you are, I hope it's alright I'm moving this conversation to the top of your inbox."
  6. "Please don't feel guilty for not responding, I know how busy you are!"
  7. "Usually when I don't hear back from someone, it means you're just not interested in what I'm offering right now -- and that's O.K. ..."
  8. "I know your busy, I'll follow up in a few months to see if this is more of a priority for you."
  9. "I'm sure your inbox is crazy. Would it be better if I gave you a call?"
  10. "Since this is time-sensitive, I thought I'd reach out again."

Lay the Groundwork for Relationships, Not Guilt Trips

If the guilt angle isn't the right way to improve response rates, what is? In my opinion, salespeople should try initiating a relationship first. And in order to do this, reps need to slow their roll.

Instead of trying to get responses along the lines of “You might be able to help me -- let’s talk,” salespeople should aim for something closer to “I can relate -- I’d like to get to know you.” Build a relationship first, and then your buyers might actually feel guilty when they miss one of your emails.

Here's how to prioritize relationship-building in your prospecting:

  1. Do research. Just like buyers research vendors, salespeople can and should research their prospects. Most companies and many individuals publish information about themselves online, and review sites exist for almost every product or service these days. Internet resources aside, it's not too hard to talk to your prospect's employees, partners, customers, or vendors to learn more about them.
  2. Change your goal. Salespeople should send prospecting emails with the goal of initiating a relationship, not pitching their offering. Here are 28 email templates that will help you do just that. These templates don’t stir up negative emotions like guilt; they inspire positive emotions like pride and appreciation -- especially when you position your pre-outreach research front and center.
  3. Offer value before you ask for anything. Your buyers are overwhelmed and drowning in email. Want to build a relationship? Find a way to make their lives easier. Then they’ll be a lot more receptive to doing something for you down the line.
  4. Be timely and relevant. The beauty of attracting prospects to you instead of pushing your message onto them is that they're making the first move. It becomes your opportunity to respond -- not their obligation.

In that crucial first email, most salespeople try to snag their buyers’ interest by explaining the value of their product. If that doesn't elicit a response, many resort to guilt laden follow-on attempts.

But this strategy works only a small fraction of the time, and does nothing to forge a relationship between buyer and seller. After all, prospects don't look kindly on people who try to give them guilt complexes.

The key to effective prospecting is building relationships first. Initiate a relationship by being interested in the other person. Do your research and then write customized messages based on what you find.

Better yet, attract buyers to you through social prospecting, blogging, and website optimization, and then use that engagement to increase your timeliness and relevance, and ultimately your connect and close rates.

This quote from Suster sums it up well:

"My goal is not to make [people] feel guilty. That’s silly. If they’re important that’s the last thing I’d want to do."

If you’re overloaded and struggling to keep up with email, so are your buyers. Have some empathy, and put away the guilt. Oh, and stop using these other bad sales phrases, too.

HubSpot CRM templates

06 Aug 15:11

How Storytelling Can Power Your Success in Sales, Marketing & Beyond

by Devon McDonald

Editor’s Note: The following article is based on a recent episode of OpenView’s BUILD podcast. You can listen to the full episode featuring Andy Raskin, Strategic Messaging expert here.

It may sound cliché, but it’s also true: the world is changing. The traditional approach to telling your company’s story isn’t enough to make you stand out from the competition. So says Andy Raskin, a highly sought after consultant who works directly with CEOs and their leadership teams to develop strategic stories that play a critical role in powering success in sales, marketing, fundraising, product development, and recruiting.

I had the opportunity to talk with Andy about what he’s learned from working on projects for brands like Salesforce, Square, Uber, Yelp, and VMware, not to mention a number of OpenView’s own portfolio companies. He had a lot to share about best practices in the months leading up to and following a major rollout.

Story and Why It Matters

One of the biggest misconceptions Andy runs into again and again is that creating a story is a task often delegated to marketing, when in fact it’s much bigger than that. As Andy learned from Ben Horowitz at Andreessen Horowitz, story isn’t marketing, it’s strategy. And it will have a profound effect on your business if you’re willing to dig deep into it.

“When I first began working in tech, I thought of the product as the main thing you’re building and story as the wrapping paper that you put around it to make it look pretty and help sell it. Now, having learned from people like Ben Horowitz and others, I’ve come to believe that the story is the main thing you’re building, and the product is prop for making that story come true.”

The story acts as your north star around which to align your entire business, including your product roadmap, features list, sales pitch, and – yes – your marketing. Because story drives all these things, it can’t be developed in a marketing silo. Marketing has a large and important role, but the CEO needs to own the big story decisions because the CEO is the person who can say, “If we’re going to tell this story, maybe we need to build out some additional functionality” … and make it happen.

To sum up, story is not just the window dressing on your big idea. It is your big idea. It’s the starting point and the end game all wrapped up in one.

How to Craft a Story: 5 Steps

When is the right time to develop your brand’s story? “Typically, companies call me when there have been some signs of success, but that success has been driven – as one founder put it – by the ‘brute force’ of the founding team,” Andy says.

These companies are on the cusp of a new level of growth – moving from a stage where the founding CEO is in every sales call to a stage where things are starting to scale across the entire organization. These companies have also often hit the dip that happens after early adoption, creating fall-off and a trough that leads to an opportunity to build the strategic narrative for the first time. “At this stage,” Andy says, “they start realizing that their growth is dependent on having a simple and really powerful story.”

And that’s when Andy gets to work.

Step 1: Create Your Story Team (And make sure it includes the CEO)

Andy always asks the CEO to create a story team of four or five people led by the CEO. CEO leadership is so critical to the success of the story process that Andy turns down projects if the CEO can’t commit to being fully involved. It’s not just that the CEO is the only person with the authority to define a company’s high-level strategic story, the CEO is also the only person who can empower the team to make the big, hairy choices that great strategic messaging requires.

Step 2: Switch the Metaphor

“A lot of folks, when they think about the company’s story, boil it down to some version of, ‘Here’s why we’re great,’” Andy says. “But, you need to switch to what is happening in the customer’s world that is creating stakes, meaning, opportunity and risk.”

Andy accomplishes this by helping the story team switch from a doctor-patient metaphor (in which the company is the doctor diagnosing the prospect’s pain and offering products and services to relieve it) to a wizard-hero metaphor (in which the company is the wizard or wise man/woman who helps the hero – the customer – understand the true stakes and empowers them to take action). This approach allows you to tell a story that expands beyond the humdrum world of selling to pain so you can tell a more rousing and epic story that serves as a wake-up call inspiring prospects to buy.

Step 3: Figure out the Customer Story

Crafting the bones of that epic story requires a true understanding of the big change that’s happening in the prospect’s world. What has changed the rules of the game so that there will now be new winners and losers and new strategies for winning?

“We’re essentially attacking the existing narrative that exists in the customer’s mind. Because that status quo is no longer tenable.”

Andy uses a Star Wars example to help illustrate the principles of creating this new narrative. “There’s this great moment in the beginning of Star Wars: The New Hope where Luke has been bellyaching for ten minutes about how he wants to get off the planet, be a pilot, and have adventures. And then Obi-Wan comes to him and says, ‘Hey, let’s get off the planet. I’ll teach you to be a pilot, You can have adventures. I’ll teach you about the force and everything.’ And what does Luke say? ‘You know what. It’s getting kind of late. I have to go home.’ But then, the Empire bombs Luke’s home, killing his uncle, and Luke realizes that he’s now very much in danger and probably going to die. This creates stakes. Luke suddenly realizes that Obi-Wan is offering him the chance to thrive and prevail in a life-and-death situation. That’s a whole different story that will inspire him to act.”

Andy and the story team usually take a few months to talk to customers and gather input from the internal team in order to get a handle on the customer story. Interestingly, they only ask one question about the company’s products: How have these products changed your life? After that, Andy shifts focus to what has changed in the prospect’s world to create new opportunity and risk. He pushes past the usual pain point conversation – which is typically unexciting and therefore ineffective – so he can get at what’s actually at stake for the prospect. In other words, he finds their Obi-Wan moment.

Step 4: Build the Story

Early on, Andy took a unique approach to building the story. Instead of the traditional “messaging pyramid” or “positioning statement,” he uses the sales narrative – basically the sales deck – as the underlying structure for his messaging architecture. He uses this format because (done right ) the sales deck has all the relevant pieces of the story, which makes it the perfect foundation for other content like the company website, etc.

Step 5: Take Your Story for a Road Test

Finally, it’s time to take your story for a spin. Andy recommends taking it out on sales calls in order to get some real-world reactions and feedback. He also suggests having the CEO or other executives present it at conferences or other events where the audience includes potential prospects. By seeing how the story is playing with the audience, you can refine and polish it so it’s ready to roll out to the entire team.

From there, the best approach is a gradual rollout that lets you introduce the story to a few people at a time. The road test is the perfect chance to get some of your sales team involved, letting them weigh in, and giving them some ownership in the story. Integrating their experience and input will then make it that much easier bring the story to other members of the team because it won’t feel like something that was cooked up in a back room. You’ll be able to share what happened when you took the story out to actual projects, how prospects engaged with it, and how the story is creating results.

Tips for DIY Story Development

For companies who want or need to tackle the story process on their own, without the guidance of an expert, Andy has a few words of advice to help avoid common pitfalls.

Worth repeating: Make sure the CEO drives this process.

Having the CEO lead and own the story development process is especially important for DIY teams. This isn’t something that can or should be delegated. It’s that important.

Do the legwork to collect critical customer input.

“Customers will put things in a way you never considered,” Andy says. “When your team is thinking about going in a couple different directions, customer input will instantly make it very clear which one is the right one.” This isn’t a step you want to skip.

Don’t punt on the “promised land.”

The “promised land” is an element of the story that articulates the new-and-better future you’re committing to creating for the customer – the positive change you will make in the customer’s life. As an example, Andy cites Airbnb’s “Belong anywhere” idea or the promised land offered by a pizza place near his San Francisco home (a world away from the real pizza of his childhood home in Brooklyn), “Believe in pizza again.”

The pitfall many companies fall into is being vague about the promised land. “They say they’re going to create change, but they’re not saying anything specific about that change,” Andy explains. “They’re not really taking a stand; they’re just punting.” For example, we’ve all seen brands that promise to “transform” or “disrupt” their industry without addressing exactly how they’re going to create change. Without the how, the promise falls flat.

Be strategic about what you leave out of the story.

Probably the hardest task DIY story creators face is deciding what to leave out of the story. There’s always so much to say, but Andy warns that adding too much will drain the meaning from the whole thing. Helping the story team navigate the often emotional process of picking and choosing what to say is one of the benefits of working with someone who can bring a clear, unbiased outside opinion.

What to Expect After Your Story Launch

Andy typically sees improvements in three key areas in the months after he and a company team launch a new strategic story:

  • Sales teams become more effective. Conversations with prospects are no longer about the company or the product, they are about the change in the customer’s world and how that change demands new strategies for determining winners and losers. It’s a totally different – and much more successful – approach.
  • Investor pitches get better. Andy Wilson, CEO of Logikcull, sent Andy an email after their story launch and said, “Our recent $25 million raise from NEA was partially due to having a great strategic company story.” This is due in part to the fact that one of the first questions investors ask is the question of due diligence, and the strategic company story addresses that by talking to customers to find out why people need the product, what’s at stake, and how the company can articulate the promised land they need to deliver.
  • Company morale improves. A consistent, clear, and simple story with emotion and stakes isn’t powerful only with customers, it helps get everyone – including employees and candidates – on board. A strategic story makes it easier to sell your company to new hires and recruit the best new team members.

At the Heart of any Good Story is Emotional Connection

“Some people make the mistake of thinking that the story is about educating prospects about what’s happening in their world. That’s not what the story is. The story is telling them that we understand what’s happening in their world. We’re trying to show empathy and create an emotional connection.”

Prospects already know what’s happening in their world. Instead of trying to tell them what they already know, a strategic story helps you get to what Andy calls “that’s right,” a concept he picked up from the negotiation book, Never Split the Difference, by former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss. The technique is about using active listening – respectfully listening to someone and then repeating back a summary of what they said and iterating based on feedback – to elicit a “that’s right” response. Sometimes, the response is a head nod, and sometimes it’s someone literally saying, “That’s right.” Either way, when your story gets this reaction, it’s a turning point. It means your audience is willing to open up and talk about how the changes in the world are affecting them or their company. They are willing to be vulnerable and tell you what’s really going on. That’s gold if you’re a salesperson.

That emotional connection is the point of your strategic story.

“When you get really clear on your story, there are pieces that become the north star for your product roadmap.”

“But the guidance a strategic story provides about how to prioritize which features to build really comes from understanding, on a much deeper level, what’s at stake for the customer and the promised land – the story you want to make come true for the customer.”

The post How Storytelling Can Power Your Success in Sales, Marketing & Beyond appeared first on OpenView Labs.

04 Aug 15:29

12 Technology Categories That Will Transform Careers and Create New Opportunities

by Daniel Burrus

As technology continues to impact our lives, workers at every level in today’s ever-changing labor market need to be prepared with skills to adapt and succeed in the workplace.

The problem is, we live in an uncertain world, and because of the high levels of uncertainty we all face, people of all ages and career levels are finding it difficult to know what new skills to learn, what courses to take, and what degrees to get that will provide them with the most opportunity going forward. Uncertainty keeps us stuck in the present.

Certainty, on the other hand, gives us the confidence to make a bold decision, to move forward with confidence, and to invest time and money to learn new things. Over the past thirty years, I have developed a proven methodology to anticipate disruption and change before it happens, allowing you to find the confidence that certainty provides. This new science of certainty involves a scientific method of separating Hard Trends — trends that will happen — from Soft Trends — trends that might happen. This method is currently being used by many Fortune 500 companies, including IBM, Deloitte, and Pratt & Whitney to name a few, as well as the Pentagon to provide an accurate roadmap of the opportunities that are ahead.

That’s why I wrote my latest bestseller,The Anticipatory Organization, and why I’m now helping you to connect the dots on how the 12 Hard Trends driven by technology I outline below will transform every career, and create new ones. By providing an accurate roadmap for anyone who wishes to increase their personal career relevancy in a world of transformative change, you can make career and education decisions with confidence. The list highlights technologies that are now and will continue to transform present and future careers. As you read through the list, ask yourself how each one will play a key role in your industry and your personal career path.

  1. Mobile Hardware, Software, and Interactive Services will continue to rapidly evolve, creating many new careers, asall phones become smartphones, wearable capabilities expand, and our primary computer and tablets continue to evolve as our laptop replacement. This new level of mobility will allow any size business to transform how it markets, sells, communicates, collaborates, educates, trains, and innovates. Augmented Reality (AR)and Virtual Reality (VR) will become increasingly mobile, playing a major role in direct and indirect job creation.
  2. Remote Visual Communications is rapidly evolving into a primary relationship-building tool for businesses of all sizes asemployees use smartphones, tablets, and laptops, in combination with current enterprise-level video conferencing systems combined with mobile conferencing apps, to communicate at new levels with customers, partners, and employees.
  3. Social Business Enterprise Management will continue to grow rapidly as organizations shift from an Information Age “informing”model to a Communication Age “communicating and engaging” model. New careers will emerge as Social Software for business rapidly grows with applications to enhance relationships, collaboration, networking, social validation, and more. Social Search will increasingly shape careers as marketers, researchers, and those on Wall Street create applications and services to tap into millions of daily tweets, Facebook conversations, and much more, providing real-time analysis of many key consumer metrics.
  4. Cybersecurity and Forensics careers will grow rapidly as we become increasingly connected and dependent on computer systems and machines using intelligent sensors connected to just about everything. Careers in data and information forensics will grow rapidly as the need to solve cyber crimes increases.
  5. Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) will create many new careers in manufacturing as this revolutionary technology allows any size company to manufacture quickly, locally, and with far fewer costs. Additive manufacturing builds things by depositing material, typically plastic or metal, layer by layer, until the final product is finished. Examples of final products today include jewelry, iPhone cases, shoes, car dashboards, parts for jet engines, prosthetic limbs, and much more.
  6. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and AI enhanced Simulations, coupled with the Gamification of Education, will create many new careers as corporations and educational institutions at all levels accelerate learning by using advanced simulations, VR, and skill-based learning systems that are self-diagnostic, interactive, game-like, and competitive, all focused on giving the user an immersive experience thanks to a photorealistic 3D interface.
  7. Advanced Cloud Services and Virtualization will be increasingly embraced by businesses of all sizes, as this represents a major shift in how organizations obtain and maintain software, hardware, and computing capacity. IT is rapidly becoming an on-demand service that is rapidly transforming all business processes, resulting in a rapid evolution of current careers as well as creating new careers in every functional area.
  8. Big Data and Real-Time Analytics describe the technologies and techniques used to capture and utilize the exponentially increasing streams of data with the goal of bringing enterprise-wide visibility and insights to make rapid critical decisions. This new level of data integration and analytics will require many new skills and cross-functional training in order to take advantage of new opportunities as well as break down the many data and organizational silos that still exist.
  9. AI, Machine Learning, and Intelligent ePersonal Assistants (Chatbots) using natural language voice commands was launched with Apple’s Siri, which was rapidly followed by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others all offering what is rapidly evolving into a mobile electronic concierge on your phone, tablet, and television. The technology will rapidly evolve, and soon every profession from retailers to maintenance workers will have an Alexa-like assistant. Adding an epersonal assistant to support an existing product and/or service will create many new careers.
  10. 3D Web will transform today’s Internet experience (which is like looking at a flat piece of paper with a few photos, embedded video, and a few hyperlinks) to a true 3D experience, similar to today’s video games, where you can virtually walk into a showroom, look around, and both listen to and see the new car you are interested in, or whatever the website is trying to show you. This will employ many new graphic artists, designers, and programmers.
  11. Connected Intelligent Sensors and Machines using chips, microsensors, and both wired and wireless networks will create a rapidly growing Internet of Things (IoT),sharing real-time data, performing diagnostics, and making remote repairs. Many jobs will be created as we add intelligent connected sensors to bridges, roads, buildings, homes, and much more. In just a few years, there will be well over a billion machines talking to each other, and people will install them.
  12. Advanced Robotics and Automation will take a giant leap forward thanks to networked sensors, artificial intelligence, and Amazon-like voice communications, taking the next level of repetitive jobs from humans. This will create many new career opportunities from design, programming, and installation to service and maintenance to name just a few.

You don’t have to know the physics of a telephone in order to use it. You do have to know it exists and how to creatively use it to accomplish your goal. Don’t wait until next year or the year after, or until you’re laid off. Invest the time to identify what you need to learn right away so that you will thrive both now and in the future, either in your current career or a new one.

04 Aug 15:29

3 Strategies to Help You More Effectively Market to Millennials

by Miranda Marquit

YesManProductions / Pixabay

As you grow your business, one of the most important things you can do is tap into the millennial dollar.

But how do you market to millennials?

You probably already know that technology is an essential part of the equation. After all, millennials grew up in a world of technology.

But at the same time, it can be hard to reach them because they are used to technology — and often filter out more direct marketing efforts aimed at them.

So, how can you reach them more effectively? Here are three strategies that might help you in your efforts to get millennials on your side:

1. Make Your Marketing Interesting and Shareable

When you market to millennials, it’s important to understand that they trust people in their social networks. Because of this, your social media marketing campaigns need to focus more on providing something interesting and useful that people want to share in their networks.

It’s a lot like word-of-mouth advertising — but online. Look for ways to build positive buzz and get millennials interested in your brand by offering something worth sharing with their friends and other network members.

It’ll be more effective in the long run, and you might be surprised at the conversions you get.

2. Cultivate a Brand Image of Doing Good

I’m someone who is very close to millennials in age, as well as philosophy. I understand the interest that many millennials have in causes that go beyond them.

If you can show that your brand has a purpose beyond just making money and that you support worthy causes. You do need to be genuine, though. The reality is that millennials also value authenticity. So you need to find a cause that you truly believe in, and that can also be attractive to millennial sensibilities.

By partnering with a non-profit, or showing that you care by joining Pledge 1% or similar initiatives, you can show that you’re socially conscious, as well as a hip brand.

There’s a lot going on here, and you need to make sure that you’re paying attention to what matters to consumers as you work to connect with them, no matter the platform you use.

3. Use Multimedia Efforts

It’s also important to speak to millennials where they are — using methods they prefer. In many cases, this can actually mean video. According to research, most millennials look at video content as part of their research before making a purchase decision.

Don’t rule out using high-quality video as you put together a campaign designed to market to millennials. You can use good video efforts to reach millennials who like that type of content.

However, even as you put together well-produced videos, don’t forget about live video, which can also sometimes reach people.

And don’t forget about some other types of media, including audio. Podcasts can be one way to reach millennials.

While you don’t have to try to be everywhere and do everything, think about where your millennial audience hangs out, whether it’s Instagram or Snapchat or some other network. Also, consider what type of media works well with your product or service and make it a point to use that media to reach your potential millennial consumers.

Even though Gen Z is on its way up, the truth is that by next year millennials are expected to be the biggest consumer demographic. Learning to market to millennials effectively is an important part of you efforts.

04 Aug 15:27

Once Upon A Time: How to Tell a Story to Sell Your Company

by Kyle Crocco

Once upon a time your business climbed to the top through its powerful storytelling. People flocked from all over the internet to visit your website because of your moving tale. Inspired by your words, the visitors wanted to learn more about your products and services, and your sales skyrocketed. Since your products and service matched your great story, people were pleased with your company and eagerly retold your company story to their family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and to random people at bus stops, often interjecting themselves into conversations to do so.

As the story spread from person-to-person like a virus, more and more people used your products and services. Thought leaders, pundits, and morning talk show hosts took notice and talked about your company on television, blogs, and even in print magazines, spreading your story further and further, so that people who had shunned social media ended up hearing about it. Eventually, your company became so successful everyone could recite your story whether they used your products or not.

That’s the power of storytelling. And we can all learn it.

Welcome to Matthew Luhn’s storytelling world

When Matthew Luhn, a former Pixar story artist and animator of 20 years, was growing up in San Francisco, he wasn’t born a storyteller. Instead, he came from a long line of toy shop operators. His great-grandparents sold toys, his grandparents sold toys, and his father decided toys were cool to sell but being an animator at Disney would be cooler.

Matthew’s father drew and drew and drew—even while serving in Vietnam, but when he returned from duty, like a good soldier he went back to work in the family toy store to carry on the tradition. And there, his father’s dream of animation died. Then one day he became sick. And Matthew, a four-year-old, made a drawing of his father with a stomach ache.

Everything changed. Matthew’s budding talent inspired his father. His father made it his new goal to mentor Matthew to be the Disney artist he never had a chance to become. He showed Matthew how to draw, took him out of classes to see films, and even let him deface the Eiffel tower with his drawings. Matthew became good enough to be accepted to the prestigious school of Cal Arts, which had been developed by Walt Disney to train future animators.

However, Matthew didn’t get hired as a Disney animator. Instead, he was hired to be a Simpsons animator. While he was there, he stumbled into the writer’s room and discovered his true desire was not to animate as much as to create the stories he was drawing for. He also wanted to return back to his hometown, San Francisco. So when Pixar called to offer him a job on the very first computer animated film, Toy Story, he leapt at the chance to move to San Francisco to work for Pixar.

Matthew was one of the first 12 animators at Pixar—but he still ached to be a storyteller. So after he finished animating the toy soldiers for Toy Story each day, he would stay late to help create characters and draw storyboards for the story artists. Everything seemed on track for achieving his dream and entering the story department. Then Disney took one look at the first version of Toy Story, hated it, and pulled the plug on the film. With no film to produce, all the animators were let go.

Undaunted by this setback, Matthew found a job with a small animation company, doing storyboarding for commercials and animated TV shows. He struggled to pay the bills, working in the family toy store like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him. But anybody who has fallen in love with Woody and Buzz knows that’s not the end to his story.

When Pixar called to say Toy Story was back in production and wanted him as an animator again, Matthew boldly asked to come back as a story artist. Pixar said no; they didn’t need people in the story department at this time, but that they would keep Matthew in mind if things changed.

Matthew didn’t want to give up on his dream of being a storyteller. In the meantime, to pay his bills, he moved back in with his parents and even borrowed money from a friend to fix his car. Just when all seemed bleak, Pixar called again. This time it was for Toy Story 2 and they wanted Matthew to work on the story team. The rest is a twenty-year story of success working on films like Toy Story 3, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, UP, and Cars, among many others.

The best story wins in business

If you liked Matthew’s life story, it’s not just because it’s a good story, it’s because he follows successful storytelling patterns that he teaches in his new book The Best Story Wins: hook, transformation, universal themes, and the three-part structure of setup, build, and payoff.

His life story begins with a hook, where he develops his character, establishing his desire for storytelling, shows the complications along the way that interfere with his dream—which get ever more dire—until he finally reaches a climax and achieves his goal of being a storyteller for Pixar.

Along the way, the audience is captivated and moved as he loses his job and has to move home, but sticks to his passion for storytelling despite having no money. We all feel relief and happiness when he’s finally rewarded for his passion by getting the job in the end. However, it’s not just autobiographers who can use these storytelling techniques. Companies can use stories to increase sales, improve their marketing, and boost their brand. Leaders can use stories to become better leaders.

Steve Jobs used story when he introduced the iPhone. He hooked the Apple audience by saying this was a day he had been looking forward to for 2.5 years—he was finally going to introduce the iPhone. But then he brought everyone down saying all smartphones before this were dumb, emphasizing the struggles of using outdated technology. Then he brought the audience up again highlighting all the advanced features of this intelligent iPhone. And he continued to bring the audience up and down, showing the obstacles and how they were overcome, connecting with his audience through story—until he finally unveiled the phone, making an event so memorable, we still talk about it to this day.

And you can do the same. If you follow the methods suggested from Matthew’s 20 years of experience helping create hit films for Pixar, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll be telling your story someday to some random person at the bus stop because the story is that good.

04 Aug 15:23

Transform Your Tactical Sales Operations Group into a Strategic Revenue Operations Function

by Garrett Ryan
Nobody wants to be the bad guy.  Setting up rules and guidelines for the sales force to follow feels an awful lot like being a parent to a group of rowdy teenagers.  Enter this information here, follow this new process
04 Aug 15:21

These are the trends creating new winners and losers in the card-processing ecosystem

by Dan Van Dyke

Payments Ecosystem 2018

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

Digital disruption is rocking the payments industry. But merchants, consumers, and the companies that help move money between them are all feeling its effects differently.

For banks, card networks, and processors, the digital revolution is bringing new opportunities — and new challenges. With new ways to pay emerging, incumbent firms can take advantage of solid brand recognition and large customer bases to woo new customers and keep those they already have.

And for consumers, the digital revolution is providing more choice and making their lives easier. Digital wallets are simplifying purchases, allowing users to pay online with only a username and password and in-store with just a swipe of their thumb. 

In a new report, Business Insider Intelligence explores the digital payments ecosystem today, its growth drivers, and where the industry is headed. It begins by tracing the path of an in-store card payment from processing to settlement across the key stakeholders. That process is central to understanding payments, and has changed slowly in the face of disruption. The report also forecasts growth and defines drivers for key digital payment types through 2021. Finally, it highlights five trends that are changing payments, looking at how disparate factors, such as surprise elections and fraud surges, are sparking change across the ecosystem.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Digital growth is accelerating the pace at which payments are becoming faster, cheaper, and more convenient. That benefits both nimble startups and legacy providers that invest in innovation.
  • Mobile payments are continuing to take off. On mobile devices, e-commerce, P2P payments, remittances, and in-store payments are each expected to rise as customer engagement shifts from more established channels.
  • Power is shifting to companies that control the customer experience. As the selling power of physical storefronts shifts to digital devices, the companies that control the apps and platforms that occupy users’ attentions are increasingly encroaching on payment providers’ territory. 
  • Alternative technologies are moving from the idea stage to reality. Widespread investments in blockchain technology last year are beginning to result in services hitting the market, promising to further squeeze margins for payments providers. 

In full, the report:

  • Traces the path of an in-store card payment from processing to settlement across the key stakeholders.  
  • Forecasts growth and defines drivers for key digital payment types through 2021.
  • Highlights five trends that are changing payments, looking at how disparate factors, such as surprise elections and fraud surges, are sparking change across the ecosystem.

 

 

Join the conversation about this story »

04 Aug 15:20

6 Ways to Drive Revenue with Highly Relevant Email Newsletters

by Jared Evers

The world of ad revenue is changing for publishers. While ads used to be displayed primarily on media sites and on social media, they’re now displayed in email as well. In fact, email newsletters filled with ads and sponsored content represent a huge opportunity for publishers who want to drive revenue.

There are plenty of ways to increase revenue as you craft and curate your newsletters. You can get paid for your content via subscriptions, sell ad space within your emails, and host sponsored content—all with the aim of generating revenue.

Today, we’re sharing how you can generate revenue using your email newsletters. We’ll focus on three primary opportunities: subscription models, ad space, and sponsored content to highlight 6 ways to drive revenue with highly relevant email newsletters.

Use a subscription model

One of the most popular methods to drive revenue for publishers is to charge a subscription for content. After all, it costs money to receive a newspaper or magazine in print, and that method was translated to the internet long ago.

Even though we’re in the digital age, content subscriptions still represent an opportunity for revenue. But you have to create email marketing campaigns that highlight paid content to encourage readers to subscribe.

1. Balance freemium and premium content

If you’re using a paid subscription model, then you must balance what you give away for free with premium content. The goal is always to encourage more casual readers, those who read the free content, to sign up for a premium subscription.

One way to inspire the transition from free to paid content is to show the beginning of an article or post in the email body. This entices the reader and makes them feel like they have privileged access to the content.

After the intro or first half of the article has been reached, then a CTA is placed below, prompting to read the rest of the article by clicking through. Once the reader is on the website, the rest of the article is hidden until they sign up for a subscription. If the article is really good, the reader will hopefully convert and add to your revenue.

Another way to drive revenue is to offer a mix of free content and paid content. Your email could contain the copy from a free post, for example, then give links to paid posts either at the beginning or end of the email. The same effect occurs: people will see the free content and may be more inclined to click through to the paid content, thus increasing the chance of converting to a paid member.

Either of these methods can work extremely well if you have premium content. The New York Times does this to drive not only 12% of their website traffic but to increase subscriptions as well.

Here’s a great example of sending a free article, with opportunities to view premium content—which would require a subscription to view.

Email Marketing Content - Free and Paid Content

If you’re a content marketer or publisher, you’re probably already following one of these methods with your email marketing campaigns. The crux here is to make the content relevant. Using a preferences center to sort out types of newsletters can guide your content to extreme relevance.

2. Send automated content

Automation makes everything easier. Integrating your email marketing platform with third-party services will make everything smarter and segmenting easier. On the heels of talking about sending free content, it’s important to speak to using an RSS feed or blog integration to automatically pull content into an email template.

Most blog hosts provide RSS abilities, so you just need to pull the details from those and place it into a recurring email (see how here). Automatically push published content into an email, and then provide relevant suggestions based on the topic you’ve designated for that post.

By sending out content automatically, and bringing in similar or supporting content that might be premium, you can increase engagement with your audience, relevance with supporting articles, and conversion from the combination of both.

Sell ad space in your email marketing campaigns

Publishers and content marketers have long relied on print and website ads to create revenue. The world of ads has opened up to email marketing campaigns, potentially making your emails even more profitable.

There are a few models of newsletter ads that you can implement into your email marketing campaigns. We highlight more in our Guide to Cultivating Loyal Readers, but summarized below are some ad opportunities you can put into action today.

3. Create dynamic content banner ads

Banner ads have been huge sources of revenue on websites for ages. Now you can utilize banner ads in your email content to make even more from your email marketing campaigns.

The key here is relevance. We’ll continue to highlight relevance as we speak to other types of ads because this is hugely important if you want to get results for your advertising partners.

When it comes to banner ads, they need to be appropriate for the recipient. It doesn’t make sense to have ads for cosmetics in an email marketing campaign that highlights home improvement.

Apart from matching the content, it’s also important to match the recipient. Utilizing demographic information based on gender and location is a great start. You can tailor your ads to fit the type of person you’re emailing to. Going a step further, if you can incorporate these demographics with past campaign information—emails opened, content clicked on— you can begin incorporating dynamic banner ads based on segments you’ve created.

4. Send a series with next-step ads

Challenges and mini-series can be really successful spots for ads. These are series of emails centered around a very specific topic, like a challenge to “Lose 10 Pounds in 30 Days” or a series on “Planning Your Next City Exploration”. Series are typically sent at a different cadence than your normal newsletter, helping people hone in on these pieces, especially if they’re relevant to what the person is looking for.

Because these series are so specific, they’re perfect placements for relevant ads.

There’s opportunity at the top or bottom of every email in the series to include an ad directly tied to that topic. Using the two mentioned above, you could sell ad space to a company that sells at-home workout equipment or shipped meals that are low-calorie for the weightloss series. Likewise, you could sell ad space to hotels, printed guides, or city passes in a city exploration series.

Utilizing content relevance to drive your ad spots serves your email marketing campaigns in multiple ways:

  • Ad buyers should see better results
  • You can create more revenue because of better ad results
  • People don’t get annoyed by seeing completely unrelated ads in the midst of your content
  • Your content remains authoritative because the ads are relevant

5. Use transactional emails

Transactional emails, sometimes called “system-triggered” emails, are automatic emails that are triggered by an action, such as signing up for a newsletter, creating an account, or placing an order (see our transactional email post here). Because some of these emails, like welcome emails, have such high open rates (a potential 86% lift above regular emails), they’re perfect for ad spots.

Many retailers include promo codes in their welcome emails, offering a discount as a thank you. This is a prime position for a sponsored ad. You could offer thanks to the new subscriber by including an ad at the bottom that includes a discount. You’d probably want to stay away from purely promotional ads, but discounts can be viewed as gifts if positioned the right way.

Topshop – Welcome Transactional Email

Since welcome emails (and other transactional emails) get such high open rates, these spots should be sought after by your ad partners.

Host sponsored content

You’re not cornered into sending out your content exclusively. If you have a list of decent size, other content marketers might be interested in promoting content that highlights a product or service they’re trying to sell.

6. Sponsored content posts

In the midst of your content newsletter, there are definite opportunities to include content from other companies and marketers. While it’s important to maintain your brand standards, you should be able to incorporate other content and get paid for it.

Check out this example from Apartment Therapy.

Apartment Therapy – Email Newsletter – Sponsored Content

You’ll see in their list of content the promoted post in the bottom right. They serve up tons of great, relevant content, and include promotional posts in the curation. This example shows how easy and natural it can be for your email marketing campaign to incorporate sponsored content.

Notice in that same email from Apartment Therapy that they also include an extremely relevant banner ad. For an email comprised of content about home and living, a spray mop is a perfectly relevant ad to see. Relevance can lead to revenue.

Wrap up

The way the ads mentioned above become applicable and relevant makes them very natural to see, which leads to higher conversions. Higher conversions sell more ads, allowing your email newsletters to drive even more revenue.

It’s worth the effort to make these ads look natural in the lineup of your email marketing campaigns. If your readers are having a great experience interacting with them, you’ll be able to generate more revenue as your ad partners see the value behind those placements.

04 Aug 14:55

Website Design for Lead Generation: The Perfect Landing Page that Drives Organic Traffic

by Jaime Nacach

Website Design for Lead Generation: The Perfect Landing Page that Drives Organic Traffic

Generating organic search traffic is hard. If anyone tells you it’s simple, they have lied to you!

Consider this scenario: If your website is fairly new, all your content pages will take 5 to 12 months because they can rank highly on Google. It’s a fact!

Why? It’s because Google has to test your new content against the competitors’, in order to determine which one is most valuable and answers the user’s search intent (not query).

More so, Google wants to know if your content fills the gap that your competitors have ignored or missed out on — before they can rank your page in their top organic results.

Content Gap

It doesn’t matter how many links you build to your new pages. It may not rank in the top 50 either. Worse, you could get penalized if you attempt to manipulate your rankings with lots of unnatural links and not allowing Google to do their thing.

However, you can speed up this entire process by designing your website for conversion, and optimizing the landing pages properly.

The better your site structure, the more chances you have to rank high in Google search results pages and stay there. Let’s examine some of the proven ways to do it.

1. Target your personas, not search engines

Who are your ideal website visitors, buyers, and potential email subscribers?

These are the people to optimize your landing page for. Before writing your landing page, you should have a persona/profile of your ideal customer. Is she a nursing mother or a marketing executive?

Here’s a good example of a persona:

Persona

You need to list as many details about this ideal customer as possible. Then write your landing page as if you’re having a conversation with the person using their own terms and style. The benefits of doing this include:

  • Connecting better with your potential customer.
  • More organic traffic as they use conversational terms to search (especially in voice searches).

When Michael Karp wanted to write about how to fly a Quadcopter, he wrote a post he thought would give the user the best experience possible. This led to 20,314 organic page views in 6 months to this post.

Pageviews

In addition, the post captured 2,335 emails. You can never lose when you write to provide value for your ideal user — especially after mapping out your persona on a paper or using any of the tools out there.

2. Develop a hierarchy before you launch your website

A site hierarchy separates your website content and pages into levels and makes your content easy to navigate for both search engines and potential visitors.

You probably have more than a landing page on your website. These landing pages could be for different products or purposes.

Kim´s Restaurant

Will the landing page be a category directly from your domain name (for instance www.example.com/landingpage) or grouped under a product (for instance www.example.com/shoes/winter-shoes/landingpage) it’s meant for?

A perfect site structure will improve your organic listings in the search engine by providing site links.

Site links are basically the listing format in the organic search result that show your site’s home page and other internal and relevant links.

Copyblogger

You need to specify this hierarchy before you create your website. This makes your website more organized and easier to crawl for search engines.

3. Ensure your main navigation pages are visible in the header

Making your main navigation pages visible allows visitors to have access to the important pages of your website and improves the user experience.

Sales and Marketing Automation

What’s the most important benefit of having your essential pages appear in the main menu?

Well, in addition to the benefits stated above, it also reduces the bounce rate of your landing page as readers are able to visit other pages after consuming the content of your landing page. This tells search engines that your website has provided some value.

4. Adopt a clear and strong internal linking structure

Internal linking is one of the ranking signals that shows your website is an authority site. Linking your landing page to pages that explain some keywords about your industry shows your website is an authority on that topic and provides value.

Hence, better rankings for the broad topic. To raise the value of your landing page, link to important pages on your website, especially pages that already gain search traffic.

With the use of internal linking, the NinjaOutreach team was able to increase their organic traffic by 40%.

Analytics

Likewise, links from important pages to your landing page will also help to improve its performance in the search.

5. Use SEO-friendly URL structure to boost ranking

An SEO-friendly URL structure is one that includes your keywords rather than just a page number. Having important keywords in your URL help your landing page to rank for those keywords.

SEO Friendly URL

Avoid a URL like this:

https://domain.com/cat/?cid=7484

Instead, adopt a URL like this:

https://domain.com/wild-cats

This is because the search engine is able to read the URLs easily and understand what the page is all about. Searchers are also able to know what your page is about before they click the link.

Some of the best practices to follow for an SEO-friendly URL are:

i). Make it short:

Don’t try to add every word in your headline to your URL. Decide the most important keywords for your landing page and add it to your URL.

You can remove words like ‘the’ or ‘and’ as they don’t affect the meaning of your URL. Long URLs are usually truncated by Google which means some of your keywords will be hidden.

ii). Avoid repetition of keywords:

Don’t try to include a certain keyword many times in the hope of giving it a better chance to rank. This could lead to a spammy URL structure.

This is an example of a landing page with an SEO-friendly URL structure from AgileCRM. You can see that the URL only has 5 keywords compared to 11 in the headline.

Call Center Software

When you search the string ‘call center crm’ on Google, AgileCRM’s landing page comes at number #1. This is also a search string that has 1,000+ search volume per month.

That’s a decent amount of traffic to the website. This also shows the importance of an SEO-friendly URL.

6. Optimize your landing pages for long-tail searches

In most industries, today, ranking for the short and popular keywords may be almost impossible due to the level of competition. That’s why it’s a bad strategy to work towards it.

One other thing is that you don’t know the intent of someone searching for that keyword. For instance, someone searching ‘shoe’ shows no intent. It could be for research purposes or to buy or to get an information.

Sure, ranking for such a keyword will lead to a lot of organic traffic. But a large number of them will have a different intent to what’s on your landing page.

However, optimizing for long-tail keywords gives you these potential benefits:

  • Lower competition
  • A better target of search intent
  • Better conversion

Even though long-tail keywords have low volumes, they make up 70% of search traffic.

The Search Demand Curve

In a study by a New York-based SaaS company, Conductor, they found that in 9 months, long-tail keywords accounted for more rank movement than head keywords.

Keyword Rank

7. Identify and fix your website’s technical SEO Issues

As the popular saying goes, don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. But you have to be vigilant when it comes to your website’s SEO. Because many things could be broken while you’re ignorant of them.

What are the common technical SEO issues you can have on your website that can negatively impact your search rankings?

i). No Indexation:

If your page does not show up on Google, there’s no way you can get organic traffic from it. First of all, you have to know that your page is visible to the search engine crawlers. You want to be sure that your website is indexed.

You can do this for your whole website using the search string ‘site:yoursitename.com’.

This will bring out all the pages on your website that have been indexed by Google. You can also use the search string ‘site:yoursitename.com landing page title’ to see if your landing page is indexed.

Site moz.com

If it’s not, you have to check for the possible reasons and resolve them.

ii). Submit XML Sitemap:

This helps search engines to crawl and index your website pages. You can submit your sitemap on the Google webmaster tools or the Bing webmaster tools.

iii). Missing Title or Description Tags:

The title tag is used to indicate the overall theme or topic of your website. This can make it easier for the search engines when people search for keywords in that topic.

iv). HTTPS Address:

The https address shows websites that are safe for users especially if they take credit card payments. Regardless of taking payments, Google takes users’ safety as one of its ranking factors.

By July 2018, Google will brand every website using HTTP as ‘Not secure’ in the Chrome browser. This could only have a negative impact on your landing page.

HTTP Pages

v). Images Text:

It’s important to apply the alt text to images you use on your landing pages (and website in general). This helps search engines know what your picture is about when ranking results for image search.

vi). Rel=canonical tag:

Many times, it’s possible to have more than a single address leads to the same page. This can cause confusion for search engines and even if all these address rank, it would split the authority of the page.

Example

To avoid this, you use the rel=canonical tag to specify the preferred address Google should rank. With this, only one address builds authority and you avoid duplicate content. You can rank your page faster this way.

Speed

vii). Increase the Speed of Your Website:

Speed is one of the determinants of your ranking as it affects the user experience. Some of the steps you can take to optimize your site for speed are:

  • Use small image files
  • Reduce the scripts on the page
  • Reduce page elements

Conclusion

As Seth Godin said years ago, every page should have the same goals as a landing page. For every visitor on your website, they have to land on a page even if it’s not a ‘landing’ page.

A landing page should have an objective and be optimized to fulfill it as effectively as possible. Getting more organic traffic gives your landing page more opportunity to capture more leads.

I’d love to hear from you, which of these website design best practices have you implemented already? Feel free to share your results with us.

04 Aug 14:54

3 unexpected things that $9 billion Stripe discovered about why Lyft, GoFundMe and other online 'marketplaces' are so different

by Becky Peterson

Will Gaybrick Stripe

The marketplace economy is hot.

Just ask Stripe, the $9 billion payments company that has become part of the basic wiring for thriving online marketplaces.  

These marketplaces allow a diverse range of buyers and sellers to connect and do business, whether it's riders and drivers on Lyft's platform, or homeowners and furniture assemblers on TaskRabbit's service. 

Stripe's application programming interface (API) lets companies that operate marketplaces receive payments in their apps or on their websites. It's used by a range of companies, from Facebook and Glossier to Lyft and TaskRabbit — which means Stripe has access to a lot of data about companies' revenues and consumer habits.  

It's a booming segment that includes a range of well known companies, like the commerce platform Shopify, the crowdfunding site GoFundMe, the on-demand food delivery app Postmates, and the restaurant reservation company OpenTable.  And there are some unique aspects of the marketplace economy that can mean the difference between success and failure.

In research shared with Business Insider, Stripe looked at hundreds of these marketplaces running on its API over a two year period. It samples a span of companies of various ages and sizes, across different industries and geographic locations. 

These are the three key trends Stripe saw in marketplaces around the world. 

SEE ALSO: Cybersecurity company Tenable shoots up 31.5% to a $2.7 billion market cap on its first day of trading — here's what the CEO said about it

1. Marketplaces, no matter how big or small, experience a sharp revenue growth bump

Stripe found that the typical marketplace triples in revenue each year, regardless of its size.

This 300% hypergrowth, according to Stripe Chief Financial Officer Will Gaybrick, has been a long time coming. 

"In many ways this is inevitable because marketplaces are canonical of the internet," Gaybrick told Business Insider. But costs prevented all but the most well funded startups from building secure e-commerce companies for a long time, leaving marketplaces an untapped market, he said. 

Then came services like Amazon Web Services, which dramatically reduced the need for high-cost servers and databases, as well as companies like Stripe, which eliminated the need to build a custom payment system for each and every app out there, Gaybrick added.

"For a long time, it was pretty hard to compete if you were someone trying to enter the online marketplace economy because of infrastructural challenges," Gaybrick said. "I think what you're seeing now, which Stripe has played a not-immaterial role in, is the coming of age of marketplaces."



2. Keeping sellers happy is way more important than buyers

Seller retention is one of the most important factors in growing revenue, Stripe found.

Increasing seller retention by just 1 percentage point predicts 10 times more revenue than when buyer retention increases by 1 percentage point, according to the research. 

This means that one of the most high-impact moves a platform can make is to add seller benefits, Gaybrick said. 

One example of this is instant payment. Stripe found that 55% of sellers in marketplaces would switch to a competitor just to be able to get paid instantly.

With that in mind, the company built an instant payment feature for Lyft, which enables drivers to get paid for rides as soon as they are completed.

"If you're an Uber driver and you could go to Lyft and get paid faster, that's enough to make that switch." 



3. Being first isn't enough to stay on top

Stripe's research disproved the conventional wisdom that the first to market will own the business.

"Late comers move just as fast as the first movers," Gaybrick said.

Stripe found that while first movers often capture initial market share, that's not enough to maintain their lead unless they make further investments in the platform that keep them on top. 

Stripe thinks this is because marketplaces aren't exclusive, and many of the sellers that provide services on one app also provide services on other competing apps. Buyers can also test out multiple competing apps at no cost to themselves, and make a decision based off of which they like best. 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
04 Aug 14:50

Sales Leaders Focus on Others

by Mark Hunter

Real leaders focus on others. They don’t focus on themselves.

Recently, I was with Bob Burg, the author of the Go-Giver series of books.  (Yes, I strongly recommend you read every one of them.)  Bob personifies the leader who moves the focus away from himself.  Watch this 68-second video and you’ll quickly see what I mean:

 

Leadership is about helping others, and it’s about helping others in a way that lifts them up.  This is the same whether it be a person we manage or a customer to whom we are selling. The more we elevate the other person, the greater the receptivity of the message.  If you think this is nothing more than a “participation trophy” mentality, you’re mistaken.

It’s about finding the positive in what the other person is doing and building on it.

Sales and leadership are one in the same. You know I talk about the parallels between the two a lot, but as Bob says in the video, it’s about shifting the focus to how we can bring value to the other person.

When you get done talking to someone, can you clearly say you brought value to them?  Too many salespeople and managers leave this out and they make the conversation about themselves, whether it be an introductory prospecting call or a routine conversation.  The only conversation that will be seen as valuable will be the one where the other person walks away feeling they received value.

Sales does not have to be complicated when we put the focus 100% on the other person.  The prospect doesn’t care how great you and your company are. They don’t care what else you make; they care about themselves.

Be deliberate in your discussions, not with canned questions but with a keen interest in truly understanding them.

And don’t forget that a coach can help you excel in your sales career! Invest in yourself by checking out my coaching program today!

Copyright 2018, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results

04 Aug 14:50

Forbes Article Highlights What it Really Takes to Succeed in Sales

by Mark Hunter

I am pleased to be featured on Forbes.com, where I share what it really takes to succeed in sales. Bruce Weinstein and I had a great discussion, and I don’t want you to miss even one of the insights.

To see the full article, go to the link Want to Close More Sales? It Takes More than Charisma.

And don’t forget that a coach can help you excel in your sales career! Invest in yourself by checking out my coaching program today!

Copyright 2018, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results

04 Aug 14:49

Proactive Vs Reactive Marketing for Selling a Franchise

by Paul O'Brien

Every Franchisor is looking for ways to generate good quality enquiries and leads for selling greenfield (new) and existing franchises, but many Franchisors are still using reactive marketing techniques.

So why is this a bad thing? What is the difference? How can everything be done better?

After talking to many Franchise Recruitment and Marketing personnel, it was obvious that, unless their knowledge of digital and media marketing was extensive, and they had the marketing dollars to try everything out and confirm what worked and what didn’t, there was a major gap in understanding what was available in the market and what was essential for selecting the right mediums and how to make sure that a franchise recruitment and marketing team gained the best benefit from these services.

After talking to Manish Khanna, the MD of Netvision Digital Marketing, Business2Sell and Franchise2Sell who is using all forms of listing and digital marketing techniques for generating enquiries for potential franchisees for franchisors, we were able to put together a comprehensive overview and understanding of what works in the industry and how to gain the best results.

To understand this better, you need to firstly understand the difference between reactive and proactive marketing campaigns and how to use this for generating leads and inquiries for selling your franchises.

Reactive Vs. Proactive Marketing for Selling a Franchise

The question that you may be asking is, what is the difference between Proactive and Reactive Franchise Marketing.

What is a Reactive Franchise for Sale Marketing Campaign?

Reactive Marketing is using media methods like advertising in print media like magazines, newspapers, online listing websites, etc.… This type of marketing is placing an advert into the paper, a magazine or listing for franchisees on a listing website. Anywhere where you advert can become lost in the crowd and sales you are hoping for someone to come across your advert and then make an inquiry.

What is a Proactive Franchise for Sale Marketing Campaign?

Proactive marketing is using methods where you select the audience and place your advert in front of them, this can include everything from Electronic Direct Mail (i.e., E-mail Marketing, Remarketing Advertising, Pay Per Click (PPC) Campaigns, Social Media Advert/Post Campaigns) and Offline Advertising (i.e., Letter Box Drops, Catalogues, etc…). These campaigns go to the person and if done correctly, can be tracked and monitored to confirm the success of the campaign, and a cost per lead/conversion value can be worked out.

Competitor Research and Analysis

2 Essential Points For a Successful Proactive Campaigns

To gain good quality leads and inquiries and to reach the right people through this method, then you need the following requirements:

  1. The Right Target Audience – Analyse your target audience (i.e., the right people you are looking for inquiries from), this includes the following:
    • People who are or may be looking for a business or franchise,
    • People are reading/searching about your industry,
    • Understand the best age group and gender who are searching for these opportunities,
    • Confirm that the person actually has the financial means of buying or financing the purchase of your franchise.

This can all be obtained by the right marketing companies who either already has a database of similar people and inquiries or can research who you are looking for.

  1. Requirements for Advert for Conversion – You need specific content in the advert to capture the audience which you are after, this includes the following:
    • Images – Depending on your industry, you need to have the right images to attract people to look at your advert, things like mouth-watering food, attractive or interesting people in images, attractive store images, etc….
    • Readability – The easier the advert is to read, the more chance that it will be read from start to finish.
    • Size of Advert – As you know the maxim size of content and text, but remember that short is sweet, so make sure that your advert is
      • Structured,
      • To the point, and
      • Size of Advert/Listing – Long enough to get your point across and convert, but not too long that you waffle on and lose your audience.
    • Offering – Make sure and potential franchisees understand a basic overview of what they will get for their money.
    • Unique Selling Point (USP)/Point Of Difference – This is essential for selling a business of franchise opportunity, if you don’t let the potential buyer/franchisee know this then you are just another business which comes down to price point.
    • Call To Action (CTA) – You need a call to action, whether it be asking them to contact now, limited offer, limited position, etc. to give them a reason to want to click, rather than coming back to it.

Social Media and Google can identify the right demographics to searches. Companies have the information about their database to identify key attributes, so the right company and/or people can do this for you and make sure your Conversion Rate and Pay per click are optimized so that you aren’t throwing too much money at campaigns which don’t work.

Reactive Marketing for Franchises for Sale

Issues with Reactive Franchise Marketing for Franchises

This type of marketing is placing an advert in the paper, a magazine or banner/listing on a website for franchisees on a listing website. Anywhere where you advert can become lost in the crowd, and you are hoping for the following:

  1. Firstly, someone sees the advert,
  2. Secondly, they are actually interested in buying a business/franchise,
  3. Thirdly, they are interested in your business/franchise,
  4. Fourthly, they are the right fit for your franchise.

3 Essential Points for a Successful Reactive Campaigns

To gain good quality leads and inquiries and to reach the right people through this method, then you need the following requirements:

  1. The Right Target Audience/Readership – You need to have a media platform that is targeting your audience as follows:
    • People reading/ searching about buying a business or franchise,
    • People are reading/searching about your industry,
    • People are reading/searching for your opportunity, actually have the financial means of buying or financing the purchase of your franchise.

For every tick which you have above, it improves the percentage chance of finding the right person for purchasing your franchise opportunity.

  1. Massive Exposure – The higher the number of readers/visitors of this medium the better chance that you will have the right person read the advert. But you also need the following:
    • The Right Audience – As per the above points, an advert in the right medium and target audience has a lower requirement of exposure. i.e., you’re not paying for an audience who has no interest in buying a business.
    • The Right Advert – As per below points, the right advert will have a higher chance of converting. i.e., You get to capture the right person and make them inquire.
    • The Right Company – Make sure that the magazine/website owners are proactive in their distribution/listing methods. For example:
    • A listing website needs to monitor the adverts and cycle them – otherwise, they are a list which can have little to no exposure (no matter how many visitors) because the listing may be on page 67 where no one will find it, or
    • A magazine needs to either have paid readers (I.e., people actually buy the magazine to read it) and/or delivered to key locations (i.e., waiting rooms, hotel rooms, etc…). Distribution is no good if no one reads it.
  1. Requirements for Advert/Listings for Conversion – You need specific content in the advert to capture the audience which you are after, this includes the following:
    • Images – Depending on your industry, you need to have the right images to attract people to look at your advert, things like mouth-watering food, attractive or interesting people in images, attractive store images, etc….
    • Readability – The easier the advert is to read, the more chance that it will be read from start to finish.
    • Size of Advert – As you know the maxim size of content and text, but remember that short is sweet, so make sure that your advert is
      • Structured,
      • To the point, and
      • Size of Advert/Listing – Long enough to get your point across and convert, but not too long that you waffle on and lose your audience.
    • Offering – Make sure and potential franchisees understand a basic overview of what they will get for their money.
    • Unique Selling Point (USP)/Point of Difference – This is essential for selling a business of franchise opportunity, if you don’t let the potential buyer/franchisee know this then you are just another business which comes down to price point.
    • Call To Action (CTA) – You need a call to action, whether it be asking them to contact now, limited offer, limited position, etc. to give them a reason to want to click, rather than coming back to it.

If you have all 3 points covered by having experienced and knowledgeable content writers and research of marketing medium options, then you have a very good chance of success.

In Summary

There are a lot of things to consider when constructing marketing campaigns and the adverts used. It is always better to test your adverts and campaigns in smaller amounts to test for success before spending a fortune on a campaign which may or may not work, but in general proactive campaigns have a higher success rate than reactive marketing campaigns as they are more targeted and generally target the 100% who may be interested in looking at your opportunity verse the 5% who are already looking and where you have competition to work against to win the franchisee over.

04 Aug 14:49

Hit Your Mark With These 10 Actionable Digital Marketing Tactics

by Ibrahim Kareem

Online marketing refers to any form of marketing that happens on the internet. It involves a wide range of techniques and technologies such as social media, email, search engines and mobile devices.

The internet changed the way people engage with businesses and brands. Today, consumers use platforms like social media and search engines to research information about products and services before making final decisions.

For marketers and businesses, online marketing provides a great way to connect with customers and prospects through cost-effective personalised communication.

In this article, you’ll find 10 of the most effective online marketing strategies and tactics that work in 2018 and beyond.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a form of marketing that focuses on creating, publishing and distributing valuable content in order to inform, attract and convert prospects into customers.

Content marketing is one of the most powerful online marketing techniques. It has many benefits and can help you:

  • Build trust and rapport with your audience
  • Become an authority in your space
  • Generate leads and online sales
  • Reach more customers
  • Increase brand awareness, and much more

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO is an online marketing technique that focuses on gaining relevant traffic from search engines to your website. Some of the biggest search engines are Google, YouTube, Bing and Yahoo.

Every business or entrepreneur on the internet can benefit from SEO. Here are some reasons why:

  • Potential customers and buyers are using search engines every day
  • Traffic from search engines consists of people who are already interested in your products and services since they’re actually searching for solutions to the problem you solve.
  • An effective SEO strategy will save you from spending on paid advertisement
  • SEO can help build trust and credibility with your audience
  • For most websites, search engine traffic has the best conversion rates
  • It’s easy to track and measure SEO results

Social Media Marketing

Social media is the child of the World Wide Web. According to Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer data, the number of worldwide users is expected to reach some 3.02 billion monthly active social media users by 2021.

With such incredible statistics, social media is a powerful way to for marketers to connect with prospects and customers. It can help you:

  • Increase website traffic
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Gain leads and conversions
  • Improve communication and interaction with your audience

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies used to automate repetitive marketing tasks such as sending emails, managing a help desk ticketing system, managing some aspects of your website, managing social media platforms, customer relationships and much more.

Marketing automation improves productivity and workflows. It also makes it easy to measure your online marketing campaigns.

Influencer Marketing

With influencer marketing, you focus your marketing activities around individuals who have influence over potential buyers. An influencer can be a celebrity, blogger or a social media user who has significant engagement with their audience.

Here’s a good example of influencer marketing. In 2014, “YouTube celebrity PewDiePie teamed up with the creators of a horror film set in the French catacombs under Paris, creating a series of videos in which he underwent challenges in the catacombs.” The result? The content received double the views as the movie’s trailer.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most effective online marketing strategies. According to various marketing experts, businesses obtain a return of $44 for every $1 spent on email marketing. And in 2017, the median ROI for email marketing was 122%.

Getting started with email marketing is pretty simple. Here’s a general overview of the process to follow:

  • Plan your email marketing strategy
  • Choose your email marketing tools
  • Build an email list
  • Set up your email marketing campaign
  • Send your emails
  • Track and measure your performance

*Consider adding incentives for customers subscribing to email list.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is an online marketing strategy that focuses on reaching a target audience on their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. This could be through email, websites, SMS, apps, and more.

With over 80% of internet users owning a smartphone and mobile search queries surpassing desktop queries, mobile has transformed the way people engage with brands.

Here are some tips for developing an effective mobile marketing strategy:

  • Understand your mobile audience
  • Design your website and content with mobile platforms in mind
  • Make strategic use of mobile apps and SMS/MMS

Inbound Marketing

Hubspot defines inbound marketing as a marketing strategy aimed at attracting customers through relevant and helpful content. Inbound marketing involves channels like blogs, social media and search engines.

Here are some key benefits of inbound marketing:

  • Attract qualified prospects
  • Build trust and credibility
  • Much cheaper than outbound marketing
  • It’s long lasting

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a partnership in which a business rewards affiliates for sales or traffic generated from the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.

Whether you’re a merchant or an affiliate, there are many benefits to affiliate marketing, including:

  • Opportunities for partnerships and collaboration
  • Effective use of your marketing and advertising budget
  • Easy to track and measure
  • Increased exposure

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Most of the online marketing strategies discussed above are cost-free. Pay-Per-Click, on the other hand, refers to an internet marketing model in which you pay a fee each time your advert is clicked.

Some popular examples of PPC platforms include:

  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook Ads
  • Bing Ads
  • LinkedIn Ads

If you have the budget, Pay-Per-Click is the best way to get faster results. Besides, it’s cost efficient since you only pay when someone clicks on your advert, and it allows you to target effectively.

04 Aug 14:49

LinkedIn Navigator is Only a Tool and Does Not Drive Sales & Revenue Opportunities

by Ian Addison

Think about traditional email campaigns. Before LinkedIn, b2b firms used to buy “lead lists” to get contact info for prospecting. The conversion rate on these lists is less than 1%, which is why most experienced sales managers recommend against them.

Now, sales and marketing teams are using LinkedIn Navigator as lead lists and achieving the same 1% or less conversion. They may be expanding their networks and getting “likes,” but not closes and revenue.

Navigator finds people, not revenue opportunities….

Most experienced leaders describe how sales is a relationship game because it’s based on trust, and the fact that they all come to this conclusion is pretty telling in and of itself. Personal connections win, and this knowledge helps VPs and CXOs to screen incoming messages as “tells” of the relationship. Yet, when sales and marketing approach social media, they’re taking a volume based approach and forgetting that we need to make a personal connection to get senior buyer attention.

In speaking with the VPs of Sales at supply chain companies like CH Robinson and DHL, as well as technology companies like Oracle and RICOH, I’ve learned that sales teams are using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to build massive lists of prospects that they “think” they should reach out to in bulk, with template messaging, because they “may” need their services.

They are betting on “maybes,” pushing out content and messaging and trying to pull the leads in. However, sales shouldn’t be pushing or pulling as I mention in Buyers Should Be Pulling Sales Through the Buying Journey. Instead, we should focus our time and effort on creating real, personal, insightful social conversations with prospects, not leads.

A “lead” only becomes a “prospect” when Sales and Marketing can….

· Identify a differentiated value prop for a specific company (not just industry/region)

· Share specific commercial insight exposing previously unconsidered costs or risks

· Demonstrate your understanding of the buyers’ specific process gaps & impacts

· Help them think differently about how to solve their specific challenges

· Show the buyer how you’re different from specific competitors they’ll consider

· Provide emotionally charged stories with specific and personally relevant proof

· Quantify their specific pain, hard & soft costs, risk protection, or growth opportunity

Then, a “prospect” only becomes an “opportunity” when…

· We can “show, not tell” buyers that specific process gaps exist and are worth solving

· And the customer personally acknowledge their specific process gaps & impacts

This way your 1st conversation is on how you’ll close their gaps, rather than why they should consider a change. Following this approach from end-to-end also lets you continually accelerate by skipping unnecessary steps.

In short, treating prospects and opportunities like “leads” with a volume approach creates a win rate of 10% or less. Conversely, using a strategic approach to create trust through a personal connection ensures you touch only qualified opportunities with a reliable 50-70% chance of closing.

My grandfather told me years ago that haste makes waste, and it took me a good 30 years to figure out he was right. Sales, marketing and business development should not be using LinkedIn Sales Navigator until the right prospects have been identified. In More Leads Are Destroying Your Revenue Performance, you’ll see how taking the volume approach in haste creates unreliable results because the leads are not opportunities.

With the volume approach, it’s like we’re all so excited to go to the beach that we get in the car and forget our swim trunks!

Here are 6 ways Sales & Marketing can work together before using LinkedIn Navigator to target “opportunities” instead of “leads,” creating a 50%+ win rate on their top targets with a repeatable process:

1. Farm your existing account opportunities.

It’s not possible to segment leads, prospects, and opportunities until we understand where we win and where we lose. By going internal before external, marketing is able to create case studies & personal branding for sales leadership based on your past successes and target markets. More importantly, marketing can take the opportunity to uncover what value the client is receiving, what value they are missing, and what value the sales team is missing which can be used to increase margins or up-sell.

Per CMO.com, sales support falls off after the “buying vision” is created. Therefore, it’s a great opportunity for you to differentiate from your competitors. This is how regional 3PL’s and WMS firms edge out large networks like Ryder to earn awards from targeted fortune 25 manufacturers.

Because marketing is creating penetration opportunities that were out of reach for the past 3 years, the same approach is now being taken to expand revenue and margins with targeted distributors and channel partners.

2. Investigate your current LinkedIn connections.

Only after being armed with the knowledge of what our customers like about our service and what they don’t, we can now segment leads/prospects/opportunities and craft unique messaging for each showing our personal relevance to their needs.

Over the past decade, most executives and sales reps have accumulated hundreds or thousands of “dead” LinkedIn connections. They are referred to as dead because there’s been no engagement, and there’s been no engagement because the prospect couldn’t find their personal value if they were previously handled like a “lead.”

By re-engaging dead connections who did not respond to previous template/volume-based outreach, national companies like Schneider Logistics (TMS) have qualified – and won – multiple $500k opportunities. These went on to produce 6-9 month sales cycles rather than the previous 12-18 standard by avoiding unnecessary procedures.

3. Focus on your NAMED, targeted accounts.

Similar to how marketing should qualify prospects based on proven success, sales should also qualify the accounts that are most desirable to them. This guarantees absolutely that 100% of marketing’s time and budget are invested exclusively where Sales wants to progress. Sales can prove revenue through close rate and deal size, this gives the Marketing manager influence past “clicks and likes.”

Profiles, case studies, and personal messaging should be purpose-built for the named target accounts, which is how a 3-year old Los Angeles-based software firm contacted the CFO of GE Healthcare to replace Oracle as their order management platform. This prospect would be considered unreachable for any other start-up company, and the targeted approach has been used elsewhere to reverse a “no” into a “yes” for large awards like UPS and Agility.

4. Identify your similar opportunities.

When a concern, challenge or opportunity is discovered from a client or prospect, Marketing can research accounts which match their profile who are highly likely to have a similar challenge.

For example, when completing voice of the customer research for a 3PL serving manufacturing companies, we learned that a CPG manufacturer had a strong concern about the “On-Time, In Full Initiative” Walmart was implementing. They’ll be squeezing the profit margins of manufacturers by 3% if not able to maintain an 85% OTIF score, and we found their clients had scored as low as 10!

From this new view, we were able to identify other CPG companies like Unilever with a similar supply chain structure and delivery network, which are highly likely to have the same challenges.

5. Monitor your industry trends.

It’s difficult for one person to be in two places at the same time. While Sales is off building relationships and working towards the close, Marketing can monitor news feeds weekly to watch for industry-related changes or disruptions. This is also one area where Marketing can tap into “BIG IDEA” themes, as customers like to be kept up to date about relevant news.

For example, when Walmart and Amazon make changes to their business requirements, that causes ripple effects into their networks and vendors. If you can show specific companies that may be impacted how to proactively resolve the upcoming challenges in ways your competitors don’t, you will spark an opportunity. In addition to the immediate active funnel success, the topic was repurposed for outbound marketing which earned 12 new contacts at 5 new prospect manufacturers within a week.

6. Heavily screen your inbound opportunities.

Inbound is not to be forgotten! The real question is how and why they came, and here I advise you to step with caution. Unfortunately, companies like CEB and Gartner have described that 70% of inbound leads will absorb a sales rep’s time even when they have no intent to buy. For this reason, inbound should be handled by Marketing and NOT given to Sales until qualified.

By intercepting the inbound and qualifying for pain points, budget and other factors before a call, you can disqualify questionable opportunities before Sales spends time on the phone. This way, you guard the team against bad meetings as well as helping them to produce good ones.

Building a repeatable 50-70% close rate requires tight Sales & Marketing alignment.

With these processes in place, you’ll now have full scuba gear rather than forgotten trunks. By identifying prospects and opportunities versus leads, while using custom content to fuel personalized conversations, you create a direct connection between Marketing and ROI driving up close rate & deal size.

This is why Sales & Marketing need to work together to uncover the opportunities BEFORE diving into LinkedIn Navigator because we need the right stories, content, and messaging aligned with our personal brand and named targets to get past the 10% hump.

To see examples of targeted vs template profiles and content, you’re also welcomed to join my Beyond Lead Gen community.

03 Aug 15:37

4 Tips for Using Analytics in the Talent Acquisition Process

by Sandra Hess

People analytics is a hot topic in the HR industry today. In fact, a recent study of over 10,000 businesses revealed that over 70 percent of these companies consider the use of people analytics to be a major priority. Unfortunately, despite this high number of employers who realize the importance of using analytics in HR, very few know how to maximize its full potential, especially when it comes to aiding in the talent acquisition process.

What is People Analytics?

People analytics, sometimes referred to as talent analytics, is the process of analyzing valuable employee and/or candidate data in order to make data-driven HR decisions. HR analytics serves three primary purposes — measure the effectiveness of HR processes, evaluate current workforce performance and to recruit top talent. When used correctly, people analytics is extremely effective at tracking and predicting future performance of both current employees and prospective candidates.

Tips for Using Analytics in the Talent Acquisition Process

There are several things HR teams should keep in mind when integrating people analytics into the talent acquisition process.

Know What Type of Data You’re Collecting

The passage of the GDPR privacy rules in the EU is forcing employers around the globe to revisit their employee and candidate data collection processes. Use this time to review the type of data you are collecting, especially data that pertains to talent acquisition. This could include demographic data, such as type of degree, location and years of employment; previous performance data, such as performance reviews and customer service rankings; and pre-hire assessment data, such as simulation and personality assessment results.

Remember that it’s not necessarily about the quantity of data you collect, but the quality, and in this case, how you use the data that is important.

You also don’t want to sell yourself short by not collecting enough data. It’s vital that you look closely at the type of data you collect and make sure you are only collecting candidate data that will enable you to make sound hiring decisions.

Develop a Data Management Process

Collecting candidate data can easily get out of hand if you do not have a data management plan in place. Develop a process for collecting, storing, managing and securing candidate data. You may need to bring your IT team in to help develop a data management process that works best for your company, yet still protects the security of your applicants’ data. HR platforms, like ATS (Application Tracking Systems) software also can help manage HR data.

Application Tracking Systems software also can help manage HR data

Define Your Question

One of the biggest challenges facing HR departments is knowing where to begin. It can be difficult to find efficient ways to sort through large amounts of data. The best way to begin is to start by defining your question — what answers are you hoping people analytics to provide. Are you looking to diversify your workforce? Are you looking to isolate the root cause of attrition? Do you want to focus on applicants with specific soft skills, such as communication, empathy, leadership or adaptability? Do you want to identify candidates with specific skill sets, such as data entry accuracy or computer literacy?

Determine Solutions

Once you have defined your question and know what type of results you are looking for, you can start the process of building solutions. Find ways to utilize your people analytics to extract the data you need. For example, if you are looking for candidates with specific soft skills, such as decision making, you can use data from pre-hire assessment to identify ideal candidates.

With people analytics in place, you can stop weighing so heavily on resumes and start hiring candidates that are not only qualified, but that also are ideal for your specific company. Data-driven results won’t happen overnight. Instead, it vital to put a people analytics plan in place, measure the results regularly and make adjustments to your analysis processes when necessary. Learn more about how to integrate people analytics into your talent acquisition processes by contacting FurstPerson today.

03 Aug 15:26

21 Real Estate Slogans to Inspire Your Own

by Meg Prater

Real Estate Taglines and Slogans

  1. “Move to What Moves You” -Halstead Property
  2. “Your Gateway to a Richer Life” -Town and Country Real Estate, The Hamptons
  3. “Move/Forward” -Bond Real Estate
  4. “Where Dreams Come Home” -Coldwell Banker
  5. “Find Your Nook” -Nooklyn.com
  6. “Be Home” -Corcoran Group
  7. “Let us Guide you Home” -Compass

Real estate is a crowded field. But with the number of buyers purchasing homes through real estate agents and brokers growing 18% since 2001, there’s plenty of work for hungry realtors everywhere.

What matters is your brokerage or personal brand sets itself apart from the rest of the noise. How do you do that? A great tagline or slogan is the perfect place to start. Fortunately, we’ve gathered 21 of our favorites to spark your own head-turning idea below.

Whether you’re starting a real estate business or simply need to give your brand a refresh, you’re sure to find the inspiration you need.

Real Estate Taglines

1. “Extraordinary Reach. Extraordinary Results.” -The Noble Black Team at Douglas Elliman

You pay realtors because they have reach and proven results, and the Noble Black Team wants you to know it’s extraordinary at both. It helps that the results-driven sentiment here drives home the abstract idea of “extraordinary reach”

2. “Be Home” -Corcoran Group

This New York, Hamptons, and South Florida brokerage recently unveiled its simple, new slogan. It fast forwards our thinking past the open houses, packing, and moving trucks straight to the good stuff: being home.

3. “We Are Life Changers” -Halton Pardee+ Partners

Buying a home is a life-changing experience, so shouldn’t your real estate agent be a life changer? This simple slogan packs a powerful punch.

4. “Search. See. Love.” -Long and Foster

All they’ve done is outline what the homebuying process should be. But by stripping away the difficult parts so many of us dread, they’ve done the unthinkable: make homebuying sound fun.

5. “Full-Service Agents, Modern Technology” -Redfin

Over the last few years, real estate has gotten a reputation for being a bit stale and in need of disruption. With their slogan, Redfin clearly states they’re ready to meet the needs of the modern buyer.

6. “Find Your Nook” -Nooklyn.com

Whether buying or renting, finding the right place to live is a personal and unique experience. This trendy company helps New Yorkers search apartments, find roommates, apply, and pay. The idea of finding a nook of your own is one that many of us can relate to, and Nooklyn is smart to use it to their advantage.

7. “Expect Better” -Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate

Better Homes & Gardens encourages its clients to expect more from their realtor -- and promises they’re up to the challenge.

8. “Let us Guide you Home” -Compass

Who doesn’t feel overwhelmed by real estate? For many of us, a home is the biggest purchase we’ll ever make. Compass’ slogan offers the security we desire during the homebuying process: someone to guide us home.

9. “Everyone Deserves the Opportunity of Home” -New Story

This charity pioneers solutions to address global homelessness. The key to this slogan is that home is so much more than a building. It’s a place to feel safe, connected, and at rest.

10. “Homes that Match” -RE/MAX

At the end of the day, we want a home that matches our lifestyle. RE/MAX knows that and promises clients their agents are ready and waiting to help find the perfect fit.

11. “Our Passion is People. What’s Yours?” -The Boutique Real Estate Group

While their current slogan is “Inspired by purpose, driven by passion,” I actually prefer the older iteration above. Sharing your passion with clients and asking what sparks them in return is a wonderful way to get people thinking aspirationally and establish an immediate intimacy.

12. “Where Dreams Come Home” -Coldwell Banker

For many of us, buying a home is a dream -- and one that’s not easily attainable. Coldwell Banker’s slogan welcomes those of all budget’s, promising to help them achieve their dreams.

13. “Move/Forward” -Bond Real Estate

With every move, we want our situation to improve, our life to become better, and our home to become more beautiful. Bond captures the aspirational nature of real estate with this simple slogan.

14. “Your Gateway to a Richer Life” -Town and Country Real Estate, The Hamptons

Want to immediately dissuade unqualified buyers from engaging with your business? Use a tagline with a clear nod to your focus on high price points. It’s bold, upfront, and sure to turn the right heads.

15. “Authentically Orange County” -Seven Gables Real Estate

One visit to their website and it’s clear Seven Gables is setting itself apart by being hyper-local or “Seriously Local” as their homepage reads. Want an expert in the area? You’ll likely feel right at home with this company.

16. “Defined by Service & Expertise” -Long and Foster

Want customers to immediately understand your business values? Put them in your slogan. That’s what Long and Foster did. By defining what they’re about, they immediately communicate what their customers can expect.

17. “How Real Estate Gets Real” -Halstead Property

This tri-state area real estate company addresses the undercurrent of mistrust some buyers have with realtors and leads with a very down-to-earth slogan.

18. “Let Our Family Show Your Family the Way Home” -William Raveis Real Estate

A recent study by Credit Suisse reports “Over time, family-owned companies very structurally outperform in every region, every sector, and for small and larger companies.” So, William Raveis is smart to tap into our innate preference for family-owned businesses by leading with it in their slogan.

19. “Exceptional Properties. Exceptional Clients.” -Kerwin + Associates

Complimenting the client is always a good idea and Kerwin + Associates knows it. Their target audience is a luxury-seeking clientele, which is also subtly communicated with the nod to “exceptional properties.”

20. “Move to What Moves You” -Halstead Property

So good, they’re on this list twice, Halstead hits on the aspirational side of real estate with this tagline. Most of us have been moved by a piece of real estate. We see ourselves curled up by the fireplace or hosting friends in the backyard -- and this tagline tugs at those feelings in a subtle yet motivating way.

21. “Client Focused. Results Drive.™” -Dolly Lenz

New York City broker Dolly Lenz shares her commitment to clients and results with her real estate slogan. It’s simple, goal-oriented, and immediately conveys that her values are her clients’ best interests.

Choosing the right slogan or tagline for your real estate business can be hard work. Take a much-needed break with these motivational, relatable, and funny real estate quotes every agent should read. And once you’ve rolled out your slogan, share it with new clients. Here are 15 unexpected ways to generate real estate leads and 10 real estate email templates to use today.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

03 Aug 15:26

Dominating Your Competition Is Not a Luxury, It’s a Necessity

by Chris Orlob

Becoming the absolute leader in your market is not a luxury.

It’s a necessity to survive.

The old battlecry of “If we can get 1% of a $10 billion market, we’ll be rich!” is some of the biggest maladvice in business history.

It sounds so good on paper (the young VCs always think they’re going to make their careers with these investments).

But it’s not how markets work in reality.

The (brutal) reality of how markets work is if you don’t become #1 in something, you are highly vulnerable to being expelled from your market and left out in the cold.

You’ll survive on nothing but scraps (otherwise known as the “low end of the market”).

These are the economics of B2B markets: they collude around, and hoist up, the market leader.

And they shun also-rans.

For buyers, moving forward with the market leader is a means of avoiding risk.

In many instances, they are staking their reputations on the vendor they choose.

They get awful queasy with the idea of buying from the vendor who has “1% of the market.”

Why Market Leadership is Imperative in B2B

Buyers are inundated with choices in virtually every B2B product category.

Competition is proliferating.

Where a category was once “lightly competitive” years ago, it’s now swarming with look-alike alternatives.

Let’s take the marketing technology industry as an example of this phenomenon.

7 years ago, there were 150 players in the Martech industry:

That’s already a lot to sort through.

Despite that, competition has proliferated even further.

There are now 5,000 players in the Marctech space (that is not a typo):

This isn’t just happening in the marketing technology industry.

Competition is proliferating in almost every B2B category.

Your category isn’t going to become less competitive over time, either.

It’s going to become more competitive.

How do I know?

You’ll soon have to deal with global competition:

Soon, you won’t just have domestic competitors to worry about.

You’ll have to insulate yourself from competitors that come from outside your native country.

When buyers have so much noise to sort through, they default to purchasing the market leader.

They go with #1.

It’s the safe, proven choice.

After all, #1 is probably #1 for a reason.

Become #1 in Something

None of this is to say you have to be a “unicorn.”

You don’t have to overtake a huge, multi-billion dollar market (though that’s certainly a worthy goal to aspire to).

The idea is that you must become #1 — the undisputed market leader — in something.

But “something” can be quite narrow indeed, if that’s the scope your resources will allow.

It can be as broad as the #1 CRM in the world.

And it can be as narrow as the #1 Israeli wine provider in Los Altos.

In other words, you have control over the scope of your playing field.

But note that the broader you define your playing field, the more resources you’ll need to become #1.

A Unique Product is not Enough to Differentiate

However broadly or narrowly you define your playing field, relying on your product’s uniqueness for competitive advantage will get you creamed in today’s world.

The battleground for competitive differentiation has shifted.

Competitive advantage used to be a game of product superiority and uniqueness.

But given the explosion of choices in products I outlined earlier, that’s no longer a sustainable way to differentiate.

It’s just a ticket to enter the game.

In fact, focusing too much on differentiating via product features could actually have a counterproductive effect.

It draws your customer’s attention too much to products and features, which they are already overwhelmed by.

When customers are drawn to comparing products, they create the dreaded “comparison spreadsheet.”

You and your competitor are then pitted against each other in a vicious competitive bake off.

The “spec war” ensues.

You one-up your competitor with Feature A.

They match you, and raise you Feature B.

This dance continues until customers decide that you’re at parity with each other, and start grinding you both down on price.

The “winner” — if you can call it that — is the vendor who cuts their price the steepest.

That’s the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is the customer — in their confusion — makes no buying decision at all.

So, if it’s not product differences, what is the most effective battleground to differentiate against your competition?

The Battleground for Dominating Your Competition

Sales conversations — what your sellers say, do, and write during the sales process — is where the perception of difference is created.

Companies that are leaving their competition in the dust often have more or less the same products their competitors offer.

But they approach their sales conversations so differently that there’s not even a basis for comparison.

While their competitors are talking about their products and its benefits, these market-leading companies are telling a story about their customer’s business.

They’re talking about how the world is changing, how their status quo is being threatened, and how they can make good on these changes as an opportunity.

The only place their product has in the conversation is serving as a linchpin (not protagonist) in the story.

When you approach your sales conversations this way, customers see you as a strategic partner.

And they disqualify your product-pushing competitors early in the sales process.

Dominate Your Competition with These Selling Strategies

So how do you make sure your sales team is having great sales conversations?

It’s a big topic, but I can lend a hand.

Our data science team at Gong.io analyzed 24,077 competitive sales deals — and the sales conversations within those deals.

The goal was to understand how the best salespeople sell against the competition, according to the data.

We turned everything we learned — five core competitive selling strategies — into a webinar.

Register for it here:

Win More Competitive Deals with These Five Selling Strategies.

I hope you enjoy it, and cheers to taking your market by storm.

The post Dominating Your Competition Is Not a Luxury, It’s a Necessity appeared first on OpenView Labs.

03 Aug 15:22

The Secrets to Creating Winning Sellers

by Marissa Gbenro

As the B2B sales landscape becomes more complex, traditional sales processes no longer entice, engage, or win over modern buyers.

In order for sellers to remain competitive in today’s fast-changing business landscape, they must understand and adapt to new buyer behavior and effectively exceed expectations at every turn.

So, what are the traits that make up winning sellers? Let’s take a look at their anatomy and the steps that leaders can take to nurture more successful reps.

Proactive

Top-performing sales reps diligently plan for early-stage buyer interactions, which are key to establishing credibility. Given that 74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was first to add value and insight, this preparation phase is essential for laying the foundation for success.

Knowledgeable

Modern-Seller-Stat-Page12-74

Top-performing sellers in today’s B2B environment have one thing in common — they understand that modern buyers do their homework, traveling 57% of the buyer’s journey before interacting with a seller. As a result, buyers expect reps to be highly knowledgeable and provide new, insightful information beyond what they have already researched. Proactively preparing for early-stage buyer interactions is imperative to a seller’s success given 74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was first to add value and insight.

Responsive

Today’s sellers have to move faster than ever to stay ahead of their prospects and competition. Sellers who provide timely, valuable responses have greater success rates with today’s buyers. A survey conducted by Demand Gen Report found that 76% of B2B buyers said that a timely response from a vendor was important to their decision-making process.

Knowledgeable

Sellers can no longer expect that cold calls and trade shows will result in quality interactions with prospects. Instead, they must take an omnichannel approach to sales and meet buyers everywhere they are, wherever they are. Still using email as the primary modes of communication? If so, that’s not enough either. Only 22% of emails that are sent by businesses are opened, and 13% are deleted without ever being opened or read.

Modern-Seller-Stat-Page15

Personal

When stakeholders involved in a purchase decision are finally ready to engage with sellers, they expect to receive a personalized response with subject matter expertise. Research by SiriusDecisions reports that not only do buyers receive 22% more content from winning reps, but the types of content they receive are used to demonstrate industry expertise versus vendor expertise.

Winning Sellers Require Great Tools and Training

Content that is rich with value-added guidance and subject matter expertise has become the cornerstone of buyer and seller interactions. As today’s buyers conduct their own research and travel most of the buyer’s journey alone, sellers must be prepared to provide valuable content that maps to their stage in the buyer’s journey, almost immediately. The challenge? Studies have shown that sales reps spend 40% of their time finding or creating content. If sellers are unable to locate the content they need, they will not be adequately prepared to beat out the competition for the modern buyer’s business. As a result, today’s sellers require tools that will allow them to organize and find the content they need when they need it. With the ability to quickly find the right content, sellers can have more engaging conversations with prospects which increases the chances of closing the deal.

Modern-Seller-Stat-Page20-42

Today’s buyers expect sellers to be nimble and knowledgeable enough to immediately send content that is valuable, personalized, and aligned to their journey. To navigate these new set of expectations, sellers need access to guidance that is easy to use, dynamic, digital, and intuitive — such as a digital sales playbook. A study conducted by Aberdeen Group uncovered that 42% of best-in-class companies use sales playbooks, resulting in better attainment of quota, higher rates of customer retention, and higher lead conversion rates.

As modern buyer expectations continue to evolve, ongoing training and development become a necessity. A SiriusDecisions survey found that high-performing organizations were 56% more likely than others to indicate that training delivery and reinforcement methods are highly effective. This reiterates the importance of equipping sellers to learn and evolve with their buyers, allowing them to sharpen their skills while adapting to the business landscape.

If organizations hope to create winning sellers, they must first enable them with the tools and training they need to navigate the increasingly more complex sales process. If they are not equipped, sellers will lose to more nimble and better-prepared competitors, and high-performing sales reps will seek out new opportunities.

Check out the full infographic here for a breakdown of successful sellers and how they win over the modern buyer.

03 Aug 15:21

The Right Way to Spend Your Innovation Budget

by Peder Inge Furseth
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Walker and Walker/Getty Images

Innovation is famously difficult — many projects end up losing money, frustrating employees, and going nowhere. And yet corporations and governments spend billions of dollars annually pursuing innovation. This huge spending would generate more value for businesses and societies if the innovation success rate were just a little higher. Is there a way to increase the success rate without spending more?

We think there is. Innovation projects often fail because the resources are spent on the wrong kind of innovation. Too much money is spent on attention-grabbing activities that are straightforward to do, like hiring new people, procuring new technologies, and buying more facilities. It is much less obvious, and usually harder, to change the design of a current service system, introduce new customer experiences, or build a better business model — but the return on those investments may be much higher.

Innovation needs to be considered in two ways: innovation capacity and innovation ability.

Innovation capacity is the organization’s potential for innovation. This is the stuff that’s easy to buy, and that organizations tend to spend too much on: assets and resources. This includes technology and people, as well as tangible, intangible, and financial assets. Most innovation investments, such as product improvement, technological innovation, and research and development (R&D) traditionally aim at strengthening the innovation capacity of the organization. Today, every company, small or multi-national, new or incumbent, can obtain innovation capacity. People can be hired through the sharing economy; technology can be rented by the hour; finance can be sought for any prototype, and assets bought. But capacity alone is insufficient to create new, significant, sustainable value for customers — no matter how huge the capacity.

That’s where innovation ability comes in. This term describes the more difficult aspects of creating value, like new customer experiences, a revised service system, or new business models. An organization may have many people providing innovation capacity, but may still struggle to increase innovation ability, because capacity by itself does not invent nor implement a new business model or a better customer experience. Yes, an organization requires a certain amount of innovation capacity, but there is no increased value creation through an increase in innovation capacity alone.

We’ve come to these conclusions after completing case study analyses of a range of companies, including Nokia, Kodak, Borders, Amazon, Apple, and Xerox. Together, these companies have spent billions on innovation. But although the latter three spent relatively less on innovation, they spent their innovation budgets more wisely, choosing to invest in innovation ability rather than capacity.

Nokia during 2007-2010 was an example of a corporation with great innovation capacity. Nokia always offered technologically feature-rich mobile phones — in fact, Nokia invented the smartphone. Nokia actually offered a touchscreen smartphone two years before Apple’s iPhone. Yet Nokia hung on to the Symbian operating system despite knowing its weaknesses in the eyes of the consumer. Nokia did have resources to develop a new operating system, but chose to stick with Symbian. As a result, Nokia became less and less able to create new value. At one point Nokia manufactured 90 different mobile phones. Their functionality was developed slightly from one model to the next, but most phones were examples of innovation driven by the company’s innovation capacity. In short, technology was a strength for both companies, but Apple did a much better job connecting its technology to a service system delivering new customer experiences through a relevant business model. Developers outside of Apple were allowed to sell apps through iTunes and the App Store. Apple kept 30% of the sales made by outside developers. The huge number of apps created provided customers with a very wide selection of new customer experiences.

Nokia launched the OVI Store globally in May 2009. The company was however unable to match the service system provided by the iPhone in combination with iTunes and the thousands of applications that had already been developed. The then Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was quoted in Wired of February 2011 stating: “The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience.” The Ovi Store was discontinued in 2015.

Kodak is another example of a company that spent most of its resources on drivers of innovation capacity. The company famously spent over four billion dollars developing the digital camera, but chose not to develop a new business model to convert that innovation capacity into innovation ability — and as a result, failed to capture the value of what they’d invented. By contrast, Xerox invested in customer experiences, creating increased value for customers by expanding its platform, resulting in increased revenues. As Xerox’s CEO Anne Mulcahy said in the Dean’s Innovative Leader Series at MIT in 2006: “In trying to rebound, we spent the vast majority of our time talking to customers.”  By 2011, two-thirds of Xerox’s revenues came from products or services it had introduced within the last two years. Put simply, Xerox embraced the digital era and developed a host of technologies enabling the firm’s ability to transform to a services business . Kodak — in contrast — tried to delay that transformation as long as possible, avoiding developing its service system, customer experiences, and business model.

Three lessons for value creation emerge here.

First, organizations should spend less on building the capacity for innovation. In other words, even if your organization increases the number of people working on innovation initiatives by 10% or even 20% — while at the same time no other changes are made internally — there is simply no legitimate reason to believe that the organization will create even greater value.

Second, to succeed with innovation initiatives, corporations need to consider the value drivers that change through innovation ability — the business model, customer experiences, and the service system. Even if an organization has a new idea, a new technology,  a new product, or a new service, none of these will necessarily increase the  organization’s innovation success rate unless innovation ability changes one or more of the value drivers.

Finally, the thinking and practice of innovation should start from the premise that successful innovation is driven by the shared value created. Innovation should be value-driven; corporations, and governments, need to create value for a network of stakeholders: customers, suppliers, and the firm — maximizing value solely for the owners is not enough.

A corporation can have the same idea, product, service or technology as its main competitor, but to win in the marketplace it must develop a new business model, customer experience, or service system that will put that new idea, product, or technology to use.

03 Aug 15:21

Chinese tech stocks tumble from more than just trade tensions

by John Artman

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on TechNode, an editorial partner of TechCrunch based in China.

Reports of trade tensions between China and the US in the past few months have been hard to ignore. In early July, the US imposed $34 billion on Chinese goods, prompting the Shenzhen Component Index, dominated by technology and consumer product stocks, to fall to its lowest point since 2014, igniting fears among investors.

“The U.S. tariffs, coupled with a falling yuan, will significantly increase the cost for many Chinese technology companies that rely on imported raw materials, such as semiconductors, integrated circuits, and electric components,” Zhang Xia, an analyst for China Merchants Bank Securities, told the South China Morning Post.

Additionally, the U.S. commerce department announced yesterday it will place an embargo on 44 Chinese companies—including the world’s largest surveillance equipment manufacturer Hikvision—for “acting contrary to the national interests or foreign policy of the United States.” The move caused the companies’ share prices to fall by nearly six percent.

However, the focus has shifted to more than just the trade war. And a number of big Chinese tech companies have seen their share prices plummet for other reasons.

Pinduoduo, China’s latest e-commerce giant to list on the Nasdaq, found that an initial public offering (IPO) is not a panacea. Conversely, its listing has drawn attention to the company’s counterfeit products. And investors are not happy.

Tencent’s shares have nosedived by over 25 percent since its peak in January, erasing $143 billion in market value over the past seven months.

Search giant Baidu also hasn’t been immune. The company’s stock price dropped by nearly 8 percent this week following news that Google plans to re-enter the Chinese market.

Government crackdowns

While IPOs are usually a cause for celebration, Pinduoduo has proven this past week they can also be bad for business. The company—which has integrated e-commerce and social media—caters to low-income consumers living outside first and second-tier cities. It has been plagued by accusations of facilitating the sale of counterfeit low-quality goods.

Just days after going public, its share price tumbled by 16 percent, falling below its offer price of $19. The drop was, in part, initiated by requests made by television maker Skyworth to remove counterfeit listings of its products from the e-commerce firm’s marketplace.

The company announced (in Chinese) this week that it had removed 10.7 million listings of problematic goods. However, this did little to assuage concerns from investors and regulators after the latter launched an inquiry into Pinduoduo’s product listings. Its stock price dropped to 30 percent below its closing price on its first day of trading, wiping out over $9 billion in value.

This is unlikely to be helped by the fact that seven U.S. law firms have launched investigations into the company on behalf of its investors. The statement issued by the firms shows that investors suffered financial losses after Chinese regulators began looking into the company’s dealings. The company met today with regulators and agreed to improve its products’ vetting procedures.

However, it’s not only e-commerce platforms that have been affected. Video streaming service Bilibili has seen its stock price drop by almost 21 percent since July 20. The decline comes amid renewed efforts led by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) to crack down on what it deems to be “vulgar” or “inappropriate” content.

The company has subsequently had its app removed from app stores in the country for one month. Nasdaq-listed Bilibili responded by saying it is “in deep self-review and reflection.”

Screenshot of the drop in Bilibili’s stock price. Accessed August 3, 2018

Rumored competition

Baidu, which runs China’s biggest search engine, found that even unconfirmed competition can cause stocks to tumble. In a move which could mark its re-entry into the Chinese market, news broke this week that Google has plans to launch an Android app that could provide filtered results to users in China.

Baidu currently commands nearly 70 percent of China’s search market. Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010 over censorship concerns, giving up access to a vast market. China’s online population now exceeds 770 million, double the entire populace of the U.S. and more than that of Europe.

Baidu’s income is still highly dependant on ad revenue, which increased by 25 percent in the second quarter. Google’s return is clearly seen as a threat, causing Baidu’s stock price to fall from $247.18 on July 31 to $226.83 on August 2. This marks the most significant fall since the company announced the departure of its chief operating officer Lu Qi in May.

Steady decline

Nonetheless, all these losses seem insignificant in comparison to Tencent’s. The company saw its stock price increase by 114 percent in 2017, reaching a record high in January 2018. However, since then, the price has dropped by nearly $130 per share, eviscerating a considerable portion of its market value. In July alone, its stock price fell by 9.9 percent. The company’s devaluation tops Facebook’s $130 billion rout following its earnings call last month.

In April, the company lost over $20 billion in value after South African investment and media firm Naspers — an early and loyal backer — announced it was trimming its stake by two percent. Additionally, Martin Lau, the company’s president, sold one million of his shares in the company. This, added to the Naspers sale and warnings of margin pressure, led to a loss of $51 billion in market value.

“Investors are increasingly pricing in lower expectations for Tencent’s interim results,” Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg.

Yip expects the downward trend to continue, and not just for Tencent. “Overall, tech companies are facing a similar problem. They have been enjoying fast profit growth in the past few years, so it will be difficult for them to maintain similar growth in the future as the competition grows and some segments are saturated,” he said.

03 Aug 15:18

The Ultimate Guide to a Perfect Social Media Strategy

by Greetje den Holder

According to CoSchedule, marketers who document strategies are 538% more likely to report success, those who document processes are 466% more likely to be successful, and 88% of marketers who set goals actually achieve them. That is why you need a documented social media strategy. Creating a documented social media strategy focused on processes and goals will improve your results. Below, Julie Neidlinger, Aleh Barysevich, and Ian Heinig give you everything you need to plan your work and work your plan.

‘The Ultimate Guide to a Perfect Social Media Strategy’ Marketers who document strategies are 538%25 more likely to report success, those who document processes are 466%25 more likely to be successful, and 88%25 of marketers who set goals actually achieve them. That is why you need a documented social media strategy focused on processes and goals. It will improve your results. Here, you will find everything you need to plan your work and work your plan: http://bit.ly/UltSMS

What is a social media strategy and what tools do you need?

Neidlinger uses the following definition: a social media strategy documents how a business or organization will plan, execute, and measure all social media marketing activities. She recommends using the following types of tools:

  • Social media calendar. Planning and executing your strategy on one central calendar makes it easy to see all your social media posts alongside your other content and projects.
  • Curation tools. These make it easy to curate content and fill gaps on your calendar.
  • Google Analytics. You will use this to gather data on your social media referral traffic to find where your audience is most active.
  • In-app analytics. Each of the top social media networks features robust analytics full of useful audience and performance data.

That is all you need to put this blog post into practice. It is time to get started.

Social media strategy step 1: Choose your social networks

What networks should you be on? Should you have multiple social media accounts for certain networks? Here, you will find your answers.

1. Discover where your audience is

You should be on the same networks as your audience. Throwing content at channels where your audience is inactive is about as effective as shouting your message in a crowded room. Make a list of three to five networks that are clearly popular with your audience. Do not put more on your list. Remember, you are going to have to maintain content on these.

To boost your audience understanding, you need to conduct research and the more data you have the better. You can use focus groups, surveys, and other tools, but the beautiful thing about social media is that you have a rich survey database right at the tip of your fingers.

2. Research your competitors’ social networks to find their largest followings

You and your competitors are after the same audience on social media. Choose five to ten competitors and search for them on all the major social networks. Write down their number of followers on each network to understand on which social networks your own audience may be most active.

3. Analyze what works for your competition

The next step is to monitor your competitor’s social engagement. Figure out which types of content appear to be working best. Look for posts that are grabbing the attention of your competitor’s fans. That could mean:

  • Types of media
    Do videos or images appear to do well?
  • Voice and tone
    What types of messages appear to perform best?
  • Types of messages
    Do questions seem to be working? What about jokes? Branded slogans? Motivational quotes?

Social media listening can come in handy here. If you create an alert with your competitors’ brand name, you will be able to see their activity as well as what people are saying about them as it happens.

4. Experiment with paid promotion to target your audience on all networks

Another way to find your audience is to experiment with paid promotion. All of the major social networks offer advanced targeting in exchange for payment. As a test, you could set up social profiles for every network and use their native paid promotion capabilities to find your audience. Review the results of each networks’ analytics and continue using the channels with the biggest results.

5. Analyze your social media demographics on each channel

Different social networks may attract different demographics who are still part of your target audience. It is important to identify those differences so you can adjust your content based on what your target audience wants to see on each channel.

Find your own preferred networks

Once you know where your audience is, hold those networks up against a list of qualifications to see how high they should be in your list of networks to focus on. For instance, you should find a network that connects with scheduling tools. Isolated networks are only going to add to your workload because you cannot consolidate your efforts with tools. Find at least a few key social networks that connect with the tools you are already using to help reduce workload.

Social media strategy step 2: Plan the content you will share

You do your best to capitalize on your strengths when it comes to setting up your blogging methodology. You should do the same for your social media strategy.

1. What are your topics of expertise?

If you have done your homework right, your content marketing is highly focused on the topics your audience cares about, and the social activity from your own content will reflect that.

Curation of outside content is where some of us go off the rails with on-topic social content. It is easy to forget that your own personal interests outside of your audience niche may not be really relevant for your branded social media properties unless you are a celebrity of some sort.

Write down, in one sentence, what your brand is about. Make it general and then, break it down into sub-topics. This list should look very much like the categories you use on your blog, and all curated content should be held up against this list to see if it fits. If you find content you want to share that does not fit, then put it over on a personal profile.

2. Understand why people follow you on social media

It is important to know why people choose to follow you. Create a survey link and ask your audience why they follow your social media channels. This could be through an email or you could include the link in a social media post. Your social media content should target the intersection of your brand or blog’s purpose and what your audience cares about.

3. Plan your curated content

This is more ongoing than the previous two. You will regularly be sharing outside content and so you need to actively plan where and when you will publish that. Remember to stick to your topic. If you use an RSS reader, consciously collect feeds that fit your categories. Then, plan a content curation schedule.

Social media strategy step 3: Plan the content you will create

1. Find your content creation strengths

If you do not have the equipment for making great videos, YouTube is probably not the place for you. Ask yourself questions that help you discover what you are best at creating. The idea here is to find your natural strengths, both in talent and resources, when it comes to the content you can create for social media.

  • What apps and software do you have access to for creating content?
  • Are you a better writer or designer? Or could you try your hand at recording video instead?
  • Do you have other team members who can help you out with your weak spots, or are you flying solo?
  • What social media do you enjoy yourself? Do you find yourself mimicking it easily?
  • Do you have a sense of humor? Are you more about being helpful?

2. Establish your writing voice and tone

Think of brand voice as your personality and tone as your emotion.

Consumers want to follow a brand that is authentic and cool. Use storytelling to forge an emotional connection with followers and develop a value-driven relationship. Find a branded voice that resonates with your audience. The challenge is to align your brand’s personality with each platform. To create a seamless cross-channel experience, develop a theme for your content and tweak your tone.

3. Plan your imagery

Social networks are heavily image-driven, so you will need to plan to include some. If you have determined that creating imagery is not your strength or you do not have the expensive tools or access to a professional designer, you can create great images using tools like Canva.

4. Plan your campaigns

Social media, particularly if planned on an editorial calendar with other content, will have campaigns. They might be centered around events, holidays, promotions, Twitter chats or a random whim but you will have campaigns.

Social media strategy step 4: Define your goals

What is it you want to accomplish with social media? Generate leads? Grow sales? Provide customer service? Improve brand awareness? Enhance customer loyalty and retention? Not everyone wants the exact same results from social media and knowing this beforehand matters. Write down what you want in general and then specifically.

This is what you will use to actually measure whether or not you are hitting that big picture goal, and it is also what you will adjust and use for A/B testing, increasing the measurable goal, and so on.

Until you define your goals, you do not have any. Until you understand your ultimate destination, you will end up anywhere. And until you get a specific measurement to use, you will not know what adjustments to make along the way.

Do not focus on vanity metrics though. You may want to reach a thousand followers in two months and get around eighty likes on average. However, for your brand, the most important metric is engagement. The number of people leaving comments or clicking on your links is much more important than the number of likes you receive.

All three steps (defining a goal, painting the big picture, listing the specifics) are necessary.

· Identifying business objectives

The first step in your goal setting process should be to determine your business objectives. These are overarching benefits to your business that social media marketing can help achieve.

· Determine your social media goals

Now that you know what your business objectives are, you need to figure out how the social media goals you are going to set will help affect your business objectives.

· Set KPIs and goals for every social media channel

Social Media KPIs are the most important social media metrics that are closest to your business objectives and Social Media Goals are the specific numbers you want to hit for each KPI.

Social media strategy step 5: Make your social media schedule and promotion plan

Now that you know what networks you will be on and the ways you will be using them, it is time to make the plan. Use an editorial calendar for planning your social media. It is the best way to make sure everything happens when and how you want them to.

· Plan how often you will share every day

As you get started, it is good to understand your commitment and how you will post consistently to grow your following. This data will help you know exactly how often to post to each of your networks:

  • Facebook: one post a day, curate one every other day
  • Twitter: fifteen tweets a day, curate seven tweets per day
  • LinkedIn: one post a day, curate one every other day
  • Pinterest: eleven Pins a day, Repin at least five Pins per day
  • Google+: two posts a day, curate one every other day
  • Tumblr: two posts a day, reblog one every other day
  • Instagram: one or two posts a day, curate one a day

· Outline your content sharing plan

Set up a social media publishing plan to help you share a specific piece of content the best way possible, taking into account social network norms for sharing the same piece more than once. Publishing more than once is the best approach, particularly for a network like Twitter. Some news feeds cycle quickly (like Facebook and Twitter), while other networks (like Pinterest) function less like a flowing river and more like a bulletin board where people bring old things to the top again on their own.

· Plan your budget

Successful (and serious) social media strategy must include a budget to promote your posts on social networks. However, going into any expenditure without knowing where the budget line is drawn is a super bad idea.

You might be new to paying for social content and have no real idea what it will cost. That is fine! Simply start with an amount you are able to absorb into your content marketing budget and begin learning. As you figure out what works on each network, you will use your budget better than you do at the start. First, you have to start, though, and set a limit. Once you hit the limit, evaluate. Check what has happened against the goals you set earlier.

Content inspiration

You want to plan digital content efficiently but it is not always an easy task and it can be a very time-consuming process. After all, you want to present your audience with high-quality content on a regular basis. How can you best do this? In How to Plan Digital Content Like a Professional, you will find several steps and tools that can help you.

Finding inspiration for your content creation can be a little tricky and writing may sometimes feel like an obligation. If you are hitting the wall with your content schedule, do not worry too much. Even if you feel uninspired, there are easy ways to get inspired again. How to Find Inspiration for Content Creation When You Are Tired shows you how.

03 Aug 15:18

3 Steps to Generating More Leads

by Justine Jahnke

Free-Photos / Pixabay

If your ideal customers are already visiting your website: Bravo! Now it’s time to turn them into leads and get them on your email list.

We have a three-step strategy which will help you generate the leads your sales team needs for some quick wins. Combine these tips with our inbound marketing best practices and you’ll be keeping your sales team fed.

1.Create Valuable Low Commitment Content Offers

To start generating leads from your website you need to create a content offer that your ideal buyers will find valuable and thoughtful, and make it as easy as possible for them to download.

According to HubSpot, the best performing offers are:

  1. Ebooks or Guides
  2. Templates or Presentations
  3. Research or Reports

One of our clients, a bulletproof glass manufacturer, has had amazing success with their guide, The 8 Levels of Bullet Resistance.

In the duration of one year their downloadable guide:

  • Drove over 1,400 views to their website
  • Generated 477 new contacts
  • Brought in 10 new customers

You are the expert in your company, take your knowledge and whip out an awesome product guide or industry insider ebook. If your are stuck, talk to your current customers, get feedback from them on what they would have found valuable during their buyer’s journey.

2. Create a Short & Smart Form

Your content offer form is what stands between you and your lead conversion. Your leads don’t want to take the time to fill out a 6 line form – so keep it simple. Stick with the basic need-to-know info, like:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Company

See an example of the form for our Manufacture Website Best Practices Checklist:

Use tools like MailChimp or HubSpot to create your forms and collect your contacts. Then set up an awesome landing Page that was created using inbound best practices and you’re almost there.

3. Put Well-Placed Call-To-Actions On Your Website

A call-to-action (CTA) is the button you hit to download the offer. Having a well-placed CTA is what will get your visitors to your landing page to fill out your form. You should also promote your offer by placing CTAs in relevant blog posts above the fold and at the end.

HubSpot has some great tips (backed by research) on creating successful CTAs:

  • Place your CTAs where the eye can see
  • Make the copy on your CTAs very clear rather than clever
  • Contrast your CTAs against your website so they stand out
  • Link Your CTA to your dedicated landing page

Pro Tip: Use HubSpot to create Lead Flows which act like pop-ups on your website so that more of your audience sees your CTAs and content offers. Specify certain pages for specific Lead Flows to capture the right lead at the right time in their buyers journey.

Once you’ve got one offer up on your website, make sure you use analytics tools to measure the data and A/B test the copy and design of your landing page and CTA. The metrics will help you optimize them to convert more leads.

 

03 Aug 15:18

The Secret to B2B eCommerce Success: It’s the People

by Karie Daudt

To successfully onboard your team and your customers to a digital commerce environment, it’s not just important to acknowledge ways that eCommerce can benefit the roles involved in that B2B buying cycle. It’s mission-critical to understand that increasing the productivity of buyers, researchers, technicians, and others within the buying cycles is a key objective of B2B commerce. When the roles that are required for complex B2B transactions are not supported by technology, frustration, and transactional intensity are the result, and the implementation of digital technologies fail as a result.

On the flip side, however, when B2B companies understand the enormous value in both increasing efficiencies by automating low-value tasks, and decreasing the cost of sales as full-service scenarios become more strategic, implementing eCommerce often means extraordinary results. Sure, it’s highly desirable to drive more sales and raise share-of-wallet from an online system. Those results only arrive from implementing digital strategies that are relevant and helpful to the people fulfilling the roles within B2B. In this, like so many other areas of digital transformation, success relies on supporting the human beings intimately involved every step of the way.

The Need for a Hybrid eCommerce Solution

Because B2B commerce can never be entirely self-service, each person involved in the buying process must have a personalized, real-time view of customer activity. This means viewing B2B commerce from a hybrid perspective, one in which customers can be supported whether they’re online or requiring some kind of “full service” help. A successful hybrid commerce strategy is the key to achieving digital transformation that adds value to the bottom line in terms of efficiency, productivity and yes, more sales. But as I’ve stated earlier, to achieve those gains, the system must meet the needs of every role in the complex B2B commerce system.

For that reason, it’s critical to understand the needs of those I’ve classified as The People of B2B. Any experienced B2B commerce professional knows that unlike a B2C transaction, B2B eCommerce interactions involve many different people doing many different tasks. The first goal of B2B online commerce should be to boost productivity and to do that we’ve got to understand how digital transformation should support each role involved with every transaction.

The People of B2B

Typically, there are at many different roles involved within each B2B buying transaction. B2B commerce, particularly for the manufacturers and distributors I work with, involves complex contracts, huge catalogs, and unique configurations. Roles and responsibilities differ not only by organization and by customer, but also sometimes vary by size of the deal, the location served and even the time of year. Knowing how eCommerce can support each role, and make it stronger, based on what may seem like infinite variables is the path to better results, sooner.

Here is a brief outline of the primary roles involved within B2B commerce, and how I believe digital solutions can support, not burden, those people:

The Researcher

The way B2B researchers are conducting their work is changing from a variety of perspectives. Online search has changed the manner in which most researchers work in perhaps the most dramatic fashion. Google’s study B2B Path to Purchase surveyed more than 3,000 B2B researchers and found they typically conduct 12 searches on average before going to a specific brand’s site.

For digital transformation to lead to strong increases in productivity, the commerce environment must be easy to navigate. Data, both requested and generated by the work of the B2B researcher, must be incorporated into the enterprise. Custom catalogs, list management, and other ways to segregate only the information that is relevant to that specific researcher is vital to helping them do their job more effectively.

Additionally, generational shifts are changing the manner in which B2B researchers work. According to the latest research, these People of B2B not only regularly use their mobile devices for search, but over a third of them download information via smartphone or tablet as well, and this trend is rapidly accelerating. The ecommerce system has to have a fully functional mobile app to satisfy this growing need.

The Customer Service Representative

Customer service is the hub of the buyer’s journey, but at the same time, it’s a position that can be tough to retain. Fortunately, this role is one area in which digital transformation via a strong B2B commerce environment can even more dramatically improve task efficiency, boost productivity, and increase job satisfaction.

Before eCommerce entered the picture, CSRs were already dealing with multiple channels including email, phone and fax. With eCommerce solutions, there are even more channels including custom portals for channel partners, promotional landing pages, and online chat. CSRs typically have to manage all of these points of entry while also dealing with the challenges of a hybrid commerce solution.

When the commerce system is fully unified, systems are integrated so that data is shared in a real time, synchronous fashion. Just like any role within the B2B buying cycle, CSRs need one point of entry from which to view each unique customer’s transactional history, contracts, and every important interaction with sales, both online and in person. Strong B2B eCommerce solutions can present that information readily and accurately through a single sign on.

The Field Service Representative

Field service technicians often experience losses to productivity in the course of doing their jobs. The amount of time it takes to diagnose and fix a problem is often multiplied exponentially by the effort to identify, locate and order the necessary materials. In addition, pricing contracts and procurement processes often need to be validated before moving forward to resolve a ticket.

Because the tech works mainly onsite at a customer location, it’s important to have a robust mobile experience that can handle complex information and ordering needs. Unfortunately, many eCommerce initiatives view mobile as just an extension of a responsive website. When the mobile strategy stops here, it is often the field service technician who is left with a cumbersome website, multiple portals, and often an ordering process that fails to recognize their unique needs.

A strong hybrid B2B commerce solution should deliver a fully functional native mobile app that provides these and other services: user-specific product catalog, pricing and product searches and recommendations, re-ordering capabilities and barcode scanning.

Field service techs can be empowered by a mobile experience by eliminating phone calls to the office, finding parts information with robust search mechanisms and ordering with just one click. When techs are empowered, it leads to more satisfied customers. When they have information about renewable warranties and suggested service tasks, it can also result in more revenue.

The Buyer

We’ve examined how the roles that support the buying journey can benefit from digital transformation. The role of the buyer is at the heart of the customer experience. A B2B buying scenario often involves multiple buyers. You may have a buyer who can initiate an order, but does not have the ability to approve purchases. Another buyer may approve the purchases, but is not involved in the actual buying transaction. Different buyers may purchase different items, and may even use different channels to initiate that order, from sending an email to using an app on their mobile device.

For that reason, buyers need to see information that is specific to them, from their approval authority to the business divisions or groups they buy for. B2B commerce differs widely from B2C eCommerce in this area, as buyers need to see custom catalogs that include only the products that are relevant to them, at customer-specific prices.

The best user experience in the world will hold little value if the B2B eCommerce solution doesn’t provide a buying environment that is customized for that specific buyers’ needs, from products to pricing, and all the tools that support the order process.

The Accounts Payable Representative

Accounts payable is often at the intersection of eCommerce and the entire supply chain mechanism, particularly for distributors. Returns, shipping and handling, and multiple delivery locations can all add another layer of detail to an already complex payment scenario.

For that reason, B2B solutions that can handle customization by customer, and don’t need to be modified substantially to accommodate unique processes, are particularly helpful in reducing task times and increasing efficiency for accounts payable representatives.

Accounts payable reps must have synchronous communication between the ERP, multiple accounting systems, customer portals and the eCommerce solution. This may include the need for real time calls to validate pricing, terms, and logistics like delivery. The ability to have this information updated and available within the system at any time without checking multiple contracts (or spreadsheets) is an enormous boost to productivity.

The Salesperson

In 2015, analyst firm Forrester caused a stir by predicting the “death of the B2B salesperson.” Although a new report two years later tempered that prediction, B2B salespeople sometimes still view eCommerce as their competition. This is usually due to a disconnect between eCommerce systems, and companies’ overall digital transformation strategies.

The sales team is usually tasked with introducing and inviting customers into the new digital buying experience. When they feel that eCommerce is the “competition” or that “their” customers will have a bad experience, sales may be reluctant to encourage adoption of the new online paradigm. B2B sales does not become irrelevant when eCommerce is introduced.

Successful eCommerce initiatives will transform the sales role in ways which include freeing sales people from low-value tasks like order taking, empowering sales people to provide consultative expertise to customers and providing a holistic view of customer details due to a fully unified commerce environment.

In this environment, the role of sales doesn’t disappear at all. In fact, in an ideal world this role is elevated to that of a consultative business advisor. Manufacturers and distributors need to be ready for this change not only by including sales in the planning process, but with a commerce environment that keeps them apprised of all the activity occurring within the customer buying cycle, whether it’s happening directly or within a digital transaction.

Rewarding the People of B2B

When implemented poorly, a new B2B eCommerce solution adds simply another channel to manage, particularly when it comes to sales and CSR’s. This additional burden is one of the primary obstacles to successfully onboarding customers onto a new online system, and it’s a primary reason so many new B2B commerce systems fail.

From the field service technician to the B2B buyer, every role in the complex B2B buying cycle has to be positively impacted by eCommerce. Without the buy-in from the internal team, you’ll never gain more “buying” from an external customer.

A version of this post was originally published here.

03 Aug 15:18

3 Retargeting Strategies to Boost Conversions

by kniemisto

Back in 2016, we surveyed the retargeting landscape and gave some tips on how to get started. For the uninitiated, retargeting is an online marketing strategy that keeps your brand in front of users who have bounced out of your site. By placing a tracking pixel on your website, you can follow them when they leave and place an ad on another unrelated website, just to remind them of how awesome your products or services are—and persuade them to come back over. This is most commonly done through search retargeting, in which ads are served up based on recent searches, and email retargeting, where scripted emails are triggered based on specific user behaviors.

Over the past few years, retargeting has continued to grow as an effective way to acquire new leads and customers. Here are some stats to consider: retargeted customers are three times more likely to click on your ad, and 70% more likely to convert. As a result, 50% of marketers plan to increase their retargeting budget in the next 6 months, and 20% have a dedicated budget for it. Some of our advice from then still holds true, along with other new trends worth discussing.

In this blog, we’ll take stock of the digital marketing landscape in 2018, discuss what’s changed and what’s new, and see where you should be investing your energy.

1. Content Is Still King

The goal of retargeting is to drive conversions, but you need to give people something of substance to facilitate that process. The great thing about retargeting with content is that it provides an opportunity to connect with and provide value to prospects who aren’t yet ready to buy without coming across as too pushy. For someone who currently only casually interested in your product, a well-timed whitepaper or ebook could go a long way towards moving them towards purchase. Assuming you have a well-established set of content already created for other purposes, this tactic should come at no extra cost.

To decide which pieces of content to use for your campaign, figure out what your top performers are based on behavior data. How you define that is up to you—time on page or views/downloads can be good places to start. If you have the capability, sort your content by multi-touch revenue created; if an asset has a proven track record facilitating conversions, it’s perfect for retargeting ads. Next, segment your content, so that users are receiving the right thing at the right time.

Here’s how we segment at Marketo:

Buyer Stage

Ideal Assets

Awareness: users know about your brand, but have yet to engage Infographics, cheat sheets, slides, case studies
Engagement: users have demonstrated interest with downloads or form-fills, but are not quite ready to buy Ebooks, whitepapers, definitive guides, webinars
Conversion: users are prepared to buy, and are choosing between you and your competitors Competitive reports, Magic Quadrants, live demos

 

By segmenting your best performing content like this, you are in the best position to nudge people towards pulling the trigger.

Timing is Everything

Even with perfectly crafted content for the right audiences, your retargeting strategy will fall apart if your timing is off. Wait too long, and you risk losing their interest, move too fast, and you may creep them out. Nailing down the timing of your retargeting efforts will depend on the type of audience member you are targeting and the type of product you are offering.

Here are some best practices:

Strike fast: Your first retargeting ad should show up soon after first contact. Catch these first-time visitors before they forget about you and go with your competition.

Then slow down: After your introduction, slow down, so you don’t wear out your welcome. Create a “frequency cap” that controls the cadence of your display ads. And for those who successfully convert, make sure you have controls in place to pull them out of your ad stream.

Sync with key events: Important occasions are a great way to reactivate your audience without coming across as too intrusive. Consider retargeting with a registration discount ahead of your next trade show or informing your audience of an upcoming product launch or service upgrade.

Monitor behavior: Use a tool that can track how users are using your website to ensure that your retargeting efforts reflect recent behaviors like page visits, form fills, and recent downloads.

Attribution Matters

15 years ago, the norm was two touchpoints before purchase—now that number is up to six. If you are giving full conversion credit to the first or last ad a user clicked on, you are doing it wrong. By oversimplifying the sales process, you deny yourself the opportunity to optimize spend in the right channels. Furthermore, without the ability to point to the tangible impact of various marketing efforts, you risk having budget reallocated to “higher performing” departments.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for revenue attribution, as that will depend on your buyer journey. This can be difficult, however, with research from AdRoll finding that the biggest barriers to attribution implementation are lack of knowledge and technology limitations. So how do you solve the revenue attribution puzzle? Consider investing in marketing attribution software like Bizible, which combine behavioral and ad data with sales outcomes to help you make the right marketing decisions. Gaining this data gives you the insights needed to properly optimize your retargeting campaigns. Without this information, you are shooting in the dark, spending your money randomly instead of putting it to its best use.

Putting It All Together

Remember that most website visitors do not convert on their first visit, so retargeting them is essential to keep in touch and stay top of mind until they are ready to buy. With the right message and the right timing, you are in the driver’s seat to accomplish this goal. And with meticulously measured attribution, you are in position to prove it’s all worth it.

Are there any other retargeting strategies I missed? Tell me about them in the comments.

The post 3 Retargeting Strategies to Boost Conversions appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

03 Aug 15:17

6 Strategies for Overcoming Reader Objections

by Matt Brennan

Pexels / Pixabay

Your readers are busy people. They may be new to your website and unfamiliar with your business or industry.

They also have a very specific problem, that if left unaddressed for long enough, they’ll move on. It’s up to you to keep them interested to the point that they’ll want to buy.

They don’t want to live with whatever problem brought them to you in the first place, but most people are slow to act – and have a running dialog in their head before they’re willing to pull out their wallet and take action.

How do I know it really works?

That’s too much money.

The last time I bought something online it failed miserably…

This might be a luxury and not a necessity.

If you’re writing a sales letter you can picture your reader standing over the garbage can ready to toss your letter the second they lose interest. If it’s a landing page or website copy, they’re ready to close the browser window, or move on to the next search result.

overcoming reader objections

Overcoming Reader Objections

Make Every Word Count – If your readers sense that you’re struggling to get to the point, they may not have the patience to finish. The first thing you’ll want to do is identify with the struggle that brought them there.

Let them know they’re in the right place. Tell them that you know their problem is real and they’re not alone. They don’t have to suffer in that particular way anymore. Next, you show them the way.

Any words, sentences or paragraphs that obscure this can be deleted. Each marketing piece should have one central idea. If you veer too far off that idea, you’ll lose your reader. Go through your copy and be merciless. Delete what doesn’t support your central idea.

Copy that Leads the Reader to Action – It starts with a compelling headline. Your job is to first and foremost draw attention to your business amongst a crowded field. Your headline should provoke curiosity, state the benefit, or otherwise give the reader a reason to choose you.

It doesn’t stop there, though. The job of each sentence is to keep the reader moving to the next. This holds true from the headline down to the call to action. The more effectively you can keep your readers moving through your copy, the less chance they’ll have to form these objections in the first place.

Provide Social Proof – The most common form of social proof is testimonials or reviews. Your previous customers have an effective voice when it comes to speaking on behalf of your business. If you have a web page or letter aimed at a specific product or service, it helps to have some testimonials that will back that up. Your website should have testimonials that cover the broad range of services you offer.

This isn’t the only type of social proof however. Consider white papers, case studies, and social media as well. There are also a lot of businesses making good use of video testimonials as well. Building this kind of trust will help you in overcoming reader objections.

Living a Better Life – Too many companies are satisfied to go through a list of product features. The problem is your customer doesn’t care how the product works. They care how it will help them.

How does your product make your customer’s life better? How can you convey the experience in the most attractive light possible? Your readers buy based on emotion. Selling the experience shows them exactly how your product can help. This is done by showcasing the benefits.

Acknowledge Objections Head On – People appreciate the direct approach. If you’re writing a blog post about fixing a leaky sink – go ahead and tell your readers that it’s hard work. People who aren’t accustomed to the DIY lifestyle may be inclined to call the plumber – and that’s ok. (It’s also what you want them to do.)

Losing weight is hard work – even with the best product on the market. In a landing page or sales letter, it may mean addressing the price by giving a comparison.

For example:

You may be thinking that $800 is too much for our weight loss product. But when you consider that the alternative is a lifetime of diet products and pills, you’ll be saving money in the long run.

Show Your Value – Your reader has a running list of alternatives in their head as they read. It’s up to you to show why your product or service is preferable to the alternatives. This is usually best done in the call to action.

If you have a healthcare product, maybe it solves a problem that is previously unsolved without unpleasant side effects.

If you sell business copy machines, maybe the value is in the fact that it’s more efficient to make 30 copies of something – front and back. One of the most of effective ways I’ve found to do this is with the phrase “You could…”

You could continue trying to lose weight by popping pills.

You could continue spending an hour of your work day on meeting preparation.

You could go on trying the same ineffective business strategies.

The implied line is “But you know better.” The value is right there in plain sight.

Conclusion

It’s critical to win your reader’s mind in order to convert them into a customer. They may not be sold the second that they come across your marketing materials.