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16 Nov 19:13

Here's what a British Monopoly board would look like with today's house prices

by Thomas Colson

monopoly houses

It's over 80 years since Victor Watson acquired the rights to the UK version of Monopoly, and while many of the place names on the board remain familiar to Londoners, property prices bear increasingly little resemblance to those in the real world.

A new infographic from loan provider West One has given the original Monopoly board a makeover to demonstrate the true value of the London locations on the board — all the way from Old Kent Road to Mayfair.

While it won’t be a surprise that these prices are now heavily inflated, it is interesting to note that the areas that are now the most expensive don't necessarily match up with the most expensive locations on the board.

Take a look at the 2016 Monopoly board below.

The brown pair of locations are the cheapest on the original Monopoly board. But the average property in Old Kent Road, south east London, now sells for over £800,000 — quite a mark-up from the original £60 rent.



The light blue properties, the second cheapest set on the board, are geographically connected — Pentonville Road runs east from King's Cross as a continuation of Euston Road, and finishes at the Angel, Islington. The average property in Euston Road now fetches well over £1 million.



The locations on the pink strip are home to some of the most exclusive properties in London. All three areas lie in close proximity to London's famous Trafalgar Square, in London's so-called 'prime' central property area.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
16 Nov 19:13

This startup wants to stop sick people Googling their symptoms and worrying they're about to die

by Lara O'Reilly

allon bloch

We've all done it: Feeling under the weather, we've turned to the web to work out what might be wrong with us, only to find out that we're on the verge of certain death.

While forums and online health websites can be useful in terms of researching what your symptoms may be caused by, they often cause a lot of unnecessary worry and are no match for seeking the advice of a medical expert, in person — and even then, doctors can make mistakes.

A New York City-based startup wants to empower consumers by providing user-generated data on how other people with similar symptoms to them were treated and how they recovered so they can more accurately assess what is wrong with them and ask the right questions of their physicians.

Kang Health announced on Wednesday it has raised a $3.3 million seed round, led by Mangrove Capital Partners, with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Primary Ventures, and Comcast Ventures.

The company was founded by Allon Bloch, the former CEO of website building service Wix.com, online shopping marketplace MySupermarket, and online car retailer Vroom.com. Kang currently has 10 full-time staff working on its website and app, who are based in New York City and Tel Aviv. Adam Singolda, the founder and CEO of content recommendation platform Taboola, sits on the company's board.

Kang Health is a bit like a Google Waze for illnesses. Users can keep their identities anonymous and are required to type in their gender, age, and symptoms. There are also plans to input information about their lifestyle and medical history. Kang Health will return results suggesting, for example, that 80,000 people of the same age and gender had this diagnosis, 30,000 suffered with this complaint, and 5,000 had something different. Users can then research the different types of treatment for those ailments, whether they were successful, and if there were any side effects.

The information on the Kang Health website and app will be largely user-generated, although it is getting off the ground with anonymized data from a major health maintenance organization (Bloch declined to comment on which one) which has tens of millions of data points on different health events. The company also has two full-time doctors on board to validate the information.

Bloch told Business Insider that Kang Health isn't aiming to dispense medical advice or to do away with trained medical practitioners, but instead the company wants to use big data analysis to give people a "dynamic decision tree."

He said: "We don't want to make you flip through medical jargon, we just want to make you understand what you have in a way that's trusting and empowering. Some people [with your symptoms] may have just drunk water and eaten chicken soup, and [Kang] can give you that sense ... and provide people with an understanding of the probability of having different things and how people treated it. Now before, during, and after going to a doctor, you are empowered to ask a doctor a question and share information."

Kang Health wants to give doctors more information at their fingertips

Bloch says Kang Health — named after Labuche Kang, one of the highest mountain peaks in the world that has yet to be climbed — could also help doctors too.

"I've used all these systems and while there are good systems for doctors nobody tells you there were 100,000 people who had situation A, which led to situation B," Bloch said. "There's no information shared with the doctor that's packaged at their fingertips and for consumers, there's nothing."

The more users that share their health information with Kang, the more powerful the system will be. For example, Kang could help people track if seasonal flus or allergies were prevalent in their local areas at a particular time

Still — just like Google Waze and other platforms that rely on regularly updated data from users — Kang will only be successful if it manages to build a large, active audience. Bloch said Kang Health will be able to offer meaningful data once it has tens of thousands of users, but that 1 million users would offer a more solid panel with a diversified view across the US.

Bloch said Kang Health is still working on its go-to-market plan and that the consumer product is around six months from release. As for how the company will make money, Bloch thinks that is at least a year or two away.

"We are looking at this as a very pro-consumer [platform]. We don't see this as an advertising platform in any case, but the data will be very valuable for a lot of people and organizations," Bloch said.

Kang Health enters a crowded and fragmented market. On the consumer symptom-checker side, many people already use websites like WebMD and Mayo Clinic. On the machine learning front, Google's DeepMind artificial intelligence lab has partnered with the UK's National Health Service to detect acute kidney injury and eye conditions and IBM has been using its Watson cognitive computing system to speed up cancer care, for example.

Bloch says despite some major players, there is still a gap in the market for the service Kang Health offers.

"There will be multiple companies that occupy different parts of the value chain," Bloch said. "The world is looking for something much more sophisticated around medical conditions."

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Scientists have discovered why American honey bees are turning into zombies

16 Nov 19:13

4 Ways to Elevate Your Marketing with Great Content

by Elaine Ip
4 Ways to Elevate Your Marketing with Great Content

Author: Elaine Ip

As marketers, we’re always looking for new ways to engage our audience. New channels, strategies, and campaigns. At the core of these initiatives is our content, which fuels each and every one.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Vidyard’s Video Marketing Summit to learn about the latest and greatest in creative content, video analytics, and digital marketing technologies. If you’ve been keeping track of key trends, you know that video is now an essential part of any content marketing strategy. Video content allows you to communicate with audiences on a different level, speaking to their senses.

At Viewtopia, I sat in on some great sessions that demonstrated how you can elevate your marketing with engaging content. Here are my takeaways from four sessions that really stood out:

1. Shift from Content Economy to Attention Economy

Art and science have come together to empower marketers, and we can leverage both to build relationships with our buyers and understand our impact. Tyler Lessard, CMO at Vidyard, opened up Viewtopia with his session on “Connecting with Buyers in the Age of Experience.” We live in an “information age,” where information is now a commodity and buyers are overwhelmed—this reality transcends across demographics and generations.

Buyers are more informed, and it’s all about earning their attention—giving them the best customer experience. So how do we rise above the noise? As Tyler put it, digital marketing and marketing automation are major breakthroughs that are influencing the way we engage our audience. Paired with video, we can create compelling content experiences on a variety of channels and glean unique insights from each.

The brands that are leading the pack have nailed down these three key areas: content, channels, and insights. Effective marketing utilizes a cross-channel approach, placing personalized content and seamless messaging at the forefront. In addition, it’s now imperative that metrics go beyond just clicks and views, showing how your efforts are translating into revenue.

2. Take a New Approach to Content

It’s time to adopt a post-digital mind shift and approach content in a new way. Laura Ramos, VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, shared some valuable insights in her session, “The Power of Video in Making Your B2B Story Come Alive.” Content is all about the buyers and their unique journey, and we can deliver on this expectation through effective storytelling.

Laura revealed five ways to use storytelling to engage our buyers:

  1. Repurpose “great” content as stories or narratives.
  2. Experiment with long-form, multi-chapter assets.
  3. Put customers center-stage.
  4. Shoot more video.
  5. Create a value exchange with buyers.

She also shared four key principles of B2B storytelling, which can be applied to B2C as well:

  1. Empathy creates trust and deepens relationships. Show your audience that you understand what they care about. Don’t just speak to their business problems, but speak to what they deal with on a daily basis. Your marketing should be relatable.
  2. Decision-making is emotional. It’s not always rational, so use stories to stir emotions. Experiment with humor and tragedy, as well as stories that tug on the heartstrings. People are sick of hearing pure success stories. Focus on failure and redemption.
  3. People trust friends, families, and peers. They trust other people more than they trust you as a brand, so build brand advocates and encourage them to share their stories.
  4. Engaging the senses leaves a lasting impression. Engage all of the senses, experimenting with different types of content like visual and audio.

The biggest takeaway that transcends across marketing? Deliver something of value without expecting immediate commercial returns. It’s all about building relationships and trust with your audience.

3. Fuel Account-Based Marketing with Personalized Content

Account-based marketing (ABM) is all about aligning marketing and sales efforts to target and engage high-value accounts with personalized messaging, campaigns, and outreach. And the benefits are tremendous—92% of B2B marketers worldwide consider ABM extremely important or very important to their overall marketing efforts, according to SiriusDecisions. In her presentation, “Multi-Channel Personalization: The Key to Account-Based Marketing Success,” Charm Bianchini, Sr. Director of Marketing at Marketo, revealed how you can take your target account strategy to new heights.

After you identify your high-value accounts and profile them to focus on the right part of the organization, it’s important to have personalized, relevant content to fuel your ABM campaigns. By developing buyer personas and mapping their journeys, you can create content that speaks to specific roles. And the options are endless—videos, reports, webinars, SlideShares, ebooks, blogs, podcasts, infographics, and more. Not to mention, these don’t have to be created from scratch. You can repurpose existing assets and tweak them to resonate with your target audience. This can be done by simply switching out terminology, examples, and language to speak to a specific company or industry.

Once you’ve got your accounts and content nailed down, use as many channels as possible to coordinate your story and target and engage your audience. This includes core channels such as your website, social media platforms, email, and mobile, but don’t forget about video. A video platform integrated with a marketing automation platform can help you gain insight into audience engagement with webinars, demos, and videos to help you score your target accounts appropriately.

4. Unleash Your Inner Storyteller

Some of the best examples of engaging content come from social influencers. Zach King, filmmaker and YouTube and Instagram personality, took the stage in his presentation, “The Storyteller in All of Us.” Zach King started pursuing his passion for videography at the early age of seven, when he experimented with a camera at a family wedding. From that moment on, he saw how video helped frame his perspective and vision to others. Since then, he’s blossomed into a social celebrity, with over 16M followers on Instagram alone.

He shared valuable lessons that he learned along the way. The first? Educate and listen to your audience. Zach got his start on YouTube with his Final Cut video editing software tutorials. He amassed a good following of about 40-50k followers, but his career really took off after he started listening to his audience. People commented that they wanted to see the effects in action, so he created the short film Jedi Kittens one night. It was a spur of the moment idea that went viral and was covered by major news channels.

Link to Jedi Kittens video

Here are some of his tips for creating an effective video:

  • Make it clean so everyone can watch it.
  • Your video should be contagious. It should be something that you would repost or share as a viewer.
  • Establish a voice and be relatable.
  • Have a beginning, middle, and end—no matter how short your video is.
  • Understand what to give, gather, and grow.
    • Give: What value are you contributing? A story, feeling, informative technology? There should be no strings attached.
    • Gather: Find the right platforms. Determine where the right audience will consume your content and use analytics to help you understand how they’re engaging with it. When Vine first emerged, Zach moved onto the platform from YouTube, captivated by the fact that he could create shorter videos that still got a lot of great engagement. The short six second snippets helped him hone in on how to tell a story in a short period of time. Then, once Instagram came out with a video feature, he started experimenting and posting the same videos on both platforms and got much better engagement on Instagram, so he began focusing his efforts there.
    • Grow: Nurture your audience. Go deeper versus going viral. Vital content adds value or entertainment, but viral content only gives you 15 minutes of fame.

There’s no telling what’s in store for us next, but one thing’s for sure: it’s time to rise above the noise by creating compelling content. What takeaways you be applying to your content marketing strategy? Share your thoughts below!

Marketo Summit 2017 - Nov Banner

 


4 Ways to Elevate Your Marketing with Great Content was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post 4 Ways to Elevate Your Marketing with Great Content appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

16 Nov 19:12

The New Discovery

by Anthony Iannarino

Globalization, disintermediation, commoditization, among other forces of The Disruptive Age, have all combined to change how we sell. One of the things that has changed is our approach to discovery.

Traditional: What’s Keeping You Up at Night?

I know that this approach is supposed to have fallen out of favor. In sales, however, there are no rules and you have to know them all. There are only possibilities and choices, and there isn’t a single way to obtain any outcome.

You still have prospects that want to share their concerns with you, their problems, and their challenges. Asking them to share these things with you isn’t a bad place to start a conversation, it just assumes they already have a compelling reason to change, and that they are aware of it. That’s often enough to create an opportunity.

If what you know enough about your prospective client to know they are already motivated to change, there is nothing wrong with starting by asking about what your dream client wants or needs to change.

Now: This Is Keeping You Up at Night

Another way to start a conversation is to begin by sharing your view of what your dream client should be concerned about, or the problems they may not be aware they have—or soon will have.

This approach works well right now for a couple of reasons. First, sharing ideas around the biggest and most important trends impacting your dream client’s business is a heck of a good value proposition for a first meeting. You get to explain the dissonance that they’re experiencing. Your prospect gets value from the meeting without having to buy anything from you. Second, and equally as important, it says you have a strong opinion, the business acumen, and the situational knowledge to potentially provide good counsel.

This approach is especially effective now, because it helps you to help your client discover things about their company, their challenges, and their problems, and potentially, their opportunities.

Choose the right approach for your discovery meeting, and remember  that you and your prospective client are both doing discovery work together.

The post The New Discovery appeared first on The Sales Blog.

16 Nov 19:12

Why This Health System Offers Refunds to Dissatisfied Patients

by Jonathan R. Slotkin, MD
nov16-16-650155623

Shortly after forty-six-year-old Karen Hull had elective disc surgery at one of our hospitals, she used a new Geisinger app to request a refund for $150 of her $2250 financial responsibility. The problem wasn’t with the surgery – that went well. But Karen was unhappy with a phone call she’d received earlier from a hospital representative who had requested a “good faith payment” – making her feel as if we didn’t trust her to show up for her surgery. She was also unhappy that she’d been kept waiting for a meal after surgery when she had not eaten all day. The $150 itself wasn’t especially significant to her, but the request, she explained, was symbolically important; she wanted to be sure we understood what didn’t go so well about the experience.

Karen’s communication, and others like it, represent a success for us: We had built a system to assure that we encouraged criticism – in essence inviting patients to speak their minds – so that we could learn and improve. Underlying the program were two critical premises: First, that unhappy patients often sit in silence, and that giving them a voice will reveal unsuspected opportunities for improvement; and second, that patient experience and quality of care are linked. Improving the former can improve the latter.

The doctor-patient relationship has long been sacrosanct. But comfortable reliance on this “precious” relationship has left us in a situation where the customers of many other sectors (such as retail) are often treated better from an experiential standpoint than medicine’s patients. In November 2015 Geisinger Health System launched its ProvenExperience program – a wide-ranging cultural and process reengineering initiative whose long-term goal is not just to assure the best customer experience in healthcare, but to offer the best customer experience of any industry. At the center of our program lies a “no questions asked” refund policy for patients’ financial responsibility. For the first four months we piloted the refund app with selected bariatric and spinal surgical patients who had especially high copayments. In March of 2016 we expanded the refund program system-wide to include all patients and all forms of patient individual financial responsibility (copayment, coinsurance, and deductible). Ultimately, 84% of the dollars requested are addressed through an adjustment to the bill prior to it being sent, with the remainder being refunds after patient payment. We move pretty quickly on these. We don’t want to make the experience worse by also bungling the refund request.

Insight Center

The reaction outside of Geisinger was swift and sometimes skeptical. “I’m agonizing over whether to use the word ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid.’  It’s a stupid idea. It’s a horrible idea.  It sends the wrong message to the patient,” said one business school professor quoted in the Scranton Times-Tribune. Dissatisfied patients have long been at best an inconvenience handled quietly (if at all), and at worst a source of internal shame and subject of derision (“The patient is wrong.  We did a review and the care was adequate.”) We deliberately created this program with an open and consumerist design ethos. We correctly suspected that the media would find a degree of fascination with the story. Our strongest motivation, however, was getting skin in the game to galvanize our 30,000 employees to achieve an excellent patient experience every time, and to create a forcing function for improvement, uncovering problems we were unaware of.

 Underlying Principles

Implementing the program has of course required careful attention to both human and process issues. We knew from the start that this could only work if everyone from front-line administrative people right up to department chairs understood that no refund request would result in punishment of any employee. By assuring that requests were regarded solely as learning opportunities, we empowered staff to openly fix problems that the program revealed rather than try to obscure them. And we knew that questions would arise within Geisinger and beyond about whether patients would abuse the program. As a first principal, we assumed from the start that our patients would deal honestly with us; a guiding external message to patients has been, “You put your trust in us, and we put our trust in you.” Nonetheless, there was much discussion about the potential for “moral hazard” abuses of the program as it scaled to our entire population; would a small subset of participants subsidize their care by demanding unwarranted refunds? There have been a few cases where it appeared that a patient was gaming the system, but we haven’t seen blatant abuses of the initiative.

While the program does have marginal costs (more on this further on) we feel that the benefits in terms of learning, process improvement, and patient experience more than offset these. Because we follow every refund request with direct communication with the patient or family, we have learned that only a minority of complaints are about medical care quality. Rather, complaints are often about the way in which we deliver “correct” medical care, allowing us to improve delivery of already-good care to improve the patient’s experience. Correct care is not some absolute invariable value. When care is delivered with less dignity, compassion, or efficiency than it should be the experience can easily be perceived as negative, even if the care is successful in strictly clinical terms. For example, some patients have requested refunds because of environmental noise due to construction that was significantly affecting their rest and recovery. In response, in addition to granting refunds, we have altered construction schedules to reduce patients’ discomfort.

Improving Outcomes

Since its broad rollout, we’ve seen a 23% increase in communications between patients and patient experience advocates. 71% of these are complaints, 24% are requests for assistance, and 5% are compliments. 20% of the complaints relate to difficulties in making outpatient appointments and accessing care. 8.7% are related to financial issues and billing, 8.4% are concerns surrounding difficulties in accessing results or medical information, and 7.7% are complaints about provider behavior or attitude. We get an average of 122 refund requests per month through this program, averaging $464 each — a sum that adds up to about $680,000 in requests annually. While encouraging refunds specifically for patient complaints is novel, the general practice of quietly providing adjustments and refunds for things like billing errors and other patient concerns is not new for Geisinger, nor for most other healthcare systems.  For the fiscal year prior to implementation of this program, we averaged $234,443 per month in adjustments across the system.  Interestingly, the new refund program seems to have led to a significant decrease (though not a total offset) in the prior baseline adjustment amount per month.

To respond to the growing volume of feedback, we have hired two additional full-time and one half-time patient advocates, and two additional administrative staffers to support the program.  In addition, we have hired one employee whose job is to address just those concerns brought to the office of the CEO. One such patient complaint was in fact a significant inspiration for the genesis of this program. Our health insurance plan had properly notified its members about a new $1,000 copayment for a certain type of surgery. But, upon receiving a bill after surgery, one of our patients was still surprised by it:  We had not clearly communicated the new copayment to him and others. We refunded the copayment and improved our communications about it.

In addition to the marked increase in patient feedback volume since the program’s inception, we have seen a strong relationship between media coverage or public announcements surrounding the program and increased patient feedback and refund requests in the following weeks. This interesting and perhaps expected fact has important implications:  If we can safely assume that the system and its providers do not somehow perform worse in the weeks after media coverage or announcements, then these large upticks confirm our suspicions that our unhappy patients (and surely those at other systems) are often keeping quiet.

Initiatives like this need to go beyond providing an app for complaints or giving refunds to dissatisfied patients. The goal must be a global patient engagement strategy. Geisinger’s approach consists of both cultural evolution and new processes. Every employee has been instructed in on-the-spot “service recovery” – helping a dissatisfied patient become satisfied — and is encouraged to fix issues in real time. Parking, meal, and other vouchers are available in all service areas and every employee is authorized to dispense them according to his or her judgment. We conduct frequent massive simultaneous administrative outpatient and inpatient rounds, where hundreds of clinical leaders and administrators across all of our hospitals walk and interact with patients – fixing issues as they can immediately, and opening dialogues with patients. In one instance leaders rounding in our chemical dependency treatment center learned that the plastic-covered pillows so common in hospitals were a major source of patient dissatisfaction for an unexpected reason: when some patients experience withdrawal, profuse sweating on a plastic pillow can be very unpleasant. Our team went to a department store that night to buy 70 cotton pillows, and changed the policy so that every patient admitted would receive a new, soft pillow.

Increasing Quality

Critics of programs that improve patient satisfaction will often imply that there is a false equivalence between efforts geared towards improving quality and those aimed at improving patient experience — that quality efforts are in some way superior. It is true that patient experience has suffered from appearing to be a “soft science,” while quality work has been bolstered by the apparent rigor of metrics. There is also some limited evidence that certain efforts to improve patient satisfaction can actually reduce quality outcomes. More recent strong evidence (here and here) suggests that improved patient satisfaction is in fact correlated with better health outcomes and quality:  increased satisfaction is associated with decreased length of hospital stay, lower readmission rates, reduced mortality, and fewer minor complications.

We agree that superficial and poorly formed efforts to improve patient experience will be neutral or at times detrimental to outcomes and costs. For example, nearly half of physicians surveyed in one study reported providing inappropriate medical care, such as over-prescribing narcotics or antibiotics, in response to pressure to achieve higher patient satisfaction ratings. A program like this is nothing more than a glib exercise if it does not result in organized efforts to address the problems that result in patient complaints. This initiative has led to increased alignment between clinical service lines, the patient experience team, and finance: We now have a much more robust process for bringing patient feedback to service areas to address the factors that lead to dissatisfaction, and we have observed halo effects where improvement of an area that was the subject of a complaint leads to improvement in other service areas that were not themselves targets. Ultimately, we expect that concerted efforts towards improving patient satisfaction will necessarily improve care quality through shared efficiencies, new behaviors and peer expectations, and a rededication to professionalism.

16 Nov 19:12

What Are The 5 Big Things Keeping Business Owners Up At Night?

by Brian Basilico

Be Nice To Each Other

Businessman tearing up sign saying trust concept for infidelity, dishonesty and cheating

One of the things I say online is, “You have to avoid controversial topics.” Obviously, you don’t want to talk about politics or religion. You don’t want to talk about sex or gender, because it stirs up an incredible amount of emotions.

Now, we just finished with one of the most incredible elections that I think anybody’s ever seen. I don’t care whether you side with the winner or the loser or if you’re out there protesting or celebrating. Whatever you are doing, you have a whole set of emotions that are just overwhelming you. Now I don’t know about you guys, but as a business owner these things tend to make us lose sleep. Right? I mean, you’re worried about, “What’s going to happen with my business? Where is the economy going? Am I going to be able to sustain? What’s happening?” The future is always unpredictable.

What Keeps You Up At Night?

asian man in bed suffering insomnia and sleep disorder thinking about his problem at nightToday I want to talk about what I’ve found to be the five things that keep business owners up at night. I’m sure there are many more that you can add to this list, but I researched by looked at a whole bunch of blog posts and reports. I tried to figure out what’s keeping you up at night if you’re a small to midsize business owner. What are the things that are keeping your head spinning? We all have been there. I mean, you’re laying in bed at two o’clock in the morning and you’re thinking, “Oh, man, if I only did…” Or you get up first thing in the morning and you’re dreaming about processes and things like that. That happens to me all the time.

Below are the five things that keep business owners up at night.

Generating More Sales

Wealthy man with lot

Number one is generating more sales. Obviously, if you can generate more sales, your business is going to be a heck of a lot more profitable. Right? I’ve heard this mentioned many times. I don’t know who to attribute it to, but there are literally only three ways to increase your sales…

  1. Increase your number of customers.
  2. Increase the average order size.
  3. Increase the number of repeat purchases.

That’s what you have to do. You have to look at your strategy and say, “Which of these things, or a combination of all three, are going to help me increase my sales?”

Cash Flow

Piles of MoneyThe second thing that keeps people up at night is cash flow. That’s a hard thing to manage. I could tell you this, you have an accounting system, you invoice people, and hopefully they live up to their commitment. I just got off the phone with a buddy of mine, who has spent upwards of almost nine months trying to get people to pay their bill. He’s struggling and struggling and they don’t pay it, because they want a refund. They don’t feel like they got what they wanted. There are other times where you do exactly what they want and they still don’t pay you. One of the things I’ve found is, the larger the project, the easier, generally, it is to get paid. It’s the thousand, five thousand, twenty-five thousand dollar projects, where people already have the money allocated, committed and it is ready to go.

It’s the fifty, hundred or the two hundred dollar sales that you spend as much time invoicing and reminding people that they owe you money. You spend as much time trying to collect those little invoices, as you do the big ones. The thing you have to think about is trying to focus on larger projects if you can. That’s going to help increase your cash flow. You get bigger sums of money in on a regular basis, rather than playing around with the fifty or hundred dollar sales. Think about how you can use your business to grow the size of your customers.

Controlling Expenses

Hand and tree isolated on white background

Number three is controlling expenses. That’s the third thing that keeps people up at night. If you’re like most, there are subscriptions out there, like magazine or newspaper subscriptions. We finally let our newspaper subscription go. I think we had probably ten calls saying, “Hey, we’re going to renew your subscription for fifty percent off. Fifty percent a week will cost you only $26 per year and you’ll get a weekly newspaper.” Guess what? We don’t read it. It gets recycled. Why are we going to pay twenty-six bucks for something we don’t use? I bet if you went through and looked at your accounting system, you will find certain things that you’re paying on a monthly basis that don’t make sense.

Here’s the key to controlling expenses, get your arms around them. I am a QuickBooks junkie. I’m looking at what I’m paying every single month. I joined up for so many things and found that I wasn’t getting the value and wasn’t using them. Now, if you are getting value and are using them, then maybe cancel something else and invest more in the things that you’re actually getting value out of. Stop the things you’re getting no value. Invest more in the things that you are getting value. That will help you grow your business.

Increasing Your Customer Base

Large group of people forming the symbol of a dollar sign. Concept of success.

The fourth thing is increasing your customer base. Now, we talked about this in point number one. Right? Increase the number of customers, but the question becomes, “Where do you find them? How do they find you?” It really boils down to how you are marketing. What you have to do is identify who your perfect customer is, what their pain points are, and what methodologies can you use to communicate with them on a regular basis? That may mean a blog, a podcast, or a print newsletter. It could be mailing postcards. It could be doing anything, but you have to identify them, you have to find out where they are. Then you have to constantly keep churning that engine to say, “We’re here to help. We’re here to help. We have the solution. When you’re ready, give us a call.” It’s a long-term process. The way you increase the number of customers is building that know, like, and trust. Making sure that people understand that you offer a perfect solution to their most challenging problems. That’s how you increase and expand your customer base.

Competition

A tricky businessman winking and thinking of a plan

Finally, the fifth item is competition. A lot of people worry about the competition. Now, I’m in a lot of businesses, but one of the key ones is web development. If I spend all my time trying to fight my competition, I would basically be spinning my wheels, because there are people’s neighbor’s dogs who do websites. There are challenges from India, where they do them for five or ten dollars an hour. The most important thing to do to overcome the competition is be the best that you can be and provide service over and above customer service. When you finish the project or the sale, ask your customer three questions:

  1. Are you satisfied?
  2. Is there anything we could have done better to make your experience more pleasurable or more satisfactory or given you a better return on investment?
  3. Is there anybody you know, in your circle of influence or friends or business cohorts that could benefit from this same kind of product or service?

Final Thoughts

business hand shows graph grow with profit

Let’s review the five things one more time.

Number one, generate more sales. You can only do this by increasing the number of customers, increasing the average order size, or increasing the number of repeat purchases.

Number two is cash flow. Try to work on bigger projects. You get more cash in and a bigger influx and you don’t have to change those little bills.

Number three is controlling expenses. Focus on what’s working and stop spending on what’s not.

Number four is expanding your customer base. Find out where your perfect customers are hanging out and communicate with them and get them to engage.

Finally, fifth is competition. We all have competition. You need to focus on your customers exceeding their expectations and getting them to know, like, and trust you enough that they recommend you to their friends.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments and maybe some other tools you love!

16 Nov 19:11

CEOs Need to Ask the Right Questions About Their Digital Businesses

by Gahl Berkooz
nov16-16-643829313

Companies everywhere are making investments to build their digital businesses. Decisions about digital platforms can make the difference between high growth and high margins or limited growth with declining margins. Unlike other technology and business investments, the digital business gets to the core economics of the company: revenue, growth, and margins. The right digital business investments are of paramount interest to the CEO, who is charged with asking the right questions and guiding the right decisions.

Leaders should know that two critical economic factors get locked in by early decisions: the cost to add a customer to the platform and the cost of changing the platform to accommodate changes in regulations, user preferences, or technology. A good digital business minimizes these costs and protects the platform against changes in the user base, technology, and regulatory environments.

So how can a CEO protect the economic viability of his or her business while also making sure to explore the areas of greatest risk and change? Start with these five questions:

How broad is the scope of customers, devices, or third-party users, envisioned to be supported by the digital business? A common failure is to build the digital business to support a set of requirements and users which come from the traditional or legacy business. Over time, new users will need to be added to this digital ecosystem and they may arrive from new and different sources. A good digital business and platform will be able to accommodate new users with no increase in cost per user. Therefore, the company needs a vision of different paths that the market can take. Based on this vision, the company should assure the digital business and platform can support a reasonable assortment of scenarios. Lacking this capability “freezes” the ability to enlarge the audience, increases the costs of staying competitive, and ultimately degrades the economies of scale of the platform.

Insight Center

What is the cost of responding to a business or regulatory change? Digital platforms often contain sensitive information that is subject to regulations that change over time, or changing user preferences. Some of the changes may only be applicable to certain segments of your users and defined based on device, location, or user preferences. A good digital platform architecture will ensure that it is possible to make necessary changes once for all users in the applicable segment, whereas a poor architecture will require repeating the change at multiple points throughout the platform. This will determine the cost of responding to a change, and ultimately the long-term viability of the digital business. If responding to such changes results in unmanageable costs and complexity, the scope of users that can be supported will shrink to make them more homogeneous. This may make the business simpler but it will hobble the ability to expand and grow.

How can third parties partner with the digital business to create incremental value? Unless the company is one of a small handful that can truly afford to quickly supply all emerging innovations on their platforms, it is faced with opening its platform to third parties or taking the riskier path of providing just enough innovation to keep customers engaged. Two popular third-party integration models on digital platforms right now are providing an “app store” where outside developers can offer integrations with your product and offering “APIs.” APIs, Application Programming Interface, allow third-party developers to interact with your platform, share services, and build complimentary products.

Some of the most well-known app stores are Apple’s and SalesForce.com’s. Good examples of APIs are Twitter and Facebook, and those companies derive significant portions of their revenues through monetizing access to the platform through APIs. Finding the right “open” model requires introspection on how the platform creates and distributes value, and what modes of “openness” provide a fair and sustainable distribution of value. This, in turn, needs to be reflected in the technology platform and the practices of the digital business. And it’s different from the conversation over open source, which I’ll cover in the next point.

How is the digital business positioned in relationship to current and up-and-coming open standards and open source? Competition on digital platforms is often asymmetric. One way this happens is through the ecosystem of open standards and open source contributors that can allow competitors to pursue your customers. While this may result in less control and less margins for the competitor, the reduced overall costs, the ability to scale, and the increased rate of innovation afforded by open source can outweigh the benefits of a proprietary platform. A good example for this is how Google has created an open source platform with its Android operating system as compared to Apple’s more proprietary and closely controlled iOS. Both have pros and cons. CEOs need to understand the implications of electing to build a technology platform as part of an open source and open standards community. This critical decision requires an in-depth understanding of the open standards and open source landscape, and forecasting its likely evolution into the future, and envisioning how the digital business will fare in different scenarios.

How does the digital business derive value from information flowing through it? Platforms facilitate the interchange of large volumes of information that characterizes usage patterns, preferences, and the intent of users. The value of this information can be tremendous, and a coherent strategy to mine it or monetize it needs to be part of the digital business plan. A smart platform architecture will allow retention and aggregation of the most valuable attributes of that information. It will turn that information into insights that continually increase the value of the platform to its constituents, and will enable monetization of the information through selling of anonymized aggregate information, better targeting of customers, and sharing of the value created by third-party innovations that leverage the data in the platform.

The five questions above explore the business and technology decisions and risks that underlie the digital business and are critical to its long-term agility and margins. While questions about revenue, viral growth, and privacy receive attention, it is the agility and margins that ultimately determine the success of most digital businesses.

Assuring nimbleness and agility is paramount, as is strategic vision and subject matter expertise. Beware of simply spreading the decision making among the different business functions charged with making the various parts of a digital business run. CEOs need to be aware that “future-proofing” these decisions to technology, market, regulatory, and customer changes is their responsibility.

Author’s note: The opinions herein are my own and do not reflect any views of my employer.

16 Nov 19:08

Finland has one of the best education systems in the world — here are 4 things it does better than the US

by Abby Jackson

Finland Schools Teenagers

Finland is an innovative country when it comes to education, and its innovation yields results.

It's consistently one of the highest performing developed countries on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an important tool for measuring education systems worldwide.

While Finland's ranking dropped to 12 in the most recent PISA ranking, it's still a lot higher than the US ranking of 36.

Here are some things Finland does differently — and arguably better — than the US when it comes to education:

1. Better standardized tests

Finnish students only take one standardized test during their entire primary and secondary schooling.

By contrast, the US, driven by No Child Left Behind and Common Core mandates, requires students in third through eighth grade to take annual standardized tests to track their performance. Critics claim constant testing doesn't make students any smarter but instead creates a "teaching to the test" environment in schools.

Karen Magee, the president of the largest teachers union in New York, went so far as to urge parents to boycott standardized tests recently.

The Finnish test, called the National Matriculation Examination, is taken at the end of high school and graded by teachers, not computers, as Pasi Sahlberg a professor and former director general at the Finland Ministry of Education, explained to the Washington Post in 2014. The test also doesn't shy away from controversial or complex topics.

Here are some typical questions, according to Sahlberg:

"In what sense are happiness, good life and well-being ethical concepts?"

"Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels predicted that a socialist revolution would first happen in countries like Great Britain. What made Marx and Engels claim that and why did a socialist revolution happen in Russia?"

Sahlberg added, in the Washington Post, "Students are regularly asked to show their ability to cope with issues related to evolution, losing a job, dieting, political issues, violence, war, ethics in sports, junk food, sex, drugs, and popular music. Such issues span across subject areas and often require multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills."

2. More time for play

Students in Finland spend relatively little time on homework, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A 2014 study of 15-year-olds around the world by the OECD said that on average, Finnish students spend 2.8 hours a week on homework. This contrasts noticeably from the 6.1 hours American students spend per week.

Screen Shot 2015 03 30 at 4.44.31 PMFinns place a lot of value on free time and play. By law, teachers must give students a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of instruction.

It's a different story in the US where kids typically get less than half an hour of recess every day.

This "deficit of play" for US students may lead to additional anxiety and other mental health issues, the psychologist and research professor Peter Gray has written.

3. College is free

In Finland, not only are bachelor degree programs completely free of tuition fees, so are master and doctoral programs. Students pursue higher education goals without the mountains of student loan debt that many American students face. And the same goes for foreign students. Tuition is free for any student accepted into a college or graduate program in Finland.

This contrasts greatly with the US, where the average student loan debt now approaches $30,000, according to the Institute for College Access and Success's 2014 report.

4. Elevated teaching profession

Screen Shot 2015 04 02 at 2.56.33 PMIn Finland, teaching is one of the most revered professions with a relatively high barrier to entry.

Only one in 10 students who apply to teacher education programs are admitted, according to the Center on International Education Benchmarking (CIEB).

Teachers in Finland are treated like professors at universities, and they teach fewer hours during the day than US teachers, with more time devoted to lesson planning.

They also get paid slightly more in Finland. The average teacher in the US makes about $41,000 a year, compared to $43,000 in Finland, according to OECD data.

And while teachers in the US make less money than many other countries, the OECD found that they work the longest hours of all.

It's easy to understand why America's teachers — who are overworked and get relatively little respect — might not be as effective as teachers in Finland.

SEE ALSO: A Harvard grad with a perfect SAT score explains how to ace the test

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This is what happens to your brain and body when you check your phone before bed

16 Nov 19:08

How to Set Appointments that Stick

“When cold calling, how can our sales team make strong appointments that stick?”
Setting appointments have two common problems:
Initial interest (“No, thanks, we already have someone that takes care of that” etc)
Cancellations / No-Shows.
These two common sales challenges aren’t a byproduct of sales. They are a result of using improper sales techniques, methods and strategies.
In short, the sales person set the wrong goal for the sales call prior to picking up the phone, and, therefore, has guaranteed themselves a high failure rate.
When we set a goal or a “purpose” for a sales call (in this case, to set an appointment) we tend to go directly to that point to try and achieve it.
A BAD BUT COMMON example of a sales call for setting an appointment might go something like this:
SALESPERSON: Hi, this is (your name) with (your company). We provide (blah blah blah) and I’d like to see if I could get on your calendar sometime this week. Is Tuesday or Thursday better for you?
PROSPECT: Uh, I don’t think we would be interested. We already have a company that does that.
One of the biggest mistakes appointment setters, or sales people that need to set their own appointments, make is they have the wrong purpose / goal or objective of the call to begin with.
The only way to increase the odds of a prospect wanting to meet with you, and to keep the appointment once they set it, is for the prospect to want to meet with you, more than you want to meet with them. And for that to happen, they will need to have a big WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM understanding.
Baby Steps
Instead of going for the “close” of setting the appointment in your opening sales call, focus on piquing interest in order to be able to ask them a few questions to see if meeting would even be beneficial for them.
To set more appointments that stick, use an opening value statement that piques your prospect’s interest and then ask a few of the right sales questions that focuses your prospect attention on an area that will uncover a problem. Do it correctly and your appointment quota will be met, if not exceeded, and your prospects will be happy you called.
– Michael Pedone

“When cold calling, how can our sales team make strong appointments that stick?”

Setting appointments have two common problems:

Initial interest (“No, thanks, we already have someone that takes care of that” etc)

Cancellations / No-Shows.

These two common sales challenges aren’t a byproduct of sales. They are a result of using improper sales techniques, methods and strategies.

In short, the sales person set the wrong goal for the sales call prior to picking up the phone, and, therefore, has guaranteed themselves a high failure rate.

When we set a goal or a “purpose” for a sales call (in this case, to set an appointment) we tend to go directly to that point to try and achieve it.

A BAD BUT COMMON example of a sales call for setting an appointment might go something like this:

SALESPERSON: Hi, this is (your name) with (your company). We provide (blah blah blah) and I’d like to see if I could get on your calendar sometime this week. Is Tuesday or Thursday better for you?

PROSPECT: Uh, I don’t think we would be interested. We already have a company that does that.

One of the biggest mistakes appointment setters, or sales people that need to set their own appointments, make is they have the wrong purpose / goal or objective of the call to begin with.

The only way to increase the odds of a prospect wanting to meet with you, and to keep the appointment once they set it, is for the prospect to want to meet with you, more than you want to meet with them. And for that to happen, they will need to have a big WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM understanding.

Baby Steps

Instead of going for the “close” of setting the appointment in your opening sales call, focus on piquing interest in order to be able to ask them a few questions to see if meeting would even be beneficial for them.

To set more appointments that stick, use an opening value statement that piques your prospect’s interest and then ask a few of the right sales questions that focuses your prospect attention on an area that will uncover a problem. Do it correctly and your appointment quota will be met, if not exceeded, and your prospects will be happy you called.

– Michael Pedone

16 Nov 19:06

3 Tips to Hone Your Social Listening Skills

by Alex Hisaka
  • 3-tips-for-social-listening

Welcome to the age of social selling: the sales funnel is shorter, the buyer journey is erratic, and your success as a seller in this increasingly crowded social space isn’t determined by how loudly you shout, but by how well you listen.

Data gleaned from social media can be incredibly rich. You can analyze prospect information in minutes, segment and target multiple demographics, identify and connect with industry leaders and influencers, scout competitors, and track trends. There’s only one problem with listening to this avalanche of social media data: there’s too much of it.

You want to cut through the static and find the social data that makes you a better seller. So here are some tips about how to cultivate your social listening skills, and what you can actually do with the data you find.

Social Listening Is a Verb

Great social listeners are active listeners. They don’t just absorb everything their prospects say on social media—that’s a one-way ticket to information overload. Instead, social sellers prioritize a few key goals and listen for specific instances so they can translate that data into actionable intelligence. Here are three of the best ways to turn social listening into social selling.

1. Provide Pre-Sales Support

Before a large or complex purchase, buyers turn to social media for answers, recommendations and advice from peers and influencers. Forbes analyst Daniel Newman highlights the selling power of timely listening at this crucial stage of the buyer’s journey.

Consider how a potential B2B buyer goes into a group on LinkedIn to discuss the pros and cons of a new software package,” Newman says. “If you are engaged in social listening you may have the chance to pull that interested buyer’s conversation and turn it into a dialogue with a sales engineer.”

Learn where your potential buyers seek buying advice and information, then listen for opportunities to insert yourself in the conversation.

2. Watch for Purchasing Signals

Hand in hand with pre-sales support, active social listening can provide new insights into exactly how prospective buyers in your market might enter the sales funnel. Specifically, what behaviors signal an imminent purchase?

What is the most recent content a buyer liked on LinkedIn? Did they comment on it or share the article with others? Did they engage with a tweet from an influencer that led to a purchasing landing page?

These are all questions that social listening can answer to help fill in the gaps in the buyer’s journey to make the top of the funnel as efficient as possible.

3. Double Down on Customer Support & Retention

Customer acquisition is a lot more costly than retention. It’s not the most glamorous or exciting element of social listening, but managing customer expectations and concerns is a powerful social selling tool that will help keep the lights on.

Many brands approach this aspect of social listening differently—from support teams that monitor social for obvious problems, to more proactive engagement teams. Buyer expectations have shifted, largely in part to how social the seller landscape has become. Prospects expect timely answers to questions and brands that actively listen are way ahead of the customer care curve than the rest. Not only does that mean higher customer retention and satisfaction—it also means more referrals from happy customers eager to recommend your solution to their social networks.

Define Your Goals, Then Listen Up

If you don’t know where your buyers come from or what they need, you’ll have a hard time pitching them your solution. Active social listening informs most of the early stages of the buyer’s journey, but it also provides opportunities for late stage customer retention and the chance to uncover new markets if you’re listening closely.

Create your online profile, find the social channels your buyers use, define your sales goals—then listen closely for ways to align them with your target market. If you’re listening and prepared, buyers will come to you.

Author, Jeff Zabin simply says, “Social listening means being able to create structure around unstructured data.” Once you’ve established that structure, everything else falls into place.

Download LinkedIn’s Professional Profile Kit, and get started creating the structure you need to make sense of the social media data that matters to your buyers.

16 Nov 19:06

What Is Customer Segmentation? A No-Frills Guide For Marketers

by Vignesh Subramanyan

“Marketing to everyone is synonymous with marketing to no one”

The most common challenges facing B2B marketers today is knowing who your customers are, understanding what makes them different, and figuring out how you can get them to convert.

Most marketers address this by grouping customers with similar characteristics into small groups and then marketing to those groups with personalized messages. This process is referred to as segmentation. But, as intuitive as this may seem, many marketers are afraid they’ll miss out on opportunities that would have been otherwise available with a broader target audience. That’s what we’re here to address today.

In this post, we’ll take a look at customer segmentation, understand what role it plays in marketing today, and highlight some of the marketing challenges associated with it.

Customer Segmentation Defined

To kick things off, let’s look at a definition of customer segmentation. Segmentation in B2B marketing is defined as:

A strategic approach to finely tune groups of target markets based on commonalities representative of your ideal customers.

Put simply, segmentation allows you to divide your markets or customers into distinct groups with commons needs and characteristics. Once they’re broken into smaller groups, you can get a better understanding of both current and potential customers, using the insights you discover to effectively target the latter.

By addressing a segment of buyers who have common pain points and needs, as well as attributes and buying signals, you can engage buyers and accounts with the highest propensity to convert. So rather than wasting marketing dollars on broad campaigns that yield low conversions, you can target your best prospects that are highly receptive to your messages and more likely to purchase.

What Is The Role Of Customer Segmentation In Marketing?

One of the most common misconceptions with segmentation is that marketers will “miss out” on opportunities that might be available outside of target segments. But that’s not entirely true.

Here’s a great analogy by Gartner that highlights how you should think about customer segmentation:

Customer Segmentation - Gartner Archery Analogy

Think of the segmentation targeting model as an archery target:

  • The bulls-eye is your target segment or ideal customer profile (ICP), which is where marketers will primarily focus their efforts.
  • The next ring is prospects that fall into segments that have similar characteristics to the core segments.
  • Lastly, the outer ring is buyers that find your business.

The purpose of segmentation is for marketers to focus their efforts primarily on the core target segment, or the bulls-eye. Of course, there will be opportunities that are worth pursuing outside the target segments, but, marketing and sales will not invest significant time or resources into campaigns that attract these prospects.

If your business follows an account-based marketing strategy, think of your ‘target segment’ as your Tier A accounts.

So what’s holding marketers back from implementing effective customer segmentation?

3 Marketing Challenges Associated With Segmentation

1) Target markets are defined too loosely

The first marketing challenge is caused by most marketers’ temptation to say “everyone can use our products” i.e. overestimating the size of your bullseye. While your addressable market may be very large (the outer rings), your target segment has to be tightly defined.

4 out of 5 market entries fail primarily because businesses don’t tightly define their target segments.

McKinsey

Note: It takes a conscious effort to qualify accounts out, rather than including them in the target segment.

2) Marketers are missing micro-segments

A common mistake that marketers make is assuming that everyone in their target segment is the same. Although your target segment is a focused lens that you use to look at your audience, it’s still made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of micro-segments.

Addressing your target segment as one group will not result in quality engagement, even if they’re all “perfect fits”.

By breaking up a target segment into micro-segments, marketers can understand their customers at a much deeper level, allowing for more hyper-personalized campaigns.

3) Businesses lack the data, tools, and people for segmentation

One of the more fundamental challenges facing businesses is the lack of adequate resources to define their target market or build micro-segments. This problem spans from small startups all the way up to massive enterprises with armies of data analysts at their disposal.

For startups, this is usually due to a lack of resources or access to the right tools that can share such insights. Larger companies tend to suffer from bad data that holds back their marketing efforts.

Wrapping It Up

Customer segmentation is one of the few ways marketers can ensure they’re reaching their best prospects with relevant messages. But the process of actually segmenting your audience and creating personalized messages is no easy feat.

Stay tuned for some of our upcoming posts that highlight how you can leverage segmentation for your marketing efforts. Or, download our comprehensive playbook that walks you through the process.

segmentation-targeting-predictive-playbook

16 Nov 19:06

10 Steps to Building Modern B2B Marketing Personas

by Christine Viera

A classic tool, the marketing persona is overdue for a modern overhaul. If you’re a product marketing expert and wondering how to manage personas, here’s my advice.

1. Use persona maps to formalize tribal knowledge.

If you don’t know what your sales, marketing, and product managers (aka your tribe) think they know, you can’t test those insights against market reality. Map your personas and find out what customer-facing employees learn from prospects and customers daily. Persona maps are an especially good way to confirm who sales really sells to.

2. Get real with personas.

Beware of the echo chamber. If you target personas on gut instinct or tribal input only, be ready for a roller coaster ride. Marketing will be at the mercy of the most vocal voices in your company. You’ll find yourself guessing at why you win or lose deals. So, go out and conduct persona interviews at a minimum. Better still, conduct actual primary market research. If you’re investing big bucks in product development or marketing programs to reach your buyers, it’s well worth the cost.

3. Humanize personas.

The very word “persona” sounds like awkward marketing jargon. So you have to make this real for your colleagues. How? Conduct persona interviews. Record these sessions with their permission. Then use quotes, the recordings, and summaries to offer critical insight to your sales teams and other stakeholders. This is what makes your data and insights real. Your marketing will be better when you have both qualitative and quantitative insights.

4. Don’t let persona creation stall strategy.

I’ve seen some marketers pause planning and execution to conduct complex persona mapping. We applaud the due diligence, but don’t hit pause while you profile buyers. Persona research should make your current efforts smarter. Plan ahead for best results in designing go to market plans based on persona insights. If you reach planning season without fresh persona insights, you can still quickly map what the tribe thinks as a stop-gap effort.

5. Go digital with personas.

Everyone has ways to learn about new trends and needs. These most certainly include digital “watering holes.” Your B2B content, online marketing, and digital tactics must reach buyers across relevant digital channels as well as traditional channels. Most B2B marketers get this. The trick is to truly understand and explore how digital marketing and sales enablement are completely intertwined.

6. Make personas pragmatic.

The only goal of mapping personas is to drive real work. Your persona maps should include real titles of professionals–by role and rank. This helps demand gen teams target specific people. After all, we market to people. Also, you should audit your CRM and Marketing Automation databases for the “hit rate” of the persona titles you mapped. How many of your target titles are already customers and prospects? If you can’t see them in your databases, you’re not reaching the buyers you want.

7. Create full funnel content plans for personas.

You can’t create meaningful content marketing plans without knowing your buyers. In my book, that’s the #1 reason why content marketing fails. Once you map exactly who you’re targeting, audit what content you have for these buyers. Be a very tough grader for this work. Does your content really talk to executives? How do you know? Once you have a content heat map for these buyers, you can create and fill the “gap map” of content for your marketing and sales funnel.

8. Engage in execution of persona targeting.

Armed with your persona map, research, content plans, and targeting lists — you’re off to the races. But wait, there’s more! Do you know what’s really working on your frontlines? Do your campaigns drive high quality leads in your target buyer pool? Is your sales team meeting with target buyers? Stay close to the execution so that you support, coach, and learn from your tribe as they execute.

9. Measure success of persona marketing.

As with everything in sales and marketing, measure your success. How many more target buyers bought your product? Are targeted buyers converting better or faster throughout your marketing and sales funnel? Set a baseline and measure it.

10. Evolve personas actively.

Persona development can’t be an academic exercise. Effective marketing teams use data, input from the tribe, and experience to keep up with buyers. If your marketing isn’t reaching them, it’s time to update your insights or targeting. If your marketing works, what’s next? How can you optimize the customer experience? In short, your work is never done. So, settle in for the marathon and have fun mastering deeper insights into your buyers.

16 Nov 19:02

11 Techniques to Run Efficient and Effective Sales Meetings

by lye@hubspot.com (Leslie Ye)

how-to-run-a-sales-meeting.jpg

Sales is changing in many ways. The landscape of technology has dramatically shaken up the relationship between buyers and sellers, forced changes in the way salespeople prospect and reach out to buyers, and has required that reps run tighter and more customized sales processes than ever before.

But even while the tools and techniques that define modern sales have changed, one thing hasn’t: The importance of the sales meeting. It doesn’t matter whether you still run face-to-face meetings or speak to prospects exclusively through videoconferencing software. Sales meetings in any shape or form are still the best way to move a sales process forward. Objections can be handled in real time, reps and prospects can get to know one another on a human level, and trust can be built naturally.

Sign up for HubSpot Sales to start booking more meetings today.

These meetings aren’t easy to run. Time is precious, and wasting your prospect’s time is the fastest way to ensure you won’t ever get more. The 11 techniques below are the key to making sure you’re running efficient, effective sales meetings that will keep your prospects engaged until the end of the process.

How to Run an Effective Sales Meeting

Before the meeting:

1) Don’t ask for a meeting unless the time is right.

A meeting is a fairly big ask. It’s a set period of time where your prospect will essentially be a captive audience, answering your questions and listening to your insights. While you might only speak 20% of the time or avoid pitching until you know there’s a fit, not all sales reps behave this way -- and that makes prospects wary of setting time with a salesperson they don’t know.

So provide value first. Bring one or two suggestions for improvement to the table, provide a referral, or help your prospect in some other way to establish early trust before asking them to commit their time to you.

2) Make it easy for prospects to meet with you when they want.

Going back-and-forth on a meeting time by email is a precious waste of momentum. Even a prospect who’s fully committed to meeting you will become frustrated by the inefficiency, and a buyer who’s not as excited might simply give up.

As a salesperson, you should make it spectacularly easy for prospects to book a convenient time on you calendar. The Meetings app in HubSpot Sales allows you to do just that. Salespeople can link their Google or Office 365 calendars to the app and send one easy link to prospects so they can browse your calendars and book a time that works for them.

With Embedded Meetings, it’s easy for prospects to book time with you directly from your website. You can think of Embedded Meetings as a new type of form, but instead of simply capturing a lead, you’re actually getting the commitment of a meeting on the books.

Meetings - Form.png

Get more information on booking meetings with HubSpot Sales here.

3) Pull in all appropriate stakeholders.

Whether you booked a meeting touchlessly or from an outreach email, you should reach out to the prospect for some basic information before you sit down -- what they want to get out of the meeting, specific topics they want to discuss, and so forth.

One crucial piece of information you should seek out is who else should be involved. This doesn’t have to be a make-or-break for early meetings, since many low-level prospects will want to assess your product for fit before pulling in higher-ups. But as you get further into the process, make sure ahead of time that everyone who has influence over a purchasing decision is involved.

(Psst: Wondering how to easily gather this pre-meeting information? With the Meetings app, salespeople can include a customizable pre-meeting questionnaire prospects must fill out before booking a meeting.)

4) Share an agenda.

Meetings without an agenda are like unsharpened pencils: Pointless. They waste time, create frustration, and convey a lack of professionalism.

A day before the meeting, send buyers a quick email outlining what you hope to cover. Invite them to add any items they’d like to the agenda. Even if you’ve already spoken about what the meeting will be about, get it down in writing so both parties have a written record to refer to.

During the meeting:

1) Get buy-in on the agenda.

Ideally, your prospect will respond to your agenda email with a, “Sounds great!” or, “Looks good, but I’d also like to talk about [business area].” But if they don’t, don’t assume anything. Use the start of the meeting to quickly run through the email together so you’re absolutely sure your prospect is on board with your suggested topics.

2) Ask the prospect for input throughout.

Assumptions can be fatal to a sales process. Silence from one prospect can mean assent, while another could be conveying that they’re completely lost. The burden shouldn’t be on your prospect to express confusion -- something they may not want to do at all for fear of appearing stupid.

Check in with your prospect at multiple intervals. Asking questions like, “Am I being clear?” or, “How do you see this impacting your day-to-day?” allows you to confirm they understand what you’re saying without having to admit they don’t understand something.

3) Stay in control.

Running a buyer-centric sales process doesn’t mean rolling over and letting them determine every move that’s made. While your buyer’s input is crucial to ensuring you get the information you need to help them, you’re the expert when it comes to selling. By nature of the fact that you run sales processes every day, you understand the stages of your playbook and the purpose each serves better than your buyer. Communicate the value you bring so your buyer follows your lead.

4) Look for opportunities to qualify or disqualify.

Every sales meeting should move a sales process forward in some way. This could mean having another meeting or moving the process toward a close, or it could mean writing the deal off as a bad fit and moving on. Either solution is fine, as long as you’re certain the deal falls into one or the other scenario.

What you don’t want is to end a meeting without knowing whether to further qualify or disqualify the prospect. Make sure you’re working in questions and looking out for signals that reveal whether a buyer is a good or bad fit so you don’t waste time speaking to the wrong people.

5) Confirm a next step.

The easiest way to move a prospect further down the funnel while weeding out bad fits is to ask for a commitment at the end of every sales call. If they want to remain engaged, they’ll be happy to work with you. If not, they’ll be evasive or flat-out say “no.”

What you ask for will vary depending on what you uncover during a sales meeting. Maybe you’ve spent an hour successfully handling objections -- ask to give a product demonstration the next time you and your prospect meet. Maybe your prospect brought up a process that’ll run parallel to your product for the first time -- ask for another meeting to dig into how your product will fit into the existing landscape. Whatever you ask for, do it while you’re still top-of-mind for your prospect.

After the meeting:

1) Follow up.

The fastest way to lose credibility in any environment, professional or personal, is to fail to meet a commitment you’ve made. So whether you promised to send more information on a certain business area, resources to further explain a point of discussion, or simply a recap email, follow up. Your follow-up email will help crystallize key points of your discussion and provides your prospect an easy reference point to share with their colleagues and other stakeholders.

2) Assign homework.

Another way to test commitment after you’ve set a next step is to assign your prospect homework. HubSpot sales representative Sam Belt uses this technique to see whether buyers are willing and able to implement HubSpot Sales.

“Human beings love to please and are prone to wishful thinking -- a dangerous combination when you are qualifying,” Belt says. “We need to make sure buyers aren’t just telling us what they think we want to hear, or what they want to believe.”

How do you run effective sales meetings? Let us know in the comments below.

HubSpot CRM

16 Nov 19:02

5 Common Reasons Your Sales Conversations Get Derailed

by afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost)

reasons_sales_conversations_get_derailed-461323-edited.jpg

Your product’s features might be the last thing that tip the buyer’s decision your favor, but your sales conversations are what get them interested enough to evaluate nitty-gritty features.

Without productive meetings, it’s unlikely your prospect will be interested in buying.

Plenty of potential potholes can trip you up during sales meetings. If you’re making any of these five mistakes, your sales conversations will almost always get derailed.

1) You Stick to a Script

Having an outline in front of you while you’re on a call helps you stay focused and remember what you need to cover. The operative word being outline. If you’re reading word-for-word from a script, you’ll sound rehearsed and robotic and turn buyers off.

In addition, you’ll miss valuable opportunities to learn more about your prospect.

Take this conversation between a prospect and a salesperson using a script:

Rep: “What’s holding you back from hitting your customer retention goal?”

Prospect: “I think the biggest problem is inconsistency. I’d love to get a representative from every department in a room so we can develop a strategy for a consistent customer experience. Right now it feels like every team is doing something different.”

Rep: “Okay, got it. And have you explored any strategies for overcoming that obstacle?”

Prospect: “Well, as I said, I’d like to host a big meeting … ”

In this situation, sticking to her script made the rep lose credibility. Instead of delving into her prospect’s pain points, she recited the next question on her list. Even if he was interested in her product, the buyer will probably write her off.

2) You Start Selling Too Soon

Have you ever been on the phone with a prospect when they mention an issue your offering is perfectly designed to solve? If so, you were probably tempted to jump into your sales pitch.

Selling too soon is detrimental for two reasons. First, it makes you look self-centered. Rather than talking about the buyer, you’re reeling off product features.

Second, bringing up your solution before the time is right also inevitably involves making assumptions. Your prospect might have more pressing priorities than the first one they mentioned, but you’ll never discover what they really care about if you talk rather than asking questions and listening.

3) You Don’t Properly Set the Agenda

Most salespeople provide some sort of agenda at the top of the call. Any agenda is better than none. However, if your itinerary isn’t clear -- or you don’t follow it -- your conversation will wander.

Make sure you include every discussion point you’d like to cover. In addition, your points should flow logically. It doesn’t make sense to move from the buyer’s strategy to your suggestions back to their current procedures.

Finally, incorporate your prospect into the agenda-setting process. If you don’t talk about the issues that matter most to them, they’ll inevitably be dissatisfied with the call.

Here’s an example of a poorly set agenda and how it could be improved.

Before:

“In the next 60 minutes, I’d like to talk about your goals for Q2 and how my team can help you achieve those.”

After:

“I believe we have an hour. Let’s start with some quick introductions, since there are some new folks joining us. After that, I’d love to learn more about your product team’s goals for Q2. Having more insight into your objectives and potential challenges will help me develop a tailored solution.

Mike mentioned you wanted to discuss how similar organizations have benefited from our services. I’m happy to do that. Is there anything else you’d like to cover today?”

4) You Don’t Have Enough Context

Nothing destroys your credibility faster than asking your prospect a question you could’ve easily answered with a quick Google search.

Nonetheless, some salespeople show up to calls with little to no information about the buyer and their company. This ignorance always reveals itself. 

For example, a clueless rep might ask, “Tell me about your company. What do you sell?”

Answering this question doesn’t help the prospect. In fact, it’s a waste of their time. Every minute a salesperson has with the buyer should be devoted to helping them or discovering information the salesperson couldn’t have gotten any other way.

When reps do research before their calls, they can immediately jump into high-value questions. An educated salesperson may say, “I know you offer toothbrushes at a range of price points. Have you had trouble reaching customers at the higher end of the market? Many of my customers have struggled to appeal to luxury consumers after branding themselves as affordable.”

5) You’re Not Speaking the Prospect’s Language

A successful salesperson acts as a translator, tailoring her message to her specific prospect so it’s relevant, comprehensible, and impactful. On a surface level, this means avoiding technical jargon the buyer probably won’t understand and instead using terms from the buyer’s industry. On a deeper level, it means focusing on the product features and benefits that’ll matter most to her prospect.

If the rep doesn’t customize her presentation, the buyer will tune out.

Let’s compare two sample conversations.

In the first exchange, the salesperson is giving a generic pitch:

Rep: “Our research shows most enterprise organizations are facing two major challenges with on-premise MTF: Rapid increases in average file size and number of transactions, which burden legacy file transfer systems, and increasingly stringent regulations thanks to government concerns over data breaches. Do either of those challenges resonate with you?”

Prospect: “Uh … ”

In the second example, the rep has discovered her prospect is relatively unfamiliar with data storage. She’s also looked at the buyer’s blog posts to discover what language he uses.

Rep: “Since Glasshouse hosts approximately 2,000 different ATS systems, safe to say you’re dealing with a lot of data. Most of the organizations I work with that much data are struggling with their existing storage systems. Every day, the number of files they send and the average size of each file gets bigger. Does that sound familiar to you?”

Prospect: “Yes, the IT team has been saying something to that effect for the past year.”

It can be hard enough to secure time on buyers’ calendars. Steer clear of these five errors so you don’t waste valuable time with your prospects.

HubSpot CRM

16 Nov 19:00

5 Tips for Effective B2B Ecommerce

by Eric Sachs

Time and time again, businesses and enterprises will find that business is as much about communicating and building relationships with clients and potential leads, as it is about building trustworthy and profitable business-to-business channels in order to efficiently source every product and service you need to keep your operation running smoothly. In other words, communication is important on both B2B and B2C fronts for any and all business endeavors.

B2B Ecommerce

This is true more so than ever before, as the 21st century has paved the way for a globalized business landscape where levels of communication and commerce never before imagined have become the norm. In the UK alone, B2B ecommerce has grown to nearly £90 billion in 2014, catching up to comparable levels of local B2C as per Statista. There are countless options for B2B transactions today, and that’s both a great thing and an obstacle.

How the Internet Broadly Affects Business Relationships

On one hand, it offers a greater degree of flexibility as you get to choose from a wider pool of partners. On the other hand, it becomes harder to identify key players and find the best partners – and thus, you run the risk of missing out on a partnership that your competitor locally or from across the world might nab first.

However, not all of these challenges are as much of a hindrance as many companies first expect them to be. There’s much to be gained from modernizing your B2B options, such as simplifying large transactions, cutting costs, automating inventory and more as per Chron, and the downsides are near non-existent – so long as you know how to go about it all. If you’re a company that deals exclusively with B2B, then it’s absolutely vital that you make the most of what today’s online ecommerce options have to offer.

Here are a few comprehensive tips that will not only help you seamlessly implement the benefits of online B2B – it’ll show you how you can continue to keep transaction costs down and further improve your own ecommerce services and make it easier and more profitable for companies to choose you over your competitors.

  1. Simplify Your Platform

A simple look at usage statistics through data aggregators Built With will reveal to you that the majority of the world’s ecommerce portals rely on one of a few simple and dominant platforms. These include giants such as Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce. From there, it’s an eclectic mix of services competing with each other for insignificant market space, including names like Yahoo Store, Oracle Commerce and Volusion.

There’s a reason the top three are most common, however, with Magento taking the cake through its community version and extended Magento Enterprise platform: it’s complex, and markets itself as the workhorse of the ecommerce world, capable of taking on any number of tasks and integrated services.

WooCommerce comes second place for versatility, although it doesn’t share as much power as Magento and neither is it as simple or complete out-of-the-box as Shopify. That being said, what matters most for a great transition into ecommerce is matching your needs with the right service.

For smaller B2B transactions, you don’t even need to set up your own store as per a piece on USA Today’s AZ Central. For wholesale purposes, Shopify makes for a great out-of-the-box solution. As per Shopify itself, companies like Tesla and Herschel use Shopify to manage their online transactions, but as an automobile business, a minority of Tesla’s business is conducted online. Theoretically, it cares more about providing the proper marketing and information to potential customers, so these can inform themselves before making the purchase personally.

Herschel may be another matter, as clothing stores often sell online – yet they’re also in competition with online retailers that work directly with brands to offer a larger catalogue of various brands rather than stocking up on a single name.

You can also integrate the shopping cart and payment processing on your own website. Vertical integration is a great way to reduce costs and cut liability as per Investopedia, and if you want to enjoy the flexibility of hosting your own ecommerce process, there are several options.

With the popular choices in WooCommerce and Magento, functionality goes beyond what you get out-of-the-box. Shopify isn’t particularly customizable, and shops run on Shopify’s servers rather than your own, which isn’t ideal for commerce-oriented companies that want to make a leap into intensive ecommerce.

For them, Magento becomes the top platform choice due to being both a CMS and ecommerce solution, with initial features including benefits like seasonal and promotional price changes, upselling and cross-selling, advanced product filtering and searching, and a few other gems. As per CommonPlaces, it’s often compared with Drupal due to both being more than just an ecommerce solution, and their perceived complexity, although Drupal is used less often.

WooCommerce, on the other hand, is simpler. But as per WPZoom, it relies on WordPress and third-party plugins to truly gain mileage. Magento also has access to such extensions, but requires more expertise to install and tinker with.

  1. Expanded Payment Options

Once you have the ideal platform to handle your budget and size, you’ll ideally have access to a customizable and largely pre-built shopping cart with wholesale functionality and features that pertain to your industry needs and company size. Great! Now you need a way for people to pay for all of that.

It’s true that offering expanded and alternative payment solutions is a great thing for your business, as it has been for over a decade as per Entrepreneur. It allows you to do business with companies and vendors not only through credit cards, but alternative payment methods such as PayPal, Skrill, etc. – but more importantly, you have to prioritize managing as many payment functions as you need within the services of a single vendor.

  1. Ride the EDI Train

As per TechTarget, EDI stands for the electronic data interchange, and it’s the process all transaction data goes through over the course of a transaction. More broadly, it’s the exchange of electronic documents when doing business between businesses. Think purchase orders, invoicing, and receipts. Not too long ago, mailing and faxing was at the heart of this system – today, it’s automated through servers.

This is important because if you’re not already utilizing EDI for everything outside of your ecommerce transactions, you should be.

Buying things today isn’t as easy as exchanging cash for product hand-in-hand – if you’re ordering entire shipments of wholesale products overseas, then there are a myriad of separate costs to consider, and if several banks, payment processors and countries are involved, then the typical paper trail will only create complications and offer more opportunities for errors.

  1. Optimize Your Payment Process

As per Ecommerce and B2B, the most dramatic impact that a shift towards ecommerce has for B2B businesses is lower cost and complexity in transactions. And transaction costs are a very, very big deal in the B2B market – StratoServe notes that they’re one of the chief challenges in B2B marketing.

When a customer buys a product from a business, typically the transaction costs for that purchase are fairly low when compared to the costs associated with B2B transactions. The reason behind this is that transaction costs are calculated primarily on the amount of data transferred and processed by payment processors during a transaction.

For customers buying a mug online, data that may be processed includes credit or debit card information, postal information, and purchase data. For larger business transactions, more data is exchanged at once in order to simplify the interchange process (that is, the exchange of order, invoicing, receipt and other record-keeping information between companies and their payment processors).

This data is called Level II and Level III data, and depending on what level you’re working with, the end result can be lower or higher transaction rates – even with the existing payment efficiencies that the Internet and ecommerce provides you with.

This relates to both regular and ecommerce in the way that efficient credit card processing can spell a difference of several hundred dollars in a larger, international shipment – a difference of 1 percent is possible and, over the course of many transactions, a true scalable benefit.

  1. Recognize and Eliminate Fraud

Since ecommerce does not entail the physical exchange of money and goods in the same area, and doesn’t have the luxury of human supervision, the great benefits of electronic automation come at the expense that you also have to consider a greater risk of fraud. Information Age lists seven separate examples of this sort of fraud in ecommerce, including the more common real-world example of identity theft, and chargeback or “friendly” fraud.

A Nilson Report goes further into depth on the numbers, stating that for every $100 gained, fraud steals $0.057.

The typical formula here is to have an automated script that gathers data elements from previous and ongoing transactions to create a pattern by which to score certain transactions for possible fraud and false positive risks. That way, with a little time, every new transaction comes with a score card that allows you to weigh the risks versus rewards of a transaction more accurately.

There are a few other tips you can use to make the most of integrating your B2B services online, and making your own transactions simpler – such as utilizing the many B2C features that platforms provide to increase sales on the B2B front – but in general, if you’re looking for ways to leverage today’s financial technology developments, and look into its bright and growing future as per Inc, these are some great tips to start with.

Image credit: iStock.com

16 Nov 19:00

How to Get More LinkedIn Sales Leads in 5 Simple Steps

by Jacob Baadsgaard

Ever wonder whether LinkedIn is worth your time? LinkedIn seems to have a ton of promise—especially for B2B companies—but it can be challenging to make good on that promise.

After all, LinkedIn has the highest cost-per-click of any social media platform. To make matters worse, people don’t check LinkedIn nearly as frequently as they check other social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

So, when it comes to marketing, is LinkedIn worth your time? Can you really drive results for your business on LinkedIn?

As it turns out, the answer is yes!

Over the years, I’ve developed a simple, straightforward approach to using LinkedIn that generates regular leads and sales for my business. It takes a bit of extra effort and consistency, but the results are worth it.

Here’s how I use LinkedIn to generate new business:

#1: Network Strategically

If you’re just starting to use LinkedIn as a lead gen platform, you might be tempted to try and connect with everyone. After all, the more people you’re connected with, the better your chances of landing a deal, right?

Well, this might seem like an obvious approach, but let’s dive a bit deeper. If your business sells a customer relationship management platform like Salesforce, are you likely to get much interest from the manager of a fast food restaurant?

The key to successfully using LinkedIn to produce business sales is to build a network of people that is relevant to you and your business. Fortunately, LinkedIn has multiple ways for you to connect with the right sort of people, especially when you’ve opted in on a premium membership.

The easiest way to make useful connections is to use LinkedIn’s search feature to search for terms that relate to topics you’re interested in. This will pull up a list of people who match your search term in some way. Look through those profiles and if someone looks professionally or personally interesting, reach out!

For example, if you’re working in online advertising, you might try searching for “online advertising” and then filtering by second-degree relationships.

online-advertising-search-results

Since these people are already connected to your existing network, they’re much more likely to respond to your invitation to connect.

#2: Focus on Them, Not You

The best way to start a professional relationship is with a sales pitch, right? I mean, if you’ve been on LinkedIn for long, you’ve likely seen a few messages like this:

linkedin-cold-pitch

Messages like this just make you want to say “Sign me up!”, don’t they?

LinkedIn isn’t for connecting to sell things. People on LinkedIn are looking to make meaningful connections. If you ever want any sort of sales to come from those connections, you need to help them see how you’ll benefit them.

The trick here is to focus on your new connection, not your business. Ask genuine questions, find out what their business is about and make them feel good about their accomplishments, like this:

compliment-their-business

See? That was easy.

There’s nothing people like more than feeling admired and appreciated, so sincere compliments are one of the best ways to get good conversations going.

Good conversations lead to good relationships and people buy from people they have a good relationship with…see where we’re going with this?

#3: Secrets Make Friends

All meaningful relationships come from a foundation of trust. Making your LinkedIn connections more than just a tally mark means you’ll need to take a bit of risk and share the right secrets with the right people.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to talk about what you’re working on and share whatever might make you or your business stand out, like so:

sharing-your-secrets

Just so you know, this conversation ended up leading to a sale.

Now, while you should be wise about what you share, don’t worry too much about revealing what makes your business tick. The majority of people won’t steal your ideas and implement them on their own. They’d rather hire someone that they know and trust to get the work done for them.

And even if people do steal some ideas and recommendations, just wish them well. If you’re truly good at what you do, chances are that these would-be thieves won’t be able to make your ideas work and they’ll end up coming back for help from a true expert.

#4: Stay In Your Connection’s Minds

One important thing to remember about making new LinkedIn connections is the fact that most people aren’t going to be ready to buy your products or services. They might not know your business well enough to buy or they may not have a current need for your services.

That’s fine. If you focus on building real relationships, you’ll be the one on their mind when they do finally have a need you can fill.

Fortunately, LinkedIn makes staying on your connections’ radars easy. Here are a few ways to stay top of mind:

Regularly Send Messages

If your messages are well-intentioned and well-timed, they’ll really make a big impact.

Possibly the easiest way to do this is to Go to your LinkedIn homepage and look at the list of major events going on in the lives of your connections. Then, use the direct link to send sincere messages to them about those events.

keep-in-touch

Ss an example, if you were to see the message above, you may consider sending a message like:

Way to go for being at [your job] for [however long]! What was your biggest accomplishment this year?

Messages like this will let your connections talk about themselves while providing you with good insight into what’s important to them and what sorts of things they’re struggling with.

As a quick side note, you’ll want to be careful with this approach, because people often forget to update their LinkedIn profile.

So, it’s best to check out their profile and make sure everything adds up before you send a message that basically communicates “I don’t really know you…”

Share Updates

This might sound simple, but sharing updates consistently can be a really good way to keep yourself in front of your connections. Make sure to use this in a way that will portray you and your business as industry experts by sharing meaningful content, videos and relevant quotes.

share-content

As a bonus, you’ll be showing up regularly in your connection’s feeds, which will keep you on their minds for sure.

stay-top-of-mind

Scheduling tools like Buffer can help you out if you don’t have enough time each day to find articles to share every day. You can schedule updates for the next week in under an hour.

While you’re doing this, be sure to mix up your updates with other people’s content. It’s good to share your own ideas, but it’s great to help people see you’re well informed and familiar with your industry’s issues.

Put Some Posts on LinkedIn Pulse

One way to really stand out is to regularly publish posts on LinkedIn’s publishing platform, LinkedIn Pulse. Unlike updates, LinkedIn actually notifies your connections when you post on Pulse, which puts you in front of a lot more people.

publish-on-linkedin-pulse

Thanks to this visibility boost, Pulse posts often get more comments, shares and views than most normal updates will.

LinkedIn posts also give your connections a good feel for who you are and what your business is all about. People naturally prefer interacting with people they already know and at least trust to some degree—what better way to do that then to give them a peek into what makes you tick!

#5: Just Ask

At this point, you might be wondering when you actually get to pitch your product and services. Well, the good news is, on LinkedIn, people expect you to be a professional with a business you believe in.

What’s more, if you’ve done your job right and created a meaningful relationship, they’ll want to hear about what you do. With this in mind, keep your eyes open for opportunities to talk about your business in a relaxed, non-threatening way.

[let-them-know-you-can-help.png]

Remember, you need to really care about people and then you’ll be able to offer help without offending. We all want to be successful, so remember to show them how you can provide them with value—don’t just talk about how awesome your business is.

The more real your relationships are, the more real your results will be.

Conclusion

The key to turning LinkedIn into an effective lead gen platform is simple: Focus on building real relationships. This takes time and patient, but your efforts will produce remarkable returns; financially, professionally, and personally.

What do you think? What do you think LinkedIn can do for your business? Have you ever used this effectively? How about ineffectively?

16 Nov 19:00

Why Activity-Based Selling Drives Account-Based Sales

by Bob Marsh

It’s no secret that many B2B sales organizations are switching to account-based selling.

What you might not know is that the trick to creating a well-oiled sales machine with account-based selling is with an activity-based selling strategy. This methodology is built on the premise that sales is a cascading chain of controllable behaviors that leads to a defined outcome – closing a deal.

With account-based sales, you have a target prospect profile and account list. Activity-based selling helps guide reps through the best actions to take in pursuing those accounts. This forces the daily routines of sales reps to go from reactive to proactive, because reps know what activities they can control that will lead to winning more business.

This strategy focuses on the basics of selling like qualifying prospects, having conversations with senior buyers and demonstrating ROI, but with more process. Here’s how it works:

Using Activity-Based Selling to Proactively Manage Account-Based Sales

1. Determine sales goals.

How much revenue do you need to bring in this year? I’m guessing your leadership team is looking for year-over-year sales growth. Let’s say you generated $100 million in sales last year, and you’re supposed to increase that number by 40%. That means you need to bring in $140 million this year.

If your average deal size is $100,000, your reps would need to close 1,400 deals. And with 100 sales reps, that comes out to just 14 deals per rep.

2. Calculate conversion rates.

Use a sales scorecard to track activities on your team. When you have one month’s worth of data, you can start to evaluate conversion rates. Here’s an example of average monthly activity levels for reps:

  • 20 Prospect Conversations
  • 10 VP-Level Meetings
  • 5 Proposals Sent
  • 1 Deal

Based on this data, here’s what our conversion rates look like:

( 10 VP-Level Meetings / 20 Conversations ) x 100 = 50%
( 5 Proposals Sent / 10 VP-Level Meetings ) x 100 = 50%
( 1 Deal / 5 Proposals ) x 100 = 20%

Now we can work back from our end goal to determine how much activity it will take to get there.

3. Reverse engineer the sales process.

Start with your desired sales number. For our example, that’s $140 million. We already know that we need 1,400 deals. Based on the 20 percent conversion rate from proposal sent to deal closed, we’ll have to send out 7,000 proposals:

(1,400 deals / 0.2) = 7,000 proposals

Then we can calculate the number of VP-level conversations and meetings we need.

(7,000 proposals / 0.5) = 14,000 VP-Level Meetings
(14,000 VP-Level Meetings / 0.5) = 28,000 Conversations

These levels of activity will drive our revenue outcome.

4. Divide and conquer metrics.

Assign activities. With a 100-person sales team, here’s what each salesperson needs to do:

  • 280 Conversations
  • 140 VP-Level Meetings
  • 70 Proposals Sent
  • 14 Deals

Then break it down to a monthly level:

  • 23 Conversations / Month
  • 12 VP-Level Meetings / Month
  • 3 Proposals Sent / Month
  • 1-2 Deals / Month

Consider adding cushion to your goal. An extra 15-25 percent on activity numbers can offer an added layer of assurance that you’ll achieve quota. But the activity numbers must still be achievable.

5. Monitor and course-correct activities.

This step is critical. Use sales scorecards or a sales activity management system to track daily activities of reps in real time. This helps you ensure that all activity levels stay on (or ahead) of pace to hit quota. Talk about your metrics often – make them a part of your weekly sales team meeting and weekly one-on-one sessions.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of this strategy is the ability to course-correct performance in real time. When a metric falls behind, focus sales rep efforts on it. Host a team meeting to communicate that getting the metric back on pace is a priority. You can even run a quick contest or spiff to foster urgency and rally the team around a common goal.

Treat your metrics like the pulse of your pipeline. If the rhythm slows, so will revenue. But if you use activity-based selling to keep your metrics on track, you’ll surely experience success with account-based sales.

Check out this ROI calculator to see what activity-based selling could do for you.

The post Why Activity-Based Selling Drives Account-Based Sales appeared first on OpenView Labs.

16 Nov 19:00

What Not To Do In Your Business Blog

by Kassia Gardner

business blogA business blog can be a smart marketing move. It can help you build relationships with new and existing clients, demonstrate your knowledge and position you as the expert in your industry.

But get your business blogging wrong and you can do more harm than good!

Here are three common mistake business owners make with their blogs and what you can do to avoid making the same mistake:

1. Not posting consistently

We all start off with good intentions, we intend to post at least once a week, if not more, but as time passes writing our latest blog post drops off our to do list.

If you’re not posting consistently then your missing opportunities to demonstrate your expertise, share content and build relationships.

How to avoid it: Use your diary and set up a regular appointment where you give yourself time to create your content and keep a notebook with you to write down any ideas for blog posts that might pop into your head whilst you’re out and about. Remember content doesn’t just have to be the written word; you can use video, audio and infographics as well.

2. Self-centredness

Too many business owners blogs focus on promoting themselves and what they do (the same can also be said for emails but that’s a different blog post). They tell people about their latest service, new additions to the team or award nomination, it’s all ‘me, me, me.’

Always talking about you and your business is a turn off, and if your not letting people get to know your expertise and work through your blog then you are missing out on sales opportunities.

What to do about it: Don’t tell people how brilliant you are: show them! Create and share useful content such as ‘how to’ articles, hints and tips or case studies. There are more ideas for blog posts here. Follow the 80/20 rule: over the whole of your blog try to make 80% of your content helpful advice and 20% promotional. If you post weekly this might mean on average writing three helpful blog posts and one promotional blog post a month.

3. Not telling people about it

Many small business owners I meet say they don’t get many people reading their blog so they feel they are wasting their time. The problem is usually a “If you build it they will come” attitude. No!

If you’re not telling people that your latest blog post has burst onto your website and is ready to read then they’re not going to know about it. Which means they can’t benefit from your knowledge and expertise, and you’re not reminding them that you are still here.

How to avoid it: Share your blog posts on all your social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, and use a platform like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule your posts in advance. Always include a link to your blog in your email signature, and remember you’re not limited to digital channels you should also mention it at networking events and in other conversations. Research shows that it can take 7 to 13 (and even more) touches to generate sales-ready, qualified leads and blogging for your business should form part of this. So make a plan to blog consistently, share good quality content and tell people about your latest blog post.

How to run an inbound marketing campaign

Sharing my content on social media is one area where I need to start acting on my own advice. What about you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

16 Nov 18:59

Translating Analytics to Action: Right Metrics, Right Time

by Angela Hausman, PhD

translating analytics to action

As you see in the cartoon above, translating analytics to action is fraught with problems. Not the least of which is the political nature of organizational decision-making.

When it comes to ROI, we see lots of organizations jumping on the analytics bandwagon — happy to have more insight into which pages, which messages, which segments are driving returns. A whole host of digital tools can transform your data into pretty dashboards to help improve ROI.

In fact, I have a list of great article to help you measure, understand, and improve ROI from your digital marketing efforts–simply scroll through the 14 great articles to optimize ROI.

Overall, businesses do a great job of monitoring, understanding, and using ROI information–translating it into effective actions. These relatively simple metrics guide managers on which messages, segments, products, and channels are working best, allowing them to tweak strategy to improve market performance. Still, you sometimes run into issues of data quality and politics that impede implementation of the right actions based on available data.

Advanced analytics and big data

The problem arises when it comes to using more advanced analytics and big data to improve ROI indirectly. Let’s take a look at the conversion funnel to see exactly what I mean:

marketing analytics

Notice, that conversion is only one step (in the middle) of the process. Advanced analytics consider the entire funnel (as well as external factors that impact funnel conversions) to improve market performance.

For instance, consider this distinction between simple and advanced analytics:

Simple: We’re getting a higher conversion rate from traffic coming through Twitter. So, we put more money into our Twitter advertising strategy.

Advanced: Twitter is just the “last touch” in a multichannel conversion process that started with an Adwords campaign and included multiple visits to our website through remarketing. Multichannel attribution models are an example of advanced analytics.

Increasingly, C-suite managers realize the value of advanced analytics and big data, they’re just unsure how to proceed. Consider this from Harvard Business Review:

Even so, our experience reveals that most companies are unsure how to proceed. Leaders are understandably leery of making substantial investments in big data and advanced analytics. They’re convinced that their organizations simply aren’t ready. After all, companies may not fully understand the data they already have, or perhaps they’ve lost piles of money on data-warehousing programs that never meshed with business processes, or maybe their current analytics programs are too complicated or don’t yield insights that can be put to use. Or all of the above. No wonder skepticism abounds. (Source)

Using advanced analytics

the role of predictive analytics

This cartoon, from Avinash Kaushik of Occam’s Razor and data guru at Google, shows how even really smart people don’t fully appreciate the role of predictive analytics in translating analytics into action.

By their very nature, predictive analytics are probabilities. That means that they’re right more often than they’re wrong, but they’re not ALWAYS right.

Again, here’s from Harvard Business Review:

Data are essential, but performance improvements and competitive advantage arise from analytics models that allow managers to predict and optimize outcomes. More important, the most effective approach to building a model rarely starts with the data; instead it originates with identifying the business opportunity and determining how the model can improve performance.

Many of the worst predictive models follow a data-first approach. This includes data mining, which is still fashionable in many analytics circles and a feature of many analytic tools. Data mining looks at existing data and seeks correlations (relationships) among the fields within the data. Thus, it’s a rather mindless approach that totally discounts any understanding of marketing concepts or consumer behavior. Not surprisingly, the resulting algorithms are often totally useless. The bigger the dataset, the bigger the risk you’ll produce a useless algorithm.

Combining conceptual knowledge in determining which data to include in your model building results in much greater utility.

For instance, I once created an algorithm using readership among subscribers to predict who would be a sales lead for the organization. I used conceptual understanding building on the conversion funnel shown above to score articles based on content– content further along the conversion funnel got a higher score than general interest content. Using this method, we assigned a score to each subscriber and, once the subscriber passed a threshold it generated a lead for a sales person. This resulted in better quality and higher quantity of leads to the sales force.

Translating analytics to action with data

Translating analytics to action, especially when you’re talking about advanced analytics involves developing understanding and trust among users — often something in very short supply.

First, there’s a serious shortage of managers who understand analytics and big data. Notice in the graphic below, finding folks with skills in data analytics and insights is the biggest challenge faced when building a team, despite the relative importance of these skills.

what is marketing

It’s especially challenging to find team members who possess both marketing skills (in terms of concepts and application) as well as analytic skills. See my earlier post that explains why there’s such a gap.

Translating analytics to action faces many challenges. It:

  • requires managers first understand the data you’re seeing. At a deep level.
  • next, managers must trust the data they’re getting
  • managers need to detect anomalies that require better understanding or further investigation
  • finally, managers must understand how to translate analytics to action by understanding what the models are telling them they should change.

Translating analytics to action: understand data

I was working with a team of students on an analysis project using Google Analytics data. I quickly saw they had misunderstood what one of the dimensions meant and were using it incorrectly in their analysis.

Obviously, any effort at translating analytics to action requires you create a codebook containing the meaning behind the measures you’re using. Managers need training so they completely understand what each measure captures, where it comes from, and what it means in terms of consumer behavior.

In developing algorithms (predictive models) managers need input into the factors they consider important in building better predictions. This improves both the accuracy of the model and the manager’s understanding of the data.

Translating analytics to action: trust

Make data as clean as possible to ensure managers trust the data. Also, predictive models need sufficient testing, and those test results shared with managers, so they trust the algorithms.

Translating analytics to action: detect anomalies

Sometimes factors go a little wonky, sending your algorithms off and increasing distrust in your models. Managers need sufficient analytic skills to detect such anomalies. I recently worked with a client and we discovered a conversion rate that just didn’t make sense. He was initially upset that conversion was much lower than industry standards, so, needless to say, I was very motivated to understand why the anomaly arose.

Spending some time pouring through the data, we detected a change in the data coming into our database which pushed subsequent data into later (inappropriate) columns. Hence, we were combining factors in a manner that didn’t make sense. We simply corrected the problem by changing the factors in our algorithm and things went back to normal.

Had we not detected the anomaly early, we might have gone off making bad decisions or spending unnecessary efforts to build a new algorithm.

Translating analytics to action

Sometimes an analysis shows you exactly which actions to take: poor performance of a piece of content, write content similar to those that performed better.

In other cases, it’s not clear how you should go about translating analytics to action.

In that case, you often resort to A/B testing to determine which actions improve market performance based on insights from the analytics. Or, you have to dig beneath the algorithm, into the data itself, to determine what actions are appropriate.

Final thoughts on translating analytics to action

Translating analytics to action isn’t easy and will take time to implement even if you already have the right people, right skills, and right culture to make it happen. But, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

15 Nov 23:57

A-Side-by-Side Comparison: Kajabi vs. Teachable

by Anthony Carranza

All of the current technologies out in the marketplace and around globe have transformed a great many things. One of the areas that has been impacted significantly by technology is education. What we have witnessed is the increase in distance education and adoption of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

A PR Newswire report by Transparency Market Research found the smart education and learning market (ASEAN) will grow at compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.7 percent over the years of 2016 and 2020. In addition, this market is expected to grow at $88.97 billion by 2020.

Evidently, this market is pivotal for businesses or providers to tap into. In the next sections will compare two popular platforms, which are Teacheable and Kajabi. Both offer similar services with creating and selling courses online, but the differences are covered in the subsequent sections.

Features

What is boils down to when providing the ability to promote services is a platform that integrates features. It is one thing to have content and another to really combine it with nifty features to enhance the online learning.

Kajabi

Kajabi founded in 2009, is a platform that processes a lot for any organization. It contains all of the features to turn your knowledge and content into products you can truly sell. It provides product themes, fully mobile responsive interface and video hosting. In addition, it can quickly deliver an online class, and also tailors customization towards sales or marketing offering unlimited options.

Kajabi Features Screenshot

Teachable

The venture-backed company, Teachable, found in 2009 offers similar yet different features. You can brand your school, set your custom domains, multi-language support and an easy website builder. This hosting platform comes with advanced HTML and CSS editing, multimedia lectures (video, image, text, audio and PDF files), and other learning tools.

teachable-features

Point For Features Goes To: Kajabi

While both companies offer competitive and similar efforts the advantage goes to Jajabi. Teachable has a robust platform to setup an online course, but you need a lot of assistance promoting or advertising those distance learning classes. Kajabi can in turn take both the content and knowledge into a marketable product which is why it wins in this category.

Marketing

In this era unlike any other time it is about deliver actionable and relevant marketing. It is not enough to try and make generate a few leads. The platform should be about being able to take the information from an organization and make it easy to sell.

Kajabi

Kajabi claims to have all the features necessary to collecting and nurturing leads. You can create within a matter of minutes functional and beautiful landing pages. Furthermore, you can also choose from a number of landing page templates or just one that really suits your needs. You will have lead information stored on Kajabi’s platform, ability to send email broadcasts, and analytics.

kajabi-marketing

Teachable

The marketing is a slightly different for Teachable. They help content creators create coupons and promotions. In addition, you can sell content any way you prefer whether it is individual courses, a bundle, or an annual or monthly subscription. What is impressive they accept payments from over 130 international currencies – not to mention a great selection of optimized landing pages.

Teachable Marketing Screenshot

Point For Marketing Goes To: Kajabi

This is a very competitive and attractive comparison between both platforms. However, Kajabi offers an all-in-one system where you create a website, sell your digital products and grow your targeted group of customers.

Pricing

When it comes down to finding the appropriate of pricing largely depends on the organization and available resources. Though the expenditure on a service is a return on investment (ROI) and a benefit in the long-term.

Kajabi

According to the company, Kajabi offers three pricing tiers that are the following: Basic ($103/month), Pro ($311/month) and the Premium ($719/month). The most popular pricing package out of the three is of course the Pro package provides these services: 100 products, 40,000 marketing emails per month, 5 Admin users, 10,000 active members, three sites, 0 percent transaction fee, drip content and more. It really will depend on organizational needs.

Kajabi Pricing Screenshot

Teachable

Teachable on the other hand offers competitive prices. It offers four pricing tiers. They are as follows: Free ($0/month), Basic ($39/month), Professional ($99/month), High Volume ($299). This is includes no limits on usage and more than a handful of support options. You have access to full-ecommerce, student management and email, discussion forums, quizzing, custom domain, coupon codes and more.

Teachable Pricing Screenshot

Point For Pricing Goes To: Teachable

Both offer great services and varying services to get started, but Teachable offers the most affordable pricing. You have access to four different pricing and it really tailors to this emerging marketing for smart education and distance learning.

Security and Hosting

When looking for a service provider you should be thinking about if it’s a mutually beneficial partnership. Specifically, how it guarantees and safeguards sensitive information. It must have robust security to prevent common security threats and how it will mitigate it with technical support.

Kajabi

Kajabi has gained significant prominence in the marketplace. Not only is the technology easy-to-use you gain access to secure hosting, full scalability, data ownership, instant upgrades, multiple sites and data exports. This is paramount to have since you want to avoid outsourcing a separate security team and having to make sense of all of security standards.

Kajabi Hosting and Security Screenshot

Teachable

The platform offers a wide array of services in this category. It offers seamless hosting, data ownership, instant upgrades, 2477 monitoring, SSL Certificate, stored payment data, etc. So not only is a platform that users can learn on the go, but can disregard of having to have a technical background or hire a separate provider to do this overseeing of hosting and security.

Teachable Security and Hosting Screenshot

Point for Hosting and Security Goes To: Tie

Both providers are excellent at excelling at security and hosting data. They offer protection and the peace of mind users or a business needs. Therefore, in this instance a draw has been declared because both offer really great security and hosting services.

Support

For providers to succeed it is important they focus on support every single customer they have. Why? Everyone at the end of the day is crucial to your bottom line, and a bad experience can travel quite rapidly in today’s online world. Having a great support team and an engaged provider waiting to respond to customer issues is a fundamental way to build a good rapport.

Kajabi

The Kajabi platform has over 100 support documents with great illustrations and screenshots to walk through the process. You also have a great search option available so you can find exactly the support question or document that is pertinent to your inquiry. And the support team is available to take questions via email if you are still unable to resolve a problem.

Kajabi Support Screenshot

Teachable

The Teachable platform comes in a similar presentation like Kajabi in regards to support. It has a built-in search option to find a topic or a relevant knowledge base document. The layout of the page is different since there are images in each of the support categories to illustrate the issue at hand. Easy to find the information, but hard to estimate how many support documents they have.

Teachable Support Screenshot

Point for Support Goes To: Kajabi

Kajabi and Teachable offer unique platforms. They have a deep understanding of their platforms and what are the complexities of the technology. In this scenario it is declared in favor of Kajabi because there is more autonomy using the tool and less reliance on their support team.

And Winner of this side-by-side is Kajabi

Takeaways and Conclusions

When comparing Kajabi and Teachable differences exist. Nevertheless, both offer extremely competitive advantages and users could be torn at trying to make up their mind when picking a platform.

Kajabi does have the edge since their features and marketing. It gives their core users the freedom to just focus on perfecting the content and the quality of the course.

Finally, at the end of the day you do not need to juggle between multiple tools to have a thriving online course or business. You just need Kajabi.

15 Nov 23:57

For real industrial internet insight: don’t just capture data, use it

by Jim Walsh
Industrial Internet Research by McKinsey shows that IIoT will touch the 43% of global economy

Industrial operators already have mountains of data and its only getter bigger. A recent report by GE and Accenture found that for 80 to 90 percent of companies, Big Data analytics is among the top three priorities, and 76 percent expect their investment to increase over the next year. Data holds powerful answers for industries across the spectrum — from energy to health care to transportation and beyond — to increase productivity, improve the customer experience and open doors to new technologies and revenue streams.

To get there, we need more than just data collection. Industry needs to be able to use data better and faster for smarter operating decisions, which is the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things. The pathway to this next stage of industrial productivity is through the individual machines from wind turbines to MRI machines to turbines, and more specifically through their control devices.

The industrial internet is like a human body

A functioning and connected nervous system play the key role in allowing us to operate efficiently by responding to our environment extremely fast, even unthinkingly. In this analogy, machine controls are the nervous system of the Industrial Internet.

Traditional control systems, however, are woefully inadequate for realizing the full potential of the Industrial Internet. Traditional controls operate on a simple closed loop, act on a fixed schedule or respond to a very limited set of environmental data. They are self-contained, with limited or no interaction with other industrial systems. Currently, companies with traditional control systems can only utilize about three percent of data from industrial assets. Think about that: Just three percent.

The next wave of industrial productivity growth will come from turning that data into automated operational decisions driven by machine analytics. We need controls at the machine level to be not just smart, as in collecting and processing data locally, but to be connected. Connected controls can utilize the reams of local data by funneling it through the analytical and computing power of the cloud and back down with specific decisions, in real time. They need to do this in addition to performing the same reliable, deterministic control that we all rely upon.

 

 

It’s not about more data, but more effective use of data

Our approach at GE has been to create an Industrial Internet Controls System (IICS) that reliably, safely and securely connects thousands of machines at scale to the power of the cloud and brings computing to the edge in the plant and at the machine. IICS is designed as an out-of-the-box bridge for industrial assets to the full computing power of GE’s Predix platform, which we built as an operating system specifically for industry.

The system consists of a flexible combination of intelligent controllers, I/O modules, secure cloud connectivity, advanced analytics software, and apps. For example, connected controls could enable an app running a turbine to check the price of electricity and adjust speed when the price was at an optimal level. A traditional control would have run the machine at a predetermined speed with no knowledge of outside factors that drive profitability, but the new paradigm creates greater efficiency by optimizing operations based on analysis of dynamic external factors.

Another example would be a gas-fired power plant. Industrial Internet automated controls can canvass the information on the performance and operating conditions of every single machine in the plant, as well as market conditions such as costs, pricing, supply from other electricity sources and demand response. They know if the power supply from wind farms and solar photovoltaic sources is surging or ebbing and whether demand is high or low. They can forecast pricing and the additional revenue that would accrue from stepping up production and set it against the cost regarding wear and tear of parts and future maintenance expense. They can do this with the utmost precision because digital twin models provide precise information on the health and performance of every asset in the plant.

This new-generation nervous system for industry goes beyond Big Data by allowing the best allocation of data processing between the cloud and the edge based on the speed of response and precision of insights. It also enables different industrial assets to talk together and design optimal coordinated responses, and it combines data and forecasts about machines, the physical environment, and the economic environment.

The benefits to industrial companies and their customers are substantial: a shift to predictive maintenance, sharp reductions in malfunctions and unplanned downtime, greater efficiency, productivity, and reliability, lower costs and higher revenues. The extent of these benefits, and the speed at which they can accrue depends crucially on the efficiency of the Industrial Internet controls system.

The author is president and CEO of GE Automation & Controls

The post For real industrial internet insight: don’t just capture data, use it appeared first on ReadWrite.

15 Nov 23:55

The Most Important Traits & Skills To Look For When Hiring a Customer Success Manager

by Kate Harvey

The Most Important Traits & Skills To Look For When Hiring a Customer Success Manager

Congratulations, you’re ready to hire a Customer Success Manager (CSM)! Many industry experts say it is never too soon to hire for customer success.

Effective customer success is key to reducing churn and increasing MRR, so it’s vital the customer success manager you hire be the kind of rockstar who will lead your customer success team (and customers) to….well, success. No pressure, right?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

In today’s blog, you’ll learn:
– The top traits and skills to look for when hiring a Customer Success Manager
– Relevant interview questions for each

First, let’s take a quick look at the common backgrounds for CSM’s. Please note: these backgrounds are for informational purposes rather than suggested requirements. I don’t recommend you limit your search to candidates with only these career backgrounds.
Common CSM Backgrounds

Support. CSM candidates with support experience will understand how to delight a customer. The support background also lends itself to candidates who are comfortable and skilled communicating with customers, addressing critical situations and escalations, and have excellent problem solving abilities.

Sales / Account Management. As with support roles, sales-related backgrounds provide experience that translates well to a customer success role. For instance, successful sales experience will include being comfortable with revenue goals, strong relationship management skills, and the ability to walk customers through a process (previously a sales process, but in the CSM role this can help when onboarding new users).

Product Management. An effective CSM needs to be able to take customers’ feature requests and align internally with the product team. Because one of the Product Manager’s hardest jobs is determining when to say “no” to feature requests and when to develop new features, a CSM with product management experience will have a better understanding of how to work and communicate with the product team.

Before we dive into what to look for when hiring your new CSM, understand that I am not suggesting you ask candidates all of the questions provided in this blog. I’m not even suggesting that you need to wait for a candidate who has all of the traits and skills listed below. The goal of this post is to give a broad overview of the elements of a successful CSM hire, while your job is to determine which are priorities for your own company’s specific CSM role.
Traits and skills to look for when hiring a Customer Success Manager

Experience

Sure, it is ideal to have someone with customer success experience, but (as we discussed above) not having it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Because customer success is still relatively new, the CSM role is also fairly recent so you’re shrinking your candidate pool substantially if you’ll only hire someone with customer success experience.

We’ve also covered that while nice to have, it isn’t mandatory that a potential hire have customer success, support, sales, or product management experience. Here’s what they should have: experience working directly with clients and at executive levels.

While not critical, experience with analytics platforms is also helpful because CSM hires should be analyzing data on a daily basis. Bonus if the platforms they have a background in are customer success analytics platforms!

Interestingly, many in the industry place experience low on the list of priorities for their ideal CSM candidate. Many industry recruiters and company founders stated the qualities discussed below were more important in determining if a potential hire would be successful in a CSM role.

Related interview questions:
– The obvious: “Tell us about your experience with _________.”
– The less obvious: “What are the metrics have you been responsible for in the past? Are your customers happy? How do you know this?”

Relationship Builder

The best Customer Success Managers excel at building and nurturing relationships. It is pretty simple…building relationships with customers is necessary for the CSM to succeed in their position. As I pointed out when discussing product management experience, CSM’s also need to build internal relationships to ensure the customers’ needs are communicated effectively to other teams.

“Sales closes the customer, and Customer (or Client) Success takes it from there — for years. 3-4 or more years, if that’s your Customer Lifetime Value. So actually, Customer Success has a much longer, and ultimately deeper, relationship with the customer than sales or anyone else in your company,” says Jason Lemkin.

Relationships aren’t perfect, so the interview questions below give the candidate the opportunity to address how they build and repair important relationships.

Related interview questions:
– “Give me an example of a time you felt dissatisfied with the way you worked with a customer. What happened? What did you do after that?”
– “Describe a professional challenge that you’ve had to overcome where you leaned on interpersonal relationships to help get through the challenge. What was the outcome?”

Empathy

Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy is the ability to step into another person’s shoes and see the situation from their point of view.

“If you want an employee to help your customers be happy and successful, it’s important for that employee to understand what happiness and success mean to your customers…To do that, they must step into the customer’s shoes,” advises Len Markidan, Groove’s Head of Marketing.

Many recruiters see this ability as more innate than something that can be taught. The first interview question (below) gives the interviewee the chance to empathize with a challenging customer. Many would consider a potential hire using the question as an opportunity to complain about the customer as a red flag.

Slack uses the second question (below) in their interviews to determine a candidate’s ability to empathize. The answers give an “indication of someone’s humility as they talk about their past and acknowledge when they got a lucky break that gave them a leg up. In some cases, this can potentially open up a conversation about privilege, and whether an applicant recognizes any advantages they may have had in getting to where they are,” writes Slack’s Matt Haughey.

Related question:
– “Tell me about the toughest customer you’ve ever had to work with. How did you overcome the challenges the customer presented?”
– “Tell me a story about how luck played a role in your life.”

Proactive

Proactive Customer Success

Proactive is one of the hallmarks of customer success and one of the key differences between customer success and support.

An effective Customer Success Manager will need to “implement an early warning system based on those red flags and know when you need to proactively reach out to your customers. Combine proactively managing at risk accounts with scheduled outreach when things are going well for your customer. Doing both provides you the opportunity to learn your customers’ pain points, while also establishing long-term relationships and trust to effectively reduce churn and increase revenue,” advises Suzanne Gedney, Director of Customer Success at Chargify.

Related questions:
– “Talk about a time you foresaw a potential issue for a customer and proactively reached out to them. What was the situation? How did the customer respond? What was the outcome?”

Excellent Communication Skills

Your CSM will be communicating with customers and internal teams, at all levels. With that in mind, when interviewing candidates you should be evaluating both verbal and written communication skills.

Many companies email job-related questions to potential hires prior to phone interviews to assess their written communication. Pay attention to whether the text answers are clear, the tone of the communication, and if the tone is appropriate. Tone will vary and some company cultures will look for a more informal, humorous tone while that would be inappropriate for representatives of other companies.

Markidan points to a use case for the benefits of communication clarity. While the example is specific to support, the learnings can still be applied to customer success teams:

“What if your team could send one less email per support interaction because they didn’t have to clarify anything that your customer didn’t understand the first time? If your team fields 500 requests each week, that’s 26,000 fewer emails sent in a year.”

groove-decrease-support-emails.png

In the interview questions below, the idea is to see how well the candidate can break down something they know very well to someone who may not be familiar with that activity. This is key because a CSM will be doing just that when onboarding your new users and when training new customer success employees. If your product is more complex, you can ask the interviewee to explain a more complex process they’re already familiar with.

Or, you can test their ability to break down instructions in another scenario: You (or whoever is conducting the interview on your company’s behalf) can do a basic walk-through of your product with the candidate. Then, ask them to repeat the process back to you.

Because clear communication is important with both customers and coworkers, consider asking an interview question that addresses the potential CSM’s ability to communicate with inter-departments.

Related questions:
– “We’d like to get an idea of how you can clearly explain concepts and processes to customers. Tell us, step-by-step, about something that you shop for online, and how you go about searching, choosing and purchasing it.”
– “Describe a time when you had to work with resources outside of your own department to address a customer’s need. What part did you play in formulating a solution for the customer?”

Natural Leader

As is the case with empathy, natural leadership is a skill many feel hard to teach and prefer to hire people with natural leadership skills. Leaders motivate and influence others, and your new Customer Success Manager will need to do those things for customers and internal teams.

Natural leaders take “even difficult and unfortunate circumstances and create a game plan to solve the problem and encourage everyone during that time to do their best. That instinct to take initiative and encourage your team is a really key element that is difficult to teach someone if that is not their natural inclination,” writes business consultant Malcolm Rowlings.

Natural leaders are also strong teachers; your CSM will need to be able to guide both customers and team members.

Related questions:
– “Tell me about a time when you created agreement and shared purpose from a situation in which all parties originally differed in opinion, approach, and objectives.”
– “Tell me about a time when you and your team faced challenging odds. How did you keep them engaged and motivated to overcome the situation and succeed?”

Strategic Mindset

By strategic mindset I’m referring to a potential hire’s ability to see the long-term picture.

“A person who has strategic perspective creates clarity out of complex and seemingly disconnected details. They can feel the winds of change, sense points of conflict and opportunity and articulate in concrete and compelling terms how they can be addressed. They get to the heart of a problem and see the relationship between key elements,” explains James Beck, Managing Director of Effective Governance.

The first interview question, below, can be asked to determine the candidate’s ability “to synthesize all of their learning over time, and develop a more strategic view of current and future customers’ needs,” suggests FirstMark.

Related questions:
– “Talk me through a client you’ve worked with; why did they buy? What were their goals? And how do you help them achieve those goals?”
– “How do you think this position should be evaluated — what should the performance metrics be?”

Creative Problem Solvers

Einstein-quote.jpg

Customer Success Managers “are masters at collectively identifying and articulating what people really want, creating learning conversations, designing options and presenting alternatives,” says B2B marketing expert Pam McBride.

You want a CSM who is innovative and flexible. They’ll not only need to problem-solve issues related to customers, but also use those skills in designing customer success processes that scale.

Additionally, a CSM needs to be able to dig deeper and find out what the root cause of a feature request is. A creative problem solver may have alternate solutions to the root issue that don’t involve product management and development of a new feature, so one of the questions below provides candidates an opportunity to address that.

Related questions:
– “Have you ever had to discuss a feature request or bug with your product team? How did you determine requirements and assess the need to escalate that specific request or bug to the product team? What was the outcome?”
– The best way to see how an applicant will problem solve an issue is to role-play and put them in uncomfortable situations with a “customer”
– An angry customer demanding a refund
– A customer asking for a discount
– A customer making a feature request & becoming frustrated that there hasn’t been more movement on making the feature request a reality

Positivity / Passionate

Attitude goes a long way! When identifying potential CSM hires, look for someone who is truly passionate about helping customers succeed. The ideal candidate is someone who feels real satisfaction from delighting customers. Passion can translate to a CSM who searches out innovative ways to inspire customer loyalty.

“Positivity is about the language you use to communicate with your customers. Subtle differences in word choice can make a huge difference in the way a customer perceives a support transaction,” explains Markidan.

Related questions:
– “What types of problems are you most eager to solve?”
– “If we did not offer you this job, which other jobs are you interested in / applying for?”
– “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a customer. What was the outcome?”

Technical Expertise

Similar to experience, many in the industry listed this skill as less important than some of the other skills and traits listed in this post. Most feel that technical expertise can be taught more easily than some of the other traits we’ve discussed.

FirstMark suggests if the product you offer has “a vertical solution and low average sales price (ASP), like GitHub or Okta, you may be best served by someone with a technical background. These individuals are equipped to develop a deep familiarity with the product and its use cases, and relay domain-specific feedback to product and engineering at a very technical level.”

If you offer a solution that requires your CSM to have technical expertise, the related interview questions will obviously be very specific to the technology.

For candidates who may not have (and don’t need) all the technical expertise, the question below can give some insight into how they go about learning new things…which they’ll need to do if they’re getting up to speed on your own product and any new technology.

Related question:
– “Describe the last time you learned about a new subject matter. How did you begin learning? What resources did you take advantage of?”
I won’t go into detail, but below are some additional skills and traits to look for when hiring a CSM:

– Patience
– Outstanding organizational skills
– Self-motivated
– Enjoys learning

Last, but not least – Culture!

Chargify-FISH-Principles-horizontal.png

It is important to make sure the CSM candidate is a fit for your company’s culture. At Chargify, we’re proud of our company culture and core values. It is so important candidates are a fit with our company culture that we put our core values right in our job postings! Even if you don’t do the same, make sure you’re clear about your company culture in initial conversations with potential hires.

Conclusion

Customer success is essential to increase revenue and reduce churn, and hiring the right Customer Success Manager is key for your business’ success. While the list above is not all-inclusive, my goal was to share some of the most important traits and skills to look for when hiring a CSM.

Do you already have a CSM in place? Which qualifications did you find most important for hiring your CSM? Anything you would add to the list for future hires? Let me know in the comments below.

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15 Nov 23:51

Lead Nurturing: How to Combine Email and Phone Calls to Close More Sales

by Jeff Kalter

Lead nurturing: How to combine email and phone calls to close more sales

When your marketing efforts start to pay off, delivering a boatload of quality leads, it’s exciting. You want to celebrate. But the game’s not over. Your sale is not won yet. You’re just at the starting gate of your demand generation process.

The bare bone fact is: Leads do nothing for your organization’s bottom line unless you can convert them to sales. And the quality of the lead alone does not predict how likely it is to convert. The magic is in the lead nurturing: how you treat a lead after you receive it.

This brings us to the study conducted by Velocify. They looked at data from 3.5 million leads from 400 companies and discovered the formula to maximize conversions. While they note there are differences between businesses and what works for each of them, the overall findings are

  1. Email and Phone Are Better Together

    A horse and carriage, bacon and eggs, and kings and queens. Some things just go better together. While email and phone may not roll off the tip of your tongue, it’s time to add this pair to the list.
    Reaching out to leads with email and phone enables you to realize the full potential of lead nurturing and increase sales conversion rates.
  2. Rapid Response Yields Rewards

    Although the finding that fast response time is essential to boost lead conversion rates is not new, Velocify’s study certainly adds corroborating evidence. Their data showed that if you try to call a contact within 60 seconds of them becoming a lead, you can boost conversion rates by almost 400 percent. After all, you’re more likely to reach them and if you do, engage them. That’s because if they’ve just downloaded a white paper or signed up for a demo, your product or the problem it solves is top of mind. By calling to chat about it, you’re addressing their most pressing interest at that moment. You’re not interrupting them from another train of thought or project.
  3. Frequency’s Your Friend

    You don’t want to squander your reps’ time by having them make unnecessary calls, pestering those who were good enough to give you their contact information. You do, however, want to take a Goldilocks approach, making “just the right” number of calls.

    What’s that magic number? Six.

    If you’re calling two or three times, you may think that’s plenty. However, consider this. The study showed that 81 percent of converted leads are contacted by the third call attempt. Ninety-three percent are reached by the six call attempt. Three more call attempts raise conversion rates by almost 15%. If you sell a complex, high-value product or service, you’ll likely find that making the additional effort delivers a positive ROI. After that, however, there is a diminishing return on further call attempts.

  4. The Right Timing Breeds Results

    Ideally, you’re making the first call immediately, but if at first you don’t reach the individual, you should try, try, try again. So when should you make those six follow-up attempts? You should make the first three attempts to connect on the phone on day one, making call two within the hour and call three within two hours. Wait until day five for the fourth call, day 14 for the fifth call and day 15 for the sixth call.

    But you have to do more than call. Remember the first revelation — email and phone are better together than apart. So why is email so important and where does it fit into the nurturing plan?

    Interestingly, you’re 16 percent more likely to reach someone by phone if you’ve previously emailed them. Perhaps the individual is screening their calls with caller ID. Because you’ve emailed them, they are more liable to recognize your name, understand the value of talking with you and pick up the phone. The study also showed that sending five emails during the first month after you captured a lead can substantially increase your conversion rates. If, however, you send more emails that month, your results will decline, bringing us right back to the importance of the Goldilocks approach and getting it “just right.”

The bottom line is that you have the greatest chance of warming up leads and converting them within the first month of receiving them. All it takes is a well-planned email and telemarketing strategy, and the right timing, tools and people to implement it.

15 Nov 23:51

3 Social Media Marketing Mistakes You Might Be Making and How to Avoid Them

by Lisa Marcyes

3-social-media-marketing-mistakes-you-might-be-making-and-how-to-avoid-them

If you stop and think about it, social media is now a constant in almost every aspect of our lives—work, politics, breaking news, keeping in touch with friends, you name it. In fact, the growth in global social media users is continuing to climb, with over 76% of internet-using U.S. adults engaging on one or more social media platforms, according to Pew Research.

Social media marketing is now a critical strategy for businesses large and small. You might be thinking, “It’s only social media, how hard can it be?” The answer is: for a brand, it can be very hard. While the ever-evolving social landscape gives us new and exciting ways to engage with our audiences, the changes require us to be agile and able to learn quickly, sometimes through trial and error.

The good news is with a smart, detailed and succinct strategy, many of the most common social media marketing mistakes can be averted. Here’s a list of three common mistakes marketers make when it comes to social media marketing and how to avoid them:

1. Jumping in Without a Long-Term Strategy for Growth

Businesses often rush into social media without taking the time to develop a detailed, smart strategy. Social media marketing requires both a short-term and long-term strategy that includes content development, an editorial calendar, social listening, customer service, engagement, and measurement. You get what you put in, and if you don’t track your progress, you won’t know the impact of your efforts, let alone be able to explain them to executives.

Ensure you have a dedicated resource, such as a social media marketing manager, who can develop a brand voice, drive a strategy that aligns with your business priorities, and maintain customer relationships. As with all things, quality takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your social media following won’t be either. As Mark Schaefer, speaker, author, podcaster, and consultant at Schaefer Marketing Solutions, said it: “Usually, the expectations are too high about what social can really accomplish. Building a big audience is fine, but these are weak relational links. It takes time to grow an actionable audience, and businesses chronically overlook this.”

2. Treating Your Social Platforms as Megaphones

Yes, social media can be used to get the word out about your solution and bring some recognition to your brand. However, buyers on social are discerning. They want high quality, educational content, not a sales pitch.

To support your social initiatives, frame your thinking around your audience’s needs and interests. It’s imperative that you seek to provide value to your followers; otherwise, you’ll lose their attention and ultimately, the conversion. Join in on the conversations going on around your brand and industry and engage with your followers. Build relationships by responding to inquiries, providing customer support, and participating in social chatter, like tweet chats. According to John Jantsch, speaker, author, and marketing consultant at Duct Tape Marketing, marketers often make the mistake of “still viewing social platforms as awareness or broadcast channels. If you have 10,000 fans and only 10 of them get your message, it’s not really serving.”

3. Forgetting What Worked Yesterday May Not Work Tomorrow

New advancements in paid social and account-based marketing (ABM) have created a unique way for marketers to understand their audiences better than ever before to serve up relevant messages at just the right time. Customization and personalization are becoming the norm, and it’s inevitable that platforms are evolving to allow its users more flexibility in how they want to tailor their content feeds. But what does that mean for social media marketers?

In order to break through, brands will need to be savvier in how they connect with and engage their audiences. As Brian Fanzo put it, “I believe too many are creating strategies focused on where their audience is today and locking in a mindset that not only doesn’t embrace change, but forgets to factor in where their audience will be tomorrow. It’s not about being on every network; rather, I believe you must be listening and learning how and why others are on social networks you haven’t explored yet.”

In order for any social media strategy to be successful, you need to cover a few bases to keep problems from developing both early and late in the game. First and foremost, start with clear and actionable goals. Establish your objectives and define how you’ll measure results. Understand who your target audience is and what they want, and then frame your thinking around your audience’s needs and interests, not your own sales pitch. And last but not least, flexibility is key! Social media platforms continue to evolve, and where your audience is today, they may not be tomorrow. Start with the basics and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to success!

What other mistakes have you seen in social media marketing? Share them below, along with how you’d fix it!

Marketo Summit 2017 - Nov Banner

 

15 Nov 23:51

Following Trump and Brexit, Canada should be expanding its trade relationship with China

by Gordon Isfeld

OTTAWA — Canada’s drive to recalibrate its post-recession export engine could be going south — figuratively but not physically — in the wake of the Nov. 8 election of anti-trade champion Donald Trump.

The incoming U.S. president’s economic policies closely follow the rise in protectionism that drove the U.K. to opt for leaving the European Union, and Canada will need to secure more and varied overseas customers to fill what could become a growing gap under the new U.S. economic order.

Perhaps the most obvious target for expanding Canada’s export market is already our No. 3 biggest customer — China.

While the EU is second and Mexico a distant fourth, both of those trading partners face uncertain futures in the aftermath of the Brexit vote on June 23 and Trump-inspired moves toward greater economic isolationism.

Besides, the much-trumpeted fiscal “Trump Bump” — primarily through tax cuts for businesses and high-income earners, along with infrastructure spending — will likely have little benefit for companies here.

“If you’re an export–orientated business in Canada, you’d have to look for another large market …  and that’s China, obviously,” said Fotios Raptis, senior international economist at TD Economics, in an interview.

“It offers a lot of opportunities for Canada,” added Raptis, the co-author of a new report that stresses the need to tap into China’s push to increase its goods and services sector.

“If we see our major trading partner entrenched in terms of the global supply chain and the global value-added chains, that’s an opportunity for Canada to reach out to some of the (other) economies that see less demand from the U.S,” said Raptis, who prepared the TD report with deputy chief economist Derek Burleton.

“That’s the upside, and then the downside is that we’re so entrenched in the U.S. supply chain that if you get a pullback in the U.S. and that negatively affects on Canada as well,” Raptis added.

The Trump Bump is one that risks bumping Canada in the wrong direction

China is our third-most important country for exports and imports, after the United States and the 28-nation European Union.

In September, the federal government began “exploratory” discussions on a possible free-trade pact with China,” said Alex Lawrence, a spokesperson for International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“Talks are essential for Canada to determine whether there is sufficient interest or economic benefit for us if we pursued a trade agreement.”

Earlier this month, Freeland tabled legislation to implement the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU, which is expected to ratify the pact sometime in December — even though the U.K.’s planned exit from the trade bloc would leave a gaping hole in CETA.

Trump’s victory could complicate relations with Ottawa, given his displeasure with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but Freeland’s spokesperson said government officials “look forward to working very closely with the new administration and with the United States Congress, including on trade and investment.”

Two-way trade between Canada and the U.S. amounted to about $760 billion in 2015, while total shipments between this country and the EU was worth $92.5 billion last year. Canada-China shipments were valued at $60.3 billion and trade with Mexico was $26.3 billion.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldPrime Minister Justin Trudeau drivers remarks at a business event with the Chinese Entrepreneur Club in Beijing, China

“Sure, Canada would gain market share if Mexican exports are heavily penalized and firms north of the border are exempted, but there’s no certainty right now on that outcome,” said Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets.

“Any doubts about where American trade policy is headed, even if they eventually prove to be unwarranted, could in the near term slow much needed business capital spending in Canada,” he said in a note to investors.

“The Trump Bump is one that risks bumping Canada in the wrong direction.”

Indeed, the president-elect spent much of the election campaign denouncing NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, and demanding that it be renegotiated — it’s still unclear, however, what changes he would make. As for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, still to be ratified, Trump has declared he will not sign off on it.

Meanwhile, the vice-president and chief economist at Export Development Canada, cautions against “breaking the (global trade) architecture that has created efficiency.”

“Let’s remember that we did have some very good times under the same architecture and now the architecture is being blamed for the bad times,” Peter Hall told the Financial Post.

“Does dismantling the architecture really take us to a point of prosperity? It actually increases costs, increases unemployment and it decreases investment.”

Instead, Canadian companies should capitalize on China’s “shift over to more of a consumer class.”

“So, there’s going to be an increased need and increased dependence on the rest of the world to fill that gap,” Hall said.

“When you have 1.3 billion mouths to feed that clearly has an impact of the food side of things. (But also) consider that China’s per capita consumption of things like vehicles, or washers and dyers, and fridges and stoves is far lower than what we would see here.”

Financial Post

gisfeld@nationalpost.com

Twitter.com/gisfeld

15 Nov 21:05

5 Interesting Insights from Buffer’s The State of Social 2016 Report

by Caitlin Burgess

buffer-the-state-of-social-2016

buffer-the-state-of-social-2016What does the social media landscape look like in 2017? What networks are going to help me drive awareness, conversation and conversions? What types of content will have the most impact on my audience? Is Snapchat a good investment?As we near the end of 2016, these are likely just a few of the questions being asked by marketers everywhere. While I’d love to say there’s a magical crystal ball with all the answers out there, we all know that nothing is permanent or sure-fire when it comes to social media. But we do have some data and insights that can help.In it’s The State of Social 2016 report, Buffer surveyed more than 1,200 B2B and B2C marketers to better understand how they’re currently using social media and where they plan to go in 2017. Those who participated work for companies of all sizes and across a variety of industries.Below we offer a few key takeaways from the report as well as some tips for using those insights to guide your social media marketing efforts in the coming year.

#1 - Now is the time to invest in video.

Humans are highly visual beings, so it’s certainly no surprise that online video content is becoming a favorite source of information and entertainment across the digital landscape. As a result, marketers want to create more video content, but they often don’t have the time, resources or cash to do so. In fact, according to Buffer’s report 83% of marketers said they’d create more video if they didn’t have resource limitations. In addition, 30% said they would like to focus more on Facebook video in 2017. With that said, now may be to the time to determine if video is right for your brand and audience, and aligns with your overall business goals, particularly when it comes to Facebook.“Right now, video is hot and is standing out in the Facebook News Feed. But that won’t always be the way,” Buffer said. “As video creeps up in popularity and more and more brands and individuals are sharing it, it’ll be harder to get noticed. Eventually, brands may have to pay for video reach, just as many do already for sponsored posts and ads.”As for the content of your videos, some options to consider are customer or client testimonials, product demos or how-to videos. At TopRank Marketing, each week we create an industry news roundup post that features a video of our team members discussing the latest happenings. Below is a recent example.[youtube]https://youtu.be/VkqhTqfxmSM[/youtube]Check out these resources for more video ideas:

#2 - Facebook is still a leading social platform for marketers.

Despite Facebook’s changes to its News Feed algorithm to favor content from users’ friends and family, and a general decline in organic visibility, marketers are not abandoning the platform. According to Buffer’s report, 93% of marketers still use Facebook for their business and 91% have dabbled with Facebook ads.Whether you’re relying only on organic reach or paying to play, you need to find a way to get your content to stand out. A great first step is digging into your website analytics and Facebook Insights to uncover the types of posts that are really resonating with your audience. Look at the kinds of posts that are driving the most traffic to your website, as well as those that are garnering the most engagement on your page. Use that information to tweak your content plan, as well as your messaging.Check out these resources to help boost your Facebook efforts:

#3 - Google+ is losing steam.

According to the report, marketers are beginning to abandon Google+, with 27% saying they’ll be using it less in 2017. For many of us, this may not be that surprising. While it showed a ton of promise when it launched five or so years ago, some of us have found it’s hard to get the engagement and ROI necessary to justify the efforts.So, if you’re planning on jumping ship and putting your efforts elsewhere in 2017, you certainly won’t be alone. But, don’t let this statistic make the decision for you. Google+ still may be worth your time and effort. Read Buffer’s 5 Surprising Reasons To Reconsider Google+ (That You Can Act On Today) before you pull the plug.

#4 - Social media can be a powerful customer support tool.

Social media is an amazing tool for building brand awareness and encouraging engagement, but most aren’t harnessing the power it has as a customer service and support tool. According to Buffer’s report, just 21% of respondents said customer support was a reason for using social media.The bottom line? Using social media to provide customer service is a huge opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors, engage in meaningful interactions and grow the one-on-one relationships with your customers.But, from my perspective, the caveat here is that you’ll have to be prepared for public displays of negative feedback. As I wrote in another recent TopRank Marketing post:“Every brand and business dreams of complete customer satisfaction, but that’s rarely the case. Things happen and social media is often an easy place for your customers to air their grievances. While it can be scary to allow mistakes to be visible for the whole social media world to see, use any negative feedback as an opportunity to show humility, understanding and your drive to take care of your customers.”

#5 - The struggle to drive website traffic, generate leads and measure ROI on social is real.

Many marketers are struggling to inspire measurable action from their social media audiences. According to the report, 58% of marketers say driving traffic to their website is one of their biggest challenges, followed by lead generation (49%) and defining ROI and measurement (42%). How do you overcome these challenges? First of all, make sure you have a detailed and documented social media marketing strategy. A documented strategy will help you plan and execute your efforts, and provides a foundation that can be refined as you analyze the data coming in.Check out these posts to get more insights on social media strategy and inspiring audience action: Read the full The State of Social 2016 report.What something you’ll be adding or dropping from your social media marketing strategy in 2017? Tell us in the comments section below.

The post 5 Interesting Insights from Buffer’s The State of Social 2016 Report appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

15 Nov 21:04

The 6 Elements of a Truly Consultative Sales Process

by linda@lindarichardson.com (Linda Richardson)

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We know that best-in-class sales organizations use a consultative sales process. But what does that really look like?

A sales process is consultative when the stages and actions align with the customer’s buying experience and are defined in terms of the customer relationship.

It's only successful when sales leadership and the sales force execute with dedication and competence. That's why a true consultative sales framework has both a process component and a human component. Let's dig into each.

Consultative Sales Process

A typical consultative sales process is made up of six stages. Each stage maps out winning behaviors and strategies. Here's an example:

  • Stage 1: Target and Qualify
  • Stage 2: Explore and Assess
  • Stage 3: Access and Develop Solution
  • Stage 4: Present Solution and Follow-up
  • Stage 5: Negotiate and Close
  • Stage 6: Implement, Follow Through, Assess Results, and Expand

The stages should help guide salespeople in qualifying, closing, expanding business, and building relationships.

Each stage should define the objective, best practice activities, tools, models, and customer actions that signal readiness to advance to the next stage (for example, the customer agrees to a meeting in Stage 1, or provides access to the executive buyer in Stage 2).

There should also be a list of sales coaching questions related to each stage. Some examples in Stage 2 would be: What business problem is the customer trying to solve? Have I reached the executive sponsor?

The stages must align with the buyer's journey: The process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service.

Here's a typical buying cycle, along with the corresponding salesperson action.

Stage 1: The customer becomes aware of a business problem. Alternatively, the salesperson creates a pre-stage 1 opportunity by introducing an idea or challenge that is not yet on a customer’s agenda, or raises the visibility of an issue the customer has underestimated.

Stage 2: Customers assess how much of a priority the issue is, determine their options, and develop decision criteria and decision process. Salespeople can help their prospects by sending them how-to blog posts, offering to run a consultative call, and sending them relevant content resources.

Stage 3: Customers research, compare solutions, narrow down choices, and refine decision criteria. The salesperson must differentiate, focus on business outcomes, and prove value.

Stage 4: Knowledgeable customers make their selection and negotiate. Skilled salespeople will have already involved Procurement prior to this stage.

Step 5: Customers make the purchase. Salespeople support implementation and follow-up.

Step 6: Customers are in an evaluation mode. In the post-purchase stage, customers implement, measure outcomes, and evaluate performance against the sales promise. They decide on the future of the relationship. Salespeople must discuss results, prove value, and build on the rapport they previously created.

It is at the intersection of sales process and the buying process that sales are made. Marketing must step up to the plate and support the sales force not only with qualified leads but with knowledge sharing, research, and insights into industry and customer priorities, personas, and challenges. At that point, it is up to salespeople to build on that foundation to understand their customers on an individual, granular level to solve their business problems.

It has been my experience that almost all sales organizations have the fundamentals of an effective sales process within their reach -- but most don’t reach.

Defining a sales process doesn’t take significant blocks of time. To start, pull together a diverse team of sales leaders and top performers, operations, service, and marketing people to map out and capture elements such as key milestones in how customers buy, best practices, tools, customer actions, and models for each stage.

Consultative Salespeople

A consultative sales process is powerful because it clarifies for salespeople what is expected. Additionally, it guides sales managers in what to coach and evaluate.

A sales process, however, is not a silver bullet -- nor is it cast in stone. Instead, it's a map that detours and changes based on conditions. The sales process should also be flexible enough a salesperson can adapt it using their best judgment.

The success of a consultative sales process takes more than even the most clearly defined stages, models, and tools. What you won’t find laid out in the sales process are the salespeople tasked with carrying out the process, the sales managers committed to coaching to it, and sales leadership that fosters an open and supportive culture. These stand equal with process.

Just as customers’ buying patterns have dramatically changed, so too has what it takes to be a consultative salesperson. To execute, salespeople need a number of new skills and resources, including deeper knowledge, a higher level of skill, greater creativity to bring new perspectives and ideas to customers, better sales tools, and most importantly, committed sales leadership and coaching.

A new emphasis has been placed on sales process, but as essential and valuable as a consultative sales process is, success depends on the ability and dedication of sales leadership and the sales force to execute. In his book "The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," Robert Pirsig makes a point worth remembering: The instruction book -- i.e., the process -- is only as good as the driver.

HubSpot CRM

15 Nov 20:47

Overcoming Apathy by Showing How You’re Different—And Why It Matters

by Alex Hisaka
  • overcoming-apathy

It’s a frustrating conundrum: no sales rep wants to waste their valuable time, which means that apathy from leads can be a more challenging response than a simple “no.”

Remember that the first step toward sharpening your sales messaging to is to ensure you’ve targeted the right buyers. From there, the challenge is getting prospects excited—but how? By differentiating your sales message and learning to sell yourself.

Target the Right Buyers

Whenever you’re looking to develop your sales message, it makes sense to begin with a hard look at your buyers. After all, you could have the most exciting, revolutionary sales pitch in the world, but it won’t mean anything to a lead who truly has no use for your product—or worse, one who doesn’t have the license to make purchasing decisions.

If you aren’t targeting the right buyers in the first place, you’ll always get apathetic responses—if not point-blank no’s. Fortunately, the reverse is also true: when you’ve targeted your buyers properly, your pitch will resonate, leading to better results. 

Begin by developing a crystal-clear idea of your ideal buyer. Consider every detail, from industry to region to the titles of decision makers. Then, use the tools at your disposal to track these buyers down. For example, consider leveraging your existing network by reaching out to prospects who actively participate in industry-focused online spaces, like LinkedIn Groups or trade publications.

Differentiate Your Sales Message

Always remember to place yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Chances are that they’re bombarded with similar pitches, and yours will only be effective if it stands out from the crowd. They’re likely wondering how your offering is different, what makes it superior to the competition, and whether they even need it in the first place. After all, if they can save money by not purchasing, they will—that’s business.

According to growth strategist Paul Castain, you can proof your pitch against apathy through three concrete aspects of your messaging: say it first, say it better, and say it exclusively.

Saying it exclusively is easiest: you point to the things that set your product or service apart from the competition. But that’s not all that you can do.

Saying it first means telling your prospects what’s great about your products or services that they may not realize—even if the competition can say the same.

Saying it better refers to using hard evidence, like case studies and testimonials, to support your claims. Though sometimes overlooked, each of these is a critical component of differentiation.

Sell Yourself to the Buyer

Many sales reps forget one of their most important differentiators: themselves. In many ways, the most appealing and exclusive difference that you can offer over the competition is your own value. Once you’ve remembered this, you can learn to use it as a sales tool.

Begin by building your professional brand, especially online—the first place your prospects will look. Then, practice social selling activities, such as gathering industry-relevant insights and sharing them with your network. Over time, you’ll effectively position yourself as an invaluable resource to your prospects—and that will encourage them to buy.

Here’s the key: if your prospects seem apathetic, it’s probably because they’re either the wrong buyer or you haven’t made your differentiators clear enough. Don’t be afraid to sell them features that others haven’t, or even to sell yourself through social media—ultimately, the right messaging will lead to more wins.

To learn more about using social selling to win deals and reach quotas, download The Sales Leader’s Checklist today.

      
15 Nov 20:47

Three Fundamentals of Effective Lead Generation

by Raul Mancha

Much like we have a choice today selecting the next President of the United States, buyers of our products and services have the opportunity to select a partner or vendor to do business with 76% of B2B buyers use three or more channels when researching a potential purchase (Blue Nile Research). This modern buying process provides an opportunity for marketers to place relevant and compelling content in prospect honey holes in order to drive awareness and ultimately engagement. Lead generation is a robust process, however having consulted for 5+ years at The Pedowitz Group I’ve found that if you excel at the following three fundamentals your lead generation engine will be more effective.

1) Define your Target Audience

In order to conduct effective lead generation, you much first understand your audience. The anchors for defining your audience is the development of personas and prospect buying journey.

  • A persona is a customer-centric profile grouping of your audience intended to sharpen messaging, content and enhance the prospect/customer experience. There are three core attributes for persona development.
    • Prospect Pain Points – Identify challenges such as lack of qualified leads or limited budget, and incorporate into content and messaging to illustrate that you understand your audience.
    • Prospect Business Objectives – Demonstrating that you understand what it is your audience is trying to accomplish or experiences in the workplace, establishes credibility and increases the propensity for engagement.
    • Information Sources – Knowing where your audience goes to gather information is critical to understand what topics are top of mind and having a viable channel to distribute your content.
  • The Buying Journey is often confused with the Sales Cycle, however they are vastly different. The Sales Cycle is an internal organization perspective of how the prospect progresses after engaging with sales. Think of things like opportunity stages in CRM. The Buying Journey is a customer-centric view of what your prospect experiences when buying products or services in your space. For example, the first stage of the Buying Journey is typically Awareness. Awareness can be driven by marketing conditions, internal initiatives or by you as a marketer. The development of a Buying Journey has become a common practice for modern marketers, however the trick is integrating the journey into your marketing strategy.

2) Content Marketing

85% of B2B marketers say lead generation is their most important content marketing goal in 2016 (Content Marketing Institute), how does your program stack up against initial 2016 goals? When implementing content marketing, you must first have a plan and then nurture your leads.

  • Content Marketing Plan – The lack of a plan will be apparent to your prospects as they engage with your business and will hinder your ability to drive quality leads. After mapping your content to personas and buying journey stages, you must ensure that all prominent lead sources such as a contact us form or event attendee have a journey or supportive campaign to keep them engaged and demonstrate that you can add value to their business.
  • Lead Nurturing – The most effective method of keeping your audience engaged is lead nurturing via email and outbound methods such as re-marketing. Expertise in lead nurturing results in a 50% increase in sales-ready leads, along with a 33% decrease in its cost (Forrester Research via HubSpot). Start with a lead nurturing campaign that addresses your most prominent persona and then expand to additional personas that marketing and sales believes will most influence pipeline and revenue.

3) Lead Management Process

Lead Management is the process used to manage leads internally after their initial engagement and also provides intelligence as to where marketer’s should be applying their funds. Without an effective lead management process, marketers are flying blind as to what’s working and where budget should be allocated. There are six steps to developing a lead management framework.

  • Establish Metrics
  • Define a Sales Ready Lead
  • Create a Common Funnel with Stages and Statuses
  • Architect Lead Processing and Routing
  • Develop Lead Scoring Model
  • Implement Sales and Marketing SLA

Download our newly released white paper Proven Success Formula for Lead Management to learn how to develop a lead management business case at your organization and establish your framework.

When refining your lead generation approach or developing a 2017 strategy, keep in mind that your audience has a choice. Make their choice easy by ensuring your content taps into what keeps your prospects up at night, and nurture your leads to establish credibility and enhance the prospect experience.

Proven Success Formula for Lead Management

This white paper, written by Debbie Qaqish, provides a template to establish an effective Lead Management practice at your organization.

Download Now

15 Nov 20:46

How to Build a Best-in-Class Account-Based Marketing Technology Stack

by Sangram Vajre

If you’re reading this blog post, it’s safe to say you’re a tech savvy individual. You know OpenView Labs is a go-to-source for the latest tech trends. Chances are you’ve probably heard about account-based marketing – the buzzword du jour of the B2B marketing world.

And while you’ve heard about #ABM, talked about it, or maybe even started to implement account-based marketing strategies in your own organization, there’s still the overarching question: how do you actually do account-based marketing?

Because you’re tech savvy, you know that modern marketing requires digital technology solutions, popularly called #MarTech thanks to Scott Brinker. There are thousands of software tools and web-based solutions to help B2B marketers do our jobs.

The evolution of MarTech has given B2B marketing professionals many advantages. The rise in technology now enables marketers to do marketing at scale. By scale, this means reaching your contacts and accounts in the hundreds and thousands without manual processes. The value this brings includes:

  • Speed: Your marketing team saves time and money by not having to manually reach out to each individual prospect. With technology, you can reach a lot of people in a short period of time, thus expanding your marketing’s reach faster.
  • Results: You can track and measure success metrics for your marketing activities to understand what works and what doesn’t. Depending on the technology tools you use, you can see these results in real-time and use the results to make data-driven decisions.

Keeping in mind that the goal of account-based marketing is to generate revenue from your best-fit customers and prospects, using technology allows your team to do ABM at scale. But when it comes to taking an account-based marketing approach, how can we use what we already have in our MarTech stack to make it applicable to ABM?

From the SiriusDecisions 2016 State of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) Study, a key result indicated how ABM adoption is rapidly accelerating and has gained fast acceptance in B2B, with more than 70 percent of B2B companies having staff that are fully or partially dedicated to driving ABM-specific programs.

This rapid adoption can be attributed to the fact that B2B marketers already have some of (if not all) the tools to launch account-based marketing activities and campaigns.

There are essential software platforms which already exist in your MarTech stack for account-based marketing.

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
  • Marketing Automation (MAP)
  • Content Management System (CMS) i.e. your website
  • Social Media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)

To take this a step further, I apply the #FlipMyFunnel model to look at additional technology for a scalable account-based marketing stack. This model includes:

Identify

The first stage of account-based marketing is to identify accounts to target. Selecting accounts should be done collaboratively with marketing and sales. Predictive technology can augment a team’s ability to choose the best accounts prioritizing based on fit with current customer base or predicting intent. After selecting a list of accounts, data tools allow you to fill your CRM with contacts and other important data to begin engaging accounts.

Expand

Expanding reach within accounts is a key step that provides a significant advantage over lead-based marketing. Tools for expansion provide deeper access and coverage within an account in a variety of ways – enriching contact data, providing an account-based structure to leads and contacts, or allowing engagement campaigns to reach the right stakeholders. Many tools that expand reach are also used to identify or engage accounts.

Engage

Marketers must engage individuals within accounts across the entire buyer’s journey. In each sub-category, consider the tools used to execute your account-based marketing strategy and exclude those that are exclusively used for other marketing strategies. Modern ABM tools allow practitioners to engage the right personas at more accounts with personalized and targeted messaging and content.

Advocate

The relationship with an account doesn’t end after signing the deal. Account-based marketing is the best way to drive adoption, upsell and cross-sell, and referrals. For the customer journey, the ABM stack is focused on marketing tools to create new revenue and expand revenue in existing accounts. The tools in this section allow customers to become your best advocates both within their company and across the market.

Measure

Insight into the effectiveness of your account-based marketing efforts is critical. These tools help with measuring and reporting ROI, spend, attribution, and impact on revenue. Account-based marketing metrics should alway tie back to revenue and pipeline measures including size, stage progression rates, and time to close. These tools provide insights and results from an account-based perspective to see what efforts moved the needle for each account.

To help, Terminus just launched Account-Based Marketing Stack Grader. This new website allows B2B marketers to build hypothetical software stacks with tools organized by the five core components of any account-based marketing strategy. The Stack Grader lays the groundwork for understanding the components of a proper ABM environment and provides feedback to marketers as they select various tools.

In the ABM Stack Grader, you can build your own MarTech stack by selecting tools you’re currently using in your B2B marketing stack, then add in technologies you’re considering using for ABM. After building your stack, you’ll get a “grade” based on how well these technologies will enable your team to do account-based marketing at scale.

Ready to get started? Check out the ABM Stack Grader!

ABM Stack Grader

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