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17 Jun 21:34

Why Computer Vision Has Become a Major Investment Theme for Me

by Mark Suster
Computer Vison Startup Nanit

If you follow me on Snapchat (msuster) you might already know that I’ve been looking at and investing in a number of companies in the computer vision space. My thesis is that it will become a major I/O computing metaphor or as this field is sometimes referred to HCI (human-computer interaction).

Today I am so excited to announce our latest investment in the category — Nanit — which is a smart baby monitor. The objective behind Nanit is to help parent “sleep more and monitor less.” By using computer vision Nanit is able to better help parents understand how well a child is sleeping and if they’re having difficulties what the causes may be (sound, ambient light, temperature or even, gasp, too much parental interference).

https://medium.com/media/dbc7801312367bb6b25e224e463629ef/href

It is simply a stunning use of computer vision (features here) to assist parents in better understanding their babies and young children in ways that were never possible before and we believe with the corpus of data available can also help parents understand child development relative to peer groups and even assist doctors in medical diagnosis in the future. More about Nanit later, but let me talk more broadly about our thesis.

Put simply — computers handle computation, storage and databases store & retrieve results and networks handle the movement of this information to different locations but in order for humans to “interact” with this digital world we need an entry point to “input” (i) information and a mechanism to interpret this information or “output” (o).

The major source of input throughout the past 50+ years has been a keyboard and then in the past 25+ years this added a friend called a mouse. The major source of output of course has a computer monitor that fortunately takes a lot less desk real estate than it did when I started at my first job in 1991.

In that same year I read my first technical article about how voice would profoundly change the I/O metaphor of computing arguing that — of course — typing into a computer was both slow and not intuitive and this even many years before the condition of carpel tunnel syndrome became widely known. In the late 90s I began experimenting with voice as an input with a program by Dragon Systems called “NaturallySpeaking” but I was never quite proficient enough to make this work for me.

Of course in recent years voice as I/O is becoming mainstream. I already use voice daily on Siri to send text messages while driving or search for directions and many friends are now raving about Amazon Echo (I think Father’s Day is coming up soon, Tania? Just sayin’ ;) )

Voice is interesting. But I think computer vision will be much more profound as our long-term human-computer interface and I think will dwarf “wearables” in the field people annoyingly call IoT (Internet of Things). Put simply — intelligent cameras tied to computers will be able interpret what is happening in the physical world with much more more insight than a human using his or her eyes and computers using a projector will be able to communicate with us as humans way more effectively than us staring into a computer monitor all day.

To some extent we’ve already started to accept this as a society because the conversation about “autonomous vehicles” has moved mainstream. Most intelligent people accept that computers attached to your car can predict movements that would interfere with your driving (say, a bicycle that is about to zoom in front of you from the right hand side of the vehicle) and respond more quickly and with fewer errors than a human.

Anybody who knows the field already knows that computer vision is already being used with facial recognition in counter-terrorism, crowd control, combating hooliganism and so forth. But computer vision will enhance the daily experiences of our lives and provide us with significantly more data about the world than we have ever had. (I’ll have to wait until July to tell you more about this when we announce our next computer vision investment).

One of the first investments I did in computer vision was Osmo, a product designed to get children off of the couch and to stop starting into an iPad and instead get them using physical objects (and other people!) in a way that would interact with the iPad and thus fulfill their digital curiosity and ambitions. Osmo produces games, drawing tools and educational toys (most recently a game called “Coding” that can teach children as young as four to program using physical tiles to teach logic.) When you watch children interact with physical objects that control the computing environment and watch how it stimulates imagination and engagement the field of computer vision becomes so obvious you begin searching for many more opportunities in the field.

One of the most obvious to me was Nanit, that was brought to our firm by my colleague Jordan Hudson who met them team, fell in love with their founders & technology, and encouraged us to invest. He and I attend board meetings together in this NYC-based (and Israeli) company. It also helped that Jordan was about to have a baby of his own — Slim Shaney- who is now more than a year old (as is our investment).

The founder & CEO — Assaf Glazer — is a Phd in computer vision from Technion in Israel and furthered his work with a postdoctorate from Cornell Tech in New York, where he hatched Nanit. His co-founder and COO, Andy Berman, made the smart move from being a young VC to becoming an entrepreneur. The CTO, Tor Ivry, heads engineering out of Israel.

And for anybody who has seen me publicly encouraging entrepreneurs to hire senior marketing staff early — amongst the gold standards is Lisa Kennedy who joined Nanit as the CRO having previously been a senior executive at Diapers.com.

When I first saw the product and understood the goals of helping parents make better decisions it was obvious to me and I understood that it wasn’t really a baby “monitor.” For example, my first son has a really skinny body type and as a baby struggled to put on weight. I remember how much emotional pressure this put on my wife wondering whether she was doing something wrong or if it was affecting his health. I distinctly remember her waiting with bated breath to visit the pediatrician and find out how his weight was developing relative to his peer group and whether everything was ok.

With Nanit, of course, parents would be able not only to know the baby’s weight and height (using computer vision to measure his or her proportions) but also help the parents understand where these factors fit into a cohort of similarly aged children.

We all know that baby monitors are used by parents to know when one’s child is crying. But what about if a camera could help you record how many times your baby wakes up in the night, how long it takes her to fall back to sleep and how this compares to all babies? What about if you knew that your baby could self sooth herself within 4 minutes and that was — gasp — normal!?!

How many times is your child waking up? Could the amount of time that you spend attending to her needs in the middle of the night actually contribute to how long it’s taking her to fall back to sleep? These things are knowable using computer vision. And of course Nanit is securely encrypted and HIPAA compliant.

Now. Here’s just a little bit more magic that took me much longer to be persuaded on but now I’m absolutely convinced it’s a game changer. When Assaf first showed us Nanit he told us that parents would want to capture private videos of their child in the crib and be able to share those with friends or grandparents.

NFW, I thought. No. Forking. Way.

Boy was I wrong. Nanit has been in field test with dozens of families in NYC in the past year and once you see real data it’s astounding. As a parent you spend waking hours trying to capture a little bit of magic of your baby’s life: a first step, a first spoonful of food, a babble, a word … a smile. But of course you can’t go around with a smart phone strapped to your head and ready to capture every moment.

It turns out that their are constant magic moments of your child’s development that happen at night. He wakes up and starts talking with his teddy bear. He learns that his right hand is connected to the same body and mind as his left hand and that if he uses them as teammates he can pick up objects. And that time that Connor started learning to get a leg over the side of the crib (and weeks later led to a broken leg … true story).

Using computer vision Nanit is able to monitor when the baby is asleep and when he’s awake and in the awake hours Nanit is able to create private video moments for you the phone that you can scroll through, smile, enjoy, save and share.

As a father this is also pure magic. I remember business trips when my boys were young and how much I missed them. For non parents I would describe this as the same gut wrenching feeling of teenage love and missing your boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s an unknowable human feeling unless you’ve been there. I remember being in China for 2 weeks and having my wife put an iPad at the kids breakfast table so I could “Facetime be there” in the morning and tell jokes and laugh. “Yes! Daddy really did see a guy eat a scorpion on a stick! Yuuuuck! I know! No you’re a poopy diaper head!”

Now imagine being able to see the highlight reel of the best moments from last night of your daughter’s sleep. Her first worlds and babbling and trying to let the ducky talk to ladybug. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen video footage and known just how active babies and toddlers can be in their moments between sleep. And watching how much parents appreciated this video capture knowing how hard it is in the bleary-eyed daytime hours to capture great videos between changing poopy diapers, breast feeding, calming down the screeching, etc.

And.

We believe that Nanit can eventually be used to help predict patterns in childhood development when things may be getting off course. The team has no ambition of playing doctor, but if data could assist a pediatrician in understanding a child’s development, sleeping patterns, weight changes, mood shifts or even inability to communicate emotionally … imagine what a game changer that could be.

Computer vision …

As input in can capture the world around us and store data that can help us better manage our well-being, our health and our precious moments. It can help guide us as parents to sleep more and monitor less (she’s going to be alright!) and can get our children off the couch and using physical toys again.

As output in can play back moments captured from life that be an early warning of danger (Connor!) or as a memory capture that enhances our own sense of connectedness in a world whose pressures often separate more than we may like.

I hope you’ll check out Nanit — it just went on pre-order and will be shipping very soon.

Their whole team has been such a pleasure to work with and their innovations and future plans are so inspiring (and focused on societal improvements in health and well being) — I can’t wait to see what they produce in the years ahead.


Why Computer Vision Has Become a Major Investment Theme for Me was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

 

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

17 Jun 21:34

Sales Won’t Save Your Business. Here’s Why.

by Devon Smiley

During my daily (ermmm…hourly) scrolls through my Instagram feed there are more motivational quotes popping up than I can count. My favourite ones are usually a blend of a coffee reference, a ‘you can do it!’ boost and a reminder that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I like those ones.

They work for me.

They’re at once motivational, inspirational and safe.

That word – safe – is important. Because frankly, there are some pieces of advice floating around via Instaquote that are dangerous in their simplicity.

Granted, those lil graphics demand brevity, and who on earth knows what the original context was when the All-Star businessperson said it the first time. But still – for the legions of IGers who are double-clicking or screen-capping those knowledge bombs, following them could turn out to be a disaster.

Sales Cures All

A few weeks ago this piece of advice from Mark Cuban was making the rounds. It swam through my feed a few times a day, and each time it did I grew more and more uncomfortable with it.

Yes. You need sales in order to be a business. A venture without customer or clients is just a hobby. But if you’re struggling, bringing scoring a heap of new sales isn’t necessarily going to help you. It could actually make things worse.

Quality, Not Quantity

Bringing a struggling business back from the brink, or busting through a plateau requires high quality sales. Sales that add to your profits, can be fulfilled without an operational breakdown, and support your positioning in the market. Here are 3 key elements to watch out for before going full steam ahead with a Sales Cures All approach.

1) Price for profit

In order for a sale to be worthwhile, it has to at least cover the costs of producing and delivering the product or service. That’s the bare minimum. And let’s be honest – you’re pouring way too much time, effort, resources and love into your business to juuuust be scraping by at break-even.

Before making a push to bring in more customers:

  • Know your expenses and your breakeven point. How much does it cost to create and deliver your product or service from start to finish. Know this number. Love this number. This is the price you absolutely must sell at, otherwise you’re losing money with each and every sale you make.
  • Put profit into the mix. Increasing your sale price to include profit is all about building your business’ savings account. It’s the money you’ll be able to invest in that new website, upgrading your CRM or hiring out fabulous social media support. It’s also your wiggle room when it comes time to negotiate. Start with an extra 10%, and work your way up from there.

2) Smart scaling

Especially if you’re a service provider, there’s a limit to how many sales you can make before things just go bananas and you run out of hours and energy. If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and still aren’t seeing the results you need, adding a handful of new clients isn’t going to help matters. The financial upside may be tempting, but you’ll be headed straight for burnout.

Same goes for makers, artisans and producers. How many units can you manufacture each month without quality standards slipping? How many sales can go through your shipping process before there’s a fatal backlog? How much inventory can you reasonably invest in to accommodate a surge in demand?

Before driving hard for more sales:

  • Review your operations. Look for bottlenecks and spots in the process where there’s wasted time or resources. Fix those before stirring up a boatload of new sales.
  • Look for leverage. How can you turn an existing service into a leveraged product? If you spend a lot of your 1-on-1 client time answering the same sort of questions, can you turn that expert advice into an audio + workbook digital solution that’ll give them the benefit of working with you, without taking the time from your schedule?

3) Think ahead

With elements 1 and 2 we’ve ensured that the sales you’re making are worth making – both financially and operationally. But there’s also the tricky business of how you’re making these extra sales. I’ve seen businesses (both online and offline) do a tremendous volume of sales by slapping on discount after discount. Even if they’re still managing to bring in some profit (doubtful…) the message they’re sending to their market is a doozy. It devalues the brand, makes them look desperate, and if hard to come back from when they want to return to normal pricing models again.

Here’s what to do before hanging out the sale sign:

  • Discount sparingly. Shaving off a few percentage points here and there is a slippery slope. Competing on price really is a race to the bottom – and there’s no profit down there. Focus on offering bonuses and bundles that maintain your financial reward, while still giving your clients and customers a deal they can’t pass up.
  • Maintain positioning. If you’re branded and positioned yourself as a premium product or service, then having fewer sales may actually work in your favour. The Birkin bag is iconic and coveted precisely because the market isn’t flooded with them. If you could just pop down to the mall and pick one up, the prestige would be gone. Same goes for your product or service.

If you business results are falling short of where you need them to be, the solution may not be making MORE sales. You may need to make BETTER sales.
how to increase my profits

17 Jun 21:34

Evolve from “Pitching” Prospects to Making a Strong Connection

by Dave Govan

Did you ever deliver a great sales pitch or demo in a first sales call that you felt really won over the Prospect only to find out later that they are no longer interested?  I know the answer is of course, yes.

In many cases it’s because the Prospect wasn’t really a qualified Buyer or their need did not match your offering.  However, what if the Prospect was a qualified Buyer and the product did fit?   You did your job.  You followed your training and delivered a great sales pitch and/or demo and asked effective qualification questions in your first sales call with a Prospect.  What more could you have done?  

I believe we can evolve our sales communication in a first sales call to demonstrate increased empathy and more effective two-way communication to form a stronger connection with a Prospect.  We can make stronger connections by sharing information through micro stories and quick demo examples that are of the most relevance to a Prospect.  Our communication should resemble a conversation, not a speech or stage performance.  Science supports this communication approach.

When a Prospect comprehends and is engaged with the Seller the two brains actually begin to mirror each other, they don’t just align.  It has been proven that if a communicator engages a listener in an interactive way and shares an engaging story a process called Neural Coupling occurs and more areas of our brain are activated.  

According to neuroscientists Greg J. Stephens, Lauren J. Silbert and Uri Hasson only when a listener comprehends and “participates” in a story without their mind wandering, will neural coupling occur between the speaker and listener where both parties brains mirror each other.  The effect is broken when a listener’s mind wanders. i.e.  “…interacting individuals are dynamically coupled rather than simply aligned.”  

The following additional scientists state “A story activates parts in the brain that allow the listener to turn the story into their own ideas and experience, thanks to a process called neural coupling”. Gregoriou, G.G., Gotts, S.J., Zhou, H. & Desimone, R. (2009b)

Neuroscience teaches us that Sellers can establish and hold attention to form deeper connections by leading an empathetic and interactive two way discussion that has the utmost relevancy to the Prospect.  

It’s also common sense that Prospects are people and people do not like to be talked at, they prefer to have a voice.  People also get bored if they aren’t engaged in a conversation or if it lacks relevancy, minds wander and all is lost!

Below you will find eight recommendations for making stronger connections in first sales meetings to increase your success rate:

1. First, be aware that a successful first meeting for your Prospect is when they are able to assess:

Functionality: What does your offering do? What can it accomplish for them?

Value: How is your offering going to add incremental value within their specific organizations?  What is the perceived general financial return and how long will it take?

Differentiation: How does your offering differ from your competitors and why should they buy it versus other choices?

Cost: General pricing information to determine if it is worth investing additional time exploring your offering based on their available or potential financial resources / budget.

Risk: How credible and reliable are the Seller and the Company now and after the sale throughout the term of the contract?  Are any other Companies or Prospects within my vertical industry I respect who are using the product?

2. Invest the time it takes to become highly proficient at communicating through exciting short stories on how your offering came about, how your offering / company is different and better than competitors, how your offering is delivering high value for comparable Prospects and how well your company is supporting clients.

 

3. Before an initial sales meeting understand the role / persona of the Prospect, take the time to visit their web site, understand the business they are in and try to locate online any current trends or news about their company you can converse about if it is relevant to your solution.

 

4. Once you have researched your Prospect custom tailor your conversation and/or product demonstration to make it as relevant as possible for the Prospect.

 

5. When in the first sales meeting, lead an interactive two way conversation.  Listen and identify what the Prospect most wants to know.  Then answer the questions succinctly but by telling brief stories instead of delivering a one way general sales pitch.  Communicate passion and excitement as you answer their questions with your short stories.

 

6. Instead of pitching features, show the Prospect examples of use cases that are likely to be relevant for their business and then ask them if they are relevant or if they have any other concepts for how your offering might be used in their business.

 

7. Ask qualification questions to increase your knowledge of how well your solution fits for the Prospect and your company.  If there are any open questions find out the specific requirements and validate inside your company that it still makes sense to proceed.

 

8. If qualified, close and obtain agreement on next steps that satisfy your Prospect’s needs as well as your needs.

The post Evolve from “Pitching” Prospects to Making a Strong Connection appeared first on Sales Hacker.

17 Jun 21:29

7 Tips to Supercharge Your Content on LinkedIn Pulse

by Nicki Howell

7 Tips to Supercharge Your Content on LinkedIn PulseB2B marketers are charged with creating massive amounts of content, primarily to fuel inbound marketing, social media, lead nurturing, and pipeline acceleration. It’s probably no surprise that 76 percent say they are creating more content than they were a year ago. But even the most stellar content will fall short of your goals for it if you’re not promoting it well – in the right places, at the right time.

It’s also probably no surprise that a huge majority of marketers (about 94 percent) are using LinkedIn for content marketing and promotion … but not all of them are doing it effectively.

Content marketing superstars such as Jay Baer, Joe Pulizzi, and Lee Odden all leveraged LinkedIn to build their multimillion-dollar companies. So: how can you harness the power of LinkedIn as a potent, efficient strategy to reach your company’s goals?

Master LinkedIn Pulse: 7 Tips for Success

Publishing on LinkedIn’s platform started out as an exclusive, invitation-only club reserved for a handful of influencers. But a couple of years ago, this changed, as the site opened up the Pulse platform to everyone.

Some marketers have gotten fabulous results; others have dabbled with this tool with very few results. So what’s missing? Here are a few tactics to supercharge your efforts:

  1. Write longer posts. Remember the days of 300-word blog posts? These days, the most-read/linked/shared blog posts have an optimal length of 1,600 words, but your LinkedIn posts need to be even longer. Posts that receive the greatest number of views, likes, comments, and shares through LinkedIn have on average 2,000–2,500 words.
  2. Write a stronger headline. Most B2B marketers know that headlines make or break the performance of content. Pay attention to the impact of the headline but also to the length. The optimal length for LinkedIn post headlines is 80–120 characters. Test your headlines on CoSchedule or the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer. Both are free.
  3. Select a structure for greater impact. And of top performing long-form content across the LinkedIn Pulse network found that the highest performing content contained the words: Who, What, When, Where and How in the titles. The list format also captures excellent results. In the analysis, 20 percent of the best performing content were list style articles. Industry trends also perform well, with six out of every 10 LinkedIn users reporting interest in industry insights.
  4. Make content easy to skim. The majority of readers skim content, so focus on making your content easy to read with bulleted lists and short paragraphs (especially since LinkedIn posts are longer than traditional posts). Use subheads that set the correct expectations for the paragraphs that follow them. Just as with headlines, short and clear trumps long or clever.
  5. Use visuals to boost engagement. How many visuals should your LinkedIn post contain? According to Paul Shapiro, writing on OkDork, eight. He says this number of images captures the greatest number of shares, likes, and views on LinkedIn. Geoff Livingston of Tenacity5 Media recommends a new image every three to five paragraphs. (If you like photography, do check out the way he uses images on his blog.)
  6. Republish your existing posts. Marketers worry about duplicate content – and rightfully so. Some marketers report there aren’t consequences for using your corporate blog content on LinkedIn Pulse (read a discussion on Search Engine Journal), but only Google knows for sure, and Google isn’t telling. You could do this as a calculated risk. One strategy, since LinkedIn posts are generally longer than traditional blog posts, is to repurpose and expand your original posts.
  7. Pay attention to timing. LinkedIn reports that their highest traffic occurs morning and midday, Monday through Friday. Test different times during these hours to determine the sweet spot for your target audience.

Promote Your Content: 3 Simple and Effective Strategies

Once you write a new post, whether it’s created for LinkedIn Pulse or elsewhere, use LinkedIn as a promotional tool. Here are a few strategies for reaching your target audience more effectively:

  1. Personal profile (update it!). On your home page, you can “share an update.” This is a great place to promote your content. You can also join industry-related groups, which are highly targeted places to share your content. More on this a little later.
  2. Leverage your business page with sponsored updates. Unlike your personal page, on a business LinkedIn page, you can post sponsored updates. These sponsored updates allow you greater reach when promoting your content. You can also target premium and highly segmented professionals.

The Science Behind LinkedIn Sponsored Updates from LinkedIn

  1. Post to LinkedIn Groups. After you’ve joined some highly targeted groups, these are great places to share your content. But with two caveats:
  • The group must allow such postings.
  • The content must be genuinely helpful from the reader’s point of view, and can’t ooze self-promotion.

Try this: Post a question that relates to a pain point of your target audience. Get the conversation started, then somewhere in your comments share your content link as a resource.

How Big Brands Are Using LinkedIn for Content Marketing

Not sure where to get started? Here are a few examples of large brands using LinkedIn to drive engagement and build stronger connections with their target audiences.

TEKsystems: Driving engagement

TEKsystems is a provider of staffing solutions. The company actively uses the Pulse platform to publish articles focused on its audience’s pain points, such as “Become the Employer of Choice for IT Professionals.”

linkedin

The TEKsystems strategy is to first post the content to LinkedIn Pulse and then actively respond to every comment written. Contributors who write the company’s content also actively respond via their own LinkedIn accounts in order to engage readers.

GE: Connecting with target audiences

If you view GE’s company page, you’ll find it full of graphics, inspiring quotes, interesting studies, and engaging questions. The company also frequently posts updates on what it’s doing in the industry.

For example, GE recently shared “What if we could explore Mars as holograms? Innovative tech is expanding our scope of vision to the far reaches of our solar system.”

GE Pulse

That simple question received 464 likes and 46 comments. The audience was engaged.

Microsoft: Leveraging “Showcase Pages”

Finally, there is Microsoft, with close to 3 million followers. Not surprisingly, founder Bill Gates was one of the first influencers hand-picked to share insights with LinkedIn followers through the Pulse platform. He’s a self-described “active blogger,” writing articles such as “Opening Minds on Ed Tech,” which received over 18,589 views, 4,901 likes, and 224 comments within three weeks after its publication. His first-ever post on LinkedIn, “Three Things I’ve Learned From Warren Buffett” ran on June 12, 2013, and has garnered almost 2 million views and 4,000 comments (as of May 2016).

microsoft opening minds

Microsoft also created Showcase Pages, which are subpages of the main company profile. These pages help establish niche communities and conversations about various products; they’re perfect for content marketing.

Microsoft screen shot 3

A Few Last Words

Many marketers are forgetting something very important when publishing content through LinkedIn – the call to action. In fact, updates with links get double the engagement than those without. It doesn’t have to be a hard sell or promotion of products (in fact, in most cases it shouldn’t be). But your audience needs to know where to learn more about what you do.

And finally, post regularly. Companies that post 20 times per month through LinkedIn reach 60 percent more followers through at least one update. So integrate LinkedIn into your content marketing strategy, stick with it, and work it regularly – and you should achieve exceptional results.

Are you using LinkedIn as part of your marketing strategy? If so, please share what’s working and what isn’t.

Photo Credit: Pulse – LinkedIn

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has evolved into a powerful lead generation tool for many businesses. Its features, like Publisher and Groups, lend themselves well to connecting businesses with prospects. With so many great features, it can be quite challenging to figure out how to use the ones that best fit your needs. Download Act-On’s eBook, 10 Things B2B Companies Should Be Doing on LinkedIn, to get tips on tricks that will help you navigate your way through LinkedIn.

17 Jun 21:28

7 Bold Predictions on the Future of Sales Development – By Chris Pham

by Leah Bell

The future of sales development is bright, and Sr. Director at Birst Chris Pham is joining us on the SalesLoft blog for the final installment of a series on trends in the industry. Today he’s sharing his 7 predictions for the future of sales development.

Prediction #1: Account-Based Sales Development will eat into Account-Based Marketing.

As ABSD and ABM mature, they will grow closer to each other. Content producers and sales development representatives are already working hand in hand to mold messaging for specific accounts.

It’s not implausible that in the near future, SDRs will produce content (blog posts, landing pages, social media), assets (infographics, whitepapers, direct mailers) and events (guerilla marketing, field events, roadshows) for specific accounts on their own.

Enabled by rigorous training, a depth of knowledge and next-generation tools, SDRs will become a channel for valuable content all their own. The further this goes, the closer SDRs will get to becoming Account-Based Marketers.

Prediction #2: Sales development work will move off of Salesforce to another platform entirely. Salesforce will stay the system of record.

Like your great uncle, it’s old, and hairy, and isn’t going to change anytime soon. It’s Salesforce. The ability to effectively prospect and deliver cadences cannot be from within Salesforce. Plenty of smart people have tried — the architecture just doesn’t support the functionality needed.

But a prospecting, emailing, and dialing platform, which integrates with Salesforce, will set the standard on sales development workflow. The ability to tailor — at scale — will necessitate an entirely different, next-generation platform.

It will do deep research into the web to bring in relevant account and contact specific information, so that SDRs can write emails and make effective phone calls — more quickly. It will suggest content and messaging based on the profile of the accounts or contacts selected. By combining web crawling with internal content, the platform will offer predictive messaging. It will help SDRs by suggesting PPOVs and build entire cadences based on the group’s real performance analytics.

There will be a portal for collaboration with internal SMEs on messaging, content and assets. Robust analytics and rigorous testing methods will ensure that not only will email templates be measured, but entire cadences, phone calls, voicemails and keywords.

Salesforce will not be replaced as the system of record and CRM (it’s in too deep to perform open-heart surgery),  but this platform in the future of sales development will stand alone from Salesforce (or any CRM), but will integrate with CRMs via an API. This will effectively separate the housing of sales data with the workflow which produces it.

Prediction #3: SDR leaders will use automated data analysis to coach and forecast in real-time.

An integrated gamification, performance management, sales analytics and 1:1 platform will change the way leaders coach and manage their teams.

With the drastic increase in sales data collected, leaders will need help with the ability to interpret all of the data and turn those insights into actionable steps. In the future, a software platform will be able to automatically detect what an SDR is doing well (or not so well) by comparing performance against industry and team baselines.

If an SDR is not being effective — with low conversion rates on his cadences — the platform will be able to identify why by comparing the email templates he uses against those of his peers and the content or duration of his calls. It will be able to point out to his coach that his subject lines are too long or that his calls are too short. It will then shoot over a recording of sample calls for coach analysis.

This platform will also be able to see if an SDR’s effort is keeping up with the team’s commitment or baseline. It will notify players and coaches if the volume of activity is abnormally high or low. It will also calculate the effective conversion rate needed for that lower level of activity to result in quota attainment or anticipate performance over quota if a high-level of activity is sustained.

All of this analysis will be pushed to both the player and coach via email, web application and mobile notification in a daily Automated Analytics Report (AAR). AARs will form the foundation of 1:1s. Coaches will continue to provide human interpretation, while assigning and tracking actions that will most efficiently lead to blowing out quota.

Forecasting will be more precise than ever before. It will be done via several models, one of which will be updated in real-time based on the anticipated activities and conversion rates based on historical data.

Prediction #4: Advanced sales analytics will begin measuring SDR Efficiency Rating (SER) and an SDR shot chart.

This same advanced analytics work will be pushed out the entire team to track not only volume, but effectiveness. It will no longer be enough to produce a high volume of activity, but to produce a high-volume of effective activity which converts into positive results. Leaderboards will go from strict volume, to include efficiency.

The movement to measure basketball players purely by Points-Per-Game (PPG) changed the day Player Efficiency Rating (PER) came into being. It’s a lot less impressive that it takes Kobe Bryant 20 shots to score 10 points at the end of his career in 2016, when it only took him 10 shots to do the same thing during his prime in 2006. He was much less efficient towards the end of his career and when he has a higher usage rate (running more plays).

Here’s the top 10 players in PPG so far this season (2016) according to ESPN. On first glance, you would assume each of these players is elite. You can see PER tells a slightly different story for players like Paul George, who should probably be taking less shots.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 1.49.04 PM

 

In the future of sales development, activity volume (usage rate) and effectiveness (efficiency) will be needed to measure a more holistic view of performance. The ability to measure the effectiveness of each SDR (down to his emails, cadences, assets used and calls) will shed light on the effective conversion rate for each of his activities, just like a shot chart.

Sticking with basketball, this is Stephen Curry’s 2013 shot chart:

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 1.50.03 PM

Steph saw that he was particularly weak near the bucket, a below average player at finishing near the rim. Using this data, Steph worked on his game and this is Stephen Curry’s MVP-winning 2015-2016 shot chart:

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 1.50.47 PM

Using data to identify his biggest weakness turn it into his biggest strength, Steph transformed his game to reach the next level. He led his team to the 2015 NBA Championship and began a basketball revolution.

Collecting similar data in a sales shot chart will create real-time actionable insights for sales people and their coaches. It will also create a baseline to measure SDR performance company-wide and down to a granular level. Coaches will be able to better compare SDR performance on specific skills and activities, across groups.

Driven by data-driven coaching, more SDRs will blow out quota more quickly than ever before. Quotas and productivity will rise by at least 30%. A 13x SDR Multiple will be the new standard.

Prediction #5: Account-Based Sales Development will be table stakes, and Contact-Based Sales Development will begin.

As ABSD becomes widely adopted, the ability the differentiate messaging will once again move to a more granular level. The arms race to provide more value than the next vendor will not end at the account level.

Real personalization will occur; entire cadences and marketing campaigns will target one specific contact at a time.

Prospects will receive more value from their vendors than ever before. Individualized content, agendas, landing pages and assets will be mass produced and delivered at exactly the right moment.

SDRs will be the ones crafting, tailoring and delivering these campaigns in the future of sales development.

Prediction #6: Sales Development leaders will earn their place at the executive level.

It will be the norm for a Sales Development leader to be a part of the executive team. The function will mature and become professionalized.

Investors, CEOs and Boards will realize the importance of an independent and successful Sales Development organization. They will scour the market for talented Sales Development leaders in the same way they search for a great CMO, CFO or Head of Sales.

In the future of sales development, a few Chief Sales Development Officer (CSDO) will exist in forward looking companies.

Prediction #7: More executives will have a background in Sales Development.

The wave of talent that were trained in today’s SDR nurseries will go on to be the next wave of tech talent.

Those young professionals have now turned into an army of well-trained high-achievers across the technology landscape who will support the SDR cause because that is where they got their start, that is where they built their foundation.

Eventually, in the future of sales development, these same talented individuals will be the future CEOs, CMOs, SVPs and founders. They will find their success using the core skills and philosophy they developed as enterprise SDRs.

For a more comprehensive look into SalesLoft’s internal SDR process, download our free playbook and optimize your sales efforts to start crushing your sales development goals today.

The post 7 Bold Predictions on the Future of Sales Development – By Chris Pham appeared first on SalesLoft.

17 Jun 21:28

Japanese researchers find new superconductivity phase of hydrogen sulfide which could lead to room temperature superconductivity

by noreply@blogger.com (brian wang)
A research group in Japan found a new compound H5S2 that shows a new superconductivity phase on computer simulation. Further theoretical and experimental research based on H5S2 predicted by this group will lead to the clarification of the mechanism behind high-temperature superconductivity, which takes place in hydrogen sulfide.

Last year, a striking news came out that H2S broke the record for superconducting critical temperature under high-pressure. However, the chemical composition ratio of sulfur and hydrogen and the crystal structure during the process in which superconductivity takes place have not been well understood.

A research group led by Takahiro Ishikawa, Specially Appointed Assistant Professor, and Katsuya Shimizu, Professor, at Center for Science and Technology under Extreme Conditions, Graduate School of Engineering Science, Osaka University, Tatsuki Oda, Professor at School of Mathematics and Physics, Kanazawa University, and Naoshi Suzuki, Professor at Faculty of Engineering Science, Kansai University predicted a new superconductivity phase of hydrogen sulfide (H5S2), which was presented at a pressure of 1.1 million bar on computer simulation. The superconducting critical temperature obtained from H5S2, whose calculated value was the same as the experimental value. This result may lead to the clarification of the mechanism behind high-temperature superconductivity, which takes place in hydrogen sulfide by further theoretical and experimental research based on H5S2.

Furthermore, by applying methods used and knowledge obtained by this group to other light element hydrides, it will become possible to establish guidelines for enhancing superconducting critical temperature to near room temperature.



Recently, hydrogen sulfide was experimentally found to show the high superconducting critical temperature (Tc) under high-pressure. The superconducting Tc shows 30–70 K in pressure range of 100–170 GPa (low-Tc phase) and increases to 203 K, which sets a record for the highest Tc in all materials, for the samples annealed by heating it to room temperature at pressures above 150 GPa (high-Tc phase). Here we present a solid H5S2 phase predicted as the low-Tc phase by the application of the genetic algorithm technique for crystal structure searching and first-principles calculations to sulfur-hydrogen system under high-pressure. The H5S2 phase is thermodynamically stabilized at 110 GPa, in which asymmetric hydrogen bonds are formed between H2S and H3S molecules. Calculated Tc values show 50–70 K in pressure range of 100–150 GPa within the harmonic approximation, which can reproduce the experimentally observed low-Tc phase. These findings give a new aspect of the excellent superconductivity in compressed sulfur-hydrogen system.

Nature Scientific Reports- Superconducting H5S2 phase in sulfur-hydrogen system under high-pressure

Read more »
17 Jun 21:28

Designing for the Modern Office Environment Is a Subtle Science

Our latest Design Challenge focuses on creating task-related furniture for freelancers in an ever-evolving and highly amorphous work landscape, an issue that is becoming even more relevant as freelancers begin adding up to more than a third of the workforce in the United States today. Who better to ask about how office environments and the nature of work has changed than designers working for a company specializing in this area for over 30 years?

Humanscale, a company specializing in office furniture since 1983, is well known for its ultra ergonomic and consumer-sensitive understanding of design. One of its most familiar pieces of furniture, the Freedom Chair by Niels Diffrient, was apparently a response to the iconic Aeron Chair. Diffrient realized that the Aeron Chair's levers and adjusters failed to recognize the average consumer's lack of knowledge surrounding ergonomics, so he strived to design a chair that automatically adjusted rather than requiring manual manipulation. The idea turned out to be a hit and his Freedom Chair continues to be one of Humanscale's top grossing products.

Niels Diffrient and his Freedom Chair

DESIGN IS IN THE DETAILS

This type of essential design thinking informs Humanscale Design Engineering Director (and 1-Hour Design Challenge judge) Brad Augustine's everyday work and decision making. Leading a team of over 30 design engineers, his studio works to make sure every Humanscale product is highly functional and reliable. The team also strives to pay attention to changing office environment behaviors, as he explains to Core77: "We've got a mantra: 'creating a more comfortable place to work.' And that really asks the question, how are people working and nowadays? It seems to become more and more the question of how people are interfacing with technology to work,"

So what is there to consider when designing an indispensable piece for the office? Augustine notes that a common misconception about prototyping is that once you've got a model, you're pretty much ready for manufacturing and bringing that product to market when really it's much more complicated than that: "We have to stress that the work we do for regulatory liability, for value—it's a very very iterative process and there's a lot of trade-offs." This means creating something that not only fits all the ergonomic requirements, but is also engineered to incorporate helpful new technologies while meeting business goals. 

DESIGNING FOR A CHANGING CORPORATE WORLD

Technicalities aside, working in such a specific market means designers and engineers must pay attention to trends to stay competitive—in the office world, that means things like standing desks, mobility and flexible workspaces. "There are significant trends going on in office right now, enough where we're almost having to recreate our entire portfolio," says Augustine. "People are working differently than just coming in to a desktop computer that's on their desk and just working with that. We're having to create entirely new products that work with people who are bringing their laptop and want to be able to work very easily...So it's really kind of taking a look at how the user wants to work and how it's changing."

M/Connect, a docking station for connecting electronics on a desktop.
"People are working differently than just coming in to a desktop computer that's on their desk and just working with that. So we're having to create entirely new products"

New product categories include items like sit/stand desks and products like M/Connect, a docking station that provides a more seamless way of connecting electronics on a desktop. Augustine notes that products like M/Connect are a response to office worker's shifting demands for a work environment that conforms to consumer needs rather than the other way around: 

"Before, you were able to just have your [desktop] computer, you install your monitor at your desk and everything is already set up so when a person comes in your station is ready to go...But now, people are bringing their laptop, [so] how do you create a different set of tools that relate to kind of a completely different user experience?" 

These are the sorts of questions many companies are having to ask and respond to as professional and corporate workspaces take new shape. As offices steer away from the once ubiquitous cubicle culture of yesteryear, designers are not only considering how our work environments are shifting, but also anticipating evolving attitudes about how we work. How can a space adjust to accommodate an inspiration-fueled, impromptu brainstorm? How do you create a work station that integrates current and future tech products? These sort of questions are not just beneficial to ask—they are essential.

Brad Augustine of Humanscale is a judge for your 1-Hour Design Challenge: Furniture for Freelancers submission! You have until Thursday, June 23rd to submit your sketches and be in the running for some amazing Grovemade desk gear—so get to sketching! 
17 Jun 21:26

A startup CEO just explained in an amazingly transparent note why he had to lay off 11% of his company

by Biz Carson

Buffer Team

Many startup CEOs try to sweep bad news under the rug.

I know this firsthand having been laid off on a random Monday afternoon when the company I worked at abruptly shut down. 

Yet, on Thursday, Buffer's CEO Joel Gascoigne transparently laid out what happened to his company and how it got to the place where it needed cut 11% of its staff, or a total of 10 team members. 

Instead of trying to dodge the issue, Gascoigne's piece is a good lesson on how to be transparent and acknowledge mistakes he made as a leader.

"It’s the result of the biggest mistake I’ve made in my career so far. Even worse, this wasn’t the result of a market change—it was entirely self-inflicted," the CEO wrote.

Gascoigne described what happened to Buffer as moving into a house that it couldn't afford. The company had been able to previously curb their burn rate, or how much money a startup spends, by boosting revenue through new products. 

Yet, the company over-hired, growing from 34 to 94 people in a year. There was also a lack of accountability, over-aggressive growth choices, and not enough scrutiny of its financial model until it was too late. 

Buffer has a history of being transparent — it's the startup well-known for publishing its employee's salaries online. Still, Gascoigne acknowledged that they didn't live up to it in the end since the realization that the company was spending more money than it was taking in would come as a surprise to most. 

"I don’t feel that we fully lived up to our value of transparency, specifically to share early in order to avoid a big revelation later," Gascoigne said. "As a result, our team was understandably surprised by the changes we’ve made, especially the loss of teammates and friends."

Buffer had to account for more than just a smaller headcount. Gascoigne and his cofounder both took a salary cut and the company cut perks, like retreats and wellness credits, and laid it all out:

  • We made 10 layoffs in order to recover to a healthier financial position. Savings: $585,000
  • Both Leo and I have taken a salary cut of 40% until at least the end of the year.Savings: $94,000.
  • Leo and I are committing $100k each in the form of a loan at the lowest possible interest rate, with repayment only when Buffer reaches a healthy financial position.Savings: $200,000.
  • We adjusted the loyalty portion of our salary formula. Each teammate previously got a salary bump of 5% on their year anniversary with Buffer. Now it’s 3%, applied for everyone who has been with the company longer than a year. Savings: $74,000.
  • We’ve discontinued two perks (with the hopes of bringing them back in 2017, if we are able):
    • A health & wellness grant of up to $100 per teammate per month. Savings: $49,000.
    • An annual vacation bonus of $1,000 per teammate and $500 per dependent. Savings: $52,000.
  • We canceled our upcoming team retreat to Berlin. Savings: $400,000.
  • We cut our sponsorship budget. Savings: $75,000.

While many startups are facing cost-cutting measures, whether it was a case of not keeping close track of finances or failing to find funding, few have laid it out in such a transparent way to be an example to others. 

Read Gascoigne's full breakdown of what it's like to layoff 10% of your team here

SEE ALSO: One Kings Lane was worth nearly $1 billion, but now it's been sold for a 'not material' amount to Bed Bath & Beyond

Join the conversation about this story »

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17 Jun 21:26

4 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Keep Your Blog Updated

by Elvis Michael

Write Blog Posts Faster. Increase Authority. Build Relationships.

Let’s face it: No matter how much you enjoy blogging, you will not always be in the mood to produce long-form or otherwise mind-blowing content.

Unfortunately, you may fear that lowering the amount of work may lead to decreased blog engagement and long-term results.

As time moves forward and blogs become more sophisticated, we are increasingly taught that “longer and more unique is better.” While this is largely true, you shouldn’t believe that you must produce this type of content every single time.

What if you could, on occasion, publish content that is surprisingly easy to put together and still be incredibly useful to your readers?

Today’s article will help you write blog posts faster and keep your blog updated regularly, all while keeping readers fully satisfied and addicted.

Did I mention you will also establish greater authority and build impressive relationships with other bloggers in the process?

Let’s get started.

Publish News Content

Many bloggers fall under the impression that a conventional blog should only consist of tips, tricks, general advice, and lists. Visit just about any website, and this is what you’ll primarily find.

How about posting the occasional niche news as a means of keeping your blog regularly updated with useful, easy-to-write information?

Giants like Search Engine Roundtable publish a mixture of conventional articles along with news pieces. Even better, they often insert their own educated opinions (along with the newsy content) as a way to add more value and a greater personal touch.

Here are some benefits to creating a news section on your blog:

News pieces are usually 250-300 words, thus helping you write blog posts faster
They help you become more authoritative in your niche
Not much brain power required: Read/watch, then rewrite
Potential Google News inclusion for even more traffic (provided you follow their guidelines)

In short, publish several “typical” articles throughout the week along with the occasional news, depending on importance and relevance.

Publish Roundups and Curated Content

Content curation is the gathering of multiple resources and grouping them together, sometimes called a one-stop-shop.

Similarly to news content, you can publish some regular articles followed by a list of helpful links at the end of the week or month.

For example:

Is your blog dedicated to social media? Your readers might enjoy a weekly post called “This Week in Social Media” every Friday or Sunday. Link to various new features or case studies.

Similarly, you may post links to every single article you published throughout the month on your blog, along with a short “takeaway” accompanying each link.

How about a roundup linking to the best content around the web? This tactic is great for building relationships with fellow bloggers in your field.

Conduct Surveys and Quizzes

write blog posts faster

Not only are surveys and quizzes easy to create, they can be surprisingly fun for every party involved. Participants get a chance to voice their opinions and knowledge, while blog readers remain highly engaged in return.

You have probably seen posts where many people chime in on a particular subject, such as, “27 Writers Reveal the Best Ways to Land Freelance Clients.” This is where surveys come in handy.

One particularly great software for such purposes is SurveyAnyplace, as it allows you to embed your own logo, images, videos, and other elements you might find useful. Here are some of the many things you can accomplish:

  • Collect data from readers to strengthen your content
  • Provide a weekly or monthly quiz (amazing for blog engagement)
  • Conduct market research to help you launch a product or service
  • Get to know your readers’ likes, dislikes, and ways to improve your relationship with them

All in all, surveys and quizzes can really improve engagement while your blog remains updated with minimum effort.

Interview Your Audience

Interviews provide another way to keep your blog updated with amazingly useful content. Additionally, it helps you establish a relationship with fellow bloggers and influencers.

A quick interview typically consists of a “Q&A” session where you email them several questions about their line of work. Once they return the questionnaire, you are practically done with the written portion and should be ready to publish it.

Introducing interviews to your blog may not necessarily “save time” (considering the back-and-forth process involved with the interviewee). However, interviews are a wonderful example of useful content where you don’t need to break your head all that much.

This saves you from intensive research, verifying data, and having to compose 1,500+ word-articles.

Perhaps the best way to do this is to work in batches:

Gather a list of admirable people in your niche
Send them an introductory email and ask for a quick interview
Inevitably, some of the same questions will apply to multiple people (thus saving you some time)

As with everything else, the frequency here is entirely up to you (once a month works great). You should also keep questions to a minimum, as it helps you write blog posts faster and saves the interviewee potential regret.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. While you should still strive to create “conventional” articles regularly, there is nothing wrong with the occasional “easy content” either. What blogging tactics can you share with us? Please leave your comments below.

Don’t Miss:

Great Tips for Writing More Efficiently

17 Jun 21:23

4 Tips to Effectively Scaling a Distributed Team

by Carey Wodehouse

Photo of a skyscraper under construction rising up to the sky

You’ve built a distributed engineering team (whether it’s 1, 10, or 100 remote workers) and created a meaningful work relationship with each of your developers. The next logical step? Building on your success and scaling your distributed team.

Here are four tips to growing your team effectively.

1. Avoid being the hub

In the beginning, you’re naturally the hub through which everything passes. Any piece of information or decision that needs to be made goes through you. However, as your distributed team starts to grow, this structure becomes less and less scalable.

Eventually this will slow work down, create longer decision times, and put an overwhelming amount of stress on you—which is not what you want. As your team grows, you need to empower other members to make decisions, whether they are product-related or about adding new members to the team.

2. Use technology

Technology is the glue that holds your distributed team together, especially as it grows and becomes increasingly distributed over time. Whether you rely on video conferencing, collaboration platforms, instant messaging, or software building tools, technology will enable your team to succeed. Read this article to see what tools and technology Upwork uses with our distributed teams for ideas.

At Upwork, all meetings with our distributed teams are done via videoconference. This gives us that “watercooler” vibe you just can’t get any other way—people joke, get to know each other, and shoot the breeze in a way that can’t be replicated on the phone. Remote team members always have the option to speak first and only they can stop and interrupt a meeting while someone else is talking. They’re able to do this because they aren’t in the same room and can’t sense the dynamic the way those in attendance can.

Also, make sure to continually evaluate new technologies as your team grows and needs change. New collaboration tools are coming out all the time and will only continue to keep getting better.

3. Create teams

At a certain point, your organization may grow so much that you’ll need to form teams within your distributed structure. What started with just a handful of developers involved in a variety of projects may evolve into something that requires some team specialization.

For example, you may need a separate group to focus on front-end development and another one to focus on back-end development. A good rule of thumb? If more than three people work on a specific function or area, that might be a good opportunity to formalize that group as a team. Setting up official teams is great because they can own their respective areas—and that allows you to scale more smoothly without hitting major bumps in the road.

4. Use rate increases to motivate and engage remote developers

When new developers come on board as your team grows, you’ll have more responsibilities to delegate between them, giving you opportunities to evolve the roles of your more veteran developers. Think of this as a new chance to motivate and engage remote team members. Is there an opportunity for them to take on additional responsibilities?

Finally, use rate increases to show appreciation for their work—this is a must if you want the relationship to last multiple years. (Our developers get regular compensation increases.) And keep in mind that inflation and market rates may be increasing faster in the developer’s country than in your own market.

Of course, money alone is not a good substitute for engagement and motivation, so use rate increases in conjunction with other motivational factors. Show them you value their input by asking for feedback and ideas and incorporating them when you can. Limit “busy work” when possible and ensure that team members are a part of a strategic vision, not just the tactical one.

Want more tips and best practices for scaling a distributed engineering team? Download our free ebook Hire Fast & Build Things.

The Secret to Building a Team of Top-Notch Distributed Engineers

The Secret to Building a Team of Top-Notch Distributed Engineers

Download Now

17 Jun 21:10

5 Examples of How Bloggers are Using Video to Increase Engagement

by Zac Johnson

When it comes to creating content online, it’s all about engagement. It doesn’t matter if it’s text, infographics, images or video… you must provide your audience with something they find value in or they are simply going to leave your site and never come back. With this in mind, today we are going to look at five different ways you can start using video to not only increase engagement with your audience but also provide a higher level quality of content as well. Online video is also one of the best ways to deliver online courses, live events and turn boring

The post 5 Examples of How Bloggers are Using Video to Increase Engagement appeared first on Blogging Tips.

17 Jun 21:10

Albert Camus on What It Means to Be a Rebel and the Heart of Human Solidarity

by Maria Popova

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”


Albert Camus on What It Means to Be a Rebel and the Heart of Human Solidarity

“You say you want a revolution,” the Beatles sang in 1968 as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was erecting the pillars of nonviolence on the other side of the Atlantic, “Well, you know / We all want to change the world… But when you talk about destruction / Don’t you know that you can count me out… If you want money for people with minds that hate / All I can tell you is brother you have to wait.”

Perhaps such is the curse of our species: Only in violent times do we remember, in our bones and our sinews, that hate is not a weapon of rebellion but of cowardice; that no true revolution is achieved through destruction and nihilism; that the only way to change the world is through constructive and life-affirming action. No one has made this point more persuasively and elegantly than Albert Camus (November 7, 1913–January 4, 1960) in his sublime and sublimely timely 1951 book The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt (public library).

albertcamus

Six years before he became the second-youngest person to receive the Nobel Prize, 38-year-old Camus writes:

What is a rebel? A man* who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation. He is also a man who says yes, from the moment he makes his first gesture of rebellion.

[…]

Rebellion cannot exist without the feeling that, somewhere and somehow, one is right… The rebel … says yes and no simultaneously… In every act of rebellion, the rebel simultaneously experiences a feeling of revulsion at the infringement of his rights and a complete and spontaneous loyalty to certain aspects of himself.

* Let not the gendered language detract or distract from the lucidity of Camus’s wisdom, for it is a function of his era — something on which Ursula K. Le Guin has commented brilliantly.

Nearly two decades after his assertion that “there is no love of life without despair of life,” Camus adds:

Despair, like the absurd, has opinions and desires about everything in general and nothing in particular. Silence expresses this attitude very well. But from the moment that the rebel finds his voice — even though he says nothing but “no” — he begins to desire and to judge… Not every value entails rebellion, but every act of rebellion tacitly invokes a value… Awareness, no matter how confused it may be, develops from every act of rebellion: the sudden, dazzling perception that there is something in man with which he can identify himself, even if only for a moment.

[…]

Why rebel if there is nothing permanent in oneself worth preserving?

And yet true rebellion, Camus argues, is an act motivated by concerned with the common good rather than by self-interest:

The affirmation implicit in every act of rebellion is extended to something that transcends the individual in so far as it withdraws him from his supposed solitude and provides him with a reason to act.

[…]

An act of rebellion is not, essentially, an egoistic act. Of course, it can have egoistic motives… The rebel … demands respect for himself, of course, but only in so far as he identifies himself with a natural community.

[…]

When he rebels, a man identifies himself with other men and so surpasses himself, and from this point of view human solidarity is metaphysical.

With an eye to the osmotic relationship between construction and destruction, Camus adds:

Rebellion, though apparently negative, since it creates nothing, is profoundly positive in that it reveals the part of man which must always be defended.

While this essay is a particularly spirited expression of his lifelong mission to defeat nihilism, Camus uses the writings of Nietzsche — who proclaimed himself “the first perfect nihilist of Europe” — as a springboard for exploring the constructive potentiality of rebellion. He writes:

Because his mind was free, Nietzsche knew that freedom of the mind is not a comfort, but an achievement to which one aspires and at long last obtains after an exhausting struggle. He knew that in wanting to consider oneself above the law, there is a great risk of finding oneself beneath the law. That is why he understood that only the mind found its real emancipation in the acceptance of new obligations. The essence of his discovery consists in saying that if the eternal law is not freedom, the absence of law is still less so.

[…]

The sum total of every possibility does not amount to liberty… Chaos is also a form of servitude. Freedom exists only in a world where what is possible is defined at the same time as what is not possible. Without law there is no freedom.

Art by JooHee Yoon from The Tiger Who Would Be King, James Thurber’s parable of the destructiveness of rebellion for rebellion’s sake

Building on Nietzsche’s ideas about the fine line between constructive and destructive rebellion — ideas Camus sees as “born of abundance and fullness of spirit” — he summarizes this orientation of mind:

One must accept the unacceptable and hold to the untenable… From absolute despair will spring infinite joy, from blind servitude, unbounded freedom. To be free is, precisely, to abolish ends. The innocence of the ceaseless change of things, as soon as one consents to it, represents the maximum liberty. The free mind willingly accepts what is necessary. Nietzsche’s most profound concept is that the necessity of phenomena, if it is absolute, without rifts, does not imply any kind of restraint. Total acceptance of total necessity is his paradoxical definition of freedom. The question “free of what?” is thus replaced by “free for what?” Liberty coincides with heroism. It is the asceticism of the great man, “the bow bent to the breaking-point.”

In a passage of remarkable resonance today, when we are confronting a wave of violence so strangely divorced from everything the past has taught us — those countless bloody lessons in the perennial fact that violence is always without victors — Camus considers the only adequate role of history:

History … is only an opportunity that must be rendered fruitful by a vigilant rebellion.

“Obsession with the harvest and indifference to history,” writes René Char admirably, “are the two extremities of my bow.” If the duration of history is not synonymous with the duration of the harvest, then history, in effect, is no more than a fleeting and cruel shadow in which man has no more part. He who dedicates himself to this history dedicates himself to nothing and, in his turn, is nothing. But he who dedicates himself to the duration of his life, to the house he builds, to the dignity of mankind, dedicates himself to the earth and reaps from it the harvest that sows its seed and sustains the world again and again.

More than half a century before Rebecca Solnit’s electrifying case for the vital difference between blind optimism and hope as an act of rebellion, Camus writes:

The words that reverberate for us at the confines of this long adventure of rebellion are not formulas for optimism, for which we have no possible use in the extremities of our unhappiness, but words of courage and intelligence which, on the shores of the eternal seas, even have the qualities of virtue.

No possible form of wisdom today can claim to give more. Rebellion indefatigably confronts evil, from which it can only derive a new impetus. Man can master in himself everything that should be mastered. He should rectify in creation everything that can be rectified. And after he has done so, children will still die unjustly even in a perfect society. Even by his greatest effort man can only propose to diminish arithmetically the sufferings of the world. But the injustice and the suffering of the world will remain and, no matter how limited they are, they will not cease to be an outrage. Dimitri Karamazov’s cry of “Why?” will continue to resound; art and rebellion will die only with the last man.

[…]

Then we understand that rebellion cannot exist without a strange form of love. Those who find no rest in God or in history are condemned to live for those who, like themselves, cannot live: in fact, for the humiliated. The most pure form of the movement of rebellion is thus crowned with the heart-rending cry of Karamazov: if all are not saved, what good is the salvation of one only?

Art by ndrea Dezsö for a special edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales

It is out of this understanding of rebellion as salvation for all that the most courageous acts of solidarity are born. One is reminded of Simone Weil, whom Camus lauded as “the only great spirit of our times” and who, as she lay dying of tuberculosis, defied her doctors’ orders by refusing to eat more than the rations her compatriots in Nazi-occupied France were given. Invoking such heroes, Camus writes:

This insane generosity is the generosity of rebellion, which unhesitatingly gives the strength of its love and without a moment’s delay refuses injustice. Its merit lies in making no calculations, distributing everything it possesses to life and to living men. It is thus that it is prodigal in its gifts to men to come. Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.

[…]

Rebellion proves in this way that it is the very movement of life and that it cannot be denied without renouncing life. Its purest outburst, on each occasion, gives birth to existence. Thus it is love and fecundity or it is nothing at all. At the end of this tunnel of darkness, however, there is inevitably a light, which we already divine and for which we only have to fight to ensure its coming. All of us, among the ruins, are preparing a renaissance beyond the limits of nihilism. But few of us know it.

In a sentiment of especial poignancy today, as Europe struggles to welcome the world’s refugees and displaced families so ungenerously referred to as a “crisis,” Camus adds:

In the light, the earth remains our first and our last love. Our brothers are breathing under the same sky as we; justice is a living thing. Now is born that strange joy which helps one live and die… With this joy, through long struggle, we shall remake the soul of our time, and a Europe which will exclude nothing.

The Rebel is a magnificent and acutely timely read in its totality. Complement it with Susan Sontag on courage and resistance and Nietzsche on what it really means to be a free spirit, then revisit Camus on strength of character, happiness, unhappiness, and our self-imposed prisons, the art of awareness, and the touching letter of gratitude he sent to his childhood teacher shortly after winning the Nobel Prize.


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17 Jun 21:09

MACQUARIE: These are the companies that will hugely benefit from a Brexit

by Will Martin

britain old people union jack

There are a variety of institutions and governments that have delivered doomsday scenarios for Britain in the event of a Brexit, but analysts at Macquarie point out that some companies will actually do pretty well out of it.

In the event of a Brexit, it is widely acknowledged, by everyone from the Bank of England, to the IMF, and even some campaigners for Leave, that assets across the board would tank. The pound will dive, and equities will suffer, falling at least 5% according to recent research from Deutsche Bank.

However, as with every major negative event in the markets, there will be winners from Brexit.

Gold is set to explode according to HSBC, other commodities will bounce, and the Yen will see substantial gains.

Certain equities could also benefit in the UK, according to Australian investment bank and research house Macquarie. Analyst Matthew Turner has put together a list of the stocks Macquarie feels could take off in the wake of a Brexit, suggesting investors go long — basically bet that the stock will rise — on these seven companies.

Check out the companies Macquarie thinks will bounce if Britain votes to leave the EU, and why the bank thinks so, below.

Vodafone

What it does: Vodafone is one of the world's largest telecoms companies on earth, bringing in revenues of more than £42 billion ($59.95 billion) of revenues every year, and a market capitalisation of around £56.5 billion ($80.6 billion).

Why it will do well after Brexit: "We would be long Vodafone into a Leave scenario, as more than half of its revenues are euro-denominated, and so we would expect it to benefit from a weaker pound. Specifically, 51% of revenue and 55% of operating income is euro-denominated, and every €10c of FX movement is equal to 10p of Vodafone value."



Burberry

What it does: Burberry is listed on the FTSE 100 and is known across the world for its array of luxury clothing and lifestyle products, featuring the company's world famous beige, red, black, and white checked pattern. In recent years, under the leadership of CEO Christopher Bailey, the company has aggressively marketed itself in the Asian luxury market.

Why it will do well: In the event of a Brexit, Macquarie notes that Burberry will benefit from the inevitable weakening of pound that will follow, thanks to the fact just 10% of its sales exposure is denominated in pounds, less than half of its operating expenses are in sterling, and around 15% of the cost of goods sold by the company is in sterling.

If the pound drops 5% after Brexit, Macquarie expects earnings to increase 7%, while if there is a 10% GBP depreciation, earnings upside will be 13%.



Associated British Foods (ABF)

What it does: FTSE 100 listed ABF owns many of the best known food brands in the UK, including Silver Spoon sugar, Twinings tea, Ryvita, and Patak's Indian foods. The company also owns renowned cheap high street retailer Primark.

Why it will do well: "With half of Primark profits (60%) coming from Europe, unless there is a significant depreciation of Euro also, Associated British Foods should be relatively better hedged in event of Brexit than more UK pure-play Next. Grocery (c28% of earnings) and Ingredients (c8% of earnings) businesses well diversified, and recovering sugar business (moving from c5% to c10%+ of earnings over next few years) has Chinese and African profit streams as well as UK."



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
17 Jun 21:04

The Bank of England is launching a fintech accelerator

by Oscar Williams-Grut

Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney delivers a speech about murdered MP Jo Cox before the Dinner to the Bankers and Merchants at The Mansion House in London, Britain June 16, 2016.

The Bank of England is planning to launch a fintech accelerator that "will work with new technology firms to help us harness FinTech innovations for central banking."

Fintech businesses that get involved in the new accelerator will be invited to carry out "proof of concept" trials with the Bank. The BoE will then act as a reference for the firm in future if it is looking to drum up more business.

The BoE says it has "already carried out initial work in the areas of data anonymisation, cyber security and distributed ledger technology" and is now interested in looking at machine learning, data protection, and data analysis, among other things. Consultancy PwC confirmed they worked with the BoE on the distributed ledger trial, seeing if it could use the technology first developed to underpin blockchain.

The central bank announced the new programme on Friday, saying: "In return, it will offer firms the chance to demonstrate their solutions for real issues facing us as policymakers, together with the valuable ‘first client’ reference that comes with it. With time, the accelerator will build a network of firms working in this space for the benefit of us and them alike."

The Bank's governor Mark Carney hinted at a big announcement on fintech last month and Andrew Hauser, the Bank's executive director for banking, payments, and financial resilience, told a conference in April that central banks "can't afford to be Uber'd."

Hauser said at the time: "We need at least the technological capacity to run 24/7/365, even if the issue of whether we chose to use it is slightly more finely balanced.

"We need better data and analytics for people using our systems so that they can control their flows better." Hauser said the Bank of England is also looking closely at how it could potentially use blockchain technology in central banking.

A fintech 'reformation'

Governor Mark Carney was due to announce the new programme last night at the annual Mansion House dinner for top bankers in London. However, his speech was cancelled as a mark of respect after the killing of MP Jo Cox.

While Carney did not deliver the speech, the text of what he planned to say has been published on the Bank of England's website.

In it, Carney says:

FinTech has the potential to deliver more resilient financial infrastructure, more effective trade and settlement, and new ways to encode, share and analyse data.

For the financial sector, these could offer shorter, speedier transaction chains; greater capital efficiency; and stronger operational resilience. For consumers, they could mean more choice; better-targeted services; and keener pricing. For everyone, FinTech may deliver a more inclusive financial system, domestically and globally; with people better connected, more informed and increasingly empowered.

However, the Bank of England Governor says he does not think there will be a fintech "revolution" that will overthrow the hegemony of the banks but a "reformation." He says: "The balance of these forces may yield a third alternative – a reformation – a more diverse, resilient and effective system for consumers. One where large banks exist alongside new entrants who compete across the value chain."

Carney sets out a 5 point plan to help fintech startups get off the ground:

  1. Give startups and fintech firms access to the central bank's payment settlement systems, currently restricted to 48 big firms;
  2. Be open to startups looking to use the central bank's payment settlement service for securities and stock transactions;
  3. Exploring the use of distributed ledger technology — first developed to underpin bitcoin, and known as blockchain — in its own activities;
  4. Launching the fintech accelerator;
  5. Taking a reasonable regulatory approach to the new sector: "FinTech should neither be the Wild West nor strangled at birth."

Carney concludes that: "With time, FinTech could mean a more open, more transparent, and more democratic global financial system." You can read the full text of the speech here.

Join the conversation about this story »

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17 Jun 21:03

7 Strategies for High-Converting Landing Pages

by Brad McMillen

We’ve covered the basics for landing pages many times here at WordStream, from our favorite landing page tips and tricks to the best landing page tools you can use to amplify your landing page performance. However, today I’d like to take a look at some landing page strategies that go beyond the basics, so you can take your landing pages to a new level of conversion power.

You may have seen some of these strategies for high-converting landing pages before, but I’d like to illustrate some of the more subtle points as to why and how they can make your customer experience stand out. Some of these strategies might, in fact, be new to you. Either way, these real-world examples should provide a spark that you can employ in your own landing page optimization efforts to get significantly higher conversion rates.

But first, a quick note on landing page conversion rate benchmarks.

What’s a High-Converting Landing Page?

Our research indicates that conversion rates vary by industry, but averages generally fall between 2% and 5% for AdWords advertisers.

high converting landing pages

Does that mean you should settle for average? Of course not! There are lots of businesses out there who have managed to achieve higher conversion rates. WordStream did a study in 2014 that showed some advertisers – the best of the best – were getting conversion rates of 10% or more. That’s what you want to aim for!

high converting landing pages

Now let’s get on to the strategies that will help you raise your landing page conversion rates.

1. Incentivize Your Visitors with an Irresistible Offer

high converting landing pages

Vitacost does a great job of making an offer that helps close the deal right away. I’m a huge proponent of giving new customers an incentive to take action right now, and after about five seconds on the site this enticing offer pops up—a 10 percent discount—and it’s something the main competition is not doing. Given this, I’d be more inclined to shop with Vitacost since they’re giving me immediate savings.

Additionally, the page itself gives a clean, well-laid-out impression, and it makes the benefit statement clear: save up to 37 percent on organic foods. Specificity sells, and pinpointing it at this granular level makes it more believable.

Ultimately, the main takeaway here is that the offer provides visitors with something they can use right now.

2: Limit Choices

high converting landing pages

In this example for project management software, Wrike takes minimalism to the extreme. Often with software you’re given multiple choices, but in this case Wrike limits the offer to one main choice at ten dollars a month, billed annually, with a free plan available. They chose to use very little text and make the offer straightforward and to the point.

In this case they went counter to what’s normally recommended for lead gen situations, which is to use the standard three feature and benefit statements, include a list of plans available, and have a form to fill out.

In addition, this landing page stands out because of the eye-catching hero image, and it leverages credibility boosters with the Gartner mention and the big-name brand customers along the footer, both of which are best practices for landing pages.

3. Provide Customer Service with a Lighter Touch

high converting landing pages

high converting landing pages

Live chat is nothing new, but in this case American Eagle offers it in a less intrusive way than many others do. There’s little more annoying than the chat pop-up that comes out of nowhere like a pushy salesperson. In this case when searching for “men’s shorts,” the live chat sits in the corner ready for you if you want it. Of course, you have to give up your email address to use it—American Eagle wants to get something out of the chat, right?

In addition, American Eagle uses a nice header image that highlights their wide selection. We covered product-landing-page best practices recently here at WordStream if you want more tips on how to optimize them.

4. Go for a Test Drive

high converting landing pages

Webex’s landing page for webinar software really nails it when it comes to the test drive. You can either sign up as an individual or group to see the product in action before you decide to buy. This “hands-on” approach helps prospects visualize how they’d be able to use the software in their own lives, which can be a crucial deal-maker and help close sales.

The form is a bit long for my taste and would be something to test for sure. We covered landing-page forms last year and it warrants revisiting if you use a form on your landing pages.

In addition, following the three feature and benefit statements, Webex builds credibility a la McDonald’s by showing a running tally of the number of webinars they’ve hosted in the last month. This credibility booster falls right in line with what Dr. Rober Cialdini mentions as “social proof” in his widely read and quoted “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” (If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you pick it up soon. It’s pre-internet but the principles stand the test of time.)

In the book Cialdini mentions that social proof—the fact that other people are using or buying the product—helps new prospects feel at ease about the purchase decision because they know lots of other people are customers too. I’ll reference more Cialdini later.

5. Provide Real-Time Social Proof

high converting landing pages

Similar to Webex’s running tally, Timberwolf Bay, a vintage home furnishings company, posts a running update of orders. You see where the person was and what they bought, and it’s updated in real time.

This little feature builds confidence in the company because, as Cialdini mentions, it implies that people just like you are buying from this website. Who wants to feel like they’re the only customer on a website? Also, it’s pretty fun to watch the orders pop up!

Another example (below) of this strategy comes from Zingerman’s, a popular food market in Ann Arbor, Michigan, except they put the running tally in the footer:

high converting landing pages

6. Use Scarcity and Urgency as Motivators

high converting landing pages

Here again Timberwolf Bay does a great job of using another of Cialdini’s principles: scarcity. When you’re looking for “timberwolf bay automobiles,” you’re shown the existing inventory. If you’re dying to get B.B. Korn Race Car, hurry. If you wanted the brass accordion “headlight” sconce, you’re out of luck.

Kidding aside, the real-time quantity updates can motivate people to buy now. Showing that an item sold out implies a) your company moves a lot of product and b) visitors need to take action because products DO sell out. The bottom line here is that scarcity motivates people to buy because we hate to feel like we’re going to miss out on something.

Building off the scarcity theme, we should also consider urgency. When we know a sale ends soon, we’re more apt to buy rather than wait. In the example below, Gilt does a great job with a countdown timer to let people know the sale ends soon, so they better act fast:

high converting landing pages

7. Show the Value

high converting landing pages

Everyone loves a deal, and on this page Eastbay does a good job highlighting how they’ve slashed the price on “men’s kobe shoes.” If Eastbay simply showed the new price, a visitor would have no context to put the price in perspective. Now, a potential customer will hopefully think “wow, this is a great deal, I need to take advantage of this.” At the very least, the shopper will bookmark this page to buy after doing some comparison shopping.

In addition, Eastbay highlights free shipping prominently in the header, so that’s even more incentive for the visitor to buy from this landing page.

The bottom line in this case: It pays to illustrate the value.

A Final Word on High-Converting Landing Pages

These have been just a few examples of landing pages that go beyond the basics of effective landing page strategy and execution. To be sure, landing pages and their tactics evolve constantly, and as digital marketers we have to always be testing to see what works.

What other strategies have you seen employed to create high-converting landing pages?

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17 Jun 21:03

The Connection Between Reinforcement and Sales Transformation

by Rachel Clapp Miller

structure.pngReinforcement is a critical and an often overlooked component to a sales training initiative. We often have people email us asking for a quick training event for a sales kick-off or a mid-year meeting. While we are always happy to engage with any person who wants to do business with us, we often start the conversation with asking what outcomes the organization is looking to drive. Most of the time, their desired results can be achieved with a “quick training event.”

Perhaps the sales team is selling features and functions or the salespeople are having trouble getting to decision makers. One event may help, but it won’t drive lasting change. You need reinforcement to truly transform your sales organization.

Here are some of our best practices for reinforcing a sales initative. They should be the cornerstone to any training event you launch with your team.

1. Lead from the Front

You can never underestimate the importance of leading from the front. Leaders can’t just show up, give a few motivational talks and then get back to their golf game. Whatever initiative or program you are implementing, it takes top-level executive support to motivate and drive consistency. The C-level should be using the language of the methodology, reinforcing the value and importance of the initiative. (Before Force Management became GrowthPlay, the team produced some great content with The Sales Curmudgeon that really drives home this point. Check it out here.)

2. Equip Them with Consumable Tools

Statistics show that you only retain a small percentage of what you are taught in a training event. Therefore, you need to arm your sellers with content, tools and resources that are easy to use in their day-to-day operations. Think one-sheets not binders full of content. If your tools and processes aren’t easy to use and reinforce, the initiative will fail. Bottom line.

3. Establish Simple Evaluation Processes

Front-line sales managers need simple and objective tools to inspect and evaluate results in the early stages of transformation. A consistent management cadence provides a rhythm that managers can use to coach and reinforce key behaviors. Tools, like Opportunity Qualifiers and Pre-Call Planners, help leverage the methodology. Ultimately, this helps managers inspect opportunities and hold sellers accountable for the desired outcomes.

4. Execute Learning Over Time

Spaced-learning techniques have become commonplace in education and training. It’s an effective approach for your sales initative. This approach to training involves spreading training out over a period of time rather than cramming everything into an initial period of time. It allows learning to continue over time, rather than in one sales kickoff event. Short bursts of information can help keep critical learning points in front of sellers preventing sellers from reverting back to bad behaviors.

Want More Information?

Check out our eBooks on Sales Transformation in our Resource Center

Leading Sales Transformation

17 Jun 21:03

The Continued Convergence Of Journalism And Content Marketing

by Tor Goldfield

Today’s news that the Financial Times has acquired content marketing firm Alpha Grid is further evidence of the seismic shifts taking place in the world of media and communications. The lines that used to exist between the disciplines of journalism and marketing are continuing to blur and dissolve, creating opportunities for media companies and corporates alike.

The FT is an interesting example of a traditional publisher that is grasping those opportunities with both hands. Back in September last year, the company announced the launch of content marketing suite FT2, with the mission to “bring carefully selected client content to the right audience at the right time”. With the launch of this division, the FT has formalised the practice of publishing branded, often paid for, content from advertisers – content that readers have reported as offering real value. In fact, branded content has proved so valuable for the FT that it is credited with driving a 30% increase in revenues.

Branded content has proved so valuable for the FT that it is credited with driving a 30% increase in revenues

Native content vs native advertising

Business Insider is another publisher that takes pride in working with paying customers to deliver high quality content to its 2.5 million daily readers. Around the same time that the FT was launching FT2, I attended a CMA breakfast briefing where Julian Childs, Business Insider Managing Director UK and Europe, gave an impassioned talk about the difference between ‘native advertising’ and what he calls ‘native content’. In his view, native content is defined by its thought leadership qualities and the ability to offer genuine insight. That’s a very different proposition to the click-bait style native advertising that has found a home on many news sites these days.

The challenges facing media organisations in today’s fragmented landscape have been widely reported. Publishers must fight ever harder to retain their audience and overcome the issues created by the rise and popularity of niche websites, social media and ad blocking technology. When done in the right way, branded or advertiser-sponsored content is one of the most powerful weapons in that fight.

Publishers must fight ever harder to retain their audience

High quality articles that are endorsed by respected brands like the FT will always attract attention, whether paid for by an advertiser or not. And that advertising revenue is essential if those same publishers wish to continue producing journalistic pieces. It’s a symbiotic relationship that has always existed and is simply evolving to keep up with the demands and sensibilities of today’s readers.

If native content is helping publishers bring together the best of journalism and marketing, then the same is true in reverse: marketing has gained value from the discipline and rigour of journalism. Customers and clients are looking for more than carefully crafted brand messages. They can spot marketing hype a mile off and will often turn away from anything seen as flimsy or unauthentic. The way to win their attention is through useful, interesting or entertaining content that adds something real and honest to their lives, which sounds a lot like journalism by another name.

Customers and clients are looking for more than carefully crafted brand messages

The best agencies have journalists and marketers

No content marketing agency is complete these days without one or more journalists on the team, bringing with them a deep understanding of how to craft a well-balanced story. The best agencies and in-house teams are combining journalism skills and marketing strategy to produce high quality content with editorial flair.

Journalists make great content marketers because they understand how to hunt out an interesting angle; how to conduct thorough research that’s underpinned with appropriate references; how to avoid overt commercialism and how to work in a high pressured, deadline driven-environment. They have also been taught to write snappy, succinct copy that gets people’s attention and is free of grammatical nasties. Of course, alongside all of those skills, journalists also been trained to hunt out corporate hyperbole and spin, so it’s fair to wonder whether a trained reporter would ever be happy in the world of marketing.

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) addressed this topic last November in an article that asked whether it’s ethical for a journalist to work in content marketing. The article makes the point that well developed content strategy isn’t a pure act of self-promotion. It’s about addressing the needs of the target audience, whether that’s a need for information, advice or pure enjoyment. In that article, Scott Roen, vice president of digital at American Express, makes the point that the ethics of a content marketer, or a brand journalist as he otherwise calls them, can and should be the same as that of any other journalist. And when more and more traditional publishers are calling on their editorial staff to produce branded content, one has to wonder if there is even a difference between the two any more.

It will be interesting to see how this relationship between journalists and content marketers continues to evolve, and I suspect that the likes of the FT will be at the forefront of that continued change.

17 Jun 21:03

Executive Sales Leader Briefing: Top 100 Visionaries Creating Value for the World

by TheSalesHunter
Welcome to the Executive Sales Leader Briefing, a new blog series I am doing every Friday. If you want to receive the Executive Sales Leader Briefing in text form in an email early Friday morning before it is published on the website, go to this page to sign up or complete the below information:   Top […]
17 Jun 21:03

Small Business Lessons From Notable Graduation Speeches

by David Kiger

grads

The end-of-spring graduation season always brings out a variety of advice from guest speakers at universities across the nation. Though their words are intended for those just entering the workforce, many can also apply to those looking to make their own way and start a small business.

Here’s a look at several examples from recent graduation speeches.

President Barack Obama at Howard University (via Politico): “You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes. You see, change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing.”

Small business lesson: The president was largely speaking of social and political strategy. But strategic thinking is essential for entrepreneurs, and the initial steps of starting a small business should include serious analysis. Take this list of five basic questions of where to begin in marketing, by Greg Head of Smallbiztrends.com:

  • “Who is your narrowly defined target customer?”
  • “In which category does your business exist?”
  • “What is your unique benefit?”
  • “Who is your real competition?”
  • “How are you clearly different from your competitors?”

“To make your tactics work better, to grow your business and bring sanity to your world, you have to decide on the single, simple answer to each of these questions and commit to not changing it for a year or two,” Head writes. “This is focus. And focus is almost always the difference between a business that grows profitably and one that never seems to gain any momentum.”

Oprah Winfrey at Johnson C. Smith University (via Yahoo): “Every stumble is not a fall, and every fall does not mean failure. Being human means you will make mistakes. And you will make mistakes, because failure is God’s way of moving you in another direction.”

Small business lesson: Learn from your errors, and use those lessons to navigate difficult times and challenges. As Mitch Rothschild writes for Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs should “reframe problems into lessons.”

“When the going gets tough, we all know people who start to lament, ‘Why me?’ But playing the victim doesn’t solve problems. Tough times are going to happen. The resilient leader asks, ‘What have I learned from this experience?’ Not, ‘What have I lost?’ The lessons of past experiences only help to inform future chances to do it better next time. That’s something all successful businesses and individuals understand.”

Paul Feig at USC Film School (via USA Today): “You want to make something great, but be cool while you’re doing it so people will hire you again. Because if you screw up and you’re an [expletive], they won’t hire you again. But if you’re nice and you screw up, then they’re like, ‘Let’s give him another shot …’ It will buy you one free pass.”

Small business lesson: The director of Bridesmaids and Spy must be skilled in the art of diplomacy. A small business owner will need that ability to have give-and-take discussions with clients, peers and staff members. As Caron Beesley writes for the U.S. Small Business Administration, diplomacy “opens the door to problem-solving and respect.”

No one likes to be pressured or threatened into submission — whether it’s done bluntly or passive-aggressively,” she says. “But it’s going to happen — and the good thing is that this is your opportunity to really let your personality shine through. Handling negotiations with grace and diplomacy puts both parties at ease. … Diplomacy and poise on your part can go a long way to defusing even the trickiest negotiations and demands.”

J.K. Simmons at The University of Montana (via missoulian.com): “ … I mean wherever you are physically present, to also be mentally, emotionally, spiritually present. And by present I mean fully engaged, not staring at your damn smartphone all the time. I’m just another curmudgeon who likes to moan about how things were better in my day — which they were. Before smarty-pants-phones.”

Small business lesson: The Oscar-winning actor went old-school on the new graduates, even emphasizing the need to be on time and to use the turn signal. While many business owners are looking to capitalize on the strengths of millennials, there can be value with old-school business methods, as Paul Angone examines for Business Insider.

“Millennials’ anthem should be ‘HYBO’ — Hustle Your Butt Off. If you make a mistake, take ownership and don’t leave until you’ve helped remedy the situation. Don’t hide behind email. Pick up the phone, knock on someone’s door, and look people in the eye. Become a real, live person in the office, not a millennial who’s addicted to their iPhone. Millennials have huge dreams of making an impact, making a profit, or most of the time, doing both. Their big dreams are not the problem; the timeline for how quickly we think those dreams should come to fruition is. Don’t chase your dreams. Plant them in the best soil you can find and then water them every day with old school values.”

Michael Bloomberg, University of Michigan (via Yahoo): “The secret to success is not rocket science. It just requires true dedication and a willingness to go the extra mile. … Let’s put it this way: I know of no Nobel Prize winner who has stopped studying.”

Small business lesson: Entrepreneurs have to be willing to put in the work, and to examine ways to expand their own horizons. In a story for Entrepreneur.com, Jacqueline Whitmore emphasizes the dependability of those with a strong work ethic.

“You can be relied on to keep your promises,” she writes. “You are always on time and prepared for meetings, and deliver your work on schedule and on budget. Your reputation for reliability precedes you because you’ve proven over time that customers, clients and colleagues can trust you to do everything you say you will. In an uncertain world, your customers, colleagues and clients will appreciate the stability you embody.”

Ryan Seacrest at University of Georgia (via USA Today): “Make sure you happen to the day instead of it happening to you. But no matter the circumstances, you still only get one shot to make a day that matters.”

Small business lesson: The TV star is far from the first to make a “carpe diem” speech, but the thought behind “seize the day” certainly applies to business owners. There’s no room for a passive approach, as Cynthia Measom explores for Demand Media.

“Entrepreneurs are proactive,” Measom writes. “They have initiative and they are ready to use it to further their business. They look for opportunities to improve their company, such as implementing services or marketing products that allow their business to stand out from the competition. They are also open to opportunities that can help them expand their current business into new areas.”

17 Jun 21:02

How to Negotiate for Yourself When People Don’t Expect You To

by Deborah M. Kolb
jun16-17-121439423

When managers negotiate in organizations, with their bosses or colleagues, they do so in the context of how (or whether) they have negotiated before. They fall back into the roles they’ve traditionally played, and their counterparts expect that they will act as they have in the past.

In the leadership development programs that we run with for female executives at leading corporations, we use the term “Velcro” to describe these patterns of behavior, because like the sticky fabric, they can lock people into a weaker negotiating position that undermines their career growth and success.

Velcro can take many forms. Some of the women describe being stuck in the informal role of great producer, someone who is willing to take on ever more work even if it’s no longer relevant to their current position. Others have reputations as fixers, enlisted to clean up problems but without ever getting full credit for this work. Others are known as team players, who do whatever is asked of them for the good of the group, never asking if or how they will be compensated.

Recognizing one’s Velcro is the first step in breaking away from it. The second step is to know when people are giving you an “invitation to your Velcro” and responding in a way that puts you in a stronger negotiating position.

Consider a case study. Rebecca is a director in the technology division of a major financial firm. Over the past few months she spearheaded the development of a business case for a major transformation in her division and was therefore invited to apply for a VP role that would involve her overseeing the transition. When the company’s leaders appointed an outsider instead of Rebecca to the job, her boss offered her a retention bonus to prove that the firm still appreciated her work.

You and Your Team Series

Negotiating

  • 5 Reasons Good Deals Get Rejected
    • Deepak Malhotra
    How to Bounce Back After a Failed Negotiation
    • Carolyn O’Hara
    How to Cool Down a Heated Negotiation
    • Jeff Weiss

    But Rebecca recognized this was an invitation to her team player Velcro. Her boss was expecting her to gratefully accept the bonus she’d been offered, welcoming her new boss and allowing the organization to move ahead with the transformation. This time, Rebecca wanted to break away from that role she’d always played and negotiate on her own behalf. Here’s how she did it:

    She evaluated her leverage. Because Rebecca had played such a big role in conceiving the change initiative, her knowledge would be critical to the new VP. Her boss continually talked about how valuable she was and implied how much he needed her. This gave her the confidence to balk at the retention bonus.

    She set the tone for the conversation. In the past, Rebecca’s immediate response to praise or a bonus offer would have been to thank him for the offer and his support. This time, to break away from her Velcro, she sat silently — a negotiation technique she’d learned in our program — then she declined the bonus.

    She was clear about what she wanted. Rebecca wanted her organization to make a long-term investment in her, not a one-time pay-out — a raise, not a bonus — and told her boss exactly that.  He responded with all the reasons why he couldn’t give her a raise (it had not been budgeted for, it was the wrong time of year), which was another invitation to her team player Velcro, but Rebecca resisted.

    She stood firm. Rebecca knew her boss very well and anticipated that he would keep returning to the bonus — clearly expecting that he could wear her down. He offered to discuss her development, but she said she was not interested.  She repeated that the bonus was only a token recognition; she wanted validation of her value. Finally, after securing the relevant approvals, her boss agreed to give her a significant raise worth more than double the value of the bonus.

    When you recognize your Velcro, you understand how you have trained people to expect you to act and how to reset those expectations so you can negotiate for more compensation, credit and resources.

17 Jun 21:01

Growth Needs to Come from the Entire Company

by Paul Leinwand
jun16-17-130244695

Organizations, whether businesses or nonprofits, almost universally pursue growth. In fact, 94% of the senior executives who responded to a recent global survey conducted by our firm, Strategy&, said that growth was a priority for their companies. Thirty percent said that growth was more important than anything else.

But the goal of sustained growth remains elusive. More than 60% of the executive survey respondents, for example, said they aren’t fully confident their company will realize its growth targets; 70% said it’s more difficult now to generate profitable growth than it was in the past; and 66% said knowing which growth avenue to pursue is harder than it was a decade ago.

A few companies, however, do succeed in growing year after year. They do so by building powerful growth engines. As described in Strategy That Works, companies like Amazon, Apple, Danaher, Haier, IKEA, Natura, and Starbucks are presented as having a value proposition that resonates with customers. Their value is supported by a system of distinctive capabilities, aligned with an entire portfolio of offerings.

In short, growth comes from the entire company, not from any particular product or service. If you build a robust growth engine on a strong foundation, rather than seeking individual opportunities, you can be confident knowing that sustainable expansion will follow.

Consider the sports apparel company Under Armour. Its goals are extremely ambitious; it is not just a pioneer in developing new fabrics for active wear, but in developing wearable electronics. In everything it does, the company pays as much attention to its growth engine — its ability to manage innovation and launch consistently valuable products — as in any particular garment or device it sells. It stretches itself (in part through acquisitions of complementary fitness-app companies like MyFitnessPal and Endomondo), but it does not get ahead of its capacity to realize its ambitions.

Other companies known for their capabilities are similarly focused on building growth engines. Starbucks, for example, has a strong presence because CEO Howard Schultz, deliberately developed a growth plan grounded in its capabilities. The business has a distinctive customer experience capability, a prowess at creating premium food and beverage products, and an ability to recruit and manage thousands of retail employees with high loyalty and low turnover. With all this in place, Starbucks can move with assurance to expand.

We know this approach flies in the face of some of the conventional wisdom about growth in turbulent times. Many business experts advise companies to search for rapid growth avenues, regardless of whether they have the capabilities to compete effectively. Too many companies try to expand wherever rapid revenue opportunities lead them, diversifying into new products, entering new markets, expanding through mergers and acquisitions, or investing in organic growth (which often means stealing market share by releasing products or services similar to those of your competitors).

The conventional approach focuses your attention on questions about your external environment:

  • Where should we grow?
  • Where are the markets with opportunities?
  • What do they offer us?

These are obvious questions, to be sure, and their appeal is clear. They lead you to new revenues — at first — but the end results are often counterproductive. Pursuing growth this way can put tremendous pressure on your enterprise to extend into new markets that seem hot — but where your enterprise has no capabilities to win. You are likely to discover, along the way, that you lack the capabilities you need, and must develop them from scratch. This is difficult and expensive, especially if it must be done quickly.

Initiatives like these tend to be the growth efforts that fail; wasting a lot of cash, and — worse — diverting your company’s attention from sustaining and growing its successful business core.

One recent example is the collapse of SunEdison. In 2015, it had been one of Wall Street’s most favored alternative energy companies. In April 2016, it filed for bankruptcy. According to Fortune, “The company’s tale of woe stems from overreaching ambition, [trying] to grow too big, too fast, and in too many directions.” Its capabilities as a semiconductor company fit naturally with photovoltaics, but did not naturally translate to its new wind energy, battery, and construction/installation businesses. Even though these sectors also qualified as “clean energy,” the capabilities they required were too diverse to manage.

The growth engine approach that we believe in focuses your attention on questions related to sustained growth:

  • What is our unique advantage?
  • How do we add value in ways that others do not?
  • What do we do better than our competitors that allows us to add value?
  • How can we build the kind of capabilities that will propel us forward, time after time?

The Chinese appliance maker, Haier, has used this type of thinking to expand around the world — most recently in its purchase of GE’s appliance business in the United States. In every market Haier enters, its products vary — for example, it makes washing machines for farmers’ vegetables in China and for thick robes in Pakistan — but it applies the same capabilities: consumer-responsive innovation (tailoring products for local markets), operational excellence, mastery of local distribution networks, and on-demand production and delivery. Haier’s engine for growth developed over years; it is the heart of the company’s identity.

If you start with your own capability-based growth engine, you’ll tend to move outward from your core in a deliberate fashion. You’ll start with in-market leverage, growing within your core. You can offer new products and services to your existing customers that complement your existing offerings.

Second, you can proceed to near-market expansion. This is also called expansion through adjacencies. You broaden your geographic footprint or product assortment, but only when your capabilities system will help you.

Third, you can develop new capabilities to complement your growth engine: opening up new avenues as you expand around your core identity.

Finally, on rare occasions, you may offer a truly disruptive product or service — one that redefines your industry, as genetic engineering of plants redefined the agricultural chemicals industry and music streaming redefined recorded music. After these innovations, the entire structure of the industry changed, including the business models of the companies (like Monsanto and Netflix, respectively) that promoted those innovations.

All four forms of growth reinforce each other: for instance, full deployment of in-market growth often leads to innovation of new business models, which helps you identify and capture near-market expansion opportunities, which makes your capabilities stronger, which makes you more adept at in-market growth, and so on and so on. The engine of growth is inherent in the company, not any one product or service.

Haier, for example, continually conducts at least three of these four forms of growth. It regularly offers new products to its original Chinese market; it currently has an apartment-design service for people moving into urban areas; and offers water filtration systems tailored for 22,000 different neighborhoods in China, each with a different pollution profile. Other examples of companies who are performing capabilities expansion include Natura and IKEA, which have learned to manufacture products with very high levels of environmental sustainability.

Unfortunately, most companies aren’t focused enough on the advantage that comes from having a growth engine. Here, too, they realize part of the problem: 61% of the survey respondents said they aren’t doing enough now to realize their company’s growth targets. Chasing growth won’t help them (or you); the only viable alternative is to build the kind of company that enables you to grow as a matter of course.

17 Jun 21:00

TOMS founder: 'I was CEO by default, but I never was a CEO'

by Shana Lebowitz

Blake Mycoskie Toms

In 2015, nine years after founding TOMS Shoes, Blake Mycoskie stepped down from the position of chief executive.

He chose as his replacement Jim Alling, who'd previously served as chief operating officer at T-Mobile and held multiple executive roles at Starbucks.

When I spoke with Mycoskie recently, I asked him why he relinquished some of his power and what his current role entails.

According to Mycoskie:

I was CEO by default, but I never was a CEO. I mean I'm a founder, I love the beginning of things. I love working with the creative team, but running a business, dealing a lot with HR, dealing a lot with processes, that's never really been my strength. Once I was in a position where I could bring on and attract world-class CEO talent, like Jim, our CEO, I was super excited to do so.

He went on:

Success in business is about playing to your strengths as a company and as individuals. And my strengths are definitely in telling our stories, getting people excited about our mission, working with the marketing and creative teams to create the product and the messages we want to share, and now I can focus all of my time on that because now I don't have the responsibilities of being a CEO.

Mycoskie's decision to select a new CEO is supported by research. One study found that the more control the founder retains, over both the CEO role and the board, the lower the value of his or her equity stake. In other words, retaining total control over your company may stop you from building the most profitable organization possible.

 

In a 2013 LinkedIn post, LinkedIn's cofounder Reid Hoffman shared his thoughts on why hiring a new CEO is often a founder's best option. Five years after cofounding LinkedIn, Hoffman hired Jeff Weiner to replace him as CEO.

Hoffman echoed some of Mycoskie's sentiments about the difference between being a founder and a CEO:

To be a successful growth-stage CEO, you need to be ready to manage a 1,000 person organization and devote substantial time to time consuming things like running meetings and other business process. You can't just do the exciting stuff like making the final call on product and speaking at conferences, while shuffling off everything else to the mythical COO who loves doing all the dirty work and doesn't want any of the credit.

Mycoskie told me his decision to hire Alling as CEO has worked out well for TOMS: "It's a really great partnership with Jim, business has never been stronger, and our employees are a lot happier, too because they have someone day-to-day that they can go to."

Read the full interview with Mycoskie »

SEE ALSO: On the 10th anniversary of TOMS, its founder talks stepping down, bringing in private equity, and why giving away shoes provides a competitive advantage

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Former Defense Secretary shares leadership lessons from five US Presidents

17 Jun 17:37

Israeli firms profit as Europe boosts defence spending

by Joe Dyke

A XACT TH64 Thermal Weapon Sight made by Israeli company Elbit Systems is among the weapons presented to European buyers, whose defence spending is expected to increase by 8.3 percent

Netanya (Israel) (AFP) - As European defence budgets rise in the wake of increased threats, Israeli companies are seeing a boost in sales, further solidifying the country's image as an arms industry leader.

The increases have come despite, and perhaps partly aided by, Israel's continuing occupation of Palestinian territory -- with Israeli firms themselves highlighting that their products have been tested in conflict.

European spending on defence and security had remained roughly static in the past decade, but Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, Islamist attacks in France and a wave of refugees from the Middle East have encouraged a spike.

Across the continent, defence budgets are expected to increase by 8.3 percent this year, according to a recent report by a group of think tanks including the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

Israeli companies, many of which have strong backing from the state, are capitalising by pushing new products.

Twenty-nine of them displayed technologies this week at the Eurosatory conference in Paris, one of the world's largest land defence exhibitions.

Exports to France, which has strongly criticised Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank and is overseeing a peace initiative that the Israelis oppose, have spiked.

In 2014, the total number of exports of both homeland security and defence technologies from Israel to France amounted to slightly over $150 million, according to the Israel Export Institute.

That figure more than doubled to $355 million in 2015, when France was hit by two major jihadist attacks.

In 2016, Israel is projected to overtake Italy to become the world's seventh-largest defence exporter -- by far the smallest country in the top 10, according to arms industry analysts IHS Jane's.

There has been a "substantial increase" in European interest in Israeli technologies, said Ran Kril, vice president of international marketing at Elbit Systems, one of the country's largest weapons companies, with profits of just under $900 million last year.

That has come "after long years in which the defence budgets in Europe were declining," he said.

- Seeing through trees -

At a media exhibition of Elbit's new technologies last week in the Israeli city of Netanya, products on display included a radar system the company said was first specifically designed to locate people through trees. 

A salesman pitched it as being perfect for European countries seeking to locate migrants hiding in forests.

"Maybe you are not going to shoot them, but you want to bring the police forces or other means," he added.

Kril confirmed that Elbit, which provided drones to protect stadiums during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, was also involved in the ongoing Euro 2016 football tournament in France, though he would not specify how.

Other Israeli firms, too, are finding increasing interest.

Saul Gold from AgentVI, which specialises in smarter CCTV technologies, said they had seen a five to 10 percent increase in inquiries in the past six months from northern Europe.

Among those they had met with about their systems was Brussels airport, the scene of an April suicide bombing that, along with an attack at a metro station, left 22 people dead.

Gold said European airports were increasingly interested in learning about security measures at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, often cited as having the highest security measures globally -- though critics allege blatant racial profiling.

- Israeli edge? -

The desire for Israeli technologies can also pose an ethical challenge for European nations that have long criticised its policies towards Palestinians.

Late last year, the European Union introduced labelling on all products from settlements in the occupied West Bank and Elbit's 2015 annual report identifies "calls in Europe and elsewhere to reduce trade with Israel" as among the threats to its growth.

Many of the technologies being sold to Europe are first used in conflict with Palestinians, including the 2014 war with Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza.

Indeed for companies, this experience is often a major selling point.

"These countries very much admire the operational experience of these systems," Kril said. 

"Most of these products and technology are fielded and are bringing results daily. This is very important for the customers, especially the ones that need immediate technology and immediate solutions."

Gilles Perez of the Israel Export Institute said: "The Israeli edge is where the security ecosystem allows the Israeli companies to have many pilots, many tests at home."

"They can test it with the (Israeli military), with the special security forces."

Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said during the 2014 Gaza war the watchdog had documented "violations of the rules of war that appear to rise to the level of war crimes in Gaza using some of these weapons."

"That kind of field experience is not something I would be proud of," she added.

Join the conversation about this story »

17 Jun 17:36

Buying Triggers and Why They Matter

by Erika Goldwater

As consumers, if we are not in an active buying cycle, we are in a passive buying cycle. Like it or not, in the course of our daily lives we are exposed to and consume so much information and content that buying something or acquiring something including experiences, goods, food or resources is always on our mind. However, certain trigger events (tangible or intangible barriers that when met or breached cause another event or action to occur) cause us to move from a passive buying cycle into an active one.

shutterstock_425667115In terms of B2B marketing, we know the buyer’s journey can be long and is often complex, involving many different buyers and typically buying committees from across an organization. Just as in our consumer lives, B2B buyers are either in a passive or active buying cycle. So how can marketers identify buying triggers for different buyers and why does it even matter?

Understanding the triggers
By understanding buyers inside and out, marketers can anticipate their buyer’s challenges and how they are likely to try and solve them. For example, if a new law is implemented, such as the Affordable Care Act, it will have a radical impact to the buying patterns of healthcare buyers. It is these triggers, among others, that may cause passive buyers to become active buyers.

External or internal triggers-
Knowing what external triggers impact buyers (CEO, VP of marketing, HR department, board members or Chief Privacy Officer) in the healthcare example above helps marketers develop insights into buyers. Internal triggers may be things like fear of non-compliance, growing out of a specific system or internal pressure to improve performance. Internal triggers may affect buyers differently, once again, highlighting the need to understand what motivates and influences your buyer(s).

It’s about the buyer-
While triggers are the impetus for buyers to purchase and do not necessarily impact vendors, it is vital that vendors understand them o they can message appropriately. As marketers we will utilize this information to create content, include key words on our sites, and develop relevant blog posts around topics that relate to triggers. For examples of how to utilize triggers in marketing content, read the evergreen post by Velocity Partners.

Identifying triggers-
So how do you get a better grasp on your buyers and what their external and internal triggers are? Ask them. Ask them what they read, when and how they prefer to consume content, what events or circumstances pushed them into a buying process, etc. However, don’t stop there. Do additional research into the market and find those who are not your customers, but fit your buyer profile to get a different perspective. The goal is to obtain both a broad and detailed understanding of your buyer. This is where marketers can develop deep insights into their buyers and build a strategy to support ongoing education that will eventually lead to a conversion (sale).

Knowing and understanding buying triggers is one of the most important aspects of the creation of buyer personas and the start of understanding the buyer’s journey. Given that in many instances the buyers begin their buying process without involving sales, it is imperative that content be developed to speak to the buyers as their buying journey begins. Educating your buyers and helping guide them through the process via relevant and timely content, all begins at that all too important trigger event.

17 Jun 17:32

8 Signs You Shouldn’t Call That Inbound Lead

by lye@hubspot.com (Leslie Ye)

signs-you-shouldnt-call-inbound-lead.jpg

Inbound leads are great for salespeople. Instead of having to hunt down buyers, create interest, and educate them, reps can simply call prospects who have already interacted with their Marketing content and awareness of their brand.

Sounds ideal, right? As more and more marketing teams adopt inbound strategies, more and more sales reps are now able to pare down the time they spend proactively sourcing leads to call and can devote more of their days speaking with buyers who have already expressed interest in speaking with them.

But like all things in life, inbound leads aren’t perfect. No matter how high your lead flow, it’s impossible that every single inbound lead will be a good fit. The higher your lead flow, the more important it becomes to be able to separate out good leads from bad. If you’re handed hundreds of inbound leads a month, you can’t just start dialing from the top of the list -- you’ve got to be strategic about how you tackle the group of buyers in front of you.

If any of the following eight things are true of your inbound lead, rethink calling them right now (or ever) and focus your attention on other better fits.

When You Shouldn't Call Inbound Leads

1) They provided obviously fake information.

This one’s a no-brainer. Has your prospect filled out their phone number as (555) 555-5555 or their name as “Haha, Yeah Right”? Don’t call them.

2) They’re clearly in the educational stage.

Prospects that have just entered your funnel and are still educating themselves aren’t a good group to prioritize. It’s a possibility that they’ll become a good fit in a few weeks or months, but your job isn’t to nurture the lead throughout their entire buying process -- it’s to be there with answers when they’re ready to speak with a rep.

For example, if a lead’s converted on just one landing page and hasn’t been to any other parts of your website or interacted with your company first, let Marketing nurture them before you devote serious time to working with the prospect. If you have the time, interact with the prospect on social media a few times to keep your brand top-of-mind, but don’t devote serious time to prospects who are this early in the buyer’s journey.

Instead, prioritize leads who are converting on middle- or bottom-of-the-funnel content and viewing premium pages (like pricing and product information pages).

3) They’ve been converting on your site for years with no response to other reps' attempts to reach out.

When your company reaches a certain size and generates enough content, you’re bound to get a number of leads who are interested in your content and will read it consistently, but will never buy your product.

Before you call on an inbound lead, check their contact records in your CRM. Have other reps been reaching out to them for long periods of time with no success? Do they subscribe to your blog or interact with your social channels, but never move past reading and sharing content? It sounds like you’ve got an evangelist on your hands -- someone who loves your product and brand, but has no use for it in their day-to-day.

4) They’re still in school.

Depending on your product and industry, it’s very possible that your blog and content are valuable sources of research for students and professors. Unless you sell to educational institutions or departments, employees and students are not a good lead source, as they rarely buy products on behalf of their institutions or have the influence to drive purchasing decision.

Exceptions: Professors and students who are on task forces or special committees may have been tasked with solving a specific problem -- you can usually determine whether this is the case through a quick Google search. Student newspapers and institutional press rooms will often publish articles or press releases if this is the case.

5) They don’t fit your ideal buyer profile.

Businesses use buyer profiles and buyer personas for a reason -- they summarize the companies and people who are the best fits for your product based on historical data. Not every inbound lead you call needs to fit this buyer profile to a tee, but if an inbound lead’s company is significantly smaller or larger than your profile (whether it’s revenue, employee size, customer base, or something else) or a far cry from your best verticals or industries, don’t prioritize them highly.

Keep in mind, though, that a point of contact being too junior (i.e. if they’re an intern, or entry-level) shouldn’t disqualify an entire opportunity. If the company is a good fit but the contact isn’t, reach out to the lead to see who the right people to loop into a conversation are. For more on the distinction between buyer profiles (company fit) and personas (point-of-contact fit), check out this blog post on how to define buyer profiles.

6) They converted once five years ago.

When you’re sifting through your CRM to check if you’ve overlooked any leads, you’ll sometimes find old leads that seem like great fits. But wait -- their last conversion was years ago, and they haven’t been on your website since.

Although it might be tempting to start scraping the bottom of the barrel when things get tough, calling that “inbound” lead might as well be a cold call. Unless they’ve converted from a different email address or other people from the same company have converted recently (and you should absolutely check your CRM to see if that’s the case), the time it’ll take to explain who you are and why you’re calling and where you got their information isn’t worth it. Place them in a Marketing drip campaign and move on.

7) They just signed up with a competitor.

I know, I know -- going with a competitor does not mean a deal is dead. In fact, it means the prospect has recognized a problem that needs solving and has taken action to do so -- a very good sign.

However, the first month after purchasing a new product usually isn’t a good time to start a conversation. Between implementing the new product and getting familiar with it, your ideal points of contact probably don’t have time to speak with you -- and they won’t yet have a sense of whether the product is a success or not. Instead, reach out when they’re a few months deep to see how things are going and whether you can help.

8) They’re a sales rep for the competition.

Believe it or not, some sales reps prospect this way. Whether it’s creating fake LinkedIn profiles to stalk their competitors’ networks or using their prospects’ “Contact Us” form to try and get in touch by pretending to be an inbound lead themselves, be on the lookout for leads that aren’t really leads at all.

What are other signs that you shouldn’t call an inbound lead? Let us know in the comments below.

HubSpot CRM

17 Jun 17:32

Guide Your Buyers Through the Customer Journey with Social Media

by Lisa Marcyes

migrating canada geese in silhouette flying over lake at sunrise (XL)

The customer journey has changed. With as much as 90% of a buyer’s journey being self-directed, according to Forrester Research’s 2015 report, “Don’t Let Muddled Messaging Compromise Customer Experience,” it’s clear that the modern customer journey now begins with self-education.

Marketers are seeing a tremendous shift in how buyers are researching and buying, particularly on social media platforms. In fact, 55% of B2B buyers do their research by using social networks, according to a Business.com study, and Forbes research revealed that 78% of people say that their buying decisions are influenced by a company’s social media posts. Social channels provide a real-time platform where buyers can share information, research products, make informed decisions, and come to their own conclusions when it comes to their purchasing decisions.

Whether you’re ready for it or not, social media is becoming the Wikipedia for your buyers, where they can find information about your brand from their peers. Let’s take a look at how you can engage with your buyers on social media throughout the customer journey:

1. The Many Roles of Social Media

It’s important to remember that engagement with a brand doesn’t necessarily begin or end with a purchase. Your buyers are increasingly looking to social media for information that guides them through every stage of the customer lifecycle.

Social media helps your buyers:

  • Keep up with the latest trends and new products and services.
  • Share their favorite products and brand experiences. Teradata reports that 61% of consumers say they would tell their friends about their good experiences.
  • Learn more about a brand, product, or company and educate themselves on possible purchases.
  • Listen to what others are recommending or talking about. 71% of consumers are likely to purchase an item based on social media referrals, as reported by Social Media Today. Buyers want validation that they’re making the right choice, so one person’s review on social media informs another person’s research. Offering easy access to third party reviews and testimonials can help alleviate buyer hesitation.
  • Interact with their friends, favorite brands, communities.
  • Ask for support from companies. Your customers expect their complaints on social to be addressed, and addressed quickly. Brands that provide the best customer experience and service have the highest retention rates.

2. Engage with Your Buyers Along Their Journey

There’s a unique opportunity for marketers to meet the needs of their buyers on social channels by embracing every facet of the customer journey from education to advocacy. A successful social media marketing plan will include a strategy for developing long-term relationships, so consider how you will not only acquire new customers, but what steps you’ll take to consistently provide value to your customers, and in turn, hopefully create brand advocates.

As you’re engaging with your buyers on social media, it’s critical to:

  • Know your audience. Whenever you’re posting, understand who your followers are and what they care about. Let’s say, for example, that your brand is known for being a cutting edge cosmetic company. Your followers will most likely be interested in seeing posts that highlight the latest trends, cosmetic tips and tricks, and how to’s. That’s not to say A/B testing isn’t warranted, just be strategic about your brand voice.
  • Respond to negative feedback appropriately. With social listening, you can instantly identify both positive and negative feedback. How you respond to feedback says a lot about your brand. Acknowledging positive feedback promotes a community of sharing and further engagement, and responding quickly and appropriately to negative feedback can increase customer loyalty and retention. As Jay Baer says, “When you answer all the complaints in every venue, you’ll instill more value in your brand.”
  • Be authentic. Maintain an authentic brand profile and be consistent about it. Your tone of voice should feel genuine, not forced. If you consistently communicate with your audience as if you were marketing to a single person, you’ll come across as more personable. Think about how you can humanize your tone so that when you take part in conversations, it seems natural.
  • Engage buyers as individuals. One of the easiest ways to do this is by responding to your audience when they mention you in conversations to show them that you are listening to them and appreciate them. Recently, one of our customer posted a picture of a himself using our branded water bottle. Instead of simply favoriting the post, we continued the conversation by thanking him for sharing the post with us.

Twitter Conversation

  • Pay attention to buyer behavior across all social channels. Create a single, integrated view of your personas. There are several tools you can use for listening, everything from native platforms to a social media management platform like Hootsuite, Sprinklr, or Buffer. These platforms allow you to monitor for brand mentions, hashtags, keywords, or phrases. With social listening, you’ll also be able to identify influencers and advocates.
  • Meet buyers where they are with omni-channel marketing. Not sure where your buyers are? Here are a few tricks to find them:
    • Just ask them! You can do this through autofill forms for content downloads, newsletters, or even your shopping cart. In addition, you can integrate social referral capabilities into your campaigns through a marketing automation platform.
  • Use the search function in the native social platforms. Simply enter the names of some of your prospects and customers into the social channel’s search engine to determine if they have an account. You can also search for relevant topics, brands within your niche, or relevant industry leaders. This is especially helpful when you have a short list you’re researching. In Twitter, for example, you can use the advanced search option to look for not only topic words or phrases, but also geographic location and sentiment.

Twitter Search Tab

Advanced Search Options

3. Track Your Progress

How can you tell if you’re succeeding with engaging your buyers on social? There are several ways to measure engagement. It’s not about one complete metric, but rather a combination of several. Monitoring and understanding how each metric correlates is pertinent when reviewing your results.

Here are a few ways to figure out whether your engagement strategy is working:

  • Native platform analytics: Benchmark your followers, likes, comments, shares, retweets, replies, favorites. Increases in these soft metrics show that you’re doing something right and that you’ve successfully created interest around your brand. If you’ve implemented a social media strategy and don’t see an uptick in these metrics after a few months, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board.
  • Social listening: Monitor sentiment in mentions. 42% of people will tell their friends about a good customer experience on social, while 53% will talk about a bad one, according to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer. A great way to gauge if your audience is finding value in your social channels is to listen to what they’re saying.
  • Direct interactions: Get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Spend time interacting with your followers and asking for direct feedback. Often, I ask questions in my posts to garner feedback. Utilizing Twitter polls is also a fun, easy way to ask a question and get instant feedback.
  • Calculate conversion rates: At the end of the day, money talks. If your followers are converting to sales, you’re doing something right. Here at Marketo, we use our platform to track the number of leads our paid social campaigns generated that become actual customers.
  • Monitor engagement from influencers: It’s important to consider who is sharing content relevant to your business. Every subject has a niche of influencers that can potentially help raise awareness around your brand/product. Once you’ve defined a list of 20-25 influencers, be proactive about engaging with them and building a relationship by commenting on and sharing their content. People are much more willing to share your content when you’ve shared theirs. And don’t forget to be human. Influencers are people, and once you’ve built rapport with them, the relationship will grow naturally and hopefully become mutually beneficial.

Whether you’re just starting to engage your buyers on social media or you’re looking for ways to improve your relationship with them, put them at the center of everything you do. Relationships don’t end at the point of sale, and they’re the most valuable when both parties can reap the benefits.

How are you using social media to guide your buyers through the customer journey? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

17 Jun 17:32

Selling to the Modern B2B Buyer

by Shelley Cernel

The ever-evolving B2B selling space, increasingly complex sales process, and changing buyer expectations present new challenges for B2B sales teams on a daily basis. At the same time, traditional sales processes are becoming less effective. In order to remain competitive and hit revenue goals, it is critical that sales reps understand the shifting landscape, why these changes are happening, and how to sell to the modern B2B buyer.

Here are five factors that influence B2B buyer behavior and steps you can take to more effectively sell to the 21st-century B2B buyer and drive bottom-line results.

#1: The Availability of Information

The availability of online content and the growth of social media have made B2B buyers more educated and informed about their options than ever before. And not only is information widely available, but it is also instantly accessible. Prospects are spending more time doing independent research and obtaining info from peers and other third party sources. According to an Accenture study, 94% of B2B buyers conduct online research at some point in the buying process.

As a result, prospects no longer have to engage with sales reps in order to obtain the most basic information about a company and its products / services. Prospects can search online and quickly find information such as reviews, feedback, pricing, technical information, and competitive comparisons. But prospects still need the sale rep to guide them through the increasingly complex sales process, build the business case, and offer value-add insights.

Solution: Offer Innovative Insights

B2B buyers look for vendors who understand their pain points and are knowledgeable about the industry. Sales reps should be subject matter experts in their field and should be able to convey that information to prospects in a clear and concise manner. They should also be able to provide perspective on the market and help the prospects interpret and apply this information to their own situation and challenges. Look to content enablement and sales training as approaches to make your reps experts who add value to prospects beyond online sources.

#2: Skeptical Prospects

The 21st-century buyer is increasingly cynical and critical of vendors. And they do not want to engage with reps who utilize a “one-size-fits-all strategy”. According to Forrester, 59% of buyers prefer to do research online instead of interacting with a sales rep because the rep pushes a sales agenda rather than helps solve a problem.

Solution: Build Trust With Buyers

Research shows that the more trusted an individual is, the greater their sales effectiveness. One of the fastest ways for sales reps to build that trust is by focusing on helping their prospects rather than selling to them. Buyers don’t want to hear a sales pitch – they want to learn something. And while prospects can easily find information online, that doesn’t mean that they always understand it or know how to interpret and apply it to their own business situation. A LinkedIn survey found that B2B buyers are 5x more likely to engage with a sales professional who provides new insights about their business or industry.

#3: Hyper-Connected, Socially-Influenced Customers

The past several years have seen a significant rise in the importance of digital channels in the sale process, for both the sales rep and the prospect. B2B buyers are more connected and more informed, and the availability of online data and content is altering traditional buyer trust models. At the same time, peers have gained greater influence, as decision-makers look to their colleagues, professional networks, and social media followers for advice in making a purchase decision. In fact, an IDC study found that 3 out of 4 B2B buyers rely on social media to engage with peers about buying decisions, and Influitive data asserts that word-of-mouth recommendations from peers influence over 90% of all B2B buying decisions.

Solution: Help Prospects Make an Informed Decision

Many B2B sales are complex, costly, and collaborative. Your buyers need to be able to make an informed decision and feel confident that they made the right one, hence why they consult with peers. Sales reps must know what to say to support a prospect’s business case and offer the information and content that will help prospects advance in the purchase process. Leverage key proof points that will help buyers build that internal business case and sell it to decision-makers. And encourage your sales team to share these insights via email, social, and in-person.

#4: Buyer Confidence and Risk Cognizance

The industry is seeing a rise in the potential for post-purchase dissatisfaction – buyers want to feel confident that they made the right decision. Ironically, this anxiety over opportunity cost is fueled and intensified by the same technology that makes buyers more informed. Prospects often second-guess themselves over making the right choices or are afraid to commit and potentially missing out on a better vendor. B2B buyers are also increasingly seeking out ways to identify and reduce risk factors, including damage to professional credibility, reduction in job security, inability of the software to technically perform as promised, and loss of monetary investments.

Solution: Add Value Via Relevant Content

B2B buyers are now relying on content to guide them through the complicated and confusing purchase process, from research to decision. B2B buyers review an average of 10.4 sources in any buying situation; the more costly or complex the sale, the more pieces of content that are viewed. And a 2014 DemandGen report found that almost 70% of buyers have increased the amount of content used to research and evaluate their purchases.

But while your prospects can easily find that information, they may not necessarily be finding the right information. B2B sales reps should share relevant and engaging content that is appropriate to the prospect’s stage in the sales cycle. Proactively offer them pieces that address their apprehensions, that demonstrate value and the ability to solve a problem, and that show how ROI can be attained. This strategy will also position you as a go-to resource for your prospects. Sales enablement tools are able to automate this process and surface the right content at the right time based on the specific sales situation, as well as provide feedback about which types of content are most effective at advancing the sale.

#5: A New Decision-Making Process

Today’s sales reps must deal with an increasing number of stakeholders in the decision-making process, giving rise to the “consensus sale”, where less importance is placed on connecting with individuals and more emphasis is placed on helping the group effectively reach a decision. These buying groups, ranging from 7 to 20 people, represent a wide variety of jobs, functions, and geographies. As the number of people involved in a buying decision increases, the likelihood of purchase decreases. More so, it takes 5 to 6 prospects to agree for a sale to even progress.

Solution: Understand Your Buyer

It is important to understand who your audience is and how to best tailor the sales process for relevance. Use demographic data (i.e. age, generational cohort, gender, job title / occupation, seniority, company size, industry, number of employees) and psychographic information (i.e. attitude, interests, opinions, pain points) to gain important insights about purchase intent and sales process expectations. With a more complete buyer profile, you will get an indication of how your prospects will react to your content and messaging, as well as ideas into which channels your prospects prefer to use. This information is particularly important in the case of a buying team, where each decision maker likely has a different demographic profile, but they all share similar psychographic traits.

B2B buyers are more empowered and informed and have higher expectations than ever before, and traditional sales strategies will continue to decline in effectiveness. To see continued success, sales reps must adapt to better serve the needs of the modern buyer by understanding buyer personas, adding value to the conversation, and engaging buyers early on in the purchase process with relevant content. The last element is sales enablement technology, which can be used to establish best practices, help organizations better understand buyer needs and behaviors, and provide insight into the customer.

Every sales team needs leads — but the best sales teams know how to make every lead count. Here’s how to jumpstart your lead management strategy.

17 Jun 17:32

4 Key Website Design Tactics That Drive Sales Leads

by Kristin Lisak

One of the principal goals of inbound is to bring in leads organically and there is no better tool to achieve this than your website. The aspects of website design that you choose to employ have a direct impact on how visitors behave on your site and whether or not they convert. Though there are many ways to design a website with leads in mind, these four tactics are effective starting points for driving conversions on your site.

Homepage

Your homepage is the face of your business. It sees the most traffic on the site, so it should be visually appealing with images and clean, concise copy. Your visitors should be able to quickly understand your value proposition and find what they are looking for, whether it be a CTA right there on the homepage or navigation to another page on your site. Keep in mind also that visitors will be accessing your site from a range of devices and if your site isn’t responsive, or designed to display appropriately on all devices, it can easily turn potential leads away. And with about half of consumer traffic to leading websites coming from mobile devices, it’s obvious why a responsive site is crucial.

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Example: slack.com

Slack’s homepage pulls no punches when it comes to defining and sharing their value proposition, to make “working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.” The page is aesthetically pleasing and simple to navigate, featuring a call-to-action front and center, encouraging conversions. Slack’s homepage also offers social proof, featuring real organizations (Charity: Water in this case) who use their product and how it is helping them achieve their goals. Pretty impressive that the featured group on this page is using Slack to “change the world!”

Bonus: Check out this great infographic from HubSpot on the critical elements that every homepage should have.

Landing pages

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There are several elements to a landing page that effectively converts visitors. Just like your homepage, it’s important to include a strong headline and a clear description of the benefit your visitors will get from your offer and what problem you will help them solve. Unlike your homepage, your landing pages should not contain menus or navigation. For lead generation purposes, you want your visitors’ attention focused strictly on a call to action or form. An appropriate form should capture the information you need without being too long or intrusive and thus turning your visitors away. It’s also best practice to include an image and immediate access to the content that you are offering.

Example: HubSpot

When discussing a great landing page, why not turn to the pros? On the page shown here, HubSpot clearly outlines the purpose of their offer, how it can be used to the downloader’s benefit, and a few of the key questions that readers can expect the report to answer. The page design is clean and simple, features an image, and incorporates a form that emphasizes immediate access to the report.

Calls-to-action

An intriguing call-to-action (CTA) can have a significant impact on your conversion rate. Best practices for CTA design include using colors and copy that are visually appealing and incorporating action-oriented words like “register now” or “learn more.” Your copy should be concise and direct, yet persuasive. Make it easy for your visitors to convert by including CTAs on multiple site pages as well as on your blog posts. CTAs are a design aspect that should be experimented with to see what your audience finds attractive. If your CTAs aren’t performing the way you would like them to , try changing copy, design, and placement on your site and tracking the results.

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Example: buffer.com

The buffer homepage employs simple CTAs that urge visitors to get started with their product immediately and at no cost. The minimalist design and color draws the eye right to the CTA buttons. buffer also wisely uses multiple CTAs at the end of their blog posts, one encouraging blog subscription and one to sign up for their product.

Blog

Although maybe not thought of as a conventional design tactic, incorporating a blog into your website is crucial to lead generation nonetheless. Your blog attracts visitors, improves SEO for your site, and helps to establish you as a subject matter expert, all helpiong to increasing conversions. According to Hubspot, 82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog, as did 57% of marketers who blog monthly. A blog is an instrumental tool in pushing visitors to your landing pages – remember those CTAs I mentioned earlier?

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Example: Game Ready

To help grow their business, Medical Device manufacturer Game Ready implemented a keyword and blogging strategy that helped optimize their website, boosting their online presence and improving lead generation. Blogging regularly was a key factor in the 110% growth in organic leads they saw within the first year.

What web design tactics have you implemented to help drive leads?

17 Jun 17:31

8 Keys For An Effective Sales Enablement Program

by Brandon Redlinger

The job of a sales rep is to show up on a call (or meeting) knowledgeable, skillful and with the right assets to help prospects buy. If there’s any indication that any of these elements are not there, you need to invest in sales enablement now. These gaps in efficiency and effectiveness are robbing your company of money.

Google trends shows the growing demand for this crucial business function.

Sales enablement demand
The verdict is in, and the research proves that sales enablement has a dramatic impact on revenue growth.

Studies by Aberdeen reveal that sales enablement leads to 62% higher team quota attainment, 205% more revenue growth, 725% higher sales velocity, and 23% increase in lead conversion rate in organizations with structured sales enablement programs versus organizations without it. That’s how powerful it is.

It’s clear that sales enablement is a sales driver, not just a nice-to-have. Many high growth companies are deploying this function with incredible results, as they jump on the opportunity to supercharge the revenue generating side of the business. However, other companies are laggards, and they suffer the consequences.

Where does your company stand?

What is Sales Enablement and Its Scope?

Sales Enablement is an evolution of sales ops and marketing but elevated to a more strategic, proactive and hands-on level. With more tools, more resources, and a more complex sales process, you need a person or department who owns this and can deliver it to sales reps.

There’s no single agreed upon definition of sales enablement, as it’s still maturing and evolving in function and scope, but I like the definition by Brainshark in Sales Enablement For Dummies: A systematic approach to increasing sales productivity, by supporting reps with the content, training, and analytics they need to have more successful sales conversations.”

Though the responsibilities of sales enablement is still being defined, we can begin to clarify its scope. The following four functions are key in a successful sales enablement program:

  • Content: Sales enablement must make sure that quality content is created and sales reps can find and utilize the right content at the right time.
  • Training: Reps must be trained in not only sales skill, but product, marketing/industry and business skills as well.
  • Tools and Technology: Once the strategy is established, you must guarantee adoption of the technology to execute against the process. This function also overlaps with training, as tools and technology add functionality and become more complex.
  • Strategy and Execution: There are a lot of moving parts in that sales enablement has touches and influences, which is why it has to be thoughtful and strategic. However, at the same time, sales enablement goes beyond that to executing on strategy to win deals, hire and onboard, forecast, budget, and performance reviews.

Many companies are bought into the vision of sales enablement, however, according to research by Highspot and Heinz Marketing, there’s a huge disconnect.

When you ask about the importance of activities that are under the sales enablement umbrella, there’s a Grand Canyon sized gap between how important companies rate those activities and how they rate their current efforts.

sales efforts

But there are clearly 8 keys to any successful sales enablement program:

The Program is Customer Centric: It’s becoming more understood that sales needs to know more about marketing, marketing needs to know more about sales, but what’s missing is the customer. We all need to know more about our customers! Once we align the sales process with the buyer’s journey, then we’ll be able to deliver the right information to the right customer at the right time and place to move the sale forward. This ultimately will affect your most important metrics: pipeline, revenue, lifetime value and customer advocacy.

The Programs Includes Sales Process Development: As I mentioned, strategy is part of sales enablement’s role. You must have confidence in your process, and you must be constantly iterating as you learn. Sales enablement’s interactions with the various teams can help deliver those insights. Sales enablement is a very hands-on role, as you need to be talking to all the people who are closest to the problem.

The Right Tools and Technology Support the Sales Process: My approach to tools and technology is don’t let the tail wag the dog. What I mean by that is nail the process first, and technology will follow. If you have a well defined sales process, it becomes a matter of finding the right technology to help accomplish your goal. Too many people and organizations get caught up chasing the newest, shiny objects and build their process around the technology. That said, there are a lot of great tools and technologies that will help sales teams utilize content, execute strategy, and make sales reps more effective, like PandaDoc and PersistIQ.

The Sales Systems Are Integrated: Though the sales enablement function is relatively new and the vendor space has only begun to get traction, cutting confusion and non-active selling time is crucial. Having tools that that automate tedious tasks and seamlessly integrate with all the other tools reduces time spent on admin related tasks, like logging activity, transferring data, and finding the right content.

Playbooks Are Accessible and Up-To-Date: Simply put, a playbook is a sales facing asset that tells people how to prepare for a series of conversation, what to do in those conversations, supporting materials needed to sell, and how to drive certain outcomes. How many companies have playbooks that are collecting dust and pulled out only when onboarding new reps? Chances are those are out of date. It’s important that a rep not only has quick access to updated playbooks, but also uses them regularly. In the quickly evolving sales landscape, it’s often hard to keep the playbook up to date and relevant, but you must prioritize that if you want to maintain your competitive edge.

Access to Better and More Insightful Data: Having the right data can be your competitive advantage, but it’s not easy, and there are a few aspects that you have to get right. First, you have to collect the right data. Most sales enablement, sales acceleration and sales automation platforms will track your most important metrics, so next, you have to regularly report it. And finally, the most important piece is analyzing and taking action. The numbers themselves don’t mean anything — it’s what you do with them.

Streamlined Workflow: Since the key objective of sales enablement is to increase a rep’s active selling time, integrations are going to be key. Reps should spend less time going back and forth from tool to tool. Every minute more spend in your CRM or any other selling tool is time that a rep is not selling.

Content Optimization: I touched on it in the previous section, but since it’s such a critical part of sales enablement, it deserves more attention. The two problems that need to be solved regarding content are quality/value and discovery/utility. There’s an overwhelming about of mediocre content on the web. By creating more valuable content, you’re helping reps stand out in the noise, establish expertise, and build trust with prospects faster.

When it comes to discovery/utility, among the many studies conducted, they all agree on one thing: less than 60% of the content being created for sales is not being used. This is in large part because either the content is not easily accessible and discoverable, or reps simply don’t know the most appropriate time to use which content. It’s sales enablement’s job to make sure the right content is being created and reps can find and use said content.

In the End

In his book To Sell is Human, Dan Pink explains that sales has changed more in the last 10 years than in the last 100. However, this is wrong. The reality is that the buyer has changed (especially in a complex B2B sale), and sales is only now catching up.

Though there’s no single agreed upon definition of sales enablement, no definitive scope of the function, and no clear department that owns the program, there is one thing that we can all agree on – sales enablement should be a mindset. If the foundation of sales enablement is the customer and the ultimate goal is revenue, then all parts of your organization have a vested interest and should support this function. You need a true sales culture where all departments are on the same page. Once everyone truly understands this, you can begin to impact the bottom line in a major way.

For a more in depth look at sales enablement, join us and PandaDoc for a webinar on “How to Use Sales Enablement to Increase Pipeline and Drive Revenue.” Register here.

The post 8 Keys For An Effective Sales Enablement Program appeared first on OpenView Labs.

17 Jun 17:31

Why Is Referral Selling So Boring?

by lye@hubspot.com (Leslie Ye)

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If I told you there was a sales strategy that could multiply every closed deal into three more, enable you to enter every sales conversation with built-in trust and interest, and significantly increase your close rate, would you be interested?

Yeah, I thought so.

The secret is out: This strategy is real, and it's called referral selling.

But in our time on the HubSpot Sales Blog, we've noticed a strange and frankly disheartening trend. Posts about referral selling -- how to ask for a referral, how to mine your existing network, how to build a referral program -- don't perform well. But posts about proactive outreach perform through the roof.

Why is that? Proactive outreach is harder and more time-consuming than referral sales. It requires more average upfront research to find one good fit prospect, and there's no guarantee that you'll ever connect with them.

Referral selling, on the other hand, is the very definition of warm outreach. By asking your happy customers which of their acquaintances are a good fit for your product and might be in the market for a new solution, you're achieving two things:

  1. You’re being referred by a trusted mutual source. As a result, the new prospect is more likely to want to speak with you -- you've clearly passed their acquaintance’s litmus test, so you're viewed as more reliable and trustworthy.
  2. You're asking your acquaintances to do some light qualification work for you. Instead of taking a shot in the dark, you're focusing on prospects who have been identified by your own customers as likely to want and see success with your product.

Think of referral selling this way. Most sales processes follow a linear path. Starting with proactive outreach starts you on square zero. Starting with inbound leads brings you up to square one or two. But referral selling? You're already at square five.

If you're ignoring referral sales or haven't made it a regular part of your selling routine, you are missing a huge untapped source of leads. We're in the Information Age and all empowered to find the answers to whatever questions we might have on our own, but the sheer volume of information out there means that often it's just easier to ask the people we trust.

In fact, HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan sat down with some of our department heads to find out how they make decisions, and they unanimously replied that they most trusted their professional network to make recommendations of products they’ve used with success.

And that’s where referral selling comes in. If you can tap into these networks of trusted acquaintances, you can enter your deals with one foot already in the door, jump to the top of prospects’ vendor lists, and speak with prospects who are already looking for a solution.

Sound good to you? To get started with referral selling, check out these resources:

HubSpot CRM