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06 Apr 16:59

Greenland ice melting faster than scientists thought, sea-level rise underestimated, study says

by Chelsea Harvey, Washington Post

Last Wednesday, a blockbuster new study in the journal Nature changed our understanding of the forces affecting ice melt in Antarctica and significantly increased expectations of the ice sheet’s future contributions to sea-level rise. But the news may not stop there. Some scientists are saying that the standing predictions for Greenland — which is warming even faster than Antarctica — may also be too conservative, meaning we may be seeing even faster sea-level rise than we thought.

Until now, the accepted predictions for future sea-level rise were those presented by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change back in 2013. That report concluded that the likely contribution of Antarctica to sea-level rise by the end of the century would be in the range of 4 to 5 centimetres, barring the potential (and now increasingly likely) collapse of certain marine-based sections of the ice sheet — in which case the likely contribution was expected to be a few tenths of a meter.

In contrast, the new Nature study, which leaned on advanced computer models and an improved understanding of the processes that have affected sea-level rise in the past, concluded that sea-level rise from Antarctic contributions alone could exceed a full meter by the year 2100 in a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario.

Ian Joughin/AFP/Getty Images
Ian Joughin/AFP/Getty ImagesA view down the Ilulissat Fjord toward the terminus where Jakobshavn Isbrae rapidly discharges ice to the ocean.

Now, according to some scientists, it’s possible that the IPCC’s predictions for Greenland — which contains 6 meters (or 20 feet) of potential sea level rise — are also too conservative. The 2013 report concluded that Greenland’s contribution to sea-level rise through the end of the century would likely be about 12 centimetres (with a range of 7 to 21 centimetres) in a business-as-usual, or high greenhouse gas emissions, scenario. Under more moderate scenarios, where governments take significant steps to control carbon output, the predictions are more modest — anywhere from 4 to 13 centimetres.

Currently, data from NASA indicate that Greenland is losing about 287 billion metric tons of ice per year — a staggering amount already and close to the total of 360 billion that is necessary to raise seas a millimetre annually. But what’s less certain is how much this loss rate will accelerate in the future as the climate continues to change — and how much scientists may need to adjust projections for the area’s future ice loss.

So we checked in with a few experts to find out what the scientific community thinks about whether these projections are likely to still stand.

According to some, the processes most significantly affecting ice loss in Antarctica may not be so pronounced in Greenland. One of the most notable characteristics about Antarctica — particularly the West Antarctic ice sheet, which is the region considered the most unstable at the moment — is that much of the ice sheet lies below sea level.

These “marine glaciers” can be more unstable than those grounded above sea level for a variety of reasons. Interaction with warm ocean water can cause increased ice melt and can also destabilize glaciers from the bottom up, making them more likely to break into pieces or collapse. As glaciers lose ice and retreat into even deeper water, they have a tendency to lose ice even more quickly.

As sea ice melts, polar bears are losing their habitat. They are listed as a threatened species in the U.S.
As sea ice melts, polar bears are losing their habitat. They are listed as a threatened species in the U.S.

“We know these things can be unstable, but the question is always how rapidly they can actually disintegrate,” said Martin Truffer, a physics professor and glacier expert at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, by email. “The Nature paper makes a good case that it can be quite a bit more rapid than previously assumed. Greenland is not a marine ice sheet (most of its base is above sea level), so it is not subject to the same instability.”

Ian Joughin, a glacier expert at the University of Washington, made a similar observation by email. He reiterated the fact that as marine glaciers retreat into deeper water, they tend to “flow” faster, meaning they lose ice more quickly. An improved understanding of this tendency is responsible for much of the new Nature paper’s updated predictions about the Antarctic contributions to sea-level rise.

But because much of the Greenland ice sheet rests above sea level, this factor may not be so important there, so there’s less uncertainty about Greenland — although, as Joughin noted, “there are bound to be some surprises.”

But in some parts of the Greenland ice sheet, at least, the same processes feared to affect Antarctica are already at play, said Eric Rignot, a University of California Irvine glaciologist and senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Although much of the ice sheet rests above sea level, there are some marine glaciers, which serve as outlets flowing from the vast and mostly land-based ice sheet, that are currently losing massive amounts of ice to the ocean and may continue to do so at accelerating rates.

Slim Allagui/AFP/Getty Images
Slim Allagui/AFP/Getty ImagesA fisherman sails on the Ice Fjord of Ilulissat, Greenland in 2009. The glacier lost 94 square kilometres of surface area between 2001 and 2005.

“It would be a natural extension of [the Antarctica study] to examine how the rapid break up of icebergs would impact Greenland’s ice mass balance,” Rignot said by email. “We know that in the case of Jakobshavn Isbrae, this is indeed the dominant mechanism by which the glacier is retreating. So it is completely relevant and the new paper certainly calls into question the projection for Greenland.”

The Jakobshavn glacier is based more than a kilometre below sea level and is one of the parts of Greenland of most concern to scientists, as it’s believed to be the ice sheet’s fastest flowing glacier. Past research has suggested that Jakobshavn may be losing up to 35 billion metric tons of ice each year. Jakobshavn is just one out of more than 200 major outlet glaciers flowing from the Greenland ice sheet, not all of whose vulnerability to ocean-melting is even known.

As for the rest of the ice sheet, other researchers added that even the areas grounded above sea level are subject to different and equally significant influences. They say there are other processes affecting the ice in Greenland than those that are dominant in Antarctica, in large part because Greenland sees warmer air temperatures — and these factors may contribute significantly to accelerated melt on the Greenland ice sheet in the near future.

Marco Tedesco , a researcher with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, pointed out that a process called “ice darkening” is one significant process at play in Greenland. Tedesco was the lead author on a recent study that focused on this effect in northern Greenland. The idea is that as the climate warms and the ice continues to melt, it begins to lose its ability to reflect the sun’s radiation away from the surface. Radiation that doesn’t get reflected is absorbed instead, causing the ice sheet to warm even further and melt faster — a vicious cycle.

Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images
Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty ImagesAn iceberg breaks off the Knox Coast in the Australian Antarctic Territory on January 11, 2008.

“More melting creates more darkening and accelerates the melting itself — a positive feedback effect,” Tedesco said.

He also noted that in some parts of Greenland, less meltwater is being absorbed back into the ice sheet than in the past. A January study in the journal Nature Climate Change addressed this issue, focusing on a section of the ice sheet known as “firn” — a porous layer of built-up snow that’s capable of trapping meltwater as it flows over the surface and helping it refreeze.

The problem is that as a warming Greenland melts more quickly, this porous space is starting to fill up with refrozen water, meaning there’s less room for new meltwater to trickle in. So the excess meltwater has nowhere to go but run off the surface of the ice into the ocean, where it becomes yet another contribution to rising sea levels.

In an email to The Washington Post, Jason Box of the Geologic Survey of Denmark and Greenland affirmed that many of these processes ongoing in Greenland have not been reflected in past models — meaning that previous predictions are likely too modest.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesThe village of Ilulissat is seen near the icebergs that broke off from the Jakobshavn Glacier on July 24, 2013 in Ilulissat, Greenland.

“Numerous sensitivities are not included in the IPCC model sea level projections from land ice,” he noted. “Some of the sensitivities are feedbacks that mean the warmer climate gets, the ice will be lost increasingly faster.”

The question that remains is how much greater we can expect Greenland’s future contributions to be — and it’s one that remains to be answered. But scientists seem to agree that both Antarctica and Greenland still have some surprises in store, which will become more clear the better we understand the physical processes affecting the ice.

“Both Antarctica and Greenland are these wild cards in the sea-level rise,” Tedesco said. “And the contributions from both is likely underestimated in any of the projections provided by the IPCC.”

06 Apr 16:53

Secrets of How to Outsource Content Writing (So Your Readers Never Know!)

by Lacy Boggs

Many times when I tell someone that I’m a “ghostblogger” and write blogs for other people’s small businesses, their initial reaction is, “You can do that?”

I actually had a fellow small biz owner tell me that outsourcing her blogging and other content creation felt like cheating…

But guess what?

This is an industry secret, that people may not want you to know, but many of the Internet’s biggest names outsource at least some of their content. Neil Patel does it. Jon Morrow, Copyblogger, and many other big names in my industry do it — whether they post it under their own name or not.

And, my clients, who run 6 and 7-figure online businesses, do it (I’d tell you who some of them are, but then I’d have to kill you — because it’s their decision whether or not to reveal that info, not mine).

In other words, outsourcing some or all of your content production, especially as you grow, is a common industry practice.

But how do you do it well?

What can you outsource content writing for?

There are different kinds of content writers based on the kind of content you want written.

There are people who generalize and will write any kind of content you like, but more often, writers tend to specialize in one or a few kinds of copywriting.

P.S. Copy is anything written in your business. Like, anything — from your tweets to your sales pages.

Specialties I know of include:

  • website copy
  • sales page copy
  • email autoresponder sequences
  • blog posts
  • guest blog posts (posts that go on other people’s sites)
  • social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
  • ad copy
  • ebooks, lead magnets, and whitepapers
  • course materials
  • scripts for videos, webinars, presentations, etc.
  • full-length books (digital or print)
  • press releases
  • conversion optimization (testing and tweaking your text to convert better)

And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

The point is, there are as many specialty copywriters as there are kinds of copy, and that’s because it takes different skills to be really good at each. Someone who writes killer long-form blog posts and articles may have trouble writing short, compelling Facebook ads or tweets — and vice versa.

So, depending on what you want to outsource, you may need more than one writer. (If you find someone who can do it all — expect to pay accordingly!)

Which leads me to my next point:

How to outsource content writing — that sounds like you

The first thing to remember is that I believe it is a copywriter’s job to sound like you (or, like you dialed up to 11). If they can’t do that job, it doesn’t matter how nice they are, how cheap they are, or how much you like their style — they’re not a good fit.

The last thing you want is to work with a writer who creates a bunch of copy for you in their own voice and then (for whatever reasons) disappears and isn’t available the next time you need something!

When that happens, you end up with a very disjointed voice and brand, because you can’t mimic what they were writing for you on your own.

I’ve seen this happen where someone hires a copywriter to write their website copy — but then their blogs are obviously a completely different style or voice. And this isn’t just what happens with small businesses or small copywriters, either; I have seen extremely well known (and friggin expensive) copywriters who write everything in their own voice; and their clients end up sounding like everyone else who has hired them!

To ensure that never happens to you:

  • Start by creating a brand voice style guide for your business. It should include things like: acceptable variations of your business name and tagline(s), a description of your tone, words you love to use, words you NEVER use, etc.
  • Ask some biz buddies to help you define your voice if you’re not totally sure. Ask them how they would describe your tone of voice for your brand.
  • Identify what you like — and DON’T like — about your writing voice. Some clients come to me and feel like they sound too corporate for their niche; so they don’t necessarily want me to sound just like they do, but rather as they would like to sound. Just be wary of this; if you change your entire brand voice by working with a copywriter, you may be stuck always working with a copywriter from here on out.
  • Think about your ideal customer when you’re trying to define your voice. Would they relate more to friendly, conversational language, or businessy-corporate language?
  • Shop around to find a good copywriter. If you love the way their website is written, and it sounds similar to your tone, that’s a good place to start, but ask for examples (called “clips” in the writing world) that show off how they can take on different voices. Pro tip: If all of their examples sound pretty much the same, move on. You want someone who can sound different in different situations. And by the way, there are copywriters charging $10,000 or more for website copy that all sounds the same, to me, so this isn’t a matter of cost or experience, but the writer’s style and ability.
  • Do they offer a process for helping find or define your brand voice? If you are uncertain about how to define it yourself, this could be a good investment.
  • Ask about the writer’s process. How do they get to know your business and your voice? Do they interview you or have you fill out some kind of intake form? It would be a BIG red flag for me if they just dive in without knowing much about you or your biz.
  • Ask if you can do a “test” before you jump into a big project — or at least understand when/how/if you can back out of the contract. It’s a big leap of faith to sign on with a writer, especially for a long-term project. So I always offer a “test” post to my ghostblogging clients. We do the intake interview, and then craft one post for them; if the client is happy, it rolls into their first month’s fee; if they’re not happy, we just charge for the hours spent and go on our merry way. Pro tip: Don’t expect to get a “test” for free — the point is not to get freebies, but to make sure you’re a good fit before you sign a contract.

In short, you want to make sure your copywriter is a good fit before you fork over a huge bunch of cash for a big project. But you also need to do your own due diligence as well. Take the time to create a voice style guide, and I promise you, whoever you hire will be thrilled to work with you.

It is your copywriter

OK, cool. But what does it cost??

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to copywriting.

I assume you know that you could go over to Fiverr and pay someone five bucks to write you 1,000 tweets or something—

—but I assume you also know that the quality of what you get for $5 is going to be marginal, at best.

Think of it this way: you can buy a pair of pants at Wal-Mart or at Nordstrom and pay very different prices. But the quality you get will be just as different.

Here’s what you need to know about pricing:

  • Copywriters may price themselves differently depending on what they do and what their background is. Journalists are used to getting paid by the word (expect $0.25—$1.00 per word) whereas people from other backgrounds might charge by the hour (expect anywhere from $30/hr—$150/hr and up). Lots of writers are moving towards package rates, which is usually better for everyone involved; just know exactly what you get in the package, including how many rounds of revisions it includes.
  • A lot of different factors go into their prices, from experience to availability. (If they can only take two projects a month, they’re going to have to charge more.) Also, if you’re getting more than just writing — like strategy, branding advice, etc. — expect to pay more.
  • Editing is usually less expensive than writing, so if you just need someone to help you polish, this is a budget-friendly way to go.
  • A good VA can write tweets and Facebook updates from your blog posts or other content. Expect to pay $20/hr and up for a qualified VA. (Pro tip: A VA from overseas, like the Philippines, might be awesome for other tasks, but I wouldn’t ask them to write for you.)
  • Prices for blog posts really vary. There are services out there that charge as little as $89 for 4 posts per month. Personally, I would never pay less than $100 a post for a short post.
  • Generally speaking, the longer the content, the more you will pay. A 2,000-word blog post with tons of research will cost you more than a quick 500-word blog post. Kapost suggests budgeting at least $2,000 for a long-form article or blog post.
  • Likewise, the more important the copy, the more you will pay. Sales copy is more important to your business — and hopefully has a higher ROI — and therefore tends to cost more.
  • If you sign a contract or agree to a large project of some sort, you can usually expect some kind of package discount. It’s perfectly fine to say something like, “I see that you normally charge $150 per blog post; what can you do for me if I agree to getting four posts a month for the next six months?”

Finally, remember that content is an investment in your business just like any other investment. If you cheap out on content creation, it’s just as bad for biz as cheaping out on the source materials you use to create your product, or the equipment you use to run your business.

That said, it’s perfectly fine to start slowly! Identify what tasks will free up the most time for you, and then run some numbers to see if it makes sense for you to outsource those particular tasks. Maybe you love tweeting but hate the hours it takes you to write a blog post — or vice versa.

A potential client came to me recently wanting to outsource some of her blog tasks, and after I gave her my estimate, she said she wanted to run the numbers. She emailed me just a couple of hours later and said, “You know what? If this frees me up to work with even one more 1:1 client each week, it’s worth it. Let’s do it.”

And that’s REALLY what it comes down to: Will outsourcing some of your content creation free you up to work on the things that only you can do in your business, most specifically, those things that make you money?

If so, I believe it’s worth your time to find a writer who can put on your voice and create some content that sounds just like you.

And the first step is defining your voice. I have an affordable DIY workbook to help you do just that — click here for more information.

06 Apr 16:49

What Makes A Good Leader?

by Jacob Shriar

What Makes a Good Leader

Leaders have a unique talent for rallying people together and getting them passionate about working towards something amazing.

This is no easy task, being a good leader is very tough.

So much to do, so much to think about, so much responsibility. It’s a lot of pressure to know that so many people are counting on you.

Leadership development is one of the most important topics to focus on when looking at how we can have more successful organizations.

In this post, I want to look at how most leaders are chosen, what makes a good leader, and how you can improve your leadership skills.

Before we dive deep into all of that, I want to highlight something very important.

Leadership has nothing to do with your job title.

Just because you’re a senior executive, doesn’t make you a leader.

Leadership has nothing to do with your level on the hierarchy. Leaders can be anywhere, at any level in an organization.

Also, just because you’re the manager of a team, doesn’t make you a leader. Many people confuse management with leadership, but they’re different.

Managing a team is about hiring, firing, planning, measuring, etc. Leading is all about people.

The key to being a good leader is understanding how to deal with people.

This is why I write so much about the importance of emotional intelligence.

Leading people is all about understanding how to motivate them, empathizing with them, caring for them so that you can make them better, listening to your employees, etc.

And this is backed up by research. There are numerous studies1 that show that emotionally intelligent leaders have teams with higher employee engagement.

But most of the people that are in leadership positions frankly don’t belong there.

Why is that?

The problem is, most companies promote the wrong people into leadership positions based on their technical skills, even when they don’t have the necessary “soft skills” to motivate their team.How We Find Leaders Is Flawed

When we think about leaders, we might envision a big, tall, loud, handsome, charismatic person (likely a male), wearing a suit, commanding a room.

These biases are natural, but we’re making a huge mistake when we think like this, because we’re only feeding into the problem of having the wrong people in leadership positions.

Some things that our biases look for when choosing leaders:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Attractiveness

In fact, researchers have found2 that 30% of leaders that get into those positions are due to genetic factors. But there’s plenty of research to show that none of these things matter when it comes to being an effective leader.

One study3 found that almost everywhere in the world people perceive men as “more leader-like”, but there is actually no difference at all.

Research has found4 that extroverts are more likely to get leadership positions, even though introverts are likely better leaders.

Introverts are usually better at listening (a key trait for leaders), they spend more time preparing, and do more self-reflection, all important qualities of a good leader.

Psychologist Tim Judge found5 that altruistic, empathetic, and sociable people tend to make better leaders but are chosen to lead less frequently.

So what actually makes a good leader?

Skills That Good Leaders Have

Good leaders have a very high emotional intelligence.

They understand and use their strengths, they’re always looking to improve, and are always learning. These are the skills that make a good leader.

  1. They Focus On Their Strengths

    Good leaders are always taking stock of themselves and figuring out what their strengths and weaknesses are.

    Understanding where their weaknesses are helps them delegate that work to people better skilled, giving them time to focus on what they do well.

  2. They’re Great Listeners

    Good leaders know the power of listening. When you speak, you’re only saying what you already know. When you listen, you can learn something new.

    One of the greatest tricks that smart leaders use is waiting five seconds before responding to an employee when they bring something up.

    People will inherently want to fill that awkward silence so they’ll most likely keep talking, giving leaders more information to work with.

  3. They’re Excellent Communicators

    Communication is key. Good leaders know how to take complex things and make them sound simple. They know how to get everyone passionate about something through their communication.

    Their communication is clear, concise, and passionate.

  4. They’re Well-Respected

    Respect is earned and built over time, but leaders need to be respected in order to be listened to.

    Good leaders actively work on building up that respect by giving that respect back to their employees by including them and listening to them.

  5. They Collect Lots Of Feedback

    Good leaders are always looking to improve, and they’re not scared of what people will say about them. They see it as an opportunity to get better.

    Good leaders will collect a ton of feedback and actively seek that feedback from their team.

  6. They’re Accountable

    At the end of the day, the buck stops with them. While good leaders will delegate and give autonomy to their team, they’ll get the blame if anything goes wrong.

    Good leaders know this, and hold their team accountable to make sure everyone shares the workload.

  7. They Recognize Good Work

    Good leaders understand the value of a “thank you” and are not afraid to use it.

    They recognize all of the hard work from their team and are giving praise to their team very, very often.

    They’ll also build a culture of recognition, encouraging everyone to praise each other, creating those stronger bonds within the team.

Things To Do To Become A Better Leader

So now that you know how valuable emotional intelligence is to leadership and some of the skills that the best leaders have, what can you do to become a better leader?

  1. Be Humble

    Being humble makes you more human and creates a safe environment for your employees. Humility will make your employees more comfortable coming to you for anything.

    How to practice humility:

    • Give credit to other people for work you both did
    • Try taking blame even if it wasn’t your fault
    • If you make a mistake, own it
  2. Collect Feedback

    Leaders are always getting better and growing as people. You want to be the best you can be for your team, so you’ll want to constantly ask employees how you can improve.

    How to practice collecting feedback:

    • Tell your team you want to improve and you’re counting on them
    • Use the feedback to grow and improve
    • Show employees that you actually listen to their feedback
  3. Be More Self-Aware

    It’s important that you’re able to have a great understanding of who you are, your emotions, and how you’re affecting others.

    Being self-aware and doing a constant “check-in” of yourself will help you develop that emotional intelligence.

    How to practice self-awareness:

    • Monitor your self-talk (look for negative self-talk)
    • Pay attention to your body language
    • Meditate
  4. Find A Mentor

    Having a mentor is one of the most powerful ways to become a good leader. No need to reinvent the wheel, find someone to help you who has been through the trenches.

    How to find a mentor:

    • Make a list of people you respect (in or out of work)
    • Discover how you can help them before they help you
    • Don’t be shy and ask for help

What Do You Think Makes A Good Leader?

Let us know in the comments below!

06 Apr 16:49

How to Set Up Your Interns for Full-Time Success

by David Adams

What’s the point of offering internships? To many employers, interns are just an easy source of utility personnel, dealing with minor day-to-day duties, administrative tasks, and the occasional coffee run.

But this approach wastes talented individuals and loses sight of the original purpose of an internship — to give students and soon-to-be-hires a chance to gain practical experience. Interns aren’t mindless grunts, and they can’t gain experience if they aren’t performing relevant tasks.

Common Intern Complaints

So why are so many employers reluctant to give their interns proper experience? One common complaint is that interns can lack focus or certain skill sets. That said, the hope is that interns will work just as hard as full-time employees, if not harder, with the goal of perhaps one day landing full-time positions in their space. However, although we want interns to exceed our expectations, we can’t demand 100 percent commitment every day of the week.

Interns can’t be expected to be as knowledgeable as permanent staff, yet many employers complain that their interns aren’t skilled enough to handle projects on their own. It’s irrational to hold an intern to the same standard as permanent staff members with years of experience. If an intern has lied about his or her skills, this complaint is justified, but the point of an internship is to provide an opportunity to gain those exact skills.

What Interns Want

Universum polled more than 65,500 students to find out what aspects of an internship they valued most highly. Full-time employment was the top priority, but digging deeper revealed much more: 42 percent wanted exposure and experience, 29 percent wanted great references, and 19 percent wanted flexible working schedules.

Companies should reflect these desires in their internship programs for one clear reason — retention. The study also shows that employees who interned at companies before joining have higher retention rates than those who didn’t. In the end, internships are long-term investments in talent acquisition, and they need to be structured accordingly.

What Interns Need

I’ve seen poor internship opportunities, and I’ve seen great ones, too. I’ve seen banking and finance interns tackle appropriate-sized projects, and I’ve seen interns at engineering firms performing mundane office tasks without ever getting a look at a design. But whatever the industry, there are two things that interns need:

1. Real-world exposure: Some employers might consider it risky, but I’ve brought interns along on business luncheons so they can watch me negotiate. It’s important for interns to gain exposure to the day-to-day running of a business, and giving them the chance to see negotiations taking place or details being finalized is an invaluable opportunity for them to see how business works.

Interns should be given the chance to see the measurable results of their own work, too. If they’re working under a marketing team, they should be shown how their contributions to a project grew the number of sessions on the platform. This kind of approach helps an intern take pride in his or her work and feel like a part of the company.

2. B2B and B2C communication: Interns can learn a great deal about how an industry works by learning how businesses interact with each other and with their customers. For example, a sales intern can learn a lot by shadowing a sales associate. He or she doesn’t need to close sales directly to gain experience; it’s more important just to be involved.

And marketing interns can learn how businesses reach their target audiences by working with marketing professionals to address customers through various channels. Witnessing these kinds of transactions gives interns a real opportunity to understand the business, and if they understand it, they will be more likely to succeed in the long run.

How to Structure Your Internships

We’ve hired many of our interns to join us on a full-time basis. Most of them are still with us today. During their internships, we focused on building a sound structure to provide experience and help them appreciate our company culture. Here’s how we structure our internships:

  • Create a calendar together. Outline the due dates of important tasks and projects. These dates should reflect recurring events and not minor day-to-day tasks. If an intern is tackling one large project, break it down into several stages and give each stage a due date. This calendar should be set in stone so the intern understands the importance of structure.
  • Have interns create to-do lists. These don’t need to be planned as far in advance as the calendar, and they shouldn’t be as structured, either. To-do lists should be flexible, changing by the day and even by the hour. Interns must be solely responsible for these to help them gain independence and avoid accidental micromanagement.
  • Teach time-management skills. If an intern is in college, time-management skills should be a given. But it’s important to teach interns how to prioritize in response to the fast-paced environment of a startup. This lesson will stay with an intern for a lifetime and help him or her understand how others meet deadlines and tackle the fires around the office.
  • Set and track key performance indicators. Data is everything in business today, and it should drive personal decisions, too. Work with interns to establish and track their own key performance indicators, and use these KPIs to structure performance reviews. They could be learning-based, project-based, or a mixture of the two depending on the intern and his or her role. These KPIs make it easier to review an intern’s strengths and weaknesses, providing value to both the intern and the company.

Internships are meant to provide practical experience through exposure. While interns themselves have plenty to worry about outside the walls of the office, it’s an employer’s responsibility to teach and establish a pattern of experience during the workday, even if he or she isn’t planning on hiring the intern for a full-time position. The right structure is essential to this process.

06 Apr 16:49

The #1 Personality Trait of Rockstar Sales Reps in 2016 [Research]

by ebrudner@hubspot.com (Emma Brudner)

sales-personality-trait.jpeg

More so than other jobs, sales success hinges on personality. In fact, research from Ideal found that 85% of a rep's success can be attributed to their personality, and 15% to their brains. In a study of more than 46,000 salespeople, "intelligence was correlated with sales volume but only for salespeople who are also high in people skills," Ideal's Ji-A Min explained. 

With this in mind, hiring salespeople with the right character traits might even be more important than hiring those with the right smarts. So what are sales leaders looking for in candidates?

InsideSales.com's recently-released Business Growth Index report revealed the top personality trait sales leaders value in their best reps: resilience. Empathy and ambition took second and third place, respectively. So if you're looking for a new sales job this year, you might consider recounting a few anecdotes that demonstrate your resilience in the face of obstacles. 

The survey also revealed that sales leaders plan to diversify their teams this year by hiring more women and ethnic minorities. To dig into more sales predictions and plans for 2016, check out the infographic below, or download the full report here.

Click the image to enlarge:

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HubSpot CRM

06 Apr 16:48

How to Sidestep Silly Price Wars in Selling

by Gerhard Gschwandtner
As in U.S. presidential elections, price wars tend to be filled with empty words about value – and ultimately leave many listeners disappointed. How can you communicate value to your customers without making it all about who has the lowest price?
06 Apr 16:48

8 Killer Tips for Harnessing the Power of SlideShare

by Nicki Howell

Savvy marketers have called SlideShare the “sleeping giant.” But while this content distribution platform is giant, it’s no longer sleeping. The reach is massive, as it captures the attention of 70 million unique visitors monthly and is one of the top 100 most-visited websites in the world.

SlideShare

In fact, statistics show that SlideShare is driving higher results than some of the most popular social sharing sites. Business owners are receiving 500 percent more traffic from SlideShare than from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or LinkedIn. But many marketers aren’t tapping into its full potential. So how can you more effectively use this tool for maximum results?

1. The first step: research

Many marketers create content they think will perform well. But they unknowingly generate assets that miss the mark, as they overlook something very important: a highly strategic topic.

As with other marketing efforts, start by defining your target audience and brainstorming topics that will resonate with them. But don’t stop there — confirm that your hunches are correct.

Popular content tools, such as BuzzSumo, allow you to see what topics have produced the most viral results. You can use this to confirm your hunches or generate new ideas for SlideShare topics. Another option is looking for high-performing content that you already have produced — blog posts, webinars, or white papers. You can then turn those topics into SlideShare presentations.

2. Get attention … and keep it

On average, eight out of 10 people read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest of the article. So both your headline and the first slide must be stellar. Otherwise, every slide after the first doesn’t matter. For example, Jay Baer, founder of Convince & Convert, captures attention right away on his first slide. He tells you the benefit (he’s going to crush common myths about social media and content marketing!) and divulge details that you don’t know about these topics.

Crushing 11 Big Myths About Social Media and Content Marketing from Jay Baer

Jonathon Colman, Product UX + Content Strategy at Facebook, generates interest on his first slide “Why our Content Sucks” delivering a headline that is unexpected, giving specific examples, and telling us how to make our content better.

Why Our Content SUCKS from Jonathon Colman

Start by offering the reader a promise. What pain will your presentation relieve? Then design every slide after the first to facilitate the delivery of that promise. At the end of the SlideShare, your reader should feel satisfied and that they got what they expected — and even more.

3. Tell a story

Customers are experiencing information overload, with content inundating every corner of our lives. We consume about 74 gigabytes – nine DVDs worth – of data every day. “It’s amazing we’re able to process and make sense of it all,” wrote Susie East and Ben Tinker in CNN in 2015. But what can make your information memorable, what readers are actually demanding, is stories — with 92 percent saying they want brands to tell stories.

Integrating storytelling into your slides hits an emotional chord with readers, keeping them engaged throughout your content. Rachel Gillett of Fast Company wrote, “When we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.” That’s engagement. One way successful brands are using this method in SlideShare is by telling customer stories. They highlight a common pain point and walk readers through the detailed solution, then finish the story with an upbeat picture of success. For example, Zappos shares stories about customers who are blown away by their service in the SlideShare deck “10 Inspiring Zappos Customer Support Stories.”

10 Inspiring Zappos Customer Support Stories from Infinit-O Global, Limited

With the right language, this creates emotion that helps readers invest in the story and see themselves in it.

4. Create more frequently

Some marketers have experimented with SlideShare, but their efforts are inconsistent — and so are their results. When you create and update frequently your results will multiply.

This platform rewards presentations that were created most recently. So getting featured on SlideShare’s home page or top content lists is more likely if you create presentations often. Consider using this technique on older presentations by updating them to provide additional information and value.

5. Share your presentations

A well-created SlideShare presentation will generate organic traffic, but it’s also important to deploy a targeted promotion. Share through social media and embed the SlideShare in your existing website content.

Connecting with influencers when creating the presentation is also a powerful strategy. Get their ideas about the content. Then share the published SlideShare with influencers, and most likely they will share it with their own audiences, greatly expanding your reach.

6. Create an interactive experience

The functionality of SlideShare has come a long way since its inception. Most recently, it added multimedia capabilities, giving marketers tools to make their presentations highly interactive.

For example, you can insert YouTube videos. This is helpful for using SlideShare for step-by-step product demonstrations and tutorials about using products or services. Andreas Von Der Heydt, Head of Kindle at Amazon recently created “The 7 Qualities of a Successful Leader of the Future.” He designed slides that contain very few words and simple, straightforward graphics.

The 7 Qualities Of Tomorrow´s Top Leaders (Video) from Andreas von der Heydt

Content marketing agency Column Five embedded video into their deck to provide a deeper understanding of products and explain the value of data visualization.

The Value of Data Visualization (Motion Graphic Video) from Visage

Engage readers more deeply by leveraging these capabilities to bring your content to vivid life.

7. Think visually

Many marketers are thinking about SlideShare in the same way they think of other types of content such as blogs, case studies, or white papers. But SlideShare is much different because it’s truly a visual platform. This requires a shift in thinking.

For starters, avoid putting too many words on the slide. On average, 45 percent of SlideShare decks have 24 words per slide (which is about two average sentences). The highest performing presentations are generally about 10 to 30 slides total.. For example, Von Der Heydt recently created “The Magic to Think Big.” Most of the slides have 3 to 9 words each and the total deck includes only 17 slides.

The Magic To Think BIG from Andreas von der Heydt

So also consider the size of your presentation, and make it a visual and interactive experience.

8. Leverage existing content

You’re already hair-on-fire busy, and adding another project into the mix could be overwhelming. But another great thing about SlideShare is that you can repurpose other types of content, which is a huge time-saver. Take inventory of existing content marketing assets – especially those that performed well in the past.

For example, review your blog posts. Gather the best performers and leverage those tested posts to created SlideShare presentations. Twitter chats, webinars, infographics and eBooks are also great sources for SlideShare content.

Fueling growth in the future

You’ve got many different options available for content marketing, but SlideShare’s well worth considering, as it’s proving to be a highly effective tool. It can fuel growth, generate leads, and capture more organic traffic as you establish your company as a thought leader in your space.

The key is to test and modify often. Doing so will allow you to truly understand the topics and content that resonate and connect with your target audience most.

Have you used SlideShare in your content marketing efforts? If so, please share your experiences and tips.

Curious how SideShare fits into your overall marketing strategy? Like all marketing channels SlideShare and social media specifically, are most effective when integrated into a larger cross-channel marketing plan.

Download Act-On’s eBook, “5 Ways to Integrate Social Media Across Marketing Channels,” to learn five things you can do right now to integrate social media marketing into your marketing strategy!

5 Ways to Integrate Social Media

06 Apr 16:47

It’s Time to Bury the Idea of the Lone Genius Innovator

by Greg Satell
apr16-06-luis-del-Rio-camacho-lone-genius
Luis Del Río Camacho

When Alexander Fleming, a brilliant but sometimes careless scientist, returned to his lab after a summer holiday, in 1928, he found his work ruined. The bacteria cultures he had been growing were contaminated by fungus. As it grew, it killed all the colonies it touched.

Most people would have simply started over, but Fleming switched his focus from the bacteria to the fungus itself. He identified the mold and the bacteria-killing substance, which he called “penicillin.” Seemingly in a single stroke, Fleming had created the field of antibiotics.

At least, that’s how the story is often told today, and that telling meshes with how people see innovation: a single, simple observation, a flash of brilliance, and — eureka! — a new world is born.

The truth is messier.

It wasn’t until 1943 that penicillin came into widespread use. Why did it take so long for the miracle drug of the 20th century to make a measurable impact?

When Fleming published his results, in 1929, few took notice. He was not a chemist and was unable to study penicillin in any detail or synthesize it into a workable compound. Put simply, Fleming didn’t have the requisite skills to engineer his discovery into a practical solution to the problem of disease. So instead of changing the world, the world’s first antibiotic remained buried as an obscure finding in a scientific journal.

It wasn’t until 1939, a decade later, that Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, came across Fleming’s paper, immediately understood its significance, and developed a method to produce penicillin in quantity. They began experimenting on mice, and eventually on humans, and saw incredible results. It was clear that this new drug had the potential to transform medicine.

Yet to make a significant impact on the world, penicillin had to be produced in massive quantities, something that was far out of the reach of two research chemists. Florey reached out to the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided further funding to develop new fermentation methods so that the drug could be mass produced.

By 1943, with World War II raging, the U.S.’s War Production Board enlisted 21 companies to produce supplies for the war effort, saving countless lives and ushering in the new age of antibiotics. This finally gave the drug the scale it needed to have a real impact. In 1945, Fleming, Florey, and Chain received the Nobel Prize for medicine.

Take a look at any significant innovation, and the myth of the lone genius and the “eureka moment” breaks down.

First, a big idea or a new discovery is never enough. For any innovation to have an impact, there needs to be a discovery on an important insight; a viable, scalable solution; and, finally, a business model that allows the new idea to be adopted.

Second, geniuses rarely act alone. Fleming’s pioneering work on penicillin not only was supported by Florey and Chain but also built on the work of earlier scientists, such as Ignaz Semmelweis, Louis Pasteur, and Robert Koch. Moreover, the science would never have found its practical application without support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the U.S. government.

And consider that although government support has been instrumental in both medical breakthroughs and technological developments, such as the internet and GPS, the vast majority of innovators have to stumble ahead on their own when it comes to innovation’s final step: figuring out the business model.

That was exactly the problem that Chester Carlson, a very different kind of innovator, had to overcome. He worked for years tinkering with his invention, even while holding down a day job and going to law school at night. When his wife got tired of the explosions he made mixing chemicals in the kitchen, he moved his work to a second-floor room in a house his mother-in-law owned.

After more than a decade, he teamed up with the Haloid Company, whose product was superior but cost nearly 10 times what competitive machines did. They tried to interest the great companies of the day — Kodak, IBM, and GE — but all demurred. There just didn’t seem to be a value proposition that would justify the cost.

Then Joe Wilson, the president of Haloid, had a billion-dollar idea: Instead of selling the machines, why not lease them? The idea took off, and the company we now know as the Xerox Corporation was born.

And while Carlson’s product innovation was scientifically brilliant, it required Joe Wilson’s business model innovation to create an impact on the world.

So while we sometimes like to believe that some people are innovators and others are not, the truth is that everyone has a potential role to play: scientists and engineers, marketers and accountants, salespeople and production specialists. That’s why we need to treat collaboration as the ultimate competitive advantage, especially today, when the problems we need to solve are so much more complex than in the past.

And that means we need to radically rethink how we approach innovation. First, as the authors of Collective Genius point out, we need to create a culture that inspires teamwork rather than just individual accomplishment. Great innovation happens when a diverse set of skills are integrated to effectively solve problems.

We also need to rethink organizations themselves. In recent years, we’ve seen a new breed of innovators, such as the Institute for Applied Cancer Science at MD Anderson, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, that bring together government, academic institutions, and the private sector to solve our toughest problems.

It’s time to put away the old myths about lone geniuses and eureka! moments. Truly breakthrough innovations are not a single event, nor are they achieved by one person, or even within a single organization. Rather, they are when ideas combine to solve important problems.

06 Apr 16:47

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Explained

by Mike Whitney

One of the most talked about marketing developments of 2015 was the fact that mobile search queries on Google officially overtook desktop searches. It’s not that this shocked industry experts – the writing had been on the wall for some time – it’s just that it solidified the monumental changes that have been transforming the digital marketing industry.

Companies and marketers from all different industries were going to have to contend with the fact that large swaths of their audience would be using the web on the go and not in their homes or offices.

The mobile web browser experience is completely different from the desktop one; and so far, it frankly hasn’t been as good. Lagging load times within mobile browsers have been an issue since the advent of the smartphone, and developers are often forced to spend time and resources developing apps instead of user-friendly mobile websites.

Google, in partnership with some of the most prominent sites and publishers on the web, is hoping to change that trend. February marked the introduction of the long-awaited Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project, which aims to create pages that load more quickly than their traditional, non-AMP counterparts. The hope is that with faster loading mobile pages, users will be able to move through the web and accomplish their mobile goals – what Google has termed micro-moments, which refers to intent-rich consumer behaviors (such as wanting immediate access to information) on mobile devices – more easily and efficiently.

So, what are AMPs and how are they going to load faster?

For a website to load faster, it needs to be stripped of its bulky, unnecessary parts. For the AMP Project, that meant narrowing the tools with which web developers build pages. Some coding languages – while useful in a desktop setting – bog down a mobile experience. Because of this, AMP HTML (which is essentially, “HTML extended with custom AMP properties,” according to AMP Project) limits the use of JavaScript to a prescribed “AMP JS library” designed to only use JavaScript elements that enable a fast load time. In addition to JavaScript, AMP HTML also restricts some parts of HTML and CSS; the AMP Validator enforces all of these restrictions.

This does make it sound like pages will be pretty simplistic in design, but to make up for its limitations, AMP HTML does define, “a set of custom elements for rich content beyond basic HTML.” This means that you are able to add some custom styling to your AMP pages, as long as you are not utilizing any of the predetermined disallowed styles. Below is an example of a basic AMP HTML file highlighting the section within the where custom styling can be added.

Pro Tip: If you (or your developer) aren’t sure if your AMP pages will make the cut, use the AMP Validator to check for errors!

Accelerated mobile pages styled coding

Google has also instituted an AMP cache that delivers content to browsers via proxy server. It collects the HTML page (the article), caches it, and uses a validation system that guarantees that the article load will work, and work fast. In other words, large swaths of content on AMP can be pre-rendered by Google (or one of the other partnering publishers, like Twitter) to decrease load time. This is one characteristic that makes AMP so comparable to Facebook’s Instant Articles. It keeps users within a Google framework as opposed to sending them off to individual publisher’s separate mobile sites. As WIRED put it, “With AMP, Google is amassing content on its own servers and keeping readers on Google.”

http://www.mainstreethost.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Google-AMP-Demo-Video.mp4

Source: https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2015/10/introducing-accelerated-mobile-pages.html

What’s the benefit for publishers?

As you can see above, AMP-optimized news stories will now appear at the top of Google’s mobile search results for a relevant query. So even though Google is hesitant to describe AMP capability as an SEO ranking factor in and of itself, AMP pages get sent straight to the top of the page, which is precisely what makes people care about ranking factors in the first place. Also, unlike Instant Articles or Apple News, Google’s AMP pages will be open source, which means the source code will be made freely available and can be contributed to, redistributed or modified by anyone.

Plus, improved speed naturally leads to improved user experience. As users get used to choosing web pages from the AMP carousel, they’ll be delighted with the immediate reward of a lag-free mobile experience. According to early reports, these content templates will improve 15%-85% of load times. Considering mobile users typically abandon pages that take longer than three seconds to load – 15% is impactful, 85% is monumental.

It’s important for publishers – especially small and medium-sized ones – to note that developing AMP pages and adhering to the ascribed rules won’t necessarily lead to an immediate boost in organic rankings. As Richard Gingras, Google’s senior director of news and social products, told AdAge, “AMP doesn’t mean adopt AMP and get a massive boost in search ranking … But if we had two articles that from a signaling perspective scored the same in all other characteristics but for speed, then yes, we will give an emphasis to the one with speed because that is what users find compelling.”

SEO for both mobile and desktop has always been a game of subtlety and long-term effort, not quick fixes. AMP pages, like all web pages, need to be built with a holistic approach towards delivering genuine value to users and doing so quickly (on their devices). The “quickly” part is where AMP site attributes can help both publishers and users achieve their goals.

Advertising on AMP

While streamlined load times and smoother mobile UX will help publishers make their readers happy, they’ll also cause some headaches in the advertising department. Many in the industry have worried that the tools publishers rely on for ad revenues will be restricted or forbidden on AMP pages.

These fears are understandable, especially considering the shaky ground the entire ad tech industry appears to be on in light of the FTC’s native advertising restrictions and the growing prevalence of ad blockers.

As of now, AMP pages appear to be only showing static, square ads that load as the user scrolls. But I think it’s important to remember that the effectiveness of a mobile ad campaign has to be judged subjectively. Its success can only be understood relative to what else could have been done with that money and how competitors’ campaigns are doing in the same spaces.

While the concerns about ad revenue are valid in light of that restrictiveness, it’s a framework that all publishers are forced to deal with in AMP pages. Also, Google developers have repeatedly made comments suggesting that there are more complex (and, presumably, profitable) solutions being worked on that are still compliant with AMP’s coding criteria. In the meantime, publishers will be forced to play by the current rules: simpler ad tech within the fast-loading AMP pages; complex, interactive ad tech on any other mobile pages they are building.

As a publisher, it will be imperative to stay agile and adaptable as the AMP criteria evolves. With mobile pages loading more quickly and showing up in horizontal feeds at the top of search results, publishers can take time to judge the effectiveness of the pages based on user engagement and feedback. As mentioned above, mobile advertising is bound to undergo some seismic shifts in the coming months, so a lot of the concerns with AMP’s ad capabilities may be soon rendered obsolete.

In the meantime, publishers (and their readers) should finally be treated to a taste of what a fast, seamless mobile web experience can be.

User Experience conversion mobile

06 Apr 16:47

Segment adds third-party sources like Zendesk and Stripe to help companies truly understand customer experience

by Jon Cifuentes
Segment

VB INSIGHT:

Segment is an increasingly popular customer data aggregator that makes it easy for engineers to track funnel events, test new analytics partners, and combine data collected from websites, mobile apps, and servers. In a marketing technology universe littered with customer data tools, this can be really useful. At VB Insight, I studied the marketing analytics landscape and counted 700+ tools marketers use to house customer data and generate marketing insights. I didn’t collect all of them, and Segment doesn’t integrate with nearly all of them. Even still, in the classic “build vs. buy” dialectic — which was alive and well at VentureBeat’s own Mobile Summit this past week — Segment has historically offered the compelling alternative of “try.”

The new release, called Sources, is potentially much more powerful than that.

While web and mobile app data can be a massive undertaking unto itself, what about the droves of data collected in email campaigns, customer support channels, or payment systems? After all, customers don’t just use websites and mobile apps. They open emails, have conversations with salespeople, chat with customer support, and pay for stuff. These data sources typically live in their own silo — and in large, oftentimes fragmented companies, they are managed by their own engineering team with their own release and update cycles and data analysts.

In this model, tons of data gets left behind. And even in digitally mature companies thoroughly invested in customer analytics, they still have a hard time combining data sources with third-party systems — like contact center or payment information — and making it mean something.

Segment’s new offering is interesting because it’s drawing from rather than sending to cloud providers like Salesforce, Zendesk, Stripe, SendGrid, Mandrill, and Twilio, pulling information into a single database with just a few clicks. I usually scoff at the “5 mins to install, no engineering time required” vendor speak — but in Segment’s case, it’s actually true.
sources
More importantly, with all of this actual customer data in one place, companies can finally understand the complete customer experience and explore how touchpoints across communication channels affect revenue, engagement, retention, and churn. It allows engineering and marketing teams to stop focusing so much on data collection and start thinking about the customers behind the data. I like to use the analogy of water at a well. Are your highly paid data analysts best used pumping a cistern or gathering water? Or would be they be more effective with an effective infrastructure in place, building cool irrigation apps with that water system to make your products grow? With sources, Segment customers can truly focus on growth initiatives. For instance, they can see which pages in an app prompt the most support tickets, or whether customers opting in via text are more engaged than those in email, or even how support tickets can drive purchases.

Trunk Club, Instacart, Mapbox, Udacity, 99Designs, and Angie’s List are some of the launch customers using Sources and spending less time gathering water. Combining data this way puts typically near-impossible tasks, like quantifying the value of customer support — or understanding the effects of email and text message campaigns over time — very reachable, if not downright testable.

I also caught up with Segment CEO Peter Reinhardt to learn a little more about what the release means for high-performing teams and what’s possible with all of this disparate third party data living in one place. Perhaps, most importantly, are the types of sources available on the product now and on the way. Reinhardt said, in an email, “We have 8 sources to start (Salesforce, Stripe, Zendesk, SendGrid, Mandrill, Intercom, Hubspot, and Twilio) with 2 more currently in beta (Mailchimp, SalesforceIQ). We’re planning to significantly increase the sources catalog in the coming months. The new categories we’ll start with include advertising (Google Adwords, Facebook Ads) and databases (MongoDB, Postgres).”

Segment has also seen significant growth over the past year. Reinhardt told me, “Sources builds on our considerable momentum over the last year, which includes the launch of new products like Warehouses, a Series B led by Thrive Capital, and an increase in headcount from 30 to 80.”

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06 Apr 16:45

The Secret of Creating Successful Buyer Personas

by Stacey Danheiser

Is your organization creating buyer personas? If not, you’re skipping a fundamental step in your marketing approach. But, perhaps the only thing worse than that is failing to use buyer personas effectively despite having them. And that’s exactly what’s happening with most B2B organizations. According to a recent ITSMA survey, 85% of firms that have created buyer personas aren’t using them.

Why? Because most B2B firms are short-cutting the process to create personas. As a result, they end up with a generic buyer profile that doesn’t answer the critical questions the firm needs to understand in order to be effective.

Challenges in Creating Buyer Personas

A major roadblock in the way of implementing buyer personas is that many marketers aren’t doing enough qualitative research on their buyers. They are sourcing their customer intelligence from their sales teams, which may offer some insight but, rarely ever the complete view of their buyers.

On the flip side, many marketers are spending inordinate amounts of time figuring out too many unnecessary details that are frankly, useless in the complex B2B sales situations. For example, when developing a buyer persona for your B2B solution, does the knowledge that your buyer loves chocolate chip ice-cream apply? While this information could help on the relationship-building side, it definitely won’t be a deciding factor when it comes to your selling your solution. The main problem here is a basic lack of understanding of what type of information to process and what to leave out.

However, these are not the only challenges organizations face with buyer personas. A recent B2B marketers’ survey from Cintell found that most respondents struggle with:

  • Getting their organization to value personas
  • Validating persona insights with qualitative measurement
  • Training teams to use personas in their everyday work
  • Finding third-party data to support persona creation

Let’s quickly go over a few reasons why you should invest your time and effort into creating buyer personas.

Why You Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Ignore Buyer Personas

Consider this: you’re creating top-drawer content and yet, it fails to grab the eyeballs and impact you’d hoped it would. You wait for weeks or probably months, and after seeing no results, declare content marketing is not for you. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because your content doesn’t resonate with your audience. And, it all boils down to buyer personas (or lack thereof).

With personalization becoming key to effective marketing, it’s more important than ever to focus on knowing your buyers better by researching their needs and motivations to buy. Here are more reasons why buyer personas are important for your business.

  • They steer your marketing and sales strategies
  • They help develop a uniform view of the buyers across all silos in your organization
  • They tell you what triggers activate your audience, so you can engage them better at all stages of the purchase process
  • They help segment your audience effectively for better targeting
  • They allow you to create content that strikes a chord with your audience

Data from the Cintell report also shows that organizations creating detailed buyer personas based on the buyers’ motivations, pain points, and specific roles in the buying process are likely to exceed their annual revenue goals, while low-performing organizations are the ones that simply use demographic data in their buyer personas. This means the quality of buyer personas an organization creates reflects in its bottom line.

How to Create Buyer Personas that Move the Needle

Buyer personas are not just a nice template to present internally. In order to work properly, they have to be founded on rigorous customer research combined with relevant sales inputs. They have to provide insights into what motivates your buyer, what their goals and drivers are, what their pain-points are —and not whether he owns a Boston terrier or lives in an opulent condo. Simply put, it’s not just the plain demographics or hobbies that count, what matters most is data or information that will enable better product development, better sales strategy, and better adjustment of the brand message in relation to your B2B buyers’ needs.

Here are some ways you can find out more relevant customer information:

Level 1: Interview your customer-facing personnel such as sales, customer service, and product management. This will help you understand the common triggers and/or factors that prompt customer response across all touchpoints.

Level 2: Conduct online customer surveys to better understand buying behavior, reach out to ask questions on Q&A platforms like Quora and your brand’s social media pages. This will help you develop a solid content strategy that resonates and engages with each profile, at each stage of sale.

Level 3: Conduct 1:1 interviews with your prospects and customers to deepen your knowledge of their motivations, needs, and buying criteria. Unless you have a skilled and neutral interviewer on staff, this approach may work best conducted by a third party.

Level 4 (Gold Star): Incorporate Ethnographic study– which is, basically, observing your customers and prospects in their natural environment, with the aim of identifying the otherwise hidden buying motivations and contexts in which customers may use a new product. This may be a bit more intensive than other market research methodologies, but it’s especially helpful for companies engaged in complex B2B marketing and long sales cycles.

4 levels of customer research

To sum it up, properly-defined buyer personas help you shape your marketing efforts according to what’s most relevant and essential for your target audience. Without this knowledge, you’ll simply be shooting in the dark.

06 Apr 16:45

10 Traits of Stellar Sales Teams

by adrian.cordiner@workstar.com.au (Adrian Cordiner)

stellar-sales-team.jpg

A successful, motivated, and engaged sales team is gold -- if you can build one. Every sales leader dreams of managing a dream team of sales superstars who will elevate their business. Below are the 10 habits your people should possess in order to produce consistently successful results.

1) They possess natural energy and charisma.

Collectively and individually, your sales team should radiate energy, warmth, and charisma. It’s infectious, and it will always impact your team’s relationship with your customers.

Salespeople without natural energy and charisma can often appear cold, inauthentic, and untrustworthy. These aren’t traits that can be taught, so it’s important to hire people who are naturally able to connect with and put prospects at ease.

2) They invest their time with customers

The backbone of your business are your customers. Engaging and interacting with them frequently is critical to the development of your success. Successful sales teams build meaningful relationships so they can gain deep knowledge of their prospects’ relationships and help them with precisely what they want and need. This approach to prospect relationships builds trust and rapport.

Research has demonstrated that excellent customer relations increases sales outcomes and team performance -- 74% of consumers report spending more money with a company as a result of excellent customer service.

3) They never stop learning.

Successful sales teams thrive in environments where they continually learn and are encouraged to seek knowledge. This skill enables reps to thoroughly explore buyers’ problems and indicates that they’ll put in the time and effort to become experts in their space. Consistently effective sales teams are always up-to-date with comprehensive product knowledge skills, they role play sales calls before they happen, and they’re always reading educational resources so they’re at the top of their game.

4) They have structured goals (and they’re not afraid of big ones).

Every successful sales team should have structured and transparent goals that are regularly assessed and easily measured so they can be iterated on as necessary. Likewise, managers should never be afraid to increase and stretch goals. Every great sales professional loves a challenge.

5) Each team member holds themselves accountable to their goals.

Just as a collective team should be accountable for the sales success of the business, so too should the individual. KPIs shouldn’t just be established -- they also need to be tracked and monitored, with consequences for not achieving them.

Successful sales professionals send their managers regular summaries of their work. This innate sense of autonomy fosters a strong sense of leadership, discipline and pride, characteristics that make it easy for teams to hold themselves accountable for missed goals.

6) They communicate and collaborate.

The best sales teams communicate with each other well. This not only builds team rapport, but also ensures absolutely everyone is on the same page, has the correct knowledge and the latest updates everyone requires to do their job.

While each successful sales team enjoys structured daily and weekly communications, they also collaborate by sharing advice, overcoming obstacles and providing genuine support. It’s always helpful to get multiple perspectives on a particular sales challenge.

7) They make use of their larger internal network.

High-performing sales professionals benefit from spending time with larger networks within their company and having access to their business leaders. The sharing of ideas and company objectives between high-level management and sales professionals empowers the latter to gain a sense of ownership and to have a greater sense of context with their work.

Empower your sales team by sharing broader strategic goals or company initiatives so they understand the full impact of their work and can leverage other resources at the company to help them sell better.

8) They possess excellent time management skills.

Truly effective sales reps manage their time carefully. They know that time is money, so they plan their days in advance, prioritize their tasks, organize their pipelines, and always find new ways to streamline their processes.

9) They don’t make promises they can’t keep.

The most effective sales teams not only gain sales, but they also successfully follow through with each and every one of the promises they made to prospects during the sales process.

Failing to deliver causes customer disappointment and presents a churn risk, which is bad for business. That’s why great reps never make commitments they can’t keep and would rather tell a prospect “I don’t know” instead of overpromising.

10) They celebrate their successes.

More often than not, businesses are focused on results and sales data. However, truly effective sales teams also celebrate their successes. Taking the time to recognize accomplishments not only creates better energy within the workplace, but has a greater effect of motivating the team to better their efforts. Besides, who doesn’t love the thrill of success?

What do you think the best sales teams have in common? Let us know in the comments below.

HubSpot CRM

06 Apr 16:44

How-to Develop a Killer Lead Nurturing Campaign

by Alessandra Ceresa

Lead nurturing is nothing new. Sales people have to constantly follow up with their leads, engage in conversation, show them the benefits of their product/service, and try to close deal after deal. This used to be a very manual, hands-on experience. Now, with automation and the amount of data we have at our fingertips, marketers are able to map content to fit every buyer’s needs at any point in the sales cycle. In fact, this is something that we all should be doing if we want to generate a higher response rate and guide our prospects down the funnel.

So, the question remains for many, “How do I develop content for each stage of the funnel?” There is no easy answer, but there is a way to make it more strategic.

First, you have to understand the sales funnel. There are four main stages to any funnel: Awareness, Evaluation/Consideration, Purchase, and Evangelism or Customer Retention. At each of these stages the buyer requires different information about your product or service. Let’s evaluate the types of content needed at each phase. Use this as a guide for your own lead nurturing campaigns.

I am going to break down each stage into 4 different areas: User Behavior, Research, Content Types, and Key Terms.

Buyer Stages Awareness Consideration Decision
User Behavior Have realized and expressed the potential problem/opportunity Have a clearly defined problem and opportunity – considering how to address said issue Have defined the solution and strategy
Research Research is vendor neutral. Simply looking at 3rd party information about their realized problem/opportunity Started researching all available solutions to solving defined prob/opp Reviewing how-tos, case studies, select vendors, etc. to make final decision and aid in implementation
Content Types Analyst reports, eBooks, editorial content, educational content, landing pages, social media posts, contributed articles (thought leadership pieces) Comparison charts, expert guides, webinars, interactions with sales/support, Case studies, reviews, drip campaigns, educational vendor specific blog posts Vendor comparisons, free trial documentation, educational drip campaigns, live demos, product documentation, how-tos, implementation guides
Key Terms Improve, optimize, prevent, solve, streamline, organize, empower, increase revenue, integrate Tool, software, application, success, easy-to-use, custom, customer service Pros and cons, reviews, comparisons, customer support,

Before you start strumming up all of this content, ask yourself, “Do I know who my buyers are?” Have you already established your buyer personas?

Buyer personas are specific illustrations of the different types of people considering and purchasing your product. For example, if you sell website development and social media marketing services, chances are you are not going to give them the same types of content. Establish your buyer personas first so you can accurately target those that are interested in your product/service.

Let’s look at a real-life example of lead nurturing at each stage of the funnel.

Brent is a small business owner looking for a small business operating system. He wants an integrated platform that his whole team can use. He does not want his team having to move back and forth between systems.

He starts to Google small business operating systems, sales and marketing systems, how to integrate sales and marketing, and a few other key search terms. In his search, he comes across an interesting eBook from a CRM and marketing automation vendor. They are offering an eBook. “The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Sales and Marketing Software.” He thinks this might be a helpful educational eBook, so he gives his contact information and downloads the eBook.

He confirms he wants to opt-in to Company A’s communication and is dropped into a drip campaign with his eBook download, as well as a series of helpful emails about selecting marketing software as well as marketing tips and tricks.

In these emails, there are calls-to-action for a free demo of the software.

Finally, after the third email, he clicks the link for a live demo. The sales team is notified and he is contacted to schedule a meeting.

Once Brent has seen a live demo, he wants a trial. Brent sets up his trial and is immediately dropped into a Welcome drip campaign that goes into all the features of the system and how he can use them specifically for his business.

In the meantime, his sales rep occasionally follows up to inquire if Brent has questions. Towards the end of his trial, Brent is sent an email with a free month promo. Brent subscribes.

Of course, this is just one simple example of how lead nurturing can turn a marketing qualified lead into a paying customer.

Once you have established your flow and your content for each stage, never forget to test and test again.

Use the data from your campaigns to make changes to your strategy so you can effectively optimize your conversion and engagement rates with your leads.

06 Apr 16:44

How Attribution Solves 7 Common Marketing Problems

by Alexis Getscher

Marketing problems, Vanilla Ice

Scott Brinker recently released the 2016 Martech landscape supergraphic, and it’s overwhelming to say the least. The more than 3,800 included technologies exist to solve marketing problems and make a marketer’s life easier and more organized.

Within the data header on the supergraphic is a section that includes marketing attribution. But with all of the technologies available, why choose attribution as an addition to your marketing stack?

Below is a list of obstacles that marketers have to navigate on a daily basis. If you’re facing any number of these marketing problems, it’s time for attribution.

Tying Marketing Efforts to Revenue

Marketers have traditionally relied on vanity metrics, such as lead numbers, page views, and socials shares, as measures of success. But, it’s increasingly being asked that marketers report on revenue as well. Sales teams are tied to revenue goals, as are most departments, so the C-Suite also wants to know what marketing has done to impact the bottom line.

Marketing attribution tracks all touchpoints on a customer journey and assigns revenue credit to the major conversions after the sale is made. How much credit is given to each will vary based on which attribution model is used at your company, but at Bizible, we think a w-shaped model is best. With w-shaped, 30% of total revenue is assigned to the three major conversions (first touch, lead creation touch, and opportunity creation touch) with the remaining 10% credit given to the touchpoints in between.

w-shaped attribution, marketing problems

Say a blog post brings a lead to your website for the first time. A week later, they fill out a form for a webinar. A month later, the sales team closes the deal on the phone. Marketing would be assigned 30% of revenue for the blog post and 30% revenue for the webinar form fill.

This allows marketers and the C-Suite to see the true business value created by marketing efforts. Additionally, the channels and campaigns having the most impact will now be visible, meaning the team can optimize what is working and reduce effort and spending on what is not.

Model/Channel Bias

Model or channel bias occurs even if you already have an attribution solution in place. When organizations begin thinking about marketing attribution, they often start in the most basic form: single-touch attribution. Single-touch attribution includes both a first-touch, lead-creation touch or last-touch attribution model.

However, the problem here is that too much credit will be given to a single touchpoint, creating model bias. In B2B, the sales cycle is often long and includes multiple touchpoints that influence the buyer’s journey. With so many factors in play that each contribute to the success of the sale, how can you determine which single one gets all the credit?

As Lauren Frye recently wrote in a post that considers if single-touch attribution is unethical in B2B, assigning all the credit to a single touch point is like only giving a gold medal to the relay runner who crossed the finish line. What about all the other runners on the team?

Lastly, without an attribution model in place, you’re relying on vanity metrics to determine what is working or not, making channel optimization a guessing game. The blog may be driving lots of visitors to your website, but it isn’t worthwhile to spend more time and money on the blog if none of those visitors turn into customers.

Deciding Where Budget Should be Allocated

When budget decisions come around, money is going to be allocated to areas that provide a positive return. The only way to show marketing as a revenue center instead of a cost center is through attribution.

With attribution, the marketing department can say, “We played a role in driving X amount of revenue this quarter, and we also learned that our e-book leads convert to customers at a much higher rate than our webinar leads. With additional budget, we can focus on more content development and do more tests to discover which other channels are driving quality leads, while scaling back the ones that aren’t.” And that is a much stronger strategy than, “We drove X leads this quarter and increased page views by X percent.”

Increased budget is a much easier ask when there is an outlined, detailed plan of what the marketing department will do with additional funds and how much revenue they will drive through their efforts. Attribution makes that plan come to life.

High Cost Per Lead (CPL)

Most marketers rely on a single CPL figure. When the budget is planned, teams set a ceiling for the most they are willing to pay for a lead. But it’s clear that not all leads are created equally — some convert at a much higher rate than others. So, it makes sense to be willing to pay more for high-quality leads and less for those that don’t convert as frequently.

CPL.png

This is why CPL limits should vary by channel. The only way to accurately reveal which channels are driving the most valuable leads, is through attribution. Attribution data can create a lead report, opportunity report and revenue report, all broken out by marketing channel. This will show which leads convert to opportunities at a high rate and which leads bring in the most revenue. Making it easy to determine the CPL ceiling for each channel.

Measuring the Impact of Brand Marketing

Brand may be the most important part of running a business. It is the face of the company and directly impacts whether prospects and customers have a positive, neutral or negative opinion of your organization. And each of those impact company revenue.

But how do you know if your brand marketing efforts are worth it? Brand surveys are great. They’ll give you a general idea of brand recognition and growth, but without attribution, you’d be missing the true impact. How is brand marketing driving revenue?

Measuring metrics like deal velocity, direct traffic and organic search will give a good view of the actual impact of your brand marketing. Attribution provides channel data at every stage of the funnel, from first click to closed deal, which means your marketing efforts can be measured through every stage as well. Using that information and tying it to revenue from organic search, or revenue from direct traffic, allows you to definitively say whether brand marketing efforts are working.

Forecasting

Attribution is not only useful for looking at the past, it can help you predict the future as well. When you know how leads from particular channels have historically flowed through the funnel or how many touchpoints they have before becoming a customer, you can, with general certainty, predict how leads of the future will behave as well.

Once you set an end-of-year revenue goal, you can use attribution data to work backward and determine what it will take to get there. How many new customers do you need to gain to hit your revenue goal? How many opportunities do you need to convert to hit that customer number? How many leads do you need to produce to hit that opportunity number?

The full-funnel, granular data provided by attribution gives marketers the information they need to forecast with confidence and accuracy.

Measuring Offline Channels

Events, conferences, sales dinners, phone calls, direct mailers… a lot of today’s marketing occurs offline, and these interactions are just as valuable as those that occur online. But how are you tracking these touchpoints? How do you know if it’s worth it to sponsor that event next month, or send a direct mailer to high-prospect CEOs?

If you’re guessing at these answers, then it’s time for attribution. Attribution tracks both online and offline interactions, making it possible to see how each and every channel is impacting revenue.

If you spend $10,000 to have a sponsor booth and you book tons of demos during the event, it may seem like the event was a success. But if no one you talked to during the event eventually turned into a customer, the event ROI was zero. It may not be beneficial to attend again in the future.

The marketing landscape is constantly changing, creating new challenges for marketers every day. And although there are thousands martech solutions available, it’s impossible to research them all to decide which provides the most benefit.

But attribution doesn’t just solve one marketing problem, it solves many. The money you’ll save from an accurate CPL, properly allocated budget, and optimized channels, will more than pay for the cost of implementing an attribution solution.

 B2B Marketing Attribution 101 An intro guide to attribution for revenue-driven B2B marketers Download Now

06 Apr 16:43

How to recruit your first top-notch sales rep for your startup

by steli@close.io (Steli Efti)

Most startups suck at outbound sales recruiting.

They either recruit too early, or too late. Too aggressively, or too passively. They pursue the wrong candidates, or no candidates at all (fyi: good salespeople are not going to come to you).

The good news is they don’t have to. Create an outbound recruiting machine and you’ll have a pipeline of high-quality sales candidates. Here are the steps you can take to start building your recruiting process today.

When is the right time to hire a salesperson?

Hiring your first full-time salesperson is a huge step. Are you sure the timing is right? Too soon and you risk losing touch with your market.

Ask yourself these three questions to find out if your startup is ready for a full-time sales hire:

  1. Is my customer lifetime value high enough? You should have a CLTV of at least $1,000 before you consider hiring a full time salesperson.
  2. Are my larger customers struggling to convert? If larger trial accounts convert at the same rate as smaller accounts, you don’t need a salesperson.
  3. Is there complexity in the sales process for my larger accounts? A salesperson probably won’t make a difference in a frictionless sales process.

Should-I-hire-a-salesperson

If you can answer “yes” to all three questions, you’re ready for a salesperson! But where do you start?

Talent trumps experience

It might be tempting to browse job boards like Craigslist or Indeed to find a qualified salesperson with 10+ years of experience.

Don’t! That’s the biggest mistake founders make with their first sales hire.

Good salespeople aren’t looking for work. The kind of candidates you’ll find on job boards aren’t salespeople, they’re scam artists who are great at selling an inflated resume.

Startup-sales-recruiting-advice

Instead of looking for sales experience, look for sales talent. Here are some of the key characteristics of successful startup hustlers:

The best place to find people with those traits? Your immediate network.

How to recruit sales talent within your network

Who do you know with hustler DNA?

Don’t limit yourself to salespeople. Your next great sales hire may be working as a teacher, engineer, or mechanic. Identify the people in your network with an entrepreneurial spirit and talk to them about joining your startup.

If you can’t find anyone in your immediate network, then ask for referrals. Explain what you’re looking for in a salesperson and ask your contacts for introductions.

If that doesn’t work, start looking outside your network.

How to recruit sales talent outside of your network

Forget job boards. When recruiting outside of your personal network, start with businesses in your market who are a couple years ahead of you.

Find one with an established and successful sales team and reach out to one of their junior reps. Say:

“Hey John, this is Steli from Close.io. I really admire what your company is doing and I’m hoping you could help me out. You’re part of an incredible sales team and we’re trying to hire amazing sales talent like you for our inside sales CRM. Would you be willing to hop on a call with me this week and tell me what you were looking for when you joined a company?”

Most reps will be flattered and take the call. Use that opportunity to explore whether or not they’d be a good fit. If it seems like a match, be upfront. Say:

“This might sound crazy, but is there any chance you’d join our company? You’re exactly what we’re looking for.”

If they’re interested, keep the momentum going by setting up a formal interview. If they aren’t, thank them for their time and ask one final question.

Turn rejections into referrals

Some of the best hires start as referrals.

If the rep rejects your job offer, that’s okay. Thank them for their time and, just before you get off the phone, ask for a referral that’s totally out of your league. For example:

“Thanks for your insights, John. Before I let you go, I have one more question. Now that you know what we’re looking for in a salesperson, who do you know that’s so insanely talented at sales that they’d probably never work for us?”

This twist on the standard, “Who do you know who would be interested?” makes people really think and leads to higher-quality referrals.

Create long-term relationships

When you reach out to this referral, keep in mind that the goal isn’t to hire them on the spot. If you rush it, you’ll lose the opportunity. Approach the conversation like this:

“Hi Mark, this is Steli from Close.io. I was speaking with John about building an amazing sales team and he said you’re the best salesperson he knows. He also said that I’d never be able to hire you, so I’m not even going to try. But would you be willing to talk with me about your sales experience?”

If you’d be interested in working with this person in the future, start building a relationship immediately. Find a way that you can provide lasting value on a consistent basis and check in with them once or twice a month.

It may take awhile (I knew my Close.io co-founders for five years before I could convince them to start a company with me), but if you’re willing to invest the time no one else is, you’ll win them over.

And if you don’t? You still developed a powerful relationship that can be valuable in other ways.

Always be recruiting

Outbound recruiting is a lot like outbound sales.

You identify a prospect, qualify them, and go for the close. If you don’t get it on the first try, you follow up relentlessly.

And if you don’t start looking for prospects until you really need them, you’re in trouble. Don’t wait until you need to hire to start recruiting. If you start making those connections today, you’ll have a list of highly-qualified candidates when you need them.

Like sales, recruiting is a never-ending cycle. Start preparing today for tomorrow’s crisis, and there won’t be a crisis at all.

Recommended reading:

The ultimate sales hiring guide for B2B startup founders!
This is the ultimate sales hiring guide for startup founders. Learn when to hire sales people, who to hire and how to manage them at every stage of your sales process.

Hiring for startups: How to recruit the un-recruitable!
How do you find high-performers? And how to make them want to join your team? Here's come unconventional startup recruiting and hiring advice ...

My startup hiring interview hack: Why? Why? Why?
A simple strategy to x-ray through the bullshit answers applicants give you and get real insights into what makes them tick.

05 Apr 18:20

14 Ways To Win With People

by John Michael Morgan

He’s the hardest working person I know, yet he has no special skill or talent. What my father does have, however, is a gift with people.

Since I was a kid, I’ve watched him win people over to his ideas and suggestions. This is more than just a matter of persuasion. It’s deeper than that. I’m talking about building strong, genuine relationships that are mutually beneficial.

Whether it’s business or friendships; relationships are an essential part of success. If you can’t win with people, you won’t get very far.

Even those few entrepreneurs who’ve managed to achieve some success while not being great with people have only achieved a fraction of what they could, if they knew how to inspire, lead, and win people to their side.

So how do you win people over?

While there are many ways to achieve this, I’ve outlined 14 key ways that will help you yield better results right away.

1. Get Yourself Together.

It all starts with you. If you’re a mess, your influence will be greatly limited. You have to take care of yourself and have your act together. No one wants to be friends with someone who is always needing help and is incapable of helping someone else. Put yourself in a position of strength by having your life together (as much as possible…no one has it ALL together)

2. Make Everyone Feel Important.

Pretend that every person you meet and come in contact with has a sign above their head that says “MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT”. Everyone wants to be acknowledged. Everyone wants to feel like they matter. Even a quick encounter with a stranger can impact them in positive ways if you make them feel important. You’ll never get everyone to like you, but if you make everyone feel important, you’ll have a much easier time achieving your goals.

3. Encourage Them & Their Dreams

There’s an abundance of people spouting off negativity. People who are waiting to knock someone down a peg by telling them not to dream too high. Don’t be one those people. Be an encourager and supporter of people. Your opinion on whether or not someone can achieve their dream doesn’t matter. You’re not in charge of their potential. Be the person who lifts people up rather than drags them down.

4. Compliment Them In Front Of Others.

My wife is quite possibly the most humble person on the planet. She doesn’t seek compliments. She’s the opposite of me. Sometimes I feel like I spend my day fishing for compliments. And by “sometimes” I mean “all the time”. Regardless of whether or not a person is seeking that type of recognition or not, they appreciate it when it happens. Complimenting someone is always a good thing. Doing it publicly increases its effectiveness by 100.

5. Help Them.

Want to make friends with someone and win them over to your side? Help them. Ideally, help them with something they can’t do themselves. Here’s the key that can be easily missed…volunteer your help, don’t wait to be asked. It shows you’re thinking of the person and that you care. Even if they don’t accept your offer, they’ll appreciate that you thought of them and were willing to help.

6. Don’t Just Hear Them, Listen.

Why is listening so hard? I’m not complaining about how listening has become a lost art. I’m not the best listener myself. Don’t just hear what someone is saying. Listen. Then show them that you’ve listened. A simple test that you can do to see if you listened to someone or just heard them is to see if you can remember and repeat their story.

7. Let Them Know You Need Them.

Everyone wants to be needed. Your friends want to be great friends. You need to be vulnerable and let people know when you need them. I’m the worst at this. Asking for help isn’t easy. But when you do, you’re giving someone the chance to be the hero. They’ll love you for that. It makes them feel good to be of assistance. Never be so macho that you can’t tell someone you need them.

8. Openly Give Credit.

Give credit, take blame. All great leaders do this. If you want to win people over, give them credit whenever it’s due. Do it publicly and do it often. No one is going to get tired of you giving them credit for their contributions and achievements.

9. Treat Them Better Than They Treat You.

Friendship 101: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Perhaps there’s a relationship that you feel could be more beneficial than it is currently. For example, a business acquaintance that isn’t sending you as many referrals as they could. How do you handle this? Easily, make it a habit of treating people better than they treat you.

10. Enthusiasm & Positivity Are Contagious.

There is so much negativity, fear, and scarcity-based attitudes in the world. Stand out by being a positive person. Enthusiasm is like a magnet. People can’t help but be attracted to it. The world follows enthusiastic leaders. It’s a key element of getting people on board with your vision. Don’t hide it.

11. Keep Their Story In Mind.

Everyone you meet has a story. When someone shares their struggles, secrets, or parts of their story, never forget it. Some people share openly but most don’t. Never take for granted the trust someone places in you.

12. Give 10x More Than You Ask.

You know that person who is always asking for favors but is nowhere to be found when you need one? Don’t be that guy. I think I can speak on behalf of the world when I see no one likes that person. Make it a habit of giving more than you take. Just as important, give without the expectation of receiving. Give and help because it’s the right thing to do. Don’t do it just because it earn you favor with someone.

13. Add Value To Their Life.

Want someone to appreciate you and support your goals? Make their life easier. If someone’s life is better because you’re in it, then they will bend over backward to help you achieve your goals. If you’re wondering if you add value to people’s lives, here’s a quick test: if you’re doing all of the things on this list, you are.

14. Be There When They Fail AND When They Succeed.

Good friends are there for you when you’re down. That’s not a surprise. But great friends are there for you when you succeed. Don’t be jealous of someone’s achievements. Support them in the good times and bad. Don’t be there for someone part-time.

Business and life are all about relationships. As Zig Ziglar once said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.“. Want to win people over to your vision, ideas, and leadership? Listen to Zig.

The post 14 Ways To Win With People appeared first on John Michael Morgan - Income Improvement Follows Self Improvement.

05 Apr 18:20

The Top 25 Reasons Why Great Salespeople Are Leaving Your Company

by Jennifer McFarlane

Top 25 Reasons Great Salespeople Leave Employer

Great salespeople do more than just consistently drive profitable revenue for their employers. They inspire confidence in customers and partners, increase brand trust, and contribute positively to company culture. And these salespeople are rare, representing only 10-15% of the sales population, so when a company has great salespeople, it’s in its best interest to get them to stay. However, a study by Compensation Resources, Inc. (CRI) found that the voluntary turnover rate for salespeople is 15.9 percent, whereas the average rate for other types of employees is 14.3 percent. This study underscores a reality that all executives need to beware of: when salespeople aren’t happy in their organization, they are more willing than other employees to leave.

A high churn rate for a sales team is expensive, and it can negatively affect a sales team’s culture. Great salespeople leave their employers for a reason, and any company that suffers from a high churn rate in the sales department needs to take a deep look at why their talent is departing in order to improve retention rates.

In this article we examine the most important reasons why top sales talent decides to leave their current employer and how corporate leaders can mitigate the risks of losing their top performers.

Here are the top 25 reasons great salespeople are leaving your company:

1. Low compensation

In our experience, one of the biggest factors influencing a sales rep’s decision to leave an employer is the feeling that they should be receiving higher compensation for their results. If a salesperson don’t see opportunities for increased bonuses, promotions, or raises after being successful year-after-year, then they are likely to move on to a company that can offer a better compensation plan with more room for growth.

“When I look back on the various strategies I used to grow our sales force from zero to several hundred people, I realize that one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned involves the power of a compensation plan to motivate salespeople not only to sell more but to act in ways that support a start-up’s evolving business model and overall strategy,” said Mark Roberge, the fourth employee at HubSpot who built the sales team from the ground up, in an article for the Harvard Business Review. 

2. Lack of confidence in offerings

Salespeople who lack confidence in a business’ offerings are unlikely to stay with the company. Anaplan, an enterprise software company, and SiriusDecisions surveyed 400 sales executives to learn why they would leave a company, and found that confidence in the offering portfolio was the top reason that sales executives decided to leave for a new opportunity.

3. Changing compensation plans

Compensation plans vary from company to company, though the standard is to provide reps a plan comprised of a 50% base salary and a 50% commission. However, when executives decide to change compensation plans, it must be done extremely strategically and in consultation with the rep(s) these changes affect. Failing to involve the affected reps and communicate why the changes are happening sends a confusing message to the sales team and can undermine the trust built between reps and their managers.

“Sudden changes in compensation is one of the biggest red flags a top salesperson can get that their company does not appreciate their contributions or thinks they are making too much money regardless of the beneficial new revenue they are bringing in,” wrote Denise M. Barry, a seasoned sales executive, in an article on LinkedIn Pulse. “This can take the form of a sudden lower salary / higher commission arrangement, or even a surprise doubling of quota.”

4.  Reducing the commission rate when reps start close large deals

Salespeople should be rewarded for making more sales, not punished if they’re doing their jobs well. If salespeople are able to close large deals and consistently achieve quota, then they should not see a reduced commission rate because of their success. It may make sense for a sales leader to raise a salesperson’s quota and agree on new sales goals, but reducing the commission rate will frustrate salespeople, and encourage them to explore more financially-rewarding opportunities with other employers.

5. Too much time spent on non-sales activities

It’s estimated that, on average, 32% of a salesperson’s time is spent searching for missing data and entering it into CRMs. This leaves reps to spend only 41% of their time selling, while the remaining 59% of their time is spent on other non-sales activities, such as internal meetings and other administrative tasks. Great salespeople want to sell, and they are likely to leave if they spend most of their time engaged in non-sales activities that limit their sales productivity.

6. Unrealistic quota assignments

Although it would seem that salespeople might leave because of their overall earning potential, they are actually more likely to leave because of unrealistic quota assignments, according to research by Anaplan and SiriusDecisions.

If salespeople find their quota assignment unreasonable, expect them to become frustrated and start exploring opportunities elsewhere.

7. Changes in organizational structure without explanation

One of the top five reasons employees resist change is because they ‘fear the unknown’. When organizations overhaul their corporate structure without communicating to the sales force why the change is happening and how it is going to affect their ability to perform, feelings of mistrust and uneasiness can arise among the sales team and cause members to explore new opportunities.

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, “The best tool for leaders of change is to understand the predictable, universal sources of resistance in each situation and then strategize around them.”

Executive coach and organizational development expert Lisa Quast recommends that prior to making a major organizational change, managers to carefully think through: 1) what the specific changes include, 2) who the changes will impact, 3) how it will impact them, and 4) how they might react (understanding reasons why people might resist the changes). Knowing this information makes it easier to create a plan of action for a smooth implementation of the changes.

8. Better opportunities elsewhere

Sometimes salespeople leave for reasons that are somewhat beyond an organization’s control. They leave because there are better opportunities elsewhere.

What makes these opportunities more appealing to salespeople who are progressing well in their career? It depends on the salesperson. Some want more autonomy, while others want to substantially increase their compensation plan. Some salespeople may have much more confidence in another organization’s leadership team, or be interested in joining a high growth company with a disruptive offering. And sometimes, salespeople may leave for practical reasons, such as a reduction in their daily commute, or less time spent traveling. 

9. Lack of administrative support

If your sales team is spending all of their time in spreadsheets and booking their own flights, then they’re spending less time selling. If they’re not receiving adequate administrative support, and not able to focus their energy on the activities that generate them money, sales leaders should expect their best reps to move on to another company that can offer them the necessary support to excel in their job.

10. Concern about company stability

Great salespeople want to work for a stable organization. Red flags are raised when there are substantial layoffs, issues with investors and key stakeholders, or constant changes in leadership. Salespeople want to be at a company that’s not only stable, but also has a clearly defined future. When a company can’t offer that, it should expect its top sellers to move on.

11. Lack of confidence in leadership

When a CEO, VP of Sales, or other leaders at the top of the organization do not inspire confidence that they will lead the company to achieve its growth targets, then salespeople will be more receptive to hear offers from competing employers. When salespeople see mismanagement and an un-unified vision from their leadership team, they begin to worry about the stability and future of the company, and look for opportunities elsewhere.

“Top salespeople will always struggle with the the sales manager who demands performance verbally, but fails to act in a way that is consistent with those demands. When managers fail to train, or fail to weed out marginal performers, strong players tend to lose trust in leadership.” – Sales Strategist, Leadership Coach, Author, & Speaker, Kelly Riggs

12. Little recognition of performance

Salespeople care about recognition more than any other type of employee, and it’s not just in the form of compensation. These salespeople work day in and day out to help the company succeed, and they want to be recognized and appreciated by peers, managers, and company leaders.

TinyPulse conducted a study on employee retention, and found that employees who didn’t get a lot of recognition and appreciation from their managers were 11% less likely to remain at the company. If your sales team doesn’t get recognized, great salespeople will look for an opportunity where leadership is more likely to express how much they are valued.

13. Lack of promotion opportunities

Great salespeople want more than just a job– they want a career that will provide them with the opportunities to land larger accounts, take over larger territories, and have the opportunity to manage when the time is right. These kinds of opportunities are essential for employee retention and are key considerations top salespeople make when evaluating prospective employers.

14. Little coaching and instruction from sales managers

The best salespeople are always looking for ways to better themselves. Sales managers must take the time to provide reps concrete feedback and coaching on the selling activities and behaviors that lead to better results. If managers don’t provide feedback and coaching, they should expect their best and most promising sellers to start looking at other companies that have better sales leaders.

15. Delays and late payments

Salespeople are motivated by commissions, and if they don’t see their hard work reflected in their bank accounts when they expect it, it will be difficult for them to connect their work to the reward.

“When salespeople succeed, they should see it reflected in their paychecks immediately. When they fail, they should feel the pain in their paychecks immediately,” said Mark Roberge, who built the sales team at HubSpot. “Any delay between good (or bad) behavior and the related financial outcome will decrease the impact of the plan.”

16. Keeping poor performers on board

Poor performers consistently miss their sales targets, aren’t interested in improving their selling abilities, and rely on excuses to mask their underperformance. When sales managers avoid dealing with, or firing, poor performing sales reps, sales culture suffers and the morale of the sales force is eroded. Top sales talent is interested in being part of a sales team that is committed to achieving their sales goals – not one where they are burdened with trying to compensate for their underperforming team members.

17. Inadequate long-term incentives

It’s one thing to give quarterly incentives, but are you providing your sales team with adequate long-term incentives that will make them want to stay around?

Often, salespeople stay with an employer because of the opportunity for yearly bonuses, or the prospect of higher future commissions, or general promotion opportunities. Great salespeople want rewards for the here and now, but they need to know that there will be more incentives in the future. When an executive team cannot clearly define how their the top members of their sales team will be have the opportunity to significantly advance their career, they should expect those top performers to start listening to offers from competing employers.  

18. Burnout and overwork

Burnout gets to all employees, and salespeople are perhaps more susceptible to burnout than others. With pressure to meet quotas and long hours at the office and on the road, salespeople can easily get overworked.

Long hours may seem as though they are par for the course, but employees who are tired, burned out, and overworked are 31% more likely to think about looking for a new job than their colleagues who feel comfortable with their workload.  

19. Professional development opportunities

Professional development opportunities are some of the most powerful ways employers can retain their top talent. Providing salespeople access to executive coaches, conferences, and educational courses can make them feel that they’ve found a home at their current company, making them unlikely to move on.

According to TinyPulse’s study, employees with opportunities for professional development were “more than 10% more likely to stay with their current employer.” Many companies offer in-house professional development opportunities along with a budget for educational initiatives.

20. Dysfunctional company culture

According to one study, 75% of people who voluntarily leave their jobs are doing so because of poor culture or poor management. A dysfunctional company culture is one where leadership is constantly changing, negativity defines the office environment, and managers play favorites and promote their friends instead of those who can do the jobs well.

Specifically in sales, an anti-sales culture, or one where corporate leaders have poor views of salespeople, lack empathy, or have inconsistent managerial approach, can significantly impact the desire for a top performer to remain with their employer. Great salespeople will only stick around if they’re apart of a high performing team, and in order to produce high results, it is essential to maintain a pro-sales culture.

21. Poor inter-departmental relationships

Relationships of all kinds have a serious impact on retention, and that is especially true for salespeople, who thrive on social relationships. A salesperson’s relationship with managers, coworkers, those they manage, other corporate leaders, and everyone else in the organization can affect whether they choose to stay at the company or leave for another opportunity.

22. Hiring and promoting of the wrong people

Salespeople are happy when friends and colleagues get promoted, but not when it’s unclear why. When a top salesperson sees a peer that hasn’t had superior sales results get promoted, they’re going to question why and lose respect for their managers and organization as a whole.

23. Too much complexity in the sales process

According to Bain, sales processes in large companies have become more complex and less efficient, resulting in added pressure on profit margins. The study indicates that when B2B companies increase the complexity of their sales models, they typically experience a 40-60% turnover of salespeople.

24. Lack of independence and autonomy

Micromanagement can be defined as a management style which exhibits “a high degree of control with constant attention to small and insignificant details.” TinyPulse’s study found a strong connection between employee job satisfaction and “freedom to make decisions about how to do their jobs.” Employees “whose hands are regularly tied” were found to be 28% more likely to think about leaving their current employer for another.  

25. Lack of helpful tools to do the job

Modern salespeople rely on powerful tools like Salesforce to get their jobs done effectively. If the organization isn’t willing to invest in the tools required to help them sell, than salespeople won’t feel valued, and they’ll look to find a better opportunity elsewhere. Salespeople, like any other employee, want to feel valued and appreciated, and having an adequate tool kit at their disposal will show them that their work is important.

Want to mitigate the risk of losing your best salespeople and learn the secrets on how to hire top sales talent? Join the @Peak Executive Email Series:

The post The Top 25 Reasons Why Great Salespeople Are Leaving Your Company appeared first on Peak Sales Recruiting.

05 Apr 18:19

Elevating the Admin: A Look at the Evolution of the “Cloud Admin”

I’ve become increasingly interested in job titles over the last few years, especially as roles like “Brand Evangelist” (aka brand advocate) or “Director of First Impressions” (aka receptionist) have become commonplace. Are these trendy new names a product of the millennial takeover? Are companies simply trying to find new ways to inject more creativity into… Read More
05 Apr 18:09

Your Value Proposition Is No Longer Sufficient – by Dave Brock

by Robert Terson
Too many sales and marketing people struggle with value propositions.  For some–the value proposition is still internally focused, basically an advanced form of Features – Advantages – Benefits.  Others think of the value proposition – the elevator pitch that, when stated in a compelling manner, the customer will melt and immediately issue a purchase order. […]
05 Apr 18:08

Why Texting Is a Great Match for Workforce Optimization

by Rich Weborg

The rise of messaging for business communication has taken the world by storm, and your contact center needs to be ready to respond. But first, you need to make sure you’re responding on the right channels.

Research done by Harris Poll and commissioned by OneReach found that over 60% of customers would rather text than call your business for support. With texting, customers can get a faster, more efficient response to their questions. This value can be seen within customer communications, as well as internal workforce communications.

Contact Centers

In our experience, texting has been shown to reduce call volume by 40% and decrease phone costs from $6-20 per call to $2-5 per interaction per text chat. By offering the option to pivot to text messaging within your call center’s IVR, your company can deflect calls to a less costly channel, reduce wait times and improve self-service options. In fact, over 40% of customers would prefer to text with an agent than wait on hold.

There are a number of ways texting can have a positive impact on your organization and make it more efficient. Organizations can use messaging to:

  • Respond more with fewer agents. With text chat, agents can respond to multiple chats at once, lowering the number of agents needed to respond to customer inquiries. Bringing less agents in can help reduce costs but also improve quality of service, since managers can devote more attention to each individual agent. Contact centers can also use texting to send out alerts to customers on system updates or outages to help mitigate inbound call volume.
  • Review transcripts. Text conversations, much like web chat, have an easily accessible transcript that can be reviewed and learned from through data mining and analysis of textual conversations. This is better than voice, where you cannot easily monitor quality or track recurring patterns. Contact center managers as well as agents can take a look at the conversations to see if agents were brand compliant, how long the conversation took, what and more. They can also review agent performance across channels and per agent. A solution that uses text analytics can help agents more easily track what customers are texting in about and track “hot terms” to help identify support issues.
  • Guide the conversation. Most contact centers use scripts to help agents control the flow of the conversation and stay brand compliant. Your call center can take this to the next level with canned responses. Canned responses are answered recorded ahead of time that can help agents respond more quickly and make sure that answers provide the appropriate information. Canned responses can also be used to help train agents on how they should answer. Your contact center can also use artificial intelligence to autoselect an appropriate response based on a customer query.
  • Send out automated surveys. In our experience, text surveys have been shown to get a 20% response rate, higher than the 15% average of email surveys and 9% response rate of phone surveys. With texting, you can set up automation to send an outbound survey as soon as they finish their conversation and have them rate their interaction on the same channel they responded on. It is natural to answer a survey after the text chat sessions because it is in the same thread. This helps ensure more accurate responses, as texters will better recall the content of a conversation closer to when the interaction happens. Your call center can then review these responses and adjust how customer service is delivered.

Corporate Communication Using Text Messaging

While the value of the text channel for consumers is starting to be realized by the enterprise, most organizations still do not understand the opportunity for improvement that text messaging can have on their internal workforce communications. Text messaging is a great technology to drive desired employee behavior and improve internal communications between distributed teams.

One great example is to use text messaging to improve communication within a field services organization. Text messages can be sent to field personnel to provide appointment reminders and ensure improved show rates on booked appointments. Text reminders can also include appointment details and ensure a field service person has what they need when they show up on the job. From the customer perspective they can receive a reminder of the appointment and include a picture of the field service representative, creating a sense of trust and familiarity before the field personnel even arrives.

Companies can also use SMS internally for tasks such as reminding project team members to enter project hours or provide project status updates. The value of this channel is that the message can link directly to a mobile app or mobile web site and help improve employee adherence to internal processes using a channel they appreciate.

Conclusion

The ultimate value of using text messaging within an organization does not stop at the customer. Using text messaging for corporate communication helps drive more efficient communication within the organization and improves task efficiency in the workforce. By interacting with customers and employees on a channel that’s proven to improve collaboration, reduce costs and get results, companies can ensure that they’re getting the most out of their communication technologies.

Image of male business tablet courtesy of Pixabay. CC0 License.

05 Apr 18:08

Why Buying a Company Can Be Better than Starting One

by Richard S. Ruback
apr16-05-76944116

Perhaps your most fundamental career choice is whether you will work in someone else’s company or for yourself. But for most people, “working for yourself” sounds a lot like “starting your own business,” which feels risky and formless and also requires a really good business idea — which most of us don’t carry around in our back pocket.

But there is a third choice: You can buy an existing business, right now, and run it as CEO. We call this entrepreneurship through acquisition, and we’ve been studying it with our students at the Harvard Business School.

The most successful entrepreneurs through acquisition we’ve seen look for businesses we call enduringly profitable, businesses that are more likely to have a stable income over time. They also are attractive to the lenders and equity investors who provide funds for your acquisition. Rather than flashy, fast-growth tech companies, these are firms that share two characteristics which on the face make them seem dull — but that actually make them enduringly profitable:

  • Recurring customers. The essential characteristic of enduringly profitable smaller businesses is not that they have a rapidly expanding customer base; it’s that they have recurring customers. These companies are able to attract and keep the right customers, those who value its product or service and will purchase year after year. For example, in 2015, Jennifer Braus bought Systems Design West, which serves hundreds of municipal firehouses in the Pacific Northwest by handling billing to insurance companies for their emergency ambulance transports. Her systems and the firehouses’ quickly became intertwined, and they naturally fell into a smooth working relationship month after month. As a result, Systems Design West retains virtually 100% of its customers year in and year out.
  • Slow growth. Although high growth might seem like a wonderful characteristic of a business, it comes with high risk. High growth means that your new customers will quickly outnumber your existing ones. New customers are, well, new — they have no loyalty to the company and no history, and they may very well bring new demands. A rapidly growing firm also attracts competitors, which see the expanding market and the opportunity to attract new customers. Low growth, in contrast, means low risk, and low risk is great because it is your money at stake. Things just move slower in an established business that is growing slowly; you’ll have time to build lasting relationships with your customers. You’ll learn what they value, and you’ll adapt to find products and services they appreciate. Greg Ambrosia bought the leading commercial window washing business in Dallas, which grows slowly because new high-rise buildings are added to the Dallas skyline slowly. His existing customers appreciate his superb safety record and excellent service and use his company year after year, generating a stream of predictable, recurring revenue. Meanwhile, he steadily adds additional services and customization that serves his customers’ needs ever better.

If you’re considering entrepreneurship by startup, that path involves building a company from scratch, without knowing whether the product or service is something that can be the basis for a profitable business. When you start a company, before you make any money, you need to develop a product or service, identify potential customers, figure out how to deliver the product or service to the customers, hire all your workers, market to customers, build a management system, and then hope the product or service is something customers want to buy at a price high enough for you to make a profit. Buying an existing, enduringly profitable business is less risky — not riskless, but much safer because the product or service is already established and, if you buy the kind of company, likely to produce steady cash flows while you focus on improvements and growth.

Running your own company offers a radically different career path and career lifestyle from working in a traditional large corporation. It allows you to lead an organization, make decisions that matter, and have the flexibility to work in a way that suits you best. By buying an enduringly profitable, slowly growing firm, you can marry the opportunity for professional independence with the stability of buying an established, enduringly profitable smaller business.

05 Apr 18:08

Mobile LMS: Why Learning on the Go is Key for Small Business Success

by GetApp

Mobile LMS illustrated in a library

Learning management systems (LMS) provide a fast and cost-effective way for companies to train and manage their employees. And as this rapidly expanding market evolves, it’s moving increasingly toward mobile LMS.

A mobile LMS helps your workforce get and stay knowledgeable, so you can react faster to new market trends and make your business more competitive. As with all new technologies or innovative ways of doing things, mobile e-learning has great potential to streamline employee training, but businesses are still figuring out how to implement it effectively.

Here, we take a closer look at the benefits and challenges of implementing a mobile LMS and what mobile learning can do for your company.

What are the benefits of mobile LMS?

LMS applications facilitate all aspects of e-learning such as administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of courses or training programs. This can benefit organizations of all kinds, from educational institutions wanting to deliver courses online, to corporations needing to train, retrain, or maintain employee records and registrations.

While mobile learning has become increasingly popular in the educational sector, companies are just beginning to realize the possibilities of mobile in the workplace. A mobile LMS can deliver training or instructions wherever employees are, which decreases—or eliminates entirely—the need for expensive off-site training and travel.

Additionally, it can be used by employees on their own schedules, so downtime can easily become training time. In terms of access to information, a mobile LMS can connect learners to as much knowledge or as many learning opportunities as your training department can create. So when it comes to flexibility, an LMS beats traditional, face-to-face training methods.

Best practices for implementing a mobile LMS within a corporate environment, however, are still evolving. According to Troy Anderson, director of talent management for the team that built Bridge LMS, “Usability and functionality are two of the biggest challenges companies face when implementing a mobile LMS. It’s also difficult for employees and managers to find, assign, and connect meaningful learning to career development, growth, and role-specific needs.”

Anderson says companies are becoming more aware of this issue as they hire and attempt to train new generations of employees.

Catering to a new generation

As more millennials enter the workforce, Anderson says companies are beginning to look for technologies that can meet this generation’s preference for how and where they seek and consume information. For most, that means online and on their mobile devices.

“A mobile LMS should meet the needs and expectations of employees,” says Anderson. “Not having a mobile LMS may decrease engagement and increase worker turnover as employees seek companies where they can learn, grow, and advance in their career objectives. Most importantly, e-learning should be delivered in a way that’s easily consumable by learners.”

A company that can’t meet employees’ needs and expectations for quality training may struggle to attract and retain top talent. As LMS goes mobile, the next logical step will be peer-to-peer learning—and any mobile e-learning platform that ignores this shift will get left behind.

Connecting learners

Anderson notes that learning doesn’t happen in isolation, so any LMS that can’t connect learners in a virtual way—through sharing, validating, giving feedback, or providing insights and perspectives—won’t hold its value.

Still, while mobile e-learning will become increasingly important, Anderson believes it will never be a replacement for a web-based solution. He says, “In order to deliver the most robust learning solutions, companies would be wise to implement an LMS that enables employees to access training program via mobile and the web.”

05 Apr 18:08

Books to Watch in April

by Dylan

We do our best to keep you up to date on all the newest releases, but we have a relatively small staff here at 800-CEO-READ and we can't cover everything. While not a complete list (and you may see some of these elsewhere on the site this month), these are some of the books we have our eye on in April.

The 10% Entrepreneur : Live Your Startup Dream Without Quitting Your Day Job by Patrick Mc Ginnis, Portfolio

Conventional thinking says that entrepreneurship is all about excitement and big bets, while traditional career paths are all about stability. You can have either a stable paycheck or independence—not both. But now that technology makes it cheaper and easier than ever to start and manage a business, that trade-off no longer applies. You can now manage, advise, or invest in businesses by using your smarts, your network, and your smartphone, and you don’t need to quit your day job to do it.

Venture capitalist Patrick McGinnis offers a pragmatic new approach to entrepreneurship. Despite its rewards, full-time entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Not everyone can afford to forgo a regular income and risk everything for a new venture. But almost everyone can afford to risk a little. If you’ve an entrepreneurial itch to scratch but aren’t sure you have the means, McGinnis shows you the way forward. By dedicating at least 10% of your time and, if possible, 10% of your capital to invest, advise, and start new businesses, you will forge a path to greater autonomy and personal satisfaction. Rather than watching full-time entrepreneurs from the sidelines, you can join them—all without leaving your day job.

Drawing on the stories of successful 10% entrepreneurs from all industries, McGinnis shows how to figure out what your resources are, outlines strategies for employing those resources, and provides practical tips on keeping all of the plates spinning. By following him, you’ll learn how to build a portfolio of investments, activities, and relationships that lessen your reliance on your day job while allowing you to finally build something for yourself.

Everydata: The Misinformation Hidden in the Little Data You Consume Every Day by John H. Johnson & Mike Gluck, Bibliomotion

While everyone is talking about “big data,” the truth is that understanding the “little data”—the stats that underlie newspaper headlines, stock reports, weather forecasts, and so on—is what helps you make smarter decisions at work, at home, and in every aspect of your life. The average person consumes approximately 30 gigabytes of data every single day, but has no idea how to interpret it correctly. Everydata explains, through the eyes of an expert economist and statistician, how to decipher the small bytes of data we consume in a day.

Everydata is filled with countless examples of people misconstruing data—with results that range from merely frustrating to catastrophic:

  • The space shuttle Challenger exploded in part because the engineers were reviewing a limited sample set.
  • Millions of women avoid caffeine during pregnancy because they interpret correlation as causation.
  • Attorneys faced a $1 billion jury verdict because of outlier data.

Each chapter highlights one commonly misunderstood data concept, using both realworld and hypothetical examples from a wide range of topics, including business, politics, advertising, law, engineering, retail, parenting, and more. You’ll find the answer to the question—“Now what?”—along with concrete ways you can use this information to immediately start making smarter decisions, today and every day.

Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work by Dave Isay, Penguin Press 

In Callings, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay presents unforgettable stories from people doing what they love. Some found their paths at a very young age, others later in life; some overcame great odds or upturned their lives in order to pursue what matters to them. Many of their stories have never been broadcast or published by StoryCorps until now.

We meet a man from the barrios of Texas whose harrowing experiences in a family of migrant farmers inspired him to become a public defender. We meet a longtime waitress who takes pride in making regulars and newcomers alike feel at home in her Nashville diner. We meet a young man on the South Side of Chicago who became a teacher in order to help at-risk teenagers like the ones who killed his father get on the right track. We meet a woman from Little Rock who volunteers to help former inmates gain the skills and confidence they need to rejoin the workforce. Together they demonstrate how work can be about much more than just making a living, that chasing dreams and finding inspiration in unexpected places can transform a vocation into a calling. Their shared sense of passion, honor, and commitment brings deeper meaning and satisfaction to every aspect of their lives.

An essential contribution to the beloved StoryCorps collection, Callings is an inspiring tribute to rewarding work and the American pursuit of happiness.

Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna, Random House

Imagine a map of the world in your mind. Now erase all the borderlines. Now replace those borderlines with new lines connecting regions. Those new lines represent highways, railways, canals, Internet cables and electricity grids—in a word, connectivity. We’re hurtling into a future shaped less by countries than by supply chains—a world in which the most connected powers, and people, will win.

Connectography is a bracing and authoritative guide to what Parag Khanna terms our “global network civilization.” Khanna blasts away today’s conventional wisdom. The world craves China’s infrastructure, not American hegemony. The new arms race of the 21st century is to connect to the most markets—a race China is winning as it has become the top trade partner of twice as many countries as America.

This book is both an intellectual and a boots-on-the-ground journey. Khanna goes from Ukraine to Iran, Mongolia to North Korea, and the Arctic Circle to the South China Sea to show how tug-of-war over pipelines, railways and Internet cables is what conflict looks like today. But Connectography is also a hopeful book, as the increase in connectivity heralds an era of competition but also stability like never before. Khanna argues that new energy discoveries and technologies have eliminated the need for resource wars; ambitious new railways and electricity grids are unscrambling Africa’s fraught colonial borders; even the Arab world is evolving a more peaceful map as it builds resource infrastructures across its war-torn landscape. Beneath the chaos of a world that appears to be falling apart is a new foundation of connectivity pulling it together.

Parag’s book provides a blueprint for winning in this new, post-national age. Places that invest in world-class airports, real estate and schools, and attract the best and brightest—places like New York, Dubai and Singapore—will lead our global network civilization. Areas that remain isolated from global flows of investment and knowledge inevitably decay—unless they transform themselves into thriving nodes along the lines set down in this book.

China's Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know® by Arthur Kroeber, Oxford University Press

China's Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know® is a concise introduction to the most astonishing economic growth story of the last three decades. In the 1980s China was an impoverished backwater, struggling to escape the political turmoil and economic mismanagement of the Mao era. Today it is the world's second biggest economy, the largest manufacturing and trading nation, the consumer of half the world's steel and coal, the biggest source of international tourists, and one of the most influential investors in developing countries from southeast Asia to Africa to Latin America.

China's growth has lifted 700 million people out of poverty. It has also created a monumental environmental mess, with smog-blanketed cities and carbon emissions that are a leading cause of climate change. Multinational companies make billions of dollars in profits in China each year, but traders around the world shudder at every gyration of the country's unruly stock markets. Most surprising of all, its capitalist economy is governed by an authoritarian Communist Party that shows no sign of loosening its grip.

How did China grow so fast for so long? Can it keep growing and still solve its problems of environmental damage, fast-rising debt and rampant corruption? How long can its vibrant economy co-exist with the repressive one-party state? What do China's changes mean for the rest of the world? China's Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know® answers these questions in straightforward language that you don't need to be an economist to understand, but with a wealth of detail drawn from academic research, interviews with dozens of company executives and policy makers, and a quarter-century of personal experience. Whether you're doing business in China, negotiating with its government officials, or a student trying to navigate the complexities of this fascinating and diverse country, this is the one book that will tell you everything you need to know about how China works, where it came from and where it's going.

Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts by Daniel Shapiro, Viking

From the founder and director of The Harvard International Negotiation Program comes a guide to successfully resolving your most emotionally charged conflicts. In this landmark book, world-renowned negotiation expert Daniel Shapiro presents a groundbreaking, practical method to reconcile your most contentious relationships and untangle your toughest conflicts.

Before you get into your next conflict, read Negotiating the Nonnegotiable. It is not just “another book on conflict resolution,” but a crucial step-by-step guide to resolve life’s most emotionally challenging conflicts—whether between spouses, a parent and child, a boss and an employee, or rival communities or nations. These conflicts can feel nonnegotiable because they threaten your identity and trigger what Shapiro calls the Tribes Effect, a divisive mind-set that pits you against the other side. Once you fall prey to this mind-set, even a trivial argument with a family member or colleague can mushroom into an emotional uproar. Shapiro offers a powerful way out, drawing on his pioneering research and global fieldwork in consulting for everyone from heads of state to business leaders, embattled marital couples to families in crisis. And he also shares his insights from 1 with three of the world’s toughest negotiators—his three young sons. This is a must read to improve your professional and personal relationships.

Pivot: The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life by Adam Markel, Atria

What would you do in your life if you knew you could not fail? That’s the question answered in Pivot, a roadmap for embracing your true potential without abandoning your responsibilities or risking your future. As a transformational teacher and the CEO of Peak Potentials, which has trained more than one million people worldwide, Adam Markel can help you leap out of your comfort zone and into the destiny you’ve always dreamed of.

Whether you are transitioning your career, or have been downsized, or believe that your true potential has yet to be fully tapped, Pivot is a guide to reinvention for anyone, at any age. With clear-eyed compassion and frank assessments, Adam shares the secrets that will guide you away from fear and toward a powerful new vision for your life. The uplifting stories, introspective prompts, clear step-by-step exercises, and energizing calls to action throughout this remarkable book will guide you through the process of personal and career transformation, from creating a vision and clearing space for change to building a supportive environment and establishing daily rituals that will regenerate your soul.

Success and personal fulfillment are within reach! Program your internal GPS to a destination of your wildest imagination—all it takes to change your path is one right turn.

Warren Buffett's Ground Rules: Words of Wisdom from the Partnership Letters of the World's Greatest Investor by Jeremy Miller, HarperBusiness

In the fourteen years between his time in New York with value-investing guru Benjamin Graham and his start as chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett managed Buffett Partnership Limited, his first professional investing partnership. Over the course of that time—a period in which he experienced an unprecedented record of success—Buffett wrote semiannual letters to his small but growing group of partners, sharing his thoughts, approaches, and reflections.

Compiled for the first time and with Buffett’s permission, the letters spotlight his contrarian diversification strategy, his almost religious celebration of compounding interest, his preference for conservative rather than conventional decision making, and his goal and tactics for bettering market results by at least 10% annually. Demonstrating Buffett’s intellectual rigor, they provide a framework to the craft of investing that had not existed before: Buffett built upon the quantitative contributions made by his famous teacher, Benjamin Graham, demonstrating how they could be applied and improved.

Jeremy Miller reveals how these letters offer us a rare look into Buffett’s mind and offer accessible lessons in control and discipline—effective in bull and bear markets alike, and in all types of investing climates—that are the bedrock of his success. Warren Buffet’s Ground Rules paints a portrait of the sage as a young investor during a time when he developed the long-term value-oriented strategy that helped him build the foundation of his wealth—rules for success every investor needs today.

 

05 Apr 18:08

Finding the Truth in Your Business

by John Jantsch

Finding the Truth in Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

small business analytics

From the headline of this post you might expect to find a lengthy manifesto about purpose and passion in business, but the truth in most businesses lies in the numbers. (Sorry if the Zen picture made it worse – I just liked it)

Analytics or metrics or whatever you choose to call how a business performs can not lie – as long as you ask the right questions and track the right things.

A Bain survey of executives at hundreds of companies around the world revealed that only 4% of companies are really good at analytics.

The subtitle of the survey report – How analytics differentiates winners sheds some light on the findings and importance of data. The survey is heavily focused on enterprise firms and leans towards discussion of “big data,” but the lesson is universal.

Three findings in particular stand out – Companies that get good at analytics are:

  • Twice as likely to be in the top quartile of financial performance within their industries
  • Three times more likely to execute decisions as intended
  • Five times more likely to make decisions faster

For any business to have the full picture of the health, growth and status at any given time they need to build dashboards that give them the most up to date information that is tied to their overall objectives.

Because that’s where the truth in your business lies.

Few businesses, regardless of size, obsess over numbers as they should. My guess is that the reason for this is that while it’s one of the most important elements, it’s also one of the hardest to set up and analyze for someone that’s typically answering the phones, going on sales calls, fixing broken links and doing the work for which customers pay you.

Another factor may be that they get overwhelmed by the amount of things you can track. When it comes to analytics what to track is simple – track what matters most.

I’m tempted to scream the Jack Nicholson line from A Few Good Man – “you want answers?” “I want the truth.” “You can’t handle the truth!” – but, of course, I think you can and you must.

Now I know that may seem obvious, but stop for a minute and ask if you could come up with less than six numbers that would tell you everything you need to know about your priority initiatives.

There are things that you need to track over time for reporting, forecasting and goal setting, but there usually only a couple things that matter day to day, week to week, regarding your current highest payoff priorities and those need to go on a dashboard that you can visit daily.

Now, no one can tell you what that handful of metrics should be, but when you discover them and focus on them – you’ll have access to the truth about your business.

Let me give you an example. Most businesses rely on referrals, but few track, analyze or even amplify that fact that they are quite referable. In these businesses we usually develop some systematic approach to referral generation and then we obsess over tracking referral actions.

The key is to get as granular as you can so you are tracking things you can impact with campaigns, tweaks and processes. So in my example above you might start by obsessing over reviews or testimonials as a way to measure the type of satisfaction that leads to more referrals as opposed to simply keeping score of referrals received.

I find it helpful to think in terms of four distinct dashboards. One for marketing, sales, finance, and customer satisfaction.

Marketing – Your marketing dashboard is the place to track the channels you are currently using. You might even consider specific dashboards for more active channels to track your various experiments and test projects. Typical marketing dashboard metrics include:

  • Email
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Advertising
  • Referrals
  • Lifetime value of a customer
  • Value of a lead

Sales – Your sales dashboard is how you keep track of your sales pipeline elements of the marketing hourglass. You might also add specific conversion metrics discussed in the previous lesson. Typical sales dashboard metrics include:

  • Leads
  • Pipeline
  • Trials
  • New customers
  • Sales cycle

Finance – Your finance dashboard is where you keep track of the money elements of the business. Most businesses use historical data in financial reports, but keeping up on trends is a great way to get some insight into the health of the business. For example, if your customers start to trend towards late payments, you might have an issue with sales or service. Typical finance dashboard elements include:

  • Revenue
  • Cash flow
  • Expenses
  • Profit
  • Budget vs. actual
  • Cost to acquire a customer
  • Accounts receivable aging

Customer satisfaction – Your customer satisfaction dashboard is where you keeps tabs on how happy customers are. Sometimes you have to dig for things that will give you this kind of data, but there’s a sure relationship between complaints going up or down or referrals going up or down that can tell you where you need to put some emphasis. If you measure something like response time, you have the ability to laser in and find ways to improve it. If you don’t, you’ll never have the data you need to know where to focus. Typical customer satisfaction metrics include:

  • Complaints
  • Support tickets
  • Response time
  • Reviews
  • Testimonials

Tools

The following tools are nice options for creating tracking dashboards and making them available to key staff members or advisors. Most also allow you to create customer elements unique to your business by using Google Sheets spreadsheets.

Action Items:

  • Determine the metrics you need for each of your four dashboards
  • Create a spreadsheet or adopt a tool to compile this data
  • Create a process for keeping your data fresh

 

05 Apr 18:07

The one thing that makes recycling plastic work is falling apart

by Sarah Kramer

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As oil prices plummet, a surprising piece of the economy is taking a huge hit: the market for recycled plastic.

Plastics, after all, are made from petroleum — so as the price of oil drops, so does the cost of making new plastic bottles and other products.

In fact, as Marketplace reported in September, making new plastic has become less expensive than the recycling process, since cleaning and preparing used plastics takes a lot of water, energy, and effort.

The New York times also reports that Waste Management — the country's largest waste hauler — even shut down 20 facilities in 2014 and 2015, due in part to decreased demand and shrinking profit margins.

There are other factors that contributed to the decreasing value of recycling.

Early recycling programs had smaller bins, for example, and required consumers to sort their waste according to type. Now that single-stream recycling — that is, the big blue bin where you toss all your recyclables — is widespread in the US, tons of stuff that can't be recycled gets tossed in with the things that should be by well-meaning recyclers.

This makes the sorting and cleaning process even more labor-intensive and costly.

Recycling

What's more, freshly produced plastics are more appealing to manufacturers than the recycled stuff because the chemical composition is easier to nail down — improperly mixed plastics can have issues, like rapid degradation or more limited uses.

It pretty much all boils down to this: The reason manufacturers liked buying recycled plastic was because it used to be cheaper than new, so-called "virgin plastic." Now that it's not, the US market has all but dried up.

That doesn't mean we should stop recycling plastic, though.

For one, low oil prices won't last forever. They could get a lot higher if the price tag on petroleum products adjusts to reflect their actual costs — without heavy government subsidies. And at least some the benefit is counteracting an economy based on the disposability of... well, almost everything.

Bill Nye may have said it best in an interview with Business Insider, pointing out that we should get in the habit of conserving resources, even if the economics seem not to work.

"The less we waste, the more we have," he told BI.

Also, adding new plastic products to the mix without maximizing our use of the old ones means more plastic will collect in our waterways and get eaten by or ensnare wildlife.

There are probably better strategies to approach recycling, including clearer instructions for consumers and decoupling the recycling process from the profit motive.

But for now, recyclers are seeing a glut of plastic and nowhere to put it — except a landfill.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Apple just revealed what it does with old iPhones

05 Apr 18:07

What “Test and Learn” Looks Like in Practice

by Tim Peter

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One of the core attributes of an effective digital team is a focus on creating a “test and learn” culture. And what digital marketing experts mean when talking about a “test and learn” culture is one where you put an emphasis on testing your assumptions about your marketing activities, learning from those tests, then doubling down on the areas that work; in other words, fish where the fishin’s good.

To do this successfully, of course, you need data. And it can seem complicated to understand what data is most critical to your business. But there are really only a small handful of questions you need to answer, that you must have the data for, to ensure you’re well positioned to effectively test your digital marketing activities and learn from those tests.

So what is this data? I’m glad you asked.

It’s fairly straightforward to find out where to focus your efforts. First, you need to answer these five questions:

  1. What are your conversions? What are the actions you want your customers to take? Do you want them to buy on your website or mobile app? Or are you in a lead-generation business and want them to provide contact information? Each is equally valid and provides a key building block for creating a test and learn culture.
  2. How much are those conversions worth to your business? Exactly what it sounds like. If you’ve got an e-commerce site, how much is a typical transaction worth to you? If you’re using lead generation tactics, what’s a lead worth? (If you don’t know the answer to that, think about what a customer is worth, then multiply by the rate you convert leads to paying customers. If you don’t know the answer to that, start by dividing your new customers added by the number of leads generated each month.)
  3. Which pages get the most traffic? Again, pretty much what exactly what it sounds like. Which pages on your site attract the most traffic? Whether your analytics suite calls them landing pages or entry pages or what-have-you, you’re interested in finding out where prospects start their journey on your website or app.
  4. How often do customers reach your conversion page from each of your top entry points? You’ll use this data to assign an economic value to each entry page and to determine the potential value each test can deliver.
  5. What other pages send customers deeper into your purchase funnel? Most analytics tools can tell you how often any given page leads to a specific conversion action. You’ll use this data to learn which pages contribute to conversions even if they’re not top entry pages.

Armed with the answers to these five questions, you’re immediately positioned to improve your digital marketing activities.

For instance, let’s imagine you run a mid-sized enterprise software company and that one of your top entry pages leads to a conversion – in this case, submission of a lead form – 10% of the time. If we assume that each lead you convert is worth $10,000 annually to your company, each visitor to your site (or app, whatever) starting on that entry page has a potential value of $1,000 ($10,000 * 10% = $1,000). If the page gets a lot of traffic, you may want to work towards improving that 10% “micro-conversion” rate. By contrast, if the page gets very little traffic, that should lead you towards testing how to get more traffic to the page to begin with. The following graphic illustrates how to approach this for your business:

Test and learn matrix

I realize this may almost sound too good to be true. And in part, this is a simplified version of a more in-depth approach. It usually also takes some work to collect and refine the data necessary to answer each of these 5 questions for each of your top entry pages as well as the top pages leading to conversions. However the most successful marketers tend to follow the Pareto principle — that is putting most of your efforts into the areas that will get you 80% of your return. It’s not about following a complicated process; it’s about focusing on the areas with the greatest return.

Creating a test and learn culture starts and ends with data. But in the middle it depends on using that data to ask the right questions about your customer needs and generate the greatest return on your efforts. Of course, if you think I’m wrong, there’s an easy way to find out: test my theory. And learn for yourself.

05 Apr 18:07

Saudi Arabia unveils part 3 of plan to overhaul its economy: Doubling the size of its stock market

by Deema Almashabi and Glen Carey, Bloomberg News

Saudi Arabia plans to almost double the size of its stock market, among the most closed in the world, by adding dozens of companies and making it easier for foreigners to invest.

The kingdom aims to attract privately owned firms to list while privatization by the government will also boost the market, said Mohammed Al-Jadaan, chairman of the Capital Market Authority, the country’s regulator. The Tadawul All Share Index will increase to 250 companies from about 170 now and its US$380 billion market capitalization will grow to match the size of Saudi gross domestic product within seven years, he said.

The government wants to “make sure that the market becomes a real representative of the economy in terms of size,” Al-Jadaan said at the royal compound in Riyadh. The current value of listed companies stands at about 57 per cent of GDP, he said.

The ambitious plan is part of an unprecedented overhaul of the Saudi economy, the largest in the Middle East, to wean the country off oil. It’s being driven by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and was outlined in a five-hour interview with Bloomberg News last week.

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Aramco IPO

The project includes the initial public offering of a small stake in oil giant Aramco, the creation of the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and new budget measures that would raise at least an extra US$100 billion a year by 2020, more than tripling non-oil income compared with now. 

Developing the equity and debt markets by adding new listings and products is key to helping bring money into the economy. As well as broadening the stock index, the Capital Market Authority also plans to foster derivatives trading, the debt market and introduce real estate investment trusts, Al- Jadaan said.

“The market is undergoing massive reforms to facilitate inflows into the kingdom, with the Tadawul playing a great conduit for channeling foreign investment,” said Rami Sidani, who helps manage US$1.4 billion in stocks as the head of frontier investments at Schroders PLC in Dubai. “Aggressive privatization is important to help the economy diversify away from oil.”

The Tadawul Index jumped the most since March 17 on Monday, gaining 1.4 per cent. It fell 0.2 per cent on Tuesday, paring this year’s advance to 10 per cent.

No stampede

While OPEC’s biggest oil exporter is gradually removing barriers to the market, there’s hardly been a stampede. Since opening it to direct foreign investment in June, subject to strict rules, 11 overseas investors have received licenses as qualified financial institutions to trade in the market, Al- Jadaan said.

All foreign investors — including strategic partners and those using swaps — bought stocks valued at 3.2 billion riyals (US$853 million) in March, according to data on the stock exchange website. That means their ownership stood at 4.4 per cent of total market capitalization. Those with QFI licences bought about 67 million riyals.

The new model for Saudi capitalism is designed to change that.

The Capital Markets Authority is planning derivatives to have a “vibrant and sophisticated” market and rules for REITs are scheduled by the end of this year, Al-Jadaan said. There are also plans for a secondary stock exchange for small and medium-sized enterprises that will be limited to “sophisticated investors,” he said. 

“Currently, we have only the equity market as the really strong market,” he said. “We need to develop the debt side.”

Introducing derivatives would improve the efficiency of the market and allow investors to hedge risk while adding debt products would given them more choice, said Muhammad Faisal Potrik, the head of research at Riyad Capital.

“Our outlook for the market is positive for the long term based on these developments, although markets may remain volatile in the short-term on oil price movement,” he said.

Bloomberg News

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05 Apr 18:05

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins

by Tal Vinnik

Not too long ago, we showed you what really (really, really) bad B2B content marketing looks like. We thought it would only be fair to put the spotlight on the really, really bad sales content that greets prospects when they’re further down the sales cycle.

Marketing content is often the first thing a prospect sees about your organization, but as Salesforce.com points out, research shows it’s not what’s associated with closing a deal—sales content is. Not only that, but sales content created by salespeople is what seems to be closing deals, with 61% of content created by reps associated with closed deals as opposed to only 26% of marketing-created content. There could be a couple takeaways from those statistics, but whether salespeople aren’t showing people the content that marketing puts out or prospects aren’t responding to it, marketers seem to be, on the whole, lousy at creating sales content. Start by knowing the commonalities behind the worst sales content and you’ll be on your way to avoiding them to start making the best.

1. Staying All By Yourself

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 1. Staying all by yourself

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Sales rep-created content doing so well is another point in favor of sales and marketing alignment. Marketers may have legitimate qualms about salespeople creating their own content: lack of visibility into the content’s effectiveness, rogue content not meeting brand or style standards, and salespeople spending less time selling are just a few potential issues. The counterpoint? If marketers were giving them what they needed, they wouldn’t resort to spending time creating their own content.

To truly be aligned, marketing departments shouldn’t isolate themselves from the valuable feedback that sales reps, who know customers inside and out, provide. That includes:

  • What content prospects seem to want but salespeople never have
  • The types of content that prospects engage with the most
  • The content that never seems to work

And remember, salespeople can help marketers by spending almost no time on content creation.

2. Keeping It Generic

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 2. Keeping it generic

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The days when a prospect would have to wait for a salesperson to share basic and generic information like pricing, features and customer testimonials are behind us. That’s not to say that salespeople shouldn’t be at the ready with the more general, early-stage stuff––especially if they’re reaching out to a passive buyer who might not have heard of your company. But for the most part, sales content needs to be more tailored, catering to the needs and concerns of different industries and types of buyers (e.g., their role in a company).

If it’s finally time for your salespeople to step in front of prospects, marketers cannot afford to give content to salespeople that makes them sound like they’re parroting your website, which prospects have already gone through. Going 1, 2, 3 levels deeper with your sales content won’t just show your prospects your company’s value—it’ll empower the salesperson, and help them prove that they’re more than an order taker—instead, they’ll show that they’re consultants suited to take on the modern buyer.

3. Trying to Be Everything to Everyone

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 1. Trying to be everything to everyone

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On the other hand, creating content for all those industries and buyers might sound daunting. The idea, though, isn’t to quickly throw together a new presentation from scratch for every prospect (which is what some salespeople end up doing). And it’s definitely not to create some massive 80-slide presentation in the hope that 3 or 4 of those resonate.

The idea is to have the individual pieces that are too granular or proprietary to make it to your website available to salespeople. Allow them to remix those pieces so that the combination of slides, videos, PDFs, calculators, etc. feels like it was created from scratch. Presentations are set aside in favor of stories, and there’s not a single wasted or irrelevant moment that could leave any doubt as to whether your solution is for them.

4. Forgetting Stakeholders

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 4. Forgetting stakeholders

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One key difference between selling to consumers versus selling to businesses is how many cooks in the kitchen there are. While you might find that there might be two decision-makers for a large consumer product purchase, B2B skews much higher, averaging 5.4 stakeholders in a cycle.

Stakeholders within a company are going to have commonalities including industry and other solutions they’re currently using (and the challenges that come along with those), but there will be major differences too, including:

  • Department. If you’re selling software, for example, your appeal is going to be much different to IT who has to implement the software into their broader tech stack who might be concerned about device compatibility and integration than a user or administrator who’s more concerned about how easy it is to use.
  • If salespeople can’t convince someone at the lower end of the totem pole, executives who have final say may never hear about the solution. There needs to be sales content that appeals to the day-to-day in the organization as well as the big picture, 10,000 mile view from above.

As mentioned above, this doesn’t mean making whole new presentations for everything. It could mean that after meeting someone in a particular role and salespeople look to connect with the next stakeholder, they offer a slightly different collection of sales content. They can then ask the stakeholder they just met with to share with the other stakeholders (or prepare for when they meet with them).

5. Not Measuring Everything

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 5. Not measuring everything

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Yes, you saw this on the B2B content marketing sins list, but it really does bear repeating: measure everything. We talked there about how you can work backwards and use the numbers behind what content salespeople end up using and what shared collateral prospects engage with to help craft earlier content.

You can, of course, also use those sales content metrics to keep improving your (you guessed it) sales content! Create a feedback loop by paying attention to how sales and prospects are responding to marketing-provided content to constantly improve what you have, add what you don’t, and cut what you do have but shouldn’t. Once you start gathering usage by salespeople, you’ll be able to make better usage of the time that you spend with salespeople (see number 1).

6. What New Content?

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 6. What new content?

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If you’ve avoided all the sins above, you should be getting to a pretty good point with your content. Your prospects and salespeople alike should be in love with your consistent output of quality collateral—if they know that it exists.

Take the following steps to make sure that your new sales content gets seen for as long as it’s relevant to your business.

  1. Distribute content only to people who it’s relevant to. If you’re selling a variety of products and only some salespeople are responsible for those products, only give those reps content about those products. Have different content for different territories? Don’t dump every territory’s content on every salesperson’s iPad.
  2. Tag sales content with keywords that make it easy for a salesperson to find. (So, you also need to have a search function that does something with those keywords.)
  3. Alert salespeople when new content has been released or existing content has been updated. You can do this with a combination of in-app alerts for your sales enablement solution, emails when content’s been added/updated, and announcements during a sales meeting.

7. Ignoring the Channel

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 7. Ignoring the channel

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When we talk about B2B sales content, we’re talking about stepping away from the internet and going into the real world, where your salespeople are the connection between your company and prospects. It’s about avoiding repeating your website, but there’s something more.

Salespeople are…people, but they’re also a channel—like Twitter, like your website, like an ad on Google. Like any of those channels, the content that you put across all of those channels looks different. It’s all essentially your brand, but there are subtleties like character count, slightly different demographics as well as visual elements that mean you can’t flood every channel with the same content and expect it to stick.

Some sales content that they leave behind with prospects or send them as follow-up material can act like something you would put on your website (e.g., eBook about an issue they’re facing, extended case study about a similar company), while other content needs to be placed in the context of your salesperson as a channel: The content’s purpose is to support the connection between salesperson and prospect. It shouldn’t hurt that connection, but it also shouldn’t overpower it.

When your marketing-provided content underscores your salespeople’s strength as consultants and helps them carry the baton in that last mile of the sales cycle, that’s when sales reps stop spending time creating their own content and get to doing what they do best.

Want marketing to support sales better? Click below to learn how Mediafly Interactive Content is transforming sales.

mediafly interactice content

05 Apr 18:05

Generate Demand and Capture Leads: The 4 E’s of Content

by Liz Pate

four-stars-content-marketingIt’s become impossible for buyers to sift through the avalanche of marketing information being published today. Unfortunately, these buyers don’t know where to begin their search for a solution. That’s why your content marketing must stand out. It must generate demand (while aligning to your own business objectives), and it has to capture your audience’s attention.

Building an effective content marketing program isn’t easy. Especially since no two organizations or buyers are the same. That’s why it’s critical to start with the basics: Know your buyers and their pain points and know how to implement your solution in a way that works for them. Think about the KPIs you’re going to use to measure the effectiveness of your content.

Once you’ve established this foundation for your content marketing program, supplement your strategy with content based on the four E’s: engage, educate, entertain, empower.

1. Engage

Creating content that engages your audience at the top of the funnel is a non-invasive way to get their attention. Examples of engaging content include webinars and buyer insight surveys, and videos. The latter of which has seen a major influx over the last couple of years.

People appreciate when their time isn’t wasted, so it’s vital your content get to the point sooner rather than later. You can capture a lot in just a one-minute video. And you’d be surprised how much insight a five-question survey can provide. Webinars also allow your audience to engage with you by asking questions and offering comments. Surveys allow you to better understand buyer pain points and open the door for you to do a friendly follow-up (think email nurture).

2. Educate

For your prospects and buyers to believe in your brand, they have to believe you know what you’re doing. The best way to do that is to position your organization as a thought leader, and educate them by using industry benchmarks, data and customer testimonials—they need evidence.

Show them your solution is not only problem solving but also success building. Offer them insight they don’t already have so they can ask the right questions going forward. And give them examples of the success they can expect to see if they use your solutions.

Case studies are a great way to provide examples of how your solutions have worked for others. And though case studies are often used toward the end of the Buyer’s Journey, there’s no rule that says you can’t use them for demand gen. Consider offering your buyers a case study in exchange for taking a buyer insight survey or as a call-to-action at the end of a video.

3. Entertain

Beyond engaging and educating your audience, leverage the opportunity to entertain them, as well. Content in general should be valuable, and people place a high value on entertainment. Not only can entertaining content capture buyer awareness—it can keep it—because people tend to come back for more of what they love.

Our friends at HubSpot also believe in the power of entertainment. In this blog post, they discuss some of the key benefits to using entertainment as a content strategy. For example, this type of content has the ability to quickly go viral online. It also helps humanize your brand and keeps visitors coming back for more.

Visuals like infographics are great ways to implement entertaining content into your strategy. Take this superhero infographic for example; it’s packed with valuable information buyers can read in less than a minute. Not to mention, buyers are probably going to remember the superhero concept—think attention and retention.

If you’re considering infographics, keep these things in mind: accuracy, focus, design, sharing capability and credit (chances are you used information from other sources).

Video marketing is also an effective way to incorporate entertainment into your content. In fact, people who watch videos about products and services are 85 percent more likely to buy.

4. Empower

Before you develop a content marketing program, make sure the strategy and content speaks to your solution and how it empowers buyers. Don’t just try to sell your product or service. Show your buyers how it fits into their business model and how they can leverage it to drive ongoing success.

Showcase what they’re doing right so they feel optimistic about their business future. But keep in mind you want them to believe their marketing budget is necessary and being allocated to the right solutions. So give them specific examples of what needs the most improvement—again—don’t just try to sell your product.

Case studies and customer testimonials can serve as great pieces of empowering content. Because in order for buyers to trust your brand, they need to see how it empowers others to build success. You can write case studies or use videos and infographics to tell the success story. Check out these 15 examples of companies that saw ROI by implementing case studies into their content marketing.

In the End …

By developing content that engages, educates, entertains and empowers your prospects and buyers, you can generate demand and capture leads early on.

Invest your time in getting to know your buyers so you can create content that speaks to them. Stop using your content to sell and start using it to help your buyers solve their problems and build success. And make sure to measure your KPIs, so you know what works and what doesn’t.

05 Apr 18:03

How Intuit Built a Better Support System for Intrapreneurs

by Simone Ahuja
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Most companies claim to support entrepreneurial behavior — but their employees are not so sure. The research speaks volumes: Only 20% of employees in an Accenture study said their managers encourage entrepreneurial ideas. Another survey showed that 70% of successful entrepreneurs developed their big idea while working at an established organization and then left to commercialize it on their own.

According to Vijay Anand, senior vice president at Inuit, it’s not a lack of desire that blocks companies from supporting entrepreneurship; it’s just the way they are wired. According to Anand, “Large organizations are necessarily focused on running the business and managing for continuity. That’s not always a bad thing, but it seldom leaves much space for new ways of working.”

That aligns with what I’ve seen. A number of the companies I advise are still in the beginning stages of developing support systems to nurture the entrepreneurs within their walls. Organizations struggle with two things in particular. First, they have a hard time supporting the risk-taking that is so fundamental to learning, and ultimately to innovation. Second, corporate culture and structural barriers disincent intrapreneurs from “owning” their ideas (e.g., time to experiment is not protected, decisions about whether to move forward with an experiment are dictated by managers rather than those who initiate the idea).

I would argue that the key is to create an organizational design that is flexible enough to enable creativity and build momentum yet firm enough to keep intrapreneurs on track. Not surprisingly, Intuit has this one down to a science in a number of ways:

Make it easy to conduct the first experiment. When an Intuit employee steps forward with a product or business idea, they are encouraged to create a prototype to test their hypothesis — with just one customer. Not just any one customer, but one who is hypothesized to be well served by the solution. If that single customer uses the solution and recommends it to others, then the sponsor is guided to scale it up to a larger cohort of customers in order to collect more data.

One example of this approach in action is a product idea called Shop Owner, launched by an Intuit employee in Bangalore. He observed that rural-area store clerks were losing track of sales by relying on their memory to quote prices and create handwritten sales slips. Most did not have on-site computers or cash registers with integrated accounting features, but nearly all had smart phones. His simple solution: an app that bundled point of sale accounting, simple inventory management, and printed receipts. Based on that plan, he and his team not only created a prototype but also tested it — in less than a week. Their first customer? The café located within Intuit’s own Bangalore office. It was a hit. After that, the prototype was deemed good enough to scale-up for further testing and discovery.

According to Anand, this “unit of one” approach enables a great many ideas, like this one, to be tested quickly and on the cheap. In addition, collecting data using existing customers provides Intuit with insights that can be leveraged beyond the first experiment, and keeps collaboration front of mind for intrapreneurs.

Add structure to unstructured time. Like many companies, Intuit encourages employees to use a percentage of their on-the-clock time to develop relevant side projects. Yet oftentimes that mindset isn’t enough to coax people away from their everyday work. According to Intuit’s Jeff Zias, Unstructured Time and Grassroots Innovation Leader, the company needed to go further and “inject some structure into that unstructured time.”

One way it achieves this is through periodic multiday hackathons where teams of developers present pet projects and compete to tackle specific challenges aligned with the company’s broader strategy (e.g., easy, fast tax return completion) in exchange for prizes and recognition. Adding this measure of structure not only cultivates a powerful ecosystem by bringing intrapreneurs together in one place, allowing for cross-functional interaction, but also allows the organization to keep innovation aimed at themes that Intuit wants to investigate.

Support, don’t control. Another way to encourage intrapreneurs is by empowering them to make some of the big decisions on their own. At Intuit, it’s up to the individual sponsor to decide if and when to pull the plug on a project or prototype. And if they do decide to back off? They’re encouraged to keep learning and pivot to another hypothesized solution, as opposed to giving up entirely. (Intuit founder Scott Cook calls this “falling in love with the problem, not the solution.” ) Allowing individuals, not management,, to develop the data driving the decisions as to whether to cut or continue, removes the stigma from failure. And pivoting presents people with another chance to solve the problem they are passionate about while the sense of autonomy increases engagement.

Value “Return on Intelligence.” Science is a crucial component in guiding any entrepreneurial effort. Intuit looks at a number of metrics including customer satisfaction, gross margin, and net promoter score. But another metric I suggest companies consider is return on intelligence. Every idea tested with customers helps fine tune the solution – or indicate what not to do next time. Every new attempt at change delivers data about how to become better. In addition, looking at learning as a kind of currency creates a corporate culture that doesn’t fear failure. And when these insights are shared across the organization (rather than swept under the carpet), others can benefit from this learning – helping to build a corporate culture willing to test ideas and take smart risks.

Many companies now are rewarding employees for failures that leads to learning: Both Google’s lab X and at WPP’s Grey Group in New York incentivize failures that provide insight. This ethos resonates with Zias, who says, “I don’t think of it as failing. It’s more like you’ve quickly disproven your own hypothesis — which is awesome.”

Create supporting stakeholders. At Intuit, intrapreneurs are not left alone to sink or swim. The company has multiple stakeholders who support project sponsors. First, they have a number of individuals whose exclusive job is coaching and encouraging innovation (Zias is one of them). Next, the organization’s innovation catalysts are trained volunteers who spend 10% of their time guiding other employees to use design principles to create products that improve customers’ lives. Finally, managers across Intiut are expressly incentivized to recognize and support entrepreneurial behavior and experimentation.

All of this organizational support, cultural reinforcement, and bottom up encouragement for intrapreneurship is more than just interesting, it’s also instructive. The beauty of Intuit’s approach is that it puts intrapreneurs and their particular passions at the center of the equation. Yet, Intuit’s model is but one in many. The bottom line? If you build the right sandbox, intrapreneurs will dive into it: create space and structure for entrepreneurship and you will keep many of your most creative people engaged in forging the future of the company.