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16 Mar 21:21

Why I Wrote THE SCIENCE OF SELLING

by David Hoffeld

The Science of Selling is a different kind of sales book.  What makes it different?  It’s not based on my career in sales or best practices that I made up by evaluating a certain group of salespeople.  Instead, it’s based on what selling should always be focused on – buyers.  Well, more specifically what thousands of scientific studies have proven regarding how potential customers’ brains make buying decisions.

The Gap Between Science And Modern Sales Practices

It was many years ago when I first stumbled on a scientific journal that described how the brain is wired to be influenced.  As I read it, I immediately saw its application for selling.  It offered an accurate, predictable and evidence-backed way of looking at and interacting with potential customers. 

However, as I began to invest more time and money in learning scientific disciplines such as social psychology, cognitive psychology, social neuroscience and behavioral economics, I became alarmed.  The more I studied the scientific research of how the brain makes choices and which factors influence what we decide to buy, the more I realized that there is an alarming gap between this proven science and modern sales practices.  In fact, some of the most commonly taught sales behaviors blatantly contradict science.

This is a very serious concern because science discloses reality. When salespeople sell against science they are inadvertently selling in ways that will decrease their effectiveness.  And unfortunately, this is a rampant problem.  For instance, one study cited in the Harvard Business Review found that 63% of the behaviors salespeople engage in hinder their ability to earn sales.  Why?  Because these behaviors conflict with how the brain is wired to formulate buying decisions. 

Yet, the opposite is also true.  The research shows that heightened levels of sales performance are a result of how closely aligned sales behaviors are with how the brain naturally creates a buying decision.  In other words, the more your way of selling mirrors how your buyers’ brains are influenced and naturally form buying decisions, the more successful you will be. 

Now because of this science it’s no longer necessary to guess why top producers perform better than average ones.  Armed with scientific data, we now have the tools to improve any salesperson’s performance.

That’s why I wrote The Science of Selling.  It connects the dots between this cutting-edge science and the real-world sales situations you face every day to help you consistently succeed. It offers a new way of looking at and relating to buyers that is accurate, predictable, and reproducible.  In fact, it’s the only way of selling that is scientifically proven to increase your sales results.  And those who have embraced it have a dramatic advantage over their competitors. 

The post Why I Wrote THE SCIENCE OF SELLING appeared first on Hoffeld Group.

11 Oct 16:57

40 Productivity Hacks High Achievers Use

by karolaka@gmail.com (Merily Leis)

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We all have 24 hours each day, and we spend eight to 12 of them at work. But how much of that time is actually productive?

You go to the office and start working on a project. In 30 minutes, there's a team meeting. Then there's another meeting with your boss. After that, you spend 15 minutes drinking coffee and 30 minutes answering emails. In these 30 minutes, you check your phone six times as the notifications keep popping up. Next' it's time for lunch.

If you think about your days at work, hours of time is spent procrastinating.

But not the high achievers. Instead of checking their phone dozens of times per hour or worrying about the next day's tasks, they use smart productivity hacks to get them through the day. Work management software company Scoro put together an infographic with tried and tested productivity tips from high-achievers. Start using these hacks in your daily routine, and get more done while living a healthier life.

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HubSpot CRM

11 Oct 16:56

6 Satisfaction Surveys Every Company Should Send

by Jana Barrett

satisfaction surveys for companies

When you think about customer satisfaction, the first question that comes to mind is probably a broad one: How happy are your customers? It’s important to measure overall customer happiness, but customer satisfaction surveys can do much more than that when they’re tied to specific goals.

Customer loyalty is a big goal for most companies. We know customer acquisition is expensive, and new customers are far less reliable than existing customers. Since customer satisfaction is a prerequisite for customer loyalty, the way you measure and understand it can truly impact your bottom line.

Consider these statistics on customer loyalty and churn:

  • Two thirds of customers who leave a company do so because of the treatment they received. (Kissmetrics)
  • 61% of customers take their business to a competitor when they leave. (Kissmetrics)
  • Existing customers spend 67% more with a business than new customers. (Selfstartr)
  • The average repeat retail customer spends 67% more in months 31-36 of her shopping relationship than in months 0-6. (Bain & Company)

It’s clear that customer satisfaction should be a top priority. But where do you start? First, you identify the key drivers of customer satisfaction (and dissatisfaction) in your business. Specialized customer satisfaction surveys reveal customer preferences, top reasons for churn, and opportunities to improve processes company-wide.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys That Lead to Better Business

1. Customer Support Satisfaction Surveys

Customer support satisfaction surveys are the most common CSAT use case, and for good reason. 78% of customers have opted out of an intended purchase because of a bad customer service experience. Since service is key to profitability, businesses need an effective way to measure it and take action on the data.

Businesses use customer support satisfaction surveys to identify common customer issues, how they’re resolved, and how happy customers are with the resolutions. The results often reveal patterns that help organizations refine their support practices, along with other areas of the company.

TRY THIS: Use CRM surveys to tie support satisfaction results with your other customer data, like sign-up date, age, and purchase frequency. Together, the results give you a clearer picture of customer needs by demographic.

2. Product Satisfaction Surveys

Want to know what customers think of your products? What about the features or variety they’d like to see next? Product satisfaction surveys help you build smarter so you can sell more.

Customers perceive products differently than the companies producing them. Consumers might catch issues the team missed. Or customers might echo one simple request that isn’t on the roadmap. Product surveys open up that communication.

Any time there’s a significant change in the market, it’s smart to gather customer feedback to establish your brand’s competitive positioning. Remember how the launch of the iPhone (a huge market change) prompted handset makers to move away from physical keyboards and start producing multi-touch screens? Imagine how far competitors would have fallen had they not paid attention to the consumer response.

TRY THIS: Send product surveys before and after a release to examine how perception changes. Product releases are a key time to for customer feedback. It can guide product marketing and development efforts in the future.

3. Sales Satisfaction Surveys

Your sales team is responsible for securing new revenue and building brand awareness. When they connect with people, your profits grow. But interestingly enough, reports indicate that only 13% of customers believe a salesperson can actually understand their needs.

Sales satisfaction surveys and competitive loss surveys help fix the disconnect. You can pinpoint the factors that lead to won and lost deals and use that to refine the sales process. Those results also inform marketing campaigns that generate sales leads. Marketing can support the sales team with stronger collateral that responds to prospective customers’ needs.

TRY THIS: Add an open-ended question to your competitive loss survey to give people more response freedom. If someone says price was the issue, they can expand on that. Maybe their response will reveal something fixable, like confusion around your pricing structure.

4. Website and Checkout Satisfaction Surveys

Shoppers make more of their purchases online than they do in stores. That means your website and checkout processes deserve extra attention. Placing surveys on your site is a simple way to capture timely feedback.

Is the online checkout process seamless? Are payment methods convenient? How does the site perform on mobile? Are customers finding answers quickly? Questions like this help fine-tune your site for conversions.

TRY THIS: Add a web survey to your site to capture visitor info. You can learn a lot about your audience this way. Plus, web surveys catch feedback at the very moment visitors are evaluating your brand, rather than hours or days later.

5. Event Satisfaction Surveys

Event surveys are a great way to gauge brand perception before and after the big day. Whether you’re hosting an event or tabling at a conference, each interaction you have makes a public statement about your brand. That’s worth measuring.

Conference surveys tell companies more about the leads they generate and help keep your brand top-of-mind. Attendee and customer feedback from events you host can impact your planning and execution in the future.

TRY THIS: Use professional, branded surveys to send the right message. Consistency is especially important when you’re following up after a packed event. People are inundated with logos and messaging and swag, so your conference surveys have to tell them who you are quickly.

6. Overall Satisfaction Surveys

We talked about overall satisfaction at the start. Specific customer satisfaction surveys deliver feedback at critical moments throughout the customer journey, but the big picture is important too. Many companies periodically survey their entire customer base to measure customer satisfaction.

Here are a few tips for gauging overall satisfaction. (Read more on survey best practices.)

  1. Time surveys right. You don’t have to send overall satisfaction surveys all at once. Consider setting up triggers that send the survey to individual customers right after they’ve had a key experience with your company. This will likely increase survey response rates and generate better feedback.
  2. Keep surveys short. Overall customer satisfaction surveys should be anywhere from 2-5 questions. If you make them any longer, you’ll kill your completion rate and end up with unreliable data.
  3. Ask relevant questions. It’s best to stick to the basics. Don’t overcomplicate questions or ask about topics unrelated to the customer’s experience. Some safe options: How satisfied were you with the service? How friendly were our employees? Were you able to get the help you needed? Did we have the product you were looking for? How well did we answer your questions? Is there anything we could do to improve your experience?

Sending out a general customer satisfaction survey periodically is a great way to determine how well your company is connecting with its customer base. The results can then help you strengthen customer relationships.

Wrap-up

Companies rely on customers, but they’re often blind to their needs and wants. When profits take a hit, business leaders put hindsight to work, evaluating where mistakes were made. Oftentimes, those mistakes could have been avoided if companies listened a bit better.

Customer surveys help create a proactive culture. When feedback is visible at every corner of the business, departments can align on objectives that lead to better decisions for their customers. And when customer satisfaction is a priority for the entire company, each team member sees how their role impacts customer loyalty.

customer satisfaction surveys for salesforce

11 Oct 16:54

A Simple Approach to Document Your Content Marketing Strategy

by Joe Pulizzi

simple-approach-document-content-marketing-strategy

I write this fresh off a trip that took me from Cleveland to Helsinki with a brief stop in Copenhagen and then to London.

It’s been almost 10 years now since I’ve been speaking on the topic of content marketing in and around Europe.  Over that time, content marketing has become a driving force, maybe THE biggest change I’ve seen in the approach to marketing around this continent.  It is slowly evolving from a product-centric to a more audience-centered strategic approach.


#Contentmarketing is evolving from a product-centric to audience-centered strategic approach says @joepulizzi.
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And yet, just as we’ve seen in the United States, marketers in Europe tend to overcomplicate the idea of content marketing. There is still a belief that we need to be everywhere our customers are on the web.  That we need to be on all social platforms (like it or not). That we need to be distributing our stories 11 different ways every day. That we need to create viral content (don’t get me started on that one).

When I take the stage telling marketers in Finland and the United Kingdom to slow down, to choose channels carefully, possibly desert publishing on some social media sites, and to simplify their strategies, I often get pushback.

“Too simplistic,” I hear.

“My management expects us to publish on every platform,” I hear again and again.

“We need immediate results” is a common pushback.

All I can advise is that you should zig when everyone else zags.

Let your competitors waste their time and resources publishing more and more content, while you go out and build a loyal audience that will reap rewards for years to come.

Remember, more content does not mean more assets.  The asset is the audience, and the content is what gets you to the asset.


The asset is the audience … The #content is what gets you to the asset says @joepulizzi.
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A simplified approach

If you are a marketer who has a handle on your content marketing approach, this post will serve as a review.  For everyone else, you can use this to help you document a content marketing strategy that you can present to your team and continue to refine.

You need to answer the following questions as you proceed with any marketing approach, but they will be particularly helpful for a content-first approach.

Answer big-picture questions

These broad questions must be answered to start your documented strategy:

  1. What is the challenge? What business challenge (specifically) are you trying to solve?
  2. What is your dream outcome of this approach?
  3. What is the risk if you fail?
  4. Who is involved? What permission do you need from your managers to participate?
  5. How much will you spend?
  6. What if things go wrong? What is your plan if you don’t achieve your goals quickly enough, if there is a customer complaint, or if other problems arise?
  7. How long do you have to show success?

These are broad questions for a reason. They are intended to get you into the right mindset before you start to talk about any type of content creation.

Get more specific

  1. What’s the specific need to reach the objective? (e.g., create leads, have better customers, generate higher-quality leads, make direct sales)
  2. How big of an opportunity is it? Is this opportunity big enough to warrant spending your time and/or money?
  3. How will the initiative align to your business objectives? With your existing marketing?
  4. What are the risks? What sources could prevent you from achieving the goals? Which of those things can you control and minimize the likelihood of their occurrence?

Detail your audience

Now that you have a feel for the problem you are trying to solve for and the reason to create content in the first place, you can begin to focus on the persona.

  1. Who is the target audience? (only one)
  2. What content or information do they need as it pertains to this plan?
  3. How will this help your audience with their job or life in some way?
  4. Why would your audience care about this? (Do they?)
  5. What unique value proposition (UVP) do you offer this persona? What differentiating value do you bring to the table?

Develop your content

You want to highly scrutinize the content.  If the information isn’t truly differentiated, with limited competition, there is little chance you will break through and gather attention.

  1. What is the content niche you are planning to cover?
  2. What other companies provide this kind of information? Do you even have an opportunity to become a leading resource in this area? How do you find out?
  3. Can you purchase an existing external asset instead of developing a new one?
  4. Where will you find the stories in this content niche? Who in the company has the expertise to help? What internal assets and other content do you already have?
  5. What resources (staffing and otherwise) will you need?
  6. How will the stories mainly be told (audio, video, textual)? Remember, you want to focus on one key content type and one key distribution platform (a blog, a magazine, an event series, a podcast, a video series, etc.)
  7. What key design issues will make or break the program?
  8. What platform makes the most sense to distribute the content?
  9. Will this be a new content brand or woven into an existing product or company brand?

Distribute and measure

  1. How will the information be found by the audience?
  2. What current assets do you have to distribute the content? What partnerships can be leveraged? Is there paid budget available?
  3. How will you know the initiative is successful?
  4. What subscription tools will you use to capture audience information?
  5. What key assets need to be created to capture the necessary data?
  6. What other departments should you bring in to maximize impact?
  7. What technology are you missing for enabling collaboration and measurement? What are “must-haves” and what are “nice-to-haves”?
  8. What internal communication will you need to make sure the program gets and keeps buy-in?
  9. How quickly, considering the buying cycle, can you tie the initiative to sales, cost savings, or customer loyalty?
  10. What internal issues need to be worked out so you can tie the subscribers to revenue?

Create the business statement

While there are more questions to be asked, answering the above will uncover the opportunities and gaps in your overall plan.

Now, you can take this information and create a business statement, which will serve as an elevator pitch for the overall project.  Here’s an example.

Problem: The mechanical engineers (our key buyers and key leads) gathered from our traditional marketing processes often come to us very late in the buyer’s journey. Even if the sales team can break through and get a meeting, we are trying to win the business solely on price and not on value. Thus, yield has been significantly impacted over the past 12 months. It has become a significant management concern.

Solution: If we can build a loyal audience of mechanical engineers by developing an amazing awareness experience for our brand, we will be able to bypass the RFP process, increase the quality of our leads (pulling leads from our subscriber base), and earn more business without competition or product discounts.

Our own engineers are some of the smartest around designing industrial soldering equipment (ISE).  Currently, three publications cover the design/build process of ISE, but none solely focus on ISE.  We believe, if done right, we can become the leading informational resource in this area, build a loyal subscriber base of mechanical engineers who design/build in this area, and then build our lead flow from the subscriber base after a series of behaviors take place and we hit the appropriate lead score (subscribe, engage, download, attend webinar, etc.)

After reviewing all possible content avenues, we believe that a blog/e-newsletter combo would be the most appropriate. The initial plan is to create two blog posts per week (Tuesday and Thursday, with a Saturday e-newsletter) until we see a minimum of 5,000 subscribers to the e-newsletter.  Once achieved, we will increase frequency to three times per week.

The incentive to sign up for the newsletter will be a free sample template for the design/build process.  This was already developed by another department, and we have its approval to redesign and share it as an extremely valuable download.

We believe that the 5,000-subscriber mark is achievable in six months with adequate promotion leveraging our current database and partnering with outside media organizations. Considering a buying journey of six months, we believe that we’ll start to see yield impact at about the eight-month mark of the program, with the ultimate goal to increase average yield per sale by 15%. Considering the budget and resources needed for this program, we believe that with new business and the overall yield impact, the program will generate 5.5 times ROI in a 12-month period.

What you just read is the kind of one-page report you would present to your management team.  Obviously, you’ll add things like a content marketing mission statement, team structure, distribution plans and more. But in this case, the goal is only to get your strategic thoughts on paper so that you have a solid business plan and hypothesis for moving forward with this opportunity.

And remember, this plan is not set in stone … it can and should be updated regularly.

Good luck!

Want to receive daily insight to help you create and regularly update your content marketing strategy? Subscribe to the free CMI newsletter.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post A Simple Approach to Document Your Content Marketing Strategy appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

11 Oct 16:54

An Ode to the Underappreciated Spreadsheet

by Alexandra Samuel
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Spreadsheets get a raw deal. We are so dependent on tools like Excel and Google Sheets for managing budgets and P&Ls that it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing spreadsheets only as applications for managing money, or at the very least, for working with numbers.

But the structure and features of spreadsheets make them so useful for a wider range of purposes, from project planning to writing. Breaking information or text into cells helps you break your work into bite-size chunks so you can find different ways of structuring it. The ability to sort and filter cells makes it easy to find, categorize, or reorganize lists or content. And yes, it’s nice to be able to do quick calculations when you are working with numbers.

Content Creation

Spreadsheets can be useful writing tools because they can help you organize resources and ideas. Here are a few ways you can use spreadsheets in content creation.

Structure a document. When you’re putting together a major document, PowerPoint deck, or book, the hardest part is often figuring out the structure. If you have seen (or authored) a document or deck that has the structure you need, consider mapping the structure out in a spreadsheet. I once drafted a book proposal by mapping out the structure of a book I admired, using column A to capture the title of each chapter and column B for each subsection within each chapter. Then I wrote my proposal in column C, mirroring the structure of the original book.

Create an asset file. If there’s a certain type of information you need again and again — like quotes you can use in speeches, or examples for presentations and reports — a spreadsheet can be a useful way of organizing that information in a way that makes it easy to find again. For example, I created a spreadsheet of digital lifestyle anecdotes, labeled by subtype (“money,” “family,” “business,” etc.). Because I can search or sort by those subtypes, I can easily refer back to those quotes when I need a story to illustrate a speech or blog post.

Build an idea file. Jotting down new project or story ideas in a plain text file is better than nothing, but makes it hard to organize and prioritize — let alone track those ideas through to completion. I now keep all my blog post and story ideas in a Google Sheet, with columns for “subject” (the broad topic area each idea relates to), intended outlet (e.g., HBR), and status (idea, pitched, assigned, complete). While some people maintain this kind of file using a project management tool like Trello, I’ve found a spreadsheet gives me more options for customizing my setup and organizing my ideas in different ways. Since it’s a pain to open my spreadsheet every time I have a new idea, though, I also maintain an Evernote notebook titled “story ideas”; when I have an idea, I immediately add it to that notebook (one note for each idea), and this If This Then That recipe simply adds my idea to that Google Sheet as a new row.

Planning and Organizing

In a world full of purpose-built task managers and productivity tools, it can be tempting to use a different application for each aspect of productivity or information management. But spreadsheets are often more flexible and powerful than specific productivity apps, because you don’t have to install a new application for each use case — and you can tailor them to your personal requirements. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use them:

Plan a project. You don’t necessarily need a dedicated project management tool to plan a project, track milestones, or capture dependencies. I create many of my project plans in a spreadsheet, with one column for dates (with a row for each week) and a column for each team or team member. That way I can map out what each person needs to accomplish in a given week, and keep the whole project on track. I often add an additional column to estimate my own hours at each step along the way, so I know how much time to block off in my schedule for each week of the project.

Set priorities. Whether I’m looking ahead at the week, the quarter, or the year, I find that a spreadsheet is the best way of capturing all my tasks or projects, estimating the time each one requires, and then prioritizing my to-dos based on the time I actually have available. It’s easier for me to see the big picture in a spreadsheet than in a task manager, and once I decide what I am going to prioritize, I can transfer actionable items to a task manager (without clogging it up with all the stuff I won’t actually have time to tackle). You can create your own spreadsheets for each type of prioritization process, or get the spreadsheets I use as part of the new Getting the Right Work Done tool kit.

Create a directory. AppSheet is a web service that lets you create mobile apps from spreadsheets, and it’s a great way to create a flexible contact directory for your team or organization. I created a mobile app for my kids’ school by getting parents to fill in a contact form I created with Google Forms; that form populates the Google Sheet that drives the directory, so we can offer a mobile app that not only lets parents search for a specific family but also allows them to see a list of kids by homeroom — or even a map of families so we can plan carpools. You can do the same thing for your organization, or even for your own personal contact list.

Working with Data

Surprise! Yes, spreadsheets are also useful in working with data. In addition to the obvious — organizing and calculating data, and creating basic charts — here are a couple of my favorite ways to use spreadsheets when working with data.

Surface interesting data. I do most of my serious data analysis in Tableau, but when I first dig into tables to summarize survey results, I use a spreadsheet to see which segmentations yield the most-interesting variations. For example, if I have a survey where results are segmented by age, gender, ethnicity, and social media usage (my usual columns), I want to see whether any of those segments differ significantly from the overall average. So I create what I call “Brent columns” — named for Brent Peppiatt, the colleague who showed me how to set up conditional formatting for a set of columns. If the responses for a particular segment (e.g., 18-to-25-year-olds) give a response that’s more than 10% higher or lower than the average, my conditional formatting turns that cell green. It’s a great way to quickly scan hundreds of response cells to see which ones are worth zeroing in on. (Excel has a button to do this quickly, but there is an art to making it work right, showing the right ranges in the right colors to actually help you interpret your data.)

Plan your infographics. If you’re producing a set of data-driven infographics for publication, you probably won’t want to release graphics you created in a spreadsheet. (I usually rely on Tableau or Infogr.am for infographic design.) But a spreadsheet is still essential for getting your data ready for visualization, particularly if someone else will do the actual graphic design. Create a separate worksheet for each graphic you need, and put the data you will be visualizing in a simple, clear table. Then create a rough mockup of your desired design using your spreadsheet’s built-in chart creation tools. Annotate the table and mockup with a few lines at the top of each worksheet, explaining what this graphic is intended to show, and what the key point of the chart needs to be. That makes it a lot easier for a designer to get their hands on the data (as opposed to wading through a huge spreadsheet) and it makes your communications goals clear.

Getting More from Your Spreadsheets

Once you start using spreadsheets for more than just financial data, you may find it helpful to have a few different spreadsheet applications in your tool kit. I use Excel for any spreadsheet I’m working on solo, or if I need advanced filtering, conditional formatting, or chart options. I use Google Sheets when I need to share a spreadsheet with other people, when I want to connect it to other web services (like my Evernote-powered ideas file), or when I want other people to add data to it from a form (like my support request system) — or when I want to be able to access it on the go.

There are also a few spreadsheet features that many people overlook or underuse but that will make spreadsheets more useful to you.

Learning how to use filters. Showing or hiding specific cells depending on whether they contain a specific word or value makes spreadsheets a lot more useful for quickly zooming in on specific information (as in a file of quotes or examples), and can speed up the process of cleaning up a workbook so that it’s more usable (by making it easy to just show and copy the rows you care about).

Conditional formatting. Making cells change color based on their content or value can take a little more work to nail down, but it is essential for anyone who routinely works with enormous spreadsheets of data they need to scan quickly.

Cell annotation. Most spreadsheet applications allow you to annotate cells; this lets you attach comments to a specific cell so you can explain what it means (or how to use it).

Invest a little time in learning to get more from your spreadsheets, and you’ll likely find yourself where I am now: turning to my spreadsheet applications as a way of dramatically simplifying and accelerating a wide range of business tasks.

11 Oct 16:53

Keys to Effective Thought Leadership Content

by David Dodd

Illustration for 082116 Post

The Economist Group recently published a report that provides several interesting perspectives on the development, use, and effectiveness of thought leadership content. Thought leadership disrupted: New rules for the content age is based on a survey (conducted in association with Hill+Knowlton Strategies) of 1,644 global marketing and business executives that was fielded in April 2016.

Survey responses were segmented based on whether the respondents were marketers (those who plan, develop, or manage thought leadership content) or executives (those who consume thought leadership content). In this post, I’m focusing on the survey data relating to executive respondents.

To set the stage for the data, it’s important to understand how The Economist Group defined thought leadership. Here’s the definition the firm asked survey participants to read before they took the survey:

“Thought leadership is the practice of influencing a community of interest by developing information, analysis and insight that helps its audience understand its world and plan for the future. It can be delivered through any medium, and can help companies raise awareness, shift perception and increase the status of their brand.”

Obviously, this definition is fairly broad, and it gives survey respondents some room to apply their own interpretation of what constitutes thought leadership.

Executives are Becoming Selective

More than two-thirds (68%) of executive respondents said they consume thought leadership content at least weekly, and almost as many (63%) said they have increased their consumption of thought leadership content over the past 12 months. But 75% of the respondents also said they have become more selective in their content consumption over the past 12-24 months, and 82% said that the volume of thought leadership content available is what has made them more selective.

The increased selectivity on the part of executives has made it harder for marketers to create break-through thought leadership content. Surveyed executives reported that, on average, they engage with only about 25% of the thought leadership content they see every day.

What Drives the Consumption of Thought Leadership Content?

The Economist Group also asked executives to identify three factors (from a list of 15) that drive their consumption of thought leadership content. The following table shows the top five consumption drivers chosen by the surveyed executives:

Table for Blog - Drivers of Thought Leadership Content Consumption

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Makes for Good (and Bad) Thought Leadership Content?

When executives were asked what qualities made thought leadership content compelling, the most popular qualities were:

  • Innovative (40% of respondents)
  • Big picture (36%)
  • Transformative (36%)
  • Credible (35%)

When executives were asked what words they associated with poor thought leadership content, the top three choices were superficial (34% of respondents), sales-driven (31%), and biased (28%).

The Impact of Thought Leadership

The value of compelling thought leadership to sellers is abundantly clear. Seventy percent of executives said that good thought leadership content led them to consume additional content from the same source, and 72% said they are more inclined to do business with organizations that are thought leaders.

Top image courtesy of Abhijit Bhadurl via Flickr CC.

11 Oct 16:53

Emotion Sells, Even in B2B. Here’s How to Use Emotion to Win Business Buyers.

by Laura MacPherson

B2B companies almost always focus on business value when marketing or selling their products and services. After all, ROI is the holy grail for businesses—if you can prove that you can deliver strong ROI, you win the deal, right? Except it doesn’t seem to work that way.

A 2013 study by Google and CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council found that, on average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers are.

The study surveyed 3,000 purchasers of 36 B2B brands across multiple industries and compared their responses with baseline consumer data. When asked, “Do you see a real difference between suppliers and value the difference enough to pay for it?” 86% of B2B buyers said “no.”

What made B2B buyers commit to their vendors if it wasn’t a difference in business value? Personal value. The study revealed that B2B purchasers are almost 50% more likely to buy a product or service when they see personal value€ (like an opportunity for career advancement or making their jobs easier) in their business purchase decision. They are 8x more likely to pay a premium for comparable products and services when personal value is present.

Here’s a 4-step process to infuse your marketing with emotion tied to personal value.

1. Understand what your target audience values.

Different groups of people will value different things, so it’s essential that you’re targeting what will resonate with your particular market segment. The best way to understand your audience is to talk with them. Asking the following questions will give you insight.

  • What is important to you as a [title or role]?
  • What is the most challenging part of your day?
  • If you could eliminate one daily activity, what would it be?
  • What job-related issue do you worry about the most?
  • What are your one-year goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in two years?

Once you’ve interviewed a representative sample of your target audience, map out the shared needs and goals that you see overlap. These are the personal values you’ll want to focus on in your marketing.

2. Identify the language and messages that connect with your audience’s personal values.

You need to learn how your prospects and customers talk when describing the needs and goals you’ve identified. What words do they use? What’s the level of frustration or desire? You can’t learn this information by asking them—they won’t interact with you in a natural, unguarded way. You need to “eavesdrop” in their natural environment—in LinkedIn or Facebook groups, online forums, and social media conversations. Then craft your messaging using your buyers’ words and phrases.

3. Test different messaging to see what resonates.

How will you know if you’ve hit upon the right messaging? You won’t know until you test. Try different messages in your email marketing and on social media and look for what gets liked and shared the most.

4. Motivate buyers to act by digging into the pain of non-action as well as highlighting personal gains.

Once you’ve captured a buyer’s interest with your appeal to personal value, you’ve got to motivate that buyer to take action and make the purchase. You’ll always face an uphill battle because buyers worry about the risk involved in a purchase. You have to overcome that worry by showing that the pain of not taking action is greater than the pain of worry. You’ll find which pain to dig into for your specific audience in the research you did in Step 1. In your messaging, highlight the personal difficulties or emotional needs that should be solved or met, as well as future personal gains from the purchase.

We forget that B2B buying is really P2P (person to person) buying. Companies don’t buy from vendors. Purchasing agents, managers, C-suite executives, and partners buy from salespeople, company reps, and freelancers. And these people are just as influenced by emotion as consumers. The emotion is different, but it’s just as present.

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11 Oct 16:52

7 Ways to Create Share-Worthy Content

by Olivia Dello Buono

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In this week's #EmailChat, we teamed up with Express Writers, a copywriting agency known for creating epic content for their clients, to talk about the ways that modern marketers can optimize their content for maximum shareability. From getting more likes, shares and retweets to increasing email opens and clicks, read on for your five-minute guide to share-worthy content.

When creating content, aim to engage

You can't predict when or if a piece of content will go viral, but you can aim to make your content more engaging. And creating actionable, engaging content is a vital part of any marketing strategy. https://twitter.com/oliviadello/status/784064739332780033 Shareable content is – in it's most simplest terms – content that has a likelihood to be shared. MovableInk calls it content that "makes you feel something." It's how you know you're delivering a great experience to your readers. https://twitter.com/movableink/status/784063630547513344 https://twitter.com/ExpWriters/status/784064117338435584

Shareable content is not one-size-fits-all

We asked what the qualities of a share-worthy piece of content were, and we received quite the influx of tweets on the topic! Our guest, Express Writers, said, "Shareable content should provide value to your audience and speak to their interests. Give them what they're looking for!" https://twitter.com/ExpWriters/status/784065254712025089 Others stressed the importance of relevancy. https://twitter.com/movableink/status/784065314426355712 What is the goal of your content? What kind of feeling are you trying to evoke from your audience? It's important that you answer these questions as you walk through the content creation process. https://twitter.com/oliviadello/status/784065497159655424

Some are more shareable than others

The content that sees the highest engagement really depends on your audience, but we have seen some stats that suggest that multimedia content has a higher likelihood of sharing. Think eye-catching graphics, videos, and GIFs. List-style posts also do really well, as people love their quick and "snackable" format. https://twitter.com/oliviadello/status/784067049135931392

Optimize for shares

You guys couldn't stress it enough: When it comes to creating shareable content, you should make it easy for your readers to share! This means adding social sharing buttons to every post, 'Pin It' buttons on images, click-to-tweet links, etc. We loved what @PamelaHughes shared about promoting her email list: https://twitter.com/pamelahughes/status/784067998822834176 Plus, teasing your email content is a great strategy for giving people incentive to sign up for your newsletter. https://twitter.com/movableink/status/784068756536455169 https://twitter.com/missmontesa/status/784068900032024576

Add these words to your email vernacular

When's the last time you asked your followers to retweet your post? Or your email subscribers to forward your newsletter to a friend? Sometimes the most obvious answer is something that gets glossed over, but telling people to simply "share" your content can have a big impact. https://twitter.com/missmontesa/status/784069941150572544 https://twitter.com/ExpWriters/status/784070040765235201

Keep an eye on your performance

The numbers don't lie; if you're serious about optimizing your content, analyzing your data is a must. https://twitter.com/oliviadello/status/784071464031051776 Whether you're looking to increase your reach on social media or improve your open and click through rates, you need to get down and dirty with your data. Again, remember the goal and make necessary tweaks to continuously improve. https://twitter.com/ExpWriters/status/784071650857852928 https://twitter.com/missmontesa/status/784071792340135936

TL;DR: Your share-worthy content checklist

https://twitter.com/ExpWriters/status/784073469893943296 Before you hit 'send' (...or post, tweet, pin), be sure to consider the following as you review your content:
  • Emotion - How does it make your reader feel?
  • Relevance - Does this piece of content fit your niche?
  • Design - Are you using the right colors and graphics to optimize for shares?
  • Targeting - Does your content include the right words, phrases and hashtags to get your audience to interact?
https://twitter.com/movableink/status/784073567839322112 https://twitter.com/oliviadello/status/784074170896449536

Next month

Join us on Thursday, November 3 at 12pm ET for the next #EmailChat, featuring guest host AddThis. Spread the word: [bctt tweet="Save the date! @AWeber #EmailChat on Thursday, October 3 at 12pm ET featuring @AddThis. " via="no"]

The post 7 Ways to Create Share-Worthy Content appeared first on Email Marketing Tips.

11 Oct 16:52

Webcast Recap: Becoming a Sales “Triple Threat”

by Corporate Visions

webinar-becomingasalestriplethreat

Pipeline, proposals, profits—those are the three “Triple Threat” skills areas your salespeople must excel in if you want to drive growth. To create pipeline, your reps need to defeat the status quo bias and differentiate your solutions. To deliver business proposals that pass muster with executives, you need to link your business value to your prospect’s initiatives in a way that’s CXO-relevant. And to close more profitable deals, your reps must have the skills to protect your pricing and expand the size of your deals.

In this webcast, Tim Riesterer outlines each skill area, and explores how a competency-based training model can help your team articulate value in the three critical moments where you need to make an impact to win.

 

The post Webcast Recap: Becoming a Sales “Triple Threat” appeared first on Corporate Visions.

11 Oct 16:52

If What You Are Doing Was Working

by Anthony Iannarino

If your dream client could produce the results they need without your help, they’d already be producing those results.

If your competitor, the company and people serving them now, could help them produce those results, they’d have already done so.

If the financial investment your dream client was making was enough for them to be completely satisfied, that financial investment would be the right amount.

If continuing to do things the way they’ve always done was going get them where they wanted to go, you wouldn’t have found your dream client where you found them.

No doubt, you agree with these ideas. Your experience tells you that they are true. You know that if your dream client really wants what they want, they’re going to need to change, and maybe more than they think.

What’s harder to see is, however, is how much we are like our clients.

Take a Look At Yourself

If what you are doing right now was producing the results you want, you’d already be producing those results, wouldn’t you?

If your client acquisition efforts were enough to get you the clients you need, you’d have those clients. If what you are doing here isn’t getting you those clients, what do you need to change?

If the way you sell was enough to command the investment you require, you’d have no trouble acquiring that investment. If how you sell isn’t working to allow you to capture the appropriate share of the value you create, you need to change the way you sell.

If you want to be a change agent, then you first have to be able to make changes yourself. When you recognize how difficult this is for you, you’ll know why it’s so difficult for your clients.

Your potential exceeds anything you can imagine, and it’s your job to reach that potential, an impossible feat, but one worth pursuing. What do you have to change to get closer to your full potential?

The post If What You Are Doing Was Working appeared first on The Sales Blog.

11 Oct 16:51

The Career Path of a Sales Development Rep

by Matt Wesson

Sales Development Reps occupy an interesting space in most companies. They’re often viewed as “entry-level,” or even, at times, “churn-and-burn” type roles. That perception has stigmatized the SDR role for years, to the point that most of us would tend to agree that the sales development role IS entry level. However, that’s often not the case at all.

SDRs are the public face of your company, the first human interaction most customers and prospects have with your brand. They handle high-pressure situations, often at a much higher frequency than other roles. And despite popular opinion, the job is not thankless. According to Trish Bertuzzi’s 2016 report, the average base salary for an SDR is $46k, with OTE over $72k. While that’s not an earth-shattering amount, it’s certainly not “entry level,” and is substantially more than the median income for the country.

Really Understanding the SDR Role

So why the perception that an SDR role is entry-level? It’s likely because the role is often used as a stepping stone, a foot in the door to an Account Executive role (or another sales position). Many companies don’t invest in the career paths of their SDRs, which forces many to take that step forward at another company. However, this is a HUGE missed opportunity for both the sales rep and company, alike.

The ramp up time for a sales professional entering a new company can be weeks or even months, depending on the sales cycle. They have to learn a new product, a new process, and build their pipeline. For SDRs, advancing within a company vs. moving externally should be a no brainer.

But the same arguments apply from the company’s perspective, as well. Companies should try to keep their SDRs at all costs, if not only because of the time and resources they invest into educating them on both the product and process.

So if defining a logical career path for SDRs holds huge benefits for companies and reps alike — what does that career path look like? Here’s a rough outline:

Interviewing: Understand The Value

Before hiring or taking an SDR role, it’s important to recognize the value SDRs play in an organization. They serve one of the most crucial functions within the company and overcome more challenges in a day than other functions encounter in a quarter. SDRs are not plug and play C players that should be hired on a whim. They are A players that will learn and grow while delivering results for the company. Companies should hire with that mindset and future SDRs should interview with an understanding and passion for that job.

Onboarding: Be Clear On the Path Forward

The struggle between SDRs and the organizations they work for often come from misaligned expectations on exactly what the next step is and what needs to be done to achieve it. The most successful organizations I’ve seen set clear expectations on how SDRs can advance their careers to the next stage. This can take the form of pipeline contribution, appointments set, or any other metric worth tracking. The key is for both parties to be clear on a path forward. SDRs will work hard to achieve those goals, not only advancing themselves, but also advancing the sales team and the company in the process.

Executing: Learn Ferociously

One thing worth mentioning is that the aforementioned path forward is not going to be an easy one. Companies need to set the bar high for their SDRs, pushing them to learn and to grow. Likewise, SDRs need to banish any illusion that they’ll be able to sleepwalk through to their goals. Sales development is tough work, but the rewards are worthwhile.

The surest way to achieve success and advance your career is to learn constantly, and do it ferociously. While having a prospect hang up or ignore your emails can be rough, every little challenge is a learning experience that helps you hone the sales skills you’ll need in whatever role comes next. The more you learn, the better you’ll become, more doors will open to you, and the better you’ll perform at the next level.

Advancing: Understand Your Performance

Even with a clear path forward, you can’t always expect your manager to know exactly how you’re progressing toward the next step. Don’t be afraid to ask for the role you deserve. Even if you’re working in an organization that doesn’t not offer a defined career path for SDRs, you can present your case. Just make sure you do it with data in hand. While SDRs deal with people all day long, their value and performance is determined with cold hard numbers. If you’re going to ask for a promotion or new role, you better back it up with performance numbers that show you’ve earned it.

If you want to learn even more about succeeding in a Sales Development role, download our free Sales Development Playbook!

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The post The Career Path of a Sales Development Rep appeared first on SalesLoft.

11 Oct 16:50

Influencer Marketing Value

by Michelle Dziuban

The struggle was real to prove influencer marketing value. Fortunately for marketers, we have incontrovertible proof that influencer marketing delivers 11x higher returns than any other form of digital marketing. No more guesswork. No more vanity metrics. And no more doubt that social influencer marketing is the best use of your digital marketing dollar.

Influencer Marketing Value

Influencer-led campaigns generate $23 for every dollar spent — more than five times the number produced by banner ads.

Wait, what?

Yep, you read that right. $23 for every dollar spent. Cha-ching!

influencer-marketing-value

Source: Tapinfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions, “Influencer Marketing Drives 11X More ROI VS All Other Forms of Digital Media,” 2016

Young, But Vital

Influencer marketing is still relatively young, but age is just a number.

Marketers are increasingly recognizing the value of targeted influencer campaigns as opposed to highly-paid celebrity content that often turns audiences off – mainly because it seems inauthentic and forced.

Think about it this way: Do you really think that Beyonce uses a $7 bottle of foundation (i.e., celebrity endorsement)? Probably not. You’d more than likely trust a makeup YouTube star (i.e., influencer), such as Allana Davison or Abby Smith, over a spray and pray method that is celebrity endorsement.

Long Tail ROI

When you consider the availability, and return, given from media budgets at that level, influencer programs can be much more effective on a dollar-to-dollar basis. Plus, the content continues to drive value even after the spending stops. It’s evergreen.

Our friends at Carusele said it best, “Influencer content is versatile, flexible and, best of all, eternal.”

influencer-marketing-value

Source: Tapinfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions, “Influencer Marketing Drives 11X More ROI VS All Other Forms of Digital Media,” 2016

Influencer content, unlike banner ads, is truly evergreen. Rather than disappearing when a brand stops putting money behind it, a piece of influencer content remains active, attracting views and engagements from interested consumers—for free.

How Much Cash Should Marketers Dish Out?

Budgets for celebrity programs can easily run from $250,000 to $1,000,000, with much less credibility delivered at the end of the day.

Influencer marketing campaigns offer more effective programs that typically run considerably less–between $25,000 and $200,000–with multi-flight or year-long programs having potential to go much higher.

influencer-marketing-value

Source: Tapinfluence and Altimeter Group, “The Influencer Marketing Manifesto,” July 26, 2016

Now that there are metrics behind influencer marketing, what are you waiting for? It’s time to work with an innovative strategy that actually pays for itself and more (in case you forgot: $23 for every dollar spent!).

Ready to learn how much cash you need to invest to see these returns? Download our free pocket guide: Influencer Marketing – How Much Should I Spend on Influencer Marketing Campaigns?

11 Oct 16:49

What Is Social Selling? 4 Components of Successful Social Selling

by Lindsey Stemann

It’s all over the Internet: Social Selling. One of the newer buzzwords added to our business vocabulary. But what is social selling? How can the most powerful business development tool, LinkedIn, play a key role in you generating more business opportunities? How can you benchmark your progress with metrics? How is your LinkedIn presence helping or hindering your sales?

Social Selling & Its Role in Your Business

Thousands of results populate when searching for the definition of social selling. Why? The term itself is newer to our business pocket dictionary, but the truth is that selling has always been social. From networking events, to business meetings, to countless phone calls…In order to sell we must be social. We must interact with other professionals and build relationships to determine who is the right fit for our products and services. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last fifteen years, you know that the buying process has changed.

How the Buying Process Has Changed

Business is conducted virtually through online platforms at an ever-growing rapid rate. Buyers are engaged online and vetting your company throughout the entire purchasing process, even through implementation*. A study released by LinkedIn in early 2016 states that buyers are also 7.2x more connected than the typical LinkedIn member. What does that mean for you? If you are not connected with your clients and prospects, you better be, or else your competition will be.

Image Ref: “Rethink The B2B Buyer’s Journey” by LinkedIn

Also, according to Forrester Research, “90% of the buyer’s journey may be complete before a prospects reaches out to a salesperson.” This is critical. As salespeople, we cannot be content with finding one key decision maker and directing all prospecting efforts to only them. We must reach a broader buying group, which means targeting messages to scale within multiple parts of a prospective company so we can influence the final buying decision. Not to mention that there are now 5.4 people involved in the average B2B buying decision*.

With the majority of buyers saying they do not respond to cold outreach, it makes sense to hear that buyers are 5x more likely to engage with a sales professional via a warm introduction than cold outreach*. This means that knowing the people in your immediate LinkedIn network is critical if you want to utilize it as a business tool in your prospecting tool belt. The more you can authentically know those 1st level connections, the greater chance you have in asking for and receiving warm introductions.

Measure, Benchmark, Commit, Repeat

Less and less I am challenged by a potential client asking me, “What success can you guarantee me through LinkedIn?” Those who do not ask this question understand that they are going to get out of the tool what they put into it. This is not to say we cannot measure and benchmark your progress and success though. On the contrary, LinkedIn developed a score called the Social Selling Index that allows us to capture our current status, see where we need to make improvements, and then adjust as necessary.

The LinkedIn profile accounts for 25% of the SSI score and it reveals, in my opinion, the most important element of the score and your success with LinkedIn in general. I always say that I can teach you how to be the most proficient LinkedIn user, but if you do not look reasonably intelligent, no one will engage with you.

How complete is your LinkedIn profile? Is it an accurate and complete reflection of how the business community knows you offline? Have you looked at your colleagues on LinkedIn? Dedicating time to this is paramount to incorporating LinkedIn into your business prospecting.

As you continue to build and improve your LinkedIn profile, engaging with your network on a consistent and personalized basis is also critical. If you do not use LinkedIn regularly today, I recommend committing thirty minutes three times per week in your calendar to get you started.

By measuring your LinkedIn SSI score to benchmark your starting point, committing time in LinkedIn throughout the week, and repeating the process, not only will you build momentum and create a habit, but you will undoubtedly see how LinkedIn plays a key role in your social selling success.

If you are leading a team of sales people and do not give them access and training to LinkedIn, you are giving away deals to your competition.

Selling is not altogether a completely different animal than it was even just a decade ago; now, the relationships you are seeking to develop are more accessible and enhanced than ever before with tools like LinkedIn. So, what is your next move? Commit time to update your LinkedIn profile? Hire a consultant for private LinkedIn training? Delegate your company development funds to improve your team and organization’s presence and knowledge of LinkedIn?

Wherever your priority lands, take action. Start the conversation.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn by Lindsey McMillion Stemann, Principal of McMillion Consulting, LLC.

11 Oct 16:48

8 Key Elements to Killer Sales and Marketing Emails that Win

by Keenan

Email is critical to sales and marketing. We all know it, so if we want to win with email, we must create emails that not only get opened but also deliver on the objective of the email

All sales and marketing emails have an objective. We wouldn’t send them if they didn’t. In most cases, the objective is to get the recipient to take action.  We’re asking the recipient to download a document, to read an article or to give us 15 minutes of their time.

Every sales and marketing email worth anything has the objective of getting the recipient to act.

Unfortunately, the sales emails we send out aren’t very good at getting to the objective.

To improve your ability to meet your goals and create emails your customers and prospects will open and respond to, they must rank high on the following eight traits.

Subject Line

The subject line of your emails must be compelling and intriguing.  It must capture the attention of the reader immediately.  There is no room here for messing up or cutting corners. The subject line has to get your readers attention or everything else in the email is lost. Make sure the subject line is about 9-14 words or 40-50 characters and is intriguing. Make your subject line feel like a riddle, that when clicked, the riddle will be answered.

Intrigue

This is the most important part of the email. It must be intriguing. The reader must want to keep reading or engage because the email breaks their expected thought patterns about email. If your email(s) looks, feels, or appears to be just like everyone else’s they won’t break through.  Be sure to craft emails that intrigue the recipient and gets them wondering, that surprises them and gets them wanting more. (to learn more about the science of creating intrigue and writing intriguing emails, check out this free ebook here.)

The Offer

Every sales and marketing email must have an offer, no matter how small or inconspicuous. We’re trying to get the reader to take action, and the offer is what we’re giving them to take action.  Therefore the offer must be of value. It must be worth something. Take a look at your emails today. When you ask for 15 minutes of your prospects time, what are you offering for that time? Is it worth it? If you’re talking to an executive who makes 500k a year, that fifteen minutes is worth 50 dollars to them. Is what you’re asking worth 50 dollars?  To put it another way. Would then pay you 50 dollars for what your offering?  The answer is usually no.

When looking at your offer make sure it’s a good solid offer that meets the needs of your prospect or buyer. Even more important, ensure that you have an offer.

The Ask

What are you asking the reader to do?  Is it reasonable? Is it easy to execute? Is the ask clear and concise?  Can the recipient do it now, with little hassle or effort? Are you making it easy for the reader to execute your ask or have you created hurdles or unnecessary process?

The key with the ask is to make sure you have one; it’s reasonable, and it’s easy to execute. Be clear what it is you’re asking the reader to do and why. The ask should be why you wrote the email in the first place, don’t mess this part up.

OverAll Value

The overall value of the email can be summed up in a simple equation. The value of your offer minus the ask (offer – ask = Value 0r O-A=V)  The greater the difference between what your email is offering and what you’re asking for, the greater probability the reader takes action and executes the action.

This equation represents the most valuable part of the email.  Unfortunately, most emails fall flat here. Little effort is focused on the overall value of the email, and therefore too many are ignored, resulting in low conversion rates. This is usually because the offer is less valuable to the prospect or buyer than the ask. When this happens the equation is upside down.

If you want your prospects and customers to take action, make sure the overall value of your email is high. It’s a simple equation: O-A=V

Length

Too long and you’ll lose the reader. Too short, your message is lost or not well articulated. The key is to create an email that is the perfect length. According to Boomerang data, emails that are between 50 and 120 words get opened the most. With that said, I don’t think there is a hard and steady rule to word length. What’s most important is that the email is the right length based on the complexity of the ask and the offer.

The best way to make sure your email isn’t too long is to have someone else read it. The key, the reader doesn’t get bored or want to “stop” reading.  Don’t make your emails too long. Get to the point quickly.

Relevance

How relevant is the email to the recipient. Make sure you’re sending the right email to the right person. Make sure the message and format are appropriate for the recipient. Don’t be sending an email to the CIO or head of IT that lacks data, and technical specifications. Don’t send an email to the CFO or CEO that doesn’t address business issues and money.  It’s important to make sure your email is targeted to the recipient and relevant to their needs and responsibilities.

Readability

How easy is your email to read? Is it grammatically correct? Is the sentence structure clean? Does it flow well? What it is the tone? At the end of the day, emails are communication. Therefore, it’s critical to make sure you’re communicating in a way that connects with the reader.  Make sure the email is written in a way that the tone is light, humorous, or engaging. It needs to connect with the reader. Don’t let run on sentences or poor grammar undermine a great email.

Make your emails conversational and engaging; people want to feel there is a person on the other side of the screen.

 

Being successful with emails is hard, it takes work, but it’s not impossible. Like most things, emails have a success formula and by adhering to the above you drastically increase your chances of creating emails that your prospects and buyers respond to.

Imagine, emails that our prospects and buyers engage with that has a nice ring to it.

If you’re interested in how good your emails are, feel free to download our free email scorecard.  Rate your emails across these eight elements and see how strong your emails are.

email_response_probability_scorecard_160

Download here.

The post 8 Key Elements to Killer Sales and Marketing Emails that Win appeared first on A Sales Guy.

11 Oct 16:48

3 Simple Sales Funnel Hacks for Your Business

by Chitraparna Sinha

The journey from customer awareness to customer action in a linear fashion is a sales funnel.

Sometimes the sales funnel is regarded as a ‘grinder’, and it initiates with the idea of attracting a large number of prospective customers and end with a smaller number of actual buyers.

Sales funnel are complicated creations, defined by the complexity of the product and intended consumer action.

Are sales funnel really necessary? The Mintel report states that an average of 69% consumers search online before deciding and the average increases to a whopping 81% for the 18 to 34 age group. It’s a known fact that people search online before buying and the above stats, among others, confirms this.

Do you use a sales funnel? If yes, how are they performing? If no, read this beginner’s guide to create a funnel. In this article, I will list some sales funnel hacks to help you improve their performance. I won’t talk about creating a funnel; these are sales maximization hacks.

3 Implement Worthy Funnel Hacks for Your Business

Here they are:

#1 Strip Away Technology

Seems weird? How can removing technology from our sales analytics help in increasing response? Let me show you.

Since marketing is always about bringing and converting the traffic, there are specific data analytics tools and resources employed by successful sales funnel business users. What are they?

Often, we build sales funnels by reverse engineering our competitor websites. Spying on their attractive headlines, use of colors, copy-writing, image placements and others gives you an idea of what to focus on, right? But, this is just 30% of what you see, the remaining 70% is more important.

How to unveil this 70%?

You need two tools: Ghostery and BuiltWith Technology Provider – both are Google Chrome add-ons.

Install Ghostery and visit any of the competitors’ sales funnel. It will present a list of pixels, web bugs, trackers, web page beacons and other trackers placed by hundreds of other companies, scanning and creating data from the sale page visitors. It’s a completely free way of understanding the programs used by competing businesses.

Next, with the BuiltWith add-on, you can see what a website is built with and if you’re clever enough, reverse engineering the same for your own business won’t be tough.

Ghostery

With both these tools, you’ll be able to come across the competitors’ hidden arsenal of tools and strategies – are they using re-marketing, what plugins are used, which platforms (Facebook, Instagram etc.) are they on, what conversion tracking software do they use…and so on!

Based on these detailed data points, go back to your own sales funnel and analyse the strong and weak points. Strengthen the weak points – it should be your top priority.

#2 Buy Your Competitor Products

Seems stupid? It’s not. The best way to understand a working sales funnel is to go through it. Purchase competitor products and understand their funnel. Screenshot everything in the process.

This is crucial to understanding the complete anatomy of what’s going on behind closed doors! Buy everything – the up sells, down sells, cross sells….and anything in between.

Competitor Funnels

The competitor isn’t foolish to spend thousands of dollars into buying traffic and social media promotions. The competitor is sure that their sales funnel will convert, and you need this intel.

#3 Improve Lead Response Time

The volume of sales increase with a fast lead response time. Generating a lead from the sales funnel isn’t enough. Communicating with the prospect with a less time interval is essential. Inside Sales report states that 35% to 50% of the sales go to the vendor that responds first, and the average lead response time is over 5 minutes, which decreases the potential to turn the lead into a paying customer.

Obviously, your team can’t remain in working mode 24 hours a day. Therefore, use these hacks.

Setup an Automated Email Response

Once the lead is generated, an automated response should be immediately sent thanking for the inquiry and an update on when a team member will revert to the lead requests.

Share Demo Link

If your product / service offers a demo, ensure that in the first communication with the lead, the demo link is shared. It’s better if a team member solicits an appointment with the prospect to explain the product through the demo.

In-Product Support Chain

If the purpose is to make people sign up on the website to be a qualified lead, use software like Intercom and Capterra to communicate with the prospect instantly. If no staff is available for a specific time zone, schedule few automated messages for the prospect. Share links to the Knowledgebase or FAQ to review till someone can get in touch.

All these activities will ensure the prospect remains interested in the product / service.

Conclusion

There are more but try these sales hacks and see the funnel performance improving.

11 Oct 16:47

The Single Most Important Element for Increasing B2B Lead Gen and Sales

by Tom Pick

A spate of articles recently have expounded on the “consumerization” of all things business: the consumerization of sales, of IT, and of business-to-business (B2B) marketing most prominently. McKinsey’s David Edelman has referred to the consumerization of B2B marketing and sales as a “massive disruption” on the horizon.

While there’s no question the concept has legs, it may be more powerful from an analytical standpoint to take a step back and ask exactly what “consumerization” means in a business context: what is it precisely about consumer marketing and sales that B2B professionals are seeking to emulate?

Reduce friction to improve B2B sales

Image credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

Clearly, the suggestion isn’t that enterprise software vendors should start taking out print advertisements in Vogue magazine, or that machine tool manufacturers should invest in splashy commercials on The Golf Channel. Upon closer examination, the move toward consumerization seems to boil down to embracing one key concept long pursued by B2C brands: minimizing friction across the promotion and buying process.

In the physical world, minimizing friction is how Elon Musk’s proposed hyperloop could transport commuters at speeds approaching 600 miles per hour. Using pods inside a low-pressure tube eliminates not only the friction of rolling wheels but also that of air pressure against the vehicles.

In the consumer products world, minimizing friction explains why soup is sold in microwavable single-serving containers, and why convenience stores can thrive within blocks of the nearest supermarket, despite their much higher prices.

Arguably the ultimate in friction-free consumer commerce though is Amazon.com’s 1-Click ordering. Once a site visitor has searched for and filled their online shopping cart with desired items, competing the purchase requires literally one click: Amazon knows the customer’s preferred method of payment, credit card details, shipping address, even preferred shipping mode. Compared to the typical B2B purchase—there is no comparison.

The Amazon experience is clearly beginning to impact the world of B2B purchasing. Within the past year, nearly half of B2B buyers have purchased common business items from Amazon Supply, the web giant’s online store for business and industry, because their regular suppliers don’t offer an online purchase channel.

Business suppliers who want to survive the coming “massive disruption” will have to find ways to compete with Amazon, likely beyond price: through flexible payment options, volume discounts, deep product expertise, or value-added services perhaps. But for low-value commodity items, as other online retailers have learned, Amazon will make the landscape increasingly challenging for B2B suppliers.

Beyond online purchasing, however, friction comes in many forms. While many high-value, complex B2B products don’t lend themselves to online shopping, there are nevertheless sources of friction that vendors will seek to minimize in order to improve their competitiveness. These other sources of friction include:

Low online visibility.

With more than 90% of B2B purchases beginning with research on the Web, maximizing online presence is crucial for B2B vendors. Business buyers won’t buy from vendors who lack visibility in search and social media.

Poor responsiveness (or non-responsiveness) to questions.

More than 80% of Twitter users say they expect a same-day response to tweets aimed at brands, yet many B2B vendors fail to meet this standard. That is clearly an opportunity being missed, as 71% of buyers also say that receiving a quick brand response on social media would make them more likely to recommend that brand to others. Response time matters regardless of the communication channel (social, email, phone, etc.); responding quickly builds confidence in your company. A slow response creates friction.

Insufficient or hard-to-find information.

B2B websites need to provide different types of information based on buyer personas, specific concerns or topics of interest, and different formats (text, images, video). Each member of the buying committee will have his or her own questions and unique information needs. Friction is created when such information is missing or hard to find on the vendor website.

Limited contact information.

A “contact us” button should be one of the most prominent items on every page of a B2B website, and the contact page should include physical/mailing address, fax and phone numbers (), email address(es)(preferably multiple, by department), and social media accounts. Consider an online chat option as well (but make it visitor-initiated, not an annoying pop-up box). Reduce friction by making it as easy as possible for prospective buyers to get in touch with you, using their preferred communication method.

Automated phone answering systems.

While efficient and convenient for vendors, these are universally annoying to callers. Provide both a main contact number and department-specific phone numbers instead. A human voice on the other end of the line can be both a powerful differentiator and friction-reducer.

High perceived risk.

Vendor websites must not only provide the information that various buyers need in order to make a decision, they must also build trust. Unless your company is a “household name,” your website needs to reduce perceived risk and position your company as a safe choice by including complete contact information, certifications (such as Better Business Bureau membership), awards, customer testimonials, big-name client lists, and/or money-back guarantees.

Partial solutions.

The ability to buy a “whole product” (e.g., software, equipment, installation, and training services) from a single supplier, a.k.a. one-stop shopping, reduces friction. This is why all-in-one travel sites like Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia, TravelZoo, Travelocity are popular. When the buyer is forced to piece together a solution from multiple vendors, friction is increased. B2B suppliers can address this through building, buying or bundling approaches to create and support a whole product.

Complex implementation.

While there is no way around on-site installation for certain types of products (e.g., machine tools or conveyor systems), “products” should be delivered online whenever possible. Cloud computing, projected to grow at a 26% annual rate through 2016, is essentially delivering a server online. Software is increasingly being delivered as a service, along with integrated consulting; this model is nearly universal in the marketing automation software market, for example.

Business disruption.

The less disruption or interruption of business activities that a purchase entails, the less assistance or support needed from other departments like IT, and the less integration with other systems required, the easier a buying decision is to make. This is why software vendors are increasingly delivering their applications online, and including pre-built connectors, where required, to other popular software suites.

High initial price point.

It’s often easier to sell a customer a basic system at a low price point upfront and add options later than to sell a high-priced, fill-featured offering right out of the gate. Not only does this make price less of an issue, but also reduces risk for the buyer. Many types of subscription-based software offerings are now sold this way. Taking this idea to the ultimate “no brainer” price point—free—many vendors in categories like email services and social media monitoring employ a “freemium” pricing model where customers can sign up to use a stripped-down, low-volume service for free, then upgrade to various levels of higher usage volume, added-function fee-based services down the road.

Lack of organizational transparency.

In sales situations where vendors are unfamiliar and product differentiation is unclear or insignificant, buyers will seek broader information about the companies in order to arrive at a decision. In these situations, purchase decisions can be strongly influenced by the vendors’ level of executive participation in social media. According to recent research, 82% of buyers say they trust a company more, and 77% of buyers are more likely to buy from that company, if its CEO and senior leadership team are active in social media.

Employees not empowered to resolve issues.

When a customer or prospect has an issue, they want it resolved. They don’t care about an employee’s job description or your company’s organizational chart. When those things get in the way of solving problems, they become friction. Companies like Nordstroms, Zappos, and Southwest Airlines are known for empowering their employees to resolve customer problems, no matter what they are, precisely to eliminate this type of friction.

Mixed messages.

Friction arises when, as your grandmother may have put it, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” Prospects are unlikely to buy if they get different answers and inconsistent messages from different employees or departments within your organization. This was less of a danger in the old days when public interaction was limited to official “company spokespeople,” but social media now makes virtually every employee “client-facing.” Avoiding such confusion therefore requires strong leadership from the top, effective training, and use of internal social communication tools like Chatter or Yammer.

Complexity in use.

While many B2B products in areas like technology, communications, industrial automation, and transportation are necessarily complex, that doesn’t mean they have to be difficult to use. Good example: a modern automobile is unquestionably a complex piece of equipment, yet one can be operated by any teenager with a modicum of training. Better example: while the vast majority of us have only a rudimentary understanding at best of the inner workings of a smart phone, any moderately bright gradeschooler can use one. B2B products should be as complex as they need to be, but as simple to use as possible.

Recognizing the importance of minimizing friction, some vendors are now creating a Chief Experience Officer position to help those companies “not only develop services and products that are pleasing and useful but also curate…experiences with their people and their products to create (what they hope is) a unique brand.”

As B2B competition becomes more global and intense, products become commoditized, quality is a given, margins are squeezed, and “unique value propositions” become less unique, the overall customer experience will increasingly be what separates successful companies from column fodder. And identifying and minimizing friction, at all its potential points, optimizes the customer experience.

11 Oct 16:46

The Secret to Asking Sales Questions Assertively, Not Aggressively

by jeff@mjhoffman.com (Jeff Hoffman)

Questions are some of the most valuable tools in a salesperson’s arsenal. With a well-crafted inquiry, reps can open their prospect’s mind to a new possibility, compel them to action, discover relevant information, or secure buy-in for the next step.

But if reps ask questions aggressively, they won’t get far.

Instead, they’ll alienate prospects or even anger them -- and, unsurprisingly, angry prospects aren’t eager to talk.

The silver lining? There’s a simple test for differentiating between aggressive and assertive questions.

How to Tell an Aggressive Sales Question From an Assertive One

When attempting to determine whether a question is aggressive or assertive, length is your first clue. In general, longer questions feel more aggressive than assertive ones.

When the salesperson leads with intent or context, prospects can feel pressured to respond a certain way. Getting right to the point, on the other hand, makes prospects feel like they can answer however they’d like.

That brings me to the second indicator -- the format. Aggressive questions start with the rep’s reasoning and then segue into the actual request, like so:

“It’ll probably take less time if I speak to your HR department myself. Who should I contact?”

Compare that to a question that cuts to the chase:

“Is anyone in HR assigned to this area?”

The first variation comes across as far more pushy. The decision to speak to HR sounds like a foregone conclusion, because the rep has introduced their reasoning first. The salesperson is also taking for granted their choice is the right one for the buyer -- and that’s a dangerous assumption to make.

The second variation leaves room for the buyer to introduce an alternative (like talking to HR herself, or suggesting a different contact), enabling buyer and rep to come to a mutually agreed-upon next step.

The Formula For Assertive Sales Questions

Reps can turn an aggressive question into an assertive one by asking it in one sentence. This rule forces them to cut out all preface, leaving only the core ask.

Here’s an example:

Before:“The events team will definitely want to come to the demo so they can evaluate our offering. When would be a good time for all of us to meet?”

After:“Is there a good time for you, me, and the events team to meet for a demo?”

Of course, the salesperson should provide an explanation if their prospect requests it. Imagine that in the above scenario, the buyer says, “Wait, why should the events team attend this meeting?”

The rep might reply, “If the events team manages their mobile bookings through the tool, it would free up operations to focus more attention on assisting your team.”

With that context, the buyer can either approve the events team’s attendance, or say it’s not necessary.

There’s an added benefit to asking one-sentence questions; When reps keep their queries short, they never fall into the trap of nervous rambling. It’s easy to accidentally ask a two, three, or even four-part question -- but doing so can easily confuse or even overwhelm a prospect.

Seasoned salespeople usually find that brief, focused questions keep the conversation on track and decrease potential hesitation. While it can feel awkward or rude at first to immediately get to the heart of the question, the more reps practice this technique, the more comfortable they become.

Tips for Asking Assertive Sales Questions

1. Leave yourself out of it

Remove the singular pronouns, including “me” and “I” around things you want. The assertive salesperson asks for what they want and waits for the answer.

For example, “You know, it would be great to get another point of view on the next call. Can you invite your boss?” You’re stating the answer you want and then convincing your prospect why they should say yes.

The aggressive person says something passive like, “I’d really love to have your boss on the demo.” This is a statement dressed as a question -- and it’s the sign of a passive aggressive salesperson who’s not brave enough to ask for what they want.

2. Don’t indicate your dislike of prospect answers

Every once in a while, a prospect will respond to your question with an answer you don’t like. Avoid the temptation to indicate your dislike. If a customer says they’ll review contracts at the end of the month -- then have to push that date back due to a legal issue, don’t say, “Really. Why’s that?

This type of follow-up question expresses your displeasure at the delay and serves no purpose other than to challenge your prospect’s honesty and erode trust.

If your prospect says, “We have a two-week delay because of legal,” respond by saying, “Thanks for explaining that to me. What can you do by the date we agreed to?

You’re accepting their answer and asking if there’s anything you can collectively accomplish by the original date. If their answer is, “I’m afraid we won’t be able to meet any of our deadlines quite yet,” it’s time to move on.

3. Be conscious of your verb choice

Telling your prospect, “I’d really like to meet your boss,” is a statement, not a question -- and it’s aggressive. If you want to meet their manager, say “I’d love the chance to explain the benefits of our product to your boss. Would it be possible for us to meet?

You don’t close for access to your prospect’s manager, you close for power. The more specific your close, the more assertive you are. The more a prospect has to ask what you mean, the more aggressive you are.

If you’re following up after a competitor’s pitch, avoid saying, “I’m calling to check in.” Instead, explain “I’m calling to see how [Competitor’s] pitch was.” Keeping your request specific makes it impossible for your prospect to misunderstand or avoid answering the question.

Walking the line between assertive and aggressive takes effort -- and the way salespeople ask questions is just one aspect.

However, if you want to project confidence, involve your prospect in the decision-making process, and keep them focused, it’s always best to stick to single-sentence questions and skip the upfront explanation.

Want more from Jeff? Check out his "Your Sales MBA Blog" today. 

HubSpot Free Sales Training

11 Oct 16:46

6 Ways Engineering Firms Can Attract New Clients and Grow Existing Accounts

by Danny Wong

Many engineering firms focus most of their attention on operations, which is understandable considering the complex nature of the work. However, like any type of company, they must rely on a productive and effective sales operation in order to reliably communicate the value of their services to high-quality prospects.

Gather as many details as possible about your targeted prospects

Audience targeting is arguably even more important for engineering firms than it is for other types of businesses. Your prospects have incredibly specific needs and are trying to solve extremely detailed problems, which heightens the importance of identifying exactly whom you’re selling to and understanding what they’re looking for.

This requires a deep and robust connection between the marketing and sales functions, but it’s the surest way to demonstrate to your prospects that you have thorough knowledge of the issues they are facing. For optimal results, engineering companies should research and invest in innovative customer relationship management software solutions, which utilize advanced analytical processes by tracking numerous customer data points.

Use relevant content to drive value for your audience, even if a sale isn’t imminent

In a recent survey by Gartner, only one-third of buyers indicated that they believed salespeople effectively communicated business value. This is troubling indeed, since providing value should always be the number one priority for anyone selling anything, whether it’s a traditional product or a highly-technical professional service. Salespeople have access to a powerful tool that they employ all too rarely: content.

Content can be strategically incorporated throughout all stages of the selling process, and it can also be used to maintain communications with existing clients and contribute to future growth of the account. The one caveat to using content to drive sales is that it must always be relevant to the client’s business interests. Content is just another tool used in service of creating value for the audience, and sharing pieces that don’t follow this rule will encourage the client to ignore your communications or even potentially sever the relationship.

Be readily available for the client when things go right… and when they don’t

Many sales experts as well as buyers have indicated that they view salesperson responsiveness as one of the most important factors throughout the customer journey, and it’s prominence also follows through into the post-sale relationship. This is especially true for engineering services, as clients are managing expensive, lengthy projects that are varied in scope. When dealing with these clients, accurate and fast communication is an absolute necessity before, during, and after the job.

Emphasize KPIs that are tailored to your industry

Metrics are an integral component to the sustained success of any company, but not all indicators make sense in every situation. Engineering firms are working in a distinctly different selling environment than other product-based B2B sales organizations, and it’s important to strategically choose KPIs that reflect this fact.

For example, the sales cycle for a typical engineering firm is usually long when compared to other types of professional services and products. Prospects spend a significant amount of time researching options, and the negotiation period can be lengthy due to complex variables and regulations that must be examined. This increases the importance of effective lead generation, since spending so much effort on a prospect that isn’t a good fit can seriously impact the organization’s future. Because of this, you may want to focus on metrics that indicate the health of your lead generation effort, such as such as percentage of sales-qualified leads converted or lead profile deal size.

Pull out all the stops to nurture your relationships

Sometimes the details mean everything in the relationship between a client and a sales professional. Communication skills, responsiveness time, willingness to contribute ongoing value, and acting with respect and kindness all play crucial roles in maintaining healthy relationships with clients. Acquiring new customers is expensive for engineering firms, so it makes sense to try and provide as much value as possible for your existing customer base. These things may seem like small touches, but taken as a whole they represent your company’s dedication to nurturing a long-term business relationship.

Build trust, and then use it to everyone’s advantage

Building trust in a B2B setting often takes time, but once you have achieved it, it can yield tremendous benefits. Rely on your trusted and satisfied customers for high-quality referrals. With over 80% of buyers seeking recommendations before considering a purchase, having a trusted referral could easily be the difference between a new prospect accepting a sales call or looking at other options. Your existing clients will want to continue their fruitful relationship with you while opening up another opportunity for your firm to provide value for someone else.

11 Oct 16:45

What Percentage of Marketing Leads Should Be Accepted by Sales?

by dan.mcdade@pointclear.com (Dan McDade)

What_Percentage_of_Marketing_Leads_Should_Be_Accepted_By_Sales-.png

The biggest disconnect between marketing and sales is the hand-off of marketing qualified leads (MQL’s) to sales and the acceptance of those leads (SAL’s) by sales. Unfortunately, the baton gets dropped more frequently than it is successfully passed.

My solution to this is having a lead definition agreed upon by marketing and sales, and the establishment of a judicial branch to evaluate leads that are not accepted and passed back to marketing or dead in the funnel. You can read more about the judicial branch here

According to Terry Flaherty, Senior Research Director, Demand Creation Strategies at SiriusDecisions in this blog, “Measuring the Impact of Successful Sales Handoffs” :

“Organizations with a formal SAL stage in their lead management process generate 9.3 closed/won deals per 1,000 inquiries, while organizations without a formal SAL stage generate only 4.6 closed/won deals per 1,000 inquiries. That’s more than 100 percent higher performance for companies that have the rigor of sales acceptance in their lead management process.

While the process is in place, the acceptance rate of 42 percent is still much lower than it should be. When marketing, teleservices, and sales are aligned on lead definition, the SAL rate should be at or above 85 percent. The 42 percent rate could be an indication of either disagreement in lead definitions in these companies, or inconsistent adoption by the sales team of the SAL stage in the process. So it’s great that companies are measuring this, but there are still significant opportunities for improvement.

Another possible contributing factor to the 42 percent SAL conversion rate is the SAL stage being triggered by lead quality assessed from the first sales conversation instead of by handoff. The SAL stage is intended to provide insight on the execution of the sales handoff process, not reflect lead quality. Lead quality will be assessed against the progression of leads and opportunities to the later stages in the Revenue Stream after the successful change-in-control process handoff.”

Imagine doubling revenue by managing the handoff of MQL’s to sales through the sales accepted stage.

If you want to talk about how that can be done, by establishing an agreed upon lead definition and a judicial branch, just let me know.

 

 
11 Oct 16:45

The New Stack for Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) in an Account Based Everything (ABE) World

by Charlie Liang

Account Based Everything Market Map v4

It’s a rapidly changing landscape for sales development professionals. Prospects are becoming harder to reach. They’re “smarter” about knowing which emails are coming from an automated system, even if it looks like a SDR could’ve written it. They’re not picking up phone calls, even from numbers in their own area code. They’re not accepting any and all LinkedIn connection requests.

At the same time, quotas are getting bigger. So how do you stand out from your peers and capture precious seconds of attention from key targets at the accounts you care about most? The answer: Better technology and teamwork.

More about the technologies later, but let’s talk for one second about teamwork. Odds are, you’re not going to get a prospect to engage the first time you reach out to them, even if it’s a carefully researched, timely email. Senior executives, especially, are just too busy these days. They also consume information in a variety of ways, from talking to peers, live events, LinkedIn, Twitter, and browsing relevant websites, your key targets are on more channels than ever.

All this means that sales development organizations can’t do it alone. They need to work with marketing to laser-focus on the people they’re targeting and be in sync in terms of messaging and orchestration across all the channels.

“Senior Execs are 2.5x more likely to respond to quality multi-touch campaigns.”

— Dan McDade, CEO, PointClear

Multiple touchpoints across different channels to multiple stakeholders is a great idea in theory, but it’s much easier said than done. But finally, there’s been a tech stack developed to help with solving exactly this challenge, a tech stack we’ve mapped to illustrate exactly the tools you need to help you with each challenge and channel.

“When it comes to SDR technology, you want Iron Man, not Terminator. Technology is there to make a good salesperson better… not to take the human out of the equation.”

— Matt Amundson, VP of Sales Development & Field Marketing, Everstring

Core Sales Development Tools

Who: Data Vendors

To identify and prioritize target accounts, find accurate contact data, and maintain data quality

Example vendors: Dun & Bradstreet, Leadspace, DiscoverOrg, Email Hunter, Norbert, Datanyze…

What: Account Insight

To understand what will be relevant and resonant at each target account

Example vendors: LinkedIn, InsideView, Mattermark, DataFox, Owler…

What: Person Insight

To help research individual prospects and customers and tailor relevant messaging

Example vendors: LinkedIn, Crystal, Accompany, Triggerfox…

Where: Human Email / Sales Email

To streamline and automate creation, sending, and tracking of highly relevant emails – ideally emails that are personalized, reviewed, and sent by human to humans

Example vendors: Engagio, Outreach, SalesLoft, ToutApp, Yesware…

Where: Phone / Dialer

To increase efficiency, drive consistency, and improve quality for phone and voicemail interactions

Example vendors: InsideSales.com, FrontSpin, RingDNA, Ring.io, Velocify…

Where: Social

To interact with prospects and customers via social channels

Example vendors: LinkedIn, Twitter, rFactr, Nudge…

Where: Orchestration

To synchronize interactions that span channels (email + phone + social + demand gen) and departments (marketing, sales development, sales, and customer success) into coordinated multi-step Plays

Example vendors: Engagio

“Orchestration is the big step – the leap from old-school sales development to the new account based sales development.”

— Kristina McMillan, Sales Development Practice Leader, TOPO

Infrastructure Tools

Beyond the core Sales Development technologies, there are additional tools that are essential for any Account Based strategy.

Core: Lead to Account Matching

To match leads to the right target account, tie their activity to the right company, route them to the right owner, and get credit for the campaigns that touch them.

Example vendors: Engagio, LeanData…

Core: Account Based Analytics

To understand which accounts have the best engagement and opportunity for growth (track MQAs), optimize SDR performance, and measure which marketing investments best reach target accounts and accelerate deals.

Example vendors: Engagio, ZenIQ… (plus BrightFunnel and Bizible for attribution-based analytics)

Core: Account Planning

To map accounts, track account information, and manage account strategies.

Example vendors: Altify, Revegy, manual…

Core: CRM

To manage accounts, contacts, opportunities, and so much more…

Example vendors: Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, SugarCRM, Hubspot…

Additional Tools for Account Based Marketing

In addition to the core tools listed above, there are a variety of tools that tend to be part of a broader Account Based Marketing initiative. When taken in conjunction with the Sales tools, you have the core elements of an Account Based Everything stack.

Who: Predictive Analytics

To identify and score potential accounts based on likelihood to convert

Example vendors: 6Sense, Everstring, Infer, Lattice Engines, Mintigo, Radius…

Who: Intent & Technographics

To improve account selection with advanced data

Example vendors: Bombora, BuiltWith, Datanyze, Ghostery, HG Data…

Where: Account Advertising

To show display ads building awareness at specific accounts

Example vendors: Demandbase, Terminus, LinkedIn, Madison Logic…

Where: Website Personalization

To customize the website experience for specific accounts and industries

Example vendors: Demandbase, Evergage, Marketo, Triblio…

Where: Direct & Dimensional Mail / Physical

To send packages, hand written letters, and other items to key people at target accounts

Example vendors: PFL, Bond… (this can also be done manually with checklists, mail houses, etc.)

TOPO, one of the preeminent think tanks on sales development, breaks down the technologies sales dev orgs use by their maturity:

Sales Development Technology Maturity

When it comes to technology for Sales Development, TOPO identifies three levels of maturity.

SDR-maturity-index

TOPO SDR Maturity Index

Source: TOPO SDR Benchmarks

We agree, but we think that in order to be fully optimized, sales development and marketing need to work together on key account penetration. Thus, we’ve zoomed out to look at all the tools marketing and sales development needs in the Account Based Everything Market Map.

The Account Based Everything Market Map

Account Based Everything Market Map

Account Based Everything Market Map v4

The ABE Market Map identifies vendors across each of the core technology categories.

Also, be sure to check out the linkable ABE Market Map. Drop us a comment at the bottom – we’d love to hear your feedback!

11 Oct 16:45

Hey CEOs! Your Sales People Are Losing You Money

by Will Humphries

appointment-setting-businessman-899x600

First things first. I’ve done the math on this, and each of your sales people is losing you money – and you’re not helping them.

While closing deals is often the most emphasised part of selling, you never get this opportunity without first landing appointments.

One of the mainstays of any business is getting appointments with influential people in an organisation.

Notice I didn’t say the “right” person, or the “decision maker”, that will come with time. It is rare you can call the CEO, CIO or CFO and get an appointment on the back of a cold call.

Most businesses today have a range of people involved with any purchase, particularly those in the technology sector. Unless you are very skilled at getting in to see the “right” people, your focus should be on getting in the front door and moving up the value chain.

You have one objective and one objective only – to get your prospect at ease as quickly as possible in order to schedule an appointment with them.

Research and Prepare

Cold calling may seem like a mundane task, and often it can be. Let’s be honest here, no sales person likes making cold calls.

Sales people enjoy building relationships and essentially want to close deals. That’s what you pay them for, right!

So think about this for a moment:

Your company’s reputation is on the line each and every time someone makes a bad call.

And you’ll do well to find me a sales person who prefers making cold calling over closing deals! Check out the Pros & Cons section from this feedback from BDM’s:

Source: Feedback from Business Development Managers via Payscale.com

Source: Feedback from Business Development Managers via Payscale.com

Sales people, you must be in the right frame of mind and understand the market you are calling into.

Calling the wrong people with the wrong mindset and faulty information won’t get you appointments. If you haven’t done your research properly, you can forget about it. Savvy buyers will know you are simply looking to sell something.

Research and preparation is a necessary starting point for efficient appointment setting. You need to call on people that have a genuine need or preference for the solutions you offer and be able to demonstrate value if you are asked.

Part of your preparation should be understanding objections and ensuring you have a logical set of steps to help the prospect overcome their own objections.

Because objections are good. You should welcome them. They allow you assist the buyer down a path that can help them overcome their objection.

Look at it this way: Which of these comments would you rather hear? “I’m not sure your solution can help us reduce our lead times for project delivery” or “Sure, send me on some information”.

Research the marketplace, align your prospecting efforts with the solutions your company provides and develop a clear profile of the audience you need to go after.

If your role is in sales management, coach your reps to make calls with the intent of helping targeted prospects with a need.

As someone who has been on the receiving end of cold calls (yes, I get them too!), there is nothing worse than a sales person who is not prepared for questions.

Stop Selling!

Yes, you did read that correctly.

Salespeople have a natural inclination to want to sell a product when interacting with a potential buyer. Nobody wants to have something pushed upon them.

Instead, appointment setting calls are designed to intrigue a prospect enough to get a face-to-face meeting. Your goal is to set an appointment, not sell them something. (Or as in the case of my new friend John, a demonstration of the service.)

By calling with a genuine desire to help, it is easier for salespeople not to pressure prospects.

Don’t force the issue. Instead, reps should call with a sincere belief that they are trying to help a prospect out of a situation or predicament. This helpful tone is less likely to offend buyers or put them on guard.

Remember, your goal is to arrange a meeting so don’t lose focus of that. Don’t be shy about getting to the point and asking for some time to introduce how your company has helped similar organisations. Just make sure you have your facts & figures correct.

sales people

How Sales People Are Losing You Money

A simple but often effective way to enhance your appointment setting efficiency is to turn this role over to an outside firm. Many sales reps dread cold calling above most other tasks.

Let them focus on the selling processes they relish to close more deals and turn appointment setting over to experts in this area.

Firms that specialise in appointment setting services usually have advanced processes, highly experienced staff, and technology tools to generate high-quality appointments.

Let’s look at it logically. And for the sake of simplicity, I’ve purposefully left out the additional costs associated with having someone on your payroll.

According to Glassdoor the average Business Development Manager salary per annum is

  • Dublin is €44,875k
  • London £43,719k
  • San Francisco $97,067
  • New York $105,218.

Let’s assume that your sales person spends (a very conservative) 2 hours per day researching and cold calling for new business and prospects.

That’s 10 hours a week, which is 40 hours per month.

So over the course of a year, each of your sales people spends a minimum of 480 hours just looking for new prospects.

If we take it that they work 8 hours a day, that is 60 working days prospecting.

And if there are 20 working days in each month, you’ve just lost a whole quarter to each sales person looking for leads and not closing any sales!

To put it another way, your sales people LOSE 3 months of closing new deals because they are too busy looking for new leads, costing you a minimum of €11,250, £10,929, $24,266, or $26,304 respectively. And that is per person!

Wrap Up

We all understand that if you can’t get an appointment, you can’t make a sale.

Therefore, it follows that salespeople need to spend adequate time researching and preparing for prospecting calls.

However, in spending a lot of their time doing this “top of funnel” activity they are losing out on buyers who may be closer to making a purchasing decision.

Salespeople are damn good at what they do – sales. So recognise that, and let them do what you pay them to do. Stop tying them down by asking them to focus on areas that negatively impact your bottom line.

Not only is it costing you money to carry on with this method, you are also losing potential clients to your competitors because of it.

11 Oct 16:45

Building The New Account Based Sales Development Machine

by Jon Miller

building-the-new-account-based-sales-development-machine

In some form or another, sales development has been around for a long time. In fact, some of the world’s most famous companies (like Salesforce.com) were built on it.

The idea of breaking out a specialized sales development role from the sales department is based on unassailable logic:

  • It focuses account executives on what they do best: closing deals.
  • It professionalizes the process of opportunity creation and qualification – giving the job to people who are especially suited to it.
  • It boosts sales productivity, accelerates growth and lowers costs at the same time.

At the start, the sales development role combined both inbound opportunity qualification and outbound prospecting efforts. It was a big step and the companies that pioneered it grew at impressive rates. But it was only the beginning.

As soon as the account based model takes hold, it leads to more personalization and more human touch. Sales development is the natural place for that.

— Craig Rosenberg, Co-founder and Chief Analyst, TOPO

A simple model

Traditional sales development was not particularly sophisticated. In fact, it’s quite simple:

  • Hire hungry, ambitious young people
  • Stick them on a bank of phones
  • Give them big, broad lists of people to call (and/or inbound contacts to qualify)
  • And stand back

It was a blunt instrument, but it worked a lot better than asking account execs to waste their time hunting for opportunities.

The Two Big Developments

Today, sales development has become much more focused and dramatically more effective.

The new sales development discipline has been well evangelized by the people who pioneered it, in books such as Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler; The Sales Development Playbook by Trish Bertuzzi; and From Impossible to Inevitable, by Ross and Jason Lemkin (we highly recommend all three).

The transformation in sales development has been driven by two big developments:

1) Separating inbound from outbound

Just as sales development itself is a specialization, the new version takes it one step further: creating two teams with very different goals.

One team focuses on responding quickly and efficiently to inbound interest created by marketing (email, advertising, the web, etc.). The other focuses on creating opportunities using outbound tactics (primarily phone and email – more on this later).

Both teams are important. But both involve different skills and different tactics. A recent Bridge Group study showed that inbound/outbound role specialization resulted in a 16% increase in Pipeline Power Score (their metric for revenue generation efficiency and effectiveness).

“Sales development specialization is an accelerator on the path to repeatable and scalable pipeline.”

— Trish Bertuzzi, The Sales Development Playbook

2) Focusing the outbound team on key accounts

The split of sales development into two teams coincided with the rise of a powerful strategy: an Account Based orientation (instead of a lead-centric one).

While inbound teams are heavily weighted to smaller companies (there are just many, many more of them), outbound teams can be focused wherever they’ll make the most impact. For any company chasing big deals, the natural focus for outbound sales development teams are the top tiers of named target accounts.

And when that happens, a new kind of machine is born.

This our Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development is about the collision of outbound sales development with Account Based thinking. But for now, think of it this way: creating and training an entire team of specialists whose only job is to penetrate big, named accounts, is a very big idea indeed. Let’s track back and cover the critical context of the new sales development approach: Account Based thinking.

“If you want to go upmarket, which you absolutely must to grow, you have to go outbound. Winning large customers is much more about causing a sale, not just catching one.”

— Ken Krogue, President and Founder, InsideSales.com

The Rise of Account Based Thinking

As we detailed in The Clear & Complete Guide to Account Based Marketing, thinking of accounts instead of individual leads is hotter than a hot thing in an oven on a hot day.

The first wave of Account Based strategies were grouped under the misleading name Account Based Marketing (ABM) – probably because Sales had always thought in terms of accounts, while the idea was new for marketing (whose core processes and tools were built around leads).

Regardless of where it sat, Account Based thinking took off because it’s exactly what most B2B companies need most:

Big deals build big businesses

For most B2B companies, Customer Acquisition Costs and Lifetime Value economics are far more compelling in the enterprise market. And for many, big deals are worth 10-20 times more than the average deal size. These are company-making deals and they’re worth building a sales and marketing strategy around.

Buying teams are getting bigger

According to CEB research, the average buying team today includes 5.4 people. With increasing risk aversion, technology complexity and compliance concerns, few experts see this shrinking anytime soon.

As every sales pro knows, the bigger the team, the less likely they are to end up buying. After all, it only takes one veto to kill a sale (or one person on holiday to stop a deal in its tracks).

This risk is far higher if you’re tied to a lead-centric approach, talking to single individuals in isolation. Clearly, winning big deals today means working the entire account.

Inbound can only get you so far

As powerful as inbound marketing can be, ‘fishing with nets’ will always catch a lot more small companies than big ones (there are far more of them out there).

More importantly, inbound programs take 6-9 months to start seeing results and a full 12-24 months to start seeing significant value. For a new product or line of business, you have to start that process all over again.

Most companies simply don’t have the luxury of waiting for the lead-centric inbound model to ramp up. Outbound, account based efforts are a much faster route to revenue.

Finally, even companies that have already established their inbound machine are finding that they’re starting to reach saturation. It’s just far more crowded out there and everyone is competing against a lot more content aiming at the same audience. For many, inbound is starting to see diminishing returns.

The pioneers proved the model

Reports from the front lines of account-based programs have been astonishingly positive. Account based programs have been shown to yield the highest conversion rates and greatest revenue growth of all the programs they run. And the wider sales and marketing community has taken notice.

We don’t need to hammer home the argument here: the power of an account based approach has been accepted by virtually every progressive sales and marketing leader – and is being put into practice by every high-growth B2B company that isn’t selling exclusively to small businesses.

Once you have your tiered accounts, you can start mapping out who you should target, the actions you should take, and the channels you should use to engage in those accounts. We cover that and a whole lot more in The Clear and Complete Guide to Account Based Sales Development.

download the account based sales development playbook now

 

11 Oct 16:45

Successful Lead Generation Must Include Content and Offers

by John Rugh

Welcome back! Last week, we discussed the evolution of lead generation from a basic strategy to find potential customers to a process of engaging and nurturing relationships with them by providing the right content through the right channels. This week, let’s talk about what the ‘right content’ looks like and strategies for engaging readers and guiding them further down the sales funnel.

Generating leads, especially in the B2B space, requires content marketing and copywriting. You need to give your audience content relevant to their stage of the buying cycle. And you need to use persuasive copywriting to boost content signups and downloads.

So what’s an offer? It’s a piece of content you make available in exchange for potential leads’ email addresses and other pertinent information, with the goal of getting them to “climb onboard” your lead gen train. Or if they are already on the journey, an offer is a piece of content relevant to their stage in the buying cycle that aims to get them to take the next step. Offers include eBooks, whitepapers and case studies.

You want leads to perceive your offer to be high in value. It helps to have a track record and reputation for giving valuable, interesting content. If your lead gen process includes five pieces of content, and your leads have found value in the first four pieces, doesn’t it make sense they will readily accept piece number five?

So, make every piece of content valuable. Make it so useful readers can get a lot of value from it even if they never buy from you.

Your Title is, Arguably, the Single Most Important Part of Your Content

Done right, your content’s title will add to the perception of value. As a result, write titles with the goal of generating curiosity in your reader’s mind while also implying he or she will benefit from the content. This will increase downloads and readership. It will implant the idea in the reader’s mind that “this will be a great piece of content” before they read it. With the right title, they just might have a more enjoyable reading experience. The wrong title often means the rest of the content never gets read. So, always give your content powerful, compelling titles!

You need persuasive copywriting to help you boost content signups and downloads. Copywriting is “selling through print.” Even though your leads aren’t yet ready to speak to Sales, you still need to “sell” them on accepting your content offers and making their way through the lead generation pipeline. You do this successfully with powerful copywriting.

Selling requires momentum be built up that leads to a sale. Doesn’t it make sense that effective lead generation needs the same? That you build up momentum that “leads the lead” to the point where he is ready to talk to Sales? Copywriting is crucial to your success here.

Copywriting is a specialized skill, but you can learn it. As a marketer, you should learn the basics of copywriting. You’ll gain a better understanding of how effective your content and lead gen campaigns are likely to be.

You and your staff are busy, so you will probably want to hire a copywriting specialist to join your team, or outsource this vitally important marketing function. Having solid copywriting talent on board will make the next piece of your lead gen puzzle, landing pages, much more effective!

Landing Pages: A Lead Generation Must-Have

Where does this “selling” of your content offer happen? It may start in a PPC ad. It may start in a blog post. Or it may start in a social media update. But it needs to continue on a landing page.

The landing page is a specialized page that’s not part of your regular website topography and navigation structure. It brings your potential leads to a “moment of truth” where they must make a decision: They either accept your offer, or they don’t. Because you are prompting them to make a pivotal, potentially stress-inducing decision, you want to eliminate all distractions, including non-essential graphics. Get rid of irrelevant images. Avoid stock photos at all costs! You don’t want anything on the page, including your site’s navigation buttons and links, that is not directly related to your purpose – persuading the reader to accept your content offer.

Do use your best copywriting. Have a persuasive, attention-winning headline. Very briefly, talk about the problem your reader faces and how you can help him solve it. Include a few bullet points that highlight the benefits your offer delivers.

You are asking your reader to trust you, so give him specific reasons to trust you. Show one or two glowing, written testimonials from your happy customers. And have a strong, impossible-to-ignore call to action – more on this in a moment.

Important: Remember that at this stage, you are not selling your company’s product or service. You are using your landing page to “sell” your reader on accepting your content offer.

Confusion is the enemy of lead generation. A confused reader is unlikely to accept your offer. So, keep your message simple and crystal clear. And offer only one item per landing page.

Speaking of the call to action…

What Comes Next? A Primer on Calls to Action and Forms

If no one takes action on your offer, you won’t succeed at lead generation, plain and simple. You have to convert readers into leads. Effective calls to action will help you.

Your call to action is an essential part of building and accelerating the “Yes” momentum needed to convert readers into leads. It needs a clickable button with persuasive text. It will take readers from your landing page to the content signup form.

Part of the reason a landing page needs a simple, uncluttered design is to help ensure all the important elements, including the call-to-action button, get noticed. The call-to-action button is a lead generation linchpin. Without a good one that’s easily seen, momentum stops and so does the lead generation process.

So, make sure your readers can notice this button easily. Set it apart from the other landing page elements. Make it large and prominent. Give it a bright color. And embed the right words to help boost clicks. You won’t have much room to work with. But try to craft a brief, persuasive message that compels your reader to click. And please avoid the boring, yawn-inducing one-word phrase “Submit.”

Keep This In Mind: One of the beauties of digital marketing technology is that it enables you to test and optimize your results. So, test everything, including your landing pages’ and forms’ call-to-action buttons. Test text, color, size and placement position. Observe the results you get, and change course accordingly.

Your reader is interested in your offer. The momentum is building. He’s clicked the landing page call-to-action button and landed on your content signup form, another important piece of your lead gen machine, another linchpin with “make-or-break” potential. It can add to your lead generation momentum and success, or it can cause your results to plummet.

A key challenge of the lead gen process, especially when your landing page visitors get to your form, is friction (more work for the visitor which results in greater internal resistance to completing the process). It can hurt your signup rate. You either reduce this friction by making the form easy to navigate and complete or increase the friction by making your form more difficult.

The Right Form Length

Now this doesn’t mean you want to always make the form as easy as possible. You need to test different lengths and formats. Using a form that is more difficult to complete and requires more information may mean you wind up with leads who are more committed and more interested in what your company can do for them.

On the other hand, a short, super-simple form may mean you wind up with lots of “tire kickers” who aren’t qualified or truly interested. Obviously, you don’t want this. It’s not a happy situation that will help you make friends in Sales and win the approval of the C-Suite, right? So once again, test, measure and adapt.

Just like your landing page, your form needs a solid call to action, both button and text. Follow the same call-to-action guidelines we mentioned a moment ago. And turn the text into a benefits statement.

As you do on your landing pages, you want your forms to reduce anxiety and build trust. Show one or more customer testimonials. If you require sensitive information for the content signup and download, show security seals, a BBB rating, certifications, and so on.

Moving Forward

Understanding your audience is key to delivering the right content, and continuing to educate yourself about your readers by gathering information through forms helps in this process. The information supplied helps you make an educated decision about what to do next. Now, you have the knowledge to create the content to draw readers in and engage with them. But how do you get readers to find your content? Next week, we’ll dig into tactics to get you noticed.

11 Oct 16:45

Improving Response Time on Business Opportunity Leads

by Rosy Callejas

In B2B sales, if you’re not actively locating leads, you’re losing business. There’s no way around it: Without new leads, your business is left treading water in a market that is constantly pushing downstream. Although it’s important to retain established customers (70% of companies believe that it’s more expensive to locate a new customer than to retain one), an organization is only able to grow through the development and conversion of new leads. Therefore, lead generation should be at least as important as customer retention.

However, there’s one aspect of B2B lead generation that many organizations don’t understand: Timeliness.

It’s about Time

According to Harvard Business Review, companies that contact potential customers within an hour of receiving queries are nearly 7 times as likely to have “meaningful conversations” with key decision makers as businesses contacting prospects even an hour later. Despite this statistic, only 37% of companies respond to queries within an hour. This reactive attitude happens in part because we fall into the bad habit of viewing customers as a faceless commodity—static, waiting to be acted upon. But the reality is that customers are individuals with their own lives, expectations, and deadlines, and they’re just as interested in finding fast solutions to their problems as the rest of us. This is even more important when your customer base is made up of other businesses.

Now, think about your business. Are your representatives contacting potential leads within an hour of receiving queries? If not, can you honestly say you’re doing everything in your power to decrease your response time?

If you answered ‘no’ to either of those questions, then it may be time for a change. By streamlining your processes and focusing your team’s attention on the importance of prompt response time, you’ll be better capable of locating and retaining the business opportunity leads that are most likely to follow through to total conversion. But what can businesses do to ensure that they are responding promptly to leads?

The Origin of Leads

To answer that question, we must first understand where leads come from. The most important thing to recognize is the difference between leads and names. Names can be obtained through any number of methods (ethical or otherwise). Entire lists of names can be purchased from online sources or through other companies. Name lists deliver a high quantity of potential buyers, but there’s little to distinguish these names as qualified or interested in continuing through the sales pipeline. Names give sales representatives a place to start, but when they do so, they are forced to start from square-one. Leads, on the other hand, have more to do with quality than with quantity.

Leads are potential customers who have already begun their journey through the sales funnel before a sales representative ever becomes involved. As we’ve covered in previous blog posts, acquiring leads requires a campaign with multiple media channels and provides a personal touch to set your company apart from others. This personal touch may make all the difference when decreasing your response time.

A Personal Touch

The internet has drastically altered the way people communicate. Where once long-distance, data-heavy conversations could require significant time to reach conclusions, large quantities of information can now be sent and received in seconds. This near-instantaneous communication has made it possible for customers to connect with businesses in unprecedented and efficient ways. Still, customers would rather connect with people than businesses.

A new lead may enter your sales funnel at many points. No matter where a potential customer begins the journey towards conversion, the first encounter they have should be with a member of your sales team. This may fly in the face of the business funnel mentality that less-profitable prospects should be weeded out early on so more attention can be paid to prospects who are more likely to result in a greater ROI. Many organizations understand this, and reserve actual person-to-person communication for leads that have progressed far enough along the funnel to no longer be considered “risky.” However, limiting contact with live representatives in early stages of the sales process may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you instead ensure that every new lead has the opportunity to have specific issues addressed quickly and directly by someone who understands the process, you increase the likelihood of those leads committing to do business with you. Bear in mind that although most prospects enjoy the idea of having access to an informed representative throughout the entire process, not every prospect will need to be hand-held. Train your representatives to be available but not aggressive—just as the lack of a representative can sour a possible sale, so can the presence of someone who is trying to pressure a prospect to commit before he or she is ready.

Tools of the Trade

Given the limits most businesses face regarding manpower, time, money, and other resources, it may seem like giving every potential customer access to a living representative is impossible. Nonetheless, it’s important to respond quickly to queries as they arise. The best companies have learned how to take advantage of specific tools to help them keep track of their leads and offer them the service that they expect. When used knowledgeably, these tools reduce response time and support sales efforts throughout the sales funnel. Here are a few of the most beneficial tools that an organization may choose to invest in:

Customer relationship management (CRM)

  • CRM tools are systems designed to operate together and allow organizations to effectively and efficiently manage their business relationships, as well as keep track of all relevant data. This information is generally stored in the cloud, so it can be accessed at any time and from any place. CRM makes it possible for representatives to retrieve information at the push of a button, so that even the most obscure prospect can receive prompt, quality service (leading to a lasting relationship). Many organizations understand the importance of a CRM, as 42% of CRM users plan to increase spending in marketing automation. However, in order to make the most of what a CRM system provides, organizations need to retrieve leads from their CRM databases on a near constant basis. Retrieving leads once (or less) per day may leave certain prospects waiting much longer than an hour to receive a response.

Community cloud

  • Better communication means faster communication, so a community cloud may make all the difference. Community clouds allow prospects, customers, and employees to connect easily in order to crowdsource customer service. In essence, it makes it possible for potential leads to get the responses they need, even if those responses don’t come directly from your representatives.

Customer analytics

  • The key to providing the best possible customer experience is knowing as much as possible about interests and concerns before direct contact is made. This can be difficult, but you should be able to develop a general idea of what the prospective customer needs with page visit information, and be better prepared to provide it when the time comes.

Automated responders

  • An impersonal ‘thank you for calling’ is probably not going to impress any potential customers. That said, an automated response is better than no response at all. If you’re going to use automated responses, be sure to keep them personal and specific. An automated response that gives detailed instructions on next steps for a specific customer will allow your organization to avoid missing its narrow window of response time. Automation has impressive results when done correctly, and because of that successful companies are 67% more likely to invest in a marketing automation platform.

open
Follow-up failures

Modern communication technology makes it possible for businesses and clients to communicate at lightning speed, but only if organizations are willing to act quickly. Unfortunately, the reality is that many businesses are not only responding well past the all-important one-hour mark, but are not bothering to respond at all: The same Harvard Business Review study found that 16% of businesses responded within 24 hours, 24% took more than 24 hours to respond and 23% didn’t respond, period. Even more disturbing, a recent study performed by Dreamforce in which potential leads were submitted to various marketing-centered businesses found that as many as 40% of the organizations contacted failed to respond to the submitted lead.

Perhaps the most important takeaway for businesses is that organizations who focus all their attention on generating their own leads may find that the more valuable prospects—customers who are able to generate their own interest and willing to make the first move—are being ignored. The lead that contacts your company is worth several times the amount of the lead that your company generates.

These business opportunity leads may mean the difference between the success or failure of your organization, so give them the attention they warrant. A quick response shows potential clients just how much you value their business, and in turn they will learn to value the work you do for them.

11 Oct 16:45

5 Steps to Generate More LinkedIn Sales Leads

by Jacob Baadsgaard
jb-linkedin-sales-leads-600

Do you want more leads from LinkedIn? Wondering how others turn connections into leads? With the right approach, you can be the first person your connections think of when they need someone in your industry. In this article, you’ll discover how to turn LinkedIn connections into qualified leads. #1: Build Your Network Strategically When people first [...]

This post 5 Steps to Generate More LinkedIn Sales Leads first appeared on .
- Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

11 Oct 16:45

An 8-Step Process to Use Influencers to Elevate Your Brand

by Jodi Harris

influencer-marketing-guide-2016

Anyone who’s followed a popular celebrity on a social site like Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat can recognize the benefits of getting an influencer to share his or her passion for a brand. In terms of visibility, credibility, and impact, few content promotion techniques rival its power for persuasion.

Since 2014, when the CMI team put together its first guide to influencer marketing, the technique has become more popular, more accepted by consumers, and more profitable for brands. But these campaigns also are carried out on a more complex playing field, thanks to factors like transparency regulations, increased noise, and overall erosion of organic social media reach.

Considering just how much has changed over the last two years, we felt it was time to revisit the influencer conversation. That’s why we’ve created an updated guide — Influencer Marketing: The Latest Strategies, Templates, and Tools — with new tips, examples, and industry-leading advice to help content marketers get more value from their influencer relationships without getting overwhelmed by all the options.

We’ve broken down the process into eight distinct steps that will enable you to plan and execute an influencer program from scratch or pick up a few new tricks that will help make your existing efforts more effective. Our new guide also provides handy reference charts and downloadable templates you can customize to fit your team’s specific content marketing needs and goals.

Here’s a brief preview of some hacks and helpers you’ll find in the new guide:

Making the case for influencer marketing

Influencer marketing programs can be overwhelming, particularly when company leadership isn’t fully convinced that their teams need to devote additional time and resources to promoting the content they’ve created.

Yet, influencer marketing does more than just increase the reach of your brand content. For example, considering a Nielsen’s study that revealed 92% of people trust brand recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them), working with high-profile professionals can enhance enterprise-wide efforts to strengthen your company’s credibility and trustworthiness.


92% of people trust brand recommendations from individuals even if they don’t know them via @Nielsen.
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Not to mention that influencer programs have a strong potential to help generate better-qualified leads and increase marketing ROI. According to a Burst Media study analyzed by eMarketer, brands saw an average ROI of $6.85 for every dollar invested in influencer marketing.


Brands saw an average ROI of $6.85 for every dollar invested in #influencermarketing via @eMarketer.
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Finding and working with the right influencers

Of course, one of the most critical factors in any influencer-marketing program is your team’s ability to find the right people to work with and set the stage for a successful long-term collaboration. It also may be the most challenging part of the equation, as it involves multiple tasks, including:

  • Becoming familiar with the notable voices in your industry
  • Vetting potential partners to identify those who share your brand values and perspectives, and who will resonate with your target audience
  • Engaging top candidates and soliciting their participation
  • Negotiating specific terms, fees, and deliverables
  • Seeding, tracking, and managing their efforts on an ongoing basis

You might find it helpful to break the process down into individual steps, then use some expert-recommended techniques to further streamline your efforts. One tip that Aaron Agius has shared for approaching influencer discovery is to use keyword-based searches to uncover notable names that pop up in relation to your chosen topic. To do this, start by typing this query into a Google search field: [your industry] + “blog” (or “site”). Then, use advanced search operators to expand or narrow your results. Consider adding the top resources to your consideration list for further vetting; but bear in mind that it may be tough to get the attention of the experts at the more popular sites, as they are likely to get a lot more inquiries than those from sites that are a bit further down the list.


Use keyword-based searches to uncover influencers related to your chosen topic says @IAmAaronAgius
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Nurturing and scaling your efforts

Once you’ve put your pool of influencers in place, you will want to do everything you can to keep them interested in contributing to the success of your content over the long term. For example, rather than solely focusing on enlisting their help with distribution, you might consider proposing a creative collaboration that will benefit both parties.

Your influencer program should also be able to grow and improve as it starts to realize its potential to drive increased content success. This includes exploring additional ways to leverage the rapport you’ve built with your influencers and squeezing greater value from your existing collaborations.

For example, if your influencers are contributing posts on your blog, consider rounding up some of the top performers and turning them into a quarterly e-book series. Another option might be to create an anthology from the testimonials your influencers have posted on social media, and share it with your sales team to help with their lead-nurturing initiatives.

Analyzing and optimizing your program’s success

Even if your influencer marketing program takes off from the start, it’s important to continuously track and monitor its performance. As industry trends, influencer popularity, and consumer behaviors can shift as time goes on, having the right analytics will enable you to identify potential trouble spots and course-correct before your efforts can lose too much ground.

Not sure what signs to look for? Our guide includes a handy chart (shared below), which outlines metrics to track for some of the most common content marketing objectives, as well as additional tips and templates you can use to report your findings to key program stakeholders.

analyzing-optimizing-program-success

Click to enlarge

For a detailed walk-through of the full eight-step process — plus more than a dozen tips, tools, and stellar brand examples — download Influencer Marketing: The Latest Strategies, Templates, and Tools.

In addition to downloading the Influencer Marketing guide, subscribe to the free CMI newsletter for daily tips, trends, and more to help your content distribution and promotion.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post An 8-Step Process to Use Influencers to Elevate Your Brand appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

11 Oct 16:44

Lead, Prioritize, Win: Moving to Predictive Prioritization

by Jonathan Barreto

As B2B marketers, you’re now challenged to understand dynamic customers, increase pipeline quantity and quality, and boost campaign ROI. You might be achieving these goals by expanding the top of your funnel, allowing more inbound leads than ever before. But while having endless inbound leads may sound like a nice problem to have, it can actually be your worst nightmare.

It’s not as simple as handing good leads over to Sales because let’s face it, just because someone is active on your website, that doesn’t mean he or she is ready to buy.

Pursuing each and every inbound lead isn’t worth the time and money – you have to be selective.

Traditional scoring models don’t cut it anymore, so stop wasting time and effort on bad leads and use predictive analytics to redefine how you prioritize inbound prospects. We’ve talked about improving campaign ROI and attracting the right accounts for a campaign, and outlined a number of use cases in our predictive playbook. Now, we’ll show you how to build an action plan using predictive scoring so you can identify your best leads for Sales and provide account details that enrich sales conversations, inform better personalized messaging, and guide nurture tracks -improving the quality of leads you hand over to Sales and identifying which leads need personalized nurture tracks.

Switch From Traditional To Predictive Scoring

Scoring is a great tool for prioritizing leads so Marketing and Sales know where to invest their efforts. However, not all scoring methods give you the best results.predictive-prioritization-data-iceberg

Traditional lead scoring uses simplified models that require frequent manual updates. While that’s great for identifying bad leads, it’s not very good at identifying who is more likely to buy.

That’s where predictive scoring comes into play.

Predictive scores are far more accurate because they’re built to access large external datasets and use machine learning – making use of explicit and implicit signals you don’t have in your marketing automation (MAT).

With predictive prioritization, you can create an effective action plan, allowing sales to focus on the right opportunities and reach out to prospects most likely to buy.

Redefine Your Scoring Model

So you decided to switch to predictive prioritization. Now what?

It’s time to redefine the way Marketing and Sales work together. Plan on discussing sales bandwidth, lead volume, and lead quality, since those are important factors for Marketing and Sales success. You’ll need to revamp your nurturing programs, move away from generic lead flows, align on content plans, and identify triggers that matter most.

Marketing and sales alignment is key to maximizing conversion rates and influencing prospect purchasing decisions. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Think simple. You can always add to your scoring model later. It’s much easier than deconstructing a complex system.
  • Know your customer profiles. Both Marketing and Sales need to align on what they consider an ideal lead.
  • Understand how leads move across the Marketing and Sales funnel. For example, someone who fills out a form and downloads a whitepaper is definitely a candidate for a nurturing campaign. On the other hand, if someone requests a demo, they’re ready to go straight to Sales.

Build An Action Plan With Predictive Scores

After you align on the new scoring model, you’ll need to build out a plan and get the message across to everyone in Marketing and Sales so they know what actions to take. And with predictive scoring, those calculations are done for you.

Radius, for example, takes an explicit-first approach to predictive scoring, calculating how well-suited a prospect is for your product using firmographic data. Compare implicit scores, which show how engaged a prospect is with your company and by extension, their buying intent. You can get implicit scores from your MAT.

Once you have your scores and grades, the next step is to combine them in a scoring matrix, and then create a rating system. By combining explicit and implicit scores, it’s easy to show what action to take based on fit for your product and behavior that demonstrates engagement with your company.

predictive-prioritization-scoring-matrix

Once you put the matrix together, it’s time to describe each lead rating and create an action plan. Here are some best practices around mapping lead ratings to actions. Letters represent explicit score and numbers represent implicit score.

Action Plan Best Practices

predictive-prioritization-scoring-plan

Measure, Evaluate, and Optimize

Predictive prioritization isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it solution.

Though predictive scores adapt to changing conditions and conversion trends, you’ll still want to measure your model’s performance based on your action plan. A good way to start is by regularly collecting feedback so you can find opportunities for improvement. It’s a good idea to review every 30 days until you’re happy with the outcome. Then, create a reevaluation schedule that aligns with the length of your sales cycle.

Know your benchmarks by reviewing and measuring your conversion rates, lead quality, and lead and opportunity volume. Make sure to take note of the average deal size, and the cost of time and dollar spend for both Marketing and Sales efforts to determine if your new scoring model helps reach your goal.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What percentage of A leads are closing?
  • What percentage of B and C leads are converting from MQL to SAL?
  • What is the sales acceptance rate?
  • What are some reasons for disqualified or rejected MQLs?
  • Has the number of days in the sales cycle decreased or increased?
  • Has the average deal size increased?
  • What are the total number of MQLs per week?

Want to target the right prospects and increase campaign conversions? Download our predictive playbook to learn how you can use predictive lead scores to build and execute campaigns that move the needle.

predictive-lead-scoring-playbook

11 Oct 16:44

How to Leverage SEO for B2B Lead Generation

by Nate Dame
How to Leverage SEO for B2B Lead Generation

Author: Nate Dame

Too many marketing activities still happen in silos, and search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most isolated. While SEO and lead generation are primary drivers of new leads for most B2B organizations, these teams typically only collaborate when new content needs an SEO review (if that).

The general understanding seems to be that SEO helps the website—and all the content therein—get noticed online, which generates leads in a big-picture sense, while lead generation is a completely separate set of tasks targeted specifically at acquiring new leads.

But a changing marketplace is placing new demands on how marketers (and sales reps, and…just about every part of an organization) relate to their target audiences. Lead generation strategies are evolving to meet new expectations, but the one element still missing from most play books may be the one that could make the most dramatic improvement: SEO.

Modern SEO Strategies Need User Intent Research

Marrying SEO and lead generation strategies starts with a modern understanding of SEO—specifically a concept called “user intent.” User intent is the real meaning behind the keywords people type in a search engine text box.

There are two primary types of user intent:

  • Inform: When someone is looking to learn about a topic
  • Purchase: When someone is shopping for something described by the keyword

Discovering what your audience really means when they use your keywords is as simple as Googling them. The pages that rank highest for a keyword represent the type of content people are looking for most often when searching that particular keyword. How do we know? Because Google is heavily invested in providing the best user experience, and their algorithms are working 24/7/365 to decipher the intent behind every search term.

For example, a search for the term “email marketing” yields search results that are mostly marketing software companies trying to sell their platforms. In other words, when most people search for “email marketing,” they have a purchase intent. They want to buy software. The term “marketing automation” yields very different results. Most of the Page 1 results are definitions and basic information about the concept of marketing automation. People are looking for information.

This is valuable insight for any part of your SEO campaign. When you know users’ intentions, you can steer them to content that meets their needs. For example, based on the information above, a business selling email marketing should make sure their content includes a strong product page that targets “email marketing” and related keywords. Whereas, a business selling marketing automation, on the other hand, should focus on creating high-quality, informative content for that keyword.

Lead Generation Needs User Intent Research

Buyers and are self-educating further into the sales funnel than ever before. They are unconcerned with your carefully crafted buyer’s journey model—entering the funnel wherever they like and proceeding through it completely at their own pace.

Most marketers recognize this and are adapting their lead generation strategies to keep up with evolving trends and expectations. Many are hard at work developing engaging, helpful content. That’s an encouraging first step, but, as with any digital content, it’s important to pause and ask yourself whether it’s reaching the buyers who need it, when they need it.

Building content doesn’t mean the leads will come. While sharing your own content is important, a digital marketplace commonly turns to search engines when they’re ready to research or make a purchase. That means the content you create for every stage of the sales funnel has to be search engine optimized for the user for their unique buyer’s journey.

Buyers at the top-of-the-funnel, or the beginning of their buyers’ journeys, are looking for educational or entertaining information: definitions of key lingo, simple explanations of core industry principles, infographics, and other easily digestible media. That means the keywords that are generating those kinds of search results are the ones most likely being used by the segment of your audience that is at the top-of-the-funnel. Those are the keywords your entry-level content should be targeting.

By contrast, the keywords that generate strong purchase intent search results are likely being used by the portion of your audience that is ready (or almost ready) to buy. Those results include a lot of product pages, vendor comparisons, price sheets, etc. As you create that kind of content, target the keywords that are being used by people who are ready to make a purchase.

How to Use SEO for Lead Generation

From start to finish, here are five steps to use SEO to improve your lead generation strategies:

  1. Make a list of relevant keywords. If you’ve never done this before, you can use free tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Google Trends, and/or Keyword Tool.io. You can also start with a list of your key products and services, and terms that are important to your industry.
  2. Google them. You may want to use spreadsheets for this step to help keep everything organized. Google each of your keywords, and make a note about whether the search results primarily reflect an inform or purchase intent, and to what degree. Some will be heavily skewed, and others will be fairly balanced.
  3. Organize the results along your sales funnel. Keywords that generate a strong inform intent are most likely going to represent users at the top-of-the-funnel. Those that generate search results with a strong purchase intent are likely being used by people closer to the bottom-of-the-funnel.
  4. Optimize existing content. Review content you have already created. If some assets were developed specifically for one stage of the funnel, make sure it is using appropriate language. If a piece of content was created to target a specific keyword, make sure it is addressing the user intent behind that keyword.
  5. Create content to fill in the gaps. There will be gaps, and that is where you really get to work. If you have the wrong type of content for a particular keyword/user intent, you don’t necessarily need to remove it, but you do need to create additional content. For example, if an important keyword yields a strong inform intent in search results and all your website has is a product page for that term, you need to start building some informative content assets, such as blog posts, landing pages, and ebooks. If a keyword has a fairly balanced user intent—a few informative pages and a few product pages—it’s 100% okay to create a few (high-quality, engaging, helpful) pages based on related keywords for each user intent.

SEO and Lead Generation

The market is changing, and while most marketers are aware and are working hard to keep up, it can be difficult to stay on top of all of it. SEO itself is constantly evolving, and generating a steady flow of qualified leads is every marketer’s eternal priority. Both strategies can benefit from tearing down some silos and working together.

Start by conducting user intent research on a few of your top keywords. See if the results are what you expected, and, if not, how your company’s content meets the need. With some strategic content, properly optimized for the people who need it most, your lead generation strategy could quickly take on a whole new life.

Have you started marrying your SEO and lead generation strategies? What other tips do you have? Share them in the comments below!


How to Leverage SEO for B2B Lead Generation was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post How to Leverage SEO for B2B Lead Generation appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

11 Oct 16:44

Why Customer Experience Is the New Competitive Advantage

by Jana Barrett

customer experience is the new competitive advantage

In a modern marketplace, consumers have endless options. Low prices and smart advertising aren’t enough to win their business. It takes a personalized, customer-centric approach to build brand loyalty. That’s why customer experience is the next frontier for companies hoping to maintain a competitive edge.

Data from Gartner indicates that as many as 89% of businesses will compete mainly on customer experience by as soon as 2017. Walker backs this claim, predicting that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator for B2B by 2020.

Soon enough, businesses will be pouring resources into customer experience in order to build an early advantage. In fact, Gartner suggests that 50% of consumer product investments will be redirected to CX initiatives by next year.

To compete well, companies need a deeper understanding of customer experience. In this post, we’ll look at how customer experience fits alongside three other key concepts: customer satisfaction, customer retention, and customer engagement.

Customer Experience: The Modern Battleground for Business

Customer Satisfaction & Customer Experience

Thanks to social media, it’s now extremely easy for unhappy customers to share their stories online. In just a few clicks, a bad experience can become a brand disaster. According to Zendesk, 95% of dissatisfied customers tell people about their experiences. What’s more, 76% of consumers see customer service as the true test of how much a company values them.

A mediocre customer experience isn’t enough. The expectations of the modern consumer are rising. That’s why even the most traditional industries are shifting toward customer-centric philosophies—some by choice, some by competitive necessity.

These days, nearly every industry measures customer satisfaction. Online retailers email post-purchase surveys to customers. Service providers use CSAT surveys to monitor support and sales interactions. Doctors’ offices send patient satisfaction surveys after visits.

Along with other less tangible factors, these touch points make up the customer experience. Companies measure customer satisfaction at these key moments to tap into the customer mindset and generate customer satisfaction metrics that help guide strategy.

Customer satisfaction surveys reveal the strengths and weaknesses in the customer journey. Using the feedback they collect, companies can design an experience their customers want.

Customer Retention & Customer Experience

Customer success is one of the hottest professional fields today, particularly in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tech. Companies with subscription-based models rely on renewals, so it makes sense for them to prioritize customer retention. They need to keep customers coming back.

Churn may be enemy #1 for these subscription-model companies, but it’s hardly unique to them. Customer churn is a major profit-killer for any company that counts on repeat business. So how can companies design a customer experience that boosts retention rates? Personalized messaging is a start.

Studies show that customers want a personalized experience from the companies they buy from, so marketers are responding with personalized customer journeys that deliver relevant content to customers when they want it most. Personalization is effective because it speaks to the individual, not the masses. Rather than receiving one-size-fits-all messaging, personalized campaigns take the recipient’s interests and purchase history into account. This establishes a more profound connection between company and customer that leads to increased loyalty.

As consumers look to the web for their needs more and more, companies that provide consistent service across channels stand to profit too. In fact, Aberdeen found that companies with a social care program experienced a 7.5% year over year increase in customer retention, while those without one only saw a change of 2.9%.

Bottom line: companies have to be where their customers are in order to keep them around. When the cross-channel customer experience is seamless and personalized, the choice to stay becomes much simpler.

Customer Engagement & Customer Experience

Last but not least, customer engagement is a big component of customer experience. Engagement literally means how customers are engaging with a brand across channels (website, mobile platforms, support resources, etc.). If the experience is lacking in one place, customers are bound to be disappointed.

Consider data from WOW, which shows that 52% of customers—more than half—are less likely to engage with a company because of a bad mobile experience. Companies often have a tough time grasping this. They’re looking at the bigger picture. Our website is good enough, they might think. Small improvements won’t make a difference. But a mobile user sees a clunky, unoptimized site and forms a negative opinion fast. Even worse, that one experience could become their lasting impression.

Of course, offering a mobile-friendly experience isn’t the only way to boost customer engagement. Websites can drive customer satisfaction and efficiency by making it easy for customers to find answers themselves. CRM Magazine found that 45% of companies offering web or mobile self-service saw an increase in site traffic and a reduction in support phone calls. By helping customers solve problems on their own, these companies reduced their operational costs and provided a better overall experience.

The lesson here? Think about the channel as much as the content. Customers engage with your company on their phones, on the go, when they’re busy. As a result, their mobile experience heavily impacts their overall customer experience. Make it easy and pleasant for customers to engage with your brand, wherever they may be.

Wrap-up

Customer experience is a broad concept that we’re only just beginning to understand. What we do know is that customers expect outstanding experiences more than ever before. Every customer interaction contributes to their overall brand perception, which they’re likely to share online and offline.

Do you know how your customers feel about your products and services? For a good deal of companies, the answer is no. Online surveys help measure customer experience, turning those critical touch points into tangible data. Armed with customer feedback, companies can design a customer experience that keeps people engaged and on board.

salesforce surveys

11 Oct 16:44

7 Steps to Get Started with Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

by Tim Asimos

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a powerful B2B strategy for reaching and engaging specific, named targets in order to grow your sales pipeline. For B2B firms with high-value, low-volume deals, ABM can help align the efforts of marketing and business development, while providing more intentional support during a long and complex sales cycle.

B2B firms have greatly invested in content marketing and demand generation to generate awareness and interest, and they are reaping the rewards, which include raised profiles, thought leadership and new streams of leads. However, ABM has emerged as a complimentary strategy to assist business development teams with accelerating the sales cycle, close more deals and penetrate new markets. By allowing the marketing team to focus on the companies a firm is most interested in doing business with, ABM can make a measurable impact on business development and the bottom line.

As with any marketing strategy, an account-based marketing program requires the right approach in order to be effective. Here are 7 steps to help your firm get started with ABM.

1. Get buy-in and set goals

Every marketing initiative should start here, and ABM is no exception. Obtaining buy-in from both the C-suite and sales team is critical to the success of the program. It’s important to make the distinct connection between the objectives of the firm and the objectives of the ABM program. You’ll also want to make the case for how ABM will benefit the firm’s sales and business development efforts. An ABM program will require close alignment of marketing and sales, and necessitate ongoing collaboration and proactive support. Once buy-in has been obtained, and prior to putting a plan in place, goals and specific key performance indicators (KPIs) should be put in place.

2. Identify high-priority target accounts

An essential question to ask at the onset of an ABM strategy is who does your firm want to work with? Who are the companies (accounts) that your firm would love to land as a client? You’ll certainly want to talk to the sales team who already has some specific, known accounts that they would like to pursue. But there are others who aren’t on their radar that should be. One great way to identify new target accounts is to profile what makes up an ideal, best-fit client. Take a look at your best accounts, the ones that firm leadership would love to duplicate over and over again, and identify the characteristics that are common in an ideal client. These characteristics might include the following:

  • Organization type
  • Organization size
  • Annual revenue
  • Geographic location
  • Project volume
  • Method of procurement
  • Projected client lifetime value (CLV)
  • Strategic importance
  • Leadership/cultural fit

This becomes a checklist of sorts that will help your team better identify new target accounts that your firm should pursue with an ABM strategy.

3. Profile decision makers and influencers

Once you’ve identified specific, named accounts, you’ll then want to identify the right contacts at those organizations. But in addition to knowing who to target, it’s important to profile decision makers and key influencers through the development of buyer personas. In order to create content and campaigns that are going to help you engage these accounts, you have to have a deep understanding of their context and perspective. This is where personas can provide insight into your audience’s:

  • Goals and objectives
  • Issues and challenges
  • Questions and interests
  • Selection and purchasing triggers
  • Sources for information and research
  • How your content can help

Buyer personas are best developed through qualitative research (one-on-one interviews, ideally 3rd party) that provides a real-world basis for the personas, as opposed to assumptions made internally.

4. Create content around personas and the client journey

The right kind of content is at the heart of any effective ABM program. And buyer personas should form the foundation for your ABM content strategy. Building off these buyer insights, you’ll want to create content that speaks directly to decision makers and influencers at each stage of the client journey. At the awareness stage, you need to understand what non-sales content you can provide to a target account that will both grab their attention and introduce your firm. At the interest and consideration stage, you’ll need content that starts to offer specific solutions and/or approaches to a problem or need that your prospect has identified. Finally, as the account moves into the evaluation and selection stage, you’ll need content that assists with the vetting process and positions you as the firm of choice for that account’s needs.

5. Choose the proper channels and tools

Based on each individual account, you need to determine which channels will be best suited for reaching and engaging those contacts. Likely it will be a combination of channels, as an integrated approach is more likely to make an impact. In addition to the channels, you’ll also want to identify which tools will be leveraged for your ABM efforts. Marketing automation and CRM software are price-of-entry tools to leverage, but can be combined with other tools for things like predictive lead scoring, ad technology, real-time personalization or ABM-specific platforms such as Engagio.

6. Plan and execute targeted campaigns

Once you’ve identified target accounts, profiled the influencers and decision makers, created the right content and selected the proper channels and tools, it’s time to plan and execute specific targeted campaigns. While campaigns may share similarities, each campaign should be targeted and tailored to that specific account. In other words, the content and messages that each account receives should come across as though you have created it specifically for them. You’ll want to gather the content assets, tailor them for the target account and plan out your plan of attack for each stage of the client journey.

The content you create can and should be used for both offline and online distribution, and repurposed for a myriad of channels and circumstances. While much of the process will be done digitally, in-person, offline interactions should be included as well. Look for ways and times to arm the sales team with account-specific content to assist in their relationship building. As the relationship matures, your sales team will gain more insight into their specific interests and needs, so your content should become even more hyper-focused based on those insights.

7. Measure, analyze and optimize

Understanding how your firm’s ABM efforts are performing is critical to the long-term success of the program. To understand performance, you’ll want to measure and analyze engagement related to website visits (individual and multiple visitors), email opens and clicks, lead scores, downloads, opportunities and wins. You’ll want to create a scorecard of analytics and KPIs that will keep the sales and executive team aware of all activities by account. In addition to reporting your activities and success, you should also leverage the analytics for insights into how you should optimize your efforts moving forward.

Build on success, learn from shortcomings

With any new marketing initiative there’s going to be wins and losses. So it’s important to build on success, but also learn from what didn’t work and change your approach midstream. ABM done right can provide your sales team with the proactive sales enablement and support to help your firm close more deals and grow your business.