There are a lot of marketing strategies and ideas that are floating around the web and you may have tried some only to discover that they didn’t work for you.
Marketing strategies require more than just creating content a content calendar, posting on social media or sending out emails.
It’s about making the buying decision easy and that’s where many businesses are struggling.
Learn in the podcast or blog article below what’s should be behind your marketing strategies and some ideas on how you can make it easy for your customers to buy from you either online or offline so that you can maximize your revenue and profits.
How to Create Marketing Strategies and Sales Funnels that Make it Easy for Your Customers to Buy from You
Today I want to have a conversation about marketing strategies, but I don’t want to do it from a standpoint of just telling you the different things that you can do.
Last week I focused on Finding Purpose and Getting Results for your Website . How to Inspire More Sales and How to Use Video to Close the Deal.
Instead of focusing on a list of “how to’s”, today I want to challenge you to think a little bit differently about marketing.
Marketing is a function of psychology and how do we move people through sales funnels that allow your customers to solve their specific problems, meet a specific need or fulfill a specific desire.
In other words, what are you giving them that they want?
Before we can give somebody something they want, we have to understand something about the person. We have to understand something about who he or she is and what their motives are.
Another way of saying this is what is their “why”?
“Why” is such a big deal!
There have been a lot of books and information written on the “why” as it pertains to consumer behavior and marketing strategies. Consumer behavior is one of those things that have just been so amazingly researched over the last couple of years. There is so much that we can learn just by critically thinking through and researching what’s going on in the mind of the consumer.
This is the core and the way that we get marketing to function and work well for business.
I’m absolutely convinced that one of the biggest reasons why companies and small businesses are struggling in this economy has really nothing to do with the economic situation. That doesn’t mean that the economics of our time don’t play a role in what’s happening in the marketplace and how it might be affecting your business.
But, what I am saying is that it doesn’t have to dominate your business.
If we can tap into the consumer (to those who are able, willing, and ready to buy) and who are looking for our products and services, then we can create marketing strategies that deliver results.
There are a lot of businesses out there that are making a lot of money right now.
No question about it. Just look at the profit margins of some of these companies. They’re astronomical. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make money in this market. It doesn’t mean that this economy has to put you in peril.
What it could mean is that if you do a really good job of understanding the consumer and their “why” you can position yourself in the marketplace to outlast your competition and to still make healthy profits.
When the economy rebounds, and I’m confident it will because it always does, you will be positioned to reap a serious reward.
However, before that happens, you have to understand the mind of the consumer.
What is Purpose of Marketing?
Marketing is an interesting phenomenon. I found one definition that I really like:
“The sole purpose of marketing is to develop a satisfying relationship with customers that benefit both the organization and its customers.”
I found this definition in an article on a Search Engine Journal that was written by Olga Andrienko. Olga works for SEMrush, which by the way is a fantastic company. If you’re looking to drill deep and understand what’s going on in the search world and discover the search terms that people are using and wanting, SEMrush is one of the best products out there to help you.
Consumer behavior through keyword research is a marketing strategy that will help you understand your customer’s “why”. Through search terms, we can understand what it is that your consumers are actually looking for.
How were they searching and what are the terms that they’re using in their search?
That gives us some level of insight into what’s going on the marketplace and how to speak appropriately to our audiences.
That’s the next piece of it… at the end of the day it is in the psychology.
What is it that they’re experiencing and how do you talk too their experiences?
This is so important. It’s huge!
Here’s what the consumer is left with when the consumer doesn’t know what to do because their “why” and their problems, needs or desires don’t match up with what they read on a website…
- They either don’t do anything
- Or as Olga said in her article, they just imitate others
Actually, the will do something. They will leave your website. According to the 2015 B2B Web Usability Report, nearly 50% of website visitors leave a site immediately if they don’t identify with the content or feel that’s it’s relevant to them.
To Olga’s point in her article, this is why reviews and testimonials can be powerful.
If you have enough social proof, if you have enough social validation, then all of a sudden someone has a way and a reason to buy that product.
This becomes really important when people don’t know you.
Why do people first by you?
We’ve bought into this old adage that people buy because they know, like, and trust you.
That may become true… but I don’t believe that’s true in the beginning.
What I absolutely, fundamentally, will stake my claim on is that people buy first from you because they feel your competence and it’s competence that leads to know, like and trust.
What is Competency and How Should it Be Defined?
The question is how do you define competency?
The definition of competency can vary depending on a business model or industry.
Competency could be something as simple as your price is reasonable compared to your competitor whose price is just outrageous. That could be one way of evaluating whether or not you are competent.
This is especially true in retail. But another form of competency in retail is what if the person that you’re interacting with just does not have any people skills?
What does it say about a business who hires the wrong people that cannot communicate and can’t interact with customers socially?
A Real Experience I had with Sports Authority
This probably is not a good illustration but I’m going to use it because Sports Authorities is going into bankruptcy and is closing all of their stores.
I was a local Sports Authority store just over a week ago and my son and I were looking at bikes. My son is thinking about buying one. It just happens that I have a bike and I’m thinking about buying a product for my iPhone. I want a phone holder that goes on the handlebars so that I can track my bike ride.
A sales rep walks by I asked if she could help me and she basically just dismisses me.
She clearly felt she had something more important to do with some type of inventory items than stop and answer a question or get somebody who could help me before she moved on to her task.
To me, that said volumes about Sports Authority and why they’re struggling.
Do they treat all their customers like that?
Do they dismiss all their customers?
Their prices are high compared to their competitors, both online and off-line, and the employee just did not have the time to care about me.
How Reviews Can Make or Break Your Marketing Strategies in Service Industries?
There are many marketing strategies but one of the most visible is reviews and testimonials.
What if you want to go to a restaurant and you’ve never eaten there before?
How do you know if the food is good?
You’re may know if the food is good by looking at reviews and what others had to say.
How many stars does the restaurant have?
What are people saying about it?
It’s also true for hotels.
What about if you’re a consultant or business coach?
Reviews and testimonials, and social validation are huge simply because so many coaches and so many consultants have done such a bad job for such a long time.
Because of their incompetency, people are concerned about hiring someone to help them. They know they need help. They know their business could benefit from coaching or consulting.
But, why hire someone if they can’t prove that they are good at what you do?
How many stories are there of businesses who spent $20,000, $50,000 or $100,000 on business coaches and consultants and they have nothing to show for it?
The better a business coach or consultant’s reviews and testimonials are the higher the competency level grows on the prospect. They more comfortable they are in believing the coach or consultant can really help them.
Marketing Strategies and Social Validation via Social Media
One of the biggest and most visible marketing strategies is social media.
Many people will follow someone (or a business) just because a lot of people are following them on social media.
The fallacy of that is I follow some really popular and successful people like Gary Vaynerchuk on Facebook.
Gary has some incredible insights to share.
But you know what… I very rarely go his Facebook page.
While social validation through numbers can be helpful, in and of itself it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is making a lot of money just because they have a lot of followers.
Who are those followers?
Why are they following?
How are they being captured and given an opportunity to buy?
Do they even want to buy?
Marketing Strategies that are Thought Out Make It Easy for Consumers to Buy
The whole point behind this article is how are we making buying decisions easy for our customers or consumers to make a purchase?
To start with, you have to define the business that you are “really” in and learn to speak your customer’s language.
Once you know what’s going on in your customer’s head you can create a sales funnel flowchart for different types of customer profiles based on how they entered your sales funnel from your marketing.
What was their specific problem, need, want or desire?
I know a lot of businesses out there may have just one or two sales funnels.
But you should have multiple sales funnels.
You may have a large number of sales funnels depending on your business model and how complex or simple it is.
You can’t just put everybody in a single bucket.
If I’ve got three sales funnels, say A, B, and C, in my flowchart they may all and end up in the same place. They may arrive at the same place. Their “why” may even be similar in terms of why they are buying from me? But, you may have to take them to a different sales funnel to get them there and that takes work.
All marketing strategies ought to be dictated by your message that’s tied to a consumer’s problems, needs, wants or desires.
If it’s not then you’re just going to struggle.
You’re going to be all over the map and you won’t be attracting anybody and sales are going to be harder and harder to come by.
This is so vitally important in a world where specificity is king!
People now understand that they get what they want when they go to a search engine and put in exactly what they are looking for.
Searches are very specific. They’re not broad and in a matter of fact if you’re looking for something you’re probably going to use the exact words of what you’re looking for.
You don’t want to have to filter through to 2, 3, 20 or 50 Google pages in order to find that one thing you want information on.
Consumers have learned that the more specific they are the better their search results are.
Google has learned how to give their customers that specific thing there are searching for.
It’s also true on Facebook.
And, it’s true in off-line marketing and advertising as well.
It’s the old adage, I say this all the time… I had a speaking coach who used to say:
“Don, if you go into a room and you give a presentation and you’re broad in your presentation, a 100% of the people walk out of the room. A whole bunch of them will pat you on the back and tell you how wonderful of a job that you did.
But, if you get really specific and speak to one person in the room you will have 20% of them come up to you and say, “Oh my God, how did you know?”
How did you know that’s what I was going through?
How did you know that’s what my experience was?
How did you know that I was thinking about?
How did you know that’s what I wanted to do just two weeks ago and that has been on my mind?
How did you know?”
That’s what you’re after in your marketing.
Your marketing strategies ought to lead people to the “Oh my God, how did you know?” moment.
If you do that, the sales funnels you created for each problem you solve, need you meet or desire you fulfill ought to take them through the process of easily buying you.
You just made it really easy for them.
Unfortunately, we complicate this stuff or some of are lazy and just don’t want to do the hard work. This is not easy and it’s not something you do in a couple of days. This is a process. It’s something that you discover as you go through the learning curve and the learning process of understanding your consumers.
No one should have to go through 20 pages on your website before they can finally get what they want.
No one should have to keep clicking around aimlessly before finally checking out on the shopping cart.
No one should have to dig through your website just to find your phone number. It should be on every single page.
If you want to increase your sales, you have to make a buying decision easy for your customer.
The way you do that is by:
- Understanding them
- Giving them what they want
To do those two things the process ought to be simple!
If you’ve got some questions or thoughts about how to create marketing strategies that are dictated by your message and audience and that result in an easy buying experience, I would like to offer you a free 60 minute, no obligation consultation. I guarantee that you will get at least one idea that you can use immediately.
Click here or on the image below to get access to my calendar where you can pick a convenient time.
Do you have a thought, idea or question you would like to ask? Leave it below in the comment and let’s discuss it.
An entrepreneur’s productivity levels has a big effect on a company’s bottom line. There’s no shortage of dubious productivity tools and questionable life hacks out there, but here’s a shortlist of some actually useful ones:
Businesses are more reliant on apps and cloud-based services than ever. Having a different password for each account can quickly get unwieldy. 1Password is a tool not only remembers all your passwords for you, it creates secure new ones—you no longer have to cut corners by using the same medium-safe password for every account you have.
Keeping a time sheets gives you an objective sense of how long it takes you to complete tasks. It can also reveal when you’re the most (and the least) productive. TimeTracker, developed by Openhour, is a time sheet tool that runs discreetly in the background while you work. It monitors time spent on various software programs, including Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, Outlook and Google apps. Toggl is another great web app that works along the same lines.
The 1-3-5 method requires users to divide tasks into one big, three medium, and five small goals to accomplish each day. 135list is a web app that works based on that principle. Unlike many productivity apps, this one doesn’t require a subscription.
Successful entrepreneurs read—a lot. Pocket is a popular tool to bank all of those articles you come across during the day.
The Smart Writing Set
List-making apps abound, but there’s still something oddly satisfying about jotting down notes using pen and paper. Popular notebook maker Moleskine now offers a line of notebooks and pens that automatically digitizes notes and imports them to a mobile device. It isn’t the first of its kind, but it’s arguably the most convenient to use: a competitor’s version requires you to send in your notebook for scanning.
MORE FROM THE FRICTIONLESS OFFICE:
- Accounting startups aim to end the pain of spreadsheets
- How to bring your customer scheduling into the mobile age
- How to choose the right software tool, in five steps
- Too many distractions? Try these tech solutions
- How to be everywhere at once with virtual phone numbers
- How to run a high-performance office (without the office)
Marketers just can’t seem to get enough of Millennials. And who can blame them? Millennials hold an annual spending power of around $600 billion and are currently the largest percentage of the American workforce.
There are a lot of misconceptions (and negative feelings) toward Millennials. The generation has been tagged as self-absorbed, over-privileged, and untrustworthy. Just do a Google search for “Millennial memes.” You’ll see what I mean.
But, Millennials are such a diverse group of people that if you want them to love your brand, you can’t just lump them into one group for your marketing strategy.
Who Are Millennials?
In order to understand how you need to present your brand to Millennials, you first need to understand who they are.
But, defining a Millennial is extremely difficult. Not only are they an extremely diverse group, but depending on who you ask, the age range of Millennials varies.
Different sources place the Millennial generation start point between 1977 and 1985 and the end point anywhere from 2000 to 2004. That’s a huge range. But, most people agree that Millennials are between the ages of 16 and 36 (born between 1980 and 2000).
Source: The Atlantic
However, most Millennials don’t actually like being associated with the term “Millennial.” In fact, less than half of Millennials actually identify themselves as Millennial.
The Millennial generation is currently made up of individuals who are at different stages of the transition into adulthood. Because of this age range, Millennials’ needs and priorities can vary significantly.
Some members of this generation are getting ready to graduate high school, and others are graduating from college, just entering the workforce, shopping around for a house, or settling down with a family.
However, despite the age differences, there are still a few things most Millennials have in common:
- They’re Digital. Millennials aren’t afraid to own multiple complex devices, such as a smartphone, gaming console, tablet, and a laptop. This cross-channel access to the web means that Millennials are “always on,” and are considered the power users of the internet.
- They’re Optimists. 80% of Millennials still believe in the American Dream, and 97% of them are optimistic about their future.
- They’re Content Creators and Consumers. Millennials like to be part of the experience. They want their voices to be heard through blogs and comments, so they want to feel like part of their favorite brands as well. Product reviews, collaborating with brands, and other forms of engagement should be encouraged.
- They’re Social. 84% of Millennials are social media users, which makes social selling an invaluable tool to add into your marketing strategy.
Millennials are also more likely than other generations to hop online and tell their friends all about what they love (or hate) about your brand. So while being on a Millennial’s good side can be wonderful for your brand, you have to monitor your online presence closely for damage control.
So, now the question is: how do you gain the loyalty of such a diverse group?
What Do Millennials Expect From Brands?
Millennials’ digital and social habits have changed the common idea of the buying cycle. Now, a lot of the buying cycle involves being influenced by others.
Source: Millennial Marketing
In the traditional buyer’s journey, consumers start with awareness and interest, and then move on to a desire that causes them to take an action and make a purchase.
But Millennials aren’t as passive of an audience; they don’t go straight to an action after their interest is captured. Instead, they turn to their friends and online networks to ask for opinions and recommendations. Then, after the purchase, they’ll share their experience on the same networks they used to research in the beginning.
40% of Millennials will return to brands they know and trust. So what do they expect from the brands they pledge their loyalty to?
- Authenticity. They expect brands to genuinely care about customers. Millennials want to be spoken to, not at, and 49% of Millennials have said that they are very or somewhat interested in human interaction after clicking a business’ ad.
As the most educated generation in American history, they also expect valuable content and information that makes your brand look and feel like an expert in your industry.
Plus, after the purchase, Millennials still expect an ongoing relationship with the brands they choose. It’s what keeps them going back to the brands they trust for future interactions.
- Valuable Offers. To remain loyal, Millennials expect enticing and personalized promotions in return. 95% of Millennials say they want brands to actively court them with coupons sent through mail or email.
- Seamless Experience. Millennials are generally very tech savvy, so many of them expect a seamless, omni-channel experience. Most prefer a fulfilling digital experience, like having coupons accessible on their phones, instead of having to print them out.
- A Brand Cause. Millennials are one of the most compassionate generations in regard to social issues, so they’re more likely to purchase from a brand that supports a worldly cause. In fact, 37% of Millennials are willing to pay a little bit more for a product if it means supporting a cause they believe in.
How Can You Market to Millennials?
Traditional, outbound marketing isn’t going to work with Millennials. Millennials will support businesses and companies that are dedicated to improving the lives of their customers, not brands who are only out for their own self-gain. They want quality information that will help them solve their problems, whether it be a step-by-step how-to video or a comprehensive ebook.
The easiest way to reach Millennials? Social media. But if you want to be a brand that stands out, you’ll have to get creative.
In a recent study by eZanga to find out how consumers really feel about ads, we found that Millennials were the most neutral to advertisements. In fact, only 20% were likely to click on sponsored content. Basically, Millennials want to feel as if sponsored and organic content was created for them, and not their wallets.
Millennials, and most consumers, trust companies that produce content and advertisements that feel authentic.
They may be a digital generation, but Millennials still like to shop in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. No matter where they’re shopping, though, they don’t like the traditional experience.
For Millennials, shopping is now more for entertainment than necessity. Shopping online is more of an exploration than a means to an end — the search is now half the fun.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne tours the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada assembly plant during a campaign stop in Cambridge, Ont., on Tuesday, May 21, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to Japan a few weeks ago and spent some time with Japanese auto executives telling them about the benefits of making cars in Canada. Some, like Toyota and Honda have been here a long time and they produce high quality vehicles at competitive prices in Ontario. Others have yet to be convinced to locate some of their production here. It’s great that the Prime Minister recognizes that part of his job is building these relationships and marketing investment in Canada. Early in his mandate, he is already making it an integral part of his foreign travels.
Yet some commentators believe that firms’ investment decisions should be left to so-called market forces and that governments should not be marketing their jurisdictions or otherwise trying to influence firms’ investment decisions. This belief is dangerously naïve. It is based on the highly stylized “freshman” economic model of perfect competition that assumes many competitors offering identical products. This is a useful model for first-year students in the classroom. In the real world, however, jurisdictions with different value propositions compete for investment in a market where information is incomplete, established relationships reduce uncertainties and marketing plays a valuable role.
It is not only newcomers to Canada that make investments. In fact, an important source of foreign investment comes from global firms that are already operating here. In the first of two case-study research projects for Ivey’s Lawrence Centre we looked at examples of successful ‘mandate’ attraction by General Electric Canada, IBM Canada, Siemens Canada, and Toyota Canada. In each case, significant investments in the firms’ Canadian operations were made with resulting increases in output, employment, innovation and exports.
The kinds of investments we looked at varied significantly. Some were R&D mandates (IBM, Siemens), some were production mandates (Toyota) and some were a mixture of both (GE). Products associated with the mandates ranged from autos to robots to the technology behind ‘smart’ electricity grids. Finally, some went head to head with the global firm’s operations in other countries, while others were designed to be unique. Despite these differences, when we compared them, we came to understand that they all shared five key elements.
The first was that the project proposal to headquarters originated in Canada and was led by the CEO of the global company’s Canadian operations. It appears that having a local CEO looking to build the global firm’s business in Canada and willing to personally make the case to global management is a critical ingredient in the drive to attract mandates.
The second was the proposal’s fit with the global firm’s plans and aspirations. The Canadian CEO ensured that the proposal was well aligned with the global company’s direction and devoted considerable time and effort to communicating it that way.
The third common element we found was the Canadian operation’s track record of successful implementation of past projects. An established track record gave headquarters’ executives confidence that the risks associated with any new venture would be well managed.
Not surprisingly, all of the proposals we examined were accompanied by a fourth common element—a compelling business case. While competitors might be in the lead in a particular area (for example, labour costs), when the overall returns and risks of the investment were weighed, the Canadian proposal came out on top.
Finally, in all cases, governments were committed, sustained and visible partners. This commitment was not only reflected in competitive financial support, but also in the willingness of ministers and senior officials to repeatedly travel to global headquarters to reinforce the CEO’s key messages regarding Canada’s value proposition.
Smart marketers know you can focus a lot more effort on a sale if you target your customers strategically. Identifying and connecting with the CEOs that want to build their business in Canada is a good way to do that. While competitive financial support is part of the package, it is not enough to win. Governments have a critical role in helping to build confidence in the package as well. Foreign investment is an important pillar of any plan to build a globally competitive economy, and prime ministers and premiers have a critical part to play by getting out and selling Canada.
Paul Boothe is Professor and Director of the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management at Western University’s Ivey Business School.
The post Why government must play a role in attracting foreign investment appeared first on Macleans.ca.
I was a salesman snob.
Like many people, I always looked down on the concept of “selling.” It seemed like something lower than me.
To some extent, selling appears manipulative. You have a product and you try to portray that it has more value than it actually does. So you need to manipulate people into buying it. This seems sad, as in the book “Death of a Salesman” sort of sad.
I was wrong. And for the past 25 years, all I have been doing is selling. Selling products, selling services, selling businesses, selling myself.
Sometimes I have been manipulative. And sometimes I’ve sold things I’ve had such passion for that I practically gave them away just to get the message out.
And often, it was very much in the middle: I needed to sell something because I had to pay my bills. I wanted to make sure my family got fed.
We live in a hard world where our basic needs cost money, and as we get older we become responsible for the basic needs of others. We become adults.
None of this cheat sheet comes from a book. All of this is from my own experience. Which means it might not work for you. Which means it might go counter to the basic rules of salesmanship. I have no idea.
But I can say that over the past 25 years, I’ve sold hundreds of millions of dollars of stuff. That stuff being everything in Pandora’s box that I had to sell just to stay alive. When I thought of what worked for me, here’s what I came up with:
Nobody is going to buy from someone they hate. The buyer has to like you and want to be your friend. People pay for friendship.
This sounds sort of like prostitution, and it is.
One time when I was raising money for something, the buyer was going through a business catastrophe and was worried he would go out of business. I didn’t like him but I called him every day for three months at the same time to see if he “wanted to talk” and to offer my advice on how he should deal with his situation.
I eventually raised a lot of money from him even though the first time I met him he said, “It seems like you don’t know your industry very well.”
Which just goes to show that friendship outweighs almost every other factor in selling. One time I wanted to do a website for ABC.com. How did I do it? The main decision-maker volunteered at a school in Harlem. I went up there four weeks in a row and played 20 kids simultaneously in chess. Everyone had fun. I got the website job. My competitors were all bigger, better financed, and probably better.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like either of those people personally. And eventually, I lost the business.
The only good outcomes come when both sides like each other.
Now I only do business with people I like. The fastest way to lose all your money, mutilate your heart, and then kill yourself is to work with people you don’t like. I will never do that again.
Nor do you have to, despite what you might think.
B) Saying no
If someone wants to do a big deal with you, it’s hard to say “no.” But “no” is valuable for many reasons, and one big one in particular:
Opportunity cost. Instead of pursuing something you really don’t want to do, you could free up time and energy to find something more lucrative or something you would enjoy more. Opportunity cost is the biggest cost in all of our lives. We spend it like there’s no tomorrow.
And guess what? Eventually there’s no tomorrow.
When I say “yes” to something I don’t want to do, I end up hating myself, hating the person I said “yes” to, doing a bad job, and disappointing everyone. I try really hard not to do it anymore.
If someone pays $100 and you give that person just $100 in value, then you just failed. You’ll never sell to that person again. someone pays $100, you need to give him or her $110 worth of value.
Think of that extra $10 as going into some sort of karmic bank account that pays interest (as opposed to a U.S. bank account). That money grows and compounds.
Eventually, there’s real wealth there. And that wealth translates into the real world.
People are 3-year-olds. They like to get presents. People want to do business with people who give them presents. Over-delivering is a present. And it makes you feel good. Give and you will receive.
D) Never take “no” for an answer
This statement, which everyone knows, is usually applied incorrectly.
People think it means keep pushing and trying new things until you get a “yes.”
That’s not what it means. If you do that, you end up in the spam box. Then you end up in a coffin. In other words, you end up dead to the person you are trying to sell to.
Instead, remember point A. Be a friend. However flimsy that connection of friendship is. Follow on Twitter, follow on Facebook. Say nice things about the person to other people. Never gossip.
Do the art of the “check-in.”
Send updates after the “no” on how you are doing, on how the product or service or business or whatever is doing. Not every day. Maybe once a month. Maybe once a year. Eventually you will find the “yes” with that person. It could be, and often is, up to 20 years later.
You plant a seed and eventually the garden blooms.
E) Under-price (if it’s your passion)
I once wanted to do the website for Fine Line Films. I loved their movies. I met the guy running their site. He kept saying over and over again, “We can’t afford a lot,” and I kept saying, “Don’t worry about it,” and would show him more and more of our work.
Eventually we did the websites for every one of their movies at $1,000 per website. We made amazing websites for $1,000. Then, when Con Edison wanted to hire us, Nevin at Fine Line was a reference. Price for coned.com (a basic four-page website): $250,000. And that was the first of five websites we did for them, plus monthly maintenance.
I write for a lot of places right now for free. Any medium I love, I am willing to write for. The benefits from doing that have been incalculable. Not always financial, but always real.
F) Be the source
One time I wanted to buy a company.
At the critical moment, the owner called me and said, “What should I do? I have this other offer and I have your offer.” He described the other offer to me. I told him to take it.
I missed out on what could have been a lot of money to me. But there was a slight chance we would have all gone bust. Now he is thriving and eight years later he is a friend.
Will we ever do business together? I can’t predict the future. But I know I delivered value to another human being. That value is real and I can put it to use whenever I want.
Often the best way to make friends and customers for life is to direct them to a better service or product than yours.
Be the source of valuable information rather than just the source of your product.
Then they will know forever that you are a trusted source.
Trust is worth more than next month’s rent being paid. Trust builds a bridge that will never wear out. At some point in the distant future, when you are on the run in every other way, you may need to cross that bridge.
G) Sell everything
Your offering is not your product. Your offering is your product, services, your employees, your experiences, your ideas, your other customers, and even (as mentioned above) your competitors. Sell them all.
When you are good at what you do, the product or service you offer is just the way people build the first link to you. It’s the top of a huge pyramid.
But the base of the pyramid, the real service, is when they have access to you and you can provide advice and the full power of your network and experience. This is when you are over-delivering on steroids and how real wealth is built and not just a one-time fee for a service or product.
Many people say, “No! My product is high margin and I want to make money when I sleep.”
Stop going to BS entrepreneurial get-rich-quick conferences. In the long run, nobody cares about your product. In the long run, it is the entire holistic view of your offering, your service, you, that you are selling. Without that, you will build a mediocre business that may or may not pay the bills. With that, you will create wealth.
H) Sell the dream
People can see what your product is right now. What they want to know is the future. Will your product make them more money? Will it get them a promotion?
Everything is possible. When you get in the door, do not sell your product. People make a decision on your product in five seconds. Sell the dream. The dream has infinite value. Build up images of the dream. Give a taste of what the dream is like. Let it linger. Let it weave itself. Let the imagination of the buyer take hold and run with it.
But then, you might ask, do I risk under-delivering?
Answer: Yes. Don’t do that. Be as good as the dream.
I) Fire customers
This is similar to point B with the one difference that you have already made a sale.
If it’s not going well or if it’s leaving a bad taste in your mouth, or if they have gone from friend to enemy for whatever reason and it seems like there is no repair, then fire your customer. The sooner, the better.
This applies to not just customers but everyone in your life. Everyone.
If someone no longer has your best interests at heart, then in your own self-interest, you need to back off. Now.
A bad customer (a bad person) spreads like a disease inside you, your employees, your other customers, your competitors, your future customers, your family, etc.
“But what if it’s my biggest customer? How do I pay the bills?”
I don’t know. Figure it out. This is where being an idea machine saves your life and everything around you.
But remember: bad customers will kill you and your family and your friends.
J) Welcome to the pleasure dome
Your best new customers are your old customers. If you need to make more money or build new business, go to your customers (who are now your friends) and say, “I need advice. What other service can I provide you or anyone you know?”
It might be something totally unrelated to your business. No problem. Do it. It might be your customer is looking for a new job. That’s great. Make it your business to find him a new job. Now you have a new customer.
It might be your customer needs a boyfriend. OK, introduce her to all of your friends who might be good for her. If you’ve been following this approach to sales, then your customers are now your friends, are now your family.
I don’t know the buzzwords to make a sale. I’m not very good at shaking hands. I don’t take people out to baseball games or do any of the things I see other people do.
But I’ve been selling for 25 years. And whenever I’ve been dead broke, depressed, and on the floor, I’ve picked myself up and sold again and again.
P.S. If you are really serious about choosing yourself (and you should be!), then you need to develop a portable, highly valuable skill that let’s you work on your own terms.
Selling is only one of of these skills, but it’s one of the best. If you are seriously interested in learning how to sell, test yourself to see if you can write a letter like this one.
A newsletter is a great way to keep your audience engaged, and with the right newsletter ideas, your business can remain in the forefront of your customers’ minds. They can be used to keep tabs on what is new with your business, and much more beyond that.
A newsletter is a great way to establish yourself as an expert and routinely find your way into your customers’ inbox. It establishes you as an industry expert and conveys value. It can also be a great way to connect on a b2b level. Here are five newsletter ideas to ensure fresh content on a routine basis.
- Offer practical tips – How do your customers get the most out of your products or services? What lifestyle changes can they make to improve their experiences? Giving your customers small but valuable pieces of information that they may not have considered will keep them opening your newsletters. You can do this either in short list form or offer new and original articles to help your customers.
- Use blog posts – Do you have a blog post related to your newsletter theme? Do you have a blog post that has done particularly well? Don’t be afraid to use them in a newsletter, and get more mileage out of it. You can also publish your most recent posts this way, as well.
- Industry news or interviews – Don’t be afraid to let your audience know your take on industry news or information. If you disagree with a popularized viewpoint, let them know. Your opinion will come with more weight because these are topics you are established as the expert. You can also do interviews with other industry experts to bring more value to your audience. These are both solid newsletter ideas to convey more value.
- Point to other resources – You can do this within the context of your blog posts or articles, or in a separate location if you use a template. Making your audience aware of where they can get more valuable information is always a good thing. It goes without saying that you don’t need to point them to a competitor.
- Let them know what you’re reading/consuming – Your audience is looking for as much information as possible. Tell them what industry books you’re reading, or what podcasts you are listening to. Help them grow their interest or passion in your industry. This can make for an interesting, personalized aspect to your newsletter.
These newsletter ideas can work whether you are writing in an email or print format. They serve as a way to further engage your audience, and offer a nice compliment to your blog and web presence. A newsletter can be a great way to stay in consistent communication with your audience, and provide value.
Social media allows brands to communicate their authority, expertise, customer-focused attitude, and unique appeal. Engaging customers through digital and mobile social media no doubt offers business benefits, but it can become a double-edged sword if you don’t have a solid social media marketing and communications foundation. An unplanned presence on Twitter or lack of a content plan to feed your community timeless insights, latest trends, and timely tips and hacks, can backfire on your brand.
If you’re on social media or want to start building a presence, it is critical to avoid some basic blunders that can affect your reputation or prevent you from maximizing business results from social. An awareness of common mistakes will refine and improve your social media marketing strategies, earning you the attention of new fans and loyalty of existing followers.
1. Spreading yourself thin on a number of social platforms
Have you recently visited a brand’s Twitter account only to realize that their last tweet dated as far back as October 2015?
Some businesses post sporadically simply because they don’t have enough quality content for regular engagement. It defeats the very purpose of embracing social media.
Start with a narrow focus, concentrating on one or two social platforms, and expand to a few more only when you start producing quality content consistently. Even when you do that, make sure you use a single social media management dashboard to make your life easier.
You may want to start with the most popular social network – Facebook – and build your presence from there on to Twitter – which has a high engagement rate – or Instagram and Pinterest, two of the fastest growing social networks.
2. Ignoring your community
According to J.D Power, 67 per cent of customers have used a business’s social media channel for customer service. Customers are looking for a direct response to their questions and grievances on social media.
If you’re unresponsive, you will lose customers. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, you will be called out by fans and followers.
You could have easily avoided damage or damage control by assuring customers that you’re looking into the matter. The best practice is to first apologize and ask the complainant to send a private/direct message with specific details that you can use to resolve the issue.
3. Focusing on numbers instead of engagement
Fan numbers are just that – numbers on a page without much value. Engaged fans who comment on your posts, share their stories, and carry out positive word-of-mouth marketing for you (advocates), enhance brand value and sales.
30,000 fans with 2% engagement = 600 engaged individuals
10,000 fans with 10% engagement = 1000 engaged individuals
Offering free samples of your product to people in exchange for ‘likes’ has become passé. Most will ‘like’ it only to get the sample, and you cannot have a sustainable engagement with them. Buying fake followers from fake follower vendors – a strategy adopted by some celebrities – can hurt your business in more ways than one.
- Fake followers do nothing for engagement
- Fake followers can pose a threat to your legitimate followers, engaging in scams to access their passwords and hacking their accounts, or even committing credit card fraud
- There are a number of free tools that can be used to assess the legitimacy of a brand’s or celebrity’s followers. Your business will seem untrustworthy if someone decides to investigate your suspiciously large fan following.
- Twitter bans or deletes accounts that buy fake followers.
4. Bombarding your followers with too much content in a short span of time
Sharing tons of posts in succession within minutes or hours every day is the easiest way to turn fans and prospects off your brand.
Don’t overwhelm or spam them. Find a good balance between the types of content – images, links, reshares, text updates, videos or quotes – you want to share.
Fix your posting frequency based on the best times of the day to post to different social platforms. Use a social media management tool to share your posts at scheduled intervals.
5. Sharing the same message across all channels
People are attracted to certain platforms for the unique experience they offer. A video you’ve created for your Facebook page may not resonate with your Tumblr followers. The basics of content creation – creativity, originality and aesthetic quality – apply to all social networks. But for effective engagement, you need to alter the same content to suit each platform’s audience.
6. Making assumptions about your target audience
Your buyers’ personas are crucial in creating an effective social media strategy for social. Like every social media platform needs content tailored to it to suit its features, your audience members also need to be treated based on their preferences. Making assumptions about your audience is a huge mistake, because a few posts in the wrong direction are enough for your audience to make assumptions about you. You let them down once, twice and it is enough for them to lose interest in you.
Invest in understanding them and their behavior because that is what drives their decision to either buy into your brand or not.
A good social media marketing is hinged on well researched buyer personas.
The most skilled communicators match their response to the situation, which is possible only by actively absorbing the information provided by the speaker, i.e. through effective listening. Listening to your customers and prospects is an important piece of the social media engagement puzzle. The more you listen, the better you can understand their expectations, attitudes and pain-points. This knowledge will help you plan effective response strategies across all aspects of interaction, from content creation to handling customer complaints.
Stanford researchers studying the effect of stem cells injected directly into the brains of stroke patients said on Thursday that they were “stunned” by the extent to which the experimental treatment restored motor function in some of the patients. While the research involved only 18 patients and was designed primarily to look at the safety of such a procedure and not its effectiveness, it is creating significant buzz in the neuroscience community because the results appear to contradict a core belief about brain damage — that it is permanent and irreversible.
The results, published in the journal Stroke, could have implications for our understanding of an array of disorders including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and Alzheimer’s if confirmed in larger-scale testing.
The work involved patients who had passed the critical six-month mark when recoveries generally plateau and there are rarely further improvements. This is the point at which therapies are typically stopped as brain circuits are thought to be dead and unable to be repaired. Each participant in the study had suffered a stroke beneath the brain’s outermost layer and had significant impairments in moving their arms and-or legs. Some participants in the study had had a stroke as long as three to five years before the experimental treatment.
The one-time therapy involved surgeons drilling a hole into the study participants’ skulls and injecting stem cells in several locations around the area damaged by the stroke. These stem cells were harvested from the bone marrow of adult donors. While the procedure sounds dramatic, it is considered relatively simple as far as brain surgery goes. The patients were conscious the whole time and went home the same day.
They suffered minimal adverse effects such as temporary headaches, nausea and vomiting. One patient experienced some fluid buildup from the procedure that had to be drained but recovered fully from the issue. The volunteers were then tested at one month, six and 12 months after surgery using brain imaging and several standard scales that look at speech, vision, motor ability, and other aspects of daily functioning.
Gary Steinberg, the study’s lead author and chair of neurosurgery at Stanford said in an interview that while he is cautious about “overselling” the results of such a small study, his team has been “stunned” that 7 of the 18 patients experienced significant improvement in their abilities following treatment.
“Their recovery was not just a minimal recovery like someone who couldn’t move a thumb now being able to wiggle it. It was much more meaningful. One 71-year-old wheelchair-bound patient was walking again,” said Steinberg, who personally performed most of the surgeries.
He also recounted the progress of a much younger patient, aged 39, who was two years post-stroke and had had such problems walking and speaking that she “did not want to get married to her boyfriend.” “She was embarrassed about walking down the aisle,” he explained. But after treatment, Steinberg said, “She’s now walking much better and talking much better and she’s married and pregnant.”
Steinberg said that the study does not support the idea that the injected stem cells become neurons, as has been previously thought. Instead, it suggests that they seem to trigger some kind of biochemical process that enhances the brain’s ability to repair itself.
“A theory is that they turn the adult brain into the neonatal brain that recovers well,” he explained.
There is certainly reason to be enthusiastic based on the magnitude of responses from these patients
Sean Savitz, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Texas, said he was encouraged by the study but said there is a lot more work to be done to try to confirm the results and figure out the mechanism for the reaction. One major question, he said, is whether there is something about the stem cells that is stimulating the changes or whether it is simply the procedure itself inducing some other sort of biological reaction or a placebo effect.
Nicholas Boulis, a neurosurgeon and researcher at Emory University, said the study appears to support the idea that there may be latent pathways in the brain that can be reactivated — a theory that has been “working its way to the surface” over the past few years.
“There is certainly reason to be enthusiastic based on the magnitude of responses from these patients,” he said.
There are close to 7 million so-called chronic stroke patients in the United States who are living with the aftermath of the damage to their brains and bodies from stroke. While there are several treatments that can be administered within hours or days of an incident in order to improve a patient’s outcome, and physical therapy that can take place for a few months after that, there is very little doctors can do after that time.
Stem cells have been among the most promising new avenues of research. Huge improvements have been shown in animal models but results of the first human tests are just starting to come in. Earlier this month researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine reported that a year-long study of 48 patients found that infusing patients with stroke with stem cells through their carotid artery appeared to be safe.
The Stanford researchers have launched a larger randomized, double-blinded multicenter trial using the same procedure and have already begun to enroll patients. They are aiming for 156 total and say they hope to have results in as soon as two years.
Big data and data science are terms that are on every business’ radar these days, but like many industry buzzwords, it’s good to pause and consider the actual value your business can derive from data.
Even as someone who has worked in data science for the last eight years, I don’t believe businesses should always invest heavily in data. Doing so only makes sense if data is solving problems that are critical to your success as a business. Here are three common scenarios where this is the case:
#1 Data is a part of your core product offering
The top reason to invest in data is when the data is itself a core part of your product’s value proposition to the customer. Take for example Google Maps, a product whose primary function is to provide a convenient interface to GIS data.
For such a product, you need to build the right infrastructure for storing, curating, processing, and querying the data. You need to hire the right people who can build this infrastructure to scale and who can work with data at scale.
Every business’ goal is to scale their user or customer base, and with a product built upon fast data computation, you will need to be aware of how you can support a rapidly growing store of data.
#2 Data makes existing products smarter
With the rise of the data natives, we have an entire generation of consumers who just expect their products to be smarter and more intuitive.
If you’re not catering to the modern consumer, someone else will.
Building smarter products often relies on collecting extensive usage data about how consumers interact with your product, and then harnessing this data via machine learnt models and algorithms to further improve the user experience.
For instance, if you are building a reading app for smartphones, the most basic, first version you build might be a simple app that allows users to write reviews for books they have read. You might however, want to quickly follow this up with a recommendations layer that suggests new books to users based on reading patterns of other similar users. The algorithms that generate these recommendations become more and more accurate as the app collects data about how users interact with the recommendations. This requires instrumenting your app to collect exactly the right usage data that can trigger this virtuous feedback loop. Off-the-shelf solutions for recommendation systems do exist, but can be rigid and difficult to adapt if there is anything custom about your app.
So think about whether the intelligence value-add that comes from data will be critical to the future success of your product. If so, invest in data scientists and data engineers early on. They will play a critical role in making key decisions around data collection and product design needed for creating intelligent features that your users will not only love, but expect from your product.
#3 Data helps inform future product directions
Maybe data doesn’t play a front and central role in your product. Even so, investing in data makes sense when you want to take a data-driven approach to improving your product.
For instance, a product manager at Microsoft Office might study usage data in order to figure out how frequently the copy-paste command is used and how the command is commonly accessed. This in turn would inform whether the copy-paste command needs to be made more or less prominent, and whether access to the command needs to be made easier. Studying common access patterns might also help inform the product manager of common workflows that Microsoft Office could better help support.
Many organizations also employ decision scientists to analyze key business metrics such as growth, engagement, and drivers of these metrics to inform future strategic business directions. A decision scientist might need answer questions such as: What would be the impact of a change in the pricing model of a mobile app on growth and engagement?
Data-driven product management and decision making also relies on extensive instrumentation and availability of usage data in order to build product roadmaps and make critical decisions. This makes most sense once you already have a minimum viable product and a sizable user base. But keep in mind, engaging a data scientist or engineer early on will be important for designing the right data collection strategies. Invest in data if you are committed to making key product and business decisions based on data, and not simply on intuition.
Is data relevant for your business?
The ease of gathering data in an always connected world coupled with the modern consumer’s expectations for customization and intelligent features means software companies need to keep their data needs top of mind. Consider these three scenarios and prepare your team early on to stay competitive in a present and future where data is everywhere.
Square is offering a new payment plan for its merchant customers that it hopes will remove barriers associated with accessing new payments technology.
The new payment option allows merchants to pay for the firm’s new, EMV- and NFC-enabled mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) reader at a rate of $1 per week for 60 weeks. It's worth noting that the plan is $11 more expensive than the reader’s typical $49 price point, a discrepancy Square hasn't commented on, according to VentureBeat.
The firm hopes to make the reader a more accessible option for merchants.
- Square has already seen considerable interest in its new reader. In its Q1 2016 earnings call last month, Square noted it had processed about 500,000 orders for EMV-enabled readers, representing roughly 25% of the firm's merchant clients. It expects that number to grow as it pursues new partnerships and distribution channels.
- But not all merchants can afford it right away, leaving Square an untapped segment of potential clients. 20% of microbusinesses — Square’s largest merchant segment — take out loans for operational expenses, according to Apple Insider. The new plan could help Square reach businesses that might have funds for the installment plan but not the upfront cost of the reader.
- The lower up-front cost of the payment plan could continue pushing small businesses to EMV. Small businesses are warming up to EMV — 48% now accept chip cards and 77% plan to accept them in the future — but cost is still a major barrier to upgrading their terminals. Square's installment plan could help offset some of those costs and make upgrading a more realistic near-term option for these merchants.
If the new payment plan successfully attracts new business, it could continue to strengthen Square’s revenue in other segments. Square’s hardware revenue increased more than sixfold year-over-year (YoY) in Q1 2016, largely because the firm began shipping its new reader.
The increased business the firm could gain from the new payment plan could continue to grow that segment. And more merchants using Square readers will increase the company's overall purchase volume and help onboard merchants to additional services, like invoicing or working capital, which provides additional revenue.
Fraud cost U.S. retailers approximately $32 billion in 2014, up from $23 billion just one year earlier. To solve the card fraud problem across in-store, online, and mobile payments, payment companies and merchants are implementing new payment protocols that could finally help mitigate fraud.
John Heggestuen, senior research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on payment security that looks at how the dynamics of fraud are shifting across in-store and online channels and explains the top new types of security that are gaining traction across each of these channels, including on Apple Pay.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
- EMV cards are being rolled out with an embedded microchip for added security. The microchip carries out real-time risk assessments on a person's card purchase activity based on the card user's profile. The chip also generates dynamic cryptograms when the card is inserted into a payment terminal. Because these cryptograms change with every purchase, it makes it difficult for fraudsters to make counterfeit cards that can be used for in-store transactions.
- To bolster security throughout the payments chain encryption of payments data is being widely implemented. Encryption degrades valuable data by using an algorithm to translate card numbers into new values. This makes it difficult for fraudsters to harvest the payments data for use in future transactions.
- Point-to-point encryption is the most tightly defined form of payments encryption. In this scheme, sensitive payment data is encrypted from the point of capture at the payments terminal all the way through to the gateway or acquirer. This makes it much more difficult for fraudsters to harvest usable data from transactions in stores and online.
- Tokenization increases the security of transactions made online and in stores. Tokenization schemes assign a random value to payment data, making it effectively impossible for hackers to access the sensitive data from the token itself. Tokens are often "multiuse," meaning merchants don't have to force consumers to re-enter their payment details. Apple Pay uses an emerging form of tokenization.
- 3D Secure is an imperfect answer to user authentication online. One difficulty in fighting online fraud is that it is hard to tell whether the person using card data is actually the cardholder. 3D Secure adds a level of user authentication by requiring the customer to enter a passcode or biometric data in addition to payment data to complete a transaction online. Merchants who implement 3D Secure risk higher shopping-cart abandonment.
In full, the report:
- Assesses the fraud cost to US retailers and how that fraud is expected to shift in coming years
- Provides 5 high-level explanations of the top payment security protocols
- Includes 7 infographics illustrating what the transaction flow looks like when each type of security is implemented.
- Analyzes the strengths and weakness of each payment security protocol and the reasons why particular protocols are being put in place at different types of merchants.
To get your copy of this invaluable guide, choose one of these options:
- Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
- Purchase the report and download it immediately from our research store. >> BUY THE REPORT
The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of payments security.
Indian workers who do the exact same job as people in the UK earn up to seven times less, according to salary-benchmarking site Emolument.
Analysing 3,071 salaries and bonuses in both countries, Emolument found that strategy consultants are the best-paid jobs in India, but employees in that sector still earn more than three times less than their UK counterparts.
But the pay gap becomes even wider in the IT sector.
Software developers have the biggest UK-India pay discrepancy, with Indian workers earning almost £64,000 ($92,000) less on average than British developers.
Software employees who want to earn the most should work in finance, according to the findings, which pays the most in both countries of any IT sector.
Strategy consulting is also relatively lucrative for Brits and Indians, with similar bonus-to-salary proportions, while auditing and HR are on the low end of pay spectrum.
Here's a rundown of the different pay scales in the UK and India:
Alice Leguay, co-Founder and COO at Emolument said the pay discrepancies in both countries were somewhat evened out by the different costs of living. She added that job outsourcing to India would only increase:
The cost of living in India is one of the lowest globally while the UK is one of the most expensive places to live. This can partly explain the difference in salary. However with ever-increasing imports, Indian purchasing power is likely to be pushed down.
Global companies in the meantime are outsourcing more and more of their non-client facing activities to India making huge savings on staff costs. We expect this phenomenon to increase as companies across all industries recruit highly educated technical staff locally to deal with key value-add processes such as research and analytics.
How to rank well on competitive keywords
SEO is one of the most cost effective ways to generate business. By ranking atop search engines for their target keywords, businesses can generate traffic and increase the chances of visitors buying their products and services,and build awareness of their brands. The best thing about this tactic is how affordable it is – if done correctly, SEO can produce big rewards for relatively a small investment.
However, with the growth of digital marketing throughout the years, SEO has become a common tactic that most businesses employ. Competitors in the legal, real estate, pharmaceutical, and accountancy industry, acknowledged as some of the most cutthroat industries, have smartened up and learned how to leverage SEO to attract customers and hike up sales. It has reached a point that ranking on the very first page of Google can take years, if at all.
Even if business owners have applied all the best SEO practices on their sites, they may still find it impossible to break through the first page of search results.
As a business owner, you want what your competitors are getting, if not more. You wish to use SEO to acquire more customers and build brand awareness. More importantly, you want to one-up your competition and overtake them on search results so you can get more visitors than they do on search engines.
This post will provide you a blueprint on how you can overcome the competition in your niche to rank high in search results for your keywords. This is by no means a shortcut to ranking as the first result on search engines – as mentioned, achieving high search rankings can take years to master. However, this guide will allow you to refine your approach towards SEO to a more critical one that uses competitor data that you will use in building your strategy.
Perform strategic keyword research
Keyword research is the foundation where a successful SEO strategy rests. By choosing the best target keywords, you can get your site ranked on the first pages of search engines and drive lots of traffic in just a few month.
To approach your keyword research in a more deliberate manner, below are factors that you need to consider when looking for target keywords that you should optimize for on your web pages.
- Keyword volume – Choose keywords that users search for the most on search engines, which allows your web pages to get found much easier.
- Keyword difficulty – Find out how easy or hard it is for your web pages to rank for your chosen keywords. If the pressure is too high for your liking, you may have to replace it with a much more appropriate keyword.
- Long-tail keywords – Instead of using head terms as your target keywords, also consider choosing long tail keywords, which has a low search volume but are much more precise to your brand or product. They are also much easier to rank for.
- User intent – Understand what users wish to achieve when using the keyword on search engines – are they looking to buy something or just looking for information?
- Type of pages ranking high for the keywords – Scout the competition by searching for your target keywords and analyzing the web pages that appear on the first page.
For keyword volume, a quick search on Google Keyword Planner should do the trick.
Upon typing your industry in the search bar, click on the Keyword Ideas tab to show the different keywords related to your niche. For this example, I typed "real estate," considered as one of the most competitive niches in SEO.
The Keyword Planner reveals the monthly search volume for each of the keyword listed. AS mentioned, the higher the search volume, the greater more your web page will be discovered by your audience on search engines, the better.
If the Keyword Suggestions do not provide you enough choices for your target keywords, go to Ubersuggest.
Type in your industry to uncover more keywords for your research. The tool adds auxiliary words and phrases before and after your industry so you can have more keywords to choose from. This is also a good place for you to research for long-tail keywords.
Copy and paste the keywords on Google Keyword Planner so you can find out their search volumes.
To collect more data for your target keywords, use the Related Keywords tool of SEMrush.
Upon entering your keyword, you will see different related suggestions along with determining factors such as the level of difficulty in ranking for the keyword on search engines, volume of monthly searches, and the total number of pages ranking.
The idea, of course, is to choose keywords that are easy to rank for in search results.
“If you find a keyword that is easy enough to rank for, you won’t need to build as many links to your site – and you will be much more likely to rank at the top of Google,” says Spencer Haws who got his site to rank on top of Google in just 62 days.
Also, consider the user’s intent when choosing your target keywords. You want to strike a balance between informational and transactional keywords so you can optimize your web pages using the appropriate keywords. You do not wish to optimize landing pages with informational keywords, for example.
Finally, you need to do a quick search on search engines for the first ten results for your keyword. Identify each page and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each page. Below are some factors that you need to consider using in your assessment:
- Content – Determine the type of content (article, infographic, video) and its quality (Is it well written or produced?).
- Social proof – Check how many social shares the page has garnered on social media, comments, and testimonials (if any). If the page does not show the number of social shares, you can use COM to get the total amount of shares from different social media sites.
- Design – Observe if the page is following the best practices for design elements (site speed, clean design, intuitive user interface).
- SEO Factors – Find out if the page is following the latest SEO on-page factors. You can use some of the best paid and free SEO audit tools online to see how the pages compare to each other.
For assessing the different pages, it is best for you to list down all the factors in a spreadsheet, along with other relevant keyword data you have collected so far. The file will provide you the necessary data to help you choose what keywords you need to rank for. It is best to choose from 5-10 target keywords for your website. Later on, you will need to develop pages on your site for these keywords to maximize your site performance on search results.
Conduct competitor research for your chosen keywords
Going back to the pages ranking on the first page of the search result for your chosen keywords, you need to perform off-page SEO on each. Since you have already reviewed the on-page SEO factors of the pages, it is time to see the backlinks of each, which is a factor that arguably bears the most weight when it comes to search rankings.
Going with a different example, I want to optimize for “personal injury lawyer” because I specialize in personal injury cases and want more visitors to my home page (hypothetically). I searched for the keyword on Google and found The Levin Firm, a potential competitor, which ranks sixth on search results.
Using SEMrush, go to Domain Analytics > Backlinks and enter the URL of the ranking page in the search bar.
On the screenshot above, you will see the different sites that links to the Levin Firm homepage and the different factors. Best to export the result and file for later use.
You can possibly squeeze out more backlinks from the page using Open Site Explorer. Enter the URL of the page to the search bar.
OSE offers almost the same data as the SEMrush Backlinks tool but with additional information such as spam score. To export the data, you need to create an account.
The idea of analyzing backlinks of competitors is to see which among those links you can place a backlink to your site and how. By poaching backlinks from their link profile, you can even the playing field and be on par with the best-performing pages for your keyword.
“Building a strong link profile is one of the benefits that allow people like me in the industry to stay atop Google and attract clients in the process,” says Jonathan Rosenfeld in a quick chat about the effects of SEO in the legal industry.
To get you started, open the exported files and check the URLs that has a backlink of your competitor. Figure out how your competitor placed their backlink there and followed in their footsteps. Below are some of the most frequent ways that you can earn a backlink from these sites.
- Guest post – If website accepts guest posts, write one for them with a link back to your homepage.
- Broken link building – If the site with a backlink to your competitor is a resource page, identify the broken links and inform website owner. Include link back to your site and ask them to list it down as part of the page.
- Blog comment – If blog page that accepts the comment, enter the comment on the page with a backlink to our site. Make sure that comment is not spammy.
- Request to link back to our resource – If the page has an editorial link to our competitors' websites, we inform them that we have a better site and pages related to their content. Kindly ask them to refer to our site for their future posts.
- Skyscraper technique – Create and publish a better content the competitor sites they linked to the page and emailed them about it. Will also prepare campaigns using this technique that I developed with the team that I plan to have published on the blog.
Identify the type of approach that each of the pages of your competitor’s link profile needs so you can prepare a strategy later on that ties with your content creation.
Develop a content strategy
Now you have the target keywords and competitor links in place, you can now develop a content strategy that not only allows you to produce highly targeted content based on your keywords, but also create content for the purpose of earning a backlink.
However, before we begin with actually developing a strategy, you need to go back to your competitors. You need to gain a better insight on how they produce, publish, and promote their content so you can fit and match content tactics that will work towards your favor. Below are some of the factors you need to take note of when reviewing each of the competitor pages.
- Post type – Are they posting other forms of content other than articles?
- Post quality – How many words do they publish for each post? Are the posts very generic or do they go in depth on their respective topics? Also, are the posts SEO-friendly?
- Post Frequency – How many times do they publish content in a week or month?
- Social media activity – Which social media sites do they get the most shares and how? How many fans and followers do they have on social media and how much engagement are they getting?
The most important thing to consider when reviewing these factors on each page is their strengths and weaknesses. For example, if your competitor site produces high-quality content a monthly or bi-monthly basis, then you want to publish equally great content with more frequency.
The idea is to copy their strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses so you can produce a much better performing site.
Regarding the volume of content you want to create for your blog, you may need to test the waters first before plunging into doing in-depth articles.
“Start any site with mini site model (5 – 10 articles) to test the water and scale up to the authority site model if the site performs well,” says Tung Tran of Cloud Living.
Using Levin Firm as an example, below is a fundamental overview of their content strategy:
- Site is rich in high-definition images and has commendable web copy
- Features videos that explain how their business works
- Great display of social proof in the form of testimonials and awards received
- Very clear and cut-dry “What We Do” section (Personal Service, Award Winning, et. al.)
- Well-defined cases of personal injuries that links to an article on the page
- A Free Case Consultation Form at the bottom of the page
With a quick view of the content from this perspective, you can easily pinpoint actionable items to help your website look more like Levin Firm, if not better.
You may need to list down all these things in your spreadsheet to keep a handy file of your competitors that you can refer to in the future.
When it comes to creating content, I have posted a very in-depth guide that emphasizes the importance of finding backlinks first before developing content for your site.
By collecting backlink opportunities from sites where your competitors also have a link on, you can build content for the purpose of not only building value for your readers but also building links.
For example, in the Levin Firm homepage, I looked into the sites linking to the article using SEMrush.
From the results, I clicked on the Law Photography homepage , which is near the top of the list.
Browsing down the site is the article "How to Get the Personal Injury Lawyer You Need" with a link to the Levin Firm at the bottom. Looking at this from an SEO perspective, you can create a similar and even better content about personal injury. You can reach out to the Law Photography site through its contact page informing them that you have written an article about personal injury that can be linked from their article.
This is just one possible way to approach building links from this site. There are other better ways, especially if you can get creative and much more persuasive with your approach.
Using these ideas, generate a content strategy that focuses on your strengths and capitalizing on the weaknesses of your competition, as well as allows you to develop content with building links as your end goal.
Organize your link building strategy
While there are link building tactics incorporated within your content strategy, you still need to formulate a more comprehensive link building strategy that will tie all your efforts together in earning links from different sites.
For the sake of this article, you should stick to the formula of competitor research using the backlink data gathered from SEMrush and Open Site Explorer. By exhausting all possibilities so, you can build a link profile that mirrors your competition. By poaching their links as mentioned above, you can close the gap between you and your site regarding backlink quantity and quality.
You can even work your way down to the other pages of search results so you can endlessly mine for more competitor links, even if they rank lower in the pecking order.
Finally, you can incorporate other ingenious link building tactics to ramp up your efforts. Identify which tactics in the list that your competition is doing and isn’t. Similarly, you can copy tactics that work for them and amplify link building tactics that they have yet to do on their sites.
Competition can be tough, but you need to be tougher especially if you want to succeed in a ruthless niche. The great thing about the strategies mentioned above is that they provides you with a sustainable link profile that mirrors your competitors so you can get the same links they do. Also, the backlinks you can harvest from these strategies are endless since there are thousands of pages that you will have to mine links from. Implementing these strategies will take a lot time, but it should be all worth it once you have conquered your niche.
Working with a new client on optimizing their review site listings is a lot like cleaning out a messy garage. There’s a bunch of junk mixed in with important misplaced items, and it’s time for spring cleaning.
Incorrect citations and empty review site listings damage your prospect’s online visibility. The larger your client’s business, the more difficult it can be to unravel and uncover all of the business’s mentions, in order to fix them.
In order to fix incongruities and start proactively building your client’s online reputation, an agency needs to have the processes in place to properly onboard their new client, and organize all of their up to date information.
When working with a new client you need:
- A process for onboarding your client
- An onboarding questionnaire that asks the right questions.
- A spreadsheet to track their business information, citations, and review site listings.
Know the Basics: Citations vs. Review Site Listings
Whether your agency is providing Local SEO or Review Marketing Management services, you’ll need to tackle both the company’s existing citations and their review site listings, but what’s the difference?
Citations – Find them, Fix them, Track them, Build them.
“A citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Like links to your website, Google uses them when evaluating the online authority of your business.”Mark Walters of SEOMark
It’s really as simple as name, address, and phone number as seen in this Yellow Pages citation for the Peacock Inn:
Since the internet is a pretty big place, finding your client’s existing citations, and making sure they’re correctly updated, can be like trying to find broken needles in the world’s biggest haystack. When the client has multiple brands, locations, and phone numbers, the task becomes exponentially more complicated.
“I would advise the agency to have a good, solid questionnaire that asks clients things like if they moved in the last 10 years or if they have multiple phone numbers. However, agencies should still be looking for other variations and not trusting that the client actually knows all the different things that exist online. Often clients don’t even realize they have tracking phone numbers.”
When it comes to tools for working with your client’s citations, Joy recommends:
As you find or create your client’s citations, make sure you are tracking them through your software or on a spreadsheet.
Review Site Listings
Review site listings, like Yelp or TripAdvisor, offer a discovery opportunity for customers to answer many of the questions that their prospective customers have.
First step: claim your client’s review site listings.
You’d be surprised how many small businesses let their customers beat them to the punch, by claiming their listing before the company. Take ownership!
The task of claiming websites is something you need to coordinate with your client. Some review sites, like Yelp, will call the business to verify the claim. Your client needs to be available to confirm.
Start track the listings in your spreadsheet. If your agency doesn’t have a spreadsheet in place, we have you covered (there’s a free spreadsheet template to download at the end of this post).
Once the listings have been claimed, you and your client can dive into fully filling out the profile.
Here are just some of the business attributes you can include on Yelp:
Here’s a list of company attributes, both general and industry specific, that you’ll want to compile:
- Business Name(s)
- Business Phone Number(s)
- Business Location(s)
- Website URL(s)
- Brand Assets
- Brand Style Sheet (if one exists)
- Color Palette
- Photos of Business
- Marketing Materials
- Social Media Channels/URL
- Mission Statement
- Established Date
- Number of Employees
- Primary Business Category
- Secondary Categories
- Company History
- Targeted Keywords
- Long description of company (With Keywords)
- Short description of company (With Keywords)
- Hours of Operation
- Holiday Hours
- Directions to the Business
- Products and Services Offered
- Payment Options
- Languages Spoken
Industry Specific Information
- Business Amenities (For restaurant and other service industries)
- Pet Friendly
- Reservations Accepted
- Smoking/No-Smoking Policies
- Wifi Availability
- Hotel Specific Amenities (accommodations)
- Restaurant Specific Amenities (menu)
- Fitness (classes)
- Licenses and Accreditations (For Legal or home service companies, etc)
Working with Clients on Review Site Management
When you send your client the initial questionnaire, don’t assume that all of the information they’re providing is correct. You will need to do additional research on your own.
Especially for items like primary and secondary categories, James Watt, Local Search Forum Top Contributor, reminds us to remember that you’re the expert:
“Don’t take the client’s word on primary + secondary categories. Categories are important for ranking well, and it’s worth the time in my view to do some competitive research.
What categories are successful companies in the major cities using? Your city?
I use competition to guide choices here pretty heavily, and it might even be that a client’s ‘primary category’ is ultimately worth putting in second place in favor of something that’ll get them a little extra exposure. There are, of course, categories the client might not have even mentioned. I usually need to do this industry research on my own anyway before I can have an intelligent conversation with the client about what they might have forgotten to tell me in this area.”
It’s essential to explain to the client that if anything changes about the business, not only does it need to be updated on the website (especially NAP items), but each of the review site listings need to include the new info as well.
For instance, when educating the client, James suggest that you, “make sure you establish that any hours of operation changes need to be communicated to you beforehand, so they can be reflected on the website and (at least) their profile on Google. Make sure the client understands the value of updating holiday hours, or just hour changes in general, quickly, so they can feed you the right info at the right time.“
An Inside Look Into How an Agency Operates
Efficiently organizing your client’s information and having the right onboarding processes in place is key to providing the best service.
Justin Bilyj, Director of Local SEOrm of BantaMedia, was kind enough to give us a peek into how his agency operates:
We take a three-phased approach to building our internal client folder to help manage the flow of information without getting bogged down.
We use Google documents to collaborate on this folder internally. We are testing other collaboration tools, but the learning curve can be so steep on them that Google seems to be the most intuitive for now.
Our three-phased client process is divided into Introduction, Discovery, and Execution and Advanced Reporting, or I.D.E.A. We recommend every agency establish a clear set of guidelines for every phase of service, like a roadmap for where the project is headed. Every time you pause from building citations to go back to the client and ask for another piece of information, it causes disruption, so by collecting all the info we’ll need up front, it helps the process go more smoothly later on.
The documents associated with the Introductory phase include an Executive Proposal and our standard operating contract, if they agree to the proposal. Next is the Discovery phase, where we interview the client about the ins and outs of their business, including:
- Brand fonts, colors, and logos
- Existing brand standards (including licensing documentation or legal disclaimers)
- Social media channels they are currently using
- Business name, addresses, phone numbers and operating hours
- The brand’s background story and “About Us” boilerplate text
- Keywords and hashtags relevant to the company
- Differentiating brand messages they are currently marketing on their channels.
From that initial discovery meeting, we create three mandatory documents: a brand profile, a master login list of directory listings and Web 2.0 properties, and an Outreach List of Bloggers, Media Outlets, and Key Influencers relevant to their business.
I can’t tell you how often during a project we reference this brand profile, because it keeps all the pertinent info about a client, beyond their citations, right at our fingertips. Every agency should develop some type of one-page master “brand standards” document to quickly convey content creation and posting guidelines for each client’s citations or local SEO work. (This is also the same brand profile we use for clients that work with us for content creation or social media management.)
Depending on the types of services the client hired us for, there may be additional supplementary files like:
- Website Audit
- Citation Audit
- Competitor Analysis
- Backlink Profile
- Local Linking Questionnaire (Phil Rozek has a great one)
- Content Strategy
- Editorial Calendar (for content creation and/or social media posting)
Having a master spreadsheet that lists every citation should be mandatory for Local SEO agencies. We use an Excel spreadsheet for ours. After the client’s Google My Business page has been verified (which is the first task on our checklist), we use their Google-verified business listing to begin a citation audit by making sure every listing matches the information on Google – which is the chief citation, in our opinion.
A citation audit is the next key step because it gives you a complete picture of the client’s local online presence before you start adding any citations. Within the audit, we check every major review site and niche directory – updating our master login list as we go so we have a listing of these in one place. Our citation audit lists each website URL, any account login info provided by the business owner or created by us, and notes about any updates we make to fix incorrect
We have all the client’s brand logos, images, videos, and other assets in the same folder next to the Brand Profile for easy access when creating or updating citations.
The last part of our process is Execution and Advanced Reporting. Depending on the service, there’s a variety of metrics that we measure and put into monthly reports for the client to review, and we discuss this in a monthly status report call. It’s shocking that any agency would offer services like these without offering at least an hour on the phone with the client every month; it’s just good customer service. Addressing questions and providing recommendations on this call can even be a great client retention tool. You’re not just doing mysterious work in the background at that point; you’re actually paying attention to the client and really personalizing your service.
It’s easy to accumulate a vast number of citations across the web. Review site listings demand updates when changes are made to your client’s business. By having all of your client’s information organized in a spreadsheet, your agency’s task of cleaning up and updating these online mentions will be more efficient and comprehensive.
Put an onboarding process in place to best serve your clients. They’ll appreciate your systematic efforts as they begin to see their online visibility improve and new customers walk through their doors.
To succeed in sales, you must walk a fine line between persistent and pushy. You don't want to give up too easily -- just because you don't get a response the first time you try doesn't mean the prospect isn't interested.
But you also don't want to annoy them -- sending 20 emails over the course of two weeks will turn an on-the-fence buyer into an uninterested one and will probably give your company a bad name.
With that in mind, how should you handle the buried email situation? It happens all the time: You send an email, your prospect opens it, even clicks on the link ... And never replies. Chances are, something came up, they couldn't answer right away, and then they forgot about it.
You could send a "just checking in" email -- or the new variation "Just wanted to bump this to the top of your inbox."
However, these messages fall into the "pushy" category. They're not helpful, just irritating.
Here's an alternative approach. Respond to your first email with the subject line "Email Buried?"
This suggests the prospect missed something and will prompt them to open it.
Use one of these four templates for the body of the email, depending on the stage of the sales process and the scenario.
1. If you're trying to schedule a connect or discovery call:
Hey [prospect name],
I saw you opened my email about [topic] but may not have had time to respond. Here's a link to [related page] -- [X point, Y page, Z section] might be particularly interesting to you because [reason].
Do you still want to schedule a call? Here's a link to my calendar if so: [link].
2. If you've already qualified them and want to schedule a demo:
Hi [prospect name],
I've been thinking about [prospect's business] and your [challenge to do X, opportunity for Y, pain point around Z]. Have you considered trying [strategy]?
Happy to explain more on the phone -- book a time with me here [link].
3. If you're waiting for them to sign the contract:
Hi [prospect name],
While you review the proposal, here's a [business case I put together for your company, walkthrough of Y feature, testimonial from a similar customer] you might want to check out.
4. If they've gone dark after the discovery call or demo:
Hey [prospect name],
I know you mentioned you need [solution] in place by [date] to meet [X goal]. Since we'd need to finalize the details by [earlier date] to make that happen, it may be a good idea to get the ball rolling again.
Are you free within the next day for a call? Here's a link to my calendar: [link].
5. If you've conducted warm outreach once and heard nothing back:
Hey [Prospect name],
A few days ago, I reached out about [X benefit]. But, did you know [Company name] also helps businesses like yours:
- [Interesting fact]
- [Interesting fact]
- [Interesting fact]
If you're interested to learn more, grab some time on my calendar here: [Insert link to calendar]
6. For those moments you just think they forgot:
Hey [Prospect name],
[Start by mentioning something that reminded you of them, i.e., "I watched a documentary on whale watching in Hawaii over the weekend, and I know you have a trip planned there soon. Any whale watching on the agenda?"].
Also, do you have any questions about those contracts I sent over a few days ago? Happy to hop on a call if that's helpful.
7. When they cancelled a demo and haven't responded to your rescheduling email:
Hello [Prospect name],
I know you're busy, and I want to do my part to make this process as easy as possible for you.
Here's a link to my calendar: [Insert calendar link]
Pick the date and time that works best for you, and I'll coordinate the rest!
Does this email take a little longer to write than your standard "bump this back up" one? Yes. It's worth it to avoid coming across as just another pushy, self-serving rep.
In my work with sales teams all over the world, I am often asked about what is the most critical trait for a successful salesperson. My answer is always the same: “Genuine curiosity.” Curiosity is like a Swiss Army knife with all the attachments. It gets the job done in nearly every situation and is easy to access once you’ve got it in your tool kit. Curiosity helps you:
- Build customer relationships. You will notice a different level of respect from your clients when you show an authentic level of interest in them as individuals and their company. Humans respond extremely well to this almost without exception.
- Increase your business acumen. Being curious about your own industry and the industries of your prospects drives you to learn more. As you satisfy your curiosity, you augment your ability to add value to your customer’s business. Clients want to know that you have invested in learning about their ecosystem: industry, customer set, products, services and impact trends.
- Be believable and sincere. You ask questions that uncover needs because you are genuinely curious, not because it’s in the training manual. People can tell from your demeanor that you’re being natural and not formulaic.
- Solve customer problems. Sales reps who aren’t curious about what makes people tick and why technology works (or doesn’t) don’t solve customer problems; they just sell “stuff.” Curiosity enables you to create unique solutions to their unique issues.
- Negotiate successful contracts. Your ability to understand the positions of the other party is directly dependent upon your ability to be truly curious about them. If you’re not curious, you’ll end up arguing about issues that aren’t important.
- Correct sales errors. When a customer buys from somebody else (or doesn’t buy from anyone), if you’re not curious about what happened, you won’t bother to find out why — and therefore can’t learn to turn your failures into future successes.
In short, curiosity is at the core of truly successful business efforts. If you don’t have curiosity, you can’t expect to be successful as an entrepreneur, a salesperson or even as an engineer. Period.
Author: Joanna Alter
Because of its ubiquity, buyers have grown wary of branded content, and so they easily tune it out. What they do respond to, however, is authentic content generated by your most valuable asset—your customers!
User-generated content (UGC) is essentially any content related to your brand that is voluntarily produced by your customers. Customers who have good experiences with your brand are motivated to inform their peers by sharing their experiences. UGC provides relevant information without trying to sell anything. This may include product and site reviews, their questions and answers, and pictures of them using your product.
Today’s buyers expect detailed information, faster processes, and personalized content, and UGC allows businesses to tap into these expectations by amplifying their customers’ voices, increasing brand visibility, and building relationships.
Here are three ways that you can use user-generated content to grow your business:
1. Let Your Customers Do the Talking
Today’s buyers trust content from other buyers more than they trust branded content because it comes across as more honest and reliable. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to a BrightLocal study.
There is never a bad time to show the world how happy your customers are, especially with UGC that authentically conveys your brand. Clearly displaying your customers’ reviews, photos and videos, and questions and answers gives your buyers immediate access to information on specific pain points and concerns that they may have. This user-generated content can be shared across your different channels, including emails to your customers, your social media channels, and throughout your website.
For example, online lingerie company ThirdLove features customer reviews on their website and in their emails to highlight what real women think about their products. UGC like this can alleviate the inherent uncertainty associated with online purchases. The more people are exposed to positive experiences and relevant information about your products, the more likely they are to trust your brand and purchase from you.
And with customer photos, you can reassure your buyers what your products look in real life, outside of a studio, and demonstrate how they’re being used. This establishes trust in your brand, which makes your buyers more excited about your products and ultimately leads to more conversions.
Sportswear brand Tribesports uses a UGC campaign with the hashtag #OwnYourMarks to collect customer photos, which they display on their product pages. These user-generated photos show the enthusiasm of the Tribesports community and encourages others to join.
2. Engage Customers When They Are Not Shopping
User-generated content is a powerful tool for building social proof, and it’s one of the most effective ways to build trust on social media. Having high brand visibility on social networks increases the likelihood that your product or service will be top-of-mind for your customers when they need something you offer. And when you take the extra step to build a relationship with your customers outside of your store and website, they are more likely to refer their friends and family to your brand when the time is right.
By running a contest, encouraging customers to use a given hashtag in posts about your brand, or a combination of the two, you can gather valuable insight about their preferences and interests, while also collecting UGC that can be repurposed across your marketing channels.
One of the most well known UGC campaigns is the Starbucks White Cup Contest, which encouraged Starbucks customers to cover their signature white cups with their own design and share it on social media with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest. The winning design would be produced by Starbucks as a limited-edition reusable plastic cup.
By providing an incentive tailored to their audience and encouraging creative expression, Starbucks created a conversation around their brand and collected thousands of customer photos via social media. At the same time, they showed that they genuinely value their customers.
Another way to increase brand visibility on social media is with social ads that broaden your brand’s reach and influence potential customers. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Often, staged social media ads stand out like a sore thumb among the candid content that visitors consume when browsing their feeds. However, by including UGC within ads, you can improve conversions because they blend in better with the surrounding content.
Take for example this Facebook ad from Peter Manning that displays a five-star review. The visual of the five stars and the brief, but relevant review communicates the customer’s positive experience quickly and easily for those scrolling through their Facebook feed.
3. Shine a Spotlight on Good Service
Addressing customer reviews is critical to highlighting your brand’s values and providing good customer service. And customer service is critical to business growth when you consider the fact that for every customer experience failure, brands lose an average of 65% of the revenue they would have earned from the affected customer during the following year, according to SDL.
Even if the reviews are negative, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Displaying critical reviews on your website shows that your brand is honest and transparent, and it’s an opportunity to let your quality customer service shine. In fact, SDI reports that 30% of consumers say that they would go back to a brand after seeing how business has improved. Responding to negative reviews simultaneously allows you to open up a conversation with your customers and shows interested shoppers that you value them.
Answering customer questions is also a great way to address specific customer pain points and influence their purchase decision process. Take a look at the example below of the Q&A section on men’s apparel brand Rhone’s product page, where interested shoppers can ask questions regarding their exercise apparel. Rhone responded quickly, putting their quality customer service on display, and when the answer was “no,” they used the opportunity to direct the customer to products that addressed the concern.
You can answer the questions directly as Rhone did or you can refer the questions to a past buyer to answer. Referring customer questions to past buyers adds a social aspect to Q&A, thereby fostering a sense of community around your brand.
User-generated content is relevant and relatable, and you can use it to grow your business. It attracts a potential customer’s attention and makes the online shopping experience more personalized, all while adding to the valuable relationship you’ve built with your existing customers.
Have you started using UGC for your brand? Share your tips in the comments below!
3 Ways to Grow Your Business With User-Generated Content was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com
There are no shortage of opinions today about what’s wrong with the global economy and how to fix it. Now in our fourth year of “recovery” after the global economic recession, politicians, economists, and monetary leaders worldwide continue to express cautious optimism about the future as quarterly GDP growth fluctuates between .05% and 2% across major Western economies. While one side celebrates wage increases and job creation, the other argues that unemployment figures hide the partially employed, and no shortage of rhetoric is spared on the cause of economic stagnation for political gain. And while a host of new and innovative companies are bringing disruptive new business models and products to global markets, there doesn’t appear to be anything but long bets for sustainable growth on the horizon. It feels like a collective retooling on global economic growth is taking place with no short-term fix in sight.
In this retooling, the “experts” would be wise to consider not going back to their old bag of tricks. As Millennial consumers reach bank lending-age maturity, they eschew the big ticket items that underpin the engine of economic growth in the past, like home and car ownership and the secondary economies driven by them. They live with family longer, rent apartments in urban centers, use public transportation, participate in the sharing economy, and reuse and recycle instead of buying new. And instead of showing off flashy big-ticket items, they value highly personalized and unique experiences which they purchase based on peer recommendations and promote on social media. And it’s not just Millennials. As Baby Boomers age, so does their taste for maintaining big homes and mortgages that keep them tied to one place. So they too migrate to urban centers where walkability index becomes a key purchase decision, participate in the new “going small” housing movement and seek out new experiences as they free themselves from their suburban homes and lawns. These movements present us an obvious and enormous, but currently unrecognized, business opportunity — making the creation and management of the customer experience the most important thing a company does. And that makes the service worker the most important employee.
Talk to any executive at a company operating in a competitive industry and they will tell you that customer experience is important. But when you trace the branding and advertising message into the actual experience, the disconnect becomes obvious. For the last quarter of a century, customer service departments have been cost optimized to the point of diminishing return, and people in contact centers are left to pick up the pieces of a broken brand promise. Quite often, those customer service agents are stripped of their personalities and problem-solving skills in order to adhere to a service protocol or standard that has been arbitrarily set without the context of the new experience economy imperative. Common practices include getting customers off of the phone or chat in order to meet a goal; having to reverify customers who have already been through multiple layers of identification; having to use call scripts and workflows that might conflict with what the customer is actually trying to do; sitting through quality-control sessions with supervisors that scrutinize every utterance of their interactions; and finally being judged on a satisfaction, effort, or promoter score assigned by a customer which they had little ability to directly influence. It’s no wonder that turnover in customer service departments is so high.
In the experience economy, the retooling of customer service becomes the first place to start in order to create a sustainable competitive advantage, attract the best customer service talent, and figure out how to actually deliver customer experience at a scale unlike ever before. There is no shortage of new and innovative technologies that will be central to those experiences, especially in a world where devices and customers are connected in powerful new ways. We’re working every day with customers on these new applications — and along the way are being reminded of something more fundamental than the technology: It’s the formula of how the service worker and technology come together that proves to be the right mix that customers of all ages are looking for — and are willing to pay a premium for. And it’s why the companies that bet big on the experience economy will not only win new customers, but tap into an economic-growth engine that many are talking about but very few are actually delivering.
In March, an Accenture study cited that companies lost $1.6 trillion last year alone due to customers switching providers because of poor customer service. Moreover, the study went on to reveal that customers prefer to deal with human beings instead of digital channels for customer service issues. This underscores the need to put people into the customer service equation again, but in new ways, such as:
- Building connected experiences that empower service employees to be at their very best when a customer needs their expertise
- Enabling service employees to apply unique insights and problem-solving skills with the best information available to them, every time
- Letting service employees participate in a customer interaction that presents the value of a human interaction at the appropriate moment — not simply when something has gone wrong and a customer needs someone to gripe to
- Unleashing service employees to provide the kind of help they want to provide but are inhibited by service protocols or company standards from doing
The best service agents, like anyone doing something they love, have a genuine caring nature and passion for helping people and will tell you that’s why they come to work and feel fulfilled. When a company taps into that potential, it unleashes the most powerful, authentic form of service that customers crave in an experience economy and brings a sense of pride, ownership, and empowerment to the service workers who deliver customer experiences every day.
Which means it’s time we raise up the service worker. This starts with thinking about the people that work in service as talent, not as an expendable cost by: applying equal pay across gender and also across service roles and positions; providing better working conditions and full-time employee benefits to service roles; making customer service as a dream job instead of an entry-point to something else; celebrating acts of great service when they happen; and making service the coolest job anyone could have in a company because the role is empowered to apply their skills and expertise to help customers. Retooling for the new experience economy starts now, and it starts with the service worker. Let’s put people back into customer service and usher in a new form of connected service that fuels quality job growth, sustainable competitive differentiation, and gives customers the kind of connected service they need in the experience economy of 2016.
Want more customer service best practices for creating an awesome agent experience? Check out the free interactive infographic.
As both Scott Vaughan and I have discussed at length in recent posts, there’s a growing need for the automation of top-funnel B2B marketing activities. This is a key requirement if we’re to climb the B2B marketing maturity curve and fully orchestrate demand.
Unfortunately, attaining key elements of demand orchestration (fully automated funnel, dynamic personal messaging and real-time analysis and optimization) is far from easy. It requires a significant amount of change – in mindset, processes and technology. And as we all know, managing change is often the toughest part of any new initiative.
Deploying a new strategic marketing initiative or even adopting a new marketing technology often comes with many hurdles: untangling existing processes; mitigating internal resistance to get all stakeholders on board; avoiding disrupting existing business; and overcoming fear of learning new systems.
Instead of fighting change, embracing new opportunities promises big rewards. And in an industry where the rate of change is constantly accelerating, the best defense is a smart offense.
Here are a few specific steps to help you manage change in your marketing organization to achieve greater results.
Focus on measurable marketing initiatives that will create business value
Effective change most often happens when you focus your energy on efforts that transform or accelerate the business. Two areas marketers cite frequently are:
- Customer-driven initiatives that drive revenue, and
- Marketing automation and marketing integration projects that unlock cost savings.
These efforts are measurable and showcase the ways change can create business value.
Be and identify other champions of change
Change rarely starts at the top (but usually requires executive buy-in). Solicit and dig for smart ideas in every corner, both internally (within your company) and externally (from customers to influencers to analysts).
Then, socialize the need and opportunity for change, identifying and rewarding “change agents” who will set the tone for others. Using this collective knowledge and passion will help advance your effort. At the same time, identify and isolate naysayers. These people are those who find small or petty reasons not to make changes and often try to sabotage change.
Assertive, fast-moving advocates define success and ignite the most valuable efforts. Focus on the possibilities, not the pitfalls. Volunteer to get your hands dirty. Not only will you learn, but you can share your knowledge to fire up peers while you get to work on the most interesting marketing initiatives.
Communicate and share a vision that inspires change
Like all successful marketing efforts, frame your ideas in a story that inspires and causes action. Articulate the challenges and what’s possible. An effective approach is to show the before and after of the change that needs to be made. While building a vision and story is important, avoid hyperbolic Silicon Valley speak – it only undermines the originality of your ideas.
Put an emphasis on marketing agility
Having a fully baked plan with projected results is great, but don’t let analysis paralysis doom your new initiatives before they get off the ground. Think instead about tests that fail or succeed fast, creating clear insight into future opportunities, and ways you can build momentum. Tests are one of the best learning tools that marketing leaders have at their disposal, so fire away.
Demonstrate business value whenever possible
The world is filled with naysayers — those who are either against a project from the outset, prefer the old way of doing things, or seem to be just as happy when things fail. Having success stories, data points and examples on hand to educate executives, colleagues and even the naysayers will limit human obstacles to change.
If you’re thinking of deploying a new initiative or completely overhauling an existing process, I can relate to your pain. But I can also confirm that the biggest challenges often stand in front of the best opportunities.
The SiriusDecisions Summit has become one of the pre-eminent events in North America for product, marketing and sales leaders at B2B companies. Held last week in Nashville, Tennessee, the 2016 event focused on the theme of “the art and science of intelligent growth” and featured more than 50 sessions from SiriusDecisions analysts and 100 case studies.
The big takeaway from the summit? B2B customer experience matters, and it’s increasingly becoming the biggest competitive advantage for leading brands. I attended the conference with several of my colleagues. Here’s a summary of the business lessons we took away from the four-day conference.
Get a clearer picture of your customers.
Many speakers reiterated the importance of embracing audience-centricity. Marisa Kopec, vice president of innovation and product management at SiriusDecisions, said companies must move from a product-centric approach in their go-to-market strategy to one that is more audience-centric.
“The reality is that many B2B companies don’t naturally have 20/20 buyer vision,” Kopec said. “They can see their products and solutions, but they have a hard time seeing their buyers.”
— Melissa Madian (@MelissaMadian) May 27, 2016
To move to an audience-centric approach, Kopec recommended prioritizing buyer personas, defining buyer needs and mapping a company’s portfolio accordingly.
Concluded Kopec, “Don’t assume you know who your buyer is…make sure you are using both art (qualitative) and science (quantitative) to target and cross-functionally validate that your sights, and investments, are focused on the right audience.”
— Megan Heuer (@megheuer) May 27, 2016
Engage with your current customers to uncover customer needs.
In their presentation, Jeff Lash, VP and group director of go-to-market strategy at SiriusDecisions, and Rachel Young, research director at SiriusDecisions, said that in order to succeed, companies need to look beyond short-term and obvious customer needs.
“Companies focusing only on obvious needs miss out on the broader landscape of potential needs that could be addressed,” said Lash. “The ability to find and address customer needs is the foundation of marketing.”
Before they even think about building a new product and bringing it to market, companies must first do something fundamental: set a common definition of customer needs.
Explained Young, “Though the concept of a need may seem so fundamental that it doesn’t need to be described, our research shows that companies struggle to understand and act on customer needs because they lack a common definition of exactly what a need is.”
Once a definition of a need is clarified, companies should then engage with their customers. According to Lark, current customers should be the primary source for discovering what constitutes a customer need and how to meet it.
— Ross Graber (@RossGraber) May 25, 2016
— Nick Stein (@stein_nick) May 25, 2016
Don’t ignore the post-sale experience.
While the summit featured a lot of content about lead generation and pipeline acceleration, many speakers emphasized the need to focus on the experience of current customers.
Megan Heuer, vice president of research at SiriusDecisions, gave a compelling presentation on why B2B companies need to significantly improve their CX strategy. A 2016 SiriusDecisions study shows that CX is critical for customer growth, retention and advocacy and could potentially make or a break a company’s success.
— Heather Foeh (@heatherfoeh) May 26, 2016
Research from SiriusDecisions shows that up to 80 percent of buying decisions in B2B are “based on a buyer’s direct or indirect customer experience.” Only 20 percent are based on the price or the actual offering.
— Fred M. Isbell (@fmisbell) May 26, 2016
The bad news: most B2B companies are failing to meet post-sale CX expectations. Forty-five percent of the B2B customers that SiriusDecisions talked to indicated that they aren’t getting the value they were promised. As a result, 42 percent indicated that they’re not sure about renewing with their vendors—and 61 percent aren’t willing to recommend their providers. The study also shows a widening gap in terms of how executives and customers perceive the post-sale experience.
— Ross Graber (@RossGraber) May 26, 2016
In her keynote, Heuer said B2B companies must focus on three things right away to improve the B2B customer experience. The first step is something that Lark and Young already discussed: establish a deep understanding of customer needs. Customer intelligence should also be part of the mix: companies need to leverage customer engagement to gauge perceptions of the post-sale experience and how it can be improved. Companies should consider co-creating the post-sale experience with their customers.
“Far too often, b-to-b organizations portray themselves as customer-centric without really understanding what customers want after they buy,” said Heuer in an accompanying press release about the study. “In order to keep current customers, attract new ones and ultimately grow revenues and profits, B2B companies must listen to customers, find out where there are gaps, then take meaningful action on what they hear.”
Build a community to improve the B2B customer experience.
In his keynote, the celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, a familiar face from Food Network shows Chopped and Top Chef, reiterated the importance of focusing on the B2B customer experience and revealed how building a community can help companies drive results.
— Nick Stein (@stein_nick) May 24, 2016
“No one goes to a restaurant because they’re hungry,” he said. “People go because they want an experience. If you can’t give an experience that exceeds expectations and is something to talk about at the water cooler or post about on Facebook, then you don’t have a business.”
— SiriusDecisions (@siriusdecisions) May 24, 2016
Samuelsson shared that tapping into the local community has been integral to the success of his businesses.
He explained, “Through Red Rooster, I’ve been able to articulate my dream and vision about the local community and what the word ‘restaurant’ truly means. It means to restore your community. Our job is to tell stories about our community through hospitality.”
The message from the 2016 SiriusDecisions Summit is clear: just like their B2C counterparts, B2B marketers need to think about the end-to-end experience of customers. Companies need to pay particular attention to the post-sale experience—to make sure that they understand the wants, needs and pain points of the customers they serve.
For more info on how to improve the B2B customer experience, watch The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer, a webinar with CX pro Jeanne Bliss.
What sales organization isn’t trying to increase pipeline?
Improving the pipeline demands a sales team that’s enabled to effectively execute discovery and clearly articulate value and differentiation.
Below are several checkpoints you can use with your team to help provide them a road map to new business opportunities.
Communicate Well with Digital Buyers
One of the best ways to grow new business is to be where your buyers are and that means having a way for your salespeople to easily communicate with digital buyers.
In fact, your salespeople can get hundreds of followers, thousands of likes, and even make valuable connections, but if you don’t employ a system that capitalizes on these interactions, you’ll never see the kind of return that drives bottom-line impact.
Honing in on the social media tools and message strategies that connect with your target prospects, at the right time, is key. The goal is to make connections, interact to build rapport, and ultimately turn those online interactions into off-line customer relationships.
Source the Power of Pain
The deeper the pain or negative consequences of a problem for a buyer, the greater the potential value of your solution. Buyers are more willing to listen to the details of your solution when you’re able to tie that solution to fixing their biggest business challenges.
Your ability to ask insightful and thought-provoking probing questions are key to generating more business through higher-value solutions. Ask about the complexities, emotions, costs and level of urgency a prospect faces. If your solution can save a business a lot of money or potentially resolve a major problem quickly, it provides more value to the buyer.
Consequently, you enhance the revenue on each sale with more powerful solutions. Finding a customer problem is the first step to winning the business. If you uncover a problem that has business implications, you set the stage for closing an opportunity that’s hinged on value. Remember, there is no value without a customer problem.
Be Purposeful in Your Questions
Another way to convert more sales and enhance revenue potential for each sale is by asking open-ended questions. Questions that allow a prospect to speak more freely could open doors to other types of problems and solutions. You may drive a multi-solution sale or find cross-selling opportunities with existing customers.
Thought provoking statements that begin with open phrases, such as “Explain to me…” or “Tell me…” are especially beneficial. These thoughts set the prospect up for a dialogue. You may uncover more potential for problem-solving solutions than you initially expected while getting the meeting.
Buyer journeys are becoming increasingly complex. Thanks to newer digital channels, technology is evolving at lightning speed. As a result, shoppers in both B2B and B2C have a wealth of resources available to support their research processes. As sales consultant Jill Rowley points out, today’s buyers rely on research to drive their consideration processes. They use a series of touchpoints to make the best possible decisions — particularly for expensive purchases such as software subscriptions, services, and high-end products. Enter micro-moments.
Think with Google uses this concept to describe the “fractured buyer journeys” that span hundreds of real-time, intent-driven interactions with your company. As Google points out, these moments are critical opportunities to shape long-term purchase intent. Every touchpoint needs to make an impact.
So how do you make the most out of each touchpoint, especially for high-consideration purchases for which the road to conversion is complex? Here are 3 tips to guide you.
Tailor Content to Decision Cycles
Buyers often rely on content to guide their decision-making. However, these audiences are typically short on time. Attention spans are shrinking, time is becoming a scarce asset, and everyone is bombarded with requests to provide and consume information. Not to mention, prospective buyers have to manage communications across multiple devices.
So how do you increase the impact and value of your content? The short answer: improve your targeting, so that audiences get to the right content faster with fewer clicks and less opportunity for distraction. You can do this by tailoring content to specific stages of your buyer’s decision cycle.
One example of this is Mindflash, a leading online learning platform for employee and customer training. The company has over 1,000 customers including McDonalds, Microsoft, Lufthansa, and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
Looking to accelerate growth, Mindflash has been increasing conversion rates throughout its customer lifecycle. The company creates messages that are relevant to different decision points. For instance, visitors to the company’s blog, free trial users and different segments of customers receive different messages, tips, etc. — as each of them are in different places in the customer journey and therefore require different content. By sharing content that is tailored to the moment, Mindflash sparked a 25% increase in free trial usage (e.g., users creating courses via Mindflash) and a 2x increase in blog signups. Check out the case study for more details.
Align Calls to Action (CTAs) with Visitor Persona
In the marketing world, timing is everything. The challenge that many companies face, however, is that it’s tough to reach audiences with timely, well-communicated, and relevant messages.
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the story behind the story. Take note of the actions that visitors take on your website and how they respond to your content. Create CTAs that are personalized and specific to each individual on your site.
Take Mendix, an application platform-as-a-service (aPaaS) company, as an example. Building a customer base across industries, verticals, and geographies, Mendix has been using real-time personalization technology to get the right content to the right audiences at the optimal point in the conversion funnel — delivering different content and different CTAs depending on the persona of the visitor. The end result has been a 10% increase in downloads and a 6% reduction in bounce rate. Read more about their approach and success in this case study.
Provide a Guided Experience
For companies that offer a free trial or demo before asking customers to commit to a purchase, give your prospective buyers the guidance that they need to make an informed purchase decision. There are a few specific tactics that can help:
- Targeted upselling: Communicate a value proposition that is distinct to your target audience, using personalization.
- Progressive profiling: As you learn more about your customers, ask more focused questions for information-gathering. This technique will help you develop a highly individualized picture for every single person in your prospect and/or customer database.
- In-app messaging: Buyer journeys are complex, which is why it’s important for your company to develop materials that can help guide audiences along their journeys or product adoption process.
Endurance International Group put this idea to work:
This 2,500-person, publicly traded provider of cloud-based platform solutions is designed to help small and medium-sized business owners succeed online. The company serves more than 4 million subscribers through brands including Bluehost, HostGator, Domain.com, iPage, and others. Using a mix of targeted upselling, personalized progressive profiling, and proactive support, the company generated a 71% increase in conversion rates, better engaged their customers, and gained a deeper understanding of them at the same time. Read up on the details in this case study.
Make the most out of micro-moments by the providing the highest value to your audience. Focus on optimizing every interaction. Offer guidance and structure throughout the buyer journey. The more complex the journey, the more thoughtful you’ll need to be about your customer interactions. The payoff will be there, however, in the form of improved customer engagement and conversions.
We’re all inundated with emails these days. At last count, professionals sent and received 122 business-related emails per day. With built-in spam and promotions filters, consider yourself lucky if your outreach emails make it to your prospects’ inboxes at all. So make sure you don’t squander the opportunity -- a buyer’s attention is easy to lose.
This rep’s email, despite being cold, isn’t completely terrible. She doesn’t immediately pitch Handy on selling her service, and she provides some content she thinks is valuable that Handy might be interested in.
However, she doesn’t provide much of a reason Handy should be interested in responding to her or why she thinks the content she’s providing is relevant. She also keeps the focus on her: She “wanted to drop a line,” she “would love to hear back,” and she “wanted to get a dialogue going -- not a word about what Handy could get out of speaking with her.
Not great. Still, as far as cold emails go, I’ve seen worse.
But Nadya makes a fatal mistake in the very first six words of her email: The subject line.
She calls Chris “Christina.” She does it twice. Once in the aforementioned subject line, and once more in the body of the email.
It doesn’t matter how good the email could have been, whether Handy could have benefited from using Nadya’s product, or if it made sense to connect. Handy’s interest was lost. Immediately.
“The sad part is that she had what looked like good content that was relevant and might be fairly interesting,” Handy writes in a Medium post on the topic. “How many other people will never do business with her company because of silly errors like this?”
When HubSpot VP of sales Pete Caputa shared Handy’s article with me, I was intrigued. On this blog, we always advocate adding value when you send an email to a prospect, whether it’s your first touch or your fifth. Of course, we also advocate getting your prospect’s name and basic demographic information right. I wondered: How do prospects balance potential value with writing basics? So I asked Handy:
“I’m curious to hear how you weigh factual/spelling errors vs. value. You say that the content seemed relevant and interesting -- any scenario where a pitch / offering would be SO valuable that you could overlook errors like this one? Or is the error itself enough to tank a salesperson’s credibility?”
Salespeople, pay attention, because the verdict is in.
“Salespeople and marketers should consider that when I (the prospect) process email, I’m typically in disqualifying mood by default,” Handy wrote back to me.
In his response, Handy outlined three errors salespeople can make: Typos, disrespect, and dishonesty.
A simple typo -- “Chrs” instead of “Chris,” for example -- isn’t a big deal, although to make the best first impression it’s obviously best to spell everything correctly.
The real issue with this email, Handy said, is not that the error is incredibly offensive or irreparable. It’s the disregard of Handy’s time that the error indicates. Not only did Nadya fumble his name twice, her email is entirely focused on what she wants to do, not what Handy will get out of working with her.
“In the lens of an email received, I view this as a respect issue,” Handy writes. “Email is cheap, but a prospect’s time and attention are definitely not. She lost the right to ask for my time when she didn’t give me any of hers in the form of 10 seconds of research to understand who she was emailing.”
The takeaway for sales reps is clear. Playing the numbers game seems like it’ll yield results. If you send out more emails, you’ll get more responses, right? In fact, taking the time to more thoroughly research buyers -- though it might decrease your volume -- will increase your response rates, because each individual prospect will receive a personalized email.
A second cold email Handy got from a different sales rep further underscores the importance of valuing your prospect’s time. Here’s the preview Handy saw in his inbox:
The subject line and preview imply that Handy and Alex had a lengthy email exchange in the past, and so Handy opened the email. Here’s the message:
In reality, Alex and Handy had never spoken before. (Handy searched his inbox for Alex’s email to make sure he hadn’t just forgotten about it, and found nothing.)
Lying, according to Handy, is the worst thing a salesperson can do. Alex made no typos, but his dishonesty trumps everything else he got right. Yes, his deceptive subject line got Handy to open his message, but that’s not worth the bad blood he created with an outright lie.
Handy leaves salespeople with three takeaways:
- Typos can be forgivn [sic], but likely not forgotten until more trust is built.
- Respect my time, and I will be much more likely to give you mine.
- Deception is a dealbreaker. Don’t lie to me.
Case closed, reps. Buyers don’t appreciate their time being wasted or being lied to. Make sure everything you do is on the level, and make real effort to customize a message to prospects. If you don’t respect their time, they won’t value a relationship with you.
What do you think of these two reps’ approaches to getting a prospect’s attention? Let us know in the comments below.
Marketing and selling are both front-end activities aimed at driving revenue. However, their particular roles are normally very distinct. Because of different functional objectives, a rift may even form between these two departments.
To optimize your lead generation and sales development, you need a close alignment between marketing and sales. After all, we all want the same thing – more customers!
The following are three tips to achieve it.
Tie Goals Together
Employees and teams tend to naturally act in alignment with the objectives that matter most to them. The common difference between marketing and sales is that marketing looks to collect data and build long-term lead generation strategies, while sales teams are tasked with converting prospects attracted by marketing into paying customers.
To align these teams more closely, you need to develop some shared goals.
Collaboration on a lead generation strategy is an excellent starting point. Have marketing and sales teams work together to identify the best strategies to attract the right buyers and land appointments.
It’s what we do here at Internal Results. I sit within touching distance of the sales team, and we often collaborate on campaigns, landing pages and marketing materials.
I talk with the team regularly to get a better understanding of the issues prospects may be having so that we can try to address them in our marketing efforts. We share ideas and the challenges we are facing.
We understand what our goal and the company’s goals are and we all want to be successful in what we do.
Evaluating revenue or growth production collectively is another way to get people working together.
Make It a Top-Down Commitment
Like most major changes that take shape in an organisation, it takes executive-level commitment for marketing-sales alignment to develop and endure, according to the American Marketing Association.
In lieu of higher authority, marketers look to the marketing director and sales reps to sales management for direction.
To align these functions, the CEO needs to dictate it. Otherwise, each group naturally reverts to conventional goals, responsibilities and activities.
Emphasise Mutual Benefits
One of the main reasons people don’t work together in any setting is they fail to understand the benefits.
Salespeople, in particular, may view marketing requirements as an intrusion or annoyance. Marketers want sellers to consistently input data from prospects and clients, for instance, which takes time.
Reps can view this as unnecessary, counter to established habits and even an attempt to monitor performance.
In fact, marketers use the data gathered on prospects to optimise the development of content marketing strategies that are critical to lead generation.
The more marketing learns about customers and prospects, the more precise its ability to create campaigns and deliver them to the right people in the right way.
Marketing also equips reps with important materials and e-mail messages to deliver to prospects and clients. When done effectively, salespeople close more deals and earn more commission.
A cooperative relationship between marketing and sales leaders contributes to effective alignment as well.
Goals drive the behavior of employees and work teams. Therefore, to align sales and marketing teams you have to develop unified goals.
Top-down directives are also necessary to get people to change ingrained patterns of behavior.
Finally, sales leaders can help their reps by emphasizing the benefits gained from a cooperative approach to marketing.
As far as your CEO is concerned, your goal is the same whether you are in sales or marketing – to generate profitable business for the company.
Given all the attention that “digital” is getting at the moment, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is somehow new. In fact, the relentless drive to embrace digital technologies has been ongoing for many decades.
What also seems to have been forgotten are the lessons from these earlier attempts to leverage IT (remember that IT is a digital technology). Unfortunately, the history of IT investments in most organizations is far from stellar: Research over the years suggests that the overall failure rate of IT projects is around 70%. We know that when IT projects fail, it is usually not because the technology didn’t work (although this can sometimes be the case), but because the changes required at an organizational and employee level weren’t managed effectively. Quite simply, adding technology does not automatically confer expected benefits; these benefits have to be unlocked and this can only happen through achieving organizational changes.
Consequently, it is useful to think about investments in digital as essentially investments in change. It includes changes in how an organization interacts with its customers, citizens, or patients; in operational processes; in business models; in supply chain relationships; and in how employees use information to generate insight.
One tool that I have used to great effect to improve the likelihood of a successful result from digital investments is the benefits dependency network (BDN). This tool seeks to get managers to identify and map all the changes that they will be required to make if expected benefits and outcomes are going to be delivered. It also illustrates very clearly how this change will be enabled and shaped by digital technologies. The resultant network shows how each of the expected benefits will be delivered through a combination of technology and business changes and how these are related to each other.
To develop a BDN, you work backwards, or right to left, from the agreed investment objectives and the expected benefits, and map the required changes to structures, processes, work practices, and how staff would need to work through to the new technology necessary to enable and sustain those changes. To ensure the digital transformation initiative has momentum, the investment objectives should be closely aligned to critical business drivers.
Doing this ensures that digital investments are driven by business demand, shown on the right-hand side of the network, rather than technology on the left, which has traditionally steered many projects. The heads of the arrows between the network elements signify the direction of relationships. The technology, for example, enables the changes that must happen before other changes can occur or can shape the changes leading directed to achieving the expected benefits. If those linkages cannot be developed, then those investments should not be pursued.
Sponsored by AccentureThe technologies and processes that are transforming companies.
Changes can typically be catesgorized into two types: sustaining change and enabling change.
Sustaining changes are permanent changes to working practices, processes, or relationships that will cause the benefits to be delivered. They cannot normally be made until the new IT system (e.g., devices, software, infrastructure) is available for use and other necessary enabling changes have been made. Enabling changes are typically one-off changes that are prerequisites for making the sustaining changes or bringing the new system into effective operation. Examples include defining and agreeing on new work practices, creating a blueprint for business processes, agreeing on changes to job roles and responsibilities, establishing new performance-management systems, training in new business skills as well as the more obvious training and education in using the new system, and so on. They often have to be made before the new digital system is introduced.
Once the initial BDN has been constructed, measures for each of the benefits and responsibilities for all of the benefits and changes must then be assigned and time scales established. Assigning ownership increases accountability for both achieving the desired outcome and carrying out the activities needed to get there. In a major U.K. bank, for example, managers had to personally sign the business case for each benefit they were claiming a new CRM system would provide in order to show their commitment to realizing them. These benefits were then included in their personal performance targets.
I have successfully used the BDN with many organizations in a variety of industries. The initiatives included streamlining patient administration in a hospital, implementing a customer-relationship-management (CRM) system in a financial services organization, rolling out a global enterprise-resource-planning (ERP) system for a pharmaceutical company, and promoting collaboration in a technology company.
Consider an IT investment that one European retailer was pondering.
In the apparel industry, the benchmark for inventory accuracy is somewhere between 60% and 70%. However, the implications of inaccuracy are significant. Inventory data drives replenishment: Inaccurate stock data results in some items being overstocked (when inventory is understated in the system) and other items being understocked (when inventory is overstated in the system). It also leads to customer disappointment if items are thought to be in stock but in reality are not available. Markdowns also increase as a store may be carrying surplus stock as items reach end of life. To address this problem, this retailer planned to tag products at the item level. This would allow it to uniquely identify every product, even distinguishing fashion items by size and color, as well as proving information on its location.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) would be the key technology used to uniquely identify products. Each item would have an RFID inlay — essentially a microchip that stores an electronic product code (EPC). RFID has significant benefits over barcode laser scanning — most notably that multiple EPCs can be identified per second, line of sight is not required, and RFID passes through plastic packaging and storage containers. As the technology is able to identify products in such an efficient manner, inventory can be updated in real time and the data can be used to inform targeted replenishment and merchandizing decisions.
However, merely attaching an RFID tag to each item, installing RF antennae, and deploying new software would not automatically deliver a return on any expenditure. To identify what the company would need to do differently if the investment was to be a success, it built a BDN. A team consisting of staff from the stores and warehouses as well merchandizers, buyers, supply-chain specialists, and logistics professionals came together and over a number of weeks constructed a complete network.
Key drivers for the investment were to meet the retailer’s key customer pledge of “always available” and the enablement of true multichannel customer engagement (particularly with its “click and collect” proposition). Objectives for the investment were improved accuracy of inventory, reduction in inventory holdings, reduced cost of markdowns, less theft, and better merchandize planning. The expected benefits included improved working capital, an uplift in sales, reduced buying volumes, and a reduction in the backroom inventory at each store.
The enabling activities that were identified included supplier engagement and training (employees would have to attach the tags), writing new supplier agreements, and approving new package designs. Sustaining changes included implementing new reordering processes, new procedures for ordering stock at store level and for managing incoming stock at regional distributional centers and its subsequent distribution to stores, the elimination of contingency buffers in forecasting and buying processes, and the halting of in-store physical stock checks. These changes would then be supported by the technology that it was considering implementing.
A tech company that I worked with rolled out a suite of collaborative tools on employees’ desktops. With a young and tech savvy workforce, its leaders naïvely assumed that collaboration would immediately improve. Six months later, with no improvement in sight, they constructed a BDN and realized that considerable change would be required if an increase in collaboration was going to happen. For example, many of the administration processes would have to be redesigned, particularly to facilitate delegation of approval procedures and for employee self-service. A significant cultural change was also going to be needed, especially around information sharing and cross-cultural work. The resultant network of needed changes led to a 36-month program of work.
The power of the BDN is that it forces managers to understand and map out the changes that will be required for the transformation and to allocate accountabilities, significantly increasing their understanding and buy-in. It is also visually very powerful as it clearly shows that achieving digital transformation will require more than just deploying technologies like cloud computing, social media, or mobile. When presenting it, flip it around so people read it from left to right and see that the initiative is being driven by clear business drivers, not technology.
As optimizers and business owners, you’re striving to better understand your audience. Who visits your site? What are they looking for? What will make them convert to paying customers?
To help answer these questions, buyer modalities were created to help categorize visitors and their purchase behavior. The only problem?
Buyer modalities are meaningless and personality models as a whole are extremely difficult to apply to online marketing and optimization.
What Are the 4 Buyer Modalities?
The concept of buyer modalities was first introduced by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg in Waiting for Your Cat to Bark. Since then, it’s become quite popular…
The Eisenbergs believe that every buyer can be categorized into one of the following four types…
- Competitive Buyers – “What’s the bottom line?”
- Spontaneous Buyers – “Why should I choose you now?”
- Methodical Buyers – “How does your product work?”
- Humanistic Buyers – “Who has already used your solution to solve my problem?”
According to the Eisenbergs, 5-10% of the population falls within the Competitive modality, 45% within the Methodical modality, 10-15% within the Humanistic modality, and 25-35% within the Spontaneous modality.
These modalities are, of course, based on the the four temperaments, defined by Keirsey…
- Rationals (Competitive) – “Speak mostly of what new problems intrigue them and what new solutions they envision, and always pragmatic, they act as efficiently as possible to achieve their objectives, ignoring arbitrary rules and conventions if need be.”
- Artisans (Spontaneous) – “Speak mostly about what they see right in front of them, about what they can get their hands on, and they will do whatever works, whatever gives them a quick, effective payoff, even if they have to bend the rules.”
- Guardians (Methodical) – “Speak mostly of their duties and responsibilities, of what they can keep an eye on and take good care of, and they’re careful to obey the laws, follow the rules, and respect the rights of others.”
- Idealists (Humanistic) – “Speak mostly of what they hope for and imagine might be possible for people, and they want to act in good conscience, always trying to reach their goals without compromising their personal code of ethics.”
The four temperaments go all the way back to Hippocrates and Plato, who proposed that everyone falls within four categories: iconic (Artisans), pistic (Guardians), noetic (Idealists), dianoetic (Rational).
According to Keirsey, there are four rings that make up a personality: concrete vs. abstract, cooperative vs. utilitarian, informative vs. directive, and expressive vs. attentive.
Concrete vs. Abstract
Guardians and Artisans are concrete and observant while Idealists and Rationals are abstract and introspective. That means Guardians and Artisans are more grounded, more down to earth… they tend to focus on the practical. Idealists and Rationals, on the other hand, tend to have their heads in the clouds… they’re more theoretical.
Cooperative vs. Utilitarian
Rationals and Artisans are more utilitarian in nature, meaning they pay the most attention to their own thoughts and are primarily concerned with what works. Guardians and Idealists are cooperative, meaning they pay attention to other opinions and value doing the right thing.
Informative vs. Directive
Each temperament has a role: informative or directive. There are those who communicate by informing others (informative) and those who communicate by directing others (directive).
So, each of the four temperaments is broken up into two. For example, there are informative Guardians (Conservators) and directive Guardians (Administrators). The result? Eight possible categories…
- Operators (directive Artisans)
- Administrators (directive Guardians)
- Mentors (directive Idealists)
- Coordinators (directive Rationals)
- Entertainers (informative Artisans)
- Conservators (informative Guardians)
- Advocates (informative Idealists)
- Engineers (informative Rationals)
Expressive vs. Attentive
Lastly, you have those who prefer overt action (expressive) and those who prefer covert action (attentive). Those who are expressive are often described as active and chatty while those who are attentive are often described as wary and watchful.
Each of the eight categories above can be divided by expressive and attentive, leaving us with sixteen possibilities:
- Promoters (expressive Operators)
- Performers (expressive Entertainers)
- Supervisors (expressive Administrators)
- Providers (expressive Conservators)
- Teachers (expressive Mentors)
- Champions (expressive Advocates)
- Fieldmarshals (expressive Coordinators)
- Inventors (expressive Engineers)
- Crafters (attentive Operators)
- Composers (attentive Entertainers)
- Inspectors (attentive Administrators)
- Protectors (attentive Conservators)
- Counselors (attentive Mentors)
- Healers (attentive Advocates)
- Masterminds (attentive Coordinators)
- Architects (attentive Engineers)
Thus, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Now, each of those sixteen possibilities is also covered by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is arguably one of the most popular personality models available today…
- Provider is ESFJ.
- Protector is ISFJ.
- Supervisor is ESTJ.
- Inspector is ISTJ.
- Performer is ESFP.
- Composer is ISFP.
- Promoter is ESTP.
- Crafter is ISTP.
- Champion is ENFP.
- Healer is INFP.
- Teacher is ENFJ.
- Counselor is INFJ.
- Inventor is ENTP.
- Architect is INTP.
- Fieldmarshal is ENTJ.
- Mastermind is INTJ.
So, here’s a summary, in case that was all a bit confusing…
While the two personality indicators seem similar on a high-level, there are a few important differences. You can read about them in-depth here, but here’s a quick overview…
- Myers-Briggs focuses on how people think / feel vs. actual behavior.
- Myers-Briggs focuses more on introversion / extraversion.
- Myers-Briggs sorts by function attitudes (e.g. thinking, intuitive, feeling, sensing) vs. temperament.
How This Is Currently Being Translated to CRO
Now, marketers and optimizers are taking all of the personality concepts above and applying them to conversion rate optimization. It’s slightly more complex than this, but here are a few examples for each buyer modality…
- They want to know your product is the best and will make them the best.
- Provide concrete proof and avoid exaggerated claims.
- Back up every statement, use solid numbers.
- Provide trust icons.
- Be as detailed as possible, be aware of your fine print.
- Focus on social proof, show faces and actual customers / staff on your site.
- Allow interaction, user-generated content.
The Problem With Keirsey, Myers-Briggs & Others
BuzzFeed, ironically known for its ridiculous quizzes, decided to conduct an informal experiment. They asked four people to write down their date of birth, city of birth and favorite color. Then, Dr. Faryl Reingold privately gave them the results of their “personality test” based on the information they provided.
All four people read their personalized personality test results and then commented on how surprisingly accurate they were. One person described it as “spooky” and another said, and I quote, “The last line cuts me to my core.”
The truth? All of them were given the exact same results.
Dr. Faryl Reingold, Occupational Therapist:
“This probably felt pretty personal, though, right? I mean, two minutes ago, it felt like it was really about you. The reason it feels so personal is that, in fact, it is very, very general so it can apply to anybody.
This is called the Barnum effect. This is basically what you would find in a lot of online personality tests, a lot of online horoscopes, a lot of newspaper horoscopes.” (via BuzzFeed)
So Many Models to Choose From
There are a number of different personality models out there today and many are commercial. According to Vox, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator pulls in about $20M per year. But there are many other models, like DiSC.
Hell, some people claim to be able to sort you into a category based on which shape you “identify with best”.
Brian Cugelman of AlterSpark adds…
Dr. Brian Cugelman, AlterSpark:
“Myers-Briggs is just one of many systems. I think it carries a little bit of truth… just as all these systems do. They all have their own pros and cons, they classify people in different ways. Validation studies show that there are a lot of similarities between the systems, so there’s a little bit of truth in all of them.
There’s no magic solution for how to divide up people.
We’re only as good as our model. It should be empirical rather than theoretical… Myers-Briggs is a little bit of both.”
The History of Modern Personality Tests
Let’s take a big step back and look at the history. In 1921, Carl Jung hypothesized that people fall into a variety of types. However, he openly acknowledged that most people don’t fit neatly into just one type. He famously wrote, “Every individual is an exception to the rule.”
In 1945, Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, decided to run with Carl Jung’s hypothesis. Unfortunately, neither had any formal training in psychology and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was born.
In 1984, the Keirsey Temperament Sorted was introduced via the book Please Understand Me. It’s based heavily on the work of Isabel Briggs Myers and Carl Jung.
So, to be clear, buyer modalities are based on a hypothesis from 1921 that even the creator didn’t believe was completely valid. It’s been reshuffled by people who have no scientific background to generate revenue.
Those who aren’t making money off of it? Well, they have a pretty big bone to pick…
Still, They Remain Accepted in the CRO Industry
Still, marketers talk about the modalities as if they’re an absolute truth. Many will advise you to appeal to all of the buyer modalities. In an article for CrazyEgg, Angus Lynch of GetRooster.com had this to say…
Ultimately, it’s important to appeal to all 4 modalities within digital experiences, but some sites appeal more to certain buyer types.
What About Psychological Backfiring?
A major problem with appealing to all of the buyer modalities is psychological backfiring, which occurs when psychology is poorly applied and the exact opposite of the intended behavior is triggered. Brian explains…
Dr. Brian Cugelman, AlterSpark:
“Let’s say you make an authority appeal. If you have someone with a more conformist, submissive personality, for them, an authority appeal makes sense. But what happens when you have someone that’s rebellious, someone who doesn’t like to be told what to do? In this case, you think you’re optimizing for everyone, but you could be backfiring.
There are many people who are susceptible to social proof, to seeing what other people have done. However, there are those with an individualist attitude, who don’t respond well to social pressure. Those who are community-driven will respond well to social proof, but those who don’t have a strong social need, will not. It can backfire; sometimes people want to do what everyone else is not doing.
You have to understand your people. The problem is, most people don’t understand these relations… they don’t even talk about the backfiring.”
In trying to appeal to all of the buyer modalities, you risk appealing to none. In the same article as above, Angus suggests…
Marketers should hypothesize the type of buyer making up the majority of their visitors, then test these hypotheses on landing pages, homepages, checkout pages, and exit pop-ups.
A better solution would be to conduct conversion research to find out who your visitors and customers are, and how they want to buy. No hypothesis, no buyer modalities needed. Why assume based on a vague psychological theory instead of just conducting the research? Easier is rarely better.
We’re Just Not That Different, Guys
Dr. Bart Schutz, Online Dialogue:
“We think our personalities matter, but scientifically we just don’t differ that much. ‘We are unique as humanity, but not as humans.’”
The truth is a lot of people fall somewhere in the middle. Take the introversion-extraversion spectrum, for example. I would describe myself as an introvert, but do I fall to an extreme where I never (or even rarely) display extraverted traits? No. And likely, neither do you.
Brian agrees with Bart, adding that personality models need to deal with extremes…
Dr. Brian Cugelman, AlterSpark:
“The problem is a lot of people fall in the middle. It’s hard to sell a personality system if everyone is sort of similar. So, what they tend to do is try to push people into one bucket or another. You can easily feel artificially pushed.
If there systems are not well-designed, you’re going to have contradictory traits.
Most people are only slightly more or slightly less, and what they do is try to create a bigger contrast. Otherwise, the system doesn’t work.”
While it feels nice to be able to fit neatly into a box, to identify with something like introvert or extravert (for example), humans aren’t that simple. More often than not, they are only slightly more or slightly less than the average. Personality tests and, thus, the buyer modality theory artificially push people to inaccurate extremes.
Are All Personality Models Meaningless?
According to both Brian and Bart, scientists favor the Big Five personality model. Essentially, the model says there are five factors of personality to consider…
- Openness to Experience – How curious are you? Do you appreciate adventure? Are you creative? Are you imaginative and independent?
- Conscientiousness – How organized are you? How dependable are you? How disciplined? How stubborn and obsessive?
- Extraversion – How much energy do you have? How assertive and social are you? How attention-seeking are you?
- Agreeableness – How compassionate are you? Do you value cooperation? How trusting and helpful are you?
- Neuroticism – Do you feel negative emotions easily? How emotionally stable are you? Do you have control over your impulses?
Instead of being forced into an extreme, you’re rated on each factor. For example, your agreeableness rating might be 88% (leaning towards friendly / compassionate vs. detached / analytical) and your neuroticism rating might be 22% (leaning towards secure / confident vs. sensitive / nervous).
But even the scientific model is difficult to apply…
Dr. Bart Schutz, Online Dialogue:
“Myers-Briggs is easy to apply, but useless and non-scientific. The Big Five is the only valid and reliable personality framework, but it is hard to apply.”
How This All Applies to CRO
So, the big question is how all of this personality talk applies to conversion rate optimization. In reality, it doesn’t apply well at all.
Both Brian and Bart question the validity of the science behind the buying modalities and discuss how difficult it can be to apply any personality model, even a valid and reliable one, to online marketing and optimization.
Instead of guessing which buyer modality your visitors fit into or appealing to all four, simply conduct proper conversion research. That will help you answer the same questions, albeit more accurately.
- Who are my visitors / customers?
- What are my visitors’ intentions?
- What demographics am I dealing with?
- What are my visitors’ objections and fears?
- Is your messaging aligned with what your visitors want to hear?
- Does your value proposition resonate with your visitors?
- How do they like to buy?
- What is stopping them from converting?
- What should I test?
Personality models have tricked us (to the tune of over $20M a year) into thinking we’re all vastly different people with vastly different wants and needs.
It’s true that some visitors will be more spontaneous than others and some will care more about social proof, for example. But you can’t put people in exaggerated personality boxes and claim to be able to predict their on-site thoughts / behavior.
Personality models, especially the buyer modality model, are not easily applied or a valid replacement for conversion research.
The buyer modalities are based on Keirsey’s temperaments, which are based on Myers-Briggs, which is based on Carl Jung’s work, who once said, “Every individual is an exception to the rule.” In short? They’re totally meaningless.
It’s scary enough to think that personality tests like Myers-Briggs are being used to predict career compatibility and success. Don’t let it dictate how you optimize your site, too.
The best thing you can do for yourself is:
- Be aware that people make decisions and respond to persuasion in different ways.
- Conduct conversion research to figure out what will work best for your site.
Using buyer modalities is like taking a shot in the dark at a target that’s constantly changing shape.
In today’s email-centric work environment, you have to make sure you’re on top of your game.
But that’s easier said than done. You likely use email to manage customer relationships, talk to your team, network and manage your to-do list. Keeping up with everything makes it all-too-easy to drown in an ocean of emails.
Luckily, tons of Gmail plugins exist that make your life way easier. Some of these Gmail extensions add handy new features and capabilities to your email account, while others make a huge difference in email optimization.
You can now send higher-quality, better-informed emails, faster than ever—so that communication with clients and peers doesn’t have to take up half your day.
Here are 17 game-changing Gmail extensions, compiled and researched by us over here at Process Street.
Use Gmail for more than email
Most businesses take advantage of numerous productivity and workflow tools—from CRM, to messenger apps, to project management software.
But sometimes all those tools get tiresome, so it’s an awesome feeling to get to combine multiple tools into one. Here are a few Gmail extensions that turn your inbox into much more than a storage platform.
Chrome Web Store rating: 5/5 stars
Clearbit serves as a prospecting tool that helps you collect emails and fill in the blanks on leads you already have. After receiving a single email, you have instant access to all the senders info, like his or her role, the size of their company, and even how much money it raised.
This discreet but powerful plugin has done wonders for businesses that are looking to increase lead quality. In fact, thanks to Clearbit, the media monitoring startup, Mention was able to increase their signup conversion by over 54%.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
Streak is a sales-oriented Gmail plugin for teams that are tired of switching between their CRM and their email. Streak literally turns your Gmail into a CRM, changing the appearance and organization of your inbox.
It allows you to organize your sales funnel, keep track of leads, set reminders, and share your workflow with your team.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
Todoist, one of our favorite Gmail extensions, turns your email into a task management system. Accessible straight from Gmail, this extension lets you access and amend your to-do list anytime, anywhere (even offline!).
Our inboxes are filled with questions, scheduling requests, and various other delegations. You might not realize it, but your email is probably already a to-do list—just a disorganized one.
Use Gmail extensions to secure your data
Businesses are trusted to keep their customers’ data confidential, so they have to take email security much more seriously than regular consumers.
While many emails don’t contain any valuable information about your company or clients, you want to make sure you don’t let your guard down. Passwords, personal client information, or even insider company information should be handled with great care.
Check out these Gmail extensions that ensure your actions and data stay private.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4.5/5 stars
It encrypts any requested email and provides a unique key to the sender. Share that key with the recipient of your email (obviously not via email), and your data will be delivered safe and sound.
5. Dropbox for Gmail
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
Often the most private files are sent as PDF attachments—contracts, documents, financial records. That means you’ll want to take extra precautions when it comes to email attachments.
Any documents that are uploaded to Dropbox are encrypted at rest and in transit. With this plugin, you can easily send and preview these files without leaving your window, while never having to worry about them getting into the wrong hands.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
UglyEmail is a simple but useful Gmail extension that puts an “evil eye” next to emails that are being tracked.
With all those email trackers out there, it’s unsettling to know that some of your clients might be keeping tabs on whether or not you have checked their email. If any of your contacts know that you’ve opened their email but are not responding, you can come across as negligent or disinterested.
You open up Gmail and go to draft an email. Then you remember that you need a PDF file from a previous email. So you open a new tab, search your archive, find the PDF, download it, and, finally, re-attach it to the correct email. Sound familiar?
There’s nothing more annoying than switching between screens and devices to gather all the necessary, relevant information for what should have been a quick email.
Here are a few extensions that will eliminate some of that friction.
7. Checker Plus
Chrome Web Store rating: 5/5 stars
The Checker Plus Gmail extension allows you to fully customize email alerts. You can decide which emails will trigger a notification, and how Checker notifies you— whether it’s via push notifications to your desktop, a sound, or it can even read the subject line out to you.
If you enable push notification, you can also quickly interact with the emails, deleting them or marking them as read when they pop up.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
Cloudy gives you instant access to almost any cloud file—Google Drive, Box, Picasa, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and even direct URLs.
If you store files on numerous different platforms, you are all-too-familiar with the nuisance of downloading them and then attaching them in your email. The plugin appears as a little cloud button on the bottom menu of your email and lets you access any file in just a few clicks.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
HelloSign enables you to sign documents with just a few clicks, taking all paper out of the equation.
We all know what a pain it is to sign documents sent to us by email. It involves having to print, sign, scan, attach, and reply. This Gmail extension makes the process fast and easy, and don’t worry, it’s legally-binding and equipped with bank-level security.
Improve the quality of your messages
When you’re not communicating with clients face-to-face, your email has to say it all, and say it well. Your email is a small representation of the quality and professionalism of your company, so not only does it have to be clear and coherent, but it has to be free of all grammar mistakes.
Since not all of us have a copy editor handy, here are some extensions that should do the job.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
Ginger checks for grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure. And it even has a translating function that can translate words and sentences from 40 different languages.
Even if you’re a grammar whiz, when you’re sending dozens of emails a day, you’re sure to get exhausted by the last batch and let a few grammar and spelling errors slip. Use this extension to keep your emails mistake-free.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4.5/5 stars
Not sure you’re using the right word in that email? Install this plugin, and you won’t ever have to second-guess yourself again.
You’ll be able to double-click to find out the definition of any word, in any language. And if you learn a new word, you can save it and reference it later, building a small library of great new words to try out.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
WiseStamp is a nifty extension that enables you to place a professional, dynamic signature on the bottom of all your emails, with links to all the profiles, blog posts, videos you could possibly want.
It also lets you easily add a custom signature, quote, or logo for some extra flair. If you put a lot of time into carefully crafting emails, then make sure that your signature is also up to par.
Draft emails faster with these Gmail extensions
According to a survey conducted by Reuters, U.S. workers spend approximately 6.3 hours daily checking email. That’s more than half a typical work day.
Navigating through your inbox, clicking through different tabs, and searching for various emails, all eats up a lot of precious time. Here are a few Gmail extensions that enable you to get through just as many emails in a fraction of the time.
Chrome Web Store rating: 5/5 stars
If you find that you are writing the same three emails a hundred times a day, you’re in serious need of canned responses.
Gorgias is one of the best Gmail extensions out there, enabling you to save templates and then set up keyboard shortcuts to implement them. You can also set up liquid tags, which will autofill the recipients information into specific slots. And if you set up an awesome workflow with Gorgias, you can easily share it with your team.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
If you’ve been in a position where you’ve envied hotkey masters who have the ability to pluck away and manage their email inbox crazy fast, you’re in luck.
KeyRocket doesn’t add keyboard shortcuts the way Gorgias does—it simply teaches you to use the ones that are already there. Through subtle notifications, it guides you through workflow optimization.
Chrome Web Store rating: 5/5 stars
Assistant.to enables you to view your calendar and select a few different time windows, all without leaving your window.
Almost every business has to go through some kind of back-and-forth with their clients to figure out a time to connect that works well for both parties. With this extension, when your client receives the email, he or she will be presented with different clickable options, the selection of which will update your Google calendar.
Draft on your own time
For those of us who use email as a primary method of communication, let’s face it, we’re slaves to it. We’re constantly combing through to find which emails need to be followed-up on or responded to.
And then there are all these rules. Don’t send emails in the middle of the night. You can’t send emails when you don’t have Wi-fi. We’re at the beck and call of our inbox.
Here are a few Gmail extensions that will let you take control over when and where you draft your emails.
Chrome Web Store rating: 4.5/5 stars
Followup.cc lets you draft emails at your convenience and send them off at a later time. You can also set reminders for yourself to follow-up, and see if and when your emails get opened.
This keeps your mailbox tidy and organized, so you don’t have to comb through the same batch of emails every few hours to remind yourself which need a follow-up.
17. Gmail Offline
Chrome Web Store rating: 4/5 stars
Gmail Offline puts the email-drafting power back in your hands. It lets you view, draft, and respond to emails, even when you don’t have Wi-fi.
This way you can choose whatever windows of time you’d like to check your email—whether that’s your morning commute, or right before bed.
We’d love to hear about the different ways you use Gmail extensions in the comments. Who knows? You may even get featured in an upcoming article!
This is the second part of a 2-part series on the 7 steps to brilliant B2B marketing. The first part was posted last week, and can be found here. This week’s infographic created by Smart Insights is a great primer on how to build up a holistic B2B marketing strategy. Today, I’m going to look at the final 4 steps – let’s check them out:
Step 4: Content and Inbound Marketing.
Nearly half (49%) of companies are looking to increase their content marketing budget this year, and with good reason. Inbound marketing gives you more bang for your buck compared to traditional marketing. But what makes for effective content marketing?
- Make your business case.
- Define your nuclear (higher production cost, lasting impact) and primary (free or low-cost content that meets audience needs) fuel.
- Make your blog a content hub.
- Reach out to and target relevant key influencers.
Step 5: Social Media for B2B Marketing
57% of inbound marketers report obtaining leads from LinkedIn, while 52% earned leads from Facebook and 44% from Twitter. What steps can you follow to echo their successes?
- Create and curate useful, shareable content: You don’t want to turn off your audience by posting only about your product or service. Give them useful, relevant, entertaining information that provides value to them.
- Use the social media platform that makes sense for your company: Some companies may be better off using Pinterest than LinkedIn. For others, the opposite may be true. It depends on your market and target audience. See what others in your industry are doing, and evaluate your performance on different platforms.
- Use all the relevant features in LinkedIn: they are there for a reason, so take advantage!
- Use assisted conversion in Google Analytics to show what works: Refining your marketing strategy on an ongoing basis is very important.
Step 6: Lead Generation and eCRM.
Just as with traditional marketing, lead nurturing is essential to digital marketing. Only 27% of B2B leads are ready to buy at first contact, but only 35% of B2B marketers have a lead-nurturing campaign in place to nudge these leads to conversion – and of these, only 45% are effective. How can you effectively engage with your audience and nurture those leads?
- Use prominent calls-to-action throughout your website.
- Make use of landing pages to boost your inbound marketing campaigns.
- Build relationships through welcome emails and profiles
- Use “sense and respond” tactics to qualify and follow-up with potential customers
Some of the most effective forms of lead nurturing content include:
- White papers (41%)
- Thought leadership articles (35%)
- Webinars (33%)
- Research-based content (32%)
- Email newsletters (28%)
- Blog posts (24%
- Infographics or sales calls (20% each)
- Free trials or demo offers (21%)
Step 7: Analytics and improvement.
This may be the most important step as it helps to shape all other aspects of your marketing strategy. Unfortunately, less than 50% of B2B marketers make effective use of analytic technologies. So what should you be doing?
- Set up goals and funnels and assign values.
- Use forward and reverse path analysis to highlight your most effective marketing content.
- Set up event tracking to find out how effective your calls-to-action really are.
- Use content experiments (like A/B testing) to increase your conversion rates.
While B2C marketers are using marketing analytics to help boost the sales of their products (45.6%) and services (34.5%), B2B marketers are falling behind the technological curve – only 22.8% of B2B product marketers and 29.6% of B2B service marketers are fully using analytics. Contact forms, call-back requests, event tracking for PDF downloads and videos, webinar landing pages, site registration forms, and trial/demo requests are all helpful tools that you can use to track audience engagement.
Do you have feedback on any of the strategies discussed in the 7 steps to brilliant B2B marketing? Which analytics tools does your company swear by? Let me know in the comments!
60% of hiring managers look up candidates online — here's how to make sure your Facebook profile doesn't cost you a job
We've already seen parents invade Facebook — now employers are getting in on the act.
A 2016 CareerBuilder survey found that 60% of employers research job candidates on social media. That's eight percentage points up from last year, and a staggering 49 percentage points up from when the annual social media recruitment survey first began in 2006.
Bosses in certain industries are more likely to check a candidate's profile. IT, for instance, leads the pack with 76% of employers screening job seekers on social media, trailed by sales (65%), financial services (61%), and healthcare and retail (tied at 59%).
The survey, which was conducted by Harris Poll between February 10 and March 17 among 2,186 hiring managers and 3,031 full time workers, discovered that six in ten employers say they approach candidates' profiles "looking for information that supports their qualifications for the job." Most are searching for a professional online persona, so ensure your LinkedIn's up to date.
While CareerBuilder asserts that "most hiring managers aren't intentionally looking for negatives," 49% of hiring managers who research candidates on social media say they've not hired a candidate based on social media presence. Plus, 21% of managers admit to actively looking for reasons not to hire you.
Want to make sure your fire tweets and sweet posts aren't jeopardizing your job search? Here are some precautions to take (most of it's just common sense):
- Make sure your profiles are free of provocative, inappropriate content (a big turn off for 46% of employers)
- Put away the keg and the drug paraphernalia (43% of hiring managers didn't want to see evidence of candidates drinking or using drugs)
- Don't be a bigot (about a third of bosses don't want to hire someone who spews discriminatory speech online)
- Don't bad-mouth your old boss (31% of respondents marked that as a red flag)
- Watch your writing (29% of employers watch for poor communication skills on social media)
Before you panic and lock down all your social media settings, keep this in mind: over two in five employers say they're less likely to interview people that they're unable to research online. Plus, over a third of employers who've encountered candidates with private accounts have attempted to friend said candidates. Candidate-employer friend acceptance rates declined to 68% in 2016 — down 12 percentage points from last year.
Plus, the news isn't all bad. In fact, slightly over a third of employers who screen job seekers using social media say they've discovered content that increased their interest in a candidate.
If you're hoping to boost your chances of getting hired, make sure:
- your profiles support your job qualifications and convey a professional image (44% of employers liked to see that);
- you strive to project a personality that'll mesh well with the company (43% of hiring managers wanted to see this);
- you demonstrate a wide range of interests (one in four bosses looked for that);
- and you showcase your awesome communication skills (36% of hiring managers wanted to see strong writing abilities).
CareerBuilder chief human resources officer Rosemary Haefner says that it's important for job seekers to remember their social media presence is available for public viewing.
"This doesn't necessarily mean a potential employee should be worried, but they should definitely be cautious and aware of their own internet reputation before applying to any jobs," Haefner said. "A job seeker should ensure that all work experience, skills and portfolios are consistent across every social network — as employers easily identify inconsistencies and could question your qualifications."
SEE ALSO: 6 reasons social media got people fired
You probably have an amazing marketing department that is constantly creating interesting, value-packed content that moves leads down the sales funnel, right? Of course you do.
But it’s possible that you may be undervaluing the impact your content can have when it’s more integrated with your sales team’s actions – and that has to change.
Why? Because when your sales team is able to leverage your content and learn key insights with the engagement data that comes from it (what role they are, what they’re interested in, company size), your content becomes even more powerful as a sales tool.
With this data, sales teams are able to optimize and scale their SQLs (sales qualified leads) by determining which MQLs (marketing qualified leads) are Super MQLS – all before sales vetting and call attempt. This data also allows the right follow-up information to be sent to the right people at the right time.
In this post, we’ll look at what content for sales enablement really is, as well as examples that showcase how both marketing and sales team can use it to more effectively drive sales.
What Is Content for Sales Enablement?
First things first: Let’s get on the same page about content for sales enablement. Different companies define it in different ways, but for the most part, it’s just what it sounds like – content that enables sales.
According to a survey from DemandMetric, marketers define sales enablement content as:
- Print materials and assets (like whitepapers, brochures, etc.)
- Value-packed blog posts
- Case studies/testimonials
- Onboarding/training (like a drip email campaign)
- Interactive content (like a interactive calculator as a lead gen tool)
And what’s more: Three-fourths see it as valuable, essential material. 75% of marketers said sales enablement content makes a moderate to significant contribution to the sales process. So it makes sense that both the marketing and sales team should have an open dialogue around this content.
To really maximize sales enablement content, you need your content to be doing the work for you. While case studies and testimonials are definitely helpful for bottom-of-the-funnel leads, using interactive content to pose questions and receive opinions is really what will take your MQLs to the next level, and drastically scale your sales efforts in the process.
Let’s explore what this type of sales enablement content looks like in action.
Examples of Interactive Sales Enablement Content
Now that we understand what sales enablement content is, let’s look at an example and break down why it’s so effective. First, we’ll look at two assessments.
Maybe you’re wondering, “How does an assessment like this one enable sales?”
First of all, an assessment is a piece of content that feels individualized to a specific issue for the user – it helps tease out a pain point that preps them for a simple, easy solution.
Beyond this, it’s a great tool for the sales department because it moves buyers a little bit further down the funnel as they work through the assessment.
The more the leads think about the specific obstacles they are facing, the more they become aware of how much they need something to address it.
It gets better: Often, sales has a series of questions they ask every prospect to grade how good the prospect is. Having specific content like assessments, roi calculators, and product pickers starts capturing that critical information as part of your content-enabled campaigns, pre-sales.
With this data, that initial vetting effort from sales is minimized or skipped completely, allowing the team to focus their effort on “super MQLS,” spending more time closing deals, and less sorting through unqualified leads.
Sales works more higher qualified leads, and marketing improves its scoring efforts and creates customized nurture streams to further leads through the funnel – all leading to greater efficiency, and increased revenue.
Lastly, well designed sales-enablement content provides a richer experience for prospects. Positioning assessments, polls, or quizzes to allow the lead to learn something about themselves or their organization in process is a much less “salesy” experience. There’s no person on the other end making a pitch – the customer just works through the discovery process in a low-intensity, low-commitment context.
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Pentaho, a big data integration and analytics solution, used a product picker assessment that asks lower-funnel prospects specific questions about their current data process and problem points.
This assessment bucketed users into four product groups/ sales use cases. The lead data went directly to their Marketo and Salesforce databases that allowed sales to follow up with powerful insights to the organization’s needs.
325 of the leads created through the content were qualified to Sales Accepted Leads with the data received. Over $200k in pipeline was directly attributed to the interactive assessment.
Realize Real Results
Blackbaud, a marketing platform for non-profits, has seen content for sales enablement produce amazing results.
They launched a microsite called Realize Real Results, which included different types of content (including interactive calculators and assessments.) The microsite was promoted across various marketing channels over the course of one month.
Sales reps were able to use the data from the calculators as talking points during discovery calls, creating a more informed conversation. For leads that have not used the calculator, they were invited to put in their own metrics right on the call and see the results in real-time.
- 52% click rate on landing page
- 56% lead conversion
- 500 qualified leads
- 133% Q1 quota attainment
- $600k add’l Q1 sales
Pretty impressive, right? The content for sales enablement deployed here produced real, tangible ROI – and allowed both the marketing and sales teams to work together to outpace their goals.
Where Sales and Marketing Unite
As you can probably see, content marketing and sales enablement are the place where the marketing and sales teams need to overlap and work together.
It’s no longer enough to just create great content and put it out in the world – it needs to relate back to a larger sales strategy and produce valuable customer data that both teams can put to good use.
Ask yourself: Are your marketing and sales team effectively collaborating in the content department? If not, it may be time to re-evaluate your approach.